The Invisible Hand is about a boy, Sam, who has just started life at a boarding school and finds himself able to travel back in time to medieval Scotland. There he meets a girl, Leana, who can travel to the future, and the two of them become wrapped up in events in /Macbeth/, the Shakespeare play, and in the daily life of the school. The book is the first part of a series called Shakespeares Moon. Each book is set in the same boarding school but focuses on a different Shakespeare play.~Goodreads Blurb
Though it wasn’t very long, I found myself having to take extra time with James Hartley’s new series opener “The Invisible Hand.” With less than 200 pages I expected to be able to flip through it in an evening. If I had, I’m sure I would have been left very confused. Not only is there a flipping between very different settings and times, but there also is a story within a story. The author seems to be going for the Shakespeare iconic play-within-a-play. What originally appears to be dreams soon takes a turn into a sort of body jumping between times or storylines. At times that storyline seems to be a bit haphazard and not everything is wrapped up as nicely as I would prefer. For the first in a series, it did it’s job of drawing you into Hartley’s new world but I’m not sure I personally will be picking up the second one in a hurry. It’s not badly written, I would simply say that needing to read a book through twice in order to understand it, isn't my cup of tea.
*This eBook was provided by NetGalley and Lodestone Books in exchange for honest feedback*
Note From the Publisher:James was born in Heswall, on the Wirral, England, on a rainy Thursday in 1973. He´s lived in Singapore, Oman, Scotland, Thailand, Libya, Syria, Ireland, France and Germany during his forty-odd years on the planet and has worked as a journalist, waiter, childminder and dishwasher. He lives in Madrid, Spain, with his wife and two children and teaches English.
Dublin, 1962. Within the gated grounds of the convent of The Sisters of the Holy Redemption lies one of the city’s Magdalen Laundries. Once places of refuge, the laundries have evolved into grim workhouses. Some inmates are “fallen” women—unwed mothers, prostitutes, or petty criminals. Most are ordinary girls whose only sin lies in being too pretty, too independent, or tempting the wrong man. Among them is sixteen-year-old Teagan Tiernan, sent by her family when her beauty provokes a lustful revelation from a young priest.
Teagan soon befriends Nora Craven, a new arrival who thought nothing could be worse than living in a squalid tenement flat. Stripped of their freedom and dignity, the girls are given new names and denied contact with the outside world. The Mother Superior, Sister Anne, who has secrets of her own, inflicts cruel, dehumanizing punishments—but always in the name of love. Finally, Nora and Teagan find an ally in the reclusive Lea, who helps them endure—and plot an escape. But as they will discover, the outside world has dangers too, especially for young women with soiled reputations.~Goodreads Blurb
There will always be people who will use their authority over people and their faith to take advantage. In every religion there are bad people. Rarely has it on par with the Catholic Church and the Magdalen Laundries. Following the interest sparked by the film “Philomena” and similar documentaries, author V.S Alexander has attempted to bring some more understanding through historical fiction. Giving us three young girls to see their world through, we watch as they adapt and try to hold on to their sense of self in a religious prison that will do all it can to save their souls, whether they need saving or not.
Of course with a tough subject as religion and the trust given to authorities of faith, there were bound to be moments that rubbed the wrong way. The idea that the blame falls on the girl for tempting a priest instead of berating the priest for having impure thoughts, causes me to grind my teeth. Many of these girls, historically, were sent to the laundries for many different reasons. Some were seen as fallen women, while others had nowhere else to go and no one who really wanted them. It is not a system to which I have ever understood, nor would I survive in such a place. One of the few things that I found difficult about these book is the story line of Sister Anne. A fiendish woman who enjoys the release pain grants her and enjoys inflicting pain on others under the guise of saving them. There were far too many pages wasted on trying to redeem her in the eyes of the readers. She did not need to be given a redemption arc. I also felt that parts of the story were tempered down in order to not upset readers. It seems a very open-shut view of a very complex problem. I would offer this up as a light read about a very serious subject, almost on a young adult level.
An original addition to the beloved Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, Lost in a Book follows the lonely, bookish Belle as she finds an enchanted book in the Beast’s library called Nevermore that carries her into a glittering new world. There, Belle is befriended by a mysterious countess who offers her the life she’s always dreamed of.
But Nevermore is not what it seems, and the more time Belle spends there, the harder it is to leave. Good stories take hold of us and never let us go, and once Belle becomes lost in this book, she may never find her way out again.~Goodreads Blurb
Like a bag of chips, this was a nice satisfying read that wasn’t overly long or drawn out. It was just enough to wet my appetite after reading some real stinkers. Generally I try to avoid reviewing books that I hate simply because I know that someone put a lot of time and effort into them and just because I can’t stand them doesn’t mean I have to be cruel. It does make it difficult to keep up to date on my reviews and book count as I don’t count half read books. This was a bit of light reading that kept me well entertained with a nice play on Love vs. Death betting on mortal lives. Always an interesting dynamic, author Jennifer Donnelly has given her readers another look at the Beauty and the Beast story. She hasn’t changed the story or retold it as much as she has simply added more depth to the original. By adding to the already agreed upon story arc she has carefully taken a slice of life and expanded on it and shown the growing emotional ties between our two lead characters. With the live action story coming out shortly, I can only hope that people will reach for this for their younger family members who might not have the emotional memories that the older crowd has.
Jennifer Donnelly is the author of eleven novels - Lost in a Book, These Shallow Graves, Sea Spell, Dark Tide, Rogue Wave, Deep Blue, Revolution, A Northern Light, The Tea Rose, The Winter Rose and The Wild Rose - and Humble Pie, a picture book for children. She grew up in New York State, in Lewis and Westchester counties, and attended the University of Rochester where she majored in English Literature and European History.
Miranda is a lonely child. For as long as she can remember, she and her father have lived in isolation in the abandoned Moorish palace. There are chickens and goats, and a terrible wailing spirit trapped in a pine tree, but the elusive wild boy who spies on her from the crumbling walls and leaves gifts on their doorstep is the isle’s only other human inhabitant. There are other memories, too: vague, dream-like memories of another time and another place. There are questions that Miranda dare not ask her stern and controlling father, who guards his secrets with zealous care: Who am I? Where did I come from? The wild boy Caliban is a lonely child, too; an orphan left to fend for himself at an early age, all language lost to him. When Caliban is summoned and bound into captivity by Miranda’s father as part of a grand experiment, he rages against his confinement; and yet he hungers for kindness and love.~Goodreads Blurb
If you were expecting a retelling similar in style to Margaret Atwood’s “Hagseed” this isn’t what you’re looking for. “Miranda and Caliban” is to “The Tempest” as “Wide Sargasso Sea” is to “Jane Eyre.” Just as WSS became a classic, my hope is that MaC is taken in by a wider audience. Instead of focusing on Prospero, author Jacqueline Carey has focused on predominantly two of the side characters. If you have any knowledge about the play it’s based on then you know where these characters will end up, but for a short time you are able to lose yourself in Carey’s excellent character development. Instead of the trope characters Shakespeare gave us, Carey has dug into their character development and fleshed out a backstory I think Billy Shakes would be proud of. (If my Shakespeare Literature professor is reading this, me and Billy go way back so I don’t feel bad about using an informal nickname.) With only so much to work with, Carey has bridged the gap between the exile and escape of Miranda and Prospero in a way that I think very few authors could. The writing is very in keeping with the source material and the sheer amount of character growth that she was able to work in, is breathtaking. Fair to say I really enjoyed having my views turned over.
This is a great read for people who enjoy YA books that don’t promise a happy ending. I would even encourage people who are planning to start reading “The Tempest” to give this a go if only to have a clearer view of the characters. With all Billy’s plays, it better to watch them while reading them, in order to understand what’s going on. For “The Tempest” I would whole heartedly push you towards Helen Mirren’s Prospero.
**This eBook was provided by NetGalley and Tor Books in exchange for honest feedback**
Jacqueline Carey (born 1964 in Highland Park, Illinois) is an author and novelist, primarily of fantasy fiction.
She attended Lake Forest College, receiving B.A.'s in psychology and English literature. During college, she spent 6 months working in a bookstore as part of a work exchange program. While there, she decided to write professionally. After returning she started her writing career while working at the art center of a local college. After ten years, she discovered success with the publication of her first book in 2001.
Currently, Carey lives in western Michigan and is a member of the oldest Mardi Gras krewe in the state.
"The Islamic Jesus" reveals startling new truths about Islam in the context of the first Muslims and the early origins of Christianity. Muslims and the first Christians—the Jewish followers of Jesus—saw Jesus as not divine but rather as a prophet and human Messiah and that salvation comes from faith and good works, not merely as faith, as Christians would later emphasize. What Akyol seeks to reveal are how these core beliefs of Jewish Christianity, which got lost in history as a heresy, emerged in a new religion born in 7th Arabia: Islam.
Akyol exposes this extraordinary historical connection between Judaism, Jewish Christianity and Islam—a major mystery unexplored by academia. From Jesus’ Jewish followers to the Nazarenes and Ebionites to the Qu’ran’s stories of Mary and Jesus, The Islamic Jesus will reveal links between religions that seem so contrary today. It will also call on Muslims to discover their own Jesus, at a time when they are troubled by their own Pharisees and Zealots
I think for this I’m going to have to turn to a bit from Irish comedian Dara O’Briain. “...There are two reasons I don’t do jokes about Muslims. A. I don’t know a f**kin’ thing about Muslims. And B. Neither do you. So frankly it’ld’ve be pointless. I could research and write the greatest Muslim-based material you’ve ever heard, ‘Hey what’s up with the big golden horse that comes over the hill once a year and hands out cake to the kids? What’s that all about?’ And you’d all be there going, ‘Is that a thing? I’ve never of that there. Is that a thing? Oh jeez, you’ve really nailed the Muslims there, Dara. Well done, congratulations.’ By the way apologizes to any Muslims in the room who are now sitting there going, “What golden horse? The f**k is the man talking about?” I started this book with practically no real background knowledge about Islam and the Muslim faith except what I had picked up from friends of mine who do follow those teachings. My faith background is very firmly set in the Judeo-Christian section, specifically evangelical southern baptists growing up. I think that having this sort of background was probably helpful in this case as I was able to understand much of what was being shown throughout the book.
All that being said, author Mustafa Akyol has obviously put in quite a lot of effort into this book. At times it reads like a scholarly text and yet it also manages to keep it to an understandable level with explanations and footnotes. It is an interesting look at not only the role that the man Jesus had, not only in the Judeo-Christian faiths but also in the Islamic faith. The connections and, in places, the mirrored text shows not only a root faith but perhaps a connection for those of these faiths to have with each other.
*This book was provided by NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for honest feedback*
Mustafa Akyol lives in Istanbul and is a columnist for the Turkish newspapers Hürriyet Daily News and Star. He has written opinion pieces for the Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, and Newsweek.
Tenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live—after she dies.
There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.
In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms who will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t home to the boy she’s falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…~Goodreads Blurb
Typically when the phrase “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover…” is used you expect to find a great story hidden behind a rather crappy cover. In this case, I ended up with a gorgeous cover and a lackluster story. The frustrating thing is that it could have been so good. The idea of two warring afterlives, and a terrifying limbo state, light versus dark, you could even throw in a solarpunk over lunarpunk twist if you wanted. The framework had such potential, but I feel the author just didn’t quite live up to what she wanted to write. The backstory is almost non-existent except to tell us that this is the way it has always been and every once and awhile, the “gods” show up to prove their existence. Did I mention that the some of them have powers from their Afterlives, and they exist in Shells? The sheer amount of paths this could have taken is breathtaking. With the brilliant cover art and the promise of a fresh series, I admit I may have expected too much. Instead of creating a new world for her readers the author has rehashed some old standard tropes, and copped-out with the character development. The standard Brit-Irish accent, dark hair light hair, bad boy good guy battle for the super special girl has been seriously played out and I was hoping for male characters that would bolster and push our lead character to become the great person she is destined to be. Not so much, once again. It was an easy read and luckily I have enough imagination to make up for the bones I was thrown.
Gena Showalter is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty books in paranormal and contemporary romances, as well as young adult novels. Her series include White Rabbit Chronicles, Angels of the Dark, Otherworld Assassins, Lords of the Underworld, Alien Huntress and Intertwined.
Her novels have appeared in Cosmopolitan Magazine, and Seventeen Magazine, and have been translated all over the world. The critics have called her books "sizzling page-turners" and "utterly spellbinding stories", while Showalter herself has been called “a star on the rise”.
On the day of a late spring storm, in Chicago, Autumn Manning boarded an “L” train. A bomb explodes, killing everyone in the train car except for Autumn—the sole survivor. A year has passed and Autumn suffocates under a blanket of what ifs and the pressing desire to bring the victims back to life, every day, if only for her. She doesn’t want their stories to be forgotten. She wants to undo what cannot be undone. An unexpected ally joins her efforts, also seeking answers and trying to find a way to stumble ahead.
But one victim’s husband, Paul Elliott, prays to let the dead—and their secrets—rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to hurt his loved ones.
Caught between loss and hope, these restless souls must release the past to embrace a sovereign God.~Goodreads Blurb
After a horrifying experience, living through a bombing of her train, Autumn Manning has all the trademark signs of survivor’s guilt. Instead of pushing through it and finding a new appreciation for life, she is stuck in the past trying to find as much as she can about the people who weren’t as lucky as she was. It’s through this shared search for answers that she meets the daughter of one of the victims. Typically I don’t read a lot of faith based romances simply because I don’t find myself connecting to them. “Life After” was very well written and it follows in a very clear way, the journey from victim trapped in herself to a strength that she finds in faith and herself. With enough emotional twists to engage her readers, Author Katie Ganshert has created a story that not only addresses the impact that trauma can have on a person but also its effect on a family and the path it takes to move beyond what’s happened.
*This book was provided by BloggingForBooks in exchange for honest feedback*
Katie (K.E.) Ganshert was born and raised in the exciting state of Iowa, where she currently resides with her family. She likes to write things and consume large quantities of coffee and chocolate while she writes all the things. She’s won some awards. For the writing, not the consuming. Although the latter would be fun. You can learn more about K.E. Ganshert and these things she writes at her website www.katieganshert.com.
Josefine Sonnenthal has it all under control. A successful lawyer with a sensible fiancé and big plans for marriage and children, she is sure that everything in her life is going according to plan.
But without a very important family ring—one that may possess mystical powers to doom or bless Josefine’s impending marriage—there will be no wedding. And that’s why she finds herself on a plane heading to Scotland with her two eccentric great aunts, desperately searching for a wayward cousin who holds the coveted heirloom.
When Josefine finds herself in one near-disaster after another along the Highlands countryside, she repeatedly crosses paths with the handsome but notoriously moody confectioner, Aidan Murray. Enchanted by her lush new surroundings, she tries to resist his rugged charm, but soon she begins to question everthing. Does having a plan really mean having it all together? Or could this unexpected love be the best plan yet?
Sometimes you just need a bit of an escape. “Kissed by the Rain” was just what I needed after a few heavier books in my reading list. Who doesn’t like a nice love story with a lovely Scottish baker? With a strong female lead, and a series of events that force our two lovebirds together, Claudia Winters latest romance novel is familiar in a comforting way. If you enjoyed Leap Year than this will seem similar to you. But instead of simply chasing after a fiance, Winters gives us a pair of feisty aunts, a magical ring, and a whole slew of characters that help wrap up the whole story. I enjoyed that it wasn’t simply a love story but also a family story with just enough of a cozy storyline to move everything along. It was light and fluffy and just what I needed to cleanse my palate for the next few dark mystery novels I have lined up. There is even a couple of recipes at the end that look delicious.
*This eBook was provided by NetGalley and AmazonCrossing in exchange for honest feedback*
Claudia Winter has been writing since childhood. She has previously published two romantic comedies, a crime novel, and several short stories. She works as an author, editor, and writer's coach, as well as a certified specialist in social pedagogy at an elementary school. Winter lives with her partner and two dogs in a small town in Germany.
"My daughter's not just run away - she's dead!' When Mary Corbet walks into private investigator Jennie Redhead's rundown Oxford office one pleasant spring day in 1974, she is a desperate woman. Although she's convinced her daughter has been murdered, she can get neither the police nor her husband to agree with her.
Jennie is not convinced either, but more out of compassion than conviction agrees to take the case. The only clue she has to go on is a fragment of an obscure 17th century poem she finds in Linda's bedroom: Or will you, like a cold and errant coward/Abandon all and make a shivering turn. But from that one clue Jennie's investigations will lead her beyond the city's dreaming spires to Oxford's darker underbelly, in which lurks a hidden world of privilege, violence and excess.~Goodreads Blurb
Set in 1970s Oxford, there is a new generation growing up and getting into trouble. Sally Spencer’s newest series is lead by a female PI named Jennie Redhead(oh and spoilers, she has red hair.) There is lots of little character bits which make this an entertaining and interesting read. With the warring class distinctions in Oxford, with the students acting as the upperclass to the lower town folks, there is bound to be some struggle between them. Spencer has managed to not only portray these two classes with some skill, she also has added some historical information about the colleges and the cultural elements of the late 60s early 70s.
While I am not often too keen on characters with whimsical names, as it can sometimes show a laziness on the writer's part, I was able to look past that quite easily in this case. Author Sally Spencer has put in the work and brought forth a series that has left me waiting for the next one. It isn’t an all out blood and guts mystery and yet I wouldn’t go so far as to lump it into the cozy genre of mysteries. I would say this is a good book to sit back and enjoy with a glass of wine and a nice blanket. The mystery was well written and the female characters were rarely lumped into cliche stereotypes.
*This eBook was provided by NetGalley and Severn House in exchange for honest feedback*
A pseudonym used by Alan Rustage. Sally Spencer is a pen name, first adopted when the author (actually called Alan Rustage) was writing sagas and it was almost obligatory that a woman's name appeared on the cover (other authors like Emma Blair and Mary Jane Staples are also men).
Before becoming a full-time writer, he was a teacher. In 1978-79 he was working in Iran and witnessed the fall of the Shah (see the Blog for what it was like to live through a revolution). He got used to having rifles - and, one occasion, a rocket launcher - pointed at him by both soldiers and revolutionaries, but he was never entirely comfortable with it.
In a violent 19th century, desperate attempts by the alienists - a new wave of ‘mad-doctor’ – brought the insanity plea into Victorian courts. Defining psychological conditions in an attempt at acquittal, they faced ridicule, obstruction – even professional ruin – as they strived for acceptance and struggled for change. It left ‘mad people’ hanged for offences they could not remember, and ‘bad’ people freed on unscrupulous pleas.
Written in accessible language, this book – unlike any before it – retells twenty-five cases, from the renowned to obscure, including an attempt to murder a bemused Queen Victoria; the poisoner Dove and the much-feared magician; the king’s former wet-nurse who slaughtered six children; the worst serial killer in Britain…and more. ~Goodreads Blurb
It is probably a foreboding start to a book when the 1st listed chapter is simply a glossary and a list of the important people involved with insanity pleas in Victorian times. I will admit to having read an uncorrected proof from NetGalley, so I am hopeful that either the editors will have made the grouping of these cases easier to read or some method of categorization has made more sense out of the seemingly random flow of the book. The second chapter is not much better in layout as it is another list of the different “insanities” that people pleaded. It seems that instead of working these bits into a narrative format or a version with footnotes, Author David J. Vaughan has simply placed a series of lists for the readers to push through until they get to part of the book they can relate to, which should be the fifth part of the book, the cases themselves.
As evidence by the sheer amount of procedural shows on the air and with 456 episodes of “Law and Order” alone, people love a good mystery and court drama. The introduction of the insanity plea, is an almost guaranteed way to create a media circus in the modern world. Because it is a mental break instead of a clear visible physical effect, it has always been subject to stricter questioning than simply bad people. The whole point of a title like “Mad or Bad” is to have the audience ask the question, was there something actually wrong with these people or were they simply bad people? I'm not sure that I was able to get a solid answer to this, as the mess that these court cases could be seems to have creeped into the book itself. Though footnotes are used later on in the case files, the constant flipping back and forth between sections to identify people and topics eventually proved more annoying than anything. Hopefully in the future eBook version there will be a way to simply click a link to jump between pages instead of the search option I had to use.
This is obviously well researched and Vaughan has put a great deal of effort into it. Unfortunately for me, I found it to be a difficult read and not to my taste. There are a number of other authors who have tackled this subject and have made it more accessible to their readers. If the editors and publishers are able to iron out the wrinkles in this book, it has great promise, but right now I wouldn’t recommend it.
*This eBook was provided by NetGalley and Pen & Sword Books for honest feedback*
Freelance Editor & Reviewer