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Category: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Review: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

[ 3 ] April 29, 2013

15729539Reviewed by Marcus Hammond

Vic McQueen had been a creative and aloof child with too much on her plate. Growing up, she had to manage a dysfunctional family life that pitted a father she adored with a mother she couldn’t communicate with. To escape the hardships Vic would lose herself in her powerful imagination. She, however, could barely understand that her powerful imagination allowed her to bend reality. This secret ability allowed her to open gateways between time and space in order to find missing items. As a child with such a remarkable gift, Vic becomes the target of the strange, child abducting, Charlie Manx. Using her wits, Vic escapes Manx’s grip and leads authorities to capture him. Her ordeal split her family and her life apart as the influence of the deadly Manx began to tear at Vic’s sanity.

As an adult, Vic tries to rediscover a normal life with her son and her former boyfriend. She tries to bury her past, including her interactions with Charlie Manx. That gets derailed, however, when Manx’s decrepit body disappears from a morgue, mid-autopsy and Vic’s son, Wayne is abducted by someone in a 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith; the car that Manx used to hunt and transport his victims to his own slice of bent reality, Christmasland.

Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 is a grisly, epic horror that keeps the reader looking over his or her shoulder throughout the entire experience. Hill mixes psychological tension, grisly violence, and well-developed characters to create an unsettling novel of supernatural suspense. Hill deftly intertwines emotional character development with shocking violence and the supernatural to make the reader feel attached and repulsed at the same time.

As I read this novel I found myself thinking about how Joe Hill has made a name for himself in the horror genre without using his father, Stephen King, to aid him. NOS4A2 is an epic piece of horror fiction, but it also resembles a changing of the guard. Hill subtly pays tribute to all the Stephen King horror stories that have influenced generations of fans through his use of similar themes and images (creepy vampires, creepy possessed cars, misunderstood youth, large dogs, etc.), yet he still finds a way to separate those themes and images into a wholly original plot line.

I enjoyed this book a great deal (insomuch as one can enjoy violence and horror). I did find the violence, at times, to be unsettling, however, Hill’s re-imagining of the vampire theme and the use of the possessed car called upon a classic horror motif that hooked me from the very beginning.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Angelopolis by Danielle Trussoni

[ 6 ] April 12, 2013

Angelopolis-Angelology-2-Danielle-TrussoniReviewed by MaryLu McFall

This extraordinary novel is the second in a trilogy about angels, the likes of which you’ll never meet. If you did, you wouldn’t recognize them. Verlaine, one of the two main characters, can recognize them. He is now an official angelologist, sworn to kill them. He met the other main character, Evangeline, in the first novel. She is again present to tempt him, but strangely slippery and not a main focus of the plot.

The thrust of Angelopolis is different from the first one. In one interview the author stated that the sequel has more action. It does indeed. However, that is one of the two weaknesses of this book. Verlaine seems inept in his ability to manage the retrieval of his weapon from whatever device he carries it in, and when he gets close to his prey (oddly enough they don’t seem to worry that he’s there) he cannot manage to capture the beast.

These angels are truly beasts. They are portrayed as sadistic, immoral, beautiful, awe-inspiring, and they are pursuing a variety of agendas – definitely not the will of whatever God rules this reality. These are not your childhood angels, although their names are familiar. Most of them.

The action begins in Paris. A mutilated body is discovered and Verlaine fears it is Evangeline. The last time he saw her was ten years ago, and much has changed since then. We are never told what she had been doing with her angel self in all that time. He has become an angel hunter, but he is not your typical action figure. It’s not my intent to disparage these fascinating protagonists. But, believe me, the author stretches one’s ability to suspend disbelief. Particularly in one scene where Verlaine and two other angel hunters are involved with a moving train. Really?

The second weakness is Trussoni’s tendency to use her characters to give us lectures on art, history, and the inside scoop on historical personages (rulers with nasty genetic makeups). To give her credit, the characters keep you reading and you will be taken on a literary trip from Paris to Russia, home of the Faberge Eggs, true art for art’s sake. Eight of the original eggs are missing, but the plot and search to find them leads us onward. One of them is on the cover and its beauty is undeniable.

Verlaine and Bruno are both obsessed with hunting and killing angels, as the society/agency they work for intends to wipe them out. They are personally obsessed with their own secret longings for Eno (Bruno’s wicked angel who works for the Gregori) and Evangeline (who seems to be on her own throughout—until…), Verlaine’s love object. The sexuality of these two angels is described often enough that the reader could probably recognize them—if they were real, that is.

Angels have become outrageous in their ability to live among humans and be ignored or simply accepted as part of the on-going tendency of humans toward eccentricity. One after another, the angels reflect the flaws in humans. Perhaps that’s what you get when you are a fallen angel, or your genetic makeup is a combination of angel and human. The Watchers are again part of the plot, which becomes truly twisted toward the end of the book.

I hesitate to say it, but reading this fantasy is a four star experience. It will, however, make the back of your neck prickly.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

MaryLu McFall is the author of A Little Karmic Murder, an eBook that is available on Kindle, Nook, and all other electronic readers. She lives, works part-time at an independent bookstore, and will soon have her Young Adult novel, The Family Lancaster, published as an eBook as well.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Viking Adult. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Angelguard by Ian Acheson

[ 4 ] April 8, 2013

9781782640028Reviewed by Marcus Hammond

On three separate continents, unsuspecting people go about their daily lives. They take their families on vacations, to soccer matches, and go about their days like normal. As they enjoy the normalcy of the day a sinister plot begins to unfold. Angelguard by Ian Acheson begins with three devastating bomb attacks on highly populated areas of London, Sydney, and Los Angeles and slowly develops into an inspirational and spiritual action/mystery that shows the power prayer can have on even the worst of situations.

Leopold Grosch, a multi-billionaire industrialist, hatches a plot to bring the world to its knees through a series of overwhelmingly violent terrorist attacks. He, however, could not foresee the role a group of survivors from the first three bombings and their angelic guardians would have in foiling his plans for global dominance.

The plot of the novel places the power of faith and prayer in direct contrast to the evil that is perpetrated throughout the world. Jack Haines, the main protagonist of the story loses several family members in one of the first terrorist attacks. He, through the power of his own faith in God and his mother’s dedicated prayers, finds the strength to move forward with his life. In doing so, he finds himself uncovering Grosch’s final plot to attack the G8 Summit in Berlin, Germany.

The novel has a good message as seen through the various characters’ selflessness and faith that God will provide for them. The added supernatural element that is supplied by having an unseen world of angels and demons fighting each other in support of the major characters is also entertaining. The two biggest issues with this novel, which can be found in the forced and slowly developing dialogue and Acheson’s attempt to keep the story fairly clean, while trying to describe pure evil, completely derail the enjoyment. As evidence of these two issues, the good characters are often found committed to (at times) lengthy prayers for help and expressing themselves through exclamations of “gosh, golly, gee!”, while the evil characters portray a desire to murder, rape, and in one specific section demean a character through the use of a racial epithet. This stark and unnecessary contrast feels forced and unnatural in a novel about the power and inspiration that prayer and faith can have in one’s life. Overall, I enjoyed small parts of this novel, but felt the dialogue and extreme characterizations of evil completely derailed the intended objective.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Ian Acheson. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Evidence of Life by Barbara Taylor Sissel

[ 2 ] March 27, 2013

evidence-of-life-225Reviewed by Krystal Larson

Have you ever had one of those days when you felt as if that day was one of the happiest of your life…and then it all went down the drain? Imagine the pain, sadness, and embarrassment that you would feel and you’ll know what it’s like to be in Abby’s shoes.

Abby has gone from “on top of the world” to “down in the dumps.” She was on a simple vacation with her husband and daughter when a storm ripped through the area; her husband and daughter disappeared. Naturally, everyone presumes that her family has died, but Abby holds out hope that she might be reunited with them despite the odds. As Abby searches for clues about her family’s disappearance, she discovers that she didn’t know her husband as well as she thought she did and that their married life was somewhat of a mirage. She finds a few stand-out facts and items that lead her down a path she never thought she would take. Can Abby face the truth? What *is* the truth?

Evidence of Life examines how well married couples know each other and their relationship with each other. The reader will get a chance to delve deep into Abby’s memories, hopes, and fears. Her character is integral to the understanding of the novel itself and the main point of view presented to the reader. Her determination to find her family is admirable; she truly loves her daughter and, despite the odds, her husband. The reader will be rooting for Abby like I did when I was turning the pages. The other characters all have a specific part in the novel that is difficult to guess at. Lindsey, Abby’s daughter, is the typical American girl; how does she factor into the mystery? What sort of secrets was Nick, Abby’s supposedly devoted husband, keeping? The characters vary from supporting characters to those that provide the reader with little extra tidbits of information.

The plot itself isn’t the most original in the world, but author Barbara Taylor Sissel managed to capture and hold the my attention through vivid twists and turns. Sissel describes the setting and characters very well – to the point where I could actually picture them in my head. I did enjoy the mystery aspect of the book the most, as well as the secrets that a marriage hides. This book brought up questions that I normally wouldn’t have thought of and left me with questions even after the last page. Evidence of Life is recommended to adult readers.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Krystal is a young college student who loves meeting new authors and finding great books! Her favorite place to read is the Botanic Gardens.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Meryl L. Moss Media Relations. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour: Seduction by M.J. Rose

[ 4 ] March 24, 2013

SeductionPlease welcome M.J. Rose, author of Seduction, as she tours the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours!

Reviewed by Sara Drake

Novelist Victor Hugo’s daughter dies tragically and the author’s grief drives him to increased experimentation with spiritualism. His need to contact the spirits of the dead brings him into contact with Lucifer, the Devil, the evil of many names. In modern times, an emotionally broken young mythologist comes to help seek for the lost journal of Hugo’s detailing his dealings with the devil. Jac has a history of mental illness and no idea how this quest for Victor’s journal among Celtic remains will affect the rest of her life.

Seduction blends Victor’s story from the 1800s and Jac’s story in the modern world. Rose does a wonderful job entwining the two tales together until they become one, each one accentuating the other. The book has been labeled as suspense, though I honestly did not get that feel from it. Instead, the story’s paranormal elements mixed with historical elements gave it a diverse feel, hard to neatly categorize.

My first complaint is the number of psychological terms used inappropriately or which do not exist. I know, it’s a personal problem. I am in the middle of a PhD program for psychology and am probably a little hypersensitive. As this is fiction, I would not mind the author making psychological disorders and terms up if the terms were better explained. The depiction of Jungian psychology and therapy were fairly fascinating; however, I am not sure how much of it a reader would be able to follow without more details being given. Plus, her therapist was just creepy. It’s unethical to have a personal relationship with someone currently in therapy and looked down upon afterwards.

My second complaint stems from the pacing of the plot. I did not feel any suspense and felt like the story meandered through to its completion without much sense of urgency. The conclusion felt rushed and incomplete. I did not see how the resolution actually made any difference. The few things that had been building up, slightly, seemed to just disappear. Add one small dose of knowledge and all the problems are done, book over. I felt cheated. I made it through the entire book, actually found myself curious about an item or two, and got little in the way of a real ending.

I enjoyed aspects of the book. The characters all felt multidimensional and I quickly grew very fond of Jac. The secondary characters all shared a great deal of depth and all fascinated me. I kept reading for the characters, curious to see where they would end up.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

About the author

M.J. Rose is the international best selling author of eleven novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the ’80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors – The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose’s novels in the Renincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and runs the blog- Buzz, Balls & Hype. She is also the co-founder of and

Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.

For more information on M.J. Rose and her novels, please visit her WEBSITE. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Sara Drake has been an avid reader since a young age. She has both a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and a Master’s in History.

Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Atria Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: A Plain Scandal by Amanda Flower

[ 2 ] March 24, 2013

Fall landscapeReviewed by Charity Lyman

I have to tell you, A Plain Scandal is one of the best Amish mysteries I have ever read. A Plain Scandal is the second installment in the Appleseed Creek Mystery series and even though I have yet to read the first one, it is now on my wish list.

This story once again centers around Chloe. She is an Englischer who is a computer specialist turned small-scale detective. If you have read the first book you will recognize many of the same characters but you will also be introduced to some new faces. The small town of Appleseed Creek is under attack. From people who are not only cutting off the men’s beards and the ladies’ long hair, but are also in the habit of murdering Amish men. There are a lot of things dealt with in this book including the customs of the Amish. Granted, they are different, but at the same time you have to respect their traditions and opinions.

I personally fell in love with Chloe. Not only is she trying to work things out with her Amish neighbors, but she happens to be in love with an ex-Amish man, Timothy. Of course, he is very sweet as well. I had to laugh at the cat, Gigabyte! Only a computer techie would name their cat that. Another favorite was Chief Rose. The woman chief has her hands full trying to figure out who killed these men while also deciphering who is telling the truth or speaking a lie.

Overall, A Plain Scandal is a very good cozy mystery that leaves you breathless to figure out who-dun-it. You get little clues along the way and you think you have everything figured out but then all of a sudden you find out that you were wrong. A little bit of romance is included but is not a big part of the story. Great plot and likable characters will leave you waiting for the next installment, A Plain Disappearance. This was an excellent introduction to Amanda Flower’s works and I will definitely be on the lookout for her other books.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Charity lives in Illinois and is the oldest of 6 children. The family also has 3 dogs and a cat. Reading is a hobby when not cooking, baking, sewing or enjoying music. She reads many different genres but Christian fiction is a favorite. Charity can be found often at her blog, Giveaway Lady

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Amanda Flower. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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