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

The New Hero on the Block: A Review of Captain Marvel

Move over boys, there’s plenty of room in this galaxy for the fiercest female superhero to appear in many years.  Captain Marvel, the latest addition to the Marvel universe saga, hit theaters last week and the title character, played by Brie Larson, lives up to the moniker.

This movie is set mostly in 1995, which means chronologically it predates the events presented in any of the other Marvel movie storylines except for the one detailing the origins of Captain America.  A much younger (thanks to CGI) Nick Fury is already in place as the head of SHEILD, but the organization has not yet developed its mandate to stop alien threats, mostly because it is not yet aware of their existence.

Fury, accompanied by “the new guy” Phil Coulson, is unprepared for his first encounter with the green-skinned alien shapeshifters called The Skrull, but he is smart enough to recognize that there’s more than meets the eye to the mysterious young woman who claims to be hunting them as a member of the Kree defense force.  Ready or not, Earth is about to become a battle ground between these two alien races, both previously introduced in other Marvel movies.

What follows is a story of loss, betrayal, and battles both on land and in space as Carol “Vers” Danvers has to piece together lost memories to determine who she really is, and which side in a galactic war is actually a threat to not only humanity, but the galaxy at large.  The powers she acquires, and the ease with which she wields them, prove her to be more than a match for any of the previously shown Marvel heroes or villains.

Brie Larson (Captain Marvel) and Lashana Lynch as fellow pilot Maria Rambeau in a scene from the new movie.  From imbd.com

This movie seemingly attempts to raise the quota of female characters in the Marvel franchise.  In addition to a female lead with mind-blowing abilities, there are also featured two hardcore female test pilots, a (deceased) female scientist who was actually an undercover Kree agent, a female supreme being of the Kree race, and a female Kree warrior for Carol to face off against.  Despite the occasional estrogen overload, though, the central story is more about overcoming limits and finding the hero inside one’s self.

Spoilers: those invested in the Marvel universe will be very interested in the fine details scattered about the movie, including; the true story about how Fury lost his eye, the origin of the name “Avengers,” and the fate of the Tesseract after it was sunk in the ocean during Captain America and before it appeared in the desert in Thor.

I loved this new version of Captain Marvel, and am now even more pumped for the conclusion to the Marvel epic, Avengers: Endgame, which is coming in April.  Captain Marvel is currently showing at a theater near you.

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.

 

 

Strong Leading Female Characters

As long-time readers of this blog will know, I can never get enough of strong female characters, whether in books, movies, or on TV. Thanks to James J. Cudney from This is My Truth Now for this post highlighting four such heroines in fiction, with excerpts chosen by their authors. Check out their books online, or in your nearest bookstore!

This Is My Truth Now

I’m excited to share a video about 4 fantastic books I’ve read… all centered around strong female leading characters… check it out!

https://videopress.com/embed/eZlWVDM7

Leading female characters are a force to be reckoned with! They present the kind of strength and dynamics that are both admired and envied. I love to completely bury myself in books where the story lines are driven by headstrong and capable women! It’s empowering, uplifting, and admirable to say the least! Today, a few fellow Creativia authors and I would like to present a sample of our own books that feature STRONG LEADING FEMALE CHARACTERS! Enjoy, and click-through the links for more!

Main Graffic with all our books (image)

1st Stop: WATCHING GLASS SHATTER, by James J. Cudney

Purchase HERE:

61Fplag25QL._SY346_

Direct Book Quote:

** As she left the bedroom, Olivia ignored the dirty cup still sitting on Ben’s nightstand, its importance far less than anything else in her life these days…

View original post 890 more words

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.

A Supernatural Love Story: The Shape of Water: A Movie Review

Over the past weekend the hubby and I found time to sit down and relax with a movie, not realizing at first how appropriate this supernatural fantasy would be for the coming Valentine’s Day week.

What followed was an amazing, mesmerizing tale featuring on two main characters, played by Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones, both of whom are mute, isolated in their own way, and yet are almost instantly drawn to each other in a way that defies logic or conventional interpretations of love.

Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water (2017)
A most unusual love story, from the 2017 Oscar-winning movie.  Image from imbd.com

Sally Hawkins plays Elisa Esposito, a cleaner at OCCAM Aerospace Research Center in 1962 Baltimore, who is present when Doug Jones’ character is brought in as a specimen referred to as “The Asset.”  The government and military forces running the facility are desperate to “get ahead” of the Soviets in the space race, and believe they can do so by studying, and eventually dissecting, an amphibious man captured from South America.  Coincidentally or not, “The Asset” has a very similar look, and is played by the same actor, who played Abe Sapien in another del Toro film, Hellboy.

The director of the facility, Strickland, played by Michael Shannon, has tortured The Asset, who is response has bitten off two of Strickland’s fingers; even knowing this Elisa doesn’t fear him, instead she spends her lunch breaks visiting him.  The amphibious man and the cleaning lady bond over hard-boiled eggs, music, and sign language, and when Elisa overhears plans to terminate her friend, immediately plans to free him.

Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water (2017)
The start of friendship, or true love?  Image from imbd.com

Elisa finds allies in her cleaning partner, Zelda (Octavia Spencer), her neighbor Giles (Richard Genkins), and strangely a Soviet spy (Michael Stuhlbarg), whose love of science outweighs his loyalty to his native country.

Freed from the facility in a daring escape, The Asset goes home with Elisa, where she tends his injuries, and is drawn ever closer to her, as he shares with her and Giles abilities that defy explanation, and create a deep bond between them.  They know their time together is to be short though, because when the rains overflow the canal in Boston harbor, The Asset will finally be able to flee to the sea, and safety, from Strickland who is still hunting him.

The action sequences are well-done, the visuals are spectacular, and the surprisingly sweet and romantic turns of the plot are very well done.  Of course, I am not alone in my opinions: The Shape of Water won Oscars in 2018 for both Best Picture and Best Director.  There was also a book, written by del Toro and Daniel Kraus, of which publication followed the movie (in 2018) but from all sources is not merely a movie novelization, rather a much more in-depth exploration of the story as conceived by Kraus.

I think this movie, which has been called an adult fairy tale, is a perfect romantic story for those who don’t mind a little fantasy with their romance.  Check it out this week on Redbox or HBO, and have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Would you put books backward? This decor trend has people seriously divided. What do you think of the backward books trend?

I found this very interesting article about incorporating book storage into home decor by Pak_Tek, which I’m all for, seeing as there is not a single room in my house that doesn’t have its own “mini library.”
I’ve done the arranging books by category, and even by color, though I’m not sure about the inward-facing spines. What do you think?

PAK_TECH

fn7algwiioyv5t7.large

When you go to line a bookshelf with books, how do you face the spines? If you say out, you’re with the majority of people — it’s the way libraries have always done it and makes sense, so you can see the titles.

But there’s a new trend making waves in the interior design world that involves lining the shelf with the spines facing in, and it’s causing quite the controversy.

A recent Buzzfeed article called attention to the fad, pointing out how ridiculous it is especially for bibliophiles who prefer to which book they’re grabbing. In the site’s opinion poll, 87 percent of readers said doing it this way was an abomination.

Natasha Meininger, who runs the Outside and In interior design blog, is on the other side, however, supporting the trend and posting pictures of it on her Instagram account.

“My book collection is huge so…

View original post 420 more words

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.

 

In This House…We Do Geek

20190122_140259
Just a bit of wall decoration, but with a deeper meaning hidden in its passages.

I have a new piece of artwork hanging on the wall in my office.  This past Christmas my daughter gifted me with a poster that many of you may have seen before-a clever assembly of quotes from various science fiction and fantasy series that forms a statement about its fans.

This mass-produced copy of a somewhat popular poster, though, means more to me than just a cute quote or novelty art piece.  To me, this picture represents a statement that it’s okay to like the things I like, to be interested in the things that interest me, and that I’m not alone in my opinions.  This series of quotes contains memories of family time, of trips to movies and listening to books on tape, of nights spent in together in front of the TV and competitions to see who could finish the next book first.

But above all, this poster points out that it’s okay to be geek and nerdy, because we are people too.  In the not-so-distant past those who share our interests may have been teased and ridiculed, but as “geek” has moved firmly into the mainstream those same interests are now considered acceptable, to the point that many closet-trekkies and vamps and cosplayers have now come out of the figurative closet, and feel free to express themselves.

These days I care far less about other people’s expectations or negative views than I did growing up, and mostly relish in being myself.  (Such comes with age and supposed maturity.)  Still, I am glad that I have family who share the same interests as me, and together we can debate over whether the next superhero or wizard movie will be worth the trek to the movie theater, or make recommendations to each other about books that we are sure will find an appreciative audience.

There are so many things about this world that need work and change, but it’s nice to know, that sometimes acceptance can still be found.  That there is hope for all those kids who had the oversized glasses and maybe weren’t very popular in school or were more interested in drama than playing sports.  It’s okay to be us.

I hope that those who read this post take comfort, and find comradery for your own inner geek, and I hope you feel free to express yourself, as only you can.  Let me hear from you how you make out.  Bonus points for those of you who can accurately name the source of all these quotes!

Amy

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.