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.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Flawed, Yet Still Interesting

The Kitchen House
By Kathleen Grissom
Touchstone (2010)
Hardcover, 384 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

The Kitchen House is about a young Irish girl, Lavinia, whose parents die on board the ship bringing the family to America. Lavinia finds herself an indentured servant... one step up from slavery, but one step below freedom. I found the premise of the story intriguing and couldn't wait to read this novel, but when I'd gotten fairly started, I discovered a lot of problems with the story... beginning with the prologue. The dramatic prologue of The Kitchen House serves to draw the reader into the story rather quickly, so it's not all bad. however, I must say that I've never been a fan of this method of storytelling. By reading this prologue, the reader is peeking ahead to a scene much later in the book, which, to me, feels like cheating. I also felt the prologue was better written than the ending of the story, or rather, that part of the ending which used the same information.

From the prologue on through the first half of the novel, I kept having a sense of deja-vu, otherwise known as "where have I read this before?"  I have yet to figure out why this novel seems so familiar.

And then we have the story being told from two viewpoints; an adult black slave - Belle - who also happens to be the master's daughter; and the young white indentured servant girl from Ireland - Lavinia. Stories told from multiple viewpoints must be delicately handled to be related smoothly; and sorry to say, the author didn't do so well with this. The transitions between Belle's chapters and Lavinia's chapters were sometimes confusing and often as rough as the storm-tossed sea. Mostly this seemed to be the case with Belle's part of the story.

The other main problems I have with this novel is that the characters, aside from Belle and Lavinia are rather under-developed, so that the reader has a hard time caring about those characters. I would liked to have seen the characters of Marshall and his parents better developed at the very least.

Additionally, everyone in this story seems to have his or her own secret that must be closely guarded; never shared. Beginning with the master, and including everyone down to the lowliest slave. As the reader will see, these secrets lend an air of tragedy to the story, and still it seems that too many secrets tend to make the story a bit unbelievable.  The plot develops too slowly, not enough detail about some of the incidents. The ending feels abrupt and unresolved to me; which, in most cases, I do not consider an asset, hence taking off the full star.

The novel's strong points (as I see them) are the evenly paced storyline, spreading out the suspense and the happy parts of the story without cramming all the good parts together and leaving part of the story boring. The novel was - to me - consistently, if not highly interesting. Character motivations play a large part in the plot of this novel and should be studied.

Handled correctly, this great premise could have been a 5 star novel; yet sadly, there are too many flaws for that high rating. Despite the many flaws, I enjoyed reading this 4 star novel. Recommended to readers who do not demand flawless storytelling, and who like a bit of study with their reading pleasure. Those looking for a "light and fluffy" novel should pass this by.  This review has been simultaneously posted on Amazon.com, Dragonviews and LibraryThing.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Refreshingly Different

King Arthur's Raid on Hell and Other Poems
G. R. Grove
Smashwords (2010),
Mobi format for Kindle,
Print Length: 96 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

King Arthur's Raid on Hell and Other Poems is a small collection of the author's poetry mostly written in medieval fixed forms, or approximations of medieval forms. Some are in Welsh, some in English, all are beautifully rhythmic. Unlike most works that contain words or phrases in languages I do not comprehend, I did not find my lack of understanding the Welsh language to be a hindrance in reading these poems, because the wonderful, lyric quality came through, despite the language barrier. Also, since most of the poetry is in English there were only a few pages that I was unable to fully comprehend, but, again, the lyrical quality more than made up for the lack of comprehension.

It is not often I can read through an entire book of poetry in just two days, as I did with this book... I appreciated the brevity of most of the poems, and even though some poems were longer, they, too, were refreshingly different than my usual reading material.  Kudos to the talented author of these wonderful poems. I recommend this book to those who love poetry and those who are interested in the medieval era.  This book was received free from the author in exchange for this review. This review has been simultaneously posted at Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Smashwords and Amazon.com

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Suspension of Disbelief is Strained

The Fiery Cross
Diana Gabaldon
Dell (2005)
Mass Market Paperback, 1456 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

The Fiery Cross
is Diana Gabaldon's fifth entry in her best selling Outlander series. While it isn't the best novel in the series, it is still well worth reading. The Fiery Cross covers the lives of Jamie and Claire, their family and friends from October of 1770 to about October of 1772. Claire's certain knowledge of the coming revolutionary war is a beacon to light their way through the perilous future. As with earlier Outlander series books, the characters continue to be flawed and very human. To me, that's not a criticism, but high praise. The more human the characters seem to be, the more easily I can get hooked on their story. 

Some of the events concerning Brianna's husband Roger do push the suspension of disbelief a bit beyond the limits, but those scenes add some dramatic impact that would not be possible otherwise. I got through reading those parts by thinking "this is remotely possible..." as some of the events were very extreme, and yes, even a bit over the top.  However you need to do it, get past those scenes and continue reading; there's some really good stuff coming up in this and the next book.

As with the earlier sequels, this is not the place to get started reading the Outlander series.  I recommed reading the series in order, starting with the first book and working your way forward. My reviews of previous volumes in this series are linked below for your convenience.

Book 1: Outlander
Book 2: Dragonfly in Amber
Book 3: Voyager
Book 4: Drums of Autumn

This review has been simultaneously posted on Dragon Views, LibraryThing and Amazon.com.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Non-stop, Page-turning Thriller

Think of a Number: A Novel
John Verdon
Crown (2010)
Hardcover, 432 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

This is a debut novel of a masterful storyteller.  John Verdon has imagined a fiendish antagonist who is able to make his victims believe he can read their minds. Each of the "marked" victims receives a letter in the mail presnting an intriguing puzzle. Detective Dave Gurney has recently retired from the NYPD homicide squad when he is asked by a friend to help solve a puzzling series of clues that begins with "think of a number" and continues with a series of amateurish poems, and ends with the death of the recipient... but that's just the first victim.

Long before the retired detective figures out the meaning of all the poetry, another man has received a similar letter ending with "think of a number." It isn't much longer before the police have asked Dave Gurney to be their investigative consultant based on his familiarity with the first case. Red herrings and real clues are mixed together in a devilish manner, leading the reader to wonder: Can Investigative Consultant Dave Gurney figure out the clues and give police the information needed to stop the killer?

There's nothing like a good murder mystery, and not much about Think of a Number resembles the average mystery plot. John Verdon has skipped the all-too-frequent drunken detective and a raft of other trite plot devices used by many mystery writers to bring us a refreshingly dramatic story. The characters are well-developed, the story well-crafted. Think of a Number is a page-turning, non-stop action novel that grips the reader on page one and continues to hold him or her hostage until the thrilling conclusion.

Recommended to mystery lovers.  This review is based on an advance reader edition printed from the author's uncorrected manuscript supplied to me by the publisher. This review has been simultaneously published on Dragon Views, LibraryThing and Amazon.com

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Swept Into Intriguing Conspiracy

Fires of Nuala
Katharine Eliska Kimbriel
Bookview Cafe (2010)
Mobi format for Kindle
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Fires of Nuala is science fiction with a political bent to it and a murder mystery-thriller all rolled into one mind-blowing story. Sheel Atare has been off-world searching for a mate and had returned home just over one month prior to attending a party hosted by one of his brothers. At the party, Sheel meets Darame Daviddottir, a Free-trader from off-world, who interests him enough that he winds up spending the night with her, instead of going home after the party. Sheel was not where he was expected to be that night, which nicely complicates matters and sweeps the reader right into an intriguing conspiracy to overthrow the ruling class of Nuala, starting with, but not limited to the clan of Atare...

I almost felt as if I should have read the first book that takes place on this magnificent world before reading this one, however that feeling went away after a chapter or two and once it did, I just wanted to know what happens next. I find the kaleidoscopic point of view used in this novel quite disconcerting, which accounts for the less-than-perfect rating, yet the novel was compelling enough that I didn't want to put it aside for sleep, or for any other reason.

At a few points, especially near the middle of the book, I experienced some confusion as to who was friend and who was foe, but this was straightened out as the story moved along. In all, I found reading Fires of Nuala an interesting and most satisfying experience.

This book was received in exchange for writing this review, which is based on the eBook version published by Bookview Cafe. As with most of my reviews, this one has been simultaneously posted on Dragonviews, LibraryThing and Amazon.com

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Psychic Dreams

A Circle of Souls
Preetham Grandhi
Cedar Fort, Inc. (2010),
Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

A Circle of Souls is a murder/mystery story with some psychic/paranormal elements in it.  A young girl's body is discovered, hidden in the same place that a previous murder victim was found many years previously... The classic questions arise: Who did it and why? The older crime has been unsolved for all these years, and it looks as if the more recent crime will go the same way as the older one, when another little girl starts having bad dreams and is able to tell what she has seen in those dreams... but will someone believe her before the killer strikes again?

Told at a measured pace, this well-written novel brings the reader to the edge of his or her seat while the murder investigation proceeds a-pace and the examination of the young girl's dreams is suspensufully related and finally tied to the murder investigation. The two distinct plot threads that began almost as separate stories are skillfully handled by this author until the threads are inter-woven into one spell-binding tale and a shocking conclusion.

Recommended to readers who love mystery/thriller type novels.  A Circle of Souls was given to me free by the author in exchange for this review. This review has been simultaneously posted on Dragon Views, LibraryThing and Amazon.com.