Book Review: The Wrath of a Shipless Pirate by Aaron Pogue

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The Wrath of a Shipless Pirate by Aaron Pogue

This book is the second in the Godlander Series by Aaron Pogue. If I have to tell you by now that there are spoilers ahead, I’ll be very disappointed. (My review of the first book in the series, The Dreams of a Dying God, was written pre-blog, but you can read it here, if you like.)

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I read the first book in the series several years ago, started this book, and promptly became distracted by something shiny. The poor thing has been sitting on my shelf ever since, and as I’m trying to be good about getting through long-timers on my TBR, I thought it was high time to give the book another try.

Corin Hugh has returned from the ancient city of Jezeeli and emerged in the present day with the favor of a God. Tasked by Oberon himself to kill usurper god Epithel, Corin first sets his sight on some satisfying revenge. Corin sets his sights on killing Ethan Blake, his mutinous first mate who left him to die in the ashes of the great city’s ruins. Unfortunately, it seems that Blake may actually be one of the Vestossis, powerful politicians and rulers who enjoy the favor of Ephithel himself. With the help of a druid ally, Corin must learn to use the magics given to him by Oberon to exact his revenge.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: time travel makes for messy book keeping. While an interesting concept, Corin’s traveling 1000 years in the past in the first book can only complicate the plot from here on out. Fortunately, Pogue seems to sidestep most of those issues by placing Corin’s first adventures in something analogous to a dream, as envisioned by the God Oberon (kind of a literal deus ex machina).

The story itself is engaging. However, it does take about 70-ish pages before you start to feel like you’re having fun. Once the book settles into its rhythm though, it becomes a rather entertaining swashbuckling, monster-fighting, ship-exploding, revenge-seeking, pirate-killing extravaganza. I would recommend reading the first book prior to this one, but, as I didn’t reread it prior to reading this book, you may be able to get by reading this book as a stand alone.

I would recommend this book to fans of straight-up fantasy. It does take some work, but once you muddle through the first few chapters, it really does become quite a bit of fun.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Hollow City

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

All-too-familiar Caveat: This is a review for the second book in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series. That means there will almost certainly be spoilers here for the first book. Rather unavoidable, really.

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Now, then. I have finally gotten around to the the second book in the Miss Peregrine series (Yay!). If you’re interested, you can read my review of the first book here.

So the kids, led by Jacob and Emma, have escaped Cairnholm Island with a severely injured (and unable to transform) Miss Peregrine in tow. On their own in 1940, the children, already exhausted from their battle with the wights, must journey through the bomb-scarred British countryside to find someone capable of healing Miss Peregrine. The war-torn landscape gives perfect cover for hunting wights, and the children must race both time and their enemies in order to save their ymbyrne.

Okay I’m going to come right out an say it: this book wasn’t nearly as much fun as the first one. The first book gave us the joy of experiencing new worlds, new folks to meet, and while we got a good dose of creepiness, it was still fun. Hollow City is, in a word, grim. Traipsing through the wartime English countryside is not really an enjoyable pastime. The antique photos, used to such great effect in the first book, take on a new cast here, sometimes seeming like the sole factor driving the story at points. And be warned, some of the photos in the book are of dead bodies. I don’t have a problem with this in and of itself (after all, dead folks are my field), but photos of actual dead people in a young adult book is a bit surprising. Maybe I’m being too delicate. After all, I’m old, and don’t know what the young people are into these days (presumably dead folks. Good for you, young people).

So bottom line: Hollow City isn’t nearly as good as Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, but it’s still a fine example of the young adult genre. I’ll hold off on judging the series as a whole until I’ve read the third book.

Book Review: The Visionary Mayan Queen by Leonide Martin

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The Visionary Mayan Queen: Yohl Ik’nal of Palenque by Leonide Martin

This is a historical fiction novel about Yohl Ik’nal, a Maya queen who ascended to the throne of Palenque in 583CE. The book is the first in a trilogy detailing the early years of Yohl Ik’nal and her reign.

I didn’t finish the book. I had my doubts when it began with Yohl Ik’nal meditating in the jungle, then abruptly mind traveling to speak with a young (Scottish? Scandinavian?) girl who also visited the “realm of faeries.” While I’m not opposed to fantasy, I generally expect historical fictions to trend more towards history than outright fiction.

I also found the dialogue to be stilted and lacking in subtlety. Characters simply state their feelings to one another, or allow the omniscient narrator to tell us exactly what so-and-so was thinking. While Maya culture is formal and regimented, I feel there are better ways to demonstrate this than through awkward dialogue. Along these lines, Martin also gives the reader explanations and translations for various aspects of Maya life, often in parentheses within the paragraph. While this isn’t entirely a bid idea, this approach is more appropriate for an academic work; within a fictional setting the effect is jarring and tend to take the reader out of the story.

Leonide Martin is a scholar of Maya history, and there is no debating her knowledge. However, her strengths do not seem to lie in the fictional realm. A less fictional, more historical/anthropological work might be better suited to showcase her attention to detail and intimate knowledge of  the subject matter. Something along the lines of The Woman Who Would Be King, by Kara Cooney, which stays mostly within the verifiable history but adds in conjecture by the author would have worked well here.

In all, I feel like the fictional aspects of this book are not as engaging as they could be, and the historical aspects are not well integrated with the fictional portions of the book. Yohl Ik’nal is a fascinating figure, and one certainly deserving of wider attention. Maya history enthusiasts may still want to investigate this book, but this may not be the best for the more casual reader.

A copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. The Visionary Mayan Queen is currently available for purchase.

 

Book Review: Warren the 13th and the Whispering Wood by Tania del Rio and Will Staehle

Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods by Tania del Rio and Will Staehle

This is the second book to feature the weird looking protagonist Warren the 13th. In the first book, Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye, Warren had to fight off an evil witch to regain control of his family’s historic hotel. Click on the link above for my full review. Necessary caveat: Spoilers ahead for the previous Warren the 13th book.

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So now Warren is the happy proprietor of the Warren Hotel, which is the only hotel in the world to move around on legs, bringing its guests to new and exciting locations. His friends Petula (the trainee witch hunter) and Sketchy (the octopus monster) help him run the hotel alongside his buffoon of an uncle, his kindly tutor, the piratical chef, and Petula’s mother, world famous witch hunter and chief of security.

When word gets out that a famous witch hunter is living aboard the Warren, the queen of the witches sets a bounty on the hotel and everyone in it. When the hotel is hijacked and brought into the Malwoods (where witches live, of course), Warren and his friends must race to save the hotel and one another.

I have to say that I really enjoy these books. Even though they are geared towards children, the plot and dialogue still sit well with older readers like me. Combine that with the Edward Gorey-style artwork, and this is simply a wonderfully fun book. del Rio and Staehle have carried through the puzzles and riddles from the previous book, and readers are invited to solve them themselves as the book goes on. The plot has a surprising amount of layers to it for a children’s book, and let’s not forget that as this is a kid’s book, we can count on a happy ending no matter what.

I would recommend this series for someone looking for a children’s book that is a bit off the beaten path. If you’re tired of happy bunnies and racing turtles and what not, this might be the book for you.

 

An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner

Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner

This is the 7th book featuring Gardner’s profiler pair, Quincy and Rainie. In case it isn’t obvious, there will likely be spoilers ahead if you haven’t read the other books. Additional caveat: I have not read the previous books in the series, but I was not lost, you can definitely read this book as a standalone if you wish.

The book begins from the point of view of a young boy. Telly loves his little sister, Sharlah, and will do anything to protect her from his drug addicted, abusive parents. One night, Telly’s father goes into a drug-fueled rampage, and Telly is forced to kill him to save himself and his sister.

Fast forward eight years and Sharlah is the foster daughter of Quincy and Rainie, ex-profilers and now private sector consultants. She hasn’t seen or had any contact with her brother since the night of their parent’s deaths. Then a simple “shots fired” call turns into a murder spree, and it seems like Sharlah’s older brother may be the gunman. As Quincy and Rainie are called into the case, Sharlah is forced to face the possibility that her brother may have always been a monster.

I enjoyed this dark thriller. Even without having read the previous books, it was easy to slip into the world of the primary characters. The subject matter is dark but well written, and while the plot seems to be straightforward at first, ample twists and turns will keep you interested. What I most liked was the intelligence of the Quincy and Rainie duo. You know all those niggling little details that occur in every mystery? The ones where you stop and go “Wait, that isn’t quite right,” well, those little things occur here as well, but (rather uniquely in my opinion) those little inconsistencies are picked up on by the protagonists. rather than being used as gotcha fuel later on in the book, those random little details are actually used to further the plot. More authors should make that attempt.

Fans of Jeffery Deaver or Lisa Unger will probably like this book, and I would think that if you’ve been following series thus far, this should be a no-brainer.

An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Right Behind You will be available for purchase on January 31st, 2017.

Book Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Screenplay) by J.K. Rowling

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling

I can’t believe I’m actually saying this: Make sure to watch the movie before cracking open this book! This is not a novel (or even a novelization), and it is not the lackluster and minimal-effort filler Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them“>mini book  published in 2001. This is a screenplay, pure and simple, and follows script format. If you’ve read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (see my review here), then you already know what you’re in for.

I mention this know, because when purchasing from Local Bookstore, the poor, defeated woman behind the counter informed me of this not once, but twice. I guess a few people made a stink about the book not being an actual novel.

But as a Potterhead, and a fan of the movie (and, let’s face it, a completeist) I couldn’t not get this book. Plus, have you seen it? It’s beautiful!

Anyhow, the story (again, this is the screenplay from the movie, you should have seen the movie already)follows Newt Scamander, future author of Hogwarts textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as he travels to the United States to do research for his book, and to conduct some magical animal rescue along the way. He inevitably gets pulled into American wizarding politics, and the dangers of a group known as “New Salem”, who are seeking to unmask and persecute witches. The movie was engaging and fun, while at the same time holding a light onto some important social issues (segregation, conversion therapy, etc.). The scree.play is by Rowling herself (unlike Cursed Child) and so retains a good deal of her whimsy.

So see the movie. The book, being merely a screenplay (a novelization by Rowling would have been spectacular, but perhaps I am greedy), is not a necessary read, nor a necessary purchase, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is currently available for purchase.

Book Review: The Dead Seekers by Barb Hendee and J.C. Hendee

The Dead Seekers by Barn Hendee and J.C. Hendee
 

I was a fan of the authors’ Noble Dead series, which I read way back in the day (2003, probably before you were born). Now this book, the first of a planned series, has come along, set in the same world they created for the Noble Dead, but with new and exciting characters.

And I liked it. The book introduces us to Tris, unwanted son of a noble lord and able to control and banish spirits; and Mari, a mondyalitko (gypsy) shifter (think were-lynx) looking to avenge the deaths of her entire family. When Mari saves Tris’ life, she is inadvertently drawn into his business of ridding the world of violent spirits. But there is more lurking out there than meets the eye: what should have been a routine job in a remote village becomes a greater mystery when it seems that the spirit of the dead woman plaguing the village may herself have been killed by a vengeful ghost. And, as Mari begins to learn more about Tris, it seems more and more likely that he may have had something to do with the slaughter of her family.

This book, like the Noble Dead series, isn’t high literature, but it doesn’t have to be: it’s fun. One of my favorite features of the Hendees’ work is the setting. This book takes place in Stravinia, a medieval, remote country of scattered villages and larger towns hiding behind thick walls. The picture the authors paint is gothic and dark: deep, foreboding forests, poor villages consisting of hovels huddled together against the predatory creatues that lurk in the darkness. Vampires, ghosts, and werewolves roam the land, and superstition and fear permeate everything. Think of the Solomon Kane stories by Robert E. Howard (you know, the guy who wrote the original Conan stories). The world created by the Hendees breathes with malicious intent, and I enjoyed stepping into it again.

I would recommend this book for those who read and enjoyed the Noble Dead saga. Likewise, anyone who likes dark fantasy would probably enjoy this book.

An advance copy of this book was provided by the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The Dead Seekers will be available for purchase on January 3rd, 2017.