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Archive for the 'Reading' Category

Monday, October 7th, 2019
Book Review: Jo-Ann Carson’s The Perfect Brew

I’ve been doing a bit of reading on and off as I can squeeze it in around the rest of life–when I was younger, I seemed to have a hell of a lot more time in a day. What happened to it all? Anyhow, I finished The Perfect Brew today, and I want to share.

First, the back cover copy:

When a witch inherits trouble …

An unexpected inheritance turns Cassie Black’s world upside-down, and she finds herself the owner of a sentient coffee-house that comes with an inter-dimensional portal and a side of ancient curse. When Cassie is summoned to attend the funeral of her great-aunt Ophelia, she finds the picturesque village on the edge of the ocean is not at all what it seems. Her benefactor’s death is suspicious, and to make matters worse, after Ophelia’s lawyer explains her will to Cassie, he drops dead in a plate of cookie crumbs. That makes two unexplained deaths, which is two too many for a good witch to swallow.

Up to her neck in mysteries, and weighed down with a curse, Cassie canvases the town to find the murderer. Of course, there are many unusual suspects, a tall, dark and annoying human detective keeps getting in her way, and a seductive warlock offers his assistance.

Will Cassie catch the villain before he kills again? Will she be able to free herself from the curse? Will Sid, her beloved cat familiar with a naughty mind, convince her to play dirty with the boys?

My review:

This is the first in a cozy mystery series–I’m not sure how long the series is intended to be. It does read somewhat as a standalone, but it leaves a lot of major questions hanging, which is frustrating. I liked the story, I liked the characters a lot, and I liked the writing. Cassie is a great character. Everybody expects her to be goody-goody, but she’s got a lot more going on and is refreshingly snarky for a girl who appears to be the proverbial girl next door. The love interest characters are definitely interesting, particularly Sanjay, and I really liked Cassie’s familiar, Sid (short for Obsidian).

A murder happens shortly after Cassie arrives in town, and she decides to track down the killer, but though that was the storyline that wrapped up in this book, it felt like it was just a subplot. The real plot was Cassie discovering her aunt’s history, that she was murdered, more about magic, and the Perfect Brew–a sentient coffee shop, which, by the way, is a very cool place. I love it.

For me, though I enjoyed the book, I feel like it wasn’t robust enough. That it really needs to be read with the other books in the series to get a better sense of the meatier part of the story, which I really want to know more about. I do plan to get the other books, because I really do like the book. It wasn’t a cliff-hanger ending, by any means, but it just felt like the end of the opening scene of a play, and that there’s a lot left unanswered and undeveloped.

Thursday, September 12th, 2019
Book Review: Kennedy Kerr’s A SPELL OF MURDER

Hello Everyone! I’ve been doing a bit of reading here and there and this one I’ve just finished. A SPELL OF MURDER is a supernatural sort of cozy with witches. Before I get into my thoughts, here is the back cover copy:

In the sleepy town of Lost Maidens Loch, people sometimes disappear…

Down a quiet lane in town sits a little shop full of oddities you’d probably miss if you weren’t looking for it. This is Love’s Curiosities Inc., and its owner, Temerity Love, is sought by experts all over the world for her rare and magical gift: the ability to find lost things and learn their stories.

When Lost Maidens’ pretty local school teacher is found murdered by a poisoned cup of tea, a strange antique hand mirror is discovered nearby. Temerity – with the help of witchy sister Tilda, their cats Scylla and Charybdis and the lovingly eccentric local townspeople – is determined to divine the story behind the mirror and its part in Miss Molly Bayliss’ untimely death.

If only grumpy out-of-towner Angus Harley of Lost Maidens Police wasn’t on the scene. Temerity can’t solve the crime without him, but he’s distracting, and in more ways than one. Can this unconventional duo solve the most mysterious murder ever to blight Lost Maidens Loch before the killer strikes again?

 

My thoughts:

There’s something I really like about small town mysteries with busybodies, smart country cops, and quirky denizens. This book falls into that category. Temerity is an engaging characters and I like that she has friendships throughout the community and that she’s known for being a psychic antiques expert. Specifically, she’s known for tracking the provenance of antiques that nobody has any idea about. She’s world-renowned, actually. However, despite being so famous, she rarely leaves the village, even to be the keynote speaker at a major upcoming conference.

A murder happens soon within the story–a local school teacher–and Temerity gets involved with the local police chief asks for her help, as she’s helped before with missing persons and so on. She ends up working with a new deputy who she finds offputting and a bit rude, although very handsome. There’s  a bit of romance in this book between them, but not much.

One of the things I like about this book is that everybody’s smart and nobody’s bumbling. I wasn’t as much a fan of the overall mystery as I could have been because for the murderer, there’s not really any clues. The background of the story and the reasons for the murder aren’t terribly simple or obvious, which I appreciated. I just wanted a few more clues sprinkled in.

Overall, though, it’s a fun read. The characters are engaging and the magic and locale are unique and interesting. I loved the animals, particularly the cats and the parrot. I loved that Angus wasn’t at all stereotypical as the handsome potential love interest. He was smart and interesting and didn’t ever get weirdly high and mighty or put Temerity down. She was confident and strong, and yet vulnerable in a couple of ways, but not in a way that irritated me.

I’ll definitely look for the next book in the series.

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019
Book Review: THE DARK BONES

I recently read The Dark Bones by Loreth Anne White. It’s a romantic suspense, and I’ve got to say, it’s just about a perfect book.

First, the back cover blurb:

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019
Book Review: Somebody to Love By Aurelia Fray

About the book:

An unlikely pair, an impossible mission, and a hilarious hunt for somebody to love.

Henry was only tasked with fixing the leaky office pipes. So, when a crazy woman barges in and confesses all her secrets like a challenge, he’s faced with two choices: Tell her he’s not the man she’s looking for, or roll with it.

Rachel knows there’s something amiss about her new shrink–he’s far too handsome for starters–but she’s desperate to straighten her life out. With only three weeks to find a date to her best friend’s wedding, she’s willing to try anything. Even rely on a complete stranger to help her find love.

My take:

I’ll be honest. I was a little put off at first by Cassy, who I was afraid would be a more prominent character in the book, but luckily, she wasn’t. Mostly she was really obnoxious and Rachel took it laying down in the beginning, which I found annoying. But then she walks into the office and she’s so funny, and so real, and she’s not at all flat or one-dimensional. She’s got some hangups as we all do, but she’s also talented and smart and not at all a doormat. AND she stands up to Cassy at the end, which made me very happy.

I like Henry. Clearly he was an asshole and knew it, but meeting Rachel made him reevaluate himself and his friends. It wasn’t an instant transformation, but one where he grows into love, same as Rachel. His family is amazing, and I’m really hoping Taylor and Neil figure things out. His friends are both obnoxious and wonderful, which I found delightful.

Nobody was perfect, and Henry showed his true colors in a dramatically embarrassing and realistic moment and I may have fallen a bit in love with him at that point, too.

The story is well written, fun, breezy, real, and feel good. It’s fast and I really love Rachel and Henry as people and as a couple. Definitely read this book. I’m going to look up other books by Fray for sure.

 

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019
Review: American Witch by Thea Harrison

I first learned of Thea Harrison when Patti Briggs said I should read her books. Sadly I was slow to get around to that, but discovered I love her writing very much. Still, with so much going on, I didn’t get to read very many of her books, though they remain waiting in the TBR mountain.

American Witch is her upcoming release, and you can get your hands on a copy on April 29th. I suggest you preorder.

So first, what it’s about. From the back cover copy: 

Power can change a person…

For months Molly Sullivan endures the inexplicable: electrical surges, car breakdowns, visions. She even wonders if she might be the cause… and wonders if she might be crazy. Then she discovers her husband has cheated on her. Again. Now Molly realizes she is a newly awakening witch and a woman pushed over the edge.

Revenge can shape a person…

Josiah Mason is a Powerful witch and the leader of a secret coven with a shared goal: to destroy an ancient enemy who has ruined many lives. Josiah lost years to this man, and his sole focus is revenge. He’s prepared for every contingency—except encountering a beautiful new witch who understands nothing of the immense Power building within her or the attraction she wields over him.

Danger can bring them together…

When divorcing her husband, Molly uncovers a dangerous secret he’s willing to kill to protect. She turns to Josiah for help, and they discover a connection between Molly’s husband and Josiah’s enemy.

As they work together, a spark ignites between them that threatens to become an inferno. But Molly is done compromising herself for any man, and Josiah’s mission is his top priority. And the enemy is cunning, cruel, and drawing ever closer.

As the danger escalates, so does the tension between them. Is a lasting relationship possible? Will either of them live long enough to try?

My thoughts:

I loved this book. Found it hard to put down, in fact, which says a lot since I’ve been having trouble reading through to the ends of books for awhile now. This was a compelling read for me.

Molly was an amazing character. Strong, stubborn, flawed, and wholly likeable. She wasn’t a doormat. She’s sharp as hell and brave as well.

Josiah wasn’t your typical asshole. He came off as focused and an ends-justifies-the-means sort of guy. He’d suppressed most of his emotions and to a large extent his humanity over years of seeking his end goal.

Also, neither are super young. They have scars and have earned those scars.

Then he runs into Molly. At first he sees her as a tool, but she doesn’t let him view her that way. She thinks and she argues and she refuses to put up with his habits of being in charge and telling people what to do. This startles him into looking at himself and he doesn’t like what he sees. Their relationship isn’t easy and grows out of respect and admiration. It’s very organic.

The path to their HEA isn’t an easy one and both are willing to walk away at various times, and then they feel compelled to do so for very good reasons. You don’t read the situation and roll your eyes and say oh, please, this could be solved with a simple conversation. No, the obstacles are real and require them both to find ways to bend if they are going to work things out.

I love the magic of the world and the intrigue of the story. There’s more to it to come in future novels. That’s clear. A struggle that will be ongoing and building toward a crescendo at some point. I’m totally planning on being on board for that ride.

I also love the descriptions of their attraction and the sex because its so very emotional. It’s not about the sex and not so much graphic as powerfully written, if that makes any sense.

I highly recommend this book and hope everyone out there will go grab a copy because it’s just that good.

Sunday, April 14th, 2019
Unexpected Choices

I happened to get my Bookbub mailer today, and in it was a bundle for “Alien Mail Order Brides.” That tripped me up. It’s on trend in a lot of ways, but it overlays the old west and even current practice of mail ordering a bride, which I find a bit unexpected. (But why is it never a man? Would gay or lesbian people be able to mail order a spouse? What does marriage mean in an alien culture? Would it be more like a mail order baby-mama?) In these books, the aliens are invaders, and no doubt superlative human-like male specimens with huge dongs and twelve-pack abs and the sexual stamina of a diesel locomotive. From the description, the women are going to be seriously happy in bed.

But the concept made me start thinking of mail order spouses in a futuristic landscape. It made me think of Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild (which is amazing and you should read it if you haven’t, and again if you have!). It also made me think of Pat Murphy’s “His Vegetable Wife.” Both are a case of alien ‘marriage,’ (and I define that term very loosely), where the difficulties of mating between two species/cultures is highlighted. (And to be clear, “His Vegetable Wife” is not a case of voluntary ‘marriage,’ but of the essential enslavement of the wife. BUT! The ending is awesome and again, if you haven’t read the story, you must.)

And then I got to thinking about ‘aliens’ and marriage in our own world, with aliens because Others of all sorts, whether othered by race, culture, education, wealth or lack thereof, age, weight, religion, and so on. Romances are often about how two ‘alien’ type of people come together and find commonalities and love. A lot of SF and F is also frequently about ‘aliens’ coming together and working together for a common goal. They also often highlight the fear of the ‘alien.’

Thinking about what I’ve written about, that’s a pretty pervasive theme in what I write. I hadn’t really thought about it that way until I started thinking about the mail order alien brides. But it makes me feel better in general knowing that a lot of books in multiple genres are tackling the ‘alien v. us’ theme and demonstrating that hatred isn’t the way to go, that people are people, no matter what color, shape, language, gender, or anything else that separates them from being the same as me or you.

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019
Hmmm. Erotic BDSM novel

I read this erotic BDSM novel today. I thought the world was pretty cool–slightly alternate earth, slightly fantastical. What got irritating was the BDSM. ALL the relationships were BDSM and it got really annoying. And it wasn’t the BDSM parts per se. I get BDSM and I obviously wouldn’t read it if it bothered me. That wasn’t the problem.  That’s not what annoyed me. It’s that all the women secretly wanted to be dominated. That, despite having life experiences that would indicate any sort of BDSM experience would likely be horrifying (we’re talking molestation, rape, plus a lot of violent  abuse by male relatives. And then there’s  forced submission and bondage situations for unwilling women who later want to be bound and hurt in order to have an exciting sexual experience).  These women had clearly been through horrific experiences, and then the “cure” for them was a BDSM relationship.

Another bothersome thing was that women were always the submissive and men were always the master. Never the reverse. And the dominance thing overflowed into their real lives. The women were  portrayed as always in the wrong, men always had to be patient and correct and rescue them and even though the women were supposedly strong, their strength was always requiring male guidance and discipline. The women turn out to be more childlike than adult. And again, not in a sexual way. This is in ordinary interactions. One woman who is a specialist doctor demonstrates complete incompetence and the men who have no idea what they are doing in the field always know better than she does and she’s always having to apologize or hang her head in shame. It’s really appalling.

So let me stress it’s not the BDSM I have a problem with. It’s the portrayal of the characters and the overall situations. Now the author does create a culture where the laws of society puts men in positions of power and women are essentially in traditional female roles. There almost seemed to be an unspoken genetic male impetus to be sexually dominant in a BDSM fashion. The thing is I liked some of the characters and the world, but kept getting annoyed at the way women were portrayed. Kept driving me nuts and throwing me out of the story.

The fact is, though, I’ve been encountering a lot of these sorts of stories where the women can only feel like real women or feel whole if a man abuses them emotionally or physically. And again, I’m not remotely saying that BDSM is abuse. It is not. It is consensual and the submissive has the power to stop at all times, which means that person has the power to say when things go too far for him or her, which means that person holds the power in the room. It’s a relationship of trust and vulnerability, which this book does talk about, but then makes it impossible to believe that these women could have have that vulnerability and trust in these men. In a lot of novels I’ve been seeing, including the one today, the woman (always submissive) has to suffer through agonizing pain, all for her own good, and even though she often clearly struggles against it, she always suddenly gets an amazing orgasm. What’s clear is that the situation is frequently not consensual, which is the part that bothers me. A lot.

I’m trying to figure out if there’s a titillation factor here that makes the BDSM a fantasy, but one that the writer doesn’t bother to understand. Or who twists it for a weird romantic angle. Fifty Shades tends to fall in this category for me. Twilight does in its own fashion, as the male protagonist is a stalker and a pedophile, and the female is passive and weak, requiring rescue and male care.

I guess what’s bothering me throughout is that I didn’t feel that any of these women freely consented, or that they had the ability to say no. And that means the scenes are abuse, not actual BDSM.

 

 

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019
Considering Reverse Harem Stories

Have you read a reverse harem story? Do you know what they are? Essentially they are romances involving one woman and at least three men. Two men would make it menage-a-trois, which is another category of romance. I have been told by one writer of reverse harem stories, that this is not a group sex/orgy type of book, but the woman has encounters with each man one-on-one. The focus is on the developing romantic relationships between each pairing, while the men also develop relationships with each other of a non-sexual nature.

I’ve not really read them, after learning about them last year. I happened to run across a book bundle with four or five inside by the same author, so I picked it up and so far have read two of the stories.

This writer has a particular formula. I don’t know if applies to the genre in general or not, but there are some things I found interesting about the formula as a writer. First, in these books, the woman doesn’t know the men. She meets them one by one, usually, though one many usually has a male friend with whom he’s shared a girlfriend before, and it was something they wish to repeat again.

I think this experienced couple of men is fundamental to the way she tells her reverse harem stories, because they can reassure both the woman and the other men that this can be a healthy and normal relationship. In other words, they give a kind of permission for everyone to participate in what is currently socially taboo behavior.

The woman also has a problem that she doesn’t want to ask for help for. She’s independent and spunky the men all admire and want her. There’s an insta-love sort of quality to these stories because there isn’t a lot of time to develop each romance with any depth, so the reader just has to buy that they fall in love without a lot of evidence. There’s almost no conflict between the woman and each of the men. The conflict tends to be exterior in the shape of whatever problem the woman has, and complicated by the fact that she either doesn’t want help, or doesn’t want to tell them she needs help, Often she’s in money trouble.

The men want to help her through not giving her money, but helping her dig herself out and supporting her while she does. In other words, it’s not exactly a rescue. Nor is it a “we’ll help you for sex” situation. They like her and want to help her and the implication and sometimes explicitly stated motivation is that she deserves their help whether she’s romantically involved with any of them or not.

In both these books, they five (four men and the woman) end up moving in together after each realizes they all want her and they are willing to compete and let her choose. Of course she realizes she loves them all and can’t choose, and decides to call the whole thing off. She can’t bear to hurt any one of them by picking just one and she can’t imagine that they would want to maintain the relationship, but of course, they all do. She’s just that amazing.

She has sex with each man individually, and toward the end, there’s a kind of five-way with all the men involved, touching and kissing and pleasing her, which makes them all happy. There’s no male-on-male sex. No hint that they even touch each other while they are all naked with the woman.

I have to admit, part of me kept thinking . . . wow, what a lot of work to have sex with multiple men. It feels good and she’s terrifically happy, but combined with working and living life, that doesn’t give her a lot of time to just relax. Maybe relaxation is overrated when you can have that many mind-blowing orgasms.

One other thing that I noticed is that she has to constantly reassure herself that she’s not a slut. Her word. That having sex with multiple partners doesn’t make her an awful person. I found this annoying. It’s not that I don’t get the reason why. Society says that women who have multiple sex partners, whether dating them at the same time or serially, are whores. Readers have subconscious biases against women who do have and enjoy sex with multiple men.

Men who like sex and horndog sex, on the other hand, are just players and that makes them more manly. And the men in these stories clearly don’t have issues having multiple sex partners. It’s never suggested that they are anything less than manly men. But it has to be repeated that the women are not sluts or whores, that they really are good women, and sometimes this is reinforced by them cooking amazing meals for all the men, or being domestic in some other fashion, or being really kind and generous and the fact that they worry about what might be thought about them shows that they are really good women.

The fantasy of these novels is really the chosen one fantasy. And not just one amazingly handsome, nice, wealthy, kind, generous, and big-dicked men, but four. And they are so obsessed with her that they are willing to share her with other men. In fact, it’s a good thing because they won’t have to worry about her when they are working (all tend to have their own businesses or be workaholics). Nor will they have to feel guilty for not giving her enough of their time and attention.

I’m curious about other reverse harem novels and how they approach the story. I have to admit that while this author worked hard to make the stories robust with developed characters, I found the stories a little thin and flat. Not enough depth and not filling enough. Also a bit repetitive and not enough real conflict for me.

Does anyone read these? Do you have a favorite author or book? How do other books approach this type of story?

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018
Book Review: Once Upon a Duke

I’m reviewing a short Christmas novel/novella by Erica Ridley. Normally I love her books, but this one didn’t work as well for me. Part of it was I had a hard time believing in a town devoted to Christmas in that time period, so that may be all my fault. This is the back cover copy:

Beware romantic spirits from Christmas past…

Due to the terms of an estranged relative’s will, the Duke of Silkridge must revisit the cold, unforgiving mountains where he lost everything he once loved. As soon as he restores his family legacy, he’ll return to London where he belongs. He definitely won’t rekindle the forbidden spark crackling between him and the irresistible spitfire he’d left behind…

Noelle Pratchett is immune to charming scoundrels like the arrogant duke. He stole her heart, stole a kiss, and then stole away one night never to return. Now he’s back—and they both know he won’t stay. But how can she maintain her icy shields when every heated glance melts her to her core?

 

So as I said, I didn’t buy the setting. The relationship between Silkridge and Noelle is believable, but for me, there’s too much exposition, and so much depended on long ago events. There wasn’t enough time or space to really build the romance. I felt like there needed to be more time, more conflict.

I also wanted to kick Silkridge’s dad’s ass. And I had a hard time with him being so beloved by everyone and the fact that he was a total asshole to his son. Surely the servants would have known and the town would have known. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t revere him for what he did for them, but I felt they would also have some awareness. The lack thereof was silly.

There were some other things that bothered me, but I liked a number of the characters, the stipulation in the will (I kept expecting there to be some significance to this–that his father figured out he was an ass and had try to make amends somehow. Nope. Not even.

In the end, it just wasn’t a satisfying read for me. Won’t stop me from picking up her other books . . . those I haven’t read.

Saturday, August 4th, 2018
Two Book Reviews

I have been bad about reading lately. Can’t seem to finish things. But in the past few days I read two very fun books. One that’s been out quite awhile, the other that’s just coming out. Both romances, one paranormal, one not.

First, the one I got from Netgalley.

This one is called Hollywood Heir by Ruth Cardello. It’s available August 14, 2018. Here’s the back cover copy:

 

 

Jana DeLeon’s  Trouble in Mudbug

I bought this one based on the haunting by the mother-in-law and the setting in Louisiana. Here’s the back cover blurb:

Scientist Maryse Robicheaux thought that a lot of her problems had gone away with her mother-in-law’s death. The woman was rude, pushy, manipulative and used her considerable wealth to run herd over the entire town of Mudbug, Louisiana.

Unfortunately, death doesn’t slow down Helena one bit.

DEQ Agent Luc LeJeune is wondering what his undercover assignment investigating the sexy scientist has gotten him into – especially as it seems someone wants her dead. Keeping his secrets while protecting Maryse proves to be easier than fighting his attraction for the brainy beauty.

I liked this book even though the romance wasn’t that well-built. The characters were terrific, and the first half of the romance built well, but then it went a little fast and I wasn’t entirely convinced of the relationship. Just not as believable for me. But the rest of the story was tons of fun and well worth reading. I want to see what adventures Helena gets up to next (she’s the ghost).