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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!