Review: The Awakening by Amanda Stevens

Reviewed by Jen

Amanda Stevens definitely knows how to draw readers into a story. Her writing creates such a sensory experience that I always feel like I am there, living the events with her characters.

This is the final book in her Graveyard Queen series, and it definitely feels like a finale. We are back home in Charleston with Amelia, where she is working on a grave restoration which introduces her to another dark mystery involving a ghost. This one is a child and somehow Amelia feels a personal connection to the little girl. Her new mission is to figure out how the child died and how to help her find peace. [Read more…]

Review: The Visitor by Amanda Stevens

visitorReviewed by Jen

They say good things come to those who wait. Well, it feels like I’ve been waiting forever for this fourth installment of the Graveyard Queen series. But it was worth it. This book was deliciously creepy. It had the same dark tone as the first three stories, but it felt like a new beginning. The characters I know and love are back, but their lives are turning a corner as a new series arc begins.

The mystery of Devlin’s haunting is put to bed, but only to make room for Amelia to become haunted herself. This ghost –who looks just like her– opens the door for Amelia to delve into her own past and family history. It uncovers more questions with every new answer she finds. And while this is a very Amelia-centric book, the drama with Devlin isn’t over. Only now, instead of the threat coming from his dead wife, it’s about his very-much alive grandfather and family legacy. [Read more…]

Review: Hemlock Grove by Brian McGreevy

hemlock groveReviewed by Jen

On a scale of 1 to 5, internally rate how much you love the following:

  • Terrible sentence structure and a complete disregard for the use of commas.
  • A self referential writer/ narrator.
  • Frequent use of the word “retard.”
  • ESP tied to the testicles of a main character.
  • Plot developments seemingly placed entirely for shock value.
  • Incest/ rape.
  • Giant gaps in the storyline with no explanation.
  • Major unanswered questions.
  • A conclusion that makes little or no sense.

[Read more…]

Review: Circle of Blood by Debbie Viguié

circle of bloodReviewed by Jen

The Witch Hunt series goes out big in this third and final book in the series.  For new readers, this book is not an entry point for the story.  You need to start at the beginning with The Thirteenth Sacrifice.  Yes, this book has it’s own beginning and end, but it’s really more of a culmination of everything that has happened to the heroine up to this point. It’s been a long and dark road for Samantha. And things are going to get worse before they get better.

If you haven’t read the first two books in the series, beware. Thar be spoilers ahead. [Read more…]

Review: The Last Grave by Debbie Viguié

last graveReviewed by Jen

I actually got a copy of this book before reading The Thirteenth Sacrifice and I debated with myself about whether to jump into this series on the second book. The OCD in me forced me to start at the beginning and I am so glad I did.  You could read this book first, but you would miss out on so much that has shaped the main character. The events of The Thirteenth Sacrifice chewed her up and spit her out.  In many ways, this story is a reaction to what happened.  It has its own central mystery, but the Samantha we see here is one fashioned by her latest hardships. [Read more…]

Review: The Thirteenth Sacrifice by Debbie Viguié

thirteenth sacrificeReviewed by Jen

If you’re looking for something a little bit different, and you don’t mind your Urban Fantasy dark and bloody, you may want to give this book a try. In my opinion, it straddles the line between UF and horror, with a healthy dose of mystery/ suspense and just a dash of romance. The body count is high and our main character adds to it quite a bit, as she goes undercover in a powerful coven of witches, who are using human sacrifice –something bad– in order to ultimately do Something Worse. [Read more…]

Review: The Prophet

Reviewed by Jen

Amanda Stevens really put me through the wringer with this third installment of her Graveyard Queen series. When we last saw Amelia, she was on her way back to Charleston to answer a summons for help from John Devlin. It’s almost like The Kingdom was a “time-out” from the action of The Restorer in many ways.

But now Amelia is back in the thick of things. Back at the old cemetery where she was working before. Surrounded by the same ghosts. In love with the same man. With the same roadblocks. Only maybe it’s worse this time around.

My heart ached right along with Amelia’s when Devlin came back on the canvas. They’ve been apart for months and to call things tentative between them would be an understatement. There are even questions now about whether he has moved on with someone else. This, as the presence of his dead wife Mariama continues to hold onto him with both hands.

The ghost of former cop Robert Fremont is haunting Amelia, pushing her to solve his murder. It’s a tangled mystery, wrapped up in Devlin’s past, Mariama’s treachery, blackmail, betrayal, adultery, and the occult. It’s very, very creepy. Not just the ghosts, which are indeed scary, but the bugs and the zombie drugs really put it over the top.

The distance and deception between Devlin and Amelia kept me tense and unhappy for the first half of the book. I found myself cringing every time Amelia began another Q&A about Mariama. Everybody has something to say about her. Everyone either loved her or they hated her. And she’s been dead for years, but everyone still wants to talk about her. If I didn’t know Amelia was dealing with her ghost, I’d think she was the most lovesick, pathetic person on the planet to bring her up every five seconds.

But when things started to pick up, the book was off and running. I loved the way Stevens kept me guessing until the very end. About who the killer was. About the motive. About the real circumstances surrounding Mariama & Shani’s deaths. I loved the tie in to the African root magic. And the ending. Oh. My. God. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.

There will be a fourth book, thank goodness.  And I am anxious to find out what repercussions will come from the big climax here.  4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley 

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Prophet
by Amanda Stevens
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Mira

DNF: Darkness Falling

Reviewed by Jen

Life is too short to force yourself to keep reading.

I requested Darkness Falling from NetGalley because I liked the premise: Four people inside a radio station find they may be the only normal people left alive after a strange bright light turns the rest of the town in pod-people zombies. I like zombies. But well-over 100 pages in, imagine my surprise when I have yet to see the walking undead. What I did see was nothing like the blurb… except the white light.

The story actually follows about nine or 10 people, scattered in or around Denver. Three are in a plane when the rest of the crew and passengers disappear. My mind went straight to The Langoliers and never left. There is the obvious dismay and confusion that follows, then more of the same once they get the plane to the ground. At the same time, we see the event from the perspective of a serial killer, a schizophrenic and the promised radio station crowd, respectively. It is incredibly drawn out. We get a lot of characterization, which can be a good thing, but it was just too much.

I was most annoyed by the exact same revelations over and over again, such as “Why would people close the doors behind them?” when everyone is trying to figure out where the town went. You know what? I would never ask that question, yet the folks in the book did, over and over and over. Another annoyance: a movie or literary reference every five seconds. One or twice could create some common ground between the characters and the audience, but we’re talking like 50 different references.
So, back to the zombie thing… I’m more than a 1/3 of the way into the book and I start questioning myself about whether this was really a zombie book after all. So I go to Goodreads and discover two things: 1) While the zombies do eventually make an appearance, the book is basically the set up installment for the series, with no resolution; and 2) It was originally released in 2002… part 2 didn’t come out until six years later and there is still no word on number 3. So I sat there thinking to myself, why on earth would I keep reading this book?  Then I turned off my nook.  Like I said, life is too short, even if giving up on a book makes me feel like a failure.
*After posting this review, a reader shared the following information with me: “Parts 1 and 2 that you mention were originally published as limited edition novellas, and they are included as *part* of Darkness Falling. Darkness Falling is essentially novellas 1 and 2 rewritten with additional material. The second novel in the trilogy is due in September 2012, and the third volume a year later.”  Thank you, Stevie J, for correcting my error.
**ARC Provided by NetGalley
Darkness Falling
by Peter Cowther
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Publisher: Angry Robot

Original Release Date: September 1, 2002