Friday, February 5, 2016

Book Review - Feint of Art

Feint of Art (An Art Lover's Mystery #1) 
By Hailey Lind (Pseudonym for Juliet Blackwell and her sister Carolyn)
*****

This cozy was fantastic! It had a little more action than most cozies, enough that I'd totally watch it as a show on USA or TNT. Annie is a struggling artist who had a little run in with the law as a teen when she joined her grandfather in a forgery spree. After quickly learning her lesson and going straight, she tried to make a career in art restoration, only to have her past bite her in the butt as she got booted out personally by the Brocks of the Brock Museum.

Fast forward several years and after a short spurt in ho-hum office drudgery, she was inspired to turn to interior design, with faux-finishes and the like. Until an ex asked her to verify a painting. Chaos, murders, kidnappings, thievery, and shenanigans ensue.

Annie was a great heroine, with a lot of spunk, some moral fiber, and a healthy helping of knowledge about the world of art forgery (her grandfather is one of the greats, after all). In addition, there were a lot of minor characters that I also loved - Inspector Annette was pretty darn awesome (I'm totally picturing Gina Torres), neighbor Pete was endearing, and the X-Man was very Neal Caffrey, and Fender Bender has the potential of joining X as a potential suitor. 

I'm oddly drawn to books about art forgery. I don't know why - it's not like I can draw anything better than a stick figure - but I find it fascinating. Hence, the career background and plot set up for this particular amateur sleuth was a lot of fun. It also made sense that Annie would find herself investigating, considering she has a very distinctive skill set and knowledge base that even experts in the field wouldn't be able to compare to. I prefer my cozy detectives to have a good reason for getting mixed up in the investigations. 

Highly recommended. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Book Review: It Takes A Witch

It Takes A Witch (A Wishcraft Mystery #1) 
By Heather Blake
*** 1/2 stars
“He does manage the bookstore, which is currently my favorite place on earth." Her eyes glazed over. "All those books. If I married him, I could probably work there the rest of my life. Nothing would make me happier."

"What about love?" Ve asked.

"Oh," Harper said solemnly. "I love books.” 

― Heather BlakeIt Takes a Witch
After reading a bunch of duds, this cozy actually had characters that didn't suck and a plot that made sense.  I was getting really tired of heroines that were too stupid to live, but Darcy had believable issues (ok, there are magic powers involved as well, but that didn't make anything less believable), and her attempts to solve the mystery actually made sense. For one, she actually *wanted* to get the police involved. And when that didn't turn out to be a viable option, she turned to the hunky former-cop. See, things making sense and characters acting reasonably. Was that really so hard?! 

Darcy wasn't the most engaging protagonist I've ever read, but she wasn't "screw-up-cute" or "clumsy-adorable" and I don't think there were any occasions where she made me want to throw the book in frustration. (Man, I've really read some losers lately.) She seemed like a real person, and I appreciate that. And the supporting characters were also interesting and well-developed. Even the the character who everyone kinda hates was redeemed by the end. I loved that.

The town itself seemed like a magical Stars Hollow. It's a magic-themed town, but only some of the townsfolk know that real magic exists. Those with magic are called Crafters, and each Crafter family has a different ability. Darcy, her sister, and her aunt are Wishcrafters. When someone makes a wish out loud, and they're pure of heart, the Wishcrafter must grant the wish. The world building here was pretty cool, and the first I've read like that.  

But the best part, bar none, are the familiars. If you don't love Pepe, you're wrong.

***

Ok, now my brain is busy imagining that Stars Hollow, like Enchanted Village (the name of the town in It Takes A Witch), has folks secretly hiding magic abilities, while other townsfolk know nothing about it. Miss Patty and Babette definitely have magic. Taylor Doose definitely doesn't. And he's constantly frustrated because he knows that Something Is Up, but can't figure out what. Kirk is totally a squib. Luke has magic, but is curmudgeonly about it, like everything else. Suki, yes. Jackson, probably not. Lorelai and Rory are No's, but they are completely enchanted by the magic, even though they don't know it's there.

I would totally watch that show. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Book Review: Winter

Winter (Lunar Chronicles #4) 
By Marissa Meyer
**** 1/2
“She was prettier than a bouquet of roses and crazier than a headless chicken. Fitting in was not an option.” 
― Marissa MeyerWinter
I finished it! Man that was a long book! And STRESSFUL. Even knowing that HEAs were assured, this book kept me in a constant state of worry. 

While the cover and title are given to our fourth heroine, Winter, I didn't feel like this was necessarily her book - all the stories entwined perfectly and felt very balanced as the changes in viewpoints progressed the plot. It didn't feel like Winter was the major focus; that being said, I still felt like I really got to know her and Jacin. Like I said, everything was really well balanced. 

This series was fantastic - I connected to all the characters and loved them all, Iko in particular. I sort of find myself shipping Iko and Kinney...

Now can we get an epilogue? I'd like to hear more about those Happily Ever Afters...

Monday, December 7, 2015

Book Review: The Dirt on Ninth Grave

The Dirt on Ninth Grave (Charley Davidson #9) 
By Darynda Jones
*****
"I took a quick sip of my coffee before explaining. "I'm, like, stupid smart. I'm probably a prodigy of some kind."" --The Dirt on Ninth Grave, Darynda Jones
I love this series so much. There was a major twist that occurred at the end of book #8 that sends Charley to Sleepy Hollow, New York, where of course she meets the headless horseman. 

I won't go into what the twist is, but it changed Charley's circumstances. Despite what was a pretty big change, the book itself didn't really differ in tone or structure from previous books. If you're anticipating a major change, the way I was, you're not going to get it. That being said, I've enjoyed the tone and structure for the last 8 books, so I'm not too disappointed in the way this one played out.

Charley remains our snarky heroine, Reyes still steams up any room he enters (good thing since the story takes place during a New England winter), and Cookie is still the best friend we all wish we had. We have various threats of natural and supernatural natures and the story arc progresses further. All in all, this series still ranks among my favorites, and Ninth was another great addition to it.

**I received an Advanced Review eGalley of this title from NetGalley**

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Book Review: Witches of East End

For once I'm going to use the Media cover
since I liked the show so much better!
Witches of East End (The Beauchamp Family #1) 
By Melissa de la Cruz
**
“Joanna, like her daughters, was neither old nor young, and yet their physical appearances corresponded to their particular talents. Depending on the situation, Freya could be anywhere from sixteen to twenty-three years of age, the first blush of Love, while Ingrid, keeper of the Hearth, looked and acted anywhere from twenty-seven to thirty-five; and since Wisdom came from experience, even if in her heart she might feel like a schoolgirl, Joanna's features were those of an older woman in her early sixties.” 
― Melissa de la CruzWitches of East End
Another book picked up because I enjoyed the TV show - and another book that was kinda "meh" in comparison. I've never read de la Cruz before, but she's prolific and popular, so I had high hopes. Unfortunately, there wasn't really anything I liked about the book. The plot was spotty; the characters were dull (and occasionally too stupid to live); and the resolution was tied up too neatly and entirely told, not shown. TV-Joanna was a total BAMF and a force to be reckoned with; Book-Joanna, not so much. And Wendy, my favorite character from the show, didn't exist in this book. Maybe she'll show up later. Maybe she was a creation for the show. I don't know, but I missed her. 

I feel like the show took all the weakest points from the book and patched them up. Plus, they had a fantastic cast, so connecting to the characters was easy. I didn't connect to any of the characters in the book, and frankly, sometimes I just didn't like them. The twist was interesting (book twist was different from TV twist), but so quickly revealed and resolved it didn't feel like it mattered. 

This is one of the few times where I'll definitely recommend the TV show over the movie. And wholeheartedly at that.  

Monday, November 9, 2015

Book Review: Cocaine Blues

Cocaine Blues (Phryne Fisher #1) 

By Kerry Greenwood
***
“Her heart was beating appreciably faster, and she took more rapid breaths, but she was enjoying herself. Adventuresses are born, not made.” 
― Kerry GreenwoodCocaine Blues
I absolutely adore Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries - the show. I'm afraid this is one of those rare times when I can honestly say the book *wasn't* better. 

There was much more detail to the mystery in the book - obvs - though the first episode did follow the plot fairly closely (book #1 = episode #1). The main problem I had with the book was that I never managed to connect to the characters. I made an instant connection with the characters on the show, even immediately shipping various pairings (Dot and Hugh 4eva!). Of all the characters in the book, I felt most drawn, of all people, to Bert. If I could have mustered up enough interest to ship any characters in the book, it would have been Phryne and Bert. For anyone who's watched the show, this sounds like crazy talk. But Hugh didn't exist, Dot was a bit harsher, and Jack was kinda dumb (and barely present). 

So there you have it. Watch the show. If you loved it, learning about its origins is interesting, but a little boring. At least it's a super quick read.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween Book Review: Secondhand Spirits

Secondhand Spirits (A Witchcraft Mystery #1) 
By Juliet Blackwell
*** 1/2
"I don’t want to be seen as a scary freak anymore.” And with that I dropped a freeze-dried bat into the bubbling brew." ― Juliet BlackwellSecondhand Spirits
While not exactly a Halloween title - the story takes place in March - it still seemed like an appropriate book for the season. Secondhand Spirits is an enjoyable cozy mystery with strong paranormal elements. Witch Lily Ivory wants to settle down a bit and make a home for herself, maybe even some friends, and begin a new business selling vintage clothing in San Francisco. But she's not able to keep her witchy ways quiet for long, as she gets involved with what appears to be a supernatural kidnapping AND a murder.

The mystery was strong - I only started to suspect who the Bad Guy was towards the end. I do like a bit more humor/snark in my cozies, but this one had a lot of heart and great supporting characters. Oscar is my clear favorite, obvs: Lily's new gargoyle-esque familiar who turns into a little piggy so the muggles don't freak out. 

Bonus: anyone who enjoys vintage fashion will love the descriptions of the clothes Lily sells in her shop.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Halloween Book Review: Shutter

Shutter
By Courtney Alameda
***
“My people are condemned to wander this eternal twilight” 
― Courtney AlamedaShutter
I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this book. There were a few things the characters did that bugged me (Why do characters always keep vital information to themselves? SHARE WITH THE CLASS, PLEASE.). Mostly I think this would fit into horror-lite. It wasn't incredibly scary, but there was plenty of gore. I honestly think if this was made into a movie, I would have been unable to watch it. As it was, I had no problem reading the story...well, I wasn't keen on reading it right before bed, mostly because it was just a dark story, not because it needed to be put in the freezer.

My biggest problem with this book was that I just wasn't in the mood for it. October has been a very finicky reading month for me, and I've picked up and put down several books. So I probably would have enjoyed this more if I hadn't been in such a reading funk.

Pros - no love triangles, cool friend relationships, and a romance that began before the book (so there's some element of history there - no instalove). Also, cool world-building.

Cons - occasional teenage obnoxiousness (see above re: sharing vital information), bad-dad, and partial open-ending without confirmation of a sequel.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Book Review: Cast In Honor

Cast in Honor (Chronicles of Elantra #11) 
By Michelle Sagara
*****
"Do these cracks look strange to you" she asked. "What cracks?" Which answered that first question. "You know, when I first started training with the two of you, we had normal cases." Michelle Sagara, Cast in Honor
When our story opens, Kaylin and Crew are trying to get to the point where they can go on the hunt for Nightshade, who disappeared in the last book. But an investigation changes everything; and it turns out the investigation has more than a little to do with Nightshade.

We get to see more of some old characters, like Ybelline and Moran, and we're introduced to new characters Gilbert and Kattea, both of whom are pivotal to the investigation. And in the process, we learn just a bit more about Ravellon and the Shadows that abide there. Because of these new characters, and the mystery at the heart of this story, this entry in the Chronicles of Elantra felt a little different than the previous books. It added to the world building of the series, but it felt more removed from the overall story arc than the the last few books. 

The build up with Moran at the beginning of the book didn't really take off, as I expected it to. I have to assume that Moran's story will be coming up in the next book or two. As we haven't delved into the Aerian culture the way we have with other Elantran races, I'm anxiously awaiting that story line. 

As always, I loved this book and I can't wait to get my hands on the next!

**I received an Advanced Review eGalley of this title from NetGalley**

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Book Review: Indexing

Indexing (Indexing #1) 
By Seanan McGuire
****
“When you’re late in a fairy tale, people wind up dead. And not true-love’s-kiss, glass-coffin-nap-time dead. Really dead, the kind of dead you don’t recover from.” 
― Seanan McGuireIndexing
Police procedural meets Grimm Brothers. In the fairy tale justice system, memetic incursions are considered especially dangerous. In the Real World, the dedicated detectives who defend Happily Ever After are members of an elite squad called the ATI Management Bureau. Beware of their stories. Chung Chung.

Indexing is the story of a team of agents who investigate memetic incursions - where fairy tales invade the real world. Seems it happens more often that you'd think. Nice girl with a dead mom, stepmother and two stepsisters? She's ripe to turn into a 510A "Cinderella." Despite Disney's best efforts to subvert the grimmer aspects of the original tales (pun intended), fairy tale incursions rarely have an HEA. 

It took me a while to get into the story, but it wasn't long before I became *involved*. This story was written as a serial - new chapters added on a regular basis, rather than a full book offered all at once. I didn't read it in installments, thank heavens, as I'm not sure I could have handled that. But the story definitely would have worked in that format. I just have no patience. 

This was a cool story and a new twist on old fairy tales. Recommended.