26 November 2015

My Wicked Half-Sister

(ARC provided by the author for a fair and honest review. Click on the picture below to pre-order.)

From Goodreads:

“Chloe didn’t set out to be famous, but her marriage to Hollywood A-lister, Jason Vanderholt, made her a celebrity by association. Jealous and nosy fans heckle her in public and the tabloids portray her as cold, arrogant, and unworthy of her husband. As bad as that is, it’s about to get a whole lot worse.

Her brother, Chris, is being paroled from prison, where he has been serving time for shooting and nearly killing Chloe when she was a child. This is not a situation that she wants splashed all over the headlines, especially because this could incite her brother to try to finish the job.

When Chloe gets word of a string of crimes that might be tied to her brother, she finds she has yet another enemy: their father, Dr. Winters. He refuses to cooperate with Chloe’s security team and even gives the police a hard time when they try to investigate.

The one ally Chloe has in her own family is her half-sister, Beth, a public prosecutor intent on bringing Chris to justice. Her approach is so aggressive that everyone from Chloe’s security specialist to the police detective insists that she is doing more harm than good. Beth assures Chloe that her way is the only way that will work, which leaves Chloe to decide whether to trust the experts, or the sister she barely knows. The wrong choice puts her very life in danger.”


You know what the best thing is about being a reviewer, even one who's only been operating for a few months? ARCs (advance reader copies) of books that I am totally excited about from my favorite authors!

Take, for example, E.M. Tippets. I stumbled onto the Someone Else's Fairytale series after having read Paint Me True (click here for the Amazon link), a stand-alone LDS romance. Paint Me True is fantastic--compelling but slow-burning plot, an entirely different take on romance, and the character development is AMAZING. I love it and I've read it several times in the last year. So I nosed around Amazon to see what else Ms. Tippets had to offer. Someone Else's Fairytale is free (true story--click the link and see!), and free is ALWAYS a price that fits into my budget. The problem is that Ms. Tippets writes really, really well, and I'm addicted to good writing, so I ended up buying all the rest of her books. Bye bye book budget!

SO. Someone Else's Fairytale--the book and the series--are fantastic. Naturally, that would lead me to sign up to be on Ms. Tippetts mailing list and then she went and offered ARCs of My Wicked Half-Sister and I got one and I was impossible to live with for a couple of hours because I would giggle and clap with glee every time I thought about it. Yes, I'm a mature adult--a mom to four kids, even. Giggling is still not off my radar, though. Sometimes I'm an excitable human being.


My Wicked Half-Sister continues the story of Chloe and Jason. (IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE SPOILED, GO GET SOMEONE ELSE'S FAIRYTALE AND READ THAT FIRST.) I was expecting more of a mystery, but instead the book focuses a lot on Chloe's relationships. Since these complicated relationships define her life, whether she wants them to or not, it makes sense to spend some time on them.

Chloe herself has a dispassionate voice, which can almost come across as mechanical, but it makes sense to me, since she's the survivor of severe childhood trauma. Emotional disconnect is a survival mechanism. And since she's so dispassionate and often confused about what she's actually feeling, I enjoyed seeing her think through her relationship with her mother and do some reaching out and forgiving of her own. Chloe and Jason also work hard on trying to find balance between their home life and his celebrity life, which is only just touched on, but is vitally important to the story. But what I really liked was seeing Chloe get closer to her half-sister, Beth, and the lengths Beth would go to to protect Chloe. The true sibling affection that grew between them through the story was enjoyable to read. I always like it when families go to bat for each other.

Sometimes the story got a little dialogue-heavy and I lost track of who was speaking. And occasionally I didn't feel like I was inside some of the characters' heads enough to understand their motives. But as the story is written from Chloe's perspective and she has trouble getting inside people's heads, it makes sense. Really, Ms. Tippetts is a brilliant writer and I love her books. GO READ THEM. SHARE IN THE JOY.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.


(Copy submitted to The Kindle Book Review.)

From Goodreads:

“From the author of the groundbreaking series, A Prairie Heritage, comes the compelling story of fiery-haired, fiery-tempered Tabitha Hale. Rescued from a life of depravity, Tabitha gives her heart to God and her life to nursing.

As this tenacious, redeemed woman perseveres toward the vocation God has placed on her life, her temper and stubborn independence threaten to derail her selfless aspirations. Will Tabitha pass the trial by fire that is necessary for God to truly use her?

And what is Tabitha to do with her feelings for Mason Carpenter, the man who simply refuses to give up on her? Is it even possible for God to ordain a shared future for two such different people, both with fervent callings upon their hearts?

When the Great War erupts in Europe, Carpenter leaves for England to train British pilots to fly reconnaissance missions over Belgium and France. Soon after, Tabitha hears God asking her to nurse the war wounded. However, because America has not joined in the fight, Tabitha has few options. Will the elite British Nursing Service make a place for her? Will they accept the services of an American volunteer? And will Tabitha and Mason overcome the differences that stand between them?

Revisit Palmer House—a most extraordinary refuge for young women rescued from prostitution. Renew your acquaintance with Rose Thoresen, Joy Michaels, and the others who live at Palmer House. Glimpse the years between Stolen and Lost Are Found.”


Tabitha is definitely a Christian work first and foremost--there is a lot of ministry in its pages. Some readers may find it refreshing or it may cause them to ask questions about the Christian faith--all good results. On the other hand, this believer who is solid in her faith found the story compelling enough that I just wanted to get to the plot to find out what happened next!

Tabitha's voice is strong, and she tells the story of her early years and her training to be a nurse with the viewpoint of someone who realizes she's made many mistakes and is doing her best to overcome her personality flaws. I like that kind of character refinement--when someone takes their own rough edges and starts smoothing them--and I was happy to watch it unfold in Tabitha's case, to her credit. It sounds like she wasn't very likeable in the first books of the series.

The romance wasn't sweep-you-off-your-feet, but it was a solid connection between two people who were doing their best to follow God's plan for them in difficult times. Mason felt a bit bland at times, but that may have been to due to the extraordinary amount of info dumping he did on planes while out with Tabitha. Good thing she was a fan! The ending was predictable but satisfying. Truly, Tabitha is a sweet story.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.

Stealthy Steps

From Goodreads:

“My name is Gemma Keyes. Other than my name, I am utterly forgettable--so those who never paid much attention to me in the first place haven't exactly noticed that I've disappeared. Vanished. Oh, it's much more complicated than it sounds. And let me tell you, invisibility comes with its own set of problems.

I should tell you about Dr. Samuel Bickel, world-renowned nanophysicist. We used to work together, but I'll be candid with you: He's supposed to be dead. Well, he's not. (Imagine my surprise.) Instead of the proverbial "six feet under," he's subsisting in an abandoned devolution cavern beneath the old Manzano Weapons Storage Facility on Kirtland Air Force Base here in Albuquerque.

"I need to show you what I'm protecting here, Gemma," he insisted.

I stared into the clear glass case. I could hear . . . humming, clicking, buzzing. A faint haze inside the box shifted. Dissolved. Came back together. It reminded me of how mercury, when released on a plate, will flow and form new shapes. Only this, this thing was flowing and forming in midair.

"Do you see them?" Dr. Bickel asked.

"Them?" I was confused. My mouth opened to a stunned "o" as the silver haze resolved into blue letters.


Dr. Bickel hadn't pressed any buttons. Hadn't said anything to them. Hadn't gestured.

He grinned. "Ah. They've noticed you. They know they haven't seen you before."

"Well, I wish they wouldn't notice me!"

And I need to warn you about General Cushing. The rank and name likely conjure images of a lean but muscled old soldier, posture rigid, face cemented in unyielding lines, iron-gray hair cut high and tight.

Let me disabuse you of that impression.

General Imogene Cushing is short and a tiny bit plump. She wears her silvered hair in an elegant braid knotted at the nape of her neck, and she knows how to smile sweetly.

With the deadliest of sharks...

You wouldn't suspect a two-star general, an Air Force O-8, of being a traitor, would you?”


Stealthy Steps was an intriguing read. The tone is very informal and personable, which works with the diary-like feel of the entire narrative, and gives Gemma a very distinct voice and personality. I was very impressed with how Gemma's past was carefully woven into the narrative and clearly showed how those events drove her actions and influenced her need to be resourceful.

There is some very dense scientific information dumping in the first few chapters, but even Gemma calls Dr. Bickel on it and it became part of his personality. I would have liked to see more of their non-conflict interactions, just to establish their relationship a little better.

The genre itself--Christian science fiction--was bound to be somewhat compelling, due to the juxtapositions of faith versus tangible discovery, but what I really enjoyed was that Gemma was a lapsed Christian who struggled with the situation she found herself in and what it meant for her life. Her doubt leaves room for character growth in the next few books, as she becomes more sure of herself and the circumstances she's now forced to live in. Overall, this story is interesting and I will happily read the sequels.

Gentle Reader Alert:I found nothing of concern.

17 November 2015


From Goodreads:

“In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.”

Marissa Meyer has a knack for writing compelling stories, and Fairest is definitely compelling, in the way that watching a trainwreck is compelling. The story itself is fantastically written and fits well into the universe that Ms. Meyer has created, but Levana is so very broken. And she deals with her brokenness in unhappy ways, leading to the dominating and fearful empress wannabe that Meyer's readers know and loathe. I wanted to feel sorry for her, but I just couldn't. On the other hand, I am really, REALLY looking forward to Winter!

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.


(Copy provided by NetGalley)

From Goodreads:

“The children of dragons and humans, the dracons, control eighty percent of the world’s governments. Humans worldwide are either subservient or prey. On the small vacation island of Mabi, humans call for war.

Sixteen year old Dakota Kekoa lives a double life. By day, she pretends to be a human to infiltrate Mabi Academy, a 'human's only' high-school. At night, she works as a henchman for her draconic mafia family, utilizing her ability to steal and manipulate emotions.

Dakota’s life is not ideal but it is manageable, until the rich and famous half-dragon, Wyvern Manderson, shows up and starts sabotaging Dakota’s missions. And for some bewildering reason, he is always angry at her.

Within days of Wyvern’s arrival, Dakota is suspended from future missions and in desperate need of money. When Wyvern offers to hire Dakota to find his kidnapped human half-sister, she accepts despite knowing she’ll have to spend all day, every day, with Wyvern and his gigantic ego. This is not just any mission though; she is diving head first into the escalating conflict between humans and dracons. As more girls disappear and some are discovered dead, Dakota realizes her first honorable mission may also be her last.”

I have to admit, when I picked Henchgirl up, I was hoping that it might be nearly as good as Nice Dragons Finish Last. And it was! Henchgirl is wicked fun, full of a slow-burning romance, a main character who is working HARD to keep her family and everything else together, and a well-developed alternative society. The author, Rita Stradling, admits that part of the plot is a nod to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which works well to enhance her story.

The book itself could have used the attention of a good editor--there were a few too many run-on sentences and other grammatical errors for my liking--but the story was so compelling that it was easy for me to forgive the errors and get lost in the story. The plot tension is pitch-perfect. I absolutely loved Dakota and Wyvern and the struggle for balance in their relationship. Loved Dakota's uncles too--Bobby and Glacier were well-developed and well-used as foils and levity--and I was completely surprised at who the real villain was. This really was a great book and I DEFINITELY want to read the sequel!

Gentle Reader Alert: There was definitely quite a bit of PG-13 language in here.

Killer Transaction

(Copy provided to The Kindle Book Review.)

From Goodreads:

“Real estate deals can be murder.

All struggling real estate agent Cindy York wants is the home listing that was promised to her. But her deceitful co-worker, Tiffany Roberts, has other ideas, and she always manages to get what she wants. Tired of being manipulated, Cindy tells her to back off—or else! But when Cindy stumbles upon Tiffany’s lifeless body, she suddenly finds herself front and center in a deadly investigation. Now everyone from her kids' classmates to her monstrous mother-in-law is sold on the idea that Cindy's guilty. Determined to find out who's trying to frame her, Cindy enlists the help of her best buddy, Jacques, to negotiate a slew of suspects, a host of clues, and an office full of cutthroat agents...before the next contract is out on her!”

With most cozy mysteries, I expect to enjoy the book, but not get pulled in quite the way I was with Killer Transaction. The mystery itself was generic--who killed the hateful person?--but the whodunit portion was twistier than I expected, making this a pleasure to read. Ms. Bruns is an excellent writer--her style was definitely to get out of the way and let this reader enjoy the experience. And, bless her heart, when Cindy got herself into a spot of trouble, it was completely explainable, instead of feeling contrived or springing from an inexplicable act of complete stupidity. I'd love to have a little more depth to the main character--a lot of the time it felt like she was reacting to events instead of acting upon them--but I did like that she had a little PTSD to deal with herself. It lent a lot of reality to Cindy's character. I'd recommend Killer Transaction as one of those books to take to the beach or curl up with by the fire for an afternoon of easy reading.

Gentle Reader Alert: A few PG-level swears, but nothing my grandmother didn't say when she was upset with the grandkids....

The White Mountains

(Copy provided to The Kindle Book Review.)

From Goodreads:

“Why is it that nobody talks about the mysterious lands beyond the mountains? Young William is drawn to find the answer. After meeting Anita, they discover an amazing psychic bond that will lead them far from their homes, as together they explore the vision they share of a magnificent Golden Dragon.”


It's no secret, since I mention it in my profile, that I really enjoy good Christian fantasy fiction. The White Mountains is no exception, in my book. It's a slow-burning read, taking time over the details of William and Anita's childhoods, building the bond that binds them together. As their lives intertwine and their journey progresses, Regin spares no detail, richly drawing a story filled with an easy-going magic and a sustaining faith. My only quibble is that the climax, in contrast, felt extremely rushed and truncated. Overall, however, I really enjoyed the time I spent with William and Anita.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.

The Mapkeeper and the Rise of the Wardens

(Copy provided to The Kindle Book Review.)
From Goodreads:

“Lucy Barnes was an ordinary girl.

She lived with her two brothers and her father in future North America under a tyrannical government called the Commune.

Until her world was turned upside down.

Lucy discovered that she was heir to a magical map which transported her to another world called Praxis, where she was expected to learn to use the map’s magic to help save Praxis from the stirrings of a dark, ancient force.

Now an entire realm is relying on her...

Lucy must push herself to her limits and learn to harness her new-found gifts before the Wardens annihilate all the creatures of Praxis. As the Mapkeeper, Lucy’s abilities are the only power strong enough to save them from destruction. But enemies are all around her, sometimes disguised as friends. With time running out, who can she trust?

Will she discover the truth before it’s too late?”

This was an interesting way to mix two genres--the post-apocalyptic feel of the Hunger Games with the medieval situation of Merlin or any other Arthurian saga. Lucy is a relatable as a main character--she's compassionate, she trusts her brothers and has a good relationship with them, and she seems fairly intelligent, figuring out the map's magic on the fly. And the map's magic has a logical consistency--always nice to read a book that has the magic figured out.

On the flip side, this book was prone to the same problems that plague most first-time writers--a lot of the characters were blank slates and lacked a discernible personality, the romance felt shallow and contrived, and there was a lot of telling instead of showing. One detail that really bugged me--Lucy and her siblings seemed to be preternaturally gifted in medieval skills, such as horseback riding and archery, picking them up far too quickly. And the Wardens were a little too easily defeated.

However, both worlds were solidly built, the pacing was good, and the descriptions were excellent. (THERE WAS FOOD. Yup, still salivating. Anyway....) Despite the ending feeling like it was all over the place, I would happily to read the sequel and see how and why the worlds tie together, and who the real evil mastermind is.

Gentle Reader Alert: I found nothing of concern.

03 November 2015

The Commons

From Goodreads:

Paul Reid died in the snow at seventeen. The day of his death, he told a lie—and for the rest of his life, he wondered if that was what killed him.

And so begins the battle for the afterlife, known as The Commons. It's been taken over by a corporate raider who uses the energy of its souls to maintain his brutal control. The result is an imaginary landscape of a broken America—stuck in time and overrun by the heroes, monsters, dreams, and nightmares of the imprisoned dead.

Three people board a bus to nowhere: a New York street kid, an Iraq War veteran, and her five-year-old special-needs son. After a horrific accident, they are the last, best hope for The Commons to free itself. Along for the ride are a shotgun-toting goth girl, a six-foot-six mummy, a mute Shaolin monk with anger-management issues, and the only guide left to lead them.

Three Journeys: separate but joined. One mission: to save forever.

But first they have to save themselves.”


First things first--this book is trippy magical realism wrapped in underworld mythology without any familiar gods. Reading it reminded me a lot of reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods--I just had to go with the flow and hope I liked the ending.

The logic of the story, such as it was, held together. The characters worked together, whether they realized it or not, and there was an underlying connection tying them all to each other. It all fit. The characters, good and bad, were very well drawn and highly individual. The plot itself wasn't surprising, but it was tight--there was no wasted movement, no events that were there just for a Message or because it was cool. There were some interesting budding relationships that weren't explored nearly enough for my taste--in fact, if you're looking for romance, this is not the place to find it--but this is only book one. The best part was Peck's use of a boy on the autism spectrum who was pivotal in moving the plot forward. I really enjoyed how Zach fit into the scheme of things, and Peck wrote from Zach's dispassionate but focused perspective very believably.

The ending itself wasn't very satisfying, but it fit in with the unreal feel of the story. Since it is a book one, there is hope for closure and understanding in the other novels, but this style was just strange enough and the characters didn't resonate strongly with me, so I won't be going back to the series. Not because it isn't well-written--it really is well-done!--but because this isn't my style. I'd give the story 4 stars out of 5. If you like Neil Gaiman's stuff, you will definitely like The Commons.

Gentle Reader Alert: Maybe some PG language, but nothing I can remember. Definitely much cleaner than Gaiman's books for adults.

02 November 2015

Why I Read and Other Explanatory Notes

There's been a little bit of radio silence around the ol' DNook, but it's not been because I quit reading, I promise! Reading is an essential part of my existence and has been my entire life. I think part of it comes from my childhood, where reading let me escape stress and boredom and took me into a world where I could think about someone else's problems instead of my own. But also, I learn so much from reading! I see the world through another person's eyes for a few hours, and it makes me step back and consider my own life and how I see things. George R.R. Martin said it beautifully: "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies [...]. The man who never reads lives only one.” (Don't ask me about any of his works though--haven't read any of them. I've just seen the quote floating around the Pinterest-verse.)

When I started this blog, I knew I'd need content, and a LOT of it. I've had other blogs before--personal and public--and I have a decent idea of what it takes to hold a subscriber's interest. So I started reviewing EVERYTHING I read. Yep, 26 books in two months. I really do read that fast. Do I retain it all? Eh, only the stuff I like.

Which brings me to my other point: I'm a nice person. Like, a really, REALLY nice person. I hate giving bad reviews. So if I read a book that I can't recommend in the least, I won't review it. Simple as that. But that also means that sometimes there will be radio silence. It's unfortunate, because all books have had some heart and soul and blood and sweat poured into them--I know, because I have a couple of novels of my own sitting on my hard drive that will NEVER see the light of day. I *know* the effort that it takes to bring forth a creation like that. It's often been compared to giving birth, and I agree. So I try to be respectful of other people's "babies" and if I find them to be poorly written and underdeveloped or just NOT to my taste, rather than damn them with faint praise, I won't say anything at all.


I read to relieve stress. The very best books do that for me. But I also read to give voice, to shout out from my own little corner of the interwebs to the rest of the world, "I LOVED THIS. YOU SHOULD READ IT! SHARE THE LOVE!" or "HEY! THIS BOOK AIN'T HALF BAD! DEFINITELY WORTH TAKING ON VACATION!" or "THIS IS THE PERFECT BOOK TO READ IN THE DENTIST'S WAITING ROOM--ENTERTAINING, BUT NOT DISTRACTING ENOUGH FOR YOU TO MISS YOUR APPOINTMENT!"

Also, being of a conservative religious bent, I always appreciate it when people give me the heads-up about potentially offensive things they encounter in books, so I can make an educated decision about reading a book. (For example, I love Tana French's novels. They're beautiful, twisty, ethereal mysteries--but she's Irish and uses the f-bomb like I use "um". SO. There's that. See also: anything by Melina Marchetta, not for f-bombs, but other stuff. ANYway. This is turning into a confessional, and I'm not even Catholic!) Thus my "Gentle Reader Alerts" in every review. I know what I can handle, and I know what could be offensive to some people. Granted, I may miss something and you're not allowed to yell at me about that because HEY! I'm human. To err is human, TO FORGIVE IS DIVINE.

So there you go. Radio silence is just another poorly written book biting the dust of my "finished" pile and me moving on. Stay tuned--I have plenty in my review pile and I'm pretty excited about a couple of them because they have GREAT potential. And I've got some retro reviews too, because sometimes I just have to read something printed on actual paper. And every once in a while, I'll post promotional stuff about books from authors I love, because like I said--I am a REALLY nice person. :D