A Few Quick Thoughts about The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Audiobook) by Stuart Turton, James Cameron Stewart

The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

by Stuart Turton, James Cameron Stewart (Narrator)

Unabridged Audiobook, 17 hrs., 4 min.
Tantor Audio, 2018

Read: March 6-19, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

Too little information and you’re blind, too much and you’re blinded.

If I said everything I wanted to here, I’d blind you with too much information.

In the interest of A. Time and 2. Not wanting to overwhelm you with anything but mostly III. I don’t want to take away the impact that reading/listening to this would bring to you. So…I’m going to be brief.

Let’s start with the publisher’s description:

The Rules of Blackheath

Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m.

There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit.

We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer.

Understood? Then let’s begin…

***

Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others.

For fans of Claire North and Kate Atkinson, The 71/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a breathlessly addictive novel that follows one man’s race against time to find a killer—but an astonishing time-turning twist means that nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

When I grabbed this audiobook, I remembered less than 1 percent of what I’d read about it. I just remembered bloggers loving it. Also, it was on Chirp, so…you know, cheap, and I needed something to listen to. So without even reading the blurb again, I grabbed it.

What a mind-bending book. I’ve seen comparisons to Clue (the movie, not the game), Agatha Christie, Groundhog Day, and Quantum Leap—I’d add Knives Out. Those comparisons are all apt. Add those things with some incredibly brilliant writing—there are sentences here that justify the expense and/or time involved just to hear/read them. Throw in a clever, clever book and it’s a real winner.

It’s sort of a fantasy. It’s a very old school mystery. It’s impossible to encapsulate. The themes explored include:
bullet Identity
bullet Memory
bullet Vengence
bullet Corruption (inner and public)
bullet Forgiveness
bullet Redemption

Stewart’s narration was pretty solid—occasionally I wondered about his choices for female voices—but all in all he kept me engaged and entertained.

I thought the book dragged a bit from time to time, but it’s hard to think of anything Turton really could’ve cut/rearranged to help that–and the large portion that didn’t drag made up for the rest easily. To say that the plot is intricate is to undersell it, I don’t remember the last book I read that was quite this intricate and well-constructed. It’s truly impressive, thoroughly entertaining, and completely provocative.

Listen to it, read it, whatever…put it on your list and you’ll be glad you did.


4 Stars

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

COVER REVEAL: The Cauldron of Life by Caroline Logan

Welcome to The Irresponsible Reader’s part in the Cover Reveal for Caroline Logan’s The Cauldron of Life! (I know I say this all the time, but it seems like the thing to note: thanks to Time Zones and whatnot, this isn’t so much a Cover Reveal as much as it is a Cover Confirmation at this point, but that’s being a little pedantic). The important thing to focus on is that there’s a spiffy looking cover down below, but before the picture, I’ve got a few words to share about the book.

Book Blurb

Join the journey; discover your destiny

Harris has been captured by the Faerie Queen and Ailsa must journey once again into the heart of Eilanmòr to rescue him.

But Ailsa is struggling with her newfound magic and the revelations about her real identity. Is the Faerie Queen Ailsa’s mother? Is everything she believed about her past a lie?

Meanwhile, a war is brewing between Heaven and Hell, with the world as the battleground. The lines between good and evil are blurring, and Ailsa must decide where she stands.

Publication date: 1st October 2020

 

978-1-911279-52-5 The Cauldron of Life Paperback
978-1-911279-53-2 The Cauldron of Life ebook

The Author

Caroline LoganCaroline Logan is a writer of Young Adult Fantasy. Her debut novel, The Stone of Destiny, is the first in The Four Treasures series, and the much-anticipated, The Cauldron of Life, will be the second.

Caroline is a high school biology teacher who lives in the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland, with her fiancé. Before moving there, she lived and worked in Spain, Tenerife, Sri Lanka and other places in Scotland. She graduated from The University of Glasgow with a bachelor’s degree in Marine and Freshwater Biology. In her spare time, she tries to ski and paddleboard, though she is happiest with a good book and a cup of tea.
Instagram: @bearpuffbooks
Twitter: @bearpuffbooks


Without further ado…

The Cover


That is one seriously good lookin’ cover. The kind of cover to make someone buy it without bothering to really read the blurb (although the blurb is worth reading)



My thanks to Love Books Group for the invitation to participate in this reveal and the materials they provided.

Love Books Group

Top 5 Saturday: Trilogies


The Top 5 Saturday weekly meme was created by Amanda at Devouring Books.

Rules!

  • Share your top 5 books of the current topic—these can be books that you want to read, have read and loved, have read and hated, you can do it any way you want.
  • Tag the original post (This one!)
  • Tag 5 people (I probably won’t do this bit, play along if you want)

This week’s topic is: Trilogies. I immediately wrote down three of these, and then thought a bit and came up with 8 more. I whittled those down to five—the ones that had the biggest impact on me/my development as a reader. I left a lot of good candidates out, but at the end of the day, these are the biggies for me. I’ve read them all multiple times (except #4, honestly—only read that twice), and would gladly do so again tomorrow (well, okay, in three weeks, am too busy in the meantime).


The Foundation Trilogy
by
Isaac Asimov

Hari Seldon, uber-mathematician, creates a new science combining mathematics and social sciences to predict (and shape) how humanity will react to the imminent fall of the Galactic Empire. He uses this science to come up with a way to shape the future, helping humanity survive the challenges on their way. I read this sooo many times in high school—for years it served as the ruler by which I judged all SF. Also, other than his Black Widowers mysteries, my favorite works by Asimov.

Yeah, there were a couple of sequels (not nearly as good) and other related works, but these were a trilogy for so many years, I have no problem ignoring the others.


The Deed of Paksenarrion
by
Elizabeth Moon

Wow. This is just…wow. Rather than submit to the arranged marriage her father has planned, Paksenarrion, takes off and joins the army. Eventually is trained and recognized as a Paladin. A fantastic hero’s journey that I wish I remembered more of. I remember being blown away by it and hating that the trilogy ended.


The Barrytown Trilogy
by
Roddy Doyle

Can I talk about these in less than 1500 words? These books focus on the Rabbitte family in Dublin. The first chronicles the oldest son’s attempts to launch his career as the manager of The Commitments, the second is about the very unplanned pregnancy of the eldest daughter (and her father’s struggle to accept it—followed by his outrageous pride for the kid), and the last focuses on the father’s attempt to provide for his family after he becomes unemployed by opening a chip van (a precursor to today’s food truck obsession). They’re all as funny as you could hope, full of hope, sadness, and love. I’m getting excited just by writing this snipped about them.


The Dragonlance Chronicles
by
Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Dragons of Winter Night, and Dragons of Spring Dawning were my obsession in eighth grade—one I shared with as many people as I could. I’m pretty sure the fantasy I respond to today is the fruit of these books. And I’m totally okay with that. Say what you will about the quality of these, they hold a special place in my heart (right above the cockles, near the blockage on the right)


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy
by
Douglas Adams

Was there any doubt? I can’t stop talking about Adams/This Trilogy (see my Annual Towel Day posts, for example). From the moment I read the first chapter (three or four times before I moved on to Chapter 2) to the point when I heard the radio series to getting the planet icon tattooed on my arm to today and all points between. This Trilogy has been at or near the top of my list, and will stay there for a long time to come.

I maybe should’ve added Colfer’s 6th volume, but…I decided to go old school.

Venators: Magic Unleashed (Audiobook): This Introduction to a Fantasy Series Continues to Entertain on my Third Time Through


Venators: Magic Unleashed

Venators: Magic Unleashed

by Devri Walls, Daniel Thomas May (Narrator)
Series: Venators, #1

Unabridged Audiobook, 10 hrs., 20 mins.
Tantor Media, 2020

Read: February 26-27, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!


When I saw that The Write Reads was doing one of their Ultimate Blog Tours for this book, I jumped to volunteer without thinking—sure, I’d be more than happy to help Walls promote her book. Shortly after I committed, however, I started to have second thoughts. What on earth, am I going to be able to say? I talked about the first edition of the novel back in ’16 and then again with the second, retitled, and improved edition last year. How is it possible to do anything but rehash what I’d said before? Then, Walls announced that an audiobook edition was going to be released. Phew.

If you remember what I said about the post last year*, you can skip the next seven paragraphs, because I’m going to basically plagiarize myself for a bit until I talk about Daniel Thomas May’s work.

* No, I can’t imagine anyone does, I didn’t. It’s just a joke.

This is a portal fantasy about a world called Eon, populated by humans, elves, vampires, werewolves, elves, dragons, etc. There are connections between Earth and Eon, allowing travel between the two—although they’re not as strong as they once were. It turns out some humans from Earth have a certain invulnerability to the kinds of magic employed by the various races (like a werewolf or vampire bite, but not, say, an invulnerability to a werewolf tearing off their head). Thee humans also have other enhanced physical attributes allowing them to go toe-to-toe in combat with members of these races. Which has made these humans a powerful force for good, and a potentially tyrannical force as well. Eon’s known more of the latter lately, which has led to a lack of recruitment.

But now, society’s on the verge of collapse into chaos, warring tribes trying to wipe out other races in a fight for dominance, and the end of law. So some people have taken it upon themselves to reintroduce these humans, Venators, to Eon. Enter Tate, a warrior who is convinced that Venators are the key to Eon’s survival—he’s been to Earth before, and now returns to bring back some people he observed then. Six years ago, he encountered a young teen named Grey Malteer—who was forever changed by their brief encounter. Now in college, Grey is about as well-read in the lore of the supernatural and weird as is possible for someone to be while stuck on Earth and not being known as a crackpot (although he’s regarded as pretty eccentric, probably well on his way to crack-pot status).

An acquaintance of his from childhood, now attending the same college, Rune Jenkins is repulsed by the same things that Grey is focused on (while also drawn to them). Rune is totally unprepared to accept that the supernatural is anything but wild fiction until she’s attacked by goblins and rescued by a large blue man (the aforementioned Tate). Which really can only make her a believer—or drive her to some sort of psychotic break. Thankfully, she goes with the former. Tate brings Rune and Grey into Eon and sets before them the calling of Venator.

To oversimplify things: from here out, the two are introduced to this world, the beings that populate it, the political realities that govern it (and see them only as pawns), and they begin to embrace their new identities, while engaging in a brief battle or two. While Rune and Grey are introduced to all this, so is the reader—and it’s clearly the point of this book—to bring the reader and these two into Eon, give us all a taste of what’s to come and help us get to know the players. There is a clear plotline and definite story here—don’t get me wrong—but the major function is to provide a foundation for things to come.

The book would have to be a lot longer to serve as anything other than an introduction—the ruling council alone is made up of enough characters we’d need a few more chapters to really get to know them and their goals—although they can be summed up in lust for power and influence for themselves and their race to the possible detriment of every other council member/race. Then you throw in Tate; his allies (however temporary) the vampire Veridia and the shapeshifter Beltran; the two humans; and the council’s enemy, Zio—and really, you’ve got enough players that you really can only skim the surface within 354 pages.

We get to know Grey and Rune enough to see they’re well-developed and three-dimensional, and many of the rest show signs of being that developed, but we don’t get to see that fully displayed—but we see enough to know that given the opportunity, the characters will be easily fleshed out. One thing I noted in particular while reading this is just how many seeds Walls planted in the characters and situations to come back to in future installments. This foundation is built in such a way that several books can be built on it—it’s really impressive to note.

Yes, this is written for the YA market, so there’s a bit more action than others might use. There’s a focus on certain kinds of emotional beats, and that sort of thing. But it’s more of an accent to the storytelling than other writers would’ve made it. For some reason, Mercedes Lackey’s Hunter series and Brandon Mull’s Beyonders Trilogy come to mind as I think about similar series—but the YA-ness of both of those comes through more strongly than it does with this book.

So, how does this translate into audio? Very well. I’ll admit that it took me a while to get into May’s narration. For some reason, I’d expected a female narrator—someone like Kathleen McInerney, Khristine Hvam, or Lorelei King—so May threw me a little. Which isn’t a reflection on him, just on my preconceived notions. And I thought the initial chapters were a little rough—it seems like it took him a bit to “get into” the bok. But I think that’s a characteristic of the novel itself, it doesn’t really take off until the humans leave Earth.

Once there, the book—and the narration—settle in. The Venators find a sense of calm on Eon that they’ve been denied on Earth, and it’s May captures that—but what really sealed the deal for me was his portrayal of the vampire Verida—it sounded like he had extra long teeth that he had to talk through. From there, it was smooth sailing. Tashara and Beltran were a couple of the other highlights—most of the Council were captured well, also. I’m not suggesting that he didn’t do a fine job with Tate, Grey or Rune—it’s just those others seemed a bit more interesting (and Tate’s accent seemed to wander around awhile before becoming consistent).

May narrates with a good energy, a nice pace, and shows the text to be what it is—very approachable. I had no problem sticking with him and didn’t want to speed up the narration or skip ahead or anything else. He captures the tone of the book, the emotions of the moments, and the characters. All in all, it’s exactly what you want in an audiobook.

On this tour, we were encouraged to ask Devri Walls a question as part of our posts, so here’s the one that kept coming to me while I listened: Why are the Venators immune to Vampire Bites, Werewolf Bites, but not at all immune to succubi, incubi, [Book 2 Spoilery things]? I have a theory, but I’d like to hear it from the horse’s mouth (if for no other reason than my theory is probably wrong).

I ended up rating it a little higher this time—I’m not sure if it’s because I’m more familiar with the material so I can appreciate the little things more, if it was May’s narration, me just being in a generous mood, or what. Or it’s just me being inconsistent. Eh, whatever. It’s a fun little story. It is a foundation-setting kind of story, introducing the world, the magic system, the fantasy races, and many characters, so we don’t get too deep with anything. But now that things are established, the path is clear for more subtle, more layered storytelling to come.

In Print (electronic or paper) or on Audiobook, this is a solid YA fantasy that’s sure to please. Go get it for your own enjoyment and so TPTB continue to let her produce these books.


4 Stars

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.


My thanks to The Write Reads for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

Top 5 Saturday: Books Inspired by Mythology


The Top 5 Saturday weekly meme was created by Amanda at Devouring Books.

Rules!

  • Share your top 5 books of the current topic—these can be books that you want to read, have read and loved, have read and hated, you can do it any way you want.
  • Tag the original post (This one!)
  • Tag 5 people (I probably won’t do this bit, play along if you want)

This week’s topic is: Books inspired by Mythology. Which you’d think would be super-easy—and it was fairly easy—but coming up with a fifth took a little more work than I expected.


Bad Blood
by
Lucienne Diver

An Urban Fantasy featuring a strong, snarky, female PI who doesn’t believe the family legend that she’s descended from Pan and Medusa. But when Apollo himself shows up to hire her, she starts to come around . . . I admit I don’t remember a lot of this (I read it 7 years ago), but it was one of the first I thought of when I decided to do this list and I do keep asking myself why I never got around to reading the rest of the series.


American Gods
by
Neil Gaiman

Honestly, not my favorite Gaiman (maybe on a second read that’d change). But man, there are passages in this book that are pure magic. Epic in scope, but filled with fantastic characters, and Gaiman’s prose, you can absolutely understand why it’s beloved and so widely-read.


The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
by
Douglas Adams

Unless I read something I cannot recall, this was the first book I read that made use of mythological characters in a contemporary setting. I absolutely loved the idea and wondered why more people didn’t do that. Clearly, they do (just see the rest of this post and the others posting on this theme today), but at the ripe old age of 15, it was revolutionary to me. Odin, Thor, Loki and a few other Norse dignitaries are flitting about London and the area, inflicting damage, killing innocents, and driving nursing home staff crazy. Throw in Dirk Gently and Adams at his best and you have a killer read.


Hunted
by
Kevin Hearne

Members of five (I think) pantheons show up in this book—in what’s probably Hearne’s finest use of them all. A good story for Atticus, Oberon, and Granuaile (Oberon has his best dramatic moment, as I recall) aside from that, but a great way of blending the various pantheons into the Iron Druid’s world. One of my Top 2 in the series.


The Lightning Thief
by
Rick Riordan

How can you have a list like this and not include this book (or one of the legion it spawned)? The book that started a craze and gave Riordan the ability to quit teaching. This set the template for all of Riordan’s myth-inspired books (be it Greek, Roman, Egyptian or Norse mythology) and is just fun (unlike some of the latter books which got a bit preachy and tedious). It’s not quite Potter-level of fame/influence, but it’s the closest we have in the States, a nice collection of kids, a creative way of brining myths to the 21st Century, and a rollicking good time.

Highfire by Eoin Colfer: Enter the Dragon (the Drunken, Netflix-binging, Lousiana Swamp-Dwelling, Crotchety one)

Highfire

Highfire

by Eoin Colfer

Hardcover, 373 pg.
Harper Perennial, 2020

Read: February 18-24, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

He knows where I live. And Momma, too.

Squib was marked and he knew it.

I gotta sort this out, he thought. I gotta get out from under that dragon.

Which is not a problem most people have to solve in their lifetimes. In general, most folk who get to meet a dragon only get to think about it that one time for about five seconds.

Here’s the punchline: I’m not sure I’ve read another book this year that was this much fun. It’s a great mix of comedy and action, with just a smidgen of heart. But best of all, it’s got a dragon. A fantastic dragon character. Sure, it’s been less than 2 months, so that compliment rings a bit hollow. Let me try again: pound-for-pound, this is one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in the last two years.

Vern (short for Wyvern) isn’t your typical dragon. In fiction, dragons tend to be old, wise creatures that act as sages who occasionally light something/someone on fire. Or they’re incredibly violent, greedy things (frequently incapable of thought). Not Vern. He’s over three thousand years old and has lived all over the world. He’s on the small side (relative to dragons, not humans), and is a little sensitive about it—and fictional depictions of dragons. When he’s asked about, for example, Game of Thrones, he responds:

Game of Thrones? Are you tryin to push my buttons, kid Game of [expletive] Thrones! Those dragons are like servants—you see me doing any [expletive] mother of dragon’s bidding? I’d never serve humans!…[Expletive] lapdog CGI [expletive] fire lizards. Heap of [expletive]”

Most of Vern’s time is taken up by avoiding detection by humans, hanging out in a swamp near New Orleans, drinking Vodka and watching a lot of Netflix. He’s doing a Keto diet, loves Flashdance and the music of Linda Ronstadt. Like I said, not your typical dragon.

It’s not a great life, but it’s a safe one. Up until the day a fifteen-year-old known as Squib stumbles onto Vern’s existence while trying to avoid the local constable (who Squib just observed doing something very illegal).

Through some bad timing and a real sign of guts by Squib, Vern doesn’t kill him immediately. He eventually will bring Squib on as his go-between to the outside world. He’ll primarily be responsible for providing things that Vern can’t get— booze, food, etc. From this, a friendship of sorts develops between the two.

Which is great, because Squib needs a friend like Vern. You see, the constable has figured out that it was very likely Squib who witnessed his criminal act on the swamp, and now he hs to get ride of the boy before he finds a more honest legal authority to spill his guts to. While he’s at it, he’ll use Vern to advance his criminal career.

These two are going to have to lean on each other pretty hard if they’re going to get out of this okay.

That’s pretty much all you need to know.

I should talk a little about Squib (and his mother), but I’m not going to—he’s a fun character, but I want to focus on Vern.

In general, Highfire focuses on the biology, the history, and the life of dragons and those associated with them. In particular, it focuses on Vern’s his fire. Typically, I don’t remember getting a whole lot of information about a dragon’s fire. Colfer gives us a pretty thorough description of where it comes from, how a dragon can produce it, how it’s unlike the fire that humans are accustomed to, and so on. For example:

My fire don’t burn slow. No one ever got mildly scalded from dragon flame.

“Fulminated” was the word, or used to be.

A few pages later, he gets into a great description of how Vern lights his breath, and eventually, he’ll describe the effect that it has. We don’t get a lot about his flying ability (Vern doesn’t really get it either, beyond that the practical).

There are two action scenes in this book—they are both fan=fracking-tastic. It’s been months since I’ve read a fight/battle/action scene that grabbed me the way these did (pre-the last Lee Child, possibly the last two). The pacing, the detail . . . everything is just what you might hope it would be. The book is worth the time just for those two scenes.

There’s a great reference to Pete’s Dragon, The Princess Bride, and others. Vern’s a veritable font of pop culture references. Vern may be a crotchety old guy, he’s a great character. I really enjoyed that about him. There’s something to at least grin about on practically every page. Between the voice, the comedy and the great action scenes? This is a must-read for dragon friends (or just about anyone else).

Now, Colfer has written a few other Adult novels—I’ve read three of them. Plugged and Screwed share a similar voice (but are heavier on the violence), And Another Thing… couldn’t be more different, but he was playing in Adams’s sandbox with that one. But for people who’ve read his adult work, you’ll appreciate this if you don’t mind a dash of fantasy. If you’ve read this and liked it–and you don’t mind the lack of fantasy–get on his other adult work. I wouldn’t say that Highfire is appropriate for most of Colfer’s younger readers, but a mature teen reader could handle it as long as he realizes this isn’t going to be along the lines of the Artemis Fowl books.


4 1/2 Stars

2020 Library Love Challenge

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

The Gene Wizards by Clare Blanchard: A brief, humor-filled, Fantasy that’ll make you think.


The Gene Wizards

The Gene Wizards

by Clare BlanchardSeries: Wizards Series, #2

Kindle Edition, 155 pg.
CB Books, 2019

Read: February 17, 2019

I’m having a hard time deciding what to put here—everything that I think about writing seems like a bit too much information. But I need to put something here or this Tour Stop will seem pointless.

So what can I say?

This is a strange overlap of SF, Fantasy, mythology/theology, and literary criticism. Throw in some laughter that goes along with 20-somethings and responsibility and I will.

The tone is more humor-filled than the first in the series (you aren’t required to read both to get it) Some of it is plain silly (there’s an initial burst of goofiness with name-based humor that disappears quickly, leaving only a handful of silly names), some is more advanced—all of it seems fitting. I know the initial novel attempted some comedic moments, but Blanchard is more successful here.

My complaint would be that there’s too much space devoted to and not enough to the plot/character development. A group of characters is focused on story (to be as vague as possible), and members of that group (and or prospective members) spend an awful lot of time talking about some stories and their place in contemporary thoughts. Both the Bible and the Western Canon are discussed here—sometimes provocatively, sometimes error-filled (sometimes both), occasionally offensive, never dull. Although I can’t help but think that we get too much of it and not enough plot.

After an initial bit of setup, it feels like the plot is then put on hold for quite a while before things shift to finishing the story. Not only does it feel like we spend too much time with the story-discussion (see last paragraph), it feels like we don’t get enough time with the plot of this novel. Without having the time to carefully look through things I’d roughly guess less than 50% of the novel is devoted to the plot (and even if I’m wrong when it comes to actual word count, that it leaves that impression says a lot). Which is a shame, because it’s more entertaining than the first novel in this series.

Thought-provoking, with a good bit of entertaining plot, a strong dose of humor, and a definite improvement over its predecessor. The Gene Wizards is a Fantasy novel unlike any you’ve read.

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.