The Book Review Directory

badge-the-book-review-directoryIn 2015 I joined The Book Review Directory and have since had a steady stream of requests from international authors wanting me to read and review their books. In most instances, I’ve declined due to the fact that I have had an over committed year with a local writing group and numerous books to read and review from Australian author’s I know.

However, when I do accept I put the books in a file to get to when I get the opportunity. The latest review is at the bottom of this page. I may even start putting reviews in by the year I read them category.

2015

UNKNOWN SENDER BY RYAN LANZ REVIEWED BY JILL SMITH

If you’re looking for something different, a quick read try out this novelette by Ryan Lanz.

unknown sender coverJessica was swatting for her next exam and she was feeling the pressure.

Her dorm roommate Aubrey, a pretty blonde who barely studied but still passed with A’s and B’s, was getting ready for a party. Her boyfriend Ricky was having the party at his rental house and had invited a friend Chad to be Jessica’s blind date.

After Kevin had disappeared when Jessica had mentioned marriage, she wasn’t sure if she really wanted to meet anyone.

While Aubrey was in the shower Jessica got a weird text from an unknown sender.

[Do you lock your doors at night?]

That was the first of several texts that began to unsettle Jessica. They weren’t coming from Aubrey’s phone, she checked. Besides, Aubrey was in the shower.

They were ready for the party and heading to the car. Jessica knew she would end up being the designated driver as she hardly drank while Aubrey could keep up with the best of them.

Ricky’s rental was luxurious. He pointed out the features of the main bedroom, a fireplace, a balcony and a hot tub. Although embarrassed and objecting to going in the hot tub with strangers, in a borrowed unflattering bikini, Jessica sat there with Aubrey, Ricky and Chad. After an awkward few minutes, while Aubrey had gone to the toilet when she returned, Jessica got out to check her phone.

[Are you having fun?]

[You talk as if you know me.] Jessica messaged.

[How do you know I don’t? Things aren’t always as they seem. You look nice tonight. Purple is a lovely colour on you.]

The unknown sender knew where she was, who she was with, and what she was wearing.Ryan Lanz bio pic

Ricky had left the hot tub so Jessica decided to confront him, sure that it must be him because of the crazy way he looked at her. People were standing around chatting when she shoved Ricky and began shouting. Aubrey came out to see what was happening. They left the party because she was so upset. Jessica explained about the texts in the car on the way home.

The texts kept coming.

[It’s too bad you had to leave early. Were you not having a good time?]

[No, I wasn’t. Not with you harassing me like this.] Jessica replied.

Now at this point as a reader and reviewer, I expected the story to be along the lines of cyber bullying. I’ve read several coming of age stories on this theme. As a mother and Grandmother, I find cyber stalking and bullying pretty confronting.

However, this is a novelette and as Ryan did tell me a horror. So this is where the story took a twisting turn.

Aubrey suggested she and Jessica go away for the weekend to a lake house out of mobile range. So that Jessica could get away from her unknown sender, but could she?

I’ve been a judge of several short story competitions and one thing I look for is a twist that leaves a mark, a lingering memory or haunting thought that makes the story unique. This story does have that twist. Well done Ryan. The cover gives the reader a clue to the tale of Jessica in water, lake water, where she can really be herself.

2016

SOL OF THE COLISEUM

REVIEWED BY JILL SMITH

sol-of-the-coliseum-coverAuthors: Adam Gaylord and Jon Guerdrum

Publisher: http://mirror-world-publishing.myshopify.com/products/sol-of-the-coliseum

This book is set in an alternative universe with some very familiar feeling old Roman style cities and culture filled with both good and evil.

I was hooked from the first page, it really got me in. I worried about Sol and wanted him to win even though the battles in the Coliseum were brutal. The promoters controlled his life and he was destined to die inside the place that he’d only known as his home. The evil in the mercenary Linsk was almost stomach churning. The ending was a gruelling and unexpected escape. I liked that Sol discovered he could hope and find friendship in the awful place. Moreover that he could be a crowd pleaser and incite the crowd to rebel against the oppressive rule of the Empire. I’m sure this will be the start of a series I look forward to reading.adam-gaylord-bio-pic

The book blurb on Goodreads reads:

Deep in the bowels of the Coliseum of the mighty Astrolian Empire, the orphan, Sol, is raised by a makeshift family of guards and fellow slaves to become the most famed Gladiator in all the land. Alongside K’nal, his giant Frorian fighting partner, Sol must battle cunning warriors and fantastic beasts to delight the crowd and stay alive. But when an oppressed populace transforms Sol into a revolutionary folk hero, the Empire sends its most ruthless assassin to put an end to the uprising. Sol’s only chance is to do what no slave has ever done: escape from the Coliseum and the only home he’s ever known.

SOFT ON THE DEVIL

AUTHOR: Robert Lampros

Review by Jill Smith©Dec16

 

soft-on-the-devil-coverIan Phillips is an ordinary kind of guy, at twenty-four he works in the local Earth Way grocery store. He is very keen on promoting the good quality merchandise. He works hard and gets a promotion. Things are looking up when he meets Amy and a relationship blooms.

All this is a backdrop to his deep faith, reading the bible daily, and trying to figure out what happened to Cindy Myran, a woman who lived in his apartment block who disappeared. Everyone thinks she’s was dead. Ian wasn’t so sure. She turns up at his place, afraid of being followed and asking for help to get to Bradson City. She was supposed to be dead already. Was this his robert-lamproshallucination? He had to find out more.

This is an unusual tale, all in the first person. I find it difficult to write in the first person. There is always something I want the reader to see that’s in the next person’s point of view. Robert Lampros has pulled this off admirably. I have to say I expected a different outcome but the ending was fitting.

Goodreads bio:

Robert Lampros is an author of Christian poetry, essays, and fiction who lives in St. Louis. He earned a Bachelor’s in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis. His books include Fits of Tranquility, Afternoon, Last Year’s Resolution, and Undivided Lines.

 

2017

The Gift-Knight’s Quest

by Dylan Madeley (Goodreads Author)
Reviewed by Jill Smith February 17

the-gift-knights-quest-cover

The summary about the book gives a clearer picture of the overall story than this reader could gain. I had trouble getting into it.

I found Derek who became the Gift-Knight a restless wanderer and couldn’t like his attitude of indifference to his father and ingrained history of the Free Plains. It all started to make sense over halfway through the book. Chandra, the illegitimate daughter of King Jonnecht the ruler of Kensrik, lived a solitary and unloved life. That is until her spiteful stepmother committed suicide and her father joined his wife in death because of an ancient precedent. This left Kensirk in turmoil.

I’m happy to say I did like Chandra and her loyal followers, Captain Jan and the seamstress Ophelia.

I did find the political manoeuvres by firstly King Jonnecht himself, his barbed tongue dylan-madeley-bio-picwife, and then the former Kings advisers who became Chandra’s enemies plots and schemes left me feeling the world Dylan Madeley had created was a cold one, filled with characters who were full of duplicity. Then, of course, that could be said of the political world we live in today.

The ending came without fanfare. There was a hint of further instalments in the tale. I have hopes that Derek will show more of his true metal in the next book.

There's a Stinky Goblin coverBook Review

By Jill Smith©April 2017

Title: There’s a STINKY GOBIN in the shed

Author: Andrea Kaczmarek

Illustrator: Eva Kunzel

This is a quirky children’s book and I loved the whole concept.

Twin boys Jerry and Jacob are twins, but they don’t look the same. Jerry has curly hair and Jacob has spiky hair. They are different in nature too. Their Gran looks after them a lot because mum is away often. Gran has a shed and they decide it would be the perfect place to have a secret den. Gran is happy for them to use it as long as they clean it up. They set to work and Gran rewards them with a trip to the shops to buy sleeping bags and things including a hammock to make it comfortable. They decide that now they’ve got it set up a walk in the park behind Gran’s house in the middle of the night would be a great adventure. That’s when they meet Hob the smelly green goblin who is hungry all Andrea Kaczmarek profile picthe time, chases things and generally makes a nuisance of himself. They have to get him back to his home. When they finally help the bad mannered and messy guest back home, they think everything has returned to normal, however, they have another surprise coming.

This is a chapter book for middle readers with great illustrations throughout the book by Eva Kunzel. I think Andrea has hit her target audience mark perfectly.

Writing, as I do for children, as part of The Ten Penners, it’s good to read other authors stories for inspiration. I read this as a request by Andrea Kaczmarek through The Book Review Directory, so it is unusual in that it is not an Australian author or book. I’ve now started following Andrea on Goodreads.