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Review: The Spider in the Laurel by Michael Pogach

Review: The Spider in the Laurel by Michael Pogach published on

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About the Book

From Goodreads:

The Spider in the Laurel combines elements of Indiana Jones adventures and Jason Bourne thrillers with a V for Vendetta dystopia, and an American Gods fantasy.

The Spider in the Laurel is the story of history teacher, Rafael Ward, in a world that has outlawed the basis of most of our history: religion. When Ward is forced to take a job destroying the relics he cherishes, it will take the uncompromising faith of an outlaw as an ally, and the acceptance of his guilt for his mother’s death, to help him break free of the government’s yoke. If he’s lucky, he might just prevent the coming apocalypse, for which this secular future is completely unprepared.

The Spider in the Laurel straddles the line between simple adventure fun, and the kind of novel which can force a reader to question his or her own beliefs.

The Spider in the Laurel was released by Ragnarok Publications on 9/19/2015.

It can be purchased at Amazon HERE.

Review

Reading the synopsis gives a fairly honest perspective of what this book is about. My own “it’s like” description for this book is “It’s like The Da Vinci Code set in the world of 1984.” It isn’t that precisely, though. It definitely has shades of “Indiana Jones” (even to the point that a character says, un-ironically, “It belongs in a museum,”) and the Bourne books (the lead character, though a new-ish agent, has training and executes well in some amazing hand-to-hand and fight and a few shootouts). I don’t personally see much American Gods, but there could be shades I missed. I’m a big Gaiman fan, so my rose-colored glasses might be limiting my critical perspective. They are both books about a man who lacks faith and who goes through some spiritual/psychological torment in the process of potentially acquiring it.

Faith is an important aspect of this book. I did not in any way find the book to be “Christian fiction” even though Christianity is a key factor in the events of the story; this isn’t a book like the Left Behind series, the sort of story that can only be seen through a single lens. The protagonist’s past has been deeply affected by Christianity, he spent his early adult life studying it (and other “mythologies”), he has recently taken up (for the government, not that he has a choice, really) collecting and destroying its relics, and he spends a lot of this book thinking about whether or not he believes in it. There are a lot of Christian allusions, with little things (such as a door opening three times, feeling much like the many instances of occurrences in triplicate in the Bible). Christianity and history are strong parts of this book’s backbone. It wouldn’t exist without religion. And it asks some interesting questions about what a society might be like if religion was no longer allowed to exist.

This book is about a man’s crisis of faith, a life in flux. It is also a high-action, fast-paced, gun-heavy, sometimes-gory, world-traveling adventure that kept up the punches through the final pages.

The book ends without definitive statements. We can believe what we want about the ending, and that is perfect, considering the nature of the questions asked by the author throughout. I don’t think this book is for everybody, but I think many readers can find something to like here. I was not sure what to expect; I was pleasantly surprised by the absence of (literal) spiders.

Excerpt

He spun. The other man–the taller one–was there at the opposite curb. With a military glide the man approached, his hand over his heart for quick access to the weapon in his jacket.

Ward slowed his breathing. I should be in a library, he thought. Books. Everything was so much easier in books. But that single lament was all he had time for. Clenching his fists, Ward rushed forward.

About the Author

5785591Michael Pogach is an English Professor and the author of the dark fantasy/sci-fi thriller The Spider in the Laurel. His short stories have appeared in various journals such as New Plains Review, Third Wednesday, and Workers Write. Michael lives with his wife in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.

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Book Blitz and Giveaway: Hookah by Cameron Jace

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Hookah by Cameron Jace published on

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Book & Author Details:

Hookah (Insanity #4) by Cameron Jace

Publication date: September 28th 2015
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Young Adult

Synopsis:
A Plague Scarier than Death
Alice and the Pillar have to stop a Wonderland Monster who’d lashed out an incurable disease onto the world. Their biggest challenge is that the world loves this monster so much.

A Cure Larger than Life
The only way to save the world is to travel to the other side of the globe, and peek into one of Lewis Carroll and the Pillar’s darker pasts.

A Truth Madder Than Fiction
This time, the price of saving the world is too high. Alice will have to live with the consequences of the maddest logic of the world surrounding her.

Will Alice find who the Pillar really is? What he wants? Is she brave enough to handle the one Wonderland Monster she’d thought was a good friends? And even so, is the world ready the truth?

Hookah on Goodreads

Get book 1: Insanity (Mad in Wonderland) for FREE on Amazon!

Insanity 4 is available for pre-order NOW

Hookah

Excerpt

Have you ever jumped out of a plane in a parachute, down to meet up with people who’d take selfies of your blood on their faces for breakfast?

I am doing it right now. And guess what, it’s nighttime, so not only am I free-falling, but I am also doing it in the dark. That’s what I call a bonus.

Throwing away the Pillar’s goggles, I hear the plane explode in midair above me.

Oh my god, this is for real!

“I’ve always wanted to blow up my employees,” the Pillar shouts all the way down. I am not sure how I can hear him. “But you’ll be fine. Just pull the red lever when I tell you to.”

In spite of all the madness, I feel unexpectedly fine up here in the air. Fine is an understatement. I feel euphoric. I want to feel like this every day. It’s ridiculous how much I am enjoying this, although I may get face-palmed by the earth in a few seconds.

Mary Ann, also known as Alice Wonder, 19 years old, dead and gone. I imagine the scripture on my grave says. But who cares? She was mad anyways.

Suddenly I realize that the madness hasn’t started yet. Not at all.

Down below, I can see something glittering. The vast land where we’re landing is nothing but an endless field of ridiculously over-sized mushrooms.

Big mushrooms growing everywhere, whitening up the black of the night.

Author Bio

CamCameron Jace is the bestselling author of the Grimm Diaries and Insanity series. A graduate of the college of Architecture, collector of out-of-print books, he is obsessed with the origins of folk tales and the mysterious storytellers who spread them. Three of his books made Amazon’s Top 100 Customer Favorites in Kindle 2013 & Amazon’s Top 100 kindle list. Cameron lives in California with his girlfriend. When he isn’t writing or collecting books, he is playing music.

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Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik published on

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I’ve spent almost my entire life pursuing fairy tales, and fairy tale retellings. I love the most famous, from Sleeping Beauty to the Little Mermaid; I love the lesser-knowns, like Snow White and Rose Red, the Snow Queen, and East of the Sun, West of the Moon. And I love the ones that no one else really talks about, like Donkeyskin. Oscar Wilde has a fantastic collection of tales, as does Herman Hesse. I love Scandinavian fairy tales, German fairy tales, Irish fairy tales, etc. If it’s the kind of story that used to be told around a family fire, then I love it.

I am always on the look-out for more fairy tales (seriously, if you can think of any, comment on this post!), so when I had the chance to read Naomi Novik’s Uprooted before it came out (I know it’s out already, this was several months ago), I took it. Then I sat down and gobbled up the entire book in one sitting, in exactly the same manner that a greedy little kid eats a bowl of ice cream.

 

It was delicious.

Like all good fairy tales, it includes a Call to Adventure; namely, Agnieszka is chosen in a ritual enacted by the mysterious wizard they call the dragon, even though everyone in the village thought another girl was meant to be chosen. She is taken away from her friends and family, and lives in a dark old tower with a man who shouts at her, forces her to work on magic, and seems generally very grumpy at having her there. Here at the beginning, there are echoes of Beauty and the Beast between Agnieszka and her dragon. She has some prejudices, like what does he do with the women he takes from the village every ten years? (The answer is a shocker) The story unfolds with a hazy, dreamy quality that suits the kind of story it is trying to tell.

Novik has an excellent style, and her pacing is terrific. I never once got bored with Agnieszka’s story – there was no time to. Novik did not waste a single scene, yet maintained the fairy tale style.

It is not a direct retelling of anything. Agnieszka is her own self, not an avatar of some other fairy tale girl whose story I know like the back of my hand. At the most there are echoes, like the scenes that evoke Beauty and the Beast. Baba Yaga is a character, but this is not at all a traditional Baba Yaga story. The woods of this book are as frightening as the woods Hansel and Gretel got lost in. It is as though Novik used the basic ingredients of her beloved Polish fairy tales, and combined them to create something new and beautiful.

I am dying for more books set in this same world, with different characters taking the lead. There is so much she left open, so much she could do with it. What’d the greedy little kid who finished his bowl of ice cream say? “More, please.”

Uprooted by Naomi Novik was published by Del Ray on May 19th 2015.

Review: Hunter

Review: Hunter published on 4 Comments on Review: Hunter

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The unique thing about Lackey’s latest novel, Hunter, is that it checks a lot of the current cultural boxes in the science fiction, fantasy, and young adult “genres.” The novel is in the first-person POV, following a teen female protagonist monster-hunter in a post-apocalyptic world beset by The Folk (tall, lithe, highly intelligent monsters) and other frightening creatures from old fairy tales and religious texts.

Most of the Othersiders are monsters: Drakkens, Kraken, Leviathans, Gogs and Magogs, Furies, Harpies, things we don’t even have names for. Things that belong to myths and religions from all over the world, and things that don’t match anything at all.”

Joyeaux Charmand  is a teen Hunter who grew up in a Monastery in the Rocky Mountains, was trained to be a Hunter by a wandering Zapotec Hunter and a Tibetan Buddhist, and happens to be the niece of Apex City’s current Prefect. There are actually many Hunters living at the Monastery, though there should only be one per region, other than in the major cities. The rest of the Hunters are kept secret, as any excess Hunters found will be sent to Apex City to be on their own highly edited television channel while protecting the Cits, or regular folk in the cities. Nobody in power wants the Cits to know how bad things really are. And things are definitely bad.

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