Review: Clouded by Envy

Finished: May 12, 2019

I really enjoyed the previous books I read from Candace including Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault, The Bride of Glass, and Bacon Pie. So of course I had to pick up this one too!

My Review:

This was such a fascinating story! From the strange world of Laith, to magical stones, to bizarre curses, and cute, suburban family life, this book mixes quite a lot of juxtaposed concepts. A heck of a ride filled with unexpected twists and turns, with adult content that was somewhat explicit but still sweet.

WARNING: SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT!

So first off, I liked Bray’s character, but she seemed too perfect and lucky to me at times. She’s a good person, but she also doesn’t struggle with guilt and sorrow as much as at times I think she should. Most of her conflict comes from her brother.

Brenik for me is the real star of the story, and even though he’s cruel and callous at times, he’s been dealt a terrible hand in life. He’s the weaker one from the start, he’s usually wrong, he’s pulled into a human world without the ability to become human (unlike Bray), and he has a learning disability so he can’t read. He lives with Bray so of course he has terrible jealousy. When the jealousy becomes too much and the Stone of Desire grants his wish, it’s a horrific curse. I don’t want to give away too much, but his angry and defiant response to life truly does make sense from the constant bad luck he experiences. Also he and Luca make an amazing team and I wanted more of them!

Luca was also one of my faves, an intuitive kid who is curious and isn’t frightened of the various monsters around him. He really grew on me throughout the story.

One part that I struggled with was toward the end when it turned into a sort of generational novel. Some people absolutely love those, but I just have a hard time connecting with them. This is just a personal issue of mine though because this goes along quite well with the story and with the magic of the world.

That said, I’m excited to come back for the next book in this series! I love the mixture of monsters that inspired this book, and I’m excited to see what Candace does next! I’m also hoping we get to see more of the strange land of Laith.

What I consider a 5-star book:

  • Is it a fun read? Definitely! It’s really cute to read about Bray and the adventures she gets into.
  • Would you recommend it to others? Oh yes, especially if you love unique mash-ups of monsters, a wholesome family, and a dash of a generational novel.
  • Does it stick with you? I have to say yes to this too, simply because it’s so unique and I’ve never read a book quite like it before. I think Brenik will especially be a character that will stay with me for a long time.

Comic Book Review: Fear of Faith Part 1

Wow, but it’s been a long time since I’ve done a comic book review! I looked back and I think the last one I did was in 2011 for the Batman: Year One movie (which doesn’t quite count, does it?). Well I’m hoping to remedy that!

Why Comic Books?

I’ve love doing book reviews here on my blog, because as an author, I think it’s important to show some love when you finish a book. It’s tough out there for us authors, and every bit of love you can give back is appreciated.

I also love reading comic books though, and I find again and again that really great comics don’t get the attention they deserve, either because they’re considered juvenile despite the wide acclaim the comic book movies have gotten in the past decade, or because people don’t think it’s worth the money. For me, I think comic books are a perfect mixture of art and story, with both methods adding together for a very unique experience.

I grew up on Batman comic books, and now with the ease of availability of comic books, I can finally get access to read series that I’ve missed out on for too many years. (A big thank you goes out to DC Universe, cause I can already see me reading quite a number of those back issues!)

So since I got a good number of votes over on my Instagram story for it, I’ve decided to do a full review for the Fear of Faith series of comics, that were released back in the early 1990s. They featured my personal favorite Bat-villain, The Scarecrow.

Fear of Faith: Part 1: Fanning the Flames

The first issue of Fear of Faith shows up in Legends of the Dark Knight #116. It takes place during the No Man’s Land series, which is when Gotham City is hit with a huge earthquake. When the city is practically annexed from the United States, most people evacuate, but the ones who are left work to carve the city into territories. Resources are low and Gothamites are forced to work together or battle it out in order to survive. This of course includes some of Gotham’s notorious villains, such as the Scarecrow, who we find horrified on the title page.

Scarecrow is watching a huge bonfire made of burning books, and knowing that he’s an academic, he’s outraged. One of he most wonderful lines in this book is when he states “I have never known a cold so bitter that it must be staved off with books.” And if we take into account the Scarecrow: Year One series (which I hope to review later), we know that he has probably experienced many cold nights. Scarecrow values knowledge above all else, even if it means life and death.

His attention is pulled though when one book is not burned: the Bible. Suddenly the tone is set for how Scarecrow plans to harm these people: through some form of religious manipulation.

We’re introduced to a church that is run by Father Chris. His church accepts anyone who wishes to be part of it, no strings attached, and he also rejects any attempt at police protection.

Across town we see a gang who used to work under Black Mask, but who now travel together. They break into a morgue in order to fish out any bullets from the corpses there. It’s distasteful work and morally repulsive, and one of the members, Mikey, refuses to be part of it and gets ostracized from the group. Batman questions him about it, and we later discover that he drops Mikey off at Father Chris’ church so he an have a safe space separate from the gang.

We find Jim Gordan having to sleep in jail cells since presumably the Gotham Police Department building is no longer livable. From him we learn that he has tried to convince Father Chris to allow the police to protect his area, but he refuses, claiming that he has immigrants who would be intimidated and frightened by their presence. Then Huntress approaches Father Chris, trying to get them to allow her protection. However once again Father Chris refuses.

Then Huntress finds that the Scarecrow is casually reading a book, and she goes into attack mode. Father Chris has to remind her that she has no authority in his church and that everyone, even someone like Scarecrow is welcome. We start to understand the dangers of Father Chris’ decisions, but also understand what it looks like to others taking refuge there when Huntress attacks him.

Another interesting line here is what Huntress says, “I confess that my own morality has at times been questionable, but I do know the good guys from the bad guys.” To which the Scarecrow responds, “Do you? Are you sure?”

And we have setup the moral dilemma here between Huntress and Scarecrow, who turn out to be our main contradictory characters for the storyline. Huntress, unlike Batman, has no trouble killing but she is also a very religious woman. She is more a vigilante than Batman is, and often is far more violent.

There are several pieces that make this story fascinating to me, as a Scarecrow fan. First of all, this is one of the few storylines where Scarecrow must work without his famed toxin. This turns this short 4-book series into a game of politics and persuasion. The series really puts his mind to work, which I rarely see from many comic books.

Another piece I enjoy is that each of these books have Scarecrow’s mental dialogue going throughout. They show as the dark tan speech bbubbles with jagged edges we saw in the first screenshot, but often have him diving deep into philosophical and scientific or even chemical concepts. In this book, he tackles the question of why humans fear other humans.

“Are we truly, as a species, inherently mistrustful and unkind? Or have thousands of years of evolutionary coding left us justifiably competitive and aggressive? Is it truly the unknown nature of our neighbor that terrifies us so… or is it, rather, the secretly known nature of ourselves?”

This runs alongside Huntress attacking Scarecrow and the violence that ensues, almost as a parody of the events taking fold. Inside the Scarecrow’s mind, we see that even when he is being attacked, that he sees himself as winning. This is evidence of his mental instability, and sets the stage for what happens next in the series.

Despite the numerous points of view in this comic, it gives us a really juicy setup for the trouble and danger we know is coming. Despite Scarecrow requesting Father Chris to take him in out of kindness, we see that he only wanted to get closer to start his philosophical battle.

I hope you enjoyed this! I’m looking forward to doing a deep dive into parts 2-4 of Fear of Faith, where we learn the Scarecrow’s plans and see what’s in store for Huntress and Batman!

The Night Beat by Gini Koch

Finished: January 22, 2019

So today is Gini Koch’s birthday, and I thought writing up my review for her action-packed Urban Fantasy novel, The Night Beat, was a great way to celebrate!

My Review:

This book is an incredible roller coaster ride of action, monsters, and special guests. Yes, this book features such surprises as H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, and (no, I’m not joking) Queen singer Freddie Mercury. That should give you a good idea of the kind of wacky adventures that ensure and the kind of world you’re jumping into.

Victoria Wolfe is an undercover werewolf who works as a police officer to protect Prosaic City. What starts out as fighting an unspeakable monster that’s taking out the city’s unfortunates turns into a fight bigger than heaven and hell. It’s pulpy, it’s hilarious, and it’s intense from page one to the end. I absolutely loved it and am looking forward to her next book!

What I consider a 5-star book:

  1. Is it a fun read? Absolutely! This book is like a fantastic fever dream of your favorite horror and action films.
  2. Would you recommend it to others? If you enjoy fast-paced, pulpy stories with a heavy dose of intricate world-building and a slew of inhuman characters, then yes!
  3. Does it stick with you? This book is so unique and unusual that it definitely sticks with you. There’s just nothing quite like it.

My overall rating: 5/5

The Bride of Glass by Candace Robinson

Finished: Friday, December 14, 2018

Candace is one of my fellow authors over at Parliament Houes Press. Knowing how much I loved book 1, she was kind enough to offer me a review copy of book 2 as well in exchange for an honest review.

My review:

So if you saw my review for Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault, then you’ll understand how quickly I sped through the first book in this series. (And if you’ve been taking notes on how often I review books, you’ll know that’s a rarity!) I don’t want to spoil anything, but book 1 had an amazing, unexpected ending, and book 2 picks up right where things left off.

I honestly wasn’t sure where Robinson could take it after book 1 based on where it ended. The whole situation was completely unexpected so when book 2 came along, I realized that I was along for one heck of a ride on this roller coaster and threw my expectations out the window. It did not disappoint!

One of the things that I loved with the first book was the wonderful mix of dark horror and old-school monsters. The array of creatures was just fantastic. Book 2 digs even more into these crazy monsters and I legit had to message Candace directly at one point because of one of the monsters that showed up. (Bonus points if you can figure out which one that was!) If you have so many wicked monsters, you have to choose how to handle the gore, and she did not skimp there! This isn’t a bland monster story, Robinson digs in with some visceral descriptions where you won’t be able to pull away.

I also love Perrie’s storyline. She’s the protagonist from book 1, and she carries the main storyline in book 2 as well. However she’s a very different person than she used to be. The events that occur change her in realistic ways and it was wonderful to see that portrayed. Maisie is still one of my favorite characters too, but I also grew an unexpected soft spot for Vale. I can’t say too much without dropping some major spoilers, but let me just say that by the end of it, I felt for all of them. It was quite an amazing read and a perfect end to this series.

What I consider a 5-star book:

  1. Is it a fun read? Definitely! I was grinning during some of the scenes because I just loved Robinson’s unique take on the characters or the unique monster that appeared.
  2. Would you recommend it to others? Yes, but especially to anyone who loves old-school monster movies. Or even fans of current monster films. You’ll get a kick out of this more than the average reader because you’ll get the references.
  3. Does it stick with you? Yes! Vale’s character in particular and his interaction with Perrie is going to be a pairing I’m going to reflect on for a long time. I felt like one of the biggest strengths in this book is the characterization of these two and you feel like you’re right there with them through it all.

My overall rating? 5/5

Nocturnal Meetings of the Misplaced by R.J. Garcia


Finished: October 3, 2018

R. J. is one of my fellow writers over at Parliament House Press, and when I heard about this book, I simply had to pick it up!

My review:

I didn’t expect this to be a roller coaster ride, folks. I didn’t expect this to be a book that was a compulsory read once I hit that halfway point. I had trouble putting it down and then looked forward to when I got the chance to pick it up again. When I recently had my Kindle stolen, I was devastated because I wanted to finish this book so bad!

This story starts out with Tommy moving to a new town and having to adjust. He makes new friends: Finn, Silence, and Annie. Things seem pretty normal, until they turn for the worst. I don’t want to say too much because this slow-burn thriller is too good to spoil, but let’s just say when things get real, they get real fast. As a debut novel, I’m super impressed and I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from R.J. down the road! The suspense, the environment, the struggles of these four kids really hit home. You feel for these four and they’re all fighting their own battles. I’m happily giving this book five stars!

What I consider a 5-star book:

  1. Is it a fun read? Did I mention I had trouble putting it down??
  2. Would you recommend it to others? If thrillers in the vein of Stranger Thing appeal to you, then this is definitely a book to pick up!
  3. Does it stick with you? These characters are fantastic, and I think they’ll stick with me for a long time. But ya’ll know how I am. I love characters dealing with dark turns.

My overall rating? 5/5