Book Review: Spark a Little Flame by Jennifer Archer

Spark a Little Flame

Spark a Little FlameTitle: Spark a Little Flame 
Author: Jennifer Archer
Genre: Romance, Fantasy
Series: Make a Little Magic # 1
Date of Publication: updated re-release March 2020
Publisher: Jennifer Archer Books


Synopsis

J.T. Drake’s father is a mad scientist, so he isn’t surprised when his father’s neighbour calls him to inform him that he needs to check up on his father. He is surprised, however, when he gets struck by lightning in his father’s lab and wakes up… invisible.

Roselyn Peabody is a scientist who is working with Professor Hershell Drake on an electromagnetic refractor.  But when she finds out that it worked–transforming his son and making him invisible–she’s nervous. They have no way of turning him back.  

J.T. flirts unabashedly with Roselyn, but she’s hesitant to explore her feelings for him.  Is he just interested in her because he knows she’s the only person who can make him visible again?

Plot 

This book is absolutely adorable and sweet and has some steamy scenes, all just enough to keep me up late finishing this compelling book.  

There are quite a few cute scenes that were only possible because J.T. was invisible, and they are what made this book truly unique and worth checking out. For instance, when she’s studying a physics book, looking for clues about how to make him visible again, and he comments on the fact that she has pretty ears.  She’d had no idea he’d been watching her so intently. So freaking cute!

However, I was surprised when there wasn’t one of those scenes in the middle of the novel where Rosy and J.T. temporarily break up/fight.  This is expected in romantic novels, and I was a little floored when it never quite happened.  I would have liked to have seen their commitment to each other questioned in the form of a dramatic fight at some point.  

We do get some action in the story, in the form of espionage that can only be done with an invisible man in tow. I won’t reveal much more because of spoilers, but it made for an entertaining, thrilling, and at times hilarious novel.

Characters

J.T. is a typical lady’s man, though I was relieved to see that the author didn’t lean too heavily into this stereotype. J.T. is charming and used to dating a certain type of woman. Rosy, with her petite frame, glasses, and intelligence, definitely doesn’t fit the bill. Nevertheless, he’s attracted to her and her sweet sassiness and her devotion to his father who is like the father she never had.

Roselyn tries to write off J.T. as a spoiled jock, but there’s something about him that seems different.  They exchange witty banter and he isn’t too embarrassed to offer a genuine apology when he crosses the line.  

We also get scenes from the point of view of J.T.’s father — Hershell.  He’s sweet and absentminded, and his older, nosy neighbour definitely has the hots for him.  These scenes helped to flesh out his shared past with J.T., providing the other side of the story.  Where J.T. felt neglected as a child, like he came second-fiddle to his father’s research, his father was going through something that J.T. could never have understood.  Hopefully that’s vague enough for you, I don’t want to spoil any twists in the story!

Spark a Little Flame

This is a sweet romantic fantasy for fans of books where opposites attract.

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Book Review: Witch’s Jewel by Kater Cheek

Witch's Jewel

Witch's Jewel

Title: Witch’s Jewel
Author: Kater Cheek
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Series: Kit Melbourne Book #1

Date of Publication: April 17, 2020
Publisher: Self Published


Synopsis

A sorcerous jewel. A mysterious uncle. Can a barista keep her magical heirloom safe from murderous crooks?

Kit Melbourne longs to quit her brother’s coffee shop to pursue her artistic dreams. And despite the temptation to sell the sought-after enchanted gem she inherited from her uncle, she promises her family to protect it at all costs. But when her brother’s tea-leaf reading predicts her imminent death, she’s terrified to discover those who want it will kill to make it theirs.

Forced to dig into her late relative’s murky past, Kit is doubly shocked when she learns the artifact’s mighty power cannot be transferred unless its caretaker is dead. But despite her command of karate and fierce vampiric allies, her attackers show no sign of giving up their relentless lethal pursuit.

Has Kit’s vow not to sell sealed her doom?

Witch’s Jewel is the first book in the engrossing Kit Melbourne urban fantasy series. If you like strong female leads, high-stakes action, and nail-biting plots, you’ll love Kater Cheek’s enthralling tale.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Witch’s Jewel grabbed my attention from the very first line and held it until the last pages. The novel is fast-paced and light in tone, which is a perfect combination for a good urban fantasy novel.

It becomes clear early on in the book that this world that Kater Cheek has created is unique and like no other. This first instalment in the series seems to only scratch the surface, and I’m looking forward to delving deeper into how magic works in the sequel.

I love a sassy and bad-ass protagonist who is not necessarily the “chosen one” trope, but has something special about her. In this case, Kit Melbourne is an ordinary human, but she inherits a jewel that has magical powers–enabling her to see the magic and supernatural beings in her midst. As you would expect, this puts her in danger, because there are those who want this unique jewel.  When her brother, James, who is a witch, reads her tea leaves, he tells her that someone is going to try to murder her.  Much of the book is Kit trying to figure out who this is, while navigating the realization that magic truly exists and finding out that many of the people in her life are not quite who (or what) she thought they were.  It also seemed like everyone is out to get her (or, more specifically, her stone), and this made for a thrilling read.

While Kit is an “ordinary” human, she’s far from boring. She has a tragic past, she’s proficient in Karate, and she makes questionable (yet relatable) decisions throughout the book that make her interesting and kept me on my toes.

The novel features a very sweet romance subplot. I fell in love with Fenwick, and the friends turned lovers plot nicely compliments the novel’s mystery.  The side characters are surprisingly three-dimensional.  I particularly liked Silvara and Ulrich, and I’m hoping they continue to make appearances in this series.

Witch's Jewel

I recommend this book to those who love books that blend mystery, fantasy, and romance.

*Thank you to the author for the ebook to review*

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Book Review: Something is Killing the Children Volume 1

Something is Killing the Children

Book Cover

Title: Something is Killing the Children Volume 1 (Issues 1-5)
Author: James Tynion IV, Werther Dell’Edera (Illustrator), Miguel Muerto (Colorist)
Genre: Horror, Graphic Novel
Date of Publication: May 26, 2020
Publisher: BOOM! Studios


Synopsis

When children begin to go missing in the town of Archer’s Peak, all hope seems lost until a mysterious woman arrives to reveal that terrifying creatures are behind the chaos – and that she alone will destroy them, no matter the cost.

IT’S THE MONSTERS WHO SHOULD BE AFRAID.

When the children of Archer’s Peak—a sleepy town in the heart of America—begin to go missing, everything seems hopeless. Most children never return, but the ones that do have terrible stories—impossible details of terrifying creatures that live in the shadows. Their only hope of finding and eliminating the threat is the arrival of a mysterious stranger, one who believes the children and claims to be the only one who sees what they can see.

Her name is Erica Slaughter. She kills monsters. That is all she does, and she bears the cost because it must be done.

GLAAD Award-winning writer James Tynion IV (The Woods, Batman: Detective Comics) teams with artist Werther Dell’Edera (Briggs Land) for an all-new story about staring into the abyss.

Collects Something is Killing the Children #1-5.

Goodreads

My Thoughts 

Volume 1 of this graphic novel is just what the doctor ordered.

Hauntingly grotesque and gorgeous illustrations? Check.

Badass and inscrutable monster-slaying heroine? Check.

Mysterious mythos and hints at more complex worldbuilding to come? Check.

My only complaint is that this instalment isn’t nearly long enough. I need more Erica Slaughter and I am dying to find out what happens next.  Erica is mysterious and has a dangerous edge to her, and her big beautiful haunting eyes are quite creepy, fitting the tone of this graphic novel perfectly. She isn’t completely jaded and hardened, however.  I don’t want to say more at the risk of spoiling anything.  I will say that she is definitely a fascinating character that I look forward to getting to know better.

Volume 1 of There’s Something Killing the Children only scratches the surface of a fascinating and unique mythos. I’m very eager to dig deeper once Volume 2 is released.

Something is Killing the Children

This is recommended to those who are looking for an atmospheric, thrilling, and compelling story about a small town that’s being plagued by something that’s killing the children…

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Book Review: The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

The Girl the Sea Gave Back

The Girl the Sea Gave Back

Title: The Girl the Sea Gave Back
Author: Adrienne Young
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Series: Sky in the Deep Book 2

Date of Publication: September 3, 2019
Publisher: Wednesday Books


Synopsis

When she was just a child, Tova was found washed ashore by the Svell.  She was the child of an enemy clan, but she bore the marks of a Truthtongue–born with the unique ability to cast runes and see the future. Despite their fear and hatred of her kind, the Svell have used her power for their own gain, and now they plan to use it to inform their future conquests.   All Tova wants is to find a place where she belongs, and she wants nothing to do with the Svell and their insatiable thirst for power.

Halvard was just a boy in Sky in the Deep, but now he is a man, being groomed to lead his clan into peace.  But fate is far more complicated than he ever could have imagined, and he must do whatever it takes to save the clan he’s sworn to protect.

Language and Setting 

It’s rare that I talk about language or setting first for a book that is plot-driven, but Adrienne Young’s writing style is so phenomenal, that I fully believe that it is the reason why her novels are so popular.  

The world Young has created is so rich in detail, with elements of magic and myth blended into every aspect of her storytelling.  Each word she selects paints a finely-detailed landscape of this fantastical Viking-era world.  Everything is so beautiful, reading like poetry on the page, from her description of myths or visions to the bloody fight scenes on the battlefield. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the craft of writing, as I’m sure Young has something to each every one of us about metaphor and poetry in fiction.

Characters

I fell in love with sweet little Halvard in Sky in the Deep, and I was absolutely thrilled to see that he would be featured more prominently in this book.  His character remains true to the essence of the little boy we met in the first instalment in this series, but now he is a man, and he must lead his people during a time where the peace they’ve fought so hard to protect is at risk.  

Tova is a fascinating character, and I was consumed by her backstory. Hated by the people who took her in, her parts of this story can be hard to read, and I genuinely felt for her every time she was forced to cast the runes and read the future of the people who despised her and what she represented. 

The Girl the Sea Gave Back has lower ratings on Goodreads than its predecessor, Sky in the Deep. I think I know the reason. The plot of this book is similar to the previous, in that it’s about two Viking clans clashing and the boy and girl in the middle of it. The only problem with this book is that Tova and Halvard barely interact, and they don’t meet until far into the story.  I would have liked for them to have scenes together, where they get to know each other and fall in love in a more traditional way. That said, their love is quite fascinating to read, and for once I was okay with destined love/love at first sight in a young adult book, and didn’t feel like it was a cop-out in any way whatsoever.

Plot 

As mentioned in the Characters section, I would have liked for the two protagonists to have had more time together in this book. Or maybe, what I really want, is for the book to have been a hell of a lot longer. It was over too quickly, and I wanted to immerse myself even deeper into this world.

There are multiple flashbacks throughout the story, but Young expertly wove these scenes in with the rest, and I was never confused nor felt jarred when slipping from one scene to the next.  This is another reason why I think the book could have been longer, because while I loved the flashbacks, I often kept checking how many more pages were left in the book, being like “I NEED MORE PRESENT DAY STUFF”. Just to reiterate–I loved the flashbacks, I just had an intense need to find out what would happen in the present-day plotline.  

The Girl the Sea Gave Back

I recommend this book to those who want to immerse themselves in a lyrical, captivating story about Vikings, magic, and destiny.

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* Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the ebook to review*

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Book Review: Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House by Janet Hill

Lucy Crisp

lucy

Title: Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House
Author: Janet Hill
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date of Publication: April 14, 2020
Publisher: Tundra Books


Synopsis

When Lucy Crisp takes a job at the local florist after graduating high school, she decides to apply to attend Ladywyck Lodge, an exclusive arts school.  She’s thrilled when she’s accepted, and her father buys a surprisingly cheap house in Esther Wren, a small town just outside New York City.  She moves into the house a few months before classes are to begin, but she quickly realizes that this is no ordinary house. As Lucy investigates, she discovers that her neighbours are not ordinary either, and the school that she’s been accepted into is definitely not an ordinary arts school…

Plot

This is a delightfully whimsical story. It starts off a little slow, but once Lucy has moved into her new home and the strange events begin to occur, I had a hard time putting this down!

The illustrations are absolutely stunning, and they match perfectly with what is being told in the story.  They all have a similar tone and feel, and they helped to paint a picture (quite literally) of the beautiful and quaint little town, the house, and the people in it.

Continue reading “Book Review: Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House by Janet Hill”

Book Review: Beauty by Robin McKinley

Beauty

Book Cover Beauty

Title: Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
Author: Robin McKinley
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Romance, Young Adult
Date of Publication: 1993, reprinted 2018
Publisher: Greenwillow Books


Synopsis

A strange imprisonment…

Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, “Cannot a Beast be tamed?”

Robin McKinley’s beloved telling illuminates the unusual love story of a most unlikely couple, Beauty and the Beast. – Goodreads

Plot

I wanted to love this book, but it lacked for me in plot. The book concentrates on Beauty’s family life prior to moving into the castle to live with the Beast. This is the focus of the book, which I had not been expecting at all. I wanted to read about the castle and whatever mysterious magic goes on there, but this only took up the last little bit of the book.  While the events that unfolded in her home life with her father and her sisters were interesting, I couldn’t quite enjoy it because I was waiting for the real story. It almost felt like two books ideas were slapped together, when they would have served better as two separate stories.

Language & Setting 

The major appeal for this story is the writing style. Robin McKinley has an exquisite writing style, and the way that she describes the settings and the characters makes it seem like they could leap off the page and into the real world.

Characters

I had a hard time connecting with Beauty, even though she was an ordinary girl with a love for books. It might be an artifact of the writing style – when the writing focuses on style and beauty of language, I personally find it harder to connect with the protagonist.  While we frequently get glimpses into her head and what she’s thinking, I never connected with her on a deeper level. 

Unfortunately, her family was far more developed than any of the characters in the castle. We don’t get to truly meet any of the servants, since they’re invisible, yet it’s understood that they’re there. The Beast is somewhat of a caricature, and, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure why Beauty fell in love with him.  However, if Beauty’s time in the castle had made up as much of the book as the events leading up to it, I do feel that I would have had enough time to grow to appreciate the Beast and his idiosyncracies.

Beauty

I recommend this book to those who are looking for a different take on a magical medieval life, but aren’t expecting the story to exactly mirror the movie.  There is a much greater focus on her family than on her time with the Beast, and knowing this before reading the story might increase your enjoyment of it.

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Book Review: The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

The Sound of Stars

The Sound of Stars

Title: The Sound of Stars 
Author: Alechia Dow
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Date of Publication: February 25, 2020
Publisher: Harlequin Teen


Synopsis

Two years prior to the beginning of this book, aliens named the Ilori took over Earth, effectively oppressing mankind as they plan to transform the planet into a new vacation spot.  Ellie Baker is a teenage girl who lives in her old apartment building, which has been completely taken over by Ilori.  Books and other forms of artistic expression are no longer allowed, but she runs an illegal library in the basement.  M0Rr1S (Morris) is a lab-born Ilori, but he isn’t like the rest. He listens to forbidden music, and he has a soft spot for humans. When he meets Ellie and discovers her library, it’s his duty to turn her in for execution.  But there’s something about her that he is drawn to.  He confides in her that he just might have the solution to save mankind, but he needs her help…

Setting

This novel is set in a not-too-distant future where aliens have invaded.  They’re in the process of changing the world, because they hope it will become a vacation destination for their kind. The atmosphere of the story is dark and ominous, and gave me serious Hunger Games vibes early on. Despite this darkness in the plot and the setting, there is quite a bit of hope. Ellie hopes that books will save them, and Morris believes that music will be their redemption.  These themes carry throughout the novel, making it stand out from others like it.  

Plot & Characters

I wanted to love this book. A teenaged librarian living in a dystopian future? The novel starts off really strong, with several great twists early on, despite the slow pace and information dumping about aliens and how the new world works.  I assumed that after this information dump had occurred, the pace would pick up. Quite the opposite, actually. After this first third of the novel, the plot slows even more, and the focus clearly becomes on the budding romance between Ellie and Morris, not on saving mankind.  For a character like Ellie, who put her life in danger every single day by lending out books to other captives living in her building, I find it hard to believe that she would be so easily distracted from her ideals.  Whereas books like The Hunger Games focus on the dystopia and changing the world for the better with the romance being a side plot, The Sound of Stars takes the opposite approach, which is particularly evident in the latter half of the book.

There are many fun literary references throughout the novel. Every chapter begins with a quote from a classic book, and there are quite a few references within the text itself, which made the bookworm inside me squeal with glee. That said, the author was a tad too heavy handed with the themes early on in the book. I didn’t need to be spoon-fed the fact that alien invasions are the science fiction version of oppression.  Unfortunately, these themes were not shown, but told through the dialogue of characters within the first 15% of the story.  I expected this to be a theme throughout, but I didn’t expect the characters to notice and comment on this right away, which in essence ruined the discovery of this for me. 

I think this ties into my major complaint about this book.  There was far too much talking about what was happening, and not enough actual action. Again, too much telling, not enough showing. 

My favourite relationship in the entire book was that between Ellie and her best friend, Alice, who she had feelings for romantically prior to the start of this book.   I wanted more of a discovery of this relationship, but instead, the author decided to focus on Ellie’s relationship with Morris.  

The romance between Ellie and Morris was stilted and uncomfortable but masquerading as cute and progressive. I grimaced more than a few times when they were talking about their feelings, something that comes pretty easy to a cyborg that had to learn to hide his human-like emotions since they are forbidden among his kind. 

The Sound of Stars

I recommend this book to those looking for a slow-paced young adult science fiction that’s very heavy on the romance.

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* Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for the arc to review! *

Find the book:

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Book Review: Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks

Devolution book cover

Devolution

Title: Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre
Author: Max Brooks
Genre: Horror, Fantasy, Literary
Date of Publication: May 12, 2020
Publisher: Del Rel Books


Synopsis

“As the ash and chaos from Mount Rainier’s eruption swirled and finally settled, the story of the Greenloop massacre has passed unnoticed, unexamined . . . until now.

But the journals of resident Kate Holland, recovered from the town’s bloody wreckage, capture a tale too harrowing–and too earth-shattering in its implications–to be forgotten.

In these pages, Max Brooks brings Kate’s extraordinary account to light for the first time, faithfully reproducing her words alongside his own extensive investigations into the massacre and the legendary beasts behind it.

Kate’s is a tale of unexpected strength and resilience, of humanity’s defiance in the face of a terrible predator’s gaze, and inevitably, of savagery and death.

Yet it is also far more than that.

Because if what Kate Holland saw in those days is real, then we must accept the impossible. We must accept that the creature known as Bigfoot walks among us–and that it is a beast of terrible strength and ferocity.

Part survival narrative, part bloody horror tale, part scientific journey into the boundaries between truth and fiction, this is a Bigfoot story as only Max Brooks could chronicle it–and like none you’ve ever read before.” – Goodreads

Plot & Language

What an amazing premise! I love the layout and the style of this book. The majority of the story is told through diary entries, with some interview excerpts and other forms of epistolary thrown into the mix. It genuinely read like a non-fiction book on the subject. Brooks uses a matter-of-fact tone in the excerpts from books on Bigfoot, etc. but the language flows quite conversationally during the diary entries. This narrative flow makes the story that much easier to get lost in.  

My only complaint is that the book was comprised mostly of diary entries, with occasional excerpts from interviews and textbooks. I wanted more of these other forms of storytelling! I would have liked to have read more on the history of Bigfoot appearances.  Nevertheless, Brooks takes advantage of this, and I found myself genuinely wondering what was real and what wasn’t. He quoted Frans de Waal and Jane Goodall, two of my favourite animal behaviour experts, and I know that the information in those quotes were real. He talked about evolution of man, including species such as Gigantopithecus, which I know to be true. But I don’t remember much else from my undergraduate anthropology classes, and this novel had me questioning and believing that Bigfoot could be real. That’s the sign of a talented writer!

I also loved the theme of the novel, which is reflected in the title, “Devolution”.  Throughout the story, we question whether or not Bigfoot could exist, while being presented with information about evolution and primate behaviour. All the while, Kate and the others at Greenloop are struggling to survive, and we learn just what people are willing and capable of doing when their lives are in danger. 

This story is compelling and quite haunting at times.  It’s definitely a horror, but one that can be enjoyed by those who aren’t fans of the genre, as it has so much more to offer.

Characters

I did find that Kate and her husband, Dan, weren’t as fleshed out as I would have liked. While I’m glad that Brooks didn’t spend a lot of time in the diary entries having Kate talk about their past, their failing marriage (any more than was necessary), it did leave a lot of questions unanswered. For one: Why is Kate joining this group? I didn’t quite understand it, as she didn’t quite fit in with the others, and I would have benefited from a little more handholding in the beginning of the book, with Brooks possibly having her explain why she was there more than just “to fix their marriage”. I also wanted more about her past. We know that she had a brother, but what was their relationship like? What did she have back home to fight to survive for? 

Side characters in the novel were quite interesting, and I enjoyed the occasional additional piece of information that the author provided, whether it was an interview or a diary entry—to provide more information into their backgrounds.

Devolution book cover

I recommend this book to those who want to read a compelling story about survival, and to those who want to dip their toes into epistolary fiction.  A suspension of disbelief isn’t even required to enjoy this story about a first-hand eyewitness account of Bigfoot.

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* Thank you to OLA Super Conference and Del Rey Books for the arc to review! *

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Voodoo Shanghai by Kristi Charish

Voodoo Shanghai

Voodoo Shanghai book cover

Title: Voodoo Shanghai
Author: Kristi Charish
Series:
Kincaid Strange # 3

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Date of Publication: February 18, 2020
Publisher: Vintage Books Canada


Synopsis

“Just when Kincaid Strange thinks her life is back on track and she’s finally put her time as a paranormal practitioner with the Seattle PD to rest, her ex (and Seattle cop) Aaron asks her for help with yet another strange and ominous case. Martin Dane, the White Picket Fence Serial Killer who terrorized West Coast families living the suburban American dream, appears to be back at it with a fresh murder in Portland. There’s only one problem: Dane has been dead for three weeks.

Kincaid can’t resist a paranormal mystery. Despite her misgivings, she agrees to examine the Portland crime scene. What she discovers is a place of supernatural power unlike anywhere she’s ever been–and the reason Aaron had been so tight-lipped about the case details. There’s already a voodoo practitioner on the scene: Liam Sinclair, a TV celebrity of questionable talent and dubious intent.

Kincaid wants nothing more than to finish the job and retreat to Seattle, but the deeper she looks, the less the murder adds up. When she uncovers a much more sinister mystery–missing ghosts, scores of them, whom no one is looking for–there’s no turning back.”Goodreads

Plot 

Voodoo Shanghai is one hell of a thrill ride from start to finish. As usual, Kincaid gets herself into trouble, and she seems to make enemies every place she goes.  The novel opens with her dealing with an unruly ghost that’s haunting her parents because they didn’t make the right offering to her spirit. The designer purse was the wrong colour.  This book is full of dark and twisty plot points, but there’s also quite a bit of Charish’s characteristic dry humour, which is part of what makes this series such an entertaining read.

One of the major appeals of this book is the dynamic world that Charish has created. The magic has very distinct rules, and much of the book is spent explaining how it works, either through Kincaid’s interactions with clients or through her lessons with the sorcerer who coerced her into becoming his apprentice for a two year term.  None of this information seems dry, as it all comes from Kincaid’s point of view, which interjects quite a bit of gritty humour into every scene.

Voodoo Shanghai is the third and final instalment in the Kincaid Strange series, and it sure does go out with a bang. Unfortunately, while the major plotline for this book was resolved (no spoilers!) there was still a cliffhanger hinting at what’s to come.  I want to see what’s to come! Gah, Vintage Books Canada better order more books in this series, stat.

Characters

Kincaid is a tough-as-nails practitioner, and she won’t let herself be controlled by the men in her life. That said, even her love interest, the Seattle PD detective Aaron, tries to control her to a degree, and I’m glad to see that she still doesn’t back down on what she believes in, even when Aaron pushes her.  It was interesting to see her starting to try to be more professional in this book, even wearing a blazer to meetings with clients, and she tries so hard to not always say exactly what’s on her mind. Is that character development, Kincaid? Even with the subtle softening of her character, she’s still the Kincaid I’ve grown to love.

We also get a deeper look into Gideon Lawrence, the thousand-year-old ghost of a sorcerer who took Kincaid on as his apprentice in the previous book. Before, we thought he was simply “evil”, but it becomes clear over the course of this novel that he has his own moral code, as grey as it may be, and we get a taste of the past that has made him who he is today.

Setting 

This time, the novel isn’t all set in Seattle, but a good chunk of the storyline is set in Portland, since Kincaid is summoned to work on a federal case.  As mentioned in the Plot section, the America that Charish has created is incredibly unique, authentic feeling, and three-dimensional.  The world of Kincaid Strange is similar to ours, but for paranormal elements which are all seamlessly interwoven into our reality, making for a believably dark and compelling alternate universe.

 

Voodoo Shanghai

I recommend this book to those who want a gritty paranormal mystery with a strong female lead, dynamic worldbuilding, and lots of the undead.

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* Thank you to OLA Super Conference, Vintage Books Canada, and the author for the arc to review! *

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run by Matthew S. Cox

The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run

The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run

Title: The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run
Author: Matthew S. Cox
Genre: Fantasy
Date of Publication: January 18, 2019
Publisher: Division Zero Press


Synopsis 

When Mia’s husband buys a beautiful old house at a bargain, she can’t help but wonder what’s wrong with it. She doesn’t have to wonder for long, because it quickly becomes obvious that the house is haunted.  Her husband is delighted–he’s a university professor who’s looking for proof of the paranormal. Mia quickly discovers that she’s psychically sensitive to the spirits in this house. While one of them is a harmless little girl Mia would do anything to protect, there is something else that is much more sinister lurking the halls of Six Minstrel Run…

Plot 

This novel fights a lot of tropes in the paranormal activity subgenre.  First off, Adam, a professor at the university, bought this house because he knew it was haunted. He wanted to see if he could capture evidence of the existence of ghosts on camera.  This automatically sets this novel apart from others like it–where there is that inevitable first third of the book where the protagonists are in denial that supernatural beings exist.  Even Mia, the skeptic, believes that there is a ghost in this house within the first few chapters.

There is a lot of paranormal activity right off the bat, which also sets this book apart. Usually in novels like this the author plays with shadowy figures in the corner of your eye, mysterious noises in the dead of night, and other events that can be attributed to the imagination or natural phenomenon.  But this book escalates things a lot more quickly. The plot isn’t about whether or not the protagonists believe there is a ghost. It’s about Mia getting to know the ghost of the little girl that lives there, all the while questioning if she’s truly a little girl at all, or if she’s something insidious…

The book also has religious undertones, as there is a priest who makes regular appearances at Six Minstrel Run, warning Adam and Mia that they need to leave before its too late.  He fears for their souls, though Adam and Mia find him more annoying than the ghosts inhabiting their home. This theme is carried throughout, as Mia was raised Catholic but turned against her religion for slightly spoilery reasons. 

Characters 

I had to suspend my disbelief just a tad when reading this book. Some of the plot points that I lauded in the “Plot” section make for unrealistic main characters.  Mia is supposedly a skeptic, yet the first time she has a paranormal encounter in this book, she instantly believes. Both Mia and Adam are invested in keeping the house, but as the paranormal events escalate, they remain oblivious to the danger they’re truly in.  Even someone who was desperate to prove the paranormal exists would have run for the hills after some of the events that take place early on in this story.  The main characters’ lack of relatability can be countered by saying that the novel isn’t meant to be horror, and that it at times takes a sardonic tone, but whether that was intentional or not is unclear.  The writing style is a lot lighter than you would expect a book with this type of plot to be.  I talk a bit more about this element a little more in depth in the Language section below.

There is a lot of cutesy back and forth banter between Mia and Adam, which serves to make me as the reader truly invested in their relationship.  They love each other, and there’s never a point in the novel where I questioned that even for a moment. 

I was particularly invested in the strange yet beautiful relationship between Mia and the ghost girl.  It’s clear that Mia has motherly instincts despite not being a mother, and she worries for the safety of the little girl, what with the other spirits that inhabit this house. She wants to protect her, despite not truly knowing if she isn’t dangerous, and the relationship is quite tender and refreshing.  It also adds to the horror element, as there’s nothing scarier than a child that might just be homicidal.  The little girl ghost is adorable yet incredibly creepy, a beautiful dichotomy that makes this book truly unique.

Language 

As mentioned earlier, the tone of the book is light. It reminded me a little of Jay Ansen’s “The Amityville Horror”, as it has that sense of the author calmly relaying the facts, no matter how disturbing they might be.  Many books rely on language to instill that fear in the reader, yet in this case (and in The Amityville Horror’s case), the language was a mere medium for relaying the horror of the events that unfold.  

The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a refreshing take on an old subgenre–the ghost story–with a unique twist.

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*Thank you to Blackthorn Book Tours  for ebook for review*

Author Bio:

Originally from South Amboy NJ, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Since 1996, he has developed the “Divergent Fates” world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, The Awakened Series, The Harmony Paradox, the Prophet of the Badlands series, and the Daughter of Mars series take place.

His books span adult, young-adult, and middle-grade fiction in multiple genres, predominantly science fiction, cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic, and fantasy.

Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, developer of two custom tabletop RPG systems, and a fan of anime, British humour, and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of humanity, reality, life, and what might happen after it.

He is also fond of cats, presently living with two: Loki and Dorian.

Author links:

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