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.

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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.

Provided for Review – Daisy’s Run (The Clockwork Chimera Book 1) by Scott Baron

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

Life in deep space could be a drag sometimes, but Daisy supposed things could have been worse. They were still alive, after all, which was always a plus in her book. Now if only she could figure out who, or what, was endangering her return home, things would be just peachy.

With the powerful AI supercomputer guiding the craft beginning to show some disconcerting quirks of its own, and its unsettling cyborg assistant nosing into her affairs, Daisy’s unease was rapidly growing. Add to the mix a crew of mechanically-enhanced humans, any one of whom she suspected might not be what they seemed, and Daisy found herself with a sense of pending dread tickling the periphery of her mind. 

Something was very much not right––she could feel it in her bones. The tricky part now was going to be figuring out what the threat was, before it could manifest from a mere sinking feeling in her gut into a potentially deadly reality. (via Goodreads)

As someone who is a very big science fiction fan, when I was offered a chance to read Daisy’s Run, I jumped at the opportunity. It isn’t often that you come across a sci-fi book where the lead character is a female. And especially one who is as strong and snarky as Daisy.

Daisy’s Run is one of those books that hits the proverbial ground running. Right from the first page we are thrust in to a dangerous, and possibly deadly, situation. The space ship has been damaged by debris and if repairs are not done it could spell catastrophe.

At first everything seems to be running smoothly, but when one of the crew is inexplicably sucked out in to space, what was supposed to be a quiet trip back to Earth takes on a more dangerous tone. It doesn’t help that aside from Daisy, almost every other crew member is augmented in some way, and it seems that every one of them has a secret they’re hiding.

As the story continues and Daisy tries to figure out what is happening, it becomes harder and harder for her to know who to trust. She becomes incredibly paranoid and the reader is left to wonder if all these dangers she is seeing are all in her head.

As Daisy becomes more and more paranoid, the story itself begins to feel frenetic. The pace almost becomes as frantic as Daisy’s mind is, only slowing down towards the end when things begin to be explained.

Baron does a very good job of making us wonder just who is telling the truth. Small clues are dropped through words and actions that hint at bigger plots behind the scenes.

While the story itself is a bit slow to start, I encourage readers to hang in there and keep going. When the story picks up, it picks up fast and pulls you along with it. And personally, I cannot wait to see what happens next.

Provided for Review: Shadow of The Fox by Julie Kagawa

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

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.

Now, a new age is about to dawn.

Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.

There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.

With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself. (via Goodreads)

The story of collecting items to summon a magical creature and grant a wish is a trope that has been used throughout history. The incredibly popular manga/anime ‘Dragonball’ uses it to great success. Even the movie ‘The Fifth Element’ uses a variation of the trope.

Shadow of the Fox can be added to the list. Based heavily on Japanese mythology, culture, and traditions, it is a version set in what to some will be a familiar land.

Kagawa has done an admirable job creating a world that is both familiar and unique. She has taken known Japanese folklore and twisted it just so. In the characters she has created, readers will recognize the physical and personality type traits that are seen so often in modern Japanese storytelling.

While the book is aimed towards almost all readers, I personally think those who have at least some knowledge of Japan and it’s stories will enjoy Shadow of the Fox more. As someone who is a very big manga/anime fan, I enjoyed seeing the mixture. Not everyone will like it though and some might even find it confusing.

Manga and anime fans – especially those who enjoyed titles like ‘Naruto’ or ‘Dragonball’ – will likely devour this book. Personally, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Provided for Review: The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

This book was provided by the kind folks at NetGalley. Thank you!

The Bird King is the story of Fatima, the only remaining Circassian concubine to the sultan, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker.

Hassan has a secret–he can draw maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan’s gift as sorcery and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls? (via Goodreads)

The Bird King is one of those novels that offers a unique mix of truth and fantasy. Set in 1491, it is the story of a young concubine and her witnessing of the fall of the sultanate and the only life she had ever known. When her dear friend is threatened with death, she makes a bold and daring choice. In their travels they meet both friend and foe, as well as some who are both.

The shift of story from almost non-fiction to fantasy is quite smooth. Wilson weaves a tale of friendship and love, of loss and betrayal, and does it in a way that is very realistic. She incorporates non-human characters in a natural way, having them interact with the human characters that is very believable.

One of the story points that really stuck out to me was how Hassan’s sexuality is treated. It is explained that he prefers the company of men and has no interest in women. Aside from the few Christian’s they meet, no one cares who Hassan lays with. Also, the fact that he is homosexual isn’t treated as a big deal, it’s a part of who he is just as much as his ability to draw maps of places he hasn’t seen.

Fatima loves Hassan just as Hassan loves Fatima in return, however they do not end up a couple at the end of the book. Their love is the love of good friends and the fact that it doesn’t change nor is it made light of that I found enjoyable.

On the whole, I greatly enjoyed reading The Bird King. There is some subject matter that some might find triggering, but I believe that the majority of readers will like this book as much as I have. I heartily recommend it to all my readers.

Provided for Review: The Fairy’s Tale (The Pathways Tree #1) by F. D. Lee

This book was provided for review from the author via Facebook. Thank you!

Enter the world behind the stories, where ‘Happy Endings’, ‘True Love’ and ‘Rags To Riches’ are all just a means to an end – and a promotion. Here we meet Bea, a cabbage fairy who dreams of being so much more. She wants to be a Fiction Management Executive (godmother division), but no one at the General Administration will take her seriously – until now.

One day a strange, solemn Plotter pulls Bea into his office and offers her the chance to make her Dreams Come True. All she has to do is finish a straightforward story by getting a poor girl married to a rich man. Simple. Easy. It practically tells itself. Except Bea soon realizes that the heroine doesn’t love the hero, and the so-called ugly sister is much more important than the Plot suggests. Plus, she’s pretty certain that there’s an actual, real life villain in the mix – and why is it so important that the Plots always stay the same, anyway?

Bea soon discovers there’s something rotten behind the simplicity of the stories, and suddenly she is faced with a choice, and it seems whichever option she picks will be wrong: Will she commit treason by changing the story and saving her characters from their endings, or follow the Plot and save herself from the sinister Redaction Department?

After all, what kind of fairy godmother really cares about true love?  (via Goodreads)

I don’t think there is a person around today who wasn’t raised on fairy tales in one aspect or another in their childhood. No matter what our background, we were all exposed to these tales as children and as adults. And while the stories themselves might have different casts of characters and different settings, the end results were almost always the same with lessons learned and love found.

The Fairy’s Tale takes us behind the scenes of the stories; asking the question, what if the events in the fairy tales weren’t completely random like they seem? What if the events were carefully plotted out as part of some grander Plot? Who are the individuals doing the plotting? And lastly, what happens when the so-called “characters” don’t want to be part of the story?

Lee has penned a top notch fairy tale within a fairy tale with The Fairy’s Tale. (Try saying that 5 times fast!) Her characters are well thought out and well rounded and each adds their own little piece to the story as a whole. Many questions are posed and while some are answered, there are just as many that have an answer alluded to but are not answered out right either. This keeps the reader guessing and keeps them reading.

There are an additional two books to the series that will hopefully answer the questions left dangling and wrap up any loose threads.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Fairy’s Tale and am grateful for the opportunity given to me. I heartily recommend this tale to my readers and will be looking forward to more from the author!

The Fall of the House of Cabal (Johannes Cabal #5) by Jonathan L. Howard

Johannes Cabal, a necromancer of some little infamy, has come into possession of a vital clue that may lead him to his ultimate goal: a cure for death. The path is vague, however, and certainly treacherous as it takes him into strange territories that, quite literally, no one has ever seen before. The task is too dangerous to venture upon alone, so he must seek assistance, comrades for the coming travails.

So assisted–ably and otherwise–by his vampiric brother, Horst, and by the kindly accompaniment of a criminologist and a devil, he will encounter ruins and diableries, mystery and murder, the depths of the lowest pit and a city of horrors. London, to be exact.

Yet even though Cabal has risked such peril believing he understands the dangers he faces, he is still underestimating them. He is walking into a trap of such arcane complexity that even the one who drew him there has no idea of its true terrors. As the snare closes slowly and subtly around them, it may be that there will be no survivors at all. (via Goodreads)

The Johannes Cabal series is one I have read and enjoyed from the first book to (sadly) the last. Like any series there were books I enjoyed more than others. And like most series I’ve read, I am sad to see this one end.

The one thing I have loved most in reading the Cabal series is watching how Johannes has grown as an individual. From the self-centered, self-serving necromancer in the first book, to the man who willingly gives his brother an incredibly valuable gift; Johannes has come a long way. And with Howard’s writing, his growth is believable.

In this fifth and final book, Cabal believes he has found the one thing he has searched for for numerous years – a way to bring the dead back to life. An esoteric tome of unknown origin promises treasures untold and though Johannes has his doubts, it is the thought of what he could do if the stories were true that drives him on.

And drive him on it does, to a rather fire-y conclusion.

I am sad that this is the final book in the Cabal series because I have greatly enjoyed it. Fortunately, Howard has left the ending open so it is possible that one day he will return to the Cabal brothers. I certainly hope he does.

Provided for Review: The Harbinger by Candace Wondrack

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

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Back in the sixties, the gateways between Earth and the Second – a land of myth and magic – were thrown open. Humanity grew and changed accordingly and eventually the Division (along with the Academy) was formed. The Division handles what most law enforcement can’t, such as the smuggling of goods between worlds. And to join the Division, one must first graduate from the Academy.

Faith is in her fifth year of the Academy. With two years left until she graduates, she is intent on joining the Division and following in her mother’s footsteps. The one path she doesn’t intend to follow though is her mother’s – and grandmother’s – awful luck with men.

On a class field trip to the Second, Faith is startled to learn her path is taking her on a far different journey. She is the Harbinger, the first female to take the title, and it is her destiny to fight the Dread King. To the death.

Faith is going to have to step up and be a hero. Whether she likes it or not.

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I’ve followed Candace on Twitter for some time, but this is the first time I’ve actually read any of her books. Because of this I decided to go in blind and not look at what others have thought of the book before reading it myself. And while some might think this foolish, I’m rather glad I did because while numerous other reviewers enjoyed The Harbinger, sadly I did not.

The world that Candace has created is an interesting one. It is one where the mythical creatures of fairy tales are real to an extent. Creatures such as the fae, shapeshifters, etc. They all inhabit this fictional world even though they do not always live side by side peacefully.

Unfortunately, my issue comes with the actual characters themselves.

The main character, Faith, I found quite hard to like. She is brash to the point of recklessness, a trait that gets her in trouble both before the book begins as well as during it. She does not think her actions through, does not care for consequences, and certainly doesn’t seem to care if what she does causes anyone around her to be hurt. She also claims that she does not want to be a hero, yet she is working towards being just that. Graduates of the Academy and members of the Division are protectors, heroes in a sense. If Faith does not want to be a hero, as she claims, then what is she even doing there?

Another person I had issue with was another main character; Weylon Lightfoot, an elf Faith meets during her school trip to the Second. From his introduction he claims to not like humans, and yet it doesn’t take long for him to get rather close to Faith. I found myself questioning his actions on more than one occasion, something he himself doesn’t seem to do.

Two other male characters are introduced at the very end of the book, and it is my understanding that they too will be drawn to Faith. That in the end, she will have to contend not only with her status as a Chosen One, but also with the small harem she gathers.

As fascinating as the world is that Candace has created for The Harbinger series, I unfortunately do not see myself reading the rest of it. For me, the characters were hard to relate to and I was rolling my eyes in exasperation on more than one occasion. That does not mean I don’t recommend this one to my readers – my opinion is only one among many. I do advise my readers to at the very least try this particular book. Perhaps they will enjoy it more than me.

Strange Practice (Dr. Greta Helsing #1) by Vivian Shaw

Dr. Greta Helsing has inherited her family’s highly specialized, and highly peculiar, family practice. In her consulting rooms she treats the otherworldly citizens of London for a wide variety of worldly ills – vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies – just to name a few. And although she has trouble making ends meet, Greta wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Until a sect of murderous monks arrives on the scene. Killing human and supernatural persons alike. Terror has taken the city in its grip and Greta will have to team up with some strange friends to stop the cult, save her practice, and her life.

Strange Practice was a book I came across while browsing over in Google Play. It was one of those “Recommended for You” type of things. Honestly, I enjoy browsing those areas just to see how accurate – or how totally off base – the recommendations can be. Sometimes I come across a title that interests me, while other times I’m left scratching my head.

Strange Practice is the first book in the Dr. Greta Helsing series and in it we are introduced to the titular character. Greta is a 30-something medical doctor, who after numerous years of study and practice in London’s hospitals, has taken over her father’s practice. It is something she has wanted to do since she was a child as her family has a history of dealing with some of the more unique individuals that walk the city streets. Taking care of others – especially those of the supernatural sort – is something she loves to do and is something she is quite good at.

On the whole, the actual plot of Strange Practice is a tad cliched. A group of young theology students find forgotten information about a long dead sect of Templar Knights. At first, they reenact the rituals for love of the pomp and circumstance, they are not serious in their efforts. That is until an odd, disembodied voice begins to compel them to take things a step further. To rid the world of those deemed “unclean” and “monstrous”.

What sets Strange Practice apart are the characters themselves. Whether human or supernatural – of which there are quite a few mentioned – they are each written in a way that makes them believable. There are moments of joy and of pain, of anger and of self doubt, of surprise and of relief. While the majority of this attention is given to the main characters, even the background characters like Greta’s staff in her clinic, are given this treatment (pun intended). Brief mentions of them as actual people are made so when something happens, we the reader react just as the other characters do. We hurt when they hurt, and at one point even cry when they do.

Though the action can be a bit clunky at times, and some scenes tend to verge in to more morose territory, overall Strange Practice is an enjoyable read. With well written and well rounded characters, it’s easy to overlook it’s small drawbacks. Shaw has given the readers a strong female character that I believe many can relate to. I recommend this one to my readers and hope they enjoy it as much as I have.

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.