Book Review: The Pisces

The PiscesThe Pisces
by Melissa Broder
Contemporary Fiction/Urban Fantasy/Magical Realism
270 pages
Published May 2018

I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while; you know how much I like my mermaids! This one is male, and not as predatory as the rest, but still good. This is one of the books from my summer TBR list, and the second book I’ve read from that list so far.

I feel like this book is better classified as Contemporary Fiction than fantasy; the existence of the merman is the only magical thing about it. Everything else is an exploration on love, obsession, and the lengths people will go to to meet their needs. Broder manages to wax philosophical but with a frankness that keeps everything relatable; from missing ex-boyfriends to worrying about Tinder dates, to thinking about the empty abyss of the ocean at night, Lucy’s inner dialogue speaks to the anxiety within all of us.

I went back and forth as to whether I actually liked Lucy or not. I did like her for most of the book, but then she had to go and be stupid and I’m not sure I can forgive her for that. It does illustrate how far some people will go when they’re obsessed with something, so it’s realistic, I suppose. But I’d rather the cost had fallen on Lucy instead of the innocent bystander.

The ending of the book wasn’t entirely satisfactory. It wrapped up the story, sure, but the next to the last paragraph introduced a question that hadn’t otherwise been considered, and leaves it unanswered. Which is a pet peeve of mine. It’s not philosophy, it’s a question of is she or isn’t she, and that’s not something the reader can really theorize about.

Overall, I really liked the book. There were a couple of events that annoyed me, but for the most part, this was a good summer read. It largely takes place on the beach, it’s at turns funny, sexy, sad, and weird. I think it’s mostly deserving of the hype it received.

From the cover of The Pisces:

Lucy has been writing her dissertation on Sappho for nine years when she and her boyfriend break up in a dramatic flameout. After she bottoms out in Phoenix, her sister in Los Angeles insists Lucy dog-sit for the summer. Annika’s home is a gorgeous glass cube on Venice Beach, but Lucy finds little relief from her anxiety – not in the Greek chorus of women in her love addiction therapy group, not in her frequent Tinder excursions, not even in Dominic the foxhound’s easy affection.

Everything changes when Lucy becomes entranced by an eerily attractive swimmer while sitting alone on the beach rocks one night. But when Lucy learns the truth about his identity, their relationship – and Lucy’s understanding of what love should look like – takes a very unexpected turn. A masterful blend of vivid realism and giddy fantasy, pairing hilarious frankness with pulse-racing eroticism, The Pisces is a story about falling in obsessive love with a merman, a figure of sirenic fantasy whose very existence pushes Lucy to question everything she thought she knew about love, lust, and meaning in the one life we have.

First Grave on the Right/Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones

firstgraveFirst Grave on the Right
by Darynda Jones
338 pages
Published 2011
Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy

Second Grave on the Left
by Darynda Jones
326 pages
Published 2011
Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy

These are the first two books in Darynda Jones’ Charley Davidson series. There are five so far, the next three being Third Grave Dead Ahead (2012), Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet (2012), and Fifth Grave Past the Light (2013). I’ll check and see if the library has the other three. If so, I might pick them up, but I’m not too concerned.

secondgraveCharley Davidson is a reaper. Well, she’s “the” Reaper. There’s only one at a time. (“And to each generation, a slayer is born…” well, not quite like that, heh.) As the Reaper, she sees dead people, can talk to them, and can touch them. They can pass through her into the beyond – what she realizes at some point is, actually, heaven. She appears like a bright light to ghosts all over the place, so they usually show up at her door, or out in the street, or in her bathroom, looking to pass to the great beyond. She has a few other minor powers, like understanding every language, to help her with this task.

The books largely revolve around her solving murders (her father and uncle are both with the Albuquerque Police Department and often ask her help, since being able to ask the deceased “so hey, who killed you?” is actually quite helpful.

There are complications, as there always are. Charley’s comes in the form of Reyes Alexander Farrow. Reyes is a smoking hot convict (who may or may not be guilty of killing his own father) but who is DEFINITELY more than he seems.

The books are decent, for fluffy paranormal romance. My main beef with them comes from two glaring editorial errors. The police station is almost certainly not a “melting potty.” I’m pretty sure the author meant “melting pot,” unless they were going with some really weird imagery! That error could be chalked up to a typo, but the one that actually made me yell at the book was the quote heading up Chapter Two of Second Grave on the Left:

“Don’t cross the streams. Never cross the streams.” – Bumper Sticker. 

…bumper Sticker? BUMPER STICKER?! That’s from Ghostbusters! Misattributing a rather famous quote (it is rather famous, right? It’s not just because I’m a geek?) is a cardinal sin in my book.

So I’m not sure how to feel about these books. My strongest emotion is the indignation at not properly attributing the Ghostbusters quote. Other than that, the story flows well, and fast (I read both books in one afternoon). The characters are interesting and the concept is interesting. The sex is pretty hot, and I like that Charley is portrayed as promiscuous but without slut-shaming her for being so. (Though for her always saying she likes sex, and talking about guys and SAYING she’s promiscuous, we only ever see her have sex with one dude in the first two books.)

I think my final verdict is they’re worth reading if you’re looking for something fluffy, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to pick them up.

From the back of First Grave on the Right:

Charley Davidson is a part-time private investigator and full-time grim reaper. Meaning, she sees dead people. Really. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (like murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an entity who has been following her all her life…and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely. But what does he want with Charley? And why can’t she seem to resist him? And what does she have to lose by giving in?

From the back of Second Grave on the Left:

When Charley and Cookie, her best friend slash receptionist, have to track down a missing woman, the case is not quite as open and shut as they anticipate. Meanwhile, Reyes Alexander Farrow (Otherwise known as the Son of Satan. Yes. Literally.) has left his corporeal body because he’s being tortured by demons who want to lure Charley closer. But Reyes can’t let that happen. Because if the demons get to Charley, they’ll have a portal to heaven. And if they have a portal to heaven…well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be pretty. 
Can Charley handle hot nights with Reyes and even hotter days tracking down a missing woman? Can she keep those she loves out of harm’s way? And is there enough coffee and chocolate in the world to fuel her as she does?