Assassin: The Killing Grounds, by Simon Corn

6_16_17 Killing Grounds



Becoming an assassin on the Killing Grounds isn’t easy. It’s merciless. Not just the training. Everything is a competition to be the best. Alara’s come to train with the best. Except–oops. The best goes missing.


The author did a wonderful job with the presentation of the Assassin’s Guild. In many ways, it felt different than traditional portrayal. While many stories tend to put emphasis on the importance of the Guild, lots of them fail to elevate that fact. Not so much this Guild. It serves many important purposes. They range from a setting, to a character itself.


There’s a few different story lines present. They’re unique to the characters, even though they’re intertwined. All of them are necessary to the plot and serve to push it forward. Alara, I’m very pleased to announce, managed to be female lead without an actual love story. She was fairly well-written, too. The fact that powerful women had positions of power, without being one extreme stereotype or another was awesome.


Action scenes weren’t bad. They weren’t wordy and flowy. Nor were they super-technical and dry. A nice medium existed between the two. Character motions and actions did get a little repetitive on occasion. I liked the way the character development played out, for the most part. There were times I felt things were a little too on the easy side for Alara. The ending certainly wasn’t what I was expecting. I liked the twists, but one of them came out of left field. A little foreshadowing would have helped the build-up and make the resolution a little cleaner.


Killing Grounds did a lot right in terms of story, development, and characters. There’s some polishing needed regarding the more technical aspects. Paragraphs felt clumped together weird and too long in certain areas. A lot of information came with those paragraphs, so breaking them up would make things easier to read. Sentences, especially towards the end, felt much the same as the paragraphs. The closer it got to the end, the more rushed things felt. There’s a lot happening at once, and some of it feels like chaos.


Sequels and follow-ups for the characters are in the works. I’m kind of excited for that. Even the supporting characters were interesting enough that I want to read their personal stories. Whether or not they follow the main plot of Killing Grounds remains to be seen. This has serious potential to be an excellent series.


Buy it here!

Refiner’s Fire, by Ann Nolder Heinz

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 the novel. Highbrow and proper at the beginning. Narration and dialogue changed with the actions of the story. The farther Lizzie delved into the working class, the more her speech reflected that. 
Knowledge of the time period was obvious and consistent throughout. There were, of course, several stereotypes. However, they felt useful for the end game of the novel. 
Description was quite good. Given the saturation of the Wild West in the media, things were easy to picture. The author took a definitive step away from the classic themes of the West. No gun-slinging deputies or damsels in distress there. In fact, all the women were capable. There were the obvious allowances for the time, but the author took creative license and elevated the women. It never felt like there was an actual villain, or antagonist. There were people with which conflict occurred, but the actual antagonist ended up being her situation rather than a person. 

I did have some questions left at the end. Things that I don’t feel were quite as wrapped up as they could be. There was an allusion to one of the authors’ other novels, A Light Within. One of the characters makes an appearance, and we get a nifty little backstory to them. I like the continuity between the novels. 

Another excellent novel from this author. Bring the olden days back to life in a tasteful way. They always manage to construct such excellent settings and characters. An author to keep an eye on for sure. 

Buy it here!

Burn Over, by R. D. Byron-Smith

Firefighting is a dangerous profession. One that already comes with a list of things to watch out for. Then, sometimes, life throws a wrench in things via the butterfly effect, one in which Burn Over captures in the most heartbreaking way. 

By following two stories that are reliant on one another, the author plays havoc with the readers’ emotions on two different levels. Two sides of life are explored, and the fact that no matter the intent, they can have a negative impact. In such a short amount of time, an excellent basis for characterization starts. The characters were sympathetic in their own right, each served a vital role in the plot. Their development throughout the story was noticeable. It served to give them a more three-dinensional dimensional feel.
It’s paced well. There’s a slow build, but once the climax hits, it hits hard. The resolution was rather fitting. Everything wrapped up nicely at the end. 

Burn Over took me to the Back Draft era, when raging fires were the most terrifying thing because many family members are firefighters. One of which is still active in–you guessed it–California. This hits hard on a personal level. Even without those personal ties this was an emotional story. Well done.
Buy it here!

Parenting at Your Best, by Roni Wing Lambrecht

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4 stars


There’s a lot of parenting self-help books out there. I feel as though many of them are a little lofty. Setting expectations too high, or presenting goals that reflect ideals from television. Parenting at Your Best, however, feels very humbled, very down-to-earth. The parenting tips in there are simple, yet sensible. Respect is a big theme, and I think that’s where a lot of parents fail. They treat their child as property instead of someone to be included. Differences of opinions will inevitably happen (both with children and some of the tips mentioned), but Parenting at Your Best does offer some sound advice. I liked their approach.


Buy it here!

Stone & Iris, by Jonathan Ballagh

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Alison Shaw answered a call one night. One that would change her life, for better or for worse.


I want to say this had almost a 2001: A Space Odyssey feel to it. As Alison progresses through her development, the tone changes. And then it just gets sad. Yet, strangely heartwarming. Whatever the mood, the writing style matched with reader emotion. Enhanced it. The style goes from concrete, where we know exactly what’s going on, to obscure. It follows with the natural progression of the narrative.


It’s an intense little tale. I liked it, and am now having an existential crisis.



Buy it here!

Heavenwood, by Ernest Yungsi

So, you’ve heard of the snowball effect, right? Where something insignificant creates a chain of events that just gradually gets bigger and bigger? Heavenwood was the embodiment of that in novel form.

Jack Mann’s trip to Heavenwood was just a wee bit unexpected. Now that he’s there, his life got a whole lot more complicated. When I say complicated, I mean day time soap opera complicated.

That will bring me to my first point: the drama. There’s always two sides to every story. Well, both sides are equally as important should be awkward moment arise that it needs to be talked about. Which they did. Often. Their stories got deeper the longer things went on. The level of progression it takes to unweave the truth as to why they’re in Heavenwood happens in small increments. A breadcrumb trail leading to something much larger.

Don’t be fooled, however. Drama is not necessarily the staple of this story. It’s a means to an end. Amidst all the conflict, several good messages came out of it. Love, forgiveness…things of that nature. It was done to the tune of modern religion. Everything was alright up until the discussion inevitably turned to sexual orientation. While I like how the conversation got there, I didn’t like the end of it.

Writing style suits the narrative well. Things start short and choppy to set the mood, and then gradually get longer. Not by a whole lot, though. The plot was constantly on the go and the style kept up with that. It created an atmosphere of urgency, which is then reflected by the reader.

The level of depth to the story reflects the level of depth of the characters, as well. The reader gets to know them little by little, and each new chapter opens up a whole new perspective on them. Perspective and not judging a book by its cover are also two heavy themes throughout. All the stories end up intertwined somehow, each character being equally as important as the next. They’re on the journey together, and the plot makes sure of that.

Reading other perspectives on the “life after death” subject is always interesting. No two visions are the same. It brought to life some very basic points that humanity seems to have forgotten. They’re weaved seamlessly, yet obviously, throughout the narrative. Overall it was a good read. Excellent setup from start to finish. Good execution. Very creative.

Buy it here!

Moristoun, by Kevin McAllion

There are so many places I could start with my review of Moristoun. It was the kind of book that was so well put together that I want to talk about everything at once. It had such a good message.

Things in Moristoun aren’t quite what they appear. Between a lawyer and a man that’s given up, the little island holds two distinct meanings.

Alright. To the story. I already said how good it was, right? No? Well…it was great. It was the kind of story that set things up four chapters ahead of time, after snippets of foreshadowing. Once the reader caught onto what was happening, the sense of excitement and anticipation heightened. There was just enough information to cast a niggling doubt in the back of the readers mind that maybe they weren’t guessing right. So when the actual delivery came, it was still something of a surprise.

My first impression of the novel after reading one page was of Terry Pratchett and the Discworld series. The farther I got into it, the more it proved me right. The metaphors and imagery were so creative and appropriate. Off the wall and funny. They hit their meaning on the mark, all the while making a satirical jab at the subject matter. And boy, Are they hard to miss.

As someone who’s dealt closely with the overarching theme of the novel, I liked how it was handled. I liked the message and how it was weaved into the narrative. Sensitive subjects were handled with tact. The author manages to take something of a philosophical approach when world building. It integrates flawlessly with the story.

Characters were fabulous. There was so much depth to them, and they were all relatable one way or another. Their development was palpable and happened at appropriate points in the novel. While the tone of the novel seemed calm and peaceful, there was always the underlying threat of conflict. Both internal and external story lines contributed to the depth and realism. Nothing was ever perfect.

This is yet another I want to add to a list of “must-reads.” It was that good. Everything from character creation to world building was just so spot on. It wrapped up without leaving me questions or unsatisfied. It took a unique approach to a subject that people love to talk about, but rarely in a good context. Definitely add it to your reading list.

Buy it here!

No Review Today

Sorry, guys. No review today. Trying to play catch up and put myself ahead after work tore me down a bit this week 🙂 
Tomorrow’s review will be the written portion for the audio critique subject. This is one that my husband and I are collaborating on, and I’m really excited for it. We’ve gotten a handful of volunteers, so it should certainly prove to be a challenge. One that we’re both looking forward to. 

In the meantime, don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter.  

For those of you on mobile, it’ll be at the very bottom. Or, you can click the handy-dandy link I’ve provided. There’s a drawing going on to have your sci-do or fantasy book bought by me and distrubuted at a local convention! Details and signup available only to subscribers! Hurry. Signup ends July 9th. Winner will be announced on  the 10th. 

You’ll also get access to upcoming reviews and exclusive author interviews. 

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Thank you all so much for being here with me on this journey. None of this would be possible without your support. I only hope my future plans do you as much justice as you’ve done me! 

Savage Swords, by Viel Nast 

Conan the Barbarian indeed. Savage Swords is a parallel that draws from the comics. 
As Gonan leads an expedition through the dangerous jungle, they find out precisely how dangerous. 
It’s got lots of action and it’s not as sexual as I figured it would be. There’s an alpha male theme to be sure, but it’s not a domineering one. There’s not a lot of dialogue, so most of the tone comes through narration. The reader feels like a jungle observer watching from afar. The writing style is drawn-out and kind of flowery, in a way that oozes machismo. For the most part, it suits the narrative. 
It was a quick read, designed to set up their own, custom world. Perhaps the serial will surprise readers with a unique take on an older series. 
Buy it here!

Grave Robbers, by Matt Drabble

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Available June 20th, 2017!

I love it when a book excites me so much that I can’t wait to write a review. Grave Robbers was good. Really good.

A bank robbery botched in a brutal way leads Lucas Grant and his new partner, LT, into the arms of an intense mystery. To be fair, the novel starts intense. Then stays intense. The plot composition fit nice and tight, like the perfect puzzle.
Characters were brilliant. Their personalities and development meshed together so well with the story. They were so well-written–both men and women alike. But, I have so much love and respect for how the women characters were crafted. As characters, I adored all of them. I loved the way the women were received within their story. And all of them were useful, serving to further the plot in one way or another. Equally as important to the story as any of the other characters, without serving as only the “love interest.” Their development was on point.
There are so many things that go well together, and the coolest one thus far has been crime-fiction with zombies. And I’m fairly certain I spotted a nod to George Romero. Which, if it was, was kind of cool because the closer the end gone, the more Land of the Dead it felt. I like the fact that the author takes a different approach to the crime boss that served as the story’s antihero. Comparing character endings, his was my favorite. He had a unique story line that strayed from the stereotypes and norms of the genre. He was also a well-crafted character.
Action is a difficult thing to write. The action scenes in this novel were so awesome. There wasn’t anything flowery or lengthy about the style. Nor was it short and to-the-point. The perfect median between the two, in fact. The wording and pacing helped enhance the imagery. Visualizing everything was simple. I never had a problem seeing exactly what was going on.
It ended in the perfect way. Sure, there’s (hopefully) a huge hint that there’s going to be more. However, I would not be upset at all if this was the only novel. The ending serves both purposes. Not only that, but the stories all wrapped up with an appropriate ending.
This book was awesome. It was a non-stop thrill ride from beginning to end. It’s very rare I come away from a story with zero complaints. An absolute must-read.