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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Twisted Spiral - Did Not Finish, 2/5 Stars

Today, I am reviewing the Urban Fantasy-Time Travel novel The Twisted Spiral by Arlene Cabus Poerio. In this story, the protagonist is revealed to have special powers, the ability to ‘ken,’ or know things she should not otherwise know, and ends up time-travelling back to Ancient Egypt.

I was unable to finish this book, giving up after Chapter Three. I give it a 2/5. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 1.5/5. After reading three chapters, I had no emotional attachment to any of the characters, especially the protagonist. I didn’t care what was going on, or about her emotional distress or burning need to get to Egypt…it was all disjointed and felt unpalatable.

Plot/Storyline: 2/5. I don’t know what the final plot was, given that I couldn’t get through the book, but what I did read didn’t seem like much of anything. As I discuss in Flow, below, the constant flashbacks in the early portion of the novel did a lot to take the “steam” out of the read. I shouldn’t be three chapters in, not care about anyone, and not have any idea what’s going on or why it’s important..

Flow: 1/5. Ack! The whole first chapter is constant back-and-forth flashbacks used for exposition. Flashbacks are tricky things in the best of times, and when used this way they were like tire spikes to my verisimilitude and immersion. No, please. No.
Spelling/Grammar: 4/5. I didn’t notice any typographical errors, but the dialogue was often disjointed and felt contrived in some places. Nothing that I would flag if my attention had not already been aroused, but present nonetheless.

Overall: 2/5. I think that Ms. Poerio has some potential as a writer, and that this book could benefit from another round or two of content edits, looking to improve the flow. As it is, it starts too slowly and takes too long to get anywhere for my liking. 

Left Behind Book One: The Forbidden Voyage by R. Anne Polcastro: 3.75/5 Stars

Today, I am reviewing the Dystopian/SciFi Left Behind by R. Anne Polcastro. This is a story in which Those Who Have Come Before have destroyed the planet through their own willful negligence and abuse of natural resources, leading to a terrible disaster that sent huge amounts of radiation into the environment, decimating civilization and sending many people underground while the more fortunate ones escaped to another world.

I give this book a 3.75/5. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 4/5. The characters in this book were solid and believable. I particularly enjoyed watching Endirion’s development as he went from timid, indoctrinated youth to utilizing his unique talents in helping the “mission” progress. The main two characters were especially interesting, but even the supporting cast was well put-together. I look forward to finding out some of the deeper motivations behind the actions some of the characters take.

Plot/Storyline: 3.5/5. The plotline here is a tad derivative, by which I mean that I can think of similar storylines off the top of my head. Still, Polcastro’s take on the story is fairly unique, and brought forward by the strength of the characters. The book reads like a combination of The Island and Stephen King’s Gunslinger novels…which is not a bad thing.

Flow: 4/5. Well written. I enjoyed the language and the pace of the story. As a MG/YA novel, it isn’t as action-packed or as compelling as some of the more adult stories I’ve read recently, but that is no fault of the work. I can imagine middle-school children both enjoying the book and being at least as interested in it as I was. The crises which befall our two heroes do a good job of maintaining reader interest as well.
Spelling/Grammar: 4/5. There were a few typographical errors, mostly limited to ending quotation marks that were missing. These in no way distracted or detracted from the work.

Overall: 3.75/5. An enjoyable, solid read on all levels. I wasn’t ever bored or distracted from my read. Polcastro did an excellent job of maintaining my interest. Thank you for the read, and I wish you the best of luck as you move forward!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Through the Gloom by Jennifer R. McDonald - 4.75/5

Today, I am reviewing the Paranormal story Through the Gloom by Jennifer R. McDonald. This is the sequel to Into the Veil, continuing the story of the veilwalkers Lyric and Lincoln, their father and mage Jacken, and the Hathors, a family of conjurors who can summon objects from afar and who are fiercely loyal to one another. If you haven’t read the first in the series, check out my review on that, then go read it!

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

Characters: 5/5. As in the last book, Jennifer explores her characters thoroughly and well. I enjoyed the changes that Lyric went through, her doubts and absolute dedication to finding out the truth about her mother’s death. Her relationship with conjuror Aiden Hathor made me want to bang my head against the wall…but only because it was so clear that the two of them are perfect for each other in every way, yet each trying to be overly noble to “protect” the other.

I’m also very curious about Gemma now.

Plot/Storyline: 5/5. Compelling. Consistent. Lyric’s saga takes a darker turn as betrayal upon betrayal, some hers and some not, begin to take their toll. Her relationships with others become strained, but she presses on, determined to find the truth. I believed every step of this story and was never pulled out of my immersion. The magics presented make sense in the context of the world, and I was never confused by any of it. Well done, Jennifer!

Flow: 5/5. Onward, ever onward, with the perfect balance of slowdown and action. Tension was thick throughout this novel, and I often felt like I was trapped in the fog of the veil, unable to see what was coming next, my heart tripping as I waited for the next development.

Spelling/Grammar: 4/5. Better this time. Jennifer has made significant improvements in her structure and grammar since the last book. In fact, I have it on good authority that she’s gone back to Into the Veil and fixed up some of the things I mentioned last time. A much smoother read.

Overall: 4.75/5. Fantastic. Outstanding. Thrilling. Jennifer spins a tale of betrayal, deceit, innocence lost and love to be fought for. Gloom is even better than its predecessor. I will be purchasing the third book, Across the Blood Red River, as soon as my TBR list winnows down a bit. Jennifer is one of my favorite authors now, and her work is exemplary!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Vulcan Academy Murders - 4/5 Stars. A great look at Vulcan society and culture!

Today, I'm reviewing The Vulcan Academy Murders by Jean Lorrah. It's a novel set in the universe of Star Trek: TOS, and involves the Enterprise's main trio (Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, in case you didn't know) getting involved in a murder investigation during shore leave on Vulcan. There is a lot of exploration of the Vulcan mindset, their history and culture, and their mental powers.

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

Characters: 4/5. The trio are obviously themselves, and the characterization will ring true for any fan of the Original Series and/or the first Star Trek movies. The new characters brought in, a mixture of Vulcans and humans, are also very well done. My only quibbles come with the one-dimensionality of the antagonist character...but fear not! I shall not reveal his/her identity!

Plot/Storyline: 4.5/5. A murder mystery on Vulcan? Where they don't even have a police force? Sign me up! The story was engaging and compelling, keeping me turning pages until the end. I really enjoyed watching the interplay between Spock and Sarek as the latter tries to come to terms with the illogical decisions of his past regarding his son, and the relationship between Daniel Corrigan and T'Mir.

Flow: 5/5. Action packed, nary a dull moment, with just the right interspersing of downbeats to keep things fresh. From the time the heroes set foot in the midsummer Vulcan heat, they're up to their necks in insanity. A very nice, quick read.

Spelling/Grammar: 4.5/ 5. I don't have any specifics, but I seem to recall a comma splice or two and maybe a misspelled word. Still stellar work.

Overall: 4/5. Great fun for fans of TOS, and for fans of Vulcans in general. If you've ever wondered what it was like for Spock as a child, or for Sarek and Amanda as they started their strange, cross-species relationship, pick this up.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Plain of the Fourteen Pillars by T.K. Foster - Prematurely Published

Today, I am reviewing the YA Fantasy/Portal story Plain of the Fourteen Pillars by T.K. Foster. In this book, a young man playing in the woods encounters a strange female creature who ushers him into another world. I freely admit that I made it to chapter eight before I had to put this book down, but I will do my best to explain why.

As a DNF (did not finish), I give this book a 2/5. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 2.5/5. These guys could be interesting, I think, but they are hampered by the writing style and the absurdity. As it stands, I made it to chapter eight without caring about the main character or the creature that brought him into her world. Their dialogue was stilted, their conversations seemed mostly irrelevant. I understand that this is a YA story, but the discussions between them felt more like those between a five-year-old and his imaginary friend.

Plot/Storyline: 1.5/5. Everything seemed random, thrown together, a parody of the tropes of the clich├ęs of the genre. Eight chapters in and I didn’t know what any of the points were beyond the classic “I’m in a weird, strange place and I want to go home but @$% doesn’t let me.”

Flow: 3/5. This was the best aspect of the novel—while far from great, the pacing and flow felt solid. It’s hard to judge because of the other distractions, but I think that Foster is probably well-read and has an intuitive understanding for how a story should move.
Spelling/Grammar: 3/5. I’ve seen worse, but Plain has a fair amount of misplaced commas, splices, misused words, and spelling errors. I get the feeling that this book was rushed to publication; another round or two of content editing and proofreading is badly needed.

Overall: 2/5. I wanted to like this book. I’m a fan of portal fantasies, and I enjoy good YA stories. Unfortunately, Foster failed at providing a compelling opening, a reason to care about his characters, or an actual sense of story. I give this two stars because I think there could be a story here, there could be interesting characters. I hope that Foster takes this to heart with his next work, spending a little more time to develop ideas and communicate them on the page.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

No Deadly Thing by Tiger Gray-3.75/5 stars.

Today, I am reviewing the Urban Fantasy/Paranormal story No Deadly Thing by Tiger Gray. This is an action-packed, fast-moving novel that tells a compelling tale, but maybe tries to do too much in too little space. Ashrinn must fight against an evil, corrupting cult using the magic in his world that he isn’t, at first, aware of, but which he learns permeates every aspect of his life—including his wife, a fire mage with a terrible secret; and his neighbor and squadmate who is married to a Fae and blessed/cursed with halfbreed children.

I give this book a 3.75/5. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 4/5. I loved the development of the Storm, a magical team put together to combat the Cult, and the struggles Ashrinn had to work through to put it together and make it into a cohesive unit. I thought that most of the development was great, and I thought I got a good sense of who each character was. There is m/m bisexuality/homosexuality described in detail in this novel, but, as a heterosexual male reader, I had no problem with any of the ways it was described. My only criticism here is that there could have been so much more time devoted to each person—Gray does a good job making the characters feel important, but readers want to understand important characters in and out.

Plot/Storyline: 4.5/5. A compelling storyline, rich in depth and scope. World-altering danger and a real, personal sense of peril all in one. Kiriana’s revelation was also well-done. I didn’t feel like there were any wasted scenes or red herrings. Again, I wish that this story had been better described in a few places—not because Gray’s rendition was bad, but because it was rushed; too much happening too quickly to get to the final battle.

Flow: 2.5/5. Here is the major weakness in No Deadly Thing. The first portion of the book is marred by massive time-jumps, most often unexplained. Ashrinn starts out as a soldier who knows nothing about magic until he performs an unexplained miracle, but within the space of a few pages already understands why people are afraid of werewolves and the different kinds of mages. There are also several POV changes, which can throw some people off, although I thought Gray executed them reasonably well. I was concerned about the time-jumps as I went through the novel, but it lessens somewhat as one approaches the second half of the book.

Spelling/Grammar: 4/5. Better than most novels. There were a few minor misspellings, especially toward the end of the book, but I would happily put No Deadly Thing up against several traditionally published works I’ve seen recently.

Overall: 3.75/5. This is a good book as it stands…but with a little bit of division, a little bit more time taken on some of the characters and story ideas, it could have been a great book. I’ve seen reviews that recommend that Gray divide No Deadly Thing into several other novels, each focusing on a specific portion of the original. That might have worked, but I also would have enjoyed the work being longer, with more detail. I will be checking out the sequel.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Curse of Prometheus by Morgan St. Knight - 4.5/5 Stars

Today, I am reviewing the Urban Fantasy story Curse of Prometheus by Morgan St. Knight. The first novel in what I hope to be a long series, it explores the story of Medea, the sorceress from ancient Greek mythology who assisted Jason and the Argonauts…and was later abandoned by them. The book was well worth the read, grabbing my attention and holding me to it.

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

Characters: 5/5. St. Knight creates a rich array of characters drawn from ancient Greek myths and mixed with modern day humanity. From the sorceress herself to her half-Titan aunts to the nosy neighbors down the street, each person is well-portrayed and has an impact in the story. Motivations are clear and believable, and the internal struggles that Medea must endure are captivating.

And it really is too bad about Hercules.

Plot/Storyline: 4.5/5. Very well played and well done. Greek mythology is an often-used source of inspiration for writers – I even have a book based on it coming out myself – but St. Knight does a great job of making it her own. Her interpretations and characterizations are unique. As a testament to her skill, she did not once remind me of Percy Jackson (an excellent series itself), despite having some of the same elements. The plot is effective and efficient. Medea has a job to do, but it gets disrupted and she has to figure out why. The twists are well-timed and hard to see coming, but don’t leave the reader feeling blindsided or like the author was trying to trick him/her. An exceptional story that I can’t wait to continue.

Flow: 5/5. Never a dull moment! St. Knight pushes the action forward with continual danger for our heroine. She hardly gets a chance to breathe, and never one to relax, before more madness comes her way. The story gains speed as one continues it, until, by the end, you’re paging so fast you’re liable to get a paper cut (or whatever the digital equivalent is)!

Spelling/Grammar: 3.75/5. Once again, an author falls victim to the spelling/grammar section. This was good, much better than some I’ve seen, but there were enough errors that I noticed them. The most common ones that I remember as I write this are some mistakes in punctuation, particularly after speech/dialogue (missing periods, or periods instead of commas, that sort of thing). I don’t think it detracted from the story, but they were present.

Overall: 4.5/5. After participating in St. Knight’s giveaway and reading the synopsis of Curse of Prometheus, I was excited to receive a copy and check it out for myself…and I was not disappointed. I’m a fan of books just like this one – gritty but hopeful, with new interpretations of classic myths. It’s what I love to write, and it’s what I love to read. St. Knight has earned herself a fan in me, and I hope one in you as well!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ondelle of Grioth by Danika Dinsmore - My first perfect 5/5!

Today, I am reviewing the Fantasy novel Ondelle of Grioth by Danika Dinsmore. This is the third installment of the Faerie Tales from the White Forest series. For the purposes of disclosure, this is the only novel in the series that I have read – I haven’t seen the first two. 

I give this book a 5/5. Yes, it’s finally happened – a book received an actual perfect score. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 5/5. Danika has created a society of supernatural creatures that is believable and relatable. Each character has a place, none are superfluous, and I felt connected to each and every one. From Brigitta, the confused but headstrong protagonist to Fozk and Gola and the rest, each character contributed to the story, no matter how brief his/her involvement.

More importantly, I haven’t read the first two stories in this series, and yet I was never confused by the character interactions or connections. That is a feat in and of itself!

Plot/Storyline: 5/5. Danika weaves her story like she was born in this realm and is just telling us about something that actually happened. The magic in the world is in-depth and clearly explained, with nary a feeling of the deus-ex-machina. I was fascinated by the link between Brigitta and Ondelle in particular (remember that I haven’t read the first two books) and excited by the possibilities as the story unfolded.

Flow: 5/5.  This story proceeded at the speed of plot, which is how I myself write. I never felt like more time was being taken than necessary on any point, or that the characters had diverted into needless conversation or activity. Danika wrote a story, and that story is evident in each keystroke.

Spelling/Grammar: 5/5. Huzzah! Well done! I saw no errors. I repeat, I saw no errors. This is not to say that there are none, but I did not see them as I went through. My only suggestion to Danika is that she eliminate what Stephen King called the “swifties” – which are adverbs attached to dialogue, like “he said softly,” or “she shouted angrily.” Your writing is strong enough that you don’t need them.

Overall: 5/5. Absolutely amazing. I have been planning to read this book for a long time, and now I will be getting the rest. Then, once I’ve read books one and two, I’ll be re-reading this one to see what I missed in my first go through. I can’t say it enough – Danika has crafted a masterpiece. I look forward to more.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Burning Bright by E.J. Stevens - 4.75/5 Stars

Today, I am reviewing the Urban Fantasy story Burning Bright by E.J. Stevens. The third full novel in the Ivy Granger series, it explores what happens when Ivy’s friend succumbs to fell influence, Ivy herself is drawn into honoring a terrible bargain with a fae queen, and the consequences of our protagonist’s halfbreed heritage come to the fore. As always, Stevens gives an engaging read and a thrilling story. I confess that I bought this book as soon as I found out that it was released, even though I didn’t get to read it until much later. 

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

Characters: 5/5. By now, the characters in the series are familiar, but Stevens continues to reveal new facets of their personalities and show us exactly how the events and environment of Harborsmouth affect them. The interaction between Jinx and Forneus, as limited as it was in this book, is always a thrill, and the evolution of Forneus himself is fascinating to me (how is he keeping his rank in Hell? Does anybody know?). Ivy’s mix of selfish- and selflessness ring true, and I am now utterly terrified of what will happen now that Kaye…
Well, you’ll have to find that out for yourselves ;).

Plot/Storyline: 5/5. Stellar. Gripping. Intense. Stevens is, by now, an expert in keeping her reader engaged in her story. The action is continuous and the tension so palpable that it kept me thinking about the story even when I wasn’t actively reading it. The twists and turns are believable and the sense of verisimilitude is maintained. It’s hard to do that in a long-running fantasy series, but Stevens does an admirable job.

Flow: 5/5. Like a river, Burning Bright carries the reader ever onward. Sometimes it’s fast, sometimes slower, but always moving with nary a dull page…or paragraph! The pacing was phenomenally well done, holding me to the book and bringing me back whenever I had to put it down…which was never by choice!.

Spelling/Grammar: 3.5/5. Burning Bright is plagued with more grammatical and typographical errors than I am accustomed to seeing in E.J. Stevens’s work. They weren’t distracting, but as my own experience grows I am more aware of them, and they were peppered throughout the work – there were a couple of incorrect spellings of glaistig, for instance, and a misplaced period and comma or two. I’ve seen much worse, but I’ve seen much better as well..

Overall: 4.75/5. Stevens continues her efforts to become one of the world’s foremost paranormal/urban fantasy authors by producing material of the highest quality. I favorably compare Burning Bright to works like Harry Potter in its depth and character development. I only hope that, when Stevens hits it big, she doesn’t forget about us, her readers ;)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Review for Atancia by Wren Figueiro -4.5/5

Today, I am reviewing the Paranormal Romance story Atancia by Wren Figueiro. This is a medium-ish book of about 100k words that describes a race of immortals known as Durands who feed off of the energy from living things. The protagonist, Atancia (“Atty” to her friends”) learns that she is one of these beings when Ben, a very handsome, urbane, and mature Durand walks into her life.

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

Characters: 5/5. Holy…hell. Figueiro does a fantastic job of creating interesting and rich characters. I could feel Atty’s nervousness, Nana’s caring and concern, the electric attraction between her and Ben, Matt’s fumbling…it was all amazingly well done. The characters drive this story, and they do a bang-up job at it.

Plot/Storyline: 5/5. When a book is this good, sometimes you feel worried that you’re overdoing the praise…but it just really was this good. The last half of the story (which is part of a duology, by the way) had me paging through as fast as my eyes could take in the words. There was a sense of compelling action…without what most people would consider “action.” This links back to the Characters section: if Figueiro hadn’t done such an amazing job of creating the people and making us care about them, the story may have stuttered and fallen flat. It did not.

Flow: 5/5. Onward and onward and onward with nary a dull moment. Never did I consider that the descriptions were too long, or too wordy, or that there were better things to do. I was wrapped up in the story and it took me wherever it chose.

Spelling/Grammar: 3.5/5. Ah. This is what kept Atancia from achieving the first perfect 5-star rating I have ever given. There were spelling and grammar mistakes sprinkled throughout – not tremendous, not onerous, not “my-god-what-is-wrong-with-you”…but they were there, and I noticed them. Another proofread (since this is an e-book) would definitely be advised.

Overall: 4.5/5. Yes! Wren Figueiro is a prime example of how independent authors can do excellent work. This is her debut novel, and, if the next in the duology can even keep up with this one, I think she has the potential for a splendid career.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Review of All That Glitters by Jackie Sonnenberg

All That Glitters is a paranormal/urban fantasy novel that focuses on an undetectable thief looking for ways to enhance his power. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review; as always, what follows is my honest assessment of the work.

I give this book 2.5/5 stars. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 2/5. Early on, I found no reason to care about the characters in this story. The point of view changed often, and a whole host of people were introduced. Unfortunately, those people did not ring true to me, and their interactions often seemed like a falsetto note in a song.

Plot: 4/5. This is a strength for this book. I think that Sonnenberg's idea is fascinating - a thief with magical powers terrorizing a town for reasons of his own. With some more work on making the story more fluid, this plot idea could be developed into a truly fantastic novel. As an urban fantasy author myself, I know how hard it is to make the storyline work, and Sonnenberg has a good start in this area.

Flow: 2/5. The language is...well, the language is not fun to read. The dialogue was stilted in many places, unrealistic. The narration was excessive - I prefer for my world to be described to me in small bits and through the actions of the characters rather than through exposition and loads of description. 

Spelling/Grammar: 3.5/5. I didn't notice much in the way of spelling/grammar problems, although the odd structure of some sentences (especially in dialogue) did strike me on occasion. Another proofread/edit session would probably clear up anything I noticed.

Summary: 2.5/5. This book builds slowly. Very slowly. Some people (my sister in law included!) like slow build-ups. I do not. The first few dozen pages of this book are spent introducing more and more new characters without giving me a reason to become invested in any of them. Some people may like this book very much, but I did not. I would not recommend it to others unless I knew that they were interested in the subject matter or the style.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Review of Soul Reunion by Lorraine Sears - 4.5/5 Stars

Review of Soul Reunion by Lorraine Sears Soul Reunion is a paranormal romance story and the first in a series. I was given a free copy of this novel for a review. As always, the review is honest and reflects my true opinions of the work.

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

Characters: 5/5. Lorraine does a fantastic job of creating characters. The world in which they exist is so rich, and the characters have such detailed storylines and history. From Soul Takers to Death Dealers to Vampires and Wizards, it’s a round-robin of wonderful design. The revelation of Maya’s secret curse cut to my soul, and Helena’s insecurities were all-too-realistic. Fantastic work! 

Plot/Storyline: 5/5. The storyline was amazing! The action and romance scenes were all believable and integral to the plot. I sympathized so much with Goran and his desire to be with and protect his mate, the desire which drove the plot of this book. Watching them fight to be together against all odds and enlist some unorthodox allies to do so made this book well worth my time. Flow: 4/5. Lorraine has done an excellent job of putting together a book that pulls one forward to keep reading. I finished this book in just under an hour (what can I say, I’m a speed reader!) and had absolutely no desire to put it down. There were no wasted words or scenes, and the points of view were kept clear and elegant. Normally, I’m not a fan of changing POV within a scene, but Lorraine did it well and with style.

Spelling/Grammar: 4/5. I noticed a VERY few typos in this work. There were a couple of missing quotes and maybe a misspelling or two, but absolutely nothing which interfered with my enjoyment of the work. Clearly well edited and proofread.

Summary: 4.5/5. Soul Reunion is the debut work of someone who should be writing for a living. The world practically ensnares you, daring you to take a step within it because, if you do, you’re likely to get lost. It was a treat to read, and I will be purchasing the next in the series soon. Thank you, Lorraine!

Gods with Fangs by D.C. Armstrong

Review of Gods with Fangs by D.C. Armstrong Gods with Fangs is a paranormal fantasy story with elements of romance. I was given a free copy of this novel for a review. As always, the review is honest and reflects my true opinions of the work.

I give this book a 3/5. Here is my breakdown:

Characters: 5/5. This is the strongest point of this novel, and shows the author’s ability to create realistic people. Each character’s motivations were strong, believable, and their reactions to the situations they found themselves in were plausible and interesting. Being able to create real people is the most important part of a story, in my opinion, so, with characters like Cora, Mark, Aries and Piper, Armstrong is ahead of the curve here!

Plot/Storyline: 4/5. The plot was interesting – vampires have come out of hiding and are in the process of taking over the world for “humanity’s own good.” The struggle between security and freedoms take center-stage in Gods with Fangs, and Armstrong does a good job of making the world believable and helping us care about the events within it. There were a few instances where I felt like the world was reacting unrealistically, but, for the most part, well done.

Flow: 2/5. This is a weakness in this novel. The author overuses ellipses and the dialogue sometimes slips into strange constructions that sound contrived. There are also a few Point-Of-View errors, in which, while we are in one character’s “head,” we receive information from the writing about the motivation of the other characters in the scene, rather than through sensory input.

Spelling/Grammar: 3/5. I noticed a few spelling mistakes and punctuation errors. They increased in frequency toward the end of the work, and came often enough that I noticed their presence and was jolted out of my happy story place. Look for conjunctions and missing commas.

Summary: 3/5. This is a work with an awful lot of potential. Armstrong has created a world that is interesting and enjoyable, and the novel touches on issues that are dear to humanity’s collective heart – freedom and choice. Another round of proofreads and the removal of some ellipses would go a long way to elevating this novel from “pretty good” to “outstanding!”

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Club Nexus by E.J. Stevens - 4.5/5

Review of Club Nexus by E. J. Stevens Club Nexus is a paranormal fantasy novella set in the world of Ivy Granger. It contains four shorter works, all set at the same time and the same place but with different points of view. I purchased this story based on my previous experience with E.J. Stevens’ work, and I was not disappointed.

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

Characters: 5/5. As always, Stevens excels in making her characters believable and interesting. Each of the four characters featured (an Unseelie fae, a vampire, Forneus the demon, and Jinx, Ivy’s partner) is rich and involved, and their different takes on the same scenario are amazing. Thank you! 

Plot/Storyline: 4.5/5. I expect that this plot will become important through the development of Stevens’ next novel, Burning Bright. While the novella as a whole seems to mostly be an interesting diversion, a natural follow-up to the events of Ghost Light, the impact on Jinx and Forneus will, I imagine, have long-reaching consequences. My slight ding here is simply because, for the first time ever, I’m angry at Ivy. 

Flow: 4.5/5. The story was compelling and pulled me forward – even the POV changes are done effectively and well. Stevens is a master at balancing action and development, and Club Nexus, despite its brevity, showcases this talent to the fullest.

Spelling/Grammar: 5/5. I noticed no spelling or grammar mistakes. While this could be because Stevens always writes in such a way that I lose track of what I’m doing and then the story is over. <.< >.>

Summary: 4.5/5. This is an excellent set of stories and a great teaser for Burning Bright. E.J. Stevens excels, as always, and her pen (or word processor) has revealed secrets from both Jinx and Forneus that would have been missed if we were only looking through Ivy’s eyes. I am thrilled with my purchase and will buy Burning Bright as soon as it’s released. Thanks again!

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Light Who Shines - 3.75/5

Review of The Light Who Shines by Lilo Abernathy

The Light Who Shines is a paranormal fantasy/romance story. I was given a free copy of this novel for a review. As always, the review is honest and reflects my true opinions of the work.

I give this book a 3.75/5. Here is my breakdown:

Characters: 5/5. This is where Lilo’s work really shines. She has created a rich, enveloping world full of characters that are real people. Their conversations are interesting, their motives are understandable, clear, and believable. The antagonist’s plans are excellent executed. Thank you for introducing me to Bluebell and Jack and Varg!

Plot/Storyline: 4/5. The plot was solid throughout, with interesting reveals and hidden secrets (to be given in the next book, I hope!) There were also many small side-plots, serving to further entrench the reader in the verisimilitude of Bluebell’s world. This book feels like a set-up novel, in that so many loose threads are waiting to be picked up.

Flow: 3/5. The story was compelling and pulled me forward – especially the last portion. My issues with the flow are twofold: one, the book is written in 1st person present tense, which is a style that I normally do not enjoy very much (the fact that I did enjoy this book is a testament to Lilo’s fascinating world!). Two: the dialogue felt strange and stilted at times – I especially noticed this with Bluebell, as she would, on occasion, speak like she had spent time rehearsing what she was going to say, even in the midst of distress and anger.

Spelling/Grammar: 4/5.  I noticed a few spelling mistakes, punctuation errors. Not many. They did not, in any way, disturb my enjoyment of the work.

Summary: 3.75/5. This is a solid work, enjoyable, entertaining, and compelling. With another round of edits (and consider changing the P.O.V. and tense!), this could move from “good” to “great.” Looking forward to the next installment!
Jason P. Crawford
Chains of Prophecy (Samuel Buckland Chronicles)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Review of Darker Shade of Dawn by Aimee Roseland - 4/5

Darker Shade of Dawn is a paranormal romance/erotica story in the Beneath the Veil series, which I have not read.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I give this book 4/5 stars. Here is my breakdown:

Characters: 5/5. The characters in this story were interesting and engaging.  Aimee has taken the ancient legends of succubi and incubi and turned them into people that we care about.  I loved Roschana and identified deeply with Noah, romantics both.  Thank you.

Plot/Storyline: 4/5. The storyline revolves around an ancient evil that only a human can defeat - a classic, almost cliched idea- , but is full of character development and rich world building.  The climactic battle seems a little short and the whole book ends too quickly for my taste, but, overall, it was an exciting, fast-paced ride through a world that I was tickled to enter.

Flow: 4/5. The point of view shifts were handled well and the plot flowed smoothly.  I never felt pulled out of the storyline or environment, and I never lost my suspension of disbelief.  Any book that keeps me turning the pages (or pressing the Page Down key) without wanting to break away and grab a snack is worthwhile.  

Spelling/Grammar/Layout: 4/5. Because I was reading this for a review, I noted anytime that the grammar stuttered or there was a spelling or punctuation error.  The book was not error-free, but that said, if you let a couple of proofreading mistakes turn you away you're missing out on an excellent read.

Overall: 4/5. Engaging.  Stimulating.  Fascinating.  Darker Shade of Dawn is all these and more, and I will be picking up the rest of the series soon.  Thank you for an excellent read!

Jason P. Crawford
Author of Chains of Prophecy and The Drifter