Tag Archives: paranormal stories

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : A Horribly Haunted Halloween

A Horribly Haunted Halloween by Heather Graham

A Horribly Haunted Halloween
by Heather Graham (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s review

I picked up this short e-book from one of my favorite authors because I wanted to something a little lighter between the 500-600 page tomes I have been reading of late, and since I have read many of the previous series, I thought it would be enjoyable.

I was both right and wrong.  This novella takes place in the Krewe of Hunters series about a group of FBI agents who have the ability to see and interact with ghosts which assists them on their cases.  Since I have read several other books in this series, I had no problem with the continuity, even though I have not read several of the intervening stories. 

I was pleased to see the development of the characters of Angela Hawkins and Jackson Crow, series regulars who have been around since the early days of the series, and who have married, and now have two children, one through adoption, and one by birth, as they continue their work.

I also enjoyed the premise of the story, that of a serial killer who disguises the bodies of his victims as Halloween decorations, and even enjoyed the mentions the author made about the current crisis facing the world, as characters are noted to be wearing masks in public.

However, the story was really not well-developed.  There were a couple of inconsistencies in the plot, revolving around the antagonist’s motivation and endgame, as well as errors in spelling that seemed as though the book was rushed to publication.  The ending of the story also presented a problem to me, because though the climax was good, the falling action was “told” and not “shown,” something I would not expect in a well-developed story by a very successful author. 

As I don’t consider this book up to the usual standards, I am only giving it three stars.  It still is a fun read for those looking for a quick, spooky Halloween story for the season, but it is definitely not the best example of this author’s work.

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 : white knight

White Night (The Dresden Files, Book 9) by [Jim Butcher]


white knight

by Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
Amy Caudill‘s reviewApr 28, 2020

When the magical inhabitants of Chicago begin dying under mysterious circumstances, Harry Dresden, wizard and warden of the White Council, uncovers links that may prove the deaths are in fact murders and not the suicides under which they are disguised.  At the same time, a shadowy figure is masquerading as a warden to make the magical community believe Harry may be the culprit.  Harry will have to join forces with an old flame, his strangely reluctant brother, a fellow warden Carlos Ramirez, and some old enemies to clear his name and stop the violence.

This latest volume in The Dresden Files features a large group of returning supporting characters from Jim Butcher’s Dresden universe.  We see Molly, the young warlock Harry took as his apprentice in Proven Guilty to save her life, struggle within the confines of her training and desire to prove herself as a magic wielder and adult.  We see Karrin Murphy, who was chastised and demoted within the Chicago P.D. for assisting Harry but still determined to fight supernatural forces at his side. 

There is a very humorous scene where Johnny Marcone, the mafia boss of Chicago, attempts to “handle” Harry when Dresden pays a visit to one of Marcone’s establishments.  There is also a later scene between Dresden and Harry that I believe sets up nicely some foreshadowing to the events revealed in the trailer for the upcoming release of Peace Talks, due out in July.

Harry, by this point in the series, has grown and evolved from where he began in the first book, Storm Front.  He is less impulsive, more likely to plan, and more willing to accept help from others, even those reluctant to offer help.  The amount of aid he is able to command proves crucial in the pivotal scene where he returns to the stronghold of the White Court vampires and faces not only the current enemies, but also the larger force behind the conspiracy, in an epic battle that involves vampires of multiple factions, ghouls, wizards, mercenaries, and a trip into the Nevernever.

This latest book by author Jim Butcher is a multi-level story that not only contains an absorbing mystery for Dresden to solve, but also details major events happening around the larger universe, with political, ethical, and military implications for the wizarding society that lies unseen by most of humanity.  The sense of foreboding that Butcher gives the reader builds an almost irresistible suspense for the next works in the series.

I give this book five stars, and can’t wait to get my hands on the next novel soon.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Death Masks

Death Masks by Jim Butcher
Death Masks (The Dresden Files, #5) by

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

In an opening scene far-removed from the norm for The Dresden Files book series, Harry is making a guest appearance on a local talk show, discussing paranormal lore.  While for fans of the series it may seem that Harry has lost his mind, he actually is participating in a clandestine meeting with a spiritual consultant, the authentic kind.

However, Harry is blind sighted by another guest on the show, Paola Ortega, posing as a Professor who debunks supernatural “incidents,” though Harry knows this person is in reality far different than what he appears to be.  Ortega is a noble member of the vampire’s Red Court, and his real purpose for the deception is to issue a challenge to a duel with Harry, to end the war between the vampires and the White Council of Wizards.

Adding to this dangerous situation, a Vatican representative is in Chicago to hire Harry to investigate the local occult community for a stolen artifact.  Father Vincent doesn’t seem to believe in the paranormal, but he will go to any lengths to recover the Shroud of Turin, which he sees as only a historical relic.

Harry, however, knows the artifact is far more than just that, and also how dangerous such a thing can be in the wrong hands.  If certain groups, all whom are clamoring for Harry’s attention, get hold of the Shroud, it could mean the end of the world.  Between the impending duel with the vampire, a group of Fallen Angels whose servants can assume the form of monsters and friends alike, and the attentions of the local mafia headed by Marcone, Harry has a full plate.  Luckily he has God’s Knights of the Cross on his side.

Like the opening, the ending of this book leaves Harry in an unusual position, as he becomes just like the Lady of the Lake, holding a sword he is duty-bound to pass onto a worthy individual, as soon as he finds them.

I am amazed at how author Jim Butcher continues to keep this series fresh, with new ideas, new monsters, and creative new encounters with the supernatural, all while strengthening the relationships between existing and recurring characters.  His battles are vivid scenes that can thrill the reader, while at the same time Harry’s doubts and vulnerabilities make him seem all the more human.

Butcher continues the formula that is one part detective story, one part romance, and one part paranormal adventure, in a tale that will delight readers old and new alike.  I award Death Masks five stars, and look forward to the next book in the series, to see what happens with the continuing arc in the plot, but also for what Butcher comes up with next.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Summer Knight

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, #4) by

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)

50275498

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 : Grave Peril

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
50275498

Amy Caudill‘s review

Misdirection, a ghost with the power to cause and control nightmares, and attacks from multiple factions in the supernatural world makes this third installment of The Dresden Files the most exciting adventure yet.

Something has stirred up the ghostly denizens of Chicago, leading to frenzied attacks on unsuspecting living residents.  Harry Dresden, modern day wizard, with the help of Michael, one of God’s Knights of the Sword, is working overtime to put out supernatural fires and save innocent lives from assaults the average citizen can’t even see.

When a mysterious entity, dubbed “The Nightmare,” is able to enter homes uninvited and undetected, against all rules of the paranormal, Harry has more suspects than answers.  Something is attacking Harry’s friends, and Harry himself, and the clues lead to a sorcerer named Kravos whom Harry and Co.  defeated months ago.  Only Kravos is locked up by the Chicago PD, or is he?

While all this is happening, Harry is also on the radar of a major player in the vampire court, Bianca, and in trouble with his faerie godmother, Lea, over a bargain he made in a life-or-death situation.  Plus, when the Nightmare attacked him, it stole a large chunk of his magical power and gained the ability to impersonate him.   Harry may be in more trouble than he can handle this time.

I’ve read several of Jim Butcher’s novels and collections in the past, but this is the first time I have read through the series in order.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how the relationships between different characters, especially that of Harry and Susan, have developed, and already am aware of a major upheaval coming for them in future books.  I’m also looking forward to seeing how Harry’s relationships with other characters, friends and enemies, continues to change, as many of the major baddies/allies/rival powers survived to come after Harry again.

Overall, this book is the best of the series to-date, and a good choice for any reader who wants their paranormal detective story with a side of mayhem and romance.  I give Grave Peril five stars and recommend it to anyone looking for a good read.

 

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)
50275498

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 : Wicked Deeds

Wicked Deeds by Heather Graham
Wicked Deeds (Krewe of Hunters, #23) by

Heather Graham (Goodreads Author)
50275498

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)
50275498

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.

Graphic Novel Review-They’re Not Just for Kids

Recently I’ve shared reviews of a number of books that I’ve read for my local book club.  This month, the club is doing something a little different-we’re reading graphic novels.  I know many of my long-time readers may wonder why a grown woman, with grown children, would choose to read what essentially is perceived to be a comic book.  The truth is that graphic novels have come a long way, to the point they are actually considered a sophisticated art form.

While some graphic novels are still collections of a series of comic books that go together to form a longer story, bound into a book format, that definition no longer encompasses the whole usage of the term.  Many graphic novels are refined works, sometimes retellings of existing novels or sometimes new, independent stories, where illustrations play at least an equally important part to the text.  Though some are designed with children in mind, many graphic novels often include more mature or darker themes than would generally be expected to be found in comic books, and can contain any type of subject matter, from fiction to non-fiction.

The challenge set for my book club specifically is reading graphic novels with paranormal themes.  Since some of these are shorter than regular novels, I decided to review a few of them together in one post.  This is just a small sample of what can be found in your local bookstore, comic shop, library, or online.

Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir
Archival Quality 
by

Ivy Noelle Weir (Goodreads Author), and
Steenz (Goodreads Author) (Illustrator)
This original story found exclusively in graphic novel format features a young woman who has suffered a nervous breakdown, resulting in the loss of her beloved job as a library assistant. Anxious to put her life back together, Cel answers an ad for an archivist position at The Logan Museum of Medical Oddities.

From the very first, she finds her new job full of surprises. She is required to live in an apartment inside the library building, because she is expected to do her work at night. Her boss has a habit of appearing and disappearing at the most inopportune times. Cel begins having dreams of a young woman who was tortured in the building, which at one time housed an asylum. Then she begins suffering mysterious nosebleeds and losing time.

What is happening to Cel, and how does it relate to the mysteries of the museum? Was the woman a patient at the asylum, and why is the only record of her a picture found misfiled in the archive? How is the board, whom none of the employees ever see, involved?

While I sympathized with the main character, Cel, and was drawn into the mystery, many of the other characters seemed annoying or unnecessary to the storyline. Cel was the only one fully developed, while the others, such as her boss Holly and boyfriend Kyle seemed to be used more as plot devices to move the action along than as actual individuals important to the plot. The artwork was fluid and enhanced the tone and scope of the novel, despite the “comic” nature of the characters. If this story was produced in another format, I would say it would make a good short story or novella, perhaps in a collection of horror stories. Overall, I give it three stars.

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Jim Butcher's Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: Ghoul Goblin 
by

Jim Butcher (Goodreads Author)Mark Powers 

and

Joseph Cooper (Illustrations)
Author Jim Butcher has augmented his popular novel series, The Dresden Files, with a set of graphic novels. While some of these are retellings of other books in the series, Ghoul Goblin, #3, co-written by Mark Powers, is an original addition to the Dresden universe. Consisting of a set of six comics bound into one volume, this beautifully illustrated story is as detailed as any of the author’s novels.

Deputy Sheriff Prescott “Pres” Tremaine travels to The Windy City to hire Harry Dresden, wizard for hire, to investigate events that have unfolded in his small Missouri town. A family of seven orphans, the Talbots, has been devastated with the deaths of their two eldest under mysterious circumstances. Dresden recognizes the handiwork of supernatural forces in the crime scene photos, and agrees to investigate.

Arriving just in time for the funeral of the two Talbots, Harry runs afoul of both the remaining Talbots, led by the skeptical eldest remaining brother and the town sheriff, who refuses to believe anything out of the ordinary is at play, even when the undertaker, who turns out to be a goblin in disguise, attacks.

Despite being warned away, Dresden begins his investigation that soon shows there is more than one supernatural presence in the small town. The Talbots are under a curse, one which draws the residents of the Nevernever to them like flies to honey, and now two separate creatures are competing for territory, and the right to see who can end their line first.

The only thing this graphic novel has in common with comic books was the fact that each page was covered in artwork, but the quality far outweighed the illustrations of any comic I read as a kid. From the very first page, where Harry is fighting a water demon in Lake Michigan the reader is drawn into a world where the supernatural lives alongside our own.

The characters were well-developed, with the depth and attention to detail I’ve come to expect from Butcher. The story, while containing less text than usual for the author’s work, nevertheless was just as complete and riveting as any I’ve read in this universe, and easily fit inside the chronology as a case for Harry Dresden. I award this graphic novel five stars and would recommend it to anyone interested in The Dresden Files novels, paranormal or thriller stories, or just dipping their toes into the world of graphic novels.

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Odd Is on Our Side by Dean Koontz
Odd Is on Our Side (Odd thomas Graphic Novel, #2)
by

Dean Koontz (Goodreads Author),
Fred Van Lente (Goodreads Author),
Queenie Chan (Goodreads Author) (Illustrator)
In Odd is on Our Side, Odd Thomas, a character from Koontz’s series of novels, sees dead people and tries to assist them in crossing over. This graphic novel features a Halloween celebration in Odd’s native Pico Mundo, CA. Odd, with the help of his girlfriend Stormy, investigates when Odd begins seeing bodachs, ominous heralds of death, creeping around town.

In a plot that is one part Sixth Sense and one part Scooby Doo, Odd follows clues that leads him on a wild goose chase after devil-mask wearing teens stealing jack-o-lanterns to toss downhill for the annual Pumpkin Roll, to a young costume-wearing ghost, and into the history of the man who poisoned the town’s trick-or-treaters twenty-five years earlier.

In the end, Odd and his friends find that the true danger comes not from the supernatural, but a criminal in disguise, and only they have the means and the knowledge to save the town.

Despite a full cast of quirky characters, including resident eccentric novelist Ozzie Boone, his editor Valerie Malovent, and the helpful shade of Elvis Presley, this story is mostly plot-driven, with numerous twists and turns that kept me on my toes yet all came together in the end. The illustrations were all done in black and white, and while not as detailed as in some other graphic novels I’ve read, conveyed the action well and were an integral part of the story. In fact, some pages were wholly or mostly artwork, but still carried the weight of the tale.

This was a very enjoyable story that I thought did very well in this format and I award it four and a half stars, and recommend it to fans of the paranormal as well as fans of Dean Koontz’s works.