I have been in love with books my whole life. They’ve been more than a hobby, but sort of like a painting I can disappear inside at times, and create new experiences and feelings. I’ll be posting reviews in this space. In no way shape or form do I ever consider my opinions more important than yours, so please, feel free to comment. And if you’re interested in checking out my top three picks, I wrote an entire post on them so check them out: Day 7: Three Books I adore.
I borrowed this criterion from my fellow author and friend, Anna Simpson, because I think the world of her. You can find her at: emaginette.wordpress.com.
5.0 = Outstanding
4.5 = Entertaining with a surprise that I’m still thinking about
4.0 = Well written and entertaining with a surprise
3.5 = Well written and entertaining
3.0 = Well written and entertaining but something let me down
2.0 = Find a better editor
1.0 = Find a better writing circle and start again
Erica Kiefer | Holly Kelly | Danielle Shipley | Celia Bonaduce | Brenna Yovanoff | Cynthia Hand
Lingering Echoes, by Erica Kiefer
Lingering Echoes has a Stephenie Meyer Twilight edge crossed with Sarah Dressen’s fictional style, and there is plenty of character chemistry, suspense, and a sweet protective feel to push the pages along.
Scene development. I love nature. I have been on many family vacations to campsites as a kid in my summers. Erica brought back some wonderful memories for me. I could see the cabins on Allie’s family vacation, the lake, the fun on the basketball courts and definitely, all the places in the woods she ventures with the boy she couldn’t seem to stay away from.
Character chemistry. Every character has their own feel, quirks and ways to deal with life. They’re real. They relate back to Allie, the main character, and they help push her different sort of character arc as a traumatized girl who can’t live with her past, or give anyone else the chance to help her. Will she grow? You’ll have to read to find out.
Voice. Voice means more than words. It’s a feel you get when you read and the story becomes more like an account of someone’s life, no matter the genre. Author Erica Kiefer speaks to the reader in a storytelling fashion I like to read. Allie, the Main Character, jumps off the pages—alive.
I noticed a few places when time and word choice didn’t read as clearly as I would have liked, but the characters won me over and left me wanting to turn the page. I loved each and every one of them.
A Review of Rising, by Holly Kelly
Holly Kelly wowed me with her first sentence in chapter one: “Xanthus could taste the blood of a human in the sea water.”
She continued to draw me in with her word choice in the sentences and paragraphs that followed. Vivid, visual, I sunk quickly into the plot and wanted to know why and what did we “humans” do to Xanthus, one of the Main characters in the book.
Holly Kelly created this alternative underwater world, exploring the details from the architecture of the cities, to the life that dwelled in the depths of the sea. First of all, I want to say how difficult it is to paint a new and different world other than human. A world separate and foreign to what we live and know. I am always in awe of an author who can do this, create this, and convince me this world is real. Secondly, I believed Holly, as here a tidbit from chapter three, “The Castle of Triton rose in the distance—a colossal fortress with many tall turrets, arched buttresses, and massive windows. Hundreds of sharks circled above and around the castle, guarding their master inside,” (16).
Her heroine Sara. A strong twenty-something female, she has lived with a huge disability since her birth. Kelly fills her head and heart with conflicting feelings and emotions she’s kept locked up inside, accepting her disability and staying away from doctors because of what they want to do to her to fix her. I liked her drive to survive and succeed the most. I found myself relating to Sara, remembering how at one point I wanted to succeed like that no matter how hard I had to work to pay the bills. I also loved the constant reminder of her insecurities. I think we all have them, and I understood her actions based on her feelings about herself and life.
A Review of The Stone Kingdom, Book Two of The Wilderhark Tales, by Danielle Shipley
The Stone Kingdom is a highly vivid, carefully formulated story, written in a time frame similar to early fairy tale writers like Hans Christian Anderson, Charles Perrault, and the Brothers Grimm. You might have heard of The Princess and the Pea, Sleeping Beauty, or Rapunzel, and if you love these types of stories with lessons about life, you’ll definitely love Shipley’s The Stone Kingdom.
Her writing style. Clean and pointed, Shipley draws you in with her brilliant character and landscape descriptions where you quickly adjust to the time frame of castles and kingdoms. She has a style all on her own, and it’s lovely.
She took pleasure in sharing her father’s willowy form and self possessed countenance, her mother’s resolute mouth and chin, as well as her eyes, an elusive gray-green more subtle than sage, (page 6).
Her scenes. Her real characters. Shipley builds on the emotions of a 15-year-old princess losing her freedom for the necessary protection of the kingdom. First, Shipley captures the feeling of war in a young woman struggling between dependence and independence who desperately wants to grow up. Next, she explores the idealistic vision of love and how it’s easy to believe someone else will save us from our troubles. How they can change everything we don’t like about our present state of being and can magically give us our one simple heart’s desire. I loved how Shipley shared Rosalba’s struggle with her wish to find love to save her kingdom, and yet she wants someone to see her, and get her for who she is. Lastly, Rosalba’s journey for acceptance is humbling. I appreciated how Shipley created a strong female MC who refused to give up by growing up.
The lesson learned. True to any fairy tale, the lesson at the end of the story is the driving force. The Stone Kingdom is no exception to this fable structure, all wound in to the delightful twist at the end, and I admit, I chuckled. I enjoyed it very much, and fairy tales will always have a special place in my heart.
To see find out more about The Stone Kingdom, book two of the Wilderhark Tales, visit Danielle Shipley’s Website.
Book Review: The Merchant of Venice Beach, by Celia Bonaduce
The Merchant of Venice Beach is a delightful read and within the first few pages, I found myself connecting with the sweet and honest, yet at times hysterical voice, reminding me of the same sort of connection I felt with Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series—minus the paranormal activity and southern setting. Adequately paced, funny in parts, and complicated with Savannah’s emotional shifts, I enjoyed the read and I appreciated the world Ms. Bonaduce painted, very much.
Structure. The sentences, the scenes, and her lovely descriptions of her characters captured my attention. I loved the tearoom. It was so human to me: “The walls of the tearoom were a very pale mountain laurel, not pink and not lavender and, while Suzanna had lots of china, none of it matched. She pretended it was a design choice, but in reality, she hadn’t had a ton of money to drop on cups and little plates.” (14)
Her supporting characters. I loved the names, the personalities from the two male best friends Eric and Fernando. Suzanna our MC had known them since high school. She worked with them. She lived with them, and one of them, she had been in love with the entire time, and hidden crush stories are some of the most intriguing pieces in romance novels because there is never a promise with how they’ll end up.
The Merchant of Venice Beach, is a character-based story. Written so tight and with such a lovely voice, Ms. Bonaduce immediately pulled me into Savannah, her MC’s world. I imagined her as my neighbor or a friend, and she wasn’t. She’s just a character and I really wished I knew her. I loved the details in knowing how she met her friends. I enjoyed learning about her own quirks like over thinking and jealousy over her beautiful best friend. No matter who you are, you’ll find something about Savannah to relate to.
Book Review: The Space Between, by Brenna Yovanoff
Brenna Yovanoff defines the conflict in the prologue in one sentence as a gift to the reader, and wraps it up in the prettiest bow ever, “Once, my mother told a whole host of angels that she’d rather die than go back to a man she didn’t love.”
I couldn’t put the book down after that.
Brenna Yovanoff develops a world of hell with a twist of dark beauty, a real world with magical possibility. Hell has a pit, but the entire world is not fire. It’s livable, and the demons inhabiting hell pass as humans marked with interesting features like iron teeth or nails. Our main character Daphne is this half demon, half human/fallen angel girl. It’s the most incredible backstory I’ve come across, a real twist to the story of creation. And Heaven, wow, the angels seem distorted, losing their beauty with the seriousness of the quest to protect and serve God. It’s shocking. It’s hard to swallow how Heaven and God allow angels to command these magical mercenaries on a hunt for evil, and how demons are humanized in such a way, I want them to be happy. I didn’t sense love in Heaven, and Heaven actually bothered me, where anything you dreamed was real to a point, but if you woke up and tried to remember something from your earth life, you shattered your happiness, your dreams nothing but a dream. I liked the way Yovanoff painted these worlds. The twist still bothers me, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
And the Ohmigosh!
Our main character Daphne is so afraid to love. Her first person narration is brilliant, void of emotion most of the time. Bits and pieces leak out through the story as you see certain fears about losing those who actually cared about her growing up. She has a beautiful human story about never feeling wanted or loved by a mother, or a father, caught in their web of vengeance to jab the other. She’s also afraid of what she is, which is interesting, being a demon and not having to worry about a thing. She’s afraid of hurting humans too, and we see her shed her unfeeling voice as the story progresses, growing stronger emotion the longer she’s on earth. Finally, toward the end of the book, we see Daphne wake up and give over to her fears. It’s the most amazing character growth stemming from real authentic emotional touch, the first she’s ever felt. She’s afraid of kissing Truman, the boy she fears she loves. The entire incredible scene is built around bearing our fears and our failures to someone, becoming vulnerable, and truly loving and accepting the other person for these failures and flaws regardless of potential pain.
The confession, page 281.
“I’ll see you,” I whisper. “Not just your sadness or your scars, but really see you. Everything about you.”
Truman lets me go. Stepping back, he gazes down into my face. Then he nods. “Okay.” He stands in front of me with his arms at his sides, held a little away from himself. Offering.
I have three thoughts to sum up my review: Amazing, breathtaking, a must read.
First Book Review Ever: Hallowed, by Cynthia Hand.
Character descriptions. One of the things I always look for when I read, is if I identify with the character in some way. Not that I have to experience the world or the life the character is leading, but do I get it. Do I feel like the choices are real. Cynthia Hand pulls me in. I see her characters in my mind and I follow them through the plot. Above all things, I adore her descriptions.
I get a great sense for Clara the heroine right away in chapter one describing her boyfriend Tucker, “He grins. ‘Let’s get the heck out of here.’ I love that he says heck. I’ve totally had enough of hell.”
From page 100, our character Clara is listening to her mom, “What’s a little snow?” she replies, an extra twinkle in her twinkly blue eyes.
I’m a sucker for twinkles and sparkles.
I am a nature girl. One of my favorite things about Cynthia Hand’s writing is her ability to capture nature as if I were walking with her on a trail in the trees, smelling them, feeling the sunshine and the life around me. From the details of fishing, flying, how she captures the rodeo, Cynthia Hand paints a beautiful picture of life in a way where I will absolutely read all of her future works.
From page 106, “It’s some sort of meadow, a vast, flat stretch of land surrounded on two sides by mountains, the third edge a beautiful shining lake that’s clear enough that you can see the landscape reflected back perfectly. A few feet from where we’re standing the snow disappears, becoming instead a long, soft grass, so green it almost hurts the eyes to look at it after so many hours of white on white.”
And the Ohmigosh!
Cynthia Hand creates a sweet love story. I see everything. I feel everything. And the first kiss with Christian, was a to die for moment: “I’ll never, if I live to be my full hundred and twenty years, forget the way he tastes…His fire and mine combine, and it’s greater than any forest fire, hotter than the hottest part of flame. Any walls I’ve tried to build between us crumble down.” (333)
My One Picky Thing.
I don’t like to talk about places for improvement in authors’ works, but there is one small detail worth a mention. I struggled with Clara’s brother Jeffrey at times and if it was hard for me to believe no one knew about where he disappeared.