December Book Reviews (Part Two)

According to my new blogging schedule developed by my muse, today I’m supposed to share a blog post from our community that made me marvel, laugh, cry, cheer, or gasp at its beauty. But… I HAVE to share the rest of my December reviews of blogger books before any more time flies by.

December’s second bunch of reviews includes my 5-star reads of a memoir, a poetry collection, a paranormal fantasy, a military thriller, and an anthology of short crime stories.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

Fifteen First Times: Beginnings: A Collection of Indelible Firsts by D.G. Kaye

Kaye’s memoir Fifteen First Times reads like a conversation over a glass of wine with a bunch of besties. As I was reading, I could imagine the groans, laughter, and tender moments many women share in common as they navigate their teens and young adulthood—first kiss, first love, first car, a broken heart, the angst of menstruation, the first hair coloring disaster, and the first death that woke us up to the impermanence of life. Fifteen firsts.

I couldn’t relate to all of Kaye’s experiences. I never had a thing about shoes, for example, and didn’t have the privilege of travel, but I could relate very well to the journey of self-discovery, to struggles with self-esteem, and to finding a home within ourselves.

What struck me the most about Kaye’s recollections is how humor and a bold, flamboyant approach to life helped her overcome challenges and become the confident woman she is today. She ends the memoir by highlighting the importance of laughter in her life and in her relationship with her late husband. It’s a touching thread that connects her memories and heartfelt conclusion to her book of firsts. An entertaining two-hour read, highly recommended to fans of memoirs. (Kindle Unlimited.)

*****

The Sheltering by Khaya Ronkainen

At the end of Ronkainen’s book of poetry, she shares a poetic piece of prose entitled “All I hope to say.” It’s a beautiful reflection on her reason for writing poetry – to record her life and grief, to let future generations know that this too shall pass, and to preserve beauty and create. It’s a lovely summation of her collection.

The book reads like a chronological story, beginning with the Covid years, moving through the death of loved ones and friends, and then into the current war. It’s poignant and full of the pain of grief and loss and the stress of living in a troubled world. The title “The Sheltering” felt appropriate, suggesting both the act of isolating and retreating, but also as a means of self-care and contemplation.

The poetry finally, quietly, and gracefully emerges back into nature’s sunlight, tentatively testing life’s waters. I felt the poet’s renewal and healing, and breathed the fresh air captured in one of her final poems:

Static Apnoea

Astonished I froze, facing a whale.
Eyes adjusted and focused, I became
nervous, for I came without a song.
Eyes adjusted and focused, she gave
me a gentle prod, lifted her head above
water to suck air through a blowhole.
She was showing me how to breathe.

This is a heartfelt and beautiful collection of about sixty free-form poems that I read over several days. Highly recommended.

*****

Shadow Walker (Shadow Walker #1) by Jina S. Bazzar

Melaina has a secret—her affinity (magic ability) is forbidden. She’s a shadow walker, capable of drawing the shadows around her and turning into a winged beast. Fearful of discovery, she tries to live a normal life by avoiding the nine magic houses that wield immense power and wealth. To support her aunt and brother, she worked as a thief, but now she has a chance at a real job. Only it turns out that the job is her worst nightmare. One of the houses wants her to steal from the others. If she fails, her aunt and brother will pay the price.

This isn’t the first series that I’ve read from this author and like her others, it’s got a deeply imagined world, a complex and fast-paced plot, and some kick-ass characters, particularly the main character. Bazzar’s female leads are all tough, skilled, and smart, and Melaina is no exception. While she has a conscience and big heart, she doesn’t back down from a confrontation.

There are a fair number of characters in the novel, but they aren’t hard to keep straight, especially the secondary characters who are fully developed with distinct personalities. Their relationships with Melaina are interesting, and I’m curious about where they’ll go. The book is not a standalone, and it ends without a great deal of resolution, but the series is complete, so readers don’t have to wait. Highly recommended to urban fantasy readers who enjoy complex plots and strong female leads. (Kindle Unlimited.)

*****

The Culmination: a new beginning by Gwen M. Plano

Just like the 2nd book in this series, this one (the 3rd) starts where the last left off. Admiral Joseph Parker and his soulmate, Julie underwood, have been shot and are recuperating in the hospital. Their lives are still at risk as their team’s efforts start zeroing in on a secret cabal working to destabilize the world with an assassination and nuclear missile launch.

At the 20% mark, the book makes a dramatic shift to the world theater. New main characters, primarily the US Vice President Margaret Adler and the Russian Prime Minister Ivan Smirnov take center stage. A meeting of world leaders to address nuclear arsenal reductions ends with a tenuous alliance, an unexpected romance, plans to address Syria, and a worldwide threat to peace.

World politics, including military strategies and governmental negotiations, continue through the end of the book. Cajoling and strong-arming are balanced by logic, honor, and an altruistic desire to do the right thing. This read made me long for this fictional world where most political choices aren’t tied to greed and power.

The strong romantic subplot breaks up the fast-paced narrative and political/military action. The characters are engaging, smart, and resourceful, and perhaps a little too good to be true. It was interesting to see what might happen if the US, Russia, and the Middle East could cooperate with each other with the best interests of the world in mind. Highly recommended to fans of political thrillers.

*****

Undercover: Crime Shorts by Jane Risdon

I read this collection of six short stories (and an extract from the author’s book) in a little over 2 hours and found it highly engaging. Each story centers on a crime—theft, murder, revenge—most premeditated, some accidental or imaginary. And few criminals get caught, at least not by the police.

The stories are all unique with well-developed characters, great suspense, and satisfying conclusions. A few of my favorites were “Murder by Christmas” with its twisted plot, “The Honey Trap” for riling me up, and “The Look” which satisfied my desire for revenge after “The Honey Trap.” Lol. A highly recommended anthology for fans of crime and suspense stories.

And a 2022 Reading Round-up!

My 2022 Goodreads Challenge results. I love browsing the covers and remembering a year filled with great reads.

I think that’s all of them! Happy Reading in 2023!

226 thoughts on “December Book Reviews (Part Two)

  1. olganm says:

    You’ve had a wonderful year of reading, Diana. I recognise quite a few of the titles although I still have to catch up on some. Thanks for sharing your recommendations and I hope 2023 will come full of wonderful reads as well.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Olga. I plan a little less reading in the new year to make time for writing and other pursuits, but I’ll probably whip through my goal. I have one of yours to dive into this year. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and Happy Reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. alexcraigie says:

    A great review for Debby’s book, Diana. I really enjoyed it – her experiences were familiar and yet so very different. Your ‘Books Read’ montage is an amazing achievement. It was a boost to see some of mine there, but I’m truly amazed at the number read AND reviewed. There must be two of you, at least! ❤ ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • I totally agree with your “familiar and yet so very different” comment on Debby’s book. I had the same feeling, Trish, and yet it didn’t matter a bit because growing up is hard and I could relate to that! And of course your books are in the roundup. I hope you’re feeling better and working on a new one!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I loved Debby’s memoir collection, Diana – it just shows, wherever we grow up, we can relate to one another’s memories. And there are so many other writers’ work to check out here!! Thank you.x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for dropping by, Judith and for the lovely comment. I totally agree with you about Debby’s work. Even though she and I lived very different lives, there’s something universal about the trials of growing up and finding ourselves that’s so relatable. And so many awesome books in our community. I never seem to get to the bottom of my kindle. Lol. Happy Reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. […] of the Mirror https://mythsofthemirror.com/2023/01/07/december-book-reviews-part-two/ According to my new blogging schedule developed by my muse, today I’m supposed to share a blog […]

    Liked by 1 person

  5. HI Diana, these all sound like great reads. I enjoyed Jane’s short stories very much and I have Debby’s book on my TBR.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Resa says:

    Diana,
    I just browsed the covers of the books you read last year! Whew! The browse itself was like reading a short story. You are amazing!
    Happy to say I read 4.
    All the books reviewed here sound fab.

    To me the most interesting book reviewed here is D.G. Kaye’s “Fifteen First Times”.
    Thank you for your love of the writing community!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Static Apnoea: What beautiful prose.
    So, when is your next mystic fantasy coming out? I’m ready for my next fix.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh dear. Well don’t hold your breath. Lol. That said, I’m hoping to get two out this year. A novelette/novella which is going through drafts right now. And a full length novel at the end of the year. Fingers crossed. Life may get in the way, but I’m hopeful!

      Like

  8. Ooh, these look like good reads.
    Love your year in review.
    Happy New Year, dear friend.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I read the first of Gwen’s political thrillers and need to catch up on the rest. I love the intro you gave for Debby’s memoir; it invites us to step right into the pages 🙂
    Silverhills stands out to me from your 2022 reading challenge- I loved that book!
    Thanks so much for taking a chance on so many of my books throughout the year, it means the world to me {{hugs}}

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Hi. Gwen Plano’s series sounds like something that would make the jump nicely to TV, on Netflix, Hulu, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. […] Myths of the Mirror […]

    Liked by 1 person

  12. D.L. Finn, Author says:

    Great reviews, Diana 🙂 You reminded me of ones I have to still read and ones I enjoyed already. Great selection of books read, thank you for including mine in that list. Happy reading.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Teri Polen says:

    A great collection, Diana, and so many I want to read. Thanks for sharing your reviews!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I appreciate the visit and browse, Teri. I read a lot of indies, but you’ve also given me a bunch of ideas and recommendations. My kindle is still full of them and I’d love to polish a lot off this year. Ha ha. High hopes. Happy Reading!

      Liked by 2 people

  14. Big congrats to all the authors, and thanks to you for your reviews of their works. Books to check out, and authors to support! Happy new year to you, Diana.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. What a great collection of books you’ve read and reviewed for us, and I’m thrilled to see mine up there amongst them.
    I’ve just finished Debby’s Fifteen Firsts, which I will review soon. Of the rest of this selection I’m definitely drawn to Shadow Walker – sounds right up my alley.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes. I finished your series this year, Deborah, and I’m ready for whatever comes next. 🙂 Debby’s book was delightful and I think you’d enjoy Shadow Walker. Jina writes powerful and female characters, sort of like yours. Thanks for stopping by and Happy Reading!

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Jane Risdon says:

    Reblogged this on Jane Risdon and commented:
    Always such a support throughout the year to the author community, D. Wallace Peach, and here’s another example. Thanks for including such fab authors and their books and for including my short story collection, Undercover: Crime Shorts. Thrilled you took the time to read and review it. Much appreciated. Happy New Year everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Jane Risdon says:

    Such a fab collection of authors and their books, thanks for sharing. Also, many thanks and appreciation for being included with my short stories, I am chuffed and grinning like a loon! Many thanks and Happy New Year everyone. Jane xx

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Brilliant Diana and apart from this months part two of your reviews, an outstanding year of wonderful support for authors ♥♥

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Toni Pike says:

    Great, Diana – such great writers here. TOni x

    Liked by 2 people

  20. dgkaye says:

    What a beautiful surprise Diana. Thank you so much for reading my book and your review. I’m so glad you enjoyed my book, and appreciated how I tied it all together. Your reviews are always intriguing. I’m thrilled to be on your reading list among such other interesting books – some of which I have, and some others I just added to my BFK. LOL, so thanks. 🙂 And love how you got all your GR reads showing up. Hugs my friend. ❤ xx

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Kayla Clark says:

    I’m interest in reading Shadow Walker. It sounds amazing.

    Liked by 2 people

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