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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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Picture it… Peru 1859

bedlamstacksPicture it, Sicily… but not really. Really it’s South America – Peru in fact, circa 1859, the home of some very important trees that are the source of quinine, a treatment for malaria.

The Bedlam Stacks opens in a run down estate in Great Britain. Merrick and his dog are wandering the grounds. He thinks he sees one of the statues move.  A tree explodes. His brother questions Merrick’s sanity.

Merrick is approached to go on an expedition to Peru to get some cuttings of trees that produce quinine by the India Office. India is in the throes of a major malaria epidemic. Faced with the decision to stay in England and work as a man of the cloth or have one last adventure, Merrick chooses adventure. He and a close friend ship off to Peru in search of the trees they need. It’s awkward and dangerous because of his injured leg, his friend’s altitude sickness, and the fact that often expeditions in search of the cinchona trees end up dead or missing.

The characters are well-developed and flawed. No one is perfect reflecting the real world. Merrick has physical flaws and some mental ones that are revealed as the story goes on. His friend Clem makes me think of the phrase “ugly American” even though he is quite British. Raphael is multilayered. He comes across at first as only a bit of a scoundrel. Only later is he revealed for what he truly is. I also liked the minor character of Inti. She was a take charge kind of woman and accomplished in spite of being physically handicapped.

The story has elements of magical realism. There are, for example, statues that move, lamps that are powered by glowing pollen and bits of clockwork, and exploding trees among other things.

The plot jumps around a little in place and time. The sections are clearly labeled though, so it’s not hard to follow. The story of how Merrick’s leg got hurt is interesting. And it goes to further characterize him as well. All the parts ultimately blend together. Everything is useful and not as extraneous as it might seem at first.

The way the community of Bedlam functions is interesting as well. There is a salt and bone border between the community and the jungle. Merrick and Clem are told that no one passes over the boundary from the community without risking certain death.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. Overall it’s well written both plot wise and character wise. It’s a good book for people who enjoy a bit of an adventure story with some fantastical elements.

Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley is due out August 1, 2017 from Bloomsbury USA.

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

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Serial Killer in Boston with Historical Tendencies

dying_breath

Vickie Preston survived an attack by a killer when she was in high school while babysitting. It was the first time she saw a ghost, but not the last. And it was her first encounter with Griffin Price, then a policeman.

On to present day, Griffin Price is now a Special Agent with the FBI unit known as the Krewe of Hunters. Griffin and his fellow agent Jackson are in Boston helping with the hunt for a serial killer known as The Undertaker.

Vickie, now a historian, becomes involved in the case when the killer mentions her by name in one of the notes sent to the police as clues to find the victims before their air runs out. Her vast knowledge of the history of Boston becomes a tool in the Hunters’ arsenal. And, she and Griffin meet again for the first time since that fateful night of her youth and are drawn together.

This is one of the best Krewe of Hunters novels that I’ve read. Heather Graham does a great job blending history and geography in the clues given to Vickie, Griffin, Jackson, and the police to solve. It makes the mystery even more fascinating. I was guessing at who the killer(s) were right up until the end.

Griffin and Vickie are both good characters. Vickie is a little more fleshed out than Griffin in that she has more details about her character in the book. As they work together to solve the mystery, they are drawn together as well. This leads to some sex scenes which are tastefully done. The mystery takes the forefront of the book. The romance is slightly secondary to it.

The paranormal mostly figures in with the ghosts of Dylan and Darlene. They are used as more as plot devices than people, but not overly so.

Overall, I give Dying Breath 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a well-written mystery with romance. I was guessing at who did it right up until the end.

Dying Breath by Heather Graham is #21 in the Krewe of Hunters series. It was released May 30, 2017 from MIRA.

My copy of the book was an ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own and freely given.

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Review: Death Need Not Be Fatal

Death Need Not Be Fatal by Malachy McCourt with Brian McDonald is a memoir of sorts. It pulls from events in his life both tragic and humorous – sometimes both at the same time. And sometimes the humor only comes in retrospection.death_need_not_fatal

From the synopsis: “It seems the only two things he hasn’t done are stick his head into a lion’s mouth and die. Since he is allergic to cats, he decided to write about the great hereafter…”

I hadn’t read any of his previous books or his brother Frank’s books. So I wasn’t at all familiar with the subject matter he draws on most – their lives. You don’t need to have any familiarity with it though to enjoy the book and his stories.

As expected, much of the book focuses on deaths and how they have affected him. The last part of the book is something of a contemplation of his own death. He says, “Any day on this side of the grass is a good day.” And he talks about reading the “Irish Sporting Pages” – otherwise known as the obituaries. There’s more to it than that,

“I’ll try to keep the lies to a minimum, but I never let truth get in the way of a good story, and a lie is just a dream that might come true.” location 101 on my Kindle

So after a while, I wondered how much might be exaggeration. I decided to take most of it at face value.

Overall, it’s a good and interesting book. It has a conversational tone. It’s like he’s sitting there telling you the stories. I give it 4 stars out of 5.

Death Need Not Be Fatal was published May 16, 2017 by Center Street

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book through NetGalley. My review is my own opinion and freely given.

 

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Sam Clair: Snarky Editor and Sleuth

cast_of_vulturesSam Clair is a mild-mannered book editor, girlfriend, daughter, friend, and reluctant sleuth. She has a wickedly sarcastic sense of humor that she doesn’t always express out loud, but we are privy to it in her thoughts as the story progresses.“(It is, tragically, still illegal to force people to buy books at gunpoint. I don’t know why this kind of restriction is allowed to remain on the statute books.)” – location 31 on my Kindle

Viv is one of Sam’s neighborhood friends. Viv’s friend and neighbor Dennis has gone missing. Logically this means that Sam and she must break into his apartment to see if this is a planned absence or perhaps something more sinister. After yet another in a series of neighborhood fires, Dennis is found, but there are many questions still.

Much goes into trying to solve the mystery of Dennis’s disappearance from her making phone calls to shadowing one shady character at the market for clues. And it would appear that someone isn’t that happy about her interference. Things escalate and Sam’s life is at stake.

I enjoyed reading this book. The characters were mostly well drawn and interesting. I read this as a stand-alone but probably would have gained something by reading it as part of the series. I loved Sam’s snark. And the mystery was well done. It builds slowly from the disappearance of Dennis to Sam’s life being in danger from all of her snooping. As the mystery deepens, it gains momentum. By the end, I was reading fast to find out what would happen next.

Overall I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It’s well written with interesting characters. The mystery itself is well done. Don’t be put off by this being the third book in the series. This can be read as a stand-alone and enjoyed. Some depth to some of the characters could probably be gained though by reading earlier books in the series.

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

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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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