Review: The Sinner by Amanda Stevens

sinnerReviewed by Jen

If you’re in the mood for a dark and lush gothic series, you need to try the Graveyard Queen book. Each one of these stories pulls you in deeper than the last, and I think this installment is the creepiest one yet.

It’s been an entire year since the events of the last book, which is a kick in the teeth to anyone hoping for some John and Amelia loving. He walked away from her at the end of The Visitor and apparently, he’s never looked back. Now, Amelia is working on a restoration out of town, trying to keep him out of her mind. She’s failing miserably. [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…]

Carrie’s Most Anticipated Books of 2015

I know I’m going to miss a bunch after I send this list to post, but these are just a few of the books that have me biting my nails until they release.   I ordered them by release date to let you manage your excitement.

Tell me in the comments what you can’t wait for! [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

Review: The Kingdom

Reviewed by Jen

This book was nothing like I expected it to be and yet it manages to advance the Graveyard Queen series in a way that maintains the tone and answers some of the questions set up in The Restorer. It has elements of horror. It has danger. It, of course, has ghosts. But what it doesn’t have… is John Devlin. But I’ll get back to that in a minute.

It’s been a few months since the events of the last book and Amelia has accepted a new job in a new town called Asher Falls. She has been trying to keep her distance from Devlin and she feels like this new project will help her do that. But even aboard the ferry –on her way to the secluded town– there are signs of trouble. An underwater graveyard is one –a mysterious and compelling man is another.

In Asher Falls, she finds a place that’s cut off from the rest of the world.  A powerful family is responsible for its ruin and, perhaps, things which are much worse.  There is an undeniable evil in the town. It recognizes Amelia and she becomes a target, in more ways than one.

I’m not going to get into the details of the plot, because I don’t want to ruin the surprises and revelations. I will say that I wish I would have re-read The Restorer before beginning this installment. I found myself struggling to remember some of the particulars that were only mildly referenced here. Perhaps because of that, I had a little bit of trouble getting back in the groove at the beginning of the book. Or maybe because –with a new town and a new supporting cast– I almost felt like we were starting over.

I was intrigued by the new love interest… but I was very put out that the Devlin storyline was put on the back-burner. I liked learning more about Amelia’s past and what makes her who she is. I’ll admit that I figured out the “big reveal” early, but I certainly wouldn’t call it predictable –and other elements of the story still managed to surprise me and keep me guessing until the very end.

And while we are on the subject of the end –the last line of the book was completely awesome and now has me panting to get my hands on The Prophet. (Thank goodness it will be here in April!)

4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Kingdom
by Amanda Stevens
Release Date: March 27, 2012
Publisher: Mira

Series Reading Order: Graveyard Queen

This is the reading order for the Graveyard Queen series by Amanda Stevens:

*Denotes short story/ novella

Review: The Abandoned

Reviewed by Jen

I have some mixed feelings about this story. First, let me say that I loved The Restorer and I was very excited when I found out that this prequel was available. The events take place shortly before Amelia is hired to restore the old cemetery. But she isn’t the main character here.

This story centers on Ree, a graduate student who is interning at a psychiatric hospital. When an old patient named Violet dies, Ree is unexpectedly drawn in to the bizarre and haunting circumstances of her life and the life of her mother, Ilsa. One of the doctors at the hospital knows Violet’s secrets. In fact, his family had a hand in her tortured past. Ree overhears a conversation that tips her off to all this, placing her in danger. She makes an ally in a paranormal investigator named Hayden and the two of them become involved, while trying to figure out what happened to Violet’s mother and its connection to the mysterious Order of the Coffin and the Claw.

All of this is great. Mysterious and foreboding. But I got lost in the love scene where Hayden seemed to be possessed. It makes sense that Ilsa may have used him to get her revenge at the end. But why would she take him over while he was having sex with Ree? And if it wasn’t Ilsa, who the hell was it? There was a definitely sinister vibe to Hayden from that point on, turning him into essentially an entirely different character than we knew for the first part of the story. And even though he saves Ree when she needs him, I still don’t feel like she can trust him.

It bothers me that all of this is left hanging. As for the tie-in with The Restorer… we meet a few of the main characters, but we only really see them from Ree’s perspective. It sets up the series less from a character or ghostly perspective, and focuses more on laying the foundation for the Order of the Coffin and the Claw and its nefarious activities. It was a good story, but I hate feeling confusion when I finish a book.

3 stars.

The Abandoned
by Amanda Stevens
Release Date: April 1, 2011
Publisher: Mira Books

Review: The Restorer

Reviewed by Jen

It’s always a treat when you end up liking a book more than you expect to. And this was definitely the case here for me…

Amelia can see ghosts. But she has known from a young age that she should never acknowledge them. She must live on holy ground and avoid people who are haunted. Her father’s rules have served her well. But now, she finds herself in circumstances where the rules have gone out the window.

Amelia restores old cemeteries for a living. She is working on one in Charleston, when the body of a murder victim is found there. She gets drawn into the investigation, at first because of the detailed pictures she had of the site, but later, her knowledge of cemeteries and their symbolism becomes relevant as well.

The cop in charge of the investigation, John Devlin, strikes a major chord with Amelia. He’s charismatic, dark and sexy. She fights her attraction to him because he is haunted by the ghosts of his wife and child. But her feelings for him grow faster than she can push them down. Devlin is a man broken by the loss of his family, but that is changing with Amelia in his life. I loved watching their relationship develop. There is great sexual tension between these two! Devlin’s past and present are all tied in with the murder mystery… which grows more complicated as more bodies are found.

I became completely immersed in the murder case. I am a romance fan at heart, so usually I find myself wading through most stories just to get to the big relationship developments. But not here. I was just as wrapped up in the murders and the ghosts plaguing Amelia as I was in her pseudo-relationship with Devlin. There was intrigue, mystery, horror, and strong characters.

We do get a resolution to the murder arc, but many threads are left hanging as the book draws to a close… plenty of material to kick off the sequel. I can’t wait to learn more about her family history and her future with Devlin. I just wish I didn’t have to wait to find out what happens next!

5 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley