Cozy Paranormal Small Town Apocalyptic Romantic Mystery. Holy shit, what a combination of genres we have here. This is absolutely one of those “cozy” mysteries you keep hearing about – there aren’t any bodies or even any particularly dark secrets here, and the focus is more on the lighter, almost Hallmarkie, side of things. But there is active witchcraft involved in this small town… and possibly (absolutely) a few other paranormal elements, but that gets into spoiler territory. And the mystery involves an almost Buffy the Vampire Slayer type Apocalypse… but *only* for this particular small town. Yes, it may face annihilation but the world as a whole will be perfectly fine. And of course we have the requisite “Angel” type character for our more grown-up “Buffy”, the dark and mysterious dude with serious connection issues yet who manages to “randomly” connect with our female lead. But hey, it all works, it all has a more relaxed yet serious vibe, there’s quite a bit of humor and heart here. I mean, really… what more do you actually want? Bodies? Erotica? World wide catastrophe? Well, if you want those last three… as I’ve alluded to or outright said earlier in the review, this book aint that. But if you’re looking for a more relaxed read by the fireplace or while the kids are at yet another practice or some such… this is a great book for that. Very much recommended.
Interesting Blend Of Real-World Physics And Paranormal Into Top-Notch Action Thriller. Sexton… you’re doing it again. You just said this book was a “top notch action thriller”, yet it is set in the *midwest*. What are you smoking, and can I get some? Why yes, yes I did say that – and I mean it. The tale opens with an all-consuming fire… in the middle of a torrential rain. As we get the perspectives of about a half dozen or so different characters, we find that one of them somehow has psychic abilities. When the scientist and the psychic meet… things get rather interesting and the tale becomes rather twisty yet also very down to earth and relatable. The ending itself is almost Christopher Nolan-esque in how mind-bending it is, and some of the scenes getting us there are edge of your seat thrill rides. Overall an intriguing series starter, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing where Mejia takes this. Very much recommended.
Excellent Collection of Darker Scifi Stories. This collection does a great job of spanning a wide range of scifi types and styles, from noir/ hard-boiled detective chasing a mysterious object to concerns about the space race/ nuclear testing to AI to haunted houses to mind-bending psychological thriller, and several others to boot. While Schwaeble uses “dark fantasy” on the cover to describe what is here, to me “fantasy” is more swords/ sorcery level, and the closest you actually get to that in this collection is some stories having a touch of the paranormal to them. Otherwise this is solid scifi/ horror, and great for those “mood”/ “seasonal” readers looking for something a bit darker/ spookier in October. Also great for fans of the Twilight Zone and Hitchcockian suspense, as these stories are right there in that vein. Very much recommended.
Chilling Combination Of Police Procedural And Paranormal. Beltz apparently wrote this entire trilogy at once, before releasing each book a month after the previous entry, and here we find the two cops at the center of Book 1 – Twisted – involved in yet another paranormal mystery where the only connective tissue between the books is the cops themselves. Here, rather than the tele-muchness of Twisted, we get a different type of paranormal ability, and yet Beltz still manages to use these abilities in surprising ways to fight a particularly cunning and chilling bad guy. This is one of those books that will absolutely make you rethink some of the things you allow your children to do/ you allow to be done to your children – and yet Beltz does this perfectly within the story he is telling here, without ever being preachy about any real-world topic. Very much recommended.
This week we’re looking at a book that manages to combine the crime thriller and paranormal genres in ways I’ve never seen done before, giving us a killer in many ways more terrifying than even Kilgrave from the MCU’s Jessica Jones. This week we’re looking at Twisted by James Beltz.
Chilling Combination of Crime Thriller and Paranormal. For a book on the shorter end of the spectrum = roughly 220 pages or so – Beltz manages to pack quite a bit of action into this one, and along the way gives us some truly memorable sequences of various psychic abilities. The murderer is chilling and brutal, the mystery is taut, and the final battle is ultimately a refreshing blend of near slapstick humor (needed, as heavy as other elements immediately around it can get), psychic badassery normally seen only in comic books, and shocking action that not even Stephen King has managed to pull together in Carrie or Firestarter. In the end, you’ll be glad that Beltz wrote this trilogy at one time before releasing each book just a month apart – because you’re going to be wanting the next book in your hand immediately. Very much recommended.
Mind-Bending Scifi Action. This is one of those trippy books that has enough mystery up front to draw you in, a lot of exposition in the middle to make you understand what is coming, and a balls to the wall back third to show off all that you now know within the context of the original setup. At 440 ish pages, it may read a tad long to some, but I felt the length was pretty solid for all that it was doing here. And the ideas it discusses are intriguing in a vein similar to Marcus Sakey’s Afterlife, where death… may only be the beginning. The backstory here was perhaps a well tapped a bit too often in the genre, particularly for anything of this form, and yet was still done well and was truly horrifying (though fortunately not too much of it actually “onscreen”). Overall the tale here was interesting and well told. Very much recommended.
Fun Southern Enemies To Lovers Romance. The title of this review tells you most everything you need to know here. This book has quite a few moving parts, but overall they work together to create a solid, fun Southern romance – in this case, centered on the titular barbecue and the retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. The intricacies of barbecue – and no, you damn Yankees and foreigners from other nations (joking, an allusion to Southern comic Jeff Foxworthy’s “Redneck Games”), simply putting something on a grill is not “barbecueing”, nor is the grill itself a “barbecue” – are discussed well, but always in context with and service to the overall story and character development. Small town southern life, with all of its greatness and pitfalls, are also shown well – yes, including the one person who claims to be able to speak to ghosts. The pranks are mostly in the past, and it is always quite clear that they were in the past. The reasons for the enmity between the leads are compelling, tragic, and completely “reasonable”-ish for where the characters were at those points, and the slow-burn nature of the romance allows both to see that perhaps there is more to the adult versions of each other than they remember of the kid versions. And that perhaps there was more going on with the kid versions that their own kid versions didn’t fully know about. For the clean/ sweet crowd, this has very minor cussing – including a grandma who actively admonishes such words in her presence – and no even fade-to-black sex. (Some heavy kissing though, for those more absolutist against absolutely anything physical.) Oh, and there is a more minor subplot – revealing even its nature would be a spoiler – that is refreshing, accurate… and yet still feels mostly thrown in due to the author’s own political leanings. It totally works, and it is nice to see an author defying the normal conventions of the genre to even subtly go there, and yet it also *does* feel a bit forced, as though this was a wrinkle intentionally placed to draw the eye away from the actual main subject to a degree. Still, on the whole a solid, fun romance novel that does a great job of explaining Southern Barbecue, and very much recommended.
Opens With A Bang. Ends With Promise. If you read MM romance virtually at all, you pretty well know that porn level sex is almost a requirement of the genre. Even then, I’ve rarely if ever seen a book actually open in the middle of a sex scene… and yet, this one does. 🙂 So you know up front what you’re literarily “walking in on”. 🙂 Beyond that, this works well to set up a series that can in theory run as long as Pine wants it to. There *seem* to be a couple of (possible) connections that more trivia-minded readers might know the specifics of – the Inn in Vermont where half of the couple works for a time seems to be tied into the Valentine’s Inc stories that Pine has taken part in, and another scene takes place in Salem, MA – home to Pine’s long-running Cold Case Psychic world, though it could also be a tie in to her less-paranormal oriented Protect and Serve series. One character in particular seems particularly well set up for Book 2, but Pine may choose instead to continue letting that particular storyline simmer in the background a bit longer – even though that particular character has one of the more interesting ideas I’ve seen in my (admittedly scant) reading of paranormal books over the years. In other words, truly solid story here that has a lot to carry – and manages to pull it off. Very much recommended.
Solid, Fun, and Quick Read. At just 76 pages long, this tale doesn’t have much length to work with in setting up a world and executing a story within it – and yet it manages to do exactly this remarkably well, proving literary “size queens” wrong in the process. Here, you get a fun tale of a South African safari Christmas trip complete with baby rhinos and big cats… and a dose of paranormal more of the “Loki transitioning to Asgardian Armor in Germany” from the first Avengers movie than swords and sorcery “what the hell is happening, this was supposed to be set in the real world” type. Indeed, arguably its only weakness – that based on the other reviews, might actually be a feature – is its leaning perhaps too hard on the lead male – Chris, no less – being described as Chris Hemsworth / Thor in virtually every scene he is even mentioned in. Still, for what it is and what it is able to do, this is truly a solid work, one that is fairly easily and comfortably set up as a series introduction and one whose series sounds promising. Very much recommended.
This entire spinoff series has been my entry point into Pine’s universe, and I’ve been very impressed so far. She manages to bring the paranormal and the normal together in ways rarely seen in other similar efforts, all while keeping the series focused on the people involved even as the individual books feature specific cases. (As the better long running series – in any medium – tend to do.)
This particular book is a typical entry in that vein – we open up dealing with the aftermath of the ending of Ghost of a Chance (Book 5), and because of that at minimum that book needs to be read before that one. But even that book deals with the events from the very first book in this spinoff series, Ghost of Himself. (And on and on and on :D) So read all six books – because by the end of this one Pine basically calls her shot with presumably the next book, and it is one that has been building since even before this spinoff series began.
This book in particular was Pine’s usual excellence in storytelling and execution, and I am very much looking forward to Book 7! 🙂
And with that… the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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