I hadn't intended to marathon the books in this series but fortuitously I was able to get my hands on them only weeks apart. Therefore, I decided to lump them all together in one masterpost. You're welcome! Rather than showing the covers for the books, I've opted to give you a glimpse of the illustrations found inside before each book's review. **If you haven't read past the first book then I highly caution you about reading my reviews for the other 2 books. I've tried to stay spoiler free but there's only so much I can omit.**
Wildwood by Colin Meloy with illustrations by Carson Ellis starts off the Wildwood Chronicles series which as far as I can tell consists of 3 books (although some websites confusingly say there are only 2). The first book follows Prue McKeel, an average 12 year old living in Portland...until one day her baby brother is kidnapped by a murder of crows. She and a semi-friend from school, Curtis Mehlberg, venture into the Impassable Wilderness in search of the baby and stumble across an entirely different world. It turns out that inside the I.W. there exists a magical place full of talking coyotes, magical sorceresses, mystics that commune with trees, and a gang of roving bandits. There is also a postman, a corrupt government, and territory wars. Maybe things aren't so different from what she's used to after all? No, it's completely different and Prue finds out that she's not as normal as she once thought...
Continuing in Under Wildwood, we find our heroes separated and trying to reconcile themselves to their new existences. Prue is having conversations with the local flora and Curtis is trying to become the best bandit he can possibly be. We're introduced to new characters such as Mr. Joffrey Unthank who is the owner and operator of both a machine shop and orphanage (not necessarily mutually exclusive by the way) as well as Carol Grod who sports a pair of wooden eyeballs. The reader continues to learn more about the Periphery Bind which keeps the Impassable Wilderness and all its environs from encroaching on the Outside. There are assassins, Titans of Industry (capitalization very much required), and danger around every corner. This book marks the turning point into a darker tone as the battle between good and evil gets well and truly under way.
All of this brings us to Wildwood Imperium which (from what I can tell) is the final book of the series. To some extent, all of the books have discussed politics in one form or another but this one is almost entirely about the political system (or lack thereof) in Wildwood and its environs. Prue is still on the lookout for the second Maker (the reader knows who this is and it's frustrating seeing the near misses) while the Verdant Empress speaks to the May Queen from a mirror on a nightstand. (You aren't confused you're just behind in the series.) This is the tensest (and longest) book of the lot and a lot of loose ends are tied up (like where all of the bandits went). (I still have a question about the Elder Mystic's whereabouts but maybe that's just me.) It doesn't feel complete to me though. There's still a lot that could be done with the characters in my opinion but based on what I've seen there doesn't seem to be any plans to continue the series. It's a shame because this married pair makes a powerful literary duo. (They're coming out with a new book on October 24th of this year entitled The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid!)
Overall series rating: 9/10
So I took some time and went through all the books that I have marked 'Read' on my GR, mainly for the Romantic Suspense square--it is my comfort, go-to genre after all. But along the way, I found some books I'd like to list as possibilities for other squares as well.
I'm a wimp when it comes to horror, but imagine my surprise when I found how many books I've already read that could be considered horror--either because tagged at GR, or because they just seem to have horror elements.
I've got lists of books to recommend for Romantic Suspense, but I'm going to narrow it down to books I've personally enjoyed, that also might have a bit of a dark, gritty, chilling atmosphere.
First of all, I would recommend anything written by Laura Griffin--her murder mysteries are pretty gritty, and her characters are tough and great to follow. Not everything she's written is a murder mystery, and there are a couple military romances slipped into her Tracers series. But for the most part, I've pretty much enjoyed every books of hers I've read. I personally like to read books in order if it's a series, but her books can be read out of order or as stand-alones. Untraceable is the first book in her Tracers series, and some of my personal favorite installments include: Snapped, Twisted, Exposed, Shadow Fall, and Deep Dark. There's also a stand-alone book called Far Gone that's not bad either.
For a more supernatural experience, I would recommend Kay Hooper's Bishop/Special Crimes Unit series, which follows unit of FBI agents who are all psychic. The truth is, the first few sub-trilogy arcs are pretty good--the most recent ones are kind of draggy. I personally liked the first four sub-trilogies, and here are some of my personal favorites:
-- Stealing Shadows, Hiding in the Shadows, Out of the Shadows, Touching Evil, Whisper of Evil, Sense of Evil, Hunting Fear, Chill of Fear, Sleeping Fear.
Hunting Fear has a haunted hotel setting; Stealing Shadows is the first book in the series; Out of the Shadows is the strongest book of the series and has a serial killer.
Kylie Brant's Mindhunter series is also a personal favorite--they can be read as stand-alones as well, but brief references to previous characters will sometimes come up.
Cynthia Eden has a trilogy called Deadly that involves teams from a special FBI violent crimes unit. All three books feature a serial killer, and the first book takes place in a small town: Deadly Fear, Deadly Heat, Deadly Lies.
Leslie A. Kelly wrote two series I personally enjoyed a lot: Black CATs and Extrasensory Agents.
Black CATs follows an FBI team that specializes in cyber crimes, and all three books involve a serial killer. The first book takes place in a small town: Fade to Black, Pitch Black, Black at Heart.
Extrasensory Agents follows a group of psychic paranormal investigators, so these books may apply to the 'Amateur Sleuth' square as well as 'Supernatural.' The first and third books take place in a small town. Cold Sight, Cold Touch, Cold Memory.
I would also like to mention Maggie Shayne's Brown and de Luca series, which was phenomenal! The first book is called Sleep with the Lights On, and follows Rachel de Luca who, after a corneal transplant, begins to see visions of people being murdered. So this book would work for the 'Serial/Spree Killer' square, the 'Supernatural' square, and 'Amateur Sleuth' square, since Rachel is a book author.
A non-series book I would recommend is Maggie Shayne's The Gingerbread Man, which really just works for 'Romantic Suspense' and 'Terror in a Small Town.'
I wish I had more stand-alone books to recommend, but it looks like I've mainly been reading series books. Some other romantic suspense authors I would suggest, however, would be Nora Roberts (duh) and Jayne Ann Krentz and Linda Howard.
I don't read as many Cozy Mysteries as MbD does, but I DO have a couple particular cozy series I happened to like:
Heather Wells by Meg Cabot -- the first book is Size 12 Is Not Fat
Lucy Valentine by Heather Webber -- the first book is Truly, Madly
Both series are five books long and very enjoyable.
I'm personally planning on reading either the Crocodile on the Sandbank or The Camelot Caper, both books by Elizabeth Peters. If the library happens to pick up one of my book recommendations before the game ends, I've also requested Devil May Care and The Jackal's Head... which will mean I'll have too many books to choose from...
This book has probably already been mentioned, as it will fit for several other squares, but I read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (actually listened to it as a full-cast audio), and absolutely loved it. There's murder, ghosts, supernatural... so many possibilities!
Meanwhile, I'm also going to recommend The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright, which is a children's ghost story, involving, well, the titular haunted dollhouse. I read this when I was in middle school and it scared the crap out of me... but I'm a weenie, so that means nothing.
The Ghost Bride is also an excellent book for these two squares, but like The Graveyard Book, it can fit in several other squares as well: Supernatural, Magical Realism, Chilling Children, Terrifying Women, Diverse Voices... and if the Ox-Headed Patrol Guards from the Underworld count as Monsters, then it can go in that square as well. And at the risk of giving away some of the end of book stuff, there's a mythological creature in there somewhere too.
Phantom Evil is the first book in Heather Graham's Krewe of Hunters, another series about paranormal law enforcement in the FBI--a bunch of psychics are gathered into a team to investigate murders that might involve ghostly happenings or a haunted house.
I didn't think I'd have anything to contribute to this square, but apparently I've read enough Amanda Quick historical romance/mysteries to have a few recommendations!
'Til Death Do Us Part, The River Knows, Wait Until Midnight, and any of her Arcane Society historical novels would go in this square. The Arcane Society books also count for 'Supernatural.'
I consider Deanna Raybourn's books all 'Gothic', though some of them would also fit into the 'Darkest London' square. I think Silent in the Grave, The Dark Enquiry, and her Veronica Speedwell books all take place in London. All the books from both Lady Julia Grey and Veronica Speedwell would count towards 'Amateur Sleuth' as well.
Amanda Stevens' The Graveyard Queen is another great series, considered Gothic, with ghosts and hauntings and murder and mayhem. I've only read the first three books, but recently learned that there are now six total. The first book is The Restorer, and while this book would also fit the 'Romantic Suspense' square, there really isn't a whole lot of romance in it. I would even consider this series to be 'horror' as well. The second book, The Kingdom, takes place in a small town.
I've only got one author I can think of to recommend for this square: Juliet Marillier. She loves to use a forest or woods as her setting for a lot of books. For instance, her young adult high fantasy series, the Shadowfell trilogy (Shadowfell, Raven Flight, The Calling) involve a lot of travel back and forth a forest, and there are fairy creatures significant to the forest.
Moonlight has already mentioned Daughter of the Forest in a previous post, a book that I've been meaning to read forever now, and has been sitting on my bookshelf for at least three years.
Another young adult fantasy by Marillier is Wildwood Dancing, which involves anything from the supernatural, to talking frogs, to vampires, to a Gothic setting in a Transylvanian castle, to a significant forest with fairy creatures and a witch named Draguta.
Now that I've rambled on forever, I'm going to hop on over to Murder by Death's Halloween Bingo reading lists and put some of these suggestions there. This post had been started mainly for the 'Romantic Suspense' square, and there are a lot of other Rom-suspense books I would recommend, but I wanted to focus more on the murder mysteries if I could.
If anyone has missed it, here is a link to MbD's compiled list of links to the Halloween Bingo reading lists.
I thought this was cute. It was different for me than the Renegades series by the author. I was mad though that our hero wasn't just a bit more honest with the heroine as their relationship developed. So, it made the quick wrap up at the end more unbelievable. But, other than that, it was a fun, quick read, and the narration was great too!