A Mini Book Review: The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter by Rod Duncan

The Bullet Catcher's Daughter by Rod Duncan

The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter (Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire duology Book 1)The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter by Rod Duncan
Review by JM White
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

 

***Spoiler Alert***

Ever read a book and can’t remember whether you finished it? This is that book. I was drawn into the interesting gas-lit world. I didn’t quite buy into the twin cross-dressing idea – but heck, the world was interesting.

In the long haul, the writer lost me in the details. I was confused by the underlying plot and none of the other characters (save for maybe the agent) were memorable. I liked the idea of the living on the boat but it was hard to buy once the story set up and more of the world was revealed. Elizabeth Barnabas tries to be badass but the story falls short of making me feel like she really is.

Disappointing.

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Mini Book Review: The Falconer by Elizabeth May

The Falconer by Elizabeth May

The Falconer (The Falconer, #1)The Falconer by Elizabeth May
review by J. Morgyn White
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

2 1/2 stars is what I would like to give Ms. May’s The Falconer. I wanted very much to enjoy this book. I adore the cover. The set up is very attractive – Victorian Scotland upper-class girl with a secret. The horrible death of her mother she wishes to avenge sets her on a path that is her heritage. The faery love interest is attractive, the romantic conflict is interesting – and our heroine has engineering prowess.

That brings me to my love-hate relationship with the book that resulted in me throwing it at the wall. I loved the premise and the setup. I loved Lady Aileana Kameron and the antagonist love interest. What I hated was the constant check-your-brains at the door and the wild outrageous plot swings. At times, I was overwrought with the ridiculousness of a scene. Too many times I was annoyed at the lack of consideration for what would have actually happened if the heroine was truly in the scene with all of the action. A perfect example of where fantasy can break rules – but not all rules. To make fantasy work there has to be credibility and too many scenes in The Falconer lack credibility.

I think that Ms. May has storytelling talent and creates interesting characters. This book might become excellent with some introspection and rewriting and I’d be pleased to try reading another of her books.

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Mini Book Review: The Reluctant Concubine by Dana Marton

Reluctant Concubine (Hardstorm Saga, #1)Reluctant Concubine by Dana Marton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

About a quarter of the way in, I almost bailed (aka – I almost threw it at the proverbial wall). The set up to the story is long and not that pleasant. I know that it was important to get the history and context in place, but it was a long path to what I knew would inevitably happen. The surprises lie not with the heroine but rather in the roll-out of the story path. Our heroine is set on her path from the first chapter of what she must avoid to obtain her destiny. That said (and to avoid spoilers) it was a hard road to walk with the heroine until she arrived at the more complex part of the story line. I liked the hero (when we got to him), but he was never 3-D to me – he never had a face.

Would I read the sequel? Maybe, but I wasn’t compelled to go and read it next. I was happy to go on to another book.

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Mini Book Review: The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan

SPOILER ALERT: I enjoyed the book but had some concerns with the storytelling. Story spoilers below this line.

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The Hawley Book of the Dead: A NovelThe Hawley Book of the Dead: A Novel by Chrysler Szarlan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really liked the subtle magic and fae history woven into the story. The plot drives itself towards a big finale and that compelled me to keep reading to find out what happened. I expected more of the magical act story, and was surprised when the plot took a different direction.

Things that bothered me were things that dragged the story momentum – like the regular referral to the death of the main character’s husband. The author uses a lot of descriptive which I had a love/hate relationship with. At times I wanted more description of characters.

There was very little character development beyond the heroine. The book reads like a Hardy Boys mystery and ends like one with a total wrap-up and an easily predictable outcome. The big bad guy looming turns into ash and the other bad guy is vanquished. Guy and girl hook up and the missing kids come home. The ending is odd in that the big bad guy is never confronted by the heroine – he appears only off-screen.

I wish the plot line with the grandmother was more fleshed out. The falconry choice was an intriguing vocation for her. There were foundations laid for storytelling that didn’t happen. I’m left with too many questions.

All that said I enjoyed The Hawley Book of the Dead.

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Mini-Book Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy, #1)Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Finishing Vampire Academy, I consider an accomplishment. It was tough not to throw it at the wall. I trudged on mainly because I was reading it out-loud to my husband. In between my wtf commentary, it was a fun out-loud read. The 3 stars should really be 2.75 stars.

***Spoilers from here on:***

The Good: Richelle Mead‘s writing is polished and flows. Reading it out-loud showcases the smooth prose.

The Not-so: Too many named characters. Many times I had to page back to figure out who was being talked about. The high-school crowd blends together. You don’t really care who is who – or remember. Check-your-brains-at-the-door was in full mode in the later part of the novel.

The inside track:
Rose and Lissa’s relationship at times seems romantic, which really threw me off at the beginning of the story. It didn’t strike me as a relationship of friends or sisters. Rose is so intensely interested in Lissa at times I wondered if her character was originally written to be a male. It throws the relationship between Lissa, Christian, Dimitri and Mason into strange murky waters. The Christian and Dimitri characters never get real guts and flesh. The outline is good, but I never got enough of them to sink my teeth into. Far too many times I’m asked to buy what’s being said and follow along sheep-style. I am not a sheep. The ending was downright ridiculous. Outrageously poor story crafting.

Would I read another? I would start a real sequel to see if the character development improves. I know there are other novels in this series but I also know the next book does not focus on these characters. I am not interested in reading another story in this world.

Bottom line: Some interesting vampire story ideas but the world does not compel me to dive in for the long haul.

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A Mini Review of Young PRB: A Novel of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood by Elizabeth Lee

Young PRB: A Novel of the Pre-Raphaelite BrotherhoodYoung PRB: A Novel of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood by Elisabeth Lee

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Full disclosure.

I came to this book fresh off the BBC series, Desperate Romantics, on the Pre-Raphaelites. The mini-series wove the period story around Elizabeth Siddal, John Ruskin and Annie ( a model for Holman Hunt). It surprised me and captivated me. I was left wanting more and thus set on a quest for a good novel set in that world. The novel that the series is based on: Franny Moyle’s factual book about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Desperate Romantics: The Private Lives Of The Pre-Raphaelites, did not catch me from the reviews, so I sought out another option.

I found Young PRB to fill only a bit of that gap. I really love the story that Ms. Lee brought to life. By the end I realized that it was more the history than her particular telling of the story that I was in love with.

The characters here, always came a little short of whole. The smaller roles were thin and at times without much life at all. That said, I appreciated the research done which ever-presently made the main characters more rich. Elizbeth Siddal and John Ruskin are almost not-present in her story. What Ms. Lee did really well was create the backstory of the artists. I was left with a much better sense of where they came from. I didn’t get the depth or perspective that I was hoping for.

I tore through pages to get to the scene that would sustain me. The scene that never came. While left still wanting more, I can honestly say I enjoyed my time with the characters in this novel.

I’m still not satisfied. Off to find another better novel set in this period. Do you have a recommendation? Please leave me a note!

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A Mini Review of Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Something Strange and Deadly (Something Strange and Deadly, #1)

****SPOILER ALERT****

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Throughout the novel I was wishing for more. The Zombie/Warlock/Victorian/Steampunk mix was a great idea, but Dennard never went far enough or deep enough with it. I wanted desperately to root for the hero but in the quest to make him more human he became lackluster. I stuck with it because the heroine had great moxie. In the end we are offered a bit of resolution but there’s really no bread crumb trail to the next book – except that our hero leaves. Yes, I can imagine our heroine taking off after him, or him coming back to save her from something or other. However, I don’t really care enough about any of the characters to read about that next adventure. I did love what Dennard did with magic and zombies and tech but I wanted so much more than a dusting of it.

Disappointed.

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