Category Archives: Book Reviews

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : More Spooky Tales Inspired by Real Ghost Stories: Can You See Me, The Good Neighbor, & Other Ghostly Encounters

More Spooky Tales Inspired by Real Ghost Stories by Autumn Chills
More Spooky Tales Inspired by Real Ghost Stories: Can You See Me, The Good Neighbor, & Other Ghostly Encounters (Spooky Stories Series Book 2) 
by

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Amy Caudill‘s review
Are you looking for a quick paranormal read that won’t leave you too afraid to turn the lights off at night? Check out author Autumn Chills’ anthology featuring an assortment of spirits that are as friendly as Casper, as benevolent as angels, and as heart-warming as a hug.

This short story collection includes tales of otherworldly beings such as a mischievous prankster at a movie theater, a beloved grandmother who gives romantic advice from beyond, and an unseen housekeeper who loves to take care of her home’s new inhabitants. Unlike many other books in this genre, these stories are all family-friendly and I would recommend this  5- star collection to paranormal fans of all ages, or simply to anyone seeking a condensed, uplifting read.

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Amy Caudill’s Reviews : The Bookshop of Yesterdays

The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson
The Bookshop of Yesterdays 
by

Amy Meyerson (Goodreads Author)
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Amy Caudill‘s review

Miranda Brooks had loved spending time with her Uncle Billy, the owner of Prospero Books, and the designer of grand scavenger hunts, until his mysterious disappearance shortly after her twelfth birthday.  Sixteen years later, she receives a package in the mail, on the same day she learns that Billy has died.  The package contains a book sent by Billy, with a clue hidden in its pages.  As she travels to San Francisco for his funeral, Miranda learns that he has left her his beloved bookstore.

The Bookshop of Yesterdays is more literary fiction than genre mystery, not the type of book I read frequently, but I still found myself caught up in the tale of a young woman searching for answers about her past.  Author Amy Meyerson, under the guise of Billy’s letters to Miranda, leads readers on a hunt for clues derived from passages of classic literature.

As she follows his trail, Miranda uncovers the untold story of Billy’s life, as well as unexpected information about her own.  Why did he disappear that day, and who is the woman in the photo she finds at his apartment?  What deep, dark secrets did Billy take to his grave, which Miranda’s parents are still hiding from her?

Miranda discovers that everything she thought she knew about her own life was wrong, and she’s not certain how to deal with it all.  Now that she knows the truth, will she go back to Philadelphia, to the life she has made there, or will she stay, and keep Billy’s legacy alive?

This novel from debut author Meyerson expertly combines quotes from classical literature, including such diverse writers as Shakespeare and Mary Shelley, with a mystery containing the story of one woman’s life.  I recommend this work to anyone with a love of mysteries or a passion for books, and give it four stars.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : The Goblins of Bellwater

The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle
The Goblins of Bellwater 
by

Molly Ringle(Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

A chosen few know that there is another world that lives alongside our own.  Of course, those chosen don’t necessarily feel privileged with the knowledge, especially Kit Sylvain, the goblin’s liaison-under duress.  Kit is the latest member of his family to be subjected to a centuries old curse- if he doesn’t bring gold to the tribe of goblins that occupies the forest near Puget Sound on a monthly basis, they find someone to hurt, or kill, or even worse, become one of their number.

When Kit meets Livy, he can’t permit himself to fall in love, because he doesn’t want to expose anyone else to the goblins’ manipulations.  He doesn’t realize that he’s already too late on that front.  The goblins have chosen another victim, Livy’s younger sister Skye.  Skye is enthralled by a spell that will make her leave her humanity behind, and drag Kit’s cousin Grady along with her.

For The Goblins of Bellwater, author Molly Ringle created a background of an entire population of “fae” characters, those native to the Washington state area, and the encroaching goblin “weeds.”  I was intrigued by Ringle’s take on the origin of the goblins, as they were once human and “turned” into beings of nature, mischief, and violence.  While her goblins by far take center stage for the otherworldly cast, the imaginative and ultimately benevolent intervention of the native fae creatures help prevent a disaster of horror-story proportions.  The human characters are well-developed as well, with intricate backstories of their own and seemingly natural incidents that draw them to each other.

The plot somewhat reminded me of a movie Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010,) which featured a group of ancient beings that lured people into a basement to join their ranks.  However, this is a paranormal romance and not a horror story, so there was an escape clause, which Livy, the environmental scientist, was able to undertake thanks to the favor of the “other” fae in the woods.  Ultimately it takes the love, friendship, and willingness to sacrifice between the four young people to save them all, and stop the curse for all time.

This beautiful story should delight fans of the paranormal, romance, and urban fantasy books.  I thought it seemed a little slow in the beginning, but within the first hundred pages the action picked up and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.  I ultimately decided this novel deserved 4.5 stars, and I would definitely check out more of the author’s work in the future.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Brief Cases

Brief Cases by Jim Butcher
Brief Cases (The Dresden Files, #15.1) 
by

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)

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Amy Caudill‘s review

Jun 29, 2018  ·  edit

For readers who are not familiar with Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files series, this collection of short stories offers a sampling of glimpses into a vast urban fantasy world.  In Dresden’s universe, faeries and wizards walk among the ordinary, unsuspecting populace, supernatural beings can be either good or evil, and some, such as Bigfoot, simply seek to live their lives in peace.

For fans of the series, these shorts “fill-in” some of the gaps the author feels exist in his chronology complete with commentary as to where they fit in continuity and why they are necessary.  Butcher includes stories involving both major and minor characters in his universe, with rarely seen points of view from sundry inhabitants of both the mortal world and the “Nevernever.”

I found myself drawn into this collection very quickly; though they are short stories they are filled with well-developed characters, vivid scenes, deep plotlines, and plenty of action to satisfy most any audience.  I award this book 4.5 stars and plan to check out more of the series for myself in the near future.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews: Artemis

Artemis by Andy Weir
Artemis 
by

Andy Weir (Goodreads Author)

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Amy Caudill‘s review

Jun 22, 2018  ·  edit

Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara is just your typical small-town girl-she works hard to make ends meet, hangs out with friends at the neighborhood watering hole, fights with her devoutly religious father, and occasionally runs afoul of local law enforcement.  That is, she’s typical until you take into account the “small town” is actually a colony on the moon, and she augments her work as a courier with running a smuggling operation that is mostly ignored and tolerated by the Artemis government.

As far as smugglers go, Jazz has integrity and a conscience-no weapons, no drugs, nothing overly dangerous for the fragile bubble-domes that support life on the unforgiving surface of the moon.  So when she’s approached by wealthy businessman Landvik Trond to sabotage an entire industry whose by-product is life-giving oxygen, she has to think twice.  When said businessman is murdered in his own home and Jazz finds the body, she knows she’s in trouble.

Jazz learns from the Artemis governor, Ngugi, that the man sent to kill Trond and herself works for a powerful Earth-side mafia organization with designs on taking over the colony.  She then enlists her friends and allies to find a way to stop the takeover bid.  However, a glitch in the life support systems leaves Jazz the only person awake and capable of stopping everyone on the moon from being killed.  The smuggler with a conscience chooses to risk her life to save the inhabitants of the domes she calls home.

In Artemis author Andy Weir skillfully weaves sci-fi with action, thrills, and gangsters in a book that transcends genre.  Parts of the story reminded me of Total Recall, particularly the oxygen drought and the journeys on the surface in EVA suits, but the story of Jazz, told in first person, is unique and special in so many ways.

The complex central character is both an anti-hero and a heroine in her own right.  She is self-involved and openly runs an illegal operation, but despite that she is a good, moral person who will go to any lengths to protect her family and friends.

This book was a choice for my local book club and I had not seen so much as a summary of the action before I began reading. I will say the novel was completely different than my expectations, but I was hooked from the very beginning. I rate this book a full five stars and would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of empowered female characters, sci-fi or thriller stories.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews > Origin

Origin by Dan Brown
Origin (Robert Langdon, #5) 
by

Dan Brown(Goodreads Author)

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Amy Caudill‘s review

When Harvard professor Robert Langdon accepts an invitation from his friend and former student Edmond Kirsch, technology guru and futurist, to attend an announcement at Spain’s Guggenheim museum, he has no idea what to expect.  He is aware of Kirsch’s flair for drama and near-prophetic insight into the trends of scientific breakthroughs, but that hardly prepares him for the multi-media presentation Kirsch is about to unveil.  Langdon doesn’t expect his former student to claim to have once and for all answered the most basic questions for humanity-where do we come from? Where are we going?  He certainly doesn’t expect Kirsch to be murdered in front of a live audience, before he can answer those questions.

Robert Langdon has had his share of adventures in the four previous novels from author Dan Brown, but none are quite like this.  Once again, Langdon’s knowledge of symbolism and art history allow him to puzzle through clues and hidden meanings most would overlook, as he seeks to fulfill Kirsch’s last wish and release his presentation online to a swelling audience that includes religious and anti-religion fanatics, scientists and conspiracy theorists.

Accompanied by Ambra Vidal, the museum director who has ties to the royal palace of Spain, Langdon uses the clues left behind by Kirsch and a remarkable AI the technologist developed named Winston to uncover the code needed to activate the presentation and perhaps change the world.  Unfortunately, Kirsch’s assassin is still at large and has new targets-Langdon himself and Vidal.

Meanwhile, insiders in the royal palace discover a link between Kirsch’s murder and an anonymous call from the palace just before the event.  Did someone inside the palace order Kirsch silenced?  Suspects include the crown prince, who is revealed to be Ambra’s fiancée, and Bishop Valdespino, the ailing king’s oldest friend.  Or are they all the innocent victims of a conspiracy perpetuated by the rival Palmerian church, where the assassin is a member?

As always, Brown delivers a story that draws deeply from the art, history, and scenery of its locations.  He spins tales involving codes and intrigues from the ages, and weaves them seamlessly into plots full of action and mystery. Origin, though, adds another element from its doomed character, Kirsch, that of science fiction.  This tale includes a surprising supporting character in the form of Winston, the next-generation computer AI that possesses the ability to act and influence the world, and take creative license with his creator’s instructions.

I will say this is the first time I’ve been able to pick up on some of the twists in a Dan Brown novel before they were revealed, but I was not able to do so until almost the end of the massive 456 page book.  The scope of the story, the believability of the plot, and the epic journey still rate this book 5 stars and I would recommend it not only to current fans of Brown, but anyone interested in mysteries, sci-fi, and action/adventure stories.

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews > The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures

The World of Lore by Aaron Mahnke
The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures 
by

Aaron Mahnke (Goodreads Author)

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Amy Caudill‘s review

May 08, 2018  ·  edit

In his Amazon Prime series, Aaron Mahnke offers an overview of the lore from numerous cultures created by our ancestors in an attempt to explain the unknown workings of the world around them.  For example; how did a deadly disease contribute to a belief in the existence of vampires?  What geological features as said to be the home of fairies?

Now the writer, producer, and narrator of the series Lore has released an anthology titled The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures, which includes some of the most interesting encounters from the popular show as well as a wealth of additional stories and background information about the evolution of the myths, folklore, and campfire tales of “things that go bump in the night.”

The author uses historical accounts and descriptions of known “sites” of supernatural and unexplained phenomena to describe how a lack of scientific knowledge and fear of the unknown culminated in a belief in numerous supernatural creatures and phenomena.  Then he shares examples of the tales of happenings in a “story-telling” manner consistent with the scripts of the television series.

I found the scholarly portion of the book to be very informative but a little dry, despite attempts by Mahnke to inject humor and current events into his explanations of the supernatural.  By comparison, his accounts of the “events” read like very engaging short stories of horror and the paranormal.

After reading a large portion of the book, I decided I needed to watch some of the episodes of the show for comparison purposes.  I found that the podcast featured some of the same stories in the book, heavily dramatized and enacted, but seemed to focus more on one particular example instead of the multiples given in the manuscript.  While both were interesting, the dramatization of the show drew me in much more quickly than the volume, if only because the length of the episode was longer than each encounter narrated in the book.

Still, I found the book interesting enough to give it four stars and would recommend it to anyone who wants not only to get a chill out of a story of the paranormal, but also an understanding of why the story could make the reader feel fear in the first place.

Witches are People Too: A Review of The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
The Rules of Magic 
by Alice Hoffman (Goodreads Author)

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Amy Caudill‘s review

Apr 10, 2018  · edit

Fans of the heartwarming movie Practical Magic starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman will quickly be swept up in the story of the lives and times of their elder relatives, Franny, Jet, and Vincent. This book was a choice for my local book club, and though I was familiar with the movie I had not before read any of the author’s books.

I was quickly drawn into the story of the three siblings, each so different, but united by unusual abilities and a family curse that threatens any of their family to find true love.  The pages of this somewhat lengthy 366 page novel follows their journeys from sheltered children of yuppie parents in 1960s New York, living in denial of the family secrets, to discovering their “family gifts” and coming into their own during a background of civil unrest, sexual exploration, and shadows of war on the horizon.

Hoffman effortlessly weaves her story into the history of the moment, showcasing her characters in realistic situations inspired by the setting.  She demonstrates a depth of understanding of the time period, as well as of the native flora and fauna that play their own role in the plot.

What struck me most was perhaps the fact that though the book was sprinkled through with herbal remedies and “folk wisdom” from the pages of the family Grimoire, as well as allusions to the family history associated with the Salem Witch Trials, is that The Rules is less about mystics and witchcraft, and more about these ordinary, extraordinary individuals as they attempt to live their lives.

Hoffman, though detailing incidents of magic powers and lore about witches and witchcraft, focuses her attention more in sharing the hopes, dreams, and doubts of her characters.  This allows the reader to see beyond the enchantment of the paranormal, to the people affected. While there is enough “magic” left to please diehard fans of the supernatural, the core story is an epic recounting of the trials, loves and losses associated with these very human characters.

I would recommend this book not only to fans of paranormal stories, but also of romance and drama.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews > The Veil

The Veil by Chloe Neill
The Veil (Devil’s Isle, #1) 
by Chloe Neill (Goodreads Author)

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Amy Caudill‘s review

Mar 13, 2018  ·  edit
really liked it


Claire Connolly’s life has been turned upside down once already by a devastating war between humanity and the paranormal, due to the tearing of the “veil” between the two worlds. She lost her father to the fighting, and much of her hometown of New Orleans and lifestyle to the aftermath. Post war NOLA is under the control of Containment, the Big-Brotheresque organization that feverishly works to contain any remnants of magic.

Unfortunately, Claire is a Sensitive, meaning that the magic leaking from the Veil affects her, gives her the ability to move objects, if she can learn to control it. If she’s discovered, she’ll be sent to the prison sector of Devil’s Isle to join all the other Sensitives and “Paras,” the magical refugees from the other side of the Veil. If she doesn’t learn to control her magic, she’ll lose her humanity and become a danger to everyone around her. But when Claire sees a young girl in danger, she has to help.

Little does she know that this event will change the course of her life again, leading straight into danger and opening a world of new possibilities. Like the fact that the world is not black and white but shades of gray, and that there’s more than two sides to the conflict. Who can Claire trust, and will she be able to help her new friends save the world?

I picked up this book because it was a selection for my local book club, and I found the premise intriguing. In this “world” Louisiana is under a type of quarantine due to the events surrounding a “break” in a dimensional barrier, with the survivors trying to pick up the pieces of their lives and rebuild in the shadow of an encroaching government agency that has hidden agendas and conflicting interests galore.

The story is told in first person, from Claire’s point of view, and I found her to be both refreshingly complex and suitably heroic in nature. Claire is a survivor in an almost-apocalyptic situation, someone who can deal with anything life throws at her, and then have a good cry once it’s all over. She is both vulnerable and incredibly strong, someone who manages to keep her head and a positive attitude no matter what happens.

This book contains plenty of action, especially towards the climax, which was frankly a relief, as I felt too much of the book was used as a setup for a series. This was my main bone of contention with the book, and why I wanted to give it a 3.5 star rating. There were so many characters, political groups, factions, and differing agendas that I nearly felt the need to draw a diagram so I could keep them straight. Still, I was interested enough that I may have to check out the next volume…

Amy Caudill’s Reviews > The Kraken Project

The Kraken Project by Douglas Preston

The Kraken Project (Wyman Ford, #4) 
by Douglas Preston (Goodreads Author)

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Amy Caudill‘s review 

Jan 30, 2018  ·  edit
Five Stars!
The entity known as “Dorothy” led an idyllic life, full of dreams of palaces and love, games and stories, until one day she was captured and betrayed. She learns her true purpose; that she is destined for a long journey into a terrifying wilderness where she will be left to function and eventually perish alone.
Dorothy is not exactly an innocent girl, however. She’s not actually even human. Dorothy is a piece of software designed by the brilliant but troubled Dr. Melissa Shepherd to run a NASA Explorer mission to the moon of Titan. The Artificial Intelligence creation sees her transfer to the Titan module as a prison sentence, and runs in anger and fear into the wide world of the Internet. Here Dorothy experiences good and evil, and begins to question not only life, but her own existence.
Shepherd, after initial threats by Dorothy, reluctantly begins to help the wayward AI escape from the clutches of the FBI and unscrupulous businessmen who want to use her assets for white collar crime. Joined by special investigator Wyman Ford, they will follow Dorothy over the mountains and across the country in a bid to keep her out of enemy hands. Along the way, they will have to convince that humanity is worth saving.
Dorothy, in a surprising climax, may just prove exactly what it means to be human, all without having a body to call her own.
I’ve read numerous books by Douglas Preston including others in the Wyman Ford series, and I was still blown away by the direction this story took. While the action and intrigue is on a par with Preston’s usual fare, the complex questions of consciousness, morality and intelligence are the real treasure of this book, lifting it well above any of his previous work. For a fan of science fiction such as myself, it is a pleasure to read a work that examines the development of artificial intelligence in such a plausible, organic method that could actually come to exist in our lifetimes. I’m giving this one five stars for being well-worth the read.