Monday, October 5, 2015

Review: The Search for the Stone of Excalibur by Fiona Ingram

The Search for the Stone of Excalibur (The Chronicles of the Stone, Book 2)
by Fiona Ingram
Release Date: October 2nd 2014
2014 Biblio Publishing
Ebook Edition; 378 Pages
ISBN: 978-1622492183
ASIN: B00O97QG94
Genre: Fiction / Juvenile
Source: Review copy from Pump up Your Book

4 / 5 Stars

Continuing the adventure that began in Egypt a few months prior in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, cousins Adam and Justin Sinclair are hot on the trail of the second Stone of Power, one of seven ancient stones lost centuries ago. This stone might be embedded in the hilt of a newly discovered sword that archeologists believe belonged to King Arthur: Excalibur.

However, their long-standing enemy, Dr. Khalid, is following them as they travel to Scotland to investigate an old castle. Little do they know there is another deadly force, the Eaters of Poison, who have their own mission to complete. Time is running out as the confluence of the planets draws closer. Can Justin and Adam find the second Stone of Power and survive? And why did Aunt Isabel send a girl with them?

Join Justin and Adam as they search not only for the second Stone of Power, but also for the Scroll of the Ancients, a mysterious document that holds important clues to the Seven Stones of Power. As their adventure unfolds, they learn many things and face dangers that make even their perils in Egypt look tame. And how annoying for them that their tag-along companion, Kim, seems to have such good ideas when they are stumped.

My Thoughts
The Search for the Stone of Excalibur is an exciting, action-packed novel, quite similar in style to Tony Abbott's The Copernicus Legacy, and I am a huge fan of those books.  And while this is the second book in the series, and I had not yet read the first one, I never felt like I was missing out, or was lost, because I was reading these books out of order.  The author made it very easy to catch up on what was happening, and also made this book entirely its own, and I liked that.

One of the things I really, really liked as an adult reader was the way the author managed to weave the historical details into the modern thriller.  First of all, we have these children who are trying to discover the ancient stones of power as well as trying to keep these evil men away from them.  Naturally, there were all sorts of trouble that awaited the children, some of which was a bit more risky and dangerous and I rather liked that as the men would do anything to retrieve the stones, which did put everyone in some rather difficult situations; it made it much more realistic in some ways.  It also kept up the suspense ratio for those younger readers who like the adventure and the action.  Even though I found it somewhat predictable, I still found the action to be suspenseful and this was definitely due to the author's writing ability as it kept me turning the pages even though I could guess what would happen next.  

The historical details surrounding the legend of King Arthur were quite interesting, and although I know quite a bit about the legends, I still found myself quite drawn to the story.  I liked how the author focused more on the man himself, rather than just on the legend, displaying her solid research skills, using both archaeological sources and sources from literature.  The dream sequences gave the reader a good idea of how Arthur may have appeared during that time period, and the author notes at the back also give insight to the time period.  

The novel is a bit on the long side for a younger reader, and is very rich in historical details which didn't really interest my twelve-year-old daughter, but really fascinated my fifteen-year-old son;  both of them really enjoyed the action sequences, as did I, and there is really nothing inappropriate anywhere in the book for readers of any age. I asked them to read the novel as I wanted their perspective on it as it was difficult to separate the adult part of me who loves and teaches history from someone who has little knowledge of King Arthur and the legends.  The adults in the novel also take on a secondary role and really have no depth or development to them, but it really doesn't matter as the focus was on Adam, Justin, and Kim, which seems right to me.  I really liked Kim as she was quite feisty and hope she appears again in future novels. 

The Search for the Stone of Excalibur was an enjoyable, fun tale that will keep a juvenile reader interested as it contains a lot of action and a twisty, if predictable, plot.  The writing is superb, keeping the reader interested in the story; there are a lot of threads to this story, some of which are not answered in this novel, but it does wrap up nicely where it counts.  I did think the conclusion was a bit lengthy and drawn-out, although the historical facts were interesting, as always, and I was looking forward to the clue to where they were heading next.  


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Pretty Girls
by Karin Slaughter
Release Date: September 29th 2015
2015 William Morrow
Hardcover Edition; 400 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062429056
Genre: Fiction / Suspense
Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours

4 / 5 Stars

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia's teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that's cruelly ripped open when Claire's husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

My Thoughts
Pretty Girls is one of those books where I really thought the themes in the novel were much more thought-provoking than the actual suspense or the plot.  Yes, there were a couple of twists that I wasn't quite expecting, enough at least to keep the book interesting enough to read, but it was the threads running through it that I enjoyed quite a bit.

First of all, I do need to mention that I wasn't overly fond of Claire at the beginning of this novel.  I thought she was vain, arrogant, and just plain unlikeable; unfortunately, as the novel progressed, it took quite a while for me to empathize with her as she just seemed to live in a fantasy world that quite frankly drove me nuts.  Although I came to understand why Claire felt this need to escape so much, and felt the need to always be protected by others, it still drove me crazy, and I was constantly thinking to myself that she needed to grow a backbone.  That being said, her moments of anger were quite uncharacteristic and actually made me like her more, the anger not the actions, as she seemed more human and not so statue-like.  With all of this, I have to admit that I wasn't overly crazy with her reactions and how things panned out towards the end as it was a bit over the top for me.  For all of these years, she lived in blissful ignorance, and that is something I don't understand at all; how is it possible to miss the signs that the person you are living with is completely psychotic?  It's something that really made me question a few things and how far people will go to avoid facing what is right in front of them because they don't want to see the truth. 

I thought the plot was quite interesting, especially the parts that described the sisters' lives and how things were different after Julia's disappearance.  I thought the author did a great job showing the breakdown of the family unit and how each person coped differently to the stress in their lives and how it affected them throughout the years.  There were quite a few threads for the author to play around with here and I thought she did a good job keeping them tightly woven into a story that was believable and a bit scary, considering the police involvement.  Who do you trust if you can't trust the people who are supposed to help you?  Although some of the plot was a bit predictable and it was quite easy to figure out who the sketchy people were, the plot twists were interesting and even I wasn't sure if the ending was going to be a good one or not.  For those who are not into the violence, this book does tend to border on the graphic in some areas, so this may not necessarily be the read for you.

Pretty Girls was an enjoyable book, although I will admit that I liked the first part of the book a bit more than the second half, simply because I liked it when the sisters finally came back together after twenty years in order to do some snooping over Claire's husband and I found that shocking and interesting.  The concept of discovering that someone you dearly loved is not who you thought they were is definitely not a new concept, but the author managed to make it her own and make it interesting.  There were some plot points that, for me, did push a bit too far, but the novel is well-written and most of the characters were interesting.  I wasn't overly crazy over the last third of the novel as it felt overdone and was too dramatic, but not in the best way possible, for me. There is definitely a lot to recommend in this one, but while I found it interesting, it didn't really keep me on the edge of my seat like I hoped. 
Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Review: Avelynn by Marissa Campbell

by Marissa Campbell
Release Date: September 8th 2015
2015 St. Martin's Griffin
Softcover Edition (ARC); 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250063939
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

4 / 5 Stars

It is 869. For eighteen years, Avelynn, the beautiful and secretly pagan daughter of the Eadlorman of Somerset has lived in an environment of love and acceptance. She hasn't yet found a man to make her heart race, but her father has not pressured her to get married. Until now. With whispers of war threatening their land, her father forces Avelynn into a betrothal with Demas, a man who only covets her wealth and status. The dreaded marriage looming, she turns to her faith, searching for answers in an ancient ritual along the coast, only to find Alrik the Blood-Axe and sixty Viking berserkers have landed.

Alrik is unlike any man she has ever known, strong and intriguing. Likewise, he instantly falls for her beauty and courage. The two stumble into a passionate love affair, but it's more than just a greedy suitor who will try to keep them apart.

As the Saxons and Vikings go to war, Avelynn and Alrik find themselves caught in the throes of fate. Can they be true to their people as well as to each other?

My Thoughts
Avelynn is one of those books over which I had mixed feelings because I really enjoyed the historical aspects in the story and the difficulty the people faced during the Viking invasion, but I wasn't overly crazy about the romantic story line as I really thought it didn't fit in very well with the overall plot structure.

First of all, the beginning to the book seemed extremely promising.  Avelynn was a very strong character and demonstrated a strength that I thought would be quite interesting if it continued developing the same way the book began; Avelynn trying to show her father, the Earl, that the education he gave her, far beyond that given to girls during this time period, would give her the necessary qualities to rule if anything should happen to him.  She was headstrong, if a bit impulsive, but she was also young and inexperienced in a lot of ways and her faults kind of endeared her to me as it made her seem more likable.  She was also trained in warfare, a war-maiden, and was quite capable of taking care of herself during these dangerous times, something I also liked, as she wasn't dependent on a man to keep her safe all of the time.  Unfortunately, the leeway given to her by her father didn't sit well with everyone and Avelynn had to learn some hard lessons over the course of the story as she butted head with servants and local lords over issues thought to be dealt with only by men.  I liked how she stood up for her beliefs and for those around her, even if she didn't necessarily go about it by the smartest way at times; like I said, some lessons had to be learned the hard way and experience does count for something.

Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was the time period, the setting, as it is not a specialty of mine, and I like learning about different historical eras when I get a chance.  This does make it a bit challenging as I am not always sure if things are historically accurate and I have to trust that the author did her research; there was a resonance of the modern throughout the book, but I wonder if that was done on purpose as some readers, like myself, might have needed a guideline in order to understand where everything took place in relation to modern-day England.  Unfortunately, there was no author's note in this ARC to let me know of any additional information or any changes that were made deliberately.  

I definitely liked the overlap of the old religion (Druid) and the new religion (Christian) and the difficulties this posed to those who continued to worship in the old way.  Avelynn is a high priestess in the old pagan religion, but had to keep that knowledge secret or risk death; luckily those around her who knew about her passions, kept her secrets.  This did help save her life when she came face to face with the Vikings for the first time, a people who still worshipped the old gods and kept faith with the old religion.  

The Vikings were quite interesting and I wished there was more to them in this novel than just their brutality, although I'm really grateful to the author for keeping her descriptions to a minimum as some of the things she described were quite awful.  Unfortunately, the appearance of Alrik though, is where I had difficulty with this novel as I had trouble accepting that two people could fall in love after meeting only a couple of times, and risk the lives of both their peoples on those meetings.  I understand that Avelynn was looking for a way out of her upcoming marriage to an awful man, but I wish the author had kept the romance aspect to a minimum for now, and just focused on Avelynn the warrior, the woman who would save her people from the brutal Vikings.  The historical aspect to this story was interesting enough that it didn't need the addition of a romance, and I thought it just slowed things down and took away from the other interesting plot points that were occurring.

Avelynn is one of those novels whereby I had mixed feelings with reference to the romance as I thought it really slowed down the more interesting aspects of the story line, the Saxon culture and the impending Viking invasion.  I really enjoyed the pagan flavour to the story and the conflicts that arose between the pagan and Christian religions and how things were changing for women because of this influx of changes.  I really enjoyed all of the characters and was disappointed that I didn't get to know a couple of them better due to regrettable circumstances.  I am also hoping that some of the characters will develop into more prominent players as this series unfolds as the way it ended left no doubt in my mind that we will see Avelynn and Alrik in the future as they battle to stay alive. 
Monday, September 21, 2015

Review: The Girl in the Glass by James Hayman

The Girl in the Glass (McCabe & Savage Thrillers, Book #4)
by James Hayman
Release Date: October 6th 2015
2015 Witness Impulse
Ebook Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062435163
ASIN: B00WR18S72 (August 25th 2015)
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars


Two identical women.
Two identical murders. Two lives brutally cut short
108 years apart
June 1904.
Aimée Garnier Whitby, a beautiful French artist and wife of one of Maine's richest and most powerful men, is found near death on the Whitby family's private summer island, the letter "A" mysteriously carved into her chest.

June 2012.
Veronica Aimée Whitby, the eighteen-year-old descendant and virtual double of the first Aimée, becomes the victim of a near perfect copycat murder. With another beautiful, promising young Whitby woman slain, the media begin to swarm and pressure builds for Mike McCabe and Maggie Savage to bring the killer quickly to justice. But the key to solving Aimée's death just might have been buried with her beautiful ancestor.

My Thoughts
The Girl in the Glass is a bit different from the previous installments of the McCabe & Savage Thrillers and although it wasn't my favourite in the series so far (the first one was), it definitely had an interesting story to tell, with a few twists and turns that will please many readers of this genre. 

First of all, I really liked learning about the two Aimee's and wished that there was more story to tell, especially about the earlier one as her life seemed so interesting and quite bohemian for a woman married to a rich, well-respected man of the community.  An artist, who also taught part-time in Boston, would certainly have turned heads during that time period and would have liked that explored a bit more, especially as her husband's anger and the marriage difficulties seemed a bit 'forced' to make them fit into the story. And I will admit that I didn't catch the twist to this one, although I should have as the clues were right there in my face. 

I didn't really like the second Aimee very much and didn't really empathize with her situation; in all fairness though, her character was killed off before giving the reader a chance to get to know her very well, but what the reader saw a spoiled, pampered young lady of eighteen, used to getting her own way, thinking everyone around her should worship the ground she walks on because of who she is and because of her looks.  Not a set-up for sympathy.  McCabe and Savage haven't really changed much over the course of the series, except for a few broken relationships, and a teaser that perhaps the two will finally get together, and personally, I would like to see their characters develop a bit more as I feel they have stalled in their personal situations.  For whatever reason, they felt a little flat to me in this one.

Luckily, the plot was interesting enough to deflect from the McCabe and Savage character situation, and the other characters were intriguing enough to keep me flipping the pages.  I thought the mystery was well-written, with quite a few twists and turns, and although I suspected who it was who committed the crime, I didn't exactly get it right, or get all the details right, which I enjoyed. 

The Girl in the Glass in an easy mystery to read, with an interesting plot, and a few twists to keep you guessing.  I liked the comparison between the two Aimee's from the past to the present, and it goes to show that sex, adultery, murder, and mystery haven't really changed in one hundred years, just the methods of detecting it have; discovering the two endings to the two crimes was absorbing.  Although I didn't feel that McCabe and Savage really grew and developed as characters in this one, I am curious enough about their personal relationships to look forward to the next book when it is released.  Will they or won't they finally get together?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Review: Time of Death by Mark Billingham

Time of Death (Tom Thorne, Book #13)
by Mark Billingham
Release Date: June 2nd 2015
2015 Atlantic Monthly Press
Ebook Edition; 448 Pages
ISBN: 978-0802123633
ASIN: B00SRVAES2 (Hachette)
Genre: Fiction / Murder
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

The astonishing thirteenth Tom Thorne novel is a story of kidnapping, the tabloid press, and a frightening case of mistaken identity.Tom Thorne is on holiday with his girlfriend DS Helen Weeks, when two girls are abducted in Helen’s home town. When a body is discovered and a man is arrested, Helen recognizes the suspect’s wife as an old school-friend and returns home for the first time in twenty-five years to lend her support. As his partner faces up to a past she has tried desperately to forget and a media storm engulfs the town, Thorne becomes convinced that, despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt, the police have got the wrong man. There is still an extremely clever and killer on the loose and a missing girl who Thorne believes might still be alive.

My Thoughts
Time of Death is the thirteenth entry into the Tom Thorne series, and this one did not disappoint.  The last book in this series was quite intense so I was glad to take a break from the intensity and go back to a more 'leisurely' investigation.  However, leisurely is a deceptive word when talking about a Billingham murder/mystery as this author really knows how to deliver a complicated story that is fairly easy to follow while also making the reader think about what is going on behind the scenes.
Tom and his girlfriend Helen are supposed to be on holiday, but that is really an oxymoron for anyone who has followed this series from the beginning as loyal followers understand that Tom doesn't really know how to relax anywhere or anytime.  He is nosy, curious, impatient, and when Helen involves herself in the case because the suspect's wife happens to be an old friend of hers, Tom simply can't help himself by becoming involved as well as he doesn't know what to do with the extra time he has on his hands.  While this type of personality has won him his fair share of cases, it has also gotten him into a lot of trouble and loyal fans have had to sit through many situations with Tom as he was demoted, promoted, demoted, and returned to his position throughout the years, then threatened with demotion yet again.  It has been quite the ride, but the author has a way of drawing in his readers and you become emotionally invested in what happens to his characters and Tom can put you through the ringer sometimes. 

The first part of the novel moves a bit more slowly than we're used to, but I didn't actually mind as I enjoyed the descriptions of the fictional towns of Polesford and Dorbrook and the struggles the people were going through as they dealt with both the disappearances of the girls as well as the recent flooding in their towns from the heavy rains.  I do have to admit the author did a great job throwing those red herrings in my path as I struggled to figure out who committed the crime as I changed my opinion quite a few times in this one, and that doesn't happen very often, especially with an author I have read since the first book.  I also enjoyed learning more about Helen and her past, glad to see her opening up a bit more, as the author explored Tom and Helen's relationship.  I like the fact their relationship isn't perfect, and it certainly is different to see Tom in this role as partner, one who is more loving and kind, as he does tend to be rather brusque and hard at times.  And although I love Phil Hendricks as a character, I'm still undecided as to whether his appearance in this novel was an asset or a hindrance; the whole situation felt a bit jarring to me and didn't quite fit into the atmosphere and tone set by the rest of the story.

Time of Death had an intriguing premise and I enjoyed it very much, even if it didn't have that pulse-pounding feel of the previous novel.  To be honest, I think I liked it for that very reason as it gave you room to breathe a little bit before the real intensity hit you again.  I was glad to see the further development of the characters, and the learn a bit more about Helen and her past; hopefully, we'll get to learn more in the next few novels as I think she has an interesting story to tell.  Sometimes when an author gets to this stage in a series, the novels tend to get a bit boring, but this author is continuing his amazing storytelling with rather intricate and interesting plots and fascinating characters and continuing rather strongly.  I am definitely looking forward to the next installment of the Tom Thorne series.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Review: The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

The Dead House
by Dawn Kurtagich
Release Date: September 15th 2015
2015 Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Ebook Edition; 419 Pages
ISBN: 978-0316298681
Genre: Fiction / Young Adult / Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Part-psychological thriller, part-urban legend, this is an unsettling narrative made up of diary entries, interview transcripts, film footage transcripts and medical notes. Twenty-five years ago, Elmbridge High burned down. Three people were killed and one pupil, Carly Johnson, disappeared. Now a diary has been found in the ruins of the school. The diary belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, Carly’s identical twin sister. But Carly didn’t have a twin . . .

Re-opened police records, psychiatric reports, transcripts of video footage and fragments of diary reveal a web of deceit and intrigue, violence and murder, raising a whole lot more questions than it answers.

Who was Kaitlyn and why did she only appear at night? Did she really exist or was she a figment of a disturbed mind? What were the illicit rituals taking place at the school? And just what did happen at Elmbridge in the events leading up to ‘the Johnson Incident’?

My Thoughts
The Dead House is one of those books where I gave up trying to figure out what was going on about half way through the book and just went along for the ride.  I figured I could spend my time thinking about it afterwards, once I had all the facts and know how it all played out.  Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way as there are some things over which I am vacillating and I am still not sure exactly what I think, although I am leaning more towards the psychological aspects of this story, the dissociative identity disorder (DID). That doesn't make this book any less creepy however; in fact, to me it actually make the events far creepier if you remove the paranormal element and assume they are the result of mental illness.

First of all, I have to say right from the beginning that I loved the way this book was written.  Using journal entries, video footage (including creepy photos from said videos), transcripts of police interviews, emails, newspaper articles, etc..., the novel had a really twisty narrative to it that made it seem unreal.  And because many of the journal entries and video clips were partially destroyed or without dates, they were put in sequence where the 'author' thought they should fit, so they could have been out of sequence.  It made the novel seem a bit disjointed, but it was so much creepier this way.  I thought the concept was quite brilliant.  Looking back at the narrative, I also see how much was manipulated by the author; in one sense we get these clinical interviews with the psychologist and the police officer, and in the other sense, we have these very emotional journal entries by the principal character, both of which are very effective in drawing you in and making you empathize with Kaitlyn, trying to remove your objectivity.  It took quite a bit of effort on my part to look at events more objectively in order to try and figure them out.

The story itself however, does require some suspension of belief, but that will depend on which side you take, the paranormal or the psychological.  I did feel at times that the author was withholding a bit too much information and there were some things I really wanted to know.  For example, I would have liked to have a clearer picture of the death of Kaitlyn and Carly's parents and a bit more background on that.  While I have a good idea as to what happened, it's just what I pieced together and it may be completely different from what others perceived.  And while the events built up rather nicely, I wasn't completely crazy over the ending as I just felt like there were too many loose ends, or some things were learned a bit too late, taking away from that great creepy feeling that existed earlier in the book.  Nothing about the earlier parts of the book felt rushed, just a great building up of tension, and although I figured out the antagonist quite early, it really didn't matter as the focus was on Kaitlyn and Carly.  Don't get me wrong; I am always complaining that books do too much thinking for their readers so I love the fact that this is what I call a 'thinking' book, but there are some things a reader just cannot figure out without some help from the author.

The Dead House contains quite a lot of ambiguity in it, but that's one of its strengths.  It's very unsettling and perturbing because it makes you think; you spend the entire book wondering if you are reading a paranormal novel or a psychological one, and the answers, unfortunately, are not given to you easily.  Is Kaitlyn simply seriously mentally unstable, or is she experiencing a serious paranormal experience?  I did think the ending wrapped up too quickly for the nice buildup we got throughout the novel, and I wasn't crazy about the romance as I felt it didn't really fit into the story. And the so-called evil person twist at the end was a dead giveaway because of the romance.  I would also like to see a novel where the psychologist gets a good deal in the story instead of always being the bad guy.  Most of the them are not incompetent or inadequate at their jobs.  In any case, this is one you should go into knowing very little about and decide for yourself what you think.  It's interesting, to say the least.
Thursday, September 17, 2015

Review: A Pattern of Lies by Charles Todd

A Pattern of Lies (Bess Crawford, Book #7)
by Charles Todd
Release Date: August 18th 2015
2015 William Morrow
Ebook Edition; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062386243
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

An explosion and fire at the Ashton Gunpowder Mill in Kent has killed over a hundred men. It’s called an appalling tragedy—until suspicion and rumor raise the specter of murder. While visiting the Ashton family, Bess Crawford finds herself caught up in a venomous show of hostility that doesn’t stop with Philip Ashton’s arrest. Indeed, someone is out for blood, and the household is all but under siege.

The only known witness to the tragedy is now at the Front in France. Bess is asked to find him. When she does, he refuses to tell her anything that will help the Ashtons. Realizing that he believes the tissue of lies that has nearly destroyed a family, Bess must convince him to tell her what really happened that terrible Sunday morning. But now someone else is also searching for this man.

To end the vicious persecution of the Ashtons, Bess must risk her own life to protect her reluctant witness from a clever killer intent on preventing either of them from ever reaching England.

My Thoughts
A Pattern of Lies is the seventh book in the Bess Crawford series, and I definitely liked this installment much better than I liked the previous one.  The whole concept of "a pattern of lies" was intriguing, and I liked how it was developed; the idea that one person or a group of persons could spread malicious ideas and lies and how a mob mentality can take over and bring such grief to others is quite horrifying.  Just the thought of what other people can do to others, brought about through vicious gossip and innuendos, is quite shocking.

In 1916, a gunpowder mill exploded killing over 100 men and injuring many others, leaving the nearby town devastated and without an income it had depended on for over 100 years.  The mill's production was eventually moved elsewhere, leaving devastation and heartbreak in its wake.  The events in this story were very loosely based on a real event so I found that quite interesting and did a bit of research myself.   I am amazed sometimes at the laxity in investigative procedures and what 'official' reports will overlook in order to come to a solution.  And the law during this time was very different; the Ashtons, on the receiving end from even the police, really had no one to turn to and were feeling very pressured on all sides.  As much as we complain about the law today, we definitely have it better than 100 years ago.

Bess Crawford is a trained nurse serving on the front during WWI.  I love the comparisons between what she did on the front, treating all of those injured soldiers so capably, to the situations where she had visitors and almost got in trouble for being seen with several different men, even though Simon is an old friend of the family's.  The limits on her behaviour, while loosening because of the war, are still quite prevalent, but for a woman like Bess who has traveled quite extensively and who has seen so much on the front, she is finding it more and more difficult to live up to the expectations and limits placed on her by society.  Personally, I can't wait until she breaks those bonds and finally loosens up  a little as I really feel like her development has stalled; while she is very inquisitive and very creative, with high standards and morals, I didn't get a solid sense as to what was really feeling.  The world has been changing for the past two years, quite drastically, and with what she has seen, you'd think she would have changed as well, but I feel like her character has gotten a bit boring, or rather stuck.  I would love to see her get involved in some personal entanglements, develop some stronger female friendships, and really show her personality as it would make her so much more interesting. 

A Pattern of Lies was a thoughtful mystery, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I liked the sleuthing, the slow buildup of clues, the deciphering of pieces of information; I didn't mind that it took a bit to build up as I rather enjoyed it, trying to figure out what was happening.  Having a history background, I loved the scenes at the war front, and got a good feel for how things were like, enjoying things from a nursing perspective.  I even liked the little addition of the Red Baron in there.  As this series enters peace time, I am curious as to where the authors will take it.  Perhaps we will finally see some romance for Bess; and the set-up begins our quest to discover which one she will choose, Simon or Sergeant Lassiter.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Interview: The Sleeping King by Cindy Dees

The Sleeping King
by Cindy Dees and Bill Flippin
Release Date: September 8th 2015
2015 Tor Books
Hardcover Edition; 496 Pages
ISBN: 978-0765335142
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy

The Sleeping King is the start of a new fantasy series by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Cindy Dees.

Dees has won a Golden Heart Award, two RITAs for Category Suspense and Adventure and has also twice snared RT's Series Romantic Suspense of the Year. She is a great storyteller, and the adventures in her more than fifty novels are often inspired by her own life. Dees is an Air Force vet-the youngest female pilot in Air Force history-and fought in the first Gulf War. She's had amazing adventures, and she's used her experiences to tell some kickass stories.

But as much as she loves romances, Cindy's other passion has been fantasy gaming. For almost twenty years she's been involved with Dragon Crest, one of the original live action role-playing games. She's the story content creator on the game, and wanted to do an epic fantasy based on it, with the blessing and input of Dragon Crest founder Bill Flippin.

The Sleeping King is the first in an epic fantasy series, featuring the best of the genre: near immortal imperial overlords, a prophecy of a sleeping elven king who's said to be the savior of the races . . . and two young people who are set on a path to save the day.

Interview with Cindy Dees

1)    To start off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?  How did you become interested in writing?

First, thanks for inviting me to curl up by your virtual fireplace. Please join me in having a cup of virtual hot chocolate…

      Okay, the short version of my life story.  Grew up on a horse farm in Michigan. Dropped out of high school at 15 to get a degree in Russian and East European Studies at the University of Michigan. Pilot in the Air Force (VIP Airlift at Andrews Air Force Base followed by C-5’s, which are REALLY big cargo airplanes). Part-time spy. Left Air Force, moved to Texas. Started writing. 50 books published and a bunch of awards for military romance and thrillers. Long-time live-action gamer. Lost mind and started writing epic fantasy.

The story of how I started writing is fairly well known. My mother bet me a dollar I couldn’t write a publishable book. I went home, wrote my first book and was hooked. What most people don’t know is that I had to wait ten years to publish that book. My security clearances when I made the bet would not allow me to publish anything. I had to get out of the military and then wait seven years for my security clearances to expire before I could submit the book to a publisher and subsequently win the bet. Hardest dollar I ever earned!

2)    Can you tell us a little about your novel, The Sleeping King? What is it like to create your own world?

The Sleeping King is old school epic fantasy—big, sprawling, and complex—it’s being compared to Tolkien and Jordan in scope. Hopefully, we bring modern style and pacing to it that make it a fast, fun read.

The story itself is ultimately about hope. An evil, omnipotent empire has all but crushed any memory of freedom, and only a few brave (likely foolish) heroes dare to oppose it. For differing reasons, two young people go in search of a legendary sleeping king who, when woken, is prophesied to save them all and restore freedom throughout the land.

A trend in fantasy literature today seems to be fairly grim and gritty, the whole, “life sucks and then you die” take on imaginary worlds. Bill and I choose to take a more optimistic view that common people can achieve great deeds if they strive greatly. Good may not triumph completely over evil, but with heroism and hard work, the good guys can make a space for happiness and peace to exist until the next generation of heroes is called to defend freedom.

As for what it’s like to create a world, that has been a collaborative effort for the past twenty-five years, led by the brilliant Bill Flippin, whose brainchild the Dragon Crest universe is. Many hundreds of smart, creative players in the live-action game have added to it over the years. They helped it come alive and gave it heart and soul. I feel like my job is more about archiving the collective effort than it is about making stuff up in my one tiny brain.