harris_midnight crossroadWhen Manfred Bernardo decides to move, Midnight, Texas seems like an ideal location. A town so small it’s almost a case of blink and you’ll miss it, Manfred figures that it will be the perfect place to lie low while getting his Internet business on track.

Soon after he arrives he realises that he’s not the only one in town with secrets. Though his new neighbours are few, they’re not the kind to over-share and run on a policy of not asking others about their pasts.

This policy suits Manfred fine until members of a white supremacist bikie gang start showing up in town, determined to extract someone’s secrets from them. And until Bobo Winthrop’s missing girlfriend shows up dead.

Midnight Crossroad is one of those books that you ultimately wish offered a little bit more. Some aspects of it are really interesting. The setting, for instance, is full of possibility. Midnight is tiny – a place with just enough traffic from people on road-trips to make it feasible. Because of the size, the community is a close-knit one. Yet, in spite of how much the townspeople support each other, seemingly every member of the community is running from something or keeping secrets. So the people of Midnight live in the present, not pushing into their neighbour’s pasts.

Aside from having a distinctive setting and enticing mystery with a lot of other mysteries broiling under the surface, quite a few things don’t hold together in Midnight Crossroad. The murder, first and foremost. Why would anyone believe that a woman had run away when she took nothing with her and at no point gave anyone the impression that she wanted to leave – or had anywhere to go?

Also, what is the social setting of this novel? I mean, obviously it’s American, but is this a world like that in Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series where everyone knows that supernatural beings exist – or is the paranormal deeply buried from regular people in this world? Bobo and Manfred appear in other books by Harris. It’s possible that I’d understand the setting more if I had read those novels, but getting into Midnight Crossroad without any background context is a little baffling.

Midnight Crossroad has a lot of promise. The characters – with all their secrets – are intriguing enough to draw readers back; as is the setting. Hopefully Day Shift, the second book in the series settles some of the questions that this one raised.

 

**For older readers

Midnight Crossroad – Charlaine Harris

Gollancz (May 6, 2014)

ISBN: 9780575092853



Marney_Every BreathLife hasn’t been the same since Rachel Watts moved to Melbourne. Having spent her whole life working her family’s property in Five Mile, the city is a loud and unwelcoming stranger. The one saving grace is James Mycroft, her neighbour. He is at home in the city that she hates, but he can also see a different side to it than most people can. While most people are caught up in the busyness of the city, Mycroft befriends the tram drivers and homeless.

When Watts and Mycroft find their homeless friend, Dave’s, body with the throat slit open, they are thrown into a mystery that may well be their last.

A lot of people have touted Every Breath as a modern Sherlock Holmes with teenage protagonists and a female Watson. This is not the best mindset to have when delving into this novel. There are some nods to Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, and it’s fun to see how many you can pick out. Even Mycroft and Watts allude to the similarities; but that’s all it is. Mycroft is no Sherlock and Watts is no Watson.

The mystery doesn’t have the same feel as a Sherlock Holmes novel either. It’s more involved, with Watts and Mycroft risking themselves to hunt down clues rather than drawing conclusions from the minute pieces information available. This approach is more suited to the YA market, leaving more room for action.

The characters in Every Breath are largely well drawn. Though it occurred years before, Mycroft is still reeling from the car accident that caused his parents’ deaths. He puts on a good show, but has trouble coping with stressful situations. He lives with an aunt who provides the physical things he needs, without emotional attachment. Watts is similarly lost. While she has the support of a loving family, the move to the city has unsettled her. Going back to the country isn’t optional, but she doesn’t want to accept the city as her new home.

Some parts of the relationships in Every Breath work well, while others leave me baffled. It’s weird that Watts’s parents basically force her to kill their dogs but they’re so strict that they won’t let her spend the night with Mycroft. It might just be me, but if she’s old enough to do one then she’s old enough to do the other – and, of the two, the former would scar me for life.

On the other side of that, Watts’s family are loving. They’re often tired from long shifts at work, but they all pull together to get the house-work and cooking done, and they take the time at the end of their day to see how everyone is. Mycroft and his aunt are evidently not close, but there are enough hints there to show that the strain in their relationship might be due to the unexpectedness of his parents’ deaths and of the sudden responsibility that has fallen on the aunt.

Every Breath is a good start to a new series. While it could stand on its own, there are a lot of characters arcs here that are nowhere near finished, and I’m looking forward to revisiting Watts and Mycroft in the next instalment.

 

Every Breath – Ellie Marney

Allen & Unwin (September 1, 2013)

ISBN: 9781743316429



lowry_the-giverJonas lives in a world without war, poverty, hunger or violence. Safety is all that he has ever known; but it is also a world without choice. All decisions are made by the Elders. From the names that the children are given, to the clothes that they wear and the careers they take on as adults, every aspect of Jonas’ life is in the hands of more qualified individuals.

When Jonas is skipped at the Ceremony of Twelve – the ceremony where he and his classmates all receive notification of their future careers – he fears the worst. What he gets is beyond anything he could have imagined. He has been chosen to be the next Receiver of Memory – an occupation that means taking all of the experiences off the current Receiver. It means being able to see in colour, being allowed to lie, and being able to experience emotions far deeper than that of anyone else in the community. What it also means is pain, loneliness, and the ability to analyse a community that might not be so perfect after all.

First published in 1993, The Giver is one of the earlier dystopian novels aimed at a younger audience. With a twelve-year-old protagonist and point of view, this is aimed at more of a middle-school age group. The themes, however, will resonate with people of any age.

The world in The Giver is a darkly fascinating and terribly believable one. A world so intent on achieving utopia that it destroys anything or anyone that deviates from the ideals set. Like any truly good dystopia, we see echoes of these sentiments in the real world. The one great lesson in The Giver is to question everything. It’s not a preachy novel, but it shows that utopia has a price – just not necessarily one paid for by the people privileged enough to live there. The importance of empathy and the dangers of being emotionally stunted to the horrors in the world is another thing that is touched on.

There are times when the world’s logistics don’t work. Mathematically, a huge proportion of women would have to be birth mothers if each couple got two children and birth mothers had three children each. It doesn’t seem as though the majority of women are birth mothers though. Aside from this, the ideals of the novel are sound.

The Giver is one of those remarkable books that leave a reader wanting more. It’s not that the book itself is not enough, but that the ideas are complex and need more room to unravel.

 

The Giver – Lois Lowry

Harper Collins (1993)

ISBN: 9780007263516



Belinda_kisses_tnBel:

blake_Girl-of-NightmaresCover

We see Anna reaching back towards us in the black, white, and red picture of a rather daunting backdrop. It reflects the story really well.

Characters

We get to meet one of the major characters from Anna Dressed in Blood, and a new threat comes to the fore.

Favourite

Jestine, mainly because she kicked ass, and kept her word.

Least Favourite

The Order. Sometimes the hive mind isn’t the way to go.

Beginning

Months after the final scene in Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas and his friends are struggling to come to terms with how things played out.

Storyline

Cas makes moves to rectify the problem, and heads to England.

Ending

Nothing is quite what it seems.

Thoughts

I don’t know about the others, but I felt no real sense of dread. No heart stopping urgency. Perhaps this could have been rectified by covering Anna’s point of view for a part of the book.

I did like the male, female relationships and I’m glad Cas’s mum wasn’t as pointless as some other YA parental units.

I enjoyed the story, and as a sequel it was entertaining.

Quote

“For a professional ghost killer, you sure ask a lot of numb-nut questions.” ~Morfran talking to Cas.

 

Krista McKeeth_2_tnKrista:

Blake_anna dressed in blood

Cover

Very Manga cartoon-like imagery of Anna…in hell?

Characters

Our main character, Cas and his friends Thomas and Carmel are the major roll players in this series. Cas is a ghost hunter who, with his special knife, is able to send the spirits onto other worlds. He has a strict rule of only hunting those ghosts that are dangerous to humans and can cause harm.

Favourite

Tie between Anna and Cas; they both do very selfless acts, admirable.

Least Favourite

Well there is always the villain to hate, but I didn’t really dislike any of the characters in this story.

Beginning

Cas is obsessed with where Anna might have gone since the events in the first book. She has been calling to him.

Storyline

When his school work is done for the year, he convinces Thomas to travel to Ireland, to the group that made the Athame, and ask for their guidance on how to rescue Anna from Hell.

Ending

We see a much more determined Cas in this book than the first. When he really sets his heart on something, he’s a force to be reckoned with.

Thoughts

I like the idea that there are these powerful weapons that are made out of a metal not available on earth. I enjoyed the fact that Cas got to do some overseas travelling in this one. It brought a lot of atmosphere to the novel. There are some dangerous moments, a lot of world building; especially with the group and the history behind the weapons they use to banish the spirits. Plus more blood than we saw in the first book with very humorous dialogue and relationships between the characters.

Quote

“She crossed over death to call me. I crossed through Hell to find her.”

Lisa-Smith_tnLisa:

kendare blakeCover

I’m actually a big fan of the covers in this duology! I think they portray the story inside very well; it’s not too scary or brutal, just a bit creepy like the story.

Characters

Overall, I thought the characters were alright. We don’t meet too many new people, just a few random characters who take smaller roles. I don’t think I want to name the only new main character we are introduced to! Why? Because he makes the story what it is, and I don’t think he is mentioned in the first book; meaning, I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you!

Least Favourite

She wasn’t my least favourite in the first book, but in Girl of Nightmares she is. Carmel was the sweetest girl in Anna Dressed in Blood but completely changed in this second instalment. I loved her so much, so I was a little disappointed to see this kind of change in her. She spent the whole first book wanting to be a part of everything. In the second book, she leaves the two boys in the dust, without truly explaining why. Obviously, she does later in the story, but after she breaks Thomas’s heart.

Favourite

This is a hard one! I have a few favorite characters including Cas, Thomas, and the new character introduced in this book who I cannot name…he’s not from Harry Potter if that’s what you’re thinking! But both of these boys are interesting! Cas with his knife and the ghost killing thing and Thomas with his witch powers!

Beginning

Girl of Nightmares takes place a month or two after Anna Dressed In Blood ends. Anna has gone, Cas can’t help his feelings towards her and misses Anna, and Thomas and Carmel are still working out their entire “relationship”; if you can call it that.

Middle

Cas can’t deny the feelings he has for Anna, and has to get her back from the other side. He seems to see her everywhere he looks, and even starts to think that he might be going crazy. He finally tells Thomas and Carmel about this, and asks them to help bring her back. While they might not believe this is possible, both agree to help Cas in any way.

Ending

Bringing back Anna turned into something WAY bigger than the three could have imagined. It affected the entire witch and ghost hunting community, and it even stretched across the world! Who knew getting back the girl you love could start an entire war?

Overall

Before I started this duology, I was told many times how creepy it was. So when I finally got around to reading Anna Dressed In Blood I was a little disappointed at first. The story wasn’t horrifying or scary. Anna wasn’t as bad as she was made out to be in all of the reviews I’d read, but, nonetheless, I enjoyed the story.

When I started reading Girl of Nightmares, I didn’t read any reviews, and decided to just jump in right after finishing Anna Dressed In Blood. Again, I enjoyed this one as well. The entire story was a crazy roller coaster ride, dragging the group from one place, and one person, to another. I was strapped in and ready for the ride! I do have to say that the ending wasn’t very satisfying, but realistic, which I liked. Obviously, I spent the whole time cheering one the three best friends, and hoped the best for them, but things don’t always end up that way.

If you haven’t picked up these books, I recommend you do. I don’t promise that Anna is absolutely terrifying, but you will experience an entirely new perspective on the paranormal!

Joelene_tnJoelene

blae-ungodlyCover

The cover was what made me buy Anna Dressed in Blood, the first book in this series. I like the second cover even more. With Anna standing on the precipice of Hell, it’s more dynamic and the colour scheme is amazing.

Characters

All of the characters that I loved in Anna Dressed in Blood are back in Girl of Nightmares. They’re still amazing, but what they’ve been through has changed them.

Favourite

Cas maybe? Or Carmel? Possibly Thomas? I don’t know. I love how the characters interact with each other more than loving each of them on their own. They’re such a good team that I couldn’t imagine how things would work without one of them.

Least Favourite

This is even harder. The easy answer would be Colin Burke; not because I hated him, but because he was a bit of a non-entity.

Beginning

Anna has sacrificed herself to save Cas and his friends. He is trying to come to terms with life without her. He might even manage it, if she wasn’t coming back to haunt him at the most inopportune times.

Storyline

When Cas becomes convinced that Anna’s soul is not at peace, but being tormented in some hellish alternate plane, he is determined to find her and bring her back. Not everyone thinks that the dead belong in the world of the living, and there are some who would enforce those convictions to the bitter end.

Ending

Bitter and sweet? At some point when reading about a romance between one person who’s living and one who’s dead, there is the realisation that however this ends, it’s not going to be rainbows and unicorns.

Thoughts

I loved the direction that Blake took Carmel’s and Thomas’s characters. They don’t stagnate and they’re not just silently there to have Cas’s back whenever he needs it. Thomas’s power has grown considerably since the first book, and he has more confidence in it – though he still manages to be awkward around the cooler kids at school. Carmel refuses to compromise her social life to support Cas and Thomas – she’s as independent as she ever was. She’s also more prone to question the things that Thomas will accept.

I wasn’t dissatisfied with the ending, but Anna came into the book far too late and played too small of a role. I liked Jestine, but I would have traded her for Anna in a fraction of a heart-beat.

Quote

There’s smoke, and wind, and screaming, and it’s impossible to tell which side it’s all coming from. I lower my voice. “Anna. What do you want me to do?”

For a second I think she’ll stonewall. She takes quaking, deep breaths and with every exhale bites down on her words. But then she looks at me, straight at me, into my eyes, and I don’t care what she said earlier. She sees me. I know she does.

“Cassio,” she whispers. “Get me out of here.”

 

Discussion Topic:

Question: Would you give up your way of life to fight against demons who cause danger to human lives?

Take your discussion to our GoodReads page!



cassidy-looking for jjAlice Tully almost has a normal life. Her foster mother, Rosie, is one of the warmest people she knows. Someone who finally gets her and listens to her and tries to make things better. Someone who is finally there. Alice has a boyfriend, Frankie, who she mostly can’t believe wants her. And she has a wonderfully ordinary job waiting tables at a local café.

But all of that is about to fall apart because Alice has a past. Sooner or later it is going to catch up with her. No matter how much Rosie tries to make things right, things will never be better.

Someday soon, Alice is going to have to face the past that she has been running from. She is going to have to remember January Jones; the girl that she was six years before. The girl that killed her friend on a lonely stretch of shore by the lake that also drowned a league of cats.

Looking for JJ starts with a powerful premise that exists in shades of grey. It’s centred on some difficult questions that don’t have right or wrong answers, though everyone has opinions on the matter. When a child kills another child, who is at fault? And how long must the child pay for her crime?

Looking for JJ seems to be inspired by the James Bulger murder. The media frenzy and public interest in Alice’s past bear similarities to that of Bulger’s killers, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. Around this atmosphere hovers the question: can a person ever be free from such a violent past – and should they?

Perhaps the way people react to this novel says more about them than it does about the issue, but for my part the answer is no. Alice talks about regret. We see that her counsellors have had to push her to re-join a world that she doesn’t always think she deserves. She doesn’t think it’s fair for her to be happy.

And she’s right. She doesn’t deserve to be part of this world and it isn’t fair for her to be happy. Not because of her crime: she was ten and Cassidy’s depiction of her shows a far sweeter character than Venables or Thompson.

It also shows a character that has not given the slightest consideration to her victims after the fact. Alice’s life is not tied up in her past until the past threatens to harm her. She has never given the murder in depth thought; never considers how else she might have handled things until someone asks her. A child killing another child in anger might be forgiven. That child growing up and never deeply analysing her motives, behaviour and emotions – never even shallowly analysing the pain she caused her victim’s family and the victim – cannot be forgiven.

Therein lays the core of this novel. It will be judged based on the character and morals of the reader, not the author. And, for my part, I can’t sympathise with Alice no matter how she’s changed and how kind she is now because I can’t see any sympathy in her for the people she has hurt.

Looking for JJ certainly stirs some powerful emotions. It’s the kind of issue that everyone has an opinion on, but no one will agree on the right one. Because Alice was so determined to ignore the past there was less introspection than I would have liked, but it was a satisfying read.

 

Looking for JJ – Anne Cassidy

Point (2004)

ISBN: 9780439977173



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