I haven't added any new content since April of this year. I have not given up on the blog or on adding new content. It just is not possible at this time. I have spend weeks deciding how to write this post, this difficult post.
Sometime late last year when my depression began a downward spiral, I began to notice that my writing process was not as smooth as before. More often I found myself stalling for long periods. By February of this year, it has screeched to a halt. Writing at this point is similar to trying to write in a language I do not speak. Every word searched for like using an English to whatever language dictionary. I do not know when my writing will return to normal. My physician has two theories. Hopefully in the near future an answer will be found.
If I owe you a review (and I owe 4 audio and 6 e book reviews), I apologize. In most cases, I have completed reading or listening to your item. I just cannot write the review. I will continue trying until they are all complete. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
An Unkindness of Ghosts
By: Rivers Solomon
Narrated by: Cherise Boothe
Length: 11 hrs and 53 mins
Release date: 10-03-17
Courtesy Audiobook Jukebox
The Matilda is a generational ship. It is a massive and awesome ship. Her power comes from the “Baby Sun”. Everything and everyone on the ship is dependent on the Baby. The Matilda has a stricter class system than the Titanic. The top decks are where the rulers and other elites live and work. The work they do is not labor intensive. Decks P through T are where the Tarlanders live. Second class citizens with no chance of upward mobility.
The Tarlanders also carry a genetic mutation where they are not always born male and female. Many are born with characteristics of both sexes. Each deck functions as its own society and chooses its own pronouns. Some are all “she” no matter how they present, other desks use “they”. It is their own solution to what pronouns to use. No matter what deck they come from, all Tarlanders live in a state of insecurity. Tarlanders can be killed, beaten, raped and have no recourse, no justice, no hope.
Aster is the main character. She is a medic. She cares for the residents of the lower decks with no supplies or support. She watches as the Elites cut rations for the Tarlanders, cut the heat back to freezing, and treat them as sub-human. She has a complicated relationship with the surgeon from the upper decks. She has a complicated relationship with everyone.
An Unkindness of Ghosts is a fantastic book and an incredible audiobook. I cannot do this book justice. The science fiction components of the book are brilliant. It is presented in such a fashion that a non-science person like myself understood it. The characters are very well done. There are no two dimensional characters. They are all very real. Rivers Solomon has created a wonderful story that compels the reader to keep turning pages. Cherise Boothe does a fantastic job as narrator. There are many different accents just among the Tarlanders plus the different accents of the upper decks. Boothe smoothly slips through the different voices without any hesitation or any missteps. She is clear and understandable at all times. The projection values are very good.
Solomon’s book gives a voice to the powerless. She shows us the fierce will to survive among those who one would expect to have no hope. An Unkindness of Ghosts is a powerful story. I highly recommend it and look forward to Solomon’s next book.
Forty stories set in the Star Wars Universe. Forty stories on the periphery of the main stories we all know. Whether you are a Star Wars fan or a true Star Wars all out nerd, these stories are enjoyable. For example, the first story Raymus by Gary Whitta was an enjoyable story for me, a Star Wars fan. My daughter-in-law, who was listing with me, told me one of the characters mentioned is the Stormtrooper Luke and Han knock out when they are freeing Leia from the prison. I would have missed that but it was still a good story.
Ultimately that is why this collection works because it has something for everyone. Just looking through the authors in the table of contents is a sci-fi fans dream. Chuck Wendig writes a great fun piece called “We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here”. Based on that one line in A New Hope, Wendig creates an entire piece that changes how you view the character that speaks that line. Wil Wheaton’s Laina was incredible. Just so many feels, especially bitter and sweet. There are too many stories to list them separately as I usually do with anthologies but they are more hits than misses. Authors such as Delilah S. Dawson, Glaudia Grey and Alexander Freed who are already familiar with Star Wars fan, extend their writings into the universe in this collection. And who can pass up on the story told from the viewpoint of the monster in the trash compactor?
This audiobook does have sound effects, which is something I am not usually fond of. In this particular case though, the sounds effects do not overwhelm the dialogue and are a nice addition. Each one of the narrators does a great job. Jon Hamm, Neil Patrick Harris and Janina Gavankar are just three of the very talented bunch to narrate the book. Every story is a fascinating trip into part of the beloved universe that finally have a light shined upon them.
This review and many others on Audio Book Reviewer who provided a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Star Trek: Discovery: Desperate Hours starts off with a bang and a leviathan. The colony on Sirsa III is a mining colony who possession of the planet was granted after studies revealed there was no native life on the planet. The colony is now under siege from a leviathan that rose from the ocean. The governor of the colony decides to break the long standing policy of having as little to do with the Federation and ask for help.
On the Starship Shenzhou, Captain Georgiou has her hands full with deciding who to promote to first officer and second officer. The two candidates, Lieutenant Michael Burnham and Lieutenant Saru, do not work well together at all and seem in perpetual competition. The tension from the promotions will have to wait as the crew of the Shenzhou are instructed to respond to the call for help. To insure the threat to the colony is solved, Starfleet also instructs the Starship Enterprise, commanded by Captain Pine, to rendezvous with the Shenzhou.
The book is populated by a few familiar characters like Mr. Spock and Ambassador Sarek, as well as the characters from the new Star Trek: Discovery TV series. It has plenty of action and intrigue. Where did the leviathan come from? Is the colony responsible? Are the Shenzhou and the Enterprise working off the orders regarding helping the colony? The book will probably appeal more to the hardcore Star Trek fan. I am a fan of the two later series, Deep Space 9 and Voyager; no so much of the original series.
The narrator, Susan Eisenberg, does a fantastic job. She reads the book. She does not perform it; for example, she does not do different voices or accents for each character. She does project emotion and tension into the story. I would definitely choose a book narrated by her.
Thanks to Simon & Schuster Audio for giving me a free copy of the audiobook in exchange for an honest review.
I had picked up A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess after seeing it recommended by several YA authors on Twitter. I really enjoyed it and made sure I picked up the sequel. It was just as enjoyable as the first one.
In the first book we meet Henrietta and Rook. They are best friends having grown up at an orphan school in miserable conditions. This universe that Henrietta and Rook live in has monsters, glorious monsters and human monsters. Rook is "unclean" because he has scars from surviving a brush with one of the Seven Ancients. He has to fight to keep the darkness or evil from taking him over.
Henrietta is identified as the chosen one who will defeat the Ancients and save England. There are so many questions about whether Henrietta is indeed the one, who her parents were and what type of magic she turny wields.
In this second book, we find out the truth about so many things, not only Henrietta but what truly allowed the Ancients to enter their reality. The boys she trained with are also learning new truths and what their place is in helping defeat the Ancients.
What I really enjoyed about this book is the revelations were a total surprise. I did not see them coming. They did make sense though. It is hard to praise this book without giving examples that would be spoilers. So let me say as soon as I finished the book last night, I was ready to start the next one. Unfortunately it wasn't ready for me. I have pre-ordered the next book and am looking forward to going to the universe where the Ancients rage and Henrietta fights to save humanity.
I loved The Queen of Ieflaria. I devoured it, staying awake way past midnight to finish reading it. This book has so many wonderful things: strong female protagonist, dragons, a unicorn, battles, palace intrigue, and a romance between the two main characters who are pansexual.
Princess Esofi of Rhodia has been betrothed to the heir of Ieflaria since she was three years old. Her education has been focused on being the best queen possible to what will be her new homeland. Over the years she has gotten to know her future husband, Crown Prince Albion, through letters. After she begins the months long journey to her new home and marriage, she receives the news that the Crown Prince has died in an accident.
Esofi arrives in Ieflaria and is faced with a choice: marry the new heir, marry another in the line of succession or go back home. Esofi chooses to marry the new heir, Crown Princess Adale. Adale never expected to rule. She has not been educated to rule but she does know how to drink, hunt and start a really good bar fight. Yet she is such a wonderful match for Esofi.
From the first introduction to Adale, I fell hard for her. I wanted her to marry Esofi and not let one of her cousins take her place. Adale was strong, vulnerable, prickly and caring. She is such a wonderful character. Esofi carries a touch of superiority because of her education. She needs to learn about her new home from the bottom up. Meanwhile others at court plot to remove Adale from the crown and marry Esofi to someone else.
This world that Effie Calvin created is so unique. Gender is not a barrier to anything, whether it be a crown or a marriage. Under the right conditions and with a little magic help, individuals can transform to the opposite sex long enough to insure a child is conceived. This world also has dragons. Big, fire breathing dragons who do more than just eat sheep. The descriptions of everything from the architecture to the clothing is amazing. The reader learns so much about the world by the author's wonderful flowing descriptions.
I absolutely loved The Queen of Ieflaria and am eagerly looking forward to the next book in the series. This book does have a logical ending so readers are not left hanging but instead are left wanting more. ARC courtesy Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Daughters of the Storm by Kim Wilkins was a very interesting read. King Athelrick is in a coma. His daughters, the eldest who is his heir, are not with him. They do not know of his illness. His wife, Gudrun, sends word to her son Wylm, the King's stepson, but not to the King's daughters. No matter her reasoning, it looks very bad. It looks as though she plans for her son to step in and rule for the King.
The King's heir, Bluebell, is a fantastic character. Her name does not reflect her character. Bluebell is a warrior, respected by her troops, feared by her enemies. When she hears of her father's illness and her stepmother's actions, she imagines the worst. She sets off home, pausing only to notify her sisters. Rose, married to an allied King but loving one of her father's retainers, Ash studying to be a Counselor but already having the gift of sight, and the twins Ivy and Willow.
The story has wonderful intrigue. I was not sure if the King was really sick or cursed. And if cursed, who was responsible. As Bluebell tries to save not only her father but the kingdom and her family, the action moves fast. This is the first book in a series and I am looking forward to the next one.
Acceptance is the conclusion to Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy. It is told from multiple view points. The Biologist, Control, the former Director, the Assistant Director are all woven together to create the most complete picture of Area X readers will be given. There are still questions when the book is finished. Some may be answered by a second listen. Others may remain because Area X is still Area X and as such is till a mystery.
Carolyn McCormick, Bronson Pinchot, and Xe Sands do a fantastic job as narrators. The alternating viewpoints are clearly voiced and it is no problem deciphering who is speaking. I really enjoyed this changing of narrators in this book. It helped make the mysteries of Area X more believable. There is so much about the book that cannot be shared because of spoilers. I highly recommend the entire Southern Reach trilogy.
Authority is the 2nd book in the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. I highly recommend reading the first book Annihilation before Authority. Otherwise it will not make much sense.
While Annihilation was told from the viewpoint of The Biologist, this book is told from the viewpoint of Control. Control is the third generation of spies in his family. He is sent to the Area X administration to assume the position of Director. His job is to find out what is wrong with the Area X explorations and fix it. First up is to interview the three members of the 12th expedition who returned, including The Biologist.
Control is challenged at each step by the Assistant Director who loyalty is to the former Director. He is also given orders by The Voice, a faceless, nameless male that he must give progress reports to daily on the phone. As Control struggles to do his assigned job, he discovers there is as much hidden in the administration of the Southern Reach as there is behind the barrier of Area X.
Bronson Pinchot does a fantastic job narrating Authority. He creates distinct voices for Control and The Voice as well as the female characters. He is one of my favorite narrators. Authority leaves the reader/listener waiting for the solution to Area X.
Jeff VanderMeer creates a very realistic and at the same time foreign world in Annihilation, the first book of the Southern Reach Trilogy. The world is real. It seems to be set in contemporary times, with cell phones and no radical technology that screams future world. The premise is that an area called the Forgotten Coast, which is predominately rural, has suddenly been cut off from the rest of the world. Some type of invisible force field came down and the area became inaccessible. No one knows what happened or the fate of those behind the barrier.
The Southern Reach is the administrative body created to monitor and study Area X as it is called. This first book deals with the 12th expedition sent into Area X. The story is told from the viewpoint of The Biologist. The expedition members are referred to by their functions, not their names. As the story details the expedition from The Biologist viewpoint, we learn about the strange life forms in Area X and the byzantine administration that continues to send expeditions in Area X even after disasters.
The narration by Carolyn McCormick is very good. Although this is the first in a trilogy, it does have a rational ending. Trust me, you will want to continue. Trying to find the secret, the reason for Area X will get under your skin.
Scott Kelly describes life on the International Space Station with total clarity. Not having been there myself, Kelly's descriptions made it easy to understand what he was talking about. It is not just the science Kelly discusses but the humanities, such as the smell of flowers, the sound of rain. The windows on the station do not open and it has been continually occupied for decades. Weather is a big discussion among the crew since they are not getting to experience any type of weather. The US and Russian sides of the station are operated much differently. Kelly provides examples of this. For anyone who loves space and is looking forward to man going back beyond our own Earth orbit, this book is a must.
I saw the Psycho movie multiple times over the years but this was my first time with the book or audiobook in this case. The story is so much more than the movie ever covered (no surprise). There is an entire backstory to Norman and his mother. Norman is described as being overweight, not the thin good looking Anthony Perkins from the movie. Mary, the character Janet Leigh played in the movie, also has a more complete story. I really enjoyed the write style of Robert Bloch. Even though it is somewhat dated, the dialogue is not stilted at all. The suspense was maintained until the very end. The narration was good but not great. I cannot quite put my finger on what in the narration bugged me but something was enough to cause me to rate it 4 instead of 5 stars. I will be checking out the rest of the series soon.
by Vic James
Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine
Pub Date 06 Feb 2018
Tarnished City is the sequel to Gilded Cage. You must read Gilded Cage first or there will be major spoilers in this review. Gilded Cage is amazing so go read it.
Tarnished City continues with the same lush detail that I enjoyed so much in Gilded Cage. Every event, person and thing merits a second look because nothing is what it seems at all. The Skilled and the Unskilled both have unexpected reactions to the events that culminated in Gilded Cage. Abbey goes on the run in an attempt to find the truth and free her brother, Luke. Luke is taken captive and delivered into the hands of Crovan. At Crovan’s isolated castle, which cannot be entered or exited without the lord’s permission, Luke is to be tortured and questioned about his activities at Kenyston.
I have read over 100 books in 2016, and The Gilded Cage was in the top 3. It is a finely crafted novel. I enjoyed it so much I purchased it in a Kindle version, a hardback and an audiobook version. I plan on doing the same with Tarnished City. I already have the paperback from the United Kingdom because I could not wait for the American release date. It continues the wonderful story lines that Gilded Cage excelled at. Now everything is in flux. Abbey has found the resistance and found them to not all be Unskilled like her. Luke is trying to survive each day and find a way to escape the castle without instant death as he walks through the door. The Jardines work to consolidate their power, seeking to make their family not just powerful but royal.
I was so pleased that Abigail Hadley, strong in the first book, continues to fight to save not only her brother but all the Unskilled. She has moments of doubt but stays strong. It makes her a very relatable protagonist. Luke has lost some of the strength he gained in Milltown. What the Jardines and Corvan did to him has left his brain broken. Gavar is still hot tempered but not as naive as he once was. To share his father’s vision of a powerful future means to lose his Unskilled daughter. Silyen has his own plans for the family’s power. He just has not shared them. Since he seems to be the most powerful Skilled of all, people must use caution around him.
All of the characters in both books are 3 dimensional. None of the characters are flat or unformed. This world, with all its magic and class distinctions, is very believable because the characters and their reactions to the events are so real. Tarnished City takes the politics and action from Gilded Cage and turns it up several notches on the scale. It leaves the reader breathless and ready for book number three.
Book Review - While the City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man's Descent Into Madness by Eli Sanders
While the City Slept is a disturbing and compelling read. It kept me turning pages long after I should have gone to sleep. Mr. Sanders weaves the story of two women and one man together with such skill that the inevitable collusion still creates tension. For anyone who questions whether or not there is parity in mental health care in this country; anyone who wonders if tragedies could not sometimes be avoided; anyone who thinks preventative care for mental health is unnecessary - this book is a must read. It is also a book that will stay with you and hopefully move you to action. Write letters to your representatives, support charities that work with mental health and help those who need help fight to get it.
This was amazing. The ebb and flow of the life, both good and terrible, of the hospital itself is well done. The pages with Mr. Lobotomy were shocking (I had read about him elsewhere). But what ultimately got me was the cemeteries. All the sudden there they were. And I could not get over the numbers of souls in them. If I ever have occasion to be up in the MA area, I plan to stop by with flowers for those forgotten souls. Thank you so much for documenting this important historical place and time.
City of Endless Night
by Douglas Preston; Lincoln Child
Grand Central Publishing
General Fiction (Adult)
Pub Date 16 Jan 2018
I first met Agent Pendergast when I read Relic, the first book in the series. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child wrote books that I could not wait to get my hands on. I read the first eleven books as soon as I could get my hands on them. The next six books came and went without me getting to them for a variety of reasons. That being said, when City of Endless Night was offered by Netgalley, I choose to read it. Being the eighteenth book in the series, I hoped that the six books I had missed would not be an issue.
The characters I last saw seven book ago were familiar and I comfortably connected with them again. I did find I had missed some important plot developments and will make time to go back and read those six book. It did not derail my enjoyment of City of Endless Night. Like all the Pendergast books, this is a thriller. It has a mystery at its core but also high levels of suspense.
Back in New York, where many of the books are set, a murder occurs that interest Agent Pendergast. A billionaire’s estranged daughter is brutally murdered and her head is missing. Lieutenant D’Agosta is ambivalent about working with Pendergast who seems off his game, possibly due to personal losses. Then another murder happens, another seemingly impossible crime and the head is missing. As the headless bodies pile up, Pendergast and D’Agosta work individually and inefficiently to solve the crimes. Then it all comes together in an active, tense conclusion.
City of Endless Night was not my favorite book in the series but it also was not my least favorite. The first four books are my absolute favorites. I do not know that I could recommend jumping into the series with this book. If possible I would start at the beginning or at least at book three. Fans of the series will not be disappointed.
Widow's Point is a wonderful haunted house story but with a twist. The haunted house is a lighthouse. So as is the case with most lighthouses, it is isolated and at the edge of a cliff at the mercy of the sea. The atmosphere is the book was just incredible. As a reader, I could hear every creak, see the shifting of the shadows and know without a doubt I would never, ever visit it.
Why Thomas Livingstone decided it would be a good idea to be locked in the lighthouse for an entire weekend is simple; discovery. As the author of several books on haunted locations. Livingstone was attracted to Widow's Point as Queen of Haunted locations. No ghost hunters have been able to figure out what or who is behind the mysterious occurrences, including several gruesome deaths. As expected by any readers of horror, Livingstone's camera stops working as soon as he is locked in the lighthouse. The story is told through the audio recordings he made as well as historical documents.
The book is beautifully illustrated. The illustrations help set off the atmosphere the authors created with their words. Although I finished the book several days ago, it is still with me. I feel compelled to read it again. Maybe once the sun is up.
Thank you to the authors for the advance review copy in exchange for an honest review.
By Stephen King and Owen King
Read by: Marin Ireland
Courtesy Simon & Schuster
I went into this audiobook expecting the wonderful hair raising horror experience that I have enjoyed from Stephen King since reading his first book, Carrie, back in the 1970’s. So I did have high expectations. I expected a good story, great characters and something normal morphing into something that scared the crap out of me (example clowns).Sleeping Beauties did not deliver. I did not find the book or characters enjoyable.
In a small town in Appalachia there is a women’s prison. Many of the women are there because of drugs or domestic violence that caused them to break the law. A strange illness breaks out at the prison where the women fall into a deep sleep and are enveloped in a cocoon. If they are removed from the cocoon, they become dangerous and homicidal. While the women are in the cocoon they travel to a different place. Time is different. There are no men. They are safe and heal from their traumas. Meanwhile, the men go into testosterone overdrive. There are a lot of guns, a lot of driving around, and a lot of dealing with the situation by violence.
I found that I just did not care about the women or the men. I did not find any reason to connect to them. Marin Ireland did a nice job narrating. My inability to get into the book had to do with the story and not the narration.
by Alex Scarrow
Sci Fi & Fantasy , Teens & YA
Pub Date 01 Dec 2017
Plague Land is being released on December 1st. If you have a horror fan on your holiday list, I suggest you consider giving them Alex Scarrow’s unique version of the plague. It is unbelievably hard to write this review without spoilers but I will give it the old Navy try as my dad used to say.
Scarrow’s book takes place in modern times in our current global world. The book begins with a teen named Leon, his younger sister Grace and his mother. They recently moved from the United States to England. After divorcing Leon’s father, his mother decided to move them closer to her parents in England. Alex, with his Yank accent, does not fit in and has not made any new friends to replace the ones he was forced to leave behind. Grace, not yet a teen, is having an easier time fitting in. Their mom is totally consumed by working to support them and is missing all the angst in Alex’s life.
When news begins to emerge from Africa about a new contagious disease, Alex is worried. His mother isn’t. After all, they are in England, with its modern medicine and security. As we know now, the price of a global world, is global disease. Nothing is truly quarantined because by the time it is decided to isolate it, it has already spread. What is spreading from Africa, to literally the ends of the Earth, is not the Black Plague, not Ebola, not any previously seen disease. This one kills because this one thinks.
Note: While the book is listed as for age fourteen and up, I would approach that age with care. The book has some graphic descriptions of the plague activity that may unsettle a less mature readers.
A People’s History of the World
From the Stone Age to the New Millennium
Author Chris Harman
Narrated by Napoleon Ryan
Publication date Aug 29, 2017
Running time 27 hrs
Courtesy Tantor Media
I love history. I have loved it since childhood. I have favorite eras, like the Plantagenet and Tudor reigns of England. I lack an overall view of world history. How it all fits together. The non-European history and how it connects with the history I was taught. When I saw A People’s History of the World by Chris Harman offered for review from Tantor Media, I thought it would be a good opportunity to fill the gaps in my knowledge.
The Introduction begins stating that the book is meant as an outline, a stepping off point for deeper study into specific areas. Although it is an outline, not an indepth look at every moment of history, the book does have a thread that runs throughout all the eras studied. Part One is the Rise of Class Societies. It begins with prehistory. The author posits that at this point in history there were no classes. Every individual was important to the life or death of the tribe so all things were shared equally. There is no way to say for sure this is true or false (unless Doctor Who shows up with the Tardis and the right coordinates). As he lays out the development of civilization, he accompanies it with the development of a classed society. He shows a shift from matriarchal to patriarchal societies, not all but the majority, leading to the subjugation of women.
The sections following are The Ancient World, The Middle Ages, The Great Transformations (Reformation and Renaissance), The Spread of the New Order (Enlightenment), The World Turned Upside Down and finally The Century of Hope and Horror. Mr. Harman is a leading socialist in Britain. His writing style is fluid but not simple. This is not a book that can be devoured quickly. It is best to read a chapter at a time and let it percolate before moving one. Mr. Harman’s socialist background is evident in his interpretation of events. That does not mean it is invalid. Very few historians can write without an visible biases. It is not the history you learned in school and will open your mind to possibilities.
Napoleon Ryan is a British actor who has done quite a bit of voiceover and narration in addition to theater and screen. His voice is rich and he enunciates clearly. The problem I had with the book was that I tried to start it on a very long road trip. About an hour in I had to stop. I had no idea what I had heard. Mr. Ryan’s voice washed over me and was pleasant to listen to but I could not concentrate on driving and the complexity of the book at the same time.
I would suggest A People’s History of the World if you can give yourself the time to take it slow. It is rewarding when you take the time to truly concentrate. You may not agree with all of it but it will give you a new angle from which to explore history.
Creatures of Will and Temper
by Molly Tanzer
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
John Joseph Adams/Mariner Books
Pub Date 14 Nov 2017
Molly Tanzer’s book, Creatures of Will and Temper, is described as “A Victorian urban fantasy featuring duelists, demons, and the dark arts, inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray.” It is all that and more. I picked it up because of the nod to Oscar Wilde’s classic. I read Wilde’s book in college, more than thirty-five years ago, and remember the broad strokes of the story but not the fine details. Tanzer’s story uses that basic level familiarity and builds a new story with great characters.
The main characters are sisters, Evadne and Dorina Gray. They are eighteen and seventeen years old respectively. They live in the country and are upper class. Evadne is dutiful, conservative and the bane of her younger sister. Dorina is a risk taker, rule breaker and fed up with her sister tattling to her parents. Dorina is a lesbian and enjoys a series of girlfriends, all under the radar because of the societal rules at the time.
Dorina is planning on spending time with her Uncle Basil in London, a renowned painter. Dorina is thinking of being an art critic so spending time with her uncle should be educational. After Evadne tattles on Dorina’s latest relationship, she finds herself being sent to London as her sister’s keeper. Neither sister is happy with the situation or each other.
Once they arrive in London, the story really takes off. Their uncle is mourning his friend and lover, Oliver. Oliver’s sister takes Dorina to see the museums of London and meet the people who appreciate the art Dorina will one day be writing about. Evadne finds herself becoming more confident when she finds a fencing master and pursues her passion for fencing. There are demons in London. They are not the horns and pitchfork variety. Like London itself, these demons are complex and all with their own agendas. Evadne and Dorina encounter the demons in very different ways with very different reactions to them.
There are several facets of this book I really enjoyed. One was the fencing. For over ten years, I was a fencing parent. The sections of the book detailing the salle, the weapons, the tactics, the smelly fencing whites after an afternoon of bouting, were a joy to read. The other facet I enjoyed was the relationship between Evadne and Dorina. It is a very realistic depiction of sisters close in age but far apart in temperament. Their relationship evolves over the course of the book. Like the two characters evolution, it is not straightforward or smooth. It has fits and starts as in real life.
I recommend Creatures of Will and Temper. It kept me engaged. Gave me characters I cared about. Alternated action sequences with character exploration. Molly Tanzer has created a fantastic book with strong female protagonists.
The Girl in the Tower
by Katherine Arden
Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine
Sci Fi & Fantasy
Pub Date 05 Dec 2017
I was fortunate to review Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale. I really enjoyed it. Arden created characters whose voices were so clear that I could keep them straight regardless of the Russian naming conventions attached to them. That book look place in the mid 14th century, before it is truly Russian. If you have not read The Bear and the Nightingale, please do not read any further.
The tension between the old beliefs and the new religion were central to The Bear and the Nightingale. It was a book about a country, a people and a family in the process of change. The Girl in the Tower picks up shortly after the end of The Bear and the Nightingale. Vasilisa (Vasya) is still the central character. Vasya chooses to flee her family home after the death of her father and stepmother. Both deaths are blamed on her.
Vasya flees to the only ally she has, Morozko, who is more dangerous than her enemies. Vasya chooses to take any limited assistance and sets out to see what is beyond the forest of northern Russia. Morozko has an agenda in helping Vasya. All that Vasya learned as a child about the old ways can help her survive anything except the monsters that are men. Characters from the first book, like Sasha and Konstantin, return and new characters are introduced. The story is just as intriguing as the first book.
Arden continues her description, rich prose in this book.The language of the book is gorgeous. It flowed very easily. I did purchase the audiobook of The Bear and the Nightingale and preordered the audiobook of The Girl in the Tower. Reading Arden’s prose is enjoyable but hearing it read with correct pronunciations is a feast for your ears..
I would recommend The Girl in the Tower as soon as you finish The Bear and the Nightingale for a captivating journey to a lost world of magic. It really is an enchanted series.
The Occupant is the third book in the Afterlife Investigation series by Ambrose Ibsen. It is a thriller, horror, paranormal and if you have not read or listen to the first two books, STOP reading now. It is impossible to write a review of the sequels without leaking spoilers from the previous books.
The main character of all three books is Stephen Barlow is an adjunct professor at an Ohio college. In the first book Asylum, Barlow becomes involved with two students, Elizabeth and Jake who want to form a Spiritual Club ( paranormal not kumbaya). They investigate Chaythe Asylum and inadvertently release something evil that has been stuck there for 28 years. In the second book, Forest, Barlow is trying to stop the entity known as The Occupant. Elizabeth is possessed by the entity as Barlow tries to save her and kill The Occupant.
In the third book, The Occupant, Barlow is now deep in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He and Jake are searching for the lost town that The Occupant was associated with. Elizabeth is somewhere in the unending dark woods, the body through which The Occupant was working to bring its full entry into our world. Jake and Barlow try to piece together the history of The Occupant through the history of the town which has disappeared. They are helped by Jane who was originally used by her uncle to bring The Occupant into the world from the pit where it dwelled.
The pervading sense of dread is ratcheted up several notches in this book. It creates almost a sense of breathlessness. Even when the action is slowed down, there is still the feeling that something is circling ever closer. There are constantly large swatches of forest, trees blocking out the sun or the moon, swaying in the breeze, hiding anything moving slowly, carefully and quietly towards Barlow. The ending of the book really did not give me any sense of closure or peace. I am not sure if the series will continue with Barlow investigating other paranormal things or if this will be the end. Somehow I don’t think it is. “The door has been opened. It’s already too late.”
Joe Hempel does as great job narrating all three books. He conveys the tension and fear just as well in this book as he did in the other Ibsen books I have listened to. While the story gets very intense, Mr.Hempel never veers in hysteria or yelling. I really enjoyed his narration. I will be looking for more books narrated by Mr. Hempel.
Audiobook Review - A Pope and a President John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century by Paul Kengor
A Pope and a President
John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century
Author Paul Kengor
Narrated by James Anderson Foster
Publication date Sep 20, 2017
Running time 23 hrs 21 min
Courtesy Tantor Media
I remember the spring of 1981 well. I was a freshmen in community college. I had turned eighteen the fall before and voted in my first election. The end of March my family, friends and classmates were all shocked by the assignation attempt on President Ronald Reagan. I was too young to remember the Kennedy assassination. Six weeks later, Reagan was back at the White House and finals were looming. The assignation attempt on Pope John Paul II really hit me as a Catholic. I really did not understand why someone would try to kill the Pope. Finally thirty-six years later, author Paul Kengor supplies the answer and how Reagan factors into the events of May 13, 1981.
Kengor does a fantastic job of constructing the background that sets the stage for the partnership of President Reagan and Pope John Paul II. He explains the events of the history of the Catholic Church and Communism in Russia that are intertwined by the communist opposition to all religions. The author states that “Lenin ordered the shootings of an estimated 14,000 to 20,000 clergy and active laymen.” This book has much to offer even non-Christians or atheist. The religious content is important because it is what motivated those involved. The religious beliefs of President Reagan and Pope John Paul II are are central to the history as the communist antipathy to all religion.
Would the USSR have fallen when it did without President Reagan or Pope John Paul II? I do not think it would have. I think it was the unique unofficial partnership and true respect between the two men that facilitated the events. Without the hope Pope John Paul II gave his countrymen in Poland and other communist bloc countries, without the pressure applied by the government of the United States under President Reagan’s direction, without the same message from two perspectives from two of the most powerful men in the world, the USSR had no reason to allow the changes to happen without bloodshed. Gorbachev is quoted in the book as stating that the Pope, “did a lot to prepare for the end of the Cold war.”
The book is fascinating but the audiobook is even better. James Anderson Foster has been one of my favorite narrators for years. This is the first nonfiction I have heard him narrate. The book contains a number of names that I struggled to read and retain in the print book. With Foster narrating, I was easily able to keep the various people straight because of his clear pronunciations. His voice is easy to listen. I recommend listening to the audiobook over reading the book just for the pleasure of hearing Foster’s narration.
Forest is the sequel to Asylum: The Afterlife Investigations, Book 1. It is a thriller, horror, paranormal story written by Ambrose Ibsen. If you have not read or listen to Asylum, STOP reading now. It is impossible to write a review of Forest without mentioning plot points from Asylum.
Stephen Barlow is an adjunct professor at an Ohio college we met in Asylum. He witnesses a student being killed by a hit and run. Shortly afterward he becomes involved with two students, Elizabeth and Jake who want to form a Spiritual Club ( paranormal not kumbaya). They investigate Chaythe Asylum and inadvertently release something evil that has been stuck there for 28 years.
As Forest begins, Stephen has decided since they released the evil from the asylum, they are responsible for trying to find and stop it. Elizabeth and Jake are significantly traumatized by the events at the asylum and refuse to help.
As in the first book, Mr. Ibsen does a nice job of creating a pervading sense of dread. Each event from the first book connects neatly to Stephen navigating a dark forest with a shadowy figure that alternates leading and following. It undoubtedly figures that escaped the asylum. What Stephen finds in the forest is more horrifying than what was discovered at the asylum. As the story progresses, Stephen, Jake, and Elizabeth face a more dangerous evil. Forest does not have the same ending as Asylum. Forest literally leaves you dangling from the tree by your fingertips with the tiger walking around the base, patiently. It compels you to get to the next book in the series as soon as possible.
Joe Hempel does a great job narrating Forest as he did Asylum. He conveys the tension and fear just as well in this book as he did in the two other Ibsen books I have listened to. While the story gets very intense, Mr.Hempel never veers in hysteria or yelling. I really enjoyed his narration. I am looking forward to hearing Mr. Hempel narrate the conclusion to this trilogy by Ibsen.
ABR received this audiobook for free from the Narrator, Submitted in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect our opinion of the audiobook or the content of our review.