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, 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

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Like Two Books in One

Gone: A Heartbreaking Story of the Civil War
By Shelby Foote
A Photographic Plea For Preservation
By Nell Dickerson
BelleBooks, Inc. (2011), Hardcover, 120 pages

Forward: not rated/unread
Short story: rated 5 stars
Photos: rated 5 stars
Photographer's notes: rated 2 stars
Afterward: rated 4 stars
Whole book rated 4 stars of 5 possible

Gone: A Photographic Plea For Preservation is almost like two books in one. It is comprised of two main components, a short story by famed Civil War Historian, Shelby Foote, first published almost exactly 90 years after the civil war ended, and the photographs of his cousin, Preservationist, Nell Dickerson, who also wrote the photographer's notes and afterward, which closes the book on a hopeful note. Additionally, there's a forward by Robert Hicks, which, I'll admit, I did not read.

I requested this book for review through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, but was not lucky enough to receive one of the limited number of review copies. Shortly after discovering that I had won a different book, an email from the publisher provided a link to the online version of Gone - which shows only half the pages, and mostly photos at that, while I wanted most to read the story, but the online version was enough to prompt my purchase of the book, which I had been considering anyhow.

Shelby Foote's short story, "Pillar of Fire", and his cousin, Nell Dickerson's photographs are almost a point - counterpoint performance. At the beginning of Pillar of Fire, Shelby details the aristocratic society that was prominent in the south prior to the Civil War, while the photos provided by Nell Dickerson show what has become of some of those beautiful homes and other buildings, which comprises a plaintive plea for preserving our past.

Later, the story tells of the wanton destruction perpetrated by the northern soldiers as retaliation for the rebels firing upon the yankees... except that such retaliation was not against the rebel soldiers, but instead done to innocent bystanders who just happened to be in the way. This part of the story, and it's dramatic ending strike a note of anguish as haunting as the note of the photographic plea.

In considering my rating of the book as a whole, I do have to say that the photogaphs are not as well-matched to the story as I had hoped they would be, and most of the photographer's notes don't provide as much information about the homes and other buildings as one could wish. While the photos themselves are wonderful, that lack of information in the notes is enough for me to downgrade the rating on that part of the book. Shelby Foote's story is well-written and gripping. I had a hard time putting the book down while reading Pillar of Fire... would have rated the entire book higher if there were only this text and/or if the photos were a better match.

This review (for which I received no financial compensation) has been simultaneously published on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and wherever else I may deem appropriate.