More Indie Reviews (or Part III)

I have so many reviews to share, and I’m reading faster than I can get my reviews posted. Three more 5-star books, all different!

The Gemini Connection

by Teri Polen

Oh, what a fun read. Sci-fi fans will have a blast with this thriller, but readers who love human stories will thoroughly enjoy this book too. Simon and Evan are twins with a unique connection even though they are strikingly different. Simon is cerebral, a scientist and gentle soul. Evan is a jock with a temper and a painful chip on his shoulder—he’s never been able to live up to his parents’ expectations.

Despite their differences, the brothers are fiercely loyal to each other, and when Simon goes missing, Evan makes it his mission to find out what happened and bring him home. He’s a successful bender, capable of entering the dreams of clients to unblock their memories or fight their nightmares. Their connection and his talent lead the way.

The world-building is excellent, and though “bending” is a bit of a scientific stretch, Polen does a credible job making it feel plausible throughout the story. The pace moves along at a speedy clip, and there are plenty of tight spots and danger.

The story is told in the first-person point of view of both brothers. You might have guessed that I just loved the characters, particularly Evan and Simon. Their relationship wasn’t without its bumps and bruises, but the steadfast loyalty they felt toward each other had me rooting for them from the start. Secondary characters were richly drawn and three-dimensional, as were peripheral players. A great read that I highly recommend.

Global Amazon Link

***

The Hat

by Craig Boyack

In this short read, Boyack has teamed up Lizzie, a young woman with two part-time jobs, and a talking hat that she stole/inherited from her grandmother’s estate. Yes, you heard that right—a talking hat. At first, she’s rather suspicious and freaked out by the hat, but when a friend’s newborn is stolen as part of a larger baby-napping ring, Lizzie and the hat set out to rescue the infants.

What ensues is pretty entertaining. The banter between Lizzie and the hat is exceptionally witty, particularly as the hat navigates advances in technology (it’s been in a box for a long time). The duo reminded me of wise-cracking detective team with snappy dialog and lots of attitude on both sides.

This book can be polished off in a couple of hours and is well worth the time. Highly recommended.

Global Amazon Link

***

Amanda in Holland

by Darlene Foster

This book was quite a bit of fun. Foster combines a middle-grade fiction plot with a colorful tour of Holland, including its famous sites, snippets of history, and its wonderful flowers and food. I had the great fortune of visiting my grandparents in Holland when I was Amanda’s age, and her experiences in the book mirror my memories in great detail. It was a blast to traipse along beside Amanda and enjoy the country once again.

The main plot focuses on the recovery of a lost puppy, but secondary plots weave through the story, and all come together nicely at the end. There’s a bit of mystery and some danger to keep the tension up. There are also some very moving scenes when Amanda visits Anne Frank’s home and a war memorial dedicated to the Canadians who helped liberate Holland during WWII. A lovely book for young readers and absolutely perfect for readers who plan to travel the world.

Global Amazon Link

***

 

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

More Indie Book Reviews

A few more fabulous reads from my travels!

Simple

by Anita Dawes

This story was a riveting page-turner that I was unable to put down and couldn’t wait to get back to when I did. The tale takes place in the backwoods hill country of the Eastern US where life unfolds according to different rules than it does in town. The law has no influence, relationships are frequently brutal, and survival requires living by one’s instincts.

The main character, Leanne, grows up in a cabin with her grandmother and extended family where a “meanness” comes out in violence and cruelty. She and her mentally disabled uncle, Simple, are burdened with kind hearts and eventually, their defiant choices put them in mortal danger from their own family.

Part of what makes the book so engrossing is its utter unpredictability. The tension sits on a knife’s edge at all times. The family is explosive, and Leanne, though only fourteen, survives by her wits, knowing full well the nature of her adversaries. All of the characters are thoroughly believable and so real that I’m staying far away from any place where I might run into their like. Honestly, it’s a bit chilling.

Dawe’s prose reflects the colloquial dialog and lack of education among the hill-folk, and yet it flows smoothly and is effortless to read. Each character’s voice is distinct and consistent. There is no gratuitous sex or violence, although these elements are frequently present as ways in which the family’s goals, anger, and revenge are carried out. The details regarding hill-life lend credibility to the story and increase immersion.

Despite the brutality, ultimately this is a read about the power of kindness and love, and finding one’s way home. This book is one of my favorites this year. Definitely high on my recommendation list.

 

Mahoney

by Andrew Joyce

Mahoney is a family saga that follows the lives of three generations of fathers and sons. Part I chronicles the immigration of Devin Mahoney from Ireland to the US in the mid-1850s to escape the potato famine. Despite rampant discrimination, he contributes to the growing nation as a brick-layer and railroad man. Part II extends into the American West with Devin’s son, Dillon, who becomes a US Marshal and California oilman. Part III transitions to the story of David Mahoney as he rediscovers the country his forefathers helped build and finds himself in the process.

Joyce tells the story in an omniscient point of view, sprinkling third-person and first-person narratives with historical details about the time and place, the men’s vocations, living conditions, war, justice, and injustice. These details are well researched and add a fascinating backdrop to the human story. Descriptions are vivid, and the pace is leisurely.

The characters are richly developed. The dialog is exceptional, and relationships feel authentic. I felt connected to each of the three men and their stories and was moved at the end as David Mahoney embraces the legacy left by his father and grandfather. An excellent read that will appeal to anyone who enjoys stories about multi-generational families, historical fiction, or the making of a nation.

 

Life in a Flash

by Geoff Le Pard

This generous collection of flash fiction is full of quirky humor. Le Pard has a way of exaggerating recognizable human interactions and bringing to light their inherent nonsense in a fresh and delightful way. I kept opening my Kindle during the night to read one or two more.

But humor isn’t the only offering on the book’s pages. Sprinkled among the laughs are some poignant stories that strum the heartstrings, and some social commentary that points to the human condition and the current struggles faced by many. I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy flash fiction and a clever and imaginative take on life.

Indie Book Reviews: Part I

The best thing about spending the last 2 months driving between Oregon and Washington, living out of a suitcase, and ignoring my bossy muse has been catching up on reading. Indie books were gifts from heaven!

It’s been a while since I’ve shared reviews of books I’ve enjoyed. These are in no particular order. And there are more to come!

 

A Thousand Yesteryears

by Mae Clair

Intriguing plot and believable characters. At the death of her aunt, Eve Parrish returns to Point Pleasant to sell off the family hotel. Not only is the town known for sightings of a fantastical creature, the mothman, it’s also the location of a bridge collapse that, fifteen years ago, claimed the life of Eve’s father and friend. That tragedy still hangs over the town, and Eve has no plans to stay.

But her old crush Caden Flynn still lives in town, a man haunted by the events of the collapse that took his sister’s life. The truth about what happened that day begins to unravel when the home of Eve’s aunt is vandalized, and she begins receiving threatening notes. Someone wants her gone, even if he needs to kill her.

The story is a high-paced paranormal thriller with vivid worldbuilding and a touch of romance. The plot holds together well with all pieces falling into place. The characters are emotionally rich and thoroughly credible, not only the main characters but those on the periphery. I was intrigued by the mothman and its mysterious relationship to the events. Excellent fun and highly recommended. I’m eager to read more of the series.

Global Link to Amazon

***

Survival of the Fittest

by Jacqui Murray

Fascinating world-building. I seem to have developed a taste for prehistoric fiction. After reading Murray’s Born in a Treacherous Time, I was looking forward to her next foray into the dawn of man. This book takes place 850,000 years after Born in a Treacherous Time and is the first book in a trilogy. It’s not a stand-alone novel so be prepared to move on to Book 2 when it comes out.

The plot of the story is something of a quest as three separate groups of early man abandon their home-bases in search of safer ones. A changing climate, dwindling resources, and danger from a growing number of aggressive tribes drive them onward.

To some extent, the first half of the book is three separate stories, one for each group. They join into one larger group about mid-way through the read, and the rest of the book deals with the choices made to procure peace and ensure their survival. Subplots and characters add flavor to the story, all in the well-researched context of prehistoric life where, naturally, the norms are different than they are today.

One group dominates more of the book than the other two. The main character is a female leader, Xhosa. Her responsibility is to protect her people from a variety of dangers, particularly from other humans, while they search for a new home. She’s a complex character, thoughtful and ingenious, and callous as needed in a world where the weak jeopardize the entire group.

Secondary characters have distinct personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and quirks which add complexity to the “human” tale. There are power struggles, deceptions, kindnesses, and wisdom. The world-building is a fascinating foray into prehistoric landscapes. Though fiction, Murray deftly brought to life a time we have little record of. Highly recommended.

Global Link to Amazon

***

 

Short & Not Always Sweet

by Dorinda Duclos

Stories to savor. Duclos offers a generous selection of over 60 short stories, pieces of poetic prose, and flash fiction in a compilation that kept me enthralled for an entire afternoon. The writing is lovely, evocative, and in many cases emotional. Some pieces are lyrical and heartfelt reflections with themes centered on nature, serenity, and empowerment. Others are dark forays into ghostly hauntings and the realms of murder and revenge. Some of my favorites are Patience, Dusk, Wilted, and I Am. A wonderful way to spend an afternoon or to savor over a week, one page at a time.

Global Link to Amazon

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Happy Reading!

Short Story Collections – Settle in and Read

Right about now, I can’t think of anything more enjoyable than sitting outside in the spring sunshine, nibbling on strawberries, and reading. (For those in the southern hemisphere, just turn it around, and contemplate those cool, comfortable autumn days of hot cocoa and swirling leaves).

Short stories somehow complete the picture, and I wanted to share my 5-STAR reviews for 3 short story collections that I enjoyed over the winter. All beautifully written, all with a broad variety of stories, all wonderfully entertaining. I hope one or two or all three appeal to you.

Global links to Amazon are below the books, and if you want to connect with any of these three wonderful bloggers, click on their names. ❤

Ripples on the Pond

by Sebnem Sanders

Ripples on the Pond is a mesmerizing collection of short stories. I was swept into Sanders’ imagination from the very first selection, Through the Wings of Time, and it ended up being a favorite. But that was only the beginning of this generous collection of 71 stories, all different, all exceptional reads and beautifully edited. The stories wade through numerous genres and topics including the whimsey of magic, the pain of loss, the marvel of friendship, and the cost of crime, to name a scant few. Sander’s range is remarkable and no two stories are alike, a feat considering the size of this collection.

Sanders is a native of Istanbul, Turkey, who now lives on the Southern Aegean, thus many of the stories have an international flavor that I enjoyed (and also made we want to travel). I love literature that transports me to different settings and cultures where the wide range of human experience and emotion feels so familiar – just another reason among many to dive into this read. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a wide variety of wonderfully crafted short stories.

***

The Storyteller Speaks

by Annika Perry

Perry’s debut book is a beautiful read. The twenty-one selections in The Storyteller Speaks are primarily short stories, with a smattering of flash fiction and poems. The author states in the afterword that the thread binding the work together is “the belief that there is no such thing as an ordinary life,” and this insight is clearly borne out in her book. It’s what captivated me as I read.

The stories are all quite different, some dark and some lighthearted, though most are filled with the deep emotions of ordinary people as they navigate disappointment, loss, redemption, healing, and love. These are feelings that will strike a chord with most people, even if the circumstances aren’t quite the same. Most of the tales felt “quiet” to me, personal, as if I was looking beneath the outer appearances of a person into the rich pathos of their inner lives.

I tried to pick favorites as I read, but had to give up; there were too many. I recommend this book to anyone who loves short stories and wants to feel moved by the strength and courage of the human spirit.

***

What’s in a Name, Vol. 2

by Sally Cronin

I read the first volume of What’s in a Name and was eager to give the second a try. Volume 2 is a collection of short stories that picks up when the first ended, covering names starting with K through Z (Kenneth through Zoe). Cronin includes a bonus short story for a collection coming out later in 2018.

This is a quick read that I breezed through in a few hours, sitting outside in the spring sunshine. Many of the stories have older characters, covering a range of topics from heartwarming reunions, grief and loss, recovered dignity, and romantic love beyond the grave. There’s also a bit of happily ever after and match-making, as well as some swindling, and a taste of well-deserved murder! The variety is highly entertaining and kept me engaged throughout.

Cronin is a master storyteller and I recommend this collection (both volumes) to readers of all ages.

(You can read my review of What’s in a Name, Vol. 1 here.)

Happy Reading!

Book of the Month… Catling’s Bane

Click on cover for Global Amazon Link

There are few online surprises quite as delightful as popping onto WP in the morning and finding an unexpected review of your book.

Or better yet, that your creation has earned a little limelight. I was grinning on Monday morning when I discovered Catling’s Bane was selected as Book of the Month on Kevin Cooper’s – KC Books and Music.

He wrote a lovely review earlier in July:

 

 

 

Already a great fan of D. Wallace Peach’s work it came as no surprise to find myself fully engrossed in each chapter as I read through this first installment of The Rose Shield. Any story that starts with hanging day is bound to bait the reader to some extent, but with her usual storytelling skills, Peach completely hooks and reels you in. The story is complex, the characters are strong, and the creatures are fantastic. The powers wielded for good and evil are unique. There seems to be no limitations to D. Wallace Peach’s ability to write gripping fantasy. I cannot even imagine what the next great installment will bring.

Thanks, Kevin!

A couple other bloggers have added to the smiles:

D. Wallace Peach creates an utterly original, lush and cohesive world inhabited by well-developed and multi-dimensional characters we instantly care about (even the minor ones), all the more so as the plot unfolds. And what a plot it is — no copycat fiction or cliche devices here. The concept of “influence” as an accepted part of life is not only entertaining but thought provoking; and the author’s attention to detail on how influence works grabs hold and will thrill true high fantasy readers who value intelligent rationale for magic. All I can say is … prepare to lose some sleep over this one. And the final chapter leads to a cliffhanger that will leave readers desperate for Book II.

I am a lifelong reader of fantasy, and out of what I’d guess to be nearly 1,000 books read to date, this book series is in my top five. Catling’s Bane is easily on par with the likes of Patrick Rothfuss (The Kingkiller Chronicle series), Karen Miller (the “Mage” series) and Glenda Larke (Stormlord series). I’m confident that many readers will, like me, add this one to their top shelf.

Kevin reviewed Erik’s book: The Best Advice So Far (also a book of the month feature).

***

In D. Wallace Peach’s Catling’s Bane, the first installment in the Rose Shield trilogy, the young Catlin lives in a world of poverty, repression, and inhumanity. When still a toddler, her mother sells her for whatever she can get, which is where Catling’s life looks up. Her new family is loving, caring, humane, with a family pig business that requires working children to run. They sell their piglets at a weekly market which coincides with hanging days–when the overflow residents of the prison are hanged to make room for others. To make this acceptable to the population, the ruling class uses ‘influencers’ to throw a web of happiness and contentment out over everyone in the crowd. People–even family members–gleefully watch their friends and neighbors killed. But Catling has the power to break that web, penetrate it, and allow others to see the horror of murder lurking below the pleasant emotions. When stakeholders on both sides of this system find out she has this ability, her life changes forever.

What an excellent start to this trilogy. The characters are strong. The passion obvious. The plot addicting. Peach’s ability to weave words into glorious pictures of events and places is perfectly matched to the fantasy world she has created. The details of this environment are exquisite and believable:

“Riverfolk moored up at the docks with skiffs bearing buckets of silver eels and glass bottles dense with luminescence. Ferries plied their way up from Ava-Grea delivering merchants and travelers from distant tiers. Pulled by waterdragons, the vessels bucked the swift current. The creatures’ green-scaled heads reared through the surface, tapered snouts sprayed clouds of mist, and fins stroked the water like wings. The voyage complete, tall rivermasters with white hair flowing like waterfalls beckoned the creatures in. They slipped off tethering ropes, and the waterdragons dove.”

Highly recommended to anyone who loves fantasy adventure and big dreams.

Kevin reviewed Jacqui’s book: Twenty-four Days just this week.

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If you’re intrigued…

Catling’s Bane will be free this weekend.  ❤

5-Star Reads: No More Mulberries and Atonement, Tennessee

My writing break has freed up some precious time for reading, and I have two more reviews to share. These books are quite different. I hope you give one or both a try. 😀

Click on Cover for Global  Amazon Link

No More Mulberries

by Mary Smith

My Review: Where do I even start with all the things I loved about this book? The story is about Miriam, a Scottish midwife who first fell deeply in love with an Afghan and then with his country. It’s a story about love and loss, fear and courage, and the strength of family and the human spirit.

In many ways, this story could be told anywhere in the world as individuals, couples, and families aren’t that different from each other no matter where we find them. Miriam’s story and her emotional struggles are deeply relatable. Her search for self, her struggle to balance her various roles, to fill expectations and have her expectations filled, and her commitment to her family and community could be anyone’s story.

But Miriam’s tale doesn’t take place anywhere in the world. It unfolds in 1995 Afghanistan. The book portrays a multi-dimensional country with remote villages that haven’t changed in hundreds of years to more modern communities with a forward-leaning vision of the future. And though it’s clear in the story that love is love, family is family, and people are people, the narrative reveals the stark differences in the lives of those people marked by isolation and all it entails, and those who have high hopes for education, healthcare, and their country. Miriam’s story is deftly intertwined with the story of a country and its people, and I loved it all.

Smith’s years in Afghanistan give the read it’s undeniable authenticity, and her skill as a storyteller shines. She doles out the backstory details in small doses. They’re little gems that slowly illuminate the present story and build understanding while increasing tension and a desire for resolution. Settings are well described, the pace is steady, and characterization is flawless. I stayed up late and lost some sleep over this one.

One beautiful book that I highly recommend.

Click on Cover for Global Amazon Link

Atonement, Tennessee

by Teagan Geneviene

My Review: Esmeralda is a new arrival in the town of Atonement. She’s purchased an old estate that comes with its own cemetery and some interesting trespassers – a marvelous gang of gal-pals, an irresistible florist/handyman, and a mysterious, handsome neighbor. The magic starts off almost immediately while “Ralda” waits for the moving van and starts settling into her new life.

The tale is full of whimsy as ancient magic threads through the home and cemetery. Ralda is curious but not particularly fearful, and I enjoyed her level-headed, low key approach to the strange noises and events happening around her. The story is told mainly from her point of view. The exception is Lilith, her cat, who witnesses some of the magic but isn’t able to fill her owner in on the details.

For me, the best part of the book was the characters. If you enjoy strong female characters and genuine friendships, you won’t be disappointed. Ralda has a wry sense of humor and authentic voice. Geneviene does a great job with her internal dialog and with character interactions as a whole. The gal-pals are a delight, well-rounded individuals with a nice balance of wit and sensitivity.

Alongside the unfolding mysteries that inhabit the property, a second plotline centers on a darker “real”-life theme, which wraps up cleanly in the end. The main plot around the home’s magic and Ralda’s role in the mystery leaves a few loose ends and questions that might lend themselves toward a sequel. The minor danglers did not impact my delight in the overall story.

A light and magical read for all ages.

I’ll be taking a short break (offline) to head north and visit family.
Have a great week. ❤

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!