Saturday, July 26, 2014

January Thaw


Recently I participated in the 41st Midwest Writer's Workshop and had an intensive session with the author of this series. In preparation, I decided to read one of her books in the series and this is the first one that was available at my local library. I believe that this is book 9 of the Murder a Month series that Jess Lourey is writing, but I did not realize that at the time that I read this.

With regards to the novel, I was a little disappointed in it. Maybe if I had started with the first one I would have seen the character growing, etc. For me, I thought that the main character was a little static. She was far less interesting to me than her cohort in crime Mrs. Berns. That old broad was fun and I couldn't help but laugh whenever to came onto the page. Definitely a scene stealer, at least for me. Also, her main character Mira and her boyfriend seemed almost like stock characters in a way. They were way too familiar and were felt type-casted. I would have liked to have had the characters have an idiosyncrasy of some kind that would have made them more interesting.

What I thought that Lourey did well was setting development. You knew that it was Minnesota and that it was in the winter. Sometimes while I was reading the skin on my arm would break out in goose bumps in empathy for the characters in the book. Battle Lake, since it is a real place, helped ground the book a little as well and made it easier to imagine what the little town looked like and how the people there behaved.

Some things that I had issue with was that the murderer wasn't really a secret and there were quite a few clichés strung throughout. For me, I need to be challenged when trying to figure out who the villain or murderer is. In this book, it seemed like Lourey didn't try to give any red herrings. I knew who it was rather quickly. The other thing is that even if you change a single word in a clichéd phrase, it is still a clichéd phrase. There was too much of that throughout.

In terms of the Midwest Writer's Workshop, I thought the intensive session with her was wonderful. She is extremely nice with a great sense of humor. In those few hours I learned more about the writing process than most of the writing classes I have taken. What I took away from it was not matter what, stay focused and don't give up on getting published. Even if you get 400 rejections, it may be accepted on the 401st, query.

If you like a cozy type mystery set in the Midwest, then this one is for you. If you need a mystery with a little more mystery and lot more action, then this probably isn't the one for you.

Rating 3 out 5

I borrowed this book from my local library; I was not paid to do a review of this book. The image is taken from Good Reads.



I seem to punish myself with reading books that are either sequels or extensions of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, but when I read the synopsis for this one, I was instantly curious. What would the story have been like through the eyes of the servants of the Bennett household?

The first thing I had to tell myself before reading this is that I could not in any way shape or form be expecting the beautiful writing style of Austen. What I was hoping for was something a little more raw and even rough in style. Jo Baker did not disappoint! The servants were so deliciously bitter that I found myself amused and did not miss the characters of one of my favorite books.

Baker did an exceptional job of developing the characters and capturing the hard life that they had back then. It read a little bit like a historical fiction and had some interesting twists in turns, especially with the storyline of James, the new footman. I found myself wondering more about his back story more than any of the others and almost wish that it been told more through his eyes instead of Sarah's. Her writing style was beautiful as well and everything flowed from one page to the next smoothly.

My one main criticism is that Mr. Darcy was not really in the book. Alas, it would not have made much sense to make him a main character here, but how I do love that literary man!

If you are expecting a novel that is full of P&P then this book will be very disappointing. If you like a piece of fiction that has familiarity to another piece, but maintains its own storyline with love and loss then this book is for you. I should think that some other diehard Austen fans would be able to appreciate this book for what it is and not for what they wish it was.

Rating: 4 out 5

I borrowed this book from my local library; I was not paid to give this review. The image was take from Good Reads.

The Witches Revenge


I was given a copy of this book by the author and thought that the premise for it was interesting. It is written like a folk tail of sorts and I was hoping that if I thought about it in the format I would begin to like it as I read it. However, after about 50 pages into it, I had a very hard time going forward to finish the book.

I think that Danny Odato's idea for the book was a great horror story. A small village is terrorized by some sort of evil force that is taking the lives of the children and pregnant woman. However, there was a great deal of telling where some showing needed to happen throughout. I wasn't really given the ability to imagine anything for myself since everything was handed to me.

Even though I knew that it was a horror story going into it, the fact that there were some very graphic scenes regarding children either dying or injuring themselves, really bothered me and I had a hard time connecting to the characters. Some of the dialogue and scenes felt choppy or shortened like they needed a little more fleshing out to be interesting to the reader. There seemed to be maybe a little too much tension and climax happening and I never really got to build with the sensation of fear. Instead, it felt overwhelming and I did not want to continue turning pages. The only other thing is that there were some general editing issues, which seem to be standard with novels that are self published by the author.

Overall, I thought that the story had really good promise to be scary if it had maybe been written a little more like a folk story being told to warn naughty little children. If you like short horror novels than you might like this. If you are like me and the detailed deaths of children bother you, then you may want to skip this book.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

I was given a copy of this book by the author for my honest review; I was not paid to give my review. The image was taken from Good Reads.

A Discovery of Witches


This book was once again on my library's staff recommendation list and I decided to check it out. Even though this book is quite long, 579 pages, it only took me a couple of nights to read. I could not put this book down, almost like I was under a spell to complete it. Now, I am going to have to read the other books in the series to find out what will happen to the main characters!

What I really loved about Deborah Harkness was her writing style. This book was extremely well written and you could tell that the author is a very accomplished academic. It had a very nice flow to it and its contents were very easy to follow. There was also a great deal of history woven into its contents, which made it read a little like a historical fiction piece. With all of the sensory details that Harkness put into the novel, you get transported to another world and it envelops you. It may even haunt you a little as well.

Normally, a love story would be off putting to me and are things that I do not gravitate to. However, I was drawn in and wanted to see how the love between Diana and Matthew would pay out. This is also why I now need to read the next two books in the series! A union between a vampire and witch seems interesting and one that is rarely done. It brought forth a great deal of questions, which is something that I like while reading. If everything is given to me without allowing me to fill in some of the blanks, I tend to lose interest fairly quickly.

The only complaint that I have is that the point of view shifts between first person for Diana's passages and third person with all of Matthew's passages. I tend to be a little old fashion and would like the point of view to stay the same throughout the piece. For this novel, that had to happen for everything to be explained and worked for it, but I still would have liked it to be consistent throughout.

If you like supernatural romance fiction, then you will enjoy this book immensely. If you do not like romance and feel that it should not have any place in supernatural fiction, then you might want to pass this one up.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

I checked this book out of the local library; I was not asked to do a review of this book. The image was borrowed from Good Reads.