By Kendare Blake
This was amazing. In a sea of utter and depressing sameness this stands out like a shiny, gore drenched scalpel. (I went looking for a book in YA over the holidays and got lost because 90% of the titles had the exact same cover. Black binding. A pretty girl. A dress. Falling/blood/feathers. You’ve seen them. They’ve taken over EVERYTHING.) A boy with a legacy of ghost hunting ends up in a town with a big, nasty ghost via a tip and his own obsession. The idea of a kid living on the edges of society is handled remarkably well, as are the High School interactions and budding friendship/sidekicks angle. Everything is familiar to genre fans, and rings bells for Supernatural fans as well. The joy is that the author knows this, and works it, not for post hipster irony, but for fun snap-changes. But the thing that resonates most deeply is the relationships. The mother-son dynamic which starts out false and weak and gradually changes to fierce and believable; the ghost/hunter soap opera, which consistently and surprisingly resists becoming a soap opera, and the reactions of all of the side characters which struck true to the bone without fail. Overall, solid proof that YA is not just a wasteland of Twi-hard knockoffs and well worth picking up, even at hardcover prices.
By Christopher Moore
Oh how I love Christopher Moore. He writes: I buy. The very first book I ever got of his was Blood Sucking Fiends, and I never looked back—but it also means that I have a warm fuzzy spot in my heart for Jody and Tommy and to be fair I did not love You Suck: A Love Story. This mostly redeems that, though the original is still ever so much better. It’s funny, it’s fluffy, and it makes a fair number of salient points more than willing to sneak up and bite you if you let them. While not as BuymeBuymeNOW as Dirty Job and Lamb, it’s still enjoyable, especially for long term fans.
Shaedes of Grey
By Amanda Bonilla
This is paranormal romance, pay no attention to the fact that our lead is an assassin. But graded on that curve, it’s really enjoyable. A girl who is more than human and the only one of her kind is hired to kill a man who may be just like her and this sets her on a journey to discover her own heritage. Our lead is saved from being irritating by the author’s bold choice to make her wrong about just about everything, all of the time. This is probably unsustainable for future books, but it balances her certainty about life nicely this go-round. The romantic lead/s are fun and intriguing. The villain is less of a guessing game and more of a suspense thing, but still motivating enough to make a fast read. Bits of the ending could have been less obvious, hence the minus, but overall, still a brisk, solid start to a series that promises to be an excellent distraction and time suck.
By Diana Rowland
This was a bit of a surprise for me. Based on the covers and back blurb, I spent years assuming this would fall on the unfortunately icky side of Paranormal ROMANCE, but recent additions to the series changed to a more intriguing cover, so I picked it up again. And sure enough, can’t judge by covers, because it was actually light on romance, long on paranormal and for a first time author, quite solid. It did fail my sex in the first book test rapidly and spectacularly, but redeemed itself by having the protagonist slowly realize that she’d been manipulated. The biggest drawback is that the villain is instantly recognizable. There are some twists, and I read it fast. Overall, a good enough start that I just bought the second one. At cover price even.
When I just want to shut out the world; when I’m overwhelmed by life, or when I just want to turn off my life, I reach for romances. Yes. I admit it. Typically I go in for Regency, but occasionally I pick up a ‘save me’ rescue fantasy, which so often involves a serial killer as a villain. I think I actually like the ‘oh my god this is dumb’ moments. Due to some family being extra gold star over the holidays, I went into my local used book store. These are the results.
By Eloisa James
I liked this book. Just to be clear. I enjoyed it, and won’t mind reading more by the author. Have to get that out there, because I am about to jump on my soap box and rant. This book should have been an A+. The leads are flawed, but really likable. The obstacles are both realistic enough to buy into and silly enough to still be a vacation from real life. There are tear jerk moments, and funny moments. But there is also a secondary romantic obstacle that the author straight up tells us in the notes is named after Forest Gump. Because he’s mentally slow. And this is NOT handled well. At the edges of the text are hints of what might have been. The reality of being a mentally handicapped first born son in the age of primogeniture. The reality of being engaged to one. I would have given this book to every single person I knew if it had gone in for making him the real lead. But it didn’t. He’s almost a joke. And then he dies. Normally, I hesitate when people say that killing characters who transgress boundaries is indicative of secret hate. This time I see the logic. I wish our lead had married him, and that this had been that book. Oddly, the author seems capable of writing that book. Maybe I’m wishing too much into it, but I swear moments of that book are in here. Barring that, I wish the heroine had simply broken it off with him rather than had him die a hero. The whole final few chapters feel like something out of a very different book. Sigh. I don’t even know what to say, really. Missed opportunities, mostly. To be different. To be amazing.
By Jaci Burton
A detective’s high school flame returns for his adoptive parents’ anniversary after vanishing for years in order to be a super spy only to have the past catch up to them both. This one is . . . so silly. It’s not just the super easy game of Spot-the-Villain, or the tired plot, or even the ‘a 4 year old could write that’ plots points. It’s really bad characterizations. It’s the ridiculous idea of what cops are like, or how they talk, or what their work environment is like. I might not like cops on a general level, but I do know a few. Hell, even if I just used the show “COPS” to base off of (always a bad plan) I’d call Bullshit! I mean, the special ops hero gets a fake FBI badge—and then an offer to join the FBI for realsies. For the love of suspension of disbelief people! Everything about the plot is arbitrary, a because the author says so irritation that is so damn sloppy that it takes all of the So Bad it’s Good fun out of my reading. Why isn’t this a D- then? Because it’s fairly hot, and balanced with sweet, and I know a lot of people are into that. So, if that’s your kink, this may be for you. The whole reunion of sweethearts thing. Go team that. If your thing is mystery or suspense though, look elsewhere. Pick it up used if you do bother.
A note on Grading: on my Scale A=I might buy the hardback; B=pay trade cover price; C=get it used or from the bargain bin; D=used if you’re in to self flagellation; F=what, are you stupid?