The Hawkman, A Fairy Tale of the Great War – When Do Men Become Beasts?

Book Review : The Hawkman
A Fairy Tale of the Great War

By Jane Rosenberg LaForge

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

A great war, a great love, and the mythology that unites them; The Hawkman: A Fairy Tale of the Great War is a lyrical adaptation of a beloved classic.

Set against the shattering events of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, at the tale’s heart are an American schoolteacher—dynamic and imaginative—and an Irish musician, homeless and hated—who have survived bloodshed, poverty, and sickness to be thrown together in an English village. Together they quietly hide from the world in a small cottage.

Too soon, reality shatters their serenity, and they must face the parochial community. Unknown to all, a legend is in the making—one that will speak of courage and resilience amidst the forces that brought the couple together even as outside forces threaten to tear them apart. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest review, all opinions are my own. Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read modern literature! I would consider The Hawkman a modern classic because of the use of classic literary themes like forgiveness and redemption.

The Hawkman focuses on two characters, with only a few minor characters entering the scenes. Known as the Hawkman, the Irish musician suffering from the after-effects of the war, Mr. Michael Sheehan, and Miss Williams, the American teacher dominate the fairy tale.

Even though the novel introduces the Hawkman first, I’m going to focus on Miss Williams as my introduction. She is faced with prejudice against women, is seen as an old maid and yet, she continues to extend kindness. I felt like she had a backbone and would do the right thing under any circumstances. She seemed like a person to be admired, though she would never be famous or important by the standards frequently eschewed by the world. Even though her mother had warned her as a child to never touch a bird, she feels prompted to extend her kindness to the broken man on the street. After she chose to reach out to him, she realizes that she needs to continue because he is now dependent on her.

Through the trauma of WWI, and his reception back in polite society of Great Britain, Mr. Sheehan has been transformed from a man to a beast. His eyes are yellowed, his hands like claws and his steps mincing and uncertain like a bird. He is feared and hated by his fellow men. I had to ask myself, when do men become beasts? Is it when they are no longer seen as human? Does the transformation take place internally or from external forces. I feel like Mr. Sheehan became a beast because of the way he was treated by others. Miss Williams is the first to see him as a broken man rather than a creature to be shunned. Once he is adopted by Miss Eva Williams, she becomes his entire world and he will do whatever he must to protect her.

I enjoyed reading The Hawkman with its beautiful prose and veiled hints. If I were to make an editorial change, it would be to break up some of the scenes where the reader learns the history of both Mr. Sheehan and Miss Williams. I was so intent on what was happening in their current situation, I desperately wanted to know more and receive the background a little more slowly. With that said, I can’t remember more poignant and stunning descriptions of war. How can one write something so beautiful about something so awful? Both of their backstories are critical to understand the motivation behind each of the characters. Even minor characters, like Christopher Thorton being reticent, receive a quick fleshing out. Each person felt like they had a full life backing up their actions.

It was interesting to view this story as a fairy tale. The moment I finished the epilogue, I returned to the prologue to link the scenes together. It was within the last few chapters and the very beginning where I felt the connection to a fairy tale. It was surreal and sublime.

Here are a few quotes for your enjoyment:

“But she had not found the England she expected when she arrived. The place and its people were impenetrable in all aspects: the tart curve in their speech, the defeated fabric of their clothes, the sallow nature of their complexions.” (Loc. 202)

“His fingers were like leaves, their reach toward the sun and meaning. She saw no harm in touching him, although she knew the danger of touching birds, particularly hatchlings.” (Loc. 233)

“Their bodies could be next on that pile. He resolved, if not for himself, then for Altman, to never alter his appearance. If he lived to grow out his hair, a beard, his fingers and toes to claws, until he was ape, or bear, or anything more natural than he was.” (Loc. 813)

“He could provide each note with the isolation it deserved, before it was grafted onto the next; he could make way for the slip of an instant, so the phrase could be savored, without his crushing it. This was a compromise, between music and vacuum, and he would jeopardize neither if he could keep what his hands and body had suffered away from the instrument.” (Loc. 912)

“She was about to leap from underneath the blankets the nuns had piled atop her when she was suddenly in a larger room – the dormitory in the children’s asylum. She had been stripped of her blankets, and given an anemic substitute that did nothing to keep out the consuming winter temperatures.” (Loc. 1628)

“Sheehan jammed the letter his mother had written into his fist, and then he picked it apart, as if dressing a chicken.” (Loc 2315)

I recommend The Hawkman, and look forward to more books by LaForge.

4 star

  • Michelle

I would love to hear your thoughts on The Hawkman, did you find it convincing, surreal or obtuse?

 

If you would like to read more books with a surreal quality try:

The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

Trick of the Eye by Dennis Haseley

The Girl In Between by Laekan Zea Kemp

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A Time of Love and Tartan – Does Bertie’s Life Get Better?

Book Review : A Time of Love and Tartan
 44 Scotland Street

By Alexander McCall Smith

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

When Pat accepts her narcissistic ex-boyfriend Bruce’s invitation for coffee, she has no idea of the complications in her romantic and professional life that will follow. Meanwhile, Matthew, her boss at the art gallery, attracts the attention of the police after a misunderstanding at the local bookstore.

Whether caused by small things such as a cup of coffee and a book, or major events such as Stuart’s application for promotion and his wife Irene’s decision to pursue a PhD in Aberdeen, change is coming to Scotland Street. But for three seven-year-old boys–Bertie Pollock, Ranald, and Big Lou’s foster son, Finlay–it also means getting a glimpse of perfect happiness.

Alexander McCall Smith’s delightfully witty, wise and sometimes surreal comedy spirals out in surprising ways in this new installment, but its heart remains where it has always been at the center of life in Edinburgh’s New Town. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

Even though I like many of the characters in the 44 Scotland Street series, the one who keeps me coming back for more is Bertie. I always wonder, will his life get better or worse this time around? Connected to Bertie are the characters we also love to hate; Olive, Pansy and obviously his “cow” of a mother, Irene. At times I even want to slap Stuart (Bertie’s father), just enough to get his attention and to tell him it’s time to grow up and at the same time grow a spine. (Since he’s fictional there is no danger of me actually slapping anyone.) His mother says much the same thing, though with little hope. Though I won’t give away a spoiler, I will say I always feel hopeful for Bertie, and maybe that’s because he is so filled with hope that his life will be better when he grows up.

Why do we love books like A Time of Love and Tartan or The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency written by Alexander McCall Smith? I believe the answer is simple, we see something of ourselves in the characters, something of our neighbors and the foibles of society become clear. We wish things could wrap up nicely, that we could gain wisdom and that our lives were a little more simplified. For example Big Lou sees everything through the lens of her upbringing and it makes her decisions clear for her. She cares for the people she likes, she takes care of those who need care, she reads and serves coffee and bacon rolls. If she has too dark of a dilemma she can fall back on her upbringing.

“Och, away with all that,” said Lou. “What’s wrong with bacon? I know plenty of people who ate bacon every day of their lives. My Uncle Willy, for example…” (p.68)

See how easy that was? According to Lou we can all eat bacon!

Here is a bit of wisdom from the Duke given to Matthew.

“You’re right, of course – every generation thinks its situation is uniquely worrying – but the world has always been on the brink of disaster. Yes, that’s right, but that doesn’t detract from the particular difficulty of specific times.” (p.123)

I love it when Ranald Braveheart Macpherson and Bertie have been exploring in the park. They still have vivid imaginations.

“Bertie did not reply. He did not think it likely that his mother would allow him to keep a body in the flat; there were so many restrictions in his life, and that was just one more of them.” (p.136)

How about the title for one of Pat’s chapters? Doesn’t it show the state many find themselves in, whether they admit it or not? Chapter 36 She Wanted A Man So Desperately

Stuart receives an unexpected invitation, because of his difficult wife.

“Stuart read the print on the card. Men Underground, it said. And then, under that, The Male Resistance. He saw a telephone number.” (p.231)

I always enjoy this series, and even though this is book 14, if you haven’t met Bertie and the rest, pick up the first book. They are a fast, delightful read. I highly recommend them.

4 out of 5 stars
4 star

  • Michelle
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The Opposite of Here – Is A Cruise For You?

Book Review : The Opposite of Here
By Tara Altebrando

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Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

Natalie’s parents are taking her and her three best friends on a cruise for her seventeenth birthday. A sail-a-bration, they call it. But it’s only been a few short months since Natalie’s boyfriend died in a tragic accident, and she wants to be anywhere but here.
Then she meets a guy on the first night and sparks fly. After a moonlit conversation on a secluded deck of the ship, Natalie pops down to her cabin to get her swimsuit so they can go for a dip. But when she returns, he’s gone. Something he said makes her think he might have . . . jumped? No, he couldn’t have.
But why do her friends think she’s crazy for wanting to make sure he’s okay? Also, why do they seem to be hiding something from her? And how can she find him when she doesn’t even know his name? Most importantly, why is the captain on the intercom announcing the urgent need for a headcount?
With her signature thrilling storytelling, the author of The Leaving and The Possible explores our vulnerability to the power of suggestion-and the lies we tell others and ourselves-in a twisting, Hitchcock-inspired mystery with high stakes and dark secrets. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

Thank you to NetGalley for an advance copy of The Opposite of Here, in exchange for an honest review.

Once again I am stuck with writing a less than stellar review. In the books’ defense, I don’t believe I’m the target market and a teenager would probably enjoy it more than I did.

The format of the story is blocked out with the itineraries for the cruise ship’s activities. After reading through the first few studiously and not finding clues to the mystery, I started skimming these parts, and so, if there were clues for upcoming events I missed them. I was left with never wanting to go on a cruise if this is the approach to herding people around for fun.

Natalie is interested in Hitchcock movies and the scenes are interrupted with notations as if it’s a movie script. The denotations were not always clear and it became confusing if Natalie was relating an imaginary scene or something actually happening. This may be the fault of my reading an ARC and hopefully is fixed in the final version. There were other mistakes where the “movie scene” in Natalie’s head flowed right into a paragraph that was actually happening. I had to read those twice, which always annoys me when reading a novel, and affects my overall rating.

I didn’t love the characterization. Natalie was whiney – and I know she was getting over her boyfriend who had died, but I needed more empathy for her. However, I did like her explanation of why she wasn’t as broken up over him as she “should” have been. Several boys were mentioned on the cruise. I felt like Ray, the darkest character, was the most interesting because we slowly learned his motivations for his actions. He is fascinated with hypnotism and shows his skills at a talent night on the boat – but his act has an undercurrent of danger.

Nora was the most interesting of Natalie’s friends because of her flaws. I’m not convinced that Natalie could forgive her easily for those flaws, but Nora certainly stirred the pot in an interesting way. I would have liked to feel more connected to any of the friends. I thought the bit with the necklace was interesting – it seemed like Nora had considered pretending that the necklace had been a gift, but Natalie would know that wasn’t true from first hand experience. I thought this was a point where the two friends could reconnect more deeply after being hurt by one another.

The end could be seen as a big plus or a minus. After some consideration I’ve decided I’m on the plus side. So as not to give away the twist and spoiler, I will only say that the final details tie up the plot ends neatly like a package (which is why some won’t like it), but it also provides the motivation for the majority of characters as a big reveal (which is why I decided I liked the end). Regardless, the final twist is what made this book memorable.

I haven’t read many contemporary mysteries with teens as the protagonist, so this could cloud my point of view. I was also offended when Natalie has a huge epiphany about her identity and doesn’t need her dead boyfriend or any boy as the measure of her value, and then she jumps right into bed with a guy. What’s up with that? It seemed like her actions took away the life lesson learned that she was actually valuable for more than her body.  I can’t really recommend this mystery.

 

2.5 – 3 out of 5 stars

2 1:2 star

-Michelle

I would recommend trying Black Flowers, White Lies by Yvonne Ventresca.

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Interview With Jennifer Nielsen – Author of The Traitor’s Game

Interview With Jennifer A. Nielsen

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Jennifer A. Nielsen is the New York Times bestselling author of The Ascendence Trilogy and a two time recipient of the Whitney Award in 2013 and 2014.

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She is also the author of the The Mark of the Thief Series.

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Michelle:

Hello Ms. Nielsen, everyone who reads Tales Untangled is thrilled to have the chance to hear from you today. It always feels like a special event to hear from busy authors.

Because many readers dream of becoming authors, it’s inspirational to hear your story of becoming a successful author. How and when did you decide to start writing?

Jennifer:

I never intended to be a writer. I always had stories in my head and enjoyed writing, but it had never occurred to me that I could be a writer. When my oldest child was born, I quit my job teaching to stay home with him and…it turns out, new babies are rather boring. I felt like my brain was melting, so I began reading a ton, which was great, but I enjoyed every book a little less than the one before it. I wished the author had done something different, or I felt a scene was predictable, or I thought if I had written this book, here’s what I would’ve done.

One day I realized that the only way I would get the exact story I wanted, was if I wrote it. So I began to write, just for fun. and midway through that first, truly horrible manuscript, I realized that someone had to be publishing all these books I’d read. And if they could do it, why not me> That’s when I became serious about writing.

Michelle: 

One of the things I love about you becoming an author is that you didn’t just know you would write from the moment you could first string a sentence together. It sounds like you have taken your time to learn the craft to become successful.

Recently you released THE TRAITOR’S GAME, another New York Times bestseller.

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(I’m hoping the next will be out soon.) It pulled me in multiple directions and I couldn’t put it down. Sometimes I was laughing and sometimes screaming. What was your original inspiration to write a novel about the dilemma of becoming a traitor?

Jennifer:

Many inspirations came together for THE TRAITOR’S GAME. We own some property in Wyoming and the summer I was working on the book, a fire tore through the land leaving large acres completely burnt. Those images became the inspiration for All Spirits Forest. I was also heavily inspired by the song “Run” by Snow Patrol, a song about two people who clearly loved each other but were being forced apart. I wanted to know more about them and the answers led me to Simon and Kestra. Finally, I studied the true stories of people in history who were considered traitors, looking at who was later considered a hero, and who was a villain.

And since you asked, the second book of the series, THE DECEIVER’S HEART, will be out in early 2019. I know it’s still a long time to wait but I’m very proud of this story, and really push Simon and Kestra to their limits, so I hope readers will think the wait is worth it.

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Michelle:

I love how you have more than one inspiration for the book; that explains why it is multi-dimensional. I’m marking my calendar for THE DECEIVER’S HEART. It is worth the wait!

I’ve liked your characters in previous series, and also love the dual point of view you’ve used this time between Kestra and Simon. Starting with Kestra and Trina, how do you create strong characters and differentiate them from each other? Especially when two characters have similar circumstances which have isolated them from others. I easily could have hated Trina, but I actually felt compassion for her even though she is abrasive to Kestra.

Jennifer:

I think it’s easy for me to differentiate characters because in my head, I treat them like different people. They each have such different backgrounds and motives and wounds, that they would also naturally have different voices. Trina and Kestra interest me too, since in slightly altered circumstances, each of them might have become the other and no wonder Trina resents Kestra for that. Their relationship will continue to evolve in THE DECEIVER’S HEART, and they will discover that for better or worse, their fates are bound to each other.

Michelle:

I’m even more interested to see what happens with these two women. Next, we have to talk about Simon. Talk about a guy to swoon over!

I loved how you give us one small, seemingly insignificant piece of information at a time with Simon. Too often, characters can become a cookie-cutter of the hero, the country bumpkin or the villain. How do you flesh out a character like Simon to make him unique and have layers of depth?

Jennifer:

I adore Simon as a character. He is passionate and committed about his beliefs, intelligent, and willing to take risks to get what he wants. But he can also be ridiculously stubborn and often becomes so entrenched in what he believes that he is blind to other realities around him. Those opposing traits give me so much to work with in his scenes, and they only become richer the more I get to know him. Simon will eventually have to choose between his heart and his destiny, just as Kestra will have to decide who she intends to be, and what price she will have to pay to become that person. Suddenly, that Snow Patrol song begins to make sense.

Michelle:

It’s so interesting that as the author you also have to get to know your characters. Secondary characters play a pivotal role, which can be seen in your novel with the twists created through their machinations.

Captain Tenger, the leader of the Corack rebellion, and Sir Henry Dallisor, Kestra’s father are both motivated by a desire for power – and big game changers in THE TRAITOR’S GAME. Under different circumstances do you think they would work together or tear each other apart? Are they more similar than they know or more different than we might guess?

Jennifer:

Captain Tenger is one of my favorite characters, because I don’t think it’s entirely clear whether he can be trusted, or whether he should be trusted. You’re right – just like Sir Henry, Tenger desires power and believes the ends justify his means, but if he ever attains that power, would he be any better a leader than Sir Henry? Through the end of THE TRAITOR’S GAME, Simon has been a bit of a buffer between Kestra and Tenger, but that will begin to change as her role in the future of Antora changes.

Equally complicated will be the relationship between Kestra and Sir Henry. If not for Lord Endrick, Henry would be king, so there is always a question of just how far his loyalties go.

Michelle:

I’m loving the clues for the next book. You novels have an element of magic within your world building. How do you guarantee that the magic is essential to the plot?

Jennifer:

I look at magic as another element of world-building, of equal importance to the history of the world, its current conflicts, its governmental structure, and so on. I don’t want it to feel like magic was tacked on to the world, but rather that it’s inherent in that world, as natural to the interplay of events as any other facet of life.

Except with this series, magic is viewed with deep suspicion because it is believed to have a corrupting element, to work against a person’s normal instincts toward right and wrong. This skepticism over magic will play an increasing role in the series and threaten to shatter several relationships and bonds of trust.

Michelle:

I can tell the stakes are being raised as you continue this series. When you lay out the plot for a book, where does it fit in during the initial planning stages? Do you have method that works particularly well for you as you develop the plot to arc over several books in a series?

Jennifer:

I start with the general story concept and spend time to find my main characters and define the central problem of the book or series. From there, I jump to the very end (or in the case of the series – there are two jumps. One to the end of the book and the other to the end of the series) and make myself come up with five possible endings. The reason for this is that it forces greater creativity than if I’d simply picked my first idea. Once I have my ending, I start to fill in the gaps of where the story begins and how to get to that ending. Anytime I hit major scenes, I repeat the same idea of five possibilities, which is how I keep the plot twisting.

Nothing I outline is ever written in stone of course. Characters are very alive to me and so I listen to them as I write and often they will lead me in directions I had not intended, or reveal secrets in bits of dialogue that I must explore. In fact, discovering those unintended secrets is one of my favorite parts in the writing process.

Michelle:

My first reaction is “Wow”, five possible endings and repeated for every major scene. That completely changes the way I see writing.

Your books always have comments that make me laugh, usually in the dialogue. Are you simply a born stand-up comedian? How do you write such funny moments, and make it work, through battles and other angsty situations?

Jennifer:

Thank you, though my kids would say I’m not nearly as funny as I think I am. A lot of the humor gets added in during the editing phase. As I read through certain scenes, sometimes they’re just so intense that a little humor is necessary to allow the reader to breathe. I also believe the humor is a great way of helping the reader bond to the characters, to say to themselves, “That’s how I’d have responded (or how I wish I would respond) too.”

Michelle:

My kids never think I’m funny, so if your think you’re funny sometimes that’s a win!

Please tell us about upcoming project with a few tidbits to peak our interest.

Jennifer:

OOh – so much excitement! I’m already at work on TRAITOR’S GAME 3, which is going to be epic! Then on Aug 28, I’ll release another historical novel, RESISTANCE, set in World War 2 Poland. It is based on the true story of the Jewish teenagers who fought back against the Nazis. And I’m outling a duology that – if I can pull it off – will be incredibly cool. Titled BLACK INK, all I can say about it for now is that it’ll involve a boy with no memory of who he is, a Boggle set with dice that occasionally communicate to him, and an international conspiracy that will take the reader out of the pages down a rabbit hole that will be far bigger than a book alone can contain.

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Here’s Jennifer’s first historical novel, A Night Divided.

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Resistance can be pre-ordered! It’s getting amazing reviews.

So much to look forward to!

Michelle:

I’m so glad you have plenty in the works to keep me reading! It sounds like a lot to keep track of – you must keep extensive charts.

What advice do you have for other aspiring authors?

Jennifer:

My suggestion is to decide now who they want to be and then to make the writing choices that will get them there. Do they want control in their career, do they want to be considered for major awards, do they want a movie deal, or to write on important niche topics suited for small audiences? Do they want to hit bestseller lists, write books primarily for friends and family, or have the freedom to write anything they want and release it at any time they want?

There is no right or wrong career choice, but there are hundred of choices offered to writers these days and not all choices lead to the same destination. So if the aspiring author can focus on where they are headed, the only remaining question is what is the best route to get there. If an opportunity arises, they can ask, “Does this get me closer to my goal, or is it a distraction from my goals?” Staying focused will help the aspiring author make only their strongest personal choices.

Michelle:

That is valuable advice. I think some of those questions are things a writer could ask of their characters. I really like the goal oriented approach.

I appreciate all your time spent on answering questions and look forward to your next book! And the next, and the next…

Thanks,
Michelle


For additional writing helps I highly recommend you check out Jennifer’s website, jennielsen.com and specifically read through the For Writers tab. She has included many pitfall inexperienced writers tend to use and helps for what a writer should do to become successful.

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Stormcaster – Will You Be Swept Away?

Book Review : Stormcaster
Shattered Realms Series

By Cinda Williams Chima

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

The third book in the thrilling four-book Shattered Realms series from New York Times bestselling author Cinda Williams Chima

The empress in the east—the unspeakably cruel ruler whose power grew in Flamecaster and Shadowcaster—tightens her grip in this chilling third installment in the series.

Vagabond seafarer Evan Strangward can move the ocean and the wind, but his magical abilities seem paltry in comparison to Empress Celestine’s. As Celestine’s bloodsworn armies grow, Evan travels to the Fells to warn the queendom of her imminent invasion. If he can’t convince the Gray Wolf queen to take a stand, he knows that the Seven Realms will fall. Among the dead will be the one person Evan can’t stand to lose.

Meanwhile, the queen’s formidable daughter, Princess Alyssa ana’Raisa, is already a prisoner aboard the empress’s ship. Lyss may be the last remaining hope of bringing down the empress from within her own tightly controlled territory.

Multiple intricately interwoven storylines converge in this gripping novel about a brave, coordinated effort to undermine a horrific tyrant. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

Each new book delves into new characters, and in Stormcaster Chima begins the tale with Evan Strangward and Destin Karn – who we met briefly in Flamecaster. Evan is a pirate who has a secret. When Celestine discovers him on board a pirate ship his life is forever changed as he instinctively draws upon his powers for self-preservation. He hides in a port town under an assumed name until he’s ready to start captaining his own ship. While in hiding, he meets Destin Karn – who nearly killed him on sight. Destin also hides a secret, but his fortune turns for the worse when he is discovered by his father. Sparks start flying between Evan and Destin early in the novel, though other than looks, thoughts and one kiss, their relationship doesn’t develop due to their separation. A gay love story to open the novel will put off some readers. I found I wasn’t as interested in Evan and his background, because he feels like a secondary character. I was anxious to move to the characters in whom I already have a vested interest. Evan is barely found after the first half of the novel.

A little past the first third of Stormcaster  Ash/Adrian sul’Han comes back from the “dead” and returns to his kingdom. While rejoicing over her son being alive, the wolf queen receives the news that her daughter Alyssa has been captured, and though presumably alive, details are scarce.

At the same time, Hal Matelon has returned to his father’s estate to try to convince the Thanes to unite with the king and the wolf queen to defend their home from the threat of Empress Celestine’s invasion. The Kingdom of Arden is oblivious to the threat. However, the Thanes are preparing to march against King Jaret, who holds their women and children as hostages. Robert, Han’s younger brother, is a hot-head and determines to rescue his mother and sister.

Lyss, Princess Alyssa ana’Raisa, joins the story at about page 300. She is in a tight spot. To preserve her life she has agreed to train Empress Celestine’s bloodsworn army. While training them she searches for ways to defeat them. Unexpectedly, Lyss meets Jenna and Cas, who tell her that her brother is alive. They begin to form an alliance, but what can two women and one dragon do against hordes of bloodsworn and a powerful enchantress?

It’s fun to see how Chima begins to pull all the threads together in this epic series. Will the Kingdom of Arden avoid civil war? Where will Lyss get the army she needs to fight the enemy? Will Ash be successful in rescuing the next wolf queen? Do the different types of magic have one source? There is a huge twist – which I’m not mentioning – but I was caught off guard and felt like it changes the direction for the next book!

There continue to be many questions to be answered in the next, and final book of the Shattered Realms Series. I loved the second half of Stormcaster as I could see the characters weaving everything back together. There is no doubt the realm is shattered and I have a feeling it will get worse before it gets better.

Cinda Williams Chima has been one of my favorite fantasy authors since I first found The Wizard Heir, and loved the Seven Realms Series. I love her world building and characters.

 

4 out of 5 stars

4 star

  • Michelle

If you like the Shattered Realm Series try:

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr

The Kingfountain Series or Harbinger Series by Jeff Wheeler

 

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Storm Glass, The Harbinger Series – Can the World Change the Differences of Social Class and Education?

Book Review: Storm Glass
The Harbinger series #1

By Jeff Wheeler

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

Theirs is a world of opposites. The privileged live in sky manors held aloft by a secretive magic known only as the Mysteries. Below, the earthbound poor are forced into factory work to maintain the engine of commerce. Only the wealthy can afford to learn the Mysteries, and they use their knowledge to further lock their hold on society.

Cettie Pratt is a waif doomed to the world below, until an admiral attempts to adopt her. But in her new home in the clouds, not everyone treats her as one of the family.

Sera Fitzempress is a princess born into power. She yearns to meet the orphan girl she has heard so much about, but her father deems the girl unworthy of his daughter’s curiosity.

Neither girl feels that she belongs. Each seeks to break free of imposed rules. Now, as Cettie dreams of living above and as Sera is drawn to the world below, they will follow the paths of their own choosing.

But both girls will be needed for the coming storm that threatens to overturn both their worlds. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I received an ARC for Storm Glass from NetGalley, and this is my honest review.

Not that authors generally have much control over their jacket covers, but this art is amazing! I love it! After reading Storm Glass, I love it even more since it could be symbolic of the happenings within the story.

At this point, I feel fairly certain I will thoroughly enjoy books written by Jeff Wheeler. He develops creative worlds and characters that are thoroughly delightful, or despicable, depending on the type required. Fantasy continues to be one of my favorite genres because of the flexibility and the ability to explore social problems in a different environment. Magic is simply a bonus.

In Storm Glass, we are transported to a Regency styled world, where the rules of social class are rigid and absolute. Wheeler creates a nice play between the contrast of the extremes in society that could be seen as a parallel to our own world. The discussions on debt, and how financial concerns could quickly become the downfall of a family – and their floating manor – make it feel real. Anyone with sense can see how debt strangles families today.

In Storm Glass we are introduced to some of the dregs of society. A foster mother has collected a swarm of children to be eligible for money from the government. She, in turn, drinks up the money leaving the children destitute. Two of the older children take a strong role in caring for the younger children by stealing food, protecting and comforting when there is nothing else to be done.

The Mysteries are a controlling force within society. The magic of the Mysteries bleeds into the realm of science. Only the privileged will be educated in the Mysteries, because it’s education that could change the opportunities afforded the poor. The four major schools are the Mysteries of War, the Mysteries of Wind, the Mysteries of Law and the Mysteries of Thought. Cettie appears to be sensitive to the Mysteries, but it has not yet been revealed how her upcoming education will help her bloom.

Cettie Pratt, the mother-figure for the orphans, has a secret. A ghost comes to haunt her, with the intent to harm. With the little ones, the protection becomes mutual – she shelters them and their innocence acts as a barrier the ghost cannot cross. When one of the wealthy, from the skies above, enters the home and witnesses the conditions he uses the Mysteries to banish the ghost. Cettie asks to be taken away – without understanding the ramifications. This powerful man, Vice Admiral Fitzroy, extends himself and brings Cettie to his home where she finds a mixed reception. His wife and youngest are loving to the poor child, but others see her as a threat.

Cettie, is filled with doubts about her worth. She is complex because she is ashamed of her background, but doesn’t feel compelled to mimic high society and fail in the undertaking. Ms. Pullman, one of the most despicable characters I’ve met in quite awhile, plucks expertly at the loose threads of Cettie’s feelings – shredding any confidence the girl might have found in her new home.  Though she is twelve, Cettie, has grown up quickly in a world that thrust responsibility on her and so se evaluates the world through the lens of her experience. I enjoyed seeing how she could be mature, and still cowed by Ms. Pullman. (Cettie reminds me of Sara Crewe from A Little Princess, one of my favorite plucky girls in literature.) Ultimately, Cettie is a hero because she wants to stand up for the down-trodden and create a better world. It will be fascinating to see how she manages to work through her lofty goals.

Sera Fitzempress, lives an isolated life. She has been kept from mingling with society at large, and specifically children her own age. Despite her upbringing, she is fierce, loyal, smart and driven. Her governess, Hugilde – and only companion, easily becomes exasperated with the child but is also the only adult who truly loves her. As more political power comes within grasp of her father, he becomes more controlling. Her mother appears to be powerless, but has secrets of her own. The bickering parents could have ruined Sera, but instead she wants to seek social justice and change the world she lives in. She, however, may truly gain the power to change the world. Associating only with adults is another way for a young person to mature beyond her years. Sera has had to negotiate the relationship with her parents, knows her value is seen – in part – by who she weds for political advantage and her friendship with Hugilde. It feels realistic that Sera would be another mature young woman because of her circumstances.

Wheeler likes to interconnect his stories, and there is a thread to connect Storm Glass to Muirwood, but it reads well without needing to have read his previous books.

I was thoroughly entertained and can hardly wait to read more about the Mysteries, ghosts and two girls from opposite sides of society in the Harbinger series.

I highly recommend this series and other books by Jeff Wheeler. He keeps his fiction clean, fast paced and intriguing. Jeff Wheeler is one of the must read contemporary authors of fantasy.

5 out of 5 stars

5 star

-Michelle

If you have enjoyed Wheeler as an author I would highly recommend reading A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I am confident that you will love their books.

Also, check out the e-zine : Deep Magic

 

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Still Waters – How Does A Swedish Mystery Differ From An American Novel?

Book Review : Still Waters
Sandhamn Murders

e-book

By Viveca Sten

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

On a hot July morning on Sweden’s idyllic vacation island of Sandhamn, a man takes his dog for a walk and makes a gruesome discovery: a body, tangled in fishing net, has washed ashore.

Police detective Thomas Andreasson is the first to arrive on the scene. Before long, he has identified the deceased as Krister Berggren, a bachelor from the mainland who has been missing for months. All signs point to an accident—until another brutalized corpse is found at the local bed-and-breakfast. But this time it is Berggren’s cousin, whom Thomas interviewed in Stockholm just days before.

As the island’s residents reel from the news, Thomas turns to his childhood friend, local lawyer Nora Linde. Together, they attempt to unravel the riddles left behind by these two mysterious outsiders—while trying to make sense of the difficult twists their own lives have taken since the shared summer days of their youth. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I accepted a challenge to read some foreign authors for a change of pace. It’s been very interesting. In the case of Still Waters I felt I could be reading a detective novel from the United States just as easily as a foreign author- it just happened to be set in Sweden.

Contemporary mysteries aren’t my main course of genre, but I found I enjoyed Still Waters. One of the highlights of a mystery for me is if I can’t figure out the solution until the author has nearly laid out all the pieces. Sten did a fantastic job of setting up the situation, having the investigation progress at a good pace, and having a good solution – which I didn’t solve.

I was yelling at the police officer, in my head, that one of the guys he questioned was too squeaky clean. This is a minor spoiler…. He was innocent. I kind of hoped that either he would have chased after him more as a red herring or that he was guilty of a crime and only appeared innocent. Perhaps police officers in Sweden have such a good gut in being able to determine a person’s innocence or guilt after a few cursory questions. I thought it was fun to hear the investigators draw up different scenarios to solve the crime, searching for a motive and who else could be involved. Some of their theories shot wide of the mark, but eventually they collected enough details to make more concise guesses.

The side stories were just as compelling as the murder mysteries. Tom, the police officer, has been living through a personal tragedy and hasn’t really connected with other people, but has distanced himself from his colleagues, friends and family. His childhood friend, Nora is blind sided when her husband is less than enthusiastic over her job opportunities. It’s discovered in the investigation that Krister led the life of a lonely bachelor. Nearly all the characters have enough side story revealed to make them seem real, maintaining relationships and trying to balance the most important things in their lives. The characters were believable, and that seems critical in a murder mystery.

I would consider this to be a clean mystery because it is free of gregarious sex. There is a little bit of cursing, including a few f-bombs. Still Waters is the first in a series.

3.5 out of 5 stars

3-half-star-hotel

  • Michelle

If you enjoyed this mystery try:

Black Flowers, White Lies by Yvonne Ventresca – a YA thriller

 

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