Review – Of Blood and Honey

Of Blood and Honey by Stina LeichtI put it on my list and then pretty much did nothing about this book until I found it floating around on my Nook one day and decided it was time. Let me tell you, actually, I don’t know how to tell you how amazing this story is. It’s dark, in some ways terrifying, and in others, sort of sweet. The sweet parts are very few and far between and last only a sentence or two but you need them to get you through the darkness of this book. And don’t let my saying this book is dark turn you off; there’s some great reading here.

Liam has never known his father and has no relationship to speak of with his stepfather. His mother, trying to protect him, let’s him believe his father is dead. That doesn’t help matters especially when knowing would be in his favor. Liam’s true father is fey and when the battle between the fey and the fallen gets bloody, Liam is dragged in not knowing, or understanding, what is going on in his life.

Poor Liam. The boy gets picked up and jailed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, is abused in prison, and can’t get a break outside of it. Mary Kate, the love of his life is his only redemption but even that relationship has it’s limitations and problems. Liam’s father, a man not fully human, has passed along several traits to Liam but he’s ill-equipped to deal with any of it because no one’s told him how to. He can’t get out of anything, and is stuck in more ways than one.

While parts of this story are painful, it’s worth the read. Leicht overlays the political tensions of Ireland in the 1970s with a biblical battle of good and evil with the church taking sides and even condoning killing, believing the fallen angels need to be killed. Liam is protected not only by his mother but the local priest as well, Father Murray, who tries his best to help him. It becomes a tale of good and evil but the lines are incredibly blurry.

I said some of the story was dark and it’s not only the fantasy elements that apply. The prison scenes are rough but do add to the story in an impressively emotional way. Would it be easier to read this story without these parts? Yes. Would the story be the same without these parts? No.

And Blue Skies From Pain is the follow up to Of Blood and Honey in the Fey and the Fallen series. It’s on my list.

Of Blood and Honey

By Stina Leicht

Night Shade Books

ISBN: 9781597802994

 

Review – Above

Above by Isla MorleyWhen I sit down to read a book, I find a comfortable spot because I usually plan to be there for some time. With Above, I never found that comfort zone because I was putting the book down every few chapters. Why? It was such an intense read that I had to walk away but I was only able to stay away for a few minutes and then I was right back into it because I had to know more. If there’s one thing I didn’t expect from this book, it was the intensity.

At sixteen, Blythe Hallowell is a smart girl, not necessarily boy obsessed, but there is one boy she can’t wait to see at the Horse Thieves Picnic. When the boy is called away and doesn’t return, Blythe is hurt. Walking home later, a local man named Dobbs Hordin drives by and tells her that her brother has been hurt. She gets in the car with him, and instead of being the day she met a boy at the picnic, it becomes the day she goes missing from Eudora, Kansas. Dobbs Hordin is a local survivalist and has been preparing a missile silo for the end of days. He takes Blythe to the silo, locking her in with his other gathered possessions, and when the door is locked, her life all but stops.

The first few days and months of her captivity, Blythe focuses solely on getting out. She wants to go home to her family, she wants to see her best friend, and she wants to walk in the sun again. Blythe soon comes to the sad realization that isn’t going to happen and it’s a crushing blow to her mentally. Months pass and she falls slowly into a dark place fueled by loneliness, anger, and despair. After she gives birth to a stillborn daughter, her mental state becomes even more precarious making even her captor nervous.

Seventeen years pass and Blythe, Dobbs, and their son Adam, live out their meager lives in that silo. All Blythe can think about is her son and going above. She never gave up hope that one day she would be able to see sunlight in place of the sickly light that governs their waking hours below. Wanting her son to understand the world above, she tells him stories about what it will be like once they leave. Dobbs, who does come and go during those seventeen years, never tells Blythe or Adam about the outside world. When an unexpected and unplanned event gives Blythe and Adam the chance to leave, they walk into a world they didn’t expect and weren’t prepared for.

I can honestly say I didn’t see the twist coming. I wanted Blythe and Adam to walk out into the sun, admire the flowers and blue sky. I wanted to see them walk to her parents’ home and be welcomed with open arms. After seventeen years of captivity, they walk into a world that neither understands. It’s devastating to not only Blythe and Adam but you as the reader. I’m not one for happy endings, but I thought Blythe deserved something after what she’d been through and she wasn’t going to get it.

There’s something really wonderful about this twist though, and by wonderful I don’t mean good. I like that Morley doesn’t let the reader have the happy ending. I like that she takes everything away and leaves Blythe with nothing. In more than one way, Blythe gets to start over with a clean slate even if she doesn’t see that. While no one forgives Dobbs for anything — and he certainly doesn’t deserve forgiveness — Blythe does come to realize a few things about him that she never would have given thought to if she had still been locked behind concrete walls.

I won’t lie — this is a book you won’t be able to put down. And if you do put it down, you’ll pick it back up in a few minutes because you won’t be able to stay away. Having devoured it in a day, trust me when I say this. Morley delivers a book that will drive you through every possible emotion before you get to the end, and once you get there, your heart will be sore from the beating.

Above

By Isla Morley

Simon and Schuster/Gallery Books

ISBN: 9781476731520

In addition to this blog, I also write reviews for the Bookreporter. You can find my review of Above here.

Review – The Last Page and Black Bottle

I loved The Last Page, which is the first book in this duology about Caliph the reluctant king of Stonehold. (That’s the word the author uses to describe these books so I’m going with it.) The Last Page is a combination of fantasy, science fiction, and a little bit of steampunk. Black Bottle is a bit of the same with a strong end of the world vibe. Since I never did get around to talking about The Last Page when I read it, I’m reviewing the two books as a whole.

The Last Page by Anthony HusoBasic premise of The Last Page: Caliph Howl is the reluctant heir to the throne of the Duchy of Stonehold. At 23, he becomes king and is forced to confront a possible civil war, and every dirty secret held by the Duchy. What he really misses, is his lover, Sena. They met in school and Caliph fell hard for the witch, and while she returns to him, it’s not for love, it’s for his blood. The woman is looking for a book called the Cisrym Ta. This book can destroy the world, and she’s the only one who knows how to open it.

So, The Last Page = awesome. Seriously, read it. Thanks to Elizabeth over at Dark Cargo for pointing this one out one day. It’s a book worth your time.

Basic premise of Black Bottle: Caliph Howl has been raised from the dead by his witch, Sena — or at least that’s what everyone believes. Thanks to this tidbit of gossip, the Duchy of Stonehold has now captured the interest of the rest of the world. When Caliph is invited to speak as part of a delegation, Sena’s action’s may bring about Caliph and Stonehold’s demise.

Black Bottle by Anthony HusoI liked Black Bottle but I didn’t love Black Bottle. The reason is not because it wasn’t The Last Page but because at certain points, I didn’t know where the story was going. It felt a little lost to me. Overall, I think these two books make an epic worth reading and maybe I would have enjoyed the second book more if I had read it closer in the timeline of life to The Last Page. I think my love may have rubbed off on it, but as that didn’t happen, I think I was waiting for the love to arrive in the same magnitude.

This is a dark world that Huso creates. Blood magic, death, monsters, witches, black holes where no life exists. The blood magic is amazing — horrific, painful, and deadly — and as dark as it should be. Sena is the epitome of her order, she knows and understands more than her closest peer, but even she can’t use the magic without being hurt. While not going into it for spoilerific reasons, her transformation throughout the story was interesting. Also, I liked that there are strong female characters in these books but I do wish they weren’t only witches and/or addictive personalities with crazy hallucinations though.

Am I glad I read both books? Yes. Will I recommend them? Yes. Will there be caveats? Probably, especially in regard to Black Bottle, but final word — read them if you’re looking for an epic to keep you company in the cold.

The Last Page

By Anthony Huso

Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC

ISBN: 9781429964869

Black Bottle

By Anthony Huso

Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC

ISBN: 9781429985536

Review – A Burnable Book

A Burnable Book by Bruce HolsingerLondon, 1385, and a supposedly ancient book of poems prophesying the death of England’s newly crowned king, Richard II, is making the rounds. While the book, and its seditious poems, becomes the talk among English high society, John Gower, an English poet and bureaucrat, learns about the book from his friend Geoffrey Chaucer in a shadowy bar when the two meet to talk. Chaucer, in a spot of trouble and looking for help from Gower, asks his friend to find the book saying it will cause him grief if it falls into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, Chaucer fails to mention the most pertinent information, leaving Gower to find out it’s a “burnable book” — a treasonous work that can get one killed for having just seen it let alone asking around about its existence.

Gower knows London inside out with contacts everywhere and he’s not afraid to pay for the information he needs. Knowing little about the book he’s after puts him in the dark, a place he isn’t used to being. When he starts asking about the work, he runs into a wall but he keeps at it becoming increasingly curious, and worried, about what the book contains. What he finds are more questions — none of which can be safely answered.

While the book is discussed secretly in dark palace halls, in the London slums, it falls into the hands of several unknowing individuals who don’t understand how valuable the book is but they know that people will commit murder to get their hands on it. As information about the book makes an unruly circle back to Gower, he finds himself questioning his love for his family, his circle of influence, and why he’s even looking for the book. If Gower finds the book will it stop the death of King Richard II? Are the prophecies true or just rambling notes between lovers?

Holsinger is a first time novelist but he’s no stranger to writing or the medieval world in general. He’s a medieval scholar, and you can tell by the details. He doesn’t overwhelm the reader and does an excellent job bringing the London of 1385 to life. In a few instances, the descriptions are so real you wish you could unread them, especially when the story moves to the slums and the living conditions. Then again, it’s also what brings this story alive and makes it so good.

I have to talk about the characters because it’s an amazing array of individuals. Yes, Geoffrey Chaucer is in this book but he’s not the whole book and I like that he’s a minor character in some ways. John Gower on the other hand is a nice mix of courage, self-assurance, self-doubt, and loathing. I like that he questions himself, his life, and his family. This whole episode with the book changes everything for him and makes him question what he’s doing in London and the life he’s built. By far the most fascinating characters though — the women of the London slums. These women are some of the most interesting in the book, and certainly some of the most devious when it comes to hiding the book and finding it again. The descriptions of slum life take this book from being a nice bit of historical fiction to very accurate descriptions of historical life.

The best part of this book, apart from the characters, is the mystery itself. First, it’s a mystery about a book — what reader doesn’t love that! Second, thanks to the cast of characters, the book passes through so many hands that even the people who know the truth about the book don’t know what’s happening. In the interest of preserving the mystery, I’ll stop there but think tangled web and you have a great sketch of this book.

If I’d been asked to write a three word review of this book it would have read — read this book. And that’s my final conclusion — read this book.

A Burnable Book

By Bruce Holsinger

William Morrow

ISBN: 9780062240323

Review – Vampires Don’t Sparkle!

Vampires Don't Sparkle! Needing some holiday reading (what, you don’t read horror at the holidays!?) I got myself a copy to read over Christmas, and can I just tell you how wonderful it is! It is! So wonderful! I mean that. It’s dark. The vampires are evil, depraved creatures. The people are terrified and bloody. It’s full of all that is awesome about vampire stories.

I used to love vampire stories. I say used to because they lost the wicked that was part of the myth. These are evil creatures hunting and feasting on humans not kind vampires who are happy chasing down wildlife and feeling guilty about it. Cruelty has been reinserted into their personalities once more with this collection. And I like it. Happy go lucky vampires are not my thing.

The stories and authors in this collection:

A New Life by J. F. Gonzalez

What Once was Flesh by Tim Waggoner

The Darkton Circus Mystery by Elizabeth Massie

Robot Vampire by R. J. Sullivan

Beneath a Templar Cross by Gord Rollo

The Weapon of Memory by Kyle S. Johnson

The Excavation by Stephen Zimmer

Skraeling by Joel A. Sutherland

Dreams of Winter by Bob Freeman

Dracula’s Winkee: Bloodsucker Blues by Gregory L. Hall

I Fuck Your Sunshine by Lucy A. Snyder

A Soldier’s Story by Maurice Broaddus

Rattenkönig by Douglas F. Warrick

Vampire Nation by Jerry Gordon

Curtain Call by Gary A. Braunbeck

Favorites, because I have a few:

The Darkton Circus Mystery by Elizabeth Massie — A traveling circus full of wonders but what if one of those wonders is a blood sucking beast kept hidden and abused? What would happen if the mystery were solved?

Beneath a Templar Cross by Gord Rollo — How far will someone go to exact revenge? Far.

Skraeling by Joel A. Sutherland — Vampires in a frozen wasteland. As if you didn’t have enough to worry about.

Rattenkönig by Douglas F. Warrick — What if things, unexplainable things, appears in your house? Would you fight? Or would you succumb?

If you crave vampires without the sparkle, go ahead, get lost in this book like I did. Another great thing about this book, a part of the proceeds will go to support cancer research.

No sparkles, if it pleases.

Thanks to Andrea at Little Red Reviewer for mentioning this one.

Vampires Don’t Sparkle

Edited by Michael West

Seventh Star Press

ISBN: 9781937929602

 

Review – Bellman & Black

Bellman & Black by Diane SetterfieldAs a child, William Bellman once took aim with his slingshot, and on a lucky shot, took down a rook. While the moment was just a blink in time, faded by the years, the rooks never forgot, even after William did.

Working his way through life, successful in almost all his business endeavors, he begins to let himself think he’s a lucky man. But William’s not. A chance meeting with a stranger changes his life forever and he enters the business of death with an unseen partner.

I’ll say this, Bellman & Black is an interesting book. There are some strange twists and sad moments (it’s not a happy book by any means) and it is, overall, a dark novel. I read it on the train on a snowy evening and it was the perfect companion on that ride. It could have easily been the worst book choice ever if I’d been traveling on a warm, sunny day though. It all depends on your mood for this one. I know that’s true for almost all books and most people but I feel it’s particularly true in this case.

Setterfield is a great writer. A dark and dreary and somewhat strange writer but ultimately, a strong writer who can evoke that sense of time and place complete with subtle drama. She gives you just enough to imagine her world before she twists it ever so slightly. However, there are times in this book where it began to feel a bit repetitious. Something about Bellman repeating figures and tasks over and over began feeling, well, like he should be doing something else and she didn’t know what that was.

This is supposed to be a ghost story but in reality, it’s a story about a haunted man. Is the book as strong as her first book, The Thirteenth Tale? No, but I think it’s an introspective story on the things that haunt us.

Bellman & Black

By Diane Setterfield

Atria

ISBN: 9781476711959

 

Review – The Descent

The Descent by Alma KatsuThe Descent is the third book in The Taker trilogy. If you haven’t read The Taker and The Reckoning yet, you need to fix that in 2014. This trilogy is certainly one of the more interesting ones to come along. There are some great characters and plot lines that keep you guessing — even after you read the ending first, like I do.

Lanore McIlvrae, Lanny as she’s known, spent years living in fear of Adair, the man who made her immortal. Their relationship, while heated and insanely passionate, is not a stable one by any means. The things these two have done to each other — both mentally and physically — are horrific, and yet, they can’t seem to escape each other. Beyond the immortal bond the two share, there’s something else that keeps them returning to each other even after all the hurt they’ve caused.

After Lanny’s current partner, Luke, dies of cancer, she begins having nightmares about her former lover, and one could say, the great love of her life, Jonathan. Believing the nightmares are more than just guilt induced dreams, Lanny goes looking for the only man she knows who can help her — Adair. She knows he possesses the power to alleviate her nightmares and find answers to her questions. Unfortunately, she’s not sure how well she’ll be received, especially coming on business concerning Jonathan. While Lanny and Adair’s relationship has changed significantly over the intervening years, Jonathan is very much a sore spot between the two. There are things in life that are constant and Jonathan is that one thing for Lanny and Adair.

When Lanny finds Adair, she finds a changed man. He’s living on a deserted island in the Mediterranean and is a much calmer person but she knows there’s still much to fear from Adair and the power he can yield. She comes to an understanding of her feelings for him but knows she must still help Jonathan if possible and that’s when things get complicated.

My dilemma — how do I tell readers about this book when it’s the third in a series and I don’t want to give anything away? Instead, I’m going to talk about a larger theme in the series — love. I’m not one for love stories, especially ones that get wrapped up all nice and neat in the end. But, I liked that love had such a large and messy role in this story, and let’s not forget the mess the mere thought of the word brought to Lanny, Adair, and Jonathan and the catastrophe that is their relationship. Don’t get me wrong, for a long time I didn’t like Adair at all. He’s cruel, hateful, and isn’t much for honor or respect. Jonathan, while Lanny can’t help but love him, isn’t exactly a loveable person either leaving a trail of heartbroken women in his path. In fact, Lanny, while she obviously loves the idea of love, gets burned so many times it would be easier for her to just walk away from everyone. Maybe her willingness to keep believing that love can work is what makes her likable after all.

It’s always difficult to come to the end of a series especially one that was so good. Alma Katsu gave her characters immortality, beat them up and teased them with death, and in the end, threw in love and let everything fall to the ground in a gigantic messy heap of humanity. At certain points, you won’t like any of the characters — who can all be crazy, manipulative, sad, and demented — but you’re rewarded with a tale that’s full of the supernatural. What’s the good news about this series coming to an end? New readers get to read from start to finish getting wrapped up in Lanny’s strange and enticing world without being left to wonder what will happen next. For me, there’s a satisfaction in finally getting the chance to see what becomes of Lanny, Adair, and Jonathan.

In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for the Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.

The Descent

By Alma Katsu

Gallery Books

ISBN: 9781451651829

Thoughts on The Love Artist

The Love Artist by Jane AlisonThe Love Artist by Jane Alison was assigned for an online class I took in the fall of 2013 called Plagues, Witches, and War. The first few weeks of class were spent reading articles and chosen chapters so I was excited to get to the books that were going to be discussed as part of dialogue sessions with the authors. However, I was slightly apprehensive about this book. While I like antiquity, I don’t always like reading about antiquity. Something gets lost in translation for me and I somehow end up being disappointed, so I went in a bit skeptical about whether or not I would enjoy a story about the Roman poet, Ovid.

When I’m wrong, I’m wrong.

I fell in love with this story. It was a bit slow for me to get into. Obviously, I needed to let a few thoughts go before I was able to get lost in it. Once lost, I was sold — even about the magical realism that doesn’t always work but works so very well in the context of this story. I prefer when magical realism is subtle and rolled into believable traits and actions of the characters and that’s what happened.

Basic premise. Ovid, a Roman poet, travels to the Black Sea, and while there, he meets a woman. He becomes obsessed — almost possessed by his obsession — and feeling so inspired by her and their relationship that he brings her back to Rome with him. Xenia, a woman like no other, with no need or want to become a woman of Rome, practices her arts as if she never left her isolated island home. A witch? Maybe. A healer? Also. But what she is a mystery and she remains that way, especially to Ovid who in the thralls of his latest work, becomes even more entangled in a web he can’t get out of.

The Love Artist is not a fast moving story. As a reader, you spend a strange amount of time navigating Ovid’s ego which grows only larger with thoughts of immortality,  knowing he’ll be read far into a future he can’t imagine. The love part of the story isn’t love either. Is there admiration? Some. Is there manipulation? A whole lot, actually. There’s jealousy and raw emotion. Deceit. While the action is very little, it’s not what moves the story. The emotions of the characters push it forward to a conclusion.

One of the interesting things about this book being part of the class was having the opportunity to hear the author talk about the book and her inspiration. What seemed to interest her most was the fact that there is no record of why Ovid was banished from Rome by Augustus. She makes an attempt at filling in the details with this story and her interpretation as to why it might have happened. It’s an interesting thought for a story catalyst. I, personally, liked that she didn’t go so far as to fill in the blanks about why he was banished. I liked that sense of mystery surrounding the ending. It fit so well with the mystery that was Xenia, the mystery that was the future, and the mystery that was their life together.

So, final my thought is this: while I wasn’t initially sold on the story, I was sold by the end and the by the way Alison wove a mystery around a historical figure.

The Love Artist by Jane Alison

Picador

ISBN: 9781429962193