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review 2019-07-15 18:33
Too Many Coincidences and POVs
Then She Was Gone - Lisa Jewell

So it took me a while to finish this one because the first part of the story drags. Jewell starts off with two POVs with the mother (Laurel) and days before Ellie's disappearance. But then we get two additional POVs (no spoilers) and I just went grr. I also thought that Laurel was kind of a terrible mother. I can't imagine what I would do if one of my kids went missing and was presumed dead. She just gets angry her husband is trying to move on (for them and their remaining two kids) and then she compares her missing daughter to the one still alive (Hanna) and goes on how Ellie was prettier and livelier and would have been her friend more. I feel like it's in the parenting 101 manual you don't compare your kids and have favorites. Or if you do compare, you don't go you are so much less than your sister.  The writing was kind of all over the place and I had just could not wrap my head around the reveal. It was a mess and a half and the HEA we get just didn't jibe with what came before it.


"Then She Was Gone" follows Laurel Mack who is still reeling ten years later from her daughter Ellie going missing. Ellie was 15 years old when she disappeared and the police believe she ran away. However, Laurel doesn't believe that and still thinks her daughter is out there somewhere or she has to be dead because Ellie was so happy in their family and wouldn't have left. I think the only true thing that is shown in this book is that Laurel spent way too much of her time sweating the small stuff and then when something bigger and uglier came along she was angry and took it out on the wrong people afterwards. Her husband and her come apart and she's partially estranged from her son and the only part of her life her daughter Hanna lets her in on is that Laurel comes by once a week to clean her flat. Seriously. I just went good grief.

When Laurel meets a man named Ford and his daughter Poppy everything turns around for her. She finds herself falling for Ford and that Poppy acts and looks similar to her daughter Ellie she is ready to throw herself into this ready made family. 


I really couldn't get into Laurel. Judgmental is not the word. She has an awful thought about it should have been her daughter Hanna that went missing and I think most of the book is her thinking this in slightly different ways. And then she apologizes and it feels very trite. We do get to know Ellie and I think that part was good, but I wish we had gotten more insight into Hanna and the other sibling as well. It definitely felt like Laurel just saw Ellie with rose colored glasses and remembered no negativity. 


Positives would be that the writing in this one was fairly easy to get into. I finished it in about 3 hours. There's not a lot of things that are going to strain your brain. The problem is that you get info dumped towards the end and at that point I was just humming to myself until I finished. The flow was up and down with the four POVs and the final epilogue and then another ending (don't ask).

The setting of the book takes place in contemporary times in London. I have to say though that most of the book seems to be in two or three key locations. Laurel is constantly going on about her daughter Hanna's flat and how gloomy it is. I think she mentions her place a few times. She's constantly at her new love interest's home and then there are two other locations I won't spoil in this one.

The ending was trying for unsettling, but honestly I just could not believe it. It read as very fake to me (with how Jewell ends it) and I think she should have really pushed the ending there because I had a hard time going okay cool everyone's happy based on what came before it. I also think that Jewell let us know the outcome of what happened way too soon. We just had to wait for clues to be laid out and for everyone to catch up to what really happened. 


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review 2019-07-12 14:36
A Fry Cook With Heart
Odd Thomas - Dean Koontz

I was in the mood for a long cry so I read this book. Yes, I know how that sounds, but it's true. I first read Odd Thomas back in 2003 when it was first published. I had just moved to DC and was reeling from having to move after just burying my mother the month before. So reading this book I had no idea what was coming. Dean Koontz at that time was a comfort read for me. I loved to read his books and he was up there with Stephen King as autobuys. This was before Koontz descended into the dogs all the time and perfectly beautiful flawless female characters he has in all of his books. Oh and everyone being a military expert with guns. Anyway, back to Odd Thomas. This book hit me in the gut back then and I think I just cried for hours after finishing. I was surprised by this book in a good way and afterwards ended up reading the entire series. Too bad the series ended up going downhill in quality. I often think that Koontz should have just left this alone and let Odd Thomas be a standalone. I will eventually go back and re-read the earlier books since my reviews that I had written are no longer on Amazon. 


"Odd Thomas" is told in the first person POV by a character named Odd. He's just a fry cook who has a great girlfriend named Stormy, and has a straight forward way of speaking and thinking. Odd is a bit different than other people because he can see ghosts. And what he starts to see in the town of Pico Mundo is going to change his life forever.


Since I have read about Odd through 7 books and one novella, I have to say that I know this character very well. When I first read this I thought how unique the character sounded and acted and just loved him. My re-read did not change that. He still is very unique and precise in the way that he thinks and speak. There are some  parts of him that remind me of other characters that Koontz has written (Christopher Snow, "Fear Nothing" and Curtis, "One Door Away From Heaven"). Odd sees things that he calls bodachs and also has what he calls psychic magnetism that pulls him to people or places where something may occur.  When Odd starts to see a huge amount of bodachs around Pico Mundo and feels pulls toward a mysterious man he and Stormy try to figure out what is going on.


The other characters in this book pull you in. I loved the relationship between Stormy and Odd. You figure out eventually why Stormy is the way she is, and why she loves Odd. 

There are other characters who are going to appear in the series so it's good to get a sense of them now, those like Chief Wyatt Porter and Little Ozzie. 

The writing can be a bit wearing after a while I think. You just want Odd to get to the point quicker, but I think in this first book it was charming and it allows you to stay with the character and get to see other people and places through his eyes. The flow was actually pretty good. In his most recent works, Koontz's chapters have been laughably short and always seem to end on a dire note. That gets old after a while.

The setting of Pico Mundo seems very eccentric.The people that live there and one of the ghosts that visits Odd (no spoilers) cracked me up here and there. 


The ending is a definite gut punch that I was surprised that Koontz went with. His books tend to end on happy notes for the most part. This definitely made me think of King though since he's something he would have done and went merrily about his way. 

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review 2019-06-18 16:40
This Was a Heck No Times Two
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce Series #1) - Alan Bradley

Seriously...I see that some of you all liked/loved this one but I am baffled. This is up there with "The Catcher in the Rye" with most loathsome young adult character I have read in like decades. Flavia is dancing towards being a psychopath. I would have brained her for the crap she was doing to her two sisters. And all of them were just the most dysfunctional family ever. I can't even tell you much about the murder. Someone was murdered. Flavia "investigated". Bah. At least I counted it for two separate games. 


So "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" follows Flavia De Luce. A man is found murdered in her family's garden and her father is soon taken into custody accused of the murder. Flavia who overheard her father fighting with the dead man thinks he did it, but is focused on getting him cleared of murder. Flavia's eleven and I guess could be called precocious. I don't know. I know she bugged the ever living life out of me. 


Look I don't know what to even say except I didn't like this one. Bradley didn't do a good job of developing Flavia beyond her being a terrible ass child. I can't say much about anyone else that is in this since they are merely there for Flavia to do terrible things to. My brothers would have buried me in our yard if I got up to half the stuff that she did.

The writing was unintentionally funny and circled back to Flavia being awful.



They’ll charge him with murder,” Ophelia said, “and then he’ll be hanged!”

She burst into tears again and turned away.

For a moment I almost felt sorry for her."


“What is it? My symbol, I mean.” “It’s a P,” he said. “Capital P.” “A P?” I asked, surprised. “What does P stand for?” “Ah,” he said, “that’s best left to the imagination.”


The flow was awful. Seriously. I had a hard time paying attention while reading this one. And it felt like sometimes that chapters went on forever. Bradley didn't do a good job of ending the chapters on a high or low note. Sometimes the next chapter was just following up with the action in the last scene so I was baffled why he chose to cut things off where he did. 

The book takes place in the 1920s in England. I don't know...it just read off to me the whole time. Maybe the dialogue was too modern and other times something seemed off. I don't know.

The book ended and I breathed a sound of relief. I have no intention of reading the other books in this series. 


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review 2019-06-01 05:36
Thoughts: Mortal Arts
Mortal Arts - Anna Lee Huber

Mortal Arts

by Anna Lee Huber
Book 2 of Lady Darby Mystery



Scotland, 1830.  Lady Kiera Darby is no stranger to intrigue—in fact, it seems to follow wherever she goes.  After her foray into murder investigation, Kiera must journey to Edinburgh with her family so that her pregnant sister can be close to proper medical care.  But the city is full of many things Kiera isn’t quite ready to face: the society ladies keen on judging her, her fellow investigator—and romantic entanglement—Sebastian Gage, and ultimately, another deadly mystery.

Kiera’s old friend Michael Dalmay is about to be married, but the arrival of his older brother—and Kiera’s childhood art tutor—William, has thrown everything into chaos.  For ten years Will has been missing, committed to an insane asylum by his own father.  Kiera is sympathetic to her mentor’s plight, especially when rumors swirl about a local girl gone missing.  Now Kiera must once again employ her knowledge of the macabre and join forces with Gage in order to prove the innocence of a beloved family friend—and save the marriage of another…

Mortal Arts picks up about two months following the events in the first book.  Our characters are headed towards Edinburgh with the intention of settling Kiera's sister, Alana, more comfortably during her pregnancy, in a place more suited to her than Gairloch castle.  But the group is delayed by a summons to a family friend's estates, Dalmay House.

This book touches upon a lot of sensitive subjects, specifically concerning William Dalmay, who was recently found to have been secreted away in an insane asylum by his own father for the past nine years.  It's disheartening to our heroine, as well as friends of the family, to learn that it had been the old Lord Dalmay's inability to accept or understand how Will had changed and suffered after the war that had lead him to sending his son away.  This book also includes a mystery of the disappearance of a girl in the village, whom many are starting to think might have had something to do with William Dalmay.

This book, aside from being a mystery and a build up to romance, I think, takes a rather risky, yet thought-provoking approach to also touch upon the impact of war on the men who fought in it, and how society dealt with such an affect on people during those times.  Will suffers not only battle fatigue, but is also barely recovering from his years being held against his will in an insane asylum--in present-day, his condition would be known as PTSD.  And it's sad to say that people's reaction to this during historical times is not too different than present-day, even if we've become more advanced and open-minded over the decades.

Gage stared down at the swirled pattern of the rug before him.  "Battle-hardened soldiers are far more likely to endure in silence.  It's all they know.  And if they were to admit to having difficulties, who would they tell?" he asked Miss Remmington.  "Our society doesn't exactly welcome such confessions."

I bowed my head.  One only had to look at the old Lord Dalmay's reaction to his son, and his decision to place him in a lunatic asylum, to understand that.  Our nation was eager to welcome home conquering heroes, not broken men.

I admit, I found satisfaction in seeing Kiera finally snap at someone, as she tends to curb her anger and disappear into the woodwork without voicing her opinions.  She did that a lot at the beginning of this book, and so I appreciated, both the exchange that took place with the young, naive Elise Remmington questioning the validity of William Dalmay's nightmares and inability to re-enter society based on society's norms after he'd returned from war.  Truth is, I wanted to slap the little chit myself for being ignorant, but it's hard to fault her when it is society and those who lead society who try to sugar-coat reality, thus keeping their own people, especially women and anyone of genteel breeding, in ignorance.


But Miss Remmington was not placated by such answers.  "But, truly, how bad could it be?  Men have always gone off to war and come home again.  The history books don't talk about them coming home with nightmares."  Her hands fisted in her lap and she scowled.  "It seems to me Lord Dalmay must have done something particularly awful if it troubled him so much."

A bolt of pure fury shot though me, stiffening my spine.  "And who are you to judge?  You who've never been asked to take up a sword or a rifle and kill someone in the defense of your king and country.  War is a nasty, horrific experience, not handsome men in uniform marching side by side with flashing sabers.  It's slogging through muck, and scrounging for food when the supplies do not come through.  It's witnessing the devastation trampling armies have wrought on the countryside and the livelihoods of innocent people.  It's watching your friend die in a muddy field full of corpses."

I guess what riled me the most was that, in the end, Kiera had to apologize to everyone for being so blunt about reality, and yet Elise Remmington never even offered so much as quiet repentance for her rudeness.  That even after Kiera's outburst, one of the other characters still felt that she was merely trying to be mean in scaring Elise Remmington.  Whether that character was simply trying to coddle Miss Remmington or was genuinely ignorant of the realities of war, I'm not sure, but I had to roll my eyes.

As far as the mystery is concerned (because, yes, there was a mystery in there), I felt like it was rather solid, even if kind of predictable from the start.  The direction it takes certainly has you thinking and doubting your own conclusions at times, and I love how easily and naturally Kiera and Mr. Gage kind of just fall into the investigation like an old partnership, despite having really only worked on one murder case together a couple months ago in the timeline.

I enjoyed their slowly building chemistry, though I must admit, the banter left much to be desired.  I get that the romance is going to be a slow burn, but I'm still not a hundred percent certain I'm feeling any love for their relationship as a romantic couple at the moment.  They work well together in terms of investigating the mysterious disappearance of a young woman in the village--whenever Gage isn't keeping secrets from Kiera, that is--but I feel like their romance is still a bit lacking.  And maybe this truly is a very slow burn that will take a few more books to come to fruition... in a way, I don't mind.

I'm much more interested in seeing Kiera get requests to help investigate more mysteries.

Writing-wise, I absolutely enjoyed the descriptions of the decrepit castle, and the lands surrounding Dalmay House.  I would have also liked to see more descriptions of the house itself, as we are lead to believe that the place is quite grand, catching Kiera by surprise, when she'd been living in a castle for so long.

There may have been some tangents that felt overmuch, but I quickly forgot about those as the story drew me right in, ending with a rather melancholic conclusion, even if it was a rather expected one.

As with some of the historical mysteries I've been reading lately, Lady Kiera Darby's narrative leads us to anticipate the events of the next mystery awaiting us in the book to follow, and I'm very much looking forward to it.



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/05/thoughts-mortal-arts.html
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review 2019-05-29 19:15
Swashbuckling fun
Lord Johnnie - Leslie Turner White

Thank you to Linda Hilton for the rec :)


This book was so much fun, Raiden wanted to get into the spirit. I told him to give me his best pirate mean mug



He did not disappoint, lol.



"The road of life leaves as strong an imprint on the man as the man leaves on the road, Johnnie. We are all the fruits of our experiences. You can't change that."

"A bitter truth," he agreed.

She studied him a long while in silence. "That girl has altered your outlook, hasn't she?"

"Let's say she clarified it, your Grace."


If you're a fan of Errol Flynn movies or any of variation of Robin Hood tv shows, you'll want to get a copy of this. 


Johnnie Rogue was born a bastard, his father supposedly died at sea and didn't make it back to marry Johnnie's mother, while she died in childbirth. With an English mother and Scottish father, living in France was difficult and Johnnie had to turn to thievery to survive. When he makes it back to England he becomes a bold and brash highwayman who eventually gets caught. 


"The procedure is simple enough: ye marry a condemned rascal, who as yer 'usband becomes legally responsible fer yer debts. We promptly 'angs 'im, leavin' ye a pretty little widow, free as a bird o' both 'usban' an' debts."


Lady Leanna is dangerously in debt and looks to marry a condemned man, using the loophole of her "husband" being responsible for the debts and when he gets hung, the debts are wiped out because he paid for his "crime". As rogues are want to do in these stories, Johnnie escapes the hangman's noose. 


"All right—I'll be honest, I'll tell you something I never spoke aloud before, because, until the moment you walked into Newgate, it was nothing but a vain, silly, hopeless wish." He talked rapidly, as if trying to keep ahead of the restraint of reason. "I have always wanted to be a gentleman! I've hated sordidness and poverty, hated coarseness and vulgarity. Then, miraculously, you came into that hell-hole and married me. In that I saw the hand of Providence. I would have been a fool to have thrown the opportunity away."


While Johnnie might be a rascal, he's actually only wanted to live a lawful life, poverty and circumstance led him down a different road. When he finds Leanna after escaping death, he sees her as his salvation, Leanna does not feel the same way as she has someone else in mind for marriage. There's a sex scene that fades to black very quickly and a deal struck between the two that after one night of pretending to be husband and wife, Johnnie will disappear from her life forever. They leave on good terms but a later possible betrayal leaves Johnnie bitter towards Leanna and leads him to berate himself for thinking he could go legit. 


These sodden creatures were without initiative; blindly they subscribed to the old rule of the sea: Grumble you may, obey you must.


We leave land to take to the high seas because Johnnie gets captured by the press gangs, which eventually leads to him starting a mutiny and becoming a captain. He decides to travel to America, because he saw Leanna board a ship with her beau headed there and decides he can't live without her. This desire for Leanna feels a bit empty because the reader doesn't really "know" Leanna and what we do of her, doesn't make her a sympathetic character as Johnnie is the lead and is the one the reader's are endeared to. 


There is some highseas action and conscious searching in regards to Johnnie helping out England in what is the tumultuous climate of America and England about to go to war and France slithering around. Strong secondary characters help round these parts, Ben Bottle - also press ganged and helps Johnnie pull off the mutiny and becomes his right hand man, Old Ames - Johnnie searched him out to get information on his father, Ames gets press ganged with Johnnie and becomes his source of information on how to survive at sea as Ames is an old sea dog, and 1st Lt. Yew - forced to stay on after the mutiny and spends most the time being frenemies with Johnnie. There are a couple others, like the Duchess of Tallentyre, Reggie, who I would delight in reading their own books.


For first being published in 1949, this has aged remarkably well. The dialect of the sailors was a little hard to read and understand, forcing me to reread some parts and Johnnie's friend Ben had a tendency to use the saying "Rape me" as a sort of replacement for "I'll be", which threw me a couple times. Other than that, the writing, characters, and story stand strong in this time. 


For me, this was more of a swashbuckling adventure than romance. We hardly get to know Leanna and she and Johnnie spend very limited time together. This was more of the journey Johnnie goes on and the five women who send him on it:  Mother - dies in childbirth, Leanna - marries Johnnie, betrays him, and inspires hope for him to go legit, Moll - starts off as his friend helping to rescue him only to betray him, Mrs. Bloodsymthe - helps reinforce his loyalty to Leanna and rescues him after she sees him as rescuing her, and Reggie - helps him get the opportunity to escape New York. 


Johnnie stays loyal to Leanna after he meets her but he also has a moment where he kidnaps her in front of society, thus taking away any decision she would have made and ruining her reputation; he does eventually leave her to make her own decision on staying with him but I wish we could have gotten a stronger sense of her feelings.


All in all, this was so much fun. If you miss Errol Flynn characters, Johnnie the Rogue's courage, ingenuity, charm, luck, and wit, while longing for Leanna and a life of legitimacy, is a story you'll want to pick up.


Johnnie the Rogue is dead, and John Ballantyne has emerged."





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