Welcome to the Monday edition of the Cafe and Bookstore with recent reviews for authors on the shelves.
The first review is for the latest release by Richard Dee.. a Fantasy YA/Teen Sci-fi adventure – The Syk’m. – I have recently read and reviewed and can highly recommend.
About the book
Behave, or the Syk’m will come and take you away.
That was the threat hanging over my childhood, the terrifying punishment that made us all obedient.
As children, we were told that the Syk’m watched over us. Should we misbehave, they could do unimaginable things.
Because we were young and knew no better, the mere mention of their name was enough to control us. We went to bed, minded our manners, stopped our shouting.
Although the Syk’m were mythical creatures, never seen, we all believed in their power over us.
Now that I’m older and wiser, I thought that I had outgrown the unseen terrors of my childhood. I thought that I no longer believed in the power of the Syk’m.
Then the day came when I discovered that the Syk’m were real. The day they found me. Their message was clear. Despite everything I had imagined, they needed my help.
It was the day I discovered that they were not the monsters we had all believed them to be.
There were others in the universe.
One of the recent reviews for the book
The Syk’m represents a new genre for Richard Dee, venturing out into the world of fantasy. To date, I’ve read books by Richard Dee in a number of genres and enjoyed them all, so I expected nothing different from this one. The story follows a boy, Hors Lawis, and his friends. In their home of Skandir, the Syk’m are painted as evil, winged monsters, something children are scared into obedience with, lest the Syk’m come and take them away. Hors, roaming the streets and markets of his home for a gift for his mother ahead of her birthday, finds himself distracted by a female. Something about her catches his eye, not least that she has intense blue eyes in a land of brown-eyed people. She carries herself with the strength and purpose of a warrior. As their eyes met the shy Hors could not help but be intrigued. As she disappeared deeper into the markets he could not help but follow.
Down a quiet alley, she pauses, turns and looks at him before stepping through a brick wall. Puzzled and curious in equal measure, Hors followed, arriving not in the building beyond the wall, but a different world altogether. The mysterious girl removes the robe she hid under, unfurling her wings. The Syk’m, Hors quickly realised, were very real. In short order he is lifted into the sky by the Syk’m girl, and sees the sprawling land below. She paints a picture of unrest, of dire situations. The Syk’m are under attack from a band of warriors not of this world, the Druhann. Hors has been brought from his world to help defeat the threat and help restore peace to the world of the Syk’m
Hors, along with the girl, Enuna, must recruit his most trusted friends from Skandir to embark on a highly dangerous mission to cut off the Druhann, bring their leaders to justice and end the war. And perhaps in the process, they would be able to bury the rumours of the Syk’m being monsters once and for all.
Richard Dee is a fantastic writer, and something of a genre journeyman having written brilliant novels in the cosy crime, steampunk and sci-fi genres, so I entered The Syk’m with high hopes. I am a big fan of fantasy, more specifically the enormous Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. While that series is very much a satire of the real world, it also lovingly and mockingly follows many of the standard patterns or tropes of fantasy – warriors and beasts, dragons, kings and queens, witches and wizards and so on. I was pleasantly surprised to find Dee has taken a somewhat different approach to fantasy. It feels every bit a fantasy novel, but without all of the tropes. The adventure is grand in its scale, the characters developing as they work through setbacks and pitfalls. Richard Dee has crafted a fantastical fantasy filled with fun, adventure and danger all in equal measure. I look forward to seeing where he takes this new direction next.
A small selection of books by Richard Dee
The next review today is for Tales from the Annexe: seven stories from the Herbert West Series and seven other tales by Audrey Driscoll.
About the collection
Seven stories from the world of Audrey Driscoll’s Herbert West Series, followed by seven other tales of illusions, delusions, and mysteries on the edges of logic. Discover Herbert West’s connections to Egypt, and how a dead man can help solve a mystery. Share Charles Milburn’s ruminations as he explores another dimension of his friendship with Herbert. Sample the treats on offer from an ice cream truck from Hell. Ride along with a dad who abandoned his ten-year-old son in the woods where something howls. Find out why a woman paints her bedroom a very special colour. Watch fifteen-year-old Ann as she tries to prove she belongs to the glamorous family on the other side of town. These and seven other curious encounters may be found in this annexe to the ordinary.
One of the recent reviews for the collection
Tales from the Annexe is an anthology divided into two parts. The first part features seven short stories based on characters and settings from the author’s Herbert West series. The second part consists of seven unrelated short stories, all with an H.P. Lovecraft vibe of a dangerous, paranormal world lurking in the shadows.
I really enjoyed all fourteen stories, though I think I liked the last seven better. These stories are filled with interesting, off-beat characters and the author excels at setting a spooky atmosphere. Each story has a current of suspense that keeps the plot moving forward. You just know something bad is about to happen.
“The Ice Cream Truck from Hell” is absolutely my favorite story in the book. In fact, I read it twice because I was surprisingly blown away after the first read. The two misfit teenagers are so well drawn and have such depth that it makes the fate they’re headed toward become increasingly, nail-bitingly tragic. This is one of those stories that can be analyzed for deeper meanings. The ice cream truck that shows up mysteriously in the middle of the night could be a metaphor for so many things.
“A Howling in the Woods” is another stand out. It’s atmospheric and frightening, following a father and son hunting trip into the dark woods. They shot and wounded an elk and are searching for it as the blood-curdling cries of an animal—the dying elk or something else?—echoes through the trees.
The author has an affinity for writing troubled kids and abusive parents, and the world she’s created is twisted and dark in the most intriguing ways imaginable.
As much as I enjoyed this collection of stories, I do feel that the first seven tied to the Herbert West series are weaker than the final seven. Though I enjoyed them, I’m not sure they’re a good introduction to the series. I felt I was missing some crucial information, since I haven’t read the series. Because they are grouped together, it makes the first half of the book feel less rewarding. I think mixing the original stories with the Herbert West collection would allow each tale to stand on its own merits.
Still, I highly recommend this anthology to fans of horror and suspense. It’s a great read.
A selection of books by Audrey Driscoll
The final author today is Marcia Meara for a recent review for the first in the Wake-Robin Ridge series that I can highly recommend..
About the book
“A PHONE RINGING AT 2:00 A.M. never means anything good. Calls at 2:00 A.M. are bad news . . . Someone has died. Someone is hurt. Or someone needs help.”
On a bitter cold January night in 1965, death came calling at an isolated little cabin on Wake-Robin Ridge. Now, nearly 50 years later, librarian Sarah Gray has quit her job and moved into the same cabin, hoping the peace and quiet of her woodland retreat will allow her to concentrate on writing her first novel. Instead she finds herself distracted by her only neighbor, the enigmatic and reclusive MacKenzie Cole, who lives on top of the mountain with his Irish wolfhound as his sole companion.
As their tentative friendship grows, Sarah learns the truth about the heartbreaking secret causing Mac to hide from the world. But before the two can sort out their feelings for each other, they find themselves plunged into a night of terror neither could have anticipated. Now they must unravel the horrifying events of a murder committed decades earlier. In doing so, they discover that the only thing stronger than a hatred that will not die is a heart willing to sacrifice everything for another.
A story of evil trumped by the power of love and redemption, Wake-Robin Ridge will transport you to the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and introduce you to characters you won’t soon forget
One of the recent reviews for the book
Although I’ve seen different labels for this book, I would call it a paranormal romance. There’s certainly a mystery and ghost story as well, but romance is the dominate component. Much of the book unfolds in two different time periods. One begins in 1962 and the other in 2011. In the latter time period, library researcher Sarah Gray finds herself dissatisfied with her job and her life. She quits her job and buys a cabin in Wake-Robin Ridge in the mountains of North Carolina. It’s the peace and quiet Sarah needs to start writing her first novel, but her aloof and handsome neighbor, MacKenzie (Mac) Cole, becomes a distraction.
Although neither she nor Mac are ready for a relationship, they build a friendship which inevitably becomes more. But a violent, terrifying incidents makes it clear that her home isn’t the peaceful refuge Sarah thought. To resolve the problem, she and Mac need to solve the mystery behind the violence. Mac also needs to deal with demons from his past.
Told from both Mac and Sarah’s point of view, plus that of Lloyd and Ruth Carter in the 60’s, it took a while for the story to get going and the tension to build. Once it did, the book became riveting. The more I read, the quicker I turned the pages, especially toward the last third of the book. The descriptions are beautiful and Ruth’s story is heartbreaking. Despite the story being a little long for my taste, it’s still a good read that romance lovers will enjoy.
A selection of books by Marcia Meara
Thanks for dropping by today and I hope you are leaving with some books.. thanks Sally.