Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Mug Shot

Mug ShotMug Shot by Caroline Fardig
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Business is pretty good at the coffee shop Juliet Langley manages for her best friend Pete Bennett, until Juliet stumbles over the body of Pete's girlfriend in the tent/booth Java Jive was to staff at a benefit race that morning. When Pete is arrested for murder, Juliet goes on the offensive, determined to clear his name, despite repeated admonitions from her boyfriend, Detective Ryder Hamilton, to stay out of it and let the police do their job. Not listening to him nearly costs Juliet her life.

The second book in the series got off to a rocky start with me when the main character cracked a potty joke worthy of a 12 year old boy in the first scene. Yet we're to believe Juliet and Pete are adults?

I'd hoped it would get better, but I read for character, and I was stunned by the choices Ms. Fardig made between the first and second books in her series. For example, she wrote herself back INTO a corner with the Juliet/Pete/Ryder love triangle, which made no sense. At the end of book #1, Pete and Juliet finally get together and begin to acknowledge that each has been pining for the other for a dozen years, yet two months later when book #2 begins, they've long since broken up and agreed to be "just friends"? For real? No. Finding that navigating a romantic relationship while maintaining a professional one is harder than they thought, OK, but giving up and resuming previous patterns of behavior? No. And Pete picking right back up with his stuck up, bitchy, jealous (ex)girlfriend? HUH?? Also, NO. We're supposed to believe he would rather date someone who treats people, including him, like garbage instead of his best friend who he's been head-over-heels in love with for over a decade? Seriously? No.

So many of the things Juliet says and does in this book are downright idiotic. I had a hard time rooting for someone so immature and lacking in impulse control. The Redheaded She-Devil concept was at least funnier in the first book. This time around I found myself gritting my teeth and wishing she would grow up and think things through for a change.

The secondary characters in book #2 also lack internal consistency. It felt to me like Ms. Fardig started writing the book one way and then couldn't figure out who the killer was and so forced her characters to contort in order to come up with an ending. Particularly the unexpected twist near the end that revealed the murderer--my jaw dropped, and not in a good way.

I did appreciate the section of the book set in Nashville's Centennial Park, as I was just there earlier this summer and visited the Parthenon replica, so I could picture those scenes much more vividly than I would have been able to in the past. I also enjoyed the glimpse into Ryder's past as he took Juliet to the Christmas tree farm.

For readers' advisors: story doorway is primary. There is a ton of swearing, but usually pretty mild as swearing goes. The sex and most of the violence happens off-screen.

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Rebel Mechanics

Rebel Mechanics (Rebel Mechanics, #1)Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's 1888. The American Revolution never got off the ground, so the British still rule the colonies. Specifically magisters do--British nobility with magical abilities. A new revolution is brewing, however, this time fueled by young inventors called Rebel Mechanics who believe that non-magical machines are the key to overthrowing British oppression and achieving freedom.

Verity Newton's mother has died after a long illness, so Verity travels from New Haven to New York City in search of a governess position in a wealthy household. The teenager manages to land one on her first day, due in part to transportation assistance from the Rebel Mechanics, who waste no time in recruiting her as a spy for The Cause. Her position as a governess to the governor's grandchildren allows her access to intelligence from the highest ranks of society. Eye-opening experiences convince her of the importance of passing on information to the rebels even as she keeps her own secrets and discovers that not all magisters are alike.

Love love love this book!! I'm so glad the second one has just come out so I don't have to wait to dive back into this reality. I just wish the next book were available on audio already because this one was great fun to listen to. Well-written characters, a story that made me thankful for a long commute, and fantastic world-building.

For readers' advisors: story, character, and setting doorways are all strong. It's marketed as teen fiction, but it works for adults, too, especially fans of steampunk, alternative history, and urban fantasy. Since it's aimed at a YA audience, there is some kissing but no sex, bad language, or graphic violence. It would likely also appeal to fans of Patricia C Wrede's Frontier Magic series.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Crepes of Wrath

The Crêpes of Wrath (A Pancake House Mystery #1)The Crêpes of Wrath by Sarah Fox
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Marley McKinney came to the tiny coastal town of Wildwood Cove to spend a couple of weeks running her Cousin Jimmy's restaurant while he recuperated in the hospital. When he is murdered right after returning to town, Marley struggles to help the police uncover the culprit without becoming the next victim.

What I liked about the first book in this new series:
*It was set on the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula.
*The story was interesting, with a few twists and turns.

What I didn't like:
*The budding relationship between Marley and her former crush, Brett, felt too obvious and artificial.
*The dilemma of whether to stay in Wildwood or return to Seattle would have been much more convincing if her life in Seattle didn't sound so lonely & unfulfilling.
*The writing felt very amateurish in many places. Ms. Fox's editor should have helped her tighten her language and eliminate the zillions of repetitions (& variations) of the phrases "spinning thoughts" and "filled my mind." For example, on page 2 of chapter 3, there is an entire paragraph listing questions that Marley is thinking about, followed by a completely unnecessary one-sentence paragraph stating, "Those questions circled around and around in my head." Thank you, Captain Obvious! Removing that extraneous sentence would make the story flow much better, and this is just one example of many.

Bottom line:
The series has promise, but it needs more polish.

For readers' advisors: story doorway is primary, setting secondary. It's a cozy mystery, so a couple of kisses but no sex, graphic violence, or profanity.

I read an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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