Saturday, October 28, 2017

[Book Review] The Lyons Orphanage by Charlie King

The Lyons OrphanageThe Lyons Orphanage by Charlie King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received this galley from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From The Book Cover

Sam Watkins, an orphaned young teenager, possesses the ability to read the minds of almost everyone he meets. Howard Lyons, the owner of the orphanage where Sam has lived since he was a baby, has been reluctant to let Sam leave the orphanage. Unable to read the mind of Mr. Lyons, he takes it upon himself to investigate the reasons behind the owner's decisions and learn more about the origin of his ability, his parents and the potential of his power. However, Sam's investigation and mind-reading abilities reveal a power struggle at the top of a faltering orphanage between Mr. Lyons and his assistant Natalie. Sam's involvement in this conflict leads him to look for ways to save the orphanage and uncover the true motivations of both the owner and his assistant while trying to learn about his past.

Part 2: Recommendation

Written in the first person point of view in Sam Watkin's perspective, a thirteen year old orphan, living at the Lyons Orphanage, who has the ability to read the minds of everyone he meets except Mr. Lyons' and Nurse Scarlett's minds.

This is the first book that I've been exposed to Charlie King's work and I have to say with all honesty that it was a good read with a surprising twist that was hinted at in the middle of the book and in the book description that intrigued me. The first half of the book describes the daily routine of the orphans at the orphanage and the pacing is on the slow side, which is to be expected considering the POV is that of Sam's, whose life revolves around the orphanage and he doesn't get to go outside and since it begins during the summer break, there are no school scenes to show how Sam interacts with other students. The reader is pulled into believing Sam and in turn believes what Sam believes to be true. So when the author introduces the conflict between Mr. Lyons and Natalie, the reader feels the same way as Sam does. It's strange though because the way Sam thinks and talks, to me, feels more like he's way older than thirteen or could that be a product of being able to read people's minds?

After the conflict has been introduced, the second half of the book goes by much faster especially with the addition of Nicholas Lyons and his poker friends and everything drastically speeds up during the boys' annual physical check-up at the hospital where Nurse Scarlett and Nurse Lewis works where Sam finally discovers how he came to be at the orphanage which further ignited his curiosity more than ever as the reasons doesn't seem to be traumatic for a thirteen year old to handle, and why he was never allowed to meet prospective parents and how come despite after receiving a large donation, there are no visible improvements being done on the orphanage?

All the answers to these seemingly innocent questions explodes throughout the final chapters where everything is revealed and loyalties changed.

The Lyons Orphanage does not have a complicated plot, easy to follow and the main orphan characters (Sam, Ben, Natasha and Gareth) are well developed characters while Mr. Howard Lyons and Natalie remain background authority figures until almost the very end when their characters become more involved with Sam.

The only issue I had with the galley I received was that the formatting was not very good at all. I believe the author would benefit greatly from the services of a book/ebook formatter or with using Vellum to format this book. The cover did not bother me as I usually go for the book description when deciding to read a book or not but it could also use an update.

Overall, despite the formatting issues I've mentioned above, it's an enjoyable read.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

[Book Review] The Legend of Decimus Croome: A Halloween Carol by Kevin Purdy

The Legend of Decimus Croome: A Halloween CarolThe Legend of Decimus Croome: A Halloween Carol by Kevin Purdy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From The Book Cover

Decimus Croome is a dastardly curmudgeon who hates all holidays but especially despises Halloween. He is content to live in his gloomy old house and avoid all human contact whenever possible. He even shuns his own daughter and grandson. But Croome's life changes one memorable Halloween when four ghastly spirits visit him to reveal the misery he has inflicted upon his friends, neighbors and family members.

Based on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, The Legend of Decimus Croome is bound to become a Halloween classic for readers of all ages. Follow old man Croome as he is visited by the lovely but disturbing spirit of his dearly departed wife. She warns him of three spirits yet to follow. And oh what spirits they are. Each one is more frightening than the last as they deliver a chilling message for Croome and his fellow Halloween humbugs.

The Ghost of Halloween Past is a truly horrifying yet disturbingly hilarious spirit who delivers Croome to his distant and not-so-distant past. Along the journey, Croome is warmed with nostalgia then terrified by painful memories from Halloweens gone by.

The second spirit is a shape-shifting witch who breaks every stereotype about witches while nearly driving Croome insane with her wild antics and slapstick delivery. As the Ghost of Halloween Present, she takes Croome on a crazy magic carpet ride that reveals his negative influence on those closest to him. The witch also introduces Croome to the magic of Halloween on enchanted visits further afield.

The third phantasm delivers the final glimpse of Croome's diabolically repulsive life and the future that is in store for him if he doesn't change his wicked ways. Croome is forced to confront the impending consequences of his cruel and heartless lifestyle. He is spirited away to a bleak future including a terrifying visit to a desolate cemetery.

Throughout this delightful and spooky Halloween novel, you will be haunted by ghosts, inspired by a brave young leukemia patient and entertained by a precocious feline named Black Magic.

Join Tommy Bobbich, Decimus Croome and a whole cast of ghosts, witches and ghouls in this modern day holiday story that is sure to provide you with chills, laughs, and even a few touching moments as you read The Legend of Decimus Croome: A Halloween Carol. You will never look at Halloween the same again.

Part 2: Recommendation

I love Halloween (even though I tend to be lazy when it comes to dressing up, decorating and giving out candies because all I want to do on Halloween is to eat pizza and popcorn while watching a movie marathon of all of my favorite Halloween movies) and I love Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. At first I wasn't sure if I want to read and review this book (because I don't want A Christmas Carol to be ruined by another retelling) but upon further research, majority of this book's Amazon and GoodReads reviews were 5-stars. So I figured, why not give it a try and I am quite curious to know how the author Kevin Purdy translates the major plot points of A Christmas Carol into Halloween.

Well, I have to say kudos to Kevin Purdy for his work in The Legend of Decimus Croome: A Halloween Carol. It's very well written and true to the "Spirit of Halloween" ala Dickens style. It makes me wonder if the author is planning on coming out with another holiday carol book.

Decimus Croome definitely has Mr. Scrooge's cranky and downright nasty personality towards anyone and anything related to Halloween. Sam Bobbich and Tommy Bobbich represented Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim respectively. Patricia Croome, the late wife of Decimus Croome took the place of Jacob Marley while his son-in-law, Darren Tate, took the place of Fred, Mr. Scrooge's nephew, who always invites Mr. Croome to their annual Halloween party. Fezziwig was aptly represented by Stan Croome, Decimus' late father, who left the Croome Hardware store to Decimus.

The book opens with a scene establishing Decimus Croome as the Halloween humbug when he encountered Tommy and his older sister Kate by the Halloween decor aisle and what he later did to the two teen boys running around the Home Emporium, the competing hardware store, while buying an axe. Decimus Croome does have a wicked sense of humor and it showed when he exited the Home Emporium with a smirk on his face and mumbling, "Pest clean-up in aisle three … Who needs a stake through the heart when you've got lawn tractors?" or when he asked Darren, "A Halloween party? … and what exactly does one celebrate at a Halloween party? Is it a werewolf's birthday, a mummy's bar mitzvah or perhaps a witch's wedding anniversary?"

Another line from the book that I dearly loved was when Decimus asked Patricia's ghost, "…if you didn't choose it, and I didn't choose it, then why … did I have to spend my life without the one I loved most?…" and Patricia's answer was the best, "You cannot choose when or how you die, but you can choose how you live."

When Decimus observed how, "… it took so little to make a child like Tommy happy" the Spirit of Halloween Present said, "… It would appear that you might have underestimated the magic of Halloween." Decimus also realized "… that the joy of Halloween had not department this world. It had only departed his world."

When the Spirit of Halloween Present introduced Apathy and Greed, the scene with the two "little monsters" was quite spooky, "They belong to all of us and none of us. They are children of the world … they have grown particularly repulsive in the present day … When I am long gone, they will remain to haunt you and your brethren … they appear small but have a remarkable impact upon us all … They are not here with me, Decimus Croome. They are here with you."

And that scene with the Spirit of Halloween Future where they were visiting the Bobbich family and Decimus began pleading with Sam just about broke my heart.

And to round it all up, the light-hearted, happy and nice Decimus Croome making an appearance at the annual Tate Halloween party tied everything up like a festive Halloween wreath.

Overall, the plot, dialogue and characters lived up to the original classic and I have no doubt of this book by Kevin Purdy easily becoming a Halloween favorite just like A Christmas Carol. Truly inspiring.

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