Short & Sweet Sundays: Forever Charmed by Rose Pressey

Sundays are a day of rest. So in honor of this one day of the week when I can legitimately loaf around in my Garfield jammies in front of the DVR, I bring you “Short and Sweet Sundays.” This is a fun way for me to write up a quick and dirty book blog without getting too wordy.

17331698Summary (from the publisher) Halloween Laveau is descended from a long line of witches. Yes, her name is Halloween. The cosmic universe is definitely playing some kind of sick joke on her. She’s the ultimate witch cliché, complete with a black cat and spooky house. Thank heavens she’s missing the warts and flying broom.

When Halloween inherits her great-aunt’s manor, she decides to put the house to good use as a bed-and-breakfast. Her first guest is the sinfully good-looking Nicolas Marco, but he’s not here for the continental breakfast. Halloween discovers a ratty old book in the attic. It’s written in an unfamiliar language, and unknown to her, the tome is cursed.

Halloween soon learns there’s a link between the book and her newfound talent as a necromancer. But her new skills come with a catch: the reanimated dead aren’t as cupcake-sweet as they were when they were alive. When a rival witch comes after the book, Halloween doesn’t know who to trust–the sexy vampire who says he wants to save the day, or the warlock who says he can destroy the book once and for all.

Halloween had better learn fast. Because when the dead start rising, only a powerful witch can put them back under

What I liked: The premise is the book’s biggest selling point. The author was really on to something when she created a series about a witch named Halloween running a mystical B&B in a charming little town. Sprinkle in a love triangle with a couple of mysterious bad boys and I’m sold.

Favorite character: Sorry to be an asshole, but I have to be honest. All of the characters fell flat for me. I could see that the author was trying to paint Halloween as a lovable, quirky fledgling witch, but it just didn’t work out. I needed more of a backstory about her struggle as an outsider – something that could have resonated with my own plight as a nerdy social outcast back in high school.  I’m not saying that she’s unlikeable, she just needed more depth. Plus the witty banter between Halloween and her best friend seemed forced. I got the sense that she didn’t really have a good handle on her characters, resulting in wonky dynamics and stilted dialogue.

The cover: Speaking of shallow, I admit that I bought this book because of the cover. While I was shopping around on my Nook, I immediately honed in on the fearless, fashionable blonde standing before a creepy haunted manor amidst the backdrop of a starry midnight sky. I love a good Halloween story filled with spooky atmosphere and magic! Moral of the story: Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

Overall assessment:  If you like fluffy, uncomplicated paranormal romances, perhaps you’ll enjoy this book. And hey, sometimes it’s nice to read a little fluff every now and then. When my brain needs a break, there’s nothing I’d rather do than veg out in front of one of those paint-by-the-numbers Hallmark movies. But if you’re looking for a witchcraft series with a little more depth and suspense, I recommend picking up a book by Juliet Blackwell or Debbie Viguie.

Short & Sweet Sundays: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

  In honor of Sunday – a day I reserve for reading and lollygagging – I bring you a short and sweet book review! For more of my “Short & Sweet” reviews, go here. 

The gist: The story centers around Diana Bishop, a history professor and powerful witch who lives in denial of her heritage. While conducting research in Oxford’s world-famous Bodleian Library, she inadvertently calls up “Ashmole 782,” a manuscript believed to contain the secrets of all creation. Coveted for centuries by the underworld of witches, demons and vampires, the secrets within the book could do some serious damage. Soon the supernatural baddies come out of the woodwork to confiscate the book.

Enter Mathew Clairmont, a blood-sucking geneticist and all-round hottie (think Edward Cullen with a Ph.D.). Although witches and vampires are not allowed to comingle, he finds himself bewitched by Diana’s beauty and charms. Unable to resist her tantalizing scent (hmm… sounds like another vampire I know), he swoops in to save her from the evildoers. Their alliance violates an ancient contract, but they forge onward in the hopes of being the first to discover the secrets contained in Ashmole 782.

Thoughts on character development: No matter how hard I tried to like Diana, I just couldn’t. I was turned off from the get-go when she smugly pronounced, “What got me away from Madison was my intellect.” Ick! There’s nothing I loathe more than an intellectual snob! And much like Bella (yep, I went there!) she’s just an empty vessel without the love of her vampire soul mate. The inner feminist in me just wants to scream, “Come on girl, get a life and stop blithering about your undying love!” She’s completely wrapped up in herself and has no interesting quirks, friends or interests – outside of rowing and alchemy research of course.

As for Mathew, he’s the textbook definition of a Harlequin romance hero: overly sensitive, attentive and always ready to put his life at risk to save his ladylove. Basically, he’s a woman’s definition of the perfect man. This is what really irks me about romance novels! Call me crazy, but I like a guy with some typical man-flaws like fear of commitment or belching in public. Take Damon from “The Vampire Diaries” for example. He’s a typical male with a serious attitude problem, but a total softy on the inside. When Elena brings out his inner teddy bear, the romantic tension really sizzles! I’m sorry, but how many of you really got excited about the sweet and loving Stefan? BORING!

In the next book, which involves Mathew and Diana’s first foray into time travel, I hope to see more of Baldwin, Mathew’s bad-boy brother. He’s hot, he’s angry, and he has some serious bloodlust issues, especially for Diana’s magical witch blood. I know love triangles are getting clichéd, but I would really love to see some romance brewing between these two magical creatures!

What I liked: I have to hand it to the author, she has a knack for creating spooky atmosphere. If your pulse flutters at the thought of creepy old libraries, French castles and descents into dark forests by moonlight, you’ll probably enjoy this book. Despite her flaws, which I’m sure she’ll smooth out in her next installment, the author is a truly gifted writer.

What irked me: With proper editing, this mammoth book could have been easily condensed into 300 pages or less. The drawn-out scenes of Diane drinking tea, thinking about drinking tea, rowing down the river and doing yoga really bogged down the story. Oh and don’t even get me started on the excruciatingly long descriptions of DNA analysis – I get it, Deborah, you’re super smart!

Most memorable scene: I hate to sound like such a snoot, but OMG this book could have done without the vampire/witch/demon yoga sessions. I get that the author is a big fan of the new agey healing powers of yoga, but come on! I couldn’t keep a straight face when she so eloquently described the supernatural beings harmoniously practicing yoga in Mathew’s opulent mansion. If this book hit the big screen, I can already see SNL and Jay Leno mocking this ludicrous scene!

My response to the critics: Most of the reviewers claim this first-time novelist blatantly stole from Stephanie Meyer’s and JK Rowling’s playbooks. But is that such a bad thing? Readers LOVE the mystery of Harry Potter’s past, and the star-crossed-lover drama between Edward and Bella. So why not borrow and build upon these intriguing storylines? And might I add that fans of that old TV series “Roswell” can attest to the fact that Stephanie Meyer used that show as a template for her Twilight series.

Will I read the next two installments in this trilogy? Eh…probably. All things considered, this is a solid paranormal thriller. Yes, it dragged quite a bit, but I feel that the story just started to cook with some grease right at the very end. If I want to get fancy with analogies, I’d say this book is the literary equivalent of a Dave Mathews CD. It’s good quality stuff, but I’m not counting down the days until the next album drops. Sure, I own a Dave Mathews CD, but I don’t have it stored in my favorite playlist – and I certainly don’t know all the lyrics by heart.  Anne Rice’s vampire books, however, are right on par with my Dixie Chicks obsession!

This book is best paired with: A hearty glass of wine, a purring cat and a crackling fireplace. If you’re an apartment dweller like me, you should download a virtual fireplace app!

Mystery and Suspense Reading Challenge 2012!

I have a huge pile of cozies just waiting to be read, so this Book Chick City Mystery and Suspense Challenge should be a cinch! I have until this time next year to read 24 mysteries. From crime-solving kitties to ghost-whispering sleuths, my reading list is chock-full of murder, mayhem, romance and intrigue! To get a head start, I think I’ll skip out on the Sixth Street party scene this New Year’s Eve and ring in 2012 with a paranormal cozy. The real challenge here is deciding which one to read first!

 Here’s the first 16 whodunits I plan to read:

 1. How to Party with a Killer Vampire by Penny Warner
 2. Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs by Blaize Clement
 3. Hostile Makeover by Ellen Byerrum
 4. Jane and the Ghosts of Netley by Stephanie Barron
 5. Greedy Bones by Carolyn Haines–Read her Q&A here.
 6. Bone Appetit by Carolyn Haines–Read my review for “Wishbones” here.
 7. Pushing Up Bluebonnets by Leann Sweeney
 8. A Bad Day for Scandal by Sophie Littlefield–Read my review for “A Bad Day for Sorry” here.
 9. Secondhand Spirits by Juliet Blackwell — Read her Q&A here.
10. A Crazy Little Thing Called Death by Nancy Martin–Read my review for “Murder Melts in Your Mouth” here.
11. Better Read than Dead by Victoria Laurie
12. How to Survive a Killer Séance by Penny Warner
13. Night of the Living Deed by E.J. Copperman
14. Murder Past Due by Miranda James
15. The Trouble with Magic by Madelyn Alt
16. Death on Heels by Ellen Byerrum 

For more details about this challenge, visit Book Chick City.