Author Archives: Zarah Robinson

Review of Diamond Fire, by Ilona Andrews

I pre-ordered a paperback copy of Ilona AndrewsDiamond Fire and then let the little sliver of a book sit on my shelf for months.

Description from Goodreads:

Catalina Baylor is looking forward to wearing her maid of honor dress and watching her older sister walk down the aisle. Then the wedding planner gets escorted off the premises, the bride’s priceless tiara disappears, and Rogan’s extensive family overruns his mother’s home. Someone is cheating, someone is lying, and someone is plotting murder.

To make this wedding happen, Catalina will have to do the thing she fears most: use her magic. But she’s a Baylor and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for her sister’s happiness. Nevada will have her fairy tale wedding, even if Catalina has to tear the mansion apart brick by brick to get it done. 

Review:


You know, I still swear this series has the worst covers ever. But I do still quite enjoy the stories themselves. I thought this was a pleasant little bonus to the series as a whole. Getting to know Nevada’s sisters was fun and seeing Rogan and Nevada from someone else’s perspective was too. It is a novella and reads as such. It’s no where near as developed as a whole novel. All in all, I look forward to the…well, the spin-offs, since I suppose Rogan and Nevada’s arc is finished. (Though there is a Hidden Legacy 4 coming out in August 2019.)

Review of Wisteria Witches, by Angela Pepper

I received an Audible credit from Angela Pepper to get the box set of the first three Wisteria Witches book. However, I’m choosing to review only the first here on the blog.

Description from Goodreads:

Zara Riddle moves to the town of Wisteria for a dream job as a librarian. She hasn’t even unpacked her moving boxes when she and her teen daughter, Zoey, are swept up in a murder mystery.

With all the ghosts and supernatural creatures around (Including a real hunk of a wolf shifter! Meow!) it’s a good thing the Riddle women are tougher than they look. Now, if only they could handle their new witch powers as well as they’ve mastered their sarcastic wit!

Review:

This didn’t work for me. Though I suspect it is a matter of taste over quality. There are some consistency issues, people knowing things they haven’t been told and such, and I thought the dialogue got too formal at times (especially considering how informal Zara is in general). But for the most part what bothered me wasn’t a matter of the book being bad, but of it being everything I dislike. 

I found Zara intensely annoying! Yes, I see that we’re supposed to think her Gilmore Girl cute. But I found her endless blather like nails on a chalkboard, all her constant media references trite, and her naiveté insincere. I felt like even the author thought her immature, often excusing the things she says by calling them juvenile, long-standing jokes between her and her daughter. The book falls short of calling anyone a poopy-head, but not by much, and only because it’s so committed to “ding-dong.” 

Calling Zara and her crew Mary-Sues would be an understatement. On the upside, the book is 100% clean, not even a curse word is uttered. On the downside, it means the book lacks any sort of grit. So much so that there is barely any tension. I was just this side of board for all of it.

Plus, the book takes a long time to pick up any kind of speed, spending far too much time on dinners and descriptions. (Hope you like adjectives.) Then, once it does, the mystery essentially solves itself off page, leaving the reader out of the action. 

Lastly, I disliked Tiffany Williams’ narration style. It fit the book really well, actually. And again, the quality is fine. But the places she emphasizes words and her tone, etc, just highlights the overly-sensitive, overtly clean aspect of the book, making all my annoyances stand out even more. 

Please don’t take the last few paragraphs as my having an issue with clean stories. I just don’t know a better way to describe the feel of it, like it’s been scrubbed of anything interesting and real. I guess that’s my base issue, why people complain about Mary-Sues in general, they don’t feel real. They’re too idealized to relate to and thus feel fake. 

I actually have the audio boxset of the first three books. I went into them with really high hopes. I’m all about cozy paranormal mysteries right now and the main character even has my same name. When you’re named Zarah, that’s not something you encounter often. I will challenge myself to give the next book a try. Maybe with the world building done the next book will be better for me. I was disappointed with this. But I can 100% see all the things that irritated me so being exactly what another reader will love. To each their own.

Review of House of the Rising Sun (Crescent City #1), by Kristen Painter

I borrowed an audio copy of Kristen Painter’s House of the Rising Sun through Hoopla.

Description from Goodreads:

Augustine lives the perfect life in the Haven city of New Orleans. He rarely works a real job, spends most of his nights with a different human woman, and resides in a spectacular Garden District mansion paid for by retired movie star Olivia Goodwin, who has come to think of him as an adopted son, providing him room and board and whatever else he needs. 

But when Augustine returns home to find Olivia’s been attacked by vampires, he knows his idyllic life has comes to an end. It’s time for revenge—and to take up the mantle of the city’s Guardian.

Review:

Gah, this was not good. One Goodreads reviewer called it lazy and another called it facile and boring. Both are accurate descriptions of the book and describe my opinion perfectly. The author has some interesting ideas, but just drops them all in willy-nilly, with no attempt to situate them in any sort of world building. 

Both “main” characters are just cardboard cutouts of PNR heros/heroines. He’s protective and she needs protecting. There isn’t really anything more to either of them. But Harlow is especially poorly sketched out. Augustine at least goes out and does things. Harlow just basically sits home and frets, waiting for someone else to solve her problems. Want to know how important she is to the story? She’s not even mentioned in the book’s description, despite her sexy image being used to grab readers attention. (And it should be added that the actual character lives in baggy sweatshirts to cover her physique. So the image really is just to sex the cover up.)

There is a semblance of plot. It has to be Augustine who protects the city, because reasons. Harlow hasn’t much spoken to her mother for decades, because reasons. She has to come home now, because reasons. Olivia has never told Harlow who her father is (despite it destroying their relationship), because reason. Olivia took Augustine in, because reasons. BUT NONE OF IT REALLY HOLDS UP TO THE LIGHT. And frankly a lot of it isn’t even believable. 

Lastly, the timeline is hinky. Ages aren’t ever stated, but they can be approximated with the information provided, and Olivia seems far too old to be Harlow’s mother. And all of Harlow’s childhood is basically glossed over with “sent to boarding school.” Despite this, there seems to be several missing years in there. And if 20+ years pass, am I to believe Olivia never mentioned essentially adopting a son? Again, it’s all a product of lazy writing. 

All in all, I’m very glad to be finished with this. By the end, Harlow’s intense unlikeable-ness was becoming too much to bear. Painter apparently couldn’t even put in enough effort on her behalf to make her palatable. The narration, done by Elijah Alexander was fine. But again, choosing a male narrator for a book with a female main character on the cover, should tell you who the focus of the book is really on. (I actually wouldn’t call Harlow a main character at all.)

Edit: As an amusing side note, there is a character named Zarah in this book. She’s referenced, but never makes an appearance. This is noteworthy because just the other day I wrote a Goodreads review in which I said how rarely I see this name in books. Now, I’ve come across TWO IN A ROW. What’s the likelihood? I’ll cross-post the review to the blog when I finish the boxset and post all the reviews together. But at least I got a chuckle out of it.