Warlock Holmes – My Grave Ritual (Warlock Holmes #3) by G.S. Denning

As they blunder towards doom, Warlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson find themselves inconvenienced by a variety of eldritch beings. Christmas brings a goose that doesn’t let being cooked slow it down; they meet an electricity demon, discover why being a redhead is even tricker than one might imagine, and Holmes attempts an Irish accent. And, naturally, Moriarty is hanging around… in some form or other. 

My Grave Ritual by G.S. Denning is the third book in the ever popular Warlock Holmes series. In it, Denning once again takes the much loved Conan Doyle stories and gives them a macabre and monstrous twist that would do horror authors like H.P. Lovecraft proud.

Much like the original stories, these are also told from the point of view of Dr. Watson. One story however is from the crayon scribbled journals of Warlock Holmes, giving us an insight in to the mind of such a unique character. Funnily enough, aside from how the story ends, Denning’s version strays very little from the original Doyle version.

While some characteristics of both Holmes and Watson have been switched around, one thing does remain true. And that is how highly Holmes and Watson regard one another. How much each man cares for the other, both as a friend and as a work partner.

So far I have been greatly enjoying reading the adventures of Warlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. Mr. Denning has done a lovely job of giving us readers a new version of these characters while still staying true to what makes them unique. I look forward to reading further stories of these two and seeing what kind of mischief and mayhem they get in to next.

Hello and welcome!

My phone has been quite abuzz recently with recent notifications of new visitors and new followers. To all of you I say hello and welcome! I’m so glad you’ve come across my little corner and I’ve even more glad that you’ve decided to subscribe and stay.

If you’ve looked around a bit, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I post reviews every Tuesday. These past few weeks I’ve been alternating between new reviews and re-sharing old reviews. Something that has helped me immensely, especially as I have been quite sick this past week.

There is quite a back log of reviews, going for over five years. I’m quite sure there is something for every one here. Thank you again for dropping by!

The Alchemist’s Daughter (A Bianca Goddard mystery) by Mary Lawrence

This review was originally published August 4, 2015.

Ask a school aged student what their favorite subject is, and more likely than not their answer will be anything other than “History”. There are those young students who do enjoy history, but for the majority it isn’t until we become adults that the subject holds any interest. This certainly holds true for myself, dear reader. Only as an adult have I found the subject interesting.

The Alchemist’s Daughter is a novel set in a time which I have found interest in – 16th Century London. The time of the reign of Henry VIII, a most turbulent time. In it, we meet Bianca Goddard, an intelligent young woman who uses her knowledge of medicinal plants and herbs to create remedies for the very poor in the Southwark slums where she lives. When her friend Jolyn comes complaining of stomach pains, the usual remedy doesn’t ease the pain but instead kills Jolyn on the spot. Trying to recover from the shock, Bianca begins to suspect that Jolyn was poisoned long before, something the local constable doesn’t seem ready to believe.

In order to keep herself out of the gallows, Bianca must try and find the real murderer. Using her knowledge as well as relying on help from those around her she needs to stay one step ahead and find out who killed her friend before time runs out.

The reviews on Amazon are mixed for this book, and I have to admit my feelings towards it are the same. On the whole, the book itself is fairly enjoyable. A dramatic tale with a variety of characters makes for a good read. The more casual history fan will like this book but the more ardent student will likely find problems. Characters speak more “modern”ly with only the occasional word or phrase from the time thrown in. Outfits, ideas, and even food and drink from a variety of eras form a sort of mish-mash that comprise parts of the novel.

Bianca, as well as the other main characters of the novel, were somewhat interesting. Bianca herself reads as the beautiful yet plucky heroine, constantly overlooked but determined to make her mark. Others seemed more like caricatures instead of full fleshed out persons, right down to the exasperated boyfriend. For me, the only character that I found truly worth wondering about was the mysterious cloaked rat catcher who showed up on occasion. Who was he and what was he doing? I found myself questioning his motives more than the main characters.

I wouldn’t call The Alchemist’s Daughter a light, fluffy read since the subject matter is far from it. It is however for the more casual reader and those who are real sticklers for historical accuracy should stay away. A decent read but I doubt I’ll be searching out any other books in this series.

On Night’s Shore (Edgar Allen Poe #1) by Randall Silvis

Standing on the grimy banks of the Hudson River, street urchin Augie Dubbins spots a young woman toss her baby into the water, then jump in herself. As the only witness to the tragedy, Augie sees an opportunity to make a few pennies recounting the events, and in doing so encounters a struggling young journalist named Edgar Allan Poe, a poet and newspaper hack whose penchant for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time has earned him more than a few enemies.

When the unlikely duo discover the body of yet another young woman shortly after, they become entrapped in a mire of murder, greed, and power that stretches from the Five Points slums to the gleaming heights of Fifth Avenue.

Trigger Warnings – mentions of assault, mentions of sexual assault, mentions of abortion, mentions of incest

On Night’s Shore by Randall Silvis is a fictional account of real events.

Much like Edgar Allen Poe, Randall Silvis has a way with words. Whether this is a good or bad thing is completely up to the reader. The writing felt like Silvis had sat down with a dictionary picking as many large words as possible. It was more than a little disconcerting especially when one considers that the narrator is a street urchin.

Once one has become more comfortable with Mr. Silvis’ writing style, then it is easy to enjoy the story itself. It is easy to become drawn into the narrative and to follow along as Poe gathers information. And much like the detective C. Auguste Dupin, Poe’s genius is evident as he pieces the clues together.

This is the first book I have read by Randall Silvis. As a fan of Edgar Allen Poe, finding a novel with the famed author as the main character was a treat. I enjoy a good murder mystery and was hoping to enjoy this particular story.

It pleases me to say that I enjoyed reading On Night’s Shore very much. And it is one that I would recommend to my readers.

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

Review originally published February 2015

Like I have said before, I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes. I have read all the original stories and am currently enjoying the influx of new novels. Needless to say, when I saw this book bearing the title of Holmes’ nemesis, I was greatly intrigued.

Mere days have passed since Holmes’ and Moriarty have their final confrontation at Reichenbach Falls. Frederick Chase, an investigator from the infamous Pinkerton’s Detective Agency in New York arrives in Switzerland. There he meets Inspector Anthelney Jones from Scotland Yard, sent there to investigate and confirm Moriarty’s death.

Upon their meeting, Chase brings a dire warning: with Moriarty’s death a rather large vacancy has been left in London’s criminal underworld. While there is no shortage of candidates to fill the role, there is one particularly fiendish and cruel individual that Chase is after.

Joining forces, the two men travel from Switzerland to London in pursuit of this new threat. They must track down a man who has never been seen and is spoken of only in whispers and who is determined to take Moriarty’s place as his successor.

Moriarty is the second novel by Anthony Horowitz to sanctioned by the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate; and it is with good reason. In the novel Holmes’ world of Victorian London seems to come alive as Jones and Chase traverse its streets. Even those unfamiliar with the city of London will find themselves able to envision the settings in their mind.

Jones and Chase themselves are very interesting characters. Fans of the original Holmes’ stories will recognize Inspector Chase from ‘The Sign of Four’. Hating how he was portrayed in the published story, Chase becomes a devoted student of Holmes’ methods of deductions. He seeks to style himself as potentially Holmes’ successor just as he tries to find Moriarty’s successor. He delves in to his work much like Holmes’ does; head first and damned the consequences. Naturally this creates strife with his family and with his co-workers at Scotland Yard.

Chase is seemingly the penultimate Pinkerton Detective. Intelligent and headstrong he brings his own knowledge of the American criminals to London. He and Jones work well side by side as they try to solve a rather bizarre case.

Rare is the book, dear reader, that leaves me completely speechless by the end. Moriarty joins the rather short list that does just that. Now I will not spoil precisely what exactly left me so shocked, just know that while the entire book was a true page-turner it was those final few chapters that held me entirely entranced. With the final reveal and the final page, all I could say was “Oh wow…”

Well done Mr. Horowitz, well done.

Provided for Review: A Royal Kiss & Tell (A Royal Wedding #2) by Julia London

Every dashing young man in London’s ton is vying for Lady Caroline Hawke’s hand—except one. Handsome, delectable roué Prince Leopold of Alucia can’t quite remember who Caroline is, and the insult is not to be tolerated. So, Caroline does what any clever, resourceful lady of means would do to make sure a prince remembers her: sees that amusingly risqué morsels about Leo’s reputation are printed in a ladies’ gossip gazette…all the while secretly setting her cap for the rakish royal.

Someone has been painting Leo as a blackguard, but who? Socially, it could ruin him. More important, it jeopardizes his investigation into a contemptible scheme that reaches the highest levels of government in London. Now, Leo needs Lady Caroline’s help to regain access to society. But this charming prince is about to discover that enlisting the deceptively sweet and sexy Lady Caroline might just cost him his heart, his soul and both their reputations…

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

It is very rare for me to not actually finish a book. It is even more rare when the book was provided with the intent to read and review it here. It saddens me when this happens, especially when the author is one I have read and enjoyed before.

Sadly, such is the case with A Royal Kiss & Tell by Julia London. I jumped at the opportunity to read and review one of Ms. London’s books as I have enjoyed many of them. Unfortunately, I made a little more than a quarter in to the book before I had to set it aside.

As always, Ms. London’s writing is quite well done. The scenes she sets up pull the reader in and it is easy to picture the action as it is happening. She has an ability to make the words jump from the page and to take the reader along for the ride.

My issue is with the characters themselves, especially Lady Caroline. She is a lady and yet her manners would claim otherwise. While she can be kind to most every one she meets, she often talks without caring if she is welcome or not. She also comes across as quite vain and shallow, taking great offense when those around don’t agree with her opinions of her own beauty.

Prince Leopold is thankfully a little better. While he finds Lady Caroline lovely to look at, he also finds her irritating with her apparent lack of manners. He chides her foolishness and spars with her in words. Being the second son, he is the “spare” to his elder brothers “heir”, a position he seems content with.

From some of the other reviews I have seen of A Royal Kiss & Tell, there are certain plot points that are not dealt with very well. They are supposedly dealt with in a ham-handed manner and often feel forced. I did not make it far enough in to the book to come across these particular sub-plots, so I cannot make any comments on to how they were written.

I have long been a fan of the author, Julia London. Having read numerous books by her, I have enjoyed many of them. While I personally did not enjoy reading A Royal Kiss & Tell, I will encourage other readers to give it a try. Just because it wasn’t for me does not mean it won’t be perfect for someone else.

Let the Old Dreams Die by John Ajvide Lindqvist

A paparazzi camps out in a tree waiting for the perfect shot and gets more than he bargained for…

After a near death experience a man believes he knows how to cheat Death…

A woman calls a Customer Service phone number and finds herself joining a rather unique group of individuals…

I’m starting off this year by reviewing the collection titled Let the Old Dreams Die by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

LIndqvist has been on the New York Times Bestseller list with his novel Let the Right One In, which was made in to a movie not only in his native Sweden but also here in America. Along with Let the Right One In, he wrote Handling the Undead, Harbor, and Little Star. I’ve had the opportunity to read all of his books thanks to my local library and have greatly enjoyed them all.

It is with good reason that Lindqvist has been compared to greats such as Stephen King or Neil Gaiman. His writing consistently makes us question the world around us. Is what we see what is truly there or is there a second layer hiding beneath the obvious? He takes the mundane, the every day, and gives it a twist.

Like with his longer novels, I found this collection of short stories a true page turner. Twelve stories over just under four hundred pages and I devoured them all within two days. There were times when I had to place my hand over the facing page just so I wouldn’t skip ahead. I just HAD to know what was going to happen next. It is not often that I find myself having to do that with a book. However every time I have read one of Lindqvist’s books, I do just that.

If you are like me, dear Reader, and enjoy a good creepy read, then I cannot recommend the books by John Ajvide Lindqvist enough.

Extinction Reversed (Robot Geneticists #1) by J.S. Morin

A.I. didn’t destroy humanity. It didn’t save us, either.

Charlie7 is the progenitor of a mechanical race he built from the ashes of a dead world—Earth. He is a robot of leisure and idle political meddling—a retirement well-earned. Or he was, until a human girl named Eve was dropped in his lap.

Far from a failed genetics experiment, Eve is brilliant, curious, and heartbreakingly naïve about her species’ history. But Eve’s creator wants her back and has a gruesome fate planned for her. There is only one robot qualified to protect her. For the first time in a thousand years, Charlie7 has a human race to protect.

The result of 1,000 years of genetic engineering, terraforming, and painstaking toxic cleanup has resulted in the ultimate achievement of the Post-Invasion Age: a healthy human.

Her name is Eve14.

Don’t ask about the 13 Eves before her.

Humanity as we know it is no more and the robots have taken over. But the robots are not quite as unfeeling as one would think. Before the end of everything, twenty-seven of the most brilliant minds were scanned as part of a project known as Project Transhuman. Every robot that now exists is made up of an amalgam of those human minds. Everything those humans knew and thought and felt are a part of the robots – all of their jealousies, their ambitions, their hopes and dreams. All were saved and used to create a whole new world.

Extinction Reversed is a unique take on the whole ‘robots taking over after the end of the world’ trope. At one point in time it was a popular story idea and was explored in numerous different ways before eventually falling out of public consumption. J.S. Morin has brought it back in a way with his six part series titled Robot Geneticists with Extinction Reversed being the first in the series.

The characters that Morin has created for the series are an interesting bunch. The robots are all based on the same twenty-seven individuals; depending on what kind of a person is needed, pieces of three minds mixed together using a process that is never quite fully explained. This creates an individual who is both unique but also has a known quotient about them. They are human in that they have feelings and emotions yet they are in metallic bodies.

The few humans that we meet on the other hand are quite diverse. Eve, the main female character, is more like a robot than the robots she encounters. Born and raised in a lab, at 16 years old she is experiencing everything for the first time. The robot who created her made her perfect in every way and raised her in a very sterile environment. Having never been exposed to anything such as movies or books or art, she is almost akin to a living, breathing, computer.

On the other side of the human coin is Plato. The main male character, he too was created by a robot in a lab somewhere. He, however, is the complete opposite of Eve. He is temperamental, gets angry quickly, and while he is quite smart he often rushes in to situations head first. He is far from perfect and only when it is revealed that while physically he is an adult male, his mind is of a 12 year old boy, does some of his actions make sense.

Overall, I liked reading Extinction Reversed. It was interesting watching the dichotomy between robots and humans play out. Especially as it was the robots who were acting out the most. The writing can be a bit awkward at times and while the first half of the book was a little slow, it definitely picked up in the second half. I especially liked the short story at the end that revealed exactly how humanity met its end and the robots came to be.

Readers who enjoy stories based around robots taking over will likely also enjoy Extinction Reversed. Personally, I’ve already added the rest of the series to my To Be Read list and will slowly but surely be making my way through them.

Provided for Review: Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Undead Client by M.J. Downing

Sherlock Holmes has only been deceased a month when Dr. John Watson, still grieving, recounts his final case with Holmes.  A terrifying mystery, it sends Watson and Holmes into the dark reaches of London’s back alleys – and the human soul. 

It begins when Anne Prescott, a lovely Scottish nurse, begs Sherlock Holmes and Watson to help her find her fiancé and her sister, who have gone missing in the teeming streets of London. Immediately, Watson feels an attraction to her that shocks him. Newly married to Mary, and deeply in love with her, he struggles to put Anne out of his mind.

As Watson and Holmes dig into the slums and sewers of London looking for Anne’s fiancé and sister, they uncover a deadly web of bloody murders, horrific medical experiments, and even voodoo ritual that threatens not only London, but the entire British empire, and beyond.

Watson must call on his unique combination of expertise in the medical sciences, as well as his military training to stop this killer before London —and Anne — are lost to the killer’s bloody plan.

But time is short and the mystery ever more complex. How can he manage his feelings for Anne? What about his loyalty to Mary? He can’t have both.

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

If it hasn’t occurred to my readers by now, I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes. I have read all of the original Conan Doyle tales countless times and continue to enjoy them. I am also one who is more than happy to read other author’s stories starring my favorite detective. And while yes, I will admit, that it is often hit or miss with the books, I still enjoy it.

Unfortunately my dearest readers, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Undead Client is one of those that is a miss.

A great majority of readers are familiar with fan-fiction, and with that they are generally familiar with the term “Mary-Sue”. The term refers to a female character who is absolutely perfect in every way. She is incredibly smart and exceptionally beautiful, whatever task she attempts to do she is almost immediately proficient. And in almost every case she meets a tragic end.

The character of Anne Prescott is, in my mind, such a character. She comes to Holmes and Watson seeking their help in finding her missing fiance as well as her missing sister. At first, her interactions with Holmes and Watson are fairly standard – she is trying to help them find her loved ones after all. Soon though characterization goes a bit sideways and both Holmes and Watson become almost caricatures.

About halfway through Holmes expresses a wish to be more like Anne Prescott with her strength of character. I thought this was completely out of character for him as he had never wanted to be anyone else but himself. Also, about two-thirds of the way through, Anne seduces Watson and causes him to cheat on Mary. Again, this is quite out of character as in canon Watson professed how much he cared for Mary several times.

Aside from the mis-characterization, the writing itself is often over melodramatic to the point where it almost becomes purple. I understand that Downing was trying to capture the particular writing style of Conan Doyle’s Watson but like most everything else, I found it profoundly lacking.

If this book was about original characters fighting zombies in Victorian England, I would be more inclined to give it a better rating. However, because this is book is centered on the well known characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, I must rate it accordingly and advice my readers to skip it entirely.

Provided for Review: Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

Welcome to Harrow Lake...
Someone’s expecting you.

Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her.

But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot. The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and then there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.

And there’s someone – or something – stalking her every move.

The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her . . .

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

When The Write Reads approached me on Twitter to join the book tour for Harrow Lake, I immediately accepted. As someone who grew up in the 80’s, horror films are as much a part of my growing up as anything else. And while yes, I did have my share of nightmares from them, I also came to appreciate them as the works of art that some of them are.

Harrow Lake is a story that centers around horror films and the hold they can create. It focuses on Lola Nox, 17 year old daughter of horror film director Nolan Nox. Having grown up around her father’s films, Lola believes that nothing can frighten her. Those beliefs are put to the test when Lola is sent – rather unwillingly – to her maternal grandmother’s home in Harrow Lake.

Harrow Lake reminds me very much of the older tv series The Twilight Zone. Any one who remembers the original show will recall that the stories they told were built on the premise of suspense and barely hinted at ideas. Where the shadows lurking in a dark corner could be a hideous monster or could simply be a pile of clothes. Where not everything is as it seems and looks are definitely deceiving.

Like some horror movies, the action in Harrow Lake is a bit choppy. Scenes jump from one to the next with almost no indication. It can be a little disconcerting at times. Also, the main character of Lola can be irritating. This can be explained by not only her age but also by her unique upbringing. Any one raised immersed in the horror genre from a young age is likely to be more than a bit jaded as well.

This is the first novel by Kat Ellis that I’ve had the opportunity to read and review. I enjoyed her style of storytelling and have already looked in to what others books she has written.

Readers who enjoy a good suspenseful story will likely enjoy Harrow Lake. It is the perfect creepy read for a dark night. I recommend it and hope others enjoy it as I did.