Waiting on Wednesday: Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event created by Breaking the Spine in which we highlight a title we’re looking forward to reading. You can find their website here.

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Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble

Published: 10 April 2018

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Category: Fantasy/Young Adult

Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets…
and secrets hide in every shadow.

Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.

Frightened and alone, her only lead is a name: Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn’t have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne’s offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi’s enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…

And she’ll need to play.

I’m feeling a list format for this week’s Waiting on Wednesday so let’s go:

  1. I got strong Gambit vibes from the card motif going on with the cover and he’s one of my favorite X-Men, so even though this book has about 0% chance of having X-Men in it, I’m curious.
  2. Where casino families reign…this sounds like a set up for an epic gangster story and I am here for that!
  3. Enne is supposed to be a proper young lady, but how many books have we had where that doesn’t mean squat? What’s her backstory? Does she have a secret she’s hiding? A better question is probably what secret is she hiding.
  4. A con man love interest. I don’t think he’s going to measure up to my personal favorite Bastard of the Barrel, but hey, I’m game. 😉
  5. If there’s not a damn good cabaret scene in here (it says illicit cabaret so…), I will riot, at least a little bit. *lol*

 

 

 

 

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.
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Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

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Published: 30 January 2018

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Category: Fantasy (Fairy Tales)/Young Adult/Mystery

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

Rating:  5 Stars

In an equally fantastical and horrifying debut, Melissa Albert spins a tale that will remind all its readers why you should never, ever trust fairy stories.

As much as the fairy tale ideal has been fed to us growing up (thanks a lot DISNEY!), if you go back to the source material for 99.9% of these stories, none of them end well. Or start well really. There might be some good stuff in the middle, but really, it’s all darkness and twisty motives and death. Lots of that.

And I am HERE FOR IT.

Because they’re good stories. Not everyone is good and that’s the truth. Melissa Albert delivers on this with her story about Alice, her mother Ella, and the “legacy” they’re given by Althea, Alice’s grandmother and the writer of Tales from the Hinterland, a collection of fairy tales that embrace the Gothic darkness of bygone years and made her enough money to retire from the world on her estate the Hazel Wood.

Alice has been on the run from bad luck her entire life. She and her mother, no matter where they are, find themselves chased away by something. Their apartment floods. A wild cat gets in and destroys the trailer. A burglar ransacks the place but takes nothing. Weird things. Bad luck things. Relying on the kindness of others and never staying long, Alice doesn’t seem to mind this vagabond existence much because she has Ella and together, more sisters than parent/child, they have their own world, whether it’s an apartment or the front seat of an old car.

Life seems to settle down, allowing Ella to possible have a life including marriage, when a letter arrives announcing Althea’s death. Maybe the bad luck is gone. Maybe…

However, after a spat of seemingly random incidents, including the reappearance of the man that kidnapped her for a day when she was six years old, claiming to be a fan taking her to see her grandmother, Alice comes home to find her mother gone, taken by the creatures her grandmother made her name writing about. Fleeing the apartment of her stepfather, she runs to the one person who knows anything about the Hinterland, a classmate named Ellery Finch. Together they set off to find out what happened to Ella, what happened to Althea, and how much of the Hinterland is, at its core, real.

I think one of the most terrifying, underlying stories going on at the beginning of The Hazel Wood is not so much how Ella has kept Alice from Althea and from her book. There could be bad blood, some terrible falling out, okay. It was how Alice could find next to nothing about Tales from the Hinterland and when she did, any mention of it vanished upon closer inspection or when she went back for a second look. Even Ellery Finch has a creepy story to tell in this vein, of a book he barely managed to procure and that was then absurdly stolen from him. There does turn out to be an explanation, oddly enough that makes sense, but even then it’s like an art house horror movie plot line that was underlining Alice’s whole life. That kind of crafting, to keep up the eeriness, was impressive.

Albert keeps her mysterious writing up as we follow Alice on her quest to at first find out answers about her mother and then about herself. While the answers are sometimes slow to come about, you find yourself getting clues to the resolution of other threads so there’s never a moment when you’re short of action in one way or another. I read this book over the course of twenty-four hours because I simply had to know what happened next.

There’s a large case of characters in this story and on multiple levels of the story: the characters of The Hazel Wood and those of Tales from the Hinterland. A fine line divides the two and in ways I didn’t always expect. Some of my favorites were:

  • The man that kidnaps Alice as a child. That might sound like an odd thing to say, but bear with me. He means so much more to the overall plot than a reason for Ella to keep Alice moving so the crazy fans of Althea won’t find them.
  • The Spinner. She’s a cruel Arachne sort of character that was one of the definitive characters proving that you shouldn’t trust fairy tale characters. Alice broke this rule a few times in the course of the book, sure, but this was one case where she really should have been watching her back. But then how would things have turned out? It bears thinking about: if the bad things hadn’t happened, would Alice have known enough to be able to create the ending she has at the close?
  • Ellery Finch. This might be a bit of an unpopular opinion. He’s not as well developed a character as I normally like, nor is as strong a presence as you’d think, given how much help he’s meant to be to Alice, but I feel like he speaks to the readers that see themselves in stories. The ones that have wanted find themselves opening doors to other worlds or saying the right spell to tumble down a rabbit hole, no matter the consequence. His love of Tales from the Hinterland is not just a fan of fairy stories, it’s a love of reading, of losing yourself in the world of words.
  • Janet. She was quite possibly the most level headed person in the book. A woman from our world who, like Ellery, was fascinated by fairy stories, she took up field work when she found out that they were real and found herself in this world alongside Althea. When Althea betrayed her and left her behind, Janet became something of a guide for others that eventually found her way into the Hinterland when holes were made by the story spreading thinner. She helped these refugees as best she could and made a life, ultimately helping Alice find the answer she needed through her connections.

 

There are reasons for why Alice has bad luck. Why Althea retreated to the Hazel Wood, why Ella disappears. What the Hinterland is all about and why they kidnap Ella. These mysteries, the finding of them, had many jaw dropping moments. There were threads that at times didn’t seem to be important, but then they came back and I was shocked that I didn’t see them before.

I can’t say what it is that makes Alice’s story so important in the end because to do so would destroy the mystery you’ll enjoy reading this book but let me end the review by saying this.

Stories are both dangerous in this book and they’re a salvation. Stories are what get Althea and Ella and Alice into their respective messes, but they end up saving in the end, whether it be as the trade of the plots of Harry Potter for food or as a new weaving for spark spiders, the power of words is evident throughout The Hazel Wood. It just matters who, and for what reason, that power is wielded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

The NetGalley Tag

The NetGalley Tag

I wasn’t tagged, exactly, but I saw this on Boundless Bookaholic so I credit them for “tagging” me. Thank you! This sounds like fun. 🙂

Rules

Link back to the tag’s creator: Kourtni at Kourtni Reads.
Thank and link back to the person who tagged you.
Answer the questions the best you can. If you don’t use NetGalley, you can substitute other sites or places where you get books!
Tag a few people to do this too!

AUTO-APPROVED: Who’s one author whose books you automatically want to read, regardless of what they are about?

Charlie Holmberg. I first heard about her Paper Magican series, but I ended up liking her book, The Fifth Doll, better. I’ll still read anything she writes!

 

REQUEST: What makes you want to request a book on NetGalley?

It’s mostly if the title is one I’m looking forward to, but if I’m browsing NetGalley on the off chance, the thing most likely to pull me in is first and foremost an interesting cover and/or title because we see those first before we click on them to get the description. The clincher is the synopsis. That has to sound good or I’ll “put it back on the shelf”, as it were.

 

FEEDBACK RATIO: Do you review every book you read? If not, how do you decide what books to review?

I’ll admit that I’m behind on the books I’ve requested from NetGalley, but I do review all the books I get from the site no matter what, whether it’s a 5 star read or a DNF.

 

BADGES: If you could create one badge to display on your blog, what would it be for?

Genre most reviewed. I think it would be interesting if they could keep track of the genres you review most often so we could share that via badges.

 

WISH FOR IT: What’s one book that you are absolutely dying to read?

Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marshall for sure. That cover alone looks both weird and awesome.

 

2017 NETGALLEY CHALLENGE: What was the last book that you received as an ARC that you reviewed? If you’ve never received an ARC, what’s the last book you reviewed?

Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman is one I’m finishing up at the moment, though it wasn’t the last one I received. The last ARC I received was You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon.

 

I’m not sure who all uses NetGalley, so I’ll tag whomever would like to do this. Please link back so I can see your answers!

 

 

 

 

 

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: The Temptation of Adam by Dave Connis

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Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Book Depository  –  Goodreads

Published: 21 November 2017

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Category: Contemporary/Young Adult/Fiction

Adam Hawthorne is fine.

Yeah, his mother left, his older sister went with her, and his dad would rather read Nicholas Sparks novels than talk to him. And yeah, he spends his nights watching self-curated porn video playlists.

But Adam is fine.

When a family friend discovers Adam’s porn addiction, he’s forced to join an addiction support group: the self-proclaimed Knights of Vice. He goes because he has to, but the honesty of the Knights starts to slip past his defenses. Combine that with his sister’s out-of-the-blue return and the attention of a girl he meets in an AA meeting, and all the work Adam has put into being fine begins to unravel.

Now Adam has to face the causes and effects of his addiction, before he loses his new friends, his prodigal sister, and his almost semi-sort-of girlfriend.

Rating: 2 Stars

Trigger warning: destructive behavior mentions including alcoholism and self harm; also, I talk about the main character’s comments about such behavior in the course of the story in this review.

I want to preface my review of The Temptation of Adam by saying that it’s a difficult subject to tackle. Addiction is a deeply personal and variable subject, so I tried to comment on the portrayal within this book and my opinion of that portrayal respectfully. If I have inadvertently offended anyone, I most humbly apologize.

I can’t remember reading many books that deal with addiction any kind. Growing up, I think the closest ones were some Ellen Hopkins or Go Ask Alice types. Fine enough in their own right, but limited. Seeing The Temptation of Adam as a relevant title to this age of consumption, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what Dave Connis’s portrayal would be.

His portrayal of addiction, at least from my experience, had authenticity. The denial of a problem, the rejection of fault, can definitely be felt within Adam’s situation. It was a hard read sometimes because even knowing Adam had an addiction and we’re viewing the people around him through his scope, and even though I really didn’t like Adam as a person addiction or no, it was at times easy to side with him. That maybe he was being put upon by Mr. Cratcher or his dad. That balance in the writing was a shock at times when I realized what was taking place.

There were a few things that I had issues with that made this a difficult book to like, aside from the subject matter. Two of these are Adam’s indelicacy and his personal relationship with Dez.

When first meeting the Knights of Vice, Mr. Cratcher’s support group, he makes callous and inaccurate remarks about one of the members, Elliot’s, addiction to self harm, which “he saw coming with the hair”. He also calls it strange that Elliot cuts “because guys don’t cut”. I want to believe that Adam was uninformed about the subject and the author chose to portray that, albeit poorly in my opinion, but nonetheless, that passage struck me as one to look out for because it felt wrong. It didn’t feel like part of his defense of not having an addiction, his opinion that he was better than everyone there because he had his porn consumption under control. It felt extra and bad.

The relationship aspect between Adam and Dez in this book felt weird for a couple of reasons. First of which is that Adam (and I’m only mentioning him because he’s our primary window into the story) shouldn’t be focusing on that kind of thing right now when dealing with his addiction, especially a porn addiction.

Second, his choice of girlfriend. Dez is a somewhat interesting character: bold, unafraid of speaking her mind and confront Adam on his suppositions and what she calls his delusions of gender, but she’s in treatment too. Two addicts forming a relationship, an intense romantic one at that, when they’re supposed to be figuring out their own core, was more than a little troubling.

I also wasn’t comfortable with Adam’s sudden turn around and motivation for realizing he has a problem and wanting to quit his pornography addiction. It’s somewhat spoilery so I’ll just say that it felt inauthentic to the character in general and as a whole flat. I’m not saying that in real life it’s 100% impossible, but as it happened in Adam’s situation, it wasn’t believable with who Adam was as a person, so it made his journey toward redemption weak.

There was a lot of intense stuff going on in this book for a lot of people. Adam wasn’t the only one dealing with an addiction that we got to know, just the one we spent the most time seeing through. As such, I would have liked to see a better story for him. As it was, I don’t think the way his was told really worked. There were issues with his character and with his journey and there was so much potential, so much room for growth, that the climax, falling action, and “resolution” was unfulfilling.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Audiobookworm Promotions Tour Review: Catch Me If You Can by Miss Mae

Catch Me If You Can Tour Banner 2

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Author: Miss Mae

Narrators: Stephen Mendel, Dave Mallow, J.W. Terry, Toni Attell, Robin Riker

Length: 5h 51m

Publisher: Miss Mae – 2017

Genre: Suspense

Release Date: November 11, 2016

Buy Links: Buy on PulpRadio.net

On an island bordering the coast of South Carolina, a convention is planned for “Catch Me” game enthusiasts. The game, designed by Stuart Harrington, wealthy businessman, is the genius behind the hottest game craze. But only ten guests are able to arrive before Brian, a category four hurricane, makes landfall. Lois Steinberg washes ashore on the beach. Amongst strangers, she has no idea who to trust and when Paul, the cook, is found murdered, events happen too eerily reminiscent of any “Catch Me” game that Stuart Harrington could ever conceive.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Trigger warning: racism

Part Murder, She Wrote episode, part Clue, this full cast production audiobook of Catch Me If You Can begins as any good, classic mystery might: in a dark and stormy night. Lois, a young woman out “snorkeling”, is caught in a category four hurricane and washed ashore, only to be rescued by a guest of the manor house where some sort of gathering is occurring. It isn’t long before it is clear that Lois isn’t the only one to be wary of; everyone is suspicious whether outwardly brash Bob or one of the more “innocent” seeming guests.

My first impressions were thus: 1. These guests and the story’s circumstances reminded me of the movie Clue, what with everyone running about, and 2. Lois is not the innocent lead she seems, as evidenced by the first few scenes of chapter two.

The vocal cast was well chosen. Their voices were neither too grating nor too monotone. Ranging from, I’m guessing, 30-40’s up to a few elderly guests, there was a wide variety of personalities. Each was well defined, which is a plus. There were two that were a bit exaggerated: Bob, the brash man that was around for most of the story and a supposed investigator of some sort; and Andy, a reporter who shows up near the end of the story, who sounds like a two-bit gangster from a twenties flick.

With an audiobook narrated by a single person your expectations may be limited, but those expectations rise when more people are brought into the mix. There’s more drama, more ways to stretch the material. The expanded vocal cast combined with the sound effects, heavy handed as they were at times, made it easy to see them in my head, to picture them sniping at each other, moving about the rooms of the manor house, etc.

One of the difficulties I did encounter right from the start with sound quality were the noises from the storm. It was too loud in parts, obscuring parts of dialogue and making it difficult to understand what the characters were saying. The roaring of the wind, the lashing of the rain at the windows, it was too much.

The mystery of the story, the murders that take place within the manor house under the cover of the storm (Hurricane Brian, in fact), was moderately interesting. It was simple enough to follow along, even as more victims appeared. I was wondering at some points whether the point would be gotten to, but I believe that all questions were answered by the end. There were some twists that I starting guessing at, but I didn’t guess the final ones at the end, which was nice. As much as I try to see the ending coming, it’s fun to not see it coming 100% of the way.

There was a bit of a romance between Lois and one of the guests, which I was not really meshing with, for at least two reasons: 1. Instalove is very much not my thing and even if it was 2. it was not written believably. Lois and this person get together far too easily/quickly for much about their relationship, if you want to call it that, to be believable. I’d believe her adopting the dog in the book more than I’d believe her ending up with the guy.

Something that I think would have made the book a whole lot better would have been for the casual racism in the book to have been wiped out. Not that there’s ever a need for it to be in a book, but if the characters had at least been called out on it, it would have been something. There were several examples that annoyed me because there was nothing added to the story by the author including them.

Early on, when Tia is introduced, there is a comment on how Lois can tell she’s Asian because of her hair and such, but she can’t tell the difference between Chinese, Japanese, and Taiwanese.

Later, Victor makes a comment about Tia’s reaction to Mike (note: Mite? I couldn’t hear the name clearly) the dog, asking don’t all Chinese like dogs and she replies “only on a menu”. No one says anything about this and the only reaction we get, so to speak, is Lois wondering if Tia meant it as a joke, but not thinking so.

There’s also a time when the group is waiting out the night in a room and most are sleeping while Lois, Tia, and Cookie are keeping watch. Under the guise of girl talk to keep boredom at bay, Cookie presses Tia to reveal her heritage, where her parents, her ancestors are from, and wondering why she’s ashamed of revealing it. She even says she’s not ashamed to say she’s Irish and English: English because of her coloring, Irish because of her fiery temper. The racism toward Tia and defense of it with European stereotyping was irritating and unnecessary in the course of the story.

Jared, one of the other guests, tells Lois she should thank “their Asian friend” for saving her from an incident. Later, when files are recovered on the guests that managed to get to the manor, Tia’s revealed that she arrived via a flight from Beijing and Cookie exclaims that at least they now know she’s Chinese. This was annoying and arrogant; just because she came on a flight from one country doesn’t mean she’s of that country’s ethnicity.

Then there is Lois’s suspicion of Rajah, a fellow guest, of one of the subsequent murders,  primarily because he’s Iranian and aren’t “they sworn enemies of Americans” rather than a simple fact like he had opportunity. His race/ethnicity had nothing to do with it. It’s later revealed he isn’t even Iranian (not that that excuses her hasty, racist judgement; he was judged by his appearance, lumping all Asians together.

The romance between Lois and Victor felt flimsy and forced. It wasn’t necessary for the story and the places were it was shoehorned in felt quite awkward, especially when they were in the garage and we were getting an info dump of their theories about the murderer(s).

As far as a mystery goes, I liked it well enough and I would recommend it for fans of the genre. I wouldn’t pick it up if you read the synopsis and went into it thinking the characters were game enthusiasts like I did, was lead to believe. That part of the story was wholly unimportant and could have been switched out for any other kond of convention, sadly.

I would caution that it would be best listened to in as short a time as possible so as to keep characters, motives, and what not straight, and also that there are racist comments that really have no place in the story.

 

Excerpt

Interested in hearing this production for yourself? Click on the link below to hear the first chapter of Catch Me If You Can. Check later tour stops for chapter two!

Chapter One on SoundCloud

 

About the Author: Miss Mae

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Miss Mae is all about romantic mysteries. With her writing style compared to the likes of Agatha Christie, her books “Said the Spider to the Fly”, “When the Bough Breaks”, “Dove Island”, “It’s Elementary, My Dear Winifred” and “See No Evil, My Pretty Lady” are award winning best sellers. The novellas “Miss Penelope’s Letters”, and “Through a Glass Darkly” have received top rated five-star reviews. Her latest murder mystery, “Catch Me If You Can”, in audio format, has won the platinum award in the 2017 Hermes Creative International Competition. Tantalizing trailers, and more information, is readily available at her website.

She’s also penned three tales in the ‘Ahoy, Mischaps!’ children’s/humor series. Book #1 is “Ahoy, Gum Drop!” followed by Book #2 “Ahoy, Out There!” with Book #3, “Ahoy, Mummy Mia!” In these slightly cracked stories, readers are introduced to a cast of intriguing, extraordinary and downright bizarre characters, accompanied by the one and only I.B. Nosey, the ‘official unofficial’ reporter. To learn more about the ‘Mischaps’ and cyberspace’s only Pukelitzer Award winning interviewer, visit ‘Feeling Nosey?’

 

WebsiteFacebookTwitterGoodreads

 

Tour Schedule

Nov. 15th:

The Audiobookworm

The Hermit Librarian

Turning Another Page

Nov. 16th:

abookandalattee

Jazzy Book Reviews

Nov. 17th:

AUDIOSPY

Nov. 18th:

Bound 4 Escape

Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews

Nov. 19th:

Lomeraniel

Lilly’s Book World

Nov. 20th:

Wall-to-Wall Books

Desert Rose Reviews

Nov. 21st:

The Book Addict’s Reviews

2girlsandabook

Between the Coverz

 

Catch Me If You Can Giveaway

 

Open Internationally, there’s a giveaway for visitors to the stops of the Catch Me If You Can blog tour for a chance to win $25 Paypal Cash.

Catch Me If You Can Giveaway: $20 Paypal Cash

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the Audiobookworm Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

The Michael’s Spear Blog Tour: A Review, And! A Feature Piece by the Author

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Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Book Depository  –  Goodreads

Published: 16 November 2017

Publisher: The Dome Press

Category: Fantasy/Middle Grade

The Universe is coming apart at the seams.

As Jonathan and his friends fight to save it, their every move is being watched from the shadows. Lilith, the last Archdemon, has plans of her own, and with the legendary Michael’s Spear under her control Jonathan has never faced a more lethal foe.

With the odds stacked against him, Jonathan will need all the help he can get if he is to fulfil his destiny.

It’s time for Gabriel’s grandson to finally spread his wings…

Welcome to the End. It’s time for Jonathan, the half-angel half-demon grandson of Gabriel, to face his destiny at last.

Thank you to the publisher for including me on the blog tour and to Hilton Pashley for their feature piece, written specially for The Hermit Librarian and shared with you all here today.

Onward!

Rating: 3.5 Stars

‘Everything has to come to an end, sometime.’

L. Frank Baum, The Marvellous Land of Oz

So begins the final story in the Hobbes End trilogy, with a foreboding quote followed by leaping right into the machinations of Lilith, the villain of the piece, monologue-ing as all good villains do, to one of her minions.

With the Universe coming to an end, it may seem an odd time to join our hero Jonathan on his quest to save the world, but luckily Michael’s Spear can be read as a standalone novel. While Gabriel’s Clock and Sammael’s Wings would, of course, expand upon his adventures and journey to this point, I don’t think readers coming in at this point will have difficulty picking up with the half-demon, half-angel on his final quest. There are some comments made in conversation, some allusions to previous events that I wasn’t quite sure about, but overall was able to cobble together from context and reading onward a bit.

I have to wonder if more familiarity with the series would help with the odd feeling I had that this book wasn’t quite middle grade. The original press release I got for Michael’s Spear identified it as such, but had I not known that I would have been hesitant to place it there myself based on the voice of the characters. They seemed older somehow.

Moving on from that, as to what I read solely in this story, I loved Elgar the cat. He was a snarky pet who washed up in the sink and was quite mischievous, a demon of sorts that seems like he was voicing quite a lot of what ordinary cats would if they had human speech abilities.

There was a good amount of humor coming from all corners. Even the baddies had a quip or two, which I liked because it helped keep the tone pretty light. It balanced out the other, more intense moments, for there was also loss and sacrifice, moments when it felt like not everyone would see the end. There was a lot to learn from the characters and their choices and one lesson in particular?

Never underestimate the power of a good cricket bat. 😉

 


 

Hilton Pashley’s Feature Peace – Thought and Memory

Just like Odin’s ravens, Huginn and Muninn, it never ceases to surprise me that the ideas for what I put in my books often comes from snippets of memory; usually tucked away in some corner of my brain where nobody has dusted for quite some time. Michael’s Spear, the last in the Hobbes End trilogy and preceded by Gabriel’s Clock and Sammael’s Wings, has in part been built from things I have seen, heard and read over more years than I would care to count.

The village of Hobbes End, the central location for the story, is hidden deep within a forest, with one road in and one road out. It wasn’t until I’d finished Gabriel’s Clock that I realised I’d based it on Heydon, a private estate village just North of Norwich that I’d visited with my parents when I was in my teens. When I was searching for a form for the archdemon Lilith – the antagonist in Michael’s Spear – I remembered a monster from a game of Dungeons and Dragons I’d played one rainy afternoon with school friends. It gave me the shivers then and Lilith gives me the shivers now. No spoilers of course, but, here there be spiders…

In building a world in which to set a story, inspiration came from obvious sources such as the books I read as a child. Narnia, Middle Earth, Gormenghast Castle, Earthsea, they all sucked me in and held me tight, dipping me in an environment that the author had painstakingly created. When it was time to fashion my own land – far far away but also just around the corner – I wanted to feel the same way as I did when I’d first discovered these magical places. It is here that thought and memory play their part, unconsciously sifting through the minutiae of a lifetime’s experience for things that may be of use. From the loving arrogance shown to me by a pet cat, to flying a huge kite on the beach, no experience is ever wasted if it’s potential material for scribbling.

When I do a school visit, the children inevitably ask me where I get my ideas from. My answer of ‘everywhere and nowhere’ is probably quite irritating, but it’s true. My advice to them is to read everything, get their noses out of their smartphones and pay attention to the world around them; you never know when the most ordinary of moments may turn into the most extraordinary of journeys.

 


 

Thanks to Hilton for sharing their insight into thoughts, memories, and inspiration. It was fascinating to see where Jonathan’s adventures came from in the earliest forms.

Now that you’ve seen my take on this final book in the Hobbes End series, please be sure to check out the other stops on the tour!

Michaels Spear Blog Tour Poster

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Jorie and the Gold Key by A.H. Richardson

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Amazon  –  Book Depository  –  Goodreads

Published: 26 November 2015

Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform

Category: Fantasy/Adventure/Childrens

When Jorie and Rufus planned another summer of adventuring, they didn’t plan on sharing it with a snooty, stuck-up, bossy 10-year-old Nigel.

When the Wizard Grootmonya calls on Jorie to remedy another disaster in Cabrynthius — the theft of the Magic Stones, Jorie grabs the Gold Key and the three children descend to the enchanted land beneath the Tarn. There they find more extraordinary adventures that bring them face to face again with the wicked Lord Fodomalk and his evil butterfly. Their troubles grow as the fiendish dragon not only snatches Nigel, but confines him to a cold dank cell with the illusive Professor Schrinch (yes, he’s still alive and as sneaky as ever).

Jorie and Rufus — and the persnickety Nigel — are joined by all their old friends in this rollicking tale of magic, strange impersonations, and hair-raising exploits. They help Master Nigel with his confusion of the world beneath the Tarn and discover strengths in their new friend that even he didn’t know he had. Aside from spurts of jealousy from Rufus and impatience from Jorie, Nigel learns about bravery and friendship as he struggles with belief and enchantment.

Follow this feisty threesome back to the evil, dark world of Shyloxia and the beautiful, bright world of Cabrynthius, where live all manner of creatures, naughty and nice. Do they recover the Magic Stones? What does that Gold Key open for them? Do they survive the shadowy world of nasty characters? Do Jorie and Rufus accept Nigel into their world? And what about Chook — that beloved baby dragon?

And if you want to know how Jorie and Rufus survived their first summer adventures, pick up your copy of Jorie and the Magic Stones.

Rating: 4 Stars

To see my review of Jorie’s first adventure, Jorie and the Magic Stones, please click here.

Another summer, another adventure…

You know you don’t want an annoying tag-along when you’re adventuring with dragons, but sometimes you haven’t got a choice. When Jorie and Rufus are recalled to the land they saved in the previous novel, Jorie and the Magic Stones, they are joined by Nigel, who has a thing or two to learn about what he used to think was “real”.

Jorie and Rufus retain a lot of the strengths that they learned in their first summer in Cabrynthius, but there is still much to learn. Just because you can be strong does not mean you will never be afraid and watching them learn to stand up for themselves and their friends, human and otherwise, despite being afraid is a good example for readers young and old. These two don’t rest on their laurels.

A.H. Richardson wove a tale here that kept the threads of the original story alive and wound them into new ones, using her words to build from the previous ending and enhance the second book in this series. The writing quality continues to be maintained throughout and The Gold Key doesn’t seem to suffer any from second-book-syndrome (thankfully!).

The feel of a classic adventure remains throughout the story, reminding me once again of childhood favorites with enough unique notes to keep me wanting more. Luckily, there is at least one more Jorie adventure on the horizon: Jorie and the River of Fire.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.