eBook: Black Jade

Black Jade – A Daiyu Wu Mystery by Gloria Oliver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The blurb: Could an old-fashioned ballgown be used to commit murder?

Daiyu Wu is aware that fear of the Yellow Terror has made her nationality a rare breed in the Lone Star State. Being Chinese and blind makes her doubly unique in 1930 Dallas. Despite these impediments, anyone who dismisses her for either fact does so at their peril.

One day, at her family-owned laundry business, Dai detects the scent of burned garlic. With the help of her companion, Jacques, the source is soon discovered. It is a green ballgown. The gown has money pinned inside it to pay for the cleaning, but oddly, it came with no address label to identify its owner. Her extensive knowledge leads Dai to believe someone has committed murder using arsenic. The perpetrator is trying to use White Laundry to hide the evidence. But no mention of foul play turns up in the newspapers, and there’s not enough proof to convince the police there’s been a crime.

Her curiosity and intellect stimulated like never before; Dai ignores the possible consequences and sets out to solve the mystery with the help of her canine companion, Prince Razor, and her confidant, Jacques Haskins. It’s either that or let the killer get away with it β€” assuming a spoiled popinjay, his jealous self-appointed girlfriend, and Dai’s overprotective parents don’t get in her way.

My review: I’ve read a few cozy mysteries this year. I find them easier on my scrambled mind, and easier to digest when I’m feeling unwell. But I also find them to be extremely focusing and entertaining.

Black Jade is the first book in a mystery series. The lovely things about the book are the era it’s set in and the fact that the main character is a blind Chinese woman. The author weaves in the details of the mystery itself, the racial issues of the time, and society life in the 1930s quite well.

Daiyu and her companion, Jacques, join forces with two unlikely (and totally different) side kicks to find a killer. The setting and characters worked well together. There were little smile moments, strong “that’s racist” moments and a hint of embarrassing romantic moments. All intended. All written well. I liked the storyline and didn’t find anything annoying about any of it.

Daiyu’s companion threw me a bit, at the beginning, but I liked the character and accepted him (once my brain accepted it was a man I was reading about, not a woman as I had first thought).

The mystery was well thought out and the hints subtle. I enjoyed the interaction between Jacques and “the cad”. There was a lot of light hearted humour in there too.

I can’t think of anything bad about the book. The pages turned quickly, the history was equal to the mystery. I learned a lot about life in the ’30s, yet the details were weaved into the storyline, not dumped on the pages. Impressively done, I must say.

I will read more books in the series as I enjoyed my time in their world. Recommended.

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

eBook: The Ancient Wish

I read this book at the beginning of the year. I attempting to catch up with my reviews, as I’ve fallen too far behind.

The Ancient Wish by S.A. Beattie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The blurb: 𝐎𝐧𝐞 π₯𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐠𝐒𝐫π₯. 𝐎𝐧𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐒𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐰𝐒𝐬𝐑. 𝐎𝐧𝐞 𝐜𝐑𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐠𝐞𝐭 𝐑𝐨𝐦𝐞.

Being sixteen is hard enough, but now Maxena Saltash’s best friend has a new boyfriend, is bullying the shy girl at school, and thinks Max’s choice of career is as lowly as the rocks she wants to study. Grateful to be away camping with her family, Max follows a strange creature deep into a cave system. But when she emerges, everything is different.

Frightened and lost in an unfamiliar world, Max is on the run from bandits who mean to kill her and kidnap the creature she names Roo. Along the way, she meets cranky Hazel, who blames Max for destroying his home, and mistrustful Peng, a disfigured half-man, half-bird who just wants to be accepted. But when Max discovers she holds the key to a powerful prophecy it’s up to her to solve the clues, endure five trials, and claim the ancient wish.

If Max fails, her murderous adversaries will use the wish for their own malicious intent. She will never see her home or family again, and the magical world will fall to ruin. Will Max find the strength to stand and fight, or will she remain forever lost?

Join the magical quest in a fantasy world with a steampunk twist, laugh-out-loud moments, and edge-of-your-seat action inΒ π˜›π˜©π˜¦ 𝘈𝘯𝘀π˜ͺ𝘦𝘯𝘡 𝘞π˜ͺ𝘴𝘩.

My review: The Ancient Wish is a young adult fantasy novel. It’s the type of fantasy I have always enjoyed. The type that takes someone from our world into another world. The reason I love this particular type of fantasy is because (to me) it makes the storyline feel real, possible.

Maxena finds herself in an unknown place, trying to work out how she got there and how she’s going to get home. But every time she turns around something happens–and with or without her permission she is drawn into an adventure.

She is joined by Roo, who seems to be a magnet for trouble. And then there’s Hazel, a little annoyed by Maxena’s intrusion, and Peng, who doesn’t really fit in with society. They join forces and all have their reasons for continuing the journey to get Maxena home.

Maxena and her new friends make a good mix of lively characters. I especially liked Hazel, whose personality was quirky and he got me smiling on numerous occasions. I felt sorry for Peng, as I could relate to not always feeling accepted by others, but he was aloof in his manner giving the air of mistrust.

Something was always happening. They would get out of one troublesome situation, only to find themselves in another one which was worse. The plot is fast-paced and easy to read. The world had a steampunk feel to it, which I also enjoyed. I should read more steampunk. Anyway, I felt the author did a great job with her descriptions, as I could easily visualise the towns and the people around the main characters.

I enjoy this first book in the series and look forward to reading the next book later in the year.

eBook: Sha’Kert: End of Night

Sha’Kert: End of Night by Ishmael A. Soledad

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The blurb: No blurb found

My review: It’s strange how things work out. A couple of months ago, I made a comment to my husband regarding wanting to read a book about the Amish people/culture, and the very next day I received a review request offering a book with an Amish theme. Of course, I had to say yes please to the offer.

Sha’Kert: End of Night drew me in and kept my interest from the very beginning. What made it more rivetting was the science fiction theme weaved in with the Amish theme. It was well done and felt natural.

Set in the future, where my imagination was free to paint my own scenes using the author’s guidelines, the main characters find themselves on another planet. The stories of how they got there are full and deep. There are difficult hurdles to overcome, life-threatening decisions to make, and a very real futuristic world that could become a reality, which was a little scary. And then what they go through once they get to the unknown planet left me wondering how I would cope in the same, or similar, situation.

The characters are well defined and can easily be identified. The world-building is excellent. I had no trouble believing and accepting what I was reading. The writing was exceptional.

The landscape was vivid in my mind and I kept returning to the book because I wanted to know what would happen next. There is more I would like to say, but I don’t want to give anything away. I guess I can say that I asked myself several times, would I survive if I were there. What would I do? Unfortunately, I cannot give the answer without giving a spoiler.

There was something deep in regards to the writing of this book. To be honest, although I’ve thought on it for a few days I am unable to verbalise it or put it into words. I don’t know what it is, but I feel as if I missed something, or didn’t understand something that should have been plain, that the deeper meaning of the storyline went over my head. Thing is, I don’t think this issue has anything to do with the way the author wrote the book. I believe my mind couldn’t grasp whatever it was because I’ve been unwell over recent months. And that saddens me.

I enjoyed the book. It held me captive for many weeks (I’m a slow reader these days). I am so happy I was given the opportunity to read this brilliant story and recommend it.

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

eBook review: The Box-Car Children

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb: The Boxcar Children tells the story of four orphaned children, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny. They create a home for themselves in an abandoned boxcar in the forest.

My review: This book was written in 1924, and I read the original text.

The book was written by a school teacher, so she was around children a fair bit so must have had a good understanding of how they behaved. The thing to remember when reading the story is that it was written almost 100 years ago, so the reader should expect some odd descriptions and old-fashioned speech. And, I guess, out-dated values too.

I easily put those things aside and took the story as-is. Four orphaned children run away and make a life for themselves. The older children take care of the younger ones. They find ways to manage. They find shelter and earn money to buy food. I can’t imagine children today doing these things, but I accept that this is only a story. It’s for entertainment purposes only.

It’s also aimed at children’s imaginations. I would have loved the story as a child and I loved it now because it allowed my imagination to fill in the blanks. I believe children who can read by themselves will enjoy the adventures of the boxcar children.

eBook review: Annalynn the Canadian Spy

Annalynn the Canadian Spy: Terrible Tissues by Shawn P.B. Robinson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The blurb: Ten-year-old Annalynn has just been hired as a spy.

Two men and two women break into Annalynn’s home and steal a box of tissues, literally from under their noses. No one can imagine why someone would do such a thing, but Annalynn has been put on the case.

Her country needs her, but does she have what it takes?

My review: This is a book for younger readers. Readers beginning to read on their own, who have vivid imaginations and love to laugh. It was a little too young for me and I had to remind myself that it was not aimed at my age group.

It’s a quick, witty read. Older readers have to forego normal and allow themselves to be taken for a ride in unconventional ways. If you can do that, then you’ll enjoy the book.

Annalynn is just a kid but she’s up for the role as a spy. She’ll do it for her family, even though she has no training. But she is resourceful and she’s keen. Nothing will stop her from solving the case handed to her. Dangerous or not.

Hand this book to your youngster, and allow them to be swept into Annalynn’s adventure. They will enjoy themselves, and you’ll hear them laughing.

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

eBook review: She Named Me Wolf

She Named Me Wolf by Tenkara Smart

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The blurb: Wolf lives in constant fear of his alcoholic father, using his imagination and wisdom beyond his years to escape the pain until he must make a choice. Either stay in this life or move on, and only his best friend, who happens to be a ghost, can help him make the right decision.

She Named Me Wolf is book one in the series The Many Lives of Wolf and is the first glimpse into one soul’s travels through many lifetimes, seeking out the light in the darkness.

My review: She Named Me Wolf is different from the usual genre I read. The blurb hinted at physical abuse and a ghostly presence, and I felt intrigued enough to read the book.

Although the main character is a child at the start of the book and a teenager at the end, I would not say this is a children’s book. It might be confronting or scary to a young reader. Yet, I felt the author handled the physical abuse in the story in a gentle way (except for a couple of places, I’ll get back to these parts later). This might help a young reader experiencing something similar. However, I believe the two exceptions and swearing indicate the book is aimed at the young adult audience.

Swearing is frequent in today’s life. Although I’m not a person who swears myself, I believe the words used in the book would mirror what would typically be said in an abusive household. In fact, I think they have been watered down a lot. Just to be clear, the book starts out with name-calling and swear words are introduced as the story nears its end. To me, the terms are used in context, and it was not a shock to read them. To be honest, in this case, I feel it gives the storyline authenticity.

The two exceptions I mentioned earlier had a real impact on me. One spoke to me because of personal experience, and I reacted to the words I read seeing another face rather than Wolf’s. The other filled me with real fear. I must give credit to the author for her craft in writing these two scenes. To invoke such a strong reaction and incredible fear in me is no mean feat. In fact, it’s impressive.

The two main character’s, Wolf and Polly, are a perfect mix. Both are smart beyond their years, yet children all the same. I enjoyed reading Wolf’s story. I felt connected to him, and that forced me to keep turning those pages. I was not surprised when Wolf excelled at his “secret” activity. I wanted to learn more about his “travels”. And, although I will never understand why, just like Wolf didn’t understand, I could accept how difficult it must have been for his mother. I’m a firm believer that we don’t know how we will react to something until we experience it ourselves.

Another thing about the book is there are a lot of uplifting phrases and sayings scattered within the chapters. The words tell a story about abuse, but they also give hope. I found the mix to be well balanced.

The only negative thing I can say is that there was a mix of American and Australian grammar/spelling/words, hence the 4.5 stars. At one point, the use of a non-Australian word jolted me out of the storyline altogether. It was like a slap in the face. A non-Australian reader may not notice this, but for me, it’s essential to be consistent.

She Named Me Wolf left an impression on me, so I have no trouble in recommending it.

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

eBook review: Esme’s Gift

Esme’s Gift by Elizabeth Foster

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The blurb: Terror was within. Terror was without. Like her mother, she was at the water’s mercy.

In the enchanted world of Aeolia, fifteen-year-old Esme Silver is faced with her hardest task yet. She must master her unruly Gift – the power to observe the past – and uncover the secrets she needs to save her mother, Ariane.

In between attending school in the beguiling canal city of Esperance, Esme and her friends – old and new – travel far and wide across Aeolia, gathering the ingredients for a potent magical elixir.

Their journey takes them to volcanic isles, sunken ruins and snowy eyries, spectacular places fraught with danger, where they must confront their deepest fears and find hope in the darkest of places.

Esme’s Gift, the second instalment in the Esme trilogy, is an enthralling fantasy adventure for readers 12 years and over.

My review: I enjoyed Esme’s Wish (Book 1), but Esme’s Gift (Book 2) wasn’t as good. The first half of the story dragged its feet a bit, but the second half picked up the pace and was more interesting. The pages turned swiftly then.

I liked the fact that the mysteries were not left hanging until book 3. It was great to know how, when, where and why everything up to now had happened. And it was even better that these facts went together well. In fact, the book was written like a cozy mystery, but without a murder. I found that interesting and well-plotted. I appreciated and enjoyed the arrival of certain other characters as well.

I didn’t like the school scenes. There may have been a reason for them, and I guess as the main characters are school age, it made sense to have Esme return to school, but it didn’t work for me. I’m not saying the scenes were poorly written, they just lacked interest, for me. However, younger readers will probably relate to those scenes much better than I did and enjoy them immensely.

Regardless of all this, I still loved the fresh, new world that the author has created. I look forward to reading more adventures set in Aeolia and finding out more about Seth’s motivations.

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

Ebook review: The Willow Tree’s Daughter

The Willow Tree’s Daughter by Pamela Freeman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The blurb: With a king for a father and a tree spirit for a mother, Betony is a reluctant princess who prefers the simple, outdoor life. This is the story of her life at the palace, her adventures with wizards, hobgoblins, unicorns and dragons, and her love for the gardener’s apprentice.

My review: A delightful story told in a fairy tale way, but with a twist. Each chapter felt like a stand alone story, but all the chapters together told the full story. The book is funny, moving and easy to read. There was a bit of everything, and something was always happening. It drew me in, and held me captive.

The characters are charming. I especially liked the main character’s strength. It’s good to find a princess who doesn’t need saving, and has a genuine connection with the people around her.

And there was even a bit of romance.

I’m glad I took a risk with this book. I’ll be reading more in the series. No doubt about that.

Recommended.