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Review: Reese by Lori Handeland

ReeseReese by Lori Han­de­land
My rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars

And now for some­thing COMPLETELY dif­fer­ent. Yes, this book is out of char­ac­ter for me, but I like Lori Han­de­land, and since I received a free copy I felt oblig­at­ed to read it and write a review. I’m keep­ing the fact that it is a west­ern romance in mind, and judg­ing it accord­ing­ly.

I don’t know from west­ern tropes, but I do know the stan­dard romance tropes, and Han­de­land hits them all. Mary is a spin­ster school­marm who is con­sid­ered too plain and too out­spo­ken to ever be attrac­tive to any man — in fact, anoth­er char­ac­ter (a real jerk) says so. It’s her char­ac­ter, more than her looks, that is the prob­lem, accord­ing to the jerk.

But the hero, Reese, finds her beau­ti­ful in her inno­cence, her igno­rance of her effect on him, and espe­cial­ly in the fact that she’s as stub­born as he is. The fact that they have to butt heads is an impor­tant romance trope, as I under­stand the­se things.

Mary believes she isn’t the kind of wom­an any man would want, and Reese believes he isn’t good enough for Mary, so they hold back from reveal­ing their feel­ings to each oth­er, pro­vid­ing the main con­flict in their rela­tion­ship.

There’s a plot that goes beyond Mary and Reese, obvi­ous­ly, explain­ing why the town of Rock Creek need­ed to hire Reese and his lit­tle troop of gun­men in the first place. That larg­er plot sets up the entire Rock Creek Gang series. I found noth­ing to laud or com­plain about in the main plot. It’s prob­a­bly a stan­dard accept­able west­ern, to be hon­est, and it doesn’t read so dif­fer­ent­ly than any oth­er sort of adven­ture sto­ry. It worked to set things up, but obvi­ous­ly wasn’t the main focus of the book. The ener­gy is in the romance.

I think per­haps romance fans read books like this because they’re com­fort­ably pre­dictable, like an old friend wear­ing new clothes. In any case, Han­de­land has writ­ten a sweet lit­tle love sto­ry that I didn’t mind read­ing. I could see her hand in the details, and while I would have pre­ferred read­ing more of one of her para­nor­mal series, she did a nice job with this book. Fans of west­ern romances will prob­a­bly enjoy it.

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Review: Moon Fever (anthology)

Moon Fever (Includes: Primes, #6.5)Moon Fever by Susan Size­more
My rat­ing: 1 of 5 stars

This was one of those “I fin­ished the last thing I was read­ing and I’m bored, what’s already load­ed on the iTouch?” reads. It was on there because the anthol­o­gy includes Lori Han­de­land’s “Cob­webs Over the Moon” (Night­crea­tures, #10) and I read all of that series a while back. I didn’t care to read the rest of the anthol­o­gy at the time, but I hadn’t got­ten around to delet­ing the book. Ah, hap­py dig­i­tal pack­rat am I! 

If I’ve read any­thing by Susan Size­more oth­er than “Tempt­ing Fate” (Primes #6.5), it was emi­nent­ly for­get­table. I’m absolute­ly sure that I haven’t read any­thing else in her Primes series, because I prob­a­bly would have thrown said mate­ri­al firm­ly into the near­est hard sur­face (or what­ev­er the equiv­a­lent is with bytes) because of the insane­ly annoy­ing num­ber of times Size­more feels it nec­es­sary to remind us that her vam­pires are Primes! Alpha Primes! They are! Real­ly! And that means they fight a lot! Espe­cial­ly over wom­en! Oth­er­wise, it’s a Mary Jane sto­ry set in New Orleans. I have a strong feel­ing that most of the Primes series is Mary Jane-ish, but I may at some point be trapped and forced with the prospect of star­ing at the inside of my eye­balls or read­ing more of Sizemore’s stuff. I’m not sure which would be worse right now. I’ll get back to you on that. 

“The Dark­ness With­in” by Mag­gie Shayne feels ter­ri­bly famil­iar, although I’m sure I haven’t read it before. I have, how­ev­er, read oth­er Shayne novel­las in oth­er antholo­gies, and this sto­ry fol­lows a famil­iar pat­tern. Sexy gal who doesn’t think she’s attrac­tive has had a run of hard luck and may lose the house she has bought rel­a­tive­ly recent­ly and loves. Said house has a spooky past that she didn’t know about when she bought it. Stal­wart too-sexy-for-her man gets involved some­how, prefer­ably in a way that allows her to ques­tion his motives. They are inex­plic­a­bly drawn to each oth­er and screw like bun­nies (or near as makes no dif­fer­ence), then blame their lapse in judge­ment on what­ev­er weird­ness is going on in the house. (Yep, that’s what they all say — and no safer sex any­where! Does para­nor­mal activ­i­ty pre­clude dis­cus­sion of sex­u­al his­to­ry and pre­vent STD trans­mis­sion?)

“Cob­webs Over the Moon” by Lori Han­de­land (Night­crea­tures, #10) isn’t the most log­i­cal entry in that series. Nei­ther is it the most illog­i­cal — but by the ten­th entry, the series’ mythol­o­gy has got­ten a bit ridicu­lous, so I don’t know why I even both­er bring­ing up some­thing as irrel­e­vant as log­ic. Sil­ly me! In every book, we’re intro­duced to a wom­an who is in some way tan­gled up with were­wolves, then to a man who is tan­gled up with her and/​or the crea­tures and, of course, whose loy­alties are uncer­tain. There is always an ele­ment of dan­ger to add spice to the romance that has to grow between the two. The for­mu­la nev­er changes at all. There are always evil were­wolves, but some­times there are also good ones. If you like pre­dictabil­i­ty in your para­nor­mal romance, Night­crea­tures is a great series for you. 

I sup­pose Cari­dad Piñeiro’s “Crazy for the Cat” isn’t tech­ni­cal­ly any bet­ter or worse than any of the oth­er three sto­ries. There’s more vari­ety in the shapeshift­ing and the main set­ting is the Ama­zon jun­gle. I couldn’t get past the big­otry and colo­nial­ism, though. Dark is bad, light is good, of course! Those poor benight­ed natives couldn’t pos­si­bly han­dle a few rogues with­out that white wom­an, could they? Spare me. 

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Book Reviews: Magic Burns and No Rest for the Witches

Magic BurnsI read two short books Wednesday and Thursday. The first, Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews, was great fun and very well written. It's book two of her Kate Daniel series, and it certainly left me eager to read book three (which has just been turned in to the publisher, as I understand it).

I think I'm missing something, though. There are references to an ex-almost-boyfriend, Maximillian Crest, in Magic Burns. I just read Magic Bites at the end of March, and I don't remember Crest at all. I don't remember Kate having a love interest at all, in fact. Only a fool could miss the sexual tension between Kate and Curran, but that's unresolved. I don't remember any prior encounters with a teenaged urban shaman, either. So did I just miss some things, or are there stories set between the books that I don't know about?

I do recommend these books to anyone who enjoys the urban fantasy genre. This one played around with Celtic mythology, which I also enjoy.

No Rest for the WitchesNo Rest for the Witches contains four novellas. MaryJanice Davidson is the headliner, since she's apparently the best-known of the four authors. I don't remember how this book ended up in my hold queue at the library, but there it was with the others, so I checked it out.

Davidson's contribution is "The Majicka," which might or might not be set in the same world as her Betsy Taylor and Wyndham Werewolves stories (maybe even the mermaid series, although I haven't read those so I can't be sure). You really need a good reason to toss a fairy, a vampire, a werewolf, a woman enchanted into a vehicle by her archmage ex-SO, and a dryad into one novella. I didn't really buy the explanation, honestly. I didn't find the main character interesting or attractive, nor did I see any reason for the obligatory love interest to find her irresistible. But it's a romance novella, and one of the absolute necessities seems to be people falling into love at first sight.

The setup of "Voodoo Moon" by Lori Handeland was a bit better, although that main character should turn in her FBI badge and forget having any career in law enforcement. The first guy she meets should have been wearing a red shirt, because it was way too obvious that he wouldn't last long.

Cheyenne McCray's "Breath of Magic" needs to be relabeled "erotica" instead of "paranormal romance." Even if the hot guy does whisper sweet nothings to the main character, this novella is about the two people bumping fuzzies. There's an intricate plot setup for absolutely no reason, as it certainly wasn't necessary for them to get naked together, and there isn't any resolution to any of the plot threads. The only way the sex scenes could have been more explicit would have involved wiring the two up to measuring devices, as inches and degrees are the only details not given. From the teaser of one of McCray's books, it seems that the intricate plot is explored more thoroughly in at least one book. I got the feeling that the sex would be similar, as well.

"Any Witch Way She Can" by Christine Warren opens with much grousing by the main character about her spinsterhood. She then proceeds to try a love spell, but does a lot of ingredient substitution and doesn't follow the instructions properly. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't work as expected. Unfortunately, she doesn't experience any dreadful consequences as a result of toying with things she doesn't understand, either. And of course she, like the characters in two of the other novellas, will end up in bed with a guy she meets right after meeting him.

I need to go through my hold queues at both libraries to be sure there aren't any more romances hiding there, because I obviously have a very bad attitude about them. I know that there's a formula, and it seems that all of these novellas do follow it. But I don't like formulaic fiction, and I don't know that it could be written well enough to really please me.

On to Blindfold Game by Dana Stabenow. That should provide a nice change of pace.

Happy Wednesday!

Sam and I had a very nice date night while Katie was out with her beau. He had start­ed mak­ing chili last night, fin­ished it tonight, and added corn muffins. I’m not a big fan of chili (I won’t eat it if Sam didn’t make it), but it was a very sat­is­fy­ing meal.

The girl is doing very well in the online course she’s tak­ing, and I’m hap­py to say that my semes­ter is going well, too. It’s hard to believe that my baby will like­ly start col­lege cours­es this sum­mer or fall!
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