December Book Reviews

Happy New Year!

I wish you much happiness, good health, and amazing books!

My Goodreads goal was 100 books in 2021 and I read 102, many of them yours! The covers are below my reviews. They bring back so many great memories. Enjoy!

December book reviews include my 4 and 5 star reads of magical realism, a romantic thriller, cozy mystery, western romance, romance novella, and climatic sci-fi.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

The Art of Spirit Capture by Geoff Le Pard

Jason Hales loses his job and simultaneously learns that he and his brother Peter have inherited the estate of his Aunt Heather and Uncle Ben. His brother is in a medically induced coma after a traffic accident, and since Jason, as executor, has the time, he leaves London to handle the estate. What he doesn’t expect is to be caught up in the legacy of his deceased uncle, who crafted magical glass ornaments called captures. The art of spirit capture is a secret and everyone in town has an opinion about what Jason should do with the captures and his uncle’s old workshop.

There aren’t any bad guys in this story, but there is the mystery of the spirit captures, and the pages are full of wonderfully distinct characters. The story unfolds in Jason’s POV, and he’s an extremely likable person, trying to do his best. The supporting cast is just as compelling. It’s this lively and eclectic group that brings the story to life. I felt connected to most of them and cared about what happened to them. The mystery of the captures and how all the relationships are going to work out left me guessing right up until the end.

Magical realism is probably the best description of the genre, and the spirit captures are beautiful, visually as well as what they represent to the characters and the community. This is a long book at 500 pages, but it didn’t feel long, and I read it over about 4 days. A great read for anyone who loves kindness, mystery, a little magic, small towns where everyone is in everyone’s business, and a touch of romance. This story is pure heartwarming pleasure.

*****

From Fame to Ruin by Jina S. Bazzar

This book is a romance-thriller mash-up that starts with a kidnapping and leans heavily toward the action. Set in Brazil, Carol’s three-year-old son is kidnapped and held for $25 million in ransom. Warned not to go to the police, she approaches her old flame Ricardo for help. He can afford the payment, but they have a lot of bad blood between them that frequently boils over and scalds.

The chapters of the book alternate between Carol’s present desperation to save her son’s life, and four years earlier when Carol and Ricardo had a whirlwind romance after meeting in an airport. At first, I found the 4-year-old romance chapters less interesting (though extremely well-written). However, as the story progresses, the past starts clarifying the emotional damage in the present. The two timelines are expertly interwoven and make perfect sense as the story comes together.

Perhaps the best part of the story is the characterization. Except for the kidnapper who is sociopathic, every character is nuanced with a distinct personality. The children in the story are pure delight. Carol and Ricardo share the story’s pov (with a few exceptions), and they’re richly drawn with believable emotions and motivations. I found Ricardo and Carol likable and empathetic though both suffer from emotional wounds and are sizzling mad at each other, often to the point of being cruel.

I read the whole book in one airplane ride while everyone else snoozed around me. The pace steadily picks up until this page-turner comes to its explosive ending. Highly recommended to readers of thrillers who enjoy a well-crafted book with great characters and a touch of romance.

*****

Cold Dark Night by Joan Hall

Tami and Jason move to Madeira, NM, where Jason’s taken a job as the new police chief. They purchase an old Victorian home that belonged to the previous chief, a man murdered on the job. Tami starts on a project for the town’s historical society, researching the history of some of Madeira’s law enforcement professionals. She discovers the deaths of several police chiefs who all lived in her house, going back about 100 years. And someone doesn’t like her asking questions and digging into the details.

While Tami handles the main plot of this cozy mystery, several subplots throw around suspicion, and there are plenty of red herrings. I didn’t know who the murderer was until the reveal at the end, which includes the villain’s explanation of details going back in time. Secondary players are 3-dimensional with character arcs that kept me emotionally engaged.

I enjoyed the prequel (short story) to this book, but it’s not required reading as Hall includes just enough backstory to cover the important details. There are other books planned in the Madeira series, but this one read perfectly fine as a stand-alone. Highly recommended to readers of cozy mysteries.

*****

No Such Luck by Staci Troilo

Piper loses her job, and while security packs up her desk, they inadvertently discard her dried-up good luck rose from her high school crush Tommy. She heads to her parents’ home early for Christmas and runs into Tommy as well as Jack, her best friend who she hasn’t seen in years. It’s clear from the start that one of the two men is a much better match for her than the other, but does she know which?

This novelette is a short hour-long read that takes off at a snappy pace and doesn’t let up. It’s a heartwarming romance with distinct characters and a wintery Christmas setting. No kissing and groping in this one, just pure heart with an emphasis on kindness and being there. Highly recommended to readers who want to dive into a quick story about the true test of love.

*****

Aerovoyant by P. L. Tavormina

Climate change is the central theme of this futuristic sci-fi read—the archaic carbon (fossil fuel) corporate interests versus those who grow food and require a healthy planet to survive. I’m always a little surprised that corporate execs believe they can survive on a dead planet – but there you go, that’s real life, as well as characteristic of the villains in this book.

The combustion industry of Turaset controls the political system and uses insidious incentives to convince farmers to become reliant on their polluting products. It’s also ruthless in eliminating anyone with a visual trait that enables them to see the chemical compositions in the air. I enjoyed the planetary science woven throughout the read, as well as the realistic corporate tactics to infiltrate their victims’ livelihoods.

The worldbuilding is comprehensive and the political machinations go into some depth. There are footnotes and appendices for readers who want more information on Turaset’s timeline, politics, conventions, and genetics. I didn’t read them and had no problem with comprehension.

The chapters alternate between two main characters. Alphonse can’t accept his mother’s plan to use him to further corporate goals and flees to the countryside, surrendering potential political power to labor with his hands. Myrta is a farm girl with the visual trait, which has put her at risk for her entire life. These two characters—all the characters, really—are beautifully 3-dimensional and their relationships are rich in emotion.

This is a character-driven novel, and readers looking for a riveting plot and snappy pace might be disappointed. The pace is quite slow, and the protagonists don’t cross paths until the 65% point (which is about 275 pages in). Up to that point, it’s mostly worldbuilding and character development. Goals and a plan of action don’t happen until the last 20% of the book.

Despite the long ramp up and slow simmer, the characters entranced me. The quality of the writing is beautiful, especially Alphonse’s metaphysical journeys back in time to Earth’s creation and through billions of years to the dawn of man.

The quality of this novel is excellent, and I highly recommend it to readers who aren’t bothered by a slow pace, and enjoy long, rich, character-driven reads. Especially if they enjoy climate-based sci-fi.

*****

Sundial by Sandra Cox

Sarah Miles is a contemporary woman who travels back in time and finds herself in the company of Jesse Adams at the battle of the Alamo. The two of them have a connection that transcends time, and the attraction is instant, though they don’t understand what’s happening. They end up in New Orleans where Sarah starts making a life for herself as a painter. Despite how much she loves Jesse, she knows eventually she’ll need to leave him and return to her own time… losing him once again.

This is a western romance and an easy read with accessible characters and a straightforward plot despite the time travel. Cox includes bits of American history, and she creates an accurate feel for the time without heavy descriptions.

A variety of kind and diabolical characters populate the story, including a voodoo practitioner, kidnappers, and an Arabian sheik intent on purchasing women. Needless to say, there’s plenty of action in the bayou. The third-person POV pops around a little between Sarah and Jesse with other characters making cameos as necessary. The pace is moderate overall with an extended wrap-up in the end.

There isn’t explicit sex or gratuitous violence, so this book is fine for YA readers. Sarah’s cat, Monet, time-travels with her and plays an entertaining part in the story. Though not particularly plausible, some readers will enjoy the cat’s persistent presence. I most liked the premise of relationships surviving multiple lives, as well as the adjustments the characters needed to make when living in unfamiliar eras. Recommended for readers of western time-travel romance.

*****

Books Read in 2021!

Happy Reading!

168 thoughts on “December Book Reviews

  1. Ocean Bream says:

    Happy New Year, Diana. I always get a good dose of cheer when I read your blog. Your 2021 book list is impressive. ‘No Such Luck’ caught my eye because I am a sucker for a sweet romance but I really hate the kissing and groping in such books as it feels so cheap. A similar short heart warming story is ‘Dawn O’Hara’ – The Girl Who Laughed’ – it’s by Edna Ferber. I think Edna hadn’t quite finished it and it was published after her death or something like that. Anyway your review of that book reminded me of Dawn. The Art of Spirit capture sounds really promising, your review of it makes me want to add it to my TBR pile 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • No Such Luck would be a great choice, Lenora. Quick and heartwarming without all the “groping” and angst. Yay. And The Art of Spirit Capture is long, but a wonderful story that flies by with enchanting characters. Thanks so much for browsing, and Happy Reading. ❤

      Like

  2. I’ve read a different Geoff Le Pard book, and this one looks great! He has a great style.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jina Bazzar says:

    I’m honored to be featured among all those great books, Diana. Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed Carol and Ricardo’s story! I have a piece of your review posted on the amazon page – I hope you don’t mind?
    I’m also adding A cold dark night to my tbr. For some reason, I’ve been in the mood for detective and murder books lately.
    May 2022 be a prosperous year, filled wit joy and light and productivity.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t mind at all! In fact, I’m honored that you shared part of it. It was a fun read, Jina. You’re so talented! And I think you’ll enjoy A Cold Dark Night. It’s right up your alley. Happy New Year, my friend, to you and yours. Hugs. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely reviews, Diana. I’ve read Jina Bazaar before, so I agree with you concerning her writing ability. The spirit capture sounds particularly intriguing as well.

    And whew! You certainly were busy in 2021. What a roster of books you made it through. Hope you’re looking forward to a new year of reading and writing. : )

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for the visit, Cathleen. I just challenged myself to read another 100 books in 2022. 🙂 I’ve read Jina’s sci-fi, but this was my first time with a thriller-romance from her. It was a good one. And the Art of Spirit Capture was wonderful. Have a wonderful new year, my friend, and Happy Reading!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. markbierman says:

    An extensive list, Diana! Good for you! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us and congratulations to all of these fine authors. Joan’s ‘A Cold Dark Night,’ caught my interest. I believe it is the sequel to ‘House of Sorrows’. Is this correct?

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  6. What a wonderful reading year you had, Diana! You read 2.125 books a week and surpassed your own challenge. I’m honored to be among your Hall of Fame. I have read some among your list, and some are on my Kindle patiently waiting. Happy New Year and best wishes to you and your family!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Miriam, and for taking a bit of a browse. So many indie authors and bloggers in the list! I love it. I’m looking foward to another awesome year of reading. Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and peaceful new year. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll try to do better with my reading this year. I bought a new iPad but I don’t think it’s as versatile as PC, at least I’m not used to it. It would be compact to carry around the house or anywhere for reading. At least it’s bigger than a phone, smaller than a laptop. I may read less than half of what you did, I hope! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Happy New Year, Diana! And happy reading in 2022!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Perfect timing….my old kindle dies and guess who was blessed with a new one for Christmas!!! You know you will be on that list for new books to read!! Love your reviews and applaud you for the number of books you have read this past year and it gives me more to look at!! Happy 2022 to you and your family!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for dropping by, Kirt, and congrats on the new kindle! I’m glad you enjoyed the reviews. Were you implying that there might be a Peach book on there? If so, I’d be totally tickled. Either way, Happy Reading and a blessed New Year to you and yours. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. joylennick says:

    Wow, what a prodigious reader you are, Diana…Eyes in the back of the head, come to mind! They all sound impressive reads, but I fancied From Fame to Ruin by Jina S. Bazzar as I’m partial to romantic thrillers, detective procedures.and realism.Here’s to a healthy,successful 2022.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the visit, Joy. I found a way to get my phone to read kindle books to me, so I can “read” while driving, cooking, and housecleaning. It’s doubled my reading time. Jina is a marvelous writer and if you enjoy romantic thrillers, it’s a good one. 🙂 Have a wonderful 2022, my friend. ❤

      Like

  10. Teri Polen says:

    What a reading year you’ve had, Diana! I noticed you read The Gilded Wolves – a favorite of mine. I’ve had the third book since its release in September, but still haven’t gotten to it. So excited to see what happens.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I must have picked that one up after reading your review (?). I didn’t realize it was all out. Oh, goodie. Ha ha. Thanks for dropping by to check out the last of my 2021 reviews. I’m going for another 100 this year. 🙂 I expect that I’ll be including something from you! Happy New Year!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Resa says:

    Happy New Year, Diana!
    I am overwhelmed by the sheer volume of your reading (I’ve read 2), and underwhelmed by mine. (I’ve read 4 not mentioned here)
    However, who has made any gowns by hand this year? 🤔🙄
    Lol! It’s been an odd holiday season, but fortunately, I’ve had your book to escape to now and again. It is charming me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the visit, Resa. We are all different, which makes for a very fun and interesting world. 🙂 Your handmade gowns are beautiful expressions of your imagination. And I’m glad my book is charming you as well as offering an escape. ❤ ❤ ❤ Wishing you much joy in the new year! Hugs.

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  12. dgkaye says:

    A very interesting as always reading list Diana. And as usual, I’ve read a few and now adding more, lol. Can I ask how you managed to get your GR reading list with covers onto your page? I don’t see anywhere on my page there for copying. Thanks and Happy New Year my friend!. May it be a better one for all of us as we continue to be diligent with this invisible captor virus and hope for normalcy to reappear. Stay safe! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by to browse, Debby. I’m looking foward to another wonderful year of reading. And hopefully a degree of normalcy in real life… 2021 was NOT it. I read you post about your oracles’ messages, and know that you’ll find your way. You have too big a heart and bright a soul not to.

      Regarding Goodreads, I did screen shots of the Goodreads book covers (using the “snipping tool” on my laptop), and then posted the jpgs into WP as images. Hope that Helps. Let me know if you have any questions.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. You had a productive reading (and writing) year- way to go! Your wonderful reviews have tempted me into a few more books for my architectural wonder of a TBR pile, so thanks for that 🙂 and Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Nice reviews, Diana. No Such Luck looks tempting right now for a light read. Thanks again for your lovely review of Calmer Girls. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Mae Clair says:

    What a great look at your books read in 2021, Diana. And I loved your December reviews. I’ve read The Art of Spirit Capture (so very unique!), Cold Dark Night, and No Such Luck and enjoyed them all. Great story-telling in each!
    Wishing you a Happy New Year! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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