Last year, I was a failure when it came to posting reviews. So this year, after noticing how D.L Finn posts a monthly summary, I thought I’d do the same, (posting my 4 and 5-star reviews).
Click on the covers for Amazon links.
Eventide by Mae Clair
Oh my, oh my, oh my, what a great read. Eventide was my favorite of the Hode’s Hill trilogy and polishes off the series with a lot of scary, spooky shine. The suspense in this paranormal thriller starts on page one and zooms right to the last.
The main storyline is basically about Madison Hewitt, her purchase of a haunted house, and how the mystery of the haunting is revealed. Madison and the cast of characters were all present in the first two novels, but in this one, Madison takes center stage. I found the characters well-rounded and believable, free of most of the nonsensical decisions and lack of insight that tend to escalate tension in many thriller novels.
Each chapter starts back in 1878 with the story of Hollande, a young woman employed as a companion for a mentally unstable and bitter woman (in the same house that Madison just purchased). This is a strong subplot, and I found Hollande’s story mesmerizing as little by little the secrets of the house and what happened there are revealed.
And while that’s all going on, there’s a third plotline – a monster is tearing people apart in town. AND there’s a fourth plotline – Madison is being harassed by someone trying to scare her or worse, possibly a murderous thug from her past. Is there too much going on in this book? Nope. The author drip-feeds the reader tidbits of information, plus some red herrings, and the tension builds and builds and builds until all four plotlines come together in a great conclusion. So well done!
I believe Eventide can be read as a stand-alone without much confusion, though I recommend the whole series to readers who love paranormal thrillers and great writing.
Touching the Sun by Steve Tanham
An anthology of spiritual poetry that evokes the universal and personal connection of man to nature, to the past, and the mystery of life and creation. It’s a collection I savored over several days. Each poem is an evocative jewel worthy of moments of contemplation, mystical in nature, beautifully evocative, but accessible to me as a reader. I was particularly fond of the poems: Stepping Stones, The Hushed Portal, and Pass Slowly Over Me, though there are many more that I could add to this list. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy a profound poetic journey.
The Wizard, the Girl and the Unicorn’s Horn by Kevin Cooper
An ancient evil power is encroaching on the world of Geo, blanketing the land in shadow and stealing villagers. The story tracks the daring adventures of three groups, two off to destroy the shadow, and one simply trying to survive. They all ultimately come together for a final battle.
One narrative follows the wizard, the protector of Geo. He joins with some rambunctious goblins who lead him through the mountain’s tunnels to Land’s End, the barren home of the shadow and its packs of demon wargs (wolf-like creatures). At the same time, Elyysa, a young girl with a magical past, allies with Geo’s wise trolls who collect tolls at the many bridges. She too heads for Land’s End and carries with her a powerful unicorn horn. The third narrative focuses on the villagers who find themselves swept up by the shadow and stranded in a cave. They must make their way through dangerous passageways to the surface.
The story is simply told with a steady pace and vocabulary that a middle-grade student would be able to handle … but there is quite a bit of tragedy in the caves, including the deaths of children and families, and significant violence during the warg attacks. For these reasons, I’d steer this read to mature middle-graders, preteens, and young teenagers who enjoy a fantastical tale of adventure and can deal with the scary and sad moments. (My 7-year-old grandson couldn’t handle it, but grammy enjoyed it!)
Vengeance of a Slave by VM Sang
Ailbert keeps a running list in his head of all the reasons why he hates the Romans—they crucified his father, stole him as a child from his mother, and enslaved him. As he grows into his teenage years as a slave, the list gets longer. With the help of a network of Britons, he escapes, determined to exact his revenge, but not everything is as clear cut as he once thought.
The plot is straight forward, and though there are some tense moments, battling and mortal danger isn’t the point of the tale. This story has a strong moral message about the nuanced nature of people and how they treat and judge each other. Ultimately, it’s about a young man’s growth and the events that change his perceptions as he matures.
The pace is moderate with some repetition, but I was engaged throughout. The historical details seem well-researched, adding to the authenticity of the story. Point-of-view focuses on Ailbert for most of the book, with occasional shifts to other characters, and all main and secondary characters felt believable to me. Ailbert is particularly well-rounded and likeable as the story centers on his thoughts and experiences.
Recommended for YA and adult readers who enjoy coming of age stories, historical fiction, and adventure.
Poet’s Touch by Kamal Roohani
This anthology of poetry makes for a lovely afternoon, or better yet, a place to pause and drop into over several days. The poetry is sweet and positive with tidbits of wisdom about happiness and love. I didn’t find them sappy but enjoyed the beautiful language and mood they invoked. A few favorite poems were: The Golden Rule, I Thought to Myself, and A Deck of Cards. I recommend this lovely collection to any poetry reader looking to be uplifted.
When I Rise by Karen Ingalls
This collection of 12 short stories uses a single poem and the symbolism of 12 specific trees as the underlying foundation of its morals and themes. The trees don’t appear in the actual stories, but each one is referenced by the author at the end of its tale with a statement about its significance. I enjoyed the stories, particularly Two Sisters, a story about enduring love between two sisters; and The Piano, a well-told tale from the point of view of an Alzheimer’s patient.
The storytelling is primarily from an omniscient point of view and moves rapidly through events and years in a simple straightforward style. As a reader, I didn’t get to know the characters deeply but was carried along by most narratives to a satisfying conclusion. An afternoon’s read recommended for those who enjoy short stories with strong moral messages about love and family.
The Crown of Stones: Magic Scars by CL Schneider
I read the first book in this series several years ago and always planned on continuing. I’m not sure why I waited so long, but I picked up book 2 and 3, and I’m glad I did. Picking up where I left off was easy, so clearly the first book made an impression.
I would characterize the series as grim-dark fantasy. It’s violent, contains profanity, contains a few scenes of erotica, and has a great anti-hero. Ian Troy has a moral compass, but he’s also prone to rage and has the power of the crown of stones within him – a power that can destroy armies. Using that power is a need like an addiction and controlling it is important because it’s going to change him into a beast.
I love the writing. Beautiful imagery, detailed descriptions, emotional fullness. Some readers might find the prose overwritten, but I loved the flow and how all this luscious writing contrasted with the brutality of the characters and story. Characters are distinct and the relationships feel authentic. Dialog is flawless.
It’s a complex plot, the magic intricate and the politics span hundreds of years. It’s never confusing, but there is a lot going on! I’m already part of the way into book 3 and I’m looking forward to learning how this gigantic story resolves. Recommended for grimdark fans who love a great anti-hero.
The Crown of Stones: Magic Borne by CL Schneider
I loved this series and am sorry to see it end. Ian’s transformation is complete from anti-hero to hero, a change that he believes will require his death. The story, to me, was about that transition, the emotional ambivalence, the growth, the sacrifice, and the farewells. As in the previous two books of the series, the writing is superb, the descriptions exquisite, and in this final book, highly emotional.
True to its grimdark genre, there is no happy ending here, but there is a satisfying one. I finished the book yesterday and have been thinking about it all day today – a book hangover, for sure. I think the only cure is to read more of this author.