Upon Review: The Nameless Dwarf Omnibus by D.P. Prior

October 2nd, 2012

I love to curl up with a nice, steaming cup of tea and a free book to review. In fact I subscribe to three book review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex just so I can indulge in my favorite leisure activity. What’s even better is when an author contacts me for a review. If you’re an author looking for someone to review your book or short story, check out my Request a Review page.

Because I like to share the great reads I’ve found (and warn readers of the not-so-great finds), I developed a system:

  • One cup — worse than a cup of luke warm black pekoe
  • Two cups — it may be hot, but you’ll need plenty of sweetener just to tolerate it
  • Three cups — it’s not my favorite, but it beats going without
  • Four cups — nice and hot and only needs a smidge of sweetener to be perfect
  • Five cups — loose leaf vanilla Earl Grey, yummy

Sometimes a book or story doesn’t warrant a five cup rating, but it’s so good it can’t be missed. For those I include the “Must Read” starburst in front of the cup rating. You’ll find my cup rating above the picture of the cover. Enjoy!

 

The Nameless Dwarf Omnibus (Chronicles of the Nameless Dwarf) by D.P. Prior

 

 

 

 Here is the description that made me want to write this book review:

Following the massacre of the dwarves in their ravine city, the Nameless Dwarf pursues the survivors to the brigand town of Malfen, where he learns they have crossed the mountains into the lands of nightmare. His only intention is to save his people from extinction, but he’s the last person they’d want to find them.

The Good…

These stories are fast-paced and reminded me of the movie The Lord of the Rings. The epic scale of the story itself drew me in until I was rooting for each character to find the courage to face their inner demons and reach their hidden potential.

Although the title suggests this is a much larger book, I would compare it to a collection of four novellas. This makes it perfect for those short periods of time when we want to be entertained, but may not have the time to devote to a larger novel.

The Not-so-good…

The fight scenes were often more graphic than I enjoy, though not enough for me to want to stop reading. The descriptions of gore splashing on a character, as well as descriptions of sounds and physical sensations, were enough to make me shudder. However, I must note that they were not gratuitous nor did they seem written in for the sake of shock value.

My biggest disappointment was that the overall story wasn’t finished at the end of the book. In order to find out what happens to the characters after the cliff hanger ending, one must purchase the next book. It reminds me of watching a soap opera rather than a good movie.

The Overall…

The Nameless Dwarf Omnibus (Chronicles of the Nameless Dwarf) by D.P. Prior is a wonderful epic-style tale with larger-than-life, flawed characters that will draw you in, but beware that you may need to buy more books if you want to find out how the story ends.

Upon Review: Dead Already by Edwina Ray

September 8th, 2012

I love to curl up with a nice, steaming cup of tea and a free book to review. In fact I subscribe to three book review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex just so I can indulge in my favorite leisure activity. What’s even better is when an author contacts me for a review. If you’re an author looking for someone to review your book or short story, check out my Request a Review page.

Because I like to share the great reads I’ve found (and warn readers of the not-so-great finds), I developed a system:

  • One cup — worse than a cup of luke warm black pekoe
  • Two cups — it may be hot, but you’ll need plenty of sweetener just to tolerate it
  • Three cups — it’s not my favorite, but it beats going without
  • Four cups — nice and hot and only needs a smidge of sweetener to be perfect
  • Five cups — loose leaf vanilla Earl Grey, yummy

Sometimes a book or story doesn’t warrant a five cup rating, but it’s so good it can’t be missed. For those I include the “Must Read” starburst in front of the cup rating. You’ll find my cup rating above the picture of the cover. Enjoy!

 

Dead Already a Slipstream / Medieval Short Story by Edwina Ray

 

 

 

Here is the description that made me want to write this book review:

Everyone is dying, and no one outside the village has any idea. Martine and Eli’s father, the strongest, fittest man they knew lies dead inside as they paint a red cross on the door, marking yet another infected home.
In order to save the rest of the country from this lethal sickness, the village elders lock the gates. No one gets out.

So everybody will die. 

Eli, however, won’t accept this fate, but can he get out of the quarantine when guards will cut down anyone who tries? Can he get help in time or will this end up just another village wiped out of existence?

The Good…

As I read this story I was reminded of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. The dark feel and unknown history created a mysterious, chilling atmosphere to the beginning of the story. The rising conflict between the characters was engaging and pulled me into the story. I was anxious to discover what would happen to the villagers.

I loved that the ending on this story was less abrupt than the others I have read. It was natural and gave enough of an anti-climax to be satisfying.

The Not-so-good…

While this story was in first person point of view like both The Witch’s Curse and Guilty Until Proven Innocent (written under her given name Sarah Billington), the ending switched to third. There was a well-defined break between the two point of views, but I think the story would have benefited from being told entirely in third person. Given the ending, as with the others, there was no other way to carry the story to its natural conclusion without the pov switch.

The Overall…

If you enjoy stories like M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village and don’t mind a point of view switch three quarters of the way in, Dead Already by Edwina Ray is an enjoyable read that fits great in short amount of free time.

Upon Review: The Witch’s Curse by Edwina Ray

September 1st, 2012

I love to curl up with a nice, steaming cup of tea and a free book to review. In fact I subscribe to three book review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex just so I can indulge in my favorite leisure activity. What’s even better is when an author contacts me for a review. If you’re an author looking for someone to review your book or short story, check out my Request a Review page.

Because I like to share the great reads I’ve found (and warn readers of the not-so-great finds), I developed a system:

  • One cup — worse than a cup of luke warm black pekoe
  • Two cups — it may be hot, but you’ll need plenty of sweetener just to tolerate it
  • Three cups — it’s not my favorite, but it beats going without
  • Four cups — nice and hot and only needs a smidge of sweetener to be perfect
  • Five cups — loose leaf vanilla Earl Grey, yummy

Sometimes a book or story doesn’t warrant a five cup rating, but it’s so good it can’t be missed. For those I include the “Must Read” starburst in front of the cup rating. You’ll find my cup rating above the picture of the cover. Enjoy!

 

The Witch’s Curse a mystery/thriller short story by Edwina Ray

 

 

 

Here is the description that made me want to write this book review:

In this new short supernatural thriller from Amazon Best Selling author Edwina Ray, when fifteen-year-old Alex is caught out in the secluded forest admiring the giant ancient tree set in a moss-covered clearing, she is sure Josh is pulling a prank on her.

Be careful of the witch’s curse, he says. The tree has the power to kill you in the most horrible of ways.

Alex didn’t believe him.

Maybe she should have.

The Good…

This has the feel of a classic ghost story. While there is always a question of what will happen in the end, the conclusion is inevitable, as it should be.

Edwina once again captures the characters through dialogue, making them seem realistic.

The Not-so-good…

The one thing that bothered me was the how abrupt the ending was. It’s understandable, I suppose, since the story is in first person and the conclusion is what it is. One could hardly expect a longer or more subtle end in the case of this story. Still, I felt a little cheated.

The Overall…

If you enjoy classic ghost stories and an abrupt ending doesn’t bother you, The Witch’s Curse by Edwina Ray is a fun read that fits great in short amount of free time.

Upon Review: The Last Werewolf Hunter: The Complete Series by William Woodall

July 14th, 2012

Last Werewolf Hunter, William WoodallI love to request free books to review. In fact I subscribe to three book review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex, but sometimes authors contact me for a review. Such was the case of William Woodall’s middle grade fiction book The Last Werewolf Hunter: The Complete Series.

Here is the description that made me want to write this book review:

Zach Trewick always thought he’d become a writer someday, or maybe play baseball for the Texas Rangers.  What he never imagined in his craziest dreams was that he’d find himself dodging bullets and crashing cars off mountainsides, let alone that he’d ever be expected to break the ancient werewolf curse which hangs over his family.

Even worse, his parents are determined to fight him tooth and nail to keep the Curse intact, his friends are not much help, and he’s not quite sure his girlfriend isn’t secretly trying to kill him. 

And that’s just for starters.

But Zach is the last of the werewolf hunters, the long-foretold Curse-Breaker who can wipe out the wolves forever, and he’s not the type to give up just because of a few minor setbacks. . .

No matter what the cost, Zach must somehow find the courage and the faith in God to make an end.

The Good…

As I read these stories, I was struck by how much they felt like a paranormal version of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. The voice had that down-to-earth, southern charm that instantly makes the reader feel like she’s listening to a friend tell a tall tale on the back porch or perhaps lying next to the young man on the cover, listening to his life story.

The conflicts in each of the stories were rather simple and easily resolved by the characters, though they do grow increasingly challenging in each book. This was something I thought was perfect for the age range the books are written for.

Along with a compelling story is a strong message of a young person finding and growing into an understanding of his relationship with God. Due to the character voice, the Christian message comes off as a sharing of ideas rather than a sermon and adds to the charm of the entire series.

The Not-so-good…

The only thing I could really find fault with is the overuse of cliches. However, given the main character’s background it’s a natural extension of his personality and therefore acceptable.

The Overall…

In my opinion the combination of down-to-earth story-telling in a classic style and near effortless conflict resolution made The Last Werewolf Hunter: The Complete Series by William Woodall a perfect middle grade read.

Upon Review: The Next Target by Nikki Arana

April 11th, 2012

I love to request free books to review. In fact I subscribe to three book review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex, but sometimes authors and the people they work with contact me for a review. Such was the case of Nikki Arana‘s book The Next Target: A Novel.

Here is the description that made me want to write this book review:

It only took one bullet. Austia’s friend and student fell dead. And with a glimpse of a newspaper headline, the young and recently widowed Austia knows more about what happened than the police. From that fatal night, Austia’s secret outreach to the U.S. Muslim community—in the guise of English language classes—becomes a target. Local Muslim extremists set their sights on ending her ministry and even her life. And the women she ministers to will be next. 

A thick web of deceit closes in around Austia, and her circle of friends becomes smaller by the day, even as she finally opens herself to the idea of falling in love again. But who can she trust? Facing a spiritual battle that proves more treacherous than it at first seemed, Austia’s convictions are tested to their limits and her heart becomes primed for breaking. She must ask herself: how much she will risk to stay true to her herself, her faith, and to the lives of the women she serves?

The Good…

The Next Target is a well written suspense that brought to mind Frank Peretti’s Piercing the Darkness, minus the demons and angels. The author’s use of dark and light imagery and the feeling that Hussein is able to know things without being told gave the distinct feeling that this was a story of spiritual warfare.

Wonderfully frustrating cases of “just missing” the one who could make everything work out and misunderstandings regarding a person’s real intentions made me want to continue reading just to see if/when things would be cleared up. The author did a great job showing how what may seem like a bad thing was actually God making things work out the way they needed to.

The Not-so-good…

In general, prologues are not necessary and this one is no exception. It’s beautifully written, but does nothing to move the story along.

Also, this fantastic story is marred by repetitive back story info dumps. It was almost as if the author didn’t trust that the reader would either remember important details or would miss the point of a scene.

The Overall…

The Next Target: A Novel by Nikki Arana is an inspiring suspense that keeps readers up all night wondering if it’s true that Love Never Fails.

Upon Review: Splitting Adam by John R. Ford

March 29th, 2012

I love to request free books to review. In fact I subscribe to three book review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex, but sometimes I find an intriguing post on GoodReads that leads me to an author looking for reviews. Such was the case of John C. Ford‘s book Splitting Adam.

Here is the description that made me want to do write this book review:

Ever wonder what would happen if Frank Capra had directed Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? Find out in Splitting Adam!

After a soul-crushing thirtieth birthday party, Pastor Adam Tyler, the hopelessly single son of a single mom, is given a chance to see what the world would be like without him. But surprisingly, rather than just an Adam-less world, he finds instead that he has been replaced by two others, each man his ?half-self.? One, the child of his mother, is a wealthy and successful businessman. The other, the child of the father Adam has never known, is a movie-quoting, streetwise con man. It seems the only things these two have in common are Adam’s DNA, and that both are on a collision course for Deep Trouble. With a hand from his crusty guardian angel, it’s up to Adam to rescue them. But is he up to the task? And can he find his way home again?

This hilarious journey of half-self-discovery is the lovechild of Kurt Vonnegut and Anne Lamott, and is sure to delight all who enjoy a trip into the magical land of “what if?”

The Good…

The best thing about Splitting Adam was the humor, which turns what otherwise could have been a heavy-handed drama into a wondrous experience we share with Adam.

In some ways the guardian angel, who just happens to sound like a native from Philly, reminded me of the ghosts of Christmas Past and Present in the Bill Murray comedy Scrooged. It didn’t hurt that by the end of the book the angel was looking up information on his new iHeaven.

Ford’s explanations for questions many of us have on scripture, like why there’s no marriage in heaven, and why certain things are possible though they seem impossible are sensible and understandable. Still, he leaves room for our own interpretations as well. I particularly like the explanation of why socks seem to disappear in the dryer.

This is one of those great stories that leave you rooting for the characters by the end, then holding your breath as everything comes to a climax. I even had to grab a tissue as I finished the book because it literally moved me to tears.

The Not-so-good…

The prologue really wasn’t necessary. In fact I thought the story would have been even better if I hadn’t known how it all began. I strongly suggest skipping it unless you have a deep desire to know the answer to the mystery of Adam’s parentage before reading his story.

The Overall…

I laughed my way through Splitting Adam by John R. Ford and came away with a deeper appreciation of my own path of life. If you enjoy a story with a solid Christian message and lots of humor, you’ll love this book.

Upon Review: Mountain Girl by Jacalyn Wilson

March 14th, 2012

Mountain Girl by Jacalyn WilsonI love to request free books to review. In fact I subscribe to three review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex, but sometimes I have the privilege to review a book by an author I know or one who is brave enough to contact me for a review.

Jacalyn Wilson emailed me recently asking if I’d would review her Christian romance/mystery book Mountain Girl (Heaven’s Mountain Trilogy), book 2 of a trilogy she has self-published through KDP. I was glad to find a mystery in this book as intriguing as in Heaven’s Mountain, though I’m not fond of romances. Still, as with In The Aerie of the Wolf by Leonora Pruner, I do my best to read the book in light of what a romance reader might enjoy.

Here is the description of Mountain Girl:

In the valley below Heaven’s Mountain lies the quiet town of Providence, where life and love and friends and mysteries continue to grow and flourish. 

Pardoned and released from prison after almost thirty years, James MacEwen is now a free man. But his freedom is not complete, for the years of incarceration still bind him, in ways he has yet to understand. Until he deals with the past he cannot fully live – or love – in the present.

Clare Morgan, the playful, gutsy owner of the boarding house, has been hoping for more than friendship from James, but her wait so far has been futile. And now, the arrival of a new boarder, the handsome Mr. English, has made her reconsider her options. She may choose not to wait any longer. 

While Grace and Ethan anticipate the arrival of their first child, there’s a growing tension between them over Ethan’s new job offer and Grace’s insistence on continuing her career in journalism. With neither of them wanting to compromise and with communication at a standstill, they must seek the truth behind their attitudes and be willing to submit – to each other and to God.

***Spoiler Alert***

If you don’t want to know about anything specific that happens in the book, please skip to The Overall… section.

The Good…

Jackie’s message of learning to let go of guilt was refreshing. I found myself often pausing and considering the questions posed in the book on the reasons behind why we allow ourselves to suffer those burdens when we should let them go and move forward in our lives.

The writing has greatly improved in this book with very little head hopping, as well as deeper character development. Grace and Ethan’s arguments over whether Grace will go back to work after the baby is born seem very much in keeping with the time period the story is set in.

The overall romance story between James and Clare is also nicely tied up at the end without any long, drawn-out scenes. In fact, I absolutely adored the scene where James discovers Tom isn’t involved with Clare. Priceless.

The Not-So-Good…

The biggest drawbacks in Mountain Girl, and this may sound odd coming from a former minister, were the number of prayer scenes. While it does show that prayer is an important part of our lives and gives some good examples of the simplicity of prayer, not one of them really helps move the story along.

My other disappointment was that the mystery was easily solved and didn’t appear until several chapters into the book. But, again, I’m not fond of romances so it was the mystery that held my interest more than the actual genre.

The Overall…

All in all, this is an excellent romance with just a hint of mystery. I would recommend Mountain Girl (Heaven’s Mountain Trilogy) by Jacalyn Wilson to anyone who wants a comforting read.

Upon Review: In Her Name: Empire by Michael Hicks

February 29th, 2012

I’m so excited this week because Natalie Hartford of Life Out Loud is spotlighting me on her blog. Natalie calls herself an urban redneck who loves all things pink and she’s a real firecracker. Take a moment to hop on over to her blog and enter her contest for a special edition signed Simply Prayer ebook (open internationally) or a signed copy of the paperback version (open to US/Canada).

Now, on to the review:

I love to request free books to review. In fact I subscribe to two review sites: Book CrashBook Rooster and The Bookplex, but sometimes I find an intriguing tweet that leads me to a free book. Such was the case of Michael Hicks‘ book Empire (In Her Name: Redemption, Book 1).

Here is the description that fascinated me:

In the first book of an epic futuristic fantasy trilogy, this is the coming-of-age story of Reza Gard, a young boy of the Human Confederation who is swept up in the century-long war with the alien Kreelan Empire. Nightmarish female warriors with blue skin, fangs, and razor sharp talons, the Kreelans have technology that is millennia beyond that of the Confederation, yet they seek out close combat with sword and claw, fighting and dying to honor their god-like Empress. Captured and enslaved, Reza must live like his enemies in a grand experiment to see if humans have souls, and if one may be the key to unlocking an ages old curse upon the Kreelan race. Enduring the brutal conditions of Kreelan life, Reza and a young warrior named Esah-Zhurah find themselves bound together by fate and a prophecy foretold millennia before they were born.

I admit it. I was sucked into the story before Chapter One ended.

The Good…

Although the stakes never change (life or death every time) it feels like it does. It’s not a matter of if Reza will survive; it’s a matter of how and who will survive alongside him.

Empire is rife with tension and conflict from beginning to end, forcing the reader to keep turning pages to see what happens next. The characters feel real and demand we pay attention to them.

The Not-so-good…

While the overall writing is captivating, there is quite a bit of head hopping to get used to. Even so, Hicks is able to pull it off with a minimum of jarring the reader.

At times the descriptions of the Kreelan homeworld were more detailed than I like and I felt they dragged the story down. However, one expects a certain amount of world building in Science Fiction and Fantasy. I don’t think the descriptions in Empire were excessive.

The Overall…

Loved Empire (In Her Name: Redemption, Book 1) by Michael Hicks. Even without the excerpt for In Her Name: Confederation in the back, I was eager to see what happens in the next book. I highly recommend this for anyone remotely interested in Science Fiction.

Upon Review: Taboo by Tara Maya

July 16th, 2011

Cover ImageI was thrilled to receive a complimentary copy of both Tara Maya’s books Initiate: The Unfinished Song, Book One and The Unfinished Song: Taboo when I chose to review Taboo.

And it’s a very good thing I received both rather than just Taboo or I would have been lost from the beginning.

The Good

I loved the premise of the story: tribes set against each other, a young man trying to overcome being exiled while securing peace, a young woman devastated at losing her dream who chooses to break a taboo rather than dance herself to death in a fairy ring.

While Initiate was rather slow, with an abrupt ending, Taboo was a page turner. Before I knew it, the compelling characters drew me in until I simply had to find out what would happen to them. If Tara was attempting to imitate the fairies’ irresistible invitations, then she accomplished her goal.

The Bad

Although Taboo doesn’t have a lot of back story info dump, which makes transitioning from the first book in the series to the second book very easy, had I not read Initiate first I think I would have been hard pressed to understand what was happening in Taboo. Depending on who you’re readers are, this could be either a very good thing or a very bad thing.

A loyal reader won’t want her story interrupted by material she has to scan because she already knows it. However, someone who happened across Taboo first might not choose to buy the first book simply because the writer didn’t factor in the need of back story, making his reading experience more difficult than necessary.

Also, as with Initiate, Taboo has a very abrupt ending.

Imagine Star Wars: A New Hope ending with the Death Star blowing up — no Darth Vader in his ship careening away, no big medal of honor ceremony. That is, more or less, how both Initiate and Taboo end.

The fact that both Initiate and Taboo have such abrupt endings, and that Taboo has very little back story included, makes me think this series was actually written as a single book, then chopped into segments.

That seems to be the trend in many indie books I’ve read recently. I’m not sure if it’s lack of skill in craft or a new trend. Either way it is unappealing to this reader.

The Overall

I enjoyed both books, though I don’t know if I’ll continue reading the series. (I hate feeling sucked into a never-ending story.) I would, however, highly recommend Initiate: The Unfinished Song, Book One and The Unfinished Song: Taboo to anyone who doesn’t mind downloading the next book immediately to find out what happens next.