Not into spy novels or romances? Looking for a brief literary affair that won’t take over your life? I have a few good suggestions for stories to escape into while sipping hot tea or cocoa by the fire (or if lacking a fireplace like me, by your pumpkin pie scented candle). Or if you are one of those winter vacay folks, these are also perfect beach reads!
The Broken Ones by Stephen M. Irwin. The story takes place in Australia three years after a world-wide event known as “Gray Wednesday.” That Wednesday brought tragedy that reverberated throughout the world every day after. The earth’s poles switched places, satellites and planes fell from the sky, and every person on the planet became suddenly haunted by a personal ghost (usually a family member or friend) visible only to them. All of this has lead to psychological harm, economic depression, and technological failure. The world as we know it has collapsed in this novel.
Detective Oscar Mariani is one of the few investigators left in the failing Nine-Ten Investigation police unit, aka the “barely legals.” The Nine-Ten was created after Gray Wednesday to investigate murders where assailants claimed their personal ghosts made them do it. Ostracized by other police departments, the barely legals are under intense scrutiny and Oscar and his young partner Neve are expecting to soon find themselves unemployed. Not helping the fact is Oscar’s very sullied record.
After the discovery of a young girl’s mangled remains, Oscar’s professional and personal luck goes from bad to worse. Who can he trust, how many bodies will pile up, and will he ever move on from his personal Gray Wednesday experience? Oscar’s investigation leads him to further danger and encounters with the supernatural. He is one of the few who is haunted by the ghost of a total stranger, a boy. As the story’s pace quickens, the boy seems to be helping Oscar from the grave.
The futuristic environment is relatable enough to be believable, but reeks of hopelessness which makes the reader feel more intense about Mariani’s lot in his dark world. This book has a bulk of good reviews on Good Reads. There are a few overly fantastic elements to the story that take it out of the real world, but it is grounded enough to feel true. There are also enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.
Witch Hearts by Good Girls Gone Geek friend Liz Long. Apologies to Liz for not reviewing this book over the summer, but life got a little crazy. Long’s followup to the young adult story Gifted: A Donovan Circus Novel is a grittier, more adult novel as the creepy cover gives testament to. A sinister prelude from the victim’s point of view is harrowing and heartbreaking; it describes the horrible deaths awaiting some unlucky witches in the book. And possibly our main character Ruby’s fate.
Ruby is a powerful practicing witch. She finds her best friend and fellow witch Courtney has been savagely murdered. Having left her coven because it is led by her ex Michael, Ruby finds herself in their circle again for protection and education. Complicating matters is Courtney’s brother Cooper, who has his own dark secret past, arrival into town to find out who murdered his sister.
The killer, who steals witch’s hearts, begins to taunt Ruby. Michael and Cooper both say they are trying to keep Ruby safe, who if anyone can she trust? The majority of the magic in this book seems real, and not hokey. There is fun romantic tension, a stubborn and smart heroin, more menace than you could shake a book of shadows at. The book is also balanced by solid emotion. Ruby experiences dream visitations from Courtney that will make your heart ache if you have ever dreamt of a loved one who has passed on from this earth. The Ruby/Courtney moments are believable and add the right amount of weight to the story.
Long is working on a sequel to Gifted and I can’t wait to read that next. Simple, fun writing and good storytelling without pretension. I’m also anxiously awaiting Burned, the upcoming sequel to Gifted.
Bite Me: A Love Story by Christopher Moore. If you are familiar with Moore, you already know what to expect. If not, just prepare yourself for an irreverent and hilarious read. How he effortlessly nails the voice of a gothic teen, Abby Normal, is an amazing feat. This third book in the San Francisco Vampire Trilogy is as charming as Moore’s other stories. You don’t have to have read the preceding books to enjoy this one. His call backs to other stories and character, such as A Dirty Job, makes you feel like you are part of an inside joke.
Bite Me features goth girl wanna be mistress of the dark and narrator Abby,smart science guy and Abby’s boy toy and “manga haired love monkey” Foo, wanna be writer and vamp Jody’s lover Tommy Flood, whom Abby has a crush on, the Emperor of San Francisco and his two dogs, two detectives, some vicious vamps on a boat, and a litter of vampire cats and doomed vamp rats. Abby and the gang must save the city from the out of control vampire cats amongst other things. It’s total but completely controlled chaos.
Almost as many characters as a Martin Millar story, but only two narratives (Abby’s and the omniscient author for events taking place outside of her physical location) it is easy to keep up with as it moves at lightning pace. Some may find Abby’s slang use tedious (ie if you found Juno’s dialogue offputting and unauthentic) but I found it fun and it gave Abby a very original and entertaining voice.
Get thee to the library, a bookstore (physical or e-book) and download some winter and holiday escapism.
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