Louise’s War ~Sarah R. Shaber

Louises WarISBN ~ 9780727880406
Publisher ~ Severn House Publishers
No. Of Pages ~208 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Books

The first in a new series from the author of the ‘Simon Shaw’ books – 1942. Louise Pearlie, a young widow, has come to Washington DC to work as a clerk for the legendary OSS, the precursor to the CIA. When, while filing, she discovers a document concerning the husband of a college friend, Rachel Bloch, – a young French Jewish woman she is desperately worried about – Louise realizes she may be able to help get Rachel out of Vichy France. But then a colleague whose help Louise has enlisted is murdered, and she realizes she is on her own, unable to trust anyone . . .

4 Thumbs-UpThis is the first time I have read a book by this Author, and I was pulled to it by the subject matter; I have read many books about the SOE and their operatives, I was interested to read about the American equivalent, OSS.

I was initially disappointed by the fact that this was not an OSS book, but rather a novel that revolved around the life and experiences of the title character who worked for the OSS.  Very much like the real women in the book The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, the main protagonist was firm in her belief that any little she could do would help win the war.  Despite not being a war widow, she has taken full advantage of the war to expand her horizons and make a new life for herself.  The whole story is told from her point of view and, despite living in a boarding house full of other war workers in DC, it also manages to highlight the mistrust that so easily arose from the slightest thing, and how everyone had secrets.  Apart from the main character, those others mentioned in the book were not given as in-depth a back-story, and even in this I felt there was something in Louise’s story that the Author was holding back, or has not quite decided on making a part of her character yet.

I particularly liked the descriptions of live in the capitol during the war years, and had a wry smile at the mention of rationing in a country that was capable of producing food for themselves.  It is apparent that the Author has meticulously researched this book as it covers things from victory gardening to the insufferable heat that was documented for 1942, and how the inhabitants of Washington DC coped with it.  This book actually became quite sluggish in part (maybe a reflection of the hot summer), but it left me feeling that the pace of the action could have been picked up to add to the flow and tension of the book.

I would recommend this book to any reader looking for a quick but enjoyable read on a rainy day; I read it in one sitting.  I will be reading others in this series as the fate of Louise and the OSS has me curious.

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Review: Skippy Dies ~ Paul Murray

skippy diesISBN ~ 978-0141009957
Publisher ~Penguin Books Ltd
No. Of Pages ~660 pages
Links ~ Barnes & Noble, Amazon

Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies is a tragicomic masterpiece about a Dublin boarding school.  Long listed for the Man Booker Prize 2010 Ruprecht Van Doren is an overweight genius whose hobbies include very difficult maths and the Search of Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Daniel ‘Skippy’ Juster is his roommate. In the grand old Dublin institution that is Seabrook College for Boys, nobody pays either of them much attention. But when Skippy falls for Lori, the frisbee-playing siren from the girls’ school next door, suddenly all kinds of people take an interest – including Carl, part-time drug-dealer and official school psychopath. . . A tragic comedy of epic sweep and dimension, Skippy Dies scours the corners of the human heart and wrings every drop of pathos, humour and hopelessness out of life, love, Robert Graves, mermaids, M-theory, and everything in between.

4 Thumbs-UpThis is the first book I’ve read written by this Author and, I’ll say this upfront, I’ll probably be hunting down some more of his books to read.

The whole book is centred on a group of teenage boys, one of whom dies within the first few pages.  However, this is not the last we read about this character as the book covers events leading up to the moment of his death.  Teenage boys are a totally different species to any walking the earth and the Author manages to catch their peculiarities perfectly in his character building.  He covers all those one would meet at a boarding school from the bookish to priests to parents, bullies and beyond; he then brings them to life and throws them into a story that grabs the reader from the very first.  The Author is able to capture their adolescent humour, their obvious obsession with anything remotely female (this being an all boy’s school) and set it down in a way that appeals to all readers.  Each of the characters is written skilfully, pulling on the different personality and traits that can be found in a variety of guises in this age group.  As a parent myself I remember my own son going through his teenage years and I picked him out of the crowd with no difficulty, along with a bevy of his ‘associates’.  The Author has managed to capture the classroom antics, attitude towards the teachers and classmate banter so well that there is no character that stands out from the others as the main protagonist; not even ‘Skippy’

This is by no means a ‘Lord of the Flies’ type book, and I would defy anyone not to be caught up in the humour of everything in this easy read.  Despite there being a huge number of characters, major themes and plot points the Author is able to juggle them all seamlessly and well.  I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a light and humourous read.

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Review: Daimones (Daimones Trilogy #1) ~ Massimo Marino

DaimonesISBN ~ 978-1478347101
Publisher ~Booktrope Publishing
No. Of Pages ~ 330 pages
Links ~ Amazon

Your entry into an exciting Space Opera: the death and re-birth of the human race.

Nothing could have prepared them for the last day. Explore the future of humanity in Massimo Marino’s sci-fi debut, Daimones, an apocalyptic tale that feels like it could happen tomorrow. You may never sleep through a windstorm again.

Death swept away the lives of billions, but spared Dan Amenta and his family, leading them to an uncertain future. When merely surviving isn’t enough and the hunt for answers begins, memories from the past and troubling encounters lead Dan to the truth about the extermination of the human race. Distressing revelations will give new meaning to their very existence.

Early humans shaped the future and seeded a plan millions of years in the making. Now survivors must choose: Endure a future with no past or fade away into a past with no future?

4 Thumbs-UpI’ll get this out upfront, if you’re looking for an ‘end of life as we know it’ book that checks the blocks by featuring zombies and all their accompanying mayhem, this is not the book for you.  However, if you are looking for a novel in this genre that makes the possibility of such things happens you need to read this.

Having read all three books in this trilogy, and actually delaying my review until I had not only read them but owned them, I am only going to be featuring book one, as this is a good place to start.  I may at some point in the future review the other two. I’m also going explain my reasoning behind giving this book a 4 thumbs review, even though it could have quite easily gained that extra thumb; it was the main protagonist and his actions well into the book, he disappointed me so much that I felt he was the cause that I could not award this novel 5 thumbs.

The main protagonist in this book is a man such as any you may meet in the place you live; he has a job that he promptly loses in the first few pages, a loving wife and an adoring daughter.  His only knowledge of the events that happen in the course of the book are gleaned from movies he’s watched, this in itself makes him and his family real.  Most people reading this book will only have Hollywood to pull from when it comes to dealing with events such as these, and actually having the character in a book state this makes them, and their subsequent actions (to a point) believable and acceptable.  The main character is written well and given all the traits we find in those we come into contact with on a daily basis.  I felt a connection with this man and his family, but that all changed after his misdeed and I found myself wondering if his previous actions had been based on deception and insincerity too.  His spouse, although as well written and detailed as the main character became, at times, very wearing on my nerves and I felt that I really wanted to give her a good shake to make her wake up to what was happening.  The daughter of the family was written to portray perfectly that resilience children seems to have in the most difficult of situations; after her initial shock over events she quickly became an integral part of the survival of her family, more than her Mother did in some cases.

This book started out with events that we read about in the newspapers each day, and set the tone for a thoughtful look at what is rapidly becoming a worn out genre.  Setting the book in an area other than North America was refreshing and also an indication that should terrible things happen, they are not just going to affect the residents of the continental United States.  I thoroughly enjoyed the locations and reading about them took me back to the time we spent in this area, so much so that I felt an ache over the devastation described to some of these beautiful places.

If you are looking for an ‘intelligent’ take on the end of humanity, this is definitely a book that you will want to read.  It is not fast paced and full of gory action, but lays things out as it could be.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and, if not for the bad life choices made by the main character, if would definitely have made a 5 thumbs rating.  If you want to find out whether he redeems himself, you will have to read all three books.

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Review: Relic (Pendergast #1) ~ Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

RelicISBN ~ 978-0312856304
Publisher ~ Forge
No. Of Pages ~382 pages
Links ~ prestonchild.com, Barnes & Noble, Amazon

When a team of archaeologists is savagely massacred in the Amazon Basin, all that survives are several boxes of relics and plant specimens. From boat to boat, from port to port, the battered crates drift. They finally reach New York City – only to be locked away in the basement of a museum, lost and forgotten.

But the black heart of the Amazon never forgets. Just days before the Museum’s massive new exhibition opens someone or something other than tourists and school children is roaming the echoing halls and dusty galleries. And people are turning up savagely murdered.

Forensic evidence points to a killer of terrifying strength and ferocity. Rumors of a “Museum Beast,” never far from the surface, rise again among the Museum staff. But then Margo Green, a graduate student working in the Museum, uncovers a link between the killings, the failed Amazonian expedition, and an odd figurine that will be displayed for the first time. Will she be able to put the pieces together and stop the deadly menace before terror strikes again?

4 Thumbs-UpI have to put this up front, if you are not a fan of gory murders full of graphic detail in your book, or get bored with scientific theories in your fiction this may not be the book for you.

This book is the first collaborative work of Preston and Child, and also the first in the Pendergast series.  Unlike most of the books in this series it cannot be read as a standalone and is followed on by Reliquary; the other two books that must be read in order in the series are Dance of Death/Book of the Dead.  But I digress, I’m reviewing Relic not the entire, to date, 14 book series. I picked this up on the recommendation of a friend and, not knowing what to expect, was taken by surprise; it is the first book written by these two Authors I have read.

I found the characters both intriguing and infuriating at the same time, and was pleasantly surprised to see that the aforementioned Pendergast was not actually the main protagonist in this book, rather took a secondary place to another.  I thought this was a great way of introducing a character that would eventually become the focus of a lengthy series, rather than having him leap out of the pages at the reader full-bore and in your face.  It actually is one of the reasons I will probably continue to read more in this series, he intrigued me and made me want to find out more about him.  In creating the characters in this book, the Authors supplied enough details about them to allow the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks or speculate as to what might follow.  It is not only Pendergast that the Authors decided to just give ‘tasters’ to the character personality, they applied this to all the characters in the book and, while I found it an interesting way to lead into a series, I would have preferred to have more background on some of those characters who were probably not going to make it out of the end jacket alive, and this is the reasoning behind my 4 thumbs review.

It is a fast paced book, full of twists and turns that I really didn’t see coming.  This edge of the seat action kept me turning the pages until to my surprise I had finished the book in a day.  The idea of the entirety of the story line taking place in a Museum, and the suspense this brings with it makes this a book a would recommend to anyone who enjoys a book full of twists, turns and a little humour in places.

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Review: The Witch’s Ladder (Tony Marcella Mystery #1) ~ Dana E. Donovan

witch's ladderISBN ~ 978-1492139720
Publisher ~ CreateSpace
No. Of Pages ~ 292 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes and Noble

A group of individuals proficient in the psychic academia of clairvoyance, mental telepathy and bilocation, working to understand life’s most unusual secrets soon realize that even their abilities of mind over matter can’t save them from the blade of the surgeon stalker.

4 Thumbs-UpI didn’t realise when I read this book, and found out only when I started writing my review that this is the first of, what is currently a series of eleven books.  However, don’t let that put you off from reading it, even if you’re not looking for another long series to take up your time, this book works very well as a standalone.

Not the usual run of the mill paranormal murder mystery, this one reads more like a novel from an earlier time, with character back story being kept to a minimum and the main focus concentrating on the murder mystery at hand.  This really doesn’t spoil the book in any way though and, in my opinion added to making it a fast paced summer read, just right for these hot July days.  The Author manages to tease the reader with just enough information about the main protagonist, Tony Marcella as mentioned in the title, to make the reader perhaps want to read more the books to discover what makes this man tick.  Far from being the jaded, coming up to retirement detective readers so often come across in this type of book, I felt that there was an underlying mystery to the man himself and this in itself has made me want to read more in this series to see if my suspicions may be right.

The book is very descriptive when it comes to the actual murders themselves, so if you have a squeamish disposition or don’t like overly graphic murders in your reading material, this may not be the book for you.  In regards to the plot line though, it is full of twists and turns and definitely keeps the reader guessing.  There were several points where I thought I had it all figured out, only for the Author to take my deductions and dash them to pieces with the turn of a page.

My reasoning for this book only getting a 4 thumb review; there were several typos and grammatical errors that I felt should have been corrected by a good proof-reader and, if missed by them any editor worth their salt should have picked them up they were so obvious.  This spoilt the book in some parts for me, as I found myself having to re-read a paragraph to really understand what the Author was trying to get across.

Despite the errors it was a good read, not my usual genre as I tend to find paranormal books a bit sparkly for me, and I would recommend this book to anyone, even those like myself who are not into this genre.

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Review: The Yellow Wallpaper ~ Charlotte Perkins Gilman

yellow wallpaperISBN ~ 978-0914061168
Publisher ~ Orchises Pr
No. Of Pages ~ 16 pages
Links ~ Gutenberg Project, Amazon

First published in 1892, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is written as the secret journal of a woman who, failing to relish the joys of marriage and motherhood, is sentenced to a country rest cure. Though she longs to write, her husband and doctor forbid it, prescribing instead complete passivity. In the involuntary confinement of her bedroom, the hero creates a reality of her own beyond the hypnotic pattern of the faded yellow wallpaper–a pattern that has come to symbolize her own imprisonment. Narrated with superb psychological and dramatic precision, “The Yellow Wallpaper” stands out not only for the imaginative authenticity with which it depicts one woman’s descent into insanity, but also for the power of its testimony to the importance of freedom and self-empowerment for women.

4 Thumbs-UpIf Henry James and his The Turn of the Screw is an example of gothic horror at its best, then this extremely short novella has to be an example of how the subject of descent into madness can be written about without it becoming long winded and overly graphic.

The characters in this novella expertly reflect the role of women during the late 19th century and their position in the male dominated society in which they live.  Written in the first person, this short read is the diary of a woman’s descent into madness courtesy of the ‘I’m the man, I know better attitude’ of her Husband.  Only to be expected in a piece of writing of this length, no time has been wasted on giving complex back stories to the main character and her husband, which adds to the sheer desperation the reader feels coming out of the page as they read.  No hint is to be given as to what kind of a woman would allow herself to be so crushed and dominated by the whims of one single person and, because of this, it is rather easy for a female reader to instil their own sense of indignation into their readings, not taking into consideration the differences in societal norms that are acceptable in the 21st versus the 19th century.

At first read it is easy to miss the impact this piece of writing has on the reader; it appears choppy and has no obvious flow to it which for some readers may be cause enough for them to disregard it as being badly written.  However, due to its short length, it deserves to be re-read and then mused upon.  Yes it is choppy but we are reading the writings of the descent into madness, and in this it takes on a kind of brooding presence that lingers with the reader long after they have the closed the back cover.  If raw chaos could be described I would say it was in the wallpaper, and the way in which the mind can draw the most damming of things out of simple objects comes into play here.  What I did find interesting, and an example of how the novella had made me think was that after reading it for the second time I watched several film shorts based on it, each being different in their interpretation of the words, but all having one thing in common; the chaos brought into one woman’s life by the wallpaper.

If you have an hour to spare and are not sure what to do with it, or don’t want to start reading a long novel, may I suggest you take a look at this.  Whether or not you enjoy reading it will be based on how you interpret the words but one thing I can guarantee is that you will not forget it in a hurry.

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Review: Ultimate Star Wars ~ Ryder Windham, Adam Bray, Patricia Barr and Daniel Wallace

star warsISBN ~ 978-1465436016
Publisher ~ DK
No. Of Pages ~320 Pages
Links ~ Amazon, Dorling Kindersley, Barnes and Noble

Become an expert on the Star Wars galaxy!

Ultimate Star Wars® is an in-depth visual feast exploring the characters and storylines from the Star Wars galaxy. This is a beautifully illustrated guide that is structured chronologically and packed full of information about key characters and storylines from the Star Wars movie saga, The Clone Wars, and Rebels™Ultimate Star Wars will get new and old fans caught up and knowledgeable on all things Star Wars.

© & TM 2015 LUCASFILM LTD.

Let me start by explaining the reason behind my four thumbs review, I’m not a huge Star Wars fan.  Don’t get me wrong I enjoy the movies, but I’m not a fangirl in the same sense or to the extremes others out there are.  Having said this, this art book really hit the spot with me, and went a long way to explaining some of the storylines and characters in the movies.

Dorling Kindersley have done their usual excellent work when publishing this book and, with the frenzy that is building with the release of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens in December of this year, they are sure to have a money-maker on their hands.

This book is sure to appeal to fans of any levels, and maybe capture the interest of those new to this Universe.  The book itself is divided into topics that cover things from characters to locations, and these are interspersed with ‘key event’ facts  and each includes a timeline  and a behind the scenes article.  Covering all six of the Star Wars films, it also touches on the animated TV series of Clone Wars and Rebels.

To say this book has detail would be an understatement, and do it a total injustice.  As I said earlier I am not a huge fan, but I found the character pages fascinating; each has a biography which includes some important events of which they were a part and other little pieces of information on their weapons etc.  The major characters, such as the R2-D2 unit are given a double page spread, as can be seen in the image below, while lesser character may, in some cases only get a portion of the page they are still included and this is part of what makes this a comprehensive guide to the Star Wars Universe.

r2 unit

Apart from the myriad of information that the reader will find within this books pages, they are also given a visual treat in the form of crisp images that are full of detail, from the most important of characters right down to the obscure.  I have to admit that my favourite part of this book, along with the foreword by Anthony Daniels, were the character and location sections, as after reading it I now feel I might just be able to hold my own in a conversation with a die-hard fan.

I would highly recommend this to all lovers of Star Wars and those, who like myself, enjoy the movies but feel their knowledge is lacking.

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