Encore Review: The Colony

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The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai by John Tayman

Themes: illness, superstition, compassion, love, science
Setting: Molokai, Hawaii 1866-1970s

Leprosy. It’s a horrible disease. It makes your extremities fall off. It’s horribly contagious. It causes nasty oozing sores that spread germs to everyone you pass by. It’s always fatal. And there’s still no cure.

Except that none of this is true. Well, it is a pretty horrible disease, if not treated. But there is a very effective treatment available. It’s not very contagious at all. Only a small portion of the population is susceptible to it in the first place. Even then, only some of them get the worst form. It’s more a matter of nerve damage and swelling. And diagnosis is a matter of minutes, so getting started with the right treatment now takes just days.

What a change from the past. This book is all about the bad old days of leprosy, and in the United States, it didn’t get worse than in Hawaii. Hawaiians were some of those that for some reason were particularly prone to catching leprosy. And back then, there was no treatment available. They could diagnose it, all right. Then they would pack you up and ship you off, without another word, off to Molokai, the leper colony. Good luck to you.

Incredible story, and it’s all true. At least, the author says it’s all true. Apparently there’s some controversy. But it made for great reading. It was shocking stuff. I couldn’t believe how they treated lepers like criminals. It’s not a crime to be sick. (Although in this country, I often wonder.) But they were treated like they had done something wrong by getting a disease. I couldn’t put it down. 4 stars.

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The Onyx Crown: A Review

 I received this book for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. My thoughts remain my own.
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The Onyx Crown, book 1 by Alan Hurst

Synopsis:

The Onyx Crown is an exciting foray into the world of African fantasy. From the searing heat of the desert to the vastness of the savannah, it tells the story of three children–Sania, Gesi, and Jorann who grow up in a pre-medieval era of wars and successions, not fifteen years after the greatest king in the history of the continent has been deposed and assassinated. They must overcome the traumatic circumstances of their birth as well as many dangerous trials to fulfill the destiny bestowed upon them as infants. Can mere children use their courage, wits, and uncanny abilities to defeat legendary warriors, entire tribes, provinces, and kingdoms–allowing them to lead the worthy to the greatest prize of all, the Onyx Crown?

My thoughts:

If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know that I love fantasy series. Unfortunately, writers of fantasy can get stuck in a rut of relying on the same tired tropes, the medieval-with-a-bit-of-magic settings, and the same stock characters. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when it’s done well or when something fresh is added to the mix. But if done poorly, it can be a snoozefest.

InAlan Hurst is an author and entrepeneur. Hurst who spent most of his childhood reading Asian wuxia fiction, Marvel comics and encyclopedias is delving into trilogy territory with THE ONYX CROWN. He briefly studied religion at Harvard.  Later, he settled in Washington, DC where he founded a software consulting firm, hosted the Urban Nation Radio podcast, and occasionally played the World Series of Poker.  When not writing or enjoying time with his family, he prefers to take his Ducati motorcycle out for the occasional spin!
Website: https://www.alanhurstjr.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlanHurstJr
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlanHurstJr
@AlanHurstJr
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ajhurstjr/ this book, which is the first in a planned trilogy, first time author Alan Hurst shakes things up with an African setting and a fresh plot. The story focuses on 3 teens, Jorann, Gesi, and Sania. Fifteen years  ago their lands were united under one king, but when the royal family was killed, the lands fractured and the warlords took over. However, the heir escaped. Now a prophecy foretell his return along with 3 guardians.

The story sounds really promising. Plus I love this setting. It’s great to see some more diversity in publishing. It did take me a while to sort out the characters. Of the kids, I found the boys the most interesting. Jorann has been living as a slave for several years. He doesn’t really remember a family. Gesi has grown up with a foster father, attached to the local prince’s household. They were good foils for each other. Gesi definitely has some magical combat skills, but he was too arrogant. Jorann has been beaten down so much. We get to see him learning new skills with unrealistic speed, but he seems more down to earth than Gesi.

While I liked the kids, the adults this book all strike me as pretty horrible people. I couldn’t tell who to trust or what their motives were. No doubt this will become clearer in the next book, but be prepared for betrayal and violence. The body count is pretty high. I did find the plot confusing, especially at first, and the ending of the book was rather abrupt. But if you are looking for something fresh in fantasy, this series might be just what you need.


About the author:

Author Pic

Alan Hurst is an author and entrepeneur. Hurst – who spent most of his childhood reading Asian wuxia fiction, Marvel comics and encyclopedias – is delving into trilogy territory with THE ONYX CROWN. He briefly studied religion at Harvard.  Later, he settled in Washington, DC where he founded a software consulting firm, hosted the Urban Nation Radio podcast, and occasionally played the World Series of Poker.  When not writing or enjoying time with his family, he prefers to take his Ducati motorcycle out for the occasional spin.
Website: https://www.alanhurstjr.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AlanHurstJr
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlanHurstJr
@AlanHurstJr
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ajhurstjr/


This review was courtesy of R & R book tours.

r & r

Quick Reviews

I’m in the middle of making dinner, but I have a few minutes to check in with you all. I thought I would add some mini reviews here.

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Where Eagles Dare by Alistair MacLean

Written by a former WWII sailor, this one has a group of British secret service agents fly into Switzerland disguised as Alpenkorps soldiers and infiltrate a Nazi stronghold. This is a reread and while it was fun, I think this time around I was really struck by how theatrical it all was. Not surprising, since this was written for a movie coming out starring the author’s friend, Richard Burton. Very macho (read: sexist) stuff, but very suspenseful. Not worth another reread but it was fun.

 

sto The Storyspinner (Keeper’s Chronicles #1) by Becky Wallace

“Drama and danger abound in this fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.”

This one has a complex plot that’s tough to summarize, but I really enjoyed the characters and the story in this one. First in a duology, and I can’t wait to read the sequel. It ends on a cliffhanger, so if you pick it up, be prepared with book 2. This is a YA book but I think it would be fun for younger and older readers as well.

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Glimpse by Jonathan Maberry

A stand alone horror. Rain, a former junkie now 3 years sober, puts on a borrowed pair of glasses and catches a glimpse of a young boy. Or did she? She becomes haunted by shadowy images, all revolving around her image of the son she gave up for adoption 10 years ago. Time is running out if she wants to find her way to him and save him from the horrible monsters that want to destroy him. I couldn’t help comparing this one to NOS4A2 by Joe Hill which I read recently. I liked this one so much better.  There was plenty of menace but not as much gore. The threat is implied rather than described, and all the more compelling.

 

Encore Review

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I read this one a while back, but I haven’t shared this review before.

Title:

Synopsis:
Lara McClintoch owns a Toronto antiquities store and is obsessed with finding rare artifacts. The murder of an expert in Mayan history brings Lara to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula where mysteries from the Mayan past and Mexico’s present political problems lure Lara on a perilous journey.
Review:
I liked this mystery, but as late as halfway through I was still unclear about the date until it specifically says that it’s set in the 1990s. I think that was because of the prevalent “Had I But Known” vibe that was almost overpowering the book. For those who don’t know, that was a technique common to mysteries in the 1930s by authors like Mary Roberts Rinehart and then the 1980s in Gothic mysteries by Phyllis A. Whitney and E. X. Ferrars. It features lots of foreshadowing, a heroine in trouble, and two romantic rivals. The heroine almost always picks the wrong one right up until the last minute.
Come to think of it, I’ve basically given you the whole plot of the book right there. Lara is recovering from a divorce, heads off to visit a former colleague, and gets caught up in political intrigue and theft. It was still kind of fun, but you have to be in the right mood for it. 2.5 stars

Whispers Underground – a review

Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch
Rivers of London series book 4

So much that I love about this series. The world building is really different. This is urban fantasy set in London, but what sets it apart from most UF is that our main character, although he is part of a supernatural crime section, remains very much a policeman. He acts like a cop, he thinks like a cop. He just deals with weird stuff. I like that.

What I didn’t like was amount of profanity. I know I’m really conservative about that, but it is a real annoyance for me. My library only has this book as digital audio books, so unless I want to buy them, this is the only way to consume them. Which is great for all the variety of accents in here, but not so great as hearing the profanity is worse for me than reading it. I don’t like being sworn at repeatedly. Undecided if I want to continue this series

Anatomy of Evil: a review

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Title: Anatomy of Evil (Barkder and Llewellyn, book 7)

Author: Will Thomas

There’s an unwritten rule that any Victorian crime series must have a Jack the Ripper episode. The Cyrus Barker detective series is no exception. Robert Anderson, New head of Scotland Yard, asks for his help in tracking down the Whitechapel killer. It’s 1888 and all of London is terrified. The killer seems to be targeting prostitutes, but there’s a sense that he’s lurking out there with a knife and no one is safe.

Barker and his assistant Thomas Llewellyn take temporary jobs at Scotland Yard. At first, they try to get to know the area. They travel the streets on foot, night after night. They get to know the bars, the factory workers, the alleys, until they are thoroughly at home. Then they set about finding a killer.

I enjoyed this book, and I liked the characters as much as I did in previous books. We get a glimpse into the royal family in this one, which was good. I listened to it, and the narration really added to my enjoyment of the book. In the end, though, there was something lacking. I’m not sure what it was, but it just wasn’t my favorite. Still, I really like this series and I’m looking forward to the next book.

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead

33142013The Things We Learn When We’re Dead
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/ Humor
Publication Date: January 26, 2017
Summary:
With elements of The Wizard of Oz, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Lovely Bones, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead shows how small decisions can have profound and unintended consequences, and how sometimes we can get a second chance.
On the way home from a dinner party, Lorna Love steps into the path of an oncoming car. When she wakes up she is in what appears to be a hospital – but a hospital in which her nurse looks like a young Sean Connery, she is served wine for supper, and everyone avoids her questions. It soon transpires that she is in Heaven, or on HVN. Because HVN is a lost, dysfunctional spaceship, and God the aging hippy captain. She seems to be there by accident… Or does God have a higher purpose after all?
At first Lorna can remember nothing. As her memories return – some good, some bad – she realises that she has decision to make and that maybe she needs to find a way home.

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33142013-the-things-we-learn-when-we-re-dead?ac=1&from_search=true


Hey bookies! I was asked to review a new book, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead by Charlie Laidlaw. This was a quick read that had me trying to puzzle together the events in our main character’s life to see what lead her to being in HVN. Lorna is a soon to be lawyer on the cusp of a solid career when she’s struck by a car. After that, things get, well, weird. Turn out, Lorna didn’t survive that collision and now she’s figuring out what the afterlife is all about. Turns out it’s NOTHING like she expected.

Lorna has a lot of time to remember the significant events in  her life – vacations with her family, her first love, good times with her best friend Suze – but it’s the final week of her life that she can’t seem to work out. Which is too bad, because it looks like that’s the key to figuring out what she’s supposed to be doing next.

This was a slow, quirky book. I thought the characters were the best parts. Lorna isn’t very happy when she’s alive, but she did seem like a real, well drawn character. The employees at the Happy Mart – great name, BTW – all seemed real too. I felt like it took a little too long to get to the end, but I’m glad I had a chance to read it. And I love the rocket on the cover! So cool.

You can win a copy of this book right now!

Giveaway: 2 Print Copies of TTWLWWD Signed by Author
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Link:
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A few reviews

I’m playing catch up with my reviews so I’m going to do a few today.

Let’s start with the one I didn’t like so I can finish strong. The Shadow Rises by K S Marden, Witch Hunters book 1. Witch hunters and witches and inherited powers. A little confused with poorly developed characters. DNF. Not much to say but at least it was free.

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Adrenaline by Jeff Abbott, Sam Capra book 1

Sam works for the CIA. His wife is expecting their first baby. She also works for the Company. One day Sam goes to work and receives a call to from her to come outside right this second. As soon as he does a bomb goes off in the building and she disappears.

Sam is now the only survivor and the chief suspect. He only wants to escape custody and find his wife and baby. To do that he has to make some new allies and go on the run.

I love a good thriller and this one sounded really exciting. It has a great premise, as who doesn’t identify with wanting to find your family and keep them safe? The bad guys were pretty bad,the pace was goos. But the writing kept me from giving it more than 3.5 stars. Also I don’t enjoy political thrillers as much, so it wasn’t quite what I expected.


 

Goldmayne by Kate Stradling

Duncan escapes an abusive father to wind up servant to a witch. There he meets a talking 🐎 who helps him escape. They set off for a neighboring country and find work at the castle.

This was a fairy tale retelling of two French stories, Scurvyhead and Goldmayne. I was unfamiliar with either story, so I couldn’t tell at first how it was going to end. It has a happy ending, of course, and the hero gets the girl. Fun stuffstuff. This one is on Kindle Unlimited or it’s only $1.

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Finally my favorite of the bunch, Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

“Far from city politics in the Calderon Valley, the boy Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting. At fifteen, he has no wind fury to help him fly, no fire fury to light his lamps. Yet as the Alerans’ most savage enemy – the Marat – return to the Valley, he will discover that his destiny is much greater than he could ever imagine.” Caught in a storm of deadly wind furies, Tavi saves the life of a runaway slave named Amara. But she is actually a spy for Gaius Sextus, sent to the Valley to gather intelligence on traitors to the Crown, who may be in league with the barbaric Marat horde. And when the Valley erupts in chaos – when rebels war with loyalists and furies clash with furies – Amara will find Tavi’s courage and resourcefulness to be a power greater than any fury – one that could turn the tides of war.

I actually liked this better than the Dresden Files. I liked Tavi and Amara better than I like Harry Dresden. It still has some problems, mainly a hyper sexualized female villain (her character does get explained though), but I thought it was a lot of fun. Looking forward to the next book.I

 

Hope this have you done ideas for your next read. See you later!

 

These Honored Dead – a review

These Honored Dead by Jonathan Putnam, book 1 in the Lincoln and Speed series

Set in Illinois during the time Lincoln worked as a private lawyer before his marriage.

Joshua Speed, the enterprising second son of a wealthy plantation owner, has struck off on his own. But before long, he makes a surprising and crucial new acquaintance–a freshly minted lawyer by the name of Abraham Lincoln.

When an orphaned girl from a neighboring town is found murdered and suspicion falls on her aunt, Speed makes it his mission to clear her good name. Of course, he’ll need the legal expertise of his unusual new friend. Together, Lincoln and Speed fight to bring justice to their small town. But as more bodies are discovered and the investigation starts to come apart at the seams, there’s one question on everyone’s lips: does Lincoln have what it takes to crack his first murder case?

Inspired by actual events from the American frontier, Jonathan Putnam’s thrilling debut These Honored Dead brings renewed verve and vigor to the historical mystery genre that readers haven’t seen since Caleb Carr’s The Alienist.

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So much of this was freaking amazing. I have so much to say I don’t really know where to start.

I guess I’ll start with the audio. I listened to this one and I have to give the reader a solid 5 stars. There were so many different voices in this one. The freed Black man, the Kentucky gentleman, Abraham Lincoln with his well-known high pitched voice, the poor house keeper, the Illinois sheriff – such a range but all of them sounding distinct and authentic.

Several of the other reviewers complained that there was either not enough Lincoln or any at all, objecting to his presence in a historical fiction. I liked it. They should have read the book description.

For the rest, I really enjoyed this book. I thought the premise was great. The story itself was good. But it was the setting that made it exceptional. So many issues packed in here. I loved the accent for the Kentucky gentleman, that’s just a very pleasing sound. But then I’d hear what he was actually saying. He just couldn’t understand what the problem was with The Peculiar Institution i.e. slavery. He was reluctant to use the real word and called his slave a Bondswoman. Just the way he spoke for her, treated her like – well, like property. That wasn’t even the main subject of the book, but it still dominated things, what with the looming threat of the coming war.

I would recommend this one. I already added the second book to my TBR list.

Empire of Sin: a Review

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Title: Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, and Murder and the Battle for Modern New Orleans

Author: Gary Krist

I’ve been on a true crime kick lately, but historic true crime, if that makes sense. I love mysteries, and I love history, so a book that combines the two in a well written way is a home run for me. This one did better with the history part than the mystery, but it’s still recommended.

It covers New Orleans steamier side during the turn of the 20th century. Loved the part about the birth of jazz. I also enjoyed reading about the Italian influence on NOLA. I had no idea!

I would recommend this book of you love New Orleans, music, crime, or US history.