Sunday, December 26, 2021

Review: The Curse of Morton Abbey by Clarissa Harwood

by Clarissa Harwood
Release Date: October 26, 2021
2021 Thornfield Press
Kindle Edition; 382 Pages
ISBN: 978-1777736927
ASIN: B097Q9TF46
Genre: Fiction/Mystery/Gothic
Source: Review copy from publisher
 
4 / 5 Stars 

Summary
Solicitor Vaughan Springthorpe knows perfectly well that Sir Peter Spencer’s offer of employment seems too good to be true: he hires her sight unseen, offering a suspiciously large salary to prepare the sale of Morton Abbey, his crumbling Yorkshire estate.

Once at Morton, Vaughan discovers that someone is determined to drive her away. An intruder tries to enter her bedroom at night, gunshots are fired outside her window, and an eerie crying echoes from the uninhabited second floor. itself.  But with her questions diverted, her progress thwarted, and her sleep disrupted by the crying, will Vaughan escape Morton Abbey with her sanity intact or be cursed by the secrets within?
 
My Thoughts
The Curse of Morton Abbey was a captivating and quick gothic mystery novel that I really needed to read at this point.  Although it had its usual predictable elements you would expect in a gothic novel, the main character was very different, and I liked some of the choices she made.  Definitely not one of your silly maids who does silly things over which you just roll your eyes and shake your head.
 
Vaughan is a very unconventional heroine, the youngest of five sisters, having to fight for everything she has earned in her life due to the fact she was born with a crippled foot and being put down her entire life for this very reason.  I liked how independent, practical, and daring she was, but she definitely wasn't silly, making good decisions and being very aware of her own personal safety as well as the safety of others.  During this time period, it is very difficult for a woman to make her own way, but Vaughan was determined to become a woman solicitor; her reasons were not always altruistic though, as she did want to avoid living with her overbearing mother and sisters.  However, it did make you empathize with her plight and root for her all the way.
 
Out of all the characters though, Nick was probably my favourite as he definitely had the most depth as well the greatest character development.  Every time we met him, more layers were added to his personality, something I really enjoyed, and I never knew what to expect from him.  Yes, he was mercurial, but I spent a lot of time speculating as to his reasons why he was so changeable and was really drawn to his character.  To be honest, I really felt like the author spent so much time developing Vaughan and Nick that the rest of the characters kind of paled in comparison and their characters did not develop in the same way, something that would have added some depth, and some mystery, to this book.

The plot itself definitely has the gothic elements: the atmosphere is creepy; the house is haunted, with all the elements you would expect in a creepy, old house; there is a mystery to solve; there is the mysterious benefactor; there are characters with secrets; and of course, there are the things that go bump in the night.  Personally, I didn't really feel the book was spooky, but I always love the big, old house trope and get hooked on things like that.  The writing is solid, and there were enough twists and turns to keep me interested, even if some of them were predictable.  I did think some things went a bit too far towards the end, and some things were not satisfactorily explained, even to the point of being improbable and forced.  While there were some things about the ending I liked, there were definitely some things that were not explained, at least not adequately. And the curse? Not sure why that was the title of the book.

Verdict
The Curse of Morton Abbey was a fun book to read, and while somewhat predictable, kept me entertained nonetheless.  The two main characters were very well developed, but I wish the author had developed the rest of the characters as well as it would have increased the tension as well as filled in some of the missing information that left the ending feeling a bit inadequate.  Highly recommend if you enjoy Gothic mysteries with a strong female lead and well-developed main characters. 

 


Sunday, December 19, 2021

Review - The Awakening by Nora Roberts

by Nora Roberts
Release Date: November 24, 2020
2020 St. Martin's Press
Kindle Edition; 435 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250272614
ASIN: B082RS9D42
Audiobook: B083LMBNFL
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Summary
When Breen Kelly was a girl, her father would tell her stories of magical places. Now she’s an anxious twentysomething mired in student debt and working a job she hates. But one day she stumbles upon a shocking discovery: her mother has been hiding an investment account in her name. It has been funded by her long-lost father—and it’s worth nearly four million dollars.

This newfound fortune would be life-changing for anyone. But little does Breen know that when she uses some of the money to journey to Ireland, it will unlock mysteries she couldn’t have imagined. Here, she will begin to understand why she kept seeing that silver-haired, elusive man, why she imagined his voice in her head saying Come home, Breen Siobhan. It’s time you came home. Why she dreamed of dragons. And where her true destiny lies—through a portal in Galway that takes her to a land of faeries and mermaids, to a man named Keegan, and to the courage in her own heart that will guide her through a powerful, dangerous destiny…
 
My Thoughts
The Awakening is the first book in a planned trilogy, and while it was a fun and interesting read, I really felt like nothing really happened.  Yes, the main character discovered a lot about herself and her heritage, and definitely grew as a person, but that was really the main focus of the story.  The plot, other than Breen discovering more about herself, was barely non-existent.
 
Breen Kelly is an anxious twenty something teacher who has to save for every penny she earns due to huge student debt loans.  Growing up without a father has left her struggling to understand the reasons why he left when she was young, and the toxic relationship she has with her mother has given her few answers over the years.  When Breen unexpectedly discovers some information that will help her situation, I like how she takes charge of her life and begins to explore who she really is and who she wants to be. I like how Breen goes from meek schoolteacher to confidant woman as she learns to fight and fend for herself.  It is still unclear as to her mother's motives for treating Breen the way that she did, but I liked the way it was handled in this book.
 
Breen did have a lot of help along the way, and one of my favourite characters was Marco.  Her best friend is so cool and sweet and I loved it when he made an appearance.  Now, before you go thinking the author has set up a love triangle, no way, as Marco is part of the LGBTQ community and I love the inclusiveness.  He is such an amazing character, to the point where I almost wished he was the main character. 
 
Then, there is Keegan  Keegan is the leader of the world in which Breen found herself and I think he was supposed to come off as the brooding type, you know the kind who is annoying, but who supposedly has this tender side underneath?  Unfortunately, it didn't work with his character.  He came across as more ruthless, which is fine, as he is protecting his realm, but where I had the issue was his sudden revelation that he adored Breen and loved her.  I was like, what? How did this happen? Nope, didn't work for me at all. I even had to reread the scene to see if I missed something important, but nope. There was simply no chemistry between the two of them so the forced romance felt tropey at best, almost like the author realized she didn't have a sex scene in her book and needed to throw one in.
 
I did really like the folklore, the magic, and the dragons.  I would have loved more about the dragons.  However, this book could have been shorter as some of the parts did have a tendency to drag and were somewhat repetitive. And really, when it comes down to it, there was no plot other than Breen's character development and her discovery of this other world in which she was born.  There was talk about preparations for war, about war council, but we have no idea what is happening, the politics behind it, the others worlds involved, or anything else political that would be important to know.  But we did get pages and pages of Breen writing her children's book and drinking tea.  I kept waiting for something to happen, but I was doomed in that regard.

Verdict
The Awakening is one of those books where nothing really happens, but definitely has a lot of potential. I really feel like the author focused too much on fluffy information rather than on information in which a reader would be interested, such as more info on grandpa and Keegan, and the real nitty-gritty stuff  on the political situation, the threats to the realm, the other worlds involved, and why and how. I also wonder if this book would have worked better using different POV as it would have fleshed out the story, and the characters, a lot more.  I will read the next book in this trilogy, but I won't be in a rush to do so.

 


Saturday, December 18, 2021

Review: What the Cat Dragged In by Miranda James

by Miranda James
Release Date:August 31, 2021
2021 Berkley Books
Audiobook Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593199466
Kindle Edition: B08CTFV6VW
Audiobook: B09B8NJVXR
Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.75 / 5 Stars

Summary
Charlie has always believed that his grandfather had sold his house to his longtime tenant, Martin Hale. So when Martin dies, Charlie is surprised to discover the house was not left to Martin but instead belongs to Charlie. As he and Diesel check out the house he remembers fondly from his childhood, he is pleasantly surprised that it is in better condition than expected. That is, until they find a literal skeleton in a closet.

As Charlie delves into his own family history, he encounters many people who might have been motivated to take a life. But Charlie and Diesel know that things are not always what they seem, and that secrets seemingly lost to time have a way of finding their way back to haunt the present.
 
My Thoughts
What the Cat Dragged In is the next entry in the Cat in the Stacks books, and while Diesel doesn't really feature as predominantly in this book as in previous ones, I really liked learning a lot more about Charlie's family, and both literally and figuratively, the skeletons in his family's closet.
 
Charlie has always been a likeable character, and while I was a bit annoyed with him in a couple of the previous instalments, I felt like he was more himself in this one, which means he was interested in what was happening in his newly inherited house, but didn't go about interfering in an investigation.  I liked how he used his personal contacts to discover information and as a librarian, was able to delve into some of the history himself and discover information that would be helpful.  As someone who teaches history and has to be dragged out of archives, I love this kind of thing so I may be a bit biased.  
 
I like the introduction of a new character in this one as well, Martin's grand-daughter, as well as all the old regulars.  I enjoy Charlie and Sean's relationship and can understand Sean's exasperation when his dad wants to investigate or stick his nose into things as he's just worried about him.  Charlie is a grandfather now as well, and I like how he regrets not learning more about his family history when he had the opportunity, a thing commonly heard as you think you have all the time in the world, then realize it is too late and all of that knowledge is gone with the person who died.  While some of it can get kind of preachy at times, I just overlooked it and enjoyed the story for what it was. Having read this series from the beginning, I am thrilled that Charlie is surrounded by family, his family appreciates him and wants to spend time with him, and am looking forward to when he finally gets married. 
 
The plot was quite interesting, and while it was not hard to figure out who was the guilty party, I enjoyed it because it was definitely far more interesting than the previous entries in this series, a series I was almost ready to give up on.  There were some discrepancies in the historical facts, but I'm not sure everyone caught them.  Having a background in history, I am used to looking for those discrepancies, so I just may be more sensitive to them than others.   However, when you really look at the story, Charlie doesn't really do a lot other than look at historical research, interview a couple of historians, and, naturally, happens to be at the right place at the right time when something does go down.  

Verdict
What the Cat Dragged In was interesting, and I liked the secrets within the secrets investigation that went on.  I thought the relationships between the characters was nice and I am always happy to see Charlie surrounded by family, and naturally, Diesel is a particular favourite.  However, when you really delve into the book, Charlie doesn't really do a lot, except historical research, even if it was really interesting, and happen to be at places at the right time.  Overall, I definitely liked this book better than a couple of the previous ones so would recommend it and I look forward to continuing the series.

 


Sunday, December 12, 2021

Review: The Heron's Cry by Ann Cleeves

by Ann Cleeves
Release Date: September 7, 2021
2021 Minotaur Books
Kindle Edition; 382 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250204479
ASIN: B08XQSXQ6J
Audiobook: B08XQYN7TK
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Summary
North Devon is enjoying a rare hot summer with tourists flocking to its coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder--Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed with a shard of one of his glassblower daughter's broken vases.

Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He's a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved, though, to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband.

Then another body is found--killed in a similar way. Matthew soon finds himself treading carefully through the lies that fester at the heart of his community and a case that is dangerously close to home.
 
My Thoughts
The Heron's Cry was a solid mystery, but I don't think it was quite as good as the first book in this series.  I do like the setting, North Devon, and I really like the diverse set of characters. Plus, I was interested in how the author would develop one of the main detectives, Matthew Venn, as I thought his background was intriguing.
 
One of the strengths of this book is the characters. Matthew and his team are called in to investigate the murder of Dr. Nigel Yeo, but the story definitely doesn't revolve around Matthew.  I like how we get glimpses into the lives of both Jenn and Ross as well, and see how their ambitions plays into how they act and make choices.  Matthew is a bit insecure in his personal life, but he doesn't let that define his professional relationships. I do like how he was able to let loose a little bit in this book, even if letting loose meant he just took off his jacket during a meeting.  But it is little innuendos and inner monologues by the other characters that make this author's writing so interesting. Jenn has two teenagers at home and this case definitely made her look at her own children's online behaviour, something in which all parents should take an interest.  I am not sure what to think of Ross however, as I am not sure if I really like his character.  While he is very attentive to his wife, Mel, some of his thinking almost seems to border on obsession / control and I'm not sure I like some of the things he thinks / feels.  

While the characters were nicely developed and I loved the descriptions of the coastline and the area, the weakness of this book was in the plot line.  Unfortunately, the mystery was quite predictable and the characters spent a lot of the time running around interviewing people.  Normally, I don't have an issue with this, but it got to be somewhat repetitive and boring after a while. And when we do find out who it was, a direction I was seriously hoping it wouldn't go, I thought the reason was weak and didn't quite fit into the rest of the book.  

Verdict
The Heron's Cry is a well-written book and I really did enjoy the characters and the descriptions of the area.  The novel is definitely atmospheric, and I can picture myself walking through the woods or in the villages quite easily.  Where it fell apart for me was in the mystery as it was predictable and bland, with the characters rushing around interviewing people over and over again.  It's not necessarily the interviewing, it's how it was done, and I definitely did not believe the reasons for why the person did what they did as it didn't make sense with the rest of this novel.  I did enjoy this author's other series however, so I will read the next book in this series to see what happens next. 

 


Saturday, December 11, 2021

Review: The Family Plot by Megan Collins

by Megan Collins
Release Date: August 17, 2021
2021 Atria Books
Kindle Edition; 320 Pages
ISBN: 978-1982163846
ASIN: B08LDVMHLZ
Audiobook: B08SWN2TPZ
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

2.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
With her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house she has avoided for years. But as the rest of the Lighthouse family arrives for the memorial, a gruesome discovery is made: buried in the reserved plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.

Each member of the family handles the revelation in unusual ways. Her brother Charlie pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister Tate forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic fa├žade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin.
 
My Thoughts
The Family Plot certainly had an interesting concept, and I really liked the setting as it was creepy, having all the elements of a mystery story that I really like. And when I read the first chapter, I thought that this book was going to really go out of its way to incorporate that creepy style as it was interesting and bizarre, drawing me in right away to what was happening.  And from there it fell apart. 
 
I definitely had no issue with the completely weird family situation in which Dahlia grew up.  That it was bizarre is an understatement as she, and her siblings, were home schooled in the macabre, writing reports of serial killers as opposed to learning Math, Science, and English.  Dahlia's mother had apparently lost her parents to a serial killer and wanted to teach her children how to survive in world she saw full of death and darkness.  Okay, I can swallow that, if uneasily.  I can even swallow the ceremonies the family had to remember the victims of various serial killers.  Oh, it was macabre and I will admit to shuddering a bit, but not because of fear, but because it was so over the top.  I really felt like the author was throwing all of this at the reader to try and get a reaction, but when you do too much, the shock value kind of wears thin after a while, and the whole effect just becomes silly. I had difficulty connecting to the characters the way it was written, and really wished the author had used the spooky atmosphere of the house a bit more to develop her characters and the plot. 
 
I actually thought the title to this book was quite interesting, and quite clever. But the story itself was disjointed and I found Dahlia's inner monologue to be lacking.  There was so much telling rather than allowing the reader to try and figure things out, so it was rather easy to figure out who was actually responsible for the deed.  Except for the first chapter or so, the tension was rather lacking, and while I don't always like the use of dual timelines, I did wonder if maybe this book would have benefited from the use of one, or even the use of different POVs.  

Verdict
The Family Plot had so much potential; it had the creepy atmosphere, the setting was perfect, and there was the dysfunctional family.  Unfortunately, the plot itself was lacking tension and was kind of bland, and I didn't really like the characters.  Overall, this wasn't really a mystery thriller, but an author's use of creepiness to try to set the scene rather than use tension, and it didn't really work.  I just couldn't suspend my belief in some of the things that were going on. 


Sunday, December 5, 2021

Review: Beyond by Mercedes Lackey

by Mercedes Lackey
Release Date: June 15, 2021
2021 DAW Books
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-0756417338
ASIN: B08T6VFNQJ
Audiobook: B09FCNH8S8
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
Kordas has lived his life looking over his shoulder. The signs in the Empire are increasingly dire. Under the direction of the Emperor, mages have begun to harness the power of dark magics, including blood magic, the powers of the Abyssal Planes, and the binding and "milking" of Elemental creatures.

But then one of the Duchy’s mages has a breakthrough. There is a way to place a Gate at a distance so far from the Empire that it is unlikely the Emperor can find or follow them as they evacuate everyone that is willing to leave.

But time is running out, and Kordas has been summoned to the Emperor's Court.
 
My Thoughts
Beyond is the long-awaited story of the founding of Valdemar, and while it was a bit slower than I expected, it was still a delight to read.  And what it also did, was create a longing to re-read the entire Valdemar series of books that I haven't touched in many years and sent me hunting through my book stacks to find them all.  
 
I enjoyed the many characters introduced in this book, but did think a couple of them were far more developed than others.  I like the fact that Kordas was a duke at the beginning, and was quite impatient to find out how he would become a baron, or if the author conveniently forgot that about his status in previous books mentioning him.  Kordas himself didn't disappoint as he was intelligent, compassionate, and quite sly, using his wiles to play the emperor and the system into thinking he was a simple country bumpkin so his backwater dukedom would be ignored and he could go on planning for the day when he could leave the machinations of the court behind.  I loved how he finagled his way through the politics of the court and the descriptions of the events and the whole system just gave me the creeps.  
 
If you are familiar with the series, you will recognize a lot of the names and other important things from these books, such as Beltran. I found myself looking for these little pieces of information and was disappointed when more didn't come to light; however, considering this is simply book one of a planned trilogy, I am sure there will be more to come, including the companions.  
 
The plot was a bit slower than I expected, but it didn't really bother me too much as I enjoyed all of the planning that took place in order to get Kordas' people to safety.  I can't even imagine the amount of planning that was involved to undertake such a thing, and we got to witness some of it in the book.  I definitely liked how Kordas showed compassion during the planning and was willing to take chances as things developed and plans had to change as more knowledge became available. I know this sounds vague, but I don't want to give away any surprises, and there were a few that came up in this book that I was not expecting, all of them interesting.  And they are also ones to which I am wondering how they are going to play out in future books.  
 
The book does have a satisfying conclusion even if it is the first book of a trilogy as the author is known for ensuring each book concludes in its own right.  And while I definitely enjoyed the story because I was interested in another Valdermar story, I was also deliberately looking for links from previous books to see if I could find any.  And the discrepancies, of course.  I don't see how you cannot. I had to remind myself to read it for itself as the plots and subterfuge were great, and I loved all the spying that went on.  And what Kordas discovered when he went to the palace is probably my favourite part of the book, something I looked forward to reading about every time we returned to his POV.   

Verdict
Beyond was a good start to a new trilogy and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  And while I thought the overall plot was a bit weak, I definitely enjoyed the subterfuge and the spying that went on as Kordas was planning his greatest deception.  The magic system wasn't very well described however, and the legendary companions have yet to make an appearance, although I can't wait until they do.  I honestly don't know how this book will come across to someone who has no knowledge of the previous books, but for me, it was useful to have read them. I can't wait until the next book, Into the West, is released next year.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Review: We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen

by Lena Nguyen
Release Date: July 6, 2021
2021 DAW Books
Kindle Edition; 355 Pages
ISBN: 978-0756417291
ASIN: B08MX69ZCY
Audiobook: B097S6DLZ1
Genre: Fiction / Science-Fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher
 
2.5 / 5 Stars
 
Summary
Misanthropic psychologist Dr. Grace Park is placed on the Deucalion, a survey ship headed to an icy planet in an unexplored galaxy. Her purpose is to observe the thirteen human crew members aboard the ship—all specialists in their own fields—as they assess the colonization potential of the planet, Eos. But frictions develop as Park befriends the androids of the ship, preferring their company over the baffling complexity of humans, while the rest of the crew treats them with suspicion and even outright hostility.

Shortly after landing, the crew finds themselves trapped on the ship by a radiation storm, with no means of communication or escape until it passes—and that's when things begin to fall apart. 
 
My Thoughts
We Have Always Been Here had such great potential.  I actually really enjoyed the first third of the book and sped through it rather quickly as there was a lot going on, there was mystery, and I thought the conflict between the crew members rather interesting.  I love the thought about being on a spaceship almost as much as being in a haunted house so the creepy ambiance was right up my alley; I also have no problem with a story where I have no idea what is happening. Then, it was as if I had a bucket of water thrown in my face; everything started going downhill from that point and I really struggled going forward and I stopped counting the number of times I rolled my eyes. 
 
First of all, I didn't have a problem with the characters in the story, but I also never really felt like I got to know them either. The writing style made me feel disconnected from them, their true feelings, and because of this, I didn't empathize with any of the characters and as a result, I didn't really care what happened to any of them.  I think there is a really fine line between keeping things mysterious and creating connections with your audience and I feel like the author maybe struggled with this aspect of her characterization.  I can completely dislike a character, but feel empathy for them at the same time. Not the case in this book. The author was trying to make the main character, Park, feel isolated from the rest of the crew, which she succeeded quite well at doing, but the way it was done made it difficult for me to feel a connection to her as well. 
 
The plot was on the weaker side, with a writing style that seemed to emphasize description rather than allowing the reader to try and figure things out.  Unfortunately, this made both the story, and the themes, feel rather disjointed, something that really became noticeable about one-third into the book.  The author even threw in some flashback episodes, and while they were interesting, they were really irrelevant to what was happening in the book.  I think there were better ways the author could have shown Park's affinity to androids rather than through these long flashback episodes.  I do think they were there to make the reader show empathy for androids, but all it did was slow things down and take away from the story.  What I did find interesting in the flashbacks though, was the relationship between Park and Glenn; now that would have contributed to the whole sympathy for androids thing for me much more than how it was done.
 
I love space opera and read them quite a bit, and I don't generally have a problem when an author downplays some of the scientific principles as they are not necessarily hardcore science, but sometimes there are some things that you just can't ignore.  Sending two psychiatrists on a scouting mission with only what, 13 crew members? Problematic. The whole time-space time warp thing? problematic. The ship itself? Problematic. I think there was only one person on board who could fix anything mechanical so if anything happened they would be stranded.  Some of it just didn't jive with the overall description and it bothered me throughout the book.   

Verdict
We Have Always Been Here has a very interesting concept, and the last quarter of the book does pick up quite a bit and is different from the middle of the book, but the disjointed story line and the lack of character development definitely had a huge impact for me.  And while I liked the ending, I didn't feel like it was resolved, as if the author wasn't quite sure how she wanted it to end. I'm still not sure if the author understands the scientific principles she was describing, but the descriptions did make me roll my eyes a few times. Although I like to explore new authors in this genre, this one just didn't work for me.  

 


Sunday, November 28, 2021

Review: The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths

by Elly Griffiths
Release Day: June 29, 2021
2021 Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt
Kindle Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0358237051
ASIN: B08B37D8KL
Audiobook: B08YM44JDZ
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
The Night Hawks, a group of metal detectorists, are searching for buried treasure when they find a body on the beach in North Norfolk. At first Nelson thinks that the dead man might be an asylum seeker but he turns out to be a local boy, Jem Taylor, recently released from prison. Ruth is more interested in the treasure, a hoard of Bronze Age weapons. Nelson at first thinks that Taylor's death is accidental drowning, but a second death suggests murder.

Nelson is called to an apparent murder-suicide of a couple at the isolated Black Dog Farm. Local legend talks of the Black Shuck, a spectral hound that appears to people before they die. Nelson ignores this, even when the owner's suicide note includes the line, 'He's buried in the garden.' Ruth excavates and finds the body of a giant dog.
 
My Thoughts
The Night Hawks is the next entry in the long-running Ruth Galloway mystery series and I definitely enjoyed it a lot more than the previous entry for several reasons.  The mystery was solid, the author didn't focus as much on the relationship between Ruth and Nelson, and Ruth was back home.  I love the setting of North Norfolk and the legends, and always look forward to the way the author incorporates those legends into her stories.  
 
First of all, I have always loved Ruth and her fierce desire to remain independent.  Yes, she might be lonely at times and yearns for companionship, but her relationship with Frank has taught her not to just settle for something just because she yearns for it.  Which is why she back home where she belongs.  Ruth can also be a bit snarky, but those are her inner thoughts we hear and I love how those thoughts often conflict with how she has to behave.  It makes her so much more real and I can definitely relate to how she is feeling a lot of the time.  Nelson, naturally, yearns for what he cannot have, and I am looking forward to the day when this whole thing finally rears its ugly head and erupts.  It has gone on for so long, and has been such a central focus of the books, that it has actually mired down previous books in my opinion.  Luckily, it was not really the central focus of this book. I really enjoyed Nelson's mother and would love to see more of her in future books.  What can I say? Mothers are definitely full of wisdom and surprises.  

And Cathbad, dear Cathbad.  I will always be a huge fan of this character and love the scenes when he appears.  He is so full of local legend and knowledge, and always seems to know exactly what to say to those around him.  And then there is a new character, David Brown, an archaeology lecturer who works with Ruth.  Abrasive, nosy, and totally annoying, but someone I really warmed up to by the end of the book.  I am looking forward to learning his story and seeing more of him in future books.

The writing style and plot were good, and the character development was great.  I like that the author doesn't sacrifice character development for plot, and vice versa, all are equally balanced.  There were some things that did bother me, things the police overlooked, but this was to further plot development.  It was jarring though, and didn't quite sit well with me.  It made no sense that the police would not search the entire premises when a murder has occurred, including all files, and discover some of the things that Ruth discovered.  There were a couple of other things as well, but to mention them would be spoilers so I will leave it to you to figure them out.  But, as I mentioned, it did niggle at the back of my brain, and I didn't quite buy into the fact these things would be overlooked.

Verdict
The Night Hawks was a solid entry into the series, and I enjoyed the introduction of a new character to the mix.  I love how the author manages to mix local legends into her stories so we learn more about the background historical details which are quite interesting.  I am glad to see that Ruth and Nelson's relationship didn't take central focus and allowed the actual mystery to be the main feature and strength of this book, allowing her other characters to have the limelight as well. I am definitely looking forward to the next book, The Locked Room, in this series which releases June 2022.

 


Saturday, November 27, 2021

Review: The Halloween Moon by Joseph Fink

by Joseph Fink
Release Date: July 20, 2021
2021 Quilt Tree Books
Kindle Edition; 288 Pages
ISBN: 978-0063020979
ASIN: B08LDLQWZS
Audiobook: B08N2ZSXMT
Genre: Fiction / Juvenile / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher
 
3 / 5 Stars
 
Summary
Esther Gold loves Halloween more than anything in the world. So she is determined to go trick-or-treating again this year despite the fact that her parents think she is officially too old. Esther has it all planned out, from her costume to her candy-collecting strategy. But when the night rolls around, something feels . . . off.

No one is answering their door. The moon is an unnatural shade of orange. Strange children wander the streets, wearing creepy costumes that might not be costumes at all. And it seems like the only people besides Esther who are awake to see it all are her best friend, her school bully, and her grown-up next-door neighbor.
 
My Thoughts
The Halloween Moon is a cute and fun book, but there is not a lot of depth to it. The main character, Esther, is rather obsessed with Halloween and pretty much lives her life thinking about how to celebrate the next Halloween once the previous one has passed.  I don't have an issue with it, thought it was rather cute, until I discovered her age.  I love Halloween as well, but I enjoy the creepy and macabre to begin with, and it's those aspects of the holiday that I enjoy, the stories, the movies, the fright, etc... Going trick-or-treating just to collect candy that you don't really want to eat just seems sort of silly. But if that's what you like, then why not?
 
First of all, I liked the characters in the story. Esther Gold was not always a likeable character, but that suits me just fine as there is potential to develop a character like that which is exactly what happened.  There were times the author allowed Esther to reflect on her own behaviour towards others and she realized she was not always the victim in a lot of situations; many times she could have handled things differently or looked at things from a different perspective.  I do wish the author had taken the time to develop these reflections a bit more, especially in terms of the two relationships that developed in the story as they would have felt more real with that development.  When enemies become frenemies then friends, you have to buy into it, and you have to believe in it as well.  I liked Esther's friends and thought their growth, along with hers, would have been a lot of fun. Her parents though? They must hate Halloween. The author never did give a good reason for their behaviour however, and the 'you are too old' argument didn't really work in this story. It was a bit jarring. Mr. Gabler though, was the best thing about this book.

The plot itself was pretty generic, although I think I am basing this more on the author's other works which are a bit more creative and original.  While interesting, I just felt like there was something missing, some major excitement, and I wasn't as invested in the outcome as I should have been.  It's not that there weren't elements of creativity and originality, because there were, and there were some really good parts.  It's just when you put the whole thing together, it doesn't seem to work and I can't seem to put my finger on exactly what it was. Perhaps my biggest issue is with Esther and her age as she doesn't really feel like a 13-year-old and I had to keep reminding myself she was older than I thought. I'm also not against exploring puberty and feelings and whatnot, but it just seemed so out of place in this book as well.

Verdict
The Halloween Moon is one that I thought would be interesting simply because there are not a lot of Halloween books for this age group.  Unfortunately, the writing style used was more descriptive rather than dialogue based which made the reader feel detached from the action and the characters.  And the book didn't really have the creepy factor that I think some young readers would like in a book like this; the villains were more silly than creepy.  While I would not necessarily recommend this one, I would recommend his Welcome to Night Vale Episodes. Overall, while this definitely contained some of the author's writing that I love and I enjoyed the concept, I do think he struggled with that fine line between adolescent and child which made the writing style awkward and disjointed.
 
 
 

 


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Review: The Boy Who Drew Auschwitz by Thomas Geve

by Thomas Geve, Charlie Inglefield
Release Date: July 27, 2021
2021 Harper
Kindle Edition (& Hardcover Edition); 400 Pages
ISBN: 978-0063061996
ASIN: B08RZ4VQJV
Audiobook: B08TPB88VM
Genre: Non-Fiction / WWII / Holocaust
Source: Review copies from publisher
 
5 / 5 Stars
 
Summary
In June 1943, after long years of hardship and persecution, thirteen-year-old Thomas Geve and his mother were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Separated upon arrival, he was left to fend for himself in the men’s camp of Auschwitz I.

During 22 harsh months in three camps, Thomas experienced and witnessed the cruel and inhumane world of Nazi concentration and death camps. Nonetheless, he never gave up the will to live. Miraculously, he survived and was liberated from Buchenwald at the age of fifteen.

While still in the camp and too weak to leave, Thomas felt a compelling need to document it all, and drew over eighty drawings, all portrayed in simple yet poignant detail with extraordinary accuracy. He not only shared the infamous scenes, but also the day-to-day events of life in the camps, alongside inmates' manifestations of humanity, support and friendship.

My Thoughts
The Boy Who Drew Auschwitz is the story of a young Jewish lad in Germany who was deported to Auschwitz at the tender age of thirteen-years-old.  While it may not have gone as in-depth as some other books I have read, it had a poignancy and rawness to it that touched me very deeply.  And because this was written from the point of view of a young teenager, the perspective was somewhat different, moving from naivety to maturity as Thomas learned to adapt and survive in the midst of horrors that were inexplicable.  The author provided insights into many different aspects of camp life and explained quite a bit about the children's labour force which is not usually told from this perspective.  

One of the highlights of this book is definitely the drawings.  Childlike and colourful, they are deceptive in nature as they show the stark nature and the harsh reality of what life was like in the camps.  The pictures of people being hurt, tortured, hung, shot, and so on, was utterly heartbreaking.  There is something incredibly sad in these pictures: the lives of so many innocent people lost to a war machine that didn't care about what they destroyed, the lives and families they tore apart, and the innocence of childhood that was lost.  

The writing style seems simplistic at first, but when you really examine the words and think about them, you realize how profound a lot of the statements really are.  Sometimes its the simplicity of things that make the most impact and there were so many times I just had to stop and dwell on what Thomas revealed, in this sort of childish manner, but was in fact quite full of horror.  Just the way he wrote about even the roll calls and how those people were never seen from again, all the while looking at the smoking chimneys of Birkenau.makes me shiver.  Thomas was very observant and the amount of detail in this book is quite astounding.  

Verdict
The Boy Who Drew Auschwitz has become one of my favourite books about the Holocaust, and I teach History and WWII so I am widely read in this subject having read some amazing non-fiction books.  Thomas manages to show the hardship and brutality of the camps, but he also shows the humane side through his friendships; there is also this feeling of hope that flows through his words.  So many people suffered horribly during this time period, and Thomas has dedicated his life into ensuring that his words, and his experience, as well as others, would never be forgotten. 

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Review: All These Bodies by Kendare Blake

by Kendare Blake
Release Date: September 21, 2021
2021 Quill Tree Books
Kindle Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062977168
ASIN: B08R3VGXYV
Audiobook: B08VZH2WBT
Genre: Fiction / YA / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

2.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Summer 1958—a string of murders plagues the Midwest. The victims are found in their cars and in their homes—even in their beds—their bodies drained, but with no blood anywhere.

September 19- the Carlson family is slaughtered in their Minnesota farmhouse, and the case gets its first lead: 15-year-old Marie Catherine Hale is found at the scene. She is covered in blood from head to toe, and at first she’s mistaken for a survivor. But not a drop of the blood is hers.

Michael Jensen, son of the local sheriff, yearns to become a journalist and escape his small-town. He never imagined that the biggest story in the country would fall into his lap, or that he would be pulled into the investigation, when Marie decides that he is the only one she will confess to. 
 
My Thoughts
All These Bodies really had the potential to be great.  It had atmosphere, a pretty interesting mystery, a setting I loved, and some pretty quirky main characters.  And while I was engrossed for perhaps the first third of the book and thought this would be a pretty solid read, the threads pretty much slipped apart from this point until it became something disjointed and not that interesting.  I wasn't a fan of the ending, and not because of what happened, but it simply didn't seem to flow with the rest of the story, nor did it have a denouement that made sense.
 
First of all, I did enjoy Michael Jensen as a main character and I completely understood his fascination with Marie.  For a teenage boy who wanted to be a journalist when he graduated, this seemed pretty logical.  I could also understand his obsession with the story as Marie only gave him bits and pieces at a time and he was yearning to understand the reasons behind the story, and as a reader I wanted to learn them with him.  This is where things get a bit murky though, as the story was vague to say the least, and the reasons really pushed even my limits for suspension of logical belief.  Whether this was done on purpose or not, I couldn't quite figure out, but it made me lose interest in Marie's fate and I stopped being invested in Michael's fascination with her character.  It made me lose complete interest in what was happening.  So, if that was intentional, it had the opposite effect on me, which was a shame.
 
I love reading murder mysteries with an atmospheric setting, so this one had all the trademark aspects that I love; the bodies, the blood, the fog, the eerie setting, the creepiness factor, the mysterious girl, the secrets, etc...  And when I learned the story was loosely based on real-life events, I thought it would be fascinating material, but the story was too disjointed and I just couldn't relate to Marie.  I think I was supposed to feel sympathetic towards her, but the writing style, which tried to be mysterious and have the reader on tenterhooks, focused more on Michael's obsession and how it was affecting his life and his friends, and made me lose sympathy for her.  I just thought the information and how it was revealed was not fully explained; it made the last quarter of the book hard to get through and I was rapidly losing interest in what was happening. 
 
Verdict
All These Bodies is one of those books in which I was really disappointed because I typically really enjoy this author.  Her writing style usually has this way of drawing you into an atmospheric world, and it was definitely this way in the first third of the book.  However, the later parts of the book were quite disjointed and didn't flow leaving you unsettled and feeling disappointed with the revelations and story line.  And while the setting was atmospheric, the ending just didn't flow well with the rest of the story and left you feeling unsatisfied. 

 


Saturday, November 13, 2021

Review: Suburban Dicks by Fabian Nicieza

by Fabian Nicieza
Release Date: June 22, 2021
2021 G.P. Putnam's Sons
Kindle Edition; 400 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593191262
ASIN: B08MBNRJW1
Audiobook: B08N5KSSXR
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher
 
3 / 5 Stars
 
Summary
Andie Stern thought she’d solved her final homicide. Once a budding FBI profiler, she gave up her career to raise her four (soon to be five) children in West Windsor, New Jersey. But one day, between soccer games, recitals, and trips to the local pool, a very pregnant Andie pulls into a gas station - and stumbles across a murder scene. An attendant has been killed, and the bumbling local cops are in way over their heads. Suddenly, Andie is obsessed with the case, and back on the trail of a killer, this time with kids in tow.
 
 
My Thoughts
Suburban Dicks is one of those books where I did think the title was brilliant. You have these two people, one who should have been a profiler for the FBI and the other should have been a big-time journalist and neither has achieved their dream, so they team up, accidentally, to solve a crime in the suburban area where they currently live. This had all the ingredients to work, but unfortunately, the humour fell rather flat for me and I started to lose interest about halfway through the book and it was a struggle to continue. 
 
First of all, the humour.  At first, I thought this was going to be rather funny and the thought of a woman who was seven months pregnant with four children would be rather fun as an investigator.  I also really liked Kenny, the journalist, and his perseverance as he realized something fishy was going on.  Eventually though, the humour really got to me and I got rather tired of Andie's rather pointed comments about her husband, to her husband, and how much she hated him and her children.  Sarcasm only goes so far until it just...doesn't.  It may have worked in Deadpool, but it fell rather flat here.  Especially the continuous comments to the children about her husband, especially with him sitting right there.  I got to the point where I was totally on Jeff's side and really came to resent Andie.   I'm not a big fan of using body shaming as slapstick comedy either.  Was there ever a woman who didn't feel fat during some point of their pregnancy? No matter how good they felt?  That being said though, the constant emphasis on how Andie 'accidentally' got pregnant got on my nerves rather quickly as well. For a woman as smart as Andie, how in the world would she have accidentally gotten pregnant more than once?  I understand the slapstick humour in what is being revealed here, but again, it just didn't work and fell rather flat for me. 

One of the themes running through this book is stereotyping and racism, and I didn't have a problem with how the author approached those subjects.  In fact, I thought this was the strongest part of the book.

The story at the beginning was rather interesting and I was intrigued by what was happening, humour aside.  While I didn't quite believe it was possible that anyone could hold a secret like that, especially with who was involved, it was interesting enough for me to continue with the book.  But with the plot so immersed in that humour, I did struggle to continue as I just didn't like the main characters.  However, there were some very interesting and intriguing scenes in this book; if more focus had been on the plot and developing the characters, I would definitely have been more invested.

Verdict
Suburban Dicks did have some things goins for it: there were some intriguing and memorable scenes, a relatively decent plot line, and a lot of creativity.  I wasn't a fan of the two main characters though, and the humour just didn't work for me.  And the ending? Not a fan.  This is one of those books you will just have to read for yourself and judge for yourself. 

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Review: Target Acquired by Don Bentley

by Don Bentley
Release Date: June 8, 2021
2021 G.P. Putnam's Sons
Kindle Edition; 480 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593188132
ASIN: B08JKL7Z8S
Audiobook: B08MBBVNC7
Genre: Fiction / Thriller
Source: Review copy from publisher
 
4 / 5 Stars
 
Summary
Jack Ryan Jr would do anything for Ding Chavez. That's why Jack is currently sitting in an open air market in Israel helping a CIA team with a simple job. The man running the mission, Peter Beltz, is an old friend from Ding's army days. Ding hadn't seen his friend since Peter's transfer to the CIA eighteen months prior and intended to use the assignment to reconnect. Unfortunately, Ding had to cancel at the last minute and asked Jack to take his place. It's a cushy assignment--an all expense paid trip to Israel in exchange for a couple hours of easy work, but Jack could use the downtime after his last operation.

Jack is here merely as an observer, but when he hastens to help a woman and her young son, he finds himself the target of trained killers. Alone and outgunned Jack will have to use all his skills to protect the life of the child.
 
My Thoughts
Target Acquired is the nest instalment in the Jack Ryan, Jr series, and while I was unsure if the author transition would mesh seamlessly from Mike Maden to Don Bentley, I think the author did a great job picking up the nuances and personalities of the Ryan world.  Were there some issues? Of course. But the action was fun, and Jack certainly got into a world of hurt in this one.

First of all, I really liked that Jack Ryan, Jr was pretty much on his own in this one, relying only a few times on a couple of members of his team/friends.  I've always felt like Jack needed to break away from his father's legacy and show everyone exactly what he was capable of, and I think this is the book that is starting the wave of showcasing his immense talents.  I liked that he was a bit impulsive, but used his training and skills to get things done effectively.  Did this get him into trouble? Of course, or there wouldn't be a novel or story.  If Jack wasn't being tied up, beaten, interrogated, and so on, at least once in a novel, it wouldn't be Jack.  And I always look forward to seeing how he gets out of those scrapes he gets into. Don't get me wrong as I love Clark, Chavez, and Dom, but I read a Jack Ryan, Jr novel to see how Jack is growing and developing in his job.  

This book is all action, and I appreciated that.  It's not that I don't mind the cultural aspects of the other books as I find them interesting, but I really felt like they were more predictable whereby Jack would meet a woman, they would travel around, some action would occur, and then back to the idyllic stuff.  A bit boring.  This book was different as the action picked up right from the beginning and didn't let up until the last page.  While I did enjoy that, it didn't leave much room for character development so I had no empathy for the people kidnapped as I didn't really learn much about them.  There needs to be more of a balance so you have sympathy for the characters when something happens to them.  

Verdict
Target Acquired was a fun book, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I loved Don Bentley's Matt Drake books so I had high hopes when he took over the Jack Ryan series, and he definitely lived up to expectations especially considering he has to work within the rules and regulations of the Clancy estate.  While the action was non-stop, it did not leave a lot of room for character development, and some things from previous books were deliberately omitted.  I also felt the ending was rushed so it wasn't quite satisfactory.  Otherwise, a good book, and I am looking forward to the next entry. 
 
 

 


Monday, November 1, 2021

Review: The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear

by Jacqueline Winspear
Release Date: March 23, 2021
2021 Harper
Kindle Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062868022
ASIN: B08BLLQDZF
Audiobook: B08BWWZQC7
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery 
Source: Review copy from publisher
 
3 / 5 Stars
 
Summary
September 1941. While on a delivery, young Freddie Hackett, a message runner for a government office, witnesses an argument that ends in murder. Crouching in the doorway of a bombed-out house, Freddie waits until the coast is clear. But when he arrives at the delivery address, he’s shocked to come face to face with the killer.

Dismissed by the police when he attempts to report the crime, Freddie goes in search of a woman he once met when delivering a message: Maisie Dobbs. While Maisie believes the boy and wants to help, she must maintain extreme caution: she’s working secretly for the Special Operations Executive, assessing candidates for crucial work with the French resistance. Her two worlds collide when she spots the killer in a place she least expects. She soon realizes she’s been pulled into the orbit of a man who has his own reasons to kill—reasons that go back to the last war.
 
My Thoughts
The Consequences of Fear is the latest in the Maisie Dobbs mystery series, and unfortunately, it was not one of my favourites in this series.  I have been reading this series since the first book was published, and it definitely hurts me to give this book a lower rating, but I just didn't find the story, and mystery, as interesting as usual.
 
First of all, I thought with WWII and most of the able-bodied men on the front lines, the story would finally focus on the heroic efforts of those left behind as there is so much fodder for the author to draw on for her characters in war-torn London.  Having Maisie work on her cases, with Billy, during this time period would have been so fascinating and she could have still done her work for the SOE, on the side.  However, the author has chosen to make that work the forefront of the story, put Billy in the background yet again, and created this convoluted story that, while interesting, just doesn't fit well into the Maisie Dobbs world.  Frankly, I am surprised that, out of all the stories that existed during this time period, that was the one that was chosen.   

I normally love Maisie, but I loved her when she was independent and wasn't afraid to make her own decisions and take risks because she thought those risks were worth it.  This Daisy was different, and although I understand she now has a child to take care of, and is in a romantic relationship, and is struggling between those two worlds, having her sit in her office while others do the work will be rather boring and why would I read about that? I've never understood why romance always needs to be included in a woman's life for a character to feel fulfilled.  I also thought the author tried to hard to make Mark sound American which made him sound foolish. 

The author's writing skills are never in doubt, but Maisie was a mess of emotions in this one, and frankly, I was on Robby's side when it came to decision-making: Maisie was using her emotions rather than her common sense to make important decisions and frankly, I am not sure why she would have been chosen for such an important role in the first place.  I have read all the books, and I must have missed something important, but how did Maisie suddenly become a factor in who gets chosen to go as a spy for the Resistance in France?  What qualifications does she have to be able to do so just by reading a file and doing an interview?  I feel that was pushing historical details just a bit too far in my opinion. And for whatever reason, I also thought the author spent a lot of time recapping previous cases when Maisie has to rely on old acquaintances for help.  Personally, I think this is lazy writing and isn't necessary, especially if it happens frequently in the story as it bogs down the overall plot and makes it hard to read.  

And as a Canadian, one of my biggest issues is the author's constant reference to Great Britain fighting alone during this time period when Canada definitely declared war on September 10, 1939 against Germany. Australia, New Zealand, and India declared on September 3.  I think the author made a huge mistake by constantly mentioning the fact they were waiting for their American saviours and ignoring the heroic efforts by these other countries during this time period.  

Verdict
The Consequences of Fear is probably my least favourite Maisie Dobbs novel.  While I enjoyed the interactions between Maisie and her family and friends, and I absolutely adore Billy, I really feel like this novel has taken a turn in a direction I was hoping it wouldn't. The focus used to be on cases centred around London, with Billy and Maisie investigating, and their dynamics were quite interesting and fascinating as they worked together in an intriguing historical setting.  The mystery took a backseat to her relationships in this one, and in the previous one as well, and this is the first time I actually had to stop reading and read something else for a while.  One conversation between Brenda and Maisie almost made me DNF the entire book.  I am really hoping that in the next one, Maisie and Billy will go back to their investigations as they were so much more interesting. 


Sunday, October 31, 2021

Review: A Terrible Fall of Angels by Laurell K. Hamilton

by Laurell K. Hamilton
Release Date: August 17, 2021
2021 Berkley
Kindle Edition; 400 Pages
ISBN: 978-1984804464
ASIN: B091DNXTMM
Audiobook: B091FTKXMX
Genre: Fiction/Urban Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher
 
3 / 5 Stars
 
Summary
Meet Detective Zaniel Havelock, a man with the special ability to communicate directly with angels. A former trained Angel speaker, he devoted his life to serving both the celestial beings and his fellow humans with his gift, but a terrible betrayal compelled him to leave that life behind. Now he’s a cop who is still working on the side of angels. But where there are angels, there are also demons. There’s no question that there’s evil at work when he’s called in to examine the murder scene of a college student—but is it just the evil that one human being can do to another, or is it something more? When demonic possession is a possibility, even angelic protection can only go so far. The race is on to stop a killer before he finds his next victim, as Zaniel is forced to confront his own very personal demons, and the past he never truly left behind.
 
My Thoughts
A Terrible Fall of Angels intrigued me due to the focus on angels and demons, and I was interested to see what this author would make of the subject matter in a new, and different, series.  And while I was intrigued by the world she is building, I did have mixed feelings about the characters and the story line as well as the way it was written.  
 
Zaniel "Havoc" Havelock is an experienced detective who spent his formative years at the College of Angels; this gives him a unique perspective in his job as he battles both normal, and paranormal, foe.  Having left the angelic life, he spent time in the military then became a police officer, using his unique skills to solve cases that involve paranormal beings.  The current case in this novel actually forces him to finally confront his past as his former world and his current world are now colliding and he can no longer avoid the memories nor the people with whom he grew up.  I like this exploration of the past, and the trauma that Zaniel has to confront as I think it is realistic; you can only avoid the past for so long before it catches up with you and I found this aspect of the novel interesting.  However, I have always loved psychological stuff like this. 
 
I was not a fan of some of the characters however, and was indifferent to their plights. Is this due to poor character development, or does the author just not see how some of these characters are seen by her readers, I just don't know. But I was not a fan of Zaniel's wife.  Zaniel's job as a detective puts him in danger and she could not deal with that fact, so the two of them are separated.  Zaniel spends a lot of time ruminating on his marriage, and the conversations between him and his wife were my least favourite parts of this book.  Sorry, but she was just a poorly written character, and I didn't like her.  When Zaniel didn't look at her, she was mad.  When Zaniel looked at her, she was mad.  And it went on and on.  She controls everything, and he has to be so careful around her.  Sorry, that is not marriage.  When you can't be yourself around the person you love, then maybe it's time to move on. Luckily, he tends to stick to who he is and is not necessarily willing to compromise what he has worked so hard for, and his own job, just for her.  But there is a child involved, and Zaniel dearly misses his son.  I honestly hope this situation resolves soon so we don't have to read about it for books on end.

The early sections of the book were full of action, and I had high hopes the book would continue like that.  Nope. The book got bogged down by overly long explanations and dialogues between characters that lasted for entire chapters and, to be honest, I got bored, and needed to read something else in between. I don't need overly long explanations, just give me the story.  I had no issues with the religious elements in the story, in fact I found them quite interesting, and I am definitely looking forward to learning more about that world and some of the angels.  And there were a lot of little side stories that I think will set up future novels if you paid attention, some of which I was disappointed over as they weren't explained or developed, so I do really hope they are in future books.   And while I have nothing against political correctedness, there was an overabundance of it in this story. I like it when an author goes out of their way to be inclusive, but it has to flow within the novel not sound as if it thrown in to say, Look at me! I am being inclusive! And if the author was so worried about that, she wouldn't have mentioned Zaniel's abs on every other page and the way he stared at other women, but gosh, he was married so he shouldn't be doing that, and how he needed to slouch as women were just drawn to him like bees to honey!!  Yes, I got it. He's good-looking.  

Verdict
A Terrible Fall of Angels does have a lot of things going for it.  There are a lot of mysterious elements that were introduced, but not fully explained; characters and their relationships that were not fully fleshed out; and, a new setting that is just being explored in terms of political structure, angels and demons, and humans, and how they are interconnect.  The actions scenes were interesting and definitely got my interest, but there were a lot of times when things got bogged down through pages and pages of dialogue, and nothing really happened.  There was enough in this book to make me interested in reading the next one when it is released.