Friday, 20 September 2019

Killman Creek / Rachel Caine

5 out of 5 stars
Gwen Proctor won the battle to save her kids from her ex-husband, serial killer Melvin Royal, and his league of psychotic accomplices. But the war isn’t over. Not since Melvin broke out of prison. Not since she received a chilling text…

You’re not safe anywhere now.

Her refuge at Stillhouse Lake has become a trap. Gwen leaves her children in the protective custody of a fortified, well-armed neighbor. Now, with the help of Sam Cade, brother of one of Melvin’s victims, Gwen is going hunting. She’s learned how from one of the sickest killers alive.

But what she’s up against is beyond anything she feared—a sophisticated and savage mind game calculated to destroy her. As trust beyond her small circle of friends begins to vanish, Gwen has only fury and vengeance to believe in as she closes in on her prey. And sure as the night, one of them will die.

n excellent follow-up to the first volume, Stillhouse Lake. At the end of that first book, Gwen’s creepy, scary ex-husband & notorious serial killer, Melvin Royal has escaped from death row in Witchita and he could be anywhere. He underlines that uncertainty by texting her : You’re not safe anywhere now

Caine manages to maintain the tension in this second volume, ratcheting up the pressure on Gwen, who decides that she can no longer passively flee from her husband and the army of internet trolls and criminals who are making her life a living hell and threatening her children. With the support of a few friends and allies, she will turn the tables and hunt her ex-husband.

Gwen gets put through the wringer--Caine thinks up torments for her that are believable, but harrowing. I couldn’t put the book down, I had to know what happened. Some elements are predictable, but the author manages to give them her own twist that makes them feel right for this situation.

At the end of each book, Caine allows you to relax your vigilance just a little, giving a feeling of completion. However, unresolved elements of the story encourage the reader on to the next volume. I, for example, have now requested the third book from my library and I’ll be hard pressed not to read it immediately when it comes in!

The Witches of New York / Ami McKay

4 out of 5 stars
The year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom ('Moth' from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it's finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student and "gardien de sorts" (keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan's high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions--and in guarding the secrets of their clients.

All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment. Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor's apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind?

Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. Working with Dr. Quinn Brody, a talented alienist, she submits Beatrice to a series of tests to see if she truly can talk to spirits. Amidst the witches' tug-of-war over what's best for her, Beatrice disappears, leaving them to wonder whether it was by choice or by force.

I read this book to fill the Spellbound square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.

I first became aware of Ami McKay last Christmas, when I read the novella Half Spent Was the Night: A Witches' Yuletide. That little taste of this world convinced me to choose this book for Halloween Bingo. I am pleased that I was able to include it.

I really love the atmosphere of this book and the novella. The magic is so much an accepted part of this world that you don’t even question whether it exists or not. It does and all the characters believe in it without reservation. The writing is deft and delicate without being fragile, which is good as serious topics are dealt with. One of those is the continuous relationship between witchcraft and organized religion. Another is the nature of friendship and other bonds between people. Also, the nature of life after death.

It makes me want to plant an herb garden, to spend more time outdoors, to write in my journal. It makes me wish that I could go to New York to visit these women and have tea in their shop. I do hope that there may be more books to come, as I would happily re-visit this version of New York again.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

When You Find Me / P.J. Vernon

4 out of 5 stars 
Visiting her family’s South Carolina estate, socialite Gray Godfrey wakes from a night out to an empty bed. Her husband Paul is gone and a thrashing hangover has wiped her memory clean. At first, she’s relieved for the break from her tumultuous marriage; perhaps Paul just needed some space. But when his car is found abandoned on the highway, Gray must face the truth: Paul is gone. And Gray may not want him found.

Her life is unraveling.

When a stranger named Annie calls claiming to know Paul’s whereabouts, Gray reluctantly accepts her help. But this ally is not what she seems: soon Annie is sending frightening messages and revealing disturbing secrets only Gray could know. As Annie’s threats escalate and Gray’s grip on reality begins to slip, the life she thought she had and the dark truth she’s been living begin to merge, leaving an unsettling question: What does Annie want? And what will she do to get it?

I read this book to fill the Psych square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.

This summer, I attended a readers & writers conference and enjoyed a panel discussion at which this author was a member. He made sharp, funny comments and I immediately decided that I wanted to read his novel.

Mr. Vernon, you have a dark & twisty mind. I like. This is a domestic noir that gives books like The Girl on the Train a run for its money. Every now and then, I’d think that I had things figured out. How silly of me! He even gets one more jab in during the very last paragraph!

A very entertaining psychological thriller. Mr. Vernon, I hope there are more books coming because I will read them with pleasure.

Black Cat Crossing / Kay Finch

3 out of 5 stars 
Sabrina has never been the superstitious type. Still, when she moves to Lavender, Texas, to write her first novel and help her Aunt Rowe manage her vacation rental business, Sabrina can’t avoid listening to the rumors that a local black cat is a jinx—especially after the stray in question leads her directly to the scene of a murder.

The deceased turns out to be none other than her Aunt Rowe’s awful cousin Bobby Joe Flowers, a known cheat and womanizer who had no shortage of enemies. The only problem is that Aunt Rowe and Bobby Joe had quarreled just before the cousin turned up dead, leaving Rowe at the top of the long list of suspects. Now it’s up to Sabrina to clear her aunt’s name. Luckily for her, she’s got a new sidekick, Hitchcock the Bad Luck Cat, to help her sniff out clues and stalk a killer before Aunt Rowe winds up the victim of even more misfortune…

I read this book to fill the Black Cat square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.

This is a serviceable little cozy mystery. I generally enjoyed the mystery portion, but there were a couple of things that rubbed me the wrong way. The first was the protagonist, Sabrina Tate. She is depicted as absolutely unable to hold focus on anything. She is an aspiring author, but when it comes time to write, she’s worried about the mystery. When she’s investigating the mystery, she’s worried that she’s not writing. And her worries about a stray cat trump both and drag her around by the nose. I just can’t envision someone like this getting a book deal as easily and smoothly as happens in this novel.

My second problem with the whole situation is the whole “I must help the police or they will make a horrible mistake” assumption in the book. Now maybe I’m a naive Canadian, but I believe that the police are far better at investigating homicide than a scatter-brain like Sabrina. She just flails around asking annoying questions until other people want to hurt her. Her Aunt Rowe has a much more realistic attitude, repeatedly telling her to leave it to the police and they will sort things out.

So, with that off my chest, we can proceed to the things that I like. I did enjoy the cat escapades. Hitchcock was a great furry character. And I’m enjoying the foreshadowed romance coming between Sabrina and the cowboy Griffith. If I need to read a Black Cat book next Halloween, I can see myself reading the next book in this series for that purpose.

Out of the Deep I Cry / Julia Spencer-Fleming

4 out of 5 stars
On April 1, 1930, Jonathan Ketchem's wife Jane walked from her house to the police department to ask for help in finding her husband. The men, worn out from a night of chasing bootleggers, did what they could. But no one ever saw Jonathan Ketchem again...

Now decades later, someone else is missing in Miller's Kill, NY. This time it's the physician of the clinic that bears the Ketchem name. Suspicion falls on a volatile single mother with a grudge against the doctor, but Reverend Clare Fergusson isn't convinced. As Clare and Russ investigate, they discover that the doctor's disappearance is linked to a bloody trail going all the way back to the hardscrabble Prohibition era. As they draw ever closer to the truth, their attraction for each other grows increasingly more difficult to resist. And their search threatens to uncover secrets that snake from one generation to the next--and to someone who's ready to kill.

I am really enjoying this series despite the fact that I’m having to use interlibrary loan to get a hold of this one and the next volume. Once I’ve read that one, they’re all available here locally and I can binge read them if I decide to.

I love the use of history here--linking the present to the past in meaningful ways. As a genealogist, I’ve found that a family’s past can sometimes explain current problems. At least in my own family, it has. We can’t easily escape the ties of past events unless we understand what’s going on and make a conscious decision to change things.

The other aspect that really appeals to me is the relationship between Claire and Russ. They are trying so hard to keep it at friendship. Both are honourable people and their reputations are important to them, but it’s becoming obvious in this volume that there is a certain amount of gossip going on regarding the exact nature of their bond. It doesn’t help that fate keeps putting them in positions where they are bound to be tempted. It’s agonizing slow-motion, keeping the tension tight and I’m finding that irresistible!

Amber Fang : the Hunted / Arthur Slade

3.5 stars out of 5
Librarian. Assassin. Vampire.

Amber Fang enjoys life's simple pleasures - a good book, a glass of wine and, of course, a great meal.
Raised to eat ethically, Amber dines only on delicious, cold-blooded killers. But being sure they're actually killers takes time... research... patience.
It's a good thing Amber's a librarian. Her extraordinary skills help her hunt down her prey, seek out other vampires, and stay on the trail of her mother, missing now for two years. One day she stalks a rather tasty-looking murderer and things get messy. Very messy. Amber, the hunter, becomes the hunted.
And then, from out of nowhere, the perfect job offer: Assassin. She'd be paid to eat the world's worst butchers. How ideal.
Until it isn't.

I read this book to fill the Vampires square of my 2019 Halloween Bingo Card.

This is a cute and irreverent frolic through the vampire mythos. Amber Fang was a sheltered young vampire, raised by a mother who believed in ethical eating--only remorseless killers allowed. Good thing that Amber was well into her Library Science degree and has mad researching skills.

Amber would obviously like to believe that she is at the top of the food chain. She reminds me of all the anthropological literature that makes the claim that humans are the world’s apex predator, when really if you turned most of us out into the wild, we would quickly expire from hunger & exposure!

Bonus points for the Icelandic librarian who moonlights as a sniper! My dream combination, violent little fantasist than I am.

I bought this book because I really wanted to support its author, Arthur Slade. Mr. Slade came to a book conference that I regularly attend and I was struck by what a decent guy he is. I think he gave this vampire tale a very playful twist and I’ll see if I can find his other two Amber Fang books.

Sword and Pen / Rachel Caine

5 out of 5 stars
With the future of the Great Library in doubt, the unforgettable characters from Ink and Bone must decide if it's worth saving in this thrilling adventure in the New York Times bestselling series.

The corrupt leadership of the Great Library has fallen. But with the Archivist plotting his return to power, and the Library under siege from outside empires and kingdoms, its future is uncertain. Jess Brightwell and his friends must come together as never before, to forge a new future for the Great Library . . . or see everything it stood for crumble.

Fabulous! This is going out with a bang, rather than a whimper! I am not sure what it says about me that I adore dark fantasy, with plenty of battles, plots, backstabby treacherousness, and ingenious weapons. And don’t forget the Great Library! Having worked my whole career in libraries, they are near and dear to my heart.

This volume reduced me to emotional tatters by its end. I shed plenty of tears and just sat staring into space for a while after I finished it. What a ride!

Ms. Caine, you have certainly figured out how to make me into a happy reader. Between this series, the Stillhouse Lake series and the Honors series, I am overwhelmed with good choices for future reading. Long may you write!