Archive for the ‘Paranormal’ Category

Title: The Afterlife of Holly Chase

Author: Cynthia Hand

Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal/Fantasy

Opens: The first thing you should probably know is That Yvonne Worthington Chase is dead

Blurb: Holly Chase has the job of saving souls, but it is her own that she realizes needs examining. On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn’t. And then she died.

Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company, Project Scrooge, as their latest Ghost of Christmas Past. Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable. But this year, everything is about to change.

My Thoughts: I was asked by the publisher if I would like to read THE AFTERLIFE OF HOLLY CHASE just before Christmas. Looked at the blurb and I immediately thought Christmas Carol spin off, which is a good thing. To cap it off when I received the email I was watching a Muppet Christmas Carol on the TV (as you do) so it seemed like I was meant to read it. And I am so glad I have. Because it is so much more than three ghost visiting a mean old scrooge and then that scrooge turning his/her life around with everything coming up roses. No – Holly ignores the warning and dies. Bummer!

Of course, she doesn’t go to heaven – well she is a bad girl after all – but she doesn’t go to hell either, instead she finds that she is in some sort of half-way house where she is hired as The Ghost of Christmas Past for a company that runs “Project Scrooge.” A new “Scrooge” is found every year and then the team swings into action to encourage the chosen scrooge to change their ways and not die. Lots of research goes on before the big event which takes place each Christmas Eve. As the Ghost of Christmas Past, Holly gets to mind meld with the scrooge to find out what made them like they are.

Holly, our failed scrooge, is a truly unlikable person with no redeeming qualities and totally unrepentant even in death. After five years Holly is still with ‘Project Scrooge’ with no attitude change, she just does her job and feels unjustly treated, and just a little bit lonely. Then Scrooge number 173 is picked – and he is a good looking guy who, once she starts delving into his mind, Holly discovers she has a lot in common with. And after finding that commonality she finally starts to recognise that by saving him she has to admit she might not be a very nice person after all. Can she actually start to hope that she may be able to move on to a better place? Will she find the courage to break all the rules to get there? The author portrays Holly’s growth as a character so well. The Holly on the first page is a whole different person just before THE END.

While Holly is the star of the story – and front and centre all the time. The supporting cast is very good as well and carry her story very ably. There has to be a boss, and of course if there is a ghost of Christmas past there needs to be two more for present and future. As well as the ghosts, there are the tech people and a sweet little work experience PA who is assigned to Holly just as Scrooge 173 is selected.

So that was good, now the grumble. I have to confess it got a bit bogged down for me in the middle – so no I wasn’t glued to every page from beginning to end. There was also a little bit of information dumping – where the characters in the book explained who they were talking about, and what the role was in the story. I understand this would be for those readers who hadn’t read A Christmas Carol so they could follow the action, but I found it a tad annoying. Having said that, they were tiny niggles and THE AFTERLIFE OF HOLLY CHASE is still an above average read and I recommend it to anyone who loves wisecracking YA paranormal and Christmas. I loved the ending – take nothing for granted.

For more about the author – Click Here

C – Above average – was very readable and I really liked it but was easily able to put it down and walk away for a while.

With thanks to HarperCollins Publishers Australia and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.


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Title: Year One

Author: Nora Roberts

Genre: Post-apocalyptic Fantasy

Opens: When Ross MacLeod pulled the trigger and brought down the pheasant, he had no way of knowing he had killed himself. And billions of others.

Blurb: The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed—and more than half of the world’s population was decimated. Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river—or in the ones you know and love the most.

As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, and with nothing left to count on but each other, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travellers are heading west too, into a new frontier. Chuck, a tech genius trying to hack his way through a world gone offline. Arlys, a journalist who has lost her audience but uses pen and paper to record the truth. Fred, her young colleague, possessed of burgeoning abilities and an optimism that seems out of place in this bleak landscape. And Rachel and Jonah, a resourceful doctor and a paramedic who fend off despair with their determination to keep a young mother and three new born infants in their care alive. In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a saviour, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.

My Thoughts: Anyone who picks this up expecting one of Nora Roberts usual paranormal romances is going to be very surprised, maybe disappointed. I am reading reviews where people are saying it is a bad book because they feel cheated – come on poor excuse for a bad review – there is enough evidence around, even interviews given by the author, to give you a hint that this is totally different. YEAR ONE is dark, very dark – and good people die – but the story kept me glued to the pages for the most part. The parts I didn’t stay glued? When the icky bits happened. Icky bits? Come on – it’s the end of the world – organised law keeping has gone – it’s every man, woman and child for themselves. When Ross MacLeod killed the pheasant it landed on sacred ground – not sacred nice, but sacred evil and this action is the signal for the dark forces to escape and start to make the world theirs. How quickly ‘The Doom,’ as it becomes known, spreads is very, very feasible. A sick man and his sick wife spread the infection to other people as they travel from London to New York – very quickly millions of people get infected as each of the new victims carry their germs around the world as they fly hither and thither.

Jonah the paramedic, Arlys the reporter, Lana the chef and Max the novelist are the main characters in this first book, each of them immune, not all of them with powers. They gradually form up with other people as they all decide to get out of New York until, inevitably, they all join together just a bit past halfway through. I’m not sure why I said inevitably, because nothing is a certainty and there are a few twists and turns until the reader is brought to the end of book one. An ending which leaves the reader knowing that although things look for good now – it is going to get a whole lot worse – and the characters know it.

YEAR ONE is the scene setter, the world is falling apart and the characters are trying to work out their place in this new world. And the descriptions of the world’s descent into chaos is amazing, and those who live violently quickly come out into the open with no fear of repercussions, and fall under the influence of the dark without even being aware. So many horrible things happen, actions done by people are horrific –without even the dark magic influencing them – they are just psychopaths. There is a strong thread of magic, but it is part of the story stopping just short of enough to call it a fantasy. The magical elements are a result of the fall as people who had no idea they had this element now have it. The characters discuss among themselves how, and why, it is happening. But like the reader they have no answers – it just is.

There are still unanswered questions at the end of the book, but seeing as it is the first in a trilogy this did not come as a surprise. There is no cliff-hanger at the end, which I liked, but the world is splitting into good and evil – which I think would happen despite a magical element – and it is obvious that strong good magic is going to be needed to defeat the bad.

Whatever path Ms Roberts is going to take us down with this story in the next two books I feel that readers should be complacent – I for one am really looking forwards to travelling them with her.

For more about the author – Click Here

A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night.

With thanks to Hachette Australia and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

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Title: The Hunt is On

Author: Natalie Herzer

Genre: Paranormal Mystery

Blurb: Maiwenn Cadic, Patroness of Paris, has her hands full. The Turn is a few weeks ahead and the world seems to be literally coming apart at the seams – natural disasters and weird phenomena keep everyone on edge. Maiwenn and Kylian need to work together to investigate an unusually high number of missing persons when all fingers seem to point to the Queen of the Undead. Sharp-tongued and sharp-fanged conflicts quickly follow.


My Thoughts: Maiwenn is the Patroness of Paris – her role is to keep the paranormal residents under control, to ensure that they do no harm to humans, and the humans don’t know they are there. However ‘The Turn’ is about to happen when the magical wall separating the supernatural from humans will disappear and all things paranormal and fantasy will be revealed publically. What the result will be no-one knows for certain. The governments of the world are mounting huge PR campaigns to ensure humans become aware that what was the stuff of myth and folk law actually is real, and hopefully prevent melt down when humans learn of their existence. The hope is that humans will be accepting of the supernatural once they realise that most of the supernatural world doesn’t mean to do them harm but just wants to make a living and get on with their lives. The paranormal leaders are doing likewise with their people – instructing them to play nicely. Maiwenn’s role is just as important as the paranormal residents are still not allowed to do harm, but with The Turn only a week or two away people start to disappear in large numbers – in just one area of Paris. A new supernatural police unit is created to investigate paranormal crimes against humans and Maiwenn is asked to liaise with the unit to investigate the disappearances – so to is Kylian, leader of the local shape-shifter pack and Maiwenn’s love interest.

They first suspect that the Vampire queen is behind the missing persons – but after a close encounter of the neck sucking kind, and a few twists and turns, Maiwenn and Kylian finally work out who is behind the disappearances and risk their very lives to mount a rescue.

What a great adventure and edge of the seat climax – the story had more twists and turns than a river. A world were witches, fairies, werewolves, vampires and a myriad of other beasties live alongside humans without humans being aware is intriguing and realistic. I’ll never take my local flower shop lady for granted again – she may have wings!!! There is humour and drama and of course love – but it is not in your face romance. The focus is the mystery not the growing relationship. The support cast is great and they are all realistically portrayed – yes there is a fairy – and yes she is real!

At the end of the story there is a teaser for the next book and I am pleased to notice that the third book in the series has just been released – FACING SHADOWS is available for purchase now and I shall certainly be looking it up once I have posted my review

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

With thanks to the author for my copy to read and review

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Title: Serafina and the Black Cloak

Author: Robert Beatty

Genre: YA Thriller/Horror

Opens: Serafina opened her eyes and scanned the darkened workshop, looking for any rats stupid enough to come into her territory while she slept.

Blurb: Serafina’s Pa told her "Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there and they will ensnare your soul." She has never had a reason to disobey her Pa and venture beyond the grounds of Biltmore Estate. There’s plenty to explore in the shadowed corridors of her vast home, but she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her Pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have secretly lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember. Then the children start disappearing

My Thoughts: SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK is a real page turner. I was swept into the magic, terror and mystery of Serafina’s world from the very first page. Set in the 1900s Serafina and her father ‘Pa” live in the dark spooky basement of the remote Biltmore Estate. Which is actually a real place: http://www.biltmore.com/visit/biltmore-house-gardens/biltmore-house

Pa has always kept her hidden as they are not supposed to be living in the basement so Serafina has kept away from people and amuses herself by chasing, catching and evicting rats from the dark corridors of the house. All she really wants though is to not have to hide, and to have some friends. When the book opens she has just successfully seen off another couple of rats when she sees a man in a black cloak holding a struggling girl. Hidden in the shadows Serafina sees the man cover the girl with his cloak – and the girl disappears! He then sees Serafina and chases her – but she knows the dark passages like the back of her hand and eludes him. The next day there is a grand ball and Serafina sneaks upstairs to see if she can spot the man in the black cloak and meets Braeden Vanderbilt the young nephew of the Estate’s owners. She tells him about the little girl and he tells her that this is not the first child that has gone missing. The two youngsters then decide to find the man in the black cloak.

What follows is an edge of the seat, heart pumping story. Twists, turns and danger – not sure how many more adjectives I can use to describe the book – but it soon becomes apparent that Braeden is going to be the next victim. There is also a very different sub-plot, or back story, about Serafina’s mother and why Serafina’s dad is hiding them both. The huge climax in the deep part of the forest is heart-in-mouth time and was really scary – mind you I’m a big sook and scare easily – the average 12-year-old who the book is aimed at would probably lap it up! Serafina is a fairly unusual child – with yellow eyes and 8 toes, while Braeden has a talent of being able to communicate with animals. Neither child’s talent is considered unusual – it is just part of who they are – no questions asked. And I can’t say too much about the man in the black cloak other than he is creepy and terrifying – and without heart. I am quite surprised this has not been shelved as horror – because it is deliciously so.

If you love spooky thrillers then SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK is for you.

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

With thanks to Disney-Hyperion and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

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Title: Hamlet’s Ghost

Author: Jane Tara

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Opening line: ‘…Rhiannon Dee felt like she was having an out-of-body experience…’

Blurb: – Kip Daniels has been haunting the Hamlet Majestic for thirty dull years, ever since the stage roof collapsed on him during what was meant to be his piece de resistance: his performance of Hamlet. All he really wants is to get to the end of the play, but that won’t happen while the theatre stands abandoned and boarded up. He’s resigned himself to an endless limbo … until Rhiannon (Rhi) Dee moves to town to bring the theatre back to life. Rhi has fled a failed life in New York. She can’t find work as an actress. She’s overshadowed by her mother who has a hit TV reality show about witchcraft, Rhi is so sick of being seen as a witch that she intends to turn her back on the craft. But she quickly discovers she can’t escape her gifts, especially when she needs to use them to help one very sad ghost cross over.

My thoughts: HAMLET’S GHOST is the third book in the Shakespeare Sisters series, the previous two being Forecast and Trouble Brewing, they each work very well as a standalone story. Rhi makes a fabulous leading lady. Her family, at the behest of her overbearing mother, starred in a TV reality show about life as witches. Rhi and her brothers were all included in the show until the three siblings were of an age that they could refuse to appear, something their mother has never forgiven them for. She still feels she has the right to interfere in their lives. All Rhi wants is to be considered a serious actress however the notoriety of her witchy past is typecasting her to second rate shows and commercials. When she comes home one day after yet another serious acting role rejection she catches her best friend and boyfriend having sex on the coffee table, this gives Rhi the push to get as far away from the city as she can so that no one will know who she is. That place is the small town of Hamlet where she falls in love with an abandoned, rundown theatre. She arranges to take possession so she can restore it and show the world she can act. Rhi also meets some local witches, Ann, Chrystal and Tye, who help her reach her goal and convince her to not give up on her destiny. In the theatre Rhi finds the ghostly Kip who in need of help and falls in love with Kip’s son. She also discovers there are surprising links between her present and the past she is running away from. The romance elements, both major and secondary, are there simmering along nicely but they don’t take over the main story of helping Kip move on, however it is love that helps move the story to the eventual very moving climax.

HAMLET’S GHOST is a wonderful light-hearted paranormal romance with a hint of mystery; there are realistic and likable characters, there is personal growth in some of the characters, lots of laughter, misunderstandings and a feel-good ending. What more can you ask for in a book? If you haven’t read any of these books before I strongly urge you to give them a go, you can read them in any order as they are quite separate stories about different branches of the family. Some of the characters from the other books are mentioned in passing, or even make a cameo appearance, but there is no spoilery.

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

With thanks to Momentum Books and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

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Title: The Word Ghost

Author: Christine Paice

Genre: Paranormal YA

Opening lines: ‘…You never do know what’s coming your way in the days before it comes…’

Blurb: This is England 1973, and fifteen-year-old Rebecca Budde is in love with Dave. After one glorious summer, Rebecca is forced to move with her family to Brightley, a village with a puddle for a pond, and no excitement at all. If only Dave were there. Very weird things are going on inside their new house, and even stranger things are happening in the village at night. Things don’t make sense anymore as Algernon Keats steps from the shadows, his sister not far behind him. There’s no Dave, two ghosts, a pub, a dog and Alex March, a dark and brooding artist, living in the Manor House down the road, whose interest in Rebecca is both puzzling and thrilling.

What do Alex and Algernon want from Rebecca? What on earth does any of it mean? Is it possible to love a ghost? And what happens if he loves you back? The lights are out. Welcome to Brightley.

My thoughts: Christine Paice is a beautiful writer and I loved her descriptions of the various settings – especially the spooky night-time ones – she also made some wonderful statements such as "…I liked the look of the librarian she had such wealth in her hands every day at her disposal and gave it out freely to anyone who joined the library…” However despite this I just couldn’t love the story and I think it was because of two reasons, firstly I just didn’t really care about most of the characters and secondly I just didn’t get the point of the story. What the story was actually telling me.

THE WORD GHOST certainly had potential, with its creepy and ghostly undercurrent. I loved Flora, the old woman who communes with ghosts and is the only person who gets Rebecca. I think she has a whole book in her as a character; in fact she is the only character who I warmed too. Then there was Algernon and his sister whose story just didn’t seem to get going properly. Every so often there was a hint that something could develop and it just died and seemed to go nowhere; and the ghosts were the best part – they but the Goth into this gothic story but weren’t allowed free rein, which was sad. Algernon Keats was obviously supposed to be ‘The Word Ghost’ but he seemed almost like a bit player at times, he could have been so much more important but wasn’t allowed to be. Poor Algernon. Then there is Alex – shudder. THE WORD GHOST is set in the 70s, and Alex is certainly a man of the time, in his late 30s and trying to act like he’s in his teens. Hedonistic and sleazy the relationship between him and sixteen-year-old Rebecca made my skin crawl and left me feeling like I needed a shower. The Alex subplot seemed to be a separate story that didn’t fit into the mould of the story properly, although I did get the whole thing about his ancestor and the Keats siblings. I also enjoyed the classroom discussions and how Rebecca’s English studies related to the spooky events in her life, those connections were very well done. Overall, I was both disappointed with the execution of what could have been a top notch story.

For more about the author – Click Here

D – Average – it was OK, a bit of a struggle to finish whatever redeemable aspects there were to this book, they were not fleshed out enough for me to truly enjoy it.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin and the author for this copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $29.99

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Title: Heartless

Author: Gail Carriger

Genre: Paranormal Adventure

Opening lines: ‘…”Five months! Five months you – dare I say it – gentlemen have been sitting on this little scheme and only now you decide to inform me of it?”…’

Blurb: Lady Alexia Maccon, soulless, is at it again, only this time the trouble in the air is not her fault. When a mad ghost threatens the queen, Alexia is on the case, following a trail that leads her deep into her husband’s past. Top that off with a sister who has joined the suffragette movement (shocking!), Madame Lefoux’s latest mechanical invention, and a plague of zombie porcupines – and Alexia barely has time to remember she just happens to be eight months pregnant.

Will Alexia be able to figure out who is trying to kill Queen Victoria before it’s too late? Is it the vampires again or is there a traitor lurking about in wolf’s clothing? And do they really have to take up residence in Lord Akeldama’s second best closet?

My thoughts: HEARTLESS is the 4th book in the Parasol Protectorate series. And I have thoroughly enjoyed every single one. They are all funny, and the adventures and predicaments that Alexia finds herself in are very imaginative. I really loved how Alexia didn’t let a small matter of being in the last few weeks of pregnancy stop her from thwarting evil plots. She waddled around London and beyond with her massive belly barely slowing her down – ok so climbing in and out of a flying machine was a tad problematic – but easily solved with assistance. HEARTLESS is a wonderful blend of humour, romance, paranormal, adventure, history and steampunk and stars an angry inventor, werewolves, ghosts, vampires and a younger sister hell bent on finding adventure.

…"No wife. I mean to say, you are not exactly up to your usual gallivanting about London with parasol at the ready, now, are you?"

Alexia glanced down at her overstuffed belly and then got that look on her face. "I am entirely capable."

"Of what, waddling up to someone and ruthlessly bumping into them?"…

Overall HEARTLESS has lots of twists and turns, and as you would expect with such a terribly pregnant heroine, a baby; of course the birth is not your average birthing scene either. Oh, and yes – Alexia really does have to move into the second best closet!

I loved it and have the final book in the series ‘Timeless’ ready to go soon.

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

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Title: The Kitchen Daughter

Author: Jael McHenry

Genre: Contemporary Paranormal

Opening lines: ‘…Bad things come in threes …’

Blurb: After the unexpected death of her parents, painfully shy and sheltered 26-year-old Ginny Selvaggio seeks comfort in cooking from family recipes. But the rich, peppery scent of her Nonna’s soup draws an unexpected visitor into the kitchen: the ghost of Nonna herself, dead for twenty years, who appears with a cryptic warning about Ginny’s older sister Amanda (“do not let her…”) before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish. A haunted kitchen isn’t Ginny’s only challenge. Her domineering sister, Amanda, (aka “Demanda”) insists on selling their parents’ house, the only home Ginny has ever known. As she packs up her parents’ belongings, Ginny finds evidence of family secrets she isn’t sure how to unravel. She knows how to turn milk into cheese and cream into butter, but she doesn’t know why her mother hid a letter in the bedroom chimney, or the identity of the woman in her father’s photographs. The more she learns, the more she realizes the keys to these riddles lie with the dead, and there’s only one way to get answers: cook from dead people’s recipes, raise their ghosts, and ask them.

My thoughts: I love, love, loved THE KITCHEN DAUGHTER, it was one of those books that you pick up and are unable to put it down willingly for even one minute. Ginny is 26 and still lives at home with her parents, she doesn’t work and never finished university, her parents provide for her. Ginny has all the earmarks of having Asperger’s but has never been diagnosed. Instead her parents encouraged her to depend on them no doubt thinking they were doing the right thing protecting Ginny from distress of knowing that she had Asperger’s. Now her parents are dead, killed in a tragic accident, and Ginny is thrust into “normal” society with no protection. So what are the indicators of her Asperger’s? Well everyone is different and has different symptoms by with Ginny it is her dislike of eye contact, hiding in a dark cupboard when she is overwhelmed, her dislike of loud noise, her fixation on one thing – in this case cooking. She is very logical in how she figures things out, and she speaks very bluntly in short sentences. What she isn’t though is stupid.

THE KITCHEN DAUGHTER opens on the day of her parents’ funeral, with crowds of well-meaning mourners firstly at the service and now back at the family home. The reader starts to cotton on to Ginny’s plight when she tries to avoid eye contact with, and being touched by the sympathetic guests. Ginny retreats to the kitchen because the process of following a recipe, physically or mentally, is calming for her, whenever she is overwhelmed, upset, or uncomfortable she copes by turning to recipes, and cooking. Today she needs comfort food and cooks her late grandmother’s recipe of bread soup to settle herself down. What she didn’t expect was for her grandmother’s ghost to appear in the kitchen and talk to her and give her a cryptic warning to stop her sister Amanda.

Amanda is married with two children and thinks she knows what is best for Ginny. Amanda wants to sell the family home and have Ginny move in with her. What Amanda doesn’t realise is that Ginny is growing as a character and learning to live with her peculiar quirks and deal with life. In other words, Ginny wants independence and acceptance. Amanda wants her tested and put in a box marked ‘Asperger’s’ and won’t sit down and discuss things with Ginny. But Ginny has a family mystery to solve, friends to support her, ghosts to advise her and she learns that she can live life her way. At this point I have to say that my one and only disappointment in the novel was David, but I will have to tease you all and say that I can’t say why. Amanda is very unreasonable and the trickery that she inflicted on her sister was unforgivable, but backfired on her completely.

The writing is beautiful and inspirational; the paranormal elements blend effortlessly into the story and seem to be…well…so normal! It seemed perfectly normal to me that Ginny could conjure up ghosts while others can’t. in fact THE KITCHEN DAUGHTER tries to answer the question ‘what is normal’ when it comes to human behaviour, and I think Ginny has the answered nailed: “…There are so many flavours of normal, it doesn’t matter which one I am…There really is no normal…”

Rating: A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it..

For more about the author – Click Here

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Title: Dead, Actually

Author: Kaz Delaney

Genre: YA Paranormal Mystery

Opening lines: ‘…My life is dissected neatly into two, like a set of before-and-after shots…’

Blurb: Willow’s having a bad week. A dead body, a funeral and now she’s being haunted by the star of it all, the dead queen of Ruth Throsby High herself, JoJo Grayson. Being dead hasn’t made JoJo any nicer. She’s still venomous and vacuous and, unfortunately, determined to stick around unless Willow finds out what happened. But the mysteries keep multiplying. There’s a missing phone. An anonymous blackmailer. Dirty secrets that won’t stay buried. And the blame is being cleverly pointed right at Willow.

My thoughts: I recently read the second book in the ‘Dead’ series, Almost Dead, and loved it, so was chuffed to be offered the first book to read and review. I had a fair idea that I was going to love DEAD, ACTUALLY not just because I enjoyed the second book, but because when it was released in 2012 it won Favourite Paranormal Romance 2012 with the Australian Romance Readers Association, Best Young Adult novel 2012 with the Aurelias Award and was also long listed for a Davitt Award in the Best Children’s YA 2012 category. Awards aren’t lightly handed out. I knew what to expect as far as writing style went – it is a book about teens, written for teen so it was going to be full of typical teen talk and attitudes. Kaz Delaney nailed it – I could almost imagine I was on the Gold Coast in a coffee shop with a gaggle of teen girls twittering away behind me.

Willow comes from a moneyed background, but life hasn’t been easy, her parents were drug addicts so she virtually brought herself up, while caring for them. Her parents have now stopped with the drugs but become over the top religious zealots instead. Willow is very sensible though and is into study, caring and social justice. She is not one to care about running with the pack; she is funny, independent and has a big time crush on her best friend Macey’s brother. As DEAD, ACTUALLY opens Willow’s parents have just told her they are off to Africa to start a church and she herself was the one who last spoke to JoJo Grayson before finding her body in a car accident. JoJo Grayson is the Queen Bee of the schools in-crowd, the “it” girl, the one who everyone wanted to be with and emulate. Willow is not part of this crowd, and has no desire too, but goes along to the funeral out of respect for a school mate. She is a tad surprised to see JoJo in her bedroom when she gets back from the funeral service.

"…My body froze.

My brain shut down.

I clutched at the doorframe.

But still she stared at me.

Her…A dead person. In my room.

Let me clarify: not a body, a dead person.

An already-buried, dead person…"

JoJo takes a little convincing that she has been killed, but soon insists on Willow finding out who killed her, because she just feels she’s been murdered. She also wants her mobile phone located and where is her other shoe? A ghost cannot go around with only one shoe can she? So reluctantly Willow starts to investigate, and Macey and her brother Seth help. It turns out that JoJo wasn’t as well loved as it would appear, everyone is hiding something, everyone has a motive and someone is trying to frame Willow. Can she solve the mystery, get rid of the ghost and find a boyfriend? And then there is that little matter with her parents…

Author Kaz Delaney has a real talent for portraying teenage dramatics, and manages to perfectly capture ‘teenspeak’ bitchiness and backstabbing. Willow and Macey have some wonderfully snarky one-liners that had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion. The characters as a whole are all well drawn and represent well who they are supposed to be. Even the despicable JoJo gives you understanding as to why she is like she is, you probably still won’t like her but she has her moments. DEAD, ACTUALLY is a delightful blend of mystery, comedy, romance and the supernatural all wrapped up in one entertaining story, great for escaping the real world with for a while. I thoroughly recommend this series and am led to believe that there is 3rd one in the pipeline.

Rating: A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.

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With thanks to Allen & Unwin and the author for this copy to read and review. Allen & Unwin recommended retail price is $17.99

Dead, Actually by Kaz Delaney is book # 14 for AWW2014

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Title: Halfway to the Grave

Author: Jeaniene Frost

Genre: Paranormal Mystery

Blurb: Half-vampire Cat (Catherine) Crawfield is going after the undead with a vengeance, hoping that one of these deadbeats is her father – the one responsible for ruining her mother’s life. Then she’s captured by Bones, a vampire bounty hunter, and is forced into an unlikely partnership. In exchange for help finding her father, Cat agrees to train with the sexy night stalker until her battle reflexes are as sharp as his fangs. She’s amazed she doesn’t end up as his dinner – are there actually good vampires? Pretty soon Bones will have her convinced that being half-dead doesn’t have to be all bad. But before she can enjoy her status as kick-ass demon hunter, Cat and Bones are pursued by a group of killers. Now Cat will have to choose a side … and Bones is turning out to be as tempting as any man with a heartbeat.

My Thoughts: HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE is the first in the ‘Night Huntress’ series and was also Jeaniene Frost’s debut book. Cat is the result of her mother being attacked and raped by a vampire. He had only recently been turned which is why he was still able to impregnate. Not surprisingly Cat’s mum hates vampires, and has taught her daughter to hate vampires. Fair enough, but what I thought was really bad was that she sent her sixteen year old daughter out to kill vampires without a thought as to whether her daughter might get hurt in the process. It makes the relationship very confusing, Cat loves her mum but hates that she is expected to kill vampires, while mum hates the fact her daughter is half one of them. Cat meets up with Bones when she tries to kill him not realising there is a vast difference to the ones she has killed so far and an old master vampire. Bones and Cat form an alliance, he will let her live and help her find her father if she agrees to train with him to become an effective vampire killer. As well as learning killing moves she also has to dress up as a tart to lure them in. In fact there are a whole lot of uncover activities going on both looking for bad vampires at the behest of a secret Government agency and under the sheets – if you get my drift! Considering it is a book about vampires, with the occasional ghost thrown in it is very believable and Bones and Cat are well written, have great dialogue and complement each other. All in all HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE is an action-packed, fast-paced read with lots of humour, vampires, vampire slaying and romance.

Rating: B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it.

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Debora M. Coty

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