Review: Nirvana

Nirvana Nirvana by J.R. Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Revised Advance copy via NetGalley... pub date Nov. 10. 2015.)

I am revising my review after I read the revised version of this science fiction novel.

Admittedly, I did not give it a great review after reading it the first time. I do love science fiction and this promised to be good. I had a great deal of potential to be really good, and now the delivery surpasses expectations!

This story is now very well organized. I was being jerked hither and yon in the story before, but now the story flow is wonderfully like a rushing stream. Tension builds to a nerve-wracking point as Andrew and Larissa's story unfolds. The story is told from mostly one point of view (hooray!). Larissa is on a mission to discover what happened to her beloved Andrew, and she discovers corporate intrigue can be deadly.

The character development is great.

I this story will probably have great impact on something that is very close to reality... virtual reality. It is scary what is being done and is being considered in this field of science. Nirvana shines a bright light into this rather dark industry. Kudos to the author for that! And Kudos for good story telling.

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Review: Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company

Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company by Alexander Freed
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The story line is very good. You get a good feel for the weary soldiers fighting for freedom. You also get a better feel for the oppression of the Empire's system of domination.

The reader is given a timeline so you know where you are in this convoluted space opera. That's a very good thing.

While the story is good, the story telling is not top-notch. It seems rather more like a ramble than an action packed adventure. In other words, it is more a series of events rather than a story. While that can work for an experienced writer, Freed doesn't seem to be able to pull it off well.

Character development is choppy, and there are way too many points of view. Sometimes you have to read more than half a page to tell who's point of view you are reading. I hate that, therefore the 3-star review.

Advance copy from Netgalley...

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Review: Ashley Bell

Ashley Bell Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not sure this book was actually ready to be read. There are about 10,000 words that need to be edited out, only then will it make a fine suspense thriller. This isn't in the literary category that The City was in, it's just plain too wordy.

Although, the character development is superb. I would know these people if I met them on the street. The dialogue is natural, and everyone talks in their own character. Even the supporting characters are well-developed. That takes tremendous skill. But there are some paths that Koontz takes the reader down that truly bog down the story flow. Koontz does do very well with description, but somehow this book doesn't coalesce into his regular tale-weaving style.

If Random will toss this to an editor that can do the story justice rather than taking it raw from the author, this could be a best seller, or at least make a good showing. As it is now, that won't happen.

Advance copy from Netgalley...

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Lightless by C. A. Higgins


Riveting to the very end, real science fiction with lots of science. But the science doesn't boggle the mind, or dam up the story flow.

With that said, I have to say the ending falls flat. The author builds such a crescendo, and there's this little pop at the end instead of a huge BOOM. 

Character development is superb. I really understood all the characters and their motivations. Just a marvelous character-driven story. First, the author uses just two points of view, until an unexpected third character enters the story flow and drives the story in turbo gear. An amazing job. Every character is changed in some way by the events, or their motivations. That is classic storytelling at its best.

There is enough description given for the reader to build this ship-world in his or her imagination. That is superb story development. Your don't have to back track or reimagine something because the author slips in overmuch description after you've decided on the color of the walls and the carpet. It is just enough so you get the idea without bogging down the story flow with superfluous description. 

One other thing, though. The editor could have removed at least 5,000 - 7,000 words and made the writing much tighter and the story much more tension-filled. If only the ending was a bit different this would have been a whip-crack of a novel.


The deeply moving human drama of Gravity meets the nail-biting suspense of Alien in this riveting science fiction debut. With bold speculation informed by a degree in astrophysics, C. A. Higgins spins an unforgettable “locked spaceship” mystery guaranteed to catapult readers beyond their expectations—and into brilliantly thrilling new territory.

Serving aboard the Ananke, an experimental military spacecraft launched by the ruthless organization that rules Earth and its solar system, computer scientist Althea has established an intense emotional bond—not with any of her crewmates, but with the ship's electronic systems, which speak more deeply to her analytical mind than human feelings do. But when a pair of fugitive terrorists gain access to the Ananke, Althea must draw upon her heart and soul for the strength to defend her beloved ship.

While one of the saboteurs remains at large somewhere on board, his captured partner—the enigmatic Ivan—may prove to be more dangerous. The perversely fascinating criminal whose silver tongue is his most effective weapon has long evaded the authorities' most relentless surveillance—and kept the truth about his methods and motives well hidden.

As the ship's systems begin to malfunction and the claustrophobic atmosphere is increasingly poisoned by distrust and suspicion, it falls to Althea to penetrate the prisoner's layers of intrigue and deception before all is lost. But when the true nature of Ivan's mission is exposed, it will change Althea forever—if it doesn't kill her first.


The Most Famous Illegal Goose Creek Parade by Virginia Smith


I live in a small town. I know these characters! But... You don't have to live in a small town to enjoy this story. However, having visited a small town or at least having watched the Andy Griffith show will heighten your enjoyment just because you'll pick up on all the nuances.

I loved this book. The characters are wonderful. This is the kind of story that makes reading such a joy, and makes you want to leave everything else undone so you can fly away to Goose Creek! I'm still chuckling just thinking about it ... a true, sparkling jewel!

Millie has has decided that Al will need something to do when he retires. She's been married to him for ever so long and knows better that he what is good for him. I have watched many men retire thinking they will finally have time to do all those round-to-its, but only to find out there was way to much time in the day. Depression sets in, and that can lead to all sorts of problems. Anyone thinking to retire should take note... God did not call Abraham until he was 75!!

There's no preaching or even a lot of on-your-sleeve faith in the book. Yet, the wisdom shines, the patience glows, and dealing with frustration helps our souls to stretch especially when our lungs are exercised with a few belly laughs. Reading this book is good exercise.

Make sure you put this book on your reading list. Buy one for your mother, too! Make sure you put one in your church library, too! 

Five of five stars


In this first book of the Tales from the Goose Creek B&B, you’ll fall in love with a small town that feels like coming home. Its quirky characters and their many shenanigans will make you laugh out loud as they touch a place in your heart.
Even though retirement is still three years away, Al Richardson is counting the days. He anticipates many enjoyable years in which every day feels like Saturday. But Al’s wife, Millie, has different plans for their retirement. When she learns that a Victorian-era home is up for sale, Millie launches a full-blown campaign to convince Al that God’s plan for them is to turn that house into a B&B.

But a B&B won’t be the only change for the small Kentucky town. A new veterinarian has hung up her shingle, but she’s only got one patient—the smelly dog belonging to her part-time receptionist. And sides are being taken in the issue of the water tower, which needs a new coat of paint…but no one can agree who should paint it.
The situation is coming to a head. Who could have imagined a town protest over a water tower? And who would believe it could culminate in an illegal parade?

Get lost in a novel that reminds you why you love reading.

Chilvalrous by Dina Sleiman



I enjoyed this sequel much more than I did the first one. The first one was too much "the end justifies the means" and way too much adult motivations and actions from children, so it didn't come across as real.

This book is much better done, more believable. However, there is still very much of a fantasy about it. Except for Joan of Arc, history never records a woman being all about fighting. So Gwendolyn is in a class all by herself. However, the writing is so good you never really notice it.

Character development is very well done. Sleiman has two points of view, and they are so smoothly done the story flow is very good. Page-turning action along with heart-rending emotional challenges of the Middle Ages makes this a wonderful keeper.

I liked the way Sleiman weaves faith into the story line. I especially like how the characters grow and mature as the story unfolds. Most authors these days think that a series of happenings is enough, but to weave happenings with faith and character development is a talent that Dina Sleiman exhibits beautifully in this novel. 

Four of five stars!



With Her Future In Jeopardy, This Unforgettable Heroine Won't Go Down
Without a Fight!

Strong and adventurous Gwendolyn Barnes longs to be a knight like her chivalrous brothers, but her parents view her only as a marriage pawn. When her domineering father makes plans to see her wed to a brutish man, Gwendolyn must fight for her future.

She's surprised, however, for that clash to include a handsome, good-hearted newcomer. Allen of Ellsworth arrives in Edendale searching for his place in the world, but he finds in Gwendolyn the most unexpected of women.

Tournaments, intrigue, and battles--along with twists and turns aplenty--await these two as they struggle to find love, identity, and their true destinies.

Advance Praise

Praise for Valiant Hearts series!"Sleiman launches an action-packed, historical series of adventure and romance, starring a strong, intelligent female Robin Hood who lives up to the famous outlaw's reputation. This fun read makes a great adult-YA crossover for Robin Hood fans who enjoy a twist to a classic tale."
--Library Journal starred review of Dauntless

Review: Bathsheba: Reluctant Beauty

Bathsheba: Reluctant Beauty Bathsheba: Reluctant Beauty by Angela Elwell Hunt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I adore Angela Hunt's novels. The way she writes puts in right inside the life of her characters. Sometimes, I've even found myself praying for one of her characters...

But this book, not so much.

I guess in well-known Bible stories I have already built a "vision" of what went on so being faced with something different is a bit shocking.

However, the book is extremely well written. The characters come to life right out of Biblical pages. Hunt has done a superb job in research, and you can almost taste the dust raised by the feet of the people in this novel.

I do recommend it, especially for anyone who would like to better understand the society and times of David's day.

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The Lion and the Rose by Ricardo Bruni



I love stories set in times gone by. It doesn't matter what age, either. 

This one is set in the 1500s, and was originally written in Italian. Add to it that its a murder mystery, and how good can it get?

 Well... as it turns out the book is just a little bit on the tedious side. Character development is not as good as it should be, the mystery/tension is basically put on the back burner while the reader tries to understand the motivations of a monk called to Venice to solve the mystery. 

Instead of one mystery, you've got three to unravel, and because of that, none of them are done well.

I think the potential for a great book is here especially with all the ingredients, but the editing was not good so the story fell flat. Terror hovers just beyond reach, and with the number of characters the reader must keep up with make the book rates just 2 stars.



Translated by Aaron Maines
In sixteenth-century Venice three bodies surface in the dark waters of the Canal Grande. Entrenched in a terrible war with the Turks and caught in a political struggle between power-hungry Pope Alexander VI and the newly elected Doge Loredan, the people of Venice fear that a demon has come to exact divine punishment for their sins.
Doge Loredan is determined to find the real culprit before the Pope can turn the people against him. To do so, he hires unorthodox German monk Mathias to investigate the murders. Soon Lorenzo Scarpa, a young printer and nephew to one of the victims, joins in the search. The mystery leads them into Venice’s underground printing industry, where they learn of a dangerous book hidden somewhere in the city, a book whose secrets could determine the destiny of the Republic—a book that others are more than willing to kill for.


Review: Broken Windows

Broken Windows Broken Windows by Deb Brammer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is definitely a good teen read. The characters struggle with real-life challenges. That is good. While some answers naturally appear, others hover just out of grasp, and that is very much like real-life.

I liked the way these young Christian adults wrestled with faith challenges and questions. I liked the way they finally understood that Christians are family. Character development was good. Some were strong, others became stronger, but the main characters were developed well. The children were so much like today's kids that have never lived in Christian homes. I could feel their pain.

The dialogue is teenage level. It isn't snappy, or all that real-feeling. Brammer should focus on honing the dialogue in her next work.

Plot is good, but takes a little while to get moving. The head jumping is a bit jolting as the reader is jerked from one character to another without a well-plotted transition. Although, I have to qualify my remarks with the fact that I really hate head jumping. The mystery is actually a subplot. The book is not a mystery, but more of a Christian life study. It does not come across as preachy, which is well done. The situations and actions may be a bit heavy-handed, but that is so that the reader can easily see the problems and where the character should grow. That is also well done.

I liked the book. If the dialogue were better I would give it 4 stars, as it is, I give it 3 stars.

I am grateful to Deb for being in the Christian Books Only group and allowing me to read her book for my honest review.

Engraved in His palm,

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Review: Nirvana

Nirvana Nirvana by J. R. Stewart
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(Advance copy via NetGalley... pub date Nov. 10. 2015.)

I do love science fiction and this promised to be good. Well, it has a great deal of potential to be really good, but the actual delivery is not quite there, yet.

This story is not very well organized. I was being jerked hither and yon, and I was constantly trying to figure out what was going on. I have a vivid imagination, and can keep up with a fast paced novel, but this was too disjointed and jumped between characters without any transitions so readers are left wondering where they are in the story.

The character development was great at first, then dwindles into two-dimensional versions that are moved about like chess pawns rather than driving the story themselves. I think it is supposed to be a series of scenes that tell the story, but it doesn't quite mesh correctly so it reads like grinding gears. The journal entries read better...

If this story had some really good editing, it would be excellent. Without the editing, it falls flat and does not fulfill all the description promises. It isn't typos, it is story flow that has a major problem.

I realize this story may have great impact on something that is very close to reality... virtual reality. It is scary what is being done and is being considered. This story shines a bright light into this rather dark industry. Kudos to the author for that!

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Review: The Arrival

The Arrival The Arrival by J.W. Brazier
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I really tried to get into this book. I thought the premise was very intriguing, yet the delivery fell a bit flat.

The story line just could not overcome the shortcomings. For one thing, the thought that the most evil character to ever come into this world could be genetically engineered is not biblical. When I realized that this is where the author was going, I couldn't finish it. The story was no longer plausible. Advice to that author -- either stay in the Christian genre by being more biblically plausible or shift over to true horror and gallop down that path. Don't try to mix the two.

Science definitely has its place, and can certainly be used for evil purposes. (More people in America have been murdered through abortion than what Stalin and Hitler did combined.) Science also has a definite place in the Bible...

This is not a very well organized story. Some thing happen that are actually in the back story and just take up space without moving the story along. The dialogue is strained and forced at times. Head hopping happens seemingly randomly; there are no transitions. Therefore the reader is jerked about willy-nilly.

I do not recommend this book.

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Review: The Cactus Creek Challenge

The Cactus Creek Challenge The Cactus Creek Challenge by Erica Vetsch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a fun book!

I loved the characters. Vetsch developed all with such fine skill and a delicate refining brush. Well done. No head jumping without skilled transitions. The story may be a tad improbable, but it is crafted in such a believable way.

I highly recommend this book! It is a keeper, and you'll probably want to read it again in a year or two. It is well worth your money!

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