Book Review – ‘The Memory of Death’ (#3.5 Death Works Trilogy) by Trent Jamieson

This is the way you breathe new life into a series…

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, novella

No. of pages: 94

He thought he’d return from Hell a hero. But things are never easy when your business is Death.

Steven de Selby gave up his love, his life, and his lucrative position as Head of Mortmax, the corporation in charge of Death. Then he found himself banished to the briny depths of hell. But hell has never held him before …

Now Steven’s back from hell, after escaping from the cruel Death of the Water, but he’s not sure how or why, or even if. No-one at Mortmax trusts him, and he’s running out of time to prove he is who he says he is.

Steven is about to discover that hell really is other people, and the worst of them may well be himself.

There seems to be some confusion over this novella. The cover is calling it Death Works novel #4, yet Goodreads has it labelled as #3.5 – I guess Trent Jamieson is the only one who can clear all this up. And I’m wondering if the franchise ends here – will the story continue, or has interest and marketability of the Death Works franchise dried up? It has become a guilty pleasure for me. The references to Brisbane and its surrounds are my back yard. And I kind of like paranormal tomes that deal with various incarnations of Grim Reapers and the subject of the afterlife. Jamieson has a wit and irony about this world and protagonist Steven de Selby that I find alluring.

The Memory of Death’ sees Steven (in parts) dragged from The Death of Water where we saw his ending in ‘The Business of Death.’ Going into more detail will spoil happenings for this novella. But it sets up an interesting premise for this franchise to move forward. Turns the relationships of the characters on their head. It is such a genius twist that it renewed my interest and has me hoping that this is not the end.

A lot happens in this short novella. I did wish the first half was a bit punchier and clearer. It takes a beat for the reader to get enough information to make sense of things. In that sense it was disorientating for me and I kept putting the book down for a rest. Not something you want to hear about a novella. But once the story got its legs, it was in short, brilliant. So the pacing went from faltering to light-speed.

Steven de Selby has an arc of sorts – more like a reconstitution. He’s the same but not. I liked in ‘The Business of Death’ how he went dry – gave up drinking completely because it was starting to become a problem for him. I was not all too happy to see him start up that habit again. His relationship with Lissa is completely different, and the engagement is brought up but there is hope that it can get back on track – for which I am greatful. I was really starting to ship these two.

I was astounded and delighted to read a preview from ‘The Carnival of Death’ touted as the Death Works novel #5. This is a great under hyped series that I am happy to recommend to all my friends. There is even a bind-up of the trilogy available… I’m just praying that Jamieson continues this series because it’s a little taste of home and a little taste of weird.

Overall feeling: Don’t say it’s over…

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Slayer’ (#1 Slayer) by Kiersten White

Re-visiting my ultimate fandom.

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Genre: YA, Paranormal

No. of pages: 404

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Into every generation a Slayer is born…

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

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It was fun to get reacquainted with the Buffyverse through ‘Slayer.’ While it is technically cannon and references many familiar characters, it didn’t quite match the tone of the television series ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ Though it has elements of teen drama, horror, and dark comedy, it managed to carve out its own identity.

I found parts of the narrative repetitive – especially in the first half – and it became somewhat annoying, but once past the midway point ‘Slayer’ really starts to amp up. The pacing is pretty good, but in what we’ve come to expect from Whedon’s brainchild, ‘Slayer’ is the poorer cousin. There should have been much more drama and angst, much more action, and a heavy, more pronounced theme of good versus evil… and some core moral centre that the protagonist deals with.

The concept of twins and prophecy was a fun twist and great to explore. Stepping into the world post-Sunnydale where hundreds of potential slayers have realised their power, Watcher/medic in training Nina (‘Artemis’) has joined the ranks of newly awakened slayers. I feel like having Nina isolated and in hiding with the remainder of the Watcher brethren was a great storytelling perspective, but did little to create a lot of relatable content for the reader. Buffy was a typical teen who just wanted to be normal – Nina is a naive teen who doesn’t know what she wants… so for the first half of the novel I didn’t really care for her as a main character because she lacked the strength and interest. Though as she stretches her newly slayer abilities Nina grows into the role.

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There was this whole kept-in-the-dark-for-your-own-protection trope and miscommunications which was okay as a plot device, but I’ve seen it executed much better; and not only did it feel obvious, but frustrating that I was able to not only predict the outcome of the novel, but pretty much all but one of the smaller story arcs. I feel like Kiersten White could have cut 100-150 pages out, only hinting at plot reveals, and this would have not only been a better paced read, but married true to the tone of the source material. But it was so nostalgic and squee-worthy to be back in the Buffyverse. Plus, a red-headed protagonist – fellow gingers unite!

So I may have rated this lower if not for the connection to my early years through the Whedonverse, and just the simple enjoyment of spending a few days back in that place. This was an emotional connection, and I felt like the story was really getting its legs in the second half. So I’m assuming the sequel ‘Chosen’ is going to be much better and I am definitely fangirling over these books.

I’d love to freely recommend this to everyone, but some hard-core Buffy fans may not take to ‘Slayer’ so easily. While this has elements of the franchise, it’s not delivered as tightly as the source material. Even the DarkHorse comics that continued the story after the television series ended with a team of the original writers (helmed by Jos Whedon himself) still retain that ‘it’ factor we’ve come to love in the Buffyverse that I felt wasn’t quite reached with Kiersten Whites take on the franchise. But hey, I’d would LOVE to be proven wrong.

Overall feeling: A fun frolic in a favorite fandom

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Slayer (#1 Slayer) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Midnight Blood’ (#6 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

A hodge-podge of magical beings and elements – and I like it.

Midnight Blood (#6 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 242

From Goodreads:

If you love someone, set them free…If they come back, they could be a zombie

Someone is trying to kill Charles Hawthorne, one of the richest men in Maine. And they’re using magic to do it.

He suspects the members of his own family and hires me to check them out. I soon discover that Charles Hawthorne has a dark secret in his past; a secret that may have come back to haunt him.

With an ancient wizard bugging me to chase down the Midnight Cabal and two Shadow Watch agents who want to question me about my father, things are going to get crazy.

Oh, and Mallory’s back, along with some supernatural baggage.

Time to sharpen the swords…no, not that sword…and get to work!

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Another instalment of the P.I. Harbinger series. I really enjoyed this one. A quick, adventurous read. I had commented a little about some of the machismo/sexism that our protagonist Alec sometime exhibited, and it seemed to have been tossed out the window in ‘Midnight Blood’ and made it a much more pleasant read – though we do get a bit of this attitude (and classism) from one of the agencies clients in the story.

There is still that niggling notion of some of the overarching storylines that continue through many different volumes of this series, and how they aren’t moved forward enough for me to get any satisfaction – if they are sprinkled so lightly, the reader is going to start forgetting clues and not get invested in the story. It feels much like a tv episode where a case is wrapped up and a few points are hit for seasonal arcs. Its fun reading but is starting to get repetitive. I don’t want the Harbinger series to get stale and formulaic. Though Adam Wright’s writing is improving with each subsequent sequel.

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There were no repetition of phrases (like in some of the prequels) in ‘Midnight Blood,’ the pacing was great, and the story flowed easily. I did find a number of small grammatical errors, but nothing worth noting. I couldn’t help but ponder on the switch to dual perspectives (following Alec’s assistant Felicity as she took over the case of ‘Midnight Blood’s plot) well after the halfway point when Alec’s narrative had been well established… it felt a bit amateurish.

There is still a bit of that convenience of calling on the rest of his ‘Scooby Gang,’ and them just falling in line, risking their lives. It was written better here, but still, there was little establishment or motivation to make it feel believable.

I really enjoyed Alec in this one, there wasn’t the predilection to describe women by their physical characteristics in a sexual manner, and they weren’t falling over themselves to jump his bones. It was a lovely reprieve. I think with that old James Bond-esque tone removed, I really got into the story instead of eye-rolling at the relationships/flings/flirting. Taking time to develop character and story has greatly benefited ‘Midnight Blood.’ Whatever romantic relationship Alec develops in the future, I hope it follows suit and build and grows from something, and not just a reaction to something or an impulse.

This did feel too short. The main storyline on the attempts of a wealthy man’s life through magical means was perfect, but I needed more from the three other plot lines, and maybe some more development in the relationships between the cast. It doesn’t give me any time to care about the people Alec has in his life if they are just cameos serving as a plot device to drive the story forward (without facing any difficulty.) We’re getting to the point now where there are six novels in this collection and I can’t recall or describe the different types of relationships between Alec and the different members of the Scooby gang. He has saved their lives, but I don’t feel that connection when reading the book. Mallory is a past love interest, and some scenes are great, and others, just meh. As for the Blackwell sisters… I really have no clue there, they just seem to be someone to turn to when you need a spell or teleported somewhere. They serve no other purpose in the story.

Midnight Blood’ is predictable – you know Alec is going to solve his case – he always does. I’d like to see him fail, or face some bigger hurdle to mix things up a bit. But this is still a fun read I’d recommend to fans and lovers of the paranormal detective genre.

Not bad, still a guilty pleasure. Looking forward to the next sequel ‘Twilight Heart.’

Overall feeling: Getting better – a gold star for you!

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Buried Memory’ (#2 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

Paranormal gumshoe strikes again.

Buried Memory (#2 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 226

From Goodreads:

Whoever said that nothing ever happens in a small town clearly never visited Dearmont, Maine. It’s getting hotter than hell around here. When the dead start crawling out of their graves, you know something’s up. 

If there’s one thing I hate more than zombies, it’s having my memories erased by magic. That’s a real bummer, right? So when I get a chance to break the spell that’s locked away part of my mind, I take it, even if it means dabbling with ancient Egyptian sorcery. 

Big mistake. 

Sometimes you shouldn’t go poking at things that are buried. 

Because you end up having to deal with an army of the dead.

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This only felt like a mild improvement from the first novel. I wasn’t so much into the camp sexist machinations of our protagonist Alec. While I enjoyed the paranormal angle and his solving of mysterious cases, the machismo and constant attractive women swirling around him, eager to do his bidding had the feminist in me grinding my teeth.

The second half of the book was much better – it was so focused on the action, the author had no chance to waste on bravado and cliché. I don’t mind a bit of campy b-grade horror, but I really wanted something a little more original. I was going to say in the review for the debut that it reminded me of Charlene Harris of Sookie Stackhouse fame (but I have not read those novels and feel like it would be an insult) and again, I got that niggle, how there was an interwoven plot of mystical creatures and battles to be won.

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The arc with Alec’s assistant, Felicity, was cool. As too, the plot twist with his ‘flirtation-friend’ Mallory – both formidable women in their own right, but I feel like the author does not give them the space to really shine. ‘Buried Memory’ is still steeped in that Private Eye 1950’s era of a tough, wisecracking gumshoe who gets all the dames.

One thing did puzzle me though – given it is a detective novel, shouldn’t he solve some cases? He did in the first novel…. but in ‘Buried Memory’ when the Deputy asked him to look into the church that her dead mother had gotten involved with before her demise… well, after he palmed it off (as I find he tends to do a lot) was simply completely forgotten. Where was the plot of this story going? Instead we got an entirely different direction. I got a little steamed actually. There wasn’t even mention of it at the end of the book like it would be continued in the next instalment ‘Dark Magic.’

I’m starting to find, even though I feel the stories a little gauche, they are still engaging and highly entertaining in a ‘Vampire Diaries’ kind of way. I have a morbid fascination to find out what happens next – but I wouldn’t quite call it a guilty pleasure. I really feel if this collection of novels had a good content edit and a more feminine viewpoint inserted into the narrative they would be stellar reads.

Wright can construct a great action scene, build tension and pace, and manage to give you an unpleasant shiver over something unknown in the dark. So he has a lot of elements going for him and this collection of novels. Plus they are all around the 200 page mark in length, so easy to read in half a day. Not a great investment to get a fun, nostalgic kick.

So, I’d only recommend to those who love paranormal detective novels with plenty of machismo and campy fun. It’s totally like a b-grade horror noir film on the pages, and not to be taken too seriously. With all the nit-picking I’ve done to this series, the books are engaging, entertaining and highly addictive.

Here’s to seeing what kind of trouble Alec Harbinger P.I. gets into next…

Overall feeling: Things that go bump in the night…

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Lost Soul’ (#1 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

A paranormal detective story with a touch of misogyny and a lot of promise.

Lost Soul (#1 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 226

From Goodreads:

Alec Harbinger is a preternatural investigator, a hunter of things that go bump in the night. When his employers, the Society of Shadows, banish him from his Chicago office to a small town in Maine, Alec thinks his career and life are over. How is a preternatural investigator supposed to find work in a sleepy town in the middle of nowhere? But when a local teenager comes back from a weekend at the lake with an altered personality, Alec is hired to investigate a possible demon possession. A young man turning up at Alec’s office insisting he’s been bitten by a werewolf adds to the caseload. And just to make his first day at the office perfect, Alec discovers that someone in the Society of Shadows is trying to kill him with ogre assassins. No work for a preternatural investigator in a sleepy Maine town? Yeah, about that…

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A Private Investigating franchise with branches all over the globe that everyone is familiar with – yet everyone is ignorant of, or doesn’t believe (in the preternatural) … um… contradictory much. Not the best premise to start off with. But this debut of the Harbinger P.I. series promises supernatural goodness with a wisecracking gumshoe.

The protagonist, and only detective assigned to backwater town of Dearmont, Maine: Alec feels like some old fashioned sexist sleuth. I chose to read this with some irony to keep it fun, like a satire of old Dick Tracey cartoons… even breaking out an overzealous accent at times when reading dialogue. Whaddya talkin’ bout? See?

He seem to objectify all the women he met – who just happened to be skinny and drop dead gorgeous. Weren’t there any normal women in this novel? And of course the assistant, Felicity Lake, did everything for him, all the menial tasks while Alec went about posturing, ogling and flexing his brain. It was hilariously awful. I can’t decide if this was badly written characters or camp overload. But it was oddly compelling despite these drawbacks.

Alec brokers a lot of deals for later favours. A little too convenient the way he makes friends/builds a team. Everyone seemed very amenable without having to go through the process of building up a friendship – and Alec did not seem nervous or too wary about it. It was all a bit contrived. It was easy to spot the hands of the author pushing the plot in a certain direction, and lost its organic feel.

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When going to investigate a forest by the lake for a case, Alec states he want to go in the morning to avoid stumbling around in the dark… and when he gets there, has to wait until dark to get his enchanted statue-compass-thingy to work. Doh! Chalk up another one in the column of inconsistencies.

Why weren’t these glaringly obvious mistakes picked up by a content editor or beta reader before publishing? The writing and plot felt a bit… well messy and amateur.

It didn’t help things that I identified a few grammatical errors too.

But enough of the negative critiquing – the action scenes were great. I was gripped, but there were small moments that were dropped that had me wondering if -‘d missed something.

The ending was a little trite, some things tied up neatly that sent me into an eye-rolling frenzy, and other elements were set up well to lead into the next book in the series.

Lost Soul’ is interesting. But short on world building. I still have no clue as to why the world in ‘Lost Soul’ is the way it is. There was a lot going on, plenty to keep my interest, so I wasn’t bored. Adam Wright’s writing style is a little dry, a touch sparse… and very… male. But it worked for that condescending tone of an old fashioned private detective‎ that this story was channelling. If you don’t take this seriously, it is fun. But if you’re a stickler for plot, grammar, and context, and not one to laugh at those B-Grade horror movies, ‘Lost Soul’ will feel like torture. This is written to a very certain demographic/niche.

I don’t know what inspired me to but this – it is certainly well out of my wheelhouse of regular reads. And an interesting journey. Maybe it was the gorgeous cover promising a dark paranormal mystery – massive battles against dark forces. Instead, it is more of a campy detective novel set in a world of witches, werewolves, fairies, demons and vampires.

I’m interested to see where the sequels will take us.

Overall feeling: This was… okay. That is all.

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#bookporn

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Just a sample of some of the fantasy collection I have waiting in my TBR – the thing is, this is the genre I read the least amount of, but seem to have amassed the largest number of books… hrmm. Let’s hope I can crank up my imagination and start whittling away some of these titles.

Reading and purchasing that bargain

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No review copies here – just an honest bibliophile!

I post a lot of reviews, but all of the books I read, I’ve purchased myself with hard earned cash. I get no kick-backs from my reviews. So I value my dollar, buy books only that I am genuinely interested in reading. And hunt around for great prices.

There are some authors that are an automatic buy, and titles that I am excited about and will pre-order online. Most of the time there will be a better price after their release, but with my over-enthusiasm, I generally don’t care so much about the increased price point because I want it as soon as possible.

I find cheap books from local book stores having sales – I can get lost for hours perusing their sale racks in search of a book on my wishlist… and I never come away empty handed. Plus, I get the books cheaper than I would have been able to source online… great things mobile phones these days, check to see if there is a cheaper price elsewhere before you head to the register.. You can even go to the sales staff and show them the cheaper price, and most of the time they will match it.

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The majority of the time, I have my wishlist – a number of books that I want to purchase, and I’ll jump on my computer and pull up some of the major websites to do a price comparison. Amazon, Book Depository, Fishpond, Booktopia, and the major book retailers like Dymocks etc. It’s important to convert the prices to your native currency – as in Australia book buying is expensive! Check the shipping costs too. 8 out of 10 times I find the Book Depository the best value for money. Occasionally Amazon gives it a run for its money. Sometimes a book will only be available on a certain site, and not on the others. Australian authors are generally cheaper from Booktopia (an Australian-based site) but still check. I’ve gotten a bargain from other distributors occasionally.

Then sites will run a special – free shipping, half-price, or discounted books. So be vigilant, look around and you can always pick up a bargain.

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I say this because I like to have fresh, new copies of novels that I like adorning my shelves. My sister likes to collect second-hand copies and rarely spends more than a dollar for a book. She is also a massive e-book reader. Admittedly I only read e-books if I can’t find it in a physical format, if I am travelling, or if the book is more than 500 pages. Only because my reader likes to reorient the screen on me when I move, or runs out of battery at the worst possible time… for me, nothing beats good old paper!

For authors and books that I’m not sure about, I’ll often buy in e-book first, generally because the titles are less than half the price of their printed counterparts. So mix it up, check what’s available in your area.

I’d join a library and borrow books from there, except I live in a rural area and the closest decent library is over an hour and a half drive away, so I’d waste a day just for a visit.

Another way I get to read great books on the cheap is book-swapping with my friends and family. I’m lucky enough to have a large group of readers, and we like to pass around our favourites. It has let me discover new genres and titles that I would have overlooked before.

Buying and reading literature has never been more accessible, and I’m just a kid in a candy store with eyes bigger than her belly!

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#bookporn

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Another tempting addition from my April book haul, my brain is spinning with so many good books to choose from on my shelves!

Burning Midnight‘ sounds like fun – spheres hidden all over the planet (think Easter egg hunt or geocaching) that will grant you a certain power… I’m already sold!

If you have already read this, let me know what you thought of it in the comments section 🙂

Happy Reading!