Sunday, 25 November 2012

Book Review: Severed Threads by Kaylin McFarren

Severed Threads
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Blurb:
“Believing herself responsible for her father’s fatal diving accident, Rachel Lyons has withdrawn from the world and assumed a safe position at a foundation office. When called upon by a museum director to assist her former love interest with the recovery of a cursed relic from a sunken Chinese merchant ship, she has no intention of co-operating – until her brother is kidnapped by a drug-dealing gangster. In order to save him and gain control over her life, Rachel must not only overcome her greatest fears, but also relive the circumstances that lead to her father’s death”

Rachel Lyons lost her father Sam in a diving accident and the first chapter of this book serves as a prologue, providing the reader with a much needed backstory to both Sam Lyons’ demise and the ensuing adventure. We are also introduced to Chase Cohen, who features as our hero.

From the second chapter onwards, we are navigated back to the present where we find that Rachel, a former marine biologist, has totally withdrawn from the diving world and is now gainfully employed at The Warren Nash Foundation. Anything to do with diving troubles her, so it is with trepidation that we see her going to meet with Dr Ying, a Museum director and old friend of her father who has, after doing a large amount of research, requested a grant from the foundation to find the Wanli II – the Ming Dynasty Emperor’s lost dragon ship – the same ship that led to her father’s death. She soon realises she’s been manipulated when, after delivering the bad news of the unsuccessful grant to Professor Ying, Chase Cohen, the owner of Trident Adventures, makes his appearance at the meeting.

Chase brings back painful memories, memories which she has no desire to dissect. Having been in a relationship with him when her father died, she’s never forgiven him for the short scribbled note he left her before leaving town as well as the fact that he never attended her father’s funeral.

At first, Rachel refuses to be a part of the quest that Chase is on, but when her brother, Devon, is kidnapped by a drug-lord and his cohorts, she puts her carefully built-up life and financial prosperity on the line to save him.

For Rachel, this will be a voyage of re-discovery of the underwater world she left behind and possibly a chance at finally laying to rest some painful memories – for Chase, an opportunity for redemption.

My Thoughts:
I found this to be an action-packed, satisfying and informative read, with a lot of technical aspects relating to boats, underwater archaeology and scuba diving which makes me feel that Kaylin McFarren has done her research well. The characters are well-developed and the scorching chemistry between the two protagonists will leave you wanting to dive into the cool waters of the ocean. Ms McFarren has a way of allowing her reader to connect with the emotions of her characters, of which there are plenty, but perhaps the most constant of which are guilt and betrayal. Ms McFarren has done well with the easy way in which she keeps her reader involved, from her flowing dialogue to the remarkable way in which she makes use of sensory and external environmental descriptions. She quite capably managed to keep me turning the pages in anticipation of the outcome and, just when I thought I had the plot nailed, out rolled another surprise.

If you are looking for a fast-paced romantic suspense novel with dramatic adventure, action, intrigue and a hint of the paranormal all coming together to form the backbone of a story with multiple plot lines which intertwine and lead you to a very fulfilling conclusion, then “Severed Threads” is for you.

This is the first book in the “Threads” series by Kaylin McFarren and I thank both Creative Edge Publishing and NetGalley for allowing me the opportunity to read and review this great book.

A Bit about the Author (taken from her website):
Linda Yoshida, aka Kaylin McFarren, is a rare bird indeed. Not a migratory sort, she prefers to hug the West Coast and keep family within visiting range. Although she has virtually been around the world, she was born in California, relocated with her family to Washington and nested with her husband in Oregon. In addition to playing an active role in his business endeavours, she has been involved in all aspects of their three daughters’ lives – taxi duties, cheerleading coaching, script rehearsals and relationship counselling, to name but a few. Now she enjoys spending undisciplined time with her two young grandsons and hopes to have many more.

Kaylin is a member of RWA, Rose City Romance Writers and Willamette Writers. She received her AA in Literature at Highline Community College, which originally sparked her passion for writing. In her free time, she also enjoys giving back to the community through participation and support of various charitable and educational organisations in the Pacific Northwest.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Book Review: Miss Nobody by Nicole Dunlap

Miss Nobody (Shaw Family Saga, Book 1)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“How far will you go for fame? Fifteen-year-old Charlene Shaw runs away from her small hometown in North Carolina to become an actress. She meets a truck driver, the gold cross around his neck is a good sign that he will get her closer to her dreams; right? On the self-destructive road to stardom, Charlene’s using everything in her path to erase the past and the baby she abandoned—her daughter, Raven. Just thinking about Raven sends chills of fear down Charlene’s spine. 

Raven Shaw grows up in her mother’s tight-knit town and has been dubbed “Miss Goodie Two Shoes.” Though she is head of the children’s choir, nothing can pacify her rage when someone gossips about her mom—she takes up for a woman she doesn’t even know. The gossip just can’t be true, so Raven decides to learn about her mom. Learning about mom brings her closer to love. Now Raven knows she can’t be entirely devoted to the man that has her heart until she learns why Charlene neglected her.

Mother’s and daughter’s path collide, Raven asks her mother two requests—two family secrets that can ruin both of their lives. Leading Charlene and Raven down the shadowy road of feeling like a “Miss Nobody.”

I received this as an e-book from the author, Nicole Dunlap, to read and review. Thanks goes to Nicole for allowing me this opportunity.

Nicole describes herself as “the gumbo genre novelist” – a little bit of everything! As a guidance counselor, she has “worked with teenagers with issues of abandonment and low self-esteem and took aspects from these beautiful teenagers’ identities and have seasoned my characters from Miss Nobody with them” (quotes courtesy of Ms Dunlap's website).

This book, being the first in a Family Saga, opens with 15 year-old Charlene Shaw making plans to run away from home after hearing an earth-shattering conversation between her mother and father - although we only come to learn of that conversation later in the book. She wants out of her small hometown and would like to make it big in Hollywood as an actress.

Charlene’s story parallels that of her daughter, Raven – the result of a sexual assault at the beginning of her journey to Hollywood – or so she thinks! Charlene deserts Raven when she is 6 months old in order to pursue her dreams of stardom determined not to allow anyone or anything to get in the way of the selfish pursuit of her dream. With Charlene’s parents not having heard from her for almost a year, a telephone call from an orphanage alerts them to the existence of Raven.

Throughout Charlene’s story, she is continually haunted by nightmares of her rapist, thoughts of Raven send chills through her, her best friend is murdered and a long-term relationship fails due to her feelings of unworthiness and fear of having more children. Charlene’s journey is one filled with guilt, sadness and self-hatred but ultimately she feels betrayed by God and sinks into a world of alcohol and prescription drugs.

On the other hand, Raven has had a very stable upbringing with her loving grandparents and although continually subjected to nasty comments and conversations about her mother by the local gossip-mongers in their small town, this has not deterred her from wanting to find out more about the mother who deserted her. As I’m sure any other young girl in her situation would probably feel, she has a lot of questions about her mother and with her grandparents unwilling to talk about her mother, sets off in search of the answers – with devastating consequences.

There is a thread of Christianity throughout the book, but it has more to do with the moral fibre of the characters rather than being an outright “Christian” read and, unlike many of the Christian fiction books out there which generally steer clear of anything sexual, Nicole has done a wonderful job of creating subtle sexual moments between the characters allowing the reader’s imagination to do the rest.

With the chapters alternating between Charlene and Ravens’ stories, and Ms Dunlap introducing us to a number of characters, at no time did I feel lost in confusion as to which character was being portrayed and I believe that it takes a skilful writer to be able to do this. There were a few places that seemed to be rushed and others where a bit more elaboration would have been appreciated but overall, for a first novel, Ms Dunlap has done a marvelous job.

Rape, guilt, incest, betrayal, secrets, lies and greed - all intertwine to create a salting of intrigue in a Family Saga that is bound to keep you turning the pages in an attempt to discover the answers. Unfortunately, as Family Sagas go, you will need to await the release of Ms Dunlap’s next book, Miss Scandalous, due to be released in 2013.

Friday, 2 November 2012

A Muse: Reflections

As the Citizenship Application papers lay on the desk awaiting signature and submission (with a bundle of other documents yet to be collated), it is with bittersweet memories that I reflect on the 4 years we have spent in Australia.

Bittersweet in that on boarding our Australia-bound flight on a balmy spring evening in November 2008, our hearts were breaking as we left our beloved families behind, but on arrival in Brisbane, and after a two hour drive West, found a better life for our little family.

Overcome with trepidation at not knowing a single soul and having never met the people that offered hubby his first job in this great wide land, we embarked on an adventure of discovery that continues to this day!

And as I sit here on my back verandah thinking of everyone back in South Africa, I am overcome with emotion – for missing family members who are yet to experience this country in all its beauty and freedom.

Although the sun still rises in the East and sets in the West, I am aware of how much our lives have changed and am constantly reminded of how very lucky we are to have been accepted into a country where we no longer have to keep looking over our shoulders for fear of danger that could at any time envelop us in its clutches.

A concealed weapon is no longer carried or locked in a safe bolted to the wall and ever-present features of South African homes such as iron burglar bars and security gates have been replaced by fly screens and, 6-foot (or electrified) fences by 3 or 4-strand wire fencing merely to keep the animals in and not the burglars out, allowing us uninterrupted views of the cattle grazing in the neighbouring farm’s paddocks.

Don’t get me wrong, we haven’t become too complacent - I don’t think the fear ever quite leaves you – and although Australia still experiences crime, at least we now know that the noise on the roof in the middle of the night is just the local possum and her little family coming out to forage for their dinner.

Fortunately for us, but in no way forgetting our real families, we have truly been Blessed with a lot of wonderful new friends who have become our adopted family and for this we are thankful as family visits are non-existent due to the high price of tickets - but as my Mom says “All in God’s time”.  With the kids growing by the day and their Aussie accents a prominent feature in our home, let’s hope His time is not too far off.

I used to have a key ring that said “Grow where God plants  you” and every now and then those words come to mind as I drive to work from the outer-lying, almost rural suburb where we live, car doors unlocked and with the warm country breeze kissing my cheeks through an open window, admiring the beauty surrounding me – because that’s exactly what we have done.  Like the new spring leaves that sprout and unfurl to show their faces to the sun, so, too, have we sprouted and flourished under the hot Australian sky.

And whilst those days of despair – which most new immigrants experience during settling in – grow few and far between, the excitement of imminent Citizenship is gaining momentum in our household.

So, as we take these final steps in securing our future, it is with honour and pride that we look forward to publicly affirming our loyalty to Australia by becoming Citizens and reciting the following words:

“From this time forward, under God,
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,
whose democratic beliefs I share,
whose rights and liberties I respect, and
whose laws I will uphold and obey.”

This is ‘stralia mate – our home.

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