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.

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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.