magic

Under the Spell Thief’s Spell

This is one for the kiddies…  it is for beginning chapter book readers.  The Spell Thief by Tom Percival looks like the first in a series (the ARC I got has a little from book 2 as a preview).  While is isn’t complicated and doesn’t have the heft of something like Harry Potter for character development, dialogue or plot, if you keep in mind that it is aimed a very beginning readers, it is delightful.  The story if of a little boy, Jack of Jack-in-the-beanstalk fame, and his fellow young friends: Red (yes, Little Red Riding Hood), Rapunzel and Hansel & Gretel.  They live in a little town with a delightful tree that records their stories.  They are at war with trolls and 29623561Jack’s father is off mining moonstone, which keep trolls at bay.  One day, a ship from a far away land arrives with another little boy, Anansi.  Jack catches him talking to a troll and sets out on a quest to find out if Anansi is a troll spy.  He meets a young saw witch named Lily and tries to get her help.

In the end, I think it will be something that will be super fun for my little guy to read once he is old enough.  A tiny bit of exposure to the characters would add in on the fun, as it would be easier to understand why Rapunzel has such long hair or why Hansel & Gretel are always finishing each others sentences.  But, hard core knowledge of the fairy tales they come from isn’t necessary.  Again, it is important to remember the target audience for this; if you picked it up expecting an adaption like Wicked or some other “fractured fairy tale” (which is apparently new lingo), this isn’t that.  Instead, the characters and their story are merely a delightful device to explain what they have in common and where they all come from.  There is a little bit of magic to keep things interesting and to, hopefully, spark an interest in reading things more magical and more complicated.

It has messages of friendship and the value of listening as well as a few others.  The little illustrations are cute enough to keep my 3-year old looking at the page while I read and I loved the way Lily was drawn.  I certainly will look forward to other installments.  The Spell Thief cast a delightful, albeit simple, spell.

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A book, a blurb, and a victim

The book:  Devil’s Daughter (Lucinda’s Pawnshop, Book 1) by Hope Schenk-de Michele, Paul Marquez with Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

The blurb (from netgalley, that got me interested in the book):

“Lucinda is as old as humanity itself, yet perpetually young, beautiful, and endowed with supernatural powers. She lives a double life—human and immortal. Born out of a betrayal of trust between the first woman, Eve, and father, Lucifer, Lucinda has worked covertly and subtly for millennia to be true to her mother’s love by subverting her father’s schemes. In her human guise, she manages Lucinda’s Pawnshop & Antiquary, the doors of which can open to any street anywhere in the world at any time. Mortals who have arrived at a moral or spiritual crossroads are drawn into the mysterious shop. If they acquire one of its cursed artifacts, they may find themselves drafted into Lucifer’s service. And if the Devil’s daughter will not love a man he can control, can Lucifer control the man she loves?”

The victim: Me.

BUT… it’s ok.  Because while I was suckered by the blurb and requested the book because of it, while it was so very different than what I expected, it is ok.  Because I really enjoyed it!  I won’t bother with a synopsis, because, well, the blurb.  But, I will say that I expected some paranormal romance it was more like Tom Clancy or Brad Meltzer meets, well anyone that I read that is paranormal but working the Devil/fallen angel angle (like Larissa Ione’s Demonica), but minus any of the sex.

What I mean is that this is a plot driven story, with a number of threads of the plot all scattered, but coming together.  It is fairly easy to find the common thread of an object from the pawn shop for most of the folks involved, there are places where the link is tenuous at first.  And there are a lot of plot threads to keep track of to get to the whole story.

I am pleased that this seems to be the start of a series, since when I realized I was at the end of the book I was disappointed that it ended and it felt like there was still so much story left to tell, with respect to a number of the individual threads, and with respect to the entire tapestry as well.  I don’t know how many installments are planned, but I think it will be wonderful to read more of this world.

The world building was decent, decent enough to make sure I wasn’t more confused than I think the author intended (for which side is Nathaniel really on?).  And the character development was enough, especially with the player’s in the Devil’s game, that I felt like I really wanted to know where the story was going to take them.  There was action, and some romance (although not as much as I expected from the blurb) and definitely paranormal workings.  The idea of a pawn shop selling talismans that have actual powers is a pretty cool idea too, that leaves room for so many things.

So, the real issue is that I expected more JR Ward – Black Dagger Brotherhood, Larissa Ione – Demonica, you name the author – sexy paranormal book title here!  But got some woo’ing of Lucinda by a super religious guy who wouldn’t mess around (no judgment, that’s ok with me, just not what I expected) with her casually.  And a pervert who pretended to be someone else to try to get into Lucinda’s pants, plus a succubus who implied she was getting action, but there was no page time for any of it.  Again, that’s ok – I read plenty like that, but with the emphasis on Lucinda’s love for a man her father can’t control, that isn’t where my brain was expecting to go.

So, kudos on the story – I thought it was a unique and fresh take on this aspect of paranormal, maybe I’ve now even been introduced to a new little sub-genre that I wasn’t aware of.  I look forward to reading more.  I would just like to have my expectations properly set by the book blurb with the next installment.  Sometimes the blurbs set things up for disappointment, here it didn’t, but improper blurb writing runs the risk of leaving unhappy victims behind.  And this was a good enough book, I would hate to see it fall prey to that.

 

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!

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!

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!

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.

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.

 

How to categorize the Grim Reaper?

I don’t often review a series at a time, instead of reviewing each individual installment.  But, in the case of the Lana Harvey series (at least as of the end of book 4), Graveyard Shift (Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc., #1)I am going to make an exception.  Not because each book doesn’t deserve its own review, but purely as a matter of efficiency and because I read them each over the course of a day or two (tops) and back-to-back so they really felt like one big book to me.  And, well, this is my little blog and I set the rules.  Ok, I feel like my 2 year old now and feel that I should be sticking my tongue out at somebody in an act of pure juvenile defiance!

The Lana Harvey series, by Angela Roquet, stands at four books so far: (1) Graveyard Shift, (2) Pocket Full of Posies, (3) For the Birds, and (4) Psychopomp.  The fifth is coming soon – Death Wish.

first things first, let’s explain what this series is all about.  It’s about a Reaper (yes, as in Grim) who is charged with transporting souls right after death to their particular after life.  And each soul’s particular  afterlife is determined by their faith while living.  So, the Christian’s version of things is right beside the Muslim, right beside the Jewish, right beside the Egyptian… (you get the idea).  Pocket Full of Posies (Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc. #2)That makes for a vast and interesting well of deities and beliefs to draw from and to build a world around.  Pretty clever, and the world building was pretty well done.  Now, this series isn’t just about the escapades around the transport of random souls in each installment.  There is an overall story arc that drives Lana and Grim and all the others, while transporting souls of course.  And it has to do with keeping Eternity from collapsing into War.  It’s pretty original.

I realize that I think I need to add another category to this little blog of mine, as this was “billed” as a horror, but it certainly didn’t meet my standards of horror.  I thinFor the Birds (Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc. #3)k of Michael Scott’s Reflection or Steven King when I think horror.  This never had the fear factor or the blood and guts spewing that I think requisite for books in the horror category.  And while one might thing that a story about a bunch of grim reapers would naturally fit into the horror category, the little bit of death and danger is no where near significant enough to justify the horror categorization.  Instead, I found myself chuckling more than cowering and smiling more than nail biting.  It wouldn’t exactly call it a dark comedy (not quite enough chuckling or LOLs for that) but there were funny moments.  And, with the exception of a few scenes in Posies, even with the “romance” that goes with the main protagonist dating I am not sure I would classify this as PNR either.  So where does that leave me?  I’m going to categorize them in the PNR category because of the second book and because it seems after four books that Lana’s love life is at least semi-important to the plot of the overall series.

Despite the fact that I really enjoyed the stories, some of the installments have much sloppier editing than others and some of them were littered with grammatical issues and typos. That was kind of frustrating. I really do credit (or I guess really it should be discredit) the self-publishing trend for that.  I don’t know if these are self published books (goodreads doesn’t note the publisher but says “Kindle”) but the ability to turn out books by anybody without a professional editor is really making things hard for readers. It’s not just limited to grammatical mistakes and typos either.  No, it perpetuates much deeper issues such as keeping track of overall plot points and issues around story editing too.  I will note here, however, while there are a few blips on the radar Psychopomp (Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc., #4)from a story perspective the bulk of the issues I have with this series seem to be around the grammatical mistakes and typos.  But they weren’t big enough issues to keep me from reading all four that are currently published, and they definitely weren’t bad enough to keep me from looking forward to the fifth book.

I do wonder what’s with the quote at the beginning of each chapter? Is it an attempt by the author to show how well read she is? An attempt to show off and show the readers how well educated she is? A way to rub it in your face the fact that some of those quotes and people are unfamiliar? Frankly it feels a little… well annoying is the best word I can think of at the moment.  Again this isn’t enough to prevent me from looking forward to the next book however.

The author clearly was well researched and spent a lot of time learning what she needed to to create a detailed and fairly complicated world for our characters to be living and working in.  And the best part is, most of it works.  There are few places where I am left scratching my head thinking that there might have been an easier way to do something and something felt a little convoluted.  But overall, it worked.  The characters worked.
The story worked.  And I am happy to say that when you put all of the different faiths together there was a way to make that work. It feels mostly like the author took a very complicated puzzle and somehow managed to get all of the pieces put them together and give me a great and complete overall picture. There are funny moments and there are sad moments. There are characters you can root for and characters you can root against. And there some real human emotion coming from characters who aren’t even close to human. I have been enjoying this series very much.  I will say, one of the funniest things, throughout the series, has been the mental picture of Lana donning her “reapers robe”….  but again, it works!

So, I am not sure what else there is to ask for.  Except to hurry up and get Death Wish published!

The Cat’s out of the bag…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a Roller Coaster Ride!

I am taking a turn now, from the YA to the more mature side of things.  That is, into what is probably classified as erotica – if the warning at the beginning of the book is the authority anyway.  I picked up (through Netgalley, free in exchange for an honest review) Ecstasy Unbound by Setta Jay last week.  And darn it, it was a roller coaster ride.  Getting up that first hill was rough – all that anticipation of what was to come – followed by some fear as the car hesitates before plunging far and fast over the precipice into the heart of the ride… to be followed by an end that came all to fast, and a little (or a lot) flush in the face and sweat on the brow from all the excitement and heart pounding moments.  There were also peaks and valleys, twists and turns, and moments when I felt I was hanging upside down and not sure which direction things were headed to next.  So, yep, I felt like I had just stepped off Griffon (one of my favorite roller coasters, which is located in Busch Gardens Williamsburg).  And I loved it!

25797414 The warning in the beginning was well warranted and deserved – there are definitely a large number of extremely explicit scenes, so if that kind of stuff isn’t your slice of pie, then this series probably isn’t for you.  There is story around all the sex, but I’d say the book is split about 50/50 between actual plot moving “stuff” and sex.  Since both of that “stuff” doesn’t scare me off I dove right in, despite the warning, and plowed through from cover to cover.  And, when I got to the end, I was desperate for the next.  (By the way, after book 2 I was even more desperate for the next. This is a review of the first book, however.)  And desperate in a good way.

The first hill, the tough part, was tough because it was a fair bit of world building that was a little too complicated and the mythology mixing felt a little like migraine inducing strobe lights.  It was hard to keep it all straight and the variety with respect to the different types of beings was overwhelming.  This portion of the book, especially the prologue, set my expectations poorly as the rest of the story wasn’t so hard to keep track of.  Don’t get me wrong, the world building is a must have.  And, it needs the right amount of details so the readers understand the rules of the universe we are diving into. But all the Greek Gods, Hellbeasts, half man-half animals/shifters, demi-gods, children of who-ever, Guardians who aren’t related really but call each other siblings, different magical powers for each type of being, curses, exceptions to the curses, weird names… (and I am probably forgetting at least 2 or 3 elements here in this laundry list) well, it was all just a little overwhelming.  The good news though?  Hang on to your hats, the ride gets better.  My advice – skip to the back where there is a glossary, when ever needed (I didn’t realize it was there until I finished the book, dang nab-it!) and don’t stress over learning too much of the mythology at first.  Seems that the more time on the ride, the easier it is to be familiar with the rules of the universe we have.

Know that there are Immortals, Guardians, Magiea (magicians, essentially), humans and others.  The Guardians are watch-dogs, good guys, and males (generally – there are a few female guardians too, but so far the males are the focus through book 3) in line to be mated throughout the series.  There is a bad guy, Cyril, and he has a few minions too.  And I swear, I pictured them as minions (yes, Despicable Me minions) from the start and it made things even more entertaining!    Here, we get the first guardian to find his mate, Uri, and his mate is a demi-god, Alex.  The pair come together and have to battle Cyril.  I’ll leave the rest for the book’s page.

As the pair come together as a couple, things get awful steamy.  Quite often.  So, if you like that kind of reading it is quite enjoyable.  Just be prepared to have a fan handy, or a cold beverage, or run the cold water for a cold shower…!  Note, I thought it was a good enough read (and overall story arc) that I needed to get right back on the ride and picked up book two immediately.  Boy, was I glad there wasn’t a long line (aka, wait for it to be published… yes, I am sticking with the metaphor!).

Ok… now for the low points.  The “Island Temple of Consummation, Tetartos Realm”?  Really?  Yes, that is the bold line under the chapter 31 title.  Cheese-y.  Way too corny.  Couldn’t there have been another name for the temple?  I mean at this point in the story, we all know what the main couple is going to be doing.  If the author intended that to be concupiscent or titillating, that was a fail.

And could we not have found a different word than preternatural?  There are only, like, 50 synonyms.

The final thing I will note is that there were a few moments when the author should have used names instead of pronouns (and I wish some of the names for places especially were easier to “pronounce” in my head) as there were a number of sentences that dealt with multiple subjects and the use of “he” or “she” didn’t make it easy to decipher who the “he” or “she” was when used in the next sentence or paragraph.

Like all roller coasters, there we have one most important thing to deal with – did it get juices flowing and riders excited and wanting more?  Absolutely!  This was one of the with some of the most sexy-steamy bits I have read in a while.  The author didn’t shy away from explicit scenes.  And they were some of the more well done scenes I have read in a while.  They were tasteful, even though racy.  They were not given short shrift as their page time was well balanced with the rest of the story.  And they were just dirty enough to be salacious yet totally readable without feeling like they were too much of a fantasy.  Add to that the fact that the characters and story line were enjoyable and it was a roller coaster well worth the ride!