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REVIEW:  Real Vampires Know Size Matters (Glory St. Clair #10) by Gerry Bartlett

REVIEW: Real Vampires Know Size Matters (Glory St. Clair #10)...

Real Vampires Know Size Matters (Glory St. Clair #10) by Gerry Bartlett

Dear Ms. Bartlett,

Every time I see your heroine’s name, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” starts playing in a continuous loop through my brain. Granted, in no way, shape or form can Gloriana Sinclair be compared to the deity to which this song is sung – though, given her predilection for falling into trouble and finding her way out of it, it might be a close thing. The poor vampire’s world IS rather like a war, with skirmishes and battles won and lost so that the greater war can be decided.

When Glory Sinclair was made a vampire, thin definitely was not in. Thin meant you were either poor, dying, cursed or all of the above. Unfortunately, as society progressed, so did ideals of beauty – and her big hips became a big no-no. But our intrepid protagonist has quite a bit more to worry about than the lush sweep of her curves. Not only has her mother, a goddess from Olympus, found her again – but she’s saddled her with a junk food addicted, snarky recovering Siren who’s searching for the meaning of her diet in the bottom of a Ben & Jerry’s pint (which Glory can’t eat). Glory’s boyfriend of decades, the fangalicious Blade, suddenly reveals that his ex, a powerful voodoo priestess, wants him back – and won’t take no for an answer. Then, to top all that fun off, Glory has to clean up another of Israel Caine’s messes, putting herself deeper in hock with various entities, deities and bottom feeders than ever before.

All I can say is that this book was busier than a K & W Cafeteria on half-price senior citizens night. Most of the current story was overshadowed by endless repetitions of everything that went before. It wasn’t enough that one friend or set of friends had to be told about some part of the plot or situation, there had to be on-screen repetitions, repeatedly. The Department of Redundancy Department called and wanted their plot back. They sent an email to follow up, just in case readers didn’t get the phone call. For every step forward the story took toward developing the lives, characters and plot, it took two steps, a backflip and a cartwheel in another direction that vaguely resembled “back.” It could just have been me missing the point of how interconnected everything was, but I somehow suspect that, yes, Glory’s back story is just –that- convoluted and packed with insanity that I’d need a flowchart, a relationship guru and a native Sherpa just to keep up.

All that aside, however – this was a wonderful story that thrived on character development and solid storytelling over flashy writing tricks. I loved how we got to see Glory develop a bit more, discover her confidence and power within herself even as she tried to put out every fire that cropped up. With each book in the series, readers have been able to watch her grow as a person, gotten to see her self-confidence build just a bit more. That’s not to say she’s an island who needs no one – she depends on her friends and loved ones, leans on them in times of need. They’re her support system, even though she’s the one who has to do all of the heavy lifting.

The secondary characters and their development truly help the story pop. The characters have become friends of the reader over the series – each one is as rich and lifelike as Blade and Glory. They aren’t treated as extensions of the story or props, but as the story themselves. As new characters are introduced, their relationship with the reader grows naturally through their relationships with the other characters. It’s almost like we’re standing on the fringes of this awesome group of people, watching and listening in, but not expected to contribute.

There’s such an amazing joy and beauty in Glory and Blade’s relationship, despite all of their hardships and trials, that it makes persevering through some of the repetition worth it. Granted, there were a few times it felt as though Glory’s romantic life was getting a touch, shall we say, Anita Blake-ish, but she got pulled back from the edge of that bed and tossed right into the arms of the man she loves in a realistic manner that had me cheering and bouncing in my seat – until she got pulled out of those arms. Again. I’m convinced Blade needs to develop a new vampire superpower of rubber arms, just so he can keep up with all the directions his beloved is pulled in.

I’m definitely going to give this book a thumbs up. Despite the redundancy and some minor niggly bits with slightly unrealistic reactions, overall it was solid and well-written. Now, however, I have to go back and reread everything that came before. While not wholly inaccessible to new readers, I’d definitely recommend tackling the others in the series before curling up with a glass of wine (red, of course) and this one. C+

Wishing MY Mother was from Olympus,

Mary Kate

 

As a reader who’s old enough to know better and young enough to not care, I’ve breezed through the gamut of everything books have to offer.  As a child, I used to spend summer days happily ensconced in one of the Philadelphia public libraries, reading everything and anything I could get my hands on, thanks to the love and support of my parents and aunts – teachers, mothers and/or librarians all.  One aunt started me with Nancy Drew books (whose pages are worn from hundreds of re-reads) while another thought I needed introduced to C.S. Lewis’s land of Narnia.  By the time I was 8, I’d read everything the library’s children’s section had to offer and had “graduated” to the adult room downstairs.  Fortunately for my very supportive parents’ sanity, I didn’t discover romances until college.  My days are currently spent working in law enforcement (dispatchers unite!), working with first responders, and trying to dig my writer/editor/reviewer husband out from his latest pile of books.  I’m a devoted fan of all manner of romance (though I prefer my romance to have a hint of laughter and self-awareness), mysteries, and urban fantasy.

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REVIEW:  Geek with the Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir

REVIEW: Geek with the Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir

 

Shy music geek Emerson Foshay breaks into a cold sweat and is rendered speechless whenever Lola Brown, the girl of his dreams, steps into his guitar shop, but once a stray cat named Sam follows him home everything changes and Emerson becomes the coolest guy in town.

Setting: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Cast of main characters: Emerson Foshay, shy music geek

Lola Brown, Melody’s (Girl With the Cat Tattoo) sister

Sam the cat, Max’s (Girl With the Cat Tattoo) brother

Dear Ms. Weir,

Ever since Sunita – and a lot of other people – and I fell in love with Max the Cat, we’ve been waiting for the follow stories of his lost brother and sister. During Max’s run through the DABWAHA competition, I silently cheered the novella on and sighed about the fact that we probably wouldn’t get the next one until 2014. Then! imagine my happy face when a friend emailed me that “Geek with the Cat Tattoo” was coming out sooner, now in fact. My whoop made my own kitties give me the side-eyed, “back away from mom slowly because she’s obviously off her rocker” look. Yes, I talk to my cats and firmly believe they understand every word. I must ask, though, why Sam isn’t on this cover?

Geek with the cat tattooPoor Sam hasn’t had an easy time of it. On his third owner as the story opens, Sam knows the gig is up and that he’s about to be homeless again. But better tossed out the front door then driven out to the country and dumped with a bunch of feral, wild cats. Things look up – just slightly – when he comes across a drunken young man. It’s then that Sam decides that instead of letting a new owner claim him, he’s going to claim a new owner. Sam might deny his nurturing ways but something in the man brings them out and a tentative meow along with a gentle nudge causes the man to pick up Sam and take him home.

In a romance novel this would be considered the cute meet. I know all about romance novels thanks to Second Owner, who was addicted to them and read more than one a day. I learned a lot about romance from her. I miss Second Owner.

“Hello,” my new friend says, with wonder and surprise in his voice. He reeks of beer. I mean reeks like it’s coming out of his skin. But I can feel the kindness emanating from him too. This man/boy has a good heart. A smart cat knows these things.

He reaches for me. My initial reaction is to dodge his hand, but I force myself to accept his touch because he needs to feel the comfort I can bring him. I might be an opportunist interested in food and a warm bed, but I can also comfort a human. A lot of people might not believe that about cats, but it’s true. We aren’t just selfish jerks interested in nothing but our own well-being. If that’s how I rolled I would have been happy with First Owner and Third Owner.

Emerson might live in a semi-dump but Sam feels he’s got potential. Their first day together also shows Sam that Emerson needs some matchmaking help when a lovely young woman arrives in the instrument repair shop where Emerson works. As usual when the woman he loves appears, Emerson falls to pieces and it’s only with Sam working from the shadows with his mind suggestions that smooths things along.

The two begin a tentative relationship which is more friendship at first since Lola still isn’t sure about Emerson, a man she thought hated her because of what she thought was his rudeness at the store. It isn’t that he’s rude – just shy and painfully socially awkward. Given to introversion myself, I could immediately identify with Emerson. Although I can’t recall ever just walking away from anyone, going into new social environments can be a challenge for me too.

But somehow with Sam at his side, Emerson becomes the more smooth talking, social person he’s always longed to be. Emerson can’t explain it and certainly doesn’t want to tell anyone for fear they’d think he’s off his meds but Sam seems to calm Emerson and give him social courage. Sam knows that Emerson can’t rely totally on him and doesn’t want to risk losing who he thinks might be his forever owner by mind-messing with Emerson too much so some awkward moments lead to setbacks in the romance a time or two.

Lola has her own issues with confidence in her music and fear of getting involved with another loser boyfriend after her last one grifted her so there are times when she is understandably less than thrilled with the way Emerson acts. However their first time together all night is beautifully yet succinctly described when Lola tells her sister Melody of the way Emerson took exquisite care of her and cried.

“He cried.”
That got Melody’s attention. “What?”
“He cried.”
“Maybe he was just…I dunno, exhaling and inhaling in a trembly kind of way. Guys do that during orgasm.”
“I don’t think that’s what was going on.”
Silence from the other end.
“Mel?” Without waiting for a response, Lola continued: “I think that’s when it happened. I think that’s when my heart started to hurt. I think that’s when I began to wonder…if I love him.”
“You hardly know him.”
Lola nodded in agreement even though her sister couldn’t see her. And the nod was more of an affirmation of her identical response—as in how could this happen with someone she hardly knew. “I just think…. Well….” She touched a finger to her lip and dropped her voice even more, and now she felt like crying. “I just think he’s very special.”

I think he’s special too as he’s making something just for Lola. Something to help her realize how wonderful a violinist she is and given what his apprenticeship mentor tells Emerson about the PITA it is to make a violin … yeah, he’s very special. The sweet courtship he works out as a way to “speak” to Lola without getting tongue tied is wonderful too.

Just when everything is looking up, disaster strikes. Now comes your famous leavening of the sweet with the angst. Something Awful is done by Evil Third Owner and Sam ends up in danger. I was along for the heart stopping wild ride Lola and Emerson take to save him and I wept when they thought All Was Lost. If readers are pet lovers, they will too. The reunion scene had me crying even more.

Emerson lunged forward and fumbled with the latch, finally releasing the door, metal clanging.

The cat jumped from the cage to his shoulder.

“It’s Sam!” Emerson said with joy in his voice as he reached up to pet him.
Lola put a trembling hand to her mouth and let out a choked sob, then she began to laugh.

Emerson coaxed Sam off his shoulder so he could hold him to his chest and pet him. The cat meowed and purred. With Sam between them, Emerson and Lola put their foreheads together.

Okay at this point I thought everything was done, everything was fine. But you pulled a swift one on us and ratcheted up some more angst. “WHAT?!” I thought. The novella is almost over. How will she fix this? Ah, there was a way and it worked to show Lola how much she means to Emerson and that he’s worth a little fixing-uping from time to time.

I finished the story with a contented, happy sigh. Emerson has the woman he’s longed for from afar, Lola has found a special man who cherishes her and gives her confidence and Sam, well he’s found Fourth Owner – aka forever owner. Oh and his brother Max too in a very catlike way.

Although the cool customer is my long-lost brother, this kind of thing has to be taken slow, even with family.

Max saunters toward me, jumps on the couch in one graceful motion that I can only envy, and plops down on the opposite end and does that half-closed eyes thing that makes a cat look like he’s smiling.

I do it back.

Life is good.

A- (because no cute Sam cover)

~Jayne

P.S. – I had already intended to make a donation to my local no-kill animal shelter as a Christmas gift to another pet loving relative but after reading this novella, it’s gonna be bigger.

 

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