Friday, October 31, 2014

October Site Update

The previous six book reviews have been archived and cross-linked on the main site.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tarot for Writers (Corrine Kenner)

Tarot for Writers
Corrine Kenner
Llewellyn Publications
Nonfiction, Spirituality/Writing
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: Since their creation, tarot cards have inspired stories with their imagery. Originally used to tell tales of the future, they can also help craft works of fiction. The author explains the symbolism of the tarot, offering tips and exercises for incorporating the cards into writing.

REVIEW: I have a passing interest in tarot cards (and a more-than-passing interest in writing), so this looked like an intriguing title. Kenner starts by explaining the tarot's history and symbolism, as well as some basic divination and layouts for use in fortune-telling and writing. She then offers suggestions on specific writing goals, from character creation to generating a story based entirely on random draws. The final section looks at each card individually, discussing its meanings and possible prompts. Overall, it's not a bad book, but I found it grew repetitious. I also questioned some of her card interpretations, which ran counter to other books I've read (and my own gut response, which is as much a part of tarot reading as it is writing.) It still prompted plenty of ideas, though, which was rather the point of reading it.

You Might Also Enjoy:
The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Fortune Telling (The Diagram Group) - My Review
A Whack on the Side of the Head (Roger Van Oech) - My Review
Where Do You Get Your Ideas? (Fred White) - My Review

Sunday, October 19, 2014

How to Work from Home (Sadie Lankford)

How to Work from Home
Sadie Lankford
Sadie Lankford, publisher
Nonfiction, Business
**+ (Bad/Okay)

DESCRIPTION: Transcriber, virtual assistant, stock photographer, tutor... today, the average person has many opportunities to earn an income without leaving home - or to run their own business from the living room. The author offers over one hundred tips for anyone who wants to earn a little money on the side, or who wants to cut the cord altogether and be their own boss.
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: One the one hand, Lankford is honest: as the subtitle states, these are "100ish Random Work at Home Tips, Tricks, and Ideas." On the other, she seems less than familiar with some of her ideas, tossing them out on friend-of-a-friend recommendations or just things she may have stumbled across without bothering to personally research. It weakens her credibility, a problem not helped by her occasionally immature writing style. While some of these ideas may pan out, others sound iffy at best, and some are so mired in scams that any true gold may not be worth the effort of sifting out the dross. In the end, while a few tips may have intrigued me, I just don't think I can trust this person to give me career advice, despite her apparently successful "Slap Dash Mom" site.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Make Money from Home: How to Become a Home-Based Non-Medical Transcriptionist (April Hodson) - My Review
Making a Living Without a Job (Barbara J. Winter) - My Review

Friday, October 17, 2014

Justice for all Time (Kit Cole)

Justice for all Time
Kit Cole
Kit Cole Books
Fiction, Romance/Sci-Fi
*+ (Terrible/Bad)

DESCRIPTION: FBI agent Cassandra Becker wakes in a dark cave with no badge, no gun, and no memory of where she is or how she got there. Crawling outside, she finds herself in a scene straight out of a Western, watching a stagecoach being attacked by Native American warriors. Somehow, she's fallen through time from 2013 to 1853, traveling from Washington,DC to Sacramento, California. This isn't a time or a place for an independent woman law enforcement officer, but somehow she has to survive long enough to figure out what happened, and if she can get home.
Sheriff Brendan Taylor knows there's something not quite right about the petite brunette from the moment he sets eyes on her - deftly demonstrating unladylike marksmanship while saving his kid brother deputy from an Indian. She has to be a criminal, to handle a gun like that... and how is it that, of all the people on that stage, only she walked away alive? Mostly, though, he'd like her to stay out of his way, yet somehow she keeps turning up in the heart of trouble. If Cassie weren't such a confounding annoyance, he could almost come to like her. It's just as well that she'll probably be leaving as soon as she regains her memory, because the last thing either of them needs is an unwanted romance. Unfortunately, time and fate seem to have other plans...
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: Sometimes, when I'm exploring an idea or killing time practicing writing, I'll come up with a story-starter and a character and just run with it, letting random events crop up as I feel my way around. Once in a while, they take on lives of their own, but even then, the end result is never a cohesive story worth sharing with the world, full of inconsistencies and randomness and often lacking a binding plot - the sort of problems that only serious, focused revisions and rewrites could fix. Justice for all Time reminds me of those spitballing practice sessions in the raw. I constantly felt as though the author was half a chapter ahead of me, hastily scribbling in scenery I was about to arrive at, discovering the story only moments before I got there. Characters lack consistency, save supporting-cast stereotypes, and the settings never rise beyond flat backdrops. The storyline wanders with only a weak main arc binding events together, and even that ends by the halfway point, leaving the rest to sputter along to the end on fresh problems seemingly invented solely to extend the page count. Though billed as a romance, I got very little sense of chemistry between anyone. The narrative drifts between characters and locations, as though Cole randomly decided to switch points of view as an experiment rather than for a specific purpose. Errors glare, particularly mistaken words ("prostate" is not remotely the same thing as "prostrate," and at one point a group of soldiers help townsfolk repair "damns" in wet weather) and a mid-1800's law enforcement officer being familiar with the term "serial killer," which dates from the 1930's at the absolute earliest (1970's in America.) The logic of time travel in Cole's universe is vague, but even those rules are violated by the ending, which implies a potential series. The whole thing just feels unpolished, like a rough draft that was prematurely published. Very disappointing, even as a freebie title.

You Might Also Enjoy:
The Time Keeper (Barbara Bartholomew) - My Review
Outlander (Diana Gabaldon) - My Review
Surcease of Sorrow (Matt Inglima) - My Review

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Quest (Aaron Becker)

(Sequel to Journey)
Aaron Becker
Fiction, YA Picture Book
****+ (Good/Great)

DESCRIPTION: A girl and a boy, waiting out a storm under a bridge, are startled by the arrival of a strange man, who hands them a map before being carried away by gray guards. With their magic pens, they follow him into the gray world beyond the door, searching for the lost colors that will restore the realm.

REVIEW: A direct sequel to Becker's Journey, this continues the imaginative, wordless adventure of the girl with the red pen, joined by her friend and his purple bird. Small touches recall her previous visit to the magic realm, as the pair travel to deeper and stranger places in pursuit of the missing colors. Just as good as the first book, with the same sense of grand imagination.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Journey (Aaron Becker) - My Review
Tell Me a Dragon (Jackie Morris) - My Review
Imagine a Night (Sarah L. Thompson) - My Review

Monday, October 6, 2014

Evidence of Trust (Stacey Joy Netzel)

Evidence of Trust
(The Colorado Trust series, Book 1)
Stacey Joy Netzel
Stacey Joy Netzel, publisher
Fiction, Romance/Suspense
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Brittany Lucas came back to the Highlands ranch in Colorado to clear her head and heal her heart. She thought she'd finish her degree and join her father's Chicago firm with Daniel by her side... until Daniel cheated on her, and her father decided he'd rather keep a promising protege than side with his own heartbroken flesh and blood. She feels more at ease in the mountains, working summers as a ranch hand and even discovering a flair for training horses, but it seems she's doomed to return to city life and city stresses after the season's over, to make good on that degree. For now, though, she means to enjoy this last summer... at least, that was the plan, before a suspicious stranger turns up, making her question everything she thought she knew about her life, her friends, and what she truly wants.
Ranger Joel Morgan rarely sleeps in the same bed for more than a few months at a time, traveling from wilderness to wilderness attempting to uphold the law beyond the reach of civilization. It's not so bad; burned first by his mother and, later, by the love of his life, it's not like he's looking to set down roots, and the few relationships he does indulge in have a built-in escape clause with his job. A poacher stalking the Rocky Mountain National Park brings him to Colorado - and right to the camp of the most stubborn, irritating, and beautiful woman he's met. If he didn't know better than to trust anyone, a girl like Brittany could steal his heart.
As Brittany and Joel fight a powerful attraction, the poacher grows more brazen, moving beyond trophies to pure thrill kills. Such a monster is only a heartbeat away from setting their sights on two-legged prey... and they may have a very personal connection to the Highlands ranch.

REVIEW: This story hits all the right notes for a romantic suspense title: two scarred characters, an unwelcome instant attraction that challenges their personal barriers, and an ongoing threat just strong enough to propel the story forward between bouts of friction. Brittany's almost exasperatingly stubborn at times, but she has a decent excuse, and she doesn't spend her time pining over how she can't commit or how much danger she might be in. Joel suspects everyone he doesn't know, which presents a problem when he's perpetually the stranger in any given town, but he eventually (and inevitably) warms up when his heart simply cannot be ignored any longer. The core relationship takes its time to build despite the requisite lust-at-first-sight sparks, each encounter ending in ambiguity or outright disaster as their insecurities trip them up. They seem fairly evenly matched in their flaws and strengths, not to mention their ability to deny themselves happiness. Meanwhile, the poacher stalks the periphery of the plot, one of a group of side characters who were mostly a tangle of names to me; there seemed to be too many ranch hands and rangers, with too few distinct personality traits or roles to keep them straight in my head. But, then, this book is primarily a romance with a side of suspense, not the other way around, making side characters intrinsically less important. Sometimes the teasing and the self-flagellation of the leads grows thick, but overall Evidence of Trust delivers on its promises.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Concrete Evidence (Rachel Grant) - My Review
Burned (Amber Kallyn) - My Review
Surface Tension (Christine Kling) - My Review

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Hollow World: Down the Rabbit Hole (R. G. Beckwith)

A Hollow World: Down the Rabbit Hole
(The Hollow World series, Book 1)
R. G. Beckwith
Beckwith Publishing
Fiction, Fantasy
**+ (Bad/Okay)

DESCRIPTION: When global warming opens up a mysterious hole in Greenland, a government team led by Rick Taylor bravely descends into the abyss... and vanishes. Five years later, his daughter Elena, fresh out of college, prepares to follow in his footsteps. She knows her father is probably dead, but she has to know for herself what happened - and, like Rick, Elena cannot resist the mystery of the unknown. Besides, she has to do something to keep herself distracted from the dreams of a strange man, calling to her for help from a forgotten place. Little does she know what she's about to find, a place where the impossible is real and dreams are reality.
A Kindle-exclusive title.

REVIEW: This is billed as the first tale of a series, but in truth it's more of a prolonged teaser. The characters are simple constructs to serve a basic plot, which never quite builds up much interest in anything before being distracted by something else. (No prizes for guessing whether or not the "dream" is indeed a real person calling for help... though just why he reached out to Elena of all people is never established. But, then, there were several other logic holes I had trouble leaping, such as why this was set about thirty years in our future or just what any government could hope to gain by throwing scientists down a hole without even trying robotic probes first - not once, but at least twice.) For all the running around that's done and strange things witnessed, I found it hard to care about anyone, even the supposed protagonist. Things happen, sometimes violently, and the requisite number of extras are picked off on the way to a cliffhanger ending that fails to properly establish the stakes of the series. I also found the writing a bit clunky at times. Yes, I've read worse, and this was just a quick freebie when I downloaded it, but I still hoped for more.

You Might Also Enjoy:
City of the Beasts (Isabel Allende) - My Review
Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow (James Rollins) - My Review
A Journey to the Center of the Earth (Jules Verne) - My Review