Sharon E. Cathcart
Books by award-winning internationally published author Sharon E. Cathcart provide discerning readers of essays, fiction and non-fiction with a powerful, truthful literary experience. Her primary focus is on creating fiction featuring atypical characters.
A former journalist and newspaper editor, Sharon has written for as long as she can remember and generally has at least one work in progress.
Sharon lives with her husband and an assortment of pets in the Silicon Valley, California.
Where to find Sharon E. Cathcart online
Where to buy in print
Seen Through the Phantom's Eyes: The Omnibus Edition
by Sharon E. Cathcart
Author Sharon E. Cathcart presents an omnibus edition of "In The Eye of the Beholder," "In The Eye of The Storm" and the award-winning short fiction collection, "Through the Opera Glass." Together for the first time in a "box set," these books bring readers into the world of the notorious Phantom of the Opera, Erik Le Maître, through the streets of Paris, London, and San Francisco.
by Sharon E. Cathcart
Bath, 1816. Clytemnestra Preston has become so terrified of life that she refuses to leave her room. Not even her family can convince her to take her place in Society again. Doctor Samuel Whittington, late of His Majesty's Army, may be her only chance for a cure ... and romance. Can Sam convince Clytie to open the door, and her heart?
His Beloved Infidel
by Sharon E. Cathcart
Farukh and Catherine are colleagues at Paris' World Language Institute. He is Persian; she is American. Can their newly-discovered love survive the strain of Iran's Islamic Revolution?
Through the Opera Glass
by Sharon E. Cathcart
Author Sharon E. Cathcart took up a challenge in 2012: to write flash fiction and full length short stories based on various prompts. Each story features one or more characters from "In The Eye of The Beholder: A Novel of the Phantom of the Opera" or its sequel, "In The Eye of The Storm."
Some Brief Advice for Indie Authors
by Sharon E. Cathcart
Author Sharon E. Cathcart presents a compendium of her most popular blog posts on the business of writing. With subject matter ranging from building relationships with one's readers to creating a brand statement, this book provides answers to some of the questions Cathcart has encountered during her career as an author.
Around the World in 80 Pages
by Sharon E. Cathcart
Author Sharon E. Cathcart presents ten short stories of various genres, each taking place in a different location. With subject matter ranging from paranormal to historical fiction, urban fantasy to literary fiction, there is something in this sampler for everyone.
by Sharon E. Cathcart
Author Sharon E. Cathcart ("In The Eye of The Beholder," "Les Pensees Dangereuses") presents a sampler of essays and short fiction. The collection features "Heart of Stone," a short story never previously published.
Les Pensees Dangereuses: Dangerous Thoughts about Life, Love, Pets, Friends and Depression
by Sharon E. Cathcart
Part autobiography and part inspiration, "Les Pensees Dangereuses" (French for "dangerous thoughts") is a series of essays on friendship, spirituality, education, bullying, animals, clinical depression and more. Author Sharon E. Cathcart ("In The Eye of The Beholder") shares her thoughts, including an unfinished autobiography, "Unmasking My Phantoms: My Dance With Madness," in this new book.
In The Eye of The Beholder
by Sharon E. Cathcart
When French equestrian Claire Delacroix loses her fiance in a tragic accident, she comes to live at the Paris Opera during its 1890s heyday.
Whilst working at the opera, she meets a mysterious, masked stranger: Erik. Is it possible that the two of them will heal the pain of each other's past?
Updated for 2015 with glossaries of equestrian terms and French words used in the text.
Sharon E. Cathcart's tag cloud
Sharon E. Cathcart's favorite authors on Smashwords
Kat and Mouse, Guns For Hire: Payback.
Published August 28, 2014.
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Charles de Lint
The Very Best of Charles de Lint.
Published July 29, 2015.
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Published May 15, 2015.
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"Listening Is Good For You! Free Audiobooks by Julie Elizabeth Powell"
Edward C. Patterson
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J. Timothy King
"Disorder" and 7 Other Flashes of Character.
Published March 9, 2011.
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Death Becomes Her.
Published January 27, 2015.
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Published August 25, 2014.
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Jar of Pickles: A Short Story.
Published April 2, 2013.
(5.00 from 1 review)
John Buffalo Mailer
Music, Food, and Death (The State Of New Orleans Through The Eyes Of The Strippers).
Published March 11, 2010.
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
The Little Book of Confidence.
Published May 31, 2011.
(5.00 from 1 review)
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The Weight is Over.
Published August 10, 2010.
(5.00 from 1 review)
Susan Helene Gottfried
Published October 15, 2014.
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The Volcano Lady: Vol. 2 - To the Ending of the World.
Published January 22, 2014.
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Smashwords book reviews by Sharon E. Cathcart
- Dream Catcher - Romance Short Story
on June 12, 2009
Nice premise. Author has a lot of potential. Recommend a solid proofreader; otherwise quite good.
on Aug. 25, 2009
Regency author Jaimey Grant has done it again with "Spellbound." In this novel, Ms. Grant has brought more of her interesting (and interconnected) characters together in a plot filled with intrigue and suspense.
In this tale, Tristan hires a retired actress, Raven, to pretend to be his fiancee so that he can stop his grandmother's nagging at him to get married. Needless to say, they fall in love despite themselves, but (as the saying goes), the course of true love ne'er did run smooth. There are obstacles to be overcome and intrigues to resolve.
Ms. Grant's characters are well-drawn and believable, and I particularly like seeing minor characters from another of her tales being given an opportunity to tell their own stories in each book.
on Nov. 05, 2009
I've said before that I'm a walk-away from the romance genre. I had begun to feel like I was reading the same book over and over again.
Then I had the good fortune to meet author Jaimey Grant when we both entered a writing contest. She asked me if I would review one of her books, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It says a lot that I would not only read one of her books but have just finished a third one; Jaimey's characters are well-developed and her plots are entertaining. Minor characters from some of her titles have major roles in others.
I think "Betrayal" is the best of Jaimey Grant's books that I have read so far. Her heroine, Brianna, is not the typical Regency novel bluestocking; she has spent time in a madhouse and in prison. The hero, Adam Prestwick, is hired by her family to return her to them because she has the fortune that they want to spend. Naturally, Adam and Brianna fall in love (this is a romance novel), but there are many obstacles to be overcome during the course of the story.
Jaimey doesn't pull punches about hard situations, even while she writes a "clean" romance. I cannot recommend her books highly enough to fans of the genre ... including my fellow walkaways.
- The Fox
on March 05, 2010
Arlene Radasky's "The Fox" is a fascinating crossover between historical fiction and fantasy. Her heroine, Aine, is an archaeologist who is visited by Jahna, an ancient Pictish Druid who lived at the site Aine is exploring.
Radasky has clearly researched not only bog archaeology but Celtic mythology, Druidic practices and life in the ancient British Isles. Her facts are spot-on (this is an area of interest for me).
On top of that, she has created interesting characters in both the modern and ancient world. Archaeologists and ancients alike are well-rounded, multi-dimensional characters. Even the "villains" are well thought-out and complex.
I enjoyed the book thoroughly and recommend it to fans of fantasy, archaeology procedural stories and historical fiction alike.
- Music, Food, and Death (The State Of New Orleans Through The Eyes Of The Strippers)
on March 30, 2010
Author John Buffalo Mailer (son of Norman Mailer) was once commissioned by Playboy to write an article about post-Katrina New Orleans. Numerous editorial policy changes ensued, and the article eventually reverted to him.
Mailer chose to publish this gritty look at New Orleans exclusively as an eBook, and I feel privileged to have read it. His prose is evocative, and the interviews with the strippers and bartenders show the gritty underbelly of a city that is still trying to recover from disaster.
I will say that this book is not for the faint of heart. There are discussions of murders, sex, prostitution and drug use. Mailer pulls no punches in showing the darker side of recovery in a devastated city.
A short read, and well worth exploring.
- 100 Stories for Haiti
on April 19, 2010
"100 Stories for Haiti" is an anthology of short tales, collected to raise money for relief in the aftermath of the recent earthquake.
Each of the stories is enjoyable in its own right, although I preferred some to others (this is to be expected in a collection of this type). Overall, a splendid effort on the part of diverse writers to raise money in a good cause.
- The Virtuous Woman
on June 02, 2010
I'm not sure what to think of this book. The plot is good: an actress (the strong implication is that she's in porn) named Celia is trapped in a violent relationship and, though pregnant, is trying to figure out how to leave.
However, there were a lot of puzzles for me. There are numerous run-on sentences, and I couldn't decide whether this was an intentional thing. Perhaps the author was going for a Kerouac stream-of-consciousness type of writing? There are also homonym disagreements ("erroneous zones" is not the same as "erogenous zones"), some downright puzzling vocabulary choices ("She went to an allude place deep inside") and misuse of "were" vs. "was."
The unfortunate result of this was that I had a hard time focusing on the story. I kept getting hung up on the grammar and sentence structure, trying to figure out what the author was trying to tell me.
It's a pity, because the overall premise had a great deal of potential. I had to take off stars for grammar and vocabulary problems, and I never enjoy doing that.
- The Widow's Granddaughter
on June 14, 2010
Author J. Timothy King's short story, "The Widow's Granddaughter" is a poignant and entertaining tale about a man doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. I thoroughly enjoyed each character and the perspective that they brought to the situations. In this story, even the stereotypical used car salesman can make good. Well done!
- ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes: Year 1
on June 15, 2010
I used to be in the music business, back in the dark recesses of time.
With this collection of short stories, author Susan Helene Gottfried provides an entertaining and accurate description of life on the road, conflicts among band members, and even burgeoning family life. The members of ShapeShifters, Gottfried's fictional band, and their families are drawn with depth and sensitivity.
Very entertaining and highly recommended. I can't wait to read "Demo Tapes (Year 2)."
- Eagle Quest
on June 21, 2010
In this well-researched YA novel, middle school students Billy, Hap and Fiona make friends with Mitch, the proverbial new kid in town (Klamath Falls, OR). Mitch is adopted, but has been told that his mother was Native American. He is very much interested in learning about his cultural heritage and, as part of that, wishes to go on a vision quest.
Mitch enlists the aid of his newfound friends, and the four go into the Bear Valley Bald Eagle Refuge for an illegal overnight camping trip that will allow Mitch to get the lay of the land for his own solo venture.
The kids' families are frantic, of course ... and they do run into some troublesome situations. Everything comes out well, of course, and the kids all learn some lessons.
Author Marva Dasef includes useful appendices with information on bald eagles, Native American spirituality, the tribes mentioned in the book ... and some writing prompts for YA readers to consider their own quests and adventures.
Highly enjoyable and entertaining.
- ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes (Year 2)
on June 29, 2010
I've read both sets of "Demo Tapes," and enjoyed them thoroughly. I used to work in the music business, and Susan's characters are true-to-life, entertaining and well-developed.
Brava to the author for an outstanding collection of short stories.
- Banshee Angel Of Judgement
on July 16, 2010
Two things kept me from giving this novella a full five stars. First, there were numerous run-on sentences with commas placed so poorly that they almost made no sense. The second problem was my grounding in Celtic mythology; the banshee (or bean sidhe) is not a vengeful mortal soul, but a fairy harbinger of death.
All of that said, Billy Young's novel has a good premise -- the vengeant spirit of a woman falsely accused of witchcraft visits her judgment on all who offend her from the time of her initial demise in the late 17th century until three hundred years in the future.
The most interesting, and best developed, parts of the novel focus on Helen's accusation and trial for witchcraft. Young has a good understanding of why most women were accused of witchcraft: their property became forfeit to the local government. He describes the various "tests" that women were put through: tortures that would make people confess to anything in order for the abuse to stop.
The parts of the tale that take place in modern times, focused on two amusement park employees who pass by the "witch's house" every day on their way home almost feel tacked on by comparison.
Complaints aside, this was an entertaining short read. Horror/thriller buffs are likely to enjoy it very much.
- Warped & Wired
on Aug. 10, 2010
I wish I could explain how very much I wanted to like this book. It's a YA fantasy/sci-fi, with two female protagonists (one a teenaged human, one a "Wryter," a race of long-lived magic users -- this one is 42, but looks like a teen herself). Thrust together by circumstance, they need to go after a user of dark magic in order to foil certain plots.
Things went downhill quickly, though. We had plagiarism from Star Wars (with Uncle Vi'son, the wise, old being who speaks like Yoda), Disney (a red-haired mermaid named Arielle Aerielis, married to the human Prince Eric), and H.P. Lovecraft (when the bad guy transforms into a bat-winged, tentacle-faced, clawed demon).
That's to say nothing of the numerous grammar gaffes, such as your/you're confusion, "her and her mother," etc. The book would have strongly benefited from having an experienced editor review the manuscript before publication.
It's all very sad, because this could have been a really outstanding story if the author had stuck to his own ideas instead of just taking them from others.
- The First Dragoneer
on Aug. 23, 2010
The premise of "The First Dragoneer" is a good one. Bren and March are two good friends going on their last hunt before one of them leaves the village. They run into some unanticipated adventures in the process.
M.R. Mathias starts off with a really good idea. However, I found myself distracted by homonym problems (e.g., arrows are properly referred to as "nocked," not "knocked" and one lights a fire using a "tinder box," not a "tender box."). There were several other similar issues that gave away Mathias' using his spellchecker instead of a human proofreader to look at his manuscript. This kind of stuff leaps out at me, as I was a newspaper copy editor for a long while and still do editing on a freelance basis. The editorial problems caused me to take a star off of the rating because they were so pervasive.
This novella also includes a two-chapter preview of "The Royal Dragoneers," for which "The First Dragoneer" is a prequel. I think that Mathias has a great idea for a series, and am hopeful that some judicious editing will lead to success for him.
- Where the Sun Sets
on Dec. 28, 2010
I couldn't even finish this, I'm sorry to say.
Between physicians handing medical records to people without even knowing their names ("did you come in with the gunshot victim? OK" -- and the OK thing really got on my nerves, as people say "okay," not "ok"), nurses handing out pain pills willy-nilly without a prescription, no one in a school -- where teachers are mandatory reporters under the law -- reporting child abuse to the police (and the parent who le...moreI couldn't even finish this, I'm sorry to say.
Between physicians handing medical records to people without even knowing their names ("did you come in with the gunshot victim? OK" -- and the OK thing really got on my nerves, as people say "okay," not "ok"), nurses handing out pain pills willy-nilly without a prescription, no one in a school -- where teachers are mandatory reporters under the law -- reporting child abuse to the police (and the parent who learns about it and sees the injuries leaving his child in the school), and municipal police departments that apparently send home their *full dossiers* (which police departments do not keep) to live with retired officers at the end of their careers, I could not make it past the middle of chapter 8.
The characters are cardboard cut-outs and the action is completely unrealistic.
My rating profile skews pretty high, with an average of 4.35, and it takes a lot to get me to abandon a book. A lot of the problems that I've seen so far could have been resolved with a minimal amount of research into things like HIPAA laws and police procedures. How very unfortunate.
- My First Ninety Years
on Jan. 06, 2011
I really wanted to rate this book much higher. Mary Jane Baird's tone reminded me very much of when my own grandmother would talk about her time growing up during the Depression, and I was so excited as the book started.
Even knowing how brief the book was, I had hoped for more detail. Yet, Baird says at the end of the book that she knows she glossed over a lot of "little details," but that it's her belief that the book would not be worth reading if she included them.
I wholeheartedly disagree. While the few anecdotes Baird shares are fascinating, the main gist of this short eBook seemed to be "we lived here, and they were born there" -- a travelogue without much color. I would love to have known more about her life as a minister's wife other than the number of household moves that it entailed.
I did enjoy it, and it's a fun, albeit short, read. I just wanted more.
- Dead Man's Eye
on Jan. 09, 2011
MILD SPOILER ALERT *******************************************
If ever there was an argument to be made in favor of intraocular lenses instead of organ donor transplants, Shaun Jeffrey presents it beautifully in "Dead Man's Eye."
Jeffrey's protagonist, is the recipient of a cornea from a deceased priest -- and the tissue allows her to see evidence of demonic possession. As an entire London hospital is taken over by demons, only she seems to understand.
Needless to say, authorities are not particularly interested in hearing what she has to say about the matter. And herein lies the tale, as she tries to let people know what is happening only to have the rug yanked out from under her time and again.
Jeffrey spins out a well-considered tale, with twists and turns galore. I enjoyed reading this eBook edition and hope to see more from this author.
- Incident at Walter's Creek
on Jan. 21, 2011
Mark Jacobs' short story, "Incident at Walter's Creek," reminds me a little bit of Steven King's "The Body." A group of young boys are telling stories to frighten one another as they creep up on the local "haunted house."
As is always the case with such stories, there is more to the situation than meets the eye.
Jacobs pulls the reader in with dialect, entertaining characters and situations ... and some surprising twists and turns. Nicely done!
- Dandelions In The Garden
on Feb. 07, 2011
Overall rating: 3.75
I will say right upfront that it's obvious Charlie Courtland has done her research. I looked up some items about which I had questions, and found that she was spot-on for the period in those matters.
There were some others, though, where it did not go so well in her telling of Elizabeth Bathory's story. The well-constructed epic novel about the notorious Blood Countess faltered in some tiny details (e.g., describing the use of envelopes during a time when letters were written on parchment or vellum, folded into quarters, addressed and sealed with wax rather than using a separate paper to carry them). I found these and other minutia a little distracting. Some Hungarian names were Anglicized (e.g., Gyorgy Drugeth, an historical personage, became George) while others were not (Sir Draco Lorant ... who was referred to as Sir Lorant several times; knights are Sir Firstname).
Admittedly, my nitpicking is a minor point. Courtland has created an intriguing world of romance, revenge and intrigue. Told through the eyes of Amara, one of Bathory's ladies-in-waiting, "Dandelions in the Garden" is a fascinating look at 16th C. Austro-Hungarian culture. Courtland writes with both compassion and frankness about Bathory and the legends that surround her.
At the end of the book, we find Bathory on her way to Vienna. Embarking on new adventures that are only revealed in [book:The Hidden Will of the Dragon|8292510], the young "Blood Countess" is just starting the period that gave rise to the folk tales about her.
I am given to understand that a new edition of "Dandelions," which corrects some of the editorial issues in this version, is forthcoming.
Overall, I would recommend this book to historical fiction buffs with the caveats that I mentioned firmly in place.
- A Valentine For Victoria
on Feb. 15, 2011
I have removed my previous review. Thank you to the author for posting a trigger warning about this sensitive issue.
- The First Kill
on March 07, 2011
Darcia Helle's "The First Kill" is not for the faint of heart. This is a brief, but graphic, crime story reminiscent of British gangster films. Her main character, Sean, is an assassin for hire ... and he is plying his art with aplomb in this tale.
Crime fiction fans should investigate this story.
- Noisy Neighbor
on March 08, 2011
There's a lot to like about a mystery with the guts to start out with "It was a dark and stormy night."
The protagonist in this short story is an author, trying to write a mystery novel -- but she is constantly distracted by her neighbor's loud stereo. When she goes to confront him, she finds his unlocked apartment ... and his corpse.
The story was set up well, but it felt as though the ending was a trifled rushed. Sure, it's a short story ... but I felt there was still some room for development. Nevertheless, I found the book entertaining.
- Dawn of Avalon
on March 09, 2011
"Dawn of Avalon" is a prequel novella to Anna Elliott's "Twilight of Avalon" series. In this story, we have Merlin and Morgan meeting in the earliest days of the Arthurian sagas -- with Merlin imprisoned by Vortigern.
As a long-time reader of Arthurian legends (and a former member of the International Arthurian Society), I can say with certainty that Elliott has researched the tales and the time period very carefully. She understands all of the relationships (which are convoluted indeed) between the characters populating the lore. She even starts where many books do not: with Vortigern's plans to sacrifice a Druid because his planned tower keeps collapsing.
I enjoyed the book, although I found some of the prose a trifle clumsy (which is why I took off one star). It's a tricky thing to write description in historical fiction where the spoken word is more archaic; sometimes authors make descriptions archaic as well, which can cause a reader to stumble a bit.
Fans of Arthurian legend are sure to enjoy this tale.
- Who Censored Roger Rabbit?
on March 24, 2011
"Who Censored Roger Rabbit" has far more in common with the hard-boiled detective tales of yore than it does with the Disney film based upon it.
Gary K. Wolf has created a world in which humans and Toons live side-by-side in only the worst parts of town: a segregated universe with different laws and even separate law enforcement. His protagonist, private detective Eddie Valiant, is initially hired by Roger Rabbit to help get his wife, Jessica, off the hook for the murder of Rocco deGreasy. Then Roger himself is killed, and his doppelganger continues alongside Valiant on both cases.
There's none of the slapstick humor that I anticipated; instead, there's some solid detective novel goodies in these pages.
- Lord Protector
on March 31, 2011
SPOILER WARNING *********************************
I wanted to like this book far better than I did.
Posited as a new theory for what happened to the princes in the Tower, examined through fiction, this is actually a dystopian alternate future novel -- with princes running in and out of various periods and futures via a time travel mechanism.
Throw in misspellings of places like Aquitaine and Tewkesbury, and cars salaaming in and out of traffic when they should be slaloming ... I had to convince myself to finish. Which is unfortunate, because the idea was good and it's obvious that Spann researched the Yorkist era very carefully. So much more could have been done with this tale. :-(
- Trevor's Song
on April 09, 2011
Susan Helene Gottfried's ShapeShifter series is a real gem for music fans, industry insiders, and those who like a well-constructed, character-driven novel.
The first two books were a collection of short stories called "The Demo Tapes," both of which I read and enjoyed thoroughly. "Trevor's Song" brings us a more successful band, with ShapeShifter touring, recording and experiencing the fruits of their labors.
Bassist Trevor Wolff is the focus of Gottfried's full length novel, as he faces unanticipated medical problems that could potentially put the entire band's careers on hold. Despite Wolff's deliberate "unlikeability," he is a sympathetic character grappling with numerous issues.
Gottfried's characters are multi-dimensional and interesting, and her insider knowledge of the music industry shines through to those of us who have also been there. Highly recommended.
- T'on Ma
on April 15, 2011
Magnolia Belle's "T'on Ma" details Lana Cooper's time as a homesteader's daughter. She meets and falls in love with Kiowa warrior Yi Centas (Two Hawks), who calls her T'on Ma (Water Woman) because he first sees her in the river. However, because of various pressures from her family and from society, Lana marries Liam O'Connell. Liam is a society-bred Army officer whose well-to-do family looks down on Lana and her entire family.
The book is rife with conflicts between settlers and Native Americans, and rich in cultural detail about both military and Kiowa life.
This is the second of Magnolia Belle's books that I have read; suffice it to say that I am now a major fan of her work. Highly recommended for fans of well-researched, character-driven historical fiction.
- I Saw Them Ride Away
on May 09, 2011
Harry Arthur Gant was a real cowboy who wound up in the motion picture industry as a cameraman on early Westerns (and, occasionally, as an actor). Working alongside Lon Chaney, Tom Mix and many others -- on both sides of his career --, Gant saw a great deal of change over the course of his life.
This memoir was published posthumously, laboriously transcribed from a third-carbon tissue copy by his granddaughter and great-grandson. I applaud their efforts to preserve their raconteur relative's splendid stories.
Gant's style is colloquial; he did not have much formal education beyond the eighth grade, although he was a voracious reader. I loved his stories about life on the range and in the early days of Hollywood; it was like having him sitting next to me on the porch, just relating stories of days gone by.
Fans of memoirs and Westerns alike are sure to enjoy this entertaining book.
- Who P-p-p-plugged Roger Rabbit?
on May 21, 2011
It's not often that you get a chance to say this, but the sophomore entry in Gary K. Wolf's Roger Rabbit series surpasses the original!
In this well-constructed hard-boiled detective novel, Eddie Valiant is hired by David O. Selznick to find a valuable box that was heisted from his office during interviews with potential leads in "Gone With the Wind." The two prime contenders? Roger Rabbit and Clark Gable.
Of course, Jessica Rabbit is under consideration for the role of Scarlett O'Hara.
With the good humor and hard edge that were so cleverly combined in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," Wolf has brought another winner to the field. There are more twists to this story than a Silly Straw, and it's a great read from beginning to end.
- BestsellerBound Short Story Anthology
on May 26, 2011
As I have a story in this anthology, my review applies to the other nine tales.
The "Bestseller Bound Anthology" has something for everyone. Genres range among science fiction, modern romance, historical fiction, crime and Westerns ... with a few stops in between. There are no "duds" in this collection. My favorite story of the lot was "The First Texas Twister," which incorporates elements of Western and supernatural fiction.
Well-done across the board and definitely worth your time to read.
- Ancient Rising - Book 1 of the Rise of the Ancients saga
on May 26, 2011
When I review books, they always start out with five stars -- and I see what happens from there.
J.C. De La Torre has a fascinating speculative fiction idea, with an author getting involved in an archaeological team studying Atlantis. When Hermes shows up (and speaks some bad, Harry Potteresque fake Latin instead of either the real deal or Greek, which bothered me) and starts providing clues for the team to raise the lost city, things should get interesting.
I really liked the concept of this book, but found myself distracted by poorly rendered dialect (Glaswegian is *difficult,* admittedly, but it is not rendered at all correctly here -- if you can't render dialect, don't try) and some egregious errors of fact in terms of archaeological process (like shining bright lights on ancient documents ... which is destructive).
With a bit more research, this book could have been outstanding. I just had a hard time getting past the issues that bothered me.
- The Little Book of Confidence
on June 06, 2011
"The Little Book of Confidence" is a tiny toolbox. Each section has three chapters containing advice, affirmations and exercises on subjects ranging from gratitude to posture -- and clearly explaining how each one plays into issues of confidence.
This book belongs on the shelf next to works like "The Law of Attraction: The Basics of the Teachings of Abraham" and "Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live" -- or in your pocketbook/briefcase to be popped open when you need a quick pick-me-up.
on July 09, 2011
Maria Savva's short fiction anthology, "Fusion," is a real treat. Unlike many such collections, wherein the quality of the stories is variable, each one of Savva's pieces is a delight.
Savva manages to put a complete story -- and always with an unexpected twist -- into just a few pages. There were no "clunkers" to be found, whether it was a romance, sci-fi or even a ghost story.
- Inspired to Succeed
on July 09, 2011
I must say, right off the bat, that I'll be recommending this book to a great many people.
"Inspired to Succeed" contains 20 chapters, jam-packed with information, ideas you can implement right now, and inspiring stories. It's like having Dr. Stacia Pierce in your pocket for coaching sessions on a variety of matters, from style to finances.
There is something here to delight anyone seeking to better him- or herself. Highly recommended for those who are ready to reach the next level of success in life.
- Savvy Book Marketing Secrets: 52 Experts Share Insider Tips for Selling More Books
on July 20, 2011
This is a good primer for new authors, with information on everything from marketing to editing.
As the book is a compendium of articles, some bits are more in-depth than others. I would have liked to see more detail over-all, but it does the job.
- A Successful Life
on Aug. 11, 2011
I remarked early on in reading this book that I was sometimes amazed at the sychronicity with which certain teachings appeared in my life. Gabriel Lawson's "A Successful Life" came to my notice via an eBook publisher's annual promotion -- just at the time when I was studying and practicing the connection between visualization, positive thought and positive outcomes.
Lawson relates the information he gleaned from speaking with patients at the hospice where he volunteers. All of them shared their life experiences, and what they wish they had done differently -- and it seemed that this last item was fairly universal. With the information in hand, Lawson sat out to study the science behind entrainment -- the heart/brain connection.
Each section of the book starts with a teaching story about the chapter's theme and ends with practical worksheets for completion. All of these help to engage the reader and provide action steps for life improvement that *work.*
Well worth reading.
- The Malice Plant
on Aug. 13, 2011
I have read a great many mysteries over the years, and it's a rare one in which the "whodunnit" escapes me until the author reveals it. Ainy Rainwater has written one of those rare books.
Rosemary's garden club friend, Ivy, is found dead with a sprig of the (fictitious) Malice Plant in her hand ... and things actually get worse from there! With a plethora of unpleasant relatives contesting the will (in which Rosemary, to her surprise, figures), townsfolk behaving strangely and disappearing plants and property, Rosemary is in it up to her eyeballs.
Rainwater has crafted an entertaining mystery with believable (if not always lovable) characters and plausible situations. I enjoyed the book thoroughly and was, in fact, reluctant to put it down. Well done indeed!
- I Am Not My Brother's Keeper
on Aug. 20, 2011
I have a friend who is fond of saying that our families know how to push our buttons because they installed them.
This is quite clearly the case with Amelia Bradford's family. Like me, she has a sociopath for a brother. Also like me, she has a family who keeps insisting that she should continue to give-give-give to help her brother as he is in constant trouble with the law and ripping people off financially all over the place.
Unlike me, she keeps giving in.
While this book is about dealing with a sociopathic family member on some levels, on others I truly think it should be an object lesson on setting and keeping solid boundaries against toxic people.
I took off one star because the book is formatted as one giant chapter, which was somewhat off-putting in a work of this length.
- Still Life With Murder (Nell Sweeney Mysteries, Book 1)
on Aug. 27, 2011
When Nell Sweeney, an Irish girl with a rather dubious (and mostly unexplained, in this book) past assists her physician employer during a difficult birth in 19th century Massachusetts, she has no idea what she is getting into. The pregnant woman is a chambermaid for a Boston Brahmin family, and the child is adopted by them. Nell is hired away to be the child's governess almost at once.
When baby Grace is about three years old, the family is embroiled in scandal as their eldest son, William, is accused of murder. William had been presumed dead at Andersonville ... but is very much alive. Nell's employer sets her the task of finding a way to prove William's innocence -- despite mounting evidence of his guilt.
A well constructed and entertaining "whodunnit" that kept me guessing the entire time.
- Bobby Poe and The Poe Kats
on Aug. 28, 2011
I must say, I was disappointed by this book. First of all, it's written as a 'screenplay,' and leaves out a great deal of what might have been fascinating information.
For example, the Poe Kats (rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson's original backup band) were an integrated group. The only thing Poe says about playing gigs under Jim Crow was to complain that they had to stay in hotels because Big Al Downing (who later became a country music star) couldn't stay in hotels. Really? Surely there were some other challenges.
Poe seems to be whining a lot of the time that he was not as successful as he wanted to be, despite having some regional hits with the Poe Kats, a chart-topper in the '60s with the Chartbusters and some other experiences that most musicians would find thrilling (including playing with Jackson). Poe eventually finds success as publisher and editor of the Pop Music Survey, which is glossed over to talk about how the 'black mafia' destroyed his Soul Music Survey.
Actually, everything is glossed over -- and that's what disappointed me the most. There was so much room to share insights and experiences in detail, and Poe failed to take advantage of the opportunity.
- The Price of Innocence
on Sep. 15, 2011
Wow. Where to start. First of all, I wanted to like this book. And I tried really, really hard to do so. However, early on I found myself mentally knocking off one star for a serious error in fact. While Prince Edward Albert (aka Bertie), Prince of Wales, had some rather notorious peccadilloes in Le Chabanais (the setting for a great deal of this book), he was *not* King Edward of England until 1901. Yet, he was referred to as such several times in the manuscript, where it is supposed to be 1878.
There is a lot of rich scenery and interesting opportunity in this tale, although some things are confusing (like a French nun being named Mary while an Irish whore is named Annette). It's quite apparent that Ms. Hopkins put a lot of time and research into the settings of her tale, even though she completely missed the mark with Bertie.
That said, this is the story of Suzette Rousseau, a young French woman who finds herself in distressed circumstances when her father passes away, and Lord Robert Holland, her English lover. I have to be honest and say that while I was able to overlook some editing issues (like "throws of passion" where throes was intended, for instance), I could not get past my dislike for Suzette. Even though she had a governess herself, it never occurs to her to look for such work. Instead, she becomes a laundress and then a prostitute -- all the time boasting about her level of education. I found her entirely two-dimensional, and I really could not dredge up much empathy or concern for what happened to her (although a great deal of the action became a little predictable).
As much as I hate to say it, I will not be pursuing the other two books in the trilogy. I just don't care what happens to Suzette Rousseau.
- Kiwi in Cat City
on Sep. 16, 2011
This is a cute mystery aimed at the age 10 and up set. Youngsters Amy and James follow their cat, Kiwi, when she leaves home one night; they've been curious about where she goes.
Imagine their surprise when they are turned into kittens so that they can follow her to Cat City to help her figure out why cats are being abducted from the streets. With the reverse anthropomorphism, Johnstone writes cleverly about the childrens' difficulty learning how to navigate with four legs and a tail. She also occasionally breaks the fourth wall, addressing the reader with questions like "Have you ever seen a cat in a waistcoat? Nope, me either."
The book is not too scary, and things are resolved easily. The book does leave a bit of a cliffhanger to be resolved in a subsequent volume, "Kiwi and the Missing Magic."
Cute book for young animal lovers and budding mystery buffs.
- BestsellerBound Short Story Anthology Volume 2
on Sep. 22, 2011
The Bestseller Bound gang has done it again! This short story anthology, ably curated by Darcia Helle, brings together ten very different tales -- each of them a hit.
As with any similar work, each reader will have different favorites. For me, the standouts were Joel Blaine Kirkpatrick's "Last Chance Motel and Mausoleum" (a clever paranormal tale) and Tom Gahan's "Beyond the Green Hills" (about politics and famine in early 20th century Ireland).
There is something for everyone here, across a variety of genres. Highly recommended.
- Mannequin: A Short Story
on Oct. 17, 2011
I'm a big fan of Susan Helen Gottfried's work. Her characters are richly drawn and believable.
In this book, Lynne is a little girl who is often dragged along with her dad on his shopping trips for clothes that he thinks will make him look impressive to others. Lynne likes to daydream about the mannequin in the window (she calls him Ken) and how different he would be from her father.
On one of the shopping trips, a fellow walks into the high-end store and asks for a purple shirt -- an action which makes both Lynne and her father look at life differently by the time all is said and done. Readers of the ShapeShifter series will be delighted by this particular cameo.
A brief and enjoyable read.
- Enemies and Playmates
on Oct. 26, 2011
Darcia Helle's "Enemies and Playmates" deals with a sensitive topic: domestic violence. The Covington family are all subject to the abusive father's whims. Like so many abusers, Alex Covington looks like the proverbial "nice guy" out in the world at large. Yet, within his home he is a monster.
Helle's protagonist, Lauren, finds her father's wrath turned against her when she begins to date a man of whom Covington disapproves. But Jesse is no pushover ... and as the story unwinds, we learn more and more about Covington's wrongdoings and Jesse's attempts to bring him to justice.
I think there is a great temptation amongst authors to make stories about domestic violence, rape and other crimes deliberately triggering. Helle avoids this trap, all the while creating a compelling picture of the emotional and physical abuse that Covington inflicts on his victims.
An excellent, thought-provoking read.
- Lessons From the Phantom of the Opera
on Nov. 01, 2011
Overall score: 4.25
I don't recall how I came across Vicki Hopkins' blog, "Lessons from the Phantom of the Opera," but I read it for the better part of a year. This book consists of selected entries from that blog, along with what she calls "The View From Box 5" (a series of what I came to think of as study questions and, frankly, skipped even looking at after a while).
Hopkins' essays cover a variety of topics. She emphasizes that she is not attempting to be scholarly or psychological in her interpretations of various symbols and events that she chooses to examine (e.g., the mask, graveyards, religion). However, she does have a few footnotes to indicate sourcing and shares some scholarly concepts. A great many of her references are from scriptures.
While one may not agree with Hopkins' interpretations (several are based on scenes from the 2004 "Phantom of the Opera" movie, which not everyone liked), she does support her position well with evidence. I believe the essays would have been more powerful without the study questions, as the thoughts her essays provoked did not always go down the road of the questions she presented.
Overall, a good job.
- For Sale in Palm Springs: The Henry Wright Mystery Series
on Nov. 06, 2011
Overall score: 2.75
Disclosure: I added half a star back on when I discovered that the author is not a native English speaker. This would certainly explain some of the awkward construction and grammar gaffes, so I was inclined to be forgiving. All the same, this book would have been far better if professionally edited. Lots of run-on sentences, awkward phrasing and so on could have been corrected.
This could have been a really outstanding murder mystery. Our protagonist, Henry, is a retired police officer from Wisconsin. He's moved to Palm Springs for the improved weather (one presumes). He's been widowed for a while, as we learn over the course of the tale.
The book does start off with a literal bang; a somewhat shady Palm Springs realtor is bumped off in one of the properties he's trying to sell. The local sheriff asks Henry's help in investigating the matter, as Henry is apparently a freelance profiler for the FBI. Never mind that Henry doesn't seem to know things that a profiler would (e.g., the difference between a pedophile and an ephebephile), and that he seems to do an awful lot of blabbing about this investigation to people who are not involved. Never mind that the local sheriff talks about destroying evidence in an ongoing case ("It's been cataloged and is on its way for destruction" is a direct quote) and other improbabilities.
Throw in that it was unfortunately easy to figure out whodunnit and you'll get my overall disappointment. I will hand it to Mr. Simon; he definitely knows his Coachella Valley geography, although he falls a little flat in terms of other places like Palo Alto and Los Altos ("there's not much there" came as a surprise to me, having been to Los Altos on many occasions).
So, yes ... there was a great framework here that could have resulted in an outstanding tale. It just fell very flat for me.
- To Read or Not to Read
on Nov. 18, 2011
A bookstore with an odd, vaguely supernatural owner who doesn't like to sell books, but rents out reading rooms for a dollar a minute ... and only for brief periods of time? Hmm. Anyone else see the twist coming? I surely did. Well written, but a trifle disappointing in its predictability.
- BestsellerBound Short Story Anthology Volume 3
on Nov. 28, 2011
As I have a story in this collection, my review applies to the other nine tales.
The latest Bestseller Bound anthology encompasses a variety of genres, from literary fiction to urban fiction, historical fiction to modern romance. There is a little something for everyone here.
For me, the standouts were: Maria Savva's "Winter Blues," a literary fiction piece with an unexpected twist at the very end; J. Michael Radcliffe's "Scale of a Dragon," a fantasy tale with a likewise unanticipated turn of events, and; Cliff Ball's "The Day the Lights Went Out," which was a great example of speculative fiction.
This anthology series is a great way to experience indie authors, and I cannot say enough good about it.
on Dec. 01, 2011
"Redemption" is one of Jaimey Grant's earlier works. In this tale, twins Miles and Darius fall in love with twins Jenny and Gwen. While this may seem a trifle cliched, Grant handles the matter deftly and has some unusual twists thrown into the mix. Miles and Dare are the sons of a gentleman while Jenny and Gwen are the daughters of a duke; therein lies the first problem. The second problem is Dare's reputation as a rakehell.
As always, Grant's book is rich with Regency period detail about manners and mores, attire, furniture -- you name it. The story is well-written.
Unfortunately, I had a hard time connecting with either of the purported heroines, whom I found myself describing as conniving. Others may not see them that way. By the same token, I found Dare a rather refreshing change from the standard issue Regency romance heroes.
I think that Regency readers, and those who like a clean romance novel, will find a great deal to enjoy here.
- The Witch Queen's Secret
on Dec. 09, 2011
Another of Anna Elliott's Avalon short stories, "The Witch Queen's Secret" is a different perspective on the tale of Tristan and Isolde.
In this book, Dera finds herself helping Isolde as a healer ... and learns some things about the Cornish queen that she did not know.
Elliott's naming conventions had me confused at one point, but once I caught on I was able to apply my knowledge of Arthurian legend to "get" who the characters were and how they fit together.
An entertaining read read for Arthurians.
- Uneasy Spirits: A Victorian San Francisco Mystery
on Jan. 01, 2012
I was first introduced to M. Louisa Locke's Victorian San Francisco mysteries with a short story called "Dandy Detects." The cute tale introduced me to Annie Fuller and the guests at her boarding house, and intrigued me enough to pick up the other two books in the series.
"Uneasy Spirits" is the second book in the series, but it works just fine on its own. In this story, Annie Fuller investigates fraudulent mediums Simon and Arabella Hampton -- at risk to herself, of course.
Locke's books are rich in historical detail and well-drawn characters. While I did figure out the "whodunnit" a few chapters before the reveal, I still thoroughly enjoyed the read.
Highly recommended for those who like well-researched historical fiction and entertaining mysteries.
- Kiwi and the Missing Magic
on Jan. 02, 2012
Another cute book for the 10+ set, in which Amy and James follow Kiwi back to Cat City to find out why the Magic is missing -- and to help set things right.
Vickie Johnstone's clever world of reverse anthropomorphism (in which humans turn into cats) is the scene for another not-too-scary mystery, this time featuring the Land of Giant Mice. Amy, James, Kiwi and the gang have to save Cat City from the mousy menace while trying to find the missing Magic.
We learn more about how Cat city functions along the way, and Johnstone provides a cute lesson about being friends with those different from ourselves.
- Pieces of a Rainbow
on Jan. 06, 2012
One of the things I love most about Maria Savva's writing is that readers can expect the unexpected. This anthology is no exception.
"Pieces of a Rainbow" is a collection of seven tales, each featuring a color found along the classic ROYGBIV spectrum. Sometimes it's a flower. Sometimes it's flame. Sometimes it's a character's name. The references tie the very different tales together.
My favorite of the lot was "Envy," the green story in the set. It's a tale about differing perspectives of two people examining the same events.
As always with Savva, the characters are well-drawn and the plots are compact. You get a full tale in a Maria Savva short story, with thought-provoking incidents and satisfying (if not always happy) conclusions.
Also contains samples from Savva's novel, "The Dream," and a short story found in another anthology, "Fusion."
- ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes: Year 3
on Jan. 07, 2012
I'm a big fan of Susan Helene Gottfried's ShapeShifter series, and this was the only work I hadn't read. I'm so glad that I finally got around to it.
This book shares little tidbits of information that fill in gaps around other stories and give us more insight into Trevor, Eric, Kerri, Mitchell and the rest of the gang.
For those who, like me, have worked in the music business, the well-drawn characters (from the groupies to the harried venue manager) will all be very familiar.
A fun, short read.
- Other Tales: Stories from The Ballad of Gregoire Darcy
on Jan. 18, 2012
Overall rating: 3.5 stars
This book consists of three short stories intended to introduce characters from Ms. Altman's Austen spin-off. I was not crazy about the first one, which introduces Fitzwilliam Darcy's ancestors.
The second one, which was my favorite of the lot, brings us the Maddox Brothers -- Brian and Daniel. Daniel is losing his vision to a cataract, and we see him through the surgery and the attendant horrors of what was then considered state-of-the-art treatment. I found these original characters very interesting and would like to know more about them.
The final story presents Georgiana Bingley and a Japanese friend, Mugin (who has apparently a rather rough past). I am a little uncertain what to make of Miss Bingley in this one, as she is interested in a great many unseemly activities and manages to get Mugin-san to show most of them to her.
This was a quick and entertaining read overall.
- Olivia's Mine
on Jan. 20, 2012
Overall score: 3.75 stars. If the editing were better, this would be 4.5 stars or more.
"Olivia's Mine" is the story of Olivia Fitzpatrick, a young married woman living in a Canadian mining town in the early 20th century. We see her through an abusive marriage, trying to run a business of her own and find her place in what passes for society in little Britannia Beach.
McCaw deals with very real issues of women's rights, coverture law, racial prejudice and more in this story. There were a great many things to like.
Unfortunately, I found myself jerked out of the tale by editorial issues like using a possessive apostrophe when a plural was intended, homophone errors ("last rights" instead of "last rites") and errors like "Aryan sweater" where "Arran sweater" was intended. It's kind of a shame, because the story line was very good and kept me interested. I cared about the characters, but the poor editing was a real distraction.
I hope that the author will have the book edited and re-issue it; it really is a worthwhile tale that deserves better packaging.
- Losing Addison
on Jan. 28, 2012
"Losing Addison" is a psychological suspense novella. It was a quick evening's read, and one I enjoyed very much.
Lester McCubbin, the narrator, awakes in a hospital. His head is bandaged, and he has a cast on his leg. He keeps asking the doctors about his twin brother, Addison, with whom he had gone on a lengthy car trip. They must have been in accident, he decides, but no one will tell him where his brother might be.
As the action unfolds, we learn about the differences between Lester and Addison going all the way back to childhood. Between hospital chapters, Lester talks about things that happened while they were growing up.
I cannot say too much more about this book without getting into spoilers, which I definitely do not wish to do. Suffice it to say that fans of the genre will find much to enjoy with Marty Beaudet's gem of a tale.
- From Paris with Love
on Jan. 28, 2012
This little anthology contains five short stories, all around the theme of love and relationships.
Portingale has a way with words that I enjoyed; the rhythm of his prose makes for a delightful read.
My favorite story in the lot was "Roast Beef," which is a five-part tale about Graham and Johanna. Graham is a customer in the sandwich shop where Johanna is employed; their relationship is something of a comedy of errors, where each feels they are always saying the wrong thing. Yet, it comes to a most satisfactory, if ambiguous conclusion.
All the way around, an entertaining read.
- Doctor Margaret's Sea Chest
on March 01, 2012
Overall score: 4.5/5 stars
Waheed Rabbani's novel, "Doctor Margaret's Sea Chest," brings us into several intriguing worlds: the Soviet Union of the 1960s, the wars in the Crimea during the 1850s, and the Sepoy Wars of India during the 1860s.
His protagonist, Dr. Walli Khan, is given a sea chest belonging to one Margaret Wallace ... along with the charge to get the belongings to her family. Through a variety of contacts and circumstances, he manages to do so. He also ends up with her diaries about being a physician in the Crimea and India.
Rabbani's research into the time periods and cultures is impeccable. I was drawn into Margaret's journals and experiences from the very first moment Walli and his wife start reading the stories and found myself a tiny bit frustrated when the book was over! The tale has a rather open ending, and I want to know what happens next!
The ePub edition, which I read, had some editorial problems in the last 20 percent or so, with double words and double letters within words appearing. It was a little distracting, but did not detract from my overall enjoyment of the book.
Lovers of historical fiction will find much to enjoy here.
- Bid for a Bride
on March 07, 2012
Ruth Ann Nordin's "Bid For a Bride" starts with Lucy, the heroine, being "auctioned" off to the highest bidder by her bigamist husband. Except that there isn't really an auction; he just dumps her off in a little town outside Sioux Falls.
Conveniently enough, the circuit judge is in town that day and can write an annulment for Lucy. Conveniently enough, there's a young man named Brian who's available to marry: none of the other women in town are interested, because he's blind. None of the men are interested in Lucy, because she might be carrying another man's child ... and Brian doesn't care, because he's adopted.
The story carries on from there. Brian and Lucy make a nice life together with very little tension in the tale until toward the end of the book, when Lucy's sister comes to town.
I don't want to deliver spoilers, so I'll leave it at that. The book went along quickly and was a nice enough read. There were several homophone errors (e.g., "broach" where "brooch" was meant, and likewise "stationary" for "stationery") that bothered me from an editorial perspective.
- Two-Buck Tails of Rescued Dogs
on March 12, 2012
As a humane education/rescue volunteer, I must confess up front that I am drawn to these sorts of books. The happy endings for rescued animals are always heartwarming to me.
That's very much the case with the stories in this little volume. Kyla Duffy has assemble a batch of stories about rescue dogs, written by their new families, that do well to remind us all of the importance of second chances.
Particularly moving were the stories of Punkie and Tabby. These are two different tales, each concerning a special needs dog who was chosen by a special needs child to be their best friend.
If you are looking for a book that will make you feel good, this is it.
- Kiwi and the Living Nightmare
on March 20, 2012
This is the third book in Vickie Johnstone's cute Kiwi series. This time, Amy, James and Kiwi must go help a little three-legged grey kitty named Misty, who is sending them messages in their dreams.
The reverse anthropomorphism that sees the two human children turned into kittens in order to get help from the denizens of Cat City applies once again here as the kids must go get Moggie, Inspector Furball and Agent Siam to help when Kiwi is trapped along with Misty.
A cute, kid-safe story with a happy ending despite some scary moments.
- The Dragon Ring
on April 01, 2012
Author Maggie Secara has done something truly splendid here: she's combined an outstanding knowledge of history and theatre into an urban fantasy worthy of Charles de Lint.
Frankly, I can think of no higher praise.
The protagonist, Ben Harper, is a reality TV show host and traditional musician. He manages to run afoul of the fae near his Dartmoor home on numerous levels, and breaks an important artifact in a fit of rage that only makes matters worse. The artifact in question is the titular dragon ring, made from fairy gold. Then, Titania decides she wants Ben's son ... can nothing else go wrong? Oh, of course it can.
So, now he must go back through history to find the pieces he broke in order to restore the ring (it is a little confusing on the surface, but rest assured that it all comes together soon enough) and save his son. With the help of Oberon, Odin and a fae youth named Raven, Ben goes on a journey through the 9th, 16th and 18th centuries.
I didn't want to put this book down, if truth be told. I look forward to the rest of the forthcoming trilogy.
- The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success
on April 02, 2012
This is a book that belongs in every indie author's reference library. There is information here on marketing, formatting, building a platform ... and even some encouragement for what to do when faced with bad reviews.
Author Mark Coker (founder of Smashwords) drew on his own experience and that of several bestselling "Smashers" (as Smashwords authors call themselves) to present some great information.
Highly recommended. C'mon, folks -- it's free!
- King Trevor
on April 09, 2012
Longtime readers of my reviews know that I'm a big fan of Susan Helene Gottfried's series about an East Coast heavy metal band. As someone who used to be in the business myself, I can tell you that these books are a realistic picture of the industry as well as being quite entertaining.
The latest ShapeShifter novel brings us into the band's life after bassist Trevor Wolff's cancer treatment and subsequent collapse (as outlined in "Trevor's Song"). Trevor's usual bravado is a misguided attempt to disguise his depression.
So, Mitchell Voss contacts his real estate agent uncle about finding an appropriate rehearsal space in town where the band can also have offices: enter, the slaughterhouse. Or, The Slaughterhouse, an abattoir that will be converted to the ideal space by a hot young architect.
Who happens to be Mitchell's brother-in-law.
Those who have read Susan Helene Gottfriend's books know that Kerry, Mitchell's wife, is estranged from her family. This is the book wherein we learn the reason.
This book is not nearly so much about the band as it is about Kerri and her brother, Stevie. I had a hard time relating to the latter character, who seemed a little spineless for a successful architect. However, it was interesting to watch the development of the story and learn more about the band members.
- Digger's Bones
on April 17, 2012
Paul Mansfield Keefe starts with a great premise: an archaeologist is murdered at his dig site, and his assistant has all of the clues that will help figure out why. Said assistant goes to a disgraced former student of the archaeologist ... and is murdered while providing her with the information she needs.
This is how the book begins. The plot is great, and the concept outstanding. We are taken to various sites throughout the Holy Land, Europe and the United States in the pages of this adventure, which has a very likeable heroine in the person of Angie Cooper.
I was very excited to read this story, but often found my experience interrupted by editorial errors, sudden shifts from past to present tense, third person to omniscient, and homophone errors. The story is great, but an updated edition that corrects these problems would be most welcomed.
I also saw the "whodunnit" coming for miles, but must give the caveat that I read a great many mysteries and it is hard to get one past me.
Recommended for mystery fans, with the above caveats well in mind.
- TIN TABERNACLES: How Religious Fundamentalists Took Over the Republican Party
on April 18, 2012
My initial impression, about 20 percent into the book, was that the author is a political conservative who is justifiably disturbed at the takeover of the GOP by the anti-science, right-wing fundamentalist crowd.
Unfortunately, the remainder of the book has absolutely nothing to do with the premise implied in the title and rapidly devolves into an Objectivist polemic where in the author demonstrates that he does not understand the difference between socialism and communism, conflates progressive politics with both concepts simultaneously, and then proceeds to rant about a great many completely unrelated topics.
He states opinions as though they are facts and excuses his failure to cite sources because "my logic is impeccable." For example, he states that the Aid for Dependent Children program was designed as an incentive to entice "single women on welfare to breed children as a cash crop." That is a direct quote from the middle of this "essay"; it was on approximately page 35 on my eReader and yours may vary. Further, this man who claims advanced degrees in biology maintains that the Endangered Species Act should be done away with and that "antiquated" species should be allowed to die regardless of mankind's intervention in causing their diminished numbers. He also equates vegetarianism with communism, of all things.
I got to the point where I didn't even trust his biology data, which may well have been plagiarized from some textbook -- after all, according to his "impeccable logic," there is no need to cite sources.
Here's the thing: Objectivists believe that once they've arrived at a Truth(TM), they don't need to have any citations for their sources. It's The Truth(TM), for goodness sake. Can't the reader just see that?
At the end of the day, this book has nothing to do with the premise outlined in the title. I like to read books with points of view that differ from mine, because that's how I learn things. However, this book is just a man's screed about things and people he doesn't like.
- Cash In On Diversity
on April 24, 2012
If I could make every employee in every company read this book, and every firm implement Susan Klopfer's recommendations, I would. That's how important this work is.
Klopfer shows why diversity is more than just following EEO and affirmative action laws and having a GLBT, Latino or Asian Employees' Association. Diversity also means that all employees are treated with respect and there is no workplace bullying.
Klopfer provides ways to examine whether a firm is managing diversity on more than the aforementioned superficial level, She also has an excellent appendix with more than just definitions of terms. For example, the entry on Islam talks about the history of the religion, the various sects and their beliefs and so on. There is some outstanding research in this book about issues ranging from mental illness and physical disability accommodations to ageism and a whole lot more.
Having worked at a place that believed diversity was limited to ethnicity or sexual orientation and no other co-culture, I can say from first-hand experience that a book like this is needed and should be welcomed by all companies who want to do more than pay lip service to its concepts.
- Whispered Beginnings
on May 01, 2012
As I have a story in this anthology, my review applies to the other tales. I recuse myself from discussing my own work.
"Whispered Beginnings" is, as often happens with anthologies, a book with a great many levels of writing talent and a variety of genres contained therein. While some of the stories were not to my particular taste, the majority of them were very good and quite entertaining.
Two standouts were Patrick Sipperly's "Write Me" and Jaimey Grant's "Eliza's Epiphany."
This is a great way to discover some new writing talent and well worth investigating.
- Confessions Rants and Exploits of a Civil Servant
on July 27, 2012
I have to confess, I had a lot of mixed feelings while reading this book. I spent a lot of time wondering how the author got away with as much as she did, to be honest. I'm a former Department of Defense employee who got her start in procurement before moving on to where I really wanted to be (public affairs).
Anyway, Swann doesn't pull any punches on herself in this book as she talks about her drinking, her various jobs and what she does wrong and so on.
And then she got to the retaliatory behavior after she blew the whistle on wrong-doing in her agency. This is something with which I have unfortunate personal experience, as I was also a whistle-blower. Every single thing Swann says about this experience is true: while there are theoretically protections, the truth of the matter is that the workplace becomes so insanely hostile that you are left with no choice but to leave.
More than anything else she wrote, I'm glad that Swann exposed this nasty underbelly of the Federal system. The majority of people who work for our government are honorable people who want to do the right thing. The others, who are less-than-honorable (like the supervisor on my last DoD job who threatened to write me up for insubordination when I refused to forge a signature on an official document ... and only backed down when I told her I'd do it if she put in writing that she had directed me to commit a felony), or like the people Swann writes about in her own agencies, taint the experience for the rest of us and give government employees the poor reputation that they seem to have nowadays.
If you want to see the truth about how hard it is to work for the government, read Ramona Swann's book. Seriously.
- Success Secrets of a Reader
on Aug. 01, 2012
Dr. Stacia Pierce presents some outstanding content here. In a nutshell, she expands on my oft-spoken belief that readers are leaders. With chapters that discuss the benefits of reading (from personal growth to improved health and more), to a proposed reading list at the every end, Pierce provides an easily digestible book that encourages people at all levels and all walks of life to read.
The eBook edition I read was riddle with typographical errors, which is a real pity (and the reason I knocked off a star from this review). The information is too good to pass up, and deserves better editorial attention.
- The Weight is Over
on Aug. 08, 2012
I have a confession to make: I put off buying this book for a very long time. I've read a good many of Dr. Stacia Pierce's books, and this one was one I kept pushing off. I'd put my weight gain in the category of "things that happen when women get older." Ditto the pain I had when I took exercise. After all, the doctors told me that's what happened ... and that I should just eat less.
Well, fast forward to May 2012 ... when all of my on-going symptoms turned out to be related to hypothyroidism. My physician put me on medication and I began the slow and sometimes painful (in both the literal and figurative sense0 of regaining my physical health. Changing the way I ate is key (there are certain foods to avoid with my medical situation), and as the joint pain eased I could start taking exercise again.
The day I ranted to my friends about how much the whole thing stunk on ice was the day I realized it was time to buy this book that I'd been looking at and deciding against for the better part of a year. I cannot tell you how glad I am that I did it. Along with common sense diet and exercise advice, Dr. Stacia provides motivational ideas like cutting out photos of people with the body you want and pasting your face on them for inspiration. She also talks about learning to love your body where you are now, the importance of self-care, dressing the body you have and, perhaps most importantly, about her own struggles with weight loss.
I purchased this book at the time that was right for me. Honestly, there were a few moments when I wished I had done so sooner ... but the old saying about "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear" seems to fit in my case.
If you are working on regaining your physical health, this little book may just be the extra boost that you need to keep going on a hard day. Highly recommended.
- More than Magic: Semester Aboard
on Aug. 11, 2012
This is the description I read of this book: Jen is looking forward to spending an entire summer studying abroad on a cruise ship and she knows the experience will change her life. Then she sees something she wasn't supposed to see, something she can't explain. Jen finds herself thrust into a world she never knew existed and her life will change more than she imagined. That is, if she can survive the dangers lurking on the ship.
Now, really, it's kind of my own fault I didn't like this book as well as I might have. I don't read reviews before I read a book. If I had done so this time, I might have known that it was littered with vampires and werewolves -- and I don't read vampire/werewolf books (at least, not since I was in my late teens/early 20s, which was some time ago). The description above does nothing to indicate that this is a vampire novel.
And yet, that's just what it is. I blame Stephanie Meyer for the fact that damn near every YA author out there thinks that they have to put a vampire in their book. Well, guess what? It is possible to right a fantasy novel without a single, solitary bloodsucker in sight.
So, in short: this is the story of Jen, a college student studying abroad in Central and South America, via ship. She makes new friends who turn out to be water elementals, fire elementals -- both differentiated from naiads and salamanders, which makes no sense -- a reluctant vampire, a mermaid and a werewolf. And, of course, the ship eventually comes under attack by a horde of vampires and it's kind of up to Jen to save the day.
The last time vampires were a big trend (when I was in my late teens/early 20s), there was a film called "The Lost Boys." When the family leaves the fictional town of Santa Carlita, the grandfather (whom they've been trying to keep from knowing about the town's biggest plague) says "You know what I've always hated about Santa Carlita? Too many god-damned vampires."
That pretty much sums up my feelings about YA in general nowadays, and this book in particular.
- Two-Buck Tails of Rescued Cats
on Aug. 13, 2012
There are times in one's life when a book that just makes you smile and feel good is on the agenda.
This little book contains the stories of several rescue kitties and how they lit up the lives of their new families. I particularly enjoyed "Kitty Gets a Name," which talks about the rescue of a feral kitten whose mother had been abused.
It won't take you long to finish this book, but you will smile the entire time that you read it.
- Letters From A Bipolar Mother
on Aug. 15, 2012
It's kind of hard to quantify this book. Part of it is an outstanding look from the inside at bipolar disorder, and part of it is the author's way of making amends with her estranged family.
Alyssa Reyans talks frankly about how her unmedicated illness affected her ability to make rational decisions, and how that ultimately led to her depositing her children with their father and moving to the Middle East. She shares how fractured her thinking and her life became as her rapid-cycling illness took her on a figurative roller coaster ride through life, and how she harmed herself and others as a result.
As is often the case with mentally ill people, Reyans was herself harmed by others. However, there were also people around her who cared and helped her get to a place of safety and functioning, where she is today.
This is one of a planned series of books in which Reyans unfolds her story and serves as an advocate for mental health patients. When we tell our stories, the stigma and shame disappear.
Brava to the author.
on Aug. 18, 2012
Jean-Claude and Louis are two Cajun boys who agree to return from what is now Louisiana to Acadie (Nova Scotia) to re-inter Jean's mother and baby brother's remains, during the late 1760s.
Along the way, they meet up with numerous trappers and military folk during their journey up the Ohio Valley. They are eventually adopted into the Seneca tribe of Iroquois -- which puts them in a rather unique position during the French and Indian wars that predated the American Revolution.
John Francois brings us right into this world with well-rounded characters and stunningly described locations. It's quite evident that Francois has done extensive research not only on events and places, but also on all of the cultures discussed in the tale.
Congratulations to the author on being a finalist in the Global eBook Awards.
- Song at Dawn
on Aug. 18, 2012
Overall rating: 4.5/5 stars.
"Song at Dawn" is the story of Estela de Matin, a would-be troubairitz (female troubadour) in the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Estela is quite literally found in a ditch, muddy and injured, with only her mandora (also called an oud) and a large white dog who will not leave her side. Of course, she has a secret -- which is revealed about midway through the book.
Estela is taken under the wing of Eleanor's troubadour, Dragonetz, a former Crusader with no desire to return to the Holy Land. Instead, Dragonetz is obsessed with the idea of leaving service and running a paper mill. Having learned about paper during the Crusades, he is determine that each and every person should have access to all sorts of writing materials; paper would allow for that to happen and, in the process, wrest control of literacy from the Church.
There are many twists and turns in the plot and many people are not quite what they seem to be at first glance. I found the characters to be well-drawn and interesting, and the overall story exceedingly well researched and presented.
Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction.
Congratulations to the author on her win at the Global eBook Awards.
- William & Lucy
on Aug. 18, 2012
"William & Lucy" is a somewhat speculative piece of historical fiction about William Wordsworth, based on his poem "She dwelt among the untrod ways." The woman in the poem is called Lucy, and Brown fleshes her out in the person of one Lucy Sims, a governess who is also an artist.
Brown draws fascinating characters and has clearly done his homework. He has taken actual events in the life of Wordsorth (investigation by the Crown as a spy, for example) and interwoven them into a tale that hows us two misunderstood people in a time when behavior was both prescribed and proscribed for people of either gender.
Wordsworth and Lucy meet by accident, when she is out with her charges. On initial meeting, each claims to be unimpressed, but neither can stop thinking of the other. Soon, they are looking for ways to meet. Lucy has the additional challenge of fending off her lecherous employer; Wordsworth is penniless and under investigation. In no way will this relationship blossom easily.
I became engrossed in the characters and their lives, and thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Congratulations to the author on his win at the Global eBook Awards.
- Recall! Return of the IRR
on Aug. 21, 2012
This book took me back in time. During Operation Desert Shield/Storm, I was the deputy public affairs officer for a military medical center. During those conflicts, author Doug DePew was recalled to active duty as potential backfill for casualties (some of whom came through the medical center where I worked).
DePew outlines his plans to become a recording engineer -- plans he was well on his way to accomplishing -- that were interrupted by his recall. He then shows his readers exactly what it's like to be brought back on active duty during a confusing time (no orders beyond what got the soldiers back on-base, no schedules ... but plenty of time for physical training).
DePew does a great job of explaining both the psychological and physiological effects of recall, and brings readers right into the barracks with him. His fellow servicemen become like buddies for us as we get to know their stories and see their hopes and fears.
Well-done and highly recommended for those who enjoy military memoirs.
- Own Your Niche: Hype-Free Internet Marketing Tactics to Establish Authority in Your Field and Promote Your Service-Based Business
on Aug. 28, 2012
Stephanie Chandler's "Own Your Niche" is primarily focused on service-based businesses, but the advice can be applied across a variety of enterprises.
The book contains chapters on things like social media, writing press releases, leveraging materials in more than one format and so on. However, there is also an interview with a successful businessperson at the end of each section in which they provide advice for entrepreneurs. There are 175 links and resources contained in the book (which are also listed again at the end for ease), so that readers may easily implement ideas.
I found myself implementing those new ideas as I read each chapter. Chandler's attitude is "take what works and leave the rest," which is sensible since everyone's business is different.
This is one of the best business books I have read in a long while and I highly recommend it for authors as well as service-based business entrepreneurs.
- Walking for Peace, An Inner Journey by Mony Dojeiji and Alberto Agraso
on Sep. 02, 2012
This book came to my attention during the Global eBook Awards ceremony, where it had a much-deserved win. While the authors could have taken the easy way out and written a travelogue about their walk from Rome to Jerusalem, they instead wrote frankly about the problems and blessings they encountered, as well as the metaphysical growth they underwent.
I often found myself putting my eReader down for a time in order to examine not only what had just happened in the book, but also my emotional reactions to it. What Mony and Alberto learned along the way had a great deal to do with human interconnectedness and the need to overcome prejudice ... something I find myself talking (sadly, sometimes in vain) with people in my circle, and something to which I am reminded that I still occasionally fall prey myself.
In any event, the two friends begin this lengthy walk at a time when both of them are free to travel for as long as they want or are able to do, and they find themselves challenged not only by weather, border crossings and religious belief but also by one another as their relationship deepens.
This is a beautiful, spiritual book that also happens to contain some of the most lovely travel writing I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Highly recommended.
- Maria's Duck Tales: Wildlife Stories From My Garden
on Sep. 02, 2012
"Maria's Duck Tales" came to my attention during the Global eBook Awards ceremony, during which it won in its category. I made a note to myself that this book needed to go on my reading list, and I'm glad I did.
Maria Daddino's prose is lovely as she writes about her beloved ducks, birds and other wildlife visitors to the gardens at her various homes. She talks about the importance of animals to ecological balance, and the importance of caring for wildlife in urban areas ... but most of all, she talks about her ducks.
I found myself chuckling or crying at different points in the narrative, because the animals began to feel like friends of mine as well. Maria brought me right into her National Wildlife Federation-certified gardens with each story about Patches, Peanut, Robert and all of the other members of her duck families.
The book is beautifully illustrated with charming drawings of some of the animals about whom Maria writes.
This book is highly recommended, and it's clear to me why it has received so many accolades.
- A Bed of Thorns and Roses: A Gilded Age Beauty and the Beast Romance
on Sep. 07, 2012
Having written my own novel based in the Cupid and Psyche vein, I've truly come to appreciate a romance novel that breaks the typical "perfectly handsome hero/heroine" mold. Sondra Allan Carr does exactly that.
Jonathan, her hero, is damaged not only physically but emotionally. Her heroine, Isabelle's scars are invisible, but they affect her nonetheless. She has grown up in what she thinks of as genteel poverty; Jonathan is surrounded by wealth of which he wants no part.
The two are brought together by Dr. Garrick, Jonathan's physician, as Jonathan is in need of a secretary and Isabelle is in need of money to help support her younger sister.
Set in the Gilded Age on the US Eastern Seaboard, the book is rife with period details that put the reader right into the setting with the characters. The prose is rich, with an elegant vocabulary that delighted me.
This is no cookie-cutter romance tale; highly recommended for those who prefer their heroes less than perfect and their heroines intelligent.
- Olive Park
on Sep. 10, 2012
This book came to my attention during the Global eBook Awards; frankly, it's easy to see why it took top honors in its category.
Stan Wyld and Jake Steiner, along with assistant Mallory Dimante, comprise Sacramento's new "Ongoing Investigations Division," aka the cold case team. Their first assignment is the so-called Olive Park case, with its three young victims. The case has been cold for 15 years, but new techniques and information may allow for a break.
Jake is not present for much of the book, being sidelined by an injury. So, we see a great deal of old-timer Stan dealing with young computer expert Mallory, whose skills at connecting the dots in new and previously unconsidered ways lead to the first new clue.
The subplot involves a young man and his sister, sent to live with an aunt in the aftermath of their parents' deaths. The tales do come together eventually, but not necessarily in the way you might think.
The characters are realistic and the situations believable. At no point did I find myself wondering why a given character took a given action. Furthermore, when the 'whodunnit' was revealed, I was surprised. I read a good many mysteries and it's hard to get one past me.
"Olive Park" is a well-constructed police procedural *and* mystery. The author has clearly done his research on modern forensics, and has created a tight, entertaining tale. Those who enjoy the genres to be found here are sure to like C.J. Booth's work.
- Skipping the Tiramisu: Becoming the Writer You Were Born to Be
on Sep. 12, 2012
"Skipping the Tiramisu" is a cute, pithy book aimed at aspiring authors. Author Kristine Lowder covers the basics, from "just write, dammit" to dealing with rejection letters, creating a platform and more.
For me, the best chapter came close to the end; in it, Lowder outlines how her passion for books inspired her to become a writer, as she had stories inside her that wanted to come out.
I would recommend this book to those who are new to the publishing game and in need of some friendly, clever encouragement.
- The Kepi
on Sep. 13, 2012
"The Kepi" has a great premise: a Civil War buff sees a kepi with a man's name in it at the Gettysburg Museum and decides to see what he can learn about the Confederate soldier who wore it.
Unfortunately, the premise suffers somewhat in the book's execution.
The book leaps back and forth in time between present and past -- which it also does with tenses. Sometimes it's in first person and sometimes in third. I can't help wondering whether the author started it in first person present and then decided to change both POV and tense; if he missed some of the changes along the way, that would explain a lot. I initially wondered if there was supposed to be some sort of paranormal element to the tale, but that did not appear to be the case.
In any event, we see something of the life of Corporal Joe Page through the eyes of his Indian scout friends, a Quaker village and even his well-to-do surgeon cousin (whose relation to Joe is not explained until halfway through the book, despite early focus on both mens' births). There is a great deal of telling instead of showing, and sometimes the book felt pedantic.
There were some formatting problems with the ePub edition I read, which does sometimes happen. That was not nearly as disturbing as the jumps in tense for no apparent reason.
I found the ending anti-climactic and even a little annoying. Others may feel differently.
- Second Chances
on Oct. 06, 2012
James and Pamela's marriage is on the rocks. James works ridiculous hours as a solicitor and Pamela is chafing at being at home all day with two small children and no adult companionship. She also has a secret that she's been keeping from James.
Set in London sometime in the early 21st century, Maria Savva's literary fiction has two people at incredible cross purposes even when they're trying to work together. Near misses on two continents, anger and miscommunication abound.
Savva's prose is entertaining and her characters well-developed. Highly recommended for fans of the genre.
(This edition also had samples of some intriguing novels by other independent authors at the end.)
- BestsellerBound Short Story Anthology Volume 4
on Oct. 23, 2012
Disclosure: this anthology contains one of my short stories. My review refers to the other tales, as I recuse myself from reviewing my own work.
One of the things I love about the Bestseller Bound anthologies (and I have read all of them) is that they are consistently high-quality. Across all genres, from hard sci-fi to fantasy to historical fiction to literary fiction: you name it. This group of independent authors puts out some of the finest writing you'll ever see.
There were three standouts for me in this outing: Magnolia Belle's "Pinkberry Squirrels" was a humorous frontier tale. Susan Helene Gottfried's poignant "The Ghost of The Dresser" was a story of dreams and life changes. Jill Warren's "The Very Useful Milkweed" was a lovely story about overcoming prejudice.
This book is a free download that will introduce readers to some outstanding authors. Highly recommended.
- A Similar Taste in Books
on Oct. 24, 2012
This is a cute novella about two people who are trying to hide something from their friends. In Justin's case, it's his unfashionable fondness for the novels of Jane Austin, particularly "Pride and Prejudice." In Clara's case, it's her financial acumen and intelligence. Her favorite book? Also "Pride and Prejudice."
The two young people meet at the subscription library and find that they have more than just the book in common.
One of the things I enjoyed about this book is that it was not just about the life of the ton during the Regency era. Justin works as a bank clerk and Clara is a Miss, not even an Honorable. It was nice to see an author show an interest in the every-day folk of the period.
I found the book charming and entertaining.
- Quiet Fury: An Anthology of Suspense
on Oct. 25, 2012
Author Darcia Helle has put together quite a good anthology of suspenseful original short stories that show off her skills as a writer.
As is the case with any anthology, everyone will have different favorites. For me, the standouts were "Tiny Dancer" and "Marietta's Cats." Each story in the anthology was different, giving the reader a number of different perspectives on the genre.
All told, this was an entertaining and quick collection to read. Highly recommended for those who enjoy suspense tales.
- The Five O'Clock Follies: What's a Woman Doing Here, Anyway?
on Feb. 06, 2013
Theasa Tuohy's "The Five O'Clock Follies" was of interest to me on two levels: I have been a journalist, and I have been a military public affairs officer. These two worlds cover most of the characters involved in the tale.
This is the story of freelance journalist Angela Martinelli who, having just left a stifling marriage, goes to Vietnam to cover the war. She becomes friends with the male journalists after enduring some hazing, and becomes particularly close to Nick and Ford.
We see the war unfold through the eyes of the three characters, who take very different perspective. Nick and Ford are more gung-ho about events, while Angela looks for the human perspective. She sees her mission as a journalist differently from how the men view it, and takes her story enterprises in that direction as a result.
Fascinating characters, all of them flawed and human, are involved in real events like Tet and Khe Sanh -- and all of it is brought to life with Tuohy's rich, literary prose.
Those who like their historical fiction a little more on the modern side are sure to enjoy this book.
- The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (for Indie Authors)
on May 01, 2013
I tend to read business books with one philosophy in mind: if you find one new/great idea in the book, even if you discard everything else, the book was worth your time.
Well, I found way more than one new/great idea in this book. Author Sarah R. Yoffa has put together a great list of marketing and branding concepts in this brief eBook, and made them easy to understand and apply.
I was about halfway through the book when I realized I needed to implement one of her ideas *now,* not later. So, I did it. How will it pay off? Hard to say. But when a book makes you stop reading to do something, it's packing a powerful punch.
Highly recommended for small publishers and indie authors alike, Yoffa's book is sure to make you think (and perhaps re-think) your marketing strategy.
- The 13th Cycle
on June 04, 2013
This novella really should have been fleshed out as a full-length novel. While the story was potentially interesting (a college journalist researching Mayan end-times myths gets caught up in a conspiracy theory ... with flashbacks to historical times), the plot felt rushed and the characters underdeveloped.
Some of the characters also felt predictable ... and the "whodunnit" was revealed with all of the subtlety and foreshadowing of a sledgehammer.
Writing short-form fiction is a real challenge, because you have to get the whole story in without readers feeling like they've been cheated in the development process. This book fell a little short for me.
- The Death of Beatrix Potter
on June 28, 2013
What a sweet little story this was. We simultaneously see Beatrix Potter's last days, and the world of the little animals she created during her life writing and illustrating children's books.
Because it is such a short book, it is hard to review without giving spoilers. Suffice it to say that I was very much reminded of the Danny Kaye film about Hans Christian Andersen, and I was actually moved to tears.
The tale was simultaneously poignant and delightful. Highly recommended.
on July 24, 2013
"Fission" is the story of a real person, Lise Meitner. She is the physicist who actually discovered the principle of fission, although her partner was given credit for it, up to and including receipt of the Nobel Prize.
Weston's story telling is sometimes a little dry, but the characters he developed were quite good. The last third of the book was, in my opinion, more interesting. It is at that point in her life that Meitner is being hounded by the Nazis because of her Jewish heritage (Meitner was a Christian).
There were also some bothersome formatting issues, but I cannot be sure whether they were related to the book itself or to my eReader; when Weston was quoting historical documents, the material was only on the right-hand side of the page.
The book is clearly well-researched and Weston is passionate about his subject matter. Those interested in the history of physics and World War II are sure to enjoy this book.
- Miko & Lil "Onda" Bus
on July 24, 2013
This is a cute, short eBook that started out as a serial story on a Los Lonely Boys fan site. The author took turns writing a story, using the "yes, and ..." principle of improvisational acting in a whole new way.
Miko and Lil are two little mice who wind up on the Los Lonely Boys' tour bus ... and start talking to them. The anthropomorphized mice and the band have several adventures that involve kidnapping plots, Mexican food, wrestling and more.
The story is a trifle silly, but it was still entertaining.
The book was published with approval from the Los Lonely Boys, as a benefit for sudden infant death syndrome.
- My Lady Coward: An Episodic Regency Romance
on Oct. 07, 2013
Jaimey Grant is a member of the Clever Fiction writing group, and that's where this book had its origins.
"My Lady Coward" is the story of Maria, who is married to a duke named Richard. As the daughter of a Cit (what we might think of as nouveau riche today), she is looked down upon by the nobility into which she has wed.
She's also madly in love with her husband ... and is afraid to tell him since, as with many such marriages, he needed money and had a title to offer in exchange.
There are many plot twists and turns, including an appearance by Hart, the male lead from Grant's Heartless (Grant often includes characters from her other books as a plot device).
The episodic nature of the story is evident, but the book is entertaining nonetheless.
- Emma's Walk
on Oct. 07, 2013
In this very short tale, Emma is walking her little dog, Sophie, when she starts to hear the voices of her loved ones ... and finds a green balloon with a message just for her.
Short fiction is a tricky form, to be sure. McMurrain draws us in and makes us wonder what's happening, and then the end feels like it's truncated ... as though she was in a hurry to finish. Still, it's a well-written tale and a quick read. I would recommend it for an occasion in which you need a quick break and want to get a little reading done.
- Dreaming Josie
on Oct. 07, 2013
Civil War reenactor Kyle Dalton has just broken up with his girlfriend. He's not feeling ready to date ... until he sees the beautiful girl on the battlefield. She proves elusive ... because she's the shade of Josephine, a woman who lived during the war itself. Josephine, in turn, thinks he's one of the soldiers she's cared for in the hospital.
This is a very short time-travel romance with an unexpected twist at the end. Well-executed and entertaining.
- Monster Love
on Oct. 07, 2013
I looked forward to reading this book about Paul Blaisdell and his wife, Jackie. I had hoped to see some interesting insights into Blaisdell's inspiration.
What I got instead was a journal and the transcript of some letters between the author and Jackie. They were interesting, and sometimes a trifle surreal. The author's prose is elegant, but I didn't see a lot of insight into Blaisdell's work.
What I did see was a blossoming friendship between two correspondents -- one enthusiastic and the other reluctant. The letters were the most entertaining part of this short book for me, and they were few and far between.
- Thesis Revised: A Short Story
on Oct. 07, 2013
Joella is a wildlife biologist who is researching an elusive cougar for her thesis. She has set a number of camera traps to catch evidence of the animal, whose screams she hears every time she goes into the woods. Her thesis advisor keeps telling her that there's never been a cougar in those woods before, but she is determined to prove him wrong.
She's still hearing the screams as she checks her cameras.
The book brings us into the suspense of Joella's investigation, as well as the methodology. McMurrain's biography states that she has done the type of work Joella is doing, so it's obvious that the author knows her stuff. Unfortunately, the ending is kind of a let-down ... it feels as though the author is in a hurry to be done with this story and get on to other things.
Still, an entertaining read.
- Hostile Witness, A Josie Bates Thriller
on Oct. 18, 2013
I always hate starting a review with these words: I abandoned this book. I was 30 percent into it, so I think I gave it a more-than-fair shake.
The editorial issues were numerous (homophone issues, plural v. possessive confusion, and more ...) and took me out of the story far too often. Furthermore, I really didn't connect with any of the characters enough to soldier on any further.
- The 11th Commandment: A Serial Regency in Ten Parts
on Feb. 20, 2014
Lady Katherine has returned to England to hear her husband's will read ... and, to her surprise, she finds Simon in the lawyer's office as well. Simon, with whom she disgraced her husband ... whose petition to Parliament for a divorce was denied.
That's the set-up for this short tale that was serialized in In D'Tale magazine.
I realize that there are always limitations with short fiction, and that it is impossible, therefore, to capture every detail and nuance that one might capture in longer form. I've read and enjoyed a good many of Jaimey Grant's books, and part of what I love so much about them is getting to know and connect with the characters. This time? I didn't feel like I could care about any of them. I know that's my issue, but there it is. I couldn't connect to the characters and the plot seemed more than a little implausible as it unfolded.
Nevertheless, it was a decent, middle-of-the-road read that kept me occupied for an evening.
- Ode to a Dead Lord
on June 26, 2014
I have to admit, I nearly abandoned this book. The first part was awash in overwrought similes (e.g., "chairs toppled like French aristocrats"), and I was very much afraid that it would continue in a similar vein.
Luckily, it did not.
This is the story of Lady Ashe, whose estranged husband is found dead in his rented rooms ... an apparent suicide. Bow Street Runner Theo Bryght (who has a secret or two to keep himself) is investigating the death on behalf of the Crown.
We have lots of secrets, missing letters, various gentlemen vying for the hand of the lovely Lady Ashe (despite her profligate husband having lost both his fortune and hers in gambling hells), and a whole lot more.
It really is worth sticking with the book to get past the Bulwer-Lytton-esque beginning and get to the meat of the tale.
- What Kind of Man...
on July 02, 2014
After finishing 41 percent of this book, I could take no more. I think I gave it more than a fair shake.
Honestly, I never did figure out what the author's goal was. S/he would interrupt the story to put in biographical notes (sometimes changing from third person to second person ... which made me wonder whether there was some cut-and-paste plagiarism going on). Her main character, Sally, describes herself as never having accomplished anything -- but during a weird time travel sequence involving Franklin Pierce, she's described as a prolific author.
The amount of time I spent mentally scratching my head and wondering what the hell was going on, as the author's pacing decisions kept ripping me out of the story, was far too great for me to enjoy reading this work.
on July 14, 2014
When Amanda Clark comes to Tascosa and starts a restaurant, the novelty of a pretty new (and single) woman attracts potential suitors galore. Amanda decides she likes Nate Bradford more than any of the others.
Not that this stops Brian McLeod from deciding that she will be his, come hell or high water.
That's the plot for this Old West historical romance.
My one gripe about this novel (and it cost the rating a full star) is that Brian's character seemed entirely two-dimensional. No one is all good or all bad, and Brian just felt like a cardboard cut-out of a "bad guy" to me.
An entertaining read, nevertheless.
- The Devil Within - A Boston Metaphysical Society Story
on July 28, 2014
"The Devil Within" is a novelette that introduces readers to some of the characters in Madeleine Holly-Rosings "Boston Metaphysical Society" comic series.
In this outing, we meet Andrew O'Sullivan, who is a medium and a spirit photographer: he's able to take pictures of ghosts at crime scenes, as well as seeing them when they visit his home. Andrew is not one of the well-to-do; we see his genteel poverty throughout the story.
This story concerns the dual murders of a servant couple in the home of one of Boston's Upper Crust.
Holly-Rosings' alternate history Boston is an entertaining, if challenging (things aren't pretty there), world to visit. This little book is a great introduction.
- Lucky in Love
on Aug. 11, 2014
Handsome rake Edmund, Lord Warenne, wagers a friend that he cannot get an old maid to decline his marriage proposal ... so off he goes to meet Priscilla Stanley.
Edmund, of course, finds her charming, whilst she finds him detestable for a variety of reasons ... and now Edmund must pursue Priscilla.
The book is marred with punctuation errors, and has so many ridiculous slapstick moments that it was difficult to enjoy the tale. Truly unfortunate, because the premise had so much potential.
- Wanted for Questioning
on Aug. 14, 2014
I really wanted to like this book. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, I really did not care for it.
Main character Neil is a prison counselor with issues at home. He has a girlfriend he doesn't really care about anymore (Terry), a woman he's interested in (Inga), a mom who doesn't speak to him much since his brother died in Vietnam ...
There's the plot in a nutshell. My problems with this book were many: first, I couldn't find much to care about with any of the characters. They seemed to be kind of two-dimensional (e.g., Andrea, the stereotypical "angry African-American lesbian"). I felt no chemistry between Neil and Inga whatsoever. We see lots of sexy-times, but it all feels very clinical.
And the ending? Completely dissatisfying.
Overall rating: 2.5/5 stars