Happy Halloween! Review: To Have and To Code (A Modern Witch 0.5) by Debora Geary

 It’s All Hallows’ Eve, and I think it is really fitting that the book I read today is about witches, because the costume I threw together last minute is a “witch” (Halloween being on a work day really de-prioritizes the costume energy).  Complete with stripey socks.

I’ve had this book sitting on my kindle for several months, and a fit of boredom this morning led me to read most of it. Here’s the review. Happy Samhain!

To Have and To Code (A Modern Witch 0.5)To Have and To Code
 by Debora Geary
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Published September 12th 2012
by Fireweed Publishing

Nell Sullivan is fiery, easily distracted by cookies, and doomed to wear the peach monstrosity at her best friend’s wedding.

And she’s a witch.

Daniel Walker is a former baseball player turned bored hacker looking for a challenge. Hacking Nell’s online gaming world is going to get him a lot more than he bargained for.

A prophecy says they will make babies together – but when it comes to the love life of a modern witch and a hacker, prophecy might not get a vote.

It’s really unfair of me to rate this book so low because it really wasn’t bad, I just expected different things of it than what it gave me. I started it because it was free in the Amazon lending library and it’s about witches. Here are some things I’d wish I’d known about it before starting.

1. There is no sex in it. NONE. Lots of “heat,” so much, in fact, that stuff is always threatening to get melted. Cool right? Yeah, I guess, the first 20 times it’s threatened. Then it loses threat power.

2. There isn’t enough magic.

3. It’s set in 1997. Somehow I missed this for the first three quarters of the book. It’s about computer programming/gaming. Let’s just say if you know anything about computers it’s going to be a low level buzz in the back of your brain the entire time you read it.

4. The characters are wayyy too close. All of them. They all talk too much about their feelings and are way too interested in the feelings of others.

All in all, it’s a nice read if you’re interested in romances between characters with few flaws, no sex, and lots of destined true love. Not what I needed today, but still written well!

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Review: The Restorer (Graveyard Queen, #1) by Amanda Stevens

The Restorer (Graveyard Queen, #1)The Restorer
by Amanda Stevens
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Published April 19th 2011 by Mira
ISBN13 9780778329817

  

My name is Amelia Gray. I’m a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I’ve always held fast to the rules passed down from my father. But now a haunted police detective has entered my world and everything is changing, including the rules that have always kept me safe.It started with the discovery of a young woman’s brutalized body in an old Charleston graveyard I’ve been hired to restore. The clues to the killer—and to his other victims—lie in the headstone symbolism that only I can interpret. Devlin needs my help, but his ghosts shadow his every move, feeding off his warmth, sustaining their presence with his energy. To warn him would be to invite them into my life. I’ve vowed to keep my distance, but the pull of his magnetism grows ever stronger even as the symbols lead me closer to the killer and to the gossamer veil that separates this world from the next.

I really wanted to like this book more. It has all of the ingredients to bake up into a beautiful cupcake of favorite book, for me anyway. Ghosts, Charleston, NC, hot guys, murder. The reason the first half of the book took me forever to get through (or at least it felt like an eternity) was due to the style of the writing.

This is SO unlike me to say, but the narration style was overdone. It was too…stylized, too over-written. No one thinks in such a flowery, erudite way. But people sure do write that way. I’m sure I’ve got pages and pages of abandoned writing that read exactly the way the beginning of The Restorer does.

It’s too bad, really, because what was shooting to be beautifully written, almost literature, wayyyy overshot, but had atmosphere and intrigue. Luckily it eventually did get better. That or I just got used to it.

Amelia Gray isn’t a very interesting or well fleshed out character (I can tell you exactly one thing about her personality: that she’s reserved) but her circumstances make up for it. Lots of stuff happens to her. Interesting stuff. And all of the information about graveyards is fascinating!

Definitely a good summer read, with lots of ghosts and southern gothic settings. My cup of tea, mostly.

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The Nightmare Affair (The Arkwell Academy #1) by Mindee Arnett

The Nightmare Affair (The Arkwell Academy, #1)The Nightmare Affair
by Mindee Arnett
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Published March 5th 2013 by Tor Teen
ISBN 0765333333

Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.

Literally.

Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.

Then Eli’s dream comes true.

Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.

The blurb for this book really did it for me. Personifying nightmares? Awkward chest sitting? A magical academy? Sign me up!

No, really, sign me up—I never got a Hogwarts letter.

After reading the blurb and receiving the ARC from Tor Teen via NetGalley, I wish I had better news to report. I did like a lot of things about the book—I just wish I had liked them more.

Dusty is an outcast at Arkwell Academy, thus you get some unpopular-girl vs. The Cool Kids dynamics, which I didn’t find 100% convincing, mostly because I’ve never witnessed such blatant bullying before in school. The Draco-Malfoy-loudly-mocking-Harry-at-mealtimes thing never seemed plausible to me, because I’ve never witnessed a bully so secure at the top of the food chain that someone wouldn’t call them out, eventually. I’m no authority on bullies, though, despite my extensive public school resume (10 different occasions of being the new kid). Maybe it’s a private school thing?

Speaking of schools, Arkwell Academy is such a great draw toward this book. The idea of a Nightmare personified is way cool, and when you add in her magical secret high school that teaches witches, fairies, sirens, demons, and, yes, Nightmares, to do magic had me really excited. I found myself feeling a little deprived mid-book—I wish Arnett had gone into a bit more detail about the different students and their magic, maybe a couple more characters, and more depth to the cast we got to meet. The characters all seem to be smart and intrepid, but disproportionally emotionally immature. I think getting to see more of them, dialogue and action, in future books could definitely even this out.

In addition, the political structure of the magical world is referenced several times, and the reader isn’t ever given a first hand perspective into how it operates and how Dusty understands it. Give me more! Politics send a lot of people to sleep, but throw in some fantasy characters and history and they can be made really compelling.

All-in-all, The Nightmare Affair is a fast read with enough fresh spin on a collection of tropes to make it palatable. I could criticize it some more, but I think it’s a book a younger teen (12-14) might really enjoy. A fresh pair of eyes could really get stuck on elements that seem tired and over-done to a reader like me. And it’s got that little bit of boarding school story appeal that never seems to get old.

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Review: First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson #1) by Darynda Jones

First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson, #1)First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Published February 1st 2011 by St. Martin’s Press

(first published January 1st 2011)
ISBN: 0312662750  
ISBN13: 9780312662752


A smashing, award-winning debut novel that introduces Charley Davidson: part-time private investigator and full-time Grim Reaper Charley sees dead people. That’s right, she sees dead people. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (i.e. murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an Entity who has been following her all her life…and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely. –from Goodreads

I chose this book because its average rating is pretty high, despite the very chick lit cover. Also I have been very into ghosts and necromancers lately. (This was one of my I-need-Alex-Craft-but-can’t-have-her-til-August options)

One chapter in, I didn’t think I was going to finish it. Three chapters in I figured I had come too far to go back. The reason this book and I didn’t hit it off right away is two-fold. First, the protagonist, Charley Davidson’s narration was like the reading equivalent of having a conversation with your comedian friend who doesn’t ever shut up. The incessant stream of campy jokes didn’t work. It’s rare that “witty” book banter works for me. Probably because it is exactly my brand of senseless humor and I can only handle myself in small doses. When it permeates the book, well…

The second reason I can’t say I liked the book is how the private investigation/case aspect of the plot was executed. I was never sure what was going on, it was consistently pushed to the background and played second fiddle to the romance, but would be pulled back so suddenly I got eye-whiplash. Every time a character was mentioned I had to look up who it was because I couldn’t remember. This could be partially my fault, because I didn’t much care about any of the characters, but the fact that they were all pretty one dimensional with common Anglo names didn’t help.

I did like how complete Charley seemed to be as a character. She had backstory & interesting relationships with her ex cop dad and currently-a-cop uncle. There was a lack of dimension to her relationships with other characters, especially the main romance guy person, but her defenses in regard to how people treated her talents was realistic, which was nice. EDIT: Now that I think about it though, Charley’s relationship with Reyes begins with a very brief moment when she is in high school and he threatens to rape her. I think I just blocked that out until I was reminded reading other reviews. Da fuq.

Overall I disliked more things about the book than I liked. Which is unfortunate, because normally I’d like any gal who calls her breasts Danger and Will Robinson. I have the second book but I doubt I’ll read it.

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Review: Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles #1) by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, # 1) Beautiful Creatures
by Kami Garcia
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Published December 1st 2009
 by Little, Brown and Company
ISBN 0316042676 
ISBN13: 9780316042673)

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever. Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them. In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything. –from Goodreads

I just finished this book, and then promptly threw it across the room. I am not being hyperbolic. I THREW IT ACROSS THE ROOM.

Let me be clear, I love long books. 600 pages? BRING IT.

I love stories set in small southern towns. Probably because I’ve never been to one. My friend Ana says she has cousins in North Carolina and there is nothing to be obsessed about. I reserve the right to disbelieve this.

And lastly, I love fantasy. I love witches. Ahem, Casters. I love all of it. I even (and if you repeat this anywhere I will fervently deny it) love cliche teen paranormal romances. I am a fan of the Twilight series, for crying out loud.

So please, tell me, WHY didn’t I like this book? I really, really wanted to. I really want to go see the movie on Thursday and fangirl like there is no tomorrow.

There isn’t anything wrong with the writing. The writing is not bad. Aside from some overusage of certain words and terms, characters calling out each other’s names too often, it was not bad.

The plot was dense. This is atypical of stories like this, but stuff happened. Lots of stuff. In fact, I am pretty sure some stuff happened that I am not even aware of. I like how much time the narrative covered, also atypical. My preference in books is to be taken along for the ride the entire way through, no time skippage. I want to know when the characters do the dishes and mow the lawn. I am very unusual in this. Beautiful Creatures doesn’t really do this. There is a lot of secondhand retelling being done, which brings me to the narration.

Ethan Wate seems like a nice kid, albeit dry of personality, and while I liked that his family problems and basketball playing and dreams of travel are a part of his background, once Lena shows up he becomes just another Bella Swan. He doesn’t spend a lot of time doing, thinking, or talking about anything that isn’t Lena. He is a male protagonist who could fail a reverse Bechdel test. I think this is the root of many of my problems with this book. I think it is a novel idea to write a romance from a male perspective, maybe to normalize sensitive male characters, but if anything this example shows how flat such characters can be.

I hate to keep drawing Twilight comparisons, but hoo boy does Lena Duchannes have some serious Edward Cullen parallels. Readers also don’t get a good reading of her personality either, possibly because of the lack of dialogue. And while I will agree that 15 year old girls really do get into poetry, it just seemed so hackneyed. I didn’t dislike Lena, I just didn’t feel anything toward her.

Let’s not even get me started with Ridley and the stereotypical slutty bad girl trope. I did like Macon and Boo Radley. Marian Ashcroft was, of course, my favorite character. Everyone else? Big blank.

I want to be clear that I didn’t hate this book. I just felt like it had all of the right parts and pieces to be something really great, and just, didn’t. It didn’t have any soul? No heart. Just lots of high stakes and doom and unexplained fantastical elements. If it were about 300 pages shorter it might have been a really engrossing read.

I’m giving it three stars because I feel any less would be uncharitable, and it’s not a bad book. Just one of which I will not be reading the sequels.

Edit: NOPE. Can’t do it. Two stars.

2/20: Saw the movie on Galentine’s Day with my gurls. I was that loud huffy girl in the back, completely outraged at how bad it was. PLEASE LET’S DISCUSS.

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Review: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (Necromancer, #1) by Lish McBride

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (Necromancer, #1)Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Definitely not what I expected. I would recommend this to YA readers, specifically YA aged readers, with a specific sense of humor. Maybe fans of Christopher Moore, but this book is far more lighthearted than that. Lots of inane banter, which I would be into if it didn’t sound like a neutered preteen version of Buffy-banter.

Maybe coming off of much darker more romancey necromancer stuff made this quick read less enjoyable. I don’t know. I got a kick out of the titles of the chapters, but probably I came in with Expectations. I don’t remember laughing at all, but then, most dialogue banter leaves me cold. The only writer of this genre I think can really amuse me the way McBride may have been aiming for is Sarah Rees Brennan. I am a joyless harridan but what are you gonna do?

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Review: Oracle’s Moon (Elder Races, #4) by Thea Harrison

Oracle's Moon (Elder Races, #4)Oracle’s Moon by Thea Harrison
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I admit I did some giggling and I liked this book, and liked Grace’s character, to an extent.

However I came into it expected a strong character like herself to be more independent. Really her salvation in the end came from a lot of convenient deus ex machina windfalls to make her life run more smoothly.

Plus there was that whole, “a man dropped into my life and now everything is great” and “omg you’re the best lover ever, you have mouths EVERYWHERE” thing.

I don’t know. Not a bad read, but not progressive or groundbreaking or particularly spellbinding in any way. Also, sparse plot.

But hey, it’s a romance novel.

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Review: Death’s Daughter (Calliope Reaper-Jones, #1) by Amber Benson

Death's Daughter (Calliope Reaper-Jones, #1)Death’s Daughter by Amber Benson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I came into this book with absurdly high expectations, which was totally unfair to Amber Benson. Like most, I loved her in Buffy and expected Joss Whedon-esque humor and darkness and campy fun.

What I got was…different. Because she is not Joss Whedon (stay with me here, I don’t plan to Captain Obvious my way through the whole thing) and well, she’s also not a bad writer. It’s just that I have no interest in reading about a self-absorbed fashion glutton with a mediocre sense of humor. But I finished the book. And then I read the second.

Positive aspects of this book include the array of mythological creatures employed, and the original concept. That is one good book blurb. The book itself? Meh. Not for everyone. Especially the snobbish ones who have pretensions of literary taste.

Will I continue to read the series? Possibly. I’m tempted by the romance cliff-hanger and Callie’s evolving personality (it IS evolving!) but I imagine the series will always take a backseat until I get really bored.

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Review: War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

War for the OaksWar for the Oaks by Emma Bull
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wish I understood the hype this book has commanded for over twenty years, but I can’t. I also wish I’d heard of at least half of the songs mentioned (stuffed, more like) in it. Unfortunately, Emma Bull was under the impression that the more contemporary hip iconic culture she shoved down the throats of her readers, the better it would be. In doing this, and shamelessly using her own (poor) lyrics as filler, she managed to completely neglect her writing.

I can’t even recall how many times I had to exclaim “REALLY?” before I lost my voice to disgust and just started gagging. Probably right around the point where Carla, a completely flat character seemingly designed by a schizophrenic, says “No one is cuter than Prince.” Or maybe it was Eddi who said that. Whatever, the two were completely interchangeable, which is made worse by the fact that Eddi is THE MFING PROTAGONIST. Gahh!!! Whyyy????? So…painfully…bad.

DO NOT get me started on the phouka’s dialog. Or the extensive descriptions of his (and everyone’s) clothes (WTF, even 80s doesn’t explain that away) and his hair, which, from the repetitive and unimaginative description was obviously a Jheri curl.

Don’t get me wrong, I can totally see the influence this book had on fantasy, and am willing to accept that it is a pioneer of the urban fantasy sub-genre, but I can only praise subsequent writers for redeeming it from the awful depths War for the Oaks set it at. Even writers like Laurell K. Hamilton, who can at least make the outfits easy to envision (that is not an endorsement of rabid “let’s get dressed up!” chapters in fantasy).

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