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Archive for the ‘Paranormal’ Category

coloradokidTime for a confession. I’ve been binge-watching the SyFy series Haven on Netflix.  Haven is a fictional small town in Maine where people are cursed with unusual gifts–like being able to conjure storms when they are stressed or make monsters attack when they are frightened. It’s not spells or demon powers–it’s what residents call “the troubles.” The series has an interesting (and attractive) cast, and I like the supernatural twist on the solve-the-mystery-in-an-hour format.

In the opening credits of every episode there’s a note that the series is based on The Colorado Kid by Stephen King.  So I read the book.

Newspaper intern Stephanie spends an afternoon with veteran newspaper men Vince and Dave discussing a cold case mystery. It’s a case the older men say isn’t really appropriate for a big newspaper like the Boston Globe because unlike many of the often repeated local stories–like the ghost lights or the mysterious shipwrecked boat–this one doesn’t have a clean “musta-been” explanation. For example, the ghost lights appearing above the baseball field “musta-been” a reflection off the clouds, or maybe it “musta-been” aliens. As Vince explains, the story of the Colorado Kid has too many unknown factors.

He and Dave proceed to tell Steff what little they know about how a man from Colorado went to work one morning and ended up dead on a little island off the coast of Maine only hours later. He was unidentified for months. But even when the police followed an initially  missed clue and identified him, they were no closer to understanding why he was found so far from home or why he had a Russian coin in his pocket.

Nothing fits together, and that can be frustrating for some readers, but I liked the interaction between Stephanie and the old timers. It was nice to see that she was beginning to fit in with the small town community. And I liked that Vince and Dave laid out all they knew about the Colorado Kid and accepted there are just too many things still unknown to be able to give a guess, a “musta-been” explanation, as to what happened. The newspaper can’t print the story because there’s nothing but questions left at the end.

So what’s all this have to do with Haven the TV series? Some character and place names are the same, and some facts about the mystery of the “Colorado Kid” are mentioned in earlier episodes, but you really get to the meat of it in the author notes at the end of the book. King explains that not all mysteries are solvable, and “it’s the beauty of the mystery that allows us to stay sane.” Nicely put, Mr. King. And I think the reminder that everything doesn’t always have an answer is the inspiration for the television show.

Check the WRL catalog for The Colorado Kid

Just for fun, check the WRL catalog for season 1 of Haven

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screaming“Of the first few hauntings I investigated with Lockwood & Co. I intend to say little, in part to protect the identity of the victims, in part because of the gruesome nature of the incidents, but mainly because, in a variety of ingenious ways, we succeeded in messing them all up.”

Ever since the Problem began (in Kent), no one goes out at night, not unless they’re armed with iron and salt to guard against spirits. For the last fifty years, nighttime is when ghostly Visitors come out to lament or avenge their untimely deaths, terrorize the living, drive down real estate assessments, etc. Because the young are particularly sensitive to paranormal energies, children and teens with psychic talents are prized as field operatives for the best ghost-investigating agencies.

Lucy Carlyle, age 15, is the newest hire at a not-so-reputable agency, Lockwood and Co., a small-time outfit run without adult supervisors by “old enough and young enough” Anthony Lockwood and his colleague George. Lockwood, proprietor, can see the residual death-glows where someone has died; Lucy can hear their voices, if she gets close enough; and George does research and cooks.

When their latest case results in not only failing to rid the premises of a ghost, but also burning the house down, Lockwood’s only chance at keeping the agency afloat is to land a really lucrative client. Say, the CEO of Fairfax Iron, owner of the most haunted private house in England, epicenter of dozens of rumored hauntings along its Screaming Staircase and in its sinister library, the Red Room. All the agents have to do is spend one night in the manor… and live.

This first book in a new series from the author of the Bartimaeus books has well-paced action and good old-fashioned swashbuckling with silver-tipped rapiers. Lockwood is dashing and cheeky, a Sherlock Holmes with two Watsons who, while inspiring his cohorts to their best work, never lets them in on his thoughts or his plan. He and Lucy and George are a camaraderie-in-the-making, if only they didn’t get on one another’s nerves quite so often.

“I’m being ironic. Or is it sarcastic? I can never remember.”
“Irony’s cleverer, so you’re probably being sarcastic.”

Fast moving, witty, and nicely creepy, the series is written for a middle grade audience, but entertaining enough for any age that appreciates a good ghost story.

Check the WRL catalog for The Screaming Staircase.

You can read the first chapter online at the author’s Tumblr.

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GameboardRichelle Mead’s latest is a post-apocalyptic mystery with an interesting take on religion.

After “the Decline,” religions are licensed and monitored; there is an entire unit of government that is responsible for investigating supernatural claims and making sure that no faith-based movement gets a powerful following.

Justin March was a successful government investigator who saw something he couldn’t explain, except through unwelcome words that hinted of a higher power.  He included his experiences in a formal report, then was exiled from The Republic of United North America (RUNA) to technology-starved Panama.  He desperately wants to return home, but has no clue as to how to get back in the government’s good graces.

Mae Koskinen is a praetorian, an elite, enhanced soldier of RUNA who is reassigned from her usual security duty following an unfortunate incident at the funeral of her lover.  Her new assignment is to help bring an exile back to RUNA for a special case.  Of course, that exile is Justin March.

Justin and Mae are given a limited amount of time to investigate a series of five ritualistic murders.  Despite the efforts of the best technicians to explain the situation with science, it looks like someone materialized out of smoke and killed unrelated victims.  Justin’s skill and his willingness to explore the supernatural possibilities make him the perfect person to lead the investigation.  In the course of the investigation, Justin and Mae develop a grudging respect for one another.

There are a lot of elements to keep your attention in this book: the hints of what happened to cause this anti-religion environment, the supernatural involvement of gods in the mortal world, the back-story of the main characters, and the developing relationship between Mae and Justin.  I must say it took me a little while to get hooked, but when I did I couldn’t put the book down.

If you want everything tied neatly together at the end, don’t start this book yet.  The mystery of the serial murders is solved, but there are many issues left hanging – you’ll just need to keep reading the “Age of X” series to understand it all.  Next in the series is The Immortal Crown due out in May, 2014.

Check the WRL catalog for Gameboard of the Gods

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Kami Garcia/UnbreakableWhat a thrill! This action filled novel is the first in the new series The Legion by Kami Garcia, co-author of the Beautiful Creatures young adult series.

We first meet Kennedy, a teen living a pretty normal life…until the day she mysteriously finds her mother dead at home. Devastated and alone (her father also left rather oddly years before) Kennedy cannot begin to imagine what is in store. When she is suddenly attacked by a force she can’t explain, twin brothers Jared and Lukas spring to her rescue. Confused, Kennedy doesn’t know whether to trust the brothers, or run away screaming in search of the police. But when they reveal they are part of a secret organization that has existed for hundreds of years to protect the world from a powerful demon, and that Kennedy’s mom was a part of the organization as well, she is truly baffled. Yet there is something in the brothers that she trusts and her curiosity gets the better of her.  While the brothers continue to fill her in (including the fact that she must take her mother’s place among the other four members, all teens who lost their parents on that one fateful night) Kennedy finds herself in a new place surrounded by four exceptional people, all with unique talents and skills which far surpass the ones she believes exist within herself.

As the book progresses Kennedy surprisingly seems to fall into her new role and proves she has something to offer the others. But something is wrong too. Something that separates Kennedy. Something no one can seem to put their finger on. What will it mean for the team? More importantly, what will it mean for all of humanity? A great start to what is sure to be a fast paced, mystery-filled series (with a hint of romance) that brings in not only the paranormal but religious type-themes found in The Da Vinci Code as well.

Check the WRL catalog for Unbreakable.

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OceanatendofLane

“The dread had not left my soul. But there was a kitten on my pillow, and it was purring in my face and vibrating gently with every purr.”

Neil Gaiman has a great talent for seeing the sinister and malevolent under the everyday and mundane. But he also has a talent for pointing out the beauty and wonder that simultaneously exist in the same everyday and mundane things. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told mainly through the eyes of a seven-year-old boy, which gives the book a simple, direct style as the boy is without preconceptions. He reports matter-of-factly that his new nanny is an evil monster who rode out of another dimension in a worm hole in his own foot, but this is not the sort of thing that adults believe.

The book starts as a middle-aged man returns to his childhood village to attend a funeral, so we know that the narrator survives (something I would not have been sure of otherwise). Forty years ago, the tragic suicide of an almost-stranger and a series of seemingly small, but bad, decisions, lead to dramatic and possibly world-ending events, all under the eyes of oblivious adults.

Neil Gaiman has created a complete, but never fully explained, fantasy world living just under the surface of the world we see. His Hunger Birds are close to the creepiest fantasy creatures I have ever encountered. I can see glimmers of the best of other British fantasy. The woods that the boy first enters with Lettie Hempstock reminds me of the damaged, dimensionless woods in Diana Wynne Jones’s The Pinhoe Egg. Lettie Hempstock herself, being a non-human in human form, with her Universe-saving sentiments, reminds me of Doctor Who. These may be plausible connections: Neil Gaiman knew Diana Wynne Jones and considered her his mentor, and he has written for Doctor Who.

This book is being marketed as an adult novel and lots of adults and teens love it.  I think older children who are strong readers and fantasy fans will also enjoy it. They will appreciate the main character’s impotence in the face of the seamlessly complacent adult world. It has a few oblique references to sex, but they will probably go over the heads of many children. Simply, but poetically written, this a beautiful short book that I wanted to come back to and immerse myself in. I listen to a lot of audiobooks, and have heard several read by the author. Neil Gaiman is by far the best reader of his own work that I have come across. From his pleasant English accent to the menace in the voice of the monster, I can’t wait to hear more.

Check the WRL catalog for The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

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sleepTo tell the truth, no librarian should have favorite books.  There are too many out there to read, too many different circumstances under which to read them, too many ages at which to discover that a book you hated now speaks to you or one you loved falls flat.  Under theoretical laboratory conditions, though, I might have to admit that I do have favorites, and that several of them are by Stephen King.  The Stand. Salem’s Lot. Christine. The Green Mile. The Dead Zone. Night Shift.  And, of course, The Shining.  I still remember sitting by a pool in 95-degree weather and shivering as a snowstorm sealed me into the Overlook Hotel with the Torrance family and the reanimated dead.

Now King has returned to continue Danny Torrance’s story in Doctor Sleep.  (And if you haven’t read The Shining, forget this review and go get that book. Seriously.)  Of course, time has passed and Danny, now Dan, is all grown up.  But the combined burdens of his childhood, his family’s history of drinking, and his dubious gift have left him a place no reader would have wanted to see the tow-headed little boy.

Dan is a drunk.  A drifter, a brawler, sleeping with strangers who promise another high, or in a culvert if he has to choose between the price of a bottle and a bed.  A full-blown alcoholic who hits his personal bottom early in the story, he spends the course of the novel running from his shame.

The thing is, Dan still has his shine, that ability to glimpse things that were or that are or that will be.  It helps him reach in and hold the essential part of other people, and gives him extraordinary empathy.  When he can hold down a job.  But that same empathy gives him haunting visions that he cannot evade.  This time, the shine guides him to a small town in New Hampshire, where he thinks he might be able to start again.  Through the good graces of another person with just a little bit of the shine, and with the help of a hard-ass AA sponsor, Dan Torrance quits drinking.  He also goes to work at the local hospice, where he and the resident cat comfort the dying and guide them to the threshold of whatever lies beyond.

But there are other special people out there in the world, and Dan becomes a sort of unwilling fulcrum between them.  On one side is Abra, a young teenaged girl who out-shines Dan like a lighthouse outshines a flashlight; on the other, the True Knot, a band of psychic vampires who live on the pain and fear of children.  Led by the horrific Rose the Hat (and like all subcultures, the Knot has insider names and public names), the Knot travels in a caravan of campers seeking out fresh victims.  During their time off the road, they lie up in a charming Colorado campsite with a plaque that designates it as the site of the now-destroyed Overlook Hotel.  When the True Knot detects Abra’s ability, they know that they could feed on her for decades, if they can seize and control her.  Dan Torrance must pit his lesser abilities and Abra’s immature skills against Rose’s blind greed and power to save the girl and destroy the Knot.  If he can survive the place of his own fears.

Like the best of King’s fiction, Doctor Sleep excels at framing the relationships between imperfect people drawn together to face an impossibly evil power.  Sometimes those relationships are deep bonds: parent and child, teacher and student.  Sometimes they are forged in hellish fires, as Dan discovers through his AA sponsors and supporters.  And sometimes they erupt from the unlikeliest of sources to create the possibility of redemption.  Maybe that’s the real reason I shouldn’t have favorite books: too many unlikely sources, too much need for redemption, too little time to find either.

Check the WRL catalog for Doctor Sleep

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RuinedRuined is a hauntingly mysterious ghost story that takes place in the heart of New Orleans. When Rebecca finds out that she has to leave her beloved hometown of NYC for a few months while her father is away in China for business, and stay with a little-known family friend in New Orleans, she is mortified. What about her friends? What about school? But there’s no choice, and Rebecca soon finds herself in the heart of the Big Easy, wandering through the Garden District and casting curious glances at the cemetery down the street from her “Aunt’s” house.

When she follows a group of the popular, old-money kids from her new private school into the cemetery one night, she surprisingly encounters a lonely girl, about her age, wearing a slightly torn dress. Interested but concerned that she will be discovered by the other teens, Rebecca asks the girl for a way out of the cemetery and runs off.  As the days go by, Rebecca finds herself thinking more and more about the girl in the graveyard. When she returns a few nights later, Rebecca once again talks to the girl, but can’t help thinking there is something a little off about her. It is only when the girl, Lisette, takes her hand and she becomes invisible to the living that Rebecca makes a startling realization. Lisette is a ghost. But there’s a lot more than that to the story.

Once Rebecca looks into Lisette’s past, and her death, a shocking trail of clues, curses and hundred-year-old buried secrets comes to light. And the rich and powerful of the city are willing to do anything to keep the past hidden and their good names intact. A chilling tale with not only mystery and intrigue but also cultural detail and historical insight, this story will appeal to a range of readers.

Check the WRL catalog for Ruined.

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DarkShadowsI admit it. I had preconceived notions of how a movie directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp might flow. Sometimes I really enjoy their collaborative efforts (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Edward Scissorhands), but more often their combined work doesn’t interest me (Alice in Wonderland and Sweeney Todd). I was pleased to find that Dark Shadows falls into the former category for me, rather than the latter one.

Actually, the flow was not so different than I expected. But, the topic was kooky enough that it worked. Dark Shadows is a movie adaptation of a soap opera of the same name that aired in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It features the Collinses, a stalwart family of long lineage, who have fallen from grace and have many secrets. The patriarch, Barnabas Collins (played by Depp), is a vampire. Buried in a coffin for almost 200 years, Barnabas is accidentally freed, whereupon he discovers there’s something fishy in his family’s town of Collinsport. Namely, the family home, Collinswood Manor, is in disrepair and the seafood business is in ruin, put to shame by a competitor. Barnabas is determined to rebuild the family, the business and their fortunes.

It turns out that the “present day” Collins family nemesis, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) is the same witch who, once spurned by Barnabas, cursed him and turned him into a vampire. This was after Angie had killed Barnabas’s true love, Josette. The movie is based on a soap opera, so what did you expect? It doesn’t actually get too much more complicated than this, but there are a few more twists and turns.

Given many of the roles Johnny Depp has played, playing the part of a vampirical, out-of-time, looking for love, former fishing empire mogul really isn’t a stretch for him. If you know Depp as an actor, he plays the part just as you would expect. For me there were no standout performances, although I liked Chloë Grace Moretz’s role as the overwrought, underappreciated teenager Carolyn Stoddard.

Although Dark Shadows seemed more comedy than horror in content and story, it should be noted that the story does involve regular inclusion of supernatural events and undead creatures. It might be funny, but if you don’t care for monsters and ghouls, this movie is not for you.

I would not say that Dark Shadows was an incredible movie, but it was a fun Friday night movie to watch with family or friends. If you’re really interested and motivated you can make a marathon of it and watch the original series also. The cult classic soap opera is in the library’s collection as well.

Check the WRL catalog for Dark Shadows

Check the WRL catalog for the original series of Dark Shadows

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deadsleep This is Heather Graham’s latest romantic suspense. It’s slightly creepy, but not keep-the-lights-on scary. Just my kind of book!

New Orleans is the setting–graveyards, abandoned plantations, and a voodoo priestesses add to the ambiance.

Danni Cafferty’s dad has recently passed away, and Danni thinks she’s following his final instructions correctly by keeping the family’s antique and curio store open for business.

When a distraught woman comes into the store rambling about an evil statue that Danni must take away, Danni’s journey into discovering her family’s true calling begins.

Michael Quinn, a private investigator, has been tracking the statue. He thinks a string of murders and thefts is directly related to whomever last possessed it. And he hopes to find it before more blood is shed.

Michael had worked with Danni’s father on a number of supernatural cases in the past, but he has his doubts about working with Danni. Especially since it seems that Angus had not explained the full nature of his business. The two seem to have no choice but to work together when more murders are committed in the wake of the statue’s possession…

I like that Danni and Quinn don’t particularly like one another when they first meet.  They have to learn to trust one another.  Danni surprises both Quinn and herself when she realizes that she is able to contribute to the investigation–even without understanding what Angus’ cryptic message to “use the light” really means.

I figured out some of the key elements of the story faster than the characters did.  So I’d say the plot was comfortably predictable.  Stay away if you’re looking for twisty, unexpected surprises. But for a solid entertainment ride, check out this first book in the “Cafferty and Quinn” series.  I’m looking forward to seeing what these two paranormal sleuths come up against next.

Check the WRL catalog for Let the Dead Sleep

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joeIf you’ve ever picked up a book by Mike Mignola, author of the Hellboy series, you will know what to expect: a Victorian gothic adventure set against crumbling ruins with elements of steampunk and the supernatural. This is the second book Mignola has co-authored with Christopher Golden. The first, Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, has also been released as a series of graphic novels that are definitely worth checking out. Both Joe Golem and Baltimore are billed as illustrated novels, which mean the images are less integral to the consumption of the story compared to graphic novels, but they enhance the atmosphere of the narrative.

In this alternative history, New York City is hit in 1925 by several cataclysmic earthquakes, flooding half of the city three stories deep. Wealthy residents who survived the tremors moved up to the higher part of town, called Uptown. The lower, waterlogged Downtown section is often referred to as the Drowning City. Those poorer residents who remain Downtown eke out a living as best they can, navigating the broken, fallen buildings and the canals created between them.

By necessity, residents of the Drowning City are self-reliant, and 14-year old Molly McHugh is certainly a product of her environment. A magician called Felix Orlov, who works under the stage name Orlov the Conjuror, employs her. Orlov is retired from the stage, but still accepts clients interested in his talents as a psychic medium. When a séance goes wrong, Orlov is abducted by strange human-like creatures wearing masks, leaving Molly terrified, but determined to free her friend.

Fleeing from one of the monsters, she runs into Joe Golem, an imposing man built like a boxer, with grey eyes and a stony countenance. Joe knows little of his past, but he and his partner, Simon Church, keep watch on the paranormal activity in the city and they do not like what they have been seeing lately. From here the story takes a decidedly Lovecraftian turn, and Molly has to figure out whom she can trust, and who can best help her free Orlov.

This novel is an enjoyable, quick read. Recommended for fantasy and horror readers, both adult and YA.

Check the WRL catalog for Joe Golem and the Drowning City.

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Real estate agent Melanie Middleton specializes in selling old homes. But she doesn’t like old homes. They smell of beeswax and mothballs and are a lot of work to refurbish. And then there’s the ghosts that tend to linger among the living…

Melanie was expecting the visit to the house on Tradd Street to be like any other. An elderly homeowner was moving someplace more manageable, and hopefully would list the house with her. She wasn’t expecting to see the shadow of a woman in the garden pushing an empty swing. Nor was she expecting Mr. Vanderhorst to have had a connection to her grandfather. And she certainly wasn’t expecting to have the house bequeathed to her a few days later when Mr. Vanderhorst died, leaving a mystery for her to solve about the disappearance of his mother, Louisa, many years ago.

To complicate things a little more, handsome writer Jack Trenholm contacts Melanie and wants information on the house so he can write a story about the disappearance of Mrs. Vanderhorst in 1929. He’ll even help her with the renovations if she’ll let him poke around the house.

So three days after being told the house was hers if she accepted the terms of the will, Melanie finds herself “the owner of an antique pile of rotten lumber, and encumbered by a dog, a housekeeper, and a guilt trip as long as the Cooper River.”

Melanie soon realizes that there are actually two spirits in the house—Louisa and an evil presence that wishes her harm. As she gets closer to solving the mystery of Louisa’s disappearance, the element of danger rises as well. Someone or something doesn’t want the truth to get out. But the disappearance of Louisa isn’t the only secret the house holds tight.

It’s a good story with interesting twists. With more than a gentle spirit at work, it’s exciting, but not stressful enough to have to sleep with the lights on. The mystery is engaging and the living characters are contemporary and fun.

The House on Tradd Street is the first in a series featuring Melanie and her ghost-seeing abilities.

Check the WRL catalog for The House on Tradd Street.

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Ann-Marie from Outreach Services reviews a new fantasy title:

 I am not a big reader of fantasy novels but the tag line on the cover of The Rook drew me in and I decided to pick it up—“On her Majesty’s Supernatural Secret Service.”  I’m so glad I did. The Rook was a lot of fun to read!

The book begins with the heroine Myfanwy Thomas (Myfanwy rhymes with Tiffany) waking up in a London park surrounded by dead people all wearing latex gloves.  She has no memory of what happened or how she arrived at the park.  In fact, she has no memories at all.  Myfanwy does find two envelopes in her pocket addressed “To You.”  In the first letter, the “new” Myfanwy finds out that the letter is from her former self and gives instructions on getting to a safe house where she is to open the second letter.  From the letters from her “old” self, Myfanwy discovers that she is a high-ranking official called The Rook in a secret government agency call the Checquy.  The purpose of the Checquy is to protect England from supernatural threats.  Of course, some of the members of Checquy have supernatural abilities themselves, including Myfanwy.

In the second letter, the “old” Myfanwy explains that the “new” Myfanwy has two choices—she can escape England and establish a new identity or she can stay and assume the “old” Myfanwy’s position in the Checquy.  By staying in England, the “new” Myfanwy will need to track down her enemies and save the Checquy from a hostile takeover, which means she’s saving England too.  To help her, her old self has left her a series of letters explaining her job, the organization, and the events that took place up to the unsuccessful attempt on her life in the park.  By choosing to stay, “new” Myfanwy’s begins a series of adventures as she encounters a large assortment of both normal and supernatural beings.  The supernaturals range from Gestault (one personality who inhabits four bodies) and the Barghests (supernatural soldiers) to one of the Grafters (the enemy) who inhabits a large and apparently portable fish tank.  While there might be supernatural beings and happenings in Myfanwy’s world, the English setting and everyday life are still recognizable to those of us who are mere mortals.

Both the “old” and the “new” Myfanwy earned my respect.  The “old” Myfanwy impressed me with her foresight and organization as her letters become poignant and reflective as she faces the loss of herself. The “new” Myfanwy impresses you with the way she tackles each obstacle with strength and humor as she learns her way around her new world, as well as how she learns to deal with her own special power.

To me The Rook reads like a thriller that just happens to have a fantasy element. The author moves the plot along smartly and I found I couldn’t put it down.  Readers who like stories with a touch of the paranormal will like this book, but readers who like thrillers might also wish to give it try.

Check the WRL catalog for The Rook

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“Sorry-in-the-Vale, Sorriest River, Crying Pools,” said Jared. “Is the quarry called Really Depressed Quarry?”

“Yes,” Kami answered. “Also I live on the Street of Certain Doom.”

Many young children have an imaginary friend, but not many teenagers. Kami Glass doesn’t advertise the fact that she hears someone else’s voice in her head. She doesn’t want the rest of her home town, Sorry-in-the-Vale, to think she’s crazy. She’d prefer they think of her as an intrepid investigative reporter tracking leads for her next big story. But her latest act of journalism, an investigation into the aristocratic Lynburn family—just returned to their ancestral manor after a generation’s absence—brings her face to face with someone even she didn’t believe existed: Jared, the guy who’s been sharing her thoughts for seventeen years.

For someone she’s been talking to her whole life, Jared isn’t what she expected. And although she’s predisposed to trust him, everyone else, even the boy’s mother, is warning her about his mysterious past and his violent temper. Meanwhile, something’s going on in Sorry-in-the-Vale: foxes killed in the woods, young women attacked in town. The investigation is getting deadly, and Kami really needs to know who she can trust.

Kami as telepathic Nancy Drew is a great, self-rescuing heroine with an entertaining entourage of friends. As she demonstrated in the Demon’s Lexicon series, author Brennan writes great villains of all stripes, some absolutely steeped in villainy and others conflicted with twinges of regrettable morality.

Set among the woods and lakes of the English Cotswolds, this first of a series plays with all of the elements of Gothic novels: the town full of secrets, the brooding rebel, and the foreboding house, with its motifs of drowned women and doorknobs shaped like clenched fists. If you were filming it, you’d have a hard time choosing one color palette: the atmosphere varies from lighthearted, Scooby Doo-style clue-hunting to shadow-drenched menace. The combination of adventure, smart-aleck commentary, heady emotional confusion, and one very dysfunctional family reminded me of Holly Black’s Curse Workers series, and readers of one should definitely try the other.

Check the WRL catalog for Unspoken.

You might also enjoy Brennan’s posts recapping, with loving mockery, the great Gothic novels and lady sleuths who inspired this series. Try Jane Eyre for starters.

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I’m a sucker for books about strong, but initially unequipped, heroines who battle supernatural forces—usually with a dose of humor, maybe some romance, perhaps a little mystery thrown into the mix.  I found another new (to me) author to try this week.

Sophie Lawson lives in a world where magic and supernatural creatures exist, though most humans aren’t aware of it.  She’s unusual because she is  a “breather,” but is also immune to magic.  She can’t get charmed by the fairies, cursed by the witches, glamored by the vampires… which makes her perfect for her administrative job working for the UDA (Underworld Detection Agency).  The UDA keeps track of all the supernaturals, finds them jobs, helps them with benefits—sort of a DMV, Social Services, Employment Agency rolled into one.

After a typical day on the job—Sophie had to calm down a fire-breathing dragon—human Detective Parker Hayes enters the office needing to speak to her werewolf boss.  Sophie finds Detective Hayes tongue-tyingly attractive.  Hayes needs help with some unusual murders that seem to point to the supernatural.  Sophie offers to help with the cases, and because of her knowledge of both the magic and nonmagic worlds, Hayes reluctantly agrees.

The mystery is interesting, though not profound or overly graphic.  There is quite a large cast of supernatural characters in the book.  A variety of creatures make brief appearances, many with a humorous slant, but not even her vampire roommate plays a large role in solving the whodunit.  Sophie doesn’t come into magical powers or realize she has a hidden talent for weapons—she stays pretty average the whole time—which in a way was refreshingly original.  And of course, the attraction between Detective Hayes and Sophie adds another level of enjoyment to the story.

Under Wraps is Hannah Jayne’s first in the “Underworld Detection Agency Chronicles.”  I’m interested to see how Sophie’s character develops as the series continues—and if Detective Hayes continues to play a role in her life.

Check the WRL catalog for Under Wraps

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In 2009 author Anne Rice was quoted in The Guardian as saying, “Angels are the new vampires of the literary world.” Maybe author Nalini Singh thought so as well, because that’s when she wrote the first of the Guild Hunter series, Angels’ Blood.

In Elena Deveraux’s world, humans can petition Angels to turn them into Vampires. In accepting the deal, the human becomes semi-immortal and agrees to serve the angel for a hundred years. Sometimes the vampires want out of their contract and try to escape. That’s where Elena comes in. She’s a vampire hunter. She’s good at her job. In fact, she may be the best.

When the archangel Raphael needs someone to track a renegade, he requests Elena’s help. It’s an offer she can’t refuse, even when it becomes obvious that she’s tracking a renegade angel. And not just any angel, one of the most powerful Archangels.

In addition to the engaging personality conflicts of the two, strong-willed main characters, the story has a page-turning, fast-paced chase through Manhattan to stop the insane angel from killing humans in a blood-thirsty frenzy.

This book has lots of action and plenty of vampires. Powerful, sexy, dangerous vampires—but the baddest of the bad are the Angels.

It took me a while to warm up to Raphael. But like Elena, I did eventually find qualities to admire. There are some fresh ideas here that raised this novel above the “same old, same old,” and it has me hooked.  The characters are well-developed and the backstory of the Angels,  their powers, and the hierarchy was interesting. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the Guild Hunter series.

Check the WRL catalog for Angels’ Blood

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This is the first in Kelley Armstrong’s young adult Darkness Rising trilogy.  It’s a compelling story about a teenager who seems to be developing some special abilities.

Maya lives in Salmon Creek.  The town was built by a medical research facility to house the employees and their families.  There are less than 70 students in her entire school.

For her sixteenth birthday, her parents agree to let Maya get her paw-shaped birthmark inked in as a tattoo.  Instead of being a happy occasion, Maya has a strange encounter with an old woman at the tattoo parlor who calls her a witch.

With the exception of the tragic swimming accident that killed her best friend, growing up in the small community has been pretty normal for Maya.  All that is about to change — and I don’t want to give too much of the plot away.

As Maya searches for answers about what the old woman said she experiences a stronger than normal connection to animals: dreaming about running with cougars, feeling the memories of a wounded animal she’s nursing back to health, experiencing heightened senses.  Her friend Rafe offers her an answer that seems too impossible to believe.  But when she sees the impossible with her own eyes, how can she doubt the truth?

The Gathering has a very exciting ending that leaves you breathless for the next story – The Calling

I listened to this on audiobook and enjoyed the reading by Jennifer Ikeda.  Her voice fit perfectly with what I thought Maya would sound like.  And that’s what I liked most about the book — Maya.  She is smart and likeable.  Her relationships  seem like real relationships — from her overprotective best friend to the girl she doesn’t get along with so well.  This is definitely a book setting up a paranormal situation, but none of the characters’ decisions or plot twists made me roll my eyes in disbelief.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops through the next two books.

Check the WRL catalog for the audiobook of The Gathering

Check the WRL catalog for The Gathering

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Lord Benjamin Archer has wanted to possess Miranda Ellis from their first encounter in the dark streets of Victorian London. But her youth, innocence, and father force Lord Archer to bide his time before claiming his heart’s desire. With all the time in the world, Archer patiently waits, and three years after their first meeting he arranges to make Miranda his bride. Reminiscent of many historical romance novel plots where a powerful older man of title seeks to make a nubile, young woman his possession, in Firelight not everything is as it seems.

Miranda Ellis is a beautiful, intelligent, and strong-willed woman, but she is also born with a curse that sparks her family’s ruin and destroys any chance she has to make a good life for herself. Lord Benjamin Archer is a rich and powerful man but is cursed with a disfigurement that relegates him to living in the shadows and hiding behind masks. The two feel a powerful attraction for each other, and their courtship is filled with seductive tension and verbal jousting, but the secrets they keep threaten their one chance at happiness.

Callihan has written an engrossing story that crosses all boundaries, weaving together romance, mystery, historical, and paranormal. The tension comes not only from two captivating characters but also from the magic and murder that surround them. As you fall under the spell of Miranda and Archer, Callihan slowly lets clues to their secrets creep from the shadows. Callihan gives you just enough to keep you coming back for more. Nothing is what you expect. You will come to the point where you think the suspense will kill you and want to skip to the end, but don’t—keep reading, because there’s not another paranormal on the market like this and you should savor the anticipation to the end.

Check the WRL catalog for Firelight.

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