Miranda’s Extraordinary Life: The Beginning of the End, by Amanda Byrd

6_6_17 Miranda's Extraordinary

4 stars

 

Dreaming a dream is one thing. Dreaming a reality is a whole other thing.

 

Miranda’s Extraordinary Life: The Beginning of the End, feels like exactly that. So many questions remain that it has to be part of something bigger. And, given her situation, actually might be the beginning of an end. The author manages to set up a lot about the characters and their conflicts in such a short amount of time. It has a whimsical, daydreamy tone that starts with a sense of longing. As Miranda changes, so does the tone of the narrative. It’s a good, quick read.

 

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Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe, by Richard Dee

6_5_17 Andorra Pett

stars-5-0._CB192240867_

What’s better than reading a crime-filled drama? A crime-filled drama…in space!

 

Jokes aside, Andorra Pett and her best friend Cyril take a giant leap to change their lives. By giant leap, I mean they pack up and go to a space station. Near Saturn. Away from the desolation of their romantic lives, the Oort Cloud Cafe might be the answer. It is, only not in the ways they expect.

 

For crime fiction, this had a much lighter tone than I ever expected. It fit in very well with the narrative. The main character’s not a journalist, detective, or even a curious observer. Things don’t feel gritty and hard-edged. Andi wants to start her life over as the owner of a little cafe. She doesn’t have a predisposition for many of the circumstances presented. Yet, she still manages to prove herself without going over the top. That right there sets the tone of what to expect from the characters.

 

What sets this apart is that it’s not a heart-pounding, race-against-time thriller. There’s plenty of tense moments to be sure, but this takes a different approach. It’s very character-driven. There’s quite the cast, all with their own uniqueness to add to the story. They’re all tied together on the tiny space station. Individual stories help push the plot forward. When the time’s right to start foreshadowing, the differences cast harsh suspicion. One minute X might be guilty, the next it was could be Y. Building the narrative in such a way took great care, and it shows.

 

I could probably go on and on about the characterization quite a bit. Development of the two mains, Cy and Andi, was wonderful. Even though it’s told in first person, the reader knows the supporting characters as well as Andi. Steady narrative progression builds up the world and the characters piece by piece. Each part shows careful attention to detail and continuity. Everything feels solid. Things feel tied up at the end. It’s part of a series, but feels like it could be its own standalone novel. Kind of like Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. Only without the young adult tone.

 

This was a really good book in a myriad of ways. Characters, plot, and structure were all spot-on. The story itself was well-written and entertaining. Things were easy to visualize without being jargon-heavy. I can say without a doubt that I’ll be on the lookout for Andorra Pett’s next adventure.

 

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Achievement Unlocked: Newsletter is Live

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Thank you so much to those who have subscribed. This wouldn’t be possible without you. This is a huge step–not just for me, personally, but professionally.

Inside are featured reviews, as well as an Author Spotlight. Which, you may have noticed, is now a new tab on the home page. Can’t read it? That’s because only newsletter recipients have the password to unlock it! Sign up on the homepage or right here!

There’s also a local convention coming up that’s doing a book exchange. A sci-fi and fantasy exchange. One lucky author will have their book bought and exchanged at the con. Sign up for the newsletter to learn how to enter!

The Rashade’, by R. Tran

Mara is the only woman allowed in the League, a fighters guild for men only. She’s dedicated her life to tracking down the man that killed her father. Good news! She’s finally on his trail!

 
Things started slow. About halfway through they pick up and the story itself gets real good.

 
What stood out to me about the novel was the world building. As the reader progressed with Mara, they get introduced to two very distinct cultures. Complete opposites, at that. Mara goes from a male-dominated society to a female-dominated one. What surprised me the most was that both of those cultures were at peace with each other. Transitioning between the two takes some crafty deception. Despite that, there’s a general feeling of mutual respect.

 
I liked the characters and, for the most part, their characterization. Given the constraints of the society created, the women were well-written. They didn’t exactly conform to stereotypes, and that sold me.

 
There were some things I had difficulty with. Like the frequency of the marriages without knowing a person, but still throwing ‘love’ around. I tried to take them with the cultures of societies present, which made things a little easier. I almost want to say that part of the reason is because things jumped around a lot and so time felt a little distorted. It did serve to further the internal conflict of both the plot and character development. So, there was that. And I can say that I enjoyed the main romantic subplot.

 
A lot of the story gets told through dialogue. It gets awkward and clunky real easy. Since there was so much, it seemed forced sometimes. Don’t get me wrong–I’m a huge fan of the story construction. There was enough conflict to go around, both internal and external. All the characters got their turn in the spotlight. There wasn’t one specific character that needed saving. There wasn’t one character to do all the saving. Learning curves for fighting and interactions were appropriate, and the development was noticeable.

 
The reader gets to learn about the characters and world little by little instead of getting told everything all at once. And most of the characters get their fair share. Description lacked in some areas. The narrative broke up in weird ways.

 
I did like this novel, even if there is editing needed. It doesn’t feel as polished as it should. Even with that, though, the story is one that will gradually suck the reader in and keep them.

 
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Achievement Unlocked

After trial-and-error (and a lot of quality time with Google), the signup sheet for the newsletter is live. Somehow, even amidst the utter disasters that were my first, second, and third attempts, I gained a few subscribers. I can’t write it off as a total loss.

It’s on the front page! Check it out.

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there it is!
In addition, the newsletter is almost done. I’m aiming for a tentative release date of Monday, June 5th. Sign up now for an exclusive opportunity!

There should also be a few more additions coming to the site soon.

Baby steps. Aw ye 🙂

Blessedly Bound, by Lucretia Stanhope



A witchy tale of how to not meet family. Gwen Hensley moves to Kansas to find out why her grandmother died. She ends up finding out more than she bargained for, in more than one way.
Being the first novel in a series, it sets up an awful lot for later. Things start intense, then settle down the farther into the narrative the reader gets. Because it spends so much time setting up for the future, there’s a little less time devoted to the present. The reader gets a good grasp of the characters and backstory. However, things feel a little flat. An emotional connection with the characters wasn’t present. On the surface, the reader recognizes that the situation is a tragic one. The style and tone help that. There’s a dark, somber feel to it. The characters even have a dark, somber feel to them. Only, they get overshadowed by the divergent plot lines.
Each of the characters did have their own plot line. Their stories wound up intertwined, yet distinct. I liked that. There was lots of foreshadowing that created a good level of tension. The writing style overall was well suited to the narrative. The dialogue does get clunky in some areas.. It doesn’t flow like natural conversation. It did well to prevent telling the reader too much information at once. Gwen knows only as much as the reader, which helped to develop the mystery and the character interactions.
The unique situations of the character were a huge draw. There’s not a lot I can say without giving spoilers, but the sexual tension was insane. Most of the placement was good. Some of the progression left me scratching my head. Some of it could be the lacking character depth and back story.
I liked the way the magic was set up. A lot of times it’s overpowered and used as a convenience. The magic contained in this novel didn’t feel like that. It falls back on a popular trope, but maintains a different feel than most. I will admit I’m excited to see how the build-up comes to a head.
Not a bad read overall. The narrative is set up for big things to come, and I’m kind of excited to see where it goes. While the main story for this novel gets tied up at the end, there’s so many questions left for the future ones.
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Chasing Evolution, by Roy T. James 



Sounding more like a textbook or scientific journal, Chasing Evolution takes on the subject of current sexual practices and standards. What are the scientific reasons behind them? Where in the evolutionary chain did humans start these? 
The wording is heavy, and at times, convoluted. Remember when I said it sounds like a journal? It’s jargon-heavy and sometimes difficult to follow. The way the information gets broken up in the narrative enhances that. The book’s divided into chapters depending on thesis. It doesn’t help the flow of the points the author’s trying to make. 
The author provides examples to their points using the animal kingdom and general human society. Sometimes they seem relevant. The ones involving the animal kingdom did, at least. I’m still undecided as to my opinion about the others. They occasionally came off as “women are the root of this,” at least when taken in the context of the modern world. It seemed like psychological and societal factors were more of the intended reasoning. I’m not saying that was the authors intent, however. Perhaps it was just the language. 
I still have mixed feelings about this novel. I like the idea. The execution method could be adjusted for a wider audience. 
Buy it here!