Invictus, by Ryan Graudin ~ 3.5 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books For Young Readers for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: September 26th, 2017

464 Pages

Synopsis: Time flies when you’re plundering history.

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with the knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

Invictus is an interesting mix of historical fiction and science fiction which for the most part I found to be a fun read. While the first couple of chapters were a little slow, mainly because of trying to follow the introduction of all the technological aspects, it didn’t take long for the story to take off and I was completely sucked in.

I have to be honest and say I did not like the main character, Farway at first. I thought he was egotistical and arrogant and completely rubbed me the wrong way. But once his life is upended and he becomes the captain of the Imvictus, leading his friends on trips throughout history as they bring back black market artifacts for the sinister Lux, I began to warm up to him and by the end of the book I saw him in a much more positive light. 

Thankfully there’s no love triangle, but the romance between Far and Pyria is a little tepid. I think in part, this is because their relationship was already in place before the story began. There was no build-up to their feelings and we’re told rather than shown how much they love each other. Although I liked both of them, I never found their relationship believable.

I did like the rest of the characters, but I think they all could have used a bit more development except for Far’s cousin, Imogene who I loved. Her personality sparkles off the pages and she steals every scene she’s in. She changes her hair color just about every day, and is addicted to gelato (I was so hungry while reading this!) She loves Far, yet finds him exasperating at times. She’s not afraid to speak up and keeps his ego in check. She also provides some much needed humor to balance the darker tones of the story. And best of all, she has a red panda named Saffron who I instantly fell in love with!

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The world-building and time traveling was imaginative and well written. There were several twists that I didn’t see coming which added some intriguing layers to the plot. As I said previously, I was initially confused by some of the technology and Far’s backstory, but these wrinkles ironed themselves out.

Overall, I quite enjoyed Invictus and I think fans of science fiction and time-travel will enjoy this. The ending ties everything up neatly, but I’m hoping there will be a sequel, maybe concentrating more on the trips back into history and the stealing of artifacts. If Ryan Graudin delved into this element more fully, I could see this becoming a successful YA series. Fingers crossed!

 

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R.I.P. Charles Bradley “The Screaming Eagle of Soul” ~ 1948 – 2017

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A real good artist learns to be a better person through all the changes they’ve been through. They keep their loving and honesty growing and learn to look at the world and not be full of hatred. 

With all hurts they’ve been through, they find a loving way and a way to put their mind on something greater. That’s what makes a artist, a good singer, because you can hear the hurt in their voice and you can hear the love in their voice.

 

And Now For Some Bookish Humor

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Once again we seem to be having a horrible news week. From the Parsons Green tube bombing, to the devastation from Hurricane Maria, and Mexico’s second earthquake in two weeks, which has killed hundreds of people including children. There’s Mr. Trump’s threat in front of the General Assembly of the UN to completely destroy North Korea. And finally, the continued ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas a group of minority Muslims, by the government of Myanmar. To say that I’m saddened, angry and frustrated is an understatement and as always, my thoughts and prayers are with everyone who’s been affected.

I thought we could all use a bit of a break, so I hope the following give you a respite and maybe even a laugh or two.

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Happy 70th Birthday Uncle Steve!

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Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.

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I was built with a love of the night and the unquiet coffin, that’s all.

Stephen King, On Writing: Memoir of the Craft

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The glory of a good tale is that it is limitless and fluid; a good tale belongs to each reader in its own particular way.

Don’t Let Go, by Harlan Coben ~ 5.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Dutton for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: September 26th, 2017

400 Pages

Synopsis: Suburban New Jersey Detective Napoleon “Nap” Dumas hasn’t been the same since senior year in high school, when his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana were found dead on the railroad tracks—and Maura, the girl Nap considered the love of his life, broke up with him and disappeared without explanation. For fifteen years, Nap has been searching, for both Maura and for the real reason behind his brother’s death. And now, it looks like he may finally find what he’s been looking for.

When Maura’s fingerprints turn up in the rental car of a suspected murderer, Nap embarks on a quest for answers that only lead to more questions—about the woman he loved, about the childhood friends he thought he knew, about the abandoned military base near where he grew up, and mostly about Leo and Diana—whose deaths are darker and far more sinister than Nap ever dared to imagine.

I’m a huge fan of Harlan Coben and I’ve reviewed a few of his standalone novels. After finishing Don’t Let Go last night, I can honestly say it’s his best story yet!

Coben starts by relating in his Author’s Note, what inspired him to write this. During the Cold War, there were hundreds of Nike missile sites scattered all over the U.S. These were ostensibly created to shoot down any bombers that Russia may send our way. Many of these bases were located in or near major population centers including the town in New Jersey where Coben grew up and my own town in MA. Naturally these places were magnets for the child and teen residents of the towns. My husband recalls being confronted by an armed soldier when he and a friend got a little too close to the perimeter. Thankfully these sites were all closed by the mid-1970s, especially in light that some of these missiles were tipped with nuclear warheads! So, there’s my brief history lesson, now for the actual review.

Building upon his hometown legend, the book is centered around all the secrets and lies surrounding the deaths of the main character, Nap’s twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana, 15 years ago. While the rest of the town has accepted that this was either a suicide pact, or a tragic accident, Nap has never attained closure, partly because of his belief that the tragedy is tied to to the mysterious disappearance of his own girlfriend, Maura which happened about the same time. Now, a police detective, Nap is determined to uncover the truth, when a former classmate and friend is found murdered, and Maura’s fingerprints turn up at the scene. 

Without a doubt, Nap is one of my favorite characters that Coben has created and that includes Myron Bolitar (who makes a brief appearance) from that popular series. His past, his continuing love for Leo—with who he converses with in his mind, and his stubborn determination to solve this mystery even when others, including friends, seek to discourage him, makes him a likable and relatable character. Like all of the characters that make up this tale, he’s flawed, yet he’s someone you’d not only want in your corner, but also as a friend in real life.

The plot itself takes off immediately from the first page. It’s full menacing and suspenseful, and of red herrings and other surprises, which had me second-guessing myself right up until the satisfying conclusion. While Nap’s quest for the truth is a dark and dangerous one, his sarcastic sense of humor had me laughing more than once.

I think I’ve said this before, but if you haven’t tried Harlan Coben and you’re a fan of suspense/thrillers, you’re missing out! If you don’t want to commit to a series, his standalones are exciting and entertaining, and Don’t Let Go is a great place to start. I guarantee that once you’ve picked it up, you won’t be able to tear yourself away!

 

 

 

This Is What I Get For Idolizing Stephen King!

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For the last several nights, this eerie fog has settled over our town. It actually gets even worse once it’s completely dark. Now here in New England, fog isn’t that uncommon. However, this is the sixth night in a row this has happened and to be honest, it’s starting to creep me out! So, if I’m absent for several days, my husband and I may have been eaten by one of these beauties from an alternate dimension!

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And if you hear coastal MA has suffered from a chemical or gas leak/explosion, don’t believe it!

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Our fellow blogger Heather, lost her father unexpectedly two weeks ago and she’s been expressing herself through her blog. Her posts are heartbreaking yet beautifully written.

Awkward Heather

Today marks 2 weeks since my dad passed. Sometimes I think the word “died” and it makes it that much worse, so I tell people my dad has passed. He has passed from this world to the next, to what ever we have to look forward too once our earthly bodies can no longer hold us down.

It was a hard day for me. A very hard day. I had to work open to close, around all these people that are going about their day and I am still shattered. I am a picture that has fallen off a while while the home owners are away on vacation, so there is no one to sweep up the pieces. I just lay on the floor broken into a million pieces.

I have thoughts that I shouldn’t have. Thoughts about not wanting to be here anymore. But I have so much to…

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