Tag Archive | new-beginnings

review: The Bro-Magnet


The Bro-Magnet -by- Lauren Baratz-Logsted
(Published by TKA Distribution) 

My grade: 3 1/2 stars

GoodReads Blurb:  Women have been known to lament, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” For Johnny Smith, the problem is, “Always a Best Man, never a groom.” At age 33, housepainter Johnny has been Best Man eight times. The ultimate man’s man, Johnny loves the Mets, the Jets, his weekly poker game, and the hula girl lamp that hangs over his basement pool table. Johnny has the instant affection of nearly every man he meets, but one thing he doesn’t have is a woman to share his life with, and he wants that desperately…

 I GREW UP AS THE OLDEST of four daughters. My mum has three sisters and only one of them has a son – the rest of my cousins are female.  So with that background I particularly enjoy books from a male main character’s point of view. Johnny (or John, as he decides to go by, in order to project a more mature image) has an endearing voice. Just like all the guys -bros- that he comes across, I find him charming and endearing and I really want to be his friend. And, I think that is one of the problems I have with this book. Johnny is like the brother I never had and he is not convincing -to me- as a romantic lead.

Some might argue that this is supposed to be a romantic comedy first and foremost, and I agree that many scenes in this book are funny. There is a thin line you have to walk in order for the hilarious situations that ensue (a date at the opera in a barn with a pair of siblings performing multiple roles, for instance) not becoming over the top and too unrealistic, and the author does this very well. I think, however, that Johnny’s long-time crush could have been painted with a somewhat finer brush to be more effective.

Just like many a romantic comedy herione needs a gay best friend, so does a hero. Johnny’s neighbour, sometime employee and BFF Sam is a lesbian. She is also very self assured – almost like a guy, actually, and very attractive. She has just come out of a failed relationship and is also wondering what she is doing wrong. As Johnny goes about trying to turn himself into the man that he thinks that Helen – the love interest – wants, Sam assists him and also applies some of the helpful hints he picks up along the way.  The banter between Johnny and Sam is something that I enjoyed a lot, almost to the point where I was rooting for the outcome that Sam would be a closet bi-sexual person and she and Johnny would be an item at the end. But, of course she is not.

Another problem I had with the book is that I don’t feel what Johnny feels about Helen – he tells me/the reader how he reacts and what he thinks about and his hopes for this relationship, but when we reach the butterfly in the tummy moments; the first kiss and when they finally progress to a more physical relationship, he tells me that as well. The door is closed.

When I say that I had some problems with the book, I don’t mean that I am disappointed – it was a thoroughly enjoyable and easy read. It brought out a lot of smiles an d giggles and left me with a happy feeling. But, at the end of the day I do wish that there had been a little more romance to this comedy.

(read in January 2012)

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review: Dying Bites

 Dying Bites (The Bloodhound Files #1) -by- DD Barant
(Published by St. Martin’s) 

My grade: 4 1/2 stars

GoodReads Blurb:  A Her job description is the “tracking and apprehension of mentally-fractured killers.” What this really means in FBI profiler Jace Valchek’s brave new world—one in which only one percent of the population is human—is that a woman’s work is never done. And real is getting stranger every day….

 I FOUND AN INTERVIEW WITH D.D. BARANT on from April 2010 on Amberkatze’s Book Blog, where he (I understand that D.D. is one of three pseudonyms used by this author) talks about this book and the world it is set in:

The Bloodhound Files is about a world where the supernatural races—vampires, werewolves and golems—are the dominant civilization. Human beings make up just one percent of the population and are considered a federally protected endangered species. The main character, Jace Valchek, is an FBI profiler from our world, specializing in deranged killers. She gets yanked into this parallel universe for her skills—the supernaturals are immune to mental diseases as well as physical ones, so they have no experience with craziness.

We meet Jace in bed, nursing a hangover after yet another social faux pas – drinking tends to make her somewhat inhibited when it comes to sharing details about her work, most of which is not suitable for cocktail party small talk. She falls back asleep and has a weird dream that turns out to be no dream at all; she is being pulled into a parallell universe in order to assist the National Security Agency, NSA, profile and apprehend a serial killer.

World building can be tricky – you don’t want to infodump your reader, but at the same time enough details must be provided to make the story believable. I prefer the kind of books where details about the surroundings – especially if they are new to the main character – are provided where it fits the story best. And I think it is done in that manner in Dying Bites. Jace’s reaction to the information about her whereabouts, the existense of (go)lems, (lycan)thropes and (vam)pires – the short versions used regularly in the book – feels natural, as does her curiosity and acceptance of things that are different compared to our/her real world.

Jace is a tough cookie, after all she is one of FBI’s best profilers. And even though she is extremely unhappy about the situation she finds herself in, she is a professional and gets to work to solve the murder case/s – it is, after all, her only way to make sure she will be transported back again.
She is chasing a human, perceived to be psychotic. The thrope and two pires who are the victims by the time Jace is forced to take on the case, have been killed in extremely gruesome manners, meant to send a message both to the dominant species and to the remaining human population. A monster is a monster, but Jace cannot help contemplating the crimes that humanity have be subject to – especially during this world’s version of world war II. I won’t go in to details here, but as the story progresses, Jace finds out more and more, information kept from her by her new boss Cassius.

Every detective needs a partner, and Jace’s is Charlie Aleph – a golem. Thropes and pires look mostly human, but lems… not so much. Cassius first describes golems to Jace thus: ”… a golem is an artificial person, usually man-shaped but sexless. Basic animist magic: shape a humanoid form and charge it with life force”. This makes Jace expect Charlie to basically look like a sack of sand. But this is her first impression:

…a broad-shouldered figure a little over six feet tall, wearing a very sharp pin-striped suit of dark blue, matching fedora, and polished black leather oxfords. His skin is darker than his shoes, and just as glossy; his features seem sculpted out of black chrome. His tie appears to be alligator skin.. He stops in front of our table and looks at me. At least, I think that’s what he’s doing; he doesn’t seem to have actual irises or pupils, just eye-shaped indentations. It’s like looking at a mask, one with strong, angular features: square chin, heavy brow, Roman nose with a pronounced hump to it.

Jace also works closely with Damon Eisfanger, a lab thrope, and Gretchen Petra, a pire who works with intel. All the characters introduced feel three dimensional. Their individual traits and quirks become apparent as Jace gets to know them better and they grow on her (and the reader).
As mentioned, Jace is tough and in the beginning she comes across as a little too angry. But then, as you get to know her, you understand where it is coming from. She has a sense of humour and does realize quickly when she has made an error of judgement – she can be very hasty at times. One thing that is frustrating to her is that her gun (until it is somewhat modified) neither scares nor affects the pires or thropes significantly. In a showdown with a Japanese oyabun, this is very apparent:

I’ve got the drop on Isamu, but of course that doesn’t mean anything to a target who isn’t afraid of guns. He leaps straight at me, probably intending to rip my arms off and beat me to death with them, and I shoot him many times. Many, many times. He refuses to explode in a disgusting display of gore and instead is merely propelled backward to his starting point. This produces a look of intense irritation on his face, which just doesn’t work for me. I was hoping for something a little more satisfying—fear, horror, maybe the dawning realization that he is well and truly hooped.
Oh, well. You take what you can get.

If you like Ilona Andrews’s books about Kate Daniels, there is a very good chance you’ll enjoy Dying Bites. I am already reading book #2 in this series!

(read in December 2011)

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review: Making Waves

Making Waves -by- Tawna Fenske
(Published by Sourcebooks) 

My grade: 4 stars

GoodReads Blurb:  When Alex Bradshaw’s unscrupulous boss kicks him to the curb after 20 faithful years as an executive with the world’s largest shipping company, he sets out to reclaim his dignity and his pension. Assembling a team of fellow corporate castoffs, he sails to the Caribbean to intercept an illegal diamond shipment. None of them counted on quirky blonde stowaway Juli Flynn, who has a perplexing array of talents, a few big secrets, and an intoxicating romantic chemistry with Alex… 

THIS WAS VERY DIFFERENT. A 37-year-old job-hopping heroine looking to bring her wacky uncle’s ashes to their last resting place in the ocean outside a Caribbean island. a 42-year-old former VP looking for revenge on his old employer as well as getting his nest-egg back.

The setting is wonderful, it really made me want to go on a Caribbean vacation. The sidekicks are also unusual and interesting. It is a bit of slapstick to this comical romance, but it is done with such a deft hand that I really don’t mind.

I wasn’t entirely sure of how things were going to play out until the end, at one point I actually thought their was a traitor in the good pirates’ midst.
Now that I think about it, this book would actually make a really fun, romantic comedy.!

(read in August 2011)

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review: House Keeper’s Happy-Ever-After

House Keepers Happy Ever After -by- Fiona Harper

My grade: 3 1/2 stars

GoodReads Blurb: Ellie Bond’s heart has ached ever since she lost her beloved husband and little girl. Now her head is telling her it’s time to get her life back on track. Her first small step: answering big-shot music executive Mark Wilder’s Housekeeper Wanted advertisement!

I WOULD HAVE GIVEN this book four stars if I had connected more with the male protagonist Mark. I’m not saying it’s the author’s fault, I just felt he was not believable enough. Also, I’m kind of wondering what Ellie was doing as a housekeeper when he was gone so much. She didn’t do any cleaning and very little cooking.
Just drank a whole lotta cups of tea and ate chocolate biscuits. Odd. Maybe one should become a housekeeper in one’s next career change.

But I digress.

Ellie, on the other hand, comes across as a three dimensional person. Having a little girl myself, I could really picture the enormous weight of grief she struggled with, having lost the two most precious people in her life. And the way she really made an effort trying to work around the effects the accident had on her memory and thought processes was extremely well done.

They both had to take a step back, examine their past and present and work out their issues with trust/grief in order to come together in a HEA and it was very, very sweet.

(read in August 2011)