Ascension, by S.E. Lund

Ascension on AmazonIn Ascension, S.E. Lund beckons readers with the story she started in Dominion. This tale is dark and fast moving, with satisfying plot twists that make it quite the page-turner. S.E. Lund has learned her craft well.

Eve, Michel and Julien are the focus again, much to the pleasure of those who followed them through the first book. All three of them are multi-dimensional characters, well described. Eve is a little less than the others, but Lund definitely takes her development further with this book than she did in Dominion.

Another sumptuous meal from Lund, following on the heels of Dominion. Her cliff hangers always leave the reader salivating for the next book!

Review of Scent of Triumph by Jan Moran

Scent of Triumph coverJan Moran’s Scent of Triumph is an engrossing historical tale of a woman’s fortunes in World War II.

The main character, Danielle Bretancourt Von Hoffman, travels via ocean liner from New York to England. When she and her husband Max make the ocean journey, she is pregnant with their second child. In the course of the journey, the Nazis threaten to sink the ship. What unfolds made me think of the end of the movie Titanic. Yet Scent of Triumph is just getting warmed up.

Danielle’s family has a long history of success in the perfume business – success that has provided Danielle with a privileged and sheltered background, as well as an accurate and discriminating sense of smell. She is known as a “nose.” This contributes to her success.

In the course of the story, Danielle works for the French underground, escapes from the Germans, goes to Hollywood, and socializes with several major celebrities of the day. The overarching themes of the novel are war and its effects on family, home and economic security; loss; and courage and survival in the face of adversity – themes that are so relevant to today’s society.

Danielle spends much of the book trying to reunite her family. Her development into a strong and courageous woman makes this a fascinating read. The story is well-crafted with believable characters. Moran engages all five senses in her vivid and realistic descriptions of the many settings of the novel. The historical details are well researched, and give the reader a feeling of actually being in the story. As far as I could tell (not having lived through World War II myself), Moran accurately portrays the World War II experience.

I heartily recommend this book to both lovers of historical fiction and general fiction readers. And I can’t wait to see the movie.

Review of Dominion by S.E. Lund

Dominion by S.E. Lund ebook

S.E. Lund’s Dominion is a vampire story set apart from the crowd of vampire stories by both a unique concept and by the quality of Lund’s writing.

Eve Hayden is a pre-med student and a vampire hunter. She is in possession of a manuscript left to her by her mother. It’s in French, so she seeks out a translator. Eve wants revenge against the vampire who murdered her mother.

Enter the vampire Michel de Cernay. His journey to vampire-hood is detailed in the journal manuscript, along with his twin brother Julien’s.  Michel and Julien are “hot” vampires from the 13th century. Unexpectedly, when Eve meets Michel and Julien, she realizes that they are not monsters but have compelling human qualities.  She is strongly attracted to them.

Eve is an Adept, and as such she has a variety of special powers.When she interacts with Michel and Julien, she can feel their attraction to her, and this makes for some really great and steamy sex scenes. The romantic theme really keeps a reader engrossed in the book.

The author does a good job of building suspense in the mystery of the crime in the story, as well as in immersing the reader in vivid detail. The book is quite well-written, and, as other reviewers have said, I can certainly verify that the story will keep you turning pages in anticipation.

Although this novel has much in common with Twilight, it is definitely for adults. There are hints at BDSM between Eve and Mich el, though it does not actually take place.

The ending will make you want the next book in the series right away!

Here We Are and There We Go: Teaching and Travelling With Kids in Tow by Jill Dobbe

Here We Are and There We Go

Have you ever wanted to chuck it all and just travel the world? That’s what Jill Dobbe and her husband Dan did, going from country to country, teaching in schools.

From their first stop in Guam to the last stop in Mexico, Here We Are and There We Go chronicles the adventures of a globe-trotting family. The book reads as if the author is sitting at a friend’s kitchen table, telling about the amazing vacation she took. It has a folksy charm about it.

Their initial stint as teachers in Guam was peppered with fears of robbery. They worried that taking a walk in the middle of the night was not as safe as it had been stateside. What follows in this book is ten years of interesting anecdotes in different countries. Japan is a whirlwind of American food and Tokyo Disneyland. In Singapore, they throw a Christmas party for their friends, only to have the party crashed by Christian missionaries intent on converting someone. Also in Singapore, they live the heartbreaking story of adopting a child, only to have her die three weeks later.

Key details are occasionally left out. This doesn’t so much hamper the reader’s understanding of the book, but it does make one wonder why the author omitted them. For example, when Dobbe tells of learning about  Shoichi Yakoi, the Japanese soldier found living in the jungles of Guam in 1972, there is no mention of why he was there or why he had evaded capture for so long: twenty-eight years later, he thought World War II was still going on. The inclusion of this detail would have made the story so much more interesting.

When I first encountered this book, I thought it would be much like “Learning to Bow” by Bruce Feiler – a recounting of his experiences during a teaching stint in Japan. Dobbe’s book contains many more anecdotes, more descriptions of her family’s attempts to adapt, and fewer introspective passages. That style seems to fit the subject matter, and the long span of time covered, well.

There are some choice moments in the book. Her children grow up to be multi-lingual travelers themselves. And then there is this gem: ““I have become much more empathetic and appreciative of other cultures that exist in the world. Through my many travels and experiences I have come to understand that America is not the “best” country on the globe as I was always raised to believe.” It would be nice if more people in the world came to this kind of understanding.

I felt the book could have benefitted from a round with a professional editor. While the errors were not too distracting, it did have a very few grammatical and formatting issues. However, I believe that readers interested in world travel will enjoy this book heartily, like a rich and personal afternoon spent with a friend.

November Surprise by Laurel Osterkamp

November Surprise

Laurel Osterkamp’s November Surprise is a novel with a unique premise: follow young Lucy Jones through her life by stepping into it during presidential elections. The confluence of politics and romance provide the backdrop of an enjoyable and often humorous story. This is why novels are called novels – because they expose us to new ideas. Osterkamp’s creativity has been put to very good use here.

November Surprise chronicles the life  — both romantic and political – of the main character, Lucy. We begin with the election of George Herbert Walker Bush, in which Lucy supports Dukakis. Osterkamp’s well researched political details really took me back to that election and I felt like I was living in the late ‘80s again. Osterkamp also brings in the cultural aspects of each decade to enhance that feeling.

Lucy’s relationships to the brothers Monty and Jack are interwoven with the political theme. Lucy is a three-dimensional character with the ability to fascinate the reader, speaking realistic dialogue and overcoming difficult obstacles. Lucy’s growth over six elections form a well-defined character arc that keeps us reading to the end.

I’d recommend this for readers looking for entertainment, but who are not offended by progressive politics.

Margaret of the North by E. Journey

Margaret of the North

E. Journey’s Margaret of the North is an engaging sequel to Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. The story of Margaret and John’s romance from North and South is one that really engages readers and leaves them wanting more. Journey has fulfilled that desire with her book. Readers who enjoyed North and South will find reading this sequel to be a distinct pleasure.

Journey brings a freshness and vitality to Gaskell’s characters. Margaret is every bit as compelling a character as she was in Gaskell’s work. The romance between Margaret and John is continued in this novel. Their intensely passionate relationship and abiding love are revealed in touching moments described in evocative prose. John’s mother, Mrs. Thornton, is deliciously unlikeable. She really does not care for Margaret. She is a bit harsher in this book than in the original, but that serves Journey’s story well. Journey clearly loves these characters. They are well-crafted and multi-dimensional in Journey’s capable hands.

Journey includes a necessary retelling of events that happened in the original book, to remind readers who may have forgotten, and to orient those who have no experience with the original.

The themes of the novel  — the effects on society of industrialization, and the interplay of a Victorian woman’s independence with her romantic relationship to a man – are artfully woven around a storyline that furthers the story in North and South quite well. Journey’s voice is reminiscent of Gaskell’s, and I found the transition between reading Gaskell and reading Journey to be rather seamless. Journey’s prose is well written, and her historical details well researched.

I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoyed North and South.