Review: Duck, Duck, Ghost — by Rhys Ford

duckduckghostsOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my review, these are my own opinions.

To say that I love Rhys Ford’s work is an understatement.  I won’t say that I am a fan-girl, but when I get a chance to review one of her books, I jump at it.  So, this week I had the opportunity to read Duck Duck Ghost.

If you are interested in reviewing my other posts regarding Ford, then check out this tag.

Basic Plot:

This is book two in the Hellsinger series.  Wolf and Tristan are still trying to learn how to be in a relationship.  The results of their exorcism in book one has left Tristan uneasy, so it is time for a road trip.  They go to help Wolf’s cousin in her haunted house, gaining more than they expected.  What they discover at the farm is even more frightening than at Hoxne Grange.  Will they get out of this alive enough to starting living together?

Background:

This is a book two in the Hellsinger series, so it is advisable to read book one first.  My review of Fish and Ghosts, might be helpful, keep in mind that it could contain spoilers!

Wolf Kincaid:

In book two, we follow Wolf as he investigates his cousin’s haunted house.  But what we learn about Wolf is that behind that confident attitude is a man who has always wanted to get his family’s love back and chasing after a dream that he never can quite attain.  There is much more behind this thought, but I think that would spoil a large part of his character development.

What we do learn about Wolf is that he has never been in love with anyone, like Tristan:

Tristan ended up under Wolf’s skin, and part of the argument — most of the argument, if Wolf was really honest — was that he was scared.  He was frightened by how quickly Tristan hooked his soul and pulled in Wolf’s heart.  He hadn’t been looking for love when he went to debunk Tristan’s ghost-hosting inn, but that’s what he found — and he didn’t want to every let him go.

So we have some serious character development with Wolf, and I find it quite charming how Wolf feels unsteady around Tristan.

Tristan Pryce:

I can relate to Tristan.  His family doesn’t understand him and he feels isolated because of his gift.  It’s easy to appreciate that because of his issues, it’s just simpler to stay hidden away in the estate.  But, we humans are social creatures and living with the dead can only help so much:

“That’s not the point,” he said sadly.  “I’ve been hiding in that tower, and whether I knew it or not, I grew my hair long enough for you to climb up it and visit me there, but Wolf, I don’t want to stay there.  I want to be with you.  Out here.  And it’s time I kind of embraced the weird I’ve been given.”

So, in a way, I see Tristan as the homeschooled child whose conservative and repressed family background has left him both physically and mentally isolated.  His gift makes him even more isolated and he tries to integrate himself back into the “real-world” so that he can be good enough to be with Wolf.  Wolf’s “normal” presence allows him the security to stretch his wings.

Theme Summary:

I don’t want to spoil the plot of the book by discussing the theme too much, but I think that it is important to discuss a bit:

“You sit here in this house waiting for death, and it comes to you.  Little bits and drabbles of the dead who share their lives with you.  You are living through them, Tristan.  Can’t you see that?  Mostly everything you know about the world is what you heard from the dead.  That’s not healthy, kiddo, Not at all.”

In book one, I wrote about how both men needed to find balance in their lives, both focusing too much on their work.  In book two, Ford continues this theme, but delves deeper.  These men have focused their lives in certain viewpoints, and finally they both begin to realize that while their life goals might be in the right directions how they were going about it was not healthy or the only way.

Strong Points:

Ford’s writing.  As I have always written, Ford has this ability to pull us into the book, from the first scene.  She gives a vibrant taste of the environment, like a punch to the gut.  I am usually hooked from the first paragraph.  In Duck Duck Ghost, the first paragraph got me:

It was a foul smell.  A blackness to it Wolf would never get used to.  With the proximity of the Florida swamp and Atlantic, there was a faint hint of stagnancy as well, with an overlay of brackish algae just for good measure.  He couldn’t imagine living in its stink every day.  Like cigarette smoke, it would flavor everything he touched, breathe, or ate.

Yes, Ford can write a sexy and hot scene.  But what I love more about Ford’s writing is that I would be captivated by the story and the characters even without the sex.  So often in M/M (or hell, romance at all), the writer will focus not just on the relationship, but the sexual tension.  I think that’s why I have problems with serial romance; when they talk about sex all the time in the first book, what do they have left to develop in the rest of the books?

Yet Ford gives us the happy ending in book one, there are still unresolved conflicts between Wolf and Tristan.  Also, because we have a serious new mystery to solve in book two, we are driven to discover what the hell happens.

In addition to this, Ford gives us interesting secondary characters like Aunt Gildy, Sey, and Cin.  I hope to god we get a book about Cin some day, he is hot, hot, hot!

What could be better?

Really, nothing.  Although, I should warn any reader that we are left with a cliffhanger!  Darn that wily author that keeps us panting for more!

Conclusions:

This is my favorite series of Ford’s.  While I love the others, I almost feel that the cultural focus becomes a crutch that we lean against.  In the Hellsinger series, we do have a theme of the paranormal, yet we have a strong mystery that does not revolve around their relationship and we have the development of the relationship.  That is one of Ford’s strengths, she build’s series where yes, we get our “HEA” in book one, but everything is not solved.  That’s life.  While there might be some hot sexual chemistry, we still have to learn to communicate with each other and learn to well, live.  This book is about how Wolf and Tristan begin to learn how to refocus their life’s purpose in a more healthy manner and they learn to trust each other.  In the meantime, we get some kick-ass horror level BOO intensity that will have you wanting to put the book in the freezer.

This is a great book, and you will not be able to put it down!

Bea

Review: Laying a Ghost — by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow

laying_A_GhostOther Reviewers: Goodreads

I read quite a bit of books throughout the week, some that touched me and others that did not.  I strive to only compose book reviews here that motivate me to write, otherwise the blog feels more as a job than a passion.  I was set to write a review for a book that I read a few weeks ago, I had a vague idea of what to write about, but no real passion for the story.  I had dragged my feet and found this book, Laying A Ghost, by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow late Friday night.  I knew by the first third of the book, that this reading experience was worthy of a blogpost.

Basic Plot:

John McIntyre is a fisherman/taxi-man on a small, remote Scottish island (Hebridean islands).  John meets his fare, Nick Kelly in the town of  Traighshee and they quickly find a friendship.  As they learn more about each other, will these differences be too much and is John willing to risk everything for Nick?  Can Nick let go of the past to live for the future?

Background:

I have read a few of Davitt and Snow’s novels which had a large emphasis in BDSM.  In those books, there is a dark intensity there, often following a “traditional” romance formula.  So I came to this book with a bit of hesitation, not because I did not like those books, rather that I did not know if that their only style.  However, I found this book to be both charming and endearing.

The island itself is a character, which can be a challenge for a writer not to overwhelm the protagonists.  In this case, the atmosphere of the town of Traighshee explains so much about the background of John that we understand his motivations almost instantly and helps to pull us into the story.  By the end of the first chapter I was drawn into story and the slower pace was actually welcoming.  Like watching an Emma Thompson Regency period movie, you just sit back and immerse yourself into the culture and environment.

John McIntyre:

John is a closeted gay man living in the small town of Traighshee.  The fear of disappointing his family and friends keeps him safely hiding his sexuality, but his love of the land and family keeps him there.  We see John early on as a loving man who often takes care of others in the community.  This level of comfort that John provides others is described by Nick:

There was something about John’s voice, his accent, that was comforting, and Nick didn’t think it was just that it reminded him of how his mother had sounded when he was small– her accent had faded after years in the States until, by the time she’d gotten sick, it was barely noticeable.  Maybe it was something specific about John, or maybe that was just a romantic fantasy.

While reading a book, at least on my part, I see the story as a movie.  The ability of the authors to create characters that are so intricate we are immersed in the dialogue, including the accents.  Davitt and Snow conduct a symphony with this Scottish accent of John.  I fell in love with him in part because of his speech patterns, not just his words and actions.

Dominic “Nick” Kelley:

Nick enters the story as a “mysterious American stranger” whose character is unveiled slowly.  His mother (Fiona) was born on the island, but escaped for a bigger life early in hers.  Now Nick has returned after her death and after his uncle Ian’s death he inherited  his home, Rossneath House.  Nick is escaping from a recent tragedy and we learn that there is just something not quite normal about him.

“Nick Kelley,” the man said, not offering his hand either.  There were little lines around his eyes that seemed to indicate that he hadn’t been sleeping for a lot longer than it had taken for him to travel here from the states.

He is fragile, both physically and emotionally.  As the story continues we find that he actually has a core strength which John learns to rely on in later tense events.

Theme Summary:

This book, to me, is about finding yourself and being true to your inner self.  Nick says something to John later in the book that really spoke to me:

“But I’ve spent my life learning to trust my instincts, or at least trying to, and I don’t want to go into this half-assed.”  He hitched himself up a little higher and clarified.  “If we’re going to try, I’m going to try all the way.  I’m not going to hold back out of worry that it might not work out, because if I do, maybe it won’t work out.  You know?”

This is truly the spirit of Nick and how he approaches his life with John and his new life in Scotland.  Later we see another quote from John that also reflects this theme:

“Money–aye, well, there’s no denying it’s handy, but it’s not worth losing what you are to get it.”

Be true to yourself and don’t hold back for fear of rejection or failure.

Strong Points:

The writing.  At no time did I go, “oh yeah there are two authors here and I can tell the difference in writing styles.”  I could never tell the difference, and I am curious to know how they make their collaboration work so seamlessly on paper.  I love their ability to write the accent and culture of Scotland into the writing and dialogue.

What could be better?

I read a review on either Goodreads or Amazon that thought the writing quality was not good enough.  Ironically they said that English was not their first language, but I wonder if that was part of the reason that they had difficulties.  This book has such a foreign feel to it, this coming from an American.  I love finding a book that gives me a taste of a world in which I do not live.  Davitt is English, so she brings in her personal background to make a vivid portrayal of the environment and culture.  I loved this, but perhaps someone might not like the slower pace.  Quite frankly I can think of nothing to improve the book.

Conclusions:

I found this book because I yearned for a book that was well written, had some sexiness, but was more heartwarming than extreme sex scenes.  Laying a Ghost, by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow has all of these things, but above all it made me think.  It made me realize not to give up on myself or my dreams, and anything worth doing will require sacrifice.  This is certainly a wonderful book and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Bea

Review: Dark Needs at Night’s Edge by Kresley Cole

 

 

Intro:

I found this series a few years ago and I was able to read the first 5 books in five consecutive days.  I was hooked after the first section of the first book.  This book is the 5th book and it is recommended to read the books in order. I think you would be fine, but it is a fuller read.  This book of the series I found particularly intense.

 

Basic Plot:

Conrad Wroth is a Fallen, vampire, one whose red eyes are an outward representation to his downward slide into evil and insanity.  He is currently being chased by a dream demon (Tarut) that taunts Conrad with “You have to have a dream to lose it”.  Now Conrad must finish his goal of revenge against his brothers.  Captured by his brothers (Nikolai, Murdoch, Sebastian), they try to redeem and “detoxify” him.  They confined him into a remote house to do this and it just happens to be haunted, by Noemi.  Noemi Laress is trapped in her house, 80 years after her murder. Now there is a violent interloper who both compels and repels her.

 

Background:

Details can be found about the world on the landing page.

 

Female Lead:

Neomi Laress is a ghost, having spent 80 years trapped within her house reliving her death monthly.  We get an understanding of how lonely she has been the only encounters with humans comes by these who live there.  But by her making that contact drives them away in fear.  What I like about her character is her acceptance of her needs as a woman and her understanding if the good male without the damaged outer shell of Conrad.  Her love and devotion was so honest, yet not too lovey-dovey that makes you sick.  She is courageous and logical as well, which I always find admirable:

 

“People think happiness will simply fall into their laps.  You have to aspire to it.  And sometimes you have to seize it when it’s kicking and screaming.”

 

This is a rather a good theme for this book.  You are not stuck in how you start in life.  It is never too late.

 

Male Lead:

Conrad Wroth was turned against his will into a vampire.  His bitterness against his brothers has tainted his view on all things.  Now he is captured as his brothers try to rehabilitate him.  A vampire must have blood to survive.  Not all vampires are evil; it is how a vampire feeds that determines it.  If he drinks straight from the vein (live blood) it allows the vampire to take their memories and through that their power.  As we can imagine, this can drive anyone crazy, century and century of drinking.

 

Forebearers on the other hand, drink from the bag rather than the vein.  One can tell the difference because their eyes are not red as well as other psychological symptoms like overly aggressive behaviors.  The Wroth brothers have learned that the only other drive that can compete against their thirst is the need to protect their Bride.

 

A Bride is a vampire’s mate.  They will know that by being “blooded” aka their heart is started again and it now beats for her.  In fact, drinking from your mate might help alleviate his madness.  But first he has to get sane enough to understand the problem.  A quote from beginning in the bar to illustrate his mindset when we first meet him:

 

Stay sane…need to dull the rage.  Until the endtime.

Inside.  “Whiskey.”  His voice is low, rough from disuse.

The bartender’s face falls.  Like last night.  Others grow skittish.  Can they sense that I ache to kill?  The whispers around him are like metal on slate to his ragged nerves.

 

The beginning of the book does an excellent job of setting the scene of his impending insanity (or even him in the midst).  After his kidnapping and housing in Neomi’s haunted house, Conrad begins to suspect that she is his Bride.  But how does he mate with a ghost?  He cannot touch her, certainly not feed from her.

 

Theme Summary:

To me, there are two: redemption and rebirth.  Both Neomi and Conrad are in search of a rebirth into one loves, so that they can be whole enough to be with each other.  For Conrad, he must overcome his bloodlust to become sane enough to be good enough for Neomi.  He must also come to terms with his brothers and what they did years ago.  Neomi on the other hand, must become corporal before she can be “whole” for Conrad.  She is tortured with reliving her death every month and this is draining to her. She cannot live like this forever.

 

Strong Points:

I would say that for me, the personality, and relationship development is unique in this book.  I love the character of Conrad, perhaps my second favorite behind Lothaire.  I love the complex male character.  Noemi is sassy and gentle, however, I would not consider her “typical”.

 

What could be better?

One of the “tricks” of this series is how things look hopeless and it usually has a “Romeo and Juliet” trope, where one will try to sacrifice.  It is both strength and a weakness.  The strength is how Ms. Cole imbues the story with emotions.  The weakness is in the same type of conflict in each book.  Boy meets girl, girl begins to trust boy, bad circumstances happen and girl/boy must sacrifice for the other.  If you read all of these books you get to expect something horrible will happen.

 

Conclusions:

What I like about this book is that it is mostly a relationship / character development novel.  Ms. Cole is amazing at how she portrays the emotions of both without touching.  I specifically loved the sweetness of their first physical sex scene.  It was one of the most emotionally charged scenes that I have ever read and it was nice to see an Alpha male that did not just do the “I am stud, hear my roar” when they first have sex.

Overall, a good book, not my favorite, but a solid read.

 

Bea