Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Magic

REVIEW:  Let It Snow by Erica Ridley

REVIEW: Let It Snow by Erica Ridley

Let-it-snow

Adventurer Lance Desmond needs to produce a fortune before his arch-rival collects the bounty on his head. He risks an ancient curse to retrieve treasure hidden within icebound Castle Cavanaugh, only to become trapped inside. Not with the gold he so desperately needs, but with medieval Princess Marigold who’s been cooling her heels since . . . well, medieval times.

The lonely princess refuses to acknowledge the blossoming attraction between them. Not just because she deserves a better future than a penniless rogue. But because at midnight, he’ll vanish like all her other would-be heroes. And the evergreen in the parlor will have one more figurine hanging from its boughs . .

Dear Ms. Ridley,

After attempting to read and failing to finish another of your novellas, I doubted I’d be trying another. I’m sure you probably didn’t want me to either. Nevertheless, something about the blurb for “Let It Snow” brought to mind another paranormal novella I’d read years ago that featured a cursed heroine and a hero who set her free. I liked that one and hoped that similar blurb = similar outcome. And what the heck, as far as time commitment we weren’t talking about one of those epic fantasy tomes that gives you back strain just lifting it. So … onward and off we go.

I was delighted from the first chapter. What a weird, wonderful mix of fantasy and smart phones. Swashbuckling and Candy Crush. And there are apps to handle all those dusty old magic spell books – beats having to get those cranky, huge metal hasps open whenever you want to spell someone! Lance and his best guy buddy Sancho are hilarious as they discuss how Lance can earn quick cash and buy off the bounty hunter who’s set a price on Lance’s head. No way will Lance forgo his beloved dream of owning a pirate ship and sell it off, plus he’s in an installment plan with it and can’t get his money back before paying it all off.

With no better plan and despite Sancho’s misgivings, Lance decides to go on an adventure – he lives for that stuff anyway so why not make some quick dough – to the enchanted, iced over Castle which is said to hold a golden treasure. A grappling hook, some wall blasting, pseudo light sabers and lots of chutzpah, that’s all he needs. How hard can this be?

Very hard, as Lance discovers. Oh, it’s easy to get into the castle but like Hotel California, you can never leave. Actually a worse fate awaits him only Princess Marigold hasn’t the heart to tell him exactly what. Once she’s broken the news to him that “no the walls aren’t made of ice and they can’t be melted and if he keeps hurling himself at the now solid wall where the door was, he’ll hurt himself even more than he already has” she thinks she’s dumped enough bad news on him for one day. And if he knows how little time he has left, he might go mad or spend the last hours in a useless, panic filled frenzy.

Since Lance is the first person to take the news of his imprisonment with a laugh, and the first person to ask her about who she’s become after 600 years of living there and not concentrate on what she can do for him but on who she is, and he’s optimistic, and funny and he introduces her to the wonder of a Snickers bar, she knows it will break her heart when he disappears at the stroke of midnight – just like everybody else.

I loved this section of Lance and Marigold getting to know each other. Lance is an alright guy. He takes everything in stride, looks on the bright side and is determined to make Marigold’s birthday something special. He wants to give her the gift of happiness and once he’s made her laugh and lit her face up with a smile, he decides he could get used to doing that every day. Meanwhile Marigold is a woman after my own heart, an ereader with the promise of endless books to read makes her practically giddy. Through her revelations to Lance about life in the Castle for the past 600 years, he sees just how strong a person she is and marvels at her endurance.

But is there a hope in hell for them? The curse has lasted for centuries and although Lance is proving resilient, they’re still on the wrong side of the walls. Which is where that magic spells book that Sancho pushed on Lance might come in handy but only if between the two of them, they can discover what it really is that has kept Marigold a prisoner for all these years. Will she trust Lance enough to let go and thus earn her freedom and that of so many others?

Okay, this part had me sniffling. Anyone who’s ever lost someone and faced the rest of their life without them will know what Marigold faces, accepts and rises above. Lance is right about her being strong and having learned a thing or two over the years. And just when I’d worked through the hanky I had been using to dab my eyes, along comes a funny scene to wind everything up and send our two lovebirds on their beginning lifelong adventures. B

~Jayne

AmazonBNSonyKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle

REVIEW:  Undead Chaos by Josh Roots

REVIEW: Undead Chaos by Josh Roots

Undead Chaos  by Joshua Roots

Dear Mr. Roots,

 

I really, really, really hope you meant for this to be an over the top, fun, tongue-in-cheek type book.  If you did, you succeeded beautifully.  If you didn’t, well, I guess my sense of humor and the absurd got in the way.  You’re definitely going to get a HUGE “thank you for writing this” from me – I loved it!

 

Marcus Shifter is a Washington DC-area Warlock – a man who can wield magic with the best and worst of them, usually with comical results – who comes from a very long, powerful line of magic users, and who occasionally takes the odd banishing job to help pay the rent.  After he gets called to banish a woman’s already dead, now reanimated husband, he discovers that darker magics than he’s ever dealt with are at play.  With only his conscience and warped sense of what’s right to guide him, and a cast of friends as strange and misguided as he is, he delves deep into the fetid, bloated underbelly of necromancy to discover the truth behind the too-weird-to-be-happening occurrences.

 

I love that Marcus’ credo is “it seemed like a good idea at the time!”  This man gets himself into more trouble when he tries to think through a problem than if simply charged in, guns and mouth blazing.  I once had a Maine Coon cat just like Marcus.  We always knew when he was about to do something flamingly stupid – we’d hear what we called his “suicide trill” just seconds before he ran headlong at the sliding glass doors, trying to get to that other cat (his reflection) who was running at him from the other side.  The thing is, like the cat, Marcus is just so lovable and earnest about it that it’s hard to stay mad at him for long, even when he does something like burn down a bar or attempt to detox an oracle the hard way.

 

To say the book is a romp is a wild understatement.  I rode the wave of emotion and hilarity all the way through, going from the highs of Marcus being one of the “good guys” to the lows of him having done something so monumentally stupid, all I could do was sit there, shaking my head, moaning “No, Marcus!  No!”  It would have been so very easy for you to have used a deus ex machina to wrap the book up, but you did it the hard way, showing me the conclusion to a book-long-running plot that I absolutely did not see coming.  Oh, once I saw what you did there, it made perfect sense – but you hid the genius beneath the “Bad News Bears”-like antics.

 

One of the sweetest parts is Marcus’ very innocent romance with Quinn, the daughter of an infamous necromancer.  While it isn’t sugar-shock inducing, it is utterly adorable.  You could have very easily played it for laughs, but instead you chose to use it as a foil to everything else that was going on – a balance for all the craziness.  As I read, I kept thinking “Oh, I know where this is going.  How predictable.”  Then you’d pull the rug right out from under me.  There’d be a left turn so unexpected that I was left staring at the page going “You wonderful jerk.”

 

All of the characters are incredibly well developed and fit their roles beautifully and the description of the Underground is deliciously creepy and wonderful.  The fact that Marcus is a very well rounded character with slightly different than normal hobbies is just the icing on the cake.  Of course, there are some places I just shake my head a little at some of the stereotypes and “ever afters,” but those are few and far between.  Though, in reading about you-the-author, I can’t help but wonder if Marcus has just a little more Gary Stu* in him than you originally wanted.  After finishing the book, I looked at my husband and asked what he thought it would take to get you to write the story of Marcus’ parents.  Of all the characters, I think they are my absolute favorites.

 

If I had to give a criticism of the book, it would have to be that sometimes things were a little too over the top and just a little too far to stretch for believability.  Though, even then, it’s not a deal-breaker.  Things are constructed in such a way throughout the book that it’s clear we’re not meant to take it too seriously – it certainly doesn’t take itself seriously at all!  My overall impression is that this book is the bastard love child of Simon R. Green and Jim Butcher as raised by Spider Robinson and Katie MacAlister, with Robin Williams cast in the role of Fairy Godfather (though no actual fairies were harmed in the making of this book.  I don’t think.)  B+

 

Mary Kate

 

* The male equivalent of a Mary Sue character.  Mary Sues and Gary Stus are generally idealized versions of the author-as-protagonist.

AmazonBNSonyKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle