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.

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: The Gene Wizards by Clare Blanchard

Today is my day for the Book Tour for The Gene Wizards by Clare Blanchard, the follow up to Wizard Ring (that I talked about a month ago). Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit. But let’s start by learning a little about this here book, okay?


Book Details:

Book Title: The Gene Wizards (Wizards Series #2) by Clare Blanchard
Publisher: CB Books
Release date: September 18, 2019
Format: Ebook
Length: 155 pages

Book Blurb:

It’s bad enough you’re from a family of rich bankers, without having to deal with secret genetic engineering factories in the Dakotas.

Especially when you wake up one morning after a tab of E and find you’re thinking in Hebrew.

Follow the adventures of the Vanpyre family as they wrestle with the Dark Side of money and power.

Brilliant, strange, and fantastic

“Deep…”; “Laugh out loud funny…..”

If you enjoy more experimental writing styles and brilliant writing …then this is the book for you.” 5 out of 5 stars, by J.S. Menefee, author of the Rephaim: Bloodlines series

 

About Clare Blanchard:

 Clare BlanchardOriginally from the North Yorkshire coast in England, Clare Blanchard spent half her lifetime in Czechia in Central Europe, where her books are mainly set. Inspired by noir fiction, her settings are often like another character in the plot. She writes crime mysteries and dark urban fantasy with a historical twist.

Clare loves beautiful landscapes and architecture, cross-country skiing, the wine of South Moravia, and of course Czech beer. When she’s not being literary she knits funky socks.

Social Networks:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website ~ Instagram

Purchase Links:

Scribd ~ Kobo ~ Nook
The Gene Wizards will be reduced in price from $2.99 to $0.99 until 1st March 2020.

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.

Wizard Ring by Clare Blanchard: A Subtle Take on Contemporary Fantasy

Wizard Ring

Wizard Ring

by Clare BlanchardSeries: Wizards Series, #1

Kindle Edition, 284 pg.
2019

Read: January 17-20, 2019

“You mean evil spirits, black magic, that sort of thing?” Sylvia asked. As can happen when unexpected doors are opened in the mind by experiences one lacks the vocabulary for, Sylvia found herself both believing and not believing what her mother was saying to her. She felt in her gut that it was the truth, but her rational mind was doggedly resisting it.

Sylvia is a Religious Studies teacher at a prestigious school (that is in danger of losing its luster), a single mother to a teenage son, the daughter of a fun character with a mysterious past and the possessor of a ring made by a legendary British alchemist. The book chronicles Sylvia’s exploration of the ring’s history and abilities while she tries to find stability in her teaching career, particularly in her new position.

I really appreciated the relationship between Rusty (her son) and Svetlana (her mother), and think it’s probably the strongest part of the novel. I’m not sure all their comedic antics were worth the time (or, at least I’m not sure they were that comedic), but their presence added a lot to this.

You could be forgiven if you walked away from this book thinking it was about the trials and travails of a decent woman (and some allies) working for a lazy, corrupt, and dictatorial school administration. At various times, the school storylines reminded me of recent works by Lisa Lutz, Richard Russo, I. M. Nemo, and Paul Goldstein. And had that been the sum of what this book is about, with a little bit of a family story on the side, I’d have very likely been satisfied (and it wouldn’t take much to edit the fantasy elements out of the book to give us this).

That’s because Blanchard brings the fantasy elements into this novel with a subtle, delicate touch—so subtle it’d be easy to miss at times. I’m honestly torn about this—on the one hand, I really appreciate this move. Its incumbent on the reader to decide, is there magic at work, or should our “rational minds…doggedly resist…” the idea? On the other hand, there’s part of me that thinks if I’m reading a book where magic happens, I shouldn’t have to wonder if I just read about it.

If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t have thought that the author of The Tainted Vintage wrote this, the voices are so distinct. Wizard Ring is told in a rambling, circuitous style that will probably appeal to many readers who will find it charming and chatty (although I found it frequently frustrating and occasionally redundant).

At the end of the day, your appreciation for this book is going to come down to what you think of Blanchard’s approach to the magic involved—if you find the subtlety and hints appealing, you’ll likely enjoy this singular take on fantasy in a contemporary setting.

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.

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Wizard Ring by Clare Blanchard

Today I welcome the Book Tour for Wizard Ring by Clare Blanchard. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit. But let’s start by learning a little about this here book, okay?


Book Details:

Book Title: Wizard Ring by Clare Blanchard
Release date: August 24, 2019
Format: Ebook
Length: 284 pages

Book Blurb:

I knew nothing about the alchemist John Dee until one winter’s night in Prague when I met the ghost of a barber.

My name is Sylvia. I was just a burnt-out teacher with a subversive sense of humour. Then my mother gave me a magic ring made in the Prague workshop of John Dee.

I’ve never been the same since.

About Clare Blanchard:

 Clare BlanchardOriginally from the North Yorkshire coast in England, Clare Blanchard spent half her lifetime in Czechia in Central Europe, where her books are mainly set. Inspired by noir fiction, her settings are often like another character in the plot. She writes crime mysteries and dark urban fantasy with a historical twist.

Clare loves beautiful landscapes and architecture, cross-country skiing, the wine of South Moravia, and of course Czech beer. When she’s not being literary she knits funky socks.

Social Networks:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website ~ Instagram

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK ~ Amazon US ~ Kobo ~ Nook

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.

Fahrenbruary Repost: The Tainted Vintage by Clare Blanchard: A Promising Introduction to a series about crime fighting in the Czech Republic


The Tainted VintageThe Tainted Vintage

by Clare Blanchard
Series: Dvorska & Dambersky, #1

Kindle Edition, 159 pg.
Fahrenheit Press, 2018
Read: September 11, 2018
In the first chapter, we’re treated to a better synopsis than I could cook up, so let me just borrow it. One night in the little town of Vinice, in the Czech Republic, the mayor dies during his birthday party:

Dvorska was sure that she and Ivan had been sent there for the sake of appearances, because a dead mayor was by definition high profile, and of course because no-one else wanted to touch it. She wondered why they had been called out at all, so soon. The fat feminist and the misogynist – what a team. And of course Dambo, as the senior of the two, would call the shots, so her hands would be tied. Perfect. The sudden death of a rich and powerful local figure was hardly a magnet for rising-star detectives.

Dvorska picks up a clue or two that convinces her — and then Dambersky — that this death was not due to natural causes. The Powers That Be don’t want to hear such a thing, and rule otherwise. So this very unlikely duo has to embark on an unauthorized investigation — not just unauthorized, but prohibited — into the murder.

Finding the murderer of a man who died of natural causes isn’t the easiest thing to accomplish, obviously — it’s hard to ask too many questions without a “Hey, he wasn’t murdered, why are you asking?” coming up. So the partners have to be wily — not just with their superior officer, but with witnesses, possible suspects, and everyone else they encounter.

The investigation takes them to various cities, a variety of social classes, and even ends up giving them a few history lessons. The mayor’s home has ties to significant (at least to Vinice) historical movements, going back to World War II, the Communist takeover, and then once the Republic took over. This really helps the reader — particularly the reader who knows almost nothing about the Czech Republic — find themselves, not only in the geography but the history (cultural and otherwise). obviously, I’m no expert on the Czech Republic,, but I can understand a little more than I used to. Just the first couple of usages of “Perv” to indicate an illegal drug threw me — but between the narrator finally calling it Pervityn and a search engine, I got a little lesson in drugs during WWII.

It doesn’t take long for the book to try to get the reader on the side of these two characters — maybe there’s more to them than the “fat feminist and the misogynist.” I really found myself enjoying them as people, not just as detectives. We spend — for reasons that will become clear when you read this — more time with Dvorska than her partner, and she is a charming, dedicated detective, fully aware of her limitations and sure how to overcome them.

The writing was good but I thought it could be sharper — there’s an odd word choice or two (early on, the detectives start talking about the mayor’s death being an execution, not a murder); there’s a lot of recapping/rehashing something that was just done/considered/decided a page or two earlier — the kind of thing that makes sense for serialized novels, but this doesn’t appear to be on. Still, the voice is engaging, as is the story — and you get caught up enough in it that you can easily ignore a few things that’d normally bug you.

I was caught totally off-guard by the ending. I didn’t expect that to happen at all — my notes toward the end feature short words like “what” and”why?” But primarily my notes consist of question marks, exclamation points, and combinations thereof. This is a great sign for mystery and thriller novels. Blanchard did a great job setting things up so that there’s a dramatic reveal and one that isn’t seen chapters away. I do think some more ground work could have been laid early on so that it didn’t seem quite so out of nowhere. But it was effective enough, that I really don’t want to complain about it.

This is a pleasant read — it’s close enough to being a cozy that I could recommend it to friends who predominately read those, and twisted enough that those with more grizzled tastes can sink their teeth into it, too. The characters are winning, charming and the kind that you want to spend time with. It’s a good introduction to a series exotic enough for most English readers to feel “alien” and yet full of enough things so you don’t feel cut off from what you know. There are obviously future cases for these two in the works, and I plan on getting my hands on them when I can.

—–

3 Stars

The Tainted Vintage by Clare Blanchard: A Promising Introduction to a series about crime fighting in the Czech Republic


The Tainted VintageThe Tainted Vintage

by Clare Blanchard
Series: Dvorska & Dambersky, #1

Kindle Edition, 159 pg.
Fahrenheit Press, 2018
Read: September 11, 2018

In the first chapter, we’re treated to a better synopsis than I could cook up, so let me just borrow it. One night in the little town of Vinice, in the Czech Republic, the mayor dies during his birthday party:

Dvorska was sure that she and Ivan had been sent there for the sake of appearances, because a dead mayor was by definition high profile, and of course because no-one else wanted to touch it. She wondered why they had been called out at all, so soon. The fat feminist and the misogynist – what a team. And of course Dambo, as the senior of the two, would call the shots, so her hands would be tied. Perfect. The sudden death of a rich and powerful local figure was hardly a magnet for rising-star detectives.

Dvorska picks up a clue or two that convinces her — and then Dambersky — that this death was not due to natural causes. The Powers That Be don’t want to hear such a thing, and rule otherwise. So this very unlikely duo has to embark on an unauthorized investigation — not just unauthorized, but prohibited — into the murder.

Finding the murderer of a man who died of natural causes isn’t the easiest thing to accomplish, obviously — it’s hard to ask too many questions without a “Hey, he wasn’t murdered, why are you asking?” coming up. So the partners have to be wily — not just with their superior officer, but with witnesses, possible suspects, and everyone else they encounter.

The investigation takes them to various cities, a variety of social classes, and even ends up giving them a few history lessons. The mayor’s home has ties to significant (at least to Vinice) historical movements, going back to World War II, the Communist takeover, and then once the Republic took over. This really helps the reader — particularly the reader who knows almost nothing about the Czech Republic — find themselves, not only in the geography but the history (cultural and otherwise). obviously, I’m no expert on the Czech Republic,, but I can understand a little more than I used to. Just the first couple of usages of “Perv” to indicate an illegal drug threw me — but between the narrator finally calling it Pervityn and a search engine, I got a little lesson in drugs during WWII.

It doesn’t take long for the book to try to get the reader on the side of these two characters — maybe there’s more to them than the “fat feminist and the misogynist.” I really found myself enjoying them as people, not just as detectives. We spend — for reasons that will become clear when you read this — more time with Dvorska than her partner, and she is a charming, dedicated detective, fully aware of her limitations and sure how to overcome them.

The writing was good but I thought it could be sharper — there’s an odd word choice or two (early on, the detectives start talking about the mayor’s death being an execution, not a murder); there’s a lot of recapping/rehashing something that was just done/considered/decided a page or two earlier — the kind of thing that makes sense for serialized novels, but this doesn’t appear to be on. Still, the voice is engaging, as is the story — and you get caught up enough in it that you can easily ignore a few things that’d normally bug you.

I was caught totally off-guard by the ending. I didn’t expect that to happen at all — my notes toward the end feature short words like “what” and”why?” But primarily my notes consist of question marks, exclamation points, and combinations thereof. This is a great sign for mystery and thriller novels. Blanchard did a great job setting things up so that there’s a dramatic reveal and one that isn’t seen chapters away. I do think some more ground work could have been laid early on so that it didn’t seem quite so out of nowhere. But it was effective enough, that I really don’t want to complain about it.

This is a pleasant read — it’s close enough to being a cozy that I could recommend it to friends who predominately read those, and twisted enough that those with more grizzled tastes can sink their teeth into it, too. The characters are winning, charming and the kind that you want to spend time with. It’s a good introduction to a series exotic enough for most English readers to feel “alien” and yet full of enough things so you don’t feel cut off from what you know. There are obviously future cases for these two in the works, and I plan on getting my hands on them when I can.

—–

3 Stars

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: The Tainted Vintage by Clare Blanchard

Today I welcome the Book Tour for The Tainted Vintage by Clare Blanchard, which adds a little international flavor to my typical fare. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit.

Book Details:

Book Title: The Tainted Vintage by Clare Blanchard
Publisher: Fahrenheit Press
Release date: July 7, 2018
Format: Paperback/ebook
Length: 159 pages

Book Blurb:

In the small Czech town of Vinice the mayor has been found dead in his wine cellar.

Detectives Jana Dvorska and Ivan Dambersky are called to the scene and soon realise that despite appearances, Mayor Slansky’s death was most definitely not from natural causes.

Almost immediately, the close-knit community closes ranks to try and brush the unexplained death under the carpet with the minimum of fuss.

Dvorska & Dambersky are drawn deeper and deeper into secrets that many hoped would remain buried forever and they’re forced into pursuing an investigation where their own lives are put in danger.

The Tainted Vintage is the first book in a wonderful new series set in and around The Czech Republic, an area rich in history, literature and culture that still remains largely unexplored by contemporary crime fiction fans.

About Clare Blanchard:

Clare BlanchardOriginally from the North Yorkshire coast in England, Clare Blanchard spent half her lifetime in the Czech Republic, where her books are mainly set. Inspired by Nordic noir, where the settings are often like another character in the plot, she writes crime mysteries and other fiction, usually with a historical twist. She loves beautiful landscapes and architecture, cross-country skiing, the wine of South Moravia, and of course Czech beer. When she’s not being literary she knits funky socks.

Clare Blanchard’s Social Media Links:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CBcrime
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ClareBlanchardBooks/
Website: https://www.clareblanchard.com/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Clare+Blanchard&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Clare+Blanchard&sort=relevancerank

Purchase Links for The Tainted Vintage:
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tainted-Vintage-Dvorska-Dambersky-Book-ebook/dp/B07FC1MM58/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1534608727&sr=1-1
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Tainted-Vintage-Dvorska-Dambersky-Book-ebook/dp/B07FC1MM58/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1534608804&sr=8-1&keywords=the+tainted+vintage
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/search?Query=the+tainted+vintage
Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-tainted-vintage-clare-blanchard/1125886642?ean=2940154344606
Fahrenheit Press” http://www.fahrenheit-press.com/books_the_tainted_vintage.html


My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.