Sunday, May 30, 2021

Review: Ember of Night by Molly E. Lee

by Molly E. Lee
Release Date: May 4th 2021
2021 Entangled: Teen
Kindle Edition (& Audiobook); 400 Pages
ISBN: 978-1649370310
ASIN: B092RPVH25 (Audiobook)
Genre: Fiction / YA / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

I am a weed.

Unloved by my abusive, alcoholic dad. Unwanted by my classmates. Unnoticed by everyone else.

But I’d suffer anything to give my kid sister a better life—the minute I turn eighteen, I’m getting us the hell out of here. And some hot stranger telling me I am the key to stopping a war between Heaven and Hell isn’t going to change that.

Let the world crumble and burn, for all I care.

Draven is relentless, though. And very much a liar. Every time his sexy lips are moving, I can see it—in the dip of his head, the grit of his jaw—even if my heart begs me to ignore the signs.

So what does he want?

I need to figure it out fast, because now everyone is gunning for me. And damn if I don’t want to show them what happens when you let weeds thrive in the cracks of the pavement…

We can grow powerful enough to shatter the whole foundation.
My Thoughts
Ember of Night was way better than I expected, and I couldn't put it down.  It got even better when I switched over to the Audiobook as I was super busy, but needed something to listen to while I was working.  It's amazing how fast six hours can fly when you are listening to a narrator who can bring what I thought was a so-so story ALIVE.  So, I stopped reading the book and switched completely to the Audiobook and I was hooked.  
First of all, I really enjoyed Harley as a main character; she was sarcastic, tough as nails, but caring and sympathetic at the same time, and loyal, almost to a fault.  Harley's little sister Ray was actually my favourite character; she was so mature for her age having survived the brutallly abusive situation she had to witness day-in, day-out, and I enjoyed how she managed to put things in perspective for the older ones around her.  I am really looking forward to learning more about her, especially considering the secrets that were revealed throughout the book.  
The story line was predictable, but I did enjoy it nonetheless.  You've got the bad boy with a big heart, the best friend who suddenly wants a relationship, and the never ending secrets of those around Harley t that are revealed bit by bit, but are not actually surprising.  The identity of the 'big bad number two' was not that hard to figure out and it amazes me how many people were shocked when they discovered who it was. The amount of tropes in this book was huge, so it really shouldn't have come as a surprise. 
That being said, I thought the relationship between Harley and Draven was interesting, and I enjoyed the tension and the excitement as they challenged each other and discovered truths about each other that changed how they viewed the world, each other, and those around them.  Did I roll my eyes a few times?  Of course.  I thought if I heard 'honey badger' one more time, I would die laughing.  But there were a lot of dark moments in this book as well, and some of these could be triggering for some people as there was child abuse, violence, and even thoughts of suicide.
Ember of Night was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the Audiobook so much.  The dialogue between the characters was interesting, and the author took the time to develop her main characters, flaws and all, to make them more empathetic to the reader, something I appreciated.  And while some aspects of the book were predictable and repetitive, the overall story line was interesting, and I have to say, the ending was definitely shocking, and not what I was expecting.  Kudos!!  I am really looking forward to the next book in this series and recommend this book to anyone who is looking for something that is action-packed and engaging. 

Q & A With Pam Jenoff: The Woman With the Blue Star


The Woman with the Blue Star

Pam Jenoff

On Sale Date: May 4, 2021

9780778389385, 0778389383

Trade Paperback

$17.99 USD, $22.99 CAD

Fiction / Historical / Jewish

336 pages

About the Book:
1942. Sadie Gault is eighteen and living with her parents amid the horrors of the Kraków Ghetto during World War II. When the Nazis liquidate the ghetto, Sadie and her pregnant mother are forced to seek refuge in the perilous sewers beneath the city. One day Sadie looks up through a grate and sees a girl about her own age buying flowers.

Ella Stepanek is an affluent Polish girl living a life of relative ease with her stepmother, who has developed close alliances with the occupying Germans. Scorned by her friends and longing for her fiancé, who has gone off to war, Ella wanders Kraków restlessly. While on an errand in the market, she catches a glimpse of something moving beneath a grate in the street. Upon closer inspection, she realizes it’s a girl hiding.

Ella begins to aid Sadie and the two become close, but as the dangers of the war worsen, their lives are set on a collision course that will test them in the face of overwhelming odds. Inspired by harrowing true stories, The Woman with the Blue Star is an emotional testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive.

 Q & A with Pam Jenoff


Why did you decide to write this story?

While looking for an idea for my next book, I discovered the incredible story of a group of Jewish people who had hidden from the Nazis by living for many months in the sewers of Lviv, Poland.  I was struck by the horrific circumstances which they endured, as well as their ingenuity and resilience in surviving there.  I was also moved by the selflessness of those who helped them, most notably a sewer worker, and by their search for human connection in such a dark and isolated place.

After twenty-five years of working with World War II and the Holocaust, I find a story that makes me gasp, I know I am onto something that will make my readers feel the same way.  This was certainly the case with the true inspiration for The Woman With The Blue Star.

How much research went into your story?

Immersing myself in the world where my story is set, whether the circus in The Orphan’s Tale or the sewer in The Woman With The Blue Star, is always one of the most rewarding and challenging aspects of beginning a book.  I had so many questions:  What did the sewer look and feel like?  How was it possible to eat and sleep and even see in the dark underground space?  Fortunately, there was an excellent non-fiction book, In The Sewers of Lvov by Robert Marshall, that explained so much of it.  I learned that there were so many dangers beyond getting caught by the Germans, from drowning to floods.  Every day was a battle for survival.  When I decided to move the story to Krakow, Poland (where I had lived for several years), I planned a research trip there.  Those plans were scuttled by the pandemic, but I am lucky enough to still have good friends there who put me in touch with experts on the sewer and the city to help me (hopefully) get it right.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Review: Twisted Lies by Angela Marsons

by Angela Marsons
Release Date:  May 13th 2021
2021 Bookouture
Kindle Edition; 410 Pages
ISBN: 978-1838887353
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Police Procedural
Source: Review copy from publisher

4.5 / 5 Stars

When the lifeless body of a man is found on an industrial estate, Detective Kim Stone arrives on the scene and discovers he’s been tortured in the worst way imaginable.

But as she breaks the devastating news to the victim’s wife, Diane Phipps, Kim can’t help feeling that something isn’t quite right about the woman's reaction.

Twenty-four hours later, the victim’s family disappears into thin air.

Then a second body is found staked to the ground in a local nature reserve.

Desperate to crack the case open quickly, Kim and her team unravel a vital clue – a fiercely guarded secret that links both victims and could cost even more lives.

My Thoughts
Twisted Lies is the fourteenth entry in the DI Kim Stone mystery series and I am amazed that it's as innovative and thought-provoking as the first few in this gripping series.  And I was amazed it was 410 pages as I finished this book in one sitting as I couldn't put it down.  

First of all, I always enter every book since book eight with extreme trepidation as I no longer trust this author not to break my heart.  Even though I got book nine as an ARC, it took my quite a while to delve into it as I was afraid after the events of book 8 and just  However, I finally bucked up and took the plunge again, and I am so glad I did and now, six books later, the author is still going strong with innovative and creative ideas that are thought -provoking and unsettling.  
When a series is long-running like this, it is so nice to come back to the next book as it's like meeting up with old friends and discovering what each one has been up to. I love how Stacey is so excited to be married that she has to throw it into every sentence she utters.  Penn's fascination with forensic science just makes me smile and the author uses that device to give the reader some really important information.  What I particularly enjoyed in this book was the development of the relationship between Kim and Frost, but not in the way that sounds.  These two have always been at odds, but for once, they are in agreement that something needs to be done and I love that Kim helps Frost, even if it's reluctantly.  Could it be that these two are destined to be friends after all?  We shall see.   

The mystery itself was quite interesting actually, and I was fascinated by the implications the author threw at the reader.  She gave both sides of the situation through the eyes of her characters and it was a lot to think about; in fact, I am still thinking about it and I am still not sure on which side of the fence I sit on the topic.  The ending was quite ambivalent as well, and while I understand the plight the women faced, I am not sure I agree with the method and the ethics involved were a bit skewed.  I know this sounds so mysterious, but if I mention anything, it will give away huge plot points and spoil the story which is something a reader really needs to discover for themselves.  Be cautious reading reviews on this book as I saw some that are giving away a lot of spoilers.  
Twisted Lies was an engrossing mystery, full of twists and turns, with a throught-provoking concept over which I am still mulling.  The story is full of quirky characters, lively dialogue, and investigative work that will capture the reader's attention and draw them into the story. There was a huge twist at the end that I didn't see coming, and I love it when I get surprised like that.  However, it is also that ending that has me questioning our whole system and why a person needs to do what they did. So very absorbing and thoughtful.  Although this is the fourteenth entry, I feel it is just as strong as the first few entries, and I am definitely looking forward to the next book in this series.  

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Review: Lost in Paris by Elizabeth Thompson

by Elizabeth Thompson
Release Date: April 13, 2021
2021 Gallery Books
Kindle Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-1982149086
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary
Source: Review copy from publisher
3 / 5 Stars
Hannah Bond has always been a bookworm, which is why she fled Florida—and her unstable, alcoholic mother—for a quiet life leading Jane Austen-themed tours through the British countryside. But on New Year’s Eve, everything comes crashing down when she arrives back at her London flat to find her mother, Marla, waiting for her.

Marla’s brought two things with her: a black eye from her ex-boyfriend and an envelope she discovered while cleaning out the attic of Hannah’s childhood home. Its contents? The deed to an apartment in Paris, an old key, and newspaper clippings about the death of a famous writer named Andres Armand.
My Thoughts
Lost in Paris is a sweet book, and although there was a lot to enjoy about this book, I really wasn't as invested in the mother-daughter relationship as I thought I should be and found myself wishing the diary pages were actually the main story line.  However, I am always interested in a book about Paris, so while I wasn't as crazy about the main characters, I truly did enjoy the descriptions of Paris and wished myself back there once again.
I actually didn't have a problem with any of the characters, but wished more time had been spent on developing Marla's character as I found her a lot more interesting than Hannah.  She was quirky and fascinating, and she must have had quite an intriguing life. Hannah was simply...boring.  I get that she didn't like confrontations due to her past history with her mother, but that doesn't necessarily make a character bland.  
While this is not a dual timeline story, you do get glimpses of Ivy's story through her diary entries, a diary that Hannah finds in the old apartment.  Unfortunately, this is where the reader is somewhat misled as the description mentions Hannah and Marla following Ivy's footsteps to discover more about her and this never really happens.  I kept reading on, hoping for more information, and more searches, but while you do sort of discover what happens to Ivy, it's not because the two of them go hunting down the information. Like everything in this book, it all wraps up so nicely for them without either of them having to do anything.  
And this is why this story was 'sweet'. Everything worked out perfectly for Marla and Hannah. Everything.  And while it was enjoyable reading about some of the places in Paris, and I will never get too old to read about that, the story was fairly predictable and somewhat unbelievable.  However, the  the author does have this light, engaging writing style that is captivating, something I did appreciate. Unfortunately, even good writers can not always fix a choppy story line, or convince a reader that the relationships they create are good if they are rushed and unbelievable.    
Lost in Paris is one of those books I read in one sitting.  While I appreciated the setting, and enjoyed Ivy's diary entries, I wasn't invested in the mother-daughter relationship between Marla and Hannah because I just didn't believe in it the way I was meant to.  This story had huge amounts of potential, but it fell into the trap of using coincidence, tropes, and convenience to solve plot holes, some of which were too big to be believable. However, it was about Paris. And what's not to love about that?

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Review: All the Devils are Here by Louise Penny

by Louise Penny
Release Date: September 1st 2020
2020 Minotaur Books
Kindle Edition; 439 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250145239
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher
3.5 / 5 Stars
On their first night in Paris, the Gamaches gather as a family for a bistro dinner with Armand’s godfather, the billionaire Stephen Horowitz. Walking home together after the meal, they watch in horror as Stephen is knocked down and critically injured in what Gamache knows is no accident, but a deliberate attempt on the elderly man’s life.

When a strange key is found in Stephen’s possession, it sends Armand, his wife Reine-Marie, and his former second-in-command at the Sûreté, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, from the top of the Tour Eiffel to the bowels of the Paris Archives and from luxury hotels to odd, coded works of art.

It sends them deep into the secrets Armand’s godfather has kept for decades.

A gruesome discovery in Stephen’s Paris apartment makes it clear the secrets are more rancid, the danger far greater and more imminent, than they realized.

Soon the whole family is caught up in a web of lies and deceit. In order to find the truth, Gamache will have to decide whether he can trust his friends, his colleagues, his instincts, his own past. His own family.
My Thoughts
All the Devils are Here is the next instalment in the Armand Gamache police proceduural series, and I was quite happy for the action to take place in Paris, surrounded by Armand's family. Paris is a very important city for the author, and at the end of the previous novel, I was hoping that something like this would happen.  
One of the biggest strengths of this series has always been the character development and the relationships between the characters.  This one focuses more on the dynamics between Daniel and his father, and although I knew there had been difficulties in the past, it wasn't until this book that the relationship has really been explored.  And while, at first, I was sort of skeptical as to the seriousness of the divide between them, as someone who is married to a military man, I could actually see how Daniel's fears developed and grew, to the point where he didn't know how to deal with them and they became a huge issue.  Children's fears, while sometimes trivial to adults, can consume them and overwhelm them and we often forget that in the grand scheme of our daily lives.  And how often have adults reverted to childlike behaviour when confronted when their own parents' shortcoming, or when they don't understand what is happening? I'm not saying I enjoyed this drama as it felt a bit forced and juvenile, but misunderstandings happen for years in families for reasons no one knows, sometimes for just the simplest things. 
I love Armand as a character, but one of my criticisms over the years is that he is too perfect, too controlled.  I like flawed characters which I why I have always been more fond of Jean-Guy than Armand as he is impulsive, learning to develop the absolute control that Armand displays all the time, thinking it's a flaw when it's human nature.  To be highly intelligent, highly perceptive, highly in control of a situation does not mean you don't lose you &)) once in a while when things are tough.  
So, while the character development has always been a strength, I'm not sure that it really was in this book. For a while now, I have felt like the characters have not really grown, and a lot of their interactions has come to expressions of love and endearments.  Nothing really wrong with that except that it gets tiresome when it is repeated over and over again.  The author's ability to create really quirky characters has lagged the past couple of books, notwithstanding the citizens of Three Pines, who weren't really in this instalment.  
The story line is a bit of a departure from the previous books, and not just because it takes place in France.  The author tries to go global this time, and I don't quite think she pulls it off, but it was interesting none the less.  There are a lot of twists and turns, and there were times I wasn't quite sure who to trust; however, the author's writing style was able to draw me right into the story and keep me glued.  There were times though, when I did shake my head and think, no way, did she actually go there?   Suspension of belief is fast becoming a new norm.  

All the Devils Are Here is an improvement from the previous two books, and I enjoyed the overall story, more due to the author's ability to draw me into the story than the story itself though. I did feel like the overall plot was a bit far-fetched, especially in the last quarter of the book, and I would have liked a bit more between Daniel and his father.  However, I did enjoy the Paris setting of the book and could visualize a lot of the places that were mentioned, but I have to admit I was a bit surprised at the mention of the Resistance and other stuff in this book as the author tends to stray away from popular stuff like that.  But who knows where one of her next story lines is headed and this may be  important? And will I be reading book 17? With baited breath!!

Monday, May 10, 2021

Review: The Woman Who Spoke to Spirits by Alys Clare

by Alys Clare
Release Date: April 1st 2019
2019 Severn House Publishers
Kindle Edition; 234 Pages
ISBN: 978-0727888686
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

London, 1880 When accounts clerk Ernest Stibbins approaches the World's End Investigation Bureau with wild claims that his wife Albertina has been warned by her spirit guides that someone is out to harm her, the bureau's owner Lily Raynor and her new employee Felix Wilbraham are initially sceptical. How are the two private enquiry agents supposed to investigate threats from beyond the grave?

But after she attends a seance at the Stibbins family home, Lily comes to realize that Albertina is in terrible danger. And very soon so too is Lily herself...
My Thoughts
The Woman Who Spoke to Spirits was a fun, quick read that was very different from the historical mystery novels that I have read from this author.  A huge fan of her Hawkenlye mystery series, I was curious to see what she would do with a series set in the 19th century as opposed to the 12th century. I do think the tone was somewhat more humorous and while I was not opposed to this, one of the things I loved about her medieval mysteries was not just her ability to describe the time periods so well, but also her ability to highlight the injustices and plights of those who were downtrodden and abused.  And this definitely was highlighted here too, just not in the same way.

Lily and Felix were the main characters of this new series, and I grew to like them both for very different reasons.  Felix is a charmer, the one who brings humour to the series, both through his actions and through his witticism.  But deep down, there is also a champion for justice who is just waiting to escape, and we see that through a secondary story line that occurs in this book.  Lily is far more serious, and she is hiding a big secret, one that we don't actually learn in this book.  Her seriousness matches Felix' impulsiveness rather nicely and the two work well together.  I know that Lily does not represent the typical Victorian woman of the time period, but truly, I am getting a bit tired of the 'I've got a big secret' trope, and that is why I am doing what I am doing instead of what I love.  It's getting a bit old. Thank goodness Lily and Felix handle any disagreements with maturity rather than the angst you see in other books, and they interact with each other quite naturally, helping and supporting each other when needed, understanding they need each other to survive as well as to grow the business.  

The main mystery was actually quite interesting and I have to admit I didn't suspect who it was until later on in the book, and when I did finally suspect who it was, I couldn't for the life of me come up with a motive.  The secondary story line, also a mystery to some extent, was also fascinating, but for far different reasons.  There did tend to be some 'lecturing' in this book with regards to the conditions of the slums and how the wealthy didn't do anything to help, but it wasn't too overly blatant.  The investigation itself was a nice balance of actual investigative work and relationship development.  

The Woman Who Spoke to Spirits was an enjoyable start to a new series for this author.  I enjoyed the two main characters quite a bit although I did feel like they were modern characters who time-travelled to the 19th century, at times, rather than ones who actually grew up in Victorian England. I really enjoyed the journalist and the actress and hope they become series regulars, although I will say that if the sailor thing becomes a love triangle, I think that may be a big negative for me.  I thought the investigation was interesting, and the ending did catch me by surprise although I should be used to this author's twists and turns by now.  A good start to a new series. 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Review: The Widow Queen by Elzbieta Cherezinska

by Elzbieta Cherezinkska, Translated by Maya Zakrzewska-Pim
Release Date: April 6th 2021 (First published June 6, 2016)
2021 Tor/Forge
Kindle Edition; 512 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250218001
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

The bold one, they call her—too bold for most.

To her father, the great duke of Poland, Swietoslawa and her two sisters represent three chances for an alliance. Three marriages on which to build his empire.

But Swietoslawa refuses to be simply a pawn in her father's schemes; she seeks a throne of her own, with no husband by her side.

The gods may grant her wish, but crowns sit heavy, and power is a sword that cuts both ways.
My Thoughts
The Widow Queen is the first book in a historical fiction series about the conflicts that occurred in the Balkans circa 1000 A.D.  I was fascinated by this book simply because I find this time period intriguing and I really have been looking forward to a book that focuses on the women and their intrigues, not just the men.  History so often has chosen to ignore the importance of women and the role than have played in shaping history that it was nice to see a book that showcases the fight for power and the intrigues in which they were involved, and how they had to fight for their very lives and their families.

There are basically four main families that are highlighted in this book, and I enjoyed all of their stories. Duke Mieszko 1 of Poland will use his daughters to create alliances and enlarge his lands.  His son, Boleslaw, will continue his fight to unite Poland. His story is more well-known, so it is his daughter's story that is highlighted in this book. Sven, the duke of Denmark, seeks to become king, but he will have to depose of an unfit king, his father, as well as somehow create alliances with Norway and Sweden to do so. Olav, an exiled heir of Norway, will have to fight to regain his throne. And then there is Eric, King of Sweden, who will attack Denmark, but will gain the prize they all want, Swietoslawa.  

The power struggles are complicated and it is a world that is very different from the one that we know today, and these struggles cause alliances to shift and change throughout the book.  There are a lot of things of which to keep track and there are a lot of subtleties at play as well.  Because I was not as familiar with some of the stories, I did find myself reading a bit slower than usual as I was looking up some things on which I needed further clarification.  And I have a background in history and I teach history.  I am fascinated by political struggles so when things are glossed over a little bit, I have this tendency to want to delve a bit more into the political side of things as it is and is not necessarily a reflection on the author. 

The POV does change between the different players and we don't hear from some of them towards the last third of the book, although I have learned they do play a major role in the second book of the series, so I was not too disappointed.  One of the things I did find though, is that character development did kind of get lost because of this format and the reader does not always understand what drives a person to do the things that he/she does, other than for power, which did not always make sense in the circumstances.  I did wonder if it was the translation format that was the problem, although it was still extremely well done overall, but I do know that when I read novels in French and then read them in English, there is sometimes something lost in translation (Le comte de Monte-Cristo is a good example). 

Even though there were multiple characters involved in this book, I did want to read more about Swietoslawa.  Knowing from an early age that she would be used as a marriage pawn in a political alliance, she was always curious as to who it would be and would try to trick her father into telling her who it was.  I enjoyed the way she used her wiles to get what she wanted and wished the author could have highlighted her a bit more.  However, I did enjoy the other intrigues in the other courts and loved how different it all was.  

The Widow Queen was full of alliances and intrigue, well-described battle scenes that evoke the time period, intriguing characters, political machinations, and yes, even poetry.  I was also captured by the historical events as well as the struggles between paganism and Christianity as the Holy Roman Empire gained a foothold in this land.  This is not a quick read and there is a lot going on, building for the next book, but the writing is solid and enjoyable.  Highly recommend for those interested in a blend of history and legend. 


Sunday, May 2, 2021

Review: On Deadly Tides by Elizabeth J. Duncan

by Elizabeth J. Duncan
Release Date: November 10th 2020
2020 Crooked Lane Books
Kindle Edition; 280 Pages
ISBN: 978-1643854687
ASIN: B084V85BT8
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Cozy
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

With a picturesque black and white lighthouse, pebble beaches and stunning views of sea and mountains, the island of Anglesey off the coast of North Wales is the perfect place for an idyllic mid-summer painting holiday.

And watercolour artist, businesswoman, and amateur sleuth Penny Brannigan is enjoying the retreat enormously - until she discovers the body of a New Zealand journalist on a secluded beach just as the tide is going out, threatening to take the body with it.

The post mortem reveals the victim died from injuries "consistent with a fall from a great height," and the death is ruled accidental. But Penny thinks there's more to the story. Curious how the victim came to such an untimely end at this most inhospitable spot, she uncovers a link to a mysterious disappearance several years earlier.
My Thoughts
On Deadly Tides is the next entry in the Penny Brannigan mystery series, and I always return to these books for their settings as well as their simple, but engaging, mysteries. Cozy mysteries are my guilty pleasure reading in between the heavy-hitting fantasy, historical fiction, mystery/thrillers, and non-fiction that I usually tend to read and I love them because I can still get emotionally invested in the characters while the story lines tend to be on the lighter side of the spectrum.
What I especially love about this series is that the main character is in her early fifties rather than the usual twenties; she just seems to be quite different from the usual cozy mystery heroines, and I really enjoy that about her.  She is single so her priorities tend to be somewhat different and romance usually play a huge role in these books, although it sometimes happens.  However, unlike some of the books, it isn't a main feature which is something I really liked.  An independent woman who is enjoying her life, has many activities and hobbies, has many friends, is active in the community, travels, and is having fun is definitely someone with whom I can identify.  
I did find this book a bit different than the others and there was a reason for this.  I don't want to go into that in detail as it would sort of spoil the fun of the book, but long-time readers will be happy for Penny.  However, it did take away from the usual suspense and it was very easy to figure out the mystery and the culprits.  I do think the author balanced out Penny's private life quite well with her investigations, and I have always liked how she never interfered with the police or their investigations.  She also doesn't tend to do stupid things like some of the characters in some of the cozy mystery books, something that often makes me cringe.  For example, if she is going to interview someone, she usually lets someone else know where she is and what she is doing, and she doesn't usually tend to go anywhere without telling people.  Yes, she makes mistakes, but owns up to them afterwards. Like forgetting to lock her back door because she let the cat out.  
On Deadly Tides was a slower book than usual, focused much more on Penny's personal life rather than the mystery, but it was still interesting. There were a couple things I couldn't quite believe, for example about the tides and the GPS coordinates , as if the RCMP would not be familiar with those and the Welsh police would not have checked the tides.   The story was well-written, and I was able to read it in one sitting, but there still felt like there was something missing that was in the earlier books.  It also sounds as if this may be the last book in the series, and if that is the case, I will be sad to say good-bye to Penny and company. It is possible to read this book as a stand alone, but I don't recommend it.     


Saturday, May 1, 2021

Review: Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz

by Gregg Hurwitz
Release Date: January 26th 2021
2021 MInotaur Books
Kindle Edition; 432 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250252289
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

As a boy, Evan Smoak was pulled out of a foster home and trained in an off-the-books operation known as the Orphan Program. He was a government assassin, perhaps the best, known to a few insiders as Orphan X. He eventually broke with the Program and adopted a new name – The Nowhere Man―and a new mission, helping the most desperate in their times of trouble. But the highest power in the country has made him a tempting offer - in exchange for an unofficial pardon, he must stop his clandestine activities as The Nowhere Man. Now Evan has to do the one thing he’s least equipped to do—live a normal life.

But then he gets a call for help from the one person he never expected. A woman claiming to have given him up for adoption, a woman he never knew—his mother. Her unlikely request: help Andrew Duran—a man whose life has gone off the rails, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, bringing him to the deadly attention of very powerful figures. Now a brutal brother & sister assassination team are after him and with no one to turn to, and no safe place to hide, Evan is Duran’s only option. But when the hidden cabal catches on to what Evan is doing, everything he’s fought for is on the line—including his own life.
My Thoughts
Prodigal Son is the sixth book in the Orphan X series, and while I really enjoyed the book, it definitely had a different flavour from the earlier books.  In this one, Evan is sort of retired and is searching for meaning in his life, trying to enjoy everyday activities, trying to achieve 'normalcy'.  While I don't have a problem with this, and enjoyed Evan's blundering attempts at socializing, it was the author's constant repeated reminders of what he was doing that sort of got annoying.  Trust me, we get it, and to be honest, while I like the more human side of Evan, I LIKED the Nowhere Man and his missions.  So, in essence, what this novel really felt like, was a transitional novel where Evan realizes that maybe he is not cut out for the conventional life and NEEDS to be helping others, despite the government and despite the president of the United States.
Evan Smoak is one of the reasons why I read these books as I love his character.  He is definitely flawed as he lacks social graces and doesn't know how to handle normal situations with people; part of the enjoyment in this series is his interactions with the people in his apartment building when he comes home full of blood with his clothing ripped and torn and has to explain away what happened.  And then he is invited to birthday parties and wedding celebrations, but has no idea what to do at these things or how to interact with people when he is there.  His character has grown so much over the books and I really look forward to more development as he continues to interact with Mia, her son, and of course, Joey.
For me, one of the highlights of this book was his interactions with Joey, and the way he realized his feelings were so much more than he thought , especially when he understands that Joey's transformation is due to a BOY.  As a reader, you've known those feelings have always been there, but in this book, they finally exploded and I was thrilled to see the two of them acknowledge their relationship and how much they mean to each other.  And I have to say, an author who can mix real emotions with big thrills is a win-win for me.   

The author has a real talent for mixing spectacular thrill scenes with normal day-to-day scenes.  There is definitely the usual hacking, the explosions, the fight scenes, and the other high adrenaline scenes you would expect from an Orphan X book, but I do feel they were tamed down a bit from previous books as the author focused a lot more on Evan's struggle to be a normal human being.  Throughout the book, Evan was trying to reconcile himself with the fact that he enjoyed doing these things and that he was good at them with the fact that he could get into a lot of trouble from the powers that be. That being said, Evan was up against drone warfare in this book, and I am really curious as to where this is heading in the next book as it clearly wasn't finished in this one.  A hugely fascinating topic!! 

Prodigal Son seemed to be more of a transitional novel as Evan grappled with the concept of retirement and what to do with the rest of his life.  The character development is really good and for that reason, I do recommend that readers begin with the first book in the series as a lot of the elements do tie together. There is a spectacular ending to this book, but if you really paid attention, you will know exactly how Evan will probably be able to save himself in the next book.  This is probably one of the best thriller series I have read where I really care about the characters and what happens to them, so I find the scenes where Evan grapples with his humanity and his relationships so fascinating.  Highly recommend this series.