by Vivian Shaw
Sci Fi & Fantasy
Pub Date 25 Jul 2017
I enjoyed Strange Practice immensely. I hope it is the beginning of a series. Greta Helsing (the family dropped the Van between the World Wars) is a physician, just like her late father. Just like her father and grandfather, Greta is the rare doctor in modern London who makes house calls in addition to running a clinic on Harley Street, the address synonymous for the best in health care in London. Greta’s practice treats the most underserved and needy of all London inhabitants, the unalive.
In Greta’s clinic she deals with Mummies who have chronic pain from bone deterioration, ghouls with depression, and anything else that finds it’s way to her. She is trusted and well liked by all the supernaturals. She is also overworked and clinging to her budget by her fingernails. But like her father and grandfather, this is the life she feels she is called to. She likes and respects her patients.
When Greta gets a call in the middle of the night to go to Lord Ruthven’s house. Greta has known Ruthven all her life and has known he is a vampire. When she arrives she find Varney, who is a vampyre, wounded by a poison weapon. She is fascinated as she has never had the opportunity to observe this cousin species of the more common vampire. Greta and Ruthven discover that Varney has been hit with a very strange metal stake, poisoned specifically to kill the unalive.
The story quickly takes off from there involving demons, ghouls, and humans. Ms. Shaw created a tantalizing world that I would love to see explored more. All the different varieties of unalive were fascinating. Werewolves were mentioned but not featured in this book. The writing was excellent, wonderful descriptions of the locations, monsters and humans. The story was great. It kept me turning pages long after I should have gone to sleep. Treat yourself to vampires grocery shopping and making lattes and a woman doctor who heals as well as kicks ass to protect her patients.
I picked up A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess after seeing it recommended by several YA authors on Twitter. I went to Goodreads and Amazon, checked out the synopsis and the reviews. It was on sale so I took a chance and picked it up. I am really glad I did.
Nettie is a young woman who teaches at the all girl's school, Brimthorn, where she was raised. Remember the school that Jane Eyre attended? Brimthorn is just as grim plus a serial sexual predator as a headmaster. Nettie's best friend is Rook, an orphan who works as a servant at the school. Rook is "unclean" because he has scars from surviving a brush with one of the Seven Ancients. The Ancients are monsters, really proper devour whole cities monsters, that came through a rip in the fabric of reality. They are only in England. They arrived when a magician and a witch were playing with forces they did not understand. The witch burned. The magician disappeared.
Magicians and witches are now outlawed and put to death. Only sorcerers are allowed. They are, surprise of surprises, males only. There is a prophecy that a female sorcerer will appear and help defeat the Seven Ancients. Nettie may be the prophesied one. Rook may have a part to play in Nettie's success or failure. The Seven Ancients may be unbeatable.
Four hundred pages later, I was invested in Nettie. I wanted her to succeed. I wanted her to bring down the patriarchy that followed a woman queen, Victoria, but discounted every other woman in the country. This book is the first of a two book series. The book does end with unanswered questions but some are answered. All in all, this is one book that I did not mind being continued because I do want to continue to get to know Hettie, Rook and those marvelous Seven Ancient Ones.
by Andy Weir
Pub Date 14 Nov 2017
Mark Watney became one of the best protagonist in publishing when The Martian by Andy Weir came out. He was smart, funny, persevering and adaptable. Those qualities allowed him to survive being stranded on Mars. His story was so engrossing the book hit the bestseller list followed by a blockbuster movie. Wow. How does an author top that? Andy Weir does it quite nicely in his upcoming book Artemis.
Jazz Bashara is similar to Mark Watney in several ways. She is smart, funny, adapts to what life throws at her and preservers in her dream to be independently wealthy. While Mark Watney had several degrees to hi name, using his very well educated background to solve problems, Jazz is entirely self taught. She does things her way, whether it is acceptable to the authorities and her father or not.
I love Jazz. She is a smart, strong young woman, born in Saudi Arabia but calling the moon home since she was six years old. Jazz lives on the moon. Andy Weir takes us to a future where there is a community living on the moon. Weir does a fantastic job of explaining how the moon colony came into being and how it is owned by a consortium from Kenya. It is believable and it seems like the technology he uses is available now or just over our technical horizon.
The story revolves around Jazz’s quest to move from the poverty level to a more financially stable group. While Artemis is on the moon, it does have several earth issues to deal with. There are economic classes. There is smuggling due to the high cost of shipping anything to the moon. It has crime. It also has a level of constant danger that those on earth have no concept of. Imagine if there is an explosion that takes out one of the main walls in a dome. On earth if a wall if blown out, people can be hurt or die if they are in the area. On the moon, everyone in that dome will die as the air is instantly removed. Jazz is navigating all of these issues and for the most part doing it very well for a twenty-something with only a high school education.
The secret weapon in Jazz’s plan is herself. She is confident in her ability to do whatever task she takes on to further her dream. When she takes on a huge job that could give make her dream real in one day, she knows it will be risky and possibly dangerous. Even on the moon, what is planned is often not what happens. Jazz is now fighting not only for her life but for the life of Artemis and all the people who call it home.
I loved Artemis. I have already pre-ordered the audiobook. I am not a well educated person (a 35 year old associate in liberal arts degree) and I do not speak science fluently. Andy Weir makes the science understandable even to someone like me. I was born during the Apollo era and have an incredible love for space exploration. I hope Mr. Weir continues to entertain and educate me about the possibilities of space exploration that my generation may yet see. Artemis is five stars, five bright, blazing stars.
Beloved Poison is the first book in the Jem Flockhart series. As with the second book, Dark Asylum, the setting is Victorian London with its tenements full of poverty, crime and disease and a society that punishes those afflicted with a case of being from the lower classes of society. This first book takes place in a hospital where Jem is an apothecary. The hospital cares for the lower classes, no nobility or wealthy patients are found here. The poor people have little hope of surviving their illnesses or injuries and less hope once most of the doctors get their hands on them. If they do not survive, their bodies are whisked away for the medical students to dissect. Jem is the rare person at the hospital who practices cleanliness and seems to honestly care about the patient’s welfare.
As with Dark Asylum, Beloved Poison got some many things right.
* The setting was written very well. All the smells of Victorian London. The darkness, the smog, the tenements. It really created a believable atmosphere.
* The hospital was horrifying. I think I would have rather died at home than subject myself to what passed for medical treatment.
* The characters were fantastic. I really did not have a good line on who was evil until the very end of the book.
* Jem was wonderful. I loved what I learned about the character in the second book. Now here in the first book I have, for lack of a better phrase, Jem’s origin story. It reinformed to me why Jem is one of the most likeable, relatable and well written characters I have encounter.
* Again another great mystery that kept me guessing until the very end. A logical solution also, not a deus ex machina ending.
I was very surprised to find that there are not audio versions of of either of the Jem Flockhart books. The publisher is missing a huge market by not releasing the books on audio also. Both Beloved Poison and Dark Asylum were a joy to read. I am looking forward to reading more from E. S. Thomson and hopefully seeing her titles as audiobooks.
by E. S. Thomson
Pub Date 07 Nov 2017
Dark Asylum is the second book in a series featuring Jem Flockhart and Will Quartermain. Jem is an apothecary. Will is an architect. The setting is Victorian London with its tenements full of poverty, crime and disease and a society that punishes those afflicted with a case of being from the lower classes of society. Although I had not read the first book in the series yet (Beloved Poison), I had no problems following the story and the characters. I had read about three chapters before I contacted my library and requested Beloved Poison. Any other books in the series will be requested as soon as they are available.
There were so many things I liked about Dark Asylum. The easiest way to communicate it is probably by bullet points:
* The setting was written very well. All the smells of Victorian London. The darkness, the smog, the tenements. It really created a believable atmosphere.
* The mental health aspect was very well researched. The way people have treated the mentally ill throughout history is diverse. Some cultures treated mentally ill people as though they had been touched by the divine. Then you have the Victorians. The belief that the mental illness was caused by a weakness or failing on the individual’s part and needed to be punished is just cruel. The book does a very good job of showing that mind set while also showing the few who began to realize that possibly humane treatment would do more good than strait jackets and locked cells.
* The characters were fantastic. Characters like Susan Chance did not reveal themselves to the reader all at once. What was revealed was a well rounded and complex character. All the characters were like that.
* Jem. Oh my goodness, Jem. Not having read the first book yet, I do not know Jem’s whole story. What I do know is that Jem is one of the most likeable, relatable and well written characters I have encounter. There is only so much I can say without spoilers. Read the book and you will see what I mean.
* The plot at it’s heart is a mystery. What a fun mystery it was. At one point, I was sure it was this character. I chapter later I changed my mind. A chapter later back to the original one. At the end, I was totally wrong. It is wonderful to be surprised by the solution to a mystery when that solution makes sense.
I was very surprised to find that there are not audio versions of Dark Asylum or the first book in the series. The publisher is missing a huge market by not releasing the books on audio also. Dark Asylum was a joy to read. It really was. I am looking forward to reading more from E. S. Thomson.
The Radium Girls
The Dark Story of America's Shining Women
by Kate Moore
Courtesy of NetGalley
I had the opportunity to read The Radium Girls by Kate Moore through NetGalley. It was a disturbing and fascinating book. Although the dangerous properties of radium were known to the Curies who discovered it, there was a general denial by the population of its dangers. The companies that used radium to paint watch dials to make them glow in the dark did not give any warnings to their employees. Women would routinely drip paint brushes with radium into their mouths before applying the paint to the dials. When the women were finally examined after years of exposure, radium had penetrated so deeply into their tissues they literally glowed in the dark.
The author lays out a timeline of the commercial use of radium. She introduces the women who worked painting the dails. She details their health and lives before starting to work at the plant. Ms. Moore also explains the process in which different workers in different positions were exposed. As the workers begin to show signs of various illness, they sought help from a medical field that did not understand radiation poisoning. Many girls were unable to work anymore due to illness. The statute of limitations for work related illnesses was only five months. By the point the women began to realize their illness was work related, more than five months had passed since they were employed.
The book is fascinating in the wonderful way Ms. Moore makes the women truly present. The reader begins to care about the women because of the wonderful way Ms. Moore tells their story. You feel their frustration with not being able to find answers as they are suffering greatly. You admire their persistence in pursuing a legal case to stop the company’s negligence.
The book is disturbing in the level of the cover up by the company. The smear campaign included telling the public that the real cause of the illnesses was syphilis. They painted the women as suffering from a venereal disease and ruined their reputations. The legal system was a Goliath that they sick women needed to defeat.
I recommend reading The Radium Girls. Like HIdden Figures, it is a book that tells a story that we need to know. We need to hear about these women who had the presence of mind to document their stories and make sure their stories were shared from generation to generation. Laws now in place to protect employees and give them access to information about dangerous conditions are because of the legal challenges of women. That is their legacy.
The audio version is narrated by Angela Brazil. I obtained it through Hoopla Digital and my local library system. Ms. Brazil does a nice job.
My first visit to Castle Rock was in The Dead Zone, published in 1979. It was one of those towns, like Jerusalem's Lot, that when I made my first trip to Maine in 2006, I made sure were not on the itinerary. Nothing against either town but seriously messed up stuff happened to people there. But Castle Rock has been fairly quiet for a few years. Thanks to Richard Chizmar, Stephen King has woken Castle Rock up.
I was overjoyed when I first read the Mr. King was collaborating with Richard Chizmar from Cemetery Dance Publications to return to Castle Rock.The advance reviews of Gwendy's Button Box were excellent. I just had to patiently wait for my turn in the library queue.
Today was the day. My husband walked in from work, and a side trip to the library, and handed me the book at 5:35pm. I drove right in. (Left overs are in the fridge.) Three hours later I had devoured the Button Box. I could not have put it down if I had wanted to and I very much did not want to.
The box at the heart of this book contains chocolate (yea!), money (useful) and terrible powers. The owner of the box can invoke this powers at a cost to themselves. I cannot really say much more without giving away plot points. I will say had I been given the box I doubt I would have handled it as well as Gwendy. In true Stephen King style, the people are as horrifying as any monsters.
There were so many things I liked about Gwendy's Button Box starting with Gwendy. She is a wonderful character. One who as a teen deals well with the issues of peer pressure and fitting in. She fought her own battles and did not need a male to save her or validate her decisions. I loved the box and I was also terrified of the box. My jury is still out on the giver of the box. I haven't decided if he has cloven hooves or is some type of emissary of the gods.
This is not a totally coherent review because I am very much in the afterglow of a gorgeous sumptuous read. I will be reading Gwendy's Button Box again over the weekend before it goes back to the library. I am seriously considering getting the audiobook. It is a novella, 164 pages, and a quick read but an immensely satisfying one. In my experience a satisfying Stephen King read is one that pulls you, leaves you breathless, and invites to come back and see what you missed in your first intense read.
I was first introduced to Ron (Veronica) and Chris (Christine) Wilson in March of 2015. Ron was a successful author and Chris, well Chris can see dead people. When Chris was asked to check out a house with a nasty reputation, Ron being the overprotective big sister went on her own to make sure it was safe. It wasn’t. Now Ron is one of the dead people Chris sees. Restless Spirits is the story of how Ron dies and how Chris saves her, even though she is dead. Excellent book as is Restless Spirits: Love Letter a novella that continues the story.
Kindred Spirits picks up Ron and Chris’s story after they have settled into their lives as dead and not dead sisters. As with Restless Spirits, there is an excellent mystery at the heart of the book. This mystery takes the talents of both sisters to solve, plus help from new characters. The plot is great. Once I got a chance to really sit down and start reading it, I finished it in two days. Do a thing, pick up Kindred Spirits, put it down to go do a thing and then pick it up as soon as possible again.
Part of what makes the book, and it’s prequels, so good are the characters of Ron and Chris. They are believable. Their conversations seem natural like I would have with my sisters, except not the dead part. They interact with their world, both living and dead, in a realistic manner. That believability is the core of why I love this series. I believe Chris can still see and hear Ron. I believe that they can still share that bond of sisterhood. Jean Marie Bauhaus has written great characters and fun mysteries.
I give Kindred Spirits 5 of 5 stars. I also suggest you check out some of her other books. Dominion of the Damned is one of the most unusual vampire books. She is a very talented author across several genres.
I received an advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review.
by Jardine Libaire
White Fur was offered to me by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. It is categorized as General Fiction (Adult) but it really is the story of a romance, the relationship between two people. Elise and Jamey meet in New Haven, CT where Jamey is a student at Yale and Elise is barely surviving. I am not sure I can give this book an adequate review, not because of the writing but because of me. It just really did not connect with me. I am not sure if it is the bleakness of Elise and Jamey’s life due to their struggles or that I have read very few romances I like. So I would suggest you try the book. It is not a bad book and not bad writing. It just did not draw me in.
Lunatics, Imbeciles and Idiots A History of Insanity in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Ireland by Dr John Burt, Kathryn Burtinshaw
Lunatics, Imbeciles and Idiots
A History of Insanity in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Ireland
by Dr John Burt, Kathryn Burtinshaw
Pen & Sword
Pub Date 30 Apr 2017
Courtesy of Netgalley
Lunatics, Imbeciles and Idiots A History of Insanity in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Ireland by Dr John Burt and Kathryn Burtinshaw was a challenging read but a very fascinating one. The authors detail how the mentally ill were cared for before the nineteenth century. They also delve into legislation that was meant to reform their care. Several chapters describe the care of the mentally ill in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
The description of life in an asylum was fascinating. It really was much more humane than it eventually became. There were open spaces. Music, art and gardens were part of the patients’ lives. The patients were kept clean and physically healthy.
An attempted assassination of King George III changed the way the criminally insane were treated. At first they were housed with other mentally ill. Eventually they were housed by themselves. The case studies included in different sections were fascinating. The chapter on treatments was disturbing.
It is interesting to see how these asylums were originally created to be. The way they degenerate into houses of horror by the end of the nineteenth century is extremely sad. The mentally ill are treated more as animals than humans who are in need of medical care. If you are interested in the history of the treatment of the mentally ill, I recommend this book. It can be a slog with some of the dense information but it is worth it.
The Witchfinder's Sister
by Beth Underdown
Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine
Pub Date 25 Apr 2017
The Witchfinder's Sister is the debut novel by Beth Underdown. Her first novel. I need to make sure that is stated up front because it is an absolutely amazing read. I was totally drawn into Alice's story. The book opens with Alice being kept prisoner in a locked room under orders of her brother Matthew Hopkin's, the infamous witchfinder of English history. As the book circles back and tells the story of Alice and her family, I could not help but fear for her safety. Each chapter increased the dread for what would happen to her.
The book takes place during the English Civil War. The story begins in the spring of 1645 and ends in the summer of 1648. Alice is witness to her brother's hunt for witches and his methods for identifying them. This is the mindset, the philosophy, that gave birth to America's own witch hunts. It is truly frightening on several levels. Any woman who was different, perhaps mentally ill or independent or quarrelsome with her neighbors was fair game for being accused. Once accused there was no way to prove one's innocence, only one's guilt. The author does a fantastic job of illustrating these details without losing the reader's interest.
Although this period of English history is not very familiar to me, I am now very interested in learning more of it. Did this witch paranoia come from the chaos of the civil war or from the religious philosophy of those fighting the crown? How could a woman defend herself if accused? Was there any chance for being acquitted at all? Alice is a fantastic guide through this nightmare world. She is a reliable narrator who is horrified by what she witnesses but finds herself powerless to help any of the accused, even to help herself.
I highly recommend Beth Underdown's debut novel The Witchfinder's Sister. It is a compelling, tense but ultimately enjoyable read.
I recently reviewed Katherine Anderson’s Prisoner of the Asylum. The next book in the series is Slave. I love Abbey and the series that is created around her. I love the story settings. While the Asylum book was a little bit cooler, just cause you know it was in an asylum, Slave is still a very good book.
In the first chapter of Slave, Abbey and Luke set out to explore a mill, which ultimately does not pan out. She and Luke are great because they are friends, no romantic involvement, just friends. I like their comfort with each other. They a an abandoned cottage after getting tips from their urban exploration community. Once there they literally fall into a surprise in an undocumented tunnel. The tunnel has a few surprises of its own. There is also a paranormal aspect to this book. I cannot really give detail without giving away plot points.
As in the first book, the descriptions are wonderful. They are lush in detail and create an atmosphere that the reader can feel. There is a paragraph is Chapter 13 about a town at the bottom of the quarry which is just wonderful to read: “It was such a beautiful piece of water but it was cloaked in so many dark and disturbing stories.” Abbey’s parents are introduced in this book and help the reader connect with some of her backstory. It helps the character develop in the reader’s mind.
Why is Abbey finding paranormal situations with her urban explorations? She describes it as, “something inside me that called to them, and let them know that I was someone who could understand them.” I am hoping a future book can explore why that is. The ending is very special. One of the best endings I have read in awhile in terms of one or two sentences giving a world of information. I look forward to continuing to read about Abbey’s explorations, both urban and paranormal.
I enjoyed this book. The main character, Abbey, is involved in Urban Exploration as a hobby. More than a hobby actually; it is a passion. Abbey got into Urban Exploration through her grandmother. She is accompanied on her adventures is her friend Luke.
The book spans two different time periods, World War II and the present. Ms. Anderson does a wonderful job of creating a parallel between World War II and the war in the mind of a mentally ill person. The mood setting in both time periods is great. For example, one phrase really illustrates the panic and claustrophobia of the time, “Trapped in a basement with a group of mental patients while bombs rained down aboveground”.
The story that takes place during World War II is about a young woman named Isabella. She is committed by her father when she is twenty-five years old. She suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, possibly inherited from her mother. It ties to the modern story when Abbey finds Isabella’s records during an exploration of Westwood Asylum for the Insane which has been abandoned for decades. What catches Abbey’s attention is that Isabella’s records stop very suddenly. As Abbey and her exploration partner Luke continue their exploration of the Asylum and investigation into Isabella’s history, Isabella emerges, moving through a layer separating this plane from the next.
The book is well researched. In chapter six, there is a discussion of Walter Freeman that is fascinating and one of the most horrifying things I have ever read. That paragraph is equal to anything Stephen King has ever gotten me with. There are no words implying horror, no monsters jumping at you, no specific words that do it but arranging into those sentences in that paragraph is one of the most terrifying and unforgettable images I have ever encountered. And the author just slips it in there. No warning. Genius, just glorious genius. Thinking about it still gives me the creeps months later.
As I states earlier, Ms. Anderson has a wonderful gift in setting the mood. When talking about the morgue in the asylum she describes it as “the morgue, alongside the physically dead, not just the psychologically dead.”, evokes an emotion, a sense of dread, a feeling of those poor souls trapped in their own minds and in the asylum.
I previously enjoyed Ms. Anderson’s Hospital Hill. I am looking forward to reviewing more of her work.
White Winter (The Black Year Series Book 2)
by D.J. Bodden
Courtesy of author
In Black Fall, Book 1 of D. J. Bodden’s The Black Year Series, I was introduced to Jonas Black, a 16 year old whose life missed the turn at Albuquerque and ended up in a nameless circle of Hell. Jonas’s life unraveled when his father died and he discovered some very startling truths about the world and his place in it. I was introduced to vampires, werewolves, a zombie (or not) plus Jonas’s freaked out human girlfriend. Some of the individuals, no matter what species, were cool and some were just terrifying on the “I will eat your soul” scale.
When Book 1, Black Fall, ends Jonas is trying to cope with what the last few months of his life have dumped on him. It is a lot, much more than typical teen angst. White Winter, Book 2, picks up shortly after the end of Black Fall. Jonas is trying to settle into his new reality with it’s perks and drawbacks. He has a vision of a world in ashes that seems to point it’s skeletal finger at him as the cause. Who does he tell? Who does he trust enough to tell? As Jonas tries to make this decision, he and Kieran, his best friend, get sent on a road trip for Agency business. Nothing about the trip goes well and proves that their is a conspiracy to destroy Jonas, his mother, his friends and the Agency. Does Jonas try to stop them or will that fulfill the prophecy? If he doesn’t try to stop them, will that fulfill the prophecy? What is a sixteen year old boy supposed to do when he doesn’t know where to step or what to stay to avoid bringing about the events of his vision?
White Winter had as much action as Black Fall. There is great character development in the characters like Jonas, Eve, Alice and Kieran from the first book. There are new characters who range from “can you trust them” to “damn that’s freaky”. The pacing was steady and at times frantic. The battle/fight scenes are well written. They made sense and not, being anything of a military historian myself, the tactics seem realistic.
In my review of Black fall I said I would have no problems recommending it to anyone over eighteen and probably any mature high schoolers. I did read White Winter with my “mother” senses engaged and I feel that it would be fine for a mature teen just due to the violence. Parents should always read books first before they hand them over and know your child’s ability to separate fact from fiction. I would have had no problem handing Black Fall or White Winter to my son when he was eleven (and had already read The Lord of the Rings and everything Brian Jacques had written to that point).
I am eager to start the last book in the trilogy, Red Spring. Black Fall and White Winter do end with cliffhangers but also complete their particular story arc. I really appreciate authors who make sure they do complete the arc within the book. It gives it a satisfying ending but gives you a craving for the next course. I would highly recommend getting your hands on Black Fall and White Winter. I will review Red Spring as soon as I finish it. Not to belabor a point but this series would be fantastic as an audiobook with the right narrator.
Calling All Angels ((The Shadow Council Case Files #1)
by John G. Hartness (Goodreads Author), Melissa Gilbert (Editor)
Courtesy of John G. Hartness
Calling All Angels takes place in the same universe as the Quincy Harker Demon Hunter Novellas. The main character is Joanna (Jo) Harrison descends from an American Legend, a man of mythical strength, John Henry. Not only has Jo inherited John’s strength, she also has his hammer. Jo has returned from helping Quincy stop Hell on Earth from happening in Atlanta. But home holds it’s own battles and challenges.
Jo lives with her elderly mother, Cassandra, and her young daughter, Ginny. Jo is a single mom, working by day as a freelance editor to support her family. She is working as a cage fighter at night. The money is great. She always wins due to her great strength. But her main reason for putting herself through the brutality of the fighting is to complete the task Quincy had given her. She is to return an item to a man. The item is a sword. The man is an archangel. Easy peasy. Or not. As usual in the Harker universe, nothing is easy. The man does not know he is an archangel, he wants nothing to do with the sword and there is a really nasty demon that wants the angel and the sword.
Calling All Angels is a fun read. As with the Harker series, the story has intriguing characters. The backstory on Jo adds more facets to a character I already liked. This is the first in a new series. I am hoping that each novella will feature a different member of the Shadow Council as I am very interested in learning the backstory on each of them. If you have enjoyed the Quincy Harker novellas or any of Mr. Hartness’s other series, I highly recommend Calling All Angels. It has the makings of another great series to get hooked on.
I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
by D.J. Bodden
Pub Date 10 Apr 2015
When is a vampire not a vampire? When is a werewolf not a werewolf? Or a zombie not a zombie? D. J. Bodden’s Black Fall is a fast paced read where nothing is what it seems and sometimes that is really bad. Jonas Black is a 16 yr old whose life begins to unravel when his father dies. The funeral is at night. His mother breaks open the urn and claims it is not her husband because she can tell “human” ashes. Poor Jonas is about to spend the next few months constantly thinking, “Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.”
Black Fall is a supernatural mystery built around a teenager, who used to have normal teenage problems until he found out the truth about his parents, himself and the world. The beings that populate the book were fascinating. Different than the normal run of the mill supernaturals. I did have some confusion about the power structures in the different species as well as Jonas’s existence. I am not sure if more of this will be dealt with in the next three books (Black Fall is the first of a projected four book series). It was an enjoyable read that I obtained from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review. I would love to hear it as an audiobook read by someone like James Foster (hint, hint author). I would have no problems recommending it to anyone over eighteen and probably any mature high schoolers. I would have to reread it again with my “mother” senses engaged before I would go any younger. I will be looking forward to picking up the sequel when my library gets it. And seriously Mr. Bodden - Audiobook - James Foster.
The Mammoth Book of the Mummy
by Paula Guran
Diamond Book Distributors
The Mummy. What does that noun, “Mummy”, conjure in your mind? In my very strange mind, I get side by side pictures. One is the mummy I saw in the Smithsonian when I was in 7th grade (many, many years ago). The other is of the fantastic, wonderful Boris Karloff so very expressive while wrapped in linen. The new mummy movies have not changed that second image for me.
When the reader thinks about mummies in literature, the reader has to put effort into it. There just are not a plethora of mummy stories, not like vampires, werewolves or zombies. That may be because not many writers tried to work with them. Thank goodness Paula Guran collected nineteen short stories that expand and twist the typical mummy in such a way that while preserving the time honored concept allows a creative spin that leaves the reader hanging on for dear life.
The authors and stories in the book are:
* That I May Speak (Introduction to collection), Paula Guran - Guran does an excellent job of navigating the world of mummies both in film and literature.
* “Private Grave 9”, Karen Joy Fowler
* “The Good Shabti”, Robert Sharp - This story cuts between Ancient Egypt and the not too distant future. The sense of dread builds in both ages until there is a clash that I did not see coming. Great story.
* “Egyptian Revival”, Angela Slatter - This was one of my favorites. Imagine a strong, feminine Private Investigator in the Ancient Egyptian religion is proven to be real. Antiquities are now not just collectibles, they are possible gateways to immortality. A fun story. I will be adding the author to my list of new authors to check out.
* “The Queen in Yellow”, Kage Baker - Mummies and time travel. Oh and cyborgs.
* “On Skua Island”, John Langan - This one was creepy in a “they need to make this into a movie” creepy. Very good non-Egyptian mummy.
* “Ramesses on the Frontier”, Paul Cornell - I have read several books by Paul Cornell and he never disappoints. His Ramesses trip through the underworld is funny and unique and an excellent story.
* “The Shaddowes Box”, Terry Dowling
* “Egyptian Avenue”, Kim Newman - This one was really cool. I have read several of Kim Newman’s books involving his Diogenes Club. This story has that wonderful blend of supernatural and Scotland Yard. A very enjoyable story.
* “The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t, the Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar”, Gail Carriger - My favorite of the collection. It does have a werewolf who isn’t, a mummy and a cat in the jar. It also has a character that I haven’t decided what he is and an author who I already put one of her books on hold at my local library.
* “The Night Comes On”, Steve Duffy - I enjoyed this one also. I will check out the author’s other work.
* “American Mummy”, Stephen Graham Jones - This was a good story set in the modern day southwestern USA.
* “Bubba-Ho-Tep”, Joe R. Lansdale - I did not see the movie that was based on this story. It did not really do anything for me but then again I am not an Elvis fan.
* “Fruit of the Tomb”, Carole Nelson Douglas - I loved this story. Having become a first time cat owner seven months ago, I can truly appreciate the worship of cats. Heart of Night is worthy of that worship.
* “The Chapter of Coming Forth by Night”, Lois Tilton & Noreen Doyle
* “The Mummy’s Heart”, Norman Partridge
* “The Emerald Scarab”, Keith Taylor
* “The Embalmer”, Helen Marshall - Not your typical mummy and two children I never want to cross paths with.
* “Tollund”, Adam Roberts
* “Three Memories of Death”, Will Hill - Another one of my favorites. A beautiful, touching story.
The Mammoth Book of the Mummy, which I received from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review, blew up the all my previous conceptions of what a mummy is. I discovered several new authors and broaden my imagination. I highly recommend The Mammoth Book of the Mummy. I hope to see other authors try their hand at this neglected beautiful genre.
Lincoln in the Bardo A Novel
by George Saunders
Random House Publishing Group General Fiction (Adult)
Pub Date 14 Feb 2017
Several months ago, Lincoln in the Bardo showed up in many of the social media platforms or blogs I read. I was curious about what type of book would need over 150 different voices to translate it to an audiobook. I was also curious about Lincoln and his son, Willie. I read a book a long time ago where a researcher is trying to figure out where Willie was buried before being moved to Springfield when Lincoln’s body was moved there. There was somewhat a mystery surrounding it. In any case, Lincoln in the Bardo has my curiosity aroused before I even read the first page.
The book is written in a very unusual style. Every paragraph, whether one line or several pages, has an attribution listed, in lowercase letters. The majority of the characters, Willie included, are all dead and residents of the cemetery. There are a few who are living and breathing. The book opens with the reception the Lincoln’s gave the night Willie died. They had been told he was doing better and it was fine to go ahead with the party. Both President and Mrs. Lincoln went upstairs to check on him several times during the party. Now here is the tricky part, some of the characters are factual as is their description of events. The others are fictional. It would take considerable time and energy to sort out which was which. But Saunders’ writing is so good it is not apparent without the research.
In some ways, it is not an easy book to read. The constant changes in narrator and the usual style of indicating the narrator of the moment is difficult at first. The language is that of the middle 1800’s. It is floral and different than modern speech. It is well worth the effort to stick with the book. The loss Lincoln felt at the dead of his young son is made very, very real. The confusion of Willie to why his father is not taking him home with him is caused by the adult ghosts unwillingness to be the bearer of bad news and tell the child he is, in fact, dead.
Lincoln in the Bardo is one of the most unusual books I have read. It was also one of the most challenging. All and all, I would recommend Lincoln in the Bardo for the unique experience and story it creates.
by Rita Stradling
New Adult, Sci Fi & Fantasy
Pub Date 18 Dec 2017
I first came across Rita Stradling's Ensnared through the Kindle Scout program. I liked the description enough to nominate it. If you have not checked out the Scout program, I suggest you do. It has introduced me several new authors. Then I saw it available for review at Netgalley. It was an enjoyable and quick read.
The story is a Beauty and the Beast retelling set in the future. The future and the technology in it are an important part of the story. The curse is not what the reader normally associates with fairy tales. And this is one hell of a wicked witch. Trust me on this. This witch will make your skin crawl.
The main characters are Alainn, the young adult daughter of an important AI inventor Connor Murphy. Both Connor and Alainn's older brother, Colby, are both geniuses. Alainn is not. What she is, is a very direct and caring person. Caring enough to give up her freedom to save her father from jail. Lorccan Garbhan is an extremely (like Bill Gates wealthy) client of Connor Murphy's. Connor has designed AIs for Lorccan. Connor also has a gambling problem which he fuels with his client's money. When he cannot deliver his latest project, already paid for, Lorccan threatens to press charges and send him to jail.
While the story does have some of the traditional elements of The Beauty and the Beast, the girl putting herself at risk to save her father, the updated elements are well done. My only complaint is I was left unanswered questions about the curse itself. With the couple of f-words and descriptive sex, I would not give to a teen unless it was a mature teen and the parent read it first. This listed as New Adult and I would keep it in that category.
by Roxane Gay
Pub Date 03 Jan 2017
I had the privilege of hearing Roxane Gay speak at York College of Pennsylvania after the release of her book Bad Feminist. She was witty and empowering. I learned quite a bit that evening. When Netgalley offered her new book Difficult Women to review, I jumped on it. I am so glad I did.
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay was terrifying, wonderful, confusing, eye opening, lyrical, compelling, and damn good story telling. Difficult Women is a collection of twenty-one stories.
I Will Follow You - heartbreaking but hopeful in the incredible strength of twin girls together. It left me wondering could they survived if they were separated totally? I felt as though there was a message here that women are stronger when they have each other’s backs regardless of the difference in their circumstances.
Water, All Its Weight - contained beautiful prose but had an abrupt end which left me unsure of the meaning.
The Mark of Cain - was really creepy in a stephen king kind of way. You have to read it for yourself.
Difficult Women - contains the following sections: Loose Women, Frigid Women, Crazy Women, Mothers, Dead Girls. Each section helps view the women in a non-judgemental way. It gave me a lot to think about.
Florida - Looks at a gated community from all levels, the rich residents, the service personnel, and the maids. One of the residents is newly moved in and is set apart because she is a first wife and also not a size 4. Seeing the community from all the different perspectives is eye opening and interesting.
La Negra Blanca - this story infuriated and educated me.
North Country - is set at the Michigan Institute of Technology where Ms. Gay did do her graduate work. she talks about how being one of the few black faculty she is asked, “Are you from Detroit”. Her answer is a damning comment on the college’s culture.
The other stories are:
Requiem for a Glass Heart
In the Event of my Father’s Death
Break All the Way Down
I am a Knife
The Sacrifice of Darkness
Difficult Women is a book I will read over and over. I would like to read it with someone and be able to discuss it. I feel as though I have more to learn from it. I recommend Difficult Women to anyone who wants excellent stories as well as stories that touch your soul.
I discovered the Robinson Crusoe series by E.J. Robinson in June of 2015 as an audiobook. I found the story original and enjoyable. I enjoyed the audiobook so much I purchased the Kindle version to share with my husband. Then I waited for Robinson Crusoe 2245 (Book 2) to be released. I finished it in October of 2015 and it was everything a sequel should be. It maintained the same high level of action as the first book. The familiar characters continued to grow and develop. New characters are introduced and enhanced the story. More information about the universe the series exists in, how it came to be, and the different cultures that inhabit it are revealed. I enjoyed it just as much as the first book. Robinson Crusoe 2246 (Book 3) was released on November 17, 2016. I was fortunate enough to receive an advance review copy in exchange for an honest review. As soon as the book downloaded into my Kindle app, I began devouring it.
The world in which the Robinson Crusoe series takes place is ours. But is our world after very bad events have occurred. I think that was one of the joys of the series, these little hidden easter eggs. As I read about this alien landscape, destroyed in cataclysmic events, I would suddenly recognize the remains of something from our time. It helped connect me to the book. I could visualize the book because I could visualize the bones of what lay beneath it. It was not a total alien landscape.
Robinson Crusoe is raised in privilege and luxury in a part of England that has managed to separate themselves from the barbarians and monsters at their gates. Book 1 details this life he leads and his family. It also details his abrupt exit from privilege and safety and how he comes to the shores of what once was America. The first book does a marvelous job of laying the groundwork in the two major characters, Robinson and Friday, and the various remnants of civilization they encounter. Book 2 continues their story with even more adventures and adversaries. As I stated earlier, I enjoyed the second book as much as the first.
Then came Book 3, Robinson Crusoe 2246. I devoured it and it was great. It was “Holy Crap” and “Wow” good. Crusoe and Friday continued to grow and develop. I really enjoyed the time spent on the choices Crusoe was faced with. What was the right thing to do? For him and Friday? For others? For the remains of civilizations? He thought before he took serious action. It demonstrated a growth and maturity in the character. Friday’s character also grew, especially is how she came to understand that their different upbringings could be used to create a safe and rational middle ground for their lives. The villains in this book were just cool. Some old enemies with new toys, some new enemies who were just out and out creepy and a new friend who may not be a friend afterall.
I have enjoyed this series immensely. I think a trilogy is the right length for Crusoe and Friday’s story. But the author has created a world that begs to be written about. What caused the Great Rendering. How did people alive at the time, people like us, deal with it. The people who survive the initial cataclysm, how did they create new lives amidst terrible loss and suffering? Was the Great Rendering the same all over the world. How about scientist in Antarctica or astronauts on the International Space Stations, what happened to them? The Robinson Crusoe series has created such a rich world with so many other stories to be told. I cannot wait to see what the author does next.
The Lost City of the Monkey God
A True Story
by Douglas Preston
Grand Central Publishing
Pub Date 03 Jan 2017
The first recorded reference to the White City is in the writing of Cortez. He was told by a guide that there was a civilization that rivaled the Aztecs and Incas located in what is modern day Honduras. Cortez passed this information on to Spanish authorities but was never able to follow up on it. As the decades went by the legend of the White City persisted. Claims of finding the city were not accompanied by proof. The author does a good job of detailing the tantalizing clues that kept the legend alive.
Douglas Preston is a well known author as part of the team, with Lincoln Childs, that writes the Pendergast mystery series. He also has his own books, both fiction and non-fiction that are worth checking out. Preston first heard of the White City while doing a story for National Geographic on Angkor Wat in 1996. He was told about new technology that can penetrate the thick jungle canopy to help determine if man made structures existed. Preston was fascinated by the story and contacted the researchers to request joining the study. Steve Elkins, heading the project, accepted Preston into the group. After securing the financing, the search for the White City finally began in 2012. The preliminary work of selecting the possible sites, planning the expedition, and gathering a team of experts, not only in archeology but also in navigating the jungle. The area of Honduras that the White City was believed to be was an isolated valley, uninhabited by man but full of danger like the fer-de-lance snake, one of the deadliest snakes in the world. The expedition finally started for the valley where the White City in 2015.
This is where the book becomes addictive. The snakes, the mosquitos, the jungle itself challenged the explorers day and night. The discoveries came quickly. The team had to decide whether to announce their finds and risk it all. Although they had accessed the site by helicopter, they knew once it was announced, others would attempt to rob the site of it's priceless artifacts. Preston describes all of this, the danger, the hard choices, in detail that keeps the reader turning pages (in my case late into the night). Once the exhibition ended, the danger did not. The worst was what many of the exhibition members unknowingly carried home with them. Despite the mosquito nets and liberal use of DEET, many members of the team became ill and had mosquito bites that did not heal. When the team compared bites and symptoms through email, they knew they needed expert medical help. Naively believing malaria was the worst, the team was shocked to find they had contracted leishmaniasis also called White Leprosy.
When I was in middle school, around 1973, I had a book about lost civilizations. It included the Mayan and Angkor Wat to name a few. I was fascinated with the thought that a culture could so completely disappear for hundreds of years. I remember thinking that book I read as a young teen was the last that would be written, that all lost civilizations had been discovered. When I saw The Lost City of the Monkey God offered for review on Netgalley, I was thrilled. It rekindled all the amazement and wonder I felt many, many years ago reading about other lost cities. This is an amazing book in it's detailing of the legend itself, the preparation for and the expedition itself as well as the horrifying aftereffects on the team.
Kipling and Trix by Mary Hamer
Courtesy Booktasters in exchange for an honest review
Historical Fiction can expand our view of actual events and the people involved in them. They can fill in the gaps between the known and the speculation. They are also tasked with entertaining the reader. In one of these missions Kipling and Trix succeeds and in the other fails.
Rudyard Kipling is one the great writers who came out of the British Empire. And it was the Empire that was his crucible of creation. He was born in India, spent several years there as a boy and returned as an adult. The exotic (at least to the British) peoples and lands of India were the fuel with which he created The Jungle Book and Just So Stories, among others. This is the known portion of the historical fiction in Kipling and Trix.
What I, and probably many others, did not know was Kipling's younger sister Alice (nicknamed Trixie) was also a talented writer. She was overshadowed by her brother’s fame and discounted because of her gender. She wrote honestly about her family, even using false names, but was criticized by her family for airing private issues in public. Her husband felt her writing had it’s place which was only in their house and did not appreciate her publishing any of it.
Kipling and Trix is the story of the siblings. They struggled to learn to live in English society opposed to the more relaxed atmosphere. As they grew to adulthood, they remained close, although Kipling did not approve of his sister’s choice of husband. Trix suffered from some form of mental illness. It is hard to say exactly what her diagnosis would have been in modern terms. Trix’s illness was treated as weakness. It was not discussed outside the family. The blame was placed firmly on her by society although her brother did try to understand. As Kipling rose to win the Nobel prize and become the close friend of King George V, Trix diminished under the weight of her illness and society’s expectations.
There were many things I learned through reading this book. Chiefly the existence of Trix and her close relationship with Kipling. I also learned of the terrible conditions they lived in while they were in England and their parents in India. This is where the book succeeded. Where the book failed was in the entertainment. It was not a page turner. I did not connect with Kipling or Trix. This may be a failing on my part since I am ignorant of India’s history and especially the British Colonial period. Some of the nuances of the story may have gotten past me. I would still recommend the book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and Rudyard Kipling’s writing.
I picked up Witches of Lychford when one of the many book deal sites I subscribe to indicated it was on sale. I had read two previous Paul Cornell books and loved them. Witches of Lychford continued the trend.
Lychford is a small village which is in the process of passing a local ordinance that would allow a superstore to not only build at the village limits. It will bring jobs, the villagers are told by the corporation. Actually it will destroy the boundaries between worlds that Lychford has protected for generations beyond count. The job of making sure the boundaries are protected was always done by the Witches of Lychord but times being what they are, modern, there is only one witch left in Lychford and everyone just views her as the eccentric villager. If Judith is going to protect not only Lychford but the world itself, she needs to find some back up witches quickly.
Paul Cornell never disappoints me. His characters are always normal with somewhat bizarre twists that makes them seem like members of my family. The story never lags. At 144 pages, this was a quick and enjoyable read. I am planning on picked up The Lost Child of Lychford (Lychford #2) when my budget allows.
The Highwayman is my first experience reading Craig Johnson's Longmire series. I choose to start the series with the newest book because who doesn't love a ghost story. Best of all, my local library, The York County Library System, had it. I generally do not read many physical books anymore due to essential tremor, but The Highwayman was more of a novella and a manageable size.
I fell in love with Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear after watching the Longmire TV series. They were both complex and very appealing men. They were also of a certain age that appleals to me ( i.e. not my kids age). Walt and Henry have been friends since high school. Both went to college and Viet Nam and both eventually came back home, to Wyoming.
This Longmire story in particular involves a Wyoming Highway Patrolman (woman), Rosey, who asks Walt for help. Her usual work routine is nights in a canyon with a dead patrolman in it's history, incidentally the first Native American patrolman.The dead patrolman has been issuing an "officer needs assistance" call over the radio that only the new patrolman hears. Her boss wants to send her for a psych evaluation. Having worked with Walt and respected him, she trusts him to help her figure out what is happening.
The mystery in this story had much more to it then it seemed in the first chapter. I loved the friendship between Walt and Henry. Their years of history are demonstrated by a very natural flow of conversation. The difficult conversations between Walt and Rosey concerning her mental health are very well written. I have been ill with some hell spawn of a stomach virus so I was able to read this 190 page book in one afternoon. It was a wonderful companion and helped with my misery. I picked up the first book in the series, The Cold Dish, from my libraries Overdrive collection and have found that just as enjoyable. I am looking forward to working my way through the entire series of books.