Monday, May 31, 2021

Alice Blanchard: The Wicked Hour

This is the second book in a series and it is really important to read the first book Trace of Evil before this one, as there are many events within the first book that shape Natalie as a character and the town as well.

Alice Blanchard is back with the second book in her Natalie Lockhard series, and during Halloween all thing afoul in Burning Lake, including murder:

Burning Lake is known for it's connection to Wicca, so that means that people come from far and wide to take part in the Halloween fun that occurs each year. Every police officer is expected to help out in some fashion to help keep everything in line. Natalie goes above and beyond as she also volunteers the next morning to help cleaning everything up, but leave it to Natalie to find a young woman lying dead in a dumpster, with no ID. So the search begins to find out who this woman is, why she was in Burning Lake. But this case also bring up more from Natalie's past, something she had not thought about in a very long time, and with recent events already on her mind, Natalie doesn't know if she has it in her to work on another murder. All that keeps her going is the need to keep busy and to get justice for the murdered woman.

This was a good second book in the series, but I do not think that is it as good as the first. This book had a tricky balance to follow up from the events in the first book, as there are many events that occur in the first book that really shape Natalie. You can see at times Blanchard’s struggle with the mystery involved in this book and then personal struggles that Natalie is going through, she is unsure which should take center stage. I don’t think Blanchard gets it quite right, I found more time was spent on Natalie focusing on her own trouble and not that of the case she is working and understandable if this was the real world that is how it should be, but in book format it really slowed the book down. 

As with the first book and the Pager, this one seemed to get a few details wrong the main one that irked me the most was people do not use Vaseline to block smells (of a dead body), they use Vicks. I wonder who is proof reading her books, anyone with a police background? Also, I don’t understand why Blanchard has Natalie switch between calling her parents by their first name and then call them mom and Dad. There are times when I forget their first name and then in the next sentence she states that it is her mom, why not just stick to mom?

I really really missed the Wicca aspect from the first book, I mean i feel like Balnchard has created a unique opportunity by having her books set in burning town and then not taking advantage of it in this book. Yes there was little bit about Wicca here and there but nothing like the first book, and that is where the first book shined.

Well I got it wrong who the bad guy was, so that always boosts a book in my opinion if I cannot figure it all out. There seems to be too many options in Burning Town and I appreciate that Blanchard fooled me till the very end. I just wished more of the book was spent on the mystery aspect and i feel like there are certain things that remained unresolved in the book especially around her high school friend, Bella, which I have Blanchard addresses at another point as I feeling like I was left hanging on that aspect in the story. I mean it does play a main part in Natalie's thought process in the book, so it seems off that all was not addressed there.

This book was good and it does have a lot of character development for Natalie but I found the book to be slow, the mystery aspect too a back seat and I missed the Wicca aspect. All that said I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Kelley Armstrong: Cursed Luck

In the first book in a new series, Kelley Armstrong introduces readers to the art of Curse Weaving, that can be a bit of fun or very sinister:

Kennedy Bennett comes from a long line and well known curse weavers, who practice their craft out in the open, although the general public thinks that it fake, what they do is very real and can have long lasting consequences to those who possess the cursed object. When a famous cursed necklace is about to go up for auction, suddenly everyone is scrambling to get their own curse breaker and there are those who want to get their hands on a curse at any cost. When Kennedy' sisters and fellow curse breakers are kidnapped there is much more on the line for Kennedy than breaking a centuries old curse.

I’m a really big fan of Armstrong, so when she starts a new adult series, I’m going to pick it up. This book originally started out in a serial format that she wrote last year during the pandemic at the time. I did not read it in the serial form so I was really happy when she put it together into a book.

I like that his book does not try to take itself too seriously and is a fun easy read. I absolutely love the idea of a curse weavers / breakers and honestly I have not read a book that deals with curses this in-depth. I really liked the idea of objects being cursed, and that not all curses are bad, some are the joker’s curse which is more like a joke than anything else. I mean there is always someone who talks about a cursed family heirloom and such and this book just takes it all to the next level.

Kennedy was a fun character who has the best job I can think of buying cursed antiques, breaking the curse on them and then reselling the furniture. Kennedy takes her profession seriously and her attention to detail when she is unweaving a curse is amazing, she “sees” what other cannot. Aiden, the main male lead, was just okay as a character he just seemed a bit boring and i get that he is basically the complete opposite of Kennedy, but I just wanted him to have a bit more of a spark to him. Though I did find his balance to his luck use funny, and I wanted to read more of that. I also did not really feel for the relationship that took part in the book, I get opposites attract, but for some reason I could not get behind it. Hopefully in future books it will grow on me.

I enjoyed the fun mystery within this book and the curse/myth surrounding the necklace as well as who has kidnapped Kennedy’s sisters. Plus there were some fun twists, both plot and character wise that I did not see coming, some from total left field but in this book they just worked.

This is a great fun urban fantasy that is an easy read that you will not want to put down. Another great book Armstrong, can’t wait for more.

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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Alice Hunter: The Serial Killer’s Wife

In her debut novel Alice Hunter raises the question, how well do we really know the ones we love?
Tom and Beth have the perfect marriage, life and family. That is how everyone sees them, two people perfectly in love with a beautiful daughter. But all that changes one night when the police knock on their door and take Tom away for questioning in the disappearance of his previous girlfriend Katie. Beth knows Tom and know he would never hurt anyone. But as more comes to light Beth begins to question everything she knows about her husband and the life they have built. They are husband and wife, till death do us part.
I had extremely high hopes for this book, I thought it would be a different perspective, the wife's, that is not featured too often in the mystery/thriller genre. Plus answer the question how well do you know your spouse and how could you not know that they are a killer. I'm sure that is the questions the media and public ask every time a new serial killer is caught, how could the family not know. I’m sad to say I did not fully find out. I made it to 52% in my kindle and I just couldn’t read anymore. 

My main issue with this book is that in the first half of the book, nothing happens and each chapter/day seems monotonous especially after Tom is taken in for questioning for the disappearance of his formal girlfriend. I mean Beth is worried about Tom but makes no effort to see him or talk to him and her main concern is Poppy (which I don’t disagree with). Then there is her concerns about what the posh mom’s group is going to say about her and then she heads to her shop to run it. And that is about it for the first half of the book, each day the same. Yes there is one or two chapters from Tom’s POV but his main thought are they cannot know, which was intriguing but not developed further and hoping that Beth and Poppy are okay. Then a bit from Katie, Tom’s missing girlfriend, but once again not enough there to keep the story flowing and interesting.

There is just not enough in this book to keep me going. I wanted so much more from Beth as she is supposed to be the main character in this book. I wanted her to look into the details of Katie’s disappearance. I wanted her to be more involved with Tom’s lawyer (who was not very helpful to Beth) and to have her reflect on her and Tom’s relationship, could he have done it? What did she know about Katie? What had Tom told her, something, anything to pull this book along.

This book just moved too slowly for me and just became repetitive with each day from Beth’s POV. I think that Hunter had a great idea here, especially for a debut, but just lacked in the execution of the story. 

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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Michael F. Haspil: Graveyard Shift

In the first book in the new series, Michal F. Haspil adds a new warrior to the urban fantasy world, one that has been dead longer than most vampires have been alive:
Alex Menkaure, former Pharaoh and now a mummy, is now a cop in a specialized unit that deals with vampires and anything else that goes bump in the night. Alex also has a partner Marcus, a vampire, that he has worked with previously in a specialized government unit and together they are probably the best team when it is discovered that someone is poisoning the artificial blood supply. Instead of sating the vampire that drinks it, instead they enter into a blood frenzy and kill anyone who is around. Alex and Marcus need to discover the source of the poisoned blood in order to stop mayhem from erupting on the streets, but there are old and strong forces at play here, human and vampire and only one can win.
Well this was a really fun book and had me reading way past my bedtime and trying to read every extra minute that I could get, even if it was just a page or two. All the usual suspects are here with werewolves, vampires and vampires assimilating into the human world, synthetic blood and such. But where Haspil shines is with his addition of adding a Mummy into the mix, yet you read that right a Mummy. Who would have thought that would change the dynamic so much, but trust me it did. Also this was Haspil's debut novel, and it was really well done and I think the mystery aspect with the synthetic blood was fairly well developed.

Personally, I love Alex as a character and he does have some character growth in this book which is appreciated and unexpected for an individual who has walked the Earth for centuries. Haspil had such a cool, unique and different idea by bringing Egyptian culture into the paranormal one, and honestly it makes me think why it has not been done more. Haspil found such a cool way to fight vampires and really who better than someone who is powered by the Sun, the complete opposite of the Vampire life. Alex also doesn't give much of Fuck about most things, seeing as how he has lived a long time, this does make him feel like an anti-hero at times.

I think the main problem that I had with this book was that it does not read like a first book in a series. There are too many references to the past and I get that Alex and Marcus are centuries old, and there will be history there, but I think a better first novel would have been one where they were just starting out with UMBRA or still under that program. UMBRA is a government agency that they both used to be apart of toe "deal" with the emerging Vampire program, so I would have been an interesting book too. What happens in this book is that Haspil refers back to UMBRA too often (I want to say several times in each chapter) that it makes the reader feel like they are missing something, that there was a book before this one that fleshed out the relationship between Marcus and Alex more and how they both came to be police cops.

I really enjoyed this debut novel and I think that Haspil brought some fresh ideas into the urban fantasy genre. I do hope that he continues on with this series, as I know I would pick up the next one.

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Sunday, May 2, 2021

Catherine Ryan Howard: The Nothing Man

Catherine Ryan Howard takes the readers into the mind of  a serial perpetrator, The Nothing Man, where anyone could be his next victim:

 Eve Black, aged 12, was the only survivor of a serial killer attack on her family and she has made it her mission to bring the perpetrator known as The Nothing Man to justice. The problem is that there was never any clues left at any of the crimes scenes and there were often different types of crimes that were committed that the police were never sure if it was The Nothing Man or not, as one day he just stopped. Jim Doyle is the Nothing Man, and one day on shift at work he sees a book that features his name and he is compelled to buy it. The book takes him back to what he would consider his Glory Day, when he could be who he truly was. The farther that Jim reads into the book, he realizes how close Eve is and knows that she will stop at nothing to find him, unless Jim can stop her first.

I really enjoyed this book, as it was something different from an very overwhelming saturated serial killer genre. This is one of the first books that I have read in this genre where you actually know who the killer is and you get almost everything from their POV. In that way it had a true crime type of feel to it.

What sets this book part is that one of the main POV is that of the killer/rapist/assaulter and the other is that of the book that was written about him and his terror on the public many years ago. This way we get a play between the crimes that Jim committed all those years ago, him reliving them and then wanting to become that man again. As well it shows two different perspective, how the police viewed the crimes and how the perpetrator did as well, and they do not always match up.

I wish that Howard would have gotten in deeper with Jim. I felt that the chapters from Jim's POV were too short and I "understand" parts of the reasons why Jim began his other way of life, I just wanted to know more about the man, more about his past, and more about what he did to curve the urges when he stopped, as we can tell from his current day POV he still has this craving to put people who wrong him in their "place". Honestly if this was a real person he would be want by every behaviorist and forensic psychologist out there.

As we know who are killer is throughout the book, there are not as many twists and turns along the way. The main mystery in this book was were Jim and the police able to figure out who The Nothing Man was and whether he would become that man again. I would say that there were two main twists (that I was able to figure out) and a third smaller twist that I did not see coming.

This was a really enjoyable read, and I appreciated that Howard took a different approach here. There are times where serial killer books, even from different authors, follow the same format so it is refreshing to find something new. I look forward to reading another book by Howard.

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