Review: Jackaby ~ William Ritter

JackabyISBN ~ 978-1616203535
Publisher ~ Algonquin Young Readers
No. Of Pages ~ 299 pages
Links ~ Algonquin Young Readers, Barnes & Noble,

“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion–and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

5 Thumbs-UpThis is the first one in a series and, when I realised it was aimed at the young reader market it made me come to the conclusion that all hope of ever finding a good read in this genre is not dead.

The Author certainly has a way with words, and a wonderful way of using them.  This becomes apparent from the first character introduction he writes.  Not only does he make his characters three-dimensional and interesting from the very first meeting, but he manages to keep this standard up and apply it to all subsequent characters that appear throughout the book.  It may be wrong of me but, as the title of the book suggests, Jackaby is not the only front and centre main protagonist in this novel; his assistant takes equal footing as the story progresses and, in some places outshines Jackaby.  When this happens it doesn’t read as if the Author ran out of steam as far as Jackaby was concerned, but rather embraced the ebb and flow of real life into the plot that makes it inevitable that lead roles will change.  The description of our title character, and his actions, had me swinging between wondering if he was truly the genius he purported to be and also trying to figure out how he had evaded being consigned to the nearest asylum long before the story takes place.  His assistant on the other hand shows all the traits and stubbornness that many young women were feeling in this time period, and went to extraordinary lengths to stretch those newly discovered wings.  I particularly liked with her character the way in which the Author had her determined in her path but at times interspersed this with a glimpse at the closeted lifestyle she had left behind.  In the supporting cast of characters, some of whom I do hope will appear in future instalments, they too were treated with as much care and consideration as the main characters.  Do I have a favourite in all those presented to me within this novel’s pages?  I certainly do, and I would have to say there wasn’t one that I didn’t like.

With as much care as he put into his characters, this Author sets the locations and events within the book.  He pulls on the weather and lifestyles of the period to create atmosphere and suspense in a way that I can honestly say I haven’t seen in a YA book before.  The Author manages to blend the thought processes of Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Harry Dresden together in a seamless manner; the end result being something that really shouldn’t work producing a whole new way to look at the world of detection.  There is no wasted area in the book, as scenes visited early on come back at some point to play an integral part of the plot; the result of this is an engrossing read that will pull you into the mystery from the very first chapters.

I would highly recommend this book to readers of all ages, not just those in the aimed demographic, and also anyone who enjoys any of the characters mentioned in the previous paragraph.  Will I read anymore by this Author?  Definitely, I am already halfway through book two in the series.

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Review: The Witch’s Ladder (Tony Marcella Mystery #1) ~ Dana E. Donovan

witch's ladderISBN ~ 978-1492139720
Publisher ~ CreateSpace
No. Of Pages ~ 292 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes and Noble

A group of individuals proficient in the psychic academia of clairvoyance, mental telepathy and bilocation, working to understand life’s most unusual secrets soon realize that even their abilities of mind over matter can’t save them from the blade of the surgeon stalker.

4 Thumbs-UpI didn’t realise when I read this book, and found out only when I started writing my review that this is the first of, what is currently a series of eleven books.  However, don’t let that put you off from reading it, even if you’re not looking for another long series to take up your time, this book works very well as a standalone.

Not the usual run of the mill paranormal murder mystery, this one reads more like a novel from an earlier time, with character back story being kept to a minimum and the main focus concentrating on the murder mystery at hand.  This really doesn’t spoil the book in any way though and, in my opinion added to making it a fast paced summer read, just right for these hot July days.  The Author manages to tease the reader with just enough information about the main protagonist, Tony Marcella as mentioned in the title, to make the reader perhaps want to read more the books to discover what makes this man tick.  Far from being the jaded, coming up to retirement detective readers so often come across in this type of book, I felt that there was an underlying mystery to the man himself and this in itself has made me want to read more in this series to see if my suspicions may be right.

The book is very descriptive when it comes to the actual murders themselves, so if you have a squeamish disposition or don’t like overly graphic murders in your reading material, this may not be the book for you.  In regards to the plot line though, it is full of twists and turns and definitely keeps the reader guessing.  There were several points where I thought I had it all figured out, only for the Author to take my deductions and dash them to pieces with the turn of a page.

My reasoning for this book only getting a 4 thumb review; there were several typos and grammatical errors that I felt should have been corrected by a good proof-reader and, if missed by them any editor worth their salt should have picked them up they were so obvious.  This spoilt the book in some parts for me, as I found myself having to re-read a paragraph to really understand what the Author was trying to get across.

Despite the errors it was a good read, not my usual genre as I tend to find paranormal books a bit sparkly for me, and I would recommend this book to anyone, even those like myself who are not into this genre.

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Review: Guilty Pleasures (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #1) ~ Laurell K. Hamilton

Guilty PleasuresISBN ~ 978-0425197547
Publisher ~  Berkley Trade
No. Of Pages ~ 355 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Guilty Pleasures

Anita Blake may be small and young, but vampires call her the Executioner. Anita is a necromancer and vampire hunter in a time when vampires are protected by law—as long as they don’t get too nasty. Now someone’s killing innocent vampires and Anita agrees—with a bit of vampiric arm-twisting—to help figure out who and why.

Trust is a luxury Anita can’t afford when her allies aren’t human. The city’s most powerful vampire, Nikolaos, is 1,000 years old and looks like a 10-year-old girl. The second most powerful vampire, Jean-Claude, is interested in more than just Anita’s professional talents, but the feisty necromancer isn’t playing along—yet.

4 Thumbs-UpI had this book recommended to me, and I have to admit I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to read it; after all it has a romantic overtone to it, contains vampires and well just isn’t my usual read or even one I would have thought to pick up.  In this case I am glad I did as despite being classified as romance, it really wasn’t at all.

The main protagonist is the Anita Blake mentioned in the title of this review, and I thoroughly enjoyed her and her character make up immensely.  She is a strong-willed woman, very independent and has a sarcastic tongue that really helped me connect with her.  She has flaws too, she is judgmental and extremely abrasive but these only add to her appeal and make her a character that both male and female readers can get to grips with, even if they cannot relate to her.  I found it absolutely hilarious, and like so many people I know to discover that this character had never developed a working filter between her brain and her mouth.  Through great descriptive writing I was able to build an image of this main lead in my mind’s eye, and this is something that some Authors are unable to do.  All the other characters are treated with equal measure in this book, and are all given their personalities and flaws that the reader will either be drawn to, or dislike instantly.

This book is a quick read and, although gory at times, well it does contain vampires so go figure, it is full of mystery and irreverent humour.  However, I have to mention as a warning to those sensitive souls out there that the Author has managed to include a great deal of implied and actual eroticism in the storyline, so if this is not for you I would advise you to give the book a miss.  My reason for the 4 thumbs review was the dialogue, and I felt at time that the Author was trying to see how many times they could have the speaker use the interlocutor’s name; another reason is that although this is a darned good read it would never go down in the annals of classic writing and, if you want to enjoy them but don’t want to be seen doing so it would be a book to hide in something more ‘high brow’.

As for me I’ll definitely be reading some more in this series and I would highly recommend this book to any reader is looking for a light read, but one that has some substance to it.

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Review: The Judas Chronicles: The First Three Books (The Judas Chronicles #1-3) ~ Aiden James

judasASIN ~ B00CHPQAV4
Publisher ~ Aiden James Fiction
No. Of Pages ~ 466 Pages
Links ~ Amazon

An archivist for the Smithsonian Institute and also a part-time operative for the CIA, no one would ever suspect the handsome ‘thirty-ish’ William is in fact the most reviled human being to ever walk the earth. His infectious warmth and sense of humor make such an assertion especially hard to believe.

But long ago, William Barrow had another name…one that is synonymous with shame and betrayal: Judas Iscariot.
Forced to walk the earth as a cursed immortal, William/Judas is on a quest to reclaim the thirty silver shekels paid to him in exchange for Jesus Christ. Twenty-one coins have now been recovered–thanks in large part to the help from his latest son, the esteemed Georgetown University history professor, Alistair Barrow.

Ever hopeful the complete coin collection will buy him a full pardon from God and end his banishment from heaven; William plans a visit to a remote village deep within Iran’s Alborz Mountains to retrieve ‘silver coin number twenty-two’. But the CIA has a different objective for this trip, one that pits both father and son against an unscrupulous Russian billionaire searching for something else that’s just as precious within the ancient mountains of Iran…something that threatens peace in the modern world if William and Alistair fail to reach it first.

4 Thumbs-UpIt’s not often I download a Kindle book that is a three in one offer, but this intrigued me so I made the decision to do so; I was not disappointed.  I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting, as there have been so many books giving a different slant on the Judas story, but this was certainly not the normal fare.

The main protagonist is, of course, Judas, and he is a well written and very believable character.  He bares his emotions and feelings about the longevity of his life, whilst adding humour to his recounting of his life.  This makes him a likable character and one who, regardless of your religious beliefs, the reader will be very hard pressed to not be able to connect to.

With a skilful hand the Author takes a different route from the ones normally read about.  There are biblical references throughout the book which I enjoyed but which some, more religious readers than I, may find rude and blasphemous but these add to the reality of the Judas story and are necessary in the development of the storyline.  There were times when some aspects of the story appeared just a little too farfetched to fit comfortably into the stories as a whole, but this does not detract from the sheer enjoyment that is to be had from reading these books.

These books will be able to hit the spot for most readers as they have a blend of covert operations, horror and the paranormal, to name but three and I would highly recommend them to anyone who is looking for an enjoyably e read to while away these cold winter days.  I will definitely be reading the rest of this series, and possibly others written by this Author.

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Review: The Demon Hunter Saga (Demon Hunter #1-3) ~ Cynthia Vespia

Demon HunterThe acclaimed fantasy series comes together in one epic saga. Do you know what horrors lie beyond these pages? Costa Calabrese has just uncovered the truth about his past. Some truths should never be revealed. When you learn you’re the son of the worlds foremost and feared hunter of demons, life’s rules inevitably change. Now Costa has been chosen to walk in his famed father’s footsteps and take up the role his bloodline demands of him…whether he wants to or not. He is a killer of killers, laying waste to the scourge of evil that threatens the existence of mankind. He is the chosen one. He is the DEMON HUNTER.

2 Thumbs-UpUsually the best thing an Author can do, in my mind, is publish a trilogy they have written all together in one edition.  Not only does this save space on my groaning bookcases, but it also means that, should I really get into the trilogy I’m not running all over trying to track down the remaining books; unfortunately this was not the case here.

To start with the entire book is only 393 pages long, to me that is not a trilogy in the true sense of the word, it is just three short stories containing the same characters published together.  Those characters to me were very one-dimensional and it seemed as if the Author were trying to breathe life into something they played when they were younger.  The main protagonist was just unbearable and I couldn’t connect with him at, and because of the constant mood swings and changing of his loyalties, I actually began to wonder if maybe there was a long running typo of the leading ‘s’ not being printed in the book whenever he was mentioned.  It was as if the Author intended him to be male, but then lost their way and gave him too many of the irritating traits we women have; add to that the teenage angst and he was the most unlikable main character I have read in a while.  Even the villains were really not villains; they were easily dispatched back to wherever they came from showing no real threat to anyone in particular.

The storylines in all of the books were predictable and, any reader who enjoys fantasy as their usual fare will be able to figure out what is going on way before the Author lets us in on the plot. I felt an element of surprise and a bit more care taken when drafting this storyline would have elevated it to a different level.

The main reason though that this trilogy received a 2 thumbs review rating is brought to you courtesy of bad editing.  There were so many typos and inconsistencies throughout all three books, that in places they actually changed the meaning of the passage being read, or made that particular part of the plot laughable.  A good proof-reader and editor could have pointed this out to the Author, which in turn would have resulted in a book that was more plausible.

I so wanted to really like this trilogy but, unfortunately, in the end it just wasn’t for me.  If you’re at a loose end and want to take a look at this I’m not going to recommend otherwise, but be warned it may not be as good as you think.  I may try reading something else by this Author to see if the errors in this one were just that their skills had not been honed yet, so I’m not entirely giving up on them.

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Review: Sunshine (Sunshine #1) ~ Nikki Rae

Sunshine18-year-old Sophie Jean is pretty good at acting normal. Sure, she’s not exactly happy, but happiness is nothing compared to being like everyone else. She can pretend she’s not allergic to the sun. She can hide what her ex-boyfriend did to her. She can cover up the scars she’s made for herself. Ignore anything. Forget anything. Then Myles enters her life, and he has more than a few secrets of his own. When accident after accident keeps happening to Sophie, she can’t help noticing that he’s everywhere. That he knows too much. That she’s remembering too much.

It’s one thing covering up her own dark past, but does she really need to worry about people finding out just how much Myles likes her? Or that despite how much she doesn’t want to repeat past mistakes, she kind of likes him back? Not to mention the fact that she now has to conceal that Myles drinks blood-that he says he’s about four hundred years old.

She almost forgot about that part.

But Sophie has no plans to ruin the normal life she has created for herself. She can deal with this little glitch, no problem. Even if word has gotten around to the wrong vampire about Sophie and Myles, even if she’s putting the few people she loves at risk. Suddenly, those who were monsters before are just people, and the monsters? They’re real. Now being a normal human being is the least of her problems. Now she has to stay alive.

3 Thumbs-UpThis was definitely not my usual choice of a read and review book as it contains the dreaded ‘romance’ that can sometimes overwhelm a book and make it all too cloying and sickly sweet.  Not the case with this debut novel from this Author, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  I can honestly say I wasn’t looking forward to reading this book at all, but now that I have, I am really glad that I took that leap of faith and read on until the end.

The characters in this novel were what really made it worth my time, in my opinion. They were well-developed and fleshed out enough to make them easy to like, or dislike if they were of that persuasion.  The main protagonist had a depth and originality to her that is often lacking in books of this kind, and it was refreshing to see that the Author wrote her in a way where she was not full of teenage angst, but able to open up, grow and move on from the things which were originally holding her back.  This quality made her easily likeable, and probably someone most readers would want to know in reality.  Even the minor characters, to a point, were given enough depth to make them interesting and not just appear as ‘part of the scenery’

Unfortunately if you are looking for the next great thing in the paranormal/creature love interest genre, you won’t find it here.  This book is in a genre that in my opinion has been done to death making it hard for any new Author to find a different approach to writing it; the plot wasn’t anything new and groundbreaking, but there were so many good things going on in the book that this didn’t detract too much from the overall enjoyment.  However, what I do feel would have really pulled it up another notch, would have been the use of a really good proof reader and/or editor as some of the flaws that appeared should have been picked up by those working in this area of the book.

Overall, I would recommend this book to lovers of this genre, and I will probably be reading some more in the series as I am intrigued to see how the Authors style, and the plot/characters, develops as it progresses.

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Review: The Demonologist ~ Andrew Pyper

DemonologistProfessor David Ullman’s expertise in the literature of the demonic—notably Milton’s Paradise Lost—has won him wide acclaim. But David is not a believer.

One afternoon he receives a visitor at his campus office, a strikingly thin woman who offers him an invitation: travel to Venice, Italy, witness a “phenomenon,” and offer his professional opinion, in return for an extravagant sum of money. Needing a fresh start, David accepts and heads to Italy with his beloved twelve-year-old daughter Tess.

What happens in Venice will send David on an unimaginable journey from skeptic to true believer, as he opens himself up to the possibility that demons really do exist. In a terrifying quest guided by symbols and riddles from the pages of Paradise Lost, David attempts to rescue his daughter from the Unnamed—a demonic entity that has chosen him as its messenger.

3 Thumbs-UpThis is a strange book, not because of content, but because of the way in which the Author chose to write both the storyline and develop the character of the main protagonist.  The story is told through the words of the main character, and the settings in which the storyline takes places are experienced by the reader through the eyes of this character.  One trait the reader learns early on in the novel this character possesses is that of melancholy, and it is this trait that saturates every word, action and observation the main lead takes. This trait has a habit of making the book move at a much slower pace than I would have expected from a topic such as this, but it also serves the purpose of making the reader take time as they progress through the pages to ensure they don’t miss the meanings of anything covered.

The European location is very well written, and after having spent some time here as I could picture the twists and turns that were taken in this city.  The Author obviously thought long and hard when writing his book as to which location would serve as the best setting for this portion of their work; by choosing this one I felt they had done an outstanding job, as it lends itself perfectly to this type of storyline.  It is apparent from some sections of the book too, that the Author did a great deal of research in Milton’s Paradise Lost, and comes up with some very well-educated explanations for some of the verses which really added another dimension to this book.

Although I did enjoy this book, I found after a while the way in which it was written was becoming depressing and, although this may not detract from some readers enjoyment of this novel, I felt like it kept me from liking this read more than I did.  I applaud the way in which the Author tackled the topics covered in this novel, but I don’t think I will be reading anymore of their work as their writing style really isn’t for me.

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoyed The Historian and also lovers of the Supernatural/Paranormal genre.

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