January 18

The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper

9781409122586Do you enjoy reading suspense or horror? If so than you will surely enjoy this very scary book. Not that the horror is particularly graphic or explicit. But your whole reading experience is certain to be stressful.

Professor David Ullman is a world authority on demonic literature. In fact his particular passion is for Milton’s Paradise Lost. Not that he actually believes in demons, but he considers that they are a literary representation of evil during specific historical periods. When he is offered a luxury trip to Venice to consult on an unexplained phenomenon, he not only accepts but agrees to take his 11 year old daughter on a holiday.

When he eventually arrives at the address he has been given, what he sees shakes him to the core. His immediate reaction is to leave with Tess, quickly. But before he can escape, she falls into the Grand Canal crying out ‘Find me!’ The search for his daughter leads David into a world of nightmares.

This is a book you will need to be ‘in the mood’ for. It is not one that you will easily put aside once it grabs hold of your imagination, but on the other hand, you may need a break and a chance to return to normality. And if you haven’t read Paradise Lost recently, it may pay to have a copy of the Cliffs notes handy.

If you enjoy suspense that tickles your imagination then put this on your reading list. The new paperback edition will be out in March.

January 15

Omens by Kelley Armstrong

9780751553468Kelley Armstrong is a well known paranormal romance author for young adult readers. This book is far more focussed on the paranormal, with very little romance found within the covers. But it is a wonderfully weird read filled with superstition and darkness.

Olivia is the only child of a wealthy family with all the right connections. She has finished her studies and has recently celebrated her engagement to on of the most eligible young bachelors in Chicago. Her life is on track to become the envy of all, when she discovers that she was actually adopted. Worse yet, her biological parents are notorious serial killers Todd and Pamela Larson. With that in her heritage, she simply cannot marry into the best families.

Olivia runs away, looking for time to think and work out what she wants from her life. Somehow she ends up in the town of Cainsville, Illinois, and strangely, she seems to be expected. Her birth mother makes contact and soon Olivia is investigating the final murder by her parents, the killing that is supposed to prove her parents were innocent. Strange things seem to happen all around her without reason, and the crazy old lady across the road does not seem at all surprised. And then there is her mother’s lawyer…

This is the opening book of a trilogy and it very successfully sets the scene and builds interest in the remaining volumes. Now we all have to wait for part two.

July 31

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Review #15. Have I got a long way to go to reach 104!

9781472200327This book was released last month with an absolute mountain of rave reviews. I was very happy to unwrap my copy, soon after release, but had to finish a massive fantasy tome before I could get started. But, let me warn you, once you begin this one, you will not want to put it aside for anything.

After returning home for a family funeral, our narrator drives past his old home and on down a lane where he remembers that his friend Lettie once lived. There he sits by the duckpond and remembers an event from his childhood and the three mysterious women who helped him. He hasn’t thought of this place in years, but now the memories flood back…

As a seven year old, he knew something was wrong. When Lettie went to sort it out, he went with her, more afraid of waiting alone than of what he might see. That was his first mistake. And Lettie warned him to keep hold of her hand. But he only let go for a second. A second is all it took to put that hole in his foot. That hole that wasn’t a hole, but a home. Then the new housekeeper/nanny arrived, but no one could see what he could see.

Gaiman has written a real treasure here. All tied up in mythology and folklore, this book will surely touch something deep in the reader’s psyche. The language is simple, the point of view uncomplicated, and therein lies the power of the story. This child witnessed unspeakable evil, and the forces gathered against it. He seems to be caught up in a modern fairytale, and all the horror and fear involved.

Is this a book for adults or children? The language is simple and easily understood. However, just like the old stories, it is filled with horror and terror. But I found that as I was reading, I tapped into my childhood reading style, remembering how to get swept up in the story and simply enjoy the experience.

July 12

Night Beach by Kirsty Eagar

I met this author last year at a conference, and I will admit that I wasn’t really impressed. But then I read her latest book and was stunned. The book was finished weeks ago, and for a very long time it preyed on my mind. The review didn’t get written for weeks simply because I wasn’t sure what to say.

Abbie is a young lady who is obsessed. She is going to study art simply because art gives her life meaning. She looks at a painting and the artist speaks to her. She is also fascinated by the sea and surf. But mostly she is obsessed by Kane, and now he has come home. Somehow, though, he has changed. There is a shadow around him that only Abbie can see and it is changing him, not for the better. What can Abbie do?

This is a very subtle supernatural romance. None of the vampire/angel/were that most authors go for. No Abbie’s romance is being destroyed by the shadow. And just what is that shadow? Ahh – that you will have to work out for yourself. And be warned, this book is far more like a classic gothic horror than most that are on the market now. Parts of it are just plain scary for anyone with a bit of imagination.

Who would I recommend this for? Well, it would need a confident reader willing to contribute some imagination in their reading. The picture isn’t completely drawn out so the reader has to fill in the gaps.

Oh, and good internet access for looking up works of art is also important.

July 8

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

I will own up to eagerly placing Deadlocked at the top of the reading pile when it arrived a few weeks ago. Sookie has become a guilty pleasure, kind of like that soap opera that you never want to admit watching. Although recently some of the books have been less than satisfying, I keep hoping that the smart independent Sookie who was the heroine in the first books will reappear. Sorry, but I am not a fan of Eric. He seems to quite literally suck the life out of her and I really don’t admire the carpet she has become.

Like with any soap opera, unless you have been following the series there is no way to summarise the plot. It is all about the varying relationships between people. Here there is a bit of bad news for Sam, worse news for Claude, and Sookie is forced to open her eyes about her relationship with Eric. The weres, fairies and a few actual humans all make her life interesting as she attempts to solve a murder. But really the mystery is only a minor subplot, the story is all about moving Sookie’s story on.

Apparently there is only one more book to come and when I found this out, I can’t say I was frightfully surprised. Some of the regular cast won’t be appearing in book 13 and with them out of the picture the story has a better chance to coming to a sensible close.

And who will Sookie end up with? I think I know, but then I never really though Eric was good for her anyway.

February 25

Lenobia’s Vow by PC and Kristen Cast

Before I begin, I will remind everyone that I am a fan of the House of Night series. Maybe that is why I found my first experience of the novella spin-offs so disappointing. Really, it was childish and totally and completely unnecessary to the story arc. Now that I have that off my chest…

I suspect these novellas are meant to provide fans with background on each of the main adult vampires in House of Night. Certainly this one opened with Lenobia as a young girl in France months before she was marked. She escapes a certain future in service by pretending to be a noblewoman and heads off for New Orleans to marry a wealthy landowner. On the way she meets a couple of horses, we all know Lenobia, and eventually falls in love, but not with her intended. When she is caught, and disgraced, it all begins to look like her life is firmly on the road to happiness, until the final twist.

My real concern is about the target audience. The House of Night books are targeted for confident 14+ readers and of most interest to the 15+ crowd. These silly little books full of pictures and large text, excellent for the tweens. Great if the Casts are trying to attract a new audience. But the two series are simply too different. The craftsmanship, the linking of philosophical concepts, the whole cultural connection is missing. And worst of all, the language is so simple. It is almost as though the first word they thought of was written down and it would do.

I will admit that it only took a couple hours to read, but the time was well and truly wasted.

 

February 5

The Gallows Curse by Andrew Hammond

We have had all kinds of writing for young adults with supernatural or paranormal themes. Vampire romances are currently the most popular, but other ideas keep surfacing. Hammond has created a team of young people with psychic abilities and placed them in a perfect setting to appeal to young adults accustomed to film violence and horror.

This book opens with one of the most gory scenes I have ever read in books for YAs. The whole train wreck and highwayman raid are absolutely revolting, and therefore guaranteed to please. Imagine, all the thieves and highwaymen set loose on the modern world, and there is nothing humanity can do to stop them. Enter CRYPT, the youth paranormal team. Jud, their top agent, is sent to investigate but even he is helpless to stop to carnage. But with the assistance of Bex, he works out how the attacks began and forms a plan to restore the peace, well maybe.

This is real writing to attract and hold the young adult reader. The action is relentless, and blood, guts and gore flow from every page. There is no dumbing down, no cleaning up, in fact just the opposite. Hammond is writing for an audience he knows well, and he tells a story that will keep them involved. This is a book for those who find reading ‘boring’. Those who would rather watch a film than challenge their own imaginations by building pictures from a printed page.

Hammond also appeals to the strong sense of justice found in young adults. The criminals in this book are not those who maim and slaughter, but rather those who disturbed their rest. And the team manage to bring these real criminals to justice.

This is not a book for the faint-hearted, but it will be right for so many reluctant readers. I just hope they never make a movie from the series.

October 4

Iron House by John Hart

A little over a year ago I reviewed The Last Child by this author, and loved it. When I was asked if I was interested in his latest offering, I eagerly agreed. John Hart writes a dark and dangerous thriller, and after some of the other stuff I had been reading, I was ready for a spine tingle.

Two brothers were raised together in an orphanage twenty years ago. Well, raised is a very loose term. They were chucked into a life with a stack of bullies and together they tried to survive. Then one day the youngest brother snaps and takes a knife to one of his tormentors. Big brother takes the blame and runs away, eventually becoming a Mafia hitman as a career. The younger brother is quickly adopted by the Senator’s wife and is taken away to a life of pampering and luxury. But all is not well.

With the death of his mentor, Michael has to escape the mob. They are convinced that he has the passwords and account numbers of many millions of dollars, and they want them back. But Michael is in love and his girl is pregnant. He wants nothing more than to retire and live a normal life. When the mob can’t find Michael, they go after his family, including the brother he hasn’t seen or heard from in 20 years. Michael feels responsible and sets off to find and protect his brother.

Sounds like a simple plot doesn’t it. Well that is just the beginning. Soon there are so many twists and turns that you need a road map to work out where you are. This is a far more complicated story than The Last Child, and so much better for the complications.

I do worry about Hart though. He appears to have serious childhood issues. And anyone who does bad things to children deserves the worst that any thriller writer can dream up. This book is thickly populated with adults who don’t like kids and Hart has a specific creative penalty in store for each of them. Sometimes he is scary.

But this is a good read. Make sure you give the kids an extra hug every day while you read it.

 

May 5

Brimstone by Preston and Child

childprestonbrimstone-197x300If you hadn’t guessed, I love my eReader. In fact I love both of them. When reading from my eReader though, I have a tendency to finish one book and start the next without actually sitting down to write the review. Then times like these I try to clear the backlog.

Regular readers of this page will know that I am a fan of scifi/supernatural. I admit to being a fan of the X-files and the Preston-Child books are the closest thing to X-files stories that I have found. I have tried to find their whole backlist in eBook form, but so far many of the early novels are missing.

Enough with the complaints, let’s get to this book. Brimstone is actually the first book in a trilogy from these authors. The story opens with the death of a man, apparently burned by the Devil incarnate, complete with cloven hoofprint. Usually Pendergast is very comfortable with this scenario, but this time is doesn’t seem so sure. Through painstaking attention to detail he discovers that there is a very natural explanation for what is happening. The trail leads him to Italy and a missing violin. Confused? You won’t be once you read this.

This is very much a stand-alone book. There are allusions to sinister events afoot, but they are just the barest hint designed to encourage the reader to seek out Dance of the Dead to find out what happens. clever marketing if you ask me.

Yes, I greatly enjoyed reading this. It was something read for fun, but then I believe that reading should be fun. That is why I am willing to read such a variety of stuff, but keep coming back to my favourites.

March 14

Wolfsbane and Mistletoe edited by Harris and Kelner

9780575097865Short stories – great sometimes, especially when you really don’t have time to get caught up in a page turner. But my problem is that the stories are so uneven. This collection was mostly by authors unknown to me. I suspect they are mostly horror/mystery/romance popular authors from the States.

Harris and Kelner have previously released a similar collection, in the height of the vampire romance popularity, and guess what the common theme was! Naturally for this new collection to be released just before Christmas, they had to do something different – so they chose – werewolves and Christmastime. How original. And then Harris had the nerve to include one of her stories previously released in a collection of Sookie Stackhouse short stories. Nothing like double dipping.

But there were some really good stories included. ‘Milk and Cookies’ was absolutely chilling. I didn’t see that ending coming. I also really liked the opening of ‘The Werewolf before Christmas’. OK the title of that one isn’t refreshingly original. But I did get sick of the relentless sameness of the collection. Perhaps this needed to be read very, very slowly with a full book between each story.

It’s a little late now for Christmas anyway.