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Review: “Warrior Lore” by Ian Cumpstey

“Warrior Lore” by Ian Cumptsey

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 2 May 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Thor resorts to cross-dressing in a bid to recover his stolen hammer. The hero Widrick Waylandsson comes face to face with a troll in the forest. A king’s daughter is abducted from a convent in rural Sweden. A young fighter has to show off his prowess in skiing and shooting for King Harald Hardrada. And more…

The medieval Scandinavian ballads in this collection tell stories of champions and fighters, vikings, and trolls, drawing on Norse mythology and heroic legend. There are riddles, and there are appearances from Thor, Loki, Sigurd, and other figures from the myths of the Edda and from history. Narrative ballads were part of an oral folk music tradition in Scandinavia, and were first written down around 1600, although the ballads themselves are older. These new English verse translations are mainly based on Swedish tradition.

All the ballads included are:
Widrick Waylandsson’s Fight with Long-Ben Reyser; Twelve Strong Fighters; Hilla-Lill; Sir Hjalmar; The Hammer Hunt; The Stablemates; Sven Swan-White; The Cloister Raid; Heming and the Mountain Troll; Heming and King Harald.

Review: I accepted this story for review because I liked the subject matter, at least in terms of geography, but after reading it, I’m not sure I feel like the most qualified person to review this type of thing. I don’t read many old folk tales and related translations, or much poetry of any sort.

Further, I’m not reviewing the author’s work as much since the true focus is on things written long ago by many others.

Still…the translations read well and clearly, and I appreciated how the author took from multiple sources to try to build the most coherent and complete image for each work. They read with rhythm and rhyme, which I imagine is difficult for translations.

One thing, though, bugged me a little. It’s probably common in this type of academic endeavor, but reading it from a more “lay person” PoV, the introductions to each poem/ballad were repetitive. I read them for the pronunciation and historical notes mixed in, but when the entire story was explained before I read it, I felt like… What’s the point in reading it now? Maybe if it had come after, for those who needed clarification. I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure this was just a me thing.

Over all, though, it was an interesting short book to read, particularly if the poetic history of this region is of interest to you. So 3.5 Fireballs.

3.5 Fireballs

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Review: “Bad for Me” by Codi Gary [Tour Stop]

“Bad for Me” by Codi Gary

Available from: Avon Romance, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks or Kobo
To Be Released on: 6 April 2015
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review, as part of this book’s blog tour.

Description: Callie Jacobsen isn’t about to open her heart to just anyone. Not so very long ago, trusting someone changed her life forever—and not in a fun way. Now she’s better off focusing on her career, her friends, and her dog. So when former Marine Everett Silverton takes an interest in her, Callie’s more than a little wary. No matter how charming he is, men are a bad idea. In fact, she’s got the scars to prove it. But Everett isn’t convinced Callie should shut everyone out—especially not him. He may be a hero to the people of Rock Canyon, but he’s got his own demons, and he bets they’re not that different from Callie’s. Still, he knows it’s going to take more than chemistry to get her to let her guard down. Everett will do whatever it takes to show her she’s safe with him. All she has to do is take a chance, take a step…and take his hand.

Review: Who lives a life without scars? Not Everett Silverton, the male lead in this story is well written, daring, heroic, understanding and hot. And not Callie Jacobsen, the female lead is tragic and torn, a sweet heart with the inability to accept others into her life due to her past. Their romance is not easy, not is it gentle, as much as Everett tried to make it so. It felt each chapter was him offering all he was and her throwing it back at him through reactions and fear, and if there was ever a man to root for in a romance it was him.

Callie is a DJ with a crush on a male caller, Everett (or Rhett) is infatuated by the woman he hears every morning. Slowly they talk through his calls to her show and make a connection, then one morning he ups the ante and offers to meet her. Callie freezes and then fate (or author’s device) kicks in and suddenly they are bumping into one another at every turn, sometimes literally. Their lives are already so enmeshed that it is almost a surprise they hadn’t met. She was DJ’ing his brother’s wedding, she is an AA sponsor for his father, her friend ran the bookstore he spent so much time in, a small town in which lives usually mix had left these two never meeting until that day he asked her out.

It takes time for him to admit to her that he was her morning caller, and when he does she reacts badly. Her ability to trust had been ripped so thoroughly from her that all he did was being judged and weighed on a scale that he could not begin to see or imagine. From the beginning he was fighting a losing battle as her past was too unsettled to allow for the future to begin. It was clear she could not love or trust as she deserved to be able to until she allowed all the healing processes to work their way through her life. Hiding and dealing with the past as best as you can is not the same as healing.

I struggled with this book because some pieces didn’t fit, minor things really, but enough that I was questioning their place. Callie is an AA sponsor, but then admits she never took the full process of the steps to heart and healed herself through them as they are meant to be, this was one of my main struggles outside of struggling to like Callie. To me addiction recovery like that is an almost sacred trust and being someone’s sponsor when you never gave your all to the program yourself seems hypocritical. Everett hit every key in me that makes me enjoy a good male lead. Callie, on the other hand, had me banging my head on the wall chapter after chapter, making me want to stand up and defend Everett to her over and over and make her get the help she needed to be able to move forward with her life, and their life together. Also, I felt something interesting that could have been used to greater purpose was the original communication in the story, the couple had their first connection through the radio and that line of their relationship just stopped once they met in person. I loved that between them and wished Rhett had kept calling each morning, showing her he still cared about that woman he first began to fall for.

I give this book 3.5 Fireballs because of the details above and because I really struggled to finish the book as I could not bring myself to like Callie. I felt for her, but being empathetic and actually enjoying a character are two different things. Scars can be on the inside or outside, and these characters have both types. Through the book the details of their lives unfold and you see both characters and all their flaws, or the flaws they perceive in themselves. The romance is interesting, the sex scenes are well written, if too few. Codi Gary wove a story of people that both deserve a forever kind of love, and all the struggles that deserving that kind of love brings.

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Review: “Slice of Life” by Ellie Ann & Others

“Slice of Life” by Ellie Ann & Others

Available from: Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Released on: 12 January 2015
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review, as part of this book’s blog tour.

Description: “This was no longer her world against the queen. It was the queen’s world against her.”

The Queen wants to destroy the life force of earth and has destroyed the last being that can stop her. Or so she thinks . . .

The last powerful mage in the world, Princess Aura, is the sole witness to the nefarious plot. The good news is she knows how to stop it. The bad news? She can’t do it alone.

Aura must summon someone she hoped never to see again. Saint George, her lover who left five years ago for another woman. And another. And another.

Can they work together long enough to defeat the queen and save the world?

Told collectively by a troupe of digital artists, Slice of Life employs every medium available: prose, pictures, poetry, illustration, audio scenes, and music, to provide an immersive and exciting reading experience.

Review: I was first drawn to this book for the intriguing “multi-media” concept, as I had not read a story comprised of narrative, illustrations, with a “saga” and music and audio scenes that you could listen along with. So for all that, it was fun. (Although the narrators didn’t quite click with me.)

The story itself was interesting too, taking a whole bunch of fairy tales and tossing them on their ear, while still being a standard fairy tale in many ways.

Unfortunately, this story lacked something for me to really be drawn in. Maybe it really did try to do too much and in too small a span to really feel it all. Some parts were very rushed and so you couldn’t quite hook into the story, and the characters didn’t have as much development since they were so busy rushing through the plot.

Still, it was fun and different and interesting. 3.5 Fireballs.

Review: “Venice in the Moonlight” by Elizabeth McKenna

“Venice in the Moonlight” by Elizabeth McKenna

Available from: Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Released on: 3 October 2013

I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Considered useless by his cold-hearted father, Nico Foscari, eldest son of one of the founding families in Venice, hides his pain behind gambling, drinking and womanizing.

After her husband’s untimely demise, Marietta Gatti returns to her hometown of Venice in hopes of starting a new life and finding the happiness that was missing in her forced marriage.

When Fate throws them together, friendship begins to grow into love until Marietta learns a Foscari family secret that may have cost her father his life. Now, she must choose between vengeance, forgiveness, and love.

Elizabeth McKenna’s latest novel takes you back to eighteenth century Carnival, where lovers meet discreetly, and masks make everyone equal.

Review: Venice in the Moonlight is a story that brings to life things I loved when I was a young woman beginning in my romance reading life. A dark hero with a past that makes you wish to change him, a strong heroine willing to risk all to right wrongs, a setting in a land I will never see. But I did not find enough original, except maybe the reason for the thriller sub-plot, which made it stand out to me.

It had the makings of a story that could pull you into the intrigue but I felt it always left me hanging on the edge of what could be really good. Carnival in Venice, a city known to be one of the most romantic in world, with Nico, a hero that made you wish to comfort and bed at the same time. A mystery that needed to be solved, and Marietta the woman willing to do all she could to solve it, including putting herself in situations that were not only daring, but fool hardy. Instead of taking the easy way out of having the hero come to the rescue, the author almost always found a way to pull Marietta out of the situation and leave you saying “that was too close.” It was at those points when I felt the story could elevate and give me all the drama and passion I was hoping for, but it didn’t as those were the points it plateaued at.

The secondary characters were not as original as the main characters, but that is forgivable in this length of a book, you did not need them, but they were decent window dressing. The descriptions of the city, the clothing, the masks and even the food were lovely and decadent at times. Painting a lovely word picture in the mind, it was them that lead me to hope for more from the beginning.

Overall I think this book had tremendous potential that kept me holding on and hoping for it to be reached throughout but at the end I was left with a feeling of, “It was nice, but nothing spectacular.” But boy did it raise my hopes for spectacular. I give this book 3.5 fireballs.

3.5fireballs[1]

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Review: “Wednesdaymeter” by Dean Carnby

“Wednesdaymeter” by Dean Carnby

Available from: Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Released on: 29 April 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: An eggplant wails, a ladder breaks, and the guise of civility shatters.

A professor of festival studies, a potato hunter, a deadly career counselor, and a part-time terrorist are struggling to retain their sanity in a magically mundane city. Their carefully laid plans fall apart when they meet Mr. Pearson, an everyman who suspects a conspiracy of evil polygons behind his company’s absurd practices.

Theirs is a world in which people use raw produce and wasted time to alter reality. If it were not for the stringent safety standards on fruits and vegetables, the citizens would live in misery. Most live a life of willful ignorance instead, desperate to avoid facing the threats surrounding them. Festival season is about to begin, but the colorful banners cannot hide the tragic past any longer.

Review: As I write this review, it’s been about a week since I read the story and I’m still not entirely sure what I just read…

This was a very strange book. Using raw vegetables to do things like run faster or change appearance, which you can fold like paper and uses wasted time to function… People like polygons… And yet, I commend the author’s imagination and creativity, and as bizarre as it was, it was a generally well-constructed story that I did over-all enjoy.

After the Curiosity Factor wore off, the story did begin to drag a little through the middle. The characters felt somewhat two-dimensional at times as well, but part of it–given the scenario and backgrounds–made sense and may have been intentional, although it did make it a little hard to fully “hook into” the character we were reading about.

The conformity versus non-conformity theme is, however, one I greatly appreciate, so I liked that about it and I did ultimately like the strangeness of it. It had the feeling of allegory although I’m not entirely sure what exactly it’s allegorical to.

So…I liked it, although I can’t say I really liked it. 3.5 Fireballs.

3.5 Fireballs

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Review: “The Mystery of Farholt” by Jonathan Johnstone-Wilson

“The Mystery of Farholt” by Jonathan Johnstone-Wilson

Available from: Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Released on: 10 October 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review, as part of this book’s blog tour.

Description: Two strangers, Haargen and his young daughter, enter the tiny town of Horsend. They need a guide to lead them through the wilderness, and they need one fast.

There is only one person in Horsend with the knowledge and the skill to take such a job: Farholt. Whether he is a hunter, a poacher, or a ranger depends entirely on who is asked. Haargen may not trust the man, but he has no choice but to take him, because there is no way he could find his way alone. Saddled with a guide he doesn’t trust, a daughter unfit for hard travel, unexpected burdens, and secrets that he cannot tell, Haargen begins an arduous journey with a haste he cannot afford to explain.

To make matters all the worse, Farholt has secrets of his own. Secrets he has carried with him all his life. Whether these secrets will help Haargen’s mission, or hinder it, is a mystery that no one is likely to parse out.

Not quickly enough, in any case.

Review: This is a difficult review to write. (This is not, apparently, unusual for me.)

There was nothing bad about this book. It had an interesting cast of characters and as a recent complaint of mine in books (those reviewed and those I couldn’t finish) has been the poor writing of (or total lack of) female characters, I appreciated that this one HAD real female characters and that I thought they were well done. Sure, they were flawed, but all of them were so it was balanced.

Come the end, the secret of father and daughter didn’t really shock me. Farholt’s was a surprise, though, and I liked that.

Yet even so… I never fully connected. It felt like a really, really long prologue. There is this lingering feeling of nothing really happening. Like there’s no true climax to the book, that it’s just building up to something to come in a future story. (Hence it feeling like a prologue.) So it kind of felt like it dragged at several points.

Also, I don’t usually mention the editing of a book in a review–unless it’s really bad, it doesn’t effect my review–but this one surprised me. There’s a list of editors and people who worked on this book at the end and yet I caught many mistakes as I read. That was a little disconcerting to me.

So, I didn’t dislike it but I didn’t really like it either. 3.5 Fireballs.

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Review: “Moscow Bound” by Adrian Churchward

“Moscow Bound” (The Puppet Meisters Trilogy, Book 1) by Adrian Churchward

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 28 April 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Ekaterina Romanova, the estranged wife of Russia’s wealthiest oligarch Konstantin Gravchenko, asks Scott Mitchell, an idealistic young English human rights lawyer who is being intimidated by the authorities, to find the father she’s never met. She believes he’s been languishing for decades without trial in the Gulag system. Meanwhile, General Pravda of military intelligence, though an advocate of transparency, is determined to protect a covert operation that he’s been running for years.

General Pravda hinders Ekaterina and Scott at every turn and lawyer and client are forced to go on the run for a murder they didn’t commit. As they descend into the Hades that is the world of international realpolitik Scott is compelled to reconsider his own values, and Pravda’s life’s work disintegrates, when Scott uncovers a 50 year-old Cold War secret, which both the Russian and US governments are still trying to hide from the public domain.

‘Moscow Bound’ is the first book in The Puppet Meisters trilogy, dealing with state abuse of power.

Review: I’ve been struggling to try to write this review and try to properly express my views on the book, because my opinion is rather conflicted.

This was not a bad book. The writing is competent, and there was a fairly steady feeling of suspense through out. Our author did well with the history and the setting, to really give you that picture and keep both your interest and your intrigue. So, this story hit the marks of plot, setting, and intrigue.

What fell apart for me was in the character development. One aspect of reading is, to me, getting into the characters and caring about them. I never really felt like I felt enough for the main characters in this book, particularly the one who was our main figure: Scott. But I didn’t hook much into Ekaterina, or Pravda. (Although I did more for Pravda than the other two.)

I never really felt like I got to know Scott that well, and I didn’t feel his motivations as strongly as I felt like I needed to in order to understand why he did the things he did. Ekaterina was too enigmatic for me to hook entirely into her, and in being so, Scott’s reactions to her just didn’t make as much sense to me. And sometimes characters that were supposed to be worldly felt rather…naive and foolish.

There was one point where I just wanted to shout at each and every one of them about how no one even conceived of a particular fact. I don’t want to give it away here, but I came up with the theory almost instantly because I know that people can make things up. No one in the book even conceived of it, and their “but it’s all” explanations in not doing so felt thin.

Otherwise, there were some things that felt like there weren’t properly explained, and did make some sections a bit confusing. If I’d been better connected to the characters, however, this probably wouldn’t have been as much of an issue.

So, this is why this review has been so hard to write. A lack of character connection is a big issue for me, but I felt much of the rest, so… 3.5 Fireballs on this one. I also now see that this is the first book in a trilogy, and I’m curious enough that I may check out the rest.

3.5 Fireballs

Review: “Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office” by Khalid Muhammad [Tour Stop]

“Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office” by Khalid Muhammad

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 13 January 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review, as part of the book’s blog tour.

Description: Celebrated as a ragtag force that defeated and broke the Soviet Union, no one predicted the Mujahideen would bring with them a plague that would spread like wildfire through Pakistan in the years to follow. When the battle-worn fighters returned with no enemy or war to fight, they turned their sights on the country that had been their creator and benefactor.

From the same battlegrounds that birthed the Mujahideen, a young Kamal Khan emerges as a different breed of warrior. Discarding his wealthy family comforts, Kamal becomes a precision sniper, an invincible commando and a clandestine operative bringing intimidation, dominance and death with him to the battlefield. Ending the plague is his prime directive.

Shrouded in political expediency, hampered by internal power struggles, international espionage and doublespeak that makes Washington’s spin doctors proud, Kamal’s mission is a nightmare of rampant militant fundamentalism that threatens to choke and take Pakistan hostage. For him, the fight is not just for freedom, but the survival of a nation.

Review: You know, I have no idea what I think about this book.

I don’t know that I really liked it necessarily, but I didn’t dislike it either. I don’t know if this book was written in English or a translation. I didn’t see a translator listed anywhere, but it felt like it was. I could be wrong on that, but there were some phrases and word choices that could interrupt your read flow.

This book was fascinating to me, because being a US citizen who hasn’t traveled much, it gave me a view into an area and culture that I didn’t know a lot about except what might be heard on the news. And I’m enough of a cynic to not trust the news. Fiction can have a more honest eye, oddly enough. So I liked that. Even if the view was a gritty, harsh one at times.

This was, indeed, a very fast-paced book. Maybe too much so at times, as I was left with a bit of whiplash wondering what was happening. The plot points wandered so much at times that I wasn’t sure what the over-all plot even was. A little oddly paced, I mean, with a lot more Tell than Show.

Kamal proved to be an interesting Main Character. He wasn’t likeable in many ways, but yet he was. We didn’t see as much into him as I may have liked, but we did see enough to get an idea of him.

Now… I don’t actually read a lot of spy thrillers, so that may be where I’ve been tripped up. Maybe the way this story was told is standard for the genre. I’ll freely admit that. And it did keep my interest, even if I was confused at times and wondering where it was all going.

So…yeah. It was a very interesting book. I can’t say I really liked it, but I can’t say I didn’t like it either. So, this seems like a 3.5 Fireballs for me.

3.5 Fireballs

 

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Review: “Misdirection” by Austin Williams [Tour Stop]

“Misdirection” (The Rusty Diamond Trilogy, Book One) by Austin Williams

Available from: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes or Kobo
Released on: 16 July 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review, as part of the book’s blog tour.

Description: A street magician needs more than sleight-of-hand to survive getting embroiled in a murder case in this blistering novel of suspense, perfect for fans of Harlan Coben and George Pelecanos.

After years of chasing fame and hedonistic excess in the bright lights of Las Vegas, Rusty “The Raven” Diamond has returned home to Ocean City to piece his life back together. When he finds himself an innocent suspect in his landlord’s brutal murder, Rusty abandons all hope of maintaining a tranquil existence. Acting on impulse, he digs into the investigation just enough to anger both the police and a local drug cartel.

As the unsolved case grows more complex, claiming new victims and inciting widespread panic, Rusty feels galvanized by the adrenaline he’s been missing for too long. But his newfound excitement threatens to become an addiction, leading him headfirst into an underworld he’s been desperately trying to escape.

Austin Williams creates an unforgettable protagonist in Rusty, a flawed but relatable master of illusion in very real danger. As the suspense builds to an explosively orchestrated climax, Williams paints a riveting portrait of both a city—and a man—on the edge.

Review: Our author has written a very readable story. It’s well paced and flows right along, bringing you from scene to scene. Rusty is certainly a character with a good balance of both virtues and flaws, and that’s important to me. However, I’m not sure I ever really connected with him, which made it hard to feel like I was really into the story.

Perhaps it was the drug angle of the story just not hooking me. I didn’t dislike Rusty, or the story, just didn’t quite get pulled entirely into it.

Some of the scenes that weren’t from Rusty’s perspective felt like “filler” and the ex-girlfriend arc felt kind of pointless, but that part I imagine will be brought back in later books. This is subtitled as the first in a trilogy. So, I’m not holding that against it too much but I wish it had felt stronger in this one.

I did like the magician thing, because that was different from the usual. I always like that. Jim was cool, too. I did like him. So, this book had a lot going for it. I think it just wasn’t quite the style for me. 3.5 Fireballs.

3.5 Fireballs

 

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Review: “Painter of the Heavens” by Bart Stewart

“Painter of the Heavens” by Bart Stewart

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 15 September 2013

Description: “A Novel of Crime and the Heart,” Painter of the Heavens goes inside the mind of a woman as she is drawn into the bizarre fraud scheme of an eccentric man she is dating. Penny doesn’t know going in that Lyle is a con artist. His personality had seemed slightly strange from the start, but charismatic and alluring as well. Only after bonding with him does she learn that the “business plan,” which was too sensitive for him to talk about, is in fact an outrageous forgery plot. He needs an accomplice for this caper, and sees Penny as being perfect for the role.

Penny Sturdevant is in flux in her life. Just turning thirty as the decade of the 1980s turns into the ’90s, she has taken a leap into the unknown, divorcing her well-placed husband because he had become loveless, distant, and dull. Coming from a background of financial struggles, she feels the insecurities swirling around her after this big move. She dreams of turning the page, getting off of the sidetrack, and being “part of something.” Her old circle of friends, and her impoverished parents, aren’t much support for her in this time of transition.

One day, on a random whim, she stops off at an indie bookstore on the outskirts of her home town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The manager there has a hypnotic presence, with a magnetic gaze that grabs her and leads her to come back again. He is a poet (six original poems are featured in the novel) and Penny finds him more and more intriguing as she gets to know him. The point of view in the novel is all Penny’s, so we have only Lyle’s mixed signals and trippy, zen-like sayings to know what’s happening in his mind.

He seems increasingly suspicious, but we don’t know just how bad this bad guy is. One unsettling moment comes at their first date, when he asks Penny to keep it entirely their secret that they are seeing each other. He has a plausible explanation for this, all ready to go. And it turns out that he always does. He talks a very, very good game. At one point Penny reflects that everything he says seems to be both outrageous and indisputable. He is a “plague of vague,” and “like boxing with a fog bank.” But he is also sexy, and loving for her. He’s different, and interesting. They have a hot affair. (Not that this is full-on erotica.)

The novel is character-driven noir fiction that goes deep into the heads of its two lovers. It is not the familiar crime novel or police procedural. Penny and Lyle aren’t Bonnie and Clyde, but they become desperadoes in a way, when their perfect, “victimless” crime spins out on them.

A phony letter and a genuine love. Humor, pathos, danger, and two of what Dickens called “lives of quiet desperation” come together in Bart Stewart’s debut novel, Painter of the Heavens.

Review: This book is a hard one for me to figure out how to properly rate.

It proved to not really be my sort of book, but it wasn’t because it was poorly constructed. The writing was competent and the idea was interesting. I found the pacing to be a little uneven and a bit passive at points, more Tell than I usually like, and yet I find I can’t come down too hard on that because it sort of fit the psychological tenor of the story. And yet it kept me from feeling much suspense.

There were some interesting psychological angles, as mentioned, both from the characters and the crime, and aspects to the end did surprise me.

The author did well in portraying the main character as that newly-free previously-stifled woman desperate to feel things again, and placing it in the ’80s made for a backdrop I don’t usually see. (And I like that.) Lyle was also an interestingly drawn character, though written in such a way that nothing he did actually surprised me.

The puffer thing–you’ll understand when you read it–was intriguing, though there was a segment where we went outside Penny’s point of view and I wasn’t crazy about that.

So…I am left conflicted when writing the review. I can’t say I really liked it, but I can’t say I disliked it either. So, I think it’s a 3.5 Fireballs from me: better than average, and while I can’t say that I really liked it, I can see this as a book that would be really enjoyed by others.

3.5 Fireballs

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