Tour’s Books Blog

January 2, 2011

Book Reviews: New Release Paranormal and Mystery

Happy New Year everyone!!!!!!!!!!  The first reviews of 2011!  Needless to say, a paranormal and a mystery!  I can be so damn predictable, can’t I?

  • Title: Arcane Circle
  • Author:  Linda Robertson
  • Type:  Paranormal UF
  • Genre:  Series – Persephone Alcmedi #4;
  • Sub-genre:  Unraveling secrets
  • My Grade: B- (3.7*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel 90,000 words for $7.99
  • Where Available:  Available online or at most book stores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore

Since her first book, Vicious Circle,  Linda Robertson had me hooked on Persephone Alcmedi.  The first 3 books were just excellent.  Arcane Circle is really good, but has a major flaw – the story stalls.  Where Fatal Circle, basically Menessos’ story that ends in a battle with the Fairy world to forever seal the gate between the two worlds,  had big themes and drama, Arcane Circle is mostly Johnny’s story about his claim as Domn Lup of the waerwolves.  As a story, it lacks excitement and it also lacks closure at the end.  While a lot happens, nothing gets resolved.  It felt like Ms Robertson wasn’t quite sure where to take the Domn Lup part of the story, so she dragged out the whole undoing of Johnny’s tattoos that bind his power.  The enigmatic Menessos plays the small, but key role.  Were this anything but mainstream, I’d say a triad would form, similar to the original triad that Menessos was part of thousands of years ago.  Perhaps that’s one of the issues.  The triad memory is the one the vamp shares with Seph when he makes her his Court Witch.  Seph, Johnny and Menessos are all linked, though Seph is more aware of the vamp due to their more complex and deeper ties.  Now where will all this go?  In Arcane Circle, nowhere.  But Seph does wonder if she can somehow have both men.

At the end of Fatal Circle, we left our trio immediately after the battle with the Fairy where Seph staked Menessos to seal forever the path between the two worlds and Johnny sustained serious wounds that are now not healing as they should.  Seph is caring for Johnny and wondering if she ‘killed’ Menessos permanently or transformed him into a true vampire, one that is now undead, as opposed to an immortal as he was before.  The problem with Seph being a vamps court witch and her apparent rejection by her grandmother, all part of the plan.  But the closure with the invasion of the Fae, kind of leaves the larger story rudderless.  The focus must change – but instead of a single urgent theme, we have only the elevation of the problem with Johnny’s tattoos binding his powers and the ongoing problems Menessos has now that he is truly undead.

Finding out who performed the magic that locked Johnny’s powers down in various tattoos is not easy.  The only hint is the word Arcanum – the artist that did the tats.  Many minor stories wend their way through the book keeping the readers interest, but the ‘larger story’ is limited to a kind of low rent bad guy, the Rege, part of the worldwide waerewolf ruling structure in Europe.  The only real lasting tension is generated here and with Seph’s stuggle with her attraction to Menessos.  Frankly, the plot is no match for her earlier books.

Johnny’s tats get neutralized, the price is paid by the artist who did it in the first place and for some reason, the man who paid for it all is the big unanswered question.  Come on, the tattoo artist is an ARTIST.  She can’t draw a picture of him?  She’s only had 20+ years!  That would be too easy, the reader is left wondering who wanted Johnny’s powers locked down.  Next installment.

Arcane Circle read well and was an interesting book, but lacked the substantial storyline and character of the previous books.  Like Robert Jordan with his Wheel of Time, this book’s 400 pages only covered a time period of a few days and gets somewhat lost in minutia.  Three plot threads emerge;  first – who feared Johnny so much he paid a small fortune to get his powers locked down, what exactly are those powers and where will they take Johnny as Domn Lup, second – will the renegade vamp Heldridge make it to vampire headquarters in DC and spill the beans about Menessos’ true relation with Seph;  third – will the WEC  witches who  hate her and blame her for their leaders death manage to get her Bindspoken.  Aside from Seph’s ongoing struggle with her attraction to Menessos and her more earthy bond with Johnny, we have no strong emerging themes, nothing as urgent or, literally Earth shattering, as the fairy invasion.  Ms Robertson needs to develop a strong plot for her next installment or the series will lose its steam.

Is Arcane Circle worth $7.99?  Yes.  It lacks the punch and drama of the previous books, but remains a well written, if  rather comparatively lightweight story.

********************************************************************

  • Title: Stay Tuned for Murder
  • Author:  Mary Kennedy
  • Type:  Mystery – Amateur Sleuth
  • Genre:  Series – Maggie Walsh #3; Radio psychologist vies with a psychic who talks to the dead
  • Sub-genre:  Old secrets and a time capsule set off modern murder
  • My Grade: B- (3.8*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel 80,000 words for $6.99
  • Where Available:  Available online or at most book stores
  • FTC Disclosure:  Gift

I like Mary Kennedy’s Maggie Walsh series.  She avoids over the top silliness, yet manages to keep her stories light and fast with substance.  True amateur sleuth books have fallen into the Janet Evanovich comedy trap.  It’s more about pratfalls than plot.  Here, Ms Kennedy keeps a firm, yet light grip on her stories and makes them far more believable than the bulk of today’s cozies/amateur sleuth offerings.

Maggie Walsh finds herself in an unpleasant situation.  A newly arrived psychic who claims to speak with – and see – the dead came on her show to promote her book and became an instant ratings success.  Now Maggie finds the woman getting booked once a week – and basically taking over whenever she can.  Maggie might be a published psychologist, but Cypress Grove is a small town in Florida, and frankly, the locals have more faith in a psychic than in a well regarded psychologist.  Chantel also sends rating way up, which makes her station manager really happy – and Maggie nervous.

Maggie, Vera Mae (Maggie’s friend and producer and life long Cypress Grove resident), Lark (Maggie’s room mate) and Lola (Maggie’s ever young would-be-actress mother) all head for the Cypress Grove Historical Society for a special seance that Chantel is putting on that evening.  The ‘show”, or demonstration, depending on your perspective, is short – and vaguely mysterious with its references to the past.  The group breaks up quickly, but on the way out, Maggie stops to look to a ‘new’ painting.  Miss Althea and town librarian Mildred Smoot have a brief debate over the painting Althea hung.  Maggie suspects the rather ugly and amateurish landscape is covering something more valuable and suggests Althea get it checked out.  Come morning Althea is found dead.

The game’s afoot – or more like the contest of psychologist and psychic is on.  But “Madame Chantel” isn’t exactly what or who she seems, and that time capsule that’s about to be revealed might hold answers or more questions, and then there’s the developer that’s threatening the peace and quiet of Cypress Grove, the mysterious young man who’s asking all kinds of questions about the estate that’s about to be sold to the developer, the theft of records at the Historical Society, and constant presence of Chantal on Maggie’s show.   All twine together for a satisfying story that’s neither too outrageous nor too slow moving.  The handsome detective, Rafe, is there as the ever inquisitive reporter Nick, a frustrated Bob Woodward in an age when print journalists are rapidly becoming passe, who digs up all kinds of dirt.

I found the plot a little complex for an amateur sleuth style story, but Ms kennedy writes well and holds the readers interest.  Like most of this genre, it focused on human nature how people act, not on action, thrills, or forensics.  I also like the fact that Maggie is a bit older, emotionally secure, and has no fashion fixation.  Nor is she given to acts of extreme stupidity that require she be rescued from her self induced plight by the long suffering hero.  An intelligent and entertaining series in the old style cozy/amateur sleuth genre.

Is Stay Tuned for Murder worth $6.99?  Yes it is.  A worthy entry into the Maggie Walsh series.

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