Two More Summer Reads: Blogger book reviews

I usually read in bed at night and pass out after one or two chapters. One book can easily take a whole month to read. Not so while on vacation. Here are two more reviews of blogger books that I read during my trip to Colorado. Enjoy.

Eclipse Lake

by Mae Clair

A blend of mystery and romance with strong characters.

Eclipse Lake is one part cozy mystery and one part romance. The story focuses on Dane Carlisle, a teenage lost-cause who grew up and turned his life around to become a multi-millionaire. He returns to his hometown with his adopted son, hoping to make amends with his older brother. But memories of the teenage Dane persist, and the discovery of an old skull raises more suspicions about his past. Set against Dane’s dark history and the current turmoil is his fairytale romance with a spunky photo-journalist who’s in town shooting pictures of the scenic lake.

The conflict between the three male characters – Dane, his teenage son, and his older brother – was what hooked me on the book. All well-rounded characters, they were emotionally genuine and likable, but also flawed. The relationships were convincingly volatile, and the emotional arcs felt authentic. Clair did a nice job with the cast of secondary characters and the quaint setting – a small mountain town where everyone knows everyone’s business. The story moves speedily along during the action and conflict scenes, and slows to a leisurely pace during romantic interludes.

Eclipse Lake is a well-constructed story with clean writing and some unexpected twists. Readers who enjoy mysteries, family secrets, and a strong romantic thread will love this book.

What’s in a Name

My Sally G. Cronin

Twenty stories by a master storyteller

What’s in a Name is a delightful collection of 20 short stories organized alphabetically by the names of the main characters. A few stories are dark, some are magical or humorous, and many close with a sense of poignancy.

Cronin is a marvelous storyteller, and for a reader, spending an afternoon immersed in the lives of the people behind the names is time well-spent. For me, the last story in the collection “Jack” was the icing on the cake, but all the stories are unique and well worth the read. Highly recommended for any reader who enjoys short stories about the human journey.

Happy Reading!

Summer Reading – 2 Reviews

Nap or read?

It was the main decision I had to make while visiting my parents in Colorado. Poor me, right? Well, reading won out!

Fortunately, my ipad was (is) crammed with books, and I had a pile to choose from. I’m happy to kick off a couple of reviews of fellow bloggers’ books.

A Thousand Rooms

by Helen Jones

My review:

Keep a box of tissues at your elbow for this one! A Thousand Rooms had me red-eyed and snuffling. This is a character-driven book with a simple plot: Katie, newly dead and unfortunately overlooked in her transition from life, goes on a quest to find “her heaven” and travels through a series of manifestations (rooms) before she finds her own.

Jones draws on a variety of mystical traditions and beliefs to design the experience of being dead and the concepts of heaven, soul mates, and reincarnation. These were interesting, but what I loved, loved, loved about his book was the incredibly touching and heartfelt expressions of human emotions, particularly grief and sorrow and, ultimately, of pure love.

Jones writes beautifully. Descriptions are rich, and the characters, even those on the periphery, are wonderfully developed. As the main character, Katie is thoroughly relatable with a wide range of emotions including some delightful sarcasm. I found her personal evolution compelling as her earthly concerns slip away and she discovers the essence of who she is and the point of her journey. Katie’s realization of what it means to live a blessed life is uplifting and full of hope. Highly recommended for readers who love character-driven books and want to feel inspired.

Death by Pumpkin

by Noelle Granger

My review:

Death by Pumpkin was my second read in Granger’s Rhe Brewster series and a pure joy ride. Rhe is a single mom, ER nurse, and police department consultant in the small Maine town of Pequod. She, once again, takes an active role in a police department investigation when the pumpkin-drop at a local festival reveals a murder. She rapidly goes from investigator to target as an old nemesis is determined to make her and those she cares for suffer.

The book is fast-paced and well-researched. The scene in the small plane was particularly riveting and highlighted Granger’s attention to detail. Other than the villain, the characters are all beautifully three-dimensional and full of quirky personality. I thoroughly enjoyed the interplay in the authentic relationships. In addition to the murder investigation, romantic and political subplots add interest and tension. A perfect read for anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries with plenty of thrills.

More to come!

 

 

 

Twenty-four Days – Blog Hop

Jacqui Murray has a new book out and I had the privilege of a sneak peek. I read her first book, To Hunt a Sub, and this sequel does not disappoint! It’s a torpedo-paced military thriller that I happily review below. 

But first things first.

Twenty-four Days

An unlikely team is America’s only chance

World-renowned paleoanthropologist, Dr. Zeke Rowe is surprised when a friend from his SEAL past shows up in his Columbia lab and asks for help: Two submarines have been hijacked and Rowe might be the only man who can find them.

At first he refuses, fearing a return to his former life will end a sputtering romance with fellow scientist and love of his life, Kali Delamagente, but when one of his closest friends is killed by the hijackers, he changes his mind. He asks Delamagente for the use of her one-of-a-kind AI Otto who possesses the unique skill of being able to follow anything with a digital trail.

In a matter of hours, Otto finds one of the subs and it is neutralized.

But the second, Otto can’t locate.

Piece by piece, Rowe uncovers a bizarre nexus between Salah Al-Zahrawi–the world’s most dangerous terrorist and a man Rowe thought he had killed a year ago, a North Korean communications satellite America believes is a nuclear-tipped weapon, an ideologue that cares only about revenge, and the USS Bunker Hill (a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser) tasked with supervising the satellite launch.

And a deadline that expires in twenty-four days.

As America teeters on the brink of destruction, Zeke finally realizes that Al-Zahrawi’s goal isn’t nuclear war, but payback against the country that cost him so much.

***

Jacqui’s research and technical knowledge is outstanding and adds immensely to the believability and enjoyment of the read. Here’s a tidbit:

Can today’s science make a warship invisible?

If not today, in the very near future. DARPA and other scientific arms of the US Military are experimenting with approaches such as the use of metamaterials (the device used in Twenty-four Days) To hide military equipment from all sorts of waves—like sound waves and light waves. In a nutshell, here’s how they work: Rather than the sound or light waves hitting the object, they are deflected around the object and they land on what’s behind it. That means, the viewer (or in the book’s case, sonar) see what’s behind the object rather than the object. This is already effective for small objects, but is experimental for large ones like tanks and subs, and planning stages for sonar.

Pretty cool.

My Review:

I was an avid fan of Murray’s military thriller To Hunt a Sub, and her second book, Twenty-four Days, somehow managed to top the first. Though it isn’t necessary to have read the first book before diving into Twenty-four Days, I do recommend it. Murray mentions backstory but doesn’t spend a lot of time on it, so I liked having a solid grasp of the network of main characters prior to jumping into the new novel. It increased my enjoyment of this torpedo-paced book.

Torpedo-paced is an accurate description. This book starts off full speed ahead and keeps it up to the last page. For readers who love thrillers with twisting plots, plenty of intrigue, and a race against time to uncover and stop a multi-pronged terrorist attack, Twenty-four Days hits the mark. Not until the very end is the master plan understood, and foiling the plot takes right up to the last page. I’m a slow reader, and I whizzed through this book.

One thing I enjoyed about To Hunt a Sub was the technical reality Murray created for both the scientific and military elements of the book. I completely believed the naval and investigatory hierarchy and protocols, as well as the operation inside the sub. This book is just as convincing as the first but with the addition of a battleship. The operation, acronyms, and lingo were technical, realistic, and occasionally over my head, but never to the degree that I was lost. Rather, I was thoroughly convinced that Murry is a submariner! 

The science behind both reads is well researched and felt completely authentic, from cutting-edge military science and technology to the capabilities of artificial intelligence. The first book introduces the reader to Otto, a computer-housed AI. He was effective and fascinating but not terribly engaging. In Twenty-four Days, Otto gets a mobile body and the algorithms necessary to acquire a personality. He becomes a captivating character in the story and was one of my favorites as he participates in problem-solving and saving the world from war. The whole cast of characters is well drawn, their personalities, emotions, and relationships believable. There isn’t a lot of downtime to get to know them deeply though – the main reason to start with the first book.

All in all, a thrill of a read – 5 stars and highly recommended. I’m already looking forward to the next one!

Twenty-four Days:      

Kindle US,    Kindle UK,    Canada

Author bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and  Twenty-four DaysShe is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

Quote from author:

What sets this series apart from other thrillers is the edgy science used to build the drama, the creative thinking that unravels the deadly plot, and the Naval battle that relies on not just fire power but problem solving to outwit the enemy.

Social Media contacts:

http://twitter.com/worddreams

http://facebook.com/kali.delamagente

http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

https://plus.google.com/u/0/102387213454808379775/posts

Ordinary Handsome Review – A Stunning Read

Steven’s New Cover! Global Link to Amazon

With my shift into some breathing room, I’ve begun indulging in some overdue reading. My TBR pile is teetering, and I’ve had to purchase more books to prop it up. I’ll be posting reviews now and then when I surface from a really great read. I read this one a while ago, and it’s a book I still think about. If you love the beauty of words, I highly recommend it. 

My Review of Ordinary Handsome

I just finished this book and sit here collecting my thoughts. From the first page, I knew I had happened on something special, something that would sweep me into the otherworld offered by a talented author and his beautifully written book.

The story is grim, about the dying lives that labor on in the dying town of Handsome, Oklahoma. Ghosts in a ghost town. The book follows ordinary men dealing with the epic struggles that shape human experience: love and death, failure, fathering, poverty, murder, and lost hope. It revolves around a young man, Euart Monroe Wasson, and the men who participate in the tragedy made of his life.

The book isn’t one to speed through. Baird writes with a style that requires one to pay attention. He slowly draws aside the veils that reveal the interconnection of each man’s story. I had the impression that I was piecing together a mosaic, the tale assembled from the shards of shattered lives, memories, impressions, and illusions.

The narrative is informal and appropriate to the rural landscape. At the same time, the writing is textured, rife with precise detail, stunning imagery, and raw emotion. Baird is a master at finding the perfect word and painting a picture that shifts and clears with each new perspective.

I highly recommend Ordinary Handsome to any reader who wants to get lost in an exquisitely written tale. This book will stick to your heart.

***

I picked up Ordinary Handsome after following Baird’s blog and falling in love with the quality of his writing. I’ll also happily recommend his book, A Very Tall Summer.

hey__steve__by_angeink-d813x0kSteven Baird is an author, amateur photographer, and 36-year newspaper compositor. He has published three novels, including his latest, A Very Tall Summer, and has been writing since the age of 10. Steven is a native Canadian living in southwest Virginia with his wife Angela, a horse, dog, cat, and a Neurotic Band of Chickens. He does not take himself as seriously as his portrait would suggest.

Global Link to Amazon: Ordinary Handsome Amazon

Link to Steven’s Website: Ordinary Handsome Website

 

The Best Advice So Far – Book Review

unnamedThis is a book that I reviewed in 2015 and have been thinking about lately as so many people across the world struggle with feelings of disenfranchisement. Lots of us feel buffeted by events beyond our control and choices made by others. The beauty of this book lies in the affirmation that “You always have a choice.”

Erik Tyler is a frequent visitor to my blog, a friendly soul willing to engage with me and other bloggers who kindly comment on my posts. He sent me a copy of his book, The Best Advice So Far, which I loved, and therefore am pleased to share again.

In my 20’s and 30’s, I read personal growth books. Many of the lessons stuck, but many required too much work: hours of self-analysis, a spiritual conversion, expensive travel, learning a new practice, joining a cult, and wearing beads, headbands, and robes. I just didn’t have the time between working and raising a family. Being a happy person shouldn’t be that hard.

As unique individuals, we all define happiness differently. In the middle third of my life, I discovered that happiness, for me, is a wonderful side effect of integrity, authenticity, and kindness, an outward spreading of “the love.” Sometimes that takes the form of service, but more often it’s a way of being in relationship with others without all the filters, free of the junk I used to drag around, manacled to my ankle.

So, what does this have to do with Erik’s book…

What I loved about The Best Advice So Far is its simplicity. It’s a well-organized and beautifully written guide to cultivating the integrity, authenticity, and genuine kindness toward self and others that lead to satisfying relationships, and ultimately, to happiness. I’m a believer in the power of perspective and that attitude and approach have incredible power over our lives. This is where the power of choice comes into play. I may not be able to change my circumstances, but I have a choice about how I will perceive, process, and respond.

The book is not a religious, theological, or spiritual treatise, but rests on sound psychological principles and practice. In each chapter, Tyler introduces a topic based on his own experiences, foibles, and insights. The anecdotes are entertaining tales in and of themselves, and on many occasions, I found myself laughing or reduced to tears. I can’t remember the last time a “self-help” book touched me so deeply.

At the end of each chapter, Tyler offers Questions for Reflection and Discussion. They provide fodder for further growth, for journaling, for individual, couple, and group exploration. I plan to use some of them as topics for discussion with my adventurous women’s group.

CJIWfXjWEAAdJW3In my few interactions with Erik, it’s clear to me that his principles are in practice. I recommend this book to anyone who seeks a life of greater connection, meaning, and happiness. Enjoy.

Erik is an author, speaker, blogger, youth mentor, family advocate, singer, songwriter, musician, poet, people lover, creative force, conversationalist, problem solver, chance-taker, noticer, and lover of life. He lives in the Boston area of Massachusetts.

Follow his blog at: The Best Advice So Far

And browse his book on Amazon: The Best Advice So Far

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT THE SORCERER’S GARDEN by @DWallacepeach #Fantasy

While I was taking a break and guzzling cold medicine, a lovely review of The Sorcerer’s Garden showed up on Rosie Amber’s book review blog. The review is compliments of  Suzanne Rogerson. Thank you, Suzanne and Rosie!

I hope you enjoy this review as much as I did:

***

Today’s team review is from Suzanne, she blogs at Suzanne Rogerson Fantasy AuthorSuzanne has been reading The Sorcerer’s Garden by D Wallace Peach.

My Review

Wow, this was a breath-taking adventure that barely stood still.

I was intrigued by the title and the blurb really stood out for me, anything to do with writing and writers and I’m sold! As I started reading, possibilities whirled through my mind…

The start of the story felt a little over the top in the action sense. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but then I realised this was the start of Cody’s story – his tale of slaying the dragon with his brother. I thought this was very cleverly done by the author. This larger than life action helped to distinguish between Madlyn’s real world and Cody’s work in progress. However, as the story developed everything becomes more complicated for Madalyn and soon the two worlds are colliding and you have no idea what is real and…

(Continue Reading: Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT THE SORCERER’S GARDEN by @DWallacepeach #Fantasy)

To Hunt a Sub – Book Review

To Hunt a Sub is Jacqui Murray’s debut fiction novel and what a read it is.

A nuclear sub goes missing and retired Navy intel officer, Zeke Rowe, is called in to help with the investigation. It turns out that a cybervirus is the culprit. What Rowe can’t figure out was who did it or how to stop the perpetrator from sinking every submarine in the fleet. He joins forces with Kali Delamagente, the developer of an AI named Otto whose unique ability is compiling clues and finding things – like ancient people, kidnappers, and modern subs.

Rowe’s not the only one whose interested in the subs or Otto’s capabilities. Bent on destroying America, a terrorist is making Kali’s life miserable, breaking into her lab, hacking her computer, and making hostages out of those she loves. He nails warnings to the dead bodies of anyone who gets too close. As the terrorist ring closes in, time is running out and the stakes are rising.

One thing I enjoyed about this read is the technical reality Murray created for both the scientific and military aspects of the book. I completely believed the naval and investigatory hierarchy and protocols, as well as the operation inside the sub. I was fascinated by her explanation of Otto’s capabilities, the security efforts Kali employs to protect her data, and how she used Otto’s data to help Rowe.

If that all sounds like too much science, the characters are also well-rounded human beings with colorful histories and rich emotional palettes. There’s a little romantic attraction thrown in for fun though it isn’t a main focus of the story. The plot is high energy and complex with twists that require the reader to pay attention.

To Hunt a Sub is an entertaining novel for anyone who enjoys military thrillers. A well-written read and great fun!

Jacqui Murray

Jacqui Murray

About the Author:
J Murray blogs at Worddreams and has wonderful tips for writers. She is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

To Hunt a Sub on Amazon – Universal Link