Tag Archives: paranormal romance

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 : 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 : Haunted Be the Holidays

Haunted Be the Holidays by Heather Graham
Haunted Be the Holidays (1001 Dark Nights #91; Krewe of Hunters)by

Heather Graham (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

  

This novella addition to author Heather Graham’s Krewe of Hunters series features a disturbed would-be performer that focuses his vengeance on an unknowing rival whose only crime is her relationship to the man the criminal hoped to impress.

Haunted be the Holidays brings back a number of past “Krewe” members and recounts the further adventures of the author’s ever-expanding universe.  While this novella will have significant appeal to those who have followed the series from the beginning, reading of prior books is not strictly necessary to enjoy this one.

Krewe book alums Brodie and Dakota “Cody” are settling into their new life in Washington D.C., where Cody has accepted an active role in the productions of the historic Global Tower Theatre, now owned by Adam Harrison and ran by the spouses and partners of Krewe members.  Unfortunately, a street performer whose mask resembles that of a character in a play Cody is performing in sends Cody’s senses on alert.  What threat could a simple mask hold?  When the first body appears, disguised as a vampire and lying dead in a fake “cemetery” on Halloween, Cody, Brodie, and the rest of the Krewe will have to find out.

Though the basis for the plot includes a twisted failed actor who is seeking revenge for perceived slights, those details are not revealed till near the end of the story.  What precede it are a quest for the identity of the killer, research into the history of the theatre, and a search for any ties to Cody, who is threatened on-stage by a drugged performer.

However, the author merely implies that the killer may be descended from an illegitimate child of an historic pirate that once owned the Globe Tower, without tying that directly into the plot, as would typically happen in a Graham story.  To me, this loose plot point seems like a missed opportunity.  Instead, the killer just “happens” to choose the theatre for his finale, simply because his chosen victim is working there.

Luckily, the story’s climax makes up any weak points in the plot with a grand performance, literally, on center stage that includes a life-and-death struggle with the assistance of four benevolent ghosts.

I give this e-book four stars, and recommend it not just to fans of Graham’s books, but any who are interested in paranormal romantic mystery stories.

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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!

 

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : The Goblins of Bellwater

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

Molly Ringle(Goodreads Author)
50275498

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.