Stef Maruch

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Smashwords book reviews by Stef Maruch

  • The Unquiet Grave on Sep. 28, 2012

    Fun, well-written novel with a compelling ghostly mystery to solve. The main characters have an established marriage and work well as a magical and investigative team. The sense of place is really strong. A bit unusual for a paranormal fantasy in my experience, the magic is based on modern pagan/Wiccan/shamanic practices rather than vampire and werewolf mythology. If you like your entertainment reading to teach you stuff, you'll appreciate the Celtic music references (I hope a future edition of the book will come with a mix CD :) and learning how to read Tarot cards.
  • She Moved Through the Fair on Sep. 28, 2012

    The second book in the Caitlin Ross series is even better than the first. The setting (a small town festival) is vivid. I really care about a lot of the human characters; they have a variety of realistic motives. The gods and demons that Caitlin has to interact with to solve the mystery are mysterious, thrilling, and scary. Caitlin's magic and its terrifying effects are beautifully described.
  • A Maid in Bedlam on Sep. 28, 2012

    The third book in the Caitlin Ross series is an ambitious and disturbing story full of loss, pain, and evil. It also has some of the most powerful descriptions of magical and emotional healing that I've found in contemporary fantasy.
  • Dragons of the Mind: Seven Fairy Tales on Nov. 18, 2012

    This collection of modern fairy-tale-inspired short stories is superb. I read it in one big gulp and couldn't put it down. The writing has a clarity and sweetness that's like drinking pure cold water when you're very thirsty.
  • The Fits o' the Season on April 08, 2013

    Fifth in the Caitlin Ross/Timber MacDuff series. This book relies on knowing the stuff that happens in the third (A Maid in Bedlam) and fourth (The Parting Glass) books in the series. (So buy all of them!) The series is in the small-town fantasy/paranormal romance genres, but with a difference, in that the POV characters are human witches and shamans, not vampires/werewolves/faeries. The previous books in the series are from Caitlin's point of view but this one is a set of interrelated shorts from Timber's point of view. Interesting magical and shamanic (and quite violent) things happen. Katherine Lampe knows how to make magick vivid and real. But what I especially like about this novella is that the underlying thread is an exploration of love for the long term, the kind you need to start building after the pedestal you stuck under your loved one crumbles. A lot of urban-fantasy/paranormal-romance books look at this from the point of view of a female protagonist, and this is the first one I've read that looks at it from the point of view of a male protagonist. Timber is a complex character. He's a broken guy who does a lot of bad things, but without being a rogue (so you like that he does bad things, because you secretly wish you could do them) or villain (so you enjoy hating him). You're just with him all the way hoping he is going to make it. He has a balance of positive and negative qualities such that he has to struggle hard to get where he needs to be.
  • Demon Lover on Sep. 01, 2014

    This one is a real page-turner. Katherine Lampe writes something like paranormal fiction but her protagonists aren't vampires or shapeshifters. They and other characters in her books have some personal magic power, and also access power and communicate with supernatural entities use a variety of magic forms and rituals that are common in the Americas and Europe. This lets Katherine get her characters into and out of trouble using everything from Tarot readings to shamanic journeying to charms you can buy off the Internet or make with supplies from your local craft store, which I think is a lot of fun. The relationship between protagonists Caitlin and Timber (who are married) is a delightful change from the usual antagonistic romantic relationship (or its opposite, the soulmates-until-the-end-of-time-even-though-we-only-met-two-days-ago relationship) in many paranormal romances. This novel uses elements and gods from African religions, and the antagonist is an African woman. Because people might feel this is cultural appropriation, Katherine includes an afterword explaining her choices and how she researched these subjects. Because of that and because I'm white and they aren't my religious elements or gods, my enjoyment of the story wasn't affected. The story shifts between Caitlin's and Timber's POVs. They have really distinctive voices. For example, Timber is much more tentative about communicating with himself verbally. I really sense that his relationship to the world is mediated through his body. Sexual harrassment is often used as a plot driver in the paranormal genre in ways that make me uncomfortable: there is a trope (I'm looking at you, Charlaine) where male characters use sexual harrassment against female characters as a form of flirting/power-jockeying with other male characters. I hate that, and I am glad that is NOT done in this book. I was glad to see Tintri Fionn again, from an earlier book. He's one of my favorite characters.