Category Archives: Book Reviews

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Waking the Dead

Waking the Dead by Heather Graham
Waking the Dead (Cafferty and Quinn, #2) by

Heather Graham (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

What evil could possibly be hidden in a recently-recovered painting done by an obscure artist, whose major claim to fame, besides the work of art, was that he was friends with the likes of poet Lord Byron and Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein?

Lovers and occasional colleagues Danni Cafferty and Michael Quinn must answer this question when a series of heinous murders follows the sale, and delivery, of Ghosts in the Mind to a wealthy widow in New Orleans.  Quinn, called to the scene by his former partner on NOLA’s police force, Larue, investigates the murders, while Danni examines a copy of the painting at a local gallery.  Neither wants to believe that the infamous artwork is haunted, but both history and recent events tell tales of death following the painting in its wake.

As the death toll rises, Danni and Quinn lead an unusual team to the source-the location where Henry Sebastian Hubert painted the original work, Lake Geneva, Switzerland, in an effort to exorcise the evil manifesting on the streets.  The society widow, a coroner, a parish priest, a voodoo priestess, and couple of Danni’s employees join together in a quest into the heart of darkness, and a crypt that has been untouched for 200 years.

This particular novel, the second in the Cafferty and Quinn series, has a wide-ranging plot that includes eleven possible killers that are no longer among the living, as well as several suspects, and a couple of not-suspected individuals, who may or may not have committed some of the murders.

My only issue with the plot was the first scene on the castle grounds, which was a very close match to Natasha’s (the voodoo priestess) earlier ominous vision of what Danni might face.  The problem I saw was that none of the characters acknowledged or appeared to recognize the similarities to the vision, which turned out to be disappointingly very anti-climactic, because its resolution did not stop the “evil.”  However, the finale to the plot was very satisfying; as Danni discovers the identity of a villain that in life was a virtual puppet master who lured people into carrying out horrible deeds, a legacy he continued after his death, and a heartbreaking betrayal leads to the identity of the living murderer.

Overall, I give this book 4 stars and recommend it to any fans of paranormal romantic mysteries, as well as fans of Heather Graham’s other series.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Fool Moon

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, #2) by

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

  

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s very own modern day wizard, is back, in a sequel where his enemies outnumber his allies.  Harry is in hot water with the police and officially under scrutiny by FBI Agent Denton due to unfortunate rumors he’s in league with local crime boss Johnny Marcone following the events of the first book in the series, Storm Front.  He’s also on the outs with the women in his life, Lt. Karrin Murphy, his girlfriend, Arcane reporter Susan Rodriguez, and his former apprentice Kim, all because he’s trying too hard to protect them from the chaos that is his life.

A series of grisly murders committed around consecutive full moons lead a suspicious Lt. Murphy to seek Harry’s help; could werewolves be involved?  The case proves more complicated as multiple types of “weres” start coming out of the woodwork, leading to an epic battle inside the headquarters of Police Special Investigations.  With lycanthropes, loup-garou, hexenwulfen, and true werewolves running around Chicago, Harry has his hands full.

As the body count rises, Harry is not sure who’s bad, who’s good, who’s innocent, and if the killings are the result of “animal” instincts, or if someone is using the cursed as a smoke screen for pre-mediated murder.

Will he continue to blame himself for those who are injured or killed simply by being close to him, or will he learn to trust and accept help from his friends?   Ultimately, Harry finds himself in a battle against his own darkest instincts, with the lives of his friends, and the true nature of humanity at stake.

I read a couple of Jim Butcher’s books last year after being introduced to the series in a book club, and decided I enjoyed them enough to read the entire series in order.  Fool Moon is one of the best I’ve read to date, and I award it five stars, with recommendations to anyone who enjoys urban fantasy, paranormal stories, and crime dramas with a side of romance.

 

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : 206 Bones

206 Bones by Kathy Reichs
206 Bones (Temperance Brennan, #12) by

Kathy Reichs (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

Feb 19, 2019

This latest installment into Cathy Reichs’ “Bones” series features Dr. Temperance Brennan facing accusations of impropriety in a recent case.   Brennan and Quebec Detective Andrew Ryan travel to The Windy City during a snow storm to address these unfounded charges, and uncover hints of an enemy determined to hurt Brennan’s reputation, but the why and who remain unknown for the majority of the novel.

Those familiar with the author’s work will recognize Dr. “Tempe” Brennan as the same feisty, brilliant, brave and compassionate forensic anthropologist from the hit TV show Bones. Though the locales and supporting cast of characters changed for the show, Tempe is the same passionate soul who will let nothing stop her from finding justice for those who land on her autopsy table.

Dr. Brennan and Det. Ryan are soon back in Quebec, working on multiple cases both together and separately.  Tempe clashes with a new addition to the staff of the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciares et de Medecine Legale, a Dr. Miranda Briel, a pathologist with delusions of ability in forensic anthropology.  Briel seems to deliberately attempt to undermine her colleagues to advance her own career.  How far Briel is willing to go to further her ambitions, Tempe will unfortunately discover, in a nearly fatal encounter.

While I’ve long been a fan of Reichs’ work, 206 Bones has to contain far more of the dry procedural stuff commonly found in her novels- cataloging bones of a found skeleton, detailing street maps of Chicago, Quebec, etc., as the characters travel, not to mention the different “tells” that can help identify bones and teeth of a particular specimen.

What keeps the entire story from being mundane, though, is the fact that it is actually being told in flashback, with “flashes” forward interspersed between other chapters detailing the life-or-death climax Tempe has found herself in; how she arrived in this predicament is the true focus of the plot, with “hold your breath” suspense as to if she will somehow miraculously escape and survive.

206 Bones is the twelfth book in the author’s series, and while it is not the best I’ve read, it still has plenty of appeal from a series of murders that may or may not be related, and drama from both interoffice interactions with Tempe’s colleagues and her former lover in Ryan.  I give this book 3.5 stars and recommend Reich’s work to those readers interested in police procedurals, detective stories, and cozy mysteries.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : City of Endless Night

City of Endless Night by Douglas Preston
City of Endless Night (Pendergast, #17) by

Douglas Preston (Goodreads Author), and Lincoln Child
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

Jan 29, 2019

This latest installment of the long-running series starring Aloysius X. L. Pendergast, oft-rogue FBI agent, is unlike so many of the authors’ previous works.  Fans of the series have come to expect Pendergast to delve into cases that flirt with the mystical, occasionally delve into the paranormal, and frequently feature macabre murders and even creepier villains.

I am happy to report that while City of Endless Night breaks this mold, the story does not suffer for it in terms of action, suspense, and chilling details.

Pendergast, ably aided by sometimes-partner Lieutenant Vincent D’Agosta of the NYPD, investigate a series of murder/decapitations that present more questions with each subsequent victim.  Is there one killer at work? Two?  A copycat?  Or even more?  The bodies pile up, the suspects dry up, and D’Agosta feels the pressure from the mayor and the police brass, but he’s left flailing by Pendergast who is inexplicably off his usual game.

The novel lacks Pendergast’s usual trip into his mind palace to find hidden clues; instead the preternaturally cognizant detective seems distracted, even disinterested at the beginning of the story.  This turn of events actually helps the plot though; no hint of the actual killer is given until three-quarters of the way through the book.

What follows is sheer classic Pendergast-a manhunt with an intelligent, cunning, and utterly ruthless murderer who seeks the ultimate “big game” hunt, pitting himself against a quarry he considers worthy of his attention, Pendergast himself.

I award this latest Pendergast thriller five stars, and am happy that although this is the seventeenth addition to the series, the authors have found a way to keep the characters fresh, and the plot both entertaining and unpredictable.

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : My Grave Ritual

My Grave Ritual by G.S. Denning
My Grave Ritual by

50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

Jan 15, 2019  ·  edit

This third installment of the author’s paranormal parody of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective features Warlock Holmes, a hapless, frequently helpless practitioner of dark arts who is riddled with demons that occasionally prove useful, but more often threaten the sanity of Dr. John Watson, who is not the sidekick, thank you very much, but the real brains behind the crime-solving duo.

This anthology of short stories is based off Conan Doyle’s originals, but in this version the separate cases tie closely together to reveal a larger plot that is hinted at throughout the book.  Nightmarish prophecies where living porcelain dolls reveal a ritual that portends someone’s death and the escape of the disembodied Moriarty, cast out of Holmes at the end of the last volume, spells impending doom if Holmes and Watson cannot solve the mysteries, capture the mastermind, and save the world in time.

All of Conan Doyle’s most notable characters are present, though some in altered form.  Scotland Yard Inspectors Lestrade and Greggson come to call, though their non-human natures, a vampire and troll respectively, offer complications that Conan Doyle never envisioned.  Mrs. Hudson is her mirror opposite in every way, and street urchin Wiggles, in this version a lycanthropic shape-shifter, also pop in to add to the mayhem.

“The Woman,” a.k.a Irene Adler, makes multiple appearances, but this time it is hopeless romantic Watson who is obsessed with her, to the point of his foretold and inevitable “death” at the end of this volume.  Time will tell if mortal Watson’s death “takes” or is somehow retracted by Holmes, especially as the next volume of the series, The Sign of the Nine, is due out in April of this year.

G. S. Denning does an admirable job of copying Conan Doyle’s style along with the language and mannerisms of 1890s London, while adding his own unique twists and turns to the genre. As a long-time fan of all things Holmesian as well as paranormal stories, I greatly enjoyed the two previous volumes in the author’s series, A Study in Brimstone and The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles, and look forward to the next two planned volumes. I give My Grave Ritual five stars, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a spoof of Sherlock Holmes, paranormal stories, or just a light-hearted take on detective fiction.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Blood of the Earth

Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter
Blood of the Earth (Soulwood, #1) by

Faith Hunter (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review
Nell Ingram doesn’t think she’s special; actually she’s afraid that the strange “gifts” she has, if discovered by the God’s Cloud of Glory cult she escaped from as a child, would see her burned at the stake. So she lives alone, almost completely isolated save for her mystic connection to the forest that she barely understands. Being alone protects her; being alone is comfortable, but her quiet isolation is not meant to last. Forces meant to help and harm are both coming her way, and Nell will be forced to use her strange connection to the Earth to save lives.

This first book in a new series by author Faith Hunter revisits a world where “paranormals” live and work side by side with ordinary humans, and both groups are touched by good and evil. When Homeland Security’s special division for dealing with paranormal crimes, PsyLED, saves her life, Nell Ingram is forced out of her self-imposed isolation to assist in a case involving the kidnapping of multiple young girls, and work with a group of individuals whose gifts are just as unique as her own.

Nell’s insider knowledge of the God’s Cloud of Glory church, which is suspected to be involved in the kidnappings, makes her a valuable asset. In order to save the lives of the innocent girls, one of whom is her own sister, Nell will have to face her past, and push her strange powers in ways she’s never before imagined.

I picked up this book as a choice from my local book club, and I really wanted to like it simply because of the location; the setting is mainly in East Tennessee, in and around Knoxville, an area that is near and dear to my heart. While the descriptions of the region and are spot on, I had more difficultly with the plot.

The story seemingly meandered along for the first half of the book, before the pacing finally picked up somewhere along the last third of the text. Granted, some of this was necessary world-building, but it seemed to me to be a bit excessive in mass. Still, by the end I was fully invested in the action, and cheered Nell and her team on as they reached a very satisfying ending, and epilogue.

I offer this story three and a half stars, and would recommend that readers interested in paranormal and urban fantasy stories check out this series as well as other works by Faith Hunter.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Wicked Deeds

Wicked Deeds by Heather Graham
Wicked Deeds (Krewe of Hunters, #23) by

Heather Graham (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review
A romantic getaway for a just-married couple, an historic Baltimore restaurant, and a murder makes for a typical beginning for this 23rd installment of the author’s Krewe of Hunters series. The series focuses on a team of FBI agents, all whom possess to some degree abilities to see, hear, and interact with the dead, and use these special “gifts” to unravel murders that local police and other agencies cannot solve.

What sets this novel apart from the rest of the series is the strange dreams, followed by waking encounters, with the ghost of a most famous historic personage, Edgar Alan Poe himself. Poe is a regular visitor to the Black Bird restaurant, which is dedicated to his life and work, and is the home of The Blackbird Society, a Poe fan group. When the restaurant becomes the scene of the murder of another, modern famous author, Poe volunteers to assist agent Griffin and historian and future-agent Vickie with the case.

As the members of The Blackbird Society insist on “helping”, Griffin and Vickie cope with multiple séances, more murders and disappearances, and a trip to a house that could have come straight out of a Poe short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher.” As they unravel the clues to the modern murders, Vickie finds strange links between the modern cases and the mysterious circumstances surrounding Poe’s own death, which the ghostly author cannot consciously recall.

I thought this novel was by far one of the most engaging books by author Heather Graham I have read in some time. The premise of the story, while in lines with the successful series, contained more originality and twists and turns than some of the prior books in the series. Her protagonists are always likeable, but it is rare that the multiple secondary characters and antagonists, such as socialite and would-be seer Liz Harcourt, are portrayed with such depth of development. The characterization of Poe himself was equal parts comic-relief and intrigue that makes the reader ponder the various theories concerning his mysterious demise.

The only issue I had with Wicked Deeds is in the final chapter, which seemed overly drawn out and forced in length. While it was nice to see the characters have some closure, this particular scene seemed a little superfluous, especially after the level of excitement that preceded it. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the book, and give it five stars, with recommendations for any reader who enjoys paranormal/urban fantasy/murder mystery/romantic stories.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Prince of Fools

Prince of Fools by Mark  Lawrence
50275498

  Amy Caudill‘s review

Prince Jalan Kendeth is a pampered, self-centered rogue, a scoundrel, a womanizer.  He’s hardly hero material, which he will tell you himself, except that when trying to escape one battle he accidentally led a charge into another one, a feat that made his people call him hero and his enemies call him devil.

When Jal tries to escape an enchantment the mysterious “Silent Sister” has placed over an opera house full of patrons, he literally runs into a fierce Norse warrior named Snorri Snagason.  Both men are impacted by the failed curse, which causes them harm either if they part ways or make direct contact with each other.  Effectively bound together until they find a way to reverse the curse, Jal joins Snorri on a mission to rescue his kidnapped family.  The fact that he’s wanted by the local crime lord has nothing to do with it.

Jal and Snorri begin a quest that leads through wilderness, barbarian towns, mountains filled with undead soldiers, and ruins of “ancient”civilizations as they draw ever closer to a fortress planted on the edge of a glacier, the “Bitter Ice.”  What they find there, and what they are willing to sacrifice, may determine the fate of the world.

This story is told mostly through the point of view of Jal, who paints a picture of a dark, unforgiving world, where the value of a man can be measured by the sharpness of his steel or the gold in his pocket.  The narration is occasionally broken up by the storytelling efforts of Snorri, whose flashbacks reveal hints into the larger plot.

This latest installment into the author’s Broken Empire universe started off a little slow, but picked up momentum about a third of the way in.  The suspense kept me practically on the edge of my seat towards the end of the story, and I was still guessing all the way up to the final chapter.

Though this book is the first of a trilogy, and is part of a larger universe, it still had enough resolution to be read as stand alone, which is a plus to me.  For all of these reasons, I award this book 4.5 stars, and recommend it to anyone interested in the fantasy genre, as well as fans of paranormal and dystopian stories.

 

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Odd Thomas

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
Odd Thomas (Odd Thomas, #1) by

Dean Koontz (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

In the original novel that drove a series of bestsellers, Odd Thomas is a humble soul distinctly lacking in what many would consider ambition.  His goals in life are simple: to help others using his unusual gifts whenever possible, to love Stormy Llewellyn to the best of his ability, and to live as normal a life as possible.

When Odd sees a cluster of otherworldly bodachs following a customer who enters the Pico Mundo Grill during his shift as a fry cook, he feels compelled to investigate.  Odd knows from long experience that the ominous spirits, which few others can see, are drawn to death and mayhem, and their presence in such large numbers surely heralds an approaching calamity.

Odd quickly finds himself in deep trouble while tracking a serial killer fanboy, who is apparently aware of every move Odd makes.  Unfortunately the villain’s intended target is unclear, and to make matters worse, the fanboy killer is not working alone.  Also, unfortunately, the conspirators go after the people Odd loves.

This riveting story quickly drew me in, and kept me on the edge of my seat with every page turned.  Odd Thomas is a true hero; he doesn’t see himself as such, but he thinks nothing of placing himself in harm’s way to save the lives of others.  The fatal flaw in Odd’s gift is that he can’t always tell immediately whether someone he sees is a ghost or the living, leaving a pall of uncertainty over his course of action in this story.

From Koontz’s descriptions of the ghosts and spirits Odd encounters, to the friendly and otherwise-normal nature of his protagonist, to the rich tapestry of secondary characters that surround Odd, the author presents a cast of heartwarming characters made all the more touching by the dangers that lurk around the corner.

This novel represents the best in paranormal thrillers, and I enthusiastically give it five stars.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Furyborn

Furyborn by Claire Legrand

50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

Sep 30, 2018  ·  edit

Hold onto your hats, readers, when you dive into the world of author Claire Legrand because you are about to embark on a very wild ride, that will take you deep inside an entire new culture and mythology, before slamming you repeatedly back and forth thru time.

Furyborn is the story of two young women, separated by a thousand years in time, but linked in enigmatic ways that are only are only revealed slowly through this first book in a trilogy by the author.

Rielle, a temple student and member of the royal court in the past, hides a terrifying secret; she may possess the power to control all seven of the elements worshipped by the people of the kingdom of Celdaria.  Once she successfully harnesses these powers, she could be the prophesied Sun Queen, the protector, or her counter, the Blood Queen, the destroyer.

Eliana, a bounty hunter who seeks “marks” for the empire to support her mother and younger brother, has a secret of her own.  She is invulnerable, but has no understanding as to why, except for the myths of magic users and angels passed down through the ages, which have been all but destroyed by the empire that has nearly conquered her world.

Each subsequent chapter of this mammoth volume switches back and forth between the two stories of the two extraordinary girls, living completely separate lives in vastly different environments.

How could the two stories possibly be related?  They share a world, even though they are separated by time, and the reality of the former becomes the mythology of the latter.  There is also the fact that certain objects, like an unusual necklace, and the names of certain characters, which at first appearance could be only coincidental, transcend the gap of the centuries.

When I first began reading this massive volume, a choice for my local book club, I admit I found the time switch confusing through the early chapters.  There is a lot of information, characters, and history involved in the world building to keep track of, compounded by the fact that the story takes place in two separate time periods simultaneously.  However, as I continued reading, I was able to separate the two stories, only to begin to see links between them.

The trials that Rielle must face are exciting but a little predictable by the end.  She conquers the elements- wind, fire, water, metal, shadows, light, and earth, in a manner reminiscent of other stories of trials of heroes.

Meanwhile, Eliana faces horrors of her own in an age where science can create mutations controlled by a malevolent force, and the very soldiers of the despotic Emperor are only shells that once were human.

The connection between the two main characters is explained by the end of this volume, but so many questions are left unresolved.  What will happen to Rielle that leads to the situation that Eliana is in, a thousand years later?  What will happen to Eliana, who is in the middle of a war against the empire?  Will the angels, banished in the ancient past, succeed in returning to the world of the future and conquer it?

I know this is only the first book of a trilogy, but I confess I was disappointed with just how much of the story was left unresolved at the end. I also wondered if the next two books, not yet released, would be written in the same manner, forcing the reader to shift back and forth in time.

Perhaps all this suspense is a good thing, though it will be difficult to wait until the next book comes out next year to see the answer to my questions!  Overall, I award this story 4.5 stars for excellent character development and world building, with a plot full of twists and turns that keeps the reader guessing.  I would recommend this story to any fans of epic fantasy worlds, strong female characters, or time travel storylines.