Friday, September 8, 2023

Review by the Book Dragon: #5 in a wonderful cozy mystery series


The Book Dragon has read Away With Words by Julie B. Cosgrove and gives it a roaring five claws!

My review: What a great book! After reading all the previous books in this series, I especially enjoyed following Wanda, Betty Sue, and Evelyn as they traveled to a women’s retreat in Louisiana, made new friends, and stumbled upon clues leading to yet another mystery. More clever word play and more scrumptious recipes to try! Wanda & Co feel like beloved friends now—all of them unforgettable and loveable and oh, so human. Just like us! Highly recommended.

I know this doesn't tell too much about the story, but I hate giving away spoilers. So here's the blurb from Amazon and a better image of the cover:

A brook, a shoe, and a bloody sock…

After two years of crime-solving, in which she was kidnapped, arrested, and had her kitchen blown to pieces, Wanda Warner agrees to go on a women’s retreat with her two best friends, Betty Sue and Evelyn… to get away for some much needed R&R. Especially when she hears they will play word games, her favorite pastime. Wanda has always had a way with words, as her nephew, the policeman, has told her many times.

But once again, solving the word puzzle clues to items on a scavenger hunt leads her to discover what could be a crime scene. Then she learns an area teenager is missing. So, why does the retired forensics scientist, who owns the retreat center, seem to downplay everything?

Can Wanda convince the authorities that the brook-soaked clues could lead to the girl’s whereabouts? And will she still be alive if they find her?

Here's the link to Amazon. Check out the entire series! (Though each can stand alone.)

Saturday, December 31, 2022

The 10 Best Books I read in 2022

I should have known by the water leak last New Year's Eve that 2022 wasn't shaping up to be an "easy" year. That leak led to a series of unfortunate events which necessitated many expensive repairs to our house, so expensive I had to go back to work. I now have a booth in Benbrook Antique Mall with a business name of "Third Time's the Charm" which has been slightly profitable this first year and more enjoyable than I anticipated. After trying unsuccessfully to sell our house (and moving out most of the stuff in the process to "show" the house) we resigned ourselves to staying in it and moved back in.

Needless to say, all those months of turmoil were not conducive to reading much fiction. Most of what I read, in fact, was for other indie authors--beta reading, proofreading, and in two cases, content editing.

I despaired of finishing my WIP, Fiona's Gift, but thankfully it came together and I managed to publish it over the summer, praise God! I have barely begun on the last in Mercy's Children series, and pray my words will return soon.

Another impediment to much reading has been failing eyesight. In the words of not one but TWO eye doctors, I have the "weirdest" eyes they've ever seen. I had to go back to the opthalmologist in our previous town to get a diagnosis of epiretinal membrane but I've decided not to do the surgery, which has extreme risks, especially since it's my only seeing eye. I'm just learning to cope with the vision I do have (it's like seeing the world through a wrinkled piece of cellophane) and be grateful.

So, I only read 25 books this year, and a good percentage of those were short ones. Thankfully there were some wonderful reads, and I can recommend these to you:

#10 War Between Worlds by Madelyn Braddock

This is a debut fantasy novel by a teen author that combines thoughtful world-building, interesting characters, and action, adventure, and a mystery. Book 2 is in the works.

#9 Fire from the Midst by Sarah Ashwood

This is book 3 of 4 in a suspenseful, gritty urban fantasy series combining a war between rival gangs of shapeshifters from Greek mythology and an unusual romance. Not my usual genre, but I've read other books by this author and got sucked into book 1 with her excellent writing skills!

#8 Fear by Corinna Turner

This is #7 in the unSPARKed dinosaur dystopian series that has become one of my all-time favorites, and not just because of the dinos! Turner's characters are unforgettable, and she makes the reader care deeply about what happens to them!

#7 In Other Words by Julie B. Cosgrove

This is book 3 in Cosgrove's fun cozy mystery series. I love her characters and the clever ways she weaves the plots around word play.

#6 All in Good Time by Carolyn Astfalk

This is a sweet contemporary romance with darker elements that bring to light current prevalent sins, but overall the story is uplifting with memorable and lovable characters.

#5 A Right Rex Rodeo by Corinna Turner

This is #6 in the dino series and is especially fascinating in its details of the hunter culture in Turner's realistic future world.

#4 Hang on Every Word by Julie B. Cosgrove

Book 4 in Cosgrove's mystery series is not quite as light as the others, and in some ways is the best so far! The MC is so human but relatable and admirable too!

#3 A Different Kind of Camouflage by Corinna Turner

A powerful episode #8 in the dino series, still suspenseful even though it takes place in the city and not outside the electrified fences where dinos are the obvious (but not the only) danger.

#2 Please Don't Feed the Dinosaurs by Corinna Turner

Turner's redo of book #1 made me nervous at first, because I couldn't imagine how she could improve on the original #1, Drive, but she did! It makes a stronger beginning to a fantastic series!

#1 A Different Kind of Freedom by Corinna Turner

This latest episode #9 in the dino series is so powerful, it was by far the best book I read this year (and for the past few years). Turner is a master at writing about characters of faith in mortal peril. I highly recommend this book, but it is best read as part of the series.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Powerful, emotional story about one of my favorite characters ever


The Book Dragon has read Corinna Turner's A Different Kind of Freedom, book 9 in the unSPARKed series and gives it a resounding 5 claws!
My review: I'm so grateful Ms. Turner released #8 and #9 close together, because the two stories happen at the same time and are woven together in many ways. It would have been excruciating to wait to read what happened to Josh! And this story is all his. When we last saw Josh in book 7, he was near death from an infected rex bite and would rather have died from his injury than be trapped in city, in prison because of his real phobia of the city. He does survive and he is sent to prison, so his worst nightmares have come true! This book is his intense, nail-biting survival story among the worst of human predators. And yet, he learns so many spiritual truths while in prison and grows in many ways. A unforgettable, powerful scene near the end brought tears to my eyes, the first time that has happened in this series (so far). There are rays of hope by the end, and I'm anxiously waiting for the next in the series to see how everything comes together between Josh and Darryl & Harry, for an unexpected revelation has changed everything! That's all I'm going to say about it; you must read it for yourself, and you'll be glad you did!

This book is featured, along with all of Ms. Turner's many wonderful books, at Catholic Teen Books.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Monday Review by the Book Dragon: Stellar installment in an exciting dinosaur dystopia series


The Book Dragon has finished Corinna Turner's A Different Kind of Camouflage, book 8 in the unSPARKed series and gives it a ripping 5 claws!

My review: I have read and loved every installment of the fast-paced, nail-biting unSPARKed series, but this one went even deeper into the emotions of teen siblings Darryl and Harry Franklyn, who have been taken into the "safe" city by a CPS villainess who joins a sort of "club" with Harry Potter's Dolores Umbridge and Hunger Games' Effie Trinket, all outwardly primped and proper nasties. She causes much trouble for Darryl and Harry; this is their brilliantly written "survival" story. For nearly a year, they learned the skills of living in the wild among dinosaurs and now must adapt those skills to predators and obstacles of different kinds in separate living facilities: Darryl in a group home and Harry with kind but completely unfamiliar foster parents. Though their obstacles to freedom appear impossible to overcome, there are rays of hope, and two scenes at the end will make your heart smile, even though they are not out of danger yet ... and the reader can't help but be as anxious about Josh's welfare as Darryl and Harry are. This is a must-read series for anyone who has been a nerd about dinosaurs, ages 8-88!

This book along with other wonderful books by the prolific Ms. Turner can be found at the Catholic Teen Books site.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Birthing a book is hard work


I never intended to disappear for so many months. On New Year's Eve we had a serious leak under our kitchen sink which led to having our foundation leveled (apparently a common problem in North Texas), more expensive repairs, and months' of other plumbing issues which still aren't resolved, but it looks like we're going to have our entire sewer system replaced (cast iron pipes for PVC). Needless to say, with all the money going out and watching our savings deplete as quickly as the plumber's water test proved there was a leak somewhere, I went back to work. I signed a lease for a 10 x 10 stall in an antique mall. It's been a lot of work, but more fun than I anticipated, meeting new people all the time and learning about "vintage" stuff. And best of all, all those extra steps I walk every day are helpful in managing my lymphedema, even in this Texas heat.

For awhile, I feared I had lost my ability to write. I had planned to finish Fiona's Gift in January and publish in March or April, but I couldn't concentrate, either on writing or reading books of any kind. But I kept pushing ahead, sometimes only writing a couple sentences or paragraphs a day, determined to slog through the drought of words. The book was complicated by the fact that the headstrong Fiona changed the plot on me. Good thing I let her, though, because it made the story much stronger. It also turned out to be the longest novel I've ever written--156,000 words!

I was able to finish, to my great relief. The Kindle version releases June 24, but it will be next month before the paperback will be ready, in part because the manuscript is so long, and because I have to remember how to format. Because Fiona's story changed, Tristam's will, too. I hope to begin the last book in this series as soon as possible.

Also because of something that happens in this book (totally unexpected), a third series is percolating inside my head: Mercy's Grandchildren. I really, truly thought Tristam's story would be the end of my time in Levathia, but the characters have taken on a life of their own, and I no longer control their lives. I am merely a scribe to record the stories they wish to be recorded. One of the strangest (and coolest) things that has ever happened to me!

Fiona is Mercy's most difficult child: headstrong to the nth degree. Her story is a kind of "prodigal daughter" tale (along with the further adventures of Val and Emma, and getting to know Tristam better). Even I didn't know what her "gift" would be until I finished writing the book! I hope and pray it is a satisfying read and an encouragement, which is always my goal, along with glorifying God my Father.

I have dedicated this book to a precious young mother who lost her life last December while battling covid in a hospital. I never had the opportunity to meet Allie in person, but she and I connected on FaceBook after her mother introduced her to Mercy & the gang. Allie was such an enthusiastic participant in my FB launch party for Mercy's Joy, which I designed to "feel" like an actual coronation party with a medieval tournament. For the first time I was SO tempted to give her one of the prizes, even though random(dot)org never once picked her number! She was so sweet to message me with heartfelt thanks that reading how Mercy and Valerian and Kieran handled the extreme trials in their lives encouraged her in her own struggles. That has been an unexpected blessing of this author journey--to connect with readers on such a deep level, I felt like a family member died when sweet Allie succumbed to the ventilator.

May you find joy in the midst of trials, for there is definitely joy to be found when we open our eyes!

Fiona's Gift on Amazon is 99 cents to preorder, and if I forget to change the price, like I did last year for Valerian's Flight, it will still be 99 cents after launch date. My chemo-induced brain damage is your gain! LOL

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2021

What a strange year for reading and writing and (lack of) concentration! I struggled to finish what I thought was going to be the easiest to write in my current fantasy series and felt a huge sense of relief when I published it in July. So far book 4 is flowing easier, but the story is veering away from what I thought it was going to be, so it will be interesting to see how this difficult character redeems herself....

Meanwhile, though I'm not including any on this list, I read much more nonfiction than I have in a long time, mainly because I made a New Year's resolution to develop a green thumb. I knew I couldn't grow plants the way my father did, or my sisters do, so I did it my way: science projects! I've managed to keep 90% of my houseplants thriving, but I'm still failing spectacularly with outside plants in this unforgiving climate. I'll keep trying!

Much of the fiction I read this year was by the same author, the fabulous Corinna Turner, which is why so many of her books appear in this list. I only "met" my Goodreads goal by counting Gerald and Piggie books I read aloud with my 7 year old granddaughter. Author Mo Willems does a fabulous job of writing fun and accessible books for struggling readers, and I appreciate him for encouraging my granddaughter and grandson to love books, but I haven't included any of those books in this list.

#10: The Guardian series by Kathryn Braddock

I read books 2 and 3 this year, and I must say, this teen author is so good at getting inside a wolf's head and making these characters believably realistic! If you like fantasy with wolves, I recommend beginning with the first book, as the trilogy is episodic.

#9: Her Mistletoe Mistake by Franky A. Brown

Romance is not my favorite genre, but Brown is especially good at writing "rom com" and this story is no exception! Ski-instructor Chloe and serviceman Nathan have both been burned in the recent past, but when they meet there are fireworks of all different kinds. A fun Christmas story with two lovable MCs and a cast of well-rounded minor characters set in the fictional town of Mistletoe, Colorado.

#8: Rightfully Ours by Carolyn Astfalk

This is an unusual love story about two teens, Paul and Rachel, but also involves a mystery about historical artifacts. The characters are real and engaging, and the setting is so well-drawn, the reader feels transported to the place. There is a strong theme of chastity and waiting until marriage, and the story deals realistically with the temptations faced by every teen in love.

#7: Liberation: A Dystopian Novel about Courage, Freedom, and Sacrifice by Corinna Turner

This is the third book in Turner's incredible I Am Margaret series, and it continues where the last book left off. Margaret, Bane, Jon, and the rest of the exiles are as safe as possible from the vengeful EuroGov, but Margaret can't help but think about how to liberate other teens destined to be killed to recycle their organs. So liberate they do, but at a very high cost. Nail-biting action and suspense! I recommend you start with book 1: I Am Margaret. You will never forget the courage of this amazing young woman!

#6: Word Has It by Julie B. Cosgrove

Mystery has never been my favorite genre, but Cosgrove writes fun cozy Christian mystery series. This is book 1 in a new series, and I love the way the author weaves the stories around word-themed clues, since her MC Wanda loves to play Scrabble with her nephew the policeman in a small Texas town. Wanda is believable and makes you want to give her a hug, and her friends and neighbors are all realistic, from the sensible to the zany to the suspicious. Recommended, even if you don't read mysteries!

#5: Marrying Emma by Melanie D. Snitker

I've read several other books by this terrific author. She writes Christian romance, and although romance is not my favorite genre, Snitker is SO good at writing sympathetic characters with whom it is easy to relate and cheer for. This book has two especially sympathetic characters: Marty who has lost a leg in an accident, and Emma who has had a heart transplant. Both are lonely but neither believes they'll find someone who can live with their medical challenges. This book can be read as a standalone in the series Brides of Clearwater, but it's good enough it will make you want to read more of them!

#4: Wild Life by Corinna Turner

This is #5 in Turner's excellent unSPARKed dystopian series, set in a future United States with dinosaurs. I used to despise dystopian novels until I discovered this author. She has created courageous and sympathetic characters with whom it is easy to love and admire, and focuses more on their spiritual lives while they are surviving in harsh and unforgiving places. I recommend you begin with book 1, since this series is episodic, but if you ever liked dinosaurs, it is worth your time, and you may find a new favorite series, like I have!

#3: A Dino Whisperer at the Zoo by Corinna Turner

Okay, this one is technically a short story, but it is SO good and can be read as a standalone from Turner's dinosaur series AND as a bonus, it's free on Amazon, so check it out! This author is SO good at writing heart-stopping action.

#2: Breach! by Corinna Turner

This is a stand-alone prequel novel in the unSPARKed series, and is well-written, compelling, and blew me away that Turner could write a dystopian novel with such a powerful pro-life theme! As a bonus, it details the origin of my favorite character in this world.

#1: Heartless Hette by M. L. Farb

Even though this book is #3 in a series, it is a stand-alone in every way. And oddly enough, when I first began this book, which became my favorite read of the year, I was worried I wouldn't be able to finish it. Farb is one of my new favorite writers, but Hette was not a very sympathetic character at first. As I continued, I saw why. This is the story of her journey--not just a physical quest, but a test of character for her. And what a magnificent journey it is, full of twists and turns, totally unpredictable! I loved the section with the riddles, and the wonderful supporting characters. I was fully immersed in this story and could feel the mud and grit, the unbearable tension and despair. The ending was completely satisfying and very unexpected! Highly recommended for all ages.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Time to stock up on Clean Indie Reads!


Today through Cyber Monday is a fantastic annual sale of Clean Indie Reads in several genres, all either free or 99 cents! I have several books in this sale, but I want to especially recommend three of my favorite fantasy series represented: Annals of Alasia by Annie Douglass Lima, Ilyon Chronicles by Jaye L. Knight, and The Blades of Acktar by Tricia Mingerink. Though I haven't read all of the books listed on this site, I've read a large percentage of them, and I can recommend most of the authors.

Here's the link: Black Friday Book Sale

I hope you find some new favorite authors!!!!