Tag Archives: fantasy

Review of Playing with Fire, by R. J. Blain

I purchased a copy of R. J. Blain‘s Playing With Fire.

Description from Goodreads:

What do you get when you mix gorgons, an incubus, and the Calamity Queen? Trouble, and lots of it. 

Working as the only human barista at a coffee shop catering to the magical is a tough gig on a good day. Bailey Gardener has few options. She can either keep spiking drinks with pixie dust to keep the locals happy, or spend the rest of her life cleaning up the world’s nastiest magical substances. 

Unfortunately for her, Faery Fortunes is located in the heart of Manhattan Island, not far from where Police Chief Samuel Quinn works. If she’d been smart, she never would have agreed to help the man find his wife. 

Bailey found her, all right—in the absolutely worst way possible. 

One divorce and several years later, Bailey is once again entangled in Chief Quinn’s personal affairs, and he has good reason to hate her. Without her, he wouldn’t be Manhattan’s Most Wanted Bachelor, something he loathes. Without her, he’d still be married. 

If only she’d said no when he asked her help, she might have had a chance with him. While her magic worked well, it came with a price: misfortune. Hers. 

When Quinn’s former brother-in-law comes to her for help, he leaves her with a cell phone and seventy-five thousand reasons to put her magic to the test. However, when she discovers Quinn’s ex-wife is angling for revenge, Bailey’s tossed in the deep end along with her sexiest enemy.


This is one of the more disappointing books I’ve read lately, since I think it could have been so good! Instead it is too over the top and unfocused. If Blain had had an editor that was willing and able to sit her down and say, “You’ve abandoned your plot in favor of all this sarcastic silliness and it’s not working,” this book could be five-star worthy. Because Blain really can write. But what the reader is actually given is a good start, and then inconsistent plotting, almost no world-building, little to no character development and far, far, far too much snarky repartee. Repartee (as much as I love it) is supposed to enhance a story, not be the sole content of a book! 

What’s more, I don’t think a lot of it held together. We’re told Bailey is unsociable and has no friends. But we see that she does just fine in society and has a whole lot of people who obviously care for her. We’re told she hates Quinn and he hates her, but it’s immediately obvious that neither is true and Bailey would have to be a lot stupider than she’s present to not realize this. Etc. Etc. Etc. 

All in all, I wanted so much more than this book delivered. I want what this book promised. I want what this book had the potential to be.

Review of Salt Magic, Skin Magic – by Lee Welch

I borrowed an audio copy of Lee Welch‘s Salt Magic, Skin Magic through Hoopla.

Description from Goodreads:

Lord Thornby has been trapped on his father’s isolated Yorkshire estate for a year. There are no bars or chains; he simply can’t leave. His sanity is starting to fray. When industrial magician John Blake arrives to investigate a case of witchcraft, he finds the peculiar, arrogant Thornby as alarming as he is attractive. John soon finds himself caught up in a dark fairytale, where all the rules of magic—and love—are changed

To set Thornby free, both men must face life-changing truths—and John must accept that the brave, witty man who’s winning his heart may also be about to break it. Can they escape a web of magic that’s as perilous as love?


I liked, but didn’t love this one. I liked both the main characters. I thought the attempt to give the villain depth was appreciable. I liked that Thornby and the step mother made peace (no needlessly evil woman). I liked the desperation between the two men. 

However, I thought it was a bit slow to start and went on longer than need be. Plus, while I have no problem with the dominance/submission games Thornby and Blake played in bed, I didn’t really think it fit their personalities very well. (Though I did think the way it developed worked fine.) All in all, I’d read more if this becomes a series. But I’m not rushing out to buy anything. Joel Leslie did a fine job with the narration.

Review of Practical Magic, by Alice Hoffman

I borrowed an audio copy of Alice Hoffman‘s Practical Magic through my local library. I finished it several days ago and forgot to write the review!

Description from Goodreads:

When the beautiful and precocious sisters Sally and Gillian Owens are orphaned at a young age, they are taken to a small Massachusetts town to be raised by their eccentric aunts, who happen to dwell in the darkest, eeriest house in town. As they become more aware of their aunts’ mysterious and sometimes frightening powers — and as their own powers begin to surface — the sisters grow determined to escape their strange upbringing by blending into “normal” society.

But both find that they cannot elude their magic-filled past. And when trouble strikes — in the form of a menacing backyard ghost — the sisters must not only reunite three generations of Owens women but embrace their magic as a gift — and their key to a future of love and passion.


If you’ve seen the 1998 movie by the same name you know the plot of this book. It was fairly loyal to the book. Though the book isn’t quite as intense as the movie, preferring a more modulated and thoughtful tone that I very much enjoyed. I appreciated the realness of the sisters, especially when contrasted with the everyday occurrences of magic in their and their ancestors’ lives. I thought the writing was lyrical and the narration on the audiobook lovely to listen to.