Category Archives: Paranormal and Supernatural

The Thief (BDB #16)

** spoiler alert ** WARNING: SPOILERS IN REVIEW, READ AT YOUR OWN RISK 

Okay, I am a HUGE JR Ward fan and I think I have read all that she has written in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I say I think I have because it seemed that there were a lot of new-ish Legacy books that came out in a flurry, and I don’t know that I read those.

I wanted to like this one, I really did, but I had several things working against me from the start. Namely, Assail and Sola were never my favorites. I couldn’t see Sola as a 3D character – she seemed a little flat before. But as a loyal fan, I got The Thief and read it. Holy hot mess, Batman.

First, I will say that my favorite of the Brothers is V, and you can take that to mean whatever you like – and I did not even recognize him in this book. While I didn’t think that what he was planning to do at the penthouse was cheating, exactly, it was presented as such. I mean, was it cheating when he and Butch were there? Nope. The penthouse serves its purpose in V’s life and the fact that he can share that with Jane makes them tight, IMO. Butch too, for that matter. I love the relationship that the four of them (V, Butch, Marissa, and Jane) have – it’s one thing I love about Ward’s writing and the world she has created: at the end of the day they are family.

Yeah, not so much in this one. The closest thing I saw to the family dynamic from previous books was V attending the Brothers meeting wearing Jane’s My Little Pony pajama pants. And okay, let’s just think about THAT for a minute: How on earth is that even physically possible, that an enormous Brother would not know that he is wearing his shellren’s trousers? Please.

Also – the ending came as a surprise. Not in a plot twist kind of way, but in a “wait, did I fall asleep and accidentally click to the end of the book” way. While I understand that this is a series, and there will be more about the shadows and Throe, etc., in upcoming books – I honestly don’t care. This book did not make me care enough – it just seemed to hit a word/page count and drop off a cliff. 

Overall, I would recommend reading this because there is some pretty crazy info about the Fade, the Scribe Virgin, and other stuff that you will not get in future books if you miss this one. But don’t expect it to be like the old days of the BDB. Something has changed, and not entirely for the better.

Return to Sender: From the Files of Pyramid Investigations, by Tony Daniel

returntosenderEvery town has its ghost stories, and Atlanta is no exception. Crockett and Memphis Pete are just two ordinary guys caught up in them. The only thing is Crockett has become an unwitting medium who smokes too much and Pete is the reanimated mummy of a priest of Osiris obsessed with Elvis Presley. Together they help the various spirits of Atlanta and its environs find their way home.  When a legendary lost Confederate shipment of gold becomes the target of a voodoo master and a delusional historian, it’s up to the two hapless paranormal investigators to do whatever they can to make sure the good guys win. It’s a race against the clock, and time is almost up. (Goodreads.com)

 

Y’all. Here’s the thing: GO OUT AND GET THIS BOOK IMMEDIATELY. Okay, that wasn’t the thing I was thinking of – really it’s more that I don’t read crime fiction very often, but this one has the hook that will get me into most other genres: the paranormal.

Crockett and Pete are an excellent duo, and I mentioned to the author yesterday that after reading this I now hear everything in Mama Lady’s accent, so there’s that too. Excellent character development, with the exception MAYBE of Lucinda, but that’s not her fault that she’s a bit of a secondary story arc that is thrust into the main spotlight about halfway through. In fact, if I had any complaint about this novel, it might have been that I think the author could have developed the story in this into several novels, like a series. But that could be due to my own habit of writing books that are way too long for normal people to read.

In truth, this book was an easy read – because the scenes just flow into each other effortlessly, like a good play where you don’t realize you’ve left beat one and moved into beat two until you’re on the verge of beat three. The author clearly did his homework – since it is set in Atlanta I knew a lot of the places mentioned in the novel and never ONCE did I think anything like, “Hey, wait, he put the Varsity in the middle of Oakland Cemetary.” The characters, as I mentioned above, are compelling. I know that someone has worked hard on a character when I hear a different voice in my head as I’m reading.

I can’t seem to say anything that I want to say without spoilers, so I will just give you some bullet points that were highlights for me:

  • Peggy. Y’all. Just Peggy.
  • The depth of interaction between our detectives and Jimmy warmed my heart and broke it a few times.
  • The intricacy of writing two characters who speak in a very distinctive accent AND GETTING IT RIGHT.  (I tried that with Teeand in my Orana Chronicles novels and instead of sounding like a LOTR dwarf my British husband said he was a cross between Yorkshire and Scotland.)
  • Creating two distinct voices for a – okay, yeah – hapless detective like Crockett and the force of nature that is Pete.
  • PETE! Y’all. Love me some Pete (but then who doesn’t?).
  • The action at Stone Mountain. I could see it in my head and I haven’t been to Stone Mountain in decades.

Seriously – go read this RIGHT NOW. I’m already badgering the author for more.

*I purchased this book on my own, and am making this review on my own. I was not asked by the author or publisher to review this title.

Skulduggery Pleasant, by Derek Landy

Cracking wise and cracking skulls.  Skulduggery Pleasant is an all new kind of hero.  First of all, he’s a skeleton.  Noticed that, did you?  Secondly, he’s immersed in another world that exists alongside ours.  Finally, he’s a magician, and a darned good one.  We’re talking fireballs from the palms, people.

I have only read the first book in this series, but I liked it enough to want to read the next one.  Stephanie is left an entire house in her uncle’s will, but that’s only the beginning of her weird day.  She ends up spending the night in the house alone, where she is attacked by someone claiming to want something her uncle had hidden.  Cue the hero to save the day, only this hero is a skeleton in a three piece suit.  They set out on a series of adventures to find the object sought by the dark side, meeting strange and wonderful characters along the way.

Now, while I did enjoy this book and I do look forward to reading the next one, I did find it to be a bit dialogue heavy.  If you have a 9-12 level reader who likes a lot of action, this might not be the book for him or her.  The action is there, and is so well written that I could clearly visualize it in my mind as I read, but even those scenes have a lot of talking going on between the characters.

It could be that the next books in the series have less exposition via dialogue.

All in all, I’m not sure that this is a YA/9-12 book that will really appeal to adults like some others in the genre do, but it has intrigued me enough to want to keep with it.  I’d love to hear what others think.

Insomnia and Morganville Vampires (the latter by Rachel Caine)

Ah, insomnia, how I do love thee.  While I’m anxiously awaiting my trip to the fae, I thought I’d talk a little about a great little book series I’ve discovered, the Morganville Vampires by Rachel Caine.

Yes, it’s about vampires.  Yes, it’s YA/Teen.  No, you really shouldn’t be surprised that I’m reading ANOTHER vampire novel…or so mean.  Stop rolling your eyes!  Anyway, moving on…

This series was recommended to me by no less than half a dozen customers at work, claiming it was better by far than the Twilight series (I’m sorry, I just can’t call a book about teenagers a SAGA), which I’ve read (and managed not to review…you may thank me now) and the Vampire Academy series which I have not yet read.  I picked up the Omnibus edition, which includes books 1-3, with the intention of reading it on the plane on my most recent trip back home to America.  It seemed reasonable, since I read three Vampire Diaries books in that space of time.

It did not happen, because unlike the other series, I found myself reading every word, hanging on every cliff, and not skipping whole paragraphs because I’d gotten bored.

At the risk of gushing, this series is so much better, more engrossing, better written, I could go on and on and on…sorry, back on topic.  This is one of the best in a genre that seems to be overrun with bad writing.  Slap a black cover on it and it will sell these days…but Morganville is different.  The characters are more real to me, even though the situations they are in are fantastic and involve the supernatural.  The plot twists involve action and adventure, not romance. Rachel Caine has been called the Queen of YA/Teen vampire fiction, and I’d tend to agree with that.

Okay, fair enough, there’s action and adventure in the Twilight books.  But that and my feelings on the sheer number of times a main character is killed and brought back in the Vampire Diaries series belong in other posts.  I said moving on, didn’t I?

The basic plot is this:  Claire is a sixteen year old genius who starts college early.  She attends a small school in Texas in a town called Morganville, but soon discovers that the town has some weird quirks.  She is your basic ill-at-ease, clumsy, awkward teenage heroine, but she displays a strength of character from early on in the novels that I don’t think you see in a lot of other vampire fiction these days.  After some unpleasantness she moves herself out of her dorm and into a house being shared by four other slightly older teenagers, none of which are students at the college she attends.

The plot changes gears here, as she finds out that Morganville is a town filled with and mostly run by vampires.  Humans don’t go out after dark.  If you’re lucky, you have a vampire patron that offers you protection…but that usually comes at a price.  I have to admit, making the vampires the bad guys was a refreshing change from the other novels that are so popular right now.  Claire is a strong heroine who comes into her own more and more as the novels progress.  I’ve only finished the first three, and I can’t wait to see how she continues to grow up in the next six novels.  If you like the genre but are sick of the emo stereotypes, go hang out in Morganville for awhile.  You’ll be glad you did.  Just…make sure your seatbelts are fastened and your tray tables are up.  The ride is fast paced, often turbulent, and just fabulous.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to think about a different kind of novel all together…Skulduggery Pleasant.  Stay tuned.

Radiance, by Alyson Noël

I spoke in an earlier post about the Immortals series, by Alyson Noël. If you remember, it was not one of my favorites of the YA fiction series I’ve read recently.  However, there is something in the books that keeps me reading them.  Perhaps I just need some closure.

I have not made it to the point that I’ve read Dark Flame, the latest in that series published here in the UK (I believe that the next one, Night Star, has already been published in the US, but there you are).  But when I was given an ARC of Radiance by a co-worker, I was intrigued.  In the Immortals books, one of my favorite characters has become Riley, the younger sister of Ever who became a ghost after the car wreck that killed the rest of Ever’s family.

Radiance is, I believe, classified as for the 9-12 crowd rather than teen, and that’s appropriate because one of the biggest complaints Riley has is that she died before she could become a teenager.  The story tells us what happens after she crosses the bridge with her parents (the one that Ever didn’t cross because she was brought back to mortal life).  She takes on the task of helping those that have become stuck in between the worlds to cross over, and it is said to be the first in a series.

I think that Ms. Noël should stick with this age group because Radiance is an extremely well written and engaging novel when you put it in the 9-12 year old context.  I think that’s what bugs me about the Immortals series…they come across as juvenile, which is saying something considering they are YA fiction and not adult fiction.  Read Radiance, it won’t take you long…but it will stay with you long after you’re done.

Angel, by L.A. Weatherly

Back I go to YA fiction, but that shouldn’t be a surprise.  I want to talk today about Angel, by L.A. Weatherly.  I read an ARC of this book (thanks much to my colleague, Roz, for lending it!) because I needed a filler for a weekend.  Honestly.  Roz had been telling me at work that I HAD to read it and she thought I would LOVE it…something that usually puts me off a book immediately, regardless of who it is that is doing the pleading.  I guess that’s because my taste in books is pretty eclectic…no really, I do read more than just books with pretty covers and/or the latest YA Kissy-Bitey/Growly/Floaty book that turns up in the bookshop.  I promise.

Let me start by saying this is NOT another Fallen Angel Meets Teenage Girl/Boy and Falls In Love book.  Not by a longshot.

At first seeming like yet another in the constant parade of supernatural romance books for teens that we’ve seen in the wake of Twilight, Angel soon becomes something very different.  Though written for teenagers, it is lacking in the misguided and immature longings for adult intimacy that plague many YA novels.  While there is a romantic aspect and interest in the plot, it doesn’t subsume the rest of the story, but serves as a secondary plot that helps the primary cause along, if that makes sense?

It’s hard to write a proper review of this book, really, without giving away spoilers, so I’ll tell you what I know and then take away the bits that you need to find for yourself, fair?  The main characters in the book are Alex, an Angel Killer or “AK” and Willow, a girl who has grown up without the knowledge that she is half Angel.

In the story world of Angel, we’re not looking at the celestial beings that sit on clouds, strum harps, and eat Philly cream cheese…we’re talking about creatures who feed on energy to survive, and have searched for a new home now that theirs can no longer sustain them.  The energy rolling off humans in waves is perfect for the dietary needs of these beings, and the Angels find humans to be easy prey due to their need to “believe.”  Churches of the Angels are formed and the populace flock to be touched by these beings, so that they may know the peace and love this contact brings.  Peace, love, and total mental destruction, that is.  So-called Angel Burn is irreversible and devastating, and is the thing from which Alex is fighting to save humanity.  He was born and raised for this life and it is all he knows…until he meets Willow, half-angel yet a direct threat to the beings and their invasion of Earth.

The twists and turns the plot takes weren’t new, but put together into a story took me along, breathless, for the ride.   Angel is well worth a look for those fans of YA paranormal romantic fiction as well as sci-fi/fantasy readers.  You have GOT to read this book.  Trust me, you won’t be sorry.

13 Treasures, Curses and Secrets, by Michelle Harrison

(edited from a review originally posted on Goodreads.com)

To be honest, I chose this book because I am a part time bookseller (at the time, in the children’s section) and I want to be well versed in what I’m selling. What I found was a gem of a book that, while a bit shaky in parts, overall has fascinating cast of characters that I truly came to care for as the story progressed.   Michelle Harrison, former bookseller with the same company for whom I now work, has hit the mark in this series and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the third book in the series, 13 Secrets, will be even better than the first two.

Tanya is a young teenager with the second sight, and has been plagued all her life by the fey that she can see. She experiences many of the same feelings all teenagers do, not being understood by her parents, that she is somehow different…but Tanya’s feelings are based in fact. It’s only when she is sent to spend summer holidays with her grandmother that she finds out just how different she is.

The twists and turns in the story kept me guessing and involved in the book until the very end.   What started out as an exercise in good bookselling turned into a lovely story that I can read over and over.  Now to wait until February for the next one!

The Wolves of Mercy Falls, by Maggie Stiefvater

I am going to take a second here and admit that I was hesitant to read these because I normally don’t chose werewolf fiction.  I’m more “kissy-bitey” than I am “kissy-growly.”  However, I’ve been looking at these books in the store for months and finally, on the recommendation of a friend, I bought them.

These books are, in a word, excellent.  While described by some as Twilight with Werewolves, I didn’t think of it that way.  It’s written for teenagers, sure, and it does delve into typical teenage angst, but the concept is new and different, and that is something sorely missing in YA/teen fiction these days.

Grace was attacked by wolves when she was a little girl.  She remembered vividly the feel of the blood and the teeth, and the one wolf that watched from a distance, his yellow eyes troubled.  Every year, she waited for her wolf to appear in the woods behind her house in winter time, and every year he came, yellow eyes searching for her.  When she and her friends meet a boy with familiar yellow eyes, her world turns inside out.

Shiver, the first book in this trilogy, introduces us to Grace and Sam, the yellow-eyed werewolf.  Grace is level-headed and serious, and has been basically taking care of herself for most of her life.  When Sam introduces her to his world, all she can do is think about his last summer, and how the day is coming when he will shiver into wolf form and forget all about her.

The descriptions of the transitions are painful at times, but so realistic that it left me feeling as though werewolves could be real.  As a dog lover myself, I could tell that the author has and understands dogs and pack mentality, because the behavior of the wolves with each other and with humans seemed very believable to me.  The characters were fully formed and I found myself really caring about them.

There really is no way for me to talk about Linger, the second book in the trilogy, without spoilers, so I’ll just say that I was not as happy with it as I was with Shiver.  But the thing that made me unhappy was not the writing or the flow, but the actual plot.  Ms. Stiefvater tells a very good, very complex story, and it seemed to me at a few points in Linger that she was rushing to tie up that chapter so that the book didn’t get too long.  I’m now anxiously awaiting the next installment, something I thought I’d never do with a werewolf book.

This book does an excellent job of touching on subjects that are very real and very important to teenagers, while delving into aspects of adult life as well.  It truly has something for everyone and is not to be missed or overlooked in favor of more fangy reads.  Team Jacob?  This is your book.


Practical Magic, by Alice Hoffman

Practical Magic is a beautiful book. The characters grab your attention from the very start and hang on until the end. While I haven’t read anything else by Alice Hoffman, I like the style and pace of the book.

Sally and Gillian Owens are orphaned at a young age and go live with their eccentric Aunts.  They find out that for generations the Owens women have had magic, and are generally blamed for everything bad that happens in the New England town where they live.  Each generation the locals basically shun the Owens women, but some unlucky men find themselves in love with an Owens woman and that relationship never ends well.

Sally is determined to change the fate of the women of the Owens family.  Gillian revels in being different and ends up leaving home.   The story unfolds as each girl pursues their own destinies that eventually lead them back to each other and to the town that has a lot to learn about the strength of the  Owens women.

This book speaks to that relationship that happens only between sisters and girlfriends, and I can pick it up time and time again and find new things.  It is beautiful and dark and uplifting and strange, and it has heart.  A truly great read, far far better than the Kidman/Bullock movie, this book is definitely not to be missed.