In "The Suicide Exhibition" by Justin Richards, it's the middle of World War Two, and British Foreign Office troubleshooter Guy Pentecross has stumbled into a conspiracy involving a secret war with an alien race called the Vril. The Nazis, notorious believers of the occult, are in league with the Vril, and believe it their destiny to side with the Vril and inherit the Earth. It's up to Guy and Sarah Diamond (an American pilot), and Leo Davenport (an actor turned SOE operative) to join a secret unit of the British intelligence to fight the Vril and win the war for humanity.
First off, I won this book in a Goodreads first-reads giveaway. Thank you Goodreads!
I don’t read much science fiction, so I’m not sure how to properly analyze this book, but I did, overall, really like this book, and I’m certainly willing to continue with the series. Justin Richards is a popular writer of “Doctor Who” fiction, so I was excited to check out an original piece by him. If you are a “Doctor Who” fan, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll enjoy this book. If you like the episodes where the Doctor and his companions deal with the military, or groups like Torchwood and UNIT, then this novel is probably right up your alley.
So what did I like and dislike about this novel? Let’s start with the premise. What caught my attention was the fact that it was World War Two historical fiction with a science fiction edge. It’s about a young man named Guy Pentecross who stumbles into a web of conspiracy involving an alien race and the only people in Britain who know about it is a special section of British intelligence. On top of that, the Nazis are working with this alien race to take over the world. This alien race, known as the Vril, have apparently been on Earth for millennia, and they have been waiting for just the right moment to make their move to do away with humanity. Sounds intriguing, right? The premise is well done over the course of the novel. Justin Richards takes quite a while setting up the novel, which at first, is a bit boring, but once Richards gets his stride you start to have fun. If anything, this book is probably one large setup for the books to come. It takes a while to start getting answers and an idea of where this series is heading. Like I said though, once Richards sets up the story and the characters, the novel is incredibly fun. As I also said earlier, I’m not a big science fiction reader. I did find quite a bit of the novel hard to understand and sometimes a tad bit boring. Add on top of that that the book also deals with some military lingo every now and then, and I had a hard time comprehending what exactly characters were doing.
As for the characters, I also liked the characters quite a bit. The main character, Guy Pentecross, unfortunately, is rather a bit dull. Don’t get me wrong, I liked him, but there wasn’t much to his character. All I can really tell you is that he’s brave and loyal and determined to figure out what’s going on with this alien race. Guy is easily outshined by a lot of the other characters in this novel, especially Leo Davenport. Leo Davenport…what can I say…he was easily, and quickly, my favorite character. He was the most fun, the most humorous. He’s actually an actor but he helps out with British intelligence on the side. Leo easily steals any scene he’s in. I also enjoyed Sarah Diamond who is a half American, half British, and she also flies planes. Sarah is definitely not your typical woman during this time. Think Peggy Carter from Marvel’s “Captain America” movies. Sarah very much can look after herself, she doesn’t rely on the men to save her. She’s quick thinking, and she often helps out the guys when they need her. Of course, there are numerous other characters that populate this book, but this three stand out the most.
Moving over to the Vril…we’re not given much of them. They are a mystery for the majority of the novel. We do find out what they look like (which I won’t spoil), and we do get a semi-idea of their goal, and we find out why they are working with the Nazis. I can’t say the Vril impressed me at the moment. Like I said, they are a mystery, so I’m assuming we’ll get more of them in the next books. I think you do get an idea of the threat they pose to humanity, though.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel, and definitely plan on continuing the series. Excellent premise, great writing from Justin Richards, and an interesting set of heroes and villains. ...more
"Once Upon a Time: Out of the Past" is the second graphic novel adaptation based off of the hit ABC television series, "Once Upon a Time." In this installment join Killian Jones on an adventure through the Leviathan Shoals; watch Belle continue to be a servant of the Dark One, but helps to protect him from someone from her past; join the Evil Queen as someone from her past seeks to destroy her; and witness the origin story of Jefferson, the Mad Hatter.
This graphic novel, as well as the other one, "Shadow of the Queen," are definitely made for die-hard fans. And if you can't tell from the cover and the synopsis, this graphic novel tells additional stories from some of the show's post popular characters. Just like with "Shadow of the Queen," I immensely enjoyed this and it was just fun to see new stories for these characters. It helps that one of the writers of this graphic novel, Kalinda Vazquez, is also a co-executive producer for the TV series, so basically all of these stories are things that could have been in the show, but were cut for whatever reason (either due to lack of time and lack of placement within the current stories, or just because certain actors couldn't come back, like Sebastian Stan who played Jefferson), so you can look at these stories as unseen canon.
To talk about the layout of the graphic novel in general: the writing was fine. I mean, there's only so much that can be placed on any given page, so for the most part, much of it is a tad bit rushed, whereas on the TV series, things would have been developed gradually and not so quickly. But alas, that is the nature of graphic novels. You get thrown right into things, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. For the most part, the writing felt very much like what you'd hear on the show. As for artwork, I had some similar issues like I did with "Shadow of the Queen." There's clearly four different artists in this book, and the artwork is quite different from story to story, which to me personally is a bit distracting. I would have preferred just one artist for the whole book. But in general, the artwork is fine, the characters look like the characters which is important.
If I had to list my favorite stories in this book, they'd go as follows:
1. Jefferson: by far the best thing about this book, and it's left for last. We finally get the origin story of Jefferson, and find out who the mother of Grace is.
2. Killian Jones a.k.a. Captain Hook: this was a good one. Had quite a sad ending. Leaves you wondering what was real and what wasn't. We all love Hook, so more Hook is always great.
3. Rumple/Belle: an interesting story, one that simply enhances the further development of these two. Nice to see someone from Belle's past have an impact, plus a familiar magical item makes an appearance.
4. Regina: as much as I love Regina, I found her story a bit boring, plus it was the shortest out of the four. Just more of Regina determined to find Snow White and someone who knew Daniel is chasing after her to avenge Daniel.
Overall, loved this graphic novel, so fun, and Jefferson's story is definitely worth the price alone. If you are a fan of the show, this book is a must....more
"The Royal We" by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan follows American Rebecca Porter as she moves to England to attend Oxford University. To her surprise, the future king of England, Prince Nicholas, lives just down the hall. Starting off as friends, Bex and Nick quickly realize that they are falling in love with one another. Suddenly, Bex is thrown into the royal spotlight, where her every move is judged and analyzed. Bex only wants to marry the man she loves, not the king he is destined to be. So the question is: will Bex be able to go through with the wedding of the century?
Let's get this out of the way as most other reviewers have pointed out: this is total Prince William and Kate Middleton fanfiction. But I totally loved it. I've always had a fascination with the English monarchy. I guess, as an American, the whole idea of a monarchy is foreign, and I've always loved the idea of kings and queens, princes and princesses. You know...the fairytale life. What I loved about "The Royal We" is the fact that, as first, Bex is living the fairytale life, until she realizes that it's not all it's cracked up to be. Being with the future king of England places Bex under a lot of unwanted scrutiny and judgement, and it even causes a rift between herself and her twin sister Lacey. That's another thing I liked about this book: the bond between siblings. Even though this book is about the romance between Nick and Bex, it's also about Bex's relationship with her sister and Nick's relationship with his brother, Freddie (who was a total Prince Harry lookalike, I swear to God). There was actually a surprising amount of layers to this book. I went into it expecting it to be total chick-lit fluff, but there is a bit more meat under the surface.
I'm curious how people view or will view these characters. In some ways the characters aren't entirely likable. They have their flaws and irritating quirks. But there's still something lovable when the writing gets to those more emotional bits. I liked Bex and Nick as the leading characters. I bought the relationship from the start, which was gradually built up and spans over the course of nearly a decade. They have their ups and downs and you have those moments of loving and hating their characters. The secondary characters are standouts as well. Loved Freddie and Lacey, as well as Bex and Nicks' core unit of friends, Bea, Gaz, and Cilla.
Overall, I really did enjoy this book. I wasn't sure what to expect since chick-lit isn't really my thing, but I decided to give this a chance since it sounded like Kate/William fanfiction and I do love the royal family and all their drama. The book is simply just fun. It's not amazing literature by any means, but if you are looking for something fun and light to read, this is definitely for you. Would certainly make for a great beach read as you wish for your own Prince Charming to take you away....more
"Anastasia and Her Sisters" by Carolyn Meyer follows Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov from ages 13 to 17 as she experiences the extravagant life of Russian nobility to the horrors of World War I and the unrest that happens in Russia leading to revolution.
I didn't know this when I picked up the book, but Carolyn Meyer also wrote the Anastasia book that was part of the "Royal Diaries" series for children. "Anastasia and Her Sisters" is Caroyln Meyer's young adult take. I kind of felt like this book and the "Royal Diary" book were kind of the same if I'm being honest. In some ways, I felt like I was still reading a book intended for children rather than for young adults. The only additions here in "Anastasia and Her Sisters" are more adult subject matter like love and romance, but that's kind of it. I hate to say it, but I felt like this book was a bit bland in places. I wish Meyer had taken more creative liberties with the history surrounding this family to spice it up a bit more. Because this book just reads like a textbook of events. We go from one event to the next, and there's never any time to really examine Anastasia and her family and create them as characters. I don't think Meyer should have focused on Anastasia from ages 13 to 17. She should have just picked some years near the end and, like I said, taken more creative historic liberties. I think the strongest parts of this book was the family in exile. I think the focus should have been entirely on that. Meyer does some interesting things by developing a relationship between Anastasia and Gleb Botkin, and I wanted to see more of that, but instead it's shoehorned literally at the end of the book in the frame of a few pages. So I guess what I'm saying is that Meyer had some good stuff going near the end where she took some creative liberties but it was all hastily gone through, but that should have been her focus for the entire novel, while inserting flashbacks to life before the Revolution.
And that's kind of all I have to say about this book unfortunately. I've read a lot of Romanov historical fiction in my life and this was definitely at the bottom of the pack. Just a little too bland with not much even going on. I think that's the problem when writing about the Romanovs, we know so much about them, a lot was documented about their life, and everything has been covered in regards to historical fiction. This book did nothing new, presented absolutely nothing unique. It was still an okay read. I didn't utterly hate this book (though this review sounds like I hated the book), but I was expecting more I guess. Perhaps if you're someone who has had no exposure to Romanov historical fiction, this might actually be a good place to start....more
"Once We Were Brothers" by Ronald H. Balson tells the story of Ben Solomon, a Holocaust survivor, who accuses one of Chicago's leading philanthropists of being a former Nazi SS officer. It's up to attorney Catherine Lockhart to listen to Ben Solomon's story and bring a war criminal to justice. "Once We Were Brothers" is a novel about two boys struggling to survive in war-torn Poland and what one will do when confronted by temptation and greed.
Such an amazing story. Heartbreaking, inspirational, and all told at a break neck speed that will leave you wanting more chapter after chapter. I loved the premise of this novel, set sixty years after World War II, about an elderly man accusing one of Chicago's wealthiest men of being a former Nazi, but facing obstacles as this man keeps denying his involvement. So throughout the whole novel you are left in suspense: is Ben Solomon crazy? Is he mistaken? Is the accused a former Nazi? Or is the accused innocent? And throughout a large portion of the book, Ben tells his story to his attorney, Catherine Lockhart. So we get flashbacks to Ben's time in Poland and how he knows the accused.
Just to go through some things that I liked and disliked about this book:
1. I was a bit hesitant to label this as historical fiction. Typically, when you get a historical fiction book (even one told with half the story in the present and half the story in the past), you'll still get whole chapters dedicated to whatever the historical context is. In "Once We Were Brothers" Ben is telling Catherine his story in first person, and occasionally Catherine will interrupt, or something else will be happening as Ben is telling his story. So it's not historical fiction in the traditional sense, but I still decided to go ahead and label the book as such even though we are never actually present in the historical time.
2. Loved the characters. Some are a bit more multi-dimensional than others, but Balson tries his best to make sure you have a connection to Ben and Catherine throughout the novel and that you feel for them every step of the way. Ben is a kind elderly man. Catherine is a woman in need of inspiration after numerous mistakes in her past. So Ben and Catherine work well off of each other and provide each other support.
3. Wonderful writing from Balson. He clearly did his research, though I sometimes felt like his writing could be a bit condescending. Being a World War II buff, I'm pretty familiar with just about anything that deals with the Holocaust, and Balson would often define terms or concepts which I didn't think were necessary. Sometimes if seemed like Balson thought his readers didn't know anything about the Holocaust, which is ridiculous, because even if you only know the basics of the Holocaust, Balson didn't need to take the time to give you a rundown of the history because most people already know. For a few examples, there's some bits where Balson, through Ben, explains what a ghetto and a concentration camp are. Honestly, did not need those two things defined. Like I said, Balson's writing felt a bit condescending during moments like that. But yeah, outside of moments like that, Balson's writing was gorgeous. Just enough description to set a scene. Great character development in general. And an overall well planned out story.
4. Don't be fooled, this novel has several blurbs that keep saying that this book is a love story. Don't know where those people got that idea. Yes, through Ben's flashbacks he talks about his love, Hannah, but Hannah herself isn't really given much growth or personality. I mean, yeah, you like her, you have no reason to dislike her. But this story is called "Once We Were Brothers" afterall. This isn't a love story. It's a story about two men who grew up very close to one another, like brothers, and one of them is persuaded by greed to do the unthinkable. And not only is it there story, but it's also very much the story of Catherine as she seeks inspiration and encouragement from Ben to change her life and become a better person. So yeah, the love story is a very minor thing, not a huge thing like the blurbs make it out to be.
5. The reason I couldn't quite give this book 4-stars is mostly because I felt the last 20% of the novel flew by in a rush, things were happening so quickly, you didn't have time to digest anything, and I felt like Balson's writing declined in quality by the end, compared to the beauty that was the rest of the novel. Like I said, you are left in suspense the whole novel about whether or not Ben is mistaken in his accusations, whether or not the accused is a former Nazi, and the reveal is rather anticlimatic and way too rushed. Plus there's the fact that the last 20% of the novel or so is heavily focused on the buildup to the trial, and I found all of that a bit boring and hard to follow. Balson spent so much time explaining things about the Holocaust, but he didn't spend enough time simplifying court procedure and the mechanics of getting things to trial.
Overall, I did highly enjoy this novel. A fascinating story ultimately about human cruelty and what we can do to stop such cruelty and that we shouldn't let history repeat itself. Though I did enjoy the whole novel for the most part, I definitely think Ben's story was my favorite thing about the book. Recommend this book for people interested in the Holocaust....more
"The Maid" by Kimberly Cutter tells the story of Jehanne d'Arc, the girl who would later be known as Joan of Arc. Jehanne is a young girl when she hears voices in her head and comes to learn that she is chosen by God to lead the French army, crown it's rightful king, and banish the English from French land. "The Maid" is a novel about one girl's destiny to save France while battling against those who seek to underestimate her.
My first Joan of Arc historical fiction novel. I've read about Joan of Arc in other historical novels, like "The Lady of the Rivers" by Philippa Gregory and "The Queen's Secret" by Jean Plaidy, but in both those novels Joan of Arc was just a sidenote and only featured in a few chapters. So it was quite refreshing to read an entire novel about Joan of Arc.
As I said in the synopsis, this novel is about Jehanne, who at a young age hears voices and discovers that God has chosen her to be the savior of France. Jehanne faces obstacles early on, mostly from her family, before she's finally able to reach King Charles VII and persuade him God has sent her to place him on his rightful throne. Jehanne faces even more obstacles, from that of the king's leading advisers and even some of the military leaders who don't want a woman joining their battles. The entirety of the novel is basically Jehanne discovering her destiny, learning to accept it (even while knowing her impending death), and getting the men around her to believe in her and in her cause. And it's not easy. The novel is ultimately about the power and uncertainly of faith---who easily believes, who doesn't; who thinks Jehanne is divinely sent, who thinks Jehanne is insane.
Moving on to the characters and story in general. I did enjoy the novel for the most part. Kimberly Cutter's writing is really wonderful, you can clearly see she did her research. But I did find myself on a few occasions getting a bit bored. Sometimes I felt like Cutter's writing got a bit dry in spots. Or it may have just been me because I wasn't familiar with a lot of the historical characters. It's funny, I'm a huge reader of Plantagenet history over in England at the time this novel is taking place, but I don't know a lot about what was going on in France at the time, weirdly enough. So I guess for me personally, my problem had to do with the fact that Cutter dives right into this novel and you kind of have to be familiar with a lot of the people and events of the era. I had trouble remembering who was who quite often, and a lot of characters would disappear and not return until much later in the book, so that added to some of my confusion. I think this novel is definitely a must for people who are already familiar with this bit of French history, but yeah, if you are like me, this might not be a good place to start. I think I'd definitely like to learn more about the era and then maybe revisit this novel after my knowledge has grown. And as for characters, I don't think a lot of the characters were particularly delved into that much. The only character who gets development is Jehanne since we are mostly in her perspective the whole novel. She grows from a timid young girl, unsure of the voices in her head, to a woman determined to save her country where she learns to ride horses, use swords, and even cuts her hair and dons male clothing which was considered a sin at the time. A lot of the other characters, which were all men for the most part, barely get any sort of development. All the characters flow in and out of Jehanne's story and we don't get to really know them that well. And like I said above, I'm not familiar with a lot of the historical figures in this novel, so I was just getting confused by all the various different male characters since I felt like there wasn't much to distinguish one from the other.
Overall, I did enjoy the novel for what it was, but mostly just because it was nice to read an entire historical fiction novel about Joan of Arc, which I don't see often enough. Like I said, I wasn't familiar with this era and often found some of it boring and confusing. But I still enjoyed seeing the progression of Jehanne's character and seeing her turn into the tragic, iconic figure that we still remember even to this day....more