Book Review Tuesday: Under the Water by Paul Pen, Under Siege by @ judipost

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over image

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.

Book cover for Under the Water by Paul Pen shows title on watery background with bubblesPaul 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.

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Literary Fiction >  Spanish & Portuguese Literature

Book cover for Under Siege by Judi Lynn shows fierce looking woman in skimpy warrior outfit holding long knife as if to attackUnder 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.
5 Stars!

Amazon Link
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.

43 thoughts on “Book Review Tuesday: Under the Water by Paul Pen, Under Siege by @ judipost

  1. Mae,two excellent and honest reviews. I also give three stars to mean that the book was good enough, average as you say. It is so disappointing when a book falls short of your expectations, particularly after the first one you read by him stayed with you and was so impressive. Fingers crossed the next one is not so flawed and awes you! Under Siege sounds like no book I’ve ever read … yet you make it accessible and I’m intrigued! Happy Reading, my friend! 😀 📖

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi, Annika! So great to see you again! 🙂
      I think the three star book, while being an average read, felt beneath that because I expected so much from it. At the same time, it was well written and started off well. I really waffled on how to rate it, but for me it was “meh.” Parts of it even equated to “ugh.” 🙂

      Judi’s series is unlike any other I’ve read too. Very much a cozy mystery but with supernatural characters. At the same time, the group does engage in some intense battles. I really love her characters!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I’ll usually give the author another chance but only the one. I don’t want to waste my time or money on him or her if they keep disappointing. Great reviews, Mae, and I’ll have to look for Muddy River when I get some space on my TBR, lol. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • For me it depends on how much I’ve read previously. You know how I feel about Preston & Child. If they disappointed me for a few books in a row, I’d stick with them because I’ve read so many exceptional books they wrote. With Paul Pen, I’ve only ever read one previous book, so if his next release disappoints me, I probably won’t go back again. I think if an author releases a “good” book followed by an “average” book, it’s not as hard for a reader to accept as when an author releases an “exceptional” book followed by an “average” one.

      Judi writes a fun series. If you like cozies and/or supernatural characters, you’re sure to love Muddy River!


    • Yeah, I can’t recommend Under Water despite the three starts. I can, however, recommend Desert Flowers. That book rocked my world.

      If it’s an author I have a long-standing history with I’d stick with them even after two bad releases, but in the case of a new author…if it’s my first time reading them and they disappoint, I’m done. With Paul Pen, he’s 1 for 2, so I’ll purchase his next release. After that, I’ll be done if I don’t care for the novel. I guess writers are tough (tougher?) critics, too! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Love both covers and Under Siege sounds interesting. Lots of cool fantasy creatures :). It reminds me of Anne Bishops The Others series, which I enjoyed.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m a Stephen King fan – but he had a string of books I didn’t care for and, other than Dr. Sleep, I haven’t read his more recent books. It’s not because I’ve lost interest, it’s just a matter of finding the time to catch up. So I get what you’re saying. The setting in Judi’s book makes me think of Bon Temps in the True Blood series – a whole mix of supernaturals.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I really like the mix of so many supernatural beings in one setting, plus I’m huge fan of mysteries so I enjoy trying to figure out what’s going on. True Blood is one of those series I never read (or watched), but I know it has a huge fan base.

      Funny you should mention King, I used to devour his early stuff, then he wrote a few I didn’t care for and I strayed. Every now and then I still grab one of his releases, but not like I did in my younger days. I do, however, want to read The Outsider and, possibly, Dr. Sleep.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for such a good review, Mae! I’m so glad you like this series, it’s so much fun to write.
    I’m a huge Elizabeth George fan. I think her first book, A Great Deliverance, was as close to a perfect mystery as you can get. Loved a lot of the books after that, but then she hit a slump. It almost felt like she couldn’t stand her characters anymore but they’re what the fans wanted. She beat the heck out of them, and I hung in for a couple, then stalled. But I went back, and now her books are awesome again. I’m guessing it’s hard not to write a clinker or two (I liked Craig’s word) but unless it’s an author I love, I’ll only wade through one. If there’s another, I move on. I do make an exception, though, for authors I’ve followed for a while who have life hit them hard, and they still pound out a book. That book never has the same voice–it’s darker, more depressing. And I understand why it would be.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can tell you’re enjoying writing Muddy River. It’s so much fun to read!

      I read most of Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley series and was so hooked on them for the longest time. I devoured them. And then like you said–she inflicted so much on her characters. I couldn’t stay with the books–but, wow, did she know how to craft a good mystery.

      Have you ever reach Tana French? She’s another one who knows how to spin a good mystery and I love her use of prose. I have some catching up to do with her books (sitting on my shelf) but if she stumbled and released a “clinker” 🙂 I’d stick with her. Two in a row would be when i jump ship!


    • The whole Muddy River series is awesome, Jacquie. I know you’ll enjoy them!

      When you read Under the Water, you understand where the title and book cover come from, but the story still falls flat for me 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great reviews. Funny how some books just seem to fall short even when an author is well known and there’s lots of spit and polish. And then other books we take a chance on are smash hits with us. Thanks for the high recommendation of Under Siege.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The Muddy River book sounds great – right up my alley! As for your disappointing time with the Paul Penn book, I feel for you. I’ve had a spate of disappointing reads lately, mostly by new authors, not my favourite tried and true ones. But, if one of those does give me a bad read, I’ll keep reading their new offerings… for a while. If they don’t pick up after another book or two, well, they’re outta here. Too many books out there to stick with sub par writing just because the author used to be good.
    Geez, touch critic or what?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It happens more often than not, Mae. I was SO taken with “The Captains and the Kings” by Taylor Caldwell that I couldn’t wait to read something else. I was so disappointed I didn’t even finish the book. Perhaps some authors only have one good book in them? I don’t know, but I hate it when I am disappointed. Thanks for sharing your reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember when Captains and Kings was THE book of the moment. I’m not sure I ever read it but I remember there was a mini series. Now I’m thinking I should look it up on Amazon.

      I’m with you. When I become besotted with a story and then expect something similar, I’m so disappointed when the next book doesn’t deliver.

      Here’s hoping we have more good books then bad, Jan! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m the same way if it’s a first read, Robbie. I wouldn’t go back to try another. But I would stick with an author I like through 1-2 flops. After that, probably not. There are so many books and so little time!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, that’s an interesting observation, Jacqui. I don’t think I’ve read any books where a favorite author teams up with another, but I have noticed it becoming a trend with a number of authors. I would definitely give the team book a try but I can also see where it would present a possible let down. Having a different voice in the story could definitely change the outcome.


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