Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes by Cory O’Brien

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For as long as mankind has been able to, they have told stories. Many of the stories told revolve around the gods and goddesses of the time and thus have survived. However, over time the stories sometimes tend to get a bit watered down.

In reality, the original stories are far, far crazier. And interesting. And funny.

Any person who has been on Tumblr for a while will eventually learn of Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes and its hilarious genius of it. It is truly a book that keeps on giving because while I have read it several times by now, I find it laugh-out-loud funny every time.

Now, I will warn my readers there is a LOT of swearing and potty humor. However, since most myths center around sex in some way or another this is pretty standard. Still, more sensitive (as well as younger) readers should have a heads up.

Personally, I loved Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes. While it’s a quick read, it’s also one that can be read over and over and enjoyed every time. I recommend it to my older readers.

Provided for Review: The Three Locks (Sherlock Holmes Adventure #4) by Bonnie MacBird

A heatwave melts London as Holmes and Watson are called to action in this new Sherlock Holmes adventure by Bonnie MacBird, author of “one of the best Sherlock Holmes novels of recent memory.”

In the West End, a renowned Italian escape artist dies spectacularly on stage during a performance – immolated in a gleaming copper cauldron of his wife’s design. In Cambridge, the runaway daughter of a famous don is found drowned, her long blonde hair tangled in the Jesus Lock on the River Cam. And in Baker Street, a mysterious locksmith exacts an unusual price to open a small silver box sent to Watson.

From the glow of London’s theatre district to the buzzing Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge where physicists explore the edges of the new science of electricity, Holmes and Watson race between the two cities to solve the murders, encountering prevaricating prestidigitators, philandering physicists, and murderous mentalists, all the while unlocking secrets which may be best left undisclosed. And one, in particular, is very close to home.

This book was provided for review by the kind people at NetGalley. Thank you!

The Three Locks is the fourth installment in Bonnie MacBird’s Sherlock Holmes Adventures series. Set during the late summer of 1887, in it Holmes and Watson find themselves tackling three different cases. At first, they seem unrelated but as time goes on and the clues are gathered things are more closely related then they seem.

Bonnie MacBird has once again done an admirable job in bringing the familiar world surrounding 221B Baker Street to life. Her handling of the characters shows a deep love for them, as does the way she is able to craft a story that is engaging and entertaining. Her style of writing is very reminiscent of the original Doyle stories only updated for a modern audience.

Practically every Sherlock Holmes fan has a favorite version of the iconic character. From Benedict Cumberbatch’s modern Holmes to Jeremy Brett’s penultimate Holmes, there is a version for everyone. And in The Three Locks, the same can be said. There are little touches that evoke certain versions of both Holmes and Watson. I personally found it very entertaining to try and figure out which version MacBird was referencing where.

Fans of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson would do well to check out MacBird’s Sherlock Holmes Adventures series. While it doesn’t need to be read in order, I do recommend my fellow fans and readers to read it all.

Provided for Review: The Vanishing by David Michael Slater

To save her best friend from the horrors of Nazi Germany, an invisible girl must embark on an utterly unforgettable journey of redemption and revenge. The Vanishing is fierce and loving, devastating and compelling, a breathtaking blend of history, fiction, and magical realism.

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

Trigger Warnings: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Semitic remarks, rape, human death, animal death, child abuse.

Life has been pretty good for young Sophie Siegel. While it’s true she and her parents have had to move a handful of times in the last few years, things haven’t been all bad. She’s become a better student and has made a few friends – including the little boy next door.

One December morning Sophie wakes to find her mother sewing a yellow star on to all of their clothes. Sophie initially refuses, somehow knowing wearing the star represents a turning point for her and for the other Jews in the city where she lives. And she is not wrong because shortly thereafter Sophie’s world is turned upside down.

Many times when an author writes a fictional story set during World War 2 and specifically makes mention of the Holocaust, they tend to water the truth down some. In an effort to make the subject matter more palatable certain truths are glossed over. In David Michael Slater’s The Vanishing, the opposite happens. Slater does not shy away from the cruelty that was acted upon the Jewish people during this time. He does not gloss over the sadistic acts and instead lays them bare. Through Sophie’s young eyes we are given a first hand account of this horrible time.

Reading The Vanishing is by no means easy. Though the book itself is just shy of 200 pages, it is the content matter that can cause difficulties. Normally I would be able to read such a book in a day or two but I found myself having to put the book down on several occasions just to ground myself. To settle the anger and despair that bubbled in my own chest at the travesties that occurred over 75 years ago.

The Vanishing is one of those books that I believe everyone should read but it is also very difficult to recommend. It is a remarkable and very well written book but it also one that is gut wrenching and at times hard to read. It is sweet and sad, breath-taking and heart-breaking. It is a book that will stay with the reader long after they have gotten to the last page.

Provided for Review: Advocatus (Culpa Magum #1) by A.R. Turner

Advocatus tells the tale of Felix, a junior lawyer with one last case before he can strike out on his own.

His client? A terrifying magical warlord accused of, amongst other horrifying crimes, two counts of Attempted Genocide (and six counts of Theft). His plea? Innocent, of course! All in a day’s work for Felix.

Psychic frogs, downtrodden goblins, time-traveling wizards, and a whole host of other magical defendants become his caseload as Felix begins trying to make a name for himself as a successful lawyer in a world rife with sorcery.

The biggest case of his life: defending humanity in front of Habeus, the God of Justice himself. Lose, and it’s all over. Not just for him, but for the whole of mankind.

This book was provided for review by The Write Reads. Thank you!

Advocatus follows the story of Felix. A young lawyer who has finally struck out on his own. Having joined a law firm, he is anxious to really get his career going. To make a name for himself and to help his fellow man…woman…frog…??

The overall premise for Advocatus might sound a bit heavy – the whole having to argue for humanity’s continued existence against incredible odds, etc. I can assure my readers that the truth is anything but. Advocatus is a very funny and entertaining book.

There are a wide variety of characters and they run the gambit from sweet and charming to dark and malevolent. The lead character, Felix, is well written. He could have very easily been written as the stereotypical lawyer character, only caring about himself until some great revelation. But for Felix the opposite is true. Felix is a great lawyer in that not only is he smart but he cares about his clients. He – and the firm he works for – work hard to help the little man, taking on cases that most would pass up.

The praise of being well written extends to the actual book as well. It has a very tongue-in-cheek style, serious at times without becoming maudlin. It has a dry humor and reminded me very much of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett. It pokes fun at others while also making fun of itself.

I will be honest dear reader when I say I had a good time reading A.R. Turner’s Advocatus. I eagerly recommend it to my readers, especially those who enjoy British humor like the above-mentioned Adams and Pratchett. It is an amusing and feel-good type of story and I eagerly look forward to more in the series.

Thank you again to A.R. Turner and The Write Reads for hosting this book tour!

Provided for Review: Hag of the Hills (The Bronze Sword Cycles #1) by J.T.T. Ryder

“Nothing is unconquerable; even our gods can die.”

Brennus is destined from birth to become a warrior, despite his farmer’s life. But when the Hillmen kill his family and annihilate his clan, he now has the opportunity to avenge those who he loved.

Brennus must survive endless hordes of invading Hillmen and magic-wielding sidhe, aided by only a band of shifty mercenaries, and an ancient bronze sword.

Failure means his family and clan go unavenged. Victory will bring glory to Brennus and his ancestors.

This book was provided for review by The Write Reads and the author. Thank you!

Historical-based fiction has long been a favorite genre of mine. Regardless of the era – from paleolithic such as Clan of the Cave Bear to the Victorian Era with my beloved Sherlock Holmes stories – tales set in another time are quite enjoyable. So one can easily imagine I would enjoy reading J.T.T. Ryder’s Hag of the Hills. And they would be right.

Hag of the Hills follows Brennus, a young man who longs for the fame and prestige being a warrior brings. His father was known far and wide for his bravery and Brennus wishes to follow in those footsteps. His destiny however centers around farming life regardless of whether he likes it or not.

A poor decision on Brennus’ part leads him to make a kind of Faustian deal with the hag of the hills. She offers Brennus the fame he seeks but at a price. And it is only when his clan is decimated does Brennus understand just how high the price might be.

Hag of the Hills could almost be labeled a “sword and sorcery” type of book. Though the book is based on a factual time in history, there are magical elements to it that add a supernatural feel to the story. Goddesses, witches, and giants make appearances and there are mentions of other types of non-human creatures. They live side by side, the influence of one always being felt on the other.

One thing that might detract some readers is how this is a violence-heavy book. It is true, that there is a good deal of violence. It was a part of everyday life and Hag of the Hills does not shy away from that fact. Wars and raids were common, and taking prisoners and slaves were expected.

Another thing that some might take issue with is how one-dimensional the handful of female characters are written. On the surface this is accurate, the few female characters are little more than background fodder. But when one realizes Hag of the Hills is written as the Brennus recounting his younger years, it makes sense. One doesn’t have to like it, but it does fit the narrative.

It is obvious to see the amount of research Ryder put into writing Hag of the Hills. It is also not surprising to know he is an archaeologist specializing in the Iron Age, specifically the time this story takes place. The characters are well thought out and well written and while I did not always agree with their decisions, neither could I blame them.

My readers who are real history buffs will likely enjoy reading Hag of the Hills. I encourage all of my readers to give it a try.

Provided for Review: The Dollhouse by Sara Ennis

Alfred needs Dolls. Blonde, blue-eyed human dolls that will help him rewrite his past and change his future.

When Peter Baden’s daughter Olivia was abducted nearly a year ago, he left his career as a respected journalist to find her. Now he spends his days searching for Olivia, and helping other families of abducted children survive the emotionally and physically exhausting experience of finding a missing child.

Twins Angel and Bud are used to making do. Their dad is in prison, and their mom won’t win parenting awards. Bud thrives on neglect, but Angel isn’t so strong.

Now they’re captives in a place called the Dollhouse, and things have gone from bad to worse. The Dolls are forced to re-stage old photographs, but satisfying Alfred is not easy. He has a twisted sense of humor and a violent temper that explodes when things don’t go his way — and sometimes when they do.

Angel knows that if she and the other Dolls are to survive this warped playtime, she can no longer be needy and afraid. She must prove how strong she can be — fast.

There aren’t many photos left …

Trigger Warnings: Physical torture, psychological torture, emotional torture, kidnapping, rape (mentioned, happens off-screen), murder, death of an animal (mentioned, happens off-screen), suicide

Everyone has moments from their childhood they would like to do over. Moments where if we had only done one thing differently then maybe everything could have changed. Moments we often think about later in life, replaying them over and over again in our minds.

How far would you go to truly replay those memories?

The Dollhouse by Sara Ennis is a book that explores this idea – albeit in a very creepy and disturbing way.

There are times when writing a review can be very difficult. When I find myself struggling to come up with the words to convey how a particular book made me feel. Whether it be because I did or did not enjoy the book, or like in this case how troubling the subject matter is.

The Dollhouse is a disturbing book. It is creepy and strange and dark. It is not a happy book and even though the ending could be considered a “good” one, it really isn’t. There are scenes of physical torture as well as psychological torture. The kids in the book are put through a LOT.

Normally, when I review a book I say whether I would recommend it to my readers or not. Whether I think it would be enjoyable to a specific group or for everyone in general. The Dollhouse is one of those that I hesitantly recommend. Is it a good book? Yes, I thought so. But it is also a deeply triggering book. Some readers could have a very difficult time with it.

So while I do recommend The Dollhouse, I also urge anyone looking to read it to pay attention to the trigger warnings.

The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles (Warlock Holmes #2) by G.S. Denning

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Warlock Holmes is back again! Sort of.

Warlock Holmes last adventure left him just a little…dead. Not one to let a little decay stop him, Holmes is determined to solve the cases that come to his door. Together, he and Watson will face the Pinkertons (the real ones), flesh-eating horses, a parliament of imps, boredom, Surrey, a disappointing butler demon, a succubus, a wicked lord, an overly-Canadian lord, a tricycle-fight to the death, and even Moriarty himself.

Oh, and a hell hound, one assumes.

Back when I reviewed the first Warlock Holmes novel, I recall saying how much I enjoyed it. How Denning’s take on two so well known and well loved characters was incredibly done. And how I would be eagerly looking forward to the second (and subsequent) books in the series.

With the second book, I am pleased to say that Denning continues in the vein of the original. Taking two characters and their stories and turning them on their ear. Yet Denning also strays from Doyle’s stories, not in a way that detracts but in a way that adds and makes the characters truly original.

I am reminded of one of my other favorite authors – Terry Pratchett – taking what we know (or what we think we know) and making us see it from a different angle.

Once again Denning has taken the well known world of Sherlock Holmes for a joy ride. Like the first novel, I laughed my way through the pages and even shed a few tears. And again like the first novel, I recommend this one to all my readers – especially my fellow Holmes and Watson fans.

Provided for Review: The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates #1) by A.K. Larkwood

What if you knew how and when you will die?

Csorwe does. She will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice. On the day of her foretold death, however, a powerful mage offers her a new fate.

Csorwe leaves her home, her destiny, and her god to become the wizard’s loyal sword-hand — stealing, spying, and killing to help him reclaim his seat of power in the homeland from which he was exiled.

But Csorwe and the wizard will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due. 

This book was provided for review by the kind people at Tor publishing. Thank you!

The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood is one of those books I started and put down before coming back to it at a later date. When I first started reading it some months ago I didn’t get very far because the story just wasn’t pulling me in. It wasn’t engaging and I found my attention drifting when I did try to read. Of course, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened and I knew that if I put the book down and came back at a later date, I’m sure I would have an easier time.

Which is exactly what happened when I came back to it.

The Unspoken Name is a wonderfully fun and incredibly imaginative book. The characters, while not wholly unique, are at least presented in a way that is fresh. The characters are flawed and imperfect, none more so than the main characters Csorwe and Sethennai. Their relationship is ever-changing, often times bordering on the toxic.

There are a few plot holes that could have been handled better. Several times something happens without any explanation. How did this person know that piece of information? How did those characters know exactly where to go and how to get there? I am purposefully being vague because to give details would be to reveal important scenes and spoilers, something I try very hard not to do.

The Unspoken Name is one of those books that once I started reading I found it hard to put down. It kept me interested and entertained and despite its flaws, I found it to be a fun read. I definitely recommend it to my readers who love a good fantasy and am eagerly looking forward to the second installment of the series.

Star Trek-The Next Generation:Armageddon’s Arrow by Dayton Ward

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It is a new age of exploration and the U.S.S. Enterprise is returning to her roots. Sent on a mission to the Odyssean Pass, it is a far-flung region of space that has only been mapped by unmanned probes but is believed to have inhabited worlds. As they approach a star system with two such worlds, Captain Picard and crew come first upon a massive alien vessel.

The derelict ship shows signs of being adrift in space for decades and upon closer inspection a small crew in suspended animation is found. The Enterprise crew soon learn this ship is an ultimate weapon, sent from the future and designed to bring an end to a war that has raged for generations.  With both sides claiming this doomsday ship, Captain Picard must mediate some kind of truce before one side or the other uses the weapon for its ultimate purpose.

Those who know me know I have been a Star Trek fan for a LONG time – like I joined the fandom in the early 90’s long time. So I have definitely read my fair share of Star Trek books. I got out of reading them for a time but came back with Armageddon’s Arrow and I am glad I did.

While there are many of the characters we Next Generation fans are familiar with, there are also numerous new characters added. This mix of old and new is refreshing and enough to bring new readers in while keeping older readers (like myself) happy.

With Armageddon’s Arrow, Ward presents a difficult dilemma – just how far is someone willing to go to end a war? It is one that is handled with aplomb, however to say too much will give away the ending.

Fast-paced with occasional less frenetic passages, Arrow is an excellent addition to the Star Trek universe. There is enough to please old fans and welcome new fans. For those who are fans this is a definite must-read.

Provided for Review: The Living Waters (The Weirdwater Confluence Book 1) by Dan Fitzgerald

Wonder swirls beneath murky water.

When two painted-faced nobles take a guided raft trip on a muddy river, they expect to rough it for a few weeks before returning to their life of sheltered ease. But when mysterious swirls start appearing in the water, even their seasoned guides get rattled.

The mystery of the swirls lures them on to the mythical wetlands known as the Living Waters. They discover a world beyond their imagining, but stranger still are the worlds they find inside their own minds as they are drawn deep into the troubles of this hidden place.

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

When Dan Fitzgerald originally reached out to me to review the first book in his Weirdwater Confluence series, I admit I was intrigued. At the mention of “fantasy” as a genre, one’s thoughts often tend towards swords and monsters and epic action scenes. The Living Waters does have some action and there can be arguments made for monsters but as for swords, there isn’t one to be found. One would have to look hard to find weaponry of any kind and then one might find an oar or a fishing pole.

As someone who enjoys a good fantasy but doesn’t always want epic fight scenes, The Living Waters was a wonderfully refreshing read.

Much like the river our characters travel on, The Living Waters is a meandering story. It starts and stops never settling in one place for long and when it does actually pause we the reader are treated to lush landscapes and fresh faces. Fitzgerald’s writing captures the lands around the river superbly, evoking thoughts of Mark Twain and his writings on the Mississippi River.

The one and only quibble I have with The Living Waters was the lack of backstory. We are told members of the upper classes paint their faces and exposed skin to protect them from the sun. Why did this practice start and when? The same goes for the rough about Temi and Silvan take. Why exactly is this done? It’s never fully explained and I personally think it would have added to my enjoyment if it had been.

Like I said above, The Living Waters is a wonderfully refreshing read and I enjoyed it very much. It is my understanding there is a second book in the works and I am personally looking forward to it. I recommend this book to all my readers and hope they enjoy it as much as I did.