Like a Charm

Like a CharmLike a Charm
by Candace Havens
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9780425219263
Publication Date: February 5, 2008
Pages: 289
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
Publisher: Berkley

 

I’ve had a few books by Candace Havens on the shelves for over a decade, and the other night I decided I had to re-read them; I remembered the broad strokes, but not much else.  I started with this one, Like a Charm and it held up surprisingly well, for the kind of story it is.

Like a Charm is a paranormal romance, but really the romance is only about half the story, the rest is about the MC, Kira, picking herself up and putting herself back together after a horrific work related experience that left her traumatised and seriously ill.  She goes back to her hometown and reconnects with the residents and her family, and while she’s there, the town librarian dies, a woman who was like a second mom to her.  Kira is bequeathed an extraordinary inheritance, and must weight accepting it against going back to her highly successful law career.

Of course that other half of the story is Caleb.  Caleb has all the requirements of a romantic hero: of course he’s hot, and he’s a carpenter, BUT only on the side, when he’s not running around the world being a highly successful investigative reporter, and of course he’s rich, although you’d never know it unless he’s in a suit.  And of course he’s a gentleman of the southern variety, holding doors, paying for everything – but only in the most enlightened and charming fashion.  I’m used to this sort of stuff in what few romances I read, and I accept that it’s a winning formula for a reason.  But where things got really out-of-date, was the whole first time in bed scene.  It was just soooo cheesy.

As is obvious, I enjoyed the non-romantic half more.  It was largely an ode to books and libraries and the book-title-author name dropping was fun.  It was a light, fun read that went fast.

 

I’ve decided to use this for the Raven/Free Square on my Halloween Bingo 2021 card.  It’s full of magic and I-see-dead-people and is set in a small town run and protected by a coven of witches.

Wild Ride

Wild RideWild Ride
by Bob Mayer, Jennifer Crusie
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9780312533779
Publication Date: March 15, 2010
Pages: 351
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

 

This was the last book Jennifer Crusie wrote that I hadn’t yet read (except for the Temptation books; I started Welcome to Temptation  and something turned me off and I never finished it).  It’s a co-wriiten book with Bob Meyer, and their previous effort Agnes and the Hitman is one of my all time favourite good-time reads.

But I avoided this one for years because I’m not a fan of carnivals and amusement parks as story settings.  Stephen King might have ruined this for me, but there’s just something WAY too creepy and seedy about them in books.  Nevertheless, I had bought this and after years of languishing in a forgotten corner of the TBR, I found it just in time for Halloween Bingo, and the setting was perfect.

Mary Alice (Mab) is just finishing up a massive restoration of an early 1920’s amusement park, putting on one of the last touches, when she’s attacked by a giant iron clown that calls her by name.  The owners of the park seen unsurprised, though they pass it off as a hallucination.  Soon, however, there’s no escaping the truth:  the park is the prison for 5 untouchable demons (all from the Etruscan mythology, it seems) and two have escaped.  It’s up to Mab and her fellow Guardia to re-capture them and keep the other three from escaping.

Believe me when I say there is nothing deep or philosophical about this book.  It’s pure silliness and funnel cake fun.  It’s not nearly as well plotted or written as Agnes and the Hitman, but it’s well written enough that it kept me reading and the eye rolling only happened a few times.

I doubt I’ll ever re-read this again, though it did make me want to climb that ladder to grab Agnes for a re-read.

 

I read this for Halloween Bingo 2021.  It’s a perfect fit for the Creepy Carnivals square, which is really my Stone Cold Horror square – I used my Transfiguration Spell card,  as it’s chock full of demons (including minions that possess teddy bears and characters ripped completely from Small World) and it takes place entirely within the grounds of the Fun Fun Amusement Park.

Ladies’ Night

Ladies' NightLadies' Night
by Mary Kay Andrews
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781250019677
Publication Date: June 24, 2013
Pages: 456
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Grace Stanton's life as a rising media star and beloved lifestyle blogger takes a surprising turn when she catches her husband cheating and torpedoes his pricey sports car straight into the family swimming pool. Grace suddenly finds herself locked out of her palatial home, checking account, and even the blog she has worked so hard to develop in her signature style. Moving in with her widowed mother, who owns and lives above a rundown beach bar called The Sandbox, is less than ideal. So is attending court-mandated weekly "divorce recovery" therapy sessions with three other women and one man for whom betrayal seems to be the only commonality. When their "divorce coach" starts to act suspiciously, they decide to start having their own Wednesday "Ladies' Night" sessions at The Sandbox, and the unanticipated bonds that develop lead the members of the group to try and find closure in ways they never imagined. Can Grace figure out a new way home and discover how strong she needs to be to get there?

Heartache, humor, and a little bit of mystery come together in a story about life's unpredictable twists and turns. Mary Kay Andrews' Ladies' Night will have you raising a glass and cheering these characters on.


 

Definitely not one of her best books, but not nearly as poor as I was led to believe.  Admittedly, it’s set in my home town, which never fails to delight me as my home town only read made it on to the map in the last 15 years or so.  But I enjoyed following the main character’s vision and her hard work on restoring the Cracker house, and I thoroughly enjoyed the romantic interest’s background of owning Jungle Jerry’s, a fictional but entirely accurate take on Sarasota Jungle Gardens, right down to the parrot that rides a bike.

Nostalgia definitely bumped the rating on this book at least a star; the villains were too villainous to be real – although in Florida non of them were impossible – and the plots were superficial at best.  I always hold up her non detective fiction against her an early work of hers, Hissy Fit, and this falls far short of that incredibly readable story, but it’s not, as I said, her worst.  Living as far from home as one can get and still be on the planet, I thoroughly enjoyed the virtual trip home, so, 4 stars.

 

The Bookshop on the Shore

The Bookshop on the ShoreThe Bookshop on the Shore
by Jenny Colgan
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 0062850180
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Pages: 416
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

This one was an average chick-lit/romance that was only marginally about books, though they sounded like heavenly books in a library out of my dreams.  The setting was the same as The Bookshop on the Corner, and a couple of characters from the first book play minor roles in this one, but otherwise the story is completely stand alone.

And it’s ok.  It’s saved from complete mediocrity by a plot twist that was unexpected – at least by me; with my limited backlist of books in this genre, it’s probably not hard to surprise me.

It was a diverting read, though not as good as The Book Charmer, whose strong sense of place kept interfering in my mind with the weaker one here;  Perhaps I might have enjoyed this one more if it hadn’t come on the tails of that more vividly written and charming book.

Agnes and the Hitman

Agnes and the HitmanAgnes and the Hitman
by Jennifer Crusie
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9780312363048
Publication Date: August 21, 2007
Pages: 368
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

 

I used this yesterday as my ‘guilty pleasure’ read for the ukbookaday event and since I had finished and reviewed all my currently reading books yesterday as well, it felt like I had earned a guilty pleasure re-read.  Plus, I figured this would be a great book to christen BL’s new re-read feature with, but it turns out I never recorded any read dates for this before, so that was a bust.

Remember those old-ish Goldie Hawn movies, like Bird on a Wire?  If you’ve seen those movies, you’ll have some idea of what Agnes and the HItman is like.  (Maybe a bit of Analyze This mixed in.) I think this book is MUCH better than Bird on a Wire was, but it’s as close as I can come to describing the tone.

Agnes is having a very bad week.  She’s bought the house of her dreams from her best friends mother, Brenda, with the stipulation that Brenda’s granddaughter (and Agnes’ goddaughter) be married on the grounds with Agnes planning and hosting the whole thing.  Easy!

Except suddenly someone is trying to dognap her dog, at gunpoint.  Seems a bit excessive for an ugly old hound.  Agnes defends herself with her frying pan and in the course of self-defence, the would be dognapper falls through a wall into an unknown basement and dies, letting loose all sorts of family secrets Brenda would have preferred stayed buried.  Agnes’ old friend Joey, a retired and reformed mobster, thinks there’s something up with a dognapping at gunpoint and sends his nephew, Shane, to protect Agnes.  Shane’s in the middle of a job, trying to take out an assassin, but Joey is the man who raised him – sort of – and he’s never asked for anything from Shane in 25 years.

What follows from here is just pure hilarity.  This is not a deep story; don’t look for the characters to be meaningful or even realistic.  There is zero navel-gazing and it’s pretty much non-stop action from first to last.  If liberal use of course language is going to bother you – avoid this book.  If talk about sex bothers you – avoid this book.  The sex isn’t graphic, but discussion about it abounds.

If you’re looking for a light, funny, comedic romp – find this book!  I upgraded mine to hardcover several years ago because I was wearing out my paperback.

Death, Taxes, and Hot Pink Leg Warmers

Well, I’m not sure about the ending, but the rest is excellent! Great characters, snappy dialogue and excellent story lines.

 

I enjoy the way the author goes between two or more story lines in these books, each one is a nice break from the other and it keeps things interesting. The main plot line was intense, so the secondary plot offered a breather and I enjoyed reading about the individual agencies working together.

 

The sexual tension between Nick and Tara is fun and the author does an excellent job with the writing – enough to be steamy, not so much as to be veering into erotic writing.  This has been a strong series from the beginning and I’m looking forward to the next book, which luckily is only a couple of months away.

A Witch’s Handbook of Kisses and Curses

I loved Molly Harper’s Nice Girl’s series – the characters were people I wanted for friends. If I could live in one of the fictional universe’s in my books, Half Moon Hallow would rank in my top 5 list – IF I could work at Specialty books.

 

So having said all that, of course I loved this book. While Jane and Andrea aren’t center stage, they are a major part of the book and plot – as is Dick. Nola isn’t quite as left of center as these loveable members of HMH, but she plays a great straight-man to many of their antics.

 

I’m a sucker for treasure hunts, so the plot of this book appealed to me: searching for four objects necessary for the continuation of her family’s magic. Ms. Harper tried to keep each artefact search a little bit different, nothing too clichéd. I loved the scene at Jane’s parents house – very funny.

 

Overall, a great addition to the Half Moon Hollow Universe. I hope Ms. Harper continue’s to spin her tales in that little town in Kentucky for some time to come.

Garden Spells

I put off reading this book for a long time because I figured it had to be one of those emotionally manipulative tear jerkers, but the lure of a book with magic and the recommendation of a trusted book-twin had me cracking it open.

 

Just a lovely, brilliant book that grabbed me from the first page. Each character came to life vividly and I just didn’t want to stop reading about any of them. I genuinely enjoyed that the author did not take us down the clichéd path with Sydney or with Fred – in a book all about magic (or mostly about magic), the author chose to take the more realistic path. The book’s climax is predictable, given the plot points, but thank you Ms. Addison Allen for not drawing it out and making it any more melodramatic than it needed to be. It was just right – and deliciously ironic.

 

My only complaint: I truly feel that poor old apple tree is just horribly mis-understood.

Death, Taxes, and Peach Sangria (Tara Halloway #4)

This series is just so much fun. While Peach Sangria is a mystery, it’s not your typical murder mystery.

 

Tara is after terrorists by going after their source of money. It’s a slow story to develop and there’s a lot more character development going on, bulking up the book. But I like the character development so I don’t mind at all that the ‘plot’ isn’t front and center and taking up Tara’s every move.  

 

In the land of character development, Ms. Kelly gave us a love triangle a few books ago, and it’s resolved in this book (thank goodness!). She also does something I don’t think any author to date has done: gotten me to switch loyalties from one man to the other. Usually once a love interest is introduced, and it’s a good one, I get really snippy about author’s messing with the status quo. But Ms. Kelly has done a very good job of changing my loyalties and handling the love triangle resolution with grace.  

No Quest For The Wicked (Enchanted, Inc., #6)

This is such a great series for anyone looking for a light, fun, humorous read. No Quest for the Wicked is so action-packed it’s almost exhausting to read, but a lot of fun during the wild ride. I hope this is a series she continues to enjoy success with as I look forward to seeing all the great characters again soon.