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.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dark Hunter Continues with: The Guardian

Today, I have a treat for you Dark Hunter fans... a short synopsis and the trailer for The Guardian, the newest installment of Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series.

About The Guardian:

As a Dream-Hunter, Lydia has been charged with the most sacred and dangerous of missions. She’s to descend into the Nether Realm and find the missing god of dreams before he betrays the secrets that could kill all of them. What she never expects is to be taken prisoner by the Realm’s most vicious guardian.

Seth’s time is running out. If he can’t hand over the entrance to Olympus, his own life and those of his people will be forfeit. No matter the torture, Seth hasn’t been able to break the god in his custody. Then there’s the beautiful Dream-Hunter Lydia: She isn’t just guarding the gates of Olympus—she’s holding back one of the world’s darkest powers. If she fails, an ancient curse will haunt the earth once more and no one will be safe. But evil is always seductive...

And now, the trailer:



Official Sanctuary and Sherrilyn Kenyon for more about SHERRILYN KENYON, THE GUARDIAN, and all of her novels.

To sign up and access an exclusive bonus scene from THE GUARDIAN, visit: Heroes and Heartbreakers

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Girl, A Garden and A Secret

The Girl in the Garden
Kamala Nair
Grand Central Publishing (2011),
Paperback ARC, 320 pages
Rated 5 Stars of 5 Possible

The Girl in the Garden is a tale of, well, a girl and a garden... and a secret. Of course that brings to mind The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, first published in its entirety in 1911. But this girl and this garden are different; as is the story. This is definitely not a re-telling of the classic tale, but a new story by a debut author brave enough to handle family issues such as abuse and divorce.

Ms Nair uses the story-within-a-story method of telling this tale. The bulk of the story is a remembrance of one summer spent in India when the narrator was about ten years old. That portion of the story is also a manuscript that the protagonist leaves for her betrothed. The author has an engaging style all her own that keeps the reader deeply engrossed in the story and turning page after page, eager to devour this compelling tale. I quite often say of horror tales that I favor the ones that keep me up all night... well, The Girl in the Garden is no horror tale, but it did keep me up all night... and it was a night well-spent, too.

I received an advance review copy of The Girl in the Garden from another reviewer. This review is uncompensated and also unexpected by the author and publisher, neither of whom had any knowledge that this book would pass through my possession. I found this book just too good to keep to myself, so I'm passing it on to someone else... This review is being posted on Dragon Views, Amazon.com, LibraryThing and YABooks Central.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sneaky, Subtle and Deceptive

Duma Key
by Stephen King
Scribner (2008),
Hardcover, 592 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

Edgar Freemantle, a construction contractor in Minneapolis, suffers major injuries in a freak accident. By the time he recovers from the majority of his injuries, and most of the resulting confusion has passed, his wife has left him. Shortly after his release from the hospital, Edgar decides to start his life over again. Since his injuries have resulted in the inability to resume his former career, Edgar decides to re-establish his connection to the artist within. He moves to Florida, and an island called Duma Key.

In a frenzy of creation, Edgar paints enough pictures to put on a one artist exhibit in a near-by town. Edgar's pencil sketches and paintings seem benign, but are they? Duma Key isn't just any horror novel. It's sneaky, subtle, and deceptive... The horror creeps up on you like a thief in the night; it reaches out and grabs you before you even realize it's there. Duma Key is a page-turner; once it grabs you it does not let go.

A must read for Stephen King's fans, Duma Key would also be ideal for the horror enthusiast who has never read a Stephen King book. In fact, Duma Key is probably Mr. King's most brilliant and horrifying novel to date*.  I recommend that everyone read this with the lights on... no, not just your reading lamp... you need every light in the house turned on for this one.  Even then, Duma Key will keep you up all night.

This uncompensated review has been published on LibraryThing, Amazon.com and Dragon Views.

*Note: This review was written in 2008, shortly after I read this book, which I purchased "hot off the press".  Subsequent books by this author have been published, but are not considered here, as they did not exist - except possibly in the author's mind - when this review was originally written.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Medieval Scotland - At War

A Kingdom's Cost
J. R. Tomlin
J. R. Tomlin, 2011
Kindle Edition
Print length, 262 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible.

A Kingdom's Cost takes place in medieval Scotland as the Scottish attempt to take back their land and their homes from the British invader, Edward Longshanks. 

This novel could be enjoyed not only by those who love historical fiction, but also by those just looking for something good to read.  Indeed, one can find action, adventure, romance, suspense and many other story elements along with well-developed characters and a page-turning, gotta-know-what-happens-next tale that keeps the reader on the edge of his or her seat.

As with any tale that takes place during a turbulent period in history, this one has plenty of violence, so may not be suitable for everyone. My Kindle version of A Kingdom's Cost was received free from author in exchange for review.  This review has been posted at various sites, including but not limited to LibraryThing,Amazon.com and my blog, Dragon Views.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Guest Post - Halloween Books to Unleash Your Inner Kid

Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb cover
Today's post is by MJ Ware, Author of Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb.  Thanks, MJ for helping promote my blog. Lady D.

Even before publishing Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb (SZJMB), I wrote a lot of horror stories. However, since I write almost exclusively for kids and teens my stories aren't anything like your traditional, terrifying, horror stories. They're more blood and snot than blood and guts. With that in mind, I've compiled a list of great books to wake up your inner child, or maybe your inner young adult, this Halloween season.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan – I'm starting off with this one because, as a YA book it will appeal to more adults, plus it has zombies! Mary lives in the woods as part of a community surrounded by a fence that (usually) keeps the undead out. This one is really more of a romance novel with zombies. Still, it has great imagery which really makes it spooky.

The Witches by Roald Dahl – This book is definitely a kid's book, but it's so well written, anyone who loves books will enjoy it. And, compared to most of Dahl's other books, it’s pretty dark; in fact it's one of the 100 most banned children's books on account of the violence.

Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury – It doesn't get any more Halloween than this. It's a great story about a gang of guys (and one girl) who run into a haunted house while trick-or-treating. After you finish the book, check out the Emmy award winning cartoon version:

Coraline by Neil Gaiman – Gaiman is a master of scary books and Coraline is one of his best. Even if you've seen the movie, don't skip the book. It's a quick read at 35k (and it's one of those books that's hard to put down). Once you're finished, you might want to check out Gaiman's more adult themed The Grave Yard Book.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury – Okay, Bradbury is one of my favorite authors, so he's allowed two books on the list. Something Wicked This Way Comes, is much darker than The Halloween Tree, having deeper and more serious themes. It was published as an adult book, but really, it's a coming of age story that resonates with young and old alike.

Welcome to Horrorland by R.L. Stine – What list of scary books would be complete without something from the Goosebumps series? Obviously, this one's light reading and only for readers who enjoy kidlit. With its fast action and short chapters it's also a great choice for that reluctant reader in your life.

About the author:

M.J.A. Ware, known as M.J. to his friends, lives in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains with his wife and two daughters. He wrote Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb because he felt there was a need for a zombie book with a broader appeal than just hard-core horror fans. A book that would not only appeal to both adults and teens, but would be teen safe.

When not writing about aliens, monsters and ghosts, he runs a company where he designs award winning video arcades. He’s currently polishing his latest novel, Girls Bite, a paranormal vampire story told from a guy's perspective.

Find SZJMB at: Amazon (print and ebook) Barnes & Noble  SmashWords  Apple

Win a Free ebook copy SZJMB. Enter by 10/31. Winner chosen at random and will be announced on or around 11/1.

Note from Lady D: If you like guest posts, comment here on the blog. I'll try to arrange more such posts according to the feedback I receive from you readers. Commenting is welcome and, at the moment, unmoderated.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Continuing Saga

An Echo in the Bone
By Diana Gabaldon
Bantam (2010),
Mass Market Paperback, 1232 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 Possible

An Echo in the Bone continues the saga of Claire and Jamie Fraser, beginning where A Breath of Snow and Ashes leaves off.  While this volume came in a couple hundred pages shorter than the previous two volumes, it is nevertheless excruciatingly long. An Echo in the Bone is neither the best of the series, nor the worst.  My favorites by far are the earliest three volumes... but I like this one better than the previous two.

The highly detailed plot and the vast number of fully developed characters in this series make the novels challenging to read, yet enjoyable for those who don't demand total accuracy in the historical content of a novel. Even though I have been reading this series from the beginning, I still find most of the transitions between centuries disconcerting... but I noticed that the letters from Claire and Jamie to their daughter often make a good trasition back to the present day.  I just wish the transitions getting back to the 18th century were as clear and focused.

If you have picked up this book without reading at least a few of the preceeding six volumes, it's probably not a great place to start. Read the series beginning with Outlander first, aka Cross Stitch in the UK. I recommend not skipping volumes in this series because there are places in each that refer back to key events in the other novels.  The references to earlier events do not fully repeat the previous material, so you could miss something if you try to skip sections of the saga.

Recommended to fans of the series, who have read all the previous volumes before cracking open the covers of this one.  This unsolicited and uncompensated review has been published on Dragon Views, Amazon.com, LibraryThing and any other site deemed appropriate by the reviewer.

Book 1: Outlander  5 stars
Book 2: Dragonfly in Amber  5 stars
Book 3: Voyager  5 stars
Book 4: Drums of Autumn  4 stars
Book 5: The Fiery Cross  4 stars
Book 6: A Breath of Snow and Ashes  4 stars

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For

Remote Control
Cheryl Kaye Tardif
Imajin Books (2010),
Kindle Edition
Rated 5 Stars of 5 Possible

What if you pushed the button on your TV remote control, and it transported you right into the scene you were watching on TV?  Might the results be something out of your finest dreams or your worst nightmare? Remote Control is the dark, suspenseful, and somewhat comic look at a TV addict's dream come true, or his nightmare realized. Read this little novella and find out what happens...

Only two characters are fully developed, but that's all this story needs to hook you into turning the pages and reading on into the night. Cheryl Kay Tardif has done an excellent job on this well-written and quirky, yet addicting little story. Once I got started, I couldn't lay it aside; I just had to know what happens next, and I'm sure you will, too.

Recommended to readers who love a story that hooks you on the first sentence and keeps you hooked all the way to the end. This unsolicited and uncompensated review has been posted on Dragon Views, Amazon.com and LibraryThing as well as other sites deemed appropriate by the reviewer.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Steampunk Worth Reading

The Burning Sky
By Joseph Robert Lewis
Joseph Robert Lewis (2011),
Kindle Edition
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

The Burning Sky is a gripping, thrilling story, full of action and adventure, as well as interesting and well-developed characters. The characters' actions are consistently realistic within the rules of their world, which is not the same as ours. Thus, actions that make sense in their world would not necessarily make sense in ours... yet the envelope of suspension of disbelief isn't broken. In fact, it's not even stretched much.  As part 1 of a trilogy, The Burning Sky involves the reader in the lives of the characters and embeds their world into the reader's soul so that, laying aside the book when it's finished leaves the reader feeling as if he/she is missing out on something.

For adult readers of fantasy who like stories with substance to them, The Halcyon series books are good candidates to bring on to your Kindle or other e-reader. for now, the books are not available in printed formats, which is my only regret.  The time reading the series was well-spent and has provided excellent entertainment.

Recommended to all adult readers of steampunk who don't shy away from the inevitable violence of a frontier world.  This review, for which I have not received any financial compensation, has been posted on Dragon Views, Amazon.com and LibraryThing.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Award-winning Debut

The Windup Girl
Paolo Bacigalupi
Night Shade Books (2009)
Hardcover, 368 pages
Rated 4 Stars of 5 Possible

The Windup Girl depicts a world in which cloning is not only permitted, but has become common place. The clones are genetically altered so that their movement is not smooth or graceful and this betrays their artificial status. The author has touched upon sensitive issues, such as racial abuse, from our own world in this high-tech science fiction novel.

The novel starts slow, and builds suspense from the beginning, yet remains interesting enough that it's hard to put down... and it gets better as the reader turns the pages. Many of the characters are only superficially developed, and these would have been more interesting if they had been developed more in-depth. The Windup Girl is not a "fluffy" read and requires concentration from the reader to fully understand what's happening. In fact, one almost needs to take notes at a few points because a lot happens in the story.

In the end, I felt I needed to deduct one star for the sometimes lengthy and apparently unnecessary descriptive passages in which little is happening to further the ends of this otherwise interesting tale.

This review, for which I have not received any financial compensation, has been posted on Dragon Views, Amazon.com and LibraryThing.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Historical Page-Turner; Grabs You On Page 1

Pursuit of Happiness
By Sheldon Greene
BookSurge Publishing (2010)
Paperback, 474 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

Pursuit of Happiness By Sheldon Greene is a well-told revolutionary war tale, and, as the title might lead one to believe, there's romance involved too.  But the most prominent parts of the tale involve the machinations of none other than General George Washington to convince blockade runners to retrieve a desperately needed shipment of French arms from a secret location somewhere in the Caribbean islands, and the completion of that task, at a considerable risk to the particpants.

This tale is well researched as the historical bits fit nicely into place, and the fictional bits seem authentic enough that they could have happened. The author grabs the reader from page one, never letting go until the end. A nicely placed historical note reveals that a few, slight liberties were taken with certain historical events and some of the area's geography. A list of sources are provided afterwards which the historically-interested reader may wish to consult.

Recommended to readers of historical fiction and those who just love to read a book full of action, adventure and thrills... Oh yeah... the romance. For those who don't like much romance in their literature, there's not a lot here, but it does add a bit of interest to the tale at parts that might sag otherwise.

A review copy of Pursuit of Happiness By Sheldon Greene was provided to me free by the author in exchange for this review.  This review has been posted on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and wherever else I may deep appropriate.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Action and Adventure on an International Scale

The Wreckage: A Thriller
Michael Robotham
Mulholland Books (2011)
Paperback review copy, 320 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 Possible

The Wreckage involves high-tech bank robbery on an international scale, a vanishing executive and mistaken identity tied together by a suspenseful plotline, which is acted out by a long cast of characters.  Michael Robotham's fans will recognize Joe Loughlin, a psychologist/professor, and retired police detective Vincent Ruiz, both of whom appear here and each of whom have appeared in previous novels.

Multple and seemingly unrelated stories constitute the beginning of this novel, which slowly reveals that what is - at first - thought to be unrelated incidents are actually different aspects of one larger case for Detective Ruiz and the police to solve. With so many plot lines that eventually converge, the story is difficult to follow at the beginning, yet this author skillfully handles the isolated components in a way that makes sense to the reader and turns the novel into one, very difficult to lay aside book designed to keep you turning pages until the end.

Recommended: If you love mystery/thriller type novels, and if you can handle the constant jumping from London to Baghdad, then back again and to other international destinations then this novel just might be for you.  If you're a fan of Michael Robotham's work, this is a don't miss tale.

An advance review copy of The Wreckage by Michael Robotham was provided to me free by the publisher in exchange for this review.  This review has been posted on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and wherever else I may deem appropriate.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Tale of Medieval Scotland

Freedom's Sword
By J.R. Tomlin
J.R. Tomlin, (2011)
Kindle Edition
Print length 242 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Freedom's Sword begins in 1296, during the invasion of King Edward Longshanks of England. Several years pass between the beginning and end of this novel. Action, adventure, romance, and other elements tied together by a suspenseful plotline make Freedom's Sword a page turner that historical fiction lovers won't want to miss.

Story-wise the tale is nearly perfect but could use some judicious editing by the author or someone familiar with Middle English terminology, some of which is used here for effect. I suspect there were a few times that at least one word was used when another word was intended, not to mention a few errors of other grammatical or typographical origins, to the point where this book looks very much like an uncorrected first draft rather than the final finished product.

The expected brutality of this tale was rather prominent, but I don't believe it was overdone.  Such violence and brutality may, however, make the tale unsuitable for some readers.  Recommended for that subset of readers for whom the violence of the period isn't too much, and for whom the numerous typographical and grammatical errors in this book aren't a problem.

This book was provided to me free by the author in exchange for review. This review is being published on Dragon Views, Amazon.com and LibraryThing.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Art Instructions For All Levels - Not

Sketching School
By Judy Martin
Quarto Publishing, plc. 1991
Reader's Digest, Association, Inc.
Third printing (January, 1994)
Hardcover, 176 pages
Rated 3 Stars of 5 Possible

To begin with, I must take issue with some of the promotional material which was prepared for this book. Specifically, the back cover states "40 specially designed projects." Inside the book, I've only been able to locate 39 projects. Additionally, there are four sections titled "Focus On" which are focused on four different topics. These "Focus On" sections may be helpful, but, do they, I wonder, constitute the missing project #40? Another statement from the back cover promises "Sketching demonstrations by leading artists." There are, indeed, three demonstrations included, yet none of the three demonstrations goes into as much depth as I would like to have seen.

The back cover also states "For artists of all levels", yet there is very little content here for the inexperienced artist. The promised step-by-step instructions are quite vague rather than specific, and not too detailed. That type of instruction might be okay for intermediate or advanced artists, but I would not recommend it for beginners at all. I'm rating the book as three stars because I think, after seven years of working on my drawing that I might be able to take advantage of some of the techniques included here; but I can't recommend the book to artists at less than an intermediate skill level, and at least a few years of experience. Can we say disappointed?

This review has been posted on Dragon Views, LibraryThing and Amazon.com. and has not been solicited by either the publisher or the author/artist.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Forgettable Historical Fiction

The Blighted Troth: A Historical Novel of New France
By Mirella Sichirollo Patzer
History and Women (2011)
Kindle Edition
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible

Set early in the 18th century, this historical tale of New France tells of the trials and tribulations a young couple face. They wish to marry each other but their priest refuses, because, unknown to the young couple, the priest has been threatend by a prominent man of higher status whose attention has been fastened to the young bride-to-be. Naturally, the man covets the young woman for himself and sets out to make certain the young couple cannot be married.

The premise was very good - which is what attracted my attention to this book.  The plot is complex, with twists, and turns and a large cast of characters that one almost needs a cheat sheet to follow closely, so marks off for that... The long, involved sequences between the parts with real action also challenged me to keep reading, and also caused me to mark down this book's rating. There were a couple of points near the middle of the book where I almost laid it aside forever.  I kept on, because I wanted to know if the young couple overcame the difficulties, and how they managed to do so.

Large portions of this tale are forgettable, not something that makes the book stand out in my mind for recommendation. Though I normally love historical fiction, this book turned out to be less special than I thought it would be. Not recommended. 

This book was provided to me free by the author in exchange for review.  This review is being published on Dragonviews, Amazon.com and LibraryThing.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Domestic Violence and Murder

The Murderer's Daughters
Randy Susan Meyers
St. Martin's Griffin (2011),
Paperback, 320 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Domestic violence rears it's ugly head in this emotional tale that follows the two daughters of the estranged and drunken husband who kills his wife and attempts to kill one of the girls too. With their mother dead and father in prison, the two girls are essentially orphaned. Unwanted by their aunts and uncles, the girls soon find themselves placed in an orphanage, and eventually, adopted... yet they still need to deal with the events of their youth.

While this story follows the girls into their adult life, it seems to me that the author had as much difficulty dealing with the transformation of the youngsters from children to adult women as the characters had in dealing with the problems of their broken and dysfunctional family. I found the characters to be fairly well developed and quite flawed, so I had no trouble believing them to be human.  At times, I even wanted to slap both girls for their irrational behavior, yet I also found that the younger girl's ability to forgive and forget was something to be admired. Many of us can't do that; I know that if I had been the victim as she was, that I would not be able to forgive or forget.

I belive there may be a lesson for some readers in this tale and can recommend it to those who can handle the domestic violence and its aftermath. The Murderer's daughters was provided to me free from publisher in exchange for this review.  This review is being published on Dragon Views, Amazon.com and LibraryThing.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Werewolf Romance

Joy Spraycar
AuthorHouse (2010),
Paperback, 360 pages
Rated 3.5 stars of 5 possible

Quicksilver is a slightly above-average paranormal romance that begins in the 1850s. However, after just two short, interesting chapters, we fast-forward to the present day. Therein lies my first disappointment. I really wanted the story to be a historical romance.

The second problem I had with this story was at the point where Serry's husband dies in the automobile crash that Quinton survives. The death of the abusive character so early in the story seems to be just a little too convenient, at least to me.  And besides... he could have been useful in providing a bit of conflict at the start of Serry and Quinton's relationship.  Yes, I know, the evil father provides conflict, but that's a different sort of conflict which doesn't keep our two main characters from coming together.

My third major problem with the story is that Serry repeatedly ignores the instructions given to her for her own safety, which results in me respecting her a bit less due to the hare-brained decisions she makes that result in her being in danger. Yes, this situation brings more conflict - but of the kind which an intelligent character should have been able to avoid to some extent. I would have preferred a type of conflict that arose despite an intelligent character doing the prudent thing.

I like that the characters are flawed, as this makes them seem more human, and I like that Quinton does not accept being a Werewolf and is searching for an answer to that problem. This provides an unusual and intriguing aspect to the story; one that I have not seen before. Still, the good points are not quite strong enough to override the problems with this story, so I can't quite give it a full four stars... but yet it seems better than a three star novel, thus, for me, an unusual 3.5 star rating.

Recommended to those who love paranormal romances, and to those looking for something a little different than the normal fare. Quicksilver was provided to me free by the author in exchange for this review. As always, this review has been posted on Dragon Views, Amazon.com, LibraryThing and wherever else I may decide is appropriate.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Suspense-filled Page-Turner

Fire Sanctuary
Katharine Eliska Kimbriel
Book View Cafe(March 29, 2011)
Kindle edition
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

As a Nualan Princess prepares to wed an Axis warrior, the pair discovers that enemies abound, both from Nuala and from off-world. Survival is foremost on everyone's mind.

Fire Sanctuary was the first published of Katharine Eliska Kimbriel's Chronicles of Nuala, so the reader may notice a little bit of style change between this and the other novels of the series. This story takes place on the same planet; however it is many years after the stories told in the other two books in the series, so it fits in at either end of the series right now, or as a stand-alone novel to be read at any time. Some of the characters in this novel are related to some characters in the other two novels.

I found the novel to be skillfully written, the characters well developed. As with the other two novels, this one grabs the reader and won't let go. Fire Sanctuary is a suspense-filled page turner that readers of science fiction won't want to miss.

After awhile, I discovered that, despite what I had thought at the beginning of this book, my affinity for these characters turned out to be as strong as my affinity for the main characters in the other two books; I just took longer to realize that fact. Realizing that I want to read more Chronicles of Nuala didn't take nearly as long... Now that I've finished the series, there's that sadness of leaving friends behind but also a hopefulness that Ms. Kimbriel will want to write more stories of this interesting world.

Recommended to adult readers of science fiction and fantasy, and to those looking for something a little different from mainstream fiction. I'm on the edge of my seat now...  This review has been simultaneously published on Dragon Views, LibraryThing and Amazon.com.

Fires of Nuala

Hidden Fires

Monday, August 15, 2011

Experience Two Sides of One Author

The Inheritance: And Other Stories
By Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm
Harper Voyager (2011)
Paperback, 400 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 Possible

I like to review anthologies on the basis of each story, especially when the stories bear little or no relationship to each other, aside from having been written by one author. That means I review each story on its own merits and then rate the book as a whole.  I'll start by giving a one-line synopsis of each story with my rating for that story alone. At the end, I'll give the reasoning behind my rating of the book as a whole, which is based on the story ratings taken together.

Megan Lindholm:

A Touch of Lavendar - a coming of age story about a young boy and the aliens in his neighborhood
3 stars - interesting but not altogether enchanting as I had hoped. Might be one of the better Lindholm bunch, but still not 4 star quality.

Silver Lady and the Fortyish Man - A romance, of sorts. It seems to have no ending, as if the romance is still ongoing.
3 stars - interesting with a few points that almost reach that elusive 4th star.

Cut - Mercifully short, bizarre and somewhat forgettable tale of mutilation and individual rights.
2 stars - definitely not my thing.

The Fifth Squashed Cat - The key to immortality for select people?
3 stars - definitely weird. Interesting, in a way, but lacks something I can't put a finger on.

Strays - An abused girl cares for stray cats.
5 stars - clearly one of the best of the Lindholm selections.

Finis - Fear of Vampires?
5 stars - Well done story and unique twist on an over-done theme.

Drum Machine - Getting your own way does not always lead to happily ever-after.
2 stars - Confusing. Three characters in the story. Two people who interact with each other in one scene, one from their mutual past. Each of the three characters seems to have or once had his/her own agenda. Seems to be multiple plot lines, but the story is too short to pull off that sort of multiplicity successfully.

First half of the book - While there are a couple of gems in the Megan Lindholm bunch, most stories are average or fall short of their potential. Two of the average stories stand a bit above the rest, but not so far above as to rate another full star. 

Robin Hobb:

Homecoming - Political exiles sent to establish new colony.
5 stars - some surprising twists; interest doesn't lag.

The Inheritance -  Cerise's inheritance isn't what she expected.
4 stars - not quite as interesting as other stories about this world.

Cat's Meat - Cats speak to whom they wish; we humans should listen sometimes...
5 stars, Justice is served from an unexpected source.

Second half of the book. These stories are longer, more elaborately plotted than those in the first half, as well as being more polished and among the most interesting in this collection.

The entire collection has some interesting bits and some that might have been better left in the desk drawer... taken as a whole, I'm not sorry I read this and was grateful to experience a side of the author I had not previously encountered.  A definite recommendation for the authors fans.  Those looking for something new may also find a few gems here, but should be aware that the collection is variable in quality.

An advance review copy of The Inheritance: And Other Stories was provided to me free by the publisher in exchange for this review.  This review has been posted on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and wherever else I may deep appropriate.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Never Take Freedom for Granted

Hey Kids, Want Some Chocolates?: My Family's Journey to Freedom
By Melitta Strandberg and George E. Pfautsch
AuthorHouse (2011)
Paperback, 80 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 Possible

Hey Kids, Want Some Chocolates? is the story of Melitta Strandberg and her family. It is a story of the family's trials and tribulations on their journey to freedom. The book is not long, only about 80 pages, including some treasured family photos taken at various times along the journey. Still, it is a powerful little book, containing hopes and dreams and - eventually - success.

While the book is fast-paced and doesn't take long to read, it is also not "light and fluffy" reading. There is a lot written in this short space that gives the reader food for thought, making this book as deep as John Steinbeck's The Pearl or Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and The Sea.  Unlike the two fictional masterpieces afore-mentioned, this slim volume talks of real life events that should not lightly be dismissed. It also functions as a reminder that those of us who were born free should never take our freedom for granted.  Thank you, Mrs. Strandberg, for that oh so appropriate reminder.

Recommended for readers of all ages. This review is based on the paperback version of this book, sent at no cost to me by the author in exchange for review. This review has been posted on Dragon Views, Amazon.com and LibraryThing.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Light-hearted Look At The Life Of Witches

A Modern Witch
Debora Geary
Fireweed Publishing (2011)
Kindle Edition
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

A Modern Witch by Debora Geary is a light-hearted look at the life of Witches and the awesome powerful magic spells they are capable of casting.

Debora Geary sets the hook right away as we discover 28-year-old Lauren has been brought into a witch's chat by the fetching spell that is not supposed to make mistakes. At first, Lauren is convinced that, despite the spell-caster's assurance, there has indeed been a mistake. She is no witch... or is she?

Discover the magical and captivating answer as you watch Lauren gain the knowedge she needs with the help of her new-found friends, who just happen to include a little 4-year-old, story-stealing witchling who needs a tale of his own...

I loved these characters right from the start. The author's well-written prose brought them to life and the situations in which we become acquainted with the characters seem very realistic. Within the world of this story, the reader can even believe in magic for a time...

Recommended for readers of light fantasy, romance, and those looking for something a bit different. The Kindle edition of A Modern Witch was provided to me by the author in exchange for this review. This review has been published on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and wherever else deemed appropriate by this reviewer.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Newest Dark Hunter Novel Has Been Released: Retribution


"...Harm no human…
A hired gunslinger, William Jessup Brady lived his life with one foot in the grave. He believed that every life had a price. Until the day when he finally found a reason to live. In one single act of brutal betrayal, he lost everything, including his life. Brought back by a Greek goddess to be one of her Dark-Hunters, he gave his immortal soul for vengeance and swore he’d spend eternity protecting the humans he’d once considered prey.
Orphaned as a toddler, Abigail Yager was taken in by a family of vampires and raised on one belief- Dark-Hunters are the evil who prey on both their people and mankind, and they must all be destroyed. While protecting her adoptive race, she has spent her life eliminating the Dark-Hunters..."     
See the trailer.  If the video embedded below won't work for you, there's a direct link to Youtube following the embedded version.  There are also - included below for your pleasure - links to the author and publisher websites, where you will find excerpts from the book.



Sherrilyn Kennyon's website about Retribution containing excerpts:


Macmillan's Sherrilyn Kenyon website:


And now, the exciting part:  Somehow, I wound up with two finished copies of the hardcover edition of Retribution... That being the case, there will naturally be a review coming from me.  But I only need one copy of the book for that purpose. I've decided that the best thing to do is to give away the extra copy to one lucky reader.  My financial status demands that I restrict the entries to those with a United States mailing address; sorry about that folks...

To enter the contest, comment on this entry.  You do not need to post your mailing address, just a valid email where I can contact the winner.  You do need to be 18 or older as of September 1, 2011. I will choose the lucky person at the end of August, 2011 via random.org. from all entries received before Midnight Central Time, at the end of this month.  No comments posted on or after September 1, 2011 will count as an entry into this drawing.  The winner will need to have a valid mailing address within the United States, which I will use to send the book.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Blend of Satire and Romance

Pride and Prejudice: The Illustrated Edition
Jane Austen
Sourcebooks Landmark (2010)
Kindle Edition
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible

First published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice was initially popular, going into a second edition before the first year concluded. However, when her novels went out of print in 1820, Pride and Prejudice remained unavailable for 12 years, as did the other novels written by Miss Austen. In 1832-33, the entire works of Jane Austen came back into print and have remained continuously available in various editions since then.

In the Fall of 2010, the publisher detailed above gave away ebook editions of Jane Austen's works in honor of her birthday.  Having neglected to read any of her work for - well, lets just say a few decades - I decided to see what all the excitement was about, and chose Pride and Prejudice at random and because it is said to have been her most popular novel during her lifetime.

Print length varies by publisher, but is usually between 300 and 450 pages, depending on format (hardcover, trade paperback, mass market, etc.)  Reading through the ebook edition seemed to take forever, appearing to be more like 700 pages. Now, when I'm enjoying myself, I don't mind novels being long... However this story could have used some major editing, as some parts are far too long for what they mean to accomplish. That said, the novel has its good points, too, though they seem to be far between.

The title was well chosen and very apt for this book. The astute reader will have no problems seeing how the title applies to this novel's content. Pride and Prejudice is a study of human nature, as well as being a satire. The interaction between characters was well-done and seemed realistic, if a bit idealistic in some cases. Some readers may be put off by the nineteenth century language used... but one must remember, the English language is a living language. It has changed quite a bit in the 200 years since this book was written.

I found I had to be in the mood for Miss Austen's prose, or I couldn't have gotten through the book.  Pride and Prejudice is one of those books I class as being worth reading - once.  I probably won't read it again.  Recommended to Jane Austen fans and those who like satire, as well as those who like romances. This review has been posed on Dragon Views, Amazon.com, LibraryThing and wherever else this reviewer finds appropriate.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Late Series Entry: Best Start at Book 1

No Mercy
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin's Press (2010)
Hardcover, 352 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

No Mercy is paranormal romance, and part of Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series.  The main characters are shape shifters and an Amazon warrior/queen who was betrayed by her overly jealous sister thousands of years before. Now, the Amazon is a Dark Hunter, with special powers and immortality.  She's also falling for one of the shape shifters, a bear who has the ability to assume the appearance of being human.

Lately, I've been straying from my normal reading genres, which mostly include science fiction and fantasy, but also lots of historical fiction, which often has some romance included.  I also seem to have acquired an affinity for series books, jumping into the middle of a series without knowing it IS a series until later.  In the case of No Mercy, it's not yet a mid-series book, but closer to the recent end of a very long (20+ volume) series.  Coming into the series at this point puts the reader at something of a disadvantage, in that references to events that occurred earlier in the series are made in No Mercy, but having not read the earlier books, I had no idea what the characters were talking about.

Series connectivity aside, I have to say I did enjoy this book, despite the fact that paranormal romance generally isn't my thing. Sherrilyn Kenyon is a new-to-me author, whom I am glad I ventured to try. For those with at least some familiarity with the Dark Hunter series, No Mercy would stand alone well enough that it would not matter if a few books from the series were skipped. For those completely unfamiliar with the series, as I was, starting with No Mercy probably isn't the greatest idea. Knowing what came before may be helpful.

Recommended to fans of the Dark Hunter series.

A finished hardcover copy of No Mercy was provided to me free by the publisher in exchange for this review. This review appears on Dragon Views, Library Thing, Amazon.com and wherever else deemed appropriate by this reviewer.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Patriotic, Christian Fiction

What So Proudly We Hailed
James Howard
CreateSpace (2010),
Paperback, 280 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

What if... there was a nuclear attack on the United States? What So Proudly We Hailed takes that question and runs with it. The title makes this book seem to be a story about the beginning of the United States, but that's not the case.  It is, in part a story of war, but of more modern times; an alternate reality, if you wish. The characters do exhibit patriotic characteristics though.

The scenario seems plausible and the book is well written. Especially in the last half, the narrative tends to get a bit preachy for my tastes, which explains the one star rating drop.  Still, the story is enjoyable.

Recommended for readers age 16 and up who enjoy reading books which promote a Christian viewpoint. The author has put his characters into some controversial situations, which would make for good group discussion material. 

This book was provided to me free by author in exchange for review. This review has been simultaneously posted on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and wherever else I may deem appropriate.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Teaser Novella

Gaslight Chronicles
Photographs & Phantoms
Cindy Spencer Pape
Carina Press (2011),
Kindle Edition
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Photographs & Phantoms is a blend of genres featuring historical romance, paranormal, mystery, fantasy and alternate history. Photographer, Amy Deland is haunted by a shadow appearing in some recent portraits... The presence of that shadow ruining the portraits is bad enough, yet each time the shadow appears, the subject of that portrait has died shortly afterward. Amy is determined to get to the bottom of the situation and find an explanation for the phenomenon. Will she succeed?

The book has an intriguing and mysterious premise that enticed me to download the promotional freebie. First off, it's (marginally) historical fiction. Second, the story promises some magic.  Reading further, one discovers that this isn't true history, but an alternate version, which I usually find interesting. I'm glad I didn't know when I downloaded this book that Carina Press is a Harlequin imprint, or I might have skipped it.  I normally find straight romance tales to be too fluffy, plotless, and sticky sweet to suit me, which wasn't the case here, except for the big sex scene near the middle of the book, which I skipped.  Sorry, but I don't find that unadulterated sex moves the story along... this novella would have been better without that scene.  Minus half a star for the uninteresting and unnecessary sex scene.

Over all, I found the mystery to be entertaining and the entire tale to be a page-turner. Still, some scenes later in the book could have been better developed. I was disappointed to find that, although the male lead in this tale is described as being a Sorcerer, very little magic was involved. Most of the magic could be explained by the technology used... so minus one fourth of a star for that lack of development, and minus another quarter-star for the lack of magic...  I'd have loved this book to be a little longer - say about 30,000 words.

Incidentally, for those who haven't read this book, the Kindle edition is still free from Amazon.com.  Sure, it's an advertisement/teaser for the publisher's other books, but one that is very much worth reading  I'm not obligated to review this book, however, writing reviews IS what I do... so why not?  Recommended to adult readers age 18 and up who like something more than straight, sticky-sweet romance.

This review, for which no compensation - financial or otherwise - has been received by the reviewer, appears on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and other sites deemed appropriate by the reviewer.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Richly Layered

Heirs of Mars - a tale of sacrifice and revenge on the red planet
Joseph Robert Lewis
Joseph Robert Lewis (2010),
Kindle Edition - Print length 368 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Heirs of Mars, written by author Joseph Robert Lewis, is a tale of life on the planet Mars, both for those born on the red planet, and those who immigrated there from Earth. The novel alternates chapters narrated by six main characters, men and women who represent the various groups who inherit the planet from previous explorers. These six characters each have a unique point of view to relate, and as such, each character adds another layer of interest to the story.

I find multi-focal novels a challenge to read since the point of view changes as the chapters transition from one character to the next. Still, such novels provide more information and more in-depth knowledge for the reader than would be available if the story were told by only one character, as some characters see things and events that many of the other characters do not see and/or know nothing about. Transitions between the multiple viewpoints are well done in this sometimes suspenseful, always fascinating tale of Mars.

Artificial intelligence, cloning, and robotics, are well-depicted in this novel. These heavy science themes do not make the story too complex for the average reader to follow, yet they add another dimension to the atmosphere of the tale.  Over and over again in the literature of Earth, we see the same themes repeated. People fear that which they do not understand. This simple theme has been explored by many authors among many genres and is given a slightly different face here, in the colonist's fear of the newborn clones.

Recommended to readers age 14 and up who love reading science fiction.  While this review is based on the Kindle edition, this ebook is available in various other formats, but, alas, not yet in printed formats (or, at least none that I've been able to locate) and on several different websites.

Heirs of Mars - a tale of sacrifice and revenge on the red planet; was provided to me free by the author in exchange for this review. As always, accepting the novel only obligates me to write a review. No promises were made as to what the content of my review might be.  This review, for which no financial compensation has been received by the reviewer, appears on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and other sites deemed appropriate by the reviewer.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Family Secrets Revealed

The Girl in the Lighthouse
Roxane Tepfer Sanford
Metier Books (2009)
Paperback, 256 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

The Arrington family is hiding a devastating secret. Before long, the secret is uncovered, changing life as young Lillian Arrignton knows it into something vastly different, as well as uncovering a mystery that her parents have long concealed.

The novel is short, intensely gripping and does not turn the reader loose. One is compelled to keep turning pages to find out what happens next. While the first half of the novel extensively develops the main characters (and meny of the supporting characters as well), this part of the story does not move slowly, as happens all too often.

The last half of the novel surprises the reader a bit, dark, ominous and gothic, not what would be expected from the title nor even the first half of the book... Yet the transisiton was well done and barely noticible, as Lillian's life changes during the course of the story.

The Girl in the Lighthouse is the first novel in the Arrington series.  As such, it sets the stage for things to come, but is, in its own way, a complete story as well... One could read just this novel without pursuing the story further, but after meeting Lillian Arrington, the reader might not wish to stop here... I know I don't.

Recommended to fans of mystery and gothic novels, as well as those readers who just like a short, intense novel. A signed, paperback copy of this novel was provided to me free in exchange for this review. As always, accepting the novel only obligates me to write a review. No promises were made as to what the content of my review would be. 

This review has been posted on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com, and wherever else I may deem appropriate.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Advice You Can Use

Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content
By Mark Levy
Berrett-Koehler Publishers (2010)
Paperback, 192 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

Accidental Genius is a well-written treasure trove of valuable advice for authors, and for ordinary people. By following Mark Levy's suggestions, you not only improve your writing skills, but you can also learn problem solving techniques. Best of all, you don't need to be an established writer to benefit from this advice. Anyone can use the techniques taught by Mr. Levy, and nearly everyone who tries the techniques will benefit to some extent. 

Mr. Levy provides anecdotes from his personal experience, some of them humorous, all of them valuable examples of what can be accomplished using his techniques to improve both your writing and your life.  If you use these techinques, you might even find that, along the way, you have developed a manuscript for that great American novel residing in the back of your brain.

Author notes (actually more of a bibliography) and a detailed index are among the concluding pages of this book, and, also among the more valuable pages included here. The bibliographical information included in the notes can lead to more resources, while the index will help to quickly locate topics of interest when you don't have the time to read whole chapters, or just want to quickly verify a point or two.

Recommended for readers ages 16 and up who are interested in learning problem solving techniques or improving writing skills. This book was provided to me free by the publisher in exchange for review. This review has been simultaneously published on Dragon Views, Amazon.com, LibraryThing and wherever else I may deem appropriate.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

An Epic Conclusion

Oracle's Legacy: Dawn of Illumination
R. B. Holbrook
Lulu.com (2010),
Paperback, 458 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Oracle's Legacy: Dawn of Illumination is the thrilling conclusion to the author's debut series, which began with Oracle's Legacy: Children of Sun. Since the Oracle's Legacy series is one massive story broken up into three books, the best way to read the series is to begin with Oracle's Legacy: Children of Sun and read the books in order. In this way, the reader does not miss character background or important story issues by starting in the middle or at the end.

As with Shadows of Fate, this third volume builds on the story thus far, beginning where the previous volume ended. Whether you borrow or buy these books, try to get them all at once, so you can rapidly move from one to the next without much delay. When you do this, you will get the most seamless transition from one book to the next, and the story will have a greater impact. 

Taken as one long epic, Oracle's Legacy is a fascinating story... however, if you like short stories or even average-length novels, you probably won't like this, because the three books are one large story, of which the three parts should be read in sequence, and for best effect should be read together, as opposed to reading one book and then something else before continuing with the saga.

Recommended to adults who love epic fantasy and science fiction. Oracle's Legacy: Dawn of Illumination was provided to me free by the author in exchange for this review. This review will be posted on LibraryThing, Dragon Views, Amazon.com and wherever else deemed appropriate by this reviewer.

Oracle's Legacy:
Book 1: Children of Sun
Book 2: Shadows of Fate

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sneaks Up from Behind and Grabs You

Dark Tomorrows
By J. L. Bryan
With Bonus Stories
By Amanda Hocking
Smashwords (2010)
Ebook Mobi format
Print Length 120 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Dark Tomorrows is a collection of eight short stories, which are unconnected to each other. Author J. L. Bryan wrote six of them. The other two were written by Amanda Hocking. 

J. L. Bryan has a way with words, of making the reader keep turning pages to find out what happens next. He successfully does this with short works as well as novels. The strongest of J. L. Bryan's stories in this collection is the first offering; "The Fortune Teller’s Lament" but that doesn't mean the others are not worth reading... just that the later stories sneak up behind you before they grab you.  All of them are well suited to reading at night - alone - with all the lights on.

Amanda Hocking's two stories of roughly equal quality didn't seem quite as dark to me as Mr. Bryan's works in this volume. Still, they were entertaining and answer a couple of what ifs that might occur to some readers... Perhaps the darkness in Ms. Hocking's stories is more subtle and sneaky than the darkness in J. L. Bryan's stories.  At any rate, this is a collection that I can heartily recommend to those who love dark stories.

This ebook was received as a premium for participating in the blog tour for The Haunted Ebook by J. L. Bryan.  While a review was not requested as a condition of my receiving this ebook, I'm sure the authors won't mind. This review will appear on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and on other sites this reviewer deems appropriate.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Front for Terrorist Operations?

By Ginger Mayerson
The Wapshott Press (2010)
Paperback, 222 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

The novel, Electricland, is a mystery tale. The story features satirical content, a terrorist organization run by three middle-aged women, an online game called Electricland, and gay romance.  But is Electricland just a game, or is it a front for terrorist operations?

The author's attention to detail and sense of fun becomes very apparent in this slim novel.  The three female terrorists were often interesting and sometimes even humorous. The Electricland game proved to be interesting too, but I was disappointed to see that very little of this game figured into the actual story. I would have liked to have seen more of the game. While I have to say that gay romance is definitely not my thing, I found that I could easily skim/skip those portions of the story and not lose much in the bargain. Over all, Electricland proved to be a novel that I am glad I have read.

Electricland was provided to me free by the author/publisher in exchange for this review, for which I have not received any financial compensation. This review will appear on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and other sites deemed appropriate by this reviewer.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Keeps You Up All Night

Pumpkin Jack Skull and Other Tales of Terror
Jacob M. Drake
Smashwords.com (2010),
Kindle Edition
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Pumpkin Jack Skull and Other Tales of Terror is, obviously, an anthology of horror stories, perfect for reading on Halloween, or, for that matter, at any time one wishes to read tales of terror bordering on the supernatural. Most stories in the anthology are unrelated to each other, but there are a couple that, if read together, do seem to connect. One of them clarifies events in the other.

I'll admit to being somewhat hurried when I was reading through these tales, so I didn't take notes, nor do my usual one-liner synopsis of each story with a short comment afterwards... sorry for that... and for the fact that I don't have time to read through them again right now to make up for that lack of time earlier... This collection is a worthy read. Unlike lots of independent authors, Jacob Drake has taken the time to track down most of the errors in his work to show that he cares about quality as well as quantity of work produced.

As with most anthologies, this one has some stories that are better than others...  my favorites come near the end of the sequence. Those last two or three stories really do reach out and grab you, just like a good horror story should.  Interested readers can claim their copy of Pumpkin Jack Skull and Other Tales of Terror on Smashwords in a choice of several ebook formats, all of which are unencumbered by digital rights management and free of cost. 

This review appears on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and on other sites which are determined by the reviewer to be appropriate.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sensitive Topics, Skillfully Woven Story

The Map of True Places
By Brunonia Barry
William Morrow (2010),
Trade Paperback, 416 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

The Map of True Places deals with sensitive subjects such as mental illness, suicide, and abuse, among others. The tale is well-written and skillfully woven. The reader is captivated from the first page and wrapped up in the story so thorougly that he or she feels like one of the characters.

Speaking of the characters from The Map of True Places, I must say that they are developed to the point of realism and believability. They are humanly flawed, each having personal quirks and characteristics that make him or her so real the reader feels as if he/she can reach out and shake hands with, or, perhaps, slap some sense into the character.

While The Map of True Places is only the second book this author has written, it is as well-formed as if she had decades of experience and dozens of novels to her credit.  I, for one, will be on the lookout for new works from this talented author.

This review, for which no compensation - financial or otherwise - has been received by the reviewer, appears on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and other sites deemed appropriate by the reviewer.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Confusing but still worthy

A Breath of Snow and Ashes
Diana Gabaldon
Dell Publishing Company (2008)
Mass Market Paperback, 1456 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon is book six of the Outlander series. Like the earlier volumes in the series, A Breath of Snow and Ashes takes up the story of Jamie and Claire where the previous novel ended. Also like most novels, this one has it's high points and some not so high points. While clearly not the best of the series, this book is still much better than book 5, and a worthy segment of the epic. The characters are very realistic and interestingly flawed, yet some of the situations were downright confusing.

Potential spoiler follows for those who have not read this novel, however the spoiler is necessary to explain the confusion.

At one point, Brianna is at the home of Jamie's aunt, and then, suddenly she is a captive on board a ship belonging to one of one of the villains of the epic. This part of the tale makes little sense, as does her rescue which comes later. While a captive, Brianna bribes a prostitute to carry a message to Jamie, which is eventually delivered as promised... but, before that message is delivered, Jamie clearly knows what has happened already. How does he know? This, too, is unexplained...

Recommended for the author's fans, as well as to readers who like their historical fiction with a little romance, a little science fiction, and and lots of details... However, to get the most from this book, you really should read those that were published prior to this volume.

Book 1: Outlander
Book 2: Dragonfly in Amber
Book 3: Voyager
Book 4: Drums of Autumn
Book 5: The Fiery Cross

This review is being simultaneously posted on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and any other site on which the revewer decides is appropriate.  Note also that no compensation, financial or otherwise, was received for posting this review.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Suspense and Comic Relief

Oracle's Legacy: Shadows of Fate
R. B. Holbrook
lulu.com (2009),
Paperback, 556 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Oracle's Legacy: Shadows of Fate is the follow-up novel to Oracle's Legacy: Children of Sun and is the authors second book.  The story continues from where the first book left off. Tightly woven, the story of Ollie Mason and her family continues to hold the reader spellbound as the plot thickens and draws nearer to the climax.

Sometimes it's hard to put a finger on why I like or dislike a book. Oracle's Legacy is a series like that.  I've enjoyed reading all three volumes... The characters are developed enough that I either like or dislike them as is supposed to be... and some characters, while not necessarily on the side of good, are still interesting enough that I like them too.  The story is a mix of suspenseful scenes with some comic relief, all serving to move the plot along to where book two transitions easily into the third volume of the epic.

Caviat:  Lots of violence, yet not unnecessarily violent, given the context of the story. Recommended to readers of epic fantasy who do not mind a fair amount of violence in the book, but should be read following Oracle's Legacy: Children of Sun.

Oracle's Legacy: Shadows of Fate was provided to me free by the author in exchange for this review. This review has been simultaneously posted on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and wherever else deemed appropriate for this book's content.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Uniquely Twisted

A Decent Ransom: A Story of a Kidnapping Gone Right
Ivana Hruba
Kunati Inc. (2008),
Mobi format for Kindle,
Print Length: 272 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 Possible

A Decent Ransom begins with a kidnapping which, from the point of view of the kidnappers, appears to get rapidly out of hand. Then, just when the reader thinks he/she has predicted the ending, the story takes a unique twist...

No, I don't wish to spoil that wonderful ending, so I'll just say that after a certain point, you'll be on the edge of your seat while reading this sometimes humorous, always interesting tale. The characters are well developed, the plot engaging enough to keep me turning pages.

While I never lost interest, I did wonder, at times, about the motivations of young Phoebus, hence my 4 star rating of this very worthy effort by a new-to-me author.

Recommended for adult readers who are looking for something different to add to the regular routine reading.  An ebook version of this novel was provided to me free by the author in exchange for this review.  This review has been posted on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and at other locations deemed appropriate by the reviewer.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Comparing Two Editions

Drawing for Dummies
by Brenda Hoddinott
Wiley Publishing (2003), Edition: 1,
Paperback, 360 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible


Drawing For Dummies
by Jamie Combs and Brenda Hoddinott
illustrations by the authors and
Kensuke Okabayashi, Barbara Frake, Mick Gow, and Rosemary Sidaway
Wiley Publishing (2011), Edition: 2,
Paperback, 384 pages
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible

Comparing Two Editions

Drawing for Dummies was first published 8 long years ago, but the core concepts of learning to draw haven't changed; in fact, those concepts have remained steadfast for centuries.  So why an updated edition? Wiley publishing must have seen the chance to sell more books.  I usually settle for owning just a single edition of any book... but this time, I was attracted for some reason to the updated edition, and bought it, despite the fact that my first edition is perfectly servicable.

Over the years, I have learned that knowing where to find certain information is easier than trying to memorize everything.  My copies of the both editions of Drawing for Dummies are extensively bookmarked, both for reference sections and project instructions. After skimming through the second edition,  I'm seeing much difference between the two editions. In the following paragraphs, I'll try to put my thoughts in some kind of coherent order. Those who don't like long reviews might want to skip to the final paragraph of the Notable Differences section of this one for a more succinct but less detailed consensus.

The First Edition

Originally written and fully illustrated by Brenda Hoddinott, the first edition of Drawing for Dummies was published in 2003. It contains many drawing projects, as any good book on drawing will. The projects are scattered throughout the book, each project emphasizing one or sometimes more of the core concepts of learning to draw. The concepts of one project are built upon by the next, so drawing your way through the book is a good approach if you don't know anything about drawing.

Many of Brenda's drawing projects are cartoonish, and thus fun to draw, as well as making the book entertaining to read. The projects are explicitly explained so that even someone who knows nothing about drawing can follow her instructions and learn something along the way.  There's also an extensive and informative section on drawing people, for those interested in portrats or caracatures. Along the way, the reader encounters much reference material to which he or she may wish to return time and time again. 

The Second Edition

The second edition of Drawing for Dummies was mostly written by Jamie Combs. Jamie did not just rehash what Brenda Hoddinott wrote 8 years ago, she brings her own voice to the book, retaining a small portion of Brenda's text and illustrations from the first edition. However, Jamie has nearly written the whole book over again and including some of her own illustrations as well as art from four other illustrators. While many of the same concepts are explained again, the point of view is very different.

More theory (and thus more reference material), and fewer projects for an artist to try his/her hand at sketching are included in the second edition. The projects that are included in this edition are mostly different than those contained in the first edition; however one of Brenda Hoddinott's best explanations from the first edition - planning a composition - has been retained.

Notable Differences

Both editions contain a section on drawing people, however, Jamie Combs has heavily condensed that section and instead of using Brenda Hoddinott's excellent drawings from the first edition, has substituted illustrations by Kensuke Okabayashi. In exchange for this condensation, Jamie Combs has expanded the section on perspective, better explaining that very key concept than Brenda Hoddinott did. Brenda Hoddinott's cartoon drawings have all been replaced by the non-cartoonish work or other artists, making the second edition to appear as a much more serious work than the first... and consequently not nearly as much fun to read. Jamie's version of this book also contains a chapter on digital drawing, a subject that was not included in the first edition.

So, now anyone who has read this far is probably wondering which edition of this book I prefer. I'll have to say that the first edition is my favorite, hands down, but that I also think the second edition is a worthy effort. If you can afford both versions of this book, I think you'll benefit from having them. I feel that the differences are extensive enough that the second edition should have been given a different title and be considered a work of it's own rather than merely a revision of the first edition.


For artists looking for more in-depth explanations of concepts, and more art theory to go with the projects, the second edition is for you. On the other hand, if you like a laid-back style and cartoonish projects, then hunt down a copy of the first edition.  This review has been simultaneously published on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and other sites deemed appropriate by the reviewer.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Victorian Era Comes Alive

The Lady Actress
By Kelly S. Taylor Ph.D.
Wapshott Press (2009)
Paperback, 254 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Anna Cora Ogden Mowatt Ritchie (1819-1870) was an American actress, author, poetess, and many other professions, but she was also a lady. The first part of this book provides a brief biography of this amazing Victorian era woman, while the remainder of the book details how she challenged the restrictions placed on women of her time, without losing respect or her place in society.

While the main text is fairly well written, and consistently interesting, some of the transitions between Mrs. Taylor's text and excerpts of Mrs. Mowatt-Ritchie's text are not as smooth as could be desired, yet those transitions were not jarring enough to dissuade an interested reader from continuing. This is one book I had a very hard time putting down. It has made me want to locate copies of Mrs. Mowatt-Ritchie's works to read for myself.

The book is annotated and each notation is numbered in sequence per chapter. In other words, at the beginning of each chapter, notes are numbered from one (1) and continue in sequence until that chapter ends. Notes in the next chapter begin again at the number 1. That's a fine, understandable scheme, but is not strictly follwed in the notes section that appears at the end of the book.  Notes for chapter two are numbered within that chapter from the number one, as described above, but, at the back of the book, the numbers of chapter two's notes continue in sequence from the end of chapter 1... so they are numbered from 33 thru 64; which creates a minor bit of confusion when/if one consults the notes during or after reading the main book.

After the notes, there is a 9 page Selected Bibliograpy and three appendices containing a timeline of significant events during the life of the actress and a list of her famous contemporaries, such as Edgar Allan Poe, P.T. Barnum, Louisa May Alcott, and others. These are the type of extra material I always love finding in a non-fiction book. I found the depth of the research interesting and hope to be able to read some of the books referenced in the aforementioned bibliograpy to learn more about the amazing subject of this biography.

This book was received free from the publisher in exchange for this review, and no financial compensation was received by this reviewer. The review is simultaneously being published on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and anywhere else this reviewer deems appropriate.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Detailed and Fascinating

The Ash Spear
By G. R. Grove
Smashwords (2010)
Mobi format for Kindle
Print length, 328 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

The Ash Spear is the third book of G. R. Grove's Storyteller series, which details the adventures of Young Gwernin, a Storyteller and Bardic student. This book concludes the first trilogy of what is hoped will be about a 10 book series. As with the second volume, Flight of the Hawk, this third volume begins shortly after the end of the preceeding book. The glossary at the back is a big help with the Welsh words, which provide atmosphere for the story.

The neat, dove-tailed fit of each story/chapter makes each both a stand-alone tale and part of the larger adventure. That dovetailed fit applies to the novels within the series as well as to the chapters within each book. This would allow the reader to experience The Ash Spear without first reading the other two books of the series, but I don't know why anyone would want to do that. Each novel is so fascinating, you're bound to want to follow Young Gwernin's tale from the beginning.

I found the well-written novel easy to follow, and hard to put down. Each chapter left me eager to read more, and this book has left me on the edge of my seat while I await publication of the 4th book in the series. Let the adventure continue!

This ebook was provided to me by the author, free in exchange for review. This review is simultaneously being published on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and anywhere else I deem appropriate.

The reviews of previous books in this series have not yet been transferred to this blog, but they can still be accessed on my old blog...

Flight of the Hawk