Categories
Fantasy Fiction

The Present (ARC Review) by Geanna Culbertson

I’m trying to get back into the swing of writing! You guys may have seen me posting about this book already, as I participated in the cover reveal before and shared my first impressions!

It took me forever but I finally finished The Present. Leading up to the holidays, now seems like a perfect time to share about the book.

Are you looking for a cute and meaningful take on a classic Christmas story? This is an adult (but with clean content) retelling of A Christmas Carol

So there is an agency of ghosts that Scrooge people every winter. The goal is to help the people who have lost the spirit of Christmas and goodwill to redeem their souls before they squander the gift of life

You can also search the author, Geanna Culbertson, on my website as I have reviewed a few of her Crisanta Knight books, and also featured an interview!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Present
  • Author: Geanna Culbertson
  • Publisher & Release: BQB Publishing, 11/3/21
  • Length: 527 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ yes for fans of slow burning holiday stories and A Christmas Carol

Here is the synopsis:

A mystical agency exists that is responsible for creating Christmas Carol scenarios with preselected targets every December.

Employees of the agency work in either the Past, Present, or Future department and each year they are assigned a person on Earth in need of being “Scrooged,” as it were, so that person can reform and embrace the potential for goodness, love, and humanity they have in their hearts.

Frost Mason has worked in the Present department for almost a century and this Christmas is her 100th soul to save. The problem—Frost’s belief in the miracle of Christmas and what her agency does has started to fade because while many people commit to reforming after the “life-changing” experience of being Scrooged, human beings rarely change permanently and Frost has watched countless former Scrooges backtrack and return to their old ways once time has passed.

Frost must find a way to deal with her disenchantment over humanity’s potential to change while also working with her team to save the soul of this year’s Christmas Assignment: a young, up-and-coming political star running for governor.

I have to say that I was immediately sold on the synopsis! The author is known for morally rich, clean fiction, and I knew I wanted to read this one.

What I liked most about the theme was the idea that no matter what, it’s never too late to save yourself. It’s a great concept and so full of the Christmas spirit. Other themes include the importance of family, having loved ones and letting people in, friendship and more, including found family in a big way.

The book is funny at times, featuring baby reindeer and good cheer, and also sad at times as we watch Jay’s family life fall apart.

The best part is definitely the world building and magic. I love her envisioning of the ghostly realms and magic of christmas, which becomes a physical thing. The North Pole and even the headquarters of the CCD are well imagined and described. It’s a bit of a shock for the readers and the ghosts alike to learn about their afterlives and fate, and in all it’s again a great concept. Elves, penguin, reindeer, Santa and family, plus Spectre One and all the other ghosts – you will get lost in this magical world.

The characters are great too, Frost is redeeming herself as well as her Scrooge and it was a hard parallel. There are Claus’ and friends and a dog too. I liked the Child ghost that Frost was Paired with, their team was so mismatched! Jay tries to be likeable, I had mixed feelings but never truly disliked him.

So… Why only 3 stars? The hard part for me was that I think for adults, the level of breakdown and analysis into the moral points went way past what is required. It became repetitive and drawn out, bogging down the book, and I ended up in the 3 star range. The author does this in her middle grade/YA books as well and I think I was expecting less, not more in a book meant for adults where generally we can come to our own moral decisions with less prodding.

That said, I truly appreciate the jolt of christmas spirit that I received because I needed it.

Recap:

Holiday magic ✔ cheer ✔ baby reindeer ✔ Dickens Quotes ✔ more ✔

Definitely a slow burn but worth it in the end, and I recommend for anyone looking for a wholesome Christmas story!

Categories
Adventure Fantasy

Spidertouch (Book Tour & Review) by Alex Thomson

I am happy to be joining in the Angry Robot book tour for Spidertouch by Alex Thomson!  This is a fantasy novel, where there isn’t magic but a non human race.  It’s one of those cool genre-bending books that encompasses suspense, subterfuge, adventure, some military and siege tactics, and other things.  As in – I would recommend it to people who don’t necessarily read fantasy.

This book is a linguistics lover’s dream, with plenty of action, trickery, and world building to keep it interesting.

Screenshot_20211126-161841

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Spidertouch
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Alex Thomson
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 12/14/21
  • Length: 400 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Yes for anyone interested!

Here is the blurb:

Enslaved by a mute-race of cruel dictators, Razvan learns their touch-language and works as a translator in order to survive. But war is on the horizon and his quiet life is about to get noisy…

When he was a boy, Razvan trained as a translator for the hated Keda, the mute enslavers of his city, Val Kedic. They are a cruel race who are quick to anger. They keep a tight hold on the citizens of Val Kedic by forcing their children to be sent to work in the dangerous mines of the city from the age of eleven until eighteen. By learning fingerspeak – the Keda’s touch language – Razvan was able to avoid such a punishment for himself and live a life outside the harsh climate of the slums. But the same could not be said for his son…

Now a man, Razvan has etched out a quiet life for himself as an interpreter for the Keda court. He does not enjoy his work, but keeps his head down to protect his son, held hostage in the Keda’s mines. The Keda reward any parental misdemeanors with extra lashings for their children. Now the city is under siege by a new army who are perhaps even more cruel than their current enslavers. At the same time, a mysterious rebellion force has reached out to Razvan with a plan to utilize the incoming attack to defeat the Keda once and for all. Razvan must decide which side to fight on, who can be trusted, and what truly deserves to be saved.

41 year old Razvan is a translator for the Keda, an alien-ish race that took over the city hundreds of years ago and keeps the humans in subjugation by keeping the children as slaves. The problem is that the Keda only speak through a finger tapping type of touch language, so a handful of humans must act as translators.

When the city is sieged by a war ready people, it’s up to Razvan and the translators to decide if it’s a good time for civil war. I liked the theme of “What do people fight and risk themselves for?”  Money, children, power?  I liked the military and siege tactics too, nothing like hurling plague-ridden corpses over the city wall.

I loved the slightly older, less than heroic main character.  Razvan was not a leader, adventurer, or known hero – but a fisherman’s son turned translator.  The first half of the book was mostly his quiet observations on society, language, and the struggles of the populace.  Little bits of mettle kept showing through, more and more, until he finally stepped up when needed and did what he had to against the Keda.  I think they called it “linguistic subterfuge” and it was interesting, plus he wasn’t beyond a little bit of murder.  At the end of the day though Razvan was tripping over corpses rather than slaying them, aka not heroic, but he was very likeable 🤣

The language nuances were interesting, it made one think about how touch and translation are perceived. For a book that took place in one city there was a perfect level of micro world building.  The markets, the slums, food and drink, the increasing level of desperation as people starved….

The siege had a lot of good scenes too, for a generally quieter novel, Thomson turned up the heat at times.

The social structure was well thought out too, with three branches of Keda and a hierarchy among the humans as well.  The thing that drove me crazy, and I docked a star for it, was that since the Keda didn’t apparently have genders, the author used an “x” instead of the he or she, so it looked like “xe” or “xer” etc, and he used them all interchangeably.  That was the confusing part, in one sentence he would refer to one Keda by multiple different pronouns and seeing as it’s one of the real life new language phenomena that I just can’t wrap my head around yet, it was hard for me to follow in the book.  I just kept thinking “did he switch Keda or is this the same one?”

Anyway, all in all, I definitely recommend this one for just about anyone interested.  I thought the open ending was a nice touch and it had a hopeful tone and aspect

About the preorder offer – Good news! The new Angry Robot website is up and you can preorder or buy books directly now! You can use the code onereadingnurse to save 25% on a preorder of Spidertouch, so get on that! I believe the code is good until December 4th

Categories
audiobooks Mysteries Suspense Thrillers

Finders Keepers (book thoughts) by Stephen King

Continuing my binge of the Bill Hodges Trilogy, I think Finders Keepers had a lot of great points and quotes and characters. It didn’t quite hold up to Mr. Mercedes but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the sequel, especially to literature and book lovers.  Probably the thing that surprised me the most is how this could read as a standalone

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Finders Keepers
  • Series: Bill Hodges Trilogy, #2
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scriber, June 2015
  • Length: 448 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for the book itself, 5 for the audio experience

Here is the blurb:

A masterful, intensely suspenseful novel about a reader whose obsession with a reclusive writer goes far too far—a book about the power of storytelling, starring the same trio of unlikely and winning heroes King introduced in Mr. Mercedes.

“Wake up, genius.” So begins King’s instantly riveting story about a vengeful reader. The genius is John Rothstein, an iconic author who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel.

Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Saubers finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he’s released from prison after thirty-five years.

Not since Misery has King played with the notion of a reader whose obsession with a writer gets dangerous. Finders Keepers is spectacular, heart-pounding suspense, but it is also King writing about how literature shapes a life—for good, for bad, forever.

Finders Keepers is a love letter to being a Reader. The way King describes that feeling of finding the book that made you realize you were a Reader. I will just quote it:

For readers, one of life’s most electrifying discoveries is that they are readers—not just capable of doing it (which Morris already knew), but in love with it. Hopelessly. Head over heels. The first book that does that is never forgotten, and each page seems to bring a fresh revelation, one that burns and exalts: Yes! That’s how it is! Yes! I saw that, too! And, of course, That’s what I think! That’s what I FEEL!

“Shit don’t mean shit” and the birthday f*cc quotes are obviously meant to be quotable too, and I loved the book for those one-liners.  The Jerome and Holly scene at the end with the t-shirt was one of my favorites.

Another thing I really liked was how Morris and Peter were really quite a bit alike. Throughout the book King drew parallels between them.  (Morris was a bit like Annie from Misery but he was a whole different take on the theme of obsession). The interesting part was seeing which direction Pete would go.  At the end when Pete kind of broke away and realized that, thankfully, they weren’t alike at heart, it was a nice thought in stark contrast to the horror happening in the background at the end of the book.

Pacing and suspense wise – the first third was a little weird and slow for me since I expected to see Bill and the screw sooner, but it took until the second 3rd of the book. There was plenty of suspense, action, brutality, and gore, and of course the Happy Slapper is back.  With that real sense of danger and suspense it was hard to put the book down.  I feel like King has thoughts on people who’s butt fat you can carve with a hatchet 😂😂

Anyway, what I didn’t like so much was how long it took to get Hodges and the crew involved. Jerome and Holly having bigger roles was awesome, but leaving them out of the first third of the book seemed odd.  It helped the book as a standalone though because even with all the Mercedes tie-ins, there was a new set of characters, new crime, new mystery, etc.  Enough background to get by easily.

Also at least as of yet, I’m not into the tiny supernatural bit poking it’s head out at the end! This has been a pretty straightforward and amazing mystery / thriller series so far, it seems like bringing in a supernatural element is unnecessary? Maybe not. I think I’m just going to binge the series and start End of Watch next.

(P.S. I have already started it and the supernatural aspect is the crown ruler of WEIRD, but I’m on board)

I’m also going to guess that King doesn’t know anything about legal proceedings and doesn’t feel like researching it, because I would have really liked to know about Pete’s legal fallout at the end, if there was any.  He kind of ignores that after book one as well.

My last random thought it about how not only did the book focus on literature affecting people differently, and how readers vary, but about discussing books too.  Ricky the teacher and his whole “this is stupid” speech had me howling but he was so right

About the audio-

Will Patton obviously also rocked it again, although probably for the first time ever I didn’t like how he did a voice – Tina’s. It didn’t help that she was annoying anyway (oh stfu we get it, Pete might be mad), but WP sounded a lot lile Jim Dale trying to do a whiny teenage female. Besides that, the man could sell me a reading of the dictionary.

I say it again that you want the tone, the snark, the snide of the killer, even Holly’s clipped words, I think Patton stands alone at the top of male audio narrators.  Finders Keepers earned him an Audie nominee for best solo male, and I *think* he won it for End of Watch finally.  At 13 hours and change and with a 4.5 rating on Scribd, I’m glad to see others agree!

Long story short:  love love love these characters and their story arc and this trilogy so far.

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

This Vicious Grace (ARC Review) by Emily Thiede

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for the super early digital ARC of This Vicious Grace! My first selling point was that Tamora Pierce plugged it, and then I thought the synopsis was grabbing so I *ahem* definitely didn’t put down my TBR to read it.  A YA fantasy with a battle between the gods, a snarky bodyguard romance, and banter for days? Heck yes

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: This Vicious Grace
  • Series: The Last Finestra, #1
  • Author: Emily Thiede
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 6/28/22
  • Length: 448 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Yes with a caution to my religious readers,  for religious interpretation and premarital relations

Here is the synopsis:

Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?

Considering how disenchanted I have become with YA fantasy recently, I did enjoy this one.

The population of the country has settled onto islands where the Goddess uses a pair of warriors to keep swarms of demons at bay.  This happens maybe once every 20 or so years, which gives the islands plenty of time to identify the next Finestra and Fonte, train them, and have them battle ready.

I thought the Italian inspired lore and names were cool.  Each chapter holds a proverb in the old language, and I made a game out of guessing the English translation before reading it.

The plot is fairly straightforward and fast paced.   We get some lore and history of Dea vs Crollo, the two deities engaged in this battle, and I honestly thought the religious lore and customs that developed as a result were extremely well done.  The populace lives the way they do as a result of the world they live in, namely extremely devout, hierarchal, and ready to save the wealthy when the demons come.

The worldbuilding is there on a micro level as well! We know the mood of the fortress, the city, the figures in power.  The weather and the hidden beaches.  What they eat and drink, the local customs, and how social structure is accomplished.

The magic? Pretty standard, it works on an energy type of system but becomes magnified and more powerful when combined with other people’s.

The characters were awesome.  Alessa is the Finestra, sheltered into solitude and waiting to find a Fonts, a battle partner, that she won’t kill by accident.  Dante is the bodyguard that she hires and he is just … ha ha way too much.  A bad boy with a bookish side.  The other fontes were funny and also good characters.  The banter for days is real.

Now let’s get into the stronger stuff: I think it’s awesome and important to explore the theme of interpreting your religion and making it work for you, and I think it’s something that many Catholic teenagers struggle with.  I think the author brought this into the book and also stressed the importance of friendship, community, working together, and not going life alone, all of which are A+++ themes.  THAT SAID, this is a YA book and I would have stopped the theme before throwing celibacy out the window, especially since it was with someone other than her intended (even though it was an arranged marriage).  I know that self realization through sex is like the cool topic in YA right now but I just hate the trope, and if I’m analyzing this from a Catholic standpoint the author definitely took a FANTASTIC theme … too far.

Also I would have liked to see one or two major character deaths since the ending is a huge and hugely devastating battle.  I never find it realistic when everyone ends up living.  The author copped out of one huge plot twist with a good save, a very good save, but I think I wanted more death.

Lastly: this is small details but the cover does not scream “fantasy”. I would not cover buy it as is, although I hope that doesn’t deter people

All in all: great plot, great pace, great world building on both a micro and macro level, and good themes even if one went beyond propriety. I would totally recommend it and definitely plan on owning a copy of both This Vicious Grace and it’s sequels

Thanks again to Wednesday Books 🖤 all opinions are my own

Categories
Fantasy

Dark Oak (Book Tour) by Jacob Sannox

Thank you so much to Storytellers On Tour and the author for having me on the Book tour for Dark Oak! This is a dark ish fantasy that takes place after the end of a great war, where the evil has been vanquished and a time of peace is beginning.

Or… Well it should be, anyway.  Unfortunately once the prime evil is gone and unity is no longer necessary, humans tend to create new enemies and now war is brewing in the territories again as the lands and Lords revert back to their pre-war dispositions.  This right here was probably my favorite theme from the book.

Despite my 3 star rating and various struggles: I want to say up front that the ending of this book is EVERYTHING.  Once you learn what “Dark Oak” refers to and things start getting dark, it’s just… Really something else.

Screenshot_20211124-164300

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dark Oak
  • Series: The Dark Oak Chronicles, #1
  • Author: Jacob Sannox
  • Publisher & Release: self, April 2017
  • Length: 313
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐for dark fantasy fans, maybe military fantasy 

Here is the synopsis:

Humanity has finally defeated the Dark Lord, but Morrick fought on the wrong side.

Though he was a slave, he is branded a traitor and must earn the trust of new lords in order to return to his family – if they are still alive.

Now that their common enemy is dead, the nobles begin to forget old loyalties, and Queen Cathryn’s realm looks set to plunge into war once more. But there are older and more terrible powers dwelling within the forest, and when they are awakened, Morrick will decide who lives or dies.

The starting point of this book was an interesting choice, as it started at the end of a war.  It was hard for me to wrap my head around who and what was relevant at first, even though right at the start of the book it disclaims that it is NOT the story of the dark lord!

Dark Oak has a LOT going on, and a few different points of view to be aware of.  Morrick is the main character, and probably the most interesting one as we watch his moral struggles.  There is a lot of humanity in the book as various tragedies are met and death with, including post war trauma and death of family, seen mostly through the eyes of Morrick.  Cathryn, the queen, and the various lords also have points of view.

I thought his wife, Rowan, was important too but she was mostly entirely brushed over. For example, she went through all this trouble to consider starting a rebellion with some people who showed up, then we hear nothing except that it was over and went badly.  That was probably the hardest part of the book for me – to decide what was relevant. I also struggled with  what parts the author chose to brush over vs. expand on.

I thought jt was pretty real that most of the Lords, including the queen, really just wanted to kick up their feet and essentially retire after the war but there’s always that *one* problem child.

As far as the magic- the Dryads were definitely the best part of the whole book for me.  The supernatural things were dumped into the book kind of suddenly, but once I learned that a main focus going forward was angry Dryads having their home and trees destroyed, things made a lot more sense.  I really loved the descriptions of the tree and water folk, and how their magic worked.

The worldbuilding was high in setting, scenery, and geography, decent in history, but kind of mish mash on the micro level.  I had a good idea of the history and politics of the realm and the forest, but not so much the cities and moods, weather and foods, etc.  There were some interesting cultural pockets like the “whores” in the Whoreswood.  I originally felt like the world lacked any kind of cohesion, but that plays a role since although the humans united under the name “The Combined People”, they didn’t necessarily have anything in common except the enemy.

Here is a preview of the map, which helped SO much to visualize the book

Screenshot_20211125-201848

I think the magic is definitely the strongest aspect.  I liked the political maneuvering by the Lords and watching the kingdom dissolve into mayhem.  The book definitely had both strong and weak points, and it *lived* for the final quarter.  I do plan on ordering book 2 so i can see what happens, and how he grew as a writer going forward.

Definitely check out the tour page and see what others had to say about the book!!

Book Tour: Dark Oak by Jacob Sannox


Meet the author

Jacob Sannox is a 37 year old writer from the sunny climes of Bedfordshire, England. In his spare time he is generally writing, thinking about writing or berating himself for not writing.

He loves to play the acoustic guitar, but wishes he was better at it, and he has recently taken up Dungeons & Dragons. This is dangerous, as he has a propensity for disappearing into fantasy worlds. Nobody saw Jacob Sannox between 2000 and 2010, during which time he was LARPing.

Do not judge him.

Author & Book Links

Website:http://www.jacobsannox.com/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jacobsannox

Facebook: http://www.twitter.com/jacobsannox

Instagram:http://www.instagram.com/jacobsannoxwriter

Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55810045-dark-oak

Purchase Link: https://books2read.com/u/mVQZ65 

Categories
audiobooks Crime Fiction Thrillers

Mr. Mercedes (Book Thoughts & Audio) by Stephen King

I am finally adding King into my backlog book rotation.  I find it utterly embarrassing, as a reader, that I haven’t read many of his books.  I thought they were all horror but he has branched out into many other genres including serial killers, thrillers, and cops, which is where Mr. Mercedes falls in.

I would also listen to anything Will Patton narrates, including the Bible, dictionary, or cereal box, although he truly delivers another WOW performance in the audiobook

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Mr. Mercedes
  • Series: Bill Hodges Trilogy, #1
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scribner, June 2014
  • Length: 448 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: I am starting to think King is a must read author e

Here is the synopsis:

WINNER OF THE EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL
#1 New York Times bestseller! In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable

I always love the “unlikely heroes” theme and this book just nailed it so hard.  Bill Hodges is one level of personal hell away from eating his father’s gun when the killer that got away decided to contact him.

Teaming up with his computer savvy lawn trimmer, Jerome, and eventually the psychologically challenged cousin of a victim, Bill goes off the legal path to nail the bastard.

What a ride!  The chapters from the killers point of view were some mix of disturbing, funny, and just WRONG.  He was not the most interesting serial killer, but sometimes I think it’s more about the circumstances and delivery than creating anything other than a deeply traumatized, crazy dude bent on inflicting harm.  Not to say Hartsfield isn’t interesting but I certainly wasn’t rooting for him, he just seemed predictable.

Either predictable or Hodges was just that good!  Their dynamic over the chat room communications was fun to read

Not a book for the faint of heart or easily upset, but totally worth it.  Am I going to hell for laughing at the dog having the only Black name in Jerome’s family? Maybe, but I loved the family dynamic and also the found family one.  Give me ALL the unlikely allies stories

As with the other King books, Mr Mercedes is extremely well written as well. I like how he really gets into both the det-ret and the killer’s heads. I also love how Will Patton brings out all the inflections and nuances of the story in the audio. Whatever tone the author is going for, Patton amplifies it to perfection. I won’t hesitate to recommend anything he narrates, and I am thanking whoever pushed for the Patton and King combination because it’s unbelievably good.

All things considered: yes there is violence, gore, racism, and incest, but if you want a really memorable story I feel like these things can become part of a well done plot. I like my thrillers memorable and ya don’t get that when all the hard things are sugar coated

All the stars for this first installment of the Bill Hodges Trilogy

A brief note on the audio: Narrated by Will Patton, an Audie award finalist for this performance, released in 2014 by Simon & Schuster audio. 14 hours and change,

Categories
Adventure Science Fiction Thrillers

Moon Rising (Book Review) by Daniel Weisbeck

I am thrilled to be joining Storytellers On Tour for the Moon Rising book blitz!  I had never heard of Bio Punk as a defined genre before but since AI and ethics is my favorite sci-fi theme I jumped on this one!

A thriller about what happens when AI & biologic creations get out of handler control? Yes please.  Moon Rising is the first in a series and a shorter, quick read that I devoured in two sittings! 

Here is the tour link!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Moon Rising
  • Series: The Upsilon Series #1
  • Author: Daniel Weisbeck 
  • Publisher & Release: DJW Books, 11/1/21
  • Length: 222 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤 for a quick and entertaining read about a topic i enjoy

Here is the book blurb:

Trapped in a cellar, a young girl pretends to be someone her captor once loved to stay alive. When her plan falls apart, she must find the strength to fight back or die.

With the help of an unexpected saviour, Doctor Bobby Houndstooth, Silon makes an escape. However, her freedom uncovers a darker truth about her life. She is not who she thinks she is.

On the run from a ruthless corporation who would rather see her dead than learn about her past, Silon must discover her true capabilities before it is too late.

A Sci-Fi Biopunk Thriller for fans of Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, Hanna, and the Murderbot Diaries

I think the hardest thing about this exciting book is that it’s nearly impossible to review it without giving away a spoiler if I talk about the characters.

Can one read the synopsis and probably figure out what’s going on? Sure. Does that knowledge take away from all the twists and turns and shocking surprises? Back no

In a futuristic world, let’s just say that technology and AI has taken on a whole new role in human society. I absolutely love books where androids are integrated into regular life and of course, what do we do if they become sentient? If they go haywire?

With all good things there is also great potential for disaster, as Dr Bobby Houndstooth doscovers. I really liked her strength and quick thinking in difficult situations. Silon is certainly a fascinating character as well. With those two main characters comes an eclectic scientist and his even more “out-there” android, evil scientists, and government conspirators.

Overall this is a definite must read if you love sci-fi and thrillers!

Here is a cool image of the cover art coming together!

Meet the author and find the book online!

Daniel Weisbeck is the award-winning author of the bestselling series Children of the Miracle, a dystopian adventure. Daniel is a native US citizen but has lived in the UK for over twenty years working in the technology and software fields, bringing a unique and authentic voice to his speculative science fiction. Daniel is an openly gay author who has been happily married to his partner for over twenty years. When not writing about androids and hybrid humans in the future, you will find him taking care of his three dogs, two rescue racehorses, and thirty rescue sheep who all live in the South Downs of England.

Website: http://www.danielweisbeckbooks.com/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/djwbooks 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/children_of_the_miracle  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/danielweisbeckauthor/ 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59083226-moon-rising 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Moon-Rising-Upsilon-Daniel-Weisbeck-ebook/dp/B09H63RPB2/ 

Categories
Adventure Historical Fiction

The New Kingdom (ARC Review) by Wilbur Smith & Mark Chadbourn

Thank you so much to Zaffre and Bookish First for the opportunity to read yet another new Wilbur Smith novel!

I swear by Smith’s historical fiction, with it’s  unapologetic brutality and what I feel is probably a pretty honest portrayal of how things would have been.  By all accounts his novels are well researched, plus always an interesting adventure whether the book is read in order or as a standalone.

That said, I will admit to seeing a huge difference in the writing quality of this installment vs. the original Smith novels.  If I remember correctly this one fits in sometime around Warlock, or it crunches the events of a few books…. Heck maybe I need a reread

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The New Kingdom
  • Series: Ancient Egypt, #7
  • Author: Wilbur Smith & Mark Chadbourn
  • Publisher & Release: Zaffre, 9/7/21
  • Length: 432 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of HistFic and adventure

Here is the description:

In the heart of Egypt,
Under the watchful eye of the Gods,
A new power is rising . . .

In the city of Lahun, Hui lives an enchanted life. The favoured son of a doting father, and ruler-in-waiting of the great city, his fate is set. But behind the beautiful façades a sinister evil is plotting. Craving power and embittered by jealousy, Hui’s stepmother, the great sorceress Ipsetnofret, and Hui’s own brother Qen, orchestrate the downfall of Hui’s father, condemning Hui and seizing power in the city.

Cast out and alone, Hui finds himself a captive of a skilled and powerful army of outlaws, the Hyksos. Determined to seek vengeance for the death of his father and rescue his sister, Ipwet, Hui swears his allegiance to these enemies of Egypt. Through them he learns the art of war, learning how to fight and becoming an envied charioteer.

But soon Hui finds himself in an even greater battle – one for the very heart of Egypt itself. As the pieces fall into place and the Gods themselves join the fray, Hui finds himself fighting alongside the Egyptian General Tanus and renowned Mage, Taita. Now Hui must choose his path – will he be a hero in the old world, or a master in a new kingdom?

Smith saw potential in the Hui character and wrote him a history/spinoff story, possibly series.  I totally 100% endorse this decision and can’t wait to see what the next one holds.

While each and every one of Smith’s books can be read as a standalone, the cameos in The New Kingdom are there along with quite a few easter eggs for returning readers.  I thought Taita’s eyes would fall off his face from rolling them so much.

Despite solid pacing and excitement throughout, I thought the book didn’t quite deliver on the synopsis. The Ka stone and the Gods were hinted to be a big part of the novel and to avoid spoilers, I will just say that I wanted more from both of those topics.

I wanted more from Hui becoming a charioteer as well, but I believe we will see the fruits of that in the next novel.

I liked watching Hui come so close to losing his true self. He was so sweetly naive until his family’s betrayal. Then he became a thief, a guard, a Little Rat, then a killer, and finally, in an amazing scene, a hardened captain.  Throughout the book Fareed, a scout, was a static character but acted as a soul mirror for Hui.  A running theme throughout the book was to find out how much humanity Hui retained through all his trials, and in another amazing scene Smith showed that through it all Hui never did lose his true self.

Smith is not an author for inner monologue but Hui is a fairly deep and interesting character.

Tanus and Taita, well, all I can say is go read the other Ancient Egypt books.

Tim Holland wrote a great afterward to provide a broad historical context for the characters, and I almost wish it had been presented as a forward.  It makes sense that with thousands of years of peace and prosperity, Egypt felt pretty invincible.

The other thing that makes these books seem so realistic is how well Smith brings the climate, setting, and mood of the populace into play: whether in a baking desert, war-torn city, refugee camp, or Pharaoh’s palace, I feel like I can picture those sun burnt dripping slaves and sandstorm, midden heaps and incense, terrified citizens… For historical fiction and immersion these things always feel important to me

The only other thing I would have asked for was either section breaks or dates, because it was very hard to tell how much time was passing between major events and I feel like that information would have been helpful to the story.

Overall, not Smith’s best but another very solid book.  He is one of my auto buy authors.  Definitely and always recommend for HistFic readers and adventure lovers.

Categories
audiobooks Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Crime

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann

It’s nonfiction November, and I have had this e-book on my digital shelf forever! Between the time of year and a friend’s recommendation, I finally read it. 

Quick verdict: a bit hard to follow at times, but I feel like everyone should be aware of this part of  indigenous history and the crimes involved

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
  • Author: David Grann
  • Publisher & Release: Doubleday, April 2017
  • Length: 352 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨

Here is the description:

From New Yorker staff writer David Grann, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Lost City of Z, a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
      Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances.
      In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes like Al Spencer, the “Phantom Terror,” roamed—many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the FBI took up the case. It was one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations and the bureau badly bungled the case. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau. The agents infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest techniques of detection.  Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history. 
      In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, the book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly compelling, but also emotionally devastating

So Killers is an extremely interesting story with an investigative journalism and true crime feel.  i feel like if I hadn’t switched to the audiobook, parts of it would have been drawn out and slower to read, especially the third section.

The book is about the Osage and their exploitation, murders, and lack of justice during the 1910’s thru 1930s. After the tribe moved to a rocky, hard to farm area following the Louisiana Purchase and further movement west, prospectors struck liquid gold and the tribe became rich on oil. After that, they were prime targets of greedy men and women all over the country. Then the murders started.

Split into three sections, the first about the Osage and the victims, centered around one lady and her family in particular. The second section was about the investigation into the murders and the eventual FBI involvement, and the third from today’s perspective about the author’s research and viewing of the area.  He dropped in and saw how depressed the tribal lands looked in present time, with some descendants still looking for answers about the murders. 

I think it’s an important and brutal part of history to be aware of, but honestly wasn’t a fan of the telling. I read parts 1 and 3 and listened to Will Patton 🖤 narrate the second. The whole book felt loosely strung together and it was impossible to keep track of so many names; I felt lost through most of it.  There were sooo many names and descriptions in part one, and eventually I told myself that the names are less important than the history in general, but this ruined some of the true crime, whodunit part of the book for me

That said, there is also a lot of good, interesting, and exciting information and many exciting stories provided about the events and murders, of both the tribal members and of those investigating.  Anyone too close to the source usually ended up dead as well.  I couldn’t believe how much corruption and greed there was, for some reason I thought a lot of that outlaw justice and exploitation was over by the 1920s, but I was very very very wrong.

One of my favorite facts was about all the Sherlockian private eyes that were trying to investigate – this was funny only in that I never knew there were pipe smoking detectives trying to play Sherlock back in the early 1900s. I cringed when someone did a lobotomy and poked a murdered victim’s brain with a stick.

What I will carry forward is the knowledge that these injustices happened, and that justice for these people was hard fought, inconclusive, and fleeting at best.

Overall: read or listen to it for sure if you have interest in Native American, American history, true crime, history of law enforcement

** a quick note on the audio: published in 2017 by Random House Audio, 9 hours and 7 minutes long.  Narrators are Will Patton, Ann Marie Lee, Danny Campbell.  I will obviously listen to anything that Will Patton reads, I feel like he could make a cereal box interesting.  Each narrator read one section.  Ann Marie Lee was okay, but not amazing, and I think the author should have read Danny Campbell’s section.   If the text is a little dry I would say switch over and give audio a try

Categories
audiobooks Crime Mysteries

Cold Mourning (Audio & Book Review) by Brenda Chapman

I was looking for something like a police procedural, and was drawn to Cold Mourning by Brenda Chapman because I recognized the audio narrator as an actress / producer / director who also had a cameo in one of my favorite movies ever – Smoke Signals.

Unfortunately, despite the premise and excitement, Michelle St. John ruined the book for me. I can appreciate her native storytelling cadence but maybe one needs an ear for it? She mostly monotoned with little to no inflection, emotion, voice changes, sentence breaks, and she gasped loudly and frequently. I rarely dnf an audio but it was just too hard to listen to.

About the book:

  • Title: Cold Mourning
  • Series: Stonechild and Rouleau Mystery, #1
  • Author: Brenda Chapman
  • Publisher & Release: Dundurn Press – March, 2014
  • Length: 392 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟✨ for fans of police procedurals and those looking for Indigenous characters.  The Audio might be a good experience to hear a native voice

Audio: approximately 9 hours, narrated by Michelle St. John

Description:

When murder stalks a family over Christmas, Kala Stonechild trusts her intuition to get results.

It’s a week before Christmas when wealthy businessman Tom Underwood disappears into thin air ― with more than enough people wanting him dead.

New police recruit Kala Stonechild, who has left her northern Ontario detachment to join a specialized Ottawa crime unit, is tasked with returning Underwood home in time for the holidays. Stonechild, who is from a First Nations reserve, is a lone wolf who is used to surviving on her wits. Her new boss, Detective Jacques Rouleau, has his hands full controlling her, his team, and an investigation that keeps threatening to go off track.

Old betrayals and complicated family relationships brutally collide when love turns to hate and murder stalks a family.

It could have been residual boredom but the book didn’t quite do it for me either, although the series 100% definitely has potential. Kala Stonechild is a First Nations detective on a reservation in northern Canada, and she moves to Ottawa to try her hand in a major crimes unit. While there she looks for an old friend. I don’t read many books set in Canada either and I did like how the cold climate factored into the story.

The crime & mystery was a decent story, and Kala had to navigate the boy’s club detective force and follow her instincts, despite being picked on and dealing with racism. The major giveaways of the case were much more luck than skill, although I think the point was to introduce Kala and Rouleau more than set them apart as amazing detectives.

They felt more like real people with real failures.

Some story lines were not relevant to the central plot and others were just poorly presented, like it took forever to figure out who Stonechild was searching for in Ottawa, and I never understood the whole Jordan thing back home.

Overall- I would like to read another in the series to see how Chapman improves, and how the detectives get on together

Audio: DNF / 1 star

Book: 3🌟