ARC: The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles is the latest funny but dark installment in the Warlock Holmes series. #spon | Book review by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Note: I received a free copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

The game’s afoot once more as Holmes and Watson face off against Moriarty’s gang, the Pinkertons, flesh-eating horses, a parliament of imps, boredom, Surrey, a disappointing butler demon, a succubus, a wicked lord, an overly-Canadian lord, a tricycle-fight to the death and the dreaded Pumpcrow. Oh, and a hell hound, one assumes. (Summary via Goodreads.com)

The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles is the second installment in the Warlock Holmes series, and I was excited to get my hands on it. The book opens where the last book left off–with Warlock Holmes in a deathlike state and Watson doing his best to revive him. Once the pair are back in action, they face a variety of paranormal and demonic enemies, using only Watson’s logic and Holmes’s magic. I’m not familiar enough with the Sherlock Holmes canon to remember if each of the stories in this book are based on those original stories, but certainly the title story (which takes up about half the book) is.

This book is really funny, but it’s darker than the first. It’s amusing to watch Watson as he uses deductive thinking and logic to solve problems, while Holmes uses whatever magical means–however ridiculous–are available to achieve the results he wants.  But eventually Warlock Holmes has to confront his past and the fact that his magic may be tearing apart the world he lives in.

Packed with hilarious characters, paranormal events, and callbacks to the original Sherlock Holmes stories, this book is a great choice if you’re into paranormal retellings of the classics.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

Review Copy: Warlock Holmes

Warlock Holmes is a funny, paranormal twist on the classic Sherlock Holmes stories. #spon | A book review by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

“Sherlock Holmes is an unparalleled genius who uses the gift of deduction and reason to solve the most vexing of crimes.

Warlock Holmes, however, is an idiot. A good man, perhaps; a font of arcane power, certainly. But he’s brilliantly dim. Frankly, he couldn’t deduce his way out of a paper bag. The only thing he has really got going for him are the might of a thousand demons and his stalwart flatmate. Thankfully, Dr. Watson is always there to aid him through the treacherous shoals of Victorian propriety… and save him from a gruesome death every now and again.

Reimagining six stories, this riotous mash-up is a glorious new take on the ever-popular Sherlock Holmes myth, featuring the vampire Inspector Vladislav Lestrade, the ogre Inspector Torg Grogsson, and Dr. Watson, the true detective at 221b.” (Summary via Goodreads.com)

Warlock Holmes is a funny paranormal adaptation of the original Sherlock Holmes mysteries. And when I say funny, I mean I actually laughed out loud on several occasions.

Fans of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, as well as those who enjoy tv and movie adaptations like BBC’s Sherlock, will enjoy this retelling. It takes the original stories and gives them that paranormal twist. The characters themselves contribute to this, as familiar characters like Holmes and Lestrade are rewritten as warlocks or vampires. But despite the Victorian setting and the paranormal twist, there are references to the modern day also which will make readers laugh.

If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan (and don’t mind a little twisting of your favorite stories), you’ll definitely enjoy this book. Check it out!

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

Review Copies: Hand of Chaos and Prophet of Chaos

In Hand of Chaos and Prophet of Chaos, Heaven, Hell, and Limbo battle it out, with humans slinging magic. #spon | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Note: This post is sponsored by Masquerade Tours. All opinions are my own.

“Exhausted, cynical, and confused, Anna is always there to report for duty. She’s part of a clandestine government team that defends the nation against supernatural terrorism-which, in all honesty, is enough to drive anyone to drink. Toss in a fear of intimacy with a desire to have friends and lovers like a normal person and, well, Anna is a walking, talking contradiction, albeit one wrapped in a special agent with arcane, magical powers of her own. And at five-thirty in the morning with a zombie-infested apartment building in the heart of Washington, DC, you’ve got the makings of the worst morning…” (Summary via Goodreads.com)

In Hand of Chaos, the first book of this series, we are introduced to Anna. She works for a top secret branch of the government which deals with supernatural threats. Each member of her team has different powers: Anna can control arcane magic, and the others are cursed with immortality, were-tigers, shamans, or necromancers. The book opens with a battle against zombies and traces the team’s journey to find the person behind it–and the plan that is bigger than they ever thought.

The idea behind this series is fascinating: Basically, the realms of Heaven and Hell have been battling it out for millennia throughout the galaxy, and Limbo works to keep either realm from destroying regular people’s lives. Anna and her friends are agents of Limbo, but throughout the book, we meet characters who serve Heaven or Hell, each with their own special powers and characteristics. And Anna herself is an interesting character to follow–she’s doing her best to live a normal life in the midst of some very abnormal events and abilities. Some of the most fascinating scenes in this book follow Anna as she learns new kinds of magic.

The ideas about Heaven, Hell, and Limbo and the agents who work for them are further developed in the second book, Prophet of Chaos:

“Nathaniel is a man of many gifts. First and foremost is the power of Prophecy. Whenever he sleeps, he dreams of triumphs and tragedies alike, and how to either make them happen or prevent them. With that knowledge, he’s thwarted the world-shaking schemes of Angels and Demons alike. Not surprisingly, every elite agent of both Heaven and Hell is always hunting him, wanting to be the one to take down the notorious man known to most as The Prophet.

Recently, he’s been plagued by a series of recurring visions that threaten to force him out of his shadowy life and into the spotlight. A Senator with presidential aspirations is on one side, backed by the most ruthless of Heaven’s forces and seeking to transform the world into a brutal theocracy. A church of Demon-worshipping terrorists also stand ready to launch a bloody revolution through mass murders, demonic possession, and civil war that will literally bring about Hell on earth. Nathaniel stands in the middle, struggling to stop both sides from realizing their chosen versions of humanity’s future with everything in his mystical arsenal. And he can’t do it alone.” (Summary via Goodreads.com)

I have to admit, when I started reading this book, I was very disappointed that the MC from Hand of Chaos was no longer the MC. After the events of the last book, I really wanted more information on Anna and how she dealt with the aftermath. Still, I grew to like the new main characters as the book went on (and we do get glimpses of Anna throughout the story).

We read several viewpoints throughout the book, from self-righteous descendants of angels to characters who are kept alive by demon blood. But the main characters are Nathaniel, the Prophet who will do whatever it takes to keep Heaven and Hell from destroying the human world; Derek, a graphic designer who discovers that he is an enchanter–and suddenly has to flee for his life from forces and beings he didn’t even know existed; and Corinne, a member of the same governmental organization as Anna who is seeking revenge. Each viewpoint shows the reader something new about the impending danger, and we see how little room for error Nathaniel has, how unlikely it is that he will enable the version of the future that will end peacefully.

This book has a great exploration of the realms of Heaven, Hell, and Limbo, even more so than Hand of Chaos. We get to understand more about how this world works and who the main players are, and Prophet of Chaos sets up the next book in the series nicely.

Fair warning: Each book has a couple of explicit sex scenes (which I quickly skimmed) and a significant amount of curse words. If those things bother you, these books may not be your cup of tea.

On the whole, I was pleasantly surprised at how well thought out these books were. The supernatural world they present is complex and interesting, and each character is well written. Despite a few sex scenes that I had to skip (that’s just not my thing), I’m definitely interested in seeing where this series goes next.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

Mini Review: Jackaby

Jackaby is a fun mystery with a paranormal twist. | A book review by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain the foul deeds are the work of the kind of creature whose very existence the local authorities–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–seem adamant to deny. (Summary via Amazon.com)

This book is described as Sherlock Holmes meets Doctor Who, which is what made me pick it up in the first place. Fortunately, that description is apt. It’s a YA mystery with a paranormal twist, and it’s a fun ride. Even though I guessed the solution before the end, I still enjoyed it, which is unusual for me.

Basically, if the description of Sherlock meets Doctor Who catches your attention, you’ll probably enjoy this book. I’m definitely on board for the next book in the series, which is slated to come out next week!

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children | a book review by Newbery and Beyond
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I put off reading this book for a long time, because I thought it was going to be scary. But when my good friend Julia recommended it to me, I knew I had to read it. And guess what? It wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it was going to be. In fact, I almost wanted a little more scare in this book. But the weirdness of the story and the creativity of the characters and the photos made up for that.

The story begins with sixteen-year-old Jacob witnessing the mysterious death of his grandfather. Haunted by his grandfather’s last words and by the fantastical stories and photographs he used to share with his grandson, Jacob decides to make a pilgrimage to the Home for Peculiar Children in Wales, where his grandfather spent his formative years as a war orphan.

Once there, Jacob learns more about the “peculiar children” who stayed at this decrepit home, and he begins to be drawn into their world on his quest to learn about his grandfather—and, in turn, about himself.

I can’t say much more for fear of spoiling the book, but suffice it to say that what happens is probably not what you’re expecting. At least, it wasn’t what I was expecting. The characters are fascinating, and the real historical photographs that are included really add to the reading experience. That said, I really was a little disappointed that this book wasn’t more scary and intense, and I’m not sure if I’ll read the sequel (although the book ends on a cliff-hangerish note, so I’ll probably get around to reading it eventually).

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Review Copy: A Myth to the Night

Note: I received a digital copy of A Myth to the Night from NetGalley for review consideration.

Book Review: A Myth to the Night #spon | Newbery and Beyond
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This YA fantasy book by Cora Choi is about a young monk named Hugh, who died in 1615 trying to protect his book and his order.  Because he had not yet completed his mission, he was granted permission to stay as a phantom on the island where he died.  Hugh gave up his life at the age of 19, when the Order of the Shrike came to the abbey at Stauros Island and began massacring all of its inhabitants–the members of the Order of the Crane.  Hugh has spent hundreds of years since wandering the island, trying to complete his mission.  Hugh is searching for the Slayer of the Shadow of Fear, who will be able to defeat the evil force and possibly even overthrow the Order of the Shrike, which uses fear to maintain control over the entire world.  After the massacre in 1615, the Order of the Shrike placed a university on the island, using the old abbey and the surrounding buildings, and over the years, Hugh carefully approaches students with his book, which contains the story of the Order of the Crane and the Shadow of Fear.  However, he has to give up his quest in the late 20th century, when he realizes that all of the students he approaches with his book have started to disappear, and the disappearances are being blamed on the “Demon of Stauros.”  Hugh himself disappears for almost twenty years, spending his days in an old, abandoned building, until one day, four boys from the university are sent to live in the decrepit building, and Hugh must take up his quest again.

Interestingly, other than the fact that the Order of the Shrike has taken control over the world, this is recognizably our world.  The boys that attend the college on Stauros Island are regular boys (there are girls, but they are only mentioned in passing) who use iPads, wear sunglasses, and attend regular classes.  However, there is a definite sinister air about the island and the people in charge of the school.  The phantoms’ existence is unknown to most of the students, because there is a strict curfew (because of the supposed “Demon of Stauros”), and the phantoms can only be seen by living humans at night.  Drev, one of the boys sent to live in the crumbling building and the main character other than Hugh, can be quite irritating at times, but he grows and changes throughout the story (and even when he does say or do annoying things, they do seem in character with an angry, ambitious college-aged boy).  The other phantoms on the island, mostly characters from books that were burned at the massacre, try to assist in the quest to find the Slayer (although Hugh doesn’t always appreciate their approaches).

The “moral” of the story is that we don’t have to live in fear–we can fight it, if only we know how.  Stories and myths tell us how to face scary circumstances with courage and dignity.  Some parts of the book felt underdeveloped (I wish, for example, that Choi had spent less time building up to what the Shadow of Fear is–I knew what it was after the second or third clue, thank you–and more on the three boys who lived with Drev in the abandoned building), and I wish that there had been room for a sequel (maybe there still will be), but on the whole, it was a very interesting, mostly mysterious book.  Worth a read if you’re into fantasy/paranormal that doesn’t sway in the direction of elves and dwarves or vampires and werewolves.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

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