Going on a brief hiatus

Sometimes the most difficult thing we must do is say goodbye.

For anyone who has followed me on any of my social media accounts, they will have heard me mention my Emma. She started out as the “family dog” but that soon turned in to “Melissa’s dog”. She was my best friend and confidant.

For 13 (almost 14) years we have been side by side. And this past Saturday we were forced to part. She passed from natural causes and while her passing was a shock neither was it unexpected.

I say all of this so my readers will understand when I say I am going on a brief hiatus. I simply do not have the emotional energy right now to read and write reviews.

I know I am signed up for a few book tours but I must drop out. I apologize profusely to you all. I do not like having to drop out so suddenly but neither is it fair to anyone for me to deliver a subpar product.

I will continue to remain on Twitter and Facebook though it will be on a limited basis.

Thank you to you all for your understanding.

Provided for Review: The Seeker of Well-Being by Indrajit Garai

A practical guide, with a unique perspective on personal growth. Numerous case studies on people who have changed their lives simply by overcoming their inner resistance.

We all want to attain excellence in what we do, but the first resistance comes from within us. We prevent ourselves from doing our best, from approaching our inner richness, and from feeling sincerely well within.

The key to our durable well-being is by aligning accordance with our self, by overcoming our internal resistance, and by acting in synergy with our deepest values. But, how?

Only our original solution, which originates from within us, can provide that.

This book, based on twelve years of client work, reveals why ‘accordance with self’ is the prerequisite for a deep and durable well-being. Why only our original solution can do this, and how we can easily construct this solution from inside out. And attain our inherent potential, by aligning with ourselves.

Others have done this with grace; their results endure. You can do it too.

This book was provided for review by the author. Thank you!

Almost every person is looking to better themselves in some way. Whether it be their physical well-being or mental well-being, the search is almost constant. And while it can be fairly straight forward to better oneself physically, to do so mentally and emotionally can be a struggle.

Fortunately, with a bit of help and insight through books such as The Seeker of Well-Being, it can be done.

Unlike many self-help books, The Seeker of Well-Being does not have a one size fits all solution. It doesn’t even have a one size fits most solution. Instead, it encourages the reader to do a bit of self reflection and derive a solution that fits just them. Many examples are given through past case studies and interviews, each one intended to inspire the reader in their search. It is very much a “What worked for this person may not be completely right for you, but perhaps something similar will?”

Like so many in this difficult time, I too am trying to become a better version of myself. So The Seeker of Well-Being came to me at a most opportune time. I found it to be an excellent read and one that really had me thinking on my own internal conflicts. In time I even hope to put some of the advice I garnered while reading this book to work.

I recommend this book to all my readers regardless of where they are on their path in life.

Provided for Review: The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town. Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man—one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him.

By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to. 

This book was provided for review by NetGalley. Thank you!

When I first saw the blurb on NetGalley for The Death of Jane Lawrence, I was intrigued. Especially once I saw it compared to Crimson Peak – a personal favorite in both book and movie. So it leaves little doubt that I had to request it.

The Death of Jane Lawrence on the surface has a basic enough premise. There is a young woman with a potential decision to make and there is a handsome young man with a dark secret. Add in the ubiquitous crumbling manor house and you have the recipe for most any gothic novel. That however is where the comparison ends because this book contains so much more.

I think what I liked best about The Death of Jane Lawrence was how unexpected it was. What I mean is, while reading it I was quite sure I knew the direction in which the story would go. Having read my fair share of gothic novels – both modern and historical – I tend to be able to guess how a story of this kind will end. And while sometimes I am correct there are other times where I am wrong. The Death of Jane Lawrence proved that point to me, that one cannot always guess how a book is going to go.

I quite enjoyed reading this book. Starling does a wonderful job of creating the perfect moody setting with Lindridge Hall and its surroundings. She peoples it with characters that are sympathetic and ones that are insensitive and at times they are the same person.

As a fan of gothic novels, I heartily recommend The Death of Jane Lawrence to my readers. With the colder months soon upon us it the perfect spooky book to settle down with on a dark night.

Provided for Review: Strange Deaths of the Last Romantic by Moses Yuriyvich Mikheyev

“The first time I committed suicide I was ten years old.

There have been many more suicides since.”

Adam is cursed. He cannot die.

But one man’s burden is another man’s blessing, and there are people who are out to harness Adam’s special talents.

However, Adam soon discovers that immortality comes at a cost; every time he dies, he loses a little bit of himself. So when Adam meets Lilyanne—his reason for living—he’s forced to choose between life and love.

This book was provided for review by NetGalley. Thank you!

Trigger Warnings: Suicide, glorification of suicide, death of a parent, murder, child abuse, references to drug use, animal death

Adam cannot die.

Whenever he tries, he wakes up in a new place with only the memory of his name. Any other memories are fleeting and usually lost when he dies again. Adam believes himself alone and unique but he is not. There are more like him and there are those who want to be like him. And they will stop at nothing to accomplish their goals.

My many thanks to NetGalley for approving my request for this book. I generally do not regret my decisions to request an ARC but I deeply regret this one.

I will be honest dear reader, Strange Deaths of the Last Romantic is not a good book. There were times that as I was reading it I was amazed it had even made it to publication. There is fanfiction on A03, fanfiction.net, or even WattPad that is better written and with characters infinitely more likeable.

The basic plot surrounding Strange Deaths… is, I admit, an intriguing one. The opening scene is quite strong and really draws you in but just as quickly descends in to ridiculousness. The plot holes are numerous and many of them could have easily been fixed with some kind of real editing work. Problems and conflicts are solved with little more than a waved hand and are often never mentioned again.

The writing for Strange Deaths is something I could go on about at length simply because it is so bad. Clunky prose and stilted conversations abound. The manner in which Adam describes Lilyanne (or any female character honestly) reminds me very much of the examples from Reddit’s ‘menwritingwomen’ board highlighting what NOT to do. At times I wondered if Mikheyev actually pulled ideas from there.

Unfortunately, the characters that populate Strange Deaths aren’t much better. Adam (or Aristotle) comes to romanticize his suicides. He spends paragraphs admiring the gun he carries and even admits to finding killing himself addicting. His viewpoints on women – along with every other male character – are quite misogynistic. The few female characters falling in to either the “goddess” or “whore” trope with no in-between. The women are very one dimensional and almost every one practically falls all over Adam soon after meeting him.

As I said above, Strange Deaths is not a good book. Clunky and awkward writing, plot holes the size of the Titanic, strange and abrupt shifts in narrator, and deeply unlikeable characters make this an eye rolling read. It is not often that I advise my readers to stay away and NOT read a particular book. This is one of the few times I make an exception. Head on over to fanfiction.net or A03, I know without a doubt you will find something better there.

Tidelands (The Fairmile #1) by Philippa Gregory

Midsummer’s Eve, 1648, England is in the grip of a civil war between renegade king and rebellious parliament. The struggle reaches every corner of the kingdom, even the remote tidelands —the marshy landscape of the south coast.

Alinor, a descendant of wisewomen, trapped in poverty and superstition, waits in the graveyard under the full moon for a ghost who will declare her free from her abusive husband. Instead, she meets James, a young man on the run, and shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marsh, not knowing that she is leading disaster into the heart of her life.

Suspected of possessing dark secrets in superstitious times, Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her out from her neighbors. This is the time of witch mania, and Alinor, a woman without a husband, skilled with herbs, suddenly enriched, arouses envy in her rivals and fear among the villagers, who are ready to take lethal action into their own hands.

It is dangerous for a woman to be different. 

Trigger Warning: mentions of abortion, mentions of childbirth

England, 1648. It is a dangerous time to be a woman. It is an even more dangerous time to be an intelligent woman.

Alinor is one such woman. A skilled midwife and herbalist, she is determined to make a life for herself and her two children. Not knowing if her husband is alive or dead, she lives in a kind of limbo as neither a widow or a wife. Meeting the mysterious James in a graveyard at midnight only complicates matters. He has taken a liking to the lovely young mother and worse still, she has taken a liking to him.

Author Philippa Gregory is well known for her historical novels. Sweeping stories with a variety of characters from all walks of society. Tidelands is her latest novel, the first in a new series. Different in that the main focus is on the “common” man as opposed to royalty with her other books yet alike in showing that while the way of thinking might change and become more modern, the old ways never truly leave.

The romance between Alinor and James is best described as a slow burn. And it is a very slow burn. Any real action between the two characters doesn’t happen until the second half of the book. With the first half being dedicated to mostly describing Alinor’s life and routine in the tidelands it is easy to understand how some readers were unable to finish the book.

While it is obvious Gregory has once again done a great deal of research in to the time period and lays it out for us the reader, it comes at the expense of character development. Especially in regards to the main character, Alinor. The term “one note character” is often used in reviews and this term can also be used here. It is quite understandable that for a woman in Alinor’s circumstances a smart move would be to keep one’s head down and be unobtrusive. But how many times can a person be expected to turn the other cheek and not show some kind of reaction?

I can understand wanting to keep the peace but surely some kind of emotional reaction would have been felt? A grimace, grit teeth, clenched hands hidden in an apron, something? Sadly, on more than one occasion Alinor simply takes what is dished out to her and says nothing.

The ending of the novel felt very rushed and had an abrupt stop. It is obviously meant as a lead in to the next novel in the series but a little more to the story would have been nice. A better explanation of what happened to the characters between one scene and the next would have been most welcome.

As someone who has read and enjoyed other novels by Philippa Gregory, I felt rather let down by Tidelands. It is one of those books that while I cannot readily recommend it, neither can I tell anyone to firmly stay away. All I can say is try it and make your own decision.

Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliott

Told through medieval poetic forms and in the voices of the people and objects in Joan of Arc’s life, (including her family and even the trees, clothes, cows, and candles of her childhood), Voices offers an unforgettable perspective on an extraordinary young woman.

Along the way it explores timely issues such as gender, misogyny, and the peril of speaking truth to power.

Before Joan of Arc became a saint, she was a girl inspired. It is that girl we come to know in Voices.

When I first saw David Elliott’s cover for Voices and read the description, I thought I had a decent idea of what to expect when I finally started reading it.

I was right but I was also wrong.

The poems used to tell Joan’s story come from a variety of sources. And only a handful of them are from actual people. The majority of them come from the point of view of inanimate objects – from Joan’s sword to the “fairy tree” she frequently visited as a child. All weigh in adding depth and nuance to a tale that is already well known.

Interspersed between poems are quotes taken from the two trials of Joan; one from before her death and the second years later. They too add a depth allowing us a brief glimpse at the real words of Joan herself and those who knew her.

The poems themselves are truly interesting. Many of them are formatted in a way to evoke the idea of the thing speaking. For example, the poem from Joan’s swords point of view is formatted to look like the outline of a sword. The recurring fire poem – a personal favorite – resembles a burning fire. Each iteration adds a new line invoking the idea of a fire building in intensity. With each new line added the lines at the end of the poem lose letters, again bringing about the idea of the wood that crumbles to ash as it burns.

While Elliott uses period accurate poetic forms, the poems themselves have a more modern feel. At times I was reminded of the flowing lines of spoken word poetry. And I found it very enjoyable.

While I don’t often read poetry collections, I was intrigued by the idea behind David Elliott’s Voices. As a somewhat easy yet thought-provoking read, I recommend it to all of my readers.

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

gospelofloki

In the pantheon of Norse gods, there is none like Loki. With a reputation for trickery and mischief, as well as causing as many problems as he solves, Loki is a god like no other. As he is demon born his fellow gods view him with deep suspicion and from some even hatred. He realizes they will never accept him as one of their own and for this he vows deepest revenge.

From his birth in the realm of Chaos to his recruitment by Odin; from his days as the go to guy in Asgard to his fall from grace and eventually Ragnarok – this is the unofficial story of the Nine Realm’s ultimate trickster.

Allow me to preface this review dear readers with a small note – this is NOT the Marvel Universe Loki. This Loki is the original, taken from the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda. Readers expecting the Loki made famous by Tom Hiddleston will unfortunately be sorely disappointed.

That is not to say this Loki isn’t as charming or fascinating; he is those things and so much more. He is smart, funny, quick-witted, and at times even heartbreaking. When he is brought in to Asgard’s halls by Odin, all Loki wishes is to be considered among its brethren. When he isn’t and is actively shunned by the Aesir and Vanir, he decides his only course is revenge.

At times extremely funny, at other times achingly sad, The Gospel of Loki is a very entertaining read. When a book starts with a cast of characters that reminds me of one of my favorite books (Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman), I know I am in for a treat. And with The Gospel of Loki, I was not disappointed.

It is quite obvious Harris has done her research for this book. There is a love for the characters that is obvious and a high regard for them as well. All of the well known Loki tales are here, from his birthing of Slepneir to Thor’s adventures in cross-dressing. Told in first person from Loki’s POV, it brings a breath of fresh air to these already well known tales.

Readers familiar with the original Norse tales are certain to enjoy this book. Those who are more familiar with the Marvel version of Loki and are looking to expand their view of the character are likely to enjoy it as well. Personally, I found it an enjoyable read and a fascinating look in to an already fascinating character.

The Chasing Graves Trilogy (Chasing Graves #1-3) by Ben Galley

Welcome to Araxes, where getting murdered is just the start of your problems.

Meet Caltro Basalt. He’s a master locksmith, a selfish bastard, and as of his first night in Araxes, stone cold dead.

They call it the City of Countless Souls, the colossal jewel of the Arctian Empire, and all it takes to be its ruler is to own more ghosts than any other. For in Araxes, the dead do not rest in peace in the afterlife, but live on as slaves for the rich.

While Caltro struggles to survive, those around him strive for the emperor’s throne in Araxes’ cutthroat game of power. The dead gods whisper from corpses, a soulstealer seeks to make a name for himself with the help of an ancient cult, a princess plots to purge the emperor from his armoured Sanctuary, and a murderer drags a body across the desert, intent on reaching Araxes no matter the cost.

Only one thing is certain in Araxes: death is just the beginning.

See what I thought of the first book of the Chasing Graves trilogy by reading my review here.

Trigger Warning: Depictions of murder and other general violence, mentions of decaying individuals

You know a main character is going to be an interesting one when his first scene has him shitting in a box purely out of spite. Such is our introduction to Caltro Basalt, the narrator and main character of Ben Galley’s Chasing Graves trilogy. Much like I said in my original review, Caltro is a prick. He isn’t the nicest guy but then again none of the characters in the trilogy are very nice. Every one has their own agenda and are willing to do whatever it takes to see it to the end.

The world building that Galley started in the first book of the series continued in the second and third books. We the reader are introduced to more areas not only of the great city Araxes but of surrounding areas as well. We are introduced to more characters, more people who either support Caltro and Nilith or want to see them fail.

Again, like in the first book, the second and third books are peppered with hints. Small asides and throwaway lines that at first make no sense but give the reader a clue that perhaps there is something bigger going on. All of these little things do add up in the end, culminating in a battle that is for the ages.

Because the events of the Chasing Graves trilogy happen in so short a time – just over a month – it is probably a good idea to read them back to back. Of course it isn’t necessary and the reader can space them out however they wish, I just found it to be a more enjoyable reading experience delving in to the second (and third) book with the previous ones still fresh in my mind.

Just as I enjoyed reading Chasing Graves, I enjoyed reading Grim Solace and Breaking Chaos (books 2 and 3 respectively). I recommend it to all my readers, especially those who like me have an interest in Egyptian mythology.

Provided for Review: Burden of Truth (After the Green Withered #2) by Kristen Ward

I thought I understood the truth.

I thought I knew the whole story.

But no one really did.

In a country defined by scarcity and control, Enora Byrnes leaves the watchful eyes and secret agendas of the powerful and enters a society living on the fringes. Life beneath the surface brings her face to face with a world struggling to survive. Armed with knowledge and honed into a weapon for the resistance, she fights alongside those whom society deems rebels and uses her skills to steal a secret kept hidden from humanity. Enora becomes what she has hunted: a traitor.

As Enora embarks on a fateful quest, will she find the one thing that could give her world hope or a truth that is far worse than she ever imagined? 

This book was provided for review by the author. Thank you!

Burden of Truth is the sequel to After the Green Withered. Read my review for the first book here.

Picking up almost immediately after where After the Green Withered left off, Burden of Truth picks up the story of Enora Byrnes as she tries to learn more about the people behind the DMC.

Having decided to join the resistance, Enora is faced with numerous difficult decisions and must deal with the sometimes heart-breaking consequences. It is not an easy path she and Springer have decided to take.

Much like with the first book, Burden of Truth is a fast paced and multi faceted story. Many of the same characters from the first book return with a few new ones introduced along the way. Time has passed for everyone and it hasn’t always been kind.

Enora continues to agonize over her choices, again and again saying she has blood on her hands for the things she has done. Compared to what other characters have done over the course of the two books (and even beforehand), Enora’s so called sins are a mere drop in the bucket.

Readers looking for a happy ending where Enora and Springer somehow defeat the “evil” DMC should look elsewhere. The ending of Burden of Truth is a truthful one, just not a happy one. Considering the world that Ward has created in her novels, it is also the only plausible one.

As much as I enjoyed reading Burden of Truth, it was a difficult book to read at times. Simply because the base premise of the story is relatable. It is so easy to picture a future as described and it is frightening.

Provided for Review: The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

I’m embarrassed, still, by how long it took me to notice. Everything was right there in the open, right there in front of me, but it still took me so long to see the person I had married.

It took me so long to hate him.

Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be.

And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband.

Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and both Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up.

Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty.

This book was provided for review by Netgalley. Thank you!

The basic premise of The Echo Wife is quite good. Evelyn Caldwell is an award winning scientist, her work with cloning is second to none. Unfortunately, her awards comes with a cost – namely, her marriage to Nathan. When Evelyn suspects Nathan of being unfaithful, she hires a private investigator to discover the truth. The truth is something Evelyn never would have expected; Nathan is indeed having an affair and the other woman is an exact duplicate of Evelyn herself.

For such a promising premise and such an intriguing cover, sadly The Echo Wife does not deliver. On more than one occasion I contemplated actually not finishing this book and writing a short review saying just that. However, because I was curious as to how it would end I continued to read and did finish the book.

For me, the majority of the problems I saw with The Echo Wife come from the main character herself. The story is told from Evelyn’s point of view with all her internal thoughts and feelings. And she is a mess. She is almost always upset by something, either from something someone did (as when Martine tidied up Evelyn’s townhouse) or from something someone did not do (such as her co-workers not noticing she was upset despite her keeping her feelings to herself). Evelyn comes across as self-righteous and overly emotional and that became tiring after a while.

Overall, while I did enjoy reading The Echo Wife it was also a struggle. Would I recommend it to my readers? Yes, provided they take my advice and take everything in the book with a healthy grain of salt.