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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