Blindspots by Rhonda Parrish

Blindspots by Rhonda Parrish
Publisher: Poise and Pen Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Historical
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The war is over.

Ricky just wants to lick his wounds and learn what the new normal is going to look like for him, but his brother has gone missing. Now Ricky needs to team up with his wartime friends (and at least one dog he’d hoped never to see again) to find him, figure out what’s going on and save the world.


And the clock is ticking…

Saving the world is easy, right?

One of the biggest strengths of this tale was its realistic dialogue. The conversations the characters shared ranged from perfectly smooth to abrupt depending on what was happening with the storyline and what else was going on with Ricky. These moments felt so genuine that I sometimes felt like I was eavesdropping on real talking dogs. That’s not an easy thing to accomplish, and it’s made me an even bigger fan of Ms. Parrish’s work than I already was.

There were some minor pacing issues, especially as I moved closer to the middle portion of this novel. Ricky and his friends had plenty to keep them busy in the beginning and the end. If the middle had kept up that pace, I would have happily gone with a full five-star rating.

The world building was exciting and well done. Most books about talking animals are written for kids, so I was thrilled to find one created for an adult audience instead. There were so many little details that grabbed my attention as I was reading, from Ricky’s reaction to seeing dog food scattered on the floor to the legends dogs believed about humans to how teleportation worked in this world. The author truly thought of everything which made this such a pleasant reading experience. I would be happy to read a sequel if one were published, but I also thought this worked perfectly nicely as a standalone work.

Blindspots was a creative and memorable adventure.

* The Duchess Takes a Husband by Harper St. George

*The Duchess Takes a Husband by Harper St. George
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Genre: Historical, Romance
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Despite her illustrious title, Camille, Duchess of Hereford, remains what she has always been—a pariah. Though her title means she’s technically accepted by London Society, the rebellious widow with her burgeoning interest in the suffrage movement and her American ways isn’t exactly high on every hostess’s guest list. But Camille starts to wonder if being an outcast is not without its perks when the tantalizing answer to her secret fear appears in the shape of Jacob Thorne, the illegitimate son of an earl and co-owner of London’s infamous Montague Club.

Jacob is used to making deals with his club members—he’s just not accustomed to them being beautiful women. Nor have the terms ever been so sweetly seductive as Camille’s shocking proposition. To finally buy his own club and gain the crucial backing of investors, Camille offers Jacob the respectability of a fake engagement with a duchess. In return, the tempting widow has one condition: she wants Jacob to show her if it’s possible for her to experience pleasure in bed.

The lure of such a bargain proves too delicious to resist, drawing the enterprising rogue and the wallflower duchess into a scandalous game and an even more dangerous gamble of the heart.

The Duchess Takes A Husband is an enchanting historical romance that held me spellbound from start to finish. Harper St. James knows how to paint a picture and she did a wonderful job telling Jacob and Camille’s story. The writing is realistic and made me feel like I was right there. The characters are interesting and unique as they yearn for each other in this slow burn romance. They have tons of chemistry and I loved reading their story and also enjoyed all the entertaining secondary characters. I knew what the two main characters were thinking because the author gives us both of their points of view throughout the story.

This story takes place as the suffragette movement is just starting. Women are so constrained, they are either under the thumb of their parents, or the man they marry. The reader is taken back in time to the beginning of the movement, and we are shown how hard women worked to gain their freedom in a male dominated world.

Camille has been told what to do her entire life and she never realized she had choices. As she learns about the suffragette movement her eyes are opened to the possibilities a woman can have. Jacob is wonderful and understanding and just the type of man Camille needs in her life.

This story has engaging characters and a good plot line. I immediately liked Jacob and Camille and thought they were perfect for each other. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and I am sure you will too.

The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married into the British Aristocracy by Anne de Courcy

The Husband Hunters: American Heiresses Who Married into the British Aristocracy by Anne de Courcy
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

A deliciously told group biography of the young, rich, American heiresses who married into the impoverished British aristocracy at the turn of the twentieth century – the real women who inspired Downton Abbey

Towards the end of the nineteenth century and for the first few years of the twentieth, a strange invasion took place in Britain. The citadel of power, privilege and breeding in which the titled, land-owning governing class had barricaded itself for so long was breached. The incomers were a group of young women who, fifty years earlier, would have been looked on as the alien denizens of another world – the New World, to be precise. From 1874 – the year that Jennie Jerome, the first known ‘Dollar Princess’, married Randolph Churchill – to 1905, dozens of young American heiresses married into the British peerage, bringing with them all the fabulous wealth, glamour and sophistication of the Gilded Age.

Anne de Courcy sets the stories of these young women and their families in the context of their times. Based on extensive first-hand research, drawing on diaries, memoirs and letters, this richly entertaining group biography reveals what they thought of their new lives in England – and what England thought of them.

These women wanted to find husbands and they were willing to stop at nothing to get them.

I picked up this book because I wanted to know more about the women who desired to marry up at the turn of the century. I’m glad I read this. It’s informative and fascinating how these women went looking for men to marry, but it’s also fascinating how the men didn’t stop until they found the one they wanted, too. It’s entertaining because there’s so much wealth being tossed around, but sad because many of these women didn’t know what they were getting into. They were destined for lives of loneliness and running a household instead of being lavished with luxury. I liked how some of the women figured out how to make this work for them and even made the situation even better.

I have to admit there is a lot of excess on display among these people. They knew how to travel to the hilt and how to showcase their wealth. At times, it was over the top. I mean, disgustingly so. But it was how they were raised and of the times. One really did wear a necklace with a gigantic sapphire on the end that was essentially kicked when they walked…because luxury. Show the wealth. I don’t blame the author, but the topic. The people in this book were essentially disgustingly rich.

If you’re interested in a snapshot of times gone by with a lot of wealth and vivid descriptions, then this book might be for you,

Dragon Springs & Other Things by Raven Oak

Dragon Springs & Other Things by Raven Oak
Publisher: Grey Sun Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

This debut collection by multi-award-winning author and artist Raven Oak brings together fantastical stories from the past ten years of her career, ranging from gothic and urban fantasy to post-apocalyptic and steampunk tales.

You’ll find coffee-drinking ghosts, ever-changing faces, elemental spirits who both protect and harm, assassins, magical pockets, and snarky creatures in these ELEVEN fanciful fictions. Dragon Springs & Other Things contains SIX never-before seen stories for your enjoyment, including two stories featuring fan favorite character, Ida, from Oak’s Boahim Trilogy.

STORIES INCLUDED: Mirror Me, Water the Fire, Alive, Learning to Fly, The Drive to Work, The Ringers, Cookie Man, Amaskan, Peace Be With You, Friend, The Snark, and Dragon Springs & Other Things.

Magic is everywhere.

A young couple wondered why they kept having kitchen, bathroom, and pipe leaks in “Water the Fire.” Were the water demons attacking them? I loved the clever progression of this storyline, especially once the main characters began to notice more clues about what was going on in their home. It surprised me more than once, and I couldn’t wait to find out how they might fix their wet and sometimes very stinky problem.

While I enjoyed all of the stories in this collection, I thought a few of them would have been better with a bit more development. “The Snark” was one of them. It followed the life of an snarky and unrepentant Internet troll named Elizabeta who would never believe you if you told her what was about to happen to her. The premise was fantastic, but the plot was wrapped up so quickly that I never found time to settle in and anticipate her reaction to her big surprise.

The town of Dekwood was enveloped in a thick, eerie silence in “The Ringers.” I enjoyed getting to know Elise and her family as they moved to this area without realizing that magic was forbidden there. The narrator gave me exactly the right amount of information for me to know when these characters were in trouble and what might happen to them if they couldn’t find a way to clear their debts and get away before anyone realized that Elise had special abilities. Every new plot twist only pulled me further into her world. I wish I could say more without giving away spoilers, but this is something that works best for readers who only know a little about it when they begin.

Be sure to read the author’s notes about where their ideas came from at the end of each tale. I love it when writers take the time to do this, and all of these explanations were fabulous.

Dragon Springs & Other Things makes me eager to read more from Ms. Oak.

Jane Austen: A Literary Celebrity by Peter J Leithart

Jane Austen: A Literary Celebrity by Peter J Leithart
Publisher: Nelson Books
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction, Biography
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Jane Austen is famous for such books as Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma. Now learn about the author’s journey through a life spent making up stories that touched the lives of millions.

Jane Austen is now what she never was in life, and what she would have been horrified to become–a literary celebrity. “Janeia” is the author’s term for the mania for all things Austen. Dive into Jane Austen: A Literary Celebrity and discover:

how it all began and Austen’s love of poetry
her early masterpieces and the inspiration behind the stories
her road to getting published and the health decline that led to her death
In this updated edition, you’ll also find discussion questions that work well for book clubs and ELA lesson plans. This biography is perfect for:

Jane Austen fans and collectors
men and women who have enjoyed Austen-inspired films and TV series adaptations
anyone interested in learning about the varied sides of Austen’s character and the characters she created
Jane Austen: A Literary Celebrity is a fascinating look at a woman who never meant to be famous.

A decent overview about the life of Jane Austen.

I picked this book up because I wanted to get to know more about Jane Austen. She’s considered the titan of the romantic genre, but I didn’t know much about her. This was my entre into her life. I’m glad I read it.

I learned quite a bit about Austen and can now say I respect her writing even more that I know her. This book would be great for hardcore Austen fans and enlightening for those who want to know a little more.

The writing is utilitarian and serves the purpose of telling her story, but there were times it needed a bit more personality. I liked the story and liked learning about Austen, but there were times the author referred to her as Jenny. It’s not incorrect, but got a bit confusing, especially early on. I also got a little lost in the family tree descriptions early on. That’s not to say this is a bad book. Far from it. It’s a nice pocket read, but one has to read it with the notion there will be rereading involved.

If you’re a fan of Austen and want to know how her faith somewhat influenced her, how her life went and want something quick, then this might be the book for you. Give it a try.

The Merchant’s House by Kate Ellis

The Merchant’s House by Kate Ellis
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

DS Wesley Peterson, newly arrived in the West Country town of Tradmouth, has his hands full when a child goes missing and a young woman is brutally murdered on a lonely cliff path.

Then his old friend, archaeologist Neil Watson, unearths the skeletons of a woman and a newborn baby in the cellar of an ancient merchant’s house nearby.

As they begin to investigate the murders, Wesley starts to suspect that these deaths, centuries apart, may be linked by age-old motives of jealousy and sexual obsession. And the pressure is on if he is going to prevent a further tragedy . . .

DS Wesley Peterson has just arrived with his wife into the West Country, pleased to be out of the hustle and bustle of London. New to the small police force, he is eager to settle in and for he and his wife to make a new home. He bumps into an old university friend from his archaeology days, Neil Watson and the two of them compare their current careers, surprised to find more and more there is some overlap in each of their current projects.

I picked this book up on a whim as it appeared to have a number of similarities to the Dr Ruth Galloway series which I am enjoying immensely. While I didn’t find the characters or plotline as deep or complex as the Galloway series, I did find this an enjoyable police procedural style of mystery novel. The archaeology came out mostly in snippets from a relevant diary at the beginning of each chapter, so readers expecting a strong sense of history or archaeology/digs encompassed in the plot might find this aspect to the story a little lacking.

The mystery and police aspect to the plot is well thought out and while the pace is a little slow, I felt that added more to the countrified air of the story and more authentic than a hurried or more action-orientated city-style of pacing. As the first book in the series, I was pleased there was a decent introduction to the main characters including the members of Wesley’s police team. I would have enjoyed a bit more time spent with Wesley’s wife and be able to understand her a little better. I’m hoping that occurs in the coming few books.

Readers who enjoy British style murder/mystery novels especially with a hint of history/archaeology should find this an easy and entertaining read.

I Walked the Line by Vivian Cash

I Walked the Line by Vivian Cash
Publisher: Scribner
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction, Music, Autobiography
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

I Walked the Line is a chronicle of first love, long-kept secrets, betrayal, forgiveness, and the truth–told at last by Johnny Cash’s first wife, the mother of his four daughters.

It is a book that had the full support of Johnny Cash, who insisted it was time for their story to be told, despite any painful revelations that might come to light as a result.

Many myths and contradictions regarding the life of Johnny and his family have been perpetuated for decades in film and literature. Vivian exposes previously untold stories involving Johnny’s drug addiction, his fraught family life, and their divorce in 1968, as well as the truth behind the writing of two of Johnny’s most famous songs, “I Walk the Line” and “Ring of Fire.”

Supplemented by a never-before-published archive of love letters and family photos, I Walked the Line offers a deeper look at one of the most significant artists in music history. Here, fans and readers can experience the extraordinary account of love and heartbreak between Johnny and Vivian, and come to understand Vivian’s dignified silence over the years. Through this elegant, revealing, and powerful memoir, Vivian Cash’s voice is finally heard.

Haunting, sweet and sad.

I wanted to hear the words from Vivian Cash when it came to the breakup and how she handled it. What was her side? This book tells that and more. This isn’t a tell-all book, though. This is her life through her eyes. This is how she handled what she went through. But it’s more than that. Cash includes letters Johnny wrote to her during their time courting and eventual marriage. She shows his hopes, fears and how he interacted with her in his letters. Those looking for some huge tell-all and naughtiness won’t find it, but if you’re looking for tender letters and her side of the story, then this will satisfy. I’m glad I read it.

There are moments when the author gets a bit bitter, which is understandable. She thought the marriage was going okay until it wasn’t. She wasn’t prepared to handle Johnny’s drug use or his utter devotion to June. The author somewhat demonizes June Carter, but honestly, it’s not surprising because that’s how she saw the situation. I can’t fault her for being bitter or telling it how she saw it.

If you’re ready to hear Vivian Cash’s side of the story, then this is the book for you.

American Arcadia by Laura Scalzo

American Arcadia by Laura Scalzo
Publisher: Regal House Publishing
Genre: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

New York City, 1985, the scaffolded and torchless Statue of Liberty is under reconstruction, the Twin Towers hum with money, and the clubs pulse with music. Young Wall Streeter, Mina Berg, and her roommate, Chry Risk, strike up friendships with the volatile Danny Nyro and easygoing Dare Fiore. Mina wants Chry’s family prestige, while Chry only wants to play the bass like Jaco Pastorius. Nyro trades on his father’s notoriety and Dare is keeping secrets. Each of these twenty-somethings attempts to rewrite their origin story as they find themselves knotted in the cross purposes of friendship and love, life and death. Meanwhile, the Sicilian grandmothers on Staten Island are telling tall tales of a fugitive mermaid who lives in the New York Harbor. It’s for you to decide if she’s a monster or a saint. Themes of art, immigration, reproductive rights, AIDS, assault, class, and betrayal simmer beneath a dynamic plot that spans one life-altering year.

The 1980s was a memorable time, with big things turning the world upside down or individual homes. This story, set in 1985, in New York, covers some of those things such as AIDS and friends and family dynamics.

Mina and her friend Chry live their busy lives in this big city, Mina on Wall Street, and Chry as the daughter of a senator, trying to find her own way through music. They befriend a nice guy with a secret and a rich guy whose bold behavior often encourages the others to take chances. Each of them is bathed in mystery. For example, Mina was left to die as a baby but adopted. Will she ever know the truth from where she come?

As these twenty-somethings live day-by-day, having fun and working, they discover things about themselves and others. Not all these things lead to somewhere good. They face tragic realities, and readers are sure to pick up some of these moving moments and feel them as well.

One learns about the culture of the era, the New York of the eighties and what a bustling time it was, in some ways, different that it is today. Questions are often different, but not always. While reading about these friends and their families, one is likely to be entertained. The writing is personal and addictive. Why not check this one out?

The Original Bucky Lew: Basketball’s First Black Professional by Chris Boucher

The Original Bucky Lew: Basketball’s First Black Professional by Chris Boucher
Publisher: Wings ePress
Genre: Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.), Historical
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Bucky Lew burst through pro basketball’s color barrier to become the first Black player in an otherwise white league. And playing was just a start. He wanted to dominate in every single role in the game—from player to coach to general manager to owner.

His dream looked to be deferred when Harry Hough, the league’s best player, refused to play against him in a regular season matchup that the press billed as a preview of the championship. Not only were their teams the best, Hough was the league’s top scorer and Bucky its best defender.

All eyes were on the pair. What would Bucky do? Should he just go away or could he rally his teammates around him?

What about the fans—the thousands in the arena and those around the league following the rivalry in the papers? Or the league as a whole? Would they support him or move on without him?

The stakes were high—it was a fight for the future of the season, the future of the game, and maybe even the future of sports.

Hard work can make all sorts of things possible.

Being a trailblazer isn’t easy. I hadn’t realized how suspicious many people were of playing basketball as a career a century ago, and that was only one of the many obstacles the main character faced in his lifetime. His patience and perseverance only made me like him even more. Bucky experienced a lot of hard times, but he also paved the way for countless black athletes behind him.

While I admired the author’s desire to stick as closely as possible to historical facts about the protagonist’s life, it would have been helpful to have more character development in this novel. I learned a lot about Bucky’s accomplishments but not much about what it might be like to sit down and talk to him other than the fact that he was clearly quite intelligent. Was he also as quietly confident as I thought he might be based on some other context clues? Knowing more about what sort of personality he had and how fame affected him would have gone a long way to bumping up my rating for this book.

Some of the most memorable scenes were the ones that talked about how both the players and fans reacted to this brand new sport. For example, games could become a little violent or cause injuries in part because there wasn’t a clear understanding of what was and wasn’t acceptable on the court or off it. Other passages talked about how white people reacted to a racially integrated sport were also well worth checking out. There were a lot of nuances to these reactions depending on who the narrator was talking about and how far into Bucky’s career things had progressed, and some of them pleasantly surprised me.

The pacing was slow for my tastes, especially in the first third or so of this novel. Being the first Black professional basketball player is a huge deal, and I was hoping for more descriptions of how Bucky felt about it and how his life changed as people began to take notice of him. These things were addressed later on, but I struggled a bit to remain interested because of how slowly certain conflicts developed and how much time was spent describing other things instead.

Friendship was another theme of this book that I connected with. The number of people who played basketball well enough to do so professionally back then was small, so the same folks were often mentioned over and over again throughout the years. I enjoyed the stories about the friendships that were forged through the early days of this sport and how much kindness they showed to each other when someone was injured or otherwise in need of help.

The Original Bucky Lew: Basketball’s First Black Professional was a thought-provoking read.

Magnifico!: The A to Z of Queen by Mark Blake

Magnifico!: The A to Z of Queen by Mark Blake
Publisher: Permuted Press
Genre: Non-Fiction, Historical, Contemporary, Biography
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Addressing the phenomenal success of the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, acclaimed music journalist Mark Blake builds on the legend of Queen and their enduring audience appeal.

Providing a fresh, unparalleled take on Queen’s music, story, and legacy, Blake’s complete portrait covers not only the major hits and bestselling albums, but also the inside stories behind the music.

Via a series of essays, interviews, and biographies, the author shares a wealth of lesser-known details—gained from over thirty years of original material—and explores what the songs of Queen say about their creators.

Queen facts, Queen stories and Queen tidbits. How can you go wrong?

I picked up this book because of the band. Queen. I’ve been a fan for years and wanted to learn a little more. This book does that and more.

If you’re a fan of Queen, some of these stories are going to be old hat. There are legendary stories that go along with the band. But there are a few nuggets of info I didn’t know, which was good. The book is formatted as it states, in an A-Z manner, with everything according to their letter. I liked that it was like that because it made it easy to read, but also not necessarily chronological, which was different.

If you’re a fan of Queen, this book is a must. If you’re a casual fan and want to know more, then check this book out. I recommend it.