Review: Fish and Ghosts — by Rhys Ford

Fish_and_GhostsOther 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 be fair, I have loved almost every book I have read by Rhys Ford.  There is something about how she describes a scene, a place, or a character that just speaks to me.  Some of my past reviews of her books are found here: Black Dog Blues or Dirty Secret.

Basic Plot:

Tristan Pryce has a history of being thought odd and crazy by his family.  Now his family thinks Tristan has gone over the edge and they have called in professionals — ghost hunters!

Wolf Kincaid is a skeptic ghost hunter with a past.  He and his team journey to Hoxne Grange in response to Tristan’s family request to prove that the haunting is all in Tristan’s mind.  But what both men find is more than ghosts — perhaps a new future.

Wolf Kincaid:

Wolf is our alpha male.  He is passionate in his job and he has the adoration of his family.  I loved how Ford describes him:

And if he had a chance, he’d go back in time and kick the shit out of its builders too.  At a little over six feet, he should have had more space to walk around in the upper floors’ hallways.  Instead, he felt like Alice after she had too many frosted cakes.  His elbows hurt from banging into the walls, and the household staff wouldn’t have to dust for cobwebs because Wolf was pretty sure he’d walked through all of the ones in the attic storerooms.

This quote hits perfectly because it describes both Wolf’s physicality but also his humor.  One of the best things about Ford’s writing is her sense of humor and Wolf embodies this.

There is a lot of back story for Wolf, mostly revolving around his family.  I would write about it here, but I fear that it would hamper his mystery and part of the plot.  So just know that his character goes from a work focused man to fully appreciate his family, culture, and need for love.

Tristan Pryce:

I actually adore how Wolf describes Tristan:

Hell, Wolf thought, he probably was the one in the case and Tristan was the one setting him free.

Staring up the length of Tristan’s long, slender body, Wolf was caught by the man’s hooded gaze.  The duality of Tristan’s soul lay bare on his face, a delicate, pure innocence striated with a weary, tattered wisdom Wolf wanted to patch together with kisses.

Wolf’s description captures Tristan’s character.  Tristan is comfortable with the role of caretaker for the manor and the ghosts, as taught by his uncle Mortimer.  Now, he hides from life and the living by taking care of the dead.  Wolf sees how this affected Tristan’s life and urges for some changes, but not how Tristan’s family might think.

Theme Summary:

I think this book is about balance.  Both men center on only one aspect of their lives, excluding all other things.  For Wolf, he focuses on his ghost hunting:

“Like we deal with everything we have so far,” Wolf replied softly.  “We go into every job with a clear mind and a need to search for the truth.  That can’t change.

While we can agree with Wolf’s statement, he ignores the heart, emphasizing solely on logic.  In the meantime, Tristan’s purpose is to carry on uncle Mortimer’s legacy.  This perspective has warped the current and his future.

“Plans are fluid, dear.”  Meegan whooshed by in another dancing sweep.  “Like the universe.  One must learn to bend to its flow.  It’s better for the soul and spirit.  Builds character.”

Both men must learn to move past this narrow focus on their lives and learn to live.

Strong Points:

As always, the strongest point of Ford’s writing are her descriptions.  Ford is an artist with words, painting a picture that is vivid enough for a movie.  There is a scene later on that is so macabre that it reminds me of something out of Stephen King’s The Shinning:

The already dead lay about the fringes of the grand hall, caught in the throes of either their previous demise or the one newly created by their murderer.  To the left of them a rotund man wobbled on his bloated stomach, his torso stripped of a shirt.  Something was trying to work its way out of his body, stretching the man’s mottled skin along his ribs and distorting the man’s already deformed body.  His face was slack, and his tongue lolled back and forth as his body rocked from its parasite’s efforts to break free.

“Shittiest version of a black cat clock I’ve ever seen,”  Wolf joked to ease the tension he saw building up in Tristan’s slender body.

In the past series, Ford’s focus was on suspense.  One of her hallmarks is an explosive beginning like a Bourne movie intro.  This book is no different, but while there is mystery and suspense, Ford captured the creepy horror aspect perfectly!  I actually kept interrupting my husband while he watched TV to read quotes from the book.  This hardly ever happens when I read any of my romance books.

The other aspect I love about her writing? The humor.

Glass cherries dangled from her lobes, a row of four in each ear, and they chimed when she moved her head.  While they matched the printed cherries on her button-up shirt, Wolf thought it looked like she’d lost a fight with a fruit salad.

What could be better?

In all honesty, there is very little that I would change about this book.  This section is where I determine if a book is a 4 star or 5.  In this case, it screams 5 stars.  In Ford’s other series, culture is a focus, especially Asian cultures, and while this gives the novels depth and uniqueness, it began to feel repetitive.  With this novel, however Ford takes that skill as educator and we learn a lot of ghost hunting!  I am actually interested in knowing if any of the technology descriptions are accurate in how modern ghost hunters operate.

Conclusions:

There were too many quotes that I marked for this review, which is a fantastic sign!  This is probably my favorite book of Rhys Ford.  I have always loved her suspense, but I found not just action, not just sexy love scenes, but a novel of substance.  This book allowed me see that Ford has more variety in writing style, and this novel demonstrates her growth.  I think that if you liked her other novels, then you will like this no less.  So, if you are a fan, get ready to love this book, and if you are new to the author you will certainly love the story.

Bea

Review: The Druid Stone — by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane

 

 

Other Reviewers: Goodreads

Intro:

I ran across this novel when a friend on Goodreads gave it a 5-Star review.  This is a first time read of this author (although really two authors), Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane.  From what I can tell, this is their first book and was recently published this month.  The Druid Stone is hard to actually set a genre, a little horror, a pinch of suspense, and a cup of history.  What amazes me and speaks to the high quality of writing is how seamlessly the authors 1) work together and 2) write a united tight story.

Based on Ms. Belleau’s blog, she has a degree in History and Irish studies, so we can certainly see where the strength of history comes through in The Druid Stone.  Her love of gory stories and urban fantasy account for the aspects of horror we find in the novel.  A quick tour of Violetta Vane’s Goodread’s page gives us insight that she studies philosophy and medieval Spanish literature, which again we can see facets in The Druid Stone.

What does this mean?  Two heads are better than one!

 

Basic Plot:

We begin by seeing that Sean O’Hara is in psychological trouble: he can’t stop dreaming about a young man’s violent and horrific murder.  Drugs, psychoanalysis, support of his aunt; nothing is helping, his psychosis is only getting worse.  He needs help and quickly before he goes mad.  He hears of this druid, Cormac Kelly, who can possibly help.  But when Sean gets to Ireland, Cormac refuses to help him, thinking that Sean is just one of those new age freaks.  But with Cormac’s refusal, of course Sean gets in trouble and the adventure ensues.

 

Background:

Recently I have been reading almost exclusively male/male romances (since March), the few male/female romances I have read have often been a struggle to finish.  I am not certain if it is my preferences that have changed or if it is just the selection process.  As I have said before about erotica, male/male seems to suffer from the same abundance of more porn than plot problem.  So when I find a book that actually has character development and hot sex, it is always a winner for me. .

 

Sean O’Hara:

Sean is someone who life has shat upon, but somehow he still has a positive attitude and a willingness to help others.  He is half Cuban and half Irish (of Boston), never fully fitting into either side.  In fact, the Irish side mostly has disowned him, his father assholian.  He has traveled and backpacked around the world, fitting in everywhere, but never finding his place.  Yet we see a poignant scene with Cormac’s family at a Druid holiday May Day fire festival (Beltane):

But now that he was here, he was happy.  It wasn’t an uncomplicated kind of happy, but still.  Something about the warm atmosphere, the way Cormac’s family teased him the same as they teased each other, fussed over him and brought him drinks, included him seamlessly in their conversation, just…recognized him.

This is something that recurs throughout the book and is tied to the theme.  He finds with this Druid family a place where he finally feels comfortable with himself and feels accepted as who he is.  I also loved the way Cormac describes Sean:

For Cormac, every touch was shadowed by regret and anger and desperation, although he tried not to show it.  Sean was being so clear, so brave.  Doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do, like he always did and always would do.  Cormac could learn a lot from him.

Sean’s life is a history of violence, abuse, and drugs.  A story that I will not go into to ruin any plot, but the fact that Cormac can describe Sean in this manner demonstrates Sean’s strength of character.

 

Cormac Kelly:

Cormac is the Druid and our Alpha male character of the book.  He is dark and complicated; his former lover Michael was killed ten years before and he is still haunted by his death.  He has not been in a serious relationship since, partly devoting his life to his work as a Druid.  He has the calling, but there still seems to be something lacking, still torn by his past.  We see his conflict in this quote as he reflects on Sean:

Cormac wanted that, that understated sense of self that Sean occupied against all odds.  Cormac was a lot of things, took on the mantles of many labels, assumed the responsibilities and expectations of a lot of roles and perceptions all pieced together like a cubist portrait, but it had been a long time since he’d been able to just trust that under all that, there was something essential, too.  Something he could hold onto, rely on.

He is alone in a crowd, surrounded by family, yet not letting anyone truly inside his heart.

Theme Summary:

To me, the theme is about belonging and finding happiness with yourself, your life and each other.  A portion of this theme can be seen from a Spanish quote:

‘A sincere man am I / From the Land where palm trees grow’, and then ‘I’m a traveler to all parts, / And a newcomer to none.’”

Remember my quote for Sean about the family?  Sean has traveled the world, and while he might be able to blend into the environment, he never felt like he belonged.  This is juxtaposed to the quote above, which to me means that we should not be bound by one place or one aspect of ourselves.  All of three of the main characters are so focused on certain aspects of their lives that they don’t see that they can belong anywhere, as long they are with someone special.

What is extraordinary is that we can all relate to this fear.  How many of us have feared rejection either by strangers or our friends and family?  Have you found that special person who you can just be with each other and feel at peace?

Strong Points:

The writing.  The story was fascinating and intense, the authors able to mix what could have been boring historical facts into exhilarating action.  There were compelling reasons for our two heroes not to get together immediately, yet I did not feel the romance was drawn out.

What could be better?

There were times when there was too much description.  But, I would rather have too much story than not enough.  It did not deter from my enjoyment.

Conclusions:

Overall, this was a wonderful book!  It satisfied a taste I had for both male/male romance as well as historical/fantasy storylines.  The writing was excellent and the character development and theme well defined and explored.

Well worth the read!

 

Bea