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Review: A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch #VictorianCozy

A Beautiful Blue Death (Charles Lenox Mysteries, #1)1865. While the US is enjoying the end of the Civil War, in London the Liberals take over Parliament in the form of Lord Palmerston, who died that same year leaving Lord John Russell as Prime Minister. And Lady Jane Grey has sent a note to her platonic love, Charles Lenox.

Dearest,

Would you come over before supper, perhaps at a little past six o’clock? Something has happened. Do come, Charles.
Yours, faithfully,
&c.
Jane

What follows is a tale of mystery, politics, society and the upper-crust formality for which the Victorian period is so well known. Lenox is no Lord Peter Whimsey – he is much more reserved, his intelligence sharp, but quieter and more reserved.

This is very much a “Victorian Cozy” mystery, with interesting characters and a landscape that pulls you into the sights, scents and sounds of Victorian London. Honestly, I requested the book by mistake, as I wouldn’t normally read a historical (it simply isn’t my genre) but I still enjoyed it.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.

Review: Target Engaged: A Delta Force Novel by M. L. Buchman #WomenInCombat #MilitarySuspense #RomanticSuspense

The Afghanistan war has been something of a testing ground for women in combat, with coalition members including Canada, Germany, Poland, and Sweden deploying women in frontline units for the first time. No significant problems were reported in the British survey, and some militaries found that women officers were more effective at some tasks, such as gathering intelligence from female civilians. – Joshua E. Keating, “Foreign Policy: Women on the Front Lines” February 3, 2012

Women in combat. Wow. Now there is a discussion as ‘hot-button’ as religion in the US. And M.L. Buchman pushes that button, hard, in his “Target Engaged.” And he does a Kick Ass job of it.

Buchman’s book couldn’t be more “up to the moment.” The news for September 11, 2015 was full of the results of the Marine Corp study carried out to test women in special operations combat situations. There was some good news, but mostly bad. The worst? The Marine study didn’t follow the guidelines set up for the test!! Instead of doing what they would do with the men special ops candidates, i.e., choosing the very best the Corp has to offer to go through special training, they chose “average.” AVERAGE??? Oh, cut me a freakin’ BREAK! AS IF they would choose “Average” males to go through special ops training! So, they got the results they were going for. Most of the women failed. Well, here is a little secret – Most of the men failed as well! That’s why they call it ‘special’ training. They weed out the weak. Of course, the articles you find on the net are varied by exactly who was writing them. Hampton Roads put the worst (read, most misogynist) spin on the results, while Stripes Okinawa was the most balanced I could find. I am embarrassed for the Marines, that they thought it necessary to try their best to skew the results for a bad outcome.

Where Buchman gets it right, and thrills me that I was offered his book for review, is in how he handles this issue with his Delta aspirant, Sergeant Carla Anderson. Carla is what the Marines should have aspired to in their test. She is no unbelievable Superwoman. She is simply a Soldier. An Army Sergeant with experience, intelligence, and above all, a drive to succeed that is unparalleled. And Buchman makes her believable. She is the kind of woman I always dreamed of being. Tough and ready to face the pain, but at the same time she is kind. She doesn’t take shit, but she doesn’t turn away from it either. She faces it all head-on. And when you dunk a fellow recruit’s head in the slit trench when he tries that misogynistic, hateful crap on you, well, the others have a tendency to stand back and let you do what you are going to do.

Buchman takes you through Delta training without pulling punches. I, of course, have no idea if what the recruits go through is realistic, but hey, it didn’t feel ‘unrealistic’ so I am going with it.

And, hey. Marines? You should read the book. Of 104 who started, all but Carla male, only seven graduated to the next level of training. And only five of those survived. Now THAT is realism in your training, kids.

Anyway. After a month of weeding out the weak, another of perfecting and tuning, the five remaining members of the class, including Anderson, are sent on their first operation. Venezuela, home of the “elected dictatorship” that runs on guns and drugs. And of course, having a woman on the team, especially one who has gone through Delta training and has a perfect, healthy body is, well, the perfect distraction for a drug lord’s guards. Just swagger across the compound with your shirt unbuttoned and everyone’s attention is riveted – enough to assure that picking them off is a piece of cake!

With that CIA run mission taken care of, they move immediately to the next. And the next may take them all out before they have been on the job for a week.

This is high-action, ladies and gents. Well written, exciting, and believable I found myself glued to my reader screen. Who needs food? Or sleep? Not when I can be reading Buchman! I had never read his work before, but I am loading all of his work into my Wish List.

The only thing that made me uneasy? This is a member of the “romantic suspense” genre. As such, Carla and Special Forces Sergeant First Class Kyle Reeves, one of the five, have a relationship. Buchman actually handles it well, but the very fact of the relationship aspect gave me pause. One of the things that women in the military face is sexual harassment. One of the things the military faces is women in the military being in relationships, and getting knocked up by, other soldiers. This is something that soldiers like Lance Cpl. Callahan Brown, one of the two women who survived the recent Marine test, has to face every day. All she wants is to be the best possible combat soldier. However, it is made harder than it should be, not only by the military brass and their fellow soldiers, but by other women who don’t have the fortitude to “Ovary-up” and concentrate on business, not what is between their legs. Buchman handles it fairly well, but it was still a concern for me, that Carla was distracted a couple of times from the business at hand by drooling over her fellow soldier. Of course, he was distracted at times as well, so goose and gander.

PUBLISHING DECEMBER 1, 2015

I received Target Engaged” from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.

 

Review: Blind by Sidney Bristol #RomanticSuspense #SerialKiller

Blind: Killer Instincts“Human nature is evil, and goodness is caused by intentional activity.” — Zun Zi

“As human beings we have the most extraordinary capacity for evil. We can perpetrate some of the most horrendous atrocities.” — Desmond Tutu

Plato, bless him, was wrong. No matter how intelligent he was. He said, To prefer evil to good is not in human nature.” Possibly it was simply a blind spot. Or a “if wishes were horses” sort of thing. Because people, no matter who they are, or what they believe in, are balanced on a knife’s edge of savagery. Some more than others, of course. But for some? For some, there is no other choice but the darkness. Twisted, rotting souls, aching for the pleasure of blood and agony. Needing the death, the pain they bring to others. Then there are the soulless ones – the ones born with no conscience, no light. Those who live only for the game of death. A game. Simply a game.

Emma know about the game. Her grandparents were pawns, many years ago, when the TBK Killer took their lives. As if “took their lives” could possibly portray the horror of their deaths. Torture. Blind. Kill. Only, the truly cruel part? They left her father alive. Her father, who never recovered. Who lives in hiding, drunk and brutal and broken. So, Emma tries to understand. She gathered all of the monster’s letters to his victims she could find. Created files. Notes. Timelines. She learned everything she could about the monster who destroyed her family. She isn’t educated, she likes big trucks and dirt bikes, and she has only a single friend. But she is holding it together, working as a mechanic and sculpting in left-over metal and junk parts. She is alive. Sort of.

Jacob. Jacob is different from Emma, but in many ways the same. His father was the cop who brought down Mitchell Land, the TBK Killer. Mitchell Land, who killed himself in prison. Jacob’s father was never the same after that case. Bitter, silent, he never recovered. His father treated Emma’s horribly – hounding the child until he broke from the pressure. Until Emma’s father collapsed under the weight of not only what he saw, but the brutality of the police who were so determined to catch the killer, they destroyed the child’s soul. So. Much. Pain.

Now, years later, Jacob is a cop himself. And one day, he receives a letter. Then another. Letters which, while not exactly the same, reflect those of the TBK Killer. When his politician lieutenant refuses to listen, blowing off the letters as the work of kids or a creep with a personal grudge and knowledge of Jacob’s history, Jacob turns to Emma, hoping her collection will help him to discover if what he thinks is true. There is another serial killer out there – and his next target is Jacob.

Now, the bodies are piling up. And all of them have a connection to Emma. The two of them will have to work together to save one another. And with the FBI shutting them out, can they protect one another from a monster? Oh, but there is more to it than that. A lot more. A type of sick savagery that is both horrific – and yet totally believable. A truth that surely has Plato rolling in his grave.

This is one twisted tale, delving into the darkest depths of what is so lightly called the ‘human soul.’ Or rather, the very fact that, realistically? There are a lot of people out there who simply don’t have what we so blithely call a soul. Homo sapiens so dark, so evil, that even giving them the name isn’t truly realistic.

Homo pravissimus.*

This is a dark and bloody tale, and totally, completely compelling. Well, I can say that with a proviso of sorts. Sidney Bristol is a romance author who happens to write “romantic suspense.” So, there is a lot of sex in the book. I found it disappointing, actually. I am fine with romantic suspense. I like it in fact. But it is when an author like Bristol, who is such an exceptional suspense writer, puts so much sex into a book that it overshadows the suspense, well, I am disappointed. Of course, others will find the sex part to be exactly why they like the book, so to each their own. Be that as it may, I am glad I was offered the opportunity to read the book.

I received Blind from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own and are based upon personal literary tastes. The cover gets a D for being boring and common. I wouldn’t have picked the book up on my own based on the cover.

  • prāvissimus(Latin) Adjective – ‎(superlative of prāvus) 1. most or very deformed; 2. most or very depraved

 

 

 

 

Review: Bear Meets Girl (Pride Series #7) by Shelly Laurenston #PrideSeries #Shifters

“See,” Cella shot back, “that’s a ridiculous thing to say, because I don’t even know this guy or whether I like him or not. I was just going to kill him.”

Yep. The Smith wolf pack is back. Along with the van Holtz pack, the Llewellan Pride, all the members of the Carnivore Shifter Team, and everyone’s assorted friends, family and pack members. And any strays that happen along. But when you add in the Malone family, especially Cella “Bare Knuckles” Malone, She-Tiger, hockey enforcer for the Marauder, ex-Marine sniper, daughter to Butch “Nice Guy” Malone and hit-woman for Katzenhaus Securities, or KZS, the international feline protection agency. . . well, things get “interesting” in a very “Holy Homicide, Batman!” sort of way. Gotta love me some Cella!

Bear Meets Girl is another of Shelly Laurenston’s Pride series, and is just as good as all the others in the series. Although, I have to admit, the cover is really bad. As in, sticking “Cella” down there at Crushek’s feet like some prissy little weakling really sort of ticked me off. As IF Bare Knuckles Malone would whimper and mewl at some dude’s feet!

Anyway, off my “Hate the Cover” Rant Horse (and what is up with that wimpy title, anyway? Just sayin’.) and on to the story. I had read the book before I saw it on Netgalley, but who could pass up being able to read any of Shelly’s Pride series once more? I mean, the books are freakin’ awesomesauce!!! I love humour in my urban fantasy/paranormal romance, and Shelly always offers something fun. In this case, watching poor Crushek wake up from a horrendous hangover in bed with a feline of all things (He knew lots of felines, but he didn’t spend time around them because they were, as he’d already stated and everyone knew, totally untrustworthy. It was a fact. Look it up!) he only came to the party because, well, yeah, he was depressed. Well, he was getting transferred, of all things! And Crushek hates change. Like the fact that his favorite shoe store moved six years ago. And he still goes by and stares in the window and wishes that things didn’t change. At least, until the people in the tea shop called the cops on the meth dealer standing around outside the window and scaring them all. Well, when you are a 6’9” 350-lb polar bear shifter who works as an undercover cop (yes, normally as a meth dealer. Sometimes a hired killer. But mostly? Yeah, a meth dealer) that isn’t all that hard to understand. But that whole ‘change’ thing? Crushek just doesn’t care for it. Like, At. All.

Sigh.

But change is here, and what happens? He finds himself mixed up in all sorts of change. Oh, and poachers. And taxidermists. And let’s not forget Novikov. And Nice Guy Malone. And a whole lot more of his hockey heroes. Because while he may not be able to play all that well, Crushek is a serious (and I mean really serious) hockey fan. And the fact that Cella, who he is sure is a whacked out female who is a danger to her toddler daughter (Snort. Giggle. Wait till you meet Cella’s “toddler” daughter. . .) keeps pretending to be his girlfriend, sitting in his lap and basically driving him right out of his tree? Ha! Gotta adore some Cella!

Shelly Laurenston’s Pride series is in my top five of the best paranormal series out there. The characters are amazingly fun, diverse, and consist of quite a few asskicker women who don’t put up with any sort of garbage from anything or anyone. The underlying storyline of the families is well laid out and developed. But what I really like is her continuing story of how the shifters are working hard against humans, and even other shifters, who are running hunting camps where shifters, some as young as six, are turned loose on private preserves, hunted and slaughtered by anyone who has the money to pay – their bodies then stuffed, mounted, and kept in the homes of the rich and depraved. It isn’t the animals who are the true monsters.

The story gets deeper, and meaner, this time around. The BPC, the Bear Preservation Council, and their leader, Peg Baissier, are up to something. Isolationists, the BPC don’t like that Crushek works for the police department. Something bad is going down, and Peg seems determined that Crushek will fall into line. And if that means Crushek’s cover was blown, and Crushek himself blown-away, well. The hunters are bad enough. But Peg Baissier may be even more deadly. Especially to Crushek – her foster son.

If you are a lover of PR and UF and haven’t picked up this series after all the praise I have given it, why not? If you like humor, action, truly likable (and hatable) characters, solid world building, and a tight storyline, well, you can’t do much better.

I received this book from the publisher (and Netgalley) in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. I love this whole series!

Review: How to Knit Socks That Fit by Donna Druchunas #KnittingSocks #SocksThatFit #Crafts

Remember when you were a kid, and your socks were always falling down around your ankles, then slipping down so far they bunched up around your feet in your shoes? I do. Yuck. Even when I got older, finding socks that I actually liked was, well, interesting. Sports socks had good elastic in the top and cushy bottoms, but coming in black, white and gray was so boring. Cute socks, with wild patterns, cartoon characters, and bright colours (my favorites!) wear out in no time flat, as they are made with thin, easy worn-through yarns. All of this is why I first started knitting socks.

Jitterbug -- Hand dyed  Superwash Merino/Nylon (80/20) Fingering weight, Sock yarn 100g, 400 yards -- Color:  Radioactive RainbowSock yarn is so much fun! Colorful, often stretchy, always lovely to knit with, what is called sock yarn is a finer weight yarn than worsted, and makes absolutely luscious socks that are a treat for your feet. Of course, you don’t have to stop with sock yarn. I have knitted for my feet from heavy yarns to make slippers and even boots! Knit the boots up, felt them, add a leather sole, and you can wear them all winter. High top, low top, it doesn’t matter. You knit, you enjoy!

Of course, making socks isn’t cheap – good quality sock yarn can run upwards of $30.00 per skein, and require two skeins to make a pair. No, I don’t invest that much – I like bamboo and merino that runs me less than $5.00 per skein, but one day I might go crazy and go for the really good stuff, like yak or bison. Who knows? I would just have to remember that those socks are for laying around reading and knitting and not walking out in the yard (yes, it’s a habit. . . )

But the old problem of knitting socks that truly FIT is still the question. When I first started knitting socks, I had the same problem as with purchased socks. Ankles too tight or too loose. Tops as well. Feet too large or too tight. So, how do you do it right every time?

This Storey BASICS Title is a wonderful way to start your sock knitting journey. Donna Druchunas holds your hand and leads you through everything from the beginning. What fibers are good for socks and what fibers will drive you made and turn out a bad product. Why the “twist” is important in your yarn, and how to decide what weight yarn to choose. She then continues to what type and size needles you need for your particular socks and why the material the needles are made of is important. Then you get to the good part. How to fit the sock to your foot so they turn out comfortably every time. Then there is whether you want to knit “top down” (knitting the cuff, then the foot) or “toe up” (starting with the toes). She explains the differences that each knitting style makes in the overall construction and fit of the socks, and why a beginner might want to start with a cuff down style. My personal preferences? The yarn depends upon what I want my final product to be, of course. But I use circular wooden or acrylic needles and the toe up method for a couple of reasons. One, I lost a double pointed needle on a bus trip in Scotland and had to put away my knitting – bummer. The double points are pretty scary for a newbie, as you are working with five needles at a time. I like the circulars so that my work is continuous and I am not working with those fiddly double points! I work toe up because, let’s face it – I get distracted. By starting with the toe and paying attention to my toe, instep and heel, I can then let my mind wander and ‘play’ with how I complete the tops. Cables? Simple knit two purl two? I can make up my mind when I get there – and then just knit until I am out of yarn. And by knitting two socks at once on my circular needles I don’t suffer the dreaded “One Sock Syndrome!” Besides, you can even spin your own sock yarn!

Hand dyed Merino Wool Roving, Combed Top -- Radioactive Rainbow -- 100% Merino spinning fiber, Felting Fiber, Felting woolThe directions for making socks are simple, well-illustrated, and allow you to start your sock knitting journey with a very basic sock – something that I still knit for everyday use – even if I do knit them in wild, hand painted colours! Starting here you can grow your sock making skills before you branch out into the wonderful world of colour and texture that makes up the world of sock yarn and patterns.

 

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. This is a really great book for the absolute newbie, but I also found neat little tricks and tips for my own sock knitting. Recommended.

 

Review: Pure Soapmaking by Anne-Marie Faiola #Soapmaking #HobbyBooks

Publisher’s Description

The pure luxury of soaps made with coconut butter, almond oil, aloe vera, oatmeal, and green tea is one of life’s little pleasures. And with the help of author Anne-Marie Faiola, it’s easy to make luscious, all-natural soaps right in your own kitchen. This collection of 32 recipes ranges from simple Castile bars to intricate swirls, embeds, and marbled and layered looks. Begin with a combination of skin-nourishing oils and then add blueberry puree, dandelion-infused water, almond milk, coffee grounds, mango and avocado butters, black tea, or other delicious ingredients — and then scent your soap with pure essential oils. Step-by-step photography guides you through every stage of cold-process soapmaking.

Image result for beautiful handmade soapsReview

My first thought? Pretty!!!! The photos and the soaps themselves are absolutely lovely. My second thought? Yummy!!! These soap recipes sound delicious. Rose and Champagne Peaks. Coconut Milk Sideways Swirl. Dark Ale Loofa Bars. Coffee Swirls Layered Cubes.

A feast for the senses, for sure. What is better than hopping in a hot shower and enjoying lovely scents from soaps you made yourself that leaves your skin feeling silky smooth? But how do you make soap yourself that won’t dry your skin, and how do you choose the right ingredients? As we become more and more knowledgeable about the effect our actions have on the world’s ecology, how do we choose products that are sustainable and don’t destroy the environment, like cutting out palm oil, the harvest of which causes deforestation and loss of habitat for some of the most wonderful, and most endangered, species in the world? Not to mention cutting GMO products out of your life.

Soapmaking doesn’t require a painter’s eye or a sculptor’s hand, but it can still turn out as beautifully as a sculpture and a painting all rolled into one. It is also a ‘science project’ in a way, as you learn cold-process (no outside heat source used) soap making. Anne-Marie Faiola takes you through the science of the process – why and how soap is soap – through the curing process that turns the base formula ((triglicerides (fatty acids) + sodium hydroxide = Soap + Glycerin)) plus various natural oils, herbs spices, etc. into luscious handmade soap. She is also very thorough when it comes to safety instructions – you are, after all, using lye in the process.

From choosing ingredients and molds to cleaning up, Faiola takes you through the steps meticulously to ascertain that you have the most fun, and work in complete safety.

When I was asked to review this book for the publisher, I spent some time looking over other soap making books at the library and I have to say – this one is better. Not only is it absolutely lovely to look at, and the recipes are luscious for your senses, the level of detail is better than the other books I have looked over. I have never made soap before, but I would feel quite comfortable starting out with this book. For an experienced soapmaker, the recipes are new, fresh, and use all natural ingredients. Faiola also spends a lot of time describing different oils and why you would use one over the other, as well as why you would or would not want to make certain mixes. Wine soaps, coffee and tea, lavender, my mouth waters at the idea of enjoying these fragrances in soap I made myself! Faiola even gives you tips on designing color palettes for your soaps based on whether you use green tea or black, chardonnay or merlot!

The book is coming out on February 9, 2016. I am putting it on my wish list to get a paper copy. Some books you simply have to hold, touch . . . and be able to lay out by your mixing bowls, of course.

I received Pure Soapmaking from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.

 

 

 

 

My fir

Review: The Demon’s Librarian by Lilith Saintcrow #UrbanFantasy #Demons

This is the original cover, from the edition published February 1, 2009. It is a much more appropriate cover based on the story. The silly paranormal romance style cover of the new edition, published July 31, 2015 is completely inappropriate to the strength of the storyline. So, ignore the new cover, ignore the PR style blurb, and read the review. Then read the book – it’s really good!

“Keep it secret. Keep it safe.” – Gandalf, Lord of The Rings: The Hobbit

“The books always make this stuff sound so goddamn easy. They don’t mention the smell. Or the way getting hit in the face with a tentacle as big around as your thigh hurts.” – Francesca “Chess” Barnes, The Demon’s Librarian

(Note: Ignore the cover. It reeks. The cover of the edition Published February 28th 2009 by ImaJinn Books is much more appropriate for the story. Also, if you have that book in your library, this seems to be the same book in republished form.)

It is hard enough being a librarian when “the ‘good citizens’ of Jericho City would pay thousands yearly for plastic surgery and to pad the pockets of the mayor’s friends, they simply would not vote a couple of measly bucks onto their property taxes to take care of her library.” Nope. That is minor compared to having to track down a skornac in the sewers and kill it with a knife. Bloody tentacled demon was eating kids – what else was she supposed to do?!

But killing a skornac demon draws attention – attention that could very well make her a bloody librarian smudge on the ground.

I read Lilith Saintcrow’s Jill Kismet series several years ago. (Wow. Hard to believe 2008 was ‘several years ago’!), back before I started writing reviews, but I rated them four and five stars. Then? I just wandered away. So many books, so little time! So, when I had the opportunity to read The Demon’s Librarian, I was well pleased. It is nice to greet an old friend.

This book didn’t disappoint. Chess is one tough librarian. Since finding (or being found by) a sorcerous library hidden behind a magical wall in the basement of the Jericho City library, life has been, well, interesting. Interesting in the Chinese, “May you live in interesting times” sort of interesting. Interesting enough that she spends a lot of the time in the fight gym learning how to protect herself, and a lot of time in the basement learning sorcery. Then, things get truly, well, ‘interesting’ in a very bloody, very painful way.

When a tall, handsome, tweed-jacketed fellow comes into the library one day, walks straight to Chess, and asks for Delmonico’s “Demons and Hellspawn” – and when the Phoenicis Fang at her hip, the magical knife she created herself, goes hot and vibrates – she knows she has problems. What sort of creature is this? Certainly not human – he smells too much like demon for that. But what is he? Then, a demon tries to break into her apartment through her wards – and another creature attacks the demon, taking it out in a smelly, messy manner – all Hades breaks loose. Because it isn’t just demons she has to worry about. The Order of Dragons has their own knife to grind. And Chess is not only a newly-minted demon hunter. She could very well be more. And everyone suddenly has way too much interest in using Chess for their own purposes.

“I’m lost in a fairy tale. Why do they call them fairy tales, when there aren’t any fairies in them? Troll tales. Giant tales. Witches and gingerbread tales.”

I like Chess a lot. Her character is strong and tough – but not too tough. She is genuine. She holds her own against some really nasty creatures, but she also has the occasional “break down into a crying, quivering mess” moments that make her real. Yep, sometimes I wanted to shake her, but in her place? Uh. I wouldn’t be as brave as she is!

If you like Urban Fantasy with lots of blood, a creative storyline, interesting characters, and a solid storyline, this is one to pick up and enjoy.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. If you enjoy my reviews, please let me know by “Liking” my reviews on GoodReads and Amazon. Thank you so much!

Oh. The new cover?

See what I mean? Pft. The book is about the Librarian! Yeah, yeah. There is ‘romance’ in a way – but the story is much stronger than a PR. Not putting them down, just saying that this is More than that . . .

The Demon’s Librarian
Published Jul 31, 2015

Review: The Demon’s Call by Kim Gravell #TheBlackDog

The Demon's Call“He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like ground-foxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.” ― Cormac McCarthy, The Road

It started simply enough. A sheep worrier – not common, and yet not uncommon in the Welsh countryside. The shadow of a black dog, lost or gone rogue, who endangers the sheep – the life’s blood of the Shropshire farmer. Nerys and Bryn’s son, John, has been worried. And he has been dreaming. Dreaming of the black dog. And now? Now, John hasn’t come home.

When Aidan Morgan, neighbor and family friend, goes out to search for John, he thinks that John is simply out searching for the worrier. But when he finds John’s Border Collie, Nan, tied to a gate and hysterical, he knows things are wrong. Very, very wrong. And what he finds is more horrible than he could have possibly believed.

“Black it was. Black as coal and big yellow eyes. I tell you it looked at me like it was weighing me up, judging me. Right weird it was.”

Kim Gravell has a lovely writing voice, full of the rich tones of the Welsh, the lands and the stories abundant with myth and magic .Lyrical names – Cadair Cawr, the giant’s chair, Aberystwyth, home of Elizabeth, Aidan’s sister. Aidan’s own beloved Cwm Broch. Beautiful given names, Alwyn and Gwynyfa, Beris and Eldritch. Simply reading the words pulls you into the story, and soon you are walking over the bracken covered hills, amongst the ancient stones.-

The story line is laid out in the blurb, which is sort of a downer as I feel it gives a bit too much away, but I am still happy that I finally found the book in my huge collection and was able to read it. Yes, I was supposed to get the review done quite some time ago – life happened, but I have read it – and will read it again. It is lyrical, as I stated before, and that always draws me in. The characters are well written, the story is a good start, and the landscape of mid-Wales drew me in until I could nearly smell the air. Overall, this is a lovely book filled with myth and mystery, terror and magic. Well worth your valuable reading time.

I am sure I owe Kim Gravell an apology. I seem to have had this book for quite a while, and no doubt received it from her for review, as it is a proof version. My apologies, and I thank you for providing The Demon’s Call to me for review. I hope late is better than never!

Review: Midnight Burning by Karissa Laurel

One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.” – Robert Fulghum

This dream was worse, So. Much. Worse. Than all the others. Horrifying, bloody, savage. And the worst part?

It was true.

Solina’s brother is dead, torn apart by a wolf-like creature. A monster who talks. Who thinks, and plans, and has yet another goal.

Kill Solina. Eat her alive.

A baker by trade, an introvert by nature, Solina Mundy is pulled to Alaska where her beloved twin met his end. Ostensibly, to gather her brothers things and close down his apartment. Realistically? To find out what really happened to her brother. Everyone is hiding things. Everyone apparently knows things she doesn’t. And they have no intention of telling her anything – or of helping her in any way. Go Home, Little Girl. Nobody wants you here.

Like. Hell. Solina is afraid, sure. She is, by nature, passive. A homebody who spends her time working in her parent’s bakery, kowtowing to their every wish. She has always left her twin, Mani, to be the adventurous one, the one who allowed her to live vicariously through his actions. But now, Mani is dead, and Solina is meeting obstacles every way she turns. Mani’s boss, Thorin, is a cold, unwielding jerk, belittling and demeaning in word and action. Val, on the other hand, is a Player, in all forms of the word. He was Mani’s best friend, and helped Solina though the first few months after Mani’s death. But now that she is there, she finds that he is more like a bull moose in rut than a real friend, and no matter how she tries to keep him in the friend zone, he keeps pushing, pushing, pushing. No respect there, only a single-minded determination to drag her into bed, no matter the pain it brings Solina when she comes to realize that he only wants to screw, not to be real friends. Val, the “Patron Saint of the Perpetual Erection.” Sigh. What a jerk. When she needs a friend as much now as she did when Mani died. Possibly even more.

Then, Solina meets Skyla. A former Marine and one tough cookie, Skyla is the woman Mani loved. And she loved him as well, with all her heart. She isn’t about to let his death go unpunished. And if helping Solina will help her meet that goal, she is all over it. Sol and Skyla quickly become close friends. Which is all to the positive, as the world begins to blow up around them.

You see, Solina and her twin are more than they ever could have expected. And if their enemies have anything to say about it, Solina will die as her brother did, ripped apart by a monster. And then?

And then, the world will burn.

This book is amazing. Really amazing. It delves into a mythology I have read very little about, and I found that incredibly refreshing. I don’t want to give things away – whatever I say will cause spoilers, and as I know my review will be one of the first ones out there, I don’t want to ruin it for other readers. Suffice it to say that it is a wonderful pleasure to watch a woman like Solina, an introverted woman who never even raised her voice in the past, much less her hand in anger, grow into someone who is learning to embrace her own power. This isn’t a Mary Sue “I was just a normal person and now I magically kick backside” sort of story. Solina takes the pain and gets up, over and over again, learning the whole way, making mistakes, and suffering for it. She isn’t stupid – far from it. Those around her, except for Skyla, treat her like she is worthless – though the whole world, and their own survival, balances upon her staying alive. Their dismissal of her Ticked. Me. Off. Which makes it even more fun when she takes their dismissal and slowly, but surely, turns it back on them.

This is, I deeply and profoundly hope, the first of a series. The book doesn’t end on a cliff-hanger, per se. But there is plenty of room for the story to continue. My only problem? Now I have to WAIT for the next one!!! Sigh. That is going to be MASSIVELY difficult!!!

I Highly recommend this book for those of you who enjoy a well written modern day Fantasy with a mythology you certainly haven’t read much on before (if any), well-developed female characters (yes, with an ‘s’ – there are several well developed characters here, even if one of them makes me want to slit her throat and watch her eyes dim to empty black), a creative story line and wicked good thrills.

Midnight Burning was received from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. I will have the next in the series on my Must Have list – I enjoyed it that much.

If you like my reviews, please choose “This review was helpful” on Amazon, or whichever site you visit to purchase your books. The authors will appreciate it, as it draws more attention to my reviews! Thank you!!!

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