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.

I’m a Little Brain Dead by Kimberly Davis Basso – Provided for Review

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

Tuesday’s breakfast was interrupted by a stroke, and the only available help is the author’s second grader.

Launched into a medical crisis, Kimberly Davis Basso (and her brain) respond with wit, wisdom, and wishful thinking. From surviving a stroke to surviving a zombie apocalypse, “I’m a Little Brain Dead” is alarmingly irreverent. No matter how critical or ridiculous the situation, Kimberly abides by their family rule “Panicking never helps.”

You’ll get an inside look at being a middle aged stroke patient as she hosts a neurological event, juggles doctors, undergoes a heart procedure and asks the really big question – how tiny is tiny when it refers to dead tissue? What would you do? Are you prepared to have a medical crisis, unable to speak or walk? Would your kids know what to do? It’s time to make an escape plan. Kimberly will walk (or rather shuffle) readers through her experience in an honest, hilarious look at the site of the world’s smallest zombie apocalypse – her brain.

When reading a person’s account of a particular traumatic event, words like “brave” and “inspiring” are often trotted out by reviewers. And while those two particular words, plus many more that are similar could be used for I’m a Little Brain Dead; one that might be a bit odd to add would be “funny”.

Because that’s what I’m a Little Brain Dead is, funny.

At the young age of forty-four, Kimberly Basso had a stroke. An honest-to-God stroke. What happens next; from having her 8 year old calling 9-1-1 through to the MRI’s and countless tests to an eventual diagnosis, Basso somehow handles it all with a hefty dose of wit and humor. She does get a bit maudlin towards the end, but given the subject she is writing about, this can be easily forgiven. It’s not every day one faces their own mortality.

I will warn some readers, Basso likes to swear in this book. Some may find it off-putting, while others (like myself) will simply take it in stride. This is her story and she is telling it how she wants to.

Being close in age to Basso but also going through much of what she did with my mother, reading I’m a Little Brain Dead hit very close to home. Personally, I enjoyed it and recommend it to all my readers. Not just for the goodly amount of information it has, but also for the zombie jokes.

The Perfect Assassin (The Chronicles of Ghadid #1) by K.A. Moore – Provided for Review

This book was provided for review by the kind people at Netgalley. Thank you!

Divine justice is written in blood.

Or so Amastan has been taught. As a new assassin in the Basbowen family, he’s already having second thoughts about taking a life. A scarcity of contracts ends up being just what he needs.

Until, unexpectedly, Amastan finds the body of a very important drum chief. Until, impossibly, Basbowen’s finest start showing up dead, with their murderous jaan (spirits) running wild in the dusty streets of Ghadid. Until, inevitably, Amastan is ordered to solve these murders, before the family gets blamed.

Every life has its price, but when the tables are turned, Amastan must find this perfect assassin or be their next target. (via Goodreads)

Many times when an author chooses to write a novel set in a fantasy world, they take their inspiration from European style sources. Doore’s decision to use Middle Eastern style influences for her characters and setting give The Perfect Assassin a refreshing feel. The city of Ghadid is one of sand and stone, where water is oftentimes scarce. Where magic and belief play a influence on every person’s day to day life and in a unique twist, it is the men who cover their faces and not the women.

The main character, Amastan, is easy to relate to. He is a young man just starting his journey in life, and while he has spent years training to be an assassin, he still has his doubts about being able to actually do the job. For many who are just leaving school/college, this is a feeling they will likely understand all too well. Amastan can be brash at times but as the book goes on he learns to trust his instincts, even if things don’t end quite in the way he wants.

Other secondary characters are also introduced. They are Amastan’s “cousins”, individuals related to him (though distantly) who have received the same training as he has and are part of the Basbowen family. The second book focuses on one of these secondary characters, and it is my hope that future books will feature others as well.

I feel I must make mention of the homosexual romance that is a small thread in the overall tapestry of The Perfect Assassin. I know the majority of my readers will be like me and not care over the fact that Amastan falls for another man, but there are some who might take offence and so I give this tiny mention. Personally, I thought the blooming romance between Amastan and Yufit was rather sweet and well done. In my opinion, it was very cute.

My only complaint in regards to the book is how the word God is handled. Any time a character says the word, it is written as “G-d”. Now whether this is a choice of the author’s or of the publisher, I can’t say. What I can say is that I found it irritating and it immediately pulled me out of the story every time I came across it. I do not understand why some authors do this, but I believe if they wish to use this particular name they should either spell it out wholly or come up with another moniker.

In conclusion, I enjoyed reading The Perfect Assassin. There was a good deal of action without too much gratuitous violence and Doore’s fluid writing really helped to move the story along. I see there is a second book in the series coming out later this year and I am already looking forward to it.

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson – Provided for Review

This book was provided for review by the kind folks at Netgalley. Thank you!

In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry her away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. Then a second girl falls asleep, and then another, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned. 

Mei, an outsider in the cliquish hierarchy of dorm life, finds herself thrust together with an eccentric, idealistic classmate. Two visiting professors try to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. A father succumbs to the illness, leaving his daughters to fend for themselves. And at the hospital, a new life grows within a college girl, unbeknownst to her—even as she sleeps. A psychiatrist, summoned from Los Angeles, attempts to make sense of the illness as it spreads through the town. Those infected are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, more than has ever been recorded. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?

I always enjoy it when a book grabs my attention in the first few paragraphs before taking me on a wild ride. And that is exactly what happened when I read The Dreamers. From the first page to the last, I was enthralled by the story and continually wondering what would happen next.

One of the good things about this book is that there aren’t too many characters to try and keep track of. Yes, the book takes place in a small college town, but what is happening is presented from only a few points of view. The fact that the characters are all different ages and come from different walks of life only adds an extra layer of enjoyment.

The only real complaint I have is in regards to the virus itself. So very little attention is given to it, though it plays a major role in the story. Where did it come from? How did Kara, Patient Zero, originally contract it? Where did the virus eventually go? It’s alluded that it simply fizzled out, but because the whole town wasn’t affected, I find that tiny point a little hard to swallow.

Personally, I enjoyed reading The Dreamers; I practically devoured it. I wouldn’t recommend it for hypochondriacs, but for those looking for a good fairly quick read, I say give this one a try.

The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1) by S.A. Chakraboty

City of Brass book cover

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound. 

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences. 

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for… (via Goodreads)

City of Brass is the first book in the Daevabad Trilogy and in my opinion it is off to a good start.

As some on Goodreads have pointed out, when you take the overall plot line and boil it down to it’s most basic points, the story does sound a bit cliched. Young woman living on the streets does what she can to survive when she meets a mysterious stranger. The woman’s life is somehow put in danger and the stranger helps her before whisking her away on a perilous journey. The journey itself is fraught with danger and they finally arrive at a grand city that is beyond anything any one has seen. There, the young woman learns she is a lost person of great importance and she is thrust in to a very unfamiliar and lush lifestyle. She must learn who she can trust when it seems everyone has something to hide.

Yes, cliched, and yes done over and over in countless stories. Yet to be honest, one can say that about almost every book ever written. New and unique ideas are rare and most books are a rehashing of previous ones. It is only in how they are rewritten that is important. At least to me.

And it is in that aspect that City of Brass shines (pun intended). Chakraborty has taken a well known and well used fictional trope and brushed it up a bit with her storytelling. The lead female character, Nahri, isn’t one to sit idly by even when she has everything she ever desired served to her on a silver plate. All of her young life she has refused to let any one dictate her future and she will not let any one start now. Not the handsome djinn Dara, not the equally handsome prince Alizayd, and certainly not the king Ghassan al Qahtani.

As lovely as the story is, what really stood out to me were the characters themselves. Every one of them is flawed in one way or another. None of them are perfect despite what persona they present. Even the minor characters, ones who only appear in one or a few scenes, they too are flawed in one way or another. It makes them all feel more real and adds depth to an already fascinating story.

City of Brass is a bit long at over 500 pages so it will take a bit longer to read. However, it is a unique story set in an area of the world that does not get much love in fiction. Plus it has a strong female main character that will appeal to most. The second book was just recently released and I’ve already added it to my list to read and review.

Promoting an up and coming author – Holly Willow

Hello my dear readers!

I thought I would try adding something new to my blog, a little monthly post where I promote an new author. I’ll provide a little blurb about one of their books as well as a link as to where to purchase it.

This month, I’m promoting Holly Willow.

Like so many of us who read and write, Holly has a love of travel as well as an active imagination. Combine those and you have an author who pens novels to sate the wanderlust. Her first book, Postcard from Paris, has a rating of over 4 stars on Goodreads.

When Poppy finds a postcard from Paris, sent by an aunt she didn’t know existed, she books a flight to France to investigate. Just days after arriving in Paris, she accidentally lands herself a job thanks to a case of mistaken identity. To complicate matters further, she soon starts to fall for her new boss. Falling in love with your boss is never a good idea and she knows it. But when he makes her an offer she can’t refuse, her heart just might win the battle against reason and logic.

This sounds like such a fun book and it’s already on my TBR list to be read and reviewed later this year. If you’d like to read it too, support the author and purchase it here:

Buy “Postcard from Paris”

If you are an author, of know of one who would like to be promoted on my blog, drop me a line!

Provided for Review: Chuck Steak by Casper Pearl

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

Meet Chuck Steak. His insides are well done. He’s a cop, but not just any. He’s the best. Hasn’t been one like him since the ‘90s. Won’t work with partners and disregards the collateral damage his boss is always screaming about.

Chuck Steak is USDA Prime badass, so having a bomb planted inside Mia, his secret, longtime girlfriend who’s been dreaming of marriage for almost a decade, should be just another day at the office. The problem is, an elusive villain challenges Chuck to deliver Mia’s dream wedding within a week’s time, or she’ll blow.

Overwhelmed with “girly tasks”, Chuck’s forced out of his action-heavy comfort zone and into scenarios which require words instead of bullets. One results in the loss of his right hand, and when it’s replaced with a black hand, this white cop (now .65% black) encounters a new kind of villain: racism.

With time against him, Chuck will have to find a non-violent way to convince the love of his life and her disapproving family that this isn’t another publicity stunt—that after all of these years, it’s finally time to ditch the legacy he’s been slaving over in favor of the family she’s always dreamed of. All while overcoming unexpected hurdles like his own department and their trigger-happy mentality toward minorities, backstories, a feminist gang, incredibly friendly Muslims, dementia, depression, gender equality, and trying to maintain action-orientated roots in an increasingly politically correct world.

Any person who grew up watching movies in the 1980’s and 1990’s will easily recognize a character like Chuck Steak. He’s a man’s man – the lone wolf who doesn’t work well with others and consistently ignores any one who tries to tell him what to do. The only person he shows any kind of softness with is a woman who is the love of his life and when her safety comes in under attack, he moves Heaven and Earth to get to her.

Reading Chuck Steak reminded me of every one of those movies I watched when I was younger. Pearl has taken practically every cliche and maxed them out as far as they can go. One would think this would make a book that is practically unreadable, but somehow it works. There were plenty of times I found myself rolling my eyes as I recognized one trope or another. Yes, it does get ridiculous during some chapters, but for me that’s what made it an enjoyable read.

Characters and plot aside, Pearl has an excellent grasp of storytelling. There were only a handful of times where the story became a bit disjointed and that generally happened in the jump from one chapter to another. Otherwise, his prose is smooth while still keeping the hectic pace that many action movies have.

The way Chuck Steak is set up, it looks to be the first in a series and according to Goodreads there is a second book. If it is just as frenetic and fast paced as the first one, I can see it becoming a popular series.