Review: Blood, Book and Candle

Book CoverBlood, Book and Candle by Robyn Bachar
My Rating: 3.5-Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance
Release Date: July 22, 2019
Formats: eBook ($4)

Blood, Book and Candle is the sixth book in the Bad Witch series. The first book, Blood, Smoke and Mirrors, is available for free in eBook format. I strongly suggest reading it if you’re new to the series, otherwise the world and overall plot that Bachar has created may be confusing and unengaging. I reviewed book #1 two days ago; you can check that out here.

Someone is hunting magicians, and Anne Williams is on their list.

Anne is a Seer, a magician who gets visions about the past, present, and future. Most of her life she hid this fact, pretending to be a Librarian, but recently that knowledge has become public. When Anne is attacked, she finds herself within the protective wards of a Chronicler’s home. Simon St. Jerome—whom she discovers is her soul mate, and not for the first time. He’s immortal (fangs and all), and Anne’s past self didn’t survive the immortality ceremony.

This book leaned a bit more heavily on the romance storyline over the main plot, but Anne and Simon are both very strong and very interesting characters, so it was fun to discover how their past and present collides.

Most of the action occurs as the pair hunt the hunters—a group of demons and non-magical humans seeking a way to harness magician magic for those without. Anne’s powers can help turn the tide for local magicians. Everyone around her fears her involvement because she has neither defensive nor offensive magic, but Anne proves to be a warrior princess who was prepared in advance.

It was awesome reading a female character who wasn’t the one that needed rescuing. That’s an easy cliché for authors fall into, but with Anne, we’re given a character who is aware of her limitations and did something to overcome that.

The drawbacks of this book are similar to the same criticisms I had of book #1. While Anne and Simon were much more interesting characters than Lex and Catherine from the first book, Blood, Book and Candle is again only a single first-person narration from Anne’s point of view. This is somewhat more bearable because Anne’s powers make her able to surface read some thought impressions from Simon, but I still wanted to join Simon for his part in the story as well. The worst offender that kept this book from being four stars for me was the sudden ending. While Anne and Simon were involved in the final scene, the story wrapped up focused on a secondary character’s story. I enjoy when books give glimpses of the next story to come, but there should have been one more chapter to bring Anne and Simon’s story to a more satisfying conclusion.

Given that both books #1 and #6 had the same style of one narrator and sudden ending, it’s safe to expect this type of writing from any of Bachar’s books.

That aside, these are dynamic characters in an intriguing world rife with conflict. I enjoyed my time with Anne and Simon, would read it again, and do look forward to the next in the series. It’s fun, it’s action-packed, and full of heart.

Blood, Book and Candle will release in eBook format on July 22, 2019.

I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Review: Blood, Smoke and Mirrors

Book CoverBlood, Smoke and Mirrors by Robyn Bachar
My Rating: 3.5-Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance
Release Date: out now
Formats: eBook (FREE), Paperback ($13)

Blood, Smoke and Mirrors is the first book in the Bad Witch series. I’m currently reading the upcoming book #6 for Netgalley, and the author’s note suggested to grab book #1 first if you’re new to the series. Since it was a freebie, I happily took that advice, and I am so glad that I did—book #6 would’ve been fairly confusing without it.

In Blood, Smoke and Mirrors, we meet Catherine Baker, who is a witch, and Alexander “Lex” Duquesne, who is a guardian. Catherine and Lex have a romantic past, but their relationship ended several years prior when Lex did his guardian duty and turned in Catherine for causing harm (which isn’t allowed for a witch) when someone attacked her. Self-defense or not, she was exiled; rightfully so, she felt betrayed.

Lex comes to Catherine when their region’s Titania—an ambassador of sorts between the human and faerie realms—is murdered. Not only does Lex believe that she should try to become the next Titania, but he also has a warning: her death might be next. Like it or not, he’s there to protect her.

Of course, chaos ensues.

This book had a lot of magical action going on. At times, and especially after Catherine becomes a guest to a vampire, I teetered on the brink of thinking that there was more happening than my brain can believe is possible. Catherine goes through the good and the bad—mostly the bad—on her path to reclaiming her role in magical society. While the many events acted as a fantastic introduction to the hierarchy of magicians and the world Bachar is building, it neared overwhelming.

Despite, or because, of that, there was also never a dull moment. Catherine and Lex rebuild their shattered relationship and show the magical world what a power couple they are. This is also where I think the book didn’t do itself any favors by only being narrated in Catherine’s first person point of view. I wanted to see inside Lex’s head and understand more than what he chose to say to Catherine about why he turned her in and how he felt afterward. Because we’re missing his point of view, he doesn’t seem to develop as much as a character as Catherine does until near the end of the book. (We’re also subjected to the “Big Misunderstanding” romance trope because we have no insight to his thoughts.)

The secondary characters are quite interesting as well (and I was thrilled to discover that one of them is the male lead in book #6). They offer more insight into this world of magicians and give opportunities for levity in an action-laden environment. They’re dynamic and offer this world further potential to expand.

One of the biggest complaints I see in other reviews is that Catherine is a weak character. I have to agree with that—she’s quite pessimistic about herself, her family, her past with Lex, and her limitations as a witch for much of the book. I’m willing to accept that if she’s bound by a “do no harm” tenant (which there should be a self-defense exception for, but I digress), that she’s unwilling or untrained to use her magic offensively. What makes Catherine appear weak is her mental state, and unfortunately that lasts longer than it should. She does progress, but also regresses; it’s not until we’re nearly at the sudden finale that she hits her stride.

While this series opener has some rough spots, it’s still a fun read and holds a lot of promise for the series. I would have liked to spend more time with these two in the final chapter instead of being rushed through the ending, especially since it was such an ordeal to get to that point. There are details that aren’t wrapped up (related to the overall series plot), but the main story of Catherine and Lex does reach a satisfying conclusion. The couple does have a second book (Bewitched, Blooded and Bewildered; #3 in the series) that wraps up one Catherine-related event left unresolved in Blood, Smoke and Mirrors. I have yet to read it, but the reviews are complementary.

My review for Blood, Book and Candle (book #6; releases July 22) will hopefully be up within the next few days. I’m finishing up three summer semester courses this weekend, so that comes first. If you’re interested in checking out the series, you can grab the Blood, Smoke and Mirrors eBook for free.

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Review: The Duke is But a Dream

Book CoverThe Duke is But a Dream by Anna Bennett
My Rating: 3-Stars
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: July 30, 2019
Formats: eBook ($8), Paperback ($7)

Look at that cover. So pretty!

This is my first Anna Bennett book. While I wasn’t swept off my feet, I did enjoy the organic way the two characters got to know each other. The premise that Lily (a Miss from a well-to-do family) is left alone while everyone leaves town and has a head injury/memory loss and then Eric (the Duke of Stonebridge) decides to take her in until her family is discovered is far-fetched—but it worked for this particular plot, as the two wouldn’t have socialized otherwise.

Lily is energetic and enjoyable, and I loved the snippets of her columns prior to each chapter. The friendship between Lily and Delilah, Eric’s sister, helped both characters grow and accept realizations and realities of the world around them.

I really liked Eric as a person, but absolutely didn’t like his reasons for not wanting a romantic relationship. He aspired to have great intentions but his decision-making skills need some improvement. He’s unwilling to commit, but gets involved with Lily anyway—even when she doesn’t know who she is.

The circumstances of the story force both Lily and Eric to open up in ways they may not have otherwise. While I would have liked to have seen these characters come together in a less-forced manner, their story was still a fun and quick read. It isn’t the most memorable of stories, but is an intriguing one. The book is part of the Debutante Diaries series, but can be read as a standalone.

I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Regarding the swearing in the book:
Several other reviewers have mentioned profanity in this book. I noted two f-bombs and six s-words. Etymology: The f-bomb originates all the way back to the 16th century (and possibly before), making an appearance in poetry and even in an Italian-English dictionary, both in the 1500s. The s-word is believed to date back to Old English and first appeared in Middle English writing, though it’s more likely that our British hero would have pronounced it differently than how it’s spelled in the book. The author isn’t writing something too “modern” or “out of time,” as these words have been around for centuries.

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Review: Good Omens (Updated)

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, WitchGood Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve never read anything by either Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett before, so I went into Good Omens with no expectations. The story focuses on the coming apocalypse, its players, and how the forces of Good and Evil are working to sway things their way.

This is a repost of my original December 2016 book review, with an update about the May 2019 Good Omens miniseries.

UPDATE (June 2019): Good Omens has been released as a miniseries on Amazon (and is free for Prime members to watch). It encompasses the heart of this book and (in my opinion) excels it through its engaging visuals, actors, and storytelling. My criticisms regarding the book are not an issue in the miniseries. Watch it here!

(The book review continues below.)

The story is a fairly quick read, though the first 50-60 pages are a bit tough to get through. I consider myself to have a good sense of humor and enjoy a lot of British humor, and while I could recognize all the things that should be funny, I have to admit none of them actually made me laugh. (Had I been about 10 years younger? Probably.) But the writing was lighthearted and poked fun at everything, a contrast that worked well with the subject matter.

Continue reading “Review: Good Omens (Updated)”

Review: Forbidden Angel

Book CoverForbidden Angel by Sandra Lee Rice
My Rating: 2-Stars
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: out now
Formats: Kindle Unlimited, eBook ($3), Paperback ($8)

Normally I wouldn’t review such a poorly written book that I randomly picked up on Kindle Unlimited, but I was floored that there is a  plethora of strong reviews for this book on Goodreads. The premise sounds good, but the writing technique was poor. The book had several problems:

  • Absolutely no white space/scene break between scenes. Characters would seemingly do the equivalent of teleporting or time traveling (for example: in one scene the two main characters are down by the barn, and suddenly in the next paragraph the male lead is looking out his study window). This was jarring and confusing.
  • Almost-but-not-quite-fully-omniscient point of view. I normally don’t like full omniscience, but I think I would have in this book had it not been for the previous problem of zero scene breaks.
  • Too much side story and too many characters. This book needs an editor to go through and kill those darlings (sorry, Penelope and Michael, and solicitor who likes honey).
  • The villain was too adept at his villainy ways while at the same time being absolutely terrible at it. He’s constantly drunk, and reportedly poor, but somehow can afford to follow people all over the place and find time to stay upright while doing so?
  • The main plot dragged on for so. freaking. long. Again, kill those darlings. This dragged because: 1) too much subplot/too many characters; 2) too much drama with the villain without any actual action taken on it; 3) unnecessary detail; and 4) the “Who is Angelique… really?!?!” subplot.

Continue reading “Review: Forbidden Angel”