The Dream Recorder, by C. M. Haynes

Life after death is certainly more exciting than Abby could have hoped for. Being a Dream Recorder means that she watches and records dreams. At least, until something goes awry and suddenly they’re inside the Dreamscape, affecting billions of people worldwide.

The novella is a rather delightful one, featuring a wonderful cast of characters and a well-executed plot. Everything felt smooth from start to finish. The world was planned well and the writing style suited it excellently. There were so many creative, nuanced things that helped enhance the narrative and keep the reader incredibly interested. I had a hard time putting it down.

I will say there are some minor edits needed, mostly involving tense change from past to present. However the rest of the novella is pure quality so those factors can be overlooked.

Definitely a good read. I enjoyed it very much.

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Jake and the Dragons of Asheville, by Brian Kacica

Jake Winston, son of a heroic fire fighter, lives in a town where legends of dragons are everywhere: good ol’ Asheville. Secret government installations, a mysterious agent named Black, and ancient prophecies propel this youngster into a lifetime of adventure.

The novel started well. Dragon integration with the world seemed to be pretty seamless. Legends were accepted, of course, but everyone scoffed at the notion for the most part—the usual for locals, of course. Jake was at that age where life still held mystical wonders and was easily sucked into all the chaos. He was a personable character. One that interacted well with the world around him. His supporting cast of friends, like Arnie, I thought were excellent as well. They were meaningful to both the story and to Jake, and so they served to push the plot ahead.

The back story of the dragons, and how things used to be, was woven well into the main conflict. I liked the fact that while they were powerful, they still had many limitations. They were at a proportionate disadvantage against humans so things never felt either too easy or too difficult.

Getting on towards the end, however, things started to pick up. I don’t just mean plot pacing—the story itself felt a little rushed. Things started jumping around quite a bit to accommodate shifting perspectives and let the reader know what was happening on all fronts. Doing that, though, I felt like some explanations were lost. I still had some questions at the end.

Overall it was a good story. It had dynamic and interesting characters, excellent and realistic dialogue, as well as a nice writing style. It’s a series I could definitely see myself getting into.

Darkwater, by D. W. Johnson

I so wanted to like this book. And to a degree, I did. This read like a well-planned D&D campaign that had interesting situations, and interesting plot nuances, but the execution fell short.

After finding a messenger bag on a dead body, Lacey begins a strange journey with new friends. Artifacts are discovered, and legends come to life the farther she carries on. What magic lies ahead for such a mage?

The opening of this book is a slow-moving info dump. It didn’t catch and hold my attention. I was hoping maybe things would pick up after the first few chapters, but things felt incredibly monotone. The pacing of the story, the reactions of characters, and the characters themselves, all felt like they had one emotion and it wasn’t particularly evocative.

There’s little to no “showing” in the novel. The entire time the reader is being “told” what’s going on and it made for a bland read. I felt like things were too easy for the characters. There was extra care taken to make sure there were actual challenges to overcome, but they were all easy to overcome.

Tense changes were prominent throughout the entire novel. It was jarring to me as a reader.

As I said before, the plot was interesting. The world felt lifted from D&D in a lot of ways and so it served as familiar, accessible fantasy. The setting, for the most part, was fairly easy to visualize. I loved the fact that most of the party was comprised of women. I genuinely want to know how their story progressed, however, the execution of the story did not impress me as a reader.

Realm of Mindweavers, by Marianne Ratcliffe

A full and complete story, all the while beginning a full series, Realm of Mindweavers was an enthralling tale.

Zastra, a failure in the eyes of her father because she isn’t a mindweaver, runs for her life after the most brutal of betrayals. Only thirteen and nothing but her father’s instructions to go on, she must survive on her own long enough to escape the country and seek help.

There was a lot that impressed me about the book. Instead of embracing the trope of an active hero with many forms of expertise, Kastra was a passive, almost reactionary, hero that really was just…average. Though young, it was so easy to identify with her as character. She was written with incredible depth.

Secondly, the world building. Oh, easily my favorite part. There was such depth and intricacy to the world. It was vast and unknown. Never once did I feel overwhelmed by the amount of new information about the world. I never felt lost in my surroundings. It was descriptive, well-though out, and so detailed. The setting really shone.

Characters were so fun and engaging. There were many of them, a huge handful of them only minor, but they all stood out as their own individual. They were made for the plot and served an integral part of it. Nothing felt like an afterthought or an unimportant detail. Plot was full of tightly woven depth. It answered all questions, made sense, and had such fantastic pacing. I love the way the series began, and I love everything about the story it told.

This was such an excellent read on so many levels. A series I would be happy to continue, and an author to keep an eye on as well.

The Wizard in Wonderland, by Ron Glick

Crossovers are tough. Doing a crossover well, especially with popular media, is even tougher. So many extra expectations surface that authors buckle under the pressure, I think.

I’m pleased to announce that was not the case with the Wizard in Wonderland. Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz leave so much magic in their worlds that a crossover only makes sense. The reader starts in Oz, where Dorothy makes her glorious reappearance. Things aren’t quite right, however, and a new witch is making herself known and threatening to destroy everything the Wizard helped create. The absence of the Wizard isn’t making things easier. A deeper mystery comes to light as two worlds collide and grave misdeeds surface.

The combining of Alice and Dorothy was flawless, in my opinion. I felt like the author took great care to write the characters as close to their original form as possible. Everything from the bantering dialogue, to the tone of the narrator, to the hair-pulling debate of semantics and logic that were so prevalent in Wonderland were there. The storyline made sure to feature both worlds equally, and presented problems unique to the both of them. Story progression happened in a logical and timely manner that didn’t leave the reader behind or confuse them. Transistioning between worlds and perspectives was smooth.

I think my overall satisfaction came with how well the characters were written and how well they interacted with each other and their environment; not just Dorothy and Alice, but all of them. They blended together nicely.

Honestly, I can’t wait to read more. This has serious potential to become one of my favorite crossover series.

Harvest Moon, by Tonya Coffey

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A fantasy spin on a very familiar formula, Harvest Moon was definitely oriented for younger audiences.

The woods draw her, but she can’t figure out why. It all starts with a book that calls to her. Then wolves. From there, Jess finds out that her entire life has been a lie. Now safely sequestered away with fairies, Jess has many decisions to make—and a kingdom to run.

Harvest Moon followed almost every young adult trope to an absolute T. To name a short few: a young girl hidden away only to discover she was a princess from another land. A love triangle quite e in which she must choose between her heart and her duty (I’ll talk more about that in a minute). Unseen magical powers that she managed to harness almost immediately. And, of course, she was super powerful. Once again, a very obvious, very familiar formula. Fans of YA books like that would be delighted, I think.

Now, onto the love story.

I liked the dichotomy the author presented with “follow your heart” and “a queen must do her duty.” Sure, it led to a love triangle, but whatever. Unfortunately, the initial love story was presented in a creepy way that made me cringe and wonder just what Jess was thinking. While I think it was probably crucial to her development, the way things progressed just left me not feeling it. I think it was more of the way that she forced herself to comply, even though she clearly did not want anything to do with him romantically. Platonically, as if he were her sworn bodyguard or something, things would have felt much more natural, I think. The trope might work for some people, but it didn’t work for me.

I liked her relationship with her dad very much. Her origins were from a loving family rather than a broken one, which I feel like is another common theme in many young adult novels. Thankfully, Harvest Moon managed to deviate from that.

The writing style needed a little more help with description. I think there was quite a bit that could be improved with the narrative in general with some extra time spent on editing. Dialogue was clunky and awkward in some places and just didn’t flow the way it needed to. Things felt rushed once she crossed over into the world of fairies. I don’t think that helped my feelings on the love story.

Buy it here!

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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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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