Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Mystery Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1)
by Alan Bradley

It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.

For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

My Review:
This is the first in a delightful mystery series featuring the precocious young detective, Flavia de Luce.

What I most enjoy about this book is the young detective herself. She’s rather overly interested in chemistry, especially poisons, and her asides on the subject are interesting. Besides that, she’s very good at getting herself into trouble, while all the while wheedling clues out of unlikely sources. All the while, she’s still a little girl, and she uses that to her advantage.

Besides that, I thought the mystery was quite good. Obviously, I don’t want to go into detail because discovery is what it’s all about.

I picked this up upon recommendation from a friend. I strongly pass on that recommendation to folks who enjoy a good, lighthearted mystery with some darker aspects.

I borrowed the audiobook from the library.

About the Author:

Alan Bradley received the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger Award for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, his first novel, which went on to win the Agatha Award, the Barry Award, the Dilys Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, the Macavity Award and the Spotted Owl Award. He is the author of many short stories, children's stories, newspaper columns, and the memoir The Shoebox Bible. He co-authored Ms. Holmes of Baker Street with the late William A.S. Sarjeant. Bradley lives in Malta with his wife and two calculating cats. His seventh Flavia de Luce mystery, "As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust" will be published in the US and Canada on January 6, 2015, and in the UK on April 23.

The first-ever Flavia short story, "The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse" has recently been published in eBook format, as has his 2006 memoir, "The Shoebox Bible".

The Flavia de Luce Series (9 books):

I've already read several of these. They just get better.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Political Fiction Review: Never, Never and Never Again by K.M. Breakey

Never, Never and Never Again
by K.M. Breakey

Audrey is a starry-eyed Brit, Pieter a tenth-generation Afrikaner. At the height of Apartheid, they fall in love. A life of splendour awaits, but the country is shifting underfoot. The winds of change fan revolution, and Michael Manzulu's rage boils. He is hungry, and will risk everything to destroy his oppressor.

When white rule gives way, trepidation is tempered by precarious optimism. Mandela will make the miracle happen. Or not. Twenty-three years on, South Africa has suffered unprecedented decline. The country unravels and fear is pervasive. Fear of persecution, land seizure, slaughter. Pieter and Audrey march on. They navigate the perpetual threat. They pray the wrath will not strike their home.

Recently, voices of protest cry out, none louder than the bombastic scholar, Kaspar Coetzer. World leaders cautiously take note, but will they take action? More importantly, can they?

Never, Never and Never Again is a story of vengeance, greed and corruption. A story the world ignores, but a story that must be told...before it's too late.

My Review:
Never, Never and Never Again is the latest controversial read from K.M Breakey, told from the perspectives of multiple individuals spanning at least two generations in South Africa, from the final years of Apartheid through present day.

The author doesn’t hold back, delving fully into each of the characters, making them incredibly real and believable, both the good and the bad. It’s hard to tell where the voice of the author ends and the voice of the people in the story begins. It’s uncanny, and it’s one of the things I most enjoyed about this book.

Adding to that, I am impressed by the level of historical detail. The book swaps between history lesson and story, weaving reality and fiction together in a believable, disturbing, and dramatic way that entertains and teaches, all at the same time.

One thing I don’t like, though it’s linked to what I do like about the reality of the characters, is when the main White characters go into lengthy discussions about the awesomeness of Trump and how he’s the only one telling the truth, and that the media is only supporting the liberal point of view (worded much more harshly in the story). As someone who happens to hold some of the liberal values dear, it isn’t easy hearing this side of things. But I do get one thing, interference in another country’s path, even with good intentions, is a dangerous and delicate thing.

There’s a theme in this book that White people are under attack on a global scale with comparisons to other groups of people in the past who’ve found themselves disenfranchised and without a home or support. I truly hope that the predictions of this book don’t come true, and I’m not so jaded as to think that freeing one race should mean the downfall of another (an idea that comes through from the pages of this book), but there are some horrifying glimmers of truth in some of the things that happen in real life, things people say and espouse to believe, and this story weaves them right in, feeding that discomfort.

This is not a light read, but it is a fascinating one. There is a good chance that reading it will offend. Having read the author’s other books, I very much expected it would before I started, but also that I would learn something.

I really enjoyed it, and would recommend it to folks who are into stories featuring racial tension, social commentary, and even a touch of love story and family dynamics.

I received a review copy of this book from the author.

About the Author:
K.M. Breakey was born in Toronto and educated at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC. He spent 25 years in Software Development before turning full attention to writing in 2016, with the success of his 3rd novel. Johnny and Jamaal fearlessly explores racial dysfunction in America, from perspectives you won't hear in mainstream media. His latest, Never, Never and Never Again, tackles South Africa's complicated history, from Apartheid, through Transformation, and into the chaos currently laying waste to this once-prosperous nation. In an age of mass media distortion and rapid erosion of free speech, Mr. Breakey sees fiction as a powerful vehicle to disseminate truth and expose lies.

He has also published Creator Class and The World Clicks. To learn more, visit kmbreakey.com.

Books by this Author:

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Fantasy Review: The Perilous Sea (The Elemental Trilogy #2) by Sherry Thomas

The Perilous Sea (The Elemental Trilogy #2)
by Sherry Thomas

After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.

Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.

My Review:
This installment was very exciting.

Another thing I enjoyed was the stacked storyline. It’s like two full books told in parallel. One of the stories picks up where we left off in the last book. The other picks up where the other storyline will leave off, but it leaves so much in question that it adds a great deal of tension. I wondered the whole time what could have possibly happened. Sure, the author could have just told it all in chronological order, but I think this novel approach worked out well.

Highly recommended.

I borrowed this audiobook from the library.

About the Author:
Sherry Thomas writes both historical romance and young adult fantasy.

On the romance side, she is one of the most acclaimed authors working in the genre today, her books regularly receiving starred reviews and best-of-the-year honors from trade publications. She is also a two-time winner of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award.

On the young adult fantasy side, there isn’t much to report yet, her debut book, THE BURNING SKY, book 1 of the Elemental Trilogy, has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and been named to the Autumn ’13 Kids’ Indie Next List.

Sherry writes in her second language. She learned English by reading romance and science fiction—every word Isaac Asimov ever wrote, in fact. She is proud to say that her son is her biggest fanboy—for the YA fantasy, not the romances. At least, not yet…

Author Links:
Twitter @sherrythomas

Books by this Author:

The Elemental Trilogy (this series):

Lady Sherlock Historical Mysteries:


The Fitzhugh Trilogy:

The London Trilogy:

The Heart of Blade:

I'm not exactly certain I found all of Sherry's books. Take a look at her Amazon page to discover more.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Fantasy Review: The Emerald Wars by Grace Watson

The Emerald Wars
by Grace Watson

When Leonie escapes from her life as a servant in the Emerald City, all she wants is to find her place in the outside world. After being saved by rebel fighter Dorothy, she finds herself drawn into a mission to retrieve the stolen heart of the Tin Man. But something much more sinister is happening in Oz, and before long they find themselves working with the exiled Professor Crow to save their home from being destroyed from the inside out.

It’s a perilous journey that pushes them to their limits, but the four friends keep going in search of the things they need the most; wisdom, love, courage, and a home.

'The Emerald Wars' is inspired by L. Frank Baum's 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz'.

My Review:
Emerald Wars is set in Oz, but beyond borrowing the land and world, diverges from there. The Wizard has made himself king, and Dorothy has become a rebel set on taking him down. Leonie, newly escaped from the Emerald City, finds herself caught up in the cause.

This is a heartfelt story of love beyond rote definition. While there are no in process romances developing, two stories take center stage. Dorothy’s own and that of the Tin Man.  I thought Dorothy’s was sad, but didn’t engage with it on a deep level. The Tin Man’s, however, is revealed gradually in little flashbacks that are simply charged with emotion. The tragedy and the triumph of this relationship were the highpoints of this story for me.

I thought the action and dialog were very well done, though near the end when there were more players involved, I got lost and had to backtrack a couple of times to see who did or said what. The technology and magic systems were also an intriguing twist on the original stories. Definitely caught and held my interest.

On the other hand, the author’s views and message bled into the story so much that, at times, it took over rather than just support the plot. I also thought that some of the resolutions were just a bit too tidy and easy to be believed. It was sort of like a character shouting, “This is unfair,” and then everyone agreeing with them and the day is saved.

As for the quality of the book, I’d say it’s good. Aside from a few grammar issues near the end, it’s pretty well edited, and the story is well organized and sticks to a main theme.

Overall, I really liked this book. I think folks who enjoy LGBT themed stories in familiar fantasy settings might enjoy this.

I received the review copy of this book from the author.

~~Find Emerald Wars Here~~

About the Author:

Born in the North-East of England, Grace grew up in the Black Country and currently lives in Wales, where she is studying music and training as a classical singer. After spending her teenage years writing fan-fiction she published her first novel, The Story of Lizzy and Darcy, in 2017. She has too many books, not enough cats, and an alarmingly large collection of ceramic owls.
~~Author Links~~

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Apocalyptic Review: Armageddon: The Cosmic Battle of the Ages (Left Behind #11) by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins

Armageddon: The Cosmic Battle of the Ages (Left Behind #11)
by Tim LaHaye, Jerry B. Jenkins

The scattered Tribulation Force is drawn inexorably toward the Middle East, as are all the armies of the world, when human history culminates in the battle of the ages. During the last year of the Great Tribulation, safe houses are no longer safe, and the cast of characters dramatically changes. By the time of the war of the great day of God the Almighty, the globe has become a powder keg of danger. Except those already in Petra, everyone has been forced to relocate as Antichrist ratchets up the pressure in the world's most treacherous game. Who will be left standing when the battle leaves the Tribulation Force on the brink of the end of time and the Glorious Appearing?

My Review:
This installment is all about setting the stage for the final confrontation, putting all the key players where they need to be and thinning the ranks of the Tribulation Force.

Chloe and her whole situation annoyed me. The others are also taking risks, but at least they have a good reason. Her blunder feels contrived, put in specifically to add to the tension, particularly for Buck. The way her fate plays out, though, was pretty well done, though it still made me mad that she got herself into it.

I overall enjoyed this one for the action. Still quite preachy, but the story picks up.

About the Authors: 

Timothy "Tim" F. LaHaye was an American evangelical Christian minister, author, and speaker, best known for the Left Behind series of apocalyptic fiction, which he co-wrote with Jerry B. Jenkins. He has written over 50 books, both fiction and non-fiction.

Timothy "Tim" F. LaHaye was an American evangelical Christian minister, author, and speaker, best known for the Left Behind series of apocalyptic fiction, which he co-wrote with Jerry B. Jenkins.

He has written over 50 books, both fiction and non-fiction.

Jerry Bruce Jenkins is an American novelist and biographer. He is best known as co-author of the Left Behind series of books with Tim LaHaye. Jenkins has written over 185 books, including mysteries, historical fiction, biblical fiction, cop thrillers, international spy thrillers, and children's adventures, as well as non-fiction. His works usually feature Christians as protagonists. In 2005, Jenkins and LaHaye ranked 9th in Amazon.com's 10th Anniversary list of Hall of Fame authors based on books sold at Amazon.com during its first 10 years. Jenkins now teaches writers to become authors here at his website. He and his wife Dianna have three sons and eight grandchildren.

Books in this Series: