Thursday, October 29, 2009

Soul Catcher and A Circle of Souls Book Reviews

Soul Catcher (Book 1, Outsiders Series) by Leigh Bridger is a very, very dark, gothic type Urban Fantasy that is a train wreck of epic proportions. The only positive thing I can say about this book is that synopsis does grab you, like it did me. I was very interested about the heroine, who has been reborn too many times to count and her quest to find her husband, who also has been reborn too many times to count as they both try to stop a “sadistic and vengeful” demon that’s stalking the heroine. Instead, this is a very canned story, gruesome and shocking, for no reason.

By the time I read half-way through Soul Catcher, I couldn’t figure out who was coming or going, what the motivation of the characters was, and why this demon villain was oh so bad. The demon is so horrid because his goal in life is to torture the heroine to the point where she has gone crazy. Other than rolling my eyes and shaking my head in disgust, nothing about Soul Catcher is worth recommending. And for the first time ever, in my history of reviewing I’m asking, how did this book get published? For the life of me I can’t figure it out why. Well, I have a good idea why because the author, also known as Deborah Smith, who owns her own publishing house called Belle Bridge Books published Soul Catcher. That's the only thing that makes sense about this mess of a read.

The plot goes as follows: Livia Van Belane has more lives than she can count. She has been reincarnated over and over to the point where she is very damaged. She lives on the edge and has done it all, drinking till she passes out, popping pills and sleeping with strange men all to escape the nightmares that come to her each night. She is living on borrowed time because she's waiting for a demon she named Pig Face to find, torture and kill her. Pig Face and Livia have a great deal of history between them. Livia is what is known as a Soul Catcher, one who must rid the world of demons like Pig Face. Livia also has blackouts and doesn’t remember them, where she finds herself painting horrible pictures that make her sick. Her only hope is her soul mate, Ian.

Livia is scared of this Ian as well as those who try to help her because she thinks they are out to do her harm and will end up dead anyway. The only way Ian can help her is if she calls for him. And things become very complicated because when Pig Face finds her, he has taken over a body of a good looking guy who she has become attracted to. He tricks Livia and rapes her to the point where she needs stitches in every single hole you can think of. But before he can kill her, Ian is able to get rid of Pig Face by Livia calling for him. Livia barely makes it out alive and some strangers come along and take Livia under their wing while she recovers. For some reason Ian is now able to take over a body. But the body happens to be the one Pig Face used when he mutilated and raped Livia. So now Livia’s love from the past wants to help her, but he is inside a body of a demon rapist.

Livia keeps Ian at arms length as she trains in the arts of voodoo, dark magic and whatever else to finally eliminate Pig Face for good. Livia remembers when she and Ian first met and the bond have together as well of their interactions with Pig Face.

Soul Catcher had a great premise but was so boggled down with characters who have no dimension and a story with needless info dumping. Livia is a nasty character who would have been better as a villain. There is nothing redeeming about Livia and she goes through most of the book questioning her existence and why do all these horrible things happen to her. I really wanted to smack her at one point because she became so annoying. Scene after scene dragged in so many places and the action and snuff film like violence were so unnecessarily. Soul Catcher is much like a horror movie where there is no plot or reason as the serial killer stalks the helpless co-eds just to see their blood run.

I guess this is supposed to be a type of story that should twist you up inside as you read to the point your both sickened and appalled by what Livia and Ian must do in order to be together. Ian was the most boring character of all. His voice and very small personality grated on my nerves, even more so than Livia. For once while reading an Urban Fantasy such as this, I wanted to villain to defeat the heroine so I knew there would be no continuation.

Soul Catcher is a harsh, grating on the nerves read and because of that my review is just like the book. If there is one book not to read or buy this year, Leigh Bridger’s Soul Catcher is one of them. (Belle Bridge Books)

Final Grade: F

On the other hand, A Circle of Souls, the debut novel by Preetham Grandhi is a recommended read. This is a murder mystery that has a slight touch of the supernatural that also deals with past lives. Preetham makes sure that the plot is not boggled down with too much mention of spiritualism, but more importantly the quest to find a killer who has targeted the most vulnerable of victim- children.

A Circle of Souls would be of interest to those readers who enjoy crime dramas. Keep in mind though the murder deals with Janet, a nine year old girl, who because she was curious, was killed by an individual who thinks a higher being is making him kill, or sacrifice, in order to reach enlightenment. Called in on the case if FBI agent Leia Bines who works in a special unit dedicated to crimes against children. She may be the only hope in cracking this case and figure out why the small town of Newbury, Connecticut has been targeted by a possible serial killer.

Around the same time of the murder, Dr. Peter Gram, who works at Newbury General and Pediatric hospital has a very interesting patient. Seven-year old Naya Hastings has been brought to the emergency room after her parents found a sleepwalking Naya standing on the second-floor balcony where she was trying to climb over it. Lately Naya has been having strange dreams and Dr. Gram recommends Naya be committed for a few days where he can monitor her brain and figure out why she is having these dreams that may make her harm herself.

As Gram tries to diagnose Naya, she continues to have disturbing nightmares of a little girl named Janet who wants Naya to help her. Naya begins to draw pictures of her interactions with her dream friend Janet, and Gram comes to the conclusion that something bigger is at play. And when Gram hears about the murder of Janet, he begins to put the pieces together and soon is helping Leia with the case before the killer can strike again.

I was glued to the pages of A Circle of Souls and had no clue who the killer was. Some of the blurbs I have read about this book compare Preetham’s writing to Hitchcock and I can certainly see the comparisons. There are twists and turns that bring in a supernatural element, especially in regards to Gram that is surprising. Gram may seem to be more of a secondary character in this all, but he becomes a very important focal point, even more so than Naya.

Preetham does have a skill at writing child characters and I enjoyed Naya and the way she looked at things and her interactions with Gram and that of her the poor murdered Janet. The only graphic scenes are in the beginning when Janet’s body is found.

If you like psychological thrillers, A Circle of Souls really excels in this aspect. (Sweetwater Books)

Final Grade: B+



KMont said...

Oh my. Hmmm. I read one Deborah Smith book - When Venus Fell. Read it twice actually, which was a long time ago, but I'm guessing that meant I enjoyed it a lot. This Soul Catcher book really does sound atrocious. Too bad.

At least you could counter it with a more enjoyable read. Yay? :)

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

I'm all about balance here at Babblings. ;)

AnimeJune said...

Wow, an F. Now avoiding this author like the plague.

Yeah, I hate books that are very violent and graphic for absolutely no reason. I had to review Joe Abercrombie's "Best Served Cold" for Green Man Review and it holds the dubious honour of being the first book to make me feel physically ill while reading it.

Maybe that means Abercrombie's a good writer - he has very evocative language when describing just how a skull explodes upon impact with a warhammer - but I didn't feel it had a place in the story and I ended up hating the book.

jmc said...

Ouch on the F. It sounds like a painful read.

I've read and loved some early Deborah Smith books, including When Venus Fell and a couple of her categories. Her later stuff has been hit or miss, mostly miss, although I thought her mermaid series (which wasn't FINISHED, dammit) was alright. When I heard Smith would be releasing a UF book under a pen name, I wondered about the transition since her voice and characters to date didn't really seem to suit that genre. But she seems to no longer have a publisher other than Belle Books, so a new name and direction makes sense as a way to reanimate her writing career. It's disappointing to read that this new direction for her has not panned out.

elnice said...

thanks for the honest review.

Kati said...

OK, I haven't even read the post yet, but HOLY BODACIOUS TA-TAS on the girl in the first cover.

I'm just saying. Wow.

Ali said...

Wow, a F, thanks for the review... it does sound like one that would frustrate me.
I'll have to check out a Circle of Souls, though :)

Smokinhotbooks said...

How on earth could you even finish Soul Catcher...? You deserve a medal or some sort of flare for getting through that god awful book :)

Mandi said...

Skip Soul Catcher - check.

Now A Circle of Souls sounds quite intriguing!

heidenkind said...

Circle of Souls sound like a book my mom might like. I'll have to keep it in mind for Christmas. =)

orannia said...

Poor KB! (((KB))) (((Mho + DD))) [I don't want Mho and DD to feel left out] This book doesn't sound in any way, shape or form a fun read. I got all excited reading the first sentence describing the book as a very, very dark, gothic type Urban Fantasy and then everything went downhill :( I hate great premises that....well...don't pan out.

On the plus side, A Circle of Souls sounds very interesting. I'll be keeping an eye out for it :)

Abigail [All Things Urban Fantasy] said...

I just posted my review for Soul Catcher and couldn't agree with you more. Yuck