Book Review – The Murder of Manny Grimes by Angela Kay

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The Murder of Manny Grimes by Angela Kay is much more than a murder mystery. It is a story about love, hope and redemption with a paranormal and Christian slant. When three young boys enter the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department to report a murder at the Columbia County Elementary School, Lieutenant Jim DeLong’s life and those around him will be forever changed. A fifteen-year mystery, the death of Manny Grimes, and a suspected murder/suicide are all tangled together in this thrilling novel.

Manny Grimes had information that linked the murder/suicide and the mystery from fifteen years ago together, and he paid for it with his life. As DeLong, his mentor Russ Calhoun, and the CSI team of Newman and Elliot set out to solve this murder, life becomes complicated for all of them. DeLong is driven by the voice of Manny Grimes to help him and he cannot let him down.He also discovers that his wife and Calhoun had an affair and it drags him down a spiraling dark hole of alcoholism and rage. His personal life is as twisted and mixed-up as the case before him is. The team soon discover that the murder/suicide might have been staged and that one of the victims’ spouses could be involved in the cover-up, but the case is much deeper than that. It involves a murder fifteen years in the past that was also covered-up. Somehow through this tangled mystery, Kay ties all of the ends together in a shocking conclusion.

What I enjoyed most about this novel is that Kay does an excellent job of weaving so many story angles together to form a cohesive, well-written mystery. She also does an excellent job with the personal angles of the story – between DeLong and his wife, the affair his wife had with Calhoun, the interwoven angle of all the families involved in Manny Grimes’ murder and the budding romance between Calhoun and Elliot. These characters are rich, and humanly flawed, making them believable. The police procedural is also well done in this novel.

The only angle of the story that would have normally warded me off is the Christian slant. As a rule, I do not read Christian novels. Not because they are Christian, but because they are normally preachy and not my thing. However, in this novel, it made sense. DeLong’s life was spiraling out of control and a few nuances of scripture gave him the hope and determination to get his life back under control. It was well done in this novel and not at all preachy.

The only flaw I discovered was a minor one – DeLong was checked into a motel when he left his wife Samantha, but in once instance, it became a hotel. With such a minor flaw, there is no way I am allowing it to detract points from my review. This is a solid novel and deserves to be read and praised.

Note: I was given a free copy of this novel for a fair and honest review.

Rating: 5 stars

Genre(s): Mystery, Police Procedural, Christian, Paranormal

To Purchase: Amazon

Book Review – Escape From Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth

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Escape from Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth is a YA fantasy novel. Elizabeth introduces us to Honoria, a fifteen year old who lost her parents in the 911 attacks. Along with her brother Geoffrey and aunt and uncle, they leave New York City and the tragedy behind to settle in the small upstate community of Arnn. Arnn holds many secrets and legends. Witchwood Hollow is one such legend. It is said that anyone who wanders in never returns because of the witch who lives in the woods. Honoria and her new friend Leon set off to uncover the truth of Witchwood Hollow, finding more than just a legend.

This novel is told in three time periods – the 1600s, the 1800s, and 2001 – and weaves together a story  of family histories, lost loved ones and reunions. The story begins in 2001 with Honoria and her family’s arrival in Arnn. Then switches to the 1600s where Lady Elizabeth Clifford, the witch who, accused of murder, stumbles into the woods and makes it her home. It continues in the 1800s with Albertine who travels from England to live with her father in Arnn, but gets lost and trapped in the woods. Other characters are woven throughout and add richness to the tale. The story then switches back and forth between these time periods as it unfolds to reveal a deranged witch, a vengeful curse of sorts and the need to save all of Arnn from the witch’s control.

I really enjoy the plot of this novel. It is original, entertaining and keeps you guessing until the very end to figure out how everything ties together.  All of the characters are well-developed and distinctive. Elizabeth does a great job of keeping all of their personalities separated and original. The settings, especially Witchwood Hollow, are descriptive and well-written.

The only problems I had with the novel are 1) not being able to like the character Honoria at the beginning of the novel. She is snobbish and a bit glib in her interactions with others and reminded me of people I’ve avoided most of my life. However, during the course of the novel, I grew to understand her and like her more, especially after she begins to interact with Leon. And 2) I wasn’t overly impressed with all of the clothing descriptions in the 2001 parts of the book. I do understand why they are there – a city girl comes to the country and there is the need for distinctions to be made between the previous lifestyle and the current one she is living in. These two issues only barely detract from the great story being told.

If you enjoy paranormal stories with witches, then you will definitely find this novel entertaining. It is not your usual witchy story and that makes it a step above other novels with similar themes.

Note: I was given a free copy of this novel for a fair and honest review.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Genre(s): Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult

To Purchase: Amazon

Book Review – Boogerman’s House by Dax Varley

Boogerman’s House by Dax Varley is a ghost story plus. The old farmhouse has a bad reputation and as such, it acts as the main character in this novella, a place of murder and suicide. There are three prior occurrences – a murdered family by the hands of the father and his suicide after, the death/suicide of two sisters, and finally, the suicide of a famous horror writer who hangs himself in the barn. Three teenagers – Will, Ryan, and Teagan – set off to the house to spend the night gathering information for an article they plan to write for their school paper. One of the teens has an alternative agenda. Will they survive the night? Or will Boogerman’s House claim three more lives?

Although this novella can be a quick read, it does not mean that Varley denies the reader of well-developed characters. The house, Will, Ryan, and Teagan all come to life before your eyes with their own distinctive personalities and the ghosts will definitely scare you. The setting, a notorious haunted house, is so well-described that at times it left shivers down my spine. And the plot is well thought-out and followed through until the very last line (which will also leave chills!).

I love the ease of the storytelling in this novella. Varley doesn’t mince words. There are very few suspenseful build-ups. Instead, she mostly ops for the real-life gotchas, which put the readers right there with each of the characters in the moment of their attacks. I also enjoyed how the author, using both the personal and the impersonal, allowed the house to get inside the heads of the characters. If you love a good ghost story, then this is the story for you.

Notes: This novella has been renamed – Nightmare House. I received a copy of the originally titled novella from Goodreads Giveaway in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Rating: 5 stars

Genre(s): Horror/Young Adult/Paranormal

To Purchase: (Under new title) Amazon