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The Secret Casebook(s) of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles (includes Remnant with Jordan L. Hawk*)

CaldwellGhostButterfliesRemnant

Why I read them:  There are three short stories in this series (so far).  The first I bought for $1.99 from Torquere Press. It’s too expensive because it’s less than 15 pages. But the good news is that the other two self-published shorts are free from Smashwords in all the formats.  Taken together, $1.99 is well worth it.  And I think The Caldwell Ghost has possibly my favourite opening paragraph ever.

The Caldwell Ghost

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  When Robert Caldwell inherits a haunted house, he calls on ghost-hunter Simon Feximal to rid him of the supernatural menace. But the ghost is stronger than either man realizes — strong, angry, and desperate for release. Trapped in a haunted house with a dangerously attractive ghost-hunter and a sexually frustrated spirit, can Robert survive the night intact…and will he want to?

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  This clever little short has an absolute cracker of an opening paragraph.  We are plunged into the action immediately.  It’s only about 13 pages but in that time, the setting – both the time period and the creepiness and the characters are drawn with a deft hand. It’s not a romance, but rather the pair meet and, while fixing Robert Caldwell’s ghost problem, have a sexy interlude which promises to be more.  We know in fact that they go on to have a very HEA because of the letter to the editor at the beginning.  It’s all very cleverly done.

 

A Case of Possession by KJ Charles

Today is my 4th Blogaversary.  I’m not doing an event or a giveaway but I wanted to say thank you to those who have read, visited, commented and assisted in various ways since I started.

I also wanted to celebrate by posting a review for a ripping good book.  A Case of Possession is out on 28 January so this is a little early and might therefore lead to some readerly frustration and calendar watching.

You’re welcome.

Thx again and happy reading!

Kaetrin

 

acaseofpossessionWhy I read it:  I received a review copy.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Magic in the blood. Danger in the streets.

A Charm of Magpies, Book 2

Lord Crane has never had a lover quite as elusive as Stephen Day. True, Stephen’s job as justiciar requires secrecy, but the magician’s disappearing act bothers Crane more than it should. When a blackmailer threatens to expose their illicit relationship, Crane knows a smart man would hop the first ship bound for China. But something unexpectedly stops him. His heart.

Stephen has problems of his own. As he investigates a plague of giant rats sweeping London, his sudden increase in power, boosted by his blood-and-sex bond with Crane, is rousing suspicion that he’s turned warlock. With all eyes watching him, the threat of exposure grows. Stephen could lose his friends, his job and his liberty over his relationship with Crane. He’s not sure if he can take that risk much longer. And Crane isn’t sure if he can ask him to.

The rats are closing in, and something has to give…

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I often feel I’m oblivious to things – in books and what goes on around me.  It wasn’t until I started reading a lot of reviews and writing some myself that I even considered such things as pacing and structure in a novel.  I think I acknowledged them as existing on one level, but it certainly wasn’t conscious.  There is also something about not seeing the authorial hand which is often praised (including by me).  But in this case, like a veil being drawn away from my eyes, I saw the structure of the book.  For me it was a thing of beauty and something I was very happy to see.  I did not find it at all intrusive.  When I was reading I didn’t particularly notice but I was thinking one evening (before I finished the book but after I had finished reading for the night) about why I liked the book, beyond the obvious, surface type things.  It struck me then that the book has a clever and beautiful structure.  Perhaps this is something which is not at all novel for anyone else, but it was particularly so for me, so I wanted to tease out my thoughts about it here.

The Default Hero/ine?

I don’t know if I read the same way other people do. But I’ve been thinking lately about the way I read and what I see and pay attention to in the text of books. (And what I miss.) And I have realised something about myself.  I am still working on the why, but here’s what I’ve got so far.

I think I have a “default hero” and a “default heroine”.  I know that typically, blond heroes on covers do not sell as well as dark haired heroes. Maybe that’s why Mr. Default has dark hair – it’s what I’m most used to seeing.  Or maybe that is my own preference. But Mr. Default is tall (around 6’1″ ish), with broad shoulders, narrow hips and a six pack.  Ms. Default is less defined – in that I find it much easier to change her hair colour (is this the influence of book covers again?) but she, typically is around medium height, edging into tall (maybe 5’7″ish), slim, with a nipped in waist and a nice (but not huge) rack.  If I’m reading a book where the characters aren’t particularly well defined, Mr. and Ms. Default step in.  It’s also true that if I’m reading a book where the hero is described as very short or very tall or otherwise outside my “default”, I tend to morph the hero in my mind. I “see” him in my head as around that 6′ mark unless the text doesn’t allow me to.

MagpieLordFor example, in The Magpie Lord, my inclination was to make Stephen taller.  Unfortunately, the text kept reminding me that he was not tall –

He was incredibly unimpressive. Short, for one thing, barely five feet tall, narrow shouldered, significantly underweight, hollow-cheeked. He had reddish-brown hair cut unfashionably close, possibly against a hint of curls. His worn suit of faded black was obviously cheap and didn’t fit terribly well; bizarrely, he wore cheap cotton gloves. He looked like a clerk, the ten-a-penny kind who drudged in every counting house, except that he had tawny-gold eyes that were vividly glowing in his pale rigid face, and they were staring at Crane with something that looked extraordinarily like hate.

I never felt the text hammered it into my head over and over again. It was not annoying. But, I could not see Stephen as anything other than the short man he was.

TheChangeupMr. Default and Ms. Default (or Mr. and Mr. Default as the case may be) are usually relatively close in age as well.  That’s my default.  So, unless the text convinces me an age difference is important, I’m going to picture the main characters as being similar in age/maturity too.  I read The Changeup by Rhonda Shaw recently.  The hero is 22 and the heroine is 34.  I didn’t actually start off thinking that was a huge deal in terms of age difference (because, fundamentally, I don’t think 34 is old).  But the text convinced me it was a problem.  It also convinced me (and I don’t think it was supposed to) that the hero was actually too immature to be in a relationship with the heroine.

TheGoodBoyI also read The Good Boy by Lisa Henry and JA Rock shortly after.  (I reviewed it at Dear Author.) Derek, the elder hero was 37 and Lane, the younger hero was 20.  For some reason I didn’t feel that the age difference meant anything material to them.  Possibly it was because the authors did a good job of showing that the characters related well to one another and that Lane was a mature 20 year old.  (He was certainly vulnerable but maturity is a different thing I think).  But, what if I merely inserted my default?  Did I round Lane up to 25 and Derek down to 30? I might have. I don’t know.

The Magpie Lord by KJ Charles

MagpieLordWhy I read it:  I heard a lot of buzz from trusted blogger and Goodreads friends about this book by debut author KJ Charles, so I bought it. Of course.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  A lord in danger. A magician in turmoil. A snowball in hell.

A Charm of Magpies, Book 1

Exiled to China for twenty years, Lucien Vaudrey never planned to return to England. But with the mysterious deaths of his father and brother, it seems the new Lord Crane has inherited an earldom. He’s also inherited his family’s enemies. He needs magical assistance, fast. He doesn’t expect it to turn up angry.

Magician Stephen Day has good reason to hate Crane’s family. Unfortunately, it’s his job to deal with supernatural threats. Besides, the earl is unlike any aristocrat he’s ever met, with the tattoos, the attitude…and the way Crane seems determined to get him into bed. That’s definitely unusual.

Soon Stephen is falling hard for the worst possible man, at the worst possible time. But Crane’s dangerous appeal isn’t the only thing rendering Stephen powerless. Evil pervades the house, a web of plots is closing round Crane, and if Stephen can’t find a way through it—they’re both going to die.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  There were many things I liked about The Magpie Lord – I thought the concept was interesting and unique (at least to me), the build of dramatic tension toward the final denouement was great and the world building was deft. I didn’t feel bogged down by a lot of details but I understood what was going on and there was enough to give me a picture of a very different Victorian world than I’m used to reading about.  There was only one place I was a little confused but that became clear very soon after so it was not a big deal.

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