I first came across Deanna Chase in 2012 with her book Haunted on Bourbon Street. The book, featuring Jade Calhoun, was set in New Orleans and features Jade, an empath, and a creative and interesting group of friends, including a couple of strip club owners, a coven, and couple of ghosts with very different agendas. Since then, I happily enjoyed both Witches of Bourbon Street and Demons of Bourbon Street. There are still two more (that I know of) in the series that I have already purchased and are sitting in my TBR pile waiting for their turn. And I am very much looking forward to them.
Influential Magic is also set in New Orleans, and is the first in a series subtitled Crescent City Fae. This new series stars Willow Rhoswen, owner of The Fated Cupcake and part-time vampire hunter for the Void. Oh, and she is also a faery – complete with wings and flight capabilities. Well, when she isn’t around vampires, whose walking death drains her earth magic, and thus her life force. A very uncomfortable position to be in when your evil faery auntie, who is also the Director of the Void policing agency partners you with a vampire in order to investigate dastardly deeds by the local vampire corporation. Especially when that vampire happens to be your ‘used-to-be-human’ boyfriend. A boyfriend, who suddenly dumped you with a quick text message (jerk!), then turns up later turned – literally.
What happens to Willow in this volume of the Crescent City series is a neat bit of creative urban fantasy, but it also carries an undercurrent of politics and xenophobia which reflects what is happening in this world, this reality, even now. I am, admittedly, not a ‘vampire groupie’ as so many are these days. Been there, done that, would really like for that whole ‘cold, dead, walking corpses’ to be over already. I mean, come on – have you ever felt a real corpse? Gross. I couldn’t imagine kissing cold, dead lips, much less getting down and dirty with other parts! However, in Chase’s alternate universe, her vampires are, though still cold and walking dead, much more ‘real’ people than others in the genre, with lives and families whom they love – even if they are still overwhelmingly entitled, making them both vicious and brutally efficient killers when crossed.
Overall, I really liked Willow. She takes a lot of damage, both physically and emotionally in this first book, and overall she handles it well. I did find her rather naïve at times, railing against those who would take care of issues in a vigilante fashion, while openly acknowledging that the governmental agencies are deeply corrupt. At the same time, I honestly admired her for understanding the siren song of power and how it can so easily corrupt.
The fantasy storyline is creative, well written, and believable as an alternative reality of a world which evolved under magical conditions, while still aligning closely with our own. There is a bit of a triangle aspect, between Willow and David, the vamp ex boyfriend and Talisen, her childhood friend and mentor who is another faery. The triangle seems to correct itself at the end, and I honestly hope that the concept doesn’t carry on through the other books, as I find those sorts of story lines to be crutches for poor story development. However, the Shih Tzu that turns into a wolf? Awesome! And I hope that Willow will be spending more time in her bakery, creating magically infused cupcakes, and more time with her best friend, Phoebe, a witch. There were a lot of ends left free, leaving room for a great deal of really good story development as we learn more about Willow, her skills, and her family and friends. And having listened to the Audible Edition, narrated by Gabra Zackman, one of my favorite narrators of all time, there was a whole other level of enjoyment that I was able to gain from the book. And right now, Influential Magic is only $1.99 for the Audible Edition! What’s not to like? Especially when it is also text-to-speech enabled for the Kindle edition. I prefer the Audible editions, as I can download them onto my Zune and pop it into my pocket while I am doing other things, but having it in both editions means I can read it any way I wish. Cool…
Back in August of last year I wrote a review of To Murder A Saint by Nicole Loughan. At the time I really enjoyed the book, set in both the swamps of Louisiana and the City of New York. There were some issues with it, without a doubt. Nicole is a journalist first and foremost, and her first foray into a non-fiction work of mystery was rough, but showed exceptional promise.
Since that time, I have had pleasant on-line conversations with Nicole, and learned a bit about her, as well as passing along some Cajun tidbits that I thought were appropriate. Nicole, being the sweetheart she is, took my input like a true lady.
This new book set amongst the same families as her previous is far more comfortable for me. In a way, not trying as hard to handle the patois of Southern Louisiana has refreshed her book, making it more realistic and easier to read than a somewhat stiff attempt at the language of the South. One still gets some of the flavor of the Southern language and the world view, and it is more relaxed for it.
In All Saints’ Secrets Fanchon is recovering in New York from the brutal attack that she suffered at the end of the previous book. You get more insight into Fanchon in this book, learning a bit more about her and what drives her as a person. As with the other, this isn’t really a long book, and the descriptions of the bayou country still aren’t on the level of someone like James Lee Burke, but Nicole is making great strides. The language of the characters is not as stiff, and she does more description of the landscapes and the surroundings than she did before. This is a great improvement when it comes to my personal tastes. I know not everyone agrees with me, but descriptions of surroundings and people are very important to my manner of reading. I want to be able to close my eyes and see my surroundings when I am reading. Without that, a book simply doesn’t hold my attention.
This is a rather Gothic look at the Southern Mystery genre, filled with poverty, isolation, and a deep sense of family history. It is easy for me to see what is there, as that is home to me. In the last book, others, who hadn’t traveled to the area, would not have been able to see the landscape as well, should they have closed their eyes and tried. This time around, seeing Fanchon’s surroundings would be easier. There is still a bit of “stiffness” to the writing, but not anything that makes the book unreadable. Instead, I was pulled in immediately and glad to have another look at Fanchon and her story. The storyline is both clever and creative, leaving you knowing at the end that there is a follow up, but this is by no mean a cliffhanger. You could also read this book as a standalone, but I went back and read the first book again before I read this one (as I am habitualized to do) and enjoyed Secrets all the more for it.
Overall, this is a pleasant way to wile away an evening of the Gothic South, mystery, a hint of terror, and a soupcon’ of romantic thought. I look forward to the next and recommend the book to anyone who would enjoy the style.
I bought this book for myself, and didn’t receive the first one, or this one, from the author. All comments are my own thoughts.
Yummy yummy! M. K. sent me Louisiana Red Dot Hot Sauce from Louisiana! These sauces are vinegar based, and incredibly tasty! I tried the Roasted Pepper last night on my turkey breast and potatoes and it was marvelous. Tonight, I made a casserole and used the Chipotle. It was even tastier!
Besides sending the sauces, she also sent me a mix of boxed meals like Jambalaya and Dirty Rice (she knows my cooking skills are next to nil!) and also…
Drum roll please….
Beignet mix from Cafe du Monde!!!!
OK, it isn’t quite like eating beignets right there in the Cafe du Monde, but beggars can’t be choosers, right? I can nearly taste that wonderful beignet flavour right now….. I just have to get my housemate to make them, or they would wind up burned….. 😦
The holidays are nearly here, and what better gift than beautiful copies of SHOWSTOPPERS for all your friends and family? Heartwarming, funny, and all around lovable, these canine companions, along with their Angel Guardian, her Angel Mentor, and their favorite FBI Agent are on another adventure!
Travel with them, from New Orleans to New York as they track down the evil people who are kidnapping famous show dogs!
The Returns 2 ~ Showstoppers is out in paperback on Amazon! Click the link above and you can purchase copies for everyone on your list!
The Returns 2 ~ Showstoppers has been published, and it is just as good as the first book! Hey, maybe even better, but then, since they are both so good anyway, does it matter?
In The Returns, we met four people who made it to the Pearly Gates a little early, for one reason or the other. Maybe someone wasn’t paying attention?. Oops. A little trip to the “Early Returns” department and they are now back on Earth in new bodies. Four very furry, very four-footed bodies! Bentley, the basset hound who used to be an FBI agent, Pierre, now a West Highland White Terrier, a fashion designer and MIT graduate at age 16, Tucker, now a Golden but previously a Navy Seal, and finally Bones, former World Featherweight Boxing Champion and now a rough, tough Chihuahua and master mechanic. The Returns are guarded and guided by Faith Fullilove, their first-year Guardian Angel and her own Mentor Angel, Miss Gitty the gray tabby cat.
All four, with the addition of Bentley’s ex-partner in the FBI, Aiden, were involved in the takedown of a horrible bad-guy who was directly involved in the deaths of at least three of The Returns. Now, with Showstoppers, the team is back in action, using their skills and capabilities to track down and stop the theft of show dogs.
From their home in New Orleans to Madison Square Garden, the team goes on a fun and brilliantly designed romp through the world of high-stakes dog shows. Again filled with fun, humour, excitement, and a brilliant insight into the minds and personality of dogs, this is definitely NOT a book to miss!
Once again, the dog characterizations were spot-on. I could hear and see these guys in my head the whole time I was reading. And let me say again – if you love humor in your reading, this is perfect! Ah, the pictures in my head! If you are a dog lover, this is absolutely a book you should read. The characters of the dogs are perfect for their breeds, as well as for the personalities of the people they used to be. Well, I suppose they still are those people in their hearts and souls!
Filled with humor, thoughtfulness, and love, this is a perfect book – as M. K. says, “for anyone from 12 to 112!”
Note: I am the editor for both The Returns and The Returns 2 ~ Showstoppers. However, I wouldn’t have taken the editing if I didn’t truly believe in the books, and these are definitely two of my favorites of all the books that I have edited!
It isn’t the big things that frighten me the most. Oh, they are frightening: the storms, the fires and floods and hurricanes like Katrina. Their devastation is horrific, tremendous, outside the realm of reality in their own way.
But those things can be shared, in all their pain and anger. What frightens me are the small things, the unseen things. The man who touches his three-year-old daughter, behind walls and in secret. The woman down the street, whose empty eyes have long given up hope for rescue from her abusive husband. The eyes of a starved and beaten animal, long past any understanding of why their loving nature has been so abused.
The Heaven’s Rise pushes those buttons, edges those boundaries, between madness and despair. Where evil is a scent or a sound, a chill running up the back of the neck. The sense of a shadow, just out of the reach of mind and eye. A memory, dropped deep within the well of the psyche, rising, groaning, into the subconscious at three in the morning.
In The Heaven’s Rise, all the evils, small and large, play a prominent role. The uncaring heartlessness of the political machine of New Orleans, the greed that played a role in the losses caused by Katrina and the tragedies that occurred before, during and after the storm. Greedy oil companies and exploding gas pipelines. The cruelty and hatred, the corruption of a body politic out of control.
But those are the large, the expected things. What shivers over my skin while reading this book are the small terrors, the 3AM night-sweats, the shadows in the corners of the room, moving and flowing, rising up. Superstition and hatred and death, and the spooky world of the Louisiana bayou jacked-up on the aftereffects of terror.
Sometimes, the nightmares that the rich can cause are worse than any dark creature, risen from the swamps. Especially given the powers of those shadows, those denizens of the darkest nights, and the fog shadowed edges of reality. It is the psychopath in his plain little house, living his plain little life, sharpening his blades in his plain little kitchen, before he walks out the door. The sociopath, passing through the crowd, innocuous and calm, quietly planning the collapse of the markets, or the deaths of thousands upon his whim. Pol Pot. Ted Bundy. The quiet, unobtrusive fellow next door. The one you would never suspect.
The same. The same. They are all the same. The blankness in their eyes, the lack of a soul. Or a soul so blackened, so twisted, that the very act of having a soul is a torment, an automaton of evil, with lifeless, unblinking eyes. The primitive eyes of alligators, of lizards. Of blasted humans, drinking in the misery of others like a fine wine.
There is mystery and death and long hidden, deeply primitive secrets to this story, set both before and after the depredations of Katrina. Secrets and lies, and blasted human souls draw you into the book and keep you there, holding your breath while you skim the pages, drawn into the depths of greed, hatred, and pathology which would make Stephen King and M Night Shyamalan green with envy. For the horrors here are horrors of minds lost to the shadows, puppets with cut strings, dancing across the stage, deranged events in the midst of chaos. Monsters live in our minds. Our psyches. Only, sometimes? They get out.
And yet, at times, a small flame burns in the distance. The faint, small light of hope.