cozy mystery

There can be no such thing as too much Southern Spirits!

Gangsters, ghosts, murders, a pissed of passive-aggressive would-have-been-mother-in-law, a hunky police officer, and a pet skunk.  What could be better? The Skeleton in the Closet (Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries, #2) The second (full length anyway) installment of the Southern Ghost Hunter series, The Skeleton in the Closet by Angie Fox, was another awesome little paranormal cozy!  And I can’t wait to read the third!

As a reminder, Verity, a girl hard on her luck because of a jerk of an ex-fiance, saw her life change in the first book when she dumped an urn full of the ashes of a 1920s gangster on her rose bushes. The gangster ghost, Frankie, is grounded to her and her property. In this installment, her town of Sugarland is preparing for an annual festival that will be filmed for a documentary about the Civil War – the “Ball in the Wall” (love that name!).  Frankie is still funny, Verity still doesn’t really shy from danger and is she is still sarcastic and witty (although not quite as much or as often here), the dialogue between characters is amusing and feels real. Melody, Verity’s sister is a great tool for info (she’s the Hermoine of this story, being the resident librarian) and Ellis is the hunk police officer who asks Verity for help investigating the murder.

This installment stayed true to the recipe for the cozy, even the paranormal type.  There was a lot going on, some misdirection (but I love that the misdirection headed down the “Virginia did it” road was really fun because of the history between Virginia and Verity), some mayhem, and a lucky discovery or two.  And what makes it even more fun is the ghostly element – there’s enough to keep things ever so slightly creepy but not so much that this isn’t something that can be read while smiling the entire time.  The “southern” way of making sure someone knows they are unwelcome, all with a smile, was on full display here during Verity’s visit to her ex-almost mother-in-law.  And it was awe.some.!!!  And, if I were paying more attention, some of the details wouldn’t have been surprising because the title is pretty meaningful (**hint, hint**) here.  I had so much trouble putting this down because it was cute and fun and all that I want out of my paranormal cozies!

I love everything Verity that I have read so far, and hope there are many many encores!

Can Earthbound Bones fill the hole in my heart?

This was my first exposure to anything by ReGina Welling, and I am thrilled to have found someone to fill the gap left by Madelyn Alt (at least I hope more books by this author will leave me feeling that way).  See, when I finished reading “Home for a Spell”, by Madelyn Alt (which was book #7) I was so eager to read the next.  This was the perfect set of “cozy mysteries” for me – the perfect blend of cozy with paranormal.  I absolutely adored the books!  And I watched, and watched, and watched (like so many others) for details on “In Charm’s Way”.  10559681I was super excited when a cover showed up on good reads.  And even more super excited with there was an original December 2015 publication date.  And, then I had to face the cold hard reality that I am never going to see book 8 – the author hasn’t updated her “website” since April 2012 (here’s what she said in November 2011 about the book – after explaining that life was hard for a while for her (no judgment, just a short way of summarizing):  “It’s time for me to get back in saddle and reclaim the life I love. The writing . . . it’s there. It has not forsaken me. Maggie and Company have been whispering to me all along, assuring me all was okay, that they would be there when I was ready. And they are. I’m pushing to complete IN CHARM’S WAY{please, please don’t groan, sigh, or stamp your feet with exasperation that it is so behind schedule — I have put quite enough pressure on myself as it is, LOL}, and . . . I think it’s good. Quite good, in fact. I know you were looking for a publication date of this fall, but obviously that didn’t happen. The reason the book shows a 2025 release date is that it was removed from the schedule to remove the pressure from me. Just as soon as I turn it in, it will find its way back onto said publishing schedule, and all will be well.” but that was November 2011!).  Everything online says release is “pending” but it’s been that way for years now.  And, all evidence points to the book not even being finished.  So, I turned to a few of the suggestions that goodreads or amazon gave me based on that series.  And none of them ever felt quite right.  They were too much paranormal very little mystery, they were too much mystery and no real paranormal, they were snarky but not funny, they had characters that I despised, they were merely two book “series” that puttered out….  There were lots of reasons that they just didn’t fill the void that the Bewitching Mysteries left.  That’s not to say that I did’t enjoy them or find a umber of really great books – because I did – but they just didn’t fill the very particular spot in my heart that Madelyn’s books did.

So, I am now super hopeful that since goodreads lists this as book 1 of the Earthbound series) there will be lots more of the same to come.  Earthbound Bones: A Psychic Seasons Novel (Earthbound Series Book 1)Because I thought this book was amazing!  It was the perfect blend of mystery, funny, snark, paranormal, and unique.  There was just enough of a cliffhanger to tie the next story in easily, and we got to know the main character, Galmadriel aka Adriel, well enough that she should be a joy to follow.  No real romance brewing (at least as it appears now) for the Angel and that’s perfect – perfect for this type of cozy.

Here’s what we learn (and what I will share at the moment – spoilers not for the moment) – Galmadriel and a band of psychics attempt to expel an earthwalker (malevolent spirit making a human’s body home) and Galmadriel wakes up no longer angel but human.  And she was never human to being with, so she is in for it as she tries to figure out a way to live among humans.  The town she is in – just happens to have a murder mystery on their hands after she’s been in town for a few days and she works to help set it right.  She thinks it is going to be hard because she is no longer an angel.  But has she really lost her powers?  Just read to see!  It didn’t take long to read, in part because it was hard to put down.  And to me, that is the first sign that I am holding an excellent book – I don’t want to put it down.

There were quirky characters, your typical cozy suspects, nosy neighbors, a small town, a friendly cop who is more ally than enforcer (at least to the main character anyway), and a mystery solved.  But, here’s the great thing – there is also mythology and world building like what goes on in a great PNR series.  There are rules to the paranormal, there’s a paranormal character who seems to know more than she is able to let on, a bigger overarching paranormal conflict, and a loveable paranormal character as the main protagonist.  See?  Perfect!

I really hope to see more of Adriel and Pam and friends – and hope that this series really can fill the paranormal-cozy size hole in my heart!

p.s. Does anyone know – this is listed as “A Psychic Seasons Novel” on goodreads and I see some Psychic Season’s books – are they related?  Should I go read that series while waiting for what ever is #2 in this Earthbound Series?

The Cat’s out of the bag…

Although it shouldn’t be that big of a mystery or secret what the cat was/is… I found another lovely little series, where I am looking forward to the next book.  And, what do you know?  It’s paranormal!  😉

The Familiar, the first in the Bad Tom series by Jill Nojack was a cute little read.  There was magic, a little romance (although zero steam), mystery, and a little fun.  It wasn’t earthshatteringly unique or original – a witch who doesn’t know she is a witch stumbles upon someone who has been affected by magic and she tries to

The Familiar: A Paranormal Romantic Comedy save him – but there were enough differences and enough of the stuff I like to make this quick little read enjoyable.  My primary critique – that I would love to have had a little more depth to the characters, so that I would feel like I got to know them a little better.

The main story goes something like this: When Eunice (and old woman and not the nicest witch) dies (or is probably murdered) Cassie, her granddaughter, is left everything and needs to decide what to do about her Gran’s store (because Gran owned a magic store, of course), powers, and Cat.  And, Cat is not just a cat (or kitten since he gets squished and reverts back to kitten state in the use of one of his 9 lives), but a man turned cat some 45 years ago and held hostage by Eunice.  The biggest unique element, which I loved, is that this story is told mostly from Cat’s perspective.  And, sometimes, Cat really is more cat than man.

There were some interesting and dark turns, and just enough mystery that I classified it as a mystery.  After all, we still don’t know how Eunice actually died.  And we don’t know what Mr. Liu wanted or if he is important.  We don’t know what Eunice was looking for in issues of Architectural digest.  And we don’t know what else the coven is capable of.  We don’t know if Kevin will go off the reservation in revenge at the coven of his father.  So, there’s still a lot to solve.  I admit, I don’t know if solving any of that is top of the list of things to tell us in book 2 or 3, but I am looking forward to finding out.

Mostly well written (a few typos, but less than in the book 2 of the Reapers series – which my readers will hear about shortly in a review – but still a few showing, yet again, the glaring issue with self-published/kindle published without a real editor books) and certainly well paced as I read it in less than 2 days.  And, I never felt the story was dragging or boring.  It progressed through the plot at exactly the right pace.  I am not sure paranormal romantic comedy is exactly the right description, but it’s close enough.  And, can I say, I adore the artwork on the cover of all three (the artwork for the 2nd and 3rd planned books is on the authors website)!!  Love the Cat on this one!

I know this isn’t the longest review, but it was just such a cute and pleasant little distraction that there isn’t much else to say.  I was eager to run out at lunch and finish the story off.  I was pleasantly surprised by a few things, and I am eager to read the second book when it comes out.  I would like to know a little more about the characters – and what is driving each of them – but if the second follows in the paw prints as the first, I am sure I will enjoy it.  And I am looking to see how our Cat adjusts to life outside the house and with Cassie!

UPDATE:  Just a quick thanks to Jill for mentioning my little blog on her blog!  In addition to checking out Tom and his adventures in The Familiar, check out her blog, with info about Tom and her other books!  http://www.jillnojack.com/article-about-my-kindle-scout-experience-and-blogger-thanks-yous/

Not quite Enchanted

Enchantment Lake was a fun little read.  My expectations were totally off, but still, I enjoyed it.  I just wouldn’t say I was enchanted by it.  There was a little too much going on for that.  And this is another that suffers from genre-identity-crisis.  Is it YA, cozy, children’s fiction?  Who knows.  I am going to call it cozy, but I don’t know if it is the start of a series or not.

So, first, why were the expectations off?  With a caption above the title (LOVE the cover, by the way) that says “A Northwoods mystery” I think cozy.  With a description in netgalley that calls our 17-year old protagonist Francie a “reluctant northwoods Nancy Drew”  and the following:

“What happened to her father? Who and where is her mother? Who is she, and where does her heart lie—in the bustle of New York City or the deep woods of Minnesota? With its gripping story, romantic spirit, and a sly dash of modern-day trouble (evil realtors and other invasive species),Enchantment Lake will fascinate readers, providing precisely the charm that Margi Preus’s readers have come to expect.”

I expected a little more.  I can’t say I know exactly how a publisher chooses “YA” versus “Children’s” – but I would say this is a little mature for what I think of as children (12 year olds being the target there) and it definitely falls more in line with the YA (Francie is 17 after all).  There are elements of cozies in that its a small town, there are red herrings galore, and the “who dun it” is a little out of nowhere with the detective sort of falling into the answer and not exactly being a great sleuth.  That’s one of the differences though that make the book’s description so misleading – Nancy Drew was a great detective.  Most of our detectives in the cozy genre (at least what I have read) aren’t.  They just happen to end up solving things through shear dumb luck.

The story goes something like this:  Francie is a young lady in NY City, looking to pursue her acting career when she suddenly gets a frantic call from her old aunt’s claiming that they are in danger.  Francie hops on a plane (then a bus) and travels to the remote area of Minnesota where the charming ladies tell Francie of the mysterious deaths occurring to people who live on the same lake they do.  Is it the real estate agent?  His treasure hunting son?  The handy man (well, until he turns up dead, anyway)?  The folks who want to develop the lake and build a road?  And what about this wealthy family with a former actress matriarch?  Can Francie solve it before she is next, or before her aunts are arrested or killed?

The tangential questions of who is Francie’s mother that are raised and what ever that is all about are mere distractions.  It would have been better had that just been skipped and we could focus on the mystery.  It was easy to read and the setting of the Minnesota lake brought to mind images of peaceful and tranquil vacation spots where I would love to get away from it all.  Francie’s aunts didn’t get near enough page time as they have the potential to be great comic relief.  They seem like they would be fun people in real life – we just don’t get enough of them to be sure.  With dialogue that seemed fairly natural and some insecurities that were precious, this was cute.  I wouldn’t say I was enchanted, but intrigued enough to read another, should there be one!

Bottom of the Pie is surely sweet!

I don’t know how I hadn’t come across these books before. I picked up the newest through netgalley and was 3 chapters in (and totally LOVING it) when I realized it couldn’t be the first. So, I spent a few minutes on goodreads and was thrilled to discover not just a book or two that came first, but six. I bought all of them right away (love Amazon – although I will note I never get all of the books at once like that; it is a testament to how wonderful I thought the first 3 chapters of the 7th book are that I did so). And I am already engrossed in the first book. I will pick #7 back up when I get to its rightful place in the order.

I love Flavia – she is a wonderful character (so far anyway) and I can’t wait to read more about her. Reading the author’s prose is like listening to a favorite song – so easy to read, so easy to smile while my eyes dart across the page, so colorful and it makes it so easy to conjure a mental picture of Flavia and her world. I could almost imagine being able to dance to it and the lyrics something I might unconsciously end up memorizing.

Flavia is an amateur detective and chemist prodigy.  In a family with two sisters, a physically present but emotionally mostly absent father, dead mother, jack-of-all-trades (and currently the gardener) ex-prisoner of war manservant and family cook, Flavia has a wild imagination and a wonderful mouth filter (because her thoughts are matter of fact and fantastical but they are merely thoughts, not words, and the very fantastical she never acts on).  She is a delight of a character.6218281

In this first installment, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, the mystery surrounds the death of a mysterious visitor and it kick starts her detective career.  A well built little plot, an intriguing mystery, and a rambunctious and smart young lady with an excellent vocabulary and sense of logic despite being merely 10 years old – and that shines through in many ways if you are looking for it – or maybe because she is merely 10, create a clever and fun read.

I was reminded of all the great Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, and all the great little mysteries that these presented I read when I was younger.  And in many ways, I was reminded of all the Agatha Christie that I have read too.

I had one question though throughout – it is a little unclear if the narration, which is from Flavia’s point of view, is occurring as if Flavia is older, looking back and telling the stories, or is she just so exceptional that she has a better vocabulary than most of my colleagues (I suffer from the affliction of being a lawyer by day and so I think that’s saying something about her vocabulary)?  Mr. Bradley, the author of this fine book sent me an email addressing this, after I posted to a comment on his blog (which can be found off his website), which I will share:

Dear Kris,

It’s always a treat to hear from a happy reader. Your shamefully flattering words will keep me going for weeks.
Flavia is, as you have spotted, very precocious. Although she has never defined the time-frame from which she is writing (some have suggested she’s in her 70’s!) my own personal opinion is that she’s recording each tale not long after it has happened.
Thanks so much for taking the time to write.
With warm wishes,
Alan Bradley”

Binge watching is the latest thing with popular tv series but for me, I am more likely to binge read than binge watch.  And, this series is definitely going to cause me to binge.  I am so looking forward to continuing the Flavia marathon that just started for me!  Yarrooo!!!

Small Update – since writing this review (as short as it is), even though I failed to publish it, I have finished the entire series.  And I couldn’t have enjoyed them more.  I will be posting pages on each, but will likely only review the last which I did receive from Netgalley.  It is precisely because I received it from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review, that I will review it.  But, it is enough to say that I loved each and every installment and am eager for what ever is next with Flavia!

Gift of a Ghost

A Ghostly Gift was a rare treat indeed. It’s not often that I think the little half installments are worthy of a full-length review. In fact,24390204 it is rare that I believe they are worth even a cursory review. However there are exceptions to this rule. And A Ghostly Gift by Angie Fox is one of those wonderful, delightful surprises of an exception. I don’t usually buy anthologies like the one that A Ghostly Gift was in. And these anthologies seems to be a much more frequent occurrence in the paranormal/romance genre than in others. So, it was with trepidation that I decided to buy this anthology, especially since I really only wanted it for a single story.  But, it was worth the download because this Southern Ghost Hunters little story was a fun little read.

The mystery here has to do with a disturbance in a cute little secondhand thrift shop that the shop owner believes is centered around a knickknack and jewelry case. The store is owned by a friend of Melanie, Verity’s sister. In exchange for getting rid of the ghostly problem Verity might actually manage to get some furniture! We are treated in this story to a glimpse of the 1920s prohibition era speak easy type bar scene. And a few great characters including a World War II soldier. The mystery doesn’t take long to solve and has a an adorable ending that is both happy and sad at the same time.

It’s a wonderful additional glimpse at Verity and what she is willing to do. It was also a great little extension of the rules of the world of Sugarland Tennessee and our resident ghost buster. The plot is not complicated, but it is not meant to be since this is one of those little novellas. The solution to the mystery, and how we get it, is not complicated either – ditto on the reasons why. But it was definitely a fun few minutes worth of a read.

I’m hoping that the expansion of Melanie’s involvement, from a research perspective, is the start of things to come in (**fingers crossed hopefully**) another full length addition? Hint hint… I would also love to see more of the relationship between Melanie and Verity. We also didn’t see Ellis this installment, so I can only hope for a full-length next book so that we can see him!

While we are robbed of Ellis time, we do get some good Frankie time. And Frankie helps further cement Verity’s ties to the spirit world.  There’s so much color that comes through in Verity’s stories (so far anyway) – from the use of some of the ghosts’ expressions to Verity’s old beat up car, and now her new purple velvet couch (love the mental image that description conjured – it looks so comfy in my mind)! It’s a nice change of pace from some of what I think or quite frankly more depressing dystopian young adult reads. I know I’m the one who chooses to read them but I can only read so many of them back to back before I need a dose of good old-fashioned fun and laughter.  And I guess that’s why this is considered a cozy mystery because when you look at how that particular type of book is described it includes the notion that when the reader is finished they are left feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. Like with the first book in the series, Southern Spirits, it fit that definition to T.

There was a cringe worthy moment that I must note.  Because I really don’t think I can take seeing this reference or joke or whatever it was supposed to be.  What am I talking about?  The references to Verity having a proton pack as a ghost buster. Really? I think once was enough and there is plenty of fodder in the Ghostbusters movies, characters (etc.) where jokes can be made about things other than just the proton pack.  No need for recycling the same exact joke.  It felt a little forced too.  And for a movie that is so old (despite the current conversations about remaking the movie(s), the original was funny at the time but the material is a little dated at this point) that it made me do a double check on the date of publication for the little story we have here.  Hopefully, more original references – or at least more current ones – will be made in the future.

When I opened the anthology it felt a little like unwrapping a Christmas present because I had to dig in to get to the story I was looking for. But once I found it and read it, it was just as nice a surprise as a present wrapped in shiny paper and a big pretty bow.

The Frustrating and the Stupid. (Oh, and let’s not forget the Revolting.)

This installment 13629951was… frustrating.  Yes, that’s probably the best description for about three-quarters of this Dulcie adventure.  Downright stupid fits not quite the other quarter.  Because there is a dash of revolting thrown in that absolutely must be accounted for.  Revolting.  Yes, that is correct.  You aren’t reading a typo or a misstatement.  But I will get to that in a few.

First, the frustrating.  The bad writing is starting to surface.  I am not paying attention to things like the active vs passive voice switches, the run-on sentences, the bad grammar (because while bad, it feels like natural speech versus a well written book so it actually, to me, reads ok if I think of these as little plays in my mind and all the words are just part of a natural conversation).  No, I am talking about the characters.  Dulcie seemed like a pretty cool girl in the first book.  And she was even better in the second.  The third book didn’t add to her coolness factor, but it didn’t detract either.  This one, however? Oh my goodness is she a blubbering idiot.  She is delusional, whiney, self-contradictory (at one point she thinks that she never gave up fighting to get out of her situation, but caving to each and every demand and command isn’t exactly fighting) and she becomes so irritating.  Not to mention the story itself – her lies and that Knight knew but was lying too and all the manufactured drama/stress because both characters are liars… well, I can only take so much of that internal struggle from our “heroine” before it gets old.  Really, really old.  Like ancient Babylonian times, Noah’s Ark kind of old.

The stupid.  Dulcie went from being a pretty with-it law enforcement agent to a complete moron.  Zero to stupid in less than 10 seconds, flat.  The Flash has nothing on her.  That’s not great character development.  That’s exactly the opposite of jbravowhat I want to read.  Had she started out a walking talking potato it would be one thing.  But she is supposed to be this kick-ass regulator and she was smart enough to eventually figure out the deal with Quill in the first book.  While here, Johhny Bravo is an Einstein in comparison.  When characters don’t learn from their mistakes, it can be frustrating.  When they are as idiotic as Dulcie is in the book… stupid is too smart.  How can she not think of any options – none, zero, zilch.  I thought of 15 within seconds and I am really not all that creative.  I know that there needs to be some sort of tension or obstacle, but we could have gotten to the same end point in a number of other, totally valid and less moronic ways.  The character didn’t need to become a walking lobotomy.

More stupid.  The title.  A play on Wuthering Heights, I get that.  But where, oh where, is the relationship?  Other than a play on the title just to play with the title.  I was wondering this with the prior installments, but here it was too much to continue to ignore. There were also a number of book-to-book inconsistencies that I picked up here.  For example, she had returned from the Netherworld a day after meeting her father, which was mere hours after being at Gabe’s where she took a shower.  But here, her return, she says she hadn’t taken a shower in Hades knows how long.  Ok, this isn’t exactly plot risking inconsistency, but there were a fair number of them here and I wonder if the author and/or editor just fell asleep at the helm.  Lazy and… you guessed it… stupid!

Even more stupid.  While we needed to see how the “relationship” between Dulcie and her father was going to impact things – and they were for sure going to impact things – was there a race going on that someone failed to mention?  The speed with which this story takes place, from Dulcie getting home to getting her job back to ending the way it did, remember the Flash?   flashThis element of the pace makes him look like a tortoise.  A man who is supposed to have been a master criminal and all around tyrant for at least a hundred years can’t take a few days or weeks to give his new plant time to get settled and work through a workable solution?  Tosh!  Poor planning on the author’s part if you ask me.

Then Dulcie’s libido needs some help.  Sure, in the PNR genre the libido is the elephant in the room and characters are often overcome by it, unable to silence their inner voice telling them how bad they want to jump bones and eventually the fail to control their urges, heating up pages (or chapters depending on how good the author is).  And often, characters think the coupling nikki Fisn’t smart (ok, always not just often – but this is where the couple’s struggle to be together, the he’s too good for me, I am too damaged, I can’t… comes from) and that tension or obstacle is necessary to the plot.  When done right, it makes the steamy scenes steamier and the happy endings happier.  When done right, the reader gets to sigh a sigh of relief that the characters have coupled and beaten what-ever was keeping them apart.  But when done wrong, the characters are stupid, whiny, self-centered annoying reflections, with the emotional range of a teaspoon.    But the teaspoon is Nicky Ferrante compared to Dulcie.  While her libido puts Charlie Harper tocharlie shame – as absolutely all reason and any teeny tiny sense of intelligence disappears instantly every time Dulcie gets too close to Knight since she automatically stops thinking even semi-coherent thoughts about anything other than lust.  Dulcie is the poster child for Lust.  And it became really tedious and boring in this installment.  Especially given the revolting – and unfortunately, her inability to do anything other than lust after Knight, while being self contradictory in the same thoughts doesn’t appear solved even at the end of book 5.

The revolting.  This was the worst part of this book.  By far.  The cliffhangers in this and the last book sucked.  The fact that I idea I might get a slightly more sexy version of the cozy mystery was burst worse than on over-inflated balloon sucked.  All of the stupidity and frustration noted above sucked.  But what sucked the worst was **spoiler ahead**  the scene towards the end between our 2 main characters – Knight, who I was really starting to like, and Idiot.  Where they are fighting and he goes from being a good guy to a rapist.  Yep.  He does.  Just like that.  He is all over Dulcie, she is telling him no repeatedly, and he reads her body language and decides that she doesn’t mean no when she says it, she really means yes.  So he forces himself on her.  It doesn’t matter that she eventually says ok – it never should have gotten that far with these characters.    I have read books with rape elements or scenes.  And typically there is a reason for the scene.  Here – I think the author just flipped her lid.  And, the way the characters handled the situation subsequently, made me ill.  I had to put the book down and re-read a number of times to make sure I really read what I thought I did.  (Compounding this is the fact that in the following book, which I will review in the next few days, the author even does some victim shaming.  That too was revolting.)  And the larger lesson of it’s not the victim’s fault and no means no, no matter what (I counted 6 times she explicitly said no or stop or don’t do this and a number of others where she had that thought) and that rape isn’t the same as passionate sex (which is one of the explanations for the whole thing later) and that no man can read the mind or in this case body of another to change no to consent.  Never mind that she eventually, begrudgingly, says she wants to have sex – since it is after he has already penetrated her.  His response at one point to why he is forcing himself on her is “because I can.”  WTF???  Let that sink in.  Is my revulsion misplaced?  The more I think about it, the more revolted I am.  And the more disappointed in the author I am (especially after reading Malice in Wonderland, by the way… but I won’t spoil that one in this review).

This is NOT ok.  Glossing over this by the characters, is NOT ok.  Ending the book on this note, between these characters, is NOT ok.  Turning the hero into a monster like this, for no apparent reason, is NOT ok.

So where do I stand?  I definitely need to reclassify these from the mystery to the PNR.  I am terribly disappointed that the individual mystery per book is not the way this series went and it took this ugly dark twisty turn.  And I read book 5 (Malice in Wonderland).  Not because I was really psyched to after the way 4 ended (and that is such a shame because I was really enjoying the series up until this point) but because I was curious as to how the author would handle things and I felt like I couldn’t let it end on such a sour note.  We’ll talk about my disappointment and more of the frustrating and the stupid in the next Dulcie review.

 

A Taste for Great Hexpectations

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, books are like food in a lot of ways.  The creator can possess all the requisite technical skills that would, in theory, make for a great creation but there is always room for failure because the creator is still human and can make mistakes.

Or, the execution might be flawless, but the consumer still hates it because that person has his/her own personal tastes.  And if one hates it, others might love it.  Or vice-versa.  This is true with food, music, art and yes, books.  I sometimes gander at reviews written by others when deciding what to read next.  While I tend to take suggestions from friends or folks I know share my tastes more seriously, I sometimes need some third-party sources to help me find what to read next.  I knew I was going to read Great Hexpectations by H.P. Mallory.  But exactly when I got around to it, and if I read something else first, was totally influenced by reading a few reviews of the books on the top of my “to-be-read” stacks (since I have a number of them).   I realized when looking through the goodreads reviews that there is such a huge disparity out there when it came to this book and its quality.  It has happened plenty of times: I totally fall for a book (or series) and others think it is less appetizing than Hilly finds Minnie’s chocolate pie (if you’ve seen the movie, you know which pie I am talking about…).  And it happens with books in all sorts of genres and those written by a range of authors – both established and new – critically acclaimed and not.  Although critically acclaimed is also relative since critics too are people whose views are subjective and influenced by all sorts of things – so I don’t put too much stock in “critically acclaimed” as a result.  This book, of this series, struck me as a particularly good example of this duality – tons of 5 stars and tons of 1 stars.  It was such a love-it-or-hate-it response.

For me, it was a solid 4 stars (remember, goodreads 4 means “really liked it”).  Sure, it has some issues.  But I am not reading F. Scott Fitzgerald.  It was entertaining, fun, cute, a little steamy and filled with lots of the things I like when reading.12977456  Not to mention, it did the job.  It was an escape from the day-to-day of reality.  As a lawyer by day, mother by day and night, martial artist/instructor by hobby, there is so much seriousness in my life already.  I often find my colleagues look down at my reading choices because they aren’t haughty enough.  You know, I am not reading the so-and-so non-fiction NY Times #1 book about the most depressing human rights whatever…. zzzzzzzzzzzz……. I read enough big words in my day job.  I handle enough serious issues every day at work that when I read, I want to escape reality and laugh and smile and not have to think too hard or much about what I have just read.  Great Hexpectations, like the first two Dulcie books, squarely fit that purpose.  And I am enormously grateful for that.

This installment was “more serious” (relatively speaking) since there wasn’t really much of a mystery to solve but we find Dulcie off to rescue Knight after he has disappeared.  But it was still a cute little escape.  I mean how serious can it really be when we are talking about a drunk goblin, a fairy who doesn’t know how to use her wings, and a vampire that tries to get sex through a contract?  It was nice to see Dulcie and Knight consummate their relationship – and admit to loving each other.  And, it had a funny little twist at the end, with a hell of a cliffhanger.  I am just glad that the next installments (books 5 and 6 anyway) are already published so I can pick them right up and I don’t need to wait for what happens next.  Yes, the twist/cliffhanger didn’t require a CIA analyst to figure it out or predict it.  But, it didn’t feel like a sure thing either.  Marvin’s failure to blow up Earth with his Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator was a guaranteed.  Everyone knows that Bugs will spoil his plans – we know that from the moment we first see Marvin.  But the only thing I felt was as inevitable as Bug’s saving of Earth was that Knight would someone end up freed.  So, it was enough suspense for me to keep things interesting.

My biggest issue with this one is the name.  I followed and go the references in the first two installments.  Here, “Great Hexpectations”…. not so much.  Anyone who knows the genesis of the title (besides what appears to be the author’s attempt to use “Literature” titles and twist them for this series) or the explanation/relation to the story, please feel free to let me know.  And that’s a tiny issue.  Regardless, me and my tastes are looking forward to Wuthering Frights.

 

One note:  There was a little sex in this story.  Wouldn’t you know it – right after I go and declare that it fits more with a cozy since innuendo and threats is as much action as we actually see… the author goes and gives us two pretty good hook-up scenes.  First is steamier than the second, but they are definitely there.  And the mirror is definitely foggy after them.  I may re-classify, I may not.  We’ll see after I finish the next one.

Tale of Multiple Genres

A 10896701Tale of Two Goblins by H.P. Mallory presents me with quite a dilemma : how to classify this series.  Some call the series urban fantasy (I hate that genre by the way… a lot of the stuff lumped in there was PNR, and nice and steamy PNR at that, until this new “urban fantasy” classification came along and spoiled all that good fun and turned off the hot water.  Like the stories and authors are too good for those scenes.  I blame Fifty Shades of Crap for that – good authors don’t want their stuff thought of as the same type of crap.  That’s just my guess.  Anyone know of a better reason, let me know and I will happily retract what I just said.  But for now, that’s my conspiracy theory du jour).  Some call it paranormal romance.  Some, urban fantasy paranormal.  I kind of like the goodreads list called is Magical Chick Lit.  Personally, it reminds me of the cozy mystery.

Cozy mysteries usually have even less steam than this (and it’s pretty scarce here, a few references, scenes that never lead anywhere, and a few rare curse words).  So, not really sure it belongs there.  And not PNR, well, because despite the burgeoning relationship between Dulcie and Knight, there really isn’t much “R” in that.  Well, there’s some.  But not too much.  And if that sort of thing makes you squeamish, the one scene to avoid is near the end and you can see it coming and if it’s skipped, it won’t hurt a readers ability to follow the story.  Not to mention, the formula is more like the cozy.  You know, we have a mystery and watch it trying to be solved, only to have the culprit be someone that we never ever could have guessed – because only the author knows (there were not hints, no foreshadowing, and often the character makes its first appearance when the cuff are about to come out).  But, there are definitely fantasy elements too – fairies, werewolves, loki (still don’t have a great explanation of what this means in this world yet), witches, demons, etc.  And a fair amount of magic.  We have fairy dust that lets the user do pretty much anything, vampires with super speed, witches who can cast spells, potions and travel across dimensions.  So, what to do; how to classify this series.  I am sticking with the previous decision to let these sit in mysteries because to me, they feel much more like cozy mysteries than anything.  But… I reserve the right to totally change my mind, for any reason whatsoever, at any time.  I can do that because this is my blog.  🙂

I didn’t review the first installment, To Kill a Warlock (time wasn’t my friend when I finished it).  But I really enjoyed it.  I finished that and immediately bought a whole13608100 bunch of H.P. Mallory’s other stuff (including Dulcie #2).  With fingers crossed that they would all be as cute and as much fun.  I am so glad I did – this didn’t disappoint.  In fact, I think this was probably even an improvement over the first.

We have a little mystery here – someone is after Dulcie and they are going through people in her life to get to her.  We have a little paranormal – as vamps go, Bram is pretty cool and Dulcie’s fairy powers are fun too.  We have a little romance – Knight is really into Dulcie and she is probably falling for him too.  We get more time with our main character and get to see her in action, the lines she is wiling to cross to save a friend and who she really is.  We see what, in my opinion, is the appropriate amount of crass from her too when she refers to the a*hole after her and her friends.  These aren’t huge novels nor do I think there’s any danger of them being considered great literature like Wuthering Heights or anything, but they are fun little reads and a good way to occupy time while on line at the grocery store and they made me chuckle.  So despite not knowing what the heck to call their genre, the Dulcie O’Neil books are enjoyable and I will be reading Great Hexpectations very soon!

Spooky Fun in Southern Spirits

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00031]I want to thank Netgalley again for access to yet another wonderful title – one that has made my “to be read” pile significantly larger because if the other stuff by Angie Fox is as much fun as Southern Spirits, then I have a lot more reading to do!  I mean, there are a number of series that Ms. Fox has written and it looks like, fingers crossed, that there will be another related to Southern Spirits (the end page with other books lists this installment under “The Southern Ghost Hunter” heading!).  Yippeee!

I am a big fan of books like this – quick, fun, easy to read, an engaging mystery, and characters that are easy to like.  A little bit of romance and a little bit more of the paranormal, and I am hooked.  The final ingredient, which sometimes feels like the cherry on the cake is good writing.  I read some bad stuff, and very often continue to read that book or series anyway.  Call me a masochist (it’s bad but I like it!) or maybe an optimist (things will get better?) but it usually takes a lot to get me to stop reading something.  How can good writing be the dessert course?  Well, even bad writers can have fun books, good stories and/or characters.  Ok, so I am in a Twi-bashing kind of mood lately.  They were entertaining and fun reads.  But, lets face it, they were about sparkly vampires.  I mean, really, who thinks they were well written?  Or Fifty Shades – they may have been steamy but they were also the model for a course in contradiction and bad writing.

Not the case here!  Verity, a girl hard on her luck because of a jerk of an ex-fiance, happens to change her life when she dumps an urn full of the ashes of a 1920s gangster on her rose bushes.  And then waters said rose bushes.  And ends up with a gangster ghost, grounded to her and her property.  Property that she is trying to save.  So, she jumps into a mystery now that she has a connection to the spirit world, in an attempt to make the money she needs to save her home.  Frankie, the gangster is funny, Verity doesn’t shy from danger and is sarcastic and witty, the dialogue between characters is amusing and feels real.  Melody, Verity’s sister is a great tool for info (she’s the Hermoine of this story, being the resident librarian) and Ellis is the hunk who hires Verity and he was pretty fun to conjure in my brain.

The story isn’t super complicated – they never really are in this genre (cozy mystery is where I believe it sits, at least that’s where I have categorized it).  But the paranormal spin keeps it fun and lets things happen which otherwise wouldn’t be possible.  I was reminded very much of Madelyn Alt’s Betwitching Series (which I miss terribly, by the way – I still have fingers crossed that In Charm’s Way will eventually grace the book stores but I may be delusional on that front) or H.P. Mallory’s stuff (I am only one book into the Dulcie O’Neil series, but loved the first one).  We see everything from Verity’s perspective and she’s a great companion.  Never mind the fact that she has a pet skunk (yes, skunk!!!  Lucy. Love. It.) and isn’t shy about that.  She has just enough personality and we see just enough of her for me to think “move over Pepe Le Pew”.

Then, we have a little tiny hint of romance between Verity and Ellis, and that too keeps things interesting.  Just enough suspense and mystery to be alluring and addictive.   The ground rules for the paranormal world were solidly established and that was a relief.  The story, with the backdrop of the Southern Spirit’s distillery, was just spooky enough to keep me furiously reading.  Can’t go to bed right after the ghost attacks, after all!  A toast is in order: here’s to Southern Spirits, and hopefully more spooky fun in A Ghostly Gift!