Monday, October 28, 2013

Cain's Blood

I found this book listed on a "new arrival" list at my local library and was instantly intrigued. It is an ingenious blend of science and horror that will put you into a state of paranoia about our government's weapons funding. The story places young boys in adoptive homes across the country, but keeps their true identities a secret, even from the boys themselves. Only after one of the lead scientists goes on a killing spree with a group of these boys, it is revealed that they are clones of some of the world's notorious serial killers. A faithful soldier Castillo is brought in to hunt down the escaped clones and to keep it quite, but finds himself relying on an unlikely individual, a clone of Jeffery Dahmer. This young man proves to be quite helpful to Castillo, but will it be enough to stop the mayhem before the nation is exposed to something even far worse than a few serial killer clones?

What I loved most about this novel was, well, just about everything! It was a fast past thrill ride in which you were constantly wondering what was going to happen next. Geoffrey Girard also did an amazing job at setting up the scientific background in a way that people not familiar with cloning would at least understand some of the key concepts behind it. He also included some background information on Dolly the sheep that I found interesting and helped to explain some of the issues that there were with the clones. The storyline flowed very smoothly from one page to the next and I found myself not wanting to put this book down. Every time I had to walk away from it, my mind was constantly going back to it and wondering what monstrous things awaited for me ahead.

I also thought that the character development was well done. The serial killers were extremely frightening. Whenever there was a passage with them and their thoughts were shown, it made me very uncomfortable. I had to sometimes use my imagination to fill in what each of them looked like, but by them being rather famous, a quick search on the internet helped to flesh them out visually for me. However, there was no doubt that these individuals were killers in any way. The main two characters seemed to compliment one another. Castillo seemed to be missing something from his life and perhaps this teenage boy, a Jeffrey Dahmer clone, helped him to center and leave some of his scars, physically and mentally, behind.

There weren't too many things that I had issues with. This particular book had a vast vocabulary and was intelligently written, which is something I gravitate toward. If I had to be nit picky, I would have to say the whole cloning process was not described well. Although, I don't believe that you needed a vast description of it for the story to work. It would have just been nice to get a better description of what the clones grew in exactly what the scientists did to create these specific clones, etc. Sometimes, the dialogue also seemed a little awkward, but not exactly a big deal, especially for this novel. The only other thing that kind of got in the way was all the references to The Odyssey. It seemed a little heavy handed sometimes with all the quotations, but I understand the importance of it for characterization reasons.

Overall, this book was excellent. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good horror novel with a backstory relating to government conspiracies. If you are uncomfortable by intense murder sequences, do not enjoy books on cloning, or prefer thrillers that are lighter in content, then this book is not recommended for you.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

I borrowed this book from my local library; I was not paid to do a review of this book.

Image was taken from

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Daylight Gate

I was looking for new authors to read and saw this book recommended by the staff at my local library. The paranoia pandemic of the witch trials has always interested me and so I decided to give this novella on the Lancashire Witch Trials a try. However, I am a little divided in how I feel about this book. What I was expecting was a historical fiction novella, but what the novella is, is a fictional story based during a time of history. It is not historical fiction in that sense and the author, Jeanette Winterson, addresses that in her introduction. After reading the introduction I was rather conflicted with going on with the rest of the novella, but decided to keep an open mind and forge ahead.

What I enjoyed the most about what Winterson was able to accomplish in her writing, was the style of writing. She was very good at images, which made it seem rather poetic or lyrical in nature. The setting was almost a character all on its own and you could feel the fog on your skin or the scent of the woods the characters were travelling through. In a way, she has a small amount of Gothic imagery going on as well, with taking some horrific images and almost giving them a sense of overlying beauty.

However, I felt that throughout all of the poetical images there just wasn't enough character or backstory development. Winterson brought up some topics like "alchemy" and "elixirs of youth", but they were not explained why they were important to the storyline. I made some basic assumptions as to the roles they played, but I wanted just a little more, especially if the reader is not familiar with these things. They may become lost or confused by their importance and miss the meaning behind them. As for the characters, I got a better sense of the type of person they were than what they looked like and I had to use my imagination to fill in the blanks for many of them. With all the effort that was put into other elements of the story, I was a little surprised that the characters were not fleshed out as much.

After reading some of the other reviews posted on this novella, I could see how the simplistic writing could be an issue. I understand what Winterson was trying to accomplish with it, but am not certain that it worked here. What I needed from this novella to make it dynamic was a little more "meat" with respect to the writing. I needed the sophisticated and educated vocabulary, the more complex sentence structures,  and beautifully detailed passages for me to be committed to the story she was trying to tell.

The other issues I had with the novella has to do with the content. There were several very sexually explicit passages that I felt were not needed or necessary. By including them it began to read a little like a romance novel with this theme just under the surface throughout it, and for me that is a big offense, especially when it comes to the horror/suspense genre. Finally, the novella did not offer a new view on witchcraft by stating that witches make there pact with the Devil or "Dark Gentleman" in this case. I was hoping for something a little more interesting than that. With the added element of "alchemy" I was anticipating that as part a new twist, but nothing was ever really developed with respect to that.

Overall, it was a somewhat interesting novella that was a fast and easy read. If you are expecting a historical fiction piece that stays very true to the Lancashire Witch Trials storyline, then this novella is NOT for you. But if you enjoy light pieces of fiction based loosely on a time in history then this novella may be perfect for you.

Rating: 2.5 out 5

I got this book from my local library; I was not paid to do a review of this book.

(image taken from

Thursday, October 17, 2013

And Let There Be A Hero

Synopsis: Psycho killers are detective Kalen Gatt's bailiwick. But when he belly flops into the middle of a terrorist plot, he may be in over his head in And Let There Be a Hero.
St. George, UT – A homicide detective turned private eye tracks a deadly duo, only to stumble on a sinister plot that may be way out of his league. It's a thrilling tale told in white-knuckle fashion in the new crime novel, And Let There Be a Hero.
Kalen Gatt is scarred. The detective has learned to live with his physical handicap – but his psyche is another matter entirely. Chief Danforth of homicide becomes too much for him to deal with daily, so he leaves homicide and becomes a private detective.
It is the personal losses that bring a hero to his knees, and Kale suffers more than his fair share. To top it off, a pair of serial killers test his skills and try his endurance. The plucky private eye holds his own … until he discovers himself neck-deep in a terrorist plot. Can the small-town P.I. with physical challenges and a chip on his shoulder hold his own? (Synopsis provided by the author)
Review: Unfortunately, it took me a great deal of effort to get through this book. With the other reviews that I read on it, I was expecting something different than what I experienced. I have no doubt that R.M. Kidwell is a good writer, but I had some issues with it from the start that jaded my feelings.
What I did like about the book was that the characters were developed and Kidwell put a great deal of effort into making them realistic. He also put great deal of development into the police procedures and camaraderie within the department itself. However, there seemed to be this overwhelming sense of overacting in the way that the characters were written that I did not enjoy. Especially with regards to the main character and how he used the same phrases over and over. I am a big fan of Die Hard, so I tried to let all that slide as I went through the book.
The one thing that I did not really enjoy was the way the book was set up. There was quite a bit of extra information in it, which I understand was there to set up the character from the first book in this particular series. However, with over 500 pages, it may have been beneficial to cut about a quarter of it out to make it a more cohesive and smoother read.
Overall, there was a good storyline that continued throughout the book and kept my interest just enough to get over several of the quirky pet peeves that I have acquired over the years. It definitely picked up speed  as the plot progressed, but it did seem at times that there was too much going on. Also, one of the harder things to write is dialogue and I thought that Kidwell did a decent job of that and making it sound realistic, even if some of it was a little over animated at times.
If you enjoy detective novels that are written almost like an action movie, then the book is for you. If you prefer ones in which the main detective is a little more humble or do not like detective novels, then this book is not for you.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
I was given a copy of the book by the author; I was not paid to give this review.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Bones of Paris: A Novel of Suspense

I'm a big fan of thriller historical fiction, so when I read the synopsis of this novel I was immediately intrigued. It was a classic tale with Baroque qualities of a private investigator placed in Paris, France during the late 1920's. There was a promise of suspense, uncontrollable desire to stay up to read the whole book  in one night, and the delicious combination of stereotypical noir with an added twist of Edgar Allan Poe. However, even though Laurie R. King is indeed a very skilled and educated writer, the novel did not deliver everything the title bragged it would. There was little suspense to this story.

What I thought King did a very good job of was the point of view of each section. There was no doubt who was speaking or what they were feeling. She created these amazingly complex characters that seemed important and relevant regardless of being the main character or not. Each one seemed to have a unique backstory that made you feel something toward them, good or bad. The dialogue was also exquisite. I loved all the snippets of  French woven into the English, but someone who does not know French may become a little lost. Not everything was translated, but if you understood the scene well enough, the meaning behind the phrases would become evident.

The thing that I had a little trouble with was how the storyline was developed within the pages of the book. Even though it was very well written with an extensive vocabulary, there were many sections that seemed out of place and were slightly confusing to follow. The entire novel opens up with a character that is not seen again until the last third of the novel. Since it opened with him, it would beg to argue that he was extremely important to the plot. Also, there were several chapters that were there to set the background to the city, which should be important, but I am not certain that it warranted separate chapters to do that. The timeline of the characters would move between past and present, which was a little hard to follow at time. For the storyline itself, it would have benefited if King had cut out about a quarter of it. I think that it would have made it a little lighter and a smoother read. Remember that "sometimes you must kill your Darlings" in order to make a piece more stronger and I believe that King here should have followed the advice of Faulkner and Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch on that point.

Overall, this piece was quite heavy due to its topic of choice. That isn't a bad thing, but it made it a much slower read for me. I found my mind wandering as I read some sections and probably missed a few things due to that. However, it was very interesting and described a side of Paris that I did not experience while there as a very young, naïve woman. King's description is beautifully woven throughout this world of macabre and darkness, but I found myself desperately searching for some relief from golden sun.

If you enjoy novels that mirror some of the Gothic or Baroque genre then this is one you would not want to miss out on reading. But if that is not your cup of tea and you do not like heavy undertones of sex, then this book is not for you.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

I borrowed this book from a local library; I was not paid to do a review of this book.

(image taken from

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Frame 232

I have been taken by the conspiracy theories that have surrounded the assassination of John F. Kennedy over the years. This book caught my eye because it explores the "What if?" tangent with respect to the "Babushka Lady" and a possible film from a new prospective. What if her film caught a glimpse of a second assassin? How would that change history as we know it? Wil Mara does a decent job at imagining what the answers to those questions and more within the pages of this novel.

For the most part, I thought that it was well written in the sense that it kept me turning the pages. Passages flowed very easily from one to another and the vocabulary was neither dumbed down or overly complex. As for the characters, I didn't feel that they were fleshed out completely. There was a vague sense of what they were like as people and a general overview of what they looked like, but I felt something wanting. Jason Hammond seemed sometimes a little unrealistic or unbelievable. I felt that he was a little too good to be true and a little too generous with his money. Shelia, after finding the film her mother had taken of the assassination, was rightfully conflicted about what to do, but again, something just felt off about her overall.

The plot is really where the novel suffers a bit. Topic wise, it is fascinating. To have the daughter of the "Babushka Lady" find the historical film in a safe deposit box that even her father knew nothing about was brilliant. However, from that point on, the story seemed to be predictable and slightly anticlimactic. There were so many different tangents that Wil Mara could have taken the story that would have given it much more intrigue and interest that I was a little disappointed by the final outcome. The other element of the story relied heavily on faith and God, but it seemed a little like an after thought and was not developed like it could have been. There were also some editing issues I had with a few passages where when speaking of God, the "he, him, etc." were not capitalized, which is a just a small, nitpicky mistake.

Overall, I thought that the book was a relatively easy and enjoyable read. There was enough adventure and questions to keep me turning to the next page and keeping me relatively invested in the story. It also did not have that cliché romantic entanglement of the main character, which I appreciate. For being a novel based on something that could have been very heavy in content, this novel came off as being rather light and not edgy in the least.

If you enjoy historical fiction based off of the JFK assassination conspiracies, you may or may not like this one. It has some very interesting points, but nothing earthshattering by any means. If you are not into the JFK assassination conspiracies, then this book probably isn't for you, but if you look past that and think of it as an adventure novel, then you may just like it. I am a little divided on this novel.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I found this book at a local library; I was not paid to do a review of this novel.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Dark Madonna

Review: When I received a copy of this book from the author Nicolas Bazan, M.D., I made an assumption that it was not going to be an interesting novel due to the fact that it was only 104 pages long. However, nothing could have prepared me for the impact that this fable had on me. It was an amazing read.

What I found incredibly wonderful about this book was how well educated Bazan really is. It was very intelligently written with a vast vocabulary. The story flowed effortlessly from page to page and I was never once lost or had to backtrack to see something that I might have missed that would help me better understand what was going on further along in the story. The author was able to combine fact and fiction in such a way that it read almost like a real account of faith than just a made up account of events.

Bazan also was able to create characters that pulled on your heart and made you want to heal their wounded souls. Dr. Cruz is searching for answers to neurological puzzles when he finds himself once again questioning his faith. Standing in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, his past escape from Argentina consuming him from a dream earlier, you can feel his heart breaking. His wife is confused and you can see her frustration with her husband's compulsions of answering life's questions. Then there is Stephen, a young Pennsylvanian artist turned monk, that places a religious pilgrimage upon Dr. Cruz. This young man's passion and undying faith is so well put upon the page that it rejuvenated my own wavering faith.

Overall, I thought it was brilliant, passionate, and extremely well written. If you enjoy fables with heavy spiritual/religious meanings then this book is for you. If you prefer fables that are a little lighter in content or do not like fables, then this book is not for you.

I will leave you with one last thought that was a reoccurring theme throughout this fable:

"First we start by doing what is necessary, then we do what is possible, and then pretty soon we are doing the impossible." St. Francis quote from several pages in Nicolas Bazan's novel.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

I was given a copy of this novel by the author; I was not paid to give a review.