Amateur detective Anne Marshall and her fiancé Jason Perry are headed down to Florida for Thanks Giving vacation with his parents only to find that hi...moreAmateur detective Anne Marshall and her fiancé Jason Perry are headed down to Florida for Thanks Giving vacation with his parents only to find that his mother’s best friend Maude has been murdered. The only clue is a fragment of a nursery rhyme pinned to her shirt. “Pocket full of poesies.” Anne dives into the mystery, finding out that the victim’s brother had been killed months earlier with a similar note attached to his body.
Jackie Fullerton’s Ring Around the Rosy is, at its core, a book that doesn’t seem to quite know what it is. It combines the out matched heroine of a cozy mystery with urban fantasy’s just kind of there magic with a romance novel’s dead end love triangle. Anne makes for an interesting heroine because she knows that she shouldn’t be digging into the police’s investigation. Her friends tell her not to, her dead father tells her not to, but she does it anyway apparently because she’s the heroine. So she stumbles around trying to figure out what could cause someone to try to wipe out an entire family. And of course she’s torn between the comfortable love that she has with her fiancé and the shock of lust she feels for Detective Reynolds. She’s also teamed up with her father’s ghost who, despite later in the novel revelations about the nature of the other side, seems to mostly exist to be a plot dump and to comfort her about her attraction to Detective Reynolds. So the book kind of feels mushed together between several genres in ways that don’t really work for me.
The villains are also a bit of a problem. Carl Martin is teamed up with his own ghost, Jeremiah, in trying to murder this family. This could have been awesome if the protagonists had been aware of Jeremiah earlier in the novel. As it stands, Carl is being pushed to take revenge for Jeremiah because of their mutual dead families and grief, but Carl and the reader are the only ones aware of Jeremiah for the first three quarters of the book. It makes it impossible for the protagonists to figure much out, so they spend pages and pages spinning their wheels until accidents happen to move the plot along. Plus, again, Anne’s father was following people to find out as much as he could why, after they identified Carl, wasn’t he aware of the other ghost? Especially given that Jeremiah seems to have known everything he needed to regardless of whether he should’ve or not.
Given all that, Ring Around the Rosy winds up being just sort of flatly mediocre. It isn’t bad even with a few instances of overly romanticized dialogue and plot troubles, but it isn’t good either despite decent side characters and what could honestly be an interesting dynamic between Anne and her father. So where does this leave me? I’m honestly not sure. As I’ve said, it isn’t a bad novel and some of my issues with it almost definitely come from having read it out of sequence, but I don’t think I would read the other two based on this one. All in all, it’s a three out of five book that could have used some whittling down and focusing on its plot. (less)
Class is in session for Charles Nukid at Scary School where monsters run amok and being sent to detention could easily land you as lunch for a hungry...more Class is in session for Charles Nukid at Scary School where monsters run amok and being sent to detention could easily land you as lunch for a hungry T. Rex.
Derek the Ghost’s Scary School is an account of a year at the eponymous school, introducing the students and teachers and leading up to the much anticipated (and feared) Ghoul Games. The book takes a chapter with each major character, focusing mostly on Charles but also spreading out so that each character including Derek himself gets some screen time. This tends to make it feel more like a series of vaguely linked short stories rather than a novel.
I have to admit that while I enjoyed Scary School, I wasn’t a fan of how much it referenced itself. While bringing something up and then referring to it coming up later does feel true to voice it gets annoying rather quickly when this is done in several chapters in a row. I’m not terribly big on the insistence that certain things are or were scary but, yet again, it fits the voice. I would definitely give Scary School to my little cousin when he learns to read on his own.
As far as rating Scary School goes, it’s enough away from what I usually read that I’m not entirely comfortable giving it a number rating. It’s good enough that I’d want to share with the younger members of my family and it’s good enough that, aside from the annoyances I mentioned earlier, I don’t have any issues with it. That said, I’m going to give Scary School a four out of five. (less)
Another Friday party in the Benjamin Franklin lounge and Professor Sophie Knowles is looking forward to her weekend getaway with her medevac pilot bo...more Another Friday party in the Benjamin Franklin lounge and Professor Sophie Knowles is looking forward to her weekend getaway with her medevac pilot boyfriend Bruce Granville when everyone’s cell phones start going off at once. Someone’s being carried out of the library on a stretcher, dead. Sophie’s friend Charlotte Crocker has been murdered and it looks like the librarian everyone loved might not have been as squeaky clean as Sophie thought.
Ada Madison’s The Probability of Murder is a good quick read, a soft mystery with a likeable heroine who manages to solve the crime while still worrying about her ice climbing boyfriend and being a good teacher. The story was good, though I could have done with a bit less of Sophie doing busy work to distract herself. I enjoyed the character interactions and would like to see more about how Sophie maintains a friendship with seemingly flighty Ariana. Not sure how I felt about the character detail of Sophie writing word problems as a side job/ hobby, it seems like the kind of thing that would come up again later but it wasn’t used much here. Overall, my problems with the book were more pacing related than anything.
On the other hand, I really liked the characters. A few of the students and professors seemed like the folks that every college has which helped make Henley read true. The atmosphere was good, very small town or artsy part of a small college town. I’d definitely read more of the series.
I give The Probability of Murder a four out of five, it earns it. (less)
Decon Chalk has lived to hunt monsters since one killed his family. When a vampire tries to hire him to kill another hunter, Chalk is interested. He...more Decon Chalk has lived to hunt monsters since one killed his family. When a vampire tries to hire him to kill another hunter, Chalk is interested. He takes the bait and barely survives an ambush and the inexperienced kid he finds himself saddled with. Now he’s got everything from shape shifters and vampires to immortals after him all lead by a nightmare trying to turn the loss of his family against him.
James R. Tuck’s Blood and Bullets is a mix of urban fantasy and action movie with a main character who is a study in over done manly man-ness. Chalk is a larger than life, gun toting, monster slaying badass and he’s going to tell the reader about it at every chance he gets. This gets old really quickly. Chalk is supposed to be the big tough monster hunter who shows up and gets things done, the problem is he reads a lot like a bad self insert from a kid who wants to be the tough guy that solves problems. This could have still worked out alright if the story had been in third person, the plot itself is fairly solid if a bit underwhelming. The book is in first person though with the world’s most talkative know it all narrating everything that he does no matter how insignificant it is. Even with that I would have been alright were it not for the repeat descriptions, Chalk describes his guns and himself at least three times. His apparent effect on some women is also brought up repeatedly. I don’t know if Tuck ran out of things to write with these descriptions or just didn’t trust his readers to remember any of it. The plot, as I said before, is fairly decent. Good guy gets attacked by more vampires than any of the major players in the city should have been able to put together, discovers the big bad’s existence, and has to figure out how to beat her without losing his rag tag team of monster hunters. It’s been done, but that doesn’t stop it from working here. To my mind the things that bring down the plot are, yet again, Chalk’s reiterating things too much, the big bad’s throwing logic out the window because she wants to have sex with Chalk, and the dues ex machina character that shows up towards the end. I’d have really liked to have seen more of the secondary characters doing what they’re supposed to be good at rather than just taking Chalk’s word for it, it seems like most of them could do pretty well as protagonists on their own.
At the end of the day, the blurb for the next book sounds interesting but this seems like more of a series to borrow from the library than one that I would purchase the rest of. I’m giving Blood and Bullets a three out of five for decent premise but a miss with the main character. (less)
Ana Cordona has been left to defend the remainder of her pack since all the males were killed when someone poisoned their well. She’s had to fight off...moreAna Cordona has been left to defend the remainder of her pack since all the males were killed when someone poisoned their well. She’s had to fight off the advances of her neighbor, Sean Taggart, another Alpha who wants both her and her land for his own. When an old flame shows up offering protection for her and her pack it’s enough to accept his conditions and become his mate.
I started reading Katie Reus’ Alpha Instinct expecting a somewhat trashy romance novel with a tough female lead and a thoughtful, maybe a bit sorrowful male lead. What I got instead was a trashy romance novel with a “strong” female lead and a bull headed male lead who was too wrapped up in being the Alpha and doing what was “right” for Ana to consider how she’d feel or react to his decisions. The reader is told that Ana has been leading the remainder of her pack fairly well since her father, the previous Alpha, died. But then Connor Armstrong shows up out of nowhere to claim his woman, his woman who he left for no apparent reason over fifty years ago, and suddenly Ana’s not only not the Alpha of her own pack anymore but she’s also relegated to being a painfully minor character while Connor and his brother go off to hunt down any and all threats. While the boys are away, Ana stays mostly at home taking care of her sisters and being neurotic about Connor’s actions since he left all those years ago. She also can’t do anything apparently because he’s the Alpha, this includes sitting down and figuring out what needs to be done to protect all that land that she knows better than he does and has been protecting herself for months.
There was some stuff with the shifters themselves that might have been interesting were it explained better or introduced slower. There are Alphas, like Connor and some of his men, who are both alphas and warriors and are the one who apparently do all the actual leading. Then there are alphas, like Ana, who are dominant to betas but aren’t warriors so they can’t lead properly because of something. It needs to be expanded on a lot before it makes much sense. Ana can’t complain about Taggart to the werewolves leading body because if she does it means that they’ll send her a man to take over her pack for her, not because she isn’t an Alpha mind but because she’s female, so that’s another thing that needs explaining. Why are the human with attached animal self werewolves bound by the behaviors of wild animals by their government?
I’m not liking this world of Reus’, its logic doesn’t work for me and its characters aren’t terribly likable. Male wolves here apparently recognize their “destined” mates on sight and that aspect of it isn’t done well enough to keep me from having a knee jerk "ick" reaction to it. The male characters take action, and the female characters just are for the most part. I would read more about the only female in Connor’s pack, Erin, but only if she wasn’t being paired off with some dude as her main role. I give Alpha Instinct a two out of five. The writing was pretty average over all, I just couldn’t enjoy it because of the characters.(less)
She is Lady Death, protector of humans, the enemy of every blood hungry monster around. But Kat Redding is a vampire, one who fights her very nature,...more She is Lady Death, protector of humans, the enemy of every blood hungry monster around. But Kat Redding is a vampire, one who fights her very nature, one who desperately wishes she was still human. When the count of a small house tries to force the local werewolf cult to merge with his house Kat has to stop him. But with only a few allies and highly illegal weapons will she be able to succeed before her own nature consumes her?
E.S. Moore’s To Walk The Night covers fairly familiar ground in urban fantasy, the monsters have revealed themselves and humanity has adjusted accordingly. The main differences here are that humanity has been mostly relegated to hiding in the daylight and being preyed upon and there is a stark lack of sympathy for most of the monsters. The second is quite possibly because of Kat’s own bias as it improves after meeting with the Luna Cult. I get the feeling that my review for this book would be significantly different if it weren’t for the preview of the next book at the end. As a standalone novel To Walk The Night falls rather flat, as the beginning of a new series it’s still fairly average but more forgivably so.
I’m going to jump right into the need for more character development and less navel gazing. This is the kind of book that I would have really enjoyed if Moore could have stopped reminding the reader that Kat is a monster and terrified of losing her humanity every time there was a lull in the action. Likewise, I liked the Luna Cultists and Ethan, but it felt like there should have been more to them. I could have also done with either a bit less about her dark and tragic back story or would have liked to see Moore put it off until after Kat’s more developed, it’s something that I’m hoping will tie into the later books but felt like it had too much focus in this one.
On the up side though, Moore managed to do something fairly new with his vampires and werewolves without it feeling forced or gimmicky. Having the two be different strains of a blood born infection was a pretty awesome way to introduce a bit of science while still keeping it magic. I’m also kind of counting on the Luna cult dissidents to show up later with their leader as one of the series big bads. He’d be really good in the role just based on his characterization in this book. It might also be interesting to see Kat have to solve a problem without her weapons since she treats them as her big advantage rather than the skill she has with them.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that, while I enjoyed To Walk the Night, it felt very much like a first novel and it moved rather slowly because Kat kept talking about her self hate and doubt. I’m sure that this will get better in later novels. The action scenes and the bits with more werewolves than vampires were worth the problems from the rest of the book. I’m giving it a three out of five and wondering what happens next. (less)
Audrey Callahan is determined to escape her former life as a grifter in the Edge and live a nice, normal, legal life in the Broken. At least until he...more Audrey Callahan is determined to escape her former life as a grifter in the Edge and live a nice, normal, legal life in the Broken. At least until her father comes to her for one last heist with a pay off she can’t afford to pass up. Kaldar Mar is an agent of the Mirror, a lady’s man, a scalawag, and a gambler. His latest assignment has him searching for a powerful artifact stolen from an impenetrable fortress in an enemy country full of terrifying monsters. Not that any of that is a problem. No, Kaldar’s problem is Audrey, the stubborn redhead who broke into the nearly impenetrable fortress and stole the powerful artifact. He’s going to need her to survive, but can he let her go once the mission ends?
Before Fate’s Edge I’d never read an Ilona Andrews novel. I’d looked at their Kate Daniels novels, but any time I could find the first one I’d be too broke or too busy to get it. That’s something I’m going to have to rectify. Fate’s Edge made me laugh far more than I’d expected. Audrey and Kaldar’s constant attempts at figuring out each other’s angle were just cute. Audrey’s issues with her family were fairly well written and touched on enough to be believable without getting annoying. Kaldar manages to strike a balance between serious business government agent and freewheeling gambler that makes him both charming and rather frightening. The character interactions are top notch with a blend of serious moments and humorous back and forths that serve to humanize the characters. The world is fantastic, all three of them in fact, the Edge and the Weird are every bit as thought out as the scenes in the Broken. The only characters who weren’t terribly interesting were the villains, and that’s forgivable in the grand scheme of things.
One of my only issues with Fate’s Edge was that I’d have liked to have seen more regarding the differences in the way that Kaldar thinks of his family as compared to the way Audrey thinks of hers. My other thing goes back to the villains; they came across as being evil for its own sake as opposed to the heroes who were out for family and country. It would be nice to see them get more development in future books.
By the end of the book I definitely wanted to read the rest of Ilona Andrew’s bibliography and I’d definitely had a blast reading this one. I’m giving this a four out of five because of the thing with the bad guys and some nitpicky things about characters thinking in circles, but I’m also definitely going to pick up the next in the series when it comes out. (less)
Lily Ivory is pulled away from her vintage clothing store, Aunt Cora’s Closet, to give the police a witch’s take on a strange crime scene. Rationalist...moreLily Ivory is pulled away from her vintage clothing store, Aunt Cora’s Closet, to give the police a witch’s take on a strange crime scene. Rationalist Malachi Zazi has been found stabbed to death in his apartment surrounded by symbols of the very bad luck he was trying to disprove. When a suspect from his own Serpentarian Society is identified by the police Lily is shocked to find that it’s someone she knows. As bad luck strikes all of the Serpentarian Society members, Lily begins to wonder if it’s coincidence or if something darker is in play.
Juliet Blackwell’s Hexes and Hemlines is one of those light mysteries that are perfect for a summer beach read or a slow weekend. The murder plot gets a bit lost in Lily worrying about her shop and her employees as well as descriptions of various vintage clothes that were lost on me. There were also a few nitpicky little things, like the author taking a full paragraph to describe one of the love interest guys’ eyes both times it comes up. Aside from that the writing is fairly tight and it makes for a fast read.
There were nitpicky things though such as the bit where Lily mentioned having a thing with snakes. This kept coming up and kept coming up but didn’t resolve until late in the story with a flow shattering expository passage. The descriptions for Max’s eyes didn’t sit right with the rest of the story. The first time could have been passed off as Lily being caught off guard at seeing him again, but the second time just felt out of place. It seems a bit funny, but Hexes and Hemlines could have also safely dropped a good deal of the talk about magic. It got to a point where it almost felt like Blackwell thought her audience would forget that Lily’s a witch if they weren’t reminded every few pages. The repetition took something away from it for me, so it wound up feeling like a clue by four hanging over every problem.
All said Hexes and Hemlines is a decent weekend mystery. It’s not terribly memorable but it’s also a fun, quick read. I doubt that I would read another book in this series, but I would give a non-magic mystery series by Blackwell a try. I’m giving this one a three out of five for being entertaining if somewhat forgettable. (less)
It was a normal day when the outbreak occurred. For body builder Sven it started with his spotter wondering off while he was trying to break his own...more It was a normal day when the outbreak occurred. For body builder Sven it started with his spotter wondering off while he was trying to break his own record. For Jane it was worrying about her sick house mate before heading off to work. For Lorie, that big track meet later in the day. Milt just wanted to play some WoW. But then everything got weird and the dead started to rise.
I’m going to admit now that I love zombie movies, zombie novels on the other hand are something that I’ve kind of skipped over for whatever reason. Guy James’ Sven the Zombie Slayer could change that. The characters are, for the most part, as freaked out by zombies suddenly arising as any normal human probably would be. They each get their quirks and funny character moments. They don’t all sound alike, each gets a voice unique to them. Sven starts the book sounding like a meathead who puts too much time into his exercise routine. Milt on the other hand uses the kind of bastardized English that tends to show up with internet users who vastly overestimate both their own intelligence and other people’s lack thereof. Considering the amount of juggling James does, the difference in voices is rather nice. He also used a rather interesting take on the zombies themselves, having them quickly become dried out rather than rotting at a more normal rate. It was also rather interesting to see the main characters trying to work with and around each other. This isn’t a movie where the over confidant young guy gets himself and half of the named cast killed by doing something that sounded like a good idea at the time. These characters have seen those movies and know what to expect. It gives them a level of genre savvy that’s both refreshing and gets to lead to character development.
That said, the characters tend to do a lot of cyclical thinking. Sven is always going to worry about his muscles at some point in the chapter. Jane is always going to get introspective when she’s the viewpoint character. Milt is going to blather about his superiority regardless of whom he’s speaking to if he isn’t just basking in it to himself. There were some redundant bits of storytelling and dialogue but nothing so bad that it didn’t feel like the characters were being written more towards an attempt at the way people think and react to things. The focus on Sven’s cat also felt a bit odd at times. Not a “why’s this guy taking his cat zombie hunting” way, more that the cat seemed like a bit of a catch all plot coupon. I’m also not a huge fan of the “To Be Continued” on the last page, but it fits with some of the more movie like elements of the writing.
So, where does that leave me for a review? I enjoyed the story. The writing was good regardless of stylistic choices. I’m giving it a four out of five and more jokes about bad zombie movies than I really want to think about. (less)
Angela Sage Larsen’s Fifties Chix: Travel to Tomorrow appealed to me for two reasons when I first heard of it: history and time travel. I wasn’t real...more Angela Sage Larsen’s Fifties Chix: Travel to Tomorrow appealed to me for two reasons when I first heard of it: history and time travel. I wasn’t really sure if it would pull either off well given the amount of research needed for one and issues that tend to pop up in the other, but I was beyond pleasantly surprised. The characters don’t magically know modern slang and continue talking like something from I Love Lucy throughout the book. They aren’t just dumped into the future to fend for themselves. Their families and classmates are still there, just different. The book shows the characters trying to deal with life fifty-five years in the future and figure out how they got there in the first place. It shows problems that they have and frames of reference that they’re missing. Maxine gets an excellent moment with her family, specifically her cousin, because she was raised during the civil rights movement. Stuff like that serves to illustrate the social differences of the times without dropping too many anvils. Ann and Mary each get thrown for a loop at their families’ lack of religion in the future.
My only big issue with Travel to Tomorrow is that it’s obviously the first in a series and ends with a massive hook for the rest of the books. I get that the hook is supposed to keep me interested in the series until the next one comes out but it also takes me out of the story with one big jolt; kind of like if half way through the book Maxine had started using modern slang or Bev just stopped being into sports for no reason. My only other problem was with some of the handwriting used for the journal sections, and that was only because I’m terrible at reading cursive.
I enjoyed Travel to Tomorrow immensely. It was definitely written to a younger audience but managed to mostly avert writing down to them. It made my inner history nerd practically dance. That said, it loses points for the obvious hook. I dislike it when something big is confirmed and then I have to wait for the next book. So, what’s the verdict? I’m giving Travel to Tomorrow a four out of five. I’m also making note of some of the phrases in the last chapter/glossary to use in messing with my friends. (less)