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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review of Scott Spotson's The Four Kings

I bought this book on a recommendation, and I'm very glad I did. I give this book 4.5/5 stars. Here is my breakdown:

Characters: 5/5. This is a real strength for Scott. Despite having nearly unlimited power, he does an excellent job of making his wizards seem like real, fallible people that I could imagine in that position. I love the fact that they come off nearly omniscient and yet regular Mortals (as they are called) start pointing out the cracks and flaws in their arguments and ideas. Amanda was another fantastic character, with her divided loyalties and struggle with her attraction to of the conquerors of North America.

Plot/Storyline: 4/5. The story was clear, interesting, and plausible (inasmuch as superpowerful wizards taking over the world is plausible) and the connections followed easily from one another. There was no feeling of "forced" action, no contrived speech. Well done!

Flow: 4/5. The story flowed well, for the most part; my only issue was that, sometimes, the chapter breaks came very fast and it felt a little turbulent. Most of the time, the action was smooth, pleasant, with the jarring spikes coming at just the right time to suck the reader back in.

Spelling/Grammar/Layout: 4.5/5. There were a few missed words, a few misspellings...but they were very, very few, and I was not distracted at all by them.

Overall: 4.5/5. Scott Spotson has delivered a paranormal fantasy that appeals to each of us who have ever wanted to just take over and DO IT RIGHT...and explains, very clearly, why we shouldn't.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review of Absolution's Curse by C.L. Blanton - 3.75/5

I was provided a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review; as always, what is written below reflects my true opinions of the work.

I rate this novel 3.75/5.  Here is my breakdown:

Characters: 4.5/5.  This was a real strength of the work.  Blanton creates a single protagonist, Frank, and gives him a deeply fulfilling and interesting story to back up what he does.  He is far from perfect, but is human enough that we care about his mistakes, his attempts at starting over, and we wince when he falls short.  The curse he falls under does nothing to change that essential fact.  The other, minor, characters are equally interesting in their roles.  Blanton has no "cardboard cut-outs," but a fascinating world peopled by...well, people!

Plot/Storyline: 4.0/5.  Another strength here.  The plot flowed smoothly, quickly, and well; I was only at all thrown off toward the end, when the passage of time started to occur more rapidly and we flipped to other people's viewpoints, but this was not a big deal to me.  I enjoyed Frank's story and watching him develop through tragedy after tragedy, and the idea that he was cursed to immortality by watching people (children!) die was really, really cool.  Is that bad? <.< >.>

Flow:  4.0/5.  No issues here.  The story moved well and the sentence structure and descriptions made me happy.  I liked the environments Blanton used as well as the language choices.

Spelling/Grammar:  3.0/5.  Here was the only real weakness in the novel, but because I noticed it, it was important.  There were several places where the wrong version of "their-they're-there" was used, and a few instances of "double word," like "had had."  It did not detract from the story for me, but it might for others.

Overall: 3.75/5.  I enjoyed this novel and definitely would read the sequel; it felt like a "set-up" story for whatever came after, as the real "meat" didn't show up until toward the end...and then the book was over.  Character development is done now; let's see what happens!

Jason P. Crawford
Twitter:  @jnewmanwriting

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review of The Great Succession Crisis by Laurel A. Rockefeller : 3.75/5

I was provided a free copy of this novel in exchange for a review.  As always, the following reflects my true opinion of the work.

I rate this book 3.75/5 stars.  Here is my breakdown:

Characters: 4.5/5.  This is a real strength in this novel.  Rockefeller created an intriguing world populated by interesting people.  The motivations for the characters are realistic and solid, and the cultures in which they thrive are fascinating to read about.  With the right mix of sci-fi and high fantasy, I cared about these people from beginning to end.  I especially enjoyed the relationship between Corann and Anlei.

Plot/Storyline: 3.5/5.  Okay, I'll be honest (of course); in a novel entitled "The Great Succession Crisis," I thought there would be more focus on the Great Succession Crisis.  <.< >.>.  The problem is mentioned in the beginning and is the backdrop for why Anlei needs to find a suitor, but it is resolved very quickly at the end of the novel.  I loved the story (although it felt like it ended a bit quickly), but, at the end, I was left feeling like I must have missed something about what I thought was the main focus of the story.

Flow: 3.5/5.  The story read well and smoothly, for the most part.  Aside from a few grammar/spelling issues (addressed below), my main issue with the flow of the story is that the characters have a tendency to...pontificate?  Is that the right word?  They expound a lot, and the other character will just sit still for the five or so minutes it must have taken the first to say what he/she was saying.  Corann was especially guilty of this :)

Spelling/Grammar:  3.5/5.  There weren't that many spelling/grammar issues, although there were enough for me to notice.  Another proofread of sentence structure might be a good idea, just to make sure that the issues are taken care of.

Overall:  3.75/5.  This book is enjoyable, a solid read, and certainly worth picking up.  I think that the author has a great imagination and has created a deep, realistic world.  The few technical problems I had were not enough to steal my joy in reading this book.  Keep refining your talent, and you will do very well!

Jason P. Crawford

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review for The Fire Within by Racquel Kechagias

I was provided a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review; as always, the writing below reflects my true opinion of the work.

Overall - 1.5/5. I must freely confess that I was unable to complete my read of this novel. Here is why:

Characters: 1/5. I didn't know who was saying what half the time and the voices of the characters were almost identical; there was little to no difference between how Anna spoke vs. how Victor spoke vs. anything else. Furthermore, the ENTIRE story was written in alternating first person POV, which is an interesting idea except that there is no "omniscient" description; most of the work is dialogue and inner monologue and, when there is no differentiation between character voices, this leads to a very inconvenient experience.

Plot: 3/5. While the plot is marred by the difficulty I had with the characters (described above), I think that there were good ideas in there. The idea of a vampire "fattening up" a soul by giving a piece of his own is interesting and I would have liked to see where it went.

Flow: 1/5. The constantly changing POV was jarring because it was not done well. The sentences, especially the dialogue, were circuitous and difficult to follow. I could not "settle" into this story, which is the primary reason I did not complete it.

Spelling/Grammar: 2.5/5. Barely acceptable. There weren't that many misspellings in the portion of the novel I read, but the grammar did not follow any literary conventions that I am aware of. I understand that conversation follows its own rules and can't be held to the strick dictates of an academic essay (after all, I am a writer), but...

Overall: 1.5/5. I cannot recommend this book for readers. For the author, have a look at Stephen King's On Writing and take some of his recommendations to heart. This book could have used more description, more passion in the writing, and several more edits. I wish you luck! Keep trying!

Jason P. Crawford

Monday, July 8, 2013

Review of Guardian Dragons by Catherine Vickers - 3/5

I was provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a review; however, as always, this review reflects my honest opinion of the work.

I rate this book a 3.0/5.  Here is my breakdown:

Characters:  3/5.  Vickers introduces several characters in a small space of time (the novel is just over 47k words), but I was only able to care about a few.  I really liked the character of Rikka; she was interesting and I am curious to find out more about her motivation and how the Emperor came to use her as his instrument.  I also liked the description of and plight that the human King was laboring under.  I think that, perhaps, part of my problem lay with the constant shifting of viewpoints which made it difficult to "stay with" a character long enough to care what he/she was doing.

Plot/Storyline:  4/5.  A real strength of this story.  The concept of a world divided into light and dark hemispheres is not entirely new (most obviously, I remember it from the newer He-Man cartoon), but Vickers has a good background for why and how this came to be and an emergent and well-thought out crisis to get the characters moving.  The details and myths of each kingdom and group of people is also well done.

Flow: 2/5.  I had serious problems keeping my "head" in this story due to the way the sentences flowed.  The POV switches and the changes in tense from past to present and back jarred me out of my "happy place" much more often than I would like (which, of course, is not at all).  I had a hard time as well with the units of time used in this story; while I understand the need for a unique system in a world where there is never darkness or never daylight, I couldn't wrap my head around exactly how it worked without several rereads.

Spelling/Grammar:  3/5.  I noted many places in this book where commas would have been extremely helpful.  Question marks appeared in strange places.  Spelling was acceptable.

Overall:  3/5.  I think that this book, this story, and this author have a great amount of potential and could do amazing things.  Unfortunately, I don't think that this book realizes all that potential.  Keep at it!

Jason P. Crawford

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Review of "A Tale of Two Djinns" by Mina Khan

I rate this novella a 4.5/5.  Here is my breakdown:

Characters:  5/5.  The characters in Tale are rich and well developed.  A novella offers less space for character development than a full novel, but you would never know that from reading this book.  Both Mara and Shay are detailed, real people who I could imagine seeing in real life or a fantastically cast film.  Motivations and depth abound, even in the background cast.  Well done!

Plot/Storyline: 4.5/5.  This novella is a paranormal romance with a decent level of "heat."  While the love scenes are well written and not so graphic as to turn me away from the book, the storyline would have functioned just fine without them.  Khan kept me guessing the whole time, and the final reveal of the true villain came as a complete surprise!

Flow:  5/5.  There was nothing in this story which interrupted my enjoyment in any way.  Descriptions were effective without being overbearing, the change in perspectives was handled well from one character to the next, and the story just generally went, just like it should.

Spelling/Grammar:  5/5.  I don't recall any spelling or grammar mistakes in this story, so, congratulations and huzzah!

Overall: 4.5/5.  This book had me from the beginning fight scene and kept me through the end.  I read it in about an hour and a half, so it's a fast read, but well worth it!  I've been thinking more and more about writing a genie story myself <.< >.>

Jason P. Crawford

Friday, July 5, 2013

Review of The Phoenix Reich ARC by Joshua Lisec

This review will be outside of my usual format as the ARC provided to me was only the first three chapters.

I have a single word to describe how I feel about this "teaser":  intrigued.  Lisec does a great job of setting the stage and engaging the reader in the first few pages of his book and it makes me want to read more.  The story looks gripping and is unlike anything I have ever read before, with interesting characters who make me curious about their backgrounds and histories.

I expect to pick up the full novel soon and read it (when schedule permits!) so keep a lookout for the review on the full version!

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

REVIEW for The Grave Winner by Lindsey Loucks

I give the Grave Winner a solid 4.0/5. Here is my breakdown:

Characters: 4/5. I really liked the cast of characters that Lindsey has presented; she shows a good grasp of YA characters as Leigh and Jo grapple with high school interactions as well as evil sorceressi. I wish that I could have seen more of the father, though, as I'm curious as to how he got ahold of that book he was reading.

Plot/Storyline: 4.5/5. Consistent, clear, easy to follow but not predictable. I liked the gradual revelation of the Trammelers and especially the relationship between Leigh and Gretchen. The book kept me reading, kept me enjoying, kept me caring, and that's about all I can legitimately ask for in a novel :)

Flow/Writing Style: 5/5. I enjoyed the writing style very much and felt that it was well suited for the YA audience. The descriptions were fantastic and the dialogue well-written. Congratulations!

Spelling/Grammar: 5/5. I noted no spelling or grammar issues when I read this novel, although that does not mean there weren't any. However, if they were so few and invisible as to not distract me from the reading, then the author has succeeded! Overall: 4.0/5. I would have no hesitation in recommending this novel to anyone who enjoys paranormal fantasy and/or romance. Lindsey has left the door open to a potential series; I hope she takes advantage of it!

Jason P. Crawford

Friday, June 28, 2013

Read and Review Competition!

We're going to have a fun month! Goodreads' Paranormal and Urban Fantasy thread is hosting a RaR competition! How many books from their thread can I RaR in a month? Who knows? If you have a book that you would like reviewed by me (and lots of others) post to that thread! It'll be a blast! So far on my list -

Monday, June 24, 2013

REVIEW - The Hunter's Rede by F.T. McKinstry

4.5/5 stars.  Full review available at the Authors Alliance web page; I will post it here in 30 days (conditions of the Alliance). Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

REVIEW: Ghost Light by E.J. Stevens

Please note - this review is on the ARC for Ghost Light and was provided in return for a free copy of said ARC.  However, this is an honest review and reflects only the opinions of myself, Jason Crawford.

My overall rating for this book is 4.8/5. 

Here is my breakdown, as usual:

Characters:  5/5.  The development of the characters of Ivy, Ceff, Jinx, and the rest are logical, reasonable, and entertaining.  It is thrilling to watch Ivy struggle through the implications of her true nature, her self-imposed tactile exile (rhyming!), and her relationship with Ceffyl, King of the Kelpies.  The introduction of Melusine, Ceff's ex-wife, is also a nice touch and makes for a deep, interesting dynamic between Ivy, Ceff, and Mel considering what was revealed in Book #1.

Storyline/Plot - 5/5.  Fantastic as well.  I was hungering for this book as soon as I read Blood and Mistletoe and it did not disappoint.  The aftermath of both preceding stories was clearly felt in this one, and the mystery involved in the missing Fae children had me gripped from the beginning.

Flow/Construction - 4.6/5.  There were fewer spelling/grammar errors in this story (or I didn't see as many), but Stevens does exhibit a small problem with repetition.  Specifically, she has a minor tendency to describe certain things multiple times in the course of the same work (vampire appearance, for instance, is one example I can think of immediately).  This was not a big deal for me, but it was something that I noticed and which interrupted the flow a bit.

Spelling/Grammar:  4.9/5.  As noted above, I found/noticed fewer spelling or grammar considerations in this work.  There were none that caused me concern or slowed me up in any way.

Overall:  Stevens continues to impress with Ghost Light, the second full novel in the Ivy Granger series.  If she continues in this vein, her work may stand among the paranormal fantasy greats.  You owe it to yourself to give the Ivy Granger series a try.

Jason P. Crawford

Monday, June 17, 2013

REVIEW: Shadow Sight

Overall Rating:  4.75/5.  Here is my breakdown:

Characters: 5/5.  Stevens has created a very diverse cast of characters, each with unique strengths and flaws that compel the reader to follow them wherever they go.  Psychometry may sound like an amazing talent, but the effects it has on the main character are realistic and believable.  Ivy Granger is a heroine that I can trust to make sense, and that is one of the most important things.

Plot/Storyline:  5/5.  A mystery blended with a paranormal fantasy novel, Shadow Sight does a fantastic job of keeping the reader excited and following along.  I know a book is good when I start reading it faster and faster, and this book had me turning e-pages at a blazing rate.  A rich world combined with a rich storyline leads to a fantastic read.

Construction/Flow:  4.6/5.  Easy to follow and easy to read, Stevens' command of language creates vivid environments, especially when describing Ivy's inner thoughts and feelings.  There was no time when I felt confused or had to re-read in order to understand what was going on.  My only concern in this area - Stevens does have a bit of a tendency to repeat descriptions from place to place in the novel, but this is easily overlooked and does not cause difficulty at all.

Spelling/Grammar:  4.9/5.  As usual, Stevens shows care in her sentence construction and her spelling.  Only a few spelling errors were noticed, and they were only noticed because I was looking. 

Overall:  A great introduction to a wonderful series.  If you enjoy Neil Gaiman, you will enjoy E.J. Stevens.  Keep it up!

Find Shadow Sight at Amazon HERE: 

Jason P. Crawford

REVIEW: Blood and Mistletoe by E.J. Stevens

Overall Rating - 4.9/5
Here is my breakdown:

Characters: 5/5  I love the characters in the Ivy Granger series:  each has an important role to play in each story, from the main players of Ivy, Kaye, and Ceff to the "bit players" of Hob, Jinx, and Marvin the bridge troll. I wanted to know more about them from the first book, and this novella did not disappoint.

Storyline/Plot:  5/5 As a novella, this story was shorter than I am used to reading, but you wouldn't know it by what happened.  Filled with exciting action and the compelling tastes of mystery flavored with the spice of folklore given Stevens' signature twist, the plotline kept me reading until the end and made me immediately wish for more to read.

Language/Flow:  5/5  As always, this is more a "did it bother me" category, and it did not.  I enjoy Stevens' use of language and the references to various mythologies.  As a student of mythology it tickles me whenever an author uses the creatures and myths appropriately, and Stevens did just that.

Spelling/Grammar: 4.9/5.  Way better than necessary to keep me involved.  I have read many books wherein the author/copyeditor had fallen down on the job in the grammar or spelling department, and the few errors I found in this story were not enough to disrupt my enjoyment of the story.

Overall:  It is important to understand the background of Ivy Granger before stepping into this story; although Stevens does a good job of providing background information within the novella, it is a shorter work and there is not a whole lot of room for that.  If you like paranormal fiction splashed with a bit of romance you will enjoy Blood and Mistletoe. 

Pick it up today!

Jason P. Crawford

Saturday, June 15, 2013

REVIEW: Seer's Hope by Maree Anderson

I rate this book 4.9/5. Here is my breakdown:

Characters:5/5. Maree has created and juggled a diverse cast of characters with skill and aplomb. The people in this book are relatable, understandable, and believable. She does a particularly good job at helping the audience understand the frustrations of being blind in the situations Hope finds herself in.

Story: 5/5. I settled comfortably into the tone of an epic fantasy, but Maree runs with her characters to make a story all her own. I felt almost no sense of the dreaded deus ex machina; the plot evolved naturally and organically. Well done!

Style: 5/5 - this is a hard category for me as I generally only notice writing style if it brings me out of the story; nevertheless, I was pleased by the descriptions and verisimilitude in this story. I particularly enjoyed the depictions of Hope's experiences as a blind woman; it was very well done.

Grammar/spelling 4.9/5. Overall fantastic, but I did note a few missing words (often linking verbs). Still better than many novels I have enjoyed.

Overall - thank you for a fantastic read. I loved walking with the Dayamari, with Hope and Blayne and Willem and Maya and the rest, and I look forward to rejoining them.

Thanks again!

REVIEW: The Beholder by Ivan Amberlake

The Beholder is a sterling example of what happens when an author introduces real people into a world which he/she has clearly envisioned. The characters are deep, real people with authentic motivations and desires; I wanted to follow Jason Walker on his journey of discovery, and I held my breath as he fell for the otherworldly Emily Ethan.

I did not feel that there was a wasted word in this book. I read it in about 2 and a half hours (I read fast, obviously) but a good chunk of that time was me being up waaaay too late :) Any author that can make me put off sleep for reading is doing something right. If you like anything by Neil Gaiman, you will appreciate Amberlake's "The Beholder." I look forward to reading more!

Jason P. Crawford

What lies behind the curtain?

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen!  I have decided that, because I am reading an awful lot to improve my writing and to form relationships with other authors, that I would begin by posting a book review blog.  I will focus on paranormal/urban fantasy novels, as that is my genre of choice and the community I most want to interact with. 

If you want to request a review, please email me at  Please be sure that you believe your book to be finished before sending it; I am not going to critique or edit your book to prepare it for publication, as much as I might like to :)

Once I have received your email,  I will be glad to follow up with you and let you know when I can read your book.  The reviews will follow a particular schema, and, at your request, I will also post them to Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, or wherever else your book is available.  You are welcome to take my reviews and post them on your site, AS LONG AS YOU LINK BACK HERE! 

I have two reviews ready to post, so here we go.  Thanks again!