Book Review: City of Ghosts by J.H. Moncrieff

It frightens the life out of me but I absolutely love anything from the horror genre. That’s why I couldn’t resist the opportunity to review City of Ghosts.

City of Ghosts by J.H. Moncrieff centres around Jackson Stone, an American tourist in China who breaks away from his group to spend the night in the abandoned city of Hensu. When residents were forced to flee Hensu, not everybody got out alive and Jackson is determined to get the paranormal recording which will turn him into a best-selling author. But he gains so much more when he meets soft-spoken Chinese woman Yuèhai.

I read this book in two days – I couldn’t put it down – so you know it was a good one. For me, it had everything I wanted in a horror story. It was fast-paced, intriguing and chilling and Moncrieff has a way of writing which has the reader feeling tense throughout the story. What I really liked was that it wasn’t just about Jackson and his experiences with Yuèhai. Yuèhai’s story was a fascinating story in itself and would have made for a novel in its own right. She wasn’t the most likeable character, but she did bring tears to my eyes in the end.

In fact, most of the characters in this book weren’t particularly likeable – but that doesn’t mean they weren’t interesting. Especially those you would call the ‘main characters’: Jackson, Kate, Harold and Yuèhai – very different people formed as three-dimensional characters, thanks to the skill of Moncreiff. Kate, a medium was probably my favourite character (always a bonus to have a strong female character), but it was Harold, the tour guide, who intrigued me the most. It was obvious from the start there was something shifty about him and his character brought a lot of mystery to the story.

This is my first book by J.H. Moncrieff and I am hooked! I really can’t wait to see what comes next in this series ( I hear it centres around Kate, which I am thrilled about!).

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

City of Ghosts by J.H. Moncrieff

City of Ghosts by J.H. Moncrieff

 

Book Review: Ascenders: Omorrow by C.L. Gaber

If you read my review of Ascenders: Skypunch by C.L. Gaber back in September, you will know that I have been eagerly awaiting the next instalment in the series. Last week, I finally got my hands on Ascenders: Omorrow and I devoured it in just a few days.

Omorrow sees protagonists Walker and Daniel, as well as a bunch of their friends – and enemies – travel back to the past to scour New York for the secret writings of Albert Einstein. But, one step wrong from anyone could mean rewriting history or banishing themselves from existence entirely.

I mean, what else can I say? Gaber has absolutely nailed it again. When an author decides to publish a series, there is always a chance of the story becoming poorer as each book is published. Not the case here. Omorrow has the same suspense and thrill as the previous books, even more twists, and, if possible, more emotion. I feel truly invested in Ascenders at this point so I experienced every ounce of pain and joy along with the characters. How could I not? It feels like reuniting with old friends every time I open their new book.

What I really want to focus on in this review is how amazingly Gabor tells a story. She leaves you chopping and choosing about what is going to happen next and her character development is up there with the best. Yes, like I said, the characters are very familiar to me at this stage, but this book really brought me to a new layer of their personalities. It is wonderful to see a previously perceived one-dimensional character such as Eddie reveal what really lies deep inside. For him and for other characters, we gain a sense of understanding about why they act like they do, in the afterlife and when they were on Earth.

You may remember me mentioning somewhere else on Joyful Antidotes that I really love when a fictional story recalls a time in history. In some ways, we had this in the past Ascenders books as students in the Academy found themselves taught by Kurt Cobain and Steve Jobs, among others. Omorrow, however, without giving away any spoilers, helps the reader discover what it was like to live in New York during different periods of time and that, for me, was the icing on the cake.

So, I will finish this review like I have finished the others, by stating how much I loved this book! Seriously, go now and catch up before the fourth part is released at Christmas. I can’t wait!

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Ascenders: Omorrow by C.L. Gaber

Book Review: Ascenders: Omorrow by C.L. Gaber

Book Review: The Chosen Path by Jason Hershey

Remember a while back I posted a review of To Die To Live by Jason Hershey? Well, I am back with the next part of Theo’s journey and it is equally as gripping.

The Chosen Path sets Theo in Kansas where he has started university. The story recalls a particular point in his life as he meets and falls for fellow student Sabrinna.

Again, this is a wonderfully well-written story and makes for an easy read. I actually read The Chosen Path in an hour, not solely because it was little over 100 pages long, but because the beautiful prose flows so well. It had me gripped. I was inside the mind of Theo. I felt what he felt and at times the story was so relatable I also relived feelings I haven’t felt since I was a teenager. It reminded me of the excitement of going on a first date, but also the fear and dread which lies behind.

There was only really one character in this book: Theo. Everybody else was more or less a support act. And like in Hershey’s last book, I very much enjoyed the character of Theo. The other character which mainly features, although always through the eyes of Theo, is Sabrinna. Actually, you learn quite a bit about Sabrina and the type of person she is even though she is not a prominent character. For me, there was one main reason Sabrinna featured in this story, besides her being Theo’s love interest. I feel it was to send the message about how dangerous and cruel it can be to base your happiness around someone else.

Towards the end, The Chosen Path was built up to suggest what the next choice Theo makes could be. But, it ends on a cliffhanger. Not that it needed it for me to want to read the next instalment. I’m already waiting.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Chosen Path by Jason Hershey

Book Review: The Chosen Path by Jason Hershey

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Book Review: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

How do you review a book that has been reviewed probably a million times before? You just go for it, I guess!

Murder on the Orient Express is another of Agatha Christie’s famous novels centring around detective Hercule Poirot. This time Poirot finds himself aboard a snowdrift stopped Orient Express when an American traveller is found dead in his compartment; murdered, of course. 

This was my first Agatha Christie novel, and I don’t think it will be my last. I tended to stay away from Christie’s novels in the past as I had somehow garnered the perception of them being cheesy, but that wasn’t the case at all. However, if you are more a fan of contemporary novels, then you might have a problem. This story was written in 1934 and you can tell, in terms of the writing style, the behaviour of the characters and, sadly, the casual racism dropped throughout.

Nevertheless, the writing style made this book very easy to read (although there were bits of French scattered here and there). The story followed a very logical order, beginning with the arrival of Poirot on the Orient Express, to the murder, the questioning, analysis of evidence and finally, the big reveal. In some ways, this logical narrative bored me and I sometimes found the story repetitive, particularly when it came to the other passengers’ alibis. However, I wouldn’t say this was a complete turn off as I still found it an intriguing story that kept me sucked in. Except for the ending. I was not satisfied by the outcome at all. But, then again, the trick is on my because I was nowhere near figuring it out.

I ultimately read this book because Murder on the Orient Express is being released this year as a new film starring Johnny Depp. If you are interested in seeing the film, I recommend reading the book first. Especially those of you are fans of old school detectives; it will be fascinating to see how Poirot is played out on the big screen today.

Book Review: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Book Review: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Book Review: Blood Master: Book 1 of The G.O.D.s Series by Kirsten Campbell

You know what? I am really getting into sci-fi/dystopian type novels. I would never have thought it but the more I read the more I like. And this one was pretty unique.

Blood Master: Book 1 of The G.O.D.s Series by Kirsten Campbell is set in 2052 when 2/3 of the world’s population has been wiped out by the Great War, the Clover Virus and the Death Plague. The only person to have survived the plague and the only living albino left is Griffin, who begins his story in hiding from the Guild Faction but ends up living at the Brotherhood Fortress after rescuing Tassata from the Guild. The Guild believes Griffin will transform into a G.O.D., a Genetically-enhanced Omni-Dimensional being and are currently tracking him. But is all as it seems?

I want to jump in immediately to rave about Campbell and her writing style. What an imagination this woman must have! She has created this whole, fascinating world which is hard to do, especially in a book of 449 pages. Yet, she manages to draw the reader in with her simple yet descriptive language. Naturally, in a genre of this kind, there is some scientific language at play, whether real or make-believe. This book has a lot of it but it didn’t go over my head. I felt like I understood the explanations without really having to try.

The book has some strong characters but most certainly it is Griffin and Tassata who lead the way. I admired Tassata more as she was a strong female character, the first female in the Brotherhood on her way to becoming a Guardian. I also liked the relationship between Griffin and Tassata, although I must say it did become cheesy at times. Lerin, grandfather to Tassata and leader of the Brotherhood, was also interesting. I’m looking forward to learning more about him as there was indication there are some hidden depths to him.

One issue I had with this book was that it was a bit drawn out. Some reviews I have read stated that it is the first half that drags, but for me, it was the second. I think this was because it read almost like a prequel. It was Griffin’s story about he came to be at the fortress and I feel I could have read that after at least book two (which is currently on my to-read list) or beyond.

Overall, this was a nice read and I won’t hesitate in picking up the next book. Let’s say I have to. I need to find out what happens to Griffin. Something tells me life at the fortress won’t be all plain sailing.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Blood Master

Book Review: Perfect by Cecelia Ahern #ad

Although sponsored by Harper Collins, this is a genuine review. It was an absolute honour to have the chance to review Cecelia Ahern’s new YA novel, Perfect. And that was even before I read this wonderful book!

Perfect is the sequel to Flawed, the best-selling YA debut of 2016, and continues the story of Celestine North. Celestine is on the run from Judge Crevan having been branded Flawed by a mortality court. But Celestine has a plan, one that could bring the entire Flawed system to its knees.

Let me start by saying two things. One is that you do not have had to read the first story in this series to enjoy Perfect (but I will go back and read it now after enjoying this so much). This works well as a standalone book and there is just enough background thrown in to give readers an explanation as to Celestine’s current situation. Secondly, you do not have to be a “young adult” to enjoy this book as there are many levels of depth to its story, which I will go onto to discuss now.

First and foremost, the main theme of this book is whether it is better to be Perfect or Flawed. We see each status through the story’s inhabitants: the level of disgust in people’s eyes for those branded Flawed, and the Flawed people who see that there is no such thing as perfect. It is a conundrum which leaves you thinking, wondering which you would prefer, wondering if you are Perfect, Flawed or a mixture of both. If, like me, you actually want an answer to this question, play this game. I was judged Flawed with a mortality score of 40%, btw. I actually wish that I was more Flawed. I agree very much with the theme of the book that it is best to be happy and live life as ones true self rather than a perceived version of Perfect.

The story is well-written and easy to follow. While I feared the story would be predictable, I was pleased to encounter many occurrences which I didn’t see coming. Everything slotted in perfectly by the end of the book and I had the feeling of putting a jigsaw puzzle together. I was also a big fan of each character, whether I liked them or not, as they each brought something special to the book. Nevertheless, it was Celestine who truly stole my heart. Celestine is a strong female character who reminded me somewhat of Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. I absolutely love how female protagonists are being written these days.

I also admired Ahern’s sense of imagination, how she built up this unique dystopian world. But there was something niggling at me throughout that I didn’t put my finger on until this end, which leads me to the more adult part of this book. Although Humming is a fictional place, it reflected our society, past and present, quite a lot. Of course, it depicted how change is often presented as bad, how “different” people are a danger to the sheep, but I felt it went to a deeper level than that. For me, there were reflections of Irish history and the acts of certain institutions that shamed people and took children from parents deemed unfit. Perfect showed us that these things can be overcome if we stand together, but it was also a reminder that such horrifying acts still happen. I believe Ahern was sending a message to keep your eyes open and not be afraid to stand up for what you believe in.

Phew! Heavy analysis there but I was dying to share my thoughts with you about this book for a while now. Overall, you just have to read this. It is so much more than a YA novel and you won’t be disappointed.

Perfect by Ceclia Ahern

Book Review: Sabbatical of the Mind: The Journey from Anxiety to Peace by David L. Winters

Goodreads is my number one source when it comes to discovering new books. I log on nearly every day to see what my connections have been reading and have rated as excellent, and naturally, these books are slowly added to my to-read list, which is now at 1,268! One other way I find new books is by entering Goodreads’ giveaways, where I was lucky enough to receive this book.

Sabbatical of the Mind: The Journey from Anxiety to Peace is David L. Winters’ journey in temporary unemployment, a search for a way to reduce his anxiety, and his successful re-entry to work. To be able to give my opinion accurately in this review, I need to start with what I didn’t like about the book. I feel guilty saying this as a Catholic but, for me, it was just a bit too religion based. I don’t mean this in any disrespect to the author and his religion. I guess, as someone going through anxiety myself, I just didn’t find God as the answer as plausible as he did. It made it harder for me to relate to Winters and as a result, I didn’t get as much from the book as I originally thought I would. However, I have to admit there were times I was jealous of his strong relationship with God. To have that comfort must be a real help.

On the positive side, Winters is a good storyteller and his simple language made the book easy to read but didn’t diminish the struggles he was going through. I felt that he provided a very good build up to where he is today, not just by recalling his sabbatical, but also through stories of his past and the various times he began to realise his anxiety was becoming a major problem.

Winters doesn’t endorse taking a sabbatical. He very much so keeps the story to his personal experience, why he took it and how he made it worthwhile. Nevertheless, he has sold the idea of a sabbatical to me. Not necessarily in the form of taking months off work, but remembering to step back from the stress and looking after my mental health from time to time.

I can’t overly recommend this book as it really wasn’t for me but I would recommend it if you are looking for stories of spiritual guidance.

Book Review: Sabbatical of the Mind: The Journey from Anxiety to Peace by David L. Winters

Book Review: Sabbatical of the Mind: The Journey from Anxiety to Peace by David L. Winters

Book Review: Dangerous Cargo: An Aidan McRaney Crime Thriller by J M Shorney

Ever since my university days, I’ve had a thing for gangster films and books. So, when something similar comes my way to review, I just can’t resist.

Dangerous Cargo: An Aidan McRaney Crime Thriller by J M Shorney is a crime thriller told from the perspective of the criminal, Aidan McRaney. Although McRaney is on ‘the straight and narrow’ following a long stint in prison, he finds himself easily wrapped up in the underworld gangland once again. But this time he is working on the side of the law as he tries to infiltrate the lair of The Widow, an arms dealer in league with the L.A. Mafia.

For me, this book was an old-school gangster story thrown into the present day. It had the central character we all empathise with, the well-established hierarchy of associates, and much violence. What was different for me was the presence of two strong females. By no means do I condone any type of violence, but The Widow and Sarah, bodyguard to the L.A. Mafia Don, could hold themselves against any man. In fact, in a book where most characters were extremely unlikable, it was Sarah who drew me in the most. But you will have to read the story to find out why.

Dangerous Cargo was simply written and is an easy read. However, it did take me just over half the book for the story to lure me in. After that, I flew through the rest of the pages. Many twists and turns occurred which I didn’t seem coming. I would have like certain scenes to been developed a bit more, though, as it felt that some areas were too rushed in order to fit the 217 pages.

Overall, I liked this book and I would probably read more from the McRaney series should they come my way. I would recommend this as a light holiday read for someone interested in crime stories but doesn’t want any bad dreams to spoil the pleasure of reading them

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Dangerous Cargo: An Aidan McRaney Crime Thriller by J M Shorney

Dangerous Cargo: An Aidan McRaney Crime Thriller by J M Shorney

Book Review: Strungballs by Mike Russell

I wouldn’t say that I am necessarily fussy when it comes to reading and I certainly would give anything I try. If you had asked me a month or so ago if I had read every type of book there is, I would have likely answered ‘yes’ (although exaggerated). That was until I came across Strungballs and realised there is a whole new level of book genres just waiting for me to explore.

Strungballs by Mike Russell may be one of the strangest books out there. It follows the story of Sydney, a ten-year-old boy who is about to have his first cube of flesh removed. The flesh will be placed with the flesh of the city’s other inhabitants in a big sphere used to protect them from the “Others”. Sydney will receive a Strungball, a red ball on white string, as a replacement for the flesh. Once a Strungball is inserted, it must never be removed.

In the case of this novella, weird doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Only 66 pages long, it is a fast read and it gets your mind ticking trying to figure the plotline out. Attempting not to provide any spoilers, this is what ran through my mind while reading:

Russell is reflecting on consumerism. When Sydney receives his Strungball, he is very excited and shows some classmates what he believes is to be the newest model. But it is not, and they laugh. It is probably impossible to have the latest model. There is an entire industry set around producing and marketing Strungballs. It reflects the present day where people are made to believe they always need to have something more to be happy. And they will follow any trend in order to appear normal.

Russell believes we have to step out of our comfort zones, to question everything in order to be happy with oneself. There is some good imagery of duplication and climbing through flesh which exemplified this for me.

But, overall, I can’t say I 100% figured out what this book was about. That is not to say I didn’t have fun trying. I am interested in this new (at least to me) genre of ‘strange fiction’ and I am looking forward to reading some more. If you want to join me, start with the highly unusual and entertaining Strungballs.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Strungballs by Mike Russell

Strungballs by Mike Russell

 

Book Review: Dead Over Heels by Theresa Braun

Fan of the supernatural? Then read on. This is a great little short story you will love.

Dead Over Heels by Theresa Braun tells the story of Veronica and Sebastian’s new and exciting relationship. After meeting on an online dating website and enjoying a first date at a spooky restaurant, they become intertwined for life. How? They are visited by ghosts from their past who bring with them a shocking secret.

This story spooked me out as I was reading it. The storyline was well written using simple language and easy to follow, but there was something about how Braun writes that gave me goosebumps. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was but I think it was how the setting was provided; it made me feel like I was right there also watching those ghosts. 

At just 38 pages long, one would expect there to be very little space for exploration. However, the story wasn’t rushed at all and the novella felt longer than it was. There was even enough time to add a twist in the middle, which I certainly didn’t see coming. In terms of character creation, we pretty much learn everything about Veronica and Sebastian at the start, but they are developed enough that they become attractive to the reader and we begin to have a sense of sympathy toward them.

It is hard to please readers with a short story and, for me, ‘the bigger the better’ is the case when it comes to the length of a book. But, this absolutely won me over. Braun has peaked my interest further in short stories but, even more so, in her work. I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next!

This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

Dead Over Heels by Theresa Braun

Dead Over Heels by Theresa Braun