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Smashwords book reviews by Nikki

  • Hazy Shade of Winter on Aug. 31, 2012

    Good Story with Likeable Characters This is the story of Jude—a teenage girl who hears and eventually sees ghosts—and Samuel, her guardian angel and soulmate (unbeknownst to them both). While Jude is enduring the difficulties of a human life cycle, Sam is progressing as a soul and angel to a state when he will finally be finished learning and able to “graduate” to a higher state of existence. In the process, he hopes to reunite with his soulmate to be with her forever. The book is an excellent read. Ms. Bradshaw’s writing style is smooth and enjoyable, with only an occasional rough spot that needs to be reworded or polished. I like the overall feel of her story and her world. Her characters are appealing, and there is great dialogue between them throughout the book. The dialogue between Samuel and his friend Benjamin and between Jude and her friends in England is the most well-written and entertaining. I also enjoyed the historical glimpses into Samuel’s previous lives as a human. These sections are set off in italics and flow nicely with the rest of the book. Each chapter had at least one bit that made me laugh and several passages of quality writing. Here are some examples: * “She had it in her to gab, giggle, and gossip with the best of them, and she refused to believe it was the voices that set her apart. She wondered if she came across as believing herself superior; she was so often absorbed in the whispers swarming around her that she often missed large chunks of their conversations, contributing nothing. Voices everywhere—both human and otherworldly—and still she felt alone.” * “Audrey West had considerable expectations for her daughter, perhaps because Jude was the eldest of three, but more especially because she was a girl, and Mrs. West had equally considerable expectations of herself. Women were supposed to grit their teeth and barrel through, show themselves strong and capable, and lead by example in all things…without ever a strand of hair found out of place.” * “Samuel dreaded such times, not only because Jude would be attending a serious draw for Unholies, but because it was such a girlie experience, well outside his realm of understanding.” * “She wanted him, and when he released Danielle a moment later to face her, she dared to wonder if maybe he wanted her too…Until he frisked his hands down the sides of her body, ogling her in full. It felt obscene, and suddenly she was herself again. One smell of his breath shattered the illusion that he had any real interest in her; he stank of cheap booze and canned beer. His eyes showed not the slightest spark of recognition that she was anything other than female, and she searched wildly for an escape route.” * “This was sheer terror. It was Legion, and they sought to take advantage of his situation and torture him until his mind became unbalanced…Legion devoured his psyche, intent on his destruction while they laughed inside his brain, taunting him with images of suffering…All of it came in snatches, lying in dark disarray at the corners of his mind to keep him from remembering who he was and what he was doing in that hospital bed.” Hazy Shade of Winter includes some interesting concepts as well: * “He was grateful that Jude did not drink, had not experimented with drugs…and was restrained enough in both anger and grief that she was not terribly susceptible to demons.” Many people believe that there are certain things you can do knowingly and unknowingly to open yourself up to demonic influence and possession. One aspect of this is that by using hallucinogens, you are allowing your mind to come closer to the spirit world and therefore in closer proximity to non-human entities. Without entering this altered state of consciousness under proper conditions, you can make yourself vulnerable. * “He had seen his share of naked women during the course of his lives and felt confident he could view a naked form without it distracting his thoughts…and he was reminded why part of progression was mastering one’s own desires.” Again, many people believe that mastering control of yourself both mentally and physically is essential to ascending to a higher state of spirituality. * “Besides, if we didn’t forgive our friends their little indiscretions, who would we ever have left?” This one speaks for itself. Not far into the book, the “partition” is introduced, which is neither described nor explained. At first I thought it should have been defined upon the first mention but later changed my mind and decided the reader should be able to figure it out soon enough. The concept of a portal or gateway between dimensions is not complicated. However, this leaves its appearance up to your imagination, and so to me was reminiscent of the rift in the sky from Bleach, where Hollows and Soul Reapers cross between the human world and that of the Soul Society. As in Bleach, the normal humans in Hazy Shade of Winter can never actually see the partition or the entities that pass through it. This story does not contain much action, but it still works. It has decent drama elements, not overly emotional or sappy. I would have liked there to be more elaboration regarding the evil entities. It seems the angelic side is populated with many different and interesting types of souls while the demonic side is barely introduced at all. This makes it seem unbalanced. There are three issues regarding the editing: 1) The use of the word “had”: The first part of the book (the first ten chapters or so) suffers from an excessive use of the past perfect form of had. The story is written in past tense and contains several passages of “history” or “past” events in relation to the characters, so most of the hads are not used incorrectly. It’s just that there are way too many of them. Where the hads are overused, the rhythm is disrupted. These areas could stand to be rewritten in a way that removes as many hads as possible. After chapter ten, this was barely an issue. 2) Capitalization: I have no problem with an author’s prerogative to emphasize whatever words they want by capitalizing them (when the word isn’t normally capitalized); however, it should stay consistent throughout the book. There were a few instances were this was not the case. For example, Devil/devil and Angel/angel were capitalized inconsistently. 3) There are occasional typos, missing commas, etc.: The book contains more editing errors than I would like to see in a finished product, although none of them hinder enjoyment of the story, and many of which will go unnoticed by everyone except grammar nazis and editors.
  • Currency on Oct. 07, 2012

    Be Careful Reading This Book, You Might Learn Something Currency begins with a fascinating little romp through history on a search for missing pirate treasure then explodes into a thrilling tale of political intrigue and modern warfare. Connor Murray is a normal enough man, a bond trader by profession, when he learns that he is the sole inheritor of a trust connected to Aaron Burr. As he researches the details of the trust, events begin to unfold, setting him on a dangerous path. Not only is his life in danger, his county’s economy is going down the tubes. America’s constant borrowing to fix immediate problems has only delayed an inevitable economic catastrophe, one that is knocking at their door. As Connor comes closer to unraveling the mystery surrounding the long-lost treasure, the United States may very well be on the precipice of losing its dominance as a global superpower. As if that weren’t enough to deal with, he gets a second chance at love with a beautiful woman that he meets along the way. Mr. Wood expertly weaves the title theme through three historical periods to create a captivating story. The historical accuracy in this novel is flawless. (I did extensive fact checking and learned a lot in the process!) The reader can be rest assured that even minor details are authentic. Mr. Wood has a solid grasp of real world economics as well as military hardware and operations. He also does a good job of capturing the essence of each time period and the feel of the varied locations in the book. The political/economic scenario presented in this story is not too far from the situation in which the US finds itself now. This is definitely a book to read very carefully or more than once to get the most out of it. Mr. Wood’s writing style is enjoyable but could use some improvement. A few of the explanations temporarily pluck you out of the story. Editing errors (most notably comma and semicolon use) are a slight distraction. **WARNING: Potential Spoilers Ahead** *I found it interesting that Mr. Wood has a recurring theme throughout the book that it isn’t necessarily the people of a country that are bad, but it is the corrupt government officials who are usually the problem. *I thought it was a nice touch to have Connor’s life mildly mirror Aaron Burr’s tragic one. *My favorite quote: “…[foreign leaders] need to be scared of the United States, of her power and her will to use it.” Here is a list of some of the interesting history and other neat stuff found in Currency: Pirate treasure, Captain Kidd, The Burr-Hamilton Duel, Aaron Burr, Bahamas, Nassau, Fort Montagu, Blennerhassett, Blackbeard, Captain Henry Morgan, Robert Culliford, Spanish Gold, The Campbell Apartment, Fort Fincastle, Conchy Joe, Lord Bellomont, The Exumas, Bahamian sand, Alexander Hamilton, Captain Kidd’s trial and execution, gibbet, Alexander Hamilton’s affair, US Treasury Bonds, debt, bearer trusts, HY-4, Aaron Burr’s tragic life, Bushehr, Billy Mitchell (but not this Billy Mitchell), U.S. Fifth Fleet, USS Vincennes, Machiavelli, Moscow’s Seven Sisters, Jamaican bauxite, Resolute Desk, FSB, Situation Room, Tax Havens, IBCs, OECD, SEALs, CV-22 Osprey, C-17, blue police lights in Moscow, US Dues to the UN, Pieces of Eight, Reserve Currency, IMF, Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), death mask, CUSIP Number, War Powers Act, Stuxnet, Bunker Busters, S-300, B-2, radar evading skin, brinkmanship, Isle of Hope, Wormsloe Plantation, J.P. Morgan, The Corner, Wall Street, Bank of New York, Bank of the United States, Coast Guard, Winston Churchill, Special Relationship