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The Drowning of Arthur Braxton by Caroline Smiles

21 Mar

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Mythology is as old as the sands of time themselves. It is where our history started, our belief systems began, where story came from. They influence our habits, whether we know it or not, are reflected through history in a variety of different ways.

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton by Caroline Smailes is a new myth for the modern day-it is a twisting and entwining of the Greek myths of Apollo and Daphne, Pollux and Castor, Jason and Medea.

Smailes has created a tapestry of a story, an interwoven narrative that is entertaining in its own right. However, the awesome bit is that, if you know your history and myths and legends, the story takes on a new kind of resonance.

Instead of being a bland retelling of a myth, it becomes something of its own. Trust me on this one. I recently sat through a play set around Ovid’s myths. The stage was a two tier pool. The top one was in the centre of the stage with space in between where the actors would appear.

The actors really swam in both pools of water. The backdrop to this play was a dark and haunting electronic lines of blue and white-think Matrix here. The music was really amazing (except when there was singing) and the design incredible.

That is the kindest thing I can say about the play. I did however picture that set when reading The Drowning of Arthur Braxton. I have never been inside a proper bathhouse, so I wouldn’t have anything else to compare it to. I can only hope the author can forgive my imagination.

Smailes had typically written about troubled people before. Her debut, In Search of Adam, was about a girl trying to find herself. Black Boxes was about a woman who wanted to lose herself. Her third novel, Like Bees to Honey, an international best-seller, was about a woman who went looking for what she left behind.

That’s what makes The Drowning of Arthur Braxton different: its voice is predominately male. Make no mistake, you will meet many people in these pages. You have Arthur Braxton, neglected at home and beat up at school. He meet Delphina and Laurel in an old abandoned public bath that hides some pretty terrible things; and there’s Silver. Always Silver. It is the story of Kester and Pollock, two old men with a secret, it is the story of the world and the refuge that Arthur finds at the Oracle.

He is entranced with the always swimming Delphina. He skips school to spend time with  her. In doing so, he finds himself falling into modern day myth that was part comedy, part romance, part coming of age. Oh, and it a myth, so you can’t forget the tragedy.

I ached for Arthur, that is how brilliantly Smailes has written his story. I also cheered for him, yelled at him, thought of him, hoped for him. He was someone all of us know, that all of us have inside us. We are always trying do to whatever we can to fit in, even if it will cost us what we love most. At least we were-everyone remembers high school right? His story if incredibly well told. If I didn’t know the name on the cover, so convincingly has the author told Arthur’s story.

Caroline Smailes has always delivered and her stories always have a character that you’re drawn to. First it was Jude and then it was Ana and Nina and in her eBook novella, 99 Reasons Why, we are given the story of Kate. Her protagonists and their story are her greatest achievement. From the first page her characters grab hold of you, the story sinks into you and then you are held enraptured. For a little while afterwards, everything you try to read doesn’t draw you in. You are left haunted by the story for a little while and want to read it again; at least I do.

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is no exception, but it is the first time Smailes has chosen to write mainly from the point of view of a male. It’s a bold move. Something that takes the book into the stratosphere. Think of the brilliance of The Fault With Our Stars by John Green, anything by Meg Rosoff (especially There is No Dog), mix in a little Christopher Moore (particularly Sacre Bleu and Fool) and you’ve got something that is close to the brilliance of this book.

When I first started reading, I wondered what story Caroline Smailes had gifted us this time around. Instead, like a very good story, after a few words, I stopped wondering and just enjoyed.

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is a brilliant retelling of myth, a fantastic reference to pop culture with a bit of magic thrown in. If Caroline’s intention was to put a spell on the reader, the consider me spellbound. I urge you to pre-order this book, no, I implore you. I want you fall under the spell that her novel creates.

You can find The Drowning of Arthur Braxton here:

http://www.amazon.com/Drowning-Arthur-Braxton-Caroline-Smailes/dp/0007479093/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1363823485&sr=8-5&keywords=Caroline+Smailes

If you want the paperback (and you will, it’s just that good) you can order one from The Book Depository with free shipping worldwide:

http://www.bookdepository.com/Drowning-Arthur-Braxton-Caroline-Smailes/9780007479092

You can always read the eBook while you’re waiting for the paperback copy to arrive. Like all good myths, The Drowning of Arthur Braxton by Caroline Smailes goes on the keeper shelf. It’s a modern classic on par with The Wizard of Oz or Harry Potter or The Hunger Games.

All I can tell you is to read this book. That it is a beautiful story incredibly told. I can’t wait to read it again when my paperback arrives.

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Before His Time by Darren Craske

22 Jan

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When we last left the Station Guard and his talking Rat companion, they were eager to head for Switzerland in order to find the other humans that remained on Earth.

After a massive intergalactic catastrophe, all of Earth’s humans are gone. All except for the population of Switzerland, which somehow avoided the peril that befell the rest of Earth and the Station Guard.

With only the foul-mouthed talking Rat for company, the Station Guard is eager to embrace those human’s that remain. After a brief stop at Marks and Spencer to get some winter outer gear (and the blowing up of a shark), the Station Guard and the talking Rat are catapulted through thought and space to Switzerland by Astrid, an articulated python.

Except that there’s a problem. A Very Big Problem. If the Station Guard and the Rat act, they could prevent the whole catastrophe from happening in the first place. If they don’t act, they risk getting lost in history itself. However, they must be careful. For anything they do will have an effect on what will become of the Earth and the fate of humanity hangs in the balance. Add to that the fact that their lives are in grave danger and you’ve got the makings of a blockbuster adventure!

I’ve never appreciated how hard it is to write a review for a sequel without giving anything away or anything away from the first novel in a series. Why the hesitancy in giving anything away? Well, I said it before and I’ll say it again: This book is so good that it deserves to be discovered on its own and dived into.  However, if my plot summary seems especially meager this time around, that’s because I’m trying to be conscious of those who don’t like spoilers or those who haven’t read the first book.

I absolutely loved Above His Station. It was one of my very favourite books of 2012. I wondered if the sequel, Before His Time, would live up to the first book and figured it would. I needn’t have worried. Before His Time is Darren Craske at his most wonderful and inventive best.

Filled with laugh out loud humour, fantastic characters, a lightning quick plot with hair turns and twists aplenty and more meta references than you can shake a stick at, Before His Time is a comedic masterpiece on par with The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

The great thing is that, if you haven’t read Above His Station, Craske gives readers a hilarious take on “The Story So Far” that had me laughing out loud before the novel even really began.  Once the introduction chapter is over, we’re thrown headlong into one of the best novels I have ever read, period. The plot goes places I never envisioned and I have rarely had such a good time.

With pop culture references that cover everything from Back to the Future , Jerry Lewis, Star Wars all the way to Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor, Craske is a writer with his finger on the vein of hilarity. What’s skillful about Craske’s writing is how seamlessly he works the humour in. It comes naturally to his writing and never feels forced. Make no mistake however: this is a madcap adventure that will either have you laughing out loud or holding your sides as you laugh internally. It should probably come with a warning for people who don’t like laughing in public places. However, if you don’t mind laughing yourself silly with the occasional person staring your way, than full speed ahead, I say!

We’re only a hop, skip and a jump into 2013 and Craske has already topped himself again. Before His Time is a skillfully written comedic novel that touches on everything from time travel to history and back again. And I couldn’t have been more thrilled to have taken the ride.

Now would be a very good time for a chocolate digestive biscuit…or two. Oh, and mind the trees. They like to sing on occasion…

Kissed by a Vampire by Caridad Pineiro

7 Nov

 

As a two thousand year old vampire elder, Stacia is haunted by her mortal past.

Though Stacia finds pleasure and arousal in the taking of blood, she also knows that she can’t let herself love again. Betrayed by the only man she ever loved, she has carried the hurt of the betrayal for two thousand years and won’t open her heart to anyone.

That all changes when she meets the mortal DEA Agent Alex Garcia.

For years now, Alex has been plagued with nightmares of a demon. She comes to him in his dreams as she came to him years ago, while he was on the brink of death. While working on another case, he is stunned to come face to face with the demon from his dreams.

Alex spots Stacia in a local club, The Widget, while working on a case to find five missing women. He is shocked to see his demon in the flesh. For her part, Stacia can’t place Alex but cannot deny that the connection between them is incredibly strong.

As the connection and attraction grows between them, Alex and Stacia each deal with their own demons: Stacia believes that she is not worthy of love, that no one could love a vampire. For his part, Alex believes that vampires can’t possibly exist.

However, when Stacia reveals her vampire side to Alex, both of them must deal with their demons if either of them will have a chance at love.

I love everything that Caridad Pineiro writes, but I especially love her vampire Calling Series. It’s been a long time since the last book in the series, Fury Calls, was published in 2009. There have, of course, been vampire novels aplenty since then but few reach the caliber and beauty that Pineiro gives her vampires.

Kissed by a Vampire is absolutely flat out incredible. I have always loved Stacia ever since she showed up in the Calling Series and have always wanted her to find a true love to melt her cold heart. I wondered what it would be like to have her as a heroine when she’s been a supporting character throughout the series. I’m so thrilled that Stacia got her own book and it was well worth the wait to see her in the spotlight.

Stacia is a very unconventional heroine and meets her match in Alex Garcia. Both characters meshed really well for me and the romance between them moved naturally with no forced moments. Instead, the love affair between them is genuinely touching and wonderful to watch as it unfolds.

Not only is Kissed by a Vampire incredibly well written, it flows so smoothly that you’ll be done the book before you realize it. It’s filled with characters that live beyond the printed page as you’ll carry them with you long after you turn the last page.

The plot was thrilling, the romance hot and spicy, the action fantastic. Kissed by a Vampire has everything you could want and then some. I loved Kissed by a Vampire so much that I hope Stacia and Alex get another book to themselves so that we can see how their relationship develops over time.

Caridad Pineiro has written an incredible tale of betrayal, love and redemption. It hooked me from the first page and held me spellbound until the last page. In fact, I’d say that it’s her best book in the series so far and I loved every gorgeous moment.

If you read one romance this winter, read Kissed by a Vampire. It’ll heat up your night and warm your heart.

A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink

9 Oct

 

Helen Cartwright’s world is about to change, but not necessarily for the better.

When her mother comes to her bedroom one evening, Helen is distraught. Downstairs, she can hear voices raised in anger and what sounds like a dangerous fight. Her mother quickly packs a valise for Helen and gives her some chilling advice: “Do what I tell you and stay hidden. Otherwise, they will kill you and all will be for nothing.”

Helen’s mother opens a hidden door in her bedroom wall and shoves her daughter inside, giving her a piece of paper with instructions on how to get out of the house unseen and where she must go. She must find Griffin and Darius and they will take her to Galizur.

With these mysterious words, Helen’s mother shuts the wall and blocks the hidden entrance. It is the last time she sees her parents alive. She hears voices on the other side of the wall but they can’t find her. What they decide to do, however, is set her house on fire.

Following her mother’s instructions in order to flee her burning house, Helen finds herself at Griffin and Darius’ house. Stepping across the threshold, Helen enters into a strange world that she is already entwined in.

Unbeknownst to her, she has been trained her whole life as a Keeper, one of the Dictata, an organization that must protect the Earth and keep the balance of good and evil in check. As if that isn’t strange enough, Helen is told that she is from a line of people descended from angels and that she must help protect the world.

Helen will have to rely on everything she has learned, and the help of Griffin who stirs a desire inside of her, if they are all to save the world with their souls and their hearts intact.

After all, why should life be simple, even for an angel?

In A Temptation of Angels, Michelle Zink has written an apocalyptic tale set in a Victorian steampunk world that succeeds on every level. Not only is the story one that keeps you flipping the pages madly to find out what happens next, she has created characters that seem so alive, it’s as if I know them in real life itself.

My meager plot summary doesn’t even come close to describing how epic and amazing this novel is. Anything you think you know about the young adult genre is thrown out the window and the reader is treated to a tale unlike any other I’ve ever read. Full of passion, thrilling adventure and amazing plot twists that will leave you in shock, A Temptation of Angels is her best novel yet.

More than anything though, it’s a very intense study of what is good and what is evil. It’s a story of a young woman who must grow up quickly in order for her to claim her birthright and find her place in a hidden world to which she belongs. It also takes all the young adult novels about angels and adds something fresh, new and different in an already crowded genre.

Not content to follow the norms with young adult novels featuring angels, Zink’s world and character building are top notch as she takes us deeper into a dark world where nothing is what it seems and everything, even life itself, is at stake. I’m used to being impressed with Michelle Zink’s novels, but A Temptation of Angels blew me out of the water. I read it twice in eBook format and then read the hardcover for a third go around.

Perhaps the most amazing element of this novel is the fact that, even after I finished the novel, the characters stayed with me, haunting me in the daytime, their story embedded in my memory. The mark of great fiction is a story that stays with you.

If that is the case, then A Temptation of Angels is certainly a story for the ages. To read A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink is to witness a master at her craft and I for one couldn’t be happier to let Zink enthrall me, enchant me and leave me wanting more.

The Iron Legends by Julie Kagawa

9 Oct

 

I absolutely love The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa. Which is my lack of excitement at the release of The Iron Legends was perplexing to me.

The Iron Legends consists of three novellas and a guide to the Nevernever. Two of them, Winters Passage and Summers Crossing, were released as eBooks and the third, Irons Prophecy, is new to the collection and will be released as a standalone eBook in September.

I thought: So what’s the point? I’ve already read the other two novellas; the guide to the Nevernerver included at the end of The Iron Knight and could wait until Iron’s Prophecy is released as an eBook. However, because I’m a completest with my books and have all the other Iron Fey novels in paperback and eBook, I decided to get The Iron Legends in paperback as well.

Am I ever glad I did.

Here’s the thing: Yes, Winters Passage and Summers Crossing were both released in eBook format, but this is the first time that they have been released in print. Before I delved into Iron’s Prophecy, I read Winters Passage and Summers Crossing again. I enjoyed them even more in print than I did in eBook format. There’s just something about The Iron Fey series that cries out to be read in paperback, to hold such a tangible object in your hands when the world it contains is anything but tangible.

Reading those two novellas again helped me to remember everything I loved about the series as a whole and, since Winters Passage comes between The Iron King and The Iron Daughter and Summers Crossing comes between The Iron Queen and The Iron Knight, I wanted to go back and experience the whole series all over again.

To top it off, Iron’s Prophecy and the new expanded Guide to the Nevernever are worth the price of the book alone. Irons Prophecy takes place after the events of The Iron Knight and is the last story with Meaghan and Ash as the protagonists. It was thrilling to be with them again as their lives take a turn for the worse that threatens their happily ever after.

Here’s a bit about the novellas in brief:

In Winters Passage, Ash is taking Meaghan back to the Winter Court so that she can uphold a bargain she made with the Winter Prince. What she didn’t count on was falling deeper in love with him.

In Summers Crossing, Puck owes Leansidhe a favour and she’s come to collect. Unfortunately, Puck will need Ash’s help in order to complete his task and discover the means to what Ash wants: a soul so that he can remain with Meaghan in the Iron Realm.

In Iron’s Prophecy, Meaghan and Ash are going to their first Elyssium with Meaghan as the Queen of the Iron Fey. Only, things don’t go so well. The Oracle appears and makes a deadly prophecy that might change the fates of all the Fey if it were to come true.

Iron’s Prophecy is the longest of the three novellas and the best by far as it works as a bridge book to the first novel in the new Iron Fey series Call of the Forgotten: The Lost Prince. That series features Meaghan’s brother Ethan and the prophecies of the Oracle might affect him.

As if all that awesomeness isn’t enough, the new expanded Guide to the Nevernever is huge and takes up almost a quarter of the anthology. It is THE reference for all things Iron Fey and any fan of the series. It contains information on all the locales, characters and back stories of the series as well as a glossary. To compare, the Guide to the Nevernever at the back of The Iron Knight was only about five or six pages. This new expanded Guide is around thirty or forty pages, packed full with all kinds of information to make any fan of the Iron Fey series happy for months!

Even cooler, interspersed between the three novellas are Julie Kagawa’s chibi illustrations of Ash, Puck and Grimalkin. And if that isn’t awesome, I don’t know what is.

My lack of excitement was most certainly unfounded. The Iron Legends is an essential must have for any fan of the series as its full of the characters we have grown to love and then some. One small word of caution though: if you haven’t read any books in the Iron Fey series, you’re going to be lost. Read the books in order and you’ll be fine.

Ultimately, The Iron Legends feels like a gift from Julie Kagawa to the fans of the series. And I for one couldn’t be happier to have opened it.

The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa

9 Oct

 

Ethan Chase is sick of the Fey. He knows the first rule of dealing with the Fey: Don’t look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them. The only problem is, They can see Ethan…

Years ago, when he was four, he was kidnapped and brought into the Nevernever in order to lure his sister Meaghan, half daughter of Oberon, into the world of the Fey. Now the Iron Queen, Ethan hasn’t seen his sister in years and, at seventeen years old, hates the Fey even more.

The only problem is that, once you can see the Fey, they won’t leave you alone.

Trying to avoid them, he puts on a tough guy persona and keeps everyone away from him. He already lost his sister to the world of the Fey and he doesn’t want to endanger anyone else by bringing them into contact with the Fey who can either be malicious or cruel.

Things don’t always go as planned, however.

When Ethan meets Todd, a half human, half Phouka, at school, he warns Todd to stay away from him. But Todd is in danger, more danger than he knows. A new breed of Fey, ghostly white and almost transparent, kidnap Todd and kill a pixie. The ghost Fey warn Ethan to stay out of matters that don’t concern him. However, Ethan can’t stop thinking about Todd and knows that it’s up to him to rescue the half Phouka.

After a brutal attack from the ghost Fey, Ethan and high school reporter Mackenzie St. James are dragged right into the Nevernever. Ethan knows that he has to warn his sister, Queen of the Iron Realm, and the Summer and Winter courts as well, before more exiles and half breeds go missing. Their world is at stake and it’s up to Ethan and Mac

But this is the world of the Fey and things are never what they seem to be.

I was incredibly saddened when The Iron Knight came out. It was the last book in The Iron Fey series and I really didn’t want to let that world go. The whole Iron Fey series (composing six books in all) is one of my favourite series of all time. So imagine how thrilled I was to hear of a new spin off series titled The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten.

I wasn’t sure how Ethan Chase, all grown up now, would work as a narrator. All the other books had been told from Meghan’s point of view. Would a new series, with a new narrator, work just as well? Thankfully the answer is a genuine and resounding yes!

Ethan is a beautifully flawed character. He’s lonely but frightened of letting anyone else get close to him. He loves his sister but hates the fact that her role as the Iron Queen has taken her away from their family. He hates the Fey and what they have done to his life, but takes on the responsibility of entering their world when he has no other choice. He is also a born fighter and, despite his bad boy persona, has a well balanced heart.

I also loved Mackenzie. She’s the perfect love interest for Ethan, a girl with secrets of her own and a past she tries to hide. However, whereas Ethan’s tough as nail’s personality is all an act, Mackenzie is a girl who can hold her own in any battle and the chemistry between her and Ethan crackles off the page.

What’s great about The Lost Prince: Call of the Forgotten is that it doesn’t feel like an extension of the original series. Yes, we see Puck, Ash, Grimalkin and Meghan within its pages, but Ethan is a man now and must make his own decisions. This is his book through and through. It might be the same world but the danger is real and the stakes are higher than ever before.

Can it be read on its own for those who are unfamiliar with the world of the Iron Fey? Yes it can, as Kagawa does a brilliant job of filling her readers in as much as possible. However, those not familiar with the previous six books will be missing the depth the secondary characters have. But if you wanted to pick up The Lost Prince and jump right in, you’re pretty much good to go.

Kagawa’s world building is amazing and her characters live and breathe on the page. Her trademark humour is here in spades, but this is a much darker novel than the previous series. Ethan has more issues he must deal with if he is to become a true Prince of the Iron Realm.

An incredible, lightning paced, thrilling read, The Lost Prince is everything you could want and then some. It’s Kagawa’s best book to date and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

 

Circle of Fire by Michelle Zink

8 Jul

 

Dear Michelle,

I’m about to start your finish your Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy for the forth time.

By now, I’ve also read the new Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy and reading the original trilogy after the information of the three novellas has given the trilogy a different and incredible vibrant intensity for me.

When Circle of Fire came out in 2011 year, I bought all three ebooks. I wanted to read the first two books in the trilogy (Prophecy of the Sisters and Guardian of the Gate) first, before reading Circle of Fire.

Even though it was sitting there, inside my ebook reader, I waited to read Circle of Fire. I wanted the story fresh in my head. I’m so glad I did! The story, the world, the characters you created came alive in Circle of Fire and burned the page right up.

I really wasn’t sure how you were going to do it, end a trilogy that I have become (like so many others) so emotionally invested in. What would happen to Alice? Dear god, what would happen to Lia? How would so many plot threads resolve themselves? Would the victors be victorious?

You blew all my expectations out of the water. Circle of Fire was more than I could have hoped for in the ending of a trilogy. It was thrilling, captivating, riveting and amazing. I loved every word, even though I knew that the end would soon come.

I’ve tried to think of how to tell you how much I enjoyed your book; so I decided just to tell you. I looked at the signed Circle of Fire bookplate this evening and it reminded me just how wonderful your books are (that and the postcard, thanks so MUCH for that! I collect them!).

I have now ordered my hard cover copy of Circle of Fire (to put beside my hardcover copies of Prophecy of the Sisters and Guardian of the Gate) so that I can put my bookplate in it. I can’t wait for the order to come in so I can put Circle of Fire right next to your new novel, A Temptation of Angels, giving me a complete set of your books (eBook and Print). I can tell I’m a book geek when having the whole set excites me beyond words.

Thank you for giving me such a thrilling ride, such real characters, such an incredible adventure.

I loved every word of it.

Cheers,

Jamieson