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Brush With Darkness (Arts Reborn Book 1)
Brush With Darkness (Arts Reborn Book 1)
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly original magical fantasy, January 20, 2015
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I didn't really know what to expect when I started reading this book, but I was very pleasantly surprised!

Maltman's fantasy concept is refreshingly creative, especially in the current literary atmosphere where so many magical fantasies seem to blend into one another. Most stories in the same vein follow the familiar Hogwarts homage: the protagonist discovers a latent ability and enters training with the existing experts. Instead of repeating this common trope, Maltman's characters find themselves rediscovering a lost craft, so they explore the scope of their powers along with the reader. This cleverly escapes the plot holes that often leave the reader wondering why the novices (rather than the experts) are always the ones fighting the ultimate evil, and why their mentors rarely teach them a fit-for-purpose set of skills.

The decidedly-Roman fantasy world of Pazh is well thought out, and leaves the reader with a twinge of wanderlust, wondering what the other parts of the empire will be like. The prose gives enough hints for the reader to understand the basic geography and culture without needing to extensively refer to the map and notes at the back of the book.

My only criticism is that at certain points the plot felt overly rushed. I had trouble buying into a few of the characters' more emotion-driven decisions and felt that the timeline was a bit too short to be believable. The female lead in particular seems to fluctuate between extreme feelings at a somewhat unrealistic rate. While this wasn't a serious problem, it was enough to strain my suspension of disbelief a few times and pull me back to reality out of an otherwise extremely immersive novel.


Travelrest - The Ultimate Inflatable Travel Pillow (#1 Best Selling on Amazon.de) Ergonomic, Innovative & Patented - BEST Travel Pillow for Airplanes, Cars, Buses, Trains, Office Napping, Camping, Wheelchairs & Home (Ranked #1 by WSJ)
Travelrest - The Ultimate Inflatable Travel Pillow (#1 Best Selling on Amazon.de) Ergonomic, Innovative & Patented - BEST Travel Pillow for Airplanes, Cars, Buses, Trains, Office Napping, Camping, Wheelchairs & Home (Ranked #1 by WSJ)
Offered by Travelrest (manufacturer)
Price: $53.95
3 used & new from $26.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Sleep against the sidewall without your pillow slipping, January 14, 2015
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I have been using my Travelrest pillow for nearly 5 years, and I never take an overnight flight without it! I was first drawn to the concept, because I'm a side sleeper and have trouble sleeping with my head completely upright. Over the years I have experimented with different positions, and found plenty of comfortable ways to use the pillow, but for me, the biggest advantage by far is that I can use it in a window seat to lean against the wall without my pillow slipping down while I sleep.

Before the Travelrest, I would wedge the airline pillow (draped in a pashmina if I was concerned about cleanliness) between my head and the wall. However, the pillow would invariably slip out of place and require constant readjustments throughout the night. Moreover, if the seat aligned with the window itself, the flimsy plane pillow usually wasn't thick enough to bridge the gap.

The Travelrest solves both these problems! By passing the strap behind me and attaching it to the pillow along with the seatbelt, I can keep my pillow in position no matter how much I (or the plane) shift in my sleep. Letting out a little air makes a cushy but stable place to rest my head. And if there's extra much space between me and the wall, I can tuck the airline pillow in between my head and the Travelrest to increase the thickness and turn the sidewall into a luxuriously plush headrest.

Combined with an eyemask and a pair of earplugs, I can sleep astonishingly well! As a bonus, the deflated pillow rolls into quite a compact package, which makes it very easy to carry along during the waking parts of your trip.


The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Series, Book 1)
The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Series, Book 1)
Price: $4.99

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A poorly-developed series starter that cannot stand on its own, September 11, 2014
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As an origami enthusiast and avid reader, I really wanted to like this book. I didn't have especially high expectations to begin with, but unfortunately it still managed to disappoint me.

The concept is vaguely interesting, and normally I give a book a token star just for a clever idea, but this one was not well executed. As a competent folder, I was disappointed by the trivial examples used in the book (even many used by the master paper magician). I would expect anyone who chose to write a book dealing with origami to have at least seen something like Robert Lang's masterful work, and understood that incredible models can be created from a single piece of paper. Only a few of the paper sculptures in the book are at all intricate, and those are described vaguely as being crafted from multiple sheets.

Setting aside my origami background and evaluating the book purely on its literary merits, my opinion does not improve at all. The characters are so shallow and poorly developed that I found myself disliking them all by the end -- not because they were unlikable, but simply because they didn't make sense! Their actions and opinions were never backed by any kind of evidence, so I found their decisions jarring and unrealistic. The romance aspect especially seemed contrived and appeared out of nowhere. In fact, it almost felt condescending -- as if one can't possibly read a piece of paranormal fiction with a female protagonist that DOESN'T involve romance.

The framework for a lot of the character development seems to be there, but it's never filled out. I kept feeling like I picked up this book in the middle of a series, and I was expected to already know the characters. The author never introduced us, and none of my background questions were ever answered. In fact, I set the book down with less than one page to go, and I had no idea that I was so close to the end, since so many questions remained. (I see now that there is a sequel scheduled for a few months from now. Presumably this and any future books will continue to unravel the existing story, but I firmly believe that books within a series should still be able to stand on their own. This one does not.)

My other major criticism is that the attempt at historical fiction was incredibly distracting. The attitudes, dialogue, and situations were all so anachronistic, that aside from an occasional reference to carriages and telegraphs, the book read as completely contemporary. I simply don't understand the point of trying to place it into a historical context at all. The overall story would have lost nothing by being set in a modern time frame, and it wouldn't have suffered from all the awkward "Wait, isn't this supposed to be Victorian London?" moments.

Overall, the book seems like an unfinished first draft. It feels like there are huge sections missing, and it has not yet passed in front of an editor. It would never be a great book (the plot is too trivial), but it could have been much better.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 27, 2015 12:55 AM PDT


Prescription for Disaster: The funny side of falling apart
Prescription for Disaster: The funny side of falling apart
Price: $0.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Unique Voice and an Amazing Sense of Humor, June 15, 2014
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Although Lafleur's first book could certainly benefit from professional editing, there's no question that she writes with a unique voice and a fantastic sense of humor. At varying times inspiring, insightful, and informative, above all else her narratives make the reader laugh out loud and admire the strength it takes to find humor in some of life's most desperate situations.

I eagerly await her next collection and would love to see what she could produce with the help of a good editor.


The Girl in the Rain
The Girl in the Rain
Price: $7.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Exciting potential!, May 12, 2013
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Shiori shows a surprising amount of wit and linguistic style for her age. Some of her poems are quite striking, and I'm very eager to see how her work develops!


As in Eden
As in Eden
by R. M. Lamming
Edition: Paperback
19 used & new from $0.98

4.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing feminine perspective of biblical stories, April 30, 2013
This review is from: As in Eden (Paperback)
Although Lamming's book is described as a novel, it seems to be more a collection of short stories. Each chapter is told as a first-person narrative by a woman in the Bible who is generally overshadowed by her male family members, and reveals an insightful and distinctly feminine perspective on the traditional stories. The book begins with Eve, describing the terrifying flight from Eden, and continues through both the old and new testaments. Among the narrators are Moses' adoptive Egyptian mother, Lot's wife, Sarah the wife of Abraham, Martha the sister of Lazarus, and the wife of Pontius Pilate. In each case, the women discuss the emotions, reactions, and motivations of the famous Biblical episodes in which they appear. Through their well-crafted voices they provide a fresh, unique look at these familiar tales.

What struck me most about the book was the haunting way in which the stories are told. In each case, the woman is speaking directly to a friend or relative, who always remains silent and unseen. In some cases, the speaker's narrative is periodically interrupted by household concerns, which lends an extra note of realism to the setting, but can also be a bit confusing as the speaker jumps back and forth between her past and her present.

Another point of confusion to some readers is that Lamming assumes her audience already knows the stories as they're written in the Bible. In her retelling, she makes direct references to the original stories but doesn't explicitly summarize them. While this may be awkward for someone who isn't familiar with the originals, it creates a much more realistic voice for the characters as they're not forced into recounting a history that their unseen listener would already know. It also builds a level of rapport with the modern audience, who can easily slip in and take the place of the characters' companions, mentally nodding in recognition as the storyteller makes references to her past.

The only criticism I have of the book is that a few of the stories felt a little too long and drawn out. A few times this made it hard to push on and keep reading, and I personally think the collection would have been made stronger by shortening the longer chapters and making up the length by including a few more women.


Globe Trekker's World: What's On in the World . . . and When (Pilot Guides)
Globe Trekker's World: What's On in the World . . . and When (Pilot Guides)
by Pilot Productions
Edition: Paperback
8 used & new from $3.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great concept, but shockingly inaccurate!, February 13, 2013
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I love the idea and structure of this book. The book is divided both by month and by area of interest (festivals, sports activities, etc) making it easier to find ideas that not only fit your travel calendar but also mesh with your interests. Each month includes a series of featured destinations and activities, followed by a much longer list of ideas (also grouped by interest) with a short but suitable explanation. The quantity of ideas, combined with some of the more unusual destinations covered by Globe Trekkers' means this book is likely to include some new travel ideas for even more seasoned world travelers.

However, in just glancing through the book for a few minutes, I stumbled on some astonishingly incorrect information. The most extreme was in a feature on glaciers and geysers in Iceland. I would love to return to southeast Iceland and spend some more time around the Vatnajökull glacier, so I was eager to see the book's suggestions. To my surprise, it described the Geysir area and Gullfoss waterfall half an hour outside of Reykjavik! While Iceland may not be a particularly large country, it seems like a bit of a stretch to say that the western attractions (typically visited on a daytrip from Reykjavik) are in "southeast Iceland" near Vatnajökull.

While obviously planning any kind of travel requires more research than just what's available in an idea book like this one, I would expect something as high level as the regional location to be correct. It makes me wonder how accurate the rest of the information is.


Yesterday's News
Yesterday's News

4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly realistic for Chick Lit, January 6, 2013
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This review is from: Yesterday's News (Kindle Edition)
As far as chick-lit goes, I liked this a lot better than most. For once the plot isn't too obvious and predictable, and the protagonist doesn't spend the entire book making foolishly obvious mistakes and completely ridiculous decisions. In fact, beyond the first few chapters, she behaves like a fairly realistic human woman!

I have one huge issue with the novel: It opens when the character is fired from her waitressing job after her boss attempts to rape her. Instead of reporting him to the authorities, she leaves quietly and then stumbles in interviews when asked why she left her job. She spends the rest of the book implying that it was sexual harassment. Um, no. It wasn't sexual harassment; it was attempted rape. I feel that the book completely glosses over this, and the failure to acknowledge the truth of the situation sets an extremely bad example. This is even more surprising given its willingness to address other serious issues.

After its initial stumbles, the plot finds its stride and manages to avoid the stereotypical string of bad choices and slapstick antics. At times it can feel a bit heavy for chick lit, but I felt the sense of reality made up for it. Moreover, like life, the book is a series of ups and downs, thus avoiding the cliché of everything going wrong until the final happily-ever-after chapter.

Editing issues often seem to pop up in Kindle editions, and while I did stumble on one or two in this book, it wasn't a distraction. The only one that caused any problems was in Chapter 10, when Agnes (the main character) is referred to as Alice. After some consideration, I believe this was a typo and not a random appearance of the actual character Alice, who is introduced later in the book. My other hiccup was actually a cultural one, when restaurateur Kalle's father refers to him as Karl. In spite of living in Scandinavia, I had no idea that Kalle was a nickname!


Me Again
Me Again
Price: $3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, uplifting story in need of a little editing., January 3, 2013
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This review is from: Me Again (Kindle Edition)
I went back and forth on my star rating for this book for days, and in the end, I decided to give it a 4 instead of a 3. I really like the idea and its execution, and although I felt the writing needed some editing, I enjoyed the voice of the protagonist so much that I increased my rating.

Cronin's protagonist starts off incredibly strong, bringing charm and likability to what could easily be a very awkward character to write. The plot line is a tiny bit predictable but not glaringly so, and the book was a delight to read. Frankly, I was surprised to get through a self-pub this quickly and easily, and I found myself hooked from the first chapter.

Admittedly, the writing in the chapter is some of the best, but the rest of the book is still quite readable. My problems with the book were a few awkward plot holes that are never completely explained, compounded on some jarring repetitions in the writing. One could argue that it reflects Jonathon's (the stroke-suffering main character) limited vocabulary, but it didn't feel like that. Instead it felt like Cronin had forgotten that he used the same description a few chapters earlier. A few editing passes would hopefully clear out these little potholes and make this a great book.

In spite of its few technical weaknesses, I would still recommend it. It provides a fresh and easily-readable look at the effects of brain damage and builds empathy through Cronin's humor and insight.


Midnight Sun
Midnight Sun
Price: $3.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Not a great choice for Antarctica fans, May 27, 2012
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This review is from: Midnight Sun (Kindle Edition)
For a cheesy romance about pirates, this book was a lot better than I expected! I liked that the characters weren't fairytale ideals and felt that their character flaws made them more realistic. The plot is certainly far-fetched, but if you're picking up a romance novel about pirates on a cruise ship, you should probably be expecting as much.

However, for a book set in Antarctica, it's a pretty big disappointment. If you know anything about Antarctica at all (e.g. you've looked at a map of Antarctica), there are some truly unbelievable oversights. The ship sails from Hobart, Tasmania, but the main character (who has sailed multiple seasons in Antarctica) initially attributes the rough seas to crossing the Drake Passage?! Really? That must be one fast ship and one lousy navigator, because the Drake Passage is on the other side of the world! Antarctica is such an interesting an unique setting that I was disappointed to see the author not only waste the potential but to make such ridiculous mistakes!

4/5 for a cheesy romance
4/5 for an adventure novel
1/5 for a book set in Antarctica


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