Review of Anatomy of a Miracle, by Jonathan Miles

I initially won a paperback copy of Jonathan MilesAnatomy of a Miracle through Goodreads. But lacking in time to sit and read lately, but interested none the less, I opted to borrow the audio version from the local library.

Description from Goodreads:

Rendered paraplegic after a traumatic event four years ago, Cameron Harris has been living his new existence alongside his sister, Tanya, in their battered Biloxi, Mississippi neighborhood where only half the houses made it through Katrina. One stiflingly hot August afternoon, as Cameron sits waiting for Tanya during their daily run to the Biz-E-Bee convenience store, he suddenly and inexplicably rises up and out of his wheelchair.

In the aftermath of this “miracle,” Cameron finds himself a celebrity at the center of a contentious debate about what’s taken place. And when scientists, journalists, and a Vatican investigator start digging, Cameron’s deepest secrets–the key to his injury, to his identity, and, in some eyes, to the nature of his recovery–become increasingly endangered. Was Cameron’s recovery a genuine miracle, or a medical breakthrough? And, finding himself transformed into a symbol, how can he hope to retain his humanity?

Review:

As I said above, I won this book and I’m really glad I did, because I almost certainly wouldn’t have picked it up on my own. I’ll grant that it’s a little overly long (though I think the fact that I listened to it made this a little more bearable) and slow, but the subtitles of the story are well worth the read. This book hands you nothing, it lays things on the table and invites you to consider them. I appreciated that a lot.

Were there times I wanted Cameron to open up and speak more, so that I could understand him better, for things to be a bit more obvious? Yes! But that wouldn’t have fit his character and honestly, this isn’t a story about Cameron. It’s the story of his miracle, if a miracle it be (this being a crucial question). And if the author had taken the easy route of allowing Cameron to hand the reader a pat answer, it wouldn’t be anywhere as good a book.

I did spend a lot of time afraid it was going to go the way of so much literary fiction and end in unbearable tragedy, but it didn’t. And the huge sigh of relief at the end was worth the anxiety.

I don’t think this will be a book everyone will enjoy. But I really did. And Edoardo Ballerini’s narration was no small part of this. He does an excellent job.

Review of Troublemaker (GO-Team #1), by Linda Howard

I won a paperback copy of Linda Howard‘s Toublemaker. I actually read it a few days ago (before Bless Your Heart), but somehow posting the review got missed. I’m correcting my error.

Description from Goodreads:

For Morgan Yancy, an operative and team leader in a paramilitary group, nothing comes before his job. But when he’s ambushed and almost killed, his supervisor is determined to find out who’s after the members of his elite squad—and why. Due to worries that this unknown enemy will strike again, Morgan is sent to a remote location and told to lay low and stay vigilant. But between a tempting housemate he’s determined to protect and a deadly threat waiting in the shadows, keeping under the radar is proving to be his most dangerous mission yet.

The part-time police chief of a small West Virginian mountain town, Isabeau “Bo” Maran finally has her life figured out. She’s got friends, a dog, and a little money in the bank. Then Morgan Yancy shows up on her doorstep. Bo doesn’t need a mysterious man in her life—especially a troublemaker as enticing and secretive as Morgan.

The harder they fight the intense heat between them, the closer Morgan and Bo become, even though she knows he’s hiding from something. But discovering the truth could cost Bo more than she’s willing to give. And when Morgan’s cover is blown, it might just cost her life. 

Review:

This was ok, I guess. It’s hard for me to truly judge, because I’m not a huge fan of contemporary romances (or romantic thrillers, which this might qualify as). But the writing wasn’t bad and I was engaged enough to finish. 

I had serious a problem with the bait and switch the book presents though. The blurb says that Bo (the female lead) is the police chief, which sets the reader up with certain expectations. But in fact, ‘police chief’ is a purely administrative position, with no expectations of actual law enforcement involved and no police training required. She’s basically just there to do the paperwork the ‘real’ policemen don’t want to be bothered with. At one point someone shoots in her direction (anything more specific would be a spoiler) and she has to be carried away, princess style, almost in a swoon. This is not at all what a reader expects after being told a female character is the police chief! So, from the get go I had one serious disappointment. I liked her well enough, but she wasn’t the female lead I was promised. 

On a more positive note, while Morgan was all alpha-male and cliched macho man who can’t eat a salad, drink skim milk or read girly books, he was pleasantly un-asshole like. There were lots of consent moments, overt and subtle, and he was self-aware when his protective propensities countered with what Bo wanted. He never undermined her autonomy or forced her to do something ‘for her own good.’

Then there was the true main character of the book, Tricks, the dog. She was cute and she lent a needed thread to the narrative. But I thought there was too much Tricks. I got tired of her being fawned over and made the center of attention. Plus, as a dog owner (with a pretty brainy canine) I thought a lot of the ways Tricks was accommodated was bad dog parenting. When they have to take a different car because otherwise Tricks would have to sit in the backseat, there is a problem. She is still A DOG. 

All in all, I probably wouldn’t have picked this up if I hadn’t won it. But I wasn’t disgusted at having read it either.

Review of Bless Your Heart (Fairy Tales of a Trailer Park Queen Book 1), by Kimbra Swain

I purchased an e-copy of Kimbra Swain‘s Bless Your Heart.

Description from Goodreads:

Scorned by her family. Banished by her kind. Hunted by zealots. 

Where does an exiled Fairy Queen hide? 

A remote mountain cabin, the seedy underbelly of a metropolis, or an uninhabited island. All would be good choices, however, after hundreds of years on the run, the daughter of Oberon, King of the Wild Fairies, signs a binding contract with the zealots that hunt her. In exchange, they allow her to settle down in the last place anyone would look for fairy royalty. 

Adopting the name Grace Ann Bryant, the Queen buys a double-wide and moves into a trailer park in the one-horse town of Shady Grove, Alabama. Her contract requires her to lend aid to the local sheriff, Dylan Riggs, when supernatural problems arise. 

But when two children go missing, the humans point to the trailer park queen helping the sheriff, and the zealots point at the exiled fairy. Grace must decide whether to fight for her innocence or break her contract returning to life on the run. 

Bless Your Heart is a Southern Urban Fantasy that will make you laugh, cry, and laugh until you cry, as Grace wrestles with the dark fairy inside herself and starts to see that she’s more than just trailer trash.

Review:

This was a cute story let down in the execution. It really needs another copy editing pass, to catch misplaced commas, missing words and homophones and such. Plus, someone really needs to sit the author down and discuss the fact that people DON’T SAY NAMES IN EVERY CONVERSATION. It’s one of my biggest dialogue pet peeves. It’s redundant and annoying, and Swain is particularly bad about it. I almost DNFed the book pretty early on honestly, because of it. 

Beyond that, I didn’t believe the twist at the end (in the church). Grace would have to be exceedingly oblivious, moving into Too Stupid To Live territory, to really not have noticed ANYTHING until the big reveal. And could/would the town really have kept that secret so well? Plus, keeping the secret from her doesn’t even make sense. 

All in all, I did actually like the characters and I appreciated the male/female platonic friendship. But beyond that, the book didn’t live up to what it could have been.