Jasper’s Journey

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Title & Link: Jasper’s Journey
Author: Lisa Marie Davis
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Murder Mystery, Contemporary M/M
Length: Novella (178 pages)
Rating: 2.75 out of 5 stars

A guest review by Buda

Summary Review: A plot with tremendous potential made disappointing by sketchy relationship-building and head-hopping.

The Blurb:

Jasper Brady’s world was forever changed when his sixteen-year-old sister Monica went missing and was found dead two weeks later. Depression struck the family, leaving eleven-year-old Jasper vulnerable to years of neglect and serious abuse until he ran away.

Thirteen years later, his father is dead, his mother is struggling to reconnect with him, and his sister’s murder case is still unsolved. Then Jasper meets Zander Macon, who believes the original investigation of Monica’s death wasn’t properly handled. Jasper surprises himself by agreeing to help Zander in any way possible, and it doesn’t take long for someone to respond to Zander’s questions with lethal intent. Trying to survive and solve the case, Zander and Jasper find mutual attraction turning into more, and Jasper will confide the dark details of his childhood while Zander works to overcome his own issues with the past.

The Review:

Jasper Brady receives a phone call from his hometown asking him to come care for his mother, Cindy, who is about to be released from the hospital after a botched suicide attempt. Jasper hasn’t seen his mother since he ran from what was left of his home at sixteen. After his sister, Monica, was murdered the day before Jasper’s eleventh birthday, his family ceased to function. His father locked himself in his home office and drank. His mother locked herself in her bedroom and popped pills to sleep. Jasper had to learn to take care of himself at that tender age. He even had to find out what happened to his sister from the newspapers, because neither of his parents would speak to or look at him and, apparently, the rest of the town ignored him as well.

Except for the predatory neighbor, that is. Niles Rimes, the local dentist, took young Jasper under his care and then turned the waking bad dream that was Jasper’s life into a nightmare of sexual abuse that lasted until Jasper was old enough, strong enough and big enough to run away. All of these are reasons why Jasper desperately wants to refuse to return to Carson to care for his mother; but, in the end, he cannot.

Zander Macon, a high school friend of the murdered Monica, has recently returned to Carson to recover from an injury sustained in Iraq. As an investigative journalist, he was riding along with three soldiers when an improvised explosive device shattered his leg and killed the soldiers with whom he was riding. Now, back home in Carson, his intention is to find out who killed Monica Brady, a crime that not only was never solved, but that seemed to go cold as soon as the body was discovered. When Jasper returns to Carson, Zander asks for his help. Not only are they able to solve the eighteen year old crime, but they fall in love in the process.

As with all of Lisa Marie Davis’ mysteries that I’ve read, the whodunit element is essentially destroyed right off the bat. While that may be part of the Grand Design for Ms Davis, so that the focus of the story is less on the mystery and more on the romantic development, it simply doesn’t work in this case. This particular book doesn’t name the actual murderer until somewhere near the end, but so many heads are hopped that where there could have been incredible tension and suspense, there is nothing. Scenes that could have been used to ramp up the excitement over discovering who killed young Monica and is now after Jasper and Zander are wasted on presenting outside points of view that basically tell you “who” straightaway. That is, without question or reserve, the main reason this book received a low score.

Jasper and Zander’s relationship just sort of happens, but without ever having been a focus of attention.  At one point Zander says, “I want you, Jasper. I need to be honest about that. I’ve wanted you since the second I first saw you again, and you need to know that nothing you told me has changed my wanting you.” My reaction (voice aloud, to the startled chagrin of my dog) was simply to wonder why. By the time the two have sex for the first time, I was left wondering just what caused the two to feel so strongly for each other, aside from being two attractive openly gay men in a very small town. I didn’t fully comprehend what it was about Zander that allowed Jasper to feel safe for the first time since Monica’s disappearance, or for him to want to explore sex-with-emotion with Zander, something Jasper had never allowed himself to do before (the “with emotion” part, that is). There was really nothing there for me to develop a connection with these two men, to want them to find their happy for now, let alone a happy ever after.

Additionally, the dialogue, especially when coming out of Cindy Brady’s mouth, falls right into melodramatic, only occasionally teetering on the edge. Granted, the poor woman has been through a lot–burying a child and a husband, a suicide attempt and, finally, the revelation of Jasper’s abuse and the identity of the murderer–but that’s no excuse. And a lot of times, Jasper and Zander aren’t much better, though a lot of Jasper’s melodrama takes place in his head as he continually revisits the emotions connected to his past abuse.

Finally, and just for fun, I would really like to see police officer Kayne Kennedy from the author’s Shadows from the Past (reviewed by Lily here) ride into town and arrest these people for Felonious Battery with Bad Names. We have Jasper, Cindy and Nixon Brady, Zander and Darbi Macon; Noah, Brisa and Rory Willow; and Niles Rimes. The only poor sod with a regular name is the sheriff, Gary Hoover. And I could never read the name “Brisa” without thinking of the Jewish ceremony of a similar name. Ouch.

For all the reasons mentioned above, I can only recommend this book to anyone who is a die-hard fan of the author or to those who don’t wish to try to puzzle out the mystery presented them. I’ve read other, far better books by Ms Davis, including What Matters Most, a Ghost Whisperer-esque paranormal, or Dreams Come True, a wedding-related book, reviewed by Wave here.

30 thoughts on “Jasper’s Journey

  1. Tam

    Hmm. I think this one is not for me. I’ve only read 2 books by this author but if I decide to try another I’ll choose one of the others you mentioned. Nice review.

    1. Buda Post author

      Hi, Tam. If you do choose one of this author’s books other than this one and paranormal is to your liking (sorry, but I can’t remember!), I highly recommend What Matters Most.

  2. Lisa Marie Davis

    Sorry you didn’t care for the book, but I’d like to point out that Noah and Cindy are actually pretty common names.

    1. Buda Post author

      Hi Lisa. You’re right, Noah and Cindy are pretty common names. I apologize if my attempt at humor fell flat. That said, I’d like to thank you for What Matters Most, a book I really loved.

  3. Dominic

    I liked this story and found it fun. I thought this review was snarky and went over the line of a proper review. This site is usually better than that.

    1. Buda Post author

      Hi Dominic. Thank you for your comments; I’ll keep them in mind. I’m glad you liked the book. :)

  4. J. P. Barnaby

    I have to agree with Dominic. The review and the description of the story really make me want to read it. If nothing else, to see if it’s a fair review.

    1. Buda Post author

      Hello, JP. If you do read the book, I hope you like it. Please stop back and let me know what you thought of it.

  5. Fiona

    I agree with Dominic about this review. A good review remains objective and constructive criticism is great, but to have a go about the names is a little off. It has nothing to do with the story content and distinctive names make characters recognisable. There are enough complaints when authors use bland names. Just goes to show you can’t please everyone. As a Brit I see my fair share of odd names that parents are using and the US is no different. However, if you can be so damning of the story on this point, it makes me want to form my own opinion about the rest of it.

    1. Buda Post author

      Hi, Fiona. Your comment reminded me of a great comedy sketch about a teacher’s first day at school trying to pronounce his students’ names. I remember among them were Escalade (Es-kuh-LAH-day) and Gonorrhea (Ja-NOR-ee-uh). :) My comment about the names was meant to be in fun, as I said.

      I hope you read the book. If you do, please let us know what you think of it.

  6. Reggie

    Hi Buda! I did read this book I just fogot about it. I didn’t recognize it until I read the description. I remember i enjoyed reading it but was left ambivalent. I am not reviewer material because I couldn’t figure out why this book had no impact on me. It did end up one of the few books I’ve deleted. I couldn’t see a reason I would re-read it. I’m not a hater just had no scene became vibrant for me. Reviewing is really difficult, especially when a book seems good but doesn’t generate energy. Trying to figure out why is the enduring quest. When does art become art and why? Hats off to you, you’ve got a tough job! Happy New Year and thanks for all your great comments.

    1. Buda Post author

      Hi, Reggie. Thank you for your comments. Your questions were exactly the ones I was left trying to answer. Ultimately books are an emotional journey between the characters and the reader. Sometimes we get all 6 cylinders firing in line, and other times the spark just seems to be missing. The wonderful reality is that for every reader who misses the spark, there is another out there who gets a wonderful charge.

      Thank you for the new year’s wishes. I hope your 2011 is everything you want it to be!

  7. Sirius11214

    Proper review? Unless reviewer is attacking the author personally there is no “improper review” as far as this reader is concerned. Buda explained why mystery did not work for him, why romance did not work for him and all you notice is his dislike of the names?

    Thanks for the review Buda, I do not think I will be getting this one any time soon.

    1. Buda Post author

      Sirius, thank you for the support. Perhaps I should have used a different adjective than “bad.” Just for you, I’ll see if I can dig out a 4.5 or better book for next week. :) Happy New Year.

      1. Sirius11214

        Thank you Buda! Look if all that your review contained was poking fun at the names, I would not have given that review much weight, honest. But you explained in great details why it did not work for you, I honestly thought it was lovely review. I do not think I ever properly thanked you for warning me about the book with the grossly misspelled and incorrect Russian names (for the life of me do not remember the author, but I am pretty sure you wrote that review :))

        Yes, it can grate on your nerves a lot if author decides to use foreign language in the novel and does not bother to do proper research, because see characters who cannot speak their own language look like idiots to the reader who actually does speak that language :)

        Will be waiting for that book Budda ;)

        1. Buda Post author

          Sirius, thanks again for recognizing the effort here. I appreciate it. These take me a long time to write because I really want readers to know the good about a book and be forewarned about what didn’t work for this reader so they can make an informed decision. It’s nice when I get to write really rave reviews, but it’s harder to write one like this, especially since I want to like all of the books!

          I do remember the book you’re referring to with the butchered Russian. I’m glad my warnings were useful to you! :) I hope that author puts out something else soon. She has talent. That book just got beyond her knowledge and the proper research wasn’t done. I do look forward to her next book, though.

  8. William Cooper

    Like others, I’m kinda disappointed at the quality of this review. I have no problem reading negative reviews, but this seems to be more snarky than it needed to be. It doesn’t seem like the reviewed has been out in the word if they think Jasper, Noah, and Cindy are bad names. Those are fairly common names and in real life I’ve seen much worse than what this author has chosen. If the author had chosen some out there name that’s unpronounceable, I could see pointing that out, but this isn’t the case.

    1. Buda Post author

      William, what did you think of the book? Did you enjoy reading about Brisa and the gang?

  9. Wave

    Hi Buda
    You’re getting beat up about your comment on the characters’ names. I must admit that while some of them are pretty common in the US (Cindy) others are unusual (Brisa) and I have had my share of fun with names many times.

    That aside I think you have given valid reasons for your rating

    As with all of Lisa Marie Davis’ mysteries that I’ve read, the whodunit element is essentially destroyed right off the bat. While that may be part of the Grand Design for Ms Davis, so the focus of the story is less on the mystery and more on the romantic development, it simply doesn’t work in this case. This particular book doesn’t name the actual murderer until somewhere near the end, but so many heads are hopped that where there could have been incredible tension and suspense, there is nothing

    If I were reading this book this would have been reason enough for me to give it the rating that you did.

    As we all know, not everyone likes the same kind of story. I love mysteries so if I thought I was getting a mystery AND a romance I would have been disappointed.

    You also stated a number of other reasons why the romance didn’t work for you including –

    There was really nothing there for me to develop a connection with these two men, to want them to find their happy for now, let alone a happy ever after.

    Although other readers have read this book and enjoyed it, there are probably an equal number who didn’t. We all have different tastes and opinions about the books we read and you’re entitled to yours.

    1. Buda Post author

      Wave – You know I’m always in trouble for something. I didn’t even need my wingmen TJ and Ethan this time.

      I’m glad to see that some of those who commented really did like the book. For me, it just didn’t work (regardless of the names) and I truly was sorry that was the case.

  10. S.

    Thanks for the review. I think you gave a fair and thorough assessment of the book. Just for the head hopping alone, I’d be skipping (and probably rating a book down to 2.5, but I digress). POVs should be settled before publication in my very humble opinion.

    This part here:
    Jasper and Zander’s relationship just sort of happens, but without ever having been a focus of attention. At one point Zander says, “I want you, Jasper. I need to be honest about that. I’ve wanted you since the second I first saw you again, and you need to know that nothing you told me has changed my wanting you.” My reaction (voice aloud, to the startled chagrin of my dog) was simply to wonder why. By the time the two have sex for the first time, I was left wondering just what caused the two to feel so strongly for each other, aside from being two attractive openly gay men in a very small town. I didn’t fully comprehend what it was about Zander that allowed Jasper to feel safe for the first time since Monica’s disappearance, or for him to want to explore sex-with-emotion with Zander, something Jasper had never allowed himself to do before (the “with emotion” part, that is). There was really nothing there for me to develop a connection with these two men, to want them to find their happy for now, let alone a happy ever after.

    You explained in detail why the book didn’t work. I think in m/m romances (or any romance for that matter), development is key to a relationship.

    As for the names, I thought that was a funny part to the review, rather minor. For what it’s worth, I love humorous takes on books, and it’s rare to see someone finish and thoroughly point out everything that worked or didn’t.

    To give an example, I frequent Smart Bitches , and those reviews sometimes end with a DNF (did not finish), and the reviews are way more snarkier than any of the ones here (but in good humor).

    Reviews are for the readers, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong about honest and interesting reviews. Not everyone is going to like every book, and as long as you give your opinion respectfully and politely, I don’t see the issue.

    1. Buda Post author

      S, thank you for your feedback. I’m glad you liked the review and got my (admittedly lame) attempt at fun with the names. :)

      One of the first things to turn me off about a mystery book is to have the “baddie” revealed too soon, or to read his/her POV. To me, that absolutely decimates the tension I count on in a mystery. Truth be told, I prefer a single voice anyway.

      I hadn’t ever heard of Smart Bitches before. I cruised around a bit and have to admit I’m shocked at the DNF reviews. How does one honestly review something one hasn’t finished? Without even talking to Wave, I’d guarantee you’ll never find a DNF review here. We are blessed with such a diverse group of reviewers, if one of us doesn’t like a book, it’s almost a given that one of the others will–and Wave knows everyone’s likes and dislikes very well.

      Thanks again, S. If you choose to pick this one up, let me know what you think of it.

      1. S.

        Ahahaha, the DNFs detail exactly why they can’t finish the book (usually more than halfway), so I do understand why they would put it out there. However, I do appreciate that everyone here (on this site) will fully finish a book before putting up a review.

        I definitely appreciate the different types of reviewers here, and as a reader, I can only benefit from multiple POVs. :D

  11. Larissa

    Hi Buda, great review! I pretty much feel the same way. While the other books by this author rank very high on my list, this one fell short. It felt like a romance without a romance and mystery without a mystery ;-)

    1. Larissa

      (damn, my comment was eaten)

      Btw, don’t worry about the snarkiness of the review! I like my reviews with a little wit, humour and even snarkiness. It’s how I deal with reviews of books I didn’t like too.

      Besides if a review was objective, it wouldn’t be a review as there is always a personal note. Plus, I like the different dynamics of the reviewers of this side. Otherwise it would get boring fast!

      *hugs*

    2. Buda Post author

      Thanks, Larissa. That’s exactly how I felt about this one. I finished the book thinking “Well that’s nice for those boys, but I really don’t get it.”

      I appreciate the support, too. *hugs* back :)

  12. Cole

    Hey Buda,

    I have had this in my Kindle for a while now and haven’t brought myself to read it. I’m not sure now when I’ll get to it, most of the things you mentioned really bother me, especially the melodrama and insta-love, not to mention the non-existent mystery and suspense. I’m sure I’ll read it at some point just in the effort of cleaning my list, but since I don’t have to review it (thankfully!) it sounds like it might be a DNF for me.

    Thanks for being so insightful :)

    1. Buda Post author

      Cole, I’ll be really interested to hear what you think of this one when/if you do read it. I hope you like it more than I did.

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