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Book Reviews

REVIEW:  Close to You by Stacia Kane

REVIEW: Close to You by Stacia Kane



Churchwitch Chess Putnam has seen, and banished, her share of ghosts, but not of the Christmas Past variety–the holiday has been illegal since the Church of Real Truth defeated the undead and took control of the world in 1997. Yet when she and her boyfriend, Terrible, make a trip to an abandoned auto junkyard, they find more than the rusted auto parts and spare tires they’d bargained for. They also run across a creepy Miss Havisham-type hell-bent on reuniting with her long-dead husband just in time for Christmas–even if it means taking Chess and Terrible down with her into the City of Eternity…

If Chess and Terrible don’t manage to keep these ghosts in the past, they won’t have a future…

Dear Ms. Kane,

No, I’ve never read any of the books in this series before. I hadn’t even read the other review we’ve posted at DA by Shuzluva a few years ago because frankly dystopia books aren’t my thing. Which makes it all the more bizarre that this little short story caught my attention at netgalley. I think it was the line on the cover “A Downside Ghosts Holiday Story” that did it. Ghosts during the holiday? Sure, why not and maybe that will cut through the usual saccharine sweet Christmas books that start appearing each year about now.

As I said, I knew nothing about this world you’ve created before starting this short story but as Shuzluva mentions, the world building is great. It’s laid out with elegant simplicity yet is succinct enough to fit in the length of this story and still leave room for the actual story. I’m very impressed since a lot of times when I read works this short, with no need for filling in the blanks, I feel cheated – but not here. I am curious, though, as to why Terrible sounds like an ESL pirate hillbilly.

The story quickly moves from background set up to – whoa – seriously creepy old lady to the slam bang finale. I had to think that if I lived in this world and had seen what Chess apparently has that I would have picked up on it sooner that Something Is, not just wrong but, Terribly Wrong. But then there’d be no act 3 which frankly is actually fairly hilarious, in a ghastly ghostly, raising the dead kind of way. The nativity figurine flinging, Christmas tree bashing, holiday village house hurling ending had me laughing my ass off even as Chess and Terrible attempt to keep these determined ghosts in check, stay alive themselves and keep Chess from going into withdrawal.

This usually isn’t my genre of choice but I enjoyed this one enough that I just might check out some more of Chess and Terrible. But it will be a long time before I can hear that Carpenter’s song without picturing this hoarders house from holiday hell. B


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REVIEW:  Falling for the Marine by Samanthe Beck

REVIEW: Falling for the Marine by Samanthe Beck

Falling for the Marine (McCade Brothers #2) by Samanthe Beck

Dear Ms. Beck:

Like many books these days, the love relationship between the couple happens nearly instantly and the conflict comes after. In order to enjoy this book, you have to overlook that. Chloe Kincaid is a massage therapist who works for a temporary agency that places her all over the US. Her latest gig is in San Clemente with the Camp Pendleton Massage Therapy Clinic.

Chloe’s got restless feet. She doesn’t like permanent relationships and the itinerant nature of her current position suits her perfectly. In a series of incredulous but somewhat plausible events, Chloe ends up getting kicked out of her temporary housing and ends up staying with her neighbor, Major Michael McCade. Michael is a Marine helicopter pilot grounded due to a sciatic back condition. He’s ordered to get massage therapy which he doesn’t want to do. (He’s so uncomfortable he leaves his socks on – a visual I found hilarious).

Chloe’s massage is so fabulous that she and Michael start fulfilling the age old assumption about what really goes on in those massage rooms. While Chloe acknowledges their cliched encounter with the phrase “Happy Endings” I’m still left wondering why Chloe, a professional, would let things get so far out of hand. I guess they are just so swept away by their passion for each other?

Chloe and Michael are put in the position of needing something from each other. Chloe needs a place to stay and Michael needs for her to pose as his fake fiancé. What follows is predictable and the two suffer what most do in a fake engagement. There isn’t anything surprising in this book but the narrative is swift and the banter is quite good. Not just the bedroom banter but the banter between Michael and his doctor friend as well as the interaction between Michael and his CO. In fact, their exchange at the very end of the book was one of my favorites – a perfect injection of humor at a black moment.

This is a category book and there isn’t any deep exploration of feeling and because the narrative moves by so swiftly, there isn’t any lingering over a particular feeling, not a high or a low. I found Chloe irritating at times (rearranging someone’s furniture when you’re a guest seems like the height of rudeness to me). I understood I was supposed to find her flighty but I didn’t think she needed that characterization. Her inability to settle down was due to past failed relationships and the trauma of her parents’ ugly divorce. That she was trying to find her chi in some rude and silly way detracted from her rather than made her character charming.

I didn’t love the first McCade book because of what I felt was unnecessary slut shaming and the good thing is I didn’t see that in this book anywhere. The sex is just as hot. Michael is a dirty talker (my fave) and even though I didn’t like Chloe moving the furniture or acting like a dumb ass at her place of business, I still found her character appealing. It’s low priced and I think a reader gets the value of the $2.99 so long as she goes in with the expectation that its a fun, sexy contemporary that will occupy a couple hours of her time. C+

Best regards,


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