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.

Monday, August 21, 2017

"Sophia" by Cynthia Woolf

Today’s book, Sophia by Cynthia Woolf, is another Mail Order Bride story. While it is technically the 4th book in the Brides of San Francisco series, these books can easily be read in any order or as stand alone novels. Some of the characters appear in multiple books in the series, yet there is no need for them to be read in any particular order. There are a few mildly descriptive sexual encounters, so this may not be the best story for younger readers, but they are not as graphically detailed as some of other books I have reviewed lately and are very appropriate to the story without being overwhelming or feeling unnecessary.

This story starts out with Sophia seeing her fiance (Martin) in a romantic embrace with her fraternal twin sister Angelina. He had recently convinced Sophia to have sex with him in advance of the wedding, yet now she learns that he intends to marry her sister instead. Sophia is dark haired and very curvy whereas Angelina is blonde, blue-eyed, and extremely slim with almost no curves. Their parents have always favored Angelina and given her everything she wanted. It seems that whatever Sophia has, Angelina has always felt a need to take from her. Now she has stolen Martin from Sophia and will be marrying him.

Unwilling to remain where everything reminds her of her foolishness in giving herself before marriage to the man who is now marrying her sister, Sophia visits the offices of a mail order bride agency. There she is immediately matched with a man in San Francisco who has 4 children and who recently lost his wife. Robert had been a ship’s captain, and while he was away his wife had been cheating on him with other men and was about to leave him when she died. He is not willing to give his heart again, which is just fine with Sophia as she has also had hers broken by someone professing love and then proving himself to be false.

When they meet, there is an instant attraction between them. Sophia confesses that her sister and former fiance considered her fat, but Robert lets her know that he does not feel the same. He likes her feminine curves and in no way considers her full figure as anything less than beautiful. The next day he takes her to meet his children and they are married that afternoon. Sophia adores his children, and unlike his previous wife, spends a great deal of time with them. Then she receives a letter from her sister.

It seems that Martin has died and as Angelina has no desire to wear mourning black for the next year, she is coming to stay with Sophia and her new husband. While Robert goes out of his way to reassure Sophia that even though she doesn’t have his love, she is not about to lose him to her sister. They are married, and unlike his deceased wife, he will not betray his marriage vows. As expected, once Angelina arrives, she begins making Sophia feel inferior and sets her mind to stealing her husband.

This story is well written, well edited, and entertaining. While it does come to the usual expected ending, there are some interesting twists along the way. If you enjoy mail order bride stories, this is a good one to read. I know I enjoyed it.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

"Pope Joan" by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Sorry for the delay in posting a new review. I took some time to track down and replace the book links on my earlier posts with links to the Kindle editions of the books rather than the paper editions. If any of those books interested you, take a look at them as the kindle editions tend to be less expensive and at least one of them was free when I updated my links.

Today’s book is the historical fiction novel Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross. It is a fascinating look at the life of a girl named Johanna (Joan) who lived during the 6th century. Joan’s father was a member of the clergy during the period in time when it was common for them to be married and have children. Unfortunately, it was also a time period where families wanted sons to carry on the family name, work the land, and follow in their father’s profession. Or in this case, to become priests and scholars. A daughter was considered almost worthless. Girls were only good for cooking, cleaning, sewing, and bearing children. To marry them off, a dowry needed to be provided, so they were also considered a drain on a family’s meager finances. They were considered less intelligent and incapable of reason. In other words, while Joan was loved by her mother and brothers, she was not truly wanted by her father, who had hoped for another son.

Joan, however, never understood why she was not supposed to learn the things her brothers did. She was very close to her eldest brother who secretly taught her to read and write, risking their father’s wrath in doing so. Joan was actually very smart and soaked up all she could learn from her brother’s teaching. It broke her heart when he became ill and died at a young age. Her eldest brother had been intended to become a scholar priest, and with his death, that destiny became her other brother’s. Unfortunately for him, he had neither the desire nor the aptitude for study that both the elder brother and his sister possessed.

When a scholar passed through the area with the potential to be hired by Joan’s father for her brother, Joan desperately hoped she would be able to learn from him. Like most men from that time, her father felt that education was only for the sons who were destined for the priesthood. The tutor, however, upon realizing that Joan was the more likely of the two children to appreciate and learn from him, only agreed to teach her brother on the condition that she was to also be taught by him. Given no choice if he wished for his son to continue his education, her father reluctantly agreed.

Eventually, the tutor gained a more prestigious position elsewhere. Before he left for good, he promised Joan that he would find a way for her to continue her studies. Where her brother had struggled with his education, she had soaked up the Latin and Greek as well as everything else she could and only wished to learn more. It was a few years before that promise was fulfilled. One day a group of soldiers arrived in the area. They had been sent to bring Johanna to the school to study with the other students. Unfortunately, her brother’s name was John and her parents convinced the soldiers that it was John, who had no desire to become a scholar priest, that they were supposed to retrieve and not Joan.

Unwilling to remain in a household where she was unappreciated and her desire to learn brought her nothing but punishments as her father tried to beat this unnaturalness out of her, she ran away and followed the soldiers. At the school, the amused head of the school allowed her to remain and to study with the boys, though she clearly could not be housed in the school’s dormitory with them. A Knight who was in attendance at the time offered to allow her to stay at his home with his family.

During the time she was at the school, Joan thrived. Her brother John enjoyed the military training he received with the other boys, though he hated the academic studies he was forced to endure. He had only been allowed to remain because of his sister attending the school. It was considered unseemly for her to be there without some sort of family member in attendance as well, so he was allowed to remain even though he was not academically inclined. The main teacher there was one who believed that girls were incapable of reasoning. He hated the fact that he was forced to teach her and would have gladly done anything to be rid of a girl in his classes.

When the knight who was Joan’s protector was away, his wife, who had realized the growing attraction between her husband and Joan, arranged for Joan to be married to a local boy and convinced Joan that it was her husband’s idea. The wedding was to take place before Sir Gerald would return, and there was no way for Joan to avoid it. Being married meant that she would belong to the man who wed her and she would no longer be allowed to study at the school. Her brother, who was only allowed there because of her, was to be sent to join a monastery by their father. He had hoped to become a soldier rather than a priest, but that would no longer be a possibility for him. He would be forced to become a priest and he blamed his sister.

During the wedding ceremony, the town was attacked by Viking raiders. As the whole town was gathered in the church and unarmed, there was no escape. Joan was lucky enough to find a place to hide that was not discovered by the raiders and was apparently the only survivor. As she knew she couldn’t remain there on her own, she changed into her brother’s clothing, cut her hair off, and travelled to the monastery to join the monks in John’s place. To all that had known her, Joan was considered to have been either killed or carried off as a prisoner by the Viking raiders that day.

There is much more to this story, but as usual I do not wish to spoil the whole book for you. It is well worth reading about how a young girl who was considered worth less than nothing one day manages to rise to become the Pope in Rome without having been discovered to be a woman rather than a man. It is a tale I definitely consider worth reading and would gladly recommend to anyone.

While this book is a work of fiction, there is a section at the end of the book where the author describes her research into this project. There is some debate as to whether there really was a female Pope. The author clearly believes there was and that many tried to erase her existence from history. I found her reasoning very compelling and am inclined to agree with her, though others will disagree that Pope Joan ever actually existed. Take a look at this book, read the extra info at the end provided by the author, and decide for yourself what you think.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"Underneath: a merfolk tale" by M.N. Arzu

As promised, here is the second review from my vacation reading. This one is a science fiction story involving merfolk. In this story, a man walking along a deserted beach comes across what he at first believes is a dead body wearing a fishtail costume. After calling 911, he realizes that the young man is still alive, and that the tail is actually part of his body and not a costume.

He records the encounter on his cellphone camera before the ambulance arrives to take the merman to the hospital. In the emergency room, it isn't long before the ER staff also realize the young man isn't human. They work to treat his injuries and save his life, though they don’t know how an apparent merman wound up injured and nearly dead, having washed up on the beach.

The merman clearly breathes air perfectly well, but where did he come from? Who was he? Was this his only form or could he somehow transform between merman and human? Were there others like him? Did they live among humans, in the ocean, or both? These were only some of the questions his discovery brought up.

Naturally, with a discovery such as this, government agencies and even the United Nations soon become involved. Ray (as the merman is called by his doctors) is transferred to an oceanic marine animal facility where he can be better (and more quietly) treated without the press printing stories and spreading rumors about a merman who was captured by the government is being held.

"Ray" is actually Christopher Brooks, the adopted son of the CEO of a tech company. His adopted family, like he himself, are merfolk who live quietly among the surface humans. They have the ability to transform between merfolk and human forms, although Christopher's tail injury has him currently trapped in his merman form until his tail can heal.

He also has another problem. The underwater city where a good portion of the merfolk reside has never been discovered or revealed to the human population, can he manage to keep the location a secret? Or will the scientists, the government officials, and the military men trying to study him get tired of his silence and move on to other methods to gain information from him before he can be rescued?

I liked this book. It was not merely a fantasy or a science fiction tale about the possibility of other forms of life besides our own. It was well thought out with believable reactions from all the characters involved, from the man who first found the merman to the family of the merman living among the humans. And while I do not have any type of medical knowledge or background myself, to me the actions and reactions of the various scientists, doctors, and military personnel involved seemed quite realistic as well.

This book is the first book in a series, though it does seem to work well enough as a stand alone novel for anyone simply wishing to read a single story. Will I continue on with the series? I haven't decided on that yet. I might at some point, but for now I think I will move onto something else for a bit. It was a good book, but not something I feel compelled to continue with right away.

Monday, August 14, 2017

"Cinder Heart: The Fairytale Prophecies" by Amy Linnabary

My apologies on the delay of new reviews. I have been on vacation and away from my computer, but I shall attempt to make up for the delay by posting reviews of the books I have read while we were gone. (With a little luck there should be at least a couple of reviews that I can post almost right away.)

This first post-vacation book review is about a book that I generally would describe as a "twisted fairy tale." It was based on the classic Cinderella tale with a few rather interesting twists. To begin with, we are introduced to a high school girl by the name of Gabriella (Gabby). As with the typical tale, she lives with her stepmother (Sybil Tremain) and two stepsisters (Deirdre and Ana). Her father is dead and Gabby is forced to work as a servant in her own home. However that is where most. though definitely not all, of the similarities end.

While Gabby is for all intents & purposes Cinderella, she also has started having her hands burst into flame when she gets angry. The very first time this happens is in the girls bathroom at school. Needless to say, this comes as quite an unpleasant surprise to Gabby as she has no idea how to control it.

Not long after that, one of Gabby's teachers reveals herself to be Gabby’s fairy godmother. It takes a minor display of magic to convince the high school senior of the truth of the whole situation so that she can begin to learn to control her newfound powers. This also comes with a warning that Gabby must keep everything secret as there are others like Gabby somewhere in the world whose lives also match the pattern of the classic fairy tales. Like Gabby, they will also have some type of power that they will need to learn to control as well as those who seek to find ways to use them for their own benefit once those powers are discovered.

One thing I will say that struck me as rather cheesy about the story was the fact that some of the scenes involving Gabriella’s mistreatment at the hands of her family felt almost as if they were lifted straight from the Disney cartoon. Other scenes were very different, but the ones that evoked the cartoon in my mind were just a little too obvious for my tastes.

Overall I found this a very interesting twist on a classic fairy tale and greatly enjoyed reading it. After all, a Cinderella with super powers? She could just as easily turn evil as she could be good. And with all that we know that Cinderella suffers at the hands of her stepfamily, who could blame her if she were to want to look out for herself first for a change? Also, what is to keep a fairy godmother from deciding to use her magic (as well as the powers of those she is meant to help) for her own benefit instead of helping those others?

There were a few spots in the book where the author could have used a good editor, but not enough to make me want to put the book aside and stop reading. The rest of the fairytale prophecies books should be an interesting series to read as well. I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for the next one in the series.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

"The Ruby Brooch" by Katherine Lowry Logan

Today I read the Time Travel Romance “The Ruby Brooch,” by Katherine Lowry Logan. The main character, Kitherina MacKlenna (Kit) survived a car crash on New Years Eve that killed both of her parents as well as her fiance. On this particular day, she received a letter that her father had left for her should something happen to him before he could tell her the tale of her birth himself.

It seems that Kit had been left on Sean MacKlenna’s doorstep, wrapped in a bloody shawl pinned with a ruby brooch. The brooch contained an inscription that when he read it aloud, magically transported Sean back to Independence, Missouri in the year of 1852. It took him some time living in the past before he was able to figure out how to return to his own time. When he returned home, it was with a woman named Mary that he had fallen in love with and married while living in 1852.

Sean and Mary raised Kit as their own, intending to explain everything they could about her origins to her when she was old enough, knowing that someday she would likely want to find her birth family. Kit grew up learning how to do everything that she would need to know in order to survive in the past. Being raised on a highly successful horse ranch was explanation enough for her to learn to ride, to shoot, to camp and cook on a campfire, and anything else that she would someday need to know if she chose to visit 1852 without having to explain to her why she was learning these things.

After doing her own research, Kit decides that she needs to go find out the truth for herself. She packs and loads a wagon with everything she thinks she will need, including a number of modern day medical supplies so that she will be prepared for any emergency she might find herself in (though she is careful to keep anything modern well hidden). As well as the medical supplies, she also hides a modern rifle with extra ammunition as she knows there will be dangers she will likely encounter that might require more than just the period pistol that she also carries.

I was very impressed with the amount of detail in this book. Clearly the author did her research on the time period that her main character visits. She included details such as a reference to the Donner party tragedy that took place around that time on the Oregon Trail. And while she is clearly a very talented writer who made certain that her book was as well edited as it was written, I did have one issue with this book that really disturbed me.

As a romance novel, I expected there to be sex scenes. (Yes there were, and yes, they were detailed enough to make the book inappropriate for younger readers.) I only had an issue with the scene where Kit loses her virginity. That scene was so problematic for me that I don’t even know how to explain my issues with it. I even handed the book to a friend and asked her to read that scene without telling her why. The expressions on her face told me that she found it as poorly done as I did. Oddly, this was the only sex scene that I had an issue with. The others were all very well done. (And yes, there were a good number of other sex scenes in the book. It was a romance novel, after all.)

Over all, I enjoyed this book for both the time travel and the romance aspects of the story. Would I be willing to read other books by this author? Yes, especially if they are as well researched and written as this one. (Although hopefully she does a better job describing any “first experiences” that her female characters may have in those books.)

If there are subjects or types of books that you would be interested in reading my reviews on, please feel free to leave a comment to let me know and I will try to include at least a few more of that type of book in future entries. Otherwise, you’re stuck reading about whatever I felt like reading that day. Regardless, I hope everyone is enjoying my reviews. Thank you for visiting my site and until next time!

Mom Kat

Friday, August 4, 2017

"Recoil: The Game is Real" by Joanne Macgregor

Today’s book, “Recoil: The game is Real”, takes place in what could be an alternate version of our world. Much of everything is the same, save for the fact that everyone keeps themselves very isolated from the people around them. At some point in the not too distant past, terrorists have attacked and set loose a deadly pandemic. There is currently still no cure and the disease is highly contagious. Those who catch it always die a slow and painful death. Because of this, most people tend to stay within their homes and wear protective gear when they must go outside or among others. School is attended online and most teenagers play in an online virtual reality game that involves different aspects of fighting terrorists to protect society.

In this book we follow a 16 year old girl by the name of Jinx E. Jones (Jinxy). JInxy plays a sniper in “the game.” In the beginning of the book, she wins a competition by “killing” the main terrorist and is offered a chance to attend a special training academy based on her in-game scores. There, she and others are trained physically & mentally based on their game specialties. For Jinxy, this feels like a wonderful opportunity as she has not gotten to spend much time with anyone other than her mother and brother since the beginning of the war. She soon proves herself to be an expert sniper, and along with the others attending the training camp, she graduates and is offered a position as a sniper shooting infected rats and other animals who are carriers of the plague.

While Jinxy is proud of her skill as a sniper, she doesn’t like the idea of actually killing anything. The other members of her squad soon manage to convince her that she will be helping to protect her family and other innocent citizens from these plague carriers. She eventually agrees to take the position, and does her best to harden her heart by telling herself that she is helping to save lives by shooting a few rats & other animals. Still, it bothers her much more than she likes to admit. And to make matters worse, being a sniper has cost her the love of another cadet. Once he found out what her specialty was, he broke up with her without any explanation. He wouldn’t even talk to her afterwards or explain what it was about her being a “ratter” that offended him so much.

Before long, her impressive skills bring her to the notice of the commander. “Sarge” begins trying to convince her that it is in everyone’s best interests for her to agree to accept missions involving killing infected humans to prevent the spread of the plague. When she hesitates, he takes her to visit an area hospital so that she can see for herself what happens to those who are infected. Again, though she is very upset at the idea of killing any living thing, she is convinced to accept this new assignment in the interest of protecting other innocent people.

She still doesn’t like the idea, but being young and impressionable, she is soon convinced that it is the right thing to do. Before long, they also manage to convince her to go on missions where she must assist in capturing terrorists themselves for interrogations. Again, she is not thrilled with the assignment but is convinced by the others that it is in the best interest of society as well as the best hope for protecting her family and everyone else. And finally, she manages to get her ex-boyfriend to talk to her. Realizing that she truly doesn’t know, he explains to her what is really going on...

I found this book somewhat disturbing because I could very easily see what happens in this story happening in the world today. (There is much more going on in the story than I explained here, but I don’t want to spoil the whole plot for you.) It is a very well written story and one that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys dystopian novels. This one really makes you think about whether or not something like this could really happen in today’s world. And if it did happen, how would it start?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

"Genevieve: Bride of Nevada" by Cynthia Woolf

Today I decided to indulge in a guilty pleasure of mine and read a Mail Order Bride novel. Why do I call it a guilty pleasure? Because just about every mail order bride book that I have read follows a pretty standard formula. 1) Something happens causing a young woman to need to relocate. Generally she doesn’t have a lot of money or options, so she winds up answering an advertisement in a newspaper from a man across the country who is looking for a wife. 2) She takes a long train ride to wherever her future husband lives and marries him the day she meets him. 3) There are usually a number of hardships or difficulties that they must endure and overcome together. And 4) Once they overcome these difficulties together, love wins out and their happy ending is ensured. There are a few variations of this from different authors, but in general that’s the standard formula. The book I chose for today was no different.

“Genevieve: Bride of Nevada” definitely counts as your standard Mail Order Bride novel. It’s one of a series of books that were written by a number of authors. In this series, there is a book for every state in the USA. This one focuses on Genny, a young woman who has just lost her job as a factory employee when the factory burns down. She answers an ad for a Mail Order Bride from a rancher in Nevada who was recently widowed and needs a wife to help him raise his two small children. The problem she encounters after she meets him is that he doesn’t intend for it to be a “real” marriage. His wife had died in childbirth and he is unwilling to let himself love another woman and risk losing her that way as well. And no “real” marriage means that there will never be any more children and no risk of losing someone else.

As she really has no other options at that point, Genny agrees and marries Stuart. She falls instantly in love with his children, and they are almost as quickly in love with her. Then she discovers that her new husband intends to share a bed with her, though there will be no physical intimacy between them. (Remember, he’s not willing to risk his heart or to father more children.) Unfortunately for Genny, she truly wishes to have children of her own in addition to the two of Stuart’s that she is helping to raise. As expected, she falls in love with a husband who keeps pushing her away.

Next comes the expected obstacle they must overcome. Genny, realizing that she loves her husband, but miserable over his unwillingness to return her feelings and make their marriage a “real” one, packs her few belongings, leaves her wedding ring behind, and returns to the nearby town. She hates leaving the children, (the youngest of which had just that day started calling her mama), but she can’t remain as nothing more than a caretaker and housekeeper. Back in town, she takes a job waitressing at the hotel restaurant in the hopes that she might at least be able to see the two children once in a while.

I’m not going to go into further detail as to what happens next. After all, I don’t want to give the whole story away. I’ve mentioned already that this book follows the standard formula for Mail Order Bride stories, so you can pretty much guess at what will happen. Several times this book did make me tear up, sometimes due to sadness and others at happy moments. (The subject is one of my guilty pleasures, after all). There were a couple of spots that could have been slightly better edited, but overall it wasn’t bad. It was a very quick book to read. I finished it in less than a day, and as expected, I did enjoy it. Hopefully you will too.

Witch Of the Black Circle <br>by Maria DeVivo

Josephine (Joephie) is a teenager who was cursed by a witch before she was born. Her mother has moved the two of them often. They never real...