March Mini Reviews: The Good, The (Not So) Bad, and The Ugly

Mini Reviews

Because of the amount of books I read most months, I don’t get to review everything for the blog. The Mini Review Catch Up is my place to give you a little information about some of my other reads and whether or not I would recommend them without going into tons of detail. These are a good sampling of the books I read this month and I’ll let you know whether they were good, (not so) bad, or just plain ugly!


The Good


BorderlineBorderline by Mishell Baker
Book #1 in Arcadia Project Trilogy
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publication Date: March 1st 2016
ARC Provided by Saga Press and Netgalley

Synopsis from Goodreads: A year ago, Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.

For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she’ll have to smooth-talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble’s disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.

No pressure.

Christal’s Review

Borderline was a completely crazy book, but I loved it!  Honestly, there was so much going on in this book that I hardly know where to start.  The main character, Millie, is so different from any other UF heroine out there.  Millie is a paraplegic by way of attempted suicide and she suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  She’s in a psychiatric hospital when we meet her and she’s chocked full of raging anger.  She’s basically a mess, but I kind of loved her any way.  Millie is approached by Caryl, a beautiful, self-contained young woman, with the opportunity to come work for the Arcadia Project.  She’s not told hardly anything about the Project, but decides it’s time to do something, anything.  She moves into a halfway house of sorts for members of the Arcadia Project and her crazy ass adventures begin from there.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot because I think Borderline works best when you know very little going into it.  I will say that it has fae creatures galore and they were my favorite kind of fae, creepy and slightly crazy.  You learn very little about the Arcadia Project and who’s in charge so there are plenty of threads to explore for future books.  The secondary characters that Millie meets at the house are all colorful and unique and falling somewhere on the crazy scale, but I bet that by the end of this book they’ll break your heart too.  Borderline was a great series debut and I’m definitely looking forward to the next installment already!

Thank you to Saga Press via Netgalley for providing an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:4.5 Stars = A-


Lemon Pies White LiesLemon Pies and Little White Lies by Ellery Adams
Book #4 in A Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Paranormal
Publication Date: April 7th 2015 by Berkley
Book Borrowed from Local Library

Synopsis from Goodreads: Ella Mae LeFaye’s Charmed Pie Shoppe has become a phenomenon beyond her wildest dreams, providing the enchanted town of Havenwood, Georgia, with spellbinding desserts and magical pies. Her personal life is also heating up as she takes on the responsibilities of leadership within her magical community. In fact, the only thing weighing her down is the fact that handsome Hugh Dylan won’t return her calls…

Still, when Havenwood is rocked by a series of mysterious deaths, Ella Mae must put romantic longings aside—especially when she realizes that the mystical symbols left at each crime scene are dangerously personal. Now she will have to whip up all her supernatural skills to uncover a killer out to settle an ancient score—before the murderer devastates everything Ella Mae is determined to protect…

Christal’s Review

The Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries always provide a cute, compelling mystery and Lemon Pies and Little White Lies was no exception.  Ella Mae is dealing with the fallout from the previous book, Pecan Pies and Homicides, and this includes missing the love of her life, Hugh Dylan.  Hugh is gone in search of a way to regain his elementals powers and Ella Mae is left in Havenwood to mourn her broken heart.  I have to say that she doesn’t let it get her down too much though.  She puts together a huge baking festival and brings descendants of Morgan La Faye and Guinevere from all over the world together.  She also tracks down a murderer and faces a magical imposter determined to take over Ella Mae’s mantle of Clover Queen.

Of course Ella Mae doesn’t face these obstacles alone.  The whole cast of beloved characters is around, though they don’t all make it out unscathed.  We also meet a couple new faces around Havenwood that could be interesting in the coming books.  The sacred groves and the covens undergo some dramatic changes and Ella Mae makes a huge sacrifice for her people that is going to have a big effect on everything going forward.  While I’m interested to see how this will change the storylines in the upcoming books, I am a little worried that the magic I’ve come to expect from this series might be missing.  I’m cautiously optimistic though, as I love everything I’ve read from Ellery Adams.  I just don’t what Ella Mae and Havenwood to change too much because I absolutely love this series the way it is!

Rating:4 Stars = B



The Bad


Wedding Bells, Magic Spells by Lisa Shearin
Book #7 in Raine Benares
Genre: Fantasy
Publication Date: February 16th 2016
Book Purchased from Amazon

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Name: Raine Benares
Race: Elf
Job: Seeker, bride, peace talks referee
Problem: Back-stabbing diplomats, bride-hating mother-in-law

You would think that after having successfully destroyed the Saghred (aka, a legendary soul-sucking rock) and sending an evil goblin demigod to the Lower Hells that I would get some time off to plan my wedding to my sexy paladin fiancé Mychael Eiliesor, right? Wrong. Not only do I have to brace for meeting Mychael’s parents and cope with my burgeoning new powers, but it seems there may be another calamity brewing.

After the recent change in goblin leadership, the new—thankfully non-psychotic—king is willing to participate in an elf/goblin/human peace treaty. The Isle of Mid is the site of these delicate negotiations, meaning all hands on deck for Mychael and his Conclave Guardians. When the head of elven intelligence (and my wedding guest) Duke Markus Sevelien is nearly assassinated upon his arrival, I suspect my mother-in-law will be the least of my concerns. Sabotaging these talks may be only the first salvo in a treacherous and deadly new apocalyptic plot!

Christal’s Review

I didn’t expect to get another Raine Benares book after All Spell Breaks Loose, so Wedding Bells, Magic Spells was a nice surprise!  This book picks up almost immediately after the first one and deals with, as the title alludes, Raine and Michael’s wedding and a new and deadly spellcaster.  I really did enjoy the new story and I always like seeing Raine and Michael, but it did seem to have a lot of recapping.  It’s been a while since I read the other Raine Benares books, but it still felt a bit like overload.  I know this is the first book in a new story arc, but I think it would be confusing for a new reader to start here just because there is so much history between these characters.

That said, I did really enjoy this book.  The wedding was great and meeting all the new family members was a hoot.  I will say that it felt like a setup book though, obviously, so some of the action I’ve come to expect was missing.  I do think Wedding Bells, Magic Spells created a cool, new big bad and has set up a bigger conflict to come.  I definitely have high expectations for the next book and can’t wait to read it!

Rating:3.5 Stars = B-


This is Where the World EndsThis is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publication Date: March 22nd 2016
ARC Provided by Greenwillow Books and Edelweiss

Synopsis from Goodreads: Janie and Micah, Micah and Janie. That’s how it’s been ever since elementary school, when Janie Vivien moved next door. Janie says Micah is everything she is not. Where Micah is shy, Janie is outgoing. Where Micah loves music, Janie loves art. It’s the perfect friendship—as long as no one finds out about it. But then Janie goes missing and everything Micah thought he knew about his best friend is colored with doubt.

Using a nonlinear writing style and dual narrators, Amy Zhang reveals the circumstances surrounding Janie’s disappearance in her second novel.

Christal’s Review

This is Where the World Ends was an interesting little book, but I don’t think it worked quite as well as Amy Zhang’s debut novel, Falling Into Place.  It’s probably terrible of me to say, but I really didn’t like Janie.  I did not find her to be a very sympathetic characters for a large majority of the book.  I didn’t like the way she treated Micah and I felt like the character was being punished the few times he tried to stand up for himself.  I don’t know how to explain it exactly, but their friendship was not believable for me.

This both alternates between Janie and Micah and it also alternates between timelines.  Micah’s story is in the present and Janie’s is in the past and they eventually intersect.  Another narrative layer is that Micah has short-term memory loss for a lot of him narration so, even though we are in the present, he doesn’t really know what is going on.  I don’t think the combination of the non-linear style and the unreliable narrator were needed.  One would have been enough to keep the mystery behind Janie’s fate running throughout the story.  Amy Zhang still writes beautifully and I did find this to be an enjoyable, quick read; it just wasn’t a home run for me like her previous book.

Thank you to Greenwillow Books via Edelweiss for providing an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:3.5 Stars = C+


The CourierThe Courier by Gerald Brandt
Book #1 in San Angeles
Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Date: March 1st 2016
ARC Provided by DAW and Netgalley

Synopsis from Goodreads: A far-future science fiction debut set in San Francisco—action adventure with a cyberpunk tone.

Kris Ballard is a motorcycle courier. A nobody. Level 2 trash in a multi-level city that stretches from San Francisco to the Mexican border, where corporations make all the rules. A runaway since the age of 14, Kris struggled to set up her life, barely scraping by, working hard to make it without anyone’s help. Witnessing the murder of one of her clients changes everything. Now she’s stuck with a mysterious package that everyone seems to want.

Now the corporations want Kris gone, and are willing to go to almost any length to make it happen. Hunted, scared, and alone, she retreats to the only place she knows she can hide: the Level 1 streets. Running from people that seem to know her every move, she is rescued by Miller—a member of an underground resistance group—only to be pulled deeper into a world she doesn’t understand. They work together to stay ahead of the corporate killers, until Miller falls into their hands. Kris realizes being alone isn’t the answer, and she’s willing to do anything to get him back.

Christal’s Review

The Courier was a bit of a struggle for me.  I enjoyed all the balls to the wall action scenes, but I had a hard time connecting to the main character, Kris.  I just could not believe that she was only 16 and so incredibly lucky… to the point where it wasn’t luck anymore and starting veering into plot contrivance territory.  Also, apart from Kris and Miller, the one guy that seems to be on her side, all the other characters fell pretty flat.  The main antagonists, Quincy and Jeremy, were especially one-dimensional.  I found the idea that the cities were now huge, underground constructions fascinating, but the description was lacking for me.  I just picture big parking garage type structures in my head.  I can recommend this one to readers looking for some fast-paced excitement, but the other aspects were just okay.  I don’t think I will be catching the next ride to San Angeles.

Thank you to DAW Books via Netgalley for providing an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:3 Stars = C



The Ugly


I ended up having to DNF Snakewood by Adrian Selby.  I made it about 48% through the book but I just wasn’t connecting to it.  I never felt like I had a good grasp on the characters or their motivations and the literary devices used to tell the story just did not work for me.  The premise was interesting, but ultimately I just didn’t find the time I was devoting to the story to be worth it.

I also put Dark Transmissions by Davila Le Blanc on hold.  From the very beginning, the timeline was throwing me off and there were so many POV shifts.  I’m just not in the mindset to tackle this one right now, but I do think there is an enjoyable story buried within it that I will eventually come back to.


What books did you read this month? Give us your scoop on The Good, The (Not So) Bad, and The Ugly books that we might have missed!

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