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Showing posts by: Meghan Harker click to see Meghan Harker's profile
Wed
Jan 25 2017 1:00pm

Review: Delusion in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Meghan Harker reviews #35, Delusion in Death.

There's no better way to unwind from a long day at the office than to kick back at a bar with a few coworkers or friends. It’s a usual routine: down a few drinks, grab a handful of nachos, flirt your way through a blind date, and, without warning, spend a brutal twelve minutes beating each other to death. That's the scene Lieutenant Eve Dallas finds one evening—an overwhelming eighty bodies floating in the bloodbath. What she can't dredge up is a suspect, motive, or means. 

When three survivors turn up in stable enough condition to speak to her, they claim their evening started out normal but ended with demons, giant swarms of bees, and other impossible things. The only claim they have in common is a sudden headache. 

[Read Meghan Harker's review of Delusion in Death...]

Wed
Jan 18 2017 1:00pm

Review: Fantasy in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Meghan Harker reviews #30, Fantasy in Death.

Sometimes, escapism is all we’ve got. Departure from reality—immersing yourself in another world, in another self—can be a coping mechanism for dealing with the scary things in reality. It’s a chance to regroup. Sometimes, it’s exploring a different side of yourself. For Bart Minnock, turning his love of gaming into a ground-breaking, multi-million dollar business is a dream come true. But his fantasy derails when he’s found dead, locked in his holo-room, decapitated, and with no sign of foul play.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas has her work cut out for her. No one appears to have any problems with the victim, but people don’t lose their heads over nothing, and Eve’s convinced the whole setup is more than just a game.

[Read Meghan Harker's review of Fantasy in Death...]

Thu
Dec 29 2016 1:00pm

Review: Portrait in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Meghan Harker reviews #16, Portrait in Death.

Though I’m getting better at reading outside my usual genres, I typically stick to historical settings, fantasy, or horror when looking for a new fiction book to devour. Portrait in Death—the 16th book in J.D. Robb’s In Death series—dragged me out of that comfort zone and unexpectedly flung me into the future. 

A letter and a portrait arrive on the desk of a reporter at Channel 75, and the first hint at a possible homicide has Lieutenant Eve Dallas itching. When Rachel Howard is found discarded in a dumpster, she realizes she's got her work cut out for her. A series of letters and portraits—and ultimately corpses—sets her on the trail of an artist, a perfectionist, and a serial killer obsessed with capturing the light of his victims with his lens.

Before I began reading, I had no idea this series was set in the year 2058, and therefore had a considerable learning curve regarding the jargon and futuristic things. I got the hang of it pretty quick; one of the things I appreciate about the series is the ability to come in halfway through and feel like you haven’t missed a thing. I’m can’t say if that rings true for all the books in this series, but it did for Portrait in Death

[Read Meghan Harker's review of Portrait in Death...]

Thu
Nov 17 2016 2:00pm

American Horror Story: Roanoke—Season Finale, “Chapter 10”

We’re at the finale of American Horror Story’s 6th incarnation, Roanoke. I know when last we spoke, I was giving this season the benefit of the doubt. It’s not that I haven’t cared for previous seasons of the show, but it was starting to feel ... run of the mill. Showrunner Ryan Murphy’s tendency to do as much as (in)humanly possible was getting me down, and as I mentioned at the conclusion of last season, I wasn’t sure if I’d be continuing my viewership.

I would like to take a moment and declare that Roanoke, by far, is my favorite season of the six we’ve seen. I didn't know what to expect when the Miller’s story ran out—whether they were going to emulate the documentary shows by presenting a second story or by mixing it up—but a meta, tongue-in-cheek paranormal experience melodrama was not on my docket. 

[Who saw that coming?]

Mon
Oct 31 2016 12:30pm

Review: The Supernaturals by David L. Golemon

The Supernaturals by David L. Golemon is a paranormal horror story that was named one of Riffle's top 10 best haunted house books of all time!

The Halloween season is the perfect time for tales of haunted houses, forlorn ghosts, and demonic possession. All these things are pretty great any time of year, but the approaching winter and longer periods of darkness add to the atmosphere of the generally haunted.

David L. Golemon’s The Supernaturals takes a different spin on your run-of-the-mill haunted houses, taking inspiration from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, one of the most quintessential ghost stories in the genre. Instead of having a group of teenagers explore a spooky mansion, Golemon’s story revolves around a television program’s exploration of the bizarre and deadly phenomena around Summer Place.

[Read Meghan Harker's review of The Supernaturals...]

Tue
Oct 18 2016 2:00pm

Review: A Terrible Beauty by Tasha Alexander

A Terrible Beauty (Lady Emily Series #11) by Tasha AlexanderA Terrible Beauty by Tasha Alexander is the 11th Lady Emily Mystery, where Lady Emily travels to Greece where a ghost from her past returns to haunt her amid the ruins.

One of the things I love about historical fiction is seeing the world through the lens of the past, along with the thrill of discovery. Tasha Alexander’s A Terrible Beauty takes the reader on a journey to Greece and offers them a tale of ancient myth and present-day mystery.

Hoping to cheer up her lovelorn friend, Lady Emily designs a trip to Greece and a relaxing stay at her home on Santorini. Along with her husband and another friend, the quartet set out for peace, quiet, and restoration. Upon arriving, however, Lady Emily discovers a dead man in one of her guest rooms and another standing before her. Philip Ashton, Emily’s first husband, died in Africa a decade earlier but currently stands in her foyer.

He offers a tale of attempted murder, mistaken identity, and a rare historical find: a piece of bronze, allegedly part of the helmet of the great warrior Achilles. Reeling from the revelation that Philip indeed appears alive, Emily finds herself thrown into the hunt for the now missing Achilles bronze, dealing with assassins, and her failed attempts at a relaxing getaway.

I find Emily somewhat a kindred spirit: marrying a man she barely knows to get out of her mother’s house, the small joy of having him run off to leave her to her own devices, her fantastic and well-honed sarcasm:

My mother insists—rather emphatically, if not quite hysterically—that respectable wives should have the decency to faint when about to be confronted by a spouse long thought to be dead. It should surprise no one of my acquaintance to learn I failed her on that account. My knees did not so much as sway at Mrs. Katevatis’s news. While I would like to credit my strong constitution, my dislike of affectation, and the generally imperturbable quality of my character, it would be somewhat dishonest to do so. This is not, as Colin suggests, a result of my having an incorrect grasp of the definition of imperturbable, a term he insists suits him far better than me. 

Rather, it was due to having been barraged with thoughts of Philip even before we left England.

After receiving the mysterious envelope addressed to The Viscountess Ashton, finding Philip’s journal on my desk, hearing his name spoken aloud in the London Zoo, and twice having thought I saw him since leaving Britain, I was all but primed for his appearance.

“Yes, Nico. He arrived last night with a friend. There had been an accident of some sort—”

And then, as if he had never been gone all these years, a figure stepped into the doorway, interrupting her. “I imagine it would be best if I took things from here, Mrs. Katevatis, ευχαριστώ … Thank you.”

My feet felt as if they had been encased in lead while some evil force drained all the blood from my body. He stood not quite so tall as I remembered, but I recognized his sandy hair. There had been a time when I could not recall whether his eyes were blue or gray, and I had asked Colin to remind me, but now, seeing their pale cornflower again, they were instantly familiar. His nose was not quite as I recalled, but those eyes were unmistakable. My jaw went slack, and I felt myself start to sway. I have always prided myself on not fainting, but if ever an occasion called for it, it was this. However, I did not succumb and was already steadying myself when Colin reached out to assist me just as Philip—but it could not be Philip!—stepped forward, his arms stretched before him.

“Er—I—perhaps—” Colin stumbled over the words. I could not remember when I had last heard my husband reduced to incoherent inanities.

“Quite,” the man replied with a grin. “I could not have said it better myself.”

“I require no assistance,” I said, backing away from both of them. “I merely—”

“Whisky,” Margaret said. “At once.” She put a firm arm around my shoulder and pushed me into the house.”

Not to say that I’ve married anyone for the sake of getting away from my mother, but I’d be lying if it weren’t a tempting thought. And I certainly appreciate Margaret. She knows how to deal with the inexplicable. 

The story is sprinkled with fine moments of sass, and Emily has a large measure of autonomy and agency, which I appreciate. I do wish there had been more regarding Emily’s investigations into Philip’s death. To be honest, if I married a man I barely knew and he ran off to another continent where he unfortunately perished, I’m not sure I’d suddenly deem his death suspicious. There’s also no given reason for the conclusions Emily finds, so it feels more like a dropped plot line than something substantial to the story. 

Emily also has a tendency to slip into textbook style descriptions and historical background, which rocked me out of the narrative. However, if you’re a fan of Greek mythology and history, this should be right up your alley. My only other criticism is that the prologue doesn’t seem to fit. The Emily we meet first is not the Emily who drives the story, which is set a decade later. Given the hint about her investigating her first husband’s death, I thought that was the story I’d be told. 

A Terrible Beauty does have it’s merits: the voice is good, the use of Greek mythology is interesting, and the basis for the narrative is derived from a true account of mistaken and assumed identities. If you’re looking for a nice fall read with a dash of romance, along with mystery and a taste for Greece, give this one a shot. 

Take a visual tour of A Terrible Beauty with GIFnotes!

 

To learn more or order a copy, visit:

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Meghan Harker grew up in a small, awkwardly-named town in Georgia. She attended Brenau University, where she earned her BA in English and a minor in Graphic Design; she also attended the University of Cambridge, England, where she didn't quite master the perfect Oxbridge accent. She's an avid reader, writer, and fire spinner. She's currently working her first novel, a paranormal thriller. Visit her blog at ExquisitelyOdd.com.

Mon
Oct 17 2016 2:00pm

Review: A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

A Study in Scarlet Women is the 1st book in the new Lady Sherlock series, where USA Today bestselling author Sherry Thomas turns the story of the renowned Sherlock Holmes upside down (Available October 18, 2016).

I suppose I should admit my experience with England’s most infamous detective is limited to the BBC’s cinematic and frustratingly short-seasoned drama, Sherlock, and childhood memories of half-hour reenactments featuring a Jack Russell Terrier in a deerstalker and trench coat. Though I’ve never actually read a Sherlock Holmes novel, I’d heard nothing but glowing praise for Sherry Thomas’s A Study in Scarlet Women. Recasting the intolerably clever detective as a woman seemed a perfect way to change the game, especially one the picture of ideal femininity.

[Read Meghan Harker's review of A Study in Scarlet Women...]

Fri
Sep 16 2016 11:00am

American Horror Story: Roanoke—Season Premiere, “Chapter 1”

“When a mob shows up in the middle of the night with torches, there are not there to welcome you to the neighborhood.”

When American Horror Story announced it’s 6th season, I rolled my eyes. I’ve steadily lost my love for the series after being inundated with too many poorly handled plot lines, inconsistencies, and loose ends. Then, when Season 6 announced its “mystery theme,” I was convinced it had to be true because show writer Ryan Murphy already threw everything, the kitchen sink, and aliens at us, and not even he knew what Season 6 would be about. Turns out the rumors of this season being titled American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare, were true.

And color me surprised when the pilot aired and it was framed like a documentary. Fact: I am a sucker for those horribly produced, cheesy as hell “I Shouldn’t Have Survived” and “My Ghost Story” programs. I can’t help myself. This season, the cast even goes as far as to have the “real people” doing talking heads (where they are speaking directly to the camera) while a different person does the “actor portrayal.” It’s funny, refreshing, and such a welcome departure from the usual mode. 

[What did you think of the premiere of Season 6?]

Sat
Sep 10 2016 11:00am

Review: Whispers Beyond the Veil by Jessica Estevao

Whispers Beyond the Veil by Jessica Estevao is the 1st in a dazzling new historical mystery series featuring Ruby Proulx, a psychic with a questionable past who suddenly finds her future most uncertain.

When you mention Spiritualism, medicine shows, and con-artists in the same sentence, you’re either talking about my weekend or tempting me to read your book. When I heard about Jessica Estevao’s Whispers Beyond the Veil, I knew it was right in my wheelhouse of Victoriana and spooky things. 

Ruby Proulx grew up in a medicine show, hawking fake elixirs for everything from gout to hair loss and reading tarot cards for a bit of extra cash. Though Ruby knows it’s all smoke, mirrors, and body language, occasionally she hears a voice that seems to offer guidance, either for her or her sitter. She usually heeds its words, but the one day she elects to ignore the voice, it brings disastrous consequences.

[Read Meghan Harker's review of Whispers Beyond the Veil...]

Fri
Aug 5 2016 2:00pm

Review: Eterna and Omega by Leanna Renee Hieber

Eterna and Omega by Leanna Renee Hieber is the 2nd book in the Eterna Files gaslamp fantasy series (Available August 9, 2016).

I have been waiting incredibly (im)patiently for Leanna Renee Hieber’s second installation of her Eterna Files Saga, Eterna and Omega. Part Victorian Ghostbusters, part gaslamp fantasy—the second I had the opportunity to sink my teeth into an advanced copy, I devoured it.

I’ve long been a fan of Hieber’s work, and Eterna and Omega is no exception. It even accompanied me to the gym, and though I was not bustlin’, if could have walked on that treadmill in full regalia, I would have. 

Eterna and Omega picks up where The Eterna Files left off, with our heroine Clara Templeton in dire straights. After burying crucial material regarding the key to immortality, Clara’s sensitivity to spiritual energy goes into overdrive, forcing a seizure. With the impending threat of The Master’s Society against America and England and the Eterna Commission at odds with England’s Omega Department, Clara’s decision to hide their scientists’ research could be disastrous.

[Read Meghan Harker's review of Eterna and Omega...]

Tue
Jul 12 2016 1:30pm

Review: Arsenic with Austen by Katherine Bolger Hyde

Arsenic with Austen by Katherine Bolger Hyde is the 1st book in the new Crime with the Classics series.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a reader in want of a mystery usually doesn’t reach for Jane Austen. In fact, I have a rather tremulous relationship with Austen’s works, but when I saw Katherine Bolger Hyde’s debut, Arsenic with Austen, I felt this might be another way to move past my lingering high school disinterest in Pride and Prejudice.

Emily Cavanaugh is a recently-widowed literature professor at Reed College in Portland. While the end of the semester is usually a time of relief, Emily feels a restlessness stir in her bones. The unexpected death of her Aunt Beatrice sends her off to Stony Beach, a place she’d visited often in her childhood. A web of memories entangles her, from her time spent with her aunt, whose love of classic literature Emily inherited, to the snuffed flame of a former romance. Emily’s wish for a different fate is granted when she discovers she’s not only heir to her aunt’s precious library, but the entire estate, a sizable portion of the town, and a six million dollar fortune.

[Read Meghan Harker's review of Arsenic with Austen...]

Thu
Jan 14 2016 1:00pm

American Horror Story: Hotel—Finale

You know how there’s that “Viewer Discretion” warning at the opening of every episode of American Horror Story? Wanna know what’s full of “strong language and violence?”

It’s me.

I’ve reached the point where the promised finale isn’t so much a thrill ride, but an adventure in the myriad of ways I experience disappointment. Let’s have a brief recap, shall we?

  • The Hotel Cortez: Ghost-a-palooza and Children of the Corn convention site.
  • The 10 Commandments Killer: the one plot line I wanted to be good, which naturally wasn’t. That one got its own article.
  • Vampires: Why have one undead when you can have more?

Alternate subtitles include Lifestyles of the Rich, Bloodthirsty, and Unfortunately Broke.

[I hear that's being picked up by MTV for the spring...]

Wed
Dec 9 2015 2:00pm

American Horror Story: Hotel: The 10 Commandments Killer

Oh, American Horror Story: Hotel, I had such high hopes for you. You were off to a decent start, but this last episode just mashed my tiny, lingering belief into the dirt. My disappointment is vast.

I’m going to assume at this point, if you’re reading this article, you’ve caught up on the series. Just in case you haven’t, I’m going to be talking about the 10 Commandments Killer, from plot line to reveal. If you still want to be surprised, or think you can be surprised at this point, you may want to come back.

[Spoilers ahead...]

Tue
Nov 10 2015 12:30pm

A Farewell to Harm: Saying Goodbye to Hemlock Grove

When Netflix announced that the third season of Hemlock Grove would be its last, I was hardly surprised. Since its debut in 2013, Hemlock Grove has been an extremely polarizing show: you either absolutely love it, or your think it’s the worst thing on television in the history of television. Considering I started my Criminal Element career talking about this show, I guess I’m firmly on the “love”side of the fence. Is it a perfect show? Absolutely not. The plot meanders, loose threads abound, the acting is questionable, but what I like about it is how weird it is. Having finished Season 3, this writeup’s a little bittersweet for me.

Fans were wondering when, exactly, we were getting season three. Seasons 1 and 2 both premiered in July, but this July came and went without so much as a whisper. Rumors floated around that the show had been cancelled, that it would air in 2016, and then, a miracle: a teaser promising us there would be no happy endings.

There aren’t. Trust me.

Season 3 opens with our boy Peter (Landon Liboiron) running a grift with Andreas (Luke Camilleri)  and a new crowd of Romani, Olivia (Famke Janssen) talking way to much, and Roman (Bill Skarsgard) trying to figure out where his daughter is while fighting for custody of Shelley (Madeleine Martin). That’s about as positive and happy as this season gets.

[It's all downhill from there...]

Thu
Oct 8 2015 10:00am

American Horror Story: Hotel Season Premiere: 5.01 “Checking In”

Ah, October already! Fall is in the air: the leaves are changing, pumpkin spice is taking over the world, and bodies are being stuffed under beds. American Horror Story is once again painting Halloween season bloody. Ah, spooky children in the hall, maids vacuuming blood off the mattresses; everything is perfect and we’re ready to check in to the Hotel Cortez.

The opening credits are amazing. It’s got a strong theme of entrapment, likely taken from theories of the theme revolving around HH Holmes' Murder Hotel (known as The Castle) and the mysterious death of Elisa Lam at the Hotel Cecil. Between names are flashes of the 10 Commandments, hinting at a possible religious theme. I love the juxtaposition of the Commandments and the general Rules of Horror. They flash across the screen so quickly, they’re nearly impossible to see.

Kathy Bates is back as Iris, the hotel clerk. She’s snide as hell and I love it. The two Swedish girls, Vandela (Helena Mattsson) and Agnetha (Kamilla Alnes), find a body in the mattress (living, mind you) and in response, Iris doesn’t bat an eye. Instead, she gives them the mysterious Room 64, which is apparently never rented out because it’s haunted by vampire children. The Hotel Cortez is very much like The Overlook. Maze-like, disorienting, haunted; the camera work does a wonderful job of highlighting and exaggerating the unease air of the place.

[You can check in, but you can never leave...]

Fri
Jun 19 2015 9:30am

Fresh Meat: What Doesn’t Kill Her by Carla Norton

What Doesn't Kill Her by Carla Norton is the 2nd psychological thriller featuring U.C. Berkley student Reeve LeClaire, who is yanked back into her grim past when her old abductor escapes from a psychiatric hospital (available June 30, 2015).

All you have to say is “mental hospital,”and you have my undivided attention. When I picked up Carla Norton’s What Doesnt Kill Her, I expected a crime thriller about a young woman who learns her kidnapper is free and roaming the streets, ready to come after her or find a new victim. I might be a bit of an abnormal psychology junkie, so my eagerness to see how Norton played out the antagonist’s mental illness was one of the main factors in choosing this book.

What Doesnt Kill Her opens with a flashback of Reeve (then Reggie) stealing away for a dip in the lake before her sister’s recital. She returns to the woods to find the tire on her bike flat. A man offers her a lift; Reggie declines. We already know this doesn’t end well. The man suggests he drive the bike in his van while she walks. After all, she’s going uphill and wouldn’t it be much faster? She accepts, and “as she was shifting her grip, he hit her with a jolt like a snakebite that spun the sky red.”

From there, we move to Olshaker Psychiatric Hospital, and into the head of Reeve’s captor, Daryl Wayne Flint. I was a little surprised by the transition, but it was a nice switch from the standard crime procedural. Turns out Reeve’s rescue was a result of a car wreck that left Flint with brain damage, causing him to develop obsessive compulsive disorder. Don’t underestimate him, though; for Flint, there’s a method to his madness.

[Underestimating him could be the last thing you ever do...]

Thu
Jan 22 2015 11:30am

American Horror Story: Freak Show 4.13: Season Finale “Curtain Call”

“Audiences want a new type of freak. Something different,” Dandy proclaimed. The season finale of Freak Show was not exactly different from its sister incarnations, but we did get some nice (and by nice, I really mean absolutely horrific) moments during “Curtain Call.”

Dandy (Finn Wittrock) is as much a whining brat managing a freak show as he was attempting to be a serial killer. Man, does Dandy go through hobbies or what? He just can’t make up his mind! The freaks are having none of it. With Elsa (Jessica Lange) out of the picture, they’re through being used as pawns. Paul (Matt Fraser) remains my favorite, my darling voice of reason:

“I’ve heard you sing and you’re not special: you’re rubbish. Even worse, you’re boring. You’ll never be one of us, and you don’t own us.”

Eve (Erika Ervin) punching Dandy in the face was also a nice touch, but in typical American Horror Story fashion, nothing is that easy and nothing is ever okay.

The Freaks quit.

[Good bye! It was nice knowing ya...]

Thu
Jan 15 2015 2:30pm

American Horror Story: Freak Show 4.12: “Show Stoppers”

“Show Stoppers” is the perfect name for this second-to-last episode of American Horror Story: Freak Show. I think my wish from last week was granted. If you haven't caught up with the season so far, please do. There will be spoilers and theories in this recap, so if you want surprises, get thee to a television set, then come back here and share your own wagers for how Freak Show will come to an end. There's certainly a lot to take in, and I'm glad they kept this episode inside the tents. No forays into town, no popping by Mott Manor.

We find our freaks celebrating new management! Elsa (Jessica Lange) sold the freak show to Chester (Neil Patrick Harris) at the end of last week's episode. I guess by default, she sold it to Marjorie (Jamie Brewer) as well. Have I mentioned how creepy Marjorie is? Given what we know— well, I'll get to that in a minute. Elsa dismisses Chester to spend a few last moments with her original freaks and Stanley (Dennis O'Hare) the freakiest of them all.

[A title not to be taken lightly...]

Thu
Jan 8 2015 2:30pm

American Horror Story: Freak Show 4.11: “Magical Thinking”

It’s time to start placing your bet, fellow freaks. With only two episodes left, it’s high time we started pegging who’ll live to see the season finale, and what offer our guesses as to the fifth incarnation of American Horror Story.

We’re jumping right back in with Jimmy (Evan Peters) and Stanley (Dennis O’Hare) debating whether or not a lawyer’s retainer is with an arm and a leg. Or, more accurately, two lobster hands. I’ve no idea why people continue to trust Stanley. He’s the most obviously creepy person the freaks have encountered. But Jimmy is in a desperate situation and being accused of murder tends to mess with you a bit.

Look on the bright side, Jimmy! At least Stanley didn’t want your head.

[That's got to count for something...]

Thu
Dec 18 2014 5:00pm

American Horror Story: Freak Show 4.10: “Orphans”

 Jimmy (Evan Peters) has been jailed for murdering several housewives in the winter finale of American Horror Story: Freak Show Season 4 Episode 10

Dear American Horror Story,

I know I praised you several weeks ago for not rushing into hanging plot lines, throwing in everything including the kitchen sink (and aliens), and really devoting yourselves to character development. All of that was super great.

But if we could please get to the plot line, that would be awesome.

For three weeks, I’ve been waiting for something to happen, and I have to say, this last episode did nothing for me. I appreciate Pepper (Naomi Grossman), the first character to exist in two incarnations of American Horror Story, finally getting some attention and backstory, but it feels too much, too late. I love how her story connects between seasons, but I don’t think an entire episode needed to be devoted to it. It felt like everything else related to the central plot has been put off on the back burner or given two minutes of screen time before moving on to lengthy examinations on singular characters.

[Pumping the brakes was fine. You didn't have to slam them!]