One Summer: America, 1927 – Bill Bryson

Title: One Summer: America, 1927
Author: Bill Bryson
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Non-fiction/History
Page Length: 456 pages

I love Bryson’s humor and was excited to start another novel by him. Unfortunately, this history lesson is lacking in laughs.

Bryson gives great detail about the happenings that led up to the various events that occurred in 1927. If you love baseball and aeronautics, this is a great read. However, if you are more like me, and neither of these appeal to you, this story may be a struggle to get through.

The story talks about many things that occurred during 1927: Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Al Capone, Babe Ruth’s rise to fame, Henry Ford and the Model T, Charles Lindbergh and his Spirit of St. Louis airplane, etc. But overall, the story focuses heavily on the American history of aeronautics and baseball.

I love history and that was my saving grace, even though most of the events in this book hold little interest to me. I still found I enjoyed learning about Babe Ruth and Charles Lindbergh’s journeys.

As always, Bryson explains the history of America in an engaging way. Though I felt his usual funny bone lacking from this creation. The story still was a captivating (if a bit slow) historical adventure. If you are interested in planes and the sports events of 1927, then I believe you will enjoy this read.

Synopsis: In One Summer Bill Bryson, one of our greatest and most beloved nonfiction writers, transports readers on a journey back to one amazing season in American life.

The summer of 1927 began with one of the signature events of the twentieth century: on May 21, 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first man to cross the Atlantic by plane nonstop, and when he landed in Le Bourget airfield near Paris, he ignited an explosion of worldwide rapture and instantly became the most famous person on the planet. Meanwhile, the titanically talented Babe Ruth was beginning his assault on the home run record, which would culminate on September 30 with his sixtieth blast, one of the most resonant and durable records in sports history. In between those dates a Queens housewife named Ruth Snyder and her corset-salesman lover garroted her husband, leading to a murder trial that became a huge tabloid sensation. Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly sat atop a flagpole in Newark, New Jersey, for twelve days—a new record. The American South was clobbered by unprecedented rain and by flooding of the Mississippi basin, a great human disaster, the relief efforts for which were guided by the uncannily able and insufferably pompous Herbert Hoover. Calvin Coolidge interrupted an already leisurely presidency for an even more relaxing three-month vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The gangster Al Capone tightened his grip on the illegal booze business through a gaudy and murderous reign of terror and municipal corruption. The first true “talking picture,” Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer, was filmed and forever changed the motion picture industry. The four most powerful central bankers on earth met in secret session on a Long Island estate and made a fateful decision that virtually guaranteed a future crash and depression.

All this and much, much more transpired in that epochal summer of 1927, and Bill Bryson captures its outsized personalities, exciting events, and occasional just plain weirdness with his trademark vividness, eye for telling detail, and delicious humor. In that year America stepped out onto the world stage as the main event, and One Summer transforms it all into narrative nonfiction of the highest order.

OWL Rating:

 

 

Shadow and Bone (#1)- Leigh Bardugo

Title: Shadow and Bone (Book #1 in the Grisha series)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Genre: Fantasy/YA
Page Length: 358 pages

I bought a whole bunch of books awhile back based on a book bloggers recommendations. This story was from that list. I have never heard or read Bardugo before, but I am a new fan and can’t wait to read more from her.

This is a young adult epic fantasy adventure where evil and good fight on center stage. I was completely engrossed and excited to read this book. I had a hard time putting it down. I was surprised, delighted, heartbroken and frightened. Bardugo did a wonderful job creating characters with deceptive layers that kept unfolding. Her writing, while different from Juliette Marillier (another fantasy writer), has a similar vein of her writing style. And I loved it!

If you are looking for a story about unlikely heroes and friendship that knows no bounds then you might enjoy this story. You can find it on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

OWL Rating:

Industrial Magic (Book #4)- Kelley Armstrong

Title: Industrial Magic (#4 in the Otherworld Series)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: Bantam
Genre: Fantasy
Page Length: 560 pages

I am slowly working my way through this book series ever since I watched the show Bitten, which is a Canadian television show that ran from 2014-2016.

While I fell in-love with the werewolf side of her stories, she also writes about witches and sorcerers among many other magical entities. Book #4 was a continuation of the witch storyline and I was excited to jump back in.

I enjoy Armstrong’s writing aside from her over indulgence in the sexual side. I think I would actually enjoy her stories more if she eluded to the sex instead of graphically explaining it. The graphic scenes don’t add anything to the story and I find I skip over them more than anything. Aside from this though, her stories are enjoyable and magical. Her characters are well developed and entertaining. I enjoy how she brings old major characters back into the fray as side characters, it helps make it feel cohesive and thoroughly thought out.

If you like witchy tales that will leave a spark in your heart then this might be the story for you. You can find the tale on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: Meet the smart, sexy — supernatural — women of the otherworld. This is not your mother’s coven…

Kelley Armstrong returns with the eagerly awaited follow-up to Dime Store Magic. Paige Winterbourne, a headstrong young woman haunted by a dark legacy, is now put to the ultimate test as she fights to save innocents from the most insidious evil of all.. . .

In the aftermath of her mother’s murder, Paige broke with the elite, ultraconservative American Coven of Witches. Now her goal is to start a new Coven for a new generation. But while Paige pitches her vision to uptight thirty-something witches in business suits, a more urgent matter commands her attention.

Someone is murdering the teenage offspring of the underworld’s most influential Cabals — a circle of families that makes the mob look like amateurs. And none is more powerful than the Cortez Cabal, a faction Paige is intimately acquainted with. Lucas Cortez, the rebel son and unwilling heir, is none other than her boyfriend. But love isn’t blind, and Paige has her eyes wide open as she is drawn into a hunt for an unnatural-born killer. Pitted against shamans, demons, and goons, it’s a battle chilling enough to make a wild young woman grow up in a hurry. If she gets the chance.

OWL Rating:

The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah

Title: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Length: 608 pages

I am a member of an online book group that likes to promote books they have enjoyed and this story kept popping up. A fan of WWII historical fiction and history, I decided to take the plunge on an author I had never read before.

This was a long and sad story, but it was not surprising given the time period. It was emotionally moving and is a story that will stay with you. I often found myself reflecting on the tale and what my choices would have been.

While it may be fiction, it is set during a time that is not and reads like fact. I felt I was reading the memoirs of real WWII survivors, not fictional creations. It is one of those stories where it felt real because it all could have happened, and many bits of it probably did.

It was one of the best books I have read for 2019 and I will be sure to check out more from Hannah in the years to come.

You can find the story on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are.

France, 1939
In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.

OWL Rating:

Dreams of Lake Drukka & Exhumation (Short Sharp Shocks! #31) – Mike Thorn

Title: Dreams of Lake Drukka & Exhumation
Author: Mike Thorn
Publisher: Demain Publishing
Genre: Horror/Paranormal
Page Length: 48 pages

I cracked open this short collection of two stories. One is about two sisters looking for familial closure. The other involves a family funeral.

The first one, Dreams of Lake Drukka, was most intriguing to me. I felt a connection with the sisterly theme, as well as I was hooked on the mystery of their adventure. Family secrets are always a gossip worthy experience and I found myself enjoying this dark and scary story.

The second story, Exhumation, was gory and nose wrinkling. For all the readers out there who enjoy blood and guts this one is for you, not so much for me.

Thorn is a compelling and engaging writer and I look forward to seeing more standard size writing from him in the future (I hope). For horror lovers out there, Thorn is worth taking a chance on.

If you are looking for a quick snack of fright induced shivers, then check out these two short stories by Thorn. But you might want to wait on snacking on real food until after you are done reading.

The stories can be found on Amazon in e-book format.

Synopsis: Dreams of Lake Drukka and Exhumation explore the unearthing of horrific, long-buried family secrets. Journeying into the darkest recesses of the past, these stories depict the dire consequences of discovering the truth.

Writing about Dreams Of Lake Drukka and Exhumation, author Mike Thorn said: “It was only in retrospect that I could see the connections between these two stories. When I revisited them for publication, it struck me that they work well as companion pieces. Both plots depict unfulfilled pacts with supernatural undercurrents, both include journeys to uncover unresolved familial trauma, and both pivot around the revelation of repressed memories. I wanted to explore the relationship between setting and atmosphere in these pieces, and to depict horror within internal and physical ‘sites of trauma.’ The characters are grappling with painful memories / experiences that have held them back, consciously or unconsciously. One story focuses on a character who is the agent of her own revelations, whereas the other story sees someone whose agency is quickly and brutally taken away.”

THE MAN BEHIND THE STORY:

Mike Thorn is the author of the short story collection Darkest Hours.

His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including Dark Moon DigestThe NoSleep Podcast, DarkFuseUnnerving MagazineTurn to Ash and Tales to Terrify. His film criticism has been published in MUBI NotebookThe Film Stage, The Seventh Row, Bright Lights Film Journal and Vague Visages.

He completed his M.A. with a major in English literature at the University of Calgary, where he wrote a thesis on epistemophobia in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness. 

 

 

 

CONNECT WITH MIKE:

Website

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OWL Rating:

*I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Harley Merlin and the Mystery Twins – Bella Forrest

Title: Harley Merlin and the Mystery Twins (Book #2)
Author: Bella Forrest
Publisher: Nightlight Press
Genre: Fantasy/YA/Paranormal
Page Length: 406 pages

I jumped right into the sequel of this series wanting to follow the adventure that had started in book one. I prefer to read standalone novels, as I grow bored when storylines continue on in multiple installments. Regardless, I decided to continue despite my history with series. Reading book two was safe this time. However, I will now need to take a break before I go on in the series.

The storyline picks right up where it left off and the author does a good job of refreshing the readers mind about past events. I appreciate this as someone who does not read one book after another and as someone who has a questionable memory.

I learned more about the individual characters but not as much as I hoped. The story focused more on the magical mystery and less on the character relationships. This was mildly disappointing. I would have liked a bit more character revelation and development in book 2.

However, the story was engaging and easy to read. I still like the characters and am learning to feel warm towards some others.

I will continue to read the series, as I am enjoying it, but I will take a break and read some other things before I come back to it.

If you like stories about teens with superpowers and slow growing feelings then this story might be up your alley.

You can find the book on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: A dark past. A hidden power. A dangerous enemy.

Harley Merlin has a lot of unanswered questions in her life. What drove her father to kill her mother? How can she know the true extent of her magical abilities? Has Wade Crowley always been this annoying?

After the violent gargoyle incident that left many dead, Harley fears what other evil tricks her psychotic aunt has up her sleeve. When she discovers that magical foster kids like herself are in danger, she knows she must do whatever it takes to protect them.

And it turns out that Tatyana, the Coven’s resident ghost-whisperer, is also willing to make sacrifices and has secrets of her own…

OWL Rating:

 

Harley Merlin and the Secret Coven – Bella Forrest

Title: Harley Merlin and the Secret Coven
Author: Bella Forrest
Publisher: Nightlight Press
Genre: Fantasy/YA/Paranormal
Page Length: 402 pages

This book has been blowing up my Amazon account for awhile now and I could not resist checking it out. It was advertised as the next Harry Potter, so I delved into it with high hopes.

This story is different from Harry Potter. Aside from the fact that the main character is an orphan with magical powers and there is a point system at her educational institution, the story is original and should not be compared to something else.

I have never read Forrest before, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a new author that I enjoyed reading in one of my favorite genres.

The story was easy to read, magically entertaining and all the characters were unique and intriguing. I also appreciate that the potential love interests are a VERY slow burn.

At this point in the series, I have no complaints. It was a pleasurable reading experience and I look forward to seeing what happens in the next installment.

If you are looking for a mysterious and enchanting read then check out this story.

You can find the story on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: When a rogue 19-year-old witch is recruited to help guard an ancient magical Bestiary, a breath-stealing journey begins…
Being an empath has its advantages.

Harley Merlin can sense people’s emotions, among other things. It’s how she snagged her first job pinpointing cheaters at a casino.

But she has no clue where she got these freakish powers because she spent her childhood jumping from home to home in the foster system, and her father left her with nothing more than a cryptic note.

Then she crosses paths with a terrifyingly real monster. Which is when a mysterious and annoyingly arrogant young warlock named Wade Crowley steps in, introducing her to a hidden world of beasts, magicals, and covens riddled with secrets—as well as clues about her murky past.

Whether she likes it or not, this new world is where she belongs. But after a disturbing twist of events, Harley quickly realizes that her past is darker than she could ever have imagined.

And that someone in the coven is out for her blood.

With the help of Wade and her new friends, she must figure out who the traitor is and why they’re targeting her… Before the human and magical worlds dangerously collide.

OWL Rating:

Skinwrapper – Stephen Kozeniewski

Title: Skinwrapper
Author: Stephen Kozeniewski
Publisher: Sinister Grin Press
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Page Length: 81 pages

If you are a fan of the bad guys known as Reavers, from the beloved show Firefly, then a Skinwrapper may be the next best thing. The Skinwrappers from this story share a lot in common with the Reavers of that story.

This story branches off from Kozeniewski’s novel The Hematophages, a totally different and darker world from Firefly, but still just as awesome.

In an hour you can whip through this tale that keeps you sucked in to the very end. Everything Kozeniewski writes is original, imaginative, often creepy and always edgy. Skinwrapper is no exception. I never know where the story is going because every development is fresh and unforeseen.

There are many good storytellers in existence, but the great are hard to come by. Kozeniewski is a great, and with each new story he creates, his footprint grows bigger in the literary world of horror and science fiction. It is only a matter of time before Kozeniewski is a household name.

If you have never read anything by Kozeniewski, why not take a chance on this?

You can find it on Amazon in e-book and paperback.

Synopsis: A single word strikes fear into the hearts of even the most experienced starship crews…

Aboard the freighter Blue Whale, a young girl’s day begins like any other: texting her friends while her parents bicker about breakfast. Then, with a loud, sickening pop, their domestic tranquility is shattered.

A single word goes out over the emergency warning system…

The galaxy’s shipping lanes are plagued by a gang of vicious pirates. Suffering from all manner of terminal diseases, they require zero gravity to live. They also need a constant influx of fresh blood and organs, so their victims also become their unwilling donors. The band is so ruthless, so violent, that its very name has become a synonym for terror.

A single word that chills the blood, even in the utter cold of space…

The little girl finds herself alone, lost, and trapped aboard the vessel she called home, praying it won’t also become her tomb. She is about to learn there is nothing in the universe worse than being hunted by a SKINWRAPPER.

This prequel novella shoves you screaming back into the world of “space horror masterpiece” (Daily Dead) THE HEMATOPHAGES.

THE MAN BEHIND THE STORY:

Stephen Kozeniewski (pronounced “causin’ ooze key”) lives in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German.

CONNECT WITH STEPHEN

Website

Goodreads

Facebook

 

OWL Rating:

 

The Raven Boys (Book #1 of The Raven Cycle) – Maggie Stiefvater

Title: The Raven Boys (Book #1 of The Raven Cycle)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult/Paranormal
Page Length: 409 pages

I picked this up due to a recommendation I received on the series. I had read Stiefvater in the past and had not been hooked, but I decided to give her another try.

The storyline was intriguing, and I enjoyed the individuality of all the characters. I loved how Blue, the main protagonist, came from a magical family but she herself was not obviously magical. I actually would have enjoyed more time learning about her family.

On the other hand, I had a hard time embracing the whole quest of the ley line obsession. I never quite understood why waking the ley leins was all that important. Also, I found the quest to be rather tiresome. Additionally, I didn’t care for the boys personalities all that much. They were all troubled in their own way and I never felt the chemistry between Blue and the boys.

Stiefvater is a good writer, and I felt she developed her characters well. But overall, I just wasn’t that engrossed. I had to force myself to finish the book. Now that it’s over I will move on to something else. I wish I felt otherwise, but I think Stiefvater just isn’t my storytelling flavor. However, most of the reading community disagrees with me, so if you like fantasy and young adult this book may be just what you are looking for.

You can find the story on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

OWL Rating: for writing well and having an original concept

The Future Falls (Book #3) – Tanya Huff

Title: The Future Falls (Book #3 of Enchantment Emporium)
Author: Tanya Huff
Publisher: DAW
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal
Page length: 336 pages

This weekend was dedicated to finishing the final installment of the Enchantment Emporium series. I was excited to read the epic conclusion to a series full of magic and mystical creatures, which is what Huff writes best (in my humble opinion).

This story continues the journey of Charlie, a wild power Gale woman. Except this time, Charlie has been tasked with saving the world from an incoming big bang chunk of rock. You witness her relationship with Jack the Dragon Prince and Allie the dragon slayer and family protector evolve as well. The best part was the more dominant presence of Auntie Catherine, who has gone rogue and helps Charlie from the shadows.

I enjoyed the finale of this series with a few exceptions. First, the constant references to popular music was a bit overwhelming. I didn’t know all the references and couldn’t be bothered to research them. I think I would have preferred it if Charlie came up with her own melodies and lyrics. I think this issue will also date the books faster than had it been an original tune.

Additionally, I found some of the dialogue to be confusing and lacking clarity. Sometimes there were innuendos that went over my head and sometimes, I felt that Huff knew what she meant, but she was not able to convey it to the reader.

Lastly, I was seriously concerned about Charlie and Jack’s growing feelings, so I had to look up age of consent in Canada to slightly alleviate my discomfort with where this story was headed.

Overall, the story was compelling and exciting. It kept me engaged and I enjoyed how the series wrapped up, though I always have felt more could be done. There are many characters worth exploring in this world. Huff has a gift with magical systems and truly has a creative flare with the world building. I loved all her fantastical creatures like Joe, the Leprechaun who is a favorite.

I recommend this series to lovers of fantasy and magical worlds that are hidden within the hum drum of every day life.

You can find the book on Amazon in multiple formats.

Synopsis: When Auntie Catherine warns the family of an approaching asteroid, the Gales scramble to keep humans from going the way of the dinosaurs. Fortunately for the world, they’re wielding a guitar and a dragon.

The Gale family can change the world with the charms they cast, which has caused some supernaturally complicated family shenanigans in the past. So when NASA and Doomsday Dan confirm Auntie Catherine’s dire prediction, Charlotte “Charlie” Gale turns to the family for help.

But Allie is unavailable because the universe seems determined to have her produce the seventh son of a seventh son of a seventh son of a Gale.  And the Aunties can’t help because they’re tied to the earth – although they are happy to provide their delicious, trademark pies.  And in the end, all Charlie has is a guitar…

…and Jack. The Dragon Prince, and a Sorcerer.

But Charlie might like Jack just a little too much, and Jack might like Charlie a little too much in return. Actually, between Allie’s hormones, the Aunties trying to force her and Jack into ritual, the Courts having way too much fun at the end of days, and Jack’s sudden desire to sacrifice himself for the good of the many, Charlie’s fairly certain that the asteroid is the least of her problems.

The Gales are going to need more than pie to save the world from an incoming asteroid. But together there isn’t anything they can’t deal with – except possibly each other.

OWL Rating: