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

2_3_18 Rain.jpg

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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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Revelations (Salinor the Beginnings), by Samuel Alexander

1_29_18 Salinor Revelations

 

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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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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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Loading: Life, by E. N. Chaffin

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The premise of a preternatural, video game-esque narrative is one that isn’t always done too well. However, in Loading Life, real world and video games mesh together excellently. 

Hero, the downtrodden, troublemaking main character without a special ability, is paired with Annie Mei, top student, for a project that will allow him to pass a class in school. From there his life gets weirder and more malicious, while he himself grows as a person. 

Now, usually when the main character is a delinquent, or made out to be something of an uncontrollable statistic, they’re inherently abusive in one way or another. In Loading Life, the author takes a different approach. Sure, Hero is a butthead, but he doesn’t abuse his friends or Annie, especially. Not using her as a sounding board was a huge deal for me. Therefore, when Hero’s character development came, he learned he didn’t need to be scared and run away. He learned he could ask for help. He wasn’t given up on and tossed aside like so many wanted to do. He was still a butthead, but it turned into friendly banter. Character development was huge in this novel for almost every character, even the minor ones, like the guys in the gang. The reader also go to know the characters well without a clogging info dump. 

The writing style was well-suited as well. It was light and serious where it needed to be. Gritty in places without being over the top. As for the world building: HUDs, mana bars, health bars, and things of the Life were as well-integrated as magic would be in a fantasy setting. 

All-in-all, a rounded novel. It’s easy to get sucked in. While the storyline isn’t necessarily original, the storytelling is refreshing and everything wraps up nice and neat at the end. 

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Moshe, by Andrew Montante

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Moshe was an interesting experience. It was a very unique blend of Christian mythology and fantasy.

 

After a cataclysmic event forced their entire village underground, Moshe, his friend Calish, and Calish’s sister, are forced to adapt to incredibly extenuating circumstances. Zombies, magic, mysticism, existential crises, and subterranean people abound.

 

The most interesting part was how well the mythos was blended. Moses and the Exodus from Egypt was used as the basis for the village’s origin story. It set the tone for not only culture and setting, but something of a timeline, as well. Now that I think back on it, there were a few more hidden within the narrative, only much less obvious.

 

Characters were done well. I enjoyed the fact that Moshe had a stutter—and one that was more on the realistic side. Calish, even as a secondary character, was huge, and an integral part of the plot. I loved his story arc. His relationship with his sister, Bishtar, was amazing, as well. He was protective without being overbearing. Bishtar herself was one of the few females written in, but she wasn’t given a supporting or nurturing role. She wasn’t there to only further the development of the men. She was an active character, with her own goals, and own story line. And the ending to her story arc was wonderfully surprising.

 

Getting through things in the beginning was a little trying. There’s a deficit of description in areas, and grasping the setting took me a moment. Things changed so quickly, however, that it almost didn’t matter. The subterranean portion of the story is where the meat is. There’s a retelling of what happened at the beginning throughout, so the reader still manages to glean the necessary information.

 

Once things get going, they flow nicely. More characters are introduced, and the plot really thickens. The story lines remain distinct, well-thought out, and very intertwined. All the characters and their interactions were necessary for developmental purposes, or simply to push the plot along. They were definitely a creative wrench to throw in for the protagonists. I liked how it highlighted the struggled and victories of two cultures coming together under trying circumstances. There were quite a few interesting, creative, and different messages in the narrative that aren’t found very often.

 

Moshe turned out to be quite the read. It was well-written. What it lacked in description, it made up for in powerful characters. The plot strayed to the original side, and the ending left me satisfied. A very well-rounded book for a variety of readers.

 

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The Horror Writer, by Jerry Jay Carroll

8_1_17 Horror Writer

 

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Full of nothing but satire and accurate demonstrations of what I believe goes through every horror writer’s head, The Horror Writer is equal parts hilarious and creepy.

 

 

After crash landing in the jungle, author Thom Hearn and his companion, Carrie Alexander, finally made it to their paradise retreat. Only, they came to find out that Thom wasn’t supposed to be there. It was a mistake. Except, those at Echchols don’t make mistakes. Ever. What was really going on was far more sinister and surprising.

 

 

The life of an author isn’t always glamorous. I think oftentimes it ends up romanticized into something it’s not. I really liked the way the author conveyed the darker, less attractive side of the writing world. At the same time, it also showed that inspiration could happen anywhere, at any time, for any reason. There were definitely some bright notes for aspiring, and current, authors.
Points of the plot were confusing at times. Thom tended to have some long-winded monologues—which, usually was okay because it worked with his personality—but occasionally it sidetracked me as a reader. I lost track of what was happening more than once. There were time jumps in funny places. Perspective switches weren’t always the smoothest.

 

 

The writing style was great for the narrative. There were weird allusions and metaphors. Odd, satirical descriptions. To be honest, the tone felt as though the author had personal dealings with some of the themes, and was looking for a good, comedic outlet. The characters really helped that along. They were snarky, sarcastic, and up to the challenge of the circumstances. However, it doesn’t feel like an overused character stereotype. Nor is it annoying. I have to say I didn’t feel like there were many commonly used tropes. It was very different—and sometimes bizarre—but in all the right ways. Creativity really shows in the way the novel was constructed.

 

 

As for the plot, it was done well. Keeping with the rest of the novel, the plot twist was fairly out there. It made sense, though, and it didn’t take it to an unbelievable extreme.

 

 

I love when novels aren’t afraid to go the extra mile to be weird. I think it makes them fun and entertaining, as well as differentiating them from everything else. The Horror Writer managed to do just that. I would recommend it for authors that need a good laugh at their own industry. A good read for anyone, however.

 

 

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The Poisoned Princess, by Armen Pogharian


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This novel felt distinctly like a retelling of the Dragon Age: Origins Dalish elf opening. There were, of course, deviations, but the similarities were pretty strong. Then, Toran, half-elf and half-barbarian makes it into an organization called the Warders after he’s banished, much like your character joining the Grey Wardens.
The Poisoned Princess was a cute little tale. Mysteries abound as Toran rallies a crew to cure the princess and find the assassin. There’s lots of action, most of which was pretty well orchestrated. Dialogue was prevalent as well. Thankfully it didn’t get too drawn out and boring in the way that many novels do. Quite a bit of storytelling and world-building was done through dialogue so keeping it engaging was important.
World-building was industry standard for fantasy novels. The narrative itself wasn’t too heavy on the external world, instead focused on a smaller area as it needed. Characters fit the world rather well. Elves, dwarves, humans…all of the regular players made it to the quest.

 

 

There’s definitely room for a sequel. The author created and interesting world, even if things feel a little on the generic side. I’m more interested in the Warders, and how Toran fares with them. Not a bad young adult fantasy at all.

 

 

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Misaligned: The Celtic Connection, by Armen Pogharian

7_15_17 Misaligned TCC

 

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I love the idea of pairing children with anything to do with magic, or mysticism, or fantastical things like that . They’re so curious and open to the world that hasn’t turned them cold and bitter. They’re more receptive to the idea that they might be a wizard, or have special powers. It saves the whole denial part of becoming a hero and allows for something else.

 

 

Young Penny has an interesting array of abilities at her disposal. Between her, her friend Duncan, and her science teacher, she has to face down spiritual forces that want her out of the way.

 

 

A bizarre science fiction spin on magic, King Arthur, and multiple dimensions, Misaligned: The Celtic Connection draws a lot from Welsh and Celtic culture. I liked how they were blended together. The way things were structured and explained made sense, and didn’t feel like an extraordinary stretch.

 

 

Characterization was pretty good. The relationship dynamic between Penny and Duncan was nice. Dialogue didn’t ever feel too clunky. The tone made sense for a character of her age. The climax felt a little flat. Things wrapped up nicely, however, and prepared the reader for a sequel.
Not a bad little young adult read. Certainly imaginative, with a fair amount of originality.

 

 

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The Man Who Loved His Dog, by Jerry Rondelay


The Boy Who Loved His Dog felt like a juvenile fairytale. Not quite young adult, but not so much a kids book either. Sort of in the area of like the Babysitters Club or maybe even Nancy Drew-type age groups.

Comparing it to the tale of Aladdin would be most appropriate, I think. Except without the genie and set in ancient Sumer. A young prince escapes a hostile takeover of his kingdom and takes up refuge in an oasis with a dog. He’s safe…for now.

The uniqueness of the setting was nice. I can’t say I’ve read a book set in ancient Mesopotamia. The author does well to provide some background to familiarize the reader with the culture. It still felt like a standard medieval-type kingdom, economy, and way of life.

The narrative itself was pretty standard. Easily predicable while still being relatively enjoyable. The ending made me think of the Battle of Helms Deep from Lord of the Rings. Writing style was simplistic. Humorous and lofty, while still being very direct.

It wasn’t the most original story, but it still had its good points. The bond between Azira and his dog was an enviable one, serving to prove that humans aren’t always the best companions.
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Killjoy, by LeVar Ravel



I feel like the mob and hitmen go hand in hand. Killjoy’s no exception. Except…this hitman’s quite different.

 
Gwen’s dealings with the assassin are a bit different than that of her husband’s, the mob boss that hired him. Things with the assassin get more and more bizarre the more she deals with him. He has a zero percent failure rate. But…why? And that’s where the novel really picks up.

 

 

Honestly, I thought I had things figured out after about twenty pages. I was delightfully proven wrong. There’s an air of mystique and mystery maintained throughout the narrative. It helps the reader get into Gwen’s head. It also offers many different possibilities as to the resolution and ending. Because of that, it remains a bit of the unpredictable side.

 

 

I liked the dynamic between Gwen and her husband, Charles. They were both excellent, well-rounded characters that adhered to some common genre tropes. However, they deviated enough to keep their characters fresh.

 

 

I had one or two questions still remaining at the end, but it was more burning curiosity than anything. While I enjoyed all of the novel, I think the ending was my favorite part. Through all the tumult endured, it had a powerful message that will hit the reader hard.

 

 

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