Book 335: A SUDDEN LIGHT Review

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein
ISBN: 9781439187036 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781439187050 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781442353244 (audiobook)
ASIN: B00IWTWTO6 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 30, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

When a boy tries to save his parents’ marriage, he uncovers a legacy of family secrets in a coming-of-age ghost story by the author of the internationally bestselling phenomenon, The Art of Racing in the Rain.

In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant, whole trees, and is set on a huge estate overlooking Puget Sound. Trevor’s bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch Grandpa Samuel—who is flickering in and out of dementia—to a graduated living facility, sell off the house and property for development into “tract housing for millionaires,” divide up the profits, and live happily ever after.

But Trevor soon discovers there’s someone else living in Riddell House: a ghost with an agenda of his own. For while the land holds tremendous value, it is also burdened by the final wishes of the family patriarch, Elijah, who mandated it be allowed to return to untamed forestland as a penance for the millions of trees harvested over the decades by the Riddell Timber company. The ghost will not rest until Elijah’s wish is fulfilled, and Trevor’s willingness to face the past holds the key to his family’s future.

A Sudden Light is a rich, atmospheric work that is at once a multigenerational family saga, a historical novel, a ghost story, and the story of a contemporary family’s struggle to connect with each other. A tribute to the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, it reflects Garth Stein’s outsized capacity for empathy and keen understanding of human motivation, and his rare ability to see the unseen: the universal threads that connect us all.

Trevor Riddell is a typical fourteen-year-old boy until his parents file bankruptcy and decide on a trial separation. He is then uprooted from his East Coast life to his father’s ancestral home in Washington State. It is here that Trevor meets, for the first time, his grandfather and his aunt. He also discovers more about his father in one week than he has in the past fourteen years. Trevor’s summer at Riddell House is filled with four-generations of father-and-son angst and drama, as well as ghosts. Is it possible for this normal teenager to uncover the secrets in his family and unlock the past so everyone in his family can move on?

A Sudden Light is an amazing blend of one family’s history, self-discovery, historical drama, contemporary fiction, and the supernatural all rolled into one incredible story. Trevor doesn’t set out to uncover his family’s secrets when he arrives at Riddell House, but he quickly begins to realize that all is not what it seems. He hears music in the ballroom and witnesses an apparition dancing, supposedly his grandmother Isobel. He bonds with his grandfather Samuel and learns to deal with his dementia. He admires his Aunt Serena but also realizes that she isn’t the intelligent and beneficent person she appears to be. He also realizes that his father is a broken man, partially by his past at Riddell House and partially because of broken dreams. As Trevor explores Riddell House he learns about his great-great-grandfather Elijah, his gay great-uncle Ben (one of the other ghosts), his great-grandfather Abraham, his grandmother Isobel, his grandfather Samuel, and more. One of the enduring Riddell family legacies seems to be the dysfunctional relationship between father and son. It might seem unrealistic to think that a teenager could mend the broken ties within his family after generations of dysfunction, but that is exactly what Trevor attempts to do. 

I could go on and on about the Riddell family’s generational dysfunction, about the ghosts that seem to direct Trevor’s quest, about Serena and Jones (Trevor’s father) machinations to get their father to agree to sell the house and property to a real estate developer, or about Trevor’s growth as a person throughout the story. What I will say is that A Sudden Light is an engrossing read about one boy and his family, those living and those deceased. I enjoyed reading about the history of the Riddell family and Riddell House. I felt sympathy for Benjamin as he mourned the death of his lover and soul mate. I felt sympathy for his father Elijah as he mourned the death of Benjamin. I felt excitement tempered with anxiety as Trevor explored the house and interacted with the ghosts. I was angry with Trevor’s father Jones as he drowned his sorrows in alcohol while attempting to regain his lost youth. We won’t even discuss how I felt about Serena and her passive-aggressive manipulations (I didn’t like it). Be prepared because the ending is a bit of surprise (no I won’t tell you what happens, read the book!). If you like contemporary fiction, historical fiction, ghost stories, or family drama, then this is the book for you to read. If you haven’t guessed by now, I loved A Sudden Light and can recommend it to anyone that simply enjoys reading a well-crafted story. 

Listen to the author, Garth Stein, discuss A Sudden Light:

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Buy the Book

Available from:          BookDepository     |     Alibris

Shop Indie Bookstores






Book 330: THE BARTER Review

The Barter by Siobhan Adcock
ISBN: 9780525954224 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780698161375 (ebook)
ASIN: B00INIXNPA (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 4, 2014
Publisher: Dutton Adult

A heart-stopping tale as provocative as is suspenseful, about two conflicted women, separated by one hundred years, and bound by an unthinkable sacrifice. 

The Barter is a ghost story and a love story, a riveting emotional tale that also explores motherhood and work and feminism. Set in Texas, in present day, and at the turn of the twentieth century, the novel follows two young mothers at the turning point of their lives.

Bridget has given up her career as an attorney to raise her daughter, joining a cadre of stay-at-home mothers seeking fulfillment in a quiet suburb. But for Bridget, some crucial part of the exchange is absent: Something she loves and needs. And now a terrifying presence has entered her home; only nobody but Bridget can feel it.

On a farm in 1902, a young city bride takes a farmer husband. The marriage bed will become both crucible and anvil as Rebecca first allows, then negates, the powerful erotic connection between them. She turns her back on John to give all her love to their child. Much will occur in this cold house, none of it good.

As Siobhan Adcock crosscuts these stories with mounting tension, each woman arrives at a terrible ordeal of her own making, tinged with love and fear and dread. What will they sacrifice to save their families—and themselves? Readers will slow down to enjoy the gorgeous language, then speed up to see what happens next in a plot that thrums with the weight of decision—and its explosive consequences.

Bridget is a stay-at-home mom. She worked for years as an attorney but now spends her time devoted to her daughter Julia. Bridget loves being at home with her daughter but her thoughts have recently turned to the macabre and she thinks about the unimaginable, death. Is it possible that her thoughts have manifested a ghost in their home? What makes the situation even more bizarre is that her husband, Mark, doesn’t seem able to see the ghost. Their home is newly constructed, so how is it possible a ghost could appear in their home? What does this ghost want and even more importantly, can Bridget give this ghost what it wants?

When we are introduced to Bridget, she comes across as a tired, yet loving mother. She is rocking her daughter to sleep and thinking about death when she first notices a strange smell. She then hears several thumps before finally seeing what appears to be a ghost. At first she is sure that she has imaged this vision until the ghost begins to move further into the room. As the days and nights go by, only Bridget and her infant daughter Julia are able to see the ghost. What scares Bridget the most is that the ghost always seems to appear around the baby. Just as the anxiety begins to build with Bridget and the presence in her home, the author switches perspective and voice by introducing the reader to Rebecca. Rebecca is a young woman, being raised in the city around the turn of the century. She is newly engaged to a young farmer and is thinking about becoming a new bride and life on the farm. Unfortunately Rebecca isn’t quite sure she’s cut out to be a farmer’s wife and she winds up breaking her newly wedded husband’s heart on their wedding night. After she gives birth to her son, Rebecca’s perspective on life, family, and home seem to change but it seems to be too little too late to save her marriage.

The Barter is an interesting blend of contemporary and historical fiction with a paranormal theme. It is told in alternating voices of Bridget and Rebecca. We’re never quite sure if there is a connection between these two ladies other than the fact they are both young first-time mothers without a clue. Who is the ghost and what exactly does it want? What happened to Rebecca and her family in the past? What will happen to Bridget and her family in the present? All of these are questions that arose in my mind as I was reading this story. I’d love to say that I enjoyed reading The Barter, but there was just something about it that didn’t quite do it for me. I was often frustrated with Rebecca’s naïveté, as well as Bridget’s “woe is me” mentality. Are the characters well developed? Yes. Is the story well crafted? Yes. I don’t know if it was the paranormal aspect of the story or not, but I simply found it hard to connect. It is quite possible that since I don’t read a lot of paranormal-horror I was just unable to appreciate the finer points of this genre. Now having said all of that the question that remains is can I recommend The Barter? My answer is yes. If you enjoy paranormal or ghost stories with a slight horror twist or if you’re looking for something a little outside of your comfort zone, then I urge you to add The Barter to your reading list. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via BookSparksPR. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Buy the Book

Available from:          BookDepository     |     Alibris

Shop Indie Bookstores





Book 313: FOUR WISHES Review

Four Wishes by Christine Nolfi
ISBN: 9780985247782 (paperback – CreateSpace)
ISBN: 9780985247775 (ebook)
ASIN: B00IDVBPAM (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 12, 2014

Meade Williams has a successful company, an ailing father—and a secret desire to find love at last. Dr. Mary Chance isn’t sure the time is right to expand her family. Birdie Kaminsky has married the man of her dreams, but yearns to grow closer to her powerful sister. And young Glade Wilson must confront the daunting truth that she’ll become a mother before finishing high school.

Welcome to Book Four of The Liberty Series, where the heartwarming stories of love, friendship and family life unfold in surprising ways.

The books of The Liberty Series serve as stand-alone novels you may enjoy in any order. Look for the other books in the series: Treasure Me, Second Chance Grill, and The Impossible Wish

Four Wishes is the fourth book in The Liberty Series set in the small rural Ohio town of Liberty. As with most small towns, Liberty is a place where everyone knows their neighbor (and their neighbor’s business), and everyone is eager to pitch in when there’s someone in need. Four Wishes starts with Meade trying to plan a wedding for her sister Birdie in less than three weeks. She must do this while running her business and dealing with her seriously depressed and paranoid father. When it appears that Birdie isn’t really taking an interest in the final planning of the wedding, much of the final decision-making is left up to Meade and she handles it with ease. Meade hasn’t been sure about what she wanted from life other than a successful business and to be a good daughter, but now wants what Birdie has: a loving man and the thought of a growing family.

Birdie is anxious to get married and is willing to have a picnic dinner rather than the formal affair wanted by her father and organized by Meade. She knows that this is their way of helping out, so she gives in. All Birdie really wants is for her sister to open up to her and for them to grow closer.

Dr. Mary Chance is struggling, and juggling, the responsibilities of a growing medical practice and family life. Her husband is happy to help out around the house, but is eager to grow their family (an idea that is strongly encouraged by his daughter Blossom). When Mary gets pregnant she wants to keep it a secret, but before she knows it the entire town is celebrating her pregnancy and her stepdaughter is researching baby names. Mary is cautiously optimistic that things will work out for the best with this pregnancy, but she worries that her superstitions about not declaring a pregnancy until the second trimester might foreshadow tragedy.

Glade Wilson is happy to be away from poverty. She’s grateful to her Aunt Reenie and to Meade for taking her in. She knows that without an education she may never make be more than the working poor, but she’s taken the first step to starting a new life. Now that she’s faced with the imminent arrival of her baby, she worries that she’ll be a good mother and how much pain childbirth will bring.

On the surface it may be difficult to see what a teenager, two thirty-something professional women, and one forty-something entrepreneur have in common. It quickly becomes evident that they all want the same thing, love and a family. They all may be going about using different methods, but the end result is the same for them all. Meade seems to be the one with the most: a privileged childhood, wealth, beauty, brains, and independence, but looks can be deceiving. Meade is the one that needs just as much help as the others. She needs to know that she can be loved for who she is as a person, not what she brings to the table. She needs to know that it is acceptable to not be perfect and no one really expects perfection from her.

Ms. Nolfi has, once again, crafted a story that spotlights the joys and sorrows of love, friendship, and family. Four Wishes provides great romance and family drama while dealing with some weighty issues such as teen pregnancy and depression. These weighty issues aren’t glossed over but dealt with in a realistic and respectful manner. I enjoyed Four Wishes, as I enjoyed reading the previous books in this series. I found Four Wishes to be a fast-paced read that made me smile, frown, and want to cry. If you enjoy reading contemporary fiction with realistic characters dealing with realistic problems, then you’ll definitely want to add Four Wishes to your TBR list.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Buy the Book





Book 310: A PRAYER HEEDED Review

A Prayer Heeded (A Prayer Series 2) by Samreen Ahsan
ISBN: 9781491727164 (hardcover – iUniverse)
ISBN: 9781491727140 (paperback – iUniverse)
ISBN: 9781311356963 (ebook – Smashwords)
ISBN: 9781491727157 (ebook – iUniverse)
ASIN: B00IDVBPAM (Kindle edition)
Publication date: February 1, 2014

Adam Gibson is a multimillionaire who is not searching for God–or demons–when he finds love with a beautiful woman. Unfortunately, Rania, the one who has captured his heart, has a tormented past. Adam is unaware of his powers, how God makes sure his each prayer is heeded due to his virtue of charity. Adam knows Rania is still the answer to all his silent prayers. But now only time will tell if her soul is destined to be his once again.

Rania Ahmed is dead inside. Adam, the man she mistakenly considered to be her soul mate, has crushed her soul into millions of pieces. Due to her broken past, she still believes her curse will keep her from loving ever again. What she does not know is that Adam has made a promise to himself to never give up on her–no matter what. But Adam does not know what he is getting himself into.

In this spiritual romance, an atheist embarks on a path of enlightenment with a tormented soul who may just have the power to change everything he has ever believed to be true.

The first volume in The Prayer SeriesA Silent Prayer ends with Adam Gilbert demonstrating an extreme act of jealousy that embarrasses and wounds Rania Ahmed, so she leaves him. The only problem is her apartment has been destroyed in a fire, she has no relatives in Toronto, and has left her wallet at Adam’s home. Rania finds herself emotionally battered and bruised as well as homeless. She turns to a shelter that has been built and supported by Adam’s generosity. Is it possible for these two seemingly star-crossed lovers to find a way back to one another? Rania is a devout Muslimah (female Muslim) and she tries hard to hold fast to her faith and beliefs, despite her attraction to Adam Gibson. There are many secrets in Rania’s past and uncovering these secrets is the key to unlocking her heart. But how can Adam find the key if he doesn’t know where she is. Adam realizes he’s made a big mistake and is willing to do whatever it takes to gain Rania’s forgiveness; he just hopes it isn’t too late. 

A Prayer Heeded is much more than a romance; it is a blend of magical realism, paranormal-fantasy, and religious myth blended in with a romance. Rania and Adam know that they love one another, but they also know that they come from different cultural backgrounds, different ethnic backgrounds and vastly different religious backgrounds. The first two are relatively easy to work around, but having a devout believer in a relationship with an atheist is beyond hard work. Although both Rania and Adam are willing to work to overcome this difficulty, there are those deep secrets in Rania’s background that must be dealt with in order for their relationship to move forward. Regrettably Adam fails Rania again when she finally divulges all of her deepest secrets: a previous marriage, marital rape, beatings, infidelity on the part of her husband, and an ongoing issue with a lovelorn jinn named Khaldun. Adam is willing to deal with almost everything except the notion of the jinn. It’s easier to accept the idea that Rania is possibly schizophrenic rather than something supernatural. After much trial and error, including Rania’s departure from Canada and an arranged marriage in Dubai, Rania and Adam are able to accept each other’s love and move forward in marriage. One would think that is the end of their problems but it just signals the beginning of new problems for their love.

I found A Prayer Heeded to be just as fast-paced a read as A Silent Prayer. The idea of a lovelorn jinn stalking women for four thousand years was intriguing, to say the least. I did have problems with the profanity used.  There’s a lot of the f-word used in this story. Once my inner-prude was able to overcome that issue, I was able to enjoy the story. Yes there are a lot of elements to this story: supernatural-paranormal-fantasy, religion, marital rape, and more. Ms. Ahsan does an admirable job in combining all of these into a cohesive story with interesting and fully developed characters and plausible action. It was nice to gain more insight into who Rania is and why she behaves the way she does. It was also nice to finally get to see her interact with her father and learn more about that relationship. As a Muslim I did have some issues with the notion that Adam converts to Islam but continues to drink and never seems to pray the obligatory daily prayers, but I also recognize that there are Muslims that give lip-service to Islam and never actually fulfill their religious obligations. Other than that minor issue, I found A Prayer Heeded to be an enjoyable read. If you’re interested in reading a story that features an East-meets-West angle, has a supernatural-paranormal component, and blends in romance with religious awareness, then you’ll definitely want to read A Silent Prayer and A Prayer Heeded.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Buy the Book

Available from:          BookDepository     |     Alibris

Shop Indie Bookstores





Book Showcase: GHOSTING by Edith Pattou

Ghosting by Edith Pattou
ISBN: 9781477847749 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781477847893 (paperback)
ASIN: B00ICWYTPA (Kindle edition) 
Publication date: August 19, 2014
Publisher: Skyscape

On a hot summer night in a Midwestern town, a high school teenage prank goes horrifically awry. Alcohol, guns, and a dare. Within minutes, as events collide, innocents becomes victims—with tragic outcomes altering lives forever, a grisly and unfortunate scenario all too familiar from current real-life headlines. But victims can also become survivors, and as we come to know each character through his/her own distinctive voice and their interactions with one another, we see how, despite pain and guilt, they can reach out to one another, find a new equilibrium, and survive.

Told through multiple points of view in naturalistic free verse and stream of consciousness, this is an unforgettable, haunting tale.



When I was a little girl

ghosting was

a sheet of paper and

a drawing in

black ink.

A crudely sketched ghost,

with a Tootsie Roll

taped on.

Not scary.

A fun Halloween prank.

You slipped it under a neighbor’s door,

ran away,


“You’ve been ghosted!”



But now

ghosting is:

this can’t be happening,

screams like knives in your ears,

pooling glistening blood.


And death, bellowing

hot and loud




Meet the author:

Edith Pattou has found acclaim as a writer in middle-grade fantasy with such award-winning books as East, which received starred reviews in Booklist and School Library Journal; was selected as a Top Ten Book for YA, an American Library Association Notable Book, a School Library Journal Top Ten YA Book, one of the 100 Best of the Best YA Books for the 21st Century by the Young Adult Library Services Association; and was nominated for numerous state awards. It’s a nominee for NPR’s all-time Best YA Novels list. 

Connect with the author:

Website      |     Facebook      |     Twitter      |     Goodreads

Buy the Book

Available at:          BookDepository     |     Alibris

Shop Indie Bookstores




The Moment of Everything by Shelly King
ISBN: 9781455546794 (paperback) 
ISBN: 9781455546787 (ebook)
Publication date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

In the tradition of The Cookbook Collector comes a funny, romantic novel about a young woman finding her calling while saving a used bookstore.

Maggie Duprès, recently “involuntarily separated from payroll” at a Silicon Valley start-up, is whiling away her days in The Dragonfly’s Used Books, a Mountain View institution, waiting for the Next Big Thing to come along.

When the opportunity arises for her to network at a Bay Area book club, she jumps at the chance – even if it means having to read Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a book she hasn’t encountered since college, in an evening. But the edition she finds at the bookstore is no Penguin Classics Chatterley – it’s an ancient hardcover with notes in the margins between two besotted lovers of long ago. What Maggie finds in her search for the lovers and their fate, and what she learns about herself in the process, will surprise and move readers.

Witty and sharp-eyed in its treatment of tech world excesses, but with real warmth at its core, The Moment of Everything is a wonderful read.

Maggie Duprès is a thirty-something wondering what to do with her life. Although she has a degree in English and Library Science, she doesn’t really want to work in a library. She’s spent the past ten years working for a tech company ensuring the tech-speak is understood by the common man. Now her company has been downsized and she’s at loose ends. Until she finds that perfect job, she spends her days at a local bookstore. Little does she know that her days are soon to be filled with thoughts of books, promoting books, and promoting this quaint, local institution.

After Maggie is invited to join a local book club, she is given a copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover by the owner of the used bookstore, The Dragonfly’s Used Books. She is immediately intrigued by a series of notes left in the book between two would-be lovers. Maggie’s intrigue quickly becomes the impetus for promoting The Dragonfly on a website. She posts bits of these notes online in her search for these lovers. This online post quickly puts The Dragonfly in the spotlight and provides Maggie with a job. In between her duties at The Dragonfly, Maggie quickly becomes involved in an almost-maybe-not-quite romance with a lovely young man, Rahjit. Maggie’s co-worker, Jason is antagonistic toward her at first but the two become friends in the end. 

I enjoyed Maggie’s quest for the truth about the notes in the book. I especially enjoyed reading about her interactions with the owner of The Dragonfly – Hugo, as well as the store’s strange and wonderful customers: Gloria with her NPR tote bag filled with romance novels, the CIA Bathroom trio, and more. The Moment of Everything is filled with love lost, love gained, despair, grief, joy, and more. Maggie’s search for a job is also a search to find meaning in her life. Her relationship with her mother is quixotic at best, but one she realizes is not as bad as she thinks. Maggie’s best friend, Dizzy, is one she’s known most of her life and the reason she relocated from the East to the West. But can she spend the rest of her life following Dizzy from company-to-company and state-to-state? I found all of the characters to be wonderfully strange yet wholly realistic. There’s great romance in this book, but at the heart of it is simply one woman’s search for meaning in her life and she finds it in a bookstore, one particular book, and through a diverse group of friends and family. This was a book that I enjoyed reading and will probably reread in the future (yes, I enjoyed it that much). If you’re looking for an adult coming-of-age style story to read or just for something a little different, then I suggest you grab a copy of The Moment of Everything

Watch the following videos based on snippets from The Moment of Everything 

“The secret sketchbook of Betty Valentine”

“Cassie’s Pen Pals”

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Buy the Book

Available from:          BookDepository     |     Alibris

Shop Indie Bookstores






The Wonder (Queen of Hearts Volume 2) by Colleen Oakes
ISBN: 9781940716213 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781940716206 (ebook)
Publication date: September 23, 2014
Publisher: SparkPress

An Exiled Princess. An Ancient Tribe. A Dangerous Stranger with Unknown Loyalties. 

Dinah, the former Princess of Wonderland Palace, has been chased into the wilds of Wonderland after the brutal murder of her brother and the ruin of her impending crown. Now, as her half-sister Vittiore sits on the throne beside her Father, the brutal King of Hearts, Dinah finds herself alone in the forbidding Twisted Wood with only Morte, a homicidal beast, for company. 

Hunted by the King and his army of Cards, Dinah struggles to evade those who long for her head, including Cheshire, the King’s clever advisor, who is slowly tightening his grasp around her. Spurred on by her rising terror, the former Princess finds herself at the center of a web of conspiracy reaching far beyond the Palace and deep into the mysterious Yurkei mountain tribes. 

Even with the balance of an entire Kingdom at stake, Dinah knows something that her allies and enemies do not: that the most dangerous conflict of all has already begun as she battles the enticing rage that beckons her ever closer as love slips further from her grasp.

The second book in the bestselling and award-winning Queen of Hearts Saga, The Wonder takes readers back to the most wondrous and curious places in Wonderland, and continues this darkly addictive tale featuring one of the most infamous villains of all time.

But be warned…not every fairy tale has a happy ending.

This is the story of a princess who became a villain.

Readers were introduced to Dinah, Princess of Hearts in The Crown, volume one of the Queen of Hearts Saga. We were able to see Dinah wander listlessly around the palace in Wonderland, still grieving her mother’s death, and saddened over the madness and others ills that her brother, Prince Charles (aka the Mad Hatter), must deal with. Her father, the ruthless King of Hearts, appears to despise her presence. Just when it seems the Dinah is getting closer to being crowned the new Queen of Hearts, her father presents the royal court with his bastard child, Dinah’s half-sister, the Duchess of Hearts – Vittiore. As Dinah rivals Vittiore, unsuccessfully, for her father’s affection, she begins to wonder about her father’s motives. On the night before her coronation, Dinah awakens to find her brother, Prince Charles, brutally murdered by her father yet Dinah is quickly blamed for the death. Fearing for her life, Dinah flees the palace and Wonderland.

The Wonder finds Dinah trying to survive in the wilderness. Her only companion is her father’s stolen steed, a horse as large as a house with spiked hooves. Amazingly Dinah survives, but little does she know that she’s being tracked by the best. Fortunately for her, the best tracker quickly becomes her ally. Or so she thinks until her ally leads her into the kingdom and the hands of the king’s sworn enemies, the Yurkei. Mundoo, the chief of the Yurkei, takes Dinah in and begins to train her in the art of war. Bewildered by this, Dinah isn’t quite sure what to think about what is happening around her until she stumbles upon the king’s most trusted adviser, Cheshire. The story Cheshire reveals demonstrates that he is indeed Dinah’s father not the king, and that he seeks to place her on the throne of Wonderland. Now Dinah has the most fierce and largest warriors in the land, the Yurkei, aligning to fight beside her to overthrow the present King of Hearts. Dinah also now has several hundred warriors from the House of Spades willing to fight on her behalf. Is it possible this teenage queen can become the warrior leader needed to overthrow the current despotic king? Will her reign as queen be any better than her predecessor’s? Will the people of Wonderland be able to respect a queen that is now despised and known as the Red Queen?

Ms. Oakes takes many characters from Lewis Carroll’s beloved Alice in Wonderland and twists them into a modern retelling of Wonderland. The readers are allowed to see how the legend of “the Red Queen” began and why. We discover the impetus behind the feared “off with their heads” threat. Instead of a Cheshire cat, we see the head of the House of Diamonds, a gentleman named Cheshire with a cat-like grin become the king’s most trusted and feared advisor. The Mad Hatter becomes the brother of the Queen of Hearts and is someone that suffers seizures and appears may be autistic in that he lives in his own world and hates to be touched. The game of Royal Croquet is played with mallets shaped like birds and balls carved to resemble hedgehogs. The Knave of Hearts is head of the House of Hearts and leads the king’s most-trusted and highly trained warriors. The House of Spades are considered the lowest of all of the house cards and aren’t afforded the same rights and privileges. These men live in squalor and poverty and are forced to do the king’s dirty work in the Black Tower, torturing various prisoners. Dinah isn’t a bad person but she is someone filled with anger. She seeks to avenge the deaths of her mother and brother. If she isn’t careful that righteous anger may become something just as twisted and dark as the emotions that drive the current King of Hearts.

I actually enjoyed reading both The Crown and The Wonder (I read them back-to-back on one Saturday). I’m not a big fan of fantasy, but it was interesting to read these books and see how Ms. Oakes deftly twisted the already twisted story by Mr. Carroll. Dinah isn’t a wholly likeable character but she is a sympathetic character that grows on you as you read (or at least she did with me). I know that there will probably be a great deal of bloodshed and anguish in the next volume in this series, because war seems to be inevitable. Although this series is classified as YA, I found it to be an engrossing read and one that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. If you are a fan of fantasy, the retelling of classic literature, or simply interested in something a little different to read, then I strongly urge you to grab a copy of The Crown and The Wonder today. This is one series you don’t want to miss!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Buy the Book