Happy Tuesday! I have two books to share this week. One—despite being a bestseller with polished writing from an author I enjoy—earns three stars. The other is a one-hour read from a series I’ve fallen in love with.
Paul Pen is a Spanish author whose work is routinely translated into English. My first experience reading one of his novels was Desert Flowers, a highly unique, haunting, yet disturbing story. It’s one that remains with me to this day despite the fact I read it in early 2018. A book like that sets a high bar for anything that follows. When I saw Under the Water, I couldn’t wait to download it.
The story started off with a bang—a family of four moving from Seattle to Boston, traveling across country in an RV, planning to sightsee along the way. We get the idea they are hoping for a new start after a series of misfortunes. The ten-year old son lost his eye in an accident, the teenage daughter’s two pet ferrets disappeared, the mother’s hair is now healthy again after falling out in clumps. Weird, huh? This is when the book is good, offering sketchy details that are never quite filled in.
Then, while night-driving in a secluded area, the husband clips a woman who leaps onto the road. Here, things start to sour instead of kicking into high gear. My first problem was accepting that a family of four traveling across country wouldn’t pack a single flashlight in their RV. An RV! Instead, they rely on their cell phones for flashlights—and, of course, those end up missing.
After that, the story degenerates into a hot mess, especially when the woman’s reasons for being on the road are revealed. It requires a stretch of the imagination and dedication to stay with the book. Had it been any author other than Paul Pen, I would have probably stopped reading. I wanted mystery. A haunting, disturbing plot like Desert Flowers. Instead I got infidelity and revenge. I’ve read plenty of books with unlikable characters that I found enthralling, but this one fell short. Toss in the fact the opening chapter seems gimmicky and unnecessary after you know the ending, and I can’t give this book more than 3 stars.
Genre: Psychological Literary Fiction > Spanish & Portuguese Literature
Under Siege: A Muddy River One Hour Read
by Judi Lynn
The citizens of Muddy River have seen their share of problems. A town populated by witches, vampires, shifters, fae, and other preternatural beings, it’s also a place where locals pull together when trouble surfaces. Lead by Raven, the town’s enforcer and fire demon, along with his mate Hester, a powerful witch, Muddy River has stood up to several diabolical challenges.
In this short read, evil surfaces in the form of mortals who have targeted the town. As always, Raven, Hester, and their friends rise to the challenge, banding together to defend their community, including newly arrived members.
If you’re not familiar with Muddy River, this is a nice introduction to the many diverse people who populate it. A magical world where shifters, vampires, and witches gather at the local pub to discuss the day’s events, or rally around a kitchen table to plot strategy. If you’re already familiar with Muddy River, it’s a time to reconnect with characters who have become family. If you’re new to the town, it’s an excellent glimpse into what makes this series—part paranormal, part cozy mystery, part suspense—such a winning combination. You can read this tale in under an hour, and like a Halloween treat, you’ll find yourself wanting more.
Genre: Paranormal Mysteries > Witch and Wizard Fiction
Judi Lynn always delivers a good story and I hope you’ll check out her Muddy Series if you haven’t already.
I expected more of Paul Pen’s book. I think of three stars as an average read. Nothing spectacular, but nothing dreadful either. This book was well written, but there were flaws I found hard to overlook. My biggest issue—when the gloss of the mystery was stripped away, I didn’t care for the story. That’s personal taste, and it happens to all of us. I’m sure others will love the book.
How do you feel when a favorite author disappoints you? I will certainly read Paul Pen again. Will you stick with an author after they deliver a story you didn’t care for?
Let’s chat about it.