Book Review

Deep and Dark and Dangerous – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 / 5 stars)

Ali has always considered her mom strict. So when her aunt Dulcie asks her to come to the cottage in Maine over the summer to watch her cousin Emma, Ali does not want to pass up the opportunity! But, as she arrives in the old lakefront cottage her mother and aunt spent time in as a child, mysteries begin to unfold. Why is Dulcie acting so standoffish? And who is this stuck up girl named Sissy who seemingly appeared out of nowhere? Does it have to do with the odd photograph Ali found a couple months earlier? Or is she just being ridiculous?

In a ghost story for the modern age, readers of all ages will be drawn into Ali’s suspenseful story as she uncovers the deep, dark, and dangerous secrets of the lake where her mother and aunt grew up. Ali and the reader discover how much action have consequences, even when they’re an accident, and can haunt the perpetrator for years afterwards. This message, coupled with the suspense and spooky nature of any ghost story, makes it valuable for readers of any ages.

Author Mary Downing Hahn does an amazing job not only in creating this suspenseful element, but also in the realistic nature of conflict between relatives. Ali’s frustration and sadness mirrors her mother’s, while Dulcie is the standard adult frustrated by the children’s antics. Emma is portrayed an unreasonable 4-year-old, which is exactly how any 4-year-old would behave! A child just wants to impress their new friend, and when told that they aren’t allowed to do so, then OF COURSE they’re going to rebel. And then there is Sissy, a bitter girl with a dark past, who even the reader grows sympathetic to, despite her antics. All of this is done with such care, that even if you don’t like ghost stories, you’ll be amazed by the details of this relationship…especially in a middle-grade novel.

While I was easily able to guess Sissy’s secrets, it did not hinder my enjoyment of the story. The story is about seeing Ali and Emma reach those same conclusions, and mending fractured relationships. Sure, there are some parts that force reality a little bit: would the paper and cops really believe that the girls saw a ghost? There is some dated terminology in the book though, which may not be politically correct, but if parents and readers identify it and discuss it, then I personally don’t think it becomes much of an issue. Remember: ghosts are from the past, and since they are from the past, they might say things we don’t say now.

Either way, although the lake is deep and dark and dangerous, this book has light in it. The story is more than spooky; it’s more than ghosts. It’s about family. And for that, I think people should read it.

What’s it about?

Just before summer begins, 13-year-old Ali finds an odd photograph in the attic. She knows the two children in it are her mother, Claire, and her aunt Dulcie. But who’s the third person, the one who’s been torn out of the picture?

Ali figures she’ll find out while she’s vacationing in Maine with Dulcie and her four-year-old daughter, Emma, in the house where Ali’s mother’s family used to spend summers. All hopes for relaxation are quashed shortly after their arrival, though, when the girls meet Sissy, a kid who’s mean and spiteful and a bad influence on Emma.

Strangest of all, Sissy keeps talking about a girl named Teresa who drowned under mysterious circumstances back when Claire and Dulcie were kids, and whose body was never found. At first Ali thinks Sissy’s just trying to scare her with a ghost story, but soon she discovers the real reason why Sissy is so angry. . . . Mary Downing Hahn is at her chilling best in this new supernatural tale that’s certain to send shivers down her readers’ spines.

Book Review

Crimson Lilies – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 / 5 stars)

Daniel Cavanough and the mysterious Rose have been on the run since the last King fell, but now Chicago is in turmoil. Forced to return to the scenes of the crime, Daniel is forced to decide his role amongst the Minds. Will he remain the dog? Or will he sacrifice himself to free the city?

In a fast paced, entertaining conclusion to the Crimson Minds Trilogy, Patrick Kaiser takes us back to Chicago where Daniel Cavanough takes on the Kings in a final battle of the minds. As always, Kaiser paints a picture in verse, helping the reader understand Daniel’s anxiety and indecision of what is right and wrong.

While Crimson Lilies is the shortest of book of the series, it probably packs the most punch. At this point we know about the minds, about Rose, about Daniel’s role as the dog, and in the method of verse, we see all these altercations come to a head. The beauty of verse is that it really paints these battles scenes, especially among psychics. You can feel the pace in the rhythm that mirrors Daniel’s anxiety, fear, and confusion with each fight.

And the final moments of each battle echo in the stanzas.

My critique of the story, just like my reviews of the first two books, lies mostly in the limitation of verse. We don’t get to see everything, or some development isn’t there, forcing the reader to leave much to the imagination. Is this the fault of the author? Absolutely not. But any one who picks up this book should be aware that the story is written in verse and thus requires some inference.

Patrick Kaiser is a phenomenal poet and storyteller. I cannot wait to read his newest verse thriller, Frost, in the near future. If you want to check out verse thrillers, definitely check out his work.

What’s it about?

The Crimson King is dead.

The city is in shambles. And Daniel Cavanough finds himself on the run from friends and foe alike. Once again, the title of King is coveted as a new, even more sinister ruler claims the throne. With a plan unlike any before it, the Dog must come to grips with previous decisions and the system he has served for nearly eight years. It’s time to free the city of tyranny once and for all. Lives will certainly be lost, but the choice must be made.

Tonight, there will be graves, adorned with crimson lilies.

Book Review

Crimson Crown – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.75 / 5 stars)

Welcome back to Chicago’s Psychic Scene: now, instead of three waring gangs, a new King has risen from the ashes, causing a wake of disarray in his path. Daniel Cavanough is back again trying to set things right, all while trying to uncover the truth about the mysterious “Rose”. Can Daniel stop the disarray? Or will he be forced to make choices he cannot begin to fathom?

Once again Patrick D. Kaiser shows us his ability to strike a narrative in verse. We’re brought back to Daniel Cavanough’s world in well written poetry that exuberates both emotion and storytelling. We’re brought back into the world of the “minds” – psychics that have insurmountable power – and understand the role of the Black Dog amid Kings and others in charge. A story in verse seems perfect for a story about psychics; everything is very internal, even the battles, that trying to describe it in typical prose might be difficult.

Actually, I would like to give props at this point to how well Kaiser wrote the battle scenes. Sometimes, battle scenes can be overwritten, or authors fail in portraying the disarray. But poetry, using beats and rhythms, really shows the pace of a battle. It’s fast; it’s suspenseful; it’s confusing; Kaiser shows all of this in his verse thriller.

Once again, my critiques of verse thrillers are similar to what I wrote in my review of Crimson Minds. We did not get the same amount of character exploration or description in the verse thriller, and that is to be expected. The verse thriller also made it somewhat difficult to recall what happened in the first book in the trilogy. Often in sequels, you get some recap as to what happened in the previous book. Verses make this more difficult, especially when we also don’t get as many defining characteristics regarding the cast’s ensemble. But this by no means is a critique on the author or the book, but more so on the genre as a whole.

Crimson Crown also fell into the fatal “middle book syndrome”. The book was fantastic, but it definitely did not have the same “razzle-dazzle” as Crimson Minds. Why? It’s clearly building up to a great finale that I cannot wait to pick up! While I anticipated the twist regarding Rose’s identity (which was due to Kaiser’s own wonderful storytelling ability to leave clues along the way), I am anxious to see if Daniel can finally bring peace as the Black Dog!

I’ll be picking up the final book in the trilogy very soon, but until then, if you want to check out a fun verse thriller…check out the Crimson Mind Trilogy! It’s definitely worth it!

What’s it about?

The war for the city is heating up, the vacancy left by the three Kings burning it from within. Rose plots from the shadows as The Black Dog is no closer to finding the answers needed to achieve equilibrium. Everyone toils away, while a certain figure has returned and is planning his own vision for the city – A former King, putting the old guard on edge & gunning for The Dog to either join or die.
There’s a reason his crown is crimson.

This book is a thriller told in verse. Action, emotion and suspense – All wrapped in one uniquely written package! It’s a guarantee, you’ve never read a book quite like this!