There can be no such thing as too much Southern Spirits!

Gangsters, ghosts, murders, a pissed of passive-aggressive would-have-been-mother-in-law, a hunky police officer, and a pet skunk.  What could be better? The Skeleton in the Closet (Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries, #2) The second (full length anyway) installment of the Southern Ghost Hunter series, The Skeleton in the Closet by Angie Fox, was another awesome little paranormal cozy!  And I can’t wait to read the third!

As a reminder, Verity, a girl hard on her luck because of a jerk of an ex-fiance, saw her life change in the first book when she dumped an urn full of the ashes of a 1920s gangster on her rose bushes. The gangster ghost, Frankie, is grounded to her and her property. In this installment, her town of Sugarland is preparing for an annual festival that will be filmed for a documentary about the Civil War – the “Ball in the Wall” (love that name!).  Frankie is still funny, Verity still doesn’t really shy from danger and is she is still sarcastic and witty (although not quite as much or as often here), the dialogue between characters is amusing and feels real. Melody, Verity’s sister is a great tool for info (she’s the Hermoine of this story, being the resident librarian) and Ellis is the hunk police officer who asks Verity for help investigating the murder.

This installment stayed true to the recipe for the cozy, even the paranormal type.  There was a lot going on, some misdirection (but I love that the misdirection headed down the “Virginia did it” road was really fun because of the history between Virginia and Verity), some mayhem, and a lucky discovery or two.  And what makes it even more fun is the ghostly element – there’s enough to keep things ever so slightly creepy but not so much that this isn’t something that can be read while smiling the entire time.  The “southern” way of making sure someone knows they are unwelcome, all with a smile, was on full display here during Verity’s visit to her ex-almost mother-in-law.  And it was awe.some.!!!  And, if I were paying more attention, some of the details wouldn’t have been surprising because the title is pretty meaningful (**hint, hint**) here.  I had so much trouble putting this down because it was cute and fun and all that I want out of my paranormal cozies!

I love everything Verity that I have read so far, and hope there are many many encores!


Scared $*%&less by The Spirit Chaser

Wow.  It’s been a long time since I read something that scared the ever-livin’ you know what out of me as I read it.  The anxiety, the butterflies in my stomach, finding myself literally-sitting-on-the-edge-of-my-seat as I read, the pure hatred that I can’t speed read 1,000 words a minute because I have to know what happens next, and the creepy goosebumps because the story is scary and – like while watching any horror movie – the feeling in the pit of your stomach that you just know that things aren’t going to end well…. well The Spirit Chaser by Kat Mayor had it all in spades.  OMG.  It was Awe.Some!  And I so hope there is a sequel of some sort!  I haven’t had a book run me through this particular gamut of emotions since Michael Scott’s Image (and sequel, Reflection).  Creepy!   I would say Anna Dressed in Blood did this too, but Anna was YA (aka PG-rated) and this one had the added bonus of being adult (between all the blood-draining-from-my-face scary as crap scenes there were some rushing-blood-to-my-face steamy as crap scenes between Austin and Casey), so if you are looking for something totally scary but a little steamy too, this is where it lives!

Austin Cole is the star of a TV show called SCI – Spirit Chaser Investigations – where he and his team investigate homes and other places, looking for ghosts.  When an investigation goes wrong at a warehouse and his best psychic (and best friend) ends up injured and refuses to be part of the team anymore, Austin needs to find a replacement.  Enter Casey, a tough psychic who steps into place and becomes part of the team.  But, the warehouse was just the beginning of a terrifying story.  Two more super creepy places are tainted by so much evil that Austin, Casey and the rest of the SCI team have a huge battle to face.  There are ghosts, demons, and terrifying exorcisms between the pages.  Need to be convinced as to how creepy this book is?  All you need to do is look at the cover picture as it sets the perfect tone.

I got goosebumps more than once while reading this.  And shivered from the chills plenty of times.  The temperature in the rooms with the ghosts was not the only chilling going on while reading this.  The settings were downright disturbing and the action while trying to chase the ghosts and/or demons away was excellent.  The character building was great, and the scenes with Austin and Casey’s families made their characters so much more real and likeable.  Austin, for the most part, is a dream.  Ok, maybe he’s a little over the top in a few areas, but really he’s pretty innocent and looking to to make sure Casey is happy.  Casey and all the other characters were easy to like and despite the ghostly elements, it was also pretty easy to feel like this was grounded in enough reality to make the story that much scarier.  I loved that I was able to picture it all in my mind so easily while reading.  This would make a phenomenal scary movie!

Only criticism, in the very first chapter, the first few pages, referring to Austin as “the Spirit Chaser” instead of simply identifying him in that way and then using his name, was a little confusing and lead me to re-reading the first 5 or 6 pages twice.  That could have been avoided with a slightly more discerning editor/editing job to those few pages.  But, once I caught on to who was who, it was smooth, albeit spooky, sailing.

**spoiler alert** One of the most tragic yet brilliant parts of the story?  The heartbreak at the end.  This was also part of how I knew I found a book that I loved.  The fact that I felt so attached to the characters that the last 10 (or so) chapters were so hard to read as they were so heartbreaking, drove home the fact that I had become invested in the story and the characters.  To be honest, I don’t mind sad endings, but the “closure” here, I could have done without as it took things from sad and a little unknown to downright cruel.  I think I would have preferred the loose end of not knowing what happened to Austin than the heartbreak when I read the last chapter.  It felt like a sucker punch to the gut.  Conversely, it again was a win for the overall book because I was able to feel that strongly about the characters and story.

Bottom line, The Spirit Chaser is filled with all the frights, spookiness, sexiness, and wonder of an excellent ghost story.  I’m just glad I wasn’t sitting around a campfire having this read to me right before bed, or I might never have gotten to sleep.  I loved it!!!




How to categorize the Grim Reaper?

I don’t often review a series at a time, instead of reviewing each individual installment.  But, in the case of the Lana Harvey series (at least as of the end of book 4), Graveyard Shift (Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc., #1)I am going to make an exception.  Not because each book doesn’t deserve its own review, but purely as a matter of efficiency and because I read them each over the course of a day or two (tops) and back-to-back so they really felt like one big book to me.  And, well, this is my little blog and I set the rules.  Ok, I feel like my 2 year old now and feel that I should be sticking my tongue out at somebody in an act of pure juvenile defiance!

The Lana Harvey series, by Angela Roquet, stands at four books so far: (1) Graveyard Shift, (2) Pocket Full of Posies, (3) For the Birds, and (4) Psychopomp.  The fifth is coming soon – Death Wish.

first things first, let’s explain what this series is all about.  It’s about a Reaper (yes, as in Grim) who is charged with transporting souls right after death to their particular after life.  And each soul’s particular  afterlife is determined by their faith while living.  So, the Christian’s version of things is right beside the Muslim, right beside the Jewish, right beside the Egyptian… (you get the idea).  Pocket Full of Posies (Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc. #2)That makes for a vast and interesting well of deities and beliefs to draw from and to build a world around.  Pretty clever, and the world building was pretty well done.  Now, this series isn’t just about the escapades around the transport of random souls in each installment.  There is an overall story arc that drives Lana and Grim and all the others, while transporting souls of course.  And it has to do with keeping Eternity from collapsing into War.  It’s pretty original.

I realize that I think I need to add another category to this little blog of mine, as this was “billed” as a horror, but it certainly didn’t meet my standards of horror.  I thinFor the Birds (Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc. #3)k of Michael Scott’s Reflection or Steven King when I think horror.  This never had the fear factor or the blood and guts spewing that I think requisite for books in the horror category.  And while one might thing that a story about a bunch of grim reapers would naturally fit into the horror category, the little bit of death and danger is no where near significant enough to justify the horror categorization.  Instead, I found myself chuckling more than cowering and smiling more than nail biting.  It wouldn’t exactly call it a dark comedy (not quite enough chuckling or LOLs for that) but there were funny moments.  And, with the exception of a few scenes in Posies, even with the “romance” that goes with the main protagonist dating I am not sure I would classify this as PNR either.  So where does that leave me?  I’m going to categorize them in the PNR category because of the second book and because it seems after four books that Lana’s love life is at least semi-important to the plot of the overall series.

Despite the fact that I really enjoyed the stories, some of the installments have much sloppier editing than others and some of them were littered with grammatical issues and typos. That was kind of frustrating. I really do credit (or I guess really it should be discredit) the self-publishing trend for that.  I don’t know if these are self published books (goodreads doesn’t note the publisher but says “Kindle”) but the ability to turn out books by anybody without a professional editor is really making things hard for readers. It’s not just limited to grammatical mistakes and typos either.  No, it perpetuates much deeper issues such as keeping track of overall plot points and issues around story editing too.  I will note here, however, while there are a few blips on the radar Psychopomp (Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc., #4)from a story perspective the bulk of the issues I have with this series seem to be around the grammatical mistakes and typos.  But they weren’t big enough issues to keep me from reading all four that are currently published, and they definitely weren’t bad enough to keep me from looking forward to the fifth book.

I do wonder what’s with the quote at the beginning of each chapter? Is it an attempt by the author to show how well read she is? An attempt to show off and show the readers how well educated she is? A way to rub it in your face the fact that some of those quotes and people are unfamiliar? Frankly it feels a little… well annoying is the best word I can think of at the moment.  Again this isn’t enough to prevent me from looking forward to the next book however.

The author clearly was well researched and spent a lot of time learning what she needed to to create a detailed and fairly complicated world for our characters to be living and working in.  And the best part is, most of it works.  There are few places where I am left scratching my head thinking that there might have been an easier way to do something and something felt a little convoluted.  But overall, it worked.  The characters worked.
The story worked.  And I am happy to say that when you put all of the different faiths together there was a way to make that work. It feels mostly like the author took a very complicated puzzle and somehow managed to get all of the pieces put them together and give me a great and complete overall picture. There are funny moments and there are sad moments. There are characters you can root for and characters you can root against. And there some real human emotion coming from characters who aren’t even close to human. I have been enjoying this series very much.  I will say, one of the funniest things, throughout the series, has been the mental picture of Lana donning her “reapers robe”….  but again, it works!

So, I am not sure what else there is to ask for.  Except to hurry up and get Death Wish published!

Two for One

So having a two-year-old means I get to spend much less time reading and writing reviews than I used to. Therefore, I have decided that on occasion (or on a fairly regular basis perhaps, depending on my reading speed and as limited by the self-imposed rules I will list below) I will be posting reviews of books in the same series where the review is for one or two (or more) of the books all at the same time.

I set some ground rules for myself however. And so you know what they are here goes:

1.  I’ll never post a review for more than three books;

2. I will never review a book that’s just come out (will define that as having been within the last 18 months) with another;

3.  The last in the series will always get a review of its own;

4. I will never combine reviews where installments are written by different authors (caveat: if they are in an anthology-like single volume, all is fair for a single review); and

5.  I will never combine reviews when one of the books was received from an author or netgalley (or similar) in exchange for an honest review (I always review them too – even if it takes a little while, I believe if I get the book in exchange for the review, it deserves to be written.  Sometimes it just takes a little time to get to the book on my to read list and sometimes it takes a little longer for me to plan my reviews).

Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk a little about the first two of the Ancient Legends series by Jayde Scott.  11796723The first, titled “A Job From Hell” and the second, titled “Doomed”, were interesting.  They certainly challenged my classification system in that they have vamps, demons, ghosts and who knows what else as part of the “Lore Court”.  They had promising covers, (yes, I judge books by their covers.  Or at least it’s part of how I choose what to read next, by how excited the cover gets me.  Call me superficial.  I don’t care.) and kinda crazy names – at least the original name of the second book was kinda crazy.  It was clear from the blurbs, covers and titles that these would be right up my alley.  Or at least they sit in my favorite genre.  After reading them, it seems to me that they suffer a little though because it felt like the author wanted them to be adult PNR (there’s no steamy scenes it was just a sense I had from some of the disjointedness and light speed courtship that most often occurs in the adult PNR category) but they aren’t.  We have an ancient vamp with a 17 year old girl (Twilight, anyone?).  and, in some cases I also thought that this felt like Twilight fan-fiction…  with a first published date of 2011, that’s not impossible… although they weren’t quite as terribly written as Twilight (dialogue and potential was much better here not to mention that whole stay-away-from-me-no-I-can’t-resist-you-flip-flopping-so-often-I-am-nauseated didn’t happen here) in some ways and more terribly written in others (more holes in the world building here).

As installments go, they both had some things going for them and they both had some things that made them just ok.  In the first, Amber gets a job (because her brother Dallas filed out an application for her) as a housekeeper.  Turns out the guy she is keeping house for is a vampire.  And he’s some sort of bounty hunter for the Lore Court.  He has some friends who are also vamps.  It started out super spooky – with the cab driver not willing to take Amber all the way to the house and a mysterious housekeeper.  And then it turned pretty campy.  Yep, like Buffy campy.  I was expecting it to be spookier like Anna Dressed in Blood (which was spooky and creepy, even if not THE spookiest).  Instead, these turned into a caricature.  Oh well.  They weren’t terrible, they just weren’t what I expected.  They both lacked a little in the fill-me-in department.  What I mean is that the missing plot points don’t seem to be driving much of an overall mystery or anything but I still feel like I have big gaps in what I know about the world these characters are in and the rules they live by.  What exactly is the Lore Court for example?  And what happened with Rebecca?  Still not answered.  Very formulaic in nature, at least with the first, as we have Amber the mortal falls for Aidan the vampire and he falls maaaaadddddlllllyyyyy for her, like overnight.  All the secrecy and rule breaking flies out the window in less time then it takes for Aidan to tell Amber that the second floor of his mighty mansion is off limits.  And why the race that Amber gets swept up into even exists?  Who knows and by the end, I didn’t really care enough for it to bother me.

Although I did expect to learn more in book 2.  Which by the way was originally titled Beelzebub Girl – and I totally liked that title better!  That one was all about Cass and Dallas.  Cass, who turns out to be a fallen angel and Satan’s daughter.  11952268She is being groomed by daddy to take over the family business one day (yep, he wants her to run Hell) but she’s really still to good since half her nature is angel.  There’s all sorts of shenanigans going on here, and it’s even campier than the first.  Like it makes Buffy look like Oscar winning drama worthy.  I mean really, telling Dallas that Hell is Disneyland?  And Dallas even pretending to believe her?  Sheesh.  Makes those characters both seem like total idiots.  But, all in all, still an amusing little read.  Lucifer really makes this worth the read – he’s a typical dad trying to scare off his daughter’s potential suitor.  And not in a scary “I AM LUCIFER” kind of way.  No, it was a fun, I am just a typical Dad doing slightly odd things to run him off kind of way.  So, it was in some ways a better read.  Even if it was most fun because of the way Lucifer is written.  Cass’s curse, I still don’t get.  And Dallas is big trouble at the end.  So, I guess it means I need to read the next books to see what happen.

They were fun, quick little reads.  Not wonderfully written but not awful either.  What they really lacked was the detailed world building that would set out all the rules, plug the holes of the plot, and give the characters room to grow.  Hopefully the next installments will fix some of these things – or I may never make it to book #6.

Gift of a Ghost

A Ghostly Gift was a rare treat indeed. It’s not often that I think the little half installments are worthy of a full-length review. In fact,24390204 it is rare that I believe they are worth even a cursory review. However there are exceptions to this rule. And A Ghostly Gift by Angie Fox is one of those wonderful, delightful surprises of an exception. I don’t usually buy anthologies like the one that A Ghostly Gift was in. And these anthologies seems to be a much more frequent occurrence in the paranormal/romance genre than in others. So, it was with trepidation that I decided to buy this anthology, especially since I really only wanted it for a single story.  But, it was worth the download because this Southern Ghost Hunters little story was a fun little read.

The mystery here has to do with a disturbance in a cute little secondhand thrift shop that the shop owner believes is centered around a knickknack and jewelry case. The store is owned by a friend of Melanie, Verity’s sister. In exchange for getting rid of the ghostly problem Verity might actually manage to get some furniture! We are treated in this story to a glimpse of the 1920s prohibition era speak easy type bar scene. And a few great characters including a World War II soldier. The mystery doesn’t take long to solve and has a an adorable ending that is both happy and sad at the same time.

It’s a wonderful additional glimpse at Verity and what she is willing to do. It was also a great little extension of the rules of the world of Sugarland Tennessee and our resident ghost buster. The plot is not complicated, but it is not meant to be since this is one of those little novellas. The solution to the mystery, and how we get it, is not complicated either – ditto on the reasons why. But it was definitely a fun few minutes worth of a read.

I’m hoping that the expansion of Melanie’s involvement, from a research perspective, is the start of things to come in (**fingers crossed hopefully**) another full length addition? Hint hint… I would also love to see more of the relationship between Melanie and Verity. We also didn’t see Ellis this installment, so I can only hope for a full-length next book so that we can see him!

While we are robbed of Ellis time, we do get some good Frankie time. And Frankie helps further cement Verity’s ties to the spirit world.  There’s so much color that comes through in Verity’s stories (so far anyway) – from the use of some of the ghosts’ expressions to Verity’s old beat up car, and now her new purple velvet couch (love the mental image that description conjured – it looks so comfy in my mind)! It’s a nice change of pace from some of what I think or quite frankly more depressing dystopian young adult reads. I know I’m the one who chooses to read them but I can only read so many of them back to back before I need a dose of good old-fashioned fun and laughter.  And I guess that’s why this is considered a cozy mystery because when you look at how that particular type of book is described it includes the notion that when the reader is finished they are left feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. Like with the first book in the series, Southern Spirits, it fit that definition to T.

There was a cringe worthy moment that I must note.  Because I really don’t think I can take seeing this reference or joke or whatever it was supposed to be.  What am I talking about?  The references to Verity having a proton pack as a ghost buster. Really? I think once was enough and there is plenty of fodder in the Ghostbusters movies, characters (etc.) where jokes can be made about things other than just the proton pack.  No need for recycling the same exact joke.  It felt a little forced too.  And for a movie that is so old (despite the current conversations about remaking the movie(s), the original was funny at the time but the material is a little dated at this point) that it made me do a double check on the date of publication for the little story we have here.  Hopefully, more original references – or at least more current ones – will be made in the future.

When I opened the anthology it felt a little like unwrapping a Christmas present because I had to dig in to get to the story I was looking for. But once I found it and read it, it was just as nice a surprise as a present wrapped in shiny paper and a big pretty bow.

Accidental Dragon, Intentionally Awesome!

I can’t get enough of the Accidentally series by Dakota Cassidy. The women in these books are just downright awesome.

18693758If you can’t guess from the title in this installment we are faced with an accident that leads us to a dragon. But not just one Dragon we get two for the price of one. And the mystery as to how it happened and what the big bad guy was after and who the big bad guy is was satisfying even though I scratched my head a little bit at the first reveal and then read more than just the most recent “refresh your memory page” in order to remind myself as to who some of the characters were. I will note though that’s part of the joy. We get not just Marty, Wanda and Nina but Carl the zombie, Archibald the former vampire man -servant, KC and Darnell the demons… and the list goes on.  All of those wonderful characters from the first installment(s) always make an appearance with each additional book and it’s awesome.  But, on to the new.  Here the setting happens to be Vermont.  And our potential love story is between a shop owner and firefighter who are already both in love with each other even though neither one of them will admit it.

Now, it’s important to know that these books are not for the squeamish. You have to have a stomach for the oh so nice and steamy sex scenes as well as ears of steel because Nina’s ability to cuss makes the dirtiest, foulest mouth sailor look like Mother Teresa.  Although some of her turns-of-phrase which are swearing are the most awesome phrases and I so wish I could use them in my every day life – unfortunately that straight-up-honest-unabashedly-the-truth that she spews with all that cussing mixed in would probably get me fired from my day job.  But there definitely were a number of times where I thought “that’s an awesome quote – I need to remember that one” only to think the same thing a few sentences or paragraphs later.  Just to prove how wonderful it is I added a new little feature to the page for this book called favorite quote.  And I think I might just have to adopt it for those books with really well written (not in a grammatical sense, necessarily, but in a “wow, that’s an awesome quote and I would love to say that in real life” sense) dialogue.

As a reminder, these books fit into the category where we have a cast of characters all working around a paranormal romance, but each individual book has its own unique story line despite common threads and small connections book to book. There is no big bad conspiracy/whatever that’s going to end the world. Each one of these is its own individual story start to finish, with an appropriate epilogue at the end showing us the happily ever after. And the epilogues are some of the best chapters in these books.

Ms. Cassidy doesn’t shy away from a very juicy sexy seen or two. And while I noted that these books are definitely for the mature audience, they are typically limited in the number of seems like that that we get. I think we got three in this book. Each one of them could make a girl blush easily however. You don’t have to worry about it being smart cover to cover because they’re definitely is plot and a lot of other stuff going on as well.

This installment sees Mick and Tessa turned into dragons.  Mick is a firefighter and Tessa owns an antique shop.  Mick was best friends with Tessa’s brother before he was killed in a fire.  Note: I thought the mystery was going to have something to do with Mick’s death, and was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t.  Instead the story took a different, more fun (I think) path.  Just as the accident happens, our OOPS ladies show up and swoop in to help with the transition into the world of all things paranormal  (aka all things crazy).  They need to figure out the how and why of this accidental turning.  And Mick and Tessa fight the fact that they are totally in love with each other – she because she’s convinced he sees her just as her brother’s little sister and he because right before Tessa’s brother died Mick got an earful about how Tessa was too good for Mick from Tessa’s brother.  And so Mick treats Tessa as a little sister he needs to watch over and take care of and he has to fight his love, and lust, the entire time.  True to formula, they figure out the mystery, have to have a battle to save the day (or one of the characters, or something less than saving the world), they admit their feelings, and we get the fairy tale ending.  And some steamy pages to solidify the relationship.  All is well with the world.

While none of these paranormal romance books are Jane Austin, these are written well enough to conjure excellent mental pictures of both setting and characters. The plot holes are usually pretty minimal. And they are just a pure joy to read. I dare anyone to attempt to read this book and not smile frequently, laugh often and just feel happy as can be when you put it down.  And that is exactly why I love these books, and loved this installment.  I smiled from cover to cover, laughed a ton and had to use the book to fan away some heat more than once!

I love these books. I really just hope that there’s another one coming. I would take another vampire, werewolf, Genie,dragon, shifter of another kind… Or we can get us a witch, ghost, angel, phoenix, fairy… Let’s face it there’s a lot of room for a lot more books because the realm of paranormal creatures is huge and I really just hope we see at least a few more from Miss Cassidy.

Spooky Fun in Southern Spirits

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00031]I want to thank Netgalley again for access to yet another wonderful title – one that has made my “to be read” pile significantly larger because if the other stuff by Angie Fox is as much fun as Southern Spirits, then I have a lot more reading to do!  I mean, there are a number of series that Ms. Fox has written and it looks like, fingers crossed, that there will be another related to Southern Spirits (the end page with other books lists this installment under “The Southern Ghost Hunter” heading!).  Yippeee!

I am a big fan of books like this – quick, fun, easy to read, an engaging mystery, and characters that are easy to like.  A little bit of romance and a little bit more of the paranormal, and I am hooked.  The final ingredient, which sometimes feels like the cherry on the cake is good writing.  I read some bad stuff, and very often continue to read that book or series anyway.  Call me a masochist (it’s bad but I like it!) or maybe an optimist (things will get better?) but it usually takes a lot to get me to stop reading something.  How can good writing be the dessert course?  Well, even bad writers can have fun books, good stories and/or characters.  Ok, so I am in a Twi-bashing kind of mood lately.  They were entertaining and fun reads.  But, lets face it, they were about sparkly vampires.  I mean, really, who thinks they were well written?  Or Fifty Shades – they may have been steamy but they were also the model for a course in contradiction and bad writing.

Not the case here!  Verity, a girl hard on her luck because of a jerk of an ex-fiance, happens to change her life when she dumps an urn full of the ashes of a 1920s gangster on her rose bushes.  And then waters said rose bushes.  And ends up with a gangster ghost, grounded to her and her property.  Property that she is trying to save.  So, she jumps into a mystery now that she has a connection to the spirit world, in an attempt to make the money she needs to save her home.  Frankie, the gangster is funny, Verity doesn’t shy from danger and is sarcastic and witty, the dialogue between characters is amusing and feels real.  Melody, Verity’s sister is a great tool for info (she’s the Hermoine of this story, being the resident librarian) and Ellis is the hunk who hires Verity and he was pretty fun to conjure in my brain.

The story isn’t super complicated – they never really are in this genre (cozy mystery is where I believe it sits, at least that’s where I have categorized it).  But the paranormal spin keeps it fun and lets things happen which otherwise wouldn’t be possible.  I was reminded very much of Madelyn Alt’s Betwitching Series (which I miss terribly, by the way – I still have fingers crossed that In Charm’s Way will eventually grace the book stores but I may be delusional on that front) or H.P. Mallory’s stuff (I am only one book into the Dulcie O’Neil series, but loved the first one).  We see everything from Verity’s perspective and she’s a great companion.  Never mind the fact that she has a pet skunk (yes, skunk!!!  Lucy. Love. It.) and isn’t shy about that.  She has just enough personality and we see just enough of her for me to think “move over Pepe Le Pew”.

Then, we have a little tiny hint of romance between Verity and Ellis, and that too keeps things interesting.  Just enough suspense and mystery to be alluring and addictive.   The ground rules for the paranormal world were solidly established and that was a relief.  The story, with the backdrop of the Southern Spirit’s distillery, was just spooky enough to keep me furiously reading.  Can’t go to bed right after the ghost attacks, after all!  A toast is in order: here’s to Southern Spirits, and hopefully more spooky fun in A Ghostly Gift!

Fell for the Ghost of the Falls

What an awesome quick little read. My sole criticism: it wasn’t long enough, it should be a full length story! Actually, with brothers, there’s the potential for at least a 3 book series…!

ghosts of the fallsWhat a great little world was built. The author managed to give me characters and some rules of a world in such a short time frame. I felt after 45 minutes of reading that I knew the characters, and I love them. I felt like I knew the rules of the game and the contracts of this world of ghosts and exorcising, and they were well thought out. I felt like I had a wonderful setting, the back drop of the park and the falls, and I could almost smell the pine.

The story is that we have a female exorcist. But the exorcising isn’t exorcising of demons but of ghosts. And there is a ghost, Dutch, who wants to be exorcised.

This short little story had so many things, some action, some steam, and a great little story. It wasn’t spooky, so don’t come here looking for that. But Ms. Gilman seems to be able to build worlds and write chemistry and make it flow and feel natural. It’s easy to suspend reality and dive right into the worlds she builds, and feel like you are right there with the characters. Even for a short little story like this, it feels effortless to read. It’s easy to be so captivated by the end of the first chapter that time gets lost and next thing, it’s the end of the book.

The only problem – It was too short!!!! It was too short!!! And I normally hate the little ebook novellas on principle alone, so the fact that this one won me over says something. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Gilman’s stuff, even if it’s in the form of a “.5” book (as far as goodreads lists them anyway).

I would also love to see this turned into something more….

p.s. It’s the “Ghost” of the Falls, not the “Ghosts

Don’t need to leave the lights on for Girl of Nightmares

Having just finished Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake, I find that I need to refresh my memory with what I thought of the first Anna installment because I found, the entire time I spent reading Girl of anna2Nightmares, that I wasn’t reading very scary stuff and I recalled Anna Dressed in Blood being pretty darn scary.  So, here’s how I started the Anna Dressed in Blood (AD in B) review: “Want to spend some time with a creepy scary ghost story? Then check out Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. It’s not the creepiest or the scariest but it’s not for the faint of heart either.”

I was looking to spend time with another creepy ghost story, or at least the continuation of one, but I find I won’t be having nightmares of Anna the way Cas does, the way I expected to when I picked this book up.    I am not saying the second is bad.  But there were definitely places where I was a frustrated reader.  And there was definitely a lack of any fear the entire read.  Where I found myself feeling like I was watching a good scary movie – you know, hearing the creepy music, knowing something is coming but not knowing what, and then jumping a little in my seat when it finally happens – while reading AD in B, that feeling never happened this time around.

Maybe it was the fact that the author seems to have built such a believable character and yet that believability is stripped quickly and utterly when Cas gets to London.  Maybe it’s that the first was a pretty cool ghost story, with a little voodoo thrown in.  Now, the turn to a secret society is unexpected and yet at the same time almost cliche in this genre.   Maybe it was that while I expected Anna to be back (duh, it is the second in the “Anna” series), I expected a better plot.  Or maybe it was that the story seemed to final, I was surprised that there really wasn’t a better story.

Before thinking that I just said the same thing twice, I see a subtle difference between story and plot.  I look at the story as the overall message, the summary of what happens to the protagonists.  It is where they are at the beginning, and how they get to where they are at the end, in a general sense.  I see the plot as the individual steps and actions taken within the story to get the characters from the beginning to the end, the plot is the details.  The story is the path and the plot are the steps taken on the path.

So, here’s where we are: Cas is hearing, seeing and dreaming of Anna.  He believes he can bring her ghost back.  And he sets out on a course to do so.  That course takes him to London where he encounters the Order of the Black Dagger.  The Order thinks his choices, his selectivity in choosing only to send dangerous ghosts over is straying from the path of the order.  And it is the order who created the dagger in the first place.  The order means to replace Cas with Jestine, someone they have trained and selected.  Cas and Jestine cross over each with their own true purpose.  And while on the other side, they fight the Obeahman (again for Cas) and Cas wants to/is trying to get Anna back.

I think I would have enjoyed a story that was again creepy and ghosty.  This was instead not really either.  Since we were familiar with the Obeahman from the first book, he wasn’t really creepy.  And Anna was downright scary in AD in B – she certainly wasn’t here.  This installment felt more like an extended epilogue than something that deserved an entire book.

There are some small problems I have with some of the details though.  For example, the references to the suicide forest.  There is a place in Japan that has earned that reputation; Scotland though?  I couldn’t find anything similar.  But the way the author sets that up, and has Cas comment on how famous it is, I expected to find some truth in that.

The dialogue is one of the best parts of both installments.  The realism is wonderful and unusual (too often the YA authors have no idea what a teenager should sound like; they are too mature or too immature; the right balance is hard to find).  There is just enough rawness to feel like we are really listening to teenagers.  The “order of the blah blah blah” not only made me chuckle, but made me feel like I was listening to the conversation, not reading it.  That to me, is the way to tell  if it’s good dialogue.  But… (I did say I had a few problems, right?) once our trio gets to London that’s where the dialogue starts to fall apart.  It’s not that the individual sentences aren’t something I can still “hear” but it’s the overall point of the dialogue.  Let face it, without a little outrage that the Order wants to put Cas through this, it makes all the dialogue seem much less real.

And that brings us to the most annoying and frustrating part of this plot.  Cas and friends show up in London and are told that Cas is going to be tested.  Why the hell doesn’t Cas say no?  He just blindly, and without any resistance at all – none, nada, zilch, zippo, zero, null…  – he goes alone with it.  He once (maybe twice but clearly it’s not with any force so as to make me remember) he suggests he won’t cooperate, but he totally does.  Without making any stink, trouble, waves or even a single “who are these people to think they can make me do this” thought.  I was outraged.  I was imagining myself Cas, and thinking that I would tell these people to take a flying leap.  No person would just go along with it the way Cas does.  He may want something from the Order, but he really doesn’t question anything, he just take it.  And that is the issue I have with this book.  To make the character seem more plausible, he should argue, try to think of alternatives, be pissed at Gideon, hate Jestine, at first resist going on the treck to Scotland.  Something.  But Cas doesn’t and it doesn’t make him a better character.  It makes the plot harder to take.

Found this quote on the author’s webpage: “Kendare Blake writes like an aerialist; each lyrical leap is expert and fearless, leaving the reader reeling with breathless anticipation. Her books are truly magical.”  Wish I could talk to the author of that quote – I would ask her to show me where these lyrical leaps are.  There were good turns of phrase, and as I mentioned, the dialogue is generally good.  But to call there are lyrical leaps that are expert and flawless… clearly we read two different books.

The nice change of pace is that there is little philosophy, theology or whatever you want to call the religious undertones that a lot of the YA genre is now pushing.  I don’t really need to worry about what makes Hell Hell or if there is Heaven and what the Obeahman wants from the world at large (we know he just feeds off others ghosts and their pain we don’t need to know or understand why); there’s no end-of-the-world scenario that hinges on the theology of ghosts, angels, God, etc.  Instead, it seems its meant to just be a creepy scary book.  I thought we might be going there with the introduction of the Order and their philosophy, but we really only scratch the surface of that.  So while I think it falls a little flat on the creepy scary scale, it was still nice that I didn’t need to keep track of right versus wrong, not really.  Side note: I would have loved to have the author tell us which Queen of England the ghost in the Tower of London was supposed to be as I doubt not telling us was an important plot point to remember for later (especially since I can’t seem to verify if there will even be a book 3).

Girl of Nightmares won’t cause this reader nightmares, and I won’t be staying up late wishing for a third in the series.  And that’s a shame because I would have taken a few nightmares in exchange for a better plot.  But, overall, it’s a least an interesting little epilogue to the first installment.

Clockwork What?

Clockwork Prince by Casasndra Clare is the latest installment in the Infernal Devices series.  And like the first book, Clockwork Angel, I am really wondering what all the fuss is about.  I adored the City series – at least the first book – and have been slowly become less interested in that series as Ms. Clare stretches the stories well beyond their breaking point.  Here, my issues are different.  Since we are only 2 books in, it’s hard to ague that she’s stretched the story arc past it’s useful and interesting life.  Instead, we have predictable characters, predictable stories, and a very misleading title (again).  Not to mention where the title comes from… well, I am left guessing as to that.  Because while I have an idea it isn’t exactly crystal clear.  Of course the importance of the Angel from book #1 is still a great big mystery.

We pick up after the events of Clockwork Angel with Tessa living at the institute, Will still his angry full of teen angst self, Jem as caring and vulnerable as ever, Sophie learning to be at home with new employers, Charlotte and Henry up for replacement as head of the Institute, Jessamine self absorbed and hating anything to do with the Shadowhunters, and the Lightwood family causing problems.  We know that the Magister is Mortmain but we don’t know where he is or really what he is up to.  And Nate is on the run.  What ensues is a chase to find Mortmain and saw Charlotte and Henry’s position.

There is a “twist” with Jesse (although when you can see it coming that far away, it’s hard to categorize it as a twist); a “twist” with Benedict Lightwood (see previous parenthetical – and this one was even more obvious); some blackmail, a little itsy bitsy tinee tiny bit of clockwork (really, I would love to see more steampunk like the titles suggest, the books are let downs in that respect) and not nearly as much romance as with the City series.  The love triangle of Tessa, Will and Jem is the most predictable part of the book and it feels like a waste of words at this point.

We do get introduced to Will’s family, sort of.  And at the end, it’s clear that at least one member of that family will play a big role in the next book.  And Mortmain is still at large.  And while we know a little about his history and the Warlock’s who were his adoptive parents were, we really aren’t any closer to getting to him.

The writing is, as mentioned above, predictable.  Ms. Clare seems to be having some plot development issues.  The writing is “ah” like with the first installment.  I think the author  is attempting to write the dialogue in a style reminiscent of Victorian England.  But it only works about 30% of the time.  I would rather just have her skip that and write more natural dialogue even if it doesn’t quite live up to Victorian standards.

Don’t get me wrong, the book isn’t terrible.  It was an entertaining few hours reading it.  But I won’t exactly be lining up on the release date for the next installment.  On a brighter note – lovin’ the series cover art!