(Not quite a) Book Review | “The Smoke Hunter” by Jacquelyn Benson one reader’s struggle with how ‘dark’ fiction can become for #YALit

Posted Friday, 5 May, 2017 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva using Unsplash.com photography (Creative Commons Zero).

Acquired Book By: I am a new reviewer for Hachette Books and their imprints, starting with FaithWords which is their INSPY (Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction) imprint of releases focusing on uplifting and spiritual stories which are a delight to read whilst engaging your mind in life affirming and heart-centered stories. I found Hachette via Edelweiss at the conclusion of [2015] and have been wicked happy I can review for their imprints Grand Central Publishing, FaithWords & Center Street.

I initially received this ARC Autumn 2016, however, it was during a period of time where my computer died (in a fierce lightning storm), my migraines were frequently giving me grief and shortly thereafter, right as things felt they were going to calm down for a bit, my father had a moderate bilateral stroke (see also Post). Ergo, I had to table a lot of my readings which were in queue towards the end of 2016 and the start of 2017. I have been progressing towards resuming where I left off and finding a renewal of joy reading the stories I was not able to alight inside until now. I received this ARC for review consideration and I was wicked happy for the discovery of finding an author who set her story in Central America. My keen interest is also linked to my own adventures in the Mayan ruins of Mexico City and the Yucatan peninsula inasmuch as my former field of choice to study: Archaeology. (see also Review to a bit about why I love Mexico)

I received a complimentary ARC copy of “The Smoke Hunter” direct from the publisher Grand Central Publishing (an imprint of Hachette Book Group Inc.) in consideration for an honest review. I was not obligated to post a review but I decided to share my thoughts for my own edification as much as broach the topic of discussion about how ‘dark’ fiction is becoming. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comI positively LOVE Action & Adventure stories yet finding stories with a healthy dose of Archaeological Intrigue is not always as easy to unearth.

My wanderings inside this niche of literature has it’s roots in the Graphic Novels based off of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and the fictionalised novels of Indiana Jones. One in particular truly celebrated what I loved about finding inside stories like these which was Indiana and the Seven Veils. Finding stories which suit my interests with the archaeological angle and keep me on the edge of my chair whilst reading the adventure the lead character is undertaking is sometimes a bit hit or miss depending on how the story evolves.

In the recent past, I have become re-inspired to seek out these stories by my discoveries of the following stories:

  • the Cobbogoth series by Hannah L. Clark (see thread)
  • the Awesome Jones series by AshleyRose Sullivan (see thread)
  • the Jaya Jones series by Gigi Pandian (see thread)
  • the Space Opera series by Cindy Koepp (see thread)
  • the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency series by Iain Reading (see thread)
  • The Legend of the Gypsy Hawk by Sally Malcolm (see also Review)
  • The Land of Look Behind by Aaron Blaylock (see also Review)
  • the first Ian Quicksilver novel, not the second (see also Review)
  • *if I said ‘see thread’ this denotes a series is still in-process

I was hoping this novel might be one I could appreciate in the similar vein of interest I had felt with Jaya Jones; as I truly do appreciate finding Lara Croft-esque characters who are wholly true to themselves but have a fierce passion for their fields of study. I love strong female leads who have a penchant for adventure and of uncovering the historical past in a way which will benefit humanity by the artifacts and discoveries they are making. I also loved The Mummy films starting Brendan Fraser where he was only one-half of the duo of archaeological explorers seeking to understand the lore and legacies of Ancient Egypt. So you can see, I have a healthy interest in reading these kinds of stories but it’s finding the stories which I can truly rally behind and say “I loved reading this!” which has become a quest of it’s own!

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(Not quite a) Book Review | “The Smoke Hunter” by Jacquelyn Benson one reader’s struggle with how ‘dark’ fiction can become for #YALitThe Smoke Hunter
Subtitle: Unlock an Ancient Mystery. Unleash an Earth-shattering secret.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Find on Book Browse

ISBN: 9781455569069

on 13th September, 2016

Pages: 448

Published by: Grand Central Publishing (@GrandCentralPub)
an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc. (@HachetteBooks)

Formats Available: Hardcover, Trade Paperback, Audiobook and Ebook

Converse via: #Historical + #YoungAdult or #YALit, #AdvFict, #HistFic and #TheSmokeHunter

About Jacquelyn Benson

Jacquelyn Benson Photo Credit: Jasmin Hunter

Jacquelyn Benson has always known who she wanted to be when she grew up: Indiana Jones. But since real archaeology involves far more cataloguing pot shards and digging through muck than diving out of airplanes and battling Nazis, she decided to devote herself to shamelessly making things up instead.

Jacquelyn studied anthropology in Belfast, Northern Ireland and married a man from Dublin, New Hampshire. She wrote a thesis on paranormal investigators and spent four years living in a museum. When not writing, you may find her turning flowers into wine, herding an unruly toddler, or hiding under a blanket devouring genre fiction.

Photo Credit: Jasmin Hunter

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About ellie (from chapter one):

Ellie is a frustrated academic who would prefer to be out in the world excavating ruins but instead is hindered by the presumptions women should not have University degrees nor aspire to dig in the dirt to find lost artifacts. She had a deeply held passion for History since she was quite young and the unfairness of gender inequality was starting to irk her ire quite fiercely. What is interesting is this story of her life is set just ahead of the turning of the 20th Century, in the late 1800s – however, when I looked into pursuing a career in Archaeology myself in the mid-1990s, I found the same as her: discouragement and a high yield of obstacles to ‘make it’ as a women in the field without any hope of backing by a University or museum. I couldn’t quite fathom the reasons why but it was laid out to me in such a blunt layer of truth, I sought a different path to walk because the joys of the historical past were not enough to combat gender bias and the pursuit of research without funding. At least not to me. I chose to find a field where I could have the freedom to chose my projects and to be in control of them without constantly having to stipulate the reasons why I should be allowed to create them.

Having read the text until the moment where Ellie is fired for being a Suffragette, I knew then, I might have enjoyed reading this story if her life had been the anchour through the Prologue and if the main context of the novel hadn’t been such a heinously evil suspenseful plot which left me rendered nausea rather than amused. Ellie is a strong character and one of whom I wished I could say was enough to keep myself inside the novel but alas! she is unfortunately bridged into an evolving story which simply isn’t my cuppa of tea to read. She had moxie and she had a resilience about her which I shall not forget but oh, how I wish this had been a bit more ‘Jaya Jones’ or ‘Lara Croft’ than the variant it became.

the only words i can express about the prologue:

The desolation of wretching despair on behalf of a man who knows his guilt and responsible for affecting thousands of lives begins this tale by admitting his wrong-doing whilst trying to find a way to resolve the anguish of his soul. He’s a friar and a man who believe in the power of prayer but not of how to find solace in self-forgiveness as it’s the first step towards reconciling what is deemed unforgivable. His life’s purpose was to be a missionary seeking to spread the word of Christ to those of whom he felt did not yet know anything about spirituality and religion. He never considered anyone having a different religion, rather he presumed they had none at all. As he sought to make an impression on the natives he was aware of a growing rumour about a City of Gold – a mythological fabled city of untold riches and of demons which roamed seeking to destroy living souls. He was tortured by his memories but also, of his inclination to seek out truth where shadows sought to keep it veiled from his sight.

Fly in the Ointment: Content Note:

I did not immediately warm to reading this story – as although I felt a slight connection to the Friar and his wayward addiction of finding the lost city and the rumoured fate of such a city of being into the darker arts of humanity – I found the intensive violence and carnage being afflicted on this city after his arrival quite uncomfortable to be honest. I have known about the rituals and the sacrifices of the lost cities of the Incas and Aztecs – as it’s quite infamous truly, once you did into the archaeological and anthropological past. However, knowing and reading about the senseless violence are two different sides of a coin.

Also, smallpox is such an insidious disease and one aptly to be described in this setting – giving the timescape and how settlers or explorers would regularly infect those communities they visited (think of: the Spanish conquistadors) – however, again, the medically grisly descriptions although realistic were a bit much for me as well. I was not quite prepared for those passages nor of the unending (or so it felt) of such an oppressive story-line where light did not glimmer nor flicker out of the darkest overlays of the suspense boiling through the main thread of the narrative itself.

What truly killed any hope I would have in settling my heart into this story is the Prologue. It’s so decidedly dark and etched out of such hauntingly horrid overtures of Horror, it’s hard to gain footing inside it’s pages. Definitely not the kind of story I would regularly read nor one I’d accept as being ‘outside my comfort zone’ of where I could handle reading because there is something so daringly dark about it all. What bothered me most is what the ‘suspense’ is hinting towards and of what further evil and darkness might penetrate the story lateron. I tried to find a reason to even stay rooted into the text itself and see where it would lead out and away from this train of thought – but sometimes what you hope for in a book and what is left behind for you to read are two very different things.

I did read Chapter One – if only to purge the Prologue from my mind and heart as it was beyond disturbing on too many levels to even properly articulate. This one singular YA reminded me too distinctively why I found Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress to be equally distressing. There’s Dark Fantasy and there’s Traditional Horror and then there are variants which eclipse both styles into a heightened new sphere of Dark Lit; for which I have no interest to read such tales.

Further musings AFTER I posted this:

Something was disturbing me all day Friday after I posted this but for the life of me, I could not put my finger on ‘what’ exactly until well into the middle of the early morning on Saturday! This book reads more like an up close and personal encounter with the *Aztecs* not the *Mayans*! There is even a reference early-on to Tenochtitlan which was the capital city of the Aztecs – I saw this referenced being Mayan in the novel. And, there you have it – this is why the novel disinterested me. Not because of the confusion of one of the four Ancient Civilisations, but because out of the main three which are still spoken about the most today, I order them in this sequence of interest: Mayan, Inca and if by some miracle I change my opinion which I’ve held since I was eleven, the Aztec. I’ve never liked them – in fact, the Aztec to me were brutally violent and did not have as much redemptive qualities as I found in the other two civilisations! So much so, whenever I read about them (fiction or non-fiction) my opinion of them strengthens will disinterest to learn more – thus, I now realise what is wrong with this novel: it’s highlighting a community I never drew an interest to know about even if the author is misidentifying them.

Technically, whilst in Mexico, I spent a lot of time observing / studying Mayan culture and the relics of their past – if anything, I can stipulate I am more drawn to a curiosity about the Mayans than I am of any other culture in Central and Latin America.

Reading habit:

As I’ve been stipulating recently, I am taking a liking to listening (through headphones) to #SlackerRadio – as I can customise the sounds and background atmosphere per each new book I pick up to read. The joy for me is finding out organically in-tune and sync the sounds and artists become with the context of the stories I’m reading. For this particular selection I wanted to resume listening to the Latin artists I came to love whilst travelling through Mexico – as well as discovering new artists I hadn’t had the pleasure of hearing previously. Therefore, during the hours in which I was hugged close to Benson’s narrative, I was tuning into: Diez ye Seis – the channel celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

The best part about listening to this station is the dual-language descriptions and introductions by the female DJ who made listening to the music a bit more special as she alternated between Spanish and English; giving the listener the joy of understanding a bit more than they would have if it was only broadcast in Spanish. The songs themselves are not in English, naturally – but what I meant to infer is sometimes it’s nice to hear a bit about the music your listening too when it’s outside your native language. For this, I was wicked happy for discovering the station!

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This book review is courtesy of:

Grand Central Publishing

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!

What are your own personal thoughts about how ‘dark’ Young Adult Lit can sometimes become and how the stories you were looking forward to reading sometimes can become derailed from the initial plot you felt they’d encompass? What are your personal book turnoffs for stories which are too far outside your comfort zone?

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “The Smoke Hunter” (both in hardback & the new release in trade paperback), book synopsis, author biography (found the biography included on the Press Release was a bit more interesting to share) and the “Two Across” promotional banner were all provided by the publisher Hachette Book Group Inc. (book covers via their Bloggers Portal) and used with permission. Tweets were able to be embedded by the codes provided by Twitter. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using Unsplash.com (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2017.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Friday, 5 May, 2017 by jorielov in 19th Century, Action & Adventure Fiction, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Book Review (non-blog tour), Bookish Discussions, Coming-Of Age, Debut Author, Debut Novel, Grand Central Publishing, Historical Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Treasure Hunt

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