Provided for Review: The Harbinger by Candace Wondrack

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

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Back in the sixties, the gateways between Earth and the Second – a land of myth and magic – were thrown open. Humanity grew and changed accordingly and eventually the Division (along with the Academy) was formed. The Division handles what most law enforcement can’t, such as the smuggling of goods between worlds. And to join the Division, one must first graduate from the Academy.

Faith is in her fifth year of the Academy. With two years left until she graduates, she is intent on joining the Division and following in her mother’s footsteps. The one path she doesn’t intend to follow though is her mother’s – and grandmother’s – awful luck with men.

On a class field trip to the Second, Faith is startled to learn her path is taking her on a far different journey. She is the Harbinger, the first female to take the title, and it is her destiny to fight the Dread King. To the death.

Faith is going to have to step up and be a hero. Whether she likes it or not.

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I’ve followed Candace on Twitter for some time, but this is the first time I’ve actually read any of her books. Because of this I decided to go in blind and not look at what others have thought of the book before reading it myself. And while some might think this foolish, I’m rather glad I did because while numerous other reviewers enjoyed The Harbinger, sadly I did not.

The world that Candace has created is an interesting one. It is one where the mythical creatures of fairy tales are real to an extent. Creatures such as the fae, shapeshifters, etc. They all inhabit this fictional world even though they do not always live side by side peacefully.

Unfortunately, my issue comes with the actual characters themselves.

The main character, Faith, I found quite hard to like. She is brash to the point of recklessness, a trait that gets her in trouble both before the book begins as well as during it. She does not think her actions through, does not care for consequences, and certainly doesn’t seem to care if what she does causes anyone around her to be hurt. She also claims that she does not want to be a hero, yet she is working towards being just that. Graduates of the Academy and members of the Division are protectors, heroes in a sense. If Faith does not want to be a hero, as she claims, then what is she even doing there?

Another person I had issue with was another main character; Weylon Lightfoot, an elf Faith meets during her school trip to the Second. From his introduction he claims to not like humans, and yet it doesn’t take long for him to get rather close to Faith. I found myself questioning his actions on more than one occasion, something he himself doesn’t seem to do.

Two other male characters are introduced at the very end of the book, and it is my understanding that they too will be drawn to Faith. That in the end, she will have to contend not only with her status as a Chosen One, but also with the small harem she gathers.

As fascinating as the world is that Candace has created for The Harbinger series, I unfortunately do not see myself reading the rest of it. For me, the characters were hard to relate to and I was rolling my eyes in exasperation on more than one occasion. That does not mean I don’t recommend this one to my readers – my opinion is only one among many. I do advise my readers to at the very least try this particular book. Perhaps they will enjoy it more than me.

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Happy Holidays and sorry for disappearing!

Hello to all my dear readers!

I apologize for my brief disappearance, but if you are following me on Twitter, it is easy to see why. For those who do not, allow me to give a brief summary of this past week:

On Saturday the 15th, I was at work and received a text from my mom. She said my dad was being taken to the hospital as he had slipped and was feeling nauseous, etc. Turns out he had had a mild heart attach and in doing the heart catheterization the doctors learned that he had several major blockages. He was admitted to the hospital where he had open heart surgery Tuesday morning and ended up having a quadruple bypass.

As of today (Friday) he is still in the ICU but is doing well and will hopefully be moved to a real room in a day or so and after several days there will be able to come home.

Naturally, this has taken up the majority of my attention and I am sure you all understand.

It is during this time of the year that I generally go on hiatus from posting. I continue to read and one can always keep up with what I’m reading by checking out my Goodreads list, but new reviews won’t be posted until the new year.

Until that point, I want to wish all my readers a happy end of year. Whatever you celebrate, may it be a enjoyable time. As always, I can be reached via my Twitter or my e-mail and I look forward to seeing you all in the new year!

Provided for Review: The Irrationalist: The Tragic Murder of Rene Descartes by Andrew Pessin

This book has been provided for review by the lovely people at Bookglow.

 

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In 1649, Descartes was invited by the Queen of Sweden to become her Court Philosopher. Though he was the world’s leading philosopher, his life had by this point fallen apart. He was 53, penniless, living in exile in Amsterdam, alone. With much trepidation but not much choice, he arrived in Stockholm in mid-October.

Shortly thereafter he was dead.

Pneumonia, they said. But who could believe that? There were just too many persons of interest who wanted to see Descartes dead, and for too many reasons. That so many of these persons were in Stockholm—thanks to the Gala the Queen was throwing to celebrate the end of the terrible Thirty Years’ War—made the official story all the less plausible. Death by poisoning was the unofficial word on the cobblestone.

Who would want to murder the world’s most famous philosopher? 

Turns out: nearly everyone.

Enter Adrien Baillet. A likeable misfit with a mysterious backstory, he arrives just as the French Ambassador desperately needs an impartial Frenchman to prove that Descartes died of natural causes—lest the “murder” in Lutheran Sweden of France’s great Catholic philosopher trigger King Louis XIV to reignite that awful War. Baillet hesitatingly agrees to investigate Descartes’s death, knowing that if—or when—he screws up, he could be personally responsible for the War’s Thirty-First Year. 

But solving the mystery of Descartes’s death (Baillet soon learns) requires first solving the mystery of Descartes’s life, with all its dangerous secrets … None of it is easy, as nearly everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted. Nor does it help that he must do it all under the menacing gaze of Carolus Zolindius, the terrifying Swedish Chancellor with the strangely intimidating limp.

But Baillet somehow perseveres, surprising everyone as he figures it all out—all the way to the explosive end. (via Goodreads)

The Irrationalist is basically a historical murder mystery using individuals who really existed in the time when they lived. Rene Descartes was a well known mathematician and philosopher and in 1649 he did travel to Sweden to begin tutoring Queen Christina. In early 1650 he became ill and died shortly thereafter, the official reason being pneumonia. And while many didn’t question this outcome, some had doubts, yet once Descartes was buried the issue too was laid to rest.

This is where the similarities between what really happened and what happened in The Irrationalist ends. 

Pessin does an excellent job of taking a real event and spinning a “what if…?” tale from it. His characters – all either real people or based on real people – are interesting and just when one thinks they have a grasp of the person, a proverbial wrench is thrown in the works. Pessin has done his research and does admirably in making sure that everyone is well rounded and their inclusion helps push the story along. 

The tightly woven plot is really what makes this book stand out. To the casual observer, Descartes’ death seems very clear cut, but it is only when one starts to dig do they realize that not everything is as it seems. And in trying to figure out who would want to kill the man, every one has a reason. And again, just when the reader believes they know who the culprit was, Pessin gives a piece of information that casts doubt. It isn’t until the very, very end that we are given the truth about what happened to Descartes and if his death was indeed natural causes.

This is the first work of fiction by Pessin, and in my opinion it is an very good start. I would not be surprised if he continues to write more like this and when he does, I will be checking them out as well. I recommend my readers do too.

Provided for Review: A Brazen Curiosity (Beatrice Hyde-Clare Mysteries Book #1) by Lynn Messina

This book was provided for review by the nice folks at NetGalley

Twenty-six-year-old Beatrice Hyde-Clare is far too shy to investigate the suspicious death of a fellow guest in the Lake District. A spinster who lives on the sufferance of her relatives, she would certainly not presume to search the rooms of her host’s son and his friend looking for evidence. Reared in the twin virtues of deference and docility, she would absolutely never think to question the imperious Duke of Kesgrave about anything, let alone how he chose to represent the incident to the local constable.

And yet when she stumbles upon the bludgeoned corpse of poor Mr. Otley in the deserted library of the Skeffingtons’ country house, that’s exactly what she does. (via Goodreads)

A Brazen Curiosity is every bit a Regency romance and then some. Messina manages to keep the Regency period style language throughout the entire book; from Beatrice’s interior monologues to descriptions of the ongoing action. Readers who are familiar with the rambling style of many Regency novels will find the language familiar, those who are not might find it a bit off-putting. Personally, I found the overly purple prose endearing at some times and annoying at others.

Also like many novels of the era, there is a romance threaded through the story. And like many Regency novels, it is a slow burn romance. Beatrice starts the novel day-dreaming about throwing various food items at the Duke, and by the end she still day dreams about pelting him with various foodstuffs but they have also both started to develop feelings for one another. There are no kisses, they don’t even hold hands. It is the kind of extremely slow build up between two individuals that I absolutely adore.

On the whole, I enjoyed reading A Brazen Curiosity. The quibbles I have are incredibly minor, especially when considering that what I didn’t always enjoy was something that is generally viewed as the mark of many original Regency era novels. As I said earlier, readers who enjoy books written in this time period will be familiar with this rambling writing style and will have little issue with it. 

As of this time there are two other novels in the series and while I haven’t read them yet, I will be adding them to my list. 

Strange Practice (Dr. Greta Helsing #1) by Vivian Shaw

Dr. Greta Helsing has inherited her family’s highly specialized, and highly peculiar, family practice. In her consulting rooms she treats the otherworldly citizens of London for a wide variety of worldly ills – vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies – just to name a few. And although she has trouble making ends meet, Greta wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Until a sect of murderous monks arrives on the scene. Killing human and supernatural persons alike. Terror has taken the city in its grip and Greta will have to team up with some strange friends to stop the cult, save her practice, and her life.

Strange Practice was a book I came across while browsing over in Google Play. It was one of those “Recommended for You” type of things. Honestly, I enjoy browsing those areas just to see how accurate – or how totally off base – the recommendations can be. Sometimes I come across a title that interests me, while other times I’m left scratching my head.

Strange Practice is the first book in the Dr. Greta Helsing series and in it we are introduced to the titular character. Greta is a 30-something medical doctor, who after numerous years of study and practice in London’s hospitals, has taken over her father’s practice. It is something she has wanted to do since she was a child as her family has a history of dealing with some of the more unique individuals that walk the city streets. Taking care of others – especially those of the supernatural sort – is something she loves to do and is something she is quite good at.

On the whole, the actual plot of Strange Practice is a tad cliched. A group of young theology students find forgotten information about a long dead sect of Templar Knights. At first, they reenact the rituals for love of the pomp and circumstance, they are not serious in their efforts. That is until an odd, disembodied voice begins to compel them to take things a step further. To rid the world of those deemed “unclean” and “monstrous”.

What sets Strange Practice apart are the characters themselves. Whether human or supernatural – of which there are quite a few mentioned – they are each written in a way that makes them believable. There are moments of joy and of pain, of anger and of self doubt, of surprise and of relief. While the majority of this attention is given to the main characters, even the background characters like Greta’s staff in her clinic, are given this treatment (pun intended). Brief mentions of them as actual people are made so when something happens, we the reader react just as the other characters do. We hurt when they hurt, and at one point even cry when they do.

Though the action can be a bit clunky at times, and some scenes tend to verge in to more morose territory, overall Strange Practice is an enjoyable read. With well written and well rounded characters, it’s easy to overlook it’s small drawbacks. Shaw has given the readers a strong female character that I believe many can relate to. I recommend this one to my readers and hope they enjoy it as much as I have.

Making changes

Good afternoon dear readers!

In an effort to update my blog and make it a bit more visually pleasing, you might notice small changes over the next few updates. They won’t be large changes as I am already happy overall with how my blog looks. It will just be small tweaks and such, especially in regards to linking all my social media accounts together.

As the changes take place, if there are any you like or dislike, or if any of the links do not work, please let me know. I welcome any and all feedback.

Many thanks!

Provided for Review: A Conversation with a Cat: A Novel by Stephen Spotte

This book was provided for review by Book Glow. My many thanks to you!

Stephen Spotte’s imaginative novel recounts the tales of a scroungy former alley cat named Jinx, whose memories aren’t just his own but those of other cats who existed before him, one of which was Annipe, Cleopatra’s pampered pet. Through Annipe’s eyes the ancient Mediterranean world of Cleopatra and her legendary lovers, Caesar and Antony, is spread before us in all its glory, pathos, and absurdity. Jinx reveals these stories telepathically one night to his stoned and inebriated owner just home after gall bladder surgery. Annipe’s memories are bookended by Jinx’s own that detail his early scavenging days in bleak urban alleys. (via Book Glow and Goodreads)

Home fresh from the hospital after having gall bladder surgery, our unnamed pet owner is relaxing on his back patio with his cat Jinx. Aside from the copious amounts of pain medicine provided by the hospital, our man has also decided to self medicate with a bit of alcohol and marijuana. With this combination running through his veins, it is not hard to believe he is able to have a kind of psychic conversation with Jinx.

Jinx then begins to tell the tale of one of his predecessors – a cat named Annipe who belonged to the great Cleopatra.

Unfortunately, though the story is about a cat and told by a cat, there is not much cat in the actual tale. The felines are reduced to secondary characters with the humans being pushed to the fore. Annipe and her siblings have very little to do and therefore do not grow as characters as such. With so much attention given to the human characters, it is difficult to actually care for the feline ones.

Another unfortunate point is that the Egyptian story is the only story related by Jinx; aside from a brief telling of his own early years. Early in the novel Jinx says that all cats have a kind of racial memory, where one cat can recall what other cats in the past have experienced. It would have been nice it Jinx had given more than one story from the past.

One good thing I can say about A Conversation with a Cat is that Spotte has done a good deal of research. The struggle between Egypt and Rome is decently told with great detail. Sadly, it isn’t any different from what can be found in any number of history books.

As unique as the idea behind the book is, I’m sad to say it just wasn’t carried out to its full potential. And as rare as it is to have a book with a cat as the main character, I can’t recommend this book to my readers either.

Provided for review: After Hope Dies by Lilly Haraden

This book was provided for review by the folks at NetGalley

This is what happens after America dies: the monsters take over.

A young prostitute’s reanimated soul prowls the streets, seeking revenge against her killers. The reclusive nerd who lives next door suffers from a serious problem that goes far beyond the time-bending demon infesting his body. And across town, an occult guide owns a brothel where you can buy a child for cheap.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this dark literary fantasy debut examines life for the most disadvantaged who call post-prosperity America home.

Author/Publisher/Reviewers Note: This book deals with darker themes including racist content, depictions of rape, and strong themes of child sexualization/exploitation. If ANY of these subjects make you uncomfortable, then this is not the story for you.

My dearest reader, if the above paragraph in bold as well as the brief description above has not already convinced you, let me state it AGAIN – this book contains disturbing imagery. It is NOT for the faint of heart or easily offended. There are numerous passages that require the reader to have a strong constitution. Several of the reviews I have seen, the person reading it did not take the warning seriously and sadly suffered for it.

All of that aside: After Hope Dies is an excellent book. It provides a truly scary “What if…?” that once the reader finishes the book – including the epilogue – will leave them wondering just how much could potentially occur.

In three short stories, After Hope Dies, follows several individuals in a not to distant future. The city they are in could be anywhere in the United States and the persons the overall story centers on live in one of the poorest sections. Drug use as well as vices of other kinds run rampant and all of the characters are affected in one way or another.

While each individual story has its own main character, they also cross over in to the other stories. The child prostitute in the first story is the next door neighbor of the game playing introvert of the second story, and she goes to school with the younger sister who features in the third story. The introvert runs in the same gaming circles as the older sister in the third story. And between them all is the brothel owner and his assistant. They all play off of one another, acting and reacting to events as they occur.

Each person has their own story and Haraden does an admirable job of delving in to each one. It is certainly not an easy task, some of the jobs that these characters take on could be described as distasteful, yet they all do what they must. They make deals with demons with the intent of living another day.

Haraden’s writing is smooth and strong. As disturbing as some scenes are, they are penned in a way that is not difficult to imagine. The stories are easy to follow and the characters can be related to by most. As someone who is whiter than the proverbial sour cream, I will never be able to fully relate to the discrimination (both internal and external) faced by many. Reading After Hope Dies however, gave me a tiny inkling and takes me one step closer to understanding.

At times hard to read and hard to stomach, it is an engrossing book and one I simply must recommend.