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Posts Tagged ‘Book Reviews’

Fantasy Review – City of Nightmares

Friday, September 22nd, 2023

City of Nightmares by Rebecca Schaeffer

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)


I thought the concept of the story sounded intriguing. In a town where going to sleep can mean waking up as your worst nightmare… literally. Ness has seen it up close and personal. Her sister woke up as a giant spider and killed their dad right in front of her. This made Ness terrified of everything. The only place that she could feel safe was at the Friends of the Restless Soul. There you train to fight and vanquish nightmares. Ness makes sure she does just enough at the organization to keep herself there but also just a little less to keep her out of harm’s way. The city is full of nightmares though and there is no way to hide from them forever.

I really enjoyed this story. It kept me wanting to read more. I enjoyed the friendships that surrounded Ness and also enjoyed some of the creepy nightmares. The only downfall is that our main character could wear on you after a bit. She was quite repetitive in her fear and the image that her sister left in her head. Enough so that I found myself skimming those parts. Luckily, even though it is closer to the end, she does start to find her way and get a lot more confidence. Excited to see what the next book has in store.




Historical Science Fiction – The Daughter of Doctor Moreau

Saturday, September 9th, 2023

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

Most readers will recognize the name of Doctor Moreau from the classic H.G. Wells novel, The Island of Doctor Moreau, and settle back with anticipation of what’s to come.

Let’s call it historical SF.  Set in the Yucatan peninsula of colonial Mexico. Carlota Moreau is the teen-aged daughter of the title. She’s lived in the remote jungle hacienda all her life with only her father and a few others for company. Doctor Moreau is, maybe, a genius. He’s created something no one has ever done before, but has so far received no benefit. Carlota has never been in school, never been in society, never known anything except the hacienda, but she loves it there.  There are not too many others – Carlota and her father, Montgomery Laughton the alcoholic overseer, Ramona the housekeeper, and her father’s animal/human hybrid creations. Carlota knows them all and in fact, Cachito and Lupe are her best friends.

But life is about to change. Dr. Moreau is laden with debt, and so is Montgomery – both to the same man. Senor Lizaldes has funded Moreau for years, hoping for a manufactured creature he can use to work the fields.  The Europeans are desperate for workers in the cane fields, but the Mayan peoples – and others – are not eager to be treated as slaves. But Lizaldes is getting extremely impatient with the lack of progress. He wants his workers, or he’s going to withdraw his funding.

Eduardo Lizaldes is the son of their patron, and this handsome, arrogant young man comes uninvited to visit one day. He’s smitten with Carlota – or perhaps he just wants a conquest. Carlota is smitten with him – or perhaps she is obeying her father, who believes a marriage could solve his problems.  Montgomery is seething with anger at the presumption of this boy – or perhaps he’s jealous.  The hybrids just want to seek their own destiny.  But Doctor Moreau has more than one secret, and the situation is about to spiral out of control.

You won’t be surprised at anything that happens here, not if you’re paying attention. Told in alternating viewpoints of Carlota and Montgomery, it starts rather slowly but has a steady buildup of tension until everything breaks loose. The characters are well drawn and the setting is perfect for the story.  I did think the ending was a bit too easy, but the sweet and sad atmosphere created by Moreno-Garcia, plus characters Carlota and Montgomery,  make it worth reading.





Fantasy Review – The Limbreth Gate

Saturday, August 26th, 2023

The Limbreth Gate by Megan Lindholm

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)



This is the third book in the “Ki and Vandien Quartet”; the series is also known as “The Windsingers”. I reviewed the first and second books previously (HARPY’S FLIGHT and THE WINDSINGERS).  It is necessary to read them first for this one to make any sense.

In the last book, Ki made an enemy of one of the Windsingers, but she also gained the protection – though not friendship – of another.   Rebeke, the protector, has made it clear to the others that Ki is not to be interfered with, but Yoleth has already set a plan in motion.  She has made a bargain with the Limbreth, a bored god of another world, to lure Ki through a  gate that can be opened between the worlds.  The Windsingers have done this before with inconvenient people. Because the worlds must be “balanced”, one person must leave as another one enters, and the Limbreth is only too willing to sacrifice some of its own people in order to get new faces.  It’s a one-way trip.

Once in the Limbreth’s world, as they drink the water, a strange compulsion overtakes humans. They are compelled to travel on and find the Limbreth. They are repelled by the idea of eating meat or causing harm to any living thing.  They find peace and enlightenment but unfortunately they’re also starving to death – the locals do not provide any help. The Limbreth is already sucking up their life experiences and doesn’t really care if they die later.  Ki comes across another stranded traveler, Hollyika the Brurjan, a cat-like humanoid.

Lindholm is a very good prose stylist. Lots of imagery and atmosphere. But there’s so little action going on – there’s a lot of philosophical musings from Ki  after she’s been affected by the Limbreth about the meaning of her life and all.  And more of the same from the woman Jace who came out of that world, and more from Vandien, and more from…it goes on.  It’s good prose, but I grew impatient for something to happen. It’s very much in line with the other books, more introspection than action.

I found Vandien’s hesitation in freeing Ki very irritating. She’s obviously been mind-altered, she’s starving to death, and he’s moaning to himself “But she’s happy, should I do anything?” I identified a lot more with Hollyika, who takes a brute force approach to the problem.  In fact, I liked Hollyika more than either Ki or Vandien this time around, which was amusing.  Lindholm was trying to convey a message there, but it didn’t resonate at all  with me.

There is a huge discovery made about Ki which is just brushed on and then dropped. I assume it’s picked up in the next and last book, because it’s a major change and I’d love to know what she’s going to do with it.  There’s another huge discovery about how their world came to be, and it would be nice to see that explored too, but I’m doubtful Hobb can fit all that in.

As with the first two, it’s an interesting world, but unsurprising that the series is no longer in print. I have a copy of the last, and I’ll be picking it up before too long.




Horror Review – What Moves the Dead

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

WHAT MOVES THE DEAD is a wonderfully creepy retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, The Fall of the House of Usher.  I previously reviewed Kingfisher’s novel NETTLE AND BONE, and liked it so much I grabbed this book as soon as I saw it.   Novella length, it expands the characters and provides a reason for the tragedy.

The year is 1890. Lieutenant Alex Easton has received a letter from Madeline Usher, a childhood friend and the sister of Roderick Usher, who was also a fellow soldier. Madeline writes the Lieutenant that Roderick is afraid she is dying, Easton determines to travel there at once and, as in Poe’s short story, the scene opens with the traveler gazing at the utterly bleak and depressing lake in front of the equally awful mansion.

As Easton stops to look at some very odd mushrooms, ka sees an Englishwoman with her paints and sketchpad. (Wait – what – ka? Yeah, you’re going to have to revise your mental image of the Lieutenant). Miss Potter is going to be of help of Easton, what help there can be at any rate.

Madeline is indeed deathly ill, and Roderick not far behind her, plus the entire atmosphere of the house and its surroundings is so unhealthful that the Lieutenant despairs of ka’s friends. There’s an American doctor there as well, who would do something if only he could figure out what.  Alex desperately wants to figure it out before it’s too late.

Kingfisher does not change the fate of the Ushers.  But Easton does find out what ails them, and it’s oh so unnerving. Ka is a wonderful character and I am happy to see that there’s another Sworn Soldier book coming (What Feasts at Night, scheduled for Feb 2024). In fact, all these characters, including Hob the horse, are so well done. The imagery is just as horrifying as Poe’s, without all the overwrought description – and no poetry, which frankly I didn’t miss.

In short, a really nice horror novella, and highly recommended.




Fantasy Review – Wide Open

Friday, August 18th, 2023

Wide Open by Deborah Coates

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

Call this a contemporary fantasy with a murder mystery plot. No wizards, elves, or vampires, but a growing dark power that needs to be put back.  There’s a hint of romantic possibility.

Hallie Michaels is returning home on compassionate leave from her unit in Afghanistan. She’s been told her sister Dell has died, but that’s all she knows.  Waiting for her in the concourse are two friends – and two ghosts.  Hallie’s been seeing the ghost of Eddie, a good friend and fellow soldier killed by an IED, after she briefly “died” in an attack. And now there’s Dell. The ghosts don’t communicate, they just drift close by her.

But then she’s told that Dell committed suicide, by driving her car into a tree out in a remote part of country. Hallie knows her sister would never have done that. After a bit she realizes the ghosts are trying to tell her that there’s something left unfinished. Hallie is going to find out what happened to Dell no matter what.

Then there’s the new deputy, Boyd Davies. This is a small rural town – everyone has known everyone else for ages. Where did he come from?  Hallie is sure Boyd knows something about Dell, but he won’t say anything to her.  But he always manages to show up, seemingly out of  nowhere, when Hallie looks like she might be getting into trouble.  Hallie’s questions quickly garner hostility from a couple people she thinks know more than they are letting on. As her suspicions coalesce around Dell’s workplace, Uku-Weber, the hostility becomes open threats.

What is it that Uku-Weber actually does? When more ghosts of young women start following Hallie around, and fires start from no cause, she gets more and more determined to stop it, whatever it is.

Hallie is a very likable character. She’s tough, stubborn, prickly and with take-no-prisoners attitude. Boyd is more enigmatic but as we get to his backstory he also becomes more relatable. I liked how Hallie interacted with the ghosts – it would be hard to do that without your friends thinking you’re crazy. Lots of atmosphere conveyed in straightforward prose, good pacing, and good dialogue.

As I write this, there are two sequels featuring Hallie, but this one is a complete story in itself.





Non-Fiction Review – Redhanded

Tuesday, August 15th, 2023


Redhanded: An Exploration of Criminals, Cannibals, Cults, and What Makes a Killer Tick by Suruthi Bala & Hannah Maguire

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)


This book is based of the authors’ podcast. Although I have never listened to it, I felt an attraction to the book when I first saw it. After reading it, I now feel an attraction to listen to the podcast.

I was pleasantly surprised on how well the book flowed and kept me entertained. It did not get bogged down and dry. I wouldn’t say that I am an expert on the subject but have read about a lot on this type of subject. Yet, they were still able to throw a couple things in there that I had never heard about. One was about the Incels. I didn’t even know that they existed. My mind was totally blown. On top of that, the science that they covered was very interesting and it was nice to get their thoughts on the matter. Even better was the humor that they injected through the book. Such a horrific and scary subject, yet you find yourself chuckling throughout the read.

Very enjoyable book. Looking forward to checking out the podcast.


Thriller Review – A Deadly Influence

Thursday, August 10th, 2023

A Deadly Influence by Mike Omer

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)


When Abby Mullen, hostage negotiation instructor, gets a phone call from a mom about a missing child, she feels compelled to help. Once she gets to the mom’s house, she finds that she knows her. They share a past made up of tragic events from a cult that they were both members of when they were children. After delving into the mysteries around the child’s disappearance, Abby finds that she might be dealing with another cult.  Finding herself reliving the past, she uses what she knows to help navigate her way through the dealings with this new cult.

The book flows between the past and the present effortlessly. We see the struggles that the children went through in the past and how it actually helps Abby with the case in the present. The story also brings social media into the picture and shows how it can be entertaining but also dangerous.

It was a good story that had some endearing characters. While the book tied up this story, it did leave a tiny cliffhanger at the end. I feel the need to go to the next book just to see what is going on.