Review of “Shattered Advances (The Struggle for Probana) by TC Squires

Shattered Advances (The Struggle for Probana) by TC Squires is a YA sci-fi adventure told through the eyes of a young man, conscripted by the military to ward off invasions from the mysterious enemy known only as Shrouds. It takes you on an emotional train ride as Kaene suffers through loss, responsibility, and the escalating pressure put on him by his new position in the military, as well as his own determination to see the war end.

The writing was detailed and consistent, giving a refreshing taste of a narrative being told through dialogue rather than an off-page narrator, which helps you stay immersed in the story as well as the world. It stays well-paced, revealing only what needs to be revealed at the time, and never skips a beat in unfolding the narrative.

However, some of that dialogue was difficult to navigate as well as read. Everyone talked so formally—and I mean everyone. It made things a bit dry and boring occasionally.

Some of the interactions felt really forced as well; it felt like the author felt obliged to include a romantic subplot, and that was fine, but it was put together rather poorly. At one point Kaene’s advances start to come off as really creepy, though I don’t think that’s what the author meant for.

All in all, Shattered Advances is an excellent set up and beginning to what very well may play out like Ender’s Game.

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Review of ‘The City Darkens’ by Sophia Martin

The City Darkens by Sophia Martin is everything one would want in a fantasy, decopunk world (and I had to look up what decopunk really was). It creates a whole new world where robots run rampant with a roaring 20’s backdrop. Sophia’s writing style brings it all to life in the mind’s eye without being overbearing on the senses.

Throw in a dystopian regime which eventually shows signs of giving way to Nazism, a Norse theme by which society and religion are governed, a very mature outlook on both feminism and sexuality, The City Darkens has a tight grip on exactly what kind of message it’s trying to convey.

Not only the world, but the main character, Myadar, is brilliantly crafted as one of the best-written heroines I’ve seen in a very long time. Myadar is a woman. Just that. Sophia doesn’t make any distinction about what ‘category’ Myadar fits into. She just is. And I loved that; a refreshing step back from how women are traditionally written.

Perfectly paced to, quite literally, keep you turning the pages. I devoured the book in a day. I was reading before work, at work, and when I got home from work. To make it better, Sophia ended the novel with a cliffhanger that was infuriating and oh-so-tantalizing. I smell a sequel? I can only hope.

Also, I worked very hard to keep this concise; there’s so much to go on about it’s not even funny.

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Review of Elizabeth Einspanier’s ‘Sheep’s Clothing’

Elizabeth Einspanier’s tale Sheep’s Clothing is a short, concise, and to-the-point representation of vampires in the Old West. Oh, and there’s a skinwalker, fighting to free a love lost to him.

I’m not normally a big vampire reader (I wasn’t much into them before and, I’m sorry, but Twilight absolutely ruined any desire I had to read/watch something with vampires or werewolves), but I was very happy to see that the bloodsuckers in Sheep’s Clothing were the more traditional ones: they sleep in coffins, are weak to crucifixes and other holy items, stake through the heart, ect… Elizabeth clearly did her research on vampiric legends of old.

And, instead of bringing in a traditional werewolf, she drew upon tales of skinwalkers that can take the form of any animal—only the protagonist in this one is a half-breed, so a wolf is his only form.

Weird Western is most certainly an apt category for this story. A frontier doctor, recently taken up residence in the small town of Salvation provides a rather delightful setting for the weird happenings about to take place.

The one major problem I had with the way things unfolded was how receptive, understanding, and easily people believed in the tales and legends of vampires being real. It boiled down to the doctor being able to walk up to anyone, say ‘there’s a vampire running amok,’ and get the response ‘oh, okay. What do you need?’ It made things too easy and created very little struggle for the doctor and his companions to save Salvation from the claws of this unholy terror and it made Sheep’s Clothing fall short of the epicness it could have contained.

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Review of “Rock & Roll, Sex, And Fools…The Slow Fade to Black of Mr. Joe Kool Jack” by Paul Bibbins

Rock & Roll, Sex, And Fools …The Slow Fade to Black of Mr. Joe Kool Jack written by Paul Bibbins is a novel that is exactly what the catchy title suggests. It’s all about rock & roll, sex, and the foolishness of Joe Kool Jack and how he completely manages (through a series of rash decisions and situational variables out of his control) to fuck himself out of millions…literally and figuratively.

In the broad scope, Rock & Roll is actually a history of how the musical genre came to be and changed America…with the assistance of Joe Kool, a guitar player kicked out of his house at eighteen. It takes you through the metamorphosis of rhythm and blues being played by the likes of Chuck Berry to Elvis “The Pelvis” Presley, who is discovered and refined by Joe.

In fact, all of the big shakers and movers of rock & roll were assisted by Joe: Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, The Beatles…he even engineered Mr. Spock!

It also touches on the free love and hippie revolution. Copious amounts of sex for Joe (which made the book borderline erotica, I think), many acid trips and lots of weed. All of those, however, played into just how Joe managed to accomplish everything he insists he did…he even saved The Monterey Pop which later gave way to Woodstock.

Other than some clunky dialogue, Rock & Roll was an interesting tale told through the eyes of a narcissistic man who’s had one too many tabs of LSD. It slipped in a history lesson without you really knowing and tied in several of the racial elements experienced during the 50’s and 60’s.  

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Review of Elaine Pereira’s “I Will Never Forget”

Elaine Pereira’s novel, I Will Never Forget, is hands down one of the most beautiful and poignant memoir I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

I Will Never Forget follows one mother’s spiraling journey into dementia through her loving daughters’ eyes. Pereira gives you the good and the bad, the before and after, to help you connect with her mother as a person, versus someone suffering from a debilitating illness. She gives you relevant “befores” in the form of memories from her childhood in which her mother was healthy and teaching her daughter the life lessons she would need later. The “afters” are successively sad recounts of moments where her mother, Betty, went from being a voracious and active woman to someone who couldn’t remember where she put her Cochlear processor.

Her jumps in time are seamlessly blended together, well-paced, and they take you on a rollercoaster of emotions the whole way through. You get a little giggle of warmth in your belly when Betty is helping her daughter care for an abandoned baby bunny. The later on, your stomach drops and you’re left mystified, horrified and a little angry when Pereira finds out that—through hospital negligence—Betty was left outside, bruised from a fall, in twenty-degree weather wearing nothing but a bathrobe!

Very rarely do I find a book I can find little to no fault with, and I’m very happy to say that I Will Never Forget certainly falls into that category. I honestly cannot say a single bad thing about this novel. Except for maybe the fact that I didn’t get to read it sooner.

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Review of Timothy Brady’s “Caomhnóir”

Let me start by saying that Caomhnóir was a very well-researched book. The facts and placement for some of the major wars in history (Vietnam, Korea, WWII) showed quite a bit of attention to detail and a determination to get it right. Brilliant, in that regard.

The level of detail given to the backdrops was wonderful; very descriptive of the setting. The jungles of Vietnam and the war-torn streets during WWII really allowed me to envision things as they were happening. There weren’t a whole lot of metaphors or similes running rampant, but that really worked for the tone and style of this tale. I felt as though it was being told through the eyes of a tired war-vet, who had seen enough of battle, but needed to get this story out. It provided an excellent emotional setting for the read.

Plot-wise, Caomhnóir had a very interesting take on the classic good vs. evil story. Ancient warriors, chosen throughout time to stand up to the evil incarnate known as Puck. Caomhnóir took that classic tale, and gave it a very modern, gritty setting instead of spinning tales of swordsmen and princesses and the like. That made it enjoyable right off the bat.

I did have a few problems with timelines and the way the chapters jumped around. The first few chapters were labeled to give you a sense of where you were in time (i.e Germany, 1945 as a subheader for the first chapter), but after that it completely disappears and when the chapters jump, sometimes you have to go back and make sure that you didn’t miss anything because it happens so suddenly. Occasionally I got a little lost in the timeline because the chapter would start with different characters and bring the main ones in later.

As for the characters, most of them felt a little flat and static. The only character development I really discerned were from Branch and Nance (referring to being children and pushing away their destiny versus growing up and embracing it). Everyone talked the same, and only a few of them had character-defining tics (like Farrell’s physical twitching). A few phrases used in describing what the characters were doing/feeling became heavily overused: how they light their cigarettes, “eyes revealed,” and the emotions were told to me, rather than shown (“…eyes revealed his confusion,”…”eyes revealed his anger”).

The ending was rather anti-climactic (Branch rallies despite a grievous head injury?), and left a few questions in its wake: what happens to the balance of good and evil now that Puck is vanquished? What happens to the Caomhnóir order now that they’re not needed? Does evil choose another champion? I wouldn’t mind if these questions were asked in a sequel, which I would be very keen to read.

Overall, Caomhnóir was a very enjoyable novel to read. I tore through it quickly because I was eager to find out what happened to Branch and his company. If you’re looking for a different spin on a classic tale, then Caomhnóir is the book for you!

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