Tuesday, July 28, 2009

An ABC Escapade Through Egypt by Bernadette Simpson

Title: An ABC Escapade Through Egypt
Author: Bernadette Simpson
Genre: Children/ABC Books
Publisher: Bernadette Simpson
ISBN: 9771209396
Format: Paperback, 32 pages
List Price: $14.00US
Reviewed: July 25, 2009
Rating: 5 stars (4.9)
Warnings: None

Synopsis: This book is exactly what the title says it is: an escapade through modern-day Egypt using the alphabet as a guide.

My two cents: This book is an alliterative masterpiece that belongs on every bookshelf in every home. I was enthralled from the first page. Ms Simpson manages to capture life in modern Egypt with a few simple letters, easy to understand wording and magnificent photographs. From (A)thletes to the city of (Z)amalek, with (E)grets, the (R)ed Sea and (U)rchins in between, it is a truly amazing journey.

While making use of the alphabet to bring the reader into Ms Simpson's world, this is not your typical preschool ABC book. It is written at a more advanced level, more for 9-12 year olds. However, this will be a primary book I use in teaching my own young children about the wonders of modern-day Egypt.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

In the Eye of the Beholder by Sharon E Cathcart

Title: In the Eye of the Beholder :
A Novel of the Phantom of the Opera
Author: Sharon E Cathcart
Series: Phantom Series, #1
Genre: Fiction/Historical
Publisher: Scribd
Format: PDF e-book, 121 pages
List Price: $5.00US
Reviewed: July 24, 2009
Rating: 4 stars (4.3)
Warnings: Explicit sexual content

Synopsis: Erik, the physically deformed hero finds a home, a place to belong and be accepted, in the heroine, Claire. She has a fondness for animals, for seeming lost causes. In Erik, she finds the love she thought she'd lost. Together, they escape the personal hells in which they'd been mired.

My two cents: This is a very well-written book. It is also fast-paced. I felt a little swept away and once I started reading, it was hard to stop. (Life, however, would insist otherwise.)

Claire is different than your average romance heroine. She is over thirty, never married, and under the control of a man who does not have her best interests at heart. She rebels against the “proper” behavior expected of her.

Erik is a man who has few friends and lives most of his life in solitude. His fascination with Claire helps heal the wounds caused by the fickle Christine. He is not the nicest man, however, and at times downright nasty.

These two characters could not be any more right for each other and while their coming together felt a little rushed to me, it still seemed right.

I liked Ms Cathcart's take on the classic Phantom story. It was a little more graphic (read: erotic) than I personally care for, but there was story and emotion enough that I enjoyed it even while skipping those scenes. The historical detail is excellent without being “textbook-y” and allows the reader to feel a part of the time period. Do not expect this to be your typical run-of-the-mill romance, however. The end is not expected but somehow, it's still acceptable.

Overall: 4.3 stars. Quick and deep with believable characters who have believable issues.

Note: This book is also available in many digital formats from smashwords.com and in paperback from Amazon and Turner Maxwell Books.

The Wind Whispers War by kgcummings

Title: The Wind Whispers War
Author: kgcummings
Website: www.kgcummings.com
Series: Vietnam Love Story, #1
Genre: Romance/Historical/Vietnam
Publisher: Authorhouse
ISBN: 142596026X
Format: Trade Paperback, 248 pages
List Price: $14.49US
Reviewed: July 9, 2009
Rating: 4 stars (4.3)
Characters: Jeffrey “Mad Dog” Madison, Beth Madison, née Campbell
Warnings: Graphic sexual content; some language

Synopsis: Jeffrey “Mad Dog” Madison is a playboy, finding a certain satisfaction in his romantic pursuits. Until he meets Beth Campbell, a farm girl whose innocence is polar opposite. While unrest is rampant in the world, these two young people fall deeply in love, always aware that war may rip them apart forever.

My two cents: Oh, this book was so hard to put down! This surprised me, as the Vietnam war was not a subject that ever really interested me. But I was immediately intrigued with these two characters and wanted to know what was going to happen next. The emotion was believably written and very easy to get drawn into. I cried more than once, felt like I was living through history that my parents actually did experience and I finally understood some of the stories my mom told me. Not only was this hard to put down, I found myself thinking about these characters later. Kgcummings successfully created characters that the reader could care for. I look forward to reading the rest of the series. I want to know what happens to these characters as the story goes on.

And I just have to mention, this series has some of the most beautiful book covers I have ever seen. :o)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Passing Fancies by Elizabeth Mansfield

Title: Passing Fancies
Author: Elizabeth Mansfield
Genre: Romance/Historical/Regency
Publisher: Berkley
ISBN: 0425063356
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 217 pages
List Price: Out-of-print
Reviewed: July 19, 2009
Rating: 4 stars (4.4)
Warnings: None

Synopsis: Lovely Lady Philippa Wyckfield gets drawn into any number of unfortunate situations due to her generous nature. Staying with friends she'd known since childhood, she manages to catch the eye of two of the brothers. One wrestles with his disgust of her supposed madcap nature while the other wrestles with his invisibility.

What I liked: I loved the characters with their varied idiosyncrasies. There is Lady Philippa (Pippa), whose generous nature lands her in more trouble than any normal human can handle; William, the stiffly proper head of the Sturtevant household and oldest child of Lady Georgina; Lady Georgina, air-headed, well-meaning mother and lady of the house; Simon, a scientist whose head is more often cloudy with his work than not; Sybil, only daughter and incorrigible madcap; and Dolly, the youngest son whose madness for horseflesh leads to at least one of the unfortunate situations I mentioned earlier. These characters are fleshed-out rather well despite the shortness of this book. Even the Oxbroughs, the lady and her son who are more or less the antagonists of the tale, have their quirks, making them more believable.

There was something I noticed with this book that struck me as interesting. It is written in third person omniscient. Perhaps this POV was more acceptable in 1983 when this book was written. From the research I've done in regard to publishing houses, this POV is not acceptable now. However, I feel Elizabeth Mansfield pulled it off rather well. While reading, I knew what was happening in each character's head, the POV switches were graceful and hardly noticeable. Considering this book is not a mystery in any way, I see no reason why we should not know what everyone is thinking.

The story was entertaining, light and fun. Love scenes were limited to kissing and even those were few and far between. I laughed more than once and at one point I thought I might cry. All that aside, this book is a good choice if you want a delightful, light read.

The Desirable Duchess by Marion Chesney

Title: The Desirable Duchess
Author: Marion Chesney
Genre: Romance/Historical/Regency
Publisher: Fawcett Crest
ISBN: 0449221563
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 172 pages
List Price: Out-of-print
Reviewed: December 2, 2008
Rating: 4 stars (4.1)
Warnings: None

Synopsis: Alice is in love with Sir Gerald. Her parents orchestrate a break-up and marry her off to the new peer in town, the Duke of Farrant. A talking bird starts off the controversy. Misunderstandings and general nuttiness ensue.

My opinion: Quite an amusing read...the first time. It's still funny, even six reads later, but if it is re-read too soon, it's just annoying. The talking bird isn't even the funny part. The silliness of the main characters and several supporting characters is what induces chuckling.

The heroine is 18 or so when the story starts and seems in keeping with her age, i.e., naive and trusting. The duke is around 30, a veteran of the Peninsular Campaign, and so a little hardened--something that is not really evidenced in the story except for a very few instances when the duke says/thinks something to that effect. Meanwhile, he has some serious problems with jealousy.

Overall: 4.1 stars because I do really like this very succinct story. I like Marion Chesney's ability to stuff an entertaining story into a very small book... :o)

Tilly by Jennie Tremaine (Marion Chesney)

Title: Tilly
Author: Jennie Tremaine
Genre: Romance/Historical/Edwardian
Publisher: Dell
ISBN: 0440186374
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 254 pages
List Price: Out-of-print
Reviewed: December 16, 2008
Rating: 4 stars (3.8)
Warnings: None

Synopsis: Gauche and chubby Lady Tilly is left destitute when her father dies and ends up working for a neighbor, Lady Aileen, as her companion. Lady Aileen treats her abominably, and the Marquess of Heppleford steps in to rescue her, offering a marriage of convenience. He abandons her on their wedding day and she makes herself over with the help of her maid, Francine, determined to make him fall in love with her.

My opinion: Typical Marion Chesney except Edwardian instead of Regency. Little facts are dropped here and there but nothing too in depth or off topic. The storyline is fairly common but Ms Chesney manages a level of humor that causes the reader to suddenly bust out laughing. I believe Ms Chesney takes great delight in mocking the eccentricities of the upper classes of the time periods she portrays.

I found Tilly's metamorphosis quite believable. Considering she was chubby and made up like a clown before Francine got a hold of her, it makes sense that a simple makeover and diet could transform her into a physical beauty. As for her hoydenish behavior, she has a few relapses, showing that she was still the same underneath despite all the studying of etiquette she was made to do.

Honestly, I don't have much of an opinion of the hero. He was typical, I think, of his upbringing, feeling he had certain rights just because he was born male and wealthy. For all that, he was not too bad. Other than the cheating thing. That was reprehensible.

Overall, it was a light, enjoyable read. Despite the fact that the cover declares this to be a Regency romance, it takes place in Britain, early 1900s, nearly 100 years after the Regency. Just FYI.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Kitty by Jennie Tremaine (Marion Chesney)

Title: Kitty
Author: Jennie Tremaine
Genre: Romance/Historical/Edwardian
Publisher: Dell
ISBN: 0440149819
Format: Mass Market Paperback,
List Price: Out-of-print
Reviewed: December 25, 2008
Rating: 4 stars (3.6)
Warnings: None

Synopsis: Shy, Kitty Harrison's miserly father dies, revealing her to be an heiress. Lord Peter Chesworth needs money to restore his beloved estate and asks for Kitty's hand, professing a love he didn't feel. He believes her to be as pushing as her mother and treats her quite callously after the vows are said. Kitty retreats further into herself, shocked and dismayed by the unlovely turn her life has taken. Then, someone decides she's better off dead.

My Opinion: Typical Marion Chesney, witty and darkly amusing at times, with tidbits of history and mockery of the upper class eccentricities. I didn't find it all that romantic; Peter was a cad at first and it was hard to believe he would fall in love with Kitty. The attempts on Kitty's life were more interesting than anything, really. It took me a little longer than usual to solve the mystery.

Overall, 3.6 stars for wit, historical fact-dropping, and because I like Marion Chesney's often mocking look at the upper classes.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry

Title: The Face of a Stranger
Author: Anne Perry
Series: William Monk Novels, #1
Genre: Historical Fiction; Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Fawcett Crest
ISBN: 0804108587 (978-0804108584)
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages
List Price: $7.99
Reviewed: February 15, 2009
Rating: 4 stars (4.3)
Warnings: Mild violence

Synopsis: This is the first in Anne Perry's "William Monk" mysteries. William Monk, detective, lost his memory in a carriage accident. He tries to recover bits and pieces of his life while trying to solve the murder of Jocelin Grey, a member of the nobility. To help him in this is his partner, Evan, and Hester Latterly, formerly one of Florence Nightingale's nurses.

My opinion: I like the characters in this, but I prefer Perry's other Victorian series, featuring Charlotte & Thomas Pitt. That aside, I thought the characters were rather well developed but this story focused primarily on Monk, due to his loss of memory. That was ok with me since I didn't really care all that much for Hester anyway. She was a little too harsh for me to like her, but I thought she was well-written.

Meanwhile, I ruined this book for myself by inadvertently reading the second book first. Hence, I already knew who the killer was since he stands trial in the second book, A Dangerous Mourning. I do believe, if I hadn't already known, I would have been very surprised by the outcome, something to be desired in a mystery novel. On a historical note: I am not an "expert" on Victorian England, since I tend to focus a little more on the Regency, but what I read seemed quite accurate.

I apologize if my thoughts here seem a little haphazard. Truthfully, I started this book over a year ago and had trouble getting into it. I completely blame my mistake for this (see above), not the author.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sons of Avalon: Merlin's Prophecy by Dee Marie

Title: Merlin's Prophecy
Author: Dee Marie
Series: Sons of Avalon, #1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Conceptual Images Publishing
ISBN: 0615150527 (9780615150529)
Format: Trade Paperback, 304 pages
List Price: $16.95
Reviewed: July 6, 2009
Rating: 5 stars (4.7)
Warnings: Mild violence

Synopsis: In an unusual twist on Arthurian-type legends, Merlin's Prophecy takes the reader on an adventurous journey, following a young Merlin on his quest to bring about the events that would shape ancient Britain and provide salvation for that war-torn land.

What I liked: Ooo, the historical detail was so breathtaking. I could visualize everything as it happened: Merlin's discovery as an infant, his ever-present hawk, bloody battles, drenching downpours, druidic practices, and the child prophet forced to grow into a man before his time, enduring heartache and strife no child should ever experience. Merlin's story was told in such a way that I was eager to learn more, learn about this "historical" figure as a child and discover just how pivotal a role he played in the eventual arrival of King Arthur. WARNING: This book made me cry more than once. Just FYI. I also loved the inclusion of a glossary of sorts, listing the people and places encountered in this adventurous tale. I'm thrilled this book is the first and we get to experience this world all over again just as soon as Ms Marie gets the sequel finished...hint, hint. :o)

What I didn't like: I hate this part of the review. I loved the book, the storyline, the characters. I already mentioned my anticipation for the sequel. However, there were times when I felt a little disappointed when learning about one character only to find myself suddenly following a different character when my curiosity with the first was not yet satisfied. This probably says more about my impatience as a reader than Ms Marie's abilities as an author...

Overall: 4.7 stars, definitely a keeper to be re-read and enjoyed. I recommend this book to fans of Arthurian legends and anyone who enjoys a good historical novel.


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