Welcome back to this monthly blog post series – though I read in August, we skipped that assignment so I didn’t post a review here. However, this particular book was one I bought back in 2019 so it’s certainly time to give it a read. As usual, the basic book details and blurb follow. After that, we’ll start on the negative review points I found on GR and Amazon and start our chat!

Deadline [A Blood Trails novel] by Jennifer Blackstream
Book 1 of 12
Published: 1-14-98
Amazon: 821 ratings, 4.3 stars
Goodreads: 1,205 ratings, 3.94 stars

Shade’s To Do List:

  • Investigate a haunting
  • Find undead crime lord’s stolen book of blackmail
  • Survive

An FBI contact comes to Shade for help when a ghostly presence indicates a missing architect with ties to the mob might have been murdered. Even for a village witch recently turned private investigator, it should have been an easy assignment. Show up, look for the ghost, determine if it’s the missing architect.

Easy peasy.

Then an unexpected twist brings a vampire to her doorstep.

A bold thief stole the “reputable businessman’s” little black book of secrets—and he’ll pay a lot more than an FBI consulting fee to get it back.

Powerful suspects make powerful enemies.

Soon the question isn’t whether or not Shade can solve the case—it’s whether or not she can survive it if she does.


Again, I’ve found the negative reviews to be the most helpful place for me to start. Yes, as an author, I do love 5 star reviews. However, as a reader, I feel like the most useful info is usually in the 1 and 2 star reviews. Those prepare me for issues I may also have with a book and that was certainly the case this time.

Repeated points in negative online reviews:
–hallmarks of a novice writer: the plot is mundane, the characters are undeveloped, the world-building is minimal, and the jokes are slapstick. Everything is obvious.
–MC is naïve, makes bad choices, and repeats mistakes
–Poorly executed

I will admit I was very concerned to see multiple mentions that the main character wasn’t strong but was annoying. Characters always drive a story for me so they get a lot of my attention. As that’s the case, let’s start there.

Main Character TSTL

In case you haven’t seen it TSTL is an abbreviation for ‘too stupid to live’. I only learned that after many references in Facebook reader groups! There are definitely some inconsistencies in that she has lived and trained as a witch for what appears to be hundreds of years and yet was a bit isolated due to her mentor’s rules. While it may seem like she’s undeveloped and/ or repeating mistakes, I felt like it was more of a set-up for future growth over a series.

I found the MC to be likeable and enjoyed her personality. At times, she’s infinitely knowledgeable while other times she is a little lost. I was actually impressed that she gave into her emotions and cried while still owning up to her mistakes and admitting her failures. This worked well for me especially in the current trending world of super powerful female leads! Shade is definitely a refreshing break from that and she worked for me.

BTW, the book does explain a bit about the apparent inconsistencies, but that would be a bit spoilerish so I’ll leave that for my fellow readers to uncover!

Poorly executed

Many liked the idea but not the actual writing. Again, I must disagree.  

The first chapters snagged my interest with action and world-building. There was a fairly consistent and good pace that kept both continuing throughout. I felt it was a good foundation for book 1 in a what is already an 11-book series. There’s not just room for the MC to grow, but also for us to learn more about the world. There’s certainly some element that appear to foreshadow that too!

As for the actual theft/ murder plot, I enjoyed it. I thought it was great that Shade questioned suspects and tried to gain information to figure out who did it. Magic was a factor in many ways, but the approach felt very human and grounded the story in more of a real-world setting.

What about the humor? As I’ve noted previously, I don’t usually appreciate books labeled as ‘laugh out loud’ and now actually avoid them. The humor here actually worked well for me as it was snark but wasn’t overdone.


Overall, I’d give this one a solid 3.5 stars. It exceeded my expectations and provided a satisfying read. I would definitely read more in this series and from this author. Here are two of my favorite lines:

“I didn’t share that information. Brownie point for me. And later a real brownie.”

“Sometimes, confidence was the difference between success and failure. and sometimes, confidence didn’t do squat.”

This book appears to be a permafreebie on Amazon so I definitely think it’s worth checking out and deciding for yourself whether you like Shade and her magical world!
Now, as usual, the next part is more of an analysis as a writer hoping to learn. If that doesn’t interest you, scroll down to the cat picture and get the US Amazon links for this book and next month’s read too!


Fellow writers, we’ve discussed quite a bit this year already including POV, plotting, pacing, and even marketing. I remain giddy how much this blog series has taught me about our craft. I hope you are having fun too – feel free to comment below or reach out if you want to chat more! This read brought up some new issues so let’s just right in!

Unique

As I mentioned above, this book stands out as fresh to me despite or because it was published in 1998. The MC isn’t an all-powerful chosen one. It was a refreshing breath of fresh air considering current trends. As we discussed writing on trend, perhaps we should also talk about writing against them.

Have you intentionally flipped a trend on its side? Do your marketing efforts focus on what’s different about your book?

This isn’t something I’ve done as I’m more on the side of trying to understand and write to market for my third series. My first two really were more of what I wanted to write. I’m still doing that with the new series, but I’m keeping in mind trends, genre standards, and marketing.

I was curious to see how this series played up those traits and looked ahead which bring up my next point.

Series longevity

I was curious about the MC’s growth as that was a turn-off for some even as it stood out in a good way for me. According to the reviews, Shade’s growth doesn’t meet many readers expectations. There does appear to be a romantic element added in later books which wasn’t really present in book 1 (or apparently book 2).

Have you plotted your series? Do you try to consistently lead readers and meet expectations? Have your switched paths in the middle of a series?

How has this series done? I didn’t get standings, but I did check ratings.

Book 1   840
Book 2   198
Book 3   162
Book 4   160
Book 5   155
Book 6   155
Book 7   163
Book 8   295
Book 9   231
Book 10 145
Book 11 14
**Book 12 is on preorder and 11 was just published Sept 21, 2021 (mere days before I post this). The star rating stays consistently over 4 stars.**

Clearly, there’s some longevity here and a part of me wants to jump to the most recent to see how much the author, the MC, and the world has grown. In fact, I just may have to do that!

Writing a series and especially a longer series present unique issues we must consider. There are readers who won’t start an unfinished series. There are readers who don’t like standalone books. There are authors who have series with 20+ books going strong. Some of it could be a happy accident, but I’m more inclined to believe these authors have worked hard to build their series and keep them going.

We all have our own paths and preferences. I’m certainly leaning even more toward knowing myself and my books/ series better.

What about you? Have you made changes along your writing journey? Feel free to share your thoughts by commenting here!


As always, thanks for checking out my blog and following this journey of fantasy reads in 2021! If you want the full list, check out the intro blog HERE. If you would like to share a guest post on fantasy books as a reader or writer, please send me a message so we can chat.

So, what’s our next read? Fury of a Phoenix: Nix 1 by Shannon Mayer! I’ll post US Amazon links to both books below.

Happy reading and writing, friends! Until next time…

-RSJ

Izzie and Deadline!

Deadline by Jennifer BlackStream

Fury of a Phoenix by Shannon Mayer

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