Category Archives: book review

Leveling up 1-3 kf Breene

Book Review: Leveling Up (#1-3), by K.F. Breene

leveling up 1-3 k.f. breene

After seeing them recommended in a Fans of Urban Fantasy group, I picked up copies of K. F. Breene‘s Magical Midlife Madness, Magical Midlife Dating, and Magical Midlife Invasion while they were free on Amazon.

magical midlife madness

Description from Goodreads:

A woman starting over. A new house with an unexpected twist. A cape wearing butler acting as the world’s worst life coach.

“Happily Ever After” wasn’t supposed to come with a do-over option. But when my husband of twenty years packs up and heads for greener pastures and my son leaves for college, that’s exactly what my life becomes.

Do-over.

This time, though, I plan to do things differently. Age is just a number, after all, and at forty I’m ready to carve my own path.

Eager for a fresh start, I make a somewhat unorthodox decision and move to a tiny town in the Sierra foothills. I’ll be taking care of a centuries old house that called to me when I was a kid. It’s just temporary, I tell myself. It’ll just be for a while.

That is, until I learn what the house really is, something I never could’ve imagined.

Thankfully forty isn’t too old to start an adventure, because that’s exactly what I do. A very dangerous adventure that will change my life forever. I have a chance to start again, and this time, I make the rules.

my review

I adored this. Yes, a couple jokes felt forced. As much as I loved Jessie giving the men how-to-be-better-for-women lectures they felt a little didactic at times. The idea of a magical house choosing a keeper isn’t new, and Jessie was just a little too flippant in her confidence sometime. But…but…but…but I just loved her and the story. I laughed so hard and so often reading this book that I couldn’t even steady my wine enough to sip it.

As a 43yo woman I could relate to so much of her struggle. I appreciated that she didn’t want getting a youthful body back to be the solution to middle age, especially for a woman. She liked herself as so many of us want to like ourselves in our older, more experienced bodies. The side characters cracked me up. The suggestion of romance was on a back burner and not focused on sex.

All in all, I had a hoot with this and can’t wait to jump into the next one.


magical midlife datingDescription from Goodreads:

The decision has been made. Jessie has taken the magic, and all the weird that goes with it. Including wings.

There’s only one problem – she can’t figure out how to access them.

Through a series of terrible decisions, Jessie realizes she must ask for help. Gargoyle help.

But she could’ve never predicted who answers her call – he’s an excellent flier, incredibly patient, and a good trainer. He’s also incredibly handsome. And interested.

Maybe flying isn’t the only thing she needs help with. Maybe she needs help getting back on that saddle, too, emerging into the dating pool.

Except, the new gargoyle is also an alpha, just like Austin, and the town isn’t big enough for two.

Turns out, flying is the least of her problems.

my review

I liked this one, but not as much as the first book. I understood her desire to get back in the ‘dating’ saddle again (really she just wants to try sex for the first time since her divorce and I respect that), but I didn’t understand why she didn’t call D on all his RED FLAGS before she did. I still adore the friends-for-now relationship she has with A though.

I was massively disappointed that, after saying in book one that she didn’t want getting a more youthful body to be the solution to middle age, especially for a woman, she essentially did just that. Maybe she didn’t go whole hog and get her 20yo body back, she just got some aspects of it back. But the way the book moved from her wearing chucks and no make-up in book one to slinky red or sparkly dresses, heals and smokey eyed make-up in this one negated the goodwill book one developed on that front. I almost felt it a betrayal. Whats more, it was just rude that she took those upgrades and didn’t think to do the same for the guardians who are all well past 40yo.

But all the side characters still made me laugh. I still like the main character and am having fun with the series. I have book three and I’m looking forward to reading it.


Description from Goodreads:

Jessie is well on her way to learning her new life and settling in. The tough alpha, Austin, has joined her team, and she has painstakingly learned to fly. At the moment, life couldn’t get any better.

But it can get a whole lot…more irritating.

Her parents have decided to visit. They don’t know anything about magic, about Jessie’s new digs, or about the crazy crew living in and around Jessie’s house. She must do everything in her power to keep the truth away from them.

Which would be much easier without the unfelt presence lurking within Ivy House’s borders. It seems an enemy has figured out a way to magically bypass Ivy House’s defenses. Jessie is completely exposed.

The real battle, however, won’t be with the incoming force. It will be between Mr. Tom and Jessie’s mom, each intent on being the most helpful. Mr. Tom might have met his match, and he is not pleased.

Just when things were finally settling down, Jessie is in the thick of it again, and this time, the turmoil is all around her.

my review

I’m flying through this series and still enjoying it. This one, book three, felt very much like a middle book though. Things happen—the visiting parents provide opportunity for slapstick comedy, Jessie and Austin remain in each-other’s orbits, a battle, members joining the council, etc. But the whole thing kind of lacked series arc focus in the way so many middle books do, done with the introductions, but not moving toward any kind of conclusion yet. All in all, I read it, enjoyed it, and am looking forward to more, but book one is still my favorite by a mile (so far, anyhow).

I do want to make a note here of an experience I had literally minutes after I finished book two. I finished the book, put down my Kindle, and picked up my phone, so immediately after. I was checking in with the same Fans of Urban Fantasy group and someone had asked

Can someone please explain this whole paranormal women’s fiction thing of 40 year old women who have grown children, and no life at 40 (until their husband dumps them and they get a hot faerie bf, obviously)? As a 40-something woman myself, i am not finding I’m able to identify with this anymore than I can with the hot 22 year-olds who predominate in UF…

She went on to also mention women so often being inexperienced in sex. This prompted discussion, obviously, with responders all over the map from agreeing whole-heartedly to stating, “It’s fantasy, Karen.”

But as the debate rolled along, Breene popped in to comment. Now keep in mind PWF isn’t a particularly old genre. I don’t know a lot about how it came to be, but there seem to be 13 authors recognized as the originators and Breene is one of them. And while her response was NO WHERE near Author Behaving Badly level, she did say things like “But as the co-creator of pwf, I figured I’d better stand on the front lines and return fire.” And I just thought it was an oddly defensive stance, characterizing a reader discussion about preferences and dislikes in a genre as combat or an attack. In fact, that was my general read on her responses in generaldefensive, as if personally attacked, which wasn’t how I took the original post.

Facebook screen shotI made several comments (some of which I deleted because the commenters seemed to be starting to take sides and I didn’t want to find myself offending anyone by accident), one of which she ‘corrected.’

This was someone recommending Breene’s series to the woman who dislikes the divorce component. (Magical Midlife Madness starts with the heroine getting a divorce.)

Again, I thought it oddly defensive. Her clarification essentially said the same thing I did in the comment she was responding to. There had been a lack of good sex in the main character’s life. But the “ I won’t apologize for that” again seemed defensive. No one was criticizing her or even the book, nothing had been said that would necessitate an apology. The intent of my comment was solely to make sure the OP, who had just been recommend a book that contained the very element she stated she dislikes, knew that before picking it up. I wasn’t discouraging anyone reading it. In fact, I said I liked it.

As stated, I don’t think Breene was in Author Behaving Badly territory. But it was enough that I’d be cringing  and cautious if this post and review were a bad one. I’d wonder if and how she’d respond. Because she’s shown herself to be defensive, IMO, and willing to step into readers’ spaces to “return fire.” I’m noting all this here should I choose to pick up another of her series in the future. I probably will, I have enjoyed what I read of this one so far, but I don’t want to end up embroiled in any drama.

 

marked title

Book Review: Marked, by Lacey Silks

I purchased a paperback copy of Marked, by Lacey Silks.

Marked Lacey Silks

The underworld is stirring. And it’s calling out my name.

One kill. One life. One snap of a demon’s neck and I will be marked with a sphere. It will not only give me purpose and strength but it will also bind me and my sister to a demon lord, Aseret.

He’s killed our kin, disturbed the underworld’s resting souls and now he’s preparing to strike at the humans and vampires. If we don’t stop him, another genocide will ensue.

Gifted with abilities from our ancestors, we are the last shifters. Except my sister believes that our destiny is to bear the water mark instead.

Fortunately for me, every marking comes with a price. For me, her name is Xela. The sinfully sexy dark witch with secrets flips my world upside down. She takes hold of my heart, opening the door to the underworld.

After all, there’s something good about being bad.

Note: Marked is Book 1 in the Two Halves Series with a HFN ending. Contains mature themes and is suitable for adult audience only.

I’ll start by saying the writing here is fine. But beyond that I don’t have a lot of praise to lavish on it. I thought the whole thing too full of talking about doing things and not enough actual doing of things. And when the action finally started RIGHT AT THE END, the main characters were barely part of it. They were there, but not much more. The big fight the book was leading up to was quite anticlimactic.

Plus, Xander felt about 15-years-old but the book is full of sex. Not all of it was explicit but there was a lot of it. So much, in fact, that I wondered if a man really should be able to come that many times in a night. That was practically more of a fantasy element that the witches and shifters.

But my big complaint comes with that note you see in the last paragraph of the blurb. “Marked is Book 1 in the Two Halves Series with a HFN ending.” It is a lie on two fronts. Happy for now infers that the plot has reached some sort of plateau and the couple has reached a moment of happiness, even if it isn’t for ever. This book ends on a precipitous cliffhanger. There is no sense of anything being completed. This feels very much like half (if not a quarter) of a book. And as it’s only 143 pages long, there isn’t really any reason it couldn’t have continued. It didn’t stop at any sort of natural stopping point.

Second, and more importantly, HFN required the characters have found some sort of happiness, preferably together. This books ends with one character essentially dead (for the moment) and the other running away and knowing they can’t even look for the other for years. There is nothing about that that is happy, for now or otherwise. NOTHING. That sentence is a lie and an important one. I wouldn’t have purchased the book if I’d known how it would end…or not end.

Just about the only thing I enjoyed about this book was the laugh I got at the printing mishap on the cover. I read the blurb when I bought it. But then it took a little while to arrive and sat on my table for days. I didn’t really remember what it was about when I picked it up to read. So, I read the back of cover. OK. I dove in and nothing made sense. The character names were wrong, the plot wrong, it didn’t even feel like the same book.

So, I did a little googling and realized it didn’t feel like the same book because it’s not!

Marked wrong back

That blurd you see on the back of my copy of Marked belongs to Baby Me. I can’t imagine how printing the wrong blurb on a book happened, but I got a kick out of it and it made me laugh.

Since I’m talking about covers I’ll also mention that the man on the cover, who one assumes is Xander (the main character) is wearing the wrong mark in the wrong place. That will only make sense if you’ve read the book. But I noticed. Reader notice these things.

 

Nightwalker title

Book Review: Nightwalker, by A. J. Llewellyn

I purchased a paperback copy of Nightwalker, by A. J. Llewellyn.

In Los Angeles, Lauro is a working psychic with a secret…he is a Nightwalker, a man with an ability that allows his spirit to roam the streets late at night in search of people who need help and healing. Descended from the ancient, persecuted Benandanti that worked in Northern Italy, and born with the caul covering his face, Lauro learned the legends of his birthright from his mother.

Now, when a hot young model, Alex, comes to him for a reading, Lauro is torn by grief at being unable to see nothing ahead for the man. Confiding his concerns to his lover, LAPD detective Madrigal, Lauro fears for Alex’s safety.

But Lauro soon learns his client gave him a false name. And he now knows his recurring dream is real. Alex has been kidnapped, and somewhere in his nightly “walks,” Lauro comes into contact with the man’s abductor, a frightening and evil man who will stop at nothing to kill his prey. As Lauro gets closer to the truth, he starts to experience long-dormant memories of his centuries-old life, terrified that what befell him during the Roman Inquisition is a horrific prophecy of the future…

my reivew

I found this surprisingly enjoyable for something so short. Usually I dislike ‘books’ shorter than a hundred or so pages because they don’t manage to tell a whole story. But here, I felt Llewellyn managed it. Could it have been expanded into a full novel-length book? Sure, I feel like the plot could have been stretched and beefed up to fit (and I’d have probably liked it more, just because I like longer stories) but it doesn’t feel lacking as is, just different.

I liked Lauros and his integrity. I liked Madrigal and his struggles to accept and not feel inadequate in the face of Lauros’ abilities. I liked the mother. But I felt like the book gave unnecessary detail at times, causing the plot to drag a bit. And I oddly felt the explicit sex gratuitous. I say odd because I generally like me some down and dirty time. But in a piece so short, I think the page count dedicated to several detailed sex scenes felt out of proportion to the whole.

All in all, however, I enjoyed the writing and will happily pick up another of Llewellyn’s books.