Of Darkness and Light by J.S. Riddle

Of Darkness and LightOf Darkness and Light by J.S. Riddle

Of Darkness and Light is the follow up book to Rise of a Queen, part of The Vampire Realm series. Where Rise of a Queen tells the tale of Tessa’s struggles and defeats, he introduction of Tessa’s family brought forth a new tale to tell.

The rise of Tessa’s empire came at a cost. Her vision of a future where vampires and humans lived united had all but disappeared. Her family, torn by the wars that ravaged her land, had to choose a side. Her sister and Emma with the rebels and Jason growing into his future by Tessa’s side. Emma’s struggle with her own choices, as Jason moves forward towards a life of service to his aunt, neither one sure of the outcome. The journey that the family takes will force the evolution of life as a vampire to the forefront, forever changing Tessa’s perspective on the world she thought she knew. Can Tessa survive another daunting war while ensuring the future of the vampires? Will Jason and Emma make the right choices and not be swayed by the childhood they once knew? Can either side of the war overcome what stands in their way, even when what they love is what they will lose? Will Jason and Emma make the right choices and not be swayed by the childhood they once knew? Can either side of the war overcome what stands in their way, even when what they love is what they will lose? Or will there be a beacon of hope; shining brightly in the world that has fallen so dark.​
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was happy to return to the life of Tessa and her daughter and the battle for her future and that of her people. The writing of JS Riddle has really matured between her last book and this one and the characters have also shown a lot of growth.

This book picks up speed pretty quickly and involves the audience into the world the author has created without much effort from the reader. I would still recommend starting at the beginning, with “Rise of a Queen,” so that you understand the complexities of the story, but this would still be an entertaining and interesting book either way.

I like Tessa a lot more in this book. She is savvy, smart and overall has the kind of fiery personality a character needs to take charge of a story with so much going on. She doesn’t take crap off of anyone and I suspect that her story will continue to get even more exciting as time progresses.

The supporting characters were good here and they each had an opportunity to step outside their role and venture forward on their own. The plot has a lot of unexpected twists and I was excited to keep reading, wondering where the author would take her characters next.

This is not your typical vampire book–and that’s what makes it great.

Recommended for those who like the paranormal, strong female characters and stories that you can’t predict.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein

Saturn RunAn extraordinary new thriller of the future from #1 New York Times –bestselling and Pulitzer Prize–winning author John Sandford and internationally known photo-artist and science fiction aficionado Ctein.

Over the course of thirty-seven books, John Sandford has proven time and again his unmatchable talents for electrifying plots, rich characters, sly wit, and razor-sharp dialogue. Now, in collaboration with Ctein, he proves it all once more, in a stunning new thriller, a story as audacious as it is deeply satisfying.

The year is 2066. A Caltech intern inadvertently notices an anomaly from a space telescope—something is approaching Saturn, and decelerating. Space objects don’t decelerate. Spaceships do.

A flurry of top-level government meetings produces the inescapable conclusion: Whatever built that ship is at least one hundred years ahead in hard and soft technology, and whoever can get their hands on it exclusively and bring it back will have an advantage so large, no other nation can compete. A conclusion the Chinese definitely agree with when they find out.

The race is on, and an remarkable adventure begins—an epic tale of courage, treachery, resourcefulness, secrets, surprises, and astonishing human and technological discovery, as the members of a hastily thrown-together crew find their strength and wits tested against adversaries both of this earth and beyond. What happens is nothing like you expect—and everything you could want from one of the world’s greatest masters of suspense.Saturn Run by John Sandford
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First of all, I would like to admit to the fact that I am not the world’s biggest sci-fi fan, and so, I was probably a bit more off-put by the tech jargon in this book than a sci-fi fan would be.

The story did eventually become a lot more interesting and I was able to finish the book, but it took me quite a while, as I would lose focus after a few minutes of reading (once again, techy-stuff.)

There is also a very large cast of characters in this novel, and at times, I got a little confused by who was doing what.

I think the redeeming factor for me, was that even as someone who does not favour this type of book, I still found threads in it that made me want to know what was going to happen next. I believe, that if you are a sci-fi fan, this will be a book that you want to read.

Not a bad read–even for someone who wouldn’t normally choose this. I was curious to see what else John Sandford does, as I am a definite fan of his mystery books.

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

The Determined Heart by Antoinette May

The Determined Heart: The Tale of Mary Shelley and Her FrankensteinThe Determined Heart: The Tale of Mary Shelley and Her Frankenstein by Antoinette May

The Determined Heart reveals the life of Mary Shelley in a story of love and obsession, betrayal and redemption.

The daughter of political philosopher William Godwin and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley had an unconventional childhood populated with the most talented and eccentric personalities of the time. After losing her mother at an early age, she finds herself in constant conflict with a resentful stepmother and a jealous stepsister. When she meets the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, she falls deeply in love, and they elope with disastrous consequences. Soon she finds herself destitute and embroiled in a torturous love triangle as Percy takes Mary’s stepsister as a lover. Over the next several years, Mary struggles to write while she and Percy face ostracism, constant debt, and the heartbreaking deaths of three children. Ultimately, she achieves great acclaim for Frankenstein, but at what cost?
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an excellent book, there is no doubt of that. I was pleasantly surprised–no, that doesn’t cover it. I was supremely shocked that this book was so well thought out and written. I love historical novels based on real people, but many of them tend to lack the crucial research that makes them feel authentic. This author made certain to remain true to the characters, whilst still being imaginative enough to write a book that also keeps the reader’s attention.

Mary Shelley surely was an interesting person and she is depicted that way here, but it was the descriptions of Lord Byron and Bysshe that really captivated me more than anything else.

This book brings to life all of the loss, excitement, many moves and struggles of this infamous historical couple and shows both the beautiful and uglier aspects of their lives together and apart. The author did a wonderful job of describing each setting she used and taking her characters from flat to three-dimensional, emotional beings that you feel sorrow for having to part with when the story is complete.

The only thing that annoyed me, and would have annoyed me even if this were non fiction, was Mary’s tolerance for Claire. Not the author’s fault, as she was remaining as true to life as possible, but still–I wanted to punch Claire.

More than just some simple filling in of the gaps in knowledge, I felt Antoinette May really out her heart and soul into the creation of this book and strongly encourage you to give this book a try. It will not disappoint.

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

Sunday Dinner: Coming of Age in the Segregated South by Ann Boult Walling

Sunday Dinner: Coming of Age in the Segregated SouthSunday Dinner: Coming of Age in the Segregated South by Ann Boult Walling

Ann Walling grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, in the 1940s and 50s in a family with deep roots in Mississippi and a history tightly bound to the Old South. To a small girl’s sensibility, her family’s lavish Sunday dinners were a liturgy that reinforced strict Southern mores she was taught never to question. But lurking behind the fine china were troubling contradictions, racial injustice, and tightly guarded family secrets. Told with clear-eyed empathy, Sunday Dinner is the remarkable story of a young woman’s moral awakening amidst a society’s painful reckoning with its history. The book poignantly outlines the struggle that each one of us faces in deciding which aspects of our past we must embrace, and which aspects we must leave behind.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sunday Dinner is the kind of memoir that makes you want to read memoirs. This is an honest look at the harsh realities as well as fond memories of a childhood in a very tense time in America.

The author has done a good job not only telling her audience about her experiences, but ensuring that she takes the reader along for the journey as well. The writing is heartfelt and honest.

I found myself enthralled by the idea of so many things going on within the family of the author that they would not speak about openly and in public. The differences between what we see as neighbours and friends and what is really going on behind the scenes was really highlighted well here, and I have great respect for Ann Boult Walling for coming forward to discuss these difficult issues.

Sometimes I feel that memoirs are more personal journals that the author has chosen to share with the world, and that they should have stayed personal as they have little value for the rest of us. I didn’t feel that way about this book. I think this will be interesting no matter who you are, whether you are southern or not, regardless of race or gender.

The writing is clear and concise and intelligent, and I encourage you to give it a try. Well edited, smart and meaningful.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publicist in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

The Dead HouseThe Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

Part-psychological thriller, part-urban legend, this is an unsettling narrative made up of diary entries, interview transcripts, film footage transcripts and medical notes. Twenty-five years ago, Elmbridge High burned down. Three people were killed and one pupil, Carly Johnson, disappeared. Now a diary has been found in the ruins of the school. The diary belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, Carly’s identical twin sister. But Carly didn’t have a twin . . .

Re-opened police records, psychiatric reports, transcripts of video footage and fragments of diary reveal a web of deceit and intrigue, violence and murder, raising a whole lot more questions than it answers.

Who was Kaitlyn and why did she only appear at night? Did she really exist or was she a figment of a disturbed mind? What were the illicit rituals taking place at the school? And just what did happen at Elmbridge in the events leading up to ‘the Johnson Incident’?

Chilling, creepy and utterly compelling, THE DEAD HOUSE is one of those very special books that finds all the dark places in your imagination, and haunts you long after you’ve finished reading.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked parts of this book. The concept is very interesting and I liked that I couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on in the very beginning of the book–unfortunately, I still couldn’t figure out what was going on well into the book either.

Ever read a book where there are so many different ideas competing for space that none of them really get fully explored? That was what I thought about this. The writing was good, the characters were interesting, but there were just so many different things going on that it all mashed together and became…something. Not something that I could figure out.

This is a rather long book, and in the end, I didn’t really get why things happened as they did or why it required so much space. I didn’t hate this book, but I would say that liking it as a whole would be being a bit generous.

If you enjoy reading very unusual books, then this might be a good one for you to check out.

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

Corridors of the Night by Anne Perry

Corridors of the Night (William Monk, #21)Corridors of the Night by Anne Perry

One night, in a corridor of the Royal Naval Hospital in Greenwich, nurse Hester Monk is approached by a terrified girl. She’s from a hidden ward of children, all subject to frequent blood-letting, and her brother is dying.

While William Monk’s River Police fight to keep London safe from gun-runners, Hester takes on a new role at the hospital, helping to administer a secretive new treatment. But she slowly realises that this experimental cure is putting the lives of the children at risk. Attempting to protect the young victims, she comes under threat from one rich, powerful, and very ill man who is desperate to survive…
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a difficult time with this one. Whilst there were parts of this book that I found fascinating, there were other parts that I couldn’t stay focused on and I felt went unresolved.

I have read a few other books in this series, and I found this one to be a bit darker and more moody than the others. I liked the characters just as well, but the story lines at first seemed to be separate and I was interested in the husband’s half of the tale, but it was that part that seemed to be left unfinished. So…I’m not sure what to think.

This is a very atmospheric book. The descriptions are good and the actions of the characters are both understandable and believable, but I still found my mind wandering off occasionally.

If you are into medical mysteries–and like the idea of early science, this book will please you.

I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. I’m glad I read it–and that’s about all the opinions I’ve got for this one.

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

Black Earth by Timothy Snyder

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and WarningBlack Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder

A brilliant, haunting, and profoundly original portrait of the defining tragedy of our time.

In this epic history of extermination and survival, Timothy Snyder presents a new explanation of the great atrocity of the twentieth century, and reveals the risks that we face in the twenty-first.  Based on new sources from eastern Europe and forgotten testimonies from Jewish survivors, Black Earth recounts the mass murder of the Jews as an event that is still close to us, more comprehensible than we would like to think, and thus all the more terrifying.
The Holocaust began in a dark but accessible place, in Hitler’s mind, with the thought that the elimination of Jews would restore balance to the planet and allow Germans to win the resources they desperately needed.  Such a worldview could be realized only if Germany destroyed other states, so Hitler’s aim was a colonial war in Europe itself.  In the zones of statelessness, almost all Jews died.  A few people, the righteous few, aided them, without support from institutions.  Much of the new research in this book is devoted to understanding these extraordinary individuals.  The almost insurmountable difficulties they faced only confirm the dangers of state destruction and ecological panic.  These men and women should be emulated, but in similar circumstances few of us would do so.
By overlooking the lessons of the Holocaust, Snyder concludes, we have misunderstood modernity and endangered the future.  The early twenty-first century is coming to resemble the early twentieth, as growing preoccupations with food and water accompany ideological challenges to global order.  Our world is closer to Hitler’s than we like to admit, and saving it requires us to see the Holocaust as it was — and ourselves as we are.  Groundbreaking, authoritative, and utterly absorbing, Black Earth reveals a Holocaust that is not only history but warning.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rarely do I give any book having to do with the Holocaust more than three or four stars, as I usually feel like the information has just been recycled. This book, however, deserves all five stars.

Whether you are an historian or simply have an interest in this subject, ‘Black Earth’ will be very eye opening. In this detailed account, the author offers a broader look at the events leading up to the more commonly discussed and recounted Holocaust.

Instead of starting at the height of the Nazi regime and continuing forward, Timothy Snyder gives his readers a basis of information to help them understand how one event led to another and ultimately changed the face of history.

This is an extremely well-researched, very organised book that will answer your questions and leave you feeling more knowledgeable for having read it. I was greatly impressed by the depth of information available here and the way it was presented.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more of the story of the Holocaust and the people affected by it. Very provoking, very interesting.

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

Convalescence by Maynard Sims

ConvalescenceConvalescence by Maynard Sims

Who will protect the children?

Fourteen-year-old James has seen his family wiped out by tuberculosis in the England of the 1960s. When he is sent to the country to convalesce with his Uncle Thomas it seems a welcome respite. But his uncle is strange, and clearly has a dark secret. The huge house is secretive too, with whispers and cries in the night. Gradually James meets other children, some real, some apparently ghosts, but all of whom have been hurt by the uncle. Will James be next?

In an eerie novella of repressed depravity, Maynard Sims conjures nightmares from the fears of childhood.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book follows the old style of terror, where things are slowly revealed, allowing the reader to wait in suspense for what is going to happen next. From the beginning it is hinted that there is something strange going on in the large house where the main character has been sent to recover from an illness, but it is not said exactly what.

For the most part, I thought this was a really interesting book with just enough suspense and unusual qualities to keep me excited about turning the pages. It isn’t a terribly long book, but that serves it well. The reader has enough of a chance to get to know the characters, without the length seeming oppressive.

The one thing that bothered me about this book, is that I felt like due to the repeated use of the word “almost,” that things were only kind of happening or about to happen, rather than actually happening. Some examples are “almost palpable,” and “almost tangible.” I like it when my characters just go ahead and do things, rather than when they almost do.

Otherwise, I thought this was a good read and that it was worth the time to check out. Recommended for those who like mysterious, spooky tales.

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

Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith

HoodooHoodoo by Ronald L. Smith
Twelve-year-old Hoodoo Hatcher was born into a family with a rich tradition of practicing folk magic: hoodoo, as most people call it. But even though his name is Hoodoo, he can’t seem to cast a simple spell.       Then a mysterious man called the Stranger comes to town, and Hoodoo starts dreaming of the dead rising from their graves. Even worse, he soon learns the Stranger is looking for a boy. Not just any boy. A boy named Hoodoo. The entire town is at risk from the Stranger’s black magic, and only Hoodoo can defeat him. He’ll just need to learn how to conjure first.       Set amid the swamps, red soil, and sweltering heat of small town Alabama in the 1930s, Hoodoo is infused with a big dose of creepiness leavened with gentle humor.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an odd little book. It is somewhat reminiscent of Lemony, and yet an idea all on its own. I really liked the main character, Hoodoo and his family, but at times I didn’t feel like the story lived up to the full potential it had.

It takes a while for the story to find the right pace and fully develop, but when it does it is a joy to read. This story will keep kids and adults alike interested in what is going to happen next in the unusual life of this little boy.

I wasn’t thrilled with the choice of repeat phrases, as it on the verge of being insulting to the reader. Still it was a fun story and deserving of a look.

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

The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young

The Gates of EvangelineThe Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young

From a unique new talent comes a fast-paced debut, introducing a heroine whose dark visions bring to light secrets that will heal or destroy those around her . . .

When New York journalist and recently bereaved mother Charlotte “Charlie” Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet these are not the nightmares of a grieving parent, she soon realizes. They are messages and warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees, if only she can make sense of them.

After a little boy in a boat appears in Charlie’s dreams asking for her help, Charlie finds herself entangled in a thirty-year-old missing-child case that has never ceased to haunt Louisiana’s prestigious Deveau family. Armed with an invitation to Evangeline, the family’s sprawling estate, Charlie heads south, where new friendships and an unlikely romance bring healing. But as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal, and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust—and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could’ve imagined.A Southern Gothic mystery debut that combines literary suspense and romance with a mystical twist, The Gates of Evangeline is a story that readers of Gillian Flynn, Kate Atkinson, and Alice Sebold won’t be able to put down.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is fascinating, there is no question about that. From the first few pages I was hooked and I didn’t want to put it down.

Charlie is a strong character and although she has a lot of unexpected events occur in the beginning of the story, she doesn’t heavily overreact or do anything that would seem particularly out of character, save for the one act that ties the rest of the story together–a necessary plot device used by the author, and one that I could appreciate.

I loved the atmosphere of this story and the plantation home setting. The structures were beautifully described and I really felt I could see the same things the main character was viewing. I was particularly impressed with the descriptions of the swamp and surrounding territory, including New Orleans–though it was perhaps a more positive perception than some visitors get from the city.

I won’t say that I gave this four stars instead of five for the language and the comparisons the author made to the people of Louisiana and Texas compared to a New Yorker with a college education–others already have. Frankly, having not lived there and only been a visitor to the south and to Texas, I likely would have done the same thing–dialogue is a tough nut to crack.

What I will say, is that I couldn’t totally get around the idea of a sick, dying old woman seemingly being completely out of it and then acting as though she were able to clear the fog and have a perfectly rational conversation as she wished.

Otherwise, I thought this was a brilliantly crafted novel and recommend it to anyone looking for a good, deep mystery with a lot of unexpected revelations.

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