Book Review: Killing Rites (Book 4, Black Sun’s Daughter Series)

Killing Rites (Book 4, Black Sun's Daughter Series) by M.L. N Hanover

Killing Rites (Book 4, Black Sun's Daughter Series) by M.L. N Hanover

Did you see our recent giveaway of the four-book Black Sun’s Daughter series?  One lucky commenter won all four books, including the newly released (as in yesterday, November 29) fourth installment in the series, Killing Rites.  All of the mass market paperbacks are written by M.L.N. Hanover, and I was lucky enough to receive a copy of each of them from the publisher.  That way, I’d be all caught up when I settled in to read Killing Rites! Warning – there are a few mild spoilers below, so if you haven’t read the first three you might want to skip the next couple of paragraphs.

The series presents a unique mythology for vampires, werewolves, and magic.  Ordinary humans are possessed, or taken over, by “riders” of several different varieties (lupine, vampiric, etc) ; they may be forced out of the body all together, or they may be relegated to the background, forced to watch and participate in whatever acts the demonic presence commits.  Becoming skilled in the art of magic helps to fight them off, but not totally. Jayné (it’s pronounced zah-NAY, which really bugs me) Heller is using her seemingly unlimited inheritance from her uncle, along with the close friends she made just after his death, to track and combat riders.

The first three books are pretty action-packed, with some romance thrown in.  Killing Rites takes a different direction, with a slower pace and less forthright action.  The struggles in this book are more internal.  Now that Jayné is certain she has a rider inside her, does she want to get it out?  Are all riders truly bad? How will she keep her friends safe?  And what about Ex….can he deal with his past issues and help her overcome this?  Will something finally come of the undercurrent of romance between Ex and  Jayné?  I’m not going to divulge the specifics, but I will say that it doesn’t all get wrapped up neatly in this book.  The author left the readers hanging quite nicely!  Some ends were tied up, others weren’t, which of course leaves me speculating about the next book.

I enjoyed the slower pace of this installment of the series, and I definitely want to read the next one.  This one is by far my favorite of the four.

I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed it as much had I not invested some time reading the first three.  This is not a series that you can pick up wherever and just get started – you need the background info and history in each one.  They are all quick reads, though.  I finished books three and four in one day.  I would definitely recommend these to anyone interested in the paranormal/sci-fi fantasy genre.

Book Review: The Dovekeepers

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

I’m so late to the party in regard to the fabulous writing of Alice Hoffman.  She is a prolific author; I picked up The Story Sisters just after Labor Day at my local library and went back the next day to check out everything they had by her.  When I spotted an early review of The Dovekeepers (released on October 4), I could barely wait for it to hit the shelves.  Of course, it took awhile for my library to get a copy for me.  When my husband brought it home last week I literally squealed with excitement, curled up on the couch, and dove right in.

Like all of Hoffman’s books, The Dovekeepers is an amazing story.  It draws you right in with rich characters, detailed surroundings, and well-researched history.  This novel is unlike any of her other works I’ve read.  The subject matter is a little heavier, more serious I suppose.  Here is a quick recap of the book (no spoilers):

In 70 C.E. a group of Jewish rebels held out against the Roman army.  They made their camp at Masada, an unreachable fortress in the desert of Judea. Spanning three years (and then jumping ahead four to wrap things up) in four parts the book follows the intertwined lives of four different women and their journeys to Masada.  There is Yael (a motherless daughter raised by an unforgiving father), Revka (a baker’s wife now caring for her grandsons after the horrific murder of their mother), Aziza (a brave and headstrong girl who longs to be something more), and Shirah (a wise mother with power and knowledge of ancient magic).  Each woman comes to Masada along a difficult road; life is no easier for them once they are there.  Throughout the book their lives intersect, they build alliances amongst themselves, suffer hardships and triumphs together.  True to the ancient historian Josephus’ account, just two women and five children survive in the retelling of the siege of Masada.

After I read this book I immediately wanted to read it again.  Seriously.  I cannot overstate how much I loved it.  I became so attached to each woman, and I was literally crying at the end.  Hoffman pulled no punches in her narrative.  There was some brutal violence (which, I’m willing to bet, is pretty accurate for the time period).  Most importantly to me, the history was solid and well-researched.  Is there anything worse than bad research?

Really, everyone should read this book.  It is moving, empowering, weighty, well-written and researched, and ultimately uplifting.  A story of unimaginable loss, and triumph in spite of it all.  One of my favorite quotes from the book is a great way to end this little review.  Shirah says, “Being human means losing everything we love best in the world. But would you ask to be anything else?”

I received no compensation for reading and reviewing this book.

Book Review and Audiobook Giveaway: The Marriage Plot

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Editor’s Note: The giveaway is closed. Congrats to Gayle!

I recently finished Jeffrey Eugenides’  The Marriage Plot.  Before I jump into how I felt about the book, I will share a brief summary (with spoilers).

In Romantic literature, a marriage plot was a literary device around which novels were often based that dealt with courtship between men and women (think Elizabeth and Darcy, Heathcliff and Catherine, etc.).  This book revolves around three recent college graduates in the early 1980’s, their complicated love triangle, and their quests to find fulfillment.  Mitchell (a deeply spiritual philosophy student) loves Madeleine (a naive English major).  Madeleine loves Leonard (a brilliant biologist who suffers from crippling Type I bipolar disorder).  Madeleine knows Mitchell is the more suitable suitor, but is attracted to Leonard’s genius and charisma.  After graduation, Leonard and Madeleine move in together and soon marry despite his worsening disease.  Her Austen heroines always got married at the end of the book, so she feels compelled to do the same.  Mitchell goes on a soul-searching quest around the world but eventually he finds himself back in their lives when Leonard, realizing how wrong he is for her, divorces Madeleine.  Mitchell helps her heal and she seems to reciprocate his love.  As in one of the aforementioned Romantic novels, it appears that these two star-crossed lovers will end up together.  At this point, though, the author derails this particular marriage plot.  Mitchell makes the decision to let her go instead of being her fall-back option.

Eugenides wrote a beautiful novel – there is no doubt about that.  My husband absolutely loved this book, and every other review I’ve read has been glowing as well.  For me, however, this was a difficult read.  The pace was slow, which I didn’t particularly mind.  I don’t think that’s ever a reason to dislike a book, and I cringe when I see people cite that as a stumbling point.  What tripped me up with this book was the portrayal of mental illness.  As a person who suffers from Bipolar Disorder (although not the same type or severity as the character in this book) it is often difficult for me to read fictional accounts of a mental illness.  The book just left me uneasy, and a little disconcerted.  However, those feelings are completely mine and stem mostly from what personal experiences and baggage I bring to the story.  As I mentioned earlier, other people I know who have read it have none of those feelings about it.  I think it was definitely worth the trip to the library to check it out!

Editor’s note: Thanks for your review of The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, Taylor!

MacMillan is offering one an unabridged audiobook of The Marriage Plot for a From Left to Write reader! Listen to a sample here:

Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides audiobook excerpt


To enter the giveaway, leave a comment with your favorite Jane Austen novel or another similar Romantic novel.

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Giveaway ends November 27.
Winner will have 48 hours to respond. The giveaway prize is courtesy of MacMillan Audiobooks. From Left to Write is not responsible for any lost or misdirected prizes. No compensation was received for this post.

The Marriage Plot

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

This week I’m reading The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides.  I started it based on a recommendation from my husband, who checked it out of our local library and read it one day last week. listed this as one of the Best Books Of the Month for October 2011 (I look forward to this list every month!), and had this to share about it:

Even among authors, Jeffrey Eugenides possesses a rare talent for being able to inhabit his characters. In The Marriage Plot, his third novel and first in ten years (following the Pulitzer Prize-winning Middlesex), Eugenides describes a year or so in the lives of three college seniors at Brown in the early 80s. There is Madeleine, a self-described “incurable romantic” who is slightly embarrassed at being so normal. There is Leonard, a brilliant, temperamental student from the Pacific Northwest. And completing the triangle is Mitchell, a Religious Studies major from Eugenides’ own Detroit. What follows is a book delivered in sincere and genuine prose, tracing the end of the students’ college days and continuing into those first, tentative steps toward true adulthood. This is a thoughtful and at times disarming novel about life, love, and discovery, set during a time when so much of life seems filled with deep portent.

I’m only about 130 pages in to this 416 page book, but I’m enjoying so far.  When I’m finished, I’ll be sure to share my thoughts here.

Have you read this book or are you planning to?  I have never read anything by this author, but based on my experience so far with this book I’m definitely adding his others to my ever-growing list!

Books That Changed Taylor Usry’s Life: Member Profile

The Babysitter's Club #1 by Ann M Martin
Taylor Usry

Taylor Usry from The Quiet Moments and The Quiet Moments, Page 2

Welcome back to our member profile feature on From Left to Write. Our club has almost 100 bloggers who love to read, write, and talk about books. On our book club days, you only get a glimpse into their blog so now you can get to know our members a little bit better.

In our book club members profiles, we’re going to do things a bit differently. We’ve asked our bloggers to share some books that have affected their lives in some way.

Today, meet Taylor Usry, From Left to Write’s Assistant Editor. Not only does she writes almost weekly for the site, she’s busy behind the scenes to help keep our book club running. Taylor is also a talented crafter and blogs at  The Quiet Moments and The Quiet Moments (Page 2.

Let’s find out what books have stood out to Taylor.

Q: What childhood or children’s book changed your life and how? 

The Babysitter's Club #1 by Ann M Martin

I read everything I could get my hands on when I was younger. I had an extensive collection of Nancy Drew books, read all the L.M Montgomery happiness I could get my hands on, and like every other pre-teen girl I did the required reading of the Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High. I have also always love the Chronicles of Narnia.

My mom used to drop me off at the public library while she shopped (things were WAY safer in a small town 25 years ago!); it was there I discovered Jean Auel (not for kids, but I snuck over to the adult stacks).

Neither one of my parents are what I’d call “readers”, but they did always read to me. And they encouraged my voracious literary appetite. For that, I am am forever grateful!

Q: What fiction book has changed your life?

Wuthering Heights by Emily BronteWuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and Dracula by Bram Stoker. I read them for a College Lit class when I was a Junior in High School, and they gave me an instant love for the classics. Such depth of feeling, such rich stories and characters – I was hooked.

Q: What nonfiction book has changed your life?

1066: The Year of Conquest by David Howarth. I have always loved history, and I’m a total Anglophile. When my husband, a British History major in college, gave me a copy of 1066 to read, I read it cover to cover twice before getting off the couch. I was SO hooked. This book ignited a love of reading British History, and I’ve not looked back since. Our collection is impressive. (And really, I’ll read any well written history book I can get my hands on.)

Q: What other books affected your life?

Dead Reckoning by Charlaine HarrisThe Sookie Stackhouse Novels by Charlaine Harris. Who knew vampires and werewolves were so much fun?? I love these, because I don’t even have to think while I read them – they are just pure fluff and fun. I re-read them all in the wee hours of the morning after my 15 month old son was born last year, because the poor boy wouldn’t sleep without being held. They completely got me through a rough few weeks!

Q: What book would you most want your children to read?

You Are My I Love You by MaryAnn Cusimano (for both of my kids). I cry every.single.time I read this to my kids. It’s a wonderful reminder of what they mean to me, and what I mean to them. I think my favorite line is “I am your quiet place, You are my wild…”

Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman (more for my daughter than my son, and we read it to her regularly). A wonderful sentiment about all of the things we want for our daughter as she grows up. This is a beautifully written and illustrated book! My favorite line is “Help her to help herself, help her to stand, help her to lose and to find. Teach her we’re only as big as our dreams, show her that fortune is blind…”

As you can see, Taylor’s interests in books span through many genres.

Taylor Usry (@taylorusry) is a 32 year old mother of two, married to the love of her life. She works part time from home as the Executive Administrator for an online forum, and is a freelance designer lucky enough to work with several major stamp and craft companies. With every second of her spare time Taylor enjoys creating art, reading good books, and cooking excellent food. She is an advocate for mental health, women’s rights, and education.

All book links are affiliate links.

From Paper Page to Silver Screen

Ghost Story by Peter Straub

Occasionally I read a book and think to myself, “This would be amazing on the big screen.” Fortunately, Hollywood often has the same ideas I do (great minds think alike, I guess). Today I’m going to share a few books that have been turned into movies that I absolutely adored.  Not all of them are recent movies (or books), but they are definitely worth a read (and a rental!)

Ghost Story by Peter Straub

Peter Straub’s 1979 classic Ghost Story is an amazing horror story. Often, these don’t translate well to the big screen (for example, I have rarely been satisfied with an adaptation of a Stephen King novel).  John Irvin, however, did an outstanding job with his 1981 film starring Fred Astaire and Douglas Fairbanks. Jr.  The screenplay was fairly faithful to the original novel (taking into consideration the necessary changes to adapt a book to screen), and evoked the dread that comes across so uncomfortably in print.  Even now, thirty years alter, I’m still up for watching this movie any chance I get.  And we own at least two editions of the book!

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

The next one is an obvious choice.  Peter Jackson took more than a few liberties with J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it worked well for him.  Did I miss things in each movie?  Yes, absolutely!  The changes worked for the movies, though,  and I’m guessing (or maybe hoping) that interest in the movies compelled more than a few people to pick up the books and read them.  Having a director that so clearly admires the author and his works always helps.  Great care was taken to stay true to the spirit of the books, if not the letter.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I’ve tried many times to decide whether I enjoy the BBC’s version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice  or the newer version starring Keira Knightley.  I can’t choose, so I watch them both regularly.  Both adaptations are extremely faithful to the beloved characters and familiar stories; it helps that Austen wrote such timeless material that translates so well to the big screen.  And okay, I’ll admit it….Colin Firth is easy on the eyes!

There are so many more books that have been turned into movies that are excellent – the whole Harry Potter series, Clueless (based on Jane Austen’s Emma ), The Name of the Rose (based on Umberto Eco’s novel of the same name), and the big screen version of Dennis Lehane’s Gone, Baby, Gone, to name a few.  I’ve also heard great things about The Help and Water for Elephants, both books I loved.  And I’m really looking forward to World War Z (I discussed my love for the book recently on this blog).

What about you? Which movie adaptations of books do you love? Are there any you  were disappointed with?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!! Leave a comment here to start a discussion!