About This Blog

This blog was started as a place to post book reviews. The books reviewed here will be mixed. Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, General Fiction, NonFiction and more. Both positve and negative reviews will be posted, as well as reviews for books written for all ages and all reading levels.

Many of the books reviewed here are ones that I have purchased for my own reading pleasure. Some, I receive free in exchange for reviews. Beginning in December, 2009 you will know which are the free ones if you read the final paragraph of my reviews.

Also of note: I choose what I will read, attempting to avoid the books on which I would end up writing a negative review... but I have been known to make mistakes. Thus you see some one and two star reviews here. Since I don't enjoy writing negative reviews, I only write them if the review was promised, or if the book was so exceedingly bad, I just had to say so. Regardless of the percentage of positive to negative reviews on this blog, I give my honest opinion each and every time, and have never received financial compensation for posting my reviews.

Note that, except for fair use portions quoted from some of the books reviewed, all copyright in the content of the reviews belongs to Lady Dragoness.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Search For Fun

Search for the Flaming Chalice
By Robert Shaw Kesler
Paperback: 153 pages
Publisher: Thatcher Forest (1998)
Rated:    4 stars of 5 possible

Search for the Flaming Chalice is an anthropomorphic tale of three martins - Carmen, Alger, and Gilbert - on a quest to find the flaming chalice, which will enable them to unleash the power of the purple stone they carry. The humor, magic and adventure combine to create a delightful and sometimes suspenseful tale that will appeal to fantasy fans, both young and old. The more experienced reader will recognize literary allusions to Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," Shelley's Frankenstein, Rossetti's "Goblin Market," Dante's Inferno, and more embedded within the story.  Themes in the novel include friendship, family, courage, persistence, teamwork, and more, which makes the novel not only entertaining for younger readers but also a teaching tool for those a little older.

The main villain of the piece is Attila, an evil sorcerer.  I found him a bit weak in characterization, almost a joke at some points and perhaps too easily defeated as well... yet this didn't detract too much from my over-all enjoyment of the story, as too strong a villain would not be appropriate for a children's story.

That said, I hereby give this highly enjoyable tale a strong 4 star rating for being both entertaining and educational. I recommend this book to readers age 8 and up.

This review has been simultaneously published on Amazon.com, Dragonviews, and LibraryThing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Alternate History

By Diana Gabaldon
Publisher: Dell (1992)
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 850 pages
Rated 5 Stars of 5 Possible

In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon—when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an "outlander"--in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord...1743.*  Thus begins Outlander and its six - yes, six sequels... and more to come.

There is a heavy element of romance in Outlander and all those massive sequels, so the publisher classifies them with the romances, though these epic tales contain so much more than just romance. The author says her Outlander books "...belong to no genre -- or to all of them, according to how you want to look at it."  I'll go along with the all genres point of view.

Initially, I was a bit disappointed that Outlander does not contain as much fantasy as I was hoping  for, but that disappointment quickly took a back seat. The historical aspect of Outlander captivated me from the beginning and I was delighted to find that, despite the heavy romance elements - which I was delighted to find were not entirely formulaic - my interest in the story never waned. The action and adventure kept me entertained from the first page all the way to the last... I had a difficult time putting this book aside for sleep, so huge amounts of my waking hours were spent engrossed within the pages of this excellent book.

While Outlander contains a considerable amount of violence, that aspect of the story isn't entirely gratuitous.  Readers who are up on their history will know that 18th century Scotland was characterized by the Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745, the latter of which will account for much of the violence.  Another reviewer mentioned the Scottish clan tartans as used in Outlander being an anomaly in that time period, however, that is a minor point that should not interfere with the reader's enjoyment. If not for that reviewer's mention of the historical inaccuracy of that point, I never would have known, and for me, it did not detract from the story.

* Synopsis of Outlander, copyright Diana Gabaldon.

Recommended reading for adults 18 and up who can tolerate the violent aspects of a novel for the sake of historical accuracy.

This review has simultaneously been published on Amazon.com, Dragonviews, and LibraryThing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Double Cross?

by Joseph Finder
Hardcover, 400 pages
St. Martin's Press (2009)
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

When Roger and Lauren Heller are attacked on the way back to their car from the restaurant where they had just finished eating dinner, Lauren is knocked unconscious. By the time she awakens 24 hours later, Roger has disappeared. Worried about his dad, young Gabe calls in his Uncle Nick, Roger's brother, who also happens to be a private detective. Not long after Nick Heller is on the case, a mysterious and somewhat cryptic e-mail appears in Lauren's inbox, suggesting that Roger is dead. Will Nick find his brother? Is Roger really dead or just hiding out?  And just how and why is Victor Heller (Nick and Roger's father) involved in all of this?

Joseph Finder has created an interesting new hero for this new series of books, of which Vanished is only the intriguing start. Vanished is quickly paced, a thriller full of action and suspense from the beginning to the very end, yet has enough description to bring the characters to a fully fleshed state. This page-turner grabbed me by the collar and didn't let go until I finished reading every last page; it left me wanting more.

I was ready to give Vanished my highest rating when, with about 150 pages left to read, I suddenly "saw" the ending.  This predictability isn't something I like to see in a really good book (surprise endings are the best) but I have to admit the plot twist was something worth reading. Although I already knew what would happen, I just wasn't sure of all the details... and at that point, I was already so deeply hooked, I couldn't put the book down; I had to finish.

Vanished isn't for everyone, as the violence does get rather graphic in a couple places. Still,I recommend this book for those adult readers who like thrillers and/or action packed novels and can handle the violence.

This review has been simultaneously published on Amazon.com, Dragonviews, and LibraryThing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

In Search of Opportunity

Shanghai Girls
By Lisa See
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Random House (May 26, 2009)
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible

Shanghai Girls is about two sisters, Pearl and May, who leave China in the 1930's and their struggle to reach America, where they hope to find new lives while they are still bound to the old. The sibling rivalry and the love and secret shared between the two sisters helps make them come alive for the reader.

Fairly well written and nicely researched, Shanghai Girls still had it's good parts and it's bad parts for me.  The good parts: Characters of both sorts - those you love and those you love to hate - are depicted in this novel. The characters are fully fleshed so that they seem real and the reader can care about them. The background is historically rich and accurately depicted. This last is one of the essential criteria for good historical fiction.

Now for the bad parts. The first half of the novel drug on far too long yet almost didn't have enough of interest in those pages to keep me from putting the book aside forever.  I'm glad I got past that.  The other thing that bugs me is that May and Pearl left China, not knowing what had happened to their father. That question was left for the reader's imgaination to resolve.  Unresolved things, such as this novel's cliffhanger ending that begs for a sequel can be either good or bad, so I won't try to categorize that, but I will say that the ending (approximately last 4 chapters) seems a bit clumsy, contrived, or rushed compared to the rest of the story.

There were also a couple of surprises, which I won't catergorize. Nor will I reveal those surprises in case you, who are reading this review, have not yet read the novel. I will say that one of the surprises felt like being stomach punched, the other felt a bit like betrayal... so that both, though not the type of surprises one normally enjoys finding, did add some drama and perhaps a touch of realism to the story.

Recommended for fans of the author and perhaps for those who enjoy reading novels with a historical background, but for those who like stories with more upbeat content... well, I'd say you should be looking elsewhere.  If Shanghai Girls were set to music, the signature tune would be composed in a minor key.

This review is simultaneously published on Amazon.com, Dragonviews, and LibraryThing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Take Control of Your Life

The Songbird In My Heart:
The Magnificence of Being, a Simple Message of Grace

Mark Steven Rhoads
Belle Vista, LLC (2009)
Paperback, 208 pages
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible

The Songbird In My Heart is a compilation of prose and poetry, complimented by photos. At first glance, the prose and poetry seem to have little to do with each other until one stops to contemplate the meaning of the poetry and actually attempts to understand the prose text.

Once comprehension dawned on me, I discovered a couple of things. First, that the author's statement about this book being intended to be read on a lazy contemplative afternoon is absolutely the right path to take.  In fact, reserving several such afternoons to read this book would not be a bad idea... The other thing I discovered is that I am not the intended audience for this book; before I began reading Songbird, I was fairly cognizant about where my life is headed - neither this, nor any other piece of literature is going to change that.

So, okay, I'm not the target audience, but I have been enjoying the photos and most of the poetry... all is not lost. The sometimes autobiographical prose is sometimes a bit less clear or requires more contemplation than I've had time to give it.  For the intended audience this could be a very beautiful book in more ways than one.  For myself, I'll finish this reading, but I don't think this book is something I'll need to read again.

Recommended especially for those who enjoy reading spiritual literature.  This review has been simultaneously posted on Amazon.com, Dragonviews, and LibraryThing.