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Posts Tagged ‘Book Suggestions’

Cozy Fantasy Review – Legends & Lattes

Tuesday, August 8th, 2023

Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree 

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)

When I first saw info on this book, it was listed as a cozy fantasy. I’ve tried the cozy mysteries and as much as I love their punny titles and adorable covers, I could never get into them. I was afraid that I would feel the same about a fantasy cozy but since I do love a good fantasy and an exceptional latte, I decided to give this one a go. I’m happy that I did. This was so much fun and full of feels. I sped through the book and was eager for more.

The story is set around an orc named Viv who is ready to hang up her sword and try selling coffee for a change. This is not as easy as it would sound. She is starting from an old horse stable, in a town where she is a stranger, and at a place no one even knows what coffee is. Yet, along the way, she meets a cast a quirky characters and finds that all you need is friendship, respect, and faith. With all of that, the rest just falls into place.
I truly wanted to crawl into this world. To be there when the townspeople tried their first sip. To hang out with the crew at the coffee shop. To try a creamy latte along with one of those heavenly pastries. It was so much fun to escape into that tale and can’t wait until the next book comes out so I can escape again.




Series Review – The Tomorrow Series

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2023



Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

The Tomorrow series by John Marsden, first published in the 1990s, consists of 7 short novels intended for the upper end of YA readers (i.e., there is discussion of sex and some sex scenes, people get killed rather graphically, and there’s some torture).  The actions taken by the teens, and the results, are not completely believable but not totally implausible either. It’s written all from the POV of Ellie, in a lengthy diary format, and it’s her take on the events that pulls in the reader.  Fair warning, not everyone is going to survive.  This isn’t a series where you can dip in and out, it needs to be read start to finish.

TOMORROW WHEN THE WAR BEGAN starts it off with a group of Australian teens on a camping trip. They’ve bushwhacked their way into a deep, barely accessible canyon called Hell where legend has it a hermit lived decades ago.  At the bottom, it’s a pleasant place with plenty of shade and water. Ellie, who organized the trip, and her friends spend a nice week lazing around the campsite. When they come out, their homes are empty and their pets are dead. Where is everyone? Ominous signs lead them to the horrifying truth: during the national holiday, a foreign country has invaded and seemingly conquered Australia, and everyone they know is being held captive as the invading army moves to occupy the country for its own people.  The kids hurriedly head back into Hell before they too are captured.

Ellie and the others are just teens. What can they do? They don’t want to be guerilla fighters but they aren’t about to turn themselves in either. As it turns out, with a little ingenuity they manage to inflict some significant damage on the invaders but not without cost.

THE DEAD OF NIGHT, the second book, Ellie and the rest explore away from their hideout and come across a group of other resistance fighters. They are so relieved to find adults, but it isn’t going to be that easy. Once again they need to strike the enemy by themselves.

A KILLING FROST: Lots of action and heartbreak in this one. Ellie evinces a certain sympathy for the invaders – it doesn’t stop her from fighting back – but it’s a point of view I could not sympathize with.  Her thought is that the invaders have some justification for their actions because Australia refused to take in more immigrants.  This seems to me more like an opinion the odious Major Harvey would have. Again, she doesn’t stop fighting and it’s to her credit that she feels bad about the people she’s killed. She rightly has concerns over what this will do to her, and her friends, in the long run.

DARKNESS BE MY FRIEND: Ellie and the remaining kids reluctantly return to Wirramurree with a group of guerilla soldiers, intent on sabotaging the military airfield that the invaders have built there. Not a lot of forward motion in this episode.  Once again, Ellie spends a lot of mental anguish on killing the enemy.

BURNING FOR REVENGE: The group decides that safely – safe is relative to be sure – sitting in their refuge isn’t what they want to do. A scouting mission turns incredibly dangerous very fast.  It’s a roller-coaster of action for almost the entire book.  And they come across something unexpected.

THE NIGHT IS FOR HUNTING: There’s more mouths to feed now, and the occupiers are getting closer to finding the hideout.  It can’t keep going on this way forever. A lot of interpersonal tension here, and fewer explosions, but still a taut story that moves along the plot.

THE OTHER SIDE OF DAWN concludes the series. The group is asked for just a bit more action as outside forces gather for “D-Day” to take back Australia.  Can they escape with their lives just one more time? There are definitely uncomfortable scenes in this one. I liked how Marsden ended it – the war’s over but life is not going to ever be as good as it was.
















Mystery Monday Review – Twenty Years Later

Monday, July 31st, 2023

Twenty Years Later by Charlie Donlea

Review by Pat D. (pat0814)


This is intriguing until the end. Walt Jenkins is a retired FBI agent with a painful past when he is assigned to a case in New York involving a missing man who spearheaded a sophisticated Ponzi scheme involving billions of dollars that financed his lavish lifestyle. Avery Mason is a successful investigative journalist, a well known television personality and the daughter of the missing man. She is in New York to examine the details of the murder of a prosperous author for her television program, while surreptitiously obtaining an illegal passport. Since Walt was the agent in charge of the author’s murder, their paths cross with unexpected consequences. Adding to the mystery, the suspected murderer facing indictment is Victoria Ford, who was identified as a victim of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

There are numerous surprises in this book. The ending is particularly riveting. This is my first novel by Charlie Donlea, and I look forward to reading more by this accomplished author.




Sci-Fi Review – The Spare Man

Saturday, July 29th, 2023

The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)


THE SPARE MAN is a fun SF mystery, set on a spaceship heading for Mars.  This had to have been inspired by “The Thin Man” movies, and while I know just enough to catch the reference (retired detective, rich wife, little dog, they drink a lot) that’s about it. Possibly it’s funnier if you’re familiar with the movie, but I thought it was amusing enough as is.

Ultra rich and famous Tesla Crane and her retired famous PI husband Shal are on their honeymoon when a person is murdered in the hallway right outside their stateroom. First on the scene, Tesla stays to give comfort to the victim while her husband Shal goes chasing after a fleetingly glimpsed figure.

When security arrives on the scene, they leap to the obvious conclusion and arrest Shal.  Tesla, who is so rich that money is never an object, immediately calls her lawyer on Earth. The interactions with the lawyer are one of the funnier bits throughout the book, as the time lag between Earth and the ship increases, so does the delay in conversation. Which means of course that the lawyer is always several minutes behind what’s actually happening on the scene.

It all goes from bad to worse when a body is discovered in the recycling tanks but there is no missing passenger. Then more murders happen, and all of them seemingly point to either Shal or Tesla.  The victims all know another very rich passenger, who just happens to own the company that owns the company that owns the spaceship.  But what’s the motive? And who is the spare man? The mystery plot gets pretty convoluted; there are a lot of connections to be explored and some red herrings along the way. I didn’t  guess the villain, but it was a decent motive, just not an “oh wow” moment.

It’s told from Tesla’s first-person POV, and I felt we don’t get much about the other characters, not even the husband.  But the dog is very cute. The security staff are stereotypes (but I did laugh to learn about Bob).

I liked Tesla. She’s intellectually smart, but occasionally lacks common sense. She’s got chronic pain issues from an accident, managed with a brain implant that can scale back pain signals, but supposedly she will have to deal with the aftereffects later.  It was interesting and very convenient, but considering all she did there weren’t enough physical consequences later. She’s got a service dog, which was good, but I thought Kowal allowed it to be too much pet and not enough service.  And then there’s Tesla’s money.  Her wealth and fame basically saved her and Shal, which Kowal has her talk about more than once.

I enjoyed it, although it isn’t going to make my yearly top ten. But there are some things in it (you’ll figure them out) that I think are going to place this book firmly in a time period. It will be interesting to read this in about 10 years and see what holds up.




Mystery Monday Review – The Angel Maker

Monday, July 24th, 2023

The Angel Maker by Alex North

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)


A suspenseful book that kept me entertained right up to the end. I even had a bunch of the mystery figured out before it ended and yet enjoyed staying with it. Good characters that interacted well and an interesting plot that kept a steady pace.


We start out with Katie Shaw in her teen years, in love and happy. Tragedy strikes and sends her and her family down a much different path than she could ever have anticipated. Fast forward into the future and Katie is married with an adorable daughter. Her once close brother is now estranged. Things still move on in a, somewhat, normal manner until her life takes another twist. The past is pushed forward and secrets start to leak out. Along with those secrets come danger. Danger for Katie, her brother and everyone else she loves.


Another good book by North. The Whisper Man still holds as my favorite but this one is definitely comparable.


Literary Fiction Review – Hello Beautiful

Sunday, July 23rd, 2023

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

Review by Pat D. (pat0814)

The Padavano family is a close-knit Italian family living in Chicago.  It is comprised of the matriarch Rose, Charlie, her husband, the dreamer, and four daughters: Julia, Sylvie and the twins, Emmeline and Cecilia.  The four daughters are especially close under the watchful eye of Rose and their caring father, who greets each of the girls with “Hello, beautiful” when they enter a room.

Each of the girls has strengths that contribute to their essential well-being.  They compare themselves to the characters in Little Women.  When Julia marries William, their lives are momentarily upended.  William is the child of a loveless home and is swept up into belonging to acceptance by this family. What follows is a demonstration that the sisters maintain their tight bond.  Rose is shattered when divorce, a pregnancy out of wedlock, and homosexuality intrude into what she wanted the world to perceive as her perfect family.  An unexpected marriage by one of the sisters leaves her devastated from her new home in Florida and a rift in this family.  Throughout their sometimes-turbulent lives, they are strengthened by the memories of Charlie’s unconditional love.

Ann Napolitano continues the tradition she began with Dear Edward in these in-depth character and family studies.  This is a profoundly insightful novel into the deep love and losses of these people.
5 stars.







Historical Fiction Review – Hold Fast

Friday, July 21st, 2023

Hold Fast by J.H. Gelernter

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

The year is 1803 and Great Britain is fighting Napoleon. Thomas Grey was the head of the British spy network in Malta, until his wife was killed.  He blames himself for allowing  her on the ship that ended up in a battle with a French warship. Now he can’t bring himself to remain on the job, so he resigns intending to head for distant Boston, where he has relatives.

However, hostilities with the French are not over, and after participating in another sea battle, he ends up in Portugal looking for a ship heading for the Americas.  It’s a tricky spot and he is not going to advertise his former career, although identifying himself as former military will have advantages. But he runs into a disaffected Irishman, part of a network working for France. This man thinks Grey might be brought around to give vital military information to the French.

As soon as Grey hears this, the possibility of revenge for his wife’s death blooms huge. He’s all in, and it’s just a matter of convincing the enemy he has what they want.

Thus begins an exciting, tension-filled adventure with Grey against d’Aumont, the captain of the ship which killed his wife.  Lots of historical detail, but it doesn’t take over the story. Grey is sort of like a James Bond figure, with exceptional skills in sword-fighting, gambling, and even casual hook-ups. His adversary has a few redeeming qualities.  Most of the other characters are thin, although we meet his wife in some flashbacks. There are a number of very convenient events to help the plot along, but there’s enough momentum to let them whip past you.  Sea battles, duelling, antique firearms, torture, escape…it’s all there.

As I write this there are three in the series. This first book,  is a complete story, no cliffhangers, but the ending makes it obvious that Grey’s adventures are just beginning.  The cover blurbs reference Patrick O’Brian, but while it’s set in the same period you won’t find that same richness. That’s fine. It’s a good thriller with a tough competent hero and an evil villain, set in a very turbulent period so plenty of room for major plot action, and has some interesting bits of history both large and small.