Cover Love.

Cover Love

I think the reason I prefer print books over e-books are the covers.  I understand that an image appears when browsing through the endless e-book catalogues, but there is something unique and almost magical about being able to hold that cover in your hands and soak in all its nuances.  With this in mind, here are my five favourite book covers based on my reviews of 2013.  The list is, as usual, is in no particular order they are just covers that made me really want to read the book.

 

Those who save usTitle ~ Those Who Save Us
Author ~ Jenna Blum
ISBN 13 ~ 9780156031660
Pub Date ~ April 5th, 2004
Publisher ~ Harcourt Books

Description ~ For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy’s sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald.

Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother’s life.

Comments ~ Reviewed August 26th, 2013

 

Under the Black ensignTitle ~Under the Black Ensign
Author ~L. Ron Hubbard
ISBN 13 ~ 9781592123391
Pub Date ~September 8th, 2008
Publisher ~Galaxy Press

Description ~ Long before Captain Jack Sparrow raised hell with the Pirates of the Caribbean, Tom Bristol sailed to hell and back Under the Black Ensign. That’s where the real adventure begins.

Bristol’s had plenty of bad luck in his life. Press-ganged into serving aboard a British vessel, he’s felt the cruel captain’s lash on his back. Then, freed from his servitude by pirates, his good fortune immediately takes a bad turn . . . as the pirates accuse him of murder—and leave him to die on a deserted island. Now all he has left are a few drops of water, a gun, and just enough bullets to put himself out of his misery.

But Bristol’s luck is about to change. Finding himself in the unexpected company of a fiery woman and a crafty crew, he unsheathes his sword, raises a pirate flag of his own, and sets off to make love and war on the open seas.

Comments ~ Reviewed November 19th, 2013

 

The webTitle ~The Web
Author ~Richard Stephans (Steve Burns)
ISBN 13 ~ 9781483977812
Pub Date ~June 12th, 2013
Publisher ~Createspace

Description ~ Ute was dead! The police asked if she had any problems – if she was depressed. They said her death looked like an accident but it could also be suicide. Her friends couldn’t believe it. They knew Ute. Suicide was impossible – it had to be an accident! It was two years ago that the four of them had first met at the NPD meetings, a right-wing extremist political party in Munich where they had quickly become good friends. Ute was the expert on the violence of the right-wing extremists. Her brother had been an active part of the skinhead violence against foreigners and asylum seekers and was now in prison. She understood the dark side of the NPD. Anya was the intellectual – the historian. She knew about the past – the legacy of the right-wing extremists and she understood their push for power. Anya, Ute and their two friends had joined the NPD out of curiosity and were now trapped in a dangerous web of extremism where hate, racism and lies were the strands that held it together and gave it strength. Could they escape? And what about Ute? Anya said she had a secret that no one knew about – and now she was dead! Was it really an accident – or was it suicide? “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana.

Comments ~ Reviewed October 17th, 2013

 

The Looking Glass WarsTitle ~ The Looking Glass Wars (The Looking Glass Wars #1)
Author ~ Frank Beddor
ISBN 13 ~ 9780803731530
Pub Date ~September 26th 2006
Publisher ~Dial Books

Description ~ When Alyss Heart, heir to the Wonderland throne, must flee through the Pool of Tears to escape the murderous aunt Redd, she finds herself lost and alone in Victorian London. Befriended by an aspiring author named Lewis Carrol, Alyss tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Alyss trusts this author to tell the truth so that someone, somewhere will find her and bring her home. But he gets the story all wrong. He even spells her name incorrectly!

Fortunately, Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan knows all too well the awful truth of Alyss’ story and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she may eventually battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.

The Looking Glass Wars unabashedly challenges our Wonderland assumptions surrounding mad tea parties, grinning Cheshire cats, and a curious little blond girl to reveal an epic battle in the endless war for Imagination.

Comments ~ Reviewed September 5th, 2013

 

Mastering the artTitle ~ Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris
Author ~Ann Mah
ISBN 13 ~ 9780670025992
Pub Date ~ September 26th, 2013
Publisher ~Pamela Dorman Books

Description ~ When journalist Ann Mah’s diplomat husband is given a three-year assignment in Paris, Ann is overjoyed. A lifelong foodie and Francophile, she immediately begins plotting gastronomic adventures à deux. Then her husband is called away to Iraq on a year-long post—alone. Suddenly, Ann’s vision of a romantic sojourn in the City of Light is turned upside down.

Comments ~ Reviewed September 3rd, 2013

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Review: The Lifeboat ~Charlotte Rogan

lifeboatGrace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life.

In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying her and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize is over capacity. For any to live, some must die.

As the castaways battle the elements, and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she’d found. Will she pay any price to keep it?

4 Thumbs-UpPut aside some time and make sure you won’t be disturbed when you pick this debut novel up.  Yes, it’s that good, but not quite good enough to receive 5 thumbs from this reviewer, and I’ll explain why later in the review.

This book makes you think, and re-evaluate everything you think you would personally do when faced with a survival situation; will you become someone you don’t recognise or will you be able to stand firm in your moral and ethical beliefs?  This novel was a page turner from the very first, it made me really think and wonder how I would react in this kind of dilemma, and do I know myself as well as I think I do.

Character development is so subtle in this book that it almost appears there is none at all.  Given the changing nature of each of those featured within its pages, the Author does an outstanding job of making all them credible and believable.  The reader learns a little of their background, and the events that brought them to the place the book is set in and, sometimes, this makes the course of action they choose to take just a little bit harder to understand.  As I said it makes you question your own motives in certain circumstances, and certainly makes you gasp as you read the decisions these lifelike and 3 dimensional characters make.  The only downside to the characters was actually the main protagonist; she is the narrator for the story, and an unreliable one at that.  Whether this is a deliberate action on the part of the Author I’m not sure, but if it was I’m not convinced that this was the right way to bring the story across.

The story itself is very well written and carefully told.  Not only does it have all the elements required of a captivating survival story, it is peppered with all the ingredients of a mystery novel; intrigue, lies, misdirection, motives and manipulation.  This brings me to the reason I couldn’t give this novel a five thumbs rating – the ending.  After all the ups and downs the Author takes the reader through in earlier pages, the ending came across as being rather flat and lacklustre in my opinion.  I was expecting yet another twist, which led to a conclusion to the book that was just as unexpected as other incidents, but this was not the case and I felt cheated in some way about this.

I would highly recommend this book to lovers of all genres, as there is something in it for every reader.

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From Our House to Yours….

happy holidays3I’m taking a small vacation, book reviews will restart on Monday 30th December.  Have a safe and Happy Holidays everyone.

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Review: The Mysterium (Hugh Corbett #17) ~ Paul Doherty

MysteriumA mysterious assassin prowls the narrow alleyways of London. February 1304, and a succession of brutal murders shocks London as it comes to terms with the fall from power of Walter Evesham, Chief Justice in the Court of King’s Bench. Accused of corruption, Evesham has sought sanctuary to atone for his sins. When Evesham’s clerk is cruelly murdered, and then Evesham himself is discovered dead in his abbey cell, it appears that the Mysterium, a cunning killer brought to justice by Evesham, has returned to wreak havoc. Sir Hugh Corbett is ordered to investigate. Has the Mysterium returned or is another killer imitating his brutal methods? As Corbett traces the ancient sins that hold the key to discovering the killer’s identity he must face his most cunning foe yet.

3 Thumbs-UpI do like a mediaeval mystery novel occasionally, and was looking forward to reading this when I discovered it.  It wasn’t until I was closing the cover that I realised this was the 17th book in the Hugh Corbett series, making this an ideal novel for those who don’t want to get caught up in yet another long running series.

The characters, both main and minor are written with all the dirt and smell of the middle ages attached to them.  So much so, that at times, I almost turned my nose up at some of the imagined odours spilling from the characters in the book.  It was almost like ‘scratch and sniff’, the scratch definitely coming from the descriptions of the unhygienic place that London was in the 1300’s. As with most historical novels, the dialogue can sometimes become a little bogged down as the Author tries to recreate the speech patterns of the time, and it was no different in this book; it didn’t take anything away from the characters it just had a tendency to slow things down to the point where I felt as if I were trying to walk through one of those filthy streets.

The novel is a classic ‘locked door’ mystery, but with the slow build up and totally unexpected twists and turns in the plot, it didn’t come across as being stale or yet another reworking of a tried and tested plot line.  I enjoyed the fact that when I thought I had everything figured out, something would appear that proved me wrong.  At times however, I felt that this book was a bit too over descriptive, and this did dilute my enjoyment of it to a certain degree.

Would I read any of the other books in this series?  I don’t really know, but I would recommend them to lover of historical mystery novels.

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Review: Sunshine (Sunshine #1) ~ Nikki Rae

Sunshine18-year-old Sophie Jean is pretty good at acting normal. Sure, she’s not exactly happy, but happiness is nothing compared to being like everyone else. She can pretend she’s not allergic to the sun. She can hide what her ex-boyfriend did to her. She can cover up the scars she’s made for herself. Ignore anything. Forget anything. Then Myles enters her life, and he has more than a few secrets of his own. When accident after accident keeps happening to Sophie, she can’t help noticing that he’s everywhere. That he knows too much. That she’s remembering too much.

It’s one thing covering up her own dark past, but does she really need to worry about people finding out just how much Myles likes her? Or that despite how much she doesn’t want to repeat past mistakes, she kind of likes him back? Not to mention the fact that she now has to conceal that Myles drinks blood-that he says he’s about four hundred years old.

She almost forgot about that part.

But Sophie has no plans to ruin the normal life she has created for herself. She can deal with this little glitch, no problem. Even if word has gotten around to the wrong vampire about Sophie and Myles, even if she’s putting the few people she loves at risk. Suddenly, those who were monsters before are just people, and the monsters? They’re real. Now being a normal human being is the least of her problems. Now she has to stay alive.

3 Thumbs-UpThis was definitely not my usual choice of a read and review book as it contains the dreaded ‘romance’ that can sometimes overwhelm a book and make it all too cloying and sickly sweet.  Not the case with this debut novel from this Author, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  I can honestly say I wasn’t looking forward to reading this book at all, but now that I have, I am really glad that I took that leap of faith and read on until the end.

The characters in this novel were what really made it worth my time, in my opinion. They were well-developed and fleshed out enough to make them easy to like, or dislike if they were of that persuasion.  The main protagonist had a depth and originality to her that is often lacking in books of this kind, and it was refreshing to see that the Author wrote her in a way where she was not full of teenage angst, but able to open up, grow and move on from the things which were originally holding her back.  This quality made her easily likeable, and probably someone most readers would want to know in reality.  Even the minor characters, to a point, were given enough depth to make them interesting and not just appear as ‘part of the scenery’

Unfortunately if you are looking for the next great thing in the paranormal/creature love interest genre, you won’t find it here.  This book is in a genre that in my opinion has been done to death making it hard for any new Author to find a different approach to writing it; the plot wasn’t anything new and groundbreaking, but there were so many good things going on in the book that this didn’t detract too much from the overall enjoyment.  However, what I do feel would have really pulled it up another notch, would have been the use of a really good proof reader and/or editor as some of the flaws that appeared should have been picked up by those working in this area of the book.

Overall, I would recommend this book to lovers of this genre, and I will probably be reading some more in the series as I am intrigued to see how the Authors style, and the plot/characters, develops as it progresses.

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“A Soldier’s Christmas Poem” ~ LCDR Jeff Giles, SC, USN

Arlington1

“A Soldier’s Christmas Poem”

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know, Then the
sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
“What are you doing?” I asked without fear,
“Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light
Then he sighed and he said “Its really all right,
I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night.” “It’s my duty to
stand at the front of the line,

That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ‘Pearl on a day in December,”
Then he sighed, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.”
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ‘Nam’,
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he’s sure got her smile.

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue… an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.”

“So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.”
“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
“Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son.”
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
“Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.”

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Review: By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings #1) ~ Jill Williamson

Darkness HidGiven the chance to train as a squire, kitchen servant Achan Cham hopes to pull himself out of his pitiful life and become a Kingsguard Knight. When Achan’s owner learns of his training, he forces Achan to spar with the Crown Prince–more of a death sentence than an honor. Meanwhile, strange voices in Achan’s head cause him to fear he’s going mad. While escorting the prince to a council presentation, their convoy is attacked. Achan is wounded and arrested, but escapes from prison–only to discover a secret about himself he never believed possible.

3 Thumbs-UpThis is a debut novel from this Author, and the first in a trilogy which, if this book is anything to judge the others by is going to be an enjoyable series.

There are two main protagonists in this novel, and both are written masterfully and with pen that draws the reader to them and results in them caring deeply about these characters.  Their comparative lifestyles are woven together skilfully and this gives them a feeling of being more than one-dimensional character that can so often appear in a novel in this genre.  The care with which the main characters are written spans over any and all characters the reader encounters as they progress through the book, making it one that does not leave the reader wondering who a certain person and what their role in the scheme of things is.

Initially getting immersed into the story presented a challenge, as the world in which it is set is again totally different from any other books I’ve so far read  in this genre; it presents the reader with a whole new culture and time period, that once it becomes familiar will completely engulf you.

Unfortunately, the masterful storytelling and great character development was marred by the use of rather windy verbiage and a lack of use of simple verbs; in my opinion the Author did not need to go down this route to prove that they have a good command of the English language, and the overuse of descriptive language had a tendency to slow the novel down rather than allowing it to move at a steady and reliable pace.  I’m also hoping that when the next instalments of the trilogy are published the Author chooses to use a more adept proof-reader; there were some very noticeable errors throughout the book that really marred the end product.

I highly would recommend this book novel, or are looking for a different approach in this genre and, despite the errors I have pointed out I am looking forward to reading the remaining books in the series.

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