One Fine Fae (Mystic Bayou novella, #4.5)

One Fine FaeOne Fine Fae
by Molly Harper
Rating: ★★★★
Series: Mystic Bayou #4.5
Publication Date: January 1, 2020
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Audible Originals

Charlotte McBee knows she’s in for a challenge when she accepts a job as midwife for a dragon and a phoenix shifter. Being a fairy herself, it isn’t the supernatural world that scares her. It’s the thought of delivering a giant metal dragon’s egg, which has her gritting her teeth in pain for poor Jillian, the anxious mother-to-be.

While preparing for the big event, a handsome town resident catches her eye. Leonard is kind, charming, and a little bit mysterious. He’s also suffering from a highly unusual condition brought on by an ancient fairy curse, and he’s too wary of Charlotte to allow her to get close.

Will love overcome fear before the end of her assignment?


 

So I thought I’d closed my Audible account last year, but it turns out, nope, I didn’t.  One of their emails got through the spam filter last week and informed me that I had 12 credits sitting there.  Of course, I had to use them all before I shut the account for good, so I went on a bit of a spree and bought a bunch of titles, and I made sure Molly Harper’s books accounted for at least a few.

One Fine Fae is, really, not a 4 star read – it’s closer to a 3.5 star, but I think Amanda Ronconi does such a fabulous job with the narration of these that she gets the .5 star bump.  Jonathan Davis narrates the male POV and I rather wish he didn’t.  He reads awkwardly, often mangling sentences with his oddly placed pauses, and he’s terrible at female voices.

The story itself is about what you’d expect from a novella: short and shallow, relying on established characters for any real depth while the newbies have their meet cute and establish a relationship.  There’s no tension, or plot, other than the birth of Gillian’s daughter, who is half dragon and half phoenix, and that wasn’t at all tense.

All in all, just a light and amusing way to kill a few hours while driving and ironing.

Synchronized Sorcery (Witchcraft Mystery, #11)

Synchronized SorcerySynchronized Sorcery
by Juliet Blackwell
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9780593097953
Series: Witchcraft Mystery #11
Publication Date: July 6, 2021
Pages: 335
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Berkley

Strange things are happening in Lily Ivory’s San Francisco. First, she finds a vintage mermaid costume which dates from the 1939 San Francisco’s Treasure Island World’s Fair – and which gives off distinctly peculiar vibrations. Next, she stumbles upon a dead man in the office of her predecessor, and as the community’s new leader, she feels compelled to track down the culprit. Just when Lily thinks things can’t get any stranger, a man appears claiming to be her half-brother, spouting ideas about the mystical prophecy involving San Francisco and their family…

When the dead man is linked to the mysterious mermaid costume, and then yet another victim is found on Treasure Island, Lily uncovers ties between the long-ago World’s fair and the current murders, and begins to wonder whether the killer might be hiding in plain sight. But unless Lily can figure everything out in time, there may be yet another body floating in San Francisco Bay.


 

I don’t know if this just wasn’t one of her best ones, or I just wasn’t feeling it.  Things at work have been pretty damn dismal the last couple of weeks, so it’s entirely possible it was just my sour mood colouring my enjoyment of a normally favorite series.  But there was a little something; some slowness, or lack of focus, to the plot, that kept me from really losing myself in it.  And her familiar was acting like a spoiled brat throughout the book, something that at the best of times I have no patience with.

But still, probably more me than the book.

The Cats Came Back (Magical Cats Mystery, #10)

The Cats Came BackThe Cats Came Back
by Sofie Kelly
Rating: ★★★
isbn: 9780399584596
Series: Magical Cats Mystery #10
Publication Date: January 1, 2018
Pages: 294
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Berkley

 

This is an adorably fun series about two magical cats and a likeable group of humans, but this entry was very average for me, mainly because I anticipated every plot development and who the murderer was well before it’s reasonable to have guessed.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got to say – it’s not a bad read, it just wasn’t as cleverly plotted as others in the series.

The Ex Hex

The Ex HexThe Ex Hex
by Erin Sterling
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9780063027473
Publication Date: September 28, 2021
Pages: 320
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Romance
Publisher: HarperCollins

 

A departure for me, as this book is all about the romance, not a mystery plot that masks a little romance on the side.  But Whiskey in the Jar’s review made it sound cute and a lot of fun, so I grabbed it from my library.

It was fun, and it was cute.  I liked the N. Georgia setting and the brand of witchiness the story relied upon (think more Bewitched, less later-seasons-Charmed).  It was a nice change to read about a romantic hero that was Welsh instead of the tried and true Scottish or Irish male.

I mostly liked the relationships; the dynamic between Vivienne and her aunt and cousin, and especially the relationship between Rhys and his brothers.  The dynamic between Rhys and Simon, the father, felt forced and, the way it’s written here, kind of useless, as it really goes nowhere.

The narrative banter was the most enjoyable part of the book for me (that and the fact that the cat got a voice).  The banter kept me reading, even though I skimmed the romance and the angst, but that’s not the book, that’s just me.

Overall exactly what I was hoping for.

 

I read this for Halloween Bingo 2021, and I read it at night, with my little book light for ambiance, making it work for Read by Candlelight or Flashlight; I was all ready to do the candle light, but I remember Easter-cats first confrontation with a candle flame, and her singed whiskers.  Pikachu has insanely long whiskers and an insatiable curiosity that didn’t bode well for the candlelit reading.

On the Edge (Novel of the Edge, #1)

On the EdgeOn the Edge
by Ilona Andrews
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780441017805
Series: Novel of the Edge #1
Publication Date: September 29, 2009
Pages: 336
Genre: Fiction, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

 

Well, it just goes to show you: people change and you should never say never.  I read this book back in 2016 and my review from that reading was … unfavourable, ending with my declaration that I’d never read the book again.

Shows you what I know.  I not only read it again, I liked it better than I did the first time.  It’s still a little too PNR for me, but I found it easier to get into the story, the setting and the characters.  Maybe because I’d already read it and had a vague recollection of not liking the romantic interest, I found him less unbearable than I expected to, and the non-consent issues didn’t feel as egregious this time around, only typically arrogant.

I can’t really say why, except maybe I’ve read more Ilona Andrews’ since, or my mood was more receptive to the story.  Who knows?  But I went from rating this 3 stars and never reading it again, to rating it 4 stars and buying a copy of it for my shelves.  Along with the other 3 book in the series.

 

I’ve been intending to read this since I ordered it back in July, but its arrival during Halloween Bingo was fortuitous;  it’s a great fit for the Relics and Curiosities square.  The story line centers on a powerful artefact from a previous civilisation that eats magic and spits out something very akin to a demon hound.

Charmed & Dangerous

Charmed & DangerousCharmed & Dangerous
by Candace Havens
Rating: ★★½
isbn: 9780425219003
Publication Date: April 12, 2007
Pages: 287
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
Publisher: Berkley

 

Another Candace Havens, set in the same universe with the same characters, just a different MC.  And boy did it NOT hold up well to the test of time.  I remember liking Bronwyn (the MC) because she was her own person and powerful and didn’t let anyone intimidate her.  And she’s till all those things, but the rest of her is just so emotionally shallow and her romance was written … well, I’ve read more believable romances in 80’s teen fiction.  The non-romance part of the book didn’t do so well either.  The antagonists were all juvenile in the extreme (they all kept saying “Die Witch!”) and it was all just so silly.

I also got extremely irritated with the author re-writing history: Like a Charm takes place before Christmas and the characters’ relationship is resolved and their embracing their HEA well before then.  But this book takes place 3 months later and there are scenes with Kira and Caleb where they’re still in the hand holding stage and haven’t yet “done the nasty”.

Anyway – not a great book.

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.

The Archive of the Forgotten (Hell’s Library, #2)

The Archive of the ForgottenThe Archive of the Forgotten
by A.J. Hackwith
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9781984806390
Series: Hell's Library #2
Publication Date: October 6, 2020
Pages: 352
Genre: Fiction, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

 

Not as good as the first book for me.  The first book was all about the creation of the team: Claire, Brevity, Hero and eventually, Ramiel.  The librarian, the muse, the character, and the angel.  There was a common enemy and books had spirit and fought.  It was a good time.

This book is about pitting the team against each other and the books are silent, non-participants, except when a character or two throws some spite at Claire, who is now the Archivist of the Arcane after being ousted by Hell as Librarian of the Unwritten Wing.  There’s also a tiny soupçon of insta-romance that’s completely unnecessary, extraneous to the plot entirely, and feels like it was done to make a statement rather than add anything to the story, as opposed to the small soupçon of romance that was central to the plot of the first book.

All in all, a lot less fun and more of a chore.  A chore willingly done because all the fantastic love of books and stories is still here.  The magic of books is still here; it’s just the characters that lost their magic this time around.  I suppose I could say the division amongst friends in this book reminds me too much of the division amongst friends and family in real life that’s occurring everywhere, and that would be true, but really, I just don’t like to read about friends fighting.

I love the atmosphere of the book and the magic of the library and the arcane wing.  I love the log entries at the start of each chapter, even if I don’t always agree with their philosophy or theology.  I like the characters, and I’d like to love them and perhaps with the next book, or the one after that, I will, assuming I’ll want to read it when the time comes.  But if the author is sharing a sliver of her soul with readers in this series, I can’t help but worry from hints here and there within the stories so far, that that sliver of soul has an axe to grind and I’m not looking to be a whetstone for my books, no matter how much I love their premise and their magic.  So, 3.5 stars and a ‘we’ll see’.

 

I read this for 2021 Halloween Bingo.  I originally had the Psych square, but Flipped/traded with Moonlight Reader (All the Vintage Ladies) for her Highway to Hell square, for which this is in all the ways perfect.

Lowcountry Boughs of Holly (Liz Talbot Mystery, #10)

Lowcountry Boughs of HollyLowcountry Boughs of Holly
by Susan M. Boyer
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781635116311
Series: Liz Talbot Mystery #10
Publication Date: November 17, 2020
Pages: 242
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Henery Press

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but PI Liz Talbot is struggling to feel festive. She hasn’t seen her best friend in weeks and fears she may never see her again in this life. Meanwhile Nate, Liz’s husband and partner, is spending money like he prints it in the attic on a mysterious family Christmas celebration.

Liz’s nerves are shot, and she hasn’t even decked a single hall. But there’s no time to fret. On a beach run, Liz spots a rowboat run aground with Santa inside. Did Old Saint Nick have too much eggnog at the boat parade? No indeedy—Santa’s been shot. And he’s none other than C.C. Bounetheau, patriarch of one of Charleston’s wealthiest families.

Liz and Nate already unwrapped quite a few family secrets while searching for the Bounetheau’s missing granddaughter last year—enough to make them swear to steer forever clear of the entire clan. But as Liz and Nate are the police chief’s on-call detectives, they’re on the case. With no shortage of suspects, they dash to find a killer who may be working his or her way down a naughty list.


Calling this series ‘dependable’ sounds like I’m talking about old shoes, but dependable really is the best word; each of the 10 entries so far have offered up solid writing, great characters (with eccentric family members) and creative and sometimes heartbreaking plots, with just a dash of the supernatural in the form of a ghost to keep things interesting.

Lowcountry Boughs of Holly was no different, though I have to say the storyline was too convenient in a forced kind of way.  The entire murder plot, while good, was all too relevant to the solution of a multi-book mini mystery that’s been brewing.  Liz has been worried for the past several books about where her husband Nate has been finding the money he’s been spending.  It’s been nothing more than a passing curiosity but this is the book where it all comes out.  And the coincidental parallels between the two plots beggars belief.

Putting that aside though, I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and as it is yet another Christmas themed mystery, the ending is a charming and happy one all the way around.

Garland of Bones (Sarah Booth Delaney, #22)

Garland of BonesGarland of Bones
by Carolyn Haines
Rating: ★★★
isbn: 9781250257925
Series: Sarah Booth Delaney #22
Publication Date: October 13, 2020
Pages: 336
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

I have always loved this series for many reasons: the mysteries are always pretty good, the characters are wonderful, and the writing always felt naturally lyrical, with wit that just seemed to flow off Haines’ pen.

Not so much in this one.  The wit and sparkle felt forced, the sentiment feigned and even the characters were reluctant to involve themselves in the mystery, which felt lacklustre in spite of it being well plotted.

As I write this I find myself wondering if this book isn’t a reflection of the author’s state of mind when she wrote it.

View Spoiler »

This book definitely feels like a jaded mind at work.  Hopefully not a sign of books to come.