Review: ‘You Believers’ by Jane Bradley


You Believers


Author: Jane Bradley

Format: galley (also available in hardcover)

Publisher: Unbridled Books (also on Twitter)

Release Date: 5/03/2011

Length: 416 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley




Publisher’s summary:

You Believers is a powerful, cathartic story of casual evil and of how the worst things can be faced so that we might not only survive, but grow. A young woman goes missing, and her mother uproots her life to find her daughter.

But it is not just the heartbreak or the deep mystery of the hunt for lost loved ones that Bradley so convincingly explores. Rather, with the help of an amazingly dedicated searcher, family and friends somehow learn to move past unspeakable horror and celebrate the tenacity of the human spirit.

Offering a vision that is at once ruthless and utterly compassionate, Bradley renders the search for logic, meaning, redemption and even hope in the domino force that is human nature. Part Southern gothic, part crime, part haunting suspense story, You Believers takes us on an infinitely harrowing journey that rewards the reader with insight into how we might endure horrible events with faith, strength, and grace even while it reveals the ripple effects of random violence.


My thoughts, some spoilers included:

Shelby Waters finds the missing. Sometimes she finds them alive. More often… she doesn’t. And so her job isn’t only about organizing searches, traipsing through fields, forests and marshes or questioning friends, loved ones and potential witnesses to the disappearance of the missing, it’s also about preparing those friends and loved ones for the worst, even if they don’t realize precisely what she’s doing. She tries to incite hope in those whose loved one stepped out the front door one day and just never came home, even as she quietly prepares them for the worst, while using every resource at her disposal to find that person, alive or dead.

Shelby knows loss. She knows tragedy. She was once one of those people who lost someone she loved… her sister Darly. From the start of their search for her sister to the tragic end, she experienced the wide range of emotions that one goes through when looking for a missing loved one: fear, hope, grief, horror, hatred, loss, never-ending sorrow. The loss of her sister prompted her to start REV, or Rescue Effort Volunteers, in order to help people bring their loved ones home, one way or another. She’s seen the worst of people and she’s seen the best. It just seems some days that the worst far outweighs the best and it’s hard to remain optimistic in the face of the horrors that human beings can sometimes inflict upon one another.

Not only do we see the story of the disappearance of 30-year-old Katy unfold from Shelby’s point of view, we also see the thoughts and emotions of Billy, Katy’s fiance as well as those of Livy, her mother, as they hope for the best while fearing the worst. Despite Katy’s step-father and local police playing down the disappearance and making assumptions about where Katy may be, both Billy and Livy know that something bad has happened. Despite Katy’s proclivity to party and run off with other men, those closest to her know that’s not what happened. And as the weeks pass and become months, the hope of finding Katy alive sadly turns into the hope of just finding her, putting her to rest and punishing whoever was responsible for taking her from them.

Lastly, we see the points of view of the men responsible for Katy’s disappearance. We see their thoughts and motivations and their fears. At least, the fears of one of them. The other is fearless. He is evil incarnate and he is scary as hell because he can pretty much pass himself off as a nice, normal kid. But he is far from normal. We don’t see how truly despicable he is until he commits his second crime during the course of the book. The crime that will be his undoing… because his victim escapes.

She tells afterward of a voice that spoke to her in her mind and talked her through her ordeal. A voice that kept her from panicking and essentially gave her the means to not only escape but also to garner enough information from her attacker finger him for another crime… the crime against the missing Katy Connor. She swears afterward that Katy was the one who spoke to her and while she’s sad about the implications of her believe, she’s grateful to have had Katy’s voice and her help. She knows that Katy helped her to survive.

This is a powerful story of loss and grief, and how Katy’s loved ones begin to deal with the pain of her loss and look forward to the future. It’s also a cautionary tale, I think… as it warns of potential evil walking around disguised as someone normal, someone like you, that can change your life and the lives of your loved ones in an instant.

Fave quotes:

‘Katy Connor thought she was safe. She was supposed to be safe at three o’clock in the afternoon in the parking lot of a strip mall on one of the busiest streets in town. She did nothing wrong. She bought a bag of clothes and walked to her truck.’

‘There was still the kindness of strangers out there, even at thirty thousand feet above the world.’ ~Livy Baines

‘Some nights I just want my mind clear of all the awful.’ ~Shelby


Review: ‘The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker’ by Leanna Renee Heiber

The Strangely Beautiful Tale

of Miss Percy Parker

Strangely Beautiful #1

Author: Leanna Renee Heiber

Format: paperback

Publisher: Dorchester Publishing Company, Inc.

Length:  324 pages

Release Date: 10/01/2009

Acquired: borrowed from a friend

Excerpts available here


Publisher’s Summary:

What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy?  Considering how few of Queen Victoria’s Londoners knew of it, the great Romanesque fortress was dreadfully imposing, and little could Percy guess what lay inside.

She had never met the powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadow, the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She knew simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow-white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gifts.

But this arched stone doorway offered a portal to a new life, an education far from the convent—and  an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death…

My thoughts, which include spoilers… thou hast been warned:

As children, Alexi Rychman and five others were possessed by ancient spirits. They didn’t lose any sense of themselves but they were changed. While still themselves, they were also now The Guard and were each given powers and charged with The Grand Work: to “maintain the balance between this world and the one beyond” and to “guard the living from the dead wandering the earth”.

As Alexi explains later in the book, “There is a group charged with maintaining the relative peace of day-to-day mortality, protecting it from the dead by the mix of their own mortal talents and a few… special forces.”

On the night of their possession, the children are given instructions by a goddess who appeared to them from a portal inside the chapel of the Athens Academy school in London. She tells them that they must await a seventh member of their group, Prophecy, who will appear among portents and signs to join them in their fight against Darkness, who wishes to overrun the world of the living. And so the six -Alexi, Rebecca, Michael, Lucy, Elijah and Josephine- tend to the tasks given unto them as they wait for their prophesied seventh. They wait for 21 long years before not one, but two prospects are placed in their path, as the goddess foretold when she warned them to take care in their choice.

First comes Miss Percy Parker. Orphaned and raised in a convent, she is an outcast due to her unusually pale skin, hair and eyes. Of course, she’s albino but in 1888, that’s no more normal than it is today, perhaps even less so. Her most prized possession is a phoenix pendant left to her by her mother before she died and her only friends are the spirits of the dead, which she can both see and speak with. She is accepted into Athens Academy at the age of 18 (going on 19) by the Headmistress, Rebecca Thomson who also happens to be one of The Guard. Due to her less than stellar performance in mathematics, Percy is soon getting private lessons from her mathematics professor whom she is quite enamored of, one Alexi Rychman.

Percy is both a source of frustration and fascination to Alexi. He attempts to prod her into being less timid, in part by ordering that she remove the gloves, scarf and colored glasses that she wears all the time. Though it’s difficult for Percy to remove her protective coverings, she does so during their tutoring sessions and is pleased when her professor doesn’t look at her any differently. All the while, he’s wondering if she could be the seventh that he’s waited for.

Next on the scene is Lucille Linden, a beautiful and mysterious woman who appears out of nowhere, seeking protection and the help of Alexi and The Guard. To all but Alexi, she seems to fit the profile of their seventh but of course, she is anything but. She is what the goddess warned them of on that first night so many years before. And so there is division in the ranks of The Guard: Alexi’s choice of Percy as the seventh against, well… everyone else, who like Lucille for the job.

I absolutely loved the setting of this story… Victorian London, where the Ripper is running rampant and is a supernatural being rather than a man. I also got a kick out of the tie-in to the mythological story of Persephone. I enjoyed the interaction between the characters and that Heiber makes them so believable. They’re funny and expressive, they have secret desires and hopes, they have difficulty coping with the weight of duty that they carry and Heiber imparts all of this emotion profoundly yet efficiently. I grew to like and care about all of them, even the ones that we really don’t get as much face time as Percy, Alexi and even Rebecca.

Finally, the language… ahh, the language. It’s beautiful and dramatic and I was truly captivated while reading this book. I’m happy to have received the second book in the series (signed and inscribed by the author, yay!), ‘The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker’ as a prize in an online giveaway so that I can jump right in and hopefully be ready for book #3 when it’s released next week!

Fave quotes:

‘When left to her own devices, Miss Parker was neither shy nor awkward; she was radiant.’ ~Alexi’s thoughts upon seeing Percy dancing with the ghosts

“Come, mein Leibe, there are errands to run, flowers to gather and dreams yet to be planned.” ~Marianna to Percy

“Come into the light, Miss Parker, for I’ll not allow you to slink in the shadows. To do so would be to eclipse the moon.” ~Edward

“Hello again, you filthy creature of hell!” ~Alexi

Review: ‘The Warded Man’ by Peter V. Brett (audio)

The Warded Man

Demon Cycle Trilogy #1

Author: Peter V. Brett

Format: unabridged audio book

Reader: Pete Bradbury

Publisher: Recorded Books

Length:  18 hrs and 14 mins

Audio Release Date: 11/25/2009 (Published in the US by Del Rey, 03/10/2009. Published in the UK by HarperCollins as The Painted Man, 09/01/2008)

Acquired: purchased from


Publisher’s Summary:

Mankind has ceded the night to the corelings, demons that rise up out of the ground each day at dusk, killing and destroying at will until dawn, when the sun banishes them back to the Core. As darkness falls, the world’s few surviving humans hide behind magical wards, praying the magic can see them through another night. As years pass, the distances between each tiny village seem longer and longer. It seems nothing can harm the corelings, or bring humanity back together.

Born into these isolated hamlets are three children. A Messenger teaches young Arlen that fear, more than the demons, has crippled humanity. Leesha finds her perfect life destroyed by a simple lie, and is reduced to gathering herbs for an old woman more fearsome than the demons at night. And Rojer’s life is changed forever when a traveling minstrel comes to his town and plays his fiddle.

But these three children all have something in common. They are all stubborn, and know that there is more to the world than what they’ve been told, if only they can risk leaving their safe wards to find it.

My thoughts, which may contain minor spoilers:

The story opens with the introduction of 11 year old Arlen, who goes to the nearby village with his parents to help clean up and repair what they can after a demon attack leaves dozens of villagers dead. While there, a Messenger comes from the Free Cities and Arlen learns that people once fought the corelings, demons that rise from the core of the earth each sundown to wreak havoc on the lives of mankind. Arlen tires of cowering in fear behind warded walls so when tragedy strikes his own family, he sets out alone to follow the Messenger, who braves the night with portable wards.

Next, we meet 13 year old Leesha, who aspires to become a woman so that she can marry and get away from her oppressive and abusive mother. After a demon attack on her own village, the life she thought she would have crumbles to dust and she becomes apprenticed to the local healer.

Finally there is Rojer, who loses his parents to a coreling attack at the age of 3 and is left in the care of the sole survivor of the attack, a Jongleur who has come to the village with a Messenger. Sadly, his mother may have survived if the Jongleur, Arrick, hadn’t shoved her out of the way to save his own hide. Still, despite his selfishness, he honors her last wish to care for Rojer and so raises and apprentices him.

The story follows each of the children as they grow up, over the course of about 14 years. The main focus of the story is on Arlen who was found on the road by the Messenger Regan, shortly after running away from his father. Regan takes the boy home and arranges for him to become apprenticed to a Warder, in order to become adept at that very necessary skill of all Messengers. Regan’s wife grows to love Arlen and blindly hopes that he will stay within the warded walls of the city in order to remain a Warder, marry and have children.

Arlen has other plans, however and eventually sets out to see the world. He seeks the ruins of old cities in the hope that he might learn about the people who once inhabited them and how they had fought the corelings. He travels many roads and learns many things before finally meeting Leesha and Rojer near the end of the book. Each of the others have also grown and changed after 14 years, though not nearly as much as Arlen has changed.

I’ve seen a few reviews and comments that mention that Brett was trying to move the story along too quickly, skipping months and years from one page to the next which gave the story a rushed feel. I didn’t have this issue with the book, not in the least. I thought that the fast-forward tempo was rather fitting because as the reader, I was indeed expecting this to be the story of a warded man and not a warded boy. I wasn’t left feeling like I was missing anything and despite a rather long section that didn’t feature Leesha at all, I didn’t even feel cheated in regards to her story. Brett did a good job of ‘catching up’ on each character if their plot line had been skipped over for multiple chapters and the story flowed rather well.

Also, before I get to the meat of this post, a quick word about the reader. I thoroughly enjoyed Pete Bradbury’s performance and had no trouble whatsoever getting into the story. I’d never listened to Bradbury read and worried that I’d have difficulty getting used to his voice and his style but he was great and I look forward to him reading the rest of the books!

Now, the story. The demons. The utter terror that most of the people of this world live under night after night after night. The characters living in constant fear that causes some to freeze when faced with the abominations that rule the night while prompting others to risk themselves to save loved ones or neighbors from an unthinkable fate. The isolation and loneliness experienced by those who live far from the Free Cities accentuates their bleak survival against all odds. The emotions of the main characters… their grief and worry, their defiance and determination… are palpable and it’s as simple as breathing to get completely caught up in their stories.

The world, the people and their hopeless plight, the horrors that stalk the nights, the helplessness and desperation that permeate their lives are all painted so vividly by Brett that I was utterly captivated. The story grabbed me from the get-go and I was drawn into this grim world where every single person’s life is ruled by the sun… or rather, by the lack of sunlight. Every chore and errand must be completed by dark. Everything you don’t want destroyed must be safe behind wards when the sun sets. Wards must be checked for wear regularly or a family may wake up to fire demons and rock demons burning and smashing their way through their home… from which there is no escape. For if they were to flee outside, they would only be met by more demons and certain death.

Not only do the people live in constant fear, the threat of the demons rules every aspect of their lives. They marry off their daughters as soon as they reach puberty, essentially hoping that they procreate as much as possible. The demons kill so many people that the population struggles to keep up and bearing many children is a point of pride to most women. The people are generally isolated and most that don’t live in the Free Cties only interact with those that live close, in the same village or in close proximity. The only people that regularly travel for days at a time are the Messengers and some people only see one of those once a year.

Even in the Free Cities, life is less than ideal and ruled by the presence of the demons each night. Each city relies on the others to provide supplies and food and in turn, has its own commodity to offer to the other cities. Most of the handful of cities are ruled by Dukes and they generally don’t get along very well, arguing amongst themselves over trade and who’s to pay for caravans lost to demon attacks, among other things. There is political unrest aplenty and I suspect that unrest will come to play a bit more in the second book, The Desert Spear.

Sprinkled here and there throughout the story are tidbits of the lives of men before they cowered in fear behind warded walls. There are mentions of science. Of machinery. Of a demon war in which mankind didn’t hide from the night but instead fought the demons when they rose from the Core and eventually defeated them, banishing them back to their own world beneath the ground. But then mankind forgot about the demons. About many of the life-saving wards. The offensive wards. And so they were left totally unprepared when the demons began to rise again. A second demon war ensued and mankind was decimated, having forgotten all but the basic defense wards.  Three hundred years have passed since the second demon war and mankind waits for the fabled Deliverer to drive the demons from their midst once more. But will he ever come?

At the close of the story, Arlen, Rojer and Leesha have decided to spread the knowledge that each has been taught or discovered on their own, to as many people as possible so that others can begin to fight back, rather than hiding behind their wards. Each of them has a deep hatred for the corelings and an urgent wish for mankind to live without fear once more.

I’m lucky to have the audio book of The Desert Spear (excerpt here) waiting for me but once I’m finished with it, I’ll have to wait right along with everyone else for the release of book #3, The Daylight War. Let’s hope we’re not waiting for too long.


Fave quotes:

“My throat’s dry. I’ll need a drink before I sing. Not water, bring me wine. I need a claw from the demon that cored me.” ~Eric to Rojer

“Get on your Core-spawned scary horse and be on your way!” ~Leesha to Arlen

“I was so occupied with what I was fighting against that I’d forgotten what I was fighting for.” ~Arlen