Posts Tagged ‘fiction print book review’


Princess Academy

   Posted by: Lynne    in eBooks/Print Books, Fiction, Young Readers

Book Details
Title: Princess Academy
Author: Shannon Hale
Format: Paperback (Other formats available)
Number of Pages: 314
Summary: Miri lives on a mountain where, for generations, her ancestors have quarried stone and lived a simple life. Then word comes that the king’s priests have divined her small village the home of the future princess. In a year’s time, the prince himself will come and choose his bride from among the girls of the village. The king’s ministers set up an academy on the mountain, and every teenage girl must attend and learn how to become a princess.
     Miri soon finds herself confronted with a harsh academy mistress, bitter competition among the girls, and her own conflicting desires to be chosen and win the heart of her childhood best friend. But when bandits seek out the academy to kidnap the future princess, Miri must rally the girls together and use a power unique to the mountain dwellers to save herself and her classmates.
Price: $7.95.
Author Bio: Shannon Hale is the author of five award-winning young adult novels, including the bestselling Newbery Honor book Princess Academy. Austenland was her first book for adults. She and her husband are co-writing a series of graphic novels, and live with their two small children in Salt Lake City, Utah.


I really enjoyed Shannon Hale’s tale of a young girl trained to become a princess. Miri is a likable heroine, and her conflicted desires ring true for a girl her age. She loves her mountain village, her family–and is starting to have strange feelings for a boy she’s known since childhood. At first she can’t imagine ever leaving them. But the lure of wealth, power, and adventure offered along with the title of Princess is awfully tempting; even if it means marriage to a Prince she’s never met, and may not even ultimately like. The only requirement on her part is a full year of training. At first, Miri doesn’t see the value in learning to read, or of practicing Conversation, or memorizing the rules of Diplomacy. However, the moment she discovers that the letters she’s tracing in her clay tablet are connected to words that make up wonderful stories–and illuminating facts in Tutor Olana’s books–she becomes eager to learn more. True to a teenage girl, though, what really spurs Miri to compete for the title of Academy Princess–the top scholar in the class–is the beautiful gown promised the winner, along with the knowledge that her father and sister could also live a life of ease if the Price should choose her as his bride.

Education transforms Miri from a bright, curious, yet ignorant mountain girl into a valuable asset to her classmates, her family, and ultimately, her village. As the daughter of a former teacher, I truly appreciated the theme of how education–and knowledge–elevates the status and abilities of those in society, and how it can be used to right injustices. The side story of the bandits attacking the academy was just another way for Miri to show her bravery, ingenuity, and resourcefulness.

I give it four stars instead of five only because there were a few quibbles I had with the plotline. Nothing major, but I did wonder about a few points. For instance, it’s stated that in years past, the Princess Academy was nothing more than a few days of society for girls already of noble birth. This time, since the girls are nothing more than uneducated mountain girls, a year’s worth of training is needed. Quite understandable. Why, then, considering that one of these girls will someday be Princess (and eventually Queen), are the girls made to do household chores? They themselves don’t find it unusual; they did much harder work in their lives back home, but it just struck me as odd. The only adults at the academy are a cook, a tutor, and a couple soldiers for protection. I expected there to be maids and such to cater to the girls, for them to be given new clothing, for them to be at least somewhat pampered. None of that was the case.

In addition, Tutor Olana treats the girls harshly, and seems uninterested in helping those struggling with their studies. Again, one of these girls will be Princess and will have immense power over Olana afterwards, so her behavior towards them seemed unrealistic. However, the girls finally realize the unique situation they have and politely but firmly strike a deal with Olana that is satisfactory for all.

One method Miri uses to aid those around her is a sort of telepathic capability to communicate; a practice the stone-cutter villagers have long had. Miri is able to refine and almost perfect this skill. Some might find this theme troublesome. I would have preferred Miri’s talents to be solely related to her cleverness myself. However, since the author chose this path, I had a few quibbles as to how it was applied. For instance, all the girls at the academy have the ability to "quarry-speak", yet when their need is dire, Miri is the only one who uses it to call for help. It seemed to me that if all the girls had joined in with Miri’s efforts, their pleas for aid would have had a better chance of being heard.

Despite my quibbles, however, I will gladly give this book to my 10 year old niece for her birthday. I’m pairing it with the classic, A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, another tale of a girl suffering under the harsh treatment of a headmistress.

Click here to buy Princess Academy from Amazon and view excerpts.
Click here to view the author’s website.

Disclaimer: I bought Princess Academy for my niece’s 10th birthday and had to read it first to make sure it was approriate for her. My reviews are not influenced by receiving free review copies, nor am I compensated any other way for reviewing books. I may provide affiliate links where books can be purchased, but I do this of my own volition.

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Adventures of Rusty & Ginger Fox

   Posted by: Lynne    in Children, eBooks/Print Books, Fiction

Book Details 
Title: Adventures of Rusty & Ginger Fox
Author: Tim Ostermeyer
Format: Hardback
Number of Pages: 48
Summary: When two young foxes set out to explore the forest, they encounter all kinds of creatures. Some of them are friendly, while others would like nothing more than to eat the two young explorers! Rusty and Ginger may be able to outfox bears, bobcats, cougars, and wolves, but can they unlock the mysterious box that awaits them on Treasure Island? And will the little girls they meet there turn out to be friends or foes?Join Rusty and Ginger as they travel through the woods. Author Tim Ostermeyer’s beautiful wildlife photography provides a fox’s-eye view of the forest. With a charming story to guide the way, and a fact page of wildlife information for every animal introduced in the book, readers can explore nature alongside Rusty and Ginger.
Price: $13.64.
Author Bio: Tim Ostermeyer is a Master Photographer who has won over 250 first-place awards for his photography. He has been named “Photographer of the Year” nine times by various organizations, and has had fourteen images published in the Professional Photographers of America Loan Collection books. Tim has a studio in Allen, Texas, and travels around the world taking photographs of wildlife.
Adventures of Rusty & Ginger Fox
Adventures of Rusty & Ginger Fox is a cute book with amazing wildlife photos. Rusty and Ginger, two red foxes, encounter several other animals in the forest; some friendly and some not. As each animal is introduced, a fact sheet tells more about its habits and physical attributes. This adds some seriousness to the cuteness. Almost unnoticed at first is each animal’s footprints meandering up the page. The plotline itself–the foxes explore their world and run across other creatures–is very simple. And I found the addition of a “treasure chest” and two pretty girls a little out of place. However, as a child, I used to dream about finding treasure, so this would likely appeal to its intended audience; children ages four to eight.

Additionally, as an adult, it’s obvious that the books’ photos are somewhat taken out of context, since the foxes don’t really come that close to the other animals. But I think a child would enjoy the book, and I’ll have no problem passing my copy to my nieces and nephews. They’d enjoy the photos and might even learn a few animal facts in the process.

I give this book 5 stars because the photos themselves are just stunning. The storyline is more of an afterthought.

Click here to buy Adventures of Rusty & Ginger Fox from Amazon and view excerpts
Click here to view the author’s website.

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of Adventures of Rusty & Ginger Fox. My reviews are not influenced by receiving free review copies, nor am I compensated any other way for reviewing books. I may provide affiliate links where books can be purchased, but I do this of my own volition.

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Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart

   Posted by: Lynne    in Chick Lit, eBooks/Print Books, Fiction, Romance

Book Details
Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart
Author: Beth Pattillo
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 272
Summary: Claire Prescott is an unemployed office manager from Kansas City who leaves behind her nice, if somewhat neglectful, boyfriend to attend a Jane Austen seminar in Oxford, England. There, she discovers the original manuscript for Pride and Prejudice titled First Impressions. Rumored to have been destroyed centuries ago, it reveals Austen’s secret struggle to find the right leading man for Elizabeth Bennet. Was she really supposed to end up with Mr. Darcy after all?As Claire pieces together Austen’s original story, she crosses paths with a dashing stranger—her own Mr. Darcy—who causes her to question the direction of her current relationship. But Neil’s unexpected arrival in Oxford complicates Claire’s quest to find her leading man, and she realizes that a true hero can appear in the most unexpected places. Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart is a lively mixture of humor, romance and intrigue perfect for the Jane Austen fanatic to the hopeless romantic.
Price: $14.99
Author Bio: Beth Pattillo currently resides in Nashville, Tenn., with her husband and two children. Her passion for all-things Jane Austen began when she studied abroad for a semester at the University of London, Westfield College. She has made regular trips across the pond for the past 20 years, the most recent of which took her on a pilgrimage through Hampshire, where she visited many of the sites featured in her popular book, Jane Austen Ruined My Life. Pattillo is also the author of The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society (WaterBrook Press, 2008), Earth to Betsy (WaterBrook, 2006) and Heavens to Betsy (WaterBrook, 2005), for which she was awarded the RWA RITA (Romance Writer’s Association) award for Best Inspirational Romance. Visit for more information.


Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart isn’t your typical paperback romance, and for this reason alone I loved it. First of all, the heroine, Claire Prescott, isn’t perfect. Through the course of the novel she realizes her own frailties and flaws and by the end of the book she has made steps towards becoming a better person. She doesn’t blame everyone else for her problems. She learns that having a dashing “Mr. Darcy” sweep her off her feet doesn’t heal all hurts, nor does it rescue her from the realities of life. Her character’s motives and actions rang true for me, and it was refreshing to read a romance that didn’t espouse the notion that all a woman needs is a rich, handsome guy to magically wave away her neurosis by marrying her.

The secondary storyline, that of Claire meeting a slightly daft elderly woman, Harriet Dalrymple, whose greatest secret is ownership of the original First Impressions manuscript (which was destroyed after Jane Austen reworked it into Pride and Prejudice), was a delightful twist in the story. Pattillo imagines how the original plot may have differed from the story we all know, and treats us to her version. I was just as interested as Claire in reading the scraps of manuscript pages doled out to her over the course of a week’s time. For me it was a fun diversion from the main story; for laire it helped provide insight into how her life got off track and the motivation to correct it.

Amidst Claire trying to help Harriet with the secret manuscript and becoming ever more attracted to the dashing James Beaufort, her boyfriend unexpectedly shows up, threatening to ruin the little house of cards she’s built for herself during her week-long excursion in Oxford. Claire has to figure out what to do with an angry boyfriend when she’s got a chance to snag a Mr. Darcy of her own. I was completely satisfied at her solution—and the conclusion of the novel itself.

Overall, Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart is a fun and breezy read. I loved the humor and the light-hearted tone. The only thing I didn’t like is that due to my schedule I could read it only in bits and pieces over the course of a month. I hated having to put it down to attend to more pressing matters–I felt like Claire having to wait for the forgetful Harriet to find another section of the First Impressions manuscript! I recommend this book, especially if you’re tired of reading the same old retread romances.

Click here to order Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart
Click here to visit Beth Pattillo’s website

Disclaimer: I received a free advance copy of “Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart” for review from Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists. My reviews are not influenced by receiving free review copies, nor am I compensated any other way for reviewing books. I may provide affiliate links where the book can be purchased, but I do this on my own.

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The Christmas Secret

   Posted by: Lynne    in Christian, eBooks/Print Books, Fiction, Romance

Book Details
The Christmas Secret
Author: Donna VanLiere
Format: Hardback.
Number of Pages: 304
Summary: When a struggling young single mother saves the life of an elderly woman, she sets into motion a series of events that will test her strength, loyalty, and determination, all the while setting her on the path to finding true love.Christine Eisley is the mother of seven-year-old Zach and five-year-old Haley. Her ex-husband provides little, if any, child support and makes life difficult for Christine by using the children as pawns. She works long hours as a waitress to make ends meet, but her job is in jeopardy because she’s often late to work due to the unreliable teenaged sitters she’s forced to use.When Christine saves the life of a woman who works in Wilson’s department store, the owner of Wilson’s wants to find her, to thank her, but Christine has disappeared, losing another job once again. He sets his grandson, Jason, to the task of finding the mysterious “Christy.” Jason, an accountant by trade who has lost his job to downsizing, thinks he is “above” working at Wilson’s. Soon, he discovers that this new task gives him more than he bargains for.The Christmas Secret is a novel for anyone who wants to see how love is a gift that keeps giving back; that hope is a treasure that never runs dry, and that faith is a miracle that is reborn with each new day.

Price: $14.99
Author Bio: Donna VanLiere is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Christmas Hope series and Angels of Morgan Hill. She lives in Franklin, Tennessee with her husband and three children. 


I loved Donna VanLiere’s autobiography Finding Grace and so I was excited when I got the opportunity to read and review The Christmas Secret. I hadn’t read any of VanLiere’s Christmas series, though I did see the movie version of The Christmas Shoes (and of course, heard the song.) Since Finding Grace was an almost perfectly
written book, I looked forward to reading VanLiere’s fiction. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with The Christmas Secret. Not so much with the storyline; I enjoyed that. Most of my disappointment was due to the writing itself. I think a little more editing was in order.

The book begins with a prologue in which the protagonist, Christine, recalls a particular
Christmas in her childhood, and how her adult life since then had been spent stumbling around without any direction or goal. “I got to the point in my life where I was so tired of waiting and wanted to know that my life was not just leading anywhere but somewhere,” she tells us. Christine ends the prologue by stating that with help, “I discovered the gift.” This was similar to the theme of Finding Grace, so I was drawn right into the story. But the first chapter gave me troubles. It’s subtitled “November – One Year Earlier,” which I took to mean a year earlier in Christine’s childhood, since the prologue takes place then. But no, it means a year earlier than her discovering the “gift” which is summed up in the epilogue at the end of the book. At any rate it took me three paragraphs into the chapter when Christine’s five-year-old daughter enters the scene to realize the storyline has jumped to Christine as an adult. The subtitle should have been eliminated altogether; it was unnecessary and just caused confusion.

Later in the same chapter, Christine has a flashback of a conversation with her mother. Again, this transition was a bit confusing. I think the section should have been broken with an extra line of space to better delineate that it’s a flashback instead of mashing
it between the scenes taking place in the present.

But by far the most irksome thing of the novel to me was the choice to switch from Christine’s first-person point of view to other characters’ third-person point of view. I suppose I’ve read novels before that do this, but I found it quite jarring. I would have preferred Christine’s POV to be in third-person to match with the rest of the characters.

VanLiere choses not to name the town in which the story takes place (or at least, I never saw a name), so when Christine tells us, “When Brad found a job here my mother seemed angry,” my first thought was where’s “here”? The restaurant Christine is working in when she relates this to us? The town? The state? My confusion could have been avoided by simply replacing “here” with “in this town” or by simply giving the town a name.

Some of the writing gave me a chuckle, such as this sentence: “‘Everyone clocks in here,’ she said, pushing open the door to an empty room filled with vending machines and three small round tables with chairs.” (An “empty” room shouldn’t be “filled” with anything but air.) I’m not saying the writing was bad, it just needed a little more polishing/editing.

And one last complaint. One thing about Christine’s character that bothered me no end was the fact that she refuses to allow her ex-husband visitation with their children because he hasn’t paid child support. This is the only reason she continually refuses contact. I find this vindictive and petty. Of course he should be paying child support and is a deadbeat not to. Yes, he’s a jerk to her and pulls nasty stunts of his own to get even. However, he is not abusive or dangerous to her or the children, so there’s no reason she should cut off contact between them. And since she’s desperate for a babysitter, refusing to allow him to care for the children is plain silly. She doesn’t even allow the children to know he stops by to see them. Severing their relationship with him over money is selfish. He is their father and a continuing relationship with them should be encouraged, not used as a weapon. (Besides, he’s more likely to pay up if he actually gets to see his kids.) None of the characters point this out to her; in fact they aid her in keeping the ex away from the children. Disgusting. (Okay, enough of my soapbox.)

So each of these annoyances kept me from really enjoying the book at first. However, after 80 or 90 pages (and a day or so break from reading it) I really started getting into the story. I liked the characters, enjoyed the multiple storylines and how they interconnected, found the romance appealing, guessed most of the twists beforehand (which didn’t diminish their reveals) and didn’t get tripped up with any more of the writing. Most of the mysteries are resolved at the end, and I felt satisfied after the book was finished. It’s possible I’d read the book again, and I am still definitely interested in reading VanLiere’s previous Christmas books. And I plan to watch the movie versions of the books on LMN. Overall, I’d give the book a solid “B” grade. Well done, with plenty room for improvement.

For more information about Donna VanLiere and her books, visit
About The Christmas Secret:
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The Broken Parachute Man

   Posted by: Lynne    in eBooks/Print Books, Fiction

Book Details
The Broken Parachute Man: A Novel of Medical Intrigue
Author: Robert B. Bolin
Format: Hardback and Paperback Print.
Number of Pages: 300
Summary: After middling pharmaceutical company executive Clyde Young boards an airplane to attend a national meeting to make a presentation concerning his employer’s premium drug, his schedule is thrown into a curve when terrorists hijack the plane. After refusing to keep his head down, he is hurled out with a parachute that barely functions.

He is able to survive in the wilderness, but upon his arrival back to civilization, no one believes his story. They assume he is one of the terrorists that hijacked the airplane, so Young escapes to Las Vegas to determine why he was targeted and who was responsible for his ordeal. He lives as a street person and meets four people who believe his story: a sociopath, a prostitute, an alcoholic doctor and a pickpocket.

These people become his allies. They travel with him to the east coast and then to Europe. As Young continues his investigation, he discovers abuses on the part of his employer that could result in mortal danger for innumerable innocent patients. He must act quickly to expose the danger by staying one step ahead of the unknown criminals who are closing in on him and his allies.

Price: $18.95 (paperback)
Author Bio: Author of Unwanted
, Robert B. Bolin practiced oncology in a small northwestern town in the United States for more than twenty-one years and has written several medical articles. He currently lives in eastern Oregon.



As a thriller, The Broken Parachute Man suffers from an identity crisis: it starts out
with a bang, but soon veers into a wilderness survival guide, then a gritty life-on-the-streets drama before settling into a detective story wrapped around a lesson
on pharmaceutical drug research and development. But in the end I liked it as a coming-of-middle-age character study.

Clyde Young is a middle-aged, middle-management type with average looks. He’s a bit
frightened of the world, unsure of himself, and is hopelessly stuck in a dull, predictable life. Getting thrown out of an airplane by terrorists is probably the best thing that could have happened to him. He survives a hard winter stranded in the mountains, learns to live on the streets, and finally pushes to discover why he of all people was targeted for elimination by a pharmaceutical company. He doesn’t instantly transform into a rough, self-assured man, but as he perseveres through each small victory, he slowly comes to realize his own strength of will. The Broken Parachute Man isn’t the best thriller I’ve read; it rarely gets you on the edge of your seat with nail-biting action, but I really liked Clyde, and rooted for him throughout the book. He was like the tortoise in Aesop’s fable; each plodding step bringing him closer to solving the mystery that started with a shove out of a plane.

The book starts out as a thriller, what with Clyde getting pushed out of an airplane and landing in the mountains and all. However, he doesn’t get rescued right away. Instead, he has to survive several months in the wilderness. This part of the story doesn’t fit the “thriller” genre, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. After he gets rescued, he ends up homeless in Las Vegas, and we see him developing friendships with other homeless
characters and learning to live in a different type of wilderness: the streets. Again, not a thriller, but it works as a drama of sorts. Finally, Clyde decides to start investigating the company he worked for, and he slowly solves the mystery, which includes an overly  complicated explanation of drug formulation. At one point near the end, Clyde says, “I think I can see the players, but the plot is too complex for me.” That’s about how I felt; there were several “bad guys” each with multifarious motives. Keeping it all straight took a bit more concentration than I prefer. The author apparently thought so too, because after the main mystery is solved, he has the characters explain the plot in detail to each other to make sure we, the readers, understand who did what and why.

The Broken Parachute Man is filled with memorable characters, though I had trouble
telling the difference between two of them: Dan and George, Clyde’s homeless buddies. I blame this on myself rather than the author, however, because he infused both
characters with their own quirks and disparate personalities. I don’t know why I couldn’t keep them straight; perhaps because both were introduced at about the same time and have rather nondescript names. The rest of the characters were quite clear in my mind, and all were fleshed out.

The book, however, contains a most egregious error for a thriller/mystery: the character Dan asserts that another character couldn’t have been responsible for a particular criminal attack because that character was already in jail. This claim didn’t sound right when I read it, so I immediately went back and read the previous chapters and discovered the criminal attack happened a full four days prior to the arrest.
Oops. Looks like the storyline was too complex for even the author to keep straight.

But the one thing about The Broken Parachute Man that really irritated me was the
author’s choice to periodically speak directly to the reader throughout the first several chapters. The moment Clyde gets a parachute strapped to him and shoved out the
plane, the author interjects the story with this: “At this time, I’m sure you, the reader, are questioning the story and wondering if I’m confabulating.” Huh? I’m in the middle of one of the most exciting moments in the book and the author yanks me out to tell me what I’m thinking? Later when Clyde wakes to discover he has survived the fall out of the plane, the author asserts, “Now, if I was a reasonable reader, at this point, I would scoff at the whole story.” Once again I’m pulled out of the adventure and told to question the validity of the events. Um, I’m reading a fiction book here. The suspension of disbelief is a given. Don’t jump in and tell me I shouldn’t trust every word. Did Tolkien constantly interrupt his readers to say, “I’m sure you’re having trouble believing in the existence of hobbits.” Or “As a reasonable reader, you’re probably scoffing at the idea of a magical ring.” Absolutely not. When I’m reading Lord of the Rings I totally believe in hobbits, elves, wizards and powerfully evil rings. Thankfully the author quit jumping in with unwanted opinions after the first few chapters.

Overall, The Broken Parachute Man is a lousy thriller, but the characters were so lively
and sympathetic, I didn’t much care that the plot was a convoluted, slow-paced mess. I’m unlikely to read it again, but I’m don’t feel cheated for having read it once. Experiencing Clyde Young’s transformation into a hopeful, confidant individual was worth it.

Buy The Broken Parachute Man: A Novel of Medical Intrigue
Visit the authors website at

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