Saturday, 28 November 2020

A Poison Tree - J.E. Mayhew - DCI Will Blake Book 1.0

A Poison Tree 
DCI Will Blake Book 1.0
Obolus Books
Zertex Crime
ISBN 9781999840747

This is the third DCI William Blake story I have read and the fourth book by J.E. Mayhew. I have been jumping around a bit. I started with book 2 in this series, then the prequel, and then back to this story. There was some information I knew that if this was your first story, you would not be privy to. But even so each of the stories is strong enough to be read on its own. But I am jumping around again here in the review. Let us ask ‘where to begin’. I am sure that is a question many authors start with, but it is seldom one I start with when reviewing a book. But in this case, I find I must. This series was recommended to me by Alex Smith, author of the DCI Kett books. I had read all the Kett books and was awaiting the next Softley Softley book when Smith mentioned book two in this series, Fearful Symmetry, and gave it a plug. After reading that volume I discovered that the author publishes under two names, much like Smith. One for Adult crime novels, J.E. Mayhew and another for Young Adult and younger readers, Jon Mayhew. And I have now read books under both names. I was glad I gave it a try and after reading 3 of the 5 stories know I will read this series as long as new books are published in it. These books are not as gritty and do not pack as much punch as the Kett novels, but they are still great British crime procedural stories. When I reviewed a Kett story I stated I could see Jamie Bamber as DCI Kett, and while reading this I could not help but picture Karl Urban as DCI Will Blake. Let’s now return our focus to this specific book.

This is book 1 in a series that currently consists of 4 novels and a prequel novella. These stories are tightly packed. This one begins on Wednesday October 23rd and concludes on Thursday October 31st. Or at least that is the last date given in the story. The final chapter is 3 days later after Blake has a hospital stay. 

In this story events from the past come back to haunt. They haunt not only the man who first realizes, but the whole area. DCI Will Blake is on a case. And he is exploring options for his missing mothers’ cat. He is tired and drawn out. But he is also determined to get to the bottom of a case. A dark tale of family and deception. Blake does not have a lot of time, and the events race towards events you will never see coming. 

As the first book in this series and the first crime lit from J.E. Mayhew it is an impressive story. It really draws you in and keeps your attention. The pace is excellent. And the story well crafted. If you like crime procedural novels I am certain you will like enjoy this book and series!

Another great read from J.E Mahew!

Books as J.E. Mayhew:
DCI William Blake Series:
3.0 The Bones of the Dead
4.0 Cruelty Has A Human Heart

Books as Jon Mayhew:
Death Road
The Spybrarian
Have a Go

Monster Odyssey Series:
1.0 The Eye of Neptune
2.0 The Wrath of the Lizard Lord
3.0 The Curse of the Ice Serpent
4.0 The Venom of the Scorpion

Mortlock Series:
1.0 Mortlock
2.0 The Demon Collector
3.0 The Bonehill Curse

Collins Big Cat Series:
The Merchant of Venice: Band 16/Sapphire
Hamlet: Band 18/Pearl
Romeo and Juliet: Band 18/Pearl
Macbeth: Band 18/Pearl

Contributed to:
Beyond the Book: A Collection of Short Stories
Storycraft: How To Teach Creative Writing

Friday, 27 November 2020

Prayer of the Day Prayer for the Courage to be Great

Prayer for the Courage to be Great

Heavenly Father, 
Give me the courage to strive for the highest goals, 
to flee every temptation to be mediocre. 
Enable me to aspire to greatness, as Pier Giorgio did, 
and to open my heart with joy to Your call to holiness. 
Free me from the fear of failure. 
I want to be, Lord, firmly and forever united to You. 
Grant me the graces I ask You through Pier Giorgio's intercession, 
by the merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Note: This prayer came from the Hozana Prayer group dedicated to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.

Thursday, 26 November 2020

The Sentinel - Lee and Andrew Child - Jack Reacher Book 25

The Sentinel
Jack Reacher Book 25
Lee Child
Andrew Child (Andrew Grant)
Penguin Random House Canada
ISBN 9780593295144
eISBN 9781984818478

Last year I read the 24 previous Jack Reacher novels, and also the Jack Reacher short stories, novellas and crossovers. In fact, I had to make sure I read other books in between. So it was a long wait of almost a year for this volume to be released. And then this one ended up being something very different. It appears that Lee Child is passing the Reacher baton to his younger brother. Lee is 14 years Andre’s senior. And Andrew is a well-respected author in his own under his name Andrew Grant. This one is in some ways different and in others very much like a Reacher novel. This story does not give any real indication where it falls in the Reacher story arc. Some novels give a clear indication of which came before or which came after. But this one seems to float out there alone. 

In some ways this story feels like Persuader, Reacher is in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is a long preamble set in Nashville. The Nashville incident could make an interesting story in and off itself. But Reacher leaves town and ends up on the hunt for coffee. He witnesses what he recognizes as a set up for an obduction. And that the intended victim is completely oblivious. Reacher sticking to his moral code steps in and turns events around. And soon he finds himself in a strange situation. Trying to protect a computer geek. Deal with an undercover agent. Determine who is really the bad guys and what they are really after. All in a town that has all it’s computer systems locked down with ransom ware. And everyone in town thinking the guy Reacher saved is if not at fault directly responsible for the situation the town is in. There are also implications about the security of elections. 

And of course the novel released just weeks before the US general election in 2020. The story moved along at a brisk pace. I could not tell which parts were written by Lee and which by Andrew. The story flowed well. Some interesting twists. And some history lessons. Overall a very good read. 

On a side note I can’t wait to see what Diane Capri does in her Hunt for Reacher series. How will Otto and Gaspar debrief the characters from this story. 

The Reacher novels were originally great reads during my commute to work. They were excellent for my ride on the bus. But since it is 2020 and I now work full time from home, this story was read on a day off, over a few mugs of coffee, in part sitting on the porch in the sun on an unusually warm fall day. The Reacher novels are entertaining, usually fast paced and always interesting. This is a good read in a great series, and one of my favorites. I look forward to what the brothers will come up with together next, or what direction Andrew will take the character.  

Books by Lee Child:
Jack Reacher Books Publishing Order:

Killing Floor
Die Trying
The Visitor /Running Blind
Echo Burning
Without Fail
The Enemy
One Shot
The Hard Way
Bad Luck and Trouble
Nothing to Lose
Gone Tomorrow
61 Hours
Worth Dying For
The Affair
A Wanted Man
Never Go Back
Make Me
Night School
The Midnight Line
Past Tense
Blue Moon

The Sentinel

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Unstable Felicity - Cat Hodge - A Christmas Novella

Unstable Felicity
A Christmas Novella
Cat Hodge
ISBN 9781735851303

I picked this book up on a recommendation. I must admit the story took my by surprise. In many ways while reading it, it reminded me of If You Can Get It by Brendan Hodge. Who happens to be the authors’ husband. And it seems to be a family of authors as the authors sister-in-law is Rosamund Hodge, whose Bright Smoke, Cold Fire is already in ‘my to be read pile’. But as mentioned the story took me by surprise. This is a wonderful novella. The beginning of the description of the novel starts with:

“Home is the last place Jill O'Leary wants to be for the holidays, but that's exactly where she's going.”

And I am sure many of us can relate to that sentiment. Prior to my own marriage I only returned home every other year for Christmas. A little family time can often go a long way. And for Jill she has spent years avoiding the family, the family home, and the family business all in an attempt to get away from her controlling unstable mother. But duty has guilted her into a trip home over the holidays. He mother Regina needs her home to straighten out the books to save the family business, and sort out her late fathers investments. 

But what will happen to Jill a high-power accountant from LA back in small town Ohio. Soon she in entangled in family business, Christmas parade, baking, white elephant gift exchange and more. Confrontations with an ex-boyfriend, a tall dark stranger. And help from an unexpected quarter. Just when Jill thinks things cannot get any worse, they do. Time and time again. And it all comes to a head on a story Christmas eve. 

The characters are well written. The story has a few surprising twists. The prose is well written and it kept me reading. I could hardly put it down. It is a quick read but honestly, one that will leave you thinking. The book is at times funny and at times it has penetrating insight into the human condition. A story both dark and funny. A story of dysfunction and healing in mixed parts.  It was a great read and I know I will pick up anything else Hodge publishes. 

A great read for a quiet afternoon with a large cup of coffee or tea.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2020 Catholic Reading Plan

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

The Final Boss - Dustin Brady - Trapped in a Video Game Book 5

The Final Boss
Trapped in a Video Game Book 5
Dustin Brady
Jesse Brady (Illustrator)
Andrews McMeel Publishing
ISBN 9781449495732
eISBN 9781524852238

The end of the line! This story and series has run it’s course. Dustin Brady has wrapped it up in this fifth and final book. And what a fitting title for a series of books about video games. These books were an interesting exploration of video games, fads, trends, and styles of play. There was also a volume that focused on retro style games and game play. And yet the books were great fun to read. My son read the 5 of them to me over a few months. We had picked up the first book in this series, Trapped in a Video Game, after my son started reading it with his cousins. They read every night before bed and he was hooked after the first few chapters. We picked up the eBook as soon as we were home, and my son devoured it. And now we have finished the whole serries. It has left my son at a bit of a loss for what to read next. And I have a feeling we might end up returning to this series soon and rereading it. 

This is the fifth and final installment in this series. And there has been no indications that the series will expand beyond the five books, unlike Adam’s Hitchhiker Trilogy.  We were late to the game, in that the whole series has already been released before we started it. That just meant we can read them all back to back. Without having to wait for the next volume to release. 

This is a story about friendship, about video games, and about survival. In this one the video game elements have changed. The friends have been sucked back into a computer world, the Rubenverse, and it is truly a battle of life and death for all humans. That is a lot to put on some young guys shoulders. And soon the two are fighting their way through world after world. Some fun and some very much not so. They must learn and adapt in each new environment. And soon the two are at odds with each other about how to proceed. And there might be a very high price to pay for their conflict. Can friendship survive when you are trying to do whatever it takes to win.

The story draws you in and really keeps your attention. It is interesting seeing the mix of cutting-edge technology and how both kids and adults interact with it. The story is very well written. The characters after 4 stories is like visiting old friends. And it ends with a surprising twist after finally meeting the real Final Boss and not just holograms of him.

It is a great read in an excellent conclusion to the series. Our family gives it top marks and highly recommends the whole series!

Books by Dustin Brady:
Superhero for a Day

Trapped in a Video Game Series:
Trapped in a Video Game
The Invisible Invasion
Robots Revolt
Return to Doom Island
The Final Boss

Leila & Nugget Series:
Who Stole Mr. T?
Bark at the Park
The Case with no Clues

Life Lessons Series:
A Marathon Is Really Long When You Have to Pee
Black Friday Is for Suckers
Dogs Ain't Dumb
How to Tell Off a Telemarketer

Escape from a Video Game Series:
The Secret of Phantom Island