Logan finds himself a single dad after his young son’s mother abandons him on his doorstep, so he moves back to his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts, looking to provide his young son with some stability. He has a bad rep from his teen years in Salem to get over, though, and he hopes his new job as a television producer at the local tv station will help. He wasn’t expecting his downstairs neighbor Melody Seabright, however.
Melody, who seems incapable of holding onto a job for any length of time, gets him to get her a meeting with the owner of the tv station and somehow convinces him to give her her own tv show, The Kitchen Witch. The only problem is she can’t cook, and whether or not she’s really a witch is up for debate.
Can Melody learn how to cook and hold onto the job? Or are both of their jobs now in jeopardy? And why does Logan keep thinking about such an unpredictable woman when he knows he needs to provide stability for his son?
I picked this up on a free book cart at a local library because the cover and title were cute, and I definitely am periodically in the mood for some lighthearted paranormal romance. I was a bit disappointed to find this isn’t really a paranormal romance, but I still enjoyed the contemporary tale it told, primarily due to its featuring a good-hearted single dad.
Logan is a contemporary romance character who will make many readers’ hearts beat a bit faster. He’s cute, young, has a high-powered job, lives in the quirky town of Salem and enjoys it, and is an awesome single dad to his young son. Having him be a bad boy who overcame it for his son is the perfect last touch for a contemporary romance. I can see many readers enjoying fantasizing about him.
Melody may be a bit more hit and miss with readers. The delightfully clumsy bit has been used a lot in romance recently and may feel a bit been there done that. Her apartment is divinely adorable, though, and she has some curves that are always looked upon as a good thing. Her difficult relationship with her own father adds some depth to the character, but some readers might have trouble sympathizing with a poor little rich girl, although I do think that Blair handled this particular aspect well.
Blair also writes children characters beautifully. The son sounds like a child, and yet still has the proper astuteness and vocabulary for his age. The only negative I can say about him is that I honestly already forgot his name. However, I enjoyed his presence every time he popped up into the story.
The plot is where things get a bit shaky. The book is definitely marketed as a paranormal romance, and there are hints at the beginning of the book that Melody might be a witch, but that never comes to fruition. The best I can tell is that she’s learned how to act and sound like a witch by virtue of living and working in Salem. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it was disappointing given that I thought I was getting a paranormal story. I also thought that if the book is going to have Logan suspicious Melody is a witch, at some point he should definitely find out once and for all whether she is one. I think perhaps the book was trying to say she’s just a regular girl with some knowledge of Wicca (which isn’t the same thing as being a paranormal romance witch, since Wicca is a religion and doesn’t actually involve paranormal romance style magic but it’s still a reveal I would have been happier with). However, that also is never firmly revealed. Just what type of witch, if any, Melody is is just a plot idea that is dropped and never fully dealt with, which is a bit frustrating.
A bigger plot issue to me though is that this book falls into the romance trope of everyone can see the couple should be together but the couple makes up fake obstacles to stand in their way and they just have to come to their senses and deal with their own stupidity to get over it. (I really wish there was a shorter way to describe that particular trope…..) It is just a trope that really bugs me. I don’t mind real obstacles in the way of a couple, but the couple just being idiotic and making up their own obstacles feels to me like the author stirring up fake drama to make the book longer. Also, I am 100% a-ok with a couple meeting, working out some realistic difficulties, and then being together. Things that are overly dramatic for the sake of drama just rub me the wrong way. Some readers may be ok with this trope, but for those who aren’t, be aware that this is where the plot eventually goes.
Having been to Salem multiple times, I can say that the author clearly did her research, as she depicts the culture and feel of Salem quite well. She also understands the layout of the town and even gives a realistic vague-ish location for Logan and Melody’s house. (In the few blocks nearish the House of the Seven Gables, in case you’re wondering).
The sex scenes were good, not ridiculous. They weren’t mind-blowingly hot, but they were fun to read and well-written.
Overall, this is a good contemporary romance featuring a lovable single dad love interest that is mismarketed as a paranormal romance. Those looking for paranormal romance should be aware that this fits in much better with the contemporary romance crowd. Additionally, those who are frustrated by couples keeping themselves apart for no reason should be aware that this is the romance trope found in this particular book. Recommended to those looking for a steamy contemporary read featuring a heartthrob single dad and a realistically quirky New England town.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: Library free book cart
Lizzie and Dimitri are back from their honeymoon and are all moved in to their new California oceanfront home. Lizzie is loving married life, even if she has to deal with keeping her talking dog Pirate’s pet dragon out of trouble. But one night someone dumps a purgatory creature on their beach, and their search for who did it and why leads Lizzie right back to two of her worst nemeses: a big bad demon and her birth father.
I was really excited to be able to get an advanced reading copy of this book, since I’ve been a fan of the series from book one. I also was happy to see that Fox wasn’t going to stop the series just because Lizzie got married. I think more urban fantasy needs to acknowledge that you don’t have to be single or have a dramatic love life in order to be bad-ass. This book demonstrates quite well that just because Lizzie got married doesn’t mean that the series will stagnate.
The book’s strength is its opening sequences demonstrating Lizzie’s married life, as well as the first time we see the biker witches’ new permanent digs. Both show that while everyone is still the characters we first met and fell for, they are also progressing and changing as their life situations change. The scenes of Lizzie and Dimitri’s new married life are a pleasure to read, seeing them settled into being a partnership and Pirate accepting of the fact that he is now banned from the bedroom. It’s also pretty hilarious to see them trying to hide the supernatural from their homeowner’s association. Similarly, the biker witches are still quirky and funny but now they have made a real home out of a motel, including a surprisingly beautiful magical courtyard out back. These are the characters we love in new situations, and it’s quite well done.
The plot is a bit meh this time around. We’ve seen this big bad demon multiple times before, as well as the problems with Lizzie’s birth family. It feels a bit like a recycled plot, in spite of some of the finer details being different. I think it’s high time Lizzie gets a new big bad to fight. Additionally, I think a lot of readers will have a problem with the direction the plot goes at the end of the book. Fox pulls up this thing that is earth-shattering to readers, and should be to the characters, but they kind of just brush it off and don’t really deal with the consequences. I’m hoping that they will in the next book, but even if they do, it’s still a rough plot for this book. It starts out ho-hum as something we’ve seen before then in the final third goes suddenly off the rails in a direction a lot of readers won’t like. Kind of a difficult plot to deal with when it’s wrapped in such cute characters, scenes, and overarching series developments.
For those who’ve read it, I seriously question the plot having Lizzie kill Pirate with such vehemence when she’s possessed, only to have him brought right back to life. Now, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the idea of having Lizzie possessed after all of her loved ones were possessed by the same demon in the prior book. That’s an interesting direction to go. But having Lizzie actually kill Pirate? Gut-wrenching to read. And then she faces no consequences because he is just brought back to life, and everyone instantly forgives her? It felt like Fox ripped my heart out for no reason, and then I didn’t forgive Lizzie as fast as her family and friends seemed to. It was a tough ending to the book.
The sex scenes are the perfect level of sexy and romantic. They feel just right for newlyweds but also don’t overwhelm the plot. One character from a prior book is explored more in-depth, and a new character is added. I wasn’t a fan of the latter, but I enjoyed the former.
Overall, this book handles its urban fantasy heroine’s new married life quite well, balancing the romance with the fighting, dangers, and sexiness readers expect. Some readers may be bothered by the fact that the plot starts out feeling like a do-over of previous plots, and some may be bothered by the ending of the book. However, fans of the series should definitely pick this one up to see where Lizzie and the gang are heading, and they will be left wanting to pick up the next one as quickly as possible.
4 out of 5 stars
Previous Books in Series:
The Accidental Demon Slayer, review
The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers, review
A Tale of Two Demon Slayers, review
The Last of the Demon Slayers, review
My Big Fat Demon Slayer Wedding, review
Tom Starks has not been the same since his wife, Renee, was brutally murdered with a baseball bat in a parking lot. He’s been struggling for the last three years to raise her daughter, who he adopted when he married Renee. When Renee’s killer is released after a retrial finds insufficient evidence to hold him, Tom becomes obsessed with dealing out justice himself.
I was so excited that two of my 2014 accepted review copies fit into the RIP IX reading challenge! This book’s title jumped out at me immediately when it was submitted, and I had been saving it up specifically to read in the fall. I’m glad to say that this thriller does not disappoint, although it goes in a bit of a different direction than I originally anticipated. And that’s a good thing.
The main character is not who you usually see from a thriller with a person seeking violent justice. He’s bookish. Rather weak and simpering. Afraid of his own brother-in-law, who used to be a boxer. But he was madly in love with Renee, and so when her supposed killer is released, he becomes obsessed with making him dead. The catch is, Tom quickly figures out that maybe he’s not cut out to do the killing himself, and that’s where the book gets unique and interesting. I was expecting from the title and description to see a typical bad-ass main character chase down a killer around the country (or the world) and ultimately get his revenge. That is not at all the story we get, and yet, it is still thrilling. There is still violence and chase scenes, it’s just they aren’t the ones you usually see in a book like this. And that helps it. That helps keep the thrill level up, since it’s so much harder to predict what’s going to come next. Tom, with his weakness and inability to parent well, is almost an anti-hero, and yet we keep rooting for him because his grief for his wife is so powerful and relatable. It’s strong characterization and plotting mixed into one.
The scenes where Tom is seen teaching The Count of Monte Cristo at the community college where he works slow the thrill down. They feel a bit too aware of themselves, with comparison between The Count of Monte Cristo and the plot in this book. Plus scenes of classroom literary analysis simply slow the thrilling plot of the book down. The one scene where it really works is one scene in which Tom is freaking out about his own life so much that he fails at teaching well. This establishes that Tom’s life is starting to get out of control. Overall, though, there are just too many scenes of him teaching for a thriller.
The setting of Baltimore is interesting, and I was glad to see that it wasn’t set in the more stereotypical Washington D.C. Aymar writes Baltimore beautifully. I’ve never been there, but I truly felt as if I was there, seeing both the run-down aspects, as well as the beauty. I often end up skimming over setting descriptions, but Aymar’s drew me in.
The plot has just enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing, but not so many that the reader feels jerked around. Also, the plot twists stay rooted in reality. I could truly see this happening in the real world, and that makes a thriller more thrilling.
Overall, this is a unique thriller, with its choice to cast the opposite of a bad-ass in the role of the main character. This grounds the typical revenge plot into reality, lends itself to more interesting, unique plot twists, and has the interesting aspect of a flawed, nearly anti-hero main character that the reader still roots for. Recommended to thriller fans looking for something different and those interested in first dipping their toe into the thriller genre.
4 out of 5 stars
Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review
John Perry joined the Colonial Defense Force on his 75th birthday. Americans aren’t allowed to be colonists in outer space, but they can defend the colonies in the outer space army. Old folks join for many reasons from boredom to having always wanted to see outer space, even though details of what goes on out there are kept secret from Earth. In spite of all the secrecy, the rumor is that those who join the CDF get to be young again, and who wouldn’t want a second chance at life?
Multiple friends have read this book and loved it, and of course I found the idea intriguing, who wouldn’t? So when a friend offered to loan me his copy, I took him up on it right away. I was not disappointed in the world Scalzi has created, it is endlessly fascinating, but the main character’s arc failed to be quite so interesting to me.
I can’t imagine how anyone would not find the basic premise of this book interesting. Outer space colonies that are kept a mystery from Earth. Only certain countries allowed to colonize (primarily those suffering from population overload). Top it off with a colonial army made entirely up of old people who supposedly get to be young again? Completely. Fascinating. And Scalzi really comes through on the science of all of this, the politics, and manages to have some surprises in there, in spite of the what seems to be very straight-forward book summary. And the world beyond the soldiers and the colonists is utterly fascinating as well. The aliens are incredibly creatively imagined, not just in their looks but in their cultures. They feel real. And that extends to the battles and spaceships as well. The worldbuilding here is phenomenal. It is an example of how scifi worlds should be built.
The main character, though, as well as his character development arc, fail to live up to the incredible worldbuilding. John Perry, from early on, is talented at war, in spite of having only been an advertising slogan writer for his whole life. He has no real life experience that would make one think he would be good at war. Additionally, even when he is doing battle, he’s kind of flat on the page. He doesn’t jump off as the leader he supposedly is supposed to naturally be. Other characters feel that way, but not John. In fact, I frequently found myself far more interested in the secondary characters around John than in John himself. I was willing to give this a bit of a pass since, well, the character has to live for us to continue to see the wars he’s fighting, and maybe Scalzi has a thing for unlikely heroes. But his character arc takes an odd turn at the end that really bothered me.
John meets a special forces woman who is in his dead wife’s body. Basically, his dead wife’s DNA was used as a base to build a genetically enhanced body. Ok, I’m fine with that, even if it seems unnecessary. But then John becomes obsessed with her, and she with him, even though she is very clearly NOT his wife. Then at the end, he asks her to move to a colonial farm with him when they retire. And she says yes. Whaaaaat?! This isn’t romance; this is gross! The special forces woman has as much in common with John’s wife as her sister would at this point, since they have messed with the DNA so much. This is like John pursuing his dead wife’s sister, who is emotionally only 6, since she was put into a fully adult body 6 years ago and had no life prior to that. It’s gross. It is not romantic. And I really think the reader is supposed to see it as romantic, when instead it squicked me out far more than any of the aliens in the book, including the ones with slimy appendages or the ones who eat humans.
Overall, this is an utterly fascinating scifi world with a bit of a ho-hum main character. The ending may disappoint some readers, and Scalzi’s politics can come through a bit obviously sometimes. However, those at all intrigued by the plot summary or interested in high quality scifi world building should check it out.
4 out of 5 stars
Book Review: The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor: Part One by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga (Series, #3) (Audiobook narrated by Fred Berman)
In the aftermath of her rebellion attempt against The Governor, Lilly Caul is starting to see him as a man who does what it takes to protect the citizens of Woodbury. So when strangers in riot gear and prison suits underneath show up at Woodbury, she believes The Governor that they’re out to get their supplies and that the woman, unprovoked, bit his ear. But not everyone believes The Governor, and The Governor starts to think he can use the doubters to his advantage.
This non-graphic novel series telling the backstory of the big bad villain of the graphic novel Walking Dead series started off incredibly strong but, unfortunately, each new entry in the series gets worse and worse. Instead of lending new light to the backstory of The Governor and Woodbury, this entry retells scenes readers of the graphic novel have already seen, simply from The Governor and other residents of Woodbury’s perspectives.
While I understand that some things readers of the graphic novel series already know may need to be briefly mentioned again for those who are only reading the print books, a sizable portion of this book features scenes already told once in the graphic novels. Many of these scenes were disturbing enough in the graphic novels, such as the scene in which Michonne is repeatedly raped and beaten by The Governor. Retelling them from the perspective of The Governor just felt unnecessary and was frankly difficult to listen to. It would have been better to have left out showing that scene again and instead showed the, well-told and well-done scene of The Governor after her rapes Michonne back in his apartment where he tries to rationalize his behavior. This lends new insight into the character without forcing the readers to, essentially, re-read.
The characterization of Lilly Caul continued to bother me. First she hates The Governor and leads a rebellion, then turns right around and becomes loyal to him? What? This makes zero sense and is never fleshed out enough to make sense. Similarly, how she handles one particular plot development feels like lazy, cliched writing of women, which bothered me.
Speaking of writing of women, while I understand that the third person narration is supposed to simultaneously be from an evil guy’s perspective, how the narrator talked about Michonne really bothered me. We are constantly reminded that she is black. She is never just “the woman” she is always “the black woman” or “the dark woman.” Her dreadlocks are mentioned constantly. Whereas white characters, Latino characters, and male characters are referred to once with descriptors about how they look, her looks are constantly described. I understand looks need to be described periodically, but this is far too heavy-handed and in such a way that it feels like the narrator feels it necessary to constantly remind the reader that she is “other” and “different from us.” Worse, she is also referred to as a “creature,” etc…, particularly during her rape scenes. I never felt Michonne was mishandled in the graphic novels. She’s a bad-ass woman who just happens to be black in the graphic novels. Here, though, the descriptions of her feel like they are exoticized, which feels entirely wrong for a book in which we mostly just see her being raped. She is depicted so animalistically, it made my stomach turn. Even when she is among her friends, the narrator feels it necessary to constantly refer to her otherness.
So what’s done well in this book? The scenes where we finally learn how the double-cross happens and see it plotted and carried out from the bad guys’ perspective is chilling and enlightening. It’s also really nice to get to actually see the scene where Michonne beats the crap out of The Governor. If other scenes had been left out, the characterization of Lilly Caul and descriptions of Michonne handled better, and the whole book tightened up (and probably part two included here), it could have been a strong book.
Overall, fans of the series will be disappointed by the repetition of scenes they’ve already seen and the overall shortness and lack of new information in this book. Some may be bothered both by how Michonne is presented in this book, far differently from how she is in the graphic novel series, as well as by seeing some of the rapes from The Governor’s perspective. Recommended to hard-core fans who feel they need to complete reading the companion series to the graphic novels.
2 out of 5 stars
Maui wedding planner, Pali Moon, wound up as a key witness against a drug ring, and now she’s been whisked into witness protection, sent to the small boring island of Lana’i, and right at the holidays no less! The feds seem to be taking their sweet time getting the case to court, and Pali is bored out of her mind, used to the hustle and bustle of wedding planning. When a small local bed and breakfast advertises looking for temporary help while they go to the main island to have their baby, it seems like the ideal situation. But when a famous guest’s fiancee turns up dead, Pali finds herself right in the thick of things again.
I picked this mystery up when I saw it on sale (for free) in the kindle store, in spite of it being midseries. The punny title made me think it was probably a cozy, and I know those series are totally fine to read out of order. I was right in that I never felt lost in the story due to starting mid-series, but I wasn’t right about it being a cozy. Pun-filled title aside, this is an easy-going mystery, ideal for a beach read, but missing the appendixes of add-ons such as recipes or patterns found in cozy mysteries
Pali is a three-dimensional character who jumps off the page, and the supporting characters, while not necessarily three-dimensional, each have enough different quirks and personalities that they are memorable. That said, Pali may be three-dimensional but she’s sure not likable. One example, she kisses someone on Lana’i, and then later finds out that her boyfriend may be cheating on her and flips out. But wasn’t she just cheating by kissing someone else? The hypocrisy left a really sour taste in my mouth for Pali. Characters don’t have to be likable, but in light-hearted mysteries where we’re supposed to be rooting for the non-professional PI, it really helps for them to be.
The mystery was fairly good. I certainly didn’t figure it out until right before the reveal, and the ultimate solution made sense. This is all I really look for in a mystery.
The setting was probably the best part. Bassett evokes (what I can only imagine is) the real feel of Hawaii. Each island visited has its own feel, Hawaiian culture is solidly represented with things like islanders calling all the elderly women “aunty” and locals being able to talk their way onto a ferry for free. What kept me reading the book was my desire to spend time in Hawaii, combined with a mystery I was interested in the solution to.
Overall, the rich Hawaiian setting and actually mysterious mystery make this a fun beach read. The main character is three-dimensional but could rub some readers the wrong way. Those looking for a traditional cozy should be forewarned that this book doesn’t come with any traditional cozy extras. Recommended to those looking for a light mystery set in Hawaii.
3 out of 5 stars
Science is moving forward to and through transhumanism to posthumanism, and no society seems to quite know how to handle it. China is using the tech in their armies, Thailand is interested in its use to enhance meditation and zen, and the US government banned many of the different treatments and drugs after they were used by cults to make cloned children into killing machines. Kaden Lane knows about the potential dangers, but he and his lab partners are still invested in making their brain nanotechnology drug, Nexus, work. It makes minds meld together, able to feel others’ suffering, and they think it will lead to world peace. Samantha Cataranes was a victim of a transhumanist mind control cult as a child, now she fights on the side of the FBI putting a stop to any science deemed too dangerous. When Samantha and Kaden meet, their worlds and worldviews start colliding.
I had honestly kind of forgotten what this book was about, beyond it being scifi, by the time I picked it up to read it. I thus was able to experience most of it as a surprise. It’s a book that’s a modern twist on cyberpunk with plenty of action to boot.
Jumping far enough ahead that some transhumanist elements already exist is a smart move. It lets the book think forward further than the initial transhumanist elements that it’s generally easy to see the advantages of, like fully functional robotic hands, into the grayer areas with things like cloning and mind control and making soldiers who are super-soldiers. This is a more interesting ethical dilemma, and the book doesn’t take very long to set up the world and get into it.
Nexus itself is a fascinating drug that combines nanotech and drugs. It’s easy to see that the author knows his science and has extrapolated into a possible future with a lot of logic based on current science. That’s part of what makes reading the book so fascinating and slightly frightening. It feels like an actual possibility.
The world building is done smoothly, incorporating both in-plot mentions and newspaper clippings and internal briefings to establish what is going on in the greater world around Kaden and Samantha.
The characterizations are fairly strong. Even if some of the secondary characters can seem two-dimensional, the primary characters definitely are not. Seeing a woman as the world-wise, transhuman strong fighter, and the man as the physically weaker brains was a nice change of pace. Additionally, the book embraces the existence of gray areas. “Bad guy” characters aren’t necessarily bad, and “good guys” aren’t necessarily good. This characterization helps tell the nuanced gray area story of the overarching plot.
The beginning of the book was weaker than the middle and the end. The first chapter that has a character testing out Nexus by using it to land sex with a hot woman almost made me stop reading the book entirely. It felt like some pick-up artist douchebro was imagining a future where tech would make him irresistible to women. Frankly, that whole first chapter still feels extremely out of place to me now. It doesn’t fit into the rest of the presentation of the character throughout the book. It feels like an entirely separate story altogether. I would encourage potential readers to skim it, since it barely belongs, then get to the rest of the book.
After the first chapter, the next few chapters feel a bit overly rose-colored lenses at first. Almost as if the author sees no gray areas and only the potential good in humans. Thankfully, this is mostly the rose-colored lenses of a main character that quickly fall away for the more nuanced storytelling of the rest of the book. But it did induce a few eye-rolls before I got further along.
The middle and end of the book look at human potential for both good and evil within the context of both science and Buddhism. It’s fascinating stuff, and makes a lot of sense since quite a bit of modern psychiatry is working hand-in-hand with ideas from Buddhism, particularly about meditation. This is where the more interesting insights occurred, and also where I felt I could embrace the book a bit more.
Each of us must walk our own ethical path. And together, men and women of ethics can curb the damage of those without. But for you…if you keep vital knowledge from others, then you are robbing them of their freedom, of their potential. If you keep knowledge to yourself, then the fault is not theirs, but yours. (loc 5597)
Overall, this cyberpunk scifi that mixes transhumanism and posthumanism with nanotechnology, fighting big governments, and Buddhism tells a fascinating tale full of gray areas that will appeal to scifi fans. Some may be turned off by the first few chapters that lack the nuance and likeable and strong characterization of the rest of the book, but it’s worth it to skim through the first few chapters to get to the juicier middle and end.
4 out of 5 stars