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Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea


Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

Pub: 2013

Strange things begin to occur when a stranger rents Violet’s family’s guest house in the sleepy, seaside town of Echo.

Opening line:

You stop fearing the Devil when you’re holding his hand.

This book has been on my to-read shelf for awhile, as it was marketed as a Gothic horror and compared with Daphne du Maurier. The atmosphere and descriptions were spot-on. Gorgeous. Deep and beautiful and rich. There was mystery and a creeping fear of… something that you couldn’t quite put your finger on. And even once you found out what was going on, there were unanswered questions and you weren’t sure when people were lying.

And then I was disappointed. I’m not even sure how to express it without getting spoiler-y, but essentially, it turned too gory, too ridiculous, too Twilight-esque for me. (Run, Violet, run and don’t look back!)

Heads up: some language, some sexual references, rather descriptive violence/gore


Delia’s Shadow


NEW this week…

Delia’s Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer

3 of 5 stars

With the 1906 San Francisco World’s Fair as the backdrop, Delia is haunted by the ghost of a murder victim as her killer once more terrifies the city.

A murder investigation was a macabre jigsaw puzzle, splashed with blood and the remnants of someone’s life.

This historical murder mystery ghost story borrows from many serial killer investigations, most obviously that of the Zodiac killer (though that occurred decades after the setting of this book), and the grim details and sense of fear are intense throughout the story.  The characters in this novel are particularly well-written, with relationships that felt genuine and strengthened the story.

On the flip side, there were still some unanswered questions that left me feeling somewhat less satisfied at the end of the story:

For instance (highlight for spoilers) –

  • what happened to the other officer who had gone missing?
  • why did the killer target Gabe’s father to begin with?
  • what happened to the killer while at his uncle’s that caused such a change in him?
  • why had Jack’s father kept his mother’s murder secret?
  • who were Teddy & Beryl?
  • how did Aileen know to ask Delia for help anyway?
  • why all the Egyptology?

I also think that the killer may have been a bit too… two-dimensional.  I was sincerely hoping for some sort of twist or shocker ending but was kind of disappointed when they figured out who it was and — sure enough — that’s who it was.  It was almost too easy, and made me wonder why it had taken them thirty years to figure out who it was.

Overall, though, good ghostly murder mystery with a bit of history and romance thrown in as well

The Beautiful and the Damned





The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Pub: 1922

4 of 5 stars

Young, educated Anthony Patch marries beautiful society girl Gloria Gilbert, and together they live from one party to the next as they await the inheritance they expect to receive from Anthony’s grandfather.

“Things are sweeter when they’re lost. I know–because once I wanted something and got it. It was the only thing I ever wanted badly, Dot, and when I got it it turned to dust in my hand.”

The second of Fitzgerald’s novels, this story of Anthony and Gloria seems almost to pick up where This Side of Paradise leaves off, with Anthony acting as a somewhat more mature, somewhat classier Amory Blaine.  Though he finds the love of his life, Gloria is just as light and careless as the Daisy Buchanan that follows her in The Great Gatsby and the two of them together work to slowly ruin one another.

I’ve always been a fan of Fitzgerald’s prose, and here, he delves deeper into human nature and darker emotions than This Side of Paradise.  It’s hard to like Anthony and Gloria, yet watching their marriage deteriorate, you can’t help but keep hoping that something will happen to bring these two dynamic characters back to one another.  It’s been long enough since I last read it that I didn’t recall how it ended, which wasn’t at all how I expected.

Overall:  Taking pages from his own life and downfall, Fitzgerald’s chronicles of the doomed protagonist are still powerful almost a century later.

Rebellious Heart


NEW this week…

Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund

3.5 of 5 stars

A wealthy young woman in 1763 Massachusetts tries to help a runaway indentured servant with the help of a poor country lawyer.

They were no longer just school friends playing a simple game of cards.  They were grown men.  The game they were playing now was far more dangerous and the stakes much higher.

And the danger would likely get considerably worse before it got better.

I wish I had realized before starting this book that it was (very loosely) based on the courtship of John & Abigail Adams!  Just reading that in the Afterword made me appreciate the story much more.  While we’ve all heard in history lessons about the conflicts between colonists and Britain during the mid/late 1700s, this one wasn’t just another history lesson — it upped the stakes by also including a grisly murder mystery, runaway indentured servants, and, of course, a romance that bloomed in unlikely circumstances.

This is rather typical of a Christian historical fiction romance, so you can expect to find all of the same elements as in others like it — misunderstandings and mis-communications that cause hurt pride… other, not as worthy suitors vying for the hero/ine’s attentions… and wise, older mentors reminding the hero/ine to do what is right.  In that way, it’s a bit predictable, but perfect for curling up with on a rainy day.

Other novels I’ve read by the author:
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Into the Whirlwind


NEW this week…

Into the Whirlwind by Elizabeth Camden

4 of 5 stars

Mollie Knox must rebuild her family’s watch company after the Great Chicago Fire as two men fight for her affection.

The next hours would always be a blur in Mollie’s memory.  The water was too cold to stand in for any length of time.  Teeth chattering, standing in the water up to her waist, she watched her city burn… By this time tomorrow, the prettiest waterfront in America would be a  burned-over wasteland.

There are certain times and places in American history that never fail to interest me, and the Great Chicago Fire era is one of those settings.  This historical Christian romance really does sweep the reader up into the whirlwind as the main characters battle for their lives, for the businesses that they’ve built, the reputations which they’ve developed, and the people whom they love.  There is so much going on in this book, from the historical background of what’s going on in Chicago at the time, to the rise of industrialization and the assembly line, from moral questions about business dealings, to national pride and the pride of veterans.  Though a lot is going on throughout, it all weaves together cohesively.

I don’t know that I was completely sold on the romance aspect of this book — it was a bit too Gone With the Wind for my tastes, with a back and forth love/hate relationship based on misunderstandings and hurt feelings.  By the end, I was rooting for them, but for a long while there, I wondered if the main characters might actually be better off without each other.

Overall:  Highly recommended for fans of Christian historical romance… well-researched and entertaining

Warm Bodies


Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Pub: 2010

4 of 5 stars

When R, a teenaged zombie, brings home a Living girl, Julie, he begins to change in ways that are very un-Dead-like.

I don’t have a name anymore.  Hardly any of us do.  We lose them like car keys, forget them like anniversaries.

As far as zombie books go, this one actually stands out, which, in our world oversaturated with paranormal romance, is really saying something.  The narrator’s voice — vivid, somewhat sarcastic, and sorrowful for all of life that he’s missing out on — is unique and pulls you in from the first pages.  Who knew that it would be so easy to sympathize with a zombie?

Zombie traditionalists may have issues with how the zombies are portrayed — most aren’t your typical arms-out-moaning/slow-moving genre, and the Boneys (the ones farthest gone) are a new terror that’s barely ‘zombie’ at all.

Heads up: I could have done without the frequent use of ‘colorful’ language; it was overall unnecessary.

Overall:  A post-apocalyptic Romeo & Juliet that’s not your typical paranormal romance.

ClassicsRetoldInterested in more retellings of classic novels?  Check out more Romeo and Juliet-inspired stories at Alexa Loves Books this September as part of our Classics Retold project!

Keeping the Castle


Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

Pub: Jun 2012

4 of 5 stars

17-year-old Althea vows to marry for money in order to prevent her family’s perilously-perched castle from falling into ruin.

“Oh, but Miss Crawley, lovely as you are, surely you of all ladies cannot find being a woman to be a burden!”

Ah well.  He was charming, handsome, wealthy, and titled.  I supposed it was a bit much to expect him not to be a fool.

This clever, ironic, Regency-era satire seems to take Jane Austen’s Emma, place her in a rather exaggerated state of poverty, then throw in a couple stepsisters and an ill-mannered Mr. Darcy, just to see what shakes out.  The result is a witty, complex, tangled web of misunderstandings and misadventures that sticks close to Austen’s own writing.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen just happens to be one of my all-time favorite books, so it didn’t take long for me to figure out how it was all going to work out in the end, and there were parts where the plot slowed to a near stand-still, but it’s a cute story definitely worth a read.

Interested in more classic retellings like these?  This September, as part of our Classics Retold project, Dee’s Book Blog will be blogging about retellings/adaptations of Jane Austen’s Emma and both Harley Bear Book Club and Beauty But a Funny Girl will be featuring Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

The Beautiful and the Damned



The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Pub: 1922

4 of 5 stars

Young, educated Anthony Patch marries beautiful society girl Gloria Gilbert, and together they live from one party to the next as they await the inheritance they expect to receive from Anthony’s grandfather.

Full review coming in September for Classics Retold project!

Overall:  Taking pages from his own life and downfall, Fitzgerald’s chronicles of the doomed protagonist are still powerful almost a century later.



Soulless by Gail Carriger
Parasol Protectorate series #1

Pub: 2009

2 of 5 stars

There was a lot to be said for a man who sported such well-tailored jackets — even if he did change into a ferocious beast once a month.

In alt-history 1860s England, Alexia — a spinster with abilities to negate supernatural powers — joins with an alpha werewolf to uncover a mystery when a number of werewolves and vampires go missing.

After hearing great things about Carriger’s YA novel, Etiquette and Espionage, I decided to read this one first, since that series is supposedly a spin-off of this one.  Apparently I didn’t do my homework; I obviously had no idea what this book was about, or I probably wouldn’t have picked it up.

In the first half of the novel, the author introduces an interesting alt history, in which vampires and werewolves are out in the open and part of England’s society and politics.  Alexia piqued my interest, since she seemed to be a clever character with a witty sense of humor.

I’ve read a few werewolf/vampire novels, but they really just aren’t my thing, and I probably wouldn’t have read this had I known.  Also, from the halfway point on, the witty humor seemed to be replaced with rather graphic “romance” scenes… though it was one of those “romances” where the characters don’t even really seem to like each other, but somehow wind up in compromising situations and just simply can’t control their physical urges.  Again, not at all the kind of book I’d pick up.  Take away the werewolves and vampires and the ‘bodice-ripping’, and there really wasn’t much to the story, which was also rather disappointing.

From a writing standpoint, I’m not sure how the author got away with so much POV head-hopping and constantly switching from “Alexia” to “Miss Tarabotti” within the same paragraphs.  (Also, no one is bothered by the fact that [highlight for spoiler: Alexia is going to keep aging, and her husband — a werewolf — is not?]

Overall:  Not at all my kind of book, though there were a couple clever lines.

The Tutor’s Daughter


The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

Pub: Jan 2013

3.5 of 5 stars

When Emma accompanies her father to a cliff-top manor to tutor two young students, she discovers that the boys’ family have been hiding secrets, some which may be dangerous for her to know.

God in heaven.  The tide was on its way in.  And with the wind rising and a storm brewing… it was far from save to be venturing out to Chapel of the Rock.  In fact, it was dashed dangerous…

Something was wrong about all this.  Very wrong.

I really enjoyed this Regency-era Christian historical fiction romantic mystery (that enough genres for you?).  The author mixed in elements of some of my favorite classics, such as Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice, and wove a mystery throughout it.  It was well-written in the same tone and style of most Regency-era novels.

However, the main character lacked the spunk of Elizabeth Bennett, the self-assurance of Emma Woodhouse, or the strong convictions of Jane Eyre; I found this Emma one of the least-interesting characters of the novel.  Also, although there were a handful of mysteries throughout the story, they didn’t present much of a challenge for me to figure out.

Overall: Christian fans of classic Regency-era novels might want to check out this book for a sweet, fluffy romance.

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