This is distinctly better-written, or clashes less with my descriptive kinks, anyhow. Being more firmly grounded in the real world helps a lot. The series arc is (only now) kicking into full gear, as an unfriendly mushroom-wizard and Marla's no-good mundane brother roll into down on different but colliding roads. The no-good brother is the contrast we've needed to our no-good protagonist. I also appreciate that everybody plans and takes sensible precautions, and information gets screwed up anyway because you can't know everything.
(Warning: the e-book conversion is terrible. It's a minefield of missing periods and spurious line breaks.)