Tag Archives: Adventure

Review #96 Chesapeake Blue by Nora Roberts

Chesapeake Blue, by Nora Roberts own admission on the dedication page, was written several years after the original Quinn brothers trilogy because of all the readers who kept asking her when she was going to tell SETH’s story.

This amazing 4th novel in the Quinn trilogy… which became known as the Chesapeake Bay Saga instead, finally wraps up the tale of three older brothers, bonded by love instead of blood, who raised a young boy to manhood after the death of their adoptive parents.

Chesapeake Blue is a wonderfully written and heartwarming return to a familiar place and beloved characters.  Seth Quinn has now grown into a talented and world-famous artist, yet he is harbouring a dark secret from his family… one that has kept him from returning home for years.  Sick at heart, cynical and soul-weary, he returns to the one place he can call home after living in Europe to try to face the past that has haunted him all his life… Will he be able to tell the people he loves most the truth about what his birth mother has continued to do to him?  Can such a scared and scarred young man find love in the arms of a wealthy young woman he is longing to paint?

Encouraged by fans to tell this tale at last, Nora Roberts weaves an amazing tale of redemption and love.  As an artist myself, I loved the descriptions of Seth getting lost in the act of painting.  I am sure that Nora Roberts has had that happen to her with writing as well, because it captures that feeling so well.  This story does a fabulous job of tying up the loose ends that you didn’t even know were left over from the original trilogy, but maintains the same edgy look at the seedier side of life and how love, along with the truth, can finally heal the most wounded of hearts.

Chesapeake Blue, Paperback format, 357 pages, published in 2002 by Jove Books

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Review #95 Inner Harbor by Nora Roberts

Inner Harbor is the third novel in Nora Roberts’ sweeping the Chesapeak Bay Saga and the original end to the story.  It chronicles the love story between the last of these 3 strong men, who honoured the legacy of love shown to them by the couple who adopted them, Raymond and Stella Quinn, by taking care of Seth, the youngest boy Ray Quinn took in to save.

 

Phillip Quinn left the harsh realities of his life behind in his teens, but this novel shows that old scars can still run deep beneath the surface and that trust can be difficult for someone who has been badly hurt before.  Now he has given up his comfortable life in Baltimore to commute back and forth to Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the home in which he grew up.  Phillip and his two brothers are trying to raise Seth and get their fledgling boat-building business off the ground.  The insurance company is trying to claim that Raymond Quinn committed suicide by driving his car into a telephone pole and Seth’s biological mother is threatening to take Seth back unless the Quinn brothers pay her more money than their father did.

Into the fray of this trilogy story line comes the heroine, Dr. Sybill Griffin.  Sybill not only happens to be a renowned urban anthropologist and psychologist, she is also Seth’s aunt and may hold the key to keeping Seth safe.  The only problem is that for all her perfect appearance and upbringing, she is hiding scars of her own that cause her to withdraw to the role of observer.  Will Philip hate her once he discovers who she truly is?  Will she find the courage to get involved? Will she finally see her sister, Gloria, for the manipulator everyone else knows her to be?

Inner Harbor is the perfect example of how strong a writer Nora Roberts can be.  She handles some of the most troubling scenes with a wry sense of humour that  can soften life’s harsher realities for the reader and portray truly strong characters who refuse to give up against incredible odds.  Perhaps this is why so many of her books take up space on my shelves.  When the news of the world seems to get too somber, I can pull out one of her incredible stories and remind myself that hope and love go a long way to lighting up the darkest night.

Inner Harbor, Paperback format, 324 pages, published in 1999 by Jove Books

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Review #94 Rising Tides by Nora Roberts

Rising Tides is the second novel in Nora Roberts stories about the Quinn brothers.  It was originally written as a trilogy about 3 strong men, adopted by a remarkable couple from their  troubled pasts, who carry on the legacy of love by trying to look after 10 year old Seth after Ray Quinn is killed in a car accident.  There is a mystery to be unraveled as the Quinn brothers begin a boat-building business together and a loving environment in which Seth can leave his own haunted life behind, just as they did before him thanks to Stella and Ray Quinn.

Ethan is the steady, dependable Quinn brother.  He stayed in the area, never moving away as his brothers did when they grew older.  Solidly built, he harbours a scared little boy inside, one who feels unworthy to admit the love he has been carrying around in his heart since his teens because of his tainted and damaged past.

Now as Ethan faces the growing responsibility for this new brother, one who has known his own share of sorrows and darkness, will both Quinn brothers find a measure of healing and acceptance?

Rising Tides reminded me of what great character writing Nora Roberts is capable of, especially when dealing with difficult subject matter amid the love story.  This is a sensual, honest look at how innocence can be redeemed and how love can go a long way to healing the deepest wounds within us all.

Rising Tides Paperback format, 330 pages, published in 1998 by Jove Books

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Review #93 Sea Swept by Nora Roberts

The thing about diving into any Nora Roberts book is that you know you’ll be entertained by  wonderful love stories, memorable characters and moments that make you laugh out loud or tear up.  Her novels take up a large shelf in my library, carefully sorted into the sets and trilogies that have made her so renowned the world over.

Sea Swept begins the saga of the Quinn family and is the first book in one of my favourite groups of books she’s written, barring the Born In Fire, Ice and Shame series or the Jewels of the Sun, Tears of the Moon, Heart of the Sea stories.

 

Sea Swept introduces us to Cameron, Ethan and Phillip Quinn, three boys raised to men by a very patient couple who not only gave them their family name, but also rescued them from the ruins of their different pasts.  The series begins with the death of Ray Quinn and the unraveling mystery of why he had added another  “Lost Boy” to the family when his other three were grown and his wife had succumbed to cancer.  Social worker, Anna Spinelli, is sent to investigate the case of Seth DeLauter to see if he should be placed in foster care but finds the Quinn brothers as a united front, determined to honour what their parents had done for them by working and living together to help raise their “brother”.

This series pulls no punches when it comes to describing the worst parts of the Social Services network that tries against impossible odds to deal with the darkest part of our world.  It also provides a wonderful and poignant love story as well as the beginnings of a mystery that leaves readers hungry for the next book.

What I love most about a Nora Roberts novel is that I can escape into an enjoyable adventure that won’t leave my head hurting or my soul feeling too sore.  It is like a warm bath or a favourite pair of cozy pajamas… perfect to slip into as the season grows colder and the days grow darker.

I’d forgotten just how much I loved this book until I reread the first few chapters.  That is one of the most wonderful thing about having so many books around the house, just waiting to be read… no matter how few or how many times.

Sea Swept, Paperback format, 330 pages, published in 1998 by Jove Books

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Review #92 The Sleeping Beauty by Mercedes Lackey

When I found this book on sale at a local bookstore, I grabbed it to add to this challenges reading pile, especially as a contrast to the Godmother books written by Elizabeth Scarborough.  Both women have found unique ways of dealing with traditional fairy tale themes in a humourous and most UNtraditional way.  Unlike the last review, this novel actually IS a Harlequin novel since the company owns the Luna Books Division that publishes these fantasy novels… but they are a far cry for the standard format that fills so many bookstore and library shelves.

The Sleeping Beauty falls into the series known as  “A Tale of the Five Hundred Kingdoms” which began with the The Fairy Godmother in 2004. The theory behind the series is an interesting one.  There are 500 kingdoms where Tradition has become a mindless and powerful force that seeks to push characters into the legendary fairy tale roles.  The only defense against utter and total chaos are the Godmothers.  Women who know how to coax the Tradition into certain outcomes through magic, wit or sheer dumb luck.

The Sleeping Beauty deals with a wonderfully funny mix of all the sleeping maiden legends from Snow White and Sleeping Beauty to the more obscure Valkyrie Fire Maiden stories.   Rosamund is a princess whose life has fallen apart at 16 thanks to the Tradition killing off her mother.  After a Huntsman chases Rosa into the woods and tries to kill her, The Fairy Godmother of her Kingdom, who has long befriended the family, tries to bend Tradition to her will by disguising herself as someone else and assuming the role of the Evil Stepmother.  After taking the princess into her confidence and revealing the ruse, they decide that the best solution might be to stage a “Sleeping Beauty” event .  The only problem is that TWO handsome men show up in the clearing at the same time.  With the sudden death of the King on the borders, invasion or conquer seems imminent.  How can a young woman and a desperate Fairy Godmother keep their enemies at bay and still satisfy the Tradition’s longing to create a very Happy or Unhappy ending?

Mercedes Lackey knows how to create great characters and this was one of her funniest adventures yet.  Though the subtle and not so subtle humour may not come as naturally to her as writers like Tanya Huff, she does a wonderful and entertaining job of constantly turning the Fairy Tales we all know and love upside down, sideways and inside out.  I found myself laughing out loud so many times during this story that I may have to go back and reread some of the earlier books in the series.  Since each one stands alone, I can just pick and choose which Fairy Tale I’d like to see her mangle… and I can’t wait to hunt down the newest one in this series Beauty and the Werewolf!

The Sleeping Beauty, paperback format, 408 pages, published in 2010  by  Harlequin’s  Luna Books division

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Review #90 The Heritage of Hastur by Marion Zimmer Bradley

When it was first published in 1975, The Heritage of Hastur was proclaimed to be Marion Zimmer Bradley’s best novel thus far, the longest and most intricate of her saga… destined to become her masterpiece.

Thanks to a wonderful friend in Toronto, who loaned me a copy from her personal Darkover collection, I have at last been able to read this detailed and sweeping part of the planet’s history for myself.  Much of what has always been alluded to in other novels now makes sense and I have a deeper appreciation of the nuances of several characters than ever before.

 

The Heritage of Hastur is partly about how Lew Alton comes to be trapped in the web of the Sharra Matrix, which has repercussions for he and his family from then on, and party about the coming of age of Regis Hastur.  This is the novel in which the famous and beloved character grows from young man to leader, giving up some of his dreams for the sake of his planet.

I cannot believe it has taken me so long to read this key piece of Bradley’s Darkover legacy, but it was well worth the wait.  Now I just have to try to track down a copy for my own library eventually.  Thank You, Christine!

The Heritage of Hastur  paperback format, 381 pages, published in 1975 by  DAW Books

 

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Review #89 Kings of the North by Elizabeth Moon

When you really love an author’s work, you sometimes cannot wait to read the rest of a story.  Kings of the North came out less than a year after Oath of Fealty and I simply could not wait for the paperback version to match the copy of Oath of Fealty that graced my bookshelves.  I knew that the entertainment such a wonderful author could provide would be well worth the cost… and I just happened to have a gift card burning a hole in my pocket.

Kings of the North rejoins the characters from Oath of Fealty and continues their adventures.  Kieri Phelan is learning to govern his kingdom wisely, but there is still pressure for him to marry and produce an heir.  Duke Dorrin Verrakaien has proved her loyalty to the Tsaian ruler even though she brought him a magical crown and other regalia for safe keeping that wants her to claim it.  Captain Arcolin has earned the right to look after Kieri’s former company and territory, complete with a title all his own.  Yet evil is moving on all sides of both kingdoms and the perils mount as mysteries deepen and new plot twists are revealed.

Elizabeth Moon knows how to tell a great story.  Her rich gift for writing tangible fantasy is pure joy to read.  The characters sweep you along on their different adventures as if you were right there with them.  Magic is believable, adventure abounds, the path to true love is  fraught with challenges and dragons can be found where you least expect them.

The next book in the series, Echoes of Betrayal, has just come out in hardcover, but the $31.00 price for the Hardcover format made me cringe last weekend at the bookstore.  Instead, I have begun dropping serious hints to my family that this might be the perfect item to pick up for an avid reader as a Christmas present.  I am hoping that subtle works…

Hardcover format, 478 pages, published in 2011 by  Ballantine Books/ Del Ray

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Review #88 Oath of Fealty by Elizabeth Moon

One of the best things about having favourite authors is that a new story from them can be like the greatest dessert… except without all the calories!  When Oath of Fealty came out in 2010 to continue some of the story lines from The Deed of Paksenarrion, I am sure that I was not the only fantasy reader to let out a WHOOP of joy in the middle of a crowded bookstore!

While over a decade had passed, reading the pages then and sliding back into the story was like a reunion with really great friends… you feel as if no time at all has gone by.  Once I reread The Deed of Paksenarrion for this challenge, I had to read the newer two novels, especially since I have been dropping hints of how much I would like the latest release, in hardcover format, as a Christmas present!

Oath of Fealty continues the adventures of Kieri Phelan, former mercenary duke of Tsaia, whom Paksenarrion helped restore to the throne of Lyonya as the long-vanished heir as one of her paladin quests. While he is adapting to the differences of co-ruling a kingdom with his Elven grandmother, instead of a mercenary company, evil is on the move again within his own kingdom and the one he left behind. Prince Mikeli faces a coup of the most sinister nature.  It appears that a powerful family, the Verrakaien, have been hiding a dark secret which will force the prince to turn to the only member of that family he can trust- Kieri’s former Captain Dorrin.  She has long been exiled as an outcast from her tainted bloodline and may hold the key to the problem… along with powers that were long thought to have been wiped out.

Unlike The Deed of Paksenarrion, where a single character’s experience and adventure were the main focus, Oath of Fealty does a masterful job of telling separate stories within the same novel which intertwine, intermingle and ultimately form a beautiful work of art.  Moon’s storytelling ability has grown over the years, honed by her work on other series.  The details, slowly revealed, about much beloved but minor characters from the other trilogy, allow you to appreciate the richness of each of their lives instead of just marveling at the adventures of one.  Instead of feeling jumpy, like the narratives in The Rise of Nine, Oath of Fealty switches smoothly from one aspect of the story to the next.  It leaves you feeling as if you are watching one episode after another of your favourite shows instead of sitting next to a compulsive channel changer.

Paperback format, 463 pages, published in 2010 by  Ballantine Books/ Del Ray

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Review #87 The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore

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We bought this book for our family as soon as it was released this fall, but thanks to a terrible round of Rock/Paper/Scissors, I had to wait until my daughters were done reading it before I could add it to my list.

The Rise of Nine is the third book in the now expanded I am Number Four series.  Perhaps in the void left with the end of the Harry Potter and Twilight Series (both books and movies) the temptation to expand the story and thus the profits was too great to stick to the original trilogy format.

Luckily for readers, the author and alien hiding among us Pittacus Lore tells great stories.  The Rise of Nine is no exception.  The story is gripping, thrilling and rushes the reader towards the ending only to leave them wanting more.

If I had one complaint, it was the jumpiness between all the separate voices.  Each character gets their own font to help distinguish which person is speaking in each chapter, but some of them were similar enough typographically that you wasted precious time at the beginning of each chapter trying to figure out who was speaking until it became obvious. As a graphic designer, I would have like to see a much bolder mix of serif and sans serif font combinations to make the distinction easier.  I noticed this more than my daughter who read the book in a weekend gulp because I had a busy few days where I was picking the story up every chance I could around what life was throwing my way.  Perhaps this erratic change to the style and number of voices telling the story came from the writing upheaval that the book went through before its publication.

I can only hope that the rest of the series remains focussed on what made the original book  “I am Number Four” so wonderful…. great storytelling!

Hardcover format, 360 pages (plus extras), Copyright 2012, Harper (an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers)

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Review #86 Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

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I knew that I was going to like Ballad.  I hoped I was going to like Ballad.  I was worried about being disappointed by Ballad because it was the second book in a series by Maggie Stiefvater.  Linger, her second book after the brilliant Shiver, left such deep scars of disappointment that it took a book like Insurgent to make me trust that second books could be wonderful.

The first few chapters felt jumpy and a bit disjointed, especially when a third narrative was woven into the story.  I almost put the book away on the bookcase, but then I remembered that I’d felt the same way about Lament at the beginning and I kept reading.

I am so glad that I did!

Ballad is the story of James, the dependable friend and sidekick of Lament’s heroine who stands by her side and helps out, loving her completely even when she falls in love with the Faerie who has been sent to kill her.  By the end of Lament, James comes to understand that Dee will never feel the same way about him that he does about her.

Ballad opens with a strange, unsent text message  as Dee’s narrative, then jumps into the story from James’ point of view.  He is studying at the Thornking-Ash School of Music on a special scholarship, but soon discovers that he is surrounded by more faeries than ever before, especially one who seems almost human.  Will he lose his heart… or lose his life?

Once you get past the slow pace of the first few chapters, the story develops into something so captivating and satisfying that you are loathe to put the book down for mundane things such as eating and sleeping.  The book and its amazing characters race towards one of the most satisfying conclusions I’ve enjoyed in a book in recent memory.

KUDOS to author Maggie Stiefvater for this brilliant and enjoyable tale.  I adored how this second book made the series stronger instead of weaker.  The ending was unexpected, touching and terrific!

Paperback format, 388 pages, Copyright 2009, Scholastic Canada Edition (2012)

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