Tag Archives: 4 stars

Good vs. Evil in Anthology

urban_enemiesHere the emphasis is on the evil part of the Good vs. Evil. Seventeen stories from diverse urban fantasy series showcase their villains. There are stories from the following authors: Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files), Kelley Armstrong (The Cainsville and Otherworld series), Seanan McGuire (InCryptid), Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles), Jonathan Maberry (Joe Ledger), Lilith Saintcrow (Jill Kismet), Carrie Vaughn (Kitty Norville), Joseph Nassise (Templar Chronicles), C.E. Murphy (Walker Papers), Steven Savile (Glasstown), Caitlin Kittredge (the Hellhound Chronicles and the Black London series), Jeffrey Somers (The Ustari Cycle), Sam Witt (Pitchfork County), Craig Schaefer (Daniel Faust), Jon F. Merz (Lawson Vampire), Faith Hunter (Jane Yellowrock), and Diana Pharaoh Francis (Horngate Witches).

Most of the stories are told from the villain’s point of view rather than just being about the villain. Some of them are written in such a way that you can actually feel a moment of empathy for them. Others showcase just how evil they really are. My favorite story was probably the one from The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. I found myself empathizing with the main character. Also well written, but definitely falling into the catagory of scarier villains was the story about beings that are like cuckoos from Seanan McGuire.

I wasn’t expecting to empathize with any of the villains. I was not familiar with all of the series. In fact, I was hoping to gain some idea of other urban fantasy series I might enjoy. It was a success in that regard. All of the stories were well written no matter the angle they took. In truth, I would reread this whole anthology in addition to seeking out other works by the authors. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

Urban Enemies is due out August 1, 2017 from Gallery Books. If you enjoy urban fantasy, definitely check this book out.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own and freely given.

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Cult Runs Wild in Massachusetts

dark_ritesVickie Preston and Special Agent Griffin Pryce are preparing to go to Virginia to the FBI headquarters when someone starts attacking people in Boston seemingly at random. The people are beaten and left with a note that is a copy of a historical warning about witches. Then, Vickie’s friend Alex Maple disappears after his attack. She is sure that he’s been taken for nefarious purposes.

It becomes clear that the attacks are the result of cult activity and that the perpetrators would rather die than be apprehended. Who is behind this? Where is Alex? Why are the people willing to die rather than be caught? And who is the woman with her throat slit in Vickie’s bloody visions?

Heather Graham once again successfully blends history and fiction. This time the action is drawn to the wilds of Massachusetts as well as Boston. The characters are well written and sympathetic. The plot moves along at a good pace. And I wasn’t able to guess who the leader and the head murderer was until the very end. And even then, I got it wrong. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Dark Rites by Heather Graham is #22 in the Krewe of Hunters series. It’s due out July 25th 2017 from MIRA.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of the book from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own and freely given.

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Grim Reaper and PI – Charley Davidson at Your Service

first_grave_rightThe one New Year’s resolution I made that I am likely to keep is to read more books that have accumulated in my TBR pile. First Grave on the Right is the first of these. It was originally released in 2011 by St. Martin’s Press.With her eleventh book, Eleventh Grave in Moonlight, out in the series this year, it seemed like a good time to check out Charley Davidson and her universe.

Charley Davidson is a fairly unique individual. She is a private investigator and a grim reaper. Charley is a fun, spunky, and sarcastic heroine. She would probably object to using the word spunky to describe her, but she is definitely “courageous and determined” if maybe occasionally reckless.

As part of Charley’s gifts as a grim reaper, she can see and communicate with dead people. Most of the dead move on into the afterlife fairly smoothly, but some have unresolved issues that they seek to resolve with help from Charley. In this case, there are 3 lawyers that are murdered. They have unresolved issues in that they all have something they want to be communicated to the beloved they are leaving behind and that they want to see whoever killed them put behind bars. As if that wasn’t enough for Charley, she is having sensual nightly visits from an entity she knows as Reyes.

So, First Grave on the Right is mostly a mystery with paranormal influences. The mysteries are solved with help from her assistant Cookie, her uncle who is a detective, and a dead gangbanger who has turned to helping Charley out.

There is also a touch of romance in the books because of her growing relationship with Reyes. She is desperate to know more about this “man” who has been visiting her nightly in her dreams. This becomes one of the mysteries she must solve.

The book is loaded with Charley’s sarcastic humor. Most of the time she knows when to stop, but occasionally she just can’t help herself.

“My calculations- allowing for a 12 percent margin of error, based on the radius of the corresponding confidence interval and the surgeon general’s warning – concluded that they probably didn’t stay behind for tacos.” (p.53)

I once signed up for an anger management class, but the instructor pissed me off.”(p.58)

Overall, I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It is an award-winning debut for Darynda Jones and I really enjoyed reading it. I needed something light to read, and this fit the bill perfectly. You will probably enjoy this book too if you like to read mysteries with a heavy dose of paranormal and a smidgen of romance.

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History, Mystery, and a touch of Romance

fifthpetalThe story opens in Salem, Massachusetts Halloween 1989. A group of women is gathered together to consecrate the ground where the hangings of the accused witches in 1692 took place. Then suddenly they are attacked. There are 2 survivors. One is a 5-year-old young girl who was hidden by one of the women in some briars. The other is one of the women that the girl calls Auntie Rose aka Rose Whelan – the leader of the event.

Callie, the young girl, has no recollection of the event, but she has a scar on the palm of her hand in the shape of a rose from holding onto the rosary that Auntie Rose gave her so tightly while she was hidden. Rose appears to have lost her mind as a result of the attack and claims that it was a banshee that attacked and killed the young women collectively known as ‘The Goddesses.’

Salem, Massachusetts 2014, 25 years later to the day, Rose is again implicated in an attack. This time on a young boy – a bit of a hoodlum. There are no marks on his body, but she was present when he died. She claims the banshee did it again.

John Rafferty, chief of police of Salem, finds himself in a position where he believes that Rose had nothing to do with either incident. He decides he must reopen the cold case of The Goddesses’ murders.

Most of the book is from Callie’s point of view, but a fair amount is also from Rafferty’s point of view. Callie starts to have vivid dreams of what happened in the past and shares these with Rafferty. Meanwhile, Rafferty goes through legal channels and old evidence trying to solve the cold case while he waits for a cause of death of the boy.

It’s mostly Callie’s story. And she gets involved with local old families. One member of which is responsible for triggering some of her most vivid dreams.

There is history, mystery and a touch of romance in The Fifth Petal. I read the first book in this series, The Lace Reader, a while back. It was a good book, but not as good as The Fifth Petal. Brunonia Barry’s writing seems to have improved in the time between the two books. You can read The Fifth Petal without having read The Lace Reader and still enjoy it. Truthfully, I remembered little of the first book. Towner and Rafferty were both characters in the first book and have roles in this one as well – Rafferty a little more so than Towner.

There are some things that you might consider either paranormal or magical realism elements. There is the ability to see the future by reading lace that is mentioned. And there is the way that Towner, Callie, and some of the other people seem to know things before they happen or are said by people. There is Callie’s use of musical therapy for healing. And finally, there is the question of the banshee. Is she real?

Overall, it’s a good book. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. It’s well written. The mystery is good. The inclusion of the history is a plus. The author tells some of what is real vs pure fiction in the acknowledgments. I may have enjoyed it more because of the history in it. The 1692 events in Salem have always interested me. I would recommend the book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery with a few possibly paranormal elements and a touch of romance. If you like Salem and its history, then you will enjoy it even more.

The Fifth Petal was released January 24, 2017 from Crown.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Killer Clown

send_in_clownsSpending an evening or even a few hours at a haunted house venue is not Ellison Russell’s idea of fun. But, her daughter has broken curfew and in the 1970s neither one has a cell phone for tracking her down. Her last known whereabouts were at the haunted house. So, Ellison goes in and gets the surprise of her life when a clown collapses dead on her and another one seems to be fleeing the murder scene. Ellison muses, “I’m not sure what it says about me that I have a homicide detective’s home number memorized…”as she calls Anarchy Jones for assistance.Who killed the clown? What was the motive? Ellison finds herself drawn into the case further and further in spite of her best attempts not to do so.

Ellison has a good sense of humor that is evident in her thoughts and conversations with other characters in the mystery. She feels that Mr. Coffee and her father are the only two men who haven’t let her down. And still, she finds herself in a little bit of a love triangle. At one point her date is hauled off for questioning in the case by the Detective Anarchy Jones. Both men would like to see her stay out of the mess, but she keeps getting drawn back in.

Romance is more of a subplot to the murder. Ellison’s best friend is also dating someone new. And there is a further subplot of someone stealing and selling antiques.

It might sound like there is a lot going on. Honestly, though, it’s really the right amount. The author pulls it all together seamlessly. I really enjoyed the book and all of its parts. I especially enjoyed Ellison’s sense of humor and independence.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. The mystery is well written and well paced. You can guess along with the rest of them who did it before the revealing. There is just the right amount of romance and subplot. And Ellison has a good relationship with her daughter that reminds me a little of the relationship Claire Malloy has with her daughter in the Joan Hess books. This novel can be read and enjoyed as a standalone, even though it is the fourth book in the series. I did go out and buy the first book when I finished this one. Send in the Clowns became available October 25, 2016 from Henery Press.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Quickie Review of Choose Your Own Misery: The Holidays

choose_misery_holidaysYou were going to skip Christmas by going to a resort with a friend from college, but a hurricane has made quick work of those plans. What will you do now? Spend Christmas with your girlfriend and her family? Try and book yourself a flight to another beach location? Pick one and follow the plotline to the next set of choices. Rinse and repeat.

If you’ve ever read the Choose Your Own Adventure Books, you are familiar with the set up of this book even though it comes from a different publisher. The authors have previously released Choose Your Own Misery: The Office. Now they up their game by tackling the holidays and the infinite number of things that can go wrong.

This is a fun book. It does have a lot of dark humor to it. The format is well suited for the Kindle. Click on your choice and it takes you to the next plot point.

I enjoyed playing with this book and the choices following them to my ultimate misery. It’s a fun, interactive read. Definitely a humor book. Definitely a parody of the Choose Your Own Adventure books. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Choose Your Own Misery: The Holidays by Mike MacDonald and Jilly Gagnon is expected to be available October 18, 2016 from Diversion Books.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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“Backpacking Bridget Jones” Does Chile

destination_chileDestination: Chile by Katy Colins is book 3 in the Lonely Hearts Travel Club series.

Spoiler Alert:

If you haven’t read book one and two in the series, the reviews for book 3 contain at least one big spoiler. Just letting you  know so you can stop now if you want. The book can be read as a stand alone, but I’ve been informed that you can get a deeper understanding of the characters if you start with book one.

Review:

Georgia Green and her beau Ben are invited to travel to Chile to participate in a television program called Wanderlust Warriors. The program is to follow several couples who work together as they face challenges. The winning couple receives a nice amount of money, 25,000 pounds, to spend as they see fit.

From the beginning, Georgia and Ben aren’t quite on the same page although they seem to be getting along swimmingly. They work together days at their travel agency and spend their down time together as well.

The circumstances Georgia faces over the course of the story are reminiscent of things Bridget Jones might encounter from the scene in the airport bathroom to the camping scene and many in between. One reviewer has referred to Georgia as the “backpacking Bridget Jones.”

It’s not all laughs. Like any good story, it has its highs and lows. It has conflict, resolution, and character growth. There are elements that increase suspense and make you wonder what the ultimate ending of the book will be. Will Georgia and Ben’s relationship survive the organized chaos of this competitive trip?

I know the review has been a little vague, but I didn’t want to give out many spoilers.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. It’s well written and entertaining. If you enjoy romantic comedies, then this might be a good book for you.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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