Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward

Six stars

When presented with this work by Jesmyn Ward, I was not sure what to expect. A reading challenge if ever there was one, which requires the reader to leave their preconceived notions and happy thoughts at the door. The story depicts a black family’s struggle in rural Mississippi over a period of time. There are three main stories here, the first, a living teenage boy—Jojo—who is trying to make sense of his life and how he will grow into a man. He lacks a true father figure, though is grandfather does the best he can. Jojo is mixed-race, forcing him to be scorned by all for his lack of fitting in. Add to that, his white father is incarcerated and his paternal grandfather will have nothing to do with him. Jojo’s mother, Leonie, is a drug-addled mother who is not present, but trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. She is still quite selfish, but must put on a brave face to ensure her children see the best of her. When Leonie packs her children up to take them to the prison, she hopes and prays that Jojo’s father is ready to face the reality of what awaits him. It is here that the reader learns of the third perspective of the story, a long-ago dead teenager’s ghost tells of Mississippi in the past, where people of colour had even fewer rights than today. Together, the story tells of a bleak outlook and one that can only get better with much change in a world that has forgotten the whispered voices. Sobering in its concept, but not what I expected or really felt connecting to me as a reader. Let those who love literature and its associated award-winning authors flock to this one. I’ll let them laud and praise it for the reader still on the fence.

It is always a gamble to read a new author and even more of one when presented with them in a reading challenge. I am always up for something new and interesting, though I cannot admit that I always follow the current of reviewer sentiments. In this piece, I was left feeling as though I wanted more Jesmyn Ward does well and has touched on a number of key issues with present and past America, showing that the country is far from the greatness its current leader espouses. However, the novel, presented through the eyes of three characters, failed to resonate with me. There is a thorough and multi-faceted view of life through the eyes of Jojo, offering his teenage struggles and how rural Mississippi is not an easy place to come of age, but this is interestingly contrasted with the life that Richie lived, another of the narrators, who faced lynchings and other horrible acts in a past full of trouble. Ward pushes a third perspective, Leonie, upon the reader, to show the middle ground of a woman who struggled as a child and found herself on the wrong path in a life full of poor choices and dead-end opportunities. The ideas were great and at times I enjoyed the delivery, but I could not connect with much of anything within the narrative. Surely, some will love it and praise Ward as being worthy of more accolades. For me, I am happy to hand over the shovel and ask that someone bury this experience so as to stop the caterwauling.

Kudos, Madam Ward, for your attempt. You did not win me over, but I hope others see the glimmer of magic I did not.

This book fulfils the August 2019 requirements of Mind the Bookshelf Gap.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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White Noisem by Don DeLillo

Six stars

Don DeLillo presents this off the wall piece that takes the reader on an adventure they may wish they’d never joined. Told in an oddly lilting manner, a family comes to terms with the pressures of the outside world in a way only they can surmises is rational. Jack Gladney is the Chair of the Hitler Department at a small college in Middle America. He thrives on the uniqueness of his work and yet has never learned to speak German, leaving him missing a key aspect of the essential research. At home, life is equally as unique, as Gladney and his wife, Babette, head up a family of children from their past marriages. A familial conglomeration of offspring from past unions that are mixed together like a multi-tiered cake, Jack and Babette try to create some normalcy in a situation that is anything but. With all that is going, there is something on the horizon, literally. When an accident at a train yard releases a toxic chemical, Gladney and his family gaze upon it with some awe. However, this cloud does not dissipate and soon the town is forced into an evacuation situation, which sees Jack Gladney exposed, however briefly, to some of the fallout. He chooses to keep this to himself, though the pall of death is now front and centre for Jack. He returns home contemplative as he banters with the children in the house, only to learn that Babette has been going through her own rollercoaster of emotions on this subject and many others. For the remainder of the novel, death lurks, as does the inherent fear of its arrival, taking the reader on a mind-bending (and numbing) discussion of preparation for the end and the afterlife’s inviting call. While there are surely some peaks in this novel, much of it is spent in valleys I wish I had kept well enough alone. I’ll go neutral on any recommendations and let each reader make their own decision on this one.

It is always difficult to dive into the middle of a well-established author’s domain and find issue with the first piece you discover. Having never read Don DeLillo before (and asked to do so for a book challenge), I could not help but wonder what sort of experience I might have. The dust jacket blurb for this piece seemed somewhat intriguing, which left me hoping that I would find something that kept my attention. However, as things inched along, I was drowned in silly offshoots that frustrated me more than helping move the story. Jack Gladney has the potential to be a captivating character, especially with the job he holds, though that ends up being a distance subplot and seems used only as window dressing for the piece. Rather, we see how Gladney tries to work through the patchwork of his home life with children from all sorts of marriages over a series of years, none of which give the reader any depth to the protagonist. There is little about the man that proves overly exciting, as he ambles along with his quasi-philosophical musings and banal conversations about life, death, and any number of other topics that lull the reader into something akin to wakeful sleep. I wanted much more, especially with all that was going on around him (and set at a time when chemical disasters could have meant a Cold War clash). Those around Gladney were equally irksome, fuelling some weird need to engage him on silly topics throughout, without actually making any progress. The premise of the novel had some potential for me, though its impact was lost in many of the long-winded and silly conversations that took place, circling the topic for ages and getting nowhere. Be it between the children or including adults, I wanted to reach out and toss a punch at someone’s throat, hoping it would end things and force the characters to move onwards. Alas, I suffered through it too many times, but soldiered on, knowing that the book challenge group would want to know about it. I suppose there is something in here for those who want something a little deeper or with some philosophical meat, though I hold firm that the title aptly describes this piece: something annoying in the background that is best ignored.

Kudos, Mr. DeLillo, for the attempt, but I will steer clear of your work for a while.

This novel fulfils the June requirements of Mind the Bookshelf Gap Reading Group. https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/886451-mind-the-bookshelf-gap

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

King of Kings (Courtneys and Ballantyne #2), by Wilbur Smith and Imogen Robertson

Seven stars

In their collaborative effort, Wilbur Smith and Imogen Robertson offer readers the latest instalment of the Courtney and Ballantyne saga, taking the story back to the African continent in the latter portion of the 19th century. Situated in and around Cairo, Penrod Ballantyne has tossed away the love of his life for the wily actions of a two-bit whore, or so the story goes. He has been up to his old tricks and remains one step ahead of the law, smearing the names of anyone who crosses him, particularly when he is in the opium dens scattered throughout Egypt. Meanwhile, Ryder Courtney is hard at work trying to mine as much of the metal as he can find, having secured permits to dig around Ethiopia. However, there would seem to be someone trying to stop his progress, as the ship carrying his supplies inexplicably explodes. Convinced that there is much to be done, Courtney and his family remain committed and work with the locals to find new ways to bring about a successful venture, all while Ethiopia enters a new era of politics and tribal control. The Italians have laid claim to the land and are making the country their protectorate, while the local tribesmen are coming to terms with a new leader, the King of Kings, who has promised not to abandon the fight for autonomy. Caught on both sides of the fight, the Courtney and Ballantyne families seek to make their mark on the African continent, particularly its northern territories, while living a life their European ancestors could not have imagined. Smith and Robertson do well in this piece, even if I was not entirely captivated by the writing or plot. I’ll leave it to other fans of this extensive series to decide if they want to add this one, as I have a somewhat lukewarm reaction to it.

I remember how enthralled I was with the early novels in both the Courtney and Ballantyne series, even as they blended together at one point. Of course, that was when Wilbur Smith had full control of the writing and the plot development. Granted, he has aged much and likely cannot keep up with all the advances in the writing process, but I have seen a significant lessening in the impact of the novels since secondary writers have shared (read: controlled) the writing process. It could be that things are not as sharp or that people are just not as attuned to Smith’s nuanced style, but I will admit this was one reason that I was not fully committed to the novel. Ryder Courtney and Penrod Ballantyne each have their own backstories and have enriched the pages of this piece with their adventures. Contrasting significantly, one is a strong and powerful force while the other seems more interested in flitting from one cause to the next, without setting down roots. The reader will likely find themselves connected to one or the other, which creates an interesting banter throughout the novel and will do well as the series continues to advance. Others grace the pages of this book to offer the two protagonists some direction and personalises them, though I could not grasp onto the secondary characters enough to feel it saved the novel from being tepid. The plot was decent and Smith always uses known history as a backdrop, but I needed more to keep me fully committed. Gone are the days of the original series, where strong characters dominated the pages, though they do pop up from time to time. In a set of series that tend to take checker-like jumps in time, it is had to get the full chronological view of either family. Perhaps once Wilbur Smith and his collaborators lay down their pens for the final time, I will have to return and read the entire series in order to get the full impact of the stories being spun!

Kudos, Mr. Smith and Madam Robertson, for a valiant attempt. I may be in the minority, though I do not discount the abilities that either of you have!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Good Son, by You-Jeong Jeong

Six stars

In You-Jeong Jeong’s international bestseller the reader is faced with a protagonist whose struggles subsume the narrative, taking away from the story at hand, in my humble opinion. When Yu-jin wakes one morning in a stupor, he asks himself what’s happened. Could he have had an epileptic seizure, which would surely account for the metallic blood smell that fills his nostrils? Or, might there have been something more? When he discovers that he is covered in blood, Yu-jin begins to wonder if he has blacked out. As he meanders around his home, he discovers that his mother is nowhere to be found, though a razor is caked with the same blood. Frantic, though trying to cover up what he may have done, Yu-jin struggles to come to terms with what has happened. He finds his mother’s journal and reads entries throughout, as he seeks to piece it all together. He is supposed to have been his mother’s ‘good’ child, so could he actually have taken her life? As the story progresses and Yu-jin awaits news about his mother or at least her body, panic sets in, which is fulled by his refusing to take his medication. In a narrative filled with flashbacks that thicken the plot and point to potential reasons that Yu-jin may have been harbouring anger, the reader becomes lost in the tangential queries that turn the story from a strong mystery into an exploration of the heightened senses that Yu-jin has while not on his medication. Did he do it or is there another explanation? For me it became a futile query, as I sought only to finish and push the book away like a bad smell. Recommended for those who may able to see more within these pages than I did, and can see what some popular authors seemed to have discovered when they exuded praise in their dust jacket blurbs.

I love a good mystery as much as the next person, even when the story is penned in a language other than English. However, I have come to see that not all cultures feel the same about mysteries or deem writing quality in the same way. I have read many pieces that have gone through a translator and been blown away, both in Europe and across parts of Asia, but this piece did nothing for me. While I must applaud Jeong for developing her protagonist, there was little I found captivating. Yu-jin began as an interesting character, finding himself surrounded by dried blood and wondering if he could have killed someone. His apparent connection to his mother makes the possible crime all the more interesting, though the story left the realm of ‘did he or not?’ and became more of a predatory exploration of the mind of an unmediated epileptic. Yu-jin reveals much of his past throughout, fuelled by a journal his mother penned. While some readers may enjoy this, it began to get highly jilted for me and I began hoping for a quick ending or some miraculous turn of events. Alas, neither happened for me. Jeong adds other characters of interest that serve to pull the protagonist in many directions, though I did not feel much from them as well. The story’s premise was intriguing, though my Western mindset may have expected something more or better developed. One cannot fault the author entirely, as there was great detail throughout and the narrative did continue its forward movement. I took a moment to wonder if it was the translation that may have staled the experience for me, though I think it was more the stylistic differences from what I am used to reading that left me feeling unfulfilled. It happens, but I cannot pad my review and simply fall on my own sword. Add this one to the list of ‘tried it and personal epic fails’. One burning question for me… are novels I love lost on readers from other cultures, if this book is supposed to be so great?

Kudos, Madam Jeong, for your piece. It was not for me and I will blame neither of us for this reading impasse.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

Six stars

In a book that many deem a literary classic, J.D. Salinger takes the reader on a ride through a few days of an adolescent’s life at the age of sixteen. Holden Caulfield has just been told that he’s flunked out of another preparatory school and must make the journey home to relay this to his parents. However, as this is not the first time, he is in no hurry to do so, and thus begins the meandering trip back to admit failure. In a narrative told from Caulfield’s perspective, the reader learns much about this boy as he wanders aimlessly around campus and eventually makes his way back to New York City. With a mixture of present-day happenings and tangential flashbacks, the reader sees Caulfield as a man who has seen much, but also knows very little. Salinger allows the slowly-developing narrative to continue, while Caulfield discovers just how much of the world is still unknown, all while he worries about how to tell his family the news that he is academically useless. By the time he reaches home, Caulfield has one last chance to shape his story, but even then, his younger sister steals the spotlight and recounts some of her own drama. Surely, this family loves being vapid and speaking in tangential styles that drown out any hope of understanding a topic at hand. Salinger must have a message here and literary critics found it, sipping from the proverbial Kool-Aid in droves. For me, it sets the bar quite low for what might be called classical literature. This may best be read with a glass of rye, for only then will you catch its meaning.

I have long debated with people about what makes a novel “a classic”. Interestingly enough, no one can really tell me enough to sway my opinion. I am left to wonder if Salinger simply wrote at a time when it was ‘en vogue’ to be tangential and superficial, thus making this the cornerstone of something stellar. My father, who was an English teacher, would surely have some answers for me, though I am at a loss to think about how even he might help remove me from the paper bag in which I found myself. His passing years ago does little to help me now (and I am beginning to write tangentially, which is solely the fault of this book!). Holden Caulfield comes across as a typical teenage boy of the time (post-war), who is trying to make his mark on the world. He struggles with defining himself and those around him, wanting to fit in and yet differentiate himself significantly. While he accomplishes little on his meandering journey from school to the family home, Caulfield is able to show the reader that he has grit and determination, even if it comes across as less than important. Many of the others who cross paths with Caulfield serve as signposts in his narrative, wallflowers when he needs them to be and actively helping to formulate the story when necessary. I had little connection to any of them and found Salinger wanted it that way. The story was nothing worth noting and I am sure I will be scorned for missing many of the nuggets embedded into the tale. That said, when I hear classic, I expect much more than I got and while i cannot take away from J.D. Salinger, I am left to wonder if I was too sober and too grounded to accept this for what it should have been. It may not have been drivel, but the only classic aspect of it was that I was not forced to spend hours of my time for nothing.

Kudos, Mr. Salinger, for being able to bask in the limelight. I missed the mark and I am sure others will educate me. Thank goodness book club does not meet for a while, as I may have my literary epiphany by then and forget the train wreck I currently feel this to have been.

This novel fulfils the March 2019 requirements of Mind the Bookshelf Gap Reading Group. https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/886451-mind-the-bookshelf-gap

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Mindfield, by William Deverell

Seven stars

William Deverell has dazzled fans with his wonderful writing on all things involving the Canadian legal system. However, he stepped back with this piece to offer up something quasi-psychological with a dash of mystery. Kellen O’Reilly has served as a police officer in Montreal for many years. There was a period of time spent spent in a psychiatrist clinic, where he was part of an ongoing set of tests, but his recollection of those events are fuzzy at best. Now, 25 years later, he is having horrible flashbacks about his time there, when mild-altering drugs were used to implant suggestions into his memory, including the death of O’Reilly’s own father. Meanwhile, Sarah Parardis is trying to bring suit against the doctor who ran the clinic, Dr. Satorius, claiming that it was the site of CIA testing over a long period of time. Seeking damages for many of the victims, Paradis is being stonewalled by the Agency and cannot produce any records, presumably because Satorius destroyed them when things got out of hand. When Paradis and O’Reilly come together on an unrelated labour dispute between Montreal Police and their union, pieces begin to come together. Might O’Reilly be the key to opening up the Satorius files? When someone fails to delete electronic evidence of these psychiatric tests, O’Reilly and Paradis sense they may have a chance to score a point for justice, but they will have to survive as they enter some very dangerous crosshairs in the meantime. An interesting read that shows the breadth of Deverell’s writing capabilities. Not one of his best, in my opinion, but still quite thought-provoking.

I have enjoyed many of the novels William Deverell has published over the years. While a few have been harder to digest than others, the reader is always given a serious topic on which to postulate and this novel was no exception. Kellen O’Reilly proves to be an interesting protagonist, though I did not find him to be entirely captivating. His past as the victim of serious mind experiments keeps the reader eager to see what he will be able to remember and how much of his ‘planted’ memories have become part of his personal backstory. There is an interesting mix of flashback moments with a little development as he struggles to piece it all together. Sarah Paradis offers some interesting flavouring to the story as well; a leftist lawyer whose love of labour disputes leaves her the hero to some and the enemy to others. She is seeking justice while coming up against The Man if ever there were a perfect definition of one. Seeking justice wherever she can, Paradis will stop at nothing to make sense of a world that does not offer up concrete solutions. While I sped through the book, I found myself lost or lacking complete connection at times. The premise is strong, but I felt myself looking for that gem amongst the tepid moments. I remember that I struggled with Deverell’s opening novel in the Arthur Beauchamp series, but came to love it, so I am sure that one book does not make the man. That being said, there was something lacking here for me, though one-off novels can sometimes prove to be hit and miss.

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for another interesting piece. While not entirely my type of book, I am sure others will enjoy it and offer much praise.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Ambush (Michael Bennett #11), by James Patterson and James O. Born

Seven stars

Michael Bennett is back, further developed by James Patterson and collaborator James O. Born. In this eleventh novel in the series, Bennett finds himself paired up with a partner, given the task to show him the ropes. When a tip comes in and they are headed out onto the streets of New York, Bennett cannot know what awaits them. As they arrive, a hail of gunfire erupts and Bennett is left injured while his partner dies in a pool of blood. This was some form of ambush, an attack meant to scrub Bennett out of the NYPD equation. Lurking in the shadows is an Columbian national who has been sent to exterminate Bennett as part of a contract to allow the Mexican cartel ready access to the streets of the Big Apple. While Bennett recuperates, he learns that his son, serving time in update New York, has been attacked. Could it be tied to the attempted offing at the ambush? If that were not enough, Bennett’s eldest daughter, Julianna, has been chosen to act in a local television production and has been flexing her independence at every turn. Will a killer on the loose, leaving bodies of rival cartel members strewn around New York, Bennett has little time to wait, especially once he discovers there are crosshairs focussed on him. A man of a million roles, Michael Bennett as little time for capes and phone booths, but he must be a superhero not only to the city he loves, but the family he cannot live without. Patterson and Born offer up a decent continuation to the Bennett series, which has been moving along effectively. Series fans may enjoy this one, though there are also signs that Bennett might want to turn to life with the family and hang up those cuffs!

I have a long history with many of the cop series that James Patterson has crafted over the years. I find that those with a collaborator seem to get a little tepid as they progress, particularly when plots repeat themselves. Bennett was once a sharp cop who sought to juggle life in Homicide with his massive brood of adopted children. It worked well, when backstory and development allowed for adequate action and kept the reader enthralled. It would seem to be that things have remained in neutral, with new killers and more ways to wreak havoc on NYC, but little movement in the protagonist. Sure, as his children grow their life lessons blossom into interesting sub-plots, but they do not have enough momentum to keep the series propelling along for me. Born was brought in recently, perhaps to inject some pizzazz into the series, though it might have been past its best before date already. The handful of characters that have followed the series seem to have grown slightly, but it is time to either make significant changes to them or let the series fade into the sunset. The story is ok, though, as I mentioned above, has not got the spark needed to push it to the top of any list—save perhaps lists that utilise the ‘Patterson’ name for automatic notoriety. Bennett mixes his time between chasing down killers and trying to keep a handle on his family. The series is at a crossroads—or, perhaps it has already left that spot—and needs some revamping and more energetic developments. I leave it to Patterson and Born to see if they want to keep it exciting or let it wither and cause animosity amongst those who have dedicated time and effort into supporting it for this long.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Born, for working your best to make something out of a series that may be turning beige. Perhaps a BookShot or two to tie things off? I suspect your collaborative efforts in the future could make for brilliant work, away from Michael Bennett.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Running in Circles (Lucy Lewis #1), by Claire Gray

Six stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Claire Gray and Sapere Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

With this debut novel in the Lucy Lewis series, I had high hopes that Claire Gray would pull me in from the opening pages and not let go. The premise appeared strong and the cover offered some intrigue, paving the way for an interesting reading experience. Lucy Lewis is a journalist working in Thailand for a local paper, with hopes of getting a major scoop to advance her career. When a bomb explodes close to her hostel, Lucy and her editor, Steve, take a moment to shake off the shock before seeking to cover the story. Might this have been an errant explosion or could it have been an act of terror? With dust and debris scattered around the explosion site, Lucy and Steve begin asking questions in order to better understand what’s happened. Lucy finds herself face to face with another foreigner whose money lines the pockets of many, but when she tries to follow-up, he’s disappeared. Working both to understand what’s happened with the bombing and this mysterious disappearance, Lucy finds herself traveling a circuitous route, unable to get the answers she needs. Just as she feels she’s making progress, she falls victim to a conniving individual who wants nothing more than to shut down all Lucy’s sleuthing and keep this mystery buried under all the dead bodies. The truth will come out, though Lucy may not be around to see it. Gray does a decent job in spinning this tale, though I could not find myself completely connection to the story throughout. Perhaps others who enjoy the genre will find more than I did on the written page.

I found the title of the book to be spot-on, for numerous reasons. While I can see Gray has a few great ideas, I could not find myself connected or really ensconced by the style or plot. Lucy Lewis is a young journalist with much to prove, living and working on the other side of the world. She seeks to prove herself and show her editor that she deserves to be taken seriously. It does not help that she finds herself blurring the lines—at least in her mind—with her superior, which can only have dire results. The handful of other characters who grace the pages of the book made only a minor impact on me, though I could see that Gray was trying to develop them at every opportunity. There were supporters of Lucy’s efforts and those who sought to push her down when they could. Overall, it was a mish-mash of narrative circles. The story could have worked well, though it did not grab me. I cannot fault Gray, as I am not the easiest reader to impress, though but there was little within these pages that left me wanting more. I am sure others will laud this work and rush to get their hands on the sequel, but I will stand back and turn my attention elsewhere, at least for the time being.

Thank you, Madam Gray for your effort. While others may be sold, it just did not grab me, as the publishers likely hoped it would.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Vatican Children (World of Shadows #2), by Lincoln Cole

Five stars

The premise of this series by Lincoln Cole left me quite curious, as I enjoy all things related to exorcisms. Those who read my review of the opening book will know that things started off quite well, then took a turn for the worse. With an interesting cliffhanger, I vowed to give the series a little more rope, in hopes that it would tie me in and not hang itself. With the revelation that Bishop Glasser has been summoning demons to inhabit innocent folk, Father Niccolo Paladina is back with sufficient supplies to go to battle, though has not yet received formal direction from the Vatican. Working alongside him is Arthur Vangeest, a Hunter for the Council of Chaldea, a group charged with investigating all things supernatural. After forcefully securing one of the bishop’s followers, Arthur and Paladina try to ascertain where he might have gone and what plans he has. It is soon thereafter that Paladina reveals his knowledge of the Vatican Children, a group of youths who showed much power when it came to sensing the demon life forms and even a degree of mind control. With a list having been taken from the Vatican, it is only a matter of time before Bishop Glasser gets his hands on it, which would allow him to convert them for his own good. While Arthur is forced to come clean with other members of the Council that he has gone rogue, he is determined to capture this evil doer, whom he is sure helped have his family murdered. When Father Paladina and Arthur come face to face with Glasser and his minions, they are forced to use the only weapons at their disposal to protect the Vatican Children. Only one side can survive this spiritual apocalypse, but there is much to do thereafter. Holy water and a few rosaries will not be enough, though the climax of the story only creates a new cliffhanger for readers to ponder before locating the final novel in the trilogy. A unique middle piece that helped to build on much of the information provided in the series debut. I promised myself a second try, but am not feeling enamoured enough to want to tie off all the loose ends! Take it or leave it, I won’t lead you down any proverbial garden path. [There you go, Pat. A book that you can leave off your tipping TBR list!]

I was hoping that things would resurrect themselves in this second book, as the chase towards catching Bishop Glasser was on. However, things ended up just being a hot mess of writing and odd plot twists. Sure, the reader learns a little more about the Vatican Children and their importance in the plot, but I could not find myself connected to the chase or the stand-off that appears to be the climax of this middle book. Father Paladina and Arthur are just as they were in the previous piece, which does not say much for the curious reader. There are many names dropped and batted around throughout this short piece, but none of whom really caught my attention. I felt as though Cole could have done so much more to better develop this story, which left me feeling cheated and unimpressed. There was such potential here, even in the short amount of time on offer with this book, but much was wasted with trivial discussion and cheesy factoids. I did give the series two books and wished I had the inclination to finish things off, but I cannot see why I would invest even the single day it will take to speed read through it. There are so many books out there I need to tackle, I’ll let others go to Amazon and locate this one for themselves.

Sorry, Mr. Cole, but you don’t have a committed fan in me. Ratings seem to show me others are hooked and I wish them well!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Everett Exorcism (World of Shadows #1), by Lincoln Cole

Six stars

Drawn to the premise of this novel by Lincoln Cole, I could not wait to see if it was as chilling as the blurb made it appear to be. In the town of Everett, Washington, something is going on. The priest of St. Joseph’s Cathedral is certain that one of his parishioners is under the influence of something demonic. However, the bishop is not convinced and shuts down any further exploration. Not satisfied, a call is made directly to the Vatican, who send Father Niccolo Paladina to see what might be taking place in this bucolic community in America’s Pacific Northwest. A trained exorcist, Father Paladina speaks to all parties involved and chastises the local priest for leaping overtop of his bishop, as well as trying to create something out of nothing. Father Paladina is not convinced that this is anything other than some mental health concerns with the elderly woman in question. During a more formal a detailed discussion with the aforementioned parishioner, Father Paladina senses something off about the house, which is only further exacerbated when he hears something calling him in a mocking tone. Could there be more to this than meets the eye? When others around Everett begin exhibiting odd behaviours, Father Paladina cannot help but wonder if his first suppositions might have been wrong. Father Paladina soon comes face to face with a man blacklisted by the Vatican for his outlandish claims, one Arthur Vangeest. While Arthur claims that his entire family was murdered by a cult, perhaps possessed themselves, Father Paladina cannot help but wonder if this is all a rouse by a man whose conscience is full of guilt. The reader soon learns that Arthur Vangeest is known as a Hunter, a soldier for the Council of Chaldea, an organization that works at arm’s-length from the Vatican. The Council is tasked with investigating supernatural events around the world without pulling the Church into the middle of them. With events in Everett becoming more troublesome, Father Paladina cannot help but wonder if his expertise in exorcisms might prove useful and whether there is a larger secret yet to be revealed. A unique story that takes many a turn, going from intensely captivating to tepid and back in short order. Those who enjoy something a little different might enjoy this piece. The jury is still out for me.

I was completely sold by Cole’s premise as the story began, finding myself curious about the premise of the exorcism in a small town. The collection of characters proved to be engaging, particularly Father Paladina. This well-established priest presents not only as a professional, but also one who follows the rules and hierarchy as they are laid out for him. He chooses to lecture those who stray from the well-defined rules and will not abide ignorance. However, while he seems to know his job well, Paladina is highly sceptical of the demonic presence in the world, thereby making his role more obsolete. Cole develops him well, though the character takes a nosedive halfway through the novel, with the introduction of the Council. Many of the other characters in their supporting roles have some potential, but I found myself to lose interest and a connection to those who serve to propel the story forward at this point. It was as though there was such potential with the characters and the premise of the Council, but it was lost in some tepid narrative and plot delivery. It was as though Cole needed a two-pronged plot to keep the story moving—at least to him—and it did not work for me. Surely, there is something useful to know about this Council, as this is a trilogy, but I could not, for the life of me, connect to it or its larger purpose. As these are short novels and I find myself between reading commitments, I will likely give the second book a try to see if I can win myself over, but I will not subject myself to something if I cannot latch on in short order. My reading life is too short to spend time on a book that does not make an impact.

Kudos, Mr. Cole for the interesting premise. We’ll see if you can resurrect things in the second piece!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons