Didn’t Get Frazzled, by David Z. Hirsch, MD

5_8_17 Didn't Get Frazzled

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After watching Scrubs, I never thought I’d find medical media that even compared. Any time the practice gets involved, it’s dark and angsty. Or nothing but unending drama. Scrubs was different in that, at its core, it remained lighthearted and goofy. Of course, there was drama and angst, but it wasn’t the main theme of the show.

 

Didn’t Get Frazzled strikes me as very similar.

 

Seth Levine takes us on his journey as a medical student. His story get split between the years, allowing the readers to navigate the passage of time with ease. To be honest, I took one look at the chapter titles and knew I was in for quite the story.

 

I was not disappointed.

 

Everything that Seth goes through as a student serves as another life lesson. Except he never lets it get him down. He has a dark sense of humor, much like his fellows, and it serves as a coping mechanism. Didn’t Get Frazzled’s told through first person and still maintains a voice that is all Seth.

 

There’s heavy medical jargon, as one would expect. However, the author knows his stuff (I would hope…MD’s attached to the name). I never felt lost. Given the fact that Seth is a student, we learn things alongside him. With clever plot tricks and context clues, the author helps readers understand everything. For the most part, it doesn’t assume anything. I felt comfortable reading it, regardless of my level of medical knowledge. Nor did I ever felt stupid for not knowing anything. Seth and the others routinely make mistakes.

 

Flawed characters are prevalent throughout. All their flaws are story-related, and in line with their character development. Each character felt three-dimensional–the minor ones included. It feels like the same amount of thought and effort went into the background characters as the main.

 

Description was wonderful. There was never that threshold of “too much” versus “too little.” There wasn’t information overload. By that, I mean wherein the author takes three pages to describe a characters’ backstory. It creates pause in the narrative instead of allowing the reader to get to know the character in stages. There was also some obvious diversity in the cast. And they’re never treated as negative stereotypes. Everyone has value.

 

Didn’t Get Frazzled has a lot to offer, including its own little positive message. Life’s going to have curveballs. There’s going to be ups and downs. Sometimes you have no control over a situation. The difference is what you do with it. An excellent read.

 

Buy it here!

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I Am Epic, By Daniel Robledo

5_7_17 I Am Epic

4 stars

Let me preface this review by saying how much I adored I Am Epic.

 

Part of a larger collection of AI, 3p1c is a bot sent to scavenge for useful remnants of the human culture. He stumbles upon one such remnant, and goes against his programming to keep it safe.

 

It follows a lot of tropes handed down by the “AI becoming self-aware” plot. That made I Am Epic predictable in some ways. What made it stand out was the setting: humanity was already wiped out. Yet it didn’t have a steampunk feel to it. It embraced The Last of Us-style setting. Everything wasn’t all “gloom and doom” with a dark, gritty feel. It was upbeat. Hopeful. The entire tone is set by 3p1c’s childlike curiosity and wonderment.

 

The writing is equal parts technical and evocative. 3p1c’s interactions with others are very robotic, thusly true to his character. The voice of the narration manages to change something emotional happens. You feel your chest tighten, even though you know how things are going to play out. You follow along with 3p1c’s ups and downs as he discovers himself.

 

The story made sense and progressed at exactly the right pace. It drip-fed the readers the right amount of information without being overwhelming.

 

Now on to the reasons why I can’t rate this any higher, after gushing like that.

 

There’s so many glaring errors. Not only misspellings, but grammar, paragraphs, and format. There’s also a slight lack of detail when it comes to world building, and it leaves enough for you to feel satisfied. But it leaves some questions unanswered. It was a weird sort of feeling I had at the end. I was full, but I still wanted more, a little more meat to the world, if you will. Especially since it ended in the perfect way to not want a sequel. It did so many things well and right that there should be only one. As amazing as it was to read in its first form, I can only imagine how good this would be with some extra editing.

 

Because of the story quality and writing style, I’m going to justify the higher rating. While numerous, I still can’t say that it was all that bad. It’s such a weird thing to say, I know. I don’t know how the author pulled it off, but they did. I Am Epic thoroughly impressed me.

 

Buy it here!

 

Names of Power (The Angel), by Travis Galvan

5_7_17 Names of Power

4 stars

Names of Power reads very much like a young adult book. It feels jovial, goofy, lighthearted–much like Maximum Ride, by James Patterson. Except narrated in third person, rather than first.

 

We follow siblings Bo and Ren on a very supernatural journey. With some help, they uncover a series of mysteries that will change their lives forever.

 

The authors’ hook is pretty intense without context. It sets a very promising narrative.

 

The very first thing that jumped out at me for this novel was the family dynamic. Ren and Bo come from a very loving home. With a single father, no less. Both of which are so nice to see in YA. Their father is so supportive and loving–sometimes a little too much. Brother and sister have arguments within normal parameters. They all love each other. The author sets up that this novel won’t follow all stereotypes.

 

For the most part, it doesn’t. Ren is a girl that’s not always thinking about boys. She’s smart, capable, and doesn’t need rescuing. She’s not “the chosen one destined to save the world” (yet). Her character development isn’t focused on love and finding “the one.” She gets a storyline that’s about her, and not a plot device that allows someone else to take the spotlight. I thought her character development went in a clear, logical direction.

 

It’s fast paced, so all the action feels nonstop. These kids never rest. Sometimes things felt too easy–like their father being too accepting, but it works. Everything flows from one scene to the next, without any weird breaks or jumps. The tone and style are very lighthearted. Very positive. Even when conflict happens, it doesn’t feel like it gets anyone down.

 

The story is well put together. Everything gets tied up, and makes sense from beginning to end. Even the mystery is well done. It takes unexpected twists and turns and unravels at the right pace. Characters feel like contributors to the resolution. All the information presented to the reader feels necessary, and never feels overwhelming. I can say without shame that it kept me guessing.

 

There’s a little editing needed, but nothing deal-breaking.

 

Given the title and the ending, Names of Power (The Angel), sets itself up as only a fraction of the actual story. It introduces a complete mystery, with a larger one lurking behind. This sets the stage for a story arc of epic proportions.

 

Buy it here!

Hidden Tribe, by Scott Harper and Desiree Lee

5_7_17 Hidden Tribe

4 stars

“Scientific expedition to document aboriginal tribe” is the vibe Hidden Tribe gives off.
Except with Sasquatches.
An entire family, even.
Narrated from the perspective of Sasquatches, the authors take on a unique challenge. How to describe a culture foreign to them without sounding silly? The main Sasquatch, Iktomi, does a decent job of that as he struggles to keep his family safe. From there, he’s determined to keep an eye on these strange humans. Iktomi tracks and observes, narrating to us like an Animal Planet host. Okay, not quite that far, but the roles of humans and Sasquatches do get reversed. Though, it’s still the humans on the hunt for the elusive creatures. Some with good intentions, some not so much.
Each character has their own agenda, and Iktomi is witness to this all. The writing style, for the most part, covers this well. Iktomi’s determination to keep an eye on humans allows him to move around. He tracks the characters as they go about their subplots. A multitude of personalities gives life to a few different stories.
Description was short and to the point, much as you would expect from this type of novel. There was little time for flowery language, given the fact that Iktomi tries to be an observer. Grammar and punctuation were pretty solid. Hidden Tribe manages to find a good setup for pacing. Geared towards giving the right amount of information, paragraphs and sentences were well-constructed. It doesn’t feel like it’s too drawn out with exposition, but neither is it action-packed in every sequence.
Given that, the writing did an okay job with creating tension. Humans are always fighting. Through circumstance, they manage to be on the Sasquatches’ tails the entire time. The author makes the creatures different, but still similar enough to humans. Theories and legends surrounding Sasquatch allow for these similarities. It never feels like the story is trying too hard, or stretching the imagination.
Hidden Tribe was an interesting idea. I liked that a lot. Most often we see humans hunting Big Foot, but never do we get to see the Sasquatches’ side of the story. The authors managed to create a cryptid hook, and it refused to let go. I’m a big fan of this idea. The writing style suited the novel, even if it felt dry in some areas. From beginning to end, everything flowed well, made sense, and loose ends tied up. Couldn’t ask for a whole lot more.
Buy it here!

To Be A King, by G. A. Lindbloom

5_5_17 To Be A King

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Five hundred pages of mafia. Five hundred pages spanning the rise and fall of the Falcone family. Going to be honest, I pictured Carmine Falcone from Batman the entire time.

 

So the story opens with Don Falcone asking Stanley Dunn for a favor. A huge one. He needs his grandson released from prison. While it opens slow, it piques interest. Why is it important? From there, it’s slow progress to our answers.

 

The author created a very intricate story. Character’s are always connected in some way. Together, they push the story along. There’s so many to keep track of, though. It reads very much like Tolkien’s “Aragorn, son of Arathorn, son of Arador…” Very long-winded. And the author pays very close attention to their details.

 

While attentive to detail, there was a little too much. I felt barraged by information constantly. A little background here, some character flaws there, oh! Can’t forget that one barn back in 1969 ’round the bend where Timmy fell down a well… Changing the paragraph breaks would have helped process the information easier. Paragraphs would span an entire page and it was all uninterrupted dialogue. Or sometimes it was the characters’ complete background. Sentences were long, drawn out affairs. Some of it felt overboard and irrelevant to the plot. Cutting some of those out would help with pacing.

 

Most of the description was all related to the actions of the characters. Language was very blunt and straightforward. The tone of the novel is a disconnected narrator. Like a film voice-over. Especially when the author uses exposition to pass the time. And the time jumps were a little weird. Whether five years passed or ten, all the characters felt unchanged. So, while there was character development, the characters didn’t reflect it that well.

 

There was some sex. On the explicit side, but not well-written. The budding romances peppered throughout gave way to some very annoying stereotypes. King, the Don’s grandson, was appealing to every woman. They all wanted him. All the girls were perfect in every way. I didn’t like timing of the “love” word. As it is with a lot of romances, character’s tend to meet and know they’re in love. Without letting you forget it. Sure, it’s idealistic, but makes for boring relationship dynamics.

 

To Be A King is pretty standard when it comes to everything mafia, intricate story and all. Nothing very remarkable stands out. It’s a little too long, and needs edits in several ways. The idea’s there, it just needs refining.

 

Buy it here!

Quantum Door, by Jonathan Ballagh

5_3_17 Quantum Door

4 stars

 

Saturated by an overload of hackneyed tropes, the young adult genre needs more to stand out. Somehow, Quantum Door does exactly that.

 

Brothers Felix and Brady use a drone to take a peek inside their neighbor’s yard. A door opens and they’re no longer in Kansas. What door, you ask? Why the door to another dimension, of course.

 

It’s an interesting take of the “kids transported to another world and become embroiled in their conflicts” trope. There’s a modern Horizon Zero Dawn feel to it. What I like most is that it doesn’t succumb to the stereotypical landscape. In the parallel dimension, where machines rule, things are still bright. Steel and industry aren’t a major theme, natural reclamation is. I picture the landscapes of The Last of Us when describing the setting.

 

Wow, two video game references in one review? Quantum Door was visual in all things but characters. While I have no problems imagining the scenery, characters are a little harder. Their descriptors make them feel pretty generic. Personalities weren’t generic, their appearances were.

 

Personalities read great. Characters were different from one another. Brady and Felix didn’t fight a lot, which was amazing. Oftentimes internal conflict gets taken out on family and friends. It leads to constant arguing and hostility as an overused plot device. The “broken family” trope, if you will. Male and female interactions weren’t romanticized, which was so awesome. I love reading books that allow characters to be friends and nothing more. It allowed Nova, the girl, to have thoughts and personality beyond only a boy. She was her own person, and not tethered to another character.

 

Style was well-suited. It feels like a young adult novel, but is still appealing to adults. The plot never gets too complicated. There’s plenty of conflict to go around. Plot twists happen in logical ways. Story progression and character development go hand in hand with pacing. The reader never feels like there’s an information dump–they’re drip-fed background information. We, as readers, get to learn and grow with the main characters.

 

Quantum Door also breaks out of the “machines take over the world” trope in an interesting way. I love where this novel deviates from the norm. It’s enough that it feels different, yet still holds true to an age-old formula.

 

An excellent young adult read. Well written, full of rounded characters, and a plot that ties things up neatly. Very fulfilling.

 

Buy it here!

 

Love Your Life, by Cheryl Marks Young

5_2_17 Love Your Life

4 stars

 

Love Your Life is a straightforward self-help book. While the title should be a dead giveaway, the purpose is to help you feel like your life has purpose. A reason to get out of bed every morning, something so many lack.
It breaks things down into a literal step-by-step. It starts in the head, and works it’s way to the physical world. It breaks things down further with easy-to-understand analogies and real life “testimonies.” I put the word in quotations because it doesn’t offer quotes from the client. It’s the author’s retelling of the story that we get.
The end of every chapter comes with a little section to fill out. A visual and engagement aid that allows the reader to get involved.
My only real issue is that it takes the same pitfall most self-help books take. Now, this doesn’t apply to the entire book. There’s lots of content that doesn’t assume this. But, it assumes the reader has money. Without offering alternatives, certain key points get emphasized with “my client hired.” That is not a reality nor an option for lots of people. I know it’s difficult to target all audiences. It’s not realistic. Which is why I’m thankful it happened very little. It still allowed for a broad target audience.
Think I’m gonna try it. What could go wrong?
Buy it here!

Fear Inducer, by Ellie Douglas

5_2_17 Fear Inducer

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I’m not very sure where to start with Fear Inducer. It was about equal in strengths and opportunities.
 
Felix Bloom is a psychiatrist with a penchant for murder. His latest toy is a pill to induce intense hallucinations in people with severe phobias. Reactions strong enough that people start killing themselves. And it’s graphic. Good for horror, bad for the squeamish. Some of the scenes were so intense that even my toes curled–not an easy feat!
 
What’s unique about this novel is that it’s told from the antagonists’ point of view. We never see much of a protagonist, and the good doctor is no way an anti-hero. As a horror movie, Fear Inducer would follow the killer, not the victims. Sort of like “How to be a Serial Killer,” only less comedic. Things go a little longer in the novel than they should have. Especially given the ending. The same formula occurs over and over enough times that it becomes monotonous. It’s what you come to expect. When it’s time for the ending–it smacks you in the face so hard. I can’t emphasize that point enough. I’ve never read an ending that made me absolutely reel. In some ways it’s well-done. In others, well…resolution was lacking something fierce.
 
Bloom’s character was an interesting dynamic between the caring doctor and murderous villain. Interactions with others outside of the doctor-patient relationship adds further character layers.
 
Writing style was good, but there were some areas that needed visible editing. Paragraphs were long-winded and didn’t break where they should. It didn’t have the right pacing to enhance the feeling of apprehension conveyed. The “what’s going to happen next?” page-turning fear. The excess chapters contribute to this. Readers are able to guess what’s going to happen, and it breaks the mood.
 
Things were way to easy for Bloom. The conflict was there, but he was too smart. Always. Nigh infallible. Sure, he stumbles on occasion, but it’s brief and not very noticeable.
 
The ending was. It ended without warning. There wasn’t a satisfying “I got away with it!” moment, or an intense struggle. It leaves things wide open for a sequel, but still feels unfinished. I have so many questions.
 
When it comes to inducing fear, this book does a decent job. The scenes of violence did well with description and evoking emotion. It will raise your blood pressure. A phobic variety is available, which helps a little in changing up the scenes. Crafted to elicit anxiety, they usually do their job. A fear inducing start.
Buy it here!

The Strange Life of Brandon Chambers, by Scott Spotson

5_1_17 Strange Life Brandon Chambers

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Strange Life of Brandon Chambers should be “Awful Life of Brandon Chambers.” There’s so much that happens in the first few chapters that you can’t help but feel bad for this kid. You’re shouting, “leave him alone, already!” at the pages. You have a gut feeling it won’t stop. It feels intense. The author sets things up to be huge.

 

Only to leave you feeling let down. Like the air escaped from a balloon.

 

We follow Brandon from a kid to an adult as his life does, indeed, get weirder. Hallucinations, bio-weapons, the paranormal. Things take odd twists. They’re not good or bad twists, they’re…odd.

 

One important thing that stood out was the treatment of mental illness. While it’s still used as a plot device, it doesn’t use demonizing tropes. The author uses tact when bringing it up. Treated with compassion, Brandon is never doubted. Given a support system, his character development is strong. Something I wish was more common in real life. It was at least a nice thing to read. As a result, Brandon has a huge fascination with psychology. He’s hoping for answers.

 

Those answers are what drives the story, not Brandon’s illness. And therein lies a mystery–one that leaves more questions than answers.

 

This has a paranormal, very Da Vinci Code feel to it. Mysterious clues left for Brandon to find, like a scavenger hunt. Clues supposed to lead him closer to the answers he seeks. Touted as huge to the story, the death of his parents and the mysterious clues are a letdown. So much foreshadowing, so many things built up…and it’s not satisfying.

 

Characterization was good. Each of them had their own voice, along with distinct subplots. Conflict, both internal and external, helped their development along. Character’s feel different when compared to where they started from. Some of the character interactions were awkward. Dialogue felt forced, on occasion. The general style was good and fitting for the narration. There was a very detached narrator feel to it. Grammar and punctuation were solid for the most part.

 

Brandon Chambers indeed has a strange life. The author concocted the most bizarre set of circumstances for him to overcome. Never did there seem to be a shortage of conflict. And it all served to further the plot, rather than thrown in for funsies. While there was a shortage of resolutions, I can’t exactly call it a deal-breaker. It hooks you in hard enough that you sort of just accept how things play out.

 

Buy it here!