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REVIEW:  Kindling the Moon by Jenn Bennett

REVIEW: Kindling the Moon by Jenn Bennett

kindling the moon jenn bennett review

 

Dear Ms. Bennett:

 

The first book in the Arcadia Bell series has been sitting on my shelf for months now, waiting for me to turn around and find myself in just the right head space to pick it up. It comes highly recommended across the board, but it was the praise from Sarah over at Clear Eyes, Full Shelves that had me committed to giving the series a shot. Is it weird to admit that I think part of what kept me from picking it up is that the world and/or characters seemed to be so magic-based? I never realized it before, but when it comes to my paranormal reading I definitely trend shifter/vamp as opposed to witch/demon. Stereotypes aside, I think the appeal lies in the physicality of those creatures and (in the case of shifters) in the constant battle between their dual natures. And, for whatever reason, I don’t often respond as positively to the more nebulous (albeit often subtler) powers of witches, demons, part-demons, etc. So I may have gone in a bit prejudiced, a bit worried Arcadia might not be the girl for me.

 

Arcadia Bell is a little bit of everything and a whole hella private. Proprietress of her very own tiki bar and amateur magician, she’s put a lot of time and effort into flying under the radar. In a world dominated by powerful magical factions where so-called Earthbound demons live side by side with humans, she’s just a small blip on the radar. Except that she’s totally not. The only child of one of the most infamous sorcerer couples in history, she went into hiding after her parents were accused of a series of murders that set the occult world on its head. For the last seven years, she’s been on her own. But when her parents’ case resurfaces and their innocence is once again called into question, Cady embarks on a mission to clear their names. A friend puts her in contact with somewhat shady demonologist Lon Butler who has, among his many questionable talents and possessions, an unparalleled magical library. Trust is in short supply, but Cady and Lon agree to collaborate as Cady is under a bit of a time crunch and Lon finds the case fascinating on a number of levels. They don’t have to dig very deep to encounter everything from cover-ups to secret societies, and before long everything Arcadia thought was true about her life is thrown into question.

 

It took me about 100 pages or so to fall into the rhythm of Cady’s world. I liked her from the very beginning. She’s independent. She has a sense of humor. And she likes to have fun. Perhaps most importantly, she likes her magic. She’s good at it. It’s what she does in her free time, always creating new spells, testing them out, learning more. I’ve read so many heroines who fear their magic, are ashamed of their magic, hide it for whatever reason. And that’s fine. But it was sort of freeing to read about a girl who, for all the hiding she did have to do, was up front about that bit of her genetic makeup. It becomes an issue at certain key points, with the few people close to her who don’t understand or who view things differently, and I like that it was important enough to her to be an issue despite all the reasons it would have been better if she turned her back on it altogether. I did struggle a bit finding my bearings in the drenching sorcerous politics of her world. The different demons were complex and many, and I occasionally lost focus trying to sort them out in my head. Lon brought an interesting angle to the whole thing, as I am nothing if not intrigued by renegade demonic intellectuals with their own private grimoire libraries. But then he had to go and sport a blonde pirate mustache and ruin all my fantasies. He was pretty darn prickly to go with it. Lon grew on me, though. With his hilariously endearing teenage son and his extremely murky origins.

 

I perused the bookshelves behind Lon while he sat with his feet propped up on the desk and thumbed through his tandem memory spells, reading the descriptions aloud to me.

 

Memory Erase by Time Period designate a length of time to eradicate thoughts.

 

“Nope.”

 

Memory Erase by Subject: designate a subject to remove from subject’s memory.”

 

“No, but you should keep that one marked. That could come in handy.”

 

He plopped a blue marker in the crease, then flipped to the next entry. “Complete Memory Erase: wipe out all memories of events, places, names, times. Jesus, that’s dangerous. Remind me to put this book in the locked cabinet. If Jupe got a hold of this . . . Okay, hold on. Memory Restoring.” He flipped through several pages then started reading to himself in low mumble, taking his feet off the desk.

 

“What? Did you find one? Memory Restore by Time Period?”

 

“I found it.”

 

“So? What’s the spell? Does it need kindled Heka?” I leaned over his shoulder and read. “Memory Restore, otherwise known as ‘The Wheel.’ Push and pull magical energies to ignite slow memory restoration gently. That sounds like an overnight laxative.” I grinned at him.

 

“Ha, ha,” he said dourly, getting up from his seat to stand.

 

“Lighten up,” I elbowed him in the shoulder, then continued reading. “Magick for The Wheel must be charged with fluids from sexual arousal . . .‘” My voiced tapered off. “Oh.”

 

“Mmm-hmm.”

 

Yes, Lon grew on me just fine. And it was when the humor and the romance began to work together that the story really took off for me. Lon is a single father and has sole custody of his son Jupe. He is understandably cagey about his small family. This dynamic (along with the age difference between he and Cady) provided an added layer of complexity and emotion to their fledgling relationship.

 

Cady doesn’t harbor as much self-loathing as has become almost standard in a lot of urban fantasy heroines. Her confidence and willingness to go for what she wants impressed me. And yet she is consistently held back by the circumstances of her enforced anonymity and the actions of her cryptic parents. I became more and more afraid as her investigation progressed that the answers she found would bind rather than free her.

 

Kar Yee drew up her mouth as she stroked Mr. Piggy. “You are the most guarded person I’ve ever met, Cady. I think you have some black luck following you around.”

 

“You have no idea,” I muttered.

 

“You might be unlucky, but I don’t think you’re a bad seed, or I wouldn’t be in business with you, no matter how long we’ve known each other.”

 

That was true. Money was a very serious matter to her.

 

“But I think you need to get rid of what’s dragging you down,” she said. “Tear it out by the roots and be done with it. You should be happy, enjoying life.” She held up her hand and began holding up fingers. “One, you have a good job—”

 

“I don’t know if I’d call it good, exactly.”

 

“It’s good, trust me. And two, you are a smart and fair sorcerer—”

 

“Sometimes.”

 

“—and three, you are very pretty, for a white American.”

 

“Gee, thanks.”

 

“Your life should be better than it is.”

 

Kar Yee always had a way of cutting something down to its simplest form. She was right: my life should be better.

 

I appreciated how Cady’s thirst to not only reclaim her life but improve the quality of that life was the driving force behind her actions. She is also never too stupid to live and while she admits her mistakes, she never regards herself as terminally unlovable because of them. All in all, a very promising start. My copy of the sequel is on its way. B

 

Cheers,

Angie

Angie is a bookish sort with a soft spot for urban fantasy, YA, historicals, and mysteries. Ever since she read The Witch of Blackbird Pond and made the acquaintance of one Nat Eaton, stories with no romantic subplot need not apply. Her favorite authors include Robin McKinley, Juliet Marillier, Sharon Shinn, Mary Stewart, Megan Whelan Turner, Kristin Cashore, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, and Ellen Emerson White. You can find Angie at her blog www.angie-ville.com or on Twitter @angiebookgirl.

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REVIEW:  Patient Z by Becky Black

REVIEW: Patient Z by Becky Black

bb_patientz

Two years ago the zombie apocalypse wiped out the world police officer Mitch Kennedy had a role in. But he’s found a way to continue doing his duty, serving as guardian of a small community of survivors, living in the safest place they can find. When the group takes in Cal Richardson Mitch can’t help but be attracted to the first available–and incidentally, gorgeous–man to cross his path in months.

Mitch and Cal can’t resist each other physically, but each man tries to hold back his emotions. Though he’s strong on the outside, Mitch is too badly hurt inside to risk more pain. Cal’s very sure he won’t stay for long. He’s been a drifter all his life and it came naturally to him to survive alone after civilization fell. He’s sure this is a temporary stopover for him. He has no intention of becoming emotionally involved with a cop who is certain to despise Cal when he learns the truth about him.

But the longer Cal stays the stronger his urge to run, but the harder it becomes to give up the safety of the community and his new friends. The harder it becomes to give up Mitch.

Dear Becky Black,

As much as I love fantasy and sci-fi stories, I usually do not read post apocalypse stories, and I almost never read zombie stories. I do not enjoy horror, and in my mind zombies are placed firmly in the horror territory. However, I wanted to give your writing a try and I am so very glad that I did. If readers are like me and do not care for graphic descriptions of zombies snacking on people, you’ll be glad to know that there are almost none of those in this book. I mean, there are zombies, but they are there as a threat, as a sad part of life (because so many good people ended their lives like that), and not something for the author to describe lovingly, if that makes sense.

This book was such a breath of fresh air for me. It has secondary female characters who are interesting and whom I wanted to get to know better. More importantly, while their lives were connected with the lives of the main characters in some very important ways, you could see or at least infer (if the character had a very tiny role to play even) that they have their own lives, dreams and desires. As for the women who had important roles, they were awesome – being forced to become survivors, they were all heroes in one way or another in my opinion. They were not perfect; these women were very human and believable to me. I also felt that the author had some important things to say about the situation of women in society and she managed to say it without being preachy and without making the main romance between the guys any less important. Truly, the portrayal of women in m/m romances is one of my hot buttons and even if I did not like anything else in this book, I would have still praised this book for this reason. I wish for more books with interesting female characters.

But let’s talk about the romance. I really liked both Cal and Mitch. Of course, due to the setup of the book everybody in this world is forced to become a survivor – it is either fight or be bitten by zombies (or be brutalized or killed by some horrible humans). Both guys’ personalities are shaped by this reality, but I was very impressed with how the writer managed to make past and present collide to create their characters.

Mitch was a cop, and as he said in the book, he never stopped being a cop. How can one not admire a man who wants to protect other people in the best sense of the word. He may forget at times that his trainees are capable enough that at some point they will not need him anymore, but those flaws to me are realistic, and they only make the character more likeable. I could see how Mitch’s wounds of the past influenced the development of his present with Cal, and most importantly, I believed in what was happening.

Cal to me was no less impressive – he may have worried about the things he did in his past, but I was very impressed as to how hard he worked to try to make his present better. That did not come without effort and again, I really believed in the pushbacks that occurred. I sometimes get very annoyed when the characters in romance start to fight if I do not buy the reason of their fight, especially if it leads into the temporary separation of the characters. I completely bought the conflicts in this book: Cal’s past choking him up and not letting him see the reasons, while Mitch was not able to say the right words. I thought it was very well done. I also really liked that the separation that resulted did not last long and that Cal’s better nature took over the moment his friends were in danger.

While I really liked the characters and their interactions in this book, I did wish for more detailed world building – it was not as huge a problem for me as it can be in paranormal settings, but I wanted to feel the places more than I did.
I really liked story, characters and writing in this book, but wished for more detailed settings.

Grade: B

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