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Lora's Rants and Reviews

My general opinions on books & occasionally other stuff.

Authors giving away free books

We've probably all seen a few authors providing free books for self-isolation. Smashwords has provided a central point for finding a lot of them. Some authors are using it as an excuse for a discount sale because they have the choice of how much to discount, but the ones who really care are going free.


Some recommendations:


My favourite time travel series I'm always going on about is all free apart from the last episode that isn't released yet.



A Fantasy trilogy I really enjoyed.



A two-book collection that starts with a sequel to Oliver Twist, following the Artful Dodger.



A light Mystery set in a circus.



If you don't have an ereader, they offer PDF among the formats. All completely free. You don't even have to sign up, just instant download.


You could spend hours just browsing through all your favourite genres.

I'm reading a Romance

Someday in Paris - Olivia Lara

It doesn't happen often anymore because I don't like the insipid or Erotica, but this is pretty good, even with teenage protagonists (2 main characters, alternating pov).


I'll be reviewing it on my new account, but until I finish the transition, I'll link new reviews here. The last two weren't really worth the effort.

The Illustrated Dinosaur Encyclopedia

The Illustrated Dinosaur Encyclopedia - Barry Cox; R. J. G. Savage; Brian Gardiner; Colin Harrison

by Barry Cox, R. J. G. Savage, Brian Gardiner, Colin Harrison


You're never too old for dinosaurs.


This is a beautiful book with very professionally drawn full-color glossy illustrations on every page and all the scientific information that a student or researcher might look for.


The chapters are organised by species, separating fishes, amphibians, reptiles, ruling reptiles, birds, mammal-like retiles and actual mammals. Each entry starts with the name, era, locality and size of a typical example, followed by an overview of the species. The descriptions don't go into massive detail, but they do make all of them easily recognisable in case you fall into a jurassic world and wonder what's about to eat you.


The book is a wonderful reference volume and I could be tempted to get a physical copy just for the fantastic pictures.

Fair Warning

After having 100-ish spam accounts follow me for the second day in a row, I've decided to definitely change my account. I'm obviously on the list that new accounts automatically follow and it's time I changed that.


My plan is to do it slowly. I will start a new account but use my same avatar and start copying over my reviews manually, thereby saving all of my followers from having a review tsunami. THEN I will send friend requests to everyone currently following me. I'll give warning (here on this account) before I do that as well.


As soon as it feels accomplished, I'll delete this account.

Voices in Crystal

Children of Stone: Voices in Crystal - Mary R. Woldering

by Mary Wondering


Despite the dull cover, this is an interesting story set in Ancient Egypt. It starts out with a village that needs to move, but one member of the tribe who lost his wife has turned to madness and his sister is unsure whether he will go with them.


It's a slow boiler that reads a lot like mythology, so not a fast action read, especially in the beginning. I've taken my time reading it to absorb the beautiful imagery as well as assimilating the story and getting to know the characters. These are all well drawn and distinctive.


There's a supernatural-scifi element layered over a well-researched historical background which I found rather unique. Also uncommon is the story involves common village dwellers rather than the grandeur of the king and queens of Egypt.


A little slow in places, but will appeal to those who like to read old folktales.


The Sacred Art of Brujeria - Katrina Rasbold

by Katrina Rasbold


Brujeria is a form of folk magic that is specific to Mexico. Most of the practices sound like many other Shamanic methods, but the modern version the book explains is based firmly in Catholicism and works through patron saints. Presumably Mexico had an earlier version before the invasion of Christianity.


It is a healing magic and I found the ideas behind using the breath as a magical conduit especially interesting. Some of the chapters sounded very familiar, working with auras, and chakras etc., but then something new would come up. The four stage procedure for a healing was of interest, starting with just getting the client to talk about their problem.


A little bit psychology and a little bit woo, things like a sage bath or pendulum use to locate areas of the body that represent psychological blockages but are healed through channelling a divine power separate this tradition from some similar Shamanic practices. Using modern and imported terms is, I suppose, is expected in this age of globalism.


Though the practice has too much of religion about it to be something I would practice personally, I found reading about it informative and interesting. Some of it could be dismissed as superstition, like transferring maladies to an egg or sweeping away bad energies like in Wicca, but I keep an open mind and would certainly allow a practitioner to work on me without being too dismissive.


Most importantly, the book details what's involved so it's done it's job well.

I quit

All the Weyrs of Pern - Anne McCaffrey

Two DNFs in a week. That's an all-time record for me.


I LOVED the first two Pern trilogies. This and the fact that a relative kept going on about how good this one is kept me going long after I was ready to DNF several times.


So I had to think about why this book was boring me to tears when I loved the early books of the series.


Okay, 150 pages of talking to a computer and set up. I got past that.


Okay, dragons and firelizards playing about in a spaceship might stretch my physics acceptance a little, but it's not as if I don't like science fiction.


I finally worked it out though. The book is populated with established characters from previous books in the series.


They're not developing!


One of the things that can grip me into a good story is character development. While these might be learning a few new things, they're basically playing roles in a scifi concept and while both human and dragon characters show some instances of their developed personalities, they're like puppets playing themselves.


I'll read the last chapter and see what happens, then this one goes off to the local Little Free Library. NEXT!


DNF at 29%.

The Black Prism - Brent Weeks

I hate to DNF a book I've paid for. So many people say this is a great series! But I'm bored out of my mind and can't take anymore. Life is too short. Next!

February 2020 Wrap-up

She has a Broken Thing where her Heart should be - J.D. Barker Go Ask Alice - Beatrice Sparks, Anonymous The Last Refuge of the Knights Templar - William F. Mann The Art of Lucid Dreaming - Johnson Maureen,  Res-Brennan Sarah Clare Cassandra When the Changewinds Blow - Jack L. Chalker

To my surprise, I actually finished 5 books in February!


This is surprising because I somehow managed to saddle myself with 5 long, slogging Fantasy books all at once and a long Historical which is good, but still very long and still in progress.


Best read of these five is actually a non-fiction, The Art of Lucid Dreaming. I did quite enjoy my re-read of Go Ask Alice, though it's different than I remember it.


I'm still reading 4 of the long books and just to drive myself batshit, I've started Clive Barker's Books of Blood 3 volume series. This is because the Pern book is in teeny little type and I wanted to read something in hard copy that I could manage more than 5 pages before my eyes go squiffy.


So, much of March will be finishing the long books still in progress. Unless I rebel and start grabbing YA novellas to keep my sanity.

We Germans

We Germans - Alexander Starritt

by Alexander Staritt


A young British man asks his German grandfather about his experiences in the war and gets no clear answers, but after the grandfather's death, a long letter is found addressed to his grandson which tells him the answers to his questions.


The grandfather was an ordinary foot soldier on the Eastern front, suffering not only the horrors of war but of decisions made by higher ups. He carries guilt for some things he had to do under orders and details out all the unpleasantness of what his life had become.


This is fiction and I have no way of knowing how close to factual experiences of German soldiers in WW2 it is or isn't, but it reads with plausibility and I was definitely gripped by the story. I generally avoid WW2 stories, but this was different because of the inside perspective of the side that lost, unlike the usual British and American films that glorify a horrendous state of affairs.


Most interesting was the very human side of the story as a group of soldiers get separated from their unit with no officer and have to make decisions for their own survival as well as considering accountability for their role in the war when eventually they get home, if they do.


Foraging for food, encountering others involved in the war on both their own side and the Russians brings a series of adventures. Near the end it gets rather intense with action, but there is also philosophising of an ordinary man who happened to be born at a time and place that would require he fight for the Nazi army and see his side lose, when all he really wanted was to go home and raise a family.


Very well written.

Comment back at original post.

Booklikes Active Poster

Reblogged from Obsidian Blue:
— feeling booklikes

I thought this would be a good way for us to comment and then share the post to see who is still here to make sure we are all following each other. I only bring this up because I see some people posting and I appear to be the only one following their reviews.


I have gotten some comments from bots though which is another reason why I wanted us all to take this Friday to comment and share this post so we can all find each other. 


Feel free to drop your name in the comments and share! 

She Has A Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be

She has a Broken Thing where her Heart should be - J.D. Barker

by J.D. Barker


This one starts out a little 'bitty', with quotes and false starts before the prologue, which itself is separated in time from the story that begins in chapter one. 


To be honest, it was a slog. I wanted to DNF it every time I picked it up. It seemed to have trouble deciding what genre it is and the overlay of Dickens' Great Expectations (one of my favourite stories of all time) didn't really work. It felt very contrived and I would have given up when Miss/Mrs Oliver gave Jack her speech in the graveyard except that I always finish books I've requested from Netgalley, even when they're painful. 


The sentence structure was fine, the problems were in dialogue and plot. The sort of scifi sequences with some mysterious entity observing could have been left out altogether and improved the story as well as shaving off some over long filler. 


The characters themselves, while not evoking sympathy, were at least defined personalities but Jack himself was pretty wet and the naming of many of them again I felt insulted Dickens. Still, the book seems to have a lot of good reviews so maybe it just has its audience.


Go Ask Alice

Go Ask Alice - Beatrice Sparks, Anonymous

by Anonymous


I read this Classic many years ago, but had forgotten most of it so tried a sample and it held my interest enough to pay the 1.99 Kindle price so I could keep going, though I hadn't yet got to the 'meat' of the story.


It's about an ordinary young girl in America who has a lot of insecurities about fitting in at school. She turns 15 early in the story and her family moves to another town. It's supposed to be a true story, but I'm not sure whether that's hype or not.


As it goes along, we read through her diary how she got lured into drug use and quickly goes down a familiar route of trying different substances and getting caught up with dodgy boyfriends. She makes a good friend and after a period of going down a slippery slope, they decide to run away to get away from the bad influences plaguing them. Where do they go? San Francisco!


A lot of the tie the diary entries sound too Pollyanna to be real, but they reflect her ups and downs, attempts to get away from drug culture and the pitfalls along the way. In the late 1960s, it was a hard hitting portrait of the culture of the time and the sorts of things that could happen to young teenage runaway girls, or even those who don't leave their families.


It is certainly dated, but I'm glad I read it again.

Horror Fans - Have you seen this?



The Colour Out of Space (2019) directed by Richard Stanley of Hardware fame, starring Nicholas Cage.


Anyone seen it? Reviews are excellent!


Reading progress update: I've read 4%.

She has a Broken Thing where her Heart should be - J.D. Barker

I should have checked the page count before I requested this one. It's really a slog.

The Last Refuge of the Knights Templar

The Last Refuge of the Knights Templar - William F. Mann

by William F. Mann


This was totally different from what I expected. I have a historical interest in the Knights Templar, who were disbanded and mostly executed in 1309. I didn't know that the Freemasons had adopted the name for their own organisation, although I've seen other modern groups do the same.


This story is set in American Civil War times and centered on a historical figure called Albert Pike, who was a general in the Confederate army and a Freemason.


The writing was reasonably good, apart from some of the dialogue, but this just isn't an area of interest for me. I feel the book is mis-titled, though I should have read the description more closely. The first few lines supported the impression that it would actually be about the Knights Templar from the title.


If someone wants to read about Civil War Confederacy and Freemasonry of the time, this should appeal. The connections to the Templars are certainly pure fiction though.