Friday, May 17, 2019

Beatrice and the Basilisk

Beatrice and the Basilisk

I recently won a print copy of Beatrice and the Basilisk by Bruce McCandless III in a Goodreads giveaway.

A very short children to middle grade fantasy story featuring 12 year old Beatrice and her run in with a dragon bent on bad things. She has a fairy-godmother type helper/guide that I thought was great, very funny. Of course as a children's tale, there is a moral to the story. But, as an adult reader, I didn't find the moral overwhelming the story.

As is usual in stories in this genre, Beatrice is the most responsible character. Thankfully though, the author does not portray the rest of the family, in this case mom and younger brother, as complete losers. Mom is a good, if not a bit overwhelmed mom, and little brother is just a little brother, not an obnoxious brat. 

A very good quick read targeted at the younger reader. One I will share with my grand kids when I get the chance. Enjoy!


Mike

To Catch the Conscience of the King

To Catch the Conscience of the King by [White, Martin]
I was provided a print copy of To Catch the Conscience of the King by Martin White for review.

This is the story of King Edward II after his removal from the throne, and the monk Stephen assigned to be his confessor. I found the story very depressing, though I guess being deposed as a king is not a good time. But the depictions of daily life and the depravity of both royals and clergy were almost too much. Heavy with homosexual overtones, royal and clerical corruption and political intrigue. There weren't any characters I found sympathetic. 

The author supplies an extensive bibliography so I can't claim anyone was treated particularly unfairly, but there didn't seem to be much in the way of redeeming social value either. Stephen is a weak, broken but repentant man of God who becomes a puppet dancing to the tune of his clerical order and various royals. We get a graphic retelling of the history surrounding Edward II, from the execution of Hugh le Despenser and the confinement of the King. 

The author paints a good word picture, depressing as it was. The conclusion of the book however went too far out of the realm of a historical novel. It was jarring and so out of the tone of the book as to be annoying. Given the overall story line, I don't understand the title of the book.

With the exception of the ending, I can find no fault with Mr. White's writing style but I have to say this book didn't really float my boat.


Mike

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Caitlin's Song

Caitlin's Song (Carson Chronicles, #4)

I had the pleasure of reading a digital ARC of Caitlin's Song provided by author John A. Heldt.

Caitlin's Song is the fourth and penultimate entry in the Carson Family Chronicles, the time travel adventures of the five Carson children attempting to track down and reunite with their parents. Reminiscent of the 60's tv show The Time Tunnel.

I have read all of MR. Heldt's books so far and thoroughly enjoyed each one of them. Caitlin's Song has decidedly lifted his game. I have commented before on witnessing his growth as a writer through his books, but wow, this book demonstrates his evolution perfectly. 

I know, I know, talk about the book. Caitlin is the youngest (and possibly smartest) Carson sibling. She has a very tumultuous time of things, some of which have carried on from the last book. I actually emailed the author and asked him if Caitlin had made him mad or something. She has to endure a lot. Her family remains steadfast in their support of her. The ongoing story is well crafted and tight, no sloppiness, no explaining away complications as "time travel" as if that explains it. 

Some time travel complications are explored here more than in previous books. Mainly; can we alter history? A very good sub-plot. As readers have come to expect from John Heldt, he develops characters so well that we feel their emotions, experience their triumphs and tragedies. This book has plenty of each to emotionally hook the reader.

Without giving a spoiler, there is a scene which will have many readers (myself included) screaming "Gotcha, that's a mistake" and like me they will be wrong. I leave it to you to find it. The Carson's are becoming more noticeable on the radar of certain governmental agencies as the series progresses. I am eager to see how this plays out as well. 

While there is tragedy to deal with, there is also comedy, romance, intrigue, and heartbreak. The story is uplifting and life affirming at its core. So even though there were a lot of emotions to deal with I still came away with a good feeling after finishing the book. The last several chapter had my heart racing. I was torn between wanting to read faster to get the whole story and wanting to slow down and savor because I knew I was nearing the end.

The downside? Now we have to wait until probably early next year to read the conclusion to the saga. 

An aside I must share here, not related to The Carson Family Chronicles. Mr. Heldt has made his catalog available in print. I recently purchased his first two series; Northwest Passage and American Journey. Although I have both in digital form, I am really happy to be able to have them in print. More permanent that way. 

Anyway, if you like history, romance, love, loss, intrigue, comedy, suspense and oh yeah, time travel, you really should give John A. Heldt's work a look. I know you won't be disappointed. Caitlin's Song is his best work yet. Enjoy!


Mike

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Hunting Season

Hunting Season (Anna Pigeon, #10)

I listened to an audio version of Hunting Season by Nevada Barr while driving on vacation.

Although this book is #10 in a series, it is the first book I have read from this author. It presents all the current social justice tropes even though it was published in 2003. We have a strong female lead, white patriarchy, white privilege, racial injustice, toxic masculinity. I didn't find it preachy, just interesting in light of current social discussion. 

Actually I found Hunting Season to be an entertaining mystery. Almost a locked room murder mystery. The corpse is found not in a locked room but in a room devoid of evidence. 

Our heroine Anna fights a good old boy network, jurisdictional disputes, family history and a general anti-female sentiment. Naturally she persists until the mystery is solved. Although there were many twists, turns and red herrings to keep the listener hooked, both my wife and I had our suspicions about who the perpetrator was very early. Turned out we were right. Still an entertaining listen from an author I would not mind reading more from. Enjoy!


Mike

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Striker

The Striker (Isaac Bell, #6)

The second audio book I listened to while driving on my recent vacation, The Striker by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott is my first Isaac Bell Adventure.

Although Isaac Bell is cast from the same mold as Dirk Pitt and other Cussler heroes. the story itself is a change from other Cussler works. 

Set in the first decade of 1900, the story revolves around the struggle of coal workers trying to organize and owners fighting unionization. 

 The Striker is a twist filled retelling of a dangerous time in U.S. history. Granted, it is fiction, but considering the small understanding of silver mining history I have where I live, the incidents related here are very believable. 

Bell is pitted (not Dirk Pitted) against an agent provocateur bent on creating an all out war between labor and management for his own agenda. 

A much more intricate story than I am used to from Cussler. It was a bit difficult to follow while driving because you really need to pay attention. The story was compelling enough that I actually listened to the last thee discs in the house. 

Suspenseful and cerebral. At first I feared a propaganda piece for unionism but that was dispelled quickly. It plainly showed bad actors on both sides of the fence. Of course there is a romantic story line, but it is different too.

I enjoyed this story more than any Cussler work I have read in quite a while. Historical action, suspense and adventure. Enjoy!

Mike

Skeleton Coast

Skeleton Coast (The Oregon Files, #4)

I listened to an audio version of Skeleton Coast by Clive Cussler with Jack Du Brul while driving on my recent vacation.

A hunt for African diamonds in which The Oregon gets caught up. Along the way, bad guys who want to unleash weather caused devastation on the earth (holy global warming Batman). Actually, two main plot lines that intertwine and overlap.

Good action and suspense. The obligatory sexual attraction. Plenty of nautical technology and sea bound action. A really cool chase on the water.

A good story to listen to while driving. Easy to follow. This was an abridged version which may have helped in my instance.

Cussler sticks to his formula and gives an entertaining, if perhaps a bit predictable, adventure thriller. And why wouldn't he? It seems to be working.

If you like nautically based adventure thrillers Skeleton Coast entertains quite well. Enjoy!


Mike


The Castle: A Bud Hutchins Supernatural Thriller

The Castle: A Bud Hutchins Supernatural Thriller (Bud Hutchins Supernatural Thrillers)

J. B. Michaels provided an e-copy of The Castle: A Bud Hutchins Supernatural Thriller for review.

The on going adventures of Bud Hutchins (genius) and The Order of St. Michaels (protectors of mankind and trees). This is the second Bud Hutchins book I have read and it is good to have read the earlier books. While the story does not specifically mention previous works, changes characters have undergone continue in the new book. Missing the earlier information could make the story a bit confusing. 

The Castle is a story of Bud and The Order's battle with vampires. It is somewhat reminiscent of the original Dracula by Bram Stoker. 

Hints at budding romance for Bud. Growth for Bud as he is required to rely on others more for help in this book. The tech, while present here is not the main focus, good balance. Good suspense and action scenes. The vampire has the obligatory inept toadies (can you say minions anymore?).

This installment of the series was a bit coarser language wise than previously (at least to me). Just something I noticed, not commenting positively or negatively.

All in all fun to follow Bud Hutchins adventures. Enjoy!


Mike