Paranormal 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!

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Recipe for a Witchy YA Book

The Curse of the Bruel Coven by  Sabrina Ramoth was a little atypical for a YA/paranormal.  There were lots of things that were typical, but the biggest anomaly here was the lack of a real love interest for the main character.  But, I will get back to that.  Because there were so many of the typical elements, it was like the author was simply following a recipe.  A teaspoon of absentee parents, a tablespoon of being someone different than what you were raised to believe, a cup of an adult figure not telling you everything, 6 cups of taking off and doing all sorts of stuff without bothering to tell your parental figure where you are, a few mysterious dread, a bit of paranormal surprise and a cliffhanger ending.  Bake at 350 for a few hours and viola, you have your self the typical paranormal YA.  But, most of these that I have read lately all have a romantic element, and here, the closest we get are some weird feelings towards someone Viv (our main protagonist, adopted, witch) sees in her dreams.  Although at least she herself is skeptical of these feelings.

Towards the beginning I was feeling a little, “aheh” about the book.  I had a bunch of things that were gnawing at me (like the fact that Viv finds a picture, assumes she’s adopted, and accepts it, all in about the span of 30 seconds and has less denial over it than I have guilt that I ate a few extra french fries with lunch).  But, after a little while, as the story progressed, I became pretty enamored with the story.  The pace picked up and the writing improved over the course of the few hundred pages.  My opinion grew enough that I was fairly annoyed to reach the end and have so many loose ends, those both directly placed in front of me and those subtly hinted at (Savannah, where are you?).

I don’t know if the story will turn to some sort of reincarnation story or some other witchy explanation; I don’t know how the traitors will be dealt with; I don’t know what happened to Savannah; but I do know, I am eager to read the next book and find out.  Overall, despite a few small points that I would have corrected (like calling the immortal a vampire, because the traditional ideas of vampire aren’t really what is going on here), and having a little more denial/resistance when Viv finds out she’s adopted and a witch (really, even for this genre, she is a little too open and accepting to these elements of her life), I think this was a pretty solid start to a new series.  The world building and the characters were intriguing and enough to get us started – and I am expecting more to each.  I also love stories set in New Orleans, although here, I would love it if the setting played a bigger part in the story or, at least if it were described a little more to make those mental pictures easier to form since I have never been.  But, if I were rating this particular recipe, it would get 4 stars.  And, I would be looking forward to seeing what the chef had to offer for the dessert course!

The Midori Ito of Paranormal Mystery

I am three books complete in 4 days.  Even for me that is a record.  Unfortunately, however, it isn’t per se a sign of three great books that I couldn’t put down.  There was one really goo, one mediocre, and one, well… read on and you can decide after reading the review.

A Slaughter of Angels by Matthew Angelo was, if nothing else, a quick read.  In e-books, on my phone, it was only 319 pages.  So, it was pretty short.  I can’t decide if that should be in the “helped it” or “hurt it” column.

I feel like this particular book should be graded the way figure skating is (or was, I’m not really a fan of the sport so I am not sure which tense of that verb is accurate, but given that I am just trying to illustrate a point, it doesn’t really matter): one score for technical merit (aka, execution, grammar, etc.) and the other for artistic merit (aka, the story/plot).  Because this is a book (or short story, since it really isn’t terribly long) that really suffers in one area but had such promise in the other.  And where is suffers?  It doesn’t just stumble a little.  No, it flat out falls on its rear end and the routine never recovers.  And yet, there was the potential to be so beautiful and graceful.  Why the figure skating analogy, you might wonder.  Because figure skating looks easy, but it is phenomenally difficult, takes tons of practice to get right, lots of coaching is absolutely necessary, it take a lot of courage to attempt some of those cra-zy jumps and spins and even those really, really good at the sport fall on their butts.  A lot.  That, to me, is the perfect analogy to writing a book.  And the scoring system, with two scores, seems to be a good way to describe things here.

Here’s the way it really breaks down – there was just way too much of each of the following: grammatical mistakes, clunky sentences, choppy sentences, tense-mixing, typos, inconsistencies (from small to large) in the little aspects of the story or the plot itself, to have been an execution that score anywhere but “on its ass.”  I counted nearly a dozen glaring issues (e.g., “to” instead of “too” – where earlier in the same sentence “too” was correctly used – yikes!) that were either typos or bad, bad, bad grammatical mistakes.  Some of the more subtle grammatical issues were things like using the past tense and present tense in the same paragraph, which could be missed a little easier, but they still made reading the story a challenge.  And then there were the inconsistencies that are typical of self-published works – where there is no (decent) editor:  page 50 (of the iphone count epub) discussed the European clans of Nephilim and yet page 51 contains the following thought “[i]t would be arrogant of me to think I was the only Nephilim in the world.”  The page before he was talking about clans of them.  Clans.  Yes, that word is plural.  And that word typically indicates a number at least a little larger than one or two.  Decent editing would have picked this up.  Hell, decent story boarding would have picked up most of the issues like this.

And then there is the lack of development of anything that has any real meaning.  The character tells us he is nervous and scared and that Axel (the Detective in the story) is angry and Axel only does XYZ when really pissed off… etc., but we have to take  it all on face value.  There is no supporting evidence for most of what the book is trying to lay out, and as a result, I never for a second felt invested in the story or any of the characters.

All of that is the really, really low technical score.

So, the logical question seems to be, why did I continue to read it?  Well, the artistic merit had promise.  I will tell you, because the idea of the paranormal, angel/demon detective is something I love.  And the murder mystery?  Well, lets just say that I was trying to fill a Castle size hole in my heart with something that sounded like it could be fun and Castle-like, even if it was without the Kate-Rick romance (oh, ABC, how I HATE you for cancelling my absolute favorite TV writer/detective and show, and I do so hope Nathan Fillion lands somewhere awesome so I can watch more of him).  Throw in some paranormal, coupled with the essence that the cover had (another great example of things being off – the main character doesn’t have wings, but look at the cover!!!)? I was itchin’ for something good.  The main character was sarcastic – but to his determent because it was over the top and the author was clearly trying to hard.  And there was a whole lot of stuff that was set up for a finish that never really came.  And the epilogue?  It looks like a set up for more books, but while the overall idea is intriguing, unless the author can graduate from fan-fiction like writing (and not the sophisticated fan-fiction writing) and get some serious editing help, then I am not sure I can bear to read more about Rian MacCaren and his Midnight Agency, no matter how awesome the premise sounds because one really low score in each is enough for me.

 

p.s. if you are wondering about Midori Ito and why the comparison, I was specifically thinking of a particular fall, highlighted in this list of the best of figure skating falls: The 9 Most Epic Olympic Figure Skating Wipeouts Ever.

Will we be Blest with a sequel?

Blest by Blaise Lucey started off slow, but boy, it is take off in the end.  After the first half, I found I had trouble putting it down.  I love stories about angels and demons falling in love – and this one was no exception.  While I had some little issues with the beginning, specifically pace (insta-love) and world-building (background for it), by the time I was half-way through I was so very sucked-in I was sitting on the edge of my chair while reading because I was desperate to know what happened next.

Since the book begins with the first half, however, let me address a few of the short-comings.  First, there was a lot of love between two character who merely spent a few minutes, and one afternoon, together.  Even for the PNR stuff that I read, which is usually all about insta-love, that is giving the relationship development shot-shrift.  There is no reason why the characters couldn’t have developed the feelings over a little bit of time, a month or two for example.  Then, frankly, some of the vitriol towards Jim by the demon kids would have been more on display and a deeper connection to Claire and Jim would have been easier to feel.  There was no need for their birthdays to be quite so early in the school year – or the story – a little more of the suspense as to why the two characters were this books version of Romeo and Juliet would have only added to the plot. The acceptance of why they were different was also a little quick (and this is the second book I’ve finished in the last 3 days that treated this the same) – way too quick  – like, the Flash might as well be moving in slow motion compared to the speed at which they all accept the supernatural and paranormal and that angels and demons are real.  It was just too quick.  It didn’t give me time as a reader to adjust and again, I think a little more page time spent on that would have added to the overall plot and pace of the story.  Once things got going though, there were a bunch of reveals – and that was great as I felt much more involved in the story and it was easier to stay engaged.  I am just a little curious – as I don’t see this being billed as the start of a series, and lots of loose ends were tied up, but there is still certainly loose ends that aren’t tied up, including the events of the epilogue, so I hope there is at least one more coming.

Despite the need to pay attention to some of the terminology, lest you get lost, this reminded me much of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments – and some of the hints that were dropped had me holding my breath that the reveals weren’t going to be the same as with City of Bones, and thank goodness, they weren’t.  But to me, Blest had tones of City of Bones with the love between our main protagonists and the good vs evil nature of things.  Unlike Mortal Instruments, however, I have enough details to hold me to book 2 (assuming there is one **fingers crossed**) and enough to make at least another good book or two out of the things that aren’t solved and the stuff we don’t know.  And some of what we don’t know has such potential – like the back stories to the parents of all our teenage cast, the mythology of the Tribunal and how the demons were originally banished, exactly what the feathers that each of Claire and Jim have that are “opposite” the rest of their respective wings… there quite a bit of fodder to serve as the basis for some excellent follow-up books.

Even out the pace a little with the second, balance the relationship building and world building to give me more, and we may have a new favorite YA/Angel and demon series!  At least, I really hope there will be a second!

p.s. LOVE the cover!!

Twice in a row… and two for the price of one…

I am getting behind on my reviews.  Again.  Yikes!  So, while I hate to do this, I am doing it anyway.  I am giving you all another multi-book review.  At least I am sticking to the same author/series though… and it is only 2 books…!

I read a number of books by Setta Jay (thanks Netgalley for the ability to read a bunch of them all at once!).  The two in question here are Binding Ecstasy and Piercing Ecstasy.  And these two didn’t disappoint.  Picking up right where the story has left us, we see Bastian and then Jax respectively  find their mates.  And a few others too, but the primary stories are about these two Guardians and their mates.

The series seems to improve with each installment.  It was wonderful how seemless the world-building now seems to be.  The character development is on full display and we get much more of the characters with each book.  It was easy to find pure joy in the stories here – and the caveman behavior has toned down a little – not much mind you, but I guess that is part of what I get for reading this genre.

Some of the twists and turns in these two installments were pure delights!  And it was wonderful to see some ass-kicking being done by some of the females too.  Both of these books moved their own plots, as well as the plot of the overall series, nicely along.  It was such a relief to see the overall story arc be moved forward too.  To often series like these fall into the trap where the overall story arc is barely moved forward and a reader could skip most of the non-sex chapters and still not miss much.  I find it super refreshing that the characters continue to plot ahead and so does the story here.  We see some changes to the players, real reprucissions, the author isn’t afraid to take out the bad guys, and the steaminess is super steamy!  It is also pretty amazing that seven books in and there is still real plot that doesn’t feel all stretched out to just be a platform for the author to churn out books.  Series like these tend to take that wrong turn, typically about book 7 and these haven’t so far.  I can’t wait to read Divine Ecstasy!  True to their titles, both of these books were ecstasy!

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?

A Little About a Lot

While my reading has suffered, my posting has suffered worse.  I just realized that I have read about a baker’s dozen books, across 4 series, and haven’t added a page or post or review on any!  So, this little “data dump” will be to give a few little tidbits on each (by no means am I catching up and reviewing 15 or so books all in one shot – that post would be epically long and take forever to finish, only exacerbating the lack of posts problem).

Here’s what I have read:

  • The Jolie Wilkins Series – all 5 – by HP Mallory
  • The Bryn and Sinjin Series – both (although I would argue these really are just an extension of the Jolie Wilkins Series) – HP Mallory
  • The Hot Damned Series – 5 of the 6 published so far – by Robyn Peterman
  • The second in the Lynburn Legacy – Untold – by Sarah Rees Brennan
  • The first two in the Magisterium Series – The Iron Trial and The Copper Gauntlet – by Holly Black

And I think I am missing something….

Anyway, let’s have a little fun with all that.  Here’s the quick and dirty on each series.  Bryn and Sinjin are hot, Hot Damned is much hotter, Jolie Wilkins has its moments, the Lynburn Legacy is a YA and therefore pretty cold but not completely as there is a love story to it, and the Magisterium The Iron Trial (Magisterium, #1)books are also YA and colder than Lynburn.   Jolie Wilkins is Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble (Jolie Wilkins, #1)your typical girl didn’t know she was a witch, man comes to rescue her from that boring normal non-magical life.  She is destined to be queen or something like that and save the world.  Cue the sexual tension, love story, bad guys wanting to take over the world, blah blah blah.  Not terribly unique or original, but a fun little escape just the same.

Bryn and Sinjin is a shift from the perspective.  What I mean is that instead of Jolie’s destiny being the primary focus, Bryn (Jolie’s twin sister) and Sinjin (the loveable handsome ancient Vampire who was previously in love with Jolie but lost to Rand) and their developing relationship are the focus.  Another fun little outing, a little more steam.  But a cliff hanger big enough to leave me pretty annoyed if there isn’t another.  There are only 2 listed on goodreads but I swear I saw something on facebook or somewhere about at least one more coming.  And heaven forbid, it looks like they will be from Sinjin’s perspective.  Yikes.  I personally am not a fan of the romance novel from the guy’s perspective.  Even worse, the statement on HP Mallory’s facebook page says:  “…decided to make this book (and maybe the next one.  Not sure but going to switch back and forth, I think) in Sinjin’s perspective!”  There are very few novels I have read where the flip-flop in perspective works.  So, fingers crossed that is not what we get next.

The Hot Damned series is… well… in a word: weird.  Out of the first 4, 2 is more about Dixie, the cousin of Astrid our main protagonist from 1, 3 and 4.  I 1 Astrid gets turned into a Vampire.  And kills her wack-job of a mother and her demon father.  And she meets her Hell on Heels (Hot Damned #3)destined mate, a Vampire prince.  In 2 she finds herself in Hell with a cast of characters too weird to do justice to: Mother Nature (her Grandmother), Satan (her Uncle), God (another Uncle), Dixie (cousin), Seven Deadly Sins (all more cousins), Mister Rogers, Hemingway, and others.  And we discover **spoiler alert** she is “Compassion”, a True Immortal.  In 3 Dixie is sent to Earth to find herself of something like that.  And she meets and falls in love with the Angel of Death.  In 4, Astrid’s baby with crazy growing power and all sorts of magic turns out to be the most powerful Immortal ever.  And there are Fairies with names like The Kevin (with “The” being the mark of an old fairy), trolls, demons, and all sorts of other craziness going on.  Another fun little romp, with some steam, if you can get past that there are moments when it felt like the author was trying to do too much with the vampire, demons, family tree thing.  And don’t, like I did, be expecting the Rogues that were such an issue in book 1 to really mean anything in 2 through 4, they just don’t really ever turn into anything that matters.

The second in the Lynburn Legacy, which while I am dealing with before the Holly Black books, I read after and just finished.  About 20 minutes ago.  And I am furious.  Furious at some of the characters. Untold (The Lynburn Legacy, #2) It is a little hard to consider some of the “good guys” good.  Lillian, while on the same side as our young adult Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy, #1)protagonists is such a snotty bitch, who has delusions of grandeur, and wants to rule the town is just not quite as loathsome as Rob who wants a sacrifice of blood but otherwise feels exactly the same way. And, some of the plot holes were hard for me to deal with.  That said, I love the relationship between Kami and the other young folks the story is really about.  And the connection between Jared and Kami and the complication that Ash becomes was great.  There are really some sad moments on the pages of Untold.  And there are a TON of unanswered questions, that I hope get answered in the final book, Unmade (which I will be starting tonight). I will note that of all the 15 books I have neglected to write reviews on, this one, to me had the highest “can’t-put-it-down” rating.  I will note, however, that I liked the cover for the first book, Unspoken (seen on the left), better and like the cover of Unmade even less.  And, the short stories for this series – get them free or don’t bother.  They don’t really add to the story and they, in some cases, are super short.

And the last Image result for magicians syfyseries to get some reading time was the Magisterium by Holly Black. I admit to thinking of these books when I saw the first few episodes of the new show on SyFy – The Magicians – which I understand is based on a book of the same name by Lev Grossman.  Especially the part about the testing and kids not succeeding and getting dumped back to their old lives seemed, in so many ways,  so similar to the scenes in the Magisterium’s testing scene.  These are a little like Harry Potter (kids away at school, sorted into groups, learning magic) meets Seeker (who knows which is really the good side, which is the bad) meets a number of other things.  Biggest twist in the beginning is that the main protagonist wasn’t the big deal magician that the school’s staff was looking for.   But, there’s a big bad guy attacking children and there were some really creepy things in this book.  Not spooky ghost story creepy.  But adults praying on and using children and other stuff like that creepy.  But, interesting and Holly Black is magical herself in her ability to write something that I can conjure in my head in great detail and it is like watching a movie as I read.  It is so easy to get lost in her worlds, emersed in the characters and the story, and to become so invested that I am desperate to read what is next.  So… my message to her and her publisher:  let’s get on with it and release #3!!

I am going to try to add pages for all of these – in some form or another.  But I ask that you be patent and I will try to write more reviews and pages.  Goodness knows I need the pages as a lot of this is all swirling together into a big mixed up mess.

p.s. – to any worpress folks paying attention to my tiny little site:  I F’ing HATE, HATE, HATE, DESPISE, LOATHE, ABHOR, DETEST, [add your own synonym here] the “new posting experience”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Give me back the old way, without all the extra steps.  I beg of you.

 

Awesome, and not by Accident!

Insert multiple squeals of joy here! Not only did I get more of my favorite OOPs ladies, but it seems that there will be at least one more installment coming!  Accidentally Aphrodite by Dakota Cassidy25739683 is the latest in the Accidental Friends series.  It was filled with mayhem, mystery, danger, cranky vampires, color wheel toting werewolves, sexy Greek gods, and one poor unwitting accident victim.  And that’s not all – the biggest thing this was full of was hilarity! Reading the books in this series is nothing but an exercise in pure joy. I can’t get enough of them.

I must admit, there isn’t anything phenomenally unique about this series. Each book follows the same basic pattern: there’s an innocent and unknowing human who accidentally turns into a supernatural being of some sort through some crazy weird accident. The OOPS ladies come to the rescue (although in the 1st three, they weren’t “OOPS” yet, but that is a distinction without a difference since they were all involved in the first three as Nina, Wanda and Marty all each had their accidents), to help the victim go through the stages of turning, coping with all of her (or his, but I, for ease, am going to use her since that is the gender of our victim in this case) new abilities or powers, helping her become or get through whatever mystery/danger awaits, and then bringing her into the fold of the family that is the Accidental Friends. like I said nothing tremendously unique; they all follow that exact pattern.  Being of the PNR genre also sets up some rules that the series is governed by and those rules require the reluctant coupling of a pair and a happily-ever-after ending.   And yet, every time I pick one of this series up I find myself smiling, laughing and enjoying the latest installment even more than the previous.

In this installment we get Greek gods and goddesses. It’s a kooky little story. The author admits in a note at the beginning to twisting Greek mythology a little but I don’t mind.  Frankly, I don’t remember enough of my Greek mythology to have noticed.  The important part really was just remembering that Aphrodite is the goddess of love.  Everything else is fluff.  Quinn, our lovely lady who turns into Aphrodite, is on a trip to Greece with a friend (who happens to work at OOPS headquarters) when she finds a golden apple that is holding Aphrodite’s powers (don’t stress over why), she accidentally knicks the apple with her tea and POOF, she’s the new Aphrodite. She has some interesting powers including the ability – or rather responsibility – to work with Cupid to make matches. The previous Aphrodite’s son Kristos was supposed to be watching the Apple but got distracted and that’s how this accident happens.  Then, of course, he’s the hunk that Quinn falls for.  Let’s not forget the required  little mystery/danger which in this case is that someone’s after Quinn because she wanted to be the next Aphrodite and doesn’t want Quinn to be Aphrodite.

While this is the review and not the spoiler, as I said earlier this follows the exact same pattern as all the other books in the series so I don’t really think it’s giving anything away to say that our couple (and the mystery) works out and we get a happily ever after epilogue at the end. those epilogues are awesome.  Keep ’em coming!  And the bonus, it was followed by a little note that the next installment will be title Accidentally Ever After. Yippee!

It is getting a little harder as I continue to read the series for me to review these books however.  That is because they are so formulaic that there’s not a lot of difference between installments. However, the good part about all this consistency is that we get decent character development, we get to see the characters that we love so much already and a decent amount of them, we get a steamy scene or two (although I know I wouldn’t argue if we saw more – the last few books have felt a little stingy in that department), and we a great happily ever after. The only thing I would love to see handled a tiny bit differently, just for the sake of a little variety, is the way Nina reacts – I don’t mean the brash, bossy, foul mouthed, trash talking, bully (who is really all talk), crazy lady that is the Nina I know and love – I mean the fact that she so tough on the outside and so threatening to the newest character but then ends up being such a huge softy and becoming like a guardian angel to the new character. That’s exactly the same formula we’ve seen for the last at-least-a-few books.  Wouldn’t it be a nice change to see Nina really not like the person so so much after all and have Marty or Wanda have to make sure Nina eventually comes around or to have Marty or Wanda be the mother bear who gets more page time?  A tiny bit of variety in a few additional places wouldn’t be unwelcome. Just a thought.  Because no matter how much I love and adore this series, I don’t want it to feel tired or too repetitious. Because that’s when I will stop being as excited about the next book and I don’t want that to happen here – I adore these books!

The new title for the next installment leads me to believe there some sort of fairy-tale shenanigans going on.  I’m super excited.  An accidental prince charming?  An accidental Snow White?  An accidental Red Riding Hood?  Ooooohhhhh….  there’s so many ideas.  And, I still think there’s plenty of room for this series to grow – as I said in my review for accidental Dragon we have yet to see an accidental fairy, angel, witch, ghost, phoenix or any number of other paranormal type creatures that seem like they be really fun to write about – the notion of an accidental fairy especially, given all the mythology around what kind of troublemakers they can be and the vast expanse of powers they often have. **Hint hint.**  It had just better not be an indicator that this is the last in the series – since the “ever after” often means the end of the story/line.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again there’s nothing accidental about how awesome the Accidental Friends series is and Accidentally Aphrodite is no exception!

On a total side note – I started this review by dictating it to Siri on my iPhone.  And the first few sentences – at least of the original draft – were phenomenally amusing to see how Siri initially transcribed them. Mental note to be careful when trying to dictate words that are really sounds!

 

Author’s Website

It couldn’t get more superficial than this

And I thought that Bella’s love was superficial and grounded in nothing other than what the boy looks like.  This book makes that love story look like the deepest, soul reaching, romantic and well developed love story ever.  **Shudder**  I know that so many books, Para-YA and PNR especially, don’t exactly do the whole getting-to-know-you thing between the characters before they declare themselves madly in love, but here, it made even the fastest move at a snail’s pace in comparison.  And, unfortunately, it’s not smart enough or well enough written to be love-at-first sight.  Instead, it’s love at first “OMG isn’t he the most gorgeous person ever”.

I am talking about the first installment in the Guardians series, titled The Girl by Lola St.Vil.  It is not all that original a story as we are looking at a good vs evil, balance needs to be kept or the world will end, a human and an angel relationship, and a quest plus a prophecy of some sort.  Not that I need it to be that original – look at what I read for goodness sakes, mostly clones of one of a few stories with subtle differences.  Here, the difference is the idiocy and angst of some of the characters is off the charts.  Also, the inconsistent grammar, character development, and detail vomit that happen from time to time just get to be a little too much.

Believe it or not though, I am reading the next book.  Because despite all the issues I had with the first, and there were plenty (I will share just a few), I still thought it was a fun little read.  It was a great little distraction and I am interested enough in a few of the collateral characters that I want to see where the overall story takes us.  How can I have so many issues with the series after just one book yet keep reading?  It’s like watching a soap opera – the terrible acting, terrible scripts and story lines, pregnant pauses for the sake of it taking three weeks to get out a single sentence – and yet you keep watching anyway because it is still fun.  So, this is a review after all so I will share a few of the things that were (more than) a little eye roll inducing.  eye roll animated GIF Before I do that, though, let me give a 10 second synopsis.  We have angels who are trying to prevent the devil (and her minions) from letting evil take over the world.  Marcus, the leader of the angels trying to do the saving is dating another angel on his team.  His team meets Emmy, who is important because she is a clue that can lead to how to either let evil win or how to stop evil.  And Emmy falls for Marcus.  Chaos ensues.  Fights break out (not just the physical kind either) and characters die and others make-out.  And the angels have some cool powers but there are rules to the game that is being played and mostly the good guys have rules while the bad guys have very few.  Ok, I think that’s enough for the review.

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First, and worst of all, the life-changing insta-love that Marcus and Emmy, the two main protagonists, feel for each other – because the kicker is that even though I see this all the time in the stuff I read (I readily admit that I am not a great literature addict – I love Dumas, Bronte, Shelley, Dickens, Carroll, Tolstoy and more but I am addicted to the… hmmm… crap, for lack of a better word), readers typically at least see that semi-developed over the course of the protagonists encounter – they spend time together, talk to each other, get to know each other (a little)…. The point is, it becomes something that is easier to understand and substantiate.  Here, does that happen?  Nope.   They spend no time together (I am ignoring the one car ride they take, because it is so insignificant) and yet they are turning their lives upside down because of this love that they feel.  I will lump in the awful amount of immaturity and jealousy that Emmy displays into this problem as well.  It’s almost comical it is so extreme.  And since there is no real relationship to back it up, the awfulness is magnified.  Honestly, it makes me really dislike Emmy as a character.  I know she is merely 15/16, but she is really hard to stomach.  Instead, it is all about how drop-dead gorgeous he is and he’s soooo handsome **swoon** so that means I luuuuurve him.  Lust at first site is love at first sight for Emmy.  And all Emmy really cares about is what everyone else looks like.  It’s really pretty pathetic and disgusting.  Marcus has the personality of a cardboard box, but he’s pretty, so she’s in love.  Ugghhh.  You know it’s pathetic when I am comparing this to Twilight and saying that Twilight is so deep in comparison.  Because even if you adore Twilight, you have to admit, the relationship wasn’t exactly built on mutual adoration, friendship, trust… you know all those things that make for a good relationship.  Instead, it was “he’s smokin’ hot, I am in love.”  Again:  Ugghhh.

Problem two is the information vomit that the author does.  I can’t believe I am saying this – because recently my complaint has been lack of enough to keep me interested.  But clearly, I am looking for that perfect balance of enough information to understand what is going on and not too much that I have little desire to read more.  Here, we get (what appears to be anyway, although maybe I am wrong and I will have to eat my words after reading the next books) all but one of the mysteries solved in the first book.    Too much.  There’s no sense of suspense left really, at least not with respect to the world building.

Problem three is the grammar.  I am no grammar queen, I admit.  I have problems with tense sometimes and pronouns, dangling participles, etc.  But, I don’t write novels for a living.  If I did, the first thing I would do is get a book or take an English grammar class.  Come on people, learn the language you are writing!!!!!!   Better yet, HIRE AN EDITOR.  Because, you know, the best idea ever it to have your friend who thinks s/he is good at it to do it.  Pay a professional, who does it for a living!  Because they really are good at it, they don’t just think they are good at it.  While the ability to self-publish has lead to some great stories it has also lead to some really terribly written ones.  Even worse are the great stories that are written very poorly.  Because they are even more of a let down.  And don’t even get me started on the typos.  They were everywhere.  When I realize I have typos on this blog I am embarrassed and pissed off at myself.  But I write, then proof-read right away.  And it is easy to miss typos and misspellings when that is the process – my brain reads what I knew I wrote (or meant to write).  If I were attempting to put a book out in the public or if I made my living writing this little blog (gee, don’t I wish!) I would have someone who is good at proof-reading do just that before publishing.  But I guess that makes me crazy and abnormal, for thinking logically like that and thinking that I would care about the quality of my work.

Problem four is one particular scene.  That’s right.  One scene is bad enough that it is a significant enough problem to mention it by itself.  Marcus meets with the Sage and is told that he needs to use Emmy, he doesn’t need to be Image result for overdonenice to her. Then Marcus takes his girlfriend to spend time together and convince her that he loves her.   And they do all sorts of angel adrenaline junkie things (their version of sky diving and stuff).  Then, he heads off to Emmy.  And, given the sequence and what the Sage said, I assume that when in the very next scene  Marcus is confessing his undying love, that he is just going to use Emmy.  But apparently that wasn’t the case.  The melodrama, the unintentional (I assume) sap that virtually flows off the page giving the reader sticky finger, is so overdone, it’s turned a hunk of meat into a lump of charcoal.  He really does a 180, and in the most unrealistic so over the top kind of love confession it was stupid.  Not romantic but idiotic. Here’s a passage:  “Since I met you I have been unable to count in days.  I can only count your eyes.  How long until I see your eyes again?  That’s the only clock I have in my head.”  When Emmy calls him on that, he say’s it is all true.  So, here I am thinking the whole time that he is going to really turn out to be just using her.  But nope.  And, not to mention the confession about taking all the invisibility snaps so he can be a peeping tom and not be seen – that’s just creepy.  Like EL James, 50 Shades stalker creepy.  That whole scene, the dialogue, the way it came about… yikes.  Just yikes.  

Problem five is that the author completely disregards certain elements of Emmy’s home life.  Emmy end up grounded, but goes out anyway and gets beaten up and no mention of the fact that she had been punished.  Since a big deal was made about the punishment and Emmy’s not being able to read or listen to music, I thought, great, some realism.  Them two months of grounding turns into like one day and then going to West Africa and no repercussions – not even a passing mention of one.  It’s a failure to plot out (or outline) the story well enough.  It’s an oversight that felt amateur.

Problem six is the cover.  So, I got this book because it was a suggested on goodreads in the YA category.  But the cover implies something definitely other than YA.  And while the writing style and actions of Emmy are juvenile enough to justify the YA category, at least at the moment, that is not the impression I got from the cover.  And, ok, there are other version of the cover.  But the one I have is the cover shown above.  the other two cover options in goodreads are certainly more aligned with the whole YA category.

Is there anything redeeming here?  The story is just interesting enough, that despite its lack of originality, it isn’t wholly without value.  And Miku, Rio, Reese and Jay are great characters.  In fact, in many ways they are the characters that I feel I know better after finishing.  Emmy is too superficial and so green with jealousy that it is beyond annoying.  Scratching my own eyes out would probably be more pleasant than reading one more word of her jealous inner monologue.  Miku, Reese, Rio and Jay?  Like the fantastic four though.  We learn more about them, including things about some of their lives and deaths, then we do about Marcus or Mimi.  And we learn a little about what motivates them, how they think and feel.  Where the heck is that character development for Marcus and Emmy?  It’s just poorly balanced.  But, I want to see more of the wonder twins and if they ever join their powers, I want to know what happens to Jay.  So, I am already  into book two, and think unless it gets much worse (although not sure how it can) intend on riding this out until the end.   Although I do think that is a sad commentary on the series – that I am saying this has to be rock bottom so I will read because it has to get better….

Two for One

So having a two-year-old means I get to spend much less time reading and writing reviews than I used to. Therefore, I have decided that on occasion (or on a fairly regular basis perhaps, depending on my reading speed and as limited by the self-imposed rules I will list below) I will be posting reviews of books in the same series where the review is for one or two (or more) of the books all at the same time.

I set some ground rules for myself however. And so you know what they are here goes:

1.  I’ll never post a review for more than three books;

2. I will never review a book that’s just come out (will define that as having been within the last 18 months) with another;

3.  The last in the series will always get a review of its own;

4. I will never combine reviews where installments are written by different authors (caveat: if they are in an anthology-like single volume, all is fair for a single review); and

5.  I will never combine reviews when one of the books was received from an author or netgalley (or similar) in exchange for an honest review (I always review them too – even if it takes a little while, I believe if I get the book in exchange for the review, it deserves to be written.  Sometimes it just takes a little time to get to the book on my to read list and sometimes it takes a little longer for me to plan my reviews).

Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk a little about the first two of the Ancient Legends series by Jayde Scott.  11796723The first, titled “A Job From Hell” and the second, titled “Doomed”, were interesting.  They certainly challenged my classification system in that they have vamps, demons, ghosts and who knows what else as part of the “Lore Court”.  They had promising covers, (yes, I judge books by their covers.  Or at least it’s part of how I choose what to read next, by how excited the cover gets me.  Call me superficial.  I don’t care.) and kinda crazy names – at least the original name of the second book was kinda crazy.  It was clear from the blurbs, covers and titles that these would be right up my alley.  Or at least they sit in my favorite genre.  After reading them, it seems to me that they suffer a little though because it felt like the author wanted them to be adult PNR (there’s no steamy scenes it was just a sense I had from some of the disjointedness and light speed courtship that most often occurs in the adult PNR category) but they aren’t.  We have an ancient vamp with a 17 year old girl (Twilight, anyone?).  and, in some cases I also thought that this felt like Twilight fan-fiction…  with a first published date of 2011, that’s not impossible… although they weren’t quite as terribly written as Twilight (dialogue and potential was much better here not to mention that whole stay-away-from-me-no-I-can’t-resist-you-flip-flopping-so-often-I-am-nauseated didn’t happen here) in some ways and more terribly written in others (more holes in the world building here).

As installments go, they both had some things going for them and they both had some things that made them just ok.  In the first, Amber gets a job (because her brother Dallas filed out an application for her) as a housekeeper.  Turns out the guy she is keeping house for is a vampire.  And he’s some sort of bounty hunter for the Lore Court.  He has some friends who are also vamps.  It started out super spooky – with the cab driver not willing to take Amber all the way to the house and a mysterious housekeeper.  And then it turned pretty campy.  Yep, like Buffy campy.  I was expecting it to be spookier like Anna Dressed in Blood (which was spooky and creepy, even if not THE spookiest).  Instead, these turned into a caricature.  Oh well.  They weren’t terrible, they just weren’t what I expected.  They both lacked a little in the fill-me-in department.  What I mean is that the missing plot points don’t seem to be driving much of an overall mystery or anything but I still feel like I have big gaps in what I know about the world these characters are in and the rules they live by.  What exactly is the Lore Court for example?  And what happened with Rebecca?  Still not answered.  Very formulaic in nature, at least with the first, as we have Amber the mortal falls for Aidan the vampire and he falls maaaaadddddlllllyyyyy for her, like overnight.  All the secrecy and rule breaking flies out the window in less time then it takes for Aidan to tell Amber that the second floor of his mighty mansion is off limits.  And why the race that Amber gets swept up into even exists?  Who knows and by the end, I didn’t really care enough for it to bother me.

Although I did expect to learn more in book 2.  Which by the way was originally titled Beelzebub Girl – and I totally liked that title better!  That one was all about Cass and Dallas.  Cass, who turns out to be a fallen angel and Satan’s daughter.  11952268She is being groomed by daddy to take over the family business one day (yep, he wants her to run Hell) but she’s really still to good since half her nature is angel.  There’s all sorts of shenanigans going on here, and it’s even campier than the first.  Like it makes Buffy look like Oscar winning drama worthy.  I mean really, telling Dallas that Hell is Disneyland?  And Dallas even pretending to believe her?  Sheesh.  Makes those characters both seem like total idiots.  But, all in all, still an amusing little read.  Lucifer really makes this worth the read – he’s a typical dad trying to scare off his daughter’s potential suitor.  And not in a scary “I AM LUCIFER” kind of way.  No, it was a fun, I am just a typical Dad doing slightly odd things to run him off kind of way.  So, it was in some ways a better read.  Even if it was most fun because of the way Lucifer is written.  Cass’s curse, I still don’t get.  And Dallas is big trouble at the end.  So, I guess it means I need to read the next books to see what happen.

They were fun, quick little reads.  Not wonderfully written but not awful either.  What they really lacked was the detailed world building that would set out all the rules, plug the holes of the plot, and give the characters room to grow.  Hopefully the next installments will fix some of these things – or I may never make it to book #6.