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Smashwords book reviews by justmax
- The Magician's Castle
on May 03, 2011
Cynthia's Attic: The Magician's Castle is the fourth in a series of children's books by author, Mary Cunningham. It is the story of two twelve-year-old girls who find themselves traveling through time with the aid of an old trunk.
It is difficult for me to write a review of this book because I am definitely not from the target audience. As an older reader (a very much older reader), I can, honestly, say I didn't hate it but I also can't say I loved it either. A large part of the problem for me was that there were several references to the previous books which I have not read and, thus, I was somewhat lost, at least at the beginning. I also felt that things seemed to happen a little too conveniently in the story: even without the trunk, they were able to travel through time, characters appear seemingly out of thin air to help them, and any and all problems are a little too easily resolved.
Despite my problems with the book, I suspect that, if I were nine years old, I probably would have enjoyed it, as long as I had read the rest of the series. It is fast-paced and the heroines are likable. There are a couple of scary scenes but nothing too frightening for the younger reader. I also liked the fact that Cunningham didn't feel the need to 'dumb down' her vocabulary or explain things like record players, something which many of her young audience have probably never seen.
This is not the kind of book that would appeal to adults as well as children like, for example, The Chronicles of Narnia, but I would definitely recommend it for children (both girls and boys) between the ages of, say, 7 and 11.
- Rise of the Raven
on May 09, 2011
In Rise of the Raven, by Steven R Drennon, an evil wizard raises a powerful demon to help him free his master from another dimension where he is trapped. He is opposed by the Khand, a group of five wizards, including a young apprentice who may be the saviour of them all.
First, what I didn't like about the book. At times the prose seemed somewhat stilted and awkward but much of this could have been prevented with a little judicious editing. The same was true of the conversations. which, at times, bordered on the kind of speech you found in old melodramas.
I should say here that I am a huge fan of epic fantasy, especially the dark and gritty stuff and, here, I come to what I liked about the book.
I love great battle scenes and Drennon wrote some brilliant ones. His descriptions were vivid and completely captured my attention. Once they started, I couldn't put the book down. Oddly, as these progressed the stilted language became flowing and vibrant so that by the end of the book, I was a fan. In fact, I look forward to the next installment.
Like most first books, Rise of the Raven was not perfect but it was pretty damn good. Kudos to Mr Drennan!
on July 03, 2011
I tend to avoid short stories because, usually, it just feels like there is too much missing, the characters are flat, and there isn't enough time for the willing suspension of disbelief to kick in. Not so with Transfection - in a very few pages, you become invested in the story and the main character, Dr Carl Peters.
Author David Gaughran has a real gift for saying big things in short spaces. This short story deals with the question of genetically modified foods, their risk to the public , the willingness of some corporations to trade the public safety for profit, and the willingness of some scientists to bend (or fake) their research to match the corporate line. And, at the same time he is filling the reader with a sense of suspense and paranoia about the industry, he lets us know Dr Peters, warts and all, and, what's more, he makes us care about him. And he does all this in 18 pages, not a mean feat by any stretch of the imagination.
This is the first story I have read by this author and all I can say is, I want more!
- If You Go Into The Woods
on July 06, 2011
This book consisted of two very short, beautifully written. stories. The first has the rhythm and lyrical prose of a fairy tale, the second, the terse, economy of words of science fiction. Yet, in fourteen short pages, author David Gaughran says more about the human condition than most writers can say in four hundred.
on July 06, 2011
What would you do if you found yourself being stalked by a mad man who fills your fax machines and covers your lawn with pages which say 'I see you', who drugs your iced tea, and breaks into your house to leave pictures of yourself with your head cut off. I know what I wouldn't do - I wouldn't destroy all the evidence and then get all lovey dovey with the guy everybody else, including the police and my mother, thinks is a murderer. But that is exactly what Crispin, the heroine of this story does. And why is she convinced that he didn't do it you might ask. Well, because he lays the violin so beautifully - a sure sign of an innocent man.
This book started out great. The whole stalker thing was suitably creepy and sent chills up my spine. Unfortunately, the story quickly devolved into a rather tepid romance with occasional glimpses of the original excitement. And, within a couple of chapters, I knew exactly who the murderer was - no mystery here.
Don't get me wrong, I rather liked this book. It was a fast, easy read. The question I had to ask myself, though, was do I give it four stars because it had such great potential as a straight up suspense novel or two stars because it was wasted. Finally, I decided to compromise and give it three stars. So, if you're looking for a fast little read on a lazy summer afternoon, you might enjoy this book. However, if you're looking for a good mystery, I'd give it a pass.
- Hot Ticket (Ticket Trilogy #1)
on July 07, 2011
'I didn't punch Cindy Newsome in the face on purpose.'
This is the first line of Traci Marchini's little charmer of a book, Hot Ticket. And it sums up the story of heroine, Juliet Robinson's life exactly. No matter what she does, something seems to go wrong, but never intentionally. Juliet is headstrong, impulsive and very likable, so when she is the only kid in school who hasn't received a hot ticket, or, at least, a shame ticket, she has to find out why.
Given how far I am past the target audience for this book, I'm was surprised how much I liked it and much of this is due to Juliet, the main character, and her friends, Lucy and the unfortunately named Crammit Gibson (a nickname Juliet accidentally gave him back in third grade but which, somehow, stuck). Ms Marchini has captured, quite well, what it feels to be a sixth grade middle schooler, the lowest of the low on the school rung and, worse, to feel like you're the least cool kid around.
If you're looking for a book to entertain your middle schooler on a rainy afternoon, this book would be perfect. And you might want to sneak a quick peek yourself, not, of course, to read it read it but, to, you know...umm...to make sure it's a safe read because, as Lucy might say, that wouldn't be 'tote ridic'.
- Shelter (Blood Haze: Book One)
on July 07, 2011
Shelter is the story of 17-year-old Alice Wright who just happens to be a vampire. Alice is torn between two guys, one a vampire, one a vampire hunter-in-training. One is passive aggressive, one is just plain old-fashioned aggressive; in other words, perfect boyfriend material - if you happen to be a complete, self-loathing twit, that is. But they're both gorgeous so what's a girl to do? Well, she might think about running very, very, fast in any other direction but, hey, I guess that's a story for another, better book.
So what did I think about this book - not much. It was poorly written, the prose bordered on purple, and it strained my willing suspension of disbelief way beyond the breaking point. In other words, if you will pardon the pun, it sucked and not in a good vampire way
- Too Far Under
on July 15, 2011
If you like your mysteries with a touch of the paranormal, this one's for you. An indigo child, a Scientologist, an hysterical student, and a computer gamer all clash, as grief counselor Cleo and her surfer dude spirit, Tyler, try to find the murderer of a wealthy Boulderite while, at the same time, trying to find a nursing home for Cleo's grandmother.
A bit lagging at times but, overall, this book was a lot of fun.
- The October Five
on July 18, 2011
When I first started this book, I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about it because I'm not usually a fan of thrillers. But this one grabbed me right from the beginning and gripped right to the end. I loved the plot and the way it moved back and forth between the POV of the police and the killers and between past and present. But, most of all I loved the characters. They were three-dimensional and very, very likable.
I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more from this writer.
- LilyPad Princess
on Aug. 02, 2011
Princess Gwendolyn is playing in the garden with her annoying brother Jack when she notices a frog with a crown on its head. Thinking it might be a prince, she kisses it. However, instead of a prince, the frog turns into a little girl but she might not be what she seems.
This is a charming retelling of the fairy tale, The princess and the Frog and I would recommend it to anyone with a little girl especially if she has an annoying brother.
- The Paperboys Club
on Aug. 02, 2011
The paperboys Club is an intriguing thriller with a supernatural twist. It is a fast and fun read with very likable characters. This is the perfect book for a lazy summer afternoon.
- Dirty Little Angels
on Aug. 12, 2011
Dirty Little Angels is a dark and gritty coming-of-age tale of growing up poor in New Orleans. It is both compelling and thought-provoking and, at times, very depressing but it is also about hope and faith and love within families. This is definitely not a book for everyone, there are no happy endings here, but if you like books which force you to think, then you should give this one a try.
- The Blue Hornet
on Aug. 28, 2011
Jon Rupret (r before e) is a Parking Enforcement Officer whose own car is towed on a regular basis. So when he is selected to be part of an elite task force formed to stop a new and dangerous drug from hitting the streets, no one is more surprised than Jon himself.
R.A.C.E. is a fun and funny book and will keep your attention from beginning to end.
on Sep. 02, 2011
Like a previous reviewer, as a non-golfer, I had a bit of problem getting into this book but once I did, I found it quite entertaining. I look forward to reading more by this author in the future.
- The Road Trip Dialogues
on Sep. 07, 2011
Rev and Dylan run into each other twenty years after Teachers'College. Rev is on her way to Montreal to see the fireworks and, since Dylan has nothing else to do, he decides to go along for the ride. What follows is a lot of talk about life, feminism, politics, religion, and the nature of cats as well as the consumption of copious amounts of weed and junk food. All of this sounds kinda boring but, really, it wasn't. It was fun and funny and it's definitely the kind of book that makes you think. It also gave me my new favourite Biblical quote, Psalm 137:9. It can really liven up a conversation.
Anyway, if you're looking for adventure, romance, or mystery you might want to skip this book but if you just want a fun read that'll make you think long after you finish the last page, definitely give this one a try.
- American Nightmare
on Sep. 09, 2011
Okay, I have to be honest here. I thought this story sounded good and I really liked the premise. Unfortunately, the poor editing made it impossible for me to finish the story. Too bad, because it has a lot of promise.
- Merrie Axemas: A Killer Holiday Tale
on Sep. 09, 2011
What a terrific little story! A great little Xmas tale! Loved it and couldn't put it down. I will definitely be looking for more by this writer.
- The Vampire Shortstop
on Sep. 11, 2011
The Vampire Shortstop is a beautifully written tale about little league baseball, vampires and the tragic effect of prejudice. Scott Nicholson uses just the right language to bring this short story to life. I found myself routing for Jerry and admiring his bravery and even shed a tear or two. This short story is poignant without becoming mawkish. A definite high recommendation from me!
- The Old One
on Sep. 15, 2011
Enjoyable story reminiscent of HP Lovecraft. Starts out slow but quickly builds up speed to a very satisfying denouement.
- The Caldarian Conflict
on Sep. 25, 2011
I am not normally a fan of pirate stories but, when I was a given a chance to read this book, I though what the heck, it might be okay - wow, what an understatement!. I was literally up all night because I couldn't stop reading. Mike Kalmbach has created a tale with all the twists and turns any fantasy fan can appreciate, with rich characters you can easily love or love to hate. At the same time, he raises important questions about justice versus vengeance, the poor, and the need for mercy in terrible times. This is definitely a book worth reading - I can hardly wait for the sequel!
- Campaign Promises
on Sep. 26, 2011
This is a fun and witty novella comparing relationships to politicians. Definitely not for the Michelle Bachman fans out there but for those of us with a more liberal bent and at least a modicum of humour, this is a winning combination.
- Effie At The Wedding
on Oct. 16, 2011
This is a very short, very sweet story about the bond between sisters. Effie is the Maid of Honour at her older sister's wedding and, during the reception, she makes lists about everything from her dress (too pink) to her sister's new husband (too nice) but, mostly, she obsesses about her fear that she is losing her sister who is also her best friend.
Yes, it is very short but there is a lot of story packed into this short story! Definitely, worth the read.
- Blood Duty
on Oct. 27, 2011
I think the thing I like most about Tomlin's writing is her heroines. They are always strong and self-sufficient, something sore lacking in a lot of fantasy today. That is not to say she doesn't write great male protagonists - it's just that her heroes aren't afraid of strong women. I look forward to reading more by this author.
- Elegy: Book 1 of the Arbiter Codex
on Oct. 27, 2011
In Elegy, author Christopher kKellen has created an interesting world with a unique magic system. However, I thought that could have used a little more plot and character development. Otherwise, a pretty good read.
- Multiples of Six
on Nov. 04, 2011
James' mother has recently died and his girlfriend is trying to help him deal with the grief. However, things start going to the weird when he is threatened by a man on his front porch. And that's the best thing that will happen to James this week because now he has to run for his life.
Multiples of Six is a fast-paced thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. great debut novel for this author!
- The Crystal Towers (A Roman Solaire Book)
on Nov. 04, 2011
This is short fast read but, like all of his books, Qureshi manages to put a lot of punch in a little space - a perfect read for a quiet winter's afternoon.
- The Crystal Towers (A Roman Solaire Book)
on Nov. 04, 2011
This is a short fast story but, like all of Qureshi's books, it packs a lot of punch in a little space - the perfect read for a winter's afternoon.
- Warleader - A Blood and Tears Short Story
on Nov. 29, 2011
For such a short story (and it is very short), Warleader packs one hell of a punch. The characters are well wrough as is the world building. However, this is a very dark and gritty world, definitely not for the squeamish. This is dark fantasy in the tradition of Glen Cook and Steven Erikson - lots of cruel and often wanton violence, very little magic. Fortunately, at least for me, this is my favourite kind of fantasy.
My one quibble with the story however - this is less prequel and more prologue. It is really a tiny taste of the author's upcoming fantasy series. I have to admit, though, now that I have whetted my appetite with this appetizer, I am hungry for more.
- The Shoemaker's Son
on Dec. 01, 2011
This short story was great fun to read. If this prequel is any indication, author Gayle Ramage's new Assassination series is gonna be a doozy. I'm definitely adding it to my TBR pile.
- Anathema (Causal Enchantment, #1)
on May 21, 2012
Evangeline has just turned 18 and feeling like a social outcast when, on a trip to New York, she meets a mysterious woman who offers her a job. Soon she is part of a life she could never have imagined but it is becoming clear to her that things are definitely not as simple or as good as they seem.
This is an interesting take on the vampire tale. It is an easy read and, for the most part, lots of fun. If you are a fan of the fangs, this is definitely worth the time.
on May 26, 2012
Happy is the tale of a kitten who is born in a shelter. Unfortunately, it is born with a lame leg and cannot play with its litter mates. However, as it watches the other cats and kittens interact with the people who take care of it, it struggles to do the same and is happy. Then, as the other cats, kittens and even its mother disappear, it is sure this is a happy event and waits excitedly for its own chance to disappear.
Happy is a very short, sad story. I enjoyed it and shed a tear or two. I did find the story a bit melodramatic for my taste, sort of a Dickensian Tiny Tim tale for pet owners but it points out the real problem of all those animals who are waiting to disappear everyday in shelters because no one wants them. And I realize that, sometimes, melodrama is needed to make people wake up and pay attention. Witness all the sad commercials at Christmas time featuring Sarah MacLaughlin and some horribly abused animals. So, hats off to Ms. Braziel for a story with an important message. And if it encourages even one person to donate to a no-kill shelter or, even better, rescue an animal that previously no one wanted because it's crippled or too old, not pure bred, or just not cute enough, it will have achieved something wonderful.