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Bless the Skies: Review

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Although “Bless the Skies” by Julie Elise Landry took me quite a few pages to really get into, it turned out to be a marvelous book and one that I couldn’t stop reading. Although the writing wasn’t as polished, the story and characters really put me in the mind of Scott Lynch’s “Lies of Locke Lamora”. The words in this book, the characters, and story just had the same taste as Lies, which kept me wanting to read more long after the story was finished.

“Bless the Skies” follows the lives of 3 young ladies- the Tavens Sisters, Elaina and Laeli, and their friend, Sophie. Although they lead a rough life as prostitues and thieves, it is a relatively safe one. At least it was until they botched a robbery and Elaina was kidnapped as bait by Lord Anderton, an absolutely horrendous villain. I won’t give away any more details, because all of this happens in the beginning of the book, but I will say that there is a lot more going on than just that. There’s a war brewing, a mysterious man called the “fog”, and a unique world just waiting to be explored.

The characters in this book are all very solid. At the beginning of the story I found myself not really liking any of the women and I couldn’t understand how this Lord Anderton character was supposed to be the villain. By the end of the book, all of the women had really grown as characters and I found myself rooting for them. As for Lord Anderton… well let’s just say that he turned out to be an incredibly disturbing man, portrayed in a way that was so realistic and rational it left me too disturbed to go to sleep.

The writing in this book, while not perfectly polished, is easily readable and fits smoothly within the genre. The only true gripes I had with the writing itself were that the author changes perspective too frequently and suddenly to suit me, although I did get used to this by the end of the book, and the author throws the reader right into the middle of the story without much explanation or introduction. I was rather confused at the beginning, this story takes place in a slightly different world and contains complex characters and a fast moving plot, but the author provides the reader with a glimpse into the past about halfway through the book that worked wonders at clearing up all my questions and keeping me glued to the pages. The writing style itself reminded me of Scott Lynch and left a really pleasing taste in my head after reading. If the author continues to write at this caliber in her later works, with only a little more organization, I will definitely be reading more.

“Bless the Skies” is a fantasy novel that represents the genre well. There’s a unique world within the pages that is just begging to be explored- one populated with diverse characters and just enough horrors to keep you reading long into the night.

I would recommend this book for lovers of fantasy, especially those looking for a dark and disturbing story. If you get confused easily by multiple perspective switches then you might want to pass on this book, but if you’re confident in your ability to keep characters straight then definitely give this book a shot. It’s a delightful glimpse into a fantasy world that’s realistic but dreadful. I look forward to reading more by this author.
I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Safe Room: Review

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I was invited to read and review this book by the publisher. Needless to say, when I got the email inviting me to read The Safe Room I was super excited. I had read The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro and really enjoyed it, the opportunity to read her newest book (or so I thought) was thrilling. I was a little dismayed when I logged onto goodreads and noticed that the original publication date was 2002, hmmm must be a reprint. But that does not change the fact that The Safe Room was a really good read and a book I would highly recommend.

This story starts out following the life of Lee, an idealistic 27 year old who lives with her grandmother in an old house in Lexington that was a pivotal point in the underground railroad many generations prior. This book also tells the story of Sarah, the daughter of an abolitionist, through her diary entries. The two women’s stories begin to intersect part way through the book with the introduction of a (possible) ghost in Harden House; that of Silas- a runaway slave living in Harden house and awaiting the fate of his two brothers (also runaway slaves).

It took me until about 26% of the way through this book before I was really into it. But once more of the plot was introduced, I was hooked. I read the rest of the book in a day because it was so difficult to put down. I still can’t decide if this was a truly masterful work, as it wasn’t quite as polished as The Art Forger but it is still a book I would highly recommend.

The Safe Room deals with issues of race throughout the story, but does so in a way more unique than that of the typical pre-civil war era story. The race issues dealt with in this book were also that of modern day. There are parallel race issues going on throughout the story between Lee, in the present day, and Sarah, in the 1850’s and 60’s- whether all white people are the same in their racism towards blacks. I won’t reveal anything more about the race issues in the story, as they are truly what make the story beautiful, but just know that there is a lot more than meets the eye in terms of race in this book.

The characters in this book were really quite wonderful. I felt by the end of the book as if I truly knew the characters, especially Sarah and Lee. Although there were times when I thought the characters reactions were not exactly realistic or that they were not acting the way I expected them to, I realize now that is what made the characters all the more dynamic. The relationships between the characters were also quite beautiful and there were a few relationships (I won’t give anything way), that I wish could have ended differently.

The writing in The Safe Room was consistent with the Shapiro’s style, although not quite as polished. There were a few times where the perspective would shift from Lee to Trina in the middle of a chapter and I would find myself confused as to who’s perspective it was. This occurred more at the beginning of the story as once I was able to recognize the character’s style of thinking, shifts were easier to follow.

In the end, The Safe Room by B.A. Shapiro is a truly beautiful take on a ghost story that deals with serious issues and portrays characters that are extremely likable and easy to relate to. I would highly recommend this book for those with an interest in the underground railroad, tasteful ghost stories, or just beautiful stories.

I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Circle of Stones: Review

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When I first finished this book I thought to myself, “what a good book”. Yet, the more I really thought about the book, the more faults I found in the book.

This story follows Nik and Jennifer, along with a barrage of other characters who interact with the main characters or are in some way related to Nik and Jennifer’s story. While Nik, an extremely talented art student, is in Vancouver visiting his grandmother, a heavy drinker with Parkinson’s disease, he receives an urgent message from the love of his life, Jennifer. Nik is forced to cut his visit short and fly back to see Jennifer, but when he arrives home he finds Jennifer, a beautiful and talented dancer, missing leaving no trace of where she went. Thus begins the story of Nik, searching across Canada for the love of his life.

As the reader follows Nik and Jessica’s story, they meet a host of other characters, big and small. Each chapter is from a different characters perspective, whether it’s Nick’s grandmother or a misunderstood teenage artist. While I thought that the array of characters was really interesting and unique, I also found it very frustrating. It’s not often that authors choose to have the story of the main character told through the eyes of someone they met on the street or through brief glimpse and incomplete story lines, so I thought that was incredibly interesting. I loved being able to glimpse the actions of the main characters through the eyes of other, minor characters who would only portray their view for the chapter. The part that I found so incredibly frustrating about that style was that not enough closure within the minor characters’ stories. I would have liked to have read more about each minor characters story, or had less of their personal stories to begin with so that I was not left wanting more.

The main reason that I wanted more from each minor characters’ chapter was because Suzanne Andrew did such an amazing job of creating relatable characters. Many of the characters within the story are facing real life challenges that impact many real life people throughout the world and they react to the situations in ways that I would expect most people to act. I loved reading about the struggles the characters were facing and how they overcame or coped with those struggles.

This is one of those books that reads like a Hallmark movie, so Hallmark take note, this would make a fabulous movie for your channel. And please have it end the same way because (not giving anything away) the ending was lovely.

In the end, if the author writes another book that continues the stories of the minor characters, I will gladly pick it up and read it, but if the authors next books are similar in style to this one with no closure for the minor characters, I will be staying well away.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

The Lazarus Curse: Review

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A fantastic mystery set in London that masterfully blends natural science, the cruelties of slavery, and voodoo into a heart pounding adventure that will leave the reader chilled to the bone.

The Lazarus Curse follows Dr. Thomas Silkstone as he finds himself smack in the middle of a deadly adventure when he asked to catalogue the specimens brought back by an ill fated expedition to the new world. When an important journal disappears and the only remaining member of the expedition party is murdered, Silkstone is thrown into a mystery that will expose him to the cruelties of slavery and the cruelties of people that spans the world.

This story is one that will haunt the reader long after the pages have finished turning. Exposing the reader to not only the cruelties of slavery in England, but to the wickedness of the human being, The Lazarus Curse is a book that will have the reader turning away from the story in horror and eagerly awaiting more in equal parts.

This is the first book that I have read by Tessa Harris and I have to say that I really enjoyed her style of writing. She writes in a manner that is descriptive, without being overly so. Her descriptions of London and the horrors that befell the characters were vivid and easily pictured, yet it was easy to imagine all of the extra pieces without her having to explicitly state what everything looked like exactly. Harris also writes passages of immense action in a smooth and easily followed manner. At no point during the story was I at a loss as to what was going on, the author definitely understands how to paint a clear picture with her words.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in fascinating stories that masterfully blend the world of natural science with that of slavery and voodoo. The Lazarus Curse is a fast paced story that will not disappoint.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

The City: Review

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I was a little apprehensive when I first began reading this book. I’d read quite a few Koontz books prior to reading The City and the start of this book just didn’t feel like a typical Koontz story. After I got about a third of the way through the book however, that feeling changed greatly. The intrigue picked up and I found myself sucked into the story and the characters.

This story centers around a man, Jonah Kirk, as he recants some strange goings on that happened in his childhood. Johan Kirk’s childhood was tumultuous to say the least. Although able to find escape in piano and music, Kirk dealt with a disappointing father and rather sinister mystery involving some pretty shady people. Although at the beginning of the story I found myself wondering when the mystery and excitement would pick up, it quickly does, carrying the reader along on a journey through a few scary years in the life of a young boy.

The characters in this book are all dazzling. Even when I wasn’t able to relate to the characters (which didn’t happen often), I still found myself lapping up the descriptions of their everyday lives. All of the characters were realistic and spellbinding, reminding me of those people you encounter in everyday life that just seem magical for some reason.

The writing in this book wasn’t exactly typical Koontz writing style, but that doesn’t mean that the writing wasn’t enjoyable to read. The writing in this book seemed so much deeper and more elaborate than a typical Koontz novel, which just added to the spellbinding element of the story. I definitely enjoyed reading the writing in this book.

I would highly recommend this book for those interested in reading books featuring bewitching characters and a marvelous storyline. While it’s important to go into this expecting something a little different than the typical Koontz novel, this book still delivers a marvelous read that can be enjoyed by many.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

Inside The Criminal Mind: Review

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Inside the Criminal Mind provides a fascinating and insightful look into the inner workings of the criminal. This book touches on the mentalities that apply in a general way to all criminals and then explains in more depth in relation to each criminal type (whether it’s burglars or pedophiles).

Samenow’s main point is that the criminal has a “criminal personality” which has been present to the relations of the criminal since they were young. Thus, one can potentially identify criminals as youths or can justify finding a criminal guilty (even if they plead temporary insanity) by using their past history to demonstrate that they have a criminal personality. This book does a fantastic job of explaining and using examples to demonstrate exactly what classifies as a criminal mind. Samenow illustrates, using quotes from criminals and those with a criminal mind, exactly what goes on in the minds of most criminals and how they feel about things.

While it’s obvious that the author stands behind his idea of a criminal personality, he recognizes that it doesn’t apply to all cases. Near the end of the book Samenow recognizes that there are actually people who commit crimes of insanity, who didn’t really have control over their actions due to their mental state. He points out that although that can happen, it’s extremely uncommon and is usually very easy to tell whether the person was actually in control of their actions. I appreciated that the author recognized other types of criminals, versus just focusing on those with a criminal personality, because there are always exceptions to the rule which needs to be recognized.

Samenow writes in a style that is very pleasurable to read. He writes in a manner that, while academic sounding, is still easy to follow and understand. There wasn’t a moment in this book where I was confused as to the point that the author was trying to get across as he is very clear in his message and intent. Samenow also brings examples of the criminal personality to life through actual stories and quotes from the criminals, bringing the message home to the reader.

I would recommend this book for those interested in psychology or understanding the criminal mind. This is a highly informative book that really makes me think about what shapes the criminal.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

Race Unmasked: Review

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A fascinating look into race and more specifically, the eugenics movement of the 1920’s and the idea of genetics behind racial differences. When I first started reading Race Unmasked I really struggled to get involved in the topic. The information seemed dull and the writing wasn’t pulling me into the book. Yet by about 30% of the way through the book, I found myself unable to put it down. 

There is a lot of really interesting information presented throughout this book. I have previous knowledge of a few things relating to eugenics, mainly what they teach in history class, but I really had no idea of the pure scope of the movement and how prominent scientists were reinforcing the movement with shifty research. Along with eugenics, I also learned a lot about the concept of race itself throughout that era. I had no idea how loose the definition and idea of race was within the scientific community and notable speakers during that time, and throughout history. By the time I finished Race Unmasked, I really felt that I had learned a lot about the concepts of race.

The writing in this book, while extremely academic, was relatively easy to read. The author relies heavily on quotes to bring the points across, which could be a challenge to read for some. I personally liked the heavy reliance on quotes. It really gave me an idea of exactly the scope of the information in the words of those who were for the eugenics movement and those who were against it. The authors comments in between each quote aided in connecting the information and making the book flow smoothly from piece to piece.

I would highly recommend this book to those interested in race studies and the eugenics movement. While I don’t think this book is for everyone, for someone with an interest in the topic this book is a great read.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.