Book Reviews

Book Review

Book Review: Runaway Smile (Nicholas C. Rossis)

The Book

Runaway Smile (read for free here)

The Genre

Children’s Fiction

The Author

Nicholas C. Rossis: avid reader, web developer, architect by training, holder of a PhD in Digital Architecture from the University of Edinburgh. Author of the epic fantasy series Pearseus and the sci-fi short story collection The Power of Six, all Amazon best-sellers.

The Plot

A little boy wakes up in the morning and realizes he has lost his smile. After spending the entire day trying to find it, he learns the truth behind smiles: the only real smiles are the shared ones.

The Review

I adored this book. It’s short, it’s sweet, and the illustrations are gorgeous. It’s not just a kid’s book, either — the story is packed full of random hilarious details, like the fact that the boy’s dog is a legitimate superhero who wears glasses at home ala Clark Kent and then puts on his superhero costume and runs off to save the city while his master is at school. And the message is just really sweet — only real smiles are the ones that can be shared. The best kid’s book I’ve read in a long time — would definitely recommend!

The Rating

5 out of 5 smiles!

***

Click here to visit Nicholas C. Rossis’s website! And here’s the Amazon link. Happy reading!

***

Unrelated media of the day:

Awesome wedding invitation someone received …

Source: http://imgur.com/gallery/SuaPquR

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Book Review: The Seventh Spell (Danielle E. Shipley)

Note: I won this novella as part of a contest on the lovely Danielle E. Shipley’s blog — not only did I get a signed copy of the novella, I also got some truly excellent artwork based on the novella, done by the author herself! Thanks so much, Danielle!!!

The Bookseventh-spell-cover-front

The Seventh Spell (Book 3 of the Wilderhark Tales)

The Genre

Fantasy / Fairy tale Novella

The Author

Danielle E. Shipley

The Plot

A witch’s attempt to cast one spell too many casts everyone touched by her previous spells into chaos. Scattered throughout each other’s pasts, Sula and Edgwyn, Villem and Rosalba, and the rest of the magic’s affected have a single chance to break this last enchant- ment before their “happily-ever-after”-s cease to have ever been.

The Review

I really enjoyed this fairy tale! I’ve read the second book in the Wilderhark Tales series, so it was really fun to see many of the same characters in this story — not to mention some new and intriguing faces! I loved the concept of the seventh spell re-setting all the witch’s prior spells and having all the characters revert to their pre-happily-ever-after states. It was such a fun twist, and something you don’t come across a lot in fantasy series. The writing itself is charming, and there are lots of unexpectedly funny laugh-out-loud lines.

I was also a huge fan of the storyline between the enchanted harp princess and the wandering minstrel — which is great, because I’m pretty sure the next Wilderhark Tale is about them! Speaking of the characters, I’d suggest reading the other Wilderhark Tales before you read this one — having missed the first one myself (soon to be corrected!), I felt I was missing a couple of important story elements, although the author does a great job of filling in the gaps for those of us who may not have had a chance to read all the prior books in the series.

A quick, cute, romantic read — check it out!

The Rating

Five out of five stars

 

Links:

Danielle E. Shipley’s blog

Buy the novella on Amazon

Check out the novella on Goodreads

 

Unrelated media of the day:

I may have shared this already, but it’s tons of fun, so why not give it another shot?

http://en.akinator.com/

It’s “Akinator, the Web Genius”, which is basically a website that plays 20 questions with you to guess which person/character you’re thinking of. I’ve played it a bunch, and it’s fairly alarming how quickly it can guess some extremely esoteric characters.

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Book Review: The Amber Ring (A.L. Walton)

The Booktheamberring

The Amber Ring

The Genre

Fantasy Novella

The Author

A former network administrator and software developer for the U.S. Department of Defense, A.L. Walton (otherwise known as Piscis – or simply “the fish”) currently resides in Boise, Idaho, where he spends a good chunk of his time making stuff up and putting it on paper. And writing music. But mostly the other thing.

The Plot

At the age of ten, Sofia Corona saved the Fairwoods from the malevolent grasp of the Cedar Witch and her goblin army.

Two years later, she drowned unceremoniously in the lake behind her Oregon home.

In the months following the Heroine’s death, when the Fairwoods face a resurgence of goblin attacks, they are forced to turn to Sofia’s cynical twin sister, Maya, for help. Although she wants nothing more to do with her sister’s fanciful adventures, Maya comes to realize that this one last favor could give her the closure she needs to put Sofia’s memory to rest and move on with her life.

With her twin’s magic ring and faithful gryphon companion, Maya embarks on a reluctant journey of whimsical antics and unwitting self-discovery in this stark but humorous fairy tale.

The Review

I loved this novella. It’s short, it’s sweet, and it does a glorious job of turning the traditional “hero” story on its head. One of the things I loved about this book is that there’s your classic heroine destined by fate to save a magical world of zany fantasy creatures … except that she drowns in a pool, and suddenly it’s up to her emotionally detached sister to save the day instead. 

The character of Maya is so fun, precisely because she is so far removed from what a heroine is supposed to be. She’s rational and cynical, so rather than reacting to a whimsical forest creature with delight, she gives it this “you’ve got to be kidding me” look and then tries very hard to be polite while inwardly bemoaning the ridiculous situation she’s in.

The novella is packed with a variety of whimsical forest creatures, my personal favorite being a tribe of trolls who consider themselves expert hat makers (they’re not), and are convinced the rest of the world are set on stealing their hats (they’re not). Sometimes the “whimsical encounters”, as I like to call them, seemed a bit tightly packed together, but it’s a novella, not a rambling 100k word fantasy novel, so allowances must be made!

All in all, a delightful little read!

The Rating

Five out of five stars

 

Links:

A.L. Walton’s blog

Buy the book on Amazon

Check out the book on Goodreads

 

Unrelated media of the day:

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Book Review: Cannibal Hearts (by Misha Burnett)

Important note: The book being reviewed below is the sequel to Catskinner’s Book

 

The Bookcannibal hearts

Cannibal Hearts

The Genre

Sci-fi / Mystery

The Author

Misha Burnett has been writing poetry and fiction for around forty years. During this time he has supported himself and his family with a variety of jobs, including locksmith, cab driver, and building maintenance.

The Plot

A year ago James Ozryck was a loner, forced to keep the world at bay by the alien entity he calls Catskinner who shares his body. Now he has found a community of others whose lives have been changed by the Outsiders.

Along with Godiva, his half-human lover, James runs a property management company that serves as a front company for Outsider activities.

When the pair’s mysterious boss, Agony Delapour suddenly shows up in town with a new project, however, things gets dangerous fast as events unfold that threaten the life that they have made.

The Review

Despite its admittedly dark and gritty nature, I had a lot of fun reading this book. It’s a great sequel to Burnett’s first novel, Catskinner’s Book, and I especially liked that all the characters I enjoyed in the first book made their way into the second book. One of my personal favorites is the red vixen, Miss Agony Delapour, who played a minor and terrifying role in the first book, but happily gets much more screen time in the sequel.

One theme I really like that runs through the series is that we’re never quite sure what’s going on with everything. We’ve got our protagonist and his associates, who are actually more bad than good, some of whom try to actively do good things and fail, while others are clearly bad but just happen to be working with good people for their own nefarious purposes. And we’ve got our antagonist, who’s the dictionary definition of “mysterious” – we don’t know who he is or what he’s planning, beside the fact that he’s apparently trying to kill off the protagonist. And the fate of the antagonist is just brilliant. You’ll have to read to find out what it is!

All in all, a thrilling read! I recommend you check this out if you’re a fan of sci-fi, thrillers, or mysteries.

The Rating

Five out of five blood-encrusted stars.

 

Check out Cannibal Hearts here!

 

Unrelated media of the day:

This is a really cool game my brother showed me the other day. It’s really off the wall and bizarre, so check it out if you have a few spare moments and want a nice escape from reality!

http://www.trevorvanmeter.com/flyguy/

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Book Review: Saving Saffron Sweeting (by Pauline Wiles)

The Booksavingsaffronsweeting

Saving Saffron Sweeting

The Genre

Contemporary Romance

The Author

Pauline Wiles. British by birth, Pauline moved to California eight years ago and, apart from a yearning for afternoon tea and historic homes, has never looked back. Her work has been published by House of Fifty, Open Exchange, and Alfie Dog Fiction. Saving Saffron Sweeting is her first novel.

The Plot

Grace Palmer’s British friends all think she’s living the American Dream. But her design business is floundering and when she discovers her husband is cheating with her best client, she panics and flees home to England.

The tranquil village of Saffron Sweeting appears to be a good place for Grace to lick her wounds, but the community is battling its own changes. Reluctantly, Grace finds herself helping her new neighbours as they struggle to adjust and save their businesses. However, not everyone has the same opinion on what’s good for the village. The charismatic new man in her life may have one speculative eye on Grace, but the other is firmly on profit. How will she navigate the tricky path between her home and her happiness?

The Review

This was a cute little romance with fun characters, a great and engaging setting, and an extraordinarily satisfying conclusion. I had a wonderful time following Grace through the trials and tribulations of pulling her life back together, navigating her various romantic entanglements, and saving her new home from the ravages of modern industry. Grace is witty, and feisty, and just a delightful protagonist in general. The cast of supporting characters were entertaining and well rounded, making for an engrossing read.

The titular Saffron Sweeting is where most of the book takes place, and the author describes it exquisitely. I could picture myself sitting outside the bakery sipping Earl Gray tea and munching on a sausage roll with Grace, or walking up the twisting, tree-lined path to her little cottage in the middle of nowhere. This is one of those books where the setting becomes a character all its own.

All in all, a quick, fun, romantic read. Fire up your kettle, select your tea bag, and cuddle up with this book today!

The Rating

5 out of 5 stars.

 

Click here to visit the author’s website and learn more about Saving Saffron Sweeting!

 

Unrelated link of the day:

Marvel as the killer whale follows your cursor!

http://img0.liveinternet.ru/images/attach/c/5//3970/3970473_sprite198.swf

Categories: Book Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Book Review: Catskinner’s Book (Misha Burnett)

Today’s book review features fellow blogger and self-publisher Misha Burnett!

The Bookcastkinners book

Catskinner’s Book

The Genre

Science fiction / urban fantasy

The Author

Misha Burnett

The Plot

James Ozryck has a monster in his head.

All of his life the entity that he calls Catskinner has made him a fugitive, afraid to get too close to anyone, afraid to stay in one place for too long. Catskinner kills, without compassion and without warning, and is very good at it.

Now James has learned that Catskinner is not the only monster in the world, a world that has suddenly become a far stranger and more dangerous place than he imagined. In order to survive, he will have to become something more than a monster — he will have to learn what it means to be human.

The Review

I LOVED this book! It’s short, it’s sweet, it’s violent, it’s sexy, it’s intriguing … A+ all around! The world Burnett’s created is absolutely fascinating, and totally unlike anything I’ve read before — I honestly don’t know where he comes up with this stuff!

The protagonist, James, is enthralling — he’s a curious mix of beleaguered every-man, jailkeeper to a vicious alien entity, lonely man just trying to find his place in the world, and hired hitman. It’s bizarre. It’s wonderful.

I’m trying to think if there’s anything I didn’t like … I think the only thing that threw me was Godiva’s evolution as a character (Godiva being the love interest). When she first shows up, she comes across as extraordinarily vacuous. But by the time you get to the end of the book, she’s brilliant, resourceful, and deviously clever. It made a certain amount of sense, but I would have liked more of a gradual transition or explanation.

I highly recommend Catskinner’s Book. If you’re at all a fan of science fiction — or even urban fantasy! — I suggest you give it a try. It doesn’t fit neatly into one genre box, but … well, read it and you’ll see how great it is!

The Rating

5 out of 5 stars

 

Sound intriguing? Check out Catskinner’s Book here. The sequel — Cannibal Hearts — is also out, so click here to learn more about that!

 

Unrelated media of the day:

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Book Review: The Stone Kingdom (Danielle E. Shipley)

As you may recall from a previous post, I recently had the good fortune to read Miss Danielle E. Shipley’s new fairy tale novella, The Stone Kingdom (Book Two of the Wilderhark Tales). It is now time for the review!

The Novella Stone Kingdom Cover, front

The Stone Kingdom (Book Two of the Wilderhark Tales)

The Genre

Fairy tale / Fantasy

The Author

Danielle E. Shipley

The Plot

One thoughtless act is all it takes to bring the curse threatened on Rosalba’s christening day to pass. Now the princess must combine her desperate determination with the service of benevolent tailor Edgwyn Wyle to find the second half of the key to her kingdom’s restoration.

The Review

This was a short, sweet, and delightful novella. The heroine, Rosalba, is everything a princess should be — kind, beautiful, caring, and rather feisty on top of that. She falls into the classic fairy tale trap of doing something she really shouldn’t, and the kingdom pays the price for her mistake. Luckily, help arrives in the form of the chubby but helpful tailor Edgwyn — an endearing young man who is probably my favourite character in the story. He’s everything you want in a fairy tale prince, minus the rock-hard abs and … well, being a prince. But he’s kind, and generous, and their love story was so fun to watch unfold.

As this was the second novella in the series, and I hadn’t read the first, I was expecting to be hopelessly confused, but that wasn’t the case at all — this novella stands on its own as a separate story. I could tell from the way certain parts were written, and the inclusion of a couple of chapters that struck me as being rather irrelevant to the story, that these were put in to tie this novella into the existing series and please fans of characters from the first novella. As a new reader, I found that a bit irksome, but hey, I can hardly fault a book in a series for being part of a series!

Aside from that, I found this novella to be a charming and excellent read. Shipley is obvious well-read in fairy tale lore, because she draws a lot on common fairy tale tropes (evil fairy curse, princess trapped in tower, etc.), but she puts her own spin on them, which makes for a really enjoyable read. I would definitely recommend this story to any fairy tale fans out there!

The Rating

Five out of five stars!

Check out The Stone Kingdom here!

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Book Review: A Construct of Angels (Andrew Toynbee)

The Bookconstructofangels

A Construct of Angels

The Genre

Urban Fantasy

The Author

Andrew Toynbee has been writing in various genres since he was eleven years old, including publishing articles in various specialist magazines. After his first novel attempt became too big and unwieldy to manage, he changed tack and, in 2009, began work on A Construct of Angels.

The Plot

After accidentally triggering the spontaneous resurrection of a dead student, an ordinarily routine day for York-based paramedic Sara Finn erupts into a series of events that propel her on a terrifying journey, promising to forever change her pragmatic opinions of life and death. Sara finds herself caught in the crossfire between warring forces, powerful beyond human comprehension, that threaten to plunge civilization into hellish chaos and eternal darkness.

The Review

I quite enjoyed this book. The main character, Sara Finn (a pun on “seraphim”, which I love!), is feisty and determined and a great heroine in general. She has to deal with all sorts of unimaginable horrors over the six days leading up to the possible-Apocalypse, and even though the big bad guy goes so far as to invade her dreams and mess with her head, she stays strong and doesn’t bend to his will (well, not when it matters, anyway!).

I really loved the start of this book — a dark star driving people crazy, zombies rising from their graves, etc. It was a very cool concept, and I felt very grounded in her messed-up world. As the story progressed, I got a bit lost in what was happening; the book is quite long, and I feel the story lost its focus in the middle. The ending, however, was appropriately apocalyptic, and featured some great scenes (dancing zombies!) that effortlessly pulled me back into the story and the explosive finale.

A long read, but a good one if you’re a fan of urban fantasy or the angels vs. demons concept!

The Rating

4 out of 5 stars.

 

Click here to check out A Construct of Angels!

Click here to visit Andrew Toynbee’s blog!

 

Unrelated media of the day:

Random, amusing K-POP video urging listeners to “Get your “cray” on”.

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Book Review: Leather to the Corinthians (Tom Lucas)

Note: Tom sent me a print copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, so thanks Tom for the book and the opportunity to review it!

The Bookleather to the corinthians

Leather to the Corinthians

The Genre

Satire

The Author

Tom Lucas was born and raised in Detroit, and although currently enjoying the lack of snow and ice in Florida, remains a son of the post-industrial apocalypse. Throughout his childhood, Tom found solace in comic books, Star Wars action figures, movies, cartoons, and video games. His passion for story has carried him through his adult life. Tom is a college professor, author, blogger, poet, book reviewer, and spoken word performer. When not writing, Tom likes to drive fast and take chances.

The Plot

The General and his clown army are determined to defeat the King, mad ruler of the Village, who only cares about celebrity status and bling. The story follows several characters, with the main protagonist (sort of) being a young soldier in the General’s army who fights to survive the melee, losing his humanity along the way.

The Review

This was an interesting satire of American culture that had me alternatively laughing out loud and cringing. I really enjoyed the depiction of several major fast food corporations as actual military forces battling it out for control of the hapless citizens of the Village. The General’s clown army and his hellish Necro-crofts fascinated me, as did the church of the Big Red J — basically what happens when you combine religion with comic book enthusiasts. I found the church of the Big Red J both hilarious and brilliant — and it also unnerved me a bit, because it sounded like an awesome religion to me, even though it’s clearly not supposed to be!

The writing style is fascinating — Lucas writes as if he’s a televangelist, which, considering the concept of this book, is I think a really great choice on his part. Because of the writing style, I sometimes found the book a bit exhausting to read, as it’s quite intense.

I have two major gripes with this book. One is the editing — I found a lot of spelling/grammatical errors, which detracted from the reading experience for me. I was also annoyed by the lack of female characters. About 95% of the characters are men, and the only female characters (at least, from what I recall) are sex-crazed (or having to do with sex in general). I assume this was part of the satire — that the media paints women as sexual objects and nothing more, etc. etc. But as a female reader, I guess I was looking for something … more with the female characters.

All in all, a fun read — not a book for the faint of heart, but definitely one you might enjoy if you’re a fan of political/social satire!

The Rating

4 out of 5 stars

 

Check out the book here: http://readtomlucas.com/

 

Unrelated link of the day:

Very simple yet awesome website: http://www.rainymood.com/

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Book Review: The Friendship of Mortals by Audrey Driscoll

Next up in the awesome self-published authors series, I present to you my review of Audrey Driscoll’s The Friendship of Mortals. By the way, this book is currently FREE on Smashwords, so if it sounds intriguing, give ‘er the old download!

The Bookfriendshipofmortals

The Friendship of Mortals

The Genre

Literary Fiction / Sci-fi / Fantasy

The Author

Audrey Driscoll – a librarian and cataloguer, gardener and writer. She discovered the writings of H.P. Lovecraft many years ago, and after reading his story “Herbert West, Reanimator”, she began to wonder about Herbert – what motivated him to reanimate corpses? And thus the Herbert West trilogy began!

The Plot

Herbert West can revivify the dead – after a fashion. He persuades Miskatonic University librarian and aspiring alchemist Charles Milburn to help him, but risks their friendship for the sake of his experiments. When West prepares to cross the ultimate border, only Charles can save his life – if his conscience lets him.

The Review

The cover of this book does not do the story justice. This was one of the most fascinating and thought-provoking stories I have ever read. It’s told from the perspective of mild-mannered archivist Charles Millburn, but the real story revolves around the incredibly fascinating, mysterious Herbert West and his necromantic attempts. I absolutely loved this setup – Herbert West’s story became so much more intriguing when viewed through the eyes of another. This is definitely what the author intended when she wrote this gorgeous piece of literature, and I feel she pulled it off beautifully.

Herbert West alarmed, enchanted, and terrified me all at once. He is ruthless in his ambitions, confident that he will not be discovered, and willing to do whatever it takes to get his way. He should have been the villain of the piece but, perhaps because the story is told through his loyal follower Charles Millburn, I was instead sympathetic for him, and wanted him to succeed despite the fact that what he was doing was morally questionable at best.

The only complaint I can really make is that I felt the story dragged in places. The first half of the story was absolutely gripping, but once the characters separate and go their own ways for a bit, I wasn’t quite as enthralled – although once they get back together, the story picks up pace again.

Overall, a gripping and fascinating insight into a brilliant and disturbed mind (Herbert West, not the author!). I would definitely recommend this to any fan of H.P. Lovecraft, fans of sci-fi/fantasy, and anyone who just enjoys excellently written literature.

The Rating

5 out of 5 stars

Click here to visit Audrey Driscoll’s blog.

Click here to check out the book (currently free to download!)

Unrelated video of the day:

Thor 2: The Dark World trailer came out today! Words cannot convey my excitement for this movie.

Categories: Book Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

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