Review: Live & Learn by Vance Pumphrey

Disclosure: A copy of this book was given by the author for an honest review.

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Age: Teen-Adult

Pages: 368

Book Blurb:

Defense of the Land Series

Book One

In the age old struggle of good v. evil, who gets to decide who—or what—is good?

Can a beautiful, goody-two-shoes paladin knowingly consort with an assassin? Depends on how desperate the assassin is….

Jaramiile throws her sword in with five others to stop the scourge of evil that has been reborn in The Land. Yet can she face her god when one of her companions admits to being hired to slay another? What if the target is her sworn enemy? To further confuse the matter, the assassin has skills their party needs—and he is very handsome….

Come along on yet another magical ride as Vance Pumphrey weaves The Valdaar’s Fist tale from another perspective—those who would stop the raising of the dark god.

Discussion: Vance Pumphrey has created an Epic Fantasy chocked full of orc battles, paladins, magicusers, rogues, narrow escapes and earth-shattering secrets. While able to stand-alone, I recommend reading Dragma’s Keep first as Live & Learn takes place simultaneously, coming from a different perspective.

As a brilliant example of hunter turned prey, Vance Pumphrey pens a magical page turner with this newest woeful band of misfits. Tracking Sordaak and his crew through the underground maze toward the elusive Dragma’s Keep, this group of characters sometimes bites off more than they can handle. While struggling to gain ground on Sordaak, they face monumental battles, a devious demon, and hidden agendas that strain the tenuous relationships forged on their journey.

Coupled with an interesting plot, I appreciate the parallels that Mr. Pumphrey includes in this latest installment. Since I have read Dragma’s Keep, I enjoyed reliving the hazards that befell Sordaak’s crew, and it added a sense of urgency and dread to the novel. After growing attached to Sordaak and his companions and hoping for their success in raising Valdaar, I began Live & Learn with a bit of trepidation. Not wanting to root for this new set of warriors, devoted to Praxaar, I held a grudge for a time. However, Vance Pumphrey writes in a way to compel those with the strongest of wills to hold the newest cast of characters of Live & Learn in high esteem. By the end, I respected their grit and determination, even though my alliance remained with Sordaak.

In the same fashion, similarities abound between the groups, each with a paladin, magicuser, healer, and jack-of-all-trades. Their devotion to a cause speaks volumes, and in any other circumstance, both sides would probably get along rather well. I can imagine them sitting around an open fire, drinking ale, and rehashing past battles and proudly displaying war wounds. Of course, the only obstacle that pits them against one another is who they serve which encompasses an age-old conflict in a thoughtful and vibrant way.

Vance Pumphrey breathes likability into each character, giving them notable, but believable, flaws that propel the story on and keeps the reader’s attention throughout the book. A likable mix of intensity and humor, Live & Learn gets 5/5 stars. I look forward to the next in the series!

For information about the author, his books, and updates, please check out vancepumphrey.com.

Happy reading,

KD

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Review: Ronaldo: The Reindeer Flying Academy

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Cover via Amazon.com

 

Genre: Children’s eBooks

Age: 5-10 years

Pages: 98

“IMAGINE! See it, feet it, believe it! You can do anything, if you truly believe in yourself.” Ronaldo’s Grandad

Book blurb: “Ronaldo is the top flying cadet at the prestigious Reindeer Flying Academy. He dreams of getting his flying license and becoming one of Santa’s reindeer, just like his hero, Vixen.

In the first adventure in the Ronaldo series, the second year flying cadets face their toughest ever flying test — The Endurance challenge. Will Ronaldo be victorious and lift the silver cup? Or will mean brothers Dasher, met and Prancer ruin his chance for success?”

Disclosure: A copy of this book was given in exchange for an honest review.

Discussion: A wonderful spin on a Christmas favorite, Ronaldo: The Reindeer Flying Academy emphasizes the importance of believing in yourself. Funny and captivating, kids will get a kick out of carrot pancakes (can’t wait to make my own!), the ultimate parental stare down, and the obligatory embarrassments kids suffer during childhood.

Of course, the real gems of this story, apart from the message, are the colorful illustrations. They not only enhance the engaging text but take on a life of their own. Well designed and entertaining, this book would be wonderful to read any time of the year.

As for drawbacks, I would love to see this ebook offered in print! For little minds, the tactile stimulation and vibrant illustrations would be stupendous. It is for this reason that I’ll give Ronaldo: The Reindeer Flying Academy by Maxine Sylvester a 4/5 stars.

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Picture via Amazon

An enjoyable read, a great message, and another book to continue the tale! Please visit Maxine Sylvester on her Amazon page, connect with her on Facebook and Twitter,visit her website, and don’t forget to leave a review if you purchase.

Happy reading!

KD

 

 

Reviews: The Accidental Empress & Flyte

This year is flying by, and I’m churning away at the TBR list like there is no tomorrow. My days consist of writing, reading, editing, reviewing, and researching on a repeat loop, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sure, I throw in an occasional exercise routine. Weights here, a little cardio there, a recovery cookie for dragging myself through the mental prep it takes to force each pained step through the above “recommended” exercises.

Now, hear me out, I’m a healthcare professional, in addition to penning books, who values keeping the body healthy. Having stated the obvious, I don’t have to say I “love” it, or even “like” it, but all in all, I appreciate what exercise can do for my mind, body and writing.

What I do “love” is a great book, and boy do I have two I’m raving about today: The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki, and Flyte by Angie Sage. Yep, they are from different genres, the first is historical fiction and the later from fantasy fiction, but I do love reading various genres. I find that it enhances my writing in a number of ways. But, I digress. These masterful written and entertaining pieces of art command attention from the get go, and I’m excited to review them for you today.

Here goes!

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Cover via Amazon.com

The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki

Genre: Historical Fiction

Ages: Teen to Adult

Pages: 512

Book Blurb via Amazon:  “A  New York Times bestseller, The Accidental Empress is the “captivating, absorbing, and beautifully told” (Kathleen Grissom).love story of “Sisi” the Austro-Hungarian empress and wife of Emperor Franz Joseph.

The year is 1853, and the Habsburgs are Europe’s most powerful ruling family. With his empire stretching from Austria to Russia, from Germany to Italy, Emperor Franz Joseph is young, rich, and ready to marry.

Fifteen-year-old Elisabeth, “Sisi,” Duchess of Bavaria, travels to the Habsburg Court with her older sister, who is betrothed to the young emperor. But shortly after her arrival at court, Sisi finds herself in an unexpected dilemma: she has inadvertently fallen for and won the heart of her sister’s groom. Franz Joseph reneges on his earlier proposal and declares his intention to marry Sisi instead.

Thrust onto the throne of Europe’s most treacherous imperial court, Sisi upsets political and familial loyalties in her quest to win, and keep, the love of her emperor, her people, and of the world.

With Pataki’s rich period detail and cast of complex, bewitching characters, The Accidental Empress offers “another absolutely compelling story” (Mary Higgins Clark) with this glimpse into one of history’s most intriguing royal families, shedding new light on the glittering Hapsburg Empire and its most mesmerizing, most beloved “Fairy Queen.”

Discussion: Okay, as most historical fiction’s go, the 512 pages may seem overwhelming at first glance, and if you’re new to historical fiction, then this may be the absolute turning point in the decision to pick up the book or not. However, Pataki’s superior grasp on weaving an extraordinary tale gleaned from true life accounts of a young empress, plucked too soon from the protective confines of her childhood home, will leave you yearning for a sequel. And not to disappoint her fans, Allison Pataki hints at a possible continuation as the life of Sisi is too luminous and compelling to contain in one formidable book.

So, for those wondering about the length, don’t worry. The pages fly by, turning faster than a fan blade on high power. As a matter of fact, I was quite disappointed to have only touched the tippy top of this compelling, vivacious, resilient young Sisi, who after a long and arduous road, finds strength after heartbreak and despair on multiple occasions. Yes, I too swore indecent accusations at her mother-in-law (MIL) and spouse. I flung the book in haste onto the bed at the intrusion of Mother Sophie and relished in how her pompous attitude was hacked down a tier or two as I neared the close of the book. Don’t worry, the book was unharmed in the events of disdain. Although my psyche took a hit, dreaming about Sophie’s snooty grins and pudgy fingers grasping yet another delicate treat only the Hapsburg Court could afford to eat. Yes, the frustration and loathing was palpable in my household, and I can thank the exquisite Allison Pataki for that;-)

As far as the historical significance of the book, Pataki rarely strayed from actual accounts of Empress Sisi, and I owe a monstrous “Thank you” to her for that. It’s disappointing to read a historical fiction book that strays too far from the truth, and Ms. Pataki doesn’t disappoint. Her genius lies in the way she embodies Sisi’s imagined thoughts during her lifespan that keep the reader glued to the pages and wanting for more. I found myself wondering how it would feel to be plunged into the depths of the Hapsburg family without a life raft or boat, some kind of anchor to hold near. Not even her mother, who lived days away, could soften the blows of an overbearing MIL or the estrangement of her husband.

If you haven’t been introduced to Allison Pataki’s books, I’d advise you to take a look. She pens a book better than most, and she’s a credit to the historical fiction genre.

5/5 Stars

Flyte by Angie Sage

Genre: Children’s Fantasy/Magic

Ages: 8-12, but Adult’s love it too!

Pages: 532

Book Blurb via Amazon:

“It’s been a year since Septimus Heap discovered his real family and true calling to be a wizard. As Apprentice to ExtraOrdinary Wizard Marcia Overstrand, he is learning the fine arts of Conjurations, Charms, and other Magyk, while Jenna is adapting to life as the Princess and enjoying the freedom of the Castle.

But there is something sinister at work. Marcia is constantly trailed by a menacing Darke Shadow, and Septimus’s brother Simon seems bent on a revenge no one understands. Why is the Darke Magyk still lingering?

Bringing fantasy to new heights, Angie Sage continues the journey of Septimus Heap with her trademark humor and all of the clever details readers have come to love.”

Discussion:  The second book in the Septimus Heap series, Ms. Angie Sage continues the fascinating and nail-biting adventures of Septimus Heap, Princess Jenna, Nicko, their dragon boat, and a mystical world of magic waiting for the reader who dares to turn it’s pages. The castle, in disarray, anxiously awaits the return of Septimus amongst the chaos of the Extraordinary Wizard, Marcia, whose sinister dark shadow grows ever more tangible with each passing day, threatening the demise of her charge over the castle and those seeking to keep the wizarding world from falling into evil hands.

Ms. Sage uses vibrant descriptions, placing the reader directly into the surroundings, which I find difficult to write, but it’s effortless for her. The terminology, spells, and background stories all compel me down the rabbit hole of Flyte. What an adventure! Likable for all ages, Flyte touches on the nuances of parental struggles, sibling rivalry, and the typical angst of growing up all compiled into one. A quick and easy read, I’m grabbing the next in the series, “Physik,” faster than a toddler throwing spaghetti onto a wall.

While the series targets an audience between the ages of 8-12, I recommend teens and adults grab a copy, too. It’s a fabulous book to drain away trials of the day. Although, it may contribute to some sleepless nights with a never ending internal dialogue of, “Just one more chapter!” Honestly, I’ve tried in vain to find something about this book that I could critique, but I’m at a loss. And, no, I don’t always give 5/5 reviews;-)

For lovers of magical fantasy, please check out Angie Sage.

5/5 Stars

So, what’s next on my TBR list? Well, I’ve got quite a few, but I’m always interested in your thoughts! Please, comment below on books or series that make your list of favorites. I love Indie authors, too! As a matter of fact, I’m reading an indie book right now in the midst of a plethora of books I’m using for research. A author’s work is never done!

Happy reading!

KD

Review: The Platinum Dragon by Vance Pumphrey

Disclosure: The author sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Genre: Epic Fantasy

Age: YA to Adult

The final installment of The Valdaar’s Fist series, The Platinum Dragon leaves no stone unturned. What was once a crew of misfits has now turned into a well oiled machine with deep friendships forged. The final book finds our crew undergoing weeks of training with their respective masters, honing and fine-tuning their skills. They plan to reunite on the Isle of Grief with the Storm Giants in tow.

Construction of Sordaak’s Keep, thanks to the dwarves of the Dragger Clan, prosper and the temple for Valdaar’s resurrection is well under way. However, when Vorgaath never turns up, a successful excursion ensues to rescue Vorgaath from the clutches of feudal clans. Once reunited, the crew head back toward the Isle of Grief only to come under attack by none other than servants of Praxaar, including Sordaak’s half-sister. After narrowly escaping death, Sordaak forms a sketchy plan to obtain Valdaar’s Fist from Bahamut, the king of all the mighty dragons.

Each team member is pushed to the ultimate limit of skill and power. The epic showdown leaves a jaw-dropping and unexpected conclusion, impacting each in different and profound ways.

Like the other books in the series, The Platinum Dragon is an entertaining page turner. The author’s words flow effortlessly, creating 3-dimensional characters, vivid imagery and a flawless plot. The downside of any epic fantasy is the length, but with the final turn of the page, I found myself wanting more.

Vance Pumphrey astounds, mesmerizes and fascinates in The Valdaar’s Fist series. I anticipate his future endeavors to work magic of their own.

For more information on Vance Pumphrey and to buy his books/merchandise, please visit www.vancepumphrey.com.

Happy reading,

KD

A Short Story Review: Orange Slices by H. Eugene

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Authors who write fabulous short stories are to be admired. Not only do they need well developed characters, but the plot must be spot on. Any discrepancies or lack of skill become glaringly apparent, but it’s more than that. Within a short number of pages, the reader must be caught in the web of the story and flown through intricacies that the best of authors wrestle with in full length novels and/or series. So, authors able to achieve the impossible should be applauded, and H. Eugene’s Orange Slices is one such treasure.

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From well developed characters to an immersive storyline, Orange Slices took me by surprise. Do yourself a favor and take an hour or afternoon to read H. Eugene’s short story. Oh, and by the way, grab a bag of orange slices to enjoy while you read. You’ll be happy you did!

Happy reading and eating!

KD

Review Time!

 

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A very special thanks goes out to author/reviewer, and all around fantastic human being, H. Eugene! Not only are his books spellbinding with phenomenal plots and characters, he publishes spectacular books with a speed that leaves my head spinning;-)

Recently, H. Eugene honored me with a review of my book The Protectorate, and I’m humbled to say the very least. Please take the time to visit his website Inkthriller.com for not only my book’s review but that of others! Also, sign-up for his email/newsletter to keep in the loop for all his upcoming interviews, appearances and book launches. His next book, 13 Flowers: Chocolate Will Kill You, will launch on September 9! It’s the third in the trilogy, and it’s sure to  knock your socks off! While you’re at it, purchase the first two in the trilogy;-)

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Courtesy of Inkthriller.com

Happy reading!

KD

“America’s First Daughter” Book Review

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America’s First Daughter” by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie takes the reader on a  journey through the heart and mind of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson. While keeping to her timeline as much as possible, the authors take creative license to fill in the missing puzzle pieces. However, the insinuations stem from close scrutiny of existing letters written between the Jefferson’s and their close friends.

The book starts the day after Thomas Jefferson’s death in which Patsy and Sally Hemmings are alone in his study, quiet in their introspection of the room’s contents, facing each other with years of history between them. Sally takes a shoe buckle of Thomas Jefferson’s, an inkwell, and an old pair of his spectacles without asking. She hands over the key to Mr. Jefferson’s study, which she’d held onto for the previous forty years, and without speaking walks out of the room and Patsy Jefferson’s life.

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Sally Hemmings via geni.com

The rest of the book is a flashback for Patsy with all the trials and tribulations a daughter of the American Revolution, one that also included having a father who wrote the Declaration of American Independence along with being an Ambassador to France during it’s turbulent times and subsequently the third President of The United States, experienced.

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Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph via firstladies.org

We learn of Patsy’s harrowing flight at the young age of eight from the British away from her beloved Monticello with her ailing mother, sister and Jefferson’s ever faithful William Short while her father stayed behind to watch the advancement of troops. The authors expertly detail the torment to Thomas Jefferson’s character that plagued him throughout the rest of his life because of fleeing and the impact that had on young Patsy.

Her familial obligations solidified at the tender age of ten when her mother passed away after the lingering effects of another childbirth. Witnessing her father unravel after the devastation of losing his wife, Patsy held her father from the darkness of his grief and eventually pulled him back into the world of the living. From that point forward, Patsy’s devotion remained true to her father above and beyond her spouse or children.

The story speaks of the abhorrent nature of slavery and the Jefferson’s involvement as a southern plantation owner and President. Patsy was raised by the Hemmings slaves and knew they were her blood relatives, and it’s interesting to see her views differ from that of her father’s and how she evolves through her lifespan.

Another aspect of this book that I loved was the in-depth plot development into the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. I’m happy they didn’t shy away from the controversial nature of slave owners and the many children they had with their slaves. It left me wanting to research what happened to the generations of Hemmings that followed and where they ended up in life.

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Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr. via Firstladies.org

From the turbulent relationship with her alcoholic husband, Mr. Thomas Randolph, to the proposed relationship with a lifelong family friend, Mr. William Short, and the tragic lives of a few of her eleven children, Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie weave a delectable tale of truth and fiction to keep the reader not only entertained but racing through the 624 page book.

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William Short via wikimedia.org

For those on the fence or not interested in Historical Fiction, I’d advise you to give “America’s First Daughter” a chance. You’ll be yearning for more!

Happy reading,

KD