Monday, June 29, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Powerful and compelling contemporary story

The Book Dragon has finished Three Last Things: or The Hounding of Carl Jarrold, Soulless Assassin, Corinna Turner's timeless and unusual story of suspense and persistence and gives it 5 stars!
My review: It's difficult to explain why this story affected me so much without giving away spoilers, but I'm going to try! This is unlike any story I've read before. It was far out of my comfort zone (taking place inside a prison) and yet I could NOT put it down. The realistic and suspenseful situation the author has created shows the power of love and loudly shouts the truth of the Latin phrase "dum spiro, spero" ("While I breathe, I hope). So don't let the first person POV of a hardened murderer make you wonder if you should read this story--your life will be better for reading it!!!!

Corinna Turner has become one of my favorite authors, and this story is just as compelling as her fantasy and dystopian books. You can find them listed at Catholic Teen Books.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Wonderful installment in my favorite fantasy series!

The Book Dragon has finished In the Double Agent's Service by Annie Douglass Lima and gives it five roaring claws!
My review: Having read all the previous books in this epic fantasy series, the Annals of Alasia, this sixth installment was worth waiting for! There are equal parts adventure, heroism, mystery, intrigue, revenge, romance, friendship, family, and humor in this story, and the pacing is superb! My favorite things about this series are the characters and world-building. The people are so real I want to meet them (well, most of them), and the kingdoms of Malorn and Alasia are so interesting, I want to visit them! The main characters, Erik (King Jaymin's bodyguard) and Anya, a seamstress, are the heart and soul of this book, and the fast-paced plot kept me guessing how things would turn out between them, as well as the fate of both kingdoms. I can't recommend this series highly enough to fantasy adventure fans of all ages!

Though this book can be read as a standalone, it will be even more meaningful if you read the rest of the series!

Monday, June 15, 2020

Whew, Joy's Sorrow is finally HERE!

I am relieved to announce that getting trapped in the Czech Republic at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic did not keep me from finishing this second installment in the Mercy's Children series! It's in Kindle format only for now, but I hope to release the paperback by the end of the month.

Great joy. Deep despair. Deeper dangers.
One thing would complete Duke Bennet d’Ardelane’s happiness: a child. Soon after his beloved wife, Princess Joy, tells him she’s expecting, disaster strikes.
First, an accident leaves the duke fighting for his life.
Then, sensing an opportunity, enemies of the king turn seeds of discontent into open rebellion. At the center of the discord, Ronan and Nelwina MacCallum will use any means necessary to seize the throne.
As the kingdom spirals into war, Bennet and Joy must overcome their personal sorrows and face the greater threats, or the friends, family, and people they love will die.

I've already changed the cover for the 3rd book, Valerian's Flight, because I realized my original cover wouldn't reflect the story. I'm anxious to share it with you, but I will take the time necessary to make it as exciting on paper as it is in my head!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: A beautiful, enchanting story of a Russian Heroine

The Book Dragon has read Vasilisa by M. L. Farb and gives it five roaring stars!
My review: This is a rich, beautiful story that feels like historical fiction set in medieval Russia with strong flavors of old fairytale magic and romance. I was familiar with Vasilisa from an old Baba Yaga story, but Farb's Vasilisa is a living, breathing, heroic young woman with whom I immediately felt a strong empathy. She is an inspiring fictional heroine! The plot was full of surprises and SO difficult to put aside the book when it was time to do mundane things, like eat or sleep! I was fully immersed in this magical old Russia with the author's wonderful characters. The extras at the back were fun, too, including questions suitable for book clubs (hint, hint). I highly recommend this book!

Monday, May 25, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Exciting installment in a dinosaur dystopian series!

The Book Dragon has finished Corinna Turner's Panic! (unSPARKed #3) and gives it 5 roaring claws!
My review: The unSPARKed series is vivid, exciting, and suspenseful! If you like dinosaurs (or were obsessed as a child like I was), you will LOVE it! This installment continues with nail-biting action, danger, sadness, new friends, and of course, dinosaurs. My only niggle with this series is that each book (technically novella) ends with a cliffhanger, which I normally hate, but I forgive this author because the story is SO good and she is such an excellent writer! She's created a future world that is totally believable with characters I have come to love and worry about! I can't wait for the next installment....Recommended for dino lovers of all ages! (Unless you have a young child with tender sensibilities, though nothing is graphic.)

Monday, April 20, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: A clever, quirky guide to Prague

The Book Dragon has read Honest Guide Prague by Janek Rubeš & Honza Mikulka, and illustrated by Eliška Podzimková and gives it 4 claws!
My review: I've been following the Honest Guide YouTube videos for a long time now (since before my first trip to Prague in 2016) so when we returned to Prague for our third visit last month, I managed to purchase this book the day before the stores closed due to coronavirus. It's fun and quirky and artistically done! It definitely helps you think "out of the box" as far as looking for places to see and eat in Prague (which I hope to do next visit, since this one was very bad timing for exploring new places in Prague).

Monday, April 13, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: A powerful pro-life story

The Book Dragon has read For Eden's Sake by T. M. Gaouette and gives it five claws!
My review: Though not my usual genre to read, this story grabbed me from the beginning as Isaac, a sympathetic young man, is caught up in circumstances that lead him to break a vow of purity until marriage, resulting in a pregnancy. The story is also partly told from Rebecca's point of view, and at first she is not a sympathetic character. The reader can feel Isaac's anguish as he tries valiantly to do the right thing and atone for his sin. This is a powerful pro-life story with realistic, flawed characters, and you'll be cheering for Isaac every step of the way! Recommended!

Note: This book is featured on the Catholic Teen Books site.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Fantastic fantasy adventure with dragons!

The Book Dragon has read Lea Doue's The Red Dragon Girl (third in the Firethorn Chronicles) and gives it a roaring five claws!
My review: Though books 1 & 2 of the Firethorn Chronicles were really good, this is by far my favorite in the series! So many dragons! So much adventure and suspense! I can't say enough good things about this book! It's not necessary to have read the first two to enjoy this installment, since each book stands alone, but The Red Dragon Girl will definitely make you fall in love with the world Doue has crafted. Princess Melantha is such a strong and sympathetic character, you'll be alternately rooting for her and biting your nails at the situations she falls into! A cast of well-rounded and mysterious secondary characters makes this an unpredictable and fun read. Highly recommended!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Heart-pounding suspense in this dystopian sequel!

The Book Dragon has read Corinna Turner's The Three Most Wanted, the sequel to I Am Margaret, and gives it a resounding five claws!
My review: Oh, my heart! I think this second book was even better than the first! This story had the three heroes from I Am Margaret (Margaret/Margo, Bane, and Jon) in mortal peril the entire time and I could not turn the pages fast enough. The escapees from the Facility that wanted to Dismantle them are fleeing across the EuroBloc to the Free Vatican State. The Power-That-Be are furious about Margo's book as well as the escape, hence their branding as The Three Most Wanted. In their flight across the Continent, the three encounter dangers in the wilderness, dangers from betrayal, and have so many harrowing encounters, I could hardly bear to pause in reading. Their situation even entered my nightly dreams! An amazing blend of dystopian suspense and faith. Highly recommend!

Monday, March 9, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: A fun fantasy mystery series for younger teens

The Book Dragon has read Saving Mount Rushmore by Andrea Jo Rodgers and gives it five claws!
My review: 4.5 stars for a fun, action-packed fantasy mystery story that middle school-aged children will enjoy as a mystery while they're learning a little American history along the way. I love that the story is unashamedly patriotic with some spiritual warfare thrown in. The Saint Michael the Archangel Academy enlists gifted children for "missions" to help thwart the bad guys, and each of the four on Team Liberty are great role models for young readers. I would have loved this book in junior high, when "Jonny Quest" was my favorite cartoon. Recommended!

Note: This book and its sequel can be found at Catholic Teen Books.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Fun cozy mystery set in colorful New Orleans

The Book Dragon has finished reading A Flair for Beignets (the third in the Sadie Kramer Flair mystery series) by Deborah Garner and gives it 5 claws.
My review: This is the first of Deborah Garner's books I have read, but it won't be the last. Mystery was never my favorite genre, but after reading several lately, I'm beginning to like the puzzle aspect of it. What makes this one a gem is the quirky MC Sadie Kramer, who is totally not my kind of person in real life, yet I find her fascinating enough to read an entire book about her. She actually reminds me of Miss Bianca (voiced by Eva Gabor in the old animated movie The Rescuers). Outwardly she appears to be merely another a wealthy California fashionista with a spoiled Yorkie she carries in a tote, but she has a good heart and a knack for unintentionally falling into situations--like witnessing the sudden death of the owner of her hotel at a nearby bakery when she's on vacation in New Orleans "to relax" from the pressures of owning a San Francisco boutique.

Even though this is the 3rd in a series, it is totally self-contained, and it actually makes me want to go back and read the other books. NOLA is colorfully and realistically portrayed. The supporting characters are all fully fleshed out and also colorful in their way. And the best thing was, I had NO idea who the murderer was, even though there were several I was sure HAD to be the one. What a fun book!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Compelling Christian fantasy

The Book Dragon has read Dare by Tricia Mingerink (Book One in the Blades of Acktar series) and gives it 5 claws!
My review: 4.5 stars for an interesting and compelling story set in a fantasy world that feels like a blend of a sort-of Regency era crossed with the Old West in the U.S., but it works. Especially the concept of the King's Blades. What made me keep reading, however, was the characters, from the young MC Third Blade Leith Torren to the also young Renna and her sister Brandi, all of whom are multilayered and sympathetic. This is apparently a young author's debut novel, but she's done a great job of sustaining suspense and interest while showing believable character growth. This is a clean read, suitable for young readers. The one thing I need to caution readers about is that it ends on a cliffhanger, which I wasn't expecting! I understand why authors do you'll want to immediately read the next in the series, but speaking as a reader, it is a bit disappointing to be turning pages as fast as you can to find out what happens next to these nice people in danger, and---yikes! I still recommend it! The Christian elements are strong throughout but never heavy-handed. I'll read the next one...eventually, but my TBR pile will keep me busy for years.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Exciting standalone installment in a cozy mystery series!

The Book Dragon has read Leaf Me Alone by Julie B. Cosgrove, the third in her Relatively Seeking Christian cozy mystery series based on genealogy and gives it a resounding five claws!
My review: Having read the previous two books in this interesting mystery series, I was eager to read the next installment. Leaf Me Alone is mostly from Shannon's POV, and she along with her husband Jayden travel from Texas to Florida to help her dying Bible study leader find her long-lost nephew. The plot is so deliciously twisty, I kept thinking I'd figured out where the author was going, only to be led in another exciting direction. As much as I love Bailey, Jessica, Chase, and Grady, I think this one is my favorite so far! The relationship between Shannon and Jayden was so real, and I enjoyed getting to "know" them better. If you like cozy mysteries, you  MUST read this series! Each book can stand alone, but they're even more fun read together, so you can make new friends with Shannon, Bailey, and Jessica!

Saturday, February 8, 2020

New book in a new series! Praise God!!!!

My last novel, Mercy's Joy, released in September of 2017. Right away I wanted to go back and finish a clean contemporary romance about two band directors I began 20 years ago, but those characters weren't talking to me. Then in one night, the outline for FIVE books in a new series based on Mercy's Children (one book for each of them) came into my head, fully formed! I took it as a sign I needed to write THOSE books!

And then my health spiraled downward yet again, leading to increased anxiety and inability to think, much less write. I was afraid my days of writing fiction were over.

But God was merciful again and again (as He has done my entire life) and not only were the health problems properly diagnosed, through the process of learning to manage them, my anxiety melted away and the words began to flow again! So, Book One in the new series, Mercy's Children, releases February 14, 2020, and I'm almost finished with the rough draft of Book Two, Joy's Sorrow.

Since I have to do my own formatting and covers now, I made all five covers at once (so I wouldn't forget how I'd done them--having chemo not once but twice has stolen a big portion of my short-term memory; I guess I'm related to Dory now). Ebook formatting is relatively straightforward, but paperback formatting is not, so I will have paperbacks eventually, but it might take awhile!!!!

To celebrate the release of Dolan's Bride, I've made each of the books in the He Who Finds Mercy series free one day at a time leading up to February 14th. Here's the schedule:
Feb 10: Mercy's Gift
Feb 12: Mercy's King
Feb 13: Mercy's Joy

Thank you for celebrating with me! Here are the covers for the rest of the series:

Monday, February 3, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: A wonderful fantasy adventure sequel!

The Book Dragon has finished The King's Shadow by M. L. Farb (The King's Trial Book Two) and gives it 5 claws!
My review: 4.5 stars for an exciting sequel to the epic The King's Trial, which made Book Dragon's Top 10 reads of 2019. Most of the characters from the first book make at least a cameo appearance, but this story takes off on a different tangent with multiple dangers and challenges for young King Halavant, his brother Yosyph (known variously as the Shadow Demon and the Yorel), Lady Katrin, and the healer Elise, the four viewpoint characters. A good portion of Halavant's journey is spent with the Carani, and it felt like total immersion into their fascinating culture(s). There are several scenes of nail-biting tension while this reader worried about what would happen to her favorite characters, and many twists and turns keep the reader guessing and turning those pages as quickly as possible! The only (very minor) disappointment was that the climactic battle seemed to happen too quickly; I would have loved to "see" a bit more of the struggle. But the story line is fantastic, the sensory details lush and realistic, and it was satisfying to see Yosyph's faith grow through his trials, and also Halavant's unexpected growth. Recommended to anyone who likes Christian fantasy adventure! Suitable for all ages.

Here's a better picture of the gorgeous cover:

Monday, January 27, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: A powerful contemporary story of love and forgiveness

The Book Dragon has finished Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk and gives it 5 claws!
My review: 4.5 stars for a compelling story that caused me to forget everything else for several hours in order to finish it. The two main characters, Dan and Emily, are so real and honestly drawn, I became attached to them right away and HAD to finish their story, even though I rarely read contemporary romance. Their pain is palpable, but the power of forgiveness is seen over and over, a great reminder to us all! The Pittsburgh setting is so detailed, it makes me want to visit! The supporting cast of characters is wonderful, especially Grandma, Elizabeth, and Colleen. I don't want to say too much and give away spoilers, but this is a story that can be read year-round, not just as Christmas! Recommended!

Note: There are a couple curse words, and a couple instances of excessive drinking, but otherwise a PG-13 read.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Retold Greek Mythology with Memorable Characters!

The Book Dragon has finished Labyrinth of Shadows by Kyla Stone and gives it 5 claws!
My review: 4.5 stars for a well-written and interesting twist on the Minotaur story from Greek mythology. The author has made Princess Ariadne even more sympathetic than the one I remember from the original story, mainly because she has so much spunk and determination and has not let her scarred and tragic childhood suck her down into despair. She's brave enough to dance with bulls and yet cares so much about others, she's willing to sacrifice herself to save the ones she loves. Her journey through the Labyrinth was frighteningly realistic and made the story difficult to put down. The other characters are memorable, too, including Ariadne's dysfunctional family, her heroic slave, and the doomed young tributes from Athens, which include the demi-god Theseus. The most tragic part of this story is the Minotaur himself, and I love the author's take on this well-known monster. I also appreciate how she handles the less-than-savory aspects of the original story to keep this a PG-13 read.

If you are interested in Greek mythology, especially the story of the Minotaur in the Labyrinth, or love to immerse yourself in a coming-of-age story with an unforgettable brave young woman, I recommend this book!

Here's a better picture of the gorgeous cover:

Monday, January 13, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: An epic historical family saga!

The Book Dragon has read Because That's What Families Do by Pamela Sharp and gives it a roaring five claws!
My 5 star review: This is a very long book, but in the tradition of epic historical fiction, it does not seem at all long because I was swept up in the story and totally immersed. The author has done such excellent research that it feels like I was transported back in time and experienced slices of life from the 1940's, 50's, and 60's with the members of a lovable, not-so-average family in South Carolina. The three main characters are the religious and initially mild-mannered Beth Bradbourne, her flamboyant cousin Sarah Lockridge, and the young man they both fall in love with, handsome devil Clayton Martin, who is a perfectly rotten antagonist. Not only these three become living, breathing humans, but the large cast of unforgettable secondary characters are portrayed in all their glory (or dishonor, as the case may be). I don't think I'll ever stop thinking about them because they've managed to permanently reside in my heart!

If you lived during those turbulent times, or have an interest in post-World War II history, or if you simply enjoy reading about the trials and triumphs of someone else's family (and be prepared to fall in love with this one), I highly recommend this book! There is no "on screen" sex or violence, but there is a bit of language (though the most offensive terms are not spelled out). There are so many quotable lines, but most of them are spoilers, so I won't post them. I'll just leave you with this wonderful quote: "You can't give people faith; you can only show them yours."

Monday, January 6, 2020

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: A delightful poetry collection for children!

The Book Dragon has read The Taco Magician and Other Poems for Kids by Diane Gonzales Bertrand and illustrations by Carolyn Dee Flores (Houston: Arte Publico Press, 2019) and gives it 5 claws!
My 5 star review: The cover of this book is such a fun invitation to the poetry inside and complements the poems. The book itself is bilingual: read from one direction in English, and turn the book over to read the same poems in Spanish!

The poems are kid-friendly and use all five senses in a feast of fun images. Although they are organized in three sections (Clapping for Me, Curious Surprises, and Poetry Confetti), they speak to kid-friendly subjects and events. Many of the poems celebrate Hispanic culture, such as "Cascarones" and "Abuelita's Kitchen Table" (which will make you salivate while reading it), and all are universal to childhood, no matter what the cultural background of the reader.

The collection itself is colorful and fun-to-read poetry confetti, just like breaking open a piñata as described in "Piñata Poems." Other favorites of mine are "Books Take Me Places," "Ice Cream Rides Down My Street," "Little Soldiers," and my #1 favorite, "Sleep Had a Slumber Party."

Ms. Bertrand is a tremendous wordsmith and paints beautiful images of familia from her life experiences growing up in San Antonio, Texas, all the while making her poetry accessible and enjoyable for children. She even subtly encourages children to write their own poems. I highly recommend this book!

Note: I received a review copy directly from the publisher, Arte Publico Press in Houston, Texas. Opinions are my own.