Tag Archives: Suspense

Review #93 Sea Swept by Nora Roberts

The thing about diving into any Nora Roberts book is that you know you’ll be entertained by  wonderful love stories, memorable characters and moments that make you laugh out loud or tear up.  Her novels take up a large shelf in my library, carefully sorted into the sets and trilogies that have made her so renowned the world over.

Sea Swept begins the saga of the Quinn family and is the first book in one of my favourite groups of books she’s written, barring the Born In Fire, Ice and Shame series or the Jewels of the Sun, Tears of the Moon, Heart of the Sea stories.


Sea Swept introduces us to Cameron, Ethan and Phillip Quinn, three boys raised to men by a very patient couple who not only gave them their family name, but also rescued them from the ruins of their different pasts.  The series begins with the death of Ray Quinn and the unraveling mystery of why he had added another  “Lost Boy” to the family when his other three were grown and his wife had succumbed to cancer.  Social worker, Anna Spinelli, is sent to investigate the case of Seth DeLauter to see if he should be placed in foster care but finds the Quinn brothers as a united front, determined to honour what their parents had done for them by working and living together to help raise their “brother”.

This series pulls no punches when it comes to describing the worst parts of the Social Services network that tries against impossible odds to deal with the darkest part of our world.  It also provides a wonderful and poignant love story as well as the beginnings of a mystery that leaves readers hungry for the next book.

What I love most about a Nora Roberts novel is that I can escape into an enjoyable adventure that won’t leave my head hurting or my soul feeling too sore.  It is like a warm bath or a favourite pair of cozy pajamas… perfect to slip into as the season grows colder and the days grow darker.

I’d forgotten just how much I loved this book until I reread the first few chapters.  That is one of the most wonderful thing about having so many books around the house, just waiting to be read… no matter how few or how many times.

Sea Swept, Paperback format, 330 pages, published in 1998 by Jove Books

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Review #87 The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore


We bought this book for our family as soon as it was released this fall, but thanks to a terrible round of Rock/Paper/Scissors, I had to wait until my daughters were done reading it before I could add it to my list.

The Rise of Nine is the third book in the now expanded I am Number Four series.  Perhaps in the void left with the end of the Harry Potter and Twilight Series (both books and movies) the temptation to expand the story and thus the profits was too great to stick to the original trilogy format.

Luckily for readers, the author and alien hiding among us Pittacus Lore tells great stories.  The Rise of Nine is no exception.  The story is gripping, thrilling and rushes the reader towards the ending only to leave them wanting more.

If I had one complaint, it was the jumpiness between all the separate voices.  Each character gets their own font to help distinguish which person is speaking in each chapter, but some of them were similar enough typographically that you wasted precious time at the beginning of each chapter trying to figure out who was speaking until it became obvious. As a graphic designer, I would have like to see a much bolder mix of serif and sans serif font combinations to make the distinction easier.  I noticed this more than my daughter who read the book in a weekend gulp because I had a busy few days where I was picking the story up every chance I could around what life was throwing my way.  Perhaps this erratic change to the style and number of voices telling the story came from the writing upheaval that the book went through before its publication.

I can only hope that the rest of the series remains focussed on what made the original book  “I am Number Four” so wonderful…. great storytelling!

Hardcover format, 360 pages (plus extras), Copyright 2012, Harper (an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers)

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Review #65& #66 The Godmother and The Godmother’s Apprentice by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Amid all my Darkover books, I’ve taken a few side tangents into other worlds and writers’ works.  While tidying out one of my many bookcases, I noticed my well-loved copies of The Godmother and The Godmother’s Apprentice by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough.  Once spotted, they just begged to be read yet again.

The Godmother deals with the trials and tribulations of a Seattle social worker named Rose Samson who wishes there were better ways to help some of her clients.  Into the breach appears Godmother Felicity Fortune.  This wonderful character appears to be based on fellow fantasy writer Anne McCaffrey to whom the book is dedicated.  The magic powers that Godmothers have access to in our modern era poses new challenges and strict guidelines as to  how wishes are granted.  Scarborough does a masterful, humorous job of weaving in favourite archetypes in a brand new way.

This is not to say that the book  is all sweetness and light.  The Godmother deals with the horrific topic of sexual abuse, child pornography and pedophiles in a way that wrenches your heart.  As the book races to its conclusion, the various fairy tales intertwine, weaving a rich conclusion that allows the story to still go on.

The Godmother’s Apprentice chronicles the adventures of a secondary character, Snohomish “Sno” Quantrill,  from the first novel who has been offered the chance to become Felicity’s apprentice.  The book features a clever journal narrative by the main character, interspersed with short fairy tales and chapters in the standard third person narrative.  While this may sound confusing, in the hands of a talented writer like Scarborough, it only serves to make the pace of the novel more interesting.

Both of these novels offer readers cleverly told stories, brilliant humour and a depth of storytelling that does not attempt to gloss over the darkness in the world anymore than the original Grimm Fairy Tales.  The results are infinitely satisfying and one of the reasons that these books remain favourites in my collection.

The Godmother: Paperback format, 341 pages, published in 1994 by Ace Fantasy.

The Godmother’s Apprentice: Paperback format, 294 pages, published in 1995 by Ace Fantasy.


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Review #61 Star of Danger by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Star of Danger was one of the first Darkover novels I ever read.  It was actually published the year that I was born, but I didn’t discover it until the summer before I turned 14.  I remember reading this tale of two young men from different worlds who become brothers in all but blood when faced with incredible dangers and mistaken identity.

This novel epitomizes everything that is so captivating and fascinating about the world of Darkover and the culture that evolved from the lost terran spacecraft.  As one of the earliest tales in this world of her imagination, Star of Danger contains  all of the key elements that were later expanded on…the psychic powers, the non-human creatures that also inhabit the planet, the dangers of the climate and local wildlife, the mistrust that both cultures have for one another…

Larry Montray feels drawn to Darkover from the minute he and his father land on the planet from Terra.  He is determined to learn more that just the language and longs to see more than just the fringes of the town that brushes up against the Terran Empire Spaceport.  Kennard Alton is the son of one of the ruling families of Darkover, but he is fascinated by outer space and technology.  As their friendship grows, it becomes a bridge of sorts between the two worlds… but it also places both of them in incredible danger, especially when Larry is mistaken for Kennard and kidnapped by outlaws.

Star of Danger is a classic coming of age tale packed full of adventure, intrigue and wonder.  The tiny print and slim profile was typical of the day.  Published with today’s larger fonts and wider margins, it would easily fill double the amount of pages.  Regardless of the page count, the action is fast paced and sweeps the reader along to an incredibly satisfying conclusion.

Paperback format, 160 pages, published in 1965 by Ace Books.

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Review #55 High Noon by Nora Roberts

Romance is the last thing that Police Lieutenant  and Hostage Negotiator Phoebe MacNamara has on her mind when she talks a man off a rooftop one Saint Patrick’s Day, but the man’s former boss, Duncan Swift soon holds a bigger place in her life than she is willing to admit.  Will he understand the unique demands of her career and complicated family life  or is she more haunted by the events of her own past that she is willing to admit?

Revealing anything more than a teaser about the complex plot of High Noon would deny another reader the fun summer escape this novel provided for me.  As usual, Roberts’ captivating characters are what make the book so enjoyable.  This story leaned slightly more towards the suspense and violence that she became so famous for as J.D.Robb, but it was a fun, quick read with a likable ending. This was not as memorable as some of her other books or series, but when I saw it on the shelf at the library, it quickly found its way into my summer reading pile.  It made a nice interruption to the seesaw of Dark-Hunter and Darkover novels.  One of the things that I enjoy most about my favourite authors is that they seldom fail to deliver the entertainment, diversion and enjoyment I am expecting. I’m not sure how I missed reading High Noon before now, but I am glad it was part of my Cannonball IV challenge!

Hardcover format, 467 pages, published in 2007 by DAW Books.

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Review #24 A Madness of Angels

A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin was one of the strangest books that I’ve read lately… and yet incredibly captivating. The hardest thing for me to adjust to, after a lifetime of being the reader that begged to “just finish this chapter”, was the way the book was broken into huge sections rather than chapters. The narrative also took some getting used to because it unfolds as you read it. Like the movie “Memento” where the character has short-term memory loss and is trying to reclaim his life, Matthew Swift knows very little about what has happened to him. He remembers being hurt and dying, yet now he is back, his eyes have changed to a brilliant blue colour… and he is not alone in his own body. This would be a lot for one man to take in and process under any circumstance… but Matthew is also an urban sorcerer in the heart of London and someone has sent a terrible shadow named Hunger to hunt him down.

My husband is more of an informational reader, but every so often a book comes along that grabs his attention. He found this hardcover book in a bargain bin and the book store over the holidays and was completely drawn in by both the tale and the unique narrative style. It was also a fun read for him since we’d been to London a few years ago and he could picture some of the places quite vividly. As soon as he finished the book, I added it to my pile while he hunted down Kate Griffin’s two sequels to this tale.

Despite the odd absence of chapters, A Madness of Angels sweeps the reader along as they try to figure out who and what has been behind the attacks on Matthew Swift. Griffin’s way of describing how urban magic works is novel, engaging and even plausible… which I appreciated as a detail oriented reader. The numerous plot twists and possible outcomes kept me guessing until the bitter end and the story’s conclusion wrapped things up nicely. If you like your tales of magic and mystery urban, edgy and slightly unconventional, then you will thoroughly enjoy A Madness of Angels. Let’s see how  Griffin does with the next two tales in the series…

Hardcover format, 458 pages, published in 2009 by Orbit Books

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Review #18 – Jinx High

Jinx High by  Mercedes Lackey

Diana Tregarde, writer of Romance novels, Wiccan and undercover Paranormal Investigator returns for another adventure in this entertaining and thought-provoking novel by Mercedes Lackey.  Larry Kestrel, another of Diana’s former Spook Squad members needs help  in Tulsa, Oklahoma where  someone or something seems to be trying to get its claws into his teenage son, Deke.

Like Burning Water, this novel is packed with suspense, action, magic and mayhem. Having visited the Tulsa area a few times before and after this novel was written, it was interesting to see how well Mercedes integrated her home town into this novel when she is so well known for writing about other worlds and other eras.

Jinx High also deals with sensitive issues such as AIDS, teenage promiscuity, drinking and drug abuse in a very compassionate and realistic way.  Some of the teenagers in this novel are like many I see in the high schools here… far more curious than their parents realize, far more worldly that we think and just as confused as some adults about what to do with their lives.

When Diana Tregarde agrees to help out with an advanced writing class at the local high school, as a cover for her investigation into the paranormal happenings, Lackey has fun creating a semi “Mise-en-abyme” (story within a story) where her main character describes what it takes to be  writer and what their day truly looks like.  As someone else who has experienced the “I have a great idea for a story.. why don’t I share it with you and then we can split the profits when you turn it into a book” meeting, I laughed until I cried when I got to that section of her narrative.

Jinx High contains more sexual nuances and descriptions that horror this time, although there are a few gruesome deaths.  What stands out, above all else, is the sense of courage with which some of the characters face almost impossible odds. The plot twists are masterfully crafted and the ending leaves you satisfied, but wishing there were more Diana Tregarde novels to enjoy.

Paperback format, 314 pages, published in 1991 by Tor Books

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Review #17 Burning Water

Burning Water by  Mercedes Lackey

While Mercedes Lackey may be best known for her Heralds of Valdemar Fantasy series, this prolific American author has a wealth of other books including two that border on the Suspense/Horror realm of fiction.  Burning Water is the first novel about Diana Tregarde, writer of Romance novels, Wiccan and undercover Paranormal Investigator.  When strange deaths begin occurring in Dallas, Texas,  Diana’s former college friend and police detective, Mark Valdez, calls her in to help.  It has been years since Mark was part of Tregarde’s Spook Squad, but both of them are soon embroiled in a tangled web of Occult powers, sinister attacks and grizzly death scenes as they race to uncover who or what is behind all these crimes.

The strength of Lackey’s stories lies in the richness of her characters.  They feel like real people, with all their virtues and failings.  Diana Tregarde is an intriguing, powerful female character who has a strong sense of self and a confidence with her life choices.  This book great reading for anyone who has ever wondered if they will ever fit in to “normal” society or anyone who has dreamed of something just beyond the ordinary.

Burning Water does contain fairly graphic descriptions of crime scenes and mutilations, which earned it the Tor Horror category designation, but it is no worse than any episode of CSI or crime show on television right now.  We’ve become a little less sensitive to violence in the last 23 years… which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Paperback format, 314 pages, published in 1989 by Tor Books

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Review #12 – Time Pressure

 Time Pressure by Spider Robinson

Today turned out to be a Snow Day from school and the first true snowstorm of the season.  After bracing the early parts of the storm to make sure that my youngest could indeed get her braces off at last, we spent the rest of the day cocooned in our house as white flakes whirled around us.  Though I’d started Time Pressure last night, I resisted the urge to gulp it down before noon and instead saved the last of the book for this evening.  I’d forgotten just how much I love Spider Robinson’s sense of humour and puns!

Time Pressure is set in Nova Scotia in 1973 and follows the path of a hermit-like draft dodger from the United States.   Sam has picked a spot in the Annapolis Valley amid hippie communes and Locals (I’ve been here in the Maritimes for over 25 years and I am still “From Away”) in which to hide from his past. Though he has neighbours and friends, he manages to keep his emotional armour fairly intact until the night a Time Traveler appears naked in the middle of an April snowstorm.  Yes, it really can snow here in April!

Time Pressure is the kind of book that can keep a reader on the edge of their seat, second-guessing what plot twists and turns the story will take.  It had been over a dozen years since I last read this story (with many, MANY books read during that time) so I’d forgotten all of the key elements to the ending that made it as startling as when I first read it.

Fairly uninhibited and graphic sexual content may keep some readers from exploring this story, but it remains as thought-provoking, groundbreaking and yet incredibly humorous a look at our human evolution and future possibilities as it was when first published.

Paperback format, 243 pages, 1987 by Ace Books

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Review #11 – End of Days

 End of Days by Eric Walters

I picked End of Days up at a Scholastic Book Fair late this fall and tucked it away as a Christmas gift for my girls. My daughter in Grade 7 told me that many of her friends had read it and raved about it.  That was enough to pique my curiosity, so I put on my warm jammies last night as the temperature plunged to -17 Celsius and curled up in bed to read it.  If not for the grumbles of my husband, I might have stayed up to finish the book because it was VERY hard to put it down.

Imagine that one of the space probes sent from Earth to explore the galaxy suddenly appears to be returning to earth.  Scientists deduce that it has been captured by the gravitational force of something very, VERY large that is now heading towards Earth on a collision course that will impact with our planet 24 years in the future.  Suddenly, important scientists appear to be dying, but in reality they are being whisked away to a secret location to work on a plan to stop the asteroid.  Throw in other groups with different agendas, a brilliant narrative where some chapters begin with T-Minus 17 years, T-Minus 1 year etc. and it is easy to see why I had to finish the book this morning.  Getting other work out of the way so that I could write this review actually took longer.

Canadian author Eric Walters knows how to tell a story from many points of view without every having the narrative feel choppy or disjointed.  The combination of apocalypse and conspiracy theory themes makes this book a perfect one to recommend for the Cannonball Read IV challenge and a great addition to any library.  Classified as YA fiction, this book has enough action and intrigue to satisfy any adult reader who “borrows” it from their teenagers bookcase.  If you live outside Canada, I highly recommend buying this book from Amazon if you can’t find it at your local bookstore!

Paperback format, 316 pages, 2011 by Doubleday Canada

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