Book Reviews: Day Shift by Charlaine Harris and Lowcountry Boneyard by Susan M. Boyer

Day ShiftDay Shift
A Novel of Midnight, Texas #2
Charlaine Harris
Ace Books, May 2015
ISBN 978-0-425-26319-8
Hardcover

From the publisher—

There is no such thing as bad publicity, except in Midnight, Texas, where the residents like to keep to themselves. Even in a town full of secretive people, Olivia Charity is an enigma. She lives with the vampire Lemuel, but no one knows what she does; they only know that she’s beautiful and dangerous.

Psychic Manfred Bernardo finds out just how dangerous when he goes on a working weekend to Dallas and sees Olivia there with a couple who are both found dead the next day. To make matters worse, one of Manfred’s regular—and very wealthy—clients dies during a reading.

Manfred returns from Dallas embroiled in scandal and hounded by the press. He turns to Olivia for help; somehow he knows that the mysterious Olivia can get things back to normal. As normal as things get in Midnight…

It’s practically impossible for Charlaine Harris to disappoint me so I can really only say one thing negative about Day Shift—it’s not my favorite of all her work. You could look at it another way, that this falls behind such series as Sookie Stackhouse, Harper Connelly, Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard, not to mention various non-series books. However, placing it behind all those other Harris books that I love so much doesn’t exactly say it’s no good, now does it? Let’s face it, the woman can’t be perfect ALL the time, just close to it 😉

Midnight, Texas, is a most unusual place as are its inhabitants. In fact, psychic Manfred Bernardo is probably a tad more normal than some but he certainly never expects to find Olivia in a deadly situation or, worse yet, himself. It’s Olivia the town turns to in hopes of solving the case and returning Midnight to its usual obscurity when the ravenous press follows Manfred home. In the meantime, there is a lot of mystery surrounding the renovation of an old hotel into a home for some senior citizens and lodging for temporary workers. Why anybody would want to open such a place in this dusty little town is a matter for much conjecture and some alarm.

As can be anticipated in any Charlaine Harris book, there’s a good deal of humor in Day Shift along with the relatively slight mysteries and the various characters are all a tad strange and very interesting. All that aside, I didn’t quite connect with the players or the story but it’s my own fault for not reading the first book before this one. Normally, reading out of order doesn’t bother me in the least but it was a mistake this time so I caution readers new to the series—read Midnight Crossroad first. I intend to rectify my error forthwith 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2015.

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Lowcountry BoneyardLowcountry Boneyard
A Liz Talbot Mystery #3
Susan M. Boyer
Henery Press, April 2015
ISBN 978-1-941962-47-3
Trade Paperback
Also available in hardcover

From the publisher—

Where is Kent Heyward? The twenty-three-year-old heiress from one of Charleston’s oldest families vanished a month ago. When her father hires private investigator Liz Talbot, Liz suspects the most difficult part of her job will be convincing the patriarch his daughter tired of his overbearing nature and left town. That’s what the Charleston Police Department believes.

But behind the garden walls South of Broad, family secrets pop up like weeds in the azaleas. The neighbors recollect violent arguments between Kent and her parents. Eccentric twin uncles and a gaggle of cousins covet the family fortune. And the lingering spirit of a Civil-War-era debutante may know something if Colleen, Liz’s dead best friend, can get her to talk.

Liz juggles her case, the partner she’s in love with, and the family she adores. But the closer she gets to what has become of Kent, the closer Liz dances to her own grave.

I’m drawn to crime fiction set in the South, partly because I’m a Southerner myself but also because there’s a certain “feel” that makes such books just a little more interesting to me. Can’t identify or explain it; it’s just there. Whatever my nebulous reasons might be, Lowcountry Boneyard and Susan M. Boyer did not let me down.

Liz Talbot is a woman who knows who she is besides being really good at what she does so she gives the impression from the beginning that she will, indeed, get to the bottom of the task in hand. In this case, the disappearance of a wealthy society girl will lead Liz and her significant other and partner, Nate Andrews, in a number of different directions and there is no shortage of dark secrets in Kent Heyward’s family. Twists and turns abound before Liz will ultimately find herself in grave jeopardy.

I truly enjoyed this third book in Ms. Boyer‘s series (having read the first, Lowcountry Boil, a few years ago) and Liz is a woman I’d like to have as a real-life friend but Colleen, Liz’s long-deceased best friend, appealed to me the most. She’s a ghost who proves herself to be helpful when needed but also adds a humorous touch, especially when she shows up in unexpected places. Still, Colleen should be considered the invaluable third investigator on the team.

This is one of those series that can be read out of order if need be although, naturally, it’s probably best not to. I didn’t feel there were gaping holes because I hadn’t read the second book but I do intend to go get it; that will tide me over till Lowcountry Bordello comes out in November.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2015.

Book Review: Release by Nicole Hadaway

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Release by Nicole Hadaway
Publication date: January 4th, 2013
by Visionary Press Cooperative
Genre: Adult Paranormal Fantasy
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Goodreads
 
Purchase Links:
Amazon               Barnes & Noble

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ReleaseRelease
Tales From the Dandridge Estate Book 1
Nicole Hadaway
Visionary Press Cooperative, January 2013
Ebook
Also available in Trade Paperback
ISBN 978-1482525946

From the publisher—

“The ends justify the means”…

For vampire Miranda Dandridge, using her supernatural abilities to rescue children from impossible circumstances is her means to be a part of the human world that she loves so much, despite the atrocities of WWII.

For doctor Ben Gongliewski, saving his fellow Jews from the horrific death camps is an end for which he risks his own life every day, hiding his Jewish heritage while feigning loyalty the SS.

Neither Miranda nor Ben expects to find love in World War II Europe, but that is exactly what happens as they work for the Resistance. When the war draws to a close, it seems like the vampire and the doctor are free to start a future together. But just how far the Nazis will go to further their own evil ends?

Desperate times make for ruthless men as loves and lives are threatened, but, Miranda and Ben know that their world cannot go to hell, not by any means…

Wanted: a vampire, a demon and a werewolf willing to become heroes. Sparklies need not apply.

Whoa. Release is not like any other supernatural story I’ve ever read. How is it possible to reconcile the vicious behavior of these creatures with their desire to help save one human at a time from an evil that’s worse than their own? And yet, there it is, and I applaud this author for taking a brilliant idea and bringing it to life.

Miranda Dandridge is the most empathetic vampire I can recall, especially one that is every bit as bloodthirsty as a vampire can be. (Take special note of her origins—that’s a fascinating history in itself.) It’s really intriguing to see how Mirrie is able to reconcile her essence with the compassion she has towards humans and the love that develops between her and Ben Gongliewski, the Jewish doctor she works with in the Polish Resistance. Even the joy she takes in the seemingly simple act of shapeshifting and then taking wing has a poetry of its own.

Miranda’s friends, the demon named Vanessa and young Rose, cursed with being a werewolf, are sympathetic characters whose natures are at odds with their behavior and I found them to be just as appealing as Miranda and Ben, Vanessa in particular. That in itself is a wondrous thing, that Nicole Hadaway could imbue them with so much heart. There are a lot of other characters including Miranda’s brother, Cray, and a variety of supernaturals and humans, and many of them have just as much presence as Miranda and Ben. If I have any quibble with the author’s character development, it’s that there really are too many of them and it was not always immediately apparent whose voice I was hearing. Despite that, I appreciated the use of third person as it made for a much fuller understanding of the story.

As for plot development, this is probably Ms. Hadaway’s strength. Most people who know a little or a lot about the European theater of World War II and the Holocaust are very familiar with the French Resistance but here we learn about the Polish Resistance along with the horrors suffered by the Jews as well as homosexuals and other disfavored segments of society. While I’m sure the author has taken some historical liberties, following this particular path brought a fresh aspect to a story that must never be forgotten.

It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that a book involving supernatural beings with the Holocaust is at best disrespectful and perhaps even taking unjust advantage of a terrible time in history for entertainment purposes but that’s really not the case with Release. Are there flaws? Of course there are and most important in my opinion is overuse of dialogue so that the pace was slowed and the reader is told too much rather than experiencing along with the players. All in all, though, Nicole Hadaway is to be commended for a job most definitely well done.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2013.

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EXCERPT

There was no way Neil was going to get messed with tonight.  He hadn’t made it through this war, with its air raids, rations, and the threat of Nazi invasions only to meet his end by some crazy on a back street of London.  No sir, not tonight.  Especially not on New Year’s Eve.

Neil made two moves at the same time.  He turned to run – he was a pretty fast runner, and had kept in shape.  He also pulled out his pocketknife, and opened up the blade.  He didn’t want to get into a fight; it had been ages since he’d been in one, and with his right hand, he was well aware of his handicap.  But just in case…

Neil’s foot had barely touched the pavement when he was stopped dead in his tracks again, as there was now another man, who must have been standing behind him this whole time.  A blonde man this time, with pale skin, yet very dark, almost black eyes.  A Nazi – oh my God, they’ve made it here! He thought in a panic.  Before he could think of his next move, the man opened his mouth and, speaking English without any accent asked, “Hey Cray – how much longer?  Daylight’s not too far away,” he called out.

“Awww, Denny, relax! They’re on double daylight savings time here,” an amused voice called out from behind Neil.

Neil heard a whoosh of air and before he could turn around, he felt a hand on his shoulder.

He followed the hand on his shoulder, and found himself staring into pale blue eyes.  Eyes that seemed to bore into Neil, forcing him to drop the knife, which he’d been holding out poised to strike.  The man reached over with his other hand and took the knife, tossing it to the side, saying, “You won’t be needing this, friend.  We’ve our own ways of getting your flesh and blood.”

Neil knew he should have been afraid – he was afraid – but he couldn’t move; for some reason, he was rooted to his spot.  One side of his brain screamed fight, fight, fight! But another part of him just wouldn’t allow it.  Maybe it was because he knew the man was strong and he could feel that his shoulder might break from the crazy man’s grip.

It did break.  Neil heard a loud snap! and felt the pain shoot forth from his shoulder down his arm and across his chest.  Through the pain, he thought he heard someone say, “Sorry chum, but I like it when the marrow gets into the blood, with the adrenaline.  Makes it tastier.”

Neil tried to scream, but something was at his throat, almost strangling him.  He felt the fire of his shoulder meld with the burning at his throat.  All he could do was look up, into the street lamp, and into the white light that quickly engulfed his entire body.

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AUTHOR INFORMATION

Nicole Hadaway

As a lawyer, Nicole Hadaway knows all about bloodsuckers and deals with the devil.

She currently lives in Texas where she pens such tales involving the supernatural,

featuring her heroine, the vampire Miranda Dandridge.

Author Links:
Website: http://dandridgehouse.blogspot.ca/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3100376.Nicole_Hadaway
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TalesFromTheDandridgeEstate

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Book Review: Trapped by Kevin Hearne

TrappedTrapped
The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book Five
Kevin Hearne
Del Rey, November 2012
ISBN 978-0-345-53364-7
Mass Market Paperback
Random House Audio, November 2012
Narrated by Luke Daniels
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book

From the publisher—

After twelve years of secret training, Atticus O’Sullivan is finally ready to bind his apprentice, Granuaile, to the earth and double the number of Druids in the world. But on the eve of the ritual, the world that thought he was dead abruptly discovers that he’s still alive, and they would much rather he return to the grave.
 
Having no other choice, Atticus, his trusted Irish wolfhound, Oberon, and Granuaile travel to the base of Mount Olympus, where the Roman god Bacchus is anxious to take his sworn revenge—but he’ll have to get in line behind an ancient vampire, a band of dark elves, and an old god of mischief, who all seem to have KILL THE DRUID at the top of their to-do lists.

Sometimes, nothing will suit my reading mood except a fun story and Kevin Hearne is one of my favorite go-to authors for that. The whole idea of Atticus being a 2000-year-old druid, the last remaining, is wonderful but it’s even better that he passes for 21 (in the first book), he’s never short of funds, he swings a mean sword, he has a fabulous Irish wolfhound named Oberon and he’s just plain awesome. I love this line from a Publishers Weekly review of an earlier book—

“Hearne, a self-professed comic-book nerd, has turned his love of awesome dudes whacking mightily at evil villains into a superb urban fantasy debut.”

That pretty much sums up how I feel about The Iron Druid Chronicles and I dread to think of it’s inevitable end (as of right now, it seems there will be nine novels). No need to worry about that right now, though, because I have Trapped to savor and at least one more novel and novella and a handful of short stories to go later this year. As for this installment, I love it just a teensy bit less than the first four books and the novella preceding this one. Why do I say that when I’m such a fan of Atticus, Granuaile and Oberon? There are two issues that detracted from the pure joy I usually find in Hearne‘s writing.

First, there are too many characters. As for actual count, I didn’t bother with being THAT obsessive about it and there may be no more than in Hammered with all its Norse gods, frost giants, demon hunters, etc., but Trapped somehow seems more populated and I found it a bit difficult to keep them all straight. The second thing is there were a few passages of an educational bent that reminded me too much of a classroom seminar.

Oh, one other thing—not enough Oberon! OK, his amount of page time may have been appropriate for the story but there’s just no such thing as too much Oberon if you ask me. You’d have to have the humor of a rock not to laugh out loud when Oberon gives Atticus the sex talk or when he claims he should be knighted Sir Oberon for his literary achievements  😉 By the way, if you’re new to the series, Oberon and Atticus have quite lively conversations but it’s all between the two of them, made possible by the fact that…duh…Atticus is a druid and he can do cool stuff like that.

Still and all, I love that the supernatural world has discovered the big secret, that Atticus is alive, and now there are a whole lot of supes out to get him. You can’t help thinking he’s ticked off an awful lot of these guys over the centuries and you also can’t help thinking that his band of himself, a dog and a sort of girlfriend are a very small army. How is he going to get himself out of this colossal mess?

Despite the few shortcomings I’ve mentioned, I still love Trapped, so much that I read it twice, once in egalley form and then the audio book edition. Why? It’s quite simple, really—Luke Daniels is one of the best narrators in the business and he’s just plain brilliant with The Iron Druid Chronicles. I always know which character is speaking and, quite honestly, all he has to do is say one word in Oberon’s voice and I’m in hysterics.

So, looking for a fun read? You can’t do better than this but, if you haven’t read the earlier books, you really should start at the beginning with Hounded and get caught up in time for Hunted this June. By the way, if you want a little taste, head on over to Mr. Hearne‘s website and you’ll find a couple of free short stories (but no promises they’ll be there forever).

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2013.

Sir Oberon Getting His Knighthood

Sir Oberon Getting His Knighthood

Book Review: Hellbent by Cherie Priest

Hellbent
Cherie Priest
Spectra, September 2011
ISBN 978-345-52062-3
Trade Paperback

Cherie Priest has joined my short list of automatic buys, whether she’s writing a new zombie thriller or an urban fantasy/paranormal featuring Raylene Pendle, vampire and thief.

Raylene thinks she’s a real bad-ass, and so she is. She’s all that and more, although as her list of housemates grows to include not only the homeless orphan human kids, Pepper and her brother Domino, but the blind vampire Ian Stott, and Adrian deJesus, ex-Navy SEAL drag queen, you’ve gotta wonder if she’s got a live, beating heart.

This adventure has Raylene’s business associate, Horace, cutting her in on a deal worth millions. All she had to do is steal some outrageous magical artifacts (you’ll laugh your head off when you find out what they are) from some old guy in the suburbs. The trouble is, a powerful magician is after the same artifacts, and it looks like Raylene and she will have to duke it out to gain possessiom. Not so easy, even with Adrian’s help.

At the same time, Raylene has to intercede on Ian’s behalf in a feud between hostile vampire “houses’, then convince his family he’s…er…dead. And, oh yes, try to rescue Adrian’s deaf vampire sister, while she’s at it.

Often hilarious, full of action and great characters, Hellbent is another terrific read. I can’t wait for the next book to see who else Raylene’s gonna add to her household. I just hope they all like kittens.

Reviewed by C.K.Crigger, September 2011.

Book Review: The President’s Vampire by Christopher Farnsworth

The President’s Vampire
Christopher Farnsworth
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, May 2011
ISBN 978-0-399-15739-4
Hardcover (ARC)

Cade and Barrow are back, once again fighting creatures that one never encounters in even the most comprehensive zoo.  Barrow refers to these monsters as Snakeheads, although they are really some kind of combination of human, reptile, and amphibian.  They seem to be a man-made mutation of something that has existed in legend and folklore for centuries.

Cade has encountered the Snakeheads before, and it’s not a fond memory for him.  He knows that what he is dealing with now is harder to kill.  It also has a new way of propagating – the bite of a Snakehead transmits enough of the virus to make a new Snakehead.  A new Snakehead is a ravenous Snakehead.

This mission is a joint one, against the better judgment of both Cade and Barrow.  They don’t have a choice on this one.  The CIA is just as unhappy about sharing the mission.  Everyone from the CIA seems hardwired to distrust everything and everyone, including their own team.  Cade has been around too long to believe anything that comes out of the mouth of a spook.  Barrow is learning, but hasn’t gotten over that male propensity to think with the wrong head sometimes.

The imminent threat is the Snakeheads.  The long-term and far more dangerous problem is the person creating the Snakeheads.  This is where the conspiracy theorists will have themselves a wonderful time.  So plausible in some ways, so incredibly unlikely at the core – all grist for that mill.

Farnsworth has written a very good second novel, building on all that was good in Blood Oath.  His characters, for the most part, grow and mature (although that is difficult in a vampire).  His monsters are truly horrific.  The man behind it all gives “sick and twisted” a whole new meaning.  I can hardly wait to see what’s next.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, March 2011.

Book Review: The President's Vampire by Christopher Farnsworth

The President’s Vampire
Christopher Farnsworth
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, May 2011
ISBN 978-0-399-15739-4
Hardcover (ARC)

Cade and Barrow are back, once again fighting creatures that one never encounters in even the most comprehensive zoo.  Barrow refers to these monsters as Snakeheads, although they are really some kind of combination of human, reptile, and amphibian.  They seem to be a man-made mutation of something that has existed in legend and folklore for centuries.

Cade has encountered the Snakeheads before, and it’s not a fond memory for him.  He knows that what he is dealing with now is harder to kill.  It also has a new way of propagating – the bite of a Snakehead transmits enough of the virus to make a new Snakehead.  A new Snakehead is a ravenous Snakehead.

This mission is a joint one, against the better judgment of both Cade and Barrow.  They don’t have a choice on this one.  The CIA is just as unhappy about sharing the mission.  Everyone from the CIA seems hardwired to distrust everything and everyone, including their own team.  Cade has been around too long to believe anything that comes out of the mouth of a spook.  Barrow is learning, but hasn’t gotten over that male propensity to think with the wrong head sometimes.

The imminent threat is the Snakeheads.  The long-term and far more dangerous problem is the person creating the Snakeheads.  This is where the conspiracy theorists will have themselves a wonderful time.  So plausible in some ways, so incredibly unlikely at the core – all grist for that mill.

Farnsworth has written a very good second novel, building on all that was good in Blood Oath.  His characters, for the most part, grow and mature (although that is difficult in a vampire).  His monsters are truly horrific.  The man behind it all gives “sick and twisted” a whole new meaning.  I can hardly wait to see what’s next.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, March 2011.

Book Review: Murder in Vein by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Murder in Vein
Sue Ann Jaffarian
Midnight Ink, September 2010
ISBN 0738723118
Trade Paperback

Somehow, helping vampires catch a rogue of their own isn’t quite what Madison Rose had in mind when she left Boise for L.A.  Apparently, there is a lot more going on in L.A. than most people realize.  The vampire culture is more prevalent than we suspect, and that’s just how the vampires like it.  The vampires are quite happy that there is a large supply of wanna-bes, aching to serve on the off-chance a conversion will be their reward.  They just want people to be discreet.  This is becoming difficult, since someone is killing people in a way guaranteed to draw attention to the culture.

Madison is rescued from almost certain death by two vampires, and ends up working as their Renfield, helping them figure out who is killing people and why.  The Dedhams are cooperating with a policeman, who is working secretly because there is a confessed murderer in custody.  The Dedhams and the detective don’t believe this guy is the killer and they want to find the real one before things get really bad.

Murder in Vein is the first in a new series for Jaffarian; it should do well.  The characters are good, the plot is good, and the vampire theme is quite hot right now.  Madison Rose is a woman with a bit of a past, working on changing her life.  Working for vampires is a departure for her, and it should be interesting to see where this new life takes her.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, June 2010.