Saturday, December 18, 2010

If Walls Could Talk by Juliet Blackwell

If Walls Could Talk is the first in a new series by Juliet Blackwell, the Haunted Home Renovation series. The main character is Mel Turner, former cultural anthropologist turned contractor for historic home reconstructions and remodels. Mel had temporarily stepped in for her dad after her mom passed away. Two years later, she is still standing in.
Mel is fairly recently divorced from her fellow anthropologist husband. She is also recently thrown together with a former flame, or maybe the one who got away. Mel is working on a house for an old friend, and former rock star, and nothing is going smoothly.
I really like Blackwell’s Witchcraft Mystery series, I think I will also like this one. I think this first book got off to a little bit of a rocky start, but the bone structure is good. I think I heard a little too much about how Mel really wanted to be in Paris, wallowing in self pity instead of running her family’s construction company. This book also suffered a little bit because there were a lot of characters to be introduced that will likely be recurring characters in later books, and that tended to slow things down.
This series is about Haunted Home Renovations, so of course the house that Mel is working on is haunted. I thought that this book started with a bang, almost literally, but it felt a bit like there were too many elements being squeezed in. Blackwell had to provide enough information to us lay people to follow the historic home business, plus establishing a bit of the mythology for the ghosts or spirits that hang around. Put all that together with establishing characters in a new series, and it felt a little rushed in some places and maybe long winded in others. 

        Maybe because I'm coming off of Victoria Laurie's Ghost Hunters series, I was a little disappointed by the actual haunting of the house that Mel was working on. However, Blackwell did establish that Mel is maybe just starting to recognize and come into her "powers" to see and communicate with spirits, so I would expect more spooky haunting stuff in future books. 
I will read the next book in this series because, based on Juliet Blackwell’s Witchcraft Mysteries, I think she will hit a groove with this series as well. 
For now, I’m going to give If Walls Could Talk by Juliet Blackwell, 3 bookmarks.

Ghost Hunter Mysteries by Victoria Laurie

I just finished my re-read of the Ghost Hunter series. Victoria Laurie’s new book in the series, Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls is due out 12/28/2010. The Ghost Hunter series consists of: What’s a Ghoul to Do? Demons Are a Ghoul’s Best Friend, Ghouls Just Haunt to Have Fun..., and Ghouls Gone Wild.
The Ghost Hunters team consists of MJ Holliday, psychic medium, Gilley Gillespie, tech guru, and a few other characters that join up with the team in the later books. 
       What’s a Ghoul to Do? is the first book in the series and MJ and Gilley are hired to help a young doctor with the spirit of his grandfather. The grandfather is haunting the young doctor’s newly inherited house. This book does a good job of setting the tone for the series. Victoria Laurie does a great job of blending the spooky and the funny. Gilley and MJ’s African Grey parrot, Doc, provide great comedy relief. 
Demons Are a Ghoul’s Best Friend finds MJ and Gilley helping out a friend. There is an axe wielding spirit haunting a boarding school, especially an older part of the school that is to be turned into student dorms. This one really puts MJ and Gilley through their paces, it really ratchets up the spooky from the first book.
Ghouls Just Want to Have Fun sends MJ and Gilley to San Francisco, to a very haunted hotel, to film a TV show. The show is like Antiques Roadshow meets Most Haunted. The psychic mediums are supposed to investigate haunted objects. MJ meets several mediums, not all of them at her caliber, but she does meet Heath Whitefeather, a legitimately talented medium. The monkey wrench comes from a knife that shows up on set and throws the mediums for a loop. The danger on this job escalates even beyond that of the last book.
Ghouls Gone Wild has the strongest spirits yet, that MJ has ever encountered. MJ, Gilley, and Heath Whitefeather are filming a new TV show, doing ghost busts in Scotland. The first location features a very haunted street and haunted caverns below the town. The town has been plagued by the ghost of the town witch and her two sisters for over 200 years. The witch has returned, 35 years early and the bodies are starting to pile up. 
I cannot wait to see where this series goes next! As a side note, I love the cover art for this series too.


Thursday, December 09, 2010

What Books I’m looking forward to in the New Year.

Several of my favorite authors and series will be coming out with new books in the next few months. I really wish there was an easy way to get a completely personalized list of author’s upcoming books. Amazon’s coming soon recommendations are ok, but not exactly what I’m looking for. Anyway, I digress. 
I am currently re-reading Victoria Laurie’s M.J. Holliday series. I just finished the first book, What's a Ghoul to Do? The newest book in the series, Ghouls Ghouls Ghouls comes out in early January 2011. It used to be pretty rare for me to re-read a book, but now that I have so many different series I follow, it’s basically necessary to remind myself of details. 
Other series I will probably be re-reading in the next month or two include the Tempest series by Nicole Peeler, her new book Tempest’s Legacy comes out in early January 2011. Madelyn Alt also has a new book in her Bewitching Mystery series coming in January, Home for a Spell. I have already mentioned Shadowfever I think by Karen Marie Moning. I absolutely can’t wait for that one!
That covers January as far as I can tell. 
In February, Angels Verdict by Mary Stanton; This Side of the Grave by Jeaniene Frost; and Pale Demon by Kim Harrison. The Frost book is part of the core Night Huntress series with Cat and Bones. Kim Harrison is amazing and I can’t wait for the latest adventures of Rachael, Ivy and Jinks. 
In April, Night of the Living Dandelion by Kate Collins; and A Hard Day’s FrightA Hard Day's Fright (A Pepper Martin Mystery) by Casey Daniels. Both of those series are well underway and I am looking forward to the next installments. I can’t forget Ghost Story by Jim Butcher. I think I am looking as forward to this as I am to the next Sookie. Speaking of Sookie Stackhouse....
In May, Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris is coming. Charlaine Harris is what really started me down this path of voracious reading. I had been sporadic before I read the first Sookie Stackhouse book. The only author I really followed was Diana Gabaldon. Now my list is long, most of the authors are in the mystery or urban fantasy genres. 

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Murder of a Pink Elephant by Denise Swanson

Skye Denison is back, along with all of our favorite inhabitants of Scumble River, Illinois.  This installment finds things humming along pretty well for Skye, but then a storm starts to build in Scumble river. Skye’s brother Vince has changed the name of his band from Plastic Santas to Pink Elephant, and the music has changed too, and not for the better in Skye’s opinion. Police Chief Wally is running for mayor, and the stress of the political campaign, or something else is making the chief act very unlike himself. The teenagers in Scumble River and surrounding towns are acting off, and that is definitely something Skye would like to get to the bottom of. Oh, and there’s a man who wants to build an amusement park near Scumble River, and he would like the whole town to be unpaid employees and give park goers a 1950s experience whenever they venture into town. 
Skye gets hints of the trouble with her students early on, but it takes her a little digging to get to the reason for the odd behavior. Skye also learns that all is not right with the band Pink Elephant, the guys go off on each other and fight, fists and all at the slightest provocation. Then, one of the Pink Elephants ends up dead, and Vince is again the focus of a police investigation. With the way Wally is acting, Skye isn’t getting much help in clearing Vince’s name, so the game is afoot. 
While Skye is getting to the bottom of the murder and the teenage troubles in town, her boyfriend Simon is getting ready to open the bowling alley he purchased. He is all set up for a grand re-opening, with his mother, Bunny managing the store. 
Skye was definitely hopping in this one, and of course, all this sleuthing doesn’t come without a little danger on the side. This was another fun, fast paced installment in the Scumble River mystery series. I really like Skye, she’s brave, determined, and has an admirable moral compass. The supporting characters are a lot of fun, and I’m glad to see her relationship with Simon progressing. Although, I’m still not sure whether I’m Team Simon or Team Wally. I’m a little worried that ulitmately Simon might be the nice guy that finishes last. 
I’m going to give Murder of a Pink Elephant by Denise Swanson, 4 Stars.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Dresden Files books 8 - 12 and Side Jobs

Happy Holidays!
I got caught up reading more of the Dresden Files books. I read the remaining ones in the series back to back, including Side Jobs, the short story collection. So, let me see, I read Proven Guilty, White Night, Small Favor, Turn Coat, and Changes. I don’t think I’m going to go into very much depth about each book, but I’ll talk about the second half of this series as a whole. Really, Dresden Files is a fairly epic story. Even from the first book (Storm Front) it appears that things have been more than they appeared. It seems there is an underlying dark force, Harry Dresden has termed it the Black Council that may be behind the increase in craziness that has been causing Harry grief all this time. 
Proven Guilty has Harry facing off against movie monsters. There is a scary movie festival in town, but the monsters from the screen seem to be coming to life, and the death toll of real people is piling up. 
White Night pits Harry against someone who is kidnapping and killing magic practitioners, but only those who aren’t strong enough to be part of the White Council. There is no advocate for them, until Harry gets involved. Of course, Harry can never just have one problem at a time, so things get dicey when Harry gets involved with the White Court vampires. 
Small Favor has Harry doing another favor for Mab, Faery Queen of the Winter Court. I know, there are a lot of courts and councils. Any favor for Mab can never be as simple as it seems, and this is no exception. Harry faces off against the billy goats Gruff, and has to deal with John Marcone, again. 
Turn Coat forces Harry to try to protect Warden Morgan, the guy who has wanted him dead since he turned sixteen. Not only does Harry have to protect him, but he has to prove him innocent of wrongdoing. Harry has a strong sense of justice and it is severely tested in this book. There appears to be a traitor in the White Council, and he or she seems to be very highly placed.
Changes. I don’t even know what to say about this one. This one is so amazing, and starts with such a jaw dropping surprise, that I hate to say anything, except that the title says it all. The series will never be the same after this latest installment. 
Side Jobs is a collection of short stories, most of them have been published in other anthologies alongside stories by other authors. This collects them all into one place. They tend to not be quite so solve this case, save the world as the novels. But they are fun to read. One story is told from Thomas’ point of view, which is a fun twist. One is told from Karrin Murphy’s point of view, it was fascinating to get more insight into how Murphy ticks. 
I have been fascinated with the way Jim Butcher has unfolded Harry Dresden’s story. The excitement has pretty much built and built with each book. Changes completely blew me away. 
Harry Dresden is such a complex character. He really tries to live by that old credo: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Harry knows he may be easily turned to the dark side, and cookies or not, he really doesn’t want to go there. More and more though, Harry sees the world in shades of grey. 
       Some of the things that happen with the Knights of the Cross in these books are pretty earth-shattering too. Harry gets an apprentice, and maybe a little karmic payback.  Murphy finds herself just as tested as Harry in many of these books. Can the mundane police really be expected to police the supernatural? Can Murphy really keep the city safe by the police force book? 
I think the relationship between Harry Dresden and Karrin Murphy is an important part of the series. I like that their relationship is messy and complicated. They are definitely friends, they both see the appeal of being more, but they both have a strong moral compass. Not to mention, sex tends to ruin friendships. On the other hand, I don’t think either Harry or Murphy has another person that they trust as implicitly as they trust each other. Once upon a time Harry promised Murphy that the things he could tell her, he wouldn’t lie about, and he really has stuck with that promise, even though at times that truth has caused both of them a lot of trouble. 
I am completely taken with the Dresden Files and have recommended it to everyone I know who enjoys reading. I like the humor and the action and the characters feel real. Otherwise I wouldn’t be so upset that I didn’t wait until the day before book 13 comes out to read book 12. 
I am going to give Proven Guilty, White Night, Small Favor, Turn Coat, Changes, and Side Jobs each 1 bookmark. Jim Butcher is an amazing author, and I can’t wait to read the next one!