26 January 2016

Rosemary Clement-Moore

Many moons ago, I stumbled on a little book called Spirit and Dust by Rosemary Clement-Moore. I was taken in by the tale of a teenage psychic who can speak to the dead and comes from a family of witches and helps the FBI solve cases. But what really sealed the deal for me was Daisy's spunky, snarky attitude paired with her inherent need to help. It gets her into trouble, of course, and out of it, but she's not stupid--she's not blindly following whatever male is leading.

I found that theme again in Texas Gothic, set in the same family but with a different member--Amy, Daisy's cousin. Amy is adamant that the power skipped her and that she is normalNORMALNORMAL, thank you very much. But then, of course, she gets drawn into supernatural weirdness and has to acknowledge her own abilities before Death starts knocking at her door. That one was fun, but Amy wasn't as snarky as Daisy, which I completely understand, since snark and attempting to appear normal don't go hand in hand. But the mystery was enjoyable, the romance zinged, and it all resolved nicely.

THEN, last week, I FOUND MAGGIE QUINN. Oh, Maggie Quinn can be my new best friend. Snarky, responsible, firmly on the side of Team Good, as she puts it, Maggie battles demons in all sorts of forms and in all sorts of settings--prom, sorority rush week, and a Blessed Virgin Mary sanctuary in the middle of Nowhere, East Texas. She overcomes her own disbelief in her gifts and does the best she can with the knowledge she's given. She has a white knight at her beck and call, but Maggie is definitely not a damsel in distress--a point she makes VERY clear every time said knight shows up to help her. But they work together well anyway.

So, do yourself a favor and pick up a novel by Rosemary Clement-Moore. If you like snorting at snarky remarks and getting hooked on a great mystery, these are the stories for you!

To explore Rosemary Clement-Moore on Goodreads, click here. If you're feeling the need to get Kindle-friendly with her books, this is the Amazon link to her author page. Enjoy!

Gentle Reader Alert: There are some swears in these books--nothing beyond a mild PG-13 level--and a little hot and heavy kissing--nothing explicit.

11 January 2016


From Goodreads:

"For centuries, the world of Aeon has lived in shadow, ruled and oppressed by a great evil. The land is overrun by creatures of the dark. Its people cower without protection, without hope…until now.

Prophecy spoke of a chosen one who will bring an end to the dragon sorceress, and on that day were born two. Kali and Drake. Cousins and warriors, devoted to their duty and to each other. They embrace their fates. Together with their friends, Ferra and Harold, they embark on a perilous journey, tempting evil at every turn, for they are being hunted. With danger and death on their heels, they must battle forces of nature and magic, calling forth their courage to conquer not only the sorceress herself, but an even greater enemy. Fear.

From a small woodland village to the stone keep of Infinitas, only one thing is certain.

Destiny is an adventure."

The idea of a sorceress/dragon reigning tyrannically over her corner of the world drew me in. The adventure kept me there. Kali and Drake were by no means compelling characters, but they acted honorably when faced with the dark choices in front of them, and they were well-prepared to go on their adventure. The writing skews young--I kept thinking that my pre-teen daughters would enjoy the story--but overall the pace is good and kept me hooked throughout the adventure. The world itself felt a bit like a crazy quilt--species kept popping up to be added to the milieu--but when you read the author's note it makes sense. And to the author's credit, the crazy quilt was colorful and bound together well. I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy, especially for the backstory on the royal family who started it all.

Gentle Reader Alert: At this time, I recall nothing of concern.

07 January 2016

Cookies and Chance Series

(Copies provided by the ever-gracious Catherine Brun herself.) 

Sally Muccio’s had her crosses to bear: a cheating ex-boyfriend, crazy Italian parents, and an unfaithful husband, just to name a few. After her divorce, she returns to her hometown to start a novelty cookie shop whose specialties include original fortune cookies, served with a sprinkle of foreshadowing. But there’s no warning when her ex-husband’s mistress drops dead on Sal's porch, and police confirm it’s a homicide. Determined to stop her life from becoming a recipe for disaster, Sal takes matters into her own hands. With two very different men vying for her affection, dead bodies piling up, and a reputation hanging by an apron string, Sal finds herself in a race against time to save both her business and life—before the last cookie crumbles.

Baker turned reluctant amateur sleuth, Sally Muccio, has finally found the happiness that’s eluded her for years. She’s in love with a great guy, her bakery is thriving, and now she and her best friend Josie Sullivan are gearing up to appear on the popular reality baking show, Cookie Crusades. But a visit from Sal’s greedy ex-husband Colin, who's looking to cash in on the bakery’s dough, changes everything. Within a few hours Sal’s world—like the shop’s original fortune cookies—is broken apart when Colin turns up dead, and her boyfriend’s arrested for the crime. Now Sal’s mixing it up with vengeful former in-laws, a suspicious new employee, slippery baking competitors, and a greasy mobster who’ll stop at nothing to collect on Colin’s unpaid debt. Can Sal prove her man is innocent in time? Or is she about to get baked herself?

Gotta say, Catherine Bruns can turn out a pleasant read. These cozies are unassuming and hit their paces right on target. I spent most of a day reading these books, happily curled up in my wingback chair, drawn in by Catherine's writing. Sally is a modest character--she is not a take-charge vigilante, but quietly determined to make things right. It drove me nuts when she would cave to everyone's demands--I could easily see why she stayed with her awful ex-husband as long as she did--but things seemed to work out for her anyway, and in a believable fashion. So it made sense when her sweet personality drew people in, especially the men who wanted to protect her and keep her safe. I also love the balance her gentleness brought to her friendship with the fiery Josie. But the real mystery is the fortunes in the fortune cookies--they seem to have a predictive magic all their own and the speculative-fiction lover in me wants to know where it comes from!

Anyway, the next time you're looking for a quick read with great writing and a perfectly structured plot, give Cookies and Chance a try. You won't be sorry.

Gentle Reader Alert:There are some swears in the books, but nothing beyond a PG-13 level.

05 January 2016

Overthrowing the Dystopian Formula

Once upon a time, back when triceratops stomped small ponds into the ground as they walked across the earth, I was a teenager. My mother made sure that we went to the library every week (it's possible the dinosaurs were imaginary--I remember riding in the back of our enormously long Chevy Caprice, which ran on liquidized dinosaur fossils) and I often scoured the small science fiction and fantasy section, looking for something I hadn't already read that would catch my interest. I made the mistake of picking up an Octavia Butler once--not that Butler isn't a fantastic writer, but her vision of a dystopian future gave me nightmares for days.

So, a few years later (a decade), I reluctantly picked up The Hunger Games on the recommendation of a very well-read friend. It did not disappoint, but I didn't really enjoy it, either. Let's face it--dystopian fiction can be bleak and humorless. In the years since, we've had UgliesThe Selection, Matched, True Calling, and more that I can't remember off the top of my head. But they meet a certain formula--the original government has been overthrown or destroyed, usually through a cataclysmic event or war or act of terror, and the replacement government controls every aspect of life for the greater good (Hello to the reasons my politics are conservative/moderate--I'm all about the less government model. Anyway...). The gap between the rich and the poor is vast and unbalanced, and another revolution is coming, in which our intrepid heroine rises through the ranks to change the minds of the leaders through her unwillingness to bow to the status quo. Also, there is a love interest.

Formulaic. It works, obviously, since people have been buying and reading and talking about these books for years, but still. It's algebra--plug the right things into the right part of the equation and presto! You have a dystopian novel.

But what about The Giver, you say? Male protagonist! A breath of fresh air! Brilliant writing! Complex without being overly weighty! Yes, The Giver is all of that, but I am so disenchanted with the bleakness that is dystopian fiction that I haven't got the energy to give the rest of the series a try. Ender's Game? Oh wait, another male protag. Apparently the formula gets more flexible if the lead is male. Interesting, right? It works, but Ender's Game strays into science fiction the further you go, running away from dystopia into something new.

I have found a small niche of dystopian fiction that I've somewhat enjoyed, and I'm waiting for the writing to get better. I read The Misfits, a dystopian work that was set so far into the future that the echoes of the catastrophe were barely felt, but the remaining inhabitants were just beginning to make forays into creating a brand new world WITHOUT the suffocating government. And I just finished The Scourge over the holidays. That was almost delightful, and it really was a breath of fresh air. The fact that the society is dystopian is gradually revealed over the course of the story, but the focus is on the survivors and the limits they placed on themselves. Also, there are zombies. Normally I would avoid zombies, but in here, they *worked*.

So, dear readers, if you've stuck with me this far, here's the question: Are there more dystopian works out there, ones that do NOT involve overthrowing the oppressive upstart government? If so, do you enjoy them, and why?

04 January 2016

New Year, New Tone

Hello friends and fellow book lovers!

The holidays are over, the kids will be back in school tomorrow, and I've read a TON of books! I ended up reading a couple of dystopian novels, which made me think about the dystopian genre in general--there will be an introspective blog post on that in the near future--and a few favorites got a re-read.

Definitely looking forward to the near future, as well! I have a couple of cozy mysteries from Catherine Brun to review, as well as some NetGalley books I'm taking a chance on. Some of my favorite books from last year, including The Secret Circle, Dahlia Moss, and Shattered Blue, were sent to me from NetGalley. Cannot say enough nice things about the folks NetGalley brings together. What a great service, especially for voracious and opinionated readers like me!

Also, I had time to think over the break, and I realized a couple of things. First of all, I love blogging, but it's really hard to blog in a vacuum. Secondly, I write my best blogs about books and topics I'm passionate about. I've spent the past four months reviewing like mad, doing my best to get this blog off the ground, but now I want to take things in a new direction. There will still be reviews, but I'd love to do some discussions as well, something that will really make the comments thread explode. So, less reviews, more discussion. Shall we?

On that note, dear reader, how were your holidays? Did you get to read something good? If so, what was it?