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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Drip: A Gothic Bromance, by Andrew Montlack

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They say that those involved in the higher ups of the corporate world are nothing but bloodsuckers. Of course, that’s meant as a metaphor…or is it?

Fresh out of school, two friends embark on a journey for their professional careers. Through a mixture of connections and luck, they land themselves jobs at a company where only one has the experience necessary. Alas, so fickle is fate that even the best laid plans don’t always work out. Sacrifices are necessary to climb the corporate ladder…but are they worth it?

Bloodsuckers are real with their own special twist to fit the plot of the story. And it was a good story. Themes of friendship, karma, betrayal, and of course the soul-sucking rat race of the working world blended well together for a nice, neat story.

The writing style was smart and paced to match the tone of the narrative. Only once or twice were character interactions ever awkward, but it was like the tiniest hiccup on otherwise smooth seas.

J. D. and George’s relationship, one of the most important dynamics of the tale, was very realistic. There’s not one without the other, regardless of current emotions or the power imbalance between them. Resentment, anger, and imperfections were all present, but they remained friends that would do anything for each other regardless. Their character development was broadcasted loud and clear from the beginning.

Speaking of ends, this had an ironic, sad twist to it that ended things on the only respectable note it could. It was satisfying and, in my opinion, tied up the loose ends. It demonstrated well that the term “happy ending” will always be open to interpretation.

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Graveyards of the Banks, by Nyla Nox

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4 stars

 

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I think this could be classified as well-done satire against the corporate world.

Nyla’s endurance of rude beratings and subpar working conditions is one I think many of us can relate to. Having to budget things so close you’re not sure if you’ll eat next week, you’ll take any job you can get, right? Especially if it’s at The Most Successful Bank in the Universe—that name couldn’t possibly indicate anything sinister, could it?

Some of the representations of corporate stereotypes sat right between ‘can’t possibly be true’ and ‘that happened yesterday.’ I recall many a horror story of upper-management, though I have no actual experience with that side myself. Still, with all the things I’ve seen throughout my working career, I’m ready to believe that things like what occurs in this story happen on a fairly regular basis.

Nyla’s character development came in a relatable form where she goes from a wide-eyed newbie to a burned-out veteran that dares the company to fire her. She had enough and fought back in only the way she was able: part obeying the rules while being antagonistically passive-aggressive.

I liked the parallels between many real-life themes that the average person faces every day. It was done well and managed to throw in the appropriate amount of office humor into the mix that cut the tension at the right moment. As someone stuck in the corporate world, I enjoyed this proverbial middle finger to it.

 

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Please Don’t be Waiting for Me, by Todd Stadtman

 

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A darkened tale with a humorous side, Please Don’t Be Waiting for Me focuses on the Bay Area punk movement of the’80s. A tale of more than just music and fighting the system. And spikes. And mohawks—in fact, all those things just make it all that more difficult to bring your friends’ murderer to justice. Especially when the media is portraying your kind as the bad guy. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

 

I liked the more accurate-feeling punk representation. Everything from style to music to attitude. It was done well and managed to highlight an important shift in cultural norms. Things like privilege and race and gender were all brought up with some level of self-awareness, both from the narrator and the characters.

 

This book wasn’t dialogue heavy. Character dialogue was meaningful, true to the characters, and had versatile tone to it. Interactions didn’t feel awkward at all. There was some lack of description that that made picturing certain landscapes difficult if it wasn’t a place that you were familiar with. A bit of editing was needed, though the plot itself and the characters were solid. The underlying storylines between the characters connected well and made the story flow right along. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the author included healthy father-son relationship into the mix, instead of all the characters having some kind of tragic backstory or relationship with their parents. Scott’s dad was easily my favorite character, and a shining example of how more parents need to be.

 

It’s easy to draw parallels between fear-mongering of the 80s and its detrimental effects with today’s world. I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek narrative and storytelling. Well done.

 

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The Reminisce, by H. L. Cherryholmes

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I was just telling someone the other day how I’ve been jonesing for a good ghost story. This novel turned out to be just that: nothing too gratuitously gory or rooted in a timeless evil. It was a haunting of the beneficial sort, and it served as a great backdrop for an even greater story.

 

After a rather embarrassing breakup, Curtis Aisling turns to his sister to help him get back on his feet. Strange things start happening in the house, with Curtis at the very center. It’s a race against time to discern the message being given to him.

 

There were a couple of storylines that ran through the narrative. All the characters’ stories intersected at some point, which added to the narrative and its characters. It really captured the small-town feel of “everyone knows everyone” in a realistic manner. Even the supernatural occurrences happening in a seamless, realistic manner. It was so well-integrated. The narrative was also successfully creepy—in a very Great Gatsby sort of way. I know I managed a few chills at the beginning, still unaware of where the story was going to go.

 

Characters were beautifully crafted. Their interactions were wonderful. They meant something to me as a reader, which conveyed a level of depth that many novels lack. Their stories were interesting and captured my attention consistently.

 

I really liked the way the supernatural entered the story and how it was described. Description was excellent, as well. It was Stephen King-esque without being as long-winded.

 

This was another one that I could hardly put down. It was wonderful from start to finish. An excellent representation of creepy, with a wonderful mystery thrown in. Highly recommend.

 

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The Mandate of Heaven, by Rob Flanigan

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4 stars

 

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A Chinese takeover of Disney rife with political satire…what could possibly make the Magic Kingdom anymore magical?

 

Bert manages to spend more time at Disney than he ever dreamed possible, thanks to a very unusual set of circumstances. Much of it is very familiar to him—considering it is the life’s work of someone that stole his life’s work. Not even the Happies Place on Earth ™ is immune to corruption and wrongdoings.

 

This was an unusually creative storyline with some unique imaginings. The author certainly channeled their inner dystopian master; there’s many parallels to the current state of things in the US. Some of it feels like satire—the author’s way of inserting their own, personal opinions into the narrative.

 

The dialogue was done well. And while I enjoyed their interactions, there were some moments where I felt disconnected from their relationships. Description was mostly well-done. There were a few areas where it became muddled, but overall it was satisfying.

 

Plenty of humor reined free in a narrative of such serious subject matter. There was still plenty of time set aside for the magic of Disney, and the importance of family. It was explored on two different fronts, and created a wonderful way for the two storylines to overlap.

 

I rather enjoyed this rendition of Disney. It had many good, creative points, and a different approach to villainy. A somewhat slow read at times, but still an entertaining one.

 

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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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J159, by Renee Logan

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*one of these days I’ll remember that Patreon isn’t cooperating on mobile and I’ll upload from home instead*

The pure juror system is designed to keep any kind of bias or if the ‘trial by peers’ mentality. If selected, you’re moved to a facility and isolated for years, on the premise that you’ll be released when your allotted time is up. Corruption runs deep, however. And jurors don’t always get what they want.

J159 was written entirely from Eddie’s point of view. With that, the author challenges themselves to get the entire story across using, essentially, one person and one setting. Kind of like the first Saw movie. There’s significantly less action and suspense, but it still tells a good story. And that’s what this novel focuses more on: the story. It moves a bit slow in the beginning, but after the halfway mark, things pick up a bit with tension and suspense.

The entire thing is at least well-written, and populated with just enough foreshadowing to hold your attention through the slow times. I enjoyed the way the entire thing was orchestrated. The reader really got to know Eddie as a character. The reader gets a really interesting and—might I add—isolated, unbiased view of the overall setting and state of the world. Showing, not telling was expertly used throughout the novel, and so the reader is able to use their own imagination to piece together the outside, instead of handing it to them on a platter.

A novel set this way is going to have inevitable lulls and boring exposition. It happens. There are very clear attempts by the author to make these as painless as possible. I really liked the ending. It felt very fitting to the rest of the narrative, and contains allusions to current events. Definitely worth a read.

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PsychKick, by Mark Marks

*Patreon is still not cooperating with mobile, and I completely forgot to upload from my laptop. That will be up later tonight after I get home*

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What would you do if there was a controversial operation that could save you kids life, but the consequences are unknown? You’d take it, right?

Well, that’s what Dr. Hill does for his friends, the Fullers, after an accident leaves little Ben with little to no chance of survival. Then the side-effects start, and the doctor disappears…now what?

PsychKick is definitely paced differently from the author’s other novels. There’s a bit more effort dedicated to characters and making them meaningful to the reader. There’s quite a bit of buildup to the main story, no matter how repetitious it was. There’s was a dramatic increase in the amount of detail that went into showing the story. After that, things smoothed out and kind of took off.

However, this novel does hit some of the pitfalls the other novels succumb to. Things feel rushed. Everything is still direct and to the point.

There’s a lot of perspective switching, but no clear indication or breaks with the current format. The reader will be engross in the Fullers’ lives, and suddenly they’re with the good doctor and his assistant. It’s jarring and breaks the immersion.

Once again. There’s a lot of good ideas. But this one so far is the best to convey these ideas in a way that connects with the reader. There’s more depth to t. Still very rough around the edges, but there is noticeable progression from the author. The ending was a little weird and unclear, and I want to get behind it because I like the connotations that could possibly be behind it, but it felt out of place. Perhaps give a little extra information as to what happened, and possibly a better hint as to the meaning.

There’s definite change and improvement in the author’s writing style. There’s still improvements to be made, but this feels like the polished of the four I’ve read from this author.

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The Artifactor, by Mark Marks 



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*currently, Patreon isn’t letting me upload photos from mobile. The review for this will be posted there later on*

One thing that’s huge to me in novels is diversity. That goes for characters, settings, conflicts—literally everything. A modern-day treasure hunting story is set in Israel during a time of conflict was a good setup. So far, for all the novels I’ve read from this author, their settings vary quite a bit, as do their conflicts and people. 

After becoming celebrities when a treasure quest goes wrong, Solomon and David go on a series of adventures to bring glorious things back to Israel. 

While there’s plenty of conflict and action to go around, I really felt like things were too easy for the main characters. They never really failed at anything. They were embroiled deep in the conflict, but they felt only mildly inconvenienced by it. The ease at which things happened made things boring at times. 

Again, the author has a fast-paced narrative. This didn’t leave much time to get to know the characters as people. Even more so, the time jumps didn’t allow much for developing relationships, and so they felt cobbled together and just sort of thrown in there. There’s little impact on the story. 

Story continuity was pretty good, and the author has a unique talent for uplifting, powerful messages aimed at a younger audience. Things still felt very rough around the edges. There’s some technical editing needed as well. This is a consistent author. 

Needs some work overall, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve read. I think with some solid revisions this could pop. 

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