Well, I sure fell off on these, didn’t I? June was an exceptionally trying month, reading-wise.
I started with Alison Goodman’s The Dark Days Club, which my friends had all told me was excellent.
They were not wrong. It was great.
I don’t often read Regency-era novels, but this one is true to period, also mentions Lord Byron (whom I love), and presents a unique “superhuman” circumstance in giving super strength and the power to stop monsters to a titled society lady. Helen’s reluctance to accept her gift warring with thoughts of “Lord Carlston’s lips” was a fairly compelling story line. Goodman balances the era’s perception of women with opened-minded characters who encourage Helen to embrace her strengths. I really enjoyed this one, and I’m looking forward to book two!
Unfortunately, June took a deep nose-dive when I received an ARC of Arsenic with Austen for review. I believe in reading outside your comfort zone; though I’m not a big fan of the cosy genre, I thought this one had potential, and I was sort of hoping the title was an allusion to the debate on whether or not Austen died as a result of an overdose of arsenic. You know medicines in those days weren’t exactly… helpful.
This book began decently and quickly dissolved into a massive train wreck. Set in 2013, Emily, a professor at Reed College in Portland, receives word that her great aunt has died. Okay. She’s left an inheritance. Okay. It turns out to her aunt’s estate, $6 million dollars, and half the town of Stony Beach. Okay.
Except the lawyer mailed the death notice to the college and if she “hadn’t checked her box, she might have gotten it next fall!” No. That’s not how that works. Emily has a peculiar habit of verbally speaking to her late husband’s ghost, like, in actual questions she’s mentally answering for him. Oh, and my favorite: the unrequited teenage romance she dare not think of, but mentions every five minutes. The writing is poor, coupled with what I assume were supposed to be “humorous” quips regarding how Emily’s aunt drilled proper grammar and diction into her from a young age. The author also makes a point to call out Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, not as retelling of Austen she didn’t care for, but for being a work she can’t fathom being published by a serious house, let alone how the indie and self pub works make it into proper bookstores.
Here’s a tip: maybe don’t insult indie and self pub people. The road is different for everyone. Don’t knock someone because they didn’t take the same path you did. Did I like P+P+Z? No, I don’t begrudge it being in Barnes and Noble. There’s no reason to kick someone else, especially when your work is also flawed.
Aside from the eye-roll worthy dialogue, there’s no actual plot. Whole chapters pass by in which Emily is actually taking a survey of the townspeople asking how they feel about increasing the tourist trade; of course, the mayor and a seedy vampire-esque realtor are totally trying to get Emily to sell, to the point where they may have murdered her aunt.
Yeah, no. The author needed to do more research on how dead bodies work and how to investigate a crime.
No one dies from “acute gastroenteritis.” If your housekeeper breaks her neck falling down the basement stairs twelve hours before you return, you won’t smell blood and rotting flesh. In fact, you won’t smell blood unless someone bleeds out, which breaking your neck does not cause.
Most importantly, real police don’t watch episode of tv shows wherein the guy you suspect murdered your aunt played a murderer to “see how he did.” What? And for some reason, Emily doesn’t know what Netflix is. Okay. My mother is also 51, and SHE knows what Netflix is.
It’s also not a murder “mystery” if all of your “suspects” turn out to be involved in the murder.
The unfortunate consequence of this book was that my well ran dry. I struggled to come up with something decent to say, ended up profiling the book, and scrabbled around trying to replenish myself. Bad books are draining.
I picked up Leanna Renee Hieber’s Strangely Beautiful as my reward for completing that daunting task.
Leanna is a dear friend of mine, and this book is actually a re-release of her first two novels, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker and The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker. I’ve long been a fan of Leanna’s work, having come aboard with Darker Still. Hot guys trapped in portraits and needing rescuing by daydreaming heroines? Yes, please!
Strangely Beautiful was an interesting read, like the X-Men, but with ghosts. I really like the Guard, especially Elijah. It wasn’t so much the story that got me as seeing the progression in Leanna’s writing. It’s clearly her voice, her signature level of detail (especially regarding dresses!), and her flow, but it’s a rare opportunity to get to go back and see where she started, and since I was having difficulty regaining my own voice, it was a tremendous comfort and help. Plus, the image of Hades/Death unhinging his jaw and vomiting pomegrante is both horrific and delightful.
Following that, I got the chance to read Leanna’s next Eterna Files book, Eterna and Omega, before its August 9th release!
Leanna gets the best covers. I read this book in three days and it only took me that long because I had to attend The Day Job. I even brought it with me to the gym. I wrote a review for Eterna and Omega for Criminal Element, so when that’s up, I’ll cross post it here.
If it wasn’t painfully obvious, I loved this book and I love this series. It needed more Lavinia, but that’s a personal issue and not one having to do with the book. The great thing about being a book reviewer is getting to read things before they come out. The bad thing about being a book reviewer is than having to wait until NEXT August for book three, which Leanna is still writing. Oh well.
So that’s it! Giant post, three good books, one book I deeply regret. On the slate for August is an ARC of Whispers Beyond the Veil, and my poor attempts to shuffle through my TBR.