Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"Kingship, Tales from the Aether Book One: Brotherhood of the Strange" by Michael T. Richie & Grant S. Wilson

The book I read for today was a YA Steampunk novel. It had an interesting concept; a member of the Brotherhood of the Strange has created a device that will transport a person into the future. Once the time sought is selected and the device activated, it will take the driver to that time. It cannot, however travel backwards, so there is no way to return to the time one left or to travel into the past.

While some members of the Brotherhood remain true to a desire to improve things for humanity, more and more of them seem to be coming under the influence of a group known as the “Hand of Paris.” The inventor of the time travel device, Degory Priest, has realized that if his new invention falls into the hands of this group that only evil will follow. He seeks to destroy any chance of others recreating his invention, but misfortune brings him and it directly into the hands of the leader of the Brotherhood, who is also the head of the Hand of Paris. In an act of desperation, Degory sends the leader of the Brotherhood one year into the future, hoping to be able to find a way to save the rest of them before the evil that is coming can return.

During the course of the next several months, while he manages to gain the trust of some, it becomes clear to him that he is likely to fail in his desire to save the Brotherhood. An evil monk by the name of Grigori has too many of them under his thrall. Degory has a plan to try and stop it all, and as a precaution has left instructions with his niece should something happen to prevent him from stopping the Hand of Paris. When his brother who is a member of the Hand of Paris shows up looking for Degory, Cordelia must escape and seek out the Aethership “Kingship” in order to stop what had been set in motion and to save both her uncle and the rest of the world.

It was an interesting story, though a few spots could have used a little more editing. I did enjoy reading it, though I suspect younger audiences will enjoy it even more than I did. (It was written for Young Adults after all, so I’m not really it’s target audience, even though I did enjoy reading it.) While it doesn’t exactly end on a cliffhanger, there are a good number of plot points that are left hanging. As this is the first book in a series, those who wish to know what comes next will need to hunt down book 2. I will likely seek out the next book as I am curious as to how it will end, though unfortunately that may be a bit as I have a number of other books that I need to read before I can return to this series.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"Survival in the Shadows: Seven Jews Hidden in Hitler's Berlin" by Barbara Lovenheim

Today’s book is a non-fiction book. It tells the story of 7 people who lived in Berlin and were unable to get out of Germany before things began turning deadly for anyone of the Jewish faith. With the assistance of Barbara Lovenheim, their tale was finally told. It was not a biography or memoir, but not quite an “as told to” book either. Ms. Lovenheim worked very closely with them to be certain that her descriptions and explanations were as accurate and true to their memories of events as possible.

This book goes into great detail about what their lives were like before things began to turn bad for those who were Jewish and showed the progression of what happened as the country they lived in turned against them. It detailed the trials they were faced with long before they went into hiding, as well as the difficulties they faced once they realized that it was necessary to hide if they wished to survive. They prepared carefully and were lucky enough to have both the time and resources to prepare to hide in Berlin.

Obviously, safe shelter needed to be their first concern, it was not easy to come by for such a large group of people. While they were not able to remain together in one location, they remained aware of where each of them were and did find ways to keep in contact as a group. This was not always easy and often they were forced to relocate in order to keep both themselves and those hiding them safe.

Food was also a big concern. The ways they came up with to keep themselves from starvation were often nothing short of miraculous. Food was often scarce and ration cards were required to be able to purchase necessities. Obtaining ration cards while in hiding, without being identified as Jewish, arrested, and sent to forced labor camps or worse was often all but impossible. Also, they would need a way to earn an income to be able to afford to buy food. However it was not safe for employers to hire those known to be Jewish.

There is so much information in this book, but it was presented in a way that made me want to keep reading rather than feeling overwhelmed by it all. Another thing I liked about this book was that it didn’t simply end with the ending of the war. We get to find out what happened to each of the 7 people written of beyond merely learning about their lives prior to no longer needing to hide. There are also pictures of all of them and their families included at the end of the book. I do recommend reading this book. It was well-written and I learned more of the history of WW2 from a perspective that I had not previously seen.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

"The Tomorrow Gene" by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant

This book is primarily centered around a man by the name of Ephraim Todd who is apparently taking a relaxing vacation at a luxurious island resort known as Eden.

Eden is most famous for a rejuvenation treatment known as the Tomorrow Gene. No one seems to know exactly what this treatment entails, but it can take years off of a person’s apparent age, making them young again. It does, however, cost half a million dollars for the treatment, making it accessible only to the very rich. It also needs to be refreshed every so often or the recipient will wind up reverting back to their actual age.

Ephraim is not actually going to Eden for the relaxing vacation that he claims he is seeking. He is actually there to find out what really happened to his older brother who had disappeared after going to Eden years earlier. He is also there is to learn everything he can about how the Tomorrow Gene treatment works.

A woman by the name of Fiona has financed his trip in exchange for this information. She owns a rival company and has set Ephriam up with a false identity to help hide his real reasons for being there. But as Ephraim soon discovers, things are not entirely as they appear on Eden, and he runs into quite a number of problems very quickly.

I really enjoyed reading this book. While I was able to guess at a few of the things going on, there were far more plot twists than I saw coming. I wish I could tell you about some of them here, but I really don’t want to spoil the story for you. I will definitely be looking forward to getting a copy of book 2 in the series to find out what happens next. It didn’t exactly end on a cliffhanger, but it really left me wanting to know where they are going with things from here. I’ll admit it, I’m hooked and I want to know more.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

"Her Western Heart: Seeing Ranch Series" by Florence Linnington

I received an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this book.

This was the story of a young woman living in New York who was unhappy with her life and the parade of young men she was being introduced to by her parents in an attempt to find her a husband. After locking one such suitor out on the balcony during one of the multitude of parties at her home, her father decrees that he has chosen the only man left whom she has not offended to become her husband, whether she wishes to marry him or not.

Unfortunately for Gemma, this man is considerably older than she is, quite a bit shorter than she, and clearly knows that she does not have any say in the matter. Regardless of what she wishes, Gemma will be wed to him in only a couple of months.

Seeking any way that she can possibly find out of her predicament, Gemma places an ad seeking a husband as a mail order bride. To her great relief, her ad is answered by Mitchell, the owner of the Winding Path Ranch in Wyoming Territory. After packing a bag, Gemma sneaks out of the house in the middle of the night to board a train headed out West, where she feels that a future as a rancher’s wife will be far better than the one with the husband her parents had arranged for her.

I truly enjoyed reading this book. The author clearly cared enough to do an amazing job when it came to editing and proofreading her work. The story held my interest the entire way through and the plot didn’t seem to slow down once Gemma met the man she ran away to marry and had to learn how to perform all the chores a rancher’s wife would need to know how to do, but that a rich, New York society girl would never have had any reason to learn.

If the previous book in this series and the upcoming sequel are as well written as this book was, I would recommend reading the entire series. This was the second book in the series, and I intend to buy and read the first one and hopefully the next one (once it has been released) as well.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

"J.R.R. Tolkien: A life Inspired" by Wyatt North Publishing, LLC

To be honest, I’m not entirely certain how I feel about this book. I liked parts of it, but other sections seemed to drag along. Tolkien lost his father at a young age and his mother as well a number of years later. After that, his guardian was a catholic priest who told the boy that he needed to stop seeing the girl he was growing fond of when it became known that she wasn’t Catholic. Tolkien did seek her out again years later and they were able to resume their relationship once she agreed to join the Catholic church.

The book seems to skip around somewhat, often focusing on particular themes rather than following a straight timeline. Not much time is spent talking about Tolkien’s relationship with his wife or children. I would have liked to know more about all of them. At the end of the book, it talks about how no one ever doubted that Tolkien and his wife were in love, though I would have preferred to have been given examples of the two of them together rather than just being told how they felt about each other.

There also wasn’t much information about his relationship with his children. It was mentioned that one of them joined the priesthood, and that he had a daughter, but not much else was shared about those two. More was said of his son Christopher, who took over his father’s unfinished writing projects to see them through to completion after his father’s death. I really would have liked to know more about Tolkien’s family life.

A good deal of time was spent talking about the time J.R.R. Tolkien spent in the military during WW1. After finishing his studies, he trained as a signaler. This meant being able to use flags, pidgeons, or whatever else was necessary to ensure communications didn’t fail. Often that meant the use of runners to carry messages. Tolkien’s training as a signaler also allowed him to become familiar with mapmaking, a skill that would be useful when creating his middle-earth stories and the lands the people existed in.

The majority of this book revolved around the time Tolkien spent as a professor at Oxford, his association with the students and other writers, his work with languages, and the creation of the middle-earth mythos and tales. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this biography. Admittedly, Tolkien wanted people to focus on his writing rather than himself, but I feel like more could have been said. While it did contain a lot of information about his life, I still wanted to know more about those things that were not really talked about within these pages.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

"Witch at Last" by Juliette Harper

I really enjoyed this book. It did have a little bit of a recap of the previous 2 books, but unlike the last one, this time it didn’t feel like it slowed things down. There was enough new information being added in during the recap that the story felt like it kept moving forward the entire time.

In this book we learned a lot more about Jinx & Tori’s moms. They also used to do magic like Tori and Jinx do, but they renounced the use of magic back when they were in high school. It’s quite a story in and of itself and comes as a bit of a shock to their daughters.

We also learn more about Brenna, the evil sorceress who is the main source of conflict in this book. She has her own plans for Jinx, Tori, and all of the others who are determined to stop her. Add to that Jinx learning about her boyfriend Chase’s heritage and this book is a nonstop rollercoaster ride for all of them!

I honestly couldn’t put this book down. My only problem was that there were a couple of places where I ran across some typos while reading. Typos often pull me out of the story, so I tend to be fairly aware of them. But despite the few typos I ran across, this was probably the best one in the series that I’ve read so far. There is a lot happening in this book and it gives us a lot of very useful background information that we weren’t previously aware of. I found it to be a very good book and would definitely recommend it to anyone.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

"Witch at Odds" by Juliette Harper

This is book 2 in the Jinx Hamilton series/ 6 book box set. In this book, Jinx has been trying to find a way to free the spirits of the dead who are trapped within the boundary of the local cemetery. All she was trying to do was to allow them to leave the cemetery if they wished to do so. Unfortunately as she is still very new to using her magic, she managed to accidentally awaken and free all of the ghosts buried within the cemetery instead.

Now she is faced with a lot of very confused spirits, a number of whom refuse to believe that they are actually dead. This includes a corrupt former town mayor who promptly starts campaigning for the civil rights of the deceased and who apparently wants his former job back.

As if all of that isn’t bad enough, Jinx learns that one of the freed spirits belongs to an evil sorceress who is determined to find her descendants and restart her family line, using them to create more witches like herself. It is up to Jinx to find a way to undo the harm she has accidentally caused, though even her Aunt Fiona doesn’t know how to go about putting things right again.

I thought this was a well-written and enjoyable story. It was a bit slow getting started as the beginning seemed to be mostly a recap as to what happened in the first book, but I can understand the reasoning behind it. As it’s often a year or more between book release dates, adding a brief recap helps readers of the older books to keep from feeling lost when reading the later ones in the series. Unfortunately it does seem to slow down the beginning of the book a little, especially if you have just finished reading the previous book in the series..

I do greatly enjoy this author’s writing style. The remarks and comments that Jinx makes as asides to the reader are a highly entertaining part of the story. Without giving away the ending of the book, it is clear that before long some very interesting things will be happening.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

"Lady Nellie" by Verlin Underwood

I would like to start off this review by stating that I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for writing an honest review.

”Lady Nellie” was an interesting story. A Scottish Laird is sought by an leannan sith (or for those unfamiliar with the term... an evil fairy) who desires him as her husband. When he manages to refuse her despite her attempt at enchanting him, she curses him and his family. Should any of them leave their lands, they would all die. Despite this curse, which causes all the clansmen residing on the Lyall lands to flee from fear of being cursed as well, Laird Lyall, his wife, and his daughter still manage to spend a number of very happy years together in their home. Unfortunately, those happy days all come to an end when a difficult winter depletes their supplies and causes Nellie’s parents to become very Ill.

After they die, knowing that if she remains alone in her home that she would soon follow her parents in death, Nellie takes what little she can and leaves during the harsh winter in an attempt to find help and refuge in a nearby town. Just as she reaches the end of both her and her horse’s strength, they collapse within site of a neighboring castle where she is taken in and the local healer summoned.

Soon Nellie is well enough to be questioned by her rescuer as to where she has come from and how she arrived at his castle. There it is revealed that she is in Laird Maxwell’s lands. We soon learn that not only has he blamed Nellie’s family for a great deal, but that it was his stepmother who had cursed her family. He, however, does not believe that his stepmother was a leannan sith or that there was ever any curse. Nellie would very much like to flee his lands, but with nowhere else to go and still being too weak to truly leave, Laird Maxwell makes her a ward of his court.

As usual with my reviews, here I will end my description of the book so as to avoid spoiling the rest of story for you. I enjoyed the tale this book told a great deal, though it could have used a good editor. It was obvious that the text was run through a spellchecker as most everything was spelled correctly, though often the wrong word was used rather than the one that was clearly meant by the author. (For example, one that sticks out in my mind was when the word used was “indistinct” when the one that would have made much more sense was “indecent”. This type of error happens a number of times in the book, along with a couple of instances where it felt like the author changed her mind part-way through a sentence but forgot to go back & remove the part of the sentence that no longer belonged.

Even with these errors appearing throughout the book, the story did keep drawing me in and I wanted to see where it was going. I did enjoy reading it and am looking forward to the next book in the series. Hopefully that one will be a bit better edited than this one. But even if it isn’t, if the story is half as enjoyable as this one was it will still be worth reading.

Firefax by A. M. Vergara

During the Revolutionary War, there are rumors of a city of gold that is hidden on an island whose location is known only to the Firefax fam...