About This Blog

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Intricate Plot; A Worthy Effort

Oracle's Legacy: Children Of Sun
R. B. Holbrook
IUniverse (2008)
Paperback, 316 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

They say if you dream, you should dream big... Oracle's Legacy: Children Of Sun is author R. B. Holbrook's debut novel. It is also the first novel of a trilogy. This volume serves to introduce the rather large cast of characters and provides some of their background. The Oracle's Legacy trilogy is set in an alternate reality based on our own world. The three books are each part of one massive tale, and best read consecutively, in sequence.

The majority of the characters are part of a secret society that teaches enlightenment. While the cast of characters here isn't small, it seems larger because the main character, Ollie, gives a nick name to everyone she likes... hence many characters have two names. One thing that helps with such a large cast of characters is a cheat sheet... such as some readers use with novels like Anna Karenina. If you have trouble keeping track of the many characters in this series, the cheat sheet method is highly recommended.

The reader will soon discover that most of the characters are related to one another, which makes for some interesting interaction.  The novel is carefully and intricately plotted and evenly paced. The descriptive and action parts of the book are well balanced.

There's a couple things that might make this book not for everyone; the above mentioned action includes lots of violence and a bit of foul language; however, despite those things, I recommend Oracle's Legacy: Children of Sun for adult readers interested in science fiction/fantasy type stories that explore alternate worlds.

Oracle's Legacy: Children of Sun was provided to me free by the author in exchange for this review.  This review is being simultaneously posted on Dragon Views Amazon.com, LibraryThing and wherever else I may deem appropriate.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kick Back and Relax with Poetry

Just For You
Evelyn Chenkin
Gefen Publishing House (2010)
Hardcover, 96 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible.

Just For You
is a small collection of expressive poems by an author who is largely the unknown poet. I had never heard of her until I saw this little book being offered for review. The book is divided into three segments, where each poem within that segment reflects a single theme.

The first segment is comprised of 27 poems of love. While love is an ancient poetry topic, over the many decades I have loved poetry, few poems I have read cause me to think as deeply and fewer still, tug as strongly at my heart strings as these.

The second segment, titled Reflections and Reveries contains 31 poems that express a range of emotions and reflect on the poets long life. Many of the poems in this section are very overtly autobiographical.  Mrs. Chenkin shares a lot of herself in them. Some readers will be able to see themselves here too, with little to no imagination necessary.

The third and shortest segment, aptly titled Portraits, contains 21 poems originally written for the poet's family and perhaps others with whom she had direct contact. Each poem describes a "portrait" of the person for whom it was written.  These are deeply personal verses, and I am, in some ways, surprised that they were published in a publicly available collection as opposed to being privately published in a very limited edition. The poet shares not only herself, but also her family with us in this little book.

At least one other reviewer has been disparaging toward this collection saying that, because the style of most of the poems does not vary, that the poetry is not good. I, however hold a different opinion. Good poetry is emotional; which describes this collection accurately.  Great poetry is both emotional and memorable.  These poems might not be memorable, but they are good.  And if the style is the same for nearly all of them, that's quite okay.

In the studied opinion of this reviewer, poetry is not meant to be gobbled in 100 page segments - unless you're reading epic poems such as Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 - 1882). Shorter poems such as the ones contained in this book should be savored in small segments of one or two poems at a sitting, and then the reader should reflect on the poems for at least a day or perhaps longer, while letting the collective meaning of the poems sink into his/her soul. 

I regret that I had no time to allow reading of the entire book in the manner I would have preferred, so rushed through in a matter of four separate readings on four non-consecutive days.  I do not regret reading this poetry collection.

Gefen Publishing House supplied a free copy of the finished hardcover edition on which this review is based. I have, as always, tried to be fair and unbiased in my review... but it should be known that I only promised to write a review, while making no promises as to what the review might contain.  Opinions stated herein are my own; I was not financially compensated for this or any of the other reviews I have written. 

This review was written for the LibraryThing Early Reviewer's group, but has also been published on Dragon Views, Amazon.com and other sites as applicable to the content of the book.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Interesting But Somewhat Predictable

Heirs of Mars: Preludes
By Joseph Robert Lewis
Joseph Robert Lewis (2011)
Kindle Edition; Print length: 50 pages
Rated 3 stars of 5 possible

This short anthology contains a series of three inter-linked short stories that provide a prelude to the novel, Heirs of Mars. These three stories from three unique perspectives describe life on Venus, Earth, and Mars in the years and days before the novel begins. Following the three short stories, there is an excerpt from the novel, Heirs of Mars.

Taken one-by-one, the short stories don't reveal much, but togther they build toward the opening of the novel in a way that grabs the reader's interest.  None of these stories turn out as the reader might expect, yet the latter two seem at least predictable in some ways. The first, to me, seems the best of the lot - perhaps because the characters were better developed and/or the plot more planned than the latter two stories.

The second story builds a bit toward an ironic ending in which the main character gets exactly the kind of life from which she is attempting to escape... nice suspense builder, but I find that I couldn't care for the characters much.

The third story, which is also ironic, also failed to make me care for the main character; but his family... well, if the story were longer, and if I was given the chance to understand them better...

These shorts can be skipped or you can read them after the novel as well as before. There's nothing here that's required reading before you read the novel, and no major spoilers either. The choice is up to the reader...

This review has been simultaneously published on Dragon Views, Library Thing and Amazon.com as well as wherever else might be deemed appropriate by me.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ominous Sensations

Handle with Care
Jodi Picoult
Atria (2009)
Hardcover, 496 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Jodi Picoult is good at choosing hot topics - aka controversial issues to write about. Handle With Care is no exception. This novel serves to raise awareness of a rare and often fatal disease called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), in which the child is born with bones so brittle they will break, even when circumstances are otherwise normal.  In reading through this novel, one finds there are several different types of this disease, two of which can be detected before the child is born. One of those two types is fatal; the other is described in this story.

The characterization is good. However, I really wanted to slap some sense into the parents, who seemed so involved with the younger daughter's illness that they were not paying enough attention to the needs of the older daughter.  The mother, especially, seemed self-centered and a bit aloof, especially when she started thinking about compensation for the young daugher's illness.

Most of the chapters were written in second person, past tense and the point of view rotated among the characters other than the girl with OI. The second person vantage point gave the story an ominous feel that made the ending appropriate and not completely unexpected. Nevertheless, that ending is not the sort of ending I would have preferred.

Scattered throughout the book, the reader finds recipes for pastries and desserts.  These recipes relate to the story in two ways; First and foremost, the mother is former pastry chef, who gave up her job to take care of the younger daughter. Secondarily, some of the culinary terms highlighted in the recipes bear a symbolic relationship to the chapters in which the recipes are found. This relationship is often subtle and the reader may not immediately recognize it.

Recommended reading for those who like this author's work.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fantastically Detailed Instructions

Trace & Paint Watercolour (Ready to Paint)
By Terry Harrison, Geoff Kersey, and Arnold Lowrey
Search Press (2010)
Paperback, 128 pages
Rated 5 stars of 5 possible

For those who can't draw - or even for those who can, but might not always want to do the drawing before getting friendly with the paint, Trace & Paint Watercolour is an excellent choice. You get eighteen BIG sketches to trace and detailed, illustrated, step-by-step instructions for painting 14 projects; so yes, the artists who composed the original paintings on which this book is based are giving you a few bonus sketches to play with. You also get large and wonderful full page and, in many cases, two-page views of the artists' original paintings.

I recommend using watercolour paper that is no less than 12 X 18 inches in size, to provide plenty of room for the basic sketch and any details you might want to add to make these beautiful landscape scenes your own. Those of you who are skilled enough with pen or pencil, could re-create the scenes in a smaller size, but as for me, I'll stick with direct tracings for awhile yet. If I tried drawing the scenes free-hand, it would take me all day just to recreate the sketches in the provided size, let alone trying to reduce them.

While this book is not my first instruction in watercolour painting, it very well could be a first instruction book for others. I've been working on the blue dooorway scene. Painting from the instructions in this book is sheer pleasure.  The instructions are very clear and easy to understand and complete.

Note that the tracings are bound in the center of the book and, though perforated, do not separate from the binding easily. The paper does not always tear on the perforations either, so one must devote some time to remove the tracings. To save myself the time and frustration later, I devoted part of an evening to removing all tracings from the book and stored them in a folder meant for children's school work, which is readily available in many stores.

There are many books which are similar to this one, so if you are interested in obtaining other books with different painting projects, you have but to look around. You should be aware though, that the publisher has collected the contents of three separate books in this one. Buying this omnibus edition is a much better value than purchasing the three others, which I have listed below so you will know which books not to buy.

Watercolour Landscapes
(Ready to Paint) By Terry Harrison
Watercolour Trees & Woodlands (Ready to Paint) By Geoff Kersey
Watercolour Hills & Mountains (Ready to Paint) By Arnold Lowrey

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tightly Plotted; Complex But Enjoyable

JL Bryan
www.jlbryanbooks.com (2009),
Kindle Edition
Print Length: 456 pages
Rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Every now and then, a book comes along that I enjoy reading (or perhaps not) but can't point out any reason why I like or dislike the book. Helix, is one of those "I like this book" types, but unfortunately, pointing my finger at definitive reasons why is beyond me at this time.  The tightly plotted, complex story had me curious as to the motivations of the well-developed characters, which became more clear as the story progressed. The protagonist and his adversaries are believable, realistic characters. Even those characters not completely human kept me interested; so naturally, I kept turning the pages.

One thing that doesn't bother me, but may discourage other readers: there's a lot of violence and death involved in parts of Helix. For that reason, I cannot recommend this novel to all, but, for those like me, who tend to overlook such things... you might want to pick this up the next time you're looking for something new and different to read. Helix is available in many different ebook formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords etc. and in paperback from your favorite book seller.

This copy of Helix was provided to me free by the author in exchange for this review. This review has simultaneously been published at Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and other appropriate locations on the internet.