Mini-Reviews – SuperWhoLock 2 & 3

Hi all! Well, I’ve finally caught up on the Jackaby series and wanted to give you a couple of mini-reviews about how the series is going so far.

Series: Jackaby — Author: William Ritter

Genre: Young Adult, Supernatural, Mystery

Beastly Bones (#2)

Description from GoodreadsIn 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never 24001095quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, R. F. Jackaby, are called upon to investigate the supernatural. First, members of a particularly vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens. A day later, their owner is found murdered, with a single mysterious puncture wound to her neck. Then, in nearby Gad’s Valley, dinosaur bones from a recent dig go missing, and an unidentifiable beast attacks animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Policeman Charlie Cane, exiled from New Fiddleham to the valley, calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

My Review: Ok, so how to do this without spoilers? Hmm…

Well, there’s a fun mixture of creatures in this one. I especially liked the homage to ancient creatures; I admit to squee-ing a bit when I realized what the ‘big bad’ was going to be. 😉 I liked the new characters too. The paleontologists and reporter were a nice nod to real-life people from around that time period (see the Bone Wars & Nellie Bly) and the Huntsman was affable and played off Jackaby and Abigail well. We also got to see the return of our favorite rozzer, Charlie Cane (aka Charlie Barker).

I will admit that the story will probably be a bit draggy for those who aren’t into paleontology. There was quite a lot discussion about digging and bones and such. With my love of geology, archaeology, and paleontology, I quite enjoyed it, but I can see where it might put some people off. But it was still a fun story and a nice lead into the next book.

Ghostly Echoes (#3)

Description from GoodreadsJenny Cavanaugh, the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, has 28110857enlisted the investigative services of her fellow residents to solve a decade-old murder—her own. Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, Detective R. F. Jackaby, dive into the cold case, starting with a search for Jenny’s fiancé, who went missing the night she died. But when a new, gruesome murder closely mirrors the events of ten years prior, Abigail and Jackaby realize that Jenny’s case isn’t so cold after all, and her killer may be far more dangerous than they suspected. Fantasy and folklore mix with mad science as Abigail’s race to unravel the mystery leads her across the cold cobblestones of nineteenth-century New England, down to the mythical underworld, and deep into her colleagues’ grim histories to battle the most deadly foe she has ever faced.

My Review: The action is really ramping up in this novel. We finally get some answers to what happened to Jenny and a little bit of closure on that case…though it ends up leading into an even bigger over-arching mystery. This new mystery is really interesting and brings in all sorts of new characters and creatures! We even get a little peak at the Annwyn, along with a wonderful mixture of afterlife mythology.

There was a lot of character building in this novel. We’re given a lot more backstory not only for Jenny, but also for Jackaby, both of which look like they will be integral to the overall storyline. (Spoiler?) I’m happy Jenny gets some closure, but that she will still be in the books; I love her character.

I don’t want to give too much away, so I won’t go into too much detail, but the ultimate foes sound wonderfully evil and it looks like the final showdown will be utilize an impressive mixture of science and magic. I can’t wait for the next installment!

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Book Review – Jackaby (aka SuperWhoLock)

Book: Jackaby – Author: William Ritter

Genre: Mystery, Supernatural, Young Adult

Description from Goodreads:

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

My Review:

I really enjoyed this one. The description on Goodreads actually goes on to call it “Doctor Who meets Sherlock” and I can see their point. Jackaby reminds me so much of the 11th Doctor, that I actually kept picturing him as Matt Smith while I was reading. I mean…

“The most recent gentleman has proven to be far more resilient and a great deal more helpful. He remains with me in a . . . different capacity.”

“What capacity?”

Jackaby’s step faltered, and he turned his head away slightly. His mumbled reply was nearly lost to the wind. “He is temporarily waterfowl.”

Yeah, totally the 11th Doctor. 😉

Vincent-and-the-Doctor-gif.gif

But the main character in this book isn’t the adorably quirky Jackaby, it is his new assistant, Abigail. Like the illustrious Dr. Watson, Abigail finds herself caught up in the whirlwind that is Jackaby, but isn’t so taken aback that she can’t hold her own. She’s feisty and capable and won’t back down in a fight, but she’s also smart and uses her position in society (a young lady in the late 1800s) to her advantage.

Speaking of characters, can a house be a character? Jackaby’s house reminded me of a mixture of Sherlock’s flat and Newt Scamander’s briefcase, with a few ghosts thrown in for good measure. I would LOVE a whole book of short stories based on the artifacts in that house!

The mystery itself was really interesting too. It was obvious from the get-go that we weren’t dealing with a normal murderer, but it took a long time to piece together what type of creature was lurking. See, Jackaby & Abagail don’t just investigate regular crimes. Like Sherlock, Jackaby is only called in when the crime is so strange the police can’t figure out what’s going on, but in Jackaby’s case, this usually leads down a more mystical path (though he would insist that everything can be explained by science). There were a lot of twists and turns, good monsters and bad monsters, and we were learning about which to trust and which to run from right alongside Abigail.

Now, there WAS a bit of romance, but it wasn’t really in your face and (spoilers?) it wasn’t between Abigail & Jackaby, which was a relief. I know I’m in the minority, especially among female young adult readers, but I always think that sort of thing detracts from the story rather than adds to it.

Actually, doing this review reminded me why I liked this book; so much so that I paused while writing it to pop down the street to the library and pick up the next two in the series. 😉 Let’s see if they are as good, shall we?

Similar Books:

Death Cloud (Andrew Lane) Series: Young Sherlock Holmes

The Screaming Staircase (Jonathon Stroud) Series: Lockwood & Co

Book Review – Welcome to Night Vale

Book: Welcome to Night Vale – Author: Joseph Fink & Jeffery Cranor

Genre: Fiction, Adventure, Supernatural-ish

Description from Goodreads:

Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge.

Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked “King City” by a mysterious man in a tan jacket holding a deer skin suitcase. Everything about him and his paper unsettles her, especially the fact that she can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and that no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City and the man in the tan jacket before she herself unravels.

Night Vale PTA treasurer Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane’s started to see her son’s father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier, when they were both teenagers. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it.

Diane’s search to reconnect with her son and Jackie’s search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: “King City”. It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures…if they can ever find it.

My Review:

The Podcast – Joseph Fink & Jeffery Cranor have built something so completely unique with this podcast that it’s very difficult for me to describe. The cast of characters is extremely diverse: from our favorite radio host, Cecil Palmer, to the real 5-headed dragon, Hiram McDaniels, this is a crazy wonderful cast. The plots of the show are all based loosely (and not so loosely) on real conspiracy theories and contain everything from a giant glow cloud that drops dead animals (ALL HAIL) to a mysterious desert other-world to an overreaching corporation run by a smiling god. See? Very hard to explain. The best I can do is share my all-time favorite review of the podcast: “It’s like Steven King & Neil Gaiman got together to build a Sim City and just left it running for a few years”. Seriously awesome. 🙂

The Book – This book was just as wonderful as the podcast. It gave us an in-depth look at several “side characters” from the show and tied up a few plot lines. It also contained a full storyline of its own, though with several call backs that pointed out some rather clever foreshadowing they had done in the podcast.

I especially liked the Library sequence, since I’ve always been curious as to what those exactly those horrible Librarian monsters are and what a Library in Night Vale actually looks like. Turns out it looks like any other library…filled with horrific monsters that want to kill you, making any attempt to use the Library like running a gauntlet where you have to remain completely silent and hope your weaponry holds out. You know, just the usual. 😉

The King City mystery was really interesting and finally took us outside of our small town for a glimpse of what else this world holds. The authors described the town so well, that it felt like I was actually walking down the streets, looking at the abandoned shops myself. The plot line with the Man in the Tan Jacket finally cleared up the story behind this mysterious character who has been wandering around Night Vale for quite some time. Wow, I was not expecting that!

And the thing with the pink flamingos was great. I just love all the completely off the wall things these the guys come up with!

No review is complete without giving props to the Voice of Night Vale, Cecil Baldwin. I was lucky enough to purchase the audio version of this book, so I got to spend several hours basking in his melodious tones. (Really, he has a GREAT voice.) He didn’t do super well at trying to sound like the female main characters, but his voice is so naturally deep, that I’ve forgiven him for it. 😉 The rest of the book was very well done; he just makes the reading sound so natural, like he’s having a conversation with you. I’m very glad I got the audio version, reading it on paper just isn’t the same experience.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants an interesting, touching, completely crazy adventure. You don’t necessarily have to have listened to the podcast to understand what’s going on, but it would definitely help. There are some small details that you won’t pick up on if you haven’t done your homework. 😉 You can find out how to listen to the show here: http://www.welcometonightvale.com/listen

Similar Book(s):

Can I just list all the WtNV books here? Lol!

Mostly Void, Partially Stars – WtNV Episodes, Year 1
The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe – WtNV Episodes, Year 2

And the new book, It Devours, is now available for pre-order!

Mini Reviews – Cozy Mysteries

Today I’m going to focus on my current guilty pleasure: Cozy Mysteries. Now, my definition of cozy mysteries is slightly different than the norm, in that I include any small-ish mystery book where the sleuth is fairly likable, the mystery isn’t too difficult, and the plot isn’t too gory or vulgar (think more ‘Monk’ than ‘Criminal Minds’). Basically, a nice little mystery that you can curl up with on a rainy afternoon and know that it will leave you with a sense of enjoyment, rather than nausea or paranoia. 😉

The Excalibur Murders (J.M.C. Blair)

Description from Goodreads: Merlin is no magician, merely a scholar and advisor to King Arthur. But after the supposedly magical Stone of Bran is stolen along with the legendary sword Excalibur and one of Arthur’s squires is brutally murdered during the theft, Merlin must use the power of reason to conjure up a miracle and catch a murderer.

3312838Review: Ok, this one was fun. I admit to having a BIT of difficulty trying to take the book seriously, because I kept picturing Colin Morgan as Merlin (BBC, I blame you! ::shakes fist::), but it was a still a nice, quirky little mystery.

The characters were all believable, which can be tricky when dealing with medieval, legendary characters. The author kept the thees and thous to a minimum, which made the characters a lot more relatable for the modern reader, but also kept the mindset of the age which helped properly date the piece. The mystery was really interesting too, especially once you were told exactly who the victim was. The murderer really could have been anyone and I honestly had no clue who did it until the very end of the book.

As an aside, I liked that Merlin & Nimue had to travel to all the suspects’ castles. It dragged the mystery out a bit, but then it WOULD really have taken that long to get anywhere back then, so I can’t complain too much. The nice part, though, was that it gave you a small view of England in the middle ages, which I always find interesting.

Night of the Living Deed (E.J. Copperman)

Description from Goodreads: Newly divorced Alison Kerby wants a second chance for herself and her nine-year-old daughter. She’s returned to her hometown on the Jersey Shore to transform a Victorian fixer-upper into a charming-and profitable-guest house. One small problem: the house is haunted, and the two ghosts insist Alison must find out who killed them.

7507902Review: This one is a true ‘cozy mystery’, right down to the punny title. 😉 I actually really enjoyed this book. The main character, Alison, was spunky, humorous, and realistic…as in, she kept asking herself “why am I doing this?!?” when she did dangerous things. She also, oddly, actually turned evidence into the police! Shocker! I get so irritated when these amateur sleuths actually hide evidence from the cops.

Also, though she does have a ‘love interest’, she doesn’t immediately fall head over heels or spend the whole book quarreling with him, which was a refreshing change. For some reason, it’s almost impossible for authors to allow their female main characters to be autonomous, especially in cozy mysteries. They almost always end up spending more time worried about their love lives than actually staying alive.

The mystery here was pretty good. It took me a bit to figure out the bad guy and then it took me even longer to figure out how they did it. It was one where you actually seem to solve things at generally the same pace as the sleuth instead of spending half the book going “READ THE STUPID LETTER!!!” or anything like that. Which is great because, as I stated earlier, these books are supposed to be fun, not aggravating! 😉

I ended up making this my “first book in a new-to-you series” for my reading challenge, because I liked it so much that I decided to buy the next one. That doesn’t actually happen all that often with cozy mysteries for me, so you know it’s got to be good!

Still Life (Louise Penny) 

Description from Goodreads: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montréal and yet a world away. Jane Neal, a long-time resident of Three Pines, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more but Gamache smells something foul this holiday season…and is soon certain that Jane died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

338691Review: This was a really enjoyable mystery. I ended up really liking the main character; he seemed like a nice guy who honestly wanted to help and protect the people of the village. He actually listened to people when they spoke, including his subordinates, and wasn’t above taking advice.

And I’ll admit, it was nice that he was happily married, so I didn’t have to spend half the book reading things like “her eyes were beautiful seas” or anything like that (can you tell I’m really not fond of romances? 😉 ), though that DOES happen far less with male main characters than with women, so it wasn’t TOO surprising.

The mystery here was really interesting as well. It took me a long time to figure out who the murderer was, which is always nice. I liked this one well enough to invest in the second book, so we’ll see how the series goes.

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Well, that’s it for now. How about you? What is your reading ‘guilty pleasure’? Do you like cozy mysteries? If you have any suggestions for goods ones, please share in the comments! 😀

Book Review – Four Kings

Book: Four Kings – Author: M.D. Elster

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mystery

**I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

Description from Goodreads:

New Orleans, 1945. After a terrible hurricane devastates the city, fourteen-year-old Anaïs Reynard wakes up in an asylum with a case of amnesia. Dr. Waters, the hospital’s prestigious director, vows to help Anaïs recover her memories — this is of the utmost importance, he tells her, because Anaïs is the sole witness to a terrible crime. On the night of the hurricane, her stepfather and only living guardian was shot. A young black man has been arrested, and Anaïs finds herself under pressure from the district attorney to testify. Anaïs wants to help, but a strange feeling nags at her. She isn’t entirely sure the man on trial is guilty, and she doesn’t know who she can trust. 

Then, one night, she receives an eerie, surreal visit from a dapper man with the head of a fox who entrusts her with an ornate key that unlocks a secret door to the land of the Four Kings. Like Alice before her, Anaïs follows this curiously genteel animal down the rabbit hole to discover a magical yet fraught world of not-quite-human creatures. As Anaïs navigates the political minefields of each king’s court — Raven, Lion, Snake, and Unicorn — her bravery and resolve are tested. 

With each shocking twist and turn, and as fantasy and reality blur, Anaïs begins to unlock the riddle of her own memories, a trail that leads from Nazi-occupied Europe and her mother all the way to post-war New Orleans, and the very night her stepfather was shot.

My Review:

Ok, so the description of this one made me go “Wait…what? Is that middle paragraph for a different book?” The answer is no, this is definitely all describing the same book. But it’s not quite as confusing as it sounds.

There are two mysteries to solve in this novel: one in Anais’ real life, in New Orleans in the 1940s, and one in an alternate reality, which she visits when she falls asleep. In New Orleans, Anais’s stepfather has been shot and Anais is the only witness, though she can’t remember what happened. In the Land of the Four Kings, human girls have been turning up dead and Anais, being the only living human in the realm, must help flush out the killer.

Both realities are fleshed out very well. Over the course of the book, we learn of Anais’ childhood, a large portion of which was spent trying to survive WWII. Coming at this from the perspective of a 10-11 year old girl (Anais’ age at the time of the events), who didn’t know exactly how bad things were, was very interesting. Places and events were described well, but only as well as a young girl could understand them. This leads to some very clever foreshadowing if you pay enough attention. The same can be said of the Land of the Four Kings. The people Anais meets explain the history of the Kingdoms, but mostly in snippets (as people would in real life), with each person adding their unique perspective to the events.

Both mysteries are very well done. It’s only once you get towards the end of the book that all the pieces start falling into place and you realize just how many clues were laid out during the course of the story. Alert readers will notice how both of the realities parallel each other, with characters from each sharing personality traits and allegiances. This only enhances the story, especially when you are given the final clue at the end of the book (no spoilers, I promise) and come to realize exactly why Anais seems to be traveling to this strange Land.

The only (slight) issue I had with the book was some of the verbiage. There is no way that a young girl in the 1940s, who was raised in Belgium & Paris, would use some of those phrases. But that’s really more of a pet peeve than a real issue. 😉 Overall, I would definitely recommend this book for reader’s who like Young Adult mystery novels.

Similar Books:

The Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum

Book Review – Gone Girl

Book: Gone Girl – Author: Gillian Flynn

Genre: Mystery

Description from Amazon:

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? 

My Review:

I absolutely hated this book. Not a popular opinion, I know. But I am one of those annoying readers who has to like at least one of the characters in a book in order to like the book. No, they don’t have to be a great person; in fact, some of my favorite characters are villains. But they have to have some sort of reason for me to be interested in them: wit, charm, an interesting back story…SOMETHING. Everyone in this book is just plain despicable, with the possible exception of the sister, who is only in the book for a short time.

The only reason I finished the book was because of the mystery (no spoilers, promise) and how well it was written. The author did a great job of pulling you into the mystery of the story, so even when I couldn’t stand the actual characters any longer, I still couldn’t stop myself from reading it. So, kudos to the author on an interesting plot, but geez those characters are horrendous.

Similar Books:

Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins (I liked this one better 😉 )