SCHOOL OF DEATHS by Christopher Mannino @Ctmannino #YA #Fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

School of Deaths (The Scythe Wielder's Secret, #1)School of Deaths by Christopher Mannino
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

School of Deaths is book 1 of the Scythe Wielder’s Secret series aimed at middle grade/ YA readers. The plot involves 13 year old Suzie taken from her home to a world filled with men, where she will be trained as a soul reaper. Heralded as the only female in a million years to be chosen, she faces prejudice, danger and adventure as she battles “Deaths”, befriends elementals and finds a strength within inherited from a long lost relative.

I liked the idea of a school of Deaths and was interested to see the direction the author would take the storyline in what is a very popular storyline arc in this genre. For me this teetered too much on the edge of the Harry Potter/ Percy Jackson books and I found myself comparing characters and points, particularly with HP, too often. However if it is meant to be Fan-Fiction then there is a different spin on it.

Here are a few examples; Cronk – bumbling kidnapper/ rescuer who is a teacher (Hagrid).
Wire rimmed glasses (mentioned only once) but, felt unnecessarily like Harry’s glasses.
School of Deaths, confusingly called a college throughout the book – Hogwarts.
Hann could easily have been Snape.
The Elemental slaves were like House-elfs.
Luc was like Malfoy.
Suzie had loads of visions (Theme from much of Harry Potter)
Game of Boskery – Quidditch
Travelling back to the mortal world was like apparating in HP or travelling by Floo Powder.

The writing style could also use a good edit and some of the content needs checking for suitability in this reading age group, dialogue is clunky and often overlong with too much use of the very basic dialogue tags. Readers of any age deserve the very best in writing, for instance there were 1060 uses of the word “said”, there are so many better ways to make dialogue vivid to the reader rather than using an empty word such as this, it will also give characters much needed elements to make them all sound individual and different. Slimming the book by stripping it down to short sharp sentences where every part takes the story forward, would allow for more elements that make the story unique and give it a chance to shine through in a very popular genre marketplace.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

I was given a free copy of this book by Book Publicity Services

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CODE NAME: PAPA: My Extraordinary Life While Hiding In Plain Sight by John Murray @CodeNamePapaBk

Code Name: Papa: My Extraordinary Life While Hiding in Plain SightCode Name: Papa: My Extraordinary Life While Hiding in Plain Sight by John Murray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Code Name: Papa – My Extraordinary Life While Hiding in Plain Sight is a literary memoir / political thriller / true crime that tells the story of John Murray. He was the head of US covert operations for a large international group. This group, while not connected to the US government, operated with the full blessing of top people in our government.”

Code name Papa is part one of a trilogy, written in first person it is the memoir of a trained assassin and leader of a group of men and women who travelled the world secretly taking down the “Bad Guys”.

The story begins in 1965 when 3 marines meet and become friends. The narrator, Jake and Bill are sent to Vietnam where they are lucky to escape with their lives. Helped home by Jake’s father, the three once more are gathered together and offered a chance to join a secret group of protectors. They undertake strict physical and mental training and are prohibited from telling their families anything about their new jobs.

In 1976 Jake’s father dies and the narrator takes over the code name “Papa” and leads the group on missions which take them across the world, crossing borders, working under the radar with others from opposing political and national countries, these missions are about the rouge agents, the people high up in lines of command who are no longer trustworthy and ridding the world of baddies.

A compelling read spanning the years between 1965 and the 21st Century. I liked the fact that this is a memoir so you know what you are reading is pretty true. There is room to streamline the sentences and dialogue, they are often clumsy and overlong, over-explaining minor details like walking, driving and opening doors, too much use of “she told me… I replied, that…she then told me…” a bit of slimming would make the book flow easier for the reader and make it a 5* read.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

A free copy of the book was given to me by Book Publicity Services.

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DARK SUN, BRIGHT MOON by Oliver Sparrow @BookPubServices #HistFic #Peru #IndieThursday

Dark Sun, Bright MoonDark Sun, Bright Moon by Oliver Sparrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dark Sun, Bright Moon is historical fiction based very much around beliefs of the Peruvian people and how they see the Universe that they live in. Set around 1000 years ago at a time before the Inca people this book tells us of a people whose knowledge of the cosmos was thousands of years old.

The book opens with the gruesome but accepted practice of human sacrifice, where the elderly were happy to meet their end for the good of the community and their own souls. We learn about Apu, god like entities which form from energy and can control human behaviour. We also learn of Yachaq’, humans who can harness the power of the Universe, leaving their bodies via trances and going to alternative realities. The Peruvian belief is that at least 3 layers exist in the cosmos, like energy centres, they can form and manipulate any number of alternative realities.

We learn of the Huari, a parasite like disease which was infecting the people and their communities eating away at their ability to be individuals and thus suppressing their ability to produce Hurin, a type of energy food. The Huari needed to be stopped and a young girl Q’ilyasisa a descendant of a powerful Yachaq’ wass chosen. She was trained to use her natural powers and selected by a powerful Apu, called Alcavicca to eliminate the Huari and then to help him create a new nation. This goes some way to explaining how historians have unearthed evidence of empires seemingly being wiped out overnight.

Q’ilyasisa was herself re-created many times and was titled with Mama Q’ilya (Mother Moon) during a phase of nation building. She went on to successfully create two new empires before leaving to become an Apu herself. The story ends with a possible release of a mass template to expand the human world across the planet, far from the boundaries of Peru. Those in the story knew nothing of the world outside the Andes but historians agree that there was a mass expansion around much of the world at this time as communities, trade and art leapt into the medieval world.

This is a huge book, some 570 pages with pictures, useful glossaries and appendices to help explain much of the unfamiliar concepts and words. I believe a paperback copy allowing the reading to easily move back and forth an ideal method of reading this book. It is a fascinating subject matter and it is interlaced with very good descriptions of the land and the people, their costumes and everyday lives. There were numerous small typos throughout my paperback copy of the book which had been missed and if tweaked would enhance the reading experience.

This review is based on a free copy of the book given to me by the author via Book Publicity Services.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

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The Victim by Eric Matheny #Bookreview @BookPubServices

The VictimThe Victim by Eric Matheny
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Victim is a legal drama set in America mainly in Florida but with a second setting in Payson Arizona. This is a huge read full of detailed legal suits and jargon. The author is himself a criminal defence attorney and has a vast knowledge of the American legal systems which he has demonstrated in this book.

The story begins with a car accident in 2003. The drunk driver sets the scene ablaze to hide any evidence, or so he thinks.

The story then jumps forward eleven years. Anton Mackey lives in Florida and works as a lawyer. He juggles home life with a busy work schedule. He’s approached by a new client, Daniella Avery with a domestic violence case. This case becomes complicated as Anton and Mandy, the security cop who works for the business, are both sloppy and unprofessional in their relationship with Daniella. A past experience comes back to haunt Anton and a women’s revenge goes to extremes.

Along side Daniella’s case is one also from 2003 and involves a missing girl’s body and kids exposed to a correctional idea known as “Wilderness Therapy”. Investigations by Anton and Mandy open up this case again.

Meanwhile other clients of Anton’s feel he’s not giving their cases enough time and Anton finds himself jumping from lawyer to all action hero more than once. I felt that the author made Anton’s character more than was necessary to the story in these action moments.

There was room to slim this book to make is a smoother read between the action by trusting that the reader could imagine for themselves places like “judges chambers and court rooms”. We didn’t need to know how Anton could tell a judge’s height when she sat behind her desk or that she wore a skirt which he probably wouldn’t have seen. The magic of TV and years of popular crime dramas have given authors the opportunity to be confident that less descriptive details can be more and to choose carefully which descriptions add to scenes and tension and which add very little.

In summary this book would be ideal for readers who want to read deeply into the American legal system alongside their enjoyment of this courtroom drama.

This review is based on a free copy of the book given to me by Book Publicity Services

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

View all my reviews on Goodreads