Suspense and Sensibility: Or, First Impressions Revisited (Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mysteries, #2)

by Carrie Bebris

I’m a sucker for anything based on Jane Austen if it is well done. And sometimes when it is not. This is evidenced by the fact that I’ve read all of these Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries, though this is the only one I have actually written anything on. It starts off pretty well; the characters seemed pretty true to the originals, though Kitty is given a more positive spin. It is an improvement over Pride and Prescience. I actually chuckled a few times. Sadly, it degenerates pretty quickly once the mystery kicks in. Unfortunately, it is another paranormal mystery and it is positively outlandish. It was nice to see the Dashwood women again. Lucy Ferrars nee Steele starts out true to form, but her ultimate fate is positively ludicrous and cringe-worthy. The resolution has some tragic aspects considering the fluffy way it starts out. I was considerably less patient with the rest in the series, just skipping through the mystery part. I remember looking forward to more of Georgiana as she was pretty intriguing, and also an appearance of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Unfortunately, I do not remember anything about any of the other stories, which I guess is a review of the whole series in and of itself.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

September 15, 2014

My Best Friend’s Exorcism

By Grady Hendrix

“The devil is loud and brash and full of drama. God, he’s like a sparrow.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel about the friendship and loyalty of Abby towards Gretchen. Of course Gretchen was Abby’s friend too, as we see especially in the concluding pages, but for almost half of the book, Gretchen wasn’t there. She’d been replaced.
I loved the humor in the face of the horrific. Not especially the gross details of some of the fates of the teens involved and of course the possession and exorcism, but really the uselessness and terrible behavior of the adults. That was the scariest evil in this book.

“Families like that don’t listen to other people,” Mrs. Rivers said. “You get in the middle of whatever this is and you’ll be giving them an excuse to blame you for everything.”

Mrs. Rivers, Abby’s mother, was not a good parent and was a bitter person although not without good reason. But she was right in all of her observations. Her portrayal was fascinating and unpredictable. One of many gripping characterizations in the book.

Of course, some of the events just could not have played out the way they did for real. When confronted by the sights and smells and devastation that Gretchen’s possession caused, including what happened to one friend in particular, surely at least one parent, teacher, doctor, law enforcement, or clergyperson, would have stepped in, Like in The Exorcist. Denial caused by cognitive dissonance can only continue to a certain point. But that would have defeated the purpose of the book, I guess.

Someone had to do something. Someone had to say something. Teachers weren’t doing it. Her mom wasn’t going to do it. The Langs wouldn’t do it. That left Abby.

This was a real page-turner and one which was emotionally satisfying as well.

P.S. As I always do, I went on Google Earth to find some of the stomping grounds of the characters. Amazingly, Gretchen’s street not only exists, but her exact house is right there too. As are all of the other locations as well. I loved that authenticity.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

May 20, 2020

Just One Damned Thing After Another (Chronicles of St. Mary’s #1)

By Jodi Taylor

I wasn’t all that blown away by this. Considering the enthusiastic reviews, and how much I loved The Nothing Girl, I was disappointed. It’s a great idea, but I think she bit off more than she could chew. A select group is tasked with observing and documenting pivotal events in history. They are sent back in time after extensive training. It is a very high concept intriguing plot line, but like many reviewers, I thought the many many characters were just sketched in and I didn’t feel like I knew them, so I wasn’t invested enough. I will probably try another in the series, because I have reason to believe her writing might improve as she writes more books.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

August 4, 2017

The Nothing Girl

By Jodi Taylor

“Jenny, I’m so sorry. I think I may have encouraged you to marry a madman.’ ‘Yes, we’re going to be discussing this later. Oh.”

In reading The Nothing Girl, I have discovered a fresh funny voice in relationship fiction. And heaven be praised! She has a back list! I already had The first volume of The Chronicles of Saint Marys on my Kindle for some reason, and, to my surprise and excitement, she has written a sequel to The Nothing Girl, which I quickly bought as well. Hopefully she will fulfill the promise of the first book I read by her. I laughed, I cheered, I cried, I sighed in satisfaction.

I always thought donkeys said, ‘Hee-haw.’ That’s how you always see it written. Nice and neat. And brief. Hee-haw. Wrong. Our donkey goes: ‘EEEEEEEAAAAAWWWOOOOAARGGHHH,’ pauses briefly for the echoes to die away and then continues with: ‘EEEEEEEEEAAAAAWWWWWEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAWWWWWOOOOORRR. And it was loud. Good God, was it loud. Birds fell from the trees. The windows rattled. A low-flying jet did a quick U-turn and returned to base….

Rating: 5 out of 5.

July 25, 2017

The Sherwood Ring

By Elizabeth Marie Pope

“A gentleman can hardly continue to sit,’ he explained, in his serenest and most level voice, ‘when he asks a very remarkable young lady to do him the honor of marrying him. And – ‘he somehow contrived to grin at me wickedly, ‘I usually get what I want, Miss Grahame,’ he added, and pitched over in a tangled heap on the floor.”

This was a lovely light read involving friendly helpful ghosts and 3 charming love stories. I would have been so captivated had I read this as a young teen. I was pretty captivated as an adult. I would recommend this for any romantic teen who loves innocent love stories and history. Peaceable Sherwood was a wonderful character who provided a good portion of the gentle humor in this tale. He reminded me of Geoffrey Delavale in Patricia Veryan’s Journey to Enchantment

Rating: 4 out of 5.

September 27, 2019

The Twisted Ones

By T. Kingfisher

You got hickory with you, you got a piece of the world that’s normal. It’s so normal it’ll cancel out some of the weirdness. You follow?” Clearly I was losing my mind, because that actually made a kind of sense. I went back to the house with a hickory rosary and a bag of dried roots draped around my neck.

I struggle between 3 and 4 stars for this one. I am going with 4 because of the entertaining humor and likability of our heroine, Mouse. Not to mention her cohort, Foxy. It also has one of the most adorable dogs I have ever read about, Bongo.

I have no idea what he’d actually do if he caught a possum—lick it to death, probably. Coonhounds usually get dumped when they turn out not to be very good hunters. Bongo is an excellent watchdog, by which I mean that he will watch very alertly as the serial killer breaks into the house and skins me.

Yep. 4 stars for this triumvirate. The story itself is not my cup of tea. I do love an occasional horror book and/or movie, but this folk-horror genre is not for me I guess. It was not scary, but bizarre and kind of nuts. I am glad I familiarized myself with The White People and Other Weird Stories by Arthur Machen of which this book is a kind of a sequel. What other reviewers found tedious in its exploration of Cotgrave’s journal, I found very interesting. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

December 30, 2019

Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy #1)

by Ilona Andrews

Burn For Me was such a good book in so many ways. I loved Nevada, the heroine, and her snarky humor. I loved her family: They were all interesting and likable and they were all devoted to each other despite the normal family tensions. They also were funny, as was the book. And not that fake funny either. I was genuinely amused many many times. The action sequences were well done and exciting. The antagonists were hateable and scary. It was a page-turner that kept me very intrigued and involved throughout. I have never read an “urban fantasy” book before that I know of, so I found the world-building and premises creative and fascinating and entertaining. Mr./Ms Andrews does what I need in a good writer: They establish an intimate easy rapport with the reader making you part of the story rather than an outsider looking in. Yes, Ilona Andrews is a good writer. I had a lot of fun. And that makes the two things I did not like overlook-able.
Number one is I hated the hero and love interest, Mad Rogan. I will just say that he was a horrible human being. He was not a good man and he was controlling and abusive to our heroine, who was a very very good person.

“You have no regard for human life,” I said. “You saved the city, but I don’t think you did it because you genuinely cared about all those people. I think you did it because Adam Pierce got under your skin. You hire desperate soldiers, but you don’t do it to save them either. You do it because they offer you unquestioning loyalty. You rescued your cousin, but you had been content to ignore the existence of that whole branch of your family. Had you stepped into Gavin’s life earlier, perhaps he would’ve never met Adam Pierce. …You don’t seem to feel bad about things, and you offer gratitude only when you need to overcome some hurdle. I think you might be a psychopath. “I can’t be with you, no matter how crazy you make me, because you have no empathy, Rogan. The gulf between us, both financially and socially, is too great. So no, I won’t go away with you. I want to be with someone who would if not love, then genuinely care, for me. You are not that man.”

She really nailed it there. Sadly, although she stands up to him in this book and pulls no punches with him throughout, I see the handwriting on the wall. I will probably keep reading at least one more in this series in hopes that she whips him into shape as far as being a decent citizen and person is concerned, or at least gives him justification and a path to redemption in future books. The only reason I could tolerate his nonsense was that Nevada does not cave in mentally or emotionally. I’m pretty sure true love will be his salvation, but he needs to be humbled with some serious groveling on the side.

The other bad mark against this book was the author’s constant and repetitive obsession with worshipping at the altar of Mad Rogan’s looks and power. She/he won’t shut up about his godlike awesomeness, and Nevada’s unwilling attraction and physical response to him. I mean we got it the first dozen times, Ilona. Good Job. Now move on! I guess some readers like this type of over the top horny/sexy writing, but it’s not for me. But like I said, the positives greatly outweigh these annoying negatives.

I’ve learned to be very suspicious about authors who seem to produce more than 1 or so books a year and write exclusively series. Well, Ilona Andrews really churns them out, for sure, but if her/his books are this good, I will have been proven wrong in my prejudice. If they all show the same talent this book does, the more the merrier. And I have a lot of catching up to do.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

April 5, 2020

Maybe This Time

By Jennifer Crusie

“Have you talked to North?” he said.
“Yes,” she said. “I asked him to get us cable.”
“I wish you weren’t talking to him.”
“I’d talk to Satan to get cable,” Andie said.”

Well, that was different! A genuine ghost story from first to last. Some parts reminded me of a light-hearted Turn of the Screw. Andie’s ex-husband needs someone to temporarily take care of two children who have fallen under his care. He calls on Andie who despite their painful divorce, he trusts and respects. Andie needs the money, so she agrees. When she travels to the isolated old mansion and meets the children, she knows she will have her hands full. Do they need love and stability, or exorcism?

Some romance fans may be disappointed in the number of pages devoted to love and hanky-panky but I was fine with it. The right people got together at the end and happy endings were had by all except the villains of course. Jennifer Crusie’s signature snarky repartee and humor were front and center. The hero and heroine were very likable although North’s constant mantra of “I don’t believe in ghosts” got very irritating. The two kids were very interesting characters and I enjoyed their character development. The secondary characters kept things rolling along as well. In fact, Gabe, a character from Fast Women, I believe, makes a cameo. I would have snatched up a sequel to this in a skinny minute.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

February 9, 2020

The Rose Garden

By Susanna Kearsley

 Each stir of the breeze through the leaves had, to my childish ears, seemed to carry a faint lilting music, not meant for the grown-ups, that beckoned me on. I had often imagined the tunnel of trees was the doorway to fairyland, and I’d been certain that one day I’d step out the other side into some wonderful place.

Wow. Susanna Kearsley always aspires to a twisty emotionally charged climax and resolution, and she really nailed this one. Her books are usually quite leisurely with lots of detail on history and description, and culture. Of course, this is another time travel book with romance usually taking a second seat to atmosphere and plot. So, in my opinion, they really need those endings to push them over the top to a 5 star rating from me. I didn’t really try to figure out in advance how all the past and the present were going to resolve themselves, so I don’t know if I should have seen it coming or not. Safe to say, I didn’t, and because of that, I was very moved and astonished. I loved that she really took her time with it and went into detail with the “reveal.” I had to go back and trace the few clues that were hidden from the reader in the minutia of description and background. I am glad I read this on kindle so it was easy for me to trace back to the important scenes. Knowing what I knew at the end of the book while rereading those pages really breathed new life into her words. The moral of this story, past and present, is “Home is where the heart is.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

March 20, 2016

Mariana

By Susanna Kearsley

**spoilers**

Faith,” he said, smiling, “d’you think I’d let a little thing like the grave come between us?”

Make it a 4 1/2. Really reminded me of Touch not the Cat by Mary Stewart, which is why I saw the final twist coming. There were still a few surprises: the identity of aunt Freda, and of John Howard. I did start to suspect Mariana might have gotten pregnant a good bit before that was revealed. I guess Iain was a descendant of Rachel and Evan Gilroy? Like others, I wish there had been more time with Iain and Julia at the end, and more of a resolution with Geoff. I guess they’ll all get it hashed out, but unfortunately the reader will not be included, which leaves one with a bit of regret. Also, the romance between Mariana and Richard seemed rather perfunctory. I teared up more at the fate of Navarre than I did at the big death scene.


However, Susanna Kearsley has a way with descriptions, mood, and conjuring up a world to escape in and long to visit again and again. Her characters do come alive and are all really likable, at least in this one. This book had a great premise and I can see why it won the awards that it did. Really admirable and enjoyable, despite a bit of promise unfulfilled. I found it hard to put down, as with all of her books so far.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

February 18, 2016