Book Haunt

Book and animal lover of epic proportions.  I read a little of everything. Love SF/Fantasy, mysteries and historical fiction. Oh who am I kidding!  I love ALL books!  I've been an avid reader all of my life.  Mom used to catch me with a flashlight under the covers reading way past bedtime!  I am my most content when I have a book in my hand and feel that a life without books is no life at all!

 

 

The Mermaid's Tale by D.G. Valdron

The Mermaid's Tale - D.G. Valdron

Okay, first of all who the heck is D.G. Valdron?!

 

About the Author

Den Valdron, is a reclusive writer, originally from New Brunswick, currently living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Over the years, he has published in print and online a variety of short stories of speculative fiction, and articles on obscure pop culture topics. Like many writers, his previous occupations have included mechanic, carpenter, schoolteacher, journalist and ditch-digger. He is currently an aboriginal rights lawyer. He loves B-movies and tries to be nice to people. The Mermaid’s Tale is his first published novel.

 

I know we usually see the “About the Author” bit at the end of a book and/or review but I wanted to put it first in my review today.  Why?  Because I want to hear more from this author soon! 

 

D.G. Valdron’s The Mermaid’s Tale feels like a new and fresh experience in the fantasy genre.  It features all the species that fantasy lovers are used to and some we don’t get to see often; vampires, orcs, giants, trolls, hobgoblins, goblins, dwarves, selkies, mermaids…  But these species are not cut from the same cloth we are used to and this time we are reading it from the POV of a female “arukh.”  How frickin’ fantastic is that?!

 

What is an “arukh” you ask?  Well, it’s another word for orc, defined here as a mixed breed, a cross between a vampire and a goblin, and these arukh do not have names.  Arukh is what they are!  The different species fall into levels in society and the arukh are at the bottom of the totem pole, known as soulless abominations.  The arukh life is one of brutality, often at its own hands.  They are a very violent species, full of anger and hatred at all things, which can come in very useful.  The dominant species see them as tools for the dirty work.  After all, they aren’t afraid of anything, they are mad, bad and dangerous to be around. 

 

The female arukh in question has been summoned to the waterside where the mermaids reside.  One of the mermaids has been butchered in a brutal fashion and this particular arukh is known for her smarts in these matters.  As the arukh works to unravel this murder mystery, we follow along with her and learn more about this crazy world of hers. 

 

Make no mistake; The Mermaid’s Tale does contain violence and graphic sexual situations.   This is a dark world, one of danger on all sides, teetering on the brink of a war between the species.  It’s also balanced with some hilarious banter with mermaids regarding sex and general playfulness.  The arukh’s interactions are captivating and her journey of self-discovery makes this one of the best books I’ve read this year.  So yes, I am definitely looking forward to reading more from this author! 

 

I want to thank the publisher (Five Rivers Publishing) for providing me with the ARC through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program for an honest review.

The Lies of Locke Lamora

The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch

He is known as The Thorn of Camorr, who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. The Thorn is a master swordsman, a great romancer of women, and a ghost who walks through walls. The Thorn is a commoner’s tale. Locke Lamora is nothing more than a Gentleman Bastard, who has mastered the art of the carefully orchestrated con. 

In the city of Camorr, there are ample opportunities for such, and it is rife with gangs. There is only one rule; all must abide by the Secret Peace. The Duke’s man, Capa Barsavi has a hold over all the gangs in Camorr’s criminal world. All who break the Secret Peace must answer to the Capa. Of course, he gets a cut of all the profits too. 

Locke is joined in his criminal schemes by his fellow Bastards, Jean Tannen, twins Calo and Galdo Sanza, and their new apprentice, Bug. All except Bug grew up learning their art under the tutelage of old Father Chains. He bought them as street orphans and taught them to be thieves, con artists and masters of disguise. Locke was quite the enterprising student and he was constantly trying to outwit and outplay his master. 

Someday, Locke Lamora,” he said, “someday, you’re going to f*** up so magnificently, so ambitiously, so overwhelmingly that the sky will light up and the moons will spin and the gods themselves will s**t comets with glee. And I just hope I’m still around to see it.”

“Oh please,” said Locke. “It’ll never happen.”



As the Bastards begin their latest caper, the city is sent into turmoil. Capa Barsavi’s rule is being threatened by a new and unknown killer, the Grey King. Locke Lamora and the Bastards become unwilling pawns in a deadly game and its winner take all.

This book falls together so well. The author uses a series of ‘Interludes’ to build the history of his world and characters. I like this style of revealing the past. The ancient city of Camorr is described in rich detail and I picture it my mind as being somewhat like Venice, although I’ve never had the pleasure of going there. I also love the interplay and bonds of friendship between the Bastards. They take what they have and make an adventure out of it. Locke is just a regular guy without any special strength or magic, getting by on wit alone.

Lies of Locke Lamora is grim, dark fantasy at its best. Heed my warning that there definitely are dark parts! There are also many playful quips along the way that help balance it out! This is an adult book and I feel compelled to add for the sake of some of my followers that there is profanity used, which may strike this off some of your TBR lists right away. Overall this is just a great book! I keep hearing that the series gets better and better from here on and I believe it. The end leaves us with a nice opening for future storylines with a simple statement.

“Old sins will never be buried so deep that they cannot rise again when least expected.”

Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica

Don't You Cry - Mary Kubica

When Quinn Collins set out to live on her own, she answered an ad for a roommate and moved in with Esther Vaughan never dreaming that Esther would turn out to become her best friend.  Then one morning she awakes to the sound of Esther’s alarm going off but Esther’s not in her room and her bedroom window is wide open to the freezing cold Chicago air.  Surely she didn’t climb down the fire escape in the middle of the night!  Quinn waits in vain for Esther to return but it doesn’t happen.  It seems that Esther has disappeared!  Was she kidnapped?  Did she run away from something?  Quinn idolizes Esther and she can’t imagine what has happened to her.  She enlists the help of her friend Ben from work and tries to figure out where Esther is.  But the more Quinn tries to puzzle through what happened to Esther, the more she realizes how little she really knows about her friend.  She’s beginning to think that Esther is not the saint that she always imagined. 

 

Meanwhile, in a small town near Lake Michigan, a young man named Alex Gallo has given up his dream of college to take care of his father who became a good-for-nothing drunkard when his mother left.  He spends his hopeless days working as a dishwasher in the Priddy’s café.  One day a new customer comes in and she’s a young woman he has never seen around town before.  Alex gives the woman the name “Pearl” and he finds her to be quite an intriguing mystery.  He sets his sights on finding out more about her.  But Alex’s boredom and loneliness may be leading him down a dangerous road.

 

Don’t You Cry is full of suspense and the details of each storyline will keep the reader guessing right up until the end.  Piece by piece the puzzle falls into place until the big reveal.  This is one of those where you think you have it all figured out but you never quite get there.  A fast-paced and compelling read!

 

I want to thank the publisher (Harlequin- US & Canada) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

Old Records Never Die: One Mans Quest for His Vinyl and His Past by Eric Spitznagel

Old Records Never Die: One Man's Quest for His Vinyl and His Past - Eric Spitznagel, Jeff Tweedy

Eric Spitznagel got it into his head one day that life just wouldn’t be the same unless he could recover his lost record collection.  We’re not talking about just any old piece of vinyl; he wanted the actual record that was in HIS collection, the ones he shared with friends, the ones he sold, the ones he stashed his weed in.  His quest takes him on a journey through many a used record store, basement sale and out-of-town record expo.  But this isn’t just a physical journey, it’s also a spiritual one, as Eric recalls the magical moments of the past that reside in his soul and are connected to each piece of music he hunts for. 

 

 

Wow, Eric….I SO GET THAT!  Records had character…fingerprints, warps, scratches, writing on the covers!  I too am a vinyl junkie, but unlike Eric, I have never parted with my vinyl.  Having worked in a record store when I was younger, I have a LOT of vinyl.  It would be like taking a piece of my soul to get rid of certain records. 

 

 

Does anyone remember that “if you could only bring one album to a deserted island, what would it be?”  Eric certainly does!  I mean come on; this was a standard question in the days of vinyl.  In today’s electronic age only those of us who lived through the vinyl years know how badly we miss it.  What a world of difference it felt like sitting and listening to music while holding the sleeve in your hand and examining it.  It’s about so much more than the music.  It’s about the people you listened with, the thoughts going through your head, what you were doing at that precise moment, the arguments with friends over this song or that song, this musician or that musician...  So many memories are wrapped up in that one piece of vinyl, moments in time as vivid today as they were those many years ago.  Something about vinyl could be so comforting, creating a world of illusion all its own!  I just have no idea how you can get that same vibe listening to downloaded music.

 

So I guess you could say I identified with this book, LOL!  All vinyl junkies will!  For the readers who weren’t around in the vinyl days, just read it to understand.  The great foreword by Jeff Tweedy will help you on that score too!

       

I want to thank the publisher (Penguin Group PLUME) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

Empire of Ivory (Temeraire #4) by Naomi Novik

Empire of Ivory - Naomi Novik

Finally, Laurence & Temeraire and company have arrived home after more than a year away.  Also in tow are the feral dragons, Tharkay, the rescued Huguenots and the baby dragon, Iskierka.  The home front has markedly changed though and not for the good.  Temeraire’s fellow dragons that were left behind in England have been hit by an epidemic, some kind of dragon consumption.  The consumption has killed some and left others badly weakened, one of which is Maximus, who will not last much longer without a cure.  Also of consequence is the fact that England is desperately trying to keep Bonaparte from getting wind of the dragons’ sickness.  Laurence is also quite interested to see that his father’s political friends are beginning the parliamentary campaign to abolish slavery.  Somewhat to his consternation, Laurence also finds that his foreign adoption has been a bit embellished and he is somewhat of a celebrity. 

 

The side issues in Black Powder War have now been brought to the forefront.  Temeraire is still in a huff that the dragons in England are not treated with the same reverence as the dragons in China.  He despairs of a return to the boredom of patrolling the English Channel, especially in the company of the feral dragons that Tharkay recruited, as they have been behaving badly. They desperately need Tharkay’s help in settling the feral dragons into the Corps, but with the other dragons sick they also need him to return to Turkestan and bring more feral dragons to Her Majesty’s service.  Granby has his hands full with Iskierka, the baby dragon, who is quite a little hothead and hard to keep a handle on!  Temeraire doesn’t need to worry about boredom for very long though.  Laurence and Temeraire are sent to Capetown to seek a cure for the dragon sickness.  Once in Africa, they run afoul of a tribal king and things will only get worse from there.  They also bear up-close witness to the harrowing plight of the indigenous people as they are kidnapped by white men and forced into slavery. 

(show spoiler)

 

I still think this is a great series for kids.  They will get to explore the world through the eyes of dragons and learn some history as they read along.  Each book is an adventure.  That being said, there are spots where I feel this series needs to be revved up a notch.  I feel a little as if I’m on repeat when reviewing these books.  The author covers a lot of territory so why does it seem like such slow going when I’m reading?  The series has become very formulaic and I still find that I am not as big of fan of Novik as most fantasy readers.  This series is good but for me it’s just not great.  I must admit that for a small amount of time I had even confused Jane Roland with Catherine Harcourt, so I may have drifted off a bit somewhere along the line.  It seems that Roland has become an admiral and Harcourt has been embroiled in a romantic relationship!  Luckily, I do like both Will and Temeraire and I was charmed by the first book so I still want to see where this is going.  The saving grace in these books is the utter charm of Temeraire which is why the series is named for him I guess!  That’s good because I still have five books left to review.  I am also hearing rumors that Peter Jackson holds the film rights and I like the idea that with the publication of the 9th book this series does come to an end.  Some series just go on too long and I just don’t know if Novik can recapture that feeling of newness the premise had in the first book.  I am crossing my fingers that I can be won over more completely.

Beyond the Veil by Jessica Majzner

Beyond the Veil - Jessica Majzner

In the village of Valwood there is a centuries-old feud between the humans and the immortals that border their lands.  The Elders rule the village and they now have a tentative truce with the werewolves.  Vampires and werewolves have been banished from the village.  There is a wall dividing their territory from that of the werewolves and it is known that any crossing of boundaries will result in the forfeit of lives. 

 

17 year-old Natalya is the daughter of one of the Elders in Valwood.  She is a vampire huntress, even more powerful than her mother, who was killed by the most-feared vampire around, Arkadith.  When Natalya goes into the woods with her mentor Anesa, they are led into a trap and Anesa is killed by Arkadith too.  Natalya vows revenge against Arkadith for all he has done and she refuses to let anything stop her. 

 

Natalya travels deep into the forest on the trail of Arkadith.  The trail she follows takes her into the Ruins and the forbidden territory of Claw Haven.  This is where she will run into the first werewolves she has ever seen.  It is here that Natalya meets Voren, a werewolf who seems to be the complete opposite of everything she has been taught.  Voren opens Natalya’s eyes to the rich culture and beliefs of the werewolves and how some of them see their existence as cursed.  They have lived as enemies of the vampires too and they tell Natalya of how the curse may be lifted if Arkadith is defeated.  Natalya has learned more of the truth of the werewolves than any human before her.  She wants to seek an end to the war between humans and immortals.  But Arkadith has a different ending in mind and when Natalya doesn’t return home the humans seek vengeance on the werewolves.

 

This is a tale of tragedy to be told in the dark of night.  There is nothing pretty about this story, these werewolves and vampires are to be feared.  I did particularly like the werewolves’ storyline and felt great empathy for them.  But if you’re expecting the usual supernatural YA romance story, you will be disappointed.  If you would like a more realistic look at what is probable in a world where humans live side-by-side with immortals, this will definitely not disappoint.  I could easily see this as a graphic novel too!  Beyond the Veil is very unpredictable and a fresh take on the usual. 

 

 

Daddy Dearest by Paul Southern

Daddy Dearest - Paul Southern

My daughter has always had a thing about lifts.

Every time she walks in, I imagine it’s the last time I’ll see her.

That leaves a gap of thirty seconds. You’d be surprised what can happen in that time. I was.

 

Daddy Dearest is written a bit differently than most books you read.  It is told from the first-person perspective of a father who remains unnamed.  Right at the beginning we learn that his worst fear has come true.  While enjoying his custodial visit one weekend, his beautiful little girl got into the elevator and the doors closed before he made it in.  When daddy gets to the bottom floor, his daughter is nowhere to be found.  As the police investigation into his little girl’s disappearance unfolds, daddy goes back in time to tell us more, more about himself, more about his daughter, more about his distinctive view on life.

 

Let me just say that right from the start of this book I found the father unlikeable.  He’s a balding, middle-aged, anti-social actor who complains about his neighbors’ noise, makes comments about race, gays, bohemians, the underclass…and yet, he proclaims himself to be PC!  He just seems to hate the outside world in general and comes off as a real creepazoid.  Don’t get me wrong, I think that this is definitely what the author wants you to feel.  He paints a picture of a very troubled man with some real problems who seems to have only one redeeming quality.  The one thing this daddy dotes on in life is his little girl.  She is his treasure and life is just better when she’s around.  Even his ex-wife thinks he’s a wonderful father and that counts because he really cares about what other people think.  His very existence has been validated since becoming a father.

 

The book is well-written and as a side note, there were quite a few words here that had never made it into my vocabulary which I found interesting.  That’s quite uncommon but I love looking up new words!  If you are looking at the cover and the title of this book thinking it’s a bit spooky, you’re not wrong there.  Daddy Dearest is a dark and deeply disturbing psychological thriller.  One of those books that makes your skin crawl.  Here it’s because the author takes an unflinching look at a very flawed human being, and he’s manipulating the reader as he goes about it.  I feel like you will either love it or hate it.  As for me, I was somewhere in the middle, but I did keep turning the pages to find out what really happened.  This is where I think the author shows some real talent because I have to say it went in a direction I was so not expecting.  But then I really wondered…why didn’t I expect that?  As I said, manipulation, people!  So I will leave you to decide for yourself.  Check it out!

 

I want to thank the author Paul Southern for providing me with a copy of this book through the BookLikes Giveaways program for an honest review.

Mercy (The Guardians #1) by Wendy Saunders

Mercy - Wendy Saunders

See review at Book Haunt

 

$0.00 on Amazon Kindle

The Angels Die by Yasmina Khadra

The Angels Die - Yasmina Khadra, Howard Curtis

I have long been a fan of Yasmina Khadra, whose books usually give one a realistic look at Arab culture and family life, alongside the cultural oppression and fundamental extremism that has saturated their daily lives.  This book takes us back a bit further than others I have read. 

 

The Angels Die is set in 1920s and 1930s Algeria during a time when French colonials ruled over the Arab nation and the native population has been decimated by a century of bloody conquest and rampant disease.  Those born in Algeria are treated as if they are foreigners in their own land.  The French live in luxury while the Algerians live in squalor. 

 

Twenty-seven year old Turambo grew up in a shanty town in Oran.   Turambo tells us of his life growing up in Oran where he constantly rages at the unfairness of life.  But Turambo’s willful spirit doesn’t allow him to give up his dream of a better future.  At home, he is embarrassed by and resentful of his father, while he longs for an unspoken but promising love with his cousin Nora.  When Turambo finds an unlikely friend in a French boy, Gino, who cares for a sick mother, he begins to take refuge from his life in Gino’s apartment.  As Turambo grows from a boy to a man, he is sure that his chance to become a boxer is his way out of the harsh life he was brought up in.  He will make a success of himself, win the girl he loves and show the oppressors that Algerians are a proud and indomitable people.  But Turambo’s rage at all the inequities of the world could very well cause him to be his own worst enemy. 

 

Maybe you can tell that this book caused me to take a little look at the history of Algeria.  Khadra continues to educate me each time I read one of his books.  The history of Algeria is both tragedy and triumph at different times as is so much of the world.  IMHO, we need to continue translating all authors of this caliber.

 

I want to thank the publisher (Gallic Books) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review. 

 

The Thousand Names by Django Wexler

The Thousand Names - Django Wexler

See review at Book Haunt

The Penitent Damned by Django Wexler

The Penitent Damned - Django Wexler

See review at Book Haunt

The Night Stalker by Robert Bryndza

The Night Stalker: A chilling serial killer thriller (Detective Erika Foster Book 2) - Robert Bryndza

The Night Stalker is the Book 2 in Robert Bryndza’s Detective Erika Foster series.

A shadowy figure creeps upon a house in London seeking retribution against the man within.  We bear witness to Dr. Gregory Munro’s killer in action.  Four days later his mother enters the house and find’s her son’s dead body with a plastic bag over his head.  

 

Detective Erika Foster is called to the murder scene, a scene that appears to be a sex crime.  When another just like it follows, indications are that there is a cold-blooded serial killer on the loose and Erika and her team must figure out what these murders have in common. 

      

Erika is a tough, uncompromising detective who will get the killer at any cost and her determined doggedness doesn’t always go over well with her boss or her peers.  She is once again put on notice about not doing thing’s the department’s way.  Despite rubbing people the wrong way, she will continue to lay both her job and her life on the line to catch the killer. 

 

When we first met Erika in the first book, she was freshly grieving over the death of her husband Mark and just returning to work.  Erika’s grief for Mark is still very present and she agonizes over it in more detail, all the while still blaming herself.  This also enables us to get more of a glimpse into her past and how Mark’s killing went down. 

 

Robert Bryndza is such a good writer and he is definitely making a name for himself with this series.  The twists and turns don’t let up and keep you guessing to the end.  He has also done some nice work on the character development here.  In the end the characters are what makes or breaks a series.  We learn a bit more about Crane, Moss, Peterson, Marsh, Stark, and Isaac Strong.  Erika is getting to know each of them and so are we.  She is beginning to foster friendship, loyalty, respect, and of course some antagonism.  Each of the afore-mentioned supporting characters is sketched in further and one of them even becomes a prime suspect in the killings. 

 

I want to thank the publisher (Bookouture) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review. 

The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman

The Velvet Hours - Alyson Richman

See review at Book Haunt

Perilous Judgement by Dennis Ricci

Perilous Judgment: A Real Justice Thriller - Dennis Ricci, Malcolm Hillgartner

Perilous Judgment is a legal thriller that takes us to the forefront of the ongoing issue of immigration.

 

Edward Lamport is a man of great conviction and as a federal judge he exercises those convictions in his rulings.  His most current case is of one of great controversy.  Voters in his home state of California have voted to pass Proposition 68 concerning illegal immigration and now Edward has to rule on whether the proposition is constitutional.  With his fellow judges and political contacts pressuring him, he is carefully weighing his decision. 

 

Edward is also happily married to Jacqui.  Jacqui works for the California school system and with pressure from her coworkers and peers she is becoming more and more anxious herself to find out what her husband’s ruling will be.  Edward and Jacqui both know the danger they may face if he makes the “wrong” decision. 

 

Now a woman Edward was once in love with resurfaces and begs for his help.  Alana tells Edward of the son he never knew about, who is now a grown young man.  This son, Carlos was born and raised in Mexico and works for Bancomex.  In the course of his work he has stumbled on dangerous information involving his employers and his life is in jeopardy.  Alana wants Edward to use his political connections to help get Carlos out of Mexico and into the safety of the U.S.

 

Edward is going to have to manage a very complex balancing act here.  How will he manage to be true to the integrity his job demands while trying to get his illegitimate son asylum in the U.S.?  Why are all his political connections stonewalling him?  And how is he going to face his wife with the secrets of his past?  Will the woman he was forced to leave behind 25 years ago stir old feelings anew?  Will he be able to save his son’s life and will that son accept a father he has never known? 

 

This is a book where we are reminded that the big issues that the talking heads on TV argue about incessantly are not as black and white as they are made out to be.  No matter which way the decision goes there are real people behind the scenes who will be affected.  We would like to think that the judges ruling on these issues are personally detached but what if one of them weren’t.  What if something like this happened to them?  Now that could be a far reach, but hey, in today’s world maybe not.  It is a most unfortunate fact that political corruption, blackmail, drug running and money laundering are all alive and well. 

 

But in this book we also see a man torn by his convictions and struggling to make the right decisions, none of which are easy.  With all of his options growing slim, Edward will turn to his strong Christian faith and values for guidance.   With all of the obstacles we face in this world, this is a strong reminder that in the end, it’s up to us how we handle our beliefs and act on them.

 

I want to thank the publisher (Waterfall Press) for providing me with the ARC through the Goodreads Giveaways program for an honest review.

Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend by Deirdre Bair

Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend - Deirdre Bair

Reviewed at Book Haunt

Beneath the Skin (The Witchbreed Series #2) by R.L. Martinez

Beneath the Skin - R.L. Martinez

One of my first reviews was In the Blood (The Witchbreed Series #1) by R.L. Martinez and it turned out to be one of my favorite reads of 2016 so I was very excited to be offered an ARC of the second book in the Witchbreed series, Beneath the Skin.

 

Oriabel Dominax is a witch and she has always used the magic she was born with to heal those around her, but now her magic has taken on a new and deadly form and she no longer trusts herself to use it. With her life in danger, she has fled Corlaan, the only home she has ever known. She travels in the company of her sister Ottilde and two strangers, Wilder Coomb and Artair och Mahan. Separated from her husband, she longs to be reunited with him but she has no idea if he longs for the same.

 

Oriabel’s twin sister, Ottilde Dominax was once a knight but then she became a prisoner of her country. She is a fierce survivor and driven to keep her sister safe at all costs, yet she too is learning to control a new and deadly side of herself. Still on the run from the prison she escaped, Ottilde finds herself relying on the one man she shouldn’t trust, the prison warden Wilder Coomb, to help keep her sister alive.

 

These two sisters are on the run and threatened from all sides. They live in constant peril and how to trust and who to trust will affect them each in different ways. Everyone has a motive and love and betrayal can often be tied together.

 

I love it when you pick up a book and feel like you’re coming home to characters you love to spend time with. I hadn’t had enough of them at the end of book 1 and I still want more after book 2. The author gives us a study in extremes on both good and evil with well-defined characters who can straddle both. This book twists and turns and outright socks you in the end. I was never certain where it would end up and that’s the way it should be. My anticipation was richly rewarded with another installment that ranks as a fave and I cannot wait for R.L. Martinez to write more!

Professional Reader