Category: Book Reviews
Top Four Summer Reads by Michelle Scott, author and reader 0 comments

Michelle Scott has had stories appear in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, All Possible Worlds and Realms. Her fantasy novel, The Dragons of Hazlett was nominated for a 2009 EPPIE Award. Michelle’s YA novels include the vampire romance, Blood Sisters (99 cents), and the fantasy Uncommon Magic (99 cents). Her latest fantasy novel, An Anthem for the Battle Lands, ($12.95 paperback) was just released from Mundania Press, LLC. Michelle lives in southeast Michigan with her husband and three children.
 
Satan Loves You: (99 cents) The irreverent humor, outlandish story, and hilarious characters make this light-hearted romp through hell the perfect summertime read. The story revolves around Satan, a benighted evil deity whose work to process damned souls is thwarted by workers’ strikes, lack of funds, and lack of respect from his fellow supernatural beings. And with the Ultimate Death Match between heaven and hell rapidly approaching, Satan worries that he’ll lose the competition and be out of a job. But when a nun with an uncanny knack for accidentally killing people winds up on Satan’s doorstep, he finally finds a way to teach heaven a lesson once and for all. Hendrix’s humor has that Monty Pythonesque absurdity which made me laugh throughout the story. Unexpected left turns are one of the hallmarks of good comedy, and Hendrix’s book takes plenty of them.
  

The Wrath of Kings and Princes: ($2.99) Although the book is second in a series of novels, it is a stand-alone story. Brondt Kammfer tells the story of Childe Cern, the rebellious older son of an aging monarch. Cern’s father is attempting to persuade his son to take on the responsibilities of ruling the kingdom, but Cern, who is more interested in swords and women, refuses. And when Cern meets a mysterious young woman from a faraway village, he seals his fate by turning his back on his family. This may sound like a simple plot, but it is only one thread in this complex book. Kammfer expertly weaves together several different subplots making this book a fascinating, yet never confusing, read. Revenge, spurned love, dark magic, murder, and betrayal fill the pages of this novel. The book so successfully sucked me in that, by the end, I could not put it down.
Water for Elephants ($6.99) by Sara Gruen was one of those books that I promised myself I would hate since everyone else seemed to love it. But once I started reading, I knew that resistance was futile. Jacob Jankowski drops out of veterinary school and hires on to help with the exotic animals in a ramshackle traveling circus. But as Jacob, who is young, idealistic, and innocent, becomes more and more enmeshed in the dramas playing out in the circus, he realizes that humans are more violent and cruel than the wild animals in his care could ever be.
The setting alone, a depression-era travelling circus, was very gripping, but the characters won my heart. And not just the human ones. There’s plenty of personality in the menagerie as well. Although some parts of the book are difficult to read due to the animal cruelty involved, overall, the story plays out nicely.
The Lonely Polygamist ($7.57) by Brady Udall. Here, Golden Richards, a man with four wives and twenty-eight children is so desperately lonely that he seek attention elsewhere. Although Richards loves his family and knows that they are pining for his affection, he is trapped in his chaotic life and feels that he has nothing left of himself to give. The story is heartbreaking, but the delivery is humorous. In the tradition of such writers as John Irving and Richard Russo, Udall creates a book that is as funny as it is tragic. This isn’t so much a story about fundamentalists and religion as it is about the human condition. The book comments on how it is possible to be surrounded by people yet remain utterly alone. So even while snickering over the absurd situations that Golden and his wives find themselves in, I was nodding my head in understanding. The Lonely Polygamist is a book that is surprisingly easy to relate to.

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Book Reviews: Memories of a Dirt Road Town and One Lane Bridge 0 comments

Maybe it’s a summer thing, I’ve read two books with road themes, at least in the title.
Memories of Dirt Road Town was offered at 99 cents by the publisher to honor author Stephen Bly, who passed away this summer.
Develyn Worrell, a fifth grade teacher in Indiana, is ready to escape. It is the start of summer vacation and she sets out to find a town in Wyoming she remembers visiting as a child. She divorced her husband three years ago because of his affair. Their daughter blames her for the divorce and her father’s recent death.
Devy heads out in her Jeep Cherokee with only a vague idea of where she’s headed. It’s the craziest and also most exhilarating thing she’s ever done. She finds her way to a wild horse auction and meets some true Wyoming characters – a bronc buster, a woman named Casey Cree-Ryder who lives in a horse trailer, a wealthy rancher who owns half of two counties, a burro, and a landlord who has a secret to hide.
The beginning of the book, involving two middle aged school teachers talking, is rather awkward and prolonged. But once the story reaches Wyoming, it comes to life, just like Devy, and Bly has a vivid and humorous way of describing the beauty and desolation of the West. There’s a romantic element of the story, but that thread doesn’t get completely developed, so looks like I’ll have to read the rest of the trilogy to find out who gets the girl.
Memories of A Dirt Road Town is now priced at $9.39, but another of Bly’s books Throw the Devil Off the Train is a cheap read at $4.99.
 
 
The second road trip I’ve read this summer was One Lane Bridge. It is written by Don Reid, amazing song writer and lead singer for the Statler Brothers, and this book moved with the rhythm and honesty of a good country song.
J.D. Wickman is good-natured middle-aged guy dealing with typical trials – his mother is in a nursing home, his daughter wants to quit college, an employee is stealing from his business. One night he takes a ride to clear his mind and comes across a poor farmer and his teenage daughter. Only later does he realize the one lane bridge he crossed took him back in time 70 years. So now, added to his problems, everyone thinks he’s crazy.
The book moved quickly and provided an ending that was surprising and satisfying.
This book was offered supercheap during the Big Deal this summer and is now priced at $9.99.

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Top Four Summer Reads by April, an avid reader 2 comments

April is an avid reader. In an alternate reality she is a young dragon just learning to fly. You can find her on Goodreads here.
 
Lord of Scoundrels (Loretta Chase, $1.99) If you like historical romances you would be doing yourself a favor in reading this one. This was one of the most romantic books I’ve read. The two are clearly fated to be together and yet they’ll scratch and tear their way apart as long as they can. It is lots of fun with giggles and snorts and a possible tear here and there. I highly recommend this romance and I am now planning on reading some of Chase’s other works because I liked this one so much. It’s that good.
 
 

Walking Dead (C.E. Walker, $8.27) I just got into the Urban Shaman series and have enjoyed every minute. This is an urban fantasy that isn’t really like all the others. Joanne Walker is part Irish and part Native American and it seems that she is much more than she thought she was. So while she really could be the ‘kick butt heroine’ you generally see in the UF worlds, she is mostly confused, trying to learn all she needs to learn to help those around her and do the best she can while trying to keep her life together. She is fun to follow; she stumbles nearly as often as she hits a home run but her heart is in the right place. Very good reading with strong supporting characters. Walking Dead is book four of the series. The first book Urban Shaman is available for $5.54.
Stranger (Blades of the Roses) (Zoe Archer, $4.30) This one is a little harder to categorize, I’d call it a fantasy adventure romance but you could call it anything you want! The fourth and final of the Blades of the Rose series. Each of the books tell the story of one of the Blades of the Rose, people aware that magic exists in the world who also tend to have some sort of gift of their own and who are sworn to oppose those who wish to exploit the world’s magic for their own ends. That in itself would make a good fantasy adventure story but each of these Blades happen to be unattached and somehow find their soulmate on their worldly adventures. You don’t necessarily need to read them in order (Warrior, Scoundrel, Rebel, Stranger) but they are better when you do so. The complete series of the four books is available for $9.99.
Retribution Falls (Chris Wooding, $9.99) One other book that tickled my reading bone this summer was this irreverent steampunk fantasy adventure with questionable heroes and villains. The back of the book says it all:  Sky piracy is a bit out of Darian Frey’s league. Fate has not been kind to the captain of the airship Ketty Jay—or his motley crew. They are all running from something. Crake is a daemonist in hiding, traveling with an armored golem and burdened by guilt. Jez is the new navigator, desperate to keep her secret from the rest of the crew. Malvery is a disgraced doctor, drinking himself to death. So when an opportunity arises to steal a chest of gems from a vulnerable airship, Frey can’t pass it up. It’s an easy take—and the payoff will finally make him a rich man.

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Book Review: Sanctuary of Roses – from The Medieval Herb Garden Series 0 comments

Fran Baker sent a review of Sanctuary of Roses by Coleen Gleason: Don’t you just love it when a new-to-you author delivers a fantastic read? That’s what Colleen Gleason does in her medieval romance, Sanctuary of Roses.
Her wonderfully complex characters live in a time of intrigues, secrets and simmering passions. Lady Madelyne de Belgrume is an herbalist, an heiress . . . and is soon to become a nun. Lord Gavin Mal Verne is a warrior, a widower . . . and has been charged by the king with finding a husband for “the nun.” Throw in delightfully steamy love scenes, a battle royal between Mal Verne and his sworn enemy, and a few surprise twists, and you have a terrific story. I highly recommend this book for lovers of historicals. Sanctuary of Roses is selling today for $3.99.
 
Ms. Gleason has a novella in the Medieval Herb Garden Series that is selling for 99 cents . Lavender Vows: Lord Bernard of Derkland needs to find a wife, if for no other reason than to satisfy his father and his incessant badgering. He has no interest in marrying, but when he meets the beautiful and gentle Joanna of Swerthmore, he knows immediately that she is the one. The only problem is: she’s already wed.
 
The third book in the series is also available for Kindle: A Whisper of Rosemary: ($3.99) Dirick of Derkland, man of the king, sets off on a mission of revenge after his father’s brutal murder. His mind is bent solely on vengeance until he meets the beautiful, spirited Maris of Langumont. Maris of Langumont has vowed never to wed…but her father must do his duty to protect her, and he promises her to Victor d’Arcy – a man who makes her blood run cold. Bon de Savrille rests his eyes on Maris only once and decides she must be his. He whisks her away just before her betrothal, determined to force her into marriage. When Dirick appears at the castle where Maris is held captive, she believes he is part of the plot … and it’s nearly his death she causes during her plan to escape.

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Book review: Fleeting Memory – a cozy mystery 2 comments

Book review by: Maria Schneider, an avid reader and the author of the Sedona O’Hala Mystery series. The first is Executive Lunch ($1.99)
 
Fleeting Memory (An Enescu Fleet Mystery) by Serban Young is a zany, fun and amusing read. It’s got a bit of Sherlockian pastiche, a bit of romance, a lot of clues, a few dead bodies (some of which don’t seem to stay dead), some slap-stick humor (yeah, I gave in and had to laugh out loud a couple of times even though you *know* I’m very reserved and do not snicker at just any silly joke. I pride myself on being a humor snob, so I reined myself in before the giggles completely dissolved into tears and helpless laughter.) Great way to spend a lazy weekend. Fleeting Memory is selling today for $2.99.
 
Sherban also has this very interesting puzzle book called Deadly Allusions ($2.99). I haven’t read it yet, but I’m curious about it. Deadly Allusions, published by Dover in print, is a series of 60 Puzzles for the Cultured Detective. I’m not very knowledgable on trivia, but these trivia-themed minute mysteries are supposedly a murder-filled crossword without the squares. The object of the game is to pick up on the particular reference in the story and apply it to one of the suspects. Topics include history, literature, art, music, sports, movies, food, drink and word origins. Each whodunit features a hint (for those times when your sidekick has let you down) and an explanation of the solution.

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Book Review: The Complete Book of Questions: 1001 Conversation Starters for Any Occasion 0 comments

Ever find yourself unable to think of anything to say? Need an ace-in-the-hole to start the conversation when you are at a mix-and-mingle? Do you lead a small group of some kind – a book club, a work group, a Bible study? Are you the one always trying to find an ice breaker activity? Have a difficult time finding a subject to discuss with your grandchildren? This book of 1001 conversation starters was included in the Big Deal Sale and is still selling for $2.99 today. After asking myself what was keeping me from buying the book and not getting a good answer, I one-clicked.
 
The questions start with ones most everyone will feel comfortable answering. Well, except #10: What books on your shelf are begging to be read? My answer: All of them and please don’t ask how many that is. (You might want to update this question to include books on your Kindle.) 🙂
 
The questions become more probing and personal as the book progresses. Here are a couple you might ask your teenager: # 539. What does it mean when two people are said to have “chemistry?” or #559. What’s the best way to resist peer pressure?
 
If you want to create a record of your life or your relatives’ lives, the questions in the Blast from the Past chapter might help you get the process started. I need to ask my father #304: What was your first job? How much did you get paid?
 
The book’s final chapters address ethics and spiritual matters and ask probing questions about faith, eternity, and the role of religion in society. You can search all through the book, but you won’t find answers. This is about what you and those you are talking with think, not what the author of the book thinks.
 
Written by Garry Poole, The Complete Book of Questions: 1001 Conversation Starters for Any Occasion is available for only $2.99.

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Book Review: Saint Training 0 comments

Mary Clare has purposed in her heart to commit her life to serving God and the Catholic church, becoming a mother superior in her quest for perfection. A topic this serious should not be laugh-out-loud funny, but it is. With Saint Training, Elizabeth Fixmer has written a delightful novel for the middle grades that is a funny read for children and adults alike.
 
Mary Clare is the oldest daughter in a very large family. She takes on the weight of too little money for the family’s needs, too much work to be done around the house, and too many changes in her world and around the world in 1967.
 
Mary Clare experiences conflicted feelings as she tries to fix everything around her, understand her changing emotions, and practice being a saint, sin-free and serving others. In seeking sinlessness, poor Mary Clare is a failure before she begins, but her dogged determination is admirable.
 
If you are familiar with Catholic schools or mass, the book will be more meaningful. Even without the background, the book is enjoyable. Not reading this book just might be a sin.
 
I downloaded the book when Zondervan Publishing offered it free last year. Today Saint Training is selling for only 99 cents . The book isn’t preachy; there’s no hidden message; it’s just a fun read.
 
Click here to purchase Saint Training

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Book Review: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell 1 comment

This Harry Potter-esq tale is a dashing good tale that weaved a bit of magic spell as I read it. Priced at just $2.99 don’t be surprised if it pulls a vanishing act soon.
I read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell as a book club selection, so it wasn’t something I would have selected on my own, but thoroughly enjoyed. It is very long – 800 print pages- and the beginning is slow. But, say about 200 pages into it, you get snared in the cooky world and start to believe in magic. It has plenty of dry British humor and a bit of a dark side, but not enough to be scary.
Book Description: Susanna Clarke’s novel is an epic tale of nineteenth-century England and the two magicians who emerge to change its history. In the year 1806, in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars, most people believe magic to have long since disappeared from England — until the reclusive Mr. Norrell reveals his powers and becomes a celebrity overnight. Another practising magician emerges: the young and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s pupil and the two join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic and soon he risks sacrificing not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything else he holds dear.
This book is selling today for $2.99.

Click here to purchase Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

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Book Review: Hard Spell: An Occult Crimes Unit Investigation by Justin Gustainis 2 comments

Book reviewed by: Maria Schneider who is the author of Under Witch Moon , an urban fantasy that is not pulp or hard boiled, but does involve a witch. She reads almost anything, including thrillers, urban fantasy and mysteries of all sorts. You can find her work on Amazon.
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If you like hard-boiled crime fiction and wizardry, this is the book for you. Hard Spell is edgy, dark and spell-binding.
It starts with: “My name’s Markowski. I carry a badge.” That sets the tone, and the succinctness gives you an idea of the pace: non-stop, turn the page, what happens next. It’s part thriller, part urban fantasy and still manages to have a detective with a lot of loyalty and passion for stopping those on the wrong side of the law, especially when they come after people he knows. Like any good pulp fiction there are clichés–but Gustainis weaves in a unique flavor, some awesome world building and some creative characters. He has a lot to chose from: vampires, banshees, humans, and even an ogre or two. He creates his own history; a mash of witch hunt facts, modern day settings and creatures from both. Gustainis does it all with a flair that keeps the plot moving. For the first quarter I was skeptical–wondering at this “huge evil” and the “certain doom” that was ill-defined and a little too pat for a good plot, but as any good book does, that plot was filled in. There were no info dumps so it took some time to learn about Markowski, his past and the nature of the evil being fought. Markowski is not magical himself; he relies on his wits, his gun and after he proves himself, his partner.
Formatting: Chapter Breaks are completely missing so there are some extremely jarring transitions. From one paragraph to the next, the characters are suddenly in a different place or a new character that wasn’t in a previous conversation, is now talking. This is obviously a formatting mistake (Chapter Headings and page breaks didn’t make it in the Kindle version). Once I figured out this anomaly, it was not nearly as disconcerting.
Language warning: This is noir and involves cops, SWAT teams and crime. The language is not safe for work. It was natural in most spots, but probably could have been toned down in a couple of scenes without losing anything.
If you like Dresden Files, I think you’ll like Hard Spell. Today this book is only 99 cents!

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Repost of Book Review: Mozart’s Sister 0 comments

We are reposting this book review today as Mozart’s Sister is now selling for only $2.99.
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Thank goodness I stuck with this book to see it through to the end.
This book by Nancy Moser is, obviously, about Mozart’s Sister Anna Maria, who usually went by Nannerl. It is clearly a fictionalized account, but is thoroughly researched so it makes for a lazy way to learn some interesting history.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, known to his older sister as Wolfie, begins to display his musical genius as a young boy. For an older sister who is nearly as gifted at playing the piano, this makes for a strained relationship. Their father is determined to show the world their musical gifts are from God and continually pushes them to perform before audiences. When they were just 12 and 7, they set out on a Grand Tour of Europe, playing before royalty in many countries.
As such, the first part of the book read like a travelogue of 18th Century Europe. The first person narration hardly sounds like a young girl, except for repeated complaints that her little brother receives more attention and Nannerl’s predictable remarks that it wasn’t fair she couldn’t be a composer just because she was female.
Even so, the story was interesting enough to keep me reading.
The second half became much more interesting. Nannerl and Mozart were separated when he went to Vienna and she had to cope with her father’s efforts to control his son from afar. She also came to realize that her most marriageable years had passed while she was occupied with music. It is a far more interesting tale to see her balance her gifts in music with just-as-strong desires to be a wife and mother. Nannerl’s situation is made more complicated by her brother’s notoriety which was not well received in their hometown of Salzburg and the archbishop’s desire to retaliate for perceived slights from the Mozart men.
I don’t know much about classical music, yet I thought the book would have benefited from stronger musical themes. Overall, I found it a rewarding read. If Kindle books are ever accompanied by a made-for-the-book musical score when you read them, this could be a real knockout.
Mozart’s Sister is selling for $2.99 in the Kindle store.

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