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, September 25, 2010

Not Serious or Credible, but Still Fun

The Dragon at the Edge of the World
Charles White
Charles White (2009)
Pdf, 318 pages
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible

When I began reading this book, I had such high hopes for a new historical fiction novel.  Those hopes were soon to be dashed to pieces though, because there is little believable historical content in The Dragon at the Edge of the World.  That said, the novel is worth reading for entertainment purposes, as the humorous situations and the likeable characters create an interesting, if, at times, almost unbelievable story.

While I noticed a few grammatical and typographical errors in this book, they did not majorly detract from the story, so I didn't note the exact location of these errors. The characters in this story are a hodge-podge of unlikely companions of different ethnic backgrounds and from different parts of the world working together and against one another in the name of survival. The end of this novel screams sequel...

Recommended for laughs, but not for those looking for serious historical fiction or credible fantasy.  This eBook was provided to me free by the author in exchange for this review. This review has been simultaneously published on Amazon.com, Dragon Views and LibraryThing

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Roller Coaster Ride

Follow The Money
Ross Cavins
RCG Publishing (2010),
Paperback, 264 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Ten inter-connected short stories have been collected between these covers.  In addition to my over-all impression of this book, which you will find at the end of this review, I'll attempt to say something about each of the ten stories and rate them individually, as well as giving my rating for the entire book, but first, the stories.

1. "The Drop" - Inept kidnappers, funnier than a barrel of monkeys. Slow start, but builds suspense; is a fine, page-turning story. I absolutely loved the twisted ending. Rated 4 stars.

2. "The Investment" - Pickpocket meets big-time con artist, but can he trust his new partner? This story felt a bit disconnected near the middle, so rated 3 stars.

3. "Sammy's Night Out" - Armed robbery at a convenience store, of the inept gunman type. Predictable ending... Rated 3 stars.

4. "A Loaded Gun" - Grand theft auto plus an evening of crime gone wrong. Story number three with some added detail and from a different point of view. Packed with more laughs than "Sammy's Night Out" Rated 5 stars.

5. "Everybody's Got A Magic Number" Bookie takes the cash from cop involved in story #4. This story is longer, not as funny or as consistently interesting as the others. One doesn't even see the connection to the other stories until late.  Rated 3 stars.

6. "Have Fun Tonight" Drunken driver collides with emergency vehicle. Just plain strange, warped humor. Rated 3 stars.

7. "Sweating Brother Bill" Two lusty old ladies - another strange story.  Rated 3 stars.

8. "Toe Thumb" Abused wife runs away from deadbeat husband. Morbidly appealing somehow. Rated 4 stars.

9. "For The Road" Breaking and Entering, or How the Grinch stole Christmas. Rated 4 stars.

10. "Channel Ten" Car-jacking and Captain Crunch. Rated 5 stars.

The fun part of reading this story collection was seeing how the stories fit together into one larger story that has its ups and downs like a roller coaster. Trying to predict which characters from the earlier stories would appear again in which of the later stories was also a barrel of laughs, but figuring out who was going to have the money next - ah what suspense, and sometimes very surprising. The hot sex featured in some of these stories does little or nothing to move the plot along.  Still, it was a fun read, and I would recommend Follow The Money to adults who do not find offense in the type of material contained here.

Follow The Money
was provided to me free by the author in exchange for this review. This review has been simultaneously published on Dragon Views, LibraryThing and Amazon.com.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Crisis Gains Momentum

by Kathy Bell
Northern Sanctum Press (October, 2010)
ARC-PDF format,165 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

I've always been excited when a new science fiction book comes off the press and into the book stores.  The Infinion series is no exception. Evolussion continues the story of the characters begun in Regression. The sequel picks up the story 26 years after the end of the first novel and takes a different direction than the reader might expect. As the story develops, even the bad guys have something to say that helps the reader better understand the motivation of the opposition to Three Eleven... Mrs. Bell has done a great job with her flawed and very human characters... and, as with her first novel, leaves me wanting more.

The characters from the first novel whom we loved to hate (Alex and Stew) show a different side in this sequel, and as I began to understand their motivations better, I even started to like them just a little bit, though I am not certain if they would ever have earned my trust. Adya Jordan (aka Dawn Ingram) has matured in the interval between the first and second novels, but has retained her lovable characteristics nevertheless. The Three Eleven executives have also changed in their attitudes toward Dawn...

In the continuing story arc, the crisis gains momentum. Not too much is resolved here, and yet more questions are raised. Evolussion is clearly not the starting point for the Infinion series and should not be read as a stand alone. There is much in Regression that the reader needs to understand before reading Evolussion. Thus, I recommed the series as a whole, but start reading at the beginning; Regression first, then Evolussion, and finish with the as-yet unpublished conclusion of this exciting trilogy. Since November 11, 2011 is such an important date in this series, I suspect the climax to the series will probably be published around that date (hopefully a little before).  I'm on the edge of my seat now...

Evolussion was provided to me free by the author/publisher in PDF format in exchange for this review. This review has been simultaneously published on Dragon Views and LibraryThing.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mt. TBR Keeps Growing

My Endless TBR Stack

Click above photo to see larger version...If you are an author, publicist, publisher, etc. who has asked me to review a book, please be patient. The stack above, shown in no particular order represents promised reviews and borrowed books which need to be sent on their way.  My Kindle tops the stack to represent the ebooks I promised to review, followed by my Molskine notebook to represent that there are multiple eBooks waiting in line... the rest, well, those books are real... and I will get to the reviews as soon as I possibly can.  Thank you for understanding.

Addendum: May 17, 2012  While the books shown above have been read and mostly reviewed, the stack by my bed side is still every bit as large, just with different content... The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Physician As A Killer

When Doctors Kill: Who, Why, and How
Joshua A. Perper
Springer (2010),
Paperback, 253 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

As I started to read When Doctors Kill, quite unlike several other reviewers, I had no preconceived notions of what I would find in this book and was completely unsure how the text would be arranged. I was glad to see the historical arrangement, as that helped me to better assimilate the content. The first part of the book, a discussion of ethics, read much like the college lecture I sat through on a similar topic many years ago. Fortunately that part ended just about the time I was beginning to experience some boredom.

Many of the real-life cases discussed were high-profile enough that I remember some details of those which happened during my lifetime. Also, many cases were older and either took place before my time, or while I was so young I have no memory of those. The older cases made for some interesting reading and comparison with the more modern ones.  The authors could have gone more in-depth on some of the cases covered here, but expanding the depth would have served little purpose, as I don't believe this book was meant to do more than make the reader aware of the reasons why doctors kill, and it serves that purpose well and in an interesting manner as is.

I would have normal expectations of proof reading having taken place during the production phase of this book, yet I was appalled to see that several errors of sentence structure, grammar and puncutation have slipped into what otherwise appears to be a finished book... some of them so obvious that most anyone will notice. Some errors are a little less obvious, such as the ones in the chapter on Elvis Presley, where there is an apostrophe after nearly every instance of his first name. Use of the apostrophe indicates the possessive form, which is not always the form of Elvis' name that should have been used.  Errors such as these would be expected in an uncorrected proof, yet nowhere in this book or on the covers does it have any indication of being an advance copy.

At the end of the book, I was delighted to see that several references are included, beginning with some "For Further Reading" lists, which are broken down by chapter, authors notes, and a fairly extensive index, which makes specific topics easy to locate. These references, along with the eminently readable, layman-style writing on a topic that is fairly scientific have earned this book four stars.

This book was provided to me free by the publisher in exchange for this review.  This review has been simultaneously published on Dragon Views, LibraryThing and Amazon.com

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mirror, Mirror

By Diana Murdock
Diana Murdock (2010),
Mobi format for Kindle
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible

Lady Catherine is a 16th century noble woman bound to marry the knight, Sir Galen, but in love with Jonathan, a merchant who is nowhere near her social equal... the eternal love triangle. Catherine's 21st century counterpart is Eryn Rexford, married to Bryce, whom she has come to realize she does not love, but Eryn is not willing to settle for less than being head-over heels in love with someone, especially after she meets a handsome stranger whom she is sure she has seen before. The story is told by Eryn and Lady Catherine in turn, flipping between one time period and the next, which is disconcerting enough, and then you discover that nearly all the main characters have a mirror-image in the other century.

I found the characters well developed and interesting (for the most part); their reactions to each other mostly believable. However I think the over-the top jealousy displayed by Bryce and Galen, though probably realistic in some ways, was carried a bit too far to make this story really good and believable. The unexplained antagonism that Brandi (a supposed friend to Eryn) displays is also a bit much. Catherine's sister, Sara is clearly Brandi's 16th century counterpart, right down to the same antagonism. In fact, that jealousy and antagonism almost entirely ruined this story for me because it was carried to such extremes. With some moderation, jealousy and or antagonism in one or even two characters can be believable and even a decent literary device...

If you believe in reincarnation (or if you can pretend, for the moment, that you do,) then this story might work for you and perhaps be good entertainment.  If you don't believe, and cannot pretend to believe, then the story falls flat, like it did for me. I honestly cannot recommend this debut effort, but will be keeping an eye out for this author's next novel, as I believe she does have potential to be really good, if not outright a great storyteller.

The author of this novel sent me a Smashwords 100% off discount code so that I could download my choice of formats and read this novel free in exchange for this review. This review has been simultaneously published on Dragon Views, LibraryThing and Amazon.com.

Monday, August 30, 2010

For Fans of the Dark Hunter Series

On September 7, 2010, St. Martin's Press is releasing Sherrilyn Kenyon's No Mercy. This will be a must read for fans of the Dark Hunter series as well as for fans of the author... and honestly, it looks too good for me to pass up, even though this would be the first book I've read from this author. What can I say?  I'm a fool for books, especially those that draw me in with a great story synopsis before I've even seen the covers of the book...

"Live fast, fight hard and if you have to die then take as many of your enemies with you as you can. That is the Amazon credo and it was one Samia lived and died by. Now in contemporary New Orleans, the immortal Amazon warrior is about to learn that there's a worse evil coming to slaughter mankind than she's ever faced before....."


Read the synopsis of No Mercy and much more on Sherrilyn Kenyon website:

If you can't see the embedded trailer above, you should be able to see it here:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

News Story Generates Novel Idea

Among Thieves
By David Hosp
Grand Central Publishing (2010)
Hardcover, 384 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

In March of 1990, the largest art theft in history took place in Boston, Massachusetts. None of the stolen art has been recoverd after more than 20 years.  Among Thieves is clearly fiction, yet the novel incorporates many details about the actual event, and using the writer's eternal option - What if... - to create an intense and suspenseful thriller. Among Thieves begins with a string of murders which eventually tie in to Mr. Hosp's version of what happened to the stolen art.

The opening of this novel is a bit confusing because it doesn't seem to be about the art theft at all, but provides the reason why one of the men is later involved in the heist. This character background could be better tied to the main part of the story. The novel recovers from this weak opening though and provides a mostly interesting tale about the art heist. One other disconcerting thing happens in this book. The point of view switches between decades as facts about the actual theft 20 years ago are revealed, and the current-day investigation which has gone cold, but has not been closed.

In the middle of the story, which also represents the time between the heist and today, the tale sags a bit. In some ways, the dullness of this part of the story is accurate. Nothing is known about what actually happened after the thieves escaped with their bounty.  The author provides a satisfactory, appropriate, believable and entertaining ending to the story, recovering from the brief bout of dullness near the middle of the book.

Although, for the reasons previously stated, I down-grade the rating of this book from the perfect 5 to a very interesting 4 stars, I do recommed it to those who love to read mystery/thriller/suspense type novels and those who may be looking for something different. The usual caviat about violence and inappropriateness for those under 17 applies here.

This review has been simultaneously published on LibraryThing and Dragon Views.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Varied But Senseless

Jess C Scott
Jess C. Scott, (July 2010)
Pdf e-Book
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible

Porcelain is a "bits and pieces" collection of various types of writing. Short stories, poetry, essays... However, there's no central theme to mold this collection into a whole, so it remains nothing more than pages upon pages of miscellaneous pieces that really have no relationship to each other, aside from the fact that they are all the work of one author. Some are bad, some are mediocre, some are better than others; but none of the pieces in this collection are great. Taken as a whole, these pieces do show the growth of the writer... but she has a long way to go if being a professional writer is her goal.

Additionally, this PDF file included far too many pieces for me to offer individual critiques of each piece as I normally like to do with anthologies. The large file should be broken up into at least three smaller files, one each for fiction, poetry and essays. This would enable reviewers to do a better job because they could more likely critique individual pieces.

On the whole, many pieces included in this collection could stand some editing, some of the stories could stand a full re-write as they don't make much sense in their current state. There's an old adage that goes something like this: "Write what you know". This author seems to know poetry best so perhaps she should stick with that.

Not recommended for the average reader.
A PDF file was provided to me by the author free in exchange for this review. This review has been simultaneously published on Dragon Views, LibraryThing and Amazon.com

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Satisfying Tale

Doctor Margaret's Sea Chest
Waheed Rabbani
Smashwords.com (2009)
Mobi, PDF and other e-formats
Rated 5 stars of 5 Possible

Also available in the following formats:
Infinity Publishing (May 21, 2010)
Audio: 12 CDs, 17 hours (unabridged)
You Write On; (December 8, 2008)
Paperback, 436 pages

Doctor Margaret's Sea Chest is historical fiction, set in the mid 1800’s in North America, England, Crimea and India. The saga covers India's struggle for freedom. This rather long tale is but one third of a more massive saga, yet it is nicely paced. There is a nice balance between drama, romance, and suspense which serves to keep the story consistently interesting, but it is mainly focused on the action rather than too much description. 

The characters are well-developed enough that I could feel Margaret's despair when her family disapproved of her desire to marry her cousin, her jubilation at finally becoming a doctor as she wanted, despite the disapproval of her parents, and her other emotions as the story progressed. As I finished the last pages of this book, I felt as if I were leaving friends behind. In fact, I am so hooked on the story that the cliff-hanger ending has me sitting on the edge of my chair while awaiting Book II of The Azadi Trilogy: The Rani's Doctor.

Almost as interesting as the novel, there is a glossary at the end of the story which defines the unfamiliar words used so that the reader can get more from the novel than would be the case if he/she were just skipping over the unfamilar words without understanding them.

Recommended reading for those who love reading historical fiction and also for those looking for something refreshingly different.  Mobi format file received free from author in exchange for this review. This review is simultaneously published on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and YA Books Central.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Death and Corruption

A Little Death In Dixie
By Lisa Turner
Bell Bridge Books (2010),
Paperback (Bound Galley), 222 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 Possible

A Little Death In Dixie provides a fascinating insight into the world of law enforcement, and the corruption sometimes found there. The novel opens with a murder scene in Memphis, Tennessee. As the reader immediately gets involved in the drama, we discover that this crime isn't what's important to the story the author is telling us, but the reactions of the officers investigating the crime do become integral to the story, as we will soon see. Shortly after the introductory scenes, a woman is reported missing. Debut author, Lisa Turner has taken you by the hand to lead you through a non-stop, page turning, not-to-be missed thriller.  In addition to the well-written and tightly plotted novel, this book also includes a full dozen reader discussion questions that encourage the reader to do some thinking about the story.

Every now and then, I am surprised by the intensity of the way a new novel will grab me. In fact, several times this year, the intense novels have been written by authors making their debut in the publishing world. A Little Death in Dixie is one of those. Recommended for readers age 17 and up who love mysteries with one caviat. If you are offended by coarse language, there is a little of it in this novel... but not nearly as much as you find in other new books and the offensive language - used here as an element of character development - does not detract from the reader's enjoyment of the story.

This book was provided to me free by the publisher in exchange for this review.  This review has been simultaneously published on Dragon Views, LibraryThing and Amazon.com

Monday, August 2, 2010

Doesn't Quite Live Up To Promise

Powerless: The Synthesis
Jason Letts
Powerless Books (2010) PDF format, 228 pages
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible

Powerless: The Synthesis
is the first of a new YA fantasy-adventure series, and is apparently also the author's first book. Mira Ipswich is 15 years old and tired of being kept at home by her overly protective parents. She wants to go out into the mist and find out what life is like on the outside. But Mira lacks one thing everyone else has and that lack makes her different than everyone else, and vulnerable as well.

has a nice balance of dialogue and description, well-developed characters of the kind you love and the kind you love to hate, and an interesting plot. I liked the story and can't wait for the next book to see what happens with Mira and her friends and family... but I hope to see some improvement in the writing too.

Some parts of the story aren't as well thought out as might be the case. For instance, an incident in chapter nine seems to happen without enough foreshadowing and hits the reader like one of the rocks thrown by a supporting character in a later chapter... I won't say which incident as I like to keep my reviews as spoiler-free as possible in case someone is reading the review prior to having read the book. Additionally, Mira's class ranking changed dramatically from the beginning of the school year to the end... which stretched my suspension of disbelief, perhaps just a little too much given that she started 9 years behind the other students and so was not as prepared as her fourteen class mates...

Also as mentioned by at least one other reviewer, the young teens of Mira's class sometimes act younger than they are.  I won't say that makes the story less appealing to the targeted age group, but having the teens act a bit more mature certainly wouldn't hurt anything. The other thing I noticed which distracted me from the story some is that there are occasional errors of a typographical nature scattered throughout the book... Errors such as these really should be corrected prior to publication. So, two stars deducted for the flaws mentioned.

I'll make a note here for those bound to disagree with my rating of this book. My ratings are based solely on the quality of the writing: plot, characterization, (and if reviewing a finished copy) grammar, spelling, factual or other types of errors noted in a book will all count for or against the rating of a particular book.  The author's ethical conduct and/or political views have no place in a review, as far as I am concerned, so I don't even take them into consideration. I am capable of evaluating the writing without agreeing or disagreeing with the author's ethics and politics.

I received the PDF of this book free from the author via LibraryThing Member Giveaways in exchange for this review. This review was simultaneously published on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, YABooks Central, and Amazon.com

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bardic Adventures

G. R. Grove
Lulu.com (2007)
Pdf Format, 252 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Storyteller is a series of interlinked short story/chapters set in 6th century Britain, each of which forms but a small part of the larger tale. This novel is the first of a trilogy featuring young Gwernin, a fine story teller with dreams of becoming a bard. Some of the chapters are the tales Gwernin tells, others describe what happens to him on his travels as he learns and improves his craft. Storyteller is historical fiction, yet it also has elements of magic and adventure which appeal to fantasy readers.

Since each shorter tale interlocks with those that come before and after, they create a complex, inter-woven story within the story format which keeps the reader turning pages. It's not a "light and fluffy" read, but Storyteller is well worth the time spent reading. Thanks to the appendices at the back of the book, understanding the Welsh words incorporated into the story was not a difficult task, even one who happens to be ungifted in languages.

Watching Storyteller slowly unfold as the chapters fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle is a pleasurable experience that's not to be missed.

Recommended to readers of historical fiction and also to those who like a bit of fantasy in their reading. This review is based on the pdf document given to me free by the author, and has been simultaneously posted on Dragon views, LibraryThing and Amazon.com

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Long Road to Publication

The Creative Writer's Survival Guide: Advice from an Unrepentant Novelist
By John McNally
University of Iowa Press (2010)
Paperback, 272 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

The Creative Writer's Survival Guide: Advice from an Unrepentant Novelist is a handbook full of practical and - at times - humorous advice on how to get paid for your creative writing efforts. This book contains not only the how to get your novel published, it also contains information regarding the ways you should not present your work, and yourself, to publishers and agents. The alternate ways to be paid for your writing experience if you're not quite finished with that great American novel, as well as how to find the job that will buy you the writing time you're looking for are discussed in this easy to read, fast-paced book.

The self-publication avenue is also explored, along with the reasons that such a choice is not right for every book or every writer. Pros and cons of placing your novel with a major pubisher, a independent small press, a university press or a print-on-demand type publisher as well as the amount of control the author has with each type of publisher are discussed. Last but not least, the author provides advice on promoting your book once you have a contract and after publication.

Mr. McNally wrote this book as if giving advice to a friend, so much of his personality comes through in the succinct and well-written chapters. Each topic naturally leads to the next in smooth transitional steps, making this guide a pleasure to read and an asset that belongs on the reference shelves of all aspiring creative writers. Once again, the addenda at the end of the book prove to be as interesting as the main portion of this excellent guide. Authors notes, recommended reading lists and a short bibliography at the end of the book contain material to further explore the concepts discussed in this book.

The Creative Writer's Survival Guide was provided to me by the author free in exchange for this review. Recommended for writers and wanna-be writers looking for advice on selling the products of their hard work. Look for it in your favorite book store. This review was simultaneously published on Dragon Views and LibraryThing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Exploring The Rainforest

Dragon Keeper: Volume One of the Rain Wilds Chronicles
and Volume 10 in the Realm of the Elderlings series
By Robin Hobb
Eos (2010),
Hardcover, 496 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

Dragonkeeper is both the first book of a new series and the tenth of a massive previous series by this talented author. Both series are set in the same world. Dragonkeeper is set in a rainforest type area and tells the story of dragons who didn't properly develop, so the beasts need help from humans to survive. Meanwhile, the councils at Bingtown, Cassarick, and Trehaug want the dragons moved farther away from the human settlements, so they hire some young people who have few or no ties to civilization to escort the dragons up river toward a legendary city of the Elderlings, known as Kelsingra. Nobody knows exactly where Kelsingra is, but the dragons have their memories and say they will know Kelsingra when they see it.

The author takes many pages to get the characters ready for their journey, which makes for a slow start to this interesting novel. Given the terrain and the hardships of a low technology world, the preparation time is probably realistic, if a little less interesting than the larger portion of the book. Dragon Keeper is loaded with a cast of interesting and well-developed characters of all kinds. Some surprising plot twists add interest and keep the reader turning the pages until the cliff-hanger ending is reached, leaving some questions unanswered and several obvious paths to the beginning of book two of this exciting new series.

Recommended for fantasy fans ages 14 and up.  This review has been simultaneously published on Dragon Views and LibraryThing.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Intriguing Mystery

Sworn to Silence
By Linda Castillo
Minotaur Books (2009)
Paperback, 336 pages, ARC
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Linda Castillo has created a new heroine and a great new series with Sworn to Silence. Police chief Kate Burkholder thinks she knows who has been killing women in and around the Amish community of Painters Mill, Ohio... but is she correct? And will Kate break her vow of silence?  Sworn to Silence is about much more than a serial killer run amuck. Suspense, bigotry, red herrings, self-doubt, and even a little romance are blended together in the correct proportions to create a set of interesting, well-developed, and believable characters, and a page-turning novel that you shouldn't miss.

The author's style is easily readable, with no major flaws. The novel paints a picture of the Amish culture which lends authenticity to the story, and lifts this novel out of the ordinary fictional state into a world that, for all intents and purposes, can be viewed as real. Sworn to Silence is a nicely paced thriller that leads the reader through the myriad of clues to the stunning conclusion.

Recommended to mystery and thriller readers ages 17 and up who can handle the violence portrayed in this suspenseful novel. This review has been simultaneously published on Amazon.com, Dragonviews, and Library Thing.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

New Approach to Management Education

Atlas Black: Managing to Succeed
Authors: Jeremy Short, Talya Bauer, Dave Ketchen
Illustrator: Len Simon
Flat World Knowledge, Inc. (2009)
Paperback, 194 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

This book is an intriguing new format for a business management classes that might help attract the interest of some students who otherwise would not be paying attention in class - the same type of person depicted in the graphic novel.  The protagonist, Atlas Black, is the perfect example of what not to do in order to graduate from college. He does not pay attention, does not study, can't even be dependable enough to show up on time for class. On top of that, Atlas Black is unemployed and can't seem to keep a job long enough to pay his rent and other bills from month to month. Perhaps Atlas Black is supposed to be humorous, but his problems are realistic enough that they are no laughing matter, and, at least for me, the humor falls flat. This type of character gains no respect or even sympathy from me as most of his problems are of his own making.

That said, the business concepts covered in this graphic novel text are interesting, and covered differently than the texts I used during my own business management classes not so long ago. I loved reading about the relevant examples used to explain the topics discussed; however, the main thing I like about this book is the affordability and various formats in which it is made available. The authors and publisher have given their attention to the fact that people learn differently. The graphic novel is a highly visual format. The graphic format tends to slow me down while reading. For some students this slowing of pace can be good, as important information is less likely to be missed when reading slower. Each page covers lots of information, incorporating the story of the protagonist as he makes his way through his last business class before graduation with the business management concepts.  The availablity of the book in audio format will be a boon to those students who learn better from traditional lecture-type classes.

Atlas Black: Managing to Succeed would be a great text to use for those condensed classes, which try to cover a variety of topics in a limited amount of time. As supplimental material for a class using another book as the main text, the availability of individual chapters of the Atlas Black text books would be a boon to instructors, providing additional material for study and discussion at very affordable prices. The splitting of the text into modules A and B helps keep the book light and portable for students, as well as contributing to the affordability, since the student need purchase only the part of the book required for their specific class. Kudos to the publisher of this fine text book for recognizing the financial burden of college students and doing something to help. For easy review, each chapter closes with a synopsis of the concepts covered in that chapter and a quick overview of the next chapter.

A black-and-white paperback desk copy of Atlas Black: Managing to Succeed was provided to me free by the publisher in exchange for this review. This review was simultaneously posted on Amazon.com, Dragonviews and LibraryThing.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Main Character Not Respectable

Nose Down, Eyes Up
Merrill Markoe
Villard (2008)
Hardcover, 320 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

What if you could really have a two-way conversation with your dog? No, I mean a REAL conversation, you know, where the dog can respond to you and you understand immediately what he's saying, without you having to spend hours figuring out what he means... Nose Down, Eyes Up by Merrill Markoe takes that premise and runs with it, straight into the funniest novel I've read this year.

When Gil discovers that he can understand what his dog is telling the other dogs, he tries to develop the dog, Jimmy, and his advice into a marketable commodity via the internet.

While the premise of this novel is good and the story pretty funny, there were also times I wanted to hit Gil on the head... He was pretty stupid to be getting involved with his ex-wife after she had gotten married to someone else, plus, the way he treated his girl friend kept me from being able to respect him as an honorable person... These things, along with the fact that some of Gil's personal life seemed to have little or nothing to contribute to the story kept me from giving this novel the full five stars.

Nevertheless, read this novel if you want some laughs, but only if you can tolerate some stupidity in the main character.  This review has simultaneously been posted on Dragon Views, LibraryThing and Amazon.com.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Engrossing Tale

Watermark: A Novel of the Middle Ages
By Vanitha Sankaran
Avon A (2010), Paperback, 368 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible.

Watermark is the story of a young woman, Auda, who is different than others because she is albino and mute, and her struggle to survive in the middle ages. Ignorance and superstition are common place in Auda's time; she must combat these enemies, along with the Inquisition and society's senseless fear of anything that's different. I found the map of France, included in the front of the book, to be quite helpful.

I love the way this story unfolds, starting with the drama attendant upon Auda's birth and then, what seemingly passes for a normal life, until Auda has become a young adult. The true details of history and paper making included in the story as well as the carefully developed characters and their actions make this novel a page turner. There are both kinds of characters in this story; those you love and those you love to hate... still, I wasn't entirely prepared for the shocking ending... and, no, I'm not gonna tell... well, okay I'll just say this: it wasn't completely unexpected, but I did wish someone else had turned out to be Auda's betrayer.

In some books, the supporting addenda are almost as interesting as the main story.  This is especially true of Watermark. In addition to the great story, and the aforementioned map, my copy of Watermark contains:
  • An author's note that I recommend to readers finishing the book,
  • A glossary of words originating in five other languages which were used in the book and which may be unfamiliar to many readers,
  • A chronology of important events in the middle ages, and
  • A selected bibliography for readers who may wish to read more about the historical events and influences behind the novel...
and that's not all, but I'll leave the rest for you to discover on your own.

I highly recommend this intriguing novel to lovers of historical fiction, and to those looking for something different to read.  This review has been simultaneously published on Amazon.com, Dragon Views and LibraryThing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Good Versus Evil - With A Twist

Burned: Volume 7 in the House of Night series
P. C. Cast and Kristin Cast
St. Martin's Griffin (2010),
Hardcover, 384 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible
Burned House of Night P.C. and Kristin CastThe first thing I noticed about the novel, Burned, is the quiet elegance of the dust jacket design which you can see to your left, courtesy of the publisher. Pictures of the previous six novels grace the back cover.  Yes, once again I find myself reading a series but not starting with the first book. Since I'm new to the House of Night series, this will be a good test to see if this book can stand alone.  A well-written series book should be able to stand alone, but some series books other than this have failed the test.

The next thing I noticed: the inside of the dust jacket could double as a poster.  No doubt, some teens will love that feature. And even stripped of the dust jacket entirely, this is one very nice looking book. Front, back and spine boards are illustrated in a design that coordinates with, yet does not duplicate the design used for the dust jacket. That's a nice change from the plain, undecorated covers used on so many books these days.  So much for the impressive appearance... now to get at the contents.
Burned hooked me at once and has been an interesting read. The characters, for the most part, are well developed, and believable. However, at times, the teen-speak seems a bit too mature for the characters. While not entirely flawless, the writing is very well done. I'm fairly sure that fans of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight will probably love the House of Night series, while those who don't love Twilight aren't likely to love Burned either. As for me, I'm very interested in what contemporary writers are doing with vampires; this is quite different than the prototype, Count Dracula, and highly enjoyable. This book makes me want to round up the entire series so I can read them in order.

While the basic plot of Burned is good versus evil, which is probably the oldest plot in the universe, this mother-daughter team approaches the ancient battle from new directions and with intriguing characters. This easy to read, fairly fast-paced tale has it all; the good, the bad, the aggravating... right down to some scenes being a little too drawn-out. Now for that test I mentioned a few paragraphs back... While Burned doesn't entirely fail as a stand alone novel, some references to past events (probably described in one or another of the previous six novels) could do with a bit more explanation.

I highly recommed the House of Night series to fans of vampire literature and to those looking for something different to read. While starting with Burned is possible, it's not the best place to begin this series.  Instead, go back and read Marked first, followed by the other volumes of this series in order of publication (Betrayed, Chosen, Untamed, Hunted, Tempted), ending with Burned. That way, you won't get a lost feeling when some of the past events are mentioned.

The publisher has also graciously allowed me to post links to the video trailer, the song from the trailer, and first chapter of the book, all of which you will find below. A finished copy of the hardcover first edition of this book was provided to me free by the publisher in exchange for this review. The text of this review has simultaneously been published on Dragon Views and LibraryThing, including the links to the extra bonus material. I will probably also post the text of the review sans the good stuff on Amazon.com.

Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmJjEDZJkYc

Song: http://www.houseofnightseries.com/pages/downloads.html#songs

First chapter: http://www.houseofnightseries.com/pages/burnedxrpt.html

House Of Night Website: http://www.houseofnightseries.com/index.html

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Not Entirely Unique

Run for Your Life
By James Patterson and
Michael Ledwidge
Little, Brown and Company (2009)
Hardcover, 384 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

A serial killer, who calls himself "The Teacher" is on the loose in NYC, targeting the powerful and the arrogant. The killer's targets seem random at first, but Detective Michael Bennett is on the trail. Raising his 10 adopted children has prepared Detective Bennett for a job that would overwhelm anyone else with the pressure of solving the high-profile case. Can Michael Bennett stop the Teacher's lessons?

While the basic plot of this novel isn't entirely unique, the authors handle this story in a fresh manner, enticing the reader to continue with this page-turner to see what happens next. There's a lot of "family stuff" in the book that didn't seem to add much to the story but serves to indoctrinate the reader, who may not have read the previous novel about Detective Bennett.

While I enjoyed this novel as an aside from reading my usual generes, I probably won't actively seek out the previous Michael Bennet novel, nor the future ones, as I have too many authors and series to follow at this time.  However, if other novels about this character find their way into my hands, I am likely to read them.

This review has been simultaneously published on LibraryThing and Dragon Views.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Picture of Nineteenth Century Life

Original Sins: A Novel of Slavery and Freedom
Peg Kingman
W. W. Norton & Company (2010)
Hardcover, 432 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Original Sins is a novel of slavery and freedom, friendship and trust. Anibaddh is a runaway slave who has built a fortune in the East Indies as a silk merchant... but she feels that something is missing from her life. The maternal bond is enough to compel Anibaddh to risk her freedom, and that of her two sons by returning to Virginia to discover the fate of the child she left behind eighteen years previously.

A picture of nineteenth century life in America is beautifully evoked, giving the reader a sense of the prejudice and injustice and the basic unfairness and discrimination women of that time faced. For example, when a woman got married, all that was hers became the property of her husband, unless these possessions and monies were set aside in her name before marriage (the equivalent of today's pre-nuptual agreement.) Anibaddh's friend, Grace discovers this when she tries to emancipate an old slave that her uncle "purchased" with money set aside by Grace's mother in trust for Grace while she was a child.

The novel is steadily paced and consistently kept my interest from beginning to end. Much information about the Daguerroype process has been incorportated into the story, adding to the interest of the tale in a believable way. A few characters in the book are based on real-life individuals and the actions of these characters is fairly consistent with what is known about them. The story makes progress from beginning to end in a stately way, not too fast, but perhaps a little on the slow side, yet because the tale is so compelling, I didn't mind. The slower pace is sometimes better than a page-turning, breathless frenzy, because it gives the reader a chance to relax and enjoy the show.

Recommended for readers of historical fiction, and for those who are looking for a change of pace.  I rate this novel a high 4 stars, but it's just a little short of me being able to give it the full five-star rating.

This advance reading copy was sent to me free by the publisher in exchange for this review. This review has simultaneously been posted on Dragon Views, and LibraryThing.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lacks Detail

Still Life
Joy Fielding
Atria (2009),
Hardcover, 384 pages
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible

Casey Marshall survives a hit and run accident, but she is in a coma... or so the doctors think. In reality, Casey can't see, move or speak, but she can hear everything that goes on around her. What Casey hears is enough to put anyone in shock.

Interesting premise that could have been quite suspenseful, but the author reveals the bad guy way too soon, ruining the best thing this novel had going. Because Casey was bereft of her senses for so long, the author was handicapped in the point of view available since this story is told mainly from Casey's perspective, which leads to a lack of detail in the story. At first, I was going to rate this novel 4 stars, but decided that the revelation of the evil character at the early point and the lack of interesting details would have meant that I was over-rating this novel... so three stars it is. 

Yes, I'll recommend Still Life to those who don't watch too much television... and maybe to the author's rabid fans... but those looking for something REALLY interesting to read need to look elsewhere. Still Life is a pleasant time-waster, but not much more than that.

This review has been simultaneously published on Dragon Views and Library Thing.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tightly Woven, Complex Story

The Wizard's Son
By Kathryn L. Ramage
The Wapshott Press (2009)
Paperback, 296 pages
Rated 4 Stars of 5 Possible

Following the posting of my review of Storylandia 1, which the editor of Wapshott press called "fair minded and honest", I received a request to give Wapshott Press another chance. I always intended to do that, but had no idea the opportunity would come so soon. I chose The Wizard's Son because I've long been a fantasy fan, and because it looks so good.

The first attraction of this novel is the lovely cover, with a view of the wizard's castle on the front, done in shades of red and black; absolutely perfect for this novel - but it doesn't stop there. The story synopsis available on the publisher's website set the hook before I ever got my hands on the book. The Wizard's Son is not simple fantasy with a single story arc. Instead it is a complex story that examines several issues in depth through multiple plot lines in the non-linear story. These issues include but are not limited to good versus evil, human nature and self restraint.

This novel does not disappoint, yet there is room for improvement too. While the characters introduced in the early part of the story are nicely developed, those who come along later are a bit flat. For instance, Orlan Lightesblood's wife and daughter are important to him, yet we are not allowed to know them well... Still, we have a tightly woven, well-told story with interesting and believable characters which is well worth the time it takes to read.

Recommended to fantasy fans ages 14 and up. This review has been simultaneously posted on Amazon.com, Dragon Views, Library Thing and YA Books Central.com. The Wizard's Son was provided to me by the publisher free in exchange for this review.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Investigation of Human Nature

The Pearl
By John Steinbeck
Penguin Books (2002)
Trade Paperback, 96 pages
Rated 5 Stars of 5 possible

The Pearl is John Steinbeck's re-telling of an old Mexican folk tale about greed and hope, suspicion and dreams... but mostly hope. It is a simple, tragic tale that illustrates the fall from innocence of people who believe that wealth can erase all their problems.

This tightly packed little tale is illuminated by the fine craftsmanship Steinbeck brings to all his writing. Despite its brevity, The Pearl is not a tale to read lightly. There is a lot of food for thought buried in these pages. The Pearl picks up the thread of investigation where the allegorical tale, Of Mice and Men left off... for this book as well as the other, is a study of human nature.

For those interested in deeper study or discussion of The Pearl, a combined discussion guide has been written by The Great Books Foundation. Steinbeck's other two novels covered by the same discussion guide are Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath.

Recommended for readers age 16 and up who are interested in reading material that gives your brain something to work on.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Relocation, Vampire Style

Still Sucks to Be Me:
The All-true Confessions of Mina Smith, Teen Vampire

By Kimberly Pauley
Mirrorstone (11 May, 2010),
Hardcover, 384 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible.

Coming soon... and every bit as good as her first book. Kimberly Pauley has done it again... Yes, I can say that because I'm one of the lucky recipients of an advance copy of Still Sucks To Be Me, which arrived in my possession on May 6. Kimberly writes in a fast, easy-breezy style that will charm you and keep you turning the pages to see what happens next.

Still Sucks To Be Me takes up where Kimberly's first book, leaves off, and moves the story of Mina Hamilton Smith and her family forward, with laughter on almost every page.  Kimberly has kept what was good from her first book - those myth and truth snippets at the head of each chapter, plus pages from Mina's notebook, and added some fresh new scenery as Mina and her family relocate, and brought along some new characters and their attendant drama. Most of the action takes place in a small Louisiana town where everyone knows everyone else (and their business). Primarily aimed at the young adult market, Mrs. Pauley's books also appeal to the teens inside the adults we have become.

While you most certainly can read Still Sucks To Be Me alone, why not read both books, for twice the fun? Recommended reading for those looking for something different and fun to read. You won't be sorry!

An advance copy of Still Sucks To Be Me was provided to me free by Kimberly Pauley in exchange for this review, however, long before I was able to get my hands on the advance copy, I pre-ordered the hardcover version because I knew this is one book that belongs in my permanent collection. This review has been simultaneously posted on Amazon.com, Dragon Views, Library Thing and YA Books Central.com

Friday, May 7, 2010

Still Sucks To Be Me Launch Contest - (Now Over)

Oh Coolness! Kimberly Pauley's new book is coming out on May 11 and you can win a copy! That's right, You can win a copy of Still Sucks To Be Me, signed by the author. But that's not all.  Kim has put together prize packages containing both of her fantastic books and other cool stuff. See the details and enter the contest on Kim's author website: http://www.kimberlypauley.com/2010/05/03/still-sucks-to-be-me-launch-including-epic-contest/.  Don't forget to come back here and read my review of Still Sucks To Be Me, which I expect to post on Sunday May 9th... but I'm not going to commit to an exact posting time.

Sucks to Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (maybe)
By Kimberly Pauley
Mirrorstone (26 Aug 2008) Hardcover, 294 pages
Mirrorstone (11 Aug 2009) Paperback, 304 pages
Mirrorstone (26 Jan 2010) Kindle edition
Rated 5 Stars

"...I'll have to say, my only regret is that it had to end... Who would have known that a vampire story doesn't have to be scary?Yes, Sucks to Be Me is a vampire story, but nothing like you've ever read before... so throw all your old notions and pre-conceived ideas about vampires out the window because that's not what you'll find in Kim's new book. What you will find is a barrel of fun... vampire style." Read the rest of my review of Sucks To Be Me

Still Sucks to Be Me: The All-true Confessions of Mina Smith, Teen Vampire
By Kimberly Pauley
Mirrorstone (11 May, 2010), Hardcover, 384 pages

Coming soon... and every bit as good as her first book. Kimberly Pauley has done it again... and yes, I can say that because I'm one of the lucky recipients of an advance copy, which arrived in my possession on May 6 and which I've almost finished reading already. Kimberly writes in a fast, easy-breezy style that will charm you and keep you turning the pages to see what happens next. Aimed at the young adult market, Mrs. Pauley's books also appeal to the teens inside the adults we've become. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Adventure Here At Your Own Risk

The Wapshott Journal of Fiction
, Issue 1
Wapshott Press
CreateSpace (October, 2009)
Paperback, 86 pages
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible

Storylandia is a new periodical published on an irregular basis. The first issue contains the following stories by relatively unknown authors, all of which are new to me. The stories in this issue suit each other, since they are all somewhat dark and gloomy, and the cover matches them very well, with its dark, moody feel. In fact, the cover graphic may be the best part of this issue.

"Kittycat Riley’s Last Stand", by Kelly S. Taylor
"Not Quite a Prince", by Kathryn L. Ramage
"More Minimalist Fiction", by Lene Taylor
"Road Kill", by Lee Balan
"Sunday Mornings", by Colleen Wylie
"I, by Chad Denton"
"Practice", by Anne Valente
"Don’t Stop Thinkin’ About Tomorrow", by Kitty Johnson

The first two stories, "Kittycat Riley’s Last Stand", and "Not Quite A Prince", are, I think, the strongest of the stories included here. The first, which qualifies as science fiction, has a twisted but somewhat weak ending. The second piece almost qualifies as dark fantasy... but the wizard in the story seems a bit less than magickal and he disappointed me somewhat. Several of the stories contained in this issue incorporate what might be considered objectionable material, rendering this publication unsuitable for those under the age of 18.

Three of the stories "Road Kill", "More Minimalist Fiction", and "Don’t Stop Thinkin’ About Tomorrow" were previously published elsewhere and due credit is given for that previous publication. I wasn't overly impressed by any of them. More Minimalist Fiction appears to be a short collection of "flash fiction" or what is otherwise known as filler material... very short stories where most of the plot is implied by the actions and dialogue of the characters. I know this stuff is very difficult to write... I've tried more than once myself, so kudos to Lene Taylor for trying, but in my considered opinion, these pieces just aren't strong enough to fill their intended role.  They do show some potential though; especially the longer ones. "Don’t Stop Thinkin’ About Tomorrow" brings up the Bill Clinton - Monica Lewinsky affair of which I heard far more than I wanted while that affair was going on... so truthfully, I didn't do more than skim a bit of this piece... the hook never appeared to me, let alone sunk in.

Four of the shortest pieces, Road Kill, Sunday Mornings, I, and Practice, left me cold. They never "hooked" me as I expect a good short story to do. And being as short as these pieces are, that "hook" needs to be set early; first paragraph or first sentence if possible. If none of these stories were exceptionally bad, neither were any of them exceptionally good.  I rated the collection 3 stars because the biggest fault with all of these stories is that they are distinguished by their averageness.

While I can't honestly recommend this collection of stories, neither will I especially warn readers to stay away from it. Those adventurous souls who are willing to risk being disappointed might want to try reading these stories. There might be appeal in them for someone with different reading tastes than mine.  Storylandia was provided to me free by the publisher in exchange for this review. This review has been simultaneously published on Amazon.com, Dragon Views and LibraryThing.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Reference Service Q & A

The Book of Answers:
The New York Public Library
Telephone Reference Service's
Most Unusual and Entertaining Questions

By Barbara Berliner
Fireside (1992)
Paperback, 311 pages
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible

Well, the subtitle says it all, folks. This book is a compilation of unusual questions and the entertaining answers as researched by The New York Public Library's Telephone Reference Service.  Questions on topics such as American History, Crime and Criminals, The English Language, Geography and more are included in this book and grouped according to topic. The book is fully indexed so the topics can be quickly located for the curious or for a springboard into deeper reserach.

This book would be tedious reading if one attempted to read each page in order as with a novel, but as a point of curiosity, it appeals to trivia buffs, young or old, who wish to look up answers to questions that plague the mind. I found this book to be an entertaining aside from my usual non-fiction reading, but not something I need to keep or read again.

Recommended for trivia buffs and the curious with the caviat that I spotted a typographical error or two while reading some of the questions so don't depend on this as a reference if you need authoritative answers.  This review has been simultaneously published on Amazon.com, Dragon Views and LibraryThing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Arranged Marriage

The River Between
Jacquelyn Cook
Bell Bridge Books (1985)
Paperback, 166 pages
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible

The River Between is a historical fiction novel set in the pre-civil war south. It is also a light, fluffy, formulaic romance with a slightly over-used plot, and a few problems. I like the historical aspect and the setting; however, these lead to problem #1. There was not enough history and description to make for a really nice setting. The historical information becomes a backdrop in this situation; not entirely bad, but it does not add much to the story.

Eighteen-year-old Lily Edwards is likeable, as are several other characters in the story, but she is far too docile, which leads to the story having less action and therefore less appeal; which becomes problem #2. There is no clear villain in the story. The conflict between Lily and her parents does not stand out enough to move the story along quickly; problem #3. Resolution for problems two and three would be to provide more action and more conflict, and perhaps a bit of drama.  These would have made the story much more appealing.

Problem #4.  Lily's strong Christian faith seems to be off-putting to some reviewers who were probably, like myself, attracted to the historical aspects of the story. This is a lot for such a short novel, especially since the last half comes on stronger than the first half; perhaps moderating the preachiness would have been helpful.

Despite these problems, however, The River Between does raise a few points that would be good for discussion in a reading group or classroom situation.  Arranged marriage vs. marriage for love; the concepts of social equality (and the assumption that some are more socially equal than others); the attitudes of Lily's parents, especially the mother; and Lily's own statement of realization that she cannot be both her mother's baby and an adult at the same time. I was glad to see that Lily's mother finally realized that's what she was expecting Lily to do, yet I would liked to have seen this be more of a conflict.

Given the above, and recognizing that The River Between is but one third of a trilogy, I'd say this book would appeal mostly to those readers who like the light and fluffy romances. Readers looking for something with historical content should probably pass this by in favor of something longer and more detailed.  The River Between is a sweet, likeable story but just doesn't constitute the detailed historical novel that many readers appreciate.

The River Between was provided to me free by the publisher in PDF galley format for review. This review was simultaneously published on LibraryThing, and Dragon Views.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Historical, but Obscure

Flesh and Grass
Libby Cone
Available In various e-book formats,
Published by the author
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible.

Flesh and Grass is loosely based on an ill-fated Dutch colony in late 17th century Deleware. The tale is told from the perspective of a young blind man. I like this perspective and I like that the story is told as if it had been written in a journal. The old-fashioned spelling and sentence structure give an authentic feel to the story as well. Despite the good premise and unusual subject matter, this story has a few problems... thus my three star rating of a potentially five star subject.

The capitalization in unexpected places makes for awkward reading. Even if this inconsistent capitalization would have been authentic late 17th century style, the capitalization of the words should be consistent with today's English.

The mostly unexplained useage of Dutch words makes the story a bit difficult to comprehend in places for someone who only speaks and reads English - or for that matter, any language other than Dutch. Footnotes or, even better, a dedicated glossary at the end would add value to the book and provide the needed explanations without interruption of the story.

The blind protagonist gives the author a tricky plot device. Since the young man telling the story can't see, the author cannot use visual data in most of the story... but many blind persons have their other senses compensate by becoming more intense. The author uses smells to provide some of the detail, but taste, touch and hearing could be used to help bring more detail into the story.

One other thing that I didn't quite notice until the end... I was so wrapped up in the story that most of the dates went by without me taking notice, but at the end, the final chapter is dated about six years before the previous chapter.  I'm not certain why the dates aren't all chronological. For me, reading the events in chronological order makes more sense.

In all, the story is intriguing and I was rather hoping for a longer tale... perhaps 200 pages. I'll recommend this as a good story, but only to those who don't mind dealing with the problems. This review has been simultaneously posted on Amazon.com, Dragon Views and LibraryThing. I received a 96 page PDF format document free from the author in exchange for this review.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mysterious, Romantic, Suspenseful

Once in a Blue Moon
Leanna Ellis
B&H Books (2010)
Paperback, 320 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Bryn Seymour was just nine years old when her mother died under mysterious circumstances on the day that Apollo 11 made its historic lunar landing. Four decades later, Bryn seeks closure in the matter of her mom's passing while gathering information to write a story about the 40th anniversary of that historic moon walk.

This blend of mystery and romantic suspense isn't quite as fluffy and mindless as most romances, but the mystery isn't all that mysterious either, once Bryn opens up her self-imposed block of those childhood memories. Howard, the old man full conspiracy theories and paranoia is almost comic relief in the midst of the suspense-filled story of Bryn's investigation of the circumstances surrounding her mother's death.

I enjoyed the men-in-black ride because it's different than most of the novels I've been reading lately, even though it stretches the suspension of disbelief just a little. There's enough romance to satisfy most readers of straight romance and enough plot to keep this novel from being too fluffy and mindless. Recommended for romance readers who like a little substance to their reading.

This book was provided to me free by the publisher in exchange for this review, which was previously published on LibraryThing and has been simultaneously published on Amazon.com and Dragon Views.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Neil Gaiman
HarperCollins (2002)
Hardcover, 176 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

The story of Coraline takes place in a house that has been divided up into flats as they are called in the UK. Here in the United States, we might call them apartments or condominiums. Anyhow, Coraline lives in one such unit with her parents, who both work. Being the intrepid explorer-type, Coraline meets all of her neighbors and explores her home... One day, she finds a door, but it won't open. Being curious, Coraline asks her mother about the door...

The big, old house where Coraline and her parents live strikes me as being a good place to set up a haunted house on Halloween... and the story is just about that scary. Enough to give the reader a creepy feeling, but not so creepy as if something is going to reach out and grab you.  Well, okay, the author does reach out and grab your attention with his story about Coraline and the things behind a door that only she can open and pass through.

Recommended for kids age 7 and up who don't scare easily and who think a haunted house is cool, not creepy. This review has been simultaneously posted on Amazon.com, Dragonviews, and LibraryThing.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Following The Rules

House Rules
By Jodi Picoult
Atria (2010)
Hardcover, 544 pages
Rated 4 Stars of 5 possible

The kaleidoscopic viewpoint used in House Rules gives the story an interesting perspective... each of the main character tells his/her part of each chapter in alternating turns, including the autistic young man who has been accused of murder. It is a pretty interesting look into Autisim spectrum disorders in general and, specifically, Asperger's syndrome.  Jacob Hunt takes everything quite literally and interprets each situation he encounters in terms of the five basic house rules his mother has taught him.

While I had previously read excerpts from several Jodi Picoult's early novels, this is the first time I've read a book of hers in its entirety. As expected, it is a page-turner. The writing is well-done and the research impeccable. The author uses suspense to draw the reader ever-deeper into the story; instilling doubt (Did Jacob kill his social-skills tutor? or did Jacob's brother, Theo, kill the young woman? Was someone else involved?) and resolving questions as the story develops. I love the way she incorporated a short synopsis of high profile, real-life cases at the beginning of each main chapter, which helped to highlight Jacob's interest in forensics.

Recommended first for the author's fans, second for those who have an interest in forensics or Autism, and third for those who haven't yet experienced reading a novel written by this author. This review has simultaneously been posted on Amazon.com, Dragonviews and LibraryThing.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Strangely Humorous

Maxxed Out
David Collins
William Morrow (2009)
Hardcover, 320 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Billionnaire Robert Maxx does not want to be seen as a nice guy. He wants to be seen as a winner. With the scruples of a rat, Maxx does not mind trampling the litte guys on his way to the top.  Except that now, his empire, built on a framework of lies, is crumbling. His finances are a mess and he needs a huge loan to acquire Rockefeller Center... and has nowhere to turn.

Maxxed Out examines the day-to-day dealings of big business and portrays one thoroughly unlikeable guy (Robert Maxx) beside a few more likeable characters. While the book isn't particularly long, it is also not fast-paced. The motivations and the lives of the characters are examined in so far as the characters interact with one another. Nearly everyone has a motive to kill Robert Maxx, and at least three people visited him on the last night of his life...

Recommended reading for those who would like a glimpse into the world of big business with a little bit of mystery attached. This review has been simultaneously published on Dragonviews and LibraryThing.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Family Loyalty

True Colors
By Kristin Hannah
St. Martin's Press (2009)
Hardcover, 400 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

True Colors is the story of loss and love, loyalty and faith. The three Grey sisters have learned to depend on each other since the loss of their mother many years before, until a stranger comes to town... Unlike the other residents of their small town, Vivi Ann Grey disregards the racial differences, befriending and then marrying Dallas Raintree, despite her father's venimous disapproval. When Dallas is arrested for the murder of a woman known to be his friend, the town residents say they knew he was no good. Only Vivi Ann is sure of her husband's innocence... but can she prove it?

Kristin Hannah handles the issues of racial discrimination and unjust imprisonment in a tasteful manner. This well-written novel is a page-turner from the beginning, with just enough suspense and action that keeps a reader on the edge of his or her seat, waiting to discover what happens next. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this entire novel, but from about the middle on through to the end, I literally could not put it down... It has been many years since I stayed up all night reading 200 straight pages... but with True Colors, there was no choice... I just couldn't stop.

True Colors is recommended for all readers age 17 and up who enjoy a well-written and suspense filled story. This review has been simultaneously published on Dragonviews and on LibraryThing.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Shoe Making From The Inside

Very Valentine
Adriana Trigiani
Harper (2009)
Hardcover, 384 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

The opening of Very Valentine is a wedding scene that should be both interesting and a little exciting, but not for me. I found the first chapter to be largely irrelevant; most of the characters quickly became annoying. I kept on reading only because friends of mine had said the story got better; and it did, but not until about the middle of chapter two. If I had been the editor, I'd have insisted on a re-write for the slow-paced and mostly boring opening chapters. As it was, I skipped most of chapter one and skimmed the first half of chapter two, until the real story got started... and then I couldn't put the book down.

Despite the poor opening of this book, I was quickly wrapped up in the lives of Valentine Roncalli and her family and friends. Gram Angelini nearly stole the show; In fact, I think she's probably my favorite character in the book. Valentine has several problems, most importantly, how to bring the Angelini Shoe Company into the 21st century, but also her stuffy and annoying big brother, Alfred Roncalli, who seems to only think of money and himself; (Alfred wants to shut down the unprofitable cobbler's shop) and Valentine's new boyfriend, Roman Falconi, engrossed in his own business; a new restaurant, which Roman puts ahead of his own and Valentine's happiness.

The ending of this first volume of Adriana Trigiani's new series takes the reader by surprise, but because there are two more volumes to come, there are the expected loose ends that lead into book 2 of the series. Very Valentine makes my recommended reading list for those who like a blend of comedy, romance, and an all-round good time reading a larger story carved into three segments.

This review is simultaneously published on Dragonviews and LibraryThing.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Interesting Confusion

A. Sparrow
Smashwords, (2009)
E-book, (PDF format) 217 pages
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible

Each of several characters is followed for part of the story.  The transitions from one world? to another for unclear reasons assist the reader in becoming more confused as the story progresses. That said, most parts of the story remian interesting enough to complete the reading, however, connecting the sections about Frank, who had been searching for his wife, who has been missing for twenty years and his captor, Tezhay, with the sections about Seor and Canu and their compatriots didn't seem relevant... almost like there are two or even three stories that are interwoven into one but still separated or unclearly joined.

I wanted to like this story and enjoyed reading about Frank's search for his wife, but the parts regarding Seor and Canu and their compatriots interfered with that enjoyment a bit because of my not understanding why those characters were in the book at all. If there is a connection between the plot lines, making such connection more clear to the reader could be a good thing.

Xenolith was given to me free by the author in exchange for this review, which has been posted on Dragonviews and LibraryThing.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hidden Treasures

Lethal Legacy
Linda Fairstein
Doubleday (2009)
Hardcover, 384 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Rare books, valuable maps, the New York Public Library, and a cast of eccentric characters kept my interest despite the formulaic nature of this entertaining mystery. District Attorney, Alexandra Cooper, investigating two murders, crosses paths with thieves determined to double-cross each other to end up with a valuable map which was printed in 12 sections. The different sections of the map are not conveniently all in one spot, however.  To complicate matters, there's not one living person who knows where all 12 pieces of the map were hidden.

Killer suspense and a fast-moving plot kept this mystery/thriller both interesting and entertaining right from the start to the very end. The characters were well-developed enough that they came alive for me during the time I was reading this book, and when I finished, I felt like I was leaving old friends behind as I closed the book for the last time. My very favorite aspect of this novel is how the threads of the mystery were inter-woven with the information about rare and valuable books and maps.

Recommended for mystery-lovers of all ages from 16 and up.  This review has been simultaneously published on Dragonviews and LibraryThing.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thought Provoking

By Kathy Bell
Northern Sanctum (2009)
First Canadian Digital Edition, PDF format, 358 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible.

40 year-old Adya, mother of 6, is involved in a traffic accident on November 11, 2011. Hours later, she awakes in a hospital bed asking for her daughter. When she is fully awake, Adya discovers that she has regressed into her own younger self. She is 14 years old and single.

There's surprise after surprise as Adya learns to cope with the way things are now and attempts to discover the reason she is here and learn how to cope with a group of other regressees who seem to be hostile and resentful toward Adya. How does Adya cope with the new, alternate reality she has awoken into...? Naturally, Adya is full of questions, and this first novel in a new series answers some of them.

While alternate realities are nothing new, Kathy Bell takes the old story-line, twisting and turning it in new and exciting ways. Regression grabs the reader and does not let go, staying in one's thoughts even after finishing the last page. Regression is not a "quick and fluffy" read, but is full of thought-provoking  concepts.  This is the kind of novel I look for and eagerly await.  I'll be interested in the remaining books to the series.

Recommended to readers age 16 and up who want something more than a quick and easy read.  This review has been simultaneously posted on Dragonviews and Library Thing. I received the First Canadian Digital edition free from the publisher via the LibraryThing Member Giveaway program in exchange for this review, however I like this book enough to purchase a signed copy of the paper back edition from Northern Sanctum Press.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Survival in the New World

Drums of Autumn
Diana Gabaldon
Seal Books (1997),
Mass Market Paperback, 1088 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

In this fourth installment of the Outlander series, Jamie and Claire's daughter, Brianna makes the trip through time and travels from Scotland to America in order to find them, thinking to prevent their deaths by fire. When Brianna finds herself in her father's century, the date on the newspaper clipping she found is still is 6 years in the future... so there's time, but will Brianna be able to make her parents believe the clipping?

The action in the story slows down about mid-way through and drags a bit... not quite as good as the first three novels, but still well worth reading for the continuity. Fortunately, this book picks up again, so only about the middle 1/4 to 1/3 of the book drags compared to the earlier books in the series.

If you haven't read the first three books in the saga, this isn't the place to start, as the story resumes in this book shortly after the end of the third novel; starting at this point would be confusing to many readers. The Outlander saga is one large story, carved into seven more managable parts, which should be read in order.

Book 1: Outlander
Book 2: Dragonfly in Amber
Book 3: Voyager

This review has been simultaneously posted on Dragonviews and Library Thing.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Norwegian "Dirty Harry"

Jo Nesbø
Harper (2009)
Hardcover, 480 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible.

Hardcore mystery readers won't want to pass up this new novel by Jo Nesbø, in which the lead character is suspected of killing a former girlfriend.  The evidence, while circumstancial, is damning.  Harry Hole was the last person who saw Anna Bethsen alive... but that's not all, it's just the beginning. So, as the front cover of this novel says, "How do you catch a killer when you're the number one suspect?" Read Nemesis to find out.  I promise you won't be sorry.

Nemesis is a page-turner, with interlocking sub-plots tied together by the involvement of not just Harry, but a cast of characters you'll either love or love to hate. There's also a hint of corruption in the law enforcement of Oslo, Norway.  I've got to say that, while most plot strands are neatly wrapped up, there exists, in the end, an opening for the next novel.

Some readers find the "damaged hero" model has been over-worked, yet this author takes that oldish plot stand-by and does a good job with it. As Harry Hole unravels the mystery, I kept thinking "...every dirty job..." Those of you familiar with the Clint Eastwood "Dirty Harry" character, who starred in several films, will know what I'm talking about. Seems to me like Harry Hole is the Norwegian answer to Dirty Harry.

This review has been simultaneously posted on Amazon.com, Dragonviews and Library Thing.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Limited Interest

The Piano Teacher
Janice Y. K. Lee
Penguin (2009)
Paperback, 352 pages
Rated 2 stars of 5 possible.

The Piano Teacher
is written in a present tense, third person point of view that I find disturbing... it's as if someone is secretly watching everything that happens without anyone knowing.  One can almost hear the story being narrated in a whisper.  For unknown or unstated reasons, The Piano Teacher flip-flops between decades - 1940's and 1950's. As a reader, I find this unexplained flipping between decades to be a major distraction.

Claire Pendleton, the charater referred to in the title, seems to have actually very little to do with the story, yet she should be the main character, or the book should have been given a different title. The story seems to be more about Will Truesdale and Trudy Liang and what happened to them during World War II than about Claire. As it is, there's nothing in the book for me to recommend it to anyone.

Of those that are fully developed, none are likable... not even Claire Pendleton, The Piano Teacher, whom, at best, one can pity. In fact, I am only giving this book two stars because the 1950's portion is interesting.  Not so the majority of the book, which takes place approximately a decade earlier. If you're looking for something interesting to read, this probably isn't it.  Parts of it are interesting because of the hisotrical material on Hong Kong... but the characters are either the kind you love to hate or rather flat and uninteresting.

Not recommended.  This review has been simultaneously posted on Amazon.com, Dragonviews and Library Thing.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Don't Waste Your Time

Lakeshore Chronicles, Book 5
Susan Wiggs
Mira (2009)
Mass Market Paperback, 416 pages
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible

Fireside is a sweet, sticky, formulaic romance with a little more plot than most books of this type, but still not my cup of tea. 5th in a series, yet stands alone too. Not really bad (the author does a good job with grammar, spelling, and punctuation), but not good enough to make me want to look for the previous four books, nor any that may come after... or anything else by this author.

Character development is far too slow and tentative in this book, almost experimental, or so it seems. Too much description, too little action, and too little dialogue to the story for it to be really good. Fully half of the book was past before I sensed any realistc characteristics to the people involved in this story... and then I could not bring myself to care overly much for any of them.  Why'd I finish reading this if I don't like it?  I'm clueless about that myself... it surely wasn't worth wasting my time.

Recommended to those who like sweet and sticky, mostly plotless and formulaic romance novels; anyone else should steer clear of this... This review has been simultaneously posted on Amazon.com, Dragonviews and Library Thing.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Nice Blend of History and Fiction

Fever 1793
Laurie Halse Anderson
Aladdin Paperbacks (March 2002),
Paperback, 265 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

The Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793 and its aftermath have been historically documented, providing much factual information on which this novel is based. Other reviewers have done a good job summarizing the story, so I won't repeat their efforts here.  Instead, I'll just tell you why I think you should read the book.

Following the novel is an 8 page appendix revealing that many of the events portrayed in the novel actually did happen and that some of the characters were based on real historical persons. While I like seeing such a feature in books that are based on actual events, a bibliography of source material used would also have been a nice feature for a book like this one.

The nearly seamless blending of historical fact with fiction, and her believable, historically consistent characters that help make Laurie Halse Anderson's novel a page turner; one of the best reasons for reading it would be pure enjoyment. The characters are well-developed and the writing exceptionally good. The story is told from start to finish in about 240 pages and moves forward at a nice pace, so it's not overly long and certainly not boring either, with the rich historical content on which the novel is based.

I recommend this novel to readers age 14 and up who are interested in historical events told through fiction. While written specifically with young adult females in mind, this book should appeal to all ages and both genders through it's strong characters and well-defined story.  This review has been simultaneously posted on Dragonviews and Library Thing.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Outstanding Historical Fiction

By Diana Gabaldon
Dell (1994)
Mass Market, 1072 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

Voyager, the third novel in the marvelous Outlander series, takes up the tale of Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall where Dragonfly in Amber left off, opening right after the battle of Culloden. Jamie had sent Claire back through the stones to her own time just prior to the battle - to protect her and their unborn child.  He had meant to die in battle, yet he has unaccountably survived.

The author has done extensive research and taken care to incorporate authentic detail into these novels, making them more believable and that much more enjoyable. One look at the rating for the Outlander series will tell you I'm hooked.  I doubt I have ever given three consecutive novels in a series this consistently high of a rating... yet Outlander and it's sequels definitely deserve the ratings they've gotten from me.

I highly recommend the entire series. Each novel is - somewhat - stand alone, making a complete story on it's own. Still, I recommend starting with Outlander and read them in order.  The larger story will make better sense that way.

This review is simultaneously published on Dragonviews, and LibraryThing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Enjoyable Without Being Understood

Utmost Magpie
Richard Marsh
Mazgeen Press, (2009)
E-book, 54 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Utmost Magpie
is a story about magpies who, led by their captain, deliver messages to people. The messages foretell - by the number of magpies seen - what may happen to the people... The events foretold by the magpies are prophetic, but not entirely unavoidable.

I suspect the story is heavily laden with symbolism that I haven't stopped to analyze in it's entirety. The satire goes right over my head too... or at least, mostly it does. Despite that, I can still see the magpies as politicians and their messages as the rhetoric delivered by politicians in an attempt to convince their colleagues to vote for certain measures when the political body is in session.

On another level, Utmost Magpie is an entirely enjoyable fantasy tale about magpies and the "work" they do. Utmost Magpie can be read as "light and fluffy" or studied in depth.  I can recommend this book, even to those who don't normally read satire.

This review has been simultaneously published on Amazon.com, Dragonviews, and LibraryThing.  Utmost Magpie was given to me free in exchange for this review.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mysterious Visitor

Patterns in the Sand: A Seaside Knitters Mystery
By Sally Goldenbaum
New American Library (2009)
Hardcover, 304 pages
Rated 4 Stars of 5 Possible

Patterns in the Sand takes place in Sea Harbor, Massachusetts, one of those sleepy little seaside towns where everybody knows everybody else, and they also know who likes or does not like whom. Shortly before all the excitement begins, Willow Adams arrives in town and is introduced to the community in an unconventional manner... she's discovered by the police, fast asleep in the display window of Izzy Chambers's Seaside Knitting Studio...

Like a ball of Izzy's yarn, this story unravels bit by bit.  The suspense is delightful as just enough detail is revealed to keep the reader interested and on the edge of her seat while the story develops, and the plot unwinds. Patterns in the Sand is the second book of the new Seaside Knitters Mystery series.

I recommend this novel with no reservations at all to mystery readers age 14 and up... even if you didn't read the first novel in the series, you could enjoy this one, as it stands alone well.

This review is simultaneously published on Dragonviews and LibraryThing, and I reserve the right to publish it elsewhere as the mood takes me.