Review: “Don’t Look Down” by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

Don’t Look Down by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

A review by Vanessa.

This book is from my personal collection, one I have re-read often. There was no author request for a review, but sometimes it’s nice to go back to read the ones we love so much.

Lucy Armstrong is a successful advertising director. She loves her job, and she’s really good at it, in spite of everyone else mocking her career in dog food commercials. So why is it she finds herself being pulled in to direct the last four days of what is supposed to be a legitimate movie set, but feels more like a practical joke? Probably because her sister is working on the crew with her niece in tow, and something is just not quite right. Not the way her ex-husband is paying her a ridiculous amount of money to finish the move without even seeing the entire script. Not the way crew members have been disappearing, quitting, or dying unexpectedly. Not the way the lead action star suddenly shows up with a real Green Beret to be his new consultant and stunt double at the last minute. And certainly not the way that Green Beret, J.T. Wilder, can capture Lucy’s attention simply by standing still. Something is up with this “movie set” and with J.T.’s help she just might figure it out in time to help her sister and her niece before things get out of hand.

J.T. was just looking to make some quick money while on leave by being stunt double for a bumbling movie star. The beautiful actresses were going to be a big bonus for the short time he planned to be involved. He certainly wasn’t expecting the director to catch his attention. The lead actress is a gorgeous snack, but Lucy is the whole meal; tall, beautiful, strong, determined, an Amazon worth a second, and third, look. He wasn’t planning on getting that involved, or caring for her and her zany band of crew members like her steadfastly loyal assistant director, or her Wonder Woman-obsessed little niece; but J.T. just can’t help himself.  Especially since his instincts tell him that Lucy has somehow ended up in the middle of something not good, and his heart definitely does not want anything bad happening to her.

What I have always loved the most about this book is that it is so well written by it’s co-authors. The writing is smart, snappy, witty, sharp and heartfelt all at the same time. The main characters are lovable, admirable, and believable while still achieving a very no bullshit kind of attitude. The storyline itself is quick and action packed as well as filled with heat and romance and just plain good writing. I have to attribute this to the individual strengths of the two writers. I have always loved Jennifer Crusie’s ability to write admirably strong women, and blazingly hot men into an entrancing but very grounded romance story. I’ve never read any of Bob Mayer’s individually written novels but his influence in the action and the writing of the male leading character is very obvious, and it adds an element of reality to the perspectives of the two main characters. The love scenes are very obviously Crusie-esque, but many of the scenes written from J.T.’s perspective have a distinctly male voice which is so interesting to read when juxtaposed against the female perspective interspersed with them. I always love when two authors from differing genres can bring the best of their writing style and experience into one book. And this book really has it all.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

Advertisements

Review: “The Dating Bender” by Christina Julian

A review by Amanda.

Samantha Serrano is a twentysomething divorcee whose life has gone off the rails. Raised in the Catholic faith by cruel and hypercritical parents, Sam has been so sheltered from the dating world that she leaps into marriage just to get out from under her parents’ thumbs. Unsurprisingly, her marriage loses its newlywed bliss almost immediately. Still, Sam tries to make it work for more than a year before asking for a divorce, much to her parents’ disappointment (despite the fact that they disapproved of the marriage in the first place). Now, on the advice of a friend and mentor, Sam agrees to give the dating world a spin. First, she has to overcome years of guilt and shame regarding sex, and then she has to figure out exactly what it is that she wants. This is the story of one woman’s journey to a better understanding of her needs and desires, complete with wacky mishaps and unexpected discoveries along the way.

Samantha is a contradiction of a character. On the one hand, her naivete about relationships occasionally borders on the ridiculous. She constantly references popular magazines in regards to fashion, makeup, and relationship advice. She takes the word of relative strangers at face value and seems to have some trouble maintaining female friendships with any depth. On the other hand, she also seems to have a great mind for business and achieves various successes in a male-dominated field. This aspect of her character is unfortunately glossed over and mostly serves as a vehicle for her sexual adventures. While the stories of her dating experiences are both entertaining and cringey, the lack of development in other areas of her life throughout the majority of the book gives the story a shallow feel. A little more backstory for Sam as well as the supporting characters would have gone a long way. A few extra details, such as how she met her ex-husband, anecdotes from her childhood (besides her parents’ cruelty), or about her friendships with women would have filled out the story quite nicely. As it is, Sam evokes rotating feelings of sympathy, frustration, and bemusement. Readers may find themselves rooting for her to gain independence and maturity, rather than hoping that she finds true love and a fairy tale happy ending.

As Sam works through her Catholic guilt and searches for some new sexual experiences, she has her ups and downs. She makes mistakes and learns from them, has some great sex, and makes a fool of herself on multiple occasions. There is nothing shameful about women’s sexual desires and more stories about women gaining and enjoying sexual freedom are necessary, and appreciated. The sex scenes are semi-graphic.

This book is a quick and casual read for those in need of a romance with an awkwardly funny protagonist.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

Review: “One Piece: Skypeia 25-27” by Eiichiro Oda

one-piece-skypeia-25-27-by-eiichiro-oda

A review by Hannah.

One Piece was started in 1997 and is continuing today. There are 81 volumes to date, which is why this series of reviews will be broken up into three volume books. From now on there will be spoilers for what happens in the rest of the series. You have been warned…

The crew is on Jaya, where they read a story about Noland the Liar and they learn what it takes to get up into the ocean in the sky. It takes being shot directly into the sky and hoping you make it to the Emperor Clouds before the Knock Up Stream gives out and sends you plummeting to your death. Luffy is all in with this method; Ussopp and Nami not so much. Everyone else just goes with the flow.

Obviously they survive. Luffy, Chopper, and Robin are still hammers and can’t swim in the cloud ocean. The crew is attached by a masked man and saved by Gan Fall and his “pegasus,” Pierre. The crew sneaks onto Angel Island, meets Conis and her father Pagaya. They learn about Dials, eat sky fish, and try out Pagaya’s waver, a one-person boat that doesn’t need wind. Nami rides the waver to a place called Upper Yard. Upper Yard is an island covered in thick jungle. It’s also where the Kami and his priests live.

The Merry Go is forcibly towed with Chopper, Nami, Robin, and Zoro on board to Upper Yard. Turns out the crew are considered criminals and must face the Kami’s judgement. Zoro, Nami, and Robin leave to explore the island and find a way back to the rest of the crew. Chopper stays behind to guard the Merry Go. Luffy, Sanji, and Ussop barrow Conis’s training waver, a slow crow shaped ship, and leave to find their friends. All will have to face the ordeals of Kami and his priests.

A lot happens in these volumes. There’s politics, fighting, and a campout party with wolves. We learn new things about characters, like Sanji is originally from the North Sea, and the Robin can only use her powers when she can see where her limbs will be.

I like that all of the cloud islanders have cute little angel wings. They all look so sweet. However, their cuteness hides a terrible secret. The new Kami forcibly took over the country. Now any who disobey the Kami are destroyed horribly.

Kami is Japanese for god. In the case of these volumes, Kami is a title given to the ruler of the island. There are several jokes that revolve around prayer, the fighters actively seeking out the Kami just so they can say they fought a god, and Zoro being a super atheist.

The translation is better than it was in the earlier volumes. Jokes feel more natural and there is more Japanese for times when there is no direct Japanese to English translation. For example using “Kami” instead of “God.” If you can just mentally change “Zolo” into “Zoro” and “gum gum” into “gomu gomu” you will be fine.

I feel like this part of the story is mostly filler. There is no personal reason to enter the conflict for any crew member and there just happens to be a civil war that has been waged for at least 400 years that’s about to come to its climax while the crew is playing tourist. Mostly this story arc is a chance for Robin to integrate herself with the crew and for the crew to finish mourning Vivi.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

Review: “Hounded” by Kevin Hearne

Review of Hounded by Kevin Hearne


A review by Vanessa.

Traveling the earth for more than two millennia should give one a great sense of wisdom and a very significant mental leg up on everyone else around.  So how is it that Atticus O’Sullivan finds himself square in the middle of someone else’s power struggle?  That is just how it is when dealing with ancient Celtic Gods known as the Tuatha De Danann.  In an attempt to stay away from them Atticus, a very old and possibly the last remaining Druid, has been hiding out in Tempe Arizona for the last several years.  He wants nothing to do with them but when the Goddess of Death comes flying into your life, you listen.  She warns him that an old rival who has been dogging Atticus for many centuries is coming for him.  Even with the advance warning, Atticus finds himself pulled by Gods of old, both friend and foe, into a frightening culmination of centuries of animosity.  His magic is old and powerful, and he has learned to wield it to create strong protections for himself but it may not be strong enough to defeat a God.  His best hope is the magical sword he still holds known as Fragarach, the Answerer.  It has the ability to cut down any enemy regardless of any magical protections, and also happens to be the source of the target on his back.

Lucky for him Atticus is not alone.  His best friend Oberon, who happens to be an Irish wolfhound with a telepathic connection to him, is a loyal soldier ready to fight to keep him safe… as long as there is the possibility of a harem of poodles in the end.  Atticus’s enemy is cunning and has no issue controlling some of the mortals in Tempe to force Atticus to give him the sword by any means necessary; including framing him for a crime and letting the police search through his things to find the sword.  It is a good thing that Atticus has lawyers that just so happen to be a werewolf and vampire.  On intimate terms with the Goddess of Death, the Goddess of the Hunt, earth elementals, a powerful werewolf pack, a coven of witches, and a beautiful bartender who is suspiciously more than she seems, the Druid just might prove very difficult to defeat.

This was a fun read from beginning to end, no doubt.  It had a depth of history and backstory that was delightfully engaging without being entirely overwhelming, although it skirted the line a couple of times.  I found myself laughing right out loud on multiple occasions, thanks to the frequent comic relief provided by Oberon’s telepathic dialogue with Atticus.  The Irish wolfhound was by far my favorite character.  But there was no lack of interesting and engaging secondary characters to choose from.  As my first foray with a male author into the world of Urban Fantasy I was very pleased with the experience.  The book is classified as fantasy of course, but those of us rabid, loyal fans of Urban Fantasy can certainly recognize a fellow of the craft.  The romantic entanglements of the main character do tend to hold a little less depth than one might desire, but it is not a detriment to the story in any way.  Hearne’s storytelling is wonderful; he has given just enough in the first book of this series to get me completely hooked for the rest.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

Review of “The Consequence of Revenge” by Rachel Van Dyken

Review of "The Consequence of Revenge" by Rachel Van Dyken A review by Maria.

Max Emory was my favorite character in the first book of author Rachel Van Dyken’s Consequence series, The Consequence of Loving Colton. I fell in love with him even more in his own story: The Consequence of Revenge.

Max is treading water in the pool of life. He loved and lost his best friend to another man. He has no plans to take a job and start living his life again. He’s been considering taking up permanent residence on his couch. He even stops acting out his womanizing ways. His closest friends decide he needs a push back into the real world and secretly sign him up to be the next bachelor on the reality show Love Island. Max is furious and tries to find a way out of the contract they’d forged on his behalf. Seeing no way out of the show, Max heads to paradise with twenty-four possibly insane women to try to survive and possibly fall in love. He never counted on finding Becca, a barista who had spurned his advances in the past.

As I’ve stated, Max continues to be my favorite character from Van Dyken’s incredible cast of characters. He is smart, wealthy, devastatingly handsome and incredibly laugh-until-it-hurts funny. In this 2nd Consequence book, he is finally allowed to bring his A-game. He brings nothing but laughter as he navigates through a handsy doctor, a brother hell-bent on revenge, a demanding director, twenty-four crazy women, overcoming his intense fear of goats, and having every second of his life filmed for national television.

I must give a shout out to the hilarious cast of side characters from book one that were heavily featured in this book as well. Reid continues to be a pain for his brother Max, and even becomes part of the television crew to try and get revenge on him for a hilarious incident with some gas inducing gummy bears. Best gal pal, Milo with her new husband Colt make appearances, along with Milo’s brother and Max’s new closest friend, Jason. These four characters complete what Max fondly calls his gang. All of their interactions with him whether they involve gummy bears, prostate exams, pick-up contests, or vetting the women on reality television are down right rib-cracking funny.

The Consequence of Revenge was a very fast paced book for the most part. It began to drag a little bit during the scenes on the island but more characters arrived so it picked up the pace again. Van Dyken was continued to keep the novel witty, funny, and full of surprises.

So many scenes in this book literally had me falling out of my chair laughing, that before I was even a hundred pages through the novel I was already recommending it to all my friends! This romantic comedy is appropriate for adult readers.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

Review: “The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss” by Max Wirestone

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone A review by Amanda.

Dahlia Moss is going through a tough time. Her boyfriend cheated and had the audacity to dump her when he got caught, instead of the other way around. She has been unemployed for almost a year, despite going on interviews for any job opening she can find. Her roommate Charice has been very understanding about the rent but Dahlia is determined to find a job and pay her own way. An opportunity that seems too good to be true, but also too good to pass up, falls in her lap when handsome jerk Jonah hires her as a private detective. It seems that something important has been stolen from him and he needs her help to track it down. This is no ordinary case, however, because the item is a spear – a digital spear, from an online MMORPG. Jonah claims to know who took it. All Dahlia has to do is meet with the suspected thief and convince him to return the spear. The meeting doesn’t go quite as planned, and then everything goes topsy-turvy when Jonah turns up dead. Dahlia might be in over her head, but she’s determined to find the truth.

This book was a fun, clever read. Dahlia’s inner monologue was immensely entertaining and reminiscent of Rory and Lorelai from the TV show Gilmore Girls. She was an intelligent, nerdy girl with a love of online computer games, which came in handy while she worked the case. She was also a bit flighty, easily distracted, and socially awkward. While I liked and identified with Dahlia, her over-the-top personality was also a detriment at times. She often overshadowed the mystery aspect of the plot with her humorous, but irrelevant, observations. Romance was present but very much in the background. As far as the case went, it was intriguing and kept me guessing until the end. I enjoyed this story and would like to read more about Dahlia, although I would prefer to see more of a balance between her personality and the plot.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

Review: “You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost)” by Felicia Day

You're Never Weird on the Internet by Felicia DayA review by Amanda.

You might recognize Felicia Day from such shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, Eureka, and Supernatural. Perhaps you’ve seen her web series The Guild on Youtube, or as a frequent guest on Wil Wheaton’s series TableTop. She also sang and danced alongside Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion in Joss Whedon’s internet musical Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. If none of these are ringing any bells, then chances are you wouldn’t recognize her if you saw her out and about – something she is used to. This book is the story of a precocious, talented, lonely child learning to embrace what makes her different and make those differences work for her.

Ms. Day tells an eloquent tale of a young girl, homeschooled by her somewhat “hippie” mother, who grew up to be an innovator of internet entertainment, and an inspiration to nerdy girls (and guys) across the world. The book is full of anecdotes and photos; some embarrassing, most hilarious, and occasionally heartbreaking. Anyone familiar with Felicia’s other works will immediately recognize her voice in this book. She comes across as genuine, down-to-earth, and raw.

I found this book to be an enticing read. Felicia’s frankness and humor drew me in and wrung me out, emotionally. I found myself relating to her struggles, particularly those concerning anxiety and depression, more than I had expected. It’s amazing for someone who deals with severe social anxiety to accomplish so much; founding Geek and Sundry, an online digital channel; writing, producing, and performing in various projects; starting a popular book club with thousands of members; and maintaining an active presence in social media.   All of this gives me hope that I can achieve my goals despite my own anxiety issues. I encourage anyone who feels trapped or limited by their fears to read this book, regardless of your familiarity with the author.

 

My rating: 5/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.