December Book Reviews (Part One)

I know I just shared a bunch of book reviews, but with the holidays coming up, I’ll be taking some time off, and I didn’t want to end up with a huge pile of reviews in January. Only three books today and all of them are excellent!

December’s reviews include my 5-star reads of a poetry collection, a sci-fi thriller, and a coming-of-age novel.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

Sorrowful Soul (Book 3 in the Soul Poetry Series) by Harmony Kent

Grief is on my mind these days. It’s a solo journey, but this heartfelt book of poetry reminds me that there are common experiences along the road, and in that way, we don’t travel it quite so alone. In her forward (which I recommend reading), Kent offers some wisdom about the grieving process, and she highlights the stages of grief developed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross so many years ago and still relevant today.

The poems are divided into sections based on Ross’s seven stages: Shock & Disbelief, Denial, Guilt, Anger, Depression, Working Through, and Acceptance. I read this book in one afternoon, and the poetry indeed felt like a journey from disbelief through acceptance. It’s an emotional collection, full of pain and longing, and at the end, a bit of sunshine glimmers through the trees. I highly recommend it.

This is free-form poetry, and about half of the offerings are rhyming verse. My favorites were among the less formal poems, and there were a lot of favorites. Below is an excerpt that captures the solemn tone of the section entitled Depression:

Winter of Discontent (an excerpt)

All the pretty birds have flown
Abandoned nests in skeletal trees
Frost rimmed dirt and weeds below
Cold, colourless uncaring sky above
It’s impossible life could ever return
To this barren, forsaken land
Where the grim reaper roams free
And winter berries litter the ground
Trampled beneath youthful feet
Too enamoured of life to notice
The carnage as red bleeds into white
As death mars the pristine snow
And invites the bereft with his gleaming scythe…

(Kindle Unlimited)

*****

Are we Monsters? by Rollin Miller

Fans of sci-fi are in for a treat with this book. If you like a story that includes artificial intelligence, cloning, mad scientists, wily old sheriffs, genetically enhanced villains, and lots of action that reads like a movie, well look no further. This is one of those books that you might sneak into the supply closet at work to polish off another scene.

NeosGen is a secret underground facility in the Nevada desert whose founder is dedicated to discovering the keys to immortality through cloning and the transference of consciousness. When one of their modified assets goes missing, the organization’s fixer goes on the hunt. That asset, a girl with modified abilities, turns up in a diner and the local sheriff, a smart old coot, starts investigating while trying to protect her. In the meantime, NeosGen has a number of challenges within its walls as two employees go rogue, and the founder’s financial partner is starting to have second thoughts.

The pace of this book doesn’t stop for a second as the story pivots from one desperate situation to the next. I felt like I was watching an action movie. Not only are the descriptions well crafted, but the characters are vivid. There are a number of them, but I had no trouble differentiating between them (despite Tom and Tommy) because they’re so unique, and as real as characters can get, right down to the bit actors.

The POV is omniscient with a few noticeable shifts, but otherwise, the quality of the prose is excellent with some great lines. The story has several twists, including one at the end I didn’t see coming and found highly satisfying. Everything wraps up nicely. I highly recommend this book to sci-fi fans who love great characters and a lot of action.

*****

Below Torrential Hill by Jonathan Koven

In this coming-of-age story, Tristan is fifteen, his life characterized by instability and abandonment, both physical and emotional. Years ago, his dad died in the woods on a drinking binge, and now his mother rides an emotional rollercoaster, professing love one moment, raving about voices the next, and then passing out on her own alcoholic benders. Unable to deal with Tristan’s mother, his stepfather abandoned them.

My heart went out to Tristan for his desperate search for meaning, his longing for love, and his choice to self-medicate with alcohol. Most of the story is told through his POV, and it generally takes place during times of physical isolation and alcohol-influenced dreams as he tries to figure out the point of his life. The narrative is reflective and dreamlike with amazing imagery. You’ll find beautiful writing such as this on every page:

“Ava carved into the shadow of the white streets, and the wind’s terrific belch mounted the sky. He stared absently at her—the girl he’d always known pinned to night’s curtain like a button.”

“Nothing ever ended, nothing new ever began. Everything was always stuck in the middle. He imagined the town fell off the earth. At the sidewalk’s edge, all the cosmos would spin silently, behaving in his presence, stoically turning without end. At the precipice of the relentless canyon of time, he easily wished to fall as a sunbeam against the vacuum.”

To me, this story spoke about every child’s need for stability, the immense vulnerability that arises from chaos, and the importance of having one dependable anchor in a child’s life, in this case, Tristan’s friend Ava. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy exquisite prose, dreamlike narratives, and coming-of-age stories about the search for identity, love, and wholeness in the midst of uncertainty.

*****

Happy Reading!

121 thoughts on “December Book Reviews (Part One)

  1. somtooti says:

    Great

    Liked by 1 person

  2. frenchc1955 says:

    For some reason, the “like” button isn’t appearing on my end.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by, Charles. I’ve decided to turn off my like button for… indefinitely. I know its a pain for some visitors, but I want to focus of bloggers who comment and follow, which I don’t have time to do if I’m visiting the sites of everyone who “likes.” We’ve been blogging friends for a while, and since I’m following you, I’m not worried about losing touch. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and have a marvelous holiday and 2023!

      Like

  3. markbierman says:

    I have been hearing many great things about Harmony’s book! Congratulations to all of these authors, as each book has it’s own appeal. Thank you for sharing and supporting, Diana. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Pratik says:

    These books look awesome and content may be very splendid too.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Excellent reviews, Diana, and Harmony’s book is on my list. Congrats to all the authors and I hope you have a wonderful holiday. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for stopping by, Lauren. Only three books, but I’ll be offline for a few weeks and didn’t want to get way behind! You’ll enjoy Harmony’s poetry. It’s touching. Happy Holidays to you too! Have a wonderful new year. ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, great reviews! 3 books sounds like a lot to me. You know my fiction reading is like snail reading but I am pleased to say all blogger’s books right now 🙂 are being read or in the queue. I started out blogging not imagining I would be buying so many books! 😂🌟 Reading books by authors I’ve interacted with sure is enjoyable though! Maybe one day I will become a real writer—many many moon from now, until then, I better speed up my intake (somehow)! I think it’s very possible I will be reading more fiction in 2023! Diana big congrats to those lovely authors who you’ve reviewed. The snippets sound great and your reviews enticing as always! Also I so wish you a warm and lovely holiday break! I’ll also be thinking of you and this tender year. Hugs!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. dgkaye says:

    As always, fantastic reviews. Congrats to all. I will be digging into Harmony’s book very shortly. Enjoy your holiday break Diana. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for dropping by, Debby. I think you’ll find Harmony’s book very relatable and moving. She writes some beautiful poetry about a touch subject. Happy holidays, my friend. I hope your new year is filled with kindness, gratitude, and a bounty of love.

      Liked by 1 person

      • dgkaye says:

        Thanks for the beautiful wishes Diana. I enjoy Harmony’s writing, so I know what I’m in for 🙂 I wish all the same goodness for you Diana, for the new year and forward. Hugs ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  8. How lovely to dive into your own dream-like words during this busy time of year, Diana! Enjoy your time away and treasure the memories…

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Thanks for sharing, Diana. Sorrowful Soul caught my attention–lovely cover and sounds like a lovely read.

    Hope your holiday season is peaceful and relaxing with some joy in there, as well. 💖🎄

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Great Reviews Diana and I actually have Harmony’s my cart!!! the others look great too! Thanks for that and you know me I’m gifting them for xmas.. I got John’s book today too! 🥰. Thanks a lot🥰

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the reviews, Cindy. Only three this time, as I wanted to get ahead before the month speeds up. Glad you hear that you already picked up Harmony’s book! Enjoy all the reading and try to relax and refresh ove the holiday. Hugs.

      Like

  11. Excellent reviews and all books are having different themes. Lovely post, Diana.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Lady Tessa says:

    Three wonderful sounding books, Diana! I know how beautiful Harmony’s poetry is and the other two books sound like ones I would love! Congratulations to all and excellent reviews!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Steven Baird says:

    Wonderful reviews, Diana. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, filled with kindness and renewal. All the best to you, my friend. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Shagun says:

    Lovely reviews Diana… both Sorrowful Soul and Below Torrential Hill seem to deal with endless pain yet offer hope ! Would love to read these … more positive energy to you to heal self and others around Diana!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Jaya Avendel says:

    Loving the sounds of Sorrowful Soul and the beautiful excerpt you shared. I also very much enjoy the looks of Below Torrential Hill. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Both are beautiful reads, Jaya. Harmony’s poetry was touching, so heartfelt and personal. And Below Torrential Hill reads like poetry with many of the same qualities. Beautiful writing. Thanks for the visit and Happy Holidays!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Hi Diana – thanks for sharing these books, especially Sorrowful Soul – navigating grief is very solitary, but it’s something we all go through. I’d also be interested in reading Below Torrential Hill. Looking forward to your next installment of reviews! Happy reading 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Barb. Harmony makes a point that the journey through grief is different for everyone, and yet her poems are relatable and full of heart. Below Torrential Hill was great – gorgeous writing and I just wanted to hug the MC. If you decide to pick it up, I hope you enjoy it. Have a lovely week and Happy Reading!

      Like

  17. As expected, excellent reviews Diana! I love Harmony Kent, and your review of Sorrowful Soul was beautifully written! A big congratulations to Rollin Miller and Jonathan Koven, more great reads to fatten up my TBR pile. It’s really out of control. Have a great week. Hugs, C

    Liked by 2 people

    • I had to laugh at your out of control tbr pile, Cheryl. It’s a common condition for which there’s no cure, I’m afraid. I’m glad you enjoyed the reviews. All three books were wonderful, though very different. Harmony’s book is getting some wonderful press all over the blogs. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and Happy Reading. Perhaps you’ll make a dent in the pile over the holidays. Hehe.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Your reviews are very much like your books….your writing pulls the reader right! Great reviews!! Enjoy your holiday break!!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Thank you again, Diana, for this incredible write-up. Below Torrential Hill means a great deal to me personally, and I’m so glad you found meaning in it! I’m also honored to be reviewed alongside Rolin and Harmony’s books; they look great!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by, Jonathan. Last month I had 14 book reviews to share, and it just got crazy. But three is perfect and every book gets a look. Your writing is beautiful and I wish you the best of luck with it. I hope it finds a few readers here too. Happy Holidays!

      Like

  20. Diana, you are a reading dynamo. Thanks for these reviews. Congratulations to the authors. Enjoy your holiday break. Hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. I always love browsing through your reviews and the range of books types they cover. I haven’t read any hard SF for a while, but “Are We Monsters” sounds right up my alley, thanks for highlighting it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It was great, Deborah. I was thoroughly entertained for the duration. I’m glad you enjoy the reviews. I needed to get ahead of them so the stack at the end of the month would be managable. Have a wonderful holiday and Happy Reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Teri Polen says:

    I’ve seen some wonderful reviews for Harmony’s book, and I’ve really been enjoying her blog tour. Are We Monsters has so many things I love in a sci-fi story. I’m intrigued. Thanks for sharing these, Diana!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for stopping by, Teri. I think you’d enjoy Are We Monsters? It’s great fun and reminds me a little of your books though it isn’t YA. And Harmony’s book is something. Very emotional and brave. 🙂 Have a wonderful week as we head into the holidays.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Enjoyed these reviews, Diana. Thank you for sharing, and Happy Holidays to you and yours!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Jan Sikes says:

    Fantastic reviews, Diana. I read Harmony’s new book and can highly recommend it. Even though it was hard for me to read at times, somehow, through it all, I found a deeper level of healing. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for stopping by, Jan. I can imagine that Harmony’s book stirred up some feelings, but that’s how grief operates… it’s never really over. We process and process and heal and heal. Huge hugs, my friend. ❤

      Like

  25. As always a great set of reviews, Diana! Are We Monsters looks intriguing and I may have to check that one out! Enjoy your holidays my friend!

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Toni Pike says:

    Great reviews Diana – have a wonderful Christmas❤️

    Liked by 3 people

  27. acflory says:

    Thank you, thank you. Just what I needed. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Terrific reviews, Diana. Thank you for sharing

    Liked by 3 people

  29. It’s the second (review) time Kent’s poetry book has been brought to my attention. I believe I’m meant to read it, more so with grief as a common theme. I’ve added to my TBR list for later reading, as I’ve already started to wrap myself up with fiction during this holiday season. 🙂 Thank you my friend for another round of wonderful reviews. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks so much for picking up Harmony’s book, Khaya. I think it will resonate with your journey through grief, though Harmony makes a point that every one of us will walk our paths differently. And great to hear that you’re into your holiday fiction already. I hope it’s wonderfully relaxing. Have a lovely Christmas, my friend.

      Like

  30. balroop2013 says:

    Diana, I was stunned by the imagery that Harmony has used to express emotions and I didn’t find it depressing… I think it depends on the mood of the reader. I am drawn toward Below Torrential Hill… interesting title! Thanks for sharing my friend.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Harmony’s imagery in this poem was so moving to me, Balroop. I definitely felt the sense of loss despite all the beauty. And I can understand why the beautiful prose of Below Torrential Hill would appeal to a poet. 🙂 Some of it is breathtaking. Thanks for the visit, my friend, and Happy Reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  31. Thanks for your honest reviews Diana. I’m glad you found some relief in Kent’s book on grief. I can relate to the theme of the third book, having lived that with my father and family. May you take time to rest, refresh, and be during the holidays. Hugs, 💕

    Liked by 3 people

  32. Your reviews always tell me enough for a go-nogo decision. In this case, I already read and loved Harmony’s. The other two–one go!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m glad the reviews work that way for you, Jacqui. I’m guessing that you went for the sci-fi, and I have a feeling you’ll really enjoy it. And Harmony’s poetry never fails to entrance me. Thanks for stopping by and Happy Reading!

      Like

  33. D.L. Finn, Author says:

    Great reviews, Diana 🙂 I enjoyed Sorrowful Souls too, and added to my TBR list! Xo

    Liked by 3 people

  34. Excellent reviews, Diana! The use of metaphor in the “Winter of Discontent” is spot-on. Below Torrential Hill also appeals to me.

    Liked by 3 people

  35. Three vastly different books and three wonderful reviews. The pull quotes from Below Torrential Hill are beautiful. I’ve read Kent’s latest collection and felt a range of emotions while reading it. Are We Monsters sounds like an exciting story!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Very different books, Priscilla, but all wonderful. The sci-fi thriller was pure fun and Torrential Hill was a dive into some beautiful, dreamlike prose. And I could relate to Harmony’s book completely. Thanks for swinging by and Happy Reading!

      Liked by 2 people

  36. Nice job, Diana. Excellent reviews! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  37. CarolCooks2 says:

    Three fabulous reviews, Diana of the 3 I’m drawn to the sci-fi in particular and although the others sound excellent not for me at this moment in time :)x

    Liked by 3 people

  38. noelleg44 says:

    These all sound wonderful, Diana, although I do love sci-fi in particular (so will check that one out) and am not sure I want to read a sad book until after Christmas! Harmony’s poetry is gorgeous.

    Liked by 3 people

  39. I’m reading Sorrowful Soul at the moment and it is really making the tears flow. Great reviews, Diana. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

  40. Kymber Hawke says:

    I love your reviews, Diana! These books all sound really good!

    Liked by 3 people

  41. Excellent reviews. “Are We Monsters” sounds like one for my husband, a huge sci-fi fan.

    Liked by 3 people

  42. Excellent reviews! Thanks so much for your fantastic review of Sorrowful Soul, Diana! I’m moved deeply by your thoughts. Congratulations to Rollin Miller and Jonathan Koven. I’ll be checking out their reads now! Have a wonderful week. Hugs 💕🙂

    Liked by 6 people

  43. “Are We Monsters?” sounds great. On the strength of your review, I picked it up.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks, Berthold. I thought it was awesome. I’m so glad I convinced you to give it a try. I can almost guarantee that you’ll enjoy it. The author was a new one for me, and I’ll definitely be reading more of his work. Happy Reading!

      Liked by 3 people

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