A Kingdom’s Cost by J.R. Tomlin

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Title: A Kingdom’s Cost
Series: The Black Douglas Trilogy
Author: J.R. Tomlin
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: 2011
Format Read: Kindle
Pages: 262
Rating:

3feathers

“Back of Book” Summary:

Scotland is occupied; Scottish resistance is crushed. Eighteen-year-old James Douglas can only watch as the Scottish freedom fighter, William Wallace, is hanged, drawn, and quartered. But even under the heel of a brutal English conqueror, the Scots may still have one hope for freedom: the rightful King of the Scots, Robert the Bruce. James swears fealty to the man he believes can lead the fight against English tyranny.

The Bruce is soon a fugitive, king only in name. The woman James loves is captured and imprisoned. Yet James believes their cause is not lost. He blazes a path in blood and violence, cunning and ruthlessness as he leads a guerrilla war to restore Scotland’s freedom. James knows if he is captured he will share Wallace’s fate, but what he truly fears is that he has become as merciless as the conqueror he fights.

My Review:

A nation that fights for its very existence doesn’t have the luxury of chivalry.

This turbulent period of time in Scotland’s history has been used for some great historical fiction. A Kingdom’s Cost had potential to be really great. The story of James Douglas and Robert de Bruce is attention-grabbing and entertaining. There are many scenes in which I cringed from the depictions of blood and guts in battle. There are horribly tragic and upsetting scenes such as the death of James’ dog in France and having to kill the imprisoned Isabella that pulled on my heart-strings. However, ignoring the formatting problems on the edition, the book was in desperate need of an editor. Misspellings, grammar errors, and the repetition of certain words again and again should be corrected.

I understand that this book fits within a trilogy. However, the ending was very unsatisfying. Sometimes books leave off on cliff-hangers, but within a series this would be acceptable and encouraging to the reader to continue onto the next book in the series. This book did not leave off on a cliff-hanger. It built up to a grand battle, and not following with the flow of how the book had been written, ended within a few pages leaving the reader wanting more of a closure. A few more pages, or even just a few more paragraphs, may have made a huge difference in a reader’s overall satisfaction of the book.

The book could be edited, and the ending elaborated a bit, but this is an entertaining book that I would recommend to those interested in this period of history. I am undecided if I will read the remaining books in the series.

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Intensity by Dean Koontz

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Title: Intensity
Series: N/A
Author: Dean Koontz
Genre: Horror
Release Date: 1995
Format Read: Paperback
Pages: 436
Rating: 3feathers

“Back of Book” Summary:

Past midnight, Chyna Shepherd, twenty- six, gazed out a moonlit window, unable to sleep on her first night in the Napa Valley home of her best friend’s family. Instinct proves reliable. A murderous sociopath, Edgler Forman Vess, has entered the house, intent on killing everyone inside. A self-proclaimed “homicidal adventure,” Vess lives only to satisfy all appetites as they arise, to immerse himself in sensation, to live without fear, remorse or limits, to live with intensity. Chyna is trapped in his deadly orbit. Chyna is a survivor, toughened by a lifelong struggle for safety and self-respect. Now she will be tested as never before. At first her sole aim is to get out alive-until, by chance, she learns the identity of Vess’s next intended victim, a faraway innocent only she can save. Driven by a newly discovered thirst for meaning beyond mere self-preservation, Chyna musters every inner resource she has to save an endangered girl–as moment by moment, the terrifying threat Edgler Foreman Vess intensifies.

My Review:

It has been suggested many times over the years that I read a Dean Koontz book. Master of horror he is indeed. Intensity was scary. This book didn’t so much explore the psychology of the killer, but of the victim. The concept of ‘what doesn’t kill you makes your stronger’ is applicable to the main character Chyna Shepherd. The survival tactics learned as a child of an abusive mother were used to keep her alive and even fright back against the psychopath Edgler Foreman Vess.

The story started off fast paced and continued to stay that way throughout the entire book. I think a lot of authors would have dragged some of the scenes out longer. I thought just the opposite of the ending. Once the main characters survived death the book should have ended, and it would have been a great ending. Instead Koontz devoted several pages to making sure the book had a happy ending and so we could feel all warm and fuzzy inside after such a scary story. The ending was awful. The book has 12 chapters, I suggest you only read 11 of them. This is a fantastic horror story that would deserve a 4 Feather rating had the ending not been so horrible. Regardless, I do recommend this book. Intensity is one of the scariest stories I’ve ever read.

Read more Dean Koontz reviews by the Audacious Feather:

Intensity
Relentless
Seize the Night
The Good Guy
Your Heart Belongs to Me

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

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Title: Plain Truth
Series: N/A
Author: Jodi Picoult
Genre: Contemporary Literature
Release Date: 2000
Format Read: Paperback
Pages: 422
Rating: 3feathers

“Back of Book” Summary:

A shocking murder shatters the picturesque calm of Pennsylvania’s Amish country — and tests the heart and soul of the lawyer who steps in to defend the young woman at the center of the storm… Plain Truth The discovery of a dead infant in an Amish barn shakes Lancaster County to its core. But the police investigation leads to a more shocking disclosure: circumstantial evidence suggests that eighteen-year-old Katie Fisher, an unmarried Amish woman believed to be the newborn’s mother, took the child’s life. When Ellie Hathaway, a disillusioned big-city attorney, comes to Paradise, Pennsylvania, to defend Katie, two cultures collide — and, for the first time in her high-profile career, Ellie faces a system of justice very different from her own. Delving deep inside the world of those who live “plain,” Ellie must find a way to reach Katie on her terms. And as she unravels a tangled murder case, Ellie also looks deep within — to confront her own fears and desires when a man from her past reenters her life. Moving seamlessly from psychological drama to courtroom suspense, Plain Truth is a fascinating portrait of Amish life — and a moving exploration of the bonds of love, friendship, and the heart’s most complex choices.

My Review:

I previously reviewed Jodi Picoult’s The Pact which you can read here. I’ve recently read Picoult’s Plain Truth. The two plots are not comparable, but I can say that I enjoyed The Pact much better for the fact that as soon as I finished the book I blurted out “wow.” However, Plain Truth was a good book.

Picoult is a master of drawing the reader in. I also found the story interesting because it takes place where I used to live in central Pennsylvania. An unwed Amish teenager gives birth to a baby alone in a barn. The next day the baby is found dead and the mother is charged with its murder. The story leads the reader through Amish customs and lifestyle to show the affect that this type of pregnancy has on the community. The story was very good, however, the ending was predictable. Although the book doesn’t specifically say, it’s implied that there wasn’t actually a murder and that the baby died of a natural cause, but the person who covered up the death was predictable. I take this into account when comparing it with The Pact which had a very surprising ending.

Although the underlying ghost story running throughout the book is really intriguing to me, it felt out-of-place. Picoult tries to build multidimensional characters and stories, but in Plain Truth the integration of these layers is a bit rough. Nevertheless, if you like Picoult’s style and/or an Amish setting, I would recommend this.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

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Title: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Series: N/A
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Genre: Horror, Classic Literature
Release Date: 1886
Format Read: Hardcover
Pages: 94
Rating:3feathers

“Back of Book” Summary:

The gripping novel of a London lawyer who investigates strange occurrences surrounding his old friend, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and the misanthropic Mr. Edward Hyde. The work is known for its vivid portrayal of a split personality, split in the sense that within the same person there is both an apparently good and an evil personality each being quite distinct from the other…

My Review:

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a horror classic. Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella published in 1886 was an instant success. We’re all familiar with the popular tale of Dr. Hyde’s potion turning him into the gruesome Mr. Hyde, but few make the connection between the story and its social commentary. The story is an allegory of man’s struggle of good vs. evil. Although Jekyll and Hyde had two separate personalities, they were in fact the same man. Since man is not completely sinless, pretending to be otherwise could be disastrous. If we ignore the evil aspects of our own personality, it may just build up to the point that it begins to manifest and show itself to people while leaving us completely unaware. Stevenson’s story takes this idea to the extreme, but nevertheless we need to accept the duality of our personalities. In a world of temptation we should use our gift of reason to eradicate unnecessary evil actions, but at the same time we need to take responsibility that evil does exist and we are at times unable to stop it.

This book is an extremely short read, I got through it in an afternoon. The story is interesting, but I will say that most of the adaptations of it that I’ve seen are far more entertaining and have more action than this book did. The book is less about Mr. Hyde’s actions and more about a lawyer investigating his origins.

Generally, when I write a book review I only look at other people’s reviews after I write my initial thoughts down. Other reviews don’t alter my own review at all, but I enjoy reading what others think of the same books. It is interesting that every single book has people who love it and those who hate it. Books, such as Orwell’s 1984, that I rate as 5 Feathers have been rated as 1 by others. It is all subjective. However, reading other reviews sometimes gives me new insights. Expanding upon what one such reviewer on Amazon proposed: a good question is whether The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde does not thrill many people as much as expected because perhaps we have become desensitized? While, this book didn’t shake my (modern) world, I recommend this book because it is a classic and was rather original when written for an audience that perhaps was not so desensitized to the acceptance that man may also have evil within him.

Seer of Mars by Cindy Borgne

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Title: Seer of Mars
Series: Vallar (Book #1)
Author: Cindy Borgne
Genre: Science Fiction
Release Date: 2011
Format Read: Kindle
Pages: 380
Rating: 3feathers

“Back of Book” Summary:

Sixteen year old Ian Connors is a psychic working for Marscorp, the biggest bully organization on Mars. His job is to use his ability to uncover secrets or hidden bases of other organizations so the Marcs can conquer them. Even though he’s been brought up to believe this is normal, he soon discovers the ugly reality of war. He hates the suffering and death caused by a vision he reported to the admiral. Ian feels responsible after finding a hidden base of a small organization that was only trying to survive.

In order to redeem himself, Ian vows to never let anyone use his ability for death and destruction again. His goal is to escape and live in peace, but the leaders monitor him closely and defectors are known to mysteriously disappear. Despite his age, inexperience and few allies, he refuses to give up. He must outwit a cunning admiral and a powerhouse organization, or he will remain a pawn and forever separated from those he loves.

My Review:

In Cindy Borgne’s book Vallar, humans have established colonies on Mars. The colonies were run like organizations. Marscorp, the most powerful colony with a large standing army tried to control the other colonies by exploiting all their resources. The people of other colonies eventually joined together to fight back. Vallar is one of these ‘rebel’ colonies.

Ian Conners who has psychic abilities works for Marscorp. He attempts to intercept messages between the rebel colonies. He believes he is doing the right thing by protecting Marscorp, however he is actually one of the greatest weapons Marscorp has in their quest to completely control the resources of Mars.

Ian’s world is turned upside down when he has a vision about Kayla, a woman he is to fall in love with in the future. This woman is from the Vallar colony but is working undercover in Marscorp. Ian finally realizes how much of a dictator his beloved admiral is. As Ian’s loyalties change he fights for his own survival but also the protection of Kayla, the Vallar organization, and all its allied colonies.

This book isn’t exactly what I would call original. Vallar is a typical science fiction novel, nevertheless it was a good, quick read.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer

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Title: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner
Series: The Twilight Saga (Book #5)
Author:  Stephenie Meyer
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: 2009
Format Read: Hardcover
Pages: 178
Rating: 3feathers

“Back of Book” Summary:

Bree Tanner can barely remember life before she had uncannily powerful senses, superhuman reflexes, and unstoppable physical strength. Life before she had a relentless thirt for blood…life before she became a vampire.

All Bree knows is that living with her fellow newborns has few certainties and even fewer rules: watch your back, don’t draw attention to yourself, and above all, make it home by sunrise or die. What she doesn’t know: her time as an immortal is quickly running out.

Then Bree finds an unexpected friend in Diego, a newborn just as curious as Bree about their mysterious creator, whom they only know as her. As they come to realize that the newborns are pawns in a game larger than anything they could have imagined, Bree and Diego must choose sides and decide whom to trust. But when everything you know about vampires is based on a lie, how do you find the truth?

My Review:

This book is a short novella which gives more detail into the life of Bree Tanner. Bree appeared in the book Eclipse briefly towards the end. She was a young girl and a newborn vampire who got caught up in Victoria’s war against the Cullen Clan. During the battle, Bree surrendered to the Cullen’s who had hoped to bring her into the family. Unfortunately, the Volturi denied their wishes and the girl was executed. Not only did Bree have a very short life of fifteen years, but she had an even shorter second life as a vampire of only a few months. This novella gives insight into how Victoria and Riley created and trained the ultimately ill-fated army.

Although this book is included in the Twilight Saga, this novella is merely a side note,of a much larger story. I would recommend it for clarification on some events in Eclipse. However, it is certainly the weakest book in the series. While I have nothing against fan fiction- but acknowledge some of the arguments against it as valid- a reviewer on Goodreads equated The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner to bad fan fiction, which she says is “the literary equivalent of public nose picking.” While I do think her statement is harsh, I agree that this book does read like a piece of fan fiction and, although entertaining, may not actually add significance to the overall narrative that is the Twilight Saga.

Read more Twilight Saga reviews by the Audacious Feather:

Twilight
New Moon
Eclipse
Breaking Dawn
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

 

Zomblog by T.W. Brown

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Title: Zomblog
Series: Zomblog
Author: T.W. Brown
Genre: Horrow
Release Date: 2010
Format Read: Kindle
Pages: 262
Rating:

3feathers

“Back of Book” Summary:

Samuel Todd is a regular guy: …Failed husband… …Loving father… …Dutiful worker… …Aspiring rockstar. He had no idea if anyone would care, or take the time, to read his daily blog entries about his late night observations. But what started as an open monologue of his day-to-day life became a running journal of the firsthand account detailing the rising of the dead and the downfall and degradation of mankind…

My Review:

I recently finished another semester and finally have time to read what I want to read about: zombies. Zomblog by TW Brown was a nice transition from months of academic books to that of fiction. Sure, I watch some TV and movies, but nothing compares to how relaxing I find reading. I think all avid readers can agree that there isn’t much that takes your mind off everyday life like getting sucked into a novel and envisioning life in another world. A fantasy world on a different plane of time and space.

Zomblog, takes place directly before the zombie apocalypse and follows several survivors for a little less than a year. Like most zombie stories the origin of the infection is rather glossed over. In this book, it came from Indonesia. This book is written like a blog, or perhaps calling it a journal would be a better description. The original author is Sam, who details the beginnings of the outbreak and his travels and interactions with many different survivor groups. Eventually Sam dies and his girlfriend, Meredith, takes up the journal recording as she fights daily to survive in a world full of the undead and diminishing food and other resources. The book is written in short dated entries-what the author refers to as a blog- in first person perspective. The author chose a writing style that was more representative of how people actually talked, which absolutely went well with the book’s style as being a ‘blog.’ However, the writing was rather simplistic because of this. Not once was there a time when I thought ‘wow that is beautiful phrasing’ or any words that struck me as powerful imagery. I guess literary genius isn’t something I should realistically expect from a zombie novel. However, what I was expecting was an original story with gore and that is what I got. Parts of the book are absolutely gruesome. Perhaps enough to give some people nightmares and definitely beyond what a film producer would add into a movie adaptation of this book.

Overall, the casual language used in this book makes for a very quick read. The storyline is original but redundant at times as the characters are constantly running into similar situations. It is a good zombie novel. This is the first in a trilogy. I would find it worthwhile to read the others, especially since this novel ended on a cliffhanger.