Aversion, by Kenechi Udogu

4_24_17 Aversion


Averters prevent things from happening that would alter a person’s fate. With their mind. They have these things called ‘jolts,’ which allow them to see a crisis. From there, it’s the job to make sure they avert the crisis (see what I did there?).


Gemma Green is an Averter responsible for doing exactly that. But her first one goes wrong. Now she has to fix it.


Both the idea of the Averters and the overarching story are interesting. It’s creative. And the unravelling of the Averter mystery is well done. Everything ties together nice and neat.


It does a lot right for being a first novel. The appropriate, tantalizing amount of foreshadowing and background story. There’s a lot of information thrown at the reader in the first few pages. It’s told in first person, so it reads like a boring introduction. It’s very dry and formal. Not the best of starts for the story. Instead of drip-feeding the reader information, it’s all thrown in at once.


I’m not a huge fan of the stereotypes that followed. Gemma, of course, was the “girl that’s not like other girls.” She doesn’t like makeup or boys. Her emotions are so unavailable that she’s mean to everyone. The loner. Overused, but bearable. Then there’s the jock that can’t stop thinking about her after the Aversion goes wrong. Important to the story, but executed in a cheesy manner.


There were a lot of long, drawn out paragraphs and run-on sentences. The reader spends a lot of time in Gemma’s head. Dialogue interrupted every once in a while, and we receive a lot of good exposition in the process. Predictability was rampant throughout the exposition. Because it follows the tropes most YA novels fall into, it’s very easy to guess what’s going to happen.


I’m sad that it chose to follow the tropes that it did. Aversion holds a unique idea, weakened by following an overdone formula. Grammar and style were alright. Gemma’s tone was fitting for her character. It held that condescending note that many first person stories tend to have.


It’s still ends in a way that makes me want to read the next one. Averters are curious things. I’m interested to see where things go from here.


Buy it here!



Hallow Mass, by JP Mac



All the time, people want to use the Necronomicon as a pivotal plot point for their novel. Often, it’s misused and misrepresented, contorted to whatever special need the author decries


Imagine my delight and surprise then, in Hallow Mass, to find that the book’s used as intended. And what a narrative built around it.


Told through third-person, the novel follows two groups: the “good” guys and the “bad” guys. Or, those trying to use the Necronomicon and those trying to prevent its use. Chapters headings are newspaper clippings or quotes related to the story. They provide hints, bits and pieces of background story, and foreshadowing. The narrative uses book excerpts or scripts to give the readers an easy information dump. With the author’s tone and informal style, it fits. Not once did it rip me from the story.


The author did a wonderful job taking potshots at big corporations. Hilarious, and exactly how things pan out in the real world. Creative and so well done. The characterization was great. All the characters were different, and it was diverse. Even without naming the characters during dialogue, it was easy to keep up and know who was who. With exceptions, each character had their own plot and series of development. And it’s easy to discern. Grammar and punctuation were all on-point, contributing to the tongue-in-cheek narration.


I’m always wary of female protagonists. Wary, but I love them. Only because nine time out of ten, they’re not written well. They always seem to fall back into some lame trope that destroys their character. Which explains why Mercy’s character stood out. Best of all, there’s no love story that every female protagonist seems to have to succeed as a character. There was none of that. She was her own personality without relying on others for it. The supporting characters did that: support without being overbearing or “I’m the man, I’m in charge now.” And boy, is she easy to identify with. All college students have been there at one point or another.


Even the description was right where it needed to be. There’s plenty of information on the characters, but the setting requires attention too. And the author delivered. The description of the small-town nature set the scene.


Things felt a little too easy during the climax, but given the cliffhanger at the end, there’s more to come. If things are easy on the protagonist at first, only to embroil them deeper later, then so be it.


I’m ready for next year’s Hallow Mass.


Buy it here!

Campion’s Choice, by Geoff Warwick

4_17_17 Campions Choice

4 stars

Meet Jack Campion, your average thirteen-year-old. Except he finds weird coins and elephants in abandoned air-raid shelters. And makes piggy banks explode, and…Jack does a lot more than the usual kid his age.
I like the fact that while Jack’s life takes the obvious weird turn, his focus is clear: make his dad better. After an accident left his dad a walking vegetable, things haven’t been so great for the Campion family. It shows in the way Jack presents himself to other people. His emotions have range, and he uses them to his advantage to stay focused. Even when the aliens come for him. Or people get murdered. And now Jack must channel his inner Nancy Drew to figure out what’s going on.
The author’s style suits this novel. It was weird and choppy, like a kids’ brain. Not once did I experience an information dump. Backstory and minute details get fleshed out through dialogue and worldly encounters. The writing is very solid. It’s descriptive enough without being too much or too little. It’s humorous, without detracting from the importance of the situation.
Each of the characters were three-dimensional as well. Jack, Tia, and Liam all have their own unique personalities important to the story. All supporting characters, such as Jack’s dad, were all distinct. While distinct, yes, character development lacked. The character development for Jack is obvious. Main characters are easiest to coax along. Secondary characters are where the struggle gets real. That’s one area where this novel lacked. Or, in Tia’s case, thrown in as an afterthought. Only a few sentences at the end.
Another thing that bothered me was the age of the characters. Jack and Tia, the two that the narrative focuses on, are thirteen. Boy, do they not sound like it. While they don’t sound like it, their age explains why they up and agree to go along with aliens without much of a problem. Downside is, Tia’s character feels thrown in only to be Jack’s ‘love interest.’ There’s too much there. They’re kids. Boys and girls can be friends without any romantic attraction. Please, stop this trope. It’s so bad. And I don’t see any way it serves the plot.
Armed with a unique plot (something so rare nowadays), the author manages to tie up all the loose ends except for one or two—and they’re the ones you know are going to be the focus of the next few books. I love knowing that I finished a book without a multitude of questions that won’t have any play in the future. Well done.



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Dragon’s Bane, by Melody Jackson

4_14_17 Dragon's Bane

4 stars

After reading the summary, I had two initial impressions.
First, that Dragon’s Bane was going to be a classic “Chosen One” story trope. Only the main character could solve all the problems. Second: the main character was going to become engrossed in an awful love story.
All things considered, I wasn’t wrong.
A young woman named Lena narrates how she didn’t mean to steal that dragon–and there it is. The reader’s hooked. How does one ‘accidentally’ steal a dragon? How does she not know that she stole a dragon? What circumstances led to that? The reader is asking a million questions, and they’re only a few pages in. Conflict’s established right off the bat. Not only for the chapter, but the novel as well.
The story premise is not wholly unique–but I like it. One country looking for a hostile takeover of another. People live in fear of infected dragons that want to burn their cities to the ground. A must-have quest for the one item to win the war for the underdogs–and Lena is the person to do that. There’s the possible evidence to support the “Chosen One” trope. I use the term “possible” because things seemed straightforward at first. Foreshadowing was in all the right places. Still, one of the two twists caught me off-guard. Kudos to the author here: it’s hard to do that to me. Later books could prove me wrong.
While not the most diverse of casts, Dragon’s Bane still contained more than most. Jackson was explicit when ensuring readers knew which characters weren’t white.
Grammar and punctuation are all solid. Dragon’s Bane has an excellent level of readability. Characterization is solid as well. Each character has their own unique voice. They feel three-dimensional. The narrator, when the point-of-view switches away from Lena, feels like a character. Jackson made sure that the POV switches came at appropriate times. Not once did I ever feel lost or disconnected from the story when it switched from first to third person.
Story pacing was okay. A few points in the exposition were too drawn out. They slowed the story down too much. Then the action resumed and I forgot about it.
These are all very good things that make this novel stand out. There were some things later on that I felt weakened it.
At first the banter between Lena and another character, Blaze, was cute. They both have smart mouths and hot tempers. They don’t like each other: I get that. After a while, it became a chore to read. It was constant. It got so old so fast that I found myself gritting my teeth when they were in the same scene. I hated the way he treated her. I hated the way she let it all go and tried to “fix” him. I still do not like their relationship.
As for Blaze himself…much like the banter, his personality was bearable at first. Then he started taking the ‘brooding bad boy’ trope too far. Everyone seemed ready and eager to brush it off as ‘that’s Blaze,’ no harm no foul. I started to hate him. Still do, though the reason behind his actions gets explained. There was no excuse for his behavior. Later content could change my mind, but for now I stand by my opinion.
Actually, there’s one or two things that I hope get explained later. I loved the idea behind the cliff-hanger at the end, don’t get me wrong. I read the final few paragraphs, sat down, and wondered aloud: “then what was the entire point of all this?”
Dragon’s Bane was a good read. I enjoyed it despite the few personal problems I had. Jackson is a talented author, and I am excited to read more.
Buy it here!

The Book of Moon, by George Crowder

4_3_17 Book of Moon

Alright, so, The Book of Moon sounds very much like another book I’m sure many people have heard of: The Book of Job. Guess what? That’s not a coincidence.

The Book of Moon begins with the main character (named Moon Landing—I’m not sure if I want to applaud his parents for their sense of humor or…) summarizing the trials of Job for the audience. Right here is where we hear Moon’s voice, and determine what kind of novel this will be. Now, don’t get the wrong impression—this isn’t a novel about religion. It’s a novel about finding the self in the midst of crisis.

Told in first-person through Moon, The Book of Moon narrates how he and his brother, Moss, deal with their parents’ divorce and subsequent backlash. Both Moss and Moon are trying to take of each other and still try to find their place in the world. Of course, while most of the things the brothers are going through seem trivial to most adults, I think that the author represented the struggle of children well. There was nothing super-fantastical about it—no dragons to fight, no Chosen One—but Moon still managed to go on quite the adventure.

Another strength in this novel was that even though the parents were getting divorced, and the obvious conflict arising from that, never once was the father portrayed as the bad guy. He wasn’t abusive, neglectful, or dangerous. This was quite possibly my favorite part.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a huge dislike for first-person storytelling.  Most of the time the main character comes off as a conceited know-it-all with poor word choice and no individuality. The Book of Moon is one more novel that gives me hope for first-person. Moon told his story in a captivating way that only a young man can: with such satirical humor it’s easy to picture the tone and setting of everything going on. Readers of all ages will be able to identify with Moon and just say “same.” Not a word wasted, or a plot string left hanging, The Book of Moon is a very well-rounded book.

The whole time I’ve been writing, I’ve been trying to think of just one thing I had a problem with, or something that just didn’t sit quite right with me. I’m struggling, honestly. The author did a fantastic job creating three-dimensional characters and settings that really stick with you. I loved it.

Buy it here!