Book Review: House of Cabal, Volume One: Eden

House Of Cabal V1

The witness angel Pinsleep is an outcast among his kind. He grieves the loss of Adam and Eve, while his brothers and sisters witness human stories on earth. When a modern-day couple discovers the Garden of Eden, Pinsleep chances upon a hidden epic.

To understand the far reaching consequences of their trespass, Pinsleep must travel through time and space to uncover the cabal that orchestrated the couple’s arrival, a secret organization that threatens to rip the fabric of reality apart.

I’m not exaggerating in the least when I say that House of Cabal is one of the strangest books I’ve ever read. We start off talking to an angel named Pinsleep who from the very beginning describes himself as looking more like a machine than an organic being, and who has made himself something of a hermit since Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden. A new couple show up seemingly out of nowhere and he takes them under his wing (no pun intended), determined to figure out how they got there and finally write an opera that will reveal something new to God. The next thing you know, there’s a conspiracy, bizarre research, and a spontaneous combustion all within the surprisingly short first installment of what promises to be an epic series.

A large portion of the book is written from multiple perspectives during a series of “regression” tapes. At first I was a little put off by the head-hopping but it really grew on me in a way that a lot of books that use the same technique haven’t. It really made me have to immerse myself in the story so that I fully understood what was happening, and even then I was left wondering what happened a few times. Of course, just when I thought I had the perspectives figured out things went completely sideways again and even Pinsleep made an appearance.

Once we start digging into the secrets of the House of Cabal, things start to get more sci-fi. When I read “witness angel” in the description I thought it might be influenced a little more by religious iconography, but McCraw blends classical religious elements with supernatural forces and speculation in an awesome mix that is completely outlandish at the same time that it’s completely believable.

The cliffhanger at the end left me stomping my feet wanting more, so I’m thrilled to hear that volume two is scheduled to come out this month. I’ll be picking it up for sure; I’m dying to read more of the regression tapes and find out more about what happened at the House of Cabal.

Book Review: Midnight Magic

Midnight Magic

A bad marriage has left Jessie Walsh in ruins and running for her life. She answers an ad for a Texas cook and nanny. Donning a disguise to hide her identity, Jessie can only pray that she has run far enough.

Jake Tate has his hands full with a daughter, a ranch, cowboys, Indians and cattle. But the longer Jessie stays, the more intrigued he becomes. What is this tough woman hiding underneath her large coat and square spectacles?

As passion ignites between them, the real question becomes, how long do they have until Jessie’s past threatens to destroy their future?

I loved Jessie from the beginning. Lots of historical romance novels, particularly ones set in the West, boast heroines that are tough and know what they want, but Jessie also had a softness to her that made her easy to identify with. The story of her past was told little by little in flashbacks, which made it much less of an information overload and also gave you more time to empathize with her situation and want to know more about her.

This was the first historical romance I’ve read where the heroine was physically abused in addition to being emotionally abused. It gave Jessie the push she needed to get away from her old life but it was a little hard for me to read about, though it did give the story a good realism. There were some pretty good coincidences so it was nice to have that balanced out a little.

Midnight Magic felt a lot like several books in one. At the beginning there was the meeting between Jessie and Jake that went from will-they-or-won’t-they to a rich romance, then it moved on to the fight between Jessie and her past that caused them to change scenery and say goodbye to most of the secondary characters we spent a lot of time with at the beginning. I enjoyed the journey but it really did feel like two different stories were being told at times.

I really enjoyed this book a lot. The characters were all very well written, the drama was believable, and the historical settings were rich and accurate. And of course, the romance was top notch. I loved watching Jessie and Jake’s relationship unfold with all its uncertainty, and was very satisfied with the ending and how everything wrapped up. There was a teaser for Andresen’s next book, The Golden Rules of Love at the end and after reading it I’m very much looking forward to it as well.

Book Review: The Curious Profession of Dr. Craven

Dr. CravenWhat is a poor anatomist to do? Twenty pounds, wasted, up in smoke when a beautiful young woman wakes up on the dissection table. Someone has made a ghastly error. Dr Richard Craven, an ethical doctor, has but one choice: to nurse the girl back to health and restore her to her family. She can’t remember anything, only her first name, and she isn’t even sure about that. As his household helps her to recover her strength and her memories trickle, then flood back, their mutual attraction buds into a flowing passion.

I was given a copy of this book to review, and at first I wasn’t sure about it but it really grew on me. The story was very compelling, but moved much more slowly than the books I’m used to reading. It put me more in mind of Jane Austen, whose books I read under duress in high school and college. Richard and Cecelia’s relationship was set almost from the beginning but took the majority of the book to sort out, due in large part to societal pressures and propriety.

There was a lot about British society and the early 19th Century that I didn’t understand while I was reading it, so I was grateful for the footnotes that were included but felt that they took me out of the story so I saved them all for the end. I had to look up a number of things (postilions, a pelisse, etc.) that readers of books set in this time period would probably know right away. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When I was reading the Song of Ice and Fire series I had to look up a lot of things that my fantasy-reading husband already knew about.

Cecelia’s father is the main antagonist, but my distaste for him was nothing compared to the woman he hired at the end to thwart Richard’s plan to marry Cecelia. She was thrown in as a last ditch effort to keep the two from being together and felt a lot more like a plot device than an actual character.

Once we discovered the reason Cecelia’s father is so against the two of them getting together, I felt like there was more suspense and a definite conflict that had more than just societal expectations at stake. The resolution actually made me laugh at the end, and of course there was a happy ending for almost everyone involved.

The Curious Profession of Dr. Craven was an interesting book and I enjoyed it, but I prefer novels with a little more drama that move faster. If you’re a fan of classic societal romance, I highly recommend it. It’s a nice quick weekend read.

Book Review: Dragonfly Dreams

Dragonfly DreamsIn 1880 Topaz Woo dies in childbirth in Fresno, California. She will be allowed to watch over and “raise” her child for ten years in exchange for making sure she lives by the Ten Commandments, but she has no idea what that means, or that everything she knows about love, revenge, and honor will be changed forever.

I absolutely loved this book. The characters were easy to identify with and as I got to know them I felt like they were part of my own family. They were all believable and felt true to life, and as the book went on they changed and grew in different ways. Topaz was flawed, but nothing more than you might expect of a seventeen year old robbed of raising her child, leaving her family to try and do it for her. Her love for her daughter and wishes to take care of her were heartbreaking at times, and I found myself loving her more and more through the whole book.

To he honest, I was expecting something a little different when the blurb referenced the Ten Commandments – maybe something a bit more religious – but I really liked the way the author worked them in. Topaz, who had no experience with religion, was allowed to set the meaning and boundaries of the rules, and the twists and unexpected outcomes of some of them reminded me of The Monkey’s Paw. It did leave me wondering whether or not those rules were still in effect at the end of the book, something that was never really discussed.

I am a big fan of historical novels and I was completely immersed in the culture and setting, making me a little sad when I finished. My “speciality” is Texas in the late 1880s so I was drawn to this one immediately and ended up learning quite a bit about Fresno.

This is a relatively short book, so I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to try out Ms. Chow’s work. It’s a joy and one I plan to read again for sure. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go hunt down her other books!

Available on Amazon.com and at Barnes and Noble.

Revenge of the Nanny Cam

Open Book BH 2

This week on the Blog Hop we’re talking about nanny spying.

Honestly, I have to say I have mixed feelings on the subject. Both my husband and I work, but we are fortunate enough to have in-laws who are happy to watch our little one so I can’t really say I have a first-hand investment in the topic.

Any time you have a stranger in your house with your child I can see where the temptation could be to put in a camera. Monitoring your family can be a good thing; many of us use baby monitors to make sure our kids are okay while they’re in their rooms. However, I feel that in some cases hidden cameras may be going too far.

Accidents happen, even with the most careful parents and caregivers. I felt guilty for days when our girl ran into the coffee table, and worried about what people would say if they saw a bump on her forehead. As a nanny I imagine that the worry would be much worse because they are afraid they’ll be blamed or fired because the parents would interpret something like that as proof that the nanny wasn’t doing her job. In that case a nanny cam could be a good thing, confirming that the kids weren’t being neglected, it was just an ordinary “clumsy toddler” moment.

If a parent suspects abuse or purposeful neglect of their child or elder, I would definitely say to install a camera both to confirm the issue and give as evidence when the abuse is reported. Many children and elders don’t have a way to tell us when they’re being harmed, or are afraid of being hurt worse if they do tell someone. In that case, having a nanny cam could not only help these vulnerable people but even save a life.

Putting in a camera just to be able to check on the kids and house might be very helpful, too. I know I’d like to look in and see what my girl is up to, but I wouldn’t do it without telling everyone involved. Unless I suspected abuse though, I probably wouldn’t install one. I wouldn’t want to be spied on if I was helping out with the kids!

I know people have a lot of differing feelings on this topic, so I’m really looking forward to reading all the blogs and see how our friends are weighing in.

Speaking of reading, you should check out K. Williams’ books! Shadow Soul is the latest and the start of the Trailyoka Trilogy. It was also a 2015 Hollywood Book Festival Honorable Mention in Science Fiction! You can buy it on Amazon and plenty of other platforms as well.

shadow soul

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Merry Christmas Exchange!

Finally, a new crochet post!

It would seem that November was a bad month for me to try and start the mystery crochet-along. Thanks to NaNoWriMo and my rewrites, I didn’t even finish the first week’s assignment. I may go back to it later when I’m between projects but for now it’s on the back burner.

However, my Christmas squares arrived! I was so excited to open them and see what everyone else came up with, but I saved the real rifling through them for when I was finished with my writing. They were certainly worth the wait.Xmas Exchange

Here they are, 28 squares made by 7 friends. Everyone’s greens were so much brighter than mine I feel kind of jealous. I thought the deep green looked like a Christmas tree but it kind of just ended up looking blackish in the pictures.

My Xmas

These are the ones I made! I wanted it to be a rectangular blanket so I made the 4 for myself and um, 10 more. It kind of got out of hand.

Xmas Final Placement

Here’s the final placement. I just put all of mine on the outer columns and I think it looks pretty good. It’s still a little more square than I really would like but I’m not making more squares. It would never end. 35 squares would have made a nice rectangular (if a little small) blanket. Sigh.

Now that I think about it, I might move the poinsettia squares up to the middle. It looks a little unbalanced this way. I’ll have to remember that for when I start putting them together. I plan on using the rest of the pound of white yarn that I bought for the project. Hopefully it will look nice. I don’t trust myself around white blankets, clothes, etc. so I don’t think I’ll ever use it. Maybe one of my mothers in law would like it. They’re far more festive than I am.

Crab

It was almost silent in the treatment room. The only sounds were the whirring and occasional mechanical grinding of the fluid pumps stationed by each of the recliners. Belinda’s pump was one of the grinding ones and she was quickly reaching the limit of how much she could handle.

The steroids were making her irritable and she knew it, so she didn’t grab the nurse and tear into her for giving her the loudest pump in the hospital. She wanted to, but she didn’t. Instead, she sat back in the recliner, closed her eyes, and tried to ignore it. It continued its mind-itching grind and Belinda looked up to see how much was left in the bag. The bright yellow fluid in the bag was still almost at the top and she sighed heavily, halfway hoping the nurse would hear her.

When nobody came to ask what was wrong, she fingered the call button on the side of the recliner. Calling the nurse would only prolong the administration. She would have to unhook the bag, bring out a new pump and IV pole, hook it all back up, and by that time the bag might have been a quarter gone or more. Instead of the call button, she pushed the longer button that would recline the chair slightly in the hopes she could take a nap. There was a whining from inside the recliner that only stopped when she took her finger off the button.

“Great,” Belinda said out loud, not caring that the other people in the room had turned to look at her. “Just effing great.” Leave it to her to get the one recliner that wouldn’t recline.

Belinda hated Thursdays. The rest of the week wasn’t a cakewalk – handfuls of pills three times a day, watching more and more of her hair swirl away down the drain – but Thursdays were chemo days which meant that not only did she have to deal with more of the same, she also had to try and keep herself from vomiting every fifteen minutes.

She was the youngest person in what the other patients called their “chemo clique,” and it made her sort of a curiosity to them. When she’d first started her infusions, they had a slew of questions for her, the sort of nosy and invasive ones that cancer patients felt they could ask of each other because they were all in it together. Belinda had closed her eyes and pretended to be asleep, and they’d stopped asking.

“Belinda.”

She hadn’t realized her eyes were closed until she opened them. There was a man in a suit standing in front of her and she sat forward. “Detective Massey. Is something wrong?”

“Bad news,” he said, getting right to the point. It was one of the reasons Belinda liked him. “They won’t move the trial.”

“What? They have to. I can’t miss my chemo.”

“The judge says we’ve already delayed long enough. If you can’t make it next Thursday, you’re out as a witness.”

“What about my statement?”

“He wants you on the stand. This is the most high-profile case he’s ever tried and he wants everything perfect for the cameras,” the detective shook his head. “I’m sorry.” He glanced down at his watch. “I have to get going. Without you we’re going to need Martin Griggs even more and I need check on him.”

“Fine,” Belinda said. “Whatever.” She sat back and watched the detective leave. He had been even more curt than usual and it lit a spark of rage in her. Did he think she wanted to be there? Trapped in a chair while a murderer that she’d seen clearly in the streetlights went free? The urge to rip the IV out of her arm and fling the pump across the room came over her but she forced herself to sit still. A second later the nausea hit her. Too distracted by her anger to concentrate on suppressing it, she fumbled for the plastic basin by the side of her chair and grabbed it just in time to vomit hard enough to make her back hurt.

“Are you all right, Miss Keys?” The nurse had hurried over when she saw Belinda flailing and the younger of the two women nodded as she wiped her mouth.

“Oh yeah,” Belinda said, thinking of the empty witness stand and the murderer dancing just out of her reach. “Just effing peachy.”