Book Review: Catching Echoes by Meghan Ciana Doidge

I love that I pre-ordered this so when I checked my Kindle library for the next book to read on my birthday, this one just popped up. Happy Birthday to me! I was also tickled to see one of the characters was named after my son, Declan (not really but I can pretend). It’s like my own personal Easter egg. Blending some new characters with old, this first book in the Reconstructionist series explores the Adept world from the POV of Wisteria Fairchild, a witch with a very specific skill set. Wisteria can reconstruct magical scenes, usually in conjunction with helping solve a crime involving the supernatural. In this case, she gets pushed out of her carefully constructed comfort zone when Kett, an elder the vampire Conclave, requests her aid in solving the deaths of teenage boys who have been partially turned into vampires. Though she has strong values regarding the use of her magic and her role in the Adept world, Wisteria finds that she needs to help these boys despite risks to her personal safety. There are hints of a dark past and magical potential as yet not realized, providing nice internal conflict along with the plot-driven action. For those of us familiar with Kett from the Dowser series, viewing him through Wisteria’s eyes is quite enlightening. He really gets to show us more of his character in this book, and it’s a tad unsettling. You can dive right in with this book but I highly recommend following the author’s reading order of all of the...

Book Review: The Ghosts of Tsavo by Vered Ehsani

The concept and premise of this book are very intriguing: a secret society for the investigation of paranormal activity set against the backdrop of the turn of the 20th century England (and Africa), a blend of very different cultures, and a heroine with a sharp wit combine for a potentially very satisfying read. Mrs. Beatrice Knight, who is gifted with paranormal abilities and haunted by her dead husband, finds herself solving a mystery involving the ghosts of man-eating lions in Africa. Her character is so endearing and witty that the weaker parts of the book are easily tolerated. Aside from some blatant copy editing errors, this book really could have soared with some more depth and fleshing out. I liked so much about the book that it is hard to point out the flaws, but I think the author is capable of even more. The threads of the plot don’t hang together as tightly as they could, and some characters are one-dimensional. I particularly misunderstood the relationship with Mr. Timmons, which was more complex than at first presented. The author has a solid handle on humor and this is the source of the book’s greatest strength. I think I would greatly enjoy a pot of tea with Mrs. Knight, preferably at a decent hour well after...

Book Review: Republic (Emperor’s Edge Book Eight) by Lindsay Buroker

I have been a fan of this series for a while and was thrilled to discover a new book, especially one that is a meaty 600 or so pages (I read this on the Kindle app and page numbers can be a little fluid). Six hundred more pages with characters I love? Yay! At first, though, I wasn’t sure I would make it through the whole thing. The premise of a giant plant taking over Turgonia was a bit 1950s B-horror movie for me, and that particular plot point didn’t hook me at all. But I knew I had enjoyed the other seven books for good reason, so pushed on. After a few chapters I was able to get into the story, thanks to the strong characters and a conspiracy-driven sub-plot. More than once I had to force myself to put the book down and go to sleep, already! There is a lot of head hopping in this book, and it is done very well. It was never confusing and each viewpoint helped the reader see nuances in the events that may have been otherwise missed. It was also nice to engage with beloved characters by spending whole chapters inside each one’s head. If you are a fan of this series, you probably already have the book. If you are here as a newbie, do yourself a favor and start at the beginning. This isn’t really a stand-alone piece but one that rewards loyal readers and hopefully leaves room for more volumes down the road. * * * The above is an affiliate...

Book Review: Cupcakes, Trinkets, and Other Deadly Magic by Meghan Ciana Doidge

First off, if this author doesn’t come out with a companion baking guide I am going to be doing a whole lot of drooling for nothing. Our faithful protagonist, Jade, is a pretty, yoga-practicing baker with a hobby of creating magical trinkets that turn out to be worth more than a spot on a Pinterest board. Her cupcakes are described so vividly that I swear I gained a pound after reading this book. I also gained an affection for our heroine, who despite being young and beautiful never became annoying. Jade is actually pretty happy with her life, running her very successful business and dabbling in her limited magic. Then a vampire and a pack of werewolves show up, determined to find out how Jade is connected to a series of murders involving black magic. Despite her protestations of innocence, Jade finds herself caught up in the mystery, and in the process finds out that her own past isn’t what she’s been led to believe. I very much enjoyed this book, which could have been a little stronger on plotting and character development. The twists and turns weren’t as shocking as they could have been, and the big reveal of the villain wasn’t all that surprising. Still, it was good enough to keep me reading and on the lookout for the next installment. * * * The above is an affiliate...

Fifty Shades of Throwing Shade

I will take any excuse for a night out with one of my best friends while our baby-daddies hold down the fort. This includes spending $50 on dinner, drinks, and full price movie ticket for a movie that was nowhere near my top five. My friend, a fan of the books, really wanted to see Fifty Shades of Grey, so I obliged. I have no problem with the premise of the book/movie, even if it’s not a choice I would personally make. I do have problems with the execution of the tale, but literary criticisms have not hurt E.L. James’s bottom line one bit. I freely confess that I read the first book out of professional curiosity. Was it as bad as the literary snobs claimed? Was the sex that titillating? Was the love story compelling enough to birth a trilogy? It seems unfair that a book in the C+/B- range should be so successful when truly well-written fare struggles to sell a few thousand copies. The book, and the movie, lived up to my expectations. Not truly horrible, although I rolled my eyes enough times to earn my bum a visit from Christian’s twitchy palm. Not great, but intriguing enough to keep me engaged until the end. There are plenty of lessons to glean in what not to do, but also examples of story structure well implemented, as Larry Brooks points out. Good or bad, Fifty Shades has us talking. Talking about feminism, quality writing, sexuality, and casting choices (I like Jamie Dornan but he was not a great fit for this role). It is frustrating to listen to the opinions...

Wild

I’m still kind of amazed that I accomplished the feat of reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail and also seeing the movie in less than two months. Amazed because since having my son (now 21 months), I’ve watched maybe five movies in the theater and my voracious reading habit has turned into the crumbs of words I can snatch at night before sleep overtakes me. I read the book over the four weeks my husband, son and I spent traveling to/from/around England visiting my in-laws. I watched the movie while on a weekend holiday to Edgefield with a group of friends. I recommend all of the above: traveling, reading the book and seeing the movie. While I didn’t come away with a burning desire to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, I did appreciate a true life story so beautifully told. The honesty so unflinchingly revealed by the author was enhanced by the flow of the narrative, at turns exciting and introspective with a thread of dark humor to sew things together. The movie, adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby, takes all the right pieces from the book and provides a viewing experience that neither relies on the book nor discounts it. The movie is whole on its own, but having read the book made it even more of an event. Also making it an event was the theater, a small little thing on a property known as “Disneyland for Grownups.” If you aren’t familiar with the McMenamins properties, this is the essence: take a nursing home/school/convent and turn it into a funky...