28 October 2015

Cherry Blossom Baseball

(Copy provided by NetGalley.)

From Goodreads:
“Is pretending to be someone else the only way Michiko can fit in?

Michiko Minigawa’s life is nothing but a bad game of baseball. The Canadian government swung the bat once, knocking her family away from a Vancouver home base to an old farmhouse in the Kootenay Mountains. But when they move into town, the government swings the bat again, announcing that all Japanese must now move west of the Rockies or else go to Japan.

Now in Ontario, Michiko once again has to adjust to a whole new kind of life. She is the only Japanese student in her school, and making friends is harder than it was before. When Michiko surprises an older student with her baseball skills and he encourages her to try out for the local team, she gives it a shot. But everyone thinks this new baseball star is a boy. Michiko has to make a decision: quit playing ball (and being harassed), or pitch like she’s never pitched before.”


I enjoyed Cherry Blossom Baseball. Michiko/Millie/Mich was an exceptional main character--she stood up for herself, she thought for herself, and yet she was respectful to her parents and other adults (I'm a big fan of respect--ask my kids!). The story itself really captures the tug of changing--for instance, the cultural shift demonstrated by the changing tide of the old ways brought over from Japan merging with the new ways of Michiko's Canadian home, as well as the social change brought about by World War Two--freedom for women (or girls!) to do the things formerly thought of as men's sole domain, like playing baseball. I also loved the tender interactions of the family as they coped with the necessary changes in their lives brought on by the move.

Overall, this is a good story. It's solid, it teaches without preaching, and I would happily hand it off to any middle grade kid in my family.

Gentle Reader Alert:I found nothing of concern.

26 October 2015

Magic Below Stairs

From Goodreads:
“Young Frederick is plucked from an orphanage to be a footboy for a wizard named Lord Schofield in Victorian England. Is his uncanny ability to tie perfect knots and render boots spotless a sign of his own magical talent, or the work of Billy Bly, the brownie who has been secretly watching over him since he was little? No matter, for the wizard has banished all magical creatures from his holdings. But Billy Bly isn't going anywhere, and when he discovers a curse upon the manor house, it's up to Frederick and Billy Bly to keep the lord's new baby safe and rid the Schofield family of the curse forever.”


I've been a fan of Caroline Stevermer's work for a long time. Ever since I read Sorcery and Cecelia, written by Ms. Stevermer and Patricia Wrede, another of my favorites, I've enjoyed her light tone and Victorian-esque settings. When The King Comes Home is also excellent. For years, I've pined to read Magic Below Stairs, the only Stevermer novel I couldn't get my hands on and that my previous library didn't seem inclined to order. But my new teeny library had it! Oh, the happiness!

Magic Below Stairs feels like an oblique continuation of Mairelon the Magician, which was also written by Patricia Wrede, but in tone and quality, it is to Mairelon what The Hobbit is to The Lord of the Rings. I have found that many times an author who is writing a novel for children or about children will often write down to them in a mildly condescending tone, as from a superior adult who has experienced it all and is now handing a piece of candy to a very deserving lad or lass along with a pat on the head. Kind, but misguided. Children aren't stupid. They can easily climb to the author's level as long as the author makes it accessible.

AHEM. I'll climb off my soapbox now.

Magic Below Stairs has that faintly superior tone, unfortunately, but the story is charming and enjoyable, so it's easy to overlook. It was also a very fast read, which helped immensely. This story is well suited for tweens who are just beginning their forays into fantasy.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.


22 October 2015

Life and Death

All right, y'all, this is where we get real. *cracks knuckles* If you're a paranormal romance hater, skip this post. If you're a Twilight hater, get out. You can come back when you've read my paper (Bella the Mother-Savior).

Ok. We all good here? Great. In my estimation, Twilight was a fine story. It wasn't on the level of Shannon Hale's Goosegirl for prose perfection, but that didn't matter. It was the story of a boy and a girl falling in love and the impossible obstacles they faced. There were incredibly well-drawn characters, great motivation, and a clarity to the narrative that allowed me, as a reader, to get into the story. For a first-time writer, that was MIRACULOUS. The series built up on that promise, and I enjoyed every minute of it, even when things didn't seem to be going well for anyone involved.

Then the pendulum swung (and the movies were made) and the hate started pouring in. Not from me--I love the series. But all these former fans suddenly rescinded their membership in the camp of adoration and marched straight over to the haters, the crab-bucket that took anything good about the series and found innumerable ways to bring it down. That's human nature--if someone excels, someone else will look for the dark side to cheapen their achievement. I hate it, but I understand it. And if you want to fight with me about it, get your own blog.


Ten years later, and Stephenie has written Life and Death, flipping the gender roles of nearly everyone in the book, somewhat in reaction to the haters (Bella's such a damsel in distress! Yeah, no. As Stephenie says, she's a HUMAN in distress. READ THE STORY. *ahem* Moving on). So, you know the story, but now the human is Beau (a boy) and the vampire is Edythe (a girl). The stakes are the same, the obstacles are the same, but Beau and Edythe have their own voices and their own story to tell. Edythe isn't as emotive as Edward--she doesn't always clearly explain what she's thinking and she's not nearly as philosophical. And Beau isn't as vulnerable as Bella--his emotions are kept mostly to the inside. It took a few chapters for me to let go of the original story and hear Beau and Edythe's voices, but once I did, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. AND THE ENDING. If for nothing else, read Life and Death for the ending. I cannot say anything else, but must quote Professor River Song: "Spoilers!"

The plot synopsis on Goodreads is absolutely useless--they don't even talk about the gender swap. The Amazon synopsis isn't much better, but at least they mention the switching of the roles. So, go into this with an open mind, and read it as a new story, and ponder this question--how would the whole Twilight phenomenon be different if the story had been told this way first?

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.

The Gray Zone

(Copy provided to the Kindle Book Review.)

From Goodreads:
“The victim of a cyber-prank gone viral, Autumn was forced to transfer schools—not exactly what she wanted to do as a sophomore. But what choice did she have when all her personal information was posted all over the web? Determined to make the best of her situation, Autumn decides to reinvent herself as the outgoing, popular, not-at-all-shy girl she'd always wanted to be. But even the best plans go awry and Autumn fails to change the old habits that had given her that shy girl reputation in the first place. So when she learns that her best friend, Sophie Rose, is transferring to her new school she’s relieved, until Sophie starts keeping her distance. Autumn finds herself adrift without the support of her best friend. But when tragedy shakes her world she stops feeling sad. Now she's angry—and she's determined to put a stop to this cyber-torture and bullying of herself and the people she loves.”


The topic of this book is so, so important—cyberbullying is real and had chilling effects on its victims. It is not something to be taken lightly, so with that perspective, this book is an excellent launching point for discussing cyberbullying and bullying in general with a teenager near you.

As a story, though, it falls flat because the main character's tone is too mature and self-aware for a sophomore in high school. Also, her internal monologue is unwieldy, wordy, and sometimes aimless. Autumn's interactions with Maurice felt far from real, and the reasoning for his reactions to her seemed implausible. Perhaps if the author had continued to add entries throughout the story from Sophie Rose's diary, the struggle with bullying would seem more real. There were flashes of humor throughout the story, in appropriate places, and the writing itself was excellent. However, the author's emphasis on telling, rather than showing, makes the story feel like an after school special. With a topic this vital, the story needs to be engaging and accessible, especially to its target audience.

21 October 2015

Hello World 5000

(Copy provided to The Kindle Book Review)

From Goodreads:
“Hello World 5000 can be called a "children's story," if you're a child, that is, who's either secretly or noticeably intelligent, slightly on the sad side, possessing a fine vocabulary, and who has perhaps even grown embarrassingly tall and has a job. The story begins with a boy named Royal. Royal was named after a typewriter and raised by "The Master," Eduardo Aquifer XXVII, the last in a 500 year old line of unpublished authors who runs St. Millar's Writing Academy for Illiterate Orphans, and where Royal and Olympia, the two main protagonists grow up together. Upon leaving St. Millars, Royal joins the other children of the region who travel the Wire like an undersized French Foreign Legion, along the way delivering cargo without asking questions and trying to evade Feudal Lee, the orchestrator of The Big Dark, as they call the revolution that both evicted parents from their lives and broke history, replacing it instead with the programs run on the Wire. As they travel the Wire they encounter other Digital Natives. At each of these orphaned tribes border they face a Gulag, a challenge which if they are lucky enough to pass through takes them to the Keep, and then the Tell where a Wisenhut (a schoolroom) connects to the Wire and brings a new lesson, development, or death. What is their cargo? What happens when they reach Zero Pole at the end of the Wire, and what does a world without parents look like? Are bedtimes good or bad? Who can raise children better, the state or parents? All these questions and more are raised and answered in this exciting, funny and dangerous book. Read it or die."


Hello World 5000 is impossible to define. It could be a very difficult read, dealing with thousands of children ripped from their parents and muddling through a seemingly post-apocalyptic world, but the narrative is utterly ruled by whimsical storytelling, leading the reader through a whirling dance of eccentricities that occasionally drops to present a serious picture, then takes off again. Reading it was enjoyable, though a slower experience than I'm used to, because I had to wade through the explanations for the compacted eccentricities on every page and the back stories for almost all the characters.

Backstories are completely necessary in this story, though it was disappointing not to have a clear explanation for The Big Dark or how Feudal Lee came into power. And yet, I grew to love the characters. As I have usually found in these kinds of stories, the main character (Royal) is a bit null, while the colorful secondary characters swirl and dance around him. Hunt masterfully uses flashbacks and just a smidge of foreshadowing to round out each character's story, like streamers winding around a maypole—with a similar sense of barely controlled mayhem. Sometimes, he even tells the readers what the characters are about to do, which adds a little delight to the sometimes-heavy narrative. On the other hand, the conflict's resolution wasn't complete—the children seemed to be in a good place, but what happened to the antagonist? Inquiring minds would like to know.

19 October 2015

Beware of the Elephant

(Copy provided to The Kindle Book Review)

From Goodreads:
"For years, Ziggy Breener, Burnt Cove’s eccentric Can Man, has lived a simple life, riding his bicycle along the town roads to collect returnables.

Life gets a lot more complicated when Ziggy inherits a piece of prime waterfront land from the equally eccentric Myra Huggard.

Moving to a new neighborhood brings new friends as well as new enemies. Sadly, his friends turn out to be more dangerous than his enemies, especially when he’s presented with an elephant who moves into his backyard.

Things go from bad to worse when his new guest apparently kills somebody, and the elephantine suspect turns out to have a checkered past. Desperate, Ziggy persuades his friends, amateur sleuths Sarah Cassidy and Oliver Wendell to help prove the elephant’s innocence.

But if the pesky pachyderm isn’t the killer, then who is? Did the murder have something to do with a long-forgotten legend about buried treasure hidden on Myra Huggards’ land? Were Ziggy’s angry neighbors behind the death? Was there some darker motive?

These questions and more lead Sarah back to her tangled childhood relationship with the Huggards. Once again she finds herself having to confront painful memories from her past in order to solve an old mystery and find a modern-day killer."


Beware of the Elephant is an easy-going mystery, full of aw-shucks residents and other oddities, light on plot but well-done in character development. But to the author's credit, no one is too stupid to live (even the victim!) and the entangled mysteries are solved satisfactorily.

The story relies heavily on the reader's affection for the collection of quirky characters that make up Burnt Cove, from the Russian mobster and his philandering wife to the former ER doc turned can-collecting beach bum and his foil, the preacher who moonlights as a logging truck driver. These characters are so eccentric that the main sleuths, Oliver and Sarah, could almost be sticks of wood in comparison. But, as they are romantically involved and Sarah is actually working through some baggage of her own, they held my interest well enough. The thing I appreciated the most was that the local law enforcement wasn't a yokel, though I wasn't sure at first. He was well-played and I was pleasantly surprised at his involvement in the mystery.

Beware the Elephant is not a thriller, nor is it action-packed. This is a cozy mystery with very little peril outside of the main murder victim. If you're looking for a heart-pounding read, move on. If you'd like a simple mystery to curl up with on a lazy afternoon, this will suit you just fine.

Gentle Reader Alert: There were a few swears, but nothing beyond a PG level.

16 October 2015

General Winston's Daughter

From Goodreads:
"When eighteen-year-old heiress Averie Winston travels to faraway Chiarrin, she looks forward to the reunion with her father and her handsome fiancé, Morgan. What she finds is entirely different from what she expected. She realizes that Morgan is not the man she thought he was; and she finds herself inexplicably drawn to another. Handsome Lieutenant Ket Du'kai is like no one Averie has ever met, and she enjoys every moment she spends with him, every delicious flirtation. Averie knows she's still engaged to another man, but she can't help but think about Lieutenant Du'kai, and she wonders if he feels the same."


Sharon Shinn has long been one of my favorite authors, ever since my friend Ami handed me Archangel and said, "Ignore the stupid cover. You'll love this book." Ami has good taste. I've read the entire Samaria series and the Twelve Houses series and enjoyed the worlds and the people that Ms. Shinn has created, even the impossible situations she's put them in sometimes, and I hate being emotionally wrung out at the end of a book. So, needless to say, I'm a fan.

Anyway, it drove me NUTS that my local library didn't have her stand-alone, General Winston's Daughter, and it's been on my to-read shelf for a long time. I'm glad to have read it, but I don't feel that it stands on the same level as Archangel or Mystic and Rider. Maybe it's because the protagonist is young and at the beginning of her life, where impossible decisions are less impactful. Maybe it's because the conflict in the story--the actual war and the events that make Our Noble Heroine question her worldview--is pedestrian. The ringing debate between Conquerer and Conquered and whose lives are *really* being improved has been hashed out time and time again, and I don't feel that Ms. Shinn covered any new ground there. Even the romance has been done. Averie herself wasn't likeable enough to carry the story, and nothing she did was out of the ordinary. So. It's a well-written book that would challenge a young reader as to why they see some people as Other, but it's also a well-beaten dead horse.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.

10 October 2015

Real Justice

(Copy provided by Netgalley.)

From Goodreads:
"On the night of June 23, 1990, teenage friends Kyle Unger and John Beckett made a last-minute decision to attend a music festival near Roseisle, Manitoba. They were loners, not the popular kids at school. But on this night they seemed to finally fit in. They had fun, played games, drank, and hung around bonfires with other people. The next morning, a sixteen-year-old girl was dead. By the next week, Kyle was charged with her murder. Due to insufficient evidence he was let go, but the Mounties were convinced he was the killer.

They laid a trap, called the Mr. Big operation, for Kyle. With offers of money, friends, and a new criminal lifestyle, the RCMP got Kyle to confess to the murder. But the confession was false -- he had not been the killer. He was convicted and sent to prison.

For the next twenty years Kyle fought for his freedom. He was finally acquitted in 2009.

This book tells the story of an impressionable but innocent teenager who was wrongfully convicted based on the controversial Mr. Big police tactic."


I believe In Cold Blood by Truman Capote was the first true-crime novel. Capote's writing style was captivating and brought you into the story so far that the effects were chilling. I don't have the guts to read it again, that's for sure.

Real Justice: A Mr. Big Police Sting Goes Wrong didn't give me nightmares at all. It's a well-done plea for social justice, clearly laying out the case for Kyle Unger's innocence and his manipulation by the RCMP. As a non-fiction book, it possess clarity and information and comes straight to the point. As a story, it isn't captivating, but does help the reader see that a few mistakes and a need to impress others really can have negative consequences, as well as demonstrating the catastrophic flaws an unregulated sting can have.

Gentle Reader Alert:  There are some frank discussions of what happened to the victim, including sexual assault, and a couple of f-bombs.

RETRO REVIEW: Edenbrooke

From Goodreads:
"Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she'll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry. From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will Marianne be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke."


My reading tastes vary, far and wide, but above all, I love a good Regency romance. I can read Jane Austen's novels again and again, and I have a great love for Georgette Heyer. (Don't ask me about the Brontes--they are not my cup of tea.) So when I get my hands on a modern Regency romance, I'm usually pretty excited to read it. I have met with disappointment--modern Regency romances don't always follow Regency morals, if you get my drift, and I'm not into the Harlequin scene. You can imagine that when I came across Edenbrooke a couple of years ago, I was absolutely delighted.

The success of the story rests on the characters' shoulders. Marianne and Philip are both lovable and vulnerable--their weaknesses are not unsavory and don't undermine the strength of the rest of their character. Marianne's misunderstandings, which she brings on herself, are reasonably realistic for someone of her age and experience. Her sense of humor doesn't feel forced, but is an authentic part of her complete self. Philip's passion and determination to be honorable are brilliantly done. It's very easy to root for these two to get together. The plot is believable and not contrived, and put together with the milieu, it all hangs together very well.

I enjoy reading Edenbrooke so much that I've read it four times in the last three years--high marks indeed. And Ms. Donaldson has announced a story about Philip--Heir to Edenbrooke--that I'm very much looking forward to getting my hands on in the near future.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.

09 October 2015

Shattered Blue

(Copy provided by NetGalley.)

From Goodreads:
"For Noa and Callum, being together is dangerous, even deadly. From the start, sixteen-year-old Noa senses that the mysterious transfer student to her Monterey boarding school is different. Callum unnerves and intrigues her, and even as she struggles through family tragedy, she’s irresistibly drawn to him. Soon they are bound by his deepest secret: Callum is Fae, banished from another world after a loss hauntingly similar to her own.

But in Noa’s world, Callum needs a special human energy, Light, to survive; his body steals it through touch—or a kiss. And Callum’s not the only Fae on the hunt. When Callum is taken, Noa must decide: Will she sacrifice everything to save him? Even if it means learning their love may not be what she thought?"


I love having the grand privilege every once in a while of reading a truly beautiful book. The Grave of Lainey Grace was beautiful for its nostalgia-evoking plot and deft characterization. Shattered Blue is beautiful for its astonishingly poetic prose. It reminded of me of Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell, which was prose in poem form. Shattered Blue flips that, being poetry in prose form. This could be off-putting and too high-brow for the likes of me, but instead it drew me in, being both lyrical and accessible. Ms. Horowitz is not only a talented writer, but a skilled one too--the story held me captive until the very last word.

It would be easy to dismiss this as another paranormal romance--it seems to have the same type of secondary characters and to hit the same plot points on the surface. In fact, the story of Noa and Callum could have been predictable and boring, but it is NOT. Instead, because they are characterized so well, their flaws and strengths push the plot forward, and the story is greater for it. And the ending of the book *could* have been trite and too tied together, but it worked so well instead! I wanted the next book immediately, and I am vastly disappointed not to have it in my hands already.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern in this book.


(Copy provided by NetGalley.)

From Goodreads:
"Brash, cocky, and unbeatable with a sword (well, almost), Sam of Haywood is the most promising Paladin trainee in the kingdom of Thule… and knows it. The only problem is that Sam is really Lady Samantha, daughter of the seventeenth Duke of Haywood, and if her father has his way, she’ll be marrying a Paladin, not becoming one.

But Sam has never held much interest in playing damsel-in-distress, and so she rescues herself from a lifetime of boredom and matrimonial drudgery. Disguised as a boy, Sam leaves home behind to fight demons-—the most dangerous monsters in Thule—-alongside the kingdom’s elite warriors. Pity that Tristan Lyons, the Paladin assigned to train her, is none other than the hero of her childhood. He hasn’t recognized her–yet–but if he does, he’ll take away her sword and send her packing.

Sam is not the only trainee hiding secrets: Braeden is a half-demon with a dark past that might be unforgivable. Whether he can be trusted is anyone’s guess, including his.

As demons wreak havoc across the land, rebellion stirs in the West, led by a rival faction of warriors.

A war between men is coming, and Sam must pick a side. Will saving the kingdom cost her life–or just her heart?"


Ahhh. Paladin hits almost all the right notes for me. We have the independent female, the brilliant fighter, the redeemable unwanted outcast, all working together and learning to like each other. They all have their own struggles, they all have believable interactions with the villain (whom I predicted from about the fifth chapter or so, but I was surprised by how she/he "done it"), and the writing got out of the way and let the story unfold.

The action was good, and while the plot was somewhat predictable, it was very satisfying. I liked how Sam was learning to be accepted for her skills and gaining confidence in herself. I would LOVE to see her balance both sides--the warrior and the lady--in the next book. Braeden made for a sympathetic outcast, especially because he didn't whine and let the stupid people get him down. Tristan was a good warrior/mentor, pushing his mentees without being cruel. The characterization was consistent and realistic. It's too easy with these kinds of books to stray into the cartoon-y overly muscled hero and the swooning female, but Paladin doesn't do that. And the ending really worked for me. I'm definitely looking forward to the next one!

Gentle Reader Alert: There is some well-described violence in this book, as all the main characters have to slaughter demons on a regular basis. It's not lingered over, but it's not glossed over either. Some of the characters are rather frank about sex, but there isn't any in the book.

05 October 2015

The Girl and the Gargoyle

(Copy provided by NetGalley.)

From Goodreads:
"Being half-witch/half-demon and dating Marcus, a gargoyle and a demon enemy, is complicated enough for Lucy. She can almost tolerate Jude, her demon father, forcing her to undergo combat training. But when Marcus’s long-lost family returns to Chicago, her world begins to crumble. Marcus's mother wants him to leave to join the gargoyle clan; his father wants him to help kill Jude. There’s one major problem with this: if Jude dies, Lucy dies.

Marcus will do whatever it takes to save Lucy and her father. Meanwhile Lucy has her own plan and with the aid of a surprise newcomer, seeks help from the most unlikely—and dangerous—source."


FIRST OF ALL: This is the *second* book of the series. Even reading the synopsis below will spoil you for the first one. SO, if you hate spoilers, go find the first book and read that. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

That being said, I have not read the first book in this series, but I never once felt lost. Gruber does an excellent job of providing information as needed and building on what's already there, which allowed me to enjoy the story on its own.

And enjoy it I did! Granted, I'm a sucker for urban fantasy, and this one fits the bill. Lucy is a demon/witch, her boyfriend is a gargoyle, and life is just NOT EASY for those two. Especially with their parents being mortal enemies and all, and Lucy having had a pretty rough life in the years prior to where the series picks up, it's a miracle these two have normal reactions to anything at all. And Lucy definitely has her weak moments. But she allows her support system to bolster her, and she doesn't give up. In fact, the only thing that throws me off in the reading experience is Gruber's use of present tense, but I got past that pretty quickly. The characters feel real to me, and the conflict is interesting. I can tell that the influential characters from the first story have a presence in this second book, and I love that sense of continuity. I would be intrigued to read this series from beginning to end.

Gentle Reader Alert: There is some semi-graphic violence in this story, and a few swears.

Touching Fate

(Copy provided by NetGalley.)

From Goodreads:
"Aster Layne believes in physics, not psychics. A tarot card reading on the Ocean City Boardwalk should have been a ridiculous, just-for-fun thing. It wasn’t. Aster discovers she has a very unscientific gift—with a simple touch of the cards, she can change a person’s fate.

Reese Van Buren is cursed. Like the kind of old-school, centuries-old curse that runs in royal families. Every firstborn son is doomed to die on his eighteenth birthday—and Reese’s is coming up fast. Bummer. He tries to distract himself from his inevitable death…only to find the one person who can save him.

Aster doesn’t know that the hot Dutch guy she’s just met needs her help–or that he’s about to die.

But worst of all…she doesn’t know that her new gift comes with dark, dark consequences that can harm everyone she loves."


There is an idea in Touching Fate that is loosely played with, and that I would have loved to seen more of--can science be applied to magic? Aster is supposed to be scientifically minded and that scientific mind makes the magic work properly. Unfortunately, there aren't many examples of Aster thinking scientifically, and so it felt like a shaky connection.

Actually, that was the weakest point of the book. The plot was strong and interesting, but the characterization was mild at best. My favorite characters were all side characters--Jan, Tillie, Gram--which speaks to how underdeveloped the main characters were--Aster and Reese come off as shallow puppets, really. Add to that fact that the romance felt forced AND rushed and suddenly my investment in the story took a nosedive. HOWEVER, the plot was just strong enough that I read quickly to the end to see how the ending was handled.

Gentle Reader Alert: If you do decide to read this book, be aware that there is some strong PG-13 language and some frank talk of characters having sex, though there is nothing graphic or indecent.

Jane Unwrapped

(Copy provided by NetGalley.)

From Goodreads:

"Fluorine uranium carbon potassium. Jane’s experiment really went wrong this time. After a fatal accident, teen scientist Jane becomes the first modern-day...mummy. Waking up in the Egyptian underworld without a heart certainly isn’t the best—especially when it means Anubis, god of embalming, has to devour her soul. Yuck. But when Jane meets the drop-dead gorgeous god, suddenly she's thinking this might not be the worst thing to happen. And then she is pushed to do the impossible—just time-travel and kill King Tut. Well, every experiment has variables which can end in disaster... Jane just wishes she could decide whether she wants to strangle Anubis or kiss him."


Can a dead girl have adventures in ancient Egypt? If she's Jane Ezrael, yes, yes she can. Jane Unwrapped was a fun story, full of coming-of-age learning and responsibilities and just the right amount of romance. I loved the characters--they were clearly written I could picture them in my head--and it was also a great commentary on our priorities in life. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading it.

The reason the experience was so enjoyable was the great details the authors wove into the story. They captured the feeling of a city completely exposed to the sun, the details of the spare life ancient Egyptians lived, and the true care Anubis put into embalming. Nothing was jarring or out of place. The plot was intriguing enough, though I really enjoyed watching Jane develop a more mature perspective on life...after she was dead. That was fun irony. The only thing I didn't truly understand was the villians' nefarious plan, but it didn't bother me. I was just happy to be along for the ride. I also enjoyed the contrast between Jane's glimpses of the life she left behind and the "life" she was leading while struggling to help Tut and Anubis. It provided great depth to the story.

All in all, Jane Unwrapped was a pleasure to read--well developed, well written, and well done.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.

02 October 2015

Stepping Stones

(Copy provided by NetGalley.)

From Goodreads:

"Onnaleigh Moore is part of a plan—and it isn’t hers. When her brother dies in a car accident, Onna is desperate to preserve the tatters of her family. Any hope of finding normalcy vanishes when her mother runs off and her dad turns to booze to numb his pain. Onna’s grief is crippling, but the boy who showed up just when she needed him is helping her cope.

Everett’s presence is comforting, though he knows things—Onna’s name just before they met, where she lives, and sometimes he comments on thoughts she doesn’t say aloud. She pegs him for a stalker, or maybe psychic, but the truth is deadlier than she imagines. As their feelings for one another deepen, Everett confesses a horrifying secret: Onna’s brother is only the beginning of the plan, and some fates are worse than death."


So, yes, Stepping Stones is a paranormal romance (yeah, yeah, quit rolling your eyes and get them back front and center. Thank you). And I love the direction the plot goes--the heroine, Onna, doesn't immediately trust the paranormal in her life to automatically know more than she does. She's torn and does her best to make the right decisions even though her life is falling apart around her. This makes for a very sad story, because making decisions without having all the information doesn't always lead to the best consequences.


This story, despite the sadness, is completely worth reading, and not just for the romance that hits all the right notes. Onna's relationships with her almost sister-in-law, Cora, and her best friend, Hunter, are terrific and genuine. To me, this is what sets the story apart. Cora and Hunter have their own distinct personalities and I laughed often at what Hunter had to say. Most of all, both ladies trusted Onna to know her own mind. They loved her and supported her through the tragedies she had to endure. Neither one demanded answers or provided their help conditionally, as if Onna were some sort of addict. Instead, they believed her, gave her space, and were simply there for her. I loved these female friendships as much as I loved the ending of the book.

Also, keep an eye out for Chase. He was fun and I liked him a lot. He has a LOT of potential to be amazing in the upcoming sequel.

If you're one of the eye-rollers I called out in the first paragraph, give this story a chance on the strength of the friendships alone. It's worth it.

Gentle Reader Alert: This book has some strong PG-13 language.

From Goodreads:

"Onnaleigh Moore is part of a plan—and it isn’t hers. When her brother dies in a car accident, Onna is desperate to preserve the tatters of her family. Any hope of finding normalcy vanishes when her mother runs off and her dad turns to booze to numb his pain. Onna’s grief is crippling, but the boy who showed up just when she needed him is helping her cope.

Everett’s presence is comforting, though he knows things—Onna’s name just before they met, where she lives, and sometimes he comments on thoughts she doesn’t say aloud. She pegs him for a stalker, or maybe psychic, but the truth is deadlier than she imagines. As their feelings for one another deepen, Everett confesses a horrifying secret: Onna’s brother is only the beginning of the plan, and some fates are worse than death."

01 October 2015

Frail Flesh

(Copy provided to The Kindle Book Review.)

From Goodreads:
"Otto Alexander rose from a troubled childhood to build a business empire. Roan Joseph got past a teenage trauma to become a self-made, confident and career-driven woman. The day they met, their achievements got a new meaning and a new definition. Putting all aside, they plunge into a love affair both never knew they had capacity for. But this love will face the toughest storms. Can it survive?"


 I had no expectations beyond what I'd read in the plot synopsis when I started this book. But by the second chapter, I had to look up the location of the story because I was feeling like a fish out of water. Turns out it's set in Nigeria, and as the book is written by a Nigerian author, I'm going to take it as an accurate portrayal of life in urban Nigeria. That in itself fascinated me—the culture seemed to teeter between the older ideals of a submissive woman/dominant man and the newer concept of independent women who have their own careers and sense of place. It was the clash of the two ideals that led to the conflict of the story as Otto had to turn himself into a better man in order to have a chance with Roan (roh-an). And it wasn't easy—Ms. Ogunyinka wrote it well.

 The thing that bothered me was that the main characters suddenly proclaimed their conversion to Christianity, but there was nothing leading up to that—no explorations with going to church, meeting other people who live the religious life, making the life-changing decision to become Christian and forsake their former way of living. In my experience, true conversion, the kind that comes from the heart, takes time and wrestling with your worldview in order to have a lasting effect. I would have liked to seen more of that in the story—it would make it easier to believe that the characters truly had changed their ways. But Ms. Ogunyinka's voice makes the story compelling. That and the plot drew me in, despite the fact that I found Otto to be completely repellent at first. I rooted for Roan and I wanted better for her—I wanted her to understand herself. The ending was difficult, but I think it was believable. Overall, this was a good read.

Gentle Reader Alert: There was a traumatic event in the beginning that is revealed in greater detail throughout the book, but nothing graphic about the event is presented.