Review: “The Widow of Saunders Creek” by Tracey Bateman

Through “Blogging for Books” I received a free copy of this book to review. “The Widow of Saunders Creek” tells the story of Corrie Saunders, a young woman recently widowed when her husband dies serving his country in Iraq. Corrie returns to her husband’s hometown and to the home they own and had planned to restore. Her husband’s family is still learning to accept her into the family and tensions are a bit high. Jarrod’s (her husband) cousin Eli, who is also a preacher, helps Corrie with work on the house; but as time progresses Eli worries that he is beginning to have feelings for his cousin’s widow. Meanwhile Corrie is still battling her grief and feelings of loss and begins to believe that Jarrod’s spirit is dwelling in their house. Will Corrie ever be able to move on with her life? And just what is going on in that house??

I have to say – I enjoyed reading this book, which combined dealing with grief, romance, and Christian elements. I found the supernatural aspect (the ghost in Corrie’s house) an interesting addition. Corrie dabbles a bit in local folklore and “craft” by trying to have a séance. She is guided by Eli to a relationship with Jesus. In some ways, this happened rather quickly and easily in the book (one minute she’s having a séance and the next she’s calling on Jesus). I also never quite figured out what the spirit in the house was, though Eli certainly thought it was a demon.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy Christian romances and would not be bothered by the discussions of witchcraft/occult in the book.

Thank you, WaterBrook Press, for my copy!

YA Review: “Beautiful Lies” by Jessica Warman (releasing 8/7/12)

Tomorrow “Beautiful Lies” comes out. I got this book as an ARC through Net Galley a few months ago. It is thrilling YA fare: identical twin sisters Alice and Rachel share everything (or do they??). When one twin goes missing, some think she’s run away, but her sister believes she’s in trouble, and she has the physical manifestations to prove it. This supernatural, creepy, at times disturbing and confusing book kept me guessing (and reading) to the last page.

I love a good YA read, and this was no exception. However (and this is a SPOILER ALERT), I was confused at times. The twins are switching identities, yet people are calling them by their other twin’s name, but not all people are; and then there is the whole what is real and what is imaginary and what are ghosts theme that was profoundly confusing at times. It’s the kind of book that I like to read twice so that I can go back and pick up clues the second time through.

All in all, a page-turner that I enjoyed!

And thanks, Net Galley and Walker Children’s Books, for my copy to review!

YA Review: “The Unquiet” by Jeannine Garsee

I’ve been on a YA supernatural reading kick lately, and got this one from Net Galley last month.

“The Unquiet” is the story of Corinne – or Rinn – Jacobs, a teen who moves with her mom to a new town and new school and is looking to start over. Rinn has some serious mental health issues, and is relieved to make new friends who are accepting and understanding. Not only are these friends popular and fun to be with, the boy across the street is also amazingly cute and interested in her. All is going well until strange things start happening down a deserted hallway at school. The teens are convinced that a ghost is haunting them and Rinn decides that she will get to the bottom of all the happenings.

I really enjoyed this novel, which I would recommend for high school and up (due to mature themes). I also felt Garsee, who is a psychiatric nurse by day, did a sensitive and thoughtful job in writing of the complexities of teens on medication and of mental health.

In this story, the ghost is haunting a deserted pool area which is fenced off, but the students still pass through this dark and deserted walkway to get to class as they are not allowed to “cut through the gym”. I found this rather hard to believe until I read in the afterword that Garsee bases this story on a walkway she had in her own school as a little girl. It, too, had a disused and deserted part over to the side that totally creeped her out and stayed with her, lending itself to this ghost story now.

This book trailer – set to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata – might even be creepier than the novel!

Thanks, Net Galley and Bloomsbury USA, for my copy!

Quick YA Review: New Girl by Paige Harbison

I received “New Girl” through Net Galley last week. It was a quick YA read with a plot to entice your average teen: our heroine, Callie, is admitted to the prestigious “Manderly Academy” in NH where she takes the place (literally) of missing student “Becca Normandy”, struggling to make new friends and dealing with major romance issues are secondary to the overall anxiety of Becca possibly returning (alive or from the dead).

Here’s the thing: I would have LOVED this book as a teenager. Ghosts? Dead roommates? Social issues? Teen sex? Attractive rich students off at boarding school with few if any adults in sight? I would have lapped this up, similar to my obsession in middle school with the “Flowers in the Attic” series.

As an adult, though, I had some major issues. Having worked in independent schools for over 20 years I found the fact that the main character’s parents “got her in” unbeknownst to her as incredulous. I found the amount of time the students were off partying and unattended, etc., incredulous. I found the fact that this poor girl was moved in mid-year to the same dorm room where the missing girl lived and the missing girl’s personal belongings were still all there and in place incredulous. I was also bothered by the Manderly/Becca/Rebecca association, which was intentional as a “retelling”, but wondered if most teens would recognize the DuMaurier reference or if I was just dating myself. Finally, I felt that I was reading the writing of a young person. I had no idea who this author was, besides assuming it was a woman, and felt this could be her first novel (it is not) or that she was young and still developing as a writer (she was 20 when she wrote it). Don’t get me wrong, the writing is fine. I just have read a lot of writing in my years as a teacher and college professor and it felt along the same lines. But the bottom line is I read it, and kept reading until the end.

So – I’d be interested in feedback when this comes out (it can be pre-ordered at the moment). I’d like to look forward to more from Paige Harbison, too. Due to the drugs/sex/rape/murder references, in my opinion it’s for older YA readers.

thanks Net Galley and Harlequin Teen for my freebie!

REVIEW: Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite

Back in October I read a great book that I found at the local BJ’s – “Ghost on Black Mountain”. This novel tells the story of Black Mountain and its ghosts through the voices of five depression era women.

Nellie Clay comes to Black Mountain as a young bride – not realizing her husband is pretty much evil incarnate. Nellie’s story is intertwined with her mother’s, her housekeeper’s, her daughter’s, and more as we see the lives of these people and the community in which they live. Set in Depression-era North Carolina, the story centers around a murder and the ghosts that it conjures – and set free.

I just loved this book. I loved the voices, the story, the peek into mountain culture of that time. Ann Hite is a great writer and this story goes on my unforgettable list!