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Book Reviews

Book Discussion and Review: Pinned Post Week 4

Two reviews for you this week from two very different types of books. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction and I don’t read a lot of books that include multiple POVs. But both of these books are very compelling, albeit for very different reasons.

First up is Ghost Electricity by Sean Cunningham. I normally stop reading a sample the moment I realize it has switched from a major POV (point of view). However, from the get-go I was rather drawn to the first character so I read about the second. I was drawn in by that one too! There were far too many POVs in this novel, but I must say the author was quite clever about it. Each scene was a story unto itself, although not in such a way as to make you put the book down and feel finished. It was several stories, each one given major importance. The result was a book told from the eyes of more than one unlikely hero. One of my favorite characters by the end played fairly minor roles at the beginning, but she was a clever little thing with a penchant for inventing and getting herself and others out of trouble. This character alone could own many stories to come.

Of course with such a book, there was one or two POVs that I didn’t care for. The one was because she had a tendency to fall into a dream world, but the dream sequences were generally mercifully short (I confess I’ve never been a fan of dream sequences in books.) During some parts of the novel there were so many short POV scenes, it became impossible to keep the names straight. I sallied forth and carried on, rightfully guessing I’d put it all together when the time came. The premise of the book started out fairly unique, but did fall back into familiar territory creating a nice blend of new and old. Most importantly of all, it was a fun read. What appeared to be multiple plot lines was actually one story told from multiple viewpoints, including the bad guys, the good guys and those who straddled the line. I’m looking forward to book two. If you want to try something different, give this one a try. I really liked it!

This next one is far outside the range of my normal reading, but I helped edit this book.

Suicidal Thoughts from A to Z is a journey fraught with pitfalls as the author tries to find relief from mental illness. Of particular interest is how the healthcare system is failing the mentally ill, the depressed and the suicidal. While it’s quite obvious our healthcare system is a mess in general, those with paranoia and depression are quite possibly the least equipped to handle the serious shortfalls required to get help.

What made this essay so readable for me was that the author did not fall into self pity, nor did he veer off into clinical detachment. It’s an honest portrayal of methods tried and failed; an ongoing search for answers. There’s an obvious empathy for others and the occasional wry sense of humor sneaking through. The author is at turns likeable, desperate, tired and despite it all just a tiny bit hopeful.

If you know someone who has suffered from severe depression or other mental illness, you might find this an interesting read. If you’ve ever had cause to wonder “Why don’t these people just get help?” you might find out just how far away help can be.

It’s short enough that you don’t get bogged down emotionally, and it’s insightful enough to be useful.

Posted: January 20, 2018
Filed in Book Reviews, Under $5

Book Discussion and Review: Pinned Post Week 21

Blood Magic – Abnormals. I don’t generally read books where a vampire is the main because vamps aren’t really my favorite character. Of interest in this book, vampires aren’t dead–they’re infected. Unfortunately they still drink blood, but at least they aren’t dead. There’s a few typos in this book and a confusing sentence/jump or two (I’ll get around to sending them to the author as soon as I have a moment!) but not enough to be egregious and interfere. This is a young adult story and it is a good read. The pacing is good, the characters are good (I liked a few characters better than the main for their unique abilities/personalities/attitudes. I assume those abilities will be more fleshed out in future volumes too). The plot was quite fun and teased enough as it progressed to hold my attention. It’s a fairly linear story–not a lot of subplots, but I liked that the main wasn’t just a superhero due to being a vamp. She wasn’t *that* great of a sword fighter despite it being one of her main strengths, which made the story a lot more interesting. This book is definitely worth a look and if you like UF, you might want to pick up the entire boxed set–it was last week’s discussion post and is only 99 cents.

I don’t expect to get a lot of reading done this week. It seems there are many chores in December! I hope y’all are ready for the holidays and having a great December. Keep your eyes peeled. I happen to know there will be some big book sales going on late this week!!!

Posted: December 10, 2017
Filed in Book Reviews, Under $5
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Book Discussion: Pinned Post Week 19

Love, Lies and Hocus Pocus

The first half of this book is very linear in plot–that is to say that there is a problem, it is solved (generally speaking, too easily) and then there is another problem. The world building is very good. The characters are good. They and the plot are pretty simple the first half and I wasn’t sure if I’d get bored and not finish. I’m happy to say the second half picked up in complexity, both in character development and plot. It’s a good read. Not five stars, but somewhere between three and four. Since it ended strong, with lots of potential for book two, I’d lean to a four. But be warned, it’s a bit wandering in the beginning and things are a bit too simple. The characters are pleasant enough to hold your attention, but simple enough to bore you a little. It’s worth a look if you like cozy fantasy or cozy UF.

By day, book-loving wizard Lily Singer manages library archives. By night? She sleeps, of course. In between, she studies magic and tries to keep her witch friend Sebastian from dragging her into trouble. Unfortunately, trouble comes looking for her on a regular basis.

When Sebastian needs help breaking a magical curse, Lily knows things are not as they seem. Their quest to unravel the truth and free a tormented soul uncovers hints about Lily’s mysterious past–and those working to hide it from her. As if that were not enough, Sebastian gets them stuck in a time loop and Lily must track down the culprit. But they are not the only ones interested in this strange phenomenon, and it becomes a race to the source of the magical disturbance, with all their lives hanging in the balance.

What are you reading this week?

Posted: November 25, 2017
Filed in Book Reviews, Under $5

Book Review: The Flaw in All Magic

The Flaw in All Magic was an absolute gem of a read! I loved it! Great and fun characters, plenty of action, a good plot, wonderful world and world building–nary a word was wasted on boring descriptions either. This book moved right along and told a fun story. If you like Frank Tuttle, Mercedes Lackey, Helen Harper or any of my books, I think you’ll like this book.

This is an author I’ll be keeping an eye on. Five star read, a huge bargain, highly recommended.

Posted: October 15, 2017
Filed in Book Reviews, Under $5
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Book Review: Murder on Black Swan Lane

Murder on Black Swan Lane is on a great sale for 2.99. It’s a reasonably decent read. It’s a Regency mystery, although I’d say it skirts being steampunk. If there were a dirigible in there, it’d be steampunk. The alchemy and chemistry mentioned is on the glossed over hocus pocus side. The main male character is not well-portrayed in the first few chapters. In what was probably an attempt to create the stereotypical powerful, rich and well-educated Earl, he comes across as arrogant, annoying, and stupidly interested in boring pursuits such as gambling, drinking and womanizing. His “brilliant” supposed chemistry talent is glossed over. Once past that misstep, the characterization was stronger. The main female was delightful most of the time, and it was easy to sympathize with her plight. The mystery itself morphed into about three different mysteries with a confusing cast of characters. The characterization of the main and side characters was enough to propel me through the story–as was the absence of romance. The author was particularly skilled at turning the two main characters into friends. It was very interesting to me how they were attracted to one another, but they were very much bound by, and accepting of, their class status. Ms. Sloane never once considered any kind of romantic dalliance. She was too worried about her next meal and the meals of those she was responsible for. In that aspect, she was realistic in a way that I don’t usually see in Regency mysteries or romance. As for the main, if he considered her a romantic interest, he never acted on it. He was too busy trying to stay out of the gallows. I enjoyed this focus quite a bit as it struck me as far more realistic than most books where “irresistible” urges take over the story at the most ridiculous times.

That said, much of the mystery was quite unrealistic with great leaps of luck and quite a bit of the denouements coming from the bad guys answering questions at the end of a gun or right before planning on killing the hero. There was more introspection scattered about than I like to read, and the end action scene was so improbable and cliched I had to wonder if the author had simply written too many of them to come up with any special touches.

But, it was entertaining enough to finish and a good price. I give it 3 stars.

Posted: September 29, 2017
Filed in Book Reviews
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Review: Slouch Witch

Slouch Witch is the best book I’ve read all year. Possibly longer, although I don’t keep critical records. This book had it all–humor, wit, snark that wasn’t over done (your mileage will vary), a good mystery and a touch of romance. This was such a fun read. The mystery had just enough complexity to keep me emotionally and intellectually engaged–one part personal mystery, one part mystery/mystery. The characters morphed/grew enough through the book, along with their magic and curses, that I was thoroughly satisfied and delighted with the story. Highly, highly recommended, a five-star read.

And the best news is that book two is already out. I’m hoarding Star Witch for the perfect weekend!

Review: Spirelli Paranormal Investigations

Spirelli Paranormal Investigations Episodes 1-3

I don’t know how I came across this, and I don’t know why they are called episodes. The book actually contains 3 complete novellas packaged into one book. These are quite fun, a bit like Tracking Magic or the first three Markhat mysteries (out of print). I loved the Spirelli characters and thought that even in just the three stories the characters evolved. There’s a hint of mystery between Marin (a VERY COOL dragon) and one of the characters she meets during an investigation, so I suspect this will not be a case of the dragon falling for her boss. Good stuff. Cozy with fun characters and enough action to keep you reading. Love the cover too. Absolutely recommended.

Also available at Kobo!

Ilona Andrews Book Signing

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a big fan of Ilona Andrews’ books. Ilona Andrews is a husband/wife team, and they write some great urban fantasy adventures. On The Edge is one of my all time favorite books. (It’s also on sale for $2.99 at the moment. Just a great read. Highly recommended).

When I heard that the Ilona Andrews team would be doing a book signing for their latest book at a nearby library, well, OF COURSE, I prepared to attend! The first book in the series is Burn For Me — a terribly suggestive title with an equally smarmy cover that depicts the books as…well, the books aren’t that. I fully admit that I avoided reading Burn for Me for a very long time because of the cover and the title. HOWEVER, I have read it, and I can heartily recommend it. It’s a great adventure with wonderfully fun characters. (It’s also on sale right now!!!)

The new book in the Hidden Legacy Series, White Hot, has a possibly…worse cover and an equally suggestive title. But even with that, I wasn’t about to miss the book signing and discussion.

Ilona and her husband Andrew were great speakers. They mostly took questions and shared bits about the characters, shared some personal stories and kept the room in stitches. Both of them were generous with their time, and not only did they stand for pictures, they signed every book that I brought with me in my Green Bag Lady bag. (I had several. As in Many. And I forgot one of them at home! They’ve written 19 books and I had half that with me.)

It was a great evening, well spent, discussing plots, characters, writing tips, high school graduations and the proper pronunciation of “y’all.” I didn’t want to be the one to tell Ilona, but with her Russian accent, I’m not really certain she can pull off the proper drawl. 🙂 She’s cute as a button though.

Some interesting tidbits:

When guests come to town they go to County Line for BBQ (I’d recommend Salt Lick in Driftwood–very, very authentic Texas experience and best BBQ on the planet. There’s also Dahlia’s Cafe in Liberty Hill that is a great Texas experience).

One time, when stuck on a plot, they determined they would not leave the pool until they solved it. Andrew brought beer and they settled in for a nice, relaxing discussion. Of course, once the beer was gone, they really, really needed to leave the pool. PRESTO, the plot was born!

Even Ilona Andrews has very little control over traditionally published covers. The publishers decide–be they the US version or the French, Spanish or German version.

The two of them have a great sense of humor that comes out in person and in their books. They are both gracious and professional. If you ever have a chance to hear them speak or to get a book signed, hurry on over!

Posted: July 8, 2017
Filed in Book Reviews

Review: Alight by Emma Adams

I was thrilled to find this gem of a series for the plane ride during my last trip to NM. I enjoyed Alight so much, I downloaded and began reading Arise the second I finished. What a great ride! Both books were filled with unique characters, a great setting and plenty of action. There were twists and turns, well-fought battles, great friendships–everything I love about urban fantasy. I was quite disappointed to find that book 3 wasn’t out!

Well…now it is! Aflame is out!!! WOOOT! And all three books are on sale for the release party!

If you like Urban Fantasy, you will want to pick this set up. From what I gather, the trilogy is the complete story–it won’t continue on with nine and ten books. I love it when a good story is told without dragging it on and on. I’m hoping for a perfect ending!!!

Highly recommended.

Wonderful covers too–the cover artist is Rebecca Frank.

Review: Playing with Fire

Playing with Fire is billed as a romantic comedy, but I’d call it a romance urban fantasy or paranormal romance. It started off really great with the exception of a couple of phrases to describe the main guy that I find kind of crude. Still, the tone was good, the pacing and characters were funny and good, so I kept reading. I’d say for 3/4rds of the book this thing was 5 stars all the way. It’s a wonderful read for the most part. At about 70 percent? 75? there’s a “recap” of what has happened. And I don’t mean a quick recap. I mean a drag-it-out, repetitious reminder of what we just read–with no new info. It’s done at the end of a very exciting escape, but I couldn’t figure out what in the world it was doing there. Sure, they needed to tell the new characters some info, but usually that’s done with a paragraph or a one-liner: “we brought him up to speed.”

In this case, I think the author wanted a chance to throw in the same quirky brand of humor found in other parts of the book, but it failed because we’d already been there and done that. The two main characters had already reached stability of sorts, so the back and forth was not only repetitious, the “whoops, when would I learn to keep my mouth shut” was over the top, unconvincing, and since it involved innuendos at best or out-and-out lust reveals at its worst, it came across as ridiculous. In other parts of the story, their repertoire worked and worked well with only the occasional eye-roller.

The new characters introduced near the end worked pretty well too. But there’s definitely a section of 20? pages where there’s nothing moving the story forward. There’s hints that the team is trying to find motivation for a particular crime, but it’s a terribly weak motivation/excuse and filler for what otherwise was a 5 star read. The last battle probably should have happened during/with the great escape that led to the filler. The last battle is a decent scene, interrupted by too much lust that wraps up a good story and shows some of the strengths of the main character, Bailey. By strengths, I do not mean her attraction to Quinn–I mean her compassion for some of the creatures in the story.

So I don’t know how to rate the story. It was 5 stars most of the way. The actual ending wasn’t totally weak, but there’s a lag of too many pages that I would rate as “skip.” There are some great and unique characters and magic in this one. It’s fun, funny in spots and has good pacing, good problems to be solved and characters with heart. There are no graphic scenes, which makes it very nice, but towards the end the whole lusting after one another was overdone. It’s also possible that the use of narcotic type substances or magical influences grated on my nerves by the end of the book. As with the above comments, I wish the book had just ended with a nice bang at the escape because the sections after that were where it reached overload with all of the things that had worked in moderation or already pushed the limit.

Do I recommend it? Yes. But with caveats that you might be a tiny bit disappointed as the end draws near. It could just be me because some of these issues are definitely pet peeves of mine and may not be noticed at all by other readers.

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