Book Blog

Here are links to my book reviews.  They lead to the review in a number of possible places:

  1. A blog post on this website.
  2. My reviews on GoodReads.com
  3. My reviews on Amazon.com
  4. My profile, including reviews, on SmashWords.com

The latest review will always be at the top of the list 🙂

The Cost of the Dream, Part 1, by Caddy Rowland

The choices we make…a great story!

Gastien…It’s your choice…

The Cost of the Dream is the life story of a would be painter, Gastien, from boyhood to early adulthood. Ms. Rowland presents a detailed story of one boy’s dream, the choices he is presented with and how the decisions he makes lead him from the peasant farming village of his parents to the Montmartre. Her descriptions of what it might have meant to be a poor artist in Paris in the late 19th century were gripping.

In her story, she shows her readers multiple aspects of life, love, art and sexuality. She hints that life is what you make of it and that we are all presented with choices everyday. The important thing may be that no matter how black and white we think the answers are, the choices are still ours to make and the decisions we make are still what steers the course of our lives. There are no black and white outcomes, only varying shades of grey. I enjoyed the highs and lows in Gastien’s story tremendously.

Caddy Rowland also taught me one thing about writing a story where the characters are obviously not thinking or talking in English. I generally don’t care about using translated words or phases in foreign novels that are assumed to be spoken totally in another language. In this case, the use of a few French words and phrases softens what may otherwise be harsh or guttural.

If you enjoy historical fiction and family drama, or stories set in a Paris of the 1800’s, I recommend this one. In my opinion it stands alone solidly, but creates a doorway into the rest of the Gastien series, as well.

Crocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody), by Elizabeth Peters

A great Egyptian mystery writer!

I loved the characters and the descriptions of late 1800’s Egypt that Elizabeth Peters brings to life through the eyes of Miss Amelia Peabody. Promises to be a fun series of quick reads set in a country by which I am fascinated.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel, by Robin Sloan

A fun romp through the words.

I picked this book up on a whim, based on a friend’s very simple “review” on my favorite reader’s site, Goodreads. It lived up to my expectations with quirky, nerdy, deeply developed characters both young and old. The author used classically creative forms, such as writing, hammer and hot glue gun set design and knitting, seamlessly teamed with coding, scanning and algorithm development to create a story that amalgamates 500 year old cults, the inner workings of Google, science fiction and romance. It’s a fun story that flirts with an age old desire and, in the end, clarifies what’s most important to us all.

The Tremor of Forgery, by Patricia Highsmith

I got to know three interesting people and a whole new land…

Patricia Highsmith has a new fan. What an interesting assortment of characters; I loved the story, the stories within the story and the Arab vacation I feel I’ve just been on. I’ll soon be reading another of her books. Thanks to my friend, Geo, for turning me on to this great yarn spinner.

Native Blood (ZEB HANKS: SMALL TOWN SHERIFF BIG TIME TROUBLE Book 1), by Mark Reps

Snake pit of evil…

Interesting setting and a plot full of evil make this murder mystery boil. While the characters are a little two dimensional, I enjoyed the pace of the story and the descriptions of the animosity felt between the Indians of the reservation and the white man’s town.

Fearless, by Edward Jakab

Straight acting and appearing…

A great read, and first book, by a promising new author!

Edward develops his characters well and has a very authentic voice. There are plenty of family dynamics, school relationships and conflict within and between characters to keep the reader interested in this first love / coming of age story.

One of the things I particularly liked was the balance the author used for reactions to a gay character, both in families and in the school. They weren’t all negative and they weren’t all positive. Jake had many friends, from both sexes, that fully supported his boyfriend(s) and him, even to the point of some (OMG) kissing action.

A couple of times I did have to step back and wonder at how seemingly clueless Jake was in the “below the belt” department for an older teen gay boy, but that made for an easy exclusion of those awkward pawing scenes so prevalent in many coming out and male romance stories. The love scenes are tame, but the feelings seem sincere.

Jake’s family dynamics and the inevitable conflict therein are realistically developed without leaning too much on the absent father / over involved mother stereotype either. His younger sister, and confidant in all things “Drewish”, has a very sophisticated philosophy, but sometimes adults simply over-think the obvious.

Go take a look, we’ll be seeing more by Edward Jakab in the future!

The 39 Steps, by Richard Hannay

An amazing tale and a quick read! This is a classic tale of the mystery genre that has been the inspiration for several movies. The 39 Steps is an early 20th century story of intrigue, murder and suspense in Great Britain. The hero is a typically wealthy, idle young man (30 something) looking for a bit of adventure who bites off a bit more than he is able to comfortably chew. As he becomes more mired in this web, he meets, and is alternately befriended and hunted by, characters from all walks of life. Mister Buchan developes strong characters and spins a vivid tale which kept me on the edge of my seat till the very last paragraph.

By the way, you can get the ebook free at PlaneteBook.com

The Mao Case, by Qiu Xiaolong

A writer friend of mine, Joan Drury (she owns Drury Lane Books in Grand Marais, MN) recommended this book to me during a recent trip. She said Qiu is one of her new favorite authors. It was a great recommendation!

The book is actually sixth in a detective series set in Shanghai, China with the main character, Chief Inspector Chen of the Shanghai Police Bureau. The book’s author, Xiaolong, is a translator and poet who lives in the states now. This book includes many quotations of classic Chinese poetry, as well as some of his own.

I spent a lot of time in Shanghai during a previous job working with engineers and field associates developing, designing, constructing and starting up a manufacturing facility. The realism of Xiaolong’s scenes, his characters and their speech patterns appealed to me greatly. He created a tremendous mystery that would only work, in my evaluation, in the Chinese society. It was based on their history, honor and belief system.

Inspector Chen is a warm, human character that does his job well and I am looking forward to going back to read his previous adventures. I’ll also be checking out some of Qiu Xiaolong’s other writing from his website.

Dojo Boys: Dragon and Crow, by Alex Akira

Dojo Boys: Dragon and Crow is an engaging read, recommended to me by respected author and friend, Andrew Ashling. Alex Akira has written a complex story of romance, abuse and lives of Dojo training. The first of a two book series, Dragon and Crow is an entanglement of dance, karate, crime detective, child abuse and revenge, all played out within a complexity of character(s).

Alex does a respectable and believable job of developing a very complex, multi-personality character which the story revolves around. This group of personalities, especially, are real and affectionate, while creating lots of drama.

The editing is a bit of a challenge. The use of “whom” rather than who, throughout drove me a little bonkers, but it certainly will not stop me from reading the second half of the story, which I just downloaded to my Kindle.

The Invisible Hands – Part 1: Gambit (Dark Tales of Randamor the Recluse, book 4) byAndrew Ashling

An amazing story teller!

As Andrew Ashling moved toward completion of the first book in his second trilogy…or the fourth book in the second movement of his double trilogy set…I was looking forward to more of a lot of things. I got it all, plus kind of an interesting new surprise.

I love the depth of character development he brings to the warriors, pages, dukes, mothers, aunts, brothers, etc. that have been carried along through the four books. Andrew makes me laugh at the antics the besotted pages get into with both their boyfriends and their girlfriends. I still cringe at the new and nasty torture techniques and depth of descriptions he lays before us for those who have done (or thought…) terrible things which he deems punishable. And I am rubbing my hands together in glee as I get to know an additional brother / prince that will certainly play a significant role in the future books.

In the third book Andrew proved that he was a chess player in the story telling sense of the word. He handled a number of dissimilar plot lines and blithely moved them forward to completion without using the wave of a magic wand. In this fourth book he pulls out all the stops and proves that in triplicate. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the written history of a story that happened far away and not a yarn spun by a pencil chewer sitting at a computer terminal. My eyes and fears (yes, I meant fears) opened with the new realizations that Anaxantis made as he moved through the story. This heightens my enthusiasm for the fifth and sixth installments of what, seems like, could be a life long endeavor for Andrew.

Book four has made me look at Andrew Ashling with new admiration for his story telling ability, and retained love for the wit, humor and sexuality in his writing. Thank you once again for bringing entertainment to my life, Andrew!

Conditioned Response by Marjorie F. Baldwin

The future is here…

An amazing first read by a new author to me, Marjorie (Friday) Baldwin. The book is hard to categorize, the enjoyment is not. A mix of futuristic Sci-Fi, romance with a touch of straight, bi, gay, trans-species lovin, political thriller, bio-engineering…you name it, there are threads in there!

Two things that endear me to authors are books that have multiple plots and books with characters I relate to that are deeply developed. Having deep generational relationships integral to the plot, Conditioned Response fulfilled this beautifully.

The Phoenician Series,and Conditioned Response in my experience, develops a world both unique and real. One in which I might easily be able to adjust to!

The Invisible Chains – Part 3: Bonds of Blood (Dark Tales of Randamor the Recluse, book 3) by Andrew Ashling

The Warlord continues!

Andrew Ashling’s story telling gets deeper, more intricately planned and funnier. Be warned, my review may contain small spoilers. In the third book in the Dark Tales of Randamor the Recluse series, “Bonds of Blood”, he brings in the Mukthars and their prince, Timishi. The Mukthars are the sworn enemies for which the the War Lord, Anaxantis, has been preparing. They are fierce, have bad manners and, of course, are sexy as hell.

At this juncture, Andrew has made me feel like an intimate friend of the pages as well. Their story, while very light on actual combat, is clearly a major tactical play. I love to hear poor Obyann complain about his charges nakedness and their apparent love of each other’s bodies. Andrew has funny and horny all mixed up with these guys and its a great combination.

Finally, I must say that, typically, descriptions of battles either bore me or completely mix me up. Andrew’s descriptions, including battle plans and maps, made the battle scenes come alive for me and I was totally able to follow the action. There was never a point where I thought –and a miracle happens here– in order to end the scene.

I understand Andrew has another series, or continuation of this series, almost ready for his loyal followers. Whatever it is, you can bet it will quickly find its way onto my e-reader and into my heart. Thank you Andrew, for the wonderful read and marvelous entertainment you’ve given me through your words

The Vampire Prince (Cirque Du Freak, #6) by Darren Shan

More creepy developments!

I’ve enjoyed this series a lot and introduced it to my 11 year old nephew. He has now read everything by Darren Shan and I’m trying to keep up. Darren’s characters are refreshingly solid and heavily into the business of protecting their culture and clan. I like the focus of the story and that Mr. Shan has made a strong commitment to developing his own vampiric world view. There is nothing typical about this read. Every writer has control of what they write and how they develop a story. Usually they are also the only ones that know why a story ends up as it does. In this case, I was frankly a little surprised by the ending and maybe a little disappointed. With that said, I’ll keep reading the series and maybe the reasoning behind this easy out will become clear.

Zomblog by T.W. Brown

Oddly enough, in my mind anyway, I flew through this book. It was a free read, which doesn’t mean a lot, but I never come at freebies with high expectations. It was also about Zombies and I’ve never really read a book that deals pretty much entirely with becoming, killing, hiding from, smashing, driving over, becoming (did I say that already)…Zombies. I really enjoyed the blog style of the story and the couple of voices involved in the writing. It sounds like there is or will be a next book in this series and I’ll look forward to reading it as well.

Just Don’t Mess With Us: Family Matters by Andrew Ashling

Comedy, kink, sex – Andrew Ashling

I took a break from Andrew Ashling’s series “The Invisible Chains” to read “Just Don’t Mess With Us: Family Matters”. Clearly Andrew had also taken a break from writing about Squires, Warlords and, well, maybe not family issues. In this story, I again love the voice he uses in writing and am impressed that, in a relatively simple tale, he can make he laugh, blush, take offense, and rethink my values. His stories don’t necessarily change my values, but they do make my stretch some of the boxes in which they are housed.

Most people who admit to any kind of imagination have at least thought about living in a three way sort of relationship. You may have thought that it would be ecstasy or maybe pure hell. I’ll admit to thinking about it in both ways at different times. Andrew of course takes this idea, as well as a number of others, a step or two farther than at least I have contemplated.

The stories here were quick reads, hilariously funny, over the top, full of taboos, sexy, and really well thought out. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and flew through it. Read it if you like men, sex, and some fun kink. On the other hand, Andrew might not be the best author to read if you are easily offended or are not interested in being made to think about “family values”, unless you like to take offense, which some people do…

Thank you for another wonderful read Andrew Ashling!

The Invisible Chains – Part 2: Bonds of Fear (Dark Tales of Randamor the Recluse, book 2)
by Andrew Ashling

The Warlord continues his momentum.

The momentum continues to build with Mr. Ashling’s second book in “The Invisible Chains” series. Anaxantis and his friends seem to hit their stride, but there are many elements working either directly against them or, oddly, in some sort of ill conceived conjunction. One of the true advantages about a series is that I, as the reader, get to learn and understand so much more about the characters because of their extended development. In this complex story of Royalty, family, impending war, and friendship, there are ample opportunities. Strongly in the readers favor, in my opinion, is that Andrew is very good at character development and proves in this story that he can envision a wide array of personalities. My personal favorites are the noble Pages at this point in the story because they are all so full of youth, vibrancy, energy, lust, and love. Anaxantis’ relationship with his older brother continues to provide me with the most angst and I fear for the destinies of both of them. All said, I can’t wait to begin book three in this series!

Naughty and Nice by James Austen

Fun Christmas read with several new twists…

James Austen has written another book that tickled my fancy! After reading his first book, ‘Raw Food’, I became a fan of James on Good Reads and enjoyed his intelligent, yet often self deprecating and humorous blog posts. His second book, which was a marvelous Christmas present to his existing fan base, as well as new readers, has the same sharp wit and deepness mixed up with a generous dose of humor.

Mr Austen has written about Christmas and Santa Claus with several totally different twists on why and how Santa gives gifts, not to mention some interesting takes on Santa and the fairy elf personalities. If you are tired of the same old Christmas stories and would like some novelty (and spice!) for a change, check out your free copy of ‘Naughty and Nice’ now. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Bear, Otter, and the Kid by T.J. Klune

Bear, Otter, and the Kid was an emotional roller coaster for me to read. I really enjoyed it and got frustrated with the characters actions and reactions many times. Often when I get to the end of a book where I’ve had to scream and shout at one of the characters (in my mind) I sit back and let out a giant breath and a smile comes onto my face because I realized how much energy it has given me. While I was at first put off by the writing style that seemed to put me in and out of Bear’s mind so frequently, I got used to it quickly and learned to snap in and out with it. Some of the strong points of this book by T. J. Kline were that he has an excellent story that holds together very well and he does a great job developing the characters. While many of Bear’s actions drove me nuts, I did begin to understand how he may have thought he had to handle some of the events as he did. The weakest link in the story for me was the kid. While he started off being extraordinarily bright and precocious, he went on to be unbelievably understanding and a regular little psychiatrist. I couldn’t reconcile this with any of my experiences with 9 year olds, but hey, I haven’t met them all! My favorite character was Otter. He was loving and steadfast after the love between he and Bear was finally out of the closet. This is a book that I would recommend to friends as well as one that draws me to conclude that more good reads are in store for me from Mr. Klune in the future.

 The Invisible Chains – Part 1: Bonds of Hate (Dark Tales of Randamor the Recluse, book 1) by Andrew Ashling

A new favorite series!

This is the first book by Mr. Andrew Ashling that I have read. Several other friends / people I follow either were reading or had read one of his newer books “A Dish Served Cold” and gave it great reviews. Because I didn’t dare read it first (it has some scary plot lines, to me anyway!) I decided to start with a genre I’m more familiar with, the science fiction / fantasy category. I now know this is more of a post apocalyptic novel, but for me this category still fits.

I am very happy I started here because I really loved Mr. Ashling’s story. There are several interesting threads running through this first book in the Bonds of Hate series. The first one, and the one the reader gets the least number of clues about , is that of the story teller himself. Who is he, who is the man who is his audience, and what the heck is up with that stool! Many of the scenes between the two young prince / half brothers make me feel sad and lonely for them and make me angry at their despicable treatment of each other. They seem to be, in essence, two broken children unable to climb out of their predicament.

There are also at least four other significant story threads that wrap around themselves throughout the book adding complexity, character development, and continuity. The writer handles scenes of hilarity, camp, and human suffering with equal aplomb and in the end, I am left with excitement for the remaining books in this series and a new found appreciation and warmth for Mr. Ashling’s writing.

Thank you, Andrew Ashling, for writing one of my new favorites!

 “Raw Food” by James Austen

A fun read for M/M romance fans!

This book by James Austen is a short story fun read. I “met” Mr. Austen through other friends via twitter where he is as obsessed as I am (twittering) and a pretty funny guy. The premise for the book is a random meeting of young and older (really, 39 isn’t that old 🙁 in my book) at a raw food restaurant entrance. The things these guys get up to will either make you laugh your ass off or gag, sometimes it might be a bit of both. It was a fast read and I found myself smiling throughout. I look forward to James’ next offering!

Hell’s Pawn, by Jay Bell

Spirituality that doesn’t suffocate…

With my reading of Hell’s Pawn, I continue to meet my goal of reading every book written by Jay Bell and illustrated by his husband Andreas. He is very creative in his character development and his set building. Mr. Bell also gives his characters a great deal of heart and soul. They land in life situations that are most often not of their choosing creating stories that flow naturally as they work their way through these landscapes. I’ve always been a big fan of the Science Fiction / Fantasy genre and when I “met” Jay Bell (I don’t even remember how now, but you can meet him through his website, GoodReads, Twitter, etc.) I instantly loved his use of animals as changelings and “brothers from another mother” (not Mr. Bell’s quote, but also not mine).

In Hell’s Pawn Mr. Bell puts his readers, and his main character, in purgatory and makes him wiggle his way through many realms of Gods and monsters to get back to where he really belongs. He uses seduction, wit, intelligence, character, and animals (abundantly) to work through these realms. I was moved at the end of the book to even post a link to Hell’s Pawn on my church’s website because of the very interesting religious collaborations that were developed throughout (and because my church, while traditionally Lutheran, is quite liberal).

If you are a fan of Sci/Fi Fantasy I encourage you to give this book a read!

The Cranberry Hush: A Novel, by Ben Monopoli

I read The Cranberry Hush based on a recommendation by Jay Bell, another author that is pretty new to me and with whose books I have become infatuated. After this first read I could tell that Mr. Monopoli will be in that same category and I won’t miss another of his books.

As for this particular book, oddly enough (in my mind) this was the first novel I had ever read where one of the characters was bisexual. I’m glad that the author is so skilled at character development because I really did love being a spider in the corner of Vince’s mind. This was a great book with real life characters that made me happy to be me and think that maybe I too could be interesting, ha!

Anyway, Ben Monopoli is a puller of heart strings, a weaver of dreams and a great spinner of tales. By the way, thank you very much for the epilogue and for introducing Zane, I hate crying at the end of books! No, not really, all feelings are good, but I’d rather smile at the end to be honest…

 

 

Leave a Reply