The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

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In the pantheon of Norse gods, there is none like Loki. With a reputation for trickery and mischief, as well as causing as many problems as he solves, Loki is a god like no other. As he is demon born his fellow gods view him with deep suspicion and from some even hatred. He realizes they will never accept him as one of their own and for this he vows deepest revenge.

From his birth in the realm of Chaos to his recruitment by Odin; from his days as the go to guy in Asgard to his fall from grace and eventually Ragnarok – this is the unofficial story of the Nine Realm’s ultimate trickster.

Allow me to preface this review dear readers with a small note – this is NOT the Marvel Universe Loki. This Loki is the original, taken from the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda. Readers expecting the Loki made famous by Tom Hiddleston will unfortunately be sorely disappointed.

That is not to say this Loki isn’t as charming or fascinating; he is those things and so much more. He is smart, funny, quick-witted, and at times even heartbreaking. When he is brought in to Asgard’s halls by Odin, all Loki wishes is to be considered among its brethren. When he isn’t and is actively shunned by the Aesir and Vanir, he decides his only course is revenge.

At times extremely funny, at other times achingly sad, The Gospel of Loki is a very entertaining read. When a book starts with a cast of characters that reminds me of one of my favorite books (Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman), I know I am in for a treat. And with The Gospel of Loki, I was not disappointed.

It is quite obvious Harris has done her research for this book. There is a love for the characters that is obvious and a high regard for them as well. All of the well known Loki tales are here, from his birthing of Slepneir to Thor’s adventures in cross-dressing. Told in first person from Loki’s POV, it brings a breath of fresh air to these already well known tales.

Readers familiar with the original Norse tales are certain to enjoy this book. Those who are more familiar with the Marvel version of Loki and are looking to expand their view of the character are likely to enjoy it as well. Personally, I found it an enjoyable read and a fascinating look in to an already fascinating character.

The Chasing Graves Trilogy (Chasing Graves #1-3) by Ben Galley

Welcome to Araxes, where getting murdered is just the start of your problems.

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.

See what I thought of the first book of the Chasing Graves trilogy by reading my review here.

Trigger Warning: Depictions of murder and other general violence, mentions of decaying individuals

You know a main character is going to be an interesting one when his first scene has him shitting in a box purely out of spite. Such is our introduction to Caltro Basalt, the narrator and main character of Ben Galley’s Chasing Graves trilogy. Much like I said in my original review, Caltro is a prick. He isn’t the nicest guy but then again none of the characters in the trilogy are very nice. Every one has their own agenda and are willing to do whatever it takes to see it to the end.

The world building that Galley started in the first book of the series continued in the second and third books. We the reader are introduced to more areas not only of the great city Araxes but of surrounding areas as well. We are introduced to more characters, more people who either support Caltro and Nilith or want to see them fail.

Again, like in the first book, the second and third books are peppered with hints. Small asides and throwaway lines that at first make no sense but give the reader a clue that perhaps there is something bigger going on. All of these little things do add up in the end, culminating in a battle that is for the ages.

Because the events of the Chasing Graves trilogy happen in so short a time – just over a month – it is probably a good idea to read them back to back. Of course it isn’t necessary and the reader can space them out however they wish, I just found it to be a more enjoyable reading experience delving in to the second (and third) book with the previous ones still fresh in my mind.

Just as I enjoyed reading Chasing Graves, I enjoyed reading Grim Solace and Breaking Chaos (books 2 and 3 respectively). I recommend it to all my readers, especially those who like me have an interest in Egyptian mythology.

Provided for Review: Burden of Truth (After the Green Withered #2) by Kristen Ward

I thought I understood the truth.

I thought I knew the whole story.

But no one really did.

In a country defined by scarcity and control, Enora Byrnes leaves the watchful eyes and secret agendas of the powerful and enters a society living on the fringes. Life beneath the surface brings her face to face with a world struggling to survive. Armed with knowledge and honed into a weapon for the resistance, she fights alongside those whom society deems rebels and uses her skills to steal a secret kept hidden from humanity. Enora becomes what she has hunted: a traitor.

As Enora embarks on a fateful quest, will she find the one thing that could give her world hope or a truth that is far worse than she ever imagined? 

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

Burden of Truth is the sequel to After the Green Withered. Read my review for the first book here.

Picking up almost immediately after where After the Green Withered left off, Burden of Truth picks up the story of Enora Byrnes as she tries to learn more about the people behind the DMC.

Having decided to join the resistance, Enora is faced with numerous difficult decisions and must deal with the sometimes heart-breaking consequences. It is not an easy path she and Springer have decided to take.

Much like with the first book, Burden of Truth is a fast paced and multi faceted story. Many of the same characters from the first book return with a few new ones introduced along the way. Time has passed for everyone and it hasn’t always been kind.

Enora continues to agonize over her choices, again and again saying she has blood on her hands for the things she has done. Compared to what other characters have done over the course of the two books (and even beforehand), Enora’s so called sins are a mere drop in the bucket.

Readers looking for a happy ending where Enora and Springer somehow defeat the “evil” DMC should look elsewhere. The ending of Burden of Truth is a truthful one, just not a happy one. Considering the world that Ward has created in her novels, it is also the only plausible one.

As much as I enjoyed reading Burden of Truth, it was a difficult book to read at times. Simply because the base premise of the story is relatable. It is so easy to picture a future as described and it is frightening.

Provided for Review: The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

I’m embarrassed, still, by how long it took me to notice. Everything was right there in the open, right there in front of me, but it still took me so long to see the person I had married.

It took me so long to hate him.

Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be.

And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband.

Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and both Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up.

Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty.

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

The basic premise of The Echo Wife is quite good. Evelyn Caldwell is an award winning scientist, her work with cloning is second to none. Unfortunately, her awards comes with a cost – namely, her marriage to Nathan. When Evelyn suspects Nathan of being unfaithful, she hires a private investigator to discover the truth. The truth is something Evelyn never would have expected; Nathan is indeed having an affair and the other woman is an exact duplicate of Evelyn herself.

For such a promising premise and such an intriguing cover, sadly The Echo Wife does not deliver. On more than one occasion I contemplated actually not finishing this book and writing a short review saying just that. However, because I was curious as to how it would end I continued to read and did finish the book.

For me, the majority of the problems I saw with The Echo Wife come from the main character herself. The story is told from Evelyn’s point of view with all her internal thoughts and feelings. And she is a mess. She is almost always upset by something, either from something someone did (as when Martine tidied up Evelyn’s townhouse) or from something someone did not do (such as her co-workers not noticing she was upset despite her keeping her feelings to herself). Evelyn comes across as self-righteous and overly emotional and that became tiring after a while.

Overall, while I did enjoy reading The Echo Wife it was also a struggle. Would I recommend it to my readers? Yes, provided they take my advice and take everything in the book with a healthy grain of salt.

Provided for Review: Ink & Sigil (Ink & Sigil #1) by Kevin Hearne

Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white moustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails–and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with magically enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae.

But he is also cursed. Anyone who hears his voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for Al, so he can only communicate through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in peculiar freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all the while trying to crack the secret of his curse.

But when his latest apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead in his Glasgow flat, Al discovers evidence that Gordie was living a secret life of crime. Now Al is forced to play detective–while avoiding actual detectives who are wondering why death seems to always follow Al. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take him through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive.

This book was provided for review via sweepstakes by Goodreads. Many thanks!

Trigger Warning: General violence. Mentions of trafficking, both human and otherworldly.

Ink & Sigil is the first book by Kevin Hearne in the series by the same name. Some readers might recognize Hearne’s name from the Iron Druid series. Others might be new to Hearne’s writing and his unique style.

Ink & Sigil takes place in a modern day world where the pen is quite literally mightier than the sword. With the right inks and the right written characters a person can accomplish almost anything. Heal wounds. Gain super strength (albeit only for a short while). Even alter another person’s mind. The art is heavily protected and Al MacBharrais in only one of a handful of practitioners.

As with his Iron Druid series, with Ink & Sigil Hearne manages to fuse fantasy and reality in to a very entertaining read. In its pages (virtual or otherwise) we are introduced to Al MacBharrais, who thought he might bristle at the term is a hipster through and through with his penchant for unique fashion and even more unique drinks. We are also introduced to Nadia, who works as Al’s accountant in his print shop but also moonlights as a pit fighter. Rounding out the trio is Buck Foi, a foul mouthed hobgoblin who loves “Your Mom” jokes.

Since this is the first book of the series, the universe and its rules must be spelt out for the reader. In Ink & Sigil this is generally done through flashbacks though on a few occasions Al explains something to Buck since he is new to the human realm.

In the genre of urban fantasy, authors must tread a fine line. They must combine the real and the fantastical in a manner that is both plausible and entertaining. Relying on too much of one or the other shatters the illusion and can be disappointing to a reader. Kevin Hearne has proven that once again he has the ability to walk that line and create a world that is so like and yet unlike our own.

Fans of Hearne’s other works will likely enjoy this book if they haven’t read it already. Likewise the same can be said for fans of urban fantasy. Personally, I really enjoyed reading Ink & Sigil and look forward to further adventures.

It Devours: A Welcome to Night Vale Novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

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Nilanjana Sikdar is an outsider to the small town of Night Vale. Working beside the town’s top scientist Carlos, her guiding principles are fact and logic. These principles are put to the question when Carlos gives her a unique assignment; investigate the strange rumblings and disappearances that have been occurring around town.

Not wanting to disappoint her boss, Nilanjana follows the clues to the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God – and to Darryl, one of the congregation’s most devout followers. Grappling with her beliefs as well as her growing attraction to Darryl, she begins to suspect there is more to the congregation that meets the eye. And that they are planning a special ceremony that could threaten the lives of every person in town.

Welcome to Night Vale is a currently ongoing podcast that mimics the style of NPR and small town talk radio. The difference being that Night Vale is not your typical town. Strange and mysterious events happen aplenty and the town is populated with a wide variety of individuals – from a mysterious glow cloud (all hail) to a literal five headed dragon and from numerous humans of all walks of life to some who are mostly human. And for the most part, the citizens of Night Vale get along well enough.

The reader who decides to pick up It Devours should have some prior knowledge about Welcome to Night Vale. While they don’t need to be fully caught up on the podcast, some knowledge about the town and characters is essential. The novel itself focuses on two original characters – Nilanjana Sikdar and Darryl Sanchez – but other characters such as Cecil and Carlos do make appearances. There are also references to the hooded figures, the black helicopters, and the Smiling God – all of which have been referenced before in the podcast.

This aside, It Devours is an interesting book. The two main characters come from opposite side of a unique spectrum. Nilanjana believes in science – that we should question everything and always seek the truth. Darryl believes in his religion – that we should question nothing and should believe the truths given to us. Naturally they butt heads but they both eventually realize they are simply different sides of the same coin. They both want the same thing even if they end up going about it in different ways.

The ideas of religion versus science are handled very well in this book. Neither is lauded above the other, neither is declared “right”. And the individuals who proclaim that their way is the right and only way are actually shown the error of their ways. Whether it be by being eaten by a giant sand worm or by realizing that they are in fact the creator of the tremors that are decimating the city.

The characters themselves are also presented in an uncommon manner. Very little is dedicated to their actual physical appearance. Instead, the reader is encouraged to get to know Nilanjana and Darryl by their words; their thoughts and actions dictating the kind of person they are. The same can be said of all the characters of Night Vale. So little is known about what they physically look like, the only exception being we know that Carlos has “perfect hair”. This allows the reader to imagine themselves or any person in any of the roles.

In general, the average reader could possibly enjoy It Devours. While knowledge of the universe via the podcast does make the read more enjoyable, the opposite could also be true. By reading the book one becomes interested in the universe and seeks out the podcast. Either way, I enjoyed It Devours and recommend it to my own readers.

Provided for Review: Lionhearts (Nottingham #2) by Nathan Makaryk

All will be well when King Richard returns . . . but King Richard has been captured.

To raise the money for his ransom, every lord in England is raising taxes, the French are eyeing the empty throne, and the man they called, “Robin Hood,” the man the Sherriff claims is dead, is everywhere and nowhere at once.

He’s with a band of outlaws in Sherwood Forest, raiding guard outposts. He’s with Nottingham’s largest gang, committing crimes to protest the taxes. He’s in the lowest slums of the city, conducting a reign of terror against the city’s most vulnerable. A hero to some, a monster to others, and an idea that can’t simply be killed.

But who’s really under the hood?

Content Warning: Pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. Profanity (so much profanity), violence, murder, rape (mention of and offscreen), necrophilia (mention of), theft. Aside from bestialities, this book has it all.

Many thanks to Netgalley and the author for providing Lionhearts for review!

The story of Robin Hood and his band of outlaws is one that has become so ingrained that one often forgets that at least some of it is based on truth. King Richard really was captured and held for ransom and in order to pay his ransom every English lord raised taxes much to the people’s dismay. And while bandits and outlaws likely did roam Sherwood Forest at the time, that is where truth and fiction diverge.

First of all, I did not realize Lionhearts was a sequel. Because it was not described as such on Netgalley’s website, I went in thinking it was either a standalone book or the first book in a possible series. That it is the second book and the book Nottingham comes before it could possibly make a difference when reading.

Secondly, this book is violent and some parts are not for the squeamish. A trigger or content warning of some kind would have been welcome. While I am not the most squeamish of readers, there were a few scenes that even I found difficult to stomach. Readers who are familiar with the content of Game of Thrones will have an idea of the kind of sometimes over the top violence that Lionhearts contains.

In many ways it is obvious that Makaryk was influenced by the wildly popular Game of Thrones series when writing Lionhearts. Each chapter is dedicated solely to an individual character and their actions at a specific time and place. At the beginning of each chapter we are given the name of who we are following and exactly where they are. We then follow them as they negotiate the countless plots and subplots as well as the very real danger that surrounds each person.

To sum things up, Lionhearts is not for everyone. The story is dark and violent, the characters are often cruel. At over 500 pages it can be a bit much for even the most stalwart of readers. Readers who are looking for a retelling of the Robin Hood myth should be careful because this is not an easy read.

Mr. Malcolm’s List by Suzanne Allain

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an arrogant bachelor insistent on a wife who meets the strictest of requirements–deserves his comeuppance.

The Honorable Jeremy Malcolm is searching for a wife, but not just any wife. He’s determined to elude the fortune hunters and find a near-perfect woman, one who will meet the qualifications on his well-crafted list. But after years of searching, he’s beginning to despair of finding this paragon. And then Selina Dalton arrives in town…

Selina, a vicar’s daughter of limited means and a stranger to high society, is thrilled when her friend Julia invites her to London.  Until she learns it’s part of a plot to exact revenge on Mr. Malcolm. Selina is reluctant to participate in Julia’s scheme, especially after meeting the irresistible Mr. Malcolm, who seems very different from the arrogant scoundrel of Julia’s description.

But when Mr. Malcolm begins judging Selina against his unattainable standards, Selina decides that she has qualifications of her own. And if he is to meet them he must reveal the real man behind…Mr. Malcolm’s List. 

Mr. Malcolm’s List is one of those books that I would advertise as a fun and fluffy beach read. It’s one of those books that has a decent enough plot, the characters aren’t the worst, and it’s overall fairly enjoyable.

That is, as long as you’re okay with a Regency romance that isn’t quite Regency era and characters that while they try to be endearing also make one want to slap someone silly.

The actual writing for Mr. Malcolm’s List isn’t too bad but it is a bit basic. As I was reading it I got the feeling that Ms. Allain was going off some kind of checklist as to what a good Regency romance should contain. And all the points are there – riding in a hackney, visiting family/friends in the country, a masquerade ball, at least one misunderstanding between characters. Plus add in that while the story is set during the Regency era, it doesn’t feel like it. The characters speech and mannerisms are far too modern when compared to their actual historical counterparts.

As I said above the characters in Mr. Malcolm’s List aren’t the worst but neither are they very good. Selina is very wishy-washy and only in the final third of the book does she seem to actually grow a spine. Julia, who is supposedly Selina’s friend from school, is an awful brat and is almost unrecognizable by the end of the book. Her falling in love with Henry (and he with her) is so sudden and out of left field that it felt very out of character for both of them. As for the titular Malcolm himself, he had his moments but often came across as a bully. Certainly not the kind of person someone like Selina would fall for.

At roughly 200 pages, Mr. Malcolm’s List is a pretty quick read. Perfect for poolside or on the beach where light fluffy stories are an ideal fit. I can’t readily recommend this book to my readers but neither can I tell them to stay far away. All I can say is that it isn’t a perfect book and for some that is good enough.

Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta

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Global warming has changed the surface of the globe and its politics. Wars are now fought over water and China is a ruling state. It rules over the majority of what was known as Europe, including the old Scandinavian Union where Noria Kaitio lives.

Noria is following in her father’s footsteps; learning to become a tea master with all the responsibility it entails. Tea masters are keepers of old ways and of great secrets – the greatest being the source of hidden water that once served the whole village.

Secrets, however, almost never stay that way for long.

Memory of Water was a very interesting read. So often we do not realize how vital something is until that thing is taken away, in this instance water. It is the stuff life and is kept under strict control.

Like the water that is so precious in Noria’s world, it is mimicked in Itäranta’s writing style. Words and emotions ebb and flow; sometimes running smoothly and other times crashing down abruptly. Noria is in a constant battle with herself and with the government she has come to fear.

Memory of Water is a quick and somewhat satisfying read. The ending is not quite happy and open ended enough for the reader to consider what likely happens next. Set in an interesting world, I would enjoy seeing it revisited sometime in the future in a possible sequel.

A Dark Anatomy (Cragg & Fidelis Mystery #1) by Robin Blake

The year is 1740.

George II is on the throne but England’s remoter provinces remain largely a law unto themselves.

In Lancashire a grim discovery has been made: a Squire’s wife, Dolores Brockletower, lies in the woods above her home, Garlick Hall, her throat brutally slashed.

Called to the scene, Coroner Titus Cragg finds the Brockletower household awash with rumor and suspicion. He enlists the help of his astute young friend, doctor Luke Fidelis, to throw light on the case. But this is a world in which forensic science is in its infancy, and policing hardly exists. Embarking on their first gripping investigation, Cragg and Fidelis are faced with the superstition of witnesses, obstruction by local officials, and denunciations from the Squire himself. 

Long time readers of this blog will likely have realized by now that the majority of what I read falls in to the fiction category. And of those quite a few fall under historical fiction. It is a genre I greatly enjoy and one I enjoy finding new authors in.

Sadly though, I do not believe I will be adding Robin Blake’s Cragg & Fidelis series to my list.

Like most mystery novels, A Dark Anatomy opens with a grisly murder. Dolores Brockletower has been found in the woods near her home. Her throat has been brutally slashed but other than that she is untouched. Her fine clothes, her jewelry, all is as it was when she was last seen leaving Garlick Hall for her morning ride.

While this is certainly an intriguing enough lead up, sadly the follow through is rather lacking. Told from perspective of lawyer and coroner Titus Cragg, we the reader are subjected to long stretches of novel that more often that not have little affect on the overall story. While Cragg is supposedly a well renowned lawyer, he spends a good deal of the narrative stumbling from one person to the next. The clues are so blatant that any reader paying attention would likely have figured things out in the first fifty pages.

Though the prose itself is at often dry and bland, what I truly found upsetting was the way the characters themselves were handled. Generally the first book in a series is used to introduce recurring characters to readers. To endear them to the reader so that they care about what happens to the characters in subsequent books. This unfortunately was not done very well in A Dark Anatomy. Instead of introducing us to the main characters of Titus Cragg and Dr. Luke Fidelis, rather they are plunked down in front of the reader. We are given little to no information on them and as such it is hard to care about them in any way.

I will give Blake points for illustrating just how deaths were investigated in England before the advent of a true police force. When local persons were often forced to play multiple roles. That in itself was interesting. The rest of the book though? Sadly, not so much.