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Book Review: Gypsy Magic, by H.P. Mallory & J.R. Rain

I picked up a freebie copy of H.P. Mallory and J.R. Rain‘s Gypsy Magic. It’s been sitting in my cloud for a while until I found time to dedicate to an audiobook. Luckily, I’ve started walking on the treadmill in the mornings, and I’m giving myself permission to listen to audiobooks as I walk. I started with this one.

@seesadieread They say #sittingisthenewsmoking and I #sitallday. So, I’ve committed to #walkingeveryday. This is #day2 ????. #im listening to #gypsymagic by #hpmallory. The title is giving me canniptions, the fact that it is a slur is even addressed in the book. So the author can’t claim ignorance ????. Anyhow, here hoping there is a day 3. #walking #lowimpactworkout #walkingisgoodforyou #fyp #walkingisgood ♬ i want it i got it – Official Sound Studio

The book:

Gypsy Magic cover

Welcome to Haven Hollow, a town of monsters…

After dating a string of losers and banishing a poltergeist, I packed up my Los Angeles life and my eleven-year-old son, and moved… to a town in Oregon with a population of 680. Well, 682 now.

Culture shock anyone? Ahem, never mind that… New starts can happen anywhere, right?

I hope so because I need to start the next chapter of my forty-three year life pronto. So, why Haven Hollow? For one reason—there aren’t any witches here. And a witch can make a gypsy’s life… complicated.

Oh, right, I’ve put the cart before the horse…

Hi, I’m Poppy Morton and I come from a long line of Scottish gypsies—gypsies who possess magic and make potions to treat any and all ailments. It’s been my dream to open my own potions store and I’m finally going to do it—in the picturesque and small town of Haven Hollow.

Once my son, Finn, and I get settled in our two-story ramshackle, decrepit and rickety farmhouse (that happens to be bordering a cemetery), the nightmares start. And they won’t stop. Almost every night, I find myself face to face with a shadow monster—and its victim. And I’m fairly sure it’s the victim sending me the night terrors, wanting me to figure out the mystery of who or what murdered him.

But, I’m not really sure I want to get involved. Between facing a huge remodel of the above mentioned “house,” getting my son situated in his new school, opening my potions store and dealing with one of the ghosts from my last house who somehow thumbed a ride to this one, I’ve got my hands full. Actually, more than full.

Good thing I’ve got a few handsome neighbors to call on—Marty Zach, a self-professed ghost exorcist who just happens to have the sexiest smile, and Roy Osbourne, a bear of a man who looks like he alone coined the word ‘lumberjack.’

While I’m taken by Marty’s charm and Roy’s really-really-really broad shoulders, I can’t help but feel like this whole town is hiding a secret… and that’s the mystery I mostly want to solve, ghost visions be damned.

my review

Overall, this was a cute read, though it felt like a prologue to the larger series. The meeting and making fast friends was a little unbelievable, and I had trouble accepting some of the basic premises of the plot, though. Poppy has strong magic and has apparently been educated in how to use it well enough to open a shop and make a living with it. But there are some HUGE gaps in her knowledge, most notably that other supernaturals exist. It made no sense that she could be ignorant of this fact, and she maintained this ignorance FAR longer than was believable throughout the book. Similarly, if a town has 680 people in it, I do not believe anyone who grew up there remained ignorant of the supernaturals in their small community. Unfortunately, considering the importance of these points to the plot, this compromised much of my enjoyment.

Pair that with the frankly, galling use of Gypsy in the title and throughout the book. The word is gypsy magic photoa slur. The authors know this. It is addressed in the book. So, I know that they know it. Given that it is still used liberally, I take it as a purposeful statement on their part, perhaps something along the lines of “We refuse to cave to the woke crowd” or some BS like that. The point is the pointed use and incorporation of a word known to be offensive to the people it describes is a choice with a message. Especially since Poppy herself is not a Traveler of any sort, she has no tie to the culture beyond inheriting magic from a Traveler ancestor.

The narrator, Kelley Huston, did a nice job. Her accent for Lorken wasn’t great. But everything else was well done.

Other Reviews:

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Book Review: Iriduan Test Subjects (#1-2), by Susan Trombley

I received copies of Susan Trombley’s The Scorpion’s Mate and The Kraken’s Mate in a Renegade Romance book box.
Iriduan Test Subjects covers

The Scorpion’s Mate:

Claire has never really fit in with everyone around her, but she’s carved out a life for herself using her own unique style and artistic ability to support herself on the Internet. The last thing she expects is to be abducted by aliens and dropped into a research facility, where a genetically-engineered alien soldier chooses her as his life-mate.

Thrax’s pheromones are compelling, and his status as a fellow unwilling test subject makes them allies, but Claire isn’t certain she can trust someone who is convinced she belongs to him, when all she wants to do is find a way to return home to Earth—a place that her devoted alien can never follow, because there’s no way the scorpion-like alien would ever be able to pass for human.

Still, she’ll accept help where she can find it, so she doesn’t hesitate to escape with Thrax from the facility, though their time running from their pursuers in the warrens beneath the research facility will forever change Claire, and could make it impossible for her to return to Earth.

But will there be anywhere else in the galaxy they can go where their love will be accepted?

My Review:

I thought this was cute. I appreciated a male lead that, while martially advanced, was gooey soft on the inside. What’s more, he was literally willing (and circumstantially able) to change himself to be anyone his mate wanted him to be. You see a lot of socio-cultural growth in him, even if it is only to make Claire happy. The flip side of this coin, of course, is that he lacked a little characterization. I also found the dichotomy between Thrax’s before-time life and questionable personhood and his now-time personality one of the most interesting aspects of the book. There could be a lot of moral issues to explore.

I did find the plot a little lackluster, however. The actual nuts and bolts of the story are very simple, and there isn’t anything that rises above the humdrum of interest. All in all, it was amusing enough to keep me interested but not anything overly special.

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The Kraken’s Mate:

A desperate escape from a prison cell inside an alien research facility leaves Joanie in the clutches of an alien with a handsome face, a great body, and tentacles that could have come out of a horror movie. Her life back on Earth is a mess, but nowhere near as complicated as her new situation becomes when the alien test subject named Nemon decides that she’s his mate.

Nemon knows that Joanie is the mate he’s hoping for as soon as Thrax hands her to him, but he can also see that she’s frightened and traumatized. He must win a battle against his own body – which has a mind of its own–to maintain control, so he can win her trust and avoid frightening her further. His newfound friends warn him that Joanie will need time to accept him, and Nemon is willing to wait, but they all may have underestimated Joanie.

They have escaped their fate as Iriduan test subjects, but Nemon and Joanie can’t escape the legacy left behind by their captors. A legacy that brings them together – a legacy that also threatens to tear them apart.

My Review:

Do you like a cinnamon roll hero? Then Nemon is your man. Cinnamon roll describes him to a tee. I appreciated that about him and the book. It’s very sweet. And while I enjoyed the book generally, I also found it too constrained for me. The plot is contained in a very small microcosm that just wasn’t enough to feel satisfying. Here, you have a series about women being kidnapped by aliens, discovering the existence of aliens, discovering the galaxy, and this book occurs almost entirely in one room, focusing on two characters. There is so much sense of what is missing as the reader is given such a small window of focus. I won’t go so far as to say it was boring, as it is sweet. But there just wasn’t enough to it to truly grab and keep my broader interests.

Other Reviews:

The Scorpion’s Mate (Iriduan Test Subjects Book 1) – Susan Trombley

The Kraken’s Mate by Susan Trombley


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Book Review: Syndicate Princess, by Kira Stanley

I picked up a copy of Kira Stanley‘s Syndicate Princess as an Amazon freebie.

syndicate princess cover

Being a vampire boss’s daughter was a lot of work. Being the only girl heir from the five families, I’ve always had to work harder, fight dirtier, care less. It made me into the woman I am today, causing fear in my enemies and a bloody trail for those who betray us.

Then my dad sprung on me that the other bosses and their sons were coming into town. That they wanted us heirs to all meet, to bond with each other.

To top it all off, my dad shocked the hell out of me by throwing out a challenge to the other heirs. Whoever could keep me in their possession, by force or choice, for twenty-four hours, would win the right for my hand in marriage.

The other bosses are all for it, wanting to get their man whoring, untamable, or workaholic sons to settle down finally, but I was not some prize to be won.

I was Rayla Desmond, a force all her own. A Syndicate princess that was not to be messed with, so these boys better be ready for me because I’m coming in for blood.

my review

I really wanted to like this, but I just couldn’t. I get that it is probably intended to have a certain humor element, but it just felt over-the-top ridiculous to me. As in, I just kept thinking, “This is so stupid” the whole time I was reading it.

The fathers are caricatures. Rayla and her men are all supposed to be in the 27-28-year-old range (which I was initially happy about), but they literally act like children. But more importantly, they are treated like children. Considering there is relatively little actual sex in the book, I don’t see why Stanley didn’t just make them teens or new adults, at most, to match what she wrote. Plus, while I like a morally grey character, Rayla has the overblown emotional capacity of a toddler.

Other than the whole thing just being roll your eyes and cringe ridiculous, my main complaint is that the three men don’t come together until late into the book. This means that Rayla does everything three times. She escapes each man. She goes and sees each father. Then, she goes and does each challenge. Then she goes and seduces each man. (Then they talk about it all). Everything was done in triplicate, and I was bored.

Literally, the only things in the whole book I cared about were Cosmo and Lex, and neither of them gets much play here. But I’m not interested enough to read the next book to see how things work out. Plus, it could use a little more editing, both copy edits, and to catch the occasional consistency issue.

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Other Reviews: