The Long Road to Missouri, by Bowdoin

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Indeed, it’s a Long Road to Missouri. Especially when you’re involved with another murder. Even after you’ve retired.

 

A fast-paced mystery that takes an assassin out of retirement. Not in a typical fashion, either. Embroiled in a mysterious race against time, Missouri Rhodes’ life gets more complicated.

 

I liked how this played out. There was such a short amount of time to get to know the characters. Because of that, there’s an onslaught of information. The narrative paces things well enough that it’s not overwhelming. I liked how the characters progressed through the story. Time jumped around a bit, but in a way that was clear. There was a mystery, and it was an unpredictable one. Things built up so fast that there wasn’t much time to try and guess the outcome. Character motivations and predispositions remain hidden enough that characters themselves remain a mystery.

 

The story was a rather unique one. There was plenty of action, and the writing was excellent. The writing style was concise, but still with plenty of description. Things were pretty clear in the readers’ eye. There was quite the cliffhanger left at the end. Is this the hint of a sequel? Or a full-length book? I want to know more–either would be fabulous.

 

 

Buy it here!

 

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Pnaramakhia, by Flavio Verna Santonocito

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Fusion of steampunk and fantasy is neat. Not only does it cater to unique landscapes, but new story devices, as well. Use of magic takes on so many new possibilities. Pnaramakhia utilizes all the above.

 

The author went down to the nitty-gritty and created a whole new landscape from the ground up. Because of that, there’s a lot of information the reader needs. Instead of spelling it all out at once, it’s peppered all throughout the novel. It’ll take a second to adjust to the linguistics of a new culture. It’s like getting dropped into a country you only know some of the language for. The beginning felt a little clunky because of that. After that, it was pretty smooth sailing. There’s still a lot to learn, but it gets much easier.

 

Two siblings are on a mission to kill an ancient beast. There are some…complications along the way. They’re separated, and that’s when the novel branches into the many different storylines.

 

Now, the best part: the entire novel. The story blew me away in ways I can’t even describe. From what I’ve heard about Game of Thrones, this is so much better. There’s so many overlapping story-arcs that all blend seamlessly with one another. Political subterfuge, mystery, the undead…each served to bulk up the main narrative. It’s long, but the way everything is set up, it’s perfect. The author manages to pull the wool over the readers’ eyes for the majority of the novel. The answers to things are never so simple. The sequence of succeeding events wound up crafted in such an exquisite way.

 

The characters were great. Every interaction is a performance to marvel at. The writing style complimented it in all the right ways. It didn’t have the long, drawn-out, fantastical tone of traditional fantasy novels. Still, there was plenty of wonderment to go around, as description doesn’t lack. The environment came to life right along with the characters. A great amount of detail and thought went into constructing this new society, and it shows. The same goes for the characters. Dialogue flows right. It changes tone between characters. Perspective changes are smooth and easy. The list of things I could compare this to for references keeps growing.

 

This was one of the most satisfying novels I’ve read in a while. It was my first foray into steampunk fantasy and it set the bar awful high.

 

This is a must-read.

 

Buy it here!

 

Wrestling Demons, by Jason Brick

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Release date is June 19, 2017

Wrestling Demons, as it turns out, is about a high-school wrestler that–wait for it–fights demons.

 

Not on purpose. Not at first, anyway.

 

Connor Morgan is a varsity wrestler whose life changes after a strange attack on school grounds. The mystery that follows is a tightly constructed one. One of the good types. I thought for sure I had the actual end figured out. Nope. Point to the author.

 

Drawing heavily on Japanese mythology, the author demonstrates their commitment to research. Yet, it avoids most of the stereotypes that usually follow. Connor isn’t the “Chosen One,” or the white savior. Connor is part of a team. While that team consists of supporting characters, they all feel indispensable. No one gets left behind, and there was some attention paid to their character development. They still felt like individuals with their own personalities. All their interactions were well-done, and the dialogue never felt clunky.

 

Despite past occurrences, Connor still has a loving family. Words can’t express how much I loved the dynamic. The implicit trust (and refusal to break said trust). The communication that families should have. It still utilizes the broken family trope, but they’re more cracked than anything. Still held together.

 

I see what the author was doing with romantic subplot. It served a purpose, and it started promising. The farther along in the narrative it got, the less and less I liked his love interest. Her character was fine. It was the actual interaction and conversations between her and Connor I didn’t like.

 

Speaking of narrative, Connor does an excellent job of recounting his adventures. The tone was appropriate for his character. Details were where they needed to be. They felt more like passing observations, but still gave the reader a good idea of what was going on. Action scenes were well-written. There wasn’t anything super-elaborate or flowery. It wasn’t all “this happened, then this.” There were no “superpowered” kids that learned Kung-Fu in two weeks. It had a nice pace with excellent attention to continuity. When it came down to wrestling, the author didn’t assume that the reader knew the rules. I learned something from this novel. Always a bonus.

 

I liked the positive metaphors Wrestling Demons contained. And they were obvious metaphors as well. Nothing too convoluted. Nice and simple. The story ended tied up, neat and clean. There was enough left in place to hint at the possibility of a sequel; something I would very much look forward to.

 

The Strange Life of Brandon Chambers, by Scott Spotson

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Strange Life of Brandon Chambers should be “Awful Life of Brandon Chambers.” There’s so much that happens in the first few chapters that you can’t help but feel bad for this kid. You’re shouting, “leave him alone, already!” at the pages. You have a gut feeling it won’t stop. It feels intense. The author sets things up to be huge.

 

Only to leave you feeling let down. Like the air escaped from a balloon.

 

We follow Brandon from a kid to an adult as his life does, indeed, get weirder. Hallucinations, bio-weapons, the paranormal. Things take odd twists. They’re not good or bad twists, they’re…odd.

 

One important thing that stood out was the treatment of mental illness. While it’s still used as a plot device, it doesn’t use demonizing tropes. The author uses tact when bringing it up. Treated with compassion, Brandon is never doubted. Given a support system, his character development is strong. Something I wish was more common in real life. It was at least a nice thing to read. As a result, Brandon has a huge fascination with psychology. He’s hoping for answers.

 

Those answers are what drives the story, not Brandon’s illness. And therein lies a mystery–one that leaves more questions than answers.

 

This has a paranormal, very Da Vinci Code feel to it. Mysterious clues left for Brandon to find, like a scavenger hunt. Clues supposed to lead him closer to the answers he seeks. Touted as huge to the story, the death of his parents and the mysterious clues are a letdown. So much foreshadowing, so many things built up…and it’s not satisfying.

 

Characterization was good. Each of them had their own voice, along with distinct subplots. Conflict, both internal and external, helped their development along. Character’s feel different when compared to where they started from. Some of the character interactions were awkward. Dialogue felt forced, on occasion. The general style was good and fitting for the narration. There was a very detached narrator feel to it. Grammar and punctuation were solid for the most part.

 

Brandon Chambers indeed has a strange life. The author concocted the most bizarre set of circumstances for him to overcome. Never did there seem to be a shortage of conflict. And it all served to further the plot, rather than thrown in for funsies. While there was a shortage of resolutions, I can’t exactly call it a deal-breaker. It hooks you in hard enough that you sort of just accept how things play out.

 

Buy it here!

 

Aversion, by Kenechi Udogu

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Averters prevent things from happening that would alter a person’s fate. With their mind. They have these things called ‘jolts,’ which allow them to see a crisis. From there, it’s the job to make sure they avert the crisis (see what I did there?).

 

Gemma Green is an Averter responsible for doing exactly that. But her first one goes wrong. Now she has to fix it.

 

Both the idea of the Averters and the overarching story are interesting. It’s creative. And the unravelling of the Averter mystery is well done. Everything ties together nice and neat.

 

It does a lot right for being a first novel. The appropriate, tantalizing amount of foreshadowing and background story. There’s a lot of information thrown at the reader in the first few pages. It’s told in first person, so it reads like a boring introduction. It’s very dry and formal. Not the best of starts for the story. Instead of drip-feeding the reader information, it’s all thrown in at once.

 

I’m not a huge fan of the stereotypes that followed. Gemma, of course, was the “girl that’s not like other girls.” She doesn’t like makeup or boys. Her emotions are so unavailable that she’s mean to everyone. The loner. Overused, but bearable. Then there’s the jock that can’t stop thinking about her after the Aversion goes wrong. Important to the story, but executed in a cheesy manner.

 

There were a lot of long, drawn out paragraphs and run-on sentences. The reader spends a lot of time in Gemma’s head. Dialogue interrupted every once in a while, and we receive a lot of good exposition in the process. Predictability was rampant throughout the exposition. Because it follows the tropes most YA novels fall into, it’s very easy to guess what’s going to happen.

 

I’m sad that it chose to follow the tropes that it did. Aversion holds a unique idea, weakened by following an overdone formula. Grammar and style were alright. Gemma’s tone was fitting for her character. It held that condescending note that many first person stories tend to have.

 

It’s still ends in a way that makes me want to read the next one. Averters are curious things. I’m interested to see where things go from here.

 

Buy it here!

 

Murder Red Ink, by Mord McGhee

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Mord McGhee has done it again!

In this stunning and positively horrific prequel to his masterpiece “Ghosts of San Fransisco,” Mord has taken the readers to where it all began.

And Jack the Ripper has never been more terrifying.

Ghosts come to life in an era of technology close enough to smell. Joseph is haunted by dreams so real, it’s almost as if he’s there. Allena is on the run for her life, caught up in something much bigger than she realizes. It’s so much bigger than any of us realize. By the time things come to a head, it’s almost too late.

The characters were excellent. Each one had their own voice, their own individuality. Never once did I feel as though they were cardboard cutouts simply going through the motions of their narrative. A heavy change in tone takes place when the settings switch and it will send shivers down your spine. The reactions his word choice evokes is so strong you begin to wonder if you yourself aren’t there, watching, almost…participating.

There were a few errors throughout the book, but not enough to detract from the overall experience. The ending was a fast-paced thriller that sets things up perfectly for the follow-up.

A stunning penchant for murder, lust, and the most brilliant conspiracy theories, Murder Red Ink is like the grisly crime scene you can’t stop staring at.

Buy it here!