Thoughts on BELINDA BLAKE AND THE SNAKE IN THE GRASS

Howdy, howdy!  Can you believe it’s already the last Wednesday of the month?  You know what that means!  It’s time for another book review.  Since my mind has been drifting to my own cozy mystery, I decided to see if any new series in that genre were releasing this month.  Yup!  I went with the Exotic Pet-Sitter series because who can resist animals and a good murder or two?  Not me.  It’s by Heather Day Gilbert and the first book is called Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass (kind of a mouthful, I know).  Since it was only released yesterday (June 25th), you would be correct in assuming that I got an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) through NetGalley.  So, I must thank them and Kensington Books for allowing me access to this ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review, which I’ll be getting to presently.

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A cute cover that has nothing to do with the story.

Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass follows (you guessed it!) Belinda Blake as she embarks on a new phase of her life.  Moving from a studio apartment in Manhattan to a carriage house on some rich family’s property in Greenwich, Connecticut, Belinda works hard to keep her exotic pet-sitting business going strong.  She’s currently taking care of a ball python for a client in Manhattan who insists she carts the animal back and forth from his place to hers (because snakes need vacations too) as well as taking it for walks and even bathing it.  As if that plus an embarrassing run in with the homeowners’ handsome son, Stone Carrington the fifth, isn’t bad enough, she finds a dead woman in her garden.  From there, things just get stranger.

The plot of this one is pretty standard.  A young woman (26) finds a dead body and gets dragged into investigating it with the hot new guy in her life, who she falls in love with, of course.  But could he possibly be the murderer?!  Dun dun dun…  It’s a cozy, so what do you think?  He’s still shady, though.  And I admit that I picked out the murderer as soon as they showed up, but it took me a little while to piece together the why part, so it’s still a fun journey.

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My main problem with this story is the pacing and the odd scenes that feel tossed in for no particular reason.  It’s super jumpy.  Things would be going along nicely, then something completely random would pop up.  Like the kiss.  It doesn’t feel like it belongs there to me and it’s out of character for Belinda, so it seems really forced.  Then, she goes home (upstate New York) for Thanksgiving and randomly gets sent to a neighbor’s house to pick up honey.  I’m guessing he’s supposed to be the rival love interest, but his part in this particular book seems unnecessary and rushed.  His introduction could’ve waited for a book or two until he’s needed.  There’s also this thing with escaped cows that makes no real sense and does nothing for the actual plot of the story.  There are some other instances, but these stand out the most.

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Me wondering how things fit together in this book.

As far as the writing goes, it’s a little stilted in spots.  The book is in first person, so we’re in Belinda’s head when we’re not dealing with dialogue.  I spent a lot of time telling myself that people don’t talk that way.  It’s distracting, but I was still able to enjoy the story.

Ultimately, I enjoyed Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass enough that I’ll check out the next book to see if it’s better.  Also, I kind of want to see just how much randomness makes it into the next one.

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Overall, I gave it 3 out of five stars.  While many, my complaints are actually pretty minor.  If you like cute cozies and animals, go ahead and check this one out.  If you have too many books on your TBR lists, you’re not missing much if you skip this one.

Thoughts on THE SCENT KEEPER

Howdy, howdy!  It’s the last week of May already, so you know what that means!  It’s book review time.  I went with something a bit more literary than I’m used to, but I wanted to shake things up a bit.  When I was browsing NetGalley, The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister caught my eye.  So, as usual, I must thank them and St. Martin’s Press for giving me access to the novel in exchange for an unbiased review.  The novel was due out on May 21st.  Now, let’s get to the review.

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The cover is absolutely lovely.

The Scent Keeper follows Emmeline as she grows up on a remote island with only her father and their mysterious scent-papers to keep her company.  Her childhood is filled with fairy tales and the type of fantastical fun that only opening up your senses can get you.  However, as she grows, so does her curiosity.  After making discoveries her father refuses to explain, life starts changing until she’s finally flung out into the real world with no safety net.  Can she adjust to real life?  How is she supposed to find out about her origins when her father never told her much?  These are just a couple of questions the book explores.

First, I want to talk about the use of the senses in this book because it’s amazing.  Most stories tend to lean hard on sight because that’s probably the easiest way to explain the world around you.  Not this book.  As you can probably guess, it uses the sense of smell to propel us through Emmeline’s world.  Her other senses work fine, but her nose is what she’s been taught to follow all her life.  She reads scents the way other people read facial expressions.  Smells can’t betray her the way other things can.  Or that’s what she thinks.  But the focus on smells as both deep memory triggers and helpful everyday tools is really neat.

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Have you ever noticed that the longer you look at the word “smell,” the more it looks like it isn’t spelled right?  No?  Just me?  Okay.

The story itself is weird because it has a tendency to move really slow, then speed up, then keep jumping between slow and fast.  I don’t know if that was just because I wasn’t as interested in Emmeline as I was some of the other characters or what, but even the slow parts were nice.  I was in love with the story, so the pace didn’t really matter.  Then the ending happened and everything fell apart for me.  I knew what was going to happen, but not where it would happen.  I was hoping for a return to the island for the big finale, but what I got was an abrupt ending that left so much open that it was unsatisfying.  I mean, Fisher (the love interest) was waiting for Emmeline to return to the cove (her childhood home after she had left the island) with him.  They had plans.  Does she just leave him waiting?  Does she go back home?  Nothing is explained and it reminded me why I avoid straight litfic.  Nothing is ever satisfactorily resolved and it’s annoying as all get out.

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As far as the writing goes, it is a beautiful and lyrical experience.  The description is gorgeous.  It makes the focus on scent easy to picture or understand even when I wasn’t sure what some of the things smelled like.  The pace is weird but the rhythm of the writing flows nicely.

Ultimately, I’m happy to have had a chance to be exposed to such wonderful writing in The Scent Keeper, but the ending ruined everything for me.

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Overall, I gave it 3 out of five stars.  What I enjoyed of it, I really enjoyed, but what I didn’t like got the best of me in the end.  If you don’t mind a story that just cuts off but has lovely prose, pick it up.

Thoughts on the PIECES OF ME Duet

Howdy, howdy!  It’s the last Wednesday of April!  Can you believe it?  Time sure flies, I guess.  Anyway, it’s time for another book review!  Actually, this month is a little different because I’m reviewing two books at once.  My friend, Danielle Rose, has a duet coming out on May 14th, so I decided to see if I could get some Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of the books.  Thanks to NetGalley and Waterhouse Press, I did just that.  The duet is called Pieces of Me and it’s comprised of Lies We Keep and Truth We Bear.  They are contemporary romances, so they’re not my usual reads, but I knew that going in.  I thought you should know as well.  Anyway, as usual, I have to thank NetGalley and Waterhouse for allowing me access to the ARCs in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Let’s get on with it!

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The covers are pretty!

The Pieces of Me duet is centered around famous author, Jezebel Tate, and her bodyguard, James Blakely, as their relationship blooms from “just sex” into full blown love.  Lies We Keep is told from Jezebel’s perspective and follows her as she hires Blakely to protect her from her stalker.  Along the way, she has to confront her past and accept that she isn’t to blame for her parents’ deaths.  Truth We Bear is told in Blakely’s perspective and follows him as he and his past chase each other into a head-on collision.  He has to learn the same lesson as Jezebel, but under completely different circumstances.

Let’s talk plots.  The whole of the stories are vastly different, but both books are pretty similar if you boil them down to their bones.  Both Jezebel and Blakely have to deal with stalkers while they sort out issues revolving around the deaths of their folks.  Plus, they have to find time to cram in lots of steamy sex (a requirement of the romance genre, so don’t pretend you didn’t know it was coming).  Granted, Jezebel’s journey to resolving her issues is more internal and psychological while Blakely actually gets to confront people from his past, but still similar.  I enjoyed the parallels.

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The characters were interesting and mostly fleshed out.  Jezebel vacillates between a strong woman who knows what she wants and takes it and an insecure woman who feels that only a big strong man can save her.  It’s annoying at times, but not out of the realm of believability.  Blakely is basically your average stoic dom on the outside with a bunch of weird insecurities inside (I say weird because I didn’t understand why he was worried about her leaving him over what happened when he was a kid).  Tara, the literary agent, was a neat character that I felt could have been used more.  As far as the bad people go, I felt like Jezebel’s stalker could have shown up earlier and played a bigger part.  He seemed a little like an afterthought.  I really liked Blakely’s stalker, though.  Her development was quick, but nicely done.  And lastly, the pastor (Blakely’s actual bad guy) was a bit flat.

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I laughed every time a lip was bit.

The writing is crisp and flows well.  It makes for a quick read.  There are some gestures that became repetitive.  Distractingly so.  Lots of bit lips and bobbing Adam’s apples and clenched jaws, especially in the first book.  But to be fair, this happens in every romance I read, so I guess it’s a genre thing.  But what I really liked was that they’re written to work as both a duet and standalone novels, so even if you only read one, you get the pleasure of a satisfying ending.

Ultimately, both books in the Pieces of Me duet were fun and I’m glad I read them.  It’s good to get outside of my comfort zone once in a while.

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Overall, I gave both books 4 out of 5 stars.   The issues I had with them are minor and seem fairly common in the genre.  If you like romance and lots of random sex, these are definitely worth a look.

Thoughts on SEA WITCH

Howdy, howdy!  Due to the random sicknesses of the past couple of months, I forgot to request a book from NetGalley for March.  Luckily, I had a book on my to-be-read list that I’ve been looking for an excuse to read ever since it came out in July of last year.  My love of mermaids automatically drew me towards Sea Witch by Sarah Henning.  The fact that it sounded like a new take on the Little Mermaid (my favorite fairy tale) sealed the deal.  I had to read it.  But that’s enough of why I chose it, let’s get to the review.

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I love the cover.

Sarah Henning’s Sea Witch tells the story Evie, a peasant and a witch, who not only has to hide her power, but also has to put up with the townsfolk accusing her of not knowing her place just because she’s best friends with the prince (Nik) and close to his cousin (Iker), another prince.  When her other best friend, Anna, was taken by the sea, Evie’s whole life fell apart until she thrust herself into studying magic.  Evie and Nik never stopped mourning Anna, but when a mysterious stranger who resembles their dead friend appears, Evie finds herself a purpose: keeping her new friend on land.  Unfortunately, Evie has no idea what kind of magic it will take, nor does she understand the repercussions until it’s too late.

This isn’t some Disney-ified version of the tale with replicas of Ariel and Ursula and Erik.  These characters are mostly well-developed and have a nice balance between light and dark within them.  However, I do admit that Iker and Nik could have used a bit more personality.  Nik was an ideal prince through and through.  I wanted him to be a little selfish and at least make his desires known.  Iker, on the other hand, is a stereotypical playboy prince who turns his back on Evie when he thinks she’s a threat to him and his family.

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For some reason, Iker reminded me of this.  “Love me Evie! … from afar.”

As far as the plot goes, I have some issues with the reasoning behind Annemette’s whole revenge thing.  I just don’t believe someone who was always best friends with these people would blame them like that.  But I’ll say it was because of her lack of a soul.  I’m sure that would corrupt people and make them do weird things.  But other than that, I have no real qualms with the book.  In fact, I’m really happy the story didn’t take the happy ending route where friendship conquers everything.  That would’ve been far too sappy a climax and not a fitting tribute to the original Little Mermaid.

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Because we’re talking about writing next.

The writing is mostly smooth and enjoyable.  Most of the romance between Evie and Iker comes off as corny and more funny than I think it was supposed to, but I got a good chuckle out of it.  I also admit that a couple of the past sections confused me.  At one point, I’m not entirely sure if Iker or Nik is the main character for one of those parts.  It’s easy enough to figure it out after the fact, but during it, I was super confuzzled.

Ultimately, I’m glad I found this book.  A friend actually pointed out that a second one is coming out this year.  I will definitely be picking it up to see what Evie is up to next.

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Overall, I gave Sea Witch four out of five stars.  If you love mermaids or witches or both, this book is a worthy addition to your library.  Bonus points if you’re into fairy tale retellings!

Thoughts on SNOW WHITE LEARNS WITCHCRAFT

Howdy, howdy!  It’s the last Wednesday of the month, which means it’s book review time!  Didn’t I just do this?  Seems like it, but that was just to make up for January.  February gets its own book.  This month, I’m going to talk about Snow White Learns Witchcraft, which is a collection of short stories and poems by Theodora Goss.  Technically, I received access to an advanced reader copy (ARC) through NetGalley, but they archived it without warning a few days after the approval and I hadn’t downloaded it yet.  Sadness.  Then, I realized it was releasing on February 5th, so I would have plenty of time to buy a copy and read it in time to review it.  Happiness!  Anyway, let’s get to it.

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A lovely cover.

Snow White Learns Witchcraft is a little misleading as a title for the entire collection because Snow White isn’t the only fairy tale revisited among these pieces.  Goss adds her own personal touch as she retells many beloved tales from Goldilocks to the Little Mermaid to Cinderella to some that I’m not even familiar with.  A mixture of poetry and short stories, this collection is sure to have something for all fairy tale lovers to get lost in.

I think I’ll start with the short stories.  My personal favorite was “Conversations with the Sea Witch,” but I admit that I’m biased because the Little Mermaid happens to be my favorite fairy tale.  It tells the story of an old crippled woman who has lived her happy life with her prince and is now awaiting death.  Each day her servants wheel her out on the balcony for fresh air and she has conversations with her friend, the sea witch who gave her legs.  We get to hear about the witch and how she ended up the way she is.  It’s a neat, quick story.  Most of the stories in this collection come at their mother fairy tales from new and interesting directions.  Some are set in olden times while others are in the present and many are somewhere between the two.  Many of the tales are quick reads, but some drag a little.  I think that’s why “A Country Called Winter” wasn’t as enjoyable as others for me; it felt slow.  It was one of the tales I wasn’t familiar with, but it was predictable enough that I wasn’t pulled along the way I would have been if I didn’t know what was going to happen.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked this story (and all the others), it simply wasn’t my favorite.

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She does get nasty.

The poetry in this collection was wonderful.  “The Ogress Queen” delights the senses as she ponders what delicacies Helios, Aurora, and their mother would taste like.  “Diamonds and Toads” offers up an amusing situation that leaves the reader with a number of potential lessons it could be trying to teach.  I’d like to believe it’s showing us that every bad situation has a potential upside if you’re willing to look for it.  Like all fairy tales, each poem leaves us with a lesson.  Some of these, the speaker comes right out and says, others we have to dig for.

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The writing in this collection is as varied as the stories and poems.  Goss captures each voice like she’s the sea witch.  As I said earlier, the pace changes from piece to piece, but all in all this was a fast and fun read.

Ultimately, I’m happy that I went ahead and bought Snow White Learns Witchcraft.  Fairy tales are some of my favorite reading material.  This book was worth adding to my collection.

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Overall, I gave this collection 4 out of 5 stars.  I wavered between four and five because I always expect to not enjoy some pieces as much as others when reading a collection like this, so I shouldn’t let that affect my decision, right?  But I settled on four because it seemed fair and true to how I felt about everything.  If you like fairy tales, check this book out!

Thoughts on DEAD AS A DOOR KNOCKER

Howdy, howdy!  Since I missed last month’s book review, I figured I would go ahead and do it this week.  After all, I’m only a week late.  That’s not too bad, right?  For January, I picked up an advanced reader copy (ARC) of the first book in a new cozy mystery series.  Dead as a Door Knocker is the the first book in Diane Kelly’s House Flipper Mysteries.  As usual, I must thank NetGalley and the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for granting me access to this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Now, we might as well get to the review!

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Cover is relevant to the book, but the knocker is all wrong.  It’s supposed to be the Green Man.

Dead as a Door Knocker introduces us to Whitney Whitaker, a 28-year-old who enjoys helping her cousins remodel houses and harbors dreams of becoming a real estate guru.  She lives with her parents and her cat, Sawdust, in Nashville and works at a small mom-and-pop property management firm.  When the firm’s biggest client offers her a deal on a property that’s too good to be true, she jumps on it.  However, the guy is murdered on the site and everything goes haywire from there.

I’m just going to come out and say it: I didn’t like this book.  The story was the same as every other cozy, which could have been fine.  Combine it with the fact that the main character is extremely unlikable and not even the parts from the cat’s point of view could save it.  Why is Whitney unlikable?  First off, she’s 28 and acts like she’s 15.  If she doesn’t get her way, she pouts or throws a fit.  Second, she’s a bully.  She runs around questioning people like she’s a cop or something, ambushing people and even forcing her foot in doorways so people can’t close the door, then has the gall the get upset when she gets a glass of iced tea thrown in her face.  I had zero respect for her.

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My thoughts exactly.

The background characters were flat and only served to enable Whitney’s antics.  She dragged her cousin and her best friend around as bodyguards, neither of whom ever bothered pointing out when she was crossing boundaries.  The detective let her go based on weak arguments and tantrums.  I get that it’s a story and all, but it still needs to be believable.  None of these characters came across as actual people, especially the police.

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Basically.

As far as the writing goes, it was a tight, quick read.  Every other sentence seemed like a well-worn cliché or at least a play on one.  If the author was aiming to make Whitney sound like a 15-year-old, she was spot on.  But don’t go into it hoping for the 28-year-old we’re supposed to be getting.

Ultimately, I was super disappointed in this story.  I just couldn’t get past the characters.  It’s not a series I’ll be following.

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Overall, I gave Dead as a Door Knocker one star out of five.  Pretty sure this is a first for me.  I honestly feel bad.  I really wanted to like it, but nope.  If you’re okay with childish characters and unrealistic police officers, try it.  Otherwise, you’re not missing anything.

Thoughts on A SPELL OF MURDER

Howdy, howdy!  I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas (or whatever it is you happen to celebrate)!  It’s the last Wednesday of the month (and year), so it’s time for another book review.  I looked for something festive, but ended up going with another cozy mystery.  For December, I got a hold of an ARC (advanced reader copy) of A Spell of Murder by Clea Simon, which was released earlier this month.  As usual, I must thank NetGalley and the publisher, Polis Books, for granting me access to this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Now, let’s get to it!

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Cute cover.  And it actually refers to things in the story.

A Spell of Murder is the first in the new Witch Cats of Cambridge series.  It follows Clara, a calico cat, and her two sisters, Harriet and Laurel, all of whom happen to be witch cats (yes, they are cats who can do magic).  They do their best to keep their “owner,” Becca, out of trouble as she embarks on a new adventure in her life.  Recently single and newly unemployed, Becca is on a mission to find herself.  She researches her family history and even joins a local coven.  But when a covenmate is murdered, Becca is pulled down the rabbit hole of wanting to find out what happened.  Her cats must help keep her out of trouble.  Whether out of love or the desire for more food and treats depends on which cat you ask.

You might be wondering why I said it follows Clara instead of Becca.  That’s because the book is (mostly) told from Clara’s POV.  It’s part of the reason I wanted to check this book out.  A murder story from a cat’s POV?  Sounds neat.  And it was.  But it slips out of Clara’s POV at random moments, which is jarring and occasionally really confusing.  For the most part, Clara finds ways to be in each scene, but a couple of times the POV just flat out changes to Becca because Clara isn’t around.  If this was a braided narrative set up so we expected the POV shifts, that would be fine.  But it’s not, so the shifts feel lazy.  An easy out when putting a cat in the scene is too difficult.

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It’s random like this, except way less cute.

Other than that, the story is solid, if somewhat predictable.  I guessed at the murderer as soon as they showed up, but I also have a strong dislike of that type of person, so maybe it was just wishful thinking.  Correct wishful thinking, but still.  There’s a douchenozzle of a love interest, an actual love interest, an overzealous bestie, and a plethora of other characters you would expect in a story like this.  The most interesting characters are the cats.  Clara is all about loving and protecting Becca.  Harriet basically just wants food and treats and all the comforts she can get.  And Laurel simply likes drama, especially when it involves a man.  The humans are just kind of there.

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At least in this book.

The writing style is easy going and carries the reader along for the most part.  It tries to get you to follow it to awkward conclusions, instead of going with your gut.  That’s what cozy mysteries do.  The descriptions of the people in the book are pretty vague, which makes it a little difficult to separate them, but that’s how the cats see people.  It was interesting to see the world as a cat.  And it makes for a light, quick read.

Ultimately, it was an okay read.  I probably won’t go looking for future books in the series, but if I randomly run across them, I’ll flip through and see if anything has improved.

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Overall, I gave A Spell of Murder three stars.  It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  If you like magical cats and Hallmark channel murder mysteries, you might like it.  If not, you’re not missing much.

Thoughts on THE RAZOR

Hello, hello!  It’s the last Wednesday of November (can you believe it?), which means it’s time for another book review.  This month, I requested something a little different from my usual genres: sci-fi.  I watch a lot of sci-fi, but I don’t read much of it, so I decided to give it a shot.  Today, I’ll be talking about The Razor by J. Barton Mitchell.  It was published on the 27th by Tor Books, which is an imprint of Macmillan.  I must thank them and NetGalley for allowing me access to an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC).  Without further ado, let’s get to the review!

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I picked it because the cover caught my eye.

The Razor follows a group of prison inmates as they team up and learn to count on each other to survive after their jailers randomly up and leave the planet.  The main focus is on Flynn, a brilliant scientist who was framed for murder and subsequently sent to serve out the rest of his life on the Razor.  Along the way, he teams up with Key (a gang member who attempts to kill him), Maddox (a disgraced Ranger with nothing left to live for), Raelyn (a doctor who made a grave mistake), Zane (a government experiment gone rogue), and Gable (a mad scientist).  Sounds pretty routine for a sci-fi adventure, right?  It is.

The book is comprised of 3 parts totaling 78 relatively short chapters and clocks in at just under 400 pages.  I bring this up because the way the book is laid out makes it feel like a super fast read. Getting through 4 or 5 chapters a day may seem like a lot, but by the time I was done, it was 2 and a half weeks later.  I actually prefer a lot of shorter chapters when I’m reading because it makes that “just one more” urge more acceptable.  But don’t be fooled.  This isn’t a quick read.

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Okay, that’s a little dramatic.  But still.

As far as the story goes, it’s fast paced and has a lot going on.  The plot is interesting, but if you don’t pay attention it’s easy to get lost.  I had to reread some stuff a couple of times.  I’m no scientist, but some of the stuff going on seemed shaky at best.  If you’re willing to trust in the science as explained, it’s a fun story.  From a writing perspective, it’s well paced and engaging.  However, the POV shifts… a lot.  In earlier chapters, the POV shifts are pretty isolated with one character per chapter, but after everyone meets up, things shift back and forth within chapters and it gets a bit muddled.  Sometimes it took me a minute to realize “that thought was Key’s, not Flynn’s,” or whatever.

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It gets confusing.

My main problem with this book is the characters.  I feel nothing for them.  The plot moves so fast that there really isn’t time for character development, but if you watch any sci-fi, you get the gist of who they’re supposed to be.  It’s all pretty generic.  The only one I actually kind of liked is Zane, but even he feels like a cookie cutter character.  He just happens to be the type I gravitate toward.  Then, there is Gable.  I don’t particularly feel like she is necessary.  Everything she did could have been done by one of the others.  It mostly feels like she’s there to even out the number of females vs. males.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the story enough that I’ll check out book 2 when/if it comes out.  But if some major character development doesn’t take place, it’s the kind of story I’ll eventually get bored with.

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Overall, I’d rate it 3 out of 5 stars.  I like it, but it doesn’t impress me.  If you’re into sci-fi and enjoy a fast plot, pick it up.  If you like a better balance of characters and plot, this probably isn’t for you.

Thoughts On TWO GIRLS DOWN

Howdy, howdy!  Happy Halloween!  I hope everyone has a safe and wonderful evening filled with lots of candy (whether you trick or treat or just hide from the doorbell and watch scary movies).  It’s time for another book review.  For this week, I decided to take a look at Louisa Luna’s Two Girls Down.  It’s a mystery/thriller that was released in January by Doubleday.  I read it as a recommendation from some of the ladies in the book club I’m part of.  So, let’s get down to it.

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Decent cover.

Two Girls Down revolves around the disappearance of two girls (surprised yet?), Kylie (10) and Bailey (8).  Alice Vega, a kind of professional child finder, comes all the way across the country at the family’s behest when the police begin to prove useless.  She teams up with ex-cop/current PI, Max “Cap” Caplan.  They both have issues of their own to work through while conducting a search with few leads.  Basically, it’s one of your average mystery scenarios.

Let’s start at the beginning.  We’re in Jamie Brandt’s (the mother’s) head during the first chapter, which was kind of neat.  I was looking forward to seeing her progress through the story and seeing how she dealt with everything.  But nope.  We jump from her to a story that flops back and forth between Vega and Cap.  That would have been fine, but it made the opening chapter feel more like a prologue.  Why did I even bother reading that part?  Yes, it set up the case.  But that was just as easily done throughout the rest of the story.  I just felt kind of robbed that we never got to go back in Jamie’s head.

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Me when I realized we weren’t going back to the initial POV at any point.

The characters were all pretty cool.  Cap was jaded yet optimistic, which was an odd combo, but it worked.  Vega had a lot of eccentricities and some emotional disconnect.  I kind of wondered if she was supposed to be on the autism spectrum, but it wasn’t addressed in the story, so who knows.  Nell (Cap’s daughter) was a little too good to be true.  And the bad people were pretty damn creepy.  Though I will say that a lot of Vega’s characterization made the story feel like the second or third book in a series.  Like I was supposed to understand references to her past cases.  But it’s the first (only?) book, so it was super disconcerting.

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Me throughout the book.

The plot was slow and repetitive, which isn’t as uncommon in mysteries as it should be.  I didn’t particularly understand the bad guy’s partner, but I know people like that exist.  It took a hard turn towards gritty when everything pointed towards pedophilia (not really a spoiler since the possibility is there all along).  My only issue was that the bad guy’s preferred age range seemed to vary a lot.  Pedophiles usually stick to a pretty limited age range, so it made me wonder if something else was going on.  Apparently not.

Ultimately, I had problems with Two Girls Down.  It left me unsatisfied.  I don’t need a happy ending, but the one I got was lukewarm and just kind of there.  Some people loved the book.  I wasn’t one of them.

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Overall, I gave it two stars.  It was okay, but not something I’ll go out of my way to get sequels of, should they come out.  If you like average mysteries, give it a shot.  If you’re more into fast-paced thrillers with something new on every other page, skip this one.

Thoughts on TRAIL OF LIGHTNING

Howdy, howdy!  It’s the last Wednesday of September, which means it’s time for another book review.  I failed to get approval from NetGalley for a book this month (it happens, no biggie).  So, I decided to use one of the books we are supposed to be reading in the book club I’m in.  Trail of Lightning is the first book in Rebecca Roanhorse’s The Sixth World series.  It was released in June of 2018 by Saga Press.  Without further ado, let’s get to the review!

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Pretty standard cover for the genre, but still neat.

Trail of Lightning follows Maggie Hoskie, a monster slayer, on her adventures through post-apocalyptic Dinétah (or what was the Navajo reservation).  She fights a new kind of monster, visits old allies, gets a new partner (Kai Arviso) thrust upon her despite her skepticism, deals with old foes, and has to face down her past in order to solve all the mysterious problems that keep cropping up.  All the while, she’s being jerked around by various gods.  Sounds cool, right?  It really is.

First, I have to admit that I had some trouble getting into the voice of the book.  It’s in first person, present tense.  That has never been my favorite POV, though I can’t really explain why.  I just have difficulties getting into it.  But once I got into the story, I didn’t mind it so much.  Maggie’s a fairly reliable narrator, except when it comes to Neizghání.  He’s a much bigger douchenozzle than she makes him out to be.  Even when people and other gods try to tell her how bad he was/is to her, she basically idolizes him because he took her in and trained her.  I wasn’t sure who to believe, then he shows up.  Yeah.  He’s not a great guy.  It was disconcerting at first, but then I remembered it’s in first person, so her view of everything doesn’t have to be accurate, it just has to be hers.

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The proper reaction when Neizghání shows up and you believed Maggie’s version of him.

As far as the plot goes, I really enjoyed it.  My knowledge of Navajo mythology is sorely lacking, but apparently I know more than I realized.  A basic grasp of some of the main players in Navajo myth is super helpful, but not necessary to enjoy the book.  Roanhorse does a wonderful job of explaining things without it feeling infodumpy.  She also focuses more on the growth of Maggie and Kai as people than the mythology, which makes for an engaging read.  The gods and monsters are there, but the focus is the characters.  That’s not to say the gods and monsters aren’t kickass.  They are.  I’m partial to Coyote despite everything.

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Me when I finished the book.

About the only real complaint I had was that Kai’s second power was so obvious.  I know nothing about the clan stuff and how it works or what all the clans are, but I had his power pegged from the beginning.  And since it’s first person, all the information I had was the same information Maggie had.  He never told her to ignore the clues.  There was no reason for her not to notice it.  It made her seem willfully dense.  Maybe I missed something.  Maybe there was a reason she couldn’t put two and two together.  Maybe she just didn’t want to acknowledge it.  But it wasn’t a big revelation for me, so the climax lost some of its power.

Ultimately, I was really happy with the book.  It left me at a point where I wanted more, so I’d say that’s what really counts.  I’m just a little ticked off that I have to wait until April for the next one, but that’s what I get for starting a series when it first comes out.

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Overall, I gave it four out of five stars.  My problems with it weren’t major and I loved the characters enough to want more.  If you’re into monster hunting and post-apocalyptic fun, definitely give it a shot.  Even if you’re not, try it anyway.