Affliction, by Dottie Daniels

5_15_17 Affliction

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At first, Affliction appears to be your everyday, run-of-the-mill zombie novel. Seanna wakes up and zombies are on the prowl. She goes to try and reunite with her family and–oh. She got bit. This is where the novel takes a different turn for the zombie genre.
 
I liked where it went. It was full of twists and turns, able to keep me guessing. And it ended on the perfect cliffhanger for a sequel. The story wrapped up in such a way that there’s loose ends, but they’re purposeful.
 
While the characters, for the most part, were different, some sounded the same. Affliction utilizes first person–an apt choice for the type novel. Seanna and her boyfriend, Graham, were the only two that popped. There were plenty of supporting characters. Each of them served a direct purpose to the plot. They felt a little flat, though. The interactions were fabulous.
 
The story pacing was good. Things happened in a way that made sense. It’s not an ultra-violent, hack-and-slash, survival zombie novel. There was a meaningful narrative. One that got built up very well. When it came to characters, the author was a big fan of the information dump. The story would pause for a few pages to give an entire background on one character. Not only did it jolt me out of the story, but it served to confuse me as well. I loved learning about the characters–don’t get me wrong. They had interesting backstories. The timing was off. It broke the flow and continuity.
 
Affliction does need editing. Paragraphs were long, full of exposition, internal monologues, and observations. Description wasn’t lacking. The fact that Seanna was a paramedic made for wonderful telling and plot points. While description wasn’t lacking, there was an awful lot of telling, not showing. There’s a lot of information to be had. Sentences run on for miles. There’s multiple tense changes per sentence. The writing style feels solid, but the technical writing aspect needs adjustment.
 
I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I liked how it started one way, and then went in a completely opposite direction. It was suspenseful, with a solid plot and characters in the right spots. There’s plenty of areas for improvement, but the same applies to lots of novels. I’d like to see a more polished version. Regardless of any of that, the author has a knack for good storytelling, and I look forward to future novels.

Buy it here!
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Wrestling Demons, by Jason Brick

5_14_15 Wrestling Demons

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Release date is June 19, 2017

Wrestling Demons, as it turns out, is about a high-school wrestler that–wait for it–fights demons.

 

Not on purpose. Not at first, anyway.

 

Connor Morgan is a varsity wrestler whose life changes after a strange attack on school grounds. The mystery that follows is a tightly constructed one. One of the good types. I thought for sure I had the actual end figured out. Nope. Point to the author.

 

Drawing heavily on Japanese mythology, the author demonstrates their commitment to research. Yet, it avoids most of the stereotypes that usually follow. Connor isn’t the “Chosen One,” or the white savior. Connor is part of a team. While that team consists of supporting characters, they all feel indispensable. No one gets left behind, and there was some attention paid to their character development. They still felt like individuals with their own personalities. All their interactions were well-done, and the dialogue never felt clunky.

 

Despite past occurrences, Connor still has a loving family. Words can’t express how much I loved the dynamic. The implicit trust (and refusal to break said trust). The communication that families should have. It still utilizes the broken family trope, but they’re more cracked than anything. Still held together.

 

I see what the author was doing with romantic subplot. It served a purpose, and it started promising. The farther along in the narrative it got, the less and less I liked his love interest. Her character was fine. It was the actual interaction and conversations between her and Connor I didn’t like.

 

Speaking of narrative, Connor does an excellent job of recounting his adventures. The tone was appropriate for his character. Details were where they needed to be. They felt more like passing observations, but still gave the reader a good idea of what was going on. Action scenes were well-written. There wasn’t anything super-elaborate or flowery. It wasn’t all “this happened, then this.” There were no “superpowered” kids that learned Kung-Fu in two weeks. It had a nice pace with excellent attention to continuity. When it came down to wrestling, the author didn’t assume that the reader knew the rules. I learned something from this novel. Always a bonus.

 

I liked the positive metaphors Wrestling Demons contained. And they were obvious metaphors as well. Nothing too convoluted. Nice and simple. The story ended tied up, neat and clean. There was enough left in place to hint at the possibility of a sequel; something I would very much look forward to.

 

An Incredible Talent for Existing (A Writer’s Story), by Pamela Jane

5_14_17 An Incredible Talent for Existing

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One of the most encouraging things someone can hear is how late someone achieved their dreams. They didn’t wake up at the age of 23-24 with a degree in hand and their foot inside the door. Nor did they know what they wanted to do until well past that. Or have encouragement to do so. Yet, despite all that, the author still manages to achieve what they wanted.

 

As soon as I saw the title, An Incredible Talent for Existing, I knew I was in for something special. And I was. This book has more motivational potential than quite a few self-help books. The author recounts how their life derailed, and how they got it back on track. Except (because, you know, life) things don’t go as planned. It’s realistic, and it gives a lot of hope for other people who aren’t handed things on a silver platter. Now, that’s not to say that the author didn’t put in their fair share of hard work, but persistence pays offs. Being patient does as well. At least, within boundaries enough to not stall the journey.

 

Most importantly: it’s okay if it’s not happening now.

 

The author’s writing style complimented the story. It felt nostalgic, light, and airy. And hey, sometimes real life makes a much better story than things contrived.

 

Buy it here!

Dating in the Apocalypse: Sarah “The One” (Book 1), by Christopher John Chater

5_13_17 Dating in the Apocalypse

4 stars

I’ll be honest: I had my doubts about how this was going to turn out.

 

After a date gone wrong, Tom Collins goes another day without the love of his life. Or does he? And, let’s be real, who is he to define ‘bad date’ in the middle of an apocalypse?

 

A lot of thought went into Dating in the Apocalypse. There’s quite a bit of backstory to unveil in a such a short space. There needs to be enough information given about characters. The author succeeded. The right environment is present. We have enough of an idea as to what apocalypse they enjoyed, as well as the state of the rest of the area. Tom and co. feel well-rounded. They’re likeable characters. My apprehensions of the ‘damsel in distress’ trope was effectively dismissed. The women were very well-written.

 

The writing style complimented the tone of the novel. I love the creativity that went into crafting the narrative. While, yes, it is an apocalyptic novel, it strays a little from the tried-and-true formula. Those little strays make a big difference in separating this from the rest. Well, that and the premise of the story itself, which was unique.

 

Action-packed, character-driven apocalypse. I wonder if they’ll ever make a game show out of this?

 

Buy it here!

The Revolutions of Caitlin Kelman (Book 1), by Matthew Luddon

5_12_17 Caitlin Kelman

4 stars

Oscar Wilde once said that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” While I tend to agree, sometimes there’s glaring evidence of the opposite.
The Revolutions of Caitlin Kelman is one such novel. A dystopian YA that takes us through the corrupted streets of Dominion City. A place where the rich get richer, and the poor die in the streets. A city on the cusp of revolution as the Empire is set to crumble. Where the people might finally have a voice without fear of oppression.
Sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? Especially given the fact that Caitlin’s considered an illegal immigrant. Pretty sure I read that in the news only yesterday…
I will admit that while the story is good, the world-building is a little convoluted in areas. Or, rather, the reader needed a little more information. I want to know a little more history of how the Empire took power, how things were before. Something to compared Caitlin’s life to.
An interesting mystery takes place as both factions want Caitlin for themselves. And, no, this isn’t a case of “the Chosen One” trope. There’s different agendas and storylines hinted at. I’m hoping the next novels will continue to expand on them. Motives are political, and Caitlin’s adverse reactions reflect that well. As a whole, her character felt right for the story. There’s a myriad of supporting characters, but most of them felt fleeting. By the end of the novel, Caitlin’s character development had started. Some of the other characters got left behind.
There was, of course, a love story. It wasn’t too bad. The best part was that it was integral to pushing the plot forward, instead of just being a subplot.
Most of the writing was solid. The story tied together well. And it stands to set the other novels and their conflicts up. Detail felt lacking in a few places. The scenery, for the most part. The action was well-described, and there was plenty of that. I still don’t feel like I’ve got the best idea of what Dominion City looks like. I keep picturing a weird amalgamation of Gotham City and the Hooverville shantytowns of the Great Depression.
The worst part about starting a new series is that you don’t get all your answers at once. I have so many, and the author sets up a tantalizing cliffhanger at the end. I’m interested to see where the world ends up at the conclusion. Sincerely hoping that Dominion City has a much brighter future than how our own is looking.
Buy it herehere!

Pepper, Pumpkin, and the Magical Pajamas: Pumpkin is Missing, by Rita Madison

5_11_17 PP Magical PJs

4 stars

We all know pajamas are awesome. But did you know that they’re magical, too? Pepper sure knows.
But, poor Pepper’s lost her cat, Pumpkin. She’s so sad. She looks everywhere for her best friend! Alas, poor Pumpkin remains missing. What will Pepper do?
Easy to read and well-illustrated, Pepper, Pumpkin, and the Magical Pajamas is a cute kids book. It encourages kids to ask for help when they need it. They’re also encouraged not to give up, no matter how sad they are. It also demonstrates loving relationships between characters.
The only thing I didn’t like was how the narrative jumped to the past, when Pepper first got her cat. It felt disjointed and out of place. Shook me out of the story. I almost think it fits better as the beginning, rather than the middle. There’s a little editing needed. It still reads well, regardless.
It has a cute story. I enjoyed the resolution, as well as the events that lead to it. There was humor in the right places. Characters were likeable. The story itself has appeal. And adults might like it because it doesn’t have quite the same formula as many children’s books do. And, it’s the first in a series.
Buy it here!

When The Light Goes Out, by Shawn Bartek

5_11_17 When The Light Goes Out

4 stars

What usually comes to mind when you think of the lights going out? Most likely some kind of horror movie, where bad things happen.

 

Whelp, When The Light Goes Out, bad things continue happening to young Ami. High schoolers stuck in the middle of an evacuation with no parents sounds like a recipe for disaster. To be fair, it wasn’t all their fault.

 

The narrative at the beginning is deceptive: it opens like a Young Adult would. With characters introduced and conflict established, the tone takes a hard left. An unexpected hard left. Readers feel the same sense of urgency as Ami. They start to panic with her. Word choice and sentence structure set the pace well. The plot makes appropriate twists and turns. And the plot, as a whole, wasn’t an industry standard. I kind of liked that.

 

What I liked most about the characters was that they were real. They weren’t perfect do-gooders with a penchant for saving the world. They’re flawed: they drink, smoke, do drugs, and break the law. Yet they’re not the antagonists. Nor are they “bad apples.” All were real people, not boring cutouts. All of them feel like different people. The series of events that occurs does wonderful things for their character development. While they weren’t always getting along, their disagreements weren’t over-the-top. They served as learning experiences, and the writing acknowledges that. The narration did well to show and not tell the story.

 

Character descriptions I felt lacked, but scenery was perfect for the writing style. So were actions. I little issue picturing what was going on at a given time. For the most part, I felt as though character had realistic reactions to all their mishaps. There was no “sudden superhuman strength” to get them out of jams.

 

Let me tell you that I enjoyed the romantic subplot in this one. Shocking, I know. I’m such a stickler when it comes to romance. It didn’t follow the standard formula, which was fabulous. Especially since writers have a tendency to use a toxic formula for teen romance. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m not going to say much more. But. This was a well-done subplot.

 

A few noticeable errors did pop up from time to time. Most of the writing was pretty solid otherwise.

 

When The Light Goes Out is a nice read. Slow to start, but once the action starts, it doesn’t stop. It will actually keep you turning the page.

 

Buy it here!

 

A Light Within, by Ann Heinz

5_10_17 A Light Within

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Not only do I get the privilege of being the first to review this book on Amazon, but I get to give it five stars!

 

A period piece about breaking traditional gender roles is how I describe A Light Within. A young woman named Cora laments about her inability to attend medical school. Because she’s a woman. Alright, pretty standard for the time. The events that follow are anything but standard.
Set during a time of abolitionists and women becoming self-aware, A Light Within takes on a heavy task. There was much going on in the pre-Civil War era that was important, and the author managed to encompass quite a bit.
Something that stood out besides the excellent writing, was the attention to detail. A heavy bit of research seems to have gone into everything from locations, to speech and dress. The novel never feels like it “breaks character” and has modernism creep in. Though it does mimic certain current events, or are we repeating history because we can’t seem to learn from it?
While traditional in some ways, we see more and more of the opposite as the story unfolds. And the story’s woven tighter than Gordian’s Knot. Later on, it morphs to takes on a more To Kill A Mockingbird feel. The issues of morality, good and evil, and racism are now at the forefront.
Now, anyone who reads my reviews knows my thoughts on how romance gets portrayed. It usually follows the same formula over and over again. The woman’s thought process of “I and independent and don’t want a family” changes when she meets a man. What’s different about Cora is the fact that she does want that. Eventually. She has things to do first, and she remains true to that. The love story that blossoms with her is well done. It’s subtle, and progressive, and it doesn’t try to take away from the story. In other words: it remains a tertiary theme.
Characterization represented and interesting dichotomy, especially within Cora’s family. Remember how I said traditional gender roles get broken? Look at the character development. There are significant points that the reader can see it happen. The author isn’t subtle about it at all. Nor are they apologetic.
There was a lot I liked about this novel. Writing language from a different time is a difficult task, but the author was up for the challenge. A Light Within is very immersive and so well-written. A great deal of thought and effort went into this novel and the result is stunning. A must-read.
Buy it here!

Uncle Herbert, by Philip C. Elrod

5_9_17 Uncle Herbert

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We all have that one weird relative in the family, right? You know the one I’m talking about: dresses weird, talks weird. Your family talks in hushed whispers about how they’re ‘just not right.’

Meet Uncle Herbert. He happens to be that guy. And now he’s gone and dragged his nephew, Andrew, into the fray.

The events of this novel fit right into the eccentricities of Uncle Herbert. It’s a wild ride from start to finish.

The story was neat and tidy. Well thought-out, and finishes with questions answered. For the most part, every character served a crucial role to the story. I say ‘for the most part,’ and I’ll get to that in a minute.

While well-written, there was a lot of uninterrupted dialogue. Properly spaced, mind you, but it felt like one long speech when characters talked sometimes. There was no action to break it up. It was excellent exposition and the information was necessary. It didn’t need to be all at once, though. In some parts, it did serve to jump the narrative ahead, especially given the time frame.

Some of the character interactions felt forced, as did the love story. Remember when I said each character served a crucial role to the story? Avril didn’t. She felt thrust into the narrative to serve as nothing more than the love interest. Her character doesn’t feel as rounded as the others. I like how it ended, I didn’t particularly care for how we got there. The character development was okay. Andrew’s was the most notable, as expected of first person narratives. I wish some of the supporting characters had a little more to them, though.

The author takes great care in how the story unfolds. Character placement and personality become very important, something they manage to reflect. What I liked most was how the author managed to weave little seeds of doubt for the loyalties of the characters. It kind of felt like I was playing Clue. As the cast expands, readers analyze every detail to try and predict how the story will turn out. Because of this, Uncle Herbert isn’t as predictable as it first seems.

There’s some minor editing needed. It’s not enough to tear the reader out of the story.

Uncle Herbert was a book of unique tastes, much like the man himself. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this novel, but I can say I wasn’t disappointed. Adjusting the way the reader’s given information would help how the narrative progresses. Uncle Herbert is a very worthwhile read.

Buy it herehere!

Quest of the Golden Apple, by Geoffrey Angapa

5_9_17 Quest for the Golden Apple

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Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Tolkien and Lewis Carroll wrote a book? Not just any book, but a fairytale. The Quest of the Golden Apple shows us exactly how awesome that would be.
 
Now, there is quite a bit of editing that needs doing. Paragraphs are super-long, and have multiple characters talking in them at once. The occasional punctuation and grammar mix-up. The sentence structure is long, too, but it sets the right tone and pace for the story.
 
From talking animals to elves, Geoffrey’s quest leads him all across the land. It reads almost like the Hobbit. It has flowery prose paired with an older type of language. It has elements of more modern times, yet medieval characteristics. Kings and princesses amidst the existence of London and Tokyo.
 
The sequence of events is creative. For what it was, I don’t have questions left unanswered. Character development is palpable. Not only are stereotypes for men and women broken, but also for the main character. Geoffrey learns many lessons throughout his journey. In turn, the readers learn lessons–positive ones, at that. The journey that we start on won’t always go our way. What’s important is how we adapt, refocus. I would love to read this again once edits happen.
Buy it here!