Book Review: The Devil’s Wind by Steve Goble—and a Giveaway!

The Devil’s Wind
A Spider John Mystery #2
Steve Goble
Seventh Street Books, September 2018
ISBN 978-1-63388-484-7
Trade Paperback

A second helping of pirate noir is served up by author Steve Goble. Former pirate Spider John signs on to an honest job on the ship “Redemption, ” but shortly after the ship puts out to sea, Captain Brentwood is murdered in his locked cabin. Spider John is joined on this ship by his ex-pirate friends, 15 year old Hob and one eyed Odin, who brags of sailing with Blackbeard, wrestling giant squid and screwing mermaids. The crew must avoid the Royal navy ships, who are pursuing Spider John and his friends for piracy and espionage, and evade the ruthless pirate Ned Low, on the prowl in these waters.

There are suspects aplenty in the other crew members and passengers: Sam Smoke, a pirate suspected of being a spy for Ned Low; Abigail, the captain’s beautiful daughter, who has caught the interest of Nicholas Wright, another sailor; Rufus Fox, an educated man and tinkerer; and Hadley, a former slave.

These are not the Disney-fied pirates of the theme park, but pirates who are scarred, filthy, and curse with a vengeance, ie “bubble headed lobcocks.” At one point Spider John muses, “He suddenly wished he owned all his fingers and all his teeth, and perhaps a razor and some soap.” No swashbuckling to be found in these pages, only a cast of interesting characters, lots of seaworthy action, and a right smart plot.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, October 2018.

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To enter the drawing for a print copy of
The Devil’s Wind by Steve Goble,
leave a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Thursday evening,
December 6th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US & Canada.

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Book Review: The Bloody Black Flag by Steve Goble

The Bloody Black Flag
A Spider John Mystery #1
Steve Goble
Seventh Street Books. September 2017
ISBN 978-163388-359-8
Trade Paperback

Avast landlubbers! Author Steve Goble introduces a new detective in this first book of a new series. Spider John Rush, a former pirate, is trying to find his way back to his wife Em and his son Little Johnny, now age eight. Spider had served on a whaling ship and then on a pirate ship. Now he signs on to a ship sailing to Jamaica, in hopes of making some money, with his friend Ezra Coombs.

Ezra and Spider were on Lama, which went down in a storm.  Ezra’s grandmother had been hung as a witch and his mother also. Spider’s gram had been burned. It was a bond they shared. The two escaped from Boston ahead of an angry mob.  Ezra is accused of being the son of a witch by a tattooed crew member named Tellam from Salem.

Ezra is found dead on deck, with a flask beside him, murdered in cold blood by a shipmate. But which one? In this adventure on the high seas, set in 1722.  Spider uses his skills of observation and the tools of his trade as a ship’s carpenter, to discover the murderer. A clever twist on the amateur detective character—fans of historical mysteries and seafaring tales will enjoy sailing with Spider John and the crew.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, October 2018.

Book Review: The Scourge by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Scourge
Jennifer A. Nielsen
Scholastic Press, September 2016
ISBN 978-0-545-68245-9
Hardcover

River people are derogatorily referred to as “grubs” and in retaliation, they only address townspeople as “pinchworms”. It is true that the folks outside of town prefer their own company and way of life. It is also accurate to say they’ve been ostracized, blamed for being the source and spreaders of the Scourge, stealing so many lives hundreds of years ago.

Ani Mells is a proud river person known to create a touch of trouble wherever she goes. Perhaps a bit stubborn and quite possibly prejudiced against pinchworms; she is also intuitively kind, driven to do the right thing and ferociously loyal. When she and her best bud, Weevil, are essentially abducted and hauled into town, she is too furious to question the reasoning.

Told that they needed to be tested for the recently resurrected Scourge, Ani was initially wary and so she asked questions. Answers, if provided at all, were vague and almost illogical. Not only does Ani doubt the townspeople’s truth about the plague, but she suspects something sinister afoot. She is determined to get the bottom of it, but Governor Felling and her guards have to stop her. Weevil wants what Ani wants and the two together may just have a chance to end the heinous political plan that is so horrific I won’t even hint about it here.

This fantastical, action-packed adventure also shows personal growth and change, along with some quick wit and humorous banter. I’m completely charmed and in awe of characters that possess admirable and attainable attributes while still being wholly human and making silly mistakes and an occasional dumb decision along the way. Ms. Nielsen must keep in the company of wizards because there’s way too much magic in her writing for it to made of only hard work and mad skills.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2018.

Book Review: Mayfly by Jeff Sweat

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Title: Mayfly
Author: Jeff Sweat
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: May 8, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:

         
         

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Mayfly
Jeff Sweat
Feiwel and Friends, May 2018
ISBN 978-1-250-13920-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Jemma has spent her life scavenging tools and supplies for her tribe in  their small enclave outside what used to be a big city. Now she’s a teen, and old enough to become a Mama. Making babies is how her people survive—in Jemma’s world, life ends at age seventeen.

Survival has eclipsed love ever since the Parents died of a mysterious plague. But Jemma’s connection to a boy named Apple is stronger than her duty as a Mama. Forced to leave, Jemma and Apple are joined in exile by a mysterious boy who claims to know what is causing them to die. The world is crumbling around them, and their time is running out. Is this truly the End?

Several years ago, I read two books of a dystopian trilogy that were based on the concept of all adults having died and the children had very early deaths to look forward to, much like the story in this book. Those books left me kind of cold and there were gaping plot holes, more like sinkholes, but I felt this particular tale was handled much better and I was not left so dissatisfied.

Remnants of the world created by the parents, such as lawns and swimming pools, have been turned to new uses by the children so that they can survive in this mutated version of California and they think of TeeVee as a god. Jemma, a Gatherer, wants out of this community before she can be forced to have a child and Apple, her friend and a sixteen-year-old Muscle, agrees to go with her when she makes her break.

Worldbuilding is weaker than I would have liked—there are lots of small details, which I welcomed, but big gaps in the larger issues—and I really couldn’t stop wondering why these kids go on as they do, bringing babies into this harsh world. I understand the human drives for survival and procreation but, like Jemma, I don’t think I could give birth to a baby with no future beyond seventeen years and, perhaps worse, not even the comfort of a mother past one year.

All that notwithstanding, I had no idea where Mr. Sweat was going to take me and it’s a perilous and wonderful journey indeed. Failings aside, this series debut is well worth the time and I hope to get more answers in the next book. There will be a next one, right, Mr. Sweat?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2018.

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About the Author

Jeff Sweat has made a living from words his entire career, starting out as an award-winning tech journalist for InformationWeek magazine and moving into marketing.

He led the content marketing team for Yahoo and pioneered its use of social media. He directed PR for two of the top advertising agencies in the country, Deutsch LA and 72andSunny. He now runs his own Los Angeles–based PR and marketing agency, Mister Sweat.

He grew up in Idaho as the middle of eight children—seven boys and one girl—and attended Columbia University in New York. Jeff lives in a big blue house in Los Angeles with his wife Sunny and their three kids, two cats, and a racing greyhound.

He loves to travel and writes everywhere he goes, even when there’s not a desk. He likes karaoke, motorcycles and carpentry. He was once shot in the head with a nail gun, which was not a big of a deal as it sounds. But it still hurt like crazy.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway
1 winner will receive a MAYFLY
prize pack which includes
buttons, custom art and maps,
and a t-shirt.
US only.

Enter the drawing here.

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Book Review: A Strange Scottish Shore by Juliana Gray

A Strange Scottish Shore
Emmeline Truelove Series #2
Juliana Gray
Berkley Trade Paperback, September 2017
ISBN 978-0-425-27708-9
Trade Paperback

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, especially if the story veers toward the mythical and takes place on one of Great Britain’s coasts, you’ve probably heard of selkies, a seal-like creature that comes ashore, sheds its skin and lives like a human. At least for a while, until the sea calls it back.

A Strange Scottish Shore opens when a wall in an ancient Scottish castle is breached and a box is found which contains a suit of peculiar texture. The year is 1906, and while the suit seems to be of a modern rubberized fabric, researchers Maximilian Haywood and his assistant, Emmeline Truelove, ascertain it is the skin of a selkie who in ancient times came ashore from the sea and married the first laird.

But then weird things begin happening. People appear and disappear. Emmeline’s “special” friend Lord Silverton disappears one night. A strange, evil seeming young man appears, and Emmeline meets and speaks with an oddly familiar young woman who gives her a warning. Who are these people? What do they want? Where do they come from, and where do they go so suddenly? It’s a mystery that will take Max, Emmeline, and Silverton from the present, into the past as well as into the future, with danger dogging their steps at every turn.

The unique story premise is intriguing, to be sure. The characters, for the most part, are strong. The dialogue seemed a bit wordy to me, and sometimes, a bit superfluous. A reader will find many twists and turns, and effortlessly, which is the best way, learn a bit about old Scottish castles, the lives of our ancestors, and even the myths they believed in. The ending holds a bit of a surprise, and I think you’ll find it all to the good. As to where the selkie skin (or suit) came from, and to whom it belonged, well, you’ll just have to read the story to find out.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, January 2018.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Traitor’s Game
The Traitor’s Game, Book One
Jennifer A. Nielsen
Scholastic Press, February 2018
ISBN 978-1-338-04537-6
Hardcover

Abruptly abandoning her beloved Lava Fields, based solely on a demand from her paternal parental unit, is aggravating. The fact that it’s been three years and no reason was given for the reunion, is infuriating. When Kestra’s security carriage is attacked on the journey home, she flips from frustrated to fiercely furious, forgetting all about fear.

Certainly, the people of Antora have a healthy respect for that anger. After all, her father is second in command to Lord Endrick. Those who actually know the scrappy, skilled teen are more realistically wary of her wrath. The band of rebels, however, has too much at stake and too pat a plan to be thwarted.

Kestra is kidnapped. Her guard and governess held as collateral.

One captor poses as her lady-in-waiting, the other her driver and Kestra is taken into Highwyn and tasked with finding the Olden Blade to overthrow evil Lord Endrick. No one actually knows that the magic dagger exists. If it does, and she is able to locate it; then she will have to determine how much, if any, of the legend is true. This seemingly insurmountable problem pales when Kestra realizes the reason for her return.

She is to be wed. Groom selected, arrangements made, the ceremony…stupidly soon. She has no say in the matter.

With several sticky situations to solve, and only a small window of time, the story flies faster than Lord Endrick’s condors. Along the way, secrets are revealed. Kestra begins to believe that she fell in love with the idea of her country, without ever knowing the realities of her world. Burdened by new knowledge, the difference between enemies and innocents becomes blurry, but she must choose someone to trust.

Kestra may be one of my favorite characters of all time. She is courageous, bold beyond belief and also positively petulant, with a tendency for tantrums. The perfect protagonist for this adventurous, action-packed fantasy. Mixed with a bit of magic, a completely captivating saga is created; a stellar start to a tempting trilogy (I’m guessing, here).

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2018.

Book Review: Eve of the Exceptionals by Parker Sinclair

Eve of the Exceptionals
Parker Sinclair
Rawlings Books, January 2017
ISBN 978-0-9984053-0-8
Trade Paperback

It begins in a darkened room one night when Gem is fourteen. She and her Anima, Finn, are in the process of locating and stealing a magical object when the room bursts into light and they are accosted by Prince Ryzen, also fourteen. Gem resists her initial instinct which is to shoot the prince with an arrow. He, in turn, tells her how to escape while warning her that she cannot do so successfully with the Heart of Cyan, the magical gem she is trying to steal.

Fast forward four years. Gem is now a soldier in the Northern Guard and well on her way to becoming the best in her group. She hasn’t seen Ryzen since that fateful night, but still feels the warm, strong emotions that flowed through her when their eyes met. She’s often wondered whether he felt the same way, but has no way to determine whether that’s true.

Ryzen has harbored similar emotions about Gem, but no matter how hard he’s searched, often using magical methods, no trace of her has surfaced. Meanwhile, a dire threat is looming on the horizon. Dark and evil creatures from the Shadowlands are sweeping toward the kingdom and Ryzen must determine who the other is who must align with him to fully release the power of the Heart.

When Gem is assigned to guard Ryzen as the threat escalates, it sets in motion several things. She will learn who she really is and why she so strongly doubts the probability she’s the other one able to fully power the Heart. Both she and Ryzen will encounter a host of interesting and unusual creatures, many magical. They must fight their way to a place where another royal is being held captive by the most evil of forces and work with the witches who have long considered mortals as treacherous beings to win the day.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the positive side, the overall adventure is a good tale and the magic and magical creatures are well crafted. However, there are places where modern slang like ‘freak out’ and ‘How do we test the new powers this baby has,’ are used and mess with what I call the rule of internal consistency regarding fantasy. The entire story takes place in a medieval type world. If it happened in a back and forth between such a world and our present day (urban fantasy) these wouldn’t stick out.

There are also places where things aren’t explained completely, like how and why she was in the room to steal the gem at the beginning of the story and these pulled my attention away from the story as I wondered about them. Still, it’s an enjoyable tale in an interesting world.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, July 2017.