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Urban-Fantasy

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:  Killing time by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow

REVIEW: Killing time by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow

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Max and Kaelan, best friends and business partners for five years, are powerful casters with a tendency to get themselves into and out of all kinds of trouble. Pretty much the only thing they’ve been able to avoid is getting romantically involved – until now. Their sexual attraction hits them like a runaway fireball and they can’t keep their hands off each other.

While their sexual attraction burns out of control, they’ve attracted the attention of a dark caster named Jannes who’s planning a spell so potent that it could end the world. To keep them off balance, he’s targeting Max and Kaelan through those they love, and there’s no one they love more than each other.

With friends and family to protect and their only allies a group of casters who find it easier to fight than cooperate, the odds are stacked against them. So can Max and Kaelan keep it together and stop Jannes before he ends the world, or is the best they can do just killing time?

Dear Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow,

I enjoy your writing a lot. I think your books are well written, but I will not deny that part of the attraction for me is that every single story that I have read by both of you has the antagonistic chemistry between the leads. I am not saying that you keep writing the same story over and over, quite the contrary, I thought that in every book you manage to keep the antagonism and change “from enemies (or kind of sort of enemies) to lovers” believable and different.

Having said that, even such a goner for this trope as I am, I was eager to see if you could do a different type of chemistry and this book certainly is different. As the blurb tells us, what we have here are friends and partners who may be attracted to each other, but who fight this attraction till they cannot fight it anymore. Unfortunately, the way it was done kind of irritated me almost from the beginning.

Max and Kaelan meet in the prologue of the book – when Kaelan saves Max from a tough spot during a dark magic casting which he accidentally (or so he thinks) gets to witness. So far so good – I was looking forward to see where the urban fantasy setting would take me, because I love when a story deals with magic, any kind of magic.

In the first chapter, however, we learn that five years had passed and during that time Max and Kaelan have become best friends and partners in their magical business. They are trying to help people in many different magical ways, such as saving them from their own stupidity if they can (like a young idiot who summons a demon to bring her fiancé back to her). Sometimes they are successful, sometimes they are not, but they certainly try hard. Max is very good with shields and Kaelan is good with creating portals. They try to learn from each other, they know each other strengths and weaknesses; sometimes one walks in on the other having sex with the occasional guy here and there. In other words they are really close. They are so close that if Kaelan has nightmares, he has no problems with sleeping in the same bed as Max and having Max comfort him, and Max is fine with this too.

If one asks me what is wrong with this picture, with two friends being so close, I would say normally nothing. The only problem I had is that these guys are really really attracted to each other in a romantic way. I was not quite sure when they realized that they were attracted to each other as more than friends, but it certainly happened some time during the five years, somewhere between the prologue and Chapter One. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when it happened. Instead the source for tension is that both of them are trying to squash the attraction and not to act on it. Why? Apparently it will make them more vulnerable/uncomfortable/ and it will stop them from being friends.

And I keep thinking no. It feels like an artificial construct created by the authors in order to make the guys put their romantic attraction on hold till the story really takes off. I want to be very clear – I am not saying that I would love to see them being attracted and act on it the first time they met (or second, or third, really). I understand that the writers tried to do something better than Insta!Love, but in this specific set-up it did not work for me. I felt that they acted like romance novel heroes instead of real people, because apparently as the events of our story unfold, while they still think a little about weird obstacles which they create in their minds in order not to act on their attraction, they surely do act on their attraction and time- wise in the story it happens pretty fast. The story doesn’t contain gratuitous sex scenes, I thought whatever was there moved the story and their relationship forward, but I was rolling my eyes and thinking, why are you so convinced that you cannot be friends and partners if you also want to have sex with each other and maybe have a relationship too?

But I digress – I’m spending a lot of time explaining what irritated me and why I lowered the grade as much as I did, but in spite of these criticisms I really enjoyed Kaelan and Max as a couple and the urban fantasy plot of the story. I thought that when they allowed themselves to be together, they had great chemistry. I thought that because they became such good friends, their romantic attachment actually had more chance to stand the test of time, not less. I even thought that there was some character development taking place for both of them.

I thought the Big Bad Evil whom Kaelan and Max found themselves against was scary, and his motivations made sense to me. He was evil through and through, but he did not feel like a caricature, maybe because of his origins. I thought that the reason for his actions had a nice twist (not too big, but I did not see it) and I enjoyed how it was done. The magic system and how it worked in the world the writers created was very well explained, even if sometimes it was a bit overwritten (but it was not a huge problem for me – I enjoy different set ups for magic to work in different worlds). The only things which for me were too much explanation- wise were the excerpts from different imaginary magical literature which were put in front of every chapter. Sometimes they illuminated something important in the chapter in a nice way, but sometimes I was annoyed because the excerpt was trying to explain a magical definition, or spell, which was happening in the chapter already. I felt that it was too much “tell” sometimes, especially if the chapter went on to show me how the thing worked. I do sympathize with the need to explain the complicated magical stuff, but as I said sometimes it was a bit much even for me.
I also thought that at times the book was really funny.

“The creature must have thought they were dentists, because it opened wide, and the resulting blast of fetid breath came close to making Kaelan puke his guts out right there.
“I never knew halitosis was a lethal weapon,” Max said. “God, that is rank. And if you like the gel that much, buy some of your own.”
“Where is the fun in that?”
“We’re discussing this later,” Max said.
“If we have a later.”
The sea monster – Kaelan was referring to it as Nessie in his head since Max had labeled it female – decided now was a good time to try to eat them again. The shield had it back but compressed under the attack, bringing Max down to his knees next to Kaelan.”

Grade: B-

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