ARC Review: The Taken (Celestial Blues, No. 1)

The Taken (Celestial Blues, #1)The Taken by Vicki Pettersson

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Even though I’m not especially fond of angels, I decided to try out this new series based on my previous experiences with Vicki Pettersson’s work. Sadly, after an intriguing first chapter, any enjoyment I may have expected never came knocking (guess it was too busy knockin’ on heaven’s door).

Meet one of the two main characters, rockabilly girl Katherine “Kit” Craig. She’s an eternally optimistic and peppy reporter whose best friend and co-worker, Nicole, was just murdered while following a lead. Our other MC is a haunted Centurion angel named Griffin Shaw who ushers the newly murdered into the afterlife, otherwise known as the Everlast, while bemoaning the murders of both himself and his wife Evie back in 1960. After making a mistake concerning Nicole, he’s been sent back to earth as a human with some angelic senses still intact. Kit and Grif soon meet up and begin investigating the circumstances around Nicole’s death, whilst Griffin seeks out any details involving his own.


Problem Number One

The Cardboard Characters
Character development is supposed to unfold over the course of a book, in this case it actually appeared to deteriorate as the book went on. Kit never developed into anything but one of those annoyingly chipper people you just want to hit with a sledgehammer, while Grif started promisingly enough but then stagnated. They were both very shallow characterizations, and on top of that, I never understood Kit’s actions or reactions to just about anything. I never felt her sadness about her best friend’s death, whom she rarely gave a passing thought, believed she was smart (by the end, I thought her a dolt), or seem in any way human with nary a rational thought in her head. About mid-way through the book, Grif tells her he’s an angel after they kiss, so what does she do? Does she a) run away screaming, b) think he’s a few feathers short of a goose and tell him to get hell out of her house and life, or c) have a calm Q&A session followed by giving him a whatfor that consists of “I won’t kiss you again” and “you’re watching me walk out that door (in her own house) because you can’t handle any emotion blah, blah, blah by pretending you’re an angel” and then proceed to attend a charity event wherein she acts and converses normally, like nothing happened? If you picked “c” *ding ding ding*, you’re a winner! Because as we all know, any sensible guy will pull out the “I’m an angel” trick and expect a woman to believe him. *rolls eyes* Never was it ever crystal clear if Kit thought Grif was either crazy or a liar. It was all a bit hazy, but what can you expect from someone we’re never allowed to know? All we discern is she dresses and lives (somewhat) rockabilly, but it’s all a veneer to her hollowness inside, which led me to dub her Rockabilly Barbie.

Because that’s all she is and nothing more. The only character that I found a little more well-rounded was the secondary character Bridget Moore and the two Centurions introduced close to the end. Everyone else was either forgettably two-dimensional or they were a caricature, a la Caleb Chambers and Paul Raggio.


Problem Number Two:

The Relationship(s)
I’m expected to believe in a possible relationship between Grif and Rockabilly Barbie Kit, but there’s not much there to believe in. Like the characters, it was shallow with the same descriptions reiterated over and over again. Basically it’s a case of telling instead of showing. I felt no love, maybe some attraction, but that’s all she wrote. Likewise I never bought that Kit and Paul could ever have gotten far enough to be married, they were just too different. Most people don’t do a 180 after they get married, the seed of who Paul really was deep down inside would have already been there and if Kit was even a fraction astute, she should have caught that. All this served was to be a plot point in the book.


Problem Number Three:

The Plot(s)
The main plot involving Nicole’s death and Chambers had a “been there, done that” quality to it. The plot didn’t shock me or seem like anything new, I’ve come across the same before or at least plots that were very close, and it wasn’t even told in a fresh way. So I wasn’t as affected by anything in the book as I probably should have been, partially due to the indifference I felt and the fact that I figured out everything long before the author dropped, what I guess she thought, were informational bombshells.
The book had three major plotlines: Grif and Evie’s deaths, Nicole’s death/prostitution ring, and Grif and the Pure Anas’ philosophical moments. They weren’t juggled well at all. Ms. Pettersson should have picked only one and paid more attention to developing that specific plot and the characters. The scenes with Anas (or Anne) especially didn’t mesh with the other stories and felt as if the author was overreaching the boundaries set up by the book. One scene in particular was extremely bizarre and pointless to the book as a whole.
Where was the noir? I’ve seen enough film noirs to know it ain’t here.


Problem Number Four

The Ending
What happened at the end is what I’d expect in a book that’s exclusively romance and not in a mystery/urban fantasy hybrid, which made the rushed ending seem even more ridiculous and sappy. It was incredibly unbelievable to the story and didn’t seem to set up the next book in any way. Also, one of the plotlines was all but left dangling with no foreshadowing or anything. Poor, poor, poor execution. Don’t expound on a storyline if you’re not going to finish it up or at least leave it dangling in a way that makes the reader want to come back. All that boring set-up for a completely stupid and cheesy ending. I expected rainbows and unicorns to pop out at any moment.

Overall the book felt more like a rough copy than a finished one and definitely could have used a few more goings over. Several descriptions were rushed and chaotic or simply poorly done so that I was scrambling to picture what was going on. The book is almost 400 pages and it is simply too long. With so many storylines, I’m not sure how they managed to both crawl and have very little action at the same time. I was going to give this two stars because I didn’t hate the book, that would imply that it elicited any feelings what-so-ever, but the truth of the matter is that there isn’t one thing I really liked about the book either. The only way I’d read a sequel to the bafflingly-named Celestial Blues series is if it featured different leads like the aforementioned Centurions, and even then I’d cautiously dip my toes into the book.

Originally reviewed: June 29
Received: Amazon Vine

Review: Hex Marks the Spot

Hex Marks the Spot
Hex Marks the Spot by Madelyn Alt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Here we are into the third entry into the Bewitching Mystery series. So what’s Maggie into this time? The murder of an Amish ladies’ man, one who’s married and has young kids, at that. She also has struggles with her love life and is overcoming her fear of the “unknown” and becoming more adept at using her gift.

May contain minor spoilers of previous books.

A few times throughout this short book (246 pages), I felt like throwing in the towel. After reading the first book, I really felt this was a series for me. One that I connected with and would be able to read book after book. Sadly it has not panned out this way. Mostly because of the main character, Maggie O’Neill, who I really liked in the first book. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with her, I cannot relate to her and I don’t like her too much either. She’s rather a dull fish. Also, some of her thoughts feel forced, especially the “humorous” kind, which might be a big part of why I’m not liking her anymore. Well, whatever it is exactly, she’s just not quite working for me. Though now that she’s using her gift more, this may liven her up in the future, I don’t know. The other thing is her presumptions, or rather the one presumption about the “relationship” between Marcus and Liss she’s had since the first book. Where she ever got that idea in her head, I haven’t a clue, but at least it was resolved by the end of this book. On the up side, she wasn’t as dumb as in the previous book, A Charmed Death. All the other characters in the series I like and feel really add to the series, with maybe the exception of Tom, who is very closed-minded and basically just irritates me as a modern woman. I suppose a character who is that way is needed, and he is making some strides in opening his mind to new and frightening (to him) things, but I don’t get Maggie’s attraction to him; it just has not come across in the three books I’ve read. As for Maggie’s other love interest, Marcus, while he’s definitely way (way, way, way, way, way) more interesting than Tom, and I’m going to flip this, but I totally don’t understand Marcus’s interest in Maggie. I cannot think of anything that would intrigue him about her. I honestly can’t, other than she’s nice. A nice, boring, girl-next-door-type. Well, I guess that’s something. So, the mystery…. Surprisingly, it seemed very minimal in this installment and the baddie very easy to figure out since there wasn’t many, or any, other suspects. Still, it was tied up pretty neatly and made some sort of sense.

At the beginning of every book there is enough of a recap of characters and what’s been going on so each book in the series can easily be read by itself, and not necessarily in order. While that is nice for a new reader or one who has gone a long time inbetween books, it makes for a repetitive nature if read too closely together, so I think it’ll be a while before I pick up the next entry.

Library copy.

Review: A Charmed Death

A Charmed Death
A Charmed Death by Madelyn Alt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This second installment of the Bewitching Mystery series focuses on the murder of a popular teenage girl who may have been hiding a seedy secret or two. Maggie delves into the case, while also developing her newfound powers and going on her first N.I.G.H.T.S. investigation.

After the slow-moving first seventy to eighty pages that was mostly background information on the town, the shop, characters and a recap of the last book, the story actually moved onto the main mystery in this book. I found the mystery very intriguing and well-done (I could easily envision it on TV, heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if I had seen a similar story-line), and the author shed more light on Marcus, which was nice, but was also detrimental to other secondary characters, namely Felicity (a.k.a. Liss, which the first time Maggie mentioned that nickname I forgot for a minute who she was referring too. That probably should have been clarified more, I may have read the first book less than a month ago, but I can’t remember everything and it’s not like it’s Melissa/Liss which I would have picked up on immediately. :P). So less Felicity, and also Steff and Tom, surprisingly enough. Any interaction Maggie had with Tom was strained, sometimes strange, and there was a bit at the end I didn’t buy in regards to the two of them. Maggie herself was exactly the same as in the first book, except a bit dumber but I’ll come to that a moment, so that disappointed me. It’s not as if I expect her to grow every book, but a little development here and there or something new we didn’t know about her wouldn’t hurt. Although her development of her ‘powers’ has been nicely and realistically done and the only problem I had was a scene at the end that seemed more magic than magick. Now we come to Maggie doing a couple of stupid things I never thought she’d be dumb enough to do, one of which led to her ‘showdown’ with the murderer. In that instance, she really had no need to do what she did to get him/her arrested or for any reason. It just seemed a contrivance to put her in the murderer’s path. Overall, after the first fourth or so of the book, it was a decent yet flawed read, and I am going to pick up the next in the series with the hope that any minor problems I had will have been just a fluke.

Library copy.

(Clicking on the book cover image or title take you to the book’s product page on Amazon)

Review: The Trouble With Magic

The Trouble With Magic
The Trouble With Magic by Madelyn Alt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
February 20, 2012

Book Description

Double, double, toil and murder…Bringing a little culture to Stony Mill, Indiana, Enchantments is one of the area’s finest antique stores. But shop clerk Maggie O’Neill and her employer Felicity Dow do more than conjure up curios for the locals—they each possess a talent for spellbinding sleuthing . . .

Bored with her office job, Maggie jumps at the opportunity to work at Enchantments. She was a little weirded out when Felicity described herself as a witch, but if her boss wants to play with broomsticks and cauldrons, where’s the harm? However, Maggie’s first day on the job may turn out to be her last when Police question Felicity in the murder of her estranged sister.

With everyone in town proclaiming Felicity’s guilt faster than the Salem Witch trials, Maggie finds herself wondering if she’ll also be tied to the stake. And lately, she’s been receiving messages on a spiritual frequency guiding her to prove Felicity’s innocence—and to embrace her own “charmed” life.

My Review

A well-written, engaging mystery with a protagonist, Maggie O’Neill, I (mostly) connected with and a plot nicely developed. The author did a good job setting up the series while maintaining the mystery within and developing Maggie and her quirks. Easy to read and smartly paced, with an engaging writing style, I’ll definitely be picking up the next book in the series, if not all of them.

I own a used copy that I believe came from Bookmooch.

(Clicking on the book cover image or title take you to the book’s product page on Amazon)