Wednesday Reviews

Quintspinner: A Prates Quest by Dianne Greenlay

A Pirates Quest is the beginning story of 16 year old Tess Willoughby, a world sheltered yet intelligent daughter of a Doctor in 1717 London. Through a series of unpredictable events, Tess comes into the possession of a collection of rings called Spinners and she is drawn into a destiny that she may not have wanted and definitely did not expect.

This book is a mixture of light and dark, funny and serious, originality and predictability, farmers and pirates. Right when you think you have a grasp of what it’s going to be like, some big and unexpected event will sweep you along further into the story.

Overall this book was a fun ride with an appeal for young adult and adult audiences. The writing style, while a bit simplistic, is easily overcome by the intrigue of the story. The story does fluctuate between predictable and unbelievable and the characters were a bit unpolished, but this was a wonderful debut novel to just kick back and relax with over the weekend.

I rate this book 3 and a half stars.

Mary McAllister

The Blood Upon The Rose by Tim Vicary

This book deals with the story of the Irish Independence and the formation and activities of the IRA and effectively brings out divided personal loyalties in the bigger picture of political unrest. The time period has been well researched and the characters fit well into the background.

The feel of Ireland in the 1920s is very strong, and is the mainstay of the entire book. The despair of the local people, the determination of the British authorities to stamp out Irish nationalism and the anger of the IRA in dealing with such high handedness is very realistic and interesting. The characters are well etched out and the middle of the book becomes very interesting as the plots start to twist and turn and the characters get more complex. The book was suspenseful and kept me wondering what was happening next. Until the very finish, there was no indication of how it would end. The love story fits snugly into the background and flows very naturally.

However, on the downside, there were some clichéd stories. The war torn assassin, the radical idealist who is in love with a rebel girl, an aristocratic girl rebelling against her destiny are all ideas that have been explored before countless times, but the author manages to breathe fresh life into them. At some points in the story, there is a show of misogyny that could have been avoided.

I give this book a 3.5 of 5 stars. This is highly recommended for anyone interested in a fictional depiction of the background of the Irish – English conflict in the last century.


Carolina Rain by Nancy B. Brewer
“Open the pages of Carolina Rain and step on to the streets of an era gone by.

Carolina Rain is not just a read, but an experience. You will smell the magnolia trees, feel the sun on your face and taste the bittersweet tears of a beautiful young girl coming of age at the dawning of the Civil War.

Theodosia Elizabeth Sanders, “Lizzie” was born October 6, 1842, but in many ways, she is no different than a modern young woman of our era. Her open heart is filled with hope and a desire for love. Yet, her innocence makes her a target for the less than trustworthy. See how this remarkable young woman rises above all prejudices to embrace the hearts of her true friends.

Carolina Rain a fiction novel based on history, is a real page turner, filled with the intimate details and an eyewitness accounts of The War Between The States.”

Carolina really touched home with me. Not only because of the subject matter but because I feel so connected to Lizzie. She is Southern, loves her family and friends, she never gives up, she cares deeply about helping others and loves the South.
Nancy truly has captured the essence of the South and the way of life during the 1800’s. I felt as if I was transported in time and experienced the 1800’s for myself. The character building is so strong I believe there is not one character I dislike, even the unsavory ones. I’m really looking forward to the next book in this series.
Saint Maggie by Janet R. Stafford
Saint Maggie, by Janet R. Stafford, is an intriguing story of scandal with believable and colorful characters. This Antebellum Period piece introduced many controversies that continue to be relevant to this day: woman’s rights, race relations, controversies in the church, and how society responds to life events.

The main plot of the story is the scandal of a minister and the effects of the scandal on the towns’ people and their faith. In addition to the main plot, various subplots were introduced that enriched the story and increased my interest in the characters. Ms. Stafford, wrote on the relations between African Americans and whites during the Antebellum Era including the Underground Railroad, abolition, and prejudices. In addition, Ms. Stafford briefly touched on the beginnings of the woman suffrage movement in the US.

Ms. Stafford weaves a story where well developed characters give life to the story. Maggie, the main character and narrator of the story, is an independent woman that struggles with social conventions. Through her eyes and journal we learn of the many other characters in the book: Jeremiah Madison, the young local minister that is defeated by his demons and becomes the scandal of the town; Eli, Maggie’s supportive and spirited Quaker husband; Emily and Nate, Maggie’s dear African-American friends; the rest of Maggie’s family from her strong and intelligent daughters to her spoiled niece and pompous then humbled brother; Cassie, the troubled maid with a checkered past; and the ‘outcasts’ of the boarding house. Cassie was for me the most intriguing of characters with the limited development of her checkered past, I will certainly look more into antebellum Five Points, NYC to learn more of the lives of the people inhabiting the area.

With regard to style, Saint Maggie is a fiction work with a story that flows well excepting the few segments that included a great deal of scripture quotes, I found the quotes redundant and distracting from the point of the storyline. The descriptions are well detailed. The dialogue varied from comical to dramatic with additional insights to the story via Maggie’s journal. The diction was contemporary with some hints to the Antebellum Period that were shown in descriptions of mannerism and the dialogue between characters.

The book has a rather simple cover design, an image of books, a candle and a desk, that didn’t necessarily paint a picture to what the story is about. With regard to the layout, there is no table of contents, which I think the book would benefit from since there is a reference/definition section at the end of the novel that is helpful to a reader with limited knowledge of Christianity.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to others. In the future, I will look for more pieces by this author.

Rated four and a half stars.

Jennifer Schusterman

The Last Seal by Richard Denning

The Last Seal, a YA novel blends historical fiction with horror and fantasy. This unusual combination produces a fast paced thriller where the protagonist wrestles against Dantalion, the sinister demon. This enemy of heroic proportions seduces followers with the promise of limitless riches and power. The admission price? Only their immortal soul. After a gruesome opening, the story unfolds with plenty of twists, turns, red herrings, and gore.
Ben Silver an orphaned, angst-ridden teen makes an excellent protagonist against this formidable adversary. In early September, 1666, after a particularly humiliating caning by the headmaster of his boarding school, Ben decides to run away. His escape places him in a vortex of danger, intrigue, and confusion. He encounters a young thief, a bookseller, and a physician and struggles to determine who is friend and who is foe. I particularly enjoyed the character of the thief and how Ben comes to rely on the youth’s hard-scrabble skills, ingenuity, and determination.
The Great Fire of London provides a vivid backdrop of tension. As the conflagration inches closer, the stakes increase. The heat, smell, sound, and taste of the fire thrum with heart-hyping tension. Difficult circumstances force expedient choices. Denial, fear, wishful, thinking and fanaticism cloud judgment.
Will the legacy of evil defeat the legacy of integrity? Will Ben make the heroic sacrifice? Or, will he too fall under the demon’s spell? Read the Last Seal to find out.
I give this book 4 stars.
Gayle Swift
A Cold Snow in Castaway County by John Lindsay Hickman

A Cold Snow in Castaway County by John Lindsey Hickman is the quintessential murder mystery mixed with a dose of life learned lessons. Dell Hinton leaves the Boston PD for the quite forests of Castaway County, Maine. His old friend and the local minister convinces him to run for the position of sheriff. Dell quickly learns that being a sheriff is a great deal different from being a police officer. He inherits more than just a fiery secretary and a department full of deputies, Dell also inherits a ten year unsolved murder case.

Hickman creates a quick read story that jumps from murder mystery conspiracy theories to the love life of a man who is learning to become a county sheriff. Hickman creates characters that are easy to understand. The reader will know about the characters likes and dislikes. A Cold Snow in Castaway Country has a plot that will leave the reader wondering if Dell will ultimately solve the cold case. While there were some slow parts in the story that I felt did not support the overall plot, but I know that Hickman wrote the story so that the reader really knew the life that Dell Hinton was building for himself in Castaway County, Maine. I thought he did a great job of bringing the reader into the cold case. Hickman made me want to keep on reading to find out if Dell will help put the Billy Snow murder case finally to rest.
Rachel Massaro
(Picture unavailable for, A Wrench in the Plans by RaeAnne Hadley)-Review below

Josephine Lingenfelter or “Jo” to her friends is a mechanic and horse breeder, but somehow she and her boss Steve end up in the middle of a murder and start investigating to find out who killed their friend. The book takes them to Mexico, London, Russia and Italy and throughout their investigation Jo and Steve are admitting they’ve fallen in love with each other.

I enjoyed the book, even though I would have liked more dialogue. There was too much description of everything, which slowed the story down, and quite often a similar description was repeated a few pages later. This was the second book in the series and since I didn’t read the first one, I didn’t feel as if I really got to know the characters. There wasn’t enough back story since it’s assumed that the reader already knows about them.

There were several spelling mistakes that were distracting at times, but overall I liked the book.

I give this 3 stars.
Wendy Nelson

(Picture unavailable for, Mystique Rising by Karen Magill)-Review below

I liked the premise of this book, with or without the small amount of a paranormal aspect, and it was a quick read. Unfortunately, there were way too many characters introduced throughout the book and too many points of view to really be able to care about any of the characters. I spent a lot of time trying to remember who everyone was and how they fit into the story.

For example, the author introduced character names without any explanation as to who they were, until much later in the story. This led me to back track in the book and try to find where this character had been initially introduced, and in most cases I was unable to find an introduction.

I believe the author’s intention was to have Kaya be the center character, but there wasn’t enough information about her, and her thoughts and feelings to give her center stage. By changing the point of view, especially mid page, I was unable to learn enough of her thoughts and feelings to care about her, or anyone else. A limited number of characters, and different points of view restricted to chapters rather than mid chapter, might allow for a more consistent story.

A lot of Deus ex machina was used by the author, so there was no real struggle, as every problem automatically had a solution through some kind of divine intervention. When Kaya struggled with something, or was faced with challenge, she either had a vision, she all of a sudden could speak to her deceased father who gave her the answers, or someone automatically showed up to save her. The conflict in the story was lacking since every issue was resolved quickly and easily.

As a reader, I like having that edge of your seat feeling, waiting to see what might happen, but half way through the book, I knew I wouldn’t have that since every issue had an automatic intervention. I wasn’t anxious to turn the page and see what happened next since I already knew it would be resolved in a sentence or two.

The author tried to convey timing by putting a few headings on top of the chapters as to when something occurred. I believe this made things confusing. For example, instead of “12 months previous” the author might try including a year at the beginning of the chapter, such as June 1999 in California

Some of the chapters didn’t have a time frame, and I was unsure as to when the event was really happening. Were we in the past, present or future from the previous chapter’s events? If the event order is important, then the reader should be told exactly when it was happening to avoid confusion.

The events weren’t really believable, even within the paranormal framework. The author didn’t do enough world building to make me believe that this could truly be happening. There wasn’t enough background information and detail on past events for the extremeness of the book. For example, when and how did PARR become so big that they had the right to execute people for listening to Rock and Roll? There may have been a sentence or two about it, but that was it, and since listening to rock and roll is hardly an executable offense, there needs to be a detailed reason for it, or at least a detailed build up of how it came to be, even if there isn’t a good reason or excuse logically.

Another example, somehow Kaya and LUPO have a ton of money to use to fight this cause, although the reader has no idea how or where it came from. They just have it to do with what they please. Do they have corporate backers? Is Kaya independently wealthy? These are just a few of the things that make this story hard to believe.

There were enough grammatical errors in the book to be distracting. Missing words, tense issues, and spelling were the biggest examples.

This book has a lot of potential, and the premise was very interesting, given the fact that we spend a lot of our time, in the real world, fighting for specific rights. With more world building and character development, I’d really like to see more of Kaya and her group of rock and roll advocates.
Wendy Nelson

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