Category Archives: Book Reviews

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.

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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)

50275498

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)

50275498

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.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews > Real Murders

Real Murders by Charlaine Harris
Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden #1) 
by Charlaine Harris (Goodreads Author)

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Amy Caudill‘s review

Aurora “Roe” Teagarden lives a seemingly ordinary small-town life. Beneath her pleasant appearance and demeanor, though, she harbors Nancy Drew-like instincts and a nose for trouble.
Roe possesses a passion for real-crime stories, which she shares with a small local club called Real Murders. The group meets regularly to discuss historical murders- the weapons, the suspects, the victims, the motives- and dissect every detail, sometimes sharing an original theory or two. So naturally, when one of their own is found dead at the meeting hall, it doesn’t take long to recognize the act as an imitation of another crime, or wonder which of them could have something to hide.
This was the first of Charlaine Harris’ books that I’ve read, and I enjoyed it very much. The plot proceeded in a organic fashion, and seemed to grow so that the smallest seemingly insignificant detail was shown to hold meaning by the end of the book.
I decided to also watch the Hallmark movie channel movie based on this book, and thought the contrast between book and cable-ready movie was fascinating. Naturally there were changes, most of which seemed to be “taming down” the book’s action to a more family friendly episode, as the villains in the novel were far more insidious than those presented on the small screen.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery, or simply anyone enamored by a strong, independent heroine.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews > Bones of the Lost Bones of the Lost by Kathy Reichs

Bones of  the Lost by Kathy Reichs

Bones of the Lost (Temperance Brennan #16) 
by Kathy Reichs (Goodreads Author)

50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review
Jul 25, 2017  
Kathy Reichs is not a paranormal writer, but the dead speak to her anyway. Both Reichs, and her main character, Dr. Temperance Brennan, are forensic anthropologists who examine the remains of unexplained deaths and allow the bones of these bodies to tell their story.
In the 16th installment of Reichs’ series, Bones of the Lost, Brennan is assigned to examine the remnants of a set of mummified dogs that have been smuggled from Peru, and sent to the Charlotte-Mecklenberg coroner’s office in North Carolina for examination and confirmation. At the same time, the remains of a young, unidentified hit-and-run victim are brought in. Little does Brennan expect at the time, but these two cases will prove to be linked in a story that takes her from North Carolina to Afghanistan and back.
Brennan becomes the victim of a vicious, mysterious attacker as she uncovers evidence of murder, prostitution, and human trafficking. She faces danger head on, with the support of Detective Slidell, and her ex-husband Pete, who may or may not be interested in competing for her affections against off-again ex-lover Ryan.
Brennan is deeply passionate about both the victims she examines and those she may be able to help prevent landing on her morgue table. Reichs’ story touches a number of current social issues, from the war and gender discrimination in Afghanistan, to the rise in human trafficking, complete with relevant data and figures. Reichs’ true-life experiences with the subject matter show vividly in this compelling story that was difficult to put down until I’d reached the end.

Bonus Post: Apprentice in Death

Amy Caudill’s Reviews >

Apprentice in Death by J.D. Robb
Apprentice in Death (In Death, #43)
by J.D. Robb (Goodreads Author)

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May 08, 2017  · 
Amy Caudill‘s review

Apprentice in Death shows J.D Robb’s heroine Eve Dallas at her very best-completely focused on taking down a pair of killers, and doing so before they kill again. This latest installment of the “in Death” series features the NYPSD lieutenant from the 23rd century tracking a vengeance-minded duo of father and daughter on a murder spree, equipped with sniper rifles and deadly skill. The father is a former police officer, and his accomplice, a fifteen-year-old shooting champion, becomes “his hands and his eyes” to take out any who have offended the pair, and anyone else who gets in the way. The drama escalates as the pair attack very public venues such as Times Square and a sold-out concert, forcing Dallas to feed information to the media as a distraction while she once again puts herself into the mind of the killers. Dallas combines intuition and hard work with high-tech gadgetry, in defense of her beloved city, and to see justice for the victims. I think this book would appeal to anyone who likes science fiction, police dramas, or who is a fan of strong, independent, female characters.

Book Review: Housekeeping

Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson,
a GoodReads review by Amy Caudill
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
This beautiful story contains something for most any reader-from angst and tragedy, to sweeping descriptions of nature, to encounters with the spiritual world, to triumph over adversity. Ruth Stone, the main character in Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, has hardly had an easy childhood. Ruth and her sister have been raised by a single mother who abandoned them to a previously unknown grandmother before committing suicide. They are then witnesses to the grandmother’s death, and forced to struggle with incompetent guardians. Bereft of parents and companionship save for her sister and her absent-minded aunt, Ruth looks to nature for solace as she mourns, especially the lake surrounding her small community. Ruth’s childhood is torn apart by death, and with this loss of innocence Ruth becomes a new person; one who is very aware of death. Robinson uses the change of the seasons and the states of the lake as a metaphor for Ruth’s personal, and for more universal, visions of death and rebirth.
This often heart-breaking story is told from Ruth’s point of view as she attempts to make sense of the world around her, and find her place in it. How she eventually comes to terms with her unhappy childhood and finds a new destiny away from everything she has previously known is a story of triumph, and sorrow, hope and inevitability. Ruth comes to acknowledge the cycle of life and death, as illustrated by the ever-present lake surrounding her home, and emerges from the tragedy as a new person, replete in knowledge, and ready to begin a new life.

Book Review: Lust, Money &Murder

Amy Caudill’s Reviews > Lust

Lust by Mike Wells
Lust (Lust, Money & Murder, #1)
by Mike Wells (Goodreads Author)

50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

Oct 25, 2016  ·  edit
really liked it
Read from August 12 to October 25, 2016


This book takes the reader on a world tour of adventure, angst, and betrayal. Elaine is a brilliant, talented young woman who devotes her life to extracting revenge for her father, who sacrificed his life to give her a better one. Her plans lead her through the Secret Service training ground, where she makes a valuable contact in the Treasury Department. This contact may be her salvation when her new posting in Bulgaria brings her into contact with a treasonous agent who toys with her affections and draws her into his schemes. The story, part of a series, ends on a big cliffhanger.
I found myself drawn into the story quickly as this young woman, overcomes one obstacle after another in her quest for revenge, success, and love. I would recommend this book, and this series, to anyone who enjoys reading of strong heroines and intrigue.

Book Review for Warlock Holmes-A Study in Brimstone

Warlock Holmes - A Study in Brimstone by G.S. Denning

Warlock Holmes – A Study in Brimstone
by G.S. Denning

Amy Caudill‘s review

Aug 07, 2016  ·  edit
 50275498


Old fans and new of the famous detective can enjoy this surprisingly refreshing spoof of classic Sherlock Holmes stories. Denning takes the iconic characters and places them in an entirely new context-what if Watson was the deductive genius? What if Sherlock was actually a possessed by not one, but multiple demons? What if, instead of murderers, the duo actually hunted supernatural villains? With every new story in this page-turner, more surprising secrets are revealed, right up until the dramatic climax. Denning’s characterizations of Watson, Holmes, Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade, and the rest are as brilliant as they are hilarious. I can’t wait for the sequel!