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.

Thoughts On LITTLE COMFORT

Hello, hello!  Welcome to the last Wednesday of August.  That means it’s time for another book review.  This month, I’ll be looking at Edwin Hill’s debut novel, Little Comfort.  It came out on August 28th.  It’s a new cozy mystery series that I actually forgot I had requested from NetGalley until I received the approval notice.  I must thank them and Kensington Books, the publisher, for sending me an Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Without further ado, let’s get to it.

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A nice, simple cover.  But I don’t remember a bird in the story.

Little Comfort introduces us to Hester Thursby.  She lives with her partner (but refuses to marry him) in Boston, though she maintains a separate apartment area above his for when she needs time alone.  They have recently been saddled with taking care of his niece because his sister/Hester’s best friend took off.  So, Hester took some time off work until they could find a new life rhythm.  When things seem to be quieting down, a woman contacts Hester and asks her to track down the woman’s brother.  Since finding people had been Hester’s side business for a while, she agreed.  From there, things went very wrong.

This book was a little different from the cozies I’ve been reading because it shifted POVs.  We start out with Hester (an interesting character), then jump to Sam, Gabe, and a couple of other characters (all interesting in their own right).  The story shuffles back and forth around them.  I, personally, like that method.  I mean, following one character throughout the whole book as she figures out the crime is fine, but it wouldn’t have worked here.  This way, we not only get to figure out what’s going on, but we get better insight into the minds of the bad people.  The story isn’t really about whodunit, but how they ended up in that position and why they chose to do what they did.  That’s why the rotating POV works here.

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Who doesn’t love being in the mind of a sociopath every now and again?

As far as the plot itself goes, there are plenty of twists and turns to keep it intriguing.  My only complaint would be that the climax felt a little rushed.  Normally, I’m all for a quick “end it while cutting off the villain’s monologue” type thing, but considering the person who actually ends it, I wanted more.  More struggle, more explanation, more conniving on the bad guy’s part.  I wanted the niece to have a bigger part because I didn’t believe the guy would just let her loose.  That whole scene just felt too quick and easy.  Granted, there’s some stuff after the climax that kind of makes up for it, but I expected a little more.

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Pretty much.

The writing was a little shaky at times.  A lot of it was tight and pulled me along.  But sometimes, especially in the beginning, there was a lot of focus on tits.  Like, a lot.  It was borderline comical/annoying.  Don’t get me wrong, tits are great, but it felt like the author was overcompensating for something and I couldn’t decide what.  Mostly, though, things either went along at a really nice pace or they went too fast.

Ultimately, I enjoyed Little Comfort enough that I’ll look for future Hester Thursby books.  Hester was a great character and I’m interested to see what happens with the kid and the partner.

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Overall, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.  My issues with the story weren’t big and could be attributed to the fact that it’s the first book.  If you’re into these kinds of stories, give it a shot.  However, I’d say if you’re legit sensitive to certain kinds of topics or just have a tendency to say things need “trigger warnings,” this book probably isn’t for you.

Thoughts On THE WICKED DEEP

Hello, hello!  It’s the last Wednesday of the month already.  Time flies when you’re having fun (or just going about daily life), I suppose.  Anyway, you all know what happens today: a book review!  This week, I’ll be talking about The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw.  It was published back in March of this year by Simon and Schuster.  I read it with the reading group I’m in and decided that I have too many thoughts about it to not write a post.  I usually try to keep my posts as close to spoiler free as possible (sometimes a couple will slip through), but that’s going to be impossible here.  Spoilers this way lie.  You’ve been warned.

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I absolutely love the cover.

The Wicked Deep is the story of a small town called Sparrow and the curse that has plagued it every summer for two centuries.  Why is there a curse?  Because the town sentenced three sisters to death by drowning for acts of witchcraft, of course.  What is the curse?  The three sisters possess the bodies of three girls from the town and lure boys to their death in the harbor.  Poor Penny, a seventeen-year-old who lives on an island with her not-quite-all-there mother, has accepted that it’s the town’s fate to suffer the wrath of the witches every year.  That is until Bo, an unwitting outsider, shows up and she decides it’s her mission to protect him.  Things go all kinds of wrong from there.

I have to admit that I was totally in love with this book as I was reading it.  The setting was wonderful and the writing pulled me along.  Even after I finished it, I was prepared to give it five stars.  Then, I took a breath and started thinking about it.  Really thinking about it.  That was when things got super dark, and not in a good way.

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It really did.

*spoilers ahead*

I ended up feeling sooooo bad for Penny. First, she’s possessed by Hazel (violation much?), but then there’s the whole Bo thing. I mean, there’s sex.  That means Penny is basically ghost roofied and forced into sex without any say. To be fair, Bo doesn’t know about Penny being Hazel at first.  But after everything is over, he keeps dating Penny like everything is normal and he was in love with her all along. At the same time, he keeps pining over Hazel. So, he’s not in love with Penny, which means she’s stuck in a relationship with some guy who’s not really into her.  It all just got very rapey the more I thought about it.  By itself that’s fine (not every story has to be a happy one), but there will be people who think this is a great love story and that’s what really makes me sad.

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Me after really thinking about things.

Aside from that, I also expected more from Penny’s mom.  She supposedly has some kind of psychic powers and knows when people are on her island and all that, but she doesn’t kick Hazel’s ghostly ass?  She doesn’t really do much at all.  It’s apparent during her conversation with Hazel that she knows things, but she doesn’t act.  It was just a little disappointing.

Ultimately, I had a love/hate relationship with The Wicked Deep.  I’ll still keep a look out for other books by Shea Ernshaw, though.  It was good enough that I was swept along, which makes it worth looking into other stories by her.

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Overall, my issues with it dropped my rating down to a 3 out of 5.  I definitely suggest picking it up if you’re into stuff like that, but really think about the story.  Maybe I’m making too much out of something small.  Maybe you’ll find it creepy too.  Who knows?

Thoughts On DEATH AND A POT OF CHOWDER

Hello, hello!  It’s the last Wednesday in June, so it’s time for another book review.  Around this time of year, I have a tendency to miss Maine.  I decided to request book one in a new cozy series called Maine Murder Mysteries.  It’s called Death and a Pot of Chowder by Cornelia Kidd and it came out earlier this month from Crooked Lane Books.  As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for sending me an advanced copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  With that out of the way, let’s get on with it!

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Adorable cover, but I can’t really remember a picnic.

Death and a Pot of Chowder is set on Quarry Island, a tight-knit community focused on family and lobstering.  It focuses on Anna Winslow and her family.  First, she receives a letter from a sister she didn’t know she had who wants to meet.  If that wasn’t enough excitement, she brings Izzie (the sister) home with her only to discover that Anna’s brother-in-law, Carl, was murdered.  Anna is a little resistant to getting mixed up in a murder investigation until charges are brought against her husband.  Then, the fun really begins.

I knew nothing about this book going in, aside from the fact that it was set in Maine, so I had no expectations of it.  That was a good thing, because I probably would have been sorely disappointed in it if I was expecting something.  It was slow moving and just kind of drifted along like it wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere.  Which isn’t a bad thing.  It gave us plenty of time to get to know the characters and become invested in their lives, though I’m definitely more interested in Izzie than Anna.  I didn’t really empathize with Anna the way I was supposed.  It was mostly because she focused on wanting to know the “dad” who abandoned her rather than being content with the “step-father” who raised her.  I just don’t understand people who are so obsessed with a sperm donor (there’s more to it, but that’s basically what he was).  Especially when a loving father figure is in the picture.  But anyway, I really liked everyone else.

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Sorry, Anna.

As far as the plot goes, it was one of those where I figured out what was going on pretty early.  The fact that Anna didn’t figure it out earlier was written off as her being too close to everyone involved, but what was Izzie’s excuse?  Was she just too focused on her own stuff to see the signs?  Maybe.  Or maybe I just automatically assume the worst about people.  But just because I knew what was going on, didn’t mean that I was sure about the murderer.  I wavered back and forth between two people until close to the end, so that was nice.  It’s a pretty standard plot, though.

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Maybe.

The writing was okay.  Like I said, it was slow and drifting.  It was also one of those stories that had to repeat all the clues at least three times, which was annoying.  But the parts about Maine and island life were lovely, so I didn’t mind the rest so much.

Ultimately, Death and a Pot of Chowder was just okay.  If a second one comes out, I’ll probably pick it up because I liked the characters and want to give them a second chance.

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Overall, I’d give it a three out of five stars.  If you’re into cozies and Maine, give it a shot.  Otherwise, it’s not going to hurt if you skip over this one.

Thoughts On THE ODDLING PRINCE

Hello, hello!  It’s the last Wednesday in May, which means it’s time for another book review.  This time, I decided to get into a fantasy novel to mix things up a bit.  Cozies and thrillers are great, but sometimes you just need a break.  So, I requested a copy of The Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer from NetGalley.  It came out earlier this month from Tachyon Publications.  As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for sending me an advanced copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  With that out of the way, let’s get on with it!

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It has such a pretty cover!

The Oddling Prince opens with Aric’s father, the king of Calidon, on his deathbed.  A ring of unknown origins is sucking the life from him, and no one can figure out how to remove it short of cutting off the appendage, which no one dares to do.  At least not until a stranger arrives on a horse that disappears when he dismounts.  The stranger saves the king without mutilating him and reveals a secret that only Aric immediately accepts as true.  This leads to adventure and arguments and secrets and a level of brotherly love that verges on the incestuous at times.

I fully admit that this book caused my inner yaoi fangirl to come out.  If you don’t know what yaoi is, the best way I’ve heard it described is that it’s beautiful boys kissing beautiful boys.  Granted, it tends to go much farther than that, but I won’t go there because the book doesn’t.  So, if you’re reading it and get some strange vibes that make you want to put it down, don’t worry.  It’s really just creepy levels of brotherly love.  For the yaoi fanpeople, you will be slightly disappointed.  But hey!  At least Aric and Albaric came together in the end.  *winkwinknudgenudge*  Just in a completely different, but equally satisfying way.

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But seriously, I found this story quite enjoyable.  The characters were relatable despite being royalty.  The plot was fun and had a lot of twists.  My only complaint with this one is that the pacing is awkward.  It feels like everything happens over the course of a few days, maybe weeks, but there are lines that suggest months have passed by.  Honestly, I wouldn’t be able make a timeline for it even after finishing it, because I’m still not entirely sure whether days or weeks or months passed.  That issue screws with a couple of other things, such as the relationship arc between Aric and Marissa.  There wasn’t a sense of love at first sight, so when it seemed like they randomly fell in love after a couple of days, it felt like an afterthought.  But if months passed, it makes a bit more sense.

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There were definitely no heart eyes when they first met!

As far as the writing goes, be prepared for older language and a rhythm reminiscent of fairy tales.  It’s a little jarring at first, but it’s interesting.  I learned things like a believable difference between calling a king “Sire,” “Liege,” and other things.  Whether the information is entirely correct, I don’t know.  I haven’t researched it yet.  But it made sense in the story.  And the author made the information feel like a natural part of the story instead of an infodump.  It was really interesting

Ultimately, The Oddling Prince was a fun read.  It seems like it’s going to be a standalone, but on the off chance there are more, I’ll pick them up.  I also plan on looking for other books by Springer.

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Overall, I’d give it four out of five stars.  It’s a quick and amusing read.  If you’re into fantasy or fairy tales or just looking for something light to read between things, I’d definitely suggest giving it a shot.

Thoughts On SHATTERED MIRROR

Hello, hello!  It’s that time again.  Time for another book review!  I got another Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from NetGalley, so I must thank them and St. Martin’s Press for allowing me access to the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  This month, I requested access to Shattered Mirror (An Eve Duncan novel) by Iris Johansen, which was released on the 24th (yesterday).  It’s a thriller/mystery; genres I seem to be drawn to lately.  What I didn’t realize when I requested the book was that it’s the 23rd in a series.  That means I’m coming into a bunch of established characters and relationships that I know nothing about, which is always a little difficult no matter how well the author explains existing situations.  With that in mind, I’ll get into the review now.

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Interesting cover.

Shattered Mirror opens on a lake cottage where Eve Duncan (one of the top forensic sculptors in the world), her husband Joe Quinn (ex-SEAL, current cop, and who knows what else), and their six-year-old son Michael (basically a wise old man in a kid’s body with a touch of ESP or something) live.  The scene is serene until a gold box containing a burnt skull and a two-sided mirror shows up in the passenger’s seat of their jeep.  As Eve starts the reconstruction, she and her family are drawn into a psychopath’s trap.  Throw in some family members that were sort of adopted along the way (Cara, an eighteen-year-old violin prodigy with a tragic past, and Jock, a retired assassin) and a Russian mafia leader (Cara’s grandfather, Kaskov), and things get volatile pretty quickly.

First, let’s talk about the plot.  It’s a pretty standard revenge plot, and a portion of the story is from the psychopath’s (Norwalk’s) perspective, which I liked.  The story actually starts in his POV, which threw me a bit because I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to know him from previous books or not.  When I figured out what was going on, that it was going to be told from multiple points of view, I settled into the rhythm quite nicely.  In the end, I would describe it as Criminal Minds and Bones meets *insert any ‘over-the-top action film with lots of explosions and a hero who fails to take the kill shot just to extend the action’ of your choice*.  In other words, it’s fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously.

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We’ve all seen this scene in action flicks, the kitty just does it better.

Then, there were the characters.  I actually found myself focused on Cara and Jock more than on Eve and her immediate family.  You have this young girl who was saved as a child by this super attractive ex-assassin with a Scottish accent and they’ve been best friends ever since.  Well, now she’s older and totally in love with him.  Except he’s kind of a manipulative dick.  I mean, the guy ignored her for three months then showed up and expected her to drop everything and talk to him because he was ready to talk.  And she did.  The mysterious bad boy routine would probably have intrigued me when I was younger, but now I just keep hoping she runs away from that crap (spoiler: she doesn’t).  And, if I’m being honest, all the men in this book were jerks to some extent.  On the flip side, the women felt a little flat until the last third of the book when they seemed to finally come alive.  Maybe if I had read the series from the beginning, I would feel different, but coming in at this point left a lot to be desired on the character front.

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Except Cara is too sweet to be sarcastic with Jock.

As far as the writing goes, I enjoyed it.  Johansen introduces the characters and gives new readers all of the pertinent information without it feeling heavy handed or like an infodump.  She’s wonderful at manipulating the pace through sentence structure (something I need to study and work on).  I found myself reading this book like a writer and noticing useful techniques that I can try out later.  I also really liked how she wove a supernatural thread through the story by giving Michael and Eve a kind of spiritual connection.  It didn’t feel awkward or forced like those things sometimes do.

Ultimately, it’s not my favorite series and, since I didn’t connect to the characters, I don’t really have any desire to hunt down book one to start there.  But it was an enjoyable read nonetheless.

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Overall, I would give it three stars.  It’s kind of corny and over-the-top, which was fun, but the characters just didn’t draw me in.  If you like thrillers and mysteries, give it a shot.  If not, you’re not missing anything spectacular.

Thoughts On DEATH BY DUMPLING

Howdy, howdy!  Welcome to another last Wednesday of the month book review.  This month, I decided to go with another quick and fun cozy mystery.  It’s called Death by Dumpling, by Vivien Chien, and was released on March 27th.  Yes, I got another Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from NetGalley, so I must thank them and St. Martin’s Press for allowing me access to the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Speaking of, let’s get to it!

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With a cover like that, who could resist picking this up?

Death by Dumpling follows Lana Lee as she starts working at her parents’ noodle house, something she never wanted to do.  She’s running away from a bad break up and the fact that she caused a scene while quitting her old job (this seems to be a common theme in many cozies).  All the attention of the mall where their restaurant is located seems to be on her.  At least until the property manager, Mr. Feng, winds up dead after eating shrimp dumplings from her parents’ restaurant.  Throw in a couple of potential suitors, a bestie who will indulge Lana’s PI fantasies, and a lot of mystery, and this book is the perfect recipe for a cozy.

As usual, I went into this story not really knowing what to expect.  And I was pleasantly surprised.  The characters are relateable.  Lana is sassy, outgoing, and definitely not the biggest snoop in this book.  She didn’t find the body, which was a nice change of pace from other cozies I’ve read.  She also had a decent reason to go snooping around.  It wasn’t that she was nosy that made her try to figure things out, though she certainly is, she was trying to clear the name of the restaurant’s head chef/her friend.  I found it to be a nice variation of the norm from other cozies I’m familiar with.

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Yeah.  And it’s not stalking, it’s social media analysis.

About the only complaint I had with this book was that I caught on to Mr. Feng’s big secret a little earlier than I think I was supposed to.  It wouldn’t have bothered me, except when Lana finds concrete proof, she still tries to make stupid excuses for the people involved.  I honestly think her mind would’ve gone exactly where it was supposed to go, instead of arguing with her bestie about it and trying to come up with an innocent excuse.  I get that the woman involved is like an aunt to Lana, but all the signs were there.  Why would she ignore them?  That part dragged a little bit for me.

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All the signs!

Otherwise, it was pretty easy to like this one.  The writing was succinct, but still conveyed a lot of personality.  Aside from dragging a little after I figured things out, the pacing swept me along.  I’m a super slow reader, but it only took me a week to finish this one.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed Death by Dumpling.  I’m definitely happy to see that book two, Dim Sum of All Fears, is due out in August.  It’s going on my reading list!

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Overall, I’d rate it 4 out of 5 stars.  If you’re looking for something quick and fun and you enjoy a saucy feel good mystery, it’s worth a look.

Thoughts On THE IMMORTALISTS

Hello, hello!  We’ve reached the final Wednesday in February, so you know what that means.  It’s book review time!  Instead of grabbing an advanced reader copy of something, I decided to scroll through Amazon’s suggestions for me and pick a recent release.  This time, I went with The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin.  It was released on January 9th by G. P. Putnam’s Sons and has received fairly high praise from what I’ve seen.  I try not to look at reviews until I’ve formed my initial opinions, so I picked it up solely based on the cover and the blurb.  Let’s get on with the review.

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I really like the tree, but there’s no tree in the story unless you look at it as a family tree or the tree of life or whatever.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin follows the Gold siblings on their journeys through life.  What’s so special about them?  Well, it all starts when they go to a seer who takes them into her apartment one by one and tells them the date of their deaths.  After that, the book is divided into four sections (one for each sibling) that reveals how they choose to live in spite of or because of having this information.

We start off with Simon, the youngest, who drops out of high school and moves to San Francisco in the late ’70s with his sister Klara, the only family member who knows he’s gay.  He leaves behind a life where he’s expected to take over the family business and take care of his mother after his father’s death, a life he knows will make him miserable.  He chooses to live the life he wants.  And despite the way he dies, he’s happy at the end.

From there, things get progressively more depressing.  Klara has always been the oddball of the family, wanting to be a magician and living in a world in her head where anything is possible, even overcoming death by dying.  Daniel let’s his rage fester until it drives him to hunt down the seer as someone to blame for all of the death he’s had to deal with.  And Varya spends so much time trying not to die that she forgets to live.

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A good summary of my thoughts as I read this book.

All in all, I really enjoyed the story and the characters.  My only complaints with the book come from more of a writerly point of view than a readerly one.  For instance, there was a ton of telling in this book.  Instead of showing me the places that were important to the characters, it was as if the author wanted to cram in as many place names as possible.  As someone who isn’t from New York or California, many of the places were unfamiliar to me and felt like filler.  Instead of telling me every single club Simon went to or Klara performed at, it would’ve been nice to get a more in-depth view of those two characters.  Their arcs felt really rushed whereas Daniel’s and Varya’s felt dragged out.

Another thing I noticed was that the story seemed to randomly change between present and past tense.  It didn’t detract from the story, but it was something I noticed.  I’d go back to try to figure out why the shifts occurred and, a lot of the time, I’d find no real reason for it.  Couple that with random changes in character points of view (Mom taking over a scene in Klara’s section, the niece taking over part of Varya’s section, etc.), and it made for some awkward reading moments.

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Me trying to figure out the tense and POV.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the book and am happy I bought it.  It’s a quick read.  It only took me about six days to finish it (I’m a super slow reader).  Despite my issues with it, I thought it was a nice reading experience.

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Overall, I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.  If you’re into slice of life stories or literary fiction with a hint of magical realism, I’d definitely recommend picking it up.