Tag Archives: Book Reviews

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Suddenly Psychic

Suddenly Psychic by Elizabeth   Hunter

Suddenly Psychic (Glimmer Lake, #1)
by Elizabeth Hunter (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s review

From Elizabeth Hunter, the author who made elemental vampires cool and believable, comes a new series featuring three women who, having survived a near-death experience, discover they have developed paranormal abilities.

One of the trio sees ghosts, one has prophetic dreams, and the third receives visions when she touches objects or people.  The three women, all in their mid-forties, that’s right, they’re not following the usual teenage trope, have to cope with the sudden onset of powers while dealing with ordinary, normal life things.

Robin is a mother of teenagers whose life and marriage is in a rut, and cannot imagine telling her husband about her new gift.  Monica, the receptor of dreams, is grieving over the recent death of her husband, and coping with children of her own. Val, a divorcee and single mom, runs a business but cannot touch her customers without triggering a vision.

When Robin begins to suspect there is a link from one of her “spectral visitors” to her elderly grandmother, the three women come together to solve a seventy-year old murder mystery.  Along the way, they work on their issues, personally and as a group.  They also explore their gifts in an attempt to understand and control them.

I have to say I love the premise of this series. The fact that three middle-aged women are dealing with this gives this series a different slant than if these books were designed for young adults.  That being said, after some initial disbelief/denial, the three seem to accept their plight fairly easily.  Okay, Val struggles the most, but none of them consult any experts-medical, theological, etc., to try and figure out why this is happening to them.  By the end of the story, they manage to cast out an evil ghost with only information found on the Internet. 

I would have liked to see them struggle a little more, have a steeper learning curve maybe?  Perhaps that will occur in later books, because as I mentioned, this is the first of series, the second, My Semi-Psychic Life, having just been released a few months ago.

Overall, the book was very enjoyable and I would recommend it to fans of urban fantasy and paranormal mysteries and award it four stars.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Death in the Clouds

Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie

Death in the Clouds (Hercule Poirot, #12)by Agatha Christie
Amy Caudill‘s review 

When I did a post last week about the celebrated author Agatha Christie I had not yet had the leisure to finish reading this lesser-known entry in her vast body of work.

 To be honest, when I read the first couple of chapters, I was afraid that this would be a more modern retelling of The Murder on the Orient Express, one of my favorites, as it entails a murder committed on an airplane mid-flight in a cabin full of people.  Luckily, the superficial resemblance to that other story ended quickly, as Hercule Poirot, the private detective, is both a witness, and (to some) a possible suspect in the case!

The victim is a “money-lender” a famed character in Paris who uses blackmail material as collateral for her loans.  Who out of the passengers would benefit from her death?  The case is complicated when the victim’s staff, following her pre-stated instructions, burns all the evidence of her clients’ misdeeds.

Poirot, assisted by detectives in both France and England, interviews witnesses and seeks clues that involve passengers from numerous walks of life, with more than a couple of hints of new romance blossoming out of the tragic event on the otherwise routine flight from Paris to London.

As usual, Christie wove a tale with enough twists and turns to keep me guessing, with a pace just fast enough to maintain interest but not get the reader helplessly lost. I was actually able to anticipate one or two small clues before they were revealed, but the major villain was still a complete surprise. 

The uniqueness of the methodology of the murderer was notable; as a blow-dart gun, a wasp and snake poison were, and still are, unusual elements in a murder of any sort, especially on a luxury flight.  Perhaps this is why the writers of Doctor Who chose to utilize this story, among others, when they did an episode that featured the real-life disappearance of the author among mysterious circumstances.

Overall, a very good story, and as usual, a stand-alone, so new readers to the author will not be lost.  I have to give this one five stars for originality, plot, well-developed major and secondary characters, and a slightly humorous but absorbing murder case.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Small Favor

Small Favor by Jim Butcher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Leia: Princess of Alderaan

Leia by Claudia Gray

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Broken Heart Attack

Broken Heart Attack by James J. Cudney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Full Wolf Moon

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

50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Where the Crawdads Sing

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

Delia Owens (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Debbie De Louise (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Christmas, The Krewe and a Large White Rabbit

Christmas, The Krewe and a Large White Rabbit by Heather Graham
Christmas, The Krewe and a Large White Rabbit (Krewe of Hunters) by

Heather Graham (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

Combine a group of people who are capable of interacting with the dead, recruit them to an elite FBI unit, and then send them out in couples to fall in love-the improbable premise for the paranormal romance series by author Heather Graham somehow just works, making The Krewe of Hunters a very entertaining series.

This e-novella is a direct sequel to Haunted be the Holidays, and picks up as the main protagonists of that story, Brodie and Kody, are about to be married, on Christmas Eve.  While they’ve chosen to wed at a historic Virginia tavern that friends have just restored, there wouldn’t be much to the plot without a little conflict.  In this case, the drama is introduced by a rabbit-costume-and-gas-mask wearing, machete wielding escapee from a nearby mental institution.

Kody is soon following the Rabbit through snow-covered woods, and learns he is trying to protect her and some “Golden Dragon” from the “dragon slayers.”  Despite the odd appearance of this character, his ramblings raise a number of questions, especially when a couple of very suspicious guards from the institution are looking for the Rabbit, and carrying high-powered rifles.

Brodie, with assistance from Krewe members coming to the wedding, learn the Rabbit is actually a distinguished military veteran, suffering from PTSD.  Still that doesn’t explain his behavior, until further clues point that while the Rabbit, a.k.a. Captain Avery, retired army veteran, has actually witnessed something illegal and deadly happening at Virginia Hansom Hospital.  Now the Krewe have to keep Avery safe, uncover the conspiracy at the hospital, and arrest the involved staff, and all before the Christmas wedding.

What struck me about this story is that despite numerous Lewis Carroll references, Captain Lynch did not go off on a tangential journey into Neverland, but rather became quite lucid as soon as the drugs were out of his system.  While the analogy being played out could have made an interesting story, it would have been a quite different one, and might have been detrimental to the general plot of this short novella.  As it was, the story was quickly but satisfying resolved of the main conflict, and proceeded to the wedding and the romantic end.  I will say that one scene very near the end brought me to tears, as Kody was allowed to see the spirit of her late father on her wedding day.

I was in the mood for a light-hearted Christmas story when I “picked up” this e-book, and I was happy with my purchase, as this book rates a solid four stars.  I would recommend it to any readers who want a quick read in paranormal, romance, adventure, or urban fantasy genres.

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot, #1) by

50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

From the mind of the great Agatha Christie sprang one of her most intriguing characters-Belgian detective Inspector Hercule Poirot.  His exploits have been chronicled, not only in the author’s books, but also in numerous movies and television specials.  In more than one episode, the popular show Doctor Who pays homage to the iconic writer, including a “behind the scenes” of Dame Agatha’s process for this particular novel.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles opens as Poirot’s Watson, Hastings, is staying with old friends while he recovers from injuries suffered fighting in World War I.  He has not seen Poirot in a number of years, but he is suddenly on the scene when Hasting’s host at the estate of Styles is murdered under strange circumstances.

A number of doors locked from the inside, a house full of potential suspects, several different possible methods for administering poison to the victim, and questionable identities of multiple personages make for a case that is beyond the local constabulary, so Poirot is soon on the scene.

While Hastings privately worries that age and time have cost Poirot his sharp faculties, the detective begins his investigation, leaving Hastings (and everyone else) wondering what clues he has discovered but is reluctant to share.  The story ends with a typical confrontation that unites all suspects, and those previously not suspected, in a scene where Poirot reveals all.

Agatha Christie’s body of work in general and in this novel in particular are considered classics because her stories are ageless.  While technology and society move forward, the mysteries she pens still appeal to readers because she weaves so many details, false blinds, and seemingly contradictory plot points into her work that are perfectly explained in the end.

I recommend this book to any lover of mysteries, and award it five stars for its originality, and depth of intrigue.