Review: The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan

 

Title: The Hawley Book of the Dead

Author: Chrysler Szarlan

Published: Ballantine Books: Random House September 2014

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Status: Read from September 23 to 24, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“On the day I killed my husband, the scent of lilacs startled me awake.”

When someone exchanges the blank in her prop gun for a real bullet, Revelation ‘Reve’ Dyer unwittingly shoots her beloved husband dead during the final act of their world renowned Las Vegas magic show. Reve is devastated and then terrified when she realises the murderer still has Reve and her three daughters in his sights. To protect her family, Reve flees Nevada and takes refuge at Hawley Five Corners, her family’s abandoned estate in the woods of Massachusetts. But Reve has something the killer wants and he won’t give up until he gets it.

With its blend of mystery, suspense and the supernatural, The Hawley Book of the Dead offers a complex story about family secrets, magic and revenge.

Told in the first person, it introduces Revelation and her intriguing family history. Reve is the descendant of a line of women who have always wielded great power. Her grandmother can transport people with a thought, her mother is a healer, Reve can disappear by stepping into the veil between worlds, a talent she was born with but has never fully explored, her ten year old daughter Caleigh can weave magic with string, but the abilities of Reve’s fifteen year old twins, Faith and Grace, have yet to manifest.

In general, I feel Szarlan created well rounded and interesting characters, I found Reve frustrating a lot of the time though. She has the ability to disappear, her family line is littered with women whom she has accepted have true magical abilities, yet she dismisses most other instances of magic out of hand. This ploy may serve the needs of the plot but I felt it damaged the credibility of her character.

I did enjoy the blend of magic and myth which Szarlan gives her own little twist. The true motivations of the ‘Fetch’ stalking the family turn out to be quite unique and his relentless pursuit of Reve provides plenty of tension. The romance element, involving childhood sweetheart, now Hawley chief of police, Jolon, is a little awkward though considering Reve’s husband has just died.

The setting is great, Szarlan’s description of Five Corners and the surrounding woods are evocative and atmospheric. I loved the stories of the vanishing townsfolk and the ghostly cowherd and could easily imagine the abandoned estate and the manor house that is home to Reve and her family.

Not so great is the uneven pacing and the author’s attempt to force suspense surrounding the disappearance of the twins when their fate is blindingly obvious.

I really like the concept of Hawley Book of the Dead and there are elements of the story and character I think are creative and well done, and while overall I am not excited by this book, I do think the series has potential.

 

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Review: Craven by Melanie Casey

 

Title: Craven {Cass Lehman and Detective Ed Dyson #2}

Author: Melanie Casey

Published: Pantera Press May 2014

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Status: Read from August 29 to 31, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Craven, by Melanie Casey, is the sequel to Hindsight, featuring Cass Lehman, a woman with the psychic gift of retrocognition, and South Australian police detective, Ed Dyson.

As the book opens we learn that Cass has taken the leap and left home, securing a teacher’s position at a college in Adelaide. Cass is hoping for a fresh start but during her very first lesson she is recognised by her students and almost immediately becomes a target of gossip and derision.
Ed is conspicuously absent, it seems their romance stalled in the intervening months, though we soon learn that Ed is also in Adelaide, working with a local command on a year long secondment, and when Cass’s car is painted in blood with ‘Freak’ scrawled across the windshield he is the first person she calls. Thrown together as Cass’s stalker grows more violent, Cass is inevitably drawn into Ed’s latest case – a search for a serial killer.

Though I still really like concept of this series I was disappointed by the execution of this novel. I had issues with the uneven pacing and with what I felt were several underdeveloped elements in the plot. There was too much focus on the mundane details of Ed’s often circular investigation, and the obnoxiousness of his new partner. The identification of the stalker taunting Cass seemed come from nowhere since he barely rated a mention in the story.

The killer did have an interesting story and his motivations were suitably dark and twisted. There were moments of high tension, though much of the real action is crammed into the last few chapters when Cass is once again at the mercy of an insane murderer.

Despite the flaws in Craven I am still intrigued by the potential of this series and I hope Casey regains her footing in the third installment.

 

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Review: Hindsight by Melanie Casey

 

Title: Hindsight {Cass Lehman and Detective Ed Dyson #1}

Author: Melanie Casey

Published: Pantera Press May 2014

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Status: Read from August 17 to 18, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Melanie Casey’s debut novel, Hindsight, has been on my wishlist since its release. It is the first book in a series to feature Cass Lehman, a woman with the psychic gift of retrocognition, and South Australian police detective, Ed Dyson.

For almost a decade, Cass Lehman has lived more or less like a recluse in the home she shares with her mother and grandmother. Travel is difficult when her gift of retrocognition means that when she passes over a place where someone has died in a violent or traumatic manner, Cass experiences their final horrifying moments. Now twenty eight and tired of her self imposed exile, Cass decides it is time to confront her demons and takes a huge risk by offering her services to the local police department after a woman is found murdered in an alleyway. The lead detective on the case, Ed Dyson, is scornful until Cass makes the connection between a handful of missing person cases and murders that has eluded Dyson for years, and the pair find themselves on the trail of a serial killer.

Cass’s ability is intriguing, and can be viewed as both a gift and a curse. She pays a high price for her ‘gift’, since she not only sees and hears what the victims experienced but also feels the physical pain and emotional trauma they suffered. I really like that Cass’s talent isn’t always useful, since Cass can only see what the victim saw in their last moments when the killer strikes from behind, for example, she isn’t able to offer much to a investigation.

The initial partnership between Cass and Ed is not an easy one. Ed is still struggling with the unsolved disappearance of his pregnant wife two years previously and doesn’t have the patience to humour Cass given his skepticism. Cass resents Ed’s easy dismissal of her, both because she believes she can help and because she is attracted to the detective.

Casey alternates between the first person perspective of Cass and third person perspectives from Ed, and the killer the pair are hunting. It’s an unusual narrative split but works well and I barely noticed the transitions. The plot is well crafted, and crucially Casey doesn’t allow the paranormal element to overwhelm the structure of a good crime novel. The pacing of the story is good with a tense, and somewhat gruesome, climatic ending that threatens the lives of both the protagonists.

Combining crime fiction with an interesting paranormal element and a touch of romance, I really enjoyed reading Hindsight. I’d particularly recommend it those who find the genre mix appealing and who might have liked Charlaine Harris’s Harper Connelly series. I’m looking forward to following Hindsight up with Casey’s second book, Craven.

 

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Review: Hamlet’s Ghost by Jane Tara

Title: Hamlet’s Ghost { Shakespeare Sisters #3}

Author: Jane Tara

Published: Momentum July 2014

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Status: Read from July 31 to August 01, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Another enchanting romance by Australian author Jane Tara, Hamlet’s Ghost, though ostensibly the third book in a series featuring the magical Shakespeare family (the first is Forecast and the second Trouble Brewing), works well as a stand-alone.

Frustrated by an acting career going no where, and heartbroken after finding her boyfriend in bed (well on a coffee table to be more accurate) with her best friend, when Rhiannon Dee discovers an abandoned, rundown theater in the small town of Hamlet she decides to reopen it. The Hamlet Majestic has stood empty for almost thirty years, after a ceiling collapse resulted in the tragic death of the former owner, Kip Daniels, during the opening night performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. His son, Tad, who inherited the property seems to have mixed feelings about the project but Rhi, despite Tad’s weirdness, and the objections of her witch of a mother, is determined to restore the Majestic to its former glory and breathe new life into Hamlet’s theater.

Hamlet’s Ghost is a lighthearted contemporary romance with a hint of mystery, and a paranormal twist.

Rhi is a witch, and though she is determined to disown her heritage in order to disassociate herself from her teenage role as ‘Witchlet’ and escape her mother’s overbearing influence, she learns there is no escaping who you are. I liked Rhi a lot, she refuses to wallow in self pity despite recent events and is determined to make a success of the theater. To do so she has to figure out how to help the former owner, Kip, who haunts the premises, move on.

But there is more than simply unfinished business keeping Kip earthbound, additional drama stems from the surprising links between Rhi’s mother, local cafe owner/tarot card reader Crystal, and the ghost. A major theme of the book is the need to make peace with the past, applicable not only to Kip but also several other of the main characters, including Rhi and Tad.

The misunderstandings that keep Rhi and Tad apart during much of the novel stem from an unusual situation. I don’t want to give too much away so lets just say a case of mistaken identity plays havoc with their developing attraction. While secondary love-match plots also play out for two of the characters in this story, Annie is torn between two men and Tye is waiting for the man of her dreams, surprisingly I didn’t feel the romance, though an important element, overwhelmed the story.

A bewitching read, Hamlet’s Ghost is charming and often funny story with appealing characters and a feel-good ending.

 

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Review: Better Homes and Hauntings by Molly Harper

 

Title: Better Homes and Hauntings

Author: Molly Harper

Published: Pocket Books July 2014

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Status: Read from July 21 to 22, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

I’ve enjoyed Molly Harper’s sense of fun and humour in her Jane Jameson series and Naked Werewolf series so I leapt at the opportunity to read this new stand alone novel.

Better Homes and Hauntings is a paranormal romance/mystery that is set in a dilapidated haunted mansion on a private island off the coast of Newport. Crane’s Nest is the ancestral home of young software billionaire Deacon Whitney and despite a history of tragedy and hauntings he decides to renovate the mansion, hiring a team of professionals including his best friend and architect, Jake, Nina, a landscaper, and professional cleaner and organiser, Cindy. The project requires them all to remain on the island during the renovation and ignore the weird vibes and frightening dreams the house seems to provoke but that grows increasingly difficult as a malevolent spirit begins to make its presence known. Deacon’s cousin, Dotty is convinced that solving the mystery surrounding the death of her great-great grandmother, Catherine Whitney, will put the spirit to rest but they need to do so quickly, before history repeats itself.

Harper finds a good balance between creepy ghost story and lighthearted romance in Better Homes and Hauntings. There were moments when my skin prickled with goosebumps and times when I was smiling broadly at the snarky banter between her characters.

The mystery is well thought out, with missing diaries, stolen jewels and a ghostly murderer to find. Harper also integrates a real world element in the form of Nina’s vengeful ex-boyfriend, intent on sabotaging her success.

I though the mix of personalities worked well, the enforced isolation creating a quick and tight bond between the main characters. Two romances develop over the course of the novel, Deacon falls for Nina, while Jake is infatuated with Cindy. Both pairings are well suited and it is sweet to see them work things out.

A quick, light and engaging read, fans of Harper are sure to enjoy Better Homes and Hauntings and as a rare stand alone it’s a great way to test her appeal without committing to a series.

Better Homes and Hauntings is available to purchase from

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Review: Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z Martin

 

Title: Deadly Curiosities {Deadly Curiosities #1}

Author: Gail Z Martin

Published: Solaris Books June 2014

Status: Read from June 19 to 21, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Deadly Curiosities is the full length introduction to a new urban fantasy series by Gail Z. Martin, preceded by seven related short stories self published by the author.

Cassidy Kincaide is the owner of Trifles & Folly, an antique/curio store and high-end pawn shop in Charleston, South Carolina. Cassidy inherited the family business, in operation since 1670, upon her uncle’s death, finally learning of the family secret and the truth about her own unique skill with psychometry – the ability to know the history associated with an object by touch. Her gift allows Cassidy, with the help of her 500 year old business partner, Sorren, to assist The Alliance – a group of mortals and paranormal beings, in identifying and removing dangerous items harbouring supernatural power from public circulation. In Deadly Curiosities, antiques previously assessed as inert are suddenly creating problems for their new owners. It’s up to Cassidy, along with friend and colleague Teag, to determine the cause of the black magic igniting Charleston’ deadly history and put a stop to it.

I was excited by the premise of Deadly Curiosities, and I still think the concept is strong, but the style of the narrative didn’t quite work for me. I struggled with the incidences of repetition, not only in the information presented, but Martin’s tendency to state and then restate lines. I also felt the way in which Cassidy’s visions were presented, in the past tense with Cassidy as an observer, dampened the sense of immediacy and gave the narrative a somewhat disjointed feel.

I do think there is real potential in the characters for Martin to develop an interesting cast. Cassidy is likeable, and her talent is interesting though I didn’t feel like I learned much about her outside of what she is capable of. I was quite intrigued by Teag’s abilities as a ‘weaver’ that not only gives him in an infinity for traditional materials such as fabric and knots but also the world wide web. Sorren is a bit of an enigma however I’ve since learned that his character is established in the short stories prequels.

I really liked the atmospheric setting, Deadly Curiosities is set in Charleston, a town rich in history, which Martin exploits to good effect, though I have to admit I have no idea how much of what is presented is actually based on truth.

Overall I would have to judge Deadly Curiosities as an ‘okay’ read for me, though I can see, in the story and characters, the potential.

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Review: A Shiver of Light by Laurell K Hamilton

Title: A Shiver of Light { Merry Gentry #9}

Author: Laurell K Hamilton

Published: Bantam Press UK June 2014

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Status: Read from June 11 to 12, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

A Shiver of Light is the ninth book in Laurel K Hamilton’s Merry Gentry series featuring an exiled fairy princess, the descendant of a fertility goddess, and her multitude of handsome consorts. It has been a long wait for the return of Princess Meredith NicEssus, five years in fact, since the publication of Divine Misdemeanors.

A Shiver of Light picks up a short time after the events of Divine Misdemeanors with Merry now heavily pregnant with what was assumed to be twins but is quickly revealed to be triplets. The babies are born, a boy and two girls, fathered by not one but six of her lovers, each child sharing genetic traits with at least two of the men, though paternity has not yet been formally established. It is this uncertainty that has Taranis, King of Light and Illusion, who raped Merry early in her pregnancy, insisting he also has a claim on the children, and with his powers newly restored he begins a frightening campaign to take Merry away from her lovers, and make her his queen.

I have to admit I was somewhat disappointed in the story. There is so much potential that just seems wasted between repetitive descriptions of Merry’s men, far too much talk and very little action. There are a couple of confrontations through the story with Taranis and Queen Andais but most of the excitement, and the single twist, is crammed into the last 30 pages or so.

The only characters to show any real growth in this installment are Galen, who is galvanised by fatherhood, and Queen Andais who is trying to curb her psychotic tendencies in order to forge a relationship with Merry and the babies. Merry is either drowning in hormone induced hysteria for a lot of the novel, or desperately horny. She doesn’t spend a lot of time with her children, leaving their care to their fathers and a phalanx of nannies despite apparently breastfeeding. I am really interested to see how the babies play into the continuing story though. At only a few days old, all three are displaying immense magical abilities.

Despite devouring A Shiver of Light in a couple of hours, in retrospect it was a fairly weak story which failed to live up to expectation. Still I know I will be picking up the next one simply because I am not quite ready to say goodbye… even if I have to wait another five years.

Available to purchase from

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Prize Pack Giveaway: Burning Dawn by Gena Showalter

 

The third book in Gena Showalter’s Angels of the Dark series,

Burning Dawn

is now available!

Burning Dawn_cover

New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter returns with a sizzling Angels of the Dark tale about a winged warrior renowned for his ruthlessness, and the woman who becomes his obsession…

A tormented past has left Thane with an insatiable need for violence, making him the most dangerous assassin in the skies. He lives by a single code: no mercy. And as he unleashes his fury on his most recent captor, he learns no battle could have prepared him for the slave he rescues from his enemy’s clutches—a beauty who stokes the fires of his darkest desires.

Elin Vale has her own deep-rooted scars, and her attraction to the exquisite warrior who freed her challenges her every boundary. But Thane’s unwavering determination to protect her means she must face her greatest fears—and enter a world in which passion is power, and victory means breathtaking surrender.

Read an Excerpt

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****

ENTER TO WIN

Courtesy of Harlequin I have an Angel of the Dark prize pack to giveaway

One (1) winner receives an Angel Wing bracelet & a 3 book set of the Angels of the Dark series

Bracelet

Prize pack retail value $45

Prizing & samples courtesy of Harlequin

Giveaway open to US addresses only

Entries close May 25th, 2014

Winner : Amber T

****

Showalter_Gena_colorABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gena Showalter is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author whose books have appeared in Cosmopolitan and Seventeen magazines, as well as Entertainment Weekly. Her novel Red Handed has been optioned by Sony Television. Critics have called her books “sizzling page-turners” and “utterly spellbinding stories,” while Showalter herself has been called “a star on the rise.” Her mix of humor, danger and wickedly hot sex provides wildly sensual page-turners sure to enthrall.

Visit Gena Showalter’s Official Website I Follow Gena Showalter on Twitter and Facebook

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Review: The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa

 

Title: The Forever Song { Blood of Eden #3}

Author: Julie Kagawa

Published: Harlequin April 2014

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Status: Read from April 17 to 18, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Forever Song brings Julie Kagawa’s Blood of Eden trilogy to a dramatic close, forcing Allie, Kanin and their allies into a final confrontation with the psychotic vampire, Sarren, in a battle to save both humans and vampires from extinction.

Beginning where The Eternity Cure finishes, Allie, her sire, Kanin, and sire-brother, Jackal, are on their way to Eden to confront Sarren. Always a step behind, the band are delayed by the sick surprises Sarren leaves in his wake – massacred human villages, a tunnel full of Rabids and a former ally now an enemy, intent on killing them all.

Like its predecessors, The Forever Song is gritty and blood soaked, flooded with emotional angst and spiked with snarky humour. The story is fast paced despite its 400+ pages with Allie and her cohorts racing to stop Sarren from unleashing the fatal virus into the world.

Some characters may surprise you, others not so much. Allie still can’t decide is she is more human or monster, Kanin is as enigmatic as ever and Jackal has a barbed quip for every occasion.

I’m reluctant to write too much, wary of inadvertently spoiling the story for those yet to read this finale. I thought The Forever Song was an exciting and entertaining conclusion to the Blood Eden trilogy, which should satisfy Kagawa’s fans.

The Forever Song is available to purchase from

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Australian Edition

Due May 1st

 

 

 

 

Review: Games Creatures Play by Charlaine Harris & Toni LP Kelner et al.

 

Title: Games Creatures Play

Authors:  Charlaine Harris (Editor), Toni L.P. Kelner (Editor) , Jan Burke , Dana Cameron, Adam-Troy Castro , Brendan DuBois, Joe R. Lansdale , Laura Lippman, Seanan McGuire, Brandon Sanderson , Scott Sigler , Caitlin Kittredge, William Kent Krueger, Ellen Kushner, Mercedes Lackey

Published: Jo Fletcher Books April 2014

Status: Read from April 10 to 11, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Games Creatures Play is an entertaining anthology from fifteen contributors, with each short story featuring the unusual combination of the paranormal and sports.

Some of the authors didn’t venture too far from their comfort zone. ‘Into the Blue Hereafter’ by Charlaine Harris is set at a softball game in Bon Temps, where Sookie Stackhouse and Manfred Bernado meet for the first time. Similarly Seanan McGuire doesn’t stray far from the familiarity of her InCryptid series, ‘Jammed,’ in which a chimera is on the rampage during a Roller Derby, features Antimony Price. I enjoyed both stories in part at least because of my familiarity with the characters and their worlds.

My favourites included Scott Sigler’s ‘The Case of the Haunted Safeway’, a ghostly tale of love and baseball which managed to be funny, sweet and a little bit spooky all at the same time, Jan Burke’s ‘Stepping into the Dead Zone’ which portrays dodgeball as a test of loyalty and friendship, and ‘Bell, Book and Candlepin‘ by Toni L. P. Kelner in which more than just the bowling balls are returned.

In Games Creatures Play you will find witches, monster stompers, faeries, Gods, ghosts and more, all playing to win and even though I have very little interest in sport in general, I really enjoyed this anthology. Get ready, get set and go… pick up a copy today.

Games Creatures Play is available to purchase from

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