Tag Archives: Book Reviews

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Michael’s Blood

Michael's Blood by S.S. Bazinet
Michael’s Blood (The Vampire Reclamation Project, #1) by

S.S. Bazinet (Goodreads Author)
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Amy Caudill‘s review -Four stars to Michael’s Blood

 

This interesting but confusing book is the first in a series about redemption, specifically, that of a reluctant vampire named Arel.  Arel’s guardian angel, Michael, is attempting to heal Arel of his curse, but to do so, his charge must be willing to face the demons of his past lives, learn to forgive himself and accept that he is worthy of love.

How do you cure vampirism?  Apparently by feeding said vampire Michael’s angelic blood.  This intervention sets off a process that nearly kills Michael multiple times as it begins to transform him.

Arel doesn’t make it easy for Michael; he’s arrogant, demanding, and needy in turn, not to mention depressed and sometimes suicidal.  He stubbornly refuses Michael’s help over and over again until he is rendered unable to cope anymore.  Still Michael, with true angelic grace, is there for Arel time and time again, picking him up and caring for him till he’s ready to stand on his own two feet again.

Everything changes when Arel meets a group of people who are as drawn to him as he is to them.  Each of these flawed, but giving individuals figured prominently somewhere in Arel’s past lives, and as they become aware of their past relationships, struggle to integrate those old emotions and knowledge into this new life where they are all intertwined again.

While on the surface this story involves a number of different factors- i.e. vampires, angelic guardians, past life regression, the underlying plot is really a study of the human condition, equally parts uplifting and heart wrenching, until the conclusion which ends on a high note, save for an ominous message from someone in Arel’s vampiric past, thus setting up a cliffhanger for the next book in the series, William’s Blood.

I picked up this book as part of the author’s recent promotional giveaway, and shelved on my TBR list for a time.  I finally decided to sit down and read it this past week, and I’m not sorry that I did, because despite the surprising mix of genres, the book is very moving and uplifting, as this extraordinary group of individuals, both human and angelic, face everyday crises and come out the stronger for it.  The overall message of faith and hope is inspiring, and I recommend this series to any who need a little encouragement or who simply like a good read.

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Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Summer Knight

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, #4) by

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)

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Amy Caudill‘s review

  

Summer Knight opens as Harry Dresden’s life is falling apart.  Reeling from the consequences of the last volume, (Grave Peril, which takes place some nine months before,) Harry is ignoring everything and everyone else in his life in his ill-fated attempt to find a cure for his love.  Susan Rodriquez was infected by a vampire’s venom, and one moment of weakness is all it would take for her to give into the blood lust and turns into a creature of the night.

Unfortunately, the world waits for no wizard, and the events taking place in the Nevernever and spilling out into the mortal world will soon distract Harry from his quest.  The debt Harry owes to his faerie godmother Leanansidhe has been sold to the Winter Queen, Mab, who wants Harry to investigate the murder of the Knight of the Summer Queen.

Meanwhile, the Red Vampire Court is after Harry’s blood and the White Council of Wizards may just be willing to sacrifice him to keep the peace.  Harry has both allies and enemies on the council, and is quickly running out of time to appease them.  The only chance the wizards have of avoiding all-out war with the vampires is for Harry to solve Mab’s case, earning safe passage through the Nevernever into the vampire’s territory, and doing so before Winter and Summer start a war of their own that could literally end the world.

This novel, fourth in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, plunges the reader into a much wider world of paranormal politics and intrigue than is seen in previous volumes.  The epic battle in the clouds above Chicago reminds me of scenes from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, while the camaraderie between Harry and the Alphas, the pack of werewolf-shifters he befriended in Fool Moon, is reminiscent of other epic tales like Lord of the Rings.

I award Summer Knight five stars, and recommend it and the series to any fans of paranormal detective stories, and fans of adventure epics.

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.

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 : 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

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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 : 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.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Odd Thomas

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

Dean Koontz (Goodreads Author)
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Amy Caudill‘s review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Furyborn

Furyborn by Claire Legrand

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Amy Caudill‘s review

Sep 30, 2018  ·  edit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Into the Drowning Deep

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Into the Drowning Deep (Rolling in the Deep, #1) 
by

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Amy Caudill‘s review

Imagine if a multi-media corporation launched an expedition to uncover the truth of the existence of a legendary sea monster, the mermaid.  Imagine a ship sailed into the Marianna Trench, to search for evidence that the myth was actually based on fact, and crewed by scientists and cameramen.  Imagine they actually found what they were looking for, and were not at all prepared for it.

The Imagine Corporation has one failed expedition under its belt already; the crew of the Atargatis was a total loss, leaving behind grieving family, and impending litigation.  Seven years after the initial tragedy, a new expedition is organized, with twin goals of proving the existence of mermaids and restoring the image of the company.  The Melusine sets out with a new crew, many of whom have studied the footage recovered from the doomed Atargatis.  They know that the “mermaids” are out there and hopefully, they will survive long enough to get some answers this time.

I don’t often read horror stories, but Into the Drowning Deep was a recent choice of my local book club and I was intrigued enough to stay up late at night reading it through.  The preface contained flashbacks and reports drawn from camera footage of the doomed Atargatis, done in a manner that reminded me eerily of The Blair Witch.  As the story continued, I realized the monsters themselves and the action present would make a far better horror movie than many I’ve seen.

The author uses multiple points of view, as several of the narrators fall prey to the invaders, with a lot of thrills and action in the plot.  Grant also finds moments in the story to comment on the purpose of the expedition and of life itself with gorgeous prose, such as this quote from Chapter 18, where Luis Martines is musing on the job they have set out to do:

“Let deforestation do away with Bigfoot, let sonar destroy Nessie, but the sea would always be deep, always be dark, always be filled with wonders.”

The author clearly demonstrates that the ocean is stronger and more mysterious than man is capable of understanding or conquering.

In fact, the misnamed “mermaids” are truly more than the crew of the Melusine can handle-they are smart, fast, and strong, they can breathe air, and their secretions are toxic to humans.  Can the crew, led by a sirenologist and an Imagine executive survive long enough to raise the broken shields on the ship and trap the mermaids inside, or will they all be devoured by something even more deadly from the deep?

This book is truly an exciting read, which I give five stars, and recommend to anyone interested in horror, paranormal stories of creatures, or thriller stories.