Midnight Crossroad (Review)

18689531Title: Midnight Crossroad (Midnight, TX #1)
Author: Charlaine Harris
Genre:  Mystery, Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Ace
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Amazon purchase
Pages: 320

Date Finished: May 12, 2015
3 Stars

Goodreads Description

Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town.

There’s a pawn shop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).

Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth…

My Review

I really love Charlaine Harris’ writing style.  I don’t know if it’s because she writes in a small town, southern brogue, or if she’s just a really good writer, but I never stumble over her writing.  I’ve read most of the Sookie Stackhouse series (I’ll admit I lost interest toward the end), but I’ve never read any of her other work because I’m not a big cozy mystery girl.  I was really hoping this series would follow in the footsteps of the Sookie Stackhouse phenomenon.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t look very promising.

The characters were quirky and interesting, but there just wasn’t much going on plot wise.  The big mystery of the book was supposed to be what happened to Bobo’s girlfriend.  (Yes, that’s really his name.)  However, the biggest mystery was what are all of these people hiding because everyone in Midnight, TX has some kind of secret.  The good thing about that plot device is it really makes you want to keep reading.  The bad thing is that you don’t get any answers in this book.  The only mystery solved in this one was about Bobo’s girlfriend.

I really did enjoy the characters.  Charlaine gave me just enough to make me want to know more about them.  Because of that, I’m sure I’ll read the next book.  I hope there’s more action in the next installment.

Wrap-Up

Slow out of the gate!  This book felt like one big introduction to the characters and Midnight, TX.  There wasn’t much action, but maybe Charlaine wanted the book to mimic Midnight’s lifestyle, slow and laid-back.  The characters were engaging and that’s probably what will keep me moving forward with the series, however, if book two doesn’t pick-up, that will probably be the end of my foray into Midnight, TX.

Whose Body? (Review)

192893Title: Whose Body?
Author:  Dorothy L. Sayers
Genre:  Mystery

Publisher: HarperTorch
Release Date: July, 1995 (Originally released 1923)
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Amazon purchase
Pages: 212

Date Finished: November 28, 2014
3 Stars

Goodreads Description

The stark naked body was lying in the tub. Not unusual for a proper bath, but highly irregular for murder — especially with a pair of gold pince-nez deliberately perched before the sightless eyes. What’s more, the face appeared to have been shaved after death. The police assumed that the victim was a prominent financier, but Lord Peter Wimsey, who dabbled in mystery detection as a hobby, knew better. In this, his first murder case, Lord Peter untangles the ghastly mystery of the corpse in the bath.

My Review

My first introduction to Dorothy Sayers was in college.  I took a really cool English course which revolved solely around mysteries.  The book we read was The Nine Taylors and it blew me away.  I read the whole book trying to pin the murder on one person and then another.  Lord Peter Wimsey was funny and not your typical investigator.  I absolutely loved it.

After college I really never thought much about Dorothy Sayers again, but one day Amazon was running a special on her books so I snagged a couple.  Whose Body? was actually the first Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, so that is where I started.

I wasn’t impressed.  I could tell it was Sayers’ freshman novel.  It was all over the place and very difficult to follow.  I also struggled with Wimsey’s upper-class British jargon.  The actually mystery was quite clever, but I couldn’t really enjoy it.  I don’t remember having these problems with The Nine Taylors, the eleventh in the Wimsey series, so I can only assume Sayers’ writing and pacing improved drastically by the time it was released.  Thank goodness!

As I said, the mystery was clever, but the book, as a whole, was not.  If Sayers is not one of your favorites and you started with this one, I could easily see why.  I urge you to give Sayers another try, but maybe start later in the series.

The Thirteenth Tale (Review)

5868297Title: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield
Genre: Fiction, Mystery

Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: 2006
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Amazon Purchase
Pages: 416

Date Finished: October 20, 2014
3 Stars

Goodreads Description

All children mythologize their birth… So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter’s collection of stories, which are as famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist.

The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself—all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter’s story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission.

As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized. It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire.

Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida’s storytelling but remains suspicious of the author’s sincerity. She demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.

My Review

Ok, I’m going to just jump right in…this book didn’t do it for me.  There were parts of it that were extremely compelling, but overall, it was rather blah.

The Good…
I loved parts of this tale.  The beautiful and willful Isabelle, as well as the twisted and obsessive Charlie, grabbed my attention.  I wanted more of their story.  I wanted to know more than the incestuous rumors and mental illness.  I understand this was not really their story, but they were fascinating.  Adeline and Emmeline, the twins, were also interesting.  The historical part of the book really kept me going.  If it had not been for the back story of these characters, I would not have made it through this book.

The Bad…
I could not have cared less about Margaret Lea, the main character of the novel.  She was ridiculous.  Margaret discovered at a fairly early age that she was a conjoined twin and when they were separated, her twin died.  This became an overarching theme throughout the book.  Because Margaret pretty much lived her life around her father and her books, she obsessed about this lost twin.  I really just wanted to tell her to go get a freaking life!!  Maybe if she had a life, she wouldn’t sit around feeling sorry about a twin she didn’t even realize existed until she saw the death certificate.  Ugh!  I think Margaret was supposed to be a Jane Eyre type…staunch, no-nonsense, etc.  But, Jane Eyre was passionate.  You could tell her staunch exterior was there strictly to protect that passionate, loving girl inside.  Margaret just came off as cold and pedantic.

Wrap-Up

The Thirteenth Tale was touted as a book for book lovers, and I will concede there were some lovely turns of phrase in this book.  Diane Setterfield knows how to write.  Some of Margaret’s musings about books really hit home with me.  And, Vida Winter’s insight into people and their emotions was brilliant.  The twisty little ending was underwhelming, but it wasn’t horrible.

I think my biggest problem was that I kept comparing it to Jane Eyre.  I’m pretty sure that’s because this was Setterfield’s homage to gothic lit., but let me be clear…if you are expecting a Jane Eyre look-alike, you will be disappointed.  It had a lot of the classic gothic elements, but it fell short of the ultimate goal.

I gave it 3 stars.  Despite having a lot of good elements, it just didn’t pull together into a great book.

The Paper Magician (Review)

20727654Title: The Paper Magician
Author:  Charlie N. Holmberg
Genre:  Fantasy; Urban Fantasy

Publisher: 47North
Release Date: September 1, 2014
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Netgalley ARC
Pages: 224

Date Finished: October 26, 2014
3 Stars

Goodreads Description

Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.

Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined—animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.

An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.

My Review

This book had an amazing concept.  Ceony has been bonded to a magic she is rather ho-hum about, but her internship with Thane has turned her on to the wonders of paper magic.  She has just settled in to her new life when someone comes in and literally rips Thane’s heart out and flees with it.  Well, because we’re talking magic here, Ceony is able to make Thane a heart from paper, but she knows it will only keep him alive for a couple of days.  Ceony realizes she must track down Thane’s heart and return it before he dies.  Sounds really good doesn’t it?  Well, it was…up to this point.  Then, the book slowed to a snail’s pace!

Ceony tracks down the magician who stole the heart, and, somehow, the magician traps Ceony in Thane’s living, beating heart.  Again, the concept was great.  Ceony comes to know Thane through his own heart.  What better way to get to know someone than by the secrets their heart holds?  But, I’ll tell ya…The slog through Thane’s heart about did me in.  By the time Ceony passed from the first chamber into the second, I was seriously asking myself if I could make it through all four chambers.  Luckily, the first chamber was the longest, and the others went relatively quick.

The ending was rather anticlimactic, but I could really see this being a good series.  Holmberg’s writing was very good and the beginning of the book was great.  I really liked Thane.  And, some of the magic Ceony performed was beautiful.  I actually went to Netgalley and requested book 2 of this series right before Ceony entered Thane’s heart.  After that, I was questioning if I really wanted to read book 2, but after finishing the book, I decided I would give the next one a chance.

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley, 47North, and Charlie Holmberg for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

Nyctophobia (Review)

21412133Title: Nyctophobia
Author:  Christopher Fowler
Genre:  Fantasy; Urban Fantasy; Horror

Publisher:  Solaris
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Netgalley ARC
Pages:  320

Date Finished:  September 29, 2014
3 Stars

Goodreads Description

There are two things you need to know about haunted houses. One, there’s never been an actual authenticated haunted house. Two, it’s not the house that’s haunted, but the person.

Callie is a young architectural student who marries Mateo, a wine importer, and moves to a grand old house in Southern Spain. Hyperion House is flooded with light, it also has a mute gardener, a sinister housekeeper and a sealed, dark servants’ quarters that nobody has the keys for. And although initially happy, and taking care of Mateo’s daughter, Callie can’t help being drawn to the dark empty rooms at the back of the house, and becomes convinced that someone is living in there.

Uncovering the house’s history, she discovers the shocking truth. As Callie’s fear of the darkness returns, she comes to understand the true nature of evil.

My Review

In my search for a really creepy Halloween read, I came across Nyctophobia. I was positive this book was going to scratch my itch for creepiness. What better way to satisfy my spine tingling need than a haunted house and nyctophobia (fear of the dark)?

The first half of the book was pretty good. The lead up was a bit slow, but I understand the author has to build the back story. Then as our heroine begins exploring the back rooms of the house and strange things begin to happen, the creepiness definitely kicked into overdrive. I read this on vacation and was so glad I wasn’t in my own house, because it really would’ve creeped me out!

Then, poof! At about 60% everything just fell apart. The book made a 180 and lost its creepiness all together. Then, there was a really strange twist at the end that was just ridiculous. I think it was meant to be really smart and shocking, but it came off as silly. I was so disappointed.

Wrap-Up

I walked away from this book saying the same thing I say after most horror films…“that was stupid.” I need good characters, a good plot, and good twists that are at least somewhat plausible. This one just missed the mark. Maybe I just didn’t get it. Maybe I’m not smart enough to have picked up the deeper meaning. For some reason, I don’t think that’s it.

So, I have given it 3 stars because the middle of the book was really good.

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley, Solaris, and Christopher Fowler for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

The Bride Wore Size 12 (Heather Wells #5)

17349002Title: The Bride Wore Size 12 (Heather Wells #5)
Author:  Meg Cabot
Genre:  Fiction, Chick Lit, Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date:  September, 2013
Format:  Paperback
Acquired:  Won through
TLC Book Tours’ Book Club of the Month Contest
Pages:  392

Dates Finished:  June 19, 2014
3 Stars

Goodreads Description

Heather Wells is used to having her cake and eating it too, but this time her cake just might be cooked. Her wedding cake, that is.

With her upcoming nuptials to PI Cooper Cartwright only weeks away, Heather’s already stressed. And when a pretty junior turns up dead, Heather’s sure things can’t get worse—until every student in the dorm where she works is a possible suspect, and Heather’s long-lost mother shows up.

Heather has no time for a tearful mother and bride reunion. She has a wedding to pull off and a murder to solve. Instead of wedding bells, she might be hearing wedding bullets, but she’s determined to bring the bad guys to justice if it’s the last thing she does . . . and this time, it just might be.

My Review

Let me start by saying I’m not a big fan of Chick Lit.  It tends to be a bit boring and predictable and, for lack of a better word, girly.  I am NOT a girly girl.  I’m logical, technical, not very emotional, babies don’t do a thing for me, etc., etc.  Not to say women don’t have some of these traits, but I seem to think a lot more like a man than a woman.  So why I entered to win this book from TLC Book Tours’ Book Club of the Month Contest, I will never know.  The book description makes it very clear this is chick lit, so what was I thinking?  I think I thought the mystery aspect would save it, and it did to a certain extent.  That’s why it got 3 stars instead of 2.

This book is the 5th in the Heather Wells series.  I didn’t know that when I requested it, but it really didn’t present much of a problem while reading.  Apparently, each story is pretty self-contained.

The book was far from exciting.  There was one big “OMG” moment, but other than that, it was pretty ho-hum.  Even the “steamy fiancé” was not really that steamy.

I did like Heather’s internal monologue.  She was funny and spunky in a few spots.

Wrap-Up

If you like chick lit, go for it.  If you like cozy mysteries, go for it.  If you need some substance or any depth to your books, skip this one.

The Lies of Locke Lamora

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1)Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1)
Author:  Scott Lynch
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Bantam
Release Date:  June, 2006
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  Kindle Purchase
Pages:  501

Dates Finished:  June 8, 2014
3 Stars

Goodreads Description

An orphan’s life is harsh — and often short — in the island city of Camorr, built on the ruins of a mysterious alien race. But born with a quick wit and a gift for thieving, Locke Lamora has dodged both death and slavery, only to fall into the hands of an eyeless priest known as Chains — a man who is neither blind nor a priest.

A con artist of extraordinary talent, Chains passes his skills on to his carefully selected “family” of orphans — a group known as the Gentlemen Bastards. Under his tutelage, Locke grows to lead the Bastards, delightedly pulling off one outrageous confidence game after another. Soon he is infamous as the Thorn of Camorr, and no wealthy noble is safe from his sting.

Passing themselves off as petty thieves, the brilliant Locke and his tightly knit band of light-fingered brothers have fooled even the criminal underworld’s most feared ruler, Capa Barsavi. But there is someone in the shadows more powerful — and more ambitious — than Locke has yet imagined.

Known as the Gray King, he is slowly killing Capa Barsavi’s most trusted men — and using Locke as a pawn in his plot to take control of Camorr’s underworld. With a bloody coup under way threatening to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the Gray King at his own brutal game — or die trying…

My Review

The Negative…

Ok, I struggled with this book.  It had been touted as Robin Hood meets Ocean’s Eleven, so I was expecting one heck of a ride.  What I got was a SLOW first half and a good second half.  This 501 page slog could easily have been pared down to around 350 pages.

The book unfolded in 3 different segments…

Segment #1:  Every other chapter was a flashback to Locke’s childhood, explaining how he had moved from an orphan to the most notorious gentleman thief in Camorr.  This is also where the other Gentleman Bastards, Jean, Calo & Galdo, were introduced.  In my opinion, they were even more likeable than Locke.  I usually don’t like flashbacks, but I actually didn’t mind these chapters at all.  I almost liked them better than most of the main storyline(s).

Angry Bored animated GIFSegment #2:  This storyline began by showing you the Gentleman Bastards’ game, how they picked their victim, how they got in the vic’s good graces, and how they robbed them blind.  The whole first half of the book was about this grand robbery scheme and then, all of a sudden, it completely shifted.  Other than their victim getting them into a very important party later in segment #3, I see no reason why I was forced to endure all these chapters.  I kept waiting on it to come back into play, but it never did.  Segment #2 could have been dramatically shortened which would have made the entire book flow better.

Segment #3:  This one was all about the bad guys, how they attempt to destroy everything Locke lives for, and how Locke fights back to save his life, his friends, and the lifestyle he loves.

The segments just didn’t flow well.  Segment #2 basically left me feeling flat through the remainder of the book, even though Segment #3 picked up dramatically.

The Positive…

Segment #1 was wonderfully written.  The Gentleman Bastards’ back-stories were very interesting.  We were introduced to Father Chains, the man who raised and mentored the bastards.  He was both funny and fascinating.  His interactions with the boys were wonderful.  I think I would have enjoyed an entire book about nothing but the boys’ back-stories.

Segment #3 was more like what I was expecting from the whole book.  It was action packed!  I was constantly wondering how Locke was going to get out of his sticky situations.

There were some really great characters.  Father Chains and Jean Tannen were my favorites.  Locke was too cocky for my tastes, but he and Jean complimented each other well.  The author did a admirable job of developing certain characters, like Locke, Father Chains and Jean.  Most of the other characters felt flat throughout the book.

Wrap-Up

Well, there you have it.  It got 3 stars because it was really just a middle of the road book.  I doubt I’ll read any others in the series.  What the author did well, he did really well, but there was too much dragging for me to take a chance on the others.  If you are a die-hard, high-fantasy reader, you will probably like this one.  If you are easily distracted, get bored with details, and like non-stop action, this is not the book for you.  I can see why it was compared to Robin Hood and Ocean’s Eleven, but trust me, it’s not enough like either one to make it a deciding factor about whether to read it.