Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: In the Hall With the Knife (A CLUE Mystery #1) by Diana Peterfreund

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*No Major Spoilers*

When a storm strikes at Blackbrook Academy, an elite prep school nestled in the woods of Maine, a motley crew of students—including Beth “Peacock” Picach, Orchid McKee, Vaughn Green, Sam “Mustard” Maestor, Finn Plum, and Scarlet Mistry—are left stranded on campus with their headmaster. Hours later, his body is found in the conservatory and it’s very clear his death was no accident. With this group of students who are all hiding something, nothing is as it seems, and everyone has a motive for murder. Fans of the CLUE board game and cult classic films will delight in Diana Peterfreund’s modern re-imagining of the brand, its characters, and the dark, magnificent old mansion with secrets hidden within its walls.

“Just then, there was a horrible crash right outside the door, and suddenly the sound of the storm got a whole lot louder.”

I loved playing the CLUE mystery game while I was growing up. So when this novel was on a list from one of my newsletters, I knew I had to read it.

This novel is perfect for mystery lovers. There are twists and turns, as well as learning about all of the characters involved in this mystery. The story is told from different perspectives, and at first, it was difficult to tell Orchid and Scarlet apart until more character development helped me differentiate the two.

Scarlet Mistry, she was on the Council for Beautification. She lived, along with other students, in the Tudor Dorm. She would also try to keep up and boost morale with the female students to do better at their schoolwork and activities.

Also, she and Finn Plum were essentially a “Power Couple”, together they ran schemes and Finn helps Scarlet with her Chemistry homework.

Orchid McKee, she never saw Scarlet as a friend, but while they were snowed in at the dorm she confided in Scarlet her biggest secret. It’s a spoiler, but I felt like this should be mentioned because Orchid is a private person.

One of the characters I suspected to be the murderer in this story was Vaughn Green because when the other characters would ask about his sudden change in personality, he would internally blame his brother for the mishaps around the dorm. Even though when Vaughn was introduced we met his brother, he hated the school and the students because they were all preppy, rich kids and the only reason Vaughn was able to attend the school was because of a scholarship. So Vaughn was sort of considered an outcast because his home was next door to Blackbrook in the next town over. Only hearing about his brother during the murder investigation, I suspected Vaughn having multiple personalities.

A character I didn’t know much about in this story because he was introduced about halfway in the story was Sam “Mustard” Maestor. He was a former military academy student and he was kicked out, but we never find out why. The only thing we know anything about his background was when he was first introduced into the story from his perspective. He starts referring to his military experience but never says exactly why he was kicked out.

Beth “Peacock” Picach, is Blackbrook’s best tennis player. She is always righting down what she eats and the calories included and what her exercise routines were. All of her chapters included this log and a few thoughts about her day. She was the most suspected character due to an altercation between her and Headmaster Boddy.

I would highly recommend In the Hall with the Knife if you are a fan of locked room mysteries, the board game Clue, and a twist you won’t see coming, this a great book I’d highly recommend.

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Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Green Ember (The Green Ember #1) by S.D. Smith

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*No Major Spoilers*

Heather and Picket are extraordinary rabbits with ordinary lives until calamitous events overtake them, spilling them into a cauldron of misadventures. They discover that their own story is bound up in the tumult threatening to overwhelm the wider world.

Kings fall and kingdoms totter. Tyrants ascend and terrors threaten. Betrayal beckons and loyalty is a broken road with peril around every bend.

Where will Heather and Picket land? How will they make their stand?

“All of life is a battle against fear. We fight it on one front, and it sneaks around to our flank.” He paused, looked kindly at her. “Yes, Father. I understand.” “I regret many things I’ve done,” he said, “but most of all I regret those moments when I said to Fear, ‘You are my master.”
S.D. Smith, The Green Ember

If you have even heard of the classic children’s book, Watership Down, then I would add The Green Ember to your “to be read” list! This novel runs in a similar vein to Watership Down in that it’s about displaced rabbits who have to fight for survival. Although not as dark or grim as the classic, The Green Ember tells a story of survival, betrayal, loss, and overcoming obstacles.

The story is mostly told from Heather’s perspective, even though Picket sits in the narrator’s seat from time to time. Heather and Picket’s learning about how the real world for all rabbits really works, and their family history, feels genuine and real.

I enjoyed this story a lot, all of the characters are well developed, and the history for the rabbit colonies was well fleshed out. I could tell the author put a lot of love and care into the mythos of this world. My most memorable character other than the siblings was the wise elderly rabbit, Maggie Weaver. She is a mother/grandmotherly figure to those who live in the community. She is the fastest sewer, and she gives the rabbits a shoulder to lean on when times are rough.

!!This might be a small spoiler, so be warned!!

Near the end of the novel, Ms. Weaver makes an astounding speech to all of the rabbits. Reminding them she is just another elderly rabbit. She doesn’t see herself in this grandiose way that the rest of the colony seem to view her. She lost her husband in the fall of the last king, and she reminds the other rabbits that she is no one special.

This is a children’s illustrated chapter book. However, I listened to the audiobook and the audiobook was just as amazing as reading the ebook. I would definitely say that this novel is appropriate for most ages. The violence is PG, or in video game terms E10+. There is no bad language, so the only thing for parents to worry about is violence.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Green Ember. I would highly recommend it for a nice family read. I would also recommend this for lovers of fantasy, animal protagonists, and of course, rabbits.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Goliath Bone (Mike Hammer #14) by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins

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*No Spoilers*

On an amateur dig in Israel, two students discover what appears to be the femur of a very large humanoid, and there’s compelling evidence to suggest that it is the thigh bone of the Biblical giant, Goliath. Back in New York, they are heading into the subway carrying the carefully wrapped bone when a hitman attempts to kill them. Hammer comes to their rescue.

But it is only the beginning of their troubles as various factions will stop at nothing to get their hands on the precious item, each for their own venal and nefarious reasons. Hammer and his loyal assistant Velda assure once again that the decent guys triumph in this cracking post-9/11 hard-boiled detective thriller.

I am a huge fan of crime noir and hard-boiled detectives. The grittiness of the detectives and femme-Fatales was something that attracted me in the first place and keeps me coming back to this genre of story. This one interested me first off because of the book cover, but the synopsis was the other grabbing point.

I felt that, to a certain extent, Mike Hammer was a bit out of place so far in that the way presents himself and his ability to solve crimes fits more in the 20s with mobs and gangsters rather than post 9/11 terrorism. Overall the story did keep my interest based on the religious mythology of David & Goliath and how much interest the cast of characters in the story had in the Goliath Bone itself.

On the negative side, I did feel that the ending was a bit anti-climactic, more in the way that the characters “all win” and yet, no one wins. You’ll have to read the story to see what I mean.

Overall it was a good story to read to pass time, but I’d be interested to read further back into the series to get a larger grasp on the entirety of the series.

Read my review of “Blacksad” by Juan Diaz Canales if you’re looking for more crime noir!

Posted in Book Reviews, DC comics, Graphic Novels

REVIEW: Green Arrow: Quiver by Kevin Smith

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*No Major Spoilers*

The original Green Arrow, Oliver Queen, reemerges after years of being assumed dead. But many people, including Black Canary, his ex-lover, Arsenal, his ex-partner, Connor Hawke, his son and temporary successor and Batman, the Dark Knight Detective, want to know how Green Arrow survived the airplane explosion and where he has been.

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Superman and Batman having an intense discussion during Green Arrow: Quiver.

I love Green Arrow! Not the one that is on TV, the one(s) in the comic books are better. I was excited to find this graphic novel at my library, and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you today!

A lot of casual comic book fans like me, feel intimidated at times when selecting a graphic novel. Overarching stories, major events, and other things that cause comic books to become confusing can make selecting a stand-alone story to be difficult. However, I felt this graphic novel explains things that happened previously, in a nice way so I didn’t feel like I didn’t know what was going on throughout the story.

I felt the story was well written and well put together. Even though the story gets “trippy”  about midway through, I was still able to follow along and came out satisfied.

To elaborate on the “trippy” aspect of the story, it kind of reminded me of the Doctor Strange comics at times, with the likes of supernatural beings and realms it gave an interest to the story I didn’t really expect coming out of Green Arrow. Green Arrow is usually a traditional story without supernatural elements, but this one was a nice change of pace.

One downside I found is, there’s not much action, it’s more of deep thinking and philosophying with splashes of magic and kicking butt.

Overall, this book was a good read, the art style fit the moods really well when necessary, the story kept my interest, I would definitely recommend it for the casual Green Arrow fan as well as the comic book aficionado.

 

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews

REVIEW: Force of Nature (Aaron Faulk #2) by Jane Harper

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*No Spoilers*

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along a muddy track.
Only four come out on the other side.

The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and encourage teamwork and resilience. At least, that’s what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker, Alice Russell. Because Alice knew secrets, about the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

The four returning women tell Falk a tale of fear, violence and fractured trust during their days in the remote Australian bushland. And as Falk delves into the disappearance of Alice, he begins to suspect some dangers ran far deeper than anyone knew.

“It’s the panic that gets you. Makes it hard to trust what you’re seeing.”
Jane Harper, Force of Nature

I discovered this novel on a themed book list I found on Off the Shelf, and I knew I had to try this one out. Now to see how this novel stands up.

I haven’t read many novels that take place in the Australian wilderness, I think a lot of us who don’t live in Australia forget just how close to nature the country is. Most of us hear about the weird creatures that live in the Outback. Some of the animals are cute and loveable, but others we wish to avoid at all costs.

I listened to this novel on audio and the narrator had a strong Australian accent and it took me a bit to tune my ear to what he was reading. Other than his accent, I found his reading to be entertaining.

I found the main character, Aaron Faulk to be your typical vanilla federal agent. He was observant of the other campers, and he could tell who was lying or holding things back. I felt like the writer put more of an effort into building dynamic characters into the group of female hikers. The only time I felt Faulk got any character development was when he discovered a collection of maps his late father kept.

Even though we learn Faulk didn’t get along with his dad growing up, the discovery of the maps of the hiking trails with notes his dad had written. This including wanting to go on some of the trails with Faulk. I felt like this gave Faulk some human characteristics and made me sympathize with him a bit.

The group of female hikers the whole mystery surrounds is your typical idea of females in the office workspace. Lots of drama, backstabbing, and gossipping. These aspects only got worse the more lost the women became. I felt like they wouldn’t have gotten too lost if the trail had some kind of markers at reasonable intervals to help people stay on the right path. I know that kind of ruins the idea of the retreat, but that’s just my thoughts.

Overall I thought this book was alright, the characters were a bit weak and stereotypical, and the mystery was a big let down. I felt like this could’ve used some work on Faulk’s character and made the group of females a bit more dynamic. If you’re itched for a trip to the wilds of the Australian wilderness, then I’d say to give this novel a try!

Posted in Author Q&A

Author Q&A with Lee Gabel

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In honor of Mr. Gabel’s upcoming novel, Arachnid 2.0, I’ve reached out to Mr. Gabel for a little interview. I have been following Mr. Gabel for awhile now, and I try to be a part of his community on Twitter.

From Mr. Gabel’s website:

Lee has spent most of his life living on an island in the Pacific Northwest. A certified movie junkie, he has channeled his love for good stories to the printed (and electronic) page.

Why does Lee write? In his own words: “Writing is magic. I’ll never understand how it works the way it does, but I do know if I put energy into it, it rewards me in strange and wonderful ways. Even if I know where I’m going in a story, often I’ll end up being pulled in directions by my characters that I least expect. What ends up on the page never ceases to surprise me, and that’s super cool. Writing continues to be one of the most difficult and most rewarding aspects of my life.”

Lee has worked within the visual and dramatic arts landscape as a graphic designer, illustrator, visual effects artist, animator, screenwriter and author.

Elisha’s Books: Where did the ideas of Vermin 2.0 and Arachnid 2.0 come from?

Mr. Gabel: The genesis of the idea came from having to become a rodent exterminator on my own property in 2008. In the space of a few months, I caught more rats than I care to admit. A few properties down from me, a dirty, run-down house stood vacant and had been that way for years. It was the neighborhood eyesore and affected property values of the surrounding homes. The owner of the property was given an ultimatum: clean up and renovate the place, or demolish it. The owner chose to raze the house, but before that could be done, the community’s health authority needed to inspect the home’s interior for asbestos, lead, and anything else harmful to the environment. That’s when the colony of rats was discovered. Hundreds of them. The air was so bad inside the house that inspectors had to go in wearing hazmat suits and breathing apparatuses. They didn’t use electricity to kill the rats, but in the end, the colony was decimated, and the house was bulldozed soon after. I didn’t see many rats on my property after that, but the idea of a rat-infested living area stuck with me. Since I had hands-on experience as an exterminator, the ideas and images were forefronts in my mind. I wrote a screenplay first (which placed highly in a couple of competitions), then used the screenplay as the basis of the novel.

As for Arachnid 2.0, I had seen a lot of interest in Vermin 2.0, and even though I didn’t intend it to be a series, it moved in that direction organically. A reader sent me an article about a giant spider in Australia, and I’ve got a healthy respect for spiders (they can startle me), I continued the story from there. Most of my ideas come while I’m actually writing, so as I come up with an outline I’m happy with, more ideas pop up. When I write the first draft, more ideas pop up and sometimes I have to adjust the outline a bit for it all to make sense.

Elisha’s Books: I saw that you participating in writers’ workshops, do you find meeting other authors helps you with your writing?

Mr. Gabel: Absolutely. I value all opinions, even though I may not agree with all of them. And that’s okay. I’ll incorporate ideas and suggestions into a story that I feel belong and throw away the rest. Writers that I trust can add a different spin on a subject or story element. If enough people say the same thing, then that’s the time to listen. It’s also just cool to hear what other writers are working on and what is going on in their lives.

Elisha’s Books: On Twitter, you have several posts involving NASA and space in general. What about space inspires you the most?

Mr. Gabel: To me, space and the cosmos offer limitless possibilities, just like the blank page one of a story. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to travel to different planets, but we are limited by our technology and time. In fact, one of my favorite movies is Contact, written by the late, great Carl Sagan. A private industry like SpaceX are making serious progress but we have a long way to go. With my interest in space, many would think that I’m a fan of science fiction, but that’s one genre that I have rarely read and currently have no sci-fi projects on my schedule, except ones that are more contemporary in nature. Perhaps that will change in time.

Elisha’s Books: What was your favorite book or series when you were growing up?

Mr. Gabel: I didn’t read a lot when I was growing up. Perhaps that’s because I read slowly. It’s only been in the last 30 years or so that I’ve made a concerted effort to read more. Recently I’ve started to broaden my interests, reading almost anything contemporary. But my favorite book, and in this case a novella, is Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King. The novella was included in King’s 1982 collection Different Seasons. Some more recent favorites include Eleanor & Park (Rainbow Rowell), The Outsider & Elevation (Stephen King), Dark Matter (Blake Crouch), The Woman in Cabin 10 (Ruth Ware), I am Pilgrim (Terry Hayes), and Gone Girl & Sharp Objects (Gillian Flynn). Yeah, my genres are all over the place.

Elisha’s Books: Have you ever considered writing a nonfiction title? If so, what would it be about?

Mr. Gabel: Have I thought about it? Yes. Have I seriously thought about it? No. My interests and skills are varied but I don’t think I know enough about one thing to fill a book. I know that’s what research is for, but I’m having too much fun making it all up as I go along. I love dialog and interaction between characters, peril, and twists. Making it non-fiction would hold me back too much. But if the right subject presented itself, who knows! Never say never.

Thanks, Mr. Gabel for answering my questions!

You can get Vermin 2.0 by Lee Gabel here.

You can follow Lee Gabel on Twitter
Facebook
Instagram
And BookBub

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Honky Tonk Samurai (Hap and Leonard #9) by Joe R. Lansdale

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*No Major Spoilers*

Only Hap and Leonard would catch a cold case with hot cars, hot women, and ugly skinheads.

The story starts simply enough when Hap, a former 60s activist and self-proclaimed white trash rebel, and Leonard, a tough black, gay Vietnam vet and Republican with an addiction to Dr. Pepper, are working a freelance surveillance job in East Texas. The uneventful stakeout is coming to an end when the pair witness a man abusing his dog. Leonard takes matters into his own fists, and now the bruised dog abuser wants to press charges.

One week later, a woman named Lilly Buckner drops by their new PI office with a proposition: find her missing granddaughter, or she’ll turn in a video of Leonard beating the dog abuser. The pair agrees to take on the cold case and soon discover that the used car dealership where her granddaughter worked is actually a front for a prostitution ring. What began as a missing-person case becomes one of blackmail and murder.

I was recommended this series through a user on Reddit. Someone was looking for novels about gay detectives, and this was one of the recommendations. I chose this novel purely on the title, the other novels in this series have unique titles as well so let’s jump into Honky Tonk Samurai!

This novel is one of the more memorable detective novels I’ve read. Honky Tonk Samurai is filled with colorful characters, non-stop action, and redneck/Texas humor. I will say that the language used is very vulgar. So if you’re not into that kind of thing, you might want to pass on this one. In defense of the choice words and jokes, I felt like that was part of the charm.

Hap and Leonard have great chemistry! You can tell they’ve been through a lot together. Leonard made me laugh at his love of vanilla cookies and Dr. Pepper. That kind of reminds me of myself, I love cookies and Dr. Pepper.

The main plot twist left me baffled, but in the end, it all made sense once all of the pieces were put together. So bonus points for me not guessing the mystery! Usually, I’m able to figure out the mystery about halfway through the book. This one kept me guessing and I really liked that about it.

More on Hap and Leonard’s chemistry, with them being like brothers from another mother, it was a nice change of pace from a lot of the other stories I’ve read in recent weeks. Leonard, I’d say, is the rougher of the two characters even though he’s gay. He’s one that does not mess around when it comes to protecting those that need it. Hap, on the other hand, is more of the mediator type, kind of like keeping the rough part of Leonard in control when necessary.

Overall this book was something new and interesting that I’d never heard of or thought to look up, the subject matter was a bit different but extremely interesting! If you like a story about rough and tough southern boys and some redneck action, this is most definitely the book for you! Although, like I said if crude and vulgar language isn’t your thing then this book is kind of a pass.