Provided for Review: A Prayer for the Necromancer (The Shinigami Tomes #1) by C. Wain

This book was provided for review by the kind folks at Netgalley

Blood… Fear… Death… Love…

The legends of old tell of a primordial Creator. Merciful and lonely he was when he breathed new life into the barren womb of Oar, the everlasting universe. The Creator’s very essence and mana stood silently for stability and life.

Amidst gods and mages, the warming darkness of a mysterious man enshrouds the life of a young village girl. What happens when common beliefs hide the true evil in light? What happens when a rogue and despised necromancer sacrifices his own flesh for the sake of others?

A Prayer for the Necromancer is the story of Kaze Niss. A necromancer living in disgrace, feared and hated by many. He is on a dark path, searching for a way to avenge the wrongful death of his father. Travelling this path has so far led to death and destruction, but it has done little to deter Kaze. He will have his revenge.

Personally, I found A Prayer for the Necromancer to be one of those books that has an interesting premise but fails in the execution. Kaze is supposed to be the kind of character that has a gray morality, yet I found him to be quite unlikable. He is selfish and even when we are meant to be rooting for him, it was difficult for me to do so.

Wain’s style of writing was also troublesome. Many of the same words and phrases are used continuously throughout the story. One particular word that Wain seems to like to use is “giggle”. From young female characters to older male characters, they all giggle. Personally, I found this a bit off putting since no man I know giggles. Chuckles? Yes. Laughs out loud? Sure. Giggles? No.

For me, A Prayer for the Necromancer is very much a diamond in the rough. The overall premise and world building is interesting and given some more work via editors and such, it could be a must read. In time it could do well, it just needs a bit more polish.

Provided for Review – The Lady in the Cellar: Murder, Scandal, and Insanity in Victorian Bloomsbury by Sinclair McKay

Number 4, Euston Square was a home like many in Victorian London. A boarding house, it was respectable, well-kept, and hospitable to those staying there. Yet beneath that veneer there seemed to be a darkness lurking.

In early May 1879, the corpse of a woman is discovered in the coal cellar. An investigation discovers she is an elderly woman named Matilda Hacker, a former resident of the boarding house. Questions are immediately raised. How did she die? How did she come to be buried in the coal cellar? And most importantly, who could have killed her?

In the investigation that followed, every resident of the home was scrutinized and more than a few secrets were brought to light. Someone in that house had killed Matilda Hacker and someone knew the truth.

I would like to thank NetGalley and the publishers for a copy of this ebook in exchange for a review.

The Lady in the Cellar is a true story. In the early summer of 1879, a body was discovered in the coal cellar of a boarding house. Almost every person who was there was a potential suspect. It was a story the newspapers grabbed on to, especially once more and more details started to come to light. And in a time when the so called ‘middle class’ were coming in to their own and the lines between classes were sometimes blurred, there were an abundance of details to titillate and delight.

The case of the murder of Matilda Hacker is a bizarre one. And it is one that the author covers in great detail. At times it feels like McKay is trying to reach a page count with their writing as there are long passages going in to details that nothing to do with the case itself. While it can be interesting to read about some of history about the family that owned the boarding house, with no actual relevancy, it leaves one to wonder why it was included.

Some of the other reviews I have seen where the reader did not finish the book lament the fact that McKay’s writing can be a bit tedious at times. It is an opinion I must agree with. Attention to detail is one thing, but to inundate a reader with information can be a it much. The actual trial and its aftermath take up roughly half of the book. And it is this half of the book that is the most interesting. It is slogging through the first half of the book and getting to the ‘good bits’ however, that can be difficult.

It is very obvious that McKay did a great amount of research in writing The Lady in the Cellar. The book is chock full of information and little details to draw the reader in. And while the actual case of the murder of Ms. Hacker was never solved, McKay gives a plausible ‘what if?’ scenario towards the end.

While I am sure there are those readers who dislike true crime books for one reason or another, I urge my readers to give this one a try when it hits shelves. In a day and age of sensational media such as ours, it is little wonder that the case of the lady in the cellar was so fascinating to the reading public of the day. It is my hope that modern day readers will enjoy it as well.

Corpse Rider by Tim Curran

Poor Christina is young and alone. Her every relationship seems cursed, each one slowly turning to poison. The only one that doesn’t seem to have soured is the one with her co-worker.

Christina is also at times kind. When visiting her mother’s grave, she notices a nearby grave left derelict. Thinking she is helping, she pulls the weeds growing around and tidies the tombstone up a bit.

Her simple act of kindness causes someone to notice and Christina realizes she is no longer alone. For what was laid to rest beneath that stone has attached itself to her and to it she will be the perfect wife. And, God help her, the perfect mother.

Corpse Rider by Tim Curran is the perfect creepy story to start off the month of October with. It is a short story – more a novella than a novel – and is therefore a fairly quick read.

This is the first book by Curran that I have read, but judging from his titles on GoodReads, he has a flair for the strange. His books run the gambit and it looks like his readers love them.

Corpse Rider is very much a psychological book. Written in a way that makes the reader wonder just how much is real and how much is in Christina’s mind. Did she really see a figure in black on that hot, sunny day in the cemetery? Was there really a hearse driven by that same figure at her work a few days later? As Christina is the only one seeing these things, one cannot help but wonder if perhaps she is going insane.

At times, it certainly feels that way. Every one around her is skeptical as there simply isn’t any proof. No proof until the very, very end.

I won’t go too far in to what happens next because to do so will ruin the ending for any one who decides to read this. Personally, I recommend it to my readers. Especially to those who like a good, creepy read. So grab your favorite hot drink, a warm fuzzy blanket, and curl up with this great thriller.

 

Provided for Review – Saving Death by R. L. Endean

Two tortured souls. One unthinkable love.

Seventeen year old Ava is nearly drowning in her grief. After the death of her mother in a horrific car accident, she is set to live with her father on his farm. Away from old friends and the home she knew, she must try to start over.

On her first day there, Ava meets Sam – a young man hired by her father to work on his farm. Sam is handsome and seemingly close in age, so it seems only natural that Ava is attracted to him. But Sam seems to have his own secrets and there is more to him than meets the eye.

Getting closer to Sam not only brings a rush of emotions to young Ava’s heart, but also pitches her in to a strange world lurking just beneath the surface. And brings to light truths that might have been better left alone.

Saving Death was provided for review, attained by replying to a Facebook ad.

Saving Death is the story of Ava, a young woman sent to live with her father and attempt to start over with a new life. She meets and makes several new friends at school but she also meets Sam. Sam doesn’t attend school and works on her father’s farm and there is something dark about him that draws Ava in. He tells her not to get close, tries to keep her at arms length, but it is obvious that he too feels an attraction. When Ava meets some of Sam’s friends and eventually learns his secret, she wonders if maybe she has gotten in over her head.

Unless you have been living under a rock or such, then surely one is at least passingly familiar with the Twilight series of novels. Young woman meets mysterious young man and so forth and so on. It was a wildly popular series of books that spawned its own series of movies and other merchandise.

Saving Death is similar to Twilight only in the most basic of premises. It is in fact So Much More.

The titular character Ava is a young woman dealing with serious depression. While this is not stated outright, it is incredibly obvious when one looks at what brings her to her father’s farm and her subsequent actions. She is practically drowning in her grief, doing the most basic of things seems like a chore. When she does go out with her new friends, she either spends the entirety of the time with her mind elsewhere or she delves head first in to the activities in a kind of frenzy to try and feel less numb.

Yes, Ava can be a little irritating at times. However, when one considers her age and her immediate past, some of her actions can be forgiven. And while she doesn’t make a complete recovery by the end of the book, she at least seems to be taking steps in the right direction.

Sam is the other main character in the book. He is the young man that Ava meets her first day on her father’s farm. While I cannot go too much in to Sam’s character lest I spoil the ending, I will say he comes across as a decent guy. While he is standoffish towards Ava at times, when they do start to become close he is respectful of her boundaries. When Ava learns that Sam followed her to a rave, she is understandably upset; and when she tells Sam that she needs time away from him to think, he gives her that time and doesn’t intrude.

The way the book ends – especially with the epilogue – hints at the possibility of more stories set in this particular universe. And oh dear reader, I hope it is true. For this universe has quite a few stories to tell; some looking back and others going forward. Characters that were only briefly introduced, some that we thought we knew – who are they really? Hopefully, time and future stories will tell.

Advertised as a Young Adult gothic romance, Saving Death is that and more. While it will certainly appeal to the older teen crowd, there is also enough to draw the more “mature” readers. Readers who love a good story, one that takes you on a roller coaster of an emotional ride, will likely love this story. It is a good thing I started this book on one of my long weekends because I tore through it in little time. I absolutely recommend this one and cannot wait to see more from the author.

A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A. Villareal

The mystery starts simply enough: a young woman is found in a ditch just outside of a small Arizona border town. The young woman is presumed to be an illegal alien and likely was met with foul play trying to cross the border. Before any clues can be found as to who brought the girl harm, her body disappears from the morgue.

To the young CDC operative called in to consult the local police, it is a bizarre medical mystery. And it is only the tip of the iceberg when more individuals start showing up in local morgues and disappearing overnight. What was seen as isolated cases of a strange virus is soon deduced to be something that no one was ready to take on.

I admit, dear reader, that I was looking forward to reading this book. With its eye catching cover and overall creepy title, I thought I would be in for an exciting thrill ride from page one.

Sadly, that was not the case.

Have you ever read a book and with every page you are just waiting – waiting – for the plot to get good? For what was teased on the cover to happen? To become so engrossed in the story itself that you forget what time it is or that you have other obligations like work and family?

While there have been several books that I have read that have been just like that, A People’s History… is sadly not one of them. There is no vampire uprising, at times there’s barely even a conflict between the humans and the vampires (who prefer to be called “gloamings”). Yes, there are minor conflicts; especially when one decides to run for public office, but on the whole there wasn’t much.

At times, reading this was almost akin to watching paint dry.

Reading about the author, it is no surprise to find that Mr. Villareal is an attorney. There is quite a bit of “lawyer speak” scattered throughout the book and there is an entire chapter devoted to the subject. What it has to do in relation to the subject of the book as a whole, I have no idea.

Unfortunately, I found A People’s History… to be bland and boring. Aside from a handful of actions scenes, there was very little to sink my teeth in to. Pardon the pun. If this is to be made in to a movie, which I have read that the story has been optioned by 20th Century Fox, then I hope they take the title and basic premise and leave the rest behind.

Don’t waste your time with this one dear readers. There are better books out there.

Graveyard Shift by Michael F. Haspil

The discovery of a blood substitute and a monumental Supreme Court ruling were two events that changed the face of the world forever. Due to these two events, vampires and other mythological creatures were able to integrate in to society. There was no longer a need for them to hide as they had done for centuries before.

Alex Menkaure is a mummy and former Egyptian pharaoh; and along with his partner Marcus, a vampire born in ancient Rome, the two once hunted evil vampires for a super-secret arm of the NSA. When the program was dissolved the two became police officers in a special unit where they continue to keep the streets safe from the monsters they hunted once before.

When bottles of tainted artificial blood begin turning up on store shelves, the already tremulous relations between humans and vampires becomes even more fragile. It soon becomes a race against time for the two detectives to find who is behind the tainted blood and what their end game is.

There are times when writing a review is the easiest thing in the world; the words just flow from my fingertips and I am (hopefully) able to get my point across when I say how much I liked or dis-liked a book. There are other times, however, where trying to write even a mediocre review is akin to pulling teeth; the words simply do not want to come and each one is a struggle.

Sadly, it seems that this particular review falls more in to the latter than the former. It has been over a week since I finished reading Graveyard Shift and still I do not know where to begin in reviewing it.

Perhaps I should start with the overall plot. Broken down, it comes across as simple enough. For countless centuries vampires and other creatures have existed behind the scenes. A recent turn of events outs them and their existence is finally able to be acknowledged. While there are many who embrace this new truth, there are those who would see things go back to the way they were; where vampires skulked in shadows and humans were afraid of them. Certainly a plot that has been used before, not just in books but in movies and television shows.

The main characters themselves, however are a completely different story. One is a centuries old vampire while the other is a millennia old mummy; both immortal in their own way. Sadly, we aren’t given much on them aside from the most basic information. Haspil spends too much time focusing on secondary characters and the surrounding events as a whole instead of giving us more with the main characters. If this were the second or even third book in a series, this wouldn’t be a problem as we would already be familiar with the two detectives.

Overall, Graveyard Shift is a fairly good book. Marketed as an urban fantasy meets film noir type of story, it certainly meets that description. Gritty and at times bloody, it might not be for the more feint of heart reader. Otherwise, this is a somewhat decent start to a series and I am curious to see more.

Hater (Hater #1) by David Moody

The world has gone mad.

A strange and sudden increase in the number of violent assaults on individuals has rocked society. The assaults are brutal and extreme; within mere seconds, normally rational people become frenzied killers. They strike without warning and kill all who cross their path. Christened ‘Haters’ by the media, there are no links between those who attack and those who are attacked.

Danny McCoyne is one such man. An average working class man, he must contend with this new world of terror. Eventually, his only choice is seek shelter, secure his family, and watch as the world outside crumbles. But when any person has the potential to become a Hater; when McCoyne locks the door, is he shutting the danger out or locking it in?

Hater is a unique novel with an interesting premise. That, sadly, is about all I can give it.

I am guessing that we, the readers, are supposed to somehow empathize with the main character Danny McCoyne. As the novel is told from his point of view, this would make sense. We connect with him in some way, and through his eyes we see the story unfold. A good idea, if only Danny weren’t such an immensely unlikable individual.

I do not want to mince words, dear reader, so I will be blunt and say Danny McCoyne is a schlub. In his own words he admits to being “a lazy bastard”, and “I know I should try harder but I just can’t be bothered.” He admits to being bounced from department to department in the three and a half years he has been with his job. He refers to his supervisor as “…sour-faced, slave-driving, unforgiving bitch…”. He either yells at or ignores his children, at times he ignores his wife. In general he is a very self centered man, caring only about himself and how unfolding events affect him.

Looking past the main character, which admittedly is difficult to do, the actual premise is an interesting one. An unknown illness, passed from person to person by unknown means, is turning ordinary people in to rampaging killers. The afflicted person suddenly and without warning becomes ultra violent, attacking whomever is near – be they a stranger or a loved one. Those who are not accosted by the ill individual describe the person’s expression as one of great fear. This is a likely explanation for the suddenness of the attacks; if the person is struck by an overwhelming fear then they are likely to lash out.

Throughout the story small hints as to the illness’ origin are dropped. Some believe it to be a kind of government experiment gone awry and the few clues given seem to point in that direction. We are of course not given the answer just yet as this is only the first part of the story. I am sure the cause behind the epidemic will be revealed in subsequent books.

As I said above, Hater is a book with a unique take on the whole “zombie” epidemic. The execution however is poor. If one can get over how irritating the main character is, they could very well enjoy this book. Pick this one up with that in mind if you feel brave.

FantasticLand by Mike Bockoven

Since it opened in the 1970’s, FantasticLand was the theme park where “Fun was guaranteed!”. Like Disney and Universal, it was a major draw for numerous visitors to the Sunshine State. But when a hurricane ravages the Florida coast and isolates the park, the employees left behind find the park anything but fun.

Five weeks later, when authorities finally find a way to rescue the survivors, they come upon something out of a horror show. Photos soon appear online of heads on spikes outside of the rides along with viscera and bones littering the gift shops. Those who see the pictures are left wondering, how could a group of mostly teenagers commit such horrible acts?

FantasticLand is an interesting read as it is presented as a kind of investigation. Each chapter is told from one person’s point of view, transcribed from the interview in to a short story in first person narrative. There is only one actual interview and that is with an individual that numerous others reference throughout the rest of the book.

Numerous reviewers have compared FantasticLand to Lord of the Flies and I find that to be a very apt comparison. In both books a disaster of some kind leaves groups of individuals stranded and hoping for eventual rescue. The differences being in the former those stranded are both male and females of various ages from teen-aged to older adults, while in the latter the stranded are all young boys. This makes a difference in how the tragedies are dealt with and perceived, but at times there is little to be seen.

In both books those who are left behind form social groups or tribes. In FantasticLand, the tribes are based on where the employees worked in the park itself. As they worked together day in and day out, they were comfortable together and as such gravitated together when times were difficult. This formation of tribes also created a kind of rivalry with the tribes battling one another over necessities like food and water – even when no such fights were necessary as there was plenty to go around.

In a way FantasticLand can be seen as a kind of think piece. So many of the characters in the book are young adults; little more than kids in the high school/college age range. Their entire lives they have had information fed to them via social media, be it on the TV or computer or cell phone. Their every move has been documented and shared and either that or their job had given them a direction to go. When they are deprived of that direction and that audience, where are they to turn?

Like the aforementioned Lord of the Flies, FantasticLand can be a difficult read at times. Not because it is badly written – quite the opposite, I found it to be quite well written and researched. It is difficult because it is very violent and a bit depressing. In reading about what these young adults do, the reader is forced to consider what they them self might do. They must consider if they would volunteer to stay behind like these characters did and how far they would be willing to go to survive.

 

Sherlock Holmes: The Legacy of Deeds by Nick Kyme

It is 1894; Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson have been summoned to a Covent Garden art gallery. Dozens of patrons lie dead in a portrait gallery, their means of death unclear.

The search for clues leads them to cross paths with a mysterious figure in black, whose amazing speed and agility make capture impossible. This same person is suspect in a second murder when the servant of a visiting Russian grand duke is found mutilated in a notorious slum. The question is what connects these two events? And how are they connected to the apparent suicide of a teacher at a nearby girls’ boarding school?

So begins a case that reveals the shadows that past misdeeds can cast and the limits the detectives can face.

As a fan of the characters Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, I am always interested in the interpretations different authors can bring. What one author does, another might not, even if both are using the same characters set in the same universe.

Such can be said about Kyne’s The Legacy of Deeds. For while the characters bear the names we readers are familiar with, at times they did not seem to be the same individuals from the original Doyle stories.

To start with, the titular character Sherlock Holmes. While he is still the brilliant detective; brooding moodily when he is bored, cold and blunt when questioning others, skilled in combat, and completely dedicated to the pursuit of justice, his softer side is more evident. Something we do not see often – if at all – in Doyle’s version. It is certainly not something I am complaining about, dear reader, but it is something I thought pertinent to point out.

John Watson has also gone through a few minor changed from the original canon. He is still loyal to Holmes, clucking over him much like a mother hen and always trying to do the right thing, yet he is a bit overly melodramatic at times. Something Holmes himself comments on towards the end of the story. This does not detract from him doing what he can to assist Holmes and Scotland Yard in following the clues to their eventual conclusion.

One thing I did find different about The Legacy of Deeds was the actual conclusion. More often than not the culprit is revealed and arrested and the case is closed. This doesn’t quite happen here. For fear of giving away the end of the story, all I can say is that there is no clear cut resolution. The ending is shrouded in shades of gray much like the foggy streets of London where the majority of the action takes place. Some readers – much like our dear Sherlock Holmes – might find this bothersome. To not have an ending to a mystery that is neat and tidy can be irksome to some.

My overall impression of The Legacy of Deeds is a favorable one. While Kyme tends to use more modern day vernacular and phrasing for his prose, he has a good handle of the characters and uses them well. Fans of the Holmes genre will likely enjoy it and add it to their bookshelves as I have.

Spot and Smudge (Spot and Smudge #1) by Robert Udulutch

The Hogan family weren’t looking to start a war. All they wanted was to move closer to grandma, maybe adopt a dog, and hopefully leave the troubles of the big city behind.

But the quaint little town has several dark secrets behind it’s shiny facade. And the strange puppies the family adopts are more than what they seem to be.

There’s a strange connection between the two orphaned puppies and the town’s criminals; and that connection is pulling both sides towards one another in what will be an epic battle. One which the Hogan family aren’t prepared to fight, much less win.

But the grit of one devoted family, like the loyalty of a pair of pups, should never be underestimated. Especially if the pups are unlike any dogs the family…or any one…has ever seen.

As a dog lover, I was intrigued by the plot of Spot and Smudge, and when the opportunity came to get an e-copy, I jumped on it. Who doesn’t like a story like the one described above?

Turns out, dear reader, that person would be me.

First of all, let me say that Spot and Smudge has a great deal of disturbing scenes. There is drug abuse, alcohol abuse, human abuse, as well as animal abuse. This is a very dark book and the story does not stray for very long in the light.

Aside from the titular dogs, the majority of the human characters are sadly one dimensional. Even the “good guys” that we are supposed to be rooting for are like this. We are given very little information about the Hogan family aside from names and the most basic of backgrounds. We are told they are wanting to “start over”, but start over from what? They are wanting to move closer to Ms. Hogan’s mother, who loses her husband before the start of the book. A certainly believable reason, but sadly, once again an idea that is never fully looked in to.

The “bad guys” are bad because we are told they are. Aside from greed there is no ulterior motive for any of them. As I was reading, I kept hoping for some kind of back story – anything to flesh out these characters and keep them from turning out to be little more than pieces of walking, talking cardboard. Sadly, I was let down, because even the main bad guy (who appears for only a handful of pages) left me feeling flat. Pun definitely intended.

As much as I was looking forward to reading Spot and Smudge, I was unfortunately left sorely disappointed. And more than a little disturbed. This is not for any of the more squeamish readers, and sadly not one I can recommend. It is unlikely I will be reading or reviewing the subsequent titles in the series.