Grains of Truth, by Elizabeth Ferry-Perata

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4 stars

 

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As promised on the back cover, Grains of Truth nearly moved me to tears.

A novella about love, loss, hope, and ultimately the demons locked inside us, Grains manages to shed light on the negative impact depression can have, and how it affects family and friends.

The characters were certainly relatable. Writing style gave them a “real” voice. I liked their personalities, as well. They were well-suited for their small-town backdrop.

It’s hard to write a plot twist that genuinely surprises me, and this one succeeded. Not prepared for it, but happy that the author took the time to challenge just what constitutes a happy ending.

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Scent of Rain, by Anne Montgomery

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4 stars

 

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I wish more people would recognize and acknowledge what danger cults and sects of extremist religion present. Scent of Rain is a novel that touches on such subjects, told through the eyes of a young girl subjected to the horrors. It presents the stomach-churning truth of child abuse suffered at the hands of extreme Mormonism.

While the story of Rose yearning for escape from her fundamentalist home is fiction, the surroundings are not. My husband is an ex-communicated Mormon (not one of the extreme groups, thankfully) and so I was announcing details to him as I read. He just looked at me and replied “yeah, that sounds right.” The novel seems to be an avocation for awareness of the subject, and it does so by not sugar-coating the details. Child brides, abuse, murder, xenophobia, molestations—I was disgusted and angry while reading. Not at the book or the subject matter in a sense, but the fact that these things still happen in the modern era. I’ll leave things at that to avoid sparking a controversial debate.

I liked the cohesiveness of the characters and the various developments they achieved throughout. Free-will and free-thinking are presented as powerful allies when all seems lost. Personal strength, conviction, and faith are all tested to the breaking point. It aids in not just the story, but in spiritual growth and personal development. Obedience is a subject to be used with moderation, and the author does a good job demonstrating how obedience without question can be such a dangerous and disgusting thing. Hence why cults are seen as such reprehensible things, usually.

This book excels in bringing out emotionality and conveying exactly the kinds of thoughts the author wanted. Now, there is some editing to be done. Mostly technical, though. This novel feels more like an exposé piece than a traditional novel, and so some of the missing elements are easily overlooked and forgiven.

It’s easy to see that this novel was difficult to write, and kudos to the author for sticking with such a dark subject matter. I liked the very explicit, in-your-face presentation of the facts interwoven with the narrative itself.

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In the Glow of the Lavalamp, by Lily Wilson

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This is one of those books that, based solely on the title, I would pick up off the shelves without hesitation.

I would not have regretted it.

It was a collection of other peoples’ tales of embarrassing, bad, and hilarious sex. The author prefaces the novel by explaining that it’s a universal constant, and if you think you’re not included, well, that’s probably why your calls aren’t getting returned.

There’s plenty of humor to downplay the uncomfortable feelings usually associated with talking about sex. There were tales that turned traditional norms—both the acts and the kinds of people involved—on their heads.

They weren’t all about sex, either. Some were just plain humiliating stories that would let the reader know someone was having a worse day, or just provide a laugh that someone somewhere, desperately needed.

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Superhero Syndrome, by Caryn Larrinaga

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To summarize this novel in a few words: a romanticized Kick-Ass with an actual superpowered origin story.

Tess finds herself with a new lease on life when her debilitating and mysterious illness is cured. She gets involved with the vigilante subculture of her hometown. Costumed vigilante, at that. Oh—costumed vigilante with superpowers.

This was a novel that captured the origin story formula perfectly. The sequence of events leading to the birth of her superpowers, the reveal of the bad guy—it was all purposefully and meticulously placed. Great pains were taken to remain loyal to the classic way.

It was really the interactions of the characters that gave me the Kickass vibe. There’s definitely other overtones involved, but that’s the one that stands out. As such, character interactions were well-done and their relationships meaningful.

One thing I did have a problem with was how easy things felt for Tess. In a few ways, she felt more like a Mary-Sue. The speed at which she gains control over her powers, the ease at which she accomplishes her goals—nothing really felt like a challenge for her to overcome and so some of the intense scenes felt a little flat.

Regardless, the entire thing is well-written. I wouldn’t mind seeing a proper comic adaptation. It definitely pays tribute to the genre, and does it well.

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Devourer: A Minister Knight Novel, by Nicole Givens Kurtz

 

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4 stars

 

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Oh, man. The past few books I’ve read, Harkworth Hall and Anarchy, have made good on delivering some aspects of diversity. I’m very happy to announce that Devourer does so as well, and the author makes sure there’s no misinterpreting that fact.

A great evil is coming back to Veloris. Skin, once called a Devourer, seeks to protect a former lover from the evil, and as such, save the world. Of course she fails, and is not set on a dangerous path that could potentially end the life of everything she’s ever loved.

When I started reading, I noticed that the world building was really spaced out, like I’d been dropped into the second or third novel in the series. Lo and behold, I had. There were things that made more sense once I realized where I was at in the series, and yet I still feel like I missed critical bits of information. I would definitely start with the first of the series to familiarize yourself with what kind of world you’re dealing with.

The writing style was pretty good. Description and detail felt on the level, though perspective switches felt awkward and abrupt mid-chapter. It ended up being a little jarring. Hopefully it was just the formatting of the copy I received.

Betrayal, redemption, and forgiveness were heavy themes throughout and the aided in character development. Each of the characters had their own storyline to accomplish. Their stories served to aid the plot and their development, too. For the most part, the characters felt different from each other and three-dimensional. There were a few spots where their individual voices sort of started to blend together, but they managed to come back and right themselves.

There were a lot of good qualities contained within this novel. It’s an interesting story with a diverse cast of characters, something that’s pretty important to me as a reader. Magic and science-fiction can be combined for a good backdrop, which is exactly what this novel manages.

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Anarchy: Strange Tales of Outsiders

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I will give this book praise for having the single-most accurate and descriptive title I’ve seen in a while. Tales of outcasts indeed; this book gets weird.

 

A collection of short stories and poems from days past, Anarchy presents some very off-the-wall storytelling that mainly features a cast of LGTB+ characters—which is awesome, by the way. I don’t think I can express that enough. The author touches on taboo subjects, but they fit well within both the theme and story. Punk, in fact, is the overarching theme of the book, and I will say that this novel delivers an actual punk experience.

 

There’s a lot of good story elements contained within. There’s also quite a few editing and polishing opportunities to be had, as well. The author has a unique take on horror, and I would love to see more edited versions of all the tales, really. There are places where storylines could be clearer, description a little more active, and some more depth added to the characters so the reader has a stronger connection with them during their strife.

 

I love weird, off-the-wall tales. I love it when stories push the limits—sometimes for the better, sometimes not, but the point is that an effort was made towards individuality. The literary world is so saturated with the same formula over and over again. It gets boring. That being said, there’s still some work to be done on this one. I think there’s a fair amount of potential.

 

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Harkworth Hall, by L. S. Johnson

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4 stars

 

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It’s hard to craft such a full story in so few pages. One with such awesome character development and plot twists. I positively loved this from start to finish.

 

Caroline Daniels, a young woman whose ambitions defy the stereotypes of her era, gets sucked into a bizarre mystery that has just the right amount of supernatural.

 

The storytelling and writing style felt well-adapted to mimic a journal or something written in 1752 England. Very well researched, I felt. The world was just as alive as the narrative.

 

I absolutely adored the characters and their relationships. I was especially fond of the love story managed through all the life-threatening detective work. It felt paced right, the characters had chemistry—anyone who reads my reviews knows that I critique the romantic subplot harshly. This one gets the highest praised for how well-executed it was.

 

Best news of my life: there’s going to be a follow-up. I. Can’t. Wait.

 

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The Euclidian: Alien Hitman, by Jay Cannon

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4 stars

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Left alone on Earth to retrieve alien fugitives, Adar quickly put to use a very unique method to tracking his quarry. An alien himself, his options are severely limited.

 

Adar felt a bit like Captain Kirk as he navigated his way through life on Earth (and its women). Smooth, for the most part. Purposeful. Always got the girl. Only, Adar loved to kill and smash. He was smart, however, and yet lacked empathy at the beginning. The human race has an excellent track record of assisting the development of this kind of character. Noticeable at the end, the friends Adar made along the way really opened his eyes.

 

There was a very intergalactic united front. Various kinds of aliens from different planets worked together cohesively. Earth is, of course, the exception. Earth is always the exception. It blended many different sci-fi tropes into one novel. Some were relatively cliché, but there were a few that had very nice twists to them. One thing I had an issue with was how easily people accepted aliens into their midst. Sure, it helped the plot right along, but it felt too easy in places.

 

Writing style wasn’t bad. The pacing of the novel fit the way the story unfolded. There was lots of action and the wording fit that. I liked the way the characters dealt with each other. Characters themselves were certainly a different breed, but I liked it. The author managed to take heavy stereotypes and made them meaningful. A female character wasn’t hypersexual because she had daddy issues—she just enjoyed it. There was a different kind of depth to the characters that made them stand out.

 

Alien Hitman is a sci-fi novel with non-traditional overtones. It was pretty well-written, and managed to show the reader just why moral grey areas are such quandaries. There was a cast of great characters, and all the action a reader could want.

 

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A Guardian Falls, by Rebecca Tran

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4 stars

 

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Fulfilling prophecies seems to be Mara’s talent in life as she becomes the Rashade’ of legend and continues to defy the role set forth by her gender. She returns with a familiar cast of characters in the final showdown with Laran.

The writing style is consistent between both novels, as are the characters. However, with the way that the recaps are paced, the reader might spend a little time wondering how things got to where they are if they haven’t read the first novel.

Thankfully the relationships were already established in the first one, so the timelines for their progression made little difference in this one. Things didn’t move too fast or slow.

While most series tend to aim for a trilogy to share their whole story and characters, A Guardian Falls was a two-parter. There was a lot of information contained within both of them. It never felt like an overload or “too much.” The world felt complete and constant. Everything felt wrapped up nice, except for maybe one little thing. Attention to detail certainly showed.

There’s a small amount of technical editing to be done, but the story was solid. It climaxed and resolved in a manner that made sense and was consistent with the fantasy genre. It was a relatively predictable ending that didn’t detract from the overall narrative.

It was a standard fantasy novel that did quite a bit to challenge traditional gender roles. I liked that very much. It empowered women, and those tradition challenges—while simple—made a powerful statement without starting controversy.

As far as series go, this is a good one to pick up. A blend of traditional and nontraditional fantasy that is well put-together and consistent from start to finish.

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