Category Archives: Book Reviews

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Weakest Lynx

Weakest Lynx by Fiona Quinn
Weakest Lynx (Lynx #1) by

Fiona Quinn (Goodreads Author)
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Amy Caudill‘s review

Lexi Sobado has lived an interesting life.  Only twenty, she is a Kung Fu master and has trained with police officers, spy masters, and master chefs.  She can shoot a bullseye, beat trained operatives on an obstacle course, and still appear as sweet and innocent as the girl next door.  She also has gifts that insure her life will never be the “normal” she craves.

Lexi is great at solving puzzles.  Her mentor, Spyder McGraw, a legend at the shadowy government agency Iniquus, trained her in secret to find connections no one else can.  But when Lexi is being hunted by a cruel, obsessive man she calls Stalker, Spyder is off on a secret mission and Lexi must turn to others for help.  She has attracted the attention of a very dangerous psychopathic drug addict who has already murdered six girls, and Lexi is his latest chosen victim.

While this story is definitely a thriller with a heroine who has paranormal abilities, I found myself caught up more by the lead character’s backstory than the plot itself.  For all Lexi’s gifts, she is honestly trying to create an ordinary life.  She spends her time, when she’s not being stalked or helping the Iniquus team sent to protect her, getting to know her neighbors and turning a fixer upper into a home to share with her husband Angel when he returns from Afghanistan.

Lexi’s desire to have a normal life helps make her character more appealing, more vulnerable, than the mysterious and gifted psychic undercover operative who is her alter ego, Alex.  Fiona Quinn managed to instill her heroine with a multi-faceted personality, while still writing a story that will appeal to both spy enthusiasts and paranormal romance fans.

I award this novel five stars and would recommend it to a large body of readers.

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Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Grave Peril

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
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Amy Caudill‘s review

Misdirection, a ghost with the power to cause and control nightmares, and attacks from multiple factions in the supernatural world makes this third installment of The Dresden Files the most exciting adventure yet.

Something has stirred up the ghostly denizens of Chicago, leading to frenzied attacks on unsuspecting living residents.  Harry Dresden, modern day wizard, with the help of Michael, one of God’s Knights of the Sword, is working overtime to put out supernatural fires and save innocent lives from assaults the average citizen can’t even see.

When a mysterious entity, dubbed “The Nightmare,” is able to enter homes uninvited and undetected, against all rules of the paranormal, Harry has more suspects than answers.  Something is attacking Harry’s friends, and Harry himself, and the clues lead to a sorcerer named Kravos whom Harry and Co.  defeated months ago.  Only Kravos is locked up by the Chicago PD, or is he?

While all this is happening, Harry is also on the radar of a major player in the vampire court, Bianca, and in trouble with his faerie godmother, Lea, over a bargain he made in a life-or-death situation.  Plus, when the Nightmare attacked him, it stole a large chunk of his magical power and gained the ability to impersonate him.   Harry may be in more trouble than he can handle this time.

I’ve read several of Jim Butcher’s novels and collections in the past, but this is the first time I have read through the series in order.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how the relationships between different characters, especially that of Harry and Susan, have developed, and already am aware of a major upheaval coming for them in future books.  I’m also looking forward to seeing how Harry’s relationships with other characters, friends and enemies, continues to change, as many of the major baddies/allies/rival powers survived to come after Harry again.

Overall, this book is the best of the series to-date, and a good choice for any reader who wants their paranormal detective story with a side of mayhem and romance.  I give Grave Peril five stars and recommend it to anyone looking for a good read.

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, #1) by

Theodora Goss (Goodreads Author)
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Amy Caudill‘s review :

Mary Jekyll, soon after the death of her mother, receives from the latter’s lawyer a number of papers belonging to her father, who died under mysterious circumstances when she was a child, as well as details of a bank account making payments on behalf of someone named Hyde.  Mary recognizes the name as one of her father’s former employees, who was accused of murder and disappeared around the time of her father’s death.

Suddenly left destitute, she takes the information to Sherlock Holmes hoping to claim a reward for the capture of the elusive Hyde. What she finds instead is a previously unknown half-sister, along with more questions about her late father’s involvement with a group called the Société des Alchimistes, or the Alchemist’s Society, that conducted sinister experiments in the name of science.

As she investigates, both on her own and with Holmes, she begins to gather a most unlikely group of acquaintances; young women who, like herself, are the daughters, and sometimes test subjects, of this group of mad scientists.  In addition to Diana Hyde, the fourteen year old wild child; there is Beatrice Rappaccinni, whose breath is literally poisonous; Catherine Moreau, a young woman who began life as a puma; and Justine Frankenstein, the incredibly strong but gentle giant of a woman.   Together these young women will face dangers that would have most men quaking in fear, and ultimately form an alliance of their own, The Athena Club.

The author of this book used a most interesting device, of having the “characters” chime in from time to time, helping with the narration and arguing how best to tell the story.  I found it rather humorous, having various characters argue with Catherine, the supposed writer, but these interruptions assisted in further developing the relationships between the various cast, and bringing to light the story that was being told as if it happened in their not-too-distant past.

This book did contain quite a bit of world-building, as this is the first book in a series, but what a world!  Each character, a “self-proclaimed” monster, tells her own story of her father’s experiments which led to her own creation.  The setup of all these backstories, however, prove to be integral to the plot of both the book and the series, as much information is uncovered that leads to the circumstances of the “current” murders, taking place in White Chapel, a.k.a. Jack the Ripper.  The resolution of the Ripper cases are somewhat secondary to the plot, though, as the ladies and Sherlock agree, the “stranger than fiction” crimes cannot be shared with the public, for the danger it would present to the group.

Though there are elements of the paranormal in this novel, and despite the players, this is not a horror story, but rather chronicles the beginning of a most unusual “club,” the victims and survivors, even if they themselves and others might call them monsters.  I award this book four stars, and would recommend it to any readers who love strong female characters, especially those from the Victorian era, as well as fans of Sherlock Holmes-style mysteries, paranormal stories, and urban fantasy.

 

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)
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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.

 

 

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Fool Moon

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

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
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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
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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)
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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.