Archive for December, 2007

Good Ghoul’s Guide to Getting Even by Julie Kenner

December 26, 2007

Elizabeth (Beth to her friends) Frasier’s junior year of high school was going so well… Until her super crush, Stephen Wills turns her into a vampire! Her parents are divorced, professional, and have no time for her. Beth still manages to strive toward her goals of valedictorian and future NYU student and has good friends who stay true even when Beth gets a pesky thirst for type O-neg.

Stephen Wills has plans for Beth. He’s turned most of the football team already and she could hold the key to what he desires most. All Beth desires is getting even with him, and the popular cheerleaders who lured her into his evil clutches! That and keeping her valedictorian status.

Beth has to find out if she can become human again, stop a power mad vampire, convince the vampire hunters she’s one of the good guys and still get accepted at NYU! Thank goodness she has her best friend, new would-be boyfriend/fierce academic competitor on her side, or she might not make it through to the next night.

I appreciate Julie Kenner’s ability to craft such a well written story with humor and intelligence that relates well to young adults without talking down to them or resorting to vulgarity. While she captures a teen voice, it’s not too trendy. Adults can enjoy THE GOOD GHOULS’ GUIDE TO GETTING EVEN just as much as teens. There’s the added bonus of being able to read it along with your teenager without worrying about turning red in the face!

The characters were smart and realistic and they were very good company for the weekend. Beth had many qualities to admire, and Stephen had many to abhor, just like good heroines and evil guys should. The supporting characters added a lot of good fodder and entertainment. I’m looking forward to meeting up with them again as the series progresses.

I found the novel to be engaging and laugh out loud funny. Kenner spins a great yarn and her pithy dialog has become her trademark. She has a great way of writing paranormal stories and spinning them in a new, fresh way. I greatly look forward to the next in the series GOOD GHOULS DO.

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Review Courtesy of CK2S Kwips and Kritiques

The Night I Got Lucky by Laura Caldwell

December 26, 2007

So what would happen if you woke up and suddenly everything you wished for was a reality? Sounds great, right? Your dream of that big promotion materializes and the next day you go to work and the Vice Presidents office has your nameplate on it. Your husband is suddenly much more attentive and romantic, surprising you with candlelight dinners and tender lovemaking. The guy at work you’ve had a crush on for years is making every excuse to get alone with you and flirts with you constantly.

That’s just what happens to Billy Rendell. At first all that success and attention feels wonderful, but soon the repercussions of instant gratification change Billy’s life in ways she never could have predicted. There are consequences that come with all your dreams coming true overnight. It takes her on a journey of self discovery that gives her much more than she even knew to dream of.

In a chick lit version of The Monkey’s Paw, Laura Caldwell engages us with characters you can relate to. The saying “be careful what you wish for” has rarely been illustrated in a more modern-day example that hits close to home.

Billy has issues many women today struggle with. At first she may seem slightly shallow, but as she struggles to learn how to be happy, Billy becomes more substantial and sympathetic as a character. Billy is real.

A fable told in a light, first person style, THE NIGHT I GOT LUCKY is deeper than the typical chick lit novel. It will have you thinking about your life and things you may have wanted to do differently in a whole new light. Like that old song, Thank God for Unanswered Prayers, sometimes our lives may be better than we realized. This book will make you contemplate why the grass might not be greener on the other side after all.

My first read by Laura Caldwell, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more!

Review Courtesy of CK2S Kwips and Kritiques

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Grave Peril by Jim Butcher, Audio Book Narrated by James Marsters

December 26, 2007

In Chicago’s yellow pages, there is one listing under Wizard. “Harry Dresden: Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting, Advice, Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.” Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden has faced things that would make most anyone dive under their bed and call for Mama. In GRAVE PERIL, Harry’s bravery is put to the test.

In an opening with more action than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s last five movies put together, we find Harry and his new sometime partner, Michael Carpenter, a Knight of the Sword, up against a homicidal ghost with an extreme love for infants. In this third addition to Jim Butcher’s thrilling series you get the immediate impression that you’re in for one exciting ride.

Ghosts have been creating a horrible ruckus all over Chicago recently, and only Harry and Michael have been able to keep them at bay, at least so far. Could someone be stirring them up on purpose? The veil between our world and the Nevernever (where the ghosts, faeries and all variety of beasties live) seems to be growing thin. Distracted by ghost busting, Harry also runs afoul of his evil fairy Godmother (no, really, I mean it) who would love to enslave him, manages to anger a powerful vampiress , who would love to suck him dry and his girlfriend needs rescuing in a big way.

James Marsters does an unforgettable job of bringing Jim Butcher’s rich characters to life. He pulls off voice characterizations flawlessly in a smooth performance produced by Buzzy Multimedia. While the audio books aren’t released simultaneously with the printed books, Marsters’ performance and Buzzy Multimedia’s production make it worth waiting for.

This novel really benefits from the foundation laid by STORM FRONT, and FOOL MOON and Harry Dresden is more fully developed than ever before. Harry puts his idealism to the test and his chivalry knows no bounds, setting the stage for future struggles in the continuing series for the readers’ immense pleasure.

GRAVE PERIL brings the series to new depths with the introduction of the character, Michael Carpenter. A man of faith, Michael carries a holy sword, and is considered to be the Right Hand of God. He’s an interesting foil to Harry, who has issues with his own faith, but he trusts in Michael and the strength he garners from his beliefs.

We also meet Thomas, a vampire and charming rogue who delights and tantalizes the reader nearly as much as his female companion. What a tease! Butcher continues to captivate us with his resplendent characters.

Damsels in distress, ghosts gallivanting all over Chicago, vampires out for vengeance, Harry nearly bites off more than he can chew when things get personal. His girlfriend, a paranormal Lois Lane, has been taken, Michael’s wife and their unborn child is in jeopardy. But nasty fairy godmother and vampires be damned, Harry Dresden won’t rest until the damsel is rescued and wrong is made right. It’s one of the things I love most about this Dresden Files novel, and it’s one of the reasons why I listen to it again and again.

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Courtesy of CK2s Kwips and Kritiques

Demons Are Forever: Confessions of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom (Book 3) by Julie Kenner

December 26, 2007

Meet Kate Conner. Wife to Stuart who is running for San Diablo County Attorney, mother to active toddler, Timmy, typical teenager Allie, a Level Four Demon Hunter working for Forza Scura, volunteer at her church and PTA. Back up. What was that? Level Four Demon Hunter?

As if being a busy wife and mom wasn’t enough, Kate has come out of retirement to hunt demons. Well, what would you do if demon’s started showing up in your would-be safe neighborhood?

In this third installment of the series, circumstances grow even more complicated with a deeper plot without losing any of Julie Kenner’s trademark humor and quick witted dialog. This novel can be read as a stand-alone, but beware of spoilers from here on out.

In DEMONS ARE FOREVER, Kate and Allie are coming to terms with Allie’s recent kidnapping by demons (CALIFORNIA DEMONS), the possibility that Kate’s first love and Allie’s father has returned in the body of Allie’s beloved teacher, David Long. Eddie, Allie’s would- be grandfather and retired demon hunter is feeling his oats, complicating Kate’s life all the more. Kate’s husband, Stuart is still blissfully unaware of his wife’s nocturnal activities, no thanks to a demon showing up on a romantic night out on the town. To cap it all off, there’s a group of demons interrupting Timmy’s play dates and bonking her best friend on the head whilst trying to free their long imprisoned leader of all that is unholy.

Kate has to come face to face with the fact that her deceased husband might not have been who she thought he was. Discovering new details of his past casts doubts on what their relationship was and on which side he was working for. So she continues to search for clues to find out the truth about him.

Now that Allie knows her mom’s secret and the truth of demons living among them, she wants to learn to fight. And get her driver’s license. Whichever fills her mother’s heart with more fear is uncertain.

Julie Kenner doesn’t disappoint in this latest Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom saga. She gives the reader plenty to chew on. The previous two books, CARPE DEMON and CALIFORNIA DEMON give a great foundation for all the action in DEMONS ARE FOREVER. Everything comes to a head and I was left deeply satisfied, yet still yearning for more. This series has become more than a fanciful romp wondering if Kate is anything like Buffy the Vampire Slayer all grown up with kids and a mini-van. It’s developed into more intense entertainment as the story grows more complex. My favorite in the series so far, I’m hoping for more!

Review courtesy of CK2’s Kwips and Kritiques

Supernatural: Nevermore by Keith R. A. DeCandido

December 26, 2007

If you’re familiar with the hit CW series, Supernatural, this book is definitely for you. I can’t say that one wouldn’t enjoy the book without watching the television show, but it would certainly add to the experience.

Sam and Dean Winchester lost their mother 22 years ago to a demonic force. Since then, their father, John, has been hunting demons and training his boys to do the same. Now Sam and Dean are on their own seeking out the things that go bump in the night.

This book takes place right in the middle of the second season and is a direct tie in to the television series. Ash, the mullet sporting computer genius needs the Winchester’s to help out his friend, Manfred. The boys travel to New York City to learn just why Manfred’s house is being haunted by a screaming blond in a Queensryche t-shirt. At the same time, some grisly murders have caught their attention. Someone seems to be using Edgar Allan Poe’s famous literature as inspiration for murder and the Winchester boys came along just in time to investigate!

DeCandido did a very good job of capturing Sam and Dean. Their dialog was so typical of their characters and made them very vivid in my mind. One of the most important requirements for a book based on a television show is translating the people we enjoy watching into an accurate depiction in writing. That was definitely accomplished.

Unfortunately, I did find the plot to be fairly thin and whodunit was barely ever a question in my mind. Disappointing for someone who tries hard not to know the culprit until the end! However, all can be forgiven because the author captures the characters and the feel of the show so well. As a fan, it was definitely well worth the time.

I appreciated the interesting details about Edgar Allen Poe’s life and literature that were sprinkled throughout. I didn’t realize that Poe’s cottage was still standing as a museum in The Bronx and I found myself with a renewed enthusiasm for the gothic writer.

The music references were fantastic and well thought out, bringing more authentic detail to Manfred and his aspect of the story, not to mention Dean’s obsession with classic rock.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read and I look forward to more Supernatural fiction.

Review courtesy of CK2’s Kwips and Kritiques.

Conspiracies by F. Paul Wilson

December 15, 2007

This is the third time we encounter Repairman Jack, and the third time is the charm. I fell in love with Repairman Jack from the first moment I met him in THE TOMB, and I fall a little more in love with each installment.
Jack can fix just about anything, but don’t bother calling him if your dishwasher is leaking all over your kitchen floor or your toaster quit toasting and started smoking. Jack fixes things of a more sensitive nature…
This time, Jack is hired to find a missing wife. In his search, he must delve into a strange world of conspiracy theories bringing him close to the supernatural once again. Attending a convention of conspiracy buffs where the missing wife in question was expected to introduce her monumental theory connecting everything from UFO’s to who really killed JFK provides Jack with plenty of leads. Amused by a lot of colorful characters he meets along the way, he still manages to come face to face with the darkest evil. Not to mention a very disturbing talking monkey.
Wilson captivates us once again in a story that will thrill and chill satisfying fans of horror and suspense alike. We see a lighter side of Repairman Jack and his typical quick witted dialog in CONSPIRACIES as well as supernatural and sci-fi elements that will propitiate just about anyone.
With a tight plot that is funny and very well crafted, skeptics and believers (Mulder’s and Scully’s?) alike will have a fantastic time!
Courtesy of CK2S Kwips and Kritiques

What’s a Ghoul to Do by Victoria Laurie

December 15, 2007

In the first of what promises to be a fun new series, Victoria Laurie entertains us with WHAT’S A GHOUL TO DO? MJ and her partner, Gilly are ghost busters. Yeah, yeah, they’ve heard all the jokes, but nothing else explains what they do better than that.
MJ and Gilly are hired by a handsome sexy doctor who wants them to make contact with his grandfather’s ghost. Dr. Delicious inherited his grandfather’s lodge, and they say his ghost is sticking around and has already scared people away. MJ and Gilly hope to set his spirit to rest and find out for the good doctor if his grandfather’s death was a suicide, an accident, or murder.
The best word to describe this book is “fun”. It’s not a book to take too seriously. MJ is a medium who communicates with ghosts. Personally, I don’t buy into that kind of thing at all (no offense to the talented author intended!), but it makes an adorable story. So if you keep your point of view light-hearted and open minded, you’ll be charmed by WHAT’S A GHOUL TO DO?
I found MJ’s personality fairly similar to Abby Cooper in the PSYCHIC EYE series also by Victoria Laurie. They are both mediums by trade, have men trouble and find catastrophe around every corner. The main difference being MJ grew tired of doing readings and decided to branch out into helping ghosts cross over. It’s a fun concept and makes for a great cozy mystery.
If you’re looking for a pleasant way to spend a weekend curled up with a book and a nice cup of tea, I predict WHAT’S A GHOUL TO DO? will bewitch you!
Courtesy of CK2S Kwips and Kritiques

The Missing by Sarah Langan

December 15, 2007

What started out as an innocent field trip to the woods in the neighboring town of Bedford turned into a nightmare for the inhabitants of Corpus Christi, Maine. Lois Larkin, grade school teacher beloved by most everyone in the small affluent town was troubled by a broken heart and broken dreams, or maybe she would have thought better of the ill fated trip.
A disturbed young boy awakens an evil hiding in the woods. A malicious evil waiting to spread and an unsuspecting town is its breeding ground. But Corpus Christi is just the beginning.
Sarah Langan proves with her second thrilling novel that she’s no fluke. THE MISSING is an intellectual scare-fest that will have you pondering the survival of mankind. More than just an apocalyptic tale, we follow patient zero and the newly infected on a path of ideological malevolence and those who are fighting to survive it. These aren’t mindless vampires or zombies and that’s one thing that makes it so disturbing. The people infected keep a part of themselves as they are driven insane and given a new purpose.
As with THE KEEPER, Langan’s debut novel, I found myself more horrified by my own imagination as she allowed the reader to let the circumstances play out. I enjoyed being given the benefit of letting the disturbing events unfold without having the details ruined by verbosity. That’s not to say that she doesn’t paint a vivid picture of the circumstances and rich characters with a spellbinding and gruesome brush. That kind of talent is a valuable commodity and shows a maturity that’s exciting in a new writer.
The supporting characters are ones we are familiar with. The wife struggling to overcome her infidelity, the psychologist trying to save one more patient, the teenager trying to find love and acceptance, the little boy who doesn’t understand why he does bad things. It’s what gives us resonance with the characters as they struggle though the horrific circumstances we are too afraid to imagine.
It’s not necessary to read THE KEEPER to enjoy THE MISSING, but you will be rewarded with creepy details if you don’t deny yourself the pleasure. While THE KEEPER made me sleep with the lights on, THE MISSING had me bolting my doors and checking my windows.
Review courtesy of CK2S Kwips and Kritiques