vampires

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!

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.

 

The End of the (Demonica) World as We Know It!

Oh no!!!!! It’s the end of the Demonica, Lords of Deliverance World!  I had no idea.  I am so totally bummed!  I loved the Demonica7970070_f496 books when I read them.  That is, I loved the first 5 books because I was reading them as they were published since I found Pleasure Unbound when it was brand new, and the first 5 were really written so that they looked like a single series.  I was bummed when I hit Sin Undone and at the end, was thinking that it was the end of a great series.  Then, I was totally excited when I heard about the Lords of Deliverance series, starting with Eternal Rider.  At first, it didn’t seem that they were the same series, but that quickly changed and we were seeing loads of Underworld General and all my favorite characters.  So, I was happily just reading away, picking up the next installment when ever I could and devouring each one of them.  I wasn’t paying attention to anything that would give me any clue that with Revenant, that would be it.  The end of the world.  **sniff sniff**

Jeez, the snippet could at least clue us addicted readers into the fact that this is the last full length installment.  Instead, it felt like getting hit by a bus coming out of nowhere.  I wasn’t prepared.  The end and the message from the author directing us to her website for the scoop on the whole thing… well… I was blindsided.  I was totally flattened.  And it hurt.  Especially since I think that Revenant was the best book yet.  It was smart, captivating, sexy, fun, creative and a total joy to read.  To it is painful to say that this is really the end.  Now, I know that the author said the world will be continued in some sort of series about the Horsemans’ and Sem demons’ kids.  But I don’t know how I feel about that.  As Black Dagger Brotherhood started to move to the next generation of members, the series lost a lot for me.  I don’t want to see the same thing happen here.  I know these are different series and different authors, but I have yet to see a successful transition like that – or at least one that was as captivating as the original books.  And I know there are a bunch of “novellas”, but my regular readers know I have a hard time with them.  I would prefer longer, more well written, better plotted, full length novels.  I won’t rule out reading them, but I will probably read other stuff first.  That, and I need time to mourn this story arc.  Because it was so very good.  And it was such a shocker to have it so abruptly, although so artfully and perfectly, come to an end.

Revenant is, despite the fact that this is the last book, absolutely amazing!  If a series is going to end, this is how it should be done.  There wasn’t a moment of disappointment (other than the general mourning I will now need to do over the series as a whole) with the story.  And the use of the characters other than just the two that make up our main couple, was wonderful.  It was a great way to pull everything together.  Better, it didn’t feel like a rush to tie up loose ends just to tie them up.  Neither did we see a whole lot of things not addressed.  It was perfect.  I haven’t read a perfect ending to a series since Deathly Hallows.  It reminds me a little of when an athlete (or athletic team) is heading into a tournament, you want to peak at the right time – do well enough to get you to the finals and then peak there so you win.  This book did just that.  It was the absolute best I have seen of the series.  That is part of what made it so hard to stomach that this is the end.  **tears**

If you are a fan of the series – this is a must read.  If you haven’t read the other stories first, you will probably be pretty lost and the rest of the series is good – so go back and read those first then read this!  For fans of the PNR genre looking for a little steam, it’s here.  A great couple, a great story, an ending that didn’t feel contrived yet had twists that were satisfying and a surprise, all here.   It is everything I could have asked for out of this series.  Well done!  Even though we really a bidding a sad goodbye to this world.  For now anyway.

And unlike what REM would like us to believe, this end of the world does not leave me feeling fine.

NOTE:  I am ignoring the Azagoth novellas, the ones in the 1001 Dark Nights… I haven’t read them, and while I might, even if they play into the overall story arc of the Demonica/Lords of  Deliverance, the arc that started all the way back in Pleasure Unbound ended with Revenant.

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

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.

Accidental Dragon, Intentionally Awesome!

I can’t get enough of the Accidentally series by Dakota Cassidy. The women in these books are just downright awesome.

18693758If you can’t guess from the title in this installment we are faced with an accident that leads us to a dragon. But not just one Dragon we get two for the price of one. And the mystery as to how it happened and what the big bad guy was after and who the big bad guy is was satisfying even though I scratched my head a little bit at the first reveal and then read more than just the most recent “refresh your memory page” in order to remind myself as to who some of the characters were. I will note though that’s part of the joy. We get not just Marty, Wanda and Nina but Carl the zombie, Archibald the former vampire man -servant, KC and Darnell the demons… and the list goes on.  All of those wonderful characters from the first installment(s) always make an appearance with each additional book and it’s awesome.  But, on to the new.  Here the setting happens to be Vermont.  And our potential love story is between a shop owner and firefighter who are already both in love with each other even though neither one of them will admit it.

Now, it’s important to know that these books are not for the squeamish. You have to have a stomach for the oh so nice and steamy sex scenes as well as ears of steel because Nina’s ability to cuss makes the dirtiest, foulest mouth sailor look like Mother Teresa.  Although some of her turns-of-phrase which are swearing are the most awesome phrases and I so wish I could use them in my every day life – unfortunately that straight-up-honest-unabashedly-the-truth that she spews with all that cussing mixed in would probably get me fired from my day job.  But there definitely were a number of times where I thought “that’s an awesome quote – I need to remember that one” only to think the same thing a few sentences or paragraphs later.  Just to prove how wonderful it is I added a new little feature to the page for this book called favorite quote.  And I think I might just have to adopt it for those books with really well written (not in a grammatical sense, necessarily, but in a “wow, that’s an awesome quote and I would love to say that in real life” sense) dialogue.

As a reminder, these books fit into the category where we have a cast of characters all working around a paranormal romance, but each individual book has its own unique story line despite common threads and small connections book to book. There is no big bad conspiracy/whatever that’s going to end the world. Each one of these is its own individual story start to finish, with an appropriate epilogue at the end showing us the happily ever after. And the epilogues are some of the best chapters in these books.

Ms. Cassidy doesn’t shy away from a very juicy sexy seen or two. And while I noted that these books are definitely for the mature audience, they are typically limited in the number of seems like that that we get. I think we got three in this book. Each one of them could make a girl blush easily however. You don’t have to worry about it being smart cover to cover because they’re definitely is plot and a lot of other stuff going on as well.

This installment sees Mick and Tessa turned into dragons.  Mick is a firefighter and Tessa owns an antique shop.  Mick was best friends with Tessa’s brother before he was killed in a fire.  Note: I thought the mystery was going to have something to do with Mick’s death, and was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t.  Instead the story took a different, more fun (I think) path.  Just as the accident happens, our OOPS ladies show up and swoop in to help with the transition into the world of all things paranormal  (aka all things crazy).  They need to figure out the how and why of this accidental turning.  And Mick and Tessa fight the fact that they are totally in love with each other – she because she’s convinced he sees her just as her brother’s little sister and he because right before Tessa’s brother died Mick got an earful about how Tessa was too good for Mick from Tessa’s brother.  And so Mick treats Tessa as a little sister he needs to watch over and take care of and he has to fight his love, and lust, the entire time.  True to formula, they figure out the mystery, have to have a battle to save the day (or one of the characters, or something less than saving the world), they admit their feelings, and we get the fairy tale ending.  And some steamy pages to solidify the relationship.  All is well with the world.

While none of these paranormal romance books are Jane Austin, these are written well enough to conjure excellent mental pictures of both setting and characters. The plot holes are usually pretty minimal. And they are just a pure joy to read. I dare anyone to attempt to read this book and not smile frequently, laugh often and just feel happy as can be when you put it down.  And that is exactly why I love these books, and loved this installment.  I smiled from cover to cover, laughed a ton and had to use the book to fan away some heat more than once!

I love these books. I really just hope that there’s another one coming. I would take another vampire, werewolf, Genie,dragon, shifter of another kind… Or we can get us a witch, ghost, angel, phoenix, fairy… Let’s face it there’s a lot of room for a lot more books because the realm of paranormal creatures is huge and I really just hope we see at least a few more from Miss Cassidy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Taste for Great Hexpectations

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Tale of Multiple Genres

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

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

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

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

Not So Magical Magical Tendencies

magical tendenciesI may have found it – the series that after only one installment it is too terrible to continue.  Typically, when I quit a series it’s because I get too involved in other books and I forget about the rest of a particular series.  Although when the entire series is good enough, that never happens.  But, sometimes, series start to fade away.  The installments become stale, the stories have stretched on too long, and the need to read the next fades into a memory and I just never get around to what is next.  And sometimes, when a series isn’t very good I read all installments anyway, for various reasons.

But… I may have actually found a series where I just don’t care to read what is next.  Which book, which series?  Magical Tendencies by Selena Hunter.

From Goodreads.com:

“Celeste Woods is happy with her life. But after one swift move by fate, a deliciously gorgeous man saves her from a demon attack and she learns that her life has never been what she had believed. 

After finding out that she is the queen of a supernatural realm with remarkable subjects, she wants to run away…and fast. But where would she run to? Into the arms of the incredibly sexy vampire, Solomon Ryker? Or back to the safety of her castle and her ex-husband, the handsome white warlock, Von Edwards? Or is there another choice to be made?

Celeste is torn between the past and the present–literally. 

During the twists and turns along the way to making it back to safety, Celeste meets shocking characters that leave their mark on her life. Namely Leonzio Emilio Castillion, the dangerously seductive demon king that has discovered her and now wants her for his own. 

What is a girl to do?”

Twists and turns abound.  Without really much else.  A series of twists and turns does not a story make.  A bunch of characters with not the best descriptions isn’t exactly magical.  And a story like this, without any real story should be a prequel, e-only, offering.  (And that should tell you regular readers how much of a waste I think this is – I am suggesting it be e-book only!)

We have Celeste.  Turns out she is a queen, of the Fae.  And she doesn’t know it.  Ok – I can deal with that.  Getting her memories back and finding out that Tish has known all along because she’s involved and she is trying to protect Celeste I can deal with too.  Even the story about how she does this repeatedly, that is, she has her memories wiped clean and she lives on the run I can live with.  Then, she meets the vampire and the warlock and in the past she gets all her memories back when she kisses one of them.  Each claims to be in love with her and each claims to be her destiny.

Then thrown in the mysterious Gabriel Running Wolf guy.  And the demon.  And all claim to be her destiny and that she will be the mother of their children.  So what we have isn’t a love triangle, but a love pentagon?  Sorry, that’s just too much to take.

Then, throw in what I hate more than anything in books.  Bad time travel.  Notice the adjective there.  I didn’t say “time travel” but “bad time travel.”  See, time travel normally makes my brain hurt.  But I can live with it, and the ensuing pain, when it’s done well.  And just because an author thinks of a story that involves time travel, doesn’t mean that an author does it well.  Here, we have a great example of that.

Celeste all of a sudden starts time traveling.  All over.  And impacting events without any care or realization that there are paradoxes to worry about when talking about time travel.  It comes out of nowhere, isn’t explained (the how or why), and fainting brings it on, maybe?  But her body stays in the present because she, to others around her, merely appears to be out cold.  So, how does that work?  You know what?  I don’t care.  Because it doesn’t work as far as a plot device, at least not as far as this reader is concerned.

The absurd just gets more absurd.  There’s a demon who kidnaps her.  And traps her and the vampire.  And he’s built some sort of world where a person can’t escape unless he gives permission (what the hell kind of escape happens with permission?) and he doesn’t give his permission, yet because of some other demon’s attack on the prisoners they escape anyway.  I can’t figure out how all that happened or what it was about anyway.

There is so much left unanswered.  And I don’t mean in a good cliff hanger kind of way.  I mean dropping the not subtle at all type of hints.  There is the question as to whether the color lavender, with respect to Celeste’s eyes, is important.  There’s the fact that Tish seems to have all the answers but after the first few chapters she never graces the pages again.  Kissing seems to bring back memories, but who does the kissing is important.  So, what is really going on?  All we know is that we are told the warlock has been running the kingdom since Celeste went away and everyone seems to be in love.  Celeste had a dream/vision where she had a child and that is remarkable because children aren’t all that common (Nicole Peeler influence?) in this world.  And everyone wants to be the baby-daddy.  And then the end, well, there really is no end.  It’s simply that the book has no more pages.  We get the introduction to everyone and then the book is over.

So, plot is shaky.  Twists and turns in the reveals of who everyone is and all the kidnapping and the vision stuff and the visit by Celeste’s daughter at the end.  But in addition to plot, the rest of the writing is really, um, not good.  The author has accomplished something that sounds like an oxymoron – she’s over descriptive and underdescriptive simultaneously.  She’s never met an adjective that she didn’t love.  And really, giving us the exact heights of the men?  Really, you can’t let us imagine what tall, dark and sexy looks like – you have to specify that it’s 5’11?  And, could you get an editor?  Please, please, please?

Let me give an example.  Here’s a description of Jack (one of her band-mates and apparently some type of royal guard too): “I snickered at that adorable expression on the 5’11” shaggy-haired musician.” Then, (and I counted to be sure) a mere four paragraphs later: “He’s a bit shaggy for my liking but he’s built like a Mack truck.  His body is amazing, having brushed up against him a couple of times… He stands 5’11” and he has gorgeous coppery skin that never seems to get lighter.”  How in the world did that not get edited – its duplicative and not helpful the second time around.  It needed to be revised or removed.  To show how height-happy the author is, we get no less than 4 more exact heights of characters – “Tisha stands about 5’3″ with a tiny little figure and a chest that would make a NFL linebacker beg for his mama, 32D I believe.  She has amazingly gorgeous blond hair that flows all the way down her back and touches her butt when she wear it done.”  And later, we get another character that is “about 5’11” and relatively short compared to Solomon and Von.  But Solomon is 6’2″ – which we are expressly told – and a 3 inch difference isn’t exactly huge.  That’s part of the danger with being so exact in height descriptions.  Do we need a thesaurus for gorgeous?  Is there not another way to describe an attractive person?

Besides all the point-in-time jumping and scene jumping, the writing is choppy.  The relationships described are too unbelievable.  Celeste kisses everyone, claiming to not like any of them, but is totally attracted to them (based on her shallow judgement of looks alone), yet she kisses everyone anyway.  There is a word for women like that, and I don’t like women like that in my PNR or mystery or paranormal what-ever category that this book falls into.   And the magic –  not so much of it as there is the time traveling.  And it all is just not very enjoyable.  So, I have decided that Ritual Magic, the second in what is at least a 6-installment (planned as the author says books 5 and 6 are underway), will never be a ritual that I partake in.

For those who are interested anyway, I am not putting a page up for this series, I will just list a few things below, including the titles of the books in the series so far.

Books:  (1) Magical Tendencies (2) Ritual Magic (3) Magic Isn’t Everything (4) When All Magic Ends magical tendencies2

Characters:

Solomon – Vampire.  Head of Celeste’s guard because he saved her back when.  He loves her.  He also built a beach house for her.  He seems genuinely like the good guy in the story.  Also a king in his own right as he was a prince who’s family died and he survived (being a vampire and all).

Von – Warlock.  He ran the kingdom while Celeste was gone.  He seems like the power hungry guy as he never before, when she disappeared, did anything but send others to look for her.  Celeste’s husband, but apparently they need to renew their vows through some ceremony every so often and they didn’t do it the last time.

Leonzio Emilio Castillion – the demon.  Who happens to be Italian too.

Gabriel – His parents and Celeste’s children promised them to each other when they were children.  He’a a Native American Indian Chief who says the fates say they belong together.  He mentions Celeste’s mother but not father and Tisha thinks this might be important.