Tag Archives: book review

Review of Crystal Gardens, by Amanda Quick

It’s mid-December and, like every December in recent memory, I have reached this point in the year and have yet to read a Q, U or X book for my author-alphabet-challenge. *Cue panic.* I did try and read Q book earlier, but ended up DNFing it for being horrible. So, I was officially without a Q book and the local library didn’t have a single one that interested me on hand. (Interest me can be defined a in the sci-fi/fantasy section.) On a whim, I thought to check the audio books. I was literally walking by the shelf on my way to the door after discovering nothing in the fantasy section. Here, I came across a light historical paranormal title by Amanda Quick, Crystal Gardens. SOLD. I didn’t even fully read the description before whisking it away to the check-out deck and home with me. 

Description from Goodreads:

Evangeline Ames has rented a country cottage far from the London streets where she was recently attacked. Fascinated by the paranormal energy of nearby Crystal
Gardens, she finds pleasure in sneaking past the wall to explore the grounds. And when her life is threatened again, she instinctively goes to the gardens for safety.

Lucas Sebastian has never been one to ignore a lady in danger, even if she is trespassing on his property. Quickly disposing of her would-be assassin, he insists they keep the matter private. There are rumors enough already, about treasure buried under his garden, and occult botanical experiments performed by his uncle—who died of mysterious causes. With Evangeline’s skill for detection, and Lucas’s sense of the criminal mind, they soon discover that they have a common enemy. And as the energy emanating from Crystal Gardens intensifies, they realize that to survive they must unearth what has been buried for too long.

Review:

Considering I picked this book up with a very vague idea of what it might be about, I ended it happily enough. It’s light and fluffy, and so long as I don’t think too deeply about how rapidly people fell in love and made drastic life decisions, I have few complaints. I did find Evangeline’s determination to not see that Lucas obviously intended to marry her for real annoying. And considering that one of the things I liked best about the book is that the couple spoke plainly to one another, avoiding any unnecessary, drama-inducing misunderstandings, this irked me. But for a quick, cotton candy read it was a success. As was Justine Eyre’s performance. 

Review of Hell Divers (I, II & III), by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

I won a copy of Hell Divers II (by Nicholas Sansbury Smith) through Goodreads. But I didn’t want to read it until I’d read the first one. So, I borrowed an audio version of Hell Divers through Hoopla and then I just sort of kept going until I reached Hell Divers III, whew I stopped. 

Hell Divers:

I went into this skeptical. I expected a lot of male bravado and that too often equals toxicity. But I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it was still a little heavy on the importance of a man’s duty and the stabilizing influence of family (even if family was usually just the tragedy that spurn men to action and fairly cardboard in actuality). But there was also some depth to the story. I appreciated the difference in perspective of the upper-deckers and the lower-deckers, and how having a limited perspective (especially if you don’t know it is limited) can be dangerous, even to the righteous.

I did find the suspension of dis-belief necessary to believe a whole mutated species developed and bred widely enough to infect at least two distant cities without anyone noticing or ever encountering them a little hard to come by. If Hell Divers have the brief life expectancy they’re said to have, then they must dive relatively frequently.

All in all, I enjoyed it and don’t dread reading book two. And R. C. Bray did a nice job with the narration. He occasionally sounded a little machine-like, as if he was imitating a computer or robot, but not too often. I look forward to book II.

Ghosts:

I didn’t appreciate this second book as much as the first. I thought the characters’ motivations more cliched and the characters themselves not as interesting. Plus, Xavier is barely in it.

Having said all that, I did still like it. I’m still invested in the story and one of my questions from book one was partially addressed, how the Sirens evolved so quickly. I have no complaints about Bray’s narration and all in all, I’m up for book three.

Deliverence:

I wouldn’t say this was bad. It was structurally and editorially sound. However, I found the characters’ motivations even shallower than in book two. And I commented on how much more cliched I found the motivations in book two than in book one. So, we’re pretty far down the relatable, investment scale by book three here. Honestly, I was just plain bored with it. Unlike the first book, there was nothing new or interesting here. I don’t feel any pressing need to continue the series. Bray still did fine with the narration though. 

Review of The Twenty-Seventh City, by Jonathan Franzen

I picked up a copy of Jonathan Frazen‘s The Twenty-Seventh City at Goodwill, because it’s set in Saint Louis (my town). I then suggested it as my bookclub’s November book and it was chosen. 

Description from Goodreads:

St. Louis, Missouri, is a quietly dying river city until it hires a new police chief: a charismatic young woman from Bombay, India, named S. Jammu. No sooner has Jammu been installed, though, than the city’s leading citizens become embroiled in an all-pervasive political conspiracy. A classic of contemporary fiction, The Twenty-Seventh City shows us an ordinary metropolis turned inside out, and the American Dream unraveling into terror and dark comedy. 

Review:

I had a really hard time deciding if I liked this book or was just charmed that it’s largely set in my neighborhood. And I mean neighborhood, not just city. Though a transplant, not a native, I live in Webster Groves, where a lot of the book takes place (and apparently the author grew up). There really is a Schnucks on the corner Franzen says there is. The high school team really is the Statesmen. A lot of the attitudes people hold in the book really are ones I’ve encountered in Webster Groves (for better and worse). I live in the not so posh side of the neighborhood from the characters in The Twenty-Seventh City, but it was still amazing to read a book set SO LOCALLY. 

If I try to decide how I feel about the book outside of my familiarity with the locale, I find that I didn’t dislike it. I thought it was cleverly written and, though 30 years old, quite relevant to today.  I was uncomfortable with some aspects of it—the villains being so obviously cultural Others, the blatant way race was addressed (though Saint Louis is a notoriously segregated city, so this rings painfully true), the way women who were infidelious all seemed to come to a bad end, while the same wasn’t true for even the skeeviest male cheater. (Rich white men get away with so much after all.)

All in all, however, I have to say it kept me interested