witches

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!

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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 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/

Looking for Vengeance on the Synopsis Writers

Dupped again by the synopsis!  When, oh when, will I ever learn?  Since I got Salem’s Vengeance by Aaron Galvin from Netgalley, I will post the description that made me do the downloading:

“Sixteen-year-old Sarah Kelly never expected to meet the Devil’s daughter. She only sought innocent dancing in the moonlight, not a coven entranced by their dark priestess. When her friends partake of a powder meant to conjure spirits – and the results go horribly awry – Sarah is forced to make a choice. To keep their secret risks her own damnation, but to condemn them may invoke the accusing remnants of Salem to rise again.”

The expectations that I had from reading that – let’s just say it didn’t match up.  This isn’t a knock on the book.  Because I really liked it.  But, boy, I wish I had been better prepared.  I expected actual supernatural (you know, the reference to the devil’s daughter sort of set that expectation) and found myself facing down another historical.

Well researched, fast paced, and intriguing, Salem’s Vengeance is the story of both what really happened during the Salem Witch Trials and the aftermath of all that lunacy.  It’s not non-fiction but in many ways (just the good ones) it feels that way.  Upon laying my eyes on the words on the pages of this book, I was transported from my 21st century setting with an e-reader in my lap and a cell phone in my pocket to a time of candles and horse-drawn carriages.  Filled with mystery and intrigue, as to who the characters really were, I knew there were surprises coming, and I knew characters weren’t who they professed to be but I was surprised at every turn as to the exact identities of almost all of them, as they were revealed in time.

Know going into this that the language takes a little getting used to.  Written in an old English style, similar I would guess to the writings of the time,  I did at first find that the reading was slower.  The pace of the story wasn’t impacted by it, as that moved fairly quickly.  But my ability to read the story was slowed slightly in the beginning by the exact turn of phrase used by the author.  Narrated from the perspective of Sarah, our teenage protagonist, her thoughts (and the journal she reads) must have taken considerable time to craft in the language of he 17th century.  It was quite impressive.

Maybe I am reading too much in to the story, but it felt a little like a commentary on society and society’s ability to work itself into a paranoid frenzy without having  all the facts (or perhaps precisely because of that fact).  And, I am reminded on a great quote from the ever wonderful Agent Kay: ” A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it”. And that is what is described here – not once, but twice as we see the events of Sarah’s present day and the events of Salem through a journal Sarah is reading.  It is well done too.  The author gets just the right amount of facts in front of the characters in each parallel event and the mob mentality takes over, without any logic or reason peeping their head up for even a quick look around.  Instead, both have their heads buried firmly, and far, into the ground and events spiral out of control until lots of people are dead.  I would like to say that in the world we live in today that could never happen, but it happens more often today with the ability for anyone to push information, on a mass scale, regardless of the truth of it.  So, it was interesting to see the parallels between the Trials and what Sarah faces and what society is facing on a near daily basis, across so many aspects of society today.  I won’t name any so as to keep this review apolitical, but I conjured many analogies in my mind as I read this book.  But, there are a number of excellent lessons here in history repeating itself as well as society’s inability to think rationally at certain times.   Even the title, to me, seems to represent multiple things: Hecate’s vengeance, Bishop’s vengeance, Sarah’s once **spoiler alert, highlight to read it** her father is killed.   But… oh well… again, maybe I was just reading too much into things.

The funny thing about my expectations not being met is not that I was disappointed.  Far from it, in fact. I truly enjoyed this – from start to finish.  Even with the need to chart out a few of the characters (especially those in the journal as we read the events of the Salem Trials unfolding) to keep them all straight, I am hard pressed to point to any criticism.  The characters were well thought out and obviously the author did significant research.  I am sure that added to the genuine historical feel to the book.

One other thing to know – and this is not a criticism either – it is fairly dark.  The entire tone of the book (and this too might be in part based on the speech patterns used to tell the story) is dark and creepy.  The notion of witches and the devil’s daughter, even without any of it working out to be paranormal in any way, is moody and brooding.  It is a revenge story after-all; the telling of horrendous crimes against those in Salem and a fitting (from Hecate’s point of view) fate for those who inflicted the damage upon Salem.  It is also the telling of a vicious and evil plan to hunt down and kill others.  Darkness is required to pull that off without it seeming comical or melodramatic.  I could picture the creepy woods and the tiny little colonial town.  The ability to conjure those images with the right amount of sinister-ness was something the author excelled at.  I found it easy to form the mental pictures of the forest and the witches dancing around their priestess.  And I didn’t feel like the images were from some horror spoof.  The author found the perfect balance – I was fearful for the fate of Sarah and her siblings but wasn’t creeped out or rolling my eyes that it was overdone.  Again, it was near perfect.

This is how a book should read.  The plot was more straightforward that it seems at first.  And it was clear that the details of the plot were calculated and planned.  There weren’t the haphazard moments where I had to wonder “where did that come from” or “doesn’t that contradict what I read earlier”.  Instead, it was near perfect.  I was engrossed in the story and had to see how it ended.  That’s the way it should be for me.  Those are my favorites.  And, it was nice to see that this was merely the first in a trilogy.  I can’t wait to see what happens to the characters next!

I just wish synopsis writers could have been as close to perfect with what they wrote as Salem’s Vengeance is!

Small book, big disaster

For such a small book (it’s actually one of those stupid e novellas) The Sister’s Grimoire by Suza Kates really was quite a big disaster. I had been working on trying to get through this for a number of months. And for something that should have been done in an afternoon that’s saying something.  The problem is a lack of development. It is so lacking,  that I was surprised to learn this author has written a number of other books. I expected to discover that this was a new author. But, apparently, the curse of the e-book strikes again.

I’m guessing this is a prequel to a series. On the author’s website this is listed under the title series. CaptureBut is is the only book listed.  I am just going to assume, however, that there is more to come since you know, the word series indicated more than one….

The premise itself is fairly generic. Three sisters (Tate, Fiona and Sami) all of a sudden discover that they have magical powers.  They discover they have powers because one night they get a visitor from “a servant of the dea matrona” and their grandfather owes a debt to Emuirdane.  Why?  Not developed.  What exactly must the girls do to repay the debt?  Not developed.  The girls are given three days to figure out their powers and blah blah blah.  Why three days?  Not developed.  Why the bad guys are after them, what they really can do with their powers, who the heck Hellena and Emuirdane (and what) are?  Not developed.  We are really only introduced to each of the girls and without a lot of background history (can’t get to much background in a book that’s barely over 100 pages long) they are off finding powers and a spell book and all sorts of things.

Unfortunately, in an attempt to provide this prologue of a book, confusion found a foothold.  It was really hard to read that the girls one night had to run out of the house, Grandpa doesn’t have time to tell them anything – they just need to follow their instincts – and then they find the book and then Grandpa has time to explain just enough to let the girls know they need to go shopping for magical items.  And then, they attempt to learn about their powers and all of a sudden everything falls in place for them and within three days they’ve mastered everything.   I spend a lot of time scratching my head. Bottom line – it all just felt fairly haphazard.

I am not sure enough time was spend by the author on this one.  When I came across a glaring gap in the narration style (another one of those reasons why I expected to learn this was the first time author) I was really shocked.  The story is told in third person almost all of the book, when out of the blue there is a sudden and stray random line written in first person. Can’t figure out what that was all about – poor editing?

There were a few lines that pulled me right out of the book.  I hate it when that happens.  And in this case, the line “The Source” and the follow-up “The letter told us we had to free the source” cause me to think of first Point Break (“surfing’s the source man… swear to God”Bocxx5FIMAAQy0n (1)) and then 2 sentences later I was thinking of Cole and Phoebe and Charmed.  Image result for charmed coleNeither distraction is a good sign.  To have those stray and random thoughts enter my head while reading was proof that this book just didn’t grab my attention well enough to hold it.

Finally, a pet peeve.  “Magick” was annoying to read constantly.  I really would have preferred to read it the way it is spelled in English.  I don’t like it when authors don’t just use the normal English spellings for words (and I am not picky – British English or American English is fine; I just want ENGLISH!!!).  Or when they create their own slang.  Or text speak on.  It’s annoying and should, frankly, be embarrassing for the author to not just write better.  The occasional dip into that, fine.  Slang expressions which are in use, fine.  But intentional misspellings to do this, NOT FINE.  And when the author just let the characters sound like idiots because he/she thinks it’s cool to use extra “z”s and thinks he/she is superior for using foreign language (and not translating or not using it consistently or writing the accents), well, it’s NOT FINE.   Ok.  Rant over.

If this really was just the prequel to the series, despite the issues, I expect that I will give at least the first book a chance.  Since this seems to be the set-up for the first full length novel and I expect (hope) that the book will spend much more time developing what was missing here – and I assume that the editing issues will be corrected.  After all, despite my reluctance to admit it, I really did enjoy the Charmed TV series and this book felt a lot like that (even has a Charmed fan-fiction thing going, not to mention the aforementioned source references). But I hope that we see some improvements with things mentioned.

 

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!

A little more Southern Witch

Despite the fact that Slightly Spellbound, by Kimberly Frost, has been published, I haven’t gotten to it yet.  I enjoyed the first installments of the series, but my “to read list” is so long, I am not sure when I will get to it.  Not to mention, I need to re-read some of the first 3 since I totally fell down on updating the pages for those books and I don’t remember enough!!!!

Meanwhile, I read two really short stories in this series.  One was shorter than the other, and I am not sure I can even qualify it as a short-story.  3 pages?  Really?  That’s what things have come to?  I have ranted before about these fractional installments, but as Bart Simpson would say: “Ay Caramba!” tumblr_mhy704lIcZ1s1vt4mo1_500Tammy’s First Kiss is cute, about 8 year old Tammy.  Magic Ingredient is about (about) 16 year old Tammy.  They are numbered 0.4 and 0.5, respectively, by goodreads, so I guess there are more of these shorts.  Although I don’t see them listed.

What you need to know from them – Tammy decided when she was younger that she loved Zach.  And, she felt the pull of Bryn instantly.  He came back to town after law school to gather power.  When he saw Tammy, he also felt an instant attraction/pull towards her.  I am not sure there is much else with these two little stories.  The first is a little story about Zach giving Tammy a helmet for her eighth birthday, the other Tammy backing some cupcakes for her friends while they are staying at a hotel and Bryn helps her get into the locked kitchen.

As far as a review of them is concerned, any real review would risk being longer than the one story.  So, I will note they are cute little stories that provide a little background color.  If you don’t have a to be read pile the size of mine, or you have just a few minutes you need to fill, these are a nice way to spend 15 minutes.  Otherwise, don’t worry about putting them at the top of the TBR pile.  They really are just a little bit, a tiny glimpse, of a few characters at younger ages.

 

Not exactly a bright shinning star

Crap on a cracker.  There are 3 (and a half) more of this stinking series.  I just finished Shattered Promises (the first in the Shattered Promises series) by Jessica Sorensen.  shattered promisesAnd there are more in this series – more than I think I can deal with.  At least based on the first three-quarters of the first book.

Let me start of by saying that the Fallen Angel series by Jessica Sorensen has been on my “to be read” book shelf for a long while.  I have never gotten around to it.  And now, I may never bother.  I didn’t realize at first that this is an “adulating” of the YA series.  But if this is any indication as to the quality of the YA series, I cringe.

I also am going to  note that while reading books is like eating or watching movies in that one person’s favorite can be another person’s most despised, it is still funny to see how diametrically opposed some people can be about the same book.  Goodreads has this book sitting at an average 4 stars and the reviews are polarizing.  People gush over it with enough sugar, hearts and flowers to make Willy Wonka stroke out and other people despise it like it came from the depths of the worst circle of Hell.  It’s kind of amusing.

Me, I am somewhere in the middle.  The idea is pretty good, the execution… for most of the book I was amused by how awful the writing style is.  I often felt like I was reading a telegraph.  You know, the way they get read out loud:  “Joe not coming STOP Mother ill STOP  Will send word soon STOP”.  i6-20bThen, all of a sudden, things got significantly less awful (note I didn’t say they got good – just merely not awful).   I am wondering how close to the YA this adult adaption is.  Did the author take the YA and merely adjust setting and some dialogue to make it more adult (which wouldn’t surprise me since some of the writing is so clunky it reminds me of the way a high school student will take something out of an encyclopedia and just use synonyms to recreate almost the exact same sentence in substance even though they are technically using different words)?  Or did some of the plot get reworked too?  I can’t say since I haven’t read the YA version, but I have my suspicions.  Here’s an example of some of the odd word choices that has caused me to think these things, the text reads “I’m conquered with the compulsion” but I wonder if it the YA version didn’t basically say “I was overwhelmed by the desire to”.  The “conquered compulsion” is clumsy and clunky and not fun to read.  Not to mention, I am not entirely convinced that grammatically it means what I think the author intended it to mean.  There were a number of other examples like this:  “conclusively reside on my eyes”; “my vision resurfaces”; “attention is magnetized toward me”.  Interestingly, I didn’t notice as many towards the end. Maybe I just became immune by then though.

Believe it or not, the writing style isn’t the biggest issue for me.  I think it is the hot-and-cold of both characters.  Alex seems that way (maybe he’s a long lost cousin of Edward Cullen?) but Gemma does too.  They seem to both be easily pissed off, they throw temper tantrums like a 5-year old, and they are generally annoying characters.  Then, two seconds later they are fawning for each other.  Never mind the fact that Gemma talks like a robot (although Mr. Data, a robot with no feelings, didn’t even talk this way) and is super inconsistent.  I thought she had never felt any emotion, at least we are hammered over the head with this again and again – but at the beginning of chapter 2 she talks about feeling happiness for the first time.  So which is it?  And giving me, as an explanation, that simply never having any human contact with her grandparent’s kept her from having emotion?  Like she never bumped into anyone at school (Mr. Data had more human contact apparently)?Crusher_Data_dancing The explanation of the spell makes much more sense, but then why would she need to never have contact with her grandparents?  It’s weird and feels like a stretch.  Things like this were just hard to take.

I am also perplexed by the super bold warning about the content on goodreads.  Is this because the author tends to write YA stuff?  Because I have read plenty that is way steamier than this and there are no such warnings on those book entires.  And, for the most part, this wasn’t the steamiest or sexiest.  It was borderline – twelve chapters in and the “adult” was  nothing more than a few trips to second base.  There is a single scene later on that is a little more racy, but it is tame compared to others of this genre.  So, if you are looking for that kind of excitement, this isn’t the place, despite the indication to the contrary from goodreads’ synopsis.

Then there is the fact that this book has so many pieces that seem like copies of other books – Mr. Gaiman might be flattered that someone read his stuff and likes it enough to be inspired (stardusthmmm… people after a fallen star for its power… can we say Stardust, anyone? Which I absolutely adore by the way, so there are really big shoes to fill and very high standards to live up to by drawing inspiration from Mr. Neil Gaiman), but as a reader, it made it feel stale.  The Death Walkers and the cold – can we say dementors? c05--the-dementorAlex’s behavior – again, Edward Cullen?  Jocelyn and Stephan – any reminders of Joeclyn and Valentine Morgenstern (2 Jocelyns, eerie coincidence I suppose)?  There are more, but I think you can see my point.

The redeeming qualities came at the end.  The twists were predictable, but at least some action started and it felt like the plot was moving forward.  The writing got less choppy and easier to read. The Leyland character seems to be interesting and the mystery of Jocelyn is still out there and there is promise that this could be intriguing.

The other redeeming quality – as of the moment – amazon had it offered as an ebook for FREE.  Yep.  So I didn’t waste a dime on it.  Although, I am curious as to what happens next so I will be spending money on the next one (but I guess that is part of the point of the free first installments…!).

All in all, this could have been a lot better, but I guess it could have been worse too.  I know, isn’t that a glowing review for a book about something as bright as a fallen star?