Review: Wickedly Dangerous by Deborah Blake

Title: Wickedly Dangerous {Baba Yaga #1}

Author: Deborah Blake

Published: Berkley, September 2014

Status: Read on May 26, 2018

 

My Thoughts:

Wickedly Dangerous is the first book in Deborah Blake’s urban fantasy romance trilogy drawing on the legend of Baba Yaga, with a unique contemporary twist.

Barbara Yager is only one of several Baba Yaga’s, whose role it is to keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world. Instead of a cabin on chicken legs,as in legend, Barbara travels her territory in an Airstream with a mind of its own, accompanied by a dragon-turned-dog, Chudo-Yudo. When she needs backup she calls on the Riders, a trio of men/dragons who serve her bidding.

In Wickedly Dangerous, Barbara is summoned when a child goes missing in a small community in Upstate New York. Using her guise as a researcher, herbalist and healer, Barbara investigates, tangling with handsome local Sheriff Liam McClellan, soon divining the disappearance has a mystical cause.

To be honest, the mystery plot is a little uneven, the cause of the disappearance is solved fairly quickly, but it takes some time for Barbara to resolve things. While this gives Blake time to introduce her world, the main plot suffers somewhat for it.

I liked the character growth, which mainly stemmed from Barbara’s relationship with Liam. No longer really human, Barbara has closed herself off to the possibilities of normal friendship and love, but the Sheriff finds a way through her defences. I liked the way in which the romance developed between the two.

I enjoyed Wickedly Dangerous enough, that I followed up with Wickedly Wonderful and Wickedly Powerful, both of which have similar themes, featuring two other North American Baba Yaga’s.

Light and fun, the Baba Yaga series was a pleasant read, combining romance with fantasy, for me over a rainy weekend.

 

 

Review: I Can’t Remember the Title but the Cover is Blue

Title: I Can’t Remember the Title But the Cover is Blue

Author: Elias Greig

Published: Allen & Unwin, November 2018

Status: Read December 18th 2019

My Thoughts:

Monday, 2.50pm

Lady in sun visor: Yes, I’m after a book … I can’t remember the title, but it’s quite unique …

Me: Do you remember what it’s about?

Sun Visor: It’s about a French woman, and she finally tells her story. Do you have that one?

——————————

LOL? Any guesses on the title?

Written as a series of vignettes, in the tradition of Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell and The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell, I Can’t Remember the Title But the Cover is Blue, Elias Greig shares the best, worst and downright weirdest customer encounters from his years working as a Sydney bookseller.

I Can’t Remember the Title but the Cover is Blue is a quick and easy read that will make you laugh, cringe, and perhaps even shed a tear (because either you will be grateful you don’t work in retail, or because you do).

Review: Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

Title: Mr. Kiss and Tell {Veronica Mars #2)

Authors: Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham

Publisher: Vintage Books , January 2015

Status: Read March 19th 2019

My Thoughts:

It was only a few years ago that I first watched Veronica Mars, and immediately became a fan. I’m a little out of the target audience age wise (ok, a lot), but I’ve binge watched it at least once a year since, including the crowdfunded movie (2014). Recently, I learned that Hulu has picked up a Veronica Mars revival to be screened in the (US) summer. According to news sources, the series picks up about five years on from the movie (and books), and will feature most of the original cast.. I can’t wait!

I first read Thousand Dollar Tan Line (Vintage Books, May 2015) which begins just a few months after the movie’s end. Veronica is behind the desk of her fathers PI firm, while Keith is recovering after the attempt on his life. Logan is still on deployment, Weevil is waiting for his trial to begin, and Wallace floats in and out, doing favours for Veronica. The only incongruent note is Mac being behind the Mars Investigation ‘secretarial’ desk.

Set during Spring Break, Thousand Dollar Tan Line has Veronica trying to solve the disappearance of two teenage girls at the behest of the Neptune Chamber of Commerce. Sheriff Lamb is as venal and useless as ever, leaving Veronica to tangle with the cartel, kidnappers and killers. For Veronica, the stakes are higher when one on the missing girls turns out to be her estranged mother’s stepdaughter.

I quite enjoyed the story, which was fairly fast paced with a solid mystery, and an interesting twist, but I felt the tone wasn’t quite on point somehow.

Mr. Kiss and Tell however, was. I had no problem imagining this story unfolding as an episode of Veronica Mars, and I enjoyed it almost as much.

In this instance, it’s been just a few weeks since the conclusion of Thousand Dollar Tan Line, and this time Veronica has been hired to investigate an insurance claim against the Neptune Grand for a rape supposedly committed by an employee. Several familiar faces crop up during her investigation, including Deputy (now Detective) Leo D’Amato, who provides back up as she hunts for a serial rapist.

In the background, Weevil’s trial is coming to a head, while Keith, and Clifford, try to prove a pattern of corruption in the Sheriff’s office. A newcomer also throws her hat in the ring for the Sheriff election.

Veronica and Logan’s relationship is a little shaky in Mr. Kiss and Tell. Without a sense of irony, Veronica is not thrilled by Logan’s long absences, nor the risks inherent in his career as a Navy pilot. It will be interesting to learn just where they stand with each other in the revival.

If you are a Veronica Mars fan, you really should treat yourself to these two books, and I recommend binge watching the television show, and movie first. As an aside, apparently Kirsten Bell narrates the audiobook versions of these novels, which would be fun I imagine.

 

Review: First Watch by Dale Lucas

Title: First Watch {The Fifth Ward #1}

Author: Dale Lucas

Published: Orbit, July 2017

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read April 4th-6th 2018

My Thoughts:

First Watch is not something I would generally pick up, however my fourteen year old son is an a fan of Fantasy fiction, and an ardent Dungeons and Dragons player, so I bought this for him. Like me, my son is a ‘reader’, he is part of a book club at school, and for school sport does ‘Reading by the River’ – where the only physical activity involves the 15 minute walk to, and from, the riverbank. He also likes to discuss what he reads, so I thought I’d give this a go.

First Watch is the start of Dale Lucas’s series, The Fifth Ward. It’s essentially a murder mystery set in a medieval fantasy world populated by “drug dealing orcs, mind-controlling elves, uncooperative mages, and humans being typical humans”, amongst others.

Our heroes are Torval, “a dwarf who’s handy with a maul and known for hitting first and asking questions later”, and Remeck, a runaway nobleman from the North.

When Torvals’s Watch Warden partner, Freygaf is murdered, he and Rem team up to trawl the underbelly of Yenara, a largely iniquitous port city, to find his killer. The pairs’ investigation leads them through the city’s Wards, exposing all manner of vice and corruption, including a vile human trafficking ring.

Our heroes are Torval, “a dwarf who’s handy with a maul and known for hitting first and asking questions later”, and Remeck, a runaway nobleman from the North.

Torval is the cynical, grumpy elder, and Rem the wide eyed ingenu, resulting in moments of humour in the vein of ‘mismatched cop buddy’ stories everywhere. I liked both characters, though neither were particularly surprising, nor unique.

While the main plot involves Torval and Rem’s search for Freygaf’s killer, they are often sidetracked by their work as Watch Wardens, the complicated politics of the city, and the occasional bar brawl and street fights. I thought Lucas did a decent job of bringing all the threads together to create a cohesive story.

I found the pace a little uneven in First Watch though, partly I suspect because of Lucas’s need to establish the world and its rules. At times the exposition got in the way of the story’s rhythm, and I found myself skimming on occasion.

Unsurprisingly, my son enjoyed this more than I did. He especially liked it’s D&D flavour. I thought it was okay.

Review: Scourged by Kevin Hearne

Title: Scourged (Iron Druid Chronicles #9)

Author: Kevin Hearne

Published: Del Rey, April 2018

Status : Read April 25th 2018

My Thoughts:

I began reading Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles in 2011, devouring Hounded, Hexed, and Hammered almost consecutively, and Tricked and Trapped on their release. Despite purchasing the last four book in the series as they came out, I just didn’t find the time to read them. I finally rectified this last year by reading the entire series consecutively from the first, to the last book, Scourged, in less than a week.

The grand finale, Scourged, sees Atticus battling the Norse Gods of Asgard, trying to prevent Ragnarok, aka the Apocalypse, which he had unwittingly instigated in a careless moment.

There is plenty of excitement, adventure and humour to be found in Scourged, as immortal is pitted against immortal in the bid to destroy, or save, Gaia. The various battles are epic in scale, though sometimes awkwardly brief, and on occasion, seemingly superfluous.

A variety of supernaturals, including the reoccurring characters of Coyote, The Morrigan, and Jesus, have their roles to play. Granuaile is her kick-a@@ self, Owen is hilarious, and though Oberon is largely absent given the circumstances, he is never forgotten.

I admit to being somewhat disappointed by the direction Hearne took in this last book, Atticus’s final moments of the series were not the triumph I was anticipating, but instead, rather maudlin. Nevertheless, I was sad to leave Atticus and his world behind. I still rate Iron Druid Chronicles among my favourite urban fantasy series, and one I recommend.

Available to Purchase at your preferred retailer

Review: The Land Before Avocado by Richard Glover

Title: The Land Before Avocado

Author: Richard Glover

Published: ABC Books, October 2018

Status: Read December 30, 2018

My Thoughts:

Technically I grew up in the 80’s, having been born in the early 1970’s, but so much of what Glover writes evokes memories of my childhood, from the pineapple ‘hedgehog’ cheese and onion appetisers, to the unbelted, smoke filled, weaving, courtesy of the ubiquitous cask wine in the bar fridge, car trips. I laughed aloud often at the nostalgic absurdity of it all.

However, The Land Before Avacado is also a sobering reminder of how far we have come as a culture. The status quo for baby boomers and most of Gen X would be inconceivable to today’s generations who can drink gourmet coffee (with smashed avacado toast) in the comfort of their own home, or by the roadside, any day of the week.

Tongue in cheek aside, many advances are sobering, from the drastic reduction of the road death toll, thanks to the introduction of drink driving and seatbelt laws, to laws protecting the employment status of pregnant women.

Glover also shares facts that will likely shock most readers who are convinced by their Facebook feeds that crime is at an all time high, when, in fact, the commission of serious crimes has more than halved across the board in the last fifty years.

While the nostalgic remembrances in The Land Before Avacado, appeal directly to those over the age of 40, I feel compelled to recommend to this to anyone over the age of twenty, many of whom could benefit from a little perspective.

Oh, and I am so going to cook the Spicy Meat Ring!

Available to Purchase at your preferred retailer

Review: The Helpline by Katherine Collette

Title: The Helpline

Author: Katherine Collette

Published: Text Publishing September 18th 2018

Status: Read on Feb 9th, 2019

My Thoughts:

Collette’s debut, The Helpline, is similar in vein to recent popular novels such as Simison’s ‘The Rosie Project’ and Honeyman’s ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’.

Senior mathematician, Germaine, is a self proscribed expert in sodoku, the value of efficiency, and the immutability of numbers, but she is also uncomfortably socially inept, and awkwardly naive. Unceremoniously dismissed from her job of some fifteen years for reasons that she never quite articulates, Germaine finds herself working for the local council on the Senior Helpline, determined to prove her worth, and rebuild her career. Quickly singled out by the Mayor for a ‘special project’, Germaine is eager to please, especially when she learns that the project involves her childhood hero, former Sodoku champion, Alan Cosgrove aka Don Thomas. For Germaine, the need to resolve the Mayor’s standoff with the Senior Citizen’s Center, which happens to adjoin Don’s Golf Club, is a matter of responsibility and efficiency, until her equations are complicated by the unpredictable nature of the human factor.

Though Germaine is not always a particularly likeable character, I did warm up to her. Her neuro-atypical traits are never specifically identified but her different perspective is clear. The slightly eccentric supporting characters are varied, from feisty senior citizen, Cecelia Brown, to biscuit hoarder, Eva, and the inevitable love interest, bare kneed IT guy, Jack.

Generally, The Helpline was an enjoyable read. I liked the overall plot and it’s Australian setting, council going-on’s are actually a ripe setting for pathos, and humour.

Available to Purchase from

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Review: Good Riddance by Eleanor Lipman

Title: Good Riddance

Author: Eleanor Lipman

Published: Houghton Mifflin February 2019

Status: Read from Feb 6th to Feb 6th 2019

Daphne Maritch doesn’t quite know what to make of the heavily annotated high school yearbook she inherits from her mother, who held this relic dear. Too dear. The late June Winter Maritch was the teacher to whom the class of ’68 had dedicated its yearbook, and in turn she went on to attend every reunion, scribbling notes and observations after each one—not always charitably—and noting who overstepped boundaries of many kinds. 

In a fit of decluttering (the yearbook did not, Daphne concluded, “spark joy”), she discards it when she moves to a small New York City apartment. But when it’s found in the recycling bin by a busybody neighbor/documentary filmmaker, the yearbook’s mysteries—not to mention her own family’s—take on a whole new urgency, and Daphne finds herself entangled in a series of events both poignant and absurd. “

Read an Excerpt

My Thoughts:

Meh.

I was underwhelmed by ‘Good Riddance’. The yearbook, and it’s potential, was a great hook for a story, but I found the plot superficial and banal. So too was Daphne, Lipman’s main protagonist.It was her father, Tom, that I liked most, and who I thought had the most complete character arc.

A quick, easy read, but not one I’d recommend unless you are a particular fan of the author.

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Available to Purchase From

HMH Books or your favourite retailer

Review: The Map of Bones by Francesca Haig

 

Title: The Map of Bones {The Fire Sermon #2}

Author: Francesca Haig

Published: Harper Voyager March 2016

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from May 29 to June 01, 2016 — I own a copy courtesy HarperCollins

My Thoughts:

The Map of Bones picks up from where Francesca Haig’s debut novel, The Fire Sermon, left off. Cass, Piper and Zoe are on the run following the deadly confrontation at the Silo between the Confessor and Kip, with the knowledge of the Alpha Council’s horrifying plan for the Omega’s.

Despite the dramatic ending of The Fire Sermon, the narrative in The Map of Bones is slow to start. We’re almost a quarter of the way into the book before Haig introduces a new element to the story that finally prompts the characters to take action. From there the pace begins to pick up as Cass and her allies recognise the need to actively stand against the Council and pursue a new possibility for salvation despite the odds that are stacked again them.

I wasn’t really a fan of Cass in the first novel and I found her to be no less frustrating here. Drowning in guilt and struggling with her visions, her thoughts are often repetitive and circular. Piper and Zoe serve as good companions but I found neither character to be particularly compelling.

What I did admire was Haig’s descriptive writing and continued world building. She provides further detail about the cataclysmic events that destroyed the world and the twinning phenomenon.

Though I found The Map of Bones to be a somewhat dreary read, the story ends on a hopeful note and I am curious to learn how the trilogy will resolve in book three.

Available to purchase from

HarperCollins AU

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Review: The Light on The Water by Olga Lorenzo

 

Title: The Light on the Water

Author: Olga Lorenzo

Published: Allen & Unwin March 2016

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from May 28 to 29, 2016 — I own a copy  courtesy of Allen & Unwin

My Thoughts:

The Light on the Water by Olga Lorenzo is a thoughtful novel exploring a myriad of the themes, most notably motherhood, grief, guilt and love.

Two long years after her young autistic daughter disappeared during an overnight hike, Anne Baxter is on the precipice of being charged with Aida’s murder. Shunned by her neighbours and vilified by the media, Anne waits…and hopes.

This is a story that focuses on character rather than action. Anne is a hugely sympathetic character, trapped in a hellish kind of limbo. The main figures of The Light on the Water are complex, and Lorenzo avoids many of the typical stereotypes of the genre, even with the dysfunction that plagues the members of Anne’s family.

Of particular note is the manner in which Lorenzo explores the response of the wider community to Anne’s plight. From almost the moment Aida is reported missing, Anne must endure the suspicion of strangers, all too ready to condemn her for any real, perceived, or even imagined action that has led to her daughter’s disappearance. No matter the truth of Aida’s fate, Anne is judged to be at fault.

The Light on the Water is a quietly compelling story. Simply written, it nevertheless evokes a wealth of emotion. The tension builds nicely as the story unfolds at a measured pace, though I felt the subplot involving the refuge was an unnecessary distraction.

Available to purchase from

Allen & Unwin RRP $29.99

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