Review: Beneath The Surface by Mike Martin

Rating: Maybe

Genre: Mystery

This is the third book in Martin’s, Winston Windflower mystery series. If you’re interested in what the Indies Gals had to say about the first book in this series the review is here.

The adventures of Windflower’s career with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police continues with a murder and some questionable police activities. Our RCMP, has plenty of problems on his hands and finds himself not only wrapped up in a murder that becomes something much more, but assigned to a human trafficking task force. The mystery aspect snagged my attention real good, and I was anxious to figure out how everything tied together in the end. I have to say my detective skills are pretty good thanks to my healthy obsession with other mystery movies and books.

On the other side we get a continuation of Windflower’s love of food. I was treated to every dining experience the RCMP had during the course of the book and if anything this shows me the author has a similar love for cuisine and trying new things.

Finally props to Martin for giving us a Native American character who explores his roots. I found this part of the story fascinating as well and really enjoyed the diversity Windflower brings to the book. Not through descriptions of his skin, but through talking about his heritage and have an abiding love for it. If you’re a history fan, there’s plenty of Canadian/Native American discussion in this book, which makes me want to do some research of my own.

Now the part that makes this book a maybe. First, while I love the fact Windflower enjoys to experience the pleasures of eating, I tended to get jarred out of the story as Martin took me on a tour of every meal. I wanted the mystery, skip over the pleasant conversations and walks after dinner… give me intrigue and how Windflower is going to crack the case. Second, while Windflowers internal narrative is involved and I felt comfortable with him some of the secondary characters were a little wooden to me. Similar speaking habits, not a lot of diving into them outside of a love for food like our MC.

Overall, if you like mystery combined with a foodie adventure and a love for glorious settings then this would be the book for you.

Snag this Winston Windflower mystery at:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

Review: Gifted by HS Stone

Rating: Maybe

Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen several variations on this theme, but this story, for all of its promise, felt flat. Which is a shame, because I really enjoyed Stone’s other novel, In The Hands of Children. After reading this, I think it probably should have been labelled as middle grade rather than young adult, and a few tweaks would have kept it perfectly in line with this.

Gifted-cover2This young adult fantasy follows twins, Voima and Vennd, who are quite different. Voima is a giftless young woman, while Vennd is gifted with the power of nearly-instant healing (Think Wolverine pre-adamantium skeleton). This story bounces between their POVS and the king’s, who is capturing all Gifted people and making them fight to the death. We don’t really receive a clear explanation why, but power-hungry as he is, it’s self-explanatory.

The twins have a close relationship, and it’s obvious as the story unfolds that they’ll do anything to save each other. The stakes become clear when Vennd is discovered and captured by the king’s men.

This leads on to what made the story flat to me. Rather than experiencing the ensuing drama through Voima (or Vennd), most of her POV is spent reacting to things, rather than the story coming alive. I very much felt, at one point, that she was a character going through a plot rather than a person experiencing a horrifying, life-changing event. Part of it is because of how the scenes play out, with her reacting constantly without significant, real change from beginning to end. Part of what plays into this was constantly being told about her emotional state rather than experiencing it with her.

Having said that, the plot is fun to read through. We watch Gifteds struggle against the king and his sister’s tyranny. We get to experience life as Gifted’s on the run and how they manage to survive in a world which hates them. The cast is lively, and with more space or in future novels, would really shine on their own.

If you enjoy a quick, good read with an adventure fantasy plot, then this book would definitely appeal to you.

Gifted can be purchased at Amazon.

Review: Shadow Lands by Alan Kessler

Genre: Pychological Horror

Rating: Maybe

 

True to its blurb, Shadow Lands brings us into the mind of Steve Goldblatt, who takes us on a journey across a landscape filled with macabre and often horrifying elements treated as normal, everyday occurrences. At times difficult to follow (on purpose, as our narrator is in the unreliable school of Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart narrator), the story unfolds like a lazy, yawning cat. That has one eye. And long teeth. And wants to eat you whole.

We begin in the present. Steve meets his friend Tom to go fishing. Seems simple enough until Tom thwacks our narrator in the head with an oar. This opens up Goldblatt’s recollections, from his childhood to his adult life. Kessler captures these moments well, and drapes every one of them with a gauzy shawl of horrific. Nothing in this book is innocent, and nothing maintains a feeling of normalcy. Any sort of typical experience is tainted with Steve’s not-quite-rose-colored glasses, and there’s always a heavy feeling of trepidation hanging. This is truly Kessler’s style–you’re never ever quite comfortable with what you’re reading, and sometimes you’re not entirely sure why.

Fans of EA Poe should probably give Kessler a try,  especially if you’re a fan of unreliable narrators. This book isn’t for everyone, though, so if you’re not okay with not knowing 100% of what’s going on, you may want to pass.

Shadow Lands is available at:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

iTunes

 

Review: The Walker on the Cape – Cate’s take

Cover Walker

Genre: Mystery

Rating: Maybe

When the body of Elias Martin is found on the Cape overlooking Grand Bank, Newfoundland, RMCP officer Sgt. Winston Windflower embarks on an investigation that threatens to shake the foundations of the small coastal town. I have to say, I did enjoy this book, though it reads more like a police procedural than an actual mystery. We follow Windflower’s every move from the beginning of the case to its surprising end, and at points, the story is bogged down in technical detail. Where I thought Windflower might offer some kind of insight, he doesn’t, and I was a little disappointed in that aspect. I would have liked more from the protagonist.

What Martin does give us is a by-the-books (mostly, because what’s the appeal of a guy who does it by the books all the time?) murder investigation. We get to play along with Windflower and his side-kick Eddie Tizzard as they work the case, interrogate suspects, and put the pieces together. We also get glimpses into Windflower’s personal life through a friend who has connections to the pretty owner of the café he frequents, but the focus is on the murder of an old man with few friends.

All in all, this was a good story, but l really wanted more from the narrative. I felt too much like an outsider looking in on the book, and it was difficult for me to get into Windflower’s mind.

 

The Walker on the Cape is available at:

Book Locker 

Amazon

Review: The Path of the Fallen – Cate’s Take

The Path of the Fallen CoverGenre: Science fantasy

Rating: Maybe

This was a difficult one for me to rate, to be honest. Just a few things kept it from being  a yes, but for me (and I’m sure for many others who love science fiction/fantasy), they grew into one large issue.

First thing’s first. The world of The Path of the Fallen feels like every great science fiction movie I’ve seen, and for that, I’m incredibly grateful and impressed. Obviously, O’Brien has made a serious effort to make his world as epic as possible. With hints of Star Wars, Star Trek and even Dune, he evokes a feeling of a grand scale. There’s amazing mythology, strong characters, and an epic showdown of good vs. evil.

Where the story fell flat was in the writing itself. I wasn’t as involved as I should have been in a story like this, and I didn’t connect with the characters as well as I’d wanted, which hurt because the variety of characters O’Brien peppers his story with are great,. He even gives us insight into the main antagonist—Fe’rein—by using him as a viewpoint character (the book actually opens with Fe’rein destroying an orbiting space station, thus setting into motion the events of the book).

If the writing had been more engaging, The Path of the Fallen would have had me singing from the heavens. As it is, it’s an enjoyable book with excellent world-building and great characters.

The Path of the Fallen is available at:

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Review: Eden – Landra’s Take

Genre: Sci-Fi

Rating: Maybe

It’s 2022, there’s still war and natural disasters and disease have taken its toll on the world. A group of people find themselves the sole survivors of a plan crash. They are shoved into situations that require quick thinking, tsunamis, volcanoes, lack of food and water, dangerous mountain treks, and much more. The amazing part is the majority of them survive thanks to the survival-trained, ex-special forces Noah, his WHO doctor wife, Evelyn, and several other characters including a young woman with startling psychic abilities.

What I liked: The characters were interesting. Different talents, different histories and Holley gives readers a chance to get to know most of them really well. Histories, methodologies, and core beliefs are shared. I was invested in Noah and Evelyn’s future 100%. I found characters to love and some to hate to love. I loved the suspense of not really knowing what challenge would come next. Every time I thought things would go a certain way they went the opposite, which was a pleasant surprise. The science and futuristic ideas of Earth in 2022, these elements were cool and I enjoyed Holley’s developed history, including the technologies available to us.

What I didn’t like: There was a lot of flashbacks, info-dump, and telling that slowed the pacing of the story down. Yes, I did get more tidbits about the characters themselves, but I would’ve been able to stay connected to the story better without as many. My only other huge complaint would be the editing job, tense jumping was a bit too frequent and jarring; causing me to re-read sentences in an attempt to understand who’s POV I was living in. Also, I didn’t like the end of the story. I won’t say why because it’s a personal thing, nothing against the writing or story at all.

Overall, this is one of those books that readers need to make their own decision on. I’m invested in the characters so I’m definitely up for reading the next book, and though I had a few issues with this story other readers may not have the same problem.

Purchase a copy at:

Amazon

Review: Secrets of Fae by E B Ryan – Landra’s Take

Rating: Maybe

Genre: Urban Fantasy (you could also call it high fantasy, they’re saving the world)

In a sentence: Secrets of Fae is a journey of elaborate world-building that you won’t get lost in. This book is an adventure that follows a Fae High Priestess, Alex Chase, as she deals with a vampire out for revenge and world domination, prophecies, and a large group of supernaturals all with their own agenda.

Alex is a refreshing heroine in the Urban Fantasy world because she’s not a super bad ass right off the bat. Hell, she doesn’t wear skin-tight clothes either. She does have an over-adoring male fan base consisting of vampires, shape shifters and demons. Why does everyone find her attractive? I’m not sure, but I get a kick out of her ability to parade through the attractions while maintaining a relationship with her main squeeze, vampire Xavier. Did I also mention she has these kick butt wards/tattoos of a wolf and a dragon that emerge from her body at command. Love. It.

The story is from Alex’s perspective only, and while I’m a fan of the dual perspective in books I enjoyed my time in Alex’s head. She’s funny and not afraid to call herself out for being an irrational. Action sequences, powers, abilities, and the mythos were all in place and interesting. I found myself wanting more of the history of the realms and how they came to be; good world-building will drive those desires. There are a ton of characters in the story to keep straight, but Ryan did a good job of sprinkling them in throughout the book so when a new character was introduced I didn’t feel overwhelmed.

My issues were more quirks than anything. Frankly, there was often more telling versus showing within Alex’s actions and emotions, repetitious dialogue tags, where they probably weren’t needed, and a feeling like a I was reading a sequel instead of the beginning of a story. Add in a couple of times where I thought there were more questions being provided then answers and a few too many plot points created or left unresolved.

Needless to say the pros and cons balance each other and I admit to getting hooked on Alex’s world and ultimately how she plays into that world. There’s plenty of room for additional adventures and Secrets of Fae could very well be the start of another urban fantasy series to invest in.

Secrets of Fae is available at:

Champagne Books

Amazon

Previous Older Entries