The Academy by F.D Lee

img_1559There are some sequels that it’s impossible not to get excited about and for once I’m not talking about The Hanging Tree by Ben Arronovitch. This is The Academy, the next part of The Pathways Tree series. Last year we reviewed The Fairy’s Tale, about a young cabbage fairy called Bea who lives in Aenathlin, the home of the fae. Bea and the rest of the fae are dictated to by the Teller (who cares about us). Hanging over them is the threat of redaction, a process which strips the victim of their personality, leaving them a pliable, mindless slave. And somewhere out there is The Beast, a terrifying creature under the control of The Teller, although thankfully it appears to be keeping a low profile.

In this instalment, Bea has been accepted into The Academy to help her train to be a Fictional Management Executive (FME). FME’s run the plots in the human world, building up belief which power the mirrors and keep Aenathlin running. Bea is the first fairy to ever make it into The Academy. She is breaking down barriers and helping emancipate her fellow fairies who are treated like second class citizens. But not everyone is happy with this state of affairs.

There are many who feel fairies have no place in The Academy, like Carol, a fellow FME trainee, and Bea’s new Professor Master Dafi. Bea’s Plotter and mentor Mistasinon is acting strangely, although after the events of the last book, Bea isn’t sure that she wants to see him. Add to this nightmares from the events of the ball and the gossip that the Academy might be haunted, and Bea is left uncertain as to whether she’s made the right decision.

This book is every bit as good as it’s predecessor. It remains funny, in fact the humour is reminiscent of Terry Pratchett. In fact, like Pratchett, this book encapsulates all I love about Fantasy Fiction: It tackles difficult themes in a way that contemporary fiction isn’t always able to do.

Bea remains a strong character and is driven by a need to do what’s right, although she has an element of vulnerability in this book. We also get to find out more about the background of other characters such as Mistasinon and Melly.

Yes, ok there are a few typos which is the only thing that stops it getting the full five stars, but it is enjoyable nonetheless. I love this series, and I’m not the only one: it recently got outstanding feedback at The Writer’s Digest self published fiction awards. It’s time this series got published!

4 bites

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting “Naughty Amelia Jane” by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

General Theory of Oblivion by Jose Eduardo Agualusa

imageLudo has never liked to be outside, she stays inside and cooks and cleans for her sister and her husband. So the build up to Angolan Independence largely passes her by. When neither returns home on the eve of Angolan independence, she bricks herself into her apartment. She stays there for the next thirty years, living off vegetables and pigeons and  writing her story on the walls of her home.

Meanwhile life in Angola moves on.  A variety of characters take the spotlight and their stories touch Ludo’s. There is a communist private detective, a reporter investigating the mysterious disappearances of airplanes and people, a Portuguese mercenary who survives a firing squad, and a nine-year-old boy who eventually climbs some scaffolding and moves in with Ludo.

It is an unusual book when you consider that it is really about the impact of great passions and yet it’s tone is quite muffled and distant. It’s quite clever, it is reminiscent of the sense of shock and disbelief after such events that leaves people feeling disconnected and drained. Many people put their heads down and focus on small areas after huge events, as I write this I’m still reeling from the aftershocks of the vote on the EU referendum and in the light of that I can see the authenticity of this book.

Life goes on, we find a way, we may have to go inwards and focus on the minutiae of daily life. But we keep breathing.

5 Bites

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland

imageOne of my favourite books is “Even Cowgirls Get The Blues” by Tom Robbins and a book challenge I’m participating in wants us to read a Zombie book so when my partner came home with a second-hand copy of this I knew it was fated!

If you’ve read Even Cowgirls Get The Blues then first I must tell you that besides the wink to the title there is no similarities between the two books. This is no awful parody like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!

Angel Crawford is finally starting to get used to life as a brain-eating zombie, but her problems are far from over. Her felony record is coming back to haunt her, more zombie hunters are popping up, and she’s beginning to wonder if her hunky cop-boyfriend is involved with the zombie mafia. You read that right, there’s a zombie mafia!

This book isn’t high literature, but let’s be honest, if all books were high literature life would be pretty damn dull! And dull is definitely not what this book is! In fact it’s quite a clever genre-fusion.  With Angel working as a mortuary assistant she ends up in the middle of a lot of crime scenes. Though she dropped out of high school she’s far from stupid and finally having an opportunity to improve her ‘life’ is something she’s determined to seize.

This is the second book in a series but it can be read as a stand-alone, the back story gets told but without getting in the way of the current story. The characters are based in stereotypes which allows you to instantly recognise them but they’re not so stereotypical that they’re two-dimensional.

I read this pretty quickly, not because it was short but because it is a real page-turner.

Eat this not brains!

4 bites

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Fairy Wren by Ashley Capes

imagePaul Fisher is having a bit of a pants time, his wife left him and has just taken an injunction out to stop him contacting her, his bookshop is struggling to stay afloat and now greedy developers are threatening to put him completely out of business by raising the rents.

Then a fairy wren drops his lost wedding ring at his feet, and Paul discovers that there’s more magic in the world than he thought or he’s going completley mad.

Things don’t seem to improve for him though, punching the mayor seals his bookshop’s fate and although he’s met someone new, his wife has reappeared and she seems to be in some kind of trouble. His friends try to help but some of their suggestions are decidely dodgy and the blue fairy wrens clues are more confusing than clarifying.

Books about people that own book shops are always going to entice me – it’s pretty basic, I want to read about my dream life! Throw in a hint of magic and I’m definitely there. But although on the surface this seems like a light dreamy read it is quite a lot more grown up than that!

There is an ambiguity about whether the wren is real or the product of a deluded mind. After all, it’s very convenient how it’s implying he needs to help his ex-wife, a woman he’s still clearly in love with and wants back.   But then this protagonist isn’t self-absorbed, he has friends that have stuck by him and he’s doing what he can to help his fellow shop-keepers. Also there’s a new woman on the scene and she doesn’t seem like the type to hang around people that are obsessed with their ex and hallucinating. So maybe the wren is real? Maybe magic is real but doesn’t appear in ways we think it will.

I really enjoyed this book, it wasn’t what I was expecting at all, it was much cleverer and warmer and more realistic than I thought it would be. Which made it all the more magical.

5 Bites

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Returning Eden by Maria Mellins

imageThe fact that this book is described as a  “gothic ocean mystery” intrigued me straight away. Often we think of the sea as sparkling and sunshiny so this promised something that would embrace it’s depths rather than its shallows!

Eden and her family left the remote island of Cantillon, and her best friend Dylan, suddenly when she was just a child. But now she’s back and starting college much to the chagrin of her parents.

But just as she’s settling in and making new friends,  she escapes an attacker, then a corpse dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, is found floating in the ocean.

Her new friends and Dylan help her investigate the mystery, scared that the killer will strike again. But as they do so they discover that Eden is at the centre of a dark and dangerous mystery – keeping her safe puts them all in peril!

I have to be honest, when I first started reading this I got a sinking feeling in my stomach and not because I was worried about the characters. It seemed to be aimed at a younger age group than I’d thought and the authors voice was a little clumsy. I stopped reading it and didn’t pick it up again until 2 weeks later.

When I did I wasn’t sure why I’d thought the writing was clumsy, and, rejoining the book after the chapters on Eden and Dylan’s childhood friendship, it was clearly aimed at those in their mid-teens upwards. I breathed a sigh of relief and settled in for a good read.

The author does a really good job of creating a perfect gothic atmosphere – misty, menacing and myopic. It’s balanced well by the teenage mood swings – optimism, melodrama and determination, and the story cracks on at a good pace.

If I was to be hypercritical I have to say the characters aren’t quite developed enough, but it seems this is the start of a series so that might be rectified in future novels.

I really liked the idea, it is different and I think a lot of those that read Young Adult books will appreciate that.

3.5 Bites

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Bad Analysis by Colin Knight

41aL2YZ5p8L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_When invited to review this novel, my immediate reaction on seeing the cover was one of disappointment, it looked like a “Penny Dreadful” and the plot summary seemed “far-fetched” .

I was wrong, totally and utterly wrong. I made the fundamental error of judging a book by its cover, at my age I should have known better.
The plot summary is: A wealthy, racist, British, aristocrat, with the help of friends in high places, plans to rid Britain of its Muslim population. There are two stages to the plan: First, to secretly fund a massive recruiting drive for the English Defence League, allowing them to become a political force to be reckoned with. Stage two of the plan is to commit a massive act of terrorism that will kill thousands more innocent people than ever before. A carefully laid trail of convincing clues will lead the anti- terrorist squad to a UK based Islamic fundamentalist terrorist cell. The EDL’s calls for mass deportation of Muslims will then have to be taken seriously by the British government.
Yes, it does require a stretch of the imagination to make the plot plausible. But life can be stranger than fiction, who would have thought that terrorists would hijack four commercial airliners and fly them into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon?
Bad Analysis is a brilliant book, superbly written, gripping and fast paced. The hero Craig Wilson is not a macho James Bond type in fact he is a very ordinary family man working as a crypto analysist with The Canadian anti-terrorism squad. He has a gift for interpreting intercepted phone calls and emails. Unfortunately his superiors are bureaucrats, more concerned with office politics than acting on the flights of fancy of their senior analysts. And time is running out.
Colin Knight writes with first-hand knowledge and experience of how anti-terrorist operations work having spent many years in senior positions in the Canadian Police and Security Services. This insider knowledge gives the book the authenticity of LeCarre’s “Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy”. I loved it.
Five bites from me (But I still think the cover is rubbish).

Jeff Short
I was born into a Forces family so naturally enjoyed Biggles as a child alongside Enid Blyton.
I fell in love with the Librarian at RAF Akrotiri and read and read so that i could see her every day. The book that I read there that had the greatest impact on me was Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 – set on an American airbase on a small island in the Mediterranean, and filled with military incompetence with black humour. I could never take service life seriously again.
I usually has three books on the go at any one time. Kindle, Audio and a proper book. My favourite genres are military memoirs and thrillers but being compulsive I’ll read anything.

Escape From The Past: The Duke’s Wrath by Annette Oppenlander

EFTP“When fifteen-year-old nerd and gamer Max Anderson thinks he’s sneaking a preview of an unpublished video game, he doesn’t realize that 1) He’s been chosen as a beta, an experimental test player. 2) He’s playing the ultimate history game, transporting him into the actual past: anywhere and anytime. And 3) Survival is optional: to return home he must decipher the game’s rules and complete its missions if he lives long enough. To fail means to stay in the past forever. Now Max is trapped in medieval Germany, unprepared and clueless. It is 1471 and he quickly learns that being an outcast may cost him his head. Especially after rescuing a beautiful peasant girl from a deadly infection and thus provoking sinister wannabe Duke Ott. Overnight he is dragged into a hornets’ nest of feuding lords who will stop at nothing to bring down the conjuring stranger in their midst.”

Now, I’m not a big gamer and I always play the few games I do on the easy or beginner mode. Having said that, if I chose the master level on a historical adventure computer game and found myself actually transported to the past, I do not think I would have coped as well as Max does. Yes he freaks out for a decent portion of the book, and yes he draws attention to himself for being weird (aka knowing about hygiene and other modern ideas!) but generally he does alright. At first. He finds food and shelter and a friend. And a girl. Then it goes…. less well. To say more would be ruining things.

It took me a while to get into this book and at first I put it down quite a lot. I can’t really pinpoint the reason why now that I’ve finished it because it is an exciting and realistic tale with a protagonist that is actually someone you want to root for. I think perhaps I would have liked to have seen Max in his real life more before he is transported to 1471. To jump pretty much straight into suspending my disbelief was a bit much- I would have liked the time to warm up to the concept.

Once Max is more thoroughly rooted in the story and more accepting of the idea that it isn’t really just a game, the story begins to fly by. Oppenlander is a gifted writer and her attention to the smallest details really allows her world to come to life. She has clearly done a hefty amount of research into this time period and even my finely-tuned ‘historical inaccuracies in fiction’ radar didn’t ping. The world that Max enters is the medieval world of the peasants- harsh, gruelling, relentless, unhygienic, smelly, really bloody hard! The realism of the world was a definite strength and helped to make what could have been a silly concept exciting.

Some of the characters were real historical people and there is an author’s note at the end to expand on this, and I think that this may have been the reason why some of the characters didn’t feel very well fleshed out. The highlight though is the character of Max. He feels very ‘teenagery’ but not in a cliched way. He just seems like you really could meet him on the street and he wouldn’t seem any different from any other teenager you may know. His trails and tribulations are pretty dire at times and you find yourself rooting for him all the way. This is not the type of book that could have worked with anything less than a strong protagonist.

Overall I thought this was a decent read. I think I perhaps would have enjoyed it a bit more had I been younger- given that this book is aimed at the YA market, I don’t consider this to be a criticism.

3 bites

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption.

I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.

The Soul Whisperer by J.M. Harrison

imageIn an Abbey in Languedoc sometime in the Middle Ages a massacre occurs.

In modern day London Alex and Sarah are trying to recover from their miscarriage, the loss of his mother and the loss of their home. Sarah’s mother Lucette arranges a holiday for them in France, she wants them to pass her regards to an old boyfriend of hers while they’re there. But Jean Michel is much more than just an old acquaintance, and Alex and Sarah will soon find they have more than just a dream like connection to the Abbey massacre.

At least I suspect they will, but to be honest I didn’t get very far with this book. I mean it sounds pretty good from the blurb and I soon as I started reading I could see the echoes of books like Kate Mosse’s Labrynth and The Celestine Prophecy, both books I appreciated. But the problem with this book is the writing.

I get that when you have a story that you feel the world needs to hear it’s difficult sometimes to do anything other than write it as you see it happening. I’m a writer, I’ve done that. But if you really care then you do need to step back, look at your work critically, and work to improve it. This reads like a first draft, or maybe a second. In fact the writing was so excruciatingly pedestrian that I almost deleted every word I’ve ever written in case it’s the same standard and I’m not seeing it because I’m too close! (Instead I started on another edit).

I don’t want to spend this whole review ripping this author’s work to shreds – it could be great with some more work after all, but right now it needs work.

2 Bites (1 for wanting to share a positive message in the first place!)

 

 

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Jobsworth by Malcolm Phillips

JobsworthI can’t believe I fell for it again. Looking for a light read after a series of heavy tomes I came across Jobsworth (confessions of the man from the council).

The prologue read: After a delightful dinner where one too many bottles of wine were consumed, I was reminiscing with one of my old friends about the hilarious times I had enjoyed when working as a civil servant for the County Council. My friend said “You should write a book Malcolm”. Whoever that friend was, he should be taken out and shot. It’s one thing try to shut up a crushing bore but never, ever do so by suggesting that his stories are funny or that he should write a book, because he might just do it.
You may wonder why I read this tedious drivel right through to the end, there were three reasons for this.
First: For two weeks my phone line was out of action, I had no internet connection, no phone calls, no emails, no facebook. Nothing else to do but catch up with my reading.

Second: I assumed from the prologue that it was going to be similar to the plot lines of “Yes Minister”, which would be a rich vein to mine and could indeed have produced hilarious stories. Unfortunately in Malcolm Phillips’s case one or two of his stories were mildly amusing, the rest without exception were an infantile ode to tedium. To make matters worse the author has no writing talent whatsoever. I assume that comes from thirty years of writing inter departmental memos.

Third: I’m an optimist, I was convinced that there must be something funny somewhere in this dire piece of drivel, so I stuck it out to the bitter end, and no, not once did I laugh.

The reason I said “I can’t believe I fell for it again” is that over the last few years I’ve twice read similar prologues that ended with the words “Your stories are so funny you should write a book” in both cases they were dreadful dross.

Bookeaters beware, when you read a prologue such as this it is a warning that the writer is a humourless bore, with an inflated ego intent upon inflicting his pathetic aspirations upon the long suffering reader.

No bites from me.

Jeff Short
I was born into a Forces family so naturally enjoyed Biggles as a child alongside Enid Blyton.
I fell in love with the Librarian at RAF Akrotiri and read and read so that i could see her every day. The book that I read there that had the greatest impact on me was Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 – set on an American airbase on a small island in the Mediterranean, and filled with military incompetence with black humour. I could never take service life seriously again.
I usually has three books on the go at any one time. Kindle, Audio and a proper book. My favourite genres are military memoirs and thrillers but being compulsive I’ll read anything.

The Timeweaver’s Wager by Axel Blackwell

Click through to Amazon
Click through to Amazon

I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to this second novel by Axel Blackwell as his debut novel Sisters of Sorrow blew me away so I was delighted to be sent an advance copy for independent review.

So what’s it all about? Well, as the title suggests there is an element of supernatural but much of the plot is rooted in American small city life.

Glen is a young man wracked with feelings of guilt and failure because he did not intervene to save his girlfriend from being raped and murdered seven years earlier. In his desperate attempts to assuage the guilt and find a way of bringing the perpetrators to justice he started a small project aimed at tackling violence. His endeavours caught the attention of Alan Fontain a wealthy and charismatic entrepreneur who poured money and other resources into it and became mentor, father figure and best friend to Glen. Under their partnership The Constance Salvatore Project grew into a highly successful program for the community with dramatic crime reducing outcomes; but for Glen the success of The Project merely served to emphasis his failings and isolates him from the memory of the Connie he loved.

With much of his life in limbo Glen lives in an apartment above his sister’s garage. Sophia was a registered nurse and partway through her year’s internship in a hospital when, just months after Connie’s death, a terrible car accident left her with a brain injury causing seizures and memory problems. Glen and Sophia find their lives irreparably changed by the events and look out for each other as best they can.

Stifled by the very success of the project Glen has told Alan that he needs to leave and find another way to make amends but Alan is more than reluctant to let him go. Finally Glen realises that he must take control of his future and he makes a public resignation at gala dinner thus forcing Alan’s hand.

The first third of the tale is basically the introduction to, and history of the characters that brings us to the point of Glen’s resignation. From here it takes on a very different atmosphere for this is where the Timeweaver and the wager come into it. Alan insists that before Glen leaves he listens to the truth about Alan’s own past and then he will be free to go. What Alan reveals has the power to change Glen’s life if he really wants it.

Who doesn’t have a conscience that pricks. How many of us have claimed that given a chance we would go back if we could and do something differently, display moral fibre, prevent something we knew to be wrong? So why didn’t we do it at the time? Perhaps we were really frightened, or selfish or maybe just embarrassed. How many of us would truly be prepared to lose everything we have, to go back and undo a wrong that we had allowed to happen. This is the extraordinary choice that is suddenly offered to Glen – go back, be fifteen again and die failing to protect Connie, or continue with the empty charade of his current life. I won’t spoil the plot, if you want to know the outcome you must read it for yourself.

So what did I think of it? I enjoyed the premise of the story and felt real warmth in the relationship between Glen and Sophia. I loved the idea of Samir’s wager with God and thought that the strands of the plot were brought together extremely well in the final third of the tale. But it felt very much like a three chapter book comprising the introduction, Alan’s story, Glen’s story. The novel is very short and I feel that too much of the story was told rather than experienced with the result that the first two thirds read more like extended notes or potted histories. In contrast the final third was excellent, I experienced the drama, the fear and the action and it really flowed. Overall my view is that The Timeweaver’s Wager had all the promise of Sisters of Sorrow but felt rushed and lacked the nurturing that it deserved.

3 Bites

Tamara Thomas
I am the only girl and youngest of four children, I grew up in a home stuffed with books, and now some fifty years later, great piles of them still appear in every room I inhabit. I won’t waste my time reading books that leave me feeling sour, dirty or depressed; books are a source of light and inspiration in my world. Nevertheless, I love a book that makes me cry with loss or sadness such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin or The Book Thief. Bliss is a winter’s afternoon on the sofa, snuggled in with my dogs, stove blazing and an absorbing book.

Rayne: Luminescence by Quoleena Sbrocca

imageRayne is adopted, worse than that she is a disappointment to her parents and mocked by her peers. Living as she does in the dawn of The Rebirth Period, she should have gained a talent in the first hours of her second year. But she didn’t. She can’t talk to animals or strengthen the growth of plants or heal other humans like everyone else.  She has only one friend, Rafe, who is three years her senior.
Then, in the early hours of her 17th birthday, she gains her talent. Something unheard of. Rafe and her parents both counsel her against telling anyone. Then the next day she gains another talent, something else that has never happened, and her world spirals out of control.

Quoleena Sbrocca is an excellent world builder. The reborn planet she describes is vivid and beautiful.  The plot has some great twists and develops well and the characters feel authentic. I really liked the authors  use of formality in the way they spoke but it did slow the flow a little and some might find it a little annoying.

I read this just after I read The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, a book with a huge amount of publicity that seems like it’s the next big thing in the YA market. This book is definitely it’s equal, sadly, as it’s by an independent author it might easily sink without a trace.

But you can help, order it (it’s only 99p on kindle) read it, and if you like it share it with other people.

4 bites

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Ugly People Beautiful Hearts by Marlen Komar

25168753I’ve always struggled with poetry. I see it as some higher art form which I’m not really intelligent enough to understand. When I “get” a poem, I love it and feel a sense of achievement. But too often I sit staring at the page, wondering if there was something I missed. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case with this anthology.

In her collection, Marlen Komar writes about life and love. She sees beauty in the things people might take for granted, like the way the curtains catch on the breeze on a spring morning, the small moments of happiness. She writes about the stars and the night sky: they are the lines on her lover’s hand, a riddle to be unpicked. Some of the most beautiful poems though are about loss and hurt, how sometimes when the memories and the pain go hand in hand, to live without them would be even more painful. One of my favourite poems When Ever Runs Out considers what happens when love doesn’t last for the forever that was promised:
We’ve reached the end of endless and moved onto the dark space that’s just past the horizon. With tired eyes we’re now beyond the spot where the sky meets the sea and there’s nothing magic behind the curtain. The stars are just held up by strings that creek and groan as they sway on their heavy ropes, rocked by the quiet breezes that follow the words was, was, was. The night sky is just a crudely painted layer of black and, up this close, I’m not even sure what the lullaby is about anymore. The eddies are thick with dust and abandon. My hair turns white and my lungs burn as they breathe in their history.

That’s how things are when we said forever and forever has left us behind.”

The meaning of the poems themselves are accessible, conjuring emotions that are easily relatable which means you aren’t pulled out of the moment. Have Courage, My Love talks of how life’s disappointments and hurt are the experiences of being alive:
Life breaks at you. It tears at you, kicks you down, and every time, at the end of every round,
It reaches down and, with conviction, says
get up.

This is a book to dip in and out of. Being someone who reads prose more than poetry, I tried to read it like a book. This makes the themes slightly repetitive. But by giving myself more time between readings, I came to appreciate individual poems more and enjoyed the lyrical nature of the writing as well as the beauty of some of the lines.
It was six o’clock and the sun started to fade, its rays slowly melting like thick wax on the sidewalk, turning everything into a wet gold.
4 bites

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting “Naughty Amelia Jane” by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

Out of the darkness, Katy Hogan

 

Click through to Amazon
Click through to Amazon

This novel is about the fog and pain of loss and the extraordinary healing bonds that can be forged when we let our barriers down. It is also about spirituality and life after death. It opens with Jessica who ten months on from the death of her mother is struggling with the void in her life and has delayed dealing with the practicalities that fall to her, the only child, to sort out. Her anger and sadness cause her to have an out of character one night stand with a stranger – who she never sees again. Realising she must do something to take control of her life she reluctantly joins a bereavement group and so triggers a series of seemingly casual meetings that, combined with her unexpected pregnancy, are about to change her life.

Among those who Jess meets is Alex, a young American woman who has recently moved to Brighton. Alex left her previous job because of major health problems and is starting life over as a voluntary art teacher. However since her move to Brighton Alex has come to believe that she is being haunted. In a search for answers she persuades Jess to accompany her to a spiritualist church meeting where, despite cynicism and farce, a meaningful message is received.

Hannah, a fellow attendee at the bereavement group, is drawn by chance into the friendship with Jess and Alex. Hannah’s mother has been lost in bitter grief for a year and Hannah has had to bear both grief and loss without the love of her mother or any support from her controlling husband. But hidden bonds connect the friends and these three young women support and strengthen each other and by extension their families. Their friendships are further deepened by the birth of Jessica’s son and they are all feeling more positive.

The hidden bonds gradually reveal themselves and bring the families closer just in time to deal with further unexpected tragedy.

This debut novel from Katy Hogan shows real promise. It is warm, considered and well thought out and she uses her own experience of  the spirit world to underpin the tale. The world of the medium is shown as a strange blend of the dowdy and the flashy, the inept and the skilled. The twists in the tale are cleverly concealed and although some might think it all a little too coincidental and tidy I found it heart-warming and entertaining. My only criticism is the feeling I had that Katy tried too hard to shape each line and to add the right number of adjectives, similes and metaphors, consequently some paragraphs have a formulaic feel. Nevertheless it is a good read, thoroughly enjoyable and I imagine it might well be uplifting for those struggling with grief. I’m torn between awarding a 3 bite accolade or awarding a 4 – why don’t you give it a go and see what you think.

Tamara Thomas
I am the only girl and youngest of four children, I grew up in a home stuffed with books, and now some fifty years later, great piles of them still appear in every room I inhabit. I won’t waste my time reading books that leave me feeling sour, dirty or depressed; books are a source of light and inspiration in my world. Nevertheless, I love a book that makes me cry with loss or sadness such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin or The Book Thief. Bliss is a winter’s afternoon on the sofa, snuggled in with my dogs, stove blazing and an absorbing book.

A Danger to God Himself by John Draper

imageLooking for something light to read I was attracted to this novel by three things. First the fact that it was a comedy. Secondly that it was based on the thankless task of Mormon missionaries, a field as yet unexplored in the comedy genre. Thirdly I liked the cover (I know, I know never judge a book by its cover). The story follows Elder Kenny a half hearted missionary at best, coerced into the mission by his stepfather, he is joined by Elder Jared who like Kenny has been pushed into the mission by his family. They are a likable duo, livening up the depressing business of knocking on doors with wise cracking humour. Regretfully there are only two or three good wisecracks before the story turns into a theological debate.

Debate is probably the wrong word as the Author makes it very clear from the outset that he is not a believer in Mormonism or any other established religion and spends nearly half the book demolishing religion in all its many and varied guises. Far to long and very tedious. John Draper could have stated his position in one paragraph and then got on with the story.

There is some rather heavy handed satirical humour at the expense of several of the characters who are religious leaders, have no belief in God, yet continue to exercise power, as they love the trappings of authority. There is also a bit of slapstick thrown in for good measure.

As the story progresses Jared’s humour becomes more and more bizarre until it reaches the point that Kenny begins to believe that Jared has mental health issues. In fact Jared is suffering from Paranoid Schizophrenia. The story then takes a serious turn, no longer a comedy but a battle against an incurable disease, where the treatment is often worse than the disease itself.

Basically there are three sections:
First: The half hearted missionaries on a mission doomed to failure.
Second: A theological debate.
Third: A tale of love, family and friendship fighting a losing battle against a terrible disease.

In my opinion the author would have been wiser to have made this into two books, one about the hapless missionaries which could have been made into something really funny by deleting the interminable theological claptrap and adding a more humour. Then the story of Jared and his friends and family and their battle with Schizophrenia, which was truly moving, beautifully written and terribly sad, on its own this would be a best seller.

Difficult to rate this, as a humorous novel 2 Bites, as a story of love, friendship and death 4 bites. Put them together and it makes an average of 3 bites.

Jeff Short
I was born into a Forces family so naturally enjoyed Biggles as a child alongside Enid Blyton.
I fell in love with the Librarian at RAF Akrotiri and read and read so that i could see her every day. The book that I read there that had the greatest impact on me was Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 – set on an American airbase on a small island in the Mediterranean, and filled with military incompetence with black humour. I could never take service life seriously again.
I usually has three books on the go at any one time. Kindle, Audio and a proper book. My favourite genres are military memoirs and thrillers but being compulsive I’ll read anything.

The Madness and the Magic by Sheena Cundy

imageIn a typical English village a new vicar appears – and could be the very man to make local witch Minerva reconsider her single status.

But Minerva is a modern witch trying to deal with her menopause whilst trying to help her teenage daughter Rhiannon I middle her love life and the upset of an unexpected pregnancy.

The story moves between Minerva’s magical antics to seduce the vicar and Rhiannon’s emotional turmoil.  Both mother and daughter have to face up to changes in their lives, can magic save the day?

Although this is not likely to win a Pulitzer any time soon there’s a lot to be said for this novel. Firstly the characters are all endearing and people you could easily imagine in your own life. Secondly, it’s a book that looks at some serious stuff but never takes itself too seriously! There’s a fair bit of fun stirred into the cauldron here! Thirdly, it treats modern witchcraft fairly,  not implying that those that practice it are either sinister or crazy and sharing some of the roots and traditions of it and how they have been co-opted by Christianity – but still managing not to be preachy! And lastly, it’s not badly written!

I enjoyed my little sojourn in Minerva’s life though I was more drawn to Rhiannon and her struggles. I’d happily visit with them again.

It’s an easy read and an enjoyable one,  why not see if it casts the same spell on you?!

3.5 Bites!

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Kinnara by Kevin Ansbro

imagePhuket, Thailand, seemed to be the perfect getaway choice for twenty-two-year-old Calum Armstrong, regardless of the fact it was supposed to be a romantic holiday and he’s just broken up with his girlfriend he goes anyway.

He makes friends with locals and falls in love with the spirit of the place, so much so that the next year he decides to take his new love there. Only to find his last trip had serious ramifications and this one is going to be the weirdest and most dangerous holiday he could imagine.

Kevin Ansbro’s book is a bit of a love letter to Thailand, a place that it seems clear he adores and finds deeply inspirational. The Thai characters and scenes are beautifully described and very realistic.

The English sections of the book sadly don’t live up to their eastern counterparts, the characters are ok, but the dialogue between them needs to be sharpened up a bit and they all need a little more depth adding. They’re not bad, but I think the author could polish them a little more.

The plot is difficult to describe without giving away spoilers but it has a mystical element to do with regret and redemption that works well, the ending felt a little rushed but not so much that I felt cheated.

Overall this is a good work from an indie author, perfect for a holiday or weekend read when you want to escape but you still want your read to mean something.

3 bites

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Call of Gelduur by Jack Alriksson

One of the most important ways I choose which books to read is by using the blurb on the back. Nine times out of ten it gives me a really good idea of the tone of the book, the subject matter and often the writing style. Then there’ll either be the little nose wrinkle that accompanies a mental ‘meh’ and the book goes on the No pile, or a pursing of the lips accompanied by a ‘ooh’ and on the never-ending TBR pile it goes.

The blurb on the first book in The Norrland Saga led to the latter of these:

Call“Meet Ivar Skullcleaver. Lovely lad. He likes to read. Plunder. Slaughter. Shamelessly manipulate friends and foes. And he’s the hero of this lighthearted fantasy adventure.

Start your journey in the mysterious islands of Norrland, embark on an adorable pillaging cruise, sail bravely through a fierce storm and reach the island-kingdom of Ingorle… shipwrecked and defenseless. But don’t worry, it’s not that bad. Not yet. Not until the soldiers of Ingorle turn you into a slave and send you up north to defend their borders from a hidden threat that only reveals itself moments before killing the beholder in a very rude way. Now it’s truly bad. So, again, don’t worry. It should get better. Especially since the hidden threat strikes and…OK, that’s enough for spoilers. Read the book”

I was expecting a sarcastic, humorous, adventurous romp of a book that didn’t take itself too seriously just based on that, but helpfully the author continues with a bit of a laundry list. Having now read the book, I feel qualified, nay compelled, to comment (in blue)…

“SOUNDS INTERESTING, BUT WHAT DO I ACTUALLY GET?
– A delightful adventure in a fantasy world inspired by an Europe at the dawn of the Viking Age. Definitely a delightful fantasy world- there was good world-building and the  Norrlanders fit within the rules of the world whilst clearly showing their Viking inspired roots. The plot was certainly adventurous with lots going on and a fast pace set almost from the outset.
– A story of conquest (yep), vengeance (yep), friendship (yep), bravery (yep) and subtle manipulation (double yep)
– Battles. An obscene amount of battles. Land battles, sea battles, sieges, duels, slaughter, a bit of torture (not much, though. The author is not very fond of it), basically every act that can be performed by upstanding pirates, cutthroats and murderers. It was pretty violent which may put some people off but we’re not talking Game of Thrones or 300 levels of violence-it’s not that graphic.
– A war of wits. Because wars are not won simply by hurling soldiers at the enemy even if that’s a tactic frequently used by some….
– A big and happy smile on the cover, just to brighten your day 🙂 hmmm very cheery!
– Plenty of twists and unexpected turns of events that are overcome with the most powerful form of magic. The magic of the mind I would agree with the twists and turns of the plot but have to say they weren’t always unexpected 🙂
– Definitely not the “you must love the hero because I’ve made him so unbelievably perfect and you must hate the antagonists because they’re bad in such a cheap way” approach. Definitely not that. Feel free to love or hate the characters based on your own morality. Or lack of.  I’m not sure there is a way to love a hero so very much based on the brutality of the Vikings! But this was one of the things I liked about this book- the characters were not cardboard cutouts. It was very much a protagonist/antagonist book as opposed to a heroes/villains. It was difficult to relate to some of the characters because… you know… Vikings!
– A bit of humor and a lighthearted story. Just because the characters are busy slaughtering each other doesn’t mean the tone of the novel has to be dead serious. Absolutely agree- it’s light-hearted, it’s funny, it’s not even trying to be serious. This is a book that just wants you to enjoy reading it!”

And enjoy it I did! It’s a solid 3 biter with the proviso that if you don’t like gratuitous swearing, you may not want to read this…

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption.

I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.

Swallow The Sky – A Space Opera by Chris Mead

imageCarson is a mailman delivering mail from planet to planet 8,000 years after human’s were forced to colonise the universe.

His stop off at Kaimana offers him the chance to explore for more antiques, a sideline that is a much a passion as the chance to make profit. But things start going badly wrong when he wakes up with a dead woman in his bed. It soon becomes clear he is being set up by a wealthy megalomaniac who wants him to steal an ancient cassette tape in return for his freedom. But when he finds the cassette contains the secret location of Earth’s lost treasures, Carson is determined to capture the bounty himself.

This book is pure escapism. Imagine Indiana Jones set in space and you’ll start to get the picture! Actually one thing you won’t have to do much of whilst reading this is imagine – the author built all of these worlds so expertly that you’ll feel like you are right there with Carson on every planet and space ship he’s on.

If I was to be really critical of this I could lament the fact that it has no deep moral meaning or mention that the characters aren’t deeply tortured individuals wringing out every last drop of emotion they have. But to be honest this is a good-time, holiday read sort of novel and it doesn’t need to be high literature. The characters are believable and the good guys have moral centres and are likeable so that’s good snout for me.

A great read, and thoroughly recommended!

4 bites

 

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Drift by Jenny Alexander

imageJess is sixteen years old when her older brother Seb commits suicide. In her grief, Jess withdraws into herself, not talking to her parents, younger brother, nan, or even her best friend Lexi. She doesn’t talk to the school counsellor either, who instead encourages her to write about her feelings: to write to Seb.

Lexi has been messaging Jess daily, letting her know what’s going on outside of ‘planet Jess’. But Jess finds it difficult to write to Seb about the things that have happened since he died and instead goes back to when Seb was still alive, to tell him about things she wasn’t entirely honest about at the time. She also reflects on things she wishes she had done differently, like the time she discovered sleeping tablets in Seb’s room. Initially angry that she had been snooping, he admitted he had tried to commit suicide before, but that things were different. He told her he had no plans to take the pills, he just liked to know they were there. He convinced her there is no need to cause their parents worry by telling them. Jess also admits to Seb the truth behind her relationship with Tris, the gorgeous and confident boy in Seb’s year at school who Jess meets at a party thrown by herself and Lexi.

I read this book in one sitting. I was engrossed in it and the emotions it raised have stayed with me long after I finished. The subject matter makes it a difficult to book to read, but this is how it should be. It is about the guilt suffered by those who are left behind after suicide. The implosion of a family after the death of a child and the varied ways grief manifests itself. It also tackles the pressures put on young people, both in terms of academic success and relationships.

It is a very well written book. Told from a first person point of view, it feels at times like Jess has left her writing on a desk and you have happened to pick it up. Some of the phrases on depression and grief are excellent. One of my favourite quotes was from Marigold, the school counsellor on the idea that Seb had committed suicide because he not been loved enough. “You couldn’t measure love……….The point about love was that it could contain and survive all kinds of pain and imperfection. Anger, disappointment and blame were part of every relationship, and it was love’s process to transform them.”

In our interview with Jenny Alexander earlier in the year, we learnt it was a very personal book. It was initially released to coincide with World Suicide Prevention day with the aim of writing about suicide and depression to a young adult audience. In my opinion, this is a book that moves across age constraints and would speak to adults too.

5 bites

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting “Naughty Amelia Jane” by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

The Last Bastard Standing By Sienna Cassedy

imageI have sat here for the last 10 minutes wondering how to start this review. I don’t want to this to be a negative report but then I have only read half the book. Why? Mainly because I was never formally introduced to the plot. However, I can’t make this a positive review as the first portion of the book is mostly taken up with character building. Sadly the main character, who comes across as a semi alcoholic writer, takes up far to much time.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things to like. The main character is a rough and boozy female with pretensions of being a great writer. I kind of liked the way she was being built up. Though, I noticed there were no descriptions of her appearance. We actually had a better idea of what she liked to drink than what she looked like.

The first third of the book was taken up with her and a few subsidiary characters. By the time I got to the half way mark, the plot finally made an appearance. Sadly, we missed each other as I decided to stop reading at that point. A little too late for my tastes.

So you can see the problem I am having. A book with a great start, which laboured too hard over establishing the main character and a plot that doesn’t know when to make itself known. How should I start this review then? Maybe like this…

The Last Bastard Standing mainly concerns a female writer with dreams of making it big. She is inconsiderate to those around her, prefers to drink as often as possible and comes across as being ‘not nice to know’. The story telling by the author is different to what you might be used and will suit the more patient reader. Not exactly experimental but different enough to keep it interesting. The author, Sienna Cassedy, needs to pay more attention to structure, the kind of detail that keeps the reader hooked and entertained. Comes with practice and experience.

On the whole, good effort but unfortunately it lost me half way through.

2 bites out of 5

Bob Toovey
I started reading Sci Fi at around age 8, I’ve never looked back since. I was highly influenced by my father’s reading choices at the beginning. I soon branched out to many different authors and Sci Fi genre’s. Early influences include Asimov, Clark, Simak, PKD and other ‘golden age’ authors. On occasion, I like a good spy book and currently finding early religious history a fascinating subject – despite being an atheist.

Growing Pains: Kendra’s Diaries by KP Smith

image

Kendra Foster is a normal thirteen year old living in New Orleans in 1985. She is going through some pretty normal teenage stuff: she is in the last year of middle school, is preparing herself for this years cheerleading tryouts after the humiliating events of trying out 2 years ago, and is hoping she might get noticed by the cutest guy in the class, Jamie.

But in addition to that, she has other issues to content with. Her mom and dad are fighting. All the time. Mainly about money: her dad doesn’t make much meaning that things are tight at home. Her family are reliant on handouts from her maternal grandparents which leads to resentment between all involved. The financial problems could impact Kendra in her choice of high school. Without a scholarship, they won’t be able to afford for her to attend The Academy, the best high school in the area. Her mom has been given offered a promotion, but Kendra’s dad doesn’t want her to take it in what appears to be a mix of guilt and male pride. Tensions at home are running high and Kendra is aware that she doesn’t have all the information.

There was a lot I liked about this book. Kendra’s voice is distinctive and the writing style is easy and fun to read. There weren’t many times I felt pulled out of the moment, although when that did happen it was often because of repetition in the text. There was also occasionally too much tell and not enough show. However, I put this down to the fact it is the diary of a thirteen year old and told in the first person. Some of the writing was in italics which I didn’t understand the need for and felt it didn’t add much to the general style. I was also in two minds about the prologue which Initially I felt it was unnecessary. But this is a young adult book and eventually I thought that as a teenager I would probably need to have a reason to listen to someone born in the 70’s: something to convince me that problems teenagers go through today aren’t isolated to this generation. I read my copy in a kindle friendly format and found that at the start of a chapter, the first letter of each word was on a separate line from the rest of the word. This was distracting, but hopefully this was just in my copy.

The marital problems of Kendra’s parents are well written and show the effect both on Kendra and her younger sister Patrice. Kendra is self centred at times, like any thirteen year old is, but she shows growth during the story. This book would make a good read for any young adult who has experienced divorce, but I think it would be enjoyed by teenagers in general.

3 bites

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting “Naughty Amelia Jane” by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

The Reaper’s Daughter by KM Randall

ReaperThe Reaper’s Daughter is the first in a new paranormal young adult series by KM Randall. It focuses on a young college student named Blake who discovers that she is the daughter of Death.

“I’ve always felt like an average girl … except for my strange relationship with death. You could say I like to court it. Whether I’m soaring through the air as a flyer for Specter University’s cheer squad, or speeding down the steepest mountain with only grace and balance keeping me from an icy end, I’ve always needed to feel a rush. But now Death is courting me―in more ways than one. First, there’s Rishi, a rogue death deity who has a penchant for annoying me nearly to my grave and whose intense gaze has the power to see right through me. Then there’s Hades, who I’d rather had stayed just a myth. Now that he knows I exist, he’s not going to leave me alone until I meet the same end as my mother.

Oh yeah, did I forget to mention her? I spent my whole life thinking she had died when I was a baby, but now I’ve found out she’s much more than dead. Fifty years ago, Hades banished my mother from the underworld and took away her ability to cross over souls―souls that have wandered lost through the world ever since. Now she wants me to clean up the mess. You may have heard of her before…

They call her the Grim Reaper.”

I received an ARC of this in exchange for an honest review and, although I was intrigued by the premise, the first few pages were disappointing. The writing quality was not as I expected. In particular there was a very clunky sentence about Blake kissing her boyfriend that made me metaphorically face-palm.
The quality improved however and the book turned out to be fairly enjoyable.
Blake as a character is pretty good; she’s knows her mind and seems like a normal college student. Her supposed ‘death wish’ type adrenaline seeking behaviour, which is supposed to be a result of her death deity heritage, felt a bit forced and we never actually see her do much that is particularly dangerous (unless I’m severely underestimating the riskiness of cheerleading?). Her relationship with her boyfriend on the other hand was a refreshing change from the ‘insta-love’ trend that is so popular in YA books these days- it was normal and established and didn’t rely on any mystical powers or what-have-you. There are occasions where Blake doesn’t react in a realistic way and towards the latter third of the novel she gets positively whingy- I understand that she has mummy issues but head in the game girl! Bigger picture!

The secondary characters are ok- the dad is a bit of a non-entity, Rishi is pretty interesting and Shelby desperately needs a flaw (other than the apparent sleep disorder she has- who sleeps that much??!).

The plot is not entirely original but maintains interest and enjoyment. The pacing is a little off – way too much time spent travelling considering the high-stakes mission –  and the world building could use some work- soul apps? death deity training school? Doesn’t really fit the rest of the mythology to be honest.

There is enough here to make me interested in reading the sequel when it appears. I’d like to see more time spent in Abaddon and more time spent exploring the in-world mythology.

3 bites today

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption.

I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.

The Tube Riders by Chris Ward

 

Click the picture to buy from Amazon
Click the picture to buy from Amazon

It is 2075 and Britain is now Mega Britain. Cut off from the rest of Europe and under the sole control of a man known only as the Governor. He rarely appears but rumours of his extraordinary powers keep the populace in check.

But teenagers must still blow off their frustrations so in the abandoned London Underground station of St. Cannerwells, a group of misfits calling themselves the Tube Riders meet regularly. They are a group of orphans, but together they are a family of sorts – Marta is their leader, a girl haunted by her brother’s disappearance. Paul lives only to protect his little brother Owen. Simon is trying to hold on to his relationship with Jess, daughter of a government official. Guarding them all is Switch, a young man with a flickering eye and a faster knife, who cares only about preserving their legend as they play their dangerous game with trains.

Everything changes the day they are attacked by a rival gang. While escaping, they witness an event that could bring war down on Mega Britain. Suddenly they are fleeing for their lives, pursued not only by their rivals, but by the brutal Department of Civil Affairs, government killing machines known as Huntsmen, and finally by the inhuman Governor himself.

Chris Ward has a good idea for a novel here and he executes it well to an extent. There is plenty of action with characters facing danger at every turn and surviving as much by luck as by skill. The characters are drawn well enough for us to care about them and their reactions are believable.

The only place this goes wrong is that the author tells the story from too many different points of view. His omniescent narration swoops down into pretty much every speaking role! Luckily he does this well enough for it not to be confusing but it does at times mean he’s doing too much telling and not enough showing. This would definitely have been better and even more compelling if he had limited the viewpoint to maybe three of the main characters or maximum five, not twelve.

A good read though – 3.5 bites.

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Scarlet Wench by M K Graff

image The Scarlet Wench is the third of the modern day “cosy crime” mysteries starring Nora Tierney. Nora is a young American writer and single mother living in England. She has recently moved to the Lake District and is helping out at her illustrator and friend Simon Ramsey’s small hotel. When a traveling theatre troupe arrives to stage Noel Coward’s play “Blithe Spirit” a series of pranks raises nosy Nora’s suspicions. Particularly as they seem to mirror the murderous actions in the play.

But she’s not the only one trying to solve the mystery,  the only lodge guest not in the cast: Detective Inspector Declan Barnes, gets dragged in too. Although he’s ostensibly there for a hiking trip he’s really there to see if the sparks he and Nora felt on there last meeting could  be fanned into the flames of love.

I usually enjoy an occasional ‘cozy’ but I have to admit I only got half way through this before giving up on it. Although the setting is modern the book is written in traditional English mystery style with a cast of characters and room layouts. That’s fine with me but sadly this seemed to be extended to the characters, or more accurately caricatures. Nora seemed more like a woman from a cheap romance novel and none of the other characters were any better. The author jumped about from one perspective so as to tell us all their inner thoughts, but failed to endear them to me.

Graff won an award for Best British Cozy with the book that introduces Nora, THE BLUE Virgin, so maybe I’m missing something. Or maybe she’s resting on her laurels since then and just churning them out.

Definitely not my cup of tea! 2 bites

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Orb of Truth by Brae Wyckoff

OrbHere at BookEater HQ we receive dozens of requests a week to review books for authors, some self-published and some conventionally published. Often we will receive the book for free in return for the review. This does not guarantee a positive review- our hard and fast rule is that any review we post on the website must be honest and not influenced by the method we receive the book. For the most part this is not an issue- even books I have not enjoyed particularly have had positives to write about in my reviews; I have been able to review honestly and yet not solely negatively.
The Orb of Truth by Brae Wyckoff was a book I received for free in exchange for an honest review and it has been a difficult book to review. I have struggled right up to the posting deadline with what to write- I am aware that for authors sending their novels out into the world for judgement, this is a huge deal for them- negative reviews will hurt- and yet I have to be honest.
The fact is that this was a book that I could not finish. I have had the book for some time and have tried to read it several times because sometimes you’re just not in the mood for a particular type of book. I made the decision today that I was not going to read any more.

The rest of this review will therefore be quite short as I have not read the entire book. My reasons for not finishing are as follows:

  • I found the language used to be overly descriptive to the detriment of the meaning of the sentence. There was little left to the imagination and even the act of smoking a cigarette was described in great detail.
  • I found the characters to be generic and the story overly full of the standard fantasy tropes- A grumpy dwarf, a heroic halfing, a dark lord manipulating puppet kings etc
  • I found the dialogue to be cliched and stilted. Conversations were unnatural and nobody ever just ‘said’ anything, they whispered or growled or exclaimed or muttered etc.

I should note that there are a number of good reviews for this book on both Good Reads and Amazon so maybe there is something I am missing.  I will leave it up to you as to whether you want to find out.

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption.

I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.