Edge of Darkness – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click HERE.

Cyberpunk fans and fans of far future fiction will enjoy reading this book.

SYNOPSIS

In 2065, corporate sponsored governments jockey for supremacy in the biotechnical arena. Bullets and missiles take a back seat to cyber-enhanced soldiers and pulse weapons. In this extreme environment, only the most hardened body and mind can survive.

Calder McKenna was a failed experiment in the military’s push for power. Now a special agent for the metro task force, he lives day by day trying to forget the ones that were lost… the ones that he could have saved.

When technology and humanity collide, Calder is forced to make desperate decisions, but how do you destroy the monster without becoming one yourself?

REVIEW

3/5 Stars

Calder Mckenna is an ex-soldier working as a cop who is still haunted by the actions of his past. His life gets a whole lot more complicated when a mysterious package shows up at his door. While what is in the package might unlock hidden potential inside him, it might also make him into a monster. This story is about his struggle to maintain his humanity while still protecting his partner and those around him.

The book starts off strong and is full of action. The integration of technology and humanity is a consistent theme throughout the book. Calder also starts out as a rather interesting character to me. I found myself wanting to know more about him and why he was the way he was. For most of the book I was excited about it and enjoyed the story. There was at least one relationship that I found a little less believable than others but I won’t go into detail about it to avoid spoilers but otherwise I was intrigued.

I was reminded of things like Altered Carbon or Phillip K. Dick novels as I was reading this. While this is not quite as realized as those worlds, this was still an entertaining read. I liked how these mega corporations are controlling everything from behind the scenes but I never got a great sense of what exactly they were doing or why. It was clear that they were not above board and needed to be stopped, but I feel like that is part of the book that could have been strengthened.

The action is fast and continuously interesting and I found myself rooting for Calder to succeed. There is a lot of action and for this kind of story, I find that a great plus. I enjoy a little bit of philosophy about the way things are but then I am ready to get back to the fight. Edge of Darkness provides a constant stream of intense action with real, high stakes.

For me this just narrowly missed being a four star book, mostly because I felt like some of the scenery and background could have been delved into a little more, and like I said one relationship never quite worked for me.

If you like far future fiction, this is a good one to go with and I will be checking out the sequels.

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

To Be Taught If Fortunate – #BookReview

Hello out there in cyberspace. Slick Dungeon here and I just read a book about outer space that I want to share with you. I enjoyed this one a lot and I will be doing a little review. There will be some spoilers but I will not give away the whole plot here. You’ve been warned if you want everything in the book to be a surprise.

To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers is a hard science fiction novella that had me interested cover to cover. It follows the adventures of four astronauts in the far future who have been sent from Earth to explore a few planets and their ecosystems in the interests of science and humanity. Ariadne, Chikondi, Elena and Jack have all been tasked to take scientific recordings, samples, etc. and sent back to Earth for study.

The book is full of beautiful descriptions of new species, the harsh realities of space exploration and the breakdown of difficult scientific ideas into understandable concepts. The characters are very well developed for such a short book. I was pretty gripped throughout, whether it was the personal struggles of the space explorers or the underlying question of the book; should we seek knowledge just for the sake of curiosity?

Those of you out there who are space nerds will probably know that the title is taken from a small snippet of a quote on the golden record on the Voyager space craft. This book takes the idea that we ought to be curious, that we need to find more out about the universe around us seriously. That can be said for a lot of science fiction and especially hard science fiction books. Where I think this one is different is that it also asks if our curiosity does harm. Are we hurting foreign species we might encounter in space? Are we able to minimize that? And if we can minimize it, is that really enough? Should humanity care about space exploration if there are problems on the ground right here on Earth?

What I love about this book is that it does not provide hard and fast answers to those questions. We follow along as the astronauts go to different environments, with different challenges both for the astronauts and the species (or lack of species) on each planet they touch down on. It isn’t a silly novel where there are a ton of bipedal humanoid species. No, the species they encounter might be microscopic or look somewhat like rats but have truly nothing in common with the earthbound creatures we think of. And it’s very well described.

Maybe the one thing I would change about the book is the ending. I feel like it could have been more conclusive. On the other hand, that may have been the whole point. The book doesn’t give us answers to a lot of important questions, but it dares to ask them. So maybe the end is made that way too. So that we have to form our own opinions and ideas of not only what the right thing to do is when it comes to science, but also how our heroes end up in the long run.

If you’re looking for an entertaining, deep, yet short read, and you have any interest in space exploration at all, I highly recommend To Be Taught If Fortunate.

If you’ve read this, let me know what you thought about it in the comments.

Space-ily Yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

A Pizza to Die For – #BookReview

Take the Pizza Leave the Mystery

Have you been stuck inside for days with nothing to do but read or watch movies? Me too. Although, I live alone in a dungeon so it makes sense. Slick Dungeon here with a cozy mystery book review for you in your time of boredom.

A Pizza to Die For by Chris Cavendar is one in a series of cozy mysteries that take place in or around a pizza shop in Timber Ridge, North Carolina. It’s about a pair of sisters, Eleanor and Maddy who run the place called, A Slice of Delight. I’m going to give you a little plot summary but then I had some issues with the whole thing so I am going to rant about that for a while.

If you just want a nice, tidy, mystery, there are definitely worse you could read out there. If you want a nice, tidy, mystery that constantly makes you wish you were eating pizza because they say the word every other sentence, this is absolutely the book for you. I think I gained weight just by reading it to be honest.

The story goes like this. A new pizza place is about to open. The restaurant is called Italia’s and not only will it have a fancy, dancy, high-falutin, wood fire oven, there’s a chef there that will toss the pizza dough in the air right in front your very own face. Maddy and Eleanor are none too pleased with this and so she and her crew go to see the dude opening it up. His name is Judson Sizemore and they basically threaten him to, you know, not open the place, but after he was a jerk to them, so apparently that’s all okay behavior.

I bet you see this coming. Judson ends up dead. Eleanor and Maddy are suspects of course, so they attempt to clear their names by solving the mystery. In case you actually want to read this, I am not going to give away who does it but there are spoilers that follow so you have been warned.

Here are some thoughts I had along the way.

  • At one point this book has the required “get off my lawn” scene where they go to try to talk to one of the suspects and he pulls out a shotgun and says he will shoot Maddy and Eleanor if they don’t leave. So many mysteries have this but this one to me was exceedingly ridiculous. The guy threatens to shoot them for, you know, walking up to his door, but then how is he talked down? Eleanor tells him she also has a house that is a bungalow house, like the one he owns. Oh. Okay. Yeah I was willing to blow your face off two seconds ago but IF you happen to own a home LIKE mine, then that’s all good, no problem, let’s be best friends. Give me a break (so I can grab a slice of pizza).
  • I know this book was written a while ago and takes place far away from Chicago but these people in this town seem to feel like you have to have some kind of magical ability to make Chicago style pizza. They go on about this for pages. Pages I tell you. And you know what? Now I need me some deep dish!
  • So Eleanor and Maddy think what they have to do is figure out who did the killing at Italia’s the night Judson dies. Guess who they never talk to even once? Yeah, everyone that was working there. Nope, none of them could possibly be suspects despite the fact that Judson in his few scenes where he is alive seems like a total jerk. Great detective work.
  • Speaking of detective work. This town has a Chief of Police who warns Eleanor away from doing her own little investigation and other than that pretty much shows up on occasion to order pizza or do some dishes in the back with Eleanor. The Chief, Kevin, has history with Eleanor because they went to the same high school. But he does no real investigating of this whole situation other than to basically ask Eleanor where she was on the night of the murder. I swear I have never read a cozy mystery where the police department ever does a good job. How are the tax payers okay with paying you Kevin? Huh? Come on, man, the Timber Ridge residents deserve better from you!
  • Also, I have made this statement in other reviews about mysteries but how is a pair of civilians going around and bullying people into confessing to them, not to the police in any way, going to help in court? I am pretty sure a lawyer who is worth a dime is going to get that case tossed in seconds flat.
  • Speaking of crappy lawyers. There is a lawyer in this who is dating Maddy, named Bob Lemon. Well, Bob Lemon does the smart thing exactly once. He tells Maddy that she should not go investigating other people for a murder she might be a suspect for. She jumps all over him for it and pretty much puts him in the doghouse for it for a good chunk of the book. And he apologizes for it! I mean, the dude is a lawyer and the first rule of good lawyering is to get your dumb client who is going around looking very suspicious to you know, shut up. If I was Bob Lemon I would not have apologized. I would have demanded my hourly rate of $100 an hour for that one bit of advice and left Maddy to make her own dang mess.
  • The suspects in this book never looked like they had that much guilt or motive or even opportunity to do this crime but why would they confess anything to Eleanor and Maddy? They do have a friend that seems to intimidate people because he must be into some criminal stuff but that doesn’t seem like enough for someone who committed murder to just be like, oh yeah, I am gonna confess every dark secret of mine to you.
  • Also, as I said I won’t give away who did it but like in every one of these stories, why would the killer actually confess in the last part of the book? They had every opportunity to you know, shut up and just kill the people confronting them. All I can think is that person must also be dating and ignoring a lawyer who gave good advice and then apologized for it.
  • This book even has the prerequisite relationship with a criminal and the protaganist (in this case a pizza maker) that makes no sense at all. I mean, this may have come about in previous books but how many small shop pizza owners are like, yeah let me hang out with a mobster? I could almost buy it if the protagonist were crooked or, like in law enforcement but just a pizza shop owner? Really?
  • Speaking of crimes. In several sections of the book they mention that the local health inspector is away on a honeymoon. Well, it’s a good thing because the kitchen in A Slice of Delight seems to be like Grand Central Station. (Well Grand Central Station a few weeks ago). Everyone shows up there to ask Eleanor stuff, tell Eleanor stuff, and do this dishes with Eleanor. I mean, are there no rules about this sort of thing? She doesn’t even tell anyone to put on a hair net or gloves or anything. It made me want pizza less and that is nearly impossible.
  • There is one thing that I can say for this series though. Their pun game is strong. This one is A Pizza to Die for but they have a bunch of other books with titles like, A Slice of Murder and Rest in Pizza. I wholeheartedly approve. I am gonna murder that slice of pizza to die for and go rest in the remains of it now.

Man that book and review made me really want pizza. Think anyone will deliver to a monster filled dungeon out in the middle of nowhere in thirty minutes or less?

Hungrily yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

P.S. Hungry for more murder pizza? Check out this series here!

Geek Girls Don’t Date Dukes – #BookReview

They Date Valets instead

Happy leap day everyone! For most of us it’s an extra day to make the most out of life. For me it’s an extra day to slog through a silly romance book. To each their own I suppose. Today I am going to review Geek Girls Don’t Date Dukes.

The last time I read a romance book that had a duke in it, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that it was halfway decent. I won’t say this book was as good as that one. I had some thoughts as I read through it which I will share below.

If you are just looking for a mindless, fun, romance book, this one is not bad at all. If you are like me and sometimes have difficulty entirely suspending your disbelief, you may not want to pick this one up. I am going to give a quick plot summary so if you don’t want spoilers, because you just love to read books that involve time warping mirrors, emptying chamber pots while wondering about latex gloves and mention Star Wars more than once, you have been forewarned.

So here’s the deal. This book is about Leah. She has a huuuuuge jerk of an ex-boyfriend. This dude (Kevin) not only breaks up with her for a different woman, he literally asks her to the wedding to be a bridesmaid for this other woman, but only so that Leah can be in the picture and then photoshopped out for the woman’s actual friend. Dude, come on Kevin, you are making all men of this time period look bad. So bad that apparently there needs to be a magical mirror where woman can go to Regency period England just to land a man.

Leah who apparently has a few interests including going to Renaissance fairs, playing The Legend of Zelda and weeping over seeing Mr, Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett get married, has this friend who went back in time and found an Earl to marry. Leah gets the chance to house-sit for this friend and seems to think it’s a good idea to dive through this mirror to find a Duke to marry because she totally misinterprets what the woman who does the mirror magic says to her. The mirror magic woman, Mrs. Knightsbridge, tells Leah she will find her true love at the Duke of Granville’s manor. Yeah, so we all know that means not the Duke right? I mean we’ve read enough books that we know that right? Yeah, it wasn’t the Duke because it turns out he is a lot older than her. But that doesn’t stop him from being the third wheel in the book.

Turns out that when Lean crawls through that mirror she basically crash lands into the arms of Avery, the Duke’s valet. He is the first person she meets in this time period but it’s clear that they are destined to be together because he is hunky, and kind of rude to her, although I would say if you saw someone suddenly crawl out of a mirror, politeness might not be at the top of your mind either. We also know this is the right man for her because he sticks up for her and does chores for her when she should do them. Leah through some serious good luck is able to fake that she is a maid for the Duke in the hopes of catching him for a husband. This ruse just leads to Avery falling for her and vice versa. For her part, Leah absolutely hates doing the normal stuff that maids would have done back then and can’t wait to get out of doing it.

After a couple of days of this, Leah goes to this party and meets a woman who knows about the magic mirror and happens to want to help her. I got the impression she is maybe from one of the earlier books in this series but I haven’t read those so I don’t know for sure. Anyway, Lady Chesterfield takes Leah in so doing chores is no longer required. Never content to be happy though, Leah gets really tired of doing exactly what she hoped to do, going to balls in Regency period dresses and trying to hook up with the Duke.

Avery is not only a Valet but also a boxer and he’s on the hook for some money to some bad dudes. This results in a side plot where Leah gets kidnapped and Avery has to beat a few dudes up, etc. Then the magic mirror breaks and Leah can’t go back. But she wants to go back because her Pawpaw, is in the hospital. She wants to take Avery with her but a. he’s apparently too big to fit in the repaired mirror and b. they have had a few misunderstandings that a five minute conversation might have sorted out but they never have time for that because, you know, all the kissing going on.

As you might imagine, everything works out in the end and all is well that ends well. I noticed some things in this book I would like to bring attention to though.

  • Leah seems smart and she is all into Ren fairs and whatnot, so why was she so surprised at the lack of sanitation in the Regency period? She wonders both if they had bleach and latex gloves. Yeah, cause in all those Colin Firth movies, the staff is always putting Clorox everywhere right?
  • Also, I get that you can like more than one time period but she seems to think she is kind of prepared for this because she goes to Ren fairs. That is a huuuuge time difference! But whatever.
  • At one point in the book Avery touches Leah’s arm and she gets… let’s say excited. And she thinks in her mind that, “her arm graduated to an erogenous zone.” I wondered if there was a degree involved in that. I mean does your arm at least get an online certificate that it can hang on the wall or what?
  • Let me get this straight, Leah has read all the Jane Austen, she has seen the movies, she knows her friend found someone when she was least expecting it but she never thinks that the guy who might be right for her is not the dude who is old enough to be her father? Seriously?
  • At one point Leah thinks to herself that the staff probably realized she played more Legend of Zelda than she had scrubbed floors. Man, that game is a lot older than I realized.
  • Leah also totally freaks out because she has to move a chamber pot with no gloves. While I understand the concern for sanitation, what did she freaking think she would be doing as a maid in a huge house? Didn’t she see like any BBC period mini-series ever? Oh wait, she watched Pride and Prejudice so uh….
  • She totally assumes Avery is just going to go to the future with her. I think there might be a bit of shock and quite the learning curve there for him. Just wait til he sees indoor plumbing! Although, I guess if she did get him to this time period, anyone will stay once you feed them a single Oreo so, maybe that was her plan?
  • Kudos to this book for mentioning Star Wars in appropriate context more than once. Not sure that is enough to qualify a person as being a geek but at least it’s in there.
  • Okay so, let’s say you are planning to go back in time and maybe find the love of your life. Lucky for you, you live in the 21st century and you can bring some stuff with you. Leah brings aspirin (good call), a picture of her grandfather (can’t blame her there), but she does not bring any form of birth control. Uh, I mean I know he is the right guy for you and all but maybe get to know him before you might have a kid with him? Just saying.
  • Okay last thing for me about this book is this one question about this whole thing. What about the whole time travel thing? I mean, could she cause a Marty McFly situation? She’s a geek so she has probably seen that right? What about the butterfly effect and all that? But she wastes exactly zero time thinking about that. Like not even once does she think about how her being in that time period might have brought back some sort of plague and then when she goes back home it’s nothing but zombies and she needs The Doctor to show up in the TARDIS to fix everything because of one magic mirror (that is probably actually alien in origin). But why does no one in this book think about that? Best I can tell is because the mirror is full of “time magic and love magic”. I love science.

I’ll be honest, I have read a lot worse romance books than this one and I didn’t hate it as much as I expected but it’s also no Outlander. If you have a few hours to kill and want a bit of time travel, a bit of steaminess and a whole lot of wondering why people don’t wait five minutes to talk to each other to sort everything out, this book is for you.

Leapingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Want to find out what happens for yourself? Get the book here: Geek Girls Don’t Date Dukes

Doggie Day Care Murder – #BookReview

Killers Confess to rAndom Strangers all the Time Though

Have you ever met someone who took one look at you and pretty much decided that they would tell you their whole life story and just straight up confess to murder despite you not being a cop or anyone of any authority who could reasonably do something about a murder confession? Me neither. But that’s pretty much what happens in Doggie Day Care Murder by Laurien Bereson

If you love cozy little mysteries and well trained dogs who get displayed in dog shows, Doggie Day Care Murder is perfectly fine and would make a nice short little read for a plane or on a beach or whatever. If you have a brain that tends to pick things apart and wonder why any of this would even be a possibility, then stay away from this book.

Here’s a summary. Melanie Travers is a mother to two children, one of them still a pretty new infant, and an owner of five standard poodles. Apparently these are the “big kind” of poodles. I know this because that fact was mentioned about three hundred times. Melanie’s friend Alice also has a dog named, Berkeley. Alice is going back to work at a law firm that her husband seems to be a partner in. Alice needs Melanie to check out this doggie day care center that she might put Berkeley in because, Alice, “doesn’t know about dog stuff”, despite, well, having a dog and a reasonable mind. Melanie agrees to go check the place out. Then she drags Alice to the place (even though Melanie is supposed to be the one doing the checking out of the place) at which point one of the owners is discovered to have been shot and is lying dead in his office. For no rational reason that I can discern, Alice now wants Melanie to investigate this murder and promises the co-owner/sister of the murdered man that Melanie will solve this crime. A lot of running around, lying, talking, being terrible at jobs, and dog shows occur. Melanie solves the murder, is almost murdered, and then gets to see her kid come in second place in a dog show. Err… the dog comes in second? I dunno the kid gets a ribbon or whatever. Yay!

I had a few thoughts.

  • At the beginning of the book Melanie checks out this Doggie Day Care. Literally everyone she tells about this rolls their eyes at a place calling itself a doggie day care. Yet all these people are dog owners and not a freaking one of them has heard of this? Ok boomer.
  • Likewise when it is revealed that a dog is named Joyjoy, all the “real” dog people in the book are flabbergasted. It’s a freaking dog. There are plenty of weird names people can give their dogs, come on, get less judgmental for a minute here.
  • As soon as Melanie strolls into the day care center with no appointment and clearly having done zero research about the place at all, demands an appointment with the co-owner. Melanie is utterly disgusted with the attitude of the teenage clerk behind the counter. You know what? I think the girl behind the counter was reasonably wondering why this lady is judging her so harshly. Also, the teenager is probably not getting paid much here so back off lady. Yet Melanie is like, why can’t some people be polite? Good question Melanie, good question. Ask it of yourself.
  • Melanie tours this place, realizes they care about the dogs and is pretty much gonna recommend it to Alice but still drags Alice over to check it out. You know, just in case Melanie simply caught them on a good day. Fair enough, you don’t want some scumbag abusing your dog so I get that. But it sounded to me really like Melanie was too damn lazy to decide if she was going to give a good opinion to her friend.
  • Next thing, Steve, the co-owner of the place is murdered and Melanie and Alice are there when his body is found. The police talk to the two women to see what they were doing there and why. Melanie gets all defensive about it and is like, why would you suspect us? So, here’s the the thing, Melanie, if that is your real name, you show up a day ago, demand to see an owner, disappear and the next day you show up, the dude is freaking dead. That seems suspicious to me. And that is not to mention the fact that Melanie in previous books has “solved murders”. So now, she’s showing up around a lot of dead bodies, And dogs apparently.
  • The sister/co-owner of the place then agrees to let Melanie snoop into the murder because, umm… she likes dogs? And hey, yeah suspicious lady that I only met a day ago and showed up after my brother turned up dead, you are likely the best person to figure this out.
  • Once Melanie decides to take up the case, she goes around talking to all kinds of people. Her plan is to pretend that she was hired by Candy to redesign the website for the doggie day care. That would make sense if she a. had any experience designing websites, b. ever took a picture or did anything that might remotely seem like she was designing a website or c. turned on the computer and uh… looked at the old website a single time. Nope, she never does any of that. She is pretty much like, hey I am here to redo the website can I talk to you for a minute, and then people say yeah sure, and her next question is, who do you think killed Steve? My response to that would have been, is there going to be a who killed Steve section of the website? Do you know javascript? I googled you, you know and you show up in a lot of murder cases. But nope, people are just like oh cool, new website, yeah Steve sucked or Steve was great or whatever they thought. I feel like the author was like, what kind of job sounds vague enough for people to buy that they would talk to Melanie? Website design! Let me make sure Melanie never does any.
  • There is a side plot about Melanie’s kid Davey who is learning how to compete in a dog show. Melanie frequently rolls her eyes at all these people who are richer than her, like the guy who drives a hummer and doesn’t seem to realize that most people who are in the “competitive dog show world” must have a fair amount of disposable income to you know, be in, “the competitive dog show world”. I assume it is not a cheap hobby.
  • Also, I am just gonna give this away so if you want to read the book and be surprised don’t read this but… the guy who is the murderer? Not good at training his dog. Because, if you can’t train your dog well, according to this book, you are a horrible, horrible, horrible person who probably named a dog the wrong name.
  • The police show up exactly twice in this book. Once, when the body is found and once when Melanie is almost killed by the murderer. What in the blasted blue blazes do the tax dollars of people in Stamford, Connecticut pay for anyway, huh?
  • I assume that the whole thing with there being no police was so the author didn’t have to really explain the conflict that Melanie would have with them. But here are a few of the things Melanie does. Let me know if any of them would seem weird enough to have police get called on her. 1. She goes to a neighbor who hated Steve and falsely gives the impression that she is on the city board. 2. She keeps showing up at this doggie day care, asking a whole freaking lot of questions about the murder victim. 3. She basically stalks a guy outside his neighborhood just so she can find out if he was a co-owner of the day care. 4. She goes into a clothing store and threatens to sit there all day until one of the workers will talk to her about Steve’s death. The woman she wants to talk to I remind you, is working, and has sued Steve in the past and is threatening to again. Yet the woman talks to her rather than saying, I do not have to talk to you and lawyer or not I can call the cops for you harassing me. 5. She goes to a pet store, berates the store for encouraging her to breed her standard poodle, demands to see a delivery guy there and then interrogates him. 6. She gets Candy to give her the password to Steve’s computer so she can see what his business files have. I utterly guarantee you that any evidence found a result of Melanie’s efforts is not going to be accepted in a court case. You know, unless it’s the case where they throw the book at Melanie.
  • Finally, the last point I want to make is that the whodunit here wasn’t that hard to figure out based on behavior towards dogs. Why make it a mystery if it is going to be that obvious? Just call it, Melanie tries to do a job at a doggie day care place but would rather talk about murder.

My next review will be for Geek Girls Don’t Date Dukes. Oh don’t they know? I kind of think the title is lying to me.

Doggedly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Mulberry Moon – #BookReview

Snickers Satisfies But this Book doesn’t

It’s late at night and you want to curl up with a good book that will give you lots of warm and fuzzy feelings about love. Here’s my advice for that situation. Under no circumstances should you read Mulberry Moon by Catherine Anderson. Re-read Outlander instead. Trust me.

The story centers around Sissy who is a restaurant owner and a woman who keeps walls around her heart and the guy who is destined to be with her, the stetson wearing, manly hunk of manly goodness, Ben. Ben is in love with Sissy, but she is tough to win. They go back and forth for ridiculous reasons about not being together and of course in the end they wind up married like we all knew they would.

Overall, I would mostly call this book just dull. It has a couple moments that could have been cute and funny but just really read flat for me. However, I noticed some things in this book that made me, uh, wonder some things. The premise is fine and I think that this book is supposed to be in a series where like everyone in Mystic Creek (the setting) is supposed to come under some kind of love spell eventually but I am just going to talk about what popped out to me.

  • “With the taste of tacos lingering in his mouth, Ben Sterling opened the door to leave Taco Joe’s on West Main and hollered good-bye to Joe Paisley, the owner.” That is the first sentence of the book. A.) nothing says romance like talking about the taste of tacos in someone’s mouth. B.) I vote this for worst opening line of a book, ever. And I have read some bad openings my friends.
  • A good portion of the book has Ben complaining to himself about the women he dated in the past who couldn’t get along with the animals at his ranch. Example: “He needed a down-to-earth person who didn’t run in terror from his free-range chickens or pick dog hair off her fancy clothes. ” I have a few thoughts here. First, where is this guy finding these women? He lives in this tiny Colorado town where no one visits. Is it just somehow full of super rich women? Second, even if that is the case, why would he be interested in them? I think he’s a pretty casual guy so why would he be like, I gotta date me a woman who wears fancy clothes!! And finally, what exactly is a woman with fancy clothes supposed to do with dog hair on them? I think taking the dog hair off might just be them trying to you know, not ruin their clothes.
  • When Ben and Sissy, well not first meet because they seem to have met before the book starts, but when they have their first meaningful interaction, Sissy acts very standoffish even though Ben is just trying to help her round up loose chickens. Ben thinks to himself how women always respond better to jerks and then thinks, “I need lessons in how to be a convincing jerk” Mmmmm…. nope, you don’t. Assuming a woman is not a nice person just because she doesn’t want to talk to you while she is trying to gather all her chickens on the street makes you a jerk already bro.
  • Another window into Ben’s mind: “If a woman could turn him on now, when his nuts still ached, he guessed he really was going to be fine.” Let me check, do my nuts ache? Yes. Can a woman turn me on while my nuts ache? Yes. Okay, life must be good then! You got this life thing figured out Ben!
  • Sissy has her own problems. She can’t get close to a man because she had a terrible father who abused her (which is a perfectly valid reason to have emotional issues). But she has a soft spot for animals so she ends up connecting to Ben through his dog. She is supposed to, you know, not like Ben at first because that is how romance books work but she looks at Ben’s dog and thinks this. “It wasn’t Finn’s fault that his master embodied everything that she most distrusted in a man. Ben Sterling was suave, charming, and successful.” Yeah, suave, charming and successful. No one could possibly like those qualities…
  • This is what Sissy really thinks of Ben: “Sans Stetson his bangs and sideburns gleamed like a horseshoe-shaped halo around his head.” Er… what? I don’t even know how to picture that in my head. I guess he is angelic but like in a hairy way?
  • There is a little side plot at the beginning about what Sissy thinks is a ghost haunting her but turns out to be a literal pack rat. Why does she think she has a ghost? Well, she hears noises at night. Okay sure. But more importantly, in Sissy’s candy bowl she has fun sized Snickers bars but they keep disappearing. She knows that the candy is disappearing because she is very strict with herself and just eats two per night. She eats the candy because… she isn’t having sex with anyone at the time. Err… seriously. But this whole thing leads to dialogue like this, “I just can’t wrap my mind around the idea of a nonphysical being that steals Snickers bars.” Me neither, Ben. Me neither.
  • More of Ben’s head, “But I’m tired of hooking up with fussy women who reject my world and want me to wear chinos with polished loafers.” Okay, Ben, here’s a thought – Don’t date those kinds of women then!
  • Sissy finds herself attracted to Ben but doesn’t want to show it. This is what she does while working along side him fixing up a chicken coop. “She just made sure she didn’t look at him from his belt buckle up. Or from there down for that matter.” Uh, okay so you are going to just not look at a dude while you are working right along side him. Yeah… that makes sense…
  • More of the whole Snickers equals sex thing in Sissy’s head, “And looking at him did maker her want a Snickers bar.” So yeah, if a woman wants to eat a Snickers bar because she is looking at you, she’s waaaay into you. Take note!
  • There is this weird thing in romance books where characters seem to think that it would be romantic to go to jail and that they would get to do jail time with their romantic partner somehow. In part of the book Sissy and Ben decided to steal a kitten with no front paws from the vet office because it will be put down if they don’t. Sissy says to Ben, “I want you to know that there’s nobody on earth I’d rather do time with.” Seriously that might be the most romantic line in this whole book.
  • At one point Ben looks at Sissy who is just wearing a little bit of makeup and a somewhat nice sweater. Not like fancy clothes like he hated those other women wearing and he thinks how good she looks. But then his next thought is, “Ben wished he could dress her, starting with undies and bras from Victoria’s Secret, with her modeling everything for his appreciation.” Make up your freaking mind Ben. Do you want fancy clothed women or not?!
  • More of Ben’s romantic thoughts: “Why did the idea of a tie-down strap ruffle her feathers? He had one in the bed of his truck that would work.” In this part of the book Sissy had broken her leg and rather than just wait for it to heal, Ben thinks to freaking tie her leg down so she wouldn’t buck when they… well you know. I gotta say dude, you are not lacking in confidence there about your charms, skillful use of bondage equipment, and physical abilities.
  • Remember above when I quoted Ben wanting to put Sissy in Victoria’s Secret underwear for his pleasure? Here is what he tells her, “You don’t need sexy lingerie.” Seriously man, make up your mind!
  • Next time you want to get steamy with your romantic partner say this, “Watch another romantic movie, sweetheart, and remember during all the love scenes that I am going to outclass every Snickers bar you’ve ever eaten when I come back upstairs tonight.” Snickers – 0 Ben – Outclassed them all. No candy is safe.
  • Ben reassuring Sissy, “Your breasts are the perfect size for your build. And you do have some. Trust me, I notice things like that.” Very observant of you Ben.
  • Also Ben, “Maybe I should rent you some porn.” To each their own I guess?
  • Also Ben, “You’re so beautiful I couldn’t spit if you yelled, ‘Fire.'” I still haven’t figured out what this is supposed to mean.
  • Also Ben, “I need to know, before we take our relationship to that level, that you’ll be my forever lady.” Smooth Ben, smooth.
  • There is a really disturbing scene in this book where Sissy’s father tries to out and out rape her. This is not a particular criticism of this book or anything but I swear like eighty percent of romance books have a rape scene in them. I don’t know why this is the case. These scenes are always awful to read and I get the feeling sometimes that they are put there just to show that the guy who gets the girl is not like that. I just have to think there is a much better way to demonstrate that without placing in rape scenes that might get fetishized by certain sick individuals. Okay, stepping off of my soap box now.
  • Now I will remind you again that Sissy was almost raped by her own father in a very violent and brutal way. After that she is sort of shell shocked and doesn’t want to speak with Ben, or really anyone. This is Ben’s thought, “He loved her too much to take no for an answer.” WHAT?! That is the absolute most awful thing you could think in that moment dude. Ben, when you thought you should take jerk lessons earlier, you really were wrong. Get your money back because you are a jerk.
  • Sissy basically goes back to hiding her feelings from Ben but then he basically gives her an ultimatum of how she has to win him back. She is worried that mental illness runs in her family and that their kids will be less than perfect and that wouldn’t be fair to Ben. He offers that they could adopt and all kinds of other things that would make it okay for them to get married. You know what I didn’t see from Ben? Him asking if Sissy was okay after attempted rape. And now she has to ask him to marry her if she wants to keep the relationship. What an A-class jerk.
  • Here is Sissy’s proposal, “Ben Sterling, will you please become my husband? For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. For better or worse, whether or not we’re genetically flawed, crazier than loons, or predisposed to have any kind of cancer?” You know, I think Ben might have said no but then you threw in the cancer and I am pretty sure that sealed the deal.
  • Ben’s answer, “If I say yes, will you have unprotected sex with me tonight and risk getting pregnant?” Wow. That feels like a good place to stop.

Again, I cannot recommend not reading this book enough. I hope you enjoyed reading my review more than I enjoyed reading Mulberry Moon. Next week I will be reviewing another destined to become classic literature book – Doggie Day Care Murder. Why did the doggies murder the day care? I have no idea.

Satisfyingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Last Chance Olive Ranch #BookReview

Olives are the Cure for Everything Except Stupidity

What’s going on people out there? It’s Slick Dungeon here again and although I keep hoping for it, I rarely run into a book down here that is worth reading. I wish I could say The Last Chance Olive Ranch was a fun read, with a smart mystery, fascinating characters who are well developed and as a bonus has some great recipes in the back. All I can really say is that there are in fact recipes in the back. I haven’t tried making them because I am stuck below ground in my dungeon so I suppose they could be great, I don’t know.

Now I have most definitely read worse books than this one. But, there are a ton of issues with this book. Like, how in the hell the whole thing happens in the first place. This basically has two stories going on. China Bayles and her husband Mike McQuaid both have life threatening adventures while in different locations. McQuaid is an ex-cop, current private investigator who has an escaped convict coming after him. China Bayles is an ex-lawyer, current business owner of several Thyme spice pun related businesses and she is supposed to be conducting some sort of seminar at an olive ranch with her friend and business associate Ruby. While at this ranch, China figures out there is a bad guy wanting to do some lethal harm to some people and also kind of helps to clear up a legal matter. I’m going to give a little more of a summary and then point out some things that just completely ruin this whole book.

The story basically starts with McQuaid getting a phone call telling him that this dude named Max has escaped death row. They refer to him in the book as “Bad Max” and I wish I was making that up. Max has not only got out but it seems like he is bent on going out and killing everyone who sent him to prison. McQuaid realizes he needs to catch the guy because he is the one who put him away in the first place and the guy is likely to come after him and China. He reasonably wants China to go do her thing out of town so he won’t have to worry while the guy is out on a tear.

China, meanwhile is torn between staying with her husband and wanting to go with her friend to do this seminar thing. She ends up going and learns all about this land dispute between Maddie, the operator of the Last Chance Olive Ranch and this guy named Boyd. China also happens to bump into an old flame named Chet who is a good guy but things didn’t work out and now he’s got it bad for Maddie.

I think the major plot points here are obvious. McQuaid is eventually going to get his guy. China is going to help figure out the land dispute and prove that Boyd is a grade A jerk, while also making sure that Chet and Maddie get a fairy tale ending.

I don’t so much have an issue with idea of the plot as a whole. But here’s the thing, it should never happen in the first place because every criminal in this book would have to be equal parts super genius and complete moron. There are some other problems with the book as well so I am just going to start a rant list below.

  • “Bad Max” is a terrible name for a bad guy. It will only make you think of a particular movie series and it makes you want to laugh and forget the whole book every time you read it.
  • Max breaks out of a death row prison in Texas. Think about that for a second. This guy would have to not only be Houdini, he’d have to be bulletproof and Hannibal Lecter smart to break out of here. So how did he do it? No idea, they never mention it in the book. Awesome.
  • This book is about an olive ranch but all of China’s businesses are named things like Party Thyme. So why is she the one writing excerpts about olives and olive oil between chapters? Shouldn’t she be the one writing about Thyme? And if anyone is going to write about olives shouldn’t it be Maddie, the one running an olive ranch?!
  • This has two completely different narratives going on, one with China, one with McQuaid. One is an ex-cop ensnaring an old enemy plot and the other is a love triangle attempted murder plot. Freaking pick one book please! You wrote two half books that don’t add up. They don’t even converge except for the first and last chapters and this only because China and McQuaid are married.
  • Despite this book being full of hardened criminals, tough guy private investigators and active police officers, no one, and I mean no one, swears even a little. China finds out that McQuaid has a plan to place himself as bait for a guy who has already killed three people. She thinks it’s “horsepucky.” At that point China is mentally flipping out and seriously, that’s the word she thinks of? I can think of another and it begins with Bull and doesn’t end with pucky.
  • The first owner of the Last Chance Olive Ranch was a woman named Eliza and she is inspired to make this ranch because of her Spanish lover. I lost count of how many times I had to hear about Eliza’s Spanish lover. Not a boyfriend or husband or person who she had an affair with. Nope, this is a Spanish lover.
  • Also he died in an orchard accident. That sounded mildly interesting to me. What happened? Not a clue because they never say. “I thought you died in a baking accident” Baker from Into the Woods
  • This book actually contains 30-50 feral hogs and that is before that was a thing on twitter. Nothing against this, it was just odd.
  • McQuaid has this ex-wife Sally and she apparently has a split personality. So not only does McQuaid have someone who can break out of prison coming after him, this wife is in trouble and she is begging for help. It never once occurs to McQuaid that maybe Max, the insane prison escapee might be the one after her. Max isn’t but shouldn’t McQuaid think that was a reasonable possibility? But nope. And when Max does grab her, thinking it’s China, McQuaid freaking blames her.
  • McQuaid’s genius plan to catch this guy seems to involve letting reporters he knows state to the media that he still lives in the town he lives in and is going to a community cook off. The bad guy actually calls McQuaid and tells him he is coming for him but McQuaid never thinks to, you know, wait at home and be prepared when the guy shows up.
  • Also, Bad Max is supposed to have figured out a way to get out of prison and kill five different people (with some help) before getting to McQuaid’s house. Now, when Max gets there he finds Sally. Does he do what makes sense? You know, shoot the wife of the guy you hate and then wait until the guy you hate shows up and then shoot him? Nope! He instead kidnaps Sally, and calls McQuaid to lure him to a junkyard. Err… what? That makes literally no sense.
  • At one point McQuaid goes and sees his son who is in college. He sees his son kiss an African-American woman. McQuaid kind of flips out in his own mind. I get owning up to your own prejudices and all but what he immediately tries to remember is if in all of his conversations about sex with his son, if he had ever brought up the issue of interracial sex. McQuaid my dude, let’s chat to the side for a minute. You know what you need to know about interracial sex? The same things you need to know about any kind of sex. Same info, it doesn’t freaking change! This particular thing in the book made me wish I was out at sea so that I could chuck the book into the water. Of course then I was glad I wasn’t because I would have realized putting trash in the ocean is not good. What’s worse was that McQuaid then thinks of himself as “fairly liberal”. Mmmhmmm.
  • Also, McQuaid seems to completely blame his ex-wife for having mental issues. He refers to her as “skitzy” in his mind. Let me just say this because I wish people would realize it, having multiple personalities is not the same as schizophrenia like at all. Books try to make this the same all the time but you know what it is when they do that? Horsepucky!
  • Speaking of my earlier point about language, McQuaid gets information out of a woman who is in with Max’s cousin Lester. It’s clear Lester is a horrible person and that Max has taken Sally by this point. The woman, named Candy, doesn’t think it’s all that weird that Sally has duct tape over her mouth. And she says that Sally is “a pain in the old patootie.” Okay, please, either make this character less dumb or at least let her use an actual word that a woman in that situation would use. The one I am thinking of is what usually follows Jack-
  • On China’s side of things, it’s so obvious Boyd is setting Maddie up that only a complete dummy wouldn’t figure that out. Maddie runs a successful business and is a college graduate but can’t seem to figure out Boyd’s motives. Why not? Because she is self conscious about a scar.
  • Also it’s completely obvious from the beginning of that story that Boyd is going to be revealed to be related to Maddie. See he tries to get her to marry him but Sofia, the half sister of Eliza, the woman with the Spanish lover, has a secret document in an olive wood box. China can’t possibly imagine what would be in there until she sees it even though we all know it’s going to be a birth certificate saying that Boyd is Maddie’s (well I was guessing half brother) cousin. Thus they can’t get married.
  • Hey, you know how they could have prevented Boyd from starting a fire and trying to forcibly take over the ranch? Give the birth certificate to Maddie, or her lawyer! Then I would have fifty percent less of this book I had to read!
  • There were so many things olives can do. I had no idea. I am sure this is true but they talk about how good it is to put in soap. Okay sure. Obviously good for food. No argument there. Then they talk about how it can be used as a cleaner possibly rivaling bleach. And that if it goes bad enough it is a fire accelerant. Wait, you want me to put this on my face and in my mouth? Mmmmm. I think I will pass….
  • So much of this book was simply an info dump and it got so obnoxious. We didn’t find out from general conversations or actions what a character was like. Nope, there are like five paragraph backgrounds we have to read through when we met or heard about a new character. That’s how I know Eliza had a Spanish lover.
  • I suppose the recipes might be good, I don’t know. But I appreciate that they are there because that was less for me to read!

I hope you enjoyed my rant as much as you might enjoy a fine virgin olive oil. Probably you didn’t but that’s okay because apparently that stuff can light things on fire. Next week I will be back to review Mulberry Moon by Catherine Anderson. Is that when a full moon is full of Mulberries?

Horsepuckishly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Temptation – #BookReview

I have No Idea What is Happening in Texas

Hello out there to those of you above ground. It’s Friday the 13th today and that means bad luck. What was my bad luck today? Reading Temptation by Brenda Jackson.

I tend not to like romance books much and this one is a prime example of why not. From a barely there plot, to poorly developed characters, to really weird obsessions with mouths, this book was awful from start to finish. It was so bad that I was at times baffled and at times just straight up angry at how bad this could be.

Here’s the thing though, when I read something that I think is awful, I just obsess over it somehow. How did this get made? Why? Who thought publishing this was a good idea? But then it hit me, there is only one answer to this riddle for Temptation. I need to find out right from the horses mouths (yeah cause Texas and horses and… ah never mind). So, lucky for me, I have run into several of the characters in the book! I will be interviewing them below. I have no idea how they ended up in the fifth room of my dungeon but here they are. I wish I could say it was good to see people but well… maybe next time send someone with a ladder so I can get out of here?

Anyway, I am going to provide a quick summary of the (for lack of a better term) plot and then dive right into the interview.

Sheila Hopkins is an emergency room nurse in Royal, Texas. One day she is driving and sees a hunka hunka burning man meat in the car next to her on the way to work. She gets to work and surprise, surprise, surprise, Mr. man meat is there and meets her. This guy is Zeke Travers who is a private investigator. A baby was left abandoned and someone is trying to name Zeke’s best bud and client Brad as the father. It’s part of a blackmail scheme to get some money out of rich folks who are in charge at the Texas Cattlemen’s Club. Zeke and Sheila hit it off and Sheila, within minutes of meeting an abandoned baby is supposed to take care of it for two weeks while the custody of said baby is worked out. Sheila takes a shine to the kid and names her Sunnie, Zeke takes a shine to Sheila and they kiss a lot while ridiculously saying they should stay away from each other. Zeke has to keep an eye on Sheila cause what if she is some kinda psycho who just was handed a baby (never mind that it’s kind of psycho to hand over a baby to a stranger). Zeke and Sheila hook up, break up (but not really), hook up some more, have some fights, Zeke figures out the plot, Sheila has to give up the baby but it’s okay because now she can have babies with Zeke. Happy ending and holy crap there are a bunch more books in this series.

Let me give a warm Slick Dungeon welcome to my guests, Sheila Hopkins, Zeke Travers, Sunnie, and Bradford Price.

Slick: Hi Sheila, nice to meet you. So you were a nurse for the whole book but you never did any nursing other than taking a kid home. What are your thoughts about taking a baby home instead of you know, leaving it say, at the pediatric ward of your hospital?

Sheila: Neither me nor my kitchen would be able to handle all the heat Zeke and I would make.

Slick: uhmmm, that didn’t really answer the question. About the baby…

Sheila: Earlier in the day a man proposed to his his girlfriend in the E.R. It was very romantic.

Slick: Uh, ok. I mean have you been in an Emergency Room? It’s noisy, smells weird and occasionally people walk in with a severed finger in a mason jar full of ice. Is that actually romantic? Anyway, about this kid who you took care of…

Sheila: I named her Sunnie because she stopped crying and smiled at me. That makes me most qualified to be her mother.

Slick: I’m not sure that fits the definition of qualified but at least you are on topic this time. What made you so attracted to Zeke?

Sheila: Have you seen him? He has a mouth that is hot. Also he said to me, “Good. Because if I get arrested, Sheila, so do you. And it would be my request that we get put in the same jail cell.”

Slick: Okay, first off, I doubt you would get the request granted. Secondly, a jail cell? Is that supposed to be romantic? I kind of think your idea of romantic locations is a bit off here. Was it tough keeping Sunnie? You didn’t seem to have much experience with infants when she was randomly given to you.

Sheila: Zeke did a background check on me and I got sooo mad. Then he built a crib while I showered. We kissed. Zeke smelled good. Most of the men at the hospital smell sanitized. Zeke reminds me of a real man’s scent.

Slick: Wasn’t he all sweaty from building the crib and like hauling things in for you?

Sheila: Yes.

Slick: Okay gross. Also, just because you smell sanitary really does not mean you are not a “real man”. I think a lot of male nurses, doctors, and people who don’t like to stink might take offense at that. But since you keep bringing up Zeke, let me switch gears and speak with him.

Slick: Hi Zeke, you are a private investigator who did almost nothing for two weeks while Sheila took care of a kid that you first handed over, then thought, maybe I should do a background check on this woman that I gave a kid to. Were you suspicious of Sheila? And do you think maybe the background check could have happened prior to the baby hand off?

Zeke: Sheila attracted me right off. I kissed her, even though I had only met her earlier in the day, first at a stop light, then when I gave her a baby to take care of. This kind of mouth interaction with Sheila was stirring things inside me that I’d tried to keep at bay with other women.

Slick: TMI dude. So, Sunnie was not even five months old and cried a lot and had been literally abandoned on a doorstep of a club that your friend Brad is a part of. Yet, you wondered why the kid didn’t have a bed time. You don’t know how babies work do you?

Zeke: My friend Brad is a good man. He hired me. I own a big ranch. I have a niece and nephew too so I know about kids. Did I mention I kissed Sheila?

Sheila: Even after brushing my teeth I could still taste Zeke.

Slick: You need to brush better.

Zeke: Sheila tasted good. I couldn’t get enough of it, which is why I was eating away at her mouth with a relentless hunger.

Slick: Dude, stop, we have been over this. TMI.

Sheila: But he’s so romantic. He said, “I want to cherish you with my mouth, Sheila.”

Slick: I’ve watched a movie where space zombies try to take over the planet and no one in that film said anything even close to as weird as that. Let’s try talking about something else. There was a hurricane threatening your neighborhood, Sheila. Zeke did what a responsible guy would do and came over to check on you. Then he basically pressured you into moving into his house to wait the storm out. That seemed reasonable because, hurricane. But you asked him not to seduce you while you were there. He wouldn’t agree to that. Sheila, that’s seriously disturbing behavior, why didn’t you call the cops on Zeke?

Sheila: I went to his house knowing I was attracted to his mouth.

Slick: Okay… Uh, Zeke, did you not think it was messed up to basically say, stay at my house to ride out the hurricane but I won’t promise to keep my grubby mitts off you to Sheila?

Zeke: Brad is a good man. I own a ranch. I had to clear his name and to do that I had to mostly spend time with Sheila. My job was to investigate the crime so I stayed with the caretaker of the baby.

Slick: Er, you really sucked at your job and at being a decent guy. Hurricanes are not prime opportunities to coerce women.

Sheila: I stayed way longer than after the hurricane was a threat. I can’t admit my feelings for Zeke.

Slick: I would say all the kissing you did is kind of an admission.

Zeke: There’s something about Sheila’s scent that makes me want to mate.

Slick: Seriously dude. TMI.

Zeke: I could only imagine the outcome of this mating. But I needed it the way I need to breathe.

Slick: The outcome is pregnancy. In case you didn’t notice, there was a baby the whole time. That’s the outcome of mating. and let me just say this again, T.M.I.! But speaking of the baby, it was really convenient that she cried a lot at the beginning and then kept her attention on Sheila so she could be given over. Then it was even more convenient that she didn’t cry later in the book when you guys were doing weird mouth things and mating and what not. Sunnie, do you have anything to say about this?

Sunnie: …

Slick: Well I suppose you are kind of a plot device.

Brad: That’s my job. I’m a good man. I was set up. My brother had a kid with a woman, was killed by her and her drug dealing boyfriend then they tried to blackmail me with his kid. This is all explained in about two whole paragraphs in the book.

Slick: True. Sheila, you seemed to get surprisingly angry and depressed over the fact that Zeke might miss a flight while trying to catch a crook. Are you over that?

Sheila: Oh totally. We got married and Brad and this other woman Abigail that I met just days ago who seems to be interested in Brad was there.

Slick: Uh, more in this horrible series to come then?

Brad: Yeah. See when I told Zeke I had a genetic link to the baby, he left the building without any explanation and then hooked up with Sheila. We figured out it was my brother’s kid but not before I made Abigail cry. Then we watched a tape with Abigail that literally could have solved the entire crime if Zeke had just done his job and showed it earlier to the people at the Texas Cattlmen’s Club. But he was mating with Sheila. I get my turn next. With Abigail that is.

Zeke: Well, I did have to fly to Dallas and then be almost late for when Sheila gave back the baby, so I could watch other people arrest the bad guy. So I called my super rich dad who I was estranged from until a few years ago and ask to fly in his jet. Then while on that jet I bought a wedding ring for Sheila and proposed to her.

Slick: You proposed in a parking lot outside of the Texas Cattlemen’s Club?

Zeke: I did and she said yes.

Slick: I guess it’s better than an Emergency Room. How did you propose?

Sheila: He said, “Do you love me enough to wear my last name, have my babies and spend the rest of your life with me?”

Slick: Err. I don’t know where to begin here. First, is a last name something you wear? In my experience I mostly say it, spell it or sign it. Also, I would just like to mention that they wouldn’t just be Zeke’s babies. They would be yours as well. Spending the rest of your life, I have no problem with. But seriously, Zeke, you are one weird dude.

Brad: But he knows I am a good man. I bet he shows up in my book!

Slick: I will not be reading that. Thanks for finding your way here down in the dark. Now all of you, get out!

Slick drops microphone and releases various types of lethal oozes to get them to leave.

I hope you enjoyed my exclusive interview. Next week I will be back with another review. This time I will be reading The Last Chance Olive Ranch by Susan Wittig Albert. I guess someone already must have taken the first chance olive ranch?

Journalistically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Dime Store Magic – #BookReview

Witchcraft is Just Like C++

Have you ever read a book and thought, I should like this, why don’t I like this? That’s what Dime Store Magic was for me.

I enjoy lots of paranormal stuff. I watch Supernatural. I have enjoyed a couple of The Dresden Files books. I can even believe that a radioactive spider bite can give a boy powers that let him stick to walls. But I could not believe this book. Is it because this story focuses on women and I am a sexist jerk? I hope not, but I guess that’s a possibility. Is it because the writing is awful? No actually, this is fairly competently written. Was the plot terrible? Eh, well some of it was kind of silly and sort of didn’t make sense but I have absolutely read worse. I’m not sure what exactly it was that made me just not get into this book. It did give me a lot to think about though. I’m going to give you a plot summary and then point out some things that popped out to me about this book. I kind of think the real problem I had with this book is that if you sum all the parts up, it’s kind of dull.

Spoilers follow below.

Paige is a witch. She has a thirteen year old ward named Savannah who survived some trauma what with her mother being killed and all, and ended up living with Paige. The woman who murdered Paige’s mother and Savannah’s mother is a witch named Leah. That much I just gathered from the story but I think these events are covered earlier in the series. Paige and Savannah think that the whole deal with Leah is over for now but there is one thing they never, ever counted on. Court filings! Yeah, there is a custody battle at the heart of the story because Savannah has a father who was unknown to her previously. Needless to say this father is a sorcerer who runs a Cabal. A lawyer named Lucas Cortez shows up to help Paige and Savannah and needless to say is also a sorcerer but from a different Cabal but kinda kicked out of that Cabal but kinda not really. The father Nast, wants Savannah for two reasons. One, she’s his daughter. Two, she’s thirteen and about to start menstruating which apparently means she’s about to be a very powerful witch given the right circumstances. These Cabals apparently have an employment program where they hire one witch only. They want Savannah to be that witch. Lots of threats, destruction and bad media for Paige happen and in the end, Lucas and Paige hook up, Savannah is rescued from the evil Cabal, Leah is killed and Paige goes through the ceremony and can now most likely kick everyone’s butt. Yay!

Now here’s some things that stand out.

  • This passage did not age well – “In structure, though, the Cabal was more Donald Trump than Al Capone.” I think Trump was more Capone than the author realized, Tax evasion anyone? (Not the authors fault but it made me laugh)
  • This book does advocate safe sex which I applaud. Here’s proof – “My advice to young women who like to pick up guys in singles bars? Condoms prevent more than venereal disease.” True! Of course she was giving that advice so that no one gives birth to a half-demon hell creature but still, solid advice.
  • So the author and Cortez go to great lengths to say how these Cabals are legitimate businesses, not like the mob. Then they act like the mob for the entire book. At one point there is an unconscious guy in Savannah’s house and she asks Cortez how the Cabals handle these people. His answer, “Chain saws and large cement blocks.” That’s a super legitimate business practice not at all like the mob.
  • Here’s my favorite sentence in the whole book. “Leah might very well decide to take her revenge and the last thing any of us needed right now was a werewolf/half-demon grudge match unfolding in downtown East Falls.” Maybe they didn’t need it but you know what the book needed? A werewolf/half-demon grudge match unfolding in downtown East Falls! Sadly that did not happen.
  • Here’s the best quote from Savannah, “Oh, please. I’m in danger of being handed over to a psycho half-demon and brain-washed into slavery for supernatural mobsters. You think anyone cares whether I know how to conjugate verbs?” Shout out to grammar! Yes! And then Paige tells her to conjugate. Nice mothering!
  • There’s a ton in this book that explains how witch spells work. And how these supernatural beings relate to each other. It all sounded pretty boring and like basic office meetings where no one wants to go but you have to so you can collect a paycheck. It had me wondering if at the start of werewolf meetings, they needed to get like a vampire IT guy to come and set up the projector for the powerpoint presentation. Then Paige literally compares casting spells to learning programming languages like C++. Oh my God, being one of these magical creatures is like working in an office! That would drive me crazy. I would need to take two of my friends, steal a printer from the office, take it out to an open field and beat it to death with a baseball bat while rap music played in the background.
  • This whole story gets set off with some court papers. Cortez shows up a bunch of times and every time Paige refuses to let him be her lawyer. She can’t trust him because she is a sorcerer and goes two thirds of the book not trusting him then she sleeps with the guy. Uh, that went from zero to sixty out of nowhere.
  • Also, when they finally hook up, they are tumbling around on a pile of clean clothes. It’s supposed to be spontaneous and romantic. They do things like light and extinguish candles with their spells and whisper sweet nothings to each other. And Paige inhales the smell of the fabric softener. You know what I thought during that entire scene? I sure hope they wash those clothes again. They didn’t. Although, that may have more to do with the house burning down.
  • Savannah is thirteen and about to have her first period. How do I know? It’s mentioned about thirteen thousand times in this book. Yes, I know it’s natural. It’s perfectly normal but the word menses and menstruation appear a lot in this book. It apparently is in part what gives a which her powers. The boys seem to be sorcerers in this book so it just made me wonder, do they have something happen when their voice changes? When they get chest hair? What exactly is the trigger here?
  • It made absolutely no sense how often Paige tells Cortez not to be her lawyer. At a point that she is in jail with no money, no prospects, and no one else to help her and could very likely be charged with murder, she refuses his legal counsel. He goes away and then comes back insisting he still is her lawyer even though she told the police he was not. Can you lawyer someone under their duress? I don’t think so.
  • This whole huge mob shows up at Paige’s house because there were some cat bodies found there (planted by Leah) and people seem to think she is a real witch. She is but that’s beside the point. I mean I can see how a satanic alter and a few dead cats could be a curiosity but like a whole crowd, really?
  • There is a more believable mob later when it looks like Paige maybe killed someone. Cortez flicks people around and makes them stumble with some hand gestures to make their way through the crowd. Anyone looking might find this suspicious in my mind. Then Savannah wants to cast a spell that will make it hail to get rid of the crowd. Cortez and Paige tell her no because hail would be too suspicious in summer. Really?! Weird weather happens all the time and no one is going to think a kid cast a spell to make that happen. How moronic can you get?
  • These witches and sorcerers and all seem to be fairly powerful and capable of a lot of stuff. What do they do with that power? They become web designers and lawyers and business people. Seriously? At least in Harry Potter adults got to have cool wizard jobs. (And yes I know, Dresden Files does this too. I think it’s kinda silly there too).
  • One night, Paige and Cortez are watching television and Night of the Living Dead comes on. They call it stupid. How. Dare. You. This is doubly ironic considering the book earlier had a scene where the dead came back to life and that scene owed a heck of a lot to George R. Romero to make it work. Don’t insult good films in books!
  • Paige ends up in a legal custody battle, is at the scene when a man is murdered, has a violent riot happen outside her house, has her house burn down, goes to the house of Savannah’s father where several people are killed and then the house burns down. Is Paige wanted by the cops? Nope! Why not? Cortez “spoke to them”. Off screen of the story. That’s it. How is she not in freaking jail right now?!?!?!

That seems like a good place to stop. Next week I will be reading Temptation by Brenda Jackson. I suspect I will be tempted to stop reading it.

Craftily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Summer in Tuscany – #BookReview

trust me, I’m a… doctor?

Slick Dungeon here and I am just hanging out in the fifth room of my dungeon where I keep all kinds of less than stellar books. This week I read Summer in Tuscany by Elizabeth Adler.

But wait, what is this? What is this thing I found rolling around on the floor? It’s my new patent-pending, scientifically tested, completely reliable, totally untested and unscientific suckiness meter. This device will without fail let us know if something in a book sucks. Along with this meter, there is a set of instructions. They tell me that there is a rating scale. For every beep I hear while describing something in the book, that is a suckiness point. If there is no beep, I will remove a point. At the end we will discover if Summer in Tuscany sucks or not.

First, a very quick plot summary. An overworked doctor has to go to Italy because her mother inherited a villa where she grew up. As soon as she gets there, a land dispute breaks out with a handsome American man that we all know is going to end up with the main character. I have no idea why so many romance novels lately involve land disputes but whatever. Stuff happens, people hook up, there’s a wedding and we all knew the summer in Tuscany was going to end with a permanent residence there with said hunky man. Is this Doc Hollywood or Cars with the gender roles reversed? Basically yes.

Also, quick note, I listened to this on audio so if I misspell any names please forgive my unintentional error.

Suckiness meter activate!

  • The main character, Gemma, is a doctor but in the first chapter wonders if she should get breast implants. Does she not know how bad putting silicon in your body for no reason is for you? What kind of a doctor is she? +3 suckiness points for being a bad doctor.
  • Gemma is described as a hard, working, dedicated emergency room doctor in New York City, who does her best to help people, all while raising a teenage daughter on her own. No beeps. -1 suckiness point.
  • We learn pretty quickly she has a biiiig secret about a man named Chase Drummond who is a cowboy crossed with a surfer. I bet her secret is not all that bad! And seriously, Chase Drummond? I think he should have just been named Chiseled Manhunk. +4 suckiness points for overhyped masculinity and secrets that are not secrets.
  • Gemma’s mother Nona, is hiding that she has a heart defect from her own daughter who I may have mentioned is a doctor. I mean, I get you don’t want to tell your kid bad news but, free health care right?? +1 suckiness point for not using your own resources.
  • Nona has to go back to Italy because she is told by a shady lawyer type that she has inherited this massive property and is now a wealthy heiress. Gemma is going to disrupt her life, and take herself and her kid Olivia (who goes by Livie) for an entire summer to sort it out. I’ve heard much worse reasons to go to Italy so no beeps. -2 suckiness points.
  • The book really gets going once the fam arrives in Italy and there are beautiful descriptions of the scenery and the food described is mouth-watering. -3 suckiness points
  • They see all kinds of sights in this book including going up the stairs of the duomo in Florence but they never wait in line. +4 suckiness points for not making this completely fictional story seem more like reality.
  • Gemma seems to be lusting over virtually every dude she sees but she has promised herself she would remain celibate due to reasons involving that Chase guy from her past. Yeah right. +5 for unbelievability.
  • Gemma, as I have mentioned, is a doctor but at one point she wonders if the “sexy parts” (her words not mine) on her body are called the loins. Did you not have to take anatomy to become an ER doc?! +7 for making me crazy with annoyance at her poor job skills.
  • Gemma meets her love interest, a man named Ben Raphael who, I freaking kid you not, is super wealthy and has a daughter named Muffy. Muffy!! Is there a more stereotypical rich kid name ever? I think she should have been named Super Spoiled Rich Kid instead. +3 for the continuing trend of stupid names.
  • Nona gets her own cute little romance with a guy from the village who remembers her from way back when. I have no problem with this and kind of liked the part where they let the dog decide if they should get married. -2 suckiness points.
  • Livie goes on her first date, with some random Italian guy who thinks she is older than 14, and misses her curfew but kisses him. +9 suckiness points for a combination of bad parenting and predatory grossness.
  • Gemma is constantly questioning her looks, despite the fact that there is a man who is seriously in love with her and keeps telling her how attractive he thinks she is. Confidence, woman! Why do women in these books always have self esteem issues? +5 suckiness points for boring old romance tropes.
  • Ben Raphael is wealthy, handsome, divorced, in love with Gemma and runs a vaguely defined “business”. I think he’s probably doing something really shady to make his money. It never says that in the book, it’s just the obvious conclusion. +3 suckiness points for more romance tropes.
  • For a good part of the book Ben is living at the villa and when he wakes up one morning and the shower does not turn on, he immediately thinks Gemma is to blame. Here’s the thing though, she was kissing him just the night before and although they are in a bit of a legal dispute, she gave him no real reason to think she would do anything like that. Hmmmm…. the shower didn’t turn on, I know! It’s the woman who was kissing me last night. Perfectly logical conslusion. +3 suckiness points for Ben being an idiot.
  • Ben also has weird things he says to Gemma. He literally calls her a walking disaster. He compliments her by saying she is “looking girly”, this despite the fact that he earlier thought how great it was she wasn’t hung up on make up and didn’t care about looking perfect all the time. (Spoiler Ben, she really is hung up on make up constantly and you could tell if you just read her inner dialogue like the rest of us did). Then he proposes to her in an Italian jail cell. Smooth move bro. +7 suckiness points for fake romantic moments.
  • At one point Ben and Gemma are… doing that… and while Ben is looking at her and says how much he wants her, Gemma looks behind her and then asks David, “Me?”. Uhhhh… you got a medical degree you say? But did you really? +3 suckiness points for making Gemma seem dumb, incompetent and way too self conscious with one word.
  • There’s this little side story where they chase around that shady lawyer guy but never catch him. It’s just an excuse for Ben and Gemma to get separated, go to somewhere else in Italy, and then hook up again. I had no problem with this. There are much worse reasons to run all over Italy and it gave the author more room to have nice descriptions of the scenery. -4 suckiness points.
  • Gemma is constantly thinking about how much she needs and loves her job. How it defines her. But in the course of a summer, she is able to just toss it overboard because she met a super rich guy and now her mother owns this villa. It didn’t seem like she was gonna keep doctoring either. Maybe that’s okay considering her track record of not great statements in this book. But still, if she felt it was so important, why give it up so fast? +9 suckiness points for sending the message that you should find your passion and then abandon it for a handsome, wealthy man.
  • Also, I am not saying New York City is better than Italy in any way, they are both good in their own way. But why do these books constantly insist that the best way to live your life is outside of a big, bustling city? What’s wrong with New York? Gemma leaves it without a thought and doesn’t seem to ask her daughter if that’s even okay with her. +2 suckiness points for small country bias.
  • Ben is constantly told by Gemma that she can’t love him. She explains how she will always love Chase which he understands. But he still is on her to say that she loves him, over and over. He proposes and her first reaction is to say no. So he makes her propose to him. Come on man, learn to take no for an answer. I mean, I know the book wouldn’t happen if she didn’t “truly love Ben” on the inside but when a woman says no, take it for exactly what it sounds like. I get it if you want to try again later after some serious discussion but in the moment it shouldn’t be, oh she can’t have meant to say no to me. +15 suckiness points for having to point out again what should be obvious to any decent man.
  • I’m going to give away Gemma’s big, deep dark secret about Chase. She had been in love with him and things were going well. But one night, after her shift ends, she asks David to come pick her up for coffee. He gets in a car accident and Gemma ends up treating him. It’s clear almost instantly that his injuries were too grave for even the best of doctors to save him. I thought her secret was going to be that she was overtired and made a mistake. Or that she blamed herself for not learning some new technique to save him. Nope. She blames herself because she invited him to coffee. Seriously. That’s her big secret. She invited a guy she loved for coffee once and he ended up in a fatal accident. For this she is torn up with guilt. She also dives in to her job because of it. I get the second part, and seriously, I know that grief does strange things to the mind but why would she think this was such a dark secret that she couldn’t ever love someone else because of it? +7 suckiness points for fake secrets.
  • The little romance with Livie and the Italian boy doesn’t go anywhere and she moves on like a perfectly healthy 14 year old girl should. -8 for not making it weird.
  • The book ends with telling us that they get married and live in the villa but whether they stay there or make it a hotel or whatever “is another story”. Good God, there’s going to be a sequel? Please, please, I am begging you, just.. just… don’t okay? +7 suckiness points for sequelitis (undiagnosed by Gemma obviously).

Suckiness meter deactivate!

Well, there you have it, the patent-pending, scientifically tested, completely reliable, totally untested and unscientific suckiness meter worked like a charm! So what was the total?

Sucks = 97. Points taken away for non-suckiness = 20. Grand total of sucks = 77.

If you ever need to tell anyone how this book is, just let them know it sucks 77.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review more than I did reading this book. Next week I am going to be diving into paranormal romance with Dime Store Magic by Kelley Armstrong. A whole store of magic?! For a dime?! Count me in!. Uh, hey can I borrow a dime?

Patent pendingly yours,

Slick Dungeon