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Review: “Venice in the Moonlight” by Elizabeth McKenna

“Venice in the Moonlight” by Elizabeth McKenna

Available from: Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Released on: 3 October 2013

I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Considered useless by his cold-hearted father, Nico Foscari, eldest son of one of the founding families in Venice, hides his pain behind gambling, drinking and womanizing.

After her husband’s untimely demise, Marietta Gatti returns to her hometown of Venice in hopes of starting a new life and finding the happiness that was missing in her forced marriage.

When Fate throws them together, friendship begins to grow into love until Marietta learns a Foscari family secret that may have cost her father his life. Now, she must choose between vengeance, forgiveness, and love.

Elizabeth McKenna’s latest novel takes you back to eighteenth century Carnival, where lovers meet discreetly, and masks make everyone equal.

Review: Venice in the Moonlight is a story that brings to life things I loved when I was a young woman beginning in my romance reading life. A dark hero with a past that makes you wish to change him, a strong heroine willing to risk all to right wrongs, a setting in a land I will never see. But I did not find enough original, except maybe the reason for the thriller sub-plot, which made it stand out to me.

It had the makings of a story that could pull you into the intrigue but I felt it always left me hanging on the edge of what could be really good. Carnival in Venice, a city known to be one of the most romantic in world, with Nico, a hero that made you wish to comfort and bed at the same time. A mystery that needed to be solved, and Marietta the woman willing to do all she could to solve it, including putting herself in situations that were not only daring, but fool hardy. Instead of taking the easy way out of having the hero come to the rescue, the author almost always found a way to pull Marietta out of the situation and leave you saying “that was too close.” It was at those points when I felt the story could elevate and give me all the drama and passion I was hoping for, but it didn’t as those were the points it plateaued at.

The secondary characters were not as original as the main characters, but that is forgivable in this length of a book, you did not need them, but they were decent window dressing. The descriptions of the city, the clothing, the masks and even the food were lovely and decadent at times. Painting a lovely word picture in the mind, it was them that lead me to hope for more from the beginning.

Overall I think this book had tremendous potential that kept me holding on and hoping for it to be reached throughout but at the end I was left with a feeling of, “It was nice, but nothing spectacular.” But boy did it raise my hopes for spectacular. I give this book 3.5 fireballs.

3.5fireballs[1]

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Review: “Fire Sign” by M. A. Petterson

“Fire Sign” by M. A. Petterson

Available from: Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Released on: 26 July 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: A beautiful forensic engineer hiding a tragic past reluctantly teams up with a troubled cop to stop a serial arsonist targeting churches.

Dr. Anja Toussaint believes that her own dreadful youth foretells who the arsonist is and the shocking motive behind the fires. But Detective Gil Dolan stubbornly sets his sights on a white supremacist previously convicted of arson and just released from prison.

Unfortunately, when Anja blocks his efforts the arrogant cop sets his own plan into motion that leads them both into a fiery trap.

Review: On the whole, I enjoyed this story. It was a quick and fairly easy read, and I really loved the premise/set-up of the main character as the forensic engineer/arson investigator, particularly a woman. I’m not entirely sure if I liked Anja or not, but she’s the type of character that I think was written that way. She made for a unique narrative voice, though, and I did like that.

Some elements of Anja, and Dolan, felt kind of stereotyped, or at least common for characters in this sort of genre. But then, sometimes things are common for a reason: they’re common, so I can’t decide if that’s really a detractor. Also the “near miss” for Anja and Dolan felt kind of odd, a little shoe-horned into the plot and I wasn’t crazy about that. (There was another detail that felt similar and didn’t go anywhere that I wasn’t crazy about, but I don’t want to spoiler anything.)

Also, there was one plot turn that felt like a bit too big a leap for anyone to make who wasn’t Sherlock Holmes so I’d have liked to see more development there, although a small twist at the end was a good one.

So, while there were some elements that didn’t quite hit the right notes for me, over all, I did like the story. 4 Fireballs.

4 Fireballs

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Review: Death by Didgeridoo by Barbara Venkataraman

“Death by Didgeridoo” (Jamie Quinn Mystery #1) by Barbara Venkataraman

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 13 November 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the death of her mother, is pulled into a game of deception, jealousy, and vengeance when her cousin, Adam, is wrongfully accused of murder. It’s up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it’s too late. It doesn’t help that the victim is a former rock star with more enemies than friends, or that Adam confessed to a murder he didn’t commit.

Review: This was a fast read, but a fun one. The mystery wasn’t what I’d call complex and ran in a pretty straight line, as your mystery stories go, but it didn’t bother me. I found the narrator amusing and engaging, reminding me of Kinsey from the Sue Grafton series. 4 Fireballs.

4 Fireballs

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Review: “Atlanta Burns” by Chuck Wendig

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Atlanta Burns: Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Released on: January 27, 2015

I purchased this book for my own reading. 

Thank you Bella for giving me a place I can share my reviews.

Description:

You don’t mess with Atlanta Burns.

Everyone knows that. And that’s kinda how she likes it—until the day Atlanta is drawn into a battle against two groups of bullies and saves a pair of new, unexpected friends. But actions have consequences, and when another teen turns up dead—by an apparent suicide—Atlanta knows foul play is involved. And worse: she knows it’s her fault. You go poking rattlesnakes, maybe you get bit.

Afraid of stirring up the snakes further by investigating, Atlanta turns her focus to the killing of a neighborhood dog. All paths lead to a rural dogfighting ring, and once more Atlanta finds herself face-to-face with bullies of the worst sort. Atlanta cannot abide letting bad men do awful things to those who don’t deserve it. So she sets out to unleash her own brand of teenage justice.

Will Atlanta triumph? Or is fighting back just asking for a face full of bad news?

This book is intended for mature audiences due to strong language and violence.

Revised edition: Previously published as two volumes, Shotgun Gravy and Bait Dog, this combined edition includes editorial revisions.

Review:

Atlanta Burns, the book, is hard to like, but easy to love, the same can be said for the character who shares the title. There is much pain in Atlanta and just enough darkness that she can come across as standoffish, and difficult, but her past makes the rough edges understandable and easy to empathize with. The book itself deals with many hurtful subjects causing you to wonder how they can all fit, but they do. Mr. Wendig weaves a tale that draws you through loops and turns, many of which make you want to close your eyes because they are distasteful, until finally it all pulls into a masterful endgame where you find resolution and maybe a little bit of peace.

Atlanta Burns, the young woman, has been through too much for someone her age, but instead of creating a pitiful character she is written into a strong woman, unafraid to do things that others cannot, or will not. Being willing to deal with the rougher sides of life in her town means she has to face the fact she might make herself and those around her targets.

There are not many subjects that cause me to turn away from a book, but the dogfighting in this dealt with one of them. Instead of pushing me away, the manner in which the character and the writer handled it kept me saying “You can get through this.” And I did, and I am glad I did.

Tragedy seems to find this book at every turn and you come out feeling like you have been drug through the dirt with Atlanta. Instead of feeling “justified” in the choices she makes you can see the damage done by them. There is a saying that no good comes without a cost and the story written here is a perfect example of it.

As a new reader of Chuck Wendig’s work let me say that this book has made me ready to read more. His storytelling and perspective make for a well done point of view for bringing an outsider into Atlanta’s darkened hometown. I give this book five fireballs as I really enjoyed it.

 

5fireballs[1]

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Review: “The School of Night” by Colin Falconer

“The School of Night” (The William Shakespeare Detective Agency) by Colin Falconer

Available from: Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Released on: 7 October 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review, as part of this book’s blog tour.

Description: “My name is William Shakespeare. No, not that Shakespeare; and no jests please, I’ve heard them all. I’m the other one, the ne’er do well cousin, the loafer, known to family and friends as the dunce, the one who could not recite Cicero or Horace, who could never be as good as his clever cuz, the one who has just come to Bishopsgate from Stratford with silly dreams in his head and a longing to make something more of himself than just a glover’s handyman.”

What he finds in London is Lady Elizabeth Talbot, who is willing to pass a few shillings to this blundering brawler if he will help her find her husband. Poor William does not realize the trail will lead to the truth behind the death of Shakespeare’s great rival, Christopher Marlowe – or to a lifelong love affair with a woman far above his station.

Each book tells the story of William’s adventures as England’s first gumshoe, set against turbulent Elizabethan politics; of his romantic pursuit of the impossible Elizabeth Talbot; while charting the career of his up and coming dramatist cousin, the bard of Stratford, but just Will to his family.

Review: This book I loved. Being a Shakespeare fan, this naturally drew my attention but it following not the bard but the cousin of the same name made it fun. There was just enough history to keep it feeling real, but enough drama and adventure to keep it lively.

I completely hooked into Cousin Will, as just the type of character I love, and I thought that Elizabeth was a great mix of a woman of her age but with those bits of the Modern Women that we like to see. The romantic sub-plot was light, but I liked it.

Falconer’s style and Voice of the character was amazingly readable, and now I want to run off and read his other historical fiction. 5 Fireballs.

5 Fireballs

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Review: “A Plague of Shadows” by Travis Simmons

“A Plague of Shadows” (Harbingers of Light, Book One) by Travis Simmons

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 14 December 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review, as part of this book’s blog tour.

Description: A shadow plague is creeping through the land of O. The plague ensnares those it infects, and turns them into mindless shadow people called darklings. The darklings have one goal: to pollute all of the nine worlds along the world tree, and bring about oblivion. Fear of these darklings and the magic they possess drives people to kill those that appear different, or go against the holy word of the All Father.

At nineteen Abagail Bauer should be starting a family of her own, but instead she still home, caring for her lame father and their farm. The hard life has made her practical. She has little time for flights of fancy, unlike her sister Leona who insists her doll can predict the future. But that all changes in a single moment. While tending their bees Abagail encounters a blackness spreading through the hive. She knows what it is: the shadow plague. And now she’s been infected.

She doesn’t believe in other worlds outside her homeland of O. But when her father finds she’s contracted the shadow plague, he sends her to live with her Aunt Mattelyn in a world known as Agaranth. Though she’s never met her aunt, she’s the only known person who has contracted the shadow plague and learned to control it. For Abagail, everything she’s ever believed to be myth becomes a staggering reality.

Joined by her neighbor, Rorick Keuper, on a quest of revenge against the darklings who destroyed his home, and her seer sister, Leona, Abagail sets off across the rainbow bridge to Agaranth in hopes of curing herself of the plague. But Abagail finds that her infection is only the beginning of her ill fate. When she arrives in the new world, she’s far from where she needs to be. Braving the winter of this new land, along with the darklings that hunt her, will Abagail be able to find her aunt before the shadow consumes her, or is she destined to become a husk of who she once was and destroy all she holds dear?

Buy A PLAGUE OF SHADOWS today and get lost in the darkness.

Review: I’m still not entirely sure what I think about this book. There wasn’t anything “wrong” with it and I can’t say that I thought it was bad. It may have been my mood while I was reading, because that’s been known to happen, but I couldn’t seem to fully connect with any of the characters and something undefinable just didn’t sit entirely right.

It was a short read, but I didn’t feel like I got to know the characters that well and Abagail did bother me a little, but that may have been her age. (My issues with young female main characters being well documented.) It moved slowly, but the writing was fine. I liked the Norse inspiration as well, which mostly carried me through.

So I liked it well enough for 3 Fireballs.

3 Fireballs

 

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Review: “Mad Reality versus Aurelius” by James Ayrford

“Mad Reality versus Aurelius” by James Ayrford

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 3 August 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Experimental philosophical short story as deep and insightful as Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

How the eyes of the abyss look like, when she stares back at you? Does she, like a woman, enjoys attention and whip or not? Or why even staring into it, what can be seen there and is it even worth it?

So here is what I’ve seen in there.

Like Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, protagonist fictitious travels and endeavours serve as a metaphoric vehicle to present and illustrate philosophical ideas such as subjectivity of reality that people experience in their daily life, influence of religion on the world and its anatomy, psychology of the masses and of love, possibility and requisites of happiness. It consists of two narratives: one follows endeavours of main protagonist Aurelius and the other describes major historical events of the world of Mad Reality. Most characters and events in actuality are an allegoric representations of the real world concepts and ideas, for example Maximus embodies Ancient Rome, its values and metaphysics.

The story is set in a magic and odd technology infused, somewhat bizarre and even gruesome, metaphoric world. It starts with Aurelius reflecting over the disappearance of a mysterious women named THD as well as over everything his life had been about so far. As the story progresses, not only details of their love affair and other events revealed, but also both surface and hidden reasons behind various events of his life and even those of a broader world that caused it all to turn out this way.

Conversation with THD led Aurelius to eventually discover a psychological working of love that led to a metaphysical conclusion of her real nature, and other events and stories have their own philosophical, existential, metaphysical or psychological wisdom to tell.

Among them causes of conflict between Aurelius and priests of the Model over the existence of a certain dios as well as reasons for it unusual outcomes. As well as war between dioses Redemptius and Bicornerius and their followers that, while settles, leads only to further beaconing conflict with even more contestants. Origin of dioses and reasons for their popularity among the people and importance in the grand scheme of things. And even motives behind hitting a ground with a forehead according to a prescribed method shared by fellow ground-hitters and why it is not only a very popular activity but also a sacred ritual of great sanity. And many other witticisms.

Author of this masterpiece is a mysterious, solitary philosopher with a Bachelor degree in an unrelated field, who nevertheless has sound understanding of literature of merit due to independent studies and, in addition to works of Nietzsche, read such famous literary works as One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Slaughterhouse five by Kurt Vonnegut.

And he intends to eventually write several more books in this series.

Review: This story was another one with a good idea at the heart of it, or at least an intriguing one, that was hampered by the mechanics of the storytelling itself.

First off, I almost didn’t accept this book because I’ll admit I tend to steer away from books that describe themselves as “masterpieces” in their own summary. But the idea sounded curious and I wanted to see how it played out. It was also a short read.

Throughout the thirty pages, it feels like the author can’t decide if it is a fiction story or a non-fiction treatise on the ideas of reality and religion and perception (to name a few) that are played out. This book is 95% Tell with very little Show, which rarely works in contemporary fiction.

The allegories–which you know about going in since they are pointed out in the description of the book–sway between very vague and very heavy-handed. And I was disheartened to find that the sub-plot featuring THD contained, to my opinion, more than a thread of misogyny. (And in my opinion, not enough was done with it to make it anything else.)

Too much was done in this story to fit the size of it, and the writing itself needed an editor who could help the construction of sentences and paragraphs in both form and function to make it actually readable.

For the ideas of it and that I was able to finish it, it’s a 1.5 Fireballs. A review I hate to offer, but this is my opinion.

1.5 Fireballs

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Review: “Season 7″ by D. F. Nightshade

“Season 7″ by D. F. Nightshade

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 20 August 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Richard has been a security system salesman for about a year now. He’s good at what he does and loves his job, but doesn’t feel valued at the workplace. He’s passed up for promotions he feels he should get and is constantly second-guessed. His anger starts to affect his job performance. Stressed out Richard goes to a bar to try to calm his nerves. On his way home from the bar he is waved down by Nautilus who is nothing but trouble.

Nautilus is a seemingly normal guy who just so happens to be an alien. Nautilus believes that Richard is the “special one.” The one destined to rule his planet, but everything’s not as it seems and Richard has to find that out the hard way.

Or does he?

Review: This story was…interesting, and strange. I felt that the concept was very creative, and I liked that part of it. I always commend authors on scenarios that aren’t like every other story, and I believe this was the case here.

Unfortunately, the story fell short on the execution of that idea. The mechanics of it didn’t work for me as I felt that the plot wandered a lot and elements were just added “for the hell of it” without true purpose to the story or the characters; the Point of View changes were jarring and I thought unnecessary–since going a long while with one character’s PoV and then adding random others later is something that I generally don’t like; and then this book also suffered from Pointless Female Character Syndrome, where female characters were seemingly just added to have female characters but without giving them strength, depth, or reason.

I wish I could have liked this story better, but unfortunately, it just wasn’t for me. 2.5 Fireballs.

2.5 Fireballs

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Review: “Wednesdaymeter” by Dean Carnby

“Wednesdaymeter” by Dean Carnby

Available from: Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Released on: 29 April 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: An eggplant wails, a ladder breaks, and the guise of civility shatters.

A professor of festival studies, a potato hunter, a deadly career counselor, and a part-time terrorist are struggling to retain their sanity in a magically mundane city. Their carefully laid plans fall apart when they meet Mr. Pearson, an everyman who suspects a conspiracy of evil polygons behind his company’s absurd practices.

Theirs is a world in which people use raw produce and wasted time to alter reality. If it were not for the stringent safety standards on fruits and vegetables, the citizens would live in misery. Most live a life of willful ignorance instead, desperate to avoid facing the threats surrounding them. Festival season is about to begin, but the colorful banners cannot hide the tragic past any longer.

Review: As I write this review, it’s been about a week since I read the story and I’m still not entirely sure what I just read…

This was a very strange book. Using raw vegetables to do things like run faster or change appearance, which you can fold like paper and uses wasted time to function… People like polygons… And yet, I commend the author’s imagination and creativity, and as bizarre as it was, it was a generally well-constructed story that I did over-all enjoy.

After the Curiosity Factor wore off, the story did begin to drag a little through the middle. The characters felt somewhat two-dimensional at times as well, but part of it–given the scenario and backgrounds–made sense and may have been intentional, although it did make it a little hard to fully “hook into” the character we were reading about.

The conformity versus non-conformity theme is, however, one I greatly appreciate, so I liked that about it and I did ultimately like the strangeness of it. It had the feeling of allegory although I’m not entirely sure what exactly it’s allegorical to.

So…I liked it, although I can’t say I really liked it. 3.5 Fireballs.

3.5 Fireballs

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Boom Baby Review’s Best of 2014!

2014 was a really busy year for me, and I tried to amp up the reviewing. Although there were some books that weren’t quite my thing, I was really lucky to get some great books. As such, I want to give a shout out to my 4.5 and 5 Fireball reviews of 2014! Each one is linked to the review, so you can check out what I thought about it. And now, in no particularly order, they are…

Fantasy

Wizard of Ends, Book Two: Dark Creature by Vanessa Finaughty & Majra by J. Simon

Monster Lit

Waking the Merrow by Heather Rigney

Contemporary Poetry/Prose, Military

Starved for Bullets by Ryan Goodrich

Erotic Romance

The Brethren of the Coast by Barbara Devlin (Reviewed in 2014: My Lady, The Spy; The Most Unlikely Lady; One-Knight Stand)

Steampunk Action/Adventure

The Adventures of Ichabod Temperance by Ichabod Temperance (Reviewed in 2014: For the Love of Temperance; A Study in Temperance)

Superhero, Comedy

Scarlet Winters by J. Kwong

Contemporary Literary Fiction

The First Noble Truth by C. Lynn Murphy

Historical Fiction

Agnes Canon’s War by Deborah Lincoln

…and that was the best of 2014. Thank you to all the authors and readers who made this a great reading year. I’ve got the proverbial stack of books already to get 2015 kicked off with a bang, so watch this space for more books and more reviews and more everything!

Happy 2015!

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