Book Review: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness (All Souls Trilogy 3)

Please be warned that this review contains spoilers for the first and second books in the “All Souls Trilogy”. It would be impossible to review without spoiling them, but I will try to keep it to a minimum.

It took me a while to get to this book because of my Galleys, but the time has come for my adventures with Diana and Matthew DeClaremont to end, and I am saddened by that fact. It has been such an amazing journey from Diana’s discovery of Ashmole 782 in a “Discovery of Witches”, to Diana and Matthew’s romp through the 16th century in “Shadow of Night”, and finally their action packed return to the modern word in “The Book of Life”. This series had me at “Oh look, such a pretty cover!” I mourn its end.

The conclusion to the “All Souls Trilogy” is non-stop action. Nothing is ever easy for the witch and vampire couple and when they return to modern times, they have very little time to rest. First, Diana must face the loss of one she holds dear, as well as the loss of her freedom and coven in the 16th century. Then Matthew must deal with the deadly politics of his family. All of this while Diana goes through a highly unprecedented pregnancy. But, it doesn’t end there. The search for Ashmole 782 is still on, and the congregation is still on thier tale.

Our favorite cast of characters returns in the final installment. Ysabelle, Gallowglass, Diana’s aunts, and Marcus are key players. We are also introduced to a few new faces that serve to enrich the story rather than confuse. Deborah Harkness has a way of writing her character’s interactions in such a believable way that I am drawn into their world and can understand their feelings and interactions. There were moments in the story where my heart ached for the people I had come to love.

Deborah Harkness never wavered in her telling of the story. Diana’s strength and resolve remain a fixture. Her scientific and academic approach to the existence of creatures in the modern world continues and we are even offered a few revelations by the end of the series. Intrigue abounds, and I can promise that I was never bored. “The Book of Life” is everything its predecessors were, and more. If you enjoyed the first two books, you definitely don’t want to miss this one! I hope Deborah Harkness shares more of her stories with the world, because I can easily see her becoming one of my favorite authors.

the_book_of_life_deborah_harkness

#TBT Book Memories: Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

Love You Forever Book Cover Love You Forever

Juvenile Fiction
Firefly Books
1986
32

As her son grows up from little boy to adult man, a mother secretly rocks him each night as he sleeps.

 

mommy and kidbot

“Love You Forever” was released the year my sister was born as a love song to author Robert Munsch and his wife’s two stillborn babies. The graphics are dated by today’s standards, but the pages contain words so simple, so elegant, and yet so powerfully emotional that it amazes me they can be held between two flimsy boards.

I first heard “Love You Forever” in school. It must have been second grade. I did not think much of it, as I lived with my grandparents and, at the time, did not know where my mother was. I knew they loved me dearly, but they were my grandparents, and I could not connect to a story about a mother who loved her son so much that she would sing by his bedside each and every night.

When I was a young teenager, the book came to me again in the hands of my cousin, just a toddler at the time. I loved nothing more than to cuddle up with him and read, and he was more than happy to bring me a book. With that little child huddled up close to me, I began to connect with the words. The love I felt for that baby boy was only a fraction of what a mother would feel, I knew, and I could not imagine how a heart could get any larger.

“I’ll love you forever. I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be”.

The story burrowed its way into my heart and the words etched themselves in my memory. My cousin grew up from a cuddly toddler, to a strong and feisty teenager. I grew from teenager to adult. I went to college. I found a career. I married. And, one-year-two-weeks ago, I became a mother.

I received two copies of “Love You Forever” as gifts during my pregnancy. Had no one purchased it for me, I would have purchased it myself. I read to my baby everyday, but “Love You Forever” is the hardest for me to read, because every time I try, my voice catches and tears prick the corners of my eyes. As a mother I now truly understand what Robert Munsch is saying. My heart overflows with a love for my son that makes my breath catch and my chest feel tight, especially during those quite moments in his bedroom when I hold him close to me and rock him back and forth and back and forth… Often, when I close my eyes and feel the warmth of his small body, I hear the refrain, “I’ll love you forever…” singing in my mind.

love you forever by robert munsch

Book Release and Giveaway: The Younger Gods by Michael R. Underwood

I am excited to announce the release of “The Younger Gods” by Michael R. Underwood. I was over halfway through my Galley when the publisher contacted me to ask if I would like to feature the title and host a giveaway. I was quite enjoying the story, so I happily accepted. “The Younger Gods” is a fun new Urban Fantasy series complete with mythical creatures, fun characters, and evil cultists bent on bringing about the apocalypse. Everything you could ask for in an Urban Fantasy, really, and just in time for Halloween! I am giving away two free copies. Check out the summary and excerpt below and enter the giveaway. The winners will be announced when I post my review on Monday, October 20th.

The Younger Gods by Michael R. Underwood

THE YOUNGER GODS

  • By: Michael R. Underwood
  • Publisher: Pocket Star
  • Pub Date: 10/13/2014
  • ISBN: 9781476757797
  • Price 4.99
  • Format: eBook

Summary

Jacob Greene was a sweet boy raised by a loving, tight-knit family…of cultists. He always obeyed, and was so trusted by them that he was the one they sent out on their monthly supply run (food, medicine, pig fetuses, etc.)

Finding himself betrayed by them, he flees the family’s sequestered compound and enters the true unknown: college in New York City. It’s a very foreign place, the normal world and St. Mark’s University. But Jacob’s looking for a purpose in life, a way to understand people, and a future that breaks from his less-than-perfect past. However, when his estranged sister arrives in town to kick off the apocalypse, Jacob realizes that if he doesn’t gather allies and stop the family’s prophecy of destruction from coming true, nobody else will…

Chapter 13

I’d never met lycanthropes before. There were no packs in the Dakotas. My father and grandmother had seen to that years ago.

I was starting to understand why. Our family’s sorcerous might was unmatched, but a wolf moving through thick brush, especially with a pack at her back, could make quick work of an unprepared sorcerer, unless the sorcerer was willing to bring down an entire forest to protect themselves.

It’s what Grandmother had done.

One of the many races made by the gods in the first days, lycanthropes could move among humans without notice, only revealing their power when they wished. When their creator, the moon, was strongest, so were they.

Antoinette cleared her throat. “I am Antoinette Laroux. And a friend told me to show you this.” She produced the Nataraja statue, holding it out in the scant inches between herself and the looming wolf-woman.

The woman chuffed once, very canine in that moment, all pretense of humanity cast aside. She looked Antoinette dead in the eyes, then sized her up, gaze going to her feet and then back up to her eyes.

She took a single step back.

“So you know the Nephilim. Fine. Why are you here?” “Someone’s after the Hearts. She’s trying to awaken the Younger Gods.”

The wolves snarled as one. All of them, the woman included. “And you’re here, what, to warn us? As if we aren’t always  on guard? There’s precious little of the earth left in this place. You think we aren’t always vigilant?”

“We want to help,” I said, breaking with Antoinette’s request.

The woman snapped at me, baring her teeth. “You smell of the Deeps, boy.”

Again, judged before I was known. Even thousands of miles away from my family’s center of power, I was just a Greene to them. Even if I bested Esther, would I ever be rid of that stain, or would I carry it with me my whole life, my family’s sins painted clearly across my face with the distinctively bland look of our family?

“We’ve had a long day already,” Antoinette said, by way of explanation. “But he’s right. We’re trying to get the whole city to join up so we can stop this woman. She’s ridiculously powerful.”

“Her power means little here,” the woman said. “Her power comes from the Deeps, but this is the horizon, the union of earth and sky, and we are protected.”

“Tell that to the Hidatsa and Arikara packs,” I said. They’d been the last two to give up the fight. The Hidatsa had fled west. The Arikara had been eradicated.

More snarls.

“We are not them. But we take your offer as it is intended, in recognition of the Nephilim’s friendship to our pack. Go. This island is sacrosanct. Help the others, and when the time comes, call for us and we will be there. Our fangs will tear her throat and spill her lifeblood. It will be washed away by the Hudson and her stain sent out to sea.”

A cheery sort, this one. I could just imagine what she’s like at parties.

“Care for some juice?”

“I will rip this cup to broken shreds and see its ruin smote upon the mountain.”

“Chips?”

“No, thank you.”

Perhaps not.

“Thank you for your time,” Antoinette said. “How will we call you?”

The woman reached into her sweatshirt, and produced a spent exoskeleton. Cicada, possibly a grasshopper. I’d always been an indoor child. “Crush this beneath your boot and we will know.”

“Will you know where as well?”

The woman snarled at me. “We will know.”

I elected not to probe further, trusting the wolf-woman’s confidence.

Antoinette accepted the exoskeleton, handling it with care and sliding it into the pocket with the Shiva Nataraja statue. “Thank you for your time. We will go now.”

The woman nodded, and another wave of shadows passed over her, leaving behind the wolf she had been before.

In an unexpected act of kindness, the wolves led us to another way down the hill, such that we were able to leave the park with no more bruises and scrapes.

About the Author

Michael R. Underwood is the author of “Geekomancy”, “Celebromancy”, “Attack the Geek”, “Shield and Crocus”, and “The Younger Gods”. By day, he’s the North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books. Mike grew up devouring stories in all forms, from comics to video games, tabletop RPGs, movies, and books. He has a BA in Creative Mythology and East Asian Studies, and an MA in Folklore Studies. Mike has been a bookseller, a barista, a game store cashwrap monkey, and an independent publishers’ representative. Mike lives in Baltimore with his fiancée, an ever-growing library, and a super-team of dinosaur figurines and stuffed animals. He is also a co-host on the Hugo-nominated “Skiffy and Fanty Show”. In his rapidly vanishing free time, Mike studies historical martial arts and makes homemade pizza. He blogs at MichaelRUnderwood.com/blog and Tweets @MikeRUnderwood.

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway is sponsored by the Pocket Star Publishing, an imprint of Simon and Schuster. Winners’ e-mail addresses will be given to the publisher who will e-mail back promo codes. Two winners will be chosen on 10/20/2014. Each will receive one promo code from the publisher for an ebook copy of “The Younger Gods”. EBooks are available for download in all file formats save for Kindle.

Book Review: A Myth to the Night by Cora Choi

A Myth to the Night Book Cover A Myth to the Night

Fantasy
Cora Choi
July 23, 2014
Ebook
NetGalley

Hugh Fogg has been a phantom on Stauros Island for the last four hundred years, searching for the hero of a legend he believes to be true. However, his search comes to a sudden halt after a student he comes into contact with mysteriously disappears. When he approaches another student, to his dismay, that student disappears as well. All fingers point to Hugh but he is certain he is not guilty.

Is it the case that in order for there to be a hero, there must also be a villain? And if Hugh isn't the villain, who or what is making the students disappear?

Welcome to Stauros Island where reality and fantasy intertwine and the characters of forgotten tales come to life.

I received a copy of the entire novel (it was released in parts) for free in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion.

I have had incredible luck with my ARCs. Until now, I have enjoyed every one of them. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and I find myself writing my first negative review for this blog. Thank goodness there doesn’t seem to be a streak going on, as I am quite enjoying my next novel “The Younger Gods” by Michael R. Underwood.

Sometimes it feels like when authors choose to write a young adult book, they underestimate their readers. They simplify the language. They remove the details of their world. They keep descriptions to a minimum and let dialogue carry the story. They forget that children and teenagers are a lot more intelligent than adults give them credit for, and that a good young adult book is simply a book with young characters. I feel like “A Myth to the Night” falls into this trap.

Unfortunately, I could not finish it. The lovely cover drew me in, as did the synopsis. It opened with such promise, but about 20% in I decided I could read no more. This is a little fairy tale that needed more. It needed more world building. It needed more character development. It needed more editing. I wanted to love this story, I wanted to be drawn into it, but it just left me hanging.

A good fantasy novel is dependent on its world. The world in “A Myth to the Night” made no sense. I was treated to a society complete with cars, the internet, movies, television, and popular actors and actresses (names we have come to know and love). Yet, the government, run by a vicious ruling faction “The Order of the Shrike”, and history of the world did not resemble our own. If it was an alternate reality version of our world, where did it split? How did the factions come to be? Why did they hate each other? How can a ruling faction who lacks imagination (since they do not believe in telling stories of bravery) invent our modern technologies? How can they have movies and television without storytelling and mythology? None of these questions were answered and it just left me feeling muddled and confused. I crave information when I am learning a new fantasy world. I need to know how it works so I can imagine the characters living in it. Throw some one dimensional characters speaking in forced dialogue and some poorly edited text into this world and it creates a perfect storm of “I don’t care” and “I am totally done with this”.

 a myth to the night cora choi

Book Review: A Sudden Light by Garth Stein

A Sudden Light Book Cover A Sudden Light

Fiction
Simon and Schuster
September 30, 2014
EBook
416
NetGalley

A 14-year-old boy's efforts to save his parents' troubled marriage and uphold his dementia-afflicted grandfather's final wishes are shaped by a ghost who cannot rest until past debts are paid. By the best-selling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain. 300,000 first printing.

I received a copy of this novel for free in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion.

I would not like the narrator if I met him in person. He is self righteous, bitter , and jaded. He constantly makes jabs about modern society, revering the good old days of the 90s, before cell phones and digital libraries. There were points in which he was on a soapbox, and I desperately wanted him to step down and continue with the story. The truth is, I would not like half of the characters in this crazy story. And yet, I loved this book. I have never enjoyed a book so much when I disliked the characters so immensely. I almost gave up, but I didn’t. Garth Stein must have a gift, because even as the characters’ actions put me on edge, I kept reading. I wanted to know. No… I needed to know the secrets locked away in Riddel house. “A Sudden Light” is less of a ghost story than it is a portrait of a horribly broken and dysfunctional family, and the secret lies within the haunting. It is a coming of age story that resembles a train wreck. And. like I would continue to stare in horror as a train jumped its tracks and crashed, I could not take my eyes off the words on my screen.

There isn’t much I can say about this story without giving away the secrets within, so I will leave you with some impressions. My heart ached for these family members who hurt, lashed out, manipulated, and belittled one another even as those same interactions goaded me into anger. You can understand, as the story unfolds, what brought them to this point in their lives. Trust me, I felt like I needed counselling by the time I has swiped past the final page. The setting, so beautiful, and so depressing was a perfect fit for this tale.

Those who are looking for a straight forward haunted house story might be disappointed. “A Sudden Light” is character driven and full of lengthy poetic prose that call up the works of authors long dead. It contain powerful messages about love, duty, and conservation. What does a promise mean to the living? What does it mean to the dead? Is there a such thing as a truly happy ending?

“A Sudden Light” toes the line between young adult and adult books with a 34 year old narrator looking back on his fourteenth year, a time full of turbulence and change. I have no doubt that it will appeal to both audiences. It is also LGBTQ friendly. It is rare to find a young adult book that has a realistic and authentic gay relationship. I thought that Garth Stein handled it as he would any heterosexual relationship. It added to my enjoyment not to read a caricature of a gay couple as I have in other books. If you are a fan of character driven dramas, I would suggest you give this one a try, even if you don’t normally read ghost stories.

a sudden light garth stein

Book Review: The Time Roads by Beth Bernobich

The Time Roads Book Cover The Time Roads

Fiction
Macmillan
October 14, 2014
288

A fantastical nineteenth century alternate historical steampunk romp from Beth Bernobich, the critically acclaimed author of the River of Souls trilogy. Éire is one of the most powerful empires in the world. The Anglian Dependencies are a dusty backwater filled with resentful colonial subjects, Europe is a disjointed mess, and many look to Éire for stability and peace. In a series of braided stories, Beth Bernobich has created a tale about the brilliant Éireann scientists who have already bent the laws of nature for Man's benefit. And who now are striving to conquer the nature of time. The Golden Octopus: Áine Lasairíona Devereaux, the young Queen of Éire, balances Court politics while pursing the Crown's goals of furthering scientific discovery. When those discoveries lead to the death and madness of those she loves, Áine must choose between her heart and her duty to her kingdom. A Flight of Numbers Fantastique Strange: Síomón Madóc is desperately trying to discover who is killing the brightest of Éire's mathematicians. The key to saving lives lies in the future...and Síomón must figure out a way to get there. Ars Memoriae: Éireann spymaster Aidrean Ó Deághaidh goes to the kingdom of Montenegro to investigate rumors of great unrest. But Ó Deághaidh is tormented by visions of a different timeline and suspects that someone in his own government is playing a double game…. The Time Roads: Éire stands on the brink of the modern age, but old troubles still plague the kingdom. An encounter with a mysterious stranger near death holds the clue to both the past and the future of the nation. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.

I received a copy of this novel for free in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion.

Murder, political intrigue, science, mathematics, airships, and time machines. “The Time Roads” by Beth Bernobich is a smorgasbord of delicious steampunk and mystery elements. When I switched on my Galley of “The Time Roads”, I was not expecting a political thriller. Truthfully, I expected yet another steampunk story where the plot and characters are second to the quest to add as many fantastical elements to the world as possible. The mention of mathematics in the summary goaded me into requesting the novel, and I am glad I did. What I found was a mature and nuanced tale set in a believable alternate story.

The story opens and closes in the first person point of view of Aine, queen of Erie, in an alternative history where Ireland, not England, is head of the great western empire at the turn of the century. There is no East India Company here, but there are plots. Aine is not safe from those who wish to take or change her empire, all complicated by the work of mathmeticians and scientists that are striving to conquer time itself. In the beginning, Aine is young and scared. The books starts off feeling like it could belong to the new adult scene, but as the pages turn, the story evolves. The reader grows with Aine. I found myself wrapped up in her story. I wanted to follow her to the end.

As Aine and the other main characters, Siomon and Aidrean, delve into and face the consequences of time travel, we switch into the third person point of view. Each of the four intertwined stories , each with a different character behind the lens felt a bit disjointed at first. The switch between them was disconcerting and confusing. Rather than being put off by it, I was drawn in even more. Time travel is full of, to quote The Doctor, “Wibbley Wobbly Timey Wimey,” stuff. It is enough to make your head spin. The characters were confused by the twists and turns of the Time Roads. They were lost without a map, remembering events that didn’t seem to have happened, and seeing shadows of other timelines. I felt like my confusion mirrored theirs. I was a part of their world, facing it right alongside them.

I can see the separate points of view and stories within the story confusing some readers and putting them off of the story. Not many books attempt to confound the traditional linear structure of a story. It can be trying for those who are unaccustomed to it. The mathematical theorems might also confuse. I was lucky enough to have a math professor who had taught English previously regale us with stories of Pythagoras and other famous mathematicians. That knowledge definitely enhanced my reading experience.

This title is an excellent choice for adult steampunk fans who are looking for something a bit more mature than the usual offerings. I also recommend it for alternate history and murder mystery fans who may not have yet attempted steampunk before. I have not read anything quite like it before, and I think it will appeal to many different readers. Please let me know what you think if you decide to pick this title up!

The Time Roads by Beth Bernobich

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