Dec 31 2018

Blogging All About These Sparkling Last Book Reviews of 2018

This is it! The last post of book reviews this year.

I had planned to read and review 50 books this year. I only managed 32. (That’s a 64%.)

#WeNeedDiverseBooks #SpecFic #DebutAuthor #BeatTheBacklist (TBR before 2018)

review-thon image #BeatTheBacklist Reading Challenge Book Bard Team 2018 try something new square 2018 book reading challenge all about the trope 2018 book reading challenge= weather

Winter Book Bingo 2019

Some reading goals from 2018, updated for the last time:

Read 8 Speculative Fiction books — 10 down
Read 8 Debut Author books — 7 down
Read 10 Diverse books — 10 down
Read 20 books from my TBR pile #BeatTheBacklist — 15 down
Read 2 books selected by The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (Book Club) — 2 down



This is also my “Shine/Sparkle” post. It’s especially important to me this month that each of these reviews shines and sparkles. See, I’m planning to write a reference book about book reviews. So I’m hoping to use my own guideline here (such that it is in the very rough draft stage of being mostly two Google doc files of notes and ideas). Fingers crossed!

blog about it challenge 2018

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Keeper by Robyn Roze
4 star rating image on the blog of @JLenniDorner
Publication Date: January 10, 2013

Torture! You know who does that? The character Nick (to a degree), but also author Robyn Roze. That’s sort of a compliment… because this Suspense Mistress has left me wanting to know about Olivia’s past even more than Jake desires to know about it. And also, what exactly her future plan is.

The erotic scenes were good. Nice level of foreplay new-adult-courting. But it’s the suspense between those scenes that held my attention.

I also like that Olivia wasn’t an outright “Tomboy,” didn’t feel like part of that cliche. She is a “hot girl” who has varied interests, including ones that older generations consider masculine. Cars, air hockey, fishing, etc. I really enjoyed the character, and how she was revealed throughout the book. She could have been more of a victim, or more childlike, but she isn’t and that serves to make her more entertaining and unique as a character. And she has well-defined internal and external goals.

I believe the theme of the book is about standing on your own, being brave enough to do what it takes to turn your life around, but while also leaving room for opportunities, like love, to come in.

I enjoyed Jake’s character. I’m dying to find out if his car has the connection I’m thinking it might have to another character. Jake reminded me of my own characters and some of my favorite actual people. He could have been more of a rich hot boy cliche, but he wasn’t, and for that I’m glad. Romance seems to be his biggest goal, which is useful to this book. I have a feeling that Jake is a favorite character of the author, based on how he is described. (Though I suspect his brother might have pulled a few writer heartstrings as well.)

Nick needs therapy. Twenty minus six is fourteen last I checked. That’s a pedophile trigger alert. His goals make him the villain of the story, even if he doesn’t see it.

Keeper (Keeper Series, #1) by Robyn Roze was well edited. I read this book cover to cover because the suspense was fantastic. I rarely read “Women’s Fiction,” which is one genre this book is listed under. There are fun sports metaphors, a good amount of car talk for motorheads, and a description of air hockey– I don’t know how often such things appear in “Women’s Fiction,” but for me, it made the book more gender neutral and enjoyable. It’s also listed as “New Adult,” which I do read and enjoy, “Romance,” which I occasionally read and feel mostly neutral about, and “Suspense,” which I enjoy reading. The cover is okay– the characters could be Olivia and Jake. I feel the book could probably stand alone, except the unanswered questions about Olivia’s “Greek-like tragedy” past make reading more of the series imperative. What I liked most about the setting was the lake at Jake’s parents’ house mirroring the other mentioned lake.

There is some underage drinking. There’s also a line which suggests that dogs do not mind being kicked around in a physically violent way, and that bothered me. There was some minor head hopping/ point of view shifts; such as in the scene in Chapter 16 when Jake meets Kyle, or in Chapter 21 when Olivia wakes up as they’re headed to Jake’s parents’ place. The title works for the book. I bought a free copy of this book on Amazon. I only set the book down a few times to attend to other life-matters. The plot flow of the book was very well done. I enjoyed this book and plan to read the next in the series.

As far as I can tell, this is Robyn Roze’s first book. #DebutAuthor
#BeatTheBacklist


Kindle Reviews: How to Get More Reviews for Your Kindle Book by Alex Foster
– OR –
Book Reviews: How to get reviews quickly with the methods used by publishers and professional writers GOODREADS
4 star rating image on the blog of @JLenniDorner

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Counseling & Psychology > Practice Management
#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Counseling & Psychology > Reference
#4 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Literary Criticism > Books & Reading
Publication Date: February 28, 2016
ASIN: B01CDKRPSY

I read this book mostly because it was free and short. I found it while looking for something else. This book is called “Kindle Reviews: How to Get More Reviews for Your Kindle Book” on Amazon, but called “Book Reviews: How to get reviews quickly with the methods used by publishers and professional writers” on Goodreads. As I don’t think the methods are “quick,” I think the first title makes more sense. I can imagine, though, that some places wouldn’t sell books with the words “Amazon” or “Kindle” in the title.

I liked the book far more than I expected I would. I would recommend it to fellow indie authors. I read several books a year on the craft of writing, so this book is in my wheelhouse. Also, I am a published indie author. I can actually use some of the information in this book.

The book cover on Amazon, the orange one with all the stars and the person in flannel giving two thumbs up, that cover caught my eye. The very plain blue cover on Goodreads with the “clip-art” star and open book, I don’t really care for that cover.

It seemed to be edited well enough. I picked up a few more books by this author after reading this one. The book was informative, entertaining, and a fast-paced read. It was clearly written and easy to follow. I believe this author is passionate about helping fellow writers. The research includes what not to do, including not buying or trading for reviews that are likely to get deleted and might get you banned. I was honestly impressed by this little book. I do feel the author achieved the purpose of the book and gave a good amount of information.

Something I found interesting in the book is the order it claims people use to decide if they’ll buy a book. (Cover, then title, then reviews under 3 stars, then the description.) I wonder how true that is, how big of a focus group was used to figure that out.

It makes an excellent point about how even bad reviews can sometimes lead to sales.

My favorite tip from the book is to always ask readers, “Will you leave a review?” Just like that, a direct yes or no. The book says that it gets the yes-people motivated to write a review. That makes sense to me.

Let me say about the Amazon categories for this book that it has, as far as I can tell, nothing at all to do with “Health, Fitness & Dieting,” and just barely anything to do with “Counseling & Psychology” or whatever “Practice Management” might be.

#BeatTheBacklist This book is from 2016. I have not read it, or this author, before.


Coloring DC: Harley Quinn in Batman Adventures: Mad Love by Paul Dini, Bruce Timm
4 star rating image on the blog of @JLenniDorner
Published: March 22, 2016

I liked this book slightly more than I thought it would. It has pretty much the same backstory for Harley Quinn as the one in the Suicide Squad film, but there’s a bit more here painting her a touch more nefarious early on. (Plus, there were two bonus short stories with the copy that I read.) If you like these characters, then you’d probably like this. The cover image, of the Joker failing to seduce Harley with flowers and a dip-kiss, isn’t the one I’d have selected. In fact, in the story, the Joker treats her horribly most of the time. There are scenes with abuse. Mad Love is an apt title. I read this book because my friend bought it as a gift for someone and I figured I’d read it while my friend was wrapping other presents.

Graphic novels are a rare indulgence for me. But Coloring DC: Harley Quinn in Batman Adventures: Mad Love was well-written, well-edited, and well-drawn. I would read more by Paul Dini. It was entertaining with a good amount of action.

In the story, Harley has the goal of getting more love and affection from the Joker. He’s busy with his plan to take down Batman. So she takes down Batman. The Joker can’t stand that someone else, especially his girlfriend, could be the one who takes down Batman, especially since she mostly used his plan to do it. Well-defined goals, and the usual comic book ending. I believe the theme is that, in an abusive relationship, the abused individual is never going to change the abuser. The story slightly exaggerates crime and bad relationships, so it’s holding a fun-house mirror up to society, I’d say.

Harley’s mental state makes this a diverse read. I have not read this story before. The sci-fi/ fantasy/ horror elements make it Speculative Fiction. It’s from 2016, so it’s a backlist read.
#WeNeedDiverseBooks #SpecFic #BeatTheBacklist


Sam and the Dragon by Eric B. Thomasma, Lanin D. Thomasma
5 star rating image on the blog of @JLenniDorner

#1389 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Children’s eBooks > Fairy Tales, Folk Tales & Myths > Dragons
#4239 in Books > Children’s Books > Fairy Tales, Folk Tales & Myths > Dragons
#134698 in Books > Children’s Books > Animals

Publication Date: May 28, 2010

My niece and I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I got her a copy in early December, and we read it at least a dozen times. Then we wrapped it up to be given as a gift to another child for Christmas. (Fun tradition.) We both recommend it to other children who enjoy funny stories, especially with dragons and fantasy explanations for ordinary things. It’s also good for any children who are afraid of the basement furnace or radiator sounds.

I’ve actually been following this author for years on Twitter. For whatever reason, I didn’t realize until just now that he wrote children’s books. (Maybe because I wasn’t shopping for them before.) I will likely get more of these books later.

The book is an entertaining, Happily-Ever-After story. The child in the book does intentionally separate from his parents. (I’m not sure if the word “runaway” works for nomadic cultures.) I believe the theme, or lesson, is that there is often a simpler way to solve a problem. It might also be just that the basement furnace isn’t scary.

This is the author’s first children’s book.
#SpecFic #DebutAuthor #BeatTheBacklist
It’s from 2010.
And this is a fantasy.
This is New To Me because I have not read this book or author before.
Weather is very important in this book, so it meets my “all about the trope challenge” requirement.
( #WeNeedDiverseBooks This could be considered a diverse book due to the nomadic culture of the characters. However, note that by the end, the dragon and child resolve the need for the people to be nomads, thus negating that. I’m not personally counting it, but you might. )


I Saw Santa in Pennsylvania by JD Green
4 star rating image on the blog of @JLenniDorner

Published: October 1, 2018
#834 in Books > Children’s Books > Holidays & Celebrations > Christmas

PA foods in the book I Saw Santa in Pennsylvania by JD Green

A combination of “Where’s Waldo” type books with a story that is likely similar for every location it was printed in, though the drawings seemed to match fairly well. (Several states, cities, and providences have a version.) Santa comes here to eat scrapple, hoagies, and shoo-fly pie. Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and a reindeer, make stops at the Carnegie Science Center, Dorney Park (that’s in my neck of the woods), Wissahickon Valley Park, Harrisburg, the Crawford County Fair, and Fairmount Park.

I liked it about as much as I expected. It’s a decent novelty item. The children I read it with seemed to like it. I think the food choices were good. It was an entertaining, funny story. Santa seemed to have fun on his little vacation, though he’s not very good at disguises. I do wonder if the “children” in the book who “wrote to Santa” are real or fictional, and if they are real, how they were chosen.

I have not read this book or author before.


Here Comes Santa Cat by Deborah Underwood
4 star rating image on the blog of @JLenniDorner

Publication Date: October 21, 2014
#1601 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Children’s eBooks > Animals > Cats
#2473 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Children’s eBooks > Holidays & Celebrations > Christmas
#6224 in Books > Children’s Books > Animals > Cats

My niece and I enjoyed this story. After reading it a bunch of times, we gifted it to a friend who loves cats and books. It has a very cute cover. It was well-written. We might check out other books by this author.

Poor Cat has a tough time at Christmas, but it turns out Happily-Ever-After. The theme is about being nice, not naughty, especially by giving and sharing. Cat’s failure at decorating the tree got the most laughs in my home.

#BeatTheBacklist
I have not read this book or author before.


Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
5 star rating image on the blog of @JLenniDorner

Publication Date: September 22, 2015
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > Personal Growth > Personal Success
#3 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > Personal Growth > Women’s Personal Growth
#3 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Counseling & Psychology > Creativity & Genius

I didn’t really know what this book was going to be about. It was the book club’s choice for this month, so I decided to have a go. I liked it far more than I expected to. I would recommend it to anyone who regularly pursues a creative interest. In fact, when I got a copy and read it, I liked it so much that I bought a copy for a friend, who also enjoyed it so much that she too bought a copy for her friend.

I’m not sure I understand the cover, which just looks like splashing various paint to me. The title does make sense after reading the book, but based on just “big magic,” I don’t know that I would have picked it up if not for the club picking it. I do enjoy reading books about writing motivation though. The book was well edited. Interestingly, the book talks about editing something so that it’s “good enough,” and figuring out when to stop hunting for every possible error. (*cough* Not that I’ve ever done that. *cough*) One of the greatest lessons in the book though is the hard truth of living a creative life: That you should quit, unless you can’t.

This book does have me interested in the other works by this author. It did inspire me to keep writing. Some of the observations of the book impressed me because I’ve never thought about them before. It’s very informative and entertaining, and it’s clear that Elizabeth is an authority on the subject. The lessons absolutely apply to my own life as a writer. I’m sure my fellow writers would also enjoy reading this. The entire book was clear and easy to follow. The author’s passion for writing and staying creative absolutely came through. I feel that I benefited from reading this book.

In the “Courage” section, the list of fears, I nodded along several times. “Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them,” was a powerful quote included in this book (also in the “Courage” section). I don’t know how, exactly, it might apply with chronic illness or family matters, but there it is. The book mentions that projects that don’t turn out well can be thought of as just creative experiments — what a freeing idea that is! The story in the book about the novel that really wanted to be written, the one that Ann ends up doing, that’s some serious motivation to write when the Muse comes to call. Very powerful.

Good enough and out there now is better than probably perfect but never out there… that’s a lesson I should make my mantra and say daily or something. Pretty good books can sell and be read. Books that are never published aren’t selling or giving themselves to the world.

The lesson about needing to love writing (or whatever) with your whole heart, the good and the bad parts, that’s an important one. I think that’s what weeds out most people. For example, during the #AtoZChallenge in April or NaNoWriMo in November, a lot of people start and make it for the first week. But, by the end of those months, it’s only the people who loved doing it enough to keep at it despite the time consumption and dozens of things that inevitably go wrong for anyone who makes plans.

In a post-apocalyptic world, are writers useful? The book suggests that the fact that creativity exists is a gift, proof we are doing well. But I think the worse things are, the more people need the distraction of entertainment. (And if there’s no more power or Internet, books and storytellers would go up in value.) That’s the one part of the book I disagreed with. Perhaps my ego just wants to feel valuable so I have a fun reason to go on that isn’t wholly reliant on another individual?

Being loved by nature and having a place in the world, mentioned in the “Trust” section, perhaps that’s a more natural concept for me because of my Lenni-Lenape upbringing. It does seem to be one of the things that separated, or exiled, me from the more “civilized” children. Also in the “Trust” section was the bit about the Martyr and Trickster, which made me think of Batman and the Joker. As for the story of the Court Lobster, that’s sort of why I decided to self-publish my first novel. (It was never going to wear the right costume, and I wasn’t going to change the mythology just because others didn’t know the legends I do. So I went “Court Lobster.”)

I’d like to see Amazon add a category for this being a writing inspiration book. Perhaps instead of “Women’s Personal Growth” (since that doesn’t apply to me).

This is the December IWSG Goodreads bookclub choice.
#BeatTheBacklist
I have not read this book or author before.

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