Dragon Bones (Hurog #1)

Published Post author

Dragon Bones Book Cover Dragon Bones
Hurog
Patricia Briggs
Fantasy
Ace Fantasy
February 26, 2002
Paperback
295

Riding into a war that's heating up on the border, Ward, the new lord of Hurog, is sure he's on the fast track to glory. But soon his mission takes a deadly turn. For he has seen a pile of magical dragon bones hidden deep beneath Hurog Keep. The bones could prove to be dangerous in the wrong hands, and Ward is certain his enemies will stop at nothing to possess them.

 

“Hurog means dragon.” This opening line sets the precedence for what turned out to be an almost surprisingly fantastic fantasy book. The premise is that Ward, a young 20-something man, has become the new lord of Castle Hurog. Ward’s late father was a paranoid man worried about losing his throne so Ward has feigned stupidity for years to stay alive. With the throne now in his hands and everyone in the five kingdoms thinking he is an idiot, he now has to prove himself to keep his lands. And there is more to his throne than just land, something magical, but I will not spoil anything here.

The setting for this story is a typical fantasy land. You have the land that Castle Hurog is in, Shavig, as one of five kingdoms. Each kingdom is ruled by a lord and all five of them answer to the high king. As is often the case in these stories, the kingdoms are not doing so great. They are past their golden age and the magical wonders that once made the lands a fantastical place to live are now little more than myths and legends.

Character development was very strong for a little book like this. Ward, as the main character, grows the most as he begins proving himself as a lord. He even acknowledges this himself in the story, remarking on how what he expected and what actually happens are two very different things. Other main characters mostly include the residents of the castle: Ward’s sister, his aunt (the captain of the guard), the king’s vassal, etc. Some of these characters are your typical standard fantasy story badasses while others are the “how’d I get dragged into this” types. Even the minor characters are developed as the story goes on, with each character getting development roughly equal to their importance in the story.

Despite Dragon Bones being the first of a duology, it reads like a standalone story. You do not have to read book #2 (though I recommend you do) to get the full story. The story does get a little dark at times, but in real medieval times that is how things were and fantasy stories like these are all the better for it. For a tiny little paperback that seemed like it would be more time filler than anything else, the book was very good from the lore to the characters to the writing. Dragon Bones is definitely worth the time for any fantasy fan, especially if you like dragons.

January 15, 2017

The Ghost in General Patton’s Third Army: The Memoirs of Eugene G. Schulz During His Service in the United States Army in World War II

Published Post author

The Ghost in General Patton's Third Army Book Cover The Ghost in General Patton's Third Army
Eugene G. Schulz
Biography
Xlibris Corporation
October 11, 2012
Paperback
346

Eugene G. Schulz was born on a farm in Clintonville, Wisconsin in 1923. He graduated from high school in May, 1941, and worked on his father’s farm and at a truck manufacturing plant until he was drafted into the army in January 1943. Schulz received his basic training at Camp Young, California at the Desert Training Center, and later at Camp Campbell, Kentucky. He was assigned to the IV Armored Corps (later named the XX Corps) where he was a typist in the G-3 Section. His duties included the typing of battle orders developed by Colonel W. B. Griffith, the G-3 of XX Corps Headquarters. The XX Corps sailed to England in February 1944 on the Queen Mary with 16,000 soldiers on board, completing the voyage in five days. After final training in England, the XX Corps landed on Utah Beach in Normandy on D+46. His unit was attached to General Patton’s Third Army and spearheaded the drive across France, through Germany and into Austria where they met the Russian Army on V-E Day. Schulz was awarded the Bronze Star medal when the war ended. He served in the Army of Occupation in Germany, then returned to the States and was discharged on December 1, 1945. He enrolled at the University of Wisconsin—Madison taking advantage of the GI Bill of Rights, and earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Business Administration. Schulz met his wife, Eleanore, at the University and they were married in 1949. Schulz worked as an investment research officer at the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company in Milwaukee for 36 years. The Schulz’s have been retired since 1988 and continue to live in Milwaukee. They are world travelers. They have five sons, all married, and sixteen grandchildren.

 

The Ghost in General Patton’s Third Army is the memoir of Eugene G. Schulz, a former soldier who served in WWII. Incorporated into the XX Corps, known as a ghost unit by enemy forces for their ability to pop up where least expected, his skills as a typist gives this memoir unique insight into the war. Schulz typed battle orders and other classified documents; that combined with an excellent memory and what must have been a LOT of research makes this book a treasure trove of information. WWII is a popular subject among historians and others and The Ghost in General Patton’s Third army is a fantastic book for people new to the topic.

Along with his own personal experiences, Schulz goes over details of the war relating to the events he personally experienced. For example, he was not present at D-Day (his unit went over afterward) but he still intricately explains D-Day from the crazy amount of logistics required to make it happen to how crucial of a tipping point it was to Allied forces. This aspect picks up later on in the book, past the point of Schulz talking about his hometown.

The documentation of the book is not just limited to words either. Schulz had his camera with him and it survived his entire deployment. There are unique photographs scattered throughout the book showing army camps, town obliterated by air raids, and much more. These images did make one section of the book extremely difficult to read: Schulz’s account of his unit coming across one of the first concentration camps discovered by Allied forces. Keep in mind that prior to the invasion of Germany, the Allies had no knowledge of the concentration camps. The soldiers who discovered those atrocities saw mankind at its worst and Schulz’s description of those horrors is…vivid.

Memoirs are not something I tend to read but I happened to get this one in a Goodreads giveaway. Having the events of a war recounted from the perspective of a soldier rather than as a series of events highlighted in a history book can be an eye opening experience. You have to remember that soldiers, like the rest of us, are people. From privates to generals, at the end of the day, they are just people. They feel fear and grief, they hope and they resolve, they want to do the right thing and they also want to make sure they can come home. They lose their comrades, people who are friends and even brothers to them. The ones who do come home learn to cherish what they have, what they fought for: peace.

January 8, 2017

Procession of the Dead

Published Post author

Procession of the Dead Book Cover Procession of the Dead
The City Trilogy #1
Darren Shan
Fantasy
Voyager
March 1, 1999
Hardcover
312

Quick-witted and cocksure, young upstart Capac Raimi arrives in the City determined to make his mark. As he learns the tricks of his new trade from his Uncle Theo he's soon on his way to becoming a promising new gangster. Then he crosses paths with The Cardinal, and his life changes forever.

 

Procession of the Dead happened to catch my eye at a local library sale as Darren Shan’s Cirque du Freak and Demonata series were two of my favorites as a young, budding horror fan in a time of my life when I was in-between R. L. Stine and Stephen King. While less horror based than Shan’s other works, this novel is unique as it was written for an adult audience. The book is starts out as a “man with no past” story; protagonist Capac Raimi comes to a new city looking to make a name for himself via a life of crime.

As tends to happen in many of these stories, this new man on the block attracts the attention of the de facto Godfather in the city, The Cardinal, and quickly becomes the top crime boss’ rising star. Interesting, Capac is not really a bad person in the beginning. He goes into crime because he believes it is the only real way to make it big for a guy like him. But as he enters the darker areas of the criminal underworld, he becomes darker himself. The other characters are pretty interesting as well, but our insight into them is a little odd.

Despite the story being told from Capac’s point of view, he constantly narrates what the other characters are thinking. Capac himself seems to have a largely fluctuating personality throughout the book, swinging between good man doing bad things for the right reasons to somebody that has no problem being a monster. Not all of the characters are completely mentally stable, so that can provide a bit of an explanation along with another factor that I cannot mention because of spoilers. While these are faults they are relatively minor and should only distract readers who like to dissect their novels.

The other thing of note was the setting; we are never actually told where the story takes place. It is referred to as “The City” and is a stereotypical crime ridden city a la Gotham, Los Santos, etc. Procession of the Dead is the first of a trilogy; it was originally published under the title Ayuamarca and was heavily reedited before being rereleased as Procession of the Dead. While this book is not an award winner, it was interesting enough to enjoy the read and make me keep an eye out for the other two the next time I am at the bookstore.

January 1, 2017

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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Poster for the movie ""

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

A Rebellion Built on Hope

20162 h 14 min

Rogue One is a type of story previously confined to Expanded Universe novels taken to the big screen. This is not a story of great heroes capable of feats beyond normal people. These are the normal people. They are the soldiers, spies, and other rebels who spent years fighting the Empire. The original trilogy is certainly an epic story with Luke and co. being the center of many turning points for the Rebel Alliance. But it is important to remember that they did not act alone. Smaller acts previously confined to briefly mentioned exposition now get their own moment in the spotlight.

The opening crawl of A New Hope mentions that a secret Rebel fleet stole the plans to the Death Star. Likewise, the original movie mentions that the team who stole the plans died in the process. So it is not secret what this movie will be about or how it will end. Now the story does start out slow as the character introductions are made. The main characters may not be the A-team, but they are some of the best the Rebels have to offer. It is somewhat hard to judge the characters individually when they are, by and large, inconsequential. They are not the heroes of the story as a whole, just this one small piece.

Some people have said that this is the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back. While Rogue One is a good movie, it is not even close to that. If anything Rogue One did very well because it is unique. The other films are more epics, adventure stories, than anything else. Take the original movie, for example. A black knight captures a princess, who sends her servants to an old knight for help only to find aid in the unlikeliest of people, a farm boy and a scruffy looking scoundrel. From the big evil Empire to the storming of a fortress, the story had tons in common with old medieval type tales.

Rogue One, by contrast, is a war movie. The film shows a darker side of the Rebellion and a (comparatively) more human side of the Empire. These people are doing somewhat questionable things and sacrificing themselves for a cause they believe in. Are these characters on par with Luke, Han, and Leia? No. Are they supposed to be? Again, no. Rogue One is a back story; it is not meant to be at the forefront. And while the film in and of itself is somewhat lacking, fans who have read the books and seen other pieces of the Expanded Universe will know the “missing” pieces are out there.

December 25, 2016

Star Wars: Catalyst – A Rogue One Novel

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Star Wars: Catalyst - A Rogue One Novel Book Cover Star Wars: Catalyst - A Rogue One Novel
Star Wars
James Luceno
Sci-fi
Del Rey Books
November 15, 2016
Hardcover
336

The must-have prequel novel to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the upcoming film set before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope, that reveals the untold story of the rebel effort to steal the plans to the Death Star.

 

Catalyst is the prequel to the new Star Wars movie Rogue One, which deals with the Rebel Alliance forces who recovered the plans to the Death Star prior to the original film. So this is the prequel to the prequel and for the most part it is…pretty tame. The book was by no means bad, author James Luceno has previously written some of the best Star Wars novels in both the Legends canon and the current Disney canon. But the book largely feels like Disney did not let him do a lot with the story.

Despite this being a prequel, there does not seem to be anything that is really need-to-know in here. That is understandable because most people going to see Rogue One will probably have not read this first. Catalyst more deals with the logistics behind the construction of the Death Star. We already knew from Attack of the Clones that the plans for the Death Star were created prior to the Clone Wars. This story starts in the middle of the Clone Wars and branches out over a few years as the schematics of the Death Star are being finalized.

Protagonist Galen Erso is a pacifist scientist who is also an expert in energy production, which antagonist Orson Krennic (also the antagonist of the Rogue One film) wants to use to power the Death Star’s planet-destroying laser. And…that is kind of it. The book deals heavily with the “science” of making the laser while also touching on the Empire building the rest of the station in the meantime. This is a transitional period where the Republic is still becoming the Empire; people are starting to slowly realize that under Emperor Palpatine’s iron fist things like slavery and genocide are going to become the norm.

The book ends up being a classic story of “scientist wants to do a good thing but the military wants to weaponize the research”. Seeing as everyone reading this has probably seen the original Star Wars movie and knows what happens to Alderaan, you get the idea of how that struggle ultimately turns out. While Catalyst is not something you would call a necessary read, it is helpful for fans who want the full story. Some of the things in this book, such as the Geonosians role in constructing the Death Star (touched upon in the Darth Vader comic books and the Star Wars: Rebels TV series) are firmly cemented into the canon here. For the Star Wars nerds this is worth the read; for everyone else, just go see Rogue One.

December 18, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2 Book Cover Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2
Harry Potter
J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany
Play
Arthur A. Levine Books
July 31, 2016
Hardcover
320

The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

 

Harry Potter and the Fan Fiction Cursed Child was…ugh, I struggle to even put it into words, which is probably a lot like what the authors of this thing felt like. Forget Hogsmeade, this story is full of hogwash. Now granted, the authors were fairly limited with what could happen in The Cursed Child since it is a play. You cannot have huge, epic magic duels left and right due to the limitations of special effects. Despite this, there is a fair amount of magic.

Another limitation of a play is the style of writing. Readers cannot be given deep, detailed descriptions of everything. There are little blips here and there describing scenery or what a character is doing, but at least 90% of the text is dialogue. So the story really becomes more about the characters themselves, namely Albus (Harry’s son) and Scorpius (Draco’s son). While these two are supposed to be the main characters of the play, it can be kind of hard to tell with how much focus there is on Harry and co. The kids feel more like the catalyst that spurs the adventure than the heroes of the story. The original books had the adults helping out but it was always the youngsters that were the true heroes.

That is not to say that the authors did not try. It feels like they really, really tried their hardest. But Harry Potter being the cultural phenomenon that it is, there has been a large fan following over the years. People have picked the original series apart and asked, “Why didn’t the characters do this particular thing?” Some fans take it a step further and write their own stories based on these ideas. It felt like every major “what if” the Harry Potter fan community has thrown around in the past near-decade found its way into this story.

If they had decided to swing with one or two of these ideas, ok. That would have been fine. But it is just one after another for the entire book. Barring the overuse of those ideas as well as generic clichés, it felt like everything that a new story needed was there but that it just was not executed properly. Now maybe seeing The Cursed Child as a play can live a different impression on you. The way actors and actresses portray these characters could be much more effective than the mental images conjured up while reading. But as a book…I really hope J.K. Rowling was given a very big check in exchange for giving this her stamp of approval because that is really the only excuse.

December 11, 2016

Star Wars: Life Debt

Published Post author

Star Wars: Life Debt Book Cover Star Wars: Life Debt
Star Wars
Check Wendig
Sci-fi
Del Rey
July 19, 2016
Hardcover
430

Set between the events of "Return of the Jedi" and "The Force Awakens, "the never-before-told story that began with "Star Wars: Aftermath" continues in this thrilling novel, the second book of Chuck Wendig s "New York Times" bestselling trilogy.
"It is a dark time for the Empire. . . ."
The Emperor is dead, and the remnants of his former Empire are in retreat. As the New Republic fights to restore a lasting peace to the galaxy, some dare to imagine new beginnings and new destinies. For Han Solo, that means settling his last outstanding debt, by helping Chewbacca liberate the Wookiee s homeworld of Kashyyyk.
Meanwhile, Norra Wexley and her band of Imperial hunters pursue Grand Admiral Rae Sloane and the Empire s remaining leadership across the galaxy. Even as more and more officers are brought to justice, Sloane continues to elude the New Republic, and Norra fears Sloane may be searching for a means to save the crumbling Empire from oblivion. But the hunt for Sloane is cut short when Norra receives an urgent request from Princess Leia Organa. The attempt to liberate Kashyyyk has carried Han Solo, Chewbacca, and a band of smugglers into an ambush resulting in Chewie s capture and Han s disappearance.
Breaking away from their official mission and racing toward the "Millennium Falcon" s last known location, Norra and her crew prepare for any challenge that stands between them and their missing comrades. But they can t anticipate the true depth of the danger that awaits them or the ruthlessness of the enemy drawing them into his crosshairs.

 

Please note that this review will contain spoilers for Aftermath, the first book in the trilogy.

Life Debt is a bit better than the first Aftermath book, but holds its fair share of problems. The first book came out before the release of The Force Awakens and was the first story in Disney’s new continuity to take place after Return of the Jedi. People were expecting lots of post-Episode VI details and that did not happen. Understandably, that did not go over well with the fans. But now that Episode VII is out we can get into more details, right? Yeah, not so much.

Now there are some things in this book that are interesting, such as Han Solo and Chewbacca’s battle to free Chewie’s home planet from enslavement. Other than that, not much happens. The characters from the first book (take note: you will be totally lost if you did not read the first one) are basically Rebel/New Republic sanctioned bounty hunters. Their job is to hunt down forming high ranking Imperials who have gone into hiding. And…that is kind of it. There seems to be a larger, greater plot that will (hopefully) be developed in book three, but this whole novel feels like a little side adventure.

Like the previous book, there are little in-between tidbits featuring more well-known characters from the Star Wars universe. While knowing the ultimate fates of minor characters that were more fleshed out in the old canon is neat, it does nothing to advance the main story. If anything, these little bits are the most entertaining parts of the book. Characters that are more important such as Princess Leia, Admiral Ackbar, and Mon Mothma are not exactly written well. Remember how Luke behaved really out of character in the old canon’s worst novel, The Crystal Star? It is kind of like that.

While this book is better than its predecessor, that is not exactly setting the high bar. This is by no means something that you need to read to understand the Expanded Universe as a whole. The last book ended with the show of a Grand Admiral who was hinted to possibly be Thrawn; thank The Force that did not happen and he was used in season 3 of Star Wars: Rebels instead. Now maybe, maybe, the third and final book will be something good. Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe (probably not).

December 4, 2016

Kubo and the Two Strings

Published Post author

Poster for the movie ""

Kubo and the Two Strings

20161 h 41 min
Overview

In the epic fantasy, scruffy, kindhearted Kubo ekes out a humble living while devotedly caring for his mother in their sleepy shoreside village. It is a quiet existence – until a spirit from the past catches up with him to enforce an age-old vendetta. Suddenly on the run from gods and monsters, Kubo’s chance for survival rests on finding the magical suit of armor once worn by his fallen father, the greatest samurai the world has ever known. Summoning courage, Kubo embarks on a thrilling odyssey as he faces his family’s history, navigates the elements, and bravely fights for the earth and the stars.

Metadata
Director Travis Knight
Runtime 1 h 41 min
Release Date 18 August 2016
Details
Movie Media DVD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Masterpiece

Kubo and the Two Strings is one of the few movies that can be described as perfect. Everything about the film comes off as flawless; from characters to story to art to music. Of all those aspects, it is the story that is perhaps the strongest of all. Kubo himself is a storyteller and his film possesses as much magic as the character himself. You will not see overused tropes such as action for the sake of action or the need to explain every little detail like the audience is unintelligent.

The story also features everything you would expect from a fantasy tale. A group of heroes that has to battle monsters and villains on a quest to find legendary, magical items that are their only hope. The world these characters live in is a mystical place full of danger and mystery, but also excitement and adventure. Each and every character grows and changes as the audience learns more about them and as they learn more about themselves throughout their journey. No character remains stoic or is simply brushed to the side; everyone reveals the reasons for their actions and that makes them feel less like characters and so much more like people.

Visually, the film is absolutely stunning. This is the 4th stop motion animation film that Laika has put out. While their style has not changed too much since their debut film (Coraline), it is nonetheless stunning. The music is much the same way; it fits the Japanese setting of the film and is tailored to match each scene. The combination of all these factors will make you want to weep with sadness and joy throughout the film.

Going into too much detail about the film would be too much of a spoiler in any regard, but the film just feels so…rich. Viewers are thrown into a world that has its own rules, culture, history, and magic but you never really feel lost. The characters are at home in this world and it is presented in such a way that you can love what is there without the need for detailed explanations that so many other films feel like they have to include these days. And of course, Kubo and the Two Strings has the benefit of being an original film. Not a remake, not a prequel, not a sequel, not a superhero comic book adaption. It is its own story and the best film of 2016 thus far. It will not be surprising if it is still the best film when the year comes to a close.

November 27, 2016

Red vs Blue: The Ultimate Fan Guide

Published Post author

Red vs. Blue: The Ultimate Fan Guide Book Cover Red vs. Blue: The Ultimate Fan Guide
Rooster Teeth, Eddy Rivas, Burnie Burns
Humor
Dey Street Books
November 17, 2015
Paperback
240

In Red vs. Blue: The Ultimate Fan Guide, the series creators at Rooster Teeth bring together more than a decade's worth of ephemera and behind-the-scenes information. Inside you'll find:

– Character dossiers
– Character-driven lists, including "The Wisdom of Caboose"
– Charts and statistics mapping out character, world, and episode trivia, such as how many times Simmons has sucked up to Sarge over the course of the series
– The best Red vs. Blue quotes ever of all time
– Alternate stories and unexplored character arcs
– Spotlights on the Red vs. Blue cast and crew, who share unique anecdotes, behind-the-scenes stories, and insights into the award-winning series
– Shooting scripts, including cut lines, deleted scenes, and trivia
– More than 200 full-color images
– And more!

 

Red vs Blue began as a web series back in 2003 with a couple of friends using the original Halo video game to shoot video with comedic voice-overs. The unexpected popularity of the series soon gave rise to the company RoosterTeeth (fun fact: their chicken/chattering plastic teeth icon originally stood for “cock bite”, an insult commonly used in early episodes of the show). 14 seasons later and many other projects later, RoosterTeeth still makes Red vs Blue episodes as the cornerstone of their company’s success. The show has gone through changes in dynamic over the years, from pure comedy to action-comedy to almost pure action, and everywhere in-between. One of the downsides of the series is that each episode is only a few minutes long, making expanding on lore and side stories difficult. The Ultimate Fan Guide remedies that problem in a hilarious fashion.

14 seasons is a long time to establish your characters. Who they are, where they have been, who they will be; we have seen it all through the eyes of the Reds and Blues. While the Ultimate Fan Guide does highlight information already present in the series, such as character dossiers and some of the more memorable quotes, it also features new materials not seen in the shows. This involves personal accounts of the main characters as well as many side characters, including backstory relevant to the plot (yes, there is a plot; just get past season 5) of the series. It also highlights other important concepts, such as key locations, as well as character elements not seen in the show that expands beautifully on our favorite hapless yet successful soldiers. The snippets “written” by the characters are particularly gut tickling.

While this book did come out after the Chorus trilogy ended (season 13), the book only goes up to season 12 with information; presumably, because they were still writing while the 13th season was in production. The book lightly touches on the first two parts of that trilogy to keep spoilers fairly at bay for readers. However, the book has full spoilers for everything before that (seasons 1-10). If you want to watch the show, doing so at least up to that point before reading the Ultimate Fan Guide is recommended. After watching the show, the fan guide is very handy because it helps you grasp the chronology in the series. Large portions of the show (particularly seasons 9 and 10) are depicted via flashback. This can make it tricky to determine exactly what happened when; more so as the show goes on and the number of flashbacks builds up.

Although written in a comedic fashion, the Ultimate Fan Guide makes a great reference book for people who want to find some information without rewatching whole seasons to locate it. Granted an entire season is only 2~ hours long, but it is faster to read this than rewatch the whole show. Especially if you are trying to remember the story so far as new seasons premiere. This book will leave you laughing with deleted scenes, personal insights from the Reds and Blues, and insightful statistics (such as the number of nutshots throughout the series). For more serious readers, the book does have canon information not available anywhere else if you want to know everything there is about Red vs Blue. Either way, this book will appeal to any RoosterTeeth fan.

November 20, 2016

The House of Secrets

Published Post author

The House of Secrets Book Cover The House of Secrets
Brad Meltzer, Tod Goldberg
Mystery
Grand Central Publishing
June 7, 2016
Paperback
352

A priceless book, hidden in a corpse.
A family secret, handed down through generations.
And a woman with no memory of her past.

#1 bestselling author Brad Meltzer returns with
THE HOUSE OF SECRETS

When Hazel Nash was six years old, her father taught her: mysteries need to be solved. He should know. Hazel's father is Jack Nash, the host of America's favorite conspiracy TV show, The House of Secrets.

Even as a child, she loved hearing her dad's tall tales, especially the one about a leather book belonging to Benedict Arnold that was hidden in a corpse.

Now, years later, Hazel wakes up in the hospital and remembers nothing, not even her own name. She's told she's been in a car accident that killed her father and injured her brother. But she can't remember any of it, because of her own traumatic brain injury. Then a man from the FBI shows up, asking questions about her dad-and about his connection to the corpse of a man found with an object stuffed into his chest: a priceless book that belonged to Benedict Arnold.

Back at her house, Hazel finds guns that she doesn't remember owning. On her forehead, she sees scars from fights she can't recall. Most important, the more Hazel digs, the less she likes the person she seems to have been.

Trying to put together the puzzle pieces of her past and present, Hazel Nash needs to figure out who killed this man-and how the book wound up in his chest. The answer will tell her the truth about her father, what he was really doing for the government-and who Hazel really is.

Mysteries need to be solved. Especially the ones about yourself.

 

The House of Secrets is something of a mixed bag, landing on the line between average and exciting. It almost comes close enough to standing out in the overcrowded Mystery genre but falls just a little short of the mark there. The titular House of Secrets is a television show where host Jack Nash travels the world to answer age-old questions. An entirely new mystery arises shortly after Jack’s death, which leaves his son injured and his daughter amnesic. Enter the main character: Hazel Nash. Remembering nothing of her personal life, Hazel’s near-death experience is further complicated when the FBI seeks answers about her late father. The mystery is tied to a recent murder, where a body was found Benedict Arnold’s body stuffed inside. Now this is a fairly strong premise. Unfortunately, that does make the book as a whole feel somewhat like a wasted opportunity.

Now, The House of Secrets does start off strong. In the beginning, where we readers are as clueless about what is going on as Hazel, it seems like there are so many exciting directions the story could go in. The story runs you through a maze, making you excited to find the prize at the end. Expect that does not really happen. The big reveal is often meant to be the key defining moment in practically any mystery story but the one in this book is more likely to make you go, “Oh, ok,” than, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it!” There is plenty of interesting build-up in The House of Secrets so the early part of the book is fine, but it does fumble at the last second.

The characters are a bit so-so as well. When we Hazel is introduced, she is a completely different person than she has been for her entire life due to the amnesia. The amnesia has made her forget about anything and anyone she cares about, leaving her with little to no real empathy throughout the story. It is kind of hard to feel anything for a character who cannot feel anything. This book does jump between perspectives a bit but everyone who is not Hazel has virtually no character development. We do get some backstories that explain who they are and what kind of people they are. The issue is that everyone stays pretty stoic in who they are throughout the entire book. The plot and characters are like expecting a steak and getting a fast food burger and then you find out your fries were undercooked on top of that.

All of that may sound pretty pessimistic, but it is not enough to make The House of Secrets a bad book. It is not a stellar book, but it is not something you will think about using as kindling when you are done reading it either. The story certainly fits the Mystery genre by having a lot of questions (some of which even go completely unanswered!). Maybe if there is a sequel that expands on this story, it will be easier to view The House of Secrets in a gentler light. As a mystery, it was more entertaining than an episode of Scooby-Doo but it is not exactly a page turner. For a free book I got from a Goodreads giveaway, it was a worth the read.

November 13, 2016