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:
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.