Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Red Blood, Yellow Skin by Linda L.T. Baer

Red Blood, Yellow Skin by Linda L.T. Baer
Publisher: River Grove Books (June 2015)
343 pages, eBook (provided by the publisher for review)
Book Rating: 4 Stars
Content Note: Includes Violence and Sexual Situations

This is a memoir of a young Vietnamese woman’s experience during the hostilities between France and Vietnam, then later between North and South Vietnam. Loan’s father was killed during the hostilities when she was very young, and after her mother remarried, her family was constantly on the move trying to escape the war-torn areas, while struggling to find enough food. Loan eventually sets off on her own to relieve her family of another mouth to feed and heads to Saigon looking for work, at the age of 13. Loan describes a harsh, yet simple existence in the countryside as a youth prone to getting in trouble, and a corrupt, chaotic lifestyle she was drawn into in the big city of Saigon. Very interesting to read from a Vietnamese point-of-view about a time period that we usually only hear from the American GI that was stationed there. Easy read, not overly encumbered by statistics or political history, but very focused on the story of a people caught in the middle of someone else’s fight.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Mud Dance by Neil Grimmett

The Mud Dance by Neil Grimmett
Publisher: Peach Publishing (June 2016)
191 pages, eBook (purchased myself for $4.99)
Book Rating: 4 Stars
Content Note: Includes Swearing, Sexual Situations, and Violence

Kenny and Larry met at school as young men, and the friendship they forged led to their lives being inextricably linked from then on, as they attempted to make it in the 1970’s heyday of the music business. In many ways, this is the story of the making of a washed-up rock musician, told in all its gritty glory. This isn’t an uplifting or overly hopeful story, but there is something to be said for realism—no glamorization here. Kenny was a very likable narrator, and I often felt he was the victim of bad surroundings and worse company more than anything else. Larry was a sociopathic, brooding musical prodigy of sorts, with a charisma that made him even more dangerous. Interesting story, full of colorful characters. Definitely gives you a little peek into the life of a struggling rock musician, as fame comes and goes, and they come to find their goals and motivations change along the way.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Divergent Lives by Minnie Lahongrais

Divergent Lives by Minnie Lahongrais
Publisher: Lahongrais Books (December 2012)
318 pages, eBook (provided by the Author for review)
Book Rating: 4 Stars
Content Note: Includes Swearing, Violence, and Sexual Situations

This is the story of two twins, separated at birth and raised in different households. Adina and Rhys both grow up to be disturbing people and we follow them as they do disturbing things, culminating in their lives intersecting to the detriment of all. The forward and backward organization of this story was a little jarring a first, you are constantly switching between storylines, and past and present, but once you get the rhythm it was a nice way of slowly revealing what led up to the events at the beginning of the story. This story is fairly dark and does include some taboo elements, which may not be for everyone, but I felt it was very well-written and vibrantly portrayed a variety of people with psychological problems (the two main characters weren’t the only ones with problems here). Very engaging read!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Stolen Years by Kazia Myers

Stolen Years by Kazia Myers
Publisher: Matador (June 2016)
394 pages, eBook (provided by the publisher for review)
Book Rating: 4 Stars
Content Note: Includes Swearing, Violence, and Mild Sexual Situations

At seventeen, Anna is among the Polish youth that are rounded up in 1940 and sent to live on farms to provide labor in order to supply German forces with food. Luckily she is assigned to the same farm as her older brother’s three friends: Michal, Franek and Staszek. They arrive thinking with optimism that they can put by a bit of money then pursue their dreams, but in reality their new existence is harsh, uncompromising, bleak, of indeterminable length and they are little more than slaves. There are frequent episodes of German brutality, committed both by the Gestapo and their overseers at the farms. A great story of friendship and human endurance, as well as a reminder that a great many people suffered under the Nazis and we shouldn’t forget them or what they went through. Toward the end I felt a sense of fatigue that no matter where they went bad things just kept piling on top of them and they had to continue to muddle through, but I’m sure that is how it was. The ending wasn’t particularly happy, but I was almost grateful that after all they suffered, the ending wasn’t rose-colored or glamorized. Great characters, and a very engaging read!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Risuko by David Kudler

Risuko by David Kudler
Seasons of the Sword Series, Book 1
Publisher: Stillpoint Digital Press (June 2016)
230 pages, eBook (provided by the Publisher for review)
Book Rating: 5 Stars
Content Note: Includes Very Mild Sexual References

Kano Murasaki is a young girl most at home when climbing, so she is called Risuko (Squirrel). She finds herself unexpectedly sold one day by her mother to a woman who wants to train her to be something special—something called a Kunoichi. Beautiful story that captures both the innocence of youth and the grace of the Japanese culture. So many complex and interesting characters. Risuko, herself, is just starting to come into her abilities in this story and I thought it was interesting to see her struggling with the expectations that people have for her, both immediately and in the future. She perhaps isn’t always a strong heroine, but I think a realistic one—fears, faults and all. Very engaging story and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Bright Eyes! Hope to see it out soon!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Possessed by Evan Ronan

The Possessed by Evan Ronan
The Unearthed (Eddie McCloskey) Series, Book 7
Publisher: Calhoun Publishing (June 2016)
295 pages, eBook (provided by the Author for review)
Book Rating: 5 Stars
Content Note: Includes Swearing , Violence and Mild Sexual References

This time around, Eddie is called in by a guy who has been accused of murder by a psychic who claims to have communicated with the person that was killed. Eddie’s got his friend, Stan, along for the ride with him on this one, and I really liked the interplay between those two characters, it reminded me of the camaraderie between Eddie and his brother, Tim, at the beginning of the series. It was nice that Eddie didn’t have to go it alone this time, poor guy. Lots of interesting twists as you try to figure out how all the people involved are connected, and which if any are possessed. Great, fast-paced read! I hope Eddie gets one last adventure to kind of wrap up the series and put some closure on his brother Tim’s death. Entertaining series!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Rebel and the Runaway by Chris Thorndycroft

The Rebel and the Runaway by Chris Thorndycroft
Publisher: Chris Thorndycroft (February 2016)
237 pages, eBook (provided by the author for review)
Book Rating: 4 Stars
Content Note: Includes Swearing, Violence and Sexual Situations

When a youthful indiscretion has unintended consequences, Alice runs away from home at 15, naively hoping to make a life with the boy she thought loved her, only to find herself amongst smugglers and the trouble that follows them. Interesting tale of smuggling in 1740’s England, that describes how a comparatively innocent crime snowballed into something much worse, raising the stakes for all involved. The telling revolves, for the most part, around the romance between Alice and Will Carter (one of the main figures in the smugglers’ gang), Alice’s viewpoint of the events being a nice vehicle for the novice to this little known bit of history. It got a little dry at times, and perhaps could have used a little less historical detail at certain junctures, but overall is a very smooth read. Adventurous story, with some complex and interesting characters. I found myself thinking about the characters and the situations they found themselves in, long after I finished the book. Good read!