Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Book Review: Poor Unfortunate Soul by Serena Valentino

Pages: 208
Publisher: Disney
Released: July 26, 2016
Received: Finished copy from publisher
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This is a really tiny book with a whole lot of plot packed into it. There's really four stories here: Ursula's past, Ursula's present (the movie), the strange sisters, and the princess. This was good since all the stories were mostly interesting, but also bad because all the stories suffered from "not enough."

Ursula's past was acceptable. I'll buy what the author is selling here, even if it did seem a little far fetched. But, fairy tale, so, yeah, I can accept far fetched in this context.

Ursula's present was entirely underwhelming. Mostly it's just word for word taken from the movie, it's barely there, and when it does go off script it's not very good. Triton is made into a super evil man whose complete cruelty led entirely to Ursula's villainous ways. Even taking into account that this is from Ursula's perspective, this still didn't feel right. This didn't ring true to any of the characters and it lacked the psychological depth and character development needed in a reverse perspective story.

But those other two storylines? To me, those made the book worth reading. There were a lot of references to the first two books in the series, but I didn't get them because 1) I read the first book years and years ago so I don't remember much of anything, and 2) I never read the second book. It was a little annoying not knowing exactly what was being referred to, but it didn't affect my ability to follow the story.

Even still, these side characters were more interesting and I cared more about them than I did about Ursula. The three sisters were annoying, but I didn't get the sense you were supposed to think they weren't annoying. The cat, the princess, the prince, and the nanny were all likable and I wish the book spent more time on them.

Also, there's a big cliffhanger at the end. 

Bottom line

The books in this series seem to be pretty consistent. They're kind of all over the place and written poorly, but despite that, they're also engaging and, overall, I enjoy them. I would definitely check these books out of the library and will continue to follow the series.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Series Review: Grave Witch by Kalayna Price

#1 in the Alex Craft series
Pages: 325
Released: September 21, 2010
Publisher: ROC
Received: Library
Rating: 4 out of 5stars

At this point I've read the first three books in the series and they've all blended together in my memory so this is really more of a review for the series thus far than for any one book in that series.

Paranormal romance/urban fantasy books and me have a weird relationship. In general, I really don't like them. There's this gritty feel to them that just bothers me and I usually feel dragged down by the desperate- but-tough main character and her aloof, mixed-signals love interest.

But every once in a while, I'm in the mood for a book in this genre. I haven't been able to pin point yet what makes some of these books work for me when most of them don't at all, but oh boy, when they work for me, they work for me. I flew through this series and only stopped because the fourth book hadn't been published yet.

So, what do you get with the Alex Craft series? A desperate-but-tough main character, but there's something about her that's endearing. She's tough, but she's not kick-butt-tough. She isn't the kind of badass lady who can take on the world with her giant shoulder chip. She's more subdued and fully aware of her limitations, which made me want to protect her rather than roll my eyes at her.

She also just seems nice. But that's the thing about a lot of the characters in this series: they're just nice (and I mean that in a good way). I like them, I'd hang out with them, and I care about what happens to them. They make me smile (especially Alex's ghost side-kick). This is the biggest thing the series has going for it for me.

But, the other thing that keeps me reading are the mysteries. Each book has a self-contained mystery (usually a murder) and an overarching series mystery, and all the mysteries were well-crafted. Clues were given out at just the right pace and each time I was invested in trying to figure out what was going on.

The magic system was also pretty engaging. I was just as interested in figuring out the world and magic rules and possibilities as I was in figuring out the murder mysteries. Alex knows a lot and sets the stage, so I felt pretty grounded in the world right away, but Alex is also discovering new things about her own magic and the greater magical world and I enjoyed sleuthing with her on this front, too.

The romance is probably the biggest point loss for me since we get the dreaded love triangle. I'm also not a fan of how either of the love interests treats Alex. The set up for why she can't be with them is so contrived and at three books in I'm getting pretty tired of it all. I'd like to see Alex forget about them both and just find herself a nice, stable man without baggage. That said, when things are working out between Alex and her romantic interests, the chemistry is definitely there and I'm convinced she should stay with them.

Bottom line

When I'm looking for something light, engaging, fun, and nice this is a good go-to series.

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Click on the cover to go to my review

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