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REVIEW:  First Destroy All Giant Monsters by D. L. Carter

REVIEW: First Destroy All Giant Monsters by D. L. Carter

First Destroy All Giant Monsters (The World Wide Witches Research Association) D.L. Carter

Dear Ms. Carter,

 

I found myself quite curious to see you also wrote contemporary paranormal romance as I was perusing your backlist, so decided to avail myself of Amazon’s finest – and I wasn’t disappointed.  First, Destroy All Giant Monsters is the first in the World Wide Witches Association series (at least, I HOPE it’s a series).  It chronicles the life and times of Amber Kemp, a young-ish witch who turned her back on the craft at the behest of her father and buried herself rather unsuccessfully in the regular world.  It’s a classic case of science versus mysticism, which is a touch ironic, given that Amber’s aunt, Lucinda, was the founder of a movement to structure witchcraft with science.

 

Thanks to a confluence of seemingly unrelated events, Amber finds herself back at the old homestead, the one her family is bound by covenant to guard, beginning the search for her now-missing Aunt Lucinda and Uncle Robyn.  That mystery very quickly gets away from her when she encounters something much darker and much more evil just a few towns away while investigating her Aunt’s disappearance.  The presence of a book – one by the same title as this – is one of her few clues.  What she finds infects not only her, but threatens the entire world as she knows it with a web of darkness that seems to drain the life out of all it touches – and she’s next.

 

Amber’s search brings her into contact with quirky, somewhat lovable bookstore owner, Karl.  Karl seems to be a mass of contradictions – every time someone mentions magic, he starts to lose his mind with anger.  Yet he finds himself attracted to a known witch and magic user.  Together, they start searching for whatever is draining their lives away – and more importantly, why they’re being targeted.

 

A support cast of rather…interesting folks help liven things up a bit while descriptions of the magic workings have a very real feeling of authenticity.  I’m not a practitioner, nor do I hold any great knowledge about the workings / theories of magic, but what was presented was done so in a very accessible manner so it seemed to feel right, for lack of a better phrase.  The explanations were understandable and made perfect sense.  One thing that caught my attention, and held it, was the feeling of community that wove itself throughout the novel.  Different people kept showing up, and throughout both the good and the bad, they were there.

 

Amber is a rather strong protagonist, both in her magical power and in her dealings with everyday life.  She’s not a shrinking violet, but neither is she a woman who is an intimidating persona.  She comes across as an average, “everywoman” who just so happens to have a little something extra (no, not THAT!  Though, one gets the distinct impression she wouldn’t mind borrowing Karl’s for a little while), and the same types of familial issues that everyone else does.  It’s nice to see a non-perfect heroine for once, one who makes mistakes and drags her feet a little about owning up to them.  Who isn’t petulant once in a while when someone calls them out?

 

It did feel, at times, like things were dragging on just a little too long and a little too much.  I understand where some of Karl’s issues were coming from, but if he was a jerk to her one more time, I felt like I was going to reach through the pages and beat him soundly about the head and shoulders with his own idiocy.  He was, at points, an unmitigated jackass to the woman who was only trying to help him, and it went a little far.  That didn’t just happen once or twice, either, but it was a recurring theme throughout the first half of the book or so.  And then there’s the mystery of Lucinda and Robyn – that doesn’t get solved.  While the story of what was going on with Karl did get resolved and wrapped up nicely, I was left hanging on what’s going on with Amber’s whole reason for returning to the farm.  No, I’m not a cliffhanger fan.  I like for things to be neatly tied up with a bow at the end!  It was almost as if the disappearance of Amber’s relatives was the main story, but somewhere along the way Karl’s story hijacked your mind so that it was only at the end you remembered to go “Oh, them!  Um, well…Funny you should mention that…”

 

Thank you, though, for a very lovely read.  I enjoyed getting to know your characters and look forward to seeing more about them in the future!  C+

 

Mary Kate

 

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REVIEW:  All My Restless Life to Live by Dee DeTarsio

REVIEW: All My Restless Life to Live by Dee DeTarsio

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Life is a soap opera, especially for Elle Miller, who writes for one. (Ellen dropped the “n” in her name in hopes of finding a better ending for herself.) When her laptop crashes, she borrows her recently deceased dad’s computer and gets way more than she bargained for.

Elle unravels mysterious communications from his computer, while her mom decides to give Internet dating a try. As Elle tries to save her career at I’d Rather Be Loved with a storyline featuring a trip through Atlantis, she takes a trip to the Emmys, and finds herself in the middle of a romance between a real doctor and a hunk who just plays one on TV. Friends, family, and clues from “the other side” all help Elle figure out the difference between living the good life . . . and living a good life.

Dear Ms. DeTarsio,

When you submitted this latest book to us for possible review, my initial feeling was “communications from the dead: okay, why not?” And based on my response to “Haole Wood” I decided to give it a go. There’s lots going on here in Elle’s life – some of which worked for me and some of which didn’t.

The book has a kind of Chick Lit feel going on which I like. Elle is a funny narrator but she’s not always right, makes mistakes and is human with faults. This made her real to me. I was afraid Adam, her Gay Best Friend, would turn out to be a stereotype and he almost, sorta was. He ended up being a fairly well rounded character which saved him from total cliché-land. But oh, his choice of boyfriend!

Usually I enjoy seeing characters actually doing the jobs they’ve been given in the story. And that was the case for a lot of this book. Elle toils away, writing, editing, even doing a little acting – when her boss forces her to. Then came her inspired pages, and pages, and pages, and pages, and pages of dialog for the Atlantis storyline of her soap. Now if she had commented on them while writing, or talked about how her dad was inspiring her, or for that matter anything at all, it would have been better but I quickly got bored with nothing but straight dialog and went into skim mode.

Elle’s relationship with her mother was one of the best parts of the book for me. The tug and pull and yank and slight snarls here read true of an adult daughter and her widowed mother who love each other despite driving each other crazy at times. I also enjoyed Elle’s memories of her father and how he loved her and made her feel special.

The romance was another so-so aspect of the book and quickly wore thin. He’s just SO into her from the very beginning – though thank God you had their professional relationship end before he asks her out. He’s willing to put up with all her eccentricities, accusations and blow ups until suddenly, when the plot requires it, he snaps only to oh-so-quickly change his mind and forgive her all. Quez is almost too good to believe.

Liam, the others at IRBL and Dr. Brad are an interesting bunch though it’s only really awful Liam who was totally fleshed out as a character. The others were more interchangeable to me and never quite stepped away from the background.

The final scene of the book was a great way to end it. Elle and her mother got some closure over the father’s death, Elle realizes all the wonderful things that have occurred in her life, and everyone else’s, since she started using her dad’s old computer and it all seems totally believable. Elle’s journey towards self discovery did seem realistic to me even if the romance didn’t quite make it. C

~Jayne

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