Review of “Magic Found” by Misha McKenzie

magic foundI don’t think that I have ever had a harder time trying to come up with a grade for a book than I am having on this book.  It is definitely a middle of the road type of book, so definitely less than 4 stars, but it is also better than other books I’ve read.  I’m torn between giving it 2.5 and 3 stars, but I’m leaning more towards the 2.5.  Let’s get down to the nitty gritty and hopefully I’ll be able to make up my mind by the time I’m done.

Marissa Spencer’s world has been turned upside down since waking up one morning with magical powers. She has no idea where they came from and controlling them has not been easy. To make matters worse, these new abilities seem to have brought with them a mysterious evil force that torments her dreams and tracks her down dark alleys. With the help of her sexy PI boss, Jack Slade—whom Marissa has always had a crush on—she will have to fight a battle for power that began before she was born. Along the way, she’ll discover a family she didn’t know she had, an inheritance she may not want, a strength she never knew was within her, and a love she’d only dreamed of.

This description doesn’t really tell you a lot, which is a bit ironic because the author definitely has a problem when it comes to telling instead of showing.  This was actually once of my biggest problems with the book–so much of it was simply told to me and not shown.  For instance, there is a scene early on in which Marissa is attacked and instead of having this scene in Marissa’s POV, we get Jack telling us that something was wrong and we don’t even get there until the entire thing is over.  I don’t know if we were not supposed to know that Marissa has powers, although the word magic is in the title, so I’m a little perplexed as to why we couldn’t get that scene from her POV.

The next problem I had was that there was a whole lot of info-dumping going on.  I don’t know how many people actively think about things that happened to them in the past, but Marissa and Jack sure do.  I don’t need to have everything told to me all at once.  I’m a delayed gratification kind of girl.  All at once just doesn’t cut it for me.

Finally, there is no character development whatsoever.  Each character behaved in the way the scenes needed them to behave and once that scene was over they reverted to their former behaviors.  It was maddening, especially when it came to Aiden, Marissa’s long lost relative.  He had real reason not to trust anyone and I had a lot of hope for him, especially when he was first introduced.  I thought that he was going to be this badass character, who was able to handle himself.  Unfortunately, I just didn’t get this from him.  He whined a lot about his new powers, and I do get this, but at some point, the whining needed to stop.  The sad thing is that none of these characters were at all complex and with their backstories, they really could have been.


This is obviously the author’s first book (or one of her first books) and it suffers from a lot of new author mistakes.  I really wish she waited to write this until she had some more experience writing because the plot was good.  If a more experienced writer had written this, it would have been awesome.  I would love to see what someone like Nora Roberts could do with a book like this.  I wish I could have liked this book more and I want to know what happens in the next books, but I don’t think I will.  I don’t like to be disappointed and unless someone else was going to write then, that’s exactly how I will feel as I read them.

2 Stars

Review of “The Importance of Being Alice” by Katie MacAlister

AliceHave you ever started reading a book and knew immediately that you weren’t going to like it?  That was my experience with The Importance of Being Alice.  The premise of the book was that Alice, upon being dumped by her douchebag sort of fiance, decides to go on the vacation the two had planned and winds up sharing a shabby cabin with said douchebag’s friend.  (Since the plot could be summed up in one sentence, I felt no need to include the entire thing.)

Part of my problem with the book stems from the fact that the ARC I received was almost unreadable–I’ve seriously seen pirated e-books that have better formatting.  Even with this, I would have been able to continue reading if a single one of the characters was at all likable, which unfortunately was not the case.  Elliot was alright, but he’s the type of curmudgeonly character that I want to take to the back and shoot.  Compared to the rest of his family, however, Elliot was a boon.  His mother would fit in with the Real Housewives women and his younger brother was a total teenage stereotype.  Then, there are the characters we don’t meet, but are told about: one of his sisters ran off with the wife of the local minister and his other sister is involved with Alice’s ex.  Nice people, he’s surrounded by there.

My biggest problem is that both Alice and Elliot are too stupid to live.  You’re probably wondering how I know this, stopping so early in the story, but there are times when you can just tell.  Case in point, they both decided to get on the decrepit boat on which they’d booked passage.  I don’t care how expensive the tickets were, but if the Titanic post-sinking is in better condition then the vessel I am supposed to be getting on, I would run in the opposite direction.

DNF.

The Importance of Being Alice is available for pre-order from Amazon, BN, and Kobo.

Review of “Steam Me Up, Rawley” by Angela Quarles

Steam Me Up, RawleyI honestly did not think I would like this book as much as I did.  First, I’ve never really read anything that could be considered steam punk; the only time I ever tried it before I couldn’t get past the first page because I felt like I needed a special dictionary to understand half of what was written.  Second, I absolutely hate the title.  Steam Me Up, Rawley?  Really?  Did the hero’s name need to be in the title?  I would have much preferred it if it was just called Steam Me Up.  All I can say is that I’m glad that I didn’t let the title stop me from reading this.

Jack the Ripper might be in town. But is marriage more terrifying?

In an alternate Deep South in 1890, society reporter Adele de la Pointe wants to make her own way in the world, despite her family’s pressure to become a society wife. Hoping to ruin herself as a matrimonial prospect, she seizes the opportunity to cover the recent Jack the Ripper-style murders for the newspaper, but her father’s dashing new intern suggests a more terrifying headline—marriage.

Dr. Phillip Rawley’s most daring exploit has been arriving at his new home in America in a hot air balloon. A tolerable sacrifice, if it means he can secure the hand of his new employer’s daughter in a marriage of convenience. But Adele works, she’s spirited, and she has an armored pet monkey running her errands. Not only does she not match his notions of a proper lady, she stirs up feelings he’d rather keep in tight control.

With Adele hunting down a headline and Dr. Rawley trying to protect and pursue her, a serial killer is spreading panic throughout Mobile, Alabama. Can Adele and Rawley find the murderer, face their fears, and discover true love?

One of the things that I really enjoyed was learning the ins and outs of Quarles’s Mobile, which was richly drawn and made me wish that people actually had walked around with “shoulder pets” during the 19th Century.  While I wouldn’t want to find people walking around with parakeets or monkeys on their shoulders today, this seems like something that Gilded Era rich people would have done.  (Really, it seems like something that if Paris Hilton started doing a decade ago all the status hungry people in Long Island–not to mention my neighborhood back home–would have jumped all over.  It is that type of ridiculous thing over which the rest of the world would look on and shake their heads.)  There were a few times where Adele’s monkey, whose name I blanking on for some reason, seemed to be heading into plot moppet territory, but on the whole, I liked this addition to the book.

What I really liked about SMUR (hmm, I don’t like this abbreviation, but I can’t think of anything better and I don’t want to keep typing up the whole title) was that both Adele and Phillip (Rawley of the title) were complex characters.  Adele, especially appealed to me.  She wasn’t the typical historical romance heroine, although I have no idea what the typical steam punk heroine is like.  I liked that she was adamantly against the idea of marriage because she understood that as a married woman she would have to stop doing the things she wanted to do.  (In the end, I was a little upset to find that this wasn’t the real reason she didn’t want to get married, but not upset enough for me to downgrade my rating.)

The one thing that I wasn’t crazy about was Adele’s father.  For the majority of the book he seemed to be a rather cruel man, especially when it came to Phillip and the deal they struck to bring the young doctor to Mobile from England.  There was something that he held over Phillip’s head to make sure that he would marry Adele (which I will not spoil) and I didn’t feel as if this was addressed properly.  There sure as hell wasn’t any groveling on his part and I didn’t understand his sudden change of heart at the end of the novel.  It felt to me as if he knew that Adele and Phillip would be married and only agreed to do what was right once he realized he would be getting what he wanted.

4 Stars

Steam Me Up, Rawley is available for pre-order on Amazon, BN, and Kobo.  It will be published on January 14th and is the first book in the Mint Juleps and Monocle Chronicles series.

Review of “Temptation Has Green Eyes” by Lynne Connolly

Temptation Has Green EyesI really wanted to like this book.  Lynne Connolly has been on my radar for a long time, but for some reason I never tried one of her books before.  When I got an ARC of Temptation Has Green Eyes from Netgalley, I was excited.  This book has everything I want in a romance novel, so it was a guaranteed win, right?  Wrong.  There’s an overarching conspiracy involving Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, and to make it even more…tempting…it even takes place in a time period that I haven’t seen very much in romance novels.  Both are big plusses in my book, but for some reason it just didn’t work.  Beware: spoilers below!!!

 

Here’s the synopsis:

There’s more to love than meets the eye…

The daughter of a wealthy merchant, Sophia Russell has no interest in marriage, especially after a recent humiliation—and especially not to Maximilian, Marquess of Devereaux. But it’s the only way to save herself from fortune hunters—and those who wish to seize a powerful connection she prefers to keep secret—even from her future husband…

Marrying Sophia is the only way Max can regain the wealth his father squandered on an extravagant country palace. And while Max and his bride are civil, theirs is clearly a marriage of convenience—until a family enemy takes a questionable interest in Sophia—one that may lead all the way to the throne. Forced to become allies in a battle they hadn’t foreseen, the newlyweds soon grow closer—and discover a love, and a passion, they never expected…

Honestly, based on this, I’m not even sure what made me want to read this book.  It sounds just like every other historical romance that I read in the last year.  If only.  This book was NOTHING like anything else I read last year, but not in a good way.

First, there is the hero, Max.  I couldn’t stand him.  He wants people to think of him as a good guy because he wants to give his mother her “palace” back and because he abhors men who use violence on women, but he seemed rather smarmy at times.  For instance, on the night he and Sophia decide to marry, he thinks about how Sophia’s ex is a creep because he tried to force himself on her, which is a good thing to think considering, but ruins it by forcing a kiss on Sophia.

[W]hen he touched her, she clamped her lips together.  He was in no mind to force her.

Her body stiffened so much…but he wanted to taste her.  Sweet, so sweet, that even a closed-mouth kiss pushed his arousal up another notch.

How is it that he could go from not wanting to force her to kiss him to doing so anyway?  In this instance, it isn’t the thought that counts, but the action.  He knows that she’s been sexually assaulted in the past, but still decides to (1) kiss her and (2) continue when it is obvious that she does not want to be kissed.  Is this supposed to make me like him?  I don’t get it.  If this was the only time, Max displayed this type of behavior, I could probably overlook it, but it isn’t, so I can’t.

The second problem I had was with Sophia’s father, who supposedly loves her, but treats her like a child–no, worse, a prisoner.  The book starts out with her father selling her to Max as part of a deal.  Sure, this was done a lot in the time this book takes place, but it isn’t something that I want to see.  Maybe I’m jaded by all of the families in Julia Quinn and Candace Camp novels that give their daughters the freedom to choose their suitors.  I don’t know.  It just didn’t sit right with me and for a little while, it seemed as if it didn’t sit right with Max either–but just for a little while.

Not long after this, we find him ordering Sophia to marry Max and punishing her when she refuses:

He ordered her to stay in her room and had her fed on bread and water.  That hadn’t happened since Sophia’s childhood.

He also had her maid remove her books and writing materials, except for a copy of The Bible.  ‘To give you a chance to reflect on your decision and pray for the correct outcome,’ the note he sent told her.

This is nothing more than a set-up for brainwashing.  Remove anything she likes and give her enough time, so she’ll do what you want.  Lovely person.

Last, there is Sophia.  I really really wanted to like her, but I just couldn’t do it.  I had such high hopes for her, too, since she did stand up to her father when he first ordered her to marry Max, but she quickly gives in.  I don’t blame her for this because of how her father treated her.  The reason I can’t like her is that she has no clue what she wants.  It’s obvious that she is attracted to Max, but she pushes him away.  She doesn’t want to have sex with Max and she hated the experience the first time they slept together, but she also wants him to come to her at night.  I know that it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, but this is ridiculous.

I got about four chapters into the book before deciding to give it up and I fear that the only reason I read that far is because it was an ARC.

No Stars

Temptation Has Green Eyes will be published on February 3, 2015 and is available for pre-order on Amazon, BN, Kobo, and iBooks. 

Review of “Someone Like Her” by Sandra Owens

someone like herI literally finished this book in a day.  I can’t tell you the last time that happened.  Someone Like Her is the second book in the K2 series, which I’d never heard of until browsing on Netgalley over the weekend.  At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it because I tend to be VERY picky when it comes to romantic suspense and I normally hate anything that has to do with the Navy SEALS.  Those heroes are always way too alpha for me and while Jake has several alpha moments, he doesn’t go alphole.  I actually really liked him and his heroine, Maria.  Here’s the plot synopsis, via Netgalley:

Known to the K2 Special Services team as Romeo, ex-Navy SEAL Jake Buchanan may spend his downtime living up to his nickname, but there’s one woman who sets his heart racing like no one else can: Maria Kincaid. Unfortunately, his boss—her brother—has made it crystal clear that she’s off-limits. Jake doesn’t do commitment, while Maria is the type of woman who deserves a promise of forever. Yet Maria finds herself drawn to Jake, the man who stares at her with a desire she wishes he’d act on.

Still haunted by her horrific childhood, Maria goes searching for the father she’s never met—and stumbles into a nightmarish experience. With her life in grave danger, she reaches out to Jake, her brother’s second-in-command. Jake figures he can help Maria without giving in to temptation. But some things are easier said than done.

One of the things I really liked about this book was how devoted Jake was to both Maria and her brother, Logan.  Jake is a really good guy, who is torn between his feelings for Maria and his loyalty to her brother, who has made it crystal clear that Maria is off limits to the Romeo (Jake’s nickname within K2) of their group.  (I honestly don’t get the modern connotation to the name Romeo considering the namesake was in love with one woman and sacrificed everything to be with her.  Here and in many places, Romeo is the name chosen to depict a player and that just doesn’t make any literary sense.)

I also enjoyed the chemistry between the lead characters, which was so hot that it fairly smoldered–and, omg the sex scenes were the hottest I’ve read in a while.

I didn’t like everything, however.  This book’s biggest problem was that the beginning of the narrative feels like it is picking up in the middle of the story.  We start with Maria showing up at some man’s door (based on the cover copy, I figured him to be the long-lost father) and running into a teenaged girl, who was obviously being abused by this man.  Almost immediately, we cut away to Jake, who is in bed with some woman when he gets a phone call from Maria, asking him for his help and begging him not to tell her brother.

During this exchange and several others throughout the book I felt as if I was missing something, as if my copy of the book was unfinished, but considering the book is coming out on the 6th, I doubt this is the case.  It almost felt as if the author skipped writing some scenes, planning to go back and fill them in, but forgetting to do so.  It was really weird.

Also, I hated the excessive use of the word clinched.  First, it was used way too often (I get that we all have words that we love to use–mine is actually–but this was ridiculous).  Second, that word does not mean what the author thinks it means.  Every single time it was used, it was used erroneously to mean clenched.  Jake would clinch the steering wheel or Maria would clinch Jake’s man-bits.  You cannot clinch either of these things (and the second, I’m not sure even clenched would be right).  What can you clinch?  The World Series.  What can’t you clinch?  Anything in this book.  This drove me batty.  I am a big proponent of using the right words for a situation (as should we all) and this was in no way the right word.  Sigh.

Despite this, as I said, I really liked Someone Like Her and will definitely be looking for the next book in the series, which I hope is Jamie’s, aka Saint, book.

3.5 Stars.

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DNF Reviews:
Dukes to the Left of me, Princes to the Right
What I Did for Love
The Taker
The Chocolate Kiss
One Star Reviews:
Blind Eye
Two Star Reviews:
Once in a Lifetime
Three Star Reviews:
The Gin Lovers

 

DisclaimerI will not review every book that is submitted to me for review and I reserve the right to refuse to review any book that does not fall into my submission guidelines.  To increase your chances of a positive review, only submit books from the following categories: contemporary romance, romantic suspense, historical romance, paranormal romance, or sci-fi/fantasy/urban fantasy.

 

Romance and Recipes

IMG_0110

Cooking tends to play a big role in romance novels.  Most of these scenes take place in contemporary romance novels, as we wouldn’t see the lady of the house cooking the meals and no matter how much the Cook/servants love their “masters” no romance would depict scenes of these people around the stove cooking with the family all around them the way contemporary romances do.  While making tonight’s Christmas dinner, I decided to share my mom’s recipe with my readers because it is something everyone should know how to do.  If you only know how to make one meal, it should be this.  (How else are you going to impress your future in-laws?)

First, we’ll tackle the sauce.  Being Italian, jarred sauces were never used in my house (neither were actual recipes for that matter).

Ingredients:

1 can of tomato paste
1 can of tomato puree
oregano
basil
chopped onion
black pepper
crushed red pepper
garlic (powder or from a jar)
vegetable oil (or EVOO)
1/2 puree can on water

1. In a large pot, lightly cover the bottom with vegetable oil. This should be a very thin layer.
2. Add oregano (to cover the bottom of the pot), basil (a couple of light shakes), one shake of onion, black pepper, red pepper, and the garlic powder (if you’re using the garlic in a jar, use one tablespoonful).
3. Stir
4. Add the can of puree (do not throw the can away, as you will use it later.) and the can of paste.
5. Fill the can of puree with water (only to the half-way point) and add that to the pot.
6. Stir until there are no lumps of paste.
7. Let simmer for 2-3 hours.

Cheese Filling Ingredients
1 large ricotta (or 2 small ones)
1 egg
bread crumbs

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine ricotta, egg, and bread crumbs (only a light dusting).
2. Stir until well blended.
3. Refrigerate  until needed.

Let's make lasagna!

Lasagna Ingredients:

1 lb chopped meat
1 lb chopped sausage
1 box lasagna noodles (I prefer Ronzoni and you’ll never see Barilla in my kitchen.  Use whichever brand you can find.  Just make sure that it isn’t the no boil kind.)
Cheese Mixture
1 bag of shredded mozzarella (or a large block of mozzarella.  I prefer polly-o or Sargento)
Vegetable Oil
water

IMG_01001. Brown the chopped meat and sausage.  Add to sauce and let cook for at least an hour.
2. In a large pot, boil water.
3. Add a small amount of vegetable oil (or EVOO), so the noodles do not stick together.
4. Once the water is boiling, add the noodles.  Cook until they are slightly soft.  (You don’t want to cook them too long because we will be putting them in the oven.
5. Drain noodles and return them to the pot, which you will fill with cold water to cool off the noodles.

bottom layer

6. While the noodles are cooling, use a spoon with holes in it to take the chopped meat and sausage out of the sIMG_0103auce.
7. Drain the noodles.
8. Coat the bottom of the lasagna pan with sauce, so the noodles do not stick to the bottom.9. Cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of noodles.10. Cover with

IMG_0104 a thin layer of ricotta cheese and sauce. Spread the cheese the same way you would frosting on a cake.
11. Add a layer of noodles.IMG_0106
12. Cover noodles with a layer of meat.
13. Add a layer of noodles.
14. Cover noodles with a layer of cheese mixture and sauce.
15. More noodles!
16. Add a layer of both cheese and IMG_0108meat.
17. Final layer of noodles!
18. Cover the noodles with a last layer of ricotta and sauce.
19. Add entire bag of IMG_0110shredded mozzarella.
20. Sprinkle parmesan cheese, oregano, and basil on top.
21. Cook on 350 degrees for an hour or until cheese is completely melted.

Happy Eating!