Category Archives: Book Reviews

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Small Favor

Small Favor by Jim Butcher

Small Favor (The Dresden Files, #10) by Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s review: 

Harry Dresden, Chicago-land wizard and Warden of the White Council, was forced to make a deal with the devil (a.k.a. Queen Mab, of the Winter Sidhe,) in a previous book, Summer Knight, and now she’s come to collect her due. 

The Small Favor she wants is not exactly small, though.  Johnny Marcone, the head mobster of Chicago, and a new signatory of the Unseelie Accords, a sort of Geneva Convention between magical races, has been kidnapped by a group of Fallen Angels who possess humans by means of a silver coin and turn them into monsters.  Harry has dealt with the Denarians before and barely survived.  Now a whole gang of them is back, and the lives of everyone Harry knows is at stake.

Small Favor is not quite a typical example of The Dresden Files to date.  Harry is not hired by a client to solve a mystery that relates to a supernatural event, unless of course you count his working for Queen Mab to find a kidnapped mobster, and then a little girl who possesses the collective knowledge of the human race is kidnapped as well.  Instead, the story is much broader and farther reaching, while expanding Butcher’s universe and continuing the development of his cast of characters.

The battles just keep getting bigger as more dangerous foes and friends come to play, and this time it’s Fallen Angels against the Knights of God, the Wizards of the White Council, Sgt. Murphy of Chicago PD, and elements of Marcone’s criminal empire.  With so much at risk, Harry could use some straight answers, but all he gets is more questions, like why Mab cares about the fate of a mortal mobster in the first place?

While the present tension and action is quite enough of a story for one book, there are hints that there is much more below the surface than the author is revealing in this novel.  Towards the end of the story, Harry is introduced to an actual Archangel, though he is unaware of this at the time, who says that he is impressed with Harry’s work.  Is this foreshadowing for the rest of the series?  Will there be other angels or even higher powers mentioned in future stories? 

Jim Butcher has woven another involving tale that leaves the reader hungry for more.  The action scenes take up a good portion of this book, but they are well-paced, and there is plenty of room left for the “hocus pocus,” witty banter, moral dilemmas, and romantic angst that are such a part of the series.  I have to give this one five stars, and set my sights on the next book in the series.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Leia: Princess of Alderaan

Leia by Claudia Gray

Leia: Princess of Alderaan (Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, #3)
by Claudia Gray (Goodreads Author)

Author Claudia Gray brings us the definitive back story of the future general of the Rebellion herself, beginning with a teenage princess on the doomed planet of Alderaan. 

I don’t often read Young Adult novels, but this one had much to offer to even adults, as it allowed the reader to explore a world we barely get to see in the first trilogy of movies, before it is utterly destroyed on film.  It also allowed for an in-depth introduction to Leia’s parents, her father Bail, who we see briefly in the prequels, and her mother Breha, who is given only the barest of mentions but whose life inspired so much of the character and attitude of our favorite princess.

The story begins when Leia is sixteen and struggling with normal adolescent woes while also preparing to officially be named crown princess and learning the trade of politics as an apprentice legislator of the Imperial Senate.  Leia makes friends, and even finds love, but all the while her reactions must be tempered and tainted by the whiff of rebellion against an evil emperor, and her parents may be involved!

Leia must decide if she will stand up for what she believes, and learn to accept the consequences, if her parents will allow her to know their secrets, and she can convince them she is mature enough to be a part of their plans.  At the same time, Leia comes under scrutiny from another Imperial official, Grand Moff Tarkin himself, and must find a way to allay his suspicions and save the rebellion from destruction before it even gets off the ground.

A very good story, with easy language (for a younger audience), so despite its four hundred plus pages is a quick read.  I give it four stars, and recommend it to fans of Star Wars, science fiction, and stories with girl heroines.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Broken Heart Attack

Broken Heart Attack by James J. Cudney

Broken Heart Attack (Braxton Campus Mysteries #2)
by James J. Cudney (Goodreads Author)

This second book in the author’s Braxton Campus Mysteries series begins just a week after the first book left off.  Kellan has a lot of stressful things happening in his life; he is contending with a new job, a vicious new boss, a cross-country move with his six-year-old daughter, and the reappearance of his supposedly dead wife.  He doesn’t need to add helping his seventy-plus-year-old grandmother run for mayor, a possible murder investigation where the victim literally falls over on him and multiple run-ins with the local sheriff who seemingly has it out for him.

  Unfortunately for Kellan but fortunately for the plot, his grandmother, who was a good friend of the victim, doesn’t give him a choice about investigating.  Soon Kellan will be involved in the affairs of a wealthy but scandalous family, all while dodging “enforcers” sent by his Mafioso mother-in-law.  It’s going to be a fast-paced ride!

The subplot adds to the drama of the investigation and speaks of Kellan’s mind state as he begins his investigation, encouraged and goaded by Nana D and her septuagenarian/ political campaign club.  As we learned in the last book, Kellan‘s wife, whom he thought long dead, is actually alive, thanks to her parents who head a mafia family and who faked her death to save her from their rival crime syndicates.

 In this sequel, Francesca, and her parents, wants Kellan to join her in hiding, leaving behind his family and the new life he’s trying to build for himself and Emma, the couple’s daughter.  Does Kellan still love his wife, who allowed him to mourn for her; and is that enough reason to turn Emma’s life upside down; not to mention would he ever see his own family again? Kellan faces an impossible choice, but once he’s made it, will everyone be able to live happily ever after?

This massive novel, nearly 500 pages, contains a complex cast of characters/relationships for our main protagonist, as well as an absorbing mystery with a number of potential culprits as there are several potentials with motive and opportunity.  However, the true criminal is hiding in the background, and is not truly revealed till near the end.  While the mystery is absorbing, and easily fits the mold of the “cozy mystery” genre, the subplot provides a tantalizing cliffhanger to end the book and entice the reader to reach for the next volume.

I award this story four and a half stars, for its compelling story that though a bit meandering in the beginning hits its stride and becomes fast-paced about halfway through.  I would recommend this book to any fan of the genre, as well as mystery lovers in general.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : white knight

White Night (The Dresden Files, Book 9) by [Jim Butcher]


white knight

by Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s reviewApr 28, 2020

When the magical inhabitants of Chicago begin dying under mysterious circumstances, Harry Dresden, wizard and warden of the White Council, uncovers links that may prove the deaths are in fact murders and not the suicides under which they are disguised.  At the same time, a shadowy figure is masquerading as a warden to make the magical community believe Harry may be the culprit.  Harry will have to join forces with an old flame, his strangely reluctant brother, a fellow warden Carlos Ramirez, and some old enemies to clear his name and stop the violence.

This latest volume in The Dresden Files features a large group of returning supporting characters from Jim Butcher’s Dresden universe.  We see Molly, the young warlock Harry took as his apprentice in Proven Guilty to save her life, struggle within the confines of her training and desire to prove herself as a magic wielder and adult.  We see Karrin Murphy, who was chastised and demoted within the Chicago P.D. for assisting Harry but still determined to fight supernatural forces at his side. 

There is a very humorous scene where Johnny Marcone, the mafia boss of Chicago, attempts to “handle” Harry when Dresden pays a visit to one of Marcone’s establishments.  There is also a later scene between Dresden and Harry that I believe sets up nicely some foreshadowing to the events revealed in the trailer for the upcoming release of Peace Talks, due out in July.

Harry, by this point in the series, has grown and evolved from where he began in the first book, Storm Front.  He is less impulsive, more likely to plan, and more willing to accept help from others, even those reluctant to offer help.  The amount of aid he is able to command proves crucial in the pivotal scene where he returns to the stronghold of the White Court vampires and faces not only the current enemies, but also the larger force behind the conspiracy, in an epic battle that involves vampires of multiple factions, ghouls, wizards, mercenaries, and a trip into the Nevernever.

This latest book by author Jim Butcher is a multi-level story that not only contains an absorbing mystery for Dresden to solve, but also details major events happening around the larger universe, with political, ethical, and military implications for the wizarding society that lies unseen by most of humanity.  The sense of foreboding that Butcher gives the reader builds an almost irresistible suspense for the next works in the series.

I give this book five stars, and can’t wait to get my hands on the next novel soon.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Elementary, She Read

Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany

Elementary, She Read (A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery #1)
by Vicki Delany (Goodreads Author)


Amy Caudill‘s review

  

The first installment in this lovely cozy mystery series features Gemma Doyle, who may or may not be related to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and is part-owner of the Sherlock Holmes Bookstore and Emporium at 221 Baker St., West London, Massachusetts.  This series, set in the present, contains many allusions to both Victorian literature and “Sherlockians,” fans of the great detective.

As a fan of Sherlock myself, I was intrigued by the concept of a modern day version of the detective series, and I love that the main protagonist, Gemma, while not actually a fan herself, seemingly has much in common with Sherlock Holmes.  She is extremely observant and direct to the point of bluntness, facts which her friends tolerate and understand but strangers sometimes find unsettling or offensive.

Her partner Jayne, co-owner of Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room, next door to the bookstore, is pulled into playing Gemma’s reluctant John Watson, as Gemma investigates the murder of the owner of a potentially valuable first edition print of one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories that is left hidden inside her store.

With a supporting cast of characters including a local reporter named Irene, a former love interest for Gemma in Detective Ryan Ashburton, a rival/foil in another Detective, Louise Estrada, and a comic relief character in Jayne’s boyfriend Robbie; author Vicki Delany has set the stage for a rich “universe” to draw on in furthering this series.

The mystery itself involves greed, theft, inheritance and multiple murders; and includes a number of suspects; though the true killer isn’t revealed till nearly the end of the story.  Gemma conducts her own investigation, alongside and in spite of warnings from the police, and has plenty of false starts and leads that don’t pan out before the exciting conclusion, which contains the only scene where the action is present and not just a dead body after the fact.

The author also included numerous references to books written in the Holmesian style by other authors, both classic and modern, as well as other detective stories from the Victorian and Edwardian era, which is only appropriate as one of the main settings is a bookstore.  Unfortunately, the distraction was too great for me as I stopped reading multiple times to get on Amazon and find out more about the different books mentioned!

Overall, this book contained a number of interesting characters and an absorbing plot, so I will look forward to exploring more in the series.  I give this book 4.5 stars.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Own Your Everyday

Own Your Everyday by Jordan Lee Dooley

Own Your Everyday: Overcome the Pressure to Prove and Show Up for What You’re Made to Do
by Jordan Lee Dooley
Amy Caudill‘s review  

While I don’t often read so-called self-help books, I was gifted this one for Christmas this past year by someone who is really a big fan of Jordan Lee Dooley’s podcasts and blog, so I decided to read it and was definitely impressed. 

The author takes a positive, optimistic view of life-as we make it for ourselves-and who doesn’t need a little extra help being positive in today’s current world crisis?  She uses simple language to layout her views, and shares her own experiences in a straightforward manner that draws the reader in and allows us to relate to her as if we were having an intimate, one-on-one discussion at her kitchen table.

Dooley shares with the reader that our attitude and perspective can make all the difference in how we view our lives, our goals, and our current situation and living conditions.  She uses the reasoning that we can actually turn our circumstances around being simply changing our point of view-we simply need to view failures as learning opportunities, setbacks as a chance to try a new direction, and uncertainties as a time to evaluate and refocus on our goals.

The overall theme of the book is its okay to be who we really are, and not just the idealized labels that we want others to perceive as us.  We are human beings, and worthy of love without having to earn it through our achievements, work ethic, or whatever demands we place on ourselves.

I feel the author raises a lot of good points, and while the book is more geared to the female mindset-she addresses the reader as “Sister” frequently-I feel that many of the “truths” she shares are applicable universally. 

This is definitely worth reading for any who needs a little boost in spirit or a little help in finding their purpose in life (and who doesn’t need that from time to time?)  I give this book five stars.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Full Wolf Moon

Full Wolf Moon by Lincoln Child
Full Wolf Moon (Jeremy Logan, #5)  by

50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

In his avocation as an enigmalogist, Jeremy Logan has investigated the truths regarding hidden pharoahs’ tombs, spectral hauntings, and the catacombs of Romanian castles, but even he is skeptical when his friend Jessup suggests that a series of murders could be connected to the Blakeneys, who are suspected by many to be lycanthropes.  Logan’s search for the truth will bring him into several confrontations, including examining his own ethics and moral responsibilities to friends and the world at large.

In this fifth book of the Jeremy Logan series by author Lincoln Child, Logan travels to a retreat in the Adirondacks in an attempt to complete a paper related to his day job, as an historian.  Of course, due to a series of mysterious deaths, he is forced to use his “side line” as an enigmalogist to investigate.

An old college friend, now a forest ranger, approaches Logan about several hikers who have been literally torn apart in remote areas of Adirondack State Park.  The coroner cannot conclusively identify an animal as the culprit, and the few clues left suggest something more sinister is to blame.   The investigation reveals several suspects; including a paroled murderer who has committed gruesome murders in the past, a disgraced scientist who faked his death to continue his research in peace, and a local family that live in nearly complete isolation from the local community and keep entirely to themselves.

I was amazed at the author’s chilling description of the final monster-the sight, sound and smells he describes create a vivid picture of science and nature gone mad, in a way that perfectly paints the scene for the reader.  The confrontation itself was well done, and the chase at the end was exciting and poetic in its conclusion.

That being said, despite the numerous twists added by the various supporting characters; from the secluded Blakeneys, to the poet/woodsman Albright, the treacherous and naïve Feverbridges, and the philosopher/ranger Jessup;  the overall plot was disappointedly predictable at a few points.  I have read and loved the other books of the series, so perhaps I had certain expectations of how the main character operates and reacts, but the author seemed to draw on several devices from other stories, including ones he as co-written.

Still, the story is good, and fans and those new to the series will find this is an entertaining story, with elements of the paranormal, mystery, and action thrown in.  I give it 3.5 stars.

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Where the Crawdads Sing by

Delia Owens (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

Take a novel that is one part survival story, one part murder trial story, with a subplot of love, heartache, and retribution thrown in, and you have the plot for author Delia Owen’s first fictional book.

The bestselling author of nonfictional books about wildlife brings her expertise on nature into this story, as the main character, Kya, describes her home of the marshlands off the coast of South Carolina.  Kya’s isolation, thanks to being abandoned by multiple family members one-by-one, leads to her total immersion and dependence on her environment, culminating in her becoming an expert on the marshes and their importance to the world.

The author’s descriptions of the world where Kya lived are both beautiful and heartbreaking. The narration flows like the poetry Kya often quotes throughout the story. While the story weaves backward and forward through time, the author slowly moves focus from 1952, when Kya is first abandoned, to 1970, where her fate will be decided in a court of law.

Along the way, Kya faces prejudice, hardships, and loneliness, but ultimately finds peace in her surroundings and love of friends and recovered family.  Looked down upon by the local population because of her seclusion and poverty, she is labelled “The Marsh Girl,” a figure of scorn and ugly rumors.

Her perception by the locals as an outsider, even a savage, is in part what leads the local sheriff and the town in general hold her responsible for the death of a local celebrity, and try her for murder based on the most circumstantial evidence.  Luckily, Kya has a few true friends and honorable people in her corner, who seek the truth and stay beside her till the end.

I truly enjoyed this story.  It covers so much, in terms of plot and time, and includes several unexpected twists.  While there are plenty of stories where children survive alone in the wild, few evolve to a point where the characters are able to cast social commentary on the behavior of a small town, or reach the heights of becoming published authors.  Kya is truly extraordinary, and the life she leads is exemplary, all the more so because of everything she goes through.

Saying that, I was astounded at the direction the author took in the last chapter, the very last page, that through everything I thought about the book and the characters into an entirely new light- I really didn’t want to believe the ending.  This ending is the sole reason I give this book four stars; perhaps that seems unfair, but the last twist seems completely out of sync with everything I’d read up to that point.  Still, this is a very good book that I’d recommend to many readers, of mysteries, survival stories, and stories about strong female characters.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Proven Guilty

Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher
Proven Guilty (The Dresden Files, #8) by

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

Where do you cross a line between evil deeds and good intentions?  The eighth installment in the Dresden Files series has Harry asking just this question as, in carrying out his duties as a Warden of the White Council of Wizards, he must report the daughter of a friend for working forbidden magic.

A practitioner of black magic has summoned a number of beings from the faerie realm that feed on fear, and take the forms of monsters highlighted in a local horror-movie “con.”  Only instead of being fictional like the on-screen characters, these “fetches” of faerie land actually kill, and keep killing, until Harry can locate the summoner who brought them into Chicago and stop them.

Young Molly Carpenter, (the oldest child of Harry’s friend and occasional comrade-in-arms, Michael, one of the Knights of the Cross) is involved in the “con,” and with several of the victims, but until he unwittingly turns the monsters against her, Harry is unaware of her true connection to events.  By then, she’s already been taken captive to the Nevernever, and the strangest group of questers imaginable must follow.

Harry is joined by SI Detective Karin Murphy; his half-brother, the vampire succubus Thomas; a armor-wearing Charity Carpenter, who has issues of her own with Harry and magic in general; and is aided by the Summer Lady and her Knight as the company ventures into the heart of Winter, the stronghold of Queen Mab.  Will they be able to find Molly, and save her from a fate worse than death?  Will they even survive the quest?

And should they return successfully, will Harry have to see Molly put to death by the White Council for breaking one of the laws of magic?

Jim Butcher just seems to keep getting better and better in this series.  The “universe” he has built keeps expanding; with characters, subplots, and major storylines continually building on each other and spiraling outward with each successive novel.  Harry Dresden has come a long way as a protagonist, from a lone wolf wizard to a friend, brother, comrade, and mentor to a whole family of characters.

While each book can be read as a stand-alone, to really understand the background I recommend reading the entirety from beginning to end, as I’m working my way through currently, anticipating the release of the sixteenth book, Peace Talks, in July of this year.  I award Proven Guilty five stars and recommend it to readers interested in paranormal and urban fantasy series, as well as readers of paranormal detective stories.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Sea Scope: A Psychological Mystery

Sea Scope by Debbie De Louise
Sea Scope: A Psychological Mystery by

Debbie De Louise (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

A series of clues written in crayon, reminiscent of the games once played by a now-dead child, and the long unexplained circumstances surrounding the death of one of their number casts a shadow over the planned reunion of family and old friends in this mystery by author Debbie De Louise.

Twenty years ago, the bed and breakfast at Sea Scope, South Carolina was closed following the death of a guest who meant far more to some of the long-term residents there.  In the present, Sarah, who was a child at the time, receives an invitation from her Aunt Julie, to return to the inn for a visit.  Julie plans to reopen the inn and wants select family and friends to help her prepare for its grand reopening.  As Julie gathers family and former staff members of Sea Scope, both Julie and Sarah receive messages pertaining to the events that led to a tragic summer twenty years in the past.

While the events of the present reveal those things long hidden, the past plays its part in the tale, too, as the reader is drawn into a haunting story with clues doled out one at a time.  The author carefully weaves an enticing mystery by alternating chapters between past and present, so that events may unfold in the past through the child Sarah’s diary and recollections, assisted by revelations by other visitors and family members from the time.

In fact, the revelations continue right up until the last few pages, where the true nature of certain characters and the events leading to the death of Michael are finally unveiled.  The switches between time settings are not confusing or detract from the appeal of the story at all, as the author also skillfully changes point of view, from third person in the past to first person in the present, with Sarah’s point of view.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book I was able to obtain through a recent Amazon promotion by the author.  I love good mysteries, and this one has much to offer, from a good plot to appealing characters and a beautiful location.  I would recommend this story to any lover of mysteries, and award it five stars for its originality and the quality of the mystery.