Friday, December 29, 2017

"The Life of John Wesley Hardin" by John Wesley Hardin

Today’s book was about the notorious outlaw John Wesley Hardin. When I was young, I remember ads on the TV for Time Life Books about various historical figures, one of which was John Wesley Hardin whom they claimed was “so mean he once shot a man just for snoring!” Now whether or not that was true or simply a tall tale, I still don’t know as there was no mention of such an act in this book.

John Wesley Hardin certainly lived an active and adventure-filled life. During the course of his life, he was employed in a number of different jobs. He spent time as a school teacher, a cattle herder, a gambler, and a number of other jobs that I never would have guessed at.

He did not start out intending to become an outlaw. At the time, he was a young man living in the southern states after the end of the civil war. He killed a man in self-defense, and knowing that in that time and place he would be killed as a murderer without any hope of a fair trial his father sent him away to keep him safe until such a time when he would have a fair chance under the law. (Mob rule often brought about hangings without any sort of trial, fair or otherwise.)

From what he tells about his life and actions in this book, he rarely shot first unless it was clear someone else was out to kill him. Also whenever he was able, he would give the other shooters the chance to surrender without killing them. He may often have found himself on the wrong side of the law, but he comes across as essentially a decent man with a good heart, though he also is clearly a man who had no qualms when it came to killing someone.

John Wesley Hardin was married to a woman named Mary. Though he was often away on cattle drives, he loved her deeply and did his best to keep her and their children safe from harm when he knew there were men seeking to either kill or arrest him. While he was willing to allow a sheriff to arrest him if the man had a warrant & could guarantee his safety from any angry mob seeking to hang him, if the man seeking to take him in did not have a legal warrant, Hardin would fight to stay free, not worrying about whether or not he killed anyone in the process.

While he was not what we today would consider a righteous man, he did live by a more personal moral code than many men in his position likely did. He was definitely an interesting man living in interesting times. He knew a lot of people we might consider as notorious outlaws or famous lawmen and counted a number of them as his friends.

This book continues on to include his death and accounts of the trial of his killer afterwards. While not my favorite of biographies thus far, it did contain a lot more information about his life than I had previously known, and I am glad that read it. It is a short book, but if you take the time to read it, I hope you will also enjoy it.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

"Claus: Legend of the Fat Man" by Tony Bertauski

In honor of the holiday season, I have started reading “Claus: Legend of the Fat Man.” Having grown up watching all the Christmas Holiday specials, the basics of this story were already familiar to me. This version, however, was a bit different, though no less entertaining than all those wonderful old holiday cartoons.

In this book, Nicholas Santa, his wife Jessica, and their son Jon have gone on an adventure seeking to reach the North Pole. They began the journey by ship, then hired some Inuit guides to help them travel the remainder of the way. However as the weather in this extremely northern portion of the globe turns horribly bad, their guides abandon them during the night, taking the food & other supplies with them. Abandoned as they are, with only one tent for shelter, they are surely doomed.

In an attempt to find help for his family, Nicholas is separated from them and captured by a group of elves who haves lived undetected at the North Pole for centuries. Their leader intends to use Nicholas to deliver a plague that will wipe out all of humanity.

In the meantime, Jessica and Jon are rescued by a rival group of elves who do not wish to destroy anyone. They had left their homes when Jack seized control and have been on the run ever since.

This book tells the story of both groups of elves and how the North Pole came to be the home of the jolly man we have come to know as Santa Claus. I found this to be a very interesting and unusual tale. It was both quite different and very similar to the various versions of his story that I remember from childhood. Everything was well thought out & explained in a way that made it seem quite reasonable, and I consider this one to be well worth reading this holiday season. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

This was the Boxed set version, so it also contained two other books. The second one was “Jack: The Tale of Frost.” This book takes place about 200 years after the end of the first book, and tells the tale of both Jack Frost and his best friend. It shows how technologically advanced they have become, and how those advances have benefited humanity as a whole. But it also shows that the elven who was once known as Janack still has a great hatred of the “warmbloods” and how he had ages before laid plans to destroy them. Now that those plans are nearing completion, what will become of the human race?

I thought this was a very interesting story. While parts of it were quite obvious as to what was going on, that made them no less entertaining than the parts of the book that weren’t so clear at first. Yes some of his tale was included in the first book, but only peripherally. The majority of Jack’s story was more than just a tale told from a different perspective.

The third book in the box set, “Flurry: Journey of a Snowman” was just as good as the first two books in the collection. In this book, Oliver and his mother are returning to her childhood home to live with his grandmother as Oliver’s mother had lost her job and they had nowhere else to go. Oliver’s grandmother is extremely strict and there are a great many rules that they must follow if they are going to remain living there. There is also a great mystery surrounding the estate. There is no wifi or cell signal at the house, though there is an old windmill on the property that appears to be electrified. At night there seems to be something wild and dangerous roaming about outside. There is also a living snowman that sometimes appears and seems to be quite protective of Oliver.

All 3 of the books in this set are quite enjoyable and I would recommend reading them this holiday season if you have the time. Of the three, my favorites were “Claus: Legend of the Fat Man” and “Flurry: Journey of a Snowman.” I’m glad I took the time to read all 3 of them and would encourage others to read them as well, but those two were the ones I liked best out of this collection.

I hope everyone has a great holiday. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

"Broken Ornaments" by Angie M. Brashears

I received an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this book.

Before I start talking about this book, I feel the need to warn the reader that this book involves a woman who was trying to escape from an abusive ex-husband. While there is not too much violence taking place in this story, there is some. It is a necessary part of the story, but I recognize that it could be troubling to some readers.

This book is the story of a young mother who is struggling to make ends meet, raise her 4-year old daughter, and to find a way for the two of them to escape from her abusive ex-husband. She describes herself as being “broken.” It is also the story of a young man who seems to be almost at a loss about where his life is going. He has had a troubling few years and appears to be seeking a new purpose.

Jase has just quit his job, but his business partner asks him if he would do him one last favor and check in on a woman who seems to need help. When he meets Casey, he winds up rescuing her from a beating by her ex-husband. Then he helps her to rescue her daughter, whom the babysitter had left tied up in the empty apartment when she ran off with Casey’s ex-husband. The two of them had taken everything; all the furniture, toys, as well as Casey’s escape fund, leaving absolutely nothing behind. Unable to leave these two alone in those circumstances, Jase takes them with him, hoping to find a way to help them, and maybe even himself as well.

Casey and her daughter have been through the wringer, yet though they have had more than their fair share of problems, there remains a shred of hope in their hearts. But can they come to trust the man who appears to have come to their rescue, or are they just too “broken” to begin to trust anyone ever again? There is so much more to this story than I have room to talk about in this review, and even if I had the room I would hate to spoil the ending for you. It is definitely worth reading.

I greatly enjoyed reading this story. It took me through the full array of human emotions several times over. The interactions between the characters contain a heart-wrenching sense of reality about them, as if the author has known someone who lived through a similar situation at some point. I didn’t want to put it down until I was able to find out whether or not there could be a happy ending for any of the characters involved.

Friday, December 15, 2017

"Charming the Highlander Laird" by Verlin Underwood

I received an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this book.

This story is the sequel to the book “Lady Nellie.” It starts about 6 years after the end of the first book with the leannan sith Una escaping from her in imprisonment in the unseelie realm. Her daughter Tara, who has inherited her mother’s magic, senses Una’s escape and realizes that her mother will soon come seeking revenge against those who had previously thwarted her evil desires.

While Tara has always feared using her magic, she realizes that she now needs to learn how to use and control her powers if she is to have any hope of defeating her mother and protecting her family. She sets off to the small town of Haddington to seek the help of a fairy who is known to run a “school” to help those who are half-fae learn to use their magic.

It seems that the fate of her family will depend on Tara finding help learning to use her powers before Una can return home with an army of men who have been enchanted to want nothing more than to do whatever she asks of them. The question is, can Tara learn enough, quickly enough, and is she strong enough to defeat her mother’s Magic?

I enjoyed this book even more than I did the previous one in the series, though both were very good. This book had a number of different types of fae, from both the seelie and unseelie courts, so we get to see much more of the magic being used in this realm. The story is well-written and engaging. There were a few typos here & there, but they were very few and very minor. Overall, I would definitely recommend reading this one.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"Her Wild Journey: Seeing Ranch Series" by Florence Linnington

I received an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this book.

This was the story of Cadence Hurley, A young woman with a limp who has just arrived in Shallow Springs, Wyoming Territory. She came as a mail-order bride, however the man she came to marry has fallen on hard times. He no longer has the means to support a family and so offers to pay for her return trip to Baltimore on the next day’s stagecoach.

Rather than leaving the next morning, Cadence decides to remain in Shallow Springs. She hopes to make a new start there rather than return to a town where she has no one and no job waiting for her. In fact, her situation in Baltimore had even been so bad that at times she had been forced into living on the streets. Deciding to remain in town, she hopes to find employment before her existing funds run out.

As luck would have it, the town’s teacher is retiring. Cadence has never officially worked as a teacher, but she has had experience in teaching the children in a household where she had at been employed as a governess. After passing a few tests to prove that she has the skills and knowledge required to teach the town’s children, she is immediately hired.

Cadence is offered space at the Winding Path Ranch during her first 6 months as the school’s teacher. During her stay there, she gets to know a Ranch hand by the name of Beau. He has worked there for the past 6 years, and while there is an attraction between them, neither is willing to give into it. They have each lived with years of disappointments and hardships. In the face of their pasts, how can they trust that the future might offer anything different?

One of the things I really liked about this book was the strong and capable main character we see in Cadence. She is determined not to allow her injured leg to hold her back. While she does have her weaker moments, she far more often stands up for herself. She is no “shrinking violet” to feel lost or to give up in the face of hardships or the lack of a husband. She possesses a strength and a tenacity that I haven’t often seen in a mail-order bride story.

I did catch a very few typos in the book, but only a very few. There were definitely not enough to truly distract from the story. Overall, it was a very good book and I enjoyed reading it a great deal. This is definitely one book I would recommend, especially for those who enjoy reading mail-order bride stories.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

"Our Man on Earth: The Swithen Book 1" by Blaise

Today’s book was about the birth of Merlin. Sired by a demon on a human woman, he was meant to serve their evil purposes in much the same way as Christ had been born to save mankind. The woman they chose, however, was determined not to give in to the fiends. She opposed them every step of the way and fought to prevent her child from being used as a force for evil. But could she remain true to her faith and strong enough to save both his soul and protect mankind?

This story was based on early tales of Merlin and other Arthurian stories written in around 1200 A.D. The characters within have been greatly expanded on and more fleshed out than they were in their original form, thus making them more appealing to modern readers. A good portion of the book is devoted to Merlin’s mother and takes place before his birth. This may seem a strange way to start, but it does give us great insight into both her character and what happens once Merlin is born as well. Without her influence, Merlin would have likely been used as a force for evil rather than someone destined to help Arthur eventually become a great and noble King.

I have always loved Arthurian legends & stories, and this one was no exception. I greatly enjoyed reading this author’s tale of how Merlin came to be born and of what his fate was meant to be, as well as how his mother was determined to prevent him from being used as a force for evil. I think it is the first story I’ve read that started before Merlin’s existence. Most of the tales that I can recall usually start with Arthur rather than Merlin’s birth. This story definitely kept me wanting to read to the end, despite the number of grammatical errors it contained.

The errors were not bad enough to make me want to stop reading as the story itself was quite captivating. Still, I do wish the book had seen another round or two of editing before publication. I am actually looking forward to reading the next book in this series once it has been released. (As I mentioned above, I do greatly enjoy Arthurian tales, and this one definitely left me wanting to know what will happen next.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"Kingship, Tales from the Aether Book One: Brotherhood of the Strange" by Michael T. Richie & Grant S. Wilson

The book I read for today was a YA Steampunk novel. It had an interesting concept; a member of the Brotherhood of the Strange has created a device that will transport a person into the future. Once the time sought is selected and the device activated, it will take the driver to that time. It cannot, however travel backwards, so there is no way to return to the time one left or to travel into the past.

While some members of the Brotherhood remain true to a desire to improve things for humanity, more and more of them seem to be coming under the influence of a group known as the “Hand of Paris.” The inventor of the time travel device, Degory Priest, has realized that if his new invention falls into the hands of this group that only evil will follow. He seeks to destroy any chance of others recreating his invention, but misfortune brings him and it directly into the hands of the leader of the Brotherhood, who is also the head of the Hand of Paris. In an act of desperation, Degory sends the leader of the Brotherhood one year into the future, hoping to be able to find a way to save the rest of them before the evil that is coming can return.

During the course of the next several months, while he manages to gain the trust of some, it becomes clear to him that he is likely to fail in his desire to save the Brotherhood. An evil monk by the name of Grigori has too many of them under his thrall. Degory has a plan to try and stop it all, and as a precaution has left instructions with his niece should something happen to prevent him from stopping the Hand of Paris. When his brother who is a member of the Hand of Paris shows up looking for Degory, Cordelia must escape and seek out the Aethership “Kingship” in order to stop what had been set in motion and to save both her uncle and the rest of the world.

It was an interesting story, though a few spots could have used a little more editing. I did enjoy reading it, though I suspect younger audiences will enjoy it even more than I did. (It was written for Young Adults after all, so I’m not really it’s target audience, even though I did enjoy reading it.) While it doesn’t exactly end on a cliffhanger, there are a good number of plot points that are left hanging. As this is the first book in a series, those who wish to know what comes next will need to hunt down book 2. I will likely seek out the next book as I am curious as to how it will end, though unfortunately that may be a bit as I have a number of other books that I need to read before I can return to this series.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"Survival in the Shadows: Seven Jews Hidden in Hitler's Berlin" by Barbara Lovenheim

Today’s book is a non-fiction book. It tells the story of 7 people who lived in Berlin and were unable to get out of Germany before things began turning deadly for anyone of the Jewish faith. With the assistance of Barbara Lovenheim, their tale was finally told. It was not a biography or memoir, but not quite an “as told to” book either. Ms. Lovenheim worked very closely with them to be certain that her descriptions and explanations were as accurate and true to their memories of events as possible.

This book goes into great detail about what their lives were like before things began to turn bad for those who were Jewish and showed the progression of what happened as the country they lived in turned against them. It detailed the trials they were faced with long before they went into hiding, as well as the difficulties they faced once they realized that it was necessary to hide if they wished to survive. They prepared carefully and were lucky enough to have both the time and resources to prepare to hide in Berlin.

Obviously, safe shelter needed to be their first concern, it was not easy to come by for such a large group of people. While they were not able to remain together in one location, they remained aware of where each of them were and did find ways to keep in contact as a group. This was not always easy and often they were forced to relocate in order to keep both themselves and those hiding them safe.

Food was also a big concern. The ways they came up with to keep themselves from starvation were often nothing short of miraculous. Food was often scarce and ration cards were required to be able to purchase necessities. Obtaining ration cards while in hiding, without being identified as Jewish, arrested, and sent to forced labor camps or worse was often all but impossible. Also, they would need a way to earn an income to be able to afford to buy food. However it was not safe for employers to hire those known to be Jewish.

There is so much information in this book, but it was presented in a way that made me want to keep reading rather than feeling overwhelmed by it all. Another thing I liked about this book was that it didn’t simply end with the ending of the war. We get to find out what happened to each of the 7 people written of beyond merely learning about their lives prior to no longer needing to hide. There are also pictures of all of them and their families included at the end of the book. I do recommend reading this book. It was well-written and I learned more of the history of WW2 from a perspective that I had not previously seen.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

"The Tomorrow Gene" by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant

This book is primarily centered around a man by the name of Ephraim Todd who is apparently taking a relaxing vacation at a luxurious island resort known as Eden.

Eden is most famous for a rejuvenation treatment known as the Tomorrow Gene. No one seems to know exactly what this treatment entails, but it can take years off of a person’s apparent age, making them young again. It does, however, cost half a million dollars for the treatment, making it accessible only to the very rich. It also needs to be refreshed every so often or the recipient will wind up reverting back to their actual age.

Ephraim is not actually going to Eden for the relaxing vacation that he claims he is seeking. He is actually there to find out what really happened to his older brother who had disappeared after going to Eden years earlier. He is also there is to learn everything he can about how the Tomorrow Gene treatment works.

A woman by the name of Fiona has financed his trip in exchange for this information. She owns a rival company and has set Ephriam up with a false identity to help hide his real reasons for being there. But as Ephraim soon discovers, things are not entirely as they appear on Eden, and he runs into quite a number of problems very quickly.

I really enjoyed reading this book. While I was able to guess at a few of the things going on, there were far more plot twists than I saw coming. I wish I could tell you about some of them here, but I really don’t want to spoil the story for you. I will definitely be looking forward to getting a copy of book 2 in the series to find out what happens next. It didn’t exactly end on a cliffhanger, but it really left me wanting to know where they are going with things from here. I’ll admit it, I’m hooked and I want to know more.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

"Her Western Heart: Seeing Ranch Series" by Florence Linnington

I received an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this book.

This was the story of a young woman living in New York who was unhappy with her life and the parade of young men she was being introduced to by her parents in an attempt to find her a husband. After locking one such suitor out on the balcony during one of the multitude of parties at her home, her father decrees that he has chosen the only man left whom she has not offended to become her husband, whether she wishes to marry him or not.

Unfortunately for Gemma, this man is considerably older than she is, quite a bit shorter than she, and clearly knows that she does not have any say in the matter. Regardless of what she wishes, Gemma will be wed to him in only a couple of months.

Seeking any way that she can possibly find out of her predicament, Gemma places an ad seeking a husband as a mail order bride. To her great relief, her ad is answered by Mitchell, the owner of the Winding Path Ranch in Wyoming Territory. After packing a bag, Gemma sneaks out of the house in the middle of the night to board a train headed out West, where she feels that a future as a rancher’s wife will be far better than the one with the husband her parents had arranged for her.

I truly enjoyed reading this book. The author clearly cared enough to do an amazing job when it came to editing and proofreading her work. The story held my interest the entire way through and the plot didn’t seem to slow down once Gemma met the man she ran away to marry and had to learn how to perform all the chores a rancher’s wife would need to know how to do, but that a rich, New York society girl would never have had any reason to learn.

If the previous book in this series and the upcoming sequel are as well written as this book was, I would recommend reading the entire series. This was the second book in the series, and I intend to buy and read the first one and hopefully the next one (once it has been released) as well.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

"J.R.R. Tolkien: A life Inspired" by Wyatt North Publishing, LLC

To be honest, I’m not entirely certain how I feel about this book. I liked parts of it, but other sections seemed to drag along. Tolkien lost his father at a young age and his mother as well a number of years later. After that, his guardian was a catholic priest who told the boy that he needed to stop seeing the girl he was growing fond of when it became known that she wasn’t Catholic. Tolkien did seek her out again years later and they were able to resume their relationship once she agreed to join the Catholic church.

The book seems to skip around somewhat, often focusing on particular themes rather than following a straight timeline. Not much time is spent talking about Tolkien’s relationship with his wife or children. I would have liked to know more about all of them. At the end of the book, it talks about how no one ever doubted that Tolkien and his wife were in love, though I would have preferred to have been given examples of the two of them together rather than just being told how they felt about each other.

There also wasn’t much information about his relationship with his children. It was mentioned that one of them joined the priesthood, and that he had a daughter, but not much else was shared about those two. More was said of his son Christopher, who took over his father’s unfinished writing projects to see them through to completion after his father’s death. I really would have liked to know more about Tolkien’s family life.

A good deal of time was spent talking about the time J.R.R. Tolkien spent in the military during WW1. After finishing his studies, he trained as a signaler. This meant being able to use flags, pidgeons, or whatever else was necessary to ensure communications didn’t fail. Often that meant the use of runners to carry messages. Tolkien’s training as a signaler also allowed him to become familiar with mapmaking, a skill that would be useful when creating his middle-earth stories and the lands the people existed in.

The majority of this book revolved around the time Tolkien spent as a professor at Oxford, his association with the students and other writers, his work with languages, and the creation of the middle-earth mythos and tales. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this biography. Admittedly, Tolkien wanted people to focus on his writing rather than himself, but I feel like more could have been said. While it did contain a lot of information about his life, I still wanted to know more about those things that were not really talked about within these pages.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

"Witch at Last" by Juliette Harper

I really enjoyed this book. It did have a little bit of a recap of the previous 2 books, but unlike the last one, this time it didn’t feel like it slowed things down. There was enough new information being added in during the recap that the story felt like it kept moving forward the entire time.

In this book we learned a lot more about Jinx & Tori’s moms. They also used to do magic like Tori and Jinx do, but they renounced the use of magic back when they were in high school. It’s quite a story in and of itself and comes as a bit of a shock to their daughters.

We also learn more about Brenna, the evil sorceress who is the main source of conflict in this book. She has her own plans for Jinx, Tori, and all of the others who are determined to stop her. Add to that Jinx learning about her boyfriend Chase’s heritage and this book is a nonstop rollercoaster ride for all of them!

I honestly couldn’t put this book down. My only problem was that there were a couple of places where I ran across some typos while reading. Typos often pull me out of the story, so I tend to be fairly aware of them. But despite the few typos I ran across, this was probably the best one in the series that I’ve read so far. There is a lot happening in this book and it gives us a lot of very useful background information that we weren’t previously aware of. I found it to be a very good book and would definitely recommend it to anyone.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

"Witch at Odds" by Juliette Harper

This is book 2 in the Jinx Hamilton series/ 6 book box set. In this book, Jinx has been trying to find a way to free the spirits of the dead who are trapped within the boundary of the local cemetery. All she was trying to do was to allow them to leave the cemetery if they wished to do so. Unfortunately as she is still very new to using her magic, she managed to accidentally awaken and free all of the ghosts buried within the cemetery instead.

Now she is faced with a lot of very confused spirits, a number of whom refuse to believe that they are actually dead. This includes a corrupt former town mayor who promptly starts campaigning for the civil rights of the deceased and who apparently wants his former job back.

As if all of that isn’t bad enough, Jinx learns that one of the freed spirits belongs to an evil sorceress who is determined to find her descendants and restart her family line, using them to create more witches like herself. It is up to Jinx to find a way to undo the harm she has accidentally caused, though even her Aunt Fiona doesn’t know how to go about putting things right again.

I thought this was a well-written and enjoyable story. It was a bit slow getting started as the beginning seemed to be mostly a recap as to what happened in the first book, but I can understand the reasoning behind it. As it’s often a year or more between book release dates, adding a brief recap helps readers of the older books to keep from feeling lost when reading the later ones in the series. Unfortunately it does seem to slow down the beginning of the book a little, especially if you have just finished reading the previous book in the series..

I do greatly enjoy this author’s writing style. The remarks and comments that Jinx makes as asides to the reader are a highly entertaining part of the story. Without giving away the ending of the book, it is clear that before long some very interesting things will be happening.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

"Lady Nellie" by Verlin Underwood

I would like to start off this review by stating that I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for writing an honest review.

”Lady Nellie” was an interesting story. A Scottish Laird is sought by an leannan sith (or for those unfamiliar with the term... an evil fairy) who desires him as her husband. When he manages to refuse her despite her attempt at enchanting him, she curses him and his family. Should any of them leave their lands, they would all die. Despite this curse, which causes all the clansmen residing on the Lyall lands to flee from fear of being cursed as well, Laird Lyall, his wife, and his daughter still manage to spend a number of very happy years together in their home. Unfortunately, those happy days all come to an end when a difficult winter depletes their supplies and causes Nellie’s parents to become very Ill.

After they die, knowing that if she remains alone in her home that she would soon follow her parents in death, Nellie takes what little she can and leaves during the harsh winter in an attempt to find help and refuge in a nearby town. Just as she reaches the end of both her and her horse’s strength, they collapse within site of a neighboring castle where she is taken in and the local healer summoned.

Soon Nellie is well enough to be questioned by her rescuer as to where she has come from and how she arrived at his castle. There it is revealed that she is in Laird Maxwell’s lands. We soon learn that not only has he blamed Nellie’s family for a great deal, but that it was his stepmother who had cursed her family. He, however, does not believe that his stepmother was a leannan sith or that there was ever any curse. Nellie would very much like to flee his lands, but with nowhere else to go and still being too weak to truly leave, Laird Maxwell makes her a ward of his court.

As usual with my reviews, here I will end my description of the book so as to avoid spoiling the rest of story for you. I enjoyed the tale this book told a great deal, though it could have used a good editor. It was obvious that the text was run through a spellchecker as most everything was spelled correctly, though often the wrong word was used rather than the one that was clearly meant by the author. (For example, one that sticks out in my mind was when the word used was “indistinct” when the one that would have made much more sense was “indecent”. This type of error happens a number of times in the book, along with a couple of instances where it felt like the author changed her mind part-way through a sentence but forgot to go back & remove the part of the sentence that no longer belonged.

Even with these errors appearing throughout the book, the story did keep drawing me in and I wanted to see where it was going. I did enjoy reading it and am looking forward to the next book in the series. Hopefully that one will be a bit better edited than this one. But even if it isn’t, if the story is half as enjoyable as this one was it will still be worth reading.

Monday, October 30, 2017

"Witch at Heart" by Juliette Harper

My apologies in the delay of posting a new review, but my daughter recently wound up in the hospital Emergency Room and needed to have her appendix removed. This unexpected emergency put me behind on my reading/reviewing (hopefully for reasons you can understand and respect.) She is much better now though and I am back to reading and reviewing books to share with all of you.

Today’s book is the first book in the Jinx Hamilton series. I hope to post reviews of the six book box set that I am currently reading, but since I wanted to have something at least remotely related to a Halloween theme up here in time for the holiday, I decided to go ahead and post my review of book 1 in the series “Witch at Heart.”

In the beginning of this book, Jinx’ “Crazy Aunt Fiona” has recently died, leaving Jinx as the new owner of her store in Briar Hollow as well as the apartment above the store. Jinx immediately moves into the apartment and begins the process of finding out what inventory is in the store. She also discovers that although her aunt may be dead, she is not entirely gone for good. While Aunt Fiona is not haunting either Jinx or the store, her ghost is still around... just not necessarily when Jinx wants her to be.

It soon becomes obvious that Jinx is now also in possession of her aunt’s abilities as a witch, though those powers are still growing and developing in Jinx. Feeling more than a little overwhelmed, Jinx calls her best friend Tori to come and help her settle into her new home and life. Before long the two have come up with a plan to renovate the building and run the store together. It is also important to note that the store, who goes by the name of Myrtle, seems to possess an intelligence of her own and used to help Aunt Fiona out with finding whatever she needed in the jumble of a storage room.

Jinx and Tori soon find themselves involved in the mystery of who killed a young girl a number of years ago and why, as well as trying to discover who the young girl really was. Jinx’ ability to see and talk to spirits really helps with this mystery, but are they in over their heads? It is a great deal for the two girls to take on, but it is also something that they feel they must do.

This book was a nice, easy read and very interesting. I enjoyed watching as Jinx begins to discover her emerging new abilities and how to use them. Tori is the perfect business partner for Jinx and they work well together. What may be a weakness in one is appropriately balanced with a strength in the other. Overall, I enjoyed it a lot and am ready to start reading book 2 in the series/box set.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

"The Waystation: 'Cause Dead's Not Really Dead" by Laurie Jameson

First of all, I want to start off by letting you know that the author of this book contacted me and asked if I would read and review her book. In exchange for doing so, she provided me with a free digital copy of “The Waystation.”

I’m not normally all that fond of highly spiritual books, but I did really enjoy this one. While there are a great deal of religious overtones to the story, these aspects are presented in a way that those who are not highly religious will still enjoy the tale the author has woven.

The Waystation in the story is a resting spot part-way between death and a person’s final destination. Some who arrive are taken from the Waystation directly to their reward; some remain for a time, helping to run the Waystation and to provide comfort and refreshment for those passing through; and as expected, some are on a journey that none would enjoy.

Be warned, there is some violence in this book. Some of the characters are drug dealers, others are drug users/addicts, and some are in relationships with them. It is not a constant aspect of the story, but in this case, it is a necessary part and to have left it out would have done a disservice to the tale as a whole.

After an initial description of the Waystation and it’s current caretakers, we are dropped into the story of Cara, Tony, Rachel, & Marco. While each also has their own tale, these four have very intertwined stories throughout the book.

Tony is Cara’s boyfriend. He sells meth for Marco and has also begun taking steroids to help him “bulk up.” Unfortunately for Cara, the combination of the drugs and steroids makes him often quite unstable. When he loses his temper, he takes it out on her. Cara asks Rachel to talk to Marco (Tony’s supplier) in the hopes that Marco can calm him down. Unfortunately, this backfires and Rachel blames herself for what happens next.

The stories are all very intertwined, both before any of their deaths and through to what happens when they arrive at The Waystation and each begins the next portion of their journey. We also learn the tales of those who have been the caretakers at the Waystation for a while. As with my other reviews, I don’t want to go into more detail here because I believe you will enjoy reading those tales yourselves.

I did run across a few issues with typos while I was reading, but only a few and not enough to spoil my enjoyment of the book. As you have probably guessed, I do not read a lot of religious themed books, though I did really enjoy reading this one. Too often such tales leave me feeling that the author was trying to beat me over the head with a religious theme, but I didn’t feel that way reading this book. While there is often a very religious theme within, it is so greatly intertwined with a well-written story that I enjoyed it. I would recommend giving this book a try, as the story it told had me hooked enough that I have already recommended it to several of my friends.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

"Wonder Woman: The Official Movie Novelization" by Nancy Holder

Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised that I chose to read and review the official movie novelization of the recent Wonder Woman movie. I have been a long-time Wonder Woman fan and have seen multiple versions of the character’s backstory, read and collected most of the Wonder Woman comic books, and collect just about anything related to the character that I can get my hands on. In other words, it was only a matter of time before I read this book.

One of the things I do enjoy about movie novelizations is that, as with any book, you get to see inside the characters heads in a way that you aren’t able to when watching the movie. In this case, we are able to learn from Diana’s thoughts what she thinks when she first meets Steve Trevor. We see her first impression of him, of his world when she returns to London with him, and their opinions of each other in greater detail than can be seen by simply watching the movie. There is much more depth to the characters that can be picked up by reading what they are thinking rather than just by watching their actions.

However one of the problems with movie novelizations is that often the book seems to have been rushed through the publishing process. In this case, it felt like the editing/proofreading did not receive as much attention as it needed to truly make the book great. A number of times typos and other errors made me pause in order to reread a passage or two. While the editing wasn’t too bad overall, I do wish more time and effort had been put into it. The book would have been much more enjoyable for me had there been fewer errors.

Normally I would go into a bit more detail about what happens within this book, but as popular the as the movie was I expect that many people have already watched it by now. As such, the only detail I could add in here that most folks aren’t already aware of would include the thoughts that the characters were having, but doing so would give away more of the story than I prefer. Hopefully, if you enjoyed the movie and want to know more of the details that they were forced to leave out, you will seek out this book. Even with the errors that I found while reading, I did enjoy it and was glad that I had taken the opportunity to read it.

Friday, October 6, 2017

"Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker" by Jennifer Chiaverini

I very much enjoyed reading this novel. It gives a very enlightening look at life in Washington, D.C. from shortly before Abraham Lincoln takes office and continues on for many years after his assassination. The story is told from the perspective of Elizabeth Keckley, a seamstress who was born into slavery but who had managed to purchase both her and her son’s freedom.

Elizabeth is a very talented and much sought after dressmaker who is brought to the attention of the newly-elected president’s wife Mary. She is hired to modify an older gown for Mrs. Lincoln to wear at the inaugural ball. Elizabeth understands that this is a test of her abilities before being offered the much sought after position as the First Lady’s Modiste. It is not long after that before a number of government officials return to their homes in the southern states and talk of secession begins.

During all of this time, we are given an inside look at life in the White House from the perspective of Mrs. Lincoln’s dressmaker. She is a hard worker and over the years becomes a good friend and confidant to Mary Lincoln and her family. She is there to see the good times and the tough times. We see Mr. Lincoln begining by trying to hold the United States together, and then through the more difficult times with a number of states voting to secede and form their own government, thus starting the civil war.

As this book is told from the perspective of a black woman, while there is mention of the battles that are fought during the war, we are not overwhelmed with combat tactics or the horrific results of many of those battles. Victories and losses are mentioned, but not described in great detail.

Over the years Mary Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley became more than just employer and employee, they developed a deep friendship and often relied upon each other for emotional support when times grew tough. After Mr. Lincoln’s assassination, Mary and her children leaned a great deal upon Elizabeth. Elizabeth was there for Mary Lincoln during the funeral of her husband, she was there for her to help pack the family’s belongings, and she was there to help them find a place to relocate to in Chicago. Elizabeth also did her best to help Mary adjust to her new circumstances and to help her to find a way to repay the debts she acquired while living as the First Lady and purchasing beyond her means. Even her husband hadn’t been aware of the extent of her debts before he was killed.

The author of this book clearly did a great deal of research on Elizabeth Keckley. When I started the book, I hadn’t realized that it was about a woman who truly existed and had even written her own memoir. This is a work of historical fiction told from Elizabeth’s point of view, but there is still a great deal of truth in the tale. I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the time period or who wondered what life was like for a free black woman who had been born a slave as compared to the lives of the other women around her.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

"Nothing Is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life" by Christopher Reeve

This biography starts off talking about when Christopher Reeve was thrown from his horse during an equestrian competition, breaking his neck and leaving him paralyzed. In the beginning, he wasn't certain that he wanted to live. His wife Dana promised him that if he still felt that way at the end of 2 years, that they would find a way for him to end his suffering. Fortunately, after those two years he no longer felt the same.

This book jumps back and forth, letting us see Christopher at different points in his life. Sometimes we are shown glimpses of him during his youth with his family, and in other sections we are shown segments of his recovery after his accident.

At one point he tells us a story of when he accepted a "free personality test" and how that led him to a short period of time with a group is scientologists. I enjoyed the tale, especially where explained how he realized it was little more than a means for them to collect large sums of money from people who were looking for a way to improve themselves and their lives.

Christopher tells us a number of quite inspirational stories from throughout his lifetime about both the good times and the troubled times he has lived through. We are told about how he feels that he became a better father after he was paralyzed than he was before. It caused him to truly listen to his children in order to be able to help them with their problems. It also allowed him to spend more quality time and become closer with each of them.

Before long he began to help with fundraising and spoke with politicians about supporting research for ways to help heal and repair injuries that left people paralyzed and/or otherwise in need of full time medical care. Such care costs a great deal, and those costs will often continue for far longer than most people would be able to afford. Christopher helped to raise lifetime limits that insurance companies granted to individuals.

Christopher Reeve did so much more than that as well. He truly was an inspiration to many and never gave up hoping and working towards someday being able to move and possibly even walk under his own power again. This book does not continue until the end of his life, but it does show that he was making much more improvement overall than any of his doctors had thought would ever be possible considering the severity and length of time that had passed since his injury.

If you wish to know how truly amazing he was, then you will want to read this book. I learned a great deal more than I had previously known about what he went through in his later years and how he managed to remain such a positive force despite having survived something that would have destroyed the spirit of many others.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

"The Dead of Night" by Jean Rabe

This book starts off shortly after recently elected Sheriff Piper Blackwell has passed the sheriff's exam, thus earning the right to keep her job. She has gone to the park to meet with an elderly gentleman who is often considered by many to be prone to conspiracy theories. Not too many of the locals seem to take his complaints too seriously.

Mark "the Shark" Thresher explains to her that he has been robbed, his bank account drained of a lifetime of savings. He may or may not be a bit on the crazy side, but Piper promises to find out who took his money and to get it back for him. It is quite late and raining very hard when he leaves the park, asking Piper to wait a bit to make certain that he isn’t being followed. As she is leaving, she slips in the mud and trips over some bones that were uncovered by the rainstorm.

The bones appear to be that of a child, seemingly murdered and buried in the park a very long time ago. Who did they belong to? And why doesn’t there seem to be an open case for a missing child from around that time? A case that old will be more difficult than usual to solve, yet that is just what she intends to do.

These are two very difficult cases for Piper and the others in the sheriff’s office to solve. Add to that the fact that they are still short-staffed and need to hire several people to fill in the gaps, stop someone who is repeatedly destroying neighborhood mailboxes, and of course deal with the usual drunk drivers and other problems that arise in any small town and you can imagine how busy everyone in the sheriff’s department is. Piper has been learning a great deal in the few months she has been sheriff, and while growing more confident in her position she still feels her lack of experience quite strongly.

Piper’s father has been declared cancer free, and she wonders if he is considering running for Sheriff once it is again time for an election. She feels that if he does, he would likely regain the office quite easily. He has the experience she lacks and is still recognized as having been a great sheriff. If he did become the sheriff she could then rejoin the military, but does she really want to? She may not have expected to win the election originally, but now that she has been in the office for a while, she is coming to enjoy the job and starting to earn the respect of those she works with.

Then Piper starts to feel like someone is following her. She starts receiving emailed threats coming from her own account telling her to leave the case alone if she values her life. Her car has a brick thrown at it and obscenities painted on the sides. Someone clearly doesn’t want her trying to solve one of the cases that she is working on.

This book had so many twists and turns that it kept me guessing the entire way through (usually incorrectly). I very definitely recommend reading this one. My only complaint is that the next book in the series is still being written by the author, meaning that I’ll need to wait quite some time before I can buy a copy to read. I’m looking forward to that release date, even though I realize that it will be some time yet as this book was only just recently released.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

"Dead of Winter" by Jean Rabe

Today I read the first of the Piper Blackwell mysteries. I want to start this review off by stating up front that I consider the author a friend, though she does not know that I am reviewing her book here today. As with all my previous reviews, I bought my own copy of the book from Amazon. This was not a solicited review.

The book starts on Piper's first day as Sheriff. Her father had been the previous sheriff but was forced to retire due to a cancer diagnosis, and a number of people suspect that she won the election based solely on her father's name.

The man she beat out for the position is currently her deputy sheriff. He doesn't believe she can do the job and is waiting for her to fail the sheriff's exam in a few months. Once that happens, he will step into the position that he feels should rightly have been his all along. While Piper has never worked in a sheriff's office before, she has spent the last 4 years in the military as an MP and been awarded a number of medals during her time serving in Iraq. Had her father not been diagnosed with cancer, she would likely have remained in the military rather than returning home to help him through his cancer treatments.

Piper hadn't actually expected to win the election, and on her first day she is called to the site of a murder. Her deputy doesn't make any attempt to disguise his opinion that she has no place even trying to be the sheriff. He and a number of others in the department feel that she is too inexperienced for the position and are resentful that a girl who is at most half their age is now their boss.

Despite all of their obvious resentment and attempts to show her up, Piper is determined to stop what quickly turns from just the one murder into an obvious serial killer in a small town that has never before had to deal with something so sinister.

Unfortunately, most of the others working in the department seem to be determined to solve the murders on their own, thus proving how unfit she is for the position. It is very difficult to accomplish anything when it seems that everyone else is working against you and doesn't want you around. Piper needs to prove to everyone (including herself) that she can do the job and deserves to be the town’s sheriff.

I absolutely loved reading this book. It sucked me in and I only set it aside to sleep at night. (I finished reading it in only 2 days.) The plot was clearly well thought out and well researched. I did run across a couple of typos, but they in no way spoiled my enjoyment of the story. I very definitely recommend reading this one. If the second book is even half as good, I'm in for a real treat once I start reading that one!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

"Incubation" by Laura DiSilverio

Today’s book, “Incubation,” was a post-apocalyptic young adult novel told from the point of view of a young woman being raised in a government facility. Most of the Earth’s population has died off after several waves of a deadly flu pandemic have passed through society. Now most children are raised in an inkubation dome where they are educated, grow crops, and train for future occupations. They are referred to as “apprentice citizens” until they come of age and have either served as soldiers for 6 years or volunteered as a surrogate to help repopulate the planet.

Everly has a promising future as a biochemist and is working on a way to reduce the number of locusts that endanger the planet by eating the limited crops that are able to be grown. The locust swarms have thus far proven resistant to everything scientists have tried, but Everly has some theories and ideas that she is working on that seem promising.

One day she discovers that her closest friend, Halla, is planning on running away as she has been hiding the fact that she is pregnant. The father of her baby was another resident of the cube who had been sent to work as a soldier before learning that she was pregnant. Halla plans on running away because she realizes that her baby will be taken from her and given to another family to raise. There are not enough babies currently being born and far too many people who desperately want children.

Halla does not have a permit to have a child, and with the father having just started his 6 years of military service, her only hope of keeping her child is to run away. She knows this will make her a wanted fugitive with her only hope being to find the resistance, having them help her assume a new identity, and relocating to a distant province. She believes that her baby’s father will want to run away with her to raise their child together, but first she must escape and find her way to Atlanta before her pregnancy is discovered.

Everly, Halla, and their friend Wyck flee from Inkubator 9 together in the middle of the night after having gathered what limited supplies they can to help them survive the long and very dangerous journey. Along they way they discover how unprepared they really are for life outside of the Cube, but they are determined to continue on and find their way to Atlanta in order to help Halla reunite with Louden before their child is born.

This was a very absorbing look at what might happen in a society that faces possible extinction and the steps they feel are necessary to prevent it. My only complaint is that it ends on a cliffhanger and I don’t yet have a copy of the sequel. So If I want to know if Everly and her friends can escape from the dangers they encounter and what happens next (and I definitely do), I’ll need to track down the next book in the series. Hopefully it will be as enjoyable to read as this book has been.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

"Puss in Boots" by Shari L. Tapscott

This wasn’t a bad book. It was well written and edited, however it didn’t really have any sort of “wow factor” that you usually expect to find in fairy-tale retellings. The only real twist in the story was that Puss did not get his boots until very late in the book. Outside of that, this was a very straightforward retelling of the Puss in Boots story.

The book starts off with Suzette & her brothers at the reading of their aunt’s will. Her eldest brother gets the mill, her middle brother the donkey, and Suzette gets the cat. She is given a small amount of money that is supposed to be used to purchase boots for the cat. In an act of defiance, Suzette uses the money to purchase new boots for herself instead. Shortly thereafter, she discovers that Puss can speak and after apologizing for not buying him his boots, the tale follows the usual progression of the Puss in Boots story, minus his boots.

I was enjoying this story, despite it not really having any surprises, until I read a comment about the donkey being a “Valiant Steed.” It was really the only reference to the donkey in the story, and was clearly a reference to the Shrek animated movie. That right there made me very nearly put the book down and move on to something else instead. It just had no place in this tale, and it never came up again. Had the author found more of a way to weave the reference in so that it fit better, it would not have bothered me as much as it did. I did, however, continue on and finish reading the rest of the book.

Overall, it was an okay story. There were no surprises and nothing unexpected. I had really been hoping for more though, some sort of unexpected plot twist that never appeared. In other words, I’m afraid this book left me feeling a bit disappointed. Others may enjoy it, but I was really left wanting something more.

Friday, September 15, 2017

" Touched by Time" by Zoe Matthews & Jade Jensen

This book was a little unusual for a mail-order bride novel. The main character, Kathleen, works as an ER trauma nurse in the year 2005. While she loves working as a nurse, she hates where she works. Her supervisor treats her very poorly, and it has been becoming increasingly clear to Kathleen that the woman dislikes her and wants her to quit.

Kathleen shares an apartment with her best friend Nicky, who is the closest thing Kathleen has to family. Her parents were killed in a car accident when she was young, and with no other living relatives, Kathleen was left to be raised in the foster care system. Nicky's family was the third one that she was placed with, and they raised her until she graduated from high school.

One day Kathleen noticed an ad in a Denver newspaper looking for mail-order brides. Thinking it had to be some sort of a joke, she wrote to the address listed and asked for more information. Before long Kathleen finds herself exchanging letters (by way of the woman running the business) with a man named Patrick. As they get to know each other through their letters, Kathleen decides that she would like to meet him. There is just one rather large obstacle.... he lives on a ranch some distance outside of Denver in the year 1892. She lives in Denver in the year 2005.

This book was a quick but very enjoyable read. It was interesting to see whether or not a woman from 2005 can learn to live happily in 1892. There have been so many changes in the years between the two time periods, can two people from those very different time periods truly fall in love and live happily in the past without any of the modern conveniences that one of them is accustomed to using on a daily basis?

And then there is the problem that Kathleen has seemingly vanished with almost no explanation. Her roommate in 2005 suspects that the woman behind the mail-order bride business has done something terrible to Kathleen. After all, what other possible explanation could there be for Kathleen to leave with virtually no explanation, leaving everything, including her cellphone, behind?

I enjoyed this book. It was a little different from the other mail-order bride books that I have read, though it did possess all the expected aspects of that type of story. It even left a hook at the end leading into the next book in the series. Given that I enjoyed this one, I will likely look for the next one and read that one as well.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

"The Immortals" by Jordanna Max Brodsky

I don't often read mysteries, but found the description of this one irresistible. Greek Gods live in New York among the mortals. Over the centuries, they have been slowly losing their powers as people stopped believing in and worshiping them. Without worshippers, they have begun to grow old and are beginning to die. Many have taken jobs as they pretend to be human, utilizing what remains of their abilities and powers as best they can.

Selene DiSilva, for example, is currently a private investigator who helps women in need. She is a Protector of the Innocent who was once the goddess known as Artemis. It has been a very long time since she has used that name, but she is still a huntress. When her dog Hippolyta discovers the body of a woman dressed as a virgin priestess of the gods, she knows that she can't just leave this one for the police to solve.

The murdered woman was a professor working on a book about ancient Greek mysteries/religious rituals. Soon her ex-boyfriend, Theo, becomes the main suspect in her murder as he was one of the few around who could speak as well as read Ancient Greek. He also knew a great deal about the various religious rituals associated with the Greek Gods.

Knowing the police believe he is guilty but are unable to prove it, and realizing that there will be more murders to come as the ritual being followed lasts 10 days and requires sacrificial killings on each day, Theo finds himself working with Selene to help find the real murderer. Neither completely trusts each other, but they both need the help that only the other seems able to provide.

I was really fascinated by the appearances of the various gods hiding among the mortals and the aspects of their myths that they still retained. Some were able to remain younger and more powerful than others due to "worshippers" that didn't always realize were providing any sort of prayers for the ancient gods. Apollo, for example, as the god of thieves and music was still "worshipped" by the fans of his current persona... a rock singer in a well known band. In this persona he receives a great deal of worship and energy. So while the gods were all losing their powers, some were able to hold on longer than others.

It soon becomes clear to Selene that the ritual sacrifices were making her stronger and restoring some of the abilities she thought lost to her long ago. But who could be responsible? And why were they helping her and not all of the gods? And most importantly, can Selene & Theo find and stop the murderer responsible before he or she completes all of the rituals and becomes too powerful to stop?

This book includes a number of the ancient Greek Gods and their myths interwoven into the modern world in such a fascinating way that you could almost imagine it as truly possible. It was very well written, well edited, and it completely enthralled me. The story was so well crafted that it often surprised me with unexpected twists and turns that I didn’t see coming.

I absolutely loved this book and will be keeping my eyes out for the sequel. It was well worth the time I spent reading it. I would strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoys mysteries and/or tales of the Greek Gods. The author did an amazing job describing what they might be like if they were to exist in the modern world.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

"Sacrificed: The Last Oracle" by Emily Wibberley

This book starts with the youngest daughter of the Oracle seeking to try and find a way to help her sister avoid becoming a Vessel for the Oracle. According to the Oracle, it is a sacred duty that each of her daughters must enter into when they turn 16. Clio, the youngest daughter, is currently 15 and her sister has just turned 16. Clio returns home to find her sister already gone and is very upset that she wasn’t even allowed to say goodbye. She believes that the Oracle doesn’t actually have any powers, but that it’s all just a hoax designed to keep her mother in power.

The powers of the Oracle are passed down the maternal line by the Deities. When a new Oracle comes to power, her hair turns white and the Deities begin to send her visions to guide her. Clio believes her mother fakes having the visions that she uses as a means of controlling her worshipers. She even refers to her mother’s believers as a cult. Each of her sisters changed once they became a Vessel, seeming to become cold and distant. They will only tell Clio that she will understand once she turns 16 and becomes a Vessel of the Oracle too. Feeling trapped by a future that she has no desire to be a part of, Clio runs away, hiding for the night in the upper branches of a tree she used to climb with the Prince when they were young.

While sleeping in the tree, she has her first vision. Clio “Sees” her mother and 3 of her 4 sisters being murdered by the King’s trusted advisor. Her 4th sister is sent as a sacrifice to a neighboring city that had murdered their Oracle. In the place of an Oracle, they now have a priest who rips out the hearts of living sacrifices atop a pyramid.

Needing to save her sister, Clio disguises her now white hair by covering it in mud and hides herself among a group of slave girls being sent to serve as temple slaves for the Emperor. Unfortunately, once the slave train arrives at it’s destination, the girls who were sent to serve in the temple learn that they will be sacrificed by the priest to gain the Deities’ favor for the Emperor’s armies. Also, the day they arrive and before she has a chance to stop it, Clio sees her sister’s still beating heart torn out by the priest just before she and the other slave girls are locked away in cells to await their turn to be sacrificed.

Clio must hide who she is or risk being immediately killed should they discover that she is the last Oracle. She has had no training as she wasn’t expected to become a Vessel for another year. The Visions sent by the Deities come without any control on her part, often happening at times when she has other things worrying her. Clearly, she is supposed to find a way to keep what she sees from coming to pass, but she has no idea how to make that happen as she is currently locked in a cell awaiting her turn as a sacrifice.

There were a lot of twists and turns in this book. Some of them I suspected would happen, but many of them came as a bit of a surprise. The main character may have started out as little more than a whiney teenager, but she grew and developed into so much more during the course of the book. As usual, I have only given you the smallest part of the story that was told.

There is so much more going on here that you really should read it for yourself. It was well written, well edited, and while it didn’t end at a cliffhanger, it was clear enough that there is still much more of the story to be told. It left me wanting to continue on and find out what will happen to Clio next. I will be looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

"The Maid's Tale: Life Below Stairs as it Really Was" by Rose Plummer with Tom Quinn

This was a well written book, though anyone who is not familiar with older British slang might find some of the language a bit confusing. The author was a woman who was born in the poorer end of London to a large family. She attended school when she was younger, though she left school at the age of 12 to enter into service. Having come from a large family, this was a common practice in poorer homes as it took some of the financial burden off of parents who didn’t earn enough to always keep themselves fed, let alone all of their children.

Though her childhood may have been difficult by today’s standards, Rose considered it a happy one. She loved her parents and siblings, and while food may not have been extremely plentiful, they always managed to get by well enough.

At the age of 12, Rose began work in one of the smaller houses as a “maid of all work.” In other words, she worked hard and did whatever job needed to be done; be it scrubbing the front steps, helping cook with preparing meals, washing dishes, washing laundry, and anything else that needed doing. It was very hard work with extremely long hours every day.

Rose often spent her limited free time walking in the park where she met and became friends with a girl named Mary. The two often spent their half-days off together walking in the park as it was what most young people in service did with their rare free time. After some time working for this family, Mary convinced Rose that she should visit a placement service and seek a better position. Before long Rose was working in a larger household as the 2nd housemaid. Her duties were slightly more specific, but still just as numerous. The pay was also better, even if the hours required were just as long.

There was a strict hierarchy among servants, almost as if they were mirroring the status among the nobility. They didn’t overstep their authority among the other servants in the household, just as they were also very careful about not looking their employers directly in the eye and didn’t question orders given to them. Talking back even once could immediately get a person fired.

There were strict household curfews, and being out past them even on their day off was not allowed. Getting caught walking about regularly with a person of the opposite sex, if lucky earned them a warning that if seen walking with that person in the park again would cost them their position. If they weren’t lucky or their behavior was seen as less than appropriate, they could be immediately fired. Getting pregnant was something that would immediately cost their job, and getting married meant they had to stop working as a servant in the household as well.

That wasn’t to say that maids or other servants never had fun. Besides walking in the park or visiting a tea shop, there were dancing parlors and in the winter they could also go ice skating on their evening off. Rose often went dancing with her friend Mary. They might not have had steady boyfriends to dance with, but there were always a variety of people at the dance parlors looking for someone to dance with.

As time passed it became clear that there were fewer young people entering into service, so finding better positions with better pay steadily became easier. The years described by the author in this book took place mainly in the years between WWI and WWII, though she does go on to describe a bit all the way into the 1960s and 1970s. Having gotten married at a point before then, Rose was not working as a maid the entire time. Learning about her life and reading her descriptions of the many changes occurring during this time period was fascinating. I enjoyed reading her tale and will definitely have to look for and read some of the other books describing the lives of other types of household servants back then.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

"Stars & Steam" by Anthea Sharp

This book contains 5 space-related Steampunk stories. The first of which, “The Sun Never Sets,” begins in London in the year 1850. In this tale, a young woman with an interest in Astronomy discovers what she believes to be a previously unknown comet. In the weeks that follow, this object appears to grow larger and larger until it seems that it will crash into London and likely destroy the planet in the process. Then suddenly, it stops moving and a smaller object detaches and comes to land on the grounds of the palace. An alien exits the ship to speak with Queen Victoria.

His species wishes to share knowledge with the planet, beginning with the Queen. But to do so she must agree to allow them to make clones of her to take over her rule when she passes on, essentially allowing her to rule eternally. If she refuses, they will go and make the offer to Napoleon of France instead. Queen Victoria agrees with a few conditions of her own. It is at this point that I must stop my description of this story as continuing beyond this point would spoil the ending for you. I found it a short but enjoyable beginning to the book.

The next story in this book was “The Perfect Perfume.” In this tale we have a young woman, the daughter of one of the most renowned perfumers in London, attempting to create a scent that will save her business from closing down. Her parents had recently died in an airship accident and if she fails in her latest attempt, she will be forced to give up and seek employment as a governess. She heads to a disreputable part of town seeking a new ingredient in the hopes that it will add a luminescence to her scent that may be seen in the dark. Will the star stone that she purchases for an unusually large sum be what she needs or will she be forced to give up on her dream?

"Passage Out" was a nice little story about two homeless young people who live on the streets near a spaceport. The two have long dreamed of being able to travel into space, but realize that it is naught but a dream as they will never be able to afford to pay for passage anywhere. Then one day, they discover a hidden tunnel that leads them into the spaceport where they can see the docked ships as well as those landing and taking off. Here is where things really begin to get interesting for them both.

“Victoria Eternal” was an interesting addition to this collection. It takes place during the 14th reign of Queen Victoria on one of the far away planets that are now a part of the British Empire. In it, we learn that one of the characters is the grandson of the 13th incarnation of Queen Victoria. This is unusual as any children of the Queen are usually quietly killed to prevent an overabundance of heirs to the throne. After all, an heir is not needed since once the current incarnation dies, a clone is awoken to take her place. There has been a resistance building to this practice among the populace, but thus far all efforts to change things have been unsuccessful. Part of the problem is that the clones are kept in devices that human technology has yet to find a way to damage, let alone destroy.

The last story in this collection is “Marianne’s Flight.” Marianne lives on one of the British Empire’s colony planets with her family. Her father is the extremely strict and unpopular Colony Governor. Marianne desires to study and become an Ambassador to other societies, but her father refuses to allow her to leave to attend the necessary college classes back on Earth. When word begins to spread that Queen Victoria and all of her clones are dead, the riots begin. Marianne’s father refuses to leave his mansion, nor will he allow any of his family to leave. You’ll have to read the rest of this one yourself if you want to find out what happens to them.

It’s been a while since I’ve read many Steampunk stories. My only complaint with this book is that I wished the stories had been longer. I wanted to know more about what would happen to the characters. I’ll definitely have to look up some of this author’s other available books in the near future.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

"Sleeping Beauty's Very Untimely Murder" by Cheri Schmidt & Tristan Hunt

This was a nice little twisted fairy tale. In it, a young maiden awakens alone in her bedchamber with no memory at all. She is wearing a medieval style of wedding gown but no ring. She also appears to be a ghost.

The estate she finds herself haunting belongs to Christian Sparks. His father had recently given him possession of the estate, however not the inheritance/funds to truly run it properly. Those funds, he learned, would be given to him once he married and provided his parents with grandchildren. Unfortunately, he isn't yet ready to wed anyone.

That is when he meets the young woman haunting his home. Needing to call her something, he starts referring to her as his Lady Fair. He sets his mind to helping her discover who she is, how she came to be haunting his home, who murdered her, and why. As Christian gets to know his Lady Fair better, he finds himself falling in love and wishing she weren’t a ghost so that he could court her instead of any of the living ladies of the court. There is one girl who appears to have set her sights on becoming his wife at any cost, even if it means entrapping him in an apparently compromising position and forcing him to wed her. It doesn’t help that she seems to have fooled his mother into believing that she is the right choice for him.

As is to be expected, there is a twist to the tale. Christian’s Lady Fair is under a spell hiding her from a Fey Lord who desires her. Unfortunately, she really can’t remember any of it. Can Christian avoid marriage to the human girl trying to entrap him? Can her rescue his Lady Fair and save her from the evil Fey Lord who desires her? And if so, will he be able to find a way to claim his Lady Fair for himself?

This was a nice, lighthearted story, though I found the plot a bit predictable. There were a few areas that could have been a bit better edited, but overall it wasn't bad. It was exactly what I was looking for after the intensity of the previous book I had read. While it wasn't anything spectacular, I did enjoy reading it.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

"My Lobotomy: A Memoir" by Howard Dully and Chris Fleming

I want to start out by saying that “My Lobotomy” was a very difficult book to read, not because of the writing or editing but because of the subject matter. Everything talked about in this book actually happened. This book at times made me want to cry or to shout at the parents of Howard Dully demanding to know how they could put a child through everything that happened to him. I had to often set the book down for a bit and come back to it later. It was a very emotional experience. If what Howard went through as a child were experienced by someone his age today, that child would have been taken away by Child Protective Services.

Howard’s mother died when he was 5 years old. That was where his normal, happy childhood ended. His father was working multiple jobs trying to make ends meet and remarried a woman by the name of Lou who had sons of her own from a previous marriage. She clearly favored them over her new step-children Oddly, this was mostly taken out on Howard and not his brother. No matter what Howard did, he seemed to get punished for it. Generally Lou would spank the boy, then have his father continue the punishment when he got home from working. Nothing Howard ever did was right or good enough for her. Now that isn’t to say he didn’t misbehave, but his behavior certainly wasn’t any worse than that of other children his age.

At some point, Lou sought the advice of no less than 6 psychiatrists as to what was wrong with the boy. Each of them, after listening to her, told her in no uncertain terms that there was nothing wrong with Howard, but that the problem lay with her and thought that she could benefit from therapy. Each time that happened, she would seek the help of another doctor to try and solve the problem of her stepson. That all changed when she met Dr. Freeman.

Dr. Freeman performed hundreds of lobotomies over the course of his career. He believed it cured all sorts of mental problems, from anxiety or depression to emotional problems such as anger or rage. After meeting with Lou several times and hearing about Howards emotional problems, he diagnosed Howard as schizophrenic and suggested that an “icepick” lobotomy could cure him. Howard had just turned 12 when the procedure was performed on him.

Howard was one of the fortunate few who survived the procedure with relatively few side effects, but his home life did not improve. Lou did not want him around and eventually got Dr. Freeman to agree that the boy would be better off elsewhere. Howard spent time in halfway houses and other homes before that option was unavailable to his family.

Over the years Howard spent time in an insane asylum, in juvenile detention centers, homeless, in jail, and in just about any situation you can imagine. Eventually, he met a woman he fell in love with and after they both got completely off of drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes, they were married. He continued to have ups and downs in his life, but for the most part his life improved. He found and held a stable job and also had a happy family of his own. He was one of the lucky ones who survived having had a lobotomy at some point in their lives. Yet still one thing haunted him... Why had it been done to him?

There is so much more to his story. I won’t tell you the rest of it as you may want to read it for yourself. I have only included the barest of details in this review. As I said above, this was a very difficult book for me to read. My own child is the same age as Howard was when the (in my opinion unnecessary) lobotomy was performed on him. I couldn’t help but compare my own child’s worst day to his, and still believe he was simply a normal boy who was too often and too harshly punished. He was a just a normal pre-teen who deserved far better than he received.

The book continues to tell about Howard’s life well into his 50s. If you are at all curious about him or what happened to him, you should take a look at it. The book was told from his perspective, as well as having been written by him. While it is a very emotional read, he did live an extraordinary life despite everything he went through. While I may have had to put it down a few times, I also had to pick it back up again each time so that I could find out how it ended. I just couldn’t give up on the book without knowing how it all turned out.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

"It's a Bird! It's a Plane!: A Superhero Anthology"

This time around I’ve been reading am anthology of superhero stories. Overall, I thought it was a good collection of stories, even if I didn’t exactly enjoy all of them. Below are my reviews of the different stories contained in this collection.

“Geek Gurl Rising” by Chris Pourteau was interesting. It was about a girl named Carrie Conrad who had recently started attending a new school and was being bullied by the popular crowd. Her only real friend was the school Librarian who was the only person who took the time to get to know and appreciate her. Then one afternoon someone comes into the school with a gun and takes him hostage. During the crisis, Carrie discovers that she has super powers and is the only one who can save everyone. I found it an interesting story, but it felt a bit contrived to me.

“Anna” by Patricia Gilliam had potential. Unfortunately, as it was set in a world that was clearly part of another series, trying to read it left left me feeling rather lost. Had I read any of the previously written books in the series, I’m sure I would have really enjoyed it. It’s too bad really, since the beginning of the story involved a woman trying to disarm a bomb that was set to explode in 3 minutes. A dramatic beginning to be sure, but one that was lost on me as what followed left me feeling as if I were missing some important background information.

“The Roach Rises” by Rhett C. Bruno was probably one of my favorites in this book. This story starts off with a paralyzed ex-vigilante who is considering ending his life when he hears someone calling for help. Unable to resist, he does his best to help the teen who is being beaten up by two older teens. Not entirely successful, he returns to his home to drink away his pain. I really don’t want to give away too much of this story, but suffice it to stay that the ending made me tear up and almost want to cry. If you read none of the the others in this anthology, please give this one a chance. It was well worth it!

“The Paladin” by Kevin G Summers. I enjoyed this one. It’s about a teenage boy whose older brother started using drugs and was murdered in their own home. The boy takes it upon himself to find and make those responsible pay (Batman style). The problem being that it’s a lot more dangerous being a vigilante than he first thought. Even if he succeeds, will that make him as bad or even worse than those he was seeking vengeance upon?

“Cleanview” by Hall & Beaulieu. I really enjoyed this one. A Janitor who is just going about his daily job runs into one of the Superheroes protecting the world. The superhero seems distracted, but then seems to want to talk. His day had been really rough, and even though he saved a lot of people, many others had died. I really enjoyed the conversation that took place between the two of them as well as the effect that conversation had upon them both.

“Photo Op” by Christopher J. Valid. I didn't enjoy this story as much as I did some of the others in this anthology. It starts out with our hero in a fight with a villain. During the fight someone takes his picture. The hero then spends the rest of the story trying to find a way to permanently get rid of that photo so that his secret identity wouldn't be revealed. He was so obsessed with doing so that he was extremely distracted throughout the entire story, and I found a distracted hero less interesting.

“Mercurial” by Alexa Purdy. This one was also interesting. It seems to question whether or not those who have misused their powers can be rehabilitated. I liked it.

“One Last Time” by Andy Peloquin. This story was a bit darker, but I really enjoyed it. It explores what happens when someone wins a lottery and is given super powers for a limited time. Will he be the good guy? Or will he stray and start enjoying the things that he could never afford before he gained those powers? And what happens when the time limit on his powers ends and he must return to being a normal, everyday human being again? I liked this one as it really makes you think about whether or not winning those powers really was a good thing.

“Hero Worship” by Josh Hayes. I don’t want to say much about this one, as I’m afraid I would give away the ending. But I do recommend reading it. It’s got a really good twist to the story that I didn’t see coming.

“An Ordinary Hero: A Pantheon Short” by C.C. Ekeke. This was a very sweet little story. It takes place on a man’s 4th anniversary with his superhero wife. If I say anything more about it, I would wind up spoiling the ending for you, but it is a good story.

“The Spotlight” by Jeffrey Beesler. I’m really not sure what I think about this one. There doesn’t seem to be much of a reason for the bad things that happen in this story. It definitely left me feeling somewhat cheated. It’s not a bad story, but the reasoning behind what happens seems to have been left out. The ending almost makes up for it, but it still left me wanting something more.

“Fade” by Josi Russell. This was another very interesting story. The main character isn’t your typical superhero: she can’t fly, she’s not strong, she’s not invulnerable, nor can she turn invisible. What she can do is see when people nearby are going to die. If they’re good people or are dying too young and she feels they deserve a second chance, she will bring them back from death if she gets to them soon enough. Then one day, she meets a man who has been killing some of those she was later healing. He’s not happy that she’s been undoing all of his “work” and has come to do something about it.

If you like superhero stories, I hope you’ll consider at least taking a look at this anthology. While I may not have enjoyed all of stories in this one, I did enjoy more of them than I disliked.

Firefax by A. M. Vergara

During the Revolutionary War, there are rumors of a city of gold that is hidden on an island whose location is known only to the Firefax fam...