Friday, June 30, 2017

High Kicks, Hot Chocolate, and Homicides by Mary McHugh (with spoilers)

High Kicks, Hot Chocolate, and Homicides (A Happy Hoofers Mystery #5) by Mary McHuugh
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Kensington (September 27, 2016)
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Uh. I don't even know where to start. Well, first off if I had realized this was the 5th book in the series I wouldn't have requested it from NetGalley. I think I'll try and finish the rest of the cozy mysteries I've been approved for on NetGalley, but I won't request any more, because the ones I've gotten, including this one, have been horrible.
I know most authors will claim that a book in their series can be read as a stand alone, but I have found that claim to not be true, you always miss a lot of development between characters and events that have happened in previous books can still effect the characters, that being said this book is no exception.

To start off, I hate the main character, Mary Louise "Weezie", of this story. For a woman who is supposed to be in her 50s she's a whiny baby of a character who doesn't know her own mind. She spends 90% of the book flipping back and forth if she should leave her husband, George, of 30 years (and you can't forget that it's been 30 years because you are told every time she thinks of divorce), for Mike. Now, why does she want to leave George? Because he would like her to be at home so they can spend more time together and he can decompress at night by talking to her after a long day of being a lawyer, he doesn't listen to her, but that's another story. She doesn't take into consideration that with her dance troupe traveling to so many countries that George has spent weeks, possibly months alone. Mary never talks to George about the problems they are having, neither does she suggest that they consider marriage counseling, or just spending time together.

Now, Mike is "perfect." Mike does everything right, always pays attention, always leaves work to help Mary, even though he is supposed to be the head of the OB/GYN department at the hospital he works at. Mike and Mary met on one of the previous trips the Happy Hoofers took for a dancing job. I don't know if in that previous book they had a physical relationship, they don't in this book. Mike likes Mary because of how much she resembles his dead wife, Jenny. That is mentioned a couple of times.

This lady also has image problems, she's constantly commenting how she herself, and her friends, are slim and in good shape for being 50 year-olds, when the main part of the story begins she comments on each of the Rockettes they meet. "Because of the hours we spend dancing, we're slim and in good shape. If it weren't for that, I'd probably sit home and eat chocolate peanut butter Häagen-Dazs ice cream until I weighed a hundred and fifty pounds." I wish I weighed 150lbs.

Then there's the rest of the dance troupe that make up the Happy Hoofers. Honestly they blend together. They are four other white ladies in their 50s who like dancing, and they've all previously had trouble in the romance/love/relationship department. But apparently they either have good alimonies, or part-time jobs, or maybe trust funds, because they have no problem going from New Jersey to New York City for months to train with the Rockettes.

I'm not sure how much research the other did, but at times the book reads as a tourist advert for New York City, but then the Happy Hoofers exercise for an hour and take three hour lunches. Mary raves about a croque madame (which is just a grilled cheese with a fried egg on top) and every place she has lunch with Mike they have to ask for a recipe from the restaurant and they get the recipe! In the book Rockettes aren't allowed to be pregnant and dance, but simple Google search of "can you be pregnant and be a Rockette" brings up this news article from Working Mother about Cassady Chiarelli, given it's from 2006, so rules could have changed, but below that on the search brings up Nicole Baker who was also pregnant and dancing as a Rockette, that article is from Dec. 2015. I think the author could have picked up the phone and at least tried to reach a PR manager, a retired Rockette, somebody? At least a dancer. I mean, even on the Rockettes' own page, Feb. 2016, they have an article about New York City Ballet's Prima ballerina, Ashley Bouder, still dancing at six and a half months pregnant, and I don't mean practice, she was in Swan Lake, The Nutcracker‘s Sugar Plum Fairy, and Waltz of the Flowers.

I hate that all the POC in the book are described by their skin color, there's the tall, black detective, one dancer is described as brown-skinned and doesn't even get a name until the next chapter, and then there's "An Asian man". Yet, not one of the Happy Hoofers, husbands, partners, or boyfriends are ever described by their skin color. Why? Because it's supposed to be understood that they are white. You should know that the characters are white until they are described to not be white.

And, at least in this book, the Happy Hoofers don't solve the murder, Mary is told who did the killing, and then she's held at gun point a ridiculous amount of times. By chapter 16 the murder is solved, the culprit arrested, but there's three more chapters to go, I could understand one chapter to tie up the loose ends, but three? Well, yeah, because there's nine pages (I'm on kindle for this book,) describing the dinner setup and no dialogue.

And then if you didn't have enough of this book being an advert for New York City there's 12 more pages!

I'm just glad I managed to get through the book without throwing my phone against a wall.

Currently watching:Robotech - First Contact (Vol. 1)
Watching this with Jasmine.

Currently reading: The Countess (The Madison Sisters #1) by Lynsay Sands
Cheesy romance.

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco (with spoilers)

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire (March 7, 2017)

I got a free eARC from Netgalley. This book was such a chore for me to get through. I didn't give this book a star rating, because if I hadn't have gotten it from Netgalley in return for a review I wouldn't have finished it.

The author made words to fit details of her world, but they are never explained. For example, hua, it's a type of dress the asha (which I'm guessing is a female (that part is touched upon)magic using entertainer, but also a warrior) wear. My best guess is that a hua has the empire waist of a Korean hanbok, the sleeves of a Japanese kimono, but also the side splits of a Vietnamese ao dai. The descriptions of the hua are never very clear, at least they weren't for me.

Another is darashi oyun, some times it's talked about as if it is a regular play or event, but then some times it is talked about as if it is the name of a place, but either way it is never capitalized, and never fully explained. Will they die if this isn't done?

Daeva, are they demons? Resurrected dinosaurs? Evil Spirits? I don't know.

Heartsglass, it is never explained WHY people HAVE to have their hearts on a necklace for the rest of the world to see what emotions they are feeling.

There are many other terms, but I won't list them all.

Tea is drooling over Kance, as much as a 15 year-old can, throughout the whole book, but she reanimates Kalen. It's never explained how or when he died, and when Tea's affections changed. Besides of the teenage angst flirtations Tea has briefly with Kance Tea doesn't seem to connect with any of the other characters, she almost emotionally exists in a bubble.

There are also some logistical problems. Chapter 2 mentions Murkwick, the closet town being "fifteen leagues" away, a league is three miles, that makes Murkwick 45 miles away. In chapter 3 Tea and Mykaela arrive in Murkwick four hours latter, meaning they would have had to walk, or more likely run at 11 miles an hour.

The book is unfortunately full of tiny things that detract from the whole story and for me made reading it a chore.

Currently watching:Star Trek Beyond
Just realized this is the second time Beastie Boys was used for this reboot series.

Currently reading: The Sunday Philosophy Club (Isabel Dalhousie Series) by Alexander McCall Smith
I haven't gotten very far with this book, yet.

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Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates: The Leaky Battery Sets Sail by Gareth P. Jones

The Leaky Battery Sets Sail (Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates #1) by Gareth P. Jones
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Stripes Publishing (February 1, 2015)
Rating 5 out of 5 stars

This was a great Middle School level book. I think it would be a great introduction for children to learn about steampunk, or at least the steampunk aesthetic. It really is too much of a good book to give away spoilers for.

Currently watching: Star Trek
Beastie Boys!

Currently reading:Champion (Legend #3) by Marie Lu

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Flunked by Jen Calonita

Flunked (Fairy Tale Reform School) by Jen Calonita
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky; Reprint edition (February 2, 2016)
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Flunked is the story of Gillian (Gilly) Cobbler, daughter of Hal and Eva Cobbler. Gillian is just trying to help her family survive after the family shoe business begins to fail when Cinderella takes over the production of glass slippers. But when she gets caught stealing again she's thrown into Fairy Tale Reform School, run by no other than Cinderella's Wicked Stepmother, Flora. Gilly's goal, escape as soon as possible. She still has younger siblings to steal for, in order to feed them.

As the story progresses Gilly makes a few friends while she still attempts to leave the school, and discovers a more sinister plot.

Currently watching:Monster Hunt: Mandarin with English Subtitles
This is a hilarious Chinese movie. I watched it with my 10 year-old daughter and she really enjoyed it too, she asked if there were more "episodes," and was disappointed that there was only the one movie.

Currently reading: If the Magic Fits (100 Dresses) by Susan Maupin Schmid
I'm really enjoying this book, I should have read it sooner!

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Matched by Ally Condie

Matched by Ally Condie
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Speak (2011)
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I have to admit I really didn't care for this book. I'm really starting to hate the trend of Dystopian books where people are separated for bizarre (i.e. dumb) reasons with no real explanations for the separations. (E.g. The Hunger Games, Divergent, Uglies, or Delirium.) Seriously, who in the future is going to think that love is a disease you need a vaccine against, or that you have live with only being self-less in your faction, but you can't be honest and self-less, because that'd mean your "Divergent."

So, I've read a few reviews where people compare (actually most say stolen) the book to Lowis Lowry's The Giver, but I have to honestly admit that I've never read that book, yet. To me the story was very much like George Orwell's 1984. The whole, wearing uniforms, having to like/love someone in secret, the taking the pills every day, and the curfews just screamed 1984 to me.

I think part of why it was hard for me to read this book was I had just finished Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard, which has all the Young Adult Dystopian tropes, and so does Matched. Either way, I won't be reading the next book in the series, which is Crossed (Matched) if you do want to read it.

Currently watching:Elementary: Season 1
I really like that Lucy Liu's Joan Watson isn't seen as a love interest for Jonny Lee Miller's Sherlock Holmes. I think that it is great that Watson, after spending time with Holmes and learning from him, is shown as a competent detective in her own right.

Currently reading: The Seafront Tearoom by Vanessa Greene
Not something that I would normally read, since it isn't genre fiction! But we'll see how it goes. It does involve tea, lots of tea, and I do love tea.

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard
Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen (February 9, 2016)
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I read the first book to this series, Red Queen, at the end of last year. I enjoyed the book, but as a whole is doesn't stand out very much. My best description would be a cross between Hunger Games and the special child trope, which doesn't improve with this book. It seriously felt that I was rereading parts of Mockingjay, which I found unfortunate.
I might read King's Cage to finish the series, but right now I'm not interested in it, and I think it'll take some time to work myself up to reading it. Right now I am definitely not interested in Cruel Crown, the book with two novellas that go with the series, maybe after I make it through King's Cage.

Currently watching:iZombie: The Complete Second Season
This really is a really great show. It isn't completely gorey, and there are some cute scenes while solving murder mysteries.

Currently reading: Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu
My review for the first book should be coming up!

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Kale to the Queen (A Kensington Palace Chef Mystery #1) by Nell Hampton

Kale to the Queen (A Kensington Palace Chef Mystery) by Nell Hampton
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (April 11, 2017)
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

This was the first book of the year for me. I have decided for 2017 that I am going to try and read 100 New to Me Books, meaning I haven't read the books before. Which is honestly very hard for me. I have certain books that are comfort books in a way that I reread all the time, some even once a year.

To get started, I really do enjoy cozy mysteries, with their punny titles and niche subjects. One of my favorite cozy mystery series is The Tea Shop Mystery by Laura Childs. I mean, who doesn't enjoy tea, murder and Southern hospitality?

I say this because I have no idea how this book got published. The kindest thing I could say was this must be the author's first novel. It feels like very little effort or research was actually put into the book. I know I was reading an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), but there were not just mistakes on who had said what at times, but things that wouldn't be said, or accepted from a British viewpoint at times. This review will contain spoilers, because I am compelled to point out what really irritates me about this book.

For example, the author has a lot of characters "correcting" the main character, Carrie Ann Cole, about how it isn't called the subway, it's the tube. London is a large international city, a lot of American television is imported to the U.K., trust me, they know what subway means to an American. Would the character be corrected? Sure, there might be a person or two to correct the chef, but not every single person she says subway to, not even in the palace. I think even more so, since the lines she is most likely to have been on would have been sub-surface lines, and not actually a tube line. Especially since the character of household manager, Mrs. Worth would know the distinction. My question would be why wasn't a car arranged to pick up Carrie Ann Cole from the airport? Obviously they were expecting her, since Mrs. Worth claims she's late. And how can you not be able to get a cab from any of London's airports? The book doesn't specify which one the main character lands at; Gatwick, Heathrow, or Stansted, being most likely, they are always busy, but they always have cabs, and in this day there's Uber which works in London.

And the author really should either take a class on tea, or do better research. While Carrie Ann is talking with Penelope "Penny" Nethercott, the personal secretary to the Duchess of Cambridge in this story, she makes tea. She uses tea leaves, she uses a tea ball, she uses a tea cozy, she never takes the tea ball out again, which would eventually make the tea bitter. She also uses cream. No one puts cream in their tea. After all the irritating correctness of subway vs. tube this really got my hackles up. There is a tea, called cream tea, but it has nothing to do with putting cream in one's tea. No one does this. I'm pretty sure if you asked any British person if they wanted cream in their tea they'd be disgusted, it'd be a politely disgusted, but still disgusted. One puts milk into tea, not cream. This mistake is repeated throughout the story. The author also has the stereotype of everyone boiling a kettle on the stove/hob, no one does that. It takes longer and wastes gas, an electric kettle is much more efficient.

I think I find this book especially offense because I am British-American, and the author throws all the typical American tropes into the story, without getting any of the British ones right. I would tell the author, Ms. Hampton, that if she was to write another book in the series, she needs to actually visit the places she is writing about first. Go to London, go to Kensinton Palace, she doesn't need to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the palace's kitchen, but look at the actual expanse of the palace grounds and realize there is no way a chef could get through the palace and across the grounds and find a corner shop, or grocery store, or supermarket, and be back in ten minutes. It isn't happening. Even doing some research on Google Maps could have helped with that. The idea that Carrie Ann could have a separate washer and dryer, in her bathroom is ridiculous. Most machines in the UK are washer dryer combos, meaning one machine does both the washing and the drying. The dryer part a condenser dryer, done with heated water going around the outside of the tumbler. It takes a long time for anything to dry, and is very frustrating in my opinion if you are used to a tumble dryer that uses heated air, like they do in the States. Which is probably why so many people just hang their clothes out to dry, even if it's raining, because it'll probably be quicker, especially if you have other clothes you want to wash.

Besides terminology abuse the author misplaces characters, e.g. Michael Haregrove's Mother is mentioned in Chapter 3 as living alone in a nursing home, which is actually called a care home with nursing in the U.K., but later in Chapter 7 his Mother and Father are retired and living in the countryside with his grandparents, it also mentions that he has a brother and three sisters. Now, they could be living in a nursing home in the countryside but I doubt they are living in a nursing home in the countryside with his grandparents. Then in Chapter 10 Carrie Ann Cole is surprised to meet Rosemary, Michael Haregrove's sister, because, "I didn't know he had family other than his mother." Perhaps the author originally intended to have Mr. Haregrove only have a mother, but found that she needed the sister character for her story, but then she left drips and drabs of family for Mr. Haregrove all over the story, and never tidied up her lose ends. They are things I would have expected her editor to catch. Rosemary has arrived in London to "look after Mum." Why? She's either in a nursing home, according to Chapter 3, or living in the countryside, according to Chapter 7. Just to make it even more confusing later in Chapter 11 Carrie Ann asks Michael if he has lived here long, "My parents bought it in the fifties," he said. Mum loved the wall paper in the hall. Ever since she went into the nursing home three years ago, I can't bring myself to take it down." So Carrie Ann asks if his father sill lives in the house, but she should know he's in the countryside from Chapter 7, and Michael says, "No, he lives out in the country now with his new wife." Now, the new wife could be the one that Michael references in Chapter 7 as his Mum, but Carrie Ann wouldn't know that, and as a reader the audience couldn't know that either. It confuses the issue of exactly where is Michael's Mother.

There are other times when Michael Haregrove and Frank Deems are called by each others names.

Honestly, if I hadn't gotten the book from NetGalley I would have quit reading this story in the first few chapters. Even for an ARC there were far too many mistakes that it made the story unenjoyable.

Currently watching: iZombie: The Complete First Season
This really is a clever show.

Currently reading: Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu
My review for the first book should be coming up!

If you'd like to request that I review a book please leave a comment. Include a brief description of the book, including which genre it is. Please also note if the book is an ARC and whether you are self-published.

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