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review 2018-10-23 11:00
BLOG TOUR REVIEW and GIVEAWAY: 'The Assassin's Guide to Love & Treason' by Virginia Boecker
An Assassin's Guide to Love and Treason - Virginia Boecker

 

This book is OUT TODAY, everyone!!!! I am so excited to be posting about it and reviewing it TODAY. This is absolutely going to go down as one of my favorite reads of the year. I read all over the map (as in sci-if, horror, thrillers, you name it), but this was a truly fun read for me, with only a little bloodshed between the pages. So loosen your bodices and get comfy, and get ready for trip back home to London, England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth the First; it’s 1601.

 

 

*Thank you (again) to the amazing peeps at Rockstar Book Tours for including me on this blog tour!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, VIRGINIA BOECKER

 

Virginia Boecker is the author of The Witch Hunter series and An Assassin's Guide to Love and Treason. A graduate of the University of Texas, she had a decade-long career in technology before quitting to become a full-time writer. When she isn't writing, Virginia likes running, reading, traveling, and trying new things (most recently: learning to drive a boat). She has lived all over the world but currently resides in beautiful Lake Oswego, Oregon with her husband, children, a dog called George and a cat named Thomas.

You can visit Virginia online at virginiaboecker.com or on Instagram @virgboecker  

 

 

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

 

Title: AN ASSASSINS GUIDE TO LOVE AND TREASON

Author: Virginia Boecker

Pub. Date: October 23, 2018

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Pages: 384

 

SYNOPSIS:

When Lady Katherine's father is killed for being an illegally practicing Catholic, she discovers treason wasn't the only secret he's been hiding: he was also involved in a murder plot against the reigning Queen Elizabeth I. With nothing left to lose, Katherine disguises herself as a boy and travels to London to fulfill her father's mission, and to take it one step further--kill the queen herself.

Katherine's opportunity comes in the form of William Shakespeare's newest play, which is to be performed in front of Her Majesty. But what she doesn't know is that the play is not just a play--it's a plot to root out insurrectionists and destroy the rebellion once and for all.

The mastermind behind this ruse is Toby Ellis, a young spy for the queen with secrets of his own. When Toby and Katherine are cast opposite each other as the play's leads, they find themselves inexplicably drawn to one another. But the closer they grow, the more precarious their positions become. And soon they learn that star-crossed love, mistaken identity, and betrayal are far more dangerous off the stage than on.

 

MY REVIEW:

 

Did you know that Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night was written to capture the would-be assassin of Queen Elizabeth I?!
And what do you get when you combine a cross-dressing Catholic called Katherine Arundell, out to avenge the death of her father, and put her slap-dab in the middle of merry old London?

 

‘An Assassin’s Guide to Love & Treason’, of course, and it’s quite scrumptious.

This romp through 1601 will have you questioning any history you may think you’ve learned about Elizabethan London, about the dalliances of Shakespearean players, and about the tension between the Protestants and Catholics at that time.

 

Being from England myself, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a bit of ‘history’ from home to indulge in. I delighted in this witty, clever tale about young Lady Katherine Arundell from Cornwall, who witnesses her father’s execution for being a practicing Catholic. This was because England is now Protestant under Queen Elizabeth I, and to avenge her father’s death, she then goes to London and plans to assassinate Queenie herself. Tall order perhaps.


Katherine constructs a plan, along with her merry band of Catholic conspirators; this means she must infiltrate the upcoming production of ‘Twelfth Night’, and create a new male identity for herself, Kit.

 

This is really at the crux of how clever Virginia Boecker is being with ‘Assassin’s Guide’ (and I know she knows this, because of her most brilliant Author’s Note in the back; only I do hope everyone reads it!). As many of you may know, women weren’t players in Shakespeare’s plays, men were, and they played all the women’s parts too. In order for Katherine to disguise herself in London, she must become Kit (this was a name short for Christopher back then), as well as to be a player on the stage.


She then gets the part as Viola, who (if you haven’t read ‘Twelfth Night’) dresses up as a man in the play. It all becomes quite complicated when Kit becomes drawn to Toby, who is another lead player, and writer, and unbeknownst to Kit, a spy for Elizabeth Regina; he’s trying to deduce which of the Twelfth Night players is the treasonous one. Yet he’s falling for Kit, just as he did previously for the late Kit Marlowe (that’s Christopher Marlowe to you).


Katherine’s own confidence as a ‘man’ mirrors Viola’s growing confidence in the play, particularly as Toby and ‘Kit’ rehearse together, and the themes of bisexuality and questions about societal gender norms play like their own characters in the book. Just like the very irony we see in having men play the parts of women (who play men), this is a double irony, if you will, forces the characters to constantly question their identities, as well as their loyalties. At a time when many only had loyalty to the Crown or to God, questioning your identity was frowned against and was highly confusing, and naturally left you open to being cast out by all sorts of weaknesses such as witchcraft and going back to the Old Religion (Catholicism). You certainly didn’t admit to liking the same sex, even if you did put on a dress for all to see in the Globe Theatre.

 

The ‘supporting cast’ of William Shakespeare, the Wright Brothers, and even the Queen, lend so much color to the tapestry that Boecker has woven for this ‘Guide’, and readers will love it when familiar names and places appear in the story. I’d also say there’s a little bit of everything here to make this an all-round great read: we start off with a murder, and then we have action, romance, and a lot of wit and charm. Shakespeare would approve of all of that.


Virginia has actually taken great pains to do her research and in her Author’s Note points out where she has meddled with the history and where she has kept to the facts. I absolutely loved this small part of the book, as well as the long bibliography she has listed.
While you may not come out with a proper Elizabethan history lesson, or an actual assassin’s guide, you will be thoroughly entertained, and may (like myself) be inclined to read up on your English history and to even re-read some Shakespeare!
This was a solid 5 star read for me.
Jolly good show.

 

**I played Maria in my high school performance of ‘Twelfth Night’.

 

 

 

GIVEAWAY:

 

For a chance to win one of 3 copies (US only, sorry) of this amazing book click on this ASSASSIN’S GUIDE GIVEAWAY LINK!

 

And next...links to BUY THE BOOK!

 

On AmazonBook Depository, B&N and iBooks - and add it to Goodreads

 

And now to follow the rest of the blog tour, here’s the FULL SCHEDULE LINK!

 

 

I hope you have been totally inspired and pick up a copy of the book, and GOOD LUCK with the giveaway too! 

x ~ K

 

“If music be the food of love, play on...”

 

 

*Guess how much this is worth?

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/37678396-an-assassin-s-guide-to-love-and-treason?ac=1&from_search=true
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review 2018-10-17 18:45
DRIVING TO GERONIMO'S GRAVE AND OTHER STORIES by Joe Lansdale
Driving to Geronimo's Grave and Other Stories - Joe R. Lansdale

 

DRIVING TO GERONIMO'S GRAVE: AND OTHER STORIES is a shining example of how skilled Joe Lansdale really is. Not one of these tales is like the others-they're all different, all unique and all showcasing why Mr. Lansdale has been called the Champion Mojo Storyteller.

 

The title story is the first here and it's set during the Great Depression. A young man and his sister are tasked with picking up the corpse of their dead uncle and bringing it back home so they can bury him with the proper respect. Being that this is a Lansdale story, things don't go quite as planned. I loved this tale, I loved the characters and I especially loved smart-mouthed Terri. 5*

 

IN THE MAD MOUNTAINS: Mr. Lansdale's homage to Lovecraft was better than most of the actual Lovecraft I've read. I don't even know what else to say because this story was so imaginative-I think each reader needs to have it unfold for them. It had a pulpy feel to it on top of the Lovecraftian base-a unique combination that worked well for me. 5*

 

WRESTLING JESUS: A bullied boy and a bullied man, (albeit a very different kind of bullying), both come together in this tale of wrestling, love gone wrong, and a relationship much like that of father and son. 4*

 

ROBO RAPID: This is a pulp adventure-type story set in the future with a delightful young woman, Sheann, as the protagonist. Years after an invasion here on earth, robots have killed her parents and stolen her siblings. She makes it her mission in life to get them back. Along the way, she makes a friend, sees a musical, and learns that she's braver than even she realized. 5*

 

THE PROJECTIONIST: I first read this story in Lawrence Block's collection IN SUNLIGHT OR IN SHADOW. At first this seems to be a tale about a young man lusting after a beautiful young woman. Then it turns into something else entirely. 5*

 

As an aside about THE PROJECTIONIST: it's fascinating to me that an author can gaze at a painting and come up with an entire backstory for it. In this case the painting was The Usherette by Edward Hopper and here it is:

 

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The last tale in this book EVERYTHING SPARKLES IN HELL brings us to visit Nat Love. A black cowboy featured in the novel PARADISE SKY and a few other novellas, Nat returns as a bounty hunter tracking down two no-good men. (Loosely based on the real man, yes there were black cowboys, despite their absence from most American history books.) Along the way he meets up with Chocktaw, (a tracker of some renown), and the biggest she-bear either of them has ever seen. I loved visiting with Nat again and he will always hold a special place in my heart.

 

What I especially loved about this collection are the tidbits from the author himself revealing how the stories came about. In the digital review copy I received, these came after the stories rather than before, and I liked that. (It seems that, in previewing the finished copy online, these are now forewords to the stories, rather than afterwords.) I enjoyed reading them after reading the tales themselves and seeing how the ideas germinated in the head of the author, sometimes sprouting out fully formed, according to him. Once again, I find myself fascinated by Mr. Lansdale's writing process and abilities.

 

I was pretty sure I was going to love this collection of stories even before I started reading it, and I was right. It's the skilled writing of Mr. Lansdale that gets to me every time. No matter what he writes about, it can be counted on to capture and hold your attention. It can be counted on to contain some humor and real life observations. It can be counted on to satisfy. Because his characters are so true to life- complicated and diverse, they make me feel connected not only to them, but to the world as well. It's a gift and Joe has it. That is all I can say.

 

My highest recommendation!

 

*Thank you to Subterranean Press and to NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2018-10-08 18:45
HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SCREAM edited by Christopher Golden
Hark! The Herald Angels Scream - Christopher Golden

Christmas! I really can't stand it, but this anthology appealed to me for the following reasons. 1. The killer cover! (For which I got to host the exclusive cover reveal on my blog, Char's Horror Corner, and it was very exciting!) 2. It was edited by Christopher Golden and I've had good luck with anthologies he's edited in the past. I'm happy to report this one was no exception!

 

This book was chock full of stories, nearly 400 pages worth, so I can't get into all of them here, but I will briefly talk about the tales that stood out for me:

 

YANKEE SWAP by John McIlveen. Wow! We go from a woman trying to avoid her sexually aggressive boss at a Christmas party, to her getting knocked over the head and waking up tied to a chair. This tale had it all-violence, surprises and plot twists along with a satisfying conclusion. Bravo! 5*

 

CHRISTMAS IN BARCELONA by Scott Smith. I loved Scott's A SIMPLE PLAN, but this tale was completely different from his usual stuff. I was able to guess the end just before the story got there, but that didn't spoil the fun at all. 4.5*

 

THE SECOND FLOOR OF THE CHRISTMAS HOTEL by Champion Mojo Storyteller Joe Lansdale. This was a perfect "ghost gets revenge" type story and I loved it, as I do most anything he writes.4.5*

 

 

LOVE ME by Thomas Sniegoski. This twisted little tale reminded me of the Tribble episode from Star Trek. What fun! 4*

 

GOOD DEEDS by Jeff Strand. I don't even know what to say about this one, but it's Jeff Strand. What else do I have to say, really? 4*

 

IT'S A WONDERFUL KNIFE BY Christopher Golden. I figured out the conclusion early on, but that didn't spoil the fun getting there. 3.5*

 

HOME by Tim Lebbon. This was a twisted little tale of the end of the world and Santa, albeit a Santa you would never recognize in a million years. 3.5*

 

Lastly, THE HANGMAN'S BRIDE by Sarah Pinborough. Sarah's books have quickly become some of my favorites in recent history, (and I'm glad I have a good-sized backlog to catch up with), but this tale really took the cake. My second favorite in this anthology, with a distinct Dickensian feel, young William and his soot-filled lungs stole my heart. 5*

 

Most anthologies are hit and miss with me-very rarely do all the stories hit their mark. In this case, though, it was pretty close to doing so, therefore I gave it a four star rating overall . Even if you hate Christmas, and you "Bah Humbug" with the best of them, this anthology has something for everyone-the variety is outstanding. So as the title suggests HARK people! Come and hear the angels scream!

 

Highly recommended!

 

*Thanks to the publisher via NetGalley for the e-ARC of this anthology in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*

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review 2018-09-20 23:25
Heavy metal horror masterpiece that is sure to become a cult classic; another hit from Grady Hendrix
We Sold Our Souls - Grady Hendrix

‘We Sold Our Souls’ is one HELL of a ride. Grady Hendrix, King of horror at Quirk Books, has written a heavy metal masterpiece with a female lead guitarist, Kris Pulaski, as its star.
Less classic horror this time (his previous books are ‘Horrorstör’, and ‘My Best Friend’s Exorcism’), Hendrix has laden ‘Souls’ with conspiracy theory and real life horrors.

Kris Pulaski was in a heavy metal band called Dürt Würk two decades ago and they were on the brink of success when the lead singer Terry Hunt ripped the band apart and left to start his solo career. And it seems Terry’s rise to success was at the cost of selling the band’s souls.
That’s right, he sold their souls for rock’n’roll…or in this case, heavy metal.

 

Kris’ pitiful present day existence is working at the reception of a Best Western, and if you can stomach the ‘Welcome To Hell’ chapter (good horror always comes at the cost of reading things that make your stomach turn), then you can follow Kris on her journey as she gets whisked from Pennsylvania to a Satanic rehab center, and then across the country again to grimy Las Vegas. Years of grueling, crazy, exciting, challenging (to say the least), and often nasty experiences on the road with the band, were nothing compared to this trip, and it seems like all Kris’ heavy metal years were preparation and toughened her up. The journey to Las Vegas is overwhelming, but Kris has a mission she can’t ignore. There’s also a whole host of colorful characters along the way, but I do have to wonder if Hendrix has a thing against UPS (you will see what I mean when you read the book).

 

The greatest thing about this book is that Hendrix has chosen to write ‘Souls’ with a female protagonist. Not just that: a kickass, middle-aged (even though I hate that word, because that’s what I am now, I suppose), female as its lead. And she plays the guitar like a certain other Hendrix. She doesn’t take any bull from anyone and doesn’t stop fighting back once she starts on her new road trip.

 

While it seems as though she has given up with her hotel job, the revelation that she must stop her old bandmate Terry Hunt, lights a fire in Kris, and the book has that vibe of ‘don’t give up, don’t let the system win, don’t let the bullies push you’. That’s highly clear in the messages of conspiracy theory, our paranoia-laden country, and how culture is selling itself (its soul) particularly out to cell phones and shallow marketing. Reading the book will give you a greater sense of the way the conspiracy theory works in ‘Souls’ - I’m kind of at a loss as how to explain the genius behind how it’s woven in - but Hendrix has cleverly used snippets of radio and newspaper to show how ‘news’ travels and information spreads. This has always been the way conspiracy theories spread and this underbelly of the book is fascinating.

 

If you don’t know all the music in the book, this may be a little daunting, as there are a lot of heavy metal and music references, but I think if you have even the remote interest in or knowledge of decades old music such as Black Sabbath and Slayer, and remember the days when everyone thought that heavy metal listeners were devil worshipers, you will appreciate what Hendrix is doing here (and no you don’t have to actually like the music). Trigger warnings for sexual assault and creepy crawlies; this is definitely rated R.

 

Hendrix is an undeniable force in pop culture literature and has written an unforgettable book, one that’s not for everyone, but will be a cult classic, but not like any of the schlock he writes about in his awesome ‘Paperbacks from Hell’. No one writes like this guy; ‘We Sold Our Souls’ is funny, gross, complex, and a wonderful blend of horror, pop culture, conspiracy theory, and is infused with a heavy dose of music history. Only Grady Hendrix could have done that.

 

**I'm really lucky because this Friday I get to meet Grady here in Seattle at his book signing and I get to have my big stack of books signed. 

*Kudos to Doogie Horner again, for another excellent book cover design for Grady. It's worth noting that the hardcover of this book has beautiful black ink-sprayed pages. 

 

 

 

UPDATE:

What an amazing ‘signing’. To anyone who gets to go to one of the signings on this book tour: Grady will blow your mind with the presentation he has ready for you; I wish I’d been prepared and been able to record it or something, so I could listen to it again (you hear/see that, Grady?).
The whole ‘secret history’ behind heavy metal and how it has rotted so many young minds (aka the wonderful conspiracy theories that set WSOS in motion) is the basis for Grady’s brilliant ‘lecture’, along with a slideshow and I wish I’d at least taken notes, but I chuckled too much to do that. It was the most funny, inspiring, thoughtful signing I’ve been to yet.

 

THANK YOU TO GRADY for revealing the personal background behind writing this book in particular; I really appreciated your message at the end, you have so much heart, especially for a guy who writes some of my favorite books which are complete with things like people getting their scalps ripped off, beetles crawling down their shirts, and high schoolers needing exorcisms. Plus you will say ‘fuck’ a lot right near the children’s department in the bookstore and do the ‘voices’ of the members of KISS.
And I have NO idea how you have the energy that you do (you delivered about 20-25 pages at cutthroat speed), especially since I’m someone who has zero energy most of the time, thanks to MS.
Us Seattlites apologize for the death of metal circa 1991 when Nirvana et al burst onto the scene (I thought it was funny that you started your tour here*), but you must admit jeans are way more comfortable than leather pants, so that was a godsend. I’d love to hear your take on whether that was a conspiracy itself.

So, thank you for coming and signing my massive stack of books, for your presentation, and for your writing genius. Thank you to librarians for buying secret copies of books for kids like a certain one did for you.
You rock.

*We would like to reiterate that we did indeed have a very hot and sunny summer here this year (again) in Seattle, and now that  it’s raining we are actually all quite relieved. Sorry you had to experience it for your trip though. Make sure you come back for your next book.

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/37715859-we-sold-our-souls
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review 2018-09-20 16:49
Shivaree by J.D. Horn
Shivaree - J.D. Horn

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

This was an okay read for me. I have had this book for a long time but never got around to reading it for one reason or another. I decided to give the audiobook a try and think that it was a good choice. I really didn't know a lot about the book before I got started with it and ended up rather surprised by the subject matter. It was a good surprise. This was a book that I ended up liking some parts much more than others but am glad I picked it up.

This book is set right after the Korean War in the small town of Conroy. The book does include quite a few points of view and I found it a bit hard to keep up at times. Once I realized there was a vampire in the book, I felt a bit of a thrill since I had no idea this book would include anything out of the ordinary. I liked that the vampire in this story isn't sparkly or sexy. This is a dark evil kind of vampire. 

I wasn't really too much of a fan of the characters in this book. The only two characters that appealed to me at all was Corinne and Ruth. There were some pretty horrible characters in this book. Elijah's mom was dreadful on really every level. The judge was equally horrible but had control over much of the town. Really everyone besides and Corinne and Ruth were just awful but I do think that was as the author intended it to be. 

Despite not liking most of the characters, I was curious about how everything would work out in the story. There are a lot of hidden secrets in the town of Conroy and it was very eye-opening when they were revealed. There were parts of the story that really had me at the edge of my seat but I felt that the book was rather uneven at times. 

Angela Dawe did a great job with the narration. This book had a large cast of characters and I thought she did a great job with all of them. I thought that she added a lot of excitement to the story and I found it quite easy to listen to the book for hours at a time. I wouldn't hesitate to listen to more of her work.

I am glad that I gave this book a try. I think that a lot of readers will enjoy this story a bit more than I did. I would definitely read more from J.D. Horn in the future.

I received a digital review copy of this book from Amazon Publishing - 47th North via NetGalley and borrowed a copy of the audiobook from Kindle Unlimited.

Initial Thoughts
This was okay. I found some parts of the story to be better than others but I feel like the story as a whole will prove to be rather forgettable. There were a lot of characters to keep track of in the town of Conroy and more than a few of them drove me nuts. It was interesting how everything started to connected to each other and I liked the vampire aspect of the story. I thought that the narrator of the audiobook did a great job with the story.

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