Tour’s Books Blog

October 6, 2011

Is Fall Finally Here? Short Reviews for Rainy Days

Wow, the past 7 weeks have been wet.  I feel like we should be building an Ark or  two – or three.   More rain is predicted for this weekend.  I swear, I walk outside and it smells like mold and mildew.  Leaves are falling, but not not much color is showing.   It looks like once again the spectacular fall color may go missing thanks to rain and unseasonable temperatures and humidity.  Well, it’s not like we can do anything about the weather, it is what it is.  But football has started (yes, I’m a fan) regardless of the temperatures, so I get entertainment while I read.

I did get an unexpected treat from a friend on Paperback Swap – a hard to find book by author Kris Neri.  Loved it and wish she’d written more in this series.  It’s hard, really, how many good writers never get a chance at a bigger audience.  One did – H.P.Mallory’s Josie Wilkins series got picked up by Bantam and will go mass market early next year with the third book in the series, Witchful Thinking.  I have it on pre-order  at Amazon.  I have a LOT of books on pre-order thanks to their 4-for-3 sale.  Mysteries, paranormal, romance, thrillers, you name it – and I’m anxiously awaiting a number of them, but a few good ones have arrived, so here we go, short and sweet.

  • Title:  Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble
  • Author:  H.P. Mallory
  • Type:  Paranormal/fantasy
  • Genre:  Josie Wilkins Series, Bk 1 – Every little thing you do is magic
  • Sub-genre:  Unrest and contentions in the magical underground
  • My Grade: B- (3.7*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Novel – about 80,000+ $11-$12
  • Where Available:  Available at select bookstores, online, and used
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from an online book seller

One minute you’re a sort of successful psychic in LA running a psychic shop with your best friend Christa, and than tall dark and handsome walks into your life and turns it upside down.  Rand Balfour is a warlock of considerable years and he, like other magic users, is looking for a witch that had been prophesied.   Much to the everlasting shock of Jolie Wilkins, that’s her.  Initially, all he asks for is a reading, something she’s usually really good at.  And he pays well too.  Then he comes back for a second one.  He’s convinced Jolie is the one he’s looking for and offers her a job.  He needs to know what happened to his client.  They go go to the house and to Jolie’s eternal shock, she doesn’t just raise a ghost, she brings the dead back to life.

Word spreads in the underground community of magic users.  A ragged and unkempt man approaches her to bring back the groups leader.  Hesitantly Jolie agrees and brings back the alpha of a werewolf pack, she earns their loyalty – of course, she didn’t know they were werewolves when she did it.  She also earns the unwanted attentions dangerous head of the LA magical community and the attentions of a very handsome vampire.

Suddenly, Jolie has to choose who to serve the LA ‘queen’, who is one scary babe, or go to Rand.   Jolie and Christa head to England and the safety of Rand Balfour and his offer to take on Jolie as his apprentice of sorts.

The relationship between Rand and Jolie never stands a chance because Rand won’t let it, despite their mutual attraction.  He retains a cold distance that she doesn’t understand.  I did find that part a bit annoying along with Rand’s casual control of Christa.  It was as if his moral compass no longer fully functioned.  In general terms, Christa is the typical self-centered LA Babe to Jolie’s ‘quiet mouse’ and she has trouble with Jolie suddenly becoming far more important.   The queen is evil and Rand is the emotionally cool and remote man – so the character’s are not exactly original, but the plot works pretty well.  Not as well as the Southern Witch series by Kimberly Frost, but it the various plot lines made sense and kept the readers interest even when the characters got annoying and childish.  The story arc was well paced, if predictable in it’s general outcome.  Some of the secondary characters were more original than the main players.

Was Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble worth the nearly $12 price tag?  Well, no.  It was a good read and I did buy the next in the series, Toil and Trouble (which I found had an annoying plot device and have yet to finish), but I’d say enjoy a price break and buy the far less expensive e-book.  You can download to Kindle software to your computer if you don’t have the device.  (I don’t.)  The e-book is $4.  If you want a print copy, try waiting to see if Bantam publishes Book 1 and 2 in mass market.

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  • Title:  High Crimes on the Magical Plane
  • Author:  Kris Neri
  • Type:  Paranormal/fantasy mystery
  • Genre:  Samantha Brennen and Annabelle Haggerty Bk 1
  • Sub-genre:  fake psychic hopes to cash in on a celebrity kidnapping she stumbles upon
  • My Grade:  B (4*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Novel – about 80,000+ $16.95
  • Where Available:  Available select bookstores, online, and used
  • FTC Disclosure:  acquired through and online book swap site

Here’s a book I had on my WL forever and a friend came through with a copy.  Like Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble, High Crimes on the Magical Plane is an indie publication.  It also features an LA psychic, in this case a frankly fake one who add the caché of ‘Celtic Goddess’ to her completely fictitious resume.  Dressed in thrift shop Renaissance garb, Samantha Brennen heads to Bonne Chance, one of LA’s poshest apartment houses, to visit a client, the widow of a late senator who is enjoying a liaison with man young enough to be her grandson.  Having been told he exhaust belching Mustang is unwelcome there, she’s parked blocks away and walking ‘Who walks in LA?’ to the apartment house.  A van whips out f the underground parking garage, nearly running her down.  That’s not has Samantha excited, but the fact there are two clowns in the front seats – real, live, circus clowns.

The Bonne Chance penthouse is now occupied by divorced aging ingenue actress Molly Claire and calling on Dodi will get Samantha the access she needs.  Maybe.  The pitbull at the front desk insists on walking her direct to Dodi’s door, but Samantha is nothing if not flexible – and light fingered and lifts the access card.  She blows off Dodi as fast as she can and slips up to the penthouse to find it wrecked.  Looks like Molly Claire was kidnapped by the guys who had been stalking her, known in the press as ‘Molly’s Clowns’ thanks to the stumbling ineptness.

Cashing in by getting publicity means going to the cops or FBI.  She chooses FBI and finds herself sitting with the other kooks n the aluminum foil helmets.  Finally, she gets the shrewd Agent Annabelle Haggerty, a woman about Samantha’s own age with way too much knowledge of Celtic gods and goddesses.  But she believes enough to check into it and hold Samantha while she’s doing it.  Then Samantha sees Annabelle acting strangely and suddenly Samantha is having REAL visions about clowns and Molly Claire.  Visions that Annabelle is sending her.  Now she and Annabelle are tied, because she can’t let her boss know she has visions and needs Samantha to act as the ‘psychic, and Samantha needs the inside track.  But what Sam isn’t getting is what she needs most – publicity.

The story is a good one told partly in first person by Samantha and third person.  If switches in voice bother you, this can be a problem.  It seemed to flow just fine for me.  The story arc evolves nicely and the solution was a surprise.  Clever, funny, engaging, and completely entertaining.

Is High Crimes on the Magical Plane worth $16.95?  Much as I enjoyed it, no.  Part of that because she never wrote any follow-up books, so it’s just a stand alone.   If you can find an inexpensive copy, an e-book, or used copy for under $10, then go for it.   I can only hope she writes more entries in the series.

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  • Title:  Must Love Lycans
  • Author:  Michele Bardsley
  • Type:  Paranormal/fantasy
  • Genre:  Broken Heart Oklahoma #9 but a virtual standalone
  • Sub-genre:  Shifters and their coming out of the closet
  • My Grade:  C+ to B- (3.5*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Novel – about 90,000+ $7.99
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of this uneven, and predictable series, too many blah books.  Must Love Lycans was abetter than average entry and something of a surprise.

Kelsey Morningstone is an empathic psychotherapist who made a huge mistake that ruined her career, something her demanding and remote mother, also a famous psychotherapist, took delight in lamenting in both books and TV appearances.  Her career in tatters, she’s offered a job at the Dante Clinic she literally can’t refuse, thanks to the debts caused by civil judgements brought against her.  She’s working for a secret lab and the handsome enigmatic Dante who seems to have designs on her.  But he’s not the one she’s drawn to.  Her naked patient, Damien is the one that attracts her.

Kelsey has gone through her life assuming her gift – or curse – of empathy was just an odd trait.  But it turns out, she’s not exactly human.  Neither is the arrogant Damien, even if he has lost much of his memory.  That gift is now drawing her inexorably to Damien.  Soon, Kelsey finds herself involved in breaking Damien out of the clinic – and having her life turned upside down by learning things like vampires, fae, and werewolves are real.

Damien is a werewolf king and his people are slowing dying off.  He needs to return to a castle in the Black Forest to reclaim his heritage, defeat a curse, and once again give werewolves the strong alpha and protection they need.  But Kelsey is his mate and nothing can stop him from claiming her – or protecting her.

While there are many other characters, including certain fairytale type wicked ‘wicked witch’, it’s the character of Kelsey that really moves the story along and gives it its heart. v Damien is a strong, brooding presence, often with a biting wit, but he isn’t exactly endearing in any way.  The plot mixes too many different myths and fantasy creatures to fully gel, yet Kelsey manages to hold things together somehow.  A decent read, but nothing really special.

Is Must Love Lycans worth $7.99?  Not really.  I got it on the 4-for-3 promotion on Amazon, so I wasn’t too disappointed, but had I spent the full $7.99 I would have been.  An OK for the Broken Heart fans.

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  • Title:  One Salt Sea
  • Author:  Seanan McGuire
  • Type:  Paranormal/fantasy
  • Genre:  October Daye #5; hard choices for parents
  • Sub-genre:  Fae war will erupt if Toby can’t find a kidnapped child
  • My Grade:  B+ (4.2*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Novel – about 90,000+ $7.99
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore

This is a series that I had trouble liking through Book 1 and 2.  But by Book 3, An Artificial Night, I was starting to like October ‘Toby’ Daye and the magical world she inhabited in San Francisco.  One Salt Sea is a big, multi-character story brings some elements of Toby’s life thus far to an end and opens new ones.  The Toby Daye we met in Rosemary and Rue has moved on and become someone different, not always by her own choice.

Thanks to her services to powerful fae Duke, the fae queen, who loathes Toby, has to recognize her when she’d really rather kill her Worse, Toby is now Countess Goldengreen and the other fae lords must deal with someone who isn’t a pureblood.  Toby is now involved with Connor,  the Duke’s former son-in-law, when the Duchess of Saltmist accuses the Queen of abducting one of her sons.  The tension filled formal court appearance with both the Duchess’s people, sea based fae, and the land based fae ends up falling apart, and Toby and Conner, himself a selkie, is bound to the Duchess as she is to the Queen.  But they have a few short days to figure out what happened and get the heir back to the Duchess to avoid a war.  In her arrogance, the Queen assumes she’ll win, but the Duke knows the sea based fae are the better fighters on the land and in the water.  Life in the sea is too dangerous for them to be anything but strong to suvive.  The land based fae have grown soft and vulnerable thanks to years of peace.  They’ll be slaughtered.

Toby might hate the Queen, and the pure bloods might mostly disdain her, despite her being the daughter of a first born (the children of Tatiana and Oberon), but she has no desire to see this war destroy them.  She accepts the Duke’s desperate request she find who stole the son of the Duke and Duchess of Saltmist before war overtakes them.  With Conner, Quentin (who has become her squire), May (her Fetch who is no longer her fetch) and the independent King of the Cait Shide, Toby sets out to find out what happened.

The story arc is complex and tightly woven with recurring characters and new ones.  It mixes tragedy, humor, loss, and a compelling mystery about motivation.  Rayseline, the Duke’s mad daughter to whom Conner was once married, is heart of this, but stealing Toby’s mostly human daughter was a big mistake.  The scenes where she finally cornered is brilliantly creepy understated madness.  Not even the sea hag (Luideag), Toby’s ‘aunt’, can undo the damage Rayseline caused, and Toby has some tough choices.  But Rayesile wasn’t alone in her plot and despite Toby’s grief at her own loss, she must expose the traitor at court and save the Queen she loathes.

Most series have a way of leveling off and keeping characters trapped in a persona that keeps readers happy with its familiar predictably.  Ms McGuire is not content with that and brings constant change and evolution to Toby.  Despite the rocky first two books, this is one series that gets better with each new entry.  One Salt Sea is, in my opinion, the best so far, showing Ms McGuire’s maturing writing style off and developing an even better evolving set of characters.

Is One Salt Sea worth $7.99?  YES!  But be warned, it can’t be read as a stand alone as too many of the plot lines are evolving from earlier books and a reader starting her would be lost.  At the least, read books 3 and 4 before this one.

 

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