Review of “Escape from Witchwood Hollow” by Jordan Elizabeth Mierek

23351890.jpgI usually get sick of teen girl stories, but this one was unique enough that it drew me in. You immediately have sympathy for the main character in that she lost her parents in 9-11, and you get to read her thoughts and emotions so that you know her pretty well. The other members of the family were all likeable too, as were most of the townspeople she encounters. There were of course the ‘mean girls’ type, but even they were given dimensions.

The overall mystery of what’s going on in the Hollow was great. I wanted to find out more with every hint I was given, and so that’s what kept me reading. I loved the way the author used the different timelines/storylines to show the history behind the mystery. The characters in these storylines were also complex and interesting, and the author’s ability to add historical flavor was a nice shift from the modern day feel of the main storyline. How everything came together was a surprise that I greatly enjoyed…but I won’t spoil anything.

One thing that bugged me was the constant mention of name brands. I get that this girl likes fashion. I know the author was trying to show that. But it was too much, in my opinion, and often distracted from the events going on. I also wasn’t crazy about the ending. It seemed a little melodramatic, and it made me a bit uncomfortable that…what happened… was portrayed as the best thing to make her happy again.

All in all, this was an enjoyable YA/mystery/ghost kind of story that you can read pretty quickly and keeps you entertained.

4 Stars See it on Amazon!

Review of “In the Shadow of the Dragon King” by J. Keller Ford

25721483I read this book a lot faster than I thought I would because the world and adventure drew me in.  There’s a good bit of action to balance out a lot of explanation and dialogue – which was needed in a book that spans both our world and a fantasy one.  There’s a good range of characters, and the main heroes’ journeys make you want to follow them along and figure out what’s up.

The world of Fallhollow is your basic fantasy realm with kings and queens, mages, knights, and of course dragons.  The history to the world was pretty well-explained and sets the story in motion.  David is a very unlikely hero, his love Charlotte gets pulled along for the ride, and when they enter this realm we get to see everything through their eyes.

The author added an interesting element by making Charlotte very, very anti-war.  What David is asked to do conflicts with this so that they both have to reevaluate what fighting for justice really means and costs.  This was a bit infuriating at times because Charlotte is so set in this mindset that she doesn’t seem to understand the reality of their situation.  It also kind of stunts David’s growth into the “savior” character he is supposed to be, so it left them a little weak for me.

Then there’s the alternating viewpoint of Eric.  Through his eyes, we see the insider’s view of Fallhollow.   He knows the knights and king and queen, he knows the publically known story of their history with the dragon.  And by eavesdropping (there’s a lot of eavesdropping!), he picks up clues about what’s really going on.  This worked for me because it added mystery and tension to the story, while David’s viewpoint was more about getting from point A to point B.

As a character, Eric is conflicted in many different ways – with the death of his friend, with feeling overlooked, with wanting fame, with not being trusted, etc.  I’m never a fan of whiney teenage drama, and I mostly wanted to slap Eric.  BUT, I think you’re supposed to.  He clearly has a lot of growing up to do, but by the time the truth is revealed I still wasn’t sure he was worth the trouble of liking him.

Overall, this book is a fun adventure.  It has many elements of a typical fantasy world, and the use of magic is pretty cool.  All the intrigue adds to the plot, and although some people might not like all the dialogue I thought it helped flesh out the characters.

4 Stars

See it on Amazon!

Review of “Murder on Moonshine Hill” by Joan C. Curtis

31588463It wasn’t super-smart of me to read this while planning my own wedding, but I’m *fairly* certain none of this will go wrong.

I’m continually impressed with this author. This story is enjoyable for both the thought that goes into characterization and the thought that goes into developing the plot. After reading the first book in the series, I know the main character of Jenna pretty well, and she’s equally relatable here. The other main characters and side characters are well-portrayed and fleshed out individuals – which is exactly what you want in a who-dun-it murder mystery where you’re constantly playing detective.

I love that the story starts right out by showing you the murder scene. You know right off the bat what you’re going to be dealing with, and it gives you a jump start on trying to sort out the killer’s identity. It also keeps the slow pace of the beginning from being boring, since you know what’s coming. The setting of the wedding is isolating and colorful, and although you’re really in the same place for most of the book, there’s a lot going on. It feels like a game of Clue, but at a wedding.

My only little complaint about this book was that sometimes the dialogue feels a bit “written” and not how people would actually talk. Several times characters have to describe something that they experienced, and in these chunks their explanations are overly descriptive and not how most people would talk…although certainly how an author would write.

All in all, I really recommend this book if you want a murder-mystery from a woman’s perspective.

4.5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

#TopTenTuesday – Summer

I haven’t done a Top Ten Tuesday in a long time.  But, seeing as this is the last Tuesday of August and I’ve had a pretty wonderful summer,  I thought it time to share my favorite things of Summer 2016.  It started out where I was a little stressed, a little restless, and a lot sick of cold, but it’s turned out to be a summer where I’ve truly felt loved and blessed.  So here ya go.

Top 10 Favorite Things of Summer 2016:

1.  Fourth of July.  This is always my favorite holiday, spent with my crazy family at my aunt and uncle’s cottage.  This year’s theme for the boat parade was “Anything Goes,” and since my uncle is the Loon Ranger for their lake, this happened.  Oh, and one of the flags fell off the back when my aunt wasn’t paying attention, my cousin-in-law started playing “Taps” on his phone as it sank, and I jumped overboard to pluck it from the mucky bottom of the lake.  Pretty standard times.

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2.  This little girl entered our lives!  My parents used to raise Weimaraners when I was a kid, but we’d been without one in the family for far too long.  Ghost is probably going to be a bit spoiled as a result.

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3.  My bridal shower.  I hate being the center of attention, but that wasn’t a problem considering we had 19 kids staying.  My mom’s side of the family hadn’t all been together in like 3  years, so I was happy to be the excuse.

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4.  I’ve read a lot of amazing books from fellow authors.  I also beta read more than I usually do (meaning I read an advanced copy of a book an author is preparing to release into the world), which was a great opportunity.  You can see some of these books I’ve read here:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/16027170?sort=date_read&view=reviews

5.  I moved to a super cool apartment that is slowly but surely getting filled so it’s less echo-y in here.

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6.  The Fiance and I celebrating knowing each other for 2 years.  Honestly the first thing to remind us was Facebook.  He was training for an upcoming Ironman all day, I was working, I went to McDonald’s to get us dinner…  It was “special” but worth noting.

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7.  My bridal crew helped me pick out a wedding dress.  Now, I’ve had a deal with my mom since I was 7 years old that I would elope.  However, since the diva groom wants a wedding, that means I had to find a dress.  I didn’t cry when finding the dress, but it meant more to me that these people were there.  (Our little Dutch souls did cry at the great deal I got, though.)

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8.  Reviews from authors I respect.  I’ve been slacking on the whole “book promotions” thing, but it’s been wonderful to have occasional kind words come in about my books.  It especially means a lot to me when other authors whose work I LOVE have something nice to say.  Here’s one:

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9.  The Haymarsh Benefit Shoot.  For almost 2 decades, our family’s hunt club has hosted a benefit shoot for a local facility that helps families with their needs.  It’s always a time I use to catch up with my many adopted-uncle-types.  It’s also a time when my dad, my brother, and I frantically prep to get things ready.  This year was no different, and it’s nice some things never change.

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10.  I found a quiet peace of heaven.  Our apartment doesn’t have a balcony, but there’s this weird private courtyard down the hall that leads to open sun, open air, and astroturf.  It’s the quietest place you can imagine while living downtown, and it’s great for relaxing and unwinding…which means reading.

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Review of “The Amber Project” By J.N. Chaney

28497458I love dystopian sci-fi novels packed with world-building and detail, and this book is a great example of such. It’s a little bit “Divergent,” a bit “Ender’s Game,” but there’s a lot here that is completely original. The writing is wonderful. The dialogue is sharp and sounds good in your ear. The descriptions pop images in your head. The suspenseful pacing builds with something new showing up right when it needs to – I was never bored.
I really liked how the book goes back and forth between the kids and the adults. A lot of dystopian YA can focus so much on the teens that the adults just become bland or else always the “bad guys.” But this story has a diverse range of personalities and intrigue involved in every circle.
I listened to the audiobook version, and I gotta say the narrator was a bit over-dramatic for me, like he was trying to sound like the movie trailer voice we all know. But, the subtly different voices used for the characters were helpful, and I let the over-dramatic inflection go most of the time.
Definitely give this one a read (or a listen) if you like your sci-fi to be well-written and introspective on human nature. The twist/cliffhanger at the end definitely has me interested in reading the next book.

4 Stars

 See it on Amazon!

#TheFourFriday

Here is part 2 of me reading the original version of The Kota that I found from childhood.

More surprises!  I completely forgot about the green blob alien, Counterstrike’s original identity, and that Silver Eye used to be a rebel.

It’s so trippy seeing how much this story has changed…

 

#TheFourFriday

IMG_8408.JPGEarlier this week,  I dug through a box of old keepsakes and found the first ever version of The Kota.  I hadn’t even skimmed it for a decade.  So,  I thought it would be fun to read some of it on video.  Boy, were there some surprises in there!

Trok was once our cousin? The Magi were once the Shiks who took people to the planet Frag?  What the heck were GHM and Proth X?

How did I forget this stuff?!  🙂

 

Review of “Portraits of Dread” by Michael J. Elliott

Portraits of Dread (72dpi 900x600)This collection is brilliant.  And I’m not British, so I feel the need to point out I actually mean brilliant.  Almost every single one of these stories starts out in a completely familiar, unassuming setting.  Then some weird, horrific, incredible bomb is dropped and you suddenly realize that something completely different is going on.   I alternated between laughing in surprise to making sounds of “Oh, ew, ugh!” whenever I read a twist.

The writing itself is excellent.  Elliott has a particular tone to his writing that is playful and serious at the same time (don’t ask me how that works, but it does), and the style of the writing feels simultaneously classic and fresh.  I honestly can’t think of one dud story in this collection, nor can I pick out a favorite.  …Okay, maybe “Reconstructing Teddy” for the sheer creepy factor of the twist and the great portrayal of quirky (to say the least) little boys.

It’s also worth pointing out that, horror stories though these may be, they also have moments of genuine warmth and SAY SOMETHING.  Too many horror stories go simply for shock value and can become laughable when trying to hard.  This book never feels like that, and you can tell the author constructed these stories thoughtfully.  “A Glutton for Punishment” in particular seems to be full of commentary on society.

Overall, I can’t recommend this book enough.  The stories are short and quick if you just want little bits at a time, or you can read the whole thing in a few sittings if you just can’t stop.  Which *might* have been the approach I took.

5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

Raffle for a prize of 50+ eBooks!!

Hey, readers!

There are only 11 days left to enter the raffle for my Book Charity Event for Mental Health Awareness Month.  The prize is an awesome collection of 50+ eBooks from various donating authors, so why not enter?

Here’s the link:  https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/5acd3f201/

Book Charity Event Raffle Pic

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