Atonement for one’s sins comes not by way of a priest’s blessings or forgiveness, but by the eating of specific foods. A Sin Eater leads an unusual life – when one is on his or her deathbed, the Sin Eater is summoned so that the dying might confess their sins and the Sin Eater puts together a list of foods so that the Sin Eater (and the family?) might eat away the sins so that the dying person can go to meet the Maker free of the burden of sins. For those who pass on before they can confess their sins, a general meal is prepared. But other than this one moment in a person’s life, a Sin Eater is shunned and avoided. Touching a Sin Eater is bad luck. And except for the Sin Eater’s prayer and requesting first a confession and then call for the foods, a Sin Eater does not speak.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
What I know (or knew) about apples: There a many different kinds. Some I like and some I do not.
In this book, author Tom Burford has opened my eyes somewhat to a veritable cornucopia of apple varieties. So many, in fact, that this was almost overwhelming. Almost.
Burford gives a great deal of information on nearly 200 varieties of apples (this is not a complete list … these are the ‘exceptional varieties’ according to the book’s subtitle). This information generally includes a brief history of the variety, other names it might be known as, a description of the exterior of the apple (ie: shape, size, color), a description of the interior of the fruit (such as crispness, sweetness, etc), the productivity of the tree, the fruit’s disease resistance, the ripening season, storage quality, and uses for the variety (desert, baking, cider-making, vinegar making, etc). I thought it was interesting that only five of the 200 listed mentioned that they were good for ‘eating-out-of-hand.’
After the brief look at the different apple varieties, Burford also presents the reader with ‘Recommended Uses of Apple Varieties,’ a look at planning and planting a home orchard and tree care, and some apple products.
Burford clearly has a great deal of knowledge about and a love affair with the apple. He comes from a family that has grown apples in the United States since the early 1700’s and there’s probably no one better suited to give us the 411 on apples. And in many ways I feel quite prepared for a trivia night or a series of apple questions on Jeopardy after reading this book.
The bulk of the book is the look at the different varieties, most of which I’ve never heard of or seen in any of my local stores or markets (I live in the upper Midwest). If I wanted an Early Joe or Westfield Seek-No-Further apple, where would I find one? What does it mean when one of the best apples I’ve eaten in a long time (an Envy) isn’t even listed? This is a wonderful list with some great insight, but it is not very practical from my standpoint.
I have thought it might be nice to have an apple tree in my yard (until I have to mow the yard, of course) and to that end, the information about planting and tree care is quite helpful even though I’m unlikely to take any action in this regard.
Something I didn’t see here, but rather expected, was a growing zone. For the 200 varieties listed, am I likely to find them in Minnesota? In Colorado? Virginia? Florida?
There are a number of apple varieties listed here that I’d like to check out, but I’m not sure I’ll ever find them.
Looking for a good book? Tom Burford’s Apples of North America provides a great deal of information about nearly 200 apple varieties, as well as expert advice on planting, growing, and maintaining apple trees.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Apples of North America: A Celebration of Exceptional Varieties
author: Tom Burford
publisher: Timber Press
paperback, 312 pages
A week before Christmas, a wealthy business man, Tom Underwood, disappears into thin air. The Ontario police assign new recruit, Kala Stonechild – a member of the First Nations reserve, to the case. Her boss is Detective Jacques Rouleau and he has his hands full trying to control her. Together they discover that there is a large pool of individuals who would want to see Underwood dead.
This is one of the oldest books in my ARC-TBR queue and based on the description it sounded like something I really might enjoy. Given my rising interest in mysteries and my continuing interest in indigenous cultures I really felt that this was a book/series I might gravitate toward. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
I receive a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
In the mid-2010’s Daraya, Syria – a small community just outside Damascus – was a focal point of the Syrian Civil War (which is still going on). Bombs and chemical weapons would rain down on the community daily – as much to wear down the morale of the citizens as it was to kill them.
Andrea Stern was once a respected FBI profiler, but she gave it up to be a stay-at-home mom to her four children (with a fifth very much on the way). She now lives in the suburbs (West Windsor, New Jersey) with her children and husband (a convicted white-collar criminal).
When one of Andrea’s very young children is desperate for a bathroom while driving home, Andrea pulls her car into a service station and tries to hurry her daughter to the bathroom when they are stopped by two patrol-officers who are starting to tape off a crime scene at the location. Just as the officers inform Andrea that she and her daughter need to leave, the little girl pees all over the area, contaminating the crime scene. And so begins Andrea’s involvement in a homicide in her own community.
Andrea finds she’s missed using her skills and she’s serious about the murder of the young man at the service station mart. With the help of a journalist friend, Kenny Lee, who’s badly in need of a good story to help get his good reputation back, Andrea investigates the homicide … which she notes does NOT have the signs of a random or gang murder as the police try to frame it. Which can only mean the police themselves are either extremely incompetent or covering up something. But what?
This book was a really delightful read. I got so involved with the characters and the story that I was looking forward each day to getting back into the book. I was out of town for a long weekend and throughout the three days I was away I was constantly thinking of the book and where it might be heading.
The writing is delicious (I didn’t realize it at the time, but author Fabian Nicieza is the creative force behind Deadpool) and there is more than a fair amount of humor, and yet I never felt that the story was sacrificed for the humor. It flowed naturally and easily.
The story unfolds appropriately so we keep thinking we know what might come next but are often wrong. Or, if we’re correct, the surprise will be in how the matter is resolved.
The story is pretty quick and there are not many red herrings, but there are a few surprises here and there.
The characters and their relationships are what makes this book really shine and you can count me as someone highly interested in reading more Andrea Stern mysteries. This also would make a very good tv series.
Looking for a good book? If you like mysteries Suburban Dicks by Fabian Nicieza should be on your reading list. If you aren’t a fan of mysteries, this is a great entry to the genre.
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author: Fabian Nicieza
publisher: G.P. Putnam
hardcover, 400 pages
I no longer request an ARC of a book unless something about the book (sometimes the author, sometimes the description, sometimes even the publisher) attracts me to the title. So it should go without saying that I genuinely want to like and enjoy each book that I read. Sadly, that is not always the case.
Five children have been abducted from a very small town in the past four months. The FBI send agent Eliott Cooper to investigate. But what Cooper thought would be a pretty straight-forward investigation takes a sharp turn as an ancient evil begins to reveal itself in the woodlands around the community. Cooper is in for more than he ever bargained for.
This book was a bit of a slog to get through.
The mystery premise of the book was interesting and I was initially looking forward to getting more into the investigation. But the supernatural element just didn’t play well.
But the problems here are more than just an element that isn’t presented cleanly. The writing itself often had me scratching my head and ultimately had me wondering why there wasn’t a stronger editing process. Two things, small overall, but odd enough to catch my attention in the reading, jumped out at me.
The first was a conversation a man had with a doctor:
“Look, Doctor, I’m a businessman, and I’m up to my neck in work right now. I can’t allow myself the slightest health problem; do you understand? My company’s going to sign a big contract with a client in New York, and I need to be there this afternoon.”
“This afternoon? I’m afraid you’ll have to postpone your meeting until tomorrow. That would be wiser.”
Cooper pressed on. “That’s absolutely impossible!”
The doctor gestured that he could get dressed. Cooper went to his jacket and pulled out his wallet.
“Doctor, if it’s about money,” he said, pulling out a wad of bills, “I can pay, but I absolutely must have a full examination this afternoon.”
In my notes I wrote: “Is this really how you talk to a doctor you’ve never met before?” and “Why is he demanding an examination ‘this afternoon’ if he must be meeting a client in New York ‘this afternoon’?”
By all accounts, St. Marys, PA is a small town. This is where the abductions have occurred. The town appear to be surrounded by forests, where the evil dwells. I’ve spent a lot of time living in small towns and something I’ve never seen or heard attributed to small towns before is ‘riots.’ In response to one of the abducted being found, dead, we are informed: “The city has been in turmoil since Captain Sherman made the news official. The residents are horrified. There have even been riots over the pas two nights.”
‘Horrified’ – for sure. ‘Turmoil’ and ‘riots’? Mmmmm…doesn’t ring true at all.
This was hard to read – not because of the theme or subject, but because it just wasn’t written well.
Looking for a good book? The Essence of Darkness by Tom Clearlake would not be the path to finding it.
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The Essence of Darkness
author: Tom Clearlake
paperback, 445 pages
Gina Meyers is a private investigator with a gift. Her gift is that she’s a witch, with full spell-casting abilities. But that gift may also be a curse as Gina wonders if she’s worse than the criminals she catches. She believes she’s unique with her ability, but of course she’s not and she’s soon recruited by the British super-secret spy service (MI666).
I found this book to be quite average. If supernatural mystery comics are your thing (and it is for many) than this is probably a really good book for you. But for the average graphic novel reader, there isn’t much here to attract the reader.
MI666 comes off less of a Harry Potter version of the Avengers and more of a military outfit that enchants their weapons and shields.
There seems to be potential in Gina’s character but so far in these collected comics I didn’t feel any connection or reason to want to follow her exploits. And I wanted to. I wanted to find a reason to really get into this because it sounded like something I’d enjoy.
The art was fair but somewhat uneven. I liked the dark, monstrous creatures the most and maybe that’s one of my problems with the book… I feel like we’re supposed to be following Gina, but the nightmares are much more interesting.
I’m moderately glad to have read this, but I won’t be looking for any future volumes and can’t really recommend this.
Looking for a good book? The graphic novel Shadow Service doesn’t live up to the potential of the concept and doesn’t provide a compelling reason to chose this over the other graphic novel options available.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Cavan Scott
artist: Corin Howell
publisher: Vault Comics
paperback, 128 pages
“Tess Heiden, twenty years old, born in 1993. A difficult childhood. Mother a junkie. Like you, she had numerous stays in psychiatric institutions. Father unknown… At the age of ten, you were placed with a foster family, the Heidens, who adopted you officially two years later, despite your… unstable behaviour, to say the least. Your adoptive parents died in a car accident in 2010…”
With this report, young Tess Heiden is recruited for a highly unusual, supremely secretive organization – the T.I.M.E. (Tachyon Insertion in Major Event) Organization. She must agree to work for the organization without knowing too much about them or what it will entail. To her surprise, she is teleported into the future and her ‘essence’ is placed in a new receptacle (human body). There she meets other recruits, brought in from other eras, other times, and perhaps from other worlds (it’s hard to tell since they are all placed in current bodies). They must train together and learn to become a cohesive team – appreciating and relying on each others’ skills. They train with a timer because once they are sent to a new time, they will be brought back either upon completion of their mission, once their host is killed, or when the time has run out.
Once ready, the team is sent to the past to rectify an error. Once time travel was made possible, changes were inadvertently being created in the timeline and Tess was now part of a group trying to correct the mistakes. Or so they claimed. The more missions she takes the more Tess realizes that there are many others using time travel and all she has is the word of her organization that she and her team are doing ‘right.’
I didn’t realize it until I started writing this review, but this book is apparently based on a board game. I am not familiar with the game so I can’t say how well it fits or defines the game, but it does explain the episodic nature of the book. The team head off on a mission, it probably has to be done more than once, and then off to another mission. There is only the slightest story holding this together and that’s the sort of story that is offered up in a board game theme.
I enjoyed the adventures/missions and these would have made some nice short stories. But without a better connecting story and seeing how these missions relate to bigger whole, this pretty much fell flat.
Fun, but not recommended.
Looking for a good book? T.I.M.E. Stories: The Heiden Files by Christopher Lambert has some interesting stories to tell but they need to be bound together with a stronger purpose.
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T.I.M.E. Stories; The Heiden File
author: Christopher Lambert
publisher: Angry Robot
paperback, 344 pages
There are certain YA books that I recognize I am probably not going to enjoy. I would base this partly on themes, publisher’s descriptions of the book, and even, yes, book covers. Don’t judge a book by the cover? Well, yes, to some extent you can and should. Why? Well, that’s probably worth a blog post in itself. But let’s leave it with the idea that I would not have requested or accepted this book if the above book cover had been presented to me. Instead, the book I have has a moody, angry looking teen in a dark, ominous forest. That, with the description of a young girl fighting against the idea that she might be ‘the chosen one’ in a fight against an undead army, sounded pretty cool.
I received this book though InstaFreebie – a site where self-published authors try to get their books out to a new audience. I read and review a lot of books, and while most of these are from established publishers, I really enjoy finding a self-published author whose work is deserving of a wider audience, which is why I take books like this as well.
Julie C. Gilbert’s writing is fine. She has a good insight on the thoughts and concerns of teen girls (does this come, in part, from being a high school teacher?). The concept for this series is good – it must be good, it’s pretty common. Which is definitely one of the down-sides. There wasn’t much here to separate this, in a positive way, from a library’s-worth of YA books with reluctant female protagonists who first have to discover themselves before they can save the world.
The development of the story took a back seat to our leading character (Victoria Saveron) sighing and contemplating. And rather than letting the reader discover Miss Saveron’s deficiencies by showing them to us in action, we have one chapter, almost half way through the book, where Victoria says:
As the title spins in my mind, I expect a sense of excitement, pride, joy, or eagerness to discover what my future holds. Instead, I feel uncertainty, confusion, and even a slight sense of outrage.
This is a bad idea for many reasons.
And then she lists her ten faults, such as “I’m not a people person,” “I am short and slight,” “I don’t speak very well.” And that’s the chapter.
While the writing itself is okay, the story could have been developed more, giving the reader more opportunity to grow with Victoria, rather than simply reading about her. I can see where this would appeal to some, but not to this reader.
Looking for a good book? Awakening by Julie C. Gilbert is the first book in a Young Adult series that has limited appeal as there are many books with the same themes and plots available to readers.
I received a free digital copy of this book through instafreebie.com.
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author: Julie C. Gilbert
series: Redeemer Chronicles #1
paperback, 106 pages
This is an INTENSE book. The faint-at-heart may want to stay away.
Mattie lives with William, alone in a remote location in a small wooden shack on a mountain. Mattie must always obey the will of her husband. She must keep quiet, keep out of sight, and fulfill all wifely duties. If she questions William, it is the same as questioning God and therefore she will be punished by William’s wrath. She knows what William is capable of and she does not want to make William upset.
One day William takes Mattie with him as he goes further up into the mountains to explore an old cave. Mattie sees the mutilated body of a fox and senses something evil, something ancient, something primal, nearby and she desperately wants to get away – so much so that she’s even willing to defy William and suffer his abuse.
Later, Mattie encounters three hikers looking to record the presence of an ancient creature. Despite her protestations to get away, they insist on searching. Mattie’s sure that if the creature she knows is out there doesn’t get them, William will. He’s very protective of his property – including Mattie.
But worlds collide when one member of the exploring trio recognizes Mattie; when William discovers the hikers; and when beast in the mountains feels threatened by all the activity
Author Christina Henry is a remarkable, talented story-teller. Early on she sets a tone for this book that is dark and troublesome. We readers begin to form assumptions about the situation, but Henry slowly builds on what is, unfortunately, a very real horror for too many women in this world. That building changes only the direction in the readers’ mind, but not the realness of the horror.
The horror builds gradually, shockingly, beautifully.
This is some of the best horror I’ve read in a long time. In part because the horror lives on at least two different levels – and I’m not sure which one is more horrific.
There is a trail of blood and gore through the end of the book, though Henry doesn’t rely on ‘splatter fiction’ to get under the reader’s skin. And the ending hints at something positive, as well as the very real possibility of a returning horror.
Looking for a good book? Christina Henry’s Near the Bone is a tremendously well written, dark tale. If you think you can handle a powerful, real horror, as well as the dark unknown horror, then you must give this a read.
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Near the Bone
author: Christina Henry
publisher: Berkley Books
paperback, 336 pages