books

Bitter, Sweet, Delicious!

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg was an unexpected delight!  Once I started reading, I could hardly put it down.  It was like eating the perfect piece of chocolate cake, eager for the next bite and disappointed when you look down and the plate is clean with no more to eat.

This is the story of a young lady without a memory beyond the last few years, who manages to bake sweet treats which are, somehow, magically infused with different emotions or things like luck.  One day, her village is attacked by some marauders and while she survives, she is kidnapped and sold into slavery.  A mysterious man, not completely right in the head buys her and forces her to use her magic to make them money for different customers.  But there is a mysterious being who visits her – he is like a ghost or a spirit – and he wants her to get her memory back.

The creativity, both in the acts of the characters, and in the author’s plot and execution, is on full display.  While there was very little that was truly happy about this story, it was original and well crafted.  I found it nearly impossible to put down.  There was such a lovely mix of a few fairy tales (in their own way) and the new story here.  From the allusions to the story of Hansel and Gretel, to Alice in Wonderland, there was whimsy in the misery.  It was such an interesting juxtaposition, even knowing that whimsy was rooted in misery and had what were really in some cases evil purposes.  Seeing the power of naming something is typically reserved for books dealing with Fairies, but here it had entirely different, even though ultimately sad, purposes.  It was also a great surprise to see the direction the story ended up taking.

I particularly enjoyed reading the scenes where Maire is baking.  Seeing her work, and then learning how her magic worked, was so interesting and unique.  Like the range of treats she baked, I was filled with a range of emotions while reading the story, with all its twists and turns.  Sadness, fear, hope, love, all seem to have their moment for Maire and the reader.  The only ingredient missing?  A way for me to see that a sequel would be possible that wouldn’t distort the original story too much.  Either way, I now need to see what else there is to read by this author.  Hopefully, her other stuff is just as delicious!

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!

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!!

And the score is…

Sometimes when sitting down to write a review I find myself thinking like I am preparing the box score for last night’s baseball game.  But instead of ERA, base hits, errors, etc., I am thinking in terms of (1) plot development (or furtherance, depending on whether the book is the 1st or 5th or last in a series), (2) character development (ditto on the “or furtherance” part), (3) dialogue, (4) plot holes, (5) world building, (6) reality scale (to me, this is akin to the difference between animation, like Zootopia, and Tomorrowland – both fiction with fantastical elements but one is clearly trying to emulate reality in at least some aspects (Tomorrowland) whereas the other is a cartoon), (7) action (both pace and excitement levels), (8) pace of the story, and (9) if I read an “adult book” – steaminess or if I read a YA book – teenage angst.

So, how exactly did Faelorehn by Jenna Elizabeth Johnson fare?  If this were a baseball game, I would say that we are in extra innings, waiting to see how things end up.  (And we would be waiting for a little while, because while it looks like I could get at least the next book right away, I have a number of other things I need to read first)!  If it were soccer, in a non-playoff sense, I would say it was a 0-0 draw.  Why?  Well, if I were rating all 9 items (you know, like innings) above on a scale of 1-10 (worst to best) then the score would look a little like the chart below.  Which isn’t terrible, it wold be extra innings after all, where there is still a chance to add a notch to the “W” column (for the reader, since I see this as author vs reader and if the reader wins, its because they were able to enjoy a truly excellent book and if the author wins, then it was just about getting words on pages).  But, it’s close enough that there is still risk of loosing too.  It all depends on the next book, or more at bats.

Pregame (what you need to know):  Meghan is a foster child, in a big family, who all love her.  She is different though.  For as long as she can remember she sees things, thing the trees can talk to her, stuff like that.  She is a teenager, going to school, and has a small group of close friends who are all the non-popular kids.  A few of the popular kids really hate her though.  A mysterious “hobo” starts hanging around school.  She spends some time in the swamp near her house one Halloween and she starts seeing and hearing things again.  He reoccurring dream starts to change.  She gets attacked.  And that’s when she finds out she is really from a different world – she is Fae.

  Plot Dev. Character Dev. Dialogue Plot Holes World Building Reality Action Pace of Story Genre Specific
Score 5 7 7 7 7 8 4 3 3

See?  Looks a little like a score board.

Plot Development:  Book 1 was really more set up than plot development; the real “plot” could be summarized in about 3 sentences and didn’t need the whole book to flush out.  The entire plot really was:  Megahn is different and discovers why from a mystery man.  Turns out she is Fae and she needs to stay away from her real home or she will be in danger.  In the end, she is tricked into stepping into her homeland, looses her protection, and is now going to be hunted.  Oh, and she falls for the mystery man.  Ok – so that took 4 sentences.  It was missing something, something that makes even a set-up book more compelling.  It wasn’t awful, just wasn’t a thrilling enough set-up and plot to leave me starving for more and what ever comes next.

Character Development: Meghan – pretty well developed.  Cade, not so much.  But that was ok since Cade is the dark, strange, handsome mystery guy.

Dialogue:   It was decent.  I wasn’t rolling my eyes as I read stuff, an most of it felt pretty natural.  There is a “but” though.  Some of the word choices were a little… off… to have Cade say her kind has a character “flaw” or defect, when really , it’s just that they are a little different, bothered me.

Plot Holes: There weren’t too many, but the ones that existed were pretty big.

Example 1: Meghan really goes with the strange crow woman (doesn’t take a genius to figure out who she really is, by the way) after less than 30 seconds of convincing?  Nope, don’t believe it.

Example 2: Her best, closest friends don’t know her well enough, see her often enough, hang with her enough, so that she can hide/create a mysterious made up boyfriend?  Nope, don’t believe it.

World Building: This installment was mostly set up.  But it only gets a seven because the “world” was not really all that different from the real world.  And we don’t get many rules of the Fae world until the end, and even then, we get very few.  I adored the spirit guide dog though!  Need more!

Reality: Almost a little too real – very little paranormal/fairy in it.  At least until the end.  Needed more fantasy.  Although, it was nicely set up with the  real world elements, including down to the information about Meghan being placed with her family.

Action:  Lots of non-action action.  Sure, Meghan get attacked, and followed by some crows.  But she spends too much time reading, and like I said about the plot, not enough time getting into situations where I felt pulled into the world and the action and the plot.  I will read the next, but I am not yearning with every breath to see what happens to Meghan and Cade next.  Just not enough to it all for that.  Wish I could say otherwise.

Pace of Story: Super, duper, extra, awfully and tremendously ssssssslllllllooooowwww.  See all the previous items for details on this!

Genre Specific:   There’s a little bit of romance (although it is mostly implied and the reader has to infer it from the minimal actual page time Meghan and Cade have together).  Not tremendously consistent with the genre, the parents are not absentee parents.  Instead, they are present, and so are all of Meghan’s adoptive siblings.  The story is just built so that the parent’s don’t need to be absentee to move the (little bit of) plot along.  Seems that actual Celtic mythology influences the story, and that is great!  As an add, there are teenage bullies here and they are pretty awful.  But it is clear that they are bullies and their actions are not glorified, so I am ok with their presence (as well as a little bit of ass-kicking with them, since I think most bullies eventually need a whopping or they don’t learn).

There’s also the standard miscellaneous items that tend to go with a box score – in this case, the grammar wasn’t terrible and the bottom line, what isn’t evident from a perusal of just the numbers, is that I will read at least the next installment.  I just hop it has a little more plot depth, so that when the game is over, there is a clear winner.  But at the end of the 1st, score is tied, and I can’t tell which way the game is going to go!

Scared $*%&less by The Spirit Chaser

Wow.  It’s been a long time since I read something that scared the ever-livin’ you know what out of me as I read it.  The anxiety, the butterflies in my stomach, finding myself literally-sitting-on-the-edge-of-my-seat as I read, the pure hatred that I can’t speed read 1,000 words a minute because I have to know what happens next, and the creepy goosebumps because the story is scary and – like while watching any horror movie – the feeling in the pit of your stomach that you just know that things aren’t going to end well…. well The Spirit Chaser by Kat Mayor had it all in spades.  OMG.  It was Awe.Some!  And I so hope there is a sequel of some sort!  I haven’t had a book run me through this particular gamut of emotions since Michael Scott’s Image (and sequel, Reflection).  Creepy!   I would say Anna Dressed in Blood did this too, but Anna was YA (aka PG-rated) and this one had the added bonus of being adult (between all the blood-draining-from-my-face scary as crap scenes there were some rushing-blood-to-my-face steamy as crap scenes between Austin and Casey), so if you are looking for something totally scary but a little steamy too, this is where it lives!

Austin Cole is the star of a TV show called SCI – Spirit Chaser Investigations – where he and his team investigate homes and other places, looking for ghosts.  When an investigation goes wrong at a warehouse and his best psychic (and best friend) ends up injured and refuses to be part of the team anymore, Austin needs to find a replacement.  Enter Casey, a tough psychic who steps into place and becomes part of the team.  But, the warehouse was just the beginning of a terrifying story.  Two more super creepy places are tainted by so much evil that Austin, Casey and the rest of the SCI team have a huge battle to face.  There are ghosts, demons, and terrifying exorcisms between the pages.  Need to be convinced as to how creepy this book is?  All you need to do is look at the cover picture as it sets the perfect tone.

I got goosebumps more than once while reading this.  And shivered from the chills plenty of times.  The temperature in the rooms with the ghosts was not the only chilling going on while reading this.  The settings were downright disturbing and the action while trying to chase the ghosts and/or demons away was excellent.  The character building was great, and the scenes with Austin and Casey’s families made their characters so much more real and likeable.  Austin, for the most part, is a dream.  Ok, maybe he’s a little over the top in a few areas, but really he’s pretty innocent and looking to to make sure Casey is happy.  Casey and all the other characters were easy to like and despite the ghostly elements, it was also pretty easy to feel like this was grounded in enough reality to make the story that much scarier.  I loved that I was able to picture it all in my mind so easily while reading.  This would make a phenomenal scary movie!

Only criticism, in the very first chapter, the first few pages, referring to Austin as “the Spirit Chaser” instead of simply identifying him in that way and then using his name, was a little confusing and lead me to re-reading the first 5 or 6 pages twice.  That could have been avoided with a slightly more discerning editor/editing job to those few pages.  But, once I caught on to who was who, it was smooth, albeit spooky, sailing.

**spoiler alert** One of the most tragic yet brilliant parts of the story?  The heartbreak at the end.  This was also part of how I knew I found a book that I loved.  The fact that I felt so attached to the characters that the last 10 (or so) chapters were so hard to read as they were so heartbreaking, drove home the fact that I had become invested in the story and the characters.  To be honest, I don’t mind sad endings, but the “closure” here, I could have done without as it took things from sad and a little unknown to downright cruel.  I think I would have preferred the loose end of not knowing what happened to Austin than the heartbreak when I read the last chapter.  It felt like a sucker punch to the gut.  Conversely, it again was a win for the overall book because I was able to feel that strongly about the characters and story.

Bottom line, The Spirit Chaser is filled with all the frights, spookiness, sexiness, and wonder of an excellent ghost story.  I’m just glad I wasn’t sitting around a campfire having this read to me right before bed, or I might never have gotten to sleep.  I loved it!!!

 

 

 

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?

It’s may be the beginning, but it should be the end

You know all those expressions about one door closing and another one opening, an event isn’t the end but the beginning of something new?  Clearly who ever coined those expressions didn’t do it after reading something like Blackmoon Beginnings by Kaitlyn Hoyt.  17379473Never mind that this is “book 1” of the “Prophesized Series” (apparently out of 4 – Goodreads states the following about book 4: “Reaching Retribution is the fourth and final novel in the four-part Prophesized Series”), never mind that the cover is pretty cool and enticing, never mind that the story is pretty typical and unoriginal but yet still had some promise if written (and for fuck’s sake, edited) better, never mind that this is (at least) intended to only be four installments.

After finishing this book, this is a series where the beginning could have been the end, and that would have been ok with this reader.

I am starting to feel like a broken record.  The strikes against: self-published, poorly edited, many grammatical issues, poor word choice, awkward dialogue, too much of the whole lack of self awareness by the main protagonist, everyone around the main protagonist is “hot”, what is very clearly a lack of maturity by the author, a number of jumps in the plot and jumps in the story (will explain how I am distinguishing shortly), and instant ability in self defense (and this particularly bugs me and pisses me off since I have nearly 20 years of martial arts training and I know that it takes practice – lots and lots of practice – to learn these things).  
And I feel like a broken record because these seem to be such frequent observations on these YA books, especially ones that are written by folks that are just too young to have the requisite life experience to write and get spectacular results.  I don’t mean to say that young authors can’t write well.  But, like I have said before, most teenagers just don’t have the perspective or experience to fill the gaps around the fantasy with the necessary accurate realism to
propel the writing from mediocre (or terrible) to wonderful.  

The story here is that we have an young woman, who thinks she is ordinary, without a real family.  She lives with her guardian who is absentee and she is about to graduate from high school.  When all of a sudden, she finds she has magical powers.  Said magical powers make her the subject of a prophecy that means she will save the world (or something like that).  As a result, she just picks up and moves in with a random magical family.  And of course, there is the potential for at least one love triangle.  Oh, and there is the group of bad magicians out to get the good ones.  There is a jealous ex-girlfriend for the guy our main protagonist is seemingly falling for (and all the teenage melodrama that goes with that).  So, I think all the typical YA boxes are checked.

I did not seek permission from the artist for posting this – (if you are she, and you want me to remove, please just let me know) – but I thought it was an AWESOME rendering and it came from audreybenjaminsen.deviantart.com

So, now what do I mean by jumps in the story versus jumps in the plot?  It’s kind of like this:  A plot jump would be if in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Harry had never found the mirror of erised but yet knew how it worked when confronted with Quirrell/Voldemort anyway and a jump in the story would have been the way the movie adapted the challenges that the trio went through to get to Quirrell (remember, in the book, they had Fluffy, the winged keys, the sun hating plant, the giant chess board, the sleeping Troll, the potions/logic challenge and the mirror; the movie only had Fluffy, the plant, the keys, the chessboard and the mirror); we still get to the same place without too much stress and while it would have been neat to see Hermoine logic through the potions it wasn’t necessary to the movie.  But take away the scene where Harry learns how the mirror works, and stuff stops making sense.

Examples of the story jumping and plot jumping here:  story jumping = Ryanne never explaining to Jane that she’s basically moved out of their house and in with Colton and his family.  Plot jumping = Liam, the dreamwalking mage, and everything that goes along with how Ryanne meets him the first time and how he gives her his necklace.  Story jumping = Ryanne’s instant ability to do all self-defense moves ever needed.  Plot jumping = Dravin and the Gadramicks find her and Coltin’s family not once but twice and no one knows how.  Some of these things can be glossed over and ignored.  Others, it wasn’t so easy to just accept and ignore.  And when you add the terrible dialogue between characters, and the totally unrealistic reactions of folks to each other, well, it was just a relief to get to the end of the book.

Given some time and experience, the author may develop and may end up with some well written stories she can add to her resume.  But, in the mean time, I hope the author can invest in a thesaurus (acknowledging that every character is “hot” doesn’t solve the fact that describing them all in the exact same one dimensional way, with few words (really, one = “hot”), doesn’t make for fascinating reading) and maybe by the end of book four things will have improved enough to make reading this feel less painful and and I will not be so quick to associate words like “amateurish”, “undeveloped”, “naive” and “unimaginative” with the plot, character development, dialogue and overall story, respectively.

My love for YA, the Fae, and really almost anything by Holly Black

I think back to when reading YA stuff became such an obsession for me, and I realized that while much of it has to do with my undying, unyeilding, still-growing-even-after-all-these-years, love of Harry Potter, much of the rest of the love/obsession came from two other authors: Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.  I picked up City of Bones when it first came out (I think it was one of a few that I picked up at the release party for Deathly Hallows – I think – one of the others I know for sure was the Alchymest (Nicholas Flamel #1) by Michael Scott).  And I devoured it.  The Club scene where Clary sees the Shadowhunters reminded me much of my youth when we trekked into Manhattan to go to the Limelight. The story was enthralling and I loved it instantly.  I loved the world it was set in (right up until the dawn of City of Fallen Angels, when I was disappointed by the contrivances needed to stretch what I swear I remember seeing was originally slated to be a trilogy into more than that, but I digress…).  That was the start of the love affair with all things demon, vampire, werewolf, etc., in the YA world.  Holly Black’s Tithe Tithe (Modern Faerie Tales, #1)was the start of the love affair with YA Fae stories on the other hand.   I am not sure when I read this, but it was certainly after Sorcerer’s Stone (as I read that before Chamber of Secrets came out – I was one of the not so large group to read the first right after it was published) but before City of Bones.  The dark and creepy gothicness of Tithe and its sister books sucked me in.  I couldn’t get enough.  I even ended up diving into the Spiderwick Chronicles, clearly written for an even younger audience.  The courts, the settings, the quest in Ironside for a fairy that could lie…  it was all so much fun.  Then, some of the more mature PNR stuff started making its way into the to read pile and I flitted away from Holly.  I caught the Curse Workers when those came out (and really feel like there was unfinished business in the last of that series, and wouldn’t turn away from one more of them) but the universe of books to read was just becoming impossible to track.  I do have a life outside of reading after all.  So, to it was much to my delight that I noticed I had missed a book that was both Holly Black’s and Fae.  I hesitated because these days I tend to steer clear of stand-alones but for Ms. Black and the Fae, I didn’t hesitate long.  And I am so glad I read this one!

The gist of the story goes something like this:  in the town of Fairfold (some where in the US presumably based on the relative ease of a move to Philadelphia by Hazel’s family at one point), the Fae are a part of life.  There is a horned boy in a glass coffin near the town that has been sleeping for ages.  Hazel and Ben, her brother, hunted Fae when they were little, pretending to be knights.  Jack is both Ben’s best friend and a changeling. One day, the horned boy is set free and a terrible monster is set upon the town.  Hazel is trying to solve the mystery of the horned boy’s release because all signs seem to point to her being the one who broke his glass coffin.  She encounters the Alderking who requires that Hazel bring the horned boy to him, as well as a sword Hazel found when she was younger.  Turns out, Hazel also made a bargain with the Fairies when she was younger and she has been serving the Alderking as a knight for some time, during the night, without her remembering (her not remembering is thanks to the Alderking’s magic).  Hazel wants to rescue the town, the “boy” she loves, and the horned boy.

I found this to be one of my favorite stand-alone stories in a while.  The suspension of reality is just enough to bring magic to the story but not so much so as to be overdone.  Some of the elements were, I thought keen observations of society.  While others made me happy The Darkest Part of the Forestthat they were teaching a message of tolerance and courage.  The scene where Carter’s and Jack’s human parents are at their house defending Jack and Hazel’s mother also stands up for Jack were both demonstrative of the mass hysteria that humans get swept up in, so often without all the facts and based in fear alone, as well as how important it is for good people to stand up to injustice.  Especially when the injustice is being done to others.  While I can’t say whether Ms. Black intended that social commentary or lesson, or whether it was just what I read into it, I thought it was well written and provided clues to me that this was going to be a story with an ending I would be pleased with.  And I was so happy to get to the end and find that feeling was completely accurate.

There are some dark and scary moments.  It is indisputable that the portion of the narrative around a 10 year old girl finding a boy’s dead body, half eaten by something, only to then have her be attacked by a hag intent on killing her, only to have the 10 year old strike the hag dead with a magical sword, is grim.  The story of the monster, her genesis, and how that is resolved is both dark and clever, disturbing and understandable.  And many of the details in between are creepy and scary.  But, like always with Ms. Black’s storied, the imagery is wonderful and  it is tremendously easy to get swept up in the story.  I had a very difficult time putting this one down.  I just wish there was the potential to see more of Jack, Hazel, Ben and Severin for apparently, my love affair with all things YA and Fae continues!