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REVIEW:  Golem in My Glovebox by R.L. Naquin

REVIEW: Golem in My Glovebox by R.L. Naquin

Golem in My Glovebox by R.L. Naquin

Dear Ms. Naquin,

Stepping back into your world, where magical and mystical creatures hide among us with the help of Aegis, Zoey Donovan, was like going to homecoming.  There were so many familiar faces and even some new ones to revisit.  I felt welcomed and embraced from the first page, and couldn’t wait to see what adventures the group engaged in this time.

The end of the previous book, “Faeries in My Fireplace,” found Zoey and her Reaper significant other, Riley together, having freed hundreds of captured Hidden from the clutches of an evil Collector.  The ultimate goal, however, was Zoey’s mother – she and the other Aegises were snatched from their fingers at the eleventh hour.

Now, with the Board of Hidden Affairs in shambles, Zoey and Riley are called on to put their search for Zoey’s mother on the back burner and concentrate on quelling Hidden uprisings around the country until the bills can be paid and the enforces back to work.  If the Hidden reveal themselves to mundanes, the sacred Covenant protecting them all will be shattered, unleashing forces far more dark than a simple under-the-bed monster walking down the street.

As we all know, the investigation into the whereabouts of Zoey’s mother isn’t going to take a back seat.  Yet each event Zoey and Riley go to take care of seems directed at Zoey, personally.  And each event involves the death of an Aegis in increasingly creative and devious ways, with the implication that Zoey’s mother will be the next body found.  Can our intrepid couple, complete with the first sentient golem known to Hidden-kind, find out who’s causing the mayhem and stop them in time?

The romance between Riley and Zoey has fizzled.  As you, yourself, addressed in the book, they found themselves acting more like an old married couple as opposed to a couple still in the honeymoon stage of life.  The chemistry felt, to me, absolutely flat.  It seems as though they do better as friends rather than a romantic duo.  Even after things heated up between them a bit, it was lukewarm, at best.

On the other hand, the plot development and growth of secondary characters was absolutely amazing.  This turned into a more of a fantasy mystery with a few romantic overtones.  The villain is absolutely chilling.  To be quite honest, I can’t pass a school bus now without feeling a shiver go up my spine and I’ve contemplated leaving a light on at night.  We’re not talking full on horror, but something almost gently psychologically frightening.  As always, one of the stars of the show was Maurice, the closet monster.  He cooks, he cleans, he can teleport other Hidden through any closet available, he nurtures everyone who comes into the house – in short, he’s almost the perfect man.  Except for that whole “monster” thing.  And the subplot with the under-the-bed monster from his past, Stacy, is amazingly cute.

The other hero in this tale is Gris – I’m only using the shortened form of his first name.  He has this habit of … acquiring names with each new acquaintance he makes.  Gris is the golem from whence the book’s title comes – given that he turns Zoey’s glove box into his own personal apartment on their road trip across the country for the Board.  I was a little surprised at the depth of character he had (no pun intended).  His backstory alternately tugs at the heartstrings and is a reminder of Pinocchio – only his maker wasn’t Gepetto!

On the whole, I enjoyed the book but I wasn’t utterly in love with it.  I wanted to, but it just wasn’t there.  I was missing the passion between Zoey and Riley.  They were the missing piece that would elevate this from good to great.  The lack of romance acts like that scratch on my glasses I just can’t buff out. C-

Sad, but Looking Forward to more Monster Haven,

Mary Kate

 

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REVIEW:  The Kraken King Part V-VIII by Meljean Brook

REVIEW: The Kraken King Part V-VIII by Meljean Brook

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Dear Ms. Brook,

The journey we started weeks ago has reached its end, and even after weeks of waiting for this moment, I’m having a hard time saying goodbye. But alas, I’m not a Kraken, so I have to let go, but not before I tell you that, as you can see, this serial was so good that it put me in a cheesy mood.

Anyway, let’s get Kraken (no more puns, I promise!).

I want to be as vague as possible about events from the previous parts as well as what happens in the final four, but I do want to mention that part V opens with a heartbreaking moment of loss for Zenobia that, together with the events of the previous installments, truly sets the course of the story. She realizes that she has to rescue herself regardless of how much she trusts that Ariq or her brother will eventually save her. But she’s unwilling to be a tool to manipulate those who love her, and she wants the choice to be hers. The recklessness of her act doesn’t go unnoticed, but this is ultimately about agency. Besides, she’s so smart and clever, that there’s never a doubt that she will make it. And these things: taking action, fulfilling her dreams of adventure, and seeing the world, are the main part of a character arc in which the romance plays a key role, but it’s not vitally linked to it. Needless to say, Zenobia was my favorite part of the serial.

All the other non-Zenobia things that I liked but that I was too lazy to organize in a more cohesive, traditional review:

  • Ariq is a fabulous hero who complements Zenobia and also shines on his own. His character arc is subtle (perhaps too subtle for my taste) and entirely linked to the romance. Falling in love changes his priorities and shows him things about himself that are good and bad. But love was already a vital part of his character; the love for his brother, his mother, his people, his country, and his new home, are relationships that shaped the man he is and made him a hero worthy of a great heroine.

 

  • They fall in love fast, but Ariq and Zenobia come from different parts of the world and spend most of the time in danger. The cultural differences inform their characters and trigger believable conflict and misunderstandings that are resolved through mature communication. But their complicated and unusual situation makes Zenobia, who is, above all, incredibly pragmatic, particularly cautious, so even if she is irrevocably in love, that doesn’t stop her from having a plan B in case things don’t work out.

 

 

  • And speaking of culture, I love that not only are most of the characters POC, but they are the dominant culture. There is a lot of work put into the history and world of these people, and neither the text nor Zenobia fetishize Ariq’s –or anyone else’s– features. She finds him super hot, of course, because he is big, strong and all-around swoony, but there’s no mention of how exotic he looks, how different he is, or any other charged and problematic language. There are a couple of words in Mongolian, but no long phrases that could end in disaster and send the author to Google Translate jail. Instead, we are told the language they are speaking at the moment and that’s it. I thought that, from my white reader POV, the representation was very well done.

 

  • So. Many. Women. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I kept being surprised by how many characters that I was assuming would be men when first mentioned, turned out to be women. First we have The Twins, two wicked minor characters that delighted me for the short time I got to meet them. And then there’s the Empress and her general, the two most intimidating and fabulous sources of conflict and delicious tension I’ve read in a while. None of them clearly fit the enemy or friend categories, something that speaks more about layered characterization and storytelling than about rigid roles. This brings me to…

 

 

  • …the villains! The Kraken King has two of them, and they have motivations and backgrounds that raise the emotional impact they have on our leads. These are, by far, the best villains this series has seen, and even better, the stakes are actually high. What’s at play here goes beyond the romantic HEA, and even if we can trust that the outcome will be a good one, at times it feels like getting there will be impossible. Seriously, anyone who thinks the promised happy ending makes the genre predictable should read this book.

 

  • And last but not least, The Kraken King is an all-you-can-eat buffet of action, adventure, giant monsters and even bigger robots (kind of, this ain’t Pacific Rim http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Rim_(film)), that somehow manage to not get in the way of the main relationship or the political intrigue, because yes, this is about wit as well as strength, and they all come together beautifully during the final climax.

Best,

Brie http://romance-around-the-corner.blogspot.com/.

P.S. I still don’t like serials, but I didn’t have a hard time following yours. I thought the letters at the beginning of each part were a clever “previously on” reminder, and in a way, I’m glad I got to stretch the reading experience.

 

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