Criminal Tales

Title: The Devil & Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness and Obsession

Author: David Gann

Described as “a collection of spellbinding narrative journalism,” this book contains an amazing assortment of stories. From the opening story about the Sherlock Holmes fan who died in real life mysterious circumstances, to the final profile of a truly nasty criminal, this was a compelling read (or rather, listen, as I got the audiobook from my library. It’s not quite up to his book, The Lost City of Z, but it’s quite good. I think what I missed was something to tie all these stories together. These were pieces that appeared in print previously, so maybe there wasn’t really a thread that tied them together, but I think he could have grouped them differently or something. As it was, it was sort of odd. My favorite story was the one about the sandhogs, construction workers building a giant series of tunnels under NYC. Recommended, but not so strongly that you should add it to the top of your list.

Robin Hobb, Breaker of Hearts!

30688013I love Robin Hobb. She’s an amazing writer, and from all accounts, a genuinely nice person. But she must have a mean streak somewhere, because she sure is good and making her characters – and through them, her readers – suffer! I’ve been reading the latest trilogy, Fool’s Assassin, Assassin’s Quest, and Assassin’s Fate. They have, like her other books, totally consumed me. I think these are her darkest yet, and some of the stuff was hard to get through, but I *had* to keep reading.

But they’re hard to review. These are the last three of a series of (depending on how you count it) up to 16 books, so if you’re interested or if you’re somewhere in the middle of the series, I don’t want to give anything away. Besides, I don’t even know where to begin. With this trilogy? With the series before it? Who can tell? Instead I’m going to offer my list of why I love – and hate – Robin Hobb.

  • FitzChivalry Farseer. Also variously known as Boy, Holder Tom Badgerlock, Bastard, and a host of other names. Fitz, you stole my heart from page one. You are so amazing at practically everything you do, but so dumb sometimes. You are full of self doubt and the first to blame yourself, but when someone you love is attacked, you are fierce.
  • Nighteyes, the wolf. Some of the best scenes are with Nighteyes. I would have read the book just for the two of them, Fitz and the wolf.
  • The Fool. Also known as Beloved, Amber, Lord Golden, and more. What a great character. It’s just not fair that Hobb created THREE amazing friends like this, all in one series. This is how I want to write.
  • The villains. Hobb’s villains are generally not of the slightly bad sort. They are just plain evil. Sometimes it takes a while to realize it, but they are so thoroughly bad. She has plenty of characters who are more gray, but the black-hearted ones are very very black.
  • The worldbuilding. Wow, the time she must have spent and the thought that must have gone into this. There are TWO complete magic systems, several completely different cultures, it’s just awesome.
  • The length. Robin, you are such a tease. You nearly killed me with that last book. Where we ever going to find out what happened? And then that brings me to
  • The cliffhangers. See, I was smart enough to wait to start the series until it was done. I thought. But then you wrote three more books. And I had to wait! Not fair, Robin, not fair at all.

So if you’ve heard of Robin Hobb and you’re wondering if you want to give her a try, all I can say is be prepared to add A LOT of books to your TBR pile. But you will not regret it. 5 tremendous stars and a bunch of used tissues. You broke my heart.

Shattered Roses

Disclaimer: I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Title: Shattered Roses: A Beauty and the Beast Retelling

Author: E L Parfitt

Setting: Modern England

Megan needs to round out her CV (resume) if she wants to be a doctor, so she really wants to get this opportunity to be a volunteer at a nursing home. Anything, really. She just wants a chance. So when the director introduces her to a resident known only as Lady, Megan is happy.

Lady is one of the oldest residents there. In fact, she claims to know everything about the building and its original owner. She tells Megan amazing stories about the Duke, who was charming and mysterious and had secrets. Lady’s father was the duke’s doctor. She tells stories of their romance during Megan’s weekly visits. But to be honest, it was Megan’s story. the prejudice she faced as a West Indian, her hardworking mother, her precocious sister, and the sad story of her father that really kept me reading. When I finished the book, it was Megan that I wanted to know more about, and her story that I found unsatisfying in the end.

This is a very short read, but I would recommend it. It’s more like a puzzle than a straightforward book with a linear plot.

 

The Fifth Doll!

Ta-Da! I just realized that I sorta spilled the beans a couple weeks ago (oops) so it wasn’t as much of a mystery what the book was as I wanted it to be, but I hope it’s been fun anyway! Here is your big giveaway! All signed by the author, Charlie N. Holmberg, as promised.

So the book signing was lots of fun, mostly friends and family (and me, who is neither), all squeezed into the little American Fork Library. Charlie bubbled around, greeting everyone. There was a table with Matryoshka dolls set up and cool stuff like that. And EVENTUALLY the books showed up.

Anyhow, Charlie was great, the book sounds great, and I snagged a copy to share. First I will give you a brief Q & A I put together based on the event, then I’ll tell you how to win a SIGNED COPY of this awesome book!

Questions and Answers

charlieeditedweb.jpgWhere did you get your inspiration for this book?

I was doing a class for the BYU Worldbuilders thing on magic systems and had an idea for how you can build a magic system around anything, like salt, or thread, or Matroyshka dolls, and then I thought, “Nope, I’m keeping that one.”

Where did you get the name for the main character? 

Her name is Matrona, which means woman in Russian and it’s also the root for the Matroyshka dolls, which I thought was really interesting.

How many projects are you working on right now?

About 6 different things.

What book do you wish you had written?

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. I love the magic system.

How To Win

  1. You must follow my blog.
  2. You must like this post.
  3. You must follow me on twitter – @Cindy_Bohn
  4. Ages 16 & Up, United States and Canada only (sorry, but I can’t afford Intl Shipping)

That’s it! Pretty simple! I will draw a winner on August 14th. Feel free to share this anywhere you like, tell anyone you like, and good luck to all!

 

<a href=”http://www.juliesfreebies.com/” target=blank>Julie’s Freebies & Sweepstakes</a>

 

 

Fun Romance Romp

Disclaimer: I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Title: The Hidden Duchess

Author: Bree Verity

Celeste is about to be unjustly arrested for her husband’s murder. She needs a quiet place to hide out while her lawyers gets things sorted out. Marcel is her cousin. He has a little farm in the French countryside. It’s the perfect solution . . . If these two don’t kill each other first.

What a fun book! Like most romances, the question wasn’t whether these two would get together, but how. They had great chemistry. I have to say though I wasn’t so sure in the beginning. I liked Marcel right off, but Celeste was such a brat! So spoiled! But she gets better.

One caution – This book has some love scenes that were more explicit than I was comfortable with. If you like it steamy, you probably won’t mind, but I skipped ahead.

I’m recommending this one for fans of historical romance. Thanks for the chance to read it.

 

 

 

A Little Time Travel

us-galveston1900-vin_480x360
Galveston, Texas 1900

Title: September Sky

Author: John A. Heldt

Setting: Modern San Francisco and Galveston, Texas 1900

Disclaimer: I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.

If you had the chance to go back in time, would you do it? I know I would do it, as long as I could come back to the present day. Would I bring my kids? I mean, they’re adults, but still, I don’t know that I’m comfortable with them taking the same risks I would take myself.

Chuck Townsend and his son Justin get a chance to travel back in time to 1900. Both are at loose ends, looking for new experiences, and what could be more exciting than visiting the past? How about catching a murderer, falling in love, and getting caught in a hurricane? Sounds like this book would be really exciting.

But for some reason, I found it rather boring. There was so much dialogue about so many trivial things. Then the author skipped back and forth between POV so often than I never connected to any of the characters.

I want to end on a positive note, so I will say that I was impressed by the amount of research that the author did into the Galveston hurricane. It was truly a horrible catastrophe, and I think the author really captured what it must have been like.

Thanks for the chance to read this one. I know that the reviews have been pretty positive, so maybe I’ll try something else by this author later.

 

Review: Undeniable

MV5BMTgyNTU3MzIzN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDA2MDY2NDE@._V1_UY317_CR3,0,214,317_AL_Title: Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation

Author: Bill Nye

Themes: science, religion, space, technology

Engineer and science educator agreed to debate creationist Ken Ham in a well-publicized event in 2016. You can see a Youtube video of the debate here. I have to admit that I’ve never watched the entire video. But I have watched clips. I am myself religious. I’m a LDS and a Christian, and I do believe in a form of Creation. However, my church doesn’t teach that it took X amount of time or anything like that. I don’t have any trouble reconciling my belief in a God who created the world (using whatever scientific rules necessary) and in scientific evolution at the same time.

I listened to this book, so I can’t go back and quote things, but my favorite parts of it was about space. That’s always my favorite part, really, but he had some fascinating stuff about what it would take to colonize Mars or explore Europa and so on.

There was a lot of humor in this book, but he talks about sex like A LOT. That makes sense, because it’s a book about evolution, and a species can’t evolve without sexual reproduction. But because of that, I wouldn’t recommend the book for kids who might enjoy Bill’s show. There are other Bill Nye books that are written especially for younger readers. This one is for adults.

I can’t say I loved it though. He is pretty relentless is making fun of religion and Creationists. I think he could have easily taken it down a notch. Just because he can’t comprehend how a god could operate within such limitations as Bill sets out doesn’t mean that 1/God isn’t more powerful that Bill imagines and 2/Those limitations aren’t just plain wrong.

Anyhow, I would recommend it and I want to read his next book, Unstoppable, on climate change. But I think maybe I’ll go with print format.

Review: The Hundredth Queen

Book Review: The Hundredth Queen, Book 1

Author: Emily R. King

Kalinda is an orphan, hoping to pass her trials and stay at the temple and train forever. Unfortunately in her world, benefactors of the temple can come select girls at any time to join their households as servants, as concubines, or as wives. Kalinda is sickly and repeatedly told she is ugly, so she figures her only chance at leaving the temple is as a servant. But when she is chosen to leave, it is as a wife to the rajah. His 100th wife. This is important because the 100th wife has religious significance and the cruel rajah plans to use his marriage to force the other wives and concubines to fight for his favor and win his approval. Such a fight is always to the death.

This book was free as a member of Amazon prime and I was excited because they never have genre fiction. Unfortunately, I was left only confused and unsatisfied. Kalinda is about to be forced into marriage with a cruel man she just met. She’s been raised in a virtual convent. You’d expect there to be some lesbian relationships, even if it’s only hints. But there’s nothing like that. You’d expect her to have some questions about physical relationships with a man, about sex, about, let’s spell it out, rape. There’s not much mention of that either. Her best friend is also forced into marriage with a man against her will and she’s beaten. That gets slight mention, but the sexual assault that the reader knows must be going on? Nothing.

Kalinda is such a special snowflake in this that Captain Deven, her bodyguard, falls in love with her at first sight, and she’s reckless enough to be seen talking to him intimately all the time. Then she’s surprised when he’s caught and punished. The only reason I finished this book is because I was curious about the magical aspect, and that wound up being a little confusing. I will admit that I was sick when I read it, so it might have made more sense and I  might have enjoyed it more on another day. But then again, I might have been more critical, so who can say. All I know is that I wouldn’t recommend it. I got it free and I would have been grumpy if I had paid for it. 2/5 stars.

Standalone Sunday: Into the Heart of Tasmania

Review: Into the Heart of Tasmania: A Search for Human Antiquity

Author: Rebe Taylor

Themes: race, anthropology, class, human evolution, culture

In 1908 it was widely accepted that the last Aboriginal in Tasmania was dead.  Enter Englishman Ernest Westlake, who planned to write about Stone Age implements and tools. Instead he wound up in the middle of a controversy he did not appreciate as he found living history all around him.

I have to admit that I really struggled with this book at first. If I hadn’t agreed to read it for Net Galley, I would have given it up. But I stuck with it, and somewhere around 10% I found it getting interesting. Westlake is not a sympathetic character. He struck me as a rather typical stuffy, pigheaded Victorian gentleman of the time. But the author, Rebe Taylor, was much more engaging when she allowed her personality to come through.

I think this could have been a more interesting book, but as it was I found it difficult to follow and rather dull. I’m not sure who the was intended for, but I doubt it was for average readers like myself. Thanks for the chance to read it.

Review: London Road

Title: London Road, Linked Stories Volume 1

Author: Tessa Smith McGovern

Setting: London, present day

Theme: second chances, family, mental health, love

This little book starts with Janice, recently released from prison for manslaughter with no plans and no friends. She’s heard vaguely about a boarding house that will take in people like her, so she heads that way. It turn out to be a lucky break.

All these stories are short, each focusing on just one person, and just little glimpses into one day of the life of the residents of the London Road boarding house. But together, those glimpses add up to a complex picture. I quite liked this book and I would love to read more by this author.