The Book Diva's Reads

I'm an avid, if not fanatical, reader. My blog provides basic reviews for a basic reader. My family calls me a book geek, I prefer book diva.

Going Gone (Forces of Nature)

Going Gone (Forces of Nature) - Sharon Sala 2.5 star read

Laura Doyle is normally a sensible, logical, and highly competent and capable person, but that seems to change after she survives a plane crash. She is the sole survivor on board the plane and must make do with the limited supplies on board while trying to outsmart the wolves attempting to get in. Fortunately, the crash site is found and she is rescued, but she still has the overwhelming sense of fear and impending doom. Her suspicions become reality when her fiancé, Cameron Winger, realizes that the madman he's been searching for is still alive and may be coming for them.

Going Gone is the third and final book in the Forces of Nature series by Sharon Sala. This book focuses on the last couple, FBI agent Cameron Winger and his fiancée, Laura Doyle, a disaster coordinator with the Red Cross. Once again, the team of agents attempt to track down their wily prey, Herschel Inman, now known as Paul Leibowitz. As more people are murdered in and around their hometowns, will they be able to catch this killer before it's too late. I found Going Gone to be a fast-paced read. I enjoyed the focus on new primary characters, Laura and Cameron, as well as their interactions with the other couples from this series: Nola and Tate Benton (featured in Going Once) and Jo and Wade Luckett (featured in Going Twice). Although I found this to be an enjoyable read, it had a distinctly been-there read-that feel to it. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a poorly written story but the plot just seemed all too familiar. This was a romantic-suspense read that was heavy on the suspense and light on the romance (sex yes, romance not so much). The best part of the story for me was the interaction between Herschel and his dead wife Louise (either evidence of mental illness or extreme guilt). I also enjoyed Ms. Lucy Taft, a minor character, but one feisty, spirited, and highly intelligent older woman. If you've read the previous books in this series, then you'll definitely want to read this final chapter. If you haven't read the previous books in this series but are looking for a light read for the fall, then you may want to grab a copy of Going Gone.

The Wonder of All Things

The Wonder of All Things - Jason Mott Stone Temple, North Carolina is a typical small town, until one of their own returns home to participate in an air show and sets off a chain of events that will forever change the lives of two families. Ava Campbell was nothing special to anyone other than her family and friends until the day of the air show. After a horrific crash, Ava and Wash are trapped in a crumbling concrete silo. Wash is seriously injured and the only thing that comes to Ava's mind is that she doesn't want her friend to die. It is then that the miracle occurs and Ava, Wash, and Stone Temple will never be the same.

Ava and Wash have been best friends since they were five years old, and that feeling of closeness hasn't changed now that they are thirteen. Both Ava and Wash have lived through the deaths of their mothers, and Ava knows that she can't bear to lose anyone else in her life. Now that she is called a "miracle worker" and a "healer," everyone wants to know how she did what she did to heal Wash. Many people have come to small Stone Temple expecting her to perform miracles for their loved ones. Scientists and physicians want to study Ava to learn how she performed her miracle. Religious leaders want her to join with them and celebrate her gift from God. Others simply want to be healed. What these people don't know or seem to understand is that each time Ava performs a healing, her health is greatly compromised. After her initial healing of Wash, Ava lapsed into a coma for a few days. Now she's losing weight, can't get warm, and is throwing up bile and blood.

The Wonder of All Things is Jason Mott's second novel and is just as wondrous and captivating as his first, The Returned. I found The Wonder of All Things to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. There aren't any bad guys in the story, just horrible circumstances that force seemingly good people to place their wants and desires above all else. Ava is a typical thirteen-year-old. She's coming to grips with her father's remarriage and her stepmother's pregnancy. Ava's family lives in a small house, in desperate need of repair. Her father works as the town sheriff and her stepmother is a schoolteacher (I know shades of The Andy Griffith Show but it works). Her best friend Wash lives with his grandmother, and loves to read and sing. There are several smaller subplots at work within the major plot, including Ava's dislike for her stepmother, Wash and a life-threatening diagnosis and the reappearance of his father, and a well-respected and famous television pastor and his younger, brain-damaged brother. The only people that don't seem to expect anything of Ava now that she has these amazing healing abilities are her father, her best friend, and her best friend's grandmother. There were moments in the story that I simply had to put the book down and walk away for a bit simply because it was becoming too sad for me to go on. The action of the story seems to take place over a few short weeks, but Mr. Mott has crammed a lot into those weeks (again, it works). If you're looking for a story that deals with love and sacrifice, family drama, small town life, and miracles, then this is the book for you. If you're simply looking for something a little different to read, then this is it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Wonder of All Things (even if it did make me cry) and look forward to reading more from this author.

A Sudden Light: A Novel

A Sudden Light: A Novel - Garth Stein 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.

On Thin Ice

On Thin Ice - Susan Anderson 2.5 star read


Exposure - Susan Andersen 2.5 star read

The Barter

The Barter - Siobhan Adcock 2.5 star read

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.

Claire of the Sea Light

Claire of the Sea Light - Edwidge Danticat 3.5 star read

The Major's Daughter: A Novel

The Major's Daughter: A Novel - J.P. Francis 2.5 star read - I simply couldn't connect with the storyline or the characters.

Four Wishes

Four Wishes - Christine Nolfi 3.5 star read

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. 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.

A Prayer Heeded : A Prayer Series II

A Prayer Heeded : A Prayer Series II - Samreen Ahsan The first volume in The Prayer Series - A 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.

The Moment of Everything

The Moment of Everything - Shelly King 3.5 star 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.

In Bloom

In Bloom - Katie Delahanty I'm not quite sure what it was about this book, but I simply couldn't connect. I didn't relate to the characters or the storyline. This isn't a poorly written book, just not one for me.

State of Wonder

State of Wonder - Ann Patchett I've read this twice and it simply gets better with every read.

Mean Streak

Mean Streak - Sandra Brown Dr. Emory Charbonneau is a rarity. She is kind, selfless, and generous. Emory has great wealth and does great good with said wealth. She works hard and enjoys her work. She also enjoys running and is training for an upcoming marathon that she organized for a charity. Emory also knows that her marriage is on shaky ground but stands firm about her intent to get away for the weekend to do some mountain training. Her husband, Jeff Surrey, is her opposite. Jeff is self-absorbed, disingenuous, and petty. When Emory is reported as missing, her husband quickly becomes the prime suspect. But all is not what appears. Yes, Jeff is arrogant, self-absorbed, and quick to anger. He's also been having an affair, but is he capable of murder?

I had some difficulties initially with Mean Streak. How can you empathize with a nameless character? Yet I did empathize with him as well as with Emory. (The other difficulty was the female character named Emory. I have an uncle with that name and couldn't quite get past it being used for a female.) Emory's savior/captor hints at being a bad guy with a mean streak, yet everything he does for her proves the exact opposite. As Emory recovers from a head wound and concussion, she begins to bond with her savior. It isn't until an incident with one of his neighbors that Emory truly begins to see his true character. When Emory is returned to "civilization" she quickly begins to realize that the four days she spent with this man in the wild was more valuable and important to her than the entire time she's been married to Jeff. Just when Emory thinks her life can get back to normal she begins to realize her husband may have been responsible for her injuries and her savior reappears just in the nick of time.

Ms. Brown has a way of creating romantic suspense stories that pulls me in and makes me want to continue reading just to find out what will happen next. Mean Streak is slightly different in that we have an unnamed protagonist and we fall for him as quickly and easily as Emory. (There's just something about those strong, silent types!) I enjoyed Mean Streak and found it to be a fast-paced read. I enjoyed all of the characters, even the bad guys, and found them to be realistic. If you're like me and enjoy suspense or romantic-suspense then you'll definitely want to add Mean Streak to your TBR list.

The Darks Undreamed Of

The Darks Undreamed Of - Julia Keller 3.5 star read

Its summer time in Ackers Gap, West Virginia and the heat is oppressive. If dealing with the summer heat wasn't bad enough, Bell Elkins and the residents of Acker's Gap, West Virginia are also dealing with the fear left behind from a senseless murder. It's only been a few months since the return of Bell's sister, Shirley, and the awful murder of a teenage girl, as well as the spree of murders by a terrorist seeking revenge against one of Bell's friends only in town for a visit. Bell's lover suffered severe injuries during an explosion in a local eatery and their relationship seems to have fizzled out. Bell's daughter is due in for the summer and that is the only bright spot in her immediate future. Just when Bell thinks that things can't get any worse she receives a phone call from another county sheriff's office that her sister is at the scene of a bar brawl that turns into a murder scene. Then another murder victim is found in Acker's Gap and Bell's daughter opts not to return to Acker's Gap for the summer but go to London, England for an internship. Could things get any worse?

Be careful what questions you ask, because yes things can always get worse. After the second murder, Bell begins to wonder what an elderly retired coal miner - the first murder victim, a man that takes care of his dying mother - the second murder victim, a young lady that works at a local gas station/convenience store, and a former West Virginia governor have in common. On the surface it doesn't appear to be much other than the fact that they are all residents of Raythune County (or at least a former resident with respect to the governor). The more Bell tries to make sense of what's going on, the more confused and angry she becomes. The one thing Bell doesn't do is back down from a challenge and she's determined to find the answers behind these murders, hopefully before another murder occurs.

Summer of the Dead is the third book in the Bell Elkins series by Julia Keller. As with the previous books in this series, Ms. Keller doesn't shy away from touchy subjects such as people getting rich or richer on the backs of the poor, politicians selling out the state to the highest bidders, environmental rape and plunder to the detriment of the everyday working man or woman, and the ever-present problems of meth/prescription drug addiction and abuse in rural areas in the state. The character Bell Elkins doesn't whitewash her disgust at these practices and is adamant in her desire to rid at least her part of West Virginia from as many of these problems as possible. (If you haven't read A Killing in the Hills, the first book in this series, please do so as it deals with the prescription drug abuse problem and drug trade in West Virginia in a realistic manner.) Yes, there is widespread poverty in West Virginia. Yes there are rural areas in the state where the unemployment level is two or three times the national average. Yes, there are families that never seem to escape the hardscrabble life of their fathers and grandfathers. But there are also people like Bell Elkins that get an education and either stay or come back to make a difference. Summer of the Dead is an amazing mystery that pulled me back into Bell Elkins world. I read this book in one afternoon and only put it down to make another cup of tea or three. Ms. Keller has the ability to spin a tale that is so believable it borders on nonfiction. If you've read A Killing in the Hills and Bitter River you have to grab Summer of the Dead to read more about Bell Elkins and Ackers Gap. If you haven't read the previous books in this series all I can say is, "what are you waiting for?"

The Wonder

The Wonder - Colleen Oakes 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!