Thursday, September 18, 2014

The See-Through Leopard / Sibel Hodge


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Contemporary/ YA/ Coming of Age

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

“Sibel Hodge is an International Bestselling and Award Winning Author. She has 8 cats and 1 husband. In her spare time, she's Wonder Woman! When she's not out saving the world from dastardly demons she writes an eclectic mix of genres.”

Learn more about Ms. Hodge and her many other books at herwebsite or like her on Facebook.

Description:

“Most sixteen-year-old girls are obsessed with their looks, but Jazz Hooper's obsessed for a different reason. After a car accident that kills her mum, Jazz is left with severe facial scars and retreats into a dark depression.

Fearing what will happen if Jazz doesn't recover, her dad makes a drastic decision to move them from England to a game reserve in Kenya for a new start. And when Jazz finds an orphaned leopard cub, it sets off a chain of events that lead her on a two year journey of discovery, healing, and love.”

Appraisal:

This is an extremely captivating novel on many levels. Jazz was a typical self-absorbed teenager before the auto accident that killed her mother and left her with devastating facial scars. Now, a year later, she is still drowning in self-pity and guilt because she feels like she was solely responsible for causing the accident. Her father, being a large animal vet, and her mother lived and worked in Kenya at Kilingi Game Reserve before Jazz was born, so it was not unusual when he decided to try for a new start there when an opening for a new large animal vet became available at the same game reserve. Nathan, Jazz’s father, is hoping against all odds to draw Jazz out of her isolation and depression by changing the scenery.

The story is told through Jazz’s eyes so the reactions of school friends and strangers to Jazz’s scarred face was colored by her own insecurities, in some cases, but taunts continued in Kenya as well. When Jazz comes across a baby leopard cub, whose mother had been killed by poachers, she vows to raise the cub that she names Asha, with plans to release the leopard back into the wild when the time is right. With the help of Zach, who educates Jazz in all things leopard, she learns this is no small undertaking. Zach is a few years older than Jazz and is the son of the owners who run the Kilingi Game Reserve. He was born and raised in Kenya and plans to follow in his parent’s footsteps.

It is clear that Ms. Hodge did a lot of research to write this story as realistically possible. The prose used to paint the picture of Kenya made it easy to see and step into the African landscape. The education Jazz received about large predators was enlightening. One of the toughest lessons Jazz had to learn and accept was the whole circle of life theme. She had to be able to teach Asha how to hunt live game or she wouldn’t be able to be re-released into the wild. The information about poachers, poaching, and its consequences’ is heart-breaking and needs to be heard far and wide.

As Jazz immerses herself in rearing Asha and becomes an advocate for endangered species she gains a confidence in herself that helps her see past her own scars. This is a beautiful, educational, and inspirational story to be enjoyed by all ages. I would encourage everyone to pick up this book, read it, and then share it with a friend.

FYI:

"A percentage of the royalties from the sale of this book will be contributed to Panthera, a leading international conservation organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the world's big cats, plus other wildlife conservation groups."

Format/Typo Issues:

No issues with formatting or editing.


Rating: ***** Five stars

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Wrong Shade of Yellow / Margaret Eleanor Leigh


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Travel Memoir

Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Margaret Eleanor Leigh describes herself as a “writer without roots.” Born in South Africa, she’s lived in New Zealand, multiple parts of the United Kingdom, and Greece where she’s worked in a variety of jobs, from government bureaucrat to proofreader.

For more, visit her website.

Description:

Margaret Leigh needs a change and she loved Greece the time she visited years ago. So she decides to leave New Zealand, where she’s lived for several years, fly to Northern Europe, cycle across Europe to Greece. Once there she’ll find a place to live, get settled in, and send for her elderly mother. Is it any wonder she calls this her “big, fat, Greek midlife crisis”?

Appraisal:

Most travel memoirs have several common qualities. Some adventure. An educational aspect as the author discovers new things about the part of the world where they’re traveling. There are times when everything goes according to plan and those where nothing does. In retrospect, those challenging times turn out to be opportunities for growth, where the author learns something about the world and their place in it. Lessons we might be able to apply to our own lives.

The Wrong Shade of Yellow has most of the standard pieces. The exception seems to be the “everything goes according to plan” times, as the story felt like one growth opportunity after another. In spite of that, Leigh kept soldiering on. That she was able to do so must contain some lessons for the reader. One has to be that the ability to laugh at the ridiculous situations you can find yourself in is a great way to survive them.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues


Rating: **** Four stars

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

High on Love, a guest post from Claire Ashby, author of When You Make it Home



I’ve always been a sucker for a good romance, and I have to admit, meeting my hubs was like a romance novel, albeit a tad cliché. He lived in the apartment below mine. We met walking our dogs… actually; I tiptoed outside his apartment in my pajamas every morning in a mental fog, so my boxer could do her morning business.

He’d join me outside, all chipper in a suit and tie with a cup of coffee and his old black lab. After about the third time this happened, I started applying make-up before my morning outings.

Eventually, future hubs asked me out for dinner. We took our dogs on long nightly strolls and shared our goals and fears, stupid things we did in our youth (we thought we were older and wiser, but that didn’t come until later).

One day, early in our relationship, he showed up at my door telling me to get dressed, he had a surprise. I didn’t mention that the afternoon before I had enough dental work done to keep me in a Percocet induced fetal position. I couldn’t resist the lure of a surprise.

Soon we were driving down the road, him wearing a super proud grin on his face, me trying not to drool on my shirt. An hour later, he pulled onto a gravel road with a big sign that said: Skydive Now!

He’d been listening when I’d professed my dream to jump out of an airplane.

He was extremely pleased with himself, so I wasn’t about to say no. I was even a good sport when I found out at 6’3”, 230 pounds, he was too big to jump tandem, so we had to go solo with a static line. This means you essentially hang off the airplane wing for a five second count and then let go. As you plummet to the ground, someone pulls on a cord that pops your chute open. To prepare you in case anything goes wrong, you first take a five-hour course on how to problem solve as you’re flailing to earth all alone.

By the time we’d finished the course, my Percocet had worn off, I twitched with hunger and my jaw throbbed. The pilot had a distant look on his face, and I babbled, making small talk like I do when I’m nervous. We were just about to get on the plane and I said jokingly, “Hey, nobody’s ever died doing this, right?”

The pilot paled and replied, “Last week a guy’s chute didn’t open.”

I turned to the instructor and he nodded, but shooed me onto the plane and said, “Don’t worry, I’m going to open your chute. You’ll be fine.”  

I really liked future hubs. He was the coolest guy I’d ever met. I didn’t want him to see me as a big wimpy chicken, so I sucked it up, put on my yeah-I-got-this face and I jumped. Freefalling was terrible. Wind slapped against my body, I had no sense of control, for once my mind emptied of all thought. Then the chute opened and my world slowed. Everything was beautiful.

Years later I asked him what he was thinking before I leaped out of the plane. He said, “I was hoping you wouldn’t jump, so I wouldn’t have to.”


Falling in love is like jumping out of an airplane. You must have faith your partner will jump too. You have to believe you won't get hurt. You literally throw caution to the wind. I think this is why we love romance novels. We love to recapture those first few moments, right after we jump, where the world is still and quiet and perfect and you're free-falling with the coolest guy you’ve ever met.

Get your copy of Claire's book When You Make it Home from Amazon US (ebook or paper) or Amazon UK (ebook or paper).


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Monday, September 15, 2014

Reprise Review: Postcards from Mr. Pish: East Coast Edition / K.S. Brooks


Reviewed by: BigAl with input from the Princess

Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Approximate word count: 23 pages

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

K.S. Brooks has written numerous books in multiple genres including romantic suspense, satire, and educationally oriented children’s books. She is co-administrator of Indies Unlimited (a multi-author blog “celebrating independent authors”), where you can often catch her pontificating on matters of interest to both readers and authors. For more, visit Brooks’website.

Description:

“Mr. Pish, the lovable Jack Russell Terrier, leads readers on an expedition down the East Coast of the United States in Postcards from Mr. Pish Volume 3. With each new discovery, the traveling terrier sends a postcard with full-color photographs and engaging text geared to promote outdoor learning and literacy. Mr. Pish's enthusiasm inspires young and old to read, explore and learn in a fun way. (Fourth book in the Mr. Pish Educational Series, third in the Postcards Series)”

Appraisal:

One of a series of children’s books featuring Mr. Pish, the author’s Jack Russell Terrier. This volume tracks Pish’s travels down the heart of the eastern coast of the U.S., from New Hampshire to Georgia. What struck me about the book was how much was going on in what, at first, seems like a simple book. Most pages concentrate on a single stop at a historical site or other point of interest, with a map showing where it is, a post card from Mr. Pish (with a description of what he saw and thought of this stop), and two or three pictures of the site, often including a picture of Mr. Pish sitting in the foreground. It seemed obvious that this book and the others in the series would educate the children who read them in geography, history, and other subjects, while whetting their appetite for travel. They seemed suitable for parents to read to younger children and newer readers, while also being a fast, fun read for children with a few years of reading experience.

When The Princess, my nine year-old granddaughter, read this and gave me her feedback, she agreed with my take. She specifically mentioned liking both the postcards and pictures, along with one item that had slipped past me, a “stamp” on each postcard with a likeness of Mr. Pish, and gave the book a grade of A-. After reading about Mr. Pish, she not only wanted to visit the eastern coast herself, but expressed a desire to meet Mr. Pish. Who knows, maybe someday.

Although this book displays adequately on a grayscale Kindle, a color reader such as a Kindle Fire or computer running a Kindle app is preferred.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five stars

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ten Questions: The Insider’s Guide to Saving Money on Auto Insurance / John David


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Non-Fiction

Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

John David is a licensed insurance agent who once sold more insurance than anyone else in his company for five straight quarters. He says he’s “sold thousands of car insurance policies in over 30 different states.”

Description:

A guide to understanding how to get the best price possible for auto insurance.
It should be noted that this is very specific to how this process works in the US. Although there is some variance from state to state, the areas where there is a difference are pointed out.

Appraisal:

One difficulty with a book like this is in gauging the expertise of the author beyond taking his claims on faith. With no particular insider knowledge of my own, the best way available to me, and probably to the majority of people reading this review, is going to be whether what is presented agrees with your experience as a consumer. At least by this measure, the book seems credible to me. Of course, the ultimate guide will be whether implementing the book’s suggestions results in a savings or not and you wouldn’t have to save much to make the purchase worthwhile.

The book does use some technical terms or insurance jargon. However, the author explains most of these when first used and again in a glossary at the back. Understanding these terms should be easy enough for most people.

A potential reader is probably interested in knowing what kinds of hints the book explains. One hint, applicable to a policy with multiple drivers (maybe a husband and a wife) is that who is listed first on the policy (the “primary” insured) can make a significant difference in the amount of the premium. He explains why this is and how to determine which driver to make primary to get the best quote. Another hint explains why having a bad memory could cost you and what to do to prevent this. All in all an excellent guide for car insurance consumers.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues


Rating: **** Four stars

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Reprise Review: Thought I Knew You / Kate Moretti


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Mystery/Chick Lit/Romance

Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

“Kate Moretti lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids, and a dog. She's worked in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years as a scientist, and has been an avid fiction reader her entire life.

She enjoys traveling and cooking, although with two kids, a day job, and writing, she doesn't get to do those things as much as she'd like.
Her lifelong dream is to buy an old house with a secret passageway.”

For more, visit Moretti’s blog.

Description:

“Claire Barnes is shattered when her husband, Greg, goes on a business trip and never returns. Unwilling to just wait for the police to find him, Claire conducts her own investigation. Her best friend Drew helps her look for answers, but all she finds are troubling questions. With every clue, she discovers that Greg may not be the man she thought she married. While battling her growing feelings for Drew and raising her two young children, Claire must learn to live with the knowledge that the truth behind Greg’s disappearance may never be revealed.”

Appraisal:

It’s a good thing I don’t have to shelve Thought I Knew You at the local bookstore. I’m not sure where I’d put it. It could fit in romance, although the typical man who doesn’t read romance, but enjoys books with a female protagonist, would never stumble on it, despite its being a book he might like. Chick-Lit presents the same problem. The female lead is working through issues, not unlike what you might find in that genre; however, chick-lit is typically lighter and more humorous than you’ll find here. We’ve also got a mystery at the heart of the story, but that isn’t a good fit either. There is both much more to the story than that, and not as much mystery as a typical reader of that genre would expect.

Luckily, I don’t have to shelve this and you won’t need to know where to look to find it. From my ramblings above and the description, you should have a reasonable idea of the kind of story you’ll find. Anyone who reviews a lot of anything, whether music, video games, or books, loves to find something that is different enough to push the normal boundaries, while still being high quality and not going so far as to exceed the typical comfort zone. This is one of those books. Claire and Drew, the main characters (in addition to the missing Greg) are people I cared about, always important to grab and hold my interest. I assumed the main story conflict would come to a resolution, but I was constantly flip-flopping among the various ways that might happen and, when I finally got there, was still surprised. This is an engaging debut novel, that deserves to do well.

FYI:

Some adult language.

Format/Typo Issues:

Review based on an advanced reader copy.

Rating: ***** Five stars

Friday, September 12, 2014

One Right Thing / Matthew Iden


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Police Procedural/Mystery

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Currently a resident of Northern Virginia, Matthew Iden has lived, worked, and studied around the world. You’ll find lots of short stories and books on his author central page at Amazon including the (so far) five book Marty Singer Mystery series. The first of these, A Reason to Live, was a nominee in the mystery category of the 2014 Books and Pals Readers’ Choice awards.

For more, visit the author’s website.

Description:

“Retired DC Homicide detective Marty Singer is driving through rural Virginia when he sees a billboard by the side of the road with the picture of a man and a simple, stunning question:

J.D. HOPE WAS MURDERED ON MAY 6TH. DO YOU KNOW WHY?

To most, the message means nothing. But Marty stops the car, turns around, and rushes headlong into a deadly mix of drugs, lies, and double-crosses.
Because Marty's got his own history with the man on the sign...and he needs to find out who murdered J.D. Hope and why if he wants to do One Right Thing.”

Appraisal:

I loved the first two Marty Singer mysteries and this one, the third in the series, continues the streak. Part of the appeal is the twist on the genre, since technically Marty is no longer a policeman. He doesn’t have to operate under the same constraints. He doesn’t have the same readily available resources. Yet, in his heart, he’s still a cop and the series still feels like a police procedural.

I also like Marty for the kind of person he is, approaching his vocation turned avocation to protect and serve, wanting to see justice done. In this particular case the main thing motivating Marty is, as the title implies, a desire to do the right thing. Marty has a history with the murder victim and is driven to find his murderer to make up for a feeling that he fell short in his duties to him in the past.

I also like author Iden’s ability to string words together in a way that doesn’t feel like he’s trying too hard, yet sometimes stops me short with their subtle, yet evocative way of describing something. One example is this description of a house.

I stopped in front of a white-sided Queen Anne–style home on the corner of Beal and Market. It was a sprawling pile, with wraparound porch, octagonal tower, and meticulously carved gingerbread under the eaves. The knobs, pilasters, dentils, and other features that I’m sure an architect would have a word for were painted a slate blue with salmon trim, giving the whole thing a slightly silly, fairy-tale cast.

If you’re a fan of police procedurals or mysteries, One Right Thing (really the entire Marty Singer Mystery series) is well worth your time.

FYI:

Some adult language.

Although part of a series, this book can be read as a standalone. Or, if you’d prefer to read in order, the first book of the series, A Reason to Live, is free indefinitely for your eReader from most major retailers.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.


Rating: ***** Five Stars