Category Archives: Tor Books

Review: Rising Sun, Falling Shadow by Daniel Kalla

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books (September 24, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0765337649
  • Source: Publisher

*Note: This is the sequel to The Far Side of the Sky. It is recommended that you read this book first.

1943 Shanghai: Over 20,000 Jewish refugees seeking safety in Shanghai are forced by the Japanese to move into a “relocation” camp, a one-kilometer area known as the “Shanghai Ghetto.”  Dr. Franz Adler and his new wife, Sunny, struggle to run the city’s only hospital for refugee Jews. The Adlers struggle to keep their family united, always fearful of being discovered by the Nazis or Japanese. Due to the internment of British and American citizens, Franz’s pregnant sister-in-law, Esther, is separated from her husband, Simon. While Simon is able to evade capture, the life he is forced to live in hiding is less than desirable.

While Franz tries to find the best in their current situation, Sunny cannot get over her father’s death and is desperate for revenge. Unbeknownst to Franz, Sunny joins in an underground resistance group.   Franz’s daughter, Hannah, barely a teen herself, struggles to be recognized as more than a young girl. This struggle puts her directly in harms way and she becomes involved in a smuggling ring, carrying contraband into restricted areas.  Meanwhile, Franz struggles to treat the injured refugees with minimal supplies, under the watchful eye of power-hungry individuals who would like to do away with the hospital and the Jewish refugees…permanently.

Kalla creates an incredible and terrifying world in Rising Sun, Falling Shadow. While the premise seems dark, an underlying element of hope and love of family is what stands out most to this reader. Additionally, although this is the second book in a series, the characters introduced in the first novel continue to grow and develop, becoming genuine individuals that readers will connect with and become attached to. Watching the family go through these numerous struggles, overcoming despite the highest of odds, is endearing and heartwarming.  What stands out to me most of all, however, is how little we as American citizens know about this torture and cruelty that transpired in Shanghai. We are all aware of the Nazi occupation in Germany but I am shocked to admit I was unaware of the atrocities that took place  against those struggling to seek refuge outside their homeland.

I genuinely do recommend that you do start with the first book in the series before starting this one. While it can serve as an adequate standalone, you will miss out on a great deal of character building and development by leaping right into Rising Sun, Falling Shadow. It’s a dark part of our world’s history that at times, is quite difficult to swallow. That said, what Kalla has created in this series is incredibly endearing, hopeful,  and ultimately, wholly rewarding. He doesn’t inundate the reader with overwhelming amounts of historical facts, instead focusing on the individuals who experienced it. Highly, highly recommended.

 

#Mx3 Review: Delia’s Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (September 17, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0765331829
  • Source: Personal Copy

Delia Martin is a wealthy young woman living in early 20th century San Francisco.  She holds a unique gift; she can see, and communicate, with spirits of the deceased. She’s returned to her home, certain that it holds an explanation for the powerful spirit that follows her. Referred to as Shadow, this woman is unable to verbally communicate with Delia, yet is desperate to lead her to something. Shadow haunts Delia’s dreams with flashbacks of a serial killer from nearly three decades ago, eerily similar to a serial killer now terrorizing the bay city.  Delia’s return to San Francisco isn’t an easy one; she is haunted by those who died in the great earthquake of 1906.  Delia, like so many others, lost her family in that quake, a disaster that forever altered the great city.

Delia’s return to San Francisco is timely; her best friend, Sadie,  is due to be wed in six weeks.  Her fiance, Jack, and his partner, Gabe, are the lead investigators on this new rash of killings. Delia lends her “talent” to the case, soon learning that the spirit that haunts her can provide valuable information to aid in the investigation.  When the killer gets personal, threatening both Delia and Gabe, it becomes even more imperative to uncover his identity.

Delia’s Shadow is an intensely captivating novel, capturing the essence of San Francisco at the turn of the century.  Moyer draws out her characters well, unveiling them as strong, yet also emotionally damaged, individuals.  The great quake destroyed so many families in the city, not a single person left untouched by its decimation.  This sense of loss adds a bit of humanity to each of the characters. Despite their loss, they continue to live in the city they love, living their lives despite their great loss.  Perhaps it is this loss that powers them through the investigation, desperate to prevent the deaths of others.

Moyer does something unique with this novel.  It is told in dual narration, alternating between Delia’s and Gabe’s perspective.  Additionally, Delia’s perspective is told in first person while Gabe’s is in third.  Initially, this took me off guard but ultimately I understood that it is Moyer’s intent that it is Delia’s character we must truly understand, and her first person perspective allows the reader to do so.

It’s hard to categorize this novel into one genre.  While Delia’s gift, and the pervasiveness of spirits, adds a supernatural feel to the novel, I feel the mystery aspect is the one that stands out the most.  Adding the historical aspect to it, Delia’s Shadow is a novel destined to be appreciated by a wide range of readers.  Moyer is an author new to me and I am looking forward to more from her. A true talent, one that obviously takes a great deal of care and commitment to her novel. Highly, highly recommended.

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Review: Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; Original edition (April 10, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 076532779
  • Source: Library
Drusilla (DJ) Jaco is the young junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans. The title sounds big, but it isn’t. Her boss and mentor,Gerald (Gerry) St. Simon, is the wizard in charge of protecting the city from anything supernatural. The city was relatively safe until Hurricane Katrina hits, not only hammering the city’s levees but also crumbling the walls between the city and the supernatural Otherworld.

DJ is forced into action when Gerry goes missing. The devastated city is now overrun with the undead now able to cross into the city freely. If matters couldn’t be any worse, a voodoo serial killer is attacking soldiers sent to the city to aid in recovery. DJ is assigned a new partner, a gun-and-grenade-toting assassin.  DJ discovers quickly that lines of loyalty are easily blurred and she must rely on the most unlikely of allies to put an end to the killings and put an end to the supernatural devastation brought on by an equally devastating hurricane.

In this new urban fantasy series, the setting of New Orleans is simply outstanding, a city with a tremendous supernatural past. The author, a once long-time resident of New Orleans, pays a wonderful homage to the city. Jonson so expertly captures the overall feeling of the city, specifically after the devastation brought on by Hurricane Katrina.

The cast of characters is impressive as well. DJ is a young, naive, impulsive wizard. She is forced to quickly get over herself and mature into a dependable young wizard. Adding the character of her new partner, Alex the enforcer, also added a bit of sexual tension to the story. An undead pirate out for revenge and Louis Armstrong, risen from the dead, round out the eclectic character roster.

As this is the first in a new series, there are some issues that need to be fleshed out but I have full confidence in this author. Royal Street is a fun and entertaining new series. I already have the second book in the series, River Road, in hand. Highly recommended.

Frightful Friday: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week. Feel free to grab the button & join in!

This week’s featured book is Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake:

  • Reading level: Ages 12 and up
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Teen; First Edition edition (August 30, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0765328658
  • Source: Publisher

Theseus Cassio (Cas) Lowood is a ghost hunter, a trade he inherited when his father was brutally killed by a ghost he was chasing. Armed with his father’s powerful athame (a knife that is able to “kill” ghosts), Cas and his mother travel around the country on the hunt for evil spirits.

Cas’ latest “case” brings him to Thunder Bay, Ontario, on the hunt for a ghost referred to as Anna Dressed in Blood. She was killed in the late 1950s and now haunts her former home, killing whomever crosses the threshold. She still wears the same white dress she wore when she died, now dripping in blood. Anna has quite the reputation as a pretty serious and dangerous ghost, killing dozens of people each year. Cas doesn’t get just how dangerous she is until he witnesses one of these deaths. Not a pretty picture, to say the least. Yet he’s the only person alive who has lived through a sighting of Anna. For some reason, she spares his life.  This first time, at least.

Before he can put an end to Anna’s murderous rage, he must find out the cause of her death, the motive behind her anger. Along the way, he becomes fascinated, almost obsessed with her. With the help of a handful of his classmates, this motley crew of ghost hunting teens devises a plan to trap Anna and rid this small town of her evil acts.

Overall, I enjoyed Anna Dressed in Blood.  Blake provides a fairly unique story. Definitely a spooky tale; I found myself scared several times. While classified as a book appropriate for ages twelve and up, I’d be reluctant to allow my twelve year old to read it. There is a good amount of swearing. I’m talking the f-bomb, so not on the light end of the swearing spectrum. Additionally, there is a good deal of gore, not for the weak of stomachs.

What I definitely did not like about this book was the romance. It frustrates me that, as of late, all YA has to have some sort of romance happening. I’m not certain if that’s what gets young adults to read this sort of book or, thanks to Twilight, authors feel they must add an injection of love to anything they write geared toward teens. In the case of Anna Dressed in Blood, I think it was forced, unnatural, and quite frankly, a little eerie.

That said, if this is something you don’t have objection to or an issue with, this is definitely a book I would recommend. Despite my issues with this book,  I’m looking forward to the next book in this series, Girl of Nightmares, due out in August.

 

Review: Thirteen Hallows by Michael Scott & Colette Freedman

  • Hardcover:352 pages
  • Publisher:Tor Books; First Edition edition (December 6, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0765328526
  • Source: Publisher

The thirteen hallows are ancient artifacts embedded with deadly powers.  They were divided among thirteen Keepers, assigned to keep them hidden and, more importantly, apart from one another. Unfortunately now the keepers are being brutally murdered, their blood awakening the power in the hallows they protected for decades.  Only a few remain, one of the last passing on her hallow to a young, unwitting Sarah Miller, a stranger she met on the street.  Prior to her death, she asks Sarah to take the hallow to her American nephew, Owen.

Along the way, many others are killed, including those near and dear to Sarah.  She becomes the prime suspect, the local law enforcement certain she’s lost her mind, killing without abandon. They believe Owen will be her next victim, his disappearance is really an abduction by her hands. The police aren’t the only ones hunting down Sarah and Owen; the Dark Man and his seductress mistress are on their trail as well.

As Sarah continue on their trek throughout England and Wales, they begin to uncover the secrets behind the hallows that the keepers worked hard to protect. Ultimately, the relic they hold, a sword that, upon first glance, looks broken & rusted, is the one thing that separates our world with unimaginable horrors.

The Thirteen Hallows is the first book in a saga revolving around the myth of the thirteen hallows of Britain. As the first novel in a series, it is full of rich detail and characters.  The number of characters, their involvement and importance varying, can seem overwhelming. I found that it helped to keep a list of the characters and their relationship to the hallows themselves.

I’ve seen this book recommended in a few locations to those readers who are fans of the Harry Potter series. I believe it is imperative to mention that these should be adult readers, for The Thirteen Hallows is definitely not a book I would recommend to a middle grader or young teen. There is a great deal of violence, specifically as related to the killing of the keepers. The killings aren’t quick and easy, but torturous and full of almost devastating violence.  That said, The Thirteen Hallows is a book that I would recommend to adult readers, especially those interested in fantasy, myth, etc. I’m interested to see where the writers will take this series!

For those of you unfamiliar with the authors, they have quite the impressive resume.  Michael Scott is an authority on mythology and folklore. A master of fantasy, science fiction and horror, this New York Times best-selling author of Delacorte’s young adult series, The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel (which includes The Alchemist, The Magician, and The Sorceress) has his novels sold in over 37 countries.  Internationally produced playwright and screenwriter Colette Freedman has won over sixty awards for her commercial writing and directing, and was recently named one of the Dramatist Guild’s “50 to Watch.”

Obviously, Scott & Freedman know what they are talking about and can be considered experts on mythology & folklore. Their expertise really comes into play in The Thirteen Hallows, the history & folklore they discuss weren’t things they pulled out of their hats but are instead things that have popped up in myths for centuries.

Bottom line: looking for a new series, guaranteed to grab your attention and take you on a roller coaster ride of intense excitement? This is the book for you. Recommended.

Check back later today as I have an extra copy of this book available for giveaway!

Review: The Secret of Crickley Hall by James Herbert

  • Paperback:640 pages
  • Publisher:Tor Books; First Edition edition (July 5, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0765328887
  • Source: Library copy

It’s been nearly a year since Gabe & Eve Caleigh lost their son, Cam.  He disappeared while playing on a playground; an exhausted Eve had fallen asleep just for a few brief moments, long enough for Cam to disappear.

Gabe & Eve take their two daughters (Loren and Cally) and move from London after Gabe takes a new job.  The move isn’t permanent, just something to force Eve out of the depression she’s been in since Cam disappeared.  Their temporary home is Crickley Hall, a dark, manor built from granite blocks.  Gabe seems to be the only one not bothered by Crickley’s ominous atmosphere; even the family dog, Chester, is frightened.

It doesn’t take long before mysterious things begin to happen: voices, shadows, mysterious puddles of water on the cold stone floors. The cellar door, while locked at night, appears unlocked in the morning. Gabe blames it on the building’s old construction, but Eve & the girls can’t dismiss it. Loren is physically beaten by an unseen force; Cally is seen playing with flying bits of light. Eve’s determined to find out more about the history of Crickley Hall.

Crickley Hall’s past is part of the local history; during the World War II, the town experienced a horrible flood. The residents of Crickley Hall were orphans, evacuees sent from London to escape the Blitz. Eleven of the children died in the flood, reportedly drowned in the dank cellar of Crickley Hall. Eve can’t accept this; why would the children be in the cellar during a flood? Why wouldn’t they seek safety in the higher floors?

Eventually, the horrid secret of Crickley Hall is unveiled, a secret so horrible and dark, kept long hidden by overly protective townspeople.

The Secret of Crickley Hall is a true classic haunted house story, in every sense. It has everything a great horror novel should: dark surroundings, mysterious untimely deaths.  Add some suspicious townspeople,a psychic  and an elderly caretaker and the combination is complete.  Herbert is known for his chilling, gothic stories; the atmosphere he provides in his novels truly becomes a character in itself.  The whispers in the night, the rattling of the wind all add to the reader’s experience. I’m not one to scare easily yet I found myself with goosebumps while reading this book.

Another characteristic of classic ghost stories is the psychological horror, in addition to the physical. The family is already in a weakened state after the loss of young Cam.  The house feeds off this; increasing in strength. The reader can sense the energy increasing with each turn of the page. As with all horror stories, the ending is intense; I found myself holding my breath through the last several pages.

While there is a bit of gore, compared to other horror stories it is quite minimal. If you are looking for a classic horror story to read on a dark, rainy night, The Secret of Crickley Hall is the book for you. Highly, highly recommended!

Review: The Damage Done by Hilary Davidson

 

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books; First Edition edition (September 28, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 0765326973
  • Source: Publisher
  • Lily Moore is a travel writer, living in Spain.  She’s called to return to New York after her sister, Claudia, is found dead in her apartment.  Claudia had her share of trouble; she was a recovering heroin addict, living in an apartment Lily paid for.  Lily is instantly riddled with guilt; she hadn’t talked to her sister in several months.

    When Lily goes to identify the body, she is shocked to find that the body is not her sisters, but another “Claudia” who has been living in her sister’s apartment for months.  In investigation is instantly launched, led by NYPD detectives Renfrew & Buxton, aided by Lily. 

    As if her sister’s death isn’t enough, Lily is forced to deal with her ex-fiance, Martin Sklar, a wealthy hotel owner who can’t seem to get over her. When the police find proof that Martin & Claudia had lengthy phone conversations while she was in Spain, Lily can’t help but wonder if the two were “involved.”

    Ultimately, the investigation leads police to a rehab clinic & a doctor who had a reputation of becoming involved with his female patients.

    My copy of The Damage Done has been sitting on my TBR shelf for several weeks.  I was waiting for some quiet time to sit down & completely devote myself to it.  This weekend was the perfect time.  Within minutes, I was completely absorbed in the story.  My expectations were exceeded, something that hasn’t happened recently.

    The Damage Done is a stellar debut novel by Hilary Davidson.  I appreciated how she incorporated parts of her life (as a travel writer) into the main character, Lily.  Lily is an extremely realistic and flawed character: her exterior reveals a strong, independent woman but inside she’s vulnerable.

    The storyline is unique & compelling. Throughout the book, Davidson threw out enough curve-balls that I was completely suprised by the resolution. The ending is wrapped up well, finely paced, not rushed at all. I’m hoping there is a sequel or two…the sexual tension between her & Detective Buxton must be dealt with!

    Fans of crime fiction will be enamored by this phenomenal piece of debut fiction.  Pick it up; you won’t regret it!