Thoughts On DARK SECRET

Hello, hello! I know it’s not the last Wednesday of February yet, but I got two ARCs from NetGalley this month, so here’s an extra review. This week, I’m looking at Dark Secret by Danielle Rose. It’s the first book in her Darkhaven Saga. Waterhouse Press released the book on the 18th. If you’re familiar with Danielle’s Blood Books trilogy, the characters might seem familiar, but the story is completely new. First and foremost, I must thank NetGalley and Waterhouse Press for giving me access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. So, let’s get to it! Also, fair warning: there are spoiler adjacent tidbits from here on out. If you’re familiar with the genre, you can guess at what some newbies might consider spoilers.

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Love the cover and I hear the paperback is even prettier.

Dark Secret follows Ava Lopez as she navigates being a witch and a hunter and harnessing her own powers. Despite being told not to go on her usual rounds, searching the small town she lives in for vampires to destroy, she does it anyway. Typical teenager behavior, right? And of course things go wrong, then they snowball from there. At one point, Ava has to make a choice between death and something that will get her kicked out of her coven and thrown in with the things she despises most. How will she cope? What will she learn? Will she be able to hold on to who she is? These are just some of the questions this book starts to tackle.

Sounds fun, right? It is. The plot isn’t exactly new, but it doesn’t feel overdone. Witches versus vampires, then a witch becomes a vampire and learns that there’s a difference between a real vampire and the rogues she was taught to hate. That’s cool. But I really liked hearing about the different covens more than the vampire thing. Her best friend’s coven is all about peace and coexisting with vampires. I hope to learn more about them and to see if they really feel that way or if it’s all talk. I’m also interested to see if Ava’s coven can accept her in her new form. Unfortunately, I have to wait for future books to see if my questions get answers.

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Or read another book.

The characters here are all pretty likeable. Yes, Ava is at that age where she knows she’s right until something proves her wrong. Sometimes, you just want to smack some sense into her. But she slowly learns and is evolving. It’s a short book, so she can only change so much, but she’s heading in the right direction. Jasik and the other vampires are interesting. They’re a little stereotypical at the moment, but some seeds have been planted for them to grow into their own in future books.

Speaking of future books, I wondered why this book was so short. Apparently, the first few books in this series are going to be released pretty close together, so they’re on the shorter end of the novel spectrum. Instead of having to wait a year or more for book two, we only have to wait about a month. And book three is due out about a month after that. It’s an interesting release schedule and I’m looking forward to seeing how it works out.

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Yes, it is.

As far as the writing goes, it’s a fast-paced and fun read. Yes, there’s some repetition that gets a little distracting. We’re told multiple times that Ava is a spirit witch and what that means. But I figured out just to skim those paragraphs and move on pretty quickly.

Full disclosure: If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know Danielle and I actually got our MFAs together. I’ve watched her writing grow and tighten and improve over the last five years. I’m really proud of her and what she’s accomplished.

Ultimately, I had fun with Dark Secret. I’m looking forward to the next few books in the series. Luckily, I don’t have long to wait!

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Overall, I gave the book four out of five stars. I definitely recommend it to anyone who is into YA fantasy and supernatural stuff. If you’re familiar with Danielle’s work, this is not a steamy romance, so don’t be disappointed if that’s what you were hoping for.

Thoughts on A SMALL TOWN

Howdy, howdy!  Merry Christmas to all who celebrate and happy holidays to those who celebrate something else!  I hope everyone has a pleasant day full of love and good food.  Dad’s making a lasagna for us.  It’s okay.  You can be jealous.  Anyway, it’s the last Wednesday of the month, so that means it’s book review time.  When I requested this month’s book, I thought it was a mystery based on the description, but I really don’t know what category it falls into.  It’s called A Small Town by Thomas Perry.  It was released on December 17th by The Mysterious Press (an imprint of Grove Atlantic).  As usual, I must thank the publisher and NetGalley for giving me access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Let’s get to it.

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Nice cover.

A Small Town follows a bunch of people, but primarily Leah Hawkins, in the aftermath of a prison break.  It’s been two years and the twelve who orchestrated it have yet to be caught.  The current police chief of the dying town decides to take a sabbatical to hunt the twelve down herself.  Can she succeed where everyone else has failed?

I’m going to say it right up front: I hated this book with a passion.  So, if you don’t want to read one long rant, feel free to skip to the rating.  For everyone else, my dislike started with the basic premise.  A small town cop with the exact same leads as the FBI is the only one who can find these men who aren’t even that hard to find.  The first one was living with his mother.  I’m sure the FBI had no idea about that and had no one watching the place at least in the beginning.  It’d be too easy.  Turns out it was that easy, but only Leah could figure it out.  From there, she got a bunch of lucky leads.  It was annoying.  And I won’t even go into the psychology of the escapees and how some with non-violent histories are suddenly committing rape and murder to “kill the town” and make their escape easier.

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Then there were the subplots.  Leah’s romance was ridiculous.  She was the other woman to some city official but it was okay because his wife had just been diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy (as if that’s not an umbrella term for multiple possible diagnoses), so her sex life was over and she was a benevolent being who allowed the affair.  First off, stop perpetuating the idea that cripples aren’t sexual beings.  Second, do your damn research.  One quick Google search will tell you that MD is a number of different diseases.  Pick one.  Lastly, his wife may have been a forgiving person, but don’t use a disability to rationalize shitty behavior.  It’s not okay.  And the romance did nothing to further the main plot anyway, so it was completely unnecessary.

There was also that whole cheating thing with the racist woman and the criminal.  The sex scenes were completely random and felt like they were thrown in last minute to set up the deaths of two of the escaped prisoners so that Leah wouldn’t have to hunt them down.  It just felt like lazy storytelling.  But I was already firmly against this book by that point, so maybe I’m wrong.  I doubt it, but maybe.

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The writing was subpar at best.  I understand adding description to flesh stuff out and up the tension, but I know how to open a door.  Going through it step by step is just tedious.  And that’s how a lot of this book felt.  Tedious.  And then there was the POV.  It was one of those books that was in everyone’s head and jumped around multiple times each chapter, which is fine.  The bad part was that there are so many names thrown around and characters that only show up once that it’s impossible to follow without some kind of chart.  I don’t understand why half of the people were even worth getting names let alone a peek inside their head.  There was no focus.

Ultimately, I wanted to stop reading A Small Town.  I would have if I hadn’t been reviewing it.  But I figured I needed to see if it got any better.  It didn’t.

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Overall, I gave it 1 out of 5 stars because NetGalley and everything requires some kind of star rating.  It’s really more like half a star because I acknowledge that some people enjoyed it.  Pick it up if it’s your thing.  It wasn’t mine.

Thanksgiving: 2019

Howdy, howdy!  How is everyone doing this week?  November is speeding along, much like the rest of this year.  I have no idea where the time went.  I’m still stuck in April or May.  Is it just me?  Yeah?  Okay then.  But Thanksgiving is only eight days away, so I thought it would be a good time to make a list of things I’m thankful for this year.  I know I should probably do this closer to Thanksgiving, but next week is my book review post.  Anyway, in no particular order, here are five things I’m thankful for this year.

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We’ll get a new picture of us eventually.

1. Dad.  I know it’s sappy, but I am thankful for him.  He does everything for me.  Even the gross stuff no one wants to know about.  And I don’t say thanks enough.  Mostly because I don’t really know how to express myself well (my social skills suck, even with family).  But I know he’s reading this.  So, you are appreciated.  Even if you’re a dick sometimes.  That’s as sappy as I get.

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Replace cleaning the house with writing and it’s me!

2. Tunisian/Afghan crochet hooks.  They’re super long and designed for a special type of crochet, but I just use them for regular crochet so far.  My discovery of these earlier this year has allowed me to be creative in a whole new way.  And they prove my hands can still do cool things if I set my mind to it.  I’m not entirely useless after all!

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Unless the title has nothing to do with the book and you’re just disappointed.

3. NetGalley.  I’m not usually thankful for specific websites, but I admit that this one is pretty cool.  I’ve been able to read a bunch of books that I probably wouldn’t have tried otherwise.  I even found a couple of authors that I’m still following.  Plus, it gives me something to blog about each month, which is super helpful.

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Or maybe because I already know too much.  My friends are crazy.  Don’t deny it.

4. Friends.  Again, sappy.  But it’s true.  Especially the ones who randomly check in on me even when I’m in full hermit mode and being a shit friend myself.  You know who you are.  You’re all appreciated.  And sorry I am such a hermit.  I try not to be, but it never works out.

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5.  The Interwebz.  It’s where all my friends live.  But really, because it simultaneously lets me stalk people and keep up with their lives while helping limit my need to use the phone or leave the house.  Need to activate that card? Do it online!  Want to buy something?  There’s a website for that.  It’s basically an introvert’s dream.  But never read the comments.

What about you?  What are you thankful for this year?  It can be small or large.  Serious or funny.  Or anything in between.  Feel free to share your lists and thoughts here or on my social media pages!

Thoughts on BLACK ROCK BAY

Hello, hello!  Tomorrow is Halloween, so guess what that makes this post!  Yup.  Welcome to October’s book review.  This month, I decided to try something a little darker, set on an island off of Maine.  It’s called Black Rock Bay and it’s by Brianna Labuskes.  It was released yesterday (October 29th), so of course I got an ARC.  Therefore, I must thank NetGalley and the publisher, Thomas and Mercer (an imprint of Amazon Publishing), for giving me access to the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Now, let’s get onto the fun part.

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A simple cover that actually has something to do with the story.

Black Rock Bay follows Mia and her newest detective partner, Izzy, as they get sent to Mia’s old home in order to investigate a suspicious death.  It’s an unusual assignment since they handle cold cases, but the islanders are secretive and only warm up to their own.  Granted, Mia hasn’t been back in fifteen years due to a mysterious suicide attempt gone wrong, but her boss hopes being born and raised there will earn her some good will.  As Mia and Izzy dig into the suspicious death, they uncover something far more sinister than the average murder and it takes Mia right back to the time of her life she most wants to forget.

Sounds cool, right?  And it is, to a point.  I think I’m just going to jump right into my issues with the story.  The plot is interesting and plausible, but at the end there are a few loose ends that are never adequately explained.  Normally, this wouldn’t be so bad, but it affects the believability of key parts of the story.  For instance, why is Ellen so easily manipulated?  Yes, people in trouble do weird things, but we never really get to know her motivation which makes her flat and seem like she was added specifically as a tool for the baddie.  But my biggest issue was what Sammy did.  He had absolutely no legitimate reason for that.  And the excuse we get was a vague mention that the baddie might have had something on him.  It was a really weak spot that made the whole story less believable.  And it was a twist that was completely unnecessary.  Even the author couldn’t come up with a better explanation than “psychopaths do things for shits and giggles.”  Like, yeah, but this is fiction.  There needs to be a reason for all the major plot points or things start to fall apart.

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Something all writers should ask themselves.

That being said, I really liked the core characters.  Mia was strong and a good lead.  She had her own issues to face, but fought against them until she absolutely had to deal with them.  Izzy was a nice foil, but she could have been more.  Lacey was a fun character that was a little hard to read.  And Cash was a bit neurotic.  I’m not entirely convinced he was supposed to be, but it made him more interesting.  The whole reclusive islander thing worked really well.  Izzy’s ostracization was entirely believable.  No one was overtly rude to her, but they effectively shut her out.  That dynamic was probably my favorite part of this book.  And Izzy breaking down barriers with some of the islanders was artfully done.

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Me as I was trying to figure out who I was supposed to be in the mind of: Mia or Izzy?

The writing itself flowed nicely and made for an easy read.  It was interesting how the point of view swapped back and forth between Mia and Izzy; however, the narrative voice never really changed enough to differentiate the two, so if I didn’t note who each chapter was focused on (it tells you at the beginning of each chapter), I admit I got confused.

Ultimately, I found Black Rock Bay to be so-so.  It’s not bad.  In fact, the beginning is pretty good.  But it doesn’t hold up.  It’s not something I’ll read again and it doesn’t make me want to hunt down other books by the author.

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Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars.  Probably closer to 2.5 if I’m being completely honest.  It just didn’t work for me, but maybe you’ll like it.

Thoughts on LAST PEN STANDING

Howdy, howdy!  It’s already the last Wednesday of September.  Where did the month go?  For that matter, where did all the months since March go?  My internal clock is kind of lagging.  Anyway, it’s the last Wednesday and that means it’s book review time!  I decided to go back to a cozy mystery this time, because I wanted something with a guaranteed happy ending.  So, I requested Last Pen Standing, the first in a brand new series by Vivian Conroy.  It was released yesterday (Sept. 24th).  As usual, I must thank NetGalley and the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, for allowing me access to an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Let’s get to it!

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Cute cover and pretty fitting.

Last Pen Standing follows Delta Douglas as she embarks on a new chapter in her life.  Delta’s grandmother gifts her a large sum of money because she wants to see what Delta will achieve with it instead of waiting and passing it on as an inheritance.  So, Delta quits her big city job and becomes co-owners of a stationery store in a small town with her college bestie, Hazel.  During their first workshop event at the town’s fanciest hotel, one of the hotel guests is murdered.  Hazel’s brother, Finn, is accused and everything kind of spirals from there.  Delta didn’t expect to be using her creative skills to help solve a murder, but things don’t always go the way you want.  With the help of her new friend, Jonas (an ex-cop), his dog, Spud, and the Paper Posse (the local gossips and crafters), Delta tries her best to figure out what’s going on.

I have to admit that I didn’t pinpoint the correct suspect right away.  I had the person in my list of probable suspects, but I wasn’t positive until I got closer to the end.  That made the story all the more fun, because I was able to eliminate suspects right alongside Delta and the others.  The plot was full of twists and turns.  I really liked the slow build of tension and the subtle clues sprinkled throughout.  It was just paced really nicely.  I wasn’t absorbed enough that I had trouble putting it down in order to eat and sleep and work, but I also looked forward to picking it back up again.  That’s the kind of balance I enjoy with cozies.

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Works with writing.

As far as the characters go, I loved them.  Delta was an interesting and likeable lead.  She rarely came across as pushy or bratty like some cozy leads can.  She left a lot of the snooping to the town gossips and only pried into things when she was relatively sure there was something useful to be discovered.  The love interest, Jonas, was a nice foil.  He helped Delta proceed with her investigation and made sure everything she did was above board.  Being an ex-cop gave him access to more information than usual, so I suppose that’s why Delta didn’t have to pry as much as some cozy leads.  Even the rich people came across as mostly human.  It was nice.

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Because people talk weird.

The writing was done well for the most part.  My only complaint would be that a lot of the dialogue was stilted.  “People don’t talk like that” was my mantra as I went through this book.  It was like the author wanted to give the reader a bunch of information and couldn’t find a better way of doing it than having people say it.  But people don’t say things like that, especially if they think their listener knows what they’re talking about.  Like, the stationery shop is across the street from the diner.  She works at the shop, so she knows where the diner is.  Don’t have the woman she’s talking to say to meet her at *insert name of diner*, the diner across the street from where you’ve been every day this week.  It’s not realistic.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed Last Pen Standing.  I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for future books and maybe even try something else by Vivian Conroy.

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Overall, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.  The dialogue is annoying enough that I took a star off, but if you like cozies and stationery and western type stuff, you should pick this book up.

Thoughts on SHATTER THE SKY

Howdy, howdy!  It’s the last Wednesday of July, so you should all know what that means.  It’s time for another book review!  This month, I felt like getting into something fantastical, maybe with dragons or something, so that’s what I looked for on NetGalley.  They recommended the young adult novel Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells, which was released yesterday (July 30th).  It sounded interesting, so I went ahead and requested it.  I must thank NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for allowing me access to an ARC (advanced reader copy) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Now, let’s get to the review.

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A pretty generic YA cover.  No idea what the glowy thing she’s holding is, but I’m guessing a vial which is never described as glowing in the book.

Shatter the Sky follows Maren who leaves her secluded home in the hopes of rescuing her girlfriend, Kaia, who is taken by the Aurati seers.  Maren never actually wanted to leave her home and always believed she was average, especially next to Kaia who was obviously meant for greater things than the mountains could provide.  But when Kaia is stolen, Maren decides she needs to reclaim a dragon from the Flame of the West (the warlord who loves nothing more than conquering lands) and rain down fire and destruction upon the Aurati.  But how is an average girl like her supposed to do that?  With a little help from friends, apparently.  But is Sev, a guy she meets along the way, really a friend?  And can his allies really help her rescue Kaia?  Maren doesn’t have any idea what she’s doing or who to trust, but she does all she can to keep moving forward.

The plot is pretty standard fantasy fare.  An underdog rises above her challenges in order to achieve her goals, discovering along the way that she’s actually super special.  Not only must she face physical obstacles, but there’s also a budding romance with the new friend despite her devotion to her heartmate, which brings up shame and all that good stuff.  And there’s an adorable little dragon that gets sucked into the adventures.  It’s a little predictable at points, but still enjoyable.

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But not so ashamed she’ll ditch him.

It’s not the plot that pulled me in, but the characters.  Of course, in the beginning, Kaia is the obvious choice for a heroine, but then she’s abducted and we only get to see snippets of her in Maren’s visions.  By the end, she’s so completely changed that it makes me want to read the next book to find out what she really becomes.  Maren is headstrong and a little flighty.  She rarely has more than a vague notion of a plan, but that never stops her.  However, her insistence that Kaia is somehow better than her does become annoying.  Sev is an ambiguous character that could either be really good or he could go really bad, which is fun.  He’s adamant that his cause is the only way to a better future, which most villains feel the same way.  But if he keeps with Maren, and lets her influence shape him, he could become a hero in his own right.  This book is leaning toward the latter for him, but it doesn’t mean he won’t veer off in the next book.  Otherwise, I love the dragons and want more of them.

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A Dragon Witch by Nene Thomas.  Just because dragons.

The writing itself was smooth and a made for nice read.  A lot of the description was beautiful and the pacing pulled me along at a good clip.  The dialogue occasionally felt stilted, but not enough to really distract from the story.

Ultimately, I enjoyed Shatter the Sky so much that I’m looking forward to book two and am a little sad that I have to wait for it.

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Overall, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.  Like I said, it’s standard fantasy fare, but the characters made it worth reading for me.  If you enjoy character development and can get past some predictableness, this is definitely worth reading.

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 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.