Category: book review


book review, paranormal, reading March 31, 2016


Hello everyone! I’m back after a break during which my sprogs have been off school for spring break. Mixed feelings, people, mixed feelings.

I want to jump right back into the swing of things with a review of a book I enjoyed while we traveled to and from Austin (which was great fun and included much people watching).

Woman in White is not my first time reading the work of Kristin Dearborn. I enjoyed her debut novel, Trinity, loved her story Sacrifice Island (my review of it here), and I’ve had the privilege of listening to her read “Spider Cheese” on a couple occasions. Woman in White  maintains Ms. Dearborn’s reputation for weaving an excellent tale.


(I hate spoilers.)

At the beginning of the story, we accompany poor Dennis to his girlfriend’s house in the backwater town of Rocky Rhodes, Maine. A blizzard rages as he makes his way along an isolated road and, to his surprise, finds a woman in the storm. He offers the silent (creepy) woman help, and it’s the last we hear from Dennis. Remaining is a great deal of blood, but it cannot be linked conclusively to Dennis… nor anyone else.

When big-city forensic scientists arrive in Rocky Rhodes for what they think will be an open-and-shut case, they’re shocked by what and who they don’t find.

What follows is a story bathed in blood, missing men, a startling lack of forensic evidence, and women determined to stop the disappearances. Three women from differing backgrounds come together to solve the mystery and, possibly, save their town.

This is a different take on the classic “white lady” urban legend. Unlike a typical ghost story, Dearborn’s woman is tangible, in very surprising ways. I was delighted to find that Dearborn upends the trope with something new and fresh.  Her characterization brings the residents of Rocky Rhodes alive, and gives them authentic struggles in the small-town atmosphere.

Dearborn describes the blizzard raging in Rocky Rhodes to perfection. There’s something so effective about a horror story set in the snow… it muffles normal sounds and makes communication and travel difficult. The blanketed town feels stifled and claustrophobic.

I particularly liked the forensic angle Dearborn adopted by rendering the evidence unusable. If a substantial amount of blood doesn’t seem to belong to anyone, not even the person to which it is assumed to belong, then the presence of the blood merely adds to the mystery. What’s going on when fatal amounts of blood are found at crime scenes, but no one knows who the blood belonged to? Good questions, and ones that the scientist side of me appreciated.

Highly recommended read.

You can find Woman in White here for your Kindle. More information about Woman in White is available at DarkFuse.

Find out about Kristin Dearborn at her website:





Book Club for Horror Enthusiasts

book clubs, book review, genre fiction, mixed genre, publishing, reading, reading with a purpose February 7, 2014

Hey everyone!

For a last several months, I’ve been a member of the DarkFuse Book Club. For a flat fee, you receive many, many titles delivered to you for your ereader. If you enjoy horror, particularly horror that isn’t mainstream, and if you enjoy supporting a great publisher and its authors, please do check this out. This has been a really great bargain and I’ve received some titles I’ve truly enjoyed (I will be reviewing some of them in the coming weeks).

I am in no way affiliated with DarkFuse, nor did they ask me to write this. I’m just really pleased with what they’ve offered and I don’t want it to go away. If you love horror and want to support the community, check it out. It’s 100% worth it. I linked to it above, but here’s the link anyway:

Have a great weekend and happy reading!

Book review: Sacrifice Island

book review, genre fiction, paranormal, reading, Uncategorized January 21, 2014

Happy New Year intrepid readers! I hope the holidays treated everyone well and you all began 2014 refreshed and ready to go!


Me, neither. The holidays tend to drain me… so busy and too much food.

2013 was such a weird year… many good things happened for me (short story and novel release, conventions galore), some bad (I crashed my motorcycle), and it was difficult to watch a few close friends go through some really painful times. I can’t decide if it was a wonderful year or just one that will go down as a strange year. Either way, it’s one for the record books.

So onward and upward!

Let’s start this year right with a review and a recommendation. Sacrifice Island is a novella released last year by Kristin Dearborn.

sacrifice-island This novella takes a monster of myth from the Philippines and turns it into something new. A duo of paranormal investigators heads to a tropical island to write the next chapter in their book on haunted locations. They’re out to uncover a mystery left behind in the diary of a young woman driven to suicide. They get more than they expect.

Jemma’s character grabbed me first. The reader learns early in the story that something’s not quite right with Jemma, but I couldn’t tell exactly what or where it would lead. I was intrigued with Jemma… she’s very cold despite the friendliness of her companion, Alex.

Jemma certainly grabbed me, but it was the setting that kept me reading. Dearborn uses vivid descriptions and lots of detail to really make the island stand out. I know she visited the area, and her familiarity with the tropical setting shows.

Once the investigators reach the island, there’s a lovely slow burn to the climax. Dearborn builds the suspense subtly and the puzzle of what’s happening on the island is in the forefront. Can Jemma and Alex find out what happened to the writer of the diary before the island claims another victim?

I give Sacrifice Island five stars for the intriguing characters, the lush setting, and the awesome monster.

Special book review: Flesh and Bone by Jonathan Maberry

book review, guest blog, writing parent September 5, 2012

I’m a reader, a writer, and a mom. I love sharing my enthusiasm for reading and writing with my kids. Thankfully, both of my kids are readers and budding writers. Right now they love to write comic books and I can’t tell you how many notebooks we’ve gone through writing and illustrating the Pencil Wars or the Ninja Granny. When summer break started in June, I knew I would need to keep the momentum going for the entire summer.

One of the projects I decided to take on with my older son was reading a YA series with him and discussing it along with asking him to write about it. After a lot of searching and finding mostly female-centric books on the store shelves, we chose Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin series. We were both excited to start the series, for different reasons. I met Mr. Maberry when he spoke to my graduate program at Seton Hill University and we actually read Patient Zero as an assigned reading for the program. I loved Mr. Maberry’s Joe Ledger books and I’m a zombie fan. Jacob was excited to read a story with a male protagonist after having read The Hunger Games, and he also loves monsters. I was sad to find there were only two books available, but we decided to not let it stop us.

Our copy. Jake read it first and I wasn’t sure he would give it to me.

A couple months ago I discovered the next installment in the Rot and Ruin series would be released in September. I contacted Mr. Maberry and explained my project with Jacob and my desire to do a blog series on the importance of giving boys strong protagonists, the gender gap in YA lit, the current popularity of dystopian fiction among the young adult crowd, and my appreciation of his books. He very graciously sent us an advanced reader copy of the third book in his Benny Imura series. Flesh and Bone chronicles the continued adventures of Benny and his crew.

Jake and I both agreed this book is a little different from the first two. Benny, Nyx, Chong, and Lilah have left the safe haven of Mountainside in search of other people and a clue as to whether or not civilization still exists. New characters appear in the great Rot and Ruin and a few old friends, as well. The repercussions human control disappearing are explored. The zombies are different, too, and the kids are left wondering if the infectious agent is mutating.

Mr. Maberry states in the author’s note that the book deals with grief, and it certainly does. There is a sense of loss throughout the book, and many major changes in the lives of the characters. The topic that drew my attention, however, is religion. This book is focused closely on religion and cult behavior. While no modern religion is targeted (e.g. Christianity or Islam), some older faiths are put in the spotlight along with a few elements of modern faiths. This gave Jake and I another topic of discussion and opened up a line communication between us that lead to good questions. I appreciate the way Mr. Maberry dealt with this topic. He shows the dangers of accepting authority without questioning and blind faith while still showing respect to faith in general. I do think Jake picked up on this, and it works very well in the story.

Here is Jacob’s take on Flesh and Bone (warning, he did use a spoiler or two):

Hello, I am Jacob Hopeman and I will be writing this review for Flesh and Bone from a young readers standpoint. I think it is the coolest thing to be able to read a book before its release.

Benny and his friends get back to their quest but are all still shaken up a little after Gameland. When they start moving, all of the zoms are different, faster. Some zoms are even smarter than before. And as they make their way through their quest, they find another force, not just the zoms, is trying to stop them. One word, they call themselves Reapers.

The Reapers startled me at first because they just kind of appeared and then someone was dead. I thought the Reapers were unexpected, but were a good twist to the story.

Benny was my favorite character because so much was going on with him. He was trying to be like Tom yet his friends thought he was pushing it a little too far. He was battling physically yet also mentally. He was fighting mentally for Tom and physically for his life.

One of the questions left at the end of Flesh and Bone is whether Chong actually live through the zombie virus he gets or will the people let him die. Another question left at the end is what the group will do next to survive and keep the world alive.
I, personally, liked the book. That is because it has a lot of twists and turns. Like when a zom bites Chong. Also I like it how Benny still kind of has Tom there so he doesn’t do anything dumb. I also think it was cool how they had Joe Ledger in the book because my mom says he’s really awesome.

I would recommend the book to a friend if they had read the other two otherwise you would be clueless about whats happening. I would definitely recommend the whole series. Go buy it!

P.S.: That zombie card is really cool. Thanks Mr. Maberry!  You’re the best!

I’m so glad I could share this great series with my son. I can’t wait for the younger son to be old enough to read it.

Thank you so much, Mr. Maberry, for writing a series that gets the young male readers reading with enthusiasm, and for being so kind to Jake and me.

Flesh and Bone is due for release on September 11, 2012 from Simon and Schuster. You can preorder this book, and get the entire series, from many online retailers, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Book review: Dust and Decay by Jonathan Maberry

book review, guest blog, reading, writing parent August 15, 2012

I love to see my kids read. Creating a reader requires material that excites them, that keeps them interested. In today’s world of fast-paced video games and thirty-minute cartoons, this isn’t easy. Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin series fits the bill and then some. It engages young male readers with a dystopian story of survival in a zombie wasteland, and fills a void left by many of the YA dystopian books on the shelves.

Last week I offered reviews of Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin from both myself and the target audience. Today I have similar reviews of the second installment in the Benny Imura series, Dust and Decay.

I loved the second book as much as the first. We return to our favorite characters, Benny, Nix, Tom, Chong, and Lilah as they prepare to leave Mountainside for good in search of an elusive vision they hope will lead them to more humans and some semblance of civilization. New characters join our merry band along the way, including a pair of 30-something surfer dudes who made me chuckle. I’m not sure the target demographic will appreciate J-Dog and Dr. Skillz the same way I do, but that’s okay. I always appreciate the kids’ movies that include humor for the adults, so this just added a little something for me. Sally Two-Knives became a solid favorite for me– a strong female character with a wry and wicked sense of humor.

The journey, which begins as a short test of their ability to survive in the great Rot and Ruin, quickly turns into the fight of their lives. A nightmare returns, a wicked place surfaces, and Benny and the crew must banish their demons once and for all. A price is paid, and we’re left wondering where our friends will go and how they will get there.

This book offered many of the same discussion opportunities with my son as the first. We talked about trust, since Benny and the crew find themselves in several situations in which they have to choose whether or not to trust someone they don’t know. We touched on personal responsibility even in the face of humiliation when one of our characters makes a choice that endangers the entire group. These are excellent discussion points for kids, and the subject matter helps to get boys talking.

Here’s our guest review for the day:

I am Jacob Hopeman and I’m back to write this review of Dust and Decay from a young readers standpoint.

Benny Imura, Nix Riley, Tom Imura, Lilah, and Chong want to leave the town and search for a jet that they had seen earlier. Also Gameland is back and working so they have to destroy it once and for all. Plus Charlie Pink Eye has come back to haunt them in a zombified form.

The book is different from Rot and Ruin because they don’t just go out and back in town. They want to leave town so they are always in danger and they are not just learning to fight, they have to use the skills Tom taught them.

Benny Imura is my favorite character again because in this book he takes a part time leadership role in my perspective. He also has to do most of the thinking because he isn’t the best fighter in the group anymore. He also leads them through a bunch of twists and turns. All of this I like a about a certain character.

I like the book because it has a definite amount of suspense like when the thousands of zombies come pouring down the hill right to where Benny is. Also because, like Rot and Ruin, Dust and Decay has happy and sad parts. Examples are: Sad: Lilah has been living alone on her wits for so many years and its kind of sad that she had to be alone. Or, Happy: they live through the giant zombie attack.

I would most certainly recommend it my friends because the book itself is a very good read.

PS: Thanks again, Mr. Maberry!

In the coming weeks we’ll feature two guest bloggers discussing both the recent popularity of dystopia fiction and the importance of creating young readers. We’re most excited to offer a prerelease review of the upcoming installment to the Rot and Ruin series, Flesh and Bone, due out on September 11, 2012.

Book review: Rot & Ruin by Jonathon Maberry

book review, genre fiction, guest blog, writing parent August 8, 2012

I have a love-hate relationship with post-apocalyptic novels. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road nearly left me undone. Colson Whitehead’s Zone One showed us the best and worst of people, but left me feeling rather hopeless. The basic struggles of humanity during or after a catastrophic event are heart-wrenching, telling, and can sometimes give a sense of hope in this strange world we occupy.

I love sharing books with my kids. Obviously, there are certain books that would be inappropriate to share, like the above mentioned examples, but I try to read the books they’re interested in so we can discuss them. My older son, Jacob, is twelve. We both read the Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy then went to the movie together to compare it to the book. Like any preteen boy, he likes strong protagonists, a good struggle, some suspense, and if the author can throw in a little violence and monsters, even better.

My son’s biggest gripe with The Hunger Games, and most young adult dystopian fiction, is the lack of a strong male protagonist. The Hunger Games is told from the perspective of Katniss, a girl, and while he enjoyed the story immensely, Jacob wished he’d been able to experience if from a male perspective as well. I guess it has something to do with the whole “girls have cooties” at this age thing.

Imagine my glee to see Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin series, with a teenaged boy protagonist. I love Mr. Maberry’s Joe Ledger series, beginning with Patient Zero, but they’re not yet appropriate to share with Jacob. Zombies occupy a special place in my heart, and therefore also in the hearts of my kids. How many families discuss their theoretical zombie apocalypse plans over dinner? THIS ONE.

So when I saw the first book in Mr. Maberry’s series, Rot and Ruin, I grabbed it and the second, Dust and Decay, as well. I read both books before I let my son tackle them.

Before I read the book I wondered if it would be too graphic or violent for a twelve year old boy. Nope. I appreciate the restraint Mr. Maberry used with the violence and graphic descriptions, and also with the language. While there is a love interest, something most kids this age are acutely aware of, but may or may not actually be experiencing, there is no sex. Jacob commented after we watched The Hunger Games movie, “At least they left the sex out.” Mr. Maberry obviously understands what a young teen boy wants and does not want to read. I appreciate this.

I considered writing my own reviews of these fantastic books, saying things like the post-zombie-apocalyptic world in which main character Benny Imura experiences adolescence is believable and wonderful. The book starts out with a bang, describing the world in which the teens are struggling to grow and the new, different responsibilities and expectations. Maberry does his usual wonderful job of “showing, not telling” in many ways, including Benny’s job search. At age fifteen the kids are expected to find a job, work, contribute, not just exist any longer. This plot point both showed Rot and Ruin’s society and segued into a great discussion with Jacob about how easy his life is and how his main responsibility is his education. We discussed what he might do if he were in Benny’s shoes.

I would also say something like Benny’s character is so relatable and flawed as to allow an adolescent boy to identify and grow with him. I might also mention that Benny’s brother, Tom, is not just a fluff side character, but a strong male role model for boys who stands up to bullies and encourages Benny to understand the whys and hows of this new world and to not just survive but thrive and make a difference. I would be remiss if I forgot to mention Benny’s band of friends, Nix, Morgie, and Chong, and how their close bond allows them to experience a normal adolescence in an abnormal world. I might also be tempted to say that the way the group treats the outcast Lilah is a good lesson in inclusion and understanding others. The lessons taught in this book are invaluable, and they are all couched in an exciting, relatable story that appeals to boys, who generally have been left out of the YA dystopian craze.

But instead of saying all those things, I decided to let the target demographic speak for me. Here, in the words of the young reader, is my guest review:

Hello, I am Jacob Hopeman and I will be writing this review for Rot and Ruin so that there can be a teenagers view on the book.

Rot and Ruin is about a world of post-apocalyptic zombie breakout where people are struggling to survive. Rot and Ruin follows the story of a fifteen-year-old boy named Benny who is trying to find a job. He finds nothing interesting enough so he goes to work with his older brother Tom. Tom is working as a zombie killer. Benny expects the job to be boring. All he thinks his brother is doing is killing zombies ruthlessly for money. What he finds out is something very different.

My favorite character in the novel is Benny. In the beginning he thinks that when he starts as a zombie killer it’s going to be dull. The first time they go out to kill a zombie he sees that Tom is doing things nicely which is a new perspective for him. One group they see is just playing around killing them. Benny doesn’t seem to like it. When he sees what Tom does he finally understands and realizes there is more to his brother and to the world. So Benny as a character is interesting.

I liked Rot and Ruin because of its suspense. It’s basically like “Ohh, is he a zombie?” or “Ohh, is he dead?” at some points and nothing is ever safe. I like how it incorporated some adrenaline as well. All of those parts wanted to make me read the next page. Its emotion also really got me. There were definitely sad parts and definitely happy parts. Examples are when Benny first hears what Tom does. Another example is when Benny finds Tom alive and unbitten after a giant zombie attack.

I would definitely recommend this book to a friend that likes a little mystery and suspense. Also I would recommend it because it is just a good book. I think most of my friends would like this book.

Thank you for your time and consideration to this review. Thanks for everything, Mr. Maberry.

Book review: Ectostorm by Scott A. Johnson

book review May 9, 2012

I’m thrilled to finally read the next installment in the Stanley Cooper chronicles. I loved the action and characters in Vermin and Pages, and Ectostorm keeps up the pace with my favorite fictional people. Stan, Maggie, and Andi are all back, along with some new friends and new enemies, and a very irritating demonic hitchhiker.

Stanley knew he wasn’t the only person to return from the dead, but he had no idea how many others lived in Pittsburgh. When a mysterious man comes looking for Stan, claiming to represent a group of “like-minded individuals,” Stan quickly steps onto a roller coaster ride with others like himself. When one of Stan’s new friends turns up murdered, with his name written on the wall above her headless corpse and an evergreen tree written in supernatural ink, he knows he has a problem.

One by one, Stan’s new friends turn up dead, each with a message for Stan himself from someone in Evergreen. As Stan and Maggie revisit their old friends in a race against time to find the traitor, we begin to piece together a picture of evil and power that threatens to take from him what he loves most and destroy the city of Pittsburgh.

Stanley must confront the ultimate traitor of Evergreen to stop the murders of others like him and protect his family. As always, Pittsburgh is a character herself, and da ‘Burgh comes to life through Stan’s travels. The pace is fast, the stakes are high, and Johnson tells the story of these supernatural happenings with a voice that makes me think the sky above my city will be green when I look next.

I highly recommended Ectostorm as a fun supernatural adventure.

Book Review Wednesday: Under the Dome by Stephen King

book review, writing peeves February 15, 2012

I haven’t read a Stephen King book since high school, when I had a summer job that afforded me a lot of time to read. That summer was filled with King, John Saul, Dean Koontz, and others. I worked at a state park, and the stormy days were my favorite times to read horror.

I’m not actually sure what prompted me to pick up Under the Dome. It’s a long read, my electronic version came in around 850 pages. I’d not heard anything about the novel before I picked it up. It was an impulse purchase based on an Amazon recommendation, and I just went with it.

Brief synopsis: The small Maine town of Chester’s Mill finds itself literally cut off from the rest of the world when a semi-permeable, invisible barrier drops down around them. Several residents lose their lives immediately, other deaths follow quickly. The Second Selectman (a New England brand of town official), Big Jim Rennie, a corrupt used car salesman, drug dealer and politician quickly takes advantage of the situation to grasp control of the town. An Iraq war veteran, Dale “Barbie” Barbara, who was on his way out of town when the Dome dropped, quickly finds himself in an unwanted position of power opposing Big Jim and the rest of the corrupt local government. Big Jim and Barbie, and their respective factions, butt heads on a epic scale and the drama unfolds as the people of Chester’s Mill struggle to survive under deteriorating conditions.

Under the Dome is an editorial on American politics and environmentalism. King makes his views of past and current political figures quite clear. Since I’m pretty closely aligned with King’s own opinions, I enjoyed recognizing the parallels drawn between the bullies and the good guys, but for a work of fiction, I found most of the characters fell too neatly into the stereotypes. The lines of good and evil are very sharp, and I found that most characters lacked complexity. Most of them were so far in one direction or the other that I disliked almost all of them, even those I should have related to.

I honestly kept reading just to see some of the characters that I despised get their comeuppance, and the deaths of the worst offenders were not hideous enough to satisfy me. I’m not sure I can recommend this book, based on it’s length. I spent a lot of time reading about characters I couldn’t stand. If you’re someone who really enjoys watching the GOP get shafted, and revels in the blatant use of stereotypes, you’ll enjoy Under the Dome.

Book Review: Carolyn Wheat’s How to Write Killer Fiction

book review, writing "how to" books February 8, 2012

I love it when people tell me they’ve got a book idea. This is inevitably followed with something like “I just don’t have the time to sit down and write it,” “we should collaborate,” or “I’m not even sure how to get started.” The first two options generally result in me either politely mm-hmming or not so politely laughing at them, depending on my mood. The last option I usually take as an opening to provide suggestions on books that might guide them into the process.

How to Write Killer Fiction is a “how to” book about writing mystery and suspense novels. Author Carolyn Wheat present a four-part system for organizing both mystery and suspense novels and then discusses the writing process. The first third of the book is dedicated to the mystery novel, the second third to the suspense novel, and the final third of the book discusses the writing process for both genres.  

Wheat describes the movements in a novel as “arcs.” Arc One of the novel is for presentation of the conflict, for making contact with the reader and establishing tone and style. Main character(s) should be introduced, as should subplots, and the inner need(s) of the main character. Arc One is for hooking the reader. It should end with a crisis, the first turning point in the story.

Arc Two is for testing the character, for deepening the subplots, moving the tensions in the story to a “crunch point.” This arc should also end at a crisis, which is ideally the point at which the character “hits bottom,” the point of no return. Change in the character is now inevitable, and forward movement must happen despite resistance from the character.

Arc Three heightens the tensions that were pulled taut in Arc Two. The pace of the story should pick up in Arc Three, the character should be tested further in preparation for the final showdown. Subplots can begin to be resolved. Arc Three should also end in a crisis, a crucial decision or a recognition of what’s at stake.

Arc Four is the final showdown between good and evil. Plotlines are resolved, the character is transformed, and comes full circle. (cue the Disney music)

The final third of How to Write Killer Fiction, the discussion of the writing process, concerns the tools of writing, the styles of writing (plotter vs. pantster), the elements of a novel, and revision. There is also a section on publishing. I found this final third section quite informative and useful.

The first third of the book, the section on applying the four-part system to writing the mystery novel, was not helpful to me. The authors descriptions of the arcs are vague enough to be a bit confusing for me. There are so many subgenres within the mystery genre itself, that a blanket system like this is not effective.

My biggest problem with this book was the author’s heavy, heavy reliance on examples.  I felt lost for most of the book because I have not read many of the authors that she referred to.  Most of her points are made through examples:

We like the crooks in Get Shorty better than the so-called honest citizens of Hollywood, and we root for the gangs that couldn’t shoot straight because they make us laugh (page 95).

I’ve never read Get Shorty.

There are others, but the final straw for me was a reference to the television show MASH. I despised that show after only one or two episodes and never watched it again, in fact, make it a point to avoid it. I struggled to get through the first two-thirds of the book.

However, when I got to the final third, the section on the writing process, the author’s use of example slowed somewhat and I enjoyed it much more. I learned some good things about the writing process, and the positives and negatives of outlining versus blank-page writing. I am an plotter, to some degree, and Wheat has good advice for making the most of the technique.

Wheat also uses the terms “expansion” and “contraction” to describe the writing process. Expansion refers to the part of the process in which the brainstorming takes place, where the characters have the lead, when the author is asking herself “what if?” Contraction is when the author must pick and choose, must “kill the babies” and tighten the story. I found this method of describing the process to be really helpful in putting things in perspective.

While the book wasn’t a total waste of my time, I was discouraged by the heavy use of examples. It made me feel inadequate as a reader, and, to some extent, as a television viewer, but I don’t watch a lot of TV anyway. That’s something I’m not ashamed of.

Bottom line, this book is recommended with some hesitation. Wheat offers good information, but how good it is depends on the reader.

Book Review: The final Bast installment, The Bowl of Night

book review, pagan fiction November 23, 2011

And Rosemary Edghill really redeemed herself with this one.

In The Bowl of Night, Bast attends a pagan festival, HallowFest.  Take the city girl out of the city, dump her in the woods, and give her a body.

Bast takes a walk in the woods after having had a tryst with man she’s wanted for a long time and finds the body of the local Biblethumper, Jackson Harm.  His body is arranged ritually, with candles around him and anointed with cinnamon.  He has a very unusual stab wound– made by a kukri– and Bast has to help discover the murderer before the entire pagan community is blamed.

Excellent tone.  Pagan festivals have a particular “flavor” and Edghill nails it.  The vast majority of pagans who attend the festivals are urban dwellers, or at least not the kind of people who camp on a regular basis.  While everyone is having a good time and glad to be sharing the experience with their fellow practitioners, there is also an underlying frustration and the feeling of not quite belonging.  Everyone longs for a shower and a good meal and a little privacy.  Bast’s HallowFest is described perfectly.

I still did not feel like I came away from the book knowing Bast the way I want to, but I do feel as if I know her better.  We get more of her internal struggles in this book.  She’s left Changing and is considering starting her own coven.  We meet an ex lover and get a feel for some of her past.  We also get a better look inside her head when she frets over her tryst with Julian.

Very well done.  I enjoyed this book the most out of all three.  There is still one instance where the “willing suspension of disbelief” must be applied, but maybe less so than in the others.  The entire story takes place over about three days, and it’s fast paced and utterly believable.

Overall impressions of all the books…

I am impressed by Edghill’s accuracy in describing the pagan community.  Her tone is absolutely perfect.  Either she’s spent a lot of time in New Age bookstores or she is a member of the community herself.  I did not like the second book quite as much because it dealt too much with maybes and implausibilities.  There were too many characters introduced.  In the third book we return to the close community around Bast and we delve deeper into her head.

Edghill’s Bast books are a good example of how to use the Craft in writing.  Edghill does a good job of portraying the Wiccan lifestyle as it is in real life and not in the paranormal. As a friend of mine says, “When I think of pagan inspirational, I think of Edghill.”

All griping aside, these books have joined my all-time favorites list and will be read again and then reread.  Or will when my friend returns them.  🙂

Happy Thanksgiving!