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, March 30, 2011

Eye-opening Fiction

Disposable People
David W. Huffstetler
CreateSpace (October 1, 2008)
PDF ebook: 246 pages
Rated 5 Stars of 5 Possible

A Hispanic-American newspaper reporter from Texas investigates the plight of illegal immigrant workers in South Carolina by becoming one of them. When her cover is blown, she discovers just how dangerous and unpredictable the situation really is.

Written as fiction, Disposable People reads as non-fiction and seems even more fact-filled than most newspaper stories. While I was able to spot a few minor errors in the text, the story itself is well-told and nearly flawless, as well as being a riveting page-turner that grabs the reader on page one and just does not let go. The story is evenly paced and easily read. I finished reading this slim novel in about three days while devoting the majority of my time to other pursuits. Still, there are many points of discussion raised in the text; Disposable People is not a fluffy tale.  Nearly three weeks later, as I write these comments, the story still haunts my waking hours.

Disposable People is recommended reading for those who like fact-based fiction and for those wanting to better understand the trials and tribulations of illegal immigrant workers. While there is a slight amount of romance, that element merely adds interest. Romance is not the main element to the story. The PDF of this novel was given to me free in exchange for this review. This review has been simultaneously posted at Dragonviews, LibraryThing and Amazon.com

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Series Done Correctly

Hidden Fires
Katharine Eliska Kimbriel
Bookviewcafe, 2010
Mobi format for Kindle,
Print Length: 304 pages
Rated 4 Stars of 5 Possible

Hidden Fires is the author's follow-up to The Fires of Nuala.  The adventures in Hidden Fires take place approximately ten years after those in The Fires of Nuala. Some of our old favorite characters are back with a completely different story, and we also get to meet some fascinating new personalities who happen to reside on Nuala. These novels form a character-based series that takes place on the planet Nuala, but the plots are not so inter-twined as to make reading the previous entries in the same series necessary. If one wishes to read only one story from the series, that is entirely possible without missing anything important. This novel is both a sequel to the previous book and an independently standing novel in its own right. It fits both roles very well. In my mind, this is a series done correctly.

This novel is not slow to grab the reader's attention and the plot moves along at an appropriate pace, with vivid descriptions of the planet Nuala, and enough action to satisfy the pickiest of readers. There is some violence in Hidden Fires, but it serves to move the plot along, more or less in the direction the author intended. I did not want to put Hidden Fires down, and I want more... I can hardly wait for Fire Sanctuary, in which we will be able to get a glimpse into Nuala's future, to be released in ebook format. Yet, hooked as I am on this series, I know that one more book isn't going to be enough for me.

Given the aforementioned violence, and the accompanying bloody mess attached thereto, this novel may not be suitable for some readers, but for those who don't mind the mess (both bloody and political) that the Nualan characters get into, I do highly recommend the entire series.  This book was provided to me free by the publisher in exchange for review. This review is being simultaneously published on Amazon.com, Dragon Views, LibraryThing and wherever else I can remember to post it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Handling Life's Issues

Brava, Valentine
Adriana Trigiani
Harper, (2010)
Hardcover, 332 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Brava, Valentine is the sequel to Adriana Trigiani's Very Valentine, which is the story of the Roncali and Angelini families. Both novels begin with a wedding and end with someone becoming engaged, and cover a complete story as stand-alones, not to mention being part of a larger story as they connect together... Brava Valentine begins three months after the end of Very Valentine, tying the stories together nicely.

The issues that Valentine Roncali must handle make the book sound a bit mundane, but it's how she handles these issues which actually makes the book worth reading. Unlike the first book in this series, the wedding at the beginning of Brava Valentine doesn't seem to be disconnected from the main story, but this one sags a bit in the middle as Valentine gets caught up in her business issues and almost forgets something really important... because of this "sagging" in the middle, I am rating this novel 4 stars. Just as Very Valentine recovered from it's slow start, Brava, Valentine recovers from the middle sag and comes to a beautiful and appropriate conclusion.

Recommended to romance readers, fans of Adriana Trigiani, and to those looking for something a bit better than the "average" romantic tale. This review has simultaneously been published at Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and other appropriate locations on the internet.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Arguably Improved

Storylandia 2: The Wapshott Journal of Fiction
Wapshott Press
CreateSpace (2010), Paperback, 94 pages
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible.

As you can tell by the title, Storylandia 2 is the second issue of The Wapshott Journal of Fiction. This issue contains 4 very short stories and one longer piece which is almost equal in length to the other four stories. Each story has literary merits of its own, but the quality of the writing varies greatly. As with the first issue of Storylandia, the authors whose work is featured in this issue are all new to me.

I said of the first issue of Storylandia that the cover might be the best part of the issue... well, that's certainly not true of this issue. While the cover of Storylandia 2 is wonderful and does match the "flavor" of these stories, I see some improvement in this issue over the previous one, however, that might be a bit subjective on my part. I'm keeping my rating of this issue at three stars because I don't do fractional ratings and because there's not yet enough improvement to warrant a 4 star rating. Others will have a different opinion, I'm sure. A list of titles and authors follows, but I'll confess I skipped the synopsis of each story out of laziness. Or maybe it was because of the vague subject matter of some of these stories...

"Poetry and Red Phosphorus" by Kellie R. England
"Assassin" by Adam Bourke
"Escaping the Apoidians Hivault" by Christopher Husmann
"Kiva" by Cinsearae S.
"Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" By Mylochka

While "Poetry and Red Phosphorus" had some interesting moments, it was too disconnected to ever catch my interest for more than a paragraph or two.  "Escaping the Apoidians Hivault" was equally confusing.  The biggest asset of these two stories is that they are short.  In the case of both of these stories, some explanation and development may help. "Escaping the Apoidians Hivault" has some rather hidden potential, that premise could be developed into an excellent story, but it definitely needs more work.

"Kiva" is very surreal, but again, could be enhanced by some additional explanation... additionally, this story has some great literary potential, but the reader needs some basis of understanding the story for the potential to be exploited properly.  More development could definitely be an improvement.

My two favorites of this issue are "Assassin" by Adam Bourke and "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" By Mylochka.  I would love to see more work from both of these authors.  While neither "Assassin" nor "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" are without their faults, these authors managed to do something the other three could not do. These two authors hooked me into their worlds and held my attention in every paragraph, sentence and word until the stories ended.  Kudos to Adam Bourke and Mylochka.

Now, on to the final observations.  "Assassin" could definitely stand some explanation on a point or two, especially involving the reasons for certain things. If I were a bit more clear on what I'm talking about here, I might spoil the story for others, something I'd rather not do if it can be helped. I hope I am suitably vague enough to avoid the spoiler but also specific enough that the author will understand. The other point I wanted to bring up in relation to "Assassin" is the character development. The main character is well developed, but the secondary characters in this story are mostly no better developed than a photograph on the wall... more work here could be an improvement. I think this premise might even be good enough that it could be developed into a novella of roughly 100 to 150 pages.

There are two main things that bugged me about "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?". The first of these two things is the title. I never quite figured out how rain connects with the story... The other point I want to mention is the ending that seemed to come out of nowhere and blindside the reader; it seemed as if this conclusion wasn't foreshadowed at all... or that, if it was, I missed out on some of the detail in the story. More connection of the title to the story and of the ending to the rest of the story would improve this story immeasurably. Additionally, some attention to characterization of the story's main character, Del, would be an improvement. There seems to be a bit of inconsistency in the way he speaks.

This review is based on a free copy of Storylandia 2 provided to me by the publisher for review purposes. This review has been simultaneously posted on Dragon Views, LibraryThing and Amazon.com.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fun, Chilling Tale

The Haunted E-book
J. L. Bryan
Smashwords (2011), Mobi format,
Print length, 246 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

The Haunted E-book is a ghost story and a horror story... and, well, it's just plain spooky. Dee escapes her librarian job and her unfaithful boyfriend by reading romance and fantasy on her Kindle. One day, while looking for something new to read, she discovers The Haunted E-book and downloads a copy to her Kindle.

The author uses a "book within a book" technique to tell the story of Jonah, a 19th century tramp printer, who traveled the rails, taking on printing jobs wherever he went... His ghost awakens every time someone reads a book he created. During our reading of the book, we get to peek inside Dee's book and see just what's going on; and then, Dee discovers that the stories she has been reading are true...

There are a couple of things I really, really liked about this book.  First that Mr. Bryan brought the story into the 21st century by having at least two characters own and interact with a Kindle ereader... and another character has a netbook computer but one character also has an original vellum and leather-bound copy of Jonah's book, with it's eerily spooky origins that are revealed only later in the story. So, technology has it's place in this story, which we don't see often enough these days.

The second thing I really like is that some lesser known bits of real history are brought into the story (the bits about the tramp printer and the books bound in human skin have their basis in fact) which only adds to the fun, creepy feeling of this book; and that makes it a delight for those like me who adore the chilling tales; especially late at night. This also helps with the suspension of disbelief.

And that, of course leads to the one chapter that almost blew this story away for me, and the reason I dropped one star off the rating.  I won't go into too much detail here because I've already got one major spoiler in this review, and I don't like using lots of spoilers, so just let me say... that one chapter - the one that takes place aboard the airplane - not the bit near the end, but earlier in the book, before Dee meets Madison... was just too far off the path of believability.

In all, J. L. Bryan has a talent for sucking the reader deep into his books; and he doesn't let go.  The story is well told and, for the most part, well written, though I did see an error or two as I read through on my Kindle, but I was too wrapped up in the story to stop and make a note of just where the errors are located. They're small things anyway and if you're as wrapped up in the story as I was, the typos likely won't matter.

My standard warning on books like this: Contains some graphic scenes not recommended for younger readers or for people sensitive to the blood and gore that accompanies many horror/thriller type stories. If these kinds of scenes don't bother you, then yes, I highly recommend this book.  The author provided a free mobi format copy of this book upon which I based this review. This review is being simultaneously published on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Dragonviews, LibraryThing and wherever else I can manage to find space for it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Captivating Historical Narrative

P.G. Nagle
Evennight Books (2010)
Kindle Edition
Print Length: 384 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

Galveston is the third of P.G. Nagle's Far Western Civil War series, and takes place mainly in Texas. I have not yet read the prior two volumes in this series.  While enough reference is made to earlier events to make the reader curious, Galveston can be read as a stand-alone novel despite being part of a larger story. It is connected to the other novels in the series mainly by the characters involved. Events depicted in this novel do not heavily depend on what came before, yet the context in which these events occurred may be better understood by reading the previous novels in this series.

For the most part, I found Galveston to be well-written and captivating. I had trouble putting it down... but there was a small language issue - or I thought so at first. The dialogue seemed a bit stilted and unnatural to me, so I stopped and gave some further thought to the dialoge and the historical setting. The American Civil War took place about 150 years ago. Given that the English language is growing and evolving, it seems to me that the differences in the characters' speech and the way English is spoken today can be attributed to the evolution of our language in that interval of time. I have no doubt the English language as spoken in the mid-19th century was quite different than the English langage as spoken in this 21st century. Once allowing for the changes that occur to a living langage over time, I gave no further thought to some of the sentence structure of the dialoge being odd to the ear... By then, I was too involved in the story to care about any oddness overly much anyway.

I loved the historical background around and within which the charaters interacted with each other, and I will most definitely seek out the remainder of this series to read them in order.  Recommended to historical fiction lovers and civil war buffs as well as those who love a good story. Based on the Mobi format of the novel given to me by the publisher in exchange for this review. This review has been simlutaneously posted at Amazon.com, Dragon Views and LibraryThing as well as being posted at other appropriate locations on the world wide web.