Monday, May 30, 2011

Divine Justice by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Published by Imajin Books
Review based on eBook

A prequel within a sequel, answers to questions considered from Divine Intervention with its many references to The Parliament Murders. This second book begins with an unconscious leader of a PSI team of the Canadian Federal Bureau of Investigation (CFBI), Jasmine (Jasi) McLellan. She has been hospitalized after the gunshot wound she received in the previous book went sour and developed a serious blood infection. Even worse, it was discovered on this second trip to hospital that she also had a concussion with brain swelling. Doctors are non-committal at this point, but a threat does hang over her that if they can't stop the infection from spreading to her heart, they are looking at amputation. This is enough to terrify her friend and co-worker, Victim Empath Natassia Prushenko, and seriously affect her other partner Ben Roberts, top profiler and Psychometic Empath. Three months have gone by since Natassia joined the PSI team, working on the case that had been solved only weeks ago, leaving Jasi with her injuries. In her coma, she is living in the prequel, reliving The Parliament Murders, while friends and family are living in the sequel to the first book. They are in the present, which happens to be July, 2012.

I am one reader of probably a large number of readers who really wanted to learn the story of The Parliament Murders, and now we have it. Cheryl Kaye Tardif has whet our appetites and then come through with a great read to digest! I love this concept, giving us the earlier story through Jasi's coma, and perhaps her subconscious feelings of guilt. At the same time we are getting snippets of what is happening with the rest of the team waiting and watching over her. The high suspense factor of The Parliament Murders is heart-pounding and the desperation to solve the case is every bit as exciting, though told through Jasi's mind. Someone is killing off the Canadian Members of Parliament in Ottawa, one by one, and doing a nasty job of it, too. What is the connection between the victims? A reason doesn't seem to be forthcoming. This is the case that bothers Jasi so much. The story is well focused, fast-paced, a real thriller. The action and race against time happening in Jasi's mind is underscored by the perception of the slow passage of time by her friends, family, and medical staff, waiting, fearing. A dramatic conflict of perceived time.

One thing I like about series is how the characters grow and become familiar. It's somewhat like adding people to your group of friends or family. This is also true in a working community, especially in a high risk group who provide a safety net for each others' lives. These PSI investigators are definitely a family, tuned in to each member's needs, and abilities. We met them in Divine Intervention and learn a little more about them as they wait for Jasi to wake up. Another great psi-fi thriller from Cheryl Kaye Tardif.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Deadly Curse by Misa Ramirez

review based on e-reader version
published by Smashwords

The prologue takes us deep into the primitive belief of a mother, convinced she has been cursed and must kill her two young daughters, Johanna and Carmen, to free herself from the curse of la Llorona.* The girls manage to escape when the mother "sees'' la Llorona, the crying woman, and with a look of pure fright, flounders her way into the river. She screams that the curse of la Llorona hangs over the girls, then is taken away by the river to drown. This book is a story of ancient belief, terror, and more. Curses have a life of their own. Believe or don't believe and you will probably see all is not as it seems.

Jump forward several years, and Johanna, Joey as her mother had called her, has become a teacher at the high school where young Carmen is a student.. Joey is determined not to give in to a curse, but Carmen seems to be too much like her mother. This story is suspense and terror on steroids. Someone is killing the girls of San Julio High School, students past or present, and recreating the legend of the curse of la Llorona, all four versions of it. Each victim is found floating in the river in a white dress and barefoot, raped and then drowned by an unknown assailant.

A rich suspense from Misa Ramirez, this book will keep you reading well into the night, if you dare. Every clue brings with it more terror. A full out race against time, a killer with an agenda based on a legend and Johanna knows she will be number 4. For some cryptic reason though, the killer has veered away from the legend with the third victim. What does this mean to Joey and the school principal Ray who has taken on the part of Joey's protector? If the rules have changed, how will they know how to figure out the killer's next move and next victim? The police think they have a good case to bring in a suspect, but do they really?

A well-written story, hammering away at breakneck speed to a surprising ending. Quite a bit of sexual content, not surprising considering the crimes, but most is fantasizing. A strong story, an author worth watching.

*The legend of la Llorona is very old and there are several versions throughout the Southwest of the US, as well as Mexico.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Divine Intervention by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Published by Trafford Publishing

When Cheryl Kaye Tardif writes a book you know it will grip you right from the beginning and take you on an intense and fascinating ride. This book is no exception, but readers should keep in mind this book was written in 2004 as a futuristic techno-psi-thriller and has now almost caught up with itself. I loved this book, even though it may be a little dated futuristically. In fact, that was part of its allure for me, it takes place in British Columbia and references some of the past I know. I feel connected to this story. It's curious to see what might have been, technically speaking, in 2012 and where we actually are (to the best of our limited knowledge) in 2011. As the average reader knows, when it comes to technology and psychic resources for certain areas of our lives, we are definitely left out of the loop be it governmental, military, or even local policing.

Regardless, this is fun, intense, serious, futuristic fiction done up with great characterizations, full of futuristic tools. I say tools because these are the good guys, no bombs here. They are police, firemen, and secret law enforcement agents under the recently formed CFBI, a Canadian counterpart to the FBI. In "Divine Intervention" this group has just taken charge of two cases from different parts of British Columbia after evidence in both cases points to a serial arsonist murderer. What is different in this group is the covert Psi factor.

The group we follow is part of the PSI division, Psychic Skills Investigators, secreted in an underground complex under the direction of Matthew Divine. Very specialized in different areas, this close-knit group is comprised of Agent Jasmine McLellan, leader, profiler Ben Roberts, and Natassia Prushenko. Jasmine, Jasi to her friends, is a Pyro-Psychic who "reads" fires, her psychic ability to see through a killer's eyes and mind is drawn out by the smell of fires. Ben is a Psychometric Empath, able to read thoughts and emotions by touch. Natassia is a Victim Empath, touching a cadaver, she "relives" the victim's last sights and thoughts. Is the high profile but insufferable Premier of B.C. a suspect or a victim? What is the real reason his father was murdered? Who would have any reason to kill a foster mother and 4 year old child? How do these all fit together? These are the questions they must find answers to, and there is every reason to believe the murderer will claim another victim very quickly. There is one clue only when the team starts its investigation.

This book is exceptionally well-written, interesting in its handling of unusual circumstances, and equally unusual characters. It is taut, cohesive, yet personal. I enjoyed the thoughts going through Jasi's mind when she wasn't working, and "hearing" her read seems like a jolt of reality, this girl is definitely seeing through the killer's eyes and speaking his/her thoughts and words. The author has a way of creating reality from paranormal or psychic abilities and puts the words in her characters' mouths. I was completely glued to the book. I heartily recommend Cheryl Kaye's books, no matter the subject. I have the feeling she could write about any subject and makes us want more.

Unraveled - a Knitting Mystery by Maggie Sefton

Published by Berkley Prime Crime

A bit of fun, a bit of romance, a bit of history, a bit of relaxation, a bit of underhandedness, and a corpse no one will miss! This is #9 of the Knitting series, but to be fair in my review I must say it is several years since I read one of Maggie's series, #2 "Needled to Death", so I am coming into this cozy series with little knowledge of what has gone before. Just the same, I feel attuned to the book. I'm delighted that this series takes place among the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, a beautiful location with lots of inspiration for a book of this type. I can almost associate the colours of the landscapes with the colours of the yarns featured in this series.

The story is centered around a mixed group of friends, all ages, male and female, with several interests in common. Added to the mix, an author of Western History has come to town as Curt's house guest and the whole group immediately takes to him. These friends sound wonderful, I would love to meet them in person. Maggie Sefton brings her characters alive with their speech, a trick of emphasis that I could hear quite plainly in my mind. The hub at the center is Lambspun, a yarn and knitting shop with a room where friends can gather, knitting and chatting, with a convenient café attached to the shop.

Though most of these friends are knitters, with Mimi and Burt taking turns at the register and spinning skeins into balls, they enjoy each other's company in sports, barbecues, and sharing their moments good or bad, in a complete group or just two or three. Kelly Flynn, the amateur sleuth of the group, is trying to deal with her heartbreak over her ex-boyfriend Steve, who walked out on her in #8 "Skein of the Crime." In #9, the current book, her friends, who are also his friends, are trying to get them back together. Steve lives in Denver, and sometimes manages to come to town to visit with some of them.

In Unraveled, Kelly is deep into her work as CPA for Arthur Housemann, a land developer and investor. She often stays in Denver rather than commuting if she is needed again the next day. She is, in essence, hiding out from her anger and hurt because of Steve by throwing herself into her work. The recession has hit the community of Fort Connor hard, as it has elsewhere, so when real estate agent Jennifer gets a client for a large piece of ranchland, she is excited to find that the client is none other than Kelly's boss. A cinch of a sale, since he is offering full price, or is it? The property owner has made a fortune out of being dishonest and tough.

When Jennifer races to present her offer after hearing there is another offer being submitted that would defeat any other presented, she and Kelly see a truck pull out of the driveway and come barreling down the road toward them. When they pull into the driveway, Jen goes in and suddenly yells for Kelly. She has found the owner all right, but he's dead. It appears to be a suicide, but why now?

This book has a different approach from some cozies, in that the corpse does not come into the story right at the beginning. Characters are all fleshed out and continuity is primary in the early part of the book. In the remainder of the book, the discovery of the corpse takes us in a different direction. Kelly has her own little trigger for going into sleuthing mode. She gets a kind of buzzing that grows more insistent if she ignores it. She has already been alerted by the buzzing that this is more than a suicide, and launches into her own investigation. With two prime suspects, it is an interesting journey to reach a final conclusion.

I enjoyed the book and its nuances. Definitely a lighter read in many places, the camaraderie is a pleasant set-up for the mystery to come. I'm looking forward to the next book to learn the fate of Kelly and Steve. As a bonus at the end of the book there is a knitting pattern and a recipe.
Review based on Advance Reading Copy (ARC)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Time Travel and Harry Potter by Richard H. Jones

Published by Outskirts Press, Inc
Reviewed for
Review the Book

Is it possible to go back in time and make changes to history? Time Travel and Harry Potter - Time-Turning in the Prisoner of Azkaban and its Place in Time-Travel Fiction says it is. Richard H. Jones presents a defense of changing history in time travel, as he puts forward a theory of why and how history was changeable in The Prisoner of Azkaban. How else was Harry able to save himself? How else were Harry and Hermione going to be able to save Buckbeak?

First it must be realized that J.K. Rowling's book is both magic and fiction, and as such her words must be accepted as true in the world of the book. Theorists for hundreds of years have spouted many theories about time and the possibilities that could or could not occur in time travel. Working on this level, the laws of physics are necessarily employed. What does that mean when one thinks of time? Is time from the present going back to the past a straight line? Perhaps, but in this book, the author explores what the possibilities would be if we take Ms. Rowling’s words as true in the world she has created.

I found this book quite interesting considering the theories that are argued. I am not a physicist, I am a reader, and therefore while reading I live in the created world of the author. Richard Jones has taken a complicated subject and made it readable. Time travel in this world of wizardry and magic, according to Jones, presents us not just with the possibility that we can change the past, but he also brings forward the equally questioned theory of new time lines created while the old time line remains. Hence, while time traveling to and from the past three times, if I understand this theory correctly, Harry and Hermione would create three time lines, each line leaving them ignorant of their other selves living their lives on their current time lines..

In this book, the author covers a lot of ground, cites many references, and ties the loose ends together cohesively in regard to Ms. Rowling's books. Since time travel is in The Prisoner of Azkaban, that is the book that Jones bases most of this theory on, but he also references later books in the series to help his hypothesis. All in all, I do feel he got his many points across and I'm sure Harry Potter fans will enjoy the way J.K. Rowling inserted time travel into the books and made them believable. I am a great fan of the Harry Potter books and J.K. Rowling, and Richard Jones' book has given a good frame of reference that could be considered an aid to the Potter books, presenting what wording was used and where it fits into his theory.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Buzz Off: a Queen Bee Mystery by Hannah Reed

Published by Berkley Prime Crime

I love a cozy mystery to relax with, and when it gives me not only an interesting whodunit but something new I can learn about, I always feel like I hit a jackpot. Hannah Reed has done just that with her new series.

Story Fischer is celebrating her divorce from her skirt-chasing now ex-husband, Clay Lane by having a one-day sale on everything in her store, The Wild Clover, and offering champagne. She is also celebrating the kick-off campaign for September National Honey Month. Story has been learning beekeeping from her mentor, Manny Chapman, and she is now the proud owner of two strong beehives. Manny has studied and kept a journal on every aspect of honeybees and is the owner operator of the strongest, most productive honey farm in Wisconsin.

Buzz Off is told in first person by Story. Her celebration is interrupted suddenly with the news that Manny is unconscious and may be dead. The police and paramedics can't tell because he is covered with bees and they can't get at him. They need Story to get the bees away. She can not believe he would be killed by honeybees, especially when they have a lot of honey to take back to their hives, but she does notice yellow-jackets among the bees which definitely could do the deed. Unfortunately, nobody believes her. We are now at the crux of the mystery. Story believes it is murder, everyone else thinks the bees killed him and the town, led by the overzealous wife of the town chairman, is out to get Storey's bees.

Moraine is a very small town, more like a neighborhood. As such, readers might think there would be no way for secrets to be kept, but readers, you would be wrong. This town abounds with secrets, even with a very informed but oft mistaken gossip queen in their midst. Hannah Reed has peopled the book with a melange of quirky characters in this small town. The story flows well, the research done by Hannah is excellent, I suspect from her obvious care and knowledge that she is also a beekeeper when she isn't writing. In fact, being around the hives is probably conducive to writing, a music of its own. More character-driven than not, this series promises to be flat out fun, murders aside. I found this book enjoyable, descriptive, and the feel of the book is well-defined. Readers may feel they have been dropped into the story and become a part of it. The crimes are well-plotted and the solutions hinted at remain well-hidden. The heroine is flawed just enough to feel comfortable with, no perfect specimen of femininity here, and she is no slouch under attack, but she is very entertaining. A good beginning to this series, I know I will be following it wherever it takes me. Recipes included.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Book of Obeah, a novel by Sandra Carrington-Smith

Published by O Books
Reviewed for Review The Book

Obeah. The ancient religion from Africa. Obeah, brought to the New World and surrounding islands during the slave trade. To my mind, this book vibrates with mysticism, pulsing blood, and the rhythm of drumming. The Book of Obeah becomes a character of the story, even while no one knows where it is or even if it exists. But wait. This is the past, but the past will shortly catch up with the present and portents of the future. We, the readers, don't realize this yet.

There is a Preface which, though a Choctaw proclamation rather than African, is very meaningful in the basic principles of both religions, for want of a better word. It is worth reading this "Translation of Choctaw tribal shaman proclamation; Bayou-Lacombe, LA; Circa 1878" before you begin the story

The Prologue sent a chill down my spine, the terror was palpable whether based on reality or the mind of an unstable mother. What an attention-grabber! This is crucial information and sets the scene that will answer many questions both in the story's future, and the near future of the main character, Melody Bennett. She is about to have her world turned inside-out. Melody has never heard of Obeah. She was born and raised in North Carolina.

Melody's precious Grandmama has died, and left her a letter with some very strange requests. She has instructed her to go to a specific bayou of New Orleans and scatter her ashes there. But first, she must find a childhood friend of Grandmama’s Marie Devereux in the Louisiana bayou. A very daunting task, so many questions with no answers. Why New Orleans? Didn't they always live in North Carolina?. Melody had a very close bond with Grandmama and feels an urgency to carry out her last wishes.

Sandra Carrington-Smith weaves a magical tale of good and evil, spells and magic, protection and love. It is truly here where the story began many years before. The charactizations are remarkable, the wonders of New Orleans and the bayous beautifully descriptive. Even the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina plays a role in this scenario. After taking in the sights of the city Melody knows she must begin her quest. She meets many locals on the way who are only too willing to help her in her search for Marie. But a tarot reader has reacted badly in the midst of reading her cards and gives her a warning of extreme danger. Is it real? Melody is not sure what to think. She also encounters a malicious character who threatens her to give back what belongs to him. Melody has no idea what he is talking about.

Hiring a guide to take her into the bayous, she has another offers that leaves her wondering who to trust, and what in the world could she possibly have that everyone seems to want? Grandmama knew her granddaughter had abilities unknown to Melody yet, but she knew in making this request her instincts would be true. Melody learns she must trust and feels a connection with Old Paul, who takes her to meet Marie. Here she will learn some of the meaning of Obeah, but she still thinks of it as Voodoo and Hoodoo. Surprised to learn that Grandmama had lived in the bayous as a child, she was equally surprised that Marie was her best friend in those long ago days. Preparations by Marie begin in best Obeah fashion but with a sense of urgency; protection spells, the blessing of the ashes, briefing Melody on her part, and explaining the role of nature in the practice of Obeah, while Old Paul returns with many supplies for the ritual.

The author has done extensive study of Obeah, Voodoo, Hoodoo, Louisiana bayous, and the general feel of both bayou and city. She has brought all of it alive in this book. Mysteries surround them, danger is lurking, but where is it coming from? Why do so many people Melody meets and talks to make clandestine meetings and phone calls as soon as she leaves? Who are these people really? This is a process of learning, a process of believing, of feeling the power. The story builds up faster all through the novel. The creeping, living bayou and the old city and its people are all atmospheric. There are dangers all around, and some can not be clearly seen or recognized.

The talented Ms. Carrington-Smith brings all the loose ends, past and present, and binds them into a bewitching story, but also a classic story of greed. An exciting novel with many twists, this book will surely satisfy mystery fans and paranormal/mystical fans. The descriptive nature of the book brings us right into the heart of a wonderful old city and the people of the bayous. I thoroughly enjoyed it all the way through with no desire to take a break before finishing it. I will certainly be interested in reading another novel by this author.