Arts and Entertainment, Books

The Virtuous Viscount by Susan M. Baganz

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

The Virtuous Viscount by Susan M. Baganz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Just when Marcus Allendale, Lord Remington, is thinking it may finally be time to find a wife, a serious carriage accident brings Miss Josephine Storm into his path. However, Josie’s grave injuries present a challenge for Marcus’s growing interest in her. And more than their relationship could be in danger, due to the nefarious schemes of the obscure Black Diamond in The Virtuous Viscount, a novel by author Susan M. Baganz.

The Baron’s Blunder, the novella that precedes this novel, is what drew me into this Gothic Regency romance series. It may be ironic, but friendship is what I liked most about this story—specifically, the friendship between Marcus, Phillip, Michael, and Theodore. They’re not a bunch of perfect people, and they don’t all share Marcus’s faith, but the dynamic among them is fun to watch, and their bond is more of a brotherhood.

(Side note: during a particular scene where these friends/brothers storm into raw action, I imagined what it would’ve been like if the fiery Henrietta, the heroine from the prequel novella, could have just happened to burst into the fray with her pistol. Whew!)

Much of the romance in this book has a heavy fairytale quality. I enjoyed some of Marcus and Josie’s earlier exchanges, but, admittedly, I can’t say I came to like Josie overall, and there didn’t seem to be a good balance of strength(s) between the two of them. Also, their individual ponderings about each other would feel redundant at times or would weigh on the story without necessarily moving the plot forward. I think I might’ve enjoyed this particular tale more as a somewhat shorter, tighter read.

Nevertheless, the suspense and danger that began to unfold in the preceding book deepens here. Plus, the admirable showing of Marcus’s friend Phillip in this novel would make moving on in the series all the more interesting.


Here’s my review of the prequel novella of the Black Diamond series, The Baron’s Blunder.



Arts and Entertainment, Books, Fiction

Marionette by A. J. Terry

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Marionette by A.J. Terry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Ko Min-Jung has received a formal “invitation” to join the ranks of recruits for the Agency. They’ll train her to become a professional agent to help protect North Korea from foreign threats. But this training could make it impossible for Ko to remain herself in Marionette, a novel by author A. J. Terry.

This spy thriller essentially has a triple timeline and doesn’t announce where in time it’s going before it goes. But because the unfolding of the plot makes sense, the timing isn’t confusing.

I felt the story teeter toward stalling a time or two in the earlier chapters while thoughts and questions would swarm through Ko’s head. In fact, throughout the book, I thought the narration sometimes asked more questions than necessary. But it didn’t bog things down too much, and if it were a slow read, I probably wouldn’t have finished it in a day, as I did.

This is a tragic, violent, even brutal story with a main character I’d find rather “tofu” at times, taking in the flavor of events happening around her without my always having the best sense of her. But when Ko would come through, I’d feel it.

And I was hit the deepest by one character’s accounts of brilliant humanity, shining through at its own expense, and the tension and irony in what happens to one’s humanity when some authority effectively tampers with it. I was riveted by the story and only felt a little let down toward the end when I realized it wasn’t going to have as much closure as I would’ve liked.

Not exactly a cliffhanger here, but it’s clear that Ko’s journey has only begun in this novel. So I plan on reading the next.


Note to my blog readers: while this novel has no profanity or explicit sex scenes, it does contain content for mature audiences.


Marionette is the first of the Agent Ko spy thrillers.

*Now, while I’ve already got Book Two, I had some trouble figuring out where to get the rest of the series. A little bird told me the novels will be getting a makeover, of sorts. So I’ve decided to hold off on reading more until the redone edition of the series appears.*



Arts and Entertainment, Books, Fiction

Beyond Beautiful: A Redemptive Romance Story by Robert Goluba

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Beyond Beautiful by Robert Goluba

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Dave tends to have a rather critical and narrow view of other people, especially where looks are concerned. Not only does it affect his work as a high school P.E. teacher, but it’s also putting a strain on his relationship with Megan, his wife. Then one day, a strange phenomenon gives humans around the world X-ray vision, making everyone appear as skeletons in Beyond Beautiful: A Redemptive Romance Story by author Robert Goluba.

Even with “romance” in the subtitle, I found it tricky to classify this read, genre wise. But I can appreciate a tale that’s out of the box, like this one. I think I can safely call it a sci-fi love story that even people who don’t usually read sci-fi can enjoy.

I like how the story touches on a number of ideas in a short amount of time. Dave’s situation is the central focus, but the story goes further. It takes an interesting look at how society in general is affected by physical appearance in various ways. While it’s an inspirational read, not every theme is tied up at the end with fairytale perfection, which is realistic and challenging.

Now, I felt the lessons in the story to be pretty heavy-handed at times. The narrator and Dave spell things out a bit too much instead of leaving more room for nuance and the reader’s perception. There are also a number of minor errors and places where the narrator slips into present tense (such as, “Dave is lost without her”), though most of the story is narrated in past tense.

Nevertheless, this is a quick and thought-provoking read that other ChristFic fans may want to check out.


Arts and Entertainment, Authors, Books

Dear Authors and Readers: It’s Not About “Us” vs. “Them”

Authors and readers. Wielders of the mighty pen, and turners of the wondrous page. We’re all a part of the same book world, here.

Dear Authors. Dear, dear fellow authors:

We all know from Day One that not everybody is going to like our books, that no author can please every reader.

And, sure, the age of the internet and social media has familiarized us with internet trolls. People who post negative comments that nobody needs. Cyber riffraff who seem to have nothing better to do than to say bad stuff about stuff.

Then, up pops a new review for one of our books. Yay! Oh…wait a minute. Not so “yay,” this time. The new review is cutting. The reader did not like the book. The reader does not recommend the book. The reader rated the book with two stars or less. So, because of the undeniably negative, not-so-“yay” effect the reader’s cutting words and low rating have on the author, that reader must be a troll with nothing better to do than to say bad stuff about something the author worked hard on. Right?

Well, not necessarily right. A reader’s cutting review and low star rating do not automatically make that reader a troll.

But what about readers who post totally irrelevant reviews, with complaints about retailer shipping, customer service, or other things that have absolutely nothing to do with the author’s writing? Readers like that are trolls, correct?

Okay. This might be a good time to advise that an author shouldn’t be so quick with the gavel and the “troll” label. Don’t forget what a troll actually is: a person who is intentionally antagonistic online. Someone who makes disruptive attacks on purpose, merely to cause trouble and to get a rise out of folks. Yes, book reviews are a huge, important deal for us authors, and since our books and reviews are constantly on our minds and we know how reviews should be, knowing what or what not to include in a book review may seem like basic, universal knowledge to us.

But, dear authors, most readers aren’t living in our author universe. Or, maybe better said, our author bubble. Most people aren’t thinking about book reviews all the time. They’re not looking for ways to become savvy or expert book critics. They’re just decent, everyday folks, taking a little everyday time to post something online. Not being up on Best Book Reviewing Practices or Customer Review Guidelines does not mean that a person is intentionally antagonistic toward authors.

Likewise, expressing cutting opinions about a book doesn’t make a reader an attacker. Yes, authors, our work is deeply personal to us, so, naturally, it’s hard not to take reviews about our work personally. Still, it’s wise to recognize when a reader is making no personal attack on anyone but is simply saying what they think or how they feel about something they’ve read. Just as we authors are free to write the books we want to write, despite who may not like them, readers are free to choose what they read, free to think or feel the way they do about the books they’ve chosen, despite who may not agree with them.

And, trust me, we would not want to live in a world where only our professed fans would be allowed to buy and read our books, and no one else could have access. A world where people would only be allowed to say when they like something, where all negative opinions would be unwelcomed, censored, or silenced.

Dear Readers. Dear, dear fellow readers:

The age of the internet has made a lot of stuff more accessible to us. It’s even become easier for us to get books right on the spot, without having to wait around or go anywhere, thanks to the invention of ebooks and instant downloads. Yay!

Oh…wait a minute. Not so “yay” all the time. While some of us have totally fallen in love with the convenience and efficiency of digital books, others of us still don’t consider digital books to be real. We can’t really hold ’em in our hands. We can’t smell ’em. We can’t display an ebook on our bookshelf or pass the copy around to as many of our friends as we want.

Since an ebook doesn’t quite seem real to us, we might not be as ready to pay for one as we would a “real” book. Despite the fact that it takes an author just as much time, effort, blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice to write an ebook as it does a print book. Despite the fact that an ebook still needs an editor, a cover designer, someone to format the files, and whatnot. Despite the fact that it takes finance to market and advertise a book, no matter what format the book comes in. Despite the fact that when traditional publishers publish an ebook, they still have to pay everyone on their publishing staff, pay their company bills, pay royalties to the author, and all that. The cost of printing, warehousing, and shipping a print book is only a fraction of what goes into that book’s retail price.

No, ebooks are not cost-free to produce and publish just because they’re not made of paper. Yes, an author still deserves to be paid for the work they’ve put in and for the art–the words–they’re sharing with the world, even if a reader can’t hold those words in their hands.

It’s much like when we pay to go watch a movie or to see a play in a theater. Or when we pay to attend a concert. To browse around a museum. To see a ballet, a tennis match, or a basketball game. We can’t hold a concert, a ballet, or a basketball game in our hands. But we still pay for the experience, for what people in their profession are sharing with us.

Whether a book is published physically or digitally, the author’s words are there. That’s what a book is really about: getting someone’s words out there to other people.

Besides, whether we like it or not, the world we live in is becoming increasingly digital. Book publishing can’t survive if we, dear readers, are willing to download digital books but are unwilling to pay for them. An author or publisher isn’t being mean, greedy, or unreasonable when they charge us to access an author’s words, just like a host of other kinds of artists and professionals charge for their work.

Now, there are plenty of other points I could raise on this author and reader topic, but my main point is this: we shouldn’t make a habit of thinking the folks on the “other side” of a book are out to get us, to cheat us, to make our life as an author or as a reader more difficult. Authors should extend consideration and respect to readers, and readers should extend consideration and respect to authors.

Don’t let it become about “us” vs. “them.” Authors and readers need each other to keep the world of books turning. So, we may as well read and write, buy and sell, give and receive reviews, and enjoy this book world we share with as much grace as possible.