Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fifth Grave Past the Light

Fifth Grave Past the Light (Charley Davidson, #5)Fifth Grave Past the Light by Darynda Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book #5 picks up a few days after book #4 leaves off. This time Charley is juggling a case involving a cheating husband; her suspicions that her boyfriend, Reyes, might be a serial arsonist; concerns over her sister's nervous new client; and a couple dozen terrified dead blonde women who have taken over her apartment but don't seem to want to communicate with her or cross over. Her friend Garrett is being frustratingly closed-mouthed regarding his time in Hell and his subsequent investigation of all things Reyes. And now Uncle Bob's boss, the chief, has become suspicious about how she solves so many cases so quickly and is snooping around, turning up where he is least expected and most unwanted. What's a grim reaper to do?!

I love these books so much! It's nearly impossible to put them down, and this one is no exception. I craved reading it like Charley craves coffee, and that is saying something. It's very fast-paced, which is great, except then I finished it too quickly and now have to wait (impatiently) for the next one.

I finally figured out who Charley reminds me of: a combination of Janet Evanovich's heroine, Stephanie Plum, and the character of U.S. Marshall Mary Shannon, played by the actress Mary McCormack on the TV show "In Plain Sight." Charley is brash and often crass, independent and yet endearingly vulnerable and empathetic. She gets herself into all sorts of messes because she barges full speed ahead in pursuit of justice and in defense of the defenseless. It's a really good thing that she has supernatural healing abilities and can sometimes stop time or leave her body to act in times of life-and-death emergency--qualities both Ms. Plum and Agent Shannon lack.

For readers' advisors: story doorway is primary, and I definitely would not suggest this series to anyone looking for "clean reads," as the language and sex scenes are not tame.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord

Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord (Love By Numbers, #2)Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord by Sarah MacLean
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lord Nicholas St. John has been hounded by matchmaking mamas and their devious debutantes ever since a popular women's magazine published a ridiculous article touting him as a "Lord to Land," complete with silly instructions on the best ways to do so. When a friend from his school days approaches Nick seeking help locating his missing sister, Nick grabs at the excuse to leave London far behind.

Lady Isabel Townsend is struggling to keep her young brother's estate afloat after their father, the "Wastrearl," abandoned them, died, and left them penniless. Their home is actually a secret refuge for battered and beaten women and unwed mothers, but if they can't find a way to fix the leaking roof (among other things) and raise enough money to send the young earl off to school, "Minerva House" might be forced to shut down.

Nick and Isabel's paths collide when Nick tracks his school chum's sister to the village near Isabel's home. Isabel has read the infamous article, but what she gleaned from it was that Nicholas is an antiquities expert--exactly the sort of person she requires to assess her prized collection of statues in preparation for selling them off to raise the funds they so desperately need. She invites Nick and his friend to come evaluate the sculptures, planning to simply prevent him from ever meeting her brother's new governess, knowing that the two have likely met before and would recognize each other, but unaware that he's only there because he is actually searching for Georgiana.

Although both have sworn off marriage and love, sparks fly amongst the ancient statues, and secrets cannot be hidden for very long. It was a decent idea for a plot; my reason for only rating it 3 stars (which is quite generous) is that Isabel turns from a strong, independent woman into a ninny when Nicholas is present, and that is a TERRIBLE foundation for an ongoing relationship. (For more on that topic, see ) I felt like the characterizations weren't consistent and believable, and given the constraints of the time, the sex began absurdly early.

For readers' advisors: story doorway is primary, character & setting secondary. The story takes place in 1823 in England. There are a number of fairly explicit sex scenes.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

No Quest for the Wicked

No Quest For The Wicked (Enchanted, Inc., #6)No Quest For The Wicked by Shanna Swendson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Katie Chandler is Bored. Bored bored bored. Now that MSI is pretty much the only game in town as far as magic goes, there isn't much for the marketing department to do. That is, until her boyfriend discovers that the language has changed on the ancient document he's translating, indicating that the Eye of the Moon--an incredibly powerful and dangerous gem lost for centuries--is now on the move and may be in New York City. The last time anyone used it, war broke out, so tracking it down is imperative, and only magical immunes like Katie and Owen can be trusted to locate and recover it. Unfortunately, they soon learn that the Eye, which gives the holder power over others, has been fused with an Elven knot, which bestows invulnerability. Katie and Owen are not the only ones determined to find the Eye, and soon there is a knock-down, drag-out race raging across the city between an ever-increasing number of factions, all with their own agendas.

Whew! Talk about fast-paced! Book #6 in the Enchanted, Inc. series is a whirlwind of a novel--fun and funny. The addition of Katie's grandma and former boss to the mix was highly entertaining. I also appreciated the character development as Owen learns to cope with his new non-magical reality.

For readers' advisors: story and character doorways. No sex, violence (not really), or bad language that I can recall. Setting is contemporary New York City.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Season

The SeasonThe Season by Sarah MacLean
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Best friends Alexandra (Alex), Eleanor (Ella), and Vivian (Vivi) are about to experience their first Season, but none of them is terribly eager for matrimony just yet. Neither are Alex's three older brothers and their close friend Gavin, who have been pressed into service as escorts to a variety of society functions. Still, they are teenagers, and flirting is inevitable, as are misunderstandings, jealousies, hurt feelings, and, of course, True Love.

Gavin is still trying to adjust to his new role as the Earl of Blackmoor, and he is unconvinced that his father's death was really an accident. Vivi and Alex think Ella is being overly dramatic when she tells them of a clandestine conversation she overheard in a garden, but then when they learn Gavin's house has been burglarized, they start to wonder whether someone is indeed spying for the French to aid Napoleon, and whether Gavin might actually be in danger.

This YA novel was her first published book, and it's pretty good for a debut novel, although I did wish an editor had cut the excess descriptions of how someone laughed, smirked, etc. Sometimes the dialogue can really just stand on its own! "Impishly smirking" and whatnot is overkill.

For readers' advisors: story and character doorways. Lots of kissing and angst, but no actual sex. I think there might have been a couple of swear words.

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Friday, July 5, 2013

The Mystery Woman

The Mystery Woman (Ladies of Lantern Street, #2)The Mystery Woman by Amanda Quick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars just because Ms. Quick dialed back her over-use of her most formulaic words and phrases (i.e. heat, heated, jacked up, raised senses, running hot, psychical, para-senses, etc.) and for a change included a hero who didn't believe in the paranormal at all, despite his own talent for finding things. While the sex scenes (I hesitate to call them love scenes because there still isn't a lot of foundation for the romance) remain eye-rollingly silly, at least there was no stock description of mind-blowing aura merging and whatnot. Hooray for small favors!

In book two of the "Ladies of Lantern Street" series, we follow Flint & Marsh agent Beatrice Lockwood as she masquerades in her role as a virtually invisible paid companion to wealthy ladies in need of assistance foiling dastardly plots. Beatrice came to the agency some months earlier when her previous employer was murdered by someone seeking to kidnap her. She manages to create a new life for herself in a new career, until during the course of an investigation she is located by Joshua Gage, former spy for the Crown, who needs her assistance in trapping the man blackmailing his sister, a client from Beatrice's old life. The blackmail scheme turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg, so Joshua and Beatrice team up to stop a madman before they become the next victims.

My favorite thing about this novel is that Beatrice is so strong and well-prepared. She carries a small pistol strapped to her thigh, she has a vial of specially-prepared smelling salts to ward off unwanted sexual advances, and she thinks quickly in emergency situations. She is no wilting wallflower. I appreciated that very much.

For readers' advisors: story and setting doorways (i.e. Victorian England). A couple of sex scenes.

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Sentenced to Death

Sentenced to Death (A Booktown Mystery, #5)Sentenced to Death by Lorna Barrett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's time for the first-annual Founders' Day celebration in Stoneham, NH, and Tricia's friend Deborah Black has been put in charge of the festivities. However, when Deborah steps up to the podium to give her welcome speech, the small plane which has been buzzing the area with its Founders' Day banner suddenly goes into a soundless nose-dive right into the gazebo where she's standing, killing both Deborah and the pilot instantly. Both the sheriff's department and the NTSB rule the crash an accident, but oddities in the aftermath have Tricia questioning that pronouncement and doing a little sleuthing on her own.

Tricia's love life is still in shambles, her champion assistant, Ginny, is leaving to manage another store, and her sister Angelica is pushing her to make some changes in her own life to break out of her stagnation. I think one of the strongest features of this series is the ongoing character development. Another reviewer of this book mentioned that while she didn't always like Tricia, who can be pushy and tactless at times, she sympathized with her and appreciated the flaws and depth of all the characters, and I completely agree.

Ironically, the main storyline of Deborah's death isn't the biggest mystery in the series at the moment, although I admit the twists and turns were surprising. The true puzzle is the secret of the company Nigela Ricita Associates, which has been buying up or investing heavily in Stoneham properties in the past couple of books. What is the ulterior motive there, and why does Antonio give me the creeps? I look forward to the next book in the series to see if any of that gets resolved!

For readers' advisors: character doorway is primary, story secondary. No sex, bad language, or on-screen violence (even the plane crash is only briefly described).

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Much Ado About Magic

Much Ado About Magic (Enchanted, Inc., #5)Much Ado About Magic by Shanna Swendson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #5 in the Enchanted, Inc., series begins with Katie Chandler returning to New York City just in time to become embroiled in a propaganda war between her employer, MSI, and their rival, Spellworks. A series of dark spells has the magical community flocking to Spellworks for protection amulets and bracelets, never realizing the whole thing is part of a more sinister plot. Katie's boyfriend, Owen, is working feverishly to reverse-engineer the spells and find a way to neutralize them before they get even more out of control, but it soon becomes evident that a key part of the competition's strategy involves discrediting and falsely accusing Owen of creating the mess in the first place. Even Katie's boss, Merlin (yes, that Merlin), is powerless to stem the tide of rumor and suspicion. It's up to Katie to sort out fact from fiction in time to prevent a corporate takeover with deadly consequences.

I was so excited when I stumbled across a WorldCat listing for one of the later books in this series and realized that although my library couldn't purchase print copies of volumes 5, 6, or 7, we could get the ebooks through OverDrive. Hooray! I love this quirky, humorous series, and I was bummed when I had to stop reading at #4. But now my library has digital access to all seven books in the series, so I can find out what happens in the continuing saga of the battle for control of the biggest companies in the magical community.

For readers' advisors: story doorway is primary, character is secondary. There is no sex or real violence, and I can't recall any instances of swearing.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Mouse-Proof Kitchen

The Mouse-Proof KitchenThe Mouse-Proof Kitchen by Saira Shah
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this as an Advance Reader's Copy (ARC) from, and when I started reading it, I questioned my sanity in requesting it in the first place. Not because it's a terrible book--it's not. Rather, because a woman in her late 30s, six months pregnant for the first time with a much-anticipated daughter should probably not read a story about a woman in her late 30s who just gave birth for the first time to Freya, an unexpectedly severely handicapped baby girl. Anna's despair, frustration, and need to control something--anything--in her out-of-control life rang out so strongly, I had a hard time disengaging my own emotions from hers.

Anna's husband shirks responsibility and provides virtually no support--emotionally, financially, or practically. I kept wondering why she stayed with him. She supposedly loved him very much, but I really didn't see why. He ignores her for most of the book and spends most of his time shutting out the world while he works on composing movie music and flirting with Lizzy, the flibbertigibbet teenager they pay to help take care of Freya...which she never actually does.

Anna becomes increasingly short-tempered and shrewish as the book progresses and her exhaustion (mental and physical) mounts, which is certainly a realistic reaction to her situation. I didn't always like Anna, but I also could empathize with how she was feeling, and I certainly don't claim I'd react any better were I in her shoes. How does one cope with the collapse of one's dreams of parenthood? How do you face a lifetime caring for a child whose brain never fully developed and who has constant seizures, a lack of muscle control, and will only ever be, in essence, a gigantic infant, no matter how long she lives, never capable of caring for her own most basic needs, if she even survives at all?

For readers' advisors: character doorway is primary, setting (they move from England to a village in France) is secondary. To me the tone of the book was...heavy and frequently depressing. The secondary characters are quite well-developed, and the mystery of their neighbor's mother's death during WWII was intriguing. I think this would make an excellent choice for an adult book discussion group.

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