The Fear Institute (Johannes Cabal #3) by Jonathan L. Howard

Johannes Cabal, necromancer of some little infamy, returns in his third adventure: The Fear Institute.

When Cabal is hired by The Fear Institute to lead an expedition in to The Dreamlands, he begrudgingly complies. The Dreamlands is a world formed by dreams yet is not a dream itself and it is there the Fear Institute wishes to go to track and destroy the Phobic Animus; the source of all the worlds fears.

Their expedition will take them to exotic lands were monsters abound and magic is common. Where dreams can become reality. And where Cabal will eventually have to face his own nightmares.

Johannes Cabal is back in all his snarky glory, and I for one could not be happier. This third book in the series sees Cabal travelling once again, this time to the Dreamlands – a place beyond the veil of sleep. It is very much like the waking world and yet the rules are slightly skewed. Something Cabal and his travelling companions find out the hard way.

While I wasn’t terribly fond of the second book of the series, the third book has sucked me right back in. I found it to be fast paced and witty, and like the first book kept me hooked from the first page.

The plot takes several twists and turns over the course of the story, some helping and others not. One particular twist towards the end actually made me tear up a little! To say much more would be to give it away but any one who reads the book will know the moment they get there.

I believe my one and only complaint would have to be what happens to Cabal towards the end. While hints were dropped throughout the whole of the book, I found it somewhat unnecessary and it could have possibly been handled a different way. Again, I cannot reveal what happens as that would give away the ending. It does however leave it open for the fourth book, which currently resides on my ‘To Be Read’ list.

Readers who enjoyed the first Cabal book will likely enjoy this one as well. As little mention is made of his previous adventures, this one can also be read without knowledge of the second book. I enjoyed it and look forward to the next in the series.

Sherlock Holmes – The Patchwork Devil by Cavan Scott

World War 1 has come and gone, changing the face of history and of science. Holmes and Watson are retired men now, each having gone their separate ways. It is during one of Sherlock’s visits to London however that the two are called back in to action.

A severed hand has been found along the bank of the Thames. Fingerprints show the hand belongs to a young soldier who supposedly died in France – two years earlier. Yet the hand found is fresh and looks as if it were recently amputated. So how did it end up back in England when its owner was killed half a continent away? And what of the strange giant seen following them?

I am always pleased when a book manages to surprise me. Whether it be from how a character acts to a plot twist no one sees coming; I enjoy them all. So I’m sure you can imagine my surprise and delight, dear reader, when I came across a book that is a combination of two of my favorite stories – Sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein.

Just going by the blurb on the back of the book, I already had an inkling that the plot of The Patchwork Devil would likely hint at the original Frankenstein. A person or persons seeking to create life where once there was none, for whatever purpose. So I’m sure you can imagine my surprise (and delight) when during the course of their investigation, Holmes and Watson learn that their main suspect is a descendant of Viktor Frankenstein and has seemingly picked up his work!

Alas, to say much more would be to give away important spoilers so dear reader, I shall have to stop there.

Scott has done admirable work in giving a voice to older Holmes and Watson. There were several moments that had me smiling as the men attempted things that were possible in their younger days only to suffer the consequences and realize getting old is difficult! He also did excellent work with the character of Frankenstein’s monster. Those who read the original book know that he is an eloquent character, well spoken and quite intelligent. Unfortunately the movies (and sometimes books) have cast him as a shambling individual with a childlike intellect. Scott has reminded us that that man was anything but.

If I have any qualms with The Patchwork Devil, it would be how quickly everything was resolved. The whole mystery and bad guy were dealt with in what seemed like a matter of paragraphs. It felt a bit too rushed to my taste.

Other than that, I rather enjoyed this most recent Holmes tale. Readers like myself and those who like a good medical mystery will likely enjoy it as well.

Beauty and the Clockwork Beast (Steampunk Proper Romance #1) by Nancy Campbell Allen

When Lucy Pickett receives a letter from her ailing cousin Kate, she rushes to Blackwell Manor. Yet upon her arrival she finds more than she bargained for: ghosts roam the hallways, werewolves are rumored to run the grounds, and vampires have been attacking the villagers in a nearby town. Blackwell Manor seems to be full of secrets and many of them seem to center of Lord Blackwell himself.

Lord Miles Blackwell is still reeling from the mysterious deaths of his wife Clara, and his sister Maria, six months earlier. The arrival of the smart and attractive Lucy Pickett doesn’t help his mood any. Her attempts to bring peace to Blackwell Manor means her digging in to the family’s past and raising questions he isn’t ready to answer.

Being a fan of the Steampunk genre, I always find it enjoyable discovering new authors. Especially when said author gives a new twist to an old favorite story.

Beauty and the Clockwork Beast is touted as ‘Jane Eyre meets Beauty and the Beast’ in one review, and I feel I must respectfully disagree. In reading this book I found almost no similarities between it and Jane Eyre. There were similarities though between it and Beauty and the Beast – a story I quite enjoy.

One thing I quite liked was how the whole Steampunk thing (the fashion, the gadgets, etc. etc.) took a back seat to the actual story. Unfortunately there are authors who use them almost as a crutch, the technology being the star of the story leaving very little room for plot. Allen doesn’t do this; instead she uses the technology to simply add flavor to the story. Were the Tesla coils, airships, and other accessories to be removed from the story on the whole, I firmly believe the story itself would be enjoyable.

Also, while Beauty and the Clockwork Beast is touted as a romance, the romantic plot isn’t integral to the story either. It is a side plot, masterly woven in to the main plot so the two run side by side.

Fans of Steampunk as well as romance enthusiasts are likely to enjoy this book. I am curious to see what the second book of the series entails and will be keeping an eye out for it at my local library.

The Journal of Vincent Du Maurier III by K.P. Ambroziak

Soon after he finds his beloved Byron’s letters to a mysterious associate, Vincent du Maurier finds himself in a precarious position. He must make a choice – to save a dying world or to let the plans he himself had a hand in implementing come to fruition.

The Journal of Vincent Du Maurier III is the third and (sadly) final book in the series. Typing that sentence – and subsequently this review – makes me sad, dear reader. I have been a fan of these books since I picked the first one up on a whim at the library. To see the series ending; albeit on a high note; is somewhat upsetting.

Ambroziak handles the third book slightly differently than the first two. Told in a series of flashbacks and flash forwards instead of journal entries, she has our protagonist Vincent talking to a young man whose importance we don’t find out about until near the end of the book. The young man had the first two journals and Vincent was there to finish the story.

On my earlier review of Ambroziak’s book The Trinity, she had commented it was ‘perfect in its imperfection’. That phrase could well be used for this particular series. It is an imperfect series, each book having its own flaws; and because of that it is perfect. At least in my opinion.

Though I am saddened to see this series coming to an end, I am also looking forward. Paige is a wonderful writer and I have enjoyed her works immensely. I look forward to what she writes in the future.