Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Hannah's Moon by John A. Heldt

Hannah's Moon is the fifth in the American Journey series by John A. Heldt. I've had the pleasure of reading two of the other titles. So far I've really enjoyed this creative series. You can read my reviews of Class of '59 and Indiana Belle.

In Hannah's Moon we meet Claire and Ron who are anxious to start a family. They turn to adoption, but the process is long. Then Claire's uncle offers them the unique opportunity to travel to a time when adoption will be easier. He sends them to 1945.

I had mixed feelings about Hannah's Moon. Heldt's story broke my heart right off the bat. I was blindsided by a twist in the very beginning. But the story slowed down significantly after that. There was a lot of talking and not much going on until well into the second half of the book. It did pick up later on, however. The action then sucked me back in. I'm just disappointed that it took so long to get there.

I tend to overthink small details. One of the details that was never explained was why Claire and Ron needed to stay in 1945, travel to Tennessee, and complete the adoption process. Clearly any documents they took from 1945 would be worthless in proving the adoption of a toddler in 2017. If Uncle Geoffrey is so good at forging documents, all they needed to do was go to an agency, start the adoption process, and then go right back to their own time with the child. There was no clear reason to stick around for a court hearing. I understand there wouldn't be any story in that, but it was a loose end in the back of my mind throughout the whole story.

Another detail that irked me involved Claire transitioning into the time period. Rather, I was annoyed that she didn't need to make any adjustments at all. She's a 21st Century working woman. Then she goes back to 1945 and steps right into the role of housewife and mother. Very few modern women would have an easy time keeping a house and feeding their family without modern conveniences. Not to mention diapering a baby without Pampers and baby wipes. But there's no mention of any of that. It would have been nice to see this explored.

Although Hannah's Moon is part of a series, it can be read as a standalone book without any confusion. But I recommend reading American Journey from the beginning because it is an interesting and creative series. If you love time travel novels as much as I do, this is one collection you shouldn't miss.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Hideaway Fall Swag Bag

Today I got an exciting package in the mail. I love surprise packages. I'd been contacted a few months ago by a new independent publisher, Hideaway Fall. They sent me this charming swag bag to get me in the mood for all the reading I'll be doing.

 Their first title is Broken Branches. I can't wait to get my review copy. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Didn't Get Frazzled by David Z. Hirsch

I was looking for a book that was different from any of the 30+ books I reviewed last year. When I was presented with Didn't Get Frazzled I knew that was it. A novel about medical school-- pretty much as different as I could get. I work with doctors, so I was interested in getting a sense of what the whole medical school experience was like. Hirsch did a great job of introducing characters with the variety of personalities I expected to find in a group of doctor hopefuls.

Didn't Get Frazzled isn't about as much of the technical parts of medical school as it was the personal and emotional toll this unique education takes on the main character Seth. There were quite a few cringe-worthy scenes, so if you have a weak stomach I would recommend you skip it. Hirsch's account of Seth's first gynecology lesson was so real and vivid that I could almost literally feel his instructor's pain. The book was sprinkled with these kinds of experiences which were sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and sometimes a mixture of both.

Unfortunately for Seth, his long-time relationship suffers through his intense schedule and eventually succumbs to the pressure. I felt that Hirsch did an amazing job of illustrating the stress and sacrifice of becoming a physician. 

I recommend Didn't Get Frazzled to anyone who knows a doctor, wants to be a doctor, or wants to relive the insanity of medical school. It definitely gave me a greater appreciation for the doctors in my life.

You can get your copy from Amazon. Be sure to visit the author's website for more information and more reviews.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Unusual Second Life of Thomas Weaver by Shawn Inmon

The Unusual Second Life of Thomas Weaver wasn't a requested review. I bought it for my Kindle because I found the plot interesting. Thomas is a middle-aged man who commits suicide and finds himself back in his fifteen-year-old body in 1976.

The book showed a lot of promise. The writing was technically good. The plot was engaging. There were plenty of surprises. However, I found it to be somewhat contrived in places. It's a common problem with stories about people visiting the past. And the musical references were nice--I'm a music lover--but very much overdone. I didn't need to know what the characters were listening to when it wasn't really relevant to the story.

But The Unusual Second Life of Thomas Weaver was thought-provoking. I found myself wondering what I would do if I were thrust back into my teens. And I appreciated the author's concept that Thomas didn't really know what was going to happen because even the smallest changes had a huge effect.

In all, I'm glad I read the book, but I'm not going to bother with the sequel.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Blue Moon Vegan by Paula Marie Coomer


First I'll say that I'm not vegan. I classify myself as a flexitarian; I'm not a fan of meat, but I eat it on occasion. So I was really happy for the opportunity to review Blue Moon Vegan, a cookbook free of animal products of any kind. I've wondered for a while how a vegan diet would fit into my busy life.

The recipes in Blue Moon Vegan are clear and easy to follow, for the most part. There were quite a few ingredients that I had to purchase for my pantry, like Veganaise and agave syrup. Some elements required extra preparation, such as those with "eggs." But those would probably be regular ingredients to a true vegan.

My favorite recipe was the Chick Salad, which is similar to a chicken salad for sandwiches. There was a little hiccup with the instructions as the recipe called for miso but didn't specify powder or paste. In the end I chose to substitute with tahini and soy sauce because I didn't want to invest in the very expensive ingredient that I might never use again.

I made vegan bread in my bread machine and served the sandwiches to my coworkers. It was a hit. The flavor was outstanding, even with the miso substitute. I can't wait to make it again.

Most of these dishes look like they would appeal to anyone, not strickly vegans. And trying some of them out has made me more confident that I could cater to friends without using animal products. I'm excited to try a few more recipes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Follow You Home by Mark Edwards

I don't usually read thrillers, so Follow You Home was a departure for me. It's also from a mainstream publisher and I normally prefer to read independently published fiction. But it was free on my Kindle and sounded interesting, so I went for it.

The story began with a privileged couple making their way across Europe. But soon they found themselves kicked off a train in Romania in the middle of nowhere. Something horrible happened to them, but they refused to talk about it, even to the reader. So we have to read on to find out what terrors they could have experienced in the Romanian forest to drive them from each other and ruin their lives.

Follow You Home had me hooked. It was fast paced. I couldn't put it down. I may have shirked many of my responsibilities to uncover the mystery. But when I did it was well worth it. 

My only complaint is that I felt like the editor skimmed over the middle of the book. There were a few redundancies and at least one plot mistake. I expect better from a large publishing company. But I still enjoyed the book from cover to cover.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Ordinary Mystic by Curran Galway

When I took on Ordinary Mystic I was expecting something spiritually inspiring. After all, regardless of our chosen faiths, it feels good to be inspired by another person's spiritual journey.

But the book turned out to be something different. At first it was tedious and I wondered if I would have to spend 400+ pages at a Catholic retreat or talking to God in a closet. Then it turned into something else.

SPOILER ALERT: It became a somewhat smutty novel about a not-yet-divorced woman's affair with a priest. That took me by surprise. Not that I'm a prude, but that's not the type of mood my brain had been prepared for when I started the book. The somewhat graphic sex scenes and the violent moments didn't gel with the spiritual promises at the beginning of the story.

I had a hard time finishing Ordinary Mystic, but I did. Don't get me wrong, I think that Curran Galway is a talented story-teller. I just think the book should be presented as 'Light Catholic Erotica' instead of 'Spiritual Transformation'.

If you're into that kind of thing, though, I recommend this book. It is well-written and compelling. It's just not the kind of story I was looking for.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Oh! The Things You Can See In The Dark by Cathleen Francisco

'OH! The Things You Can See In The Dark!' is a picture book for children ages 3 and up. The premise of the book is to reveal that which can only be seen in the dark or those things made more glorious by the absence of light. While children may often perceive the dark to be ominous, the book shows a magical aspect of the night through the vibrant and lush imagery used. The illustrations are photography-based and highly manipulated in Photoshop. An amalgamation of visual components are used to create the dramatic and brilliantly colored landscapes that are a combination of realism and fantasy. The text is divided between child and adult. For the child, simple questions that can lead to curious discoveries. For the adult, a bit of trivia to offer a stepping off place for the reader to begin a dialogue with the child, create a story of their own, or continue to explore the night.

First I'll say that I'm a fan of the dark. I've always loved the contrast of artificial lights against the night sky. And black is my favorite color. So this book was visually appealing to me. It's beautifully done and the photographs are stunning. The author was kind enough to send me a signed hardcover copy.

Oh! The Things You Can See in the Dark is an interesting fact-filled book for older children and adults, but also has a passage on each page for little kids. I read both to my son. We enjoyed answering each page's questions together. The interaction was fun and a different pace for our bedtime story.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book. It's a beautiful work of art. It looks great on my coffee table.

Oh! The Things You Can See In The Dark received an Honorable Mention from the New York and San Francisco Book Festival Award competitions.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

New Submissions


Please visit our "Guidelines" page for instructions on submitting your book.
Remember, I do not accept children's books in any digital format.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Death by Roses by Vivian R. Probst

The story of Mae Rose's death is heartbreaking. She's just had a giant misunderstanding with her underappreciated husband Art. In the midst of it she dies in a humiliating fashion, leaves her body, and is mortified to see herself in a grotesque way. After all, she has spent her life caring about how she's perceived by other people.

Death by Roses is a wonderfully creative story. Vivian Probst has illustrated for her readers a unique and interesting view of the afterlife. The story didn't grab my interest much until Mae Rose died and crossed over, only to be scolded by her deceased mother. But it was a good grab.

My only issue with the book was that there were too many characters. I had a hard time keeping them straight and sometimes had to flip back to previous chapters to remember who they all were.

Some chapters were dedicated to side characters such as the old woman's nurse and her romantic venture with the creepy doctor. This was a great side story, but it wasn't at all necessary to the story. I would like to have seen their story possibly as a follow-up novel to Death by Roses.

Regardless, it's definitely a novel worth reading. There's plenty of humor, but it also raises questions for the reader that they may or may not want to deal with such as "Am I appreciative enough of the important people in my life?"

Monday, January 2, 2017

Favorites of 2016

Yes, I'm a little late on my favorites list for 2016, but I've been seriously crazy busy. I sold my house in 2016, moved in with my in-laws and moved again when I bought my current house. All this between May and November. But I finally present to you my Top Five Favorite Books Read in 2016.

It's weird looking back on all these books I read and think of the places they took me. It feels like looking at the snapshots from 37 vacations. Hmm...

Most of these are self-published or small press as that's really what this blog is all about. Click on the book title to read my review.

#5 Yes Please! by Amy Poehler

#4 If I Was Your Girl by by Meredith Russo

#3 Indiana Belle by John A Heldt

#2 The Adventures of Gracie and Monkeybear by C.S. O'Kelly

#1 Cape May by Holly Caster