Firedrake Lyceum – Year One
Full disclosure – I was provided copy of this book by the authors but have voluntarily provided a review. All opinions are my own
Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith is the first book in the Ewan Pendle series of books by Shaun Hume. Set in modern day United Kingdom, Ewan Pendle is an orphan who has been passed from foster home to foster home with never any luck of finding permanence. His newest family, the Does, as expected tire of Ewan, but instead of being sent to another nameless, faceless foster family Ewan finds himself on the train to London’s Firedrake Lyceum. After being greeted and escorted by the Grand Master of the Academy herself, Ewan settles in to the Lyceum for an eventful, thrilling and intrigue filled first year. As the year progresses, Ewan and his fellow misfit friends discover a plot to assassinate the queen that may involve fellow cadets and masters at the Lyceum. Ewan, Mathilde and Enid have their hands full as juggle a full training load while trying to determine who is behind the death threats to the monarch.
The book’s description likens Ewan Pendle to Harry Potter in similarity and at first glance they are similar. Like Harry, Ewan is an orphan who gets sent to a school for several years. At this point, the similarities end. Unlike Hogwarts where students are sorted into their houses on the first day, the cadets at the Lyceum live communally for a year and do not join one of the five cliques until the start of their second year. The various cliques, Stealth, Pyro, Vanguard, Martial and Witch each serve to hone specific talents and skills vital for the Vilmheid – the elite force sworn to protect the Queen. The Lyceum itself is vast and sprawling and each teacher is a master on their individual discipline. Obviously with any school setting, there are the bullies and the bad seeds to watch out for. Ewan Pendle has his hands full with the sinister Rosethorn twins, Scarlett and Sneath.
I really love the comradery that develops between Enid, Ewan and Mathilde. These three are outcasts and misfits all with their own secrets and problems to overcome. Enid, as the sole pirate cadet navigating the waters of Firedrake has a particularly difficult time. As pirates have been universally shunned, her character has very unique challenges to overcome. Thanks to Ewan and Mathilde, she doesn’t have to face them alone as the three make for a delightful trio of misfit friends that pretty much aren’t afraid of anything, including the dreaded White Wraith.
If you’re looking for something that is reminiscent of Harry Potter but is a different and completely brilliant story all in its own, I highly recommend Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith. I am sure that we have only scratched the surface at Firedrake Lyceum and am looking forward to Year Two when the trio gets accepted into their cliques. It will be interesting to see how interactions evolve or changes once the cliques come into play.
Full disclosure – I was provided an advanced reader’s copy of this book by the authors but have voluntarily provided a review.
A term that has struck fear into the hearts of many over the years. Schools, Shopping Malls, you name it, the phenomenon of the active shooter seems to become more and more prevalent with each passing day. This is the situation facing FBI agents Violet Darger and Victor Loshak in the follow up to “Dead End Girl” by Tim McBain and LT Vargus. Having been pulled from a family function by Loshak, Darger hops a red eye to Atlanta where an active shooter has taken aim at drivers and good Samaritans alike on a busy highway outside of Atlanta. She hasn’t even arrived on scene when the shooter strikes again, this time at a crowded shopping plaza. Running on sheer wits alone, the duo must use all resources of the local PD and FBI office to identify and bring down the suspect or suspects before the rampage escalates any further.
The timeline of Killing Season is approximately one year after Dead End Girl. Darger is now a fully trained agent and the once lone wolf Loshak has found a worthy adversary in Violet as a partner. I love the dynamic between these two! It’s a professional relationship that’s also familial in a Father/Daughter or Big Brother/Little Sister sort of way. The rapport between Violet and Victor is easy, but that doesn’t stop them from getting serious when the situation calls for it. For me, the Violet Darger I saw in Killing Season seems to be a more confident, less self-conscious person that was portrayed in Dead End Girl. It appears that the past demons that plagued our protagonist have been resolved, or at least gotten far enough under control that the memories aren’t a hindrance to her any longer, and that’s a good thing. Considering the suspect she’s up against this time, she may as well change her last name to “Danger” as she finds herself dodging bullets, shrapnel and more in this explosive thriller.
If you haven’t yet read Dead End Girl, or the short Image In A Cracked Mirror, what are you waiting for? All kidding aside, you will not miss anything vital by reading Killing Season out of sequence. The story works perfectly as a stand-alone novel and as a compliment to the prior books in the series. For lovers of crime/police procedural novels with tons of action Killing Season will not disappoint.
Deeper and Deeper
“I was Jack The Ripper “is the newest novel by horror/thriller author Michael Bray. While not a ‘factual account’ of the White Chapel Murders or the Ripper, it is a tale of fiction based on fact which allows the author more room for artistic license. Also, in the true form of the time period and subject matter being covered, this is not a series that should be read by those who are easily offended, as there are a few cringeworthy moments.
I have been eagerly awaiting installment Four since I first had an opportunity to read the prior three stories last year and I must say that Bray made my wait worth it. When installment Three ended, we were left with Edward/Jack summoned to the police station for an interview with Detective Inspector Abberline. Installment Four resumes with Edward and Abberline’s fated meeting. While thinking that he may be sunk, Abberline is merely interviewing all witness, especially those who may have been present at both scenes to date to determine if they have any additional information that may be helpful in catching the Ripper. Edward manages to escape this encounter unscathed, but something Abberline says pushes him further over the edge, making this meeting the catalyst to the Ripper’s brutality to date.
It’s becoming clearer to me that Edward must be suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder and it is this evil portion that takes over as the murders are committed. More and more we see him start to have a dialogue with his inner voice that causes him to slip further into his insanity. With alcohol seemingly being the only thing that keeps it at bay, Edward does what many people do when attempting to battle their demons… feed it. It is in this manner that he meets Mary Jane and although she represents the exact thing his inner demon is out to destroy, he is drawn to her. Stranger still, he doesn’t seem to be internally conflicted when he is around her. As their relationship blossoms, the scene is being set for what can be argued as the most brutal of the Ripper’s victims.
There was a ton happening in this installment as the Ripper continues to relay his story to Hapgood. Installment six is coming in and it’s promising to be a good one. I am interested now to see if Bray leaves the Ripper narrative with the “canonical five” or if he continues to touch on some of the later unattributed crimes.
All the same, All Addicts
Full Disclosure, I was provided a copy of this book by the author, but have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.
Red Drug is the follow up to Starburst in the Women of the Grey series of books by Carol James Marshall. This second book follows three Women of the Grey in simultaneously occurring timelines. Lisa has been returned to the Grey after her failed mission on Feline Street. Once back home she faces unimaginable punishment in the mysterious White and Black rooms. For all her wondering, Lisa finally knows where the “naughty” girls go, never to be seen again. Just when she accepts her fate as being different in a race of “none different”, Lisa is sent back out on another mission. She is to find a man and breed. As the Women no longer have the male of their species, they must use the next best thing to further their race. Lisa finds herself dropped somewhere in California with the basics and a directive, but she is determined to defy the Mothers once again. Little does she know, one of the residents in her apartment complex has seen the Women before and is determined to get to the bottom of who Lisa is and what her kind wants.
Abigail is a strange duck. Living with her boyfriend somewhere in rural America, she is successful in her breeding mission and is currently pregnant with her little “thumbprint”. Unlike the painfully fastidious Mothers, Abigail prefers to spend her days barefoot with the feel of the earth and the detritus of the forest under her feet. As the child inside her grows, Abigail also notices an overwhelming and ever increasing, undeniable craving for blood. Is this natural or is she a disgrace to her race?
Teresa just wants to fulfill her mission, but after numerous attempts and countless months she is still not pregnant. It’s only a matter of time before the Mothers come to collect her, but what happens then? In the Grey where “all are the same and none different” will Teresa will be considered the same, or an abomination?
For as creepy as “Starburst” was “Red Drug” cranks up the creep factor times ten. As we follow these three very different women through their missions and their lives in various places around the country, more of the history of these mysterious creatures are revealed. Superior Mother definitely has her hands full with Lisa and finds that she can only protect her and the other Women of the Grey for so long before their true alien natures demand release. The further into Red Drug I got, the more sinister the Women of the Grey became and the more I wanted to know what would ultimately happen not only to Lisa but the Women as a race and the Earth. Eagerly awaiting the release of Stainless Steel as I am sure CJM will once again blend Sci Fi and horror in what can only be a bloody good continuation of the Women of the Grey series.
Full Disclosure, I was provided a copy of this title by the author however I have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.
The past is part of you – for better or for worse
In 1994 Sarajevo, a nine-year-old girl and her brother become instant orphans. The forgotten victims of a brutal war, the pair struggles to survive by any means necessary. Tired of hiding in holes and stealing clothing from the dead, Effie and Ajan find themselves taken in by a brutal man known only as “The Colonel”. Under his rule, they and many other war orphans are cared for, but all swapped one danger for another. The compound is as dangerous as is it a haven, and unfortunately for Effie, she has garnered the animosity of one of the Colonel’s favored. After she witnesses her brother’s brutal murder at the behest of her so-called protector, Effie runs away to seek asylum in a NATO refugee camp.
Fast forward 20 years and Effie is now Mia. Having left her past behind, she has reinvented herself as an aspiring artist and the adopted daughter of the British Foreign Secretary. When an automobile accident lands Mia in hospital, it quickly becomes clear that her mother was not the target of the attack. Mia must rely on the skills learned as a young girl as she goes deep undercover to determine who is after her. The more she digs, the more it becomes apparent that the demons from her past may have returned to settle old scores.
The Good Father is one of those epic stories of cat and mouse that spans decades and continents. Mia Hardy just wants to be left in peace to forge her way as an artist and make a name for herself; but being the adopted daughter of a major political figure makes that difficult for her to do. Factor in her childhood history with a compassionate soldier willing to risk everything to smuggle her out of Sarajevo to safety and Mia is truly a political career ruining bombshell waiting to happen. Yet, when the nightmares from her past suddenly start turning up in the present, Mia knows there is only one thing to do. She needs to find and confront the past before it destroys her future.
The entire story is told in a sequence of alternating timelines, where you see what happened previously interspersed with the current action, with the first third of this book consists of alternating flashbacks to 1994 coupled with the events of present day and the time gaps becoming smaller and smaller as the story progresses. I really liked this style, even if it did result in a slow start because I feel it was necessary to fully understand Mia’s origins as well as the origins and motives of several other characters that are encountered later in the story. Also with this flashback technique used, it was a neat way to advance the storyline by revealing previous events at a designated time in the plot line. Wilsher’s description of war torn Sarajevo depicted a bleak, dangerous place that made me feel how desperate the inhabitants of the city during that time must have felt. Having this as the backdrop for the future events in the story really helped to understand Effie’s motives and methods. Once the action kicked in the story moved at a pace that was not too fast and definitely not dull. For anyone who likes a good fast paced thriller with a modern-day twist, I would definitely recommend “The Good Father”.
Stealing Huckleberry is a hilarious glimpse into a night of the life of Sarah Jones, insurance investigator for Red Rock Insurance company. Her most recent assignment is to recover a stolen, signed first edition copy of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” Her methods are extreme, brash and sometimes hilarious but effective.
Having spent several years currently in an insurance career and working at times with our Special Investigations group, I must say this is some extreme investigating. Sarah’s methods are sometimes illegal but ingenious. I am aware that there are insurance investigators out there to investigate things such as disability claims, but this short little gem gets me wondering just how many other claims are actively pursued and vetted. If you have about 30 minutes to spare, Stealing Huckleberry is a quick entertaining read that will have you laughing out loud. While this is a bit of a departure from Lucian’s previous novels, it is still well worth the read. I would have loved this to have been a bit longer, maybe there will be a full-length novel in the future? I can only imagine the mayhem that would ensue with a bigger case.
Full disclosure, I was provided an advance copy of this book by the author as part of his “A-Team” but have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.
Something’s brewing and it isn’t good!
Twisted Potions is the second in the Hidden Blood series by Al. K. Line and continues Kate’s story as the first ever Vampire enforcer. Taking place shortly after book 1, we see Kate making good on her promise to make dinner for The Chemist. Having arrived at his house, things are going as well as can be expected until a seemingly innocent brush of a not so random test tube sends Kate and the Chemist running for their lives. The purpose of the potion is even more puzzling. The Chemist is tired of being a ghoul – a being so repulsive they are shunned by Regular and Hidden alike – and just wants to be a man. Feeling sorry for her friend, Kate offers to let him stay at her place while he makes a new potion, but upon completion of his task Kate realizes that she may have been duped. Now something more than a man, the Chemist has embarked on a mission to ensure that he will no longer be alone in the world. If he succeeds, it could spell trouble for Hidden all over the world. To make matters worse, Kate has also recently discovered that her and Faz’s dreams of becoming parents will soon be a reality. With raging hormones Kate must fight off rampaging ghouls, track down and stop her former friend from going through with his plans all before giving birth!
Kate continues to be a character to watch in this world. Now not only is she the first vampire possessing both hidden and blood magic but she is also probably the first of her kind in many centuries to become pregnant. And does she ever make a formidable “pregzilla” or should I say vampzilla? I love seeing her evolution from shy, newly turned baby vampire and one Spark’s best friends to wife, enforcer, protector and soon to be Mother. It is safe to say that Twisted Potions is a much darker read than Vampire Enforcer. As we get into more of Kate’s back story and the Chemist’s life in general it is evident that trauma and tragedy seem to be the norm for any Hidden. Which can make things interesting because it lets the reader get into the head of the character. And I’m sure we’re only scratching the surface with the numerous Hidden in Cardiff. I mean, can you imagine what Grandma must have experienced that we haven’t even begun to learn of yet? All told yet another action-packed day in the life of an Enforcer and with the imminent appearance of Spark/Vamp progeny this story can only get better.