Deamhan (Deamhan Chronicles #1), by Isaiyan Morrison

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Veronica Austin is on a mission to find answers about her mother. Her separation from the Brotherhood leads her to seek those answers in vampire and Deamhan dens. The closer she gets to her answer, the uglier things get…from both sides of her associations. What’s a girl to do?

 

After reading Maris: The Brotherhood Files, I was already familiar with this author, and their world, going into the story. I liked the fact that in the world created, books are written for both sides. While Maris focused on the Brotherhood, one faction of the overall conflict, Deamhan focused on the other. Between the two books, the author did a wonderful job with compare and contrast. The narratives didn’t contradict one another. The author had tight control over their world.

 

While the worldbuilding soared, the characters felt a little flat. They didn’t seem to have much in the way of personality beyond doom and gloom. Even Veronica felt boring as the main character. It was a very familiar plot with very familiar archetypes set as players. I will say that I loved the diverse representation that went into creating the characters.

 

The author was well-versed in the ways of convenient plot devices. Situations meant to evoke specific emotions used unique devices to achieve their goal. While the plot was familiar, some of the paths to get there were not. The first-person writing style was consistent and clear, and done in a tone that didn’t make it feel cringy.

 

So far, I would have to say I’ve experienced relative success with this author and their novels. They’re standalone, but set in the same world, which builds upon itself with every novel. The vampires are stereotypical, but tolerable. There’s enough uniqueness that it doesn’t feel like every other vampire novel out there.

 

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Southwest on the A303, by Adam Gary

Sometimes taking a journey is the best cure; grief, loneliness, or just a clear headspace. After losing a very important uncle, Alex is gifted a van and an opportunity to travel. With some gentle encouragement from his mom, he sets out to see sights and experience things that will change his life.

Southwest on the A303 is about conquering anxieties, learning to let go, and learning how to just live life. Along the journey Alex is reluctant to take risks, but his Uncle Bill left beyond some very convincing arguments for Alex to just go for it.

At its heart it’s a sad tale. Loss is difficult for anyone to handle and some people cope better than others. Some have an immediate silver lining to their situation while others have to really search. A303 provides a lick of hope for those still searching that they’ll be alright one day.

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Odinsmal: Rise of Jotunheim, by Sammy Zakaria

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The Jotun are slowly taking over their lands. After a failed ambush, Odin and the few remaining survivors flee. Once seeking refuge, they find themselves in the hold of a plot bigger than they could have imagined—especially for Odin.

 

There’s a lot that went on at the beginning; a battle scene to immediately take the readers’ breath away and keep them turning pages. Yet, somehow it fell short of the desired effect. Don’t get me wrong—the opening was still interesting. It just didn’t have that hyped-up feeling the should have had. The author hits with a lot of tension, drama, and emotional situations all up front. While the action felt bland, the connections with the characters was immediate.

 

There was quite a bit of redundancy and telling in the writing style. Since it was told through third person omniscient, readers were granted access to the thoughts and feelings of all the characters rather than just the main. Oftentimes characters would think their feelings in their head (“I’m not a hero”), and then say it out loud to whatever audience they had. I think one or the other would have sufficed to get the point across. That was the biggest opportunity for editing that I saw, but it wasn’t the only thing.

 

I felt like the plot didn’t really take off until the end, but that was alright for the most part. The last quarter of the book really focused on Odin and why he was important, whereas the rest of the novel focused on a multitude of people—all of whom were important to the story. Things took an interesting turn and it made me want to continue the series. I was finally excited for Odin and his adventures. I think things are going to pick up in following novels, while this one was mainly used to just set the scope of everything up. Still certainly worth a read.

 

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Wildcat, by J. P. Harker

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I’m going to preface this by saying that Wildcat is an incredibly long book. However, such care was put into its composition that I feel like readers would hardly notice. There were very few lulls in the narrative, and the plot carried the reader along insistently, keeping them turning the pages.

 

How much loss can one person stand, really? After her tribe is forced into an alliance with their Gaian conquerors, Rhia finds herself ripped from the life of a warrior and wife to a life of indulgence and subservience amongst the Gaian people. Her inadvertent exposure to a darker plot that threatens the lives of those she cares about returns her to her roots and nothing will stand in her way to protect them.

 

Wildcat was a ridiculously emotional ride. The author managed to find a delicate balance between Rhia’s more feminine side (the desire to settle down, be a wife and mother) and her warrior side—her urge to fight and protect. A real Wildcat, as the name suggests. The tale had its dark and gritty moments, without feeling like the main character was being knocked down all the time. Moments of levity and relaxation came in where they were needed most. And it all flowed so well together. I only felt a little lost at the beginning, as the author introduced the world, the various tribes and their customs. Once all of that straightened out, it really was smooth sailing the rest of the way.

 

I have to say that the description was on point, one-hundred percent. It gave a clear indication of what was happening. Battles and action scenes were controlled and properly paced with it. The prose could probably be compared to a mixture of Tolkein and King. Characters were done so well. They were three-dimensional, and their relationships were meaningful.

 

This was a really good book. The final quarter of the book was so intense, so emotional. I had to take a deep breath when I finally put it down. Despite the length, it’s worth every word.

 

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Nite Fire: Flash Point, by C. L. Schneider

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4 stars

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Flash Point was an intriguing novel to say the least. If you’re a lover of dragons and half-breeds, this is right up your alley. Dahlia Nite, our heroine, fled her world because of one mistake. Now she must protect her new home from the threat of powerful creatures—and from a plot deeper than she can imagine, of course.

 

This entire novel is very well-written. The author paid close attention to detail and the story really came to life in the mind of the reader. So much attention was paid to the worldbuilding. I loved the setting, and I loved how the author separated the two worlds.

 

It took me a little while to warm up to Dahlia. At first I thought it was because she was so good at everything—I’m not going to say she didn’t make mistakes; she did, even though it didn’t always feel like that. I spent some time thinking about why it bothered me so much and I realized that it was the first-person tone that was used. For me, personally, there are two types of tones when it comes to telling a story through first-person perspective: self-absorbed and casual (I’m currently working on an adequate way to explain what I mean by this, I promise). I think without meaning to, Dahlia took on that self-absorbed tone which succeeded in turning me off of her character at the beginning. As the story progressed, though, Dahlia really grew on me and the tonality was something I was able to successfully overlook.

 

If that happened to be my biggest complaint of the novel, I’d call that a win. I liked the story, the story progression, and the other characters. I was genuinely afraid that a notorious love triangle was going to come along and complicate character relationships. In this novel at least, that fear was assuaged. The author set up Dahlia’s backstory nicely and it fit in well with the plot. By the end of it, I was really happy that the author chose a female protagonist. I just don’t see the story being the same without her.

 

For all personal hang-ups, this turned out to be a worthwhile read. It piqued my interest in the rest of Dahlia’s adventures, and I can only hope that the final climax is as epic as the novel appears to be building towards. Well done.

 

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The Rain (The Government Rain Mysteries), by L. A. Frederick

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For me, this one started weird and took some time to adjust to the writing style. Given the genre, some level of ambiguity is expected. Enough of it builds tension and creates the desire for the reader to continue on. The opening of this felt too ambiguous.

 

Once beyond that, however, and into the main story, the curtain raised.

 

Deadly experiments by the government (who else?) to study a very special group of people bring a very unlikely cast together to uncover the truth of the rain before it’s too late.

 

Rain is told through alternating point of views, both good and bad. It felt more like a rounded story, being able to see Doctor Zhirkov’s side of the ordeal; it made him feel more like a character and less of a plot device. We got to see him face off against Evaline the reporter and Reinhardt the vigilante firsthand. It allowed for the reader to gather information without lots of monologuing or following the same character from start to finish. Perspective switches were smooth as well. They gave adequate indication of the person, setting, and time, much in the way Stephen King separates his chapters.

 

All of the characters were connected, a detail the author paid close attention to. Details didn’t really feel muddled between them. The reasons behind their individual story lines were emotional and provided good character motivation.

 

There’s editing needed. There are some elements of backstory (like how Evaline began her research project into this mysterious underbelly) that were either left out, or not explained very well. Remember when I said there was a lot of ambiguity? Things do clear up the farther into the story the reader gets, but there’s still some small, fine details like that for continuity’s sake that were missing.

 

This was still a very interesting novel. Quite a bit of imagination and creativity went into not just the experiments, but the mutations as well. Reading a sequel would definitely not be out of the equation for me.

 

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Madam Tulip, by David Ahern

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4 stars

 

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Aiming for the high-flying life of an actress, Derry’s quest isn’t going so well. With a bit of help from her pre-cognitive abilities, Derry dons the alter ego of Madam Tulip after a bit of luck at the race tracks. Things went a little awry at the party she performed at, and now Derry’s trying to prove her friend’s innocence…with a little help from her abilities, of course.

 

I felt like Madam Tulip had a little bit of everything—except for romance, really, but that was alright in my book. Derry’s character and her subsequent development were more than okay without it. I digress, however. The book had mystery, intrigue, drama at the celebrity level, drug lords…man, Madam Tulip’s life was not boring. I was happy to see that the author significantly nerfed Derry’s pre-cognition. It helped add challenge to the story, though it was hard to maintain.

 

The mystery was a fairly linear, straightforward one. There were a couple of twists here and there—even with limitations applied, some abilities allow for things to get too easy. There were moments that felt easy, but the way they pushed along the novel was nice. So, there was a balance to find and sometimes it slipped in one direction and then the other.

 

I liked the characters; Derry’s father especially. I really enjoyed their relationship. It was weird, but at the same time felt realistic. And, I’ll be honest, it’s pretty hilarious. I won’t say he was used as comic relief, but certainly used as a tool to diffuse tension and bring a character or scene back to something of an equilibrium.

 

This was a cute story with some neat settings. Likeable and relatable characters were at the forefront of this novel. A worthwhile read.

 

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The Lyons Orphanage, by Charlie King

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A rather slow-paced mystery, Lyon’s Orphanage centered around Sam, a young orphan that can read minds. He’s been there a lot long than he probably should have. The mystery deepens when Sam thinks to ask why he hasn’t been adopted yet. Now the kids are facing more than just a shutdown of their home.

As far as mysteries go, this one was rather predictable, albeit done fairly well. The kids were compelling characters, though they didn’t really sound their age, which threw me off as a reader. They all sounded like super-polite grownups. I kept picturing this weird amalgamation of a kid and an adult and it just got weird. Things remained pretty level and calm throughout the book. Even the scenes that were supposed to be heart-pounding felt pretty even-toned, lacking a voice of drama.

The mystery was still a compelling one. Sam and his friends were delightful characters with cute, interwoven story lines. I liked what the story lines meant to the characters, and how they aided in progressing the narrative.

There’s little to no action, most of the story being told through long bouts of dialogue or exposition. This certainly contributed to the slow pacing of the novel.

Editing is needed, but overall it was a pretty cute book. It almost feels like it has the start to its own little mini-series. I wouldn’t mind seeing these characters again.

 

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Icarus, by David Hulegaard

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4 stars

 

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Whatever ending I expected, Icarus did not follow. The storyline veered hard to the right in an interesting way that will surely suck readers right in.

 

After a young girl goes missing, her friend hires Miller Brinkman, P.I. to investigate. What he finds begins a crazy adventure that pushes the bounds of the genre.

 

Aside from Miller sounding like a neckbeard on occasion (“I tipped my Fedora…”) he was a very likeable character. For a mystery novel it progressed in a patient manner that aided the narrative and didn’t give too much away. The foreshadowing was pretty on point as the book managed to hold everything to the end.

 

The mystery itself was also a rather riveting one. Things certainly were what they seemed like at the beginning. That’s what mysteries are for, though, right? At the heart of it were good characters. They were different from each other, with their own voices and their own role to play in the narrative.

 

I liked the way the style transitioned to accommodate the supernatural themes. It definitely had an X-Files theme to it towards the end.

 

While the novel and singular mystery wrapped up nicely at the conclusion, it ended on such a cliffhanger. And it was a good one, done in just the right way with enough tension to still make the reader feel a little anxious. I genuinely enjoyed it. I would love to read the sequels.

 

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Revelations (Salinor the Beginnings), by Samuel Alexander

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I had such high hopes for this book. It started off shaky to be sure, but that happens sometimes. I figured ‘maybe it’ll get better from here.’ No such luck. After the opening, frankly, things went downhill.

 

Danais and Leo are like a fantasy version of Romeo and Juliet, only with happier overtones. They were adopted on two different sides of the world and still managed to find each other. As they learn more and more about each other, will their love manage to endure?

 

That’s the closest I could come to summary. I still have no idea what was going on in this book. It was kind of like reading a first draft, wherein the author just put whatever down for an edit later. Except the later editing never came. The writing style and the story took a very convoluted turn about a quarter of the way through, after the author finished introducing the reader to the world. The world-building made sense (mostly). There’s so much telling. Ninety-five percent of the narrative is telling. Even with that, I kept feeling like I was missing important bits of information, narrative, or dialogue while reading, and would sometimes go back three chapters and read again only to find out that I didn’t miss anything. I do that so often it grew frustrating real quick. The description was wonky, not to mention that characters would pop in and out of new sets of dialogue after a scenery change without any indication that they were ever there. It was jarring and once more led me to backtrack to see what I missed.

 

The love story was awkwardly paced—definitely way too fast. I loved their relationship dynamics for the most part. The fast way things moved made some interactions appear creepier than they were meant to.

 

I liked the fact that the author took their time to create their own world and taught the readers about it in a fun way through mythos. I felt like I was being educated without the info dump. Like a tour guide setting their group up for the next, new area.

 

I wanted to like this book. The beginning was shaky but promising. This novel needs to go through a thorough editing to clean up a confusing narrative and writing style. Promise exists, it just needs some help to shine through.

 

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