Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living by Paul Collins

Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called LivingEdgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living by Paul Collins

5 Stars

Looming large in the popular imagination as a serious poet and lively drunk who died in penury, Edgar Allan Poe was also the most celebrated and notorious writer of his day. He died broke and alone at the age of forty, but not before he had written some of the greatest works in the English language, from the chilling “The Tell-Tale Heart” to “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”—the first modern detective story—to the iconic poem “The Raven.”

Poe’s life was one of unremitting hardship. His father abandoned the family, and his mother died when he was three. Poe was thrown out of West Point, and married his beloved thirteen-year-old cousin, who died of tuberculosis at twenty-four. He was so poor that he burned furniture to stay warm. He was a scourge to other poets, but more so to himself.

In the hands of Paul Collins, one of our liveliest historians, this mysteriously conflicted figure emerges as a genius both driven and undone by his artistic ambitions. Collins illuminates Poe’s huge successes and greatest flop (a 143-page prose poem titled Eureka), and even tracks down what may be Poe’s first published fiction, long hidden under an enigmatic byline. Clear-eyed and sympathetic, Edgar Allan Poe is a spellbinding story about the man once hailed as “the Shakespeare of America.”

 

My review:

 

As with other historical authors of note, there have been so many different biographies and books written about the life and times of Edgar Allan Poe. Yet, as I am a curious sort, I tend to read every one that I can get my hands on. Previously to this one, I found myself quite disappointed with the vast majority of them. Most of the time this was for two main reasons, which I shall note later in this review. This book delighted and surprised me.

This author took a different approach. Rather than treating this man as though he were a villain or a hero, he instead took a much appreciated far more neutral approach. In this particular book, Paul Collins did not treat Poe as if he were some rare anomaly, but rather discussed the hardships and high points of Poe’s life. I think this is the first work of non-fiction about Poe’ life that I actually felt like he was being portrayed as human in. No parlour tricks, no illusions that he was something dark and macabre to be feared. Just a man on a streak of bad luck and bad decisions.

I was impressed by the author’s meticulous research and that he seemed to hit most of the valid and important parts of Poe’s personal life and career from the beginning. Unlike many other biographies on the man, this book did not centrally focus on the publication of the Raven, nor the drinking habit which the author later became synonymous with. His actions are debated somewhat here and there, but are not put under a 21st century microscope of morality. I like it when the author can allow a story (especially in non-fiction) to tell itself with little interference in the way of the author’s personal interjections.

This is not a long book, but has more than just the simple, basic Poe info in it. If you are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe or just curious about a man who led an intriguing life of poverty and moderate success, then this would be a good book for you to choose.

Recommended.

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

Six Million Accusers: Catching Adolf Eichmann by D. Lawrence-Young

Six Million Accusers: Catching Adolf EichmannSix Million Accusers: Catching Adolf Eichmann by D. Lawrence-Young

“Six Million Accusers” is a historical novel reliving the hunt for, and capture of one of history’s most evil criminals – a leading Nazi named Adolf Eichmann.

Having disappeared after WWII, members of an Israeli organization search the world for Eichmann, hoping to one day capture one of the men responsible for brutally massacring millions of Jews, and others. Following any tip possible, eventually they discover a Jewish father and daughter who swear Eichmann quietly lives in their community, under a new name. The search for Eichmann ramps up, and the agents begin to fervently believe they have found their man.

As they get closer and closer, a plan must also be created to capture Eichmann, and secretly transport the villain back to Israel. Is it really Eichmann? And if so, what complications may arise that might destroy their plans to have this notorious Nazi held responsible for his crimes?

“Six Million Accusers” is based on historic detail, and David Lawrence- Young does an excellent job reliving the hunt for, and capture of Adolf Eichmann. Well written and easy to read, “Six Million Accusers” should be a staple of the educational discussion of WWII and the aftermath. –Goodreads

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really don’t feel like I’m going to do this book justice by writing a review, but at the same time, it deserves a review. I usually will not award five stars to a historical fiction. I am almost always disappointed in them, no matter how much research was done before the book was written. This is a case where this book would get more than five stars if I were able to give it.

Nazi War criminals have been on the telly a lot lately. Through old black and white films and descriptions and accounts written by those who survived the terror, we have learned quite a bit. Still, I feel like most of the time, we watch these things on the History Channel or in films and we seem to be removed from the reality. We see the images and we know that it is not fiction, but never feel like it could happen to us. Those who went through it do not touch us on a deep, emotional level most of the time. That is where this book comes in. If you want to see the lives of people who wanted retribution for these heinous crimes up close, this book will give you that.

Yes, this is a fictional account, but I guarantee you that once you begin reading, you will forget. A lot of meticulous research went into this book. A lot of man hours of studying and learning about what actually happened make this an extraordinary read. This author also has a knack for story telling and character creation. I broke down more than once during this book, which is a rarity for me.

Although Eichmann’s name is displayed prominently in the title, this book is actually more about the dedicated group of people who came together to bring him to justice. The novel doesn’t focus as much on his reign of terror as it does the years after and the search to satisfy “six million accusers.” I thought the way this was written made it feel very personal and easy to relate to. The author did an extremely good job of filling in the voids in Eichmann’s history and making it believable.

What I came away with after reading this novel, was a sense of just how much it took to take this man down. He may not have looked like much, bookish, what today we might call a geek. He may not have felt guilt nor remorse for his actions–he was doing as ordered, by his own admission, but I came away from this book with a sense of awareness. There is darkness in this world. There are evil people who commit senseless acts of violence and genocide. Yet, there are people who will work tirelessly to make this world a better place. I think this author not only understands that, but it one of the good ones.

I would encourage anyone who has an interest in this subject to read this book. I loved it.

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

 

The Art Restorer by Julian Sanchez

The Art RestorerThe Art Restorer by Julián Sánchez

Enrique Alonso travels from his new home in Manhattan to San Sebastián, Spain, to attend the reopening of the San Telmo museum, where his ex-wife, Bety, works in public relations. There he meets American Craig Bruckner, a retired art restorer studying the museum’s collection of works by Sert—a contemporary of Picasso and Dalí who worked for the most famous billionaires of his time and whose mural American Progress graces the walls of Rockefeller Center. When Bruckner is found drowned in La Concha bay, Bety suspects foul play and Enrique agrees to help her look into the man’s death. Their investigation reveals a mystery connected with Sert’s checkered past, which provides fertile ground for the new thriller Enrique is writing, and the plot develops in parallel to his research.

Enrique and Bety’s reconstruction of the artist’s clandestine activities during World War II leads them to Paris, Barcelona, and New York, and in the process forces them to face their own past. But they are not the only ones interested in Sert’s work, and it appears there is more to his paintings than meets the eye.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The Art Restorer” Is a very relaxing, well written book with a lot of careful mystery.

This is my first work by Julian Sanchez, as I did not read the first book in this series. I don’t think that it is necessary to do so in order to understand this book. There are frequent references to things that happened previously, and I felt like I had enough of an overall picture of the main character’s life to navigate this book just fine.

Whilst I greatly enjoyed this book, there are a few strange passages, where the sentence construction seems off, but that is likely due to translation. For the most part I found this to be a well-paced, interesting journey.

The setting is beautifully described and from the very beginning, the idea that the main character is such a real, down to earth type of person permeates the story. I felt close to him from the beginning, and as a result felt close to the characters he cared about.

Knowing that he is battling his own inner demons and trying to make decisions about his life was a good aside to the rest of the story he is a complex character with a big heart and a conscience that wills him to do the right thing in all situations. Most of the events that happened were believable and there is quite a lot of excitement after the first third of the story, where most of the setup happens.

I was very impressed with this book. If you are a fan of art history, captivating backdrops and imaginative writing, I am certain you will enjoy this novel.

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

You by Caroline Kepnes

YouYou by Caroline Kepnes

Love hurts…

When aspiring writer Guinevere Beck strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe works, he’s instantly smitten. Beck is everything Joe has ever wanted: She’s gorgeous, tough, razor-smart, and as sexy as his wildest dreams.

Beck doesn’t know it yet, but she’s perfect for him, and soon she can’t resist her feelings for a guy who seems custom made for her. But there’s more to Joe than Beck realizes, and much more to Beck than her oh-so-perfect façade. Their mutual obsession quickly spirals into a whirlwind of deadly consequences . . .

A chilling account of unrelenting passion, Caroline Kepnes’s You is a perversely romantic thriller that’s more dangerously clever than any you’ve read before.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you like books that go for shock value with the reader, then you will surely be all in with this quickly evolving and yet, somewhat strange novel.

This novel is written in second person and that was a bit of a change. I haven’t read many books written in that style that I found appealing, and although I think it worked to get inside the mind of the main character in this story, it was still a bit of a struggle for me.

To be honest, I’m still not sure what to think about this book. The intellect of the author gleams brightly in her writing, with her ability to cite rare literature and create characters that really stand out from the crowd, but truly, I didn’t like any of the characters in this book. I feel like there needs to be a hero, or at least some type of protagonist that you feel you can somewhat support in order to care what happens in a story. I couldn’t find anyone I wanted to support.

Without giving too much away, I couldn’t decide in this book who the villain was. Both of the main characters have rather annoying personalities and both of them seem like a threat to the world at large. I like quirky characters, but these two were over the top.

What I did like about this book was the often funny moments of self absorption in the main character and the way he displayed his neurotic tendencies. If you are going to read a book where the main character is less than loveable, then it is a good thing if the author gives you clear reasons to dislike them. At least I didn’t have to spend time wondering if I was supposed to like him, as the author’s intent was relatively clear on that point.

Overall, this was different. I’m sure there will be a lot of people who love it, but I found myself somewhere in the middle. I appreciated that it wasn’t like every other book out there, but I’m still not sure the brash attitude of the characters and the second person perspective worked for me.

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

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett

The Bookman’s TaleThe Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett

A mysterious portrait ignites an antiquarian bookseller’s search through time and the works of Shakespeare for his lost love

Guaranteed to capture the hearts of everyone who truly loves books, The Bookman’s Tale is a former bookseller’s sparkling novel and a delightful exploration of one of literature’s most tantalizing mysteries with echoes of Shadow of the Wind and A.S. Byatt’s Possession.

Hay-on-Wye, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it isn’t really her. The watercolor is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins.

As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter communes with Amanda’s spirit, learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you truly love books, if you get excited at the sight of them, the feel of them, the way dusty old tomes smell, then this is the book you have been waiting for.

I was greatly impressed with this novel. Not only has Charlie Lovett managed to incorporate a love of rare books and a good deal of mystery into this novel, but he has also told of a beautiful and enduring love story. Reading this book, I thought of the man I love and adore and how we met. The way books drew these characters together, both in life and in death made me genuinely feel close to them.

This story spans multiple time periods, but does so with grace and precision. Both intriguing and heart warming, this book offered everything a book lover could want.

I was fascinated by the historical ties in this story and excited by each new discovery along the way. The way this author brought to life famous literary icons was not only believable, but thought provoking. His research was excellent, but it was the life–the fire and drive that he gave these characters that was so outstanding.

A lot of unexpected twists in the plot made for exciting reading, coupled with superb dialogue. This was a book that I didn’t want to put down and will happily place on my to be read again shelf.

Book lovers rejoice! This is one like no other.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from Netgalley and the publisher as well as a quite complimentary Englishman who bought me the book whilst in London, merely a fabulous coincidence. Thank you, Julian.

Hell yes, I read: Inside the mind of a lifelong reader

This is the conclusion to the 2 part series on reading habits (or not reading, if you caught the first half.) Today we are joined by Pamela, from Year Round Thanksgiving

and Poetry by Pamela.

Pam reads more than anyone else I know, so I thought she would be perfect to provide contrast to our previous guest. She has some really interesting answers, so authors, if you are wondering what makes your book sell, have a read.

 

Ionia: Why do you read so much? There are so many forms of entertainment, but what makes you come back to books?

Pamela: I have always been a reader. I grew up loving books. One of my fondest memories as a very young child, was “running away from home”. My mom had made me do something I didn’t want to do (but I am sure now that it was something I should do) and so I announced that I was going to run away from home. Back then, suitcases were those hard sided ones. I proceeded to pack it full of my books to take with me. No clothes or toys, just books. And then I asked my mom is she would carry it for me so I could run away from home because I could only drag it as far as the end of the driveway.

I’m not really much of a television watcher. I do love movies in the theater, but if the movie is based on a book I’ve read, I’m nearly always disappointed. Books capture my imagination and feed my soul.

Ionia: When you do find a book you think you’d like to read, what is it that first captures your attention? What makes you pick that book rather than another?

Pamela: What better way to spend an afternoon than in a bookstore or library? I can browse for hours. I think that the cover of a book is the first impression. It doesn’t mean that is all I consider, but that is what draws me to look at it. From there, the genre and the book blurb have to captivate me. Of course, most of the indie books are not in the bookstores or libraries and I find those through some of the promotional sites, blogs, and word of mouth.

Ionia: How important are what other customers say about the book in reviews? Do you pay attention to star ratings and customer reviews?

Pamela: Of course I read YOUR reviews and have picked up several books because of that. I don’t generally read reviews of books on the sites where I’m purchasing a book. Reviews can be so skewed by the readers. I rely heavily on the book description. I don’t notice the star ratings as much either.

Ionia: Do you do most of your reading in paper format or digital and why?

Pamela: There was a time I would have answered this question with “I will NEVER read other than a paper book”. Then I bought a Nook. I was hooked from the beginning. I could carry dozens of books with me all the time. About that time I also noticed that I began reading more and more. I was already a voracious reader, but my Nook (Julio is what I named him) was so easy to carry with me everywhere…and I did. But then I realized that so many indie books were only available on the Kindle platform. So I bought a Kindle. They fit so easily into my purse or briefcase so I always have one of them with me. No more outdated boring magazines in waiting rooms. Plus, when I’m reading on my Kindle and fall asleep, it doesn’t (a) hit me in the head and (b) keeps my place. I still love to touch books, smell books, and hold paper books, but I prefer reading electronically.

Ionia: You’ve decided to read this book. What makes you say..never mind. Not for me, or do you ever give up before finishing?

Pamela: I don’t very often quit reading a book. I guess it is that hopeful nature I have that keeps me going. But I do have to say that if a book can’t capture my interest or attention in the first 25-50 pages, there is a strong chance that I may just give up. There are so many really good books to read that I don’t feel it is necessary to read a book that doesn’t hold my attention. There have been some very popular mainstream books that I just couldn’t get through. I’m trying to think of the name…I saw the movie and it was good, but the book just couldn’t keep my interest. Oh, I know, it was “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larrson. Everyone said after the first 100 pages, it got interesting. I just couldn’t wait and gave up. If it is an indie book and has obviously not been proofread or edited, there is also a good chance I will just put it aside too.

Ionia: Does it matter to you if the book was put out by a big publisher or an indie author or indie press? Does the name of the publisher have any influence on if you will take the risk and buy the book?

Pamela: I love indie authors. But I also love some really big name authors. I have noticed that some of the bigger names aren’t necessarily good books. There seems to be a tendency for their books to start feeling the same as their last one, even if they aren’t in a series. I want something that is original. My preferred genre is thriller/suspense/mystery and there seems to be a formula for those books. But character development and plot twists and turns still keep me reading. I realize that much of life is a pendulum. Right now my pendulum has swung toward the indie author/publisher. I throw in a mainstream mass market book from time to time though.

Ionia: Do you have any favourite categories that you do enjoy reading when you find a book that you enjoy?

Pamela: As I mentioned before I really enjoy the suspense/thriller/mystery books. But I have been branching out with genres. Historical Fiction is another favorite of mine. But I will read just about anything. I’m not a big fan of sci-fi though. Or romance. I avoid romance books most of the time. Isn’t that ironic? I write love poetry and yet I don’t like romance books. Hmmm maybe I should read more romance.

Ionia: Does price influence your buying decisions? Are you more likely to buy a less expensive book than a more expensive on or is it really about the content?

Pamela: I remember the days that I bought all of my books in hard cover…at $19.99 up to $29.99 each. So, purchasing a book that is $9.99 is still a bargain. I am not dissuaded from reading something on my Kindle by price generally. That being said, if I spend $10-$15 on a Kindle book and it isn’t well written or edited, I’m not happy. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to see how much I spend on Amazon in the course of a year. I keep thinking how nice it would be to win one of those sweepstakes where the prize is $1000 at Amazon. Wouldn’t that be fun? As much as I enjoy reading, I also enjoy finding new books and buying them for my to-be-read queue.

Ionia: Will you buy a book just because it is part of a series? The hole in the shelf syndrome, if you will? Even if you don’t intend to read the books, will you buy based on having a partial series?

Pamela: Oh dear, someone told you about me, didn’t they? I have just enough OCD tendencies that I couldn’t possibly read books in a series out of order. And if I enjoyed the first one, I most certainly will buy every single one in the series…in order. But I also purchase books from authors, even those not in a series, so I will have them all. In fact, I have every Stephen King book he has published in hard cover copies. But I also have a lot of them for my Kindle. As I said earlier, I prefer reading on my Kindle so I want them to read in that format. But my bookshelf wouldn’t be complete without every single one of his books on it.

Ionia: Does sales rank have anything to do with purchasing decisions?

Pamela: What a great question. Until I published my own book, I had no idea about the sales ranking. Obviously then, it didn’t impact my purchasing decision at all. Even now that I know about the sales ranking, I rarely pay attention to it. I think it is the thing that the authors love (at least when the numbers are good), but from a reader standpoint, not so much.

Ionia: One final question: Where do you see the most advertising for books and have you ever bought based on an ad from that place?

Pamela: The only place I really notice book advertising is on blogs and through the multitude of “free and bargain book” sites. I subscribe to several of those and I find a lot of really good books that way. I may not buy them at the time, but I add them to my wish list.

Oh my, I just realized that we’ve been talking for a long time. I know you are busy and I’m sorry if I talked too much. But thank you again for giving me the opportunity to talk about one of my favorite subjects.

Thank you so much for being here today and giving us some insight into the mind of someone who really loves literature!

Founders’ Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln by Richard Brookhiser

Founders' Son: A Life of Abraham LincolnFounders’ Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln by Richard Brookhiser

Abraham Lincoln grew up in the long shadow of the Founding Fathers. Seeking an intellectual and emotional replacement for his own taciturn father, Lincoln turned to the great men of the founding—Washington, Paine, Jefferson—and their great documents—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution—for knowledge, guidance, inspiration, and purpose. Out of the power vacuum created by their passing, Lincoln emerged from among his peers as the true inheritor of the Founders’ mantle, bringing their vision to bear on the Civil War and the question of slavery.

In Founders’ Son, celebrated historian Richard Brookhiser presents a compelling new biography of Abraham Lincoln that highlights his lifelong struggle to carry on the work of the Founding Fathers. Following Lincoln from his humble origins in Kentucky to his assassination in Washington, D.C., Brookhiser shows us every side of the man: laborer, lawyer, congressman, president; storyteller, wit, lover of ribald jokes; depressive, poet, friend, visionary. And he shows that despite his many roles and his varied life, Lincoln returned time and time again to the Founders. They were rhetorical and political touchstones, the basis of his interest in politics, and the lodestars guiding him as he navigated first Illinois politics and then the national scene.

But their legacy with not sufficient. As the Civil War lengthened and the casualties mounted Lincoln wrestled with one more paternal figure—God the Father—to explain to himself, and to the nation, why ending slavery had come at such a terrible price.

Bridging the rich and tumultuous period from the founding of the United States to the Civil War, Founders’ Son is unlike any Lincoln biography to date. Penetrating in its insight, elegant in its prose, and gripping in its vivid recreation of Lincoln’s roving mind at work, this book allows us to think anew about the first hundred years of American history, and shows how we can, like Lincoln, apply the legacy of the Founding Fathers to our times.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Other books on Lincoln have noted his interest in the founding fathers and how he looked back to them, but here, for the first time, a historian of the founding looks ahead to Lincoln.”

And so he did. This is a truly excellent example of careful research and a desire to look at a much analysed life in a way that it has not been considered before.

I have read tons of Lincoln books. I know people say this about books a lot, but truly, I have been collecting them since childhood and I read everything I can find on the subject. Naturally, when there have been so many books written about one man, (if you want to see an example of this, check out the Lincoln Book Tower at Ford’s,)you are sure to run into information that has been documented before, albeit not always correctly. In such cases, it becomes important to the armchair researcher how the information is presented. This book took a different approach to telling the story of Lincoln from his youngest days to the end.

It was appealing to me to see a book that did not focus on the untimely death of the sixteenth president, but rather his life. His preoccupations with certain poets, George Washington and Lincoln’s propensity to suffer from melancholy and discontent with religious beliefs were focal points of this book instead. I felt while reading this, as though the author has made a great connection with history and was a reliable source for information as well as a talented wordsmith. This book does not have the drab, dull feel of a history book as many such titles do.

**My favourite thing about this book was the way the author approached giving facts. There was no point when I thought “well that was certainly subjective to your own interpretation.” So many Lincoln books have lost me for the author’s inability to keep their own opinions out of the way of the facts. Thank you, Mr. Brookhiser for giving it to us straight.

Getting to know Lincoln through his interests and the events and people who shaped him into the famous man we have all heard about was a nice approach for this book. If you are interested in Lincoln, the founding fathers or American history in general, this would be a great addition to your library.

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

Saffron and Brimstone: Strange Stories by Elizabeth hand

Saffron and Brimstone: Strange StoriesSaffron and Brimstone: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In keeping with my promise of honesty in reviews I will first disclose that I usually hate short stories. The lack of character development and the short and hurried plot points tend to kill it for me, so the fact that I made it through this at all, says something about my respect for this author’s abilities.

Now to review. Okay, the book is subtitled “Strange stories,” so I can’t say that I didn’t go into this prepared for what I found. The subtitle doesn’t lie. This is definitely an interesting collection of strange stories.

Whilst the book does indeed raise some unusual questions and provide the reader with a lot of what if scenarios, the stories to me felt incomplete and as if the author changed thought processes in the middle of them. I don’t think I walked away from any of these stories feeling like I really understood where she was trying to go with it. Perhaps that was intentional and I am simply reinforcing her intent.

I shall warn others, this book has some tough subject matter including abuse, sexual and otherwise. If that bothers you, then this might not be the best book for you. However, if you like stories that are definitely off the beaten path (not an intentional pun) then you will get a kick out of this collection. These are the kind of stories that make you lie awake wondering hat just happened and how you would deal with the ideas that the author brought forth.

I hate bugs. The first story is full of insects. This is a personal issue and nothing wrong with what the author wrote, but it did not endear me any closer to this book.

Overall, this was different and not something that I would read again, but I’m glad I had the experience. Need an ice-breaker at a lit convention? This book is the way to go.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from Open Road Media and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Secrets of Hallstead House by Amy M. Reade

Secrets of Hallstead HouseSecrets of Hallstead House by Amy M. Reade

“You are not wanted here. Go away from Hallstead Island or you will be very sorry you stayed.” Macy Stoddard had hoped to ease the grief of losing her parents in a fiery car crash by accepting a job as a private nurse to the wealthy and widowed Alexandria Hallstead. But her first sight of Summerplace is of a dark and forbidding home. She quickly finds its winding halls and shadowy rooms filled with secrets and suspicions. Alex seems happy to have Macy’s help, but others on the island, including Alex’s sinister servants and hostile relatives, are far less welcoming. Watching eyes, veiled threats…slowly, surely, the menacing spirit of Hallstead Island closes in around Macy. And she can only wonder if her story will become just one of the many secrets of Hallstead House…

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a nice afternoon read told from first person POV. Macy is a young character and that was reflected in her actions throughout the story. Some of the choices she made were questionable, but I thought her actions did have merit.

I liked the idea behind this novel. The fact that the characters were on an island rather than just at some creepy old house added an element of originality. The standoffish housekeeper and her husband and the other interesting guests that showed up throughout the book kept me wondering where the author was ultimately going. I like it when I can’t completely figure the story out.

There is a sweet little bit of romance but it didn’t take over the plot entirely. The mysterious happenings in Hallstead house are accompanied by the strange layout of the house itself and I thought the author did a really good job with her descriptions. You get more than just a cursory glimpse of what the house looks like inside and out.

What I didn’t love about this book:

The author seems to recount every single action of her characters, especially her main character. I don’t feel that I need a step-by-step announcement when the character is getting up, putting on slippers, opening a door, walking down the stairs, turning to the right, opening another door, etc. Simply telling me the character went down the stairs and entered whatever relevant room there is would be enough.

I also thought some of the dialogue felt a little forced and weird. Some of the things that Macy says just seemed out of place or strange.

Overall, I thought this was an enjoyable read and the author was great at giving sense of place and telling her story. If you enjoy books that have subtle mysteries, this would be a good choice.

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

The Scrolls of Sion: Rise of the Dark Queen by TJ Therien

The Scrolls of Sion: Rise of the Dark QueenThe Scrolls of Sion: Rise of the Dark Queen by T J Therien

For five thousand years after the Great War, the world of Brynmor knew peace. The Orc had been driven from the land and the uprising of the Dark Elf ended in the near extinction of their Race. What survived of the Drow fled the crypt city of Sion and for five thousand years they dwelled in secret and shadow restoring their numbers deep in the Iron Hills. Not since Lolth had there been a Drow more ambitious than Rianon, High Priestess of the Cult of the Spider and Queen of the Dark Elf. Follow Rianon as she plots and schemes to reclaim Sion, the fallen city of the Dark Elf and the lost scrolls of Lolth that contain the ancient and forgotten dark spells of the God-Queen.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Scrolls of Sion: Rise of the Dark Queen is a deeply thoughtful and carefully crafted novel. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting when I began this novel. I knew the author wrote poetry, so I wasn’t positive that a novel from him would work. I was pleasantly surprised by his ability to write a longer work that was neither disjointed nor overly poetic.

This author has a way with words. You can sometimes read a novel that has a lot of extra words in it and feel like you keep losing your place as you go along, but that doesn’t happen in this book. There were a few places where I thought there may have been a bit of over explaining on the part of the author (you have to trust that your readers will be able to work things out and make connections on their own,) but I honestly felt as I read this book that each sentence had been selected with care. There are no pointless roads that lead off into dead ends.

Here’s what I liked about this novel: The characters are vibrant and the author is descriptive of both them and the world that surrounds them. You can see the characters in your mind’s eye without struggling to keep track of who is who. I did have a few issues with some of the names being difficult to pronounce. There are a couple that stopped me in my tracks when I came to them. Still, they do not sound similar, so once you figure them out you can distinguish between who is who.

The creatures are not simple repeats of other books. The author put thought into what kind of beings he would use and each of them serve a purpose for the advancement of the story. There is a lot of originality in this work.

The other thing I really liked about this story was the complicated lives and events that all interweave with one another. This seems like a story that could really go places, and I believe this could be a very strong series. The characters are well fleshed out, the plot has a solid foundation and there is plenty of reason to want another book after this one.

Overall, I thought this was intelligently written and will please those who love fantasy. I recommend you give it a try and see what you think.

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