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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-05-18 21:32
Chasing nonsense
The Girl Who Chased the Moon - Sarah Addison Allen

This one lost a whole rating point simply because the title had no connection to the story.  I hate that.

 

Various spoilers abound, so be warned.

 

I borrowed the book from my local public library, and some previous borrower had done me a huge favor:  She (or he) had neatly underlined in pencil all the instances the author referred to a character tucking her loose hair behind her ear.  There were a lot of them.  Enough to be annoying.  While I chalk part of that up to lazy writing, I put more burden on the editors.  This wasn't a self-published Kindle book; the Bantam editors should have done a better job.

 

The four or five typos didn't bother me as much as the business with the hair.

 

The writing style struck me as more suited to a juvenile or young adult book, and maybe this would be classified as YA.  Some of the themes were definitely more adult, I thought, but I'm not an expert on what constitutes young adult versus adult fiction.  I just thought the author's style was choppy and sometimes awkward.  At least for me.

 

Emily Benedict's mother Dulcie has recently died, so Emily heads to Mullaby, North Carolina, to live with Dulcie's father, Vance Shelby.  Vance, who is eight feet tall, lives on the ground floor of the old family mansion.  He welcomes Emily and tells her to take whichever room she wishes; she settles in her mother's old room.

 

It's the summer before her senior year in high school, and though Emily's education has been received at the Roxley School for Girls that her mother founded in Boston, she has no apprehension about meeting people in Mullaby, a small Southern town notable for its barbecue restaurants.  Within her first few days in Mullaby, Emily meets Win Coffey, a young man her own age, and Julia Winterson, who was a classmate of her mother's.  Julia owns one of the restaurants and bakes cakes for it.  She also takes Emily under her wing, so to speak.

 

So far, so good.  The characters were three-dimensionally solid, if quirky, and I didn't have any difficulty making them come alive in my mind.

 

BUT --

 

Everyone seems to have secrets that they aren't willing to share.  Some of the secrets involve what might be called magic.  This would be fine except that there's no reason given for not sharing these secrets.

 

Now, here's the big spoiler.

 

Emily's mother Dulcie had a romance going with Win Coffey's uncle, Logan Coffey.  Dulcie forced Logan to publicly divulge his family's deep, dark, horrible secret, after which Logan committed suicide.  The Coffey family blamed Dulcie for Logan's suicide, but now everyone in Mullaby knew the Coffey family secret.

 

No one, however, would tell Emily.  Her grandfather warned her to stay away from Win; Win's father wouldn't let the two teens see each other.  Julia knew the secret, but wouldn't tell Emily.  And even though he knew everyone in town knew the secret -- and therefore could tell Emily at any time -- Win procrastinated about telling her.  No one in town ever spoke of it, even though Win and his father Morgan were always out and about around town.

 

And what's the secret?  Why is it that the Coffey men have to be in the house before dark and can't go out again until the sun comes up?  Are they vampires or werewolves?

 

No, not vampires or werewolves.  They have a genetic disorder that makes them glow in the moonlight.  Yeah.

 

 

This was just so silly.  And everyone knew!  So what was the big deal?

 

Well, then there's the business with the wallpaper in Emily's bedroom.  It keeps changing.  First it was just pretty violets.  Then it turned into fluttering butterflies.  Then glittering stars.  And Emily never questions this?  Never asks her grandfather?  Never says anything to her friend Julia?  Nor is there ever explanation given as to why the magical wallpaper matters.

 

Julia, the baker of cakes, has her own little bit of magic, and hers is probably the best integrated to the story.  I liked Julia, and I liked her story of unrequited love, heartbreak, emotional abandonment, and finally her ambition as an adult to succeed against all odds.  Her backstory was also the most believable, the most uplifting, and the twist to her stepmother's revelation was the most emotionally satisfying part of the whole book.

 

If not for Julia, I might have given up on the book at about the 30% point.  Julia had emotional baggage.  The teen-aged Emily, though she had gone through a lot of emotional turbulence in her young life, didn't have the angst necessary to pull this reader in.  Julia did.

 

The silliness of the "magic" aspects of the book pulled its rating down another full point, but there was still another weakness that I couldn't get past: The author had difficulty making her male characters multi-dimensional.  Win was so sweet, and his insta-love for Emily was so precious.  His father was just the opposite, all bitterness and anger.  Even Grandfather Vance, the "gentle giant," was more a caricature than a character -- and his gigantism had no real relevance to the story.  The author just seemed to have stumbled across the fact of the early 20th century giant -- who died at age 22 and height of almost nine feet -- and decided, oh, this is cool, so I'll have a giant in my story.

 

Only Julia's love interest, the handsome Sawyer Alexander, was more than a cardboard figure.  He, too, had emotional baggage that developed slowly and carefully through the narrative, and his little bit of magic was, along with Julia's, crafted to be integral to the tale rather than grafted on.

 

Overall, a light, pleasant read with little substance other than Julia's story.  I wouldn't offer a positive recommendation, but it's not terrible, either.

 

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review 2017-05-18 21:23
Love Spell
Crystal Cove - Lisa Kleypas

We started this on audio, but I finished it on kindle. I liked this one a lot more than many of Kleypas fans. In fact, I liked it quite a bit. I probably helped that I didn't have high expectations. I liked Justine from the other books, but I wasn't particularly attached to her character. She seemed a bit shallow but kind in the other books. I have the feeling that Kleypas didn't have Justine's character fleshed out initially. She must have spent some time with Justine in between Dream Lake and this book and came up with who we see in Crystal Cove.

As Kleypas continues the magical realism theme in this series, this one is very much "Practical Magic." I love the book and the movie, and Kleypas does it justice, with her own spin. Justine is a hereditary witch. She's not heavily into it, although she does at times do some minor spellwork. Justine realizes that the reason why she's hasn't had luck with love is because her mother cursed her to never fall in love. Justine does a spell of her own to remove the geas. This backfires. In the meantime, she meets Jason Black, a billionaire badboy tech genius who buys up Alex Nolan's land to build a retreat for his business. Jason stays at her inn and there is an instant attraction between them. Jason is the kind of man who is dangerous to a woman. He has no concept of love or commitment. And he has a good reason. He has no soul. I can't say that all of Jason's issues arise out of his souless status. It's moreso due to his abusive father and how he treated his mother. I liked that Jason is part Japanese and this culture is part of who he is. They both share some family trauma. Justine's mother is a horrible person. Jason's dad is a horrible person. Both have been shaped by their horrible parents.

What an interesting combination.

I didnt' really get the whole no soul thing. It was pretty darn real. It doesn't make sense for my own spiritual perspective. But okay, I just went along with it. The witchcraft thing is something that you can idea ignore or embrace, but if it's a hard limit, this isn't the book for that reader. Since Kleypas is going with "Practical Magic", it's hard to not have it in this book.

Like always, Kleypas' writing is beautiful and immersive. Jason has a bit of a kinky thing going on with the bedroom, but it's not out of my personal comfort zone. He has some control issues, and that thing he's into delves into this aspect of his personality. Out of the books in Friday Harbor series, this book is the most sexually explicit, but it makes sense with the characters in the book.

I have to admit, I really believed in the love that developed between Jason and Justine. They are both cynical about love, so it's so beautiful the way it develops between them, and it's a sacrificial love. The conclusion is both strange but also very beautiful.

I liked this book a lot more than I expected. I ended up falling for Justine and Jason. While witchy romance isn't my favorite kind of paranormal romance, I think that Kleypas served up a lovely one here. I definitely preferred this to Rainshadow Road. The character of Jason has so much more substance than Sam, in my opinion. I think I prefer Justine to Lucy as well.

My Friday Harbor Book Preference:

1. Dream Lake
2. Crystal Cove
3. Christmas at Friday Harbor
4. Rainshadow Road

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review 2017-05-18 07:35
Learning to Live
Dream Lake - Lisa Kleypas

Dream Lake Review (finally)

I was excited to read Alex’s story and I was not disappointed. Alex out of all the Nolans grabbed my heart and squeezed it, wouldn’t let it go. Alex has traits that make him my kryptonite. I adored him. He’s tortured and grumpy. He’s described as having a ruined beauty that women can’t resist, but he’s not a womanizer. While having a broken beau is nothing a woman should aspire to in life, broken heroes seem to appeal to me like no other. I loved seeing Alex’s damaged psyche be healed in a realistic way. Kleypas doesn’t take any shortcuts. She shows you all the dark spots on Alex’s soul, even his destructive, unhealthy relationship with his ex-wife, Darcy. While Zoe in herself doesn’t heal Alex, the functionality of their relationship is a sharp contrast to his failed marriage. While Darcy seemed to want to put Alex back on the rails with his drinking, Zoe wants Alex to be whole and healed, not for herself, but for him. When Alex and Zoe meet in Rainshadow Road, it felt like magic to me, and it turned out to be the case. Zoe and Alex are made for each other. Zoe is fairly well balanced. She does have some self-esteem issues due to her extreme beauty and voluptuous physique, and the trauma of being judged for it. To the extent that she marries a man who is gay because he doesn’t objectify her. While Alex is obviously completely blown away by Zoe, he doesn’t treat her like a sex object, and in actuality, tries to push her away because he knows he’s damaged goods. However, the connection between them cannot be ignored. I ate up their falling in love. Enjoyed every scene they had together. Zoe’s major issue is the failing health of her grandmother. Her grandmother has a form of dementia that escalates rapidly, and Zoe takes on the role as caregiver. Alex takes on the job of remodeling the cottage that Zoe’s cousin Justine lets her live in with her grandmother. Their proximity is an excellent opportunity for the powerful emotions between them to blossom. And in seeing each other under their worst situations, they realize that love isn’t about perfection but about loving perfectly.

Kleypas was going for a magical realism theme with this series, and this book reminded me of “Like Water for Chocolate” or “Simply Irresistible” with some “Ghost” thrown in. Zoe’s cooking seems to have healing properties, although I don’t think there was really any magic in it. It was merely a case of the fact that her food was what sustained Alex and tempted him to eat when he was at the lowest point in his alcoholism. The ghost angle comes in with the spirit that attaches himself to Alex, a spirit that lives in the house that Alex’s brother Sam owns and that Alex has taken on restoring. Alex seems driven to restore the house, and the spirit becomes attached to Alex in the process. It’s hate at first sight. The spirit can’t stand Alex, who comes off as a complete misanthrope if not nihilist. It’s Alex’s hero’s journey to heal spiritually and to rid himself of the dark cloud that has surrounded him since his traumatic childhood, being victimized by two violent, unrestrained drunks. I don’t know what Kleypas’ spiritual beliefs are but she see doesn’t shy away from adding a spiritual component to this novel, that make sense in that we’re dealing with a ghost and a hero who is having a major existential crisis. The ghost often functions as Alex’s conscience and in some ways, much like the ghosts that visit Ebeneezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.” This is another book in which Kleypas obvious love of literature is showcased and lovingly inscribed into her writing.

This book is my favorite out of the series, and it earns a resounding five stars. I think that it captures the tone and the notes of a beautiful contemporary romance only as Kleypas could deliver. She uses language so beautifully, from the well-developed characters, to the intentional and spot on dialogue. While the ghost story didn’t really add to this book for me, it’s integral to the story, and it would definitely appeal to readers who like a little paranormal in their romance. Not as excited about Justine’s book, but at the same time, looking forward to reading it.

Oh, I guess I should mention the audiobook narration. It was good. Serviceable.

My dream cast:

Kelli Garner as Zoe

Nicholas Hoult as Alex

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review 2017-05-18 07:25
Art is Life
Rainshadow Road - Lisa Kleypas

I read this book back in the summer, and I never got around to writing the review. If I had a word to describe it, it's charming. At the same time, I can't say either Lucy or Sam would be anywhere near the top of my list of favorite Lisa Kleypas characters or couples. In fact, I did have minor issues with both of them. Sam more than Lucy.

Lucy made me want to yell at her a few times. I didn't get why she let Alice get away with so much, although LK did a good job of explaining the complexities of the sister relationship and the fact that Alice getting away was stuff was doing business as normal. But I wanted Lucy to get Alice told, and she didn't quite do that. Alice is a mega-brat and she needed someone to hold her accountable for the crap she'd done and instigated in her short life, and Lucy wasn't willing to do it. I think Lucy will appeal to a lot of readers, because she does seem like a normal kind of woman (despite her magical abilities).

Sam, well he just comes off as selfish in that he is living his life and that's his thing. His family dysfunction is there, but he was able to escape from it in a way that his other siblings couldn't, I don't think. He had the neighbors to hide out with and they were like grandparents, giving him a sense of safety. Although I read Dream Lake after this, I started to think of these books as a group. Sam lives in the shadow of Alex for me. Sam managed to avoid most of the angst that hit Alex full in the face, so it’s not wonder that Alex is a trainwreck.

I know that a big issue that I have with Sam is his attitudes towards sex and relationships, or lack thereof. He had no desire for a meaningful relationship. Yes, as the child of two alcoholics, that makes sense. I think if he had shown more depth, I could have connected to him and his reasons. I did like that he finally realized how much Lucy meant to him and his gesture was so sweet and authentic.

As far as Sam and Lucy's relationship, it was pleasant. I did believe they loved each other, but it's hard to get too involved in their relationship considering that I didn't have strong feelings for either of them.

I liked the magical elements. It was different and unique. It's subtly done but integral to the storyline. Kleypas doesn't really explain why Lucy has this ability and no one else in her family does. I don't know if it's because of the fact that Alice always got all the attention and this was a gift that belonged her her alone.

I've read all the books in this series, and this is my least favorite. I think it lacks the punch that later books have, and with Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor, Holly pretty much cinches the story. Holly was in this book and I liked how Sam does connect with Holly, and that is an aspect of the story that gives Sam an added depth.

I have very high standards for Lisa Kleypas. She's been one of my favorite authors, well, for most of my life. I like her foray into something different, and she did it well, but this doesn't stand up well to her other books. Normally most of her heroes turn me into goo, but Sam left me very unmelted.

So, I gave this one 3.5/5.0 stars.

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review 2017-05-15 23:00
HOME IMPROVEMENT UNDEAD EDITION - VARIOUS AUTHORS
Home Improvement: Undead Edition - Simon R. Green,Heather Graham,James Grady,Charlaine Harris,S.J. Rozan,Rochelle Krich,Toni L.P. Kelner,E.E. Knight,Victor Gischler,Stacia Kane,Melissa Marr,Suzanne McLeod,Seanan McGuire,Patricia Briggs

Anthology The rating I'll round up to 3 but only a few of the stories were worth reading

1. If I Had a Hammer, Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse #13.1). It's been awhile since I read a Sookie book so this was really nice to read about her now. Even though I thought I'd everything out there this story was new. I liked it, I just wish the Sookie wouldn't be hypocritical where other people are concerned. Sookie even acknowledges it but is more like, "Oh well, that's how I think." Very good story. 4 stars.

2. Wizard Home Security, Victor Gischler. A wizard is robbed, pays for security, is trapped by the security and then thwarts the robber. Super short. 3 stars.

3. Gray, Patricia Briggs: (Mercy Thompson universe). A very good story about a female vampire who moves back home hoping to find some peace. 4 stars.

4. Squatters' Rights, Rocelle Krich. A story about a house with a bad history and how that affects the new owners. I have no idea what was going on with the "squatters". 2 stars.

5. Blood on the Wall, Heather Graham. A mild mannered detective stops a killer that's targeting a fake demon cult. We never figure out why they were targeted in the first place. 2 stars.

6. The Mansion of Imperatives, James Grady. A strange story that I think the author was trying to make scary but didn't really suceed. 2 stars.

7. The Strength Inside, Melissa Marr. Sisters and the children they take care of are trying to improve their home and use unconventional (or should I say ancient) methods to do so. Strange story. 3 stars.

8. Woolsey's Kitchen Nightmare, EE Knight. Morbid and flippant don't usually go together and they don't in my opinion. 2 stars.

9. Through This House, Seanan McGuire (October Daye #4.5) A good story about Goldengreen and some of the horrors that took place there. 4 stars

10. The Path, S J Rozan. I really tried to read this story but it was soooo slooowww. I just gave up. No rating.

11. Rick the Brave, Stacia Kane (Downside #5.5) I miss Terrible and Chess! Please Stacia Kane, write another book in their series!!! This is a short story about a home improvement project that goes bad. 5 stars.

12. Full-Scale Demolition, Suzanne McLeod (Spellcrackers) Cute story about a Sidhe who's job is to round up fae that are causing a commotion. There's a kelpie that the heroine is attracted to if she can get beyond the kelpie tendencies to drown people. Throw in a couple of lamias and children to rescue - it should have been a lot of fighting but mostly it was getting hit, passing out and then waking up. (Another book I'm reading has the same passing out theme. A little frustrating.) 3-1/2 stars.

13. It's All in the Rendering, Simon Green. This couple lives and works in a sanctuary house for the normal and paranormal world. Both sides inspect the home and say all kinds of changes need to be done. The couple and the guests discuss different options, end up doing nothing and that's what works. What the frick!? 2 stars

14. In Brightest Day, Tony Kelner. The author was trying to write humor for the main character or at least make her humorous. To me, it didn't work. And bringing back the same guy over and over was really cruel. The reason didn't seem enough for me. 2 stars.

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