Tour’s Books Blog

June 26, 2013

Murder, Mayhem, and Magic – Sad Goodbyes, and Sneak Peeks of To Be Released

Death really does come as the end, to paraphrase Dame Agatha Christie.  For some it comes too soon.  As anyone who reads my blog knows, Vince Flynn is one action thriller author I read.  Even when his books got average, he remained as solid choice for CIA assassin reads.  At the age of 47, Vince Flynn died June 19th from prostate cancer.  He was open about his 3 year battle with the disease, so it was not a shock to his fans.  I had hoped he would be one of the lucky ones and beat the odds.  He has two releases scheduled for this year, his latest Mitch Rapp book and a collaboration with Brian Haig (which I have on pre-order).  If they both go to press, they might well be his last, though I expect another author will continue his Mitch Rapp series.  I shall miss all the stories Vince Flynn had yet to tell.

vinceflynn

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New releases mean the most recent chapter in favorite series, a whole new series by a favorite author, or maybe a new author or two.  The first Tuesday of every month is usually the big release day.  June is about an average month for me.  You get a decent number of cozies (most of which I ignore), some traditional mysteries (YEAH!), the annual glut of ‘beach reads’ – AKA ‘Women’s Fiction (a genre I avoid), the usual crop of historical romance (read one, read most), and a wide range of science fiction and fantasy (a favorite).  So, here are some reviews.

Death Taxes and Hot Pink

The fifth book in the Tara Holloway series, Death, Taxes, and Hot Pink Leg Warmers, brings a few changes and resolves some personal relationships from the earlier books – and puts, Tara, Nick – the hunky co-worker she taking for a test drive for a relationship, Tara’s friend Christie, the DEA agent she became friends with in book one, Death Taxes and a French Manicure.

In Death, Taxes, and Peach Sangria, Brett Ellison and Tara decided their relationship needed a breather so they both had a chance to explore the feeling they’d had each developed for other people.  It was a lot more mature than Stephanie Plum’s bouncing between Ranger and Morelli.  They would meet in a month.  The only ground rule, no sex with the other person during the month.  Nick and Tara were finding that hard, but managing.  I liked the way Ms Kelly handled this whole thing.

The ‘Lobo’ is back at work running the IRS Enforcement office and Nick and Tara go under cover with Christine and another DEA agent at a ‘Gentleman’s Club’, thanks to inside information from one of the ‘girls’.  But Lu also wants Tara to go to workout with her at the health club so she can lose the weight she packed on after her cancer surgery, chemo, and quitting smoking.  At the same time Tara and her old partner Eddie and handling a case with local prosecutor on a mortgage/builder scam four men were running for years – and not paying taxes on any of it.

And that’s the problem with the book.  It has so many different plots running concurrently it gets a bit fuzzy.  It lacks a clear focus and the building tension of solving the crime.  This fault was compounded by a piece of stupid by Tara at the very end.

Death, Taxes, and Hot Pink Leg Warmers was good, but not on the same level as the earlier books in this series, a series I happen to really like.  The best I can do here is a  B- (3.7*).  If you can get it cheap or through a book swap site, read it, but it’s not one you need to run out and buy.  I bought this book on Amazon for $7.19

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the-heist-cover

OK, call me a sucker, but I had to try this novel.  Intended as a first in a series, Janet Evanovich has gone the route of Clive Cussler and James Patterson and teamed with another writer for this first ‘caper’ style story in what is intended to be a series.  Now caper stories have had some excellent practitioners over the years – notably Ross Thomas, Donald E Westlake, even the redoubtable John Sanford writing under his real name of John Camp did this style with his Kipp books.  When you say ‘caper’ books, most people immediately think of things like Ocean’s 11 or How to Steal a Million, two movies that are examples of how capers run.  Caper novels being basically con jobs – and like any good con, even the reader should not see the final plot twist.  In the hands of the masters, like Thomas and Westlake, they move at a breakneck pace and have more twists than a pretzel factory and the ending is usually brilliant and completely unexpected.  In the hands of Evanovich and Goldberg, it runs predictably and at half speed, lacking much of the punch of a Thomas or Westlake book, but it remains an enjoyable and fast read – and one of the best things she’s done for some time now – which is kind of damming with faint praise.

The basic plot of straight out of the TV series White Collar with the female lead taken from Castle and stuck playing the Peter Burke role.  Seriously, you have tough, no nonsense, FBI agent Kate O’Hare rather than an NYC detective ‘Kate Beckett’, and a ‘Neal Caffery’  clone name Nick Fox.  Really.  O’Hare and Fox.  SIGH!  Yes, you even have the sexual tension between the tough cop ……. ummmm ……. FBI agent and the con man ……… wait, yes, Kate Beckett does Neal Caffery.  Damn.

Now, before Evanovich fans start sharpening their knives and light the torches, I would like to say I actually LIKE White Collar and Castle.  What I don’t like is the feeling of a wholesale rip-off of characters for this book.  That’s just insulting.  The bad part is, it will most likely be popular too.

Kate has been after Nick Fox for ages and finally has him, too bad the man is shrewd as well as slick.  He gets out on bail, flees to Mt Athos on Greece (no women allowed) and hides out as a ‘priest’ supposedly studying the culture of the Mt Athos monastic life unchanged since Byzantine times.   Kate is a former SEAL (REALLY????  The authors even apologize for this egregious breach of credibility by saying ‘there should be female SEALs’) and her dad Jake a former Sec Ops Marine.  They team up and get to Greece so she can take a highly illegal flight over Athos and parachute in to drag Nick out.  But it isn’t just Nick waiting in the hut, it’s her boss AND a Deputy Director of the FBI.  She and Nick are about to be partners in some highly illegal plans to get fugitives back to the US.  Their first target, a investment banker who ran off with $500 million in his clients money.  (Piker.  Even Michael Milken did better than that with junk bonds in the ’80’s!)

And the con is on.  Because they have to get the man’s location from his high power attorney – a former prosecutor turned defense lawyer.  Then it’s off to Indonesia with Kate posing as an heiress who is about to be stranded off just the right island to get their man.

All in all, tension is minimal, the con is actually pretty straight forward, action is blah and the characters 2 dimensional.  A fast easy read that was mildly entertaining, but actually not as well done as the plots in White Collar.  Evanovich needed a more experienced hand in the genre than Goldberg’s, one that could create the kind depth and complexity this book begged for.

The Heist with lightweight, pleasant, fluff that barely makes a C (3*) grade despite the reviews on Amazon.  If you want to read a funny caper novel, try The Gunseller by Hugh Laurie or any of the Ross Thomas books (even if they are a bit dated) – The Seersucker Whipsaw, Briarpatch, The Money Harvest, even his last caper book – and far from his best, Ah, Treachery!  These are not series books, so read his caper novels in any order.  There are 13 all together apart from the three series he also wrote.  Or try one of the Dortmunder books by Donald E Westlake.

I bought The Heist for about $15.50 from Books-a-Million.  It wasn’t worth it.  If you’re a HUGE Evanovich fan, get it from the library or buy the paperback.  It’s about 3 hours of mindless entertainment with some laughs and no real tension or surprises and less originality than the TV shows it so shamelessly copies.  It’s worth maybe $5 tops.

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mayhem-at-orient-express

Mayhem at the Orient Express is a first book by Kylie Logan.  Set on an island in the Great Lakes, the story centers around a group of 3 female neighbors with petty grievances that have driven the local magistrate to distraction.  To help his librarian wife keep the grant money that runs the town library, he sentences the women to a book club.  The one enthusiastic member is a local widow and fishing charter captain.  Chandra Morrisey is a new age, aging hippie, with a cat that pees in Bea Cartwright’s brand new B&B’s flower beds.  She traded Manhattan for an isolated island, so Bea isn’t about to let some cranky locals spoil her plans, not when she already has her first guest.  Kate Wilder is a no nonsense winery owner who opposed the B&B wanting the land it sat on for a small park.  Only Luella Zak, the local fishing boat operator was at the meeting willingly.  As a first book, the unwilling group agreed to read Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie – not knowing an April snowstorm would find them kind of reliving it.  First they had to escape the ‘discussion group’ and all 4 women ended up at the new Chinese restaurant, Orient Express, for Peter Chan’s orange chicken.  Only problem is, Peter is dead, stabbed with his own knife.  The police finally let them go and the skid home to their respective houses.

When Bea renovated the old Victorian (a work still in progress), she installed a back-up generator.  She was about to bless that piece of foresight.  Out of nowhere, a huge April blizzard moved in cutting power to many places – including the homes of her annoying neighbors who end up seeking refuge at the B&B.  So Bea has all her bedrooms full to overflowing with guests and residents without heat or light – including the sheriff – Chandra’s ex-husband – and his handsome deputy.  Thank heavens Meg, the young woman she hired to bake for her, was one of the ones she took in, because Bea wasn’t much of a cook.

The one thing the 3 squabbling neighbors and the friendly and down to earth Lu have in common besides a love for Peter’s orange chicken is a tendency to be curious.  Like search the rooms of her off-island guests curious.  The best part of the book is watching these very different women slowly find a way to get along and work together and sort of like each other.  Yes, many elements are a rip off of Christie’s book, but more like a homage and it does work, especially in light of the late season storms we saw in the area this year adding to the credibility.

Who did the killing is actually obvious, the whys were not, and the solution not as unique as Christie’s.  Like most first books, a lot of time was spent developing the backstory behind various characters, especially Bea, who remains deliberately vague in her history.  The mystery is OK, but watching the women was the real entertainment.

Mayhem at the Orient Express gets a B- (3.7*) from me and a suggested read for lovers of classic style cozies.  Purchased online for $7.19

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SNEAK PREVIEWS: Two Urban Fantasy Novels

Elysian Fields

Elysian Fields, the third book of the Sentinel’s of New Orleans series, is due out in August and I got an ARC of the ebook.  YIPEE!!!!!!!!  Kudos to author Suzanne Johnson.  She does some expected and unexpected things with her characters and really puts her young wizardress, DJ (or Drusilla to Jean Lafitte and her grandmother), thru a lot.  This is the best new UF series since Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books hit the shelves 2 years ago.  More importantly, this series is one of the few that made the jump to my keeper shelf.

Starting just a few weeks after the end of River Road, the plot runs at a breakneck pace from the opening chapter with an investigation into a serial killer.  DJ’s problems with the elves are a lot more serious than the Elders realize.  There’s an old ax murderer on the loose, possible called up by a necromancer, and DJ is on his list, and the vampires have alliances and whole other game going on – one that could end with another Wizard War.

I won’t give a full review here, but buy this if you can, or make sure your library does.  Even though I read the ARC I left my order for the book in place.  I want a print copy for my shelf.  I know changes can happen between ARC’s and final print, but usually nothing major, especially thing close to the release date.  Elysian Fields will likely get a B+ (4.3*) and is a highly recommended series from me for fans of the Iron Druid, Grave Witch, and Elemental Assassin series.

Free ebook ARC

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Heart-of-Venom-625x1024

YES!  Your favorite assassin is back with a special tale to tell – one that centers around not Gin Blanco, but her closest friends Sophia and Jojo, the dwarf sisters that have been family to her since Fletcher Lane took her in after Mab Malone killed her family.  What was supposed to be a ‘girls day’ at Jojo’s spa turns bloody, with Sophia kidnapped, Jojo shot and Gin unable to intervene without getting them all killed, even her sister Brie.  First she has to get to a healer to save Jojo, then she has a sadistic half dwarf/half giant and his even more sadistic sister to hunt down.

Owen is back, struggling to make amends for his behavior after realizing Gin had no choices in what she did to his ex-fiancee.  Gin isn’t falling over herself to get him back, cautious of the hurt he caused her before.  She is what she is, and if he can’t live with that, she might always miss him, but she isn’t taking any crap or making any apologies about her life.  That is a strength I do like to see.  And with the focus on Sophia and Jojo, and the flashbacks to when Gin was just training with Fletcher Lane, makes for an all around good read.

After several very formulaic books, Heart of Venom was a welcome shift to the history of the dwarf sisters who have played such a big role in Gin’s life.  It has an interesting ending too, with the promise of a new underworld figure, Mab Malone’s heir.  My grade is B- (3.8*) and a must for Elemental Assassin fans and recommended read to those who read f UF in general.

Free ebook ARC

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June 2, 2013

Getting Books Cheap Books and Paranormal Reviews

I know, bizarre combination, huh?  Maybe cheap books feels like a fantasy these days.  Somehow, getting good buys on mass market paperbacks (mmpb’s) has become a challenge, one that I occasionally go after.  Although Amazon is continuing their silly “Guess the price and hope you win” game, Book-A-Million (BAM) has taken an easier approach – additional discounts.  Both Amazon and BAM discount mmpb’s 10%, but BAM offers frequent coupons.  On Memorial Day Weekend, BAM offered two different discounts, 10% off an order of $20 or more, or $20 off $100 or more.  Guess which one I went for?  Yup, the $100 order.  I ordered 8 mmpb’s, one trade paperback, and 2 unreleased hardcovers.  Total cost, $104 + tax – which Amazon will start charging in my state July 1 anyway.  Since all these books were unreleased pre-orders, the tax was a wash between BAM and Amazon, the additional $20 off was not.

Before ordering any book on BAM, I check the pricing on Amazon.  If Amazon is cheaper by more than 50 cents, I let it sit and move on to the next option.  This is most apparent with trade and hard cover books.  MMPB’s seem to be the same or cheaper in BAM.  Here’s what I ordered from BAM:

Born Wild by Julie Ann Walker – (Mass Market Paperback)

King and Maxwell by David Baldacci – (Hardcover)

Death Rides Again by Janice Hamrick – (Hardcover)

Unbreakable by Stephanie Tyler – (Mass Market Paperback)

Death of a Chocoholic by Lee Hollis – (Mass Market Paperback)

Midnight Games by Elle Kennedy – (Mass Market Paperback)

Read It and Weep by Jenn McKinlay – (Mass Market Paperback)

Cover Story by Erika Chase – (Mass Market Paperback)

The Cakes of Wrath by Jacklyn Brady – (Mass Market Paperback)

Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach – (Paperback)

After the Storm by Maya Banks – (Mass Market Paperback)

Now BAM does not distribute the discount over books like Amazon.  They take the whole discount, in this case $20, and apply it to the first item shipped.  For these books, it will be a hard cover that costs just over $15+tax.  That means a small amount will carry over and reduce the price of the next item shipped.  After that, items will ship at their list price.  If this discount was evenly distributed over each book, it would be about $1.80/book over the already discounted list price.  As I said above, I do check ALL the prices to be sure Amazon isn’t substantially lower.  In this case, all mass market paperbacks were priced identically ($7.19) on both sites.  The trade and hard covers were within a few cents, sometimes BAM was cheaper, sometimes a few cents more.  The difference was never more than $0.50.  This then translates into a mmpb price of $5.39 per book.  It also means each of the hard cover and trade size books were nearly $2.00 less than Amazon.  (I have disregarded the tax as it would be the same in either case, or if you live in a state without sales tax, it would remain zero.  Same with shipping.  In both cases I am a member so shipping is free.)

Is this more work?  Yes it is.  And there is one HUGE drawback on BAM, you cannot cancel items in an order, so if you accidentally order two of one item because you ordered it before or on another site, you’re stuck with it.  I now list all items I bought on BAM in my Amazon wish list and tag them as purchased on BAM so I don’t order twice.  And that’s another drawback with BAM, it WON’T TELL YOU THAT YOU ALREADY PURCHASED AN ITEM!   For someone like me with hundreds of dollars in pre-orders, that a problem.  I have to be a lot more careful about choosing titles.  Still, can you beat $5.39 for a brand new mmpb, delivered on the day of release?  Let me know if you see a better price on line.

The prices with that coupon on BAM were actually LESS THAN AMAZON 4-for-3!  But, it was enough of a hassle I probably wouldn’t do it if Amazon had kept that deal.  Still, it is the third time this year that I placed an order of $50 or more with BAM to use a coupon that lead to deep discounts like this.

Do I still order from Amazon?  You bet.  They are very competitive on trade paperback and hard cover pricing and they also offer lots of freebies and deep discounts on things other than print books for Prime members.  In fact, I placed an order for 3 trade paperbacks the same day I ordered the other books from BAM.  Why?  Amazon had better prices or BAM did not list the book.  That’s the other thing – some authors love Amazon’s self-publishing platform, Create Space.  Ann Charles, who writes two successful paranormal mystery series (Deadwood and Jackrabbit), Jana DeLeon who writes humorous mysteries set on Louisiana Bayou country, and Barry Eisler, the author of the John Rain assassin books are just a few that use this option.  You can’t get these anywhere but on Amazon or maybe a used book store or book swap site.

And this leads me to the BIG DISCOUNT OPTION – book swapping online.  Your cost, the price of mailing a book, anywhere from about $2.78 to over $4 depending on the weight.  Do you get books in a timely manner?  Well, if you wish list a book your name is in order as wishes are received, so if you check the release listings on Amazon or through your library, you get in early and are one of those who get the books not long after the release date.  I’ve rec’d books in as little as 10 days from the release date by doing this, but others you can wait a LONG time.  Mostly because of three things – 1. it’s a niche publisher or author and few books are actually purchased in print, 2 – it’s a HUGELY popular title and even though a lot of books are floating around, they can hit keeper shelves, or 3 – it was sold as an ebook for substantially less so few print books were sold.  That’s what happens with CreateSpace books – people buy the Kindle version and not a print book more often than not.  That said, I just read Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris, that last Sookie Stackhouse book published May 7.  I read it within 3 weeks of publication and I was the THIRD person to read this copy of the book!  I got the book, list price $27.95 and discount around $15 and change on Amazon, for FREE through Paperback Swap (PBS).  I will pass it on to another reader, still in excellent almost like new condition.  Cost?  The price of shipping, in this case, about $3.89.

So those are my saving tips for getting cheap books.  Hope you give this a chance.  Obviously, I am a big reader, so these discounts mean a lot to me since I buy a lot of books.  BAM emails sales at least once a week.  Some are in store only and there is one not that far from me, but I don’t use those.  I use the online discounts.  So word of advice, take advantage of the discounts out there and you’ll actually do better than you did with the old Amazon 4-for-3.  More effort?  Yes.  But now it’s the best way to get good prices.  Not a big reader?  Your best bet is buying at Walmart, Costco, and the like where they offer really good discounts, or wait and buy used copies on line or at your local used book store.

Now, on to reviews!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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dead ever after (1)

What the heck, let’s start with the twelfth and final installment in the now famous Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, Dead Ever After.  I was a fan of the earlier books, but got tired of Sookie and her never ending vampire drama and moved on.  About 2 years ago, I picked up with the latest book thanks to PBS and felt like the soap opera Sookie was more tedious than ever, but since I had been there at the start, I might as well read the last three.  Like the 2 previous books, I got this one through a book swap on PBS.  Since I was 29 on the wish list numbering over 600 members, I would have gotten it in 2 weeks without the swap, as I wish listed this title fairly early.  I had long since given up spending good money on these books, or any other book by Charlaine Harris for that matter.

After receiving Dead Ever After I checked the reviews on Amazon and had a good laugh.  Scathing is the nicest word for them.  Thing is, it’s deserved.  What a sad end to what had started as a really good series.  Now all series have highs and lows, and authors get stuck in a rut.  Look at Stephanie Plum who is doing her version of Groundhog Day in loosely reworked tropes for the last 10 books by Janet Evanovich.  (Another author relegated to PBS as a source.)    There’s a hard balance between giving fans what they want (more of the same old …… er, stuff) and sending the character onto an evolved version.   J.K. Rowling really deserves a LOT of credit for what she did with her Harry Potter series, caring for both fans and her characters while hewing to her original concept of a limited number of books and an end to the series.  Brava!!!!!!   I can only wish other authors were as steadfast as you.  Ms. Harris took an unfortunate confrontational stance with fans, declaring she was the creator and the characters were hers to do with as she pleased.  Talk about flipping off the people who made you rich and famous.

Personality aside, I cracked open Dead Ever After and started to read.  A hundred pages later I wondered why I bothered.  If book one of this series had been this dull, True Blood would never have hit TV and Sookie Stackhouse would have been on the literary junk heap.  Now keep in mind, I am not a passionate Sookie fan.  As I said, I read the early books and enjoyed them, but after about 5 they started to annoy me and I just stopped reading them.  But fans do have a good reason for the outrage that poured forth in the Amazon reviews.  This was one badly executed book.  The dedication should carry a warning against narcoleptic attacks induced by the stunningly dull writing.

What about plot?  I have no idea.  Mostly it seems to be a series of mini-stories that tie up or kill off various characters.  Dead Ever After drags in a host of people from previous books and plots.  It’s page after page of first person Sookie monologue interrupted now and again by a conversation or some action.  It was like Ms Harris just threw the kitchen sink of characters on a table and rammed jigsaw puzzle pieces together til she had something resembling a plot and said, “This will do.”

Sam is having issues with coming back from the dead.  Sookie is insulted he’s not more grateful for her using the cluviel dor to bring him back.  (huh?  She was expecting an award?)  Eric is pissed she used it on Sam and not to free him from his marriage contact to the vamp queen of Oklahoma. (Sookie has a real talent for attracting losers.)   Copely Carmichael is pissed she got to use it instead of him, because he sold his soul for money and power, but wanted the cluviel dor to gain control of his wayward witch daughter, Amelia.  Claude wanted it so he could over throw the fairy king Niall, Sookie’s grandfather, and that got him tossed in fairy prison.  Now he wants revenge.  Amelia comes back when Sookie is set up on fake murder charges – but guess who had loose lips on the ‘secret’ cluviel dor?  With friends like these, who needs enemies?  For an object that was supposed to be secret, an awful lot of people knew about it!

The trumped up murder charge, the shallow stupidity of everyone, including Sookie, the lifeless sex scene with Sam (dear heavens, who knew sex could be so dull) and glaring stupidity of the characters is annoying.  Ever worse, the writing is lifeless and occasionally outright stupid.  Eric becomes immature and does everything short or throwing a tantrum.  He proves yet again, Ms Harris’ vamps are nothing but self-centered parasites who view humans as lesser creatures.  DUH!!!!!!!!  Have we forgotten Bill???? (Sorry Bill fans, but some things cannot be forgiven.)  Is any of this a surprise?  Sookie is immature and doesn’t trust her own judgement.  (Excuse me, she reads people’s minds and she STILL has the worst judgement around?  Seriously????  And let’s not discuss the insecurity issues!)  Well gee, she did take in her scummy cousin Claude who was trying to steal the cluviel dor.  She lived with a vampire who raped her, and then took up with another vampire and was afraid he was influencing her feelings, so she broke the marriage bond and then wondered why he was mad.  And he was thinking of changing her to vampire against her will and making her his mistress on the side in Oklahoma.  Oh yeah, great taste in guys Sookie.

What is wrong here?  Everything.  No real plot.  Lifeless prose.  Insecure, immature, shallow characters who have these shattering epiphanies that change their entire personality.  (Did pod people come here somewhere?)  By the end of the book, a lot of  them are just dead characters.  Dead Ever After commits the most heinous crime a book can commit – it’s BORING.  A train wreck.  The perfect bad example.  A thrown together gumbo of all the good guys and bad guys from all the previous books with no logic, rhyme or reason, just tangents.  I was not sad to finish the book, it was a relief.  An end to my suffering through a snooze-fest.  The only good part – the series is OVER.

Dead Ever After gets a F (0*) from me.  Die hard fans should get this from their local library.  Anyone else should wait and get it free.  For only the second time I will say – DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK!  That goes for any paperback editions too.  It’s a complete waste of money.  Ms Harris has never been a favorite author of mine, but this is just an insult to readers in general and most certainly to fans of Sookie Stackhouse.  It was 338 pages of complete drivel.

My copy of Dead Ever After was acquired through Paperback Swap.  It will leave here the same way.

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Witch's Handbook

Molly Harper is a generally reliable author of humorous paranormal romance set in Half-Moon Hollow, Kentucky.  A Witch’s Handbook of Kisses and Curses is set there as well though it starts in Ireland.  Nola Leary is a hereditary witch and since her grandmother’s death, the head of clan of witches in Kilcairy, Ireland.  Centuries ago, there was a schism in the clan.  Part of the witches wanted to use their power to control ordinary humans and dominate them, but the head of the clan insisted on ‘First Do No Harm’.  There was a kind of witch war and finally the head of the clan found a way to bind the other clan members.  The binding only lasted a hundred years and then the artifacts that represent the 4 elements had to be found and used to renew the binding.  They would work for the outcast Kerrigans too, so Nola is in a kind of race.  Her grandmother Nana Fee died without telling her where they were, other than Half-Moon Hollow with the man she loved as a young woman, Nola’s grandfather Gilbert Wainwright.

Nola has very limited funds.  Her family runs a healing clinic and she’s a registered nurse practitioner in Ireland, but not the US, so she’ll also need a job.  And transportation.  But first, she has to start searching Gilbert Wainwright’s shop.  Too bad it owned and operated by Jane Jameson, a vampire.  And then there’s the extremely handsome neighbor, Jed Trudeau, in the other side of the duplex rental who likes running around without a shirt and makes her forget to call her supposed fiancee back in Ireland, Stephan somebody.

Nola gets caught by Jane and has to tell the angry vamp what’s really going on.  Eventually they become allies along with Jane’s best friend and fellow vampire Andrea.  Jane, who was Gilbert Wainwright’s heir, is shocked he had a real heir, but Nola only wants the 4 elements that Nana Fee gave to him for safekeeping.  Andrea takes her news of being Gilbert Wainwright’s granddaughter a bit harder, and Nola isn’t sure why.  Nor is she sure why Andrea’s husband, Dick Cheney – the vampire, not the former VP – is suddenly watching her, having the house she Jeb share redecorated, and trying to give her things.  It’s creepy even though both the vamps assure Nola Dick is not infatuated with her.  That good, because she’s kind of lusting after Jed and she needs to remember she’s still attached to whatshisname in Ireland.  Maybe.  Unless that last phone call was a breakup.  And how did that yeti show up in her garden the first night she was there?

A Witch’s Handbook of Kisses and Curses is not as amusing as most of Ms Harper’s books, but like everything she does, it’s well written.  The story blends romance and some suspense nicely.  Told in the first person, Nola is a pleasant and interesting observer of life in Half-Moon Hollow.  The ending is excellent.  As always, the chapter headings are some of the funniest bits in the book.  A good lighthearted story with enjoyable, albeit not exceptional, characters.  It gets a solid B- (3.7*) from me.  Recommended for fans of light-hearted paranormal romance.

A Witch’s Handbook of Kisses and Curses was pre-ordered from Amazon for $7.19 at the time of release May 28.

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Binding the Shadows

Binding the Shadows is the third book in the Arcadia Bell series by Jenn Bennett.  Cady was born with moonpower, her spell-casting draws its power from the moon.  The only child of two renegade witches, her parents planned to sacrifice her to steal her power.  She turned the tables and sent them to a powerful demon they had enslaved for their punishment.  But mom is back ……………. that is so not a good thing.

Cady and her boyfriend Lon, an earthbound demon (a demon spirit trapped in a human body), came to the house of one of the members of the Hellfire Club at the behest of Dare, one of the founders along with Lon’s late father.  But Merrimoth is displaying power levels well beyond what earthbounds normally have, wielding fire and ice like weapons and laughing like a drunken teenager.  Lon and Cady end up on a small roof with the rocks and waves below and fire at their backs.  Merrimoth catches them on a narrow ledge and turns the rain to ice, sending Lon plunging to the rocks below.  Suddenly her power kicks in and she stops him with a word.  But then things get really weird …………. she sees her mom and she feels something slither along her calf.

Cady barely gets Lon to the ground without serious damage, Merrimoth wasn’t so lucky.  The ice slide he created she destroyed and he falls to his death.  Dare shows up and is furious, right up until she loses her temper and he starts showing something closer to fear of her.  A few nights later her bar is robbed by two young earthbound thugs showing the same kind of hopped up power as Merrimoth.  Her partner, Yar-Kee is badly injured by them, infuriating  Cady.  Now she’s determined to find out what’s happening.

By interviewing a neighboring shop owner also hit by these guys, she’s able to track them to drag races.  She might have lost the kid in a foot race – and heard ‘Ma petite lune’, her parents pet name for her, but one of the guys showing her restored hot rod knew who the kid was.  She has a lead – and a really bad feeling that something is happening to her – and it’s her mothers doing.

Ms Bennett has found a very fresh, original character in Arcadia Bell and the other key characters in her books, including Lon and his son Jupiter, ‘Jupe’ for short.  She is very creative with her story lines too.  Throw in some quality writing and you have a winner.  Her cliff-hanger ending is exceptional ……… well, except for the fact the next installment is a year away!

Binding the Shadows by Jenn Bennett gets a very satisfying B+ (4.3*) from me and a strong buy recommendation.  Altogether a fine series that has avoided all the cliches and that usually happen in urban fantasy.

Binding the Shadows was pre-ordered from Amazon for $7.19.  This book was worth it.  NOTE:  This is a series that needs to be read in order to follow the plot as it evolves.

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