Provided for Review: The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees

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

The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more—until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?

First and foremost, I would like to thank the very nice people at Netgalley for providing this book to read and review.

The Waking Forest is a beautiful book. The way Wees writes is very descriptive, evoking emotion with even the smallest turn of phrase. The characters of Rhea and her family are portrayed in a very realistic manner thanks to this. Rhea and her sisters squabble one minute then help each other out the next, something someone with siblings of their own will easily recognize.

The drawback though is that sometimes Wees’ descriptions become too much. The narrative becomes bogged down with descriptive words and phrases and the story itself slows to a crawl.

For the first half of the book, the story is told from two separate point of views – Rhea’s and the Witch’s. As each story is unique with its own set of characters, it’s easy to keep track of who goes where. It is only during the second half when the two stories are combined that things become a little more difficult to follow. Individuals who were sisters in one part now have no relation and the same but different.

Sadly, it is almost impossible to accurately describe the goings on without giving away massive spoilers, so I shall refrain from going further.

In writing The Waking Forest, Wees has created a unique story line. While there are some flaws, overall I enjoyed reading the book and would recommend it to my readers.

The Last Wish (The Witcher #1) by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
The Last Wish cover

Geralt of Rivia is a witcher. A cunning sorcerer. A merciless assassin. And a cold-blooded killer. His sole purpose: to destroy the monsters that plague the world. But not everything monstrous-looking is evil and not everything fair is good… and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.

A collection of short stories introducing Geralt of Rivia, to be followed by the first novel in the actual series, The Blood of Elves.

Note that, while The Last Wish was published after The Sword of Destiny, the stories contained in The Last Wish take place first chronologically, and many of the individual stories were published before The Sword of Destiny.

Technically, The Last Wish is not the first book in The Witcher series though it is often listed as book one. In truth it was printed after The Sword of Destiny – book three – of the series. However, as the events in The Last Wish take place before The Sword of Destiny, it is put first when listing the books of the series.

Since I have not played the Witcher games before reading the books, I did not go in with any expectations aside from the knowledge that this a fantasy series unlike many on the market today. I’m glad for this because from what I understand, there are differences between the two and I know I would be constantly comparing them.

The Last Wish was originally written in Polish and translated to English, a fact that is sometimes obvious while reading. Because while Sapkowski builds a world that is easily believable, the action and story becomes clunky and awkward at times. And as I do not read Polish, I am relying on the English translation when giving my opinion.

The characters that populate the world that Sapkowski writes of are a diverse sort. There are royalty and there are servants, there are those who are human and there are those that are not. These creatures come from a variety of tales and easily recognizable; vampires, elves, goblins, and gnomes.

What gives realism to the world created is that no one character is perfect. There are no “good guys” and “bad guys”. Every character does what they believe is the right thing; for themselves, for their loved ones, for their city or village. Even the titular character – Geralt of Rivera – does not fall in one particular category. As a Witcher, it is his job to seek out the monsters that plague the people. It is a profession he has trained for since he was a child and it is unclear whether he truly enjoys his work or not.

The Last Wish, as well as the rest of the Witcher series, isn’t your ordinary fantasy series. While it does have the creatures that are common in other books, there is also a darkness and a gritty element that may not appeal to everyone. Those who are looking for some realism in their fantasy will likely enjoy it.

Provided for Review: The Bridge of Little Jeremy by Indrajit Garai

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

Jeremy’s mother is about to go to prison for their debt to the State. He is trying everything within his means to save her, but his options are running out fast. 

Then Jeremy discovers a treasure under Paris. 

This discovery may save his mother, but it doesn’t come for free. And he has to ride over several obstacles for his plan to work. 

Meanwhile, something else is limiting his time…

Young Jeremy is a loving and doting son. Despite being only 12 years old and despite having a heart condition that he had recently had surgery on, he still cares for and worries about his mother. As a single mother she must work hard to support her and her son as well as his beloved dog Leon. Unbeknownst to his mother, Jeremy has been selling his paintings and sketches, putting the money aside for when it is needed most. It is only when Jeremy comes across a damaged painting by a famous artist does he believe he can finally save his mother from prison.

The Bridge of Little Jeremy is a unique book. Told from the point of view of Little Jeremy himself, it has the rambling talkative style that most young boys employ when talking. In his descriptions of his walks around the city of Paris, the detail given is enough that is easy to imagine walking beside Jeremy and Leon. The prose is enough to evoke the wonder and beauty that is the city of lights.

Knowing that Garai lives in Paris makes sense because who else would be able to describe a city so perfectly than one who lives there?

In reading the book, I must wonder if the book was translated from French to English. It feels that way as there are certain words and phrases that do not translate that well from one to the other. This only happens a handful of times and is not enough to detract from the beauty that is the story itself.

I am quite happy that Garai approached me for reviewing his book as I enjoyed it very much. Whether you have visited or even if you have never been, The Bridge of Little Jeremy will cause you to fall in love with Paris. I recommend this book to all of my dear readers.

Blood Persuasion (Immortal Jane Austen #2) by Janet Mullany

It is 1810, and the Damned are out of favor–banished from polite society.

Jane Austen’s old un-dead friends have become new neighbors, raising hell in her tranquil village just in time to interrupt Jane’s work on what will be her masterpiece.

Suddenly Jane’s niece is flirting dangerously with vampires, and a formerly respectable spinster friend has discovered the forbidden joys of intimate congress with the Damned (and is borrowing Jane’s precious silk stockings for her assignations). Writing is simply impossible now, with murderous creatures prowling the village’s once-peaceful lanes. And with the return of her vampire characteristics, a civil war looming between factions of the Damned, and a former lover who intends to spend eternity blaming her for his broken heart, Jane is facing a very busy year indeed.

Blood Persuasion is the second book in the Immortal Jane Austen series and is the sequel to Jane and the Damned. It picks up approximately 13 years after the events in the first book. Jane has returned to the simple and quiet life with her family; she has even resumed her writing. Another quiet summer is planned and that is when things go awry.

When I originally reviewed Jane and the Damned, I lauded it for its unique take on a well known trope. And while many of the characters introduced in the first book return in the second, sadly they do not have the same impact as they did before. Fitzwilliam (now known as Fitzpatrick) was an interesting character in the first book and in the second he is quite a bore. My real problem was with the characterization of Jane herself; more than once she came across as shrill and irritating. At one point she even berates her vampire lover Luke, screaming “I thought you loved me!” even while knowing herself that vampires are fickle and take numerous partners.

As far as the overall plot, that is something I can’t comment on simply because there really wasn’t one. There were numerous little plots, such as Jane’s niece being seduced by one of the vampires or the business with the feuding vampire families, but aside from where things took place and the characters involved there was little to tie everything together. The epilogue, while bittersweet, also left much to be desired.

Sadly, Blood Persuasion must join the list of books I simply cannot recommend. As much as I enjoyed the first book, the second one let me down. Read and enjoy the first book – Jane and the Damned – dear readers. And stay far far away from this one.

Confessions by Kanae Minato (Translated by Stephen Snyder)

Book cover for Confessions by Kanae Minato

Her pupils killed her daughter. Now, she will have her revenge.

After an engagement that ended in tragedy, all Yuko Moriguchi had to live for was her four-year-old child, Manami. Now, after a heartbreaking accident on the grounds of the middle school where she teaches, Yuko has given up and tendered her resignation. 

But first, she has one last lecture to deliver. She tells a story that will upend everything her students ever thought they knew about two of their peers, and sets in motion a maniacal plot for revenge. 

As avid a reader as I am and with as much free time as I now have, it is still rare for me to finish a book in less than two days. Confessions I finished in one evening.

Confessions is a story about revenge. About having it and the repercussions it brings. Not just to those who are on the receiving end but also to those around them.

Told in a series of stories, each one is dedicated to a person involved with the events. The first one is told in manner of a lecture by Yuko Moriguchi, a teacher who is on the verge of retiring. Having lost her daughter she is naturally distraught and it is when she has pieced the pieces together of what happened that she plans (and executes) her revenge.

Confessions is a dark and twisted tale. Twisted in the way that just when you believe you know which way the story is going, Minato causes the story to shift and take a completely different direction. It is not a nice book, several reviews I have seen online call it “fucked up” and I completely concur. It is almost akin to a train wreck – horrifying and yet one cannot look away.

Horror fans are likely to be keen on this particular book. Especially if you are like me and enjoy the more psychological aspect of horror and less of the blood and gore aspect. Certainly not for the feint of heart but a good read nonetheless.

Provided for Review: Chasing Graves (The Chasing Graves Trilogy #1) by Ben Galley

This book was provided for review by The Write Reads as part of a blog tour. Thank you!

Meet Caltro Basalt. He’s a master locksmith, a selfish bastard, and as of his first night in Araxes, stone cold dead.

They call it the City of Countless Souls, the colossal jewel of the Arctian Empire, and all it takes to be its ruler is to own more ghosts than any other. For in Araxes, the dead do not rest in peace in the afterlife, but live on as slaves for the rich.

While Caltro struggles to survive, those around him strive for the emperor’s throne in Araxes’ cutthroat game of power. The dead gods whisper from corpses, a soulstealer seeks to make a name for himself with the help of an ancient cult, a princess plots to purge the emperor from his armoured Sanctuary, and a murderer drags a body across the desert, intent on reaching Araxes no matter the cost.

Only one thing is certain in Araxes: death is just the beginning.

Chasing Graves by Ben Galley is the first book in a trilogy of the same name and unlike some books this tale hits the ground running. From the first pages where we are introduced to Caltro Basalt and learn just how much of a prick he can be, to the final paragraphs where we learn the true identity of the woman named Nilith, each page just adds to the thrilling ride that is this book.

The city of Araxes is a city of ghosts, not just figuratively but literally as well. When a person dies their soul can be bound to the land of the living and once bound they become little more than a piece of property. They are bought and sold with little care, their destiny to work for whomever is willing to pay the price to own them. And as the spirits do not rest and do not need food nor water, they are the perfect workforce to build an empire.

Galley has done an exceptional job in building the world that Chasing Graves takes place. Not only has he built the city and surrounding lands with his words, but he has given the areas inhabitants that are believable. The deserts are vast and surviving there is not for the weak with only a few handful of nomads even trying. The same can be said for the city of Araxes itself; for while there are many many more people living there, it is not a nice place to live. From the lowest slums to the upper reaches, Galley shows just how cruel each place can be.

It is clear that Chasing Graves is meant to be the first part of a series. Sprinkled throughout the book a tantalizing hints of what could be to come. Just as the characters wonder what could possibly happen next, the reader is left the same way too.

I personally enjoyed reading Chasing Graves. I found the plot to be nicely paced and the characters well written. I heartily recommend the book to my readers and eagerly await the next book in the series.

Provided for Review: Redhand by Tony Leslie Duxbury

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

It is the new age of barbarism, hundreds of years after the collapse of civilization.

Most of the vast knowledge that mankind had accumulated has been lost. The once great cities are either piles of blasted rubble or crumbling ruins. After society imploded, humanity turned on one another. Decades of war followed. The survivors banded together in tribes and clans.

All the bullets and bombs have run out. It’s back to edged weapons and blunt instruments. Technology has taken an enormous step backwards, and so has humanity. 

He belongs to a band of wanderers, mainly peaceful people who gather and hunt. One day they suffer a raid by a group of warriors and in the aftermath, he finds himself alone. All his family and friends killed, and he left for dead. The only survivor was his little sister, which the raiders kidnapped. He vows to rescue her. After a night of mourning, he sets off to get back his sister, not yet a man and without any idea how to go about it. The shock of the raid and the grief that followed it fundamentally changed him. He surprises himself time and again as he tracks down his sister’s kidnappers and gets her back.

Redhand is a book about change. After a catastrophic event referred to only as The Collapse, society as a whole changed. War pitted man against man until the bullets ran out. And even once they were gone, man continued to rally against his proverbial brother; only this time using weapons of metal and stone.

Duxbury does not shy away from showing how brutal and cruel things have become in his novel. His action scenes are vivid and often times gruesome, the protagonist dubbed Redhand unwilling to back down from a fight. The young man isn’t the only one prone to violence though, nearly every character we meet has fought and continued to fight for their survival.

Redhand is told through a series of five short stories; each story a chapter in the young man’s life. The stories are in sequential order so the reader can watch as the protagonist changes from a wide eyed youth to a hardened traveler. The issue comes with the lack of any real character development, even with Redhand himself. Were this a full length novel, it could have allowed for stronger emotional bonds to form between reader and book characters.

The ending of the final story also felt very abrupt. Almost as if Duxbury wasn’t sure how to bring things to an end and simply stopped writing. Such a sudden ending took me by surprise as I was expecting Redhand’s travels to continue at least a little more.

Overall, Redhand is a decent take on the post apocalyptic genre. I think with a bit more work fleshing out the stories and the work of a good editor – the copy I received still had a few editor’s notes left in it – it could become something much better. Readers looking for a fast read might give this one a look.

Doctor Who: Borrowed Time by Naomi Alderman

WHATEVER YOU BORROW MUST BE REPAID…

Andrew Brown never has enough time. No time to call his sister, or to prepare for that important presentation at the bank where he works. The train’s late, the lift jams. If only he had just a little more time. And time is the business of Mr Symington and Mr Blenkinsop. They’ll lend him some – at a very reasonable rate of interest.

Scenting something sinister, the Doctor, Amy and Rory go undercover at the bank. But they have to move fast to stop Symington and Blenkinsop before they cash in their investments. (via Goodreads)

Who among us couldn’t use more time? Time to get done all the things that need to get done but to also do the things one wants to do? According to Mr. Symington and Mr. Blenkinsop, they have the perfect solution and are quite happy to help. And it’s all available at a quite reasonable rate of interest.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a big Doctor Who fan. I’ve read several of the series novels before and even reviewed them here, though I tend to prefer the actual TV show over the books. The reason being that the novels are very hit and miss when it comes to capturing the essence of the show. When the books in question are good, they are very good; and when they are bad, they are usually awful.

Fortunately, Borrowed Time is a hit. Reading it was very much like watching an episode, albeit in my head instead of on my TV screen. Naomi Alderman does an excellent job of capturing Eleven’s frenetic – almost frantic – way of speech. The way he randomly rambles is caught on the printed page and it is incredibly easy to mentally picture Matt Smith saying the words.

Also worth mentioning is the way Amy and Rory (especially Rory) are kept relevant in the story. They are the Doctor’s companions, his friends; and like in the show they offer another view of what is happening. They help to gather information as well as offer assistance when they can. I especially liked how Rory was used and not simply brushed aside – something that sadly happens too often for him. He can be every bit as intelligent and insightful as Amy and that is used to good effect in this book.

Borrowed Time is a fairly quick read, again emulating the show’s hour long episode format. With only a few minor tweaks I could easily see this book being turned in to an actual episode.

Fans of Doctor Who – especially his Eleventh incarnation – will enjoy this one. I recommend picking it up and soundly rejecting any one who says they can help you with time.

A Debt of Survival by L.F. Falconer

A Debt of Survival cover

The summer of 1969 sees Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. In California, the Manson family commits bloody murder. A half million people descend upon Woodstock in New York. And in Diablo Springs, Nevada, something evil crawls out of the earth.

Fifteen years in law enforcement never prepared Sheriff Don Lattimore for this. Suspecting his daughter is involved in satanic activity within an abandoned house on Redwing Lane, he soon finds himself mired in an investigation straight from the depths of Hell. A wave of destruction sweeps over the county and the death toll rises daily.

Plagued by a mentally unstable witness, a crumbling marriage, and the war-born ghosts of his own past, Lattimore no longer knows where to turn in his battle to preserve his community. Then a stranger comes to town, offering deliverance. Now Lattimore faces a horrific decision. Is he willing to sacrifice a child for the greater good? Even his own? (via Goodreads)

The year of 1969 was, historically, a year of changes. The country itself was in transition, moving from one school of thought to another. And it is in this changing setting that Falconer sets her novel.

A Debt of Survival is not for the faint of heart. It is dark and gritty and at times quite violent. A few scenes are even hard to read simply because they lay the truth of war bare. War, regardless of the time or place, is not pleasant. It doesn’t matter who is on what side, or if those fighting are even human; it is nasty and cruel and Falconer does not shy away from this.

On the surface, A Debt of Survival seems like a rather straight forward horror type novel. It is only as one reads further and gets to the real meat of the story do we realize that not everything is as black and white. That maybe those proclaiming to be the ‘good guys’ aren’t all that good. Or maybe they are but only for their definition of good.

This book had me practically from the first word on the first page up to the final phrase. It kept me on the edge of my seat, eagerly turning the page in an effort to find out just what happens next. The ending is and isn’t satisfying and is a set up for what I sincerely hope will become a series. I would love to find out what happens to these characters down the road.

Author Spotlight – Kimberly Davis Basso

It’s that time again, dear readers. Time for our monthly author spotlight!

*cue wild applause*

This month, our spotlight shines on Kimberly Davis Basso – author of I’m a Little Brain Dead. She is an award winning author and playwright, and has worked as a stage director and producer for over twenty five years. Her book is a true life account of the stroke and all of its little repercussions she had to deal with a the young age of 44.

Nominated for several awards, including: INDIES Book of the Year in Humor from Foreword Reviews Winner, Writers Digest Self Published Awards – Honorable Mention for Life StoriesWinner Finalist for Humor, 2018 International Book AwardsWinner Finalist for Humor, 2018 Readers Favorite AwardsWinner Top Ten Indie Book of 2018.

Having just read and reviewed the book myself, I can easily see why it was nominated for so many awards. The book is available on Amazon as well as other book sites. Or, if you’d prefer, you can get in touch with the author herself:

Website www.kimberlydavisbasso.com

Email KDBassoWrites@gmail.com
Twitter @KDBWrites
Instagram @ KDBWrites and @the_bard_and_i