The Carpathian Assignment by Chip Wagar

The Carpathian Assignment: The True History of the Apprehension and Death of Dracula Vlad Tepes, Count and Voivode of the Principality of TransylThe Carpathian Assignment: The True History of the Apprehension and Death of Dracula Vlad Tepes, Count and Voivode of the Principality of Transyl by Chip Wagar

Kalvary Istvan, widower and former Hungarian cavalry colonel, hopes for a quiet life when he accepts the position of chief of police in the Carpathian city of Bistritz. It’s no less than a man deserves after years of service to his Kaiser and king. Sadly, Istvan’s going to be disappointed. Someone or something haunts the streets of Bistritz and the surrounding Transylvanian mountains. Ask Istvan’s new colleague, Gabor Kasza of the Royal Hungarian Gendarmerie, and he’d say evidence points to a well-established serial killer, possibly hidden among the oppressed and reviled Roma, who call the nearby Borgo Pass home. Ask Freudian devotee Baron Krafft-Ebing and he’d agree, although his interest lies more in studying the psychopath’s mind than bringing him to justice. Ask the mountain people of the Carpathians, however, and they’d disagree. They’d point to the long history of killings and disappearances in the region, which stretch back longer than any one man’s lifetime. They’d speak in hushed voices of the Roma’s supposed master, and an abandoned castle where he lives with his demonic wives. The bravest residents might even risk whispering a name: Dracula. Kalvary Istvan, like Kasza and Krafft-Ebing, considers himself a modern nineteenth-century man, with little time for legends and superstitions, but as he and Kasza pursue their investigation, reason and deduction begin to give way to dark, ancient truths and local belief. At once a thrilling detective yarn and intriguing backstory to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Carpathian Assignment immerses readers in the rich setting of the Hungarian kingdom at the end of the nineteenth century, a nation in which science and logic clash with centuries of cultural conviction and superstition.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So…this is possibly the best sort-of-Dracula-like-book I have ever read. It is also possibly the worst ARC copy that I have ever bloody seen. Through no fault of the author, there are large chunks of text missing and most of the beginnings of each paragraph. The Final copy, of course will not look like this, so it is of no real concern to the final book readers, but I would have felt bad if I didn’t mention that there were parts of the book I did not get to read.

As far as the story goes, this is very well written and has the historical backing that most books of the sort completely lack. It is obvious that Chip Wagar is familiar with the geography of the places he writes about as well as the historical matter. This was a nice change from many books that simply have Dracula featured as a bloodthirsty vampire.

This story progressed nicely and at a good clip, with lots of mysteries to be solved and a villain that did not simply skulk off into hiding or get defeated at the drop of a….wooden stake. I liked that the historical angle was used to back up the story and flesh it out.

The only thing that irked me about this novel, were the sex scenes. It wasn’t that they were poorly written, but they seemed misplaced, as though they were an afterthought. People have been dying for years due to this monster, we should have sex! Really, it just didn’t work for me.

An entertaining romp into the remote Carpathian wilds, exciting for a girl from Romania. If you are interested in the historical Dracula, then you will likely enjoy this novel.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Mathematician’s Shiva

It isn’t often that I feel the need to recommend a book to a specific person, especially not fiction novels, but in this case, Chris McMullen, I thought of you.

 

 

The Mathematician's ShivaThe Mathematician’s Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer

A comic, bittersweet tale of family evocative of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and Everything Is Illuminated

Alexander “Sasha” Karnokovitch and his family would like to mourn the passing of his mother, Rachela, with modesty and dignity. But Rachela, a famous Polish émigré mathematician and professor at the University of Wisconsin, is rumored to have solved the million-dollar, Navier-Stokes Millennium Prize problem. Rumor also has it that she spitefully took the solution to her grave. To Sasha’s chagrin, a ragtag group of socially challenged mathematicians arrives in Madison and crashes the shiva, vowing to do whatever it takes to find the solution—even if it means prying up the floorboards for Rachela’s notes.

Written by a Ph.D. geophysicist, this hilarious and multi-layered debut novel brims with colorful characters and brilliantly captures humanity’s drive not just to survive, but to solve the impossible.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m going to keep this review short so I’m not tempted to give away parts that you need to read for yourself. I loved this book, plain and simple.

This is a book that will make you laugh out loud, make you smile and keep turning pages long into the night. It is the kind of book you want to talk about with the neighbour you’ve never spoken to or the guy on the bus next to you, because it is so good you just want people to know.

Read it.

The characters are so vibrant and alive and the family dynamics are wonderful. If you are a maths geek, you won’t be able to resist.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley.

The Accidental Alchemist

The Accidental AlchemistThe Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian

A modern tale of ancient intrigue from a USA Today bestselling author

When Zoe Faust–herbalist, alchemist, and recent transplant to Portland, Oregon–begins unpacking her bags, she can’t help but notice she’s picked up a stow away: a living, breathing, three-and-half-foot gargoyle. Dorian Robert-Houdin is no simple automaton, nor is he a homunculus; in fact, he needs Zoe’s help to decipher a centuries-old text that explains exactly what he is. Zoe, who’s trying to put her alchemical life behind her, isn’t so sure she can help. But after a murder victim is discovered on her front porch, Zoe realized she’s tangled up in ancient intrigue that can’t be ignored.

Includes recipes!

Praise:

“The Accidental Alchemist is a recipe for a great read. Gigi Pandian’s pen never disappoints.”–JULIET BLACKWELL, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE WITCHCRAFT MYSTERY SERIES

“A magical, whimsical cozy that will delight readers who enjoy Juliet Blackwell and Heather Weber mysteries!” –AVERY AAMES, AKA DARYL WOOD GERBER, AUTHOR OF THE CHEESE SHOP MYSTERIES

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First of all, is this not an awesome cover? Immediately drew me to the book.

As far as the actual book went, I had mixed emotions. There were some great ideas in this story and some of them were expressed wonderfully, and some…well, not so much. I loved the gargoyle and the main character had her moments where she was highly likable and interesting.

The mystery angle of the book–for me at least–fell flat. The story was interesting as was the concept for murder, but the author spent a lot of time on minor characters and insignificant happenings, thereby killing the excitement of solving the crimes. Honestly, by about half way I was wondering if she was ever going to get to the actual point.

I will say, that the writing is good for the most part and that she has quite the imagination. I liked the way she included small details that became important later and kept the curiosity of the reader piqued with ever more possibilities that things would not go as one expected, I just wish we could have gotten there a bit sooner. I really don’t feel the need to know every time a character eats something.

There are some great recipes in the back of the book and an interesting bio of the author. The end of the story wasn’t terribly surprising, but put a smile on my face.

If you are looking for a nice fantasy/reality cross and have the patience for a book that does have some slow spots, this is a good one. I’m curious to see what else this author does.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Hitler’s Last Witness –Rochus Misch

Hitler's Last Witness: The Memoirs of Hitler's BodyguardHitler’s Last Witness: The Memoirs of Hitler’s Bodyguard by Rochus Misch

After being seriously wounded in the 1939 Polish campaign, Rochus Misch was invited to join Hitler’s SS-bodyguard. There he served until the war s end as Hitler s bodyguard, courier, orderly and finally as Chief of Communications. On the Berghof terrace he watched Eva Braun organize parties; observed Heinrich Himmler and Albert Speer; and monitored telephone conversations from Berlin to the East Prussian FHQ on 20 July 1944 after the attempt on Hitler’s life. Towards the end Misch was drawn into the Fuhrerbunker with the last of the faithful . As defeat approached, he remained in charge of the bunker switchboard as his duty required, even after Hitler committed suicide. Misch knew Hitler as the private man and his position was one of unconditional loyalty. His memoirs offer an intimate view of life in close attendance to Hitler and of the endless hours deep inside the bunker; and provide new insights into military events such as Hitler s initial feelings that the 6th Army should pull out of Stalingrad. Shortly before he died Misch wrote a new introduction for this first-ever English-language edition. The book also contains a foreword by the Jewish author Ralph Giordano and a new introduction by Roger Moorhouse.REVIEWS [Misch s] memoir is full of details, asides and digressions, which allow the reader a rare and fascinating insight into the Third Reich s inner sanctum . . . Misch overheard conversations, watched the comings and goings and was a keen observer of events . . . He was as close to being a fly on the wall as one could get. Roger Moorhouse, author Berlin at War . . . convincing first-person testimony (of) the dictator s final desperate months, days and hours. Huffington Post The memoirs of Hitler s bodyguard and unquestioning servant who was one of the last people to see him alive. The Times(UK) Misch glorifies nothing, criticizes nothing and justifies nothing, not even himself. He has a sharp eye for detail, which despite the passage of the years he depicts in a credible manner. Gottinger Tageblatt An insignificant man, who experienced significant events. Neue Zurcher Zeitung”

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The world changed on the 30th of April 1945, when Hitler chose to take his own life. Most people know this and there have been tons of books written about it. This book, is not another copy of that event.

This is not the portrait of a man of power, nor is it the story of someone famous for knowing someone in power. This is a human story of a simple man, told from his viewpoint, in his own words–words that are both haunting and exciting for anyone interested in the history of war, the Nazis or Hitler.

Rochus Misch was not a Nazi. He never joined the movement. He lived until 2013 and was the last remaining member of the Fuhrerbunker. He was a man who through fate and as a result of a terrifying injury was sent to work closely with Hitler. This book is his story. Some of the events he recounted were surprising, some of them familiar. By his own admission, Hitler was “the boss.” He viewed him as simply an ordinary man that he worked for. Along the way, Rochus mentions several times that he was chosen to occupy the position simply because he did not cause trouble.

I found this book incredible. To listen to the actual viewpoint of Mr. Misch, telling his story in his own words rather than those of a third-party biographer was amazing. So many things accepted as fact in history have been recounted differently here.

This is a look inside the walls of a popularly misunderstood compound and at the lives of the men closest to Hitler. The human side of a man we tend to believe was nothing but evil is revealed in the course of this book, making it a very thought-provoking account.

From dealings with Eva Braun, to his duties for Hitler, Rochus Misch has allowed us entry into a world rarely glimpsed. Memories both fond and difficult to relay have been recorded through his writings.

If you are a fan of historical non-fiction, and are curious about the truth behind the stories, do yourself a favour and read this book. I was fascinated from the first page to the last.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher, all opinions are my own.

The Moonlight Palace by Liz Rosenberg

The Moonlight PalaceThe Moonlight Palace by Liz Rosenberg

Agnes Hussein, descendant of the last sultan of Singapore and the last surviving member of her immediate family, has grown up among her eccentric relatives in the crumbling Kampong Glam palace, a once-opulent relic given to her family in exchange for handing over Singapore to the British.

Now Agnes is seventeen and her family has fallen into genteel poverty, surviving on her grandfather’s pension and the meager income they receive from a varied cast of boarders. As outside forces conspire to steal the palace out from under them, Agnes struggles to save her family and finds bravery, love, and loyalty in the most unexpected places. The Moonlight Palace is a coming-of-age tale rich with historical detail and unforgettable characters set against the backdrop of dazzling 1920s Singapore.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a lovely novel. The voice of the narrator is not only strong but makes you feel compassionate from an early point in the book. Those qualities, mixed with the exotic setting and torrid family history (although somewhat imagined–see chapter two) made this a very interesting book.

This was a story that I was sorry to see end. The main character is such fun and her observations about life and her family are often times hilarious. I felt like I was walking alongside a friend during this book and that made it special.

I loved the strong sense of family and culture in this novel. I never knew quite what to expect next as the story takes unexpected turns in places that I wouldn’t have imagined.

If you enjoy stories that come from true storytellers, this is a perfect example. The author has a gift for making you see pictures through her chosen words. I will happily read another book by this author and recommend that you check this out.

Really enjoyed it.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

This is a SheReads.org selected book. If you have not heard about She Reads yet, or about all the wonderful things the ladies do, please take a moment to check out the website. You will find great books, new friends and a lot more!

The House We Grew Up In

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

Meet the Bird family. They live in a honey-colored house in a picture-perfect Cotswolds village, with rambling, unkempt gardens stretching beyond. Pragmatic Meg, dreamy Beth, and tow-headed twins Rory and Rhys all attend the village school and eat home-cooked meals together every night. Their father is a sweet gangly man named Colin, who still looks like a teenager with floppy hair and owlish, round-framed glasses. Their mother is a beautiful hippy named Lorelei, who exists entirely in the moment. And she makes every moment sparkle in her children’s lives.

Then one Easter weekend, tragedy comes to call. The event is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear the family apart. Years pass as the children become adults, find new relationships, and develop their own separate lives. Soon it seems as though they’ve never been a family at all. But then something happens that calls them back to the house they grew up in — and to what really happened that Easter weekend so many years ago.

Told in gorgeous, insightful prose that delves deeply into the hearts and minds of its characters, The House We Grew Up In is the captivating story of one family’s desire to restore long-forgotten peace and to unearth the many secrets hidden within the nooks and crannies of home.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To be completely honest, I was lost in the first third or so of this book. The author kept switching time periods and I really wasn’t sure what to think. The good news is that there was a point to all that switching around and the book eventually makes perfect sense.

I grow weary of family stories sometimes for the fact that they all seem to turn out the same way. This book didn’t do that, and as the story progressed, I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed it and just how original it was.

This book is one that once you get to know the characters, it is hard to let them go. I was simultaneously curious about the ending and dreading getting to the last page, as I didn’t want the book to end.

The author did a beautiful job of writing lovely prose that sets you in the scene and allows you to experience everything her characters do. Atmospheric, beautiful and descriptive writing is what this book is all about.

If you haven’t had a chance to read Lisa Jewell yet, you are missing out.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from shereads.org and Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

A chance to win a free year of Scribd!

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Harlequin Makes 15,000 eBooks Available On Scribd In Subscription Exclusive

TORONTO and SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 2, 2014 /CNW/ — Harlequin (www.Harlequin.com), one of the world’s leading publishers of books for women, today announced that it has entered into a one-year agreement with Scribd, the world’s largest digital library and book subscription service. Scribd will be the exclusive subscription partner for 15,000 titles from Harlequin’s extensive backlist. Titles from a variety of Harlequin imprints, including Harlequin Series Romance, HQN Books, MIRA Books and Carina Press, will be available through Scribd’s US $8.99 monthly subscription service and accessible on iPhone, iPad, Android devices, Kindle Fire, NOOK Tablet and web browsers. Featured bestselling authors include Debbie Macomber, Robyn Carr, Susan Wiggs, Heather Graham and Shannon Stacey. Scribd will also be making the full Harlequin catalog available for individual purchase in the Scribd retail store.
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Harlequin (www.Harlequin.com) is one of the world’s leading publishers of books for women, with titles issued worldwide in 34 languages and sold in 102 international markets. The company publishes more than 110 titles monthly and more than 1,300 authors from around the world. Harlequin is a division of HarperCollins Publishers, one of the largest English-language publishers in the world. Harlequin has offices in 16 countries, including offices in Toronto, New York and London. For more information, please visit Harlequin.com and Facebook.com/HarlequinBooks. Follow Harlequin on Twitter: @HarlequinBooks.

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