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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The Drift by Casie Aufenthie - A Sci-Fi Human Drama that Pulls No Punches!

 Today, I am reviewing the Science Fiction novel The Drift by Casie Aufenthie. The story is a marvelous one, featuring a world split amongst three genetic derivations of humanity - the Illuminatos, who can manipulate reality with their minds; the Corporii, who can control their own forms with microscopic precision, and the Unevolved...who are just like us. Controlled by powerful Illuminatos, some in the world of The Drift have begun a rebellion against their masters...but what hope do they really have?

I give this book a 4.75/5. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 5/5. Holy crap. These people are real people. Tristian, Samara, Kip, Wyatt, everyone...I could hear them, I could see them, and they pulled me into their story so strongly that I couldn't break free. I read the first 50% pretty quickly, but then had to stop for the holidays. When I came back, the next half came rushing fast and furious, and it was because of these characters. I wanted things to work out. I was pulling for them, hard.

Plot/Storyline: 5/5. Absolutely outstanding. Aufenthie does a remarkable job in showing, not telling, and her use of flashbacks in among the best I've seen in this kind of work. She knows exactly when and how to use them. Further, alongside such redeemable characters I believed in the story, believed every action and reaction even as I was pulling my hair out or holding back tears.

Flow: 5/5. As I said above, the story pulled me along at breakneck speed because of how attached I was to the people involved. Aufenthie knows how to keep the story going but takes the right pauses to let things breathe when necessary.

That ending, though...

Spelling/Grammar: 4.5/5. I didn't note any spelling or structure errors, but did see a few missing commas. Nothing problematic, but not perfect.

Overall: 4.75/5. Like many of the indie reads I end up picking up, I am so thrilled that I decided to read The Drift and am looking forward to the sequel. This book is clearly the product of a skilled and talented author who has put her heart and soul into the work - much like Tristian and Samara, the idea and the skill combine to make something greater than the parts. Thank you, Casie, for writing this and the upcoming sequel, which is due out soon!

If you liked my review, check out my books over at my main site:

Thanks as always, and keep reading!

Saturday, November 6, 2021

The Wayfinder's Apprentice by K. Dezendorf - A fantasy journey into another world with rich characters, descriptions, and story - 4.5/5!

Today, I am reviewing the Portal Fantasy novel The Wayfinder's Apprentice by K. Dezendorf. This book features Rose, a young woman who lives in an abusive household but once found her way into a magical realm known as the Umbra. With that secret held tight in her heart, she waits for the chance to return, cultivating a friendship (and romance) with some denizens of that realm who have found their way here to our world. A chance encounter upends her destiny...but is she ready for it?

I give this book a 4.5/5. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 5/5. This is the biggest strength of this novel and one I greatly appreciated. Every character, from Rose to Macklass to Edward to Kyan, feels real and alive on the page. Dezendorf crafts her characters well, and they are people, with flaws and fallacious beliefs and agendas that make sense. Each interaction feels personal and genuine, and I loved watching Rose grow throughout the book.

Also: #teamedward, but Bal has piqued my interest :) 

Plot/Storyline: 4/5. The plot in this story is a setup for the full series, but serves more than that purpose. We establish quickly that Rose is special, with her poltergeist friend and relationship to some Earthbound elves, and we move to a bigger and grander realm-wide war very quickly. I found myself able to predict some plot points - which signifies only a good use of the Chekov's Gun principle - but I was engaged by the story the entire time and enjoyed it immensely.

Flow: 5/5. I feel like Dezendorf paced her story very well. It certainly has a classic three-act structure, and the amount of time spent with each character, on each scene, always feels just right. I applaud her mastery of this skill as it makes writing much more entertaining when the flow works well.

Spelling/Grammar: 4/5. I noted three minor errors. Nothing of consequence. Sentence construction was skilled and readable.

Overall: 4.5/5. Dezendorf has crafted a unique, entertaining, and deep fantasy world with compelling characters that I want to see succeed. The ones you hate and the ones you love are both nuanced, and it's so much fun to watch them play off of one another. I eagerly await the next entry in the series and I suggest that you pick it up yourself!

If you liked my review, check out my books over at my main site:

Thanks as always, and keep reading!

Monday, November 1, 2021

One in the Same: Journey from Mortal to Sorcerer by Douglas Breeden: A Great Idea Hampered by Its Execution

Today, I am reviewing the Urban Fantasy novel One in the Same: Journey from Mortal to Sorcerer by Douglas Breeden. This book features a pair of autistic protagonists as the younger discovers he was born to be a Sorcerer Prince, also known as those who are One In the Same, a direct servant of God.

I give this book a 2/5. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 1.5/5. At the beginning, the very beginning, I was interested in the main character Michael because he is autistic - specifically, he has Asperger's Syndrome - which is also true of my oldest son. For a short time, the internal monologues and perceptions of the character were interesting to me from that lens.

Then it all went downhill.

There are no female characters of consequence, except perhaps Satan. Every single female with the exception of mother figures are referenced immediately by their level of attractiveness. Waaaaay too many jokes are made about the protagonist's status as a virgin, and waaaaaay too many offers to relieve him of that same status. The mentor was not interesting - I could scarcely tell the difference between him and the younger, teenage protagonist. I simply was not invested in any of them, even by the end of the book. 

Plot/Storyline: 3/5. At its core, the story is not bad. I don't have anything against the Chosen One trope, or against religious-based fiction (my own uses religious mythologies heavily). The plot itself is serviceable if not unique. 

Flow: 0/5. Oh my dear. This is where the book falls apart. Far too much time spent on the mentor figure's childhood traumas as the result of him being autistic in an age where that wasn't understood. I know this is true, I know it was awful (and still is!), but I don't want to spend that many pages on it. Too much time diving into historical references that I didn't care about. Not enough time spent on exciting scenes, like the revelation of Michael's status as a sorcerer, or his conquering of his fears. One paragraph, done. The flow made no sense and kept me from deriving virtually any enjoyment from the book.

Spelling/Grammar: 3/5. There were some punctuation errors, mostly quotations, that I noted scattered throughout the book. It wasn't awful, wasn't too distracting, but I did notice.

Overall: 2/5. Breeden made an honest effort with this book but the execution is deeply flawed. I simply was not interested in most of what he wrote down as I went through the novel, and that feeling only got stronger as I continued. I hope that he will revisit the work, maybe read On Writing (as I recommend all fiction authors do!) and keep trying!

If you liked my review, check out my books over at my main site:

Thanks as always, and keep reading!

Saturday, October 30, 2021

The Fires of Treason - Historical Fiction with Plots, Betrayals, and Amazing Characters!

Today, I am reviewing the Historical Fiction novel The Fires of Treason by Michele Quirke. The first in a planned series of novels, The Fires of Treason follows Prince Gregory and Princess Elizabeth as they struggle to survive against enemies much more powerful than they who have both the motivation and the means to see them dead.

I give this book a 4.5/5. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 4.5/5. You may have noticed that I complimented the characters in my title for this review. That's no mistake; everyone, from the noble Gregory (whose shining armor may seem to be tarnishing a little) to the too-selfish Clara, has a character and a personality that I'm going to remember later. They're easy to sympathize with, easy to identify with; those you like you like a lot, and the scum are some of the worst villains to grace a page. 

Why then, the lost half-point? Because Gregory seems a little TOO stubborn. I know he's noble, I know he's wounded, and life is falling down around his ears...but he's the one I put myself into (a thing I do when I read, or write, or play games, or...) and his failure to "rise" to the occasion disappointed me at the end. I look forward to seeing what happens in the next book, as yet unpublished, but he needs to get his act together. Elizabeth, the other main character, was excellent in every respect, and I appreciated her sassiness and her attempts to grow past where she began. I suspect she has hard lessons coming forward.

Plot/Storyline: 5/5. Now, I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction. Had I known this was historical fiction, I may not have read it, but I bought this book when the author was talking about it on Twitter as a show of support. It took some time to get to reading it. It doesn't read like most historical fiction I've seen; instead, it's more like a classic fantasy novel, but without magic. It has that "vibe" to it, and that made me able to enjoy it more. I didn't count any plotholes, and the story is solid and compelling. I enjoyed it immensely, read it through in about 3-4 hours all told, and am eager to see where it goes from here!

Flow: 4/5. Overall, Quirke's pacing is excellent and she keeps the story moving forward as well as I would expect or hope. I didn't feel bored or like things were moving too quickly for me to keep up with. That being said, some of Gregory and Elizabeth's arguments, toward the middle-end (maybe around the 70-80% mark?) started to feel a little repetitive, like they'd had these same problems before and neither one of them had learned the first time. It wasn't glaring, just something I felt at this point in the book.

Spelling/Grammar: 5/5. That rarest of ratings, meaning I did not notice any typographical or grammatical errors at all. Well done!

Quirke was kind enough to endure me live-Tweeting my responses to this story as I read through it. I enjoyed The Fires of Treason very much, and I think it will serve as the foundation to an excellent series...if Gregory can get over himself, step up, and do what needs to be done!

If you liked my review, check out my books over at my main site:

Thanks as always, and keep reading!

Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Turquoise Spider - Female Steampunk Holmes with Great Character Development! 4/5

Today, I am reviewing the Steampunk story The Turquoise Spider by Mikala Ash. The first in a series of short works (this one is about 100 Kindle pages), The Turquoise Spider stars recently-widowed Elizabeth Hunter-Payne through a classic English Steampunk setting as she solves mysteries and confronts opposition. There is sexual content in this book, which is explicitly called out at the beginning of the work, though to be clear it is NOT an erotic story. It has a plot, a throughline, and the intimacy and sexual content is there to enrich the writing, not be the focus of it. I had a good time in Ash's world, though there was something about it that lowered my enjoyment and I can't, for the life of me, put my finger on it.

Maybe reviewing will help.

 I give this book a 4/5. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 5/5. This is definitely the biggest strength of the work. Ash introduces us to a few important characters and gives them life within a short amount of time. Elizabeth feels real, but my favorite was easily the assistant/bodyguard of Archie. I loved that guy. The antagonists have realistic (for a steampunk book) motivations and no one acts in an unexplainable way.

Plot/Storyline: 4/5. A classic Holmesian mystery. Much like Conan Doyle's Holmes stories, the reader is left a little bit in the dark by the revelations that the main character comes up with later, but still left in appreciation of their superior perceptive talents. The storyline was clean and concise, made sense, and didn't have any gaping holes or contradictions.

Flow: 4.5/5. This is a short book so it goes from point to point quickly, without a lot of time to linger. This is fine; I respect the pacing the author has set and enjoy it. As mentioned before, there is still enough time to get to know our main characters and identify with them, and the plot beats move well. I didn't feel bored or like I needed to put it down. I read the whole thing in the space of about an hour.

Spelling/Grammar: 4/5. There were a few typographical errors, but nothing of consequence. The book was polished and the English used pleasant and expertly crafted. Nothing took me out of the story, which is what I want.

As I said above, I don't know what it was, but while I enjoyed what I read and the characters, I didn't come away from the story wanting to read the next one. That being the case, if you enjoy this type of work (and don't mind a little spicy sexual content!) then I recommend you pick it up. You can find the link below. I make no money off of these links.

Thanks as always, and keep reading!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Deception of the Damned - Make Sure You Check the Fine Print! 4.5/5!

Today, I am reviewing the Dark Fantasy novel Deception of the Damned by P.C. Darkcliff. A thrilling tale with twists, turns, and negotiations with (basically) the Devil himself, I had a great time in this book!

I give this novel a 4.5/5. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 4/5. Darkcliff crafts very interesting main and side characters, from the despairing Hrot, a mind too advanced for his time, to the cryptic and magical Anath and the almost-too-compassionate Jasmin. I enjoyed their interactions and watching how they dealt with the tribulations they faced. 

Plot/Storyline: 4/5. It kept me reading and turning the page! The overarching story was consistent and made sense, and I couldn’t identify any major holes or hiccups in verisimilitude. My only concern was the end - as the ending approached, I felt Darkcliff may have rushed things just a bit rather than letting the consequences and impending doom fully descend on the reader. And what happened to Hrot...well, let’s just say I might have preferred a slightly different path.

Flow: 5/5. Easy to read, with period-appropriate vocabulary and a fun style. Darkcliff is obviously a master storyteller, knowing how to keep the reader riveted the whole time.

Spelling/Grammar: 5/5. I didn’t notice any spelling or grammar issues, which is a rarity for published novels! Either they weren’t there, or the story was so compelling that I didn’t see them. So, well done!

 Overall: 4.5/5. It took me a while to finish (life stuff), but I am thrilled by Darkcliff’s novel. Deception of the Damned is a deep, rich story that illustrates the nature of deception and consequences expertly. I am glad I got to read it, and I wish the author the best!

You can find the Amazon link here: Deception of the Damned.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Wergild: A Truly Terrifying Tale of Devotion and Murder

Today, I am reviewing the Dark Fantasy novella Wergild: A Heartwarming Tale of Coldblooded Vengeance by Boris L. Slocum. This story speaks to my heart, incorporating many of the elements I love in my own writing, and it made me laugh and smile in several places.

 I give this book a 4.75/5. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 5/5. This novella focuses on a very few characters, but it does so expertly. Slocum creates a world primarily through the perspective of his characters, and each is distinct and easy to identify with, from the vengeance-starved Tuppence (I loved that nickname!), the fish-out-of-water Isabel, and the Fiend...the worldy, enigmatic, but completely understandable Fiend. So well done.

Plot/Storyline: 5/5. You got me. A story about granting a wish, with far-reaching consequences? Hidden motivations and a deep desire to do the right thing...whatever that might be? Questions of free will, something that I literally wrote into my current WIP? I love everything about this story. Everything made sense, everything had a place, and I thought it was a unique telling. Thank you so much, Boris!

Flow: 5/5. As a novella, this book moved faster than a novel might, but it suffered none for that. The pacing kept the hits coming, with the evolution of characters moving at just the right speed for me. I kept reading, never bored, never skipping to see what would happen next. Every action and every paragraph progressed the story, just as they should.

Spelling/Grammar: 4/5. There were a few typographical errors, but it was otherwise expertly edited. The language was fantastic and Slocum obviously has skill as a writer, both creatively and technically. A treat to read! Overall: 4.75/5. This book made me smile because it’s the exact kind of book I love to read. I am so glad that Boris submitted to Beyond the Curtain of Reality, because it alerted me to a talented author that I hope keeps writing for years to come.

If you want to pick up a copy yourself, you can find this book at Amazon.