Upon Review: The Participants by Brian Blose

October 31st, 2013

I love to curl up with a nice, steaming cup of tea and a free book to review. In fact I subscribe to three book review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex just so I can indulge in my favorite leisure activity. What’s even better is when an author contacts me for a review. If you’re an author looking for someone to review your book or short story, check out my Request a Review page.

Because I like to share the great reads I’ve found (and warn readers of the not-so-great finds), I developed a system:

  • One cup — worse than a cup of luke warm black pekoe
  • Two cups — it may be hot, but you’ll need plenty of sweetener just to tolerate it
  • Three cups — it’s not my favorite, but it beats going without
  • Four cups — nice and hot and only needs a smidge of sweetener to be perfect
  • Five cups — loose leaf vanilla Earl Grey, yummy

Sometimes a book or story doesn’t warrant a five cup rating, but it’s so good it can’t be missed. For those I include the “Must Read” starburst in front of the cup rating. You’ll find my cup rating above the picture of the cover. Enjoy!

The Participants by Brian Blose

Four Cup

 

 

 Here is the description that caught my attention:

Zack Vernon is an immortal Observer sent to watch the world on behalf of the Creator. When his suicide attempt fails spectacularly and earns him a spot on the national news, the other Observers are drawn to him.

They believe Zack to be the reincarnation of a rebellious Observer from a previous world. Several of them plan to punish him for the sins they believe he committed. One of them wants back the man she has loved through hundreds of worlds. But Zack remembers nothing before the present. All he wants is a chance to end his life.

The Good…

This story kept me turning pages, wanting to solve the mystery of the Observers and how they were different from the Participants. Each new chapter either dangled yet another piece of the puzzle in front of me or asked yet another question I wanted to know the answer to. This was perfect for someone like me who enjoys working out the whys and wherefores of an enigma.

The characters are well-developed and distinctive. Some, like Eric, actually scared me. Others, like Lacey, made me want to slap them until they acquired some sense. The tension and fear in Zach felt real and kept me rooting for him through the entire story.

I also enjoyed the twist at the end. It’s rare that an author can surprise me. Either I’ve figured it out long before the end or the twist comes off like a gimmick, but that is not the case in The Participants.

The Not-so-good…

I only have two complaints. The first is that the story is too short. I enjoyed reading it so much and invested so much energy into the characters that, by the end of the book, I was ready to find out what would happen in the next incarnation — or if there would even be a next one. Along with that was the disappointment that there isn’t a book 2. I would have loved it if either the story was longer or there was at least the promise of another book.

My second complaint is that there was more foul language and brutality than I am personally comfortable with. While I understand that serial killers are more likely to curse and their very nature necessitates brutality, I don’t have to enjoy it. I prefer torture and murder to happen off stage.

As for the cursing, it wasn’t just the serial killer. There were at least two others who swore more than I thought was necessary. Had the characters been in some kind of gang or had some other reason for speaking in such low terms, then I might have been able to overlook it.

The Overall…

I highly recommend The Participants by Brian Blose to anyone who enjoys a good puzzle with a plot twist, but beware that there is plenty of onstage brutality and swearing.

Upon Review: Seed Savers: Treasure by S. Smith

September 4th, 2013

I love to curl up with a nice, steaming cup of tea and a free book to review. In fact I subscribe to three book review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex just so I can indulge in my favorite leisure activity. What’s even better is when an author contacts me for a review. If you’re an author looking for someone to review your book or short story, check out my Request a Review page.

Because I like to share the great reads I’ve found (and warn readers of the not-so-great finds), I developed a system:

  • One cup — worse than a cup of luke warm black pekoe
  • Two cups — it may be hot, but you’ll need plenty of sweetener just to tolerate it
  • Three cups — it’s not my favorite, but it beats going without
  • Four cups — nice and hot and only needs a smidge of sweetener to be perfect
  • Five cups — loose leaf vanilla Earl Grey, yummy

Sometimes a book or story doesn’t warrant a five cup rating, but it’s so good it can’t be missed. For those I include the “Must Read” starburst in front of the cup rating. You’ll find my cup rating above the picture of the cover. Enjoy!

 

Seed Savers: Treasure by S. Smith

Five Cup

 

 

 Here is the description that caught my attention:

In a future where growing your own food is against the law, three young friends risk their safety by studying the illegal subject of gardening. The children’s mentor, an elderly acquaintance named Ana, entices the children with her description of the food she knew as a child–food unlike the square, processed, packaged food they have always known. Constantly watching, however, is GRIM, the government agency that controls the nation’s food source and keeps in check all potential troublemakers. 

When Clare and Dante return home one day to find their tomato plant seized, and their mother jailed, they bolt, leaving behind Lily and Ana. Clare has heard of a place called “The Garden State,” and with their bikes, a little money, and backpacks, the children begin a lonely cross-country journey that tests them both physically and spiritually. Will they succeed in their quest to find a place of food freedom?  And can they, only children, help change the world?

The Good…

This was very fast read. In fact, I finished it in one afternoon, which, imho, means this would be the perfect length for younger readers. I also loved that the kids in the story weren’t dumbed down, but neither were they “gritty.” The use of scripture in the story was spare enough to feel necessary, yet used often enough to mark the book as Christian. Along with that is level of teaching. I feel that any young person who picks this book up will naturally pick up on the wonder of growing food.

The Not-so-good…

While the level of teaching is high in this book, there were a few places where the story was bogged down by information overload. However, those were few and did not make me want to put the book down and walk away.

The Overall…

Seed Savers: Treasure by S. Smith was a wonderful read that I plan to share with my science-loving, question-asking daughter and would highly recommend to other parents.

Upon Review: Hera, Queen of Gods (Goddess Unbound) by T.D. Thomas

July 24th, 2013

I love to curl up with a nice, steaming cup of tea and a free book to review. In fact I subscribe to three book review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex just so I can indulge in my favorite leisure activity. What’s even better is when an author contacts me for a review. If you’re an author looking for someone to review your book or short story, check out my Request a Review page.

Because I like to share the great reads I’ve found (and warn readers of the not-so-great finds), I developed a system:

  • One cup — worse than a cup of luke warm black pekoe
  • Two cups — it may be hot, but you’ll need plenty of sweetener just to tolerate it
  • Three cups — it’s not my favorite, but it beats going without
  • Four cups — nice and hot and only needs a smidge of sweetener to be perfect
  • Five cups — loose leaf vanilla Earl Grey, yummy

Sometimes a book or story doesn’t warrant a five cup rating, but it’s so good it can’t be missed. For those I include the “Must Read” starburst in front of the cup rating. You’ll find my cup rating above the picture of the cover. Enjoy!

 

Hera, Queen of Gods (Goddess Unbound) by T.D. Thomas

Five Cup Must Read

 

 

 Here is the description that caught my attention:

The Fates are missing. Hera has no choice but to lead a handful of gods to the human world to search for the missing goddesses, even though it means giving up her powers and temporarily becoming mortal. But mortality begins to change Hera in unexpected ways, and it gets much worse after she meets Justin, a boy who defies every prejudice she once had about mortals. Torn between who she’s becoming and who she needs to be in order to fulfill her duty, Hera must survive a horde of murderous creatures sent to exploit her new weakness. In the end, only she can stop a traitorous plot conceived by a secret alliance of ancient and new enemies, a plot that threatens to destroy not only the order Hera is sworn to protect, but all of existence itself.

The Good…

I could not put this book down. I loved the fast-paced action and the constant wondering about what would happen next. I started out believing the main characters would all make it to the end, but Thomas took that safety away early on, making it clear that death could snatch any of them at any moment. Talk about adding tension.

Perhaps the best part was the mystery behind who took the Fates. Like my favorites, this book kept me guessing. In fact, I never figured out who was responsible for capturing the Fates until it was revealed and that rarely happens.

I also loved the epilogue. Like prologues, I often skip epilogues because they rarely add anything to the story. Not so for this book. The epilogue gives a nice conclusion while still leaving you on the cliff.

The Not-so-good…

There were a couple places during their rituals that I couldn’t suspend my disbelief. For instance, it’s difficult for me to believe that pricking the finger of four people would create enough blood to create a circle if you poured it on the ground. Thankfully those details are not integral to the plot, so they weren’t make-it-or-break-it for enjoying the story as a whole.

The Overall…

Hera, Queen of Gods (Goddess Unbound) by T.D. Thomas is a roller-coaster ride that mystery and fantasy fans alike will enjoy. Make sure you clear your schedule when you pick up this book, because you won’t be able to put it down.

Upon Review: Mama Lacee by Kenneth Brooks

May 21st, 2013

I love to curl up with a nice, steaming cup of tea and a free book to review. In fact I subscribe to three book review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex just so I can indulge in my favorite leisure activity. What’s even better is when an author contacts me for a review. If you’re an author looking for someone to review your book or short story, check out my Request a Review page.

Because I like to share the great reads I’ve found (and warn readers of the not-so-great finds), I developed a system:

  • One cup — worse than a cup of luke warm black pekoe
  • Two cups — it may be hot, but you’ll need plenty of sweetener just to tolerate it
  • Three cups — it’s not my favorite, but it beats going without
  • Four cups — nice and hot and only needs a smidge of sweetener to be perfect
  • Five cups — loose leaf vanilla Earl Grey, yummy

Sometimes a book or story doesn’t warrant a five cup rating, but it’s so good it can’t be missed. For those I include the “Must Read” starburst in front of the cup rating. You’ll find my cup rating above the picture of the cover. Enjoy!

 

Mama Lacee by Kenneth Brooks

Four Cup Must Read

 

 

Usually it’s the description that makes me want to write a review. However, this one leave a lot to be desired:

“IT”S THE TWENTIES. MAMA LACEE IS IN HER 80’S. SHE’S BEEN THE LOCAL HEALER LONGER THAN MOST PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ALIVE. SHE’S SEEN IT ALL…GOOD AND BAD”

It’s my general rule that I won’t accept a book for review without checking the Look Inside feature on Amazon first. I’m glad I did.

The Good…

Don’t be fooled by the less than appealing cover. The story is riveting. It’s a wonderful glimpse into a time of rampant racism and blatant abuses of power. Best of all, there’s plenty of spirituality (the author considers it paranormal activity) to intrigue those who enjoy peeking behind the veil of reality.

The Not-so-good…

I don’t know if it was the author’s intent or not, but there is a lot of jumping between point of view and past and present tense. At times it feels like there’s an outside narrator and then the character seems to take over the telling of a scene. It can be rather disconcerting. Also, there are some formatting issues where paragraphs look strange.

The biggest drawback of the entire story is the abrupt ending. I would have liked to have known what happened to the rest of the people in the story once the “bad guy” is defeated. Did they learn from what happened and become better people? And what about the business men? What did they do? What happened to those who enforce the laws? If Brooks ever decides to release an updated version of Mama Lacee, I hope he considers giving his reader a good denouement to this marvelous story.

The Overall…

If you can get past technical flaws in the writing and don’t mind an abrupt end, Mama Lacee by Kenneth Brooks is a fantastic read.

Upon Review: Crystal Shade: Angeni, Volume 1 by István Szabó

April 29th, 2013

I love to curl up with a nice, steaming cup of tea and a free book to review. In fact I subscribe to three book review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex just so I can indulge in my favorite leisure activity. What’s even better is when an author contacts me for a review. If you’re an author looking for someone to review your book or short story, check out my Request a Review page.

Because I like to share the great reads I’ve found (and warn readers of the not-so-great finds), I developed a system:

  • One cup — worse than a cup of luke warm black pekoe
  • Two cups — it may be hot, but you’ll need plenty of sweetener just to tolerate it
  • Three cups — it’s not my favorite, but it beats going without
  • Four cups — nice and hot and only needs a smidge of sweetener to be perfect
  • Five cups — loose leaf vanilla Earl Grey, yummy

Sometimes a book or story doesn’t warrant a five cup rating, but it’s so good it can’t be missed. For those I include the “Must Read” starburst in front of the cup rating. You’ll find my cup rating above the picture of the cover. Enjoy!

 

Crystal Shade: Angeni, Volume 1 by István Szabó

Three Cup

 

 

 Here is the description that made me want to write this book review:

“Thousands of stars could tell thousands of stories.”
Seven year old Grace always dreamt of becoming a guardian angel; like those who guarded and guided her people and prepared to bravely fight in a dreaded mythical event, the Crystal Shade – which never came. It’s not like Grace ever wanted to see Demons. Or wants to know what evil and darkness is – things that no one ever faced on her world and as the legends says, the Crystal Shade carries within -, nor does she want to die to be reborn as a guardian. But she thinks the mysterious life of angels is so noble, a fable that it sounds exciting – until it actually happens. 

Crystal Shade: Angeni, Volume 1 explores the early life of a young daydreaming soul who is destined to reveal the forgotten past of her home world and to seek the answer to the eternal question; what the legendary Crystal Shade really is.

The Good…

The beginning sets a great mood, making the reader want to know what the bogey in the dark is.

Most of the really good writing occurs near the end of the book. For example, there is some very good description of everyday animals we take for granted, which Angeni has never seen. It makes it easy to figure out what the creature is without the author having to name it.

Theme plays a major role in the entire book, leading to some thought provoking messages. I love stories that make me think about what I believe and what may be true. This book has a lot of passages that do that.

The Not-so-good…

The author warns in the description: “IMPORTANT: Please be advised that Crystal Shade: Angeni and its episodic release, Crystal Shade: Episodes is not a fast and easy mainstream read. You can’t quickly skim through and read it in one night, but you have to absorb the words and create the fantasy in your mind. Therefore, if you don’t like slower-paced books or non-mainstream storylines, please read the excerpt before making any purchase.”

If you’re looking for a book that begins with conflict or is paced faster than a snail, look somewhere else. This is an epic tale and, as the volume number indicates, will be told in more than one book. In fact, the story ends just when the conflict begins. I like to call this the Soap Opera Gimmick: end every book in the middle of a fight so the reader will buy the next one to see what happens. I don’t know about other readers, but I feel cheated when authors do this. Leave me with questions, but don’t leave me in the middle of a conflict.

Another complaint I have is the overuse of some words, especially the words “shy” and “cold.” It made me think of what Inigo says to Vizzini in the Princes Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Lastly, there are entire scenes that seem to be unnecessary. For instance, why does it matter to the reader what the names of the gods and goddesses are and what provinces they supposedly rule? The author spends an extrodinairy amount of time on world building, using specific names and stories to explain the placement of each province. Perhaps the information will come into play in another volume, but it was tedious in this one.

The Overall…

Take the author’s warning seriously! While I enjoy books that make me wonder about truth and reality, I also like them to balance that with action and external conflict. Crystal Shade has very little of that, which often bored me. There is plenty of action near the end, but it left me unsatisfied because the story itself didn’t end. My suggestion is this, read Crystal Shade if you enjoy long, slow tales and don’t mind a cliff hanger ending. If that’s not the type of story you like, then you’ll probably want to pass on this tale.

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Upon Review: The Caves of Etretat, Book Four of Four by Matt Chatelain

March 4th, 2013

I love to curl up with a nice, steaming cup of tea and a free book to review. In fact I subscribe to three book review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex just so I can indulge in my favorite leisure activity. What’s even better is when an author contacts me for a review. If you’re an author looking for someone to review your book or short story, check out my Request a Review page.

Because I like to share the great reads I’ve found (and warn readers of the not-so-great finds), I developed a system:

  • One cup — worse than a cup of luke warm black pekoe
  • Two cups — it may be hot, but you’ll need plenty of sweetener just to tolerate it
  • Three cups — it’s not my favorite, but it beats going without
  • Four cups — nice and hot and only needs a smidge of sweetener to be perfect
  • Five cups — loose leaf vanilla Earl Grey, yummy

Sometimes a book or story doesn’t warrant a five cup rating, but it’s so good it can’t be missed. For those I include the “Must Read” starburst in front of the cup rating. You’ll find my cup rating above the picture of the cover. Enjoy!

 

The One Book of Etretat (The Sirenne Saga)The Greyman (The Sirenne Saga) by Matt Chatelain

Three Cup

 

 

I usually do not agree to read an entire series, but the sample I read of The Caves of Etretat, Book One of Four (The Sirenne Saga) made me decide to give this entire four book series a chance. Here is the description of Book Four:

Ultimate Confrontation, Ultimate Answers In the previous books of the series, Paul Sirenne was changed into a fledgling immortal in the caves of Etretat, France. Based in the caves, Sirenne was preparing for an ultimate confrontation against the Greyman, the oldest immortal on earth. With countless disasters occurring everywhere and a pandemic disease killing all children in the womb, all events were converging on Sirenne. To make matters worse, Weissmuller, the immortal serial killer was continually dogging his steps. In the fourth and final novel of the series, Sirenne learns he has been selected to find the Other, the only being strong enough to defeat the Greyman. Sirenne has mastered electromagnetic flight and the ability to manifest objects and manipulate matter. Weissmuller has revealed himself and an uneasy alliance has been made. Armageddon is fast approaching, with people dying by the millions, as Sirenne tries to understand what is really going on. The unstoppable Greyman is drawing near and an ultimate confrontation seems inevitable. Everything rests on Sirenne’s final decision. Will he be able to accept the real answers behind everything? ‘The Greyman’ ends the four-book epic adventure following Paul Sirenne, an average man unknowingly manipulated into becoming the key in the final phase of a complex conspiracy spanning millennia. Inextricably woven into history, the series re-writes everything we know in a non-stop rollercoaster of a ride where nothing is ever as it seems. The Saga’s Phenomenal Conclusion

The Good…

The first part of The Caves of Etretat, Book Four of Four: The Greyman was as exciting as book three. This one had me turning pages quickly to find out what would happen next. There were quite a few surprises, especially concerning the Abbey’s involvement in the entire mystery.

The Not-so-good…

Again, while I’m sure it wasn’t intended, the Americans in the story made me laugh. They were more or less caricatures of every movie I’ve seen where the military decides to go in with guns blazing because their motto seems to be “Shoot first. Ask questions later.” There were no redeeming qualities to these characters, no reason to feel they were in any way justified in their thinking. In fact, when they are wiped off the planet, I didn’t care. Not sure if that was how I was supposed to react or not.

The beginning of the book was very exciting, though there were a few parts that seemed unbelievable even given that we’ve been alerted to why certain things are able to happen.

However, I scanned most of the last of the book from the Original Dream to about halfway through Growth because the story slowed down to less than a crawl at that point. We’ve already figured out that Paul has jumped to the next level and we’ve already learned what that next level is about, so re-living the entire thing wasn’t all that interesting. I wish the author had condensed the entire last bit into one section instead of three.

The Overall…

If you’ve read the first three books, then it’s almost a given that you’ll want to read The Greyman (The Sirenne Saga) by Matt Chatelain. However, beware that the entire story comes to a screeching halt near the end and continues on at a rate that mirrors those dreams we have where we run hard, but get nowhere.

Upon Review: The Caves of Etretat, Book Three of Four by Matt Chatelain

February 25th, 2013

I love to curl up with a nice, steaming cup of tea and a free book to review. In fact I subscribe to three book review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex just so I can indulge in my favorite leisure activity. What’s even better is when an author contacts me for a review. If you’re an author looking for someone to review your book or short story, check out my Request a Review page.

Because I like to share the great reads I’ve found (and warn readers of the not-so-great finds), I developed a system:

  • One cup — worse than a cup of luke warm black pekoe
  • Two cups — it may be hot, but you’ll need plenty of sweetener just to tolerate it
  • Three cups — it’s not my favorite, but it beats going without
  • Four cups — nice and hot and only needs a smidge of sweetener to be perfect
  • Five cups — loose leaf vanilla Earl Grey, yummy

Sometimes a book or story doesn’t warrant a five cup rating, but it’s so good it can’t be missed. For those I include the “Must Read” starburst in front of the cup rating. You’ll find my cup rating above the picture of the cover. Enjoy!

 

The One Book of Etretat (The Sirenne Saga) by Matt Chatelain

Four Cup

 

 

I usually do not agree to read an entire series, but the sample I read of The Caves of Etretat, Book One of Four (The Sirenne Saga) made me decide to give this entire four book series a chance. Here is the description of Book Three:

The World on the Brink of Disaster

In the previous books of the series, Paul Sirenne discovered a complex of hidden caves in the cliffs of Etretat, France. Chased by an immortal serial killer, and assisted by the Abbey, a thousand-year old organization, Sirenne, becoming an immortal himself, was given control of the caves, to prepare for an ultimate confrontation against the Greyman, the oldest immortal on earth. Taken by surprise, Sirenne and the complex of caves barely survived an attack by American mercenaries. 

In Book Three, the world is in chaos. Countless disasters are occurring everywhere and a pandemic disease is killing all children in the womb. People and countries, desperate for a solution, are demanding Sirenne’s immortality cure. Sirenne knows it’s not the true answer. He must find the One Book by solving the clues laid out by Maurice Leblanc and the Abbey. Changed by his immortality, he develops new senses which give him an increasingly different perspective on everything he sees. At the same time, all events are converging on him. Weissmuller, the immortal serial killer, is circling closer and closer.

‘The One Book of Etretat’ is the third in a four-book epic adventure following Paul Sirenne, an average man unknowingly manipulated into becoming the key in the final phase of a complex conspiracy spanning millennia. Inextricably woven into history, the series re-writes everything we know in a non-stop rollercoaster of a ride where nothing is ever as it seems.

The Sirenne Saga Continues

The Good…

The Caves of Etretat, Book Three of Four: The One Book of Etretat was by far the most exciting of the four books. This one had me turning pages quickly to find out what would happen next.

The Weismuller Recollections make much more sense in this story and add a wonderful bit of tension. It was also interesting to see how Weismuller was able to be a step ahead of Paul Sirenne and keep out of reach of the Abbey, not to mention making me wonder at some of the coincidences that helped this character achieve his goals.

The Not-so-good…

Like the Weismuller Recollections in book two, the Greyman Chronicles do not seem to make sense in this part of the story. Also, if you figured out what was going on with Inspector Norton in book one, most of the recollections in this book will feel unnecessary. They are interesting, but I felt they could have been skipped altogether without harming the story.

Unfortunately, the author runs afoul of one of my pet peeves in this book. He puts in the mouth of Father Plantagenet a saying many people attribute to the Bible: God saves them who save themselves. While this saying works well with the entirety of the Caves of Etretat books, it is not a quote from the Bible and is, in fact, a quote most often attributed to Benjamin Franklin. Someone as well versed in theology as Father Plantagenet supposedly is, would be unlikely to say something like this when his entire vocation rests upon the belief that God saves those who cannot save themselves.

Again, while I’m sure it wasn’t intended, the Americans in the story made me laugh. They were more or less caricatures of every movie I’ve seen where the military decides to go in with guns blazing because their motto seems to be “Shoot first. Ask questions later.” There were no redeeming qualities to these characters, no reason to feel they were in any way justified in their thinking.

The Overall…

While this book was a page turner, I would only recommend The One Book of Etretat (The Sirenne Saga) by Matt Chatelain if you plan to finish the entire series because it will be necessary to understand book four.

Upon Review: The Caves of Etretat, Book Two of Four by Matt Chatelain

February 18th, 2013

I love to curl up with a nice, steaming cup of tea and a free book to review. In fact I subscribe to three book review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex just so I can indulge in my favorite leisure activity. What’s even better is when an author contacts me for a review. If you’re an author looking for someone to review your book or short story, check out my Request a Review page.

Because I like to share the great reads I’ve found (and warn readers of the not-so-great finds), I developed a system:

  • One cup — worse than a cup of luke warm black pekoe
  • Two cups — it may be hot, but you’ll need plenty of sweetener just to tolerate it
  • Three cups — it’s not my favorite, but it beats going without
  • Four cups — nice and hot and only needs a smidge of sweetener to be perfect
  • Five cups — loose leaf vanilla Earl Grey, yummy

Sometimes a book or story doesn’t warrant a five cup rating, but it’s so good it can’t be missed. For those I include the “Must Read” starburst in front of the cup rating. You’ll find my cup rating above the picture of the cover. Enjoy!

 

The Four Books of Etretat: Book Two of Four (Volume 2) by Matt Chatelain

Three Cup

 

 

I usually do not agree to read an entire series, but the sample I read of The Caves of Etretat, Book One of Four (The Sirenne Saga) made me decide to give this entire four book series a chance. Here is the description of Book Two:

THE SECRET OF IMMORTALITY REVEALED In ‘The Caves of Etretat’, Canadian bookstore owner Paul Sirenne was thrust into a quest for answers in the town of Etretat, France, on the trail of a hundred year old mystery hidden in the pages of ‘The Hollow Needle’, by Maurice Leblanc. Together with Leblanc’s great-granddaughter, Sirenne unearthed puzzles, codes and historical mysteries, exposing a secret war for control of a cave fortress in Etretat’s chalk cliffs. In Book Two, ‘The Four Books of Etretat’, Sirenne discovers the reason for the hidden war: the secret of immortality. The Abbey, a thousand-year old organization, dedicated to chasing the oldest immortal on earth, known as the Greyman, has given Sirenne control of the caves and its secrets, apparently preparing him for a confrontation with the Greyman. Unfortunately, the serial killer who killed Sirenne’s father, Weissmuller, has discovered this knowledge before Sirenne. Now an immortal and constantly dogging Sirenne’s steps, Weissmuller seems to be playing a game of his own. ‘THE FOUR BOOKS OF ETRETAT’ is the second in a four-book epic adventure following Paul Sirenne, an average man unknowingly manipulated into becoming the key in the final phase of a complex conspiracy spanning millennia. Inextricably woven into history, the series re-writes everything we know in a non-stop rollercoaster of a ride where nothing is ever as it seems. THE SAGA CONTINUES

The Good…

The Caves of Etretat, Book Two of Four: The Four Books of Etretat was more exciting than book one and many of the dialogue issues I had with book one have been worked out in this book. I was also intrigued by the unfolding mystery of the caves.

I enjoyed the use of dream imagery to aid Paul Sirenne in his unraveling of the clues LeBlanc left for him to solve and I thought adding the monks and the various Watcher groups into the story added a great bit of intrigue.

The Not-so-good…

Although there was plenty of action in this book, there was also still a lot of tedious information to go through.

The biggest problem I had with the mystery of locating the books was the number of specific chess references. I suppose if you enjoy, or at least understand the game of chess, these parts would be easily absorbed, but for me, someone who knows very little about the nuances of the game, I found it difficult to wade through. In fact, it threw me out of the story and made it too easy to put the book down.

I was also a bit irked by Paul Sirenne’s alternating reticence and seeming egotism. Granted, the hero has been pushed into a role he doesn’t really want, so his reticence is understandable. However, there are moments when he throws of his usual persona of working with his team and begins ordering people around like some kind of “lone cowboy.” The change was confusing because it felt like he was going against his nature.

While I’m sure it wasn’t intended, the Americans in the story made me laugh. They were more or less caricatures of every movie I’ve seen where the military decides to go in with guns blazing because their motto seems to be “Shoot first. Ask questions later.” There were no redeeming qualities to these characters, no reason to feel they were in any way justified in their thinking.

I also found the Weismuller Recollections unnecessary to the story being told. They were very interesting, but they seem to have little bearing on the present day action of the main story.

The Overall…

While there is a lot more action and believable dialogue, I would only recommend The Four Books of Etretat: Book Two of Four (Volume 2) by Matt Chatelain if you plan to finish the entire series because it will be necessary to understand books three and four.

Upon Review: The Caves of Etretat, Book One of Four by Matt Chatelain

November 24th, 2012

I love to curl up with a nice, steaming cup of tea and a free book to review. In fact I subscribe to three book review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex just so I can indulge in my favorite leisure activity. What’s even better is when an author contacts me for a review. If you’re an author looking for someone to review your book or short story, check out my Request a Review page.

Because I like to share the great reads I’ve found (and warn readers of the not-so-great finds), I developed a system:

  • One cup — worse than a cup of luke warm black pekoe
  • Two cups — it may be hot, but you’ll need plenty of sweetener just to tolerate it
  • Three cups — it’s not my favorite, but it beats going without
  • Four cups — nice and hot and only needs a smidge of sweetener to be perfect
  • Five cups — loose leaf vanilla Earl Grey, yummy

Sometimes a book or story doesn’t warrant a five cup rating, but it’s so good it can’t be missed. For those I include the “Must Read” starburst in front of the cup rating. You’ll find my cup rating above the picture of the cover. Enjoy!

 

The Caves of Etretat, Book One of Four (The Sirenne Saga) by Matt Chatelain

 

 

Here is the description that made me want to write this book review:

Canadian bookstore owner Paul Sirenne is thrust into a quest for answers when his parents are found murdered, their bodies cut up into the letters H.N. A note sent before his father’s murder drives Sirenne to seek out the roots of a long-forgotten family secret.
He heads to the town of Etretat, France, on the trail of a hundred year old mystery hidden in the pages of ‘The Hollow Needle’, by Maurice Leblanc. Together with Leblanc’s great-granddaughter, Sirenne unearths puzzles, codes and historical mysteries, exposing a secret war for control of a cave fortress in Etretat’s chalk cliffs.

‘THE CAVES OF ETRETAT’ is the first in a four-book epic adventure following Paul Sirenne, an average man unknowingly manipulated into becoming the key in the final phase of a complex conspiracy spanning millennia. Inextricably woven into history, the series re-writes everything we know in a non-stop rollercoaster of a ride where nothing is ever as it seems.

The Good…

This story starts with a bang. The first chapter pulled me in and I couldn’t wait to read the rest of the story. The mystery of the caves is interesting and often begs to be solved throughout the book.

The Not-so-good…

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not interested in romance novels and this book is a good example of why. Not only do the main characters fall in love extremely fast, but it’s mushy, as in Romeo-and-Juliet-can’t-live-without-each-other mushy. These are two adults on a quest to beat a killer to the answer about a mysterious cave. Falling in love isn’t what’s bad it’s that it’s awkward and rushed.

Which brings me to another flaw: for a man who just lost his father and step-mother, Paul seems rather pulled together. In fact, the whole serial killer angle seems to be a McGuffin that’s dropped less than half-way through. Sorry, but if I just lost my folks in such a horrendous way I doubt I’d easily forget it. It would be front and center in my mind and I have a feeling it would often get in the way of solving the mystery.

Last of all is the often awkward dialogue. I don’t know many people who use their friends names so often in a brief conversation. Nor do people generally speak in such stilted language. Cliche characterizations aside, there is very little delineation between each character’s way of speaking. I was also a bit put off by the large amount of info dumping monologues. I realize there was a need for the information to be revealed and only certain characters had that information, but it might have made for a more intense reading if those characters were more reticent about giving their information.

The Overall…

Despite the rushed romance, awkward dialogue and McGuffin-like murders, the mystery was enough for me to continue reading and even enjoy the story. So long as the price remains low, I would recommend The Caves of Etretat, Book One of Four (The Sirenne Saga) by Matt Chatelain to anyone wanting a light adventure to escape into.

Upon Review: Destinies by Karleene Morrow

October 23rd, 2012

I love to curl up with a nice, steaming cup of tea and a free book to review. In fact I subscribe to three book review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex just so I can indulge in my favorite leisure activity. What’s even better is when an author contacts me for a review. If you’re an author looking for someone to review your book or short story, check out my Request a Review page.

Because I like to share the great reads I’ve found (and warn readers of the not-so-great finds), I developed a system:

  • One cup — worse than a cup of luke warm black pekoe
  • Two cups — it may be hot, but you’ll need plenty of sweetener just to tolerate it
  • Three cups — it’s not my favorite, but it beats going without
  • Four cups — nice and hot and only needs a smidge of sweetener to be perfect
  • Five cups — loose leaf vanilla Earl Grey, yummy

Sometimes a book or story doesn’t warrant a five cup rating, but it’s so good it can’t be missed. For those I include the “Must Read” starburst in front of the cup rating. You’ll find my cup rating above the picture of the cover. Enjoy!

 

Destinies by Karleene Morrow

 

 

 

Here is the description that made me want to write this book review:

Historical epic of royalty and rural family.

Catherine II seizes the imperial crown of Russia and a thousand miles away a Rhineland boy’s life changes forever.

Uprooted from his home near the Rhine River and taken to a hostile land on the Russian steppes, Christian comes up against adversity and setbacks as he attempts to make a new life for himself and his family. His efforts at enlisting a blacksmith and Gypsies to help a Russian girl sold into servitude put all their lives in deadly peril.

Meanwhile, Catherine, in her new role as empress, is surrounded by court intrigue and secret plots to overthrow her; rumors of her lover’s infidelity; an army of wild Cossacks and escaped serfs thundering down on Saratov intent on burning the city, sacking Moscow and locking the empress in a convent. 

Now Catherine must find a solution to the challenges she faces at court – as Christian must find his own solutions in the colonies.

The Good…

Normally I wouldn’t pick up a historical fiction simply because it is outside of my normal genre reading. This is one time I’m very glad I took the risk. If my history classes had been anything like this book I probably would have aced every test. We follow two storylines that often intersect and both are riveting.

Catherine’s story reminded me of a Doctor Who episode where the Doctor and his companions are able to look into the life of Madame D’Pompadour during certain points in her life. We get a close up look at how Catherine may have actually lived, not just the dry facts, but also how she may have felt and reacted to specific events. The author brings this historical figure to life and allows us special access to behind the scenes action.

In the other storyline we watch Christian grow into a man during one of his people’s most exciting and trying times. We feel the heart break as he loses loved ones and thrill to the moments of danger he overcomes. As the story progresses we hope ever more fervently for a happy ending for this endearing character.

The Not-so-good…

As with most books with prologues, this one I believe could have been eliminated without harming the story. It’s interesting, but unnecessary.

This book is actually three books in one. Book one is well written and well edited. However, while books two and three are also well written, they could have benefitted from a little more editing. I found several typographical and formatting errors that were annoying. My suggestion for perfectionists is to note that the errors exist and concentrate on enjoying the story, which is strong through the entire book.

It’s also worth noting that in a few scenes there is excessive foul language and brutality. In each case I would consider it acceptable given the scene and the characters.

The Overall…

Destinies by Karleene Morrow is a fabulous historical fiction worth adding to one’s library and definitely worth taking a chance on.