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Friday, December 11, 2015

The Mansion's Twins by Rose Channing - Exciting, engrossing, and a treat to read!

Today, I am reviewing the YA portal fantasy story The Mansion’s Twins by Rose Channing. The first in the At The Crossworlds series, we get pulled into the lives of two ordinary teenagers who discover they have extraordinary powers. Fleeing from their unpleasant and borderline abusive home lives, Ellie and Savannah, aged 14, learn that they are unwitting refugees from a world of magic, and that it lies in their hands to save it from itself.

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

 Characters: 4/5. I found Channing’s characterizations interesting and well played. She added a large cast to the story, which can get a little confusing when they’re introduced rapid-fire, but did a good job of delineating and clarifying who is who and what each of them could do. I could have used more clear descriptions of the gifts and magical talents that each knew, but overall I feel this is a strength of the novel.

 Plot/Storyline: 4/5 Classic portal fantasy – kids brought from our mundane world into a magnificent, wondrous place filled with magic, but they have to save it, and they’re the only ones who can do so. But classic doesn’t mean boring, and the world that Channing has created weaves itself into the storyline like a tapestry. I enjoyed it very much.

Flow: 5/5. Another strength, and always a pleasure when done right. This book was fairly long for a YA intro book, but it blew by very quickly. Channing does her pacing right, keeping us in suspense just long enough before the reveals, and ratcheting up the tension at the right times. Well done!

Spelling/Grammar: 3/5. I noticed several typos, many that could be attributed to autocorrect error or which were simply missing words. Another run through by a good proofreader would clear up almost everything.

 Overall: 4.5. A real treat. I haven’t read YA in a long time (most of my submissions are adult fantasy/sci-fi) and I’m pleased to recommend Rose Channing and The Mansion’s Twins. Pick up this book if you want realistic characters, an intriguing storyline, and a great time.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

GR3T3L-1 by V.M. Sawh - Uniquely amazing! 4.75/5 stars!

Today, I am reviewing the Science-Fiction story GR3T3L-1 by V.M. Sawh. The book opens with two robots, interestingly named H4NS3L and GR3T3L, crash-landing on a strange planet with no clear mission. GR3T3L quickly shows herself to have mental abilities far beyond the combat drone H4NS3L, including asking questions about feelings and emotions, and using reasoning to solve their problems.

This is an excellent book, filled with character development, interesting scenarios and environment, and intriguing plot. I give it a 4.75/5. Here is my breakdown:

Characters: 5/5. I really enjoyed both the main and supporting characters of this story. Both robots played their parts well, and watching their interactions and their development over the course of the book made me happy and made me care about them. The supporting human characters, met chiefly through flashback and recorded programming input, felt realistic and understandable, viewed as they were through the lenses of robotic understanding.

 Plot/Storyline: 5/5. Engaging from start to finish. Sawh drops us in the middle of the action and pulls off the slow reveal with aplomb. Like the breadcrumbs from the titular characters’ original story, I was hooked from the beginning, wondering where we were going from here. I won’t spoil the ending, but I was reading it to work, and it made me tear up. It was good.

Flow: 4.75/5. Every reveal is timed well, keeping the reader interested the whole time. The language used is clean and effective, telling the story and maintaining the sense of immersion. My only stuttering point was at the beginning, when Sawh used the word “metal” like ten times. In the first page or two. It just made me shake my head and laugh a little.

Spelling/Grammar: 4/5. There were some typos in this book. Overall very good, but I did note a few missing words and misspellings.

 Overall: 4.75/5. I knew going in that this was a solid piece of work, but as it went on it pulled me deeper and deeper. It’s not long, but it’s amazing and unique. I’ve never seen a book take on this perspective before, and not since R. Daneel Olivaw have I been as interested in what is going on in a robotic mind. Well done!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Spider Mafia by Ville Merilainen - unique, very cool, and a lot of fun. 3.75/5.

Today, I am reviewing the Urban Fantasy story Spider Mafia by Ville Merilainen. A thrilling, pseudo-horror story set in a world populated by sentient, anthropomorphic cats, Spider Mafia follows Trucillo Brown, agent for the FBI (Feline Badass Institution) as he picks up the trail of an ancient evil that’s kidnapping kittens and plotting to overthrow society as we know it. Despite its use of animal characters, the book definitely has plenty of adult themes, including the murder and enslavement of children, cursing, and family. 

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

Characters: 4/5. I feel like I could have known so much more about the characters than I do. Each one is interesting and unique – I didn’t feel burdened by generic, stock roles or archetypes, and the ideas of destined bloodlines brought out in the book hit the right notes with me. Still, I wish I knew more about Trucillo’s life before the story, about his romantic relationships (or lack thereof) and more detail about what happened with his niece. There are some awesome bits hanging out there, waiting for more development.

Plot/Storyline: 4/5. Spider Mafia does a very good job of blending the hard-boiled detective shtick with the magical elements of urban fantasy, and adds a healthy amount of tongue-in-cheek humor to boot. The plot hit the right beats and maintained its verisimilitude all the way through. I really enjoyed the storyline (despite the sneaky nature of some of the reveals) and felt for the characters.
One thing, though: a life bar? Really? 

Flow: 3.5/5. Throughout most of the story, the writing flowed very well. Spider Mafia isn’t a long book, but it went very quickly, even so. I maintained interest throughout the work, digesting it quickly and enjoying it along the way.
So why the 3.5?
Because, at the very end, there is a moment where the character looks at the author. The writing explicitly states that he breaks the fourth wall. It was completely jarring, unnecessary, and didn’t work for me at all. I know the author’s trying to be funny and/or cute here, but it just annoyed me.

Spelling/Grammar: 4/5. Fairly solid. I noticed a couple of mistakes, but nothing worth writing home about or protesting outside the author’s home. A good, well-done editing job all around.

Overall: 3.75/5. This book is very unique and a great take on the genre. The characters are cool and you’ll find yourself smiling, if not laughing aloud, more than once. If you’re looking for deadly serious, dark-and-gritty work, stay away, but if you like a touch of humor in your urban fantasy, then check out Spider Mafia.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Iron by Robin L. Cole - Exciting, compelling, and sure to draw you in. 4.5/5 Stars!

Today, I am reviewing the Paranormal/Urban Fantasy story Iron by Robin L. Cole. The first novel in the exciting The Warding series, we’re introduced to a world where fae folk (don’t call them “faeries;” it pisses them off) walk between the worlds. Some of them, however, have run afoul of the increasingly mad High King, and have been exiled to Earth, searching for some way to return.

Unfortunately for Caitlin, a regular woman who’s rapidly approaching her 30th birthday (and feeling every minute of it), she’s exactly what they’re looking for. She has the Warding, the ability to repel fae magics and glamours, and the exiles need her.

This is an absolutely stellar book, filled with action, character development, and intriguing plot. I give it a 4.5/5. Here is my breakdown:

Characters: 5/5. A definite strength of this novel. It’s often a trope of urban fantasy how easily and quickly the characters shift from their “normal” lives into the new powers and/or responsibilities thrust upon them. It’s tough to make the journey seem natural and realistic, but Cole has done just that. As Caitlin evolves from a soft woman lamenting hitting 30 into an absolute badass, I felt every step on the journey as she struggled to come to grips with lying to her best friend, her guilt about her new fae compatriots…even the first life she stole. Beyond that, the whole supporting cast was played fantastically, with particular favorites of mine being Mairi and Gannon.

Yeah, definitely like Gannon. /looks over his shoulder and wipes his brow.

Plot/Storyline: 5/5. Realistic yet fantastical, Cole blended fae politics and intrigues with the present day like a seasoned professional. Every plot twist was handled excellently, with just enough “whoa” and none of the “WTHeck?” The final reveals made total sense, and I loved the unfolding of interpersonal relationships and how they drove the story. Character-driven storylines are the best, and this one did it just right.

Flow: 5/5. Perfection. Cole paced between beats like a marching band – always in rhythm, always in tune, and when things got heated you could tell by the tap-tap-tapping of your heart along with the words. The pages passed through my fingers until, at the end, I was astonished that it was already over. In fact, the first thing I said to Cole was “Is the sequel done yet?”

(No, not yet. But she’s writing as fast as she can!)

Spelling/Grammar: 4/5. There were a few typos in this book. A few homophone errors and a couple dropped words round out the mistakes, but I’ve seen much worse. It was a solid, but not fantastic, editing job.

Overall: 4.5/5. I loved Iron and, if you’re a fan of E.J. Stevens’ Ivy Granger series, or Neil Gaiman, or Curse of Prometheus by Morgan St. Knight, then you’ll absolutely adore it too. I’m waiting on tenterhooks for Faster, the sequel, and I’ll let you know what I think!

Pick up your copy of Iron at Amazon today:

Friday, October 16, 2015

Saving Maggie - A shifter novel with heart. 3.75/5 stars.

Today, I am reviewing the Paranormal Shifter story Saving Maggie by R. Mac Wheeler. This is a story set in the modern day, with opposing/cooperating councils of Lycans and Vampires (who call themselves “talents.”) The main character, Carter, is a lone wolf without ties to the normal immortal society. He encounters a dying piece of street-trash, Maggie, and finds himself inexplicably attached to her, drawn to help the poor girl rise from the gutter, even against her will.

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

Characters: 4/5. Very solid. The characters are developed through the story, and we keep getting peeks at the hidden society that drives them. I didn’t know that vampires were a thing until a bit into the book, but that’s good – if our protagonist isn’t worried about them, why should I be? Wheeler also did an amazing job with the character of Maggie – her comments about her life, her sullen acceptance of her “place,” and her disbelief of the idea that someone might just be trying to help made her very real to me.

Plot/Storyline: 3.5/5. Not bad. The story was exciting, and I found the battle scenes excellently described. The way the narration flipped between Carter and his Beast were also well done. Plot-wise, though, I’m still not sure where the story is headed. I mean, I got the reason for the battles and the conflict with the Red Court…but after that, it seemed like it was kind of on a treadmill of “Meeting. Make demands. Retaliation.” This happened at least three times without much in the way of development for the characters or story. I think that maybe it was because of the time that Maggie needed for her arc (no spoilers here!) but it was still a little off-putting. Overall, though, I enjoyed the story.

Flow: 4/5. Very good. The biggest issue with flow I had was that Wheeler has a strange tendency to make Carter think Ack when things are going wrong. And sometimes he’ll do it three or four times in a row, very quickly. The use of such a word so often drew my attention and threatened my verisimilitude – I mean, how many people really think Ack?.

Spelling/Grammar: 3/5. There were several grammatical mistakes sprinkled throughout this book – and, unlike with cakes or pies, the sprinkles don’t make it better. Wheeler shifted back and forth between past and present tense narration a few times, and there were some homonym usage (bare vs bear is one that I remember offhand). Was it horrible? No. But it wasn’t great.

Overall: 3.75/5. I very much enjoyed this read. It ended on a note that left me wanting to know where the story went. I plan to pick up the sequel as soon as my schedule permits. If you like shifter novels, you’ll do well to check out this series.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Fast Draw by D.W. Collins - Solid, but not spectacular. 3.5/5

Today, I am reviewing the Urban Fantasy/Thriller story Fast Draw by D.W. Collins. In this book, we follow Bob Mayes, an aging cowboy and performer in a show who demonstrates his superhuman aim and firing speed. Unbeknownst to him, he is about to be caught in the middle of two warring presences who are fighting over the future of mankind…and are using Supernaturals like him to do it. 

I give this book a 3.5/5. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 3/5. There was a large cast of characters in this novel, but I felt like I never got to know any of them very well. What I did know was reasonably interesting, and I cared about the main ones…but they felt like movie characters, rather than book characters. The romantic subplot between two of the side characters was fun, and helped define them a little bit, but I felt the book lacked a little in this area. As far as our protagonist, while I cheered for him and enjoyed watching him work, I didn’t feel a lot of depth in him. A few moments of soul-searching don’t really change a man who’s spent the last several decades living the home life to a bringer of righteous death.

Plot/Storyline: 3.5/5. The story was fun and interesting and it kept me turning the pages. There were few twists, though, and many of those that were there had the bright red colors of the deus ex machina glowing upon them. I found myself a bit confused at times as to the reasons and motivations of the characters as they used their assets to confound one another. Who’s winning? What’s going on? At times I wasn’t sure. Overall, though, the story was coherent, made sense most of the time, and was a new take that I hadn’t seen before.

Flow: 4.5/5. Well done here. The pacing was excellent and Collins does a good job of it. He spaces the events in the book out perfectly and fills the intervening time with things that make sense, all the while pushing a sense of urgency. I admit to thinking that Bob (who, as mentioned earlier, is not a spring chicken) was actually doing very well considering the pace his friends were setting 

Spelling/Grammar: 3.5/5. Meh. Some missing and spliced words, spelling mistakes. The book is written in present tense, but there were a few confusing times when Collins went back to past that threw me. I definitely noticed the issues in Fast Draw.

Overall: 3.5/5. A solid effort, but it could have used a couple more beta readers and another editing pass. I’m honestly most frustrated with the ending and the character of Bob Mayes. It felt like, as the story progressed, Collins had this character, and he established what the character could do…and I got this feeling that Bob wasn’t being challenged much. He was this instrument of God (metaphorically) that just rained death on his enemies. Which was cool. But he never felt threatened.

And then the ending happened. I won’t spoil it, but I felt cheated, like it had been thrown in, or pre-written and shoehorned so that the ending imagined before the book was ever written is the book that we have. I don’t know. People who are fans of the genre will probably enjoy Fast Draw, but those who are prone to analyze the plotlines or who are looking for visionary approaches would do well to be careful.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Vampire's Virgin by Leeloo Deschain - 3.75/5

Today I’m reviewing The Vampire’s Virgin, an erotic paranormal short story by Leeloo Deschain (btw, I love that name!). It’s the first book in the Desert Bloodlust series. The story introduces us to a young, 19-year-old waitress at a roadside café who is suddenly enthralled by the appearance of a handsome stranger…and the stranger turns out to be a vampire who is just as enamored with her as she is with him.

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

Characters: 4/5. Given that this is an erotic short story, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot of character development. Surprisingly, Lucy (the protagonist) caught my attention almost immediately. I found myself feeling for her frustration with her dead-end job and the idea that, at 19, her life was already passing her by (I remember that feeling well). The vampire love interest seemed pretty standard – powerful, with a hint of brutal savagery underlying his civilized veneer. It’s a tried-and-true formula, but Deschain does a good job with it. The vampire society introduced in the story was also interesting, and I’m curious to see where that goes in later installments.

Plot/Storyline: 3.5/5. The story here doesn’t bring anything really new to the table – lonely virginal teen, vampire alpha male – but I’m pleased by the writing quality. Deschain doesn’t stoop to a whole bunch of clichés or tropes in order to advance her story. The dialogue is witty and realistic, and the characters act like real people, which is always helpful.

Flow: 4/5. The beginning of The Vampire’s Virgin is hampered a bit by in-head narration and exposition, and the book suffers just a bit from the “I’m thinking about myself a lot so that the readers know more about me,” but overall the story moved very well and quickly. I didn’t find too much description and the events flowed naturally into one another.

Spelling/Grammar: 4.5/5. There were a few minor errors in this work – some misspellings or missing words – but nothing significant.

Overall: 3.75/5. I enjoyed this book. The erotic aspect of it was definitely present, but I was pleased by the presence of actual story behind the sex. I’m also curious about future installments and wondering what sort of plot twists and events will come up to trouble Lucy and her vampire beau. 

Thank you, Leeloo, for the read! You can pick up your own copy below.

The Vampire's Virgin by Leeloo Deschain

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Wow. Okay. Let's try this again...

Hello, all.

Over the last several months, I've gotten overwhelmed with review requests and with other work and moving to Hawaii. As a result, I haven't been able to give this review blog the attention it deserves, and tons of books are languishing in my inbox.

So I'm hitting the RESET button.

I now have no backlog. I've deleted all the emails so that I can start fresh instead of facing the overwhelming mound of requests and having to go through them all. I look forward to reading your books, and I'll be doing at least one a week from now on.

Thank you for understanding. Let the games (re)commence!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Birthright by E.J. Stevens - 4.75/5. An incredible addition to the series!

Today, I am reviewing the Urban Fantasy story Birthright by E.J. Stevens. The fourth full novel in the Ivy Granger series, it follows Ms. Granger down into Faerie, as she seeks her father and the knowledge she needs in order to prevent further Unseelie-sponsored assassination attempts. She brings along her kelpie beloved, Ceff, and the notoriously naughty cat sidhe Torn as they hunt down the court of the wisps, Ivy’s own people, and make some new and shocking discoveries on the way. 

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

Characters: 5/5. This time the story focused on just three of our large cast, and that time allowed for us to really explore them in further detail. We get to see new wrinkles in the relationship between Ceff and Ivy, including some developments that have been a long time coming, in this reader’s opinion. Torn rounds out the cast and provides the exact amount of snark and nonchalance that the other two need to balance them out.

Plot/Storyline: 5/5. Incredibly, I think that Stevens’ storytelling gets better and better with every book. Birthright was amazing and compelling, grabbing hold of my mind and never letting go. I followed every twist of the story with relish, looking forward to whatever was coming next. Faerie felt like a new world, as it should, and the rules and laws were both alien and familiar, the echoes of stories that many have already forgotten. Fantastic job!

Flow: 5/5. A worthy successor to a worthy series, Birthright is incredibly tight and well-crafted. The action fills the time without bloating it, and every scene is made so that it flows into the next. No wasted space, no wasted time, and a sense of urgency that makes you want to know what happens next. In the wisp court in particular, Stevens used a slower pace to her advantage, leaving me chomping at the bit in order to find out what was going on next.

Spelling/Grammar: 4.5/5. I counted exactly 4 minor spelling errors in the entirety of the work. That’s outstanding. Phenomenal. A vast improvement over Burning Bright, and a credit to both her and her editor. Well done!

Overall: 4.75/5. I don’t know how much more I can say about E.J. Stevens without seeming like a fanboy…but what the hell. She’s awesome. Her books are awesome. I recommend her to everyone that I meet that enjoys this kind of work, and hold her up as an exemplar when people discuss modern urban fantasy writers. With tight work, fantastic characters, and stories crafted from the quicksilver of Faerie itself, Stevens is a writer that you must try.

The new minor characters, including Ivy’s uncle, the current regent of the wisp court, are well-fleshed out and intriguing. I admit to cheering when Flavio got what was coming to him ;)
Plot/Storyline: 5/5. Incredibly, I think that Stevens’ storytelling gets better and better with every book. Birthright was amazing and compelling, grabbing hold of my mind and never letting go. I followed every twist of the story with relish, looking forward to whatever was coming next. Faerie felt like a new world, as it should, and the rules and laws were both alien and familiar, the echoes of stories that many have already forgotten. Fantastic job!
Flow: 5/5. A worthy successor to a worthy series, Birthright is incredibly tight and well-crafted. The action fills the time without bloating it, and every scene is made so that it flows into the next. No wasted space, no wasted time, and a sense of urgency that makes you want to know what happens next. In the wisp court in particular, Stevens used a slower pace to her advantage, leaving me chomping at the bit in order to find out what was going on next.

Trust me.
You can find Birthright, along with the rest of her works, at the link below.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The End of the World is Rye by Brett Cottrell: A unique take on Urban Fantasy that kept me reading! 4/5 Stars.

Hello! And welcome back to all my readers and followers. I'm sorry for the delay, but as many of you know, I've been working on my move to Hawaii as of late. But now we're settled in and I can get back to reading and reviewing!

Today, I am reviewing the Paranormal/Urban Fantasy story The End of the World is Rye by Brett Cottrell. Another debut novel and the first in a series, this book asks us to believe in different beings that each embody one particular aspect, or thought, of God – His Genius, Inspiration, Wrath, and Love are all in attendance, each with their own personas and characters. The story is in first person, narrated from the perspective of Contradiction, or Cognitive Dissonance, whose job is to help people reconcile the disparate aspects of God’s being. Unfortunately, Insanity escapes his chains, and heads out to cause trouble as only he can.

Naturally, this doesn’t bode well for the rest.

I received this book as an Advance Review Copy (ARC), so the final version may be slightly different from what I’ve reviewed here. This review is, as always, honest in its entirety.

This was a fun romp through a very interesting fantasy world that Mr. Cottrell has created. I enjoyed the book very much, and, overall, give it a 4/5 rating. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 5/5. Definitely the strongest point of this book. I loved the interaction between the various aspects of God’s psyche, the thoughts given form, and the variety and interplay made the book for me. Each one was unique, but tied together, unable to dismiss the others but locked into their own points of view. Fantastic.

Plot/Storyline: 4/5. Expertly executed. It starts out small, with a “hey, Insanity’s gone, that’s a problem,” and escalating into the “Oh, crap, what now?” type of thing. Classic threads are interwoven with those of Cottrell’s own design, creating an original, unique event. I was curious about the limitations of the character’s ability to “zap” themselves through time; it’s stated that they can, unless restrained, but I didn’t see them use it very much. Would it have been helpful? I don’t know.

Flow: 4/5. Clean and easy to read. I had no trouble convincing my fingers to turn pages (yes, this was a physical book this time!) and they went by very quickly. There are no major stumbling blocks, and, indeed, I thought that the story moved from beat to beat very well.

Spelling/Grammar: 3/5. I hope that Rosarium Publishing runs through this book one more time. It’s not bad, by any means, but there were enough small errors that I noticed them. Little things, small typos and misplaced punctuation, maybe a dropped word or two.

Overall: 4/5. A very enjoyable read, filled with fun, danger, excitement, and intriguing possibilities. I had a great time in Mr. Cottrell’s world, and I’m looking forward to the sequel!

You can find the book on Amazon here: 

Friday, May 8, 2015

No Reflection - A subtly terrifying paranormal investigation novel, and a treat to read! 4.25/5

Today, I am reviewing the Paranormal/Horror story No Reflection by Spencer Hughes. Reminiscent (to me) of the works of E.J. Stevens crossed with a bit of Stephen King, No Reflection introduces a regular (as far as we know!) protagonist, Nicole, who becomes the unexpected target of a serial killer after witnessing a horrific scene in the New York Subway. She teams up (reluctantly at first) with a group of “monster hunters” who believe the perpetrator to be some sort of supernatural.

I give this book a solid 4.25/5. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 4/5. Pretty darn great. I’m a fan of the “normal person caught in the supernatural” trope, and Hughes did it well. I could feel Nicole’s terror as she faced these events without knowing why she was targeted…or even by whom. The violation of her personal everything was perfectly crafted. I look forward to learning more about the team she fell in with, though; their characterizations, while good, felt just a tad one-dimensional, probably because the story was focused so much on Nicole.

Plot/Storyline: 5/5. Bravo! I was creeped out from the beginning. The hook was effective, and the final reveal, while I (like the main character) saw it coming, was still emotionally powerful. I applaud Hughes for creating such an intricate thriller/horror and weaving it deftly.

Flow: 4.5/5. Great. I tore through this book as quickly as I could. There were sufficient slow-downs to keep it from being a madhouse, but there was always pressure, always something that needed to be done. That’s the way I like my books.

Spelling/Grammar: 4/5. There were a couple of typos in this book, but little of note. One thing I do want to mention (only because I noticed it) is that Hughes has an interesting thing he does in dialogue. Rather than using ellipses (I just…I just wanted to go.”), he uses a full period stop (I just. I just wanted to go.”). This happens a lot, and I’m not saying it’s wrong, but it’s different enough that I noted it and it caught me a few times. It’s a much more jarring transition than the ellipsis…not that I like books that are overpeppered with ellipses, either J

Overall: 4.25/5. Very good. Very, very good. I will be reading the sequel when it’s out. This kind of story is one of my favorites, and Hughes pulled it off with aplomb. Thank you for the opportunity to read it, and good luck!

You can purchase No Reflection at the link below. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Kill It With Magic by J.A. Cipriano: Fast-Paced, Frenetic, Exciting...Overwhelming? Maybe. 3.5/5

Today, I am reviewing the Paranormal/Urban Fantasy story Kill It With Magic by J.A. Cipriano. The first in the Lillim Callina Chronicles, we’re exposed to a world of magic, vampires, ghosts, and dragons all fighting for control of the world. Our protagonist, Lillim herself, is the reincarnation of a famous monster-hunter and is constantly being judged by her former life.

I give this book a 3.5/5. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 4/5. Kill It With Magic introduces a rather large cast of characters very quickly, but Cipriano does a good job of helping us keep them all straight. The relationships are interesting, and Lillim’s issues with being judged as Dirge, her former incarnation, seem realistic, even though everyone around her denies that it’s true. My only issue with Lillim is that, in some ways, she doesn’t seem like much of a protagonist. I got to the end of the book and I wasn’t entirely sure what it was she had actually done to resolve anything.

Plot/Storyline: 3.5/5. Classic “save the world,” with a developed world and high stakes. It was solid and enjoyable. There was so much, though, that I lost track of it all. I was never entirely sure of the rules of magic in Cipriano’s world. Was there a limit? Was it elementally-based? Why did using Frost threaten to waken a dragon? Why wouldn’t Bob just die? I don’t know.

Flow: 3/5. I’ve been accused of writing action-filled novels, but Kill It With Magic leaves me in the dust. The characters have no chance to rest, and each and every time it looks like things are improving for Lillim she’s tossed back in. Normally, this would be fine, meriting at least a 4 if done well; my problem with it is the “red-herring” aspect. No spoilers, but suffice to say that there are many times where what you think is happening is not what is happening.

Spelling/Grammar: 5/5. I didn’t notice any typos or grammar issues within this book while I read it.

Overall: 3.5/5. This book is good. It’s solid and the story is interesting. The flow issues, the frenetic pacing, and the red herrings left me scratching my head at times, but don’t let that keep you from checking this book out!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Death Defiant: A 5/5 Urban Fantasy that Enthralls and Thrills!

Today, I am reviewing the Paranormal/Urban Fantasy story Death Defiant by Paige Reiring. Her debut novel and the first in a series, we get to see an interesting mix of angels, demons, and “supernaturals,” which are half-demon spawn. Contrary to many mythologies, these creatures live a mortal lifespan (although a bit longer), but our protagonist, a supernatural who goes by Cheri, has a special power that’s never been seen before.
She is Death Defiant.

This is one of the most incredible books I’ve read in recent memory. I give this book a 5/5. Here is my breakdown.

Characters: 5/5. Wow. Cheri and Bel were my personal favorites, and watching their relationship develop was amazing. Paige has created a network of real people: the demons are distinctly recognizable as demonic while having redeeming qualities, and the angels angelic but complete with flaws. Being that angels and demons are favorites of mine to play with in the fictional arena, I applaud Paige for her masterful craftswomanship.

Plot/Storyline: 5/5. Damn. Just…damn. This book had me thinking about it after I was done reading, bringing me back to particularly powerful scenes and events. I won’t give away what happened, but Cheri goes through a devastating turn of events that leaves her in a horrific situation…and horrific is exactly how I’d describe it. Paige pulled this off without going visceral and painting the mind with gore; instead, she keeps us grounded in Cheri’s experience…and what happens to her is all the more terrifying for it.

Flow: 5/5. Like a waterfall after the river, this story slipped through my fingers until the roaring climax had me glued to the pages. There was never a dull moment, and, indeed, Paige’s mastery of pacing is fantastic. I finished this book in about two hours of reading…and never noticed it gone.
Spelling/Grammar: 4.5/5. There were a few, very few, typos in this book. Solid, well-edited, and a treat to read.

Overall: 5/5. Yes, I know I dinged the book for spelling, but I don’t give a damn. Seriously, this is the best book I’ve read in a long, long while. I walked, ran, and suffered right along Cheri as her world fell apart around her, as she gathered allies, and as she rose to take her place in the world. Thank you, Paige; you’ve earned a lifelong fan!

You can purchase a copy at the link below...and I recommend you do!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Prometheus Stumbles: A DNF, 2/5 Urban Fantasy

Today, I am reviewing the Urban Fantasy story Prometheus Stumbles by Ed Gosney. A regular man in a world that hosts psychic beings (known as psi-tals, or psychic talents) discovers that he’s destined to escort The Turtle, some sort of supernatural entity, and protect it from evil psi-tals who want to keep control of the world. Or something.

I did not finish this book. I got about halfway through and then had no motivation to continue.

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

Characters: 3/5. Not bad. The introduction of psi-tals was interesting, and I found myself intrigued by the limitations and abilities that each one had. Our protagonist, though, was a very bland presence; things kept happening TO him and AROUND him, but he didn’t seem to have very much to do with it all..

Plot/Storyline: 2.5/5. Derivative and common: chosen hero from normal society must save the day. This isn’t bad in itself, but there wasn’t much new introduced in this story. The author didn’t put his own stamp on it, and so it felt boring.

Flow: 4/5. The story moved along at a reasonable pace. If it weren’t for my other concerns (earlier), I would have been carried along fairly well. Unfortunately, once I left the story…I had no desire to return.
Spelling/Grammar: 4/5. No significant errors that I noticed.

Overall: 2/5. There wasn’t a whole lot wrong with this book…there just wasn’t much RIGHT with it either. Nothing held my interest after the premise was introduced, and trying to make myself go back to it felt like a chore, rather than entertainment.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Organ Reapers: Compelling, Intriguing, Excellently Done!

Today, I am reviewing the paranormal/sci-fi/I’m not sure exactly what story Organ Reapers by Shay West. This is a story set in the modern day AND in a parallel world. In this parallel world, people known as Harvesters cross the dimensional boundary using a “mystical” machine in order to kill humans and take their organs back to their homeland, where their high priest uses them to save the lives of their subjects. Obviously, this doesn’t sit well with everyone.

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

Characters: 4.5/5. Really solid. The characters from both worlds were believable and interesting. The culture clashes between the worlds drew me in and appealed to me, while Eli’s struggle with the fact that there was a world other than his own felt real. I wish that we had seen more of Eli’s budding feelings for his partner, though; that particular arc never really seemed to come to fruition, in any sense.

Plot/Storyline: 5/5. This was unique and interesting. Extra-dimensional terrorists on a divine mission to save their own people by killing OUR people and taking their organs? Awesome. The language conveyed the imagery and intensity of the plot very well. I loved the ending and the final reveal.

Flow: 5/5. Great. The story moved on at an excellent pace. I was never bored or feeling rushed by the flow of the novel. I also thought the cross-cutting of scenes between our protagonists was executed perfectly. Well done!
Spelling/Grammar: 4.5/5. I noted a very few spelling and/or grammar errors in this book, but nothing that I would write home about. It in no way detracted from the story.

Overall: 4.5/5. A fantastic story that I really enjoyed. I love the contrast between the worlds and how the characters in each are both very different and very similar. You can pick up your copy at the link below. Thank you so much for the read!

Blade's Edge by Virginia McClain; a Fantasy worth sinking your katana into!

Today, I am reviewing the Fantasy story Blade’s Edge by Virginia McClain. This is a story set in a pseudo-Japanese setting and utilizing many of the terms from Japan’s medieval history, but adds several different intriguing elements, like elemental magic, a council dedicated to the repression of a particular subgroup, and dragons and kami.

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

Characters: 5/5. Absolute perfection. Virginia’s two main characters, Mishi and Taka, were deep and real. I felt their pain and their triumphs, and my understanding of them grew as they did. The book spans eight years (called “cycles”), and I felt they grew believably throughout that time. I especially liked Mishi’s development from scared orphan to kick-ass Kisoshi warrior.

Plot/Storyline: 5/5. The story is as epic as they come. A sprawling conspiracy kept in line by a few oligarchs? Assassins? Intrigue and betrayal? All present in spades. Virginia wove her story deeply and well, and I felt the last few pages blaze by like they almost weren’t there. Fantastically done.

Flow: 4.5/5. The sentence flow was excellent and Virginia’s use of language keeps the story moving at an excellent pace. I felt we spent an appropriate amount of time on each of the characters (as the action cross-cuts between the two of them) and that things didn’t happen too fast or too slow.

My only issues with the flow: There were a few instances that I felt important or interesting action was glossed over to get us to the next development. This happened only a few times, but I did note it. Second, the time passage was done very well in terms of character development, but the chapter headings, being in Japanese (or pseudo-Japanese, I’m not sure) that were supposed to tell us how much time had gone by only confused me, so I had to ignore them.

Spelling/Grammar: 4.5/5. I think I counted four grammatical/typographical errors in this novel. For as many pages as it is (286, paperback version), that’s a pretty good rate (less than one error per fifty pages). I’m happy with that. Good job, Virginia!

Overall: 4.75/5. What a ride! The story starts slow, builds up quickly, and finishes with a bang. I’m hoping for a sequel to this. Thank you for the read! You can purchase Blade's Edge at the link below.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Irony of Time - Slow, Dull, Uninspiring

Today I’m reviewing the PNR novel Irony of Time by M.L. Crum. It involves a young woman, traumatized throughout her life by a tragedy she believes she caused, and the immortal, supernatural creature who inadvertently gives her a chance to go back and fix it.

I did not finish this book. I made it as far as Chapter Eleven before my drive faltered. I feel like the story had potential…but I just couldn’t go any further.

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

Characters: 2.5/5. Meh. I felt no real attachment to any of the characters. There wasn’t any defining conflict or development that really made either of them stand out. The protagonist had a clear-cut desire, but I didn’t feel any growth from her, and the male love interest was boring and single-minded. His investigations did nothing for me, his desire to find her and get her back seemed without real energy or impetus.

Plot/Storyline: 3/5. This could have been very good. The idea of someone accidentally slipping back in time and deciding to make their old choices anew, to avert catastrophe, is a classic but not-yet-overdone storyline. What kept it from being interesting was the lack of conflict. I think that the author was trying to build up suspense…but it was just a long time without anything really HAPPENING.

Flow: 2/5. Slow. Dragging. Plodding. I forced myself to get as far as I did because the use of language and imagery was fairly good, but the pacing…ugh. I just wasn’t hooked, wasn’t intrigued...was bored, frankly.

Grammar/Spelling: 3/5. Noticeable, but forgiveable, grammatical and spelling errors.

Overall: 2.0/5. This was not the book for me. It had a slow build and the characters were nebulous and poorly defined. I hope the author keeps at it; there was nothing unforgiveable or horrendous about this book. It was just…meh.

You can find a copy of it here: < 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Famine by Monica Enderle Pierce: 4.75/5

Today, I am reviewing the Paranormal/Urban Fantasy story Famine by Monica Enderle Pierce. The first in the Apocalyptics series, this is a story in the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have been released from their imprisonment in the Outer Darkness, and so God has sent three soldiers to retrieve them – the Catcher, who will consign their souls back into the Darkness; the Guardian, who is to guard the Catcher; and the Beacon, who guides the Catcher in the journey. Bartholomew is the nascent Guardian who must fight off Famine and find the next vessel for the Catcher.
He’s been looking for fifteen centuries.

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

Characters: 5/5. Everything about these people was perfectly spun. No extraneous characters existed, and I found myself thrilling to the development of each. The book takes place over the span of about a decade, and each individual grows and changes throughout the story.

Plot/Storyline: 5/5. Absolutely outstanding! I was immediately grabbed by the story, and it held my attention till the end. It was unpredictable and compelling, with a large amount of suspense and thrill mixed in to the character development. I enjoyed the hell out of this book.
Flow: 5/5. Wonderful and clean. Onward and forward, with the perfect blend of description and dialogue and action. I was never bored, always wondering what was coming next. Well done, Monica!.
Spelling/Grammar: 4/5. A solid, well-edited work. A few typos were noticed (homophones being the largest offender) but in no way detracted from the story.

Overall: 4.75/5. Why did I put this off for so long? I’ve had this book on my reading list since May, yet other things seemed to take precedence every time I thought about it. I finished it in a few hours of reading, and I’m chomping at the bit for the next in the Apocalyptics series!

You can pick up your own copy at Amazon at the link below. Happy reading!

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Veiled by Jennifer Osborn - an amazing story marred by poor proofreading

Today I’m reviewing the first book in the Shilund Saga, The Veiled – Expanded Edition by Jennifer Osborn. It’s an urban fantasy with a strong romantic subplot involving a species of wolf-humanoids called the Shilund. Although interaction with humanity is forbidden, one of them bucks the rules she was born into and takes in a man who is seriously injured.

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

Characters: 4/5. I enjoyed the characters in this story very much. The late reveal of one of them was a complete surprise yet made total sense, and the interaction between the two main protagonists was realistic and fun. I didn’t understand the main villain much; he seemed a little cliché and stereotyped, but otherwise Osborn did a great job making interesting people.

Plot/Storyline: 4.5/5. This was a real strength of this novel. I really enjoyed the plot twists and the development of the world of the Shilund. Coupled with the strong characters, this made the book a very enjoyable read. I don’t want to give the story away, but I especially liked the romantic subplot (what can I say, I’m a sucker for romantic subplots) and the development of the Shilund tribal structure.

Flow: 4/5. Another high point. I was very pleased by the pacing and the speed the story pulled me through the book. Pages turned at a rapid pace with nary a boring moment. Well done!

Grammar/Spelling: 2/5. Ah. This was unfortunate. This is an example of a novel that is badly in need of another proofreader. There are misspelled words, misused words, missing commas and punctuation errors in many places. Often, I’ll say here “but it didn’t detract from the story,” but it did.

Overall: 3.0/5. Osborn has created a wonderful story and I look forward to the sequel. Please, bring this book in for another edit and make it into the high-level offering that your readers and your writing talents deserve!