Refiner’s Fire, by Ann Nolder Heinz

Books Reviews Anonymous

Another stunning period piece by the author.

A riches to ruin tale of an upperclass southern belle. Lizzie Hamilton’s life gets real exciting, real fast. As she undertakes the journey far from the comforts of her Charleston plantation, she finds herself barraged with a myriad of life lessons. Most of which are learned the hard way, but that’s where all her development comes from.

I like how the author made a story about growth, but didn’t make being rich the end result. For everyday Joes, being a millionaire is something of a wild concept. So the fact that Lizzie hits many of the hardships that the working class endures, it’s not about the money and status. It started that way, sure. Definitely did not end that way. The level of personal development for such a sheltered, proper young lady was massive.

Writing style, again, was well-suited for the tone of…

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Last Stop Freedom, by Ann Nolder Heinz

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You know, I was about halfway through Last Stop Freedom when it finally dawned on me that I read these novels in the wrong order. The way the stories are connected is reminiscent of the Little House on the Prairie books. They tell tales of a specific world through different eyes and other, reoccurring characters. In case you were curious: Last Stop Freedom, Refiner’s Fire, and A Light Within (I think) is the order that makes the most sense. Things flow flawlessly from character to character and, frankly, I enjoyed each one of them.

 

As the daughter of a preacher, Julia Bigsby’s life isn’t too exciting. All that changes when she meets a plantation owner that’s more trouble than he’s worth. Her life loses its dullness quickly, but at what cost? The longer she stays, the more she abhors the Southern way of life—and for good reason. Living in the South is an uncomfortable thing for me. Especially seeing how many people consider the Civil War a trifling matter, and continue on as racist and sexist as can be. Reading through Julia’s journey gave me hope that maybe—maybe—one day, things will change (even though the rational side of me knows it won’t).

 

After reading several books by this author, I’ve come to appreciate the subtle, nuanced approach they take to their romances. Their foreshadowing, as well. The reader thinks they’ve figured things out all by themselves, only to realize that the author was deliberately stringing them along. I know we’ve all seen the romanticized versions of Southern romance (think Gone With the Wind, and things similar). Well, these romantic subplots are written versions. Really. I had actual feelings reading through them.

 

Story pacing took its dear, sweet, Southern time. It really matches with Julia’s character. There’s a lot that goes on. Level and levels of detail went into enhancing the background of the characters and the setting. Character voices, for the most part, were fairly clear. Description and knowledge went hand-in-hand, one serving the other at all times. The author didn’t rely on media stereotypes for their genre. Historical accuracy was excellent.

 

The range of conflict was wonderful, both internal and external. Watching the main antagonist descend into gentlemanly villainy was quite the spectacle to see. Again, a very subtle thing that’s masterfully crafted.

 

This one was quite a bit longer than the others, but worth it. Just like always.

 

Buy it here!

Faithful and Devoted: Confessions of a Music Addict, by Jenna Rose Robbins

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4 stars

 

Faithful and Devoted: Confessions of a Music Addict is exactly what it sounds like. Jenn’s journey through Spain following Depeche Mode is quite the adventure.

 

And it comes with the most heartbreaking ending.

 

The tone is fun and inviting. Though the novel definitely for a niche audience, writing style will beckon the reader to stay. Events flow so naturally together that it makes the ending shocking—forgive the Clickbait aura I just channeled.

 

It’s full of conflict. And yet it never feels like a disheartened story. In fact, for all the risks taken, there’s plenty of learning done. And plenty of reward. Almost all the events were delicious morsels of happiness for any fan. They’re sure to leave a jaw or two on the floor.

 

Regardless of who the reader’s favorite band is, this is a fun little read. It highlighted a wide array of the ups and downs of being a die-hard fan. It also sends a positive message about risk-taking. There’s always going to be a risk of something bad happening. Don’t let it stop you from enjoying your life.

 

 

Buy it here!

Killjoy, by LeVar Ravel



I feel like the mob and hitmen go hand in hand. Killjoy’s no exception. Except…this hitman’s quite different.

 
Gwen’s dealings with the assassin are a bit different than that of her husband’s, the mob boss that hired him. Things with the assassin get more and more bizarre the more she deals with him. He has a zero percent failure rate. But…why? And that’s where the novel really picks up.

 

 

Honestly, I thought I had things figured out after about twenty pages. I was delightfully proven wrong. There’s an air of mystique and mystery maintained throughout the narrative. It helps the reader get into Gwen’s head. It also offers many different possibilities as to the resolution and ending. Because of that, it remains a bit of the unpredictable side.

 

 

I liked the dynamic between Gwen and her husband, Charles. They were both excellent, well-rounded characters that adhered to some common genre tropes. However, they deviated enough to keep their characters fresh.

 

 

I had one or two questions still remaining at the end, but it was more burning curiosity than anything. While I enjoyed all of the novel, I think the ending was my favorite part. Through all the tumult endured, it had a powerful message that will hit the reader hard.

 

 

Buy it here!

Changes

Over the course of the next few days, there’s going to be a few changes. 
Instead of posting a review a day, I’m going to scale down to one every other day. Work, unfortunately, has started eating more of my time. Author interviews, audio critiques, and things like that are currently on hold (except for the one already promised) until I can find the extra time to devote to them like I want. 

That being said, I’ve redone the Patreon a little bit. Basically what it is now is my stepping stone towards my other goals. I want to keep my reviews free for all authors, and Patreon is the way I intend to do that. My reviews will also be cross-posted there. If you like what I do, consider supporting me through Patreon, or promoting it to your friends! 
Reviews will resume on Monday!

Silent Screams: An Autobiography, by Susan Aguilar

Writing about ones tragic experiences can be rough. There’s a certain level of emotionality to be presented that sometimes gets difficult. Silent Screams is one such auto-biography.

 
The beauty of putting it out there is not only therapeutic at times, but it’s also a beacon of hope. “You’re not alone,” it says. “You’re not alone,” is also a sad statement. Things that shouldn’t happen to people are happening to more than statistically reported. Silent Screams, much like the title alludes, feels like exactly that. The tone is that of the author putting words to paper hurriedly, like they’re trying to get the images out of their head. Or trying to tell the story before they’re discovered. It helps to enhance the reader’s emotional experience. Things are kept fairly short–background information given where needed, characters come and go as needed. Even the writing style remains shortened.

 
Some editing and polishing would be beneficial to the message of the narrative. And there’s a powerful one.

 
Buy it here!

Prophet of Marathon, by Bob Waldner 


Whatever you think you might know about how this novel ends, unless you’ve read it, toss it out the window. Right now. It leads the reader in one direction and then veers sharply away from a predictable course. Prophet of Marathon had one of the most satisfying endings.

 
Most of the appreciation comes from the storytelling. James narrates the series of events in the manner of one who’s managed to distance himself from disappointment in his life. Yet his tone maintains some level of brevity and a subtle irony. While his family pressures him to make a real life for himself, James resists. He has no clue what he wants to do. Then he gets tangled up in a scheme that will set him up for life. As you can imagine, that doesn’t go well.

 
The author chose to break away from many stereotypes and tropes that follow this genre. It follows a realistic interpretation of what would happen regarding his circumstances, rather than a Hollywood tale. There’s only a handful of characters to keep track of. It keeps things simple, and it allows for James’ development to be streamlined. Which wound up being the main focus of the narrative. Some of the development was reserved for those closest to James, leading to a lot of interesting little life lessons peppered throughout.

 
James’ voice brought the narrative to life, but it was the series of events and the way they played out that really made the story. There was plenty of foreshadowing leading up. And yet it still remained quite the mystery. No matter how many times James gets knocked down, he gets right back up and powers forward. He maintains an aura of charisma and determination that help facilitate his cause. I liked his interactions with other characters. They were meaningful and served to move the plot forward.

 
And, man, the twists that punctuate this narrative. The part I find comical was the fact that they’re twists because they go against the grain. When Hollywood would have a pivotal positive moment dropped into the main characters’ lap, Prophet of Marathon did no such thing. All these events led up to the well-constructed ending.

 
I enjoyed this novel from beginning to end. The author did a great job not only setting the stage, but executing it as well. Pacing, characterization, and writing style all held up fabulously. Step inside, the scheme of the century awaits.

 
Buy it here!

The White Raven, by Carrie D. Miller

The White Raven - Ebook - 1000

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The White Raven gave me literal chills. Not just once or twice, either. Several times.

 

How many more lives must Aven live through? She’s on lucky number thirteen now. So lucky, in fact, that she settled in modern-day Salem, touting witchcraft freely. A fitting location for the mysteries of Aven’s past lives to haunt her. And everything was off to a great start, too.

 

I could honestly go on about this plot for days, it was that good. The thematic continuity was crafted so well. Not only did the author tackle good versus evil in an excellent way, they tried their hand at karma, too. The subject of karma comes up several times throughout the novel. The way it’s foreshadowed is brilliant. Key events and characters are placed at a point that the reader keeps them in the back of their mind. When the reveal happens, the message is pretty powerful.

 

Witchcraft has so many different renditions in the literary world. I loved the simplicity of magic in this novel. While it’s used often, it never feels like the characters are overpowered. It serves important purpose to the plot, so spells aren’t flashy or showy. The author took their time to make sure they did things right by modern witches, and it shows. The setting gave things a very traditional witchcraft aesthetic. However, modern Wicca makes a giant push for territory. The aesthetic really makes a difference in the tone of the novel. The way it’s written is almost a spell in and of itself. It draws the reader in so far that they lose sight of their own surroundings.

 

Characters came crafted with an expert hand. They had incredible depth. The cast also featured a number of women. The author turned the tables on many common tropes. The women were the stars of the novel, and I loved it. They were the ones in control. This time, it was a guy’s turn to be there as the love interest. I enjoyed the progression and the construction of the romantic subplot, something I don’t say too often.

 

And the ending. Oh, the ending. It was so deliciously evil. I hate it and I love it so much. The most brilliant way to guarantee readership for follow-ups, if there are any.

 

I don’t think I name one thing I dislike about this novel. I enjoyed everything about it–another rarity. This series is now on my watch list, and so is the author.

 

Buy it here!

First Charge, by Amanda Steel


Meredith’s life is anything but ordinary. She’s a Protector. She protects people. People who are destined to do great things in life that need protecting against other people that want to kill them. All in the name of the “greater good.”

 
First Charge takes the morally gray area of right and wrong and runs with it. Both factions believe that their mission is the right one, and so are at war with each other. As a character, Meredith doesn’t care. She is, of course, the one that doesn’t buy into any of it, and herein we have the remaining conflict. Quite a few industry-standard tropes involved in the narrative.

 
The writing style didn’t bring a whole lot of imagery to the table. It was very to-the-point, full of telling the reader what was going on. Because of that, the reading felt jerky. Words, sentences, and paragraphs didn’t flow into each other as well as they should have. There’s definitely some polishing and work needed on the technical side of the novel. The story and plot felt solid all the way around. Characters didn’t feel all that three-dimensional.

 
While a lot of young adult stereotypes ran rampant through the story, the fact that the author chose a LGBT main character was refreshing. And, while her character depth needed some fine-tuning, she reflected good qualities that younger people could look up to.

 
First Charge had good points and bad points, much like any novel. It’s not a bad read.
Buy it here!

John Smith, by Roland Hughes


Hearing differing versions of the apocalypse is always an interesting thing. Especially when they coincide with conspiracy theories. Then there are those that take conspiracy theories to the next level, and boom: we have John Smith, Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars.

 
It starts out interesting enough. It’s formatted in the way of an interview conducted by Susan Krowley. There’s a huge slew of information that follows, and it’s all over the place. It sort of follows a logical progression, but jumps around a lot. I know there were times where even though I had the knowledge, I was trying to piece together how things were related, much like Susan did. The tone is condescending, treating Susan like an ignorant child. Or someone below him.

 
Creativity was on point with how the history of the world unfolded. The picture that the reader starts forming of the world is clear when talking about the past. Not so much when talking about what happened after the Wars. Hoping the author is saving that for later books. Giving the reader bits and pieces of the world at a time, letting the veil gradually lift on just how bad things are.

 
Reading the creative history the author presented was nice. The theories do all tie together, regardless of how they jump around. There’s a lot of information, however, and if the reader’s not careful, they’ll miss something. Breaking up the interview format would help readibility.

 
Buy it here!