No Man Left Behind, by R. G. Miller

A killer is stalking Vietnam vets and murdering them in the most horrific manner. Toni and Isis, NYPD detectives try to slog their way through rats, subways, and a crazed killer that will stop at nothing until they’re all dead.

Once you get past the awkward opening, the plot catches the readers’ attention and keeps them there through the remaining rough patches. The first thing that caught my attention was the fact that the main characters were a lesbian couple. They were done well, and things like the sexuality spectrum were frequently talked about and used as inner conflict in a tasteful manner. Now, given the fact that the setting is NYC, there should, by default, be a certain level of racially diversity. The author made extra sure to accomplish that, no questions asked. As far as characters went, I really liked them all. They were done well, they meshed well, and they all served appropriate roles for either plot progression or conflict.

There’s definitely opportunity for editing. There’s some real awkward dialogue that doesn’t fit with the flow of things. Scene progression and change got choppy sometimes, which made them jarring. While I liked the ending, I still had many, many questions about things that were brought up or happened earlier in the story that didn’t get tied up. They felt forgotten and lost. There was a whole lot of info dumping that went on, especially at the beginning while the author was trying to establish the characters. It was a lot to be thrown at once.

For its flaws I still enjoyed the story. I think this could really shine with some extra editing. I adored Toni and Isis, their relationship, and would love to see what other stories they have to tell.

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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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.

 

Buy it here!

 

A Perfect World, by Shari Sakurai

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4 stars

 

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I was introduced to this series by reading Adam first. It was only a companion piece, but it was an excellent introduction to the world, the conflict, and the characters. However, I will warn readers that reading Adam first will spoil this novel.

 

 

Eric’s got it all. Literally. As the genetically engineered poster boy for the L. S. A, he faces off against the notorious terrorist Adam Larimore. Things aren’t always as they seem, and Eric’s unwavering loyalty will really be put to the test.

 

 

I liked the layer and depth to the two factions. Adam and the L. S. A. were constantly trying to outdo and stay ahead of each other. Things that seemed insignificant at the time became the catalyst for something much bigger. However, the reader doesn’t realize it until much later. Character motivations were always in question. The lines between morality were heavily drawn. It was a nice dynamic that kept the reader from getting too comfortable.

 

 

As far as romances went, this one showed rather than told character emotions towards one another. It was subtle the whole way, something I really enjoyed. Things felt more natural. It progressed at a reasonable rate, though still a little on the fast side. There were a lot of nuances that went into character interactions. It made them more tense, more dramatized so the reader stayed interested. There were dynamics all over the place. It was great.

 

 

When talking about sci-fi, this certainly took a very dystopian view. The world was in shambles, and a corrupt government is maintaining those shambles. The two genres overlap nicely, in a very young adult way.

 

 

Dialogue was awkward at some points. Receiving character emotions was difficult. An impassioned scene would arise in which a character was supposed to make the reader sympathize and reciprocate said feelings. Some of those scenes fell flat.

 

 

The cliffhanger at the end was really good. It ended on such a note that I want to find out what happens next. There’s a few routes this series could take, and I’m excited to see where it leads.

 

 

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Adam, by Shari Sakurai

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4 stars

Set in the future where the rich can buy the traits they want for their kids, Adam is one such person. He’s a rebellious kid, and because of that, he’s always in trouble. Right when he thinks he’s got his life back on track, it keeps knocking him down. Maintaining relationships doesn’t seem to be Adam’s strong suit.

 

The opening had me convinced that Adam was going to be another “bad boy loner” type character. I expected quite a few common tropes to make their way into the writing. That didn’t happen. At least, not in the ways I expected. The author set things up to where situations explain quite a bit of Adam’s personality. The difference is that the author didn’t go overboard with it. He was dark and brooding, that’s for sure. Except Adam was never portrayed as an abusive person. Adam was far from flawless. He wasn’t riddled with flaws, either. The author managed to set up a nice balance with his character.

 

Many of the minor characters had plenty of detail with them. Their character development is as obvious as Adam’s, which was nice. There were some spots where dialogue and exposition were a little clunky. Otherwise, things flowed well. A bit of editing needed here and there, but it won’t knock you out of the story. The writing style suited the narrative. Things paced well, and because of that the story unfolded in a smooth, logical way. The narrative itself had a distinct young adult tone to it, and I’m not sure why.

 

It’s a companion novel to larger series. However, the author takes meticulous care to make sure that the novel can stand alone. As a reader that hasn’t experienced the other series, I never felt lost. The world, people, and situations get summed up in quick ways. The author did their best to make sure they sprinkled all of that throughout the narrative.

 

There were a few areas where tropes that plague LGBT fiction became apparent. While utilized, the author does so in a way that’s enjoyable. Things that happen do, in fact, directly affect the plot. They served a purpose–not added in because ‘why not?’ I liked that.

 

Adam was a nice read. Enjoyable characters that managed to bend stereotypes and an interesting narrative. A companion novel that doesn’t require the reader to know the rest of the series first. I would almost go as far to say it feels like a prequel. It will definitely serve to pique the readers’ interest in the rest of the series!

 

Buy it here!