Provided for Review: Our Dried Voices by Greg Hickey

In 2153, cancer was cured. In 2189, AIDS. And in 2235, the last members of the human race traveled to a far distant planet called Pearl to begin the next chapter of humanity.

Several hundred years after their arrival, the remainder of humanity lives in a utopian colony in which every want is satisfied automatically, and there is no need for human labor, struggle or thought. But when the machines that regulate the colony begin to malfunction, the colonists are faced with a test for the first time in their existence.

With the lives of the colonists at stake, it is left to a young man named Samuel to repair these breakdowns and save the colony. Aided by his friend Penny, Samuel rises to meet each challenge. But he soon discovers a mysterious group of people behind each of these problems, and he must somehow find and defeat these saboteurs in order to rescue his colony. 

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

In 2153 cancer is cured, and every disease known to man follows shortly thereafter. This allows the human population to skyrocket even though the cost is unknowingly high. When scientists find an earth like planet, it is deemed as humanity’s savior and those who are sent to the distant planet are tasked with bringing about a new age.

Our Dried Voices poses an interesting look in to the idea of ‘What happens next?’. What happens when a virtual paradise is established on a faraway planet? What happens when every need is met and the struggle to survive is taken away? What happens when we no longer have to think for ourselves?

The answers are both frightening and enlightening. With nothing to worry about the people of Pearl live a carefree life. They are perpetually children, never having to worry about a thing. As everything is completely automated, their largest decision is which of the meal halls will they go to that day. It is both a utopia and a dystopia.

I found Our Dried Voices to be a very interesting read. There are parallels with our own society in that every day more and more of our lives are becoming automated. To have an individual thought, to not ‘go with the flow’, is seen as strange.

There is very little dialogue save towards the end; something that adds to the otherness of the book. Most of the story happens in action, in thoughts and deeds. At times I found things teetering close to purple prose in terms of description. Yet again that also adds to the strange planet and unique lands the colonists reside in.

For readers who wonder “What if…?” or would be interested in seeing what could happen when the idea of a utopia is taken to the extreme, Our Dried Voices should be added to their reading list. If nothing else, it gives a frightening look in to a future that could possibly occur.

Provided for Review: Five Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Maurice Barkley (Edited by David Taylor)

Five new short stories for fans of Sherlock Holmes!

1 – Children are disappearing mysteriously from the streets of London. The only clue is a strange old woman who is seen shortly before the children disappear. Who is she and what does she have to do with the missing kids?

2 – Two sisters and their half brother beseech Holmes to help them with a riddle their father left behind. Will Holmes agree when he realizes what the adult children are truly after?

3 – A train disappears in to seemingly thin air between one village and the next. Just as strangely as it disappeared, it reappeared three years later. How could something so strange happen?

4 – Mycroft Holmes seeks the aid of his younger brother in a unique case. Top level politicians are being blackmailed by someone who has photographs of high level secret contracts. In a room with no windows and only one door, just how did this person get these photos?

5 – An abandoned moving cart and horses is found on the London docks. Beside it lies a man dead, his chest crushed by some unknown force. With no clues pointing to who the man was or what was in the cart, how is Holmes expected to solve this one?

This book was provided for review by The Write Reads and by the author. Thank you!

I have said it once and I will say it again, I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes. So when I am offered the opportunity to read new stories featuring the great detective, I eagerly agree.

5 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Maurice Barkley is one such collection. Originally published separately, this is the first time the stories have been combined in one compendium.

Personally, I greatly enjoyed reading these stories. Barkley has done a very good job in capturing the ‘voice’ of the original tales. His writing is very much like Conan Doyle’s as is his portrayal of both Watson and Holmes. This is especially true in the second story – The Legacy of Doctor Carus – where Barkley not only shows Holmes’ serious side but also his more mischievous side, something that is not often seen even in the original tales.

As these are all short stories, every one is a quick and delightful read. It would be quite easy to finish the whole book in an afternoon though I do recommend the reader take it slowly and see if they can figure out whodunnit before Holmes and Watson can.

For fans of the great detective (like myself) I urge them to give these stories a try.

Provided for Review: Postcard from Paris by Holly Willow

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

Trigger Warning: Mentions of mental illness, emotional abuse, and suicide. While the actual events happen before the book begins, they are still mentioned.

Poppy Parker is a self confessed workaholic. All of her adult life she has been focused on her career at Belle Cosmetics, working her way up the corporate ladder. Just when she has the position she has been working towards in her sights, it’s snatched away. And when she tries to resign, her boss refuses and instead instructs her to take a small sabbatical.

To add insult to injury, Poppy’s fiance Daniel agrees to take a job in Hong Kong just weeks before their wedding. A job that will have him away for six months. Poppy is sure she can handle things on her end but even that is put in to doubt when she learns that Daniel hasn’t been all that honest with her.

Take all of that, plus a postcard from an aunt that Poppy never knew existed, and she finds herself booking a ticket to Paris, France.

Postcard from Paris is pure fluff. Of the best kind. It’s like cotton candy, ice cream, or any other sweet treat. It’s like a Hallmark movie, complete with dramatic moments and of course a happily ever after.

As I was reading Postcard From Paris, I was reminded of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. In it there too is a large apartment building with an eclectic cast of characters presided over by a loving, larger than life landlady.

The characters themselves are all quite likable, even the ones who are supposedly more gruff. Poppy is immediately relatable and most any reader will see an aspect of themselves in her. The same can be said for the majority of the characters, a reader is likely to identify with at least someone.

The book itself is quite well written. Willow uses language in a wide variety of ways – to evoke the pain of being passed over for a job to the joy of finding oneself in a new city and hopefully on the path to a new life. She also a nice grasp with pacing as the story moved along at a decent clip without ever feeling too laggy.

There was one small plot point that I didn’t particularly like and felt kind of shoehorned in. To go further in to it could be constituted as spoilers so I will only say that if you have read the book, then you likely know what I am talking about. It had no real bearing on the rest of the book and in my opinion, it wasn’t necessary.

Otherwise, I quite enjoyed reading Postcard in Paris. With the summer months fast approaching, I think this would be the perfect poolside read. Or the perfect sunny read on an otherwise dreary day. Many thanks to the author, Holly Willow, for allowing me the opportunity to read and review this book. I urge my readers to go check it out!

Provided for Review: Kingshold (The Wildfire Cycle #1) by D.P. Woolliscroft

Mareth is a bard, a serial under achiever, a professional drunk, and general disappointment to his father. Despite this, Mareth has one thing going for him. He can smell opportunity. The King is dead and an election for the new Lord Protector has been called. If he plays his cards right, if he can sing a story that will put the right person in that chair, his future fame and drinking money is all but assured. But, alas, it turns out Mareth has a conscience after all.

Neenahwi is the daughter to Jyuth, the ancient wizard who founded the Kingdom of Edland and she is not happy. It’s not just that her father was the one who killed the King, or that he didn’t tell her about his plans. She’s not happy because her father is leaving, slinking off into retirement and now she has to clean up his mess.

Alana is a servant at the palace and the unfortunate soul to draw the short straw to attend to Jyuth. Alana knows that intelligence and curiosity aren’t valued in someone of her station, but sometimes she can’t help herself and so finds herself drawn into the Wizard’s schemes, and worst of all, coming up with her own plans.

Chance brings this unlikely band together to battle through civil unrest, assassinations, political machinations, pirates and monsters, all for a common cause that they know, deep down, has no chance of succeeding – bringing hope to the people of Kingshold.

This book was provided for review by the author and The Write Reads. Thank you!

Kingshold by D.P. Woolliscroft is the first book in the Wildfire Cycle series, and from what I understand his first published book as well. And oh my goodness dear reader, what a beginning! Centered around a country’s transition from monarchy to democracy, for me this book has it all. Fantasy, intrigue, sword fights, wild chases, interesting characters…it’s all there.

Like any large city, Kingshold has its fair share of characters. And we are fortunate that we are given a fair slice of them. From poorer individuals who work every day for a living like Alana and her sister, to those a little higher up the ladder like the wizard Jyuth. From assassins to merchants, Woolliscroft does a good job of peopling the city.

One thing that I thought was handled well was how back story and character information was presented. Many times an author will simply tell the reader pertinent information about a character, acting as a kind of omniscient storyteller. In Kingshold it’s done a bit differently. For example, in one early scene Mareth is sitting at a bar and he hears (eavesdrops on) a conversation between two merchants. The merchants are discussing potential candidates, so while Mareth is gathering information for a song, we the reader are given information about important characters as well.

There are also times when one character or another will remember a conversation or think back on a moment from their past that also gives the reader background info. It helps to fill out the characters and makes them more believable.

Because Kingshold is the first of the series, it’s only natural that it has an open ending. Yes, a Lord Protector is elected by the end of the book, but it’s also made clear that this is just the beginning. Questions raised throughout the book are either answered only partly or left unanswered. Likely to be taken up anew in subsequent books.

I personally enjoyed reading Kingshold and am grateful for the opportunity to do so. I highly recommend this book to my readers and I am eager to see what unfolds next.

Provided for Review: Thirteen by Steve Cavanaugh

It’s the murder trial of the century. And Joshua Kane has killed to get the best seat in the house – and to be sure the wrong man goes down for the crime. Because this time, the killer isn’t on trial. He’s on the jury.

But there’s someone on his tail. Former-conman-turned-criminal-defense-attorney Eddie Flynn doesn’t believe that his movie-star client killed two people. He suspects that the real killer is closer than they think – but who would guess just how close?

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

Every so often, we as readers come across a book that once we pick it up and begin to read, it is near impossible to put down. It is only with the reminder of Real Life responsibilities – such as school, work, family – that we eventually put the book down and walk away.

Thirteen by Steve Cavanaugh is, in my opinion, such a book. A legal thriller with a case based on real events, once everything got going I found it almost impossible to put down. The first quarter of the book is dedicated to introducing the characters and the case it self, setting them up almost like chess pieces and putting them in place on the board. This part was a bit slow in at times but it was also necessary.

Once the actual trial starts though is when the action really starts to pick up. Between the lawyer, Eddie Flynn, and the actual killer, Joshua Kane, things turn in to a game of cat and mouse; where at times it is hard to decide who is the cat and who is the mouse.

One thing that surprised me was that Thirteen is actually the third book in a series with the lawyer character Eddie Flynn. It certainly did not feel that way reading it, in fact it felt more like the first book in said series. From the way the characters are introduced to the bits of background we are given them, it truly felt that way so one can imagine my surprise when I found this information out.

Is it necessary to read the first two books in the Eddie Flynn series to enjoy the third book? I don’t believe so because I was able to enjoy it with no problems. Like I stated above, I was actually quite surprised. Could reading the first two books add to the backstory of the characters and give more insight to them? Quite likely.

Personally, I really enjoyed reading Thirteen and will hopefully reading more of the series in the future. Because it is a murder mystery as well as legal drama, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and that is okay. Readers who love a good cat and mouse type thriller will do good to pick this one up.

Provided for Review: Soul of the Sword (Shadow of the Fox #2) by Julie Kagawa

One thousand years ago, a wish was made to the Harbinger of Change and a sword of rage and lightning was forged. Kamigoroshi. The Godslayer. It had one task: to seal away the powerful demon Hakaimono.

Now he has broken free.

Kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko has one task: to take her piece of the ancient and powerful scroll to the Steel Feather temple in order to prevent the summoning of the Harbinger of Change, the great Kami Dragon who will grant one wish to whomever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. But she has a new enemy now. The demon Hakaimono, who for centuries was trapped in a cursed sword, has escaped and possessed the boy she thought would protect her, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan.

Hakaimono has done the unthinkable and joined forces with the Master of Demons in order to break the curse of the sword and set himself free. To overthrow the empire and cover the land in darkness, they need one thing: the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. As the paths of Yumeko and the possessed Tatsumi cross once again, the entire empire will be thrown into chaos. 

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

Trigger Warning: Blood and violence. Like, a good deal of it. Also, human death and mentions of animal death.

Soul of the Sword is the sequel to Shadow of the Fox in the series of the same name. The story picks up almost immediately after the events in the first book with Yumeko and her friends trying to reach the Steel Feather temple. They also are searching for a way to defeat the demon Hakaimono without having to kill the young man, Kage Tatsumi, that he has possessed.

In my review of Shadow of the Fox, I praised Kagawa in her world and character creation. My praises continue for in the second book she builds on what she established in the first one. Characters and places that we were introduced to in the first book come back and play a part in continuing the narrative. Characters with small parts in the first book are brought back to play a larger part and become more important.

Like in Shadow of the Fox, Kagawa peppers Japanese words and terms in her prose as well as in characters’ speech. It seems to be a bit more prevalent in this book and while I didn’t mind it, some readers could find it irritating. Thankfully, for those who are not familiar with the terms, a small dictionary was provided at the back of the book.

While the first book seemed to be aimed at all readers, Soul of the Sword had a darker feel. Considering some of the subject matter older, adult readers will likely enjoy it more. I am not saying that younger readers can’t or won’t enjoy it, I’m only saying that some readers (whether young or old) might have a difficult time.

As with Shadow of the Fox, I highly recommend Soul of the Sword to my readers. Especially my manga and anime loving readers. Hopefully they will enjoy this series as much as I have and will join me in awaiting the third and final installment.

Provided for Review: The Devil’s Apprentice (The Great Devil War #1) by Kenneth B. Andersen

Philip is a good boy, a really good boy, who accidentally gets sent to Hell to become the Devil’s heir. The Devil, Lucifer, is dying and desperately in need of a successor, but there’s been a mistake and Philip is the wrong boy. Philip is terrible at being bad, but Lucifer has no other choice than to begin the difficult task of training him in the ways of evil. Philip gets both friends and enemies in this odd, gloomy underworld—but who can he trust, when he discovers an evil-minded plot against the dark throne?

This book was provided for review by the author and The Write Reads. Thank you!

In recent years YA fantasy has apparently found a larger audience and books in the category have come out by the score. And while this is certainly a good thing, sadly many of the books sound and read the same.

The Devil’s Apprentice by Kenneth Andersen however is not one of them.

Set in a universe that could easily be ours, the story follows what happens when a very good boy mistakenly ends up in a very bad place. Philip is the poster boy for being good; I’m fairly sure other parents point to him and ask their children ‘Why can’t you be more like Philip?’ He is something of an oddity both in the living world and in Hell. It is that good nature though that ends up helping him and the Devil as well.

Andersen’s version of Hell is a combination of familiar and new. There are tortured souls and demons aplenty but there are also demon families, a demon school that young demons attend. There is a town with shops and homes and other familiar things albeit with a slightly sinister twist. It is a unique version of the realm.

The characters in the book are also an interesting bunch. Not just the humans like Phillip, but the numerous demons that make up the denizens of Hell. Andersen obviously references Dante’s inferno with the demons yet also adds his own ideas in to the mix.

I really enjoyed reading The Devil’s Apprentice. I found it to be more than just a simple story of a misunderstanding gone wrong. It is nuanced and layered in a way that few YA books are. And while it might be marketed at younger readers, I could easily see older readers enjoying it as well. Major kudos to Mr. Andersen, I look forward to reading the rest of the series!

Provided for Review: 29 Seconds by T.M. Logan

“Give me one name. One person. And I will make them disappear.”

Sarah is a young professor struggling to prove herself in a workplace controlled by the charming and manipulative Alan Hawthorne, a renowned scholar and television host. The beloved professor rakes in million-dollar grants for the university where Sarah works—so his inappropriate treatment of female colleagues behind closed doors has gone unchallenged for years. And Sarah is his newest target.

When Hawthorne’s advances become threatening, she’s left with nowhere to turn. Until the night she witnesses an attempted kidnapping of a young child on her drive home, and impulsively jumps in to intervene. The child’s father turns out to be a successful businessman with dangerous connections—and her act of bravery has put this powerful man in her debt. He lives by his own brutal code, and all debts must be repaid. In the only way he knows how. The man gives Sarah a burner phone and an unbelievable offer. A once-in-a-lifetime deal that can make all her problems disappear.

No consequences. No traces. No chance of being found out. All it takes is a 29-second phone call.

Because everyone has a name to give. Don’t they?

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

29 Seconds is the newest thriller by T.M. Logan and oh my goodness dear reader it is one heck of a roller coaster ride. It is one of those books that grabs you by hand with the opening paragraphs and does not let go until the final pages. If it weren’t for mundane things like work, eating, and sleeping, I could have easily finished the book in a day. I finished it in two.

29 Seconds is centered on a subject that I believe every individual can relate to – harassment. Sexual or not, whether in the workplace or not, everyone has been harassed by another person in their life at one time or another.

For Sarah, her harasser is her boss. A tenured professor and TV host, he is loved by countless audience members, but behind that slick smile and professional demeanor lies a cruel and calculating individual. Hawthorne has been playing the harassment game for a long time and knows just what to say and do. When Sarah realizes that the school faculty know about Hawthorne’s ways but won’t do anything about it, she finds herself left with two options – say nothing and suffer or stand up and fight.

Logan’s writing in regards to this sensitive subject and in regards to the book as a whole is top notch. His style and pacing not only keep the story moving during the high action scenes but during the lower action, more personal scenes as well. His characters are easy to empathize with even if we might not agree with how they handle certain situations.

29 Seconds is not for everyone! Those who are triggered by sexual harassment or even harassment in general would do well to stay away. Readers who love a good, edge of your seat thriller, however might want to give this book a try. Because at the end, you too might find yourself asking, If I had the opportunity to make someone disappear, would I?

Provided for Review: Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford

For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…

Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.

Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.

In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.

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

Reading Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford it is hard to believe that this is her debut novel. Her talent for creating and describing a new and unique world with equally new and unique characters would make even the most seasoned author proud.

While I enjoyed the lush descriptions of the world the characters live in, it is the interaction between the characters themselves that really drew me in. The relationship of the two twins, Nor and Zadie, is especially well done. They may be identical in looks but they are two completely different people, something that Rutherford does an excellent job in pointing out without being overtly obvious. Reading the way these two sisters get along is very true to life and something any one with a sibling who is close in age can relate to.

The second half of the book – when Nor leaves for Ilara – did not quite grab me in the same way that the first half did. The settings were just as lushly described but there wasn’t the same connection felt. I did like the introduction of characters that roused both sympathy and distaste as well as the beginnings of what secrets the royal family might hold. The instant connection/love between Nor and Talin was a bit off-putting as was the love triangle that seemed to develop between Ceren, Talin, and Nor. There were also a few scenes that made me roll my eyes in their ridiculousness. I will not go in to them for fear of spoilers but I believe many readers will recognize the scenes when they come across them.

Overall, I quite liked reading Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford. Readers who enjoy fantasy and/or romance, whether YA or not, will do well to give this one a try. I personally am looking forward to the sequel – Kingdom of Sea and Stone.

Provided for Review: The Nobody People by Bob Proehl

Avi Hirsch has always known his daughter was different. But when others with incredible, otherworldly gifts reveal themselves to the world, Avi realizes that her oddness is something more—that she is something more. With this, he has a terrifying revelation: Emmeline is now entering a society where her unique abilities unfairly mark her as a potential threat. And even though he is her father, Avi cannot keep her safe forever.

Emmeline soon meets others just like her: Carrie Norris, a teenage girl who can turn invisible . . . but just wants to be seen. Fahima Deeb, a woman with an uncanny knack for machinery . . . but it’s her Muslim faith that makes the U.S. government suspicious of her.

They are the nobody people—ordinary individuals with extraordinary gifts who want one only thing: to live as equals in an America that is gripped by fear and hatred. But the government is passing discriminatory laws. Violent mobs are taking to the streets. And one of their own—an angry young man seething with self-loathing—has used his power in an act of mass violence that has put a new target on the community. The nobody people must now stand together and fight for their future, or risk falling apart.

The first book of a timely two-part series, The Nobody People is a powerful novel of love and hope in the face of bigotry that uses a world touched by the fantastic to explore our current reality. It is a story of family and community. It is a story of continuing to fight for one another, no matter the odds. It is the story of us.

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

Trigger Warnings: Animal death. Violence of varying kinds.

If you are familiar with the X-Men series – whether comic book, animated, or live action – then you already have a decent grasp of the kind of world that The Nobody People is set in. And if you saw the first X-Men movie in the late 90’s, the overall plot of the book is almost exactly like that. Right down to the Resonant/Mutant powered device that causes a great deal of the general population to change.

The Nobody People is told from a variety of viewpoints, which means there is a LOT going on throughout the book. Even then though there are times where the narrative drags and more than once I considered not finishing the book. Also, when the book ends it does so very abruptly leaving quite a few plot threads dangling. Thankfully the conclusion is set to be published soon and one can only hope that the author will bring them to a decent conclusion.

For me, The Nobody People was one of those books that while the premise was interesting, the execution was lacking. It wasn’t a great book but it wasn’t an awful one either – it was simply okay. Generally when I start a series, I see it through to the end. I don’t think I will with this one.