Tag Archives: Book Reviews

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.

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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.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Storm Front

Storm Front by Jim Butcher
Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1) 
by

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
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Amy Caudill‘s review

I recently reviewed another book by author Jim Butcher, Brief Cases, which was my personal first foray into the realm of The Dresden Files.  That review is posted here.  Drawn in by the book of short stories, I couldn’t resist going back for more.

In this first installment of the tales of Harry Dresden, modern wizard extraordinaire, Harry is asked to consult on a grisly double homicide by the police department, and at the same time takes on a case of a woman’s missing husband.  His investigations are quickly hampered, though, when the killer strikes again.  Dresden realizes dark magic is involved in the murders, and that there is a link between the two cases.

Before he can discover the identity of the dark wizard who conjured these crimes, he runs afoul of crime boss Gentleman Johnny Marcone, who wants to halt the investigation for his own reasons, as well as the Chicago P.D., and the wizarding governing body, the White Council, who suspect he may be involved in the murders.

A physical attack makes Harry realize he is meant to be the next victim, and survival becomes just as important as finding the truth.   These two goals will take every ounce of resolve and every bit of magic at his disposal.

Butcher skillfully draws readers into a world that combines arcane spells with mundane issues such as car troubles and pizza delivery, and leaves them hungry for more. The author’s first person narrative, reminiscent of noir fiction, moves along at a brisk pace with plenty of action and a matter of fact delivery of the possibilities of magic, tempered only by the character of its denizens.

Harry Dresden is a paranormal, urban fantasy hero with skills to rival Merlin, paired with enough angst-filled background to equal The Dark Knight and the lone-wolf sensibilities of gumshoe Sam Spade, right down to his black duster trench coat.  All of this wrapped up in a package of a flawed, human nice guy just trying to make a living in modern day Chicago.

I award this novel five stars, and recommend this book to any readers who are interested in urban fantasy, paranormal, or detective stories.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : More Spooky Tales Inspired by Real Ghost Stories: Can You See Me, The Good Neighbor, & Other Ghostly Encounters

More Spooky Tales Inspired by Real Ghost Stories by Autumn Chills
More Spooky Tales Inspired by Real Ghost Stories: Can You See Me, The Good Neighbor, & Other Ghostly Encounters (Spooky Stories Series Book 2) 
by

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Amy Caudill‘s review
Are you looking for a quick paranormal read that won’t leave you too afraid to turn the lights off at night? Check out author Autumn Chills’ anthology featuring an assortment of spirits that are as friendly as Casper, as benevolent as angels, and as heart-warming as a hug.

This short story collection includes tales of otherworldly beings such as a mischievous prankster at a movie theater, a beloved grandmother who gives romantic advice from beyond, and an unseen housekeeper who loves to take care of her home’s new inhabitants. Unlike many other books in this genre, these stories are all family-friendly and I would recommend this  5- star collection to paranormal fans of all ages, or simply to anyone seeking a condensed, uplifting read.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : The Bookshop of Yesterdays

The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson
The Bookshop of Yesterdays 
by

Amy Meyerson (Goodreads Author)
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Amy Caudill‘s review

Miranda Brooks had loved spending time with her Uncle Billy, the owner of Prospero Books, and the designer of grand scavenger hunts, until his mysterious disappearance shortly after her twelfth birthday.  Sixteen years later, she receives a package in the mail, on the same day she learns that Billy has died.  The package contains a book sent by Billy, with a clue hidden in its pages.  As she travels to San Francisco for his funeral, Miranda learns that he has left her his beloved bookstore.

The Bookshop of Yesterdays is more literary fiction than genre mystery, not the type of book I read frequently, but I still found myself caught up in the tale of a young woman searching for answers about her past.  Author Amy Meyerson, under the guise of Billy’s letters to Miranda, leads readers on a hunt for clues derived from passages of classic literature.

As she follows his trail, Miranda uncovers the untold story of Billy’s life, as well as unexpected information about her own.  Why did he disappear that day, and who is the woman in the photo she finds at his apartment?  What deep, dark secrets did Billy take to his grave, which Miranda’s parents are still hiding from her?

Miranda discovers that everything she thought she knew about her own life was wrong, and she’s not certain how to deal with it all.  Now that she knows the truth, will she go back to Philadelphia, to the life she has made there, or will she stay, and keep Billy’s legacy alive?

This novel from debut author Meyerson expertly combines quotes from classical literature, including such diverse writers as Shakespeare and Mary Shelley, with a mystery containing the story of one woman’s life.  I recommend this work to anyone with a love of mysteries or a passion for books, and give it four stars.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : The Goblins of Bellwater

The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle
The Goblins of Bellwater 
by

Molly Ringle(Goodreads Author)
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Amy Caudill‘s review

A chosen few know that there is another world that lives alongside our own.  Of course, those chosen don’t necessarily feel privileged with the knowledge, especially Kit Sylvain, the goblin’s liaison-under duress.  Kit is the latest member of his family to be subjected to a centuries old curse- if he doesn’t bring gold to the tribe of goblins that occupies the forest near Puget Sound on a monthly basis, they find someone to hurt, or kill, or even worse, become one of their number.

When Kit meets Livy, he can’t permit himself to fall in love, because he doesn’t want to expose anyone else to the goblins’ manipulations.  He doesn’t realize that he’s already too late on that front.  The goblins have chosen another victim, Livy’s younger sister Skye.  Skye is enthralled by a spell that will make her leave her humanity behind, and drag Kit’s cousin Grady along with her.

For The Goblins of Bellwater, author Molly Ringle created a background of an entire population of “fae” characters, those native to the Washington state area, and the encroaching goblin “weeds.”  I was intrigued by Ringle’s take on the origin of the goblins, as they were once human and “turned” into beings of nature, mischief, and violence.  While her goblins by far take center stage for the otherworldly cast, the imaginative and ultimately benevolent intervention of the native fae creatures help prevent a disaster of horror-story proportions.  The human characters are well-developed as well, with intricate backstories of their own and seemingly natural incidents that draw them to each other.

The plot somewhat reminded me of a movie Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010,) which featured a group of ancient beings that lured people into a basement to join their ranks.  However, this is a paranormal romance and not a horror story, so there was an escape clause, which Livy, the environmental scientist, was able to undertake thanks to the favor of the “other” fae in the woods.  Ultimately it takes the love, friendship, and willingness to sacrifice between the four young people to save them all, and stop the curse for all time.

This beautiful story should delight fans of the paranormal, romance, and urban fantasy books.  I thought it seemed a little slow in the beginning, but within the first hundred pages the action picked up and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.  I ultimately decided this novel deserved 4.5 stars, and I would definitely check out more of the author’s work in the future.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Brief Cases

Brief Cases by Jim Butcher
Brief Cases (The Dresden Files, #15.1) 
by

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)

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Amy Caudill‘s review

Jun 29, 2018  ·  edit

For readers who are not familiar with Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files series, this collection of short stories offers a sampling of glimpses into a vast urban fantasy world.  In Dresden’s universe, faeries and wizards walk among the ordinary, unsuspecting populace, supernatural beings can be either good or evil, and some, such as Bigfoot, simply seek to live their lives in peace.

For fans of the series, these shorts “fill-in” some of the gaps the author feels exist in his chronology complete with commentary as to where they fit in continuity and why they are necessary.  Butcher includes stories involving both major and minor characters in his universe, with rarely seen points of view from sundry inhabitants of both the mortal world and the “Nevernever.”

I found myself drawn into this collection very quickly; though they are short stories they are filled with well-developed characters, vivid scenes, deep plotlines, and plenty of action to satisfy most any audience.  I award this book 4.5 stars and plan to check out more of the series for myself in the near future.