Triptych: Will Trent, Book 1

TriptychAuthor: Karin Slaughter
Book Name: Triptych
Series: Will Trent
Order: 1
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars
Blurb:  From Atlanta’s wealthiest suburbs to its stark inner-city housing projects, a killer has crossed the boundaries of wealth and race. And the people who are chasing him must cross those boundaries, too. Among them is Michael Ormewood, a veteran detective whose marriage is hanging by a thread–and whose arrogance and explosive temper are threatening his career. And Angie Polaski, a beautiful vice cop who was once Michael’ s lover before she became his enemy. But unbeknownst to both of them, another player has entered the game: a loser ex-con who has stumbled upon the killer’s trail in the most coincidental of ways–and who may be the key to breaking the case wide open.

Review:  Following what appears to be something of a pattern in the crime drama genre, we get this story from a wide variety of perspectives.  Interestingly, though, none from the victims.  I was a bit surprised when I read the blurb that the person this series is named after wasn’t even mentioned.  Probably because he isn’t the focus character in this book.  Will is a part of it, but really kind of isn’t the star of the show.

I’ll say absolutely that I liked this and that I thought it was really good, but I did have a few issues.  Sometimes having that many perspectives going on can be a bit too much.  It is really easy to miss out on details when you are jumping all over the place.  There were a couple of times that I thought I ran into errors with a couple of facts along the way, but they were pretty minor in the overall so I didn’t take the time to dig to be sure.

There were a couple of times where I was frustrated when a character meant to talk about something with another character that would have opened up the plot more, but then doesn’t get around to it.  It is one way to write a story and build up the suspense, but it does sometimes take away from the story a bit if it is overused.  This came close.

Since I’m not a cop, have never been a cop or ever known one or what procedures are in different situations, I don’t know this for a fact, but it sure does seem like there are quite a few places where fiction may be playing fast and loose with fact in this one.  Same thing with the legal/trial procedure end of things.  This is another thing that came pretty close to being just too much without ever actually crossing over that line into the ridiculous.

I didn’t feel as though Will got enough page time for a reader to get to know him as much as we probably should in the first book in a series.  I think I was more emotionally connected to John and learned more about and understood most all of the other characters than I did Will.  Hopefully that will be rectified in future books.

While I did have those few issues, and they were few, but they were just enough to keep this from getting a 5.

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Closer Than You Think: Cincinnati, Book 1

CloserThanYouThinkAuthor: Karen Rose
Book Name: Closer Than You Think
Series: Cincinnati
Order: 1
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars
Blurb:  Psychologist Faith Corcoran is desperate to escape the stalker who’s made her life a nightmare for the past year—desperate enough to run to the one place that has been her nightmare far longer. Both boon and bane, her recent inheritance of her grandmother’s old house in Cincinnati offers sanctuary in which she can start her life anew, but requires that she face the dark memories that still resonate to this day.

But she has no idea how close to home her fears still are.

Two college girls have gone missing in the area, and FBI Special Agent Deacon Novak is called to work on the case. When his inquiry unexpectedly leads him to Faith, he finds a beautiful and brave woman he can’t help but fall for. Soon they’ll discover that this seemingly simple investigation is anything but. Reaching back decades into Faith’s own past, it will shatter everything she believes to be true and will give terrifying new meaning to flesh and blood.

Review:  I really loved the characters in this.  Faith is genuine, intelligent and easy to connect with.  Deacon is just cool.  I liked him from the moment he stepped onto the page flaunting his uniqueness in a way that makes it work for him and not so much against him.  I definitely liked them together.

You do get a touch of the instant attraction thing going on here, but it is in one of the very few situations where it works.  When you are thrown together into intensely emotional, life and death kinds of situations, you tend to get to know a person’s character pretty quickly and that is the case with this book.  Spending nearly every waking second together while going through all of that, it is kind of impossible not to know the person you are spending that time with, so this is the exception to the rule with the insta-romance thing.

This was seriously intense, with bodies dropping left and right.  Normally, I’d be screaming that it is way too much, but again, this is an example of how you do that right.  There is a lot going on.  There appear to be some pretty crazy coincidences going on that wouldn’t be believable under other circumstances, but once you get into it, you realize that all of that isn’t so crazy after all.

Love the fact that this is resolved with hard work, smarts and teamwork.  No one person is the big hero doing all the heavy lifting.  It is incredibly well balanced.  What we figure out isn’t given to us in a giant reveal.  It is doled out in bits and pieces along the way which is exactly the way I like it.

Heat Exchange: Boston Fire, Book 1

Heat ExchangeAuthor: Shannon Stacey
Book Name: Heat Exchange
Series: Boston Fire
Order: #1
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars



Blurb:  Lydia Kincaid’s shipping back to Boston, but she’s not happy about it. She left to get away from the firefighting community–her father was a firefighter, her brother’s a firefighter and, more importantly, her ex is a firefighter. But family is number one and her father needs her help running the pub he bought when he retired. Soon, Lydia finds it hard to resist the familiar comfort and routine, and even harder to resist her brother’s handsome friend Aidan.

Aidan Hunt is a firefighter because of the Kincaid family. He’s had the hots for Lydia for years, but if ever a woman was off-limits to him it’s her. Aside from being his mentor’s daughter, she’s his best friend’s sister. The ex-wife of a fellow firefighter. But his plan to play it cool until she leaves town again fails, and soon he and Lydia have crossed a line they can’t un-cross.

As Aidan and Lydia’s flirtation turns into something more serious, Lydia knows she should be planning her escape. Being a firefighter’s wife was the hardest thing she’s ever done and she doesn’t know if she has the strength to do it again. Aidan can’t imagine walking away from Boston Fire–even for Lydia. The job and the brotherhood are his life; but if he wants Lydia in it, he’ll have to decide who’s first in his heart.

Review:  I’m not sure if it was that I just wasn’t in the mood or if I’m getting too old to think that some of this kind of stuff is sexy or romantic, but so much of this just felt a bit too middle school for my tastes and I just wanted to yell at everyone to grow the hell up already.

The idea that you have to keep your relationship secret when everyone involved are supposedly mature, rational adults just didn’t do it for me.  Then, when the secret finally gets let out, the adult men end up like school yard idiots beating each other up.  These are not the makings for a mature relationship.

I also couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that every single family mentioned in this book was seriously messed up.  Not only that, but that it was okay that those families were messed up, treated each other like crap and yet the not messed up members of the family kept coming back for yet another emotional beat down.  I don’t see it as noble or grand for a person to take care of or continue to participate with a family that is horrible.  I see it as a form of self flagellation and that isn’t an appealing trait.

The main female character and her family were nearly as bad.  When you combine that with the fact that she is so wishy washy on getting involved with another fireman drove me a bit nuts.  Either accept that you have feelings for someone that might live in a way that could be difficult for you and deal with it or be willing to draw the hard line on what may not be an emotionally healthy relationship for you.  There is nothing wrong with the fact that some people just don’t have what it takes to be in a relationship with someone that has a highly risky job, but have the guts to own that you may be one of those people.  Oh, but it isn’t even the risky job that is the issue, it is the fact that Lydia wants to be a priority and come first.  Again, that is fine, but open the mouth and have the words come out to have that conversation rather than expecting someone else to read your mind and just do and be what you want them to be.

Maybe it is a combination of too old and not in the mood because, while this was okay, it just wasn’t that great.

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The Seventh Victim: Texas Rangers, Book 1

The Seventh VictimAuthor: Mary Burton
Book Name: The Seventh Victim
Series: Texas Rangers
Order: #1
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars



Blurb:  If At First You Don’t Succeed

It’s been seven years since the Seattle Strangler terrorized the city. His victims were all young, pretty, their lifeless bodies found wrapped in a home-sewn white dress. But there was one who miraculously escaped death, just before the Strangler disappeared. . .

Kill

Lara Church has only hazy memories of her long-ago attack. What she does have is a home in Austin, a job, and a chance at a normal life at last. Then Texas Ranger James Beck arrives on her doorstep with shattering news: The Strangler is back. And this time, he’s in Austin. . .

And Kill Again. . .

He’s always craved her, even as he killed the others. For so long he’s been waiting to unleash the beast within. And this time, he’ll prove he holds her life in his hands–right before he ends it forever. . .

Review:  I normally like Mary Burton better than this one.  The story was decent, but in many ways, I had this one pegged early on.  It twisted a bit in a way I didn’t expect, which made this better, but I still kind of new, which made this a little less interesting.

The thing that mostly bugs me about this is the romance aspect.  There is so very little of it and what is there, really just doesn’t work for me.  There isn’t any believable chemistry going on.  That and the one intimate scene we get is really not all that good, topped with a bout of unsafe sex, which is kind of ridiculous considering the bad guy used a condom when he raped his victims.  What?  Safe sex is only for preventing DNA evidence at a crime?  I’m not sure what the point was in having any kind of a romantic line to the story as it did nothing to help or support the rest of the story.  If anything, it detracted from the rest of it and brought it down.

If you are going to have a romantic bent to a story, please put some effort into making that line of your story work well.  Otherwise, just leave it out.

Better When He’s Bad: Welcome to the Point, Book 1

Better When He's BadAuthor: Jay Crownover
Book Name: Better When He’s Bad
Series: Welcome to the Point
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/New Adult
Rating:  Good
3+stars



Blurb:  Welcome to the Point . . .

There’s a difference between a bad boy and a boy who’s bad. . . . Meet Shane Baxter.

Sexy, dark, and dangerous, Bax isn’t just from the wrong side of the tracks, he is the wrong side of the tracks. A criminal, a thug, and a brawler, he was the master of bad choices, until one such choice landed him in prison for five years. Now Bax is out and looking for answers, and he doesn’t care what he has to do or who he has to hurt to get them. But there’s a new player in the game, and she’s much too innocent, much too soft . . . and standing directly in his way.

Dovie Pryce knows all about living a hard life and the tough choices that come with it. She’s always tried to be good, tried to help others, and tried not to let the darkness pull her down. But the streets are fighting back, things have gone from bad to worse, and the only person who can help her is the scariest, sexiest, most complicated ex-con the Point has ever produced.

Bax terrifies her, awakening feelings she never thought she’d have for a guy like him. But it doesn’t take Dovie long to realize . . . some boys are just better when they’re bad.

Review: Normally I really like Jay Crownover.  Her Marked Men series is one of the better New Adult series I’ve read.  But this book just seemed to be missing the extra spark that made those books so good.

This does lean towards a darker side and I’m normally fine with that, but I just had difficulty connecting with these characters and this story.  I usually really enjoy books with those less than perfect, struggling characters and this had those kinds of characters but there was just something about both of them that lacked something that, as a reader, I needed.  Maybe it was that Dovie was a bit too perfect and unfailingly loyal.  Or maybe it was that Bax mostly didn’t have lines that he wasn’t willing to cross.  Both cases sort of flatten those characters for me.

This was still a good book, but just not as good as I’ve come to expect from Ms. Crownover and maybe that is just as big of a reason why I didn’t like this one quite as well as some of her others.

 

Whirlwind: Kate Page, Book 1

WhirlwindAuthor: Rick Mofina
Book Name: Whirlwind
Series: Kate Page
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars



Blurb:  An anguished mother loses her baby in a deadly storm…

A kind stranger helps Jenna Cooper protect her baby boy when a killer tornado rips through a Dallas flea market. But in the aftermath, Jenna can’t find her son or the woman who’d been holding him.

A journalist under pressure breaks the story…

Upon discovering the tragedy, reporter and single mom Kate Page, battling for her career and trying to hold her life together, vows to determine what happened to tiny Caleb Cooper.

A vortex of life-and-death forces

As the FBI launches an investigation amid the devastation, Kate uncovers troubling clues to the trail of the woman last seen with the baby–clues that reveal a plot more sinister than anybody had imagined. Against mounting odds, Kate risks everything in the race to find the truth…before it’s too late.

Review:  There wasn’t much at all that I liked about this book.

The confluence of events in this hits such impossible levels, and so early on, that there is no way to get this to rate much above a good.  Starting at only good, you don’t have a lot of room to move after that because it isn’t going to get better.

There really is no character development going on here, and considering there are loads of people that get point of view mentions, that is kind of sad.  All we get out of any of these people is a basic purpose in the story (reporter, mother, bad guy/girl, FBI, boss) and maybe one or two small personality traits and that’s it.  You do not get to know a single character on anything other than a superficial level.

While the plot is somewhat interesting and tries to tug on emotions with the devastation of the storms and the kidnapping, there just isn’t much intensity or depth.  The reader knows exactly what is going on from the get go and that takes the deeper, gripping kind of reaction right out of the story.  This doesn’t garner even a blip on the ol’ heart rate.  If you are expecting any kind of actual crime type drama or mystery, this is so not it.

The probability of even the potential for anything at all like this happening (with the number of tornadoes, the way they hit, who is impacted, the number of times and places) is so far in the ridiculous zone that if this were a movie, it would be on the same level as a truly bad horror flick.  It is utterly unrealistic on so very many levels.

 

The Pact: Karina Halle

The PactAuthor: Karina Halle
Book Name: The Pact
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars



Blurb:  It all started with a pinky swear…

Linden McGregor is tall, rugged, and gunslinger handsome; a helicopter pilot with a Scottish brogue and charm to spare. He’s also one of Stephanie Robson’s best friends and has fit into that box for as long as she’s known him.

But some relationships can’t be boxed, can’t be classified, can’t be tamed.

Back in their mid-twenties and tired of the competitive hit-or-miss dating scene of San Francisco, Steph and Linden made a pact to marry each other if neither one of them are in a serious relationship by the time they hit thirty.

It sounds like fun and games but as the years to thirty tick past and lovers come and go out of their lives, the pact becomes larger than life.
Sex is inevitable. Friendships are tested. Hearts are on the line.

The pact is about to change everything.

Review:  It is pretty difficult to enjoy or like a book when you don’t like the characters.  Steph was okay, but kind of clueless and ditsy.  James has a horrible, vindictive, jealous, ugly personality and Linden is so incredibly spineless that there just wasn’t much to like about him because that is impossible to overlook.

I’m not much of a fan of books that are all about lack of communication being the big issue in relationships, but this is all that the book is about for a huge portion.  The first half of the book was drawn out and mostly boring, all because Linden doesn’t have the guts to speak up about his attraction to Steph.  Because of that, they pretty much waste 5 years dating people they don’t like.  When they finally do get together and things work out, he lets ugly vindictive boy shape his choices?  What?  Are we twelve?  You are going to choose the best friend, who has been pretty nasty to you for a while over the love of your life?  This so doesn’t work for me.

I was doing okay with the first half spinelessness, but the big break up and get back together at the end killed it for me.  Maybe I’m just a really not forgiving person, but there would be no way I’d ever take the crap that gets tossed around in this and then be all hearts and flowers forgiving just because someone grovels and says sorry, and I mean that from all character perspectives.  I don’t buy it in any way, shape or form.  Sometimes things are just broken too badly to be fixed.

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Carved In Bone: Body Farm, Book 1

Carved In BoneAuthor: Jefferson Bass
Book Name: Carved In Bone
Series: Body Farm
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars



Blurb:  Renowned anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton has spent his career surrounded by death at the Body Farm. Now he’s being called upon to help solve a baffling puzzle in a remote mountain community. The mummified corpse of a young woman dead for thirty years has been discovered in a cave, the body bizarrely preserved and transformed by the environment’s unique chemistry. But Brockton’s investigation is threatening to open old wounds among an insular people who won’t forget or forgive. And a long-buried secret prematurely exposed could inflame Brockton’s own guilt–and the dangerous hostility of bitter enemies determined to see him fail . . . by any means necessary.

Review:  Knowing that this is written by an expert forensic anthropologist, it would be easy to assume it would lean towards a dry, technical read.  It came as a bit of a surprise to find that wasn’t the case.  You absolutely get some of the technical and scientific side of things, but that is beautifully balanced with humor, emotion and a genuinely well written story.

The very beginning of the book gave a very clear indication of how this book was going to go when you are immediately exposed to a somewhat gruesome and icky scenario juxtaposed against wry humor.  It isn’t often that I get to laugh while a guy is driving a knife into someone, but that is exactly what you get here.

Brockton’s character is this incredibly accomplished and respected professional.  We get this odd blend because that professionalism is offset with this imperfect, wacky, kind of scaredy cat, geeky personality that provides some lighter humor in the middle of some of the serious.  His friend Art and his student Miranda are much the same and are a big part of why this keeps from being too much about just the science.

This has to be one of the better crime dramas that I’ve read in a while and I will absolutely be reading the next one in this series.

Dead Secret: Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation, Book 3

Dead SecretAuthor: Beverly Connor
Book Name: Dead Secret
Series: Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation
Order: #3
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Good
3+stars



Blurb:  In the depths of an unmapped cave, forensic anthropologist Diane Fallon makes an astonishing discovery: the decades-old skeleton of a caving victim. Soon, the remains of two more bodies are found—one in an old car submerged in the waters of an abandoned quarry, another buried in the Georgia woods. At first, with nothing to link the dissimilar victims except desiccated bones, Diane can’t fathom the connection. But someone in her shadow does. It’s the key to a mystery that reaches back seventy years in a heritage of love, greed, and murder—and an unearthed family secret that still holds the power to kill.

Review:  As I’ve said with previous books in this series, I liked this book, but…  It is becoming clear that these are going to be the kind of cheap thrill reads that are well written, but still a little cookie cutter with certain aspects.

In every book so far in the series, Diane is put into a situation where she is in danger and attacked.  Once or twice I’ll buy, but not in every single book, or worse like this one, more than once in a single book.  She is a museum director and crime scene specialist.  She is not a cop on the front line, so her, and her team, shouldn’t be in danger with every case they take on.  That pushes things into the realm of the ridiculous and unrealistic.

There is also the element of just way too much going on and an insane number of coincidences and connections to tie nearly all of those seemingly random threads together.  The multiple plot lines are a common thing with these books, but this one kind of seemed as if it was a challenge to see how many different lines and coincidences could be worked into a single story.

As I said, this was good and I’ll most likely read the other books in this series because they are entertaining, but I will do so knowing how completely unrealistic they are and to not take them as serious crime dramas.

Rock Redemption: Rock Kiss, Book 3

Rock RedemptionAuthor: Nalini Singh
Book Name: Rock Redemption
Series: Rock Kiss
Order: 3
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars



Blurb:  Kit Devigny could have loved rock guitarist Noah St. John. Their friendship burned with the promise of intense passion and searing tenderness…until the night Noah deliberately shattered her heart.

Noah knows he destroyed something precious the night he chose to betray Kit, but he’d rather she hate him than learn his darkest secret. All he has left is his music. It’s his saving grace, but it doesn’t silence the voices that keep him up at night. Chasing oblivion through endless one-night-stands, he earns a few hours’ sleep and his bad boy reputation.

When a media error sees Noah and Kit dubbed the new “it” couple, Kit discovers her chance at the role of a lifetime hinges on riding the media wave. Wanting—needing—to give Kit this, even if he can’t give her everything, Noah agrees to play the adoring boyfriend. Only the illusion is suddenly too real, too painful, too beautiful…and it may be too late for the redemption of Noah St. John.

Review:  This is how you do broken beautifully.  Seriously.  There just aren’t many books with truly broken characters that I like quite as much as I like Noah.  He is seriously messed up, in a way that makes your heart want to bleed for him, and even though he thinks he is destroyed, he isn’t.  He still has heart and is willing to try.  There is no letting the brokenness be all that there is, but it is also absolutely there and a part of who he is, not written off or made to be a nothing bit of just history.  That is what makes it beautiful.

It would be easy to say that Kit’s character isn’t as strong personality wise, but hers is a quite, subtle strength that isn’t in your face.  It almost comes at you from behind the scenes, but it is a critical element to support and balance out Noah’s much stronger, obvious presence.

I think that what I love the most about this book (and it is similar in the other books in this series) is that the romantic relationship isn’t all perfect hearts and flowers and rainbow farts.  It gets a little gritty and ugly, but even with that, Noah and Kit are all about working through the ugly to get to keep the beautiful.  You may have those moments that are difficult trials and end up in the characters needing a bit of space, but they aren’t blown out into ridiculous proportions.  They are just real moments that need to be worked through.  Just really loved this all the way around.

Copy Cat: Kitt Lundgren, Book 1

Copy CatAuthor: Erica Spindler
Book Name: Copy Cat
Series: Kitt Lundgren
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Okay
3+stars



Blurb:  Five years ago, three young victims were found murdered, posed like little angels. No witnesses, no evidence left behind. The Sleeping Angel Killer called his despicable acts ‘the perfect crimes.’ The case nearly destroyed homicide detective Kitt Lundgren’s career–because she let the killer get away.

Now the Sleeping Angel Killer is back.

But Kitt notices something different about this new rash of killings–a tiny variation that suggests a copycat killer may be re-creating the original ‘perfect crimes.’ Then the unthinkable happens. The Sleeping Angel Killer himself approaches Kitt with a bizarre offer: he will help her catch his copycat.

Kitt must decide whether to place her trust in a murderer–or risk falling victim to a fiend who has taken the art of the perfect murder to horrific new heights.

Review:  This was hard for me to get into because I just wasn’t much of a fan of the characters and how they came across.  Kitt is so beyond messed up that it isn’t all that believable that she is still a cop.  M.C. comes across as one of these horribly competitive women who can’t stand it when another woman is in charge or looks better than them on paper.  Again, I just don’t like her as a cop.  Both kind of come across as not so smart, either on the job or in their personal lives.  I found both of their characters annoying and not all that interesting to me because of it.  There was also this all around lack of professionalism with both of their characters and to some extent how the police work plays out that grated on my nerves.

I just wasn’t much of a fan overall.  This wasn’t bad and I did think there were some decent parts, but the parts I didn’t like kept me from feeling as if this was anything other than just an okay story.

 

Notorious: Max Revere, Book 1

NotoriousAuthor: Allison Brennan
Book Name: Notorious
Series: Max Revere
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars



Blurb:  Maxine Revere has dedicated her life to investigating murders that the police have long since given up any hope of solving. A nationally renowned investigative reporter with her own TV show and a tough-as-nails reputation, Max tackles cold cases from across the country and every walk of life. But the one unsolved murder that still haunts her is a case from her own past.

When Max was a high school senior, one of her best friends was strangled and another, Kevin O’Neal, accused of the crime. To the disgrace of her wealthy family, Max stood by her friend, until she found out he lied about his alibi. Though his guilt was never proven, their relationship crumbled from the strain of too many secrets.

Now Max is home for Kevin’s funeral—after years of drug abuse, he committed suicide. She’s finally prepared to come to terms with the loss of his friendship, but she’s not prepared for Kevin’s sister to stubbornly insist that he didn’t kill himself. Or for an elderly couple to accost her at the airport, begging her to look into another murder at Max’s old high school. Max is more interested in the cold case at her alma mater than in digging around Kevin’s troubled life, but she agrees to do both. As Max uncovers dark secrets, she finds herself caught in a complicated web of lies that hit far too close to home. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that someone will do whatever it takes to make sure the truth stays buried.

Review:  Even though I really enjoy this genre, I struggle to find books that I like because way too often they are written in a cliche loaded, Scooby Doo ending way that drives me crazy.  Thankfully, this one is not one of those and doesn’t fall into that category.

This has quite a bit going on, so you have to be in it and paying attention or you are going to miss something important.  With the two separate murders that Max ends up digging into, it could have easily gotten to be too much to follow, but this was written well so that isn’t an issue.

I liked Max’s character.  She is smart, resourceful, but far from perfect with her trust issues.  It is nice to see a character that isn’t capable of doing every last thing without help.  I like it when a character has their strengths, but when something falls outside of that, they are willing to acknowledge that and let someone else step in to cover.  We do get to see lots of other characters, but the focus is almost soley on Max.

On a slightly negative side, this does skirt the concept that the police are totally incompetent.  I think that it was handled pretty well overall, but it comes close to being on the too much side.  Nick’s character keeps it from getting into the realm of ridiculous and keeps it realistic.

I did really enjoy this.  Even though I had a pretty good idea of who the bad guy was going to end up being at an earlier point in the story, there were enough bits here and there that kept me thinking that there was a chance I was going to be wrong.  I like being able to figure it out along with the characters without it being too obvious or too obscure.  This had a great balance.  I’ll definitely be reading more in this series.

Hard Magic: Paranormal Scene Investigations, Book 1

Hard MagicAuthor: Laura Anne Gilman
Book Name: Hard Magic
Series: Paranormal Scene Investigations
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Okay
3+stars



Blurb:  Welcome to P.U.P.I.–Private, Unaffiliated, Paranormal Investigations

A handpicked team trained to solve crimes the regular police can’t touch–crimes of magic.

My name’s Bonnie Torres. Recent college grad, magic user and severely unemployed. Until I got a call out of nowhere to interview for a job I hadn’t applied for. It smelled fishy, but the brutal truth was I needed the work–so off I went.

Two days later I’m a PUPI–me and Nick, Sharon, Nifty and Pietr. Five twentysomethings, thrown into an entirely new career in forensic magic.

The first job we get is a doozy: proving that the deaths of two Talents were murder, not suicide. Worse, there are high-profile people who want us to close up shop and go away. We’re sniffing out things they’d rather keep buried.

Looks as if this job is gonna get interesting. The only problem is, we’re making it up as we go along….

Review:  There was an awful lot of what I considered good potential in this that didn’t end up realized.  After starting extremely dry and slow, with a whole lot of info dumping, things finally started actually happening at about the 40% mark.  That is way too deep into a book to get things going and you are going to lose a bunch of readers if you can’t make it interesting long before then.  I was very nearly one of them.

The world building here is lacking.  We know that we have Talents, people with the ability to use and work magic; Nulls, non-magical humans; and Fatae, which I was a bit confused on, but got the impression that they were some sort of non-human fae.  Where that gets seriously confusing is whether or not Nulls are aware of those other types of people and beings.  At times, it seems as if they do not, and it is even alluded to a couple of times with a brief mention of witch hunts. Then in the next moment you have some seriously strange Fatae out in the open, but there is absolutely no explanation as to whether or not Nulls see them as they are because they know about them so there isn’t any reaction or if they see them but see them as a normal human and only Talent and other Fatae can see them for what they really are.  There is also no explanation of all the apparent damage that gets done by Talent and their use of current.

For me, this lack drags down the ability to really sink into the story because I’m constantly wondering what the people on the outskirts of the story are seeing and thinking while all of this other stuff is going on or why there is no reaction to what would seem to be incredibly strange happenings.  Just because it isn’t an issue that is brought up in the book does not mean it doesn’t exist.  They many not be getting mentioned, but those outskirt people in a story are the negative space.  You may not see it, but it is still there and helps form the shape of what you do see.  It needs to be dealt with one way or another.  This is kind of a head in the sand kind of approach to world building if you don’t.

The magic system created for this world also seems incomplete or a kind of mish mash of ideas tossed around.  In the beginning of the story, Bonnie uses crystals in an attempt to scry but we do not see any use of any external focus or tool in the rest of the book by any of the characters.  While there is something of an explanation of how the system works, it also seems to contradict itself and ends up not making a whole lot of sense.  Talent apparently can’t read minds, but that is basically what seems to happen a lot, especially between Vanec and Bonnie.  It is almost as if the system concept got changed midstream while this was being written.  It is explained that Talent can burn out if they try to pull too much current, but there isn’t any real consequence for using it at all.  No kind of checks and balance kind of thing in place.  There also isn’t any kind of structure around who has what level or kind of power and why.  There are no clear limits of what it can and can’t do.  Like I said, it feels incomplete, like it wasn’t fully thought out.

I had a hard time getting any kind of solid feel for Bonnie’s character as who she is changed from chapter to chapter.  Almost all of the characters were much the same way, but since Bonnie is the focus, the need for a definite personality is much higher and nothing ever really got set with her since she was kind of all over the place.

This was far from an awful story, but it was also pretty far from great.  I may pick up the next in the series to see if it gets any better, but I’m not holding out a lot of hope because there was a lot that was just not there with this one.

Wake to Darkness: Brown and de Luca, Book 2

Wake to DarknessAuthor: Maggie Shayne
Book Name: Wake to Darkness
Series: Brown and de Luca
Order: #2
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller/Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars



Blurb:  Stranded with a murderer…

Rachel de Luca’s uncanny sense of perception is the key to her success as a self-help celebrity. Even before she regained her sight, she had a gift for seeing people’s most carefully hidden secrets. But the secret she shares with Detective Mason Brown is one she has promised to keep. As for Mason, he sees Rachel more clearly than she’d like to admit.

After a single night of adrenaline-fueled passion, they have agreed to keep their distance–until a string of murders brings them together again. Mason thinks that he can protect everyone he loves, including Rachel, by taking them to a winter hideaway, but danger follows them up the mountain.

As guests disappear from the snowbound resort, the race to find the murderer intensifies. Rachel knows she’s a target. Will acknowledging her feelings for Mason destroy her–or save them both and stop a killer?

Review:  This one was harder to figure out where to rate this as I didn’t like it quite as well as book one.  Where book one stretched the believability hard, this one kind of broke it at time or two.

I missed much of the humor that I really liked in book one as well.  For some reason, Rachel’s smartass attitude was hugely downplayed in this book so we didn’t get those funny moments.  They weren’t needed quite as much in this book, but I still missed them as it is one of the things that I enjoyed about her character the last time.

Mason’s character is still leaving me on the fence as to whether I like him or not, because we get another situation where he breaks lots of cop rules.  This leads to a pretty big spoiler (can’t avoid it if I want to address one of my biggest issues), so don’t read past this if you don’t like to know.

Mason’s first rule break was when he covered up the fact that his brother was a serial killer in book one.  He does this to protect his family (which was one of my believability stretches last book) so they don’t have to know what an awful person he was.  In this, he takes evidence from yet another murder scene to protect his nephew, which ends up not being all that necessary because it is the sister-in-law (the dead serial killer’s wife, and yes, she plants evidence that would implicate her own son).  She apparently goes on a killing spree to recover the organs because she felt guilty that she new her husband was a killer and didn’t do anything about it.

All of that is already a giant stretch to begin with, husband is a serial killer then the wife starts killing after he commits suicide.  When she is caught, not once is it mentioned that the boys, and everyone else for that matter, are now going to know, not only was Mason’s brother and the boys’ father a serial killer, but that Mason covered it up.  They are going to have to find out because that is why Marie was killing.  This is all simple logic, but none of it happens.  They are just going to write is off as the fact that she snapped after the suicide and the loss of the baby.  What?  Like the police aren’t going to talk to the crazy lady, they are just going to take Mason’s word that she snapped?  And if they do talk to her, she isn’t going to say anything at all about why she started killing people by yanking organs out of their bodies?  There is only so much cover up that is going to go over here.

This makes me kind of angry because I really did like the rest of the book.  I’m just not a huge fan of how there is absolutely no fall out for the massive amount of lying and covering up going on and the apparent ability to say and do whatever and it is never an issue with the police or the investigation.  We can pretend and overlook a lot, but this is all just way too unrealistic.  Despite all that and being pretty frustrated at the end, this was still good enough that I’ll read the next one, but it won’t take much more for me to toss in the towel on this series.

 

Dead Guilty: Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation, Book 2

Dead GuiltyAuthor: Beverly Connor
Book Name: Dead Guilty
Series: Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation
Order: #2
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars



Blurb:  In Beverly Connor’s absorbing series, the bones of the dead reveal the secrets of the living. In this latest investigation, forensic anthropologist Diane Fallon must lead a chilling excavation of a crime with harrowing implications: the murder of three people, hanged execution-style in an isolated patch of Georgia woods.

Review:  While I did like this one, I didn’t like this quite as much as the first book, which is a disappointment.

In the first book, we saw some issues with the police, but it worked because it was a part of a larger sort of political posturing thing.  As far as I was concerned, that was pretty much taken care of in book one, but we see a level of ignorance and incompetence from the police characters in this book that is on the annoying side.  I hope this isn’t going to be a trend in Diane’s character and her team that they are the only ones that are capable of doing anything to solve the crimes and that the police don’t do anything to contribute at all, including interviewing witnesses.  That is a bit of a peeve of mine in the crime/police drama types of books (and TV and movies).

This was also a bit drier and, at points more tutorial/instruction manual.  Those points were, thankfully, presented during a part of the story where it made sense, but it was a bit too much.  It was also kind of a stretch that Neva gets dumped on the team from the police department with no apparent forensic background and luckily she is an artist, which no one apparently knew before she got dumped.  It is also a stretch that supposedly, because she is an artist, she is good at any form of art; drawing, sculpting, computer generated and with any kind of subject; animal, person/facial, reconstruction, objects and apparently architecture.  Is it possible?  Sure.  Is it probable?  Kinda not so much.

I hate that those things came up for me because I loved book one.  These are issues for me and make me like this quite a bit less because those things pull me out of the story when they are just too far out of the bounds of believable.  You can push those boundaries in a lot of ways, but once you cross way over, then it just isn’t as fun of a read any more.  I think this rating is even, in part, a bit of a carry over from book one and hope the next will be more like that than it is as much about this book.

Body Count: Sophie Anderson, Book 1

Body CountAuthor: P.D. Martin
Book Name: Body Count
Series: Sophie Anderson
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Mystery/Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars



Blurb:  TO CATCH A KILLER, YOU HAVE TO THINK LIKE ONE

FBI agent Sophie Anderson has been trained to uncover the minds of serial killers, to understand their vile impulses and cravings–to catch them before they kill again.

Newly relocated from Australia, Sophie is settling in to her job at Quantico with the help of her new friend, Agent Samantha Wright, and a potential new boyfriend, Agent Josh Marco, and is quickly becoming the FBI’s star profiler.

The only problem is the nightmares.

These intense images are more than dreams. They are psychic visions, like those she experienced during childhood when her brother was abducted.

When grisly details match recent crime scene photos, she confides in Sam, and her visions lead to several breakthroughs in the case. But when Sam is abducted, Sophie must finally trust her visions and use them. She may not have been able to save her brother, but perhaps she can save Sam–and herself.

Review:  Given the blurb for this, with its emphasis on the visions and Sophie’s brilliance as a profiler, I had higher expectations out of this than what what I got.  Mainly because even with those vision and that brilliance, plus a full team of people helping, Sophie couldn’t figure out who the bad guy was and we still end up with a Scooby Doo moment when we find out.  Sorry, but it kind of made the entire story and all the work those people did pretty much useless.

This started out pretty dry and a bit too heavy on the technical side, almost coming across as a profiling how to primer in a couple of places.  Sure, the reader sometimes needs that technical input, but like presenting character history, it really needs to be done along the context of the rest of the story, not as an info dump or an instruction manual.

Sohpie’s character seemed to be pretty decent for the first part of the story and then it started to fall apart.  Initially, she is strong and self assured, but suddenly she is relying more on her visions than her profiling ability, which wouldn’t have been bad if she didn’t suddenly become stupid.  You would think that someone with her experience and training would have been able to rule out one of her potentials based on personality, because there really isn’t any way he fit that profile.  Plus, no FBI agent would go check out a very real potential for a bad guy’s lair without, at the very least, letting someone else know where she was going, or, better yet, calling in some back up, just in case.  Especially when she is that bad guy’s next target.  That is a too stupid to live girl characteristic and doesn’t fit with a supposedly brilliant profiler.

This wasn’t horrible, it was a little better than just okay, and there is a chance that I’ll pick up another book in this series at some other point, but it isn’t going to be on the top of my priority list for books to read and it will definitely only be a library check out, not a purchase.

 

 

One Grave Too Many: Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation, Book 1

One Grave Too ManyAuthor: Beverly Connor
Book Name: One Grave Too Many
Series: Diane Fallon Forensic Investigation
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Mystery
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars



Blurb:  With spot-on details, a smart new voice, and ingenious plot twists, Beverly Connor has been compared to the hottest crime writers on the scene. Now, she ratchets up the suspense with a brand new series featuring one of today’s most cunning and complex sleuths: forensic anthropologist Diane Fallon. Her new job as director of the RiverTrail Museum of Natural History in Georgia takes Diane out of the game-until a former love and a murdered family bring her back in.

Review:  I thought this was excellent.  I guess I’m a little surprised by that because it does have some elements of things being just a bit too coincidental or moments of “that would never actually happen”, but as a whole this was just a story that worked all the way around and was incredibly entertaining.

When I read a suspense/crime/mystery type of story, I want the main characters to be smart enough to work through everything and figure it it out, either on their own through hard work, or with the help of other characters.  That is what this is all about, from top to bottom.  Diane is that incredibly smart character that is well rounded, but doesn’t know everything all by herself.  She does ask for help when it is needed.

There was a whole lot going on in this with a couple of bigger plot lines running side by side through this story.  I’m not sure if all the books in this series are going to be that full or if this was more because this is the first book in the series and a lot of ground work needed to be put in place for how it is going to play out from here on in.  Either way, both lines were fully developed and fleshed out.  Each one was given all the attention it needed to be complete story lines.  It is such a shock to read a book that has more than one line running where I didn’t feel like anything was lacking from any of the lines.  It was all just beautifully executed.

Knowing how well I liked this one, I have some seriously high hopes for the next book in the series because this is exactly what I was looking for in this type of book and I’m hoping the next one is just as good.

Thoughts on Reading and Writing: What Are Your Favorites and Why

This post has been pestering me for a while, but I’ve struggled to get it written because there are just so many different things to say and ways to say it that its hard to narrow it down below a novel level.  I initially thought this would be more about authors’ writing styles and creation processes or about character building and development or what makes a great writer stand out from just a good writer, but you have to note all of those things and more to really get to the meat of the subject.

Almost all of my reading material comes from the library, usually Kindle or ePub versions and only a very few am I willing to spend money on from my limited book buying budget.  Those are books written by authors that have proven time and time again to be exactly what I love and crave in a great story.  If I bought every book I wanted to read, I’d read myself right into the poorhouse, so I only buy what I know I’m going to love.

I have found that I like a pretty large variety of subjects and genres (all within the fiction realm) when it comes to reading, but I rarely love anything to the point where I know I’m going to read it over and over again.  It takes an extremely special and unique combination set of things to push any book near that coveted Favorite rating for me.  I will give a book a 5 star/Excellent rating, but it still won’t make it onto my Favorites list but even that is a pretty rare occurrence.

If you look at that list, I have quite a few, but in comparison to the total number of books I’ve read over the years, it is an extremely small percentage.  What there is is almost exclusively books that fall into the Fantasy genre.  I really do love a great book that involves the impossible, magic and shifters and worlds that are not the one we live in.  Where people are capable of things that we can only dream about. There are a crap ton of books out there that have all those things in their stories, but the ones that are truly awesome are the ones that are capable of making all that impossible real.

I’ve read a handful of interview questions or FAQs from a variety of different authors over the years and I noticed something that seems to be a common thread among my all time favorite authors that doesn’t appear to be there for authors that don’t make that list.  That is that their characters are real to them.  They have lives.  They have opinions.  They have discussions with the author.  They will have an all out hissy fit if the author tries to push them in a direction the character doesn’t want to go.  They are, in essence, real.  In just about any other group of the population, if someone said that they have voices talking in their heads they’d end up medicated and in a hospital somewhere.

At one point, I kind of thought that was some serious crazy talk until I was forced to understand it after making several custom pieces for clients that, while not quite so out and out words and conversations with me, had some seriously strong opinions as to what they were going to be.  I finally, really, truly got it at that point because those ended up being not only some of my favorite pieces, but some of my best.

I’ve compared authors to artists before and that is what they are, their medium is the written word instead of paint or clay or metal or some other physical, tangible medium.  Like musicians use notes and instruments, writers use words to paint their pictures and the most talented ones pull you so thoroughly into their pictures that you are living them right beside the characters.  It isn’t just characters, though.  Those are vivid, vibrant, deeply layered and complex beings that you know exist even if they really don’t.  The worlds they live in are just as rich and cultivated that, as a reader, there is very little need to truly imagine it because it has been painted is such detail it is hard to miss.  When I read a book, that is what I want.  I want the full experience.  I want all of my senses engaged, not just my eyes and my imagination.

It has been something of an unofficial goal this year to find at least one new author to add to my Favorites list.  I have yet to find one because there are so very few that seem to write to that level that I’m looking for.  So many authors write for quantity rather than quality and there are so very many that are cookie cutter or formula writers that it is amazing there are any decent books at all.  They aren’t awful writers at all, don’t get me wrong.  They just are the bare effort, riding on previous success writers that aren’t willing to put in the extra needed to make something great.  They are okay with just being okay.

I can’t begin to tell you how many books I’ve read that were so obviously in that cookie cutter/formula crowd.  The first book or two by an author you read, you may not notice and it is easy to think that you might have found something good, but then you read a few more and realize how wrong you are.  At one point, I actually watched my percentage mark as I read and found that the author I was reading literally had points where certain things had to happen in their story.  20% would have the first sexual event, 50% would have say some major drama point, 80% would have the big misunderstanding/breakup/separation and 90% would have the miraculous make-up and lets live happily ever after before the end of the book.  The only real differences would be the basic specifics like names, places personalities and scenario details.  It was like reading some plug and play book.  Ever since then (and after having something similar happen several more times), I’ve become leery of reading what I call bulk authors.  Again comparing to other types of art, it is like seeing mass produced costume jewelry sitting next to a custom, handmade piece.  You are going to notice a difference.

While I get hugely frustrated that my favorite authors don’t produce at a higher rater, I’m also extremely glad that they don’t because that means I’m still going to get awesome when they do put something new out.  It usually takes time to produce something amazing.  Look at pregnancy and gourmet cooking and gemstones like diamonds, they don’t come quick and easy.  Like fast food and quick meals, as a reader I’ll read those mass produced authors because I like to read and sometimes something that isn’t quite so full and rich is called for, but that doesn’t mean those will ever be read more than once or earn a spot on the Favorites list.  I will keep looking as I do want a broader range of authors I wait rather impatiently for new material, the ones I’m willing to spend my very limited buying budget on.  The rest, I’ll see you at the library during those long waits.

Don’t Cry: Don’t Cry, Book 1

Don't CryAuthor: Beverly Barton
Book Name: Don’t Cry
Series: Don’t Cry
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Romance
Rating:  Good
3+stars



Blurb:  Nowhere To Run

The crime scenes are horrifying: the victims arranged with deliberate care, posed to appear alive despite their agonized last moments and the shocking nature of their deaths.

No Place To Hide

Chattanooga grief counselor Audrey Sherrod moonlights for the local police. It’s clear to her, and to Special Agent J.D. Cass, that the murders are the work of a deranged serial killer. At first, the only link is the victims’ similar physical appearance. But then another connection emerges, tying them to a long-ago series of horrifying crimes Audrey hoped would never resurface–crimes that hit all too close to home.

No Time To Cry

Each grisly new discovery proves the past has not been forgotten, and the worst is yet to come. Audrey went looking for the truth and she’s about to find it. . .and it will be more twisted and more terrifying than she ever imagined. . .

Review:  Please note, this will contain some big spoilers.  There is just no real way for me to write about this one without doing that.  Sorry!

All the way through this book until I hit about the last 10-15%, I thought this was a pretty good book, a bit creepy and twisted, but good.  When I hit that point, though, things kind of started to fall apart.  I had a few bits here and there that were bugging me, but I was still ready to give this a much higher rating until towards the end.

There is a whole lot of personal drama going on here between all kinds of characters outside of the bigger crime thread of this book and we get to see all that going down by getting it handed to us through all those different characters points of view.  It got kind of confusing at times and took a little while to get used to the flow of the writing.  This wasn’t huge, but it was an annoyance.

Another minor, but still annoying issue was more of a realistic/factual thing not really meeting up or meshing with how this was written.  The crimes are written such that you have a woman cradling and rocking a child (either dead or alive, the position is still the same), yet that child is between 2 and 3 years old.  Children of that age are usually way too big to be cradled.  You can sit them on your lap, but you can’t really cradle them unless they are on the really small side, at least not without it being extremely awkward and difficult.  This issue made it incredibly hard to really visualize this set up accurately because it is written as though you would hold and rock an infant, not a toddler.  This tripped me up almost every time it was mentioned.

You spend the entire book digging through all that drama and trying to following what gets revealed about the murders and you have a pretty good idea that there is probably something hinky going on with Blake’s abduction.  You don’t know, but you realize at a decent point in the story that it is at least a possibility.  That is fine.  You keep reading and keep that in the back of your mind.

Then we get the huge, insanely coincidental bad guy reveal.  It wouldn’t be that big of a deal if the character connects didn’t twist and turn and intertwine like a backwoods inbred family tree.  What are the chances that the bad guy ends up dating Audrey, the sister of one of the kids that was supposedly kidnapped all those years ago?  The bad guy that was the twin brother of the baby that the crazy mom killed and then replaced by kidnapping said kids?  The bad guy that when he was a boy was adopted out to some other family?  Oh, and let’s twist that a bit tighter because Blake, Audrey’s brother, wasn’t actually one of those kids.

As crazy and totally unreal as all those twists and turns are, that isn’t even what I had the biggest problem with (and that wasn’t a tiny one to begin with).  No, I had a problem with all the insane that vomited all over the pages AFTER the bad guy went down.  We new there was a chance of stuff with Blake.  We had a pretty good idea that there was a huge chance that it was either Enid or Hart that caused his death and expected it to be found out after the bad guy was caught and they didn’t find Blake’s body.  The problem I had was that Garth, this respected, apparently well liked, police officer of many years goes off the rails when it is about to come out and kills Hart and tries to kill Audrey.  All to protect his seriously depressed sister, who has now been dead for more than 20 years.  That made absolutely no sense at all and was a level of drama that was completely unnecessary.

Don’t even get me started on how badly every single police officer involved apparently dropped the ball with regards to searching after Blake was reported missing to have missed his body in a freezer and then just later in the week after he disappears, the freshly planted rose in the back yard.  So believable!

It also basically stated that serious crazy and mental health issues run in families because the bad guy family had Bad Guy, Bad Guy’s Mom, Bad Guy’s Uncle/Dad and then you have Enid, her son Hart and her brother Garth.  Funny how every single one of those characters are dead by the end of the book except Bad Guy who ends up in a mental institution.

Sorry, but that is all just too much.  WAY too much.  Sadly, all of that makes this one of those books that has a lot of good and a lot of bad all mixed together, leaving a book that is just decent.

 

Dragon Fall: Black Dragons, Book 1

Dragon FallAuthor: Katie MacAlister
Book Name: Dragon Fall
Series: Black Dragons
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars



Blurb:  YOU FLIRT WITH FIRE…

For Aoife Dakar, seeing is believing-and she’s seen some extraordinary things. It’s too bad no one else believes her claim a supernatural murder occurred at an outdoor fair. Returning to the scene for proof, Aoife encounters a wise-cracking demon dog-and a gloriously naked man who can shift into a dragon and kiss like a god. Now thrust into a fantastical world that’s both exhilarating and terrifying, Aoife is about to learn just how hot a dragon’s fire burns.

WHEN YOU DATE A DRAGON

Kostya has no time for a human woman with endless questions, no matter how gorgeous or tempting she is. He must break the curse that has splintered the dragon clans before more of his kind die. But his powerful attraction to Aoife runs much deeper than the physical-and there may be more to her than even his sharp dragon eyes can see. To survive the coming battle for the fate of his race, he needs a mate of true heart and soul . . .

Review:  It had been quite some time since I’d read a Katie MacAlister book that fell into one of the many connected series that this book is in.  Either I don’t remember something on the important side, or I missed a book or two, so it took a little bit to put what I did remember in perspective against what was going on in this book.  Once I did, though, I dropped right into it.

As with so many of her other books, this was insanely hysterical.  I think it is because there is so much of that crazy running rampant through the book that I find it a bit easier to overlook the insta-love that goes on.  It may be insta-love, but it sure isn’t perfect.  All that isn’t perfect is tossed around with loads of attitude and spunk and totally inappropriate tangent conversations that can’t help but crack you up.  It is the humor I love the most about this.

The characters themselves would be absolutely lost and useless without the humor and attitude, though.  Kostya is hugely pompous in a way that would normally be grating and annoying, but it is presented so that instead of hating the guy, you are laughing at him.  Aoife is kind of a doofus, but again, as a hugely funny doofus.

This was a perfect humor break needed after some heavier books.