On the Edge (Novel of the Edge, #1)

On the EdgeOn the Edge
by Ilona Andrews
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780441017805
Series: Novel of the Edge #1
Publication Date: September 29, 2009
Pages: 336
Genre: Fiction, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

 

Well, it just goes to show you: people change and you should never say never.  I read this book back in 2016 and my review from that reading was … unfavourable, ending with my declaration that I’d never read the book again.

Shows you what I know.  I not only read it again, I liked it better than I did the first time.  It’s still a little too PNR for me, but I found it easier to get into the story, the setting and the characters.  Maybe because I’d already read it and had a vague recollection of not liking the romantic interest, I found him less unbearable than I expected to, and the non-consent issues didn’t feel as egregious this time around, only typically arrogant.

I can’t really say why, except maybe I’ve read more Ilona Andrews’ since, or my mood was more receptive to the story.  Who knows?  But I went from rating this 3 stars and never reading it again, to rating it 4 stars and buying a copy of it for my shelves.  Along with the other 3 book in the series.

 

I’ve been intending to read this since I ordered it back in July, but its arrival during Halloween Bingo was fortuitous;  it’s a great fit for the Relics and Curiosities square.  The story line centers on a powerful artefact from a previous civilisation that eats magic and spits out something very akin to a demon hound.

Lost Lake

Lost LakeLost Lake
by Sarah Addison Allen
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781250019820
Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Pages: 296
Genre: Magical Realism
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

The first time Eby Pim saw Lost Lake, it was on a picture postcard. Just an old photo and a few words on a small square of heavy stock, but when she saw it, she knew she was seeing her future.

That was half a life ago. Now Lost Lake is about to slip into Eby's past. Her husband George is long passed. Most of her demanding extended family are gone. All that's left is a once-charming collection of lakeside cabins succumbing to the Southern Georgia heat and damp, and an assortment of faithful misfits drawn back to Lost Lake year after year by their own unspoken dreams and desires.

It's a lot, but not enough to keep Eby from relinquishing Lost Lake to a developer with cash in hand, and calling this her final summer at the lake. Until one last chance at family knocks on her door.

Lost Lake is where Kate Pheris spent her last best summer at the age of twelve, before she learned of loneliness, and heartbreak, and loss. Now she's all too familiar with those things, but she knows about hope too, thanks to her resilient daughter Devin, and her own willingness to start moving forward. Perhaps at Lost Lake her little girl can cling to her own childhood for just a little longer... and maybe Kate herself can rediscover something that slipped through her fingers so long ago.

One after another, people find their way to Lost Lake, looking for something that they weren't sure they needed in the first place: love, closure, a second chance, peace, a mystery solved, a heart mended. Can they find what they need before it's too late?

At once atmospheric and enchanting, Lost Lake shows Sarah Addison Allen at her finest, illuminating the secret longings and the everyday magic that wait to be discovered in the unlikeliest of places.


I’d heard through the book vine that Lost Lake was one of Allen’s weaker offerings, but its synopsis pulled me in more than The Peach Keeper‘s and it was the only one my library had.

Reading it, I can understand the meh reactions; emotionally, the book doesn’t have much of a build-up of tension.  But I read First Frost and compared to that one, this was (sorry Ms. Allen) stellar.  I really liked Eby and Kate… I pretty much liked all the characters.  Even Selma, and I think that went a long way towards offsetting the lack of dramatic arc. Lisette did get on my nerves a tiny bit, but wasn’t so bad that she overshadowed the rest.  I loved Billy.  Like the apple tree in Garden Spells, Billy was my favourite of this book.

The climax of the story line between Kate and her mother-in-law Cricket ended weirdly: very much with a whimper instead of the bang I was expecting, although Cricket’s disappearance for the second half of the book didn’t feel odd except in hindsight.  I thought it was refreshing to have two main characters that were not emotionally damaged or needed fixing; bad things happened to them but they pulled themselves up instead of running to someone else.

Overall, I just enjoyed the book.  I didn’t love it like The Girl Who Chased the Moon or Garden Spells but I did like it enough to lose myself in the story.

This is my book for the Magical Realism square in 2016 Halloween Bingo.

As Death Draws Near (Lady Darby Mystery, #5)

As Death Draws NearAs Death Draws Near
by Anna Lee Huber
Rating: ★★★★★
isbn: 9780425277720
Series: A Lady Darby Mystery #5
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Pages: 342
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

I love this book, but it’s getting a bonus 1/2 star bump for being both historically accurate and immediately relevant.

Gage and Kiera are on their honeymoon when they are summoned to Ireland to investigate the death of a young woman, a postulant at the Loretto convent; a recent convert from Anglicanism and a distant cousin of Wellington.

The story’s time – the early 1800’s  – and its setting in Ireland, make it the perfect vehicle for exploring religious intolerance and prejudice.  If I had to guess, I’d say the author is Roman Catholic, but it’s just a guess, as I think both the Protestants and the Catholics are treated equally.  Either way, it is clear that the author is writing from a place of faith herself; the story does not proselytise and it’s not a ‘Christian’ book but its plot is entirely about religion and Huber writes without cynicism, whether she’s talking about its grace or its hypocrisy.

The mystery itself was devastating and complex;  I was so very sure I knew where it was going, and I was so very wrong.  I saw a small twist coming a mile away but it didn’t go where I thought it would at all.  The ending was heart wrenching and gutting and that twist totally blind-sided me.

The author includes a note at the end that discusses what she used from history (a lot) and what she created; she also includes a few recommended reads for those interested in going further.  This was an incredibly well-written, entertaining mystery with the added bonus of giving the reader quite a bit to chew on in terms of what people will do to each other in the name of religion and I thought it was handled deftly without being judgemental.

These people, these neighbors, both Protestant and Catholic alike, who spat at each other with such hatred that it sometimes erupted into violence, did so because their faith was slightly different.  Because they couldn’t be bothered to learn the truth about each other.

Easily one of my top 5 favourite series – can’t wait for the next one.

The Curse of Tenth Grave (Charley Davidson, #10)

The Curse of Tenth GraveThe Curse of Tenth Grave
by Darynda Jones
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9781250078193
Series: Charlie Davidson #10
Publication Date: June 4, 2016
Pages: 342
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

If one door closes and another one opens,
your house is probably haunted.
—Bumper Sticker

As a Part-time PI and fulltime grim reaper, Charley Davidson has asked a lot of questions throughout her life: Why can I see dead people? Who is the hot supernatural entity following me? How do I get gum out of my sister’s hair before she wakes up? But, “How do I trap not one malevolent god, but three?” was never among them. Until now. And since those gods are on earth to kill her daughter, she has little choice but to track them down, trap them, and cast them from this dimension.

Those are just a few of the questions Charley must answer, and quick. Add to that a homeless girl running for her life, an innocent man who’s been charged with murdering the daughter of a degenerate gambler, and a pendant made from god glass that has the entire supernatural world in an uproar, and Charley has her hands full. If she can manage to take care of the whole world-destroying-gods thing, we’re saved. If not, well…


Ah, this is much better.  We’re back in New Mexico, Charley’s home and she has more than a couple of very cool cases.  She’s owning who she is in a rather fabulous way; neither all good nor all bad and only either when it’s necessary.

The only bee in my bonnet was the whole relationship let’s-not-talk-about-what’s-bothering-us trope, and it was followed up by what should have been a fabulous scene consisting of several pages of Charley and Reyes talking everything out and uh…other stuff.  In fairness, it was a good scene, but at that point I was itching to move the mythological story line along, so it was definitely my impatience, not Jones’ failure.  On a side note, I’m totally going to use the Twister idea the next time my nieces are fighting (read the book; it’s not as weird as it sounds).

Jones kept me waiting for the mythology, but when she delivered, she delivered big.  Fascinating stuff, tons of reveals, although it seems she’s going further than just stretching classical biblical mythology, using it instead as a springboard for a much larger polytheistic mythology of her own.  I think she’s missed the point of Jehovah’s true nature, but I’m still on board – I want to see if she’ll take forgiveness as far as it actually goes.  Lots of good theological conversation starters here.

Can’t wait for 11!

The Dirt on Ninth Grave (Charley Davidson, #9)

The Dirt on Ninth GraveThe Dirt on Ninth Grave
by Darynda Jones
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781250074485
Series: Charlie Davidson #9
Publication Date: January 16, 2016
Pages: 326
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Charley Davidson is living in New York City as Jane Doe, a girl with no memory of who she is or where she came from. So when she begins to realize she can see dead people, she’s more than a bit taken aback. Strangers who enter the diner where she works seem to know things about her…Then she is confronted by a man who claims to have been sent to kill her. Sent by the darkest force in the universe. An enemy that will not stop until she is dead. Thankfully, she has a Rottweiler. And the diner’s devastatingly handsome fry cook, who vows to protect her even though he seems to be lying with every breath he takes. But in the face of such grave danger, who can Jane/Charley/whoever she is trust? She will find the truth even if it kills her…or the fry cook. Either way…


My personal health reality includes sleeping medications, so I rarely suffer from anything that could be called insomnia.  Except on very rare occasions when they fail, and last night they failed spectacularly – I never went to sleep.  I finally started to nod off when MT’s alarm went off and I briefly contemplated instigating a domestic disturbance.

The good news – I guess – is that I finished The Dirt on Ninth Grave in one sitting.  I was engrossed enough in the story to not want to put it down, but I’d have preferred not feeling like a zombie on toast today.

I definitely, thoroughly, enjoyed this book but I liked it the least of the nine books so far.  It was the amnesia thing.  We finally got to a place in the story arc where we had answers and a clear goal in site and then this book comes along and we’re temporarily rebooted to Charley not knowing anything.  I thought this would only last a few chapters… maybe half the book at the outside, but nope: Charley doesn’t snap out of it until the end.

I saved this book until The Curse of Tenth Grave was released because I’d read from several places that Ninth Grave ended on a cliffhanger.  I’ll argue this ending isn’t a cliffhanger though, because the action comes to an end; the story is paused.  A major story-arc plot twist is revealed, but it’s more a ‘how will this affect the arc’ twist, rather than ‘ohmigod is someone gonna die in chapter 1 of book 10?!?’.

…I think.  Thankfully, I have the next book sitting here waiting, so I can find out.  After I take a nap.

(I might use this book as the Book with a terrible cover Summer Book Bingo square.  It’s not objectively terrible, but I don’t like it.)

Persuasion

PersuasionPersuasion
by Jane Austen
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9781435127432
Publication Date: January 1, 2012
Pages: 228
Genre: Fiction, Literature
Publisher: Barnes and Noble

 

This was my “comfort read” for the Summer Book Bingo.  It’s a re-read, so there’s not much more for me to say than I’ve said before.  It’s Austen.  It’s brilliant.

I refrained from 5 stars only because it starts a bit slow and it’s not Pride & Prejudice, the standards by which I judge all my regency.  😉

On the Edge

On the EdgeOn the Edge
by Ilona Andrews
Rating: ★★★
isbn: 9780441017805
Series: Novel of the Edge #1
Publication Date: September 29, 2009
Pages: 336
Genre: Fiction, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

 

I love the Kate Daniels series and the synopsis for this one sounded pretty good; a place where two worlds overlapped – an in-between space only certain people could live.  Intriguing.

But… no.  The writing is solid, descriptive, evocative.  But this is much more a paranormal romance than an urban fantasy and animal cruelty is just treated too casually for me; it’s not graphic, but it’s prevalent.

This is also a book that would lose a lot of readers in the first half, especially those with low tolerance for male posturing and non-consent (no rape, to be clear, just the whole ‘I will have you! crap).  Andrews’ here is a bit too clever for their own good (what is the proper pronoun usage for 2 people writing under 1 name?!?):  a lot of readers won’t have the tolerance to stick around and discover just how wrong perceptions are in the first half of the book.

Overall, I’m not sorry I read it, but I won’t read it again and I won’t read the second book (I think there’s a second book…).  I’ll stick with Kate and Curran.

An Inquiry Into Love and Death

An Inquiry into Love and DeathAn Inquiry into Love and Death
by Simone St. James
Rating: ★★★★★
isbn: 9780451239259
Publication Date: March 5, 2013
Pages: 355
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical
Publisher: NAL / New American Library

Boy howdy can St. James write a ghost story!  I love this book; I woke up at 6.30 this morning and did nothing until I finished it and then I re-read a few passages just to make it last longer.

In 1920’s England, Oxford student Jillian Leigh’s uncle Toby, a renowned ghost hunter, is killed in a fall off a cliff, and she must drive to the seaside village of Rothewell to pack up his belongings.

Almost immediately, unsettling incidents—a book left in a cold stove, a gate swinging open on its own—escalate into terrifying events that convince Jillian an angry spirit is trying to enter the house. Is it Walking John, the two-hundred-year-old ghost who haunts Blood Moon Bay? Was Toby’s death an accident?

The arrival of handsome Scotland Yard inspector Drew Merriken leaves Jillian with more questions than answers. Even as she suspects someone will do anything to hide the truth, she begins to discover spine-chilling secrets that lie deep within Rothewell… 

If you’re a horror or psychological horror lover, pass this review right on by; this book is a cream puff in comparison to your regular fare, but for the rest of us, this is truly an old-school, spooky ghost story with a mystery and a romance (oh the romance…).  There’s nothing gothic about the story, but I keep thinking of the old gothics anyway, for lack of any better comparison.

I probably should have gone 4.5 stars because Jillian goes through an improbable – neigh, impossible – number of physical calamities to still be standing upright.  Or breathing, really.  But the story was just so good; I was sucked in so thoroughly that I was willing to overlook her superhuman regenerative powers.  Inspector Merriken was incentive enough to spur on a rapid recovery.

Ok, anything else I say beyond this point would just be repetitive gushing.  I loved this book; it gave me exactly the experience I hope for every time I start a new story and I’ll be looking for more of this author’s work.

The Counterfeit Heiress (Lady Emily, #9)

The Counterfeit HeiressThe Counterfeit Heiress
by Tasha Alexander
Rating: ★★★
isbn: 6781710024695
Series: Lady Emily Mystery #9
Publication Date: January 1, 2014
Pages: 292
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books

This should have been a lot creepier than it was and the dialogue failed in a lot of places, leaving Emily sounding like a boasting second grader at times and Colin a condescending but kindly nanny.

Even though the story didn’t quite meet the level of creepy it was capable of, it was still a good story and definitely not one that’s been overused.  Cecil’s odd childhood friend grew up to be an adventuress who always appeared in the news from a different spot on the globe.  Then one night at a masquerade in London, Cecile is introduced to her friend, and it’s an imposter.  The imposter turns up dead the next morning and everyone is off in search of a killer and, incidentally, to find the real Estelle.

I’m not sure if I’ll read the next one or not – it does feature Jeremy Bainbridge and he’s one of my favourite characters, but the odd dynamic between Colin and Emily really threw me off.

The author does include a note at the back explaining the historical connections to the creation of this plot, and I always enjoy these; I always learn a little something from each one.

Perhaps if the next book is on sale…

Marked in Flesh (The Others, #4)

Marked in FleshMarked in Flesh
by Anne Bishop
Rating: ★★★★½
Series: The Others #4
Publication Date: March 1, 2016
Pages: 416
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: ROC Hardcover

 

Well, obviously I loved this one. I almost went the whole 5 stars, but I was able to put it down when I finished and not just start re-reading it, so I figured it must be lacking something.  Let’s call it ‘not enough Tess’.

But honestly, I had some fears over this one because surely the author couldn’t keep on writing books this consistently good; surely there had to be a weakling among the litter?  If there is, it hasn’t yet been written.  Once I started it, I didn’t want to put it down.

That’s all I’m going to say, because I don’t want to spoil it for those that haven’t read it yet.  But yes, it is well worth the read.