Posts Tagged With: Fiction

Royal Street (Sentinels #1) by Suzanne Johnson

Title: Royal Street (Sentinels #1)
Author: Suzanne Johnson
ISBN: 978-0755397655
Publisher: Headline
First Published: 27 September 2012
No .of pages: 432

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing than sniffing out supernatural bad guys. DJ’s mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that slips over from the preternatural beyond. Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters. Now the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering soldiers sent to help the city recover. To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and an undead pirate wants to make her walk his plank. DJ will learn the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice… and duty mixed with love creates one bitter gumbo.

Review:
I tend to enjoy fiction with a paranormal / supernatural slant, but in recent years there seems to have been something of a glut of them, all of a very similar ilk.

This one’s different.

Royal Street, the first in the new Sentinels series, is set in New Orleans and focuses on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The big “What if?” here is “What if a natural disaster happens in a place where the veil between the worlds is already very thin and rips open the borders, leaving our world open to those from the Other Side?” In such a disaster, there is a tragic loss of life, but when you add a supernatural element to some of the deaths, you need someone who is trained in dealing with those from The Beyond and make sure the death toll doesn’t continue to rise.

Dru Jaco is a feisty character and her will they / wont they working relationship with her Enforcer partner and his cousin is a lot of fun. There’s also an unusual mix of the usual preternatural creatures (vampires, werewolves, wizards, fairies, etc) with the wonderful addition of the “Historic Dead” which can include anyone of note who has passed on. Let me lay it out for you. We get pirates! How cool is that? Never did I think I’d ever see the day when pirates, wizards and voodoo Gods would all be included in the same plot line.

It’s an exciting start to what promises to be a series that can proudly stand up beside the likes of Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampires series and still stand out form the crowd.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Venetian Contract by Marina Fiorato

Title: The Venetian Contract
Author: Marina Fioato
ISBN: 978-1848545670
Publisher: John Murray
First Published: 21 June 2012
No .of pages: 416

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
1576. Five years after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto, a ship steals unnoticed into Venice bearing a deadly cargo. A man more dead than alive, disembarks and staggers into Piazza San Marco. He brings a gift to Venice from Constantinople. Within days the city is infected with bubonic plague – and the Turkish Sultan has his revenge. But the ship also holds a secret stowaway – Feyra, a young and beautiful harem doctor fleeing a future as the Sultan’s concubine. Only her wits and medical knowledge keep her alive as the plague ravages Venice. In despair the Doge commissions the architect Andrea Palladio to build the greatest church of his career – an offering to God so magnificent that Venice will be saved. But Palladio’s own life is in danger too, and it will require all skills of medico Annibale Cason, the city’s finest plague doctor, to keep him alive. But what Annibale had not counted on was meeting Feyra, who is now under Palladio’s protection, a woman who can not only match his medical skills but can also teach him how to care.

Review:
It’s no secret that I adore historical fiction, but I’ve never been remotely attracted by any kind of medical drama. This novel may have changed that, as it blends the two perfectly. On one hand, we have the sumptuous sights and sounds of 16th Century Venice, complete with beautiful costuming, and on the other we have the tense atmosphere caused by an epidemic of a deadly disease that spreads like wildfire, and the lives of those whose life’s vocation is to contain and cure it, and it works incredibly well.

Bother Feyra and Anibale have an air of mystery about them – both have unusual histories they are unwilling to share with others if they can help it; both are reserved and secretive; both have a passion for medicine; but there the similarities end. Annibale keeps his distance and has trouble feeling any particular connection with his patients, whereas Feyra is in danger of feeling too much.

Behind it all is the intrigue of espionage and suspicion as Feyra attempts to avert a terrible war, whilst hiding all along that she, herself, is actually from the enemy camp. It’s a complex, tangled web and our characters have to tread carefully, not only to continue their work, but to ensure their own survival.

If you like historical fiction and/or medical dramas, you should really give this a try. Fiorato writes with a deft hand and creates a whirlwind world that is excitingly beautiful and uncertain.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwait

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fate by L R Fredericks

Title: Fate (Time and Light #2)
Author: L R Fredericks
ISBN: 978-1848543317
Publisher: John Murray
First Published: 5 July 2012
No .of pages: 528

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from dust jacket flap):
What am I?

Not a ghost, though that is what most people believe. I am, and it looks like I shall forever be, Lord Francis Peter George St John Damory. I was born more than two hundred years ago and although I am not strictly speaking alive, I am obviously not dead. My appearance is as I choose, though usually I resemble my old self. I was a handsome man; I enjoyed it then and I enjoy it now. I am not beyond vanity, nor any other trick or trap od earthly existence. My body is a simulacrum, as is my study, my fire, brandy, pen, paper.

I am an artist of the æther.

Review:
If you enjoy elegant characters in an eloquently told tale of mystery, magic and timelessness, then this is the novel for you!

The pace is necessarily slow and reflective, yet the plot unfurls in a deceptively swift manner, so that one never feels bogged down or sluggish. The characters are at once mysterious, complex and simple, which helps ground this fantastic tale with a sense of realism, and the blend of magic and science in the setting of the 1700s makes for a sensationally engrossing read that never dumbs down for the readers’ benefit, but assumes a certain level of intelligence on our behalf without becoming lofty and grand in approach.

This is actually the sequel to the earlier novel, Farundel, but I never once felt lost or confused whilst reading Fate, and might never have guessed it was anything other than a stand-alone novel if I hadn’t already known that, so even if you have never read the first book in the Time and Light series, don’t let it put you off picking up this sublimely enjoyable book that will leave you filled with wonder and thinking about it long after you have closed the cover.

Review by Kell Smurthwaite

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

666 Park Avenue by Gabriella Pierce

Title: 666 Park Avenue
Author: Gabriella Pierce
ISBN: 978-0061434778
Publisher: Avon Books
First Published: February 2011
No .of pages: 320

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
What if your mother-in-law turned out to be an evil, cold-blooded witch . . . literally?

Ever since fabulously wealthy Malcolm Doran walked into her life and swept her off her feet, fledgling architect Jane Boyle has been living a fairy tale. When he proposes with a stunning diamond to seal the deal, Jane can’t believe her incredible luck and decides to leave her Paris-based job to make a new start with Malcolm in New York.

But when Malcolm introduces Jane to the esteemed Doran clan, one of Manhattan’s most feared and revered families, Jane’s fairy tale takes a darker turn. Soon everything she thought she knew about the world – and herself – is upended. Now Jane must struggle with newfound magical abilities and the threat of those who will stop at nothing to get them.

Review:
If you like paranormal romances that aren’t too gushy and still have a bit of kick to them, then you’re going to love the first book in the new 666 Park Avenue series!

Seriously, I love paranormal stuff, but usually can’t stand the romance side of things, however this more than stands up to even the biggest haters of romantic fiction by having enough paranormal activity and believable characters to carry it off easily. Jane is a very likeable and flawed character; Malcolm is suitably suave and mysterious; and his mother is the perfect socialite matriarch. the settings are lush, the pace is fast, and the story is incredibly entertaining. Honestly, I had great difficulty putting it down and actually missed my bus stop because I couldn’t tear my eyes from the page!

I am now eagerly awaiting the publication of the sequel because I can hardly wait to see what the future holds for Jane!

ETA: A new Warner Bros/Alloy Entertainment TV show loosely based on this novel will air on 30th September 2012. It will star Vanessa Williams, Terry O’Quinn, Rachael Taylor and Dave Annable. See 666 Park Avenue at IMDb.

ETA: The TV show is absolutely NOTHING LIKE the book. It is a completely different story and all that remains is that a few of the character names are the same. Seriously – that’s it!

Review by Kell Smurthwaite

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Secret Life of William Shakespeare by Jude Morgan

Title: The Secret Life of William Shakespeare
Author: Jude Morgan
ISBN: 978-0755358236
Publisher: Headline Review
First Published: April 2012
No .of pages: 400

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
The greatest writer of them all, brought to glorious life. How well do you know the man you love? How much do you think you know about Shakespeare? What if they were one and the same? He is an ordinary man: unwilling craftsman, ambitious actor, resentful son, almost good-enough husband. And he is also a genius. The story of how a glove-maker from Warwickshire became the greatest writer of them all is vaguely known to most of us, but it would take an exceptional modern novelist to bring him to life. And now at last Jude Morgan, acclaimed author of Passion and The Taste of Sorrow, has taken Shakespeare’s life, and created a masterpiece.

Review:
I’m a big ol’ fan of Shakespeare’s many beautiful works, so when this novel exploring his early life and his start in the world of theatres and writing, I was over the moon!

Living up to the most famous writer in the world was always going to be a tall order, but Jude Morgan takes up the challenge with great aplomb and does a sterling job of showcasing The Bard’s works while presenting him as a real and very believable character in his own story  – a fallible man striking out in the world on his own, trying to support a wife and family from a great distance whilst living out his dream

This is a beautifully written exploration into the not-so-glamourous world of Elizabethan theatre, where fickle audiences and the whim of Queen Elizabeth could make or break a play, or even a writer’s whole career.

If you’re a fan of Shakespeare, theatre, or Elizabethan historical fiction, give this one a try, and be transported to another time and place, where a young man struggles to prove his words are art and find his place in history.

Review by Kell Smurthwaite

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Drought by Steven Scaffardi

Title: The Drought
Author: Steven Scaffardi
ISBN: 978-1780031927
Publisher: Pen Press
First Published: September 2011
No .of pages: 298

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
Dan Hilles is a pretty regular kind of guy – regular job, regular bunch of mates, regular male aversion to shopping. But following his break-up with long-term girlfriend, Stacey, he finds himself single again. He’s been out of the game for a while and is a little out of practice. Soon, the very irregular and increasingly worrying issue in Dan’s life is the extended drought he finds himself suffering. And we’re not talking the climate change, scorched earth, God I’m parched variety. You’ve got to hand it to Dan though – it certainly isn’t from a lack of trying. With stalwart mates Ollie, Jack and Rob on hand to lend their collective pearls of male wisdom and arrange the odd road trip, you’d think Dan’s days of languishing in a sexual wilderness would be numbered. Even best friends can’t help prevent the kind of surreal holes Dan just can’t seem to help digging himself into. And with each failed attempt, his self-esteem plummets to the point where he wonders if ‘little Dan’ will ever work again. Good job he has Kelly, his reliable and sympathetic colleague, to confide in. As a woman, she can perhaps shed some female light on why he’s failing so miserably with the opposite sex, balancing out the testosterone-fuelled ‘advice’ from the lads. Surely Dan can’t go wrong with Kelly teaching him the various intricacies of a woman’s mind. Steven Scaffardi’s first novel will have every guy laughing out loud in recognition and every girl secretly worrying – is this how men really think? A new talent to watch out for on the ‘lad-lit’ scene.

Review:
WARNING – This book will make you cry… with laughter!

I’m a big fan of lad-lit (I read a hell of a lot more of it than I do chick-lit, and I’m a chick!), and Scaffardi has packed everything you could possibly want into this voyage of self- and sexual discovery. Dan is a tragically comic character – let’s face it, we all know a guy who isn’t so successful with the ladies and tries just a little too hard with hilarious outcomes – and his mates are just as daft. All are present and correct – the smooth cheater who thinks he can bag any woman he fancies (and usually does), the big bruiser who is a bit soft in the head, but his heart is in the right place (and he’s there to pick up the leftovers from the others – all those not-so-pretty friends who are left over when the smoothie has had his pick), and the brains of the outfit who isn’t always quite as sharp as he’d like to think, but usually comes good.

And then there are the women. You know the types – all those scary first dates that ever went wrong and made you the joke of the week with your buddies, all the bunny boilers in the making and clinging vines and whining jealous types, march in and out of poor Dan’s love life without him getting even a sniff of a chance of getting them into bed.

The plot follows a tried and tested path, and you always know where Dan is going to end up come the end of the book, but the journey to get to that point is so funny you don’t care that you know what’s going to happen because you genuinely want it to happen that way.

This has a broad appeal and would be the perfect gift for the lad in your life, or even the chick with a knowing sense of humour who will recognise her man-mates on the pages, and there are sex gags and innuendos galore which will have you giggling from start to finish, while you cheer Dan and his mates along the way.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Dead Reckoning (Soouthern Vampires 11) by Charlaine Harris

Title: Dead Reckoning (Southern Vampires 11)
Author: Charlaine Harris
ASIN: 978-0575096523
Publisher: Gollancz
First Published: May 2011
No .of pages: 336

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
There’s a reckoning on the way . . .  and Sookie has a knack for being in trouble’s way; not least when she witnesses the firebombing of Merlotte’s, the bar where she works. Since Sam Merlotte is known to be two-natured, suspicion immediately falls on the anti-shifters in the area. Sookie suspects otherwise, but before she can investigate something else – something even more dangerous – comes up. Sookie’s lover Eric Northman and his ‘child’ Pam are plotting something in secret. Whatever it is, they seem determined to keep Sookie out of it; almost as determined as Sookie is to find out what’s going on. She can’t sit on the sidelines when both her work and her love life under threat – but as she’s gradually drawn into their plans Sookie finds the situation is deadlier than she could ever have imagined.

Review:
After the last two books, I was afraid the series was going a little off the boil, but Dead Reckoning seems to be bringing things right back on track. There’s still a little too much “fairy stuff” for my taste, but this one focuses mostly on vampire business, which is exactly where I want things to be.

To my great surprise, I find myself liking Bill an awful lot more than I have previously (from the very start, I wasn’t all that keen on him). Conversely, Alcide really annoyed me in this episode, when I’d liked him before – he just seemed to act completely out of character, especially for one who is now Pack Alpha. Eric, well he’s Eric and I’ve always liked him; and Sookie is just as fresh as a daisy and the ultimate girl-next-door with a spark of something extra that sets her apart from the rest. Ideally, I would have liked to see a little more of Sam (he’s always been a favourite of mine) and his complex friendship with Sookie, but perhaps that will crop up in Deadlocked.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Birthdays for the Dead by Stuart MacBride

Title: Birthdays for the Dead
Author: Stuart MacBride
ISBN: 978-0007344178
Publisher: HarperCollins
First Published: January 2012
No .of pages: 496

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
Detective Constable Ash Henderson has a dark secret…

Five years ago his daughter, Rebecca, went missing on the eve of her thirteenth birthday. A year later the first card arrived: homemade, with a Polaroid picture stuck to the front – Rebecca, strapped to a chair, gagged and terrified. Every year another card: each one worse than the last.

The tabloids call him The Birthday Boy. He’s been snatching girls for twelve years, always in the run-up to their thirteenth birthday, sending the families his homemade cards showing their daughters being slowly tortured to death.

But Ash hasn’t told anyone about Rebecca’s birthday cards – they all think she’s just run away from home – because if anyone finds out, he’ll be taken off the investigation. And he’s sacrificed too much to give up before his daughter’s killer gets what he deserves…

Review:
Ash Henderson isn’t a bad cop; he’s one of the good guys, but if there’s a bad way to do something for the right reasons, he’ll find it. He’d never take a bribe, but it’s not unusual for him to put the squeeze on the bad guys to get something out of a situation for him, and he tends to mix with a crowd that means he’s permanently in a sticky situation. In short, he’s a complete screw-up. Despite all this, there’s something very likeable about this train wreck of a man. He’s fiercely loyal and protective of his family and friends, and will put himself on the line every time to help them. Unfortunately, putting yourself on the line so often means you often cross it…

MacBride is astute when it comes to complex and flawed characters, and they add to his equally complex plotting, making the implausible very plausible and seemingly inevitable. He also has a wonderfully gritty way with gore – it’s visceral and real to the very end, without tipping over into the territory of schlock horror.

This one, however, felt a little rougher around the edges than the Logan McRae novels, a little harder-edged and unpolished in comparison. That’s not to say it was bad – it’s very good, just not as good as the McRae books, but then, they’re pretty hard to beat.

If you’re a fan of crime fiction (in particular Scottish crime fiction), this is a must for your collection.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Golden Acorn by Catherine Cooper

Title: The Golden Acorn
Author: Catherine Cooper
ASIN: B004EHZDBQ
Publisher: Infinitie Ideas
First Published: August 2010
File Size: 2825 KB (Kindle edition)

Rating: 3/5

At the time of this review, The Golden Acorn is available as a FREE Kindle e-book download. You can also purchase it in paperback format.

Synopsis (from Amazon):
When Jack Brenin finds a golden acorn lying in the grass, little does he know that it is the beginning of a thrilling and magical adventure. Just an ordinary boy, Jack has been chosen for a hugely important task, and enters a world he believed only existed in legend. Full of twists and turns, talking ravens and mischievous Spriggans, ‘The Golden Acorn’ is a hugely entertaining and exciting tale from a very talented new author. Your kids will love it, and so will you! This brilliant story deservedly won the Brit Writers’ Awards 2010 for unpublished writers. Jack’s adventures continue in ‘Glasruhen Gate’ and ‘Silver Hill’.

Review:
This is more than a little “Harry Potter-ish” in that the main character is a young lad who discovers he is “The One” and suddenly has to get to grips with a whole magical world he never knew existed, but the twist here is that it’s not just the fantasy-style magic these kinds of novels usually feature; instead it’s based on Celtic and Druidic lore. Yes, there are still magic wands and transfigurations, but it’s nice to have a different background for it all. I would have liked it more if the history had been explored a little more, but perhaps that’s a little much to ask from the first book in the series.

There are beautiful little ink line drawings at the start of each chapter to illustrate the main plot points without giving the game away, and a charming little map of the area in the same style which serve the story well and give a little taste of things to come.

The problems that occurred in the story seemed to be overcome quite easily and whatever peril they encountered was swiftly resolved with very little in the way of real and present danger – it was almost all just a step removed. There’s nothing hugely original here – it borrows heavily from other young adult fantasy novels of the same ilk – but neither is it a carbon copy. It’s a breeze to read and the characters are refreshing and fun, especially Camelin (the raven), as he is so brash and bold, yet improves himself over the course of the story, even if it is for his own secretive agenda.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cold Light by Jenn Ashworth

Title: Cold Light
Author: Jenn Ashworth
ISBN: 978-1444721447
Publisher: Sceptre
First Published: April 2011
No. of pages: 352

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
This is the tale of three fourteen-year-old girls and a volatile combination of lies, jealousy and perversion that ends in tragedy. Except the tragedy is even darker and more tangled than their tight-knit community has been persuaded to believe.

Blackly funny and with a surreal edge to its portrait of a northern English town, Jenn Ashworth’s gripping novel captures the intensity of girls’ friendships and the dangers they face in a predatory adult world they think they can handle. And it shows just how far that world is willing to let sentiment get in the way of the truth.

Review:
There’s something quite addictively compelling about this coming-of-age story focusing on the friendship (and sometime enmity) of three girls on the cusp of adulthood in the mid-to-late 90s. While reading it, I felt like there were constant warning signals flashing on and off as my adult mind could see the danger in the situations these girls got themselves into, but they couldn’t seem to see it themselves.

The jumping back and forth between the teenage years and ten years later sometimes jolted a little, but things quickly got back on track each time, however it was occasionally a little disruptive to the narrative.

The plot itself featured a mystery that seemed quite evident to me. There were pointers along the way that made the conclusion a bit of a let-down as elements of it were quite obvious, but there were other, more subtle moments along the way that meant it wasn’t completely disappointing.

It’s not a fast-paced novel, but it doesn’t drag; I was quickly drawn into the proceedings and felt I recognized the people, places and situations. It’s not the best novel I’ve read of this type, but it’s certainly not the worst, and it makes a refreshing change for the main characters to be quite dull, not particularly attractive or popular girls – it makes the whole thing seem more plausible than if they had been bubbly, bright young things from the posh end of town.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.