Sunday, October 30, 2016

Book Review: Wicked Wisteria, by Angela Pepper

Wicked Wisteria
(Wisteria Witches, Book 2)
Angela Pepper
Kindle Edition, 231 pages
September 10, 2016
Cozy Mysteries, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy
Source: Amazon Kindle Store

Book Synopsis: Strange things are happening to the books in Wisteria. Words keep disappearing from the pages. Who would do such a thing?

Zara Riddle is on the case! As both a witch and a librarian, she takes a special interest in finding out who or what is stealing the town of Wisteria's printed words.

With the help of her mentor witch aunt and a few unauthorized spells, soon Zara is deep into mystical trouble way over her head. Now her hunky shifter would-be boyfriend Chet is charging in with his macho guys to save the day. But when the trap is sprung, who's going to save Chet?

The cover of this book pulled me in right away!  It just looks so cute, even funny, so I was expecting to get a lot of humor with this story. I was also expecting to be involved in a cozy mystery with the added ingredient of 'witchy' shenanigans. Well, I got the first one, all right, but sadly, not quite the second one....

As I began to read this novel, I was immediately captivated by the story. Zara Riddle, the female protagonist, is a very likable character. She's not only a witch, but one of the librarians in the town of Wisteria, and has a great talent for witty, as well as outright funny comments at every turn. She kept me laughing most of the way through the book. She's the narrator, too, and her take on the novel's events is frequently very entertaining.

I also liked Zara's daughter, Zoe, whom Zara is raising on her own. Furthermore, I loved Zara's parenting style. She's not one of these super strict, authoritarian parents. Instead, she relates to her daughter more like a big sister. There's plenty of joking around between the two. Zara can  be firm when she has to be, but she tempers that firmness with a reasonable attitude. In other words, she never assumes that Zoe is 'guilty until proven innocent', as many parents unfortunately tend to do.

Zoe enjoys the benefits of an easygoing relationship with her mom, and therefore, strikes me as a very well-adjusted, mature teen. Unlike her mother, however, she has no magical skills, and this is a source of frustration and stress for the poor girl. Zara tries to help her make light of this situation, assuring her that her powers might very well appear when she (Zoe) least expects them to.

Zara's quirky witch aunt, Zinnia (what's with all the "z" names, I wonder?), is another great character. As her niece becomes involved in some sleuthing, she gets in on the action, and the two of them start acting like a real detective team. I thought she was a bit too stern with Zara at one point, though; after all, the latter is in her early thirties. She hardly needed to be 'magically grounded' for an unwitting mistake. Still, I did enjoy Zinnia's personality and actions in the story. She's really a very resourceful, imaginative witch. She's also Zara's mentor and teacher in the ways of magic. Zara is coming along very well, too, thanks to her aunt.

Now for some use of the letter "z" myself.... I would apply the word "zany" to the antics of Frank Wonder, Zara's fellow librarian. From his pink hair to his jokes, he's one FUNNY guy! And he genuinely likes Zara, only not THAT way, unfortunately... Poor Frank gets into some trouble later on in the story, and has to be rescued by Zara and her aunt. As the book ends, he's just gotten himself into a very comical predicament.

The one character I totally disliked was Chet, Zara's 'sort-of would-be boyfriend'. Now this was bad, as he was supposed to be one of the good guys. He acted like a total jerk most of the time. His attitude toward Zara was frequently pretty rude, and he was not averse to subtly putting her down, and even, at times, scolding her like a child. Had I experienced the type of first date Zara painfully went through with him, he would have been history before you could even say, "Sayonara"! In short, this guy is a totally arrogant, macho (insert your favorite curse word here). Donald Trump, anyone?

What also bothered me to NO end -- and this went all the way from annoyance to outright anger -- was the silly, simpering way Zara kept trying to get and maintain his interest. Instead of metaphorically giving Chet the swift kick in the rear he very obviously deserved, she was tireless in trying to kindle (no pun intended) a relationship that anyone except Zara herself could see was NOT going anywhere.

In short, there was NO romance in this alleged 'paranormal romance'. Chet is a werewolf, so that's the only reason I can think of for the listing of this book as a 'paranormal romance'.

Aside from Chet, a couple of other things really bothered me about this novel. This was rather unfortunate, since I have thus ended up with very mixed feelings about this book.

The first thing was how Zara interacted with ghosts. Okay, I get that this is a paranormal novel, but I didn't like it when one of these ghosts just zipped right up Zara's left nostril, taking up residence in her brain. Yes, this is exactly what happened. And Zara actually became possessed by these 'visiting' ghosts; at times they entirely took over her body; afterward, she could not remember things she had done and said, which were actually the work of the resident ghost. I have no objection to paranormal characters interacting with ghosts, but I firmly draw the line at outright possession. It just gives me the creeps!! This also took away from the general comical tone of this novel. 

Another reason I didn't like this novel as much as I was expecting to was the plot itself. The book started out with an intriguing book mystery -- library books were being mysteriously erased. So that caught my interest, because of course I love reading books about books! I therefore figured that the plot would go on along those lines, with some fascinating, book-related mystery being eventually solved. But no, that was not to be. Instead, this initially light-hearted read suddenly morphed into this ridiculous horror-cum-science-fiction mashup that instantly reminded me of 1950s B-grade horror movies. From the books being erased, the author suddenly shifted to a nefarious, 'evil scientist' type plot full of the usual tropes and stupid plot twists. Everything went downhill fast from there.

In short, this novel has left me with a HUGE feeling of disappointment. I made myself finish it, because, having read as far as I had, I just wanted to see how the darned thing would end. Speaking of the ending, that was just as unsatisfying as the morphing from one genre to the other toward the end of the book. In addition to that, it was rather ambiguous.

I really couldn't believe the author's inexplicable, and very sudden,  genre  change, toward the end of the book. I totally thought I was reading a cozy mystery, with added paranormal elements, for most of the book. So it felt as if the author had pulled the rug out from under my feet when she suddenly decided that she would take inspiration from "Bride of Frankenstein" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Not that I have ever watched these films in their entirety, but I have seen certain scenes. (Not being a lover of the horror genre, I was never interested in watching these painfully tacky movies in full.)

I really wanted to like this book, but novels that perform a genre switch after most of the plot has been consumed by the reader just aren't my cup of tea at all. Besides, they don't speak very highly of the author's writing skills. This novel made me feel as if the author had pulled a 'bait and switch' on me.

Other readers might enjoy this sort of mixed-up plot, but I certainly didn't. I cannot recommend this novel as a 'light, fun, paranormal romance', because it fails to deliver on most counts. The only reason I'm giving it three stars is that the humor is really great, and the character of Zara is what carries the novel all the way through. Had it not been for these elements, I would probably have given the book only one star.

I might try the first book in the series, Wisteria Witches, to see how I like it. I'm hoping that, being the first book, it will be more enjoyable to read, and will also have a more coherent plot.


I'm new to the mystery genre, but not new to writing. My romance books can be found under my other pen name, Mimi Strong.

My home is not far from Misty Falls, in the Pacific Northwest. My cozy writing room has a peek-a-boo view of the mountains. I live with my husband, and an orange tabby who has many more years of experience than Jeffrey Blue, but still remembers how to do Kitty Playtime Hour.

When I'm not writing books, I'm thinking about writing books. Don't worry; I do take breaks to eat, and enjoy the sunshine when the clouds allow!

I'm passionate about my crafts, ranging from pottery (wheel-thrown and handbuilt), to sewing (when I can remember how to thread the Serger), and painting in any medium, as long as the colors are bright and cheerful.


No comments:

Post a Comment

THIS IS NOW AN AWARD-FREE, AND TAG-FREE BLOG. Thanks for the compliment, though! : )

As of today, 9/23/18, I have permanently enabled comment moderation, due to a sudden rash of SPAM comments. I appreciate your patience!

Thanks for your thoughts on my posts! I always reply here, as well as comment back on your blog. Have a WONDERFUL day!! :)