Showing posts with label Fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fiction. Show all posts

Friday, September 26, 2014

Book Review: The Almond Tree

A few months ago I won a Goodreads First Reads giveaway for the book, "The Almond Tree" by Michelle Cohen Corasanti.  This book was absolutely spectacular; I'm not usually so impressed with a book, but this was was a superbly written story. It follows the life, from boyhood to old age, of an intellectually gifted Palestinian man, Ahmed Hamid.
The Almond Tree on

The plot and action of this book are absolutely intriguing and page-turning, but not in a "thriller" type of way. The characters are so real and compelling that I couldn't put the book down because I wanted to know what happened next.  For me the subject matter is particularly interesting because of the current day conflict between Palestine/Israel.  The story really humanizes all of the struggles and conflicts that region has had in the past 60 years and presents it in a fairly unbiased way.  Although this is a fictional story, it is clear that the author knew and researched the subject extremely well.  Her writing style is clear and descriptive.  At times, I felt like I was sweating under the summer sun with Ahmed and his brothers as they worked dangerous construction jobs to support their family. I could easily imagine that I was in the dorms and classrooms with Ahmed when he finally was able to go away to college.   For the most part, I could easily believe that all of the events in "The Almond Tree" were possible.  There were only a few parts that seemed a bit far-fetched, making this a truly great piece of writing.

I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone and everyone.  It is one of the best books I have read this year.  I would rate it 4.75/5.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Book Review: An Unseemly Wife by E.B. Moore

*I won an advance reader's copy of this book in a Gooreads First Reads giveaway.*

To be completely honest from the start, I was really disappointed with this book.  I really enjoy Amish fiction so I was excited to win this, but it fell flat for me and I almost couldn't finish it.  I felt like this book had so much potential that it just didn't live up to.

Part of the problem for me was the writing style.  I think the author was trying for a unique way of using flashbacks to tell the story, but it came across as a jumbled mess.  I applaud the effort but the execution was poor, so hopefully future editions will be cleaned up a bit.  Between the dialogue, the flashbacks, and the parts of the plot not told in flashbacks, this book really was a mess.

Additionally, it seemed like the author didn't research the historical aspects of the story very well.  Very few real historical details were actually included and those seemed vague and not entirely accurate.

Now for what I did enjoy:  I really liked how much drama was included in the story.  If it had been presented in a better written way, I would have really enjoyed this book.  As it is written now though, I just couldn't get over the bumps in the writing enough to enjoy the plot.  I also was disappointed at the ending.  It felt like all the previous drama had been building up for absolutely no reason.  The conclusion wasn't really a conclusion, which is fine if this series is going to be continued, but there was also not much action at the end of the book to carry the story. In short, nothing really happened and all the events of the story were for naught.

An Unseemly Wife on Goodreads

I can only give this book maybe 2 or 2.5 out of 5 stars.  It just really isn't written well enough to merit a higher rating.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book Review: A Lonely Magic by Sarah Wynde

I received a copy of this book for free as part of a promotional giveaway.
4/5 Stars
Once again, Sarah Wynde excels at creating a mystical alternate realty where magic and fantasy reign. This book opens with intense drama and mystery and has enough plot twists and intrigue to keep all but the most jaded of readers happy. When you first meet the protagonist of the book, Fen, she is being threatened with her imminent murder.  At the last minute a mysterious stranger appears and stops her from being killed.  Things only get weirder for Fen after her attempted murder and subsequent rescue when she meets her rescuers family. She is forced to abandon the life she knew for a sort of private "witness protection program". Fen is soon completely ensconced in a new, exotic world, but not everything is as it seems.  Once she learns that her family had hidden some secrets of it's own from her, she must face the biggest choice of her life.  

A Lonely Magic
I really enjoyed this book; the writing was superb and the drama was fast paced.  The little bit of lust/romance thrown in was entertaining, but not too overwhelming to the central plot.  As with all of Wynde's work, it was very easy to become completely immersed in the writing.  My only complaint is that the "last of the species/tribe/line" theme that pops up towards the end is a little too cliche in fantasy writing.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review: The Widow of Larkspur Inn

Rating: 3/5

The Widow of Larkspur Inn by Lawana Blackwell is a pretty good historical romance.  It wasn't super remarkable or innovative, but I really enjoyed the detailed characters and setting.  It was very easy to immerse myself in the village of Gresham, and the characters were so well developed that by the end of the book they felt like old friends.

The story begins with the death of the protagonist's husband.  Distraught over suddenly becoming a widow, Julia Hollis is even more shocked to learn that his business dealings were not what she thought they were.  Faced with being in charge of her own life and wellbeing for the first time ever, Julia must make some tough decisions and quickly learn about running an inn when she is forced to relocate from London to the tiny village of Gresham.  Although it is quite the change for herself and her children, they all quickly adapt and make new friends in their new home.  This story does a good job of illustrating the value of humility, hard work, and good friendships without being overly preachy or banal.  I actually enjoyed this story so much that I went to the library to borrow the other books in the "Gresham Chronicles" series immediately after reading this one.

If  you enjoy historical romances, stories about Victorian England, and stories with a lot of detail, this would be a good read for you.

The Widow of Larkspur Inn

PS: I've started linking my book reviews to the Goodreads page for the book instead of the Amazon page just because Goodreads offers links to most major ebook retailers instead of only one.  I think most people read Kindle books, but if you prefer to buy from Barnes and Noble or iBooks, or some other retailer, you can find all the links at the Goodreads page for that book.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Review: Georgia On Her Mind by Rachel Hauck

Rating: 2.8/5 I finished this book yesterday after having it on my Kindle for a few weeks after I downloaded it when it was free (it now costs $0.99) I honestly wasn't all that interested in it from the description, but hey, a free book is a free book. Once I got around to eventually reading it, I was pleasantly surprised yet unimpressed at the same time. Rachel Hauck has a good writing style and there are a lot of funny moments in this book. Macy Moore, the main character, is rather witty and almost a bit naive, which is fun to read. However, I just could not get past all of the old, recycled Christian romance plot cliches. Seriously, woman has awesome career but neglects her spirituality, woman's career tanks, annoyingly perfect friends gently remind woman about how much Jesus loves her, woman finally meets good man, various hijincks and "big decisions" ensue, woman ultimately makes the "right" decision and they all live happily ever after. I would have loved more drama in the story and was incredibly disappointed by the last several chapters. I was confused by the authors mix of the literal and metaphorical, especially in reference to the bible verse Isaiah 61:3, " give them beauty for ashes...", which prompts Macy to leave behind the metaphorical ashes of her corporate life and literally return to Beauty, her hometown in Georgia. If the author was going for subtlety, she failed and may have just gone all in and had Macy's house burn down with all her possessions, but I guess that would be too literal. Also, just once I would like to see a Christian romance where the protagonist's dream goal/profession is actually the "right" thing and they are moved to pursue that goal instead of settling for something else.
I can't highly recommend this book, but if you have a spare 99 cents and want to get a few laughs from an otherwise tired story line, go ahead and purchase this book.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Review: A Gift of Time

The latest in Sarah Wynde's Tassamara series did not disappoint in the least. In fact, I though this was the best book yet. The story of Natalya and Colin was incredibly sweet and detailed. The main characters are very well developed and multi-dimensional. Pop culture references are flawlessly sprinkled throughout the book, making it feel like reading about real people. Some authors struggle when writing a contemporary setting because it seems like they try to hard to force pop culture into random spots, but that is not so in Tassamara. I did wish that a few of the other characters played a larger role in this novel, but for a relatively short read it was about perfect! Here's to hoping Wynde continues treating us to her wonderful Tassamara world so we can be reunited with the GD folks, ghosts, and other residents of this delightful town.
A Gift of Time by Sarah Wynde

*I received a copy of this book free of charge in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own*

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Book Review! "A Gift of Thought"

*I received a copy of this book free of charge in return for my honest review. All opinions expressed herein are my own*

After I finished the first book in the Tassamara series by Sarah Wynde, I was astounded by the quality of her writing and couldn't wait to read the rest of the series.  I emailed her expressing my appreciation of the first novel and she graciously provided me with the rest of the series for free. (Sidenote: If you read a book that is really good and the author has a website or email address, email them! Authors love to hear your feedback, especially new and upcoming authors)
"A Gift of Thought" by Sarah Wynde

The second Tassamara novel is "A Gift of Thought".  This book leaves the setting of Tassamara and takes place mostly in Washington, D.C.  I was mildly disappointed that Akira and co. were left behind, but I actually really liked that this book focused on ghostly teenager Dillon and his new relationship with his parents.  Dillon was one of my favorite characters in "A Gift of Ghosts", and in my opinion, is really the star of the series.  As usual with Wynde's writing, the dialogue and plot are superb.  Every character really comes to life and you feel like you get to know them on a personal level.  I do wish a few of the background characters had been fleshed out a bit more, but within the constraints of a shorter novel the writing is still exceptional. On the plus side, there was more action and drama packed into the last few chapters of this novel and I really enjoyed that. I read the entire book in one sitting because I couldn't put it down.

Bottom line: Even though this is probably my least favorite book of the series, it is still extremely well written and worth a read if you enjoyed the first book.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Review! "A Gift of Ghosts"

I'm an avid reader and can read several books per week. As such, I'm always on the lookout for new books. I'm not really picky about what I read so I recently downloaded several free Kindle ebooks from Amazon. One of the books that caught my eye was "A Gift of Ghosts" by Sarah Wynde.  Now, I usually don't have high expectations for free books. Most of them are rather amateur attempts by self-published authors. Some can be quite good, but others are horrendously bad.  I wasn't sure what to expect from "A Gift of Ghosts" but I was intrigued by the description. Let me just say now, I am so glad I came across this book.
A Gift of Ghosts by Sarah Wynde

Sarah Wynde studied English in college, and that definitely comes through in the technical aspects of her work. More than being technically good, this book was also very imaginative and had a ton of soul.  The beginning of this book does start off a little bit rocky, with the character Akira having an internal dialogue that can be a bit confusing until you get past the first few scenes.  Once you get past the first chapter though, this book is astoundingly good.  To sum it up without spoiling it too much, a skeptical academic named Akira is offered a mysterious job in the fictional town of Tassamara, Florida. Despite having a special paranormal gift Akira is skeptical of the company that hires her and even more so of all the rest of the mysterious residents of Tassamara.  With an eccentric cast of ghosts, telepaths, and scientists, this book is a great for nerdy readers who were fans of the SciFi channel show "Eureka". I should also warn you that there are a few steamy romance scenes that are probably not suitable for younger audiences, but I found them to be very tasteful and not smutty or obscene in the least.    

I was absolutely blown away by the creative writing of this story.  I found the plot to be extremely well written and the dialogue was supremely natural and fluid.  I found myself getting emotionally invested in the characters and wished the book was longer so I could have more time in their world.  This is also the book's biggest shortcoming. It is so rich and engrossing that it is simply too short to be entirely satisfactory.  I understand the writer's preference to write shorter stories, but I think Wynde could really excel with a longer novel.

Bottom line: If you want to get lost for a few hours in a mystical yet modern fantasy world, go ahead and read this book.