Monday, April 5, 2021

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Christmas + dinosaurs + dystopian world = great story year 'round!


 The Book Dragon has finished Corinna Turner's expanded A Very Jurassic Christmas novella and gives it five rip-roaring claws!

My review: I had read the original short story version in the Catholic Teen Book anthology Gifts: Visible and Invisible and wondered what happened next to the wonderful characters Ms. Turner has created in her dystopian, dinosaur-filled series. I'm glad she decided to expand the story into a longer novella. The additional adventures of hunter Joshua and his Uncle Z and the parallel adventures of brave farm kids Darryl and her brother Harry (and their Dad) are connected by a very brave traveling priest and a horrific winter storm reminiscent of our Texas polar vortex in February 2021. Just reading those sections made me shiver! If you haven't read any of this fantastic adventure series, I highly recommend it (especially if you're a lifelong dinophile like I am). You can also learn more about the author and her other books and series at Catholic Teen Books.
 



Monday, March 8, 2021

Monday Book Review by the Book Dragon: Excellent Christian cozy mystery, first in a new series!

 


The Book Dragon has finished Word Has It by Julie B. Cosgrove and gives it 5 rip-roaring claws!
My review: I've read several cozies by this author, and I have to say, Ms. Cosgrove has made me a cozy mystery fan! This first book in a new series is her best one yet!

The MC Wanda, a very active widow living in a small Texas town, is loveable and very human, but she always means well. She has a reputation for being nosy and jumping to conclusions, but after a burglary in a nearby city is convinced her sleepy little town needs a neighborhood watch program, especially when several suspicious goings-on point to the possibility that the burglars are hiding out right under their noses!

Complicating the situation is Wanda's beloved nephew Todd, who is a rookie cop in town. Their close relationship is threatened by Todd's concern that Wanda's meddling will either get him fired or get her in serious trouble. There are many fun and relatable characters, including Wanda's best friend and many other townspeople. Even with all the names, it was easy to keep them straight because the author has done such a great job of making each one memorable!

The title comes from the shared love of Scrabble that Wanda and Todd share, and the initial game in which they play several apparently unrelated words that turn out to be clues to the mystery of the burglars. I love the use of a Scrabble tile for the scene breaks! And most of all, I loved the slice of small town life which made me homesick (in a good way) for the one I had to leave behind.

If you are a fan of cozy mysteries, Scrabble, or just enjoy a good read with characters who will become new friends, check out Word Has It! Though it's a standalone novel, the author has left room for further adventures of Wanda and her friends in the new neighborhood watch program. As a bonus, there are recipes included from the tea party that had to be cancelled. I hope there will be another opportunity for the widowed friends to have their party!



Monday, March 1, 2021

Monday Book Review by the Book Dragon: Suspenseful short story for dinosaur lovers of all ages!

The Book Dragon has read Corinna Turner's A Dino Whisperer at the Zoo and gives it a roaring five claws!
My review: Wow! I love this short story addition to Ms. Turner's fantastic Spark! universe. It was compelling and suspenseful, but touching in unexpected ways. This story officially made Joshua, the teen hunter living "unSparked" (outside protective fences) in a dystopian world, my favorite character in the series. If you haven't read any of this series yet, either this or A Very Jurassic Christmas (a novella which happens prior to this story and gives a little background on one of the dinos) would be a great place to start. No matter which installment you read first, if you liked Crichton's Jurassic Park (or have been a lifelong dino nerd like I have), you HAVE to read this wonderful series!!!

You can find more of Corinna Turner's must-read books at Catholic Teen Books.

Monday, November 30, 2020

The 10 best books I read in 2020 (plus 2 honorable mentions)

 

A library in Prague we'd planned to see, but everything shut down the second day of our eight day trip  in March that turned into three weeks! (Image by izoca from Pixabay)

What a crazy year 2020 has been! I'm amazed I was able to read as many books as I did. I met my Goodreads goal of 60, only because GR lets you count "did not finish" books, of which there were several. I don't know if it was trouble concentrating or the stories just "hit" me the wrong way, but it still makes me sad when I can't finish a book, especially ones that seem to hold promise! Despite those few, I had a terrible time narrowing down my top 10 this year. As you will see, THREE authors (my new favorites) each had two books make the list! And, because I simply could not eliminate them, I have TWO honorable mentions, because stories that totally immerse me and make me fall in love with new fictional friends are very deserving of a mention!

So, I'll begin with the honorable mentions:

HM: Three Last Things: or The Hounding of Carl Jarrold, Soulless Assassin by Corinna Turner

Ms. Turner has become one of my top fav authors of all time. She is an incredible wordsmith who knows how to craft a story that grabs you by the throat and changes your heart simultaneously! This one was heart-stopping suspense, soul-changing, and completely unforgettable. Don't miss this novella, and don't let the fact that it takes place on death row put you off!

HM: Joy (Always Christmas Book Club 1) by Jessica L. Elliott

At the other end of the spectrum, this is a sweet, feel-good, heartwarming Christmas romance. I was skeptical of the "marriage of convenience" in the modern world trope, but the characters are so wonderfully real, I fell in love with them and completely immersed myself in their story. It's such a great Christmas read, I'm going to read it every year so I can revisit all the warm fuzzies.

#10: The Red Dragon Girl by Lea Doue

This is the third book of Doue's excellent Firethorn Chronicles fantasy series (my favorite so far) and is so well-written, it can stand alone. Princess Melantha is such a wonderful MC, and I loved the dragons!

#9: For Eden's Sake by T. M. Gaouette

I didn't think I would like this story, but it is powerfully pro-life, and the MC is hugely sympathetic. One reason it made this list is because I keep thinking about it, months after reading it. It's just that good!

#8: Leaf Me Alone (Relatively Seeking Book 3) by Julie B. Cosgrove

I've read several of Ms. Cosgrove's cozy mysteries, but this is my favorite so far! She combines genealogy with a mystery uncovering family secrets, and her married team of sleuths stole my heart!

#7: Vasilisa (Hearth and Bard Tales Book 1) by  M. L. Farb

I was familiar with the name from Russian folklore, but Ms. Farb has written an original historical fairy tale that is un-put-downable! I was totally immersed in this world and loved how Vasilisa is portrayed!

#6: What Truly Matters by Pamela Sharp

This is compelling historical family drama, sequel to a book higher on this list. While it's possible to read as a stand-alone, I recommend reading book 1 first. The characters alone are worth it, but it's also fascinating how the author wove the story around actual historical events, completely grounding the time and place.

#5: The Three Most Wanted by Corinna Turner

Here's Ms. Turner's second book on my list, which is the second in her powerful dystopian series (the first book, I Am Margaret, was on Book Dragon's top 10 last year). This installment is just as nail-biting and personal as the first book, with unexpected twists and turns that literally kept me on the edge my seat!

#4: The King's Shadow by M. L. Farb

This is the sequel to The King's Trial, which made Book Dragon's top ten last year and established M. L. Farb as one of my new favorite authors! This epic story continues in the realistic and gritty fantasy world Farb has created with her heroic characters rising to new heights and other characters causing appropriate mayhem.

#3: Blood Traitors by Stella Dorthwany

This is the sequel to Dorthwany's Sand and Storm, which made Book Dragon's top ten last year. Though we continue the journey with some of the realistic characters introduced there, this story has a completely different flavor, with intrigue, danger, a magical "game" even more wild and crazy than Quidditch, and secrets galore! What a fun romp!

#2: In the Double Agent's Service by Annie Douglass Lima

Lima has been one of my favorite authors since she began this Alasia fantasy series several years ago, and this new installment is one of my favorites! Just when I think Lima has covered all the bases in her realistic world, she mines new and exciting storylines. Eric and Anya have been encountered in previous books, but they are front and center in this story, with amazing results! It's the most unusual love story ever written, along with heart-pounding danger.

#1: Because That's What Families Do by Pamela Sharp

This generational family saga set post-World War 2 is a masterpiece of the human condition, specifically how families interact during times of crisis and upheaval. I'd put this book in the same masterpiece category as the works of John Jakes! The characters in this story have stolen my heart forever.



Monday, November 16, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Wonderful sweet Christmas romance!

 

The Book Dragon has read Joy (Always Christmas Book Club 1) by Jessica L. Elliott and gives it 5 claws!

My review: This is a wonderful sweet Christmas romance! The MCs completely stole my heart! I did not expect to fall in love with this story, since "a marriage of convenience" in the modern world seems a stretch, but this story was so full of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, and family, immersing myself in it was every bit as satisfying as sipping on hot chocolate while sitting next to a beautiful Christmas tree, listening to my favorite Christmas songs. I will be reading this every Christmas as a new holiday tradition!


Monday, October 26, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: A beautifully written original fairy tale for all ages!


The Book Dragon has read An Echo of the Fae by Jenelle L. Schmidt and gives it 5 claws!

My review: This is a lovely, lyrical fantasy quest story that begins quietly but with a strong undercurrent of mystery. Then the almost 13-year-old heroine is faced with life-changing choices and must reach into the deepest corners of her soul to find courage and perseverance in overcoming the obstacles to the object of her quest.

It's difficult to write a review without spoilers. This story is uplifting and family-friendly in so many ways, a true "noblebright" fantasy tale! I encourage readers of all ages who like original fairy tales, selkies, the realm of fae, portals into other worlds, dragons, and magic to read this jewel! It's one of the best stories I've read this year.


Monday, October 19, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: An imaginative sort-of Cinderella retelling

 

The Book Dragon has finished Ashen by H. L. Burke and gives it 5 claws!

My review: 4.5 stars for an imaginative world populated by memorable characters, especially the mysterious heroine Lizbete with skin the color of ash and a constant need for warmth. Burke is so good at writing stories about scrappy young female protagonists, and this one is hard to put down! It's difficult to write a review without spoilers, but if you like magic, mystery, and romance, you must read this book! It's fun to see the Cinderella tropes reimagined, but mostly it's a journey of discovery for Lizbete, her few friends, and the many who fear or distrust her. The climax is amazing! And I'm still puzzling over how Burke wrote temperature so well--I felt a chill in some places and began to sweat in others. Bravo!