February Book Reviews

I’m still buried in editing, but I figured I’d better make an appearance on the old blog!  February was a fun month of reading. I hope you enjoy browsing my 4 and 5-star reviews. Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

Life Lines by Sue Vincent

This collection of 52 poems by Sue Vincent is a gem. I’d give this book 6 stars if I could. It’s hard to put into words how moving I found Vincent’s poetry. The poems are free form reflections on the profound moments of life, the deep emotional wells of love, loss, and memories, the rhythms of nature reflected in our journeys, and the poignant journeys themselves.

It was almost impossible to pick out a few favorites, but I’m giving it a try: “I See You” is an exquisite poem about aging and the lasting echoes of youth that we carry inside our memories. “Flowers” (which makes me weepy just thinking about it) chronicles a woman’s life-stages in flowers from birth through death. Two touching poems are told from the point of view of someone watching a loved one sleep. They’re both gentle and heartachingly beautiful. “Just for a Moment” is a rare syllabic poem in the collection about the peace of love, and “Memory” about love lost.

Though the poems can be read in an hour or so, I would suggest savoring them. Highly recommended.

*****

Vanished by Mark Bierman

This story kicks off the action on page one and doesn’t let up. In fact, when I was about ¾ of the way through, I needed to sit back, take a deep breath, and work the tension out of my shoulders. Bierman’s ability to write non-stop, intense, dangerous action is noteworthy. And though in many ways, I’d characterize the story as plot-driven, there’s some deep emotion when it’s called for.

And the story isn’t a picnic. Though the author maintains that it’s fictional, he also states that it centers on a very real and tragic situation – child slavery. Tyler and John are two likable Americans who team up with an anti-hero in Haiti. The story follows their attempt to rescue a Haitian’s young child from a mine worked by kidnapped children. The difficulty of this plan is skillfully complicated by cultural barriers, corruption, poverty, and, of course, the ruthless adults who treat children like disposable tools – use them until they break and then throw them away.

Even though the book is plot-driven, I felt connected to Tyler and John. It was hard not to feel for them and root for them when things weren’t going well (which was the whole book). In a way, they are ordinary men who, as things got worse and worse, had to keep remaking decisions about what they’re willing to sacrifice, including their lives. They give it their all and it was very heroic. I’d read more about the characters and will read more of this author. Recommended for anyone who loves an intense action-packed adventure/thriller.

*****

Fiona Finch and the Pink Valentine by Teagan Geneviene

Fiona Finch and the Pink Valentine is a sweet short story set in the Victorian age with several steampunk gadgets, a mischievous pet duck, and a masquerade ball. What better way to spend an hour of reading? Fiona and her adopted brother Steele are delightful, and the duck steals the show as the ultimate matchmaker. As a short story, the pace is brisk, but not lacking in fun details. The mood is light and all ends well. Highly recommended.

*****

While the Bombs Fell by Roberta Cheadle & Elsie Hancy Eaton

This story reads like a memoir, and I loved it. It follows the daily life of Elsie, a 4-5-year-old growing up on a farm in England during World War II. The story starts with the family listening to an air-raid siren and climbing into their shelter beneath the garden. And though the war is the backdrop to the story and impacts daily life in significant ways, this isn’t really a story about war. At heart, this is a story about the resilient spirit of children growing up within a strong family.

The details of daily life are incredibly well-researched, and this book could almost serve as a guide to rural life in England in 1942 when rationing required adults to make some careful and creative choices. At the same time, the story is filled with delightful anecdotes of family life and the perspectives of a child, including a fear of Jack Frost, the trials of a stinky outhouse, and a trip to the movie theater to see the Three Stooges outwit the Germans.

The story unfolds in an omniscient point of view, and there’s not really a plot (thus the feeling of a memoir), but from beginning to end, the book is thoroughly engaging. I read it in one sitting. As an added bonus, the author included a few wartime recipes. Highly recommended to readers of memoirs, historical fiction, WWII fiction, and warm family stories.

*****

She Who Comes Forth by Audrey Driscoll

France Leighton and her beloved cello, Eudora, arrive in Luxor, Egypt to take part in an archeological dig. It’s not quite the adventure she expected, but she hangs in there. After a cello performance, she meets the mysterious Adam Dexter, who turns out to be far more than she expected, and not in a good way. Egyptian mythology comes alive as France must find a way to save the world from destruction.

This book is well written, the kind of writing that disappears into the background and therefore leaves the reader fully immersed in the story. I loved the setting, the details about Egypt and its mythology, the elements of the dig, and France’s interest and reverence for the magnificent tombs. In the afterword, Driscoll points out that she’s never been to Luxor, but as a reader, you’d never know it. Her research shines.

Told in first person, the story is wholly France’s. She’s a rich and thoroughly believable character, and her struggles were relatable to me. Secondary characters are beautifully three dimensional as seen through her eyes. I loved the advice of her “talking” cello and totally fell for the relationship.

The story moves at a moderate pace, a slow burn, with hints at something supernatural at play dropped here and there along the way. At the 75% mark, there’s a giant leap into the paranormal/occult that I wasn’t quite ready for, though in hindsight I could see the preparation. A compelling story that I highly recommend to readers of literary fiction and to those who enjoy a strong female protagonist.

*****

Wham! by Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

This book has some fresh and unique worldbuilding that I thoroughly enjoyed. The story takes place in a dystopian future. The air is poisoned, the land withered, and there’s a clear sense of Big Brother ugliness about the place. The ruling class, a mega-powerful organization called the Alliance, controls the world and monitors everyone’s lives through surveillance orbs called Skinnies. The main character, Tess, is a disgruntled teen with a green-mohawk and combat boots. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s also a fairy with magical powers. Her barber is a troll, and her friend’s pet crow is a skinshifter.

The story starts with the government brutally whisking away Tess’s parents and sister, Nia. Nia is taken to the Capital and is forced to be a sex-worker for the Potentate (the main antagonist). Despite this role, there isn’t any explicit sex in the book, and her role quickly changes. Tess is assigned to live with a couple of mean-spirited derelicts, the Warrens. Book One focuses on Tess’s and Nia’s adjustment, as well as Tess’s discovery of her heritage and her attempt to rescue her parents with the help of the underground.

The characters all struck me as three-dimensional and authentic with full emotional lives and flaws. Maxi, the troll, has a unique way of speaking which I found incredibly creative. There is also some fairy-speak, which was difficult to read and understand, but short in duration (thank goodness). As part of the world-building, it was all a lot of fun.

Great pace and clever writing with vivid descriptions. The plausibility suffers a tiny bit when all the magical beings come together for the big showdown, but it’s well-down overall, and things don’t go magically well, of course. The book ends smack dab at the climax of the action. Be prepared to read the next book or you’ll be left hanging. If readers can deal with the abrupt end and plan to continue with the series, I can highly recommend this fantasy novel.

*****

Swords of Destiny by Sue Vincent

In this modern-day adventure, the world is in peril, and the immortal Merlin (of King Arthur fame) has gathered four ordinary people with extraordinary heart and courage to stand against the destructive forces. Their mission as the Champions of Light is to acquire the four swords of destiny and bring balance to the world.

The tale draws heavily on the legends and myths of the British Isles, the sacred places, and the beliefs of those who were intimately connected to the spirits of the land. The Fae are alive and well, trolls hide out in caves. There are unicorns, elves, and mountain giants. Most of the story unfolds in conversation/exposition, though it does have some action scenes that are quite intense and emotional. There is also quite a bit of romance, and some fun humor.

What I enjoyed most was the characters, not only the human champions, but Merlin, his brother Heilyn, and the fairy queen Mab. Point of view is shared by most of the main characters with pov shifts in the middle of scenes. The dialog is witty, including sections of clever banter. There’s mischief, for sure. Recommended for lovers of ancient British Isle mythology who will likely recognize some of the sacred places and characters.

*****

Mind-Shaft by S. Burke

This collection of six short stories focuses on the dark side of speculative fiction from paranormal romance and revenge to good old horror. Each of the stories is unique with a well-developed plot and engaging characters. My favorite was A Place So Cold which had me on the edge of my seat even though I could predict the ending. Other stories were less predictable with fun twists. Definitely bloody, evil, and entertaining. There are a few formatting particularities in kindle, but they don’t impact the reading so I’m going with 5 stars.

*****

Visitors by W. J. Scott

Brody and Tom are sent to live with their aunt by their ailing mom. Aunt Sally is a recluse in a town that doesn’t take well to visitors, at least to one kind of visitor. When the boys find out what’s really happening at the lake, they learn why everyone in town is so secretive. A sci-fi short story full of kindness and hope, and though predictable at its conclusion, a sweet read.

*****

Happy Reading!

136 thoughts on “February Book Reviews

  1. Lujjy says:

    I loved your reviews! Thank you! I’m new at WordPress and I’m trying to start a blog myself. Is there any advice you can give me? I’d really appreciate it! Thanks!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great reviews, Diana! More for my TBR list, which is getting pretty lonely since I’ve cut back some on reading to focus on writing. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Julie. I’ve had trouble focusing to be honest (husband is home – Lol). My writing is down, but reading has been a great break. 🙂 More reviews coming out today! Stay safe, my friend, and Happy Writing!

      Like

  3. […] by way of February Book Reviews — Myths of the Mirror […]

    Liked by 1 person

  4. kingmat01 says:

    Hi..can I kindly ask for book review from you..thank you

    Like

  5. volatilemuse says:

    Your review of Swords of Destiny by Sue Vincent interests me because I’m half way through tearing my hair out over a story set between the Arthurian world and the modern age. It’s a tricky one to get right so I would be interested to see how the author does it. Happy to have come across your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your story sounds interesting and yes, tricky since so many people are familiar with the legends. Sue’s book might give you some ideas. It’s set in modern times but many of the characters are from the past – and immortal, so they bridge time. What fun. I wish you the best of luck. Keep writing!

      Like

  6. Oooh, that WWII one looks particularly enticing to me, but lots of great-sounding reads here!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Teri Polen says:

    Wonderful reviews, Diana – I have a couple of these in my TBR. Have a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. As always, your reviews are well-written, concise, to-the-point, and yet informative and delightful. After I read the first review I immediately bought Sue’s Life Lines in paperback – sounds like a great read for me, and then as a gift for a friend. I also like how honest you are in your reviews. I’ve read several wonderful reviews on Mark’s book, but I know it will give me nightmares, so I’ll need to skip that one. The dark speculative fiction is down your alley, but not mine. 🙂 But that’s what’s so great about our supporting each other’s works. We know what we can handle in reading good books, and we appreciate books that are not comfortable for us, but we can still share them with each other because when well-written, they might be just the right one for another. (I’m babbling, but I think you get my point.)
    Happy editing! (Is that an oxymoron?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Mark’s book would probably keep you up at night! Lol. But you will LOVE Sue’s book. Her poetry is sublime and I was swept away. And yes, I totally get it, Pam. The variety of readers and writers is actually wonderful and fascinating. I never get tired of the diversity. ❤ ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. markbierman says:

    Great reviews, Diana, I feel honored that you included “Vanished” in your list! Thank you 🙂 All the best in your editing, I look forward to reading your work.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. acflory says:

    I’ve read ‘ She Who Comes Forth’ and I can attest to how good a read it is! I really liked the sound of some of the others as well. Great reviews, Diana. Definitely whet my appetite with this lot. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Boy you’ve been busy! There’s some great titles in here. I must get my hands on these… thanks for bringing some of these I might never have heard of, to my attention D 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Vashti Q says:

    Wow! You’ve been a busy reader, Diana! Good for you. So many great reviews, thanks for sharing. ❤ xo

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Jan Sikes says:

    You have been a busy girl, Diana! Thanks for sharing these reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Seven out of eight books and authors I don’t even know. I have some catching up to do. Thanks for the reviews.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. What a fantastic collection of books and authors!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. You’ve given us quite a variety to choose from, Diana, with excellent reviews. I added Life Lines to my TBR pile as a start. I’ve already read Fiona Finch and the Pink Valentine and enjoyed it as much as you did.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Steven Baird says:

    Thanks again for sharing, Diana. I hope things are going well and you’re not too frazzled.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Annika Perry says:

    Diana, how could you?! 😀 Your reviews have me adding to my burgeoning TBR and some of these are going straight to the top! From your review of Sue’s poetry it’s evident how deeply and profoundly this touched your soul and one I must read! Mark’s book has been on my radar for a while and I’m adding that too! Luckily I am just about to read this Teagan book and especially looking forward to it after reading her Speak Flapper. You write eloquently about Robbie’s book, one I enjoyed immensely and which took place not far from where I live so I could relate to all the locations and and some of it mirrors the recollections my father-in-law told us of the war. So many similarities.

    Many thanks for these terrific reviews and good luck with the rest of the edit! I’m in awe how you find time for it all! 😀 Take care xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha ha ha. This is payback, Annika, for all the books you’ve added to my TBR pile. Lol. Sue’s book is utterly gorgeous, and Mark’s was a roller coaster blending great action with some memorable characters. Teagan’s story is typical Teagan – delightful. And I’m glad you enjoyed Robbie’s book. I was totally immersed in the narrative. Thanks so much for stopping by and Happy Reading!

      Liked by 2 people

  19. Sue Vincent says:

    How you stay awake long enough to read so many when you are in edit mode, I cannot imagine!
    Thank you very much for reading and reviewing Swords and Life Lines, Diana!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have my phone read kindle books to me, Sue. (Not poetry – but for prose it works great). So I “read/listen” while cooking, exercising, driving, grooming the dog, etc. Otherwise, I’d read two books a month, maybe. Lol. I enjoyed both of your books, but I was blown away by Lifelines. What a beautiful book. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Thanks for including She Who Comes Forth here among all these other worthy books, and for your great review. Hope your journey through the editing fog isn’t too onerous.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Always enjoy your reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, HRR. I was starting to get deep into editing and figured I’d better get back to the blog before too long. There are some great books here if you’re looking for a read. Have an awesome day and Happy Reading.

      Liked by 2 people

  22. Great review of “She Who Comes Forth.” It’s a terrific book.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. What an amazing collection of reads, Diana. I look forward to adding many of these to my TBR pile. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Hi Diana. You packed a lot of reading into February. I didn’t read any books in Feb, but I’m reading a novel, “Disgrace,” now. It’s by J. M. Coetzee. He’d been on my TBR list forever. Take care.

    Neil S.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by, Neil. I tackled my TBR in 2019 when I was spending a lot of time on the road and had to put writing on hold. Now I try to keep a backlog of about 10 books, which seems to work for me. I like buying books. Ha ha. Have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  25. arlene says:

    Thanks for these reviews Diana. Looking to discover more authors.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. ERCWriting says:

    Vanished in particular sounds very interesting. I’m so impressed by authors who can write exciting action!

    Liked by 2 people

  27. C.E.Robinson says:

    Diana, Nice reviews on so many great books. I have a few on my To Read list. Bought Teagan’s book already. Editing can take up so much time, but you figured out how to read while doing other things. I’m still editing after the editor edited, which is pretty common I understand. Following suggestions for changes, etc. And adding more interior monologue, tricky, but I’m learning! Happy Midweek and Editing. 📚 Christine

    Liked by 1 person

    • Editing is time-consuming, Christine, and its worth taking our time and getting it right. For me, every change creates a cascade of other changes – small ones perhaps like how adding a phrase alters rhythm of a sentence, but still a change. Will you book be out this year?

      Liked by 1 person

  28. It’s good to hear from you, Diana! I hope the editing is going well. Thanks for sharing the reviews. I see a few books to go on my TBR list.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Wow! Sharing… When the Bombs Fella and Vanished are on my kindle.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. petespringerauthor says:

    I’ve got Vanished coming up soon on my Kindle. I’m looking forward to exploring some of these other choices, Diana.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Hi!!!! So great to see you 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  32. D.L. Finn, Author says:

    I have read a few of these and loved your take on them. All good reads. I will have to move Wham and Foina Finch up on my reading list. Thanks, Diana.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Some great choices here! Vanished took my eye, it sounds intense!

    Liked by 2 people

  34. Good golly Miss Molly! Diana you’ve been reading up a storm.
    I’m tickled pink that you enjoyed “Fiona Finch”. It makes me glad that I stopped to write the story — no matter how hard it is to get back into my WIP. I’m honored to be in such wonderful company here too. What an awesome collection of books. Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for taking a peek, Teagan. Your story was the typical delight that I’ve come to expect from you. 🙂 I have a couple episodes of Delta Pearl to catch up on today. And then maybe a little more editing. Lol. Happy Writing, my friend.

      Liked by 2 people

  35. As always, wonderful reviews, thank you so much Diana. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Wow, you read a lot in February. I thought She Who Comes Forth was superb. The story has such a great sense of place that I thought Driscoll had actually visited or lived in Egypt at one time.

    Liked by 2 people

    • These were just the the ones that I most enjoyed, Priscilla. I totally agree with you on Audrey’s book. I figured she had lived in Egypt and worked on a dig! Lol. The details were mesmerizing. Thanks for stopping by to take a peek. Happy Reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  37. Wow great reviews 👍👍👍👍 Diana. The way you have written all books sound awesome to read. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. I haven’t been around in ages, Diana, and here I find you with a veritable who’s who!! Great catch you have here. Hope all well with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. balroop2013 says:

    A nice variety Diana. I’ve read two out of those. Thanks for sharing. Happy editing.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Great reviews, Diana. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. As ever, your reviews make every book a book to read – my best to you, and editing, Diana – I’ve just finished checking the final proof of my take on poetry – just a 100 pages – I can’t imagine handling a proper book like you!

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Such lovely reviews, Diana, and I do appreciate yours for While the Bombs Fell. I have read a few of these and have others on my TBR.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Tessa Pulyer says:

    Swords of Destiny looks particularly appealing to me. Such a great list of reads. Looks like you had a great reading month!

    Liked by 1 person

  44. What a great selection. You read a lot in March! I tend to read more when I’m editing–something about the inspiration. Looking forward to your next book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My editing is going slow, Jacqui, but when I need a break, I get on the treadmill and read. Lol. I’m all for multitasking! Thanks for the visit. I’ll be over to say hi soon. Happy Reading.

      Like

  45. Mae Clair says:

    Wow, have you been busy reading! 🙂
    I’ve read and enjoyed Mind-Shaft and Vanished, and have some of the others on my reading radar. Several are new to me, however, and I appreciate the glimpse between the covers. You write excellent review, Diana!

    Liked by 1 person

  46. Funny, you popped into my head during my morning commute, Diana. I’m glad to see you’re well and reading a lot of great books. Thanks for the reviews! Good luck with your edits.

    Liked by 1 person

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