Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street by Lauren Oliver

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*No Major Spoilers*

Cordelia Clay loves the work she and her father do together: saving and healing the remarkable creatures around Boston at the end of the nineteenth century. Their home on Cedar Street is full to the brim with dragons, squelches, and Diggles, and Cordelia loves every one of them.

But their work must be kept secret—others aren’t welcoming to outsiders and immigrants, so what would the people of Boston do to the creatures they call “monsters”?

One morning, Cordelia awakens to discover that her father has disappeared—along with nearly all the monsters.

With only a handful of clues and a cryptic note to guide her, Cordelia must set off to find out what happened to her father, with the help of her new friend Gregory, Iggy the farting filch, a baby dragon, and a small zuppy (zombie puppy, that is).

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First off, I’d like to say, if you are a fan of the monsters and creatures in the Harry Potter universe, this theme gets expanded tenfold. Even though most monsters are only mentioned in passing, I feel this monster-filled world is just as fleshed out as in Harry Potter.

To imagine our world is filled with creatures that are only featured in mythology and fairy tales reminds me of the Pokemon video games, just without the animal abuse. The world feels so strange and alien since Cordelia was sheltered growing up in a house full of monsters.

One small nitpick I had early on was the similarities between the father and daughter’s names. I had to go back and reread sections because I got the two mixed up. Although to make up for it, I’m impressed at how the author gets us to bond with Cordelia and Cornelius and makes the disappearance more impactful without wasting our time.

As Cordelia’s search for her father and the monsters continues, I love all of the hijinx and misadventures the characters get into. In one case, Cordelia finds herself at a traveling circus that boasts a freak show of monsters. For Cordelia to think this circus as her monsters almost instantly, shows how young and somewhat immature she is.

I love the ending of this story, it wrapped everything up all nice and neat. Everyone learned from the struggles faced on the adventures shows through. Even Cornelius learns from his mistakes and moves on from the loss of his wife. So if you’re looking for a novel with a happy ending, you’ll find it here.

Although I know this is a children’s chapter book, I feel the issues discussed are appropriate for all ages. Friendship, racism, and growing up in a world that looks down upon the “lesser than”. Big issues discussed in appropriate ways.

I would recommend this for lovers of fantasy, monsters, and a coming of age story that’s worth the read. The Monsters of Cedar Street is a fun read for readers of all ages.

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Club Reads, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

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*No Major Spoilers*

New York, 1888. Gas lamps still flicker in the city streets, but the miracle of electric light is in its infancy. The person who controls the means to turn night into day will make history–and a vast fortune. A young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?

The case affords Paul entry to the heady world of high society–the glittering parties in Gramercy Park mansions, and the more insidious dealings done behind closed doors. The task facing him is beyond daunting. Edison is a wily, dangerous opponent with vast resources at his disposal–private spies, newspapers in his pocket, and the backing of J. P. Morgan himself. Yet this unknown lawyer shares with his famous adversary a compulsion to win at all costs. How will he do it?

“Poor people all think they deserve to be rich,” he continued. “Rich people live every day with the uneasy knowledge that we do not.”
Graham Moore, The Last Days of Night

This historical fiction novel was interesting to me because I’ve always had a fascination with the early inventors. The remarkable scientific leaps are amazing even for the times. Without these such inventors, we wouldn’t have things like the Internet, our smartphones and computers.

The mythos that surrounds Nichola Tesla is fascinating. How he was so far advanced for his time, and whether the government was conspiring to hide his inventions or ideas. Tesla is featured prominently in this novel, and I enjoyed how not only foreign in a fact that he is from another country, but foreign in how his intelligence far outpaces everyone else.

Paul’s adventure into this strange new world full of scientific wonders was awe-inspiring. How Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb and so many other inventions from the scientific community. I can understand Paul’s struggle to comprehend new technologies.

I would highly recommend this novel for lovers of historical fiction, early inventors, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, and early lawyering.

Posted in Book Reviews

REVIEW: Holmes on the Range (Holmes on the Range #1) by Steve Hockensmith

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*No Major Spoilers*

1893 is a tough year in Montana, and any job is a good job. When brothers Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer sign on as ranch hands at a secretive ranch, they’re not expecting much more than hard work, bad pay, and a few free moments to enjoy their favorite pastime: reading stories about Sherlock Holmes.

When another hand turns up dead, Old Red sees the perfect opportunity to employ his Holmes-inspired “deducifyin'” skills and sets out to solve the case. Big Red, like it or not (and mostly he does not), is along for the wild ride in this clever, compelling, and completely one-of-a-kind mystery.

“You can follow a trail without even knowing you’re on it. You start out just ambling, maybe get to thinking you’re lost–but you’re headed somewhere all the same. You just don’t know it until you get there.” – Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith

As much as you hear about how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective Sherlock Holmes affected pop culture, you really don’t see it much outside of the United Kingdom. I am thrilled to see a western twist on the Sherlockian mystery subgenre. It makes the western genre unique and intriguing, not knowing who’s behind the murder until the unveiling at the end of the novel.

The Amlingmeyer brothers are just trying to survive in the late 1800’s America. When they stumble unto a murder mystery too difficult to ignore, they are in for an adventure. Lives and reputations are at stake as Old Red starts to meddle in places where he doesn’t belong.

The unlikeliness of a poor ranch hand solving an intricate mystery made the Amlingmeyer brothers’ struggle to solve the mystery all the more difficult. Old Red was more of an illiterate Sherlock Holmes and Big Red more of a brother trusting his kin. Big Red and Old Red is the only family they have left, so there’s no other choice but to stick together when things get dicey.

I would highly recommend this novel for lovers of westerns, mysteries, and Sherlockian style storytelling. This novel will leave you guessing until the big reveal, and even then you may be surprised to learn the answer to the mysteries.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Infamous by Ace Atkins

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*No Major Spoilers*

In July 1933, the gangster known as George “Machine Gun” Kelly staged the kidnapping-for-ransom of an Oklahoma oil­man. He would live to regret it. Kelly was never the sharpest knife in the drawer, and what started clean soon became messy, as two of his partners cut themselves into the action; a determined former Texas Ranger makes tracking Kelly his mission; and Kelly’s wife, ever alert to her own self-interest, starts playing both ends against the middle.

The result is a mesmerizing tale set in the first days of the modern FBI, featuring one of the best femmes fatales in history—the Lady Macbeth of Depression-era crime—a great unexpected hero, and some of the most colorful supporting characters in recent crime fiction.

I am a big fan of 1920-30s era fiction, especially the gangsters and Prohibition Era stories. Even though most historical fiction romanticizes racial and sexism struggles, I still enjoy them all the same.

This novel mainly takes place in the Oklahoma/Texas area. I am from this area of the U.S. so I was familiar with the layout. It felt good to have Oklahoma represented in a novel about 1930s America.

I enjoyed how Infamous felt like a documentary about Machine Gun Kelley and the other gangsters he was associated with. The language used made me feel like I was right there with both the gangsters and the officers themselves.

If you are looking for a fascinating look into 1930s America, then I would highly recommend this novel. Infamous felt like a biopic of George “Machine Gun” Kelly and life as a whole in 1930s America. I enjoyed this novel of crime, betrayal, and survival in a Depression-era world.

Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

ARC REVIEW: Miao-Shan: The Awakening by G.A.M. Morris

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*No Spoilers*

**I was given a copy of this novel by the author**

***Miao-Shan: The Awakening will be hitting ebook shop January 15 2019***

When ten-year-old Chow Lei witnessed her parent’s brutal murder at the hands of Hong Kong Triad members she was emotionally scarred for life. Her grandmother adopted her and attempted to help Lei heal emotionally, but only when Lei joined a Shaolin Kung Fu school did any emotional healing occur.

After a year of training, her grandmother reluctantly agreed to send her to the Shaolin Temple. Lei had continued to improve at the Temple to further her Kung Fu training as well as learning compassion towards her peers. At the Temple, she was renamed Miao-Shan, from a legend about the Chinese Buddhist Goddess of compassion, Guan Yin.

This novel isn’t the kind of story I’d read often. I find the culture gap to be intimidating. However, with this novel, there is a helpful list of key terms and important historical events relevant to the story. Having that there helped me understand the slang terms and historical events of the time.

Watching Lei, soon to become Miao-Shan was fulfilling as well as entertaining. Watching her grow as a person who has seen things that no one ever should make her journey more relatable.

This novel has a cast of loveable characters. Even when the story shifts to the leader of the triad’s perspective, seeing where he started and how the triad brainwashed him makes him a more personable and likable character that’s easier to understand.

One of my favorite parts of this story is how Miao-Shan grew up at the Temple and gained a friend in a young boy named Lee. Even though Lee took the vow of celibacy when he became a monk, I wanted the two to be a romantic couple. They had really good chemistry, and their friendship was really heart-warming.

When you’re finished reading this story you won’t find any loose ends, everything wraps up nice and neatly and is presented in a likable and fulfilling ending. This was an entertaining read for all adults to enjoy.

All in all, I enjoyed this read. Sure it was a bit of a rough start getting used to the slang and culture of the story, but once I got the hang of it, I enjoyed this novel in its entirety. I would recommend this novel for lovers of martial arts, historical fiction, and Oriental literature.

Q&A with G.A.M. Morris

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