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 Stingy Minion ~ H.M. Marson

stingy minionISBN ~ 978-1475997866
Publisher ~iUniverse
No. Of Pages ~260 pages
Links ~ Amazon, iUniverse

Educated by her imprisoned hacker father, and dumped on her grandparents’ doorstep by her distraught mother, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Carson brings big problems to small-town Ellisville, Missouri. Rooted in a broken family and conflicted by her own awakening femininity, she fails to recognize that help is all around—a caring community, a musical prodigy named Jereme, and loving grandparents.

As if family problems were not enough, Elizabeth’s curious nature finds more trouble. She brings her father’s hacking program, the Stingy Minion, back to life, and soon finds herself staring at a highly classified NSA blog site used by the president of the United States. Trouble escalates to danger when a power-hungry investment firm tries to steal the Stingy Minion and threatens her life and the lives of newfound friends.

In over her head, Elizabeth continues to hack and discovers a plot to attack Iran’s nuclear development sites. The world is on the verge of nuclear war. With hired thugs on her tail, only time will tell how long she and her friends will remain safe.

3 Thumbs-UpHaving not read a book about hackers for a very long time, this one caught my eye and I thought I would give it a read.  I didn’t have any real expectations of what would be waiting for me within the covers, so I didn’t leave myself open to any disappointment that might have been waiting but I wasn’t disappointed, in fact I found it quite and enjoyable and fun read.

With the internet, and hackers being a big part of everyday lives now I found the characters to be very realistic.  They had a depth to them that is often lacking in YA fiction, and there were none of the ‘perfect’ people in this novel that seem to be the norm in many books.  The main protagonist, a 16-year-old female, is full of all the insecurities and anger that seems to be the norm for young adults but, rather than it becoming annoying and whiny, the Author is able to pull on all the characters different personality traits and the problems encountered at this age and make them work, creating a character that the reader can relate to and care about.  I usually find teenage angst to be an irritating and over used back story in YA novels, but it actually adds to the book in this case.

The plot in the book is very real world too, and could almost have been taken from the news headlines.  As expected in a book about computer hackers there is a lot of computer terminology which some readers may find a little daunting if they are not familiar with it.  Rather from detracting from the novel though, this adds yet another dimension to the book which makes it more gritty and realistic.  T he reason behind the three thumbs rating is that at times the book seemed rather childish, aimed more at the middle school age group rather than the young adult; overall though it is a fun light read.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for something a little different, or a reader interested in the hacking world.

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Review: The Turn of the Screw ~ Henry James

turn of the screwISBN ~ 978-0140620610
Publisher ~ Penguin Books
No. Of Pages ~ 120 pages
Links ~ Penguin, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

A very young woman’s first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate…An estate haunted by a beckoning evil.

Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls…

But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil.

For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.

4 Thumbs-UpNo one seems to do gothic horror and be able to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up as well as Authors from this era; whether they are hinting at insanity or embracing it and giving it coffee, this novella has to rank up there with The Yellow Wallpaper.  When the reader first embarks into this tale it would seem the perfect accompaniment to a cold winter night and a cosy fire-place, after all it’s short in length and reads fairly quickly if you can come to grips with the style in which it is written, but don’t make any assumptions about this book.

The main character is also the narrator for the tale, and the reader sees the whole sequence of event unfold through her eyes.  In the main lead, the reader is introduced to a character who definitely does not know herself and shows no signs of getting to know herself as the tale progresses.  As we view the world through her eyes the reader is her companion as she descends into madness; or does she, and this is where one of the many twists enter the tale and have the reader wondering.  At times I felt sorry for this character, at others she just grated on me to no end, this I put down to the time period in which the book is set and not the fact the fact that the character was badly written.  In fact none of the characters in this novella are badly written, and each brings their own flaws and traits to play as the storyline unfolds.

This book is definitely ‘old school’ horror genre, rather than being in your face gory and ghastly, an atmosphere is created in this novella that is suggestive and lends itself perfectly to being able to scare the stripes off a zebra.  Eerie and creepy descriptions are used to full effect in this tale and, although only a mere 120 pages long, I found myself getting up and turning a light on part way through.  All the requirements of a truly good ghost story are included in the covers of this novella, and the fact that the reader’s imagination is able to hold full sway over the way in which they react to the occurrences.  I have to say this is one of the better pieces of writing by this Author that I have read, and if it had been a few pages longer it would have received a full 5 thumbs review.

If you are looking for a truly good ghost story to fill your holiday season, but not overtake it completely then I would highly recommend you read this novella.

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Review: Joe After Maya ~ Marina Raydun

Joe after mayaISBN ~ 978-1499593266
Publisher ~
No. Of Pages ~ 268 pages
Links ~ Amazon

Joe is lost.
A sudden widower, he is alone in the trendy apartment he had earned at a great cost to himself. He has nowhere to look but back.
His wife Maya violently murdered, the next week of Joe’s life is a dizzying whirl of revelations and cigarette smoke as he reflects on their time together in the effort to uncover who killed her and why.
On his journey, Joe reluctantly finds and faces himself.

4 Thumbs-UpIt has been a while since I read a book as raw in emotion, setting and characters as this one; it’s also a book that will pull the reader into the storyline and not let them go until the very end.

Joe, the main protagonist is well-developed and written.  His emotions are raw and on display for the reader to see and experience with him, and because of this I felt that I was living through this time of his life with him.  It was quite surprising that the Author wrote all the lesser characters, including Maya, in the same way, making them vivid and real without being overly descriptive.

The book is full of twists, turns, suspense and a touch of horror, with the supernatural aspect of the book being explained to the reader in such a manner as to make it believable.  The way in which the Author weaves together all the aspects of this book with the characters and events add a great deal of depth to the book and made it one that I sat and read in one sitting, only breaking off briefly to make more tea.

If you are looking for a good psychological thriller that will keep you turning the pages to the end, I would highly recommend this book to you.  I will definitely be reading more by this Author.

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Review: The Nameless Day (The Crucible #1) ~ Sara Douglass

The Nameless DayISBN ~ 978-0765303622
Publisher ~Tor Books
No. Of Pages ~448 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble (unfortunately this Trilogy seems hard to come by in its entirety)

The Black Plague. The Pestilence. Disease and death haunt every town and village across 14th century Europe and none are immune from its evil. Some see the devastation of their world as a sign from God for Man’s wickedness.

But Brother Thomas Neville sees this swath of death as something much more. Neville is a man beset by demons. Or is it angels? He has had a visitation from none other than the Archangel Michael, who commands Thomas to a mission. This mission will take Neville across the length and breadth of the continent in a desperate bid to find the means to stop the minions of Satan who have found a doorway out of Hell and are preparing to venture forth, to try and seize this world in preparation for an assault on Heaven itself.

As Thomas Neville encounters angels and demons, saints and witches, he comes to realize that the armies of God and Satan are arraying themselves for the final battle…and that his soul is to be the battleground.

The question is has Neville picked the truly good side?

4 Thumbs-UpThe Nameless Day is the first volume in Sara Douglass’s trilogy, The Crucible, and what a trilogy it is.   Although it may not appeal to all readers, The Crucible is probably the best historical fantasy series I have read in a long time, and unlike other series in this genre you don’t have to plough through double-digit numbers of novels to get to the end.  However, if you or a member of your family is fainthearted or devoutly Catholic this may not be the book for you considering the shenanigans the religious characters get up to.
The main protagonist is a self-righteous, small-minded, hypocritical man, and although this may make him seem the type of character some readers are unable to relate to it also makes him a more realistic character given the period of time in which the novel is set.  Finding someone with his modern liberal views would have been fairly uncommon for this era, but in writing this character the Author manages to make them believable but also one that readers would be drawn to.  In their writing of this character the Author has managed to ensure that there is room for development and one that readers will want to see change as they progress through, not only this book but the remaining two in the trilogy.  Taking place in an alternate version of fourteenth century Europe, readers will recognise many actual historical figures and, although it could so easily have turned into a book with too many characters to keep track of, the Author weaves historical fact and fiction about them together in a seamless manner giving each their own distinct personality and not leaving the reader the task of having to back track to see where they fit into the plot overall.

Taking the ultimate time long battle of Angels and Demons the Author places this a period of history that was fraught with upheaval.  The author incorporates well researched historical elements in their novel and adds enough fantasy to keep the reader from feeling this is just another dry historical work of fiction.  Some dates that certain historical figures appear have been slightly adjusted for the sake of the storyline, but this does not take away from the purpose of the book in any way, and that purpose is to give a great experience to its readers.  This book also manages incorporate a little bit of everything that would draw readers to it that may not otherwise pick up a novel in this genre.  As I have mentioned there is the history portion, but there are also elements of romance and fantasy, and I was glad to see that the romance was not the kind that would have me laying this book aside in disgust.  Added to this there are sections which are definitely dark and sinister which hint back to earlier work in the gothic genre, and the moments of gore and brutality are worthy of even the most celebrated of horror novelists.

The reason for my 4 thumbs review, as opposed to a 5 thumbs that it sounds as if I should have awarded to it is this; by the end of the book there are a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of things remain unsolved.  This makes it the kind of book that would not function well as a stand-alone, so if you are going to read it, be prepared to have the remainder of the trilogy on standby.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good all round read, and a series that they can get their teeth into without having to expend vast amounts of time and money to complete it.  I will definitely be revisiting the trilogy again and probably on numerous occasions.

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Review: Retribution Falls (Tales of the Ketty Jay #1) ~ Chris Wooding

retribution fallsFrey is the captain of the Ketty Jay, leader of a small and highly dysfunctional band of layabouts. An inveterate womaniser and rogue, he and his gang make a living on the wrong side of the law, avoiding the heavily armed flying frigates of the Coalition Navy. With their trio of ragged fighter craft, they run contraband, rob airships and generally make a nuisance of themselves. So a hot tip on a cargo freighter loaded with valuables seems like a great prospect for an easy heist and a fast buck. Until the heist goes wrong, and the freighter explodes. Suddenly Frey isn’t just a nuisance anymore – he’s public enemy number one, with the Coalition Navy on his tail and contractors hired to take him down. But Frey knows something they don’t. That freighter was rigged to blow, and Frey has been framed to take the fall. If he wants to prove it, he’s going to have to catch the real culprit. He must face liars and lovers, dogfights and gunfights, Dukes and daemons. It’s going to take all his criminal talents to prove he’s not the criminal they think he is …

4 Thumbs-UpIf you are a Browncoat who is lost in lamentations over the cancellation of Firefly, this is the book for you.  I’m not saying it will replace the crew of Serenity, but it will go a long way to fill the void and feed the need for a good pirate/cowboy steampunk western.

The individual crew members of the Ketty Jay are introduced to the reader one by one, with each revealing their story, apart from the Captain.  To say he was a work in progress would be an understatement as his character was developed and grew and the novel progressed.  Most of all the characters are loveable on the Ketty Jay, maybe not so much their motives and reasoning at some points, but they each have something about them that will have the reader wanting to learn more about them and join them on their adventures;  Id’ join them if we could leave the Captain behind as I just could not warm to him and thought him to be a bit of a spineless human being.  As in all the good adventure stories the villains, are well just that, villains.  From the description of these characters, right down to the personalities they each have there is nothing that could have the reader mistaking them for being anything else than what they are…baddies.

Although, in my opinion, the story takes a while to get underway this is not a bad thing, as in these ‘slow’ moments is where the set-up for the adventure begins and when it starts it definitely moves along at a cracking pace and does not disappoint at all.  Through great writing the Author is able to provide a perfect balance of sadness alongside humour and wraps it all up in the form of shenanigans.  There is magic, gun play, sword fights and daemons; so enough of everything to appeal to most reader.

I would highly recommend this novel to all Browncoats, steampunk fans and lovers of the type of adventure novels that are so hard to come by today.  I will definitely be reading the remaining ‘Tales of the Ketty Jay’ novels.

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Vive la révolution!

 

bastille-day-450x3372

Today is Bastille Day, or as the French call it, la Fête Nationale or le quatorze juillet, the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, the flashpoint of the French Revolution that symbolizes the birth of the modern nation. So basically the French version of the fourth of July, only slightly bloodier and with more presidential garden parties. In honour of the French’s national holiday, I’ve put together a list of three French novels that will get anyone in the spirit.

ptitprinceTitle – Le Petit Prince
Author – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
ISBN 13– 978-0156013987
Pub Date – September 4, 2001 (first published 1940)
Publisher – Harcourt, Inc.; French language edition

Description – Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.  Seeing as it’s the most read and most translated book in the French language, not to mention one of the best-selling books of all time, you’ve probably already read the gorgeous, absurdist, heartbreaking novella The Little Prince. But you should probably read it again.

musketeersTitle – The Three Musketeers
Author – Alexandre Dumas
ISBN 13– 978-0451530035
Pub Date – January 3rd 2006 (first published 1844)
Publisher – Signet Classics

Description – One of the most celebrated & popular historical romances ever written. The Three Musketeers tell the story of the early adventures of the young Gascon gentleman d’Artagnan & his three friends from the regiment of the King’s Musketeers-Athos, Porthos & Aramis.

Under the watchful eye of their patron M. de Treville, the four defend the honour of the regiment against the guards of the Cardinal Richelieu, & the honor of the queen against the machinations of the Cardinal himself as the power struggles of 17th-century France are vividly played out in the background.

But their most dangerous encounter is with the Cardinal’s spy. Milady, one of literature’s most memorable female villains, & Alexandre Dumas employs all his fast-paced narrative skills to bring this enthralling novel to a breathtakingly gripping & dramatic conclusion

gigiTitle – Gigi
Author – Colette
ISBN 13– 978-2253109341
Pub Date – June 1st, 2004 (first published 1942)
Publisher – Livre de Poche

Description – A story of burgeoning womanhood and blossoming love, Colette’s masterpiece reveals the author’s grasp of the politics of relationships. With music, drama, and the charm of French-inflected English, this unabridged novella follows Gigi’s training as a courtesan. Leslie Caron, the star of the best-loved film based on Gigi brings to life the Paris of 1899 in all its sensuous detail.

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