The Illusionist’s Apprentice, by Kristy Cambron

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Wren Lockhart, apprentice to master illusionist Harry Houdini, uses life on a vaudeville stage to escape the pain of her past. She continues her career of illusion after her mentor’s death, intent on burying her true identity.

But when a rival performer’s act goes tragically wrong, the newly formed FBI calls on Wren to speak the truth—and reveal her real name to the world. She transfers her skills for misdirection from the stage to the back halls of vaudeville, as she finds herself the unlikely partner in the FBI’s investigation. All the while Houdini’s words echo in her mind: Whatever occurs, the crowd must believe it’s what you meant to happen. She knows that if anyone digs too deep, secrets long kept hidden may find their way to the surface—and shatter her carefully controlled world.

 

First Thoughts:

As a member of Fiction Guild, I received a copy of The Illusionist’s Apprentice for review. Not that I minded, because I have enjoyed Kristy Cambron’s previous books.

My Take:

The Illusionist’s Apprentice starts with a bizarre scene at a cemetery outside Boston. What happens there sets in motion an FBI investigation in which Wren Lockhart becomes a person of interest. Further mysteries develop when the reader is introduced to Wren’s family through flashback chapters. While the murder investigation is what brings Wren into the life of Agent Elliot Matthews, he is equally determined to break down her walls and discover the truth of her past. This is a romance novel as well as one of tragedy and suspense.

I adored this book. I had trouble putting it down and probably wouldn’t have done so if not for life getting in the way! I became involved with even the characters and my heart sunk when an unexpected twist involved one of them. I thought it was interesting that Wren made a distinction between illusion and magic, and there’s a strong theme of light overcoming darkness. Everything in the narrative built to a breathtaking climax followed by a beautiful denouement. Although Wren and Elliot are fictional characters, I love how Cambron wove in the real and the imagined. Harry Houdini would often debunk spiritualism and attempts to contact the dead, and that part of his career is the focus of this novel.

The Illusionist’s Apprentice was published in March but, if you’re looking for a good summer read I heartily recommend picking it up. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson, BookLook Bloggers, and Fiction Guild for my complimentary copy of The Illusionist’s Apprentice, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read The Illusionist’s Apprentice? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (a division of HarperCollins Christian)

Publication Date: 07 March 2017

Page Count: 368

Read more on:   Kristy Cambron’s Website   Thomas Nelson’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

Child of the River, by Irma Joubert

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Persomi’s dreams are much bigger than the world of poverty and deprivation that surround her in the Bushveld of the 1940s and 1950s in South Africa.

Persomi is young, white and poor, born the middle child of illiterate sharecroppers on the prosperous Fourie farm. Persomi’s world is extraordinarily small. She has never been to the local village and spends her days absorbed in the rhythms of the natural world around her. Her older brother, Gerbrand, is her lifeline and her connection to the outside world. When he leaves the farm to seek work in Johannesburg, Persomi’s isolated world is blown wide open. But as her very small world falls apart, bigger dreams become open to her—dreams of an education, a profession, and of love. As Persomi navigates the changing world around her—the tragedies of WWII and the devastating racial strife of her homeland—she finally discovers who she truly is and where she belongs.

 First Thoughts:

I was sent this book by the TNZ Fiction Guild, and reading and reviewing it was optional. I’d previously reviewed Joubert’s The Girl From the Train, and had mixed feelings on it, but decided I’d give this title a go.

My Take:

Child of the River was first released in the Afrikaans language in South Africa in 2010. It’s now the second of Irma Joubert’s novels to be released in English in the USA by Thomas Nelson. It focuses on Persomi, the fourth child of seven, raised by an abusive father in absolute poverty. It’s expected that she’ll receive a minimal education before going to the city to find work. Determined to better herself, however, Persomi studies hard despite being looked down on for her old clothes and lack of shoes. When her family’s circumstances change, she’s able to break the cycle of poverty but it comes at a cost.

This novel spans 30 years, covering the impact of World War II on South Africa and the transformation of the country into an apartheid state. The focus in the second half is on a legal struggle based on something called the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act, 1946. Persomi, now an adult, assists the local Indian community fighting against forced removal. While some of her close friends support her stand, others have opinions that seem horrific today but were considered normal at the time.

Child of the River was an eye opening read. I’d never really thought about white South Africans experiencing poverty. Nor did I know much about the differences between Afrikaner and English white South Africans. It also showed how big a factor education is in escaping poverty and hopelessness. I found some sympathetic characters and some really unlikeable ones and, perhaps surprisingly, their thoughts on race didn’t affect my opinions of them. One negative was the constant and stilted form of some of the idioms used, but this could’ve been a translation issue. The ending takes place in 1968 and is sudden. The final scene is lovely, however, and left me full of unexpected emotion. Having read Joubert’s The Girl From the Train and not been overly impressed, I have to say I far preferred Child of the River and I’d definitely recommend it.

Thank you to TNZFiction’s Fiction Guild for my complimentary copy of Child of the River. No review was required.

Have you read Child of the River? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (a division of HarperCollins Christian)

Publication Date: 18 October 2016

Page Count: 416

Read more on:   Thomas Nelson’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com

The Angels’ Share, by James Markert

book coverPublisher’s Overview:

Some believed he was the second coming of Christ.

William wasn’t so sure.

But when that drifter was buried next to the family distillery, everything changed.

Now that Prohibition has ended, what the townspeople of Twisted Tree, Kentucky, need most is the revival of the Old Sam Bourbon distillery. But William McFee knows it’ll take a miracle to convince his father, Barley, to once more fill his family’s aging house with barrels full of bourbon.

When a drifter recently buried near the distillery begins to draw crowds of pilgrims, the McFees are dubious. Yet miracles seem to come to those who once interacted with the deceased and to those now praying at his grave. As people descend on the town to visit the “Potter’s Field Christ,” William seeks to find the connection between the tragic death of his younger brother and the mysterious drifter.

But as news spreads about the miracles at the potter’s field, the publicity threatens to bring the depth of Barley’s secret past to light and put the entire McFee family in jeopardy.

The Angels’ Share is a story of fathers and sons, of young romance, of revenge and redemption, and of the mystery of miracles. 

First Thoughts:

James Markert is an author I’ve not read before, but I love the sound of the overview. I’ve visited just one distillery in Kentucky, but I’d like to visit more locations connected to this iconic industry. Coincidentally, the one I’ve visited – Jim Beam in Clermont – is the first one the author visited, as he states in his end notes and helped inspire this story.

My Take:

Who was Asher Keating? The first miracle associated with him comes three days after his burial in the town’s potter’s field. His followers – numbering twelve – had camped out in the distillery’s aging house and claimed that he was their savior. William writes a story on the miracle and its publication brings pilgrims to the grave site. It brings its share of detractors also and the lives of the McFees are put in danger by the publicity it brings to the family.

This is a story where the central character is deceased before it starts. It features the homeless, the down on their luck, the mentally ill, the mafia, priests, and members of the Klan. There are scenes of violence and alcohol abuse, and hints of sexual activity. There are elements of racism and bigotry, and there’s a noticeable sectarian divide. The Klan goes after the McFees not only because they make whiskey, but because they’re Catholic. Everything slowly comes to a boil and explodes on a night that changes everything.

But The Angels’ Share also looks at redemption and rebirth. Lives are changed for the better. Things happen that cannot be logically explained, lending a sense of mystery and wonder. The very last line has an impact that can only be experienced by having read the entire book. This is a story that will stay with me for a long time.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson for my complimentary copy of The Angels’ Share, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

Have you read The Angels’ Share? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.

Excerpt

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (a division of HarperCollins Christian)

Publication Date: 17 January 2017

Page Count: 352

Read more on:   James Markert’s Website   Thomas Nelson’s Website

Purchase on:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Books-a-million   Christianbook.com