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review 2019-12-12 05:05
Save the Date by Monica Murphy
Save The Date (Dating #1) - Monica Murphy

Caroline Abbott works at a high end stationary store that sells a lot of wedding-related stuff, like save the date cards, wedding invitations, and thank you cards. She's used to dealing with bridezillas, so her newest customer, Tiffany, doesn't throw her much, but the identity of Tiffany's fiance does. It turns out that Tiffany is getting married to Alex Wilder, Caroline's first crush. The last time they saw each other was when she was 12 and he was 14. He gave her her first kiss and then disappeared.

It's a shock to see Alex again, especially like this. When she was a kid, Caroline never realized that Alex came from a wealthy family. It's a bit strange that he's getting married so quickly, only a month or so after meeting Tiffany, and he doesn't even seem to like her much. But Caroline tries to be professional, do her job, and not ogle Alex, who is definitely no longer the gawky boy he used to be. Then she accidentally discovers that Tiffany is cheating on Alex, and things become even more complicated.

This was one of my Book Bonanza purchases. I tend to be drawn to illustrated covers, and this looked cute and fun. I went into this expecting a zany romantic comedy in which Caroline and Alex would awkwardly try to reconnect while dodging Tiffany's probably over-the-top attempts at getting revenge against Caroline and/or Alex. Instead, the writing style made me question what genre I was dealing with - Caroline's first person present tense POV felt more chick lit than romantic comedy, to me - and Caroline and Alex's early flirtation, prior to Caroline discovering that Alex was one of her newest customers, had me wondering whether it was actually going to be Alex who cheated first rather than Tiffany.

While Caroline and Alex didn't kiss or even spend much time together until after Alex learned about Tiffany's cheating and ended their engagement, it still felt uncomfortably like Tiffany was set up for failure. She was horrible and annoying and, even so, I felt a bit sorry for her. From the sounds of things, after the initial shine of their relationship wore off, Alex basically stopped paying much attention to Tiffany, spent most of his time at work, and procrastinated on getting her an engagement ring. Yeah, Tiffany was a gold digger who rushed him into a wedding, but he let himself be rushed. It was like he just couldn't be bothered to break up with her and was going to marry her because it was easier than telling her "no."

Which, honestly, didn't make him an appealing romantic hero. The parts of the book from his POV came across as wooden and boring, and my impression of him only worsened after he and Caroline decided to succumb to their attraction to each other. I think readers were supposed to see them as a better, more solid couple than Alex and Tiffany, but instead I saw Caroline as Alex's Tiffany 2.0. Just like with Tiffany, their relationship started off with lots of bouts of fantastic sex (fantastic for them - I considered the first person present tense sex scenes to be gross and stilted). When things got tough just before the end of the book, though, and Alex had to make a decision between trusting and supporting Caroline or doubting her, he chose the latter. It emphasized that these two characters still didn't really know or trust each other, and the happy ending, after Alex did a bit of groveling, felt hollow.

Also, this was a very small part of the book, but I still wanted to bring it up: I didn't like the way the author used Alex's younger brother, James. Alex had two siblings, his sister Meredith and his younger brother James. James was autistic. It was mentioned that he worked as an accountant in the family business and seemed to be pretty good at it. At one point, Alex thought about how James had told him that he felt like their parents were babying him (he still lived with their parents, and it sounded like they were very protective). Alex privately agreed with James...but also expected that James would one day move in with either Meredith or him, so I didn't really see how he was any different from their parents, not even entertaining the idea that James might want more independence. It also bugged me that, while Meredith got a small speaking role in the book, James didn't. For someone who was supposedly so important to Alex, he had almost no presence.

Caroline had a group of friends who all gave off "future heroine in this series" vibes. However, none of them particularly drew me in, and after the issues I had with Save the Date, I have no intention of trying another one of this author's books.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2019-07-15 03:33
Defeating the Demon Lord's a Cinch (If You've Got a Ringer), Vol. 1 (book) by Tsukikage, illustrated by bob, translated by Alex Kerwin
Defeating the Demon Lord's a Cinch If You've Got a Ringer, Vol. 1 - Ken Tsukikage,Bob

Note: Don't read the character data section at the end of the book until you've finished the novel. There are at least a couple major spoilers.

Naotsugu Toudou is a hero summoned from another world (more than likely ours) to defeat the Demon Lord Kranos. Only the hero has the necessary divine protection required to defeat the Demon Lord, but others may accompany and aid him. All heroes start off at the lowest level and have to work their way up from there. Theoretically, the hero's party members should all be high level, but this party is...different.

Limis Al Friedia is a Level 10 elemental mage who can only use fire magic, even though all elemental mages are supposed to be able to use two different elements. Aria Rizas is a Level 20 swordmaster who recently switched to a completely different school of swordsmanship. Also, even though higher level techniques require at least a little magic, Aria has absolutely no magical ability. (It isn't until nearly the end of the book that readers are finally told that the maximum level for humans is probably 100. I don't consider this to be a spoiler, so I'm mentioning it here for context.)

Ares Crown, the priest assigned to be the group's healer, is the only one with any battle experience. In fact, his level is so high that he worries the rest of the group might use him as a crutch, so he lies and says his level is only 3, the last digit of his true level. He somehow has to get everyone in the party leveled up as soon as possible and keep Nao alive long enough to defeat the Demon Lord, no easy task considering that Nao soon becomes convinced that Ares' assistance is unnecessary.

In terms of flow and general readability this was one of the better light novels I've tried. I never got bored or bogged down by the writing. The battle scenes were relatively easy to follow, and I blew through the whole book much faster than I expected I would. I enjoyed Ares' crankiness, and his "keep moving forward and make the best of the crappy hand you've been dealt" attitude really worked for me.

That said, this book missed the mark in a lot of important ways. For starters, the cover art/title led me to believe that this was going to be a bit lighter and more ridiculous than it actually was. I figured that Ares would be the put-upon healer constantly saving his party members from certain death while the idiots kept obliviously charging forward. There was a little of that, but the brutality and bloodshed kept it from being the light read I expected.

At one point, Ares stumbled upon the aftermath of a fight in a tavern. An aggressive mercenary had freaked Nao out, and, as a result, Nao accidentally maimed nearly everyone in the building. Nao then ran off, basically leaving everyone to die, and only Limis knew that Ares then healed everyone and hushed the whole thing up. This incident was never mentioned again and seemed to make zero impact on Nao. In fact, a short while later, Nao came across a seriously injured monster (secretly injured by Ares, who was hoping Nao would kill it and thereby manage to level up a bit more) and, horrified, said that whoever had hurt it so badly and left it like that must be a monster. There were multiple times in the book where Ares wondered whether Nao was unstable, and I have to say that I wondered that myself. This particular volume provided no answers.

Ares was not a nice guy, and he definitely wasn't a devout priest, but he was absolutely a professional. He did his job, no matter how much the people around him pissed him off. The book included several brutal multi-page scenes in which he beat up and/or maimed monsters and demons, including a monster that looked like a little girl, in an effort to aid Nao or obtain more information (the violence is of the bone-crunching variety, but there is thankfully not much in the way of "gory squishy bits" descriptions). As ruthless as he was, I still preferred him to Nao. It really bothered me that Nao seemed unaffected by the fight at the tavern, and Ares' experience and practicality worked better for me than Nao's boneheadedness.

There were some POV issues. The bulk of the book was first person present tense POV from Ares' perspective, and the author was clearly most comfortable with this. Unfortunately, this resulted in a story that was mostly Ares running around and reacting to things. After a certain point, he was cut off from Nao's party and reduced to guessing where they might go next and what they might do. He was also in the dark as far as the Church went - Cardinal Creio kept saying that the Church had its reasons for assigning Ares to this job, and Ares just had to keep doing his best despite everything. His POV also put limitations on the things readers got to learn about the other characters. Ares wasn't the sort of person who made friends, and he really didn't care about anyone around him, beyond what their level of usefulness might be in battle. I had a better idea of most of the female characters' breast sizes than their personalities.

And speaking of breasts... I think the only female character whose breasts weren't described was maybe the one female mercenary. For a guy who seemed to care more about work than about romance or sex, Ares sure noticed breasts a lot. The breast thing irked me but was mostly ignorable, until the end, when it was revealed that leveling up could affect at least one character's breast size. Yes, the author wrote magically growing breasts into this world. ::sigh::

The overall world was painfully generic, the breast thing was annoying, and there was more bone-crunching violence than I expected. Still, there were some intriguing aspects that might prompt me to at least read the next volume. There are indications that Nao might morph into a more interesting and difficult-to-handle villain than the Demon Lord. There were brief mentions of Ares' workaholic tendencies being his biggest weakness - he isn't good at or used to delegating work, and he uses holy energy on himself to keep himself going past the normal limits of human endurance. This particular volume didn't really demonstrate the drawbacks of his way of operating, and I'm hoping that future volumes do a better job of digging into this some more. Volume 4's cover art features most of the female cast in bikinis, though, so that isn't very encouraging.

Extras:

  • Character data for most of the book's prominent characters. The only information not included that I would have liked to see was character ages. There was a bit on page 30 that seemed to indicate that Ares was only 18 years old, and that can't possibly be right.
  • An afterword written by the author.
  • Several black-and-white illustrations throughout. 
  • A couple color illustrations on a folded sheet at the beginning of the book. The illustrator seems to have forgotten that Amelia's hair is supposed to be blue.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2019-01-01 04:37
If this wasn't a Reacher book, I'd probably like it more...
Past Tense: (Jack Reacher 23) - Lee Child

Shorty and Patty are a young couple from a rural Canadian community on their way to New York City to sell off some beloved possessions in order to make enough money to go to Florida and start their lives. Which sounds like a great idea (assuming they're not ripped off in NYC) -- if only they'd ever done basic maintenance on the car they're driving. They end up breaking down outside a small town in New Hampshire, nowhere near a decent city.

 

The owners of a newly refurbished hotel outside town take pity on them and rent them a room for a little cheaper than they should and offer to help with getting their car going again -- they even invite them to dinner their first night with them. Yes, I said first night -- home repairs aren't doing the job, so they have to call a tow truck/mechanic to fix the car -- which is going to pretty much wipe the couple out. But what choice do they have?

 

Still, something doesn't seem right about the whole thing. Shorty's a trusting guy and rolls with everything that happens, but Patty smells something. She thinks a lot -- incidentally, she thinks a lot like Reacher. Which is annoying when you're reading a book starring Reacher that you get a clone. But it's good for her and Shorty and just might end up saving their lives. It'd be better for the both of them if she had any of Reacher's skills other than his ability to analyze a situation, but, I guess you take what you can get.

 

Meanwhile, Jack Reacher comes into the same town those two are stranded outside of. He was passing near by and on a lark decides to stop in Laconia, his father's birthplace. He's never met anyone from that side of the family, and his father said almost nothing about his childhood experiences there. So Reacher's a bit curious about the town -- he doesn't even know if there might be a cousin or three around. It turns out that finding anything about his family is almost impossible in the official records -- and there's a decent chance that there's no one around who knows anything about them that's not in the official records.

 

While that's going on, in the middle of the night Reacher encounters an attempted sexual assault and, ahem, dissuades the attacker. This attacker doesn't press charges or anything, but it turns out that he's connected to a significant crime family in the Northeast. Reacher is informed about this and is encouraged to leave town soon by a former MP turned local law enforcement officer that he's become acquainted with. Reacher doesn't like to be told what to do -- by anyone -- and there's something about his father's past that has him more curious than he's been before and wants to track that down.

 

These two stories run independently of each other, while happening very near each other. Reacher does come to the hotel and asks a couple of questions about his quest about the same time that Patty's getting suspicious, but the two don't cross paths.

 

Now, I didn't right down the page number when Reacher's story intersects with Shorty's and Patty's -- but I do know that it hadn't happened by page 245 (of 382). Which is pretty astounding, and is definitely a new way to bring Reacher into the main events of a novel. I doubt it's a trick Child can pull off again, but I'd like to see him try. If he doesn't show up, bad things will happen -- and will likely continue to happen -- but it's hard to say just how bad it'd all be. But Reacher does show up, and he does his usual thing, and many more people live than otherwise would have. Which isn't to suggest that no one dies after he shows up, it's just that most of them aren't the people that seemed likely to die 30 pages earlier.

 

There's little violence until the end of the book (there's Reacher's dissuasion, and two other minor -- by Reacher's standards -- fights), but once the fighting starts, it doesn't stop until there's a whole lot of violence and bloodshed. Tension and unease that's been mounting slowly over the whole book, are unleashed - and most of the last twenty percent (or so, I'm just guessing) of the novel is as violent and action-packed as you could hope for. Once that switch is flipped, it's on.

 

This wasn't my favorite Reacher novel -- by far -- but it was a really engrossing read. I enjoyed it -- and really think if Jack Reacher hadn't been the fly in the ointment for the people trying to manipulate and hurt Shorty and Patty, I think I'd have enjoyed this much more. But I expect more from Lee Child than I do other writers, and this time, I just don't think he pulled it off. I'm willing to bet he does better next year, and I'll content myself with that hope.

 

2018 Library Love Challenge

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2018/12/31/past-tense-by-lee-child-if-this-wasnt-a-reacher-book-id-probably-like-it-more
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review 2018-12-17 08:43
Reacher is finding more about his father
Past Tense: (Jack Reacher 23) - Lee Child

Reacher was on the road again. He was stopping at a middle of nowhere just to find where his father Stan Reacher was when he was young. 

 

Laconia. It is in the wood. 

 

Now he found out the he was a birdwatcher. Kind of news to Reacher. 

 

While not too far away, there is a motel setup to trap selected loungers for a game. We didn't find out what the game was but kind of guessed it would be murderous. No way the organizers would allow kidnapping victims to survive and call the authority. Patty and Shorty. 

 

The reveal is good. A bit too short for the action part when the hunt beginning and ended so fast that there isn't much time for the bad guys to tell us why they are doing this. 

 

The settings up of the trap is a bit too slow for most readers. I get a bit impatient with it as well. This is the few books that Reacher didn't attract any new female companion, so I would forgive him a bit for acting out all lone wolf and stuff. The part that other characters were afraid he got upset if he found out that his father might not be that good after all is also sweet. Reacher really didn't care that much one way or the other as he already have a firm image of his father. 

 

 

Read this for Door 15 book task. 

Read any book with an orange or red cover or with nuts, chocolate or coins on the cover, set in The Netherlands or Germany, by a Dutch or German author, or with canals or beer on the cover.

 

 

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review 2018-12-11 14:31
Similar Story Archs: "Past Tense" by Lee Child
Past Tense: (Jack Reacher 23) - Lee Child



I have said elsewhere that crime fiction seems to flourish in times of stress, such as our era now. I fully expect more great detective fiction in the near future as it is one of the few genres that can show society from top to bottom: the detective, investigator or whatever, in many of the best novels, talks to both the monied and the moneyless at the same time against a puzzling foreground as broad and as complex as the society, or the human beings, that carry out and solve seemingly deeply baffling crimes at the outset of any great novel.

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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