eBook review: The Shield of Nike

The Shield of Nike (War on the Gods Companion Story #1)

The Shield of Nike by A.P. Mobley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The blurb: Valeria is in love with her best friend, Greg, and has been for years. But they can’t be together, because after they graduate high school they’ll be on opposite sides of the country. This seems to be Valeria’s greatest dilemma—until a freak storm ambushes the two on a hike a few miles outside their town.

During the storm, Greg is injured, and a strange shield falls from the sky and knocks Valeria unconscious. When she wakes up, her whole world is turned upside down. Greg is missing, her town has been annihilated, deadly creatures roam, and the disembodied voice of a woman she knows nothing of talks to her from inside her own head.

The woman says Greg has been taken, but that Valeria can save him and survive the perils awaiting her if she harnesses the “gifts” she was given at birth, and if she uses the shield that fell from the sky. But how can Valeria trust a woman she’s never met?

She’ll have to rely on herself and face horrors she could never have imagined to save her best friend. And, in the process, discover her true identity.

My review: From the beginning, I was swept into the story and was eager to continue reading. A bit of greek mythology, together with an end-of-the-world theme and a touch of zombie fever, made this a good read. The writing style was easy to read. The two main characters blended well together.

My biggest dislike was the fact that the story was concise. By that, I mean extremely short. I finished it in two short sittings. I wanted more, and I guess that is a good sign.

The book is described as a companion story. I’m not sure what that means or how it relates to the War on the Gods series as I haven’t read any of the books. But, I hope Valeria and Greg take significant roles in the series otherwise I think I’ll feel a little ripped off.

I received a review copy of this book, and this is an honest review.

eBook review: Camp Pain

Camp Pain (Travel Writer Mystery #1)

Camp Pain by Wendy Meadows

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb: Patricia always viewed the world from the end of her pen. Her feet hop from place to place; her exotic experiences are filling the pages faster than stamps on her passport. Someday, she aspires to land a big-time publishing deal.

At a stopover in Atlanta, she is shocked to discover the body of a local businessman, Peter, dumped in a camp in the outskirts of the city. For the first time, her wings are clipped as the lead detective; Brian Johnston launches an investigation into Peter’s death – firmly suspecting that cause of death was murder.

Patricia and Brian band together in his murder investigation, slowly uncovering leads to a shady underbelly behind Peter’s flashy ‘successful’ exterior, and the illicit dealings he was determined to keep from prying eyes. As the details begin to piece together, someone intends to step in and silence them. By any means necessary.

My review: This is a cozy mystery with a romantic sub-theme. I’ve been trying to mix it up a bit and felt like reading something more laid back. Strangely, something about this book appealed to me. Living in Australia, I know nothing about Atlanta, but the author gave me a good feel for the place (if what I read is true, that is). The main character is a travel journalist, who travels around the US in her RV. Sounds like a great job. But then she literally trips over a body and, hence, the mystery begins.

Two things irritated me. The first is the fact that Patricia, the writer, was invited to help investigate the murder, and that seemed rather far-fetched to me. It happened too quickly, too easily. The second thing was the lack of use of abbreviations in speech (i.e. I’m or don’t), which gave the characters a stilted, unnatural sound.

What I really liked was the romantic side of the story. In fact, I loved the attraction between Patricia and her love interest. I believe that was the storyline that kept me totally invested in this mystery book. I have my fingers crossed that the pair will find each other in future publications and find their happily ever after. I will be devastated if they don’t, but I guess I’ll have to keep reading the series to find out.

Audio review: The Way Between the Worlds

The Way Between The Worlds

The Way Between The Worlds by Ian Irvine

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb: There is a dark full moon on midwinter’s day. The foretelling has come to pass. Rulke the Charon is unstoppable now. Karan is held captive in desolate Carcharon tower. Rulke plans to use her to find the Way between the Worlds. On the mountainside below, the allies await their fate. Karan’s lover, Llian, is in chains, falsely accused of betraying her to the enemy. As the dark moon rises, Rulke begins to open the Way. If he succeeds, the world will be overwhelmed by the dread armies of the void. There is only one solution. Karan must be the sacrifice…

My review: The Way Between the Worlds is the fourth, and final, book in The View from the Mirror series. I listened to the audio version of the quartet and admit that I had issues with the series, such as feeling it was too long. Still, now that I have finished it, I have no regrets investing the past few months to this story.

Being the final book, The Way Between the Worlds answers all the questions and ties up all the loose ends. This is to be expected, of course. I gave this book five stars because I enjoyed it the most. Something was nearly always happening. Wrapping up the storylines took a while, but I can walk away from the characters and the world knowing the outcome, and getting a sense of what their futures held.

The series, overall, was long. I keep saying it, too long. I believe the story could have been told in half the number of words. Then it would have been more contained, the action would have been increased, and the suspense would have been terrific. In my opinion, the perfect ingredients for a page-turner. Yet, while I feel that way, I still can’t say I didn’t like it. There was a lot to the plot, the characters, and the history that showed the author worked hard on planning the details. That’s impressive in itself.

I don’t know what else to say. I have wanted to read this series for many years, and now I have. I’m satisfied with that accomplishment. The View from the Mirror is a series that you will either like or not like. Only the reader can decide. This reader has decided that despite its downfalls, it’s a good series.

Seedlings of Life

The seedlings are sprouting.

Seven days ago I sowed some seeds. In case you haven’t read my previous post, I am attempting to grow herbs and vegetables from seed. They include onion, cress, dill, tomatoes, parsley, thyme, radish, chamomile, oregano and chives.

Day 8 shows new life is sprouting. The cress came out fighting on day three. The onion and radishes are also doing well. I’m pleased to say the dill, chamomile and thyme are showing signs of life too. However, nothing is happening with the parsley, oregano or chives, but it is early days.

The tomatoes I grew from seeds haven’t done anything in the last week and, unfortunately, two died. That was a little worrying because I believed they are meant to grow fast but not mine. I do understand that I can’t expect all of them to make it to full-grown, tomato bearing plants though. Perhaps it’s still a little chilly for them. I remain hopeful.

But there’s more, the regular tomato plant that my son gave me has doubled in size. Thrilled about that.

And, to top everything off, there are two cucumbers on my little cucumber plant. Can’t stop smiling as I didn’t expect it so soon. The plant is small, so fingers crossed they make it to harvest time.

More updates to follow over coming weeks, months.

Day 12 NaNo Update

“Every first draft is perfect, because all a first draft has to do is exist.”
–Jane Smiley

I saw this quote today and thought it was a timely reminder as I am currently writing the first draft of Ghost at the Cemetery. At a little under 6,000 words, I cannot say I am particularly happy with the result so far. In fact, I was feeling a little despondent this afternoon–until I saw this quote.

Yes, I can acknowledge this first draft isn’t great, but as long as I continue writing until I get to the end, I will be happy. The first edit will be HUGE! But at least I will have a (shaky) draft to work with.

I’m pleased that I can recognise the fact that I still have a lot of work ahead of me, especially when the first draft is done. Yet, I feel invigorated knowing that my brain is already working on the improvements I intend to make. And knowing that, the story I currently write is morphing in a slightly different direction than I intended to accommodate the changes.

My intention is to complete the first draft by 30 November. I am on track to reach that goal.

Seeds of Life

The seeds have been planted

Reading and writing form a massive part of my life. In fact, just about everything I do is centred around one of these two things. Of course, I do enjoy other hobbies such as walking, family time, nature, and catching up with friends. However, in recent months, I was given some plants that a friend had grown from cuttings, and that sparked a new interest for me.

Those cuttings are doing well. I love colour, and those plants have produced an array of colour. I have gotten a lot of enjoyment out of seeing them grow this spring.

Then I found myself wanting to take things a step further, and I planted seeds from a cherry tomato. Believing they wouldn’t actually take, I planted around 40 seeds and ended up with about 30 seedlings. They are currently two to three inches in height.

On 11 November, I decided to also plant onion, radish, cress, dill, parsley, chamomile, oregano, thyme and chives.

And finally, on 9 November, my son gave me a regular tomato plant, which was roughly a foot high. The next day, I was at a nursery and saw a baby cucumber plant for a few dollars. If I’m going to have a heap of tomatoes, I figured I would also need cucumbers, so I splurged and treated myself.

The photo at the top is all the plants together. The photo was taken on 11 November, and I’m calling it Day 1. Stay tuned, I’ll give updates and share my successes and failures on this little side adventure.

eBook review: The Black Cauldron

The Black Cauldron (The Chronicles of Prydain, #2)

The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb: Taran, the Assistant Pig-Keeper, and his friends are led into a mortal struggle with Arawn and his deathless warriors. Taran must wrest the black cauldron from them, for it is the cauldron that gives them their evil strength. But can he withstand the three enchantresses, who are determined to turn him and his companions into toads? Taran has not foreseen the awful price he will have to pay in his defence of Prydain.

My review: Like book 1 in the series, book 2 is a winner in my eyes.

It is wonderful to pick up a book and just fall into the story. The pages seem to turn themselves and the characters and plot play out in front of your eyes, with the reader feeling as if they are right there with them. This is how I see The Chronicles of Prydain books. Simply love them.

The characters are so much fun and if young readers are lost in the story, a parent can relax knowing they are being taught how to work together, be loyal, think of others and be self-assured. It’s important to recognise good and evil, but this book also reminds us that sometimes there is a grey area where we can go either way if pushed–yet we can be saved if offered help.

The author has a writing style that pulled me in and held my attention. The words flow with the storyline and characters. Highly recommended.

eBook review: The Splendid Secrets of 66 Lilly Pilly Lane

The Splendid Secrets of 66 Lilly Pilly Lane (A fairy fantasy for kids ages 9-12)

The Splendid Secrets of 66 Lilly Pilly Lane by Elena Paige

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb: A magical house. A secret past. And an awful decision. Will she claim her destiny… or save her sister?
Twelve-year-old Chia is blind and toils in the mines digging up diamonds for her evil stepmother, Priscilla. Her only thought is to rescue her twin sister Viola from a life at the palace.

Everything changes when a mysterious woman transports Chia to 66 Lilly Pilly Lane, a magical house where wondrous creatures live. To her delight, she’s no longer blind! With an entourage at her side and magic at her fingertips, it’s time to rescue Viola from Priscilla’s clutches and start a new life elsewhere.

The trouble is, her new friends claim Viola is not as innocent and helpless as she seems…

Come on a magical adventure to discover The Splendid Secrets of 66 Lilly Pilly Lane, a middle-grade novel that will entertain and delight even the most reluctant of readers.

My review: This book is a story that I may have missed out on, which would have been a shame because I loved it. The characters are “different” and by that I mean you will read about people interacting with animals, trees, statues and even a house. Yet each character has a distinct personality and has a way of planting themselves in your mind so that you think nothing of a tree offering you breakfast.

The book is a magical, delightful story where the main lesson (in my opinion) is doing what makes you happy — not doing things for other people. At first, I had an issue with the premise as I believe it is important that our children are taught to be helpful and supportive of each other. It took a while for me to understand, and for the main character to understand, that the author was trying to say (again, in my opinion) that sometimes by helping ourselves, we help others. And that while we should always consider others, we must do what is right for us first. Sacrificing yourself is noble, but is it the right option to take.

And then a real-life situation occurred and I found myself saying “we can try to help her, but she needs to want to be helped”, and that’s when I realised what the author was trying to say without saying it.

Young readers will enjoy the adventure of Chia and her best friend, Pip. The story will allow their minds to open to all possibilities, but a few younger readers might find some scenes a little scary. However, the majority will love the opportunity to become lost in Chia’s world.

Recommended. I will check out other books by this author now that she’s on my radar.

I received a review copy of this book, and this is an honest review.