Category: Book Reviews
Book Review: Ava’s Man – A family chronicle by Rick Bragg 0 comments

Rick Bragg can flat out tell a story.
Ava’s Man ($1.99) brings to life his maternal grandfather, a man who died before Bragg’s birth.
Bragg listened to the family tales and heard the love and admiration that made the Charlie Bundrum larger than life. Bragg tells us the story of his family and the working-class poor in the Appalachian foothills who endured stark poverty, sickness, and death, yet raised their families by loving them deeply.
If you enjoy Southern literature, American history or biographies, I encourage you to read this book. It embodies the best of Bragg’s writing as the story is personal. It brings outright laughter and tears, and reminds you of the strong men in your own life. Buy it today while it is only $1.99.
Other books by Rick Bragg:
My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South – $10.29
All Over but the Shoutin’ – $11.99
The Prince of Frogtown – $14.99

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Book Review: The Life List – Contemporary women’s novel 0 comments

The Life List is a charming novel recommended to me by a friend.
With a little bit of chick lit tone, but sincere and lovable characters, it broke out of the mold with a fresh story.
Brett appears to be the young career woman who has it all. The book opens with her grieving her mother’s death. She expects to be named CEO of her mother’s cosmetic corporation. But the will has an unusual
stipulation. Brett’s mother had saved her seventh grade list of dreams – the life list – and instructs Brett to complete all the unfinished tasks.
The adolescent dreams – like owning a horse – seem ridiculous to Brett. And others, like having a good relationship with her late father, seem impossible. As she achieves each one, her mom’s lawyer reads a note that her mother had written before her death. In the process, Brett discovers not only that her mom knew her better than she knew herself, but that her seventh-grade self also had some wonderful dreams.
The Life List had terrific character development and the plot unfolded nice and slowly, but with enough unpredictable developments to keep me guessing.
Click here to purchase The Life List

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Housekeeping: Kindle Touch Security Hole and Short and Sassy Reviews and Cheap Reads 0 comments

Kindle Touch Security Hole
If you have a Kindle Touch, you need to read this article.
Lynn alerted us to a news item on Tuesday regarding a security issue which could mean trouble for Kindle Touch owners. A German company heise (sic) Security found that there is a NPAPI plug-in that can execute administrative privileges on your Touch if you access certain webpages.
What’s that mean to the average Touch user? If you go to one of these webpages via your Kindle, a hacker could erase everything on your Kindle or access your Amazon account information.
Not wanting to waste the security hole, a browser-based hacking program has become available that will allow you to install unauthorized software. So if there is a rogue Sudoku game you have to have on your Touch. . . .you can now do it.
Until the announcement this week very few people knew about the security issue so widespread hacking does not appear to be a problem. Amazon has been working on a solution known as a patch, but don’t hold your breath. Amazon has known about problem for three months.
Check your firmware version on your Touch. If you have version 5.1.0 you might want to refrain from web browsing just to be safe. There’s no solution for you to download to fix this problem. If you just purchased a Touch, your device may have version 5.1.1 which does not have the security flaw.
 
Short and Sassy Reviews
Over the last few months I have read many short pieces and will be sharing short and sassy reviews in the weeks to come. Hope you can find a few short reads to enjoy this summer.
 

Upstaged by Republicans (99 cents) by Bob Olson: In this very short story set in 1938, the author’s parents hosted the local Republican party members for an Independence Day picnic. The author and his friends created a play for the evening’s entertainment. Before the curtain rises, the young acting troupe is upstaged by the Republicans. An amusing, very short story to read this election year.
You Again ($1.99) by Carolyn Scott: A dynamite young woman from a notorious crime family and a by-the-book cop are reunited when the young woman breaks into a house and the cop comes calling following the crime. Lily is trying to make up for the sins of her father; Luke wants to make up for pushing Lily out of his life two years earlier.
This novella is well-written, moves at a good pace and is on the spicy side. Set in Melbourne, Australia, this contemporary romance is worth the money. There was one small typo – a critical word was left out of the next to the last paragraph. OOPS! Download includes an excerpt from Surrender ($2.99) by C.J. Archer.
The Peach Pies (free) by Erik Martin: An amusing story that may or may not have its genesis in an actual event or person. If you have ever baked late into the night to make the perfect item for the bake sale, you will identify with the mother in this story. She was determined to bake perfect peach pies to upstage the woman who always contributes the “must buy” item. The story is a bit predictable, but the woman has a genius solution to her dilemma. I would have stopped the story right there, but the bake sale was at a parochial school so confession was probably necessary.
If you have ever been the mother who longs to be the perfect baker, you must read this story. You will find the perfect solution when you have a peach pie-type dilemma.

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Guest Book Review by Amber Drake: All The Paths of Shadow by Frank Tuttle – Now only $3.99 0 comments

Amber Drake, an avid reader of everything including cereal boxes, reviews for BSC Reviews and tries to keep track of her life and thoughts on her blog, http://www.dragonashes.com/ (Dragon Ashes), provided this review:
The Paths of Shadow by Frank Tuttle: You need to read this book. Why, you ask? Because I give it five stars for doing a bang-up job of keeping me entertained throughout. This is a wizard fantasy but with a cozy mystery-like atmosphere and has magic, ghosts, talking plants, feuding wizards, mysterious towers and just a touch of mayhem. In addition, there are no cliffhangers or unnecessary and/or inappropriate scenes. It is chock full of good reading.
 
Book description: As the newly appointed mage to the Crown of Tirlin, Meralda Ovis has no choice but to undertake King Yvin’s ill-conceived task. Tirlin’s first female mage, and the youngest person to ever don the robes of office, Meralda is determined to prove once and for all that she deserves the title. The Tower, though, holds ancient secrets all its own. Secrets that will soon spell destruction for all of Tirlin—unless Meralda can unravel a monstrous curse laid by a legendary villain seven centuries before she was born.
An ancient curse. A haunted tower. A clamorous gathering of nobles, mages, and kings from the Five Realms come together in Tirlin for the fifth-year Accords. Meralda finds herself facing far darker foes than any mere shadow of the tower. You can buy this fantasy today for the reduced price of $3.99.
Click here to purchase All The Paths of Shadow

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Book Review: The Messenger – Free as of May 14 0 comments

In The Messenger, Siri Mitchell explores the Revolutionary War and brings to life an exciting element of history.
As a Quaker, Hannah Sunderland feels caught between sides. Her father insists the family remain completely neutral, even as British soldiers occupy the city and take over the family’s home. Hannah’s twin brother Robert signs up with the rebels and is taken prisoner. Though her father forbids visiting him, Hannah wants to do something to ease the starvation and deprivation the prisoner are facing.
She encounters Jeremiah Jones, the local tavern owner. Jeremiah lost an arm while serving as in the British Army. Revenge compels him to send covert messages on what he overhears from soldiers visiting his tavern. When he needs to sneak a message into the prison, he develops a plan to secure a pass for Hannah if she delivers the message.
The characters are very well-developed. Hannah was especially intriguing as she tried to come to terms with her faith, her father’s instructions, Jeremiah’s pressure and the questions in her heart. Jeremiah was an unlikely but engaging hero. His injury, and his frustration with it, figured prominently in the story. I was surprised, however, that the story did not move more quickly. For a spy novel, more suspense and danger would have been expected.
Mitchell brings extensive research and a well-written story together to create a compelling read. Currently, this book is selling for $9.68 freein the Kindle Store, as of May 14.
Click here to purchase The Messenger
 
I received this book free as part of Bethany House’s review program. It was not required that I give a positive review, but solely to express my own thoughts and opinions of this book,

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The Curse of Chalion – Epic fantasy by Lois McMaster Bujold – 99 cents 0 comments

Laurie sent us a note to tell us about one of her favorite books that she found in the Kindle store at a greatly reduced price. When asked, she wrote a wonderful review, too. Thanks, Laurie!
 
Though Lois McMaster Bujold may be best known for her Hugo-winning science fiction Vorkosigan novels, she also wrote a wonderful trio of connected fantasy novels, set in a complexly imagined world where unexpected heroes (and heroines) discover the depth of their own strength and interactions with the gods have intense, thought-provoking, and wide ranging effects.
The Curse of Chalion is the first book of the three (followed by Paladin of Souls ($7.99) and The Hallowed Hunt ($6.99)) and one of my favorite novels in any genre. I was beyond delighted to discover it was available for only $.99 — the only problem is that you will want to go buy the other novels at full price, even though each of them can stand alone!
Click here to purchase The Curse of Chalion

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Book Review by Maria Schneider – Silenced by the Yams – A cozy mystery – 99 cents 0 comments

If you’ve ever read The Spellman Files you know how zany things can get when a dysfunctional family intrudes in a murder investigation. Well, the Spellmans have nothing on Barbara Marr. She’s a one-lady adventure (read: disaster waiting to happen) all by herself.
In this third Barbara Marr book, Barb is out to save an old friend from the slammer. There’s been a murder and Frankie, the ex-mafia man, is the assumed killer. This is a cozy read, with a full cast of endearing characters: Colt, Howard, the three girls, and Barbara’s mom. Add in Howard’s mom, a bird, a dog and enough criminal characters to provide mad confusion and your head will spin as you follow the improbable trail of clues to the end. The pace is quick and funny and as with the best cozies, it’s a chance to spend time with characters you’ve been waiting to see again.
Silenced by the Yams is selling for only 99 cents through the month of February. Take the Monkeys and Run (99 cents) and Citizen Insane ($2.99) are the first two books in the series. You can buy all three books for a total of $4.97.
 
Maria Schneider is the author of Catch an Honest Thief (99 cents for very limited time). She hunts high and low for good books to read and leaves no page unturned.

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Housekeeping – Review of Books I Don’t Finish and Paula’s Top 4 for 2011 22 comments

Should I write reviews on books I do not finish?
I read many books I would not recommend. A more accurate statement would be that I read portions of many books. Time is too valuable to continue reading a book that isn’t well-written, has no plot or point, lacks vibrant characters, has offensive material that wasn’t made known in the description, or is so full of grammatical errors that reading is a struggle.
Should I write a customer review to let others know my opinion? My first thought is that I’ve already wasted enough time trying to read the book, spending time on a review is just more time wasted. That’s not helping the community of readers, though.
I read many customer reviews of books in the Kindle Store. Amazon was groundbreaking in allowing and encouraging customers to post reviews. Eager readers quickly took to the keyboards to give their thoughts and ratings. The community flourished and readers enjoyed opinions from non-professionals who were down-to-earth in their reviews. Would a professional reviewer say, “It was an okay beach read, but I would never pay more than $5 for it.”?
 
For the customer review process to succeed, the participants must remain honest. With the Kindle and the boom of independent publishing authors found that, if they could game the system, they would sell more books. If 20 of their friends posted 5-star reviews, their book would appear popular and well-written. If someone wanted to blackball an author, 20 friends could pan their book. The review community is poorer by both actions.
Some reviewers do not remain on task. Political books are given 1 star reviews by those who have a negative opinion of the subject or person, but provide no evidence of reading the book. One romance reviewer gave a book a 1 star review because the book contained sexual content and he was reading to find books for a Christian audience. The book did not state that it was written for his audience nor did it claim to be free of sexual content. I don’t believe his review was valid.
 
I read many children’s books for our junior site. Grammar and punctuation errors appear in some independently published books. How will our children learn basic language skills if their reading material is riddled with errors?
If I read a book that creates a strong opinion, positive or negative, I believe a review should be written. The review should be factual and tactful, but clear. If a book has formatting, grammatical, and/or plot inconsistencies, I should let others know. If the book has content that is not mentioned in the description, I should be honest about it. Graphic violence, sex, and language can be offensive to readers.
 
I have much more to say on this subject, but I need to go on-line and post reviews for about 20 romance novels I could not read to the end. The reviews will basically be the same:

I did not finish this book because the characters could only think about sex from the moment their eyes first met; they had no meaningful conversation; the plot was thin as it revolved around their constant lust and acting on that lust; and to label this book a romance is a misuse of the word.

 
Perhaps I could say it more tactfully:

I did not finish this book. The story lacked romantic tension between the hero and heroine. If they were a real couple, the relationship would last six months at most because the only thing holding them together is lust.

I’m making a commitment to read non-fiction this year.
What are your thoughts about reviewing books that didn’t meet your expectations?
 
Paula’s Top 4 for 2011
I did read a few books to the last screen. I purchased all of the Georgette Heyer novels when they were offered for $1.99 each last summer and I hope to read more of her gentle writing in 2012. Read my previously posted reviews of The Unfinished Clue and The Convenient Marriage. Unless otherwise stated, books reviewed on this site are purchased.
 
Between The Lines ($4.99) This well-written historical romantic suspense novel is very different from the typical mail-order bride plot. Kathy Otten has written a charming tale of two people brought together under unusual circumstances and how love blossomed between them in spite of family interference. Meg Grayson is a naive young lady and her over-protective brothers have done everything in their power to keep her that way. Brendan Kelly is a man with a checkered past who would never have won the heart of a woman like Meg. She’s stubborn; he’s smitten; and there’s trouble brewing all around them.
 

Deep in the Valley ($3.59) This first book in Robyn Carr’s Grace Valley Trilogy introduces June Hudson, a single physician returned to her home town in rural northern California to practice medicine with her father. This series was written before Ms. Carr’s well-known Virgin River series and is a bit dated with a lack of technology. The novels are more about rural health care and small town life than romance. Dr. Hudson’s love interest is a minor plot. Just Over the Mountain and Down by the River are available for $4.72 each.
 
World’s Shortest Stories of Love and Death ($5.23) Edited by Steve Moss, this book introduces the 55-word story and I fell in love with the novelty of such a compact but complete story. Written by well-known and unknown authors, the book has stories of humor, mystery, romance, horror, suspense, and history – all in one book. By the way, this is a 55-word review.
 
Last Known Position ($3.99) I wrote a review of this book for our Veterans Day post. I consider this book by W. L. Heath one of the best I read in 2011. The intensity of the situation that these men faced daily was vividly written. The book provided a now-favorite expression to describe someone whom you admire and respect: I’d be safer in his socks than mine.

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Top Four Inspirational Reads for 2011 by Susan 0 comments

This is Susan and I read a bunch of Christian fiction in 2011. Here are four of my favorites from the past year, which I downloaded when offered free or received from publishers.
 
Sixteen Brides, as you can imagine, has quite a cast of characters but they each had such distinct traits, it was easy to keep them straight. This is a humorous story with a bit of romance and a strong sense of sisterhood and surviving on the Nebraska prairie. It was delightful to read and is priced at $8.99. Book Description: Sixteen Civil War widows living in St. Louis respond to a series of meetings conducted by a land speculator who lures them west by promising “prime homesteads” in a “booming community.” Unbeknownst to them, the speculator’s true motive is to find an excuse to bring women to the fledging community of Plum Grove, Nebraska, in hopes they will accept marriage proposals shortly after their arrival!
 

O Little Town was written by Don Reid, lead singer of the Statler Brothers and is loosely based on their hometown in Virginia. The small-town atmosphere where everyone knows everyone’s business and Christmas is in the air made it feel like visiting home. The book is available for $9.99.
A new teacher arrives at the one-room schoolhouse in Nebraska and you know romance is about to break out. Courting Miss Amsel is just what you’d expect, with a few twists of the unexpected. This book is selling today for $8.99.
Imaginary Jesus is bit of a different story. The author is hanging out at the coffee shop with Jesus, when the Apostle Peter walks in and tells him that’s not the real Jesus. They go on a journey together, confronting counterfeits – like Magic 8 Ball Jesus. It’s an entertaining look at some deep theology. The book is available for $9.39.

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Top 4 for 2011 for Young Adult Fiction by several readers 1 comment

Recently several site users have mentioned young adult fiction titles as books they have enjoyed. Here are four of their recommendations.
 
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner ($1.99) Jackie wrote: This is a GREAT series. I read The Thief about a year ago, and promptly got the next 2 (The Queen of Attolia ($5.99) and The King of Attolia ($6.99)) for my Kindle. I was so excited when I saw this great discount – my set is complete! This is one great buy everyone should take advantage of!
Book Description: The king’s scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king’s prison. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.
 

LuvMyKindle would gave a shout out for Glenn Bullion’s two stand alones, Demonspawn and Mind Slide. They are both YA paranormal’s with males as the lead characters; both are distinctive, fast-moving stories combining likeable characters, action, suspense, friendship, a bit of violence/horror, and (non-graphic) romance.
Demonspawn ($2.99) My name’s Alex. I used to think I was normal. I have a job, an apartment, good friends. I have a sister I adore, and the most beautiful woman in the world happens to be my best friend. I see ghosts. So what, right? It’s on television all the time. All kinds of people see ghosts. But seeing ghosts turns into seeing demons. Seeing demons turns into walking through walls. It only keeps getting better. It just so happens I’m half demon, the only one of my kind.
Mind Slide ($2.99) A random act of nature changed Mason’s life forever. He lost his parents on that fateful day, even his memories of them. But he gained something in return. Mason has the ability to “mind slide”, the ability to project his consciousness. He can be anywhere in the world. Watching. Listening.
Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach ($1.99) Stacey wrote: Stupid Fast is a book that I have in my high school library, that never stays on the shelf. It is laugh out loud funny; I’ve even gotten the boys to pass it around.
Book Description: Fifteen-year-old Felton Reinstein has always been on the smallish side, but in his sophomore year he starts growing…and growing. During gym one day he smokes the football jocks in a 600-yard race. Felton has never been interested in sports, but there’s no doubt-he is “stupid fast.” As he juggles his newfound athletic prowess, his mom’s sudden depression, an annoying little brother, and his first love, he discovers a shocking secret about his past which explains why he’s turning out the way he is.

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