Hekla’s Children by James Brogden

I actually began this novel a while back but had to stop because of my workload. The novel stayed in the back of my mind and I’m glad that I finally got the chance to read this book now. So here is my review:

10 years ago, teacher Nathan Brookes was supervising 4 students on a walk … when they all vanished. Only one returned, Olivia, and she was starving, terrified, and unable to recollect where she had been. And Nathan has been haunted by this event ever since. When a body is found in the same ancient woodland where the kids disappeared, it is immediately assumed that it is the body of one of the missing children. However, it is soon identified as a Bronze Age warrior. While others may be able to move on from this archaeological curiosity, Nathan finds himself having horrific visions of his students being trapped. Then Olivia reappears, desperate to put the warrior’s body back into the Earth. For he is the only thing keeping a terrible evil at bay.

This novel was both a hit AND a miss for me. The beginning was intriguing and it really grabbed my attention; that’s why I kept thinking about it even when I stopped reading the novel! The author did a great job setting the scene, and I got really invested in Nathan’s character. I suspected that the author would lean towards the fantasy-horror genre combination, and I was pleased to see that my prediction was true. I liked the introduction of the Bronze Age warrior and really wanted to see where the author was going to go with that. Very quickly, the author switched from having Nathan as a main character, to someone else …. and then it switched again to Nathan … and then went back to someone else. That part was a little baffling because it made me feel like I wasn’t reading a continuous story but rather two different stories happening within the same timeline. It worked in the sense that it added more intrigue to the story but it also failed by making things more confusing and muddled. The story itself grew more complex but it had its flaws. A lot of details were skimmed over and could have used some more buildup, and it lost some of its horror feel near the end. The way certain characters were connected didn’t really work for me, and some of the conclusions that were drawn were a bit too unbelievable for my taste. By the end of the novel, I felt like I had read a really complicated and intriguing novel … but one that lacked a consistent flow. Since there were elements that I still enjoyed about this novel, I’m giving it a 3/5.

Happy reading ~

Bright Air Black by David Vann

Before reading this book, I knew nothing about Medea or Jason and the Argonauts. In fact, I did a quick Wikipedia search into the origins of these characters before delving into this book so that I could properly understand the content. Here is my review:

The story brings us aboard the ship Argo as it makes its epic journey back home across the Black Sea from Colchis – Medea’s homeland where she has fled her father with Jason, the Argonauts, and the Golden Fleece. As Medea sails along with the man she loves, she must decide whether she is a sorceress or a monster. As the journey continues and reality hits Medea, we witness Medea’s humanity, her Bronze Age roots and position in Greek society, her love affair with Jason, and her tragic demise.

It definitely helped that I had a little background on the story before beginning this book because this novel starts at the point when Medea is on Jason’s ship, running away from her father. The story doesn’t really delve too much into the events that preceded this but you eventually do find out as you continue reading. Apart from that, the story is quite indepth in terms of storyline, giving a great amount of detail into the way the journey progresses. Having never read anything about Medea or Jason, I found the story fascinating. There was never a dull moment and with each page comes more violence, brutality, and treachery. If you have never heard of Medea, then you need to read this book and get to know her story!

Medea’s character….. was incredible. She is strong, ruthless, intelligent, and determined in a way that no other female protagonist I have each very read about has been. When she spoke, she voiced the thoughts of countless women over countless generations. She is the epitome of the struggles of a woman who does not fit into the mold created by men. In short, I loved her. She was violent and lacked mercy and yet shred he managed to exude femininity while acting completely unfeminine (according to our views on what a feminine person  is typically like). I cannot stress enough how well the author portrayed her and how mesmerized I was by her strength. She is definitely one badass female protagonist, even if I don’t support all of her violent actions.

At first, the writing style seemed unusual to me. It’s poetic but not in the typical way. It made me take note of every word being used, every transition being made. This was a beautifully written story and it demanded that you pay attention attention appreciate that beauty.

Happy reading ~

Lost Gods by Brom

The first thing that caught my attention with this book was the cover. I’m serious, it’s an honest work of art. I couldn’t stop thinking about that cover so I knew that I had to go and get myself that book no matter what.

Chet Moran just got out of jail and he is eager to start his life on a fresh note with his pregnant wife, Trish. They leave town to begin again in the hopes that they can forget all of their troubles. But their safe haven isn’t what they imagined, as an ancient evil pursues them. Trapped and murdered by a vile horror, Chet soon learns that pain and death are shared by the dead as well as the living. In order to protect the souls of his wife and unborn child, Chet must journey into the depths of purgatory to find a key that promises to restore everything to its natural order. Alone, confused, and damned, Chet must face unimaginable horrors in the underworld.

In the beginning, I was unsure about whether I would like this story or not. Things moved a bit too quickly with not enough expectations. But after just a few chapters, I couldn’t tear myself away. This story is action-packed and full of interesting twists and turns. There are a lot of different mythological elements in this novel and I found that they were incorporated quite well! The horror aspects were also honestly freaky so I definitely got my money and time’s worth! Every question about the different elements are answered by Brom and that just made it such a satisfying story to read. My favorite part of this novel were the illustrations by the author; they were creepy and beautiful and just amazing! All in all, this was a really cool book with lots of great horror elements. I’m definitely going to check out more by Brom!

Happy reading ~

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry – The Lace Reader #2

I have always been slightly obsessed with the Salem witch trials and the mass hysteria associated with that time. In fact, one of my thesis papers in my undergrad talked about this event and the way that mental illness was viewed during that time period. I’m always on the lookout for good books on this topic. When I heard about this one, I knew I had to get my hands on it ASAP!

Living in Salem means you are surrounded by witchcraft; everywhere you go, there are people claiming they are seers, witches, or descendants of someone from the Salem with trials. John Rafferty, chief of police, has gotten used to it by now, especially since he himself is married to gifted lace reader Towner Whitney. But things take a turn for the unusual when he has to investigate a 25-year-old triple homicide dubbed “The Goddess Murders”, where 3 women who were all descended from accused Salem witches were killed on Halloween. With the help of Callie Cahill, daughter of one of the victims – and a survivor of this event, Rafferty begins to uncover a dark period in Salem’s past. Callie finds herself struggling with visions that she can’t quite understand, as her gift with premonitions kicks into overdrive. Neither Rafferty nor Callie believe that the main suspect, Rose Whelan, is guilty of murder or witchcraft. But exonerating Rose comes at a price, one that could put everyone in danger. Who – or what – killed those women? And if they can’t discover the answer to that, will evil rise again?

This novel is by far one of my favorite novels on the Salem witch trials! What a masterfully told story!

From the very beginning, this story was compelling in the way it set the scene. The graphic nature of it all shook me and kept me reading further. This book takes place 25 years after the incident, and it shows how the townspeople and those directly involved in the case have been affected by it. The author went into great detail about the mythological and historical aspects of witchcraft, and it was really fascinating to read about. All of the facts were incorporated beautifully to create this deep and layered novel. The characters were amazing in that they were each unique and fully developed. There were certain interactions and connections between characters that seemed lacking, and I think that may have been because there was a prequel (which I neither knew about nor had read). The plot was intriguing and I liked how the author entertained the possibility of supernatural causes as well as the more human-related cause. Overall, this novel had me spellbound with its intrigue, prose, and its references to witchcraft and the Salem witch trials. A must-read for anyone interested in those topics!

I received this novel from Blogging for Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading ~

Tales of the Lost by Richard Howard

I received this novel from NetGalley as an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t read short stories. I avoid short story collections. Even if my favorite author writes short stories or participates in an anthology, I won’t read it. This isn’t because I think short stories are bad. It’s mostly because I always find that a short story leaves me wanting more, but I never receive it. I’m the kind of person who likes a full-fledged novel that answers all questions and doesn’t leave anything too open-ended. However, short stories pique the interest of the reader but then leave them hanging – and I hate to be left hanging. This has been my opinion for a very long time, and this year, one of my resolutions was to change my negative attitude about different things in my life. As a first step, I requested to read this novel, which is a collection of horror/supernatural short stories. I went in with an open mind, and now that I’ve finished reading, I have been converted!

Tales of the Lost is a book of short stories for adults, that delves into the realm of fantasy with modern-day settings. There are some ghost stories that will send chills down your bones, there are other stories that will instill fear in your heart, and there are yet others that will make you rethink what you know about the world. Regardless of which story it is, you will find yourself exploring the mystical and the otherworldly elements along with each character, and experience loss, love, regret, and wonder.

This being my first attempt at reading a short story collection, I have to say that it was a great experience! Every story is intriguing and packed with something unusual, with characters that you can live vicariously through, and supernatural elements that you could never have dreamed of. There weer so many myths and legends and ghost tales that were brought into this collection, and it was just great to read so many different stories about them all! I actually enjoyed the cliffhanger feeling that each story left me off with because it made me go through a rollercoaster of emotions, and culminated in a dramatic ending that made me literally go “woah”! Some of the longer stories could have used some more transition elements but other than that, I really enjoyed everything I read! Overall, this was a great experience for me, and I cannot wait to read more short stories!

Happy reading ~

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Lately, there have been a lot of YA fiction that has caught my eye. There are times when I go through a phase where all I read are YA novels, or only adult fiction. I’ve tried to stay away from that and read some of everything, but this also means that I don’t always get to the newest and hottest books in time. This novel has been getting a lot of attention but I’ve been putting it off for a while now, and I’ve just made time for it. All I can say is that I wish I had read it sooner!

Mortals may rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wasteland that surrounds it. There are even rumors that djinni still practice their ancient and powrful magic. But the town of Dustwalk, where Amani lives, is as ordinary as life can be – and Amani can’t wait to leave it. In a world where the fate of a woman is to wind up “wed or dead”, Amani is counting on her skills with a gun to gain her passage out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious foreigner, in a shooting contest, she had no idea that he would provide her with the perfect chance to escape. But it is only when she leaves on a mythical horse, with the murderous Sultan’s army chasing her and Jin, that she realizes that the desert she thought she knew is not all it seems.

This novel had me spellbound from the start. I loved the mythical world that this story is set in. I recognized many of the elements from Arabian stories that I grew up hearing as a child, so it was wonderful to see it incorporated so well here. Amani is a force to be reckoned with, and she is a heroine that I was proud of. She never got caught up in the romance, and she followed her heart throughout the journey. My only wish was for the novel to be longer so I could continue to enjoy the story! This novel also had a Western element, with its shooting game and saloons and there was a bit of a cowboy vibe during the journey. My interest in Western novels is just beginning to grow so  I quite enjoyed that aspect. All in all, I can see why this book has generated so much of a buzz! I am excited to say that there is a sequel and I cannot wait to read it!

Happy reading ~

The Wolf in the Attic by Paul Kearney

This is a novel I received as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for writing an honest review. The one thing I love about these opportunities to read pre-release novels is that when I get the eBook version, I completely forget what the novel is about and have no way of checking to see what the synopsis is unless I go and sign into my account on the website… which I never do because it is tedious and I am extremely lazy! I say this is a good thing because when I start reading the novel, I have no expectations about it or preconceived notions on where the story will go. And it truly feels like I am embarking on this wonderful literary journey that could literally take me anywhere! So let me describe what this journey was all about:

Anna Francis is a young Greek refugee who lives in England with her father and her doll, Penelope. Although she is quite young, she can still remember remnants of her life in Greece, with her mother and brother and all of the fantastic tales of Homer. But now, she must leave it all behind and can talk to no one about her past, especially her father. All day she spends inside her house, with its dusty rooms and attic full of old memories. When she goes exploring one day, she sees a terrible crime being committed – and is spotted by one of the people involved, a young boy named Luca with yellow eyes. It comes as a surprise when she sees him again more often and forms a sort of hesitant friendship with him. Anna could never have predicted that this friendship would be the beginning of the end of life as she knew it.

When this novel first began, I was confused as to what was going on. A fair bit of the beginning consisted of Anna just describing her world and how sad she was. In fact, I was beginning to wonder if that was all the story was going to be about. But suddenly, the story took flight and went into the realm of fantasy and mythology, which I never expected. I grew to like the character of Anna and found myself engrossed in her adventures. The one thing I found both intriguing and maddening was how this novel seemed to just barely graze the surface of what was really happening and I really hope this means the author is considering writing a sequel. This was a truly lovely novel that stretches the imagination with its fantasy elements and makes you feel a sense of camaraderie with the main characters. It is set to be released on May 10th, which is just a few days away, so keep an eye out for it!

Happy reading

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (Divine Cities Book #1)

Originally, I was given the sequel of this book to read as an advanced copy, without having known at all that it was part of a series. It became quite clear to me after the first few pages that I was missing something. A quick search on Google showed me that I had completely missed the first novel so I did my best to get a copy of it. This novel has taken me a while to get to but only because my finals are coming around and I have had a multitude of exams and papers and deadlines to meet. But I decided to spend a day devoting all of my attention to this novel – and ended up stuck in the story all the way until midnight! So anyway, here is my review:

Bulikov was once a city that was known for its miracles and its powerful gods, who helped their people become conquerors of all other nations. But when Bulikov’s divine protectors were killed, the tables were turned. Now, its citizens are just another colonial outpost with remnants of its glory days surrounding it. It is this disparaging situation that Shara Thivani encounters on what is supposed to be a diplomatic mission. In reality, Shara is an accomplished spy who has been sent to capture the murderer of one of her colleagues. But as Shara starts to sift through the clues behind his death, she begins to suspect that there may be a larger plot at hand. Perhaps, Bulikov may not be done fighting – and maybe, its guardians are still alive.

Let me just start by saying that this novel was absolutely fantastic! It had a great storyline and enough detail to make everything fit without being boring. I am SO GLAD I read this novel and I cannot WAIT to read the sequel!

First off, let me just say that this novel is complex. It has a great deal of information that you cannot just ignore. It almost reminded me of Game of Thrones with all of its political intrigue and history and subterfuges. I have always liked history books and even though this story has no basis in real history, the author has provided enough detail to make it seem like there really were historical events like the ones depicted here! I found myself falling in love with the backstory and the mythological beings of Bulikov!

Another thing that I absolutely loved were the main characters. All of them had their own unique aspects. Shara is by far one of my favorite heroine of all times! She is smart, and witty, but not overly qualified in every field. She has her flaws and her strengths, and they balance each other out so wonderfully that I could see myself being best friends with her in real life. I also loved her friends/sidekicks in this story; they gave her some depth and maintained their own qualities, which really helped give the story some body.

The last thing that I will say about this novel is that it had the right blend of fantasy, mystery, and history. Again, I know that this isn’t a REAL historical fiction novel – but I would still say that it has historical aspects to it, with all of its allusion to lore and historical battles and conquests (all fake, but all detailed enough to be believable). I also loved that the reader could work on solving the mystery while also enjoying the magical elements throughout the book. It kept me on my toes for sure!

All in all, this novel was a fantastic read that kept me on high alert all the time. There was never a dull moment and every single thing that happened in this book flowed and made sense. I cannot wait to read more about Shara and how she handles whatever comes at her next! So if you love fantasy and mystery, then this is definitely the novel for you!

Happy reading ~