Provided for Review – The Autobiography of Satan (Authorized Edition) by William Glasser

This book was provided as an e-copy by BookGlow.net in exchange for an honest review. 

The Story of Satan’s Many Struggles, Across the History of Human Existence, to Unshackle the Human Mind, and Open the Gates to Forbidden Knowledge.

From the moment of his first emergence as a single spark in the dimness of prehistory, to the more enlightening force into which he evolves across the full span of human existence, Satan has been urging human beings to open their eyes to the world around them, and to continue seeking, with unfettered minds, for ultimate answers. To do so he must struggle against the persistent attempts to stifle that urge by the “spoon feeders,” as he calls them, individuals who have insisted, within every age, and often with a bloody fist, that they, and they alone, are the possessors of the only beliefs that every human being should accept and live by, without question.

As Satan traces the history of their many attempts to stop human beings from thinking for themselves, he also takes his readers on a search for the ultimate source of all evil in this world. Readers will obviously enter the book with the standard concept of Satan as a supernatural figure of evil. They will leave the book, however, with a better understanding of how such mind-twisting concepts have been used to keep people away from the “forbidden” knowledge that lies beyond the borders of entrenched beliefs.

I’m not quite sure what I was expecting when I began reading The Autobiography of Satan, but a metaphorical think piece was certainly not it. And while it is certainly not a bad thing, again it just wasn’t what I was expecting.

Though it claims itself to be an autobiography, it comes across as more of a kind of history of religion. Satan himself – in whatever form he currently inhabited – is a only a minor character, watching from the sidelines and giving only minimal “nudges” to the humans he encounters. There were some good points made though – ie. that many of the major religions share basic mythology and clearly borrowed from one another in some point in time.

For every “serious” chapter following the path of Satan’s life, there are also more humorous chapters. These are little outtake chapters with Satan speaking to his assistant Wag, who is doing the writing while his boss talks. These are cute little chapters that perhaps make an effort to show a more human side to Satan. Funny and interesting, they however add little to the story itself.

As much as I enjoyed the story, the ending left me scratching my head. It felt disconnected and not even part of the preceding pages. Like perhaps it was tacked on at a later date. While I won’t divulge too many details for fear of spoilers, I’ll let the reader decide how they feel on the subject should they read the book themselves.

 

Advertisements

Provided for Review – The Lady in the Cellar: Murder, Scandal, and Insanity in Victorian Bloomsbury by Sinclair McKay

Number 4, Euston Square was a home like many in Victorian London. A boarding house, it was respectable, well-kept, and hospitable to those staying there. Yet beneath that veneer there seemed to be a darkness lurking.

In early May 1879, the corpse of a woman is discovered in the coal cellar. An investigation discovers she is an elderly woman named Matilda Hacker, a former resident of the boarding house. Questions are immediately raised. How did she die? How did she come to be buried in the coal cellar? And most importantly, who could have killed her?

In the investigation that followed, every resident of the home was scrutinized and more than a few secrets were brought to light. Someone in that house had killed Matilda Hacker and someone knew the truth.

I would like to thank NetGalley and the publishers for a copy of this ebook in exchange for a review.

The Lady in the Cellar is a true story. In the early summer of 1879, a body was discovered in the coal cellar of a boarding house. Almost every person who was there was a potential suspect. It was a story the newspapers grabbed on to, especially once more and more details started to come to light. And in a time when the so called ‘middle class’ were coming in to their own and the lines between classes were sometimes blurred, there were an abundance of details to titillate and delight.

The case of the murder of Matilda Hacker is a bizarre one. And it is one that the author covers in great detail. At times it feels like McKay is trying to reach a page count with their writing as there are long passages going in to details that nothing to do with the case itself. While it can be interesting to read about some of history about the family that owned the boarding house, with no actual relevancy, it leaves one to wonder why it was included.

Some of the other reviews I have seen where the reader did not finish the book lament the fact that McKay’s writing can be a bit tedious at times. It is an opinion I must agree with. Attention to detail is one thing, but to inundate a reader with information can be a it much. The actual trial and its aftermath take up roughly half of the book. And it is this half of the book that is the most interesting. It is slogging through the first half of the book and getting to the ‘good bits’ however, that can be difficult.

It is very obvious that McKay did a great amount of research in writing The Lady in the Cellar. The book is chock full of information and little details to draw the reader in. And while the actual case of the murder of Ms. Hacker was never solved, McKay gives a plausible ‘what if?’ scenario towards the end.

While I am sure there are those readers who dislike true crime books for one reason or another, I urge my readers to give this one a try when it hits shelves. In a day and age of sensational media such as ours, it is little wonder that the case of the lady in the cellar was so fascinating to the reading public of the day. It is my hope that modern day readers will enjoy it as well.

Corpse Rider by Tim Curran

Poor Christina is young and alone. Her every relationship seems cursed, each one slowly turning to poison. The only one that doesn’t seem to have soured is the one with her co-worker.

Christina is also at times kind. When visiting her mother’s grave, she notices a nearby grave left derelict. Thinking she is helping, she pulls the weeds growing around and tidies the tombstone up a bit.

Her simple act of kindness causes someone to notice and Christina realizes she is no longer alone. For what was laid to rest beneath that stone has attached itself to her and to it she will be the perfect wife. And, God help her, the perfect mother.

Corpse Rider by Tim Curran is the perfect creepy story to start off the month of October with. It is a short story – more a novella than a novel – and is therefore a fairly quick read.

This is the first book by Curran that I have read, but judging from his titles on GoodReads, he has a flair for the strange. His books run the gambit and it looks like his readers love them.

Corpse Rider is very much a psychological book. Written in a way that makes the reader wonder just how much is real and how much is in Christina’s mind. Did she really see a figure in black on that hot, sunny day in the cemetery? Was there really a hearse driven by that same figure at her work a few days later? As Christina is the only one seeing these things, one cannot help but wonder if perhaps she is going insane.

At times, it certainly feels that way. Every one around her is skeptical as there simply isn’t any proof. No proof until the very, very end.

I won’t go too far in to what happens next because to do so will ruin the ending for any one who decides to read this. Personally, I recommend it to my readers. Especially to those who like a good, creepy read. So grab your favorite hot drink, a warm fuzzy blanket, and curl up with this great thriller.

 

Provided for Review – Saving Death by R. L. Endean

Two tortured souls. One unthinkable love.

Seventeen year old Ava is nearly drowning in her grief. After the death of her mother in a horrific car accident, she is set to live with her father on his farm. Away from old friends and the home she knew, she must try to start over.

On her first day there, Ava meets Sam – a young man hired by her father to work on his farm. Sam is handsome and seemingly close in age, so it seems only natural that Ava is attracted to him. But Sam seems to have his own secrets and there is more to him than meets the eye.

Getting closer to Sam not only brings a rush of emotions to young Ava’s heart, but also pitches her in to a strange world lurking just beneath the surface. And brings to light truths that might have been better left alone.

Saving Death was provided for review, attained by replying to a Facebook ad.

Saving Death is the story of Ava, a young woman sent to live with her father and attempt to start over with a new life. She meets and makes several new friends at school but she also meets Sam. Sam doesn’t attend school and works on her father’s farm and there is something dark about him that draws Ava in. He tells her not to get close, tries to keep her at arms length, but it is obvious that he too feels an attraction. When Ava meets some of Sam’s friends and eventually learns his secret, she wonders if maybe she has gotten in over her head.

Unless you have been living under a rock or such, then surely one is at least passingly familiar with the Twilight series of novels. Young woman meets mysterious young man and so forth and so on. It was a wildly popular series of books that spawned its own series of movies and other merchandise.

Saving Death is similar to Twilight only in the most basic of premises. It is in fact So Much More.

The titular character Ava is a young woman dealing with serious depression. While this is not stated outright, it is incredibly obvious when one looks at what brings her to her father’s farm and her subsequent actions. She is practically drowning in her grief, doing the most basic of things seems like a chore. When she does go out with her new friends, she either spends the entirety of the time with her mind elsewhere or she delves head first in to the activities in a kind of frenzy to try and feel less numb.

Yes, Ava can be a little irritating at times. However, when one considers her age and her immediate past, some of her actions can be forgiven. And while she doesn’t make a complete recovery by the end of the book, she at least seems to be taking steps in the right direction.

Sam is the other main character in the book. He is the young man that Ava meets her first day on her father’s farm. While I cannot go too much in to Sam’s character lest I spoil the ending, I will say he comes across as a decent guy. While he is standoffish towards Ava at times, when they do start to become close he is respectful of her boundaries. When Ava learns that Sam followed her to a rave, she is understandably upset; and when she tells Sam that she needs time away from him to think, he gives her that time and doesn’t intrude.

The way the book ends – especially with the epilogue – hints at the possibility of more stories set in this particular universe. And oh dear reader, I hope it is true. For this universe has quite a few stories to tell; some looking back and others going forward. Characters that were only briefly introduced, some that we thought we knew – who are they really? Hopefully, time and future stories will tell.

Advertised as a Young Adult gothic romance, Saving Death is that and more. While it will certainly appeal to the older teen crowd, there is also enough to draw the more “mature” readers. Readers who love a good story, one that takes you on a roller coaster of an emotional ride, will likely love this story. It is a good thing I started this book on one of my long weekends because I tore through it in little time. I absolutely recommend this one and cannot wait to see more from the author.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

Following the death of her mother, Mary Jekyll is now alone and near penniless. Curious about the secrets surrounding her father’s mysterious past and subsequent death, she begins a search for any information about the man who died when she was a small child. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s friend and research partner, may be nearby. Hyde is wanted for murder and there is a reward for information that leads to his capture. Money that Mary knows could solve many of her immediate financial problems.

Mary’s hunt however, leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana. A troubled child, she has been abandoned by her father and orphaned by her mother, and is now left to be raised by nuns. Eager to leave the company of the nuns, Diana joins Mary in the search for Edward Hyde. The two women soon enlist the great Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, and with their help find other women like them – women who seem to have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

When the investigations point to a secret society of immoral and power hungry scientists, each young woman wonders if the past has finally caught up with her.

As a fan of novels set during the Victorian era, I will admit I was a bit cautious in my initial approach to The Strange Case… In the past I have learned that the writing in these kinds of books can be rather hit or miss. When the writer “hits the bulls eye” with their writing, they capture the feel of Victorian England and draw the reader in to the described realm completely. When the writer misses…sadly, they tend to miss completely.

For me, Goss has done an excellent job and while she doesn’t completely hit the bulls-eye, she is not terribly far off either. In combing through the rich treasure trove of stories of the time, she has taken well known characters and combined them with new and unique ones. As these ladies are the daughters of numerous well known “mad scientists”, their simple existence is completely plausible. That they all exist in the same world, while not probable, is equally plausible. Who is to say?

If there is one thing about the book that I don’t particularly like, it would have to be the occasional “interruptions” from the characters as the story goes along. Having the characters interject with commentary – some before we have even met them – while not detracting from the story as a whole, was something I found distracting. At times it pulled me completely out of the story.

On the whole, The Strange Case… is a decent read. Readers who enjoy some of the more gothic classics, like myself, will likely enjoy this first book in the series. Personally, I will be keeping an eye out for the second book, and hopefully one day a third and a fourth.

 

Kiss of the Spindle (Steampunk Proper Romance #2) by Nancy Campbell Allen

Doctor Isla Cooper is cursed – literally. Every night, at the stroke of midnight, she falls in to a death like slumber. A sleep that she cannot be wakened from for six hours. To add further insult to injury, the curse has an expiration date. After one whole year the curse becomes permanent and Isla sleeps forever – and the year is almost up.

Desperate to find the witch who cursed her, Isla blackmails her way on to a private airship headed for the Caribbean; the last place she heard the witch was residing. It is only when the ship is underway does she discover she’s travelling with three illegal shapeshifters and one government official determined to hunt and exterminate every shifter in England. And he is willing to travel to the ends of the Earth to do it.

Isla must now juggle her duties to Queen and country by protecting the shifters and keeping their secret while keeping her own curse hidden. All while trying to come to terms to her developing feelings for the handsome airship captain.

Kiss of the Spindle is a unique twist on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. Inspired by the Disney version of the story, it takes the well known movie characters and gives them a slight twist. This is certainly not a bad thing, in fact I believe it makes for a better story.

I found most of the characters to be well thought out and well written, especially the character of Isla. Fans of the original Disney movie will recall that she had almost a minor role in the story. However, in this story, she is not a background character; she even has a hand in saving herself and breaking the curse. And while she did have help in the end, she was still the one to take the first steps towards a cure.

Reading the book, I had a great deal of fun finding the little parallels between this story and the Disney version. The three shapeshifters on the ship take Isla under their proverbial wings, much like the three fairy godmothers do for Aurora. The handsome Prince Phillip with his trusty steed Samson in the story is now handsome Captain Daniel Pickett with his faithful automaton friend also named Samson. Then there is the evil witch Malette, who like Maleficent carries a staff and turns in to a dragon.

Much like the first book in the Steampunk Proper Romance series – Beauty and the Clockwork Beast – the actual steampunk elements takes a back seat to the prose itself. Yes, there are mentions of airships, Tesla lamps, automatons, and the like, but they are not crucial to the story. Remove those elements, replace them with their actual Victorian counterparts, and the story remains strong.

The same can be said for the romance elements as well, they too take a back seat to the main story. Yes, the two main characters do kiss and there is a bit of petting, but it goes no further. Any mention of a more physical relationship is hinted at, but again it is not described in any detail.

On the whole, I enjoyed reading Kiss of the Spindle. The action and likable characters will appeal to most readers. The hints of romance, the slow build of feelings between two characters, will appeal to more. This is a lovely addition to the Proper Romance series and I am looking forward to seeing more.

A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A. Villareal

The mystery starts simply enough: a young woman is found in a ditch just outside of a small Arizona border town. The young woman is presumed to be an illegal alien and likely was met with foul play trying to cross the border. Before any clues can be found as to who brought the girl harm, her body disappears from the morgue.

To the young CDC operative called in to consult the local police, it is a bizarre medical mystery. And it is only the tip of the iceberg when more individuals start showing up in local morgues and disappearing overnight. What was seen as isolated cases of a strange virus is soon deduced to be something that no one was ready to take on.

I admit, dear reader, that I was looking forward to reading this book. With its eye catching cover and overall creepy title, I thought I would be in for an exciting thrill ride from page one.

Sadly, that was not the case.

Have you ever read a book and with every page you are just waiting – waiting – for the plot to get good? For what was teased on the cover to happen? To become so engrossed in the story itself that you forget what time it is or that you have other obligations like work and family?

While there have been several books that I have read that have been just like that, A People’s History… is sadly not one of them. There is no vampire uprising, at times there’s barely even a conflict between the humans and the vampires (who prefer to be called “gloamings”). Yes, there are minor conflicts; especially when one decides to run for public office, but on the whole there wasn’t much.

At times, reading this was almost akin to watching paint dry.

Reading about the author, it is no surprise to find that Mr. Villareal is an attorney. There is quite a bit of “lawyer speak” scattered throughout the book and there is an entire chapter devoted to the subject. What it has to do in relation to the subject of the book as a whole, I have no idea.

Unfortunately, I found A People’s History… to be bland and boring. Aside from a handful of actions scenes, there was very little to sink my teeth in to. Pardon the pun. If this is to be made in to a movie, which I have read that the story has been optioned by 20th Century Fox, then I hope they take the title and basic premise and leave the rest behind.

Don’t waste your time with this one dear readers. There are better books out there.

Graveyard Shift by Michael F. Haspil

The discovery of a blood substitute and a monumental Supreme Court ruling were two events that changed the face of the world forever. Due to these two events, vampires and other mythological creatures were able to integrate in to society. There was no longer a need for them to hide as they had done for centuries before.

Alex Menkaure is a mummy and former Egyptian pharaoh; and along with his partner Marcus, a vampire born in ancient Rome, the two once hunted evil vampires for a super-secret arm of the NSA. When the program was dissolved the two became police officers in a special unit where they continue to keep the streets safe from the monsters they hunted once before.

When bottles of tainted artificial blood begin turning up on store shelves, the already tremulous relations between humans and vampires becomes even more fragile. It soon becomes a race against time for the two detectives to find who is behind the tainted blood and what their end game is.

There are times when writing a review is the easiest thing in the world; the words just flow from my fingertips and I am (hopefully) able to get my point across when I say how much I liked or dis-liked a book. There are other times, however, where trying to write even a mediocre review is akin to pulling teeth; the words simply do not want to come and each one is a struggle.

Sadly, it seems that this particular review falls more in to the latter than the former. It has been over a week since I finished reading Graveyard Shift and still I do not know where to begin in reviewing it.

Perhaps I should start with the overall plot. Broken down, it comes across as simple enough. For countless centuries vampires and other creatures have existed behind the scenes. A recent turn of events outs them and their existence is finally able to be acknowledged. While there are many who embrace this new truth, there are those who would see things go back to the way they were; where vampires skulked in shadows and humans were afraid of them. Certainly a plot that has been used before, not just in books but in movies and television shows.

The main characters themselves, however are a completely different story. One is a centuries old vampire while the other is a millennia old mummy; both immortal in their own way. Sadly, we aren’t given much on them aside from the most basic information. Haspil spends too much time focusing on secondary characters and the surrounding events as a whole instead of giving us more with the main characters. If this were the second or even third book in a series, this wouldn’t be a problem as we would already be familiar with the two detectives.

Overall, Graveyard Shift is a fairly good book. Marketed as an urban fantasy meets film noir type of story, it certainly meets that description. Gritty and at times bloody, it might not be for the more feint of heart reader. Otherwise, this is a somewhat decent start to a series and I am curious to see more.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

“Are you happy with your life?”

These are the final words Jason Dessen hears before a masked stranger knocks him unconscious. When he wakes he is strapped to a gurney and surrounded by people he does not recognize. A man Jason has never met leans over and with a smile says, “Welcome back, old friend.”

In this new world, Jason’s life is not the one he remembers. He was never married and his son was never born. He doesn’t teach physics at a local college, he is instead a celebrated physicist who has somehow achieved the seemingly impossible.

Which life is real and which is the dream? Jason is finding it more and more difficult to tell. And should the other life be the real one, how is he going to return? The answer lies in a mysterious box and the stranger who accosted him.

Dark Matter is a story about the road not taken. It is a story of “What if…?”s and “What would happen…?”. It is a story about choices, and what one man’s choice can ultimately accomplish.

Jason Dessen is a family man. Married to his lovely artist wife Daniella, they have a teenage son, and for all intents and purposes they are happy. Still, Jason cannot help but wonder if things might have turned out differently. When he and Daniella married, they were both on the cusps of their respective careers. If they had not married, what would have happened? Would Daniella have become a famous artist? Would Jason have become a famous physicist?

What Jason does not know is that there is another version of him that made a different decision to the one he had made. This second Jason didn’t marry Daniella and instead focused on his career. After winning an elite scientific award, this Jason joins Velocity Laboratories where he eventually creates a device that allows travel between the infinite dimensions of the vast multiverse.

While the first Jason wonders if he made the correct decision in starting a family, the second Jason regrets his decision not to. This leads second Jason to actually use his device and cross the dimensions in order to switch places with first Jason and have the family he desired. When first Jason realizes what has happened, he decides to use the device himself in the hopes of returning home.

That last sentence reminds me a great deal of the television show Quantum Leap. In it, the scientist Sam Beckett leaps from life to life trying to find his way home. There are numerous differences between the two stories, but the essence is alike.

On the whole, Dark Matter is an interesting book. The majority of the characters are well thought out and written in a believable manner. Others, sadly, are not and are very one dimensional. For instance, Jason and Daniella’s son Charlie; aside from his age and his love of drawing, there is almost nothing else given about him. This is sad because for Jason, the thought of seeing Charlie again is one of his reasons for continuing his search. Yet we the readers are never let in on why.

There is a good deal of heavy science referenced in Dark Matter. Generally, Crouch does a good job of parsing the information in an understandable language, but there are a few passages that get bogged down with techno-babble. Crouch’s prose is rarely, if ever, ambiguous and aside from some of the science speak, hard to understand. Readers who like an engrossing read will do good to pick this one up. I found it to be an exciting page turner and one that held me from beginning to end.