Some books wrap themselves up in the trope of a genre like a comfortable blanket, and others seem to transcend genre...moreReviewed for MonsterLibrarian.com
Some books wrap themselves up in the trope of a genre like a comfortable blanket, and others seem to transcend genre and theme with their very nature. Silver Kiss is one of these. Labeled an "urban werewolf novel" not true urban fantasy it's the tale of Ayla, a werewolf, and Shannon, a human, together trying to make a new life with Ayla's Pack and family. Except the recent murder of Ayla's cousin Adam (which drew her back to the Pack in the first place) might not be an isolated event. To top it off there's a new street drug out there that's highly addictive to werewolves and triggers their animal instincts, making them rage filled animals ready to fight. Sure enough Shannon and Ayla get dragged (and blackmailed) in, ending up way over their heads. Silver Kiss is a werewolf mystery, not an urban fantasy or paranormal romance, with a strong overlying theme of community and family acceptance, how it relates to humans, werewolves, and lesbians. Ayla is a high strung character, possibly the book's only flaw as her nervous energy infects a book that otherwise has very much normalized the concept of werewolves and werewolf culture. Her emotionality does, at times, distract from the main plot, or close it down as her independent streak leads her to not trust the people around her, not even family and friends. However Clark has spun an interesting balance of world elements, the paranormal and the struggle for normalcy in what's considered deviancy even in our supposedly modern and accepting culture. Highly recommended for library collections, with a good mystery and moments of surprising depth, Silver Kiss is the sort of stand out, inclusive fiction that more collections should be proud to have on their shelves. Contains: sex, violence, cursing(less)
Howliday Inn is the second book in the Bunnicula series. Our favorite vampire bunny is missing in this one, as the Monroes are...moreI purchased this book.
Howliday Inn is the second book in the Bunnicula series. Our favorite vampire bunny is missing in this one, as the Monroes are on vacation and four-legged detectives Harold and Chester are being boarded at Chateau Bow Wow, a facility that seems to be cursed or haunted as the occupants begin to disappear.
Not-terribly-bright, but lovable Harold suspects murder. Clever, but overly paranoid Chester suspects werewolves. Then tragedy strikes, leaving Harold alone to try to stop what's going on (but he has to figure that out first).
The first book in series had a camp-horror feel, but this one is heavily mystery. The goofiness of Harold blunts any potential darkness in the book, but might be distracting for kids used to savvy, smart leads. With crazy characters, a twist ending and a real bad guy, Howliday Inn is good for budding mystery lovers and pet lovers. (less)
I received this book free through the LibraryThing Early Readers Program.
Manny Rupert, an addict, a cop kicked off the force, an the ex-husband of a m...moreI received this book free through the LibraryThing Early Readers Program.
Manny Rupert, an addict, a cop kicked off the force, an the ex-husband of a murderer, is back for round two. This time he's been hired to go undercover in San Quentin and determine whether a sick old man in for vehicular manslaughter is really who he claims to be—the infamous Nazi Doctor of Death, Joseph Mengele.
That's where Pain Killers starts, but where it goes is on an insane, gritty, noir venture through the darkest parts of society. Pain Killers is a humorous black romp if by humorous you mean “Oh my God they went there” and by romp you mean going by limo from prison snail back love shack to Christian porn sets to meth houses and mansions and back again. This novel is, to steal a line, truly, truly outrageous.
Stahl's humor is not for everyone, possibly not for anyone that possesses an iota of sensitivity about religion, psychology, the human condition, addiction, sex, or just about any subject. But there's a sort of victorious feel to seeing character so truly messed up still intelligent and stubborn and taking on the face of human evil. There's more talking than action, so the pace is not forceful or fast. At times the conversations while interesting and amusing come off as off topic, when the point is to solve a mystery. And the WTF factor is, at times, very high. But it's a wild ride, different from everything else out there which certainly has an audience in today's marketplace.(less)
From the back cover of Amberville one might expect a cross between Sesame Street and The Sopranos. Eric Bear, years after leaving behind a life of dru...moreFrom the back cover of Amberville one might expect a cross between Sesame Street and The Sopranos. Eric Bear, years after leaving behind a life of drugs and a job as a runner for a mafia king, opens his apartment door to find his former boss, the mafia head Nicholas Dove visiting with a request—take Dove's name off the infamous Death List (literally a list of those slated to disappear from the world) or he will have his gorillas tear apart Eric's beloved wife, Emma Rabbit.
This kicks off the reforming of Eric's small gang, Tom-Tom Crow, Sam Gazelle and Snake Marek, who have all moved on from their criminal pasts in their own ways, and a desperate hunt for the society's biggest secret, the Death List and its writer.
But after finishing Amberville readers will find it to be a very peculiar book. Somewhere between a mafia mystery and a higher-brow literary work addressing the nature of good and evil in the world, Amberville balances a deep mystery and action with deep, soulful contemplations (by mad men, or mad bears as the case may be). In fact the literary, contemplative sections which can, at times come off as lagging bits in the pacing of the plot, genuinely serve to distract and set up the reader, a sign of some truly clever writing.
Yes, the characters really are stuffed animals, living in a world where many things are very clearly defined for them (such as the good areas of town literally being painted different colors from the bad ones). And that analogy doesn't go very far, in that the type of animal a character is doesn't necessarily define who they are. And there aren't really any musing on the nature of man versus beast. But each animal is a full, fleshy—or stuffed—whole with a parallel personality type in our world.
Amberville is the kind of book you wouldn't think about reading, or you'd expect to not like, only to discover it has a lot more to offer than can be explained on the book jacket. It absolutely keeps you guessing, up to the last sentence, and asks questions but never presumes to offer answers, making it a very good read indeed.(less)
The back of this book bills it as a zany, thrilling mystery wherein our heroine, the quirky Dr. Amanda Bell Brown must find the cause for the death of...moreThe back of this book bills it as a zany, thrilling mystery wherein our heroine, the quirky Dr. Amanda Bell Brown must find the cause for the death of a disgraced playboy evangelist's baby. I received a copy by request through the LibraryThing Early Readers Program (where it was not disclosed that it was Christian fiction) and I requested it because fiction with minority leads is something I'm actively trying to include more of here at BookLove.
Unfortunately, I simply could not get into this book.
The story opens with a long, lamenting conversation between Bell and her BFF/kinda of love interest (except she's married) which covers a lot of what happened in the first two books in the series and what happened between books. As a first time reader I was left with absolutely no clue what was going on, other than Bell, in an effort to make up with Rocky (the BFF who apparently put her marriage in danger before abandoning her, and who repeatedly teases her and calls her “babe” constantly) agrees to go visit a disgraced evangelist trying to make a comeback.
The second chapter opens with Bell and Rocky arriving at the location where the evangelist is filming his sermon. Bell is promptly assaulted by an old religious woman who calls Bell a hussy for being there with her pastor, and forcibly exorcises her, claiming a demon of interracial adultery is dwelling inside of her. Rocky, the charming BFF that he is, sits in his VIP seat and is amused by the antics, doing nothing at all to help.
After the sermon Rocky gets Bell backstage to meet the evangelist, Ezekiel Thunder. It's there that Bell meets Little Zeke Thunder, Big Thunder's 2 year old son. Bell is smitten, but launches into heartache over her own inability to have children, save for the fact that she's been nauseated a lot lately. But she can't have kids, she reassures herself, because she had a period since her husband left her and she has endometriosis, not to mention she has a tumor. With the subtly of a brick to the face, this “I can't be pregnant despite obvious weight gain, morning sickness and soreness” becomes a repetitive source of angst. When Bell finally moves past the topic secondary characters constantly bring it up, accusing her of being pregnant, kicking off the whole response again.
In chapters three and four Bell insists she isn't pregnant, then is threatened by the same person who assaulted her in the previous chapter, blatantly and maliciously manipulated by Thunder, again while her BFF Rocky just stands to the side, or defends Thunder.
It is never really explained why Rocky wants her to meet this clearly malicious, manipulative preacher. There's eventually something about Rocky wanting her to find God again, but that should never excuse the sort of behavior Bell has been subjected to.
In chapter five Bell finally does something that made me like her, she self soothes with a peppy new haircut. But when she returns to work she discovers her parking lot filled with the vehicles of all her closest, except her husband. Despite being forewarned Bell walks into the intervention. What is traditionally a last ditch effort to get a person with substance abuse to realize the extent of their actions is bastardized in this chapter as Bell's nearest and dearest claim the intervention is because she's fat, because her husband (who left her) is heart broken without her and she should go back to him, and because she is clearly pregnant and too old to be so (Bell is 35). The conversation is excessively scattered and even deviates into one of Bell's friends claiming it's not always all about Bell, except one would assume that an intervention IS about the person being confronted.
I stopped when I read the following interaction: “If Jazz (Bell's husband) is the one who left me, and he's the one who is drinking excessively, why didn't you do the intervention with him?” “Because all of this is your fault,” my mother said.
If I hadn't been at a doctor's appointment I would have flung the book across the room. I did try to skip ahead in the book to see if it picked up, only to land on a scene where a doctor tells Bell and her husband, Jazz that Bell has a grapefruit-sized tumor, several grape=sized tumors and is also pregnant with twins.
The artificial drama is staggering in this book and completely distracts from the mystery Deadly Charm is advertised as containing. There is no time or build up to allow for readers to grow attached to Bell and having every character treating her like utter crap doesn't make her sympathetic. Furthermore the pregnancy side plot is a huge problem. The medical problems (pregnant, with tumors) reads as more unbelievable, and unneeded drama, there's never a question in the reader's mind whether Bell is pregnant or not, and the utter insensitivity that everyone else in the book shows for Bell's reproductive problems is pretty insulting.
It's a bad combination of writing flaws, so Deadly Charm ends up in the DNF pile.(less)
Valerie McCormick believes in family above all else, a fact that’s obvious when she wins a trip to Seattle and ends up spending it doing research on a...moreValerie McCormick believes in family above all else, a fact that’s obvious when she wins a trip to Seattle and ends up spending it doing research on a boat for her husband’s company. However, on her free trip she witnesses the murder of two FBI agents and is thrust into a multinational court case against a cartel that puts her life in terrible danger.
Dead Witness is a self published debut thriller with a touch of love story. Valerie is understandably upset by her predicament, and surrounded by daughters who seem sweet, but oblivious, a husband who is using her and various FBI agents who bumble around and ruin her life. The bad guys are evil. The heroes are not quite perfect and over all the book is close, but not quite ready to be on the must read shelf.
Butler is a solid writer, with good potential, but there are several things that end up distracting from the story. To begin with it’s hard to connect with Valerie, the lead character. Her personality seems less than three dimensional and while she’s understandably emotional, hearing her upset over being in protective custody, and her willingness to be dead rather than without her family made her hard to sympathize with. The FBI procedure in the storyline isn’t entirely convincing, leading to mistakes that certainly add to the plot, but can make a reader question the storytelling. Readers will likely also wonder why Valerie’s brother, an intelligent, skilled investigator, is smart enough to consistently break through the FBI’s cover, but doesn’t consider that the bad guys might be watching him.
Finally, it’s clear that Valerie is the main character, not just because the story is her story, but because all the secondary characters seem to reiterate what she thinks and feels, as well as that she’s a strong, lovely person, in the sections of the story told from their point of view as if they, too, are trying to convince the reader of Valerie’s worth. Unfortunately, this ends up feeling insincere, contributing to a disconnect between the picture readers have of Valerie, and the picture Butler is trying to paint.
Butler shows promise, however, and is likely to show up with a stronger work down the road.(less)
Jobe, his possibly angelic, possibly demonic reflection, Wendy and her ghostly twin brother ar...moreI was given this book to review.
Campaign Trilogy book 2
Jobe, his possibly angelic, possibly demonic reflection, Wendy and her ghostly twin brother are all back, hot on the trail of the people who kidnapped Wendy's father, who are hopefully the same people behind a virus that creates serial killers. Both are odd characters. Jobe is a full on anti-hero, the servant of god-style serial killer who punishes the evil doers around him. Wendy is a thirteen year old girl, smart beyond her years and yet vulnerable to the horrors she's caught up in. And yet they are the heroes, the only ones with the ability (both supernatural and non) to hunt down and stop some pretty insidious bad guys.
One of the stand out elements in this book is its antihero lead, as readers will find themselves conflicted about and uncomfortable with Jobe's methods, but it's absolutely clear that he is in fact the hero of the story. Also Wendy is a precocious young girl, who knows and understands far more than she should. But rather than being unbelievable her grown up mentality is explained by the role she's played as parent in her messed up family for so long, and tempered by some emotional strife in reaction to the first book, The Lesser of Two Evils, and events in this book, which serve to remind readers that despite her capabilities she is still a teenaged girl.
The only flaw Trail of Madness suffers from is lack of tightness. Not yet flabby, it remains that some shaving could have been done to firm up this 400 page tale.
One of the most interesting serial killer tales I've read in a while with the most vivid characters, I recommend this one to readers who like the serial killer concept, but want to see something new done with it.(less)
Fuzzy Navel starts with action and never lets up. Terms like "tension" and "suspense" just aren't strong enough to capture the insane, non-stop action...moreFuzzy Navel starts with action and never lets up. Terms like "tension" and "suspense" just aren't strong enough to capture the insane, non-stop action feel of this book. In the first chapter the reader sees a threat (which will wear a familiar face for regular readers) return to Jack's life. But while a psychopath holds her mother and fiance hostage in their home Jack's on a case, facing down a series of sniper shootings and at least one killer who isn't done after shooting his target.
Like the other Jack Daniels novels Fuzzy Navel is brutal, unrelenting in it's violence and blood shed, full of action, and horrifyingly bad jokes that are only funny when the reader, like the characters are stuck in the middle of a situation they shouldn't survive.
Fuzzy Navel stands out in the Jack Daniel series because of the genuine, word stealing wickedness infused into it. It's not about an intensity of action or violence, it's about the reader staring, gaping, at the book because the bad guys are right. They might be torturing the good guy and her innocent friends, but behind the psychosis this time is a measure of honesty and purity of purpose, something that has been lacking in the "crazy multiple murderer" subgenre in recent years.
What I enjoy most about the Jack Daniels series is how JA Konrath uses the unspoken but recognizable rules of the mystery genre as a launching point for his stories rather than as the end point. In past books readers have seen obsessed serial killers that completely defy psychology rather than being textbook, killers caught halfway through the book without the tension letting up and situations where figuring out whodunnit was only the first step to solving the mystery.
Fuzzy Navel is a stunning display of suspense and drama, the best book of the series so far, which will have readers eagerly awaiting more. (less)
An Ice Cold Grave is the third book in Harris' Harper Connelly series, a dark mystery with feather-light touches of paranormal. For those who haven't...moreAn Ice Cold Grave is the third book in Harris' Harper Connelly series, a dark mystery with feather-light touches of paranormal. For those who haven't encountered it before Harper is a woman who gained the uncanny ability to sense the dead and read their last moment after being hit by lightning. After surviving a horrible, abusive childhood she and her step brother Tolliver travel around using her talent to survive.
In An Ice Cold Grave Harper and Tolliver have been called to Doraville, North Carolina where a woman, angry at the past sheriff's handling of the disappearances of several teen boys, asks Harper to find the bodies of the boys that surely must be dead by now. Harper begins her hunt, and to her horror finds not only the six missing boys, but two others as well, all buried in what looks suspiciously like a serial killer's dumping grounds.
Suddenly Harper finds herself not just blackmailed into staying nearby by the newly appointed sheriff, but a target of the serial killer's outrage.
As usual Harris offers a tale that features a delicate thread of darkness. There is true horror in this book, but by the characters trying to block it out, move past it and not dwelling on it, even when it rises up and tries to claim them, it becomes secondary, and undertow rather than a flood of dark themes. The characters are Harris' strength. They are complex, easy to sympathize with and as a reader you find yourself wanting things to work out for them.
This particular book is more scattered than the previous books, but it reflects the complexity of the serial killer nature. Despite the attention focused on Harris' other series, this is her best. An Ice Cold Grave is satisfying, page turner that fans of dark fiction should definitely give a chance.(less)
"Ten years ago she looked like a dead gothic beauty queen, at least; now she just looked dead—like a ghoul. Thanks very much, Jackal, may you rot in h...more"Ten years ago she looked like a dead gothic beauty queen, at least; now she just looked dead—like a ghoul. Thanks very much, Jackal, may you rot in hell."
The Blackburn and Scarletti Mysteries will be familiar to urban fantasy fans. There are certainly some aspects that can be found elsewhere; vampires, mysteries to be solved, a sexy but forbidden male, and a strong female lead character who has to save the day.
Fans of the early Anita Blake books among others might recognize some of these elements. But Koehler's books aren't heavy on the erotic, or the political manipulation. Her lead, January Blackburn, is strong, but not a stubborn, uncompromising tough-gal. Koehler's vampires aren't wet dreams come to life, always out to manipulate poor humans out of either their blood or other bodily fluids. The undead here are inhuman creatures, alien and bizarre who are occasionally sexy.
There's a definite tinge of the X-Files chemistry of Scully and Mulder to the tales, as well as an aloof involvement of the Catholic church reminiscent of John Carpenter's Vampires or the more recent film version of Constantine. The Judeo-Christian mythology isn't overwhelming, and not defining, but the concept of a family of vampires and their ghouls protected by and working for the Catholic hierarchy is an intriguing aspect of the tale.
There are two novellas in volume two.
The first, "Legion", is part Christian mythology, part voodoo. Blackburn and Scarletti are called in by their employers, the FBI and the Catholic church respectively, to investigate the brutal killing of Fairy Boudreau. If the cruelty of her death wasn't enough there's also the matter of what she was last seen doing, floating and babbling into the night. Her hysteria seems to have been contagious, passing from Fairy to those who came in contact with her just before and just after her death. But the thing that's actually being shared from human to human is far worse than either investigator suspects.
The second story in this volume, "The Phantom of the Soap Opera", focuses more on Scarletti. A year after the first novella this one gets into the very heart of the mix blooded priest as he and Blackburn sign on to help a "Dark Shadows" like soap that seems to be dealing with a badly haunted set. Witchery of the truest kind is afoot and by stepping onto the set to help Blackburn and Scarletti not only have to deal with a killer witch on the loose, but the bitter backbiting of Hollywood as well.
Koehler's style exposes her characters both absolutely and with a tenderness that coaxes the reader to like these people, without piling on overbearing super drama. There's a truer feel to this book than one might find in other urban fantasies, which in a way makes it strange because the paranormal aspect is less "normal" and more traditional. This leads to an interesting blend of prose that, at times, is nearly impossible to put down. (less)