The Honeypot Chronicles

The Honeypot Chronicles

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

(Spoilers within)

This book is unabashed smut. I’m fine with that, but going into it I knew that I wasn’t the target audience. I’m not attracted to women, so books advertising lesbian sex aren’t likely to be for me. I don’t have a problem with it, so I went ahead and read it with that in mind.

There are eleven short stories in this collection, each one with an entirely different set-up to get straight to the smut. Some really do get right into it, while others give a few pages of background information first. For the most part it’s written well with few errors and delivers what it promises.

There’s not much to discuss as far as plot since the entire premise of the book revolves having almost none. I’d say that if you like larger women and oral sex, then you would probably enjoy this. Not that nothing else ever happens, but an oral fixation is so prevalent in every story that it would probably have to be something you’re interested in for this book to be for you. Oral took up the majority of the passages and when it got to other things it felt like they went by fairly quickly in comparison.

It does get into purple prose territory. Smut can be surprisingly hard to write, and I think because every story covers the exact same kinks it starts to get hard to write it in a unique, different way from the previous stories. If the author wants to keep writing a lot about oral, that’s fine. If the author is more interested in smut in general, I might recommend exploring more kinks to create more variety. There are more out there than I can count.

A few of the setups weren’t that great. The first one is interesting, implying that a girl has some sort of musical power to conjure imaginary men to please her. Good concept, you could do a lot with that. Others were more like what you would see in the average porno, such as a guard wanting to sleep with an (employee? boss? I wasn’t always clear what the situations were). Characters are mostly the same with different names in each story. You’ll see a lot of similar descriptions and there’s not enough to really give them personality.

So, my conclusion is that it’s fine. If you’re looking for a quick smut fix and things like lesbians and oral sex are your thing, go ahead and pick it up.

I give it a 8/10. It does what it’s meant to do.

Calhoun: Sacrifice

Calhoun: Sacrifice

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

(Spoilers within)

This is one of those books that was very obviously independently published, even before I started reading it. So, I received a book titled “Dark God: Ascending”. Naturally, I go to look up the book on Goodreads real fast to add it to my reading list, but it’s not coming up. The original e-mail did have an Amazon link, so I go there to figure out what’s up, and I see “Calhoun: Sacrifice”. What? So I looked it up again and it’s under a completely different title, and I had to read the summary to make sure it was the same book.

I’m not mad about a title change or anything, but it can be pretty jarring when you try to look up a book.

So, this book. It’s about a cult that blackmails people into kidnapping a child for them. If they don’t, then their own child will be kidnapped. How many times they’ve tried this is unclear. I’m not sure if they’ve only started this recently, or if they’ve been trying to do this for a long time and it never worked out the way they wanted.

The overall plot is something that can work out fine for a book. There were some things that seemed inconsistent, like when Calhoun visits an old army buddy and his wife starts talking about going to a ceremony. When you get to the end of the book, the ceremony doesn’t seem to actually exist. For whatever they’re actually doing, there’s about two people there and a little girl in a house, so where was that wife planning on taking her husband? But, it wasn’t really the plot that bothered me.

It was the characters. I don’t think I liked a single character in this book. They were all unpleasant. The main character, James Calhoun, is a former soldier who lost his legs to an explosion and had his fingers replaced with his toes. You will never forget this, the book will remind you constantly. Though, oddly, sometimes side characters seem to fail to notice this.

Now, I have no problem with the main character being a disabled army vet, that can make for a great main character. Unfortunately, I just found him to be someone I would never want to be around. Right from the start he was grating on my nerves. His ex-wife calls him to tell him that her husband is dead. He’s pretty callous about that, but she convinces him to come over by telling him it has to do with his daughter, Betty, and she does mention ‘some men’, which clearly implies that it wasn’t a natural death.

For some reason the entire time he keeps thinking they’re playing a trick on him. Nothing about their characters ever shows that they’re the type of people who would waste their time doing this. So he goes over, his ex-wife is in shambles, and he notices they updated the pictures around their house and tells her they’ll “have to update them again”. To a woman who clearly just lost her husband maybe an hour ago or something.

I actually made a note here that even though her husband is dead, she’s scared and she’s mentioned ‘men’, he doesn’t seem all that concerned about his daughter, Betty. For some reason he continues thinking this is all an elaborate hoax for an extended amount of time. He watches her breaking down and drinking and he thinks it’s all about them playing a prank on him. She shows him leftover body parts of her husband and he still thinks it’s a joke.

I was boggled at how long he thought this was a prank. He gets the initial call in chapter 2. In chapter 5 he’s still talking about how she must be messing with him. He’s also extremely judgemental. Some sort of cult is threatening to take his daughter unless he delivers another little girl to them. He’s horrified that anyone would ever consider doing such a thing, even as he goes and does it himself, and is critical of Rhonda (his ex-wife) and her husband.

I should note that Rhonda is being blackmailed into doing this because she borrowed about $14,000. Now, that’s a lot of money to most of us, but I would like to mention that they never even considered the possibility of selling the house or anything.

I don’t think Calhoun has a single positive relationship. I can’t even include his relationship with his daughter because the two girls in this aren’t thinking people. At one point they’re openly discussing that James has to do something in order to save “their child” in front of Betty, their only child. Betty asks what they’re talking about and they give her a drink. Because she isn’t a thinking person, she doesn’t eavesdrop or anything. She goes to watch TV and actually watches the TV.

The other girl, Sarah, doesn’t fair any better. I forget how old the book said she was. I think it was 8 or something, but for much of the book I thought she was around five. She also doesn’t think. When she’s kidnapped, she gets taken to an island. A women there starts offering her hot cocoa and such, and she starts skipping along with her after a minute. This is after a strange man kidnapped her, locked her in a car, drove her for hours locked in a little space, handed her over to some other strange guy, and then she was transported by boat. I don’t think she’d be skipping.

Later on the house is on fire, and she decides it’s the time to try and have a conversation with Calhoun. While they’re still in the house that’s on fire. She doesn’t respond to things, she just repeats things that have been determined as her characteristics. “Where’s Mummy?” is a big one that she continuously asks, as well as mentioning Bryon who is a singer or something. Also, she doesn’t like wearing a nightie, and for some reason keeps forgetting she’s wearing a nightie and asks why she’s wearing it. But, basically, the kids act like kid stereotypes and not like people, and don’t react appropriately to things happening around them.

Young people can perceive the world in a funny way, we all know this. A niece of mine thought that when her family was going to fly to another country, she thought they were literally going to flap their arms and fly there. She was about three. That stuff happens. But kids are also curious about the world around them and can figure things out. There’s a lot of missed potential with these two characters (Betty, Calhoun’s daughter, and Sarah, the girl who is kidnapped) because conglomeration of a few chosen traits and nothing else.

Imagine this: Instead of Betty staring blankly at a TV, she eavesdrops on the rest of her parents’ conversation. She determines that she’s in danger, and, because she’s a thinking person, thinks maybe she should run away. Like all kids she packs the essentials to run away (favorite stuffed animal, maybe a snack) and attempts to save herself by hiding. Now she’s a person who is actually doing things. She cares about what is happening around her, not just her few chosen interests.

Or, imagine this: Calhoun is there to rescue Sarah. The house is on fire and there are bodies around. All Sarah knows it that Calhoun is the man who initially kidnapped her (or she should know, she seems not to think about this much when the fire scene happens, and she never asks about it). So, she runs away from him. Maybe she goes outside or she stays inside, but either way she knows she has to defend herself against this man – especially if she happens to see any of the bodies that were supposed to be lying around (she never seemed to notice any of these bodies in the book. I’m not sure how she missed them). She tries to find hiding places or weapons, or attempts to escape from the house and hide somewhere outside.

Now she’s a girl who is having some sort of reaction to the fact that the house is on fire, and everyone but her and the man who kidnapped her are dead. Instead, in the book she runs downstairs, hits her head, promptly seems to forget everything and has a conversation with Calhoun. She stops reacting to the fact that he was the man who originally kidnapped her, stops being concerned about the fire, everything. She asks about her “mum” multiple times, asks about Bryon, asks why she’s in a nightie…

And that’s the problem I had with the girls.

Back to Calhoun. Back when Calhoun originally kidnaps the girl, they tell him that if he hadn’t handed her over willingly they wouldn’t have what they needed. Calhoun decides that it was all for nothing. If no one had handed over Sarah, and no one had been willing to hand over Betty, everyone would be safe. For some reason he forgets these people could have done something anyway. Even if they couldn’t have used Betty for their ceremony, they still could have hurt him or his family just to prove a point or get back at him. I don’t know why he thought they couldn’t do anything outside of kidnapping a girl for their ceremony.

Because of how large the cult seems to be, Calhoun doesn’t trust the police or anyone he runs into. Instead he visits an old army friend (Graham) to gear so he can save Sarah. The army friend’s wife turns out to be part of the cult and holds them both up with a shotgun. Calhoun shoots her, which seems to cause her to shoot Graham. He has very little reaction to his friend getting killed. He barely seems to even care that the guy is only dead because he showed up.

Then it just gets worse. He needs a ride to get to the lakes, because Sarah is on an island there. A Muslim man stops to give him a ride. They then act racist towards each other, as Aziz won’t stop talking about Calhoun being an African being taken from Africa, even though Calhoun is clearly uninterested. He also refuses to stop preaching to him. Calhoun, in turn, talks about shooting towelheads in Iraq.

He then goes to a bus stop, and an old man walks up and starts haranguing him about not having a job. Even though he’s missing a good portion of his body. At this point I was confused why every stranger he met was deciding to give him a lecture on life.

Eventually, he gets to the lakes, where one of the hitmen who is supposed to keep him from getting to Sarah is ordering a pizza. Then this conversation happens:

“Raise your hands and don’t make any sudden moves.” James said.
Stephen’s eyes widened in surprise, his mind racing.
“Calhoun?” He said.
James frowned “How did you…oh you’re one of them.”
“The term is gay.”

What? I have no idea what being gay had to do with the conversation. Two of the hitmen are lovers, which is fine. Calhoun kills this guy, and while he’s dying Calhoun mentions that they’re killing a kid. He tells Calhoun to “Tell Mike”, clearly indicating that if ‘Mike’ knew what they were doing he wouldn’t be okay with it.

When he gets to the island and Mike is unarmed and caught in a boobytrap, what does he say?

“You Mike?”
“Guy on the boat, Stephen, he had a message for Mike.”
“What did he say?”

“What did he say?”
“Dunno, he died before he could say it.”

Then he shoots him. I can understand him not wanting to trust any of these guys, but he had a clear indicator that Mike might very well be against the cult if he found out that they were killing a child. He doesn’t even try to tell him and see what happens. It goes nowhere.

There’s also so much description of Calhoun taking his prosthetics on and off that I eventually made a note of it. It’s not one sentence. It’ll be large, bulky paragraphs. Calhoun takes them off. Puts them in his sack. He takes them out of his sack. He puts them back on and pulls his trousers up. He takes them off and puts them in his sack… I wish I had counted how often this was mentioned, but it’s all the time.

The last thing I want to mention is that there are a lot of errors. Many are small:

She sounded scared, he voice like…

Or at least try to make it right. .

…on the closed lid,, sighing…

…he would as likely allowed the sacrifice to happen as try and prevent it.

Than man was going in to shock,.

Other times, I couldn’t tell what it was trying to say:

She squealed when her foot pressed in to her sick and hit at his hands to make him let go.

…it was familiar, like a ? Her head throbbed, the pain pushing the thought away.

All in all, the book was a bit of a drag for me to read, mostly because I didn’t like anyone in it. I didn’t care if he succeeded or not. I didn’t particularly hate it. I think it needs a lot of work. It looks like I got a rough draft.

I give it a 4/10.


Roscoe (Torin Sinclair Mysteries Book 2)

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

(Spoilers within)

I’m not sure I’ll have a ton to say about this story. I have a few nitpicks, but overall it was a good story, and it’s a lot harder to talk about something when it’s fine than when it’s bad. The basic story involves a boy named Tor living in a rural area with his mom. His mother is a doctor, and by chance a man bring a dog and an injured man to her. The injured man holds her at knife point before running away, and the rest of the story revolves around figuring out where the dog (Roscoe) came from.

If that sounds interesting to you, go ahead and pick it up. I didn’t note any particular errors (maybe there were one or two) and the story works well enough. I won’t say it pulled me in as much as some other books, but I’m also probably not the target audience.

There were two things that stuck out to me. In the beginning, when Mr. Hayward drops off Roscoe and the meth addict, the gigantic dog is left with Tor. It’s muzzled, but the only thing they know about this dog is that it attacked the other man, so it was driving me crazy that it was just left with a young boy. In seconds it seemed like he’d taken the muzzle off of the dog that he didn’t know at all (which is why you don’t leave a potentially dangerous dog with a kid). I realize Roscoe wasn’t a dangerous dog, but at the beginning of the book the only information they had pointed towards him being aggressive and violent, not to mention he was enormous and starving. No adult should have left this dog with Tor.

The second was that his friend was an “Ute Indian”. Now, I don’t care that she was a Native American at all, but in the beginning I actually started counting how often it was mentioned because it was constantly being repeated. “Ute campfire,” “Ute beads,” “Ute Indian braids,” “Ute blend,” “Ute Indian stories,” “Ute family celebrations”… You get the point. It got mentioned so many times I was wondering what other objects would have “Ute” stuck in front of them (is it really necessary to mentioned that her family celebrations are “Ute family celebrations”, for example? We already know she’s from the Ute tribe, we can assume that her family is, too. It can just be “family celebration”).

Oh, and there was a part where the kids mention the Sheriff hates them, but I don’t remember the Sheriff doing anything that implied he hated them. In another part Tor picked up his mom, which I had a hard time picturing a boy carrying around a grown woman. But the issues were all tiny things that a lot of people probably wouldn’t care about.

I will say that I liked the overall story until the end. I don’t think the ending worked. Yes, Tor and his friends solved some problems, but most of the townsfolk wouldn’t know much of anything about it because it was kept top secret. For the most part what they would know is that his family was kidnapped and then they managed to escape. It didn’t really set it up for people to come to them to solve mysteries. That part felt out of place.

I don’t even think there’s anything in this book that would ruin it for someone. If you’re looking for a little mystery and are a big dog lover, this could be the book for you. I give it 8/10.



I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

(Spoilers within)

Crossed is a sort of interesting story about a world where the internet generation decides that everything sucks and humanity has to die, including themselves. I wouldn’t say it’s realistic at all, but it uses a lot of real world problems in the story. It’s not a typical story in the sense that it has a narrative that follows characters and their stories day in and day out. Instead, it’s almost entirely composed of articles, forum posts, letters, and even advertisements. I can’t really say it even has anything that I would call a ‘chapter’.

It works fine. It does mention a lot of real things, like the fact that there’s an island in the ocean composed entirely of human trash. On the other hand, sometimes it ignores things. Like when the Crosses decide to replant the forests and they’re talking about oxygen. Trees are great and nice and all, but about 90% of the oxygen comes from ocean plant-life. If ocean plant-life has been decimated or something, planting a few trees on land isn’t going to fix it.

The first site that consistently posts articles is also a vegan site, and there seem to be oversights (like, look up where soy comes from, as well as how many animals die to make those products. I don’t recall that problem ever being mentioned). I’m not sure if it was a lack of research or if that’s meant to be part of the story, that the younger generation is blinded by their own extremism to the point that they only point the finger at everyone else.

The growth of the extremist group and such aren’t necessarily realistic, either, as well as the workings of the world (billions of people have been killed, for example, and the mail is still being delivered. It doesn’t seem to say that the mail system has been taken over by the extremists, just that it’s still going and they can apparently still get supplies that way). That’s not really a criticism, it is a fictional ‘end of the world’ type of story, just expect to occasionally say, “Really?”

There’s also things like “Crosses” who’ll wear long-sleeved shirts or something to hide their marks. I would imagine marking themselves with crosses would backfire extremely quickly. If over a billion have been murdered by people who mark themselves with crosses, the world would be in a bit more of a panic mode. I doubt people would be as worried about other people’s privacy and would be a little more demanding about finding anyone with a cross on their body. Some things are addressed (like someone wearing a body suit to hide from radars and stuff), but other things that would happen aren’t (for example, if I was a rich person being targeted by these guys, the first thing I would invest in is a whole lot of guard dogs. These people raiding mansions never seem to get mobbed by 50 rottweilers).

It is interesting to watch the story unfold, how everything started and where it goes. Most of the time it kept me in the story. I was curious to see how it would turn out. Using stories about our current world was a clever way to give it a more truthful ring. I think it was meant to be more shocking than realistic. Some of the forum posts definitely sounded like what you would hear idiots on the internet say.

I do think the method of telling the story works for this book, but only because I don’t often see stories written this way. If people started copying it, it would get old fast. I was generally invested, wondering what would happen next, save for a few times. The weak part of this style of writing is that I couldn’t connect to any character, because it’s so disconnected and disjointed. I might read a couple of letters from one side of a conversation, and then many pages later read something else about them. I can’t say it’s really “following” the story of any single character. When I read the summary for the book I was actually only able to recall for sure who one of the characters was, and even then I couldn’t say that much about her because scraps of information are tossed around all over the place about all types of things. I “kind of sort of” have an idea who the others are. Barely.

I didn’t feel for a single character at any point because I hardly knew anything about them.

The summary for this book doesn’t describe how it’s written, so if you’re getting into it be aware that there’s only a few pages of traditional story at the beginning and end. I think the overall story is memorable, but I’d have a hard time describing any one part or any individual’s story. If you’re into realism you might find yourself questioning why people fighting the Crosses seem to be doing almost nothing in response, but if you just want to read about a world going up in a whirlwind of chaos you’d probably have a lot of fun with it.

I give it a 7/10

The Return of the Key

The Return of the Key

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

(Spoilers within)

“The Return of the Key” is basically a fantasy story about a world of fantasy creatures connected to our own. The world is supposed to be closed off but for some reason creatures from it are crossing over to the human world and people are disappearing. Eliza, a human, becomes friends with Gwen, someone who is half human and half fae, and when she gets kidnapped one day Gwen follows her over to the other world to save her.

There are parts of this story that work for me and parts that don’t. I’ll say right now my favorite part was the ending – and not because of the cliche “finally, it’s over” reason, but I actually liked what the very end did. I wasn’t expecting it in the previous pages leading up to it.

I think the part that made me struggle a little was the writing. Especially in the very beginning, it would have a lot of telling instead of showing, and it did this with important things. I never felt like I saw Eliza and Gwen as friends. More like they met, then we’re told they spent a lot of time together and were best friends, and we never really see it. I think the same was true of a lot of characters.

Some of the writing felt stilted. For example, it would start off describing a scene and something else would cut in. Like, Eliza is being told the story of a fisherman who found a strange clock-like device. Then, at the end of the paragraph, it sticks this in:

Somehow, this clock-like device had become entangled with Eliza’s fate, thought she was yet to know it.

…but he did have good cause for standing by Eliza, as you will find out later.

So, you see, the slightest trigger…

The only thing I could picture was a random narrator talking over a movie.

We’re told what the characters are instead of shown.

This was how a friendship between an unlikely pair began. Gwen, an over-confident tombow of sorts loved wearing oversized sweatshirts with her patched jeans; her beauty radiated, and everywhere she went she drew attention with her lithe walk and strange charisma. The only jewellery she wore was a plain silver necklace adorned with the rare peridot gem at the centre of a lead. Eliza was the exact opposite of Gwen-unassuming, self-doubting, and considered herself average and thus not needing distinguishing clothing to make her stand out unnecessarily. She rarely drew attention and always preferred to keep it that way, but together the two girls had a chemistry that was unexplainable and almost immediate.

And that’s it. We’re told the personalities instead of shown, and told they have chemistry instead of shown, which made it hard to get invested in their relationship or feel any connection.

There were parts that made me tilt my head. I haven’t been everywhere in the world, so I can’t speak to what’s normal everywhere, but this did stick out to me:

“It’s Gwen’s ma working up some magic, John,” said a voice from the back of the classroom.
“Oye!” Gwen shouted, spinning around to give Aaron Spindler a piercing look again.
“Ok, settle down you two,” John said, in a less-than-authoritative tone.

Gwen’s mother disappeared a long time ago and at this point could probably be presumed dead. So, a kid is making fun of another kid’s dead mother and that’s the reprimand?

Just a bit later it’s pouring down outside and for some reason Eliza seems irritated that a teacher offers to give her and Gwen a ride home. I actually wasn’t sure why, because it would get them out of the rain, plus people have been disappearing so it would be safer.

The romance suffered the same fate. I honestly have little idea what Eliza and Arden saw in each other besides thinking the other was hot. I have no idea what interests they share or anything else.

It was the first time she had had a proper look at him, and she stared at his beautiful face and became embarrassed, as she was lost for words. He blushed with delight, appeased that his feelings were shared.

They blush at each other and that’s about it. They give each other shy looks in the story and never really have a connection beyond that.

There are the occasional errors, like “We call it Annwn1” (should be superscript but it’s not) or “…knew the answer toAnd it was.”, but not a ton.

Later on in the story the stilted feel of it dissipates a bit, but there are some other issues. Female villains come off as histrionic, and one is even called that. I wouldn’t say much, but it did seem like there were a lot of women having overblown emotions.

Things that the story said didn’t always add up with what it showed. Like when it introduces Loridel, the narrative states that the reason her people are shunned is because their emotions will be wrong for the situation and they go from normal to grandiose in a second. The story then goes on to show Loridel controlling her emotions several times.

Loridel felt a good cry coming on. She resisted it easily…

Loridel will be annoyed by her, and then awhile later the narrative will say she found “what she was certain to be a lifelong friend” without anything that really seemed to support the narrative.

I guess the “tells without showing” basically covers most of the complaints I have. Because of this relationships seem weak because we barely get to know the characters together, we’re just told they get along. Characters don’t match up with their descriptions so things will feel off, like the story will say Gwen rarely gives up, but it’ll say this after it’s shown Gwen giving up the last few times we saw her.

The story itself has a lot of promise. Having people mysteriously disappear has a lot of potential to be creepy. The overall world is fine, though it could be polished (background characters on the world feel very much like the background, never questioning obvious stuff). I think it just lacked impact for me because of the style of writing and the way it would drop information early on instead of letting readers learn it or see it with Eliza (blatantly stating Arden had mysterious reasons to join Eliza, stating that a device that was found would be connected to Eliza’s fate…)

I would say it needed another readover to get rid of some of these things that slowed down the story or took the reader out of the story, and then catching some little inconsistencies. There wasn’t anything that I found particularly offensive. I did mention I liked the ending the best. I do think that sets up something that could make an interesting sequel.

If the story sounds good to you? Go for it. It’s all right. What I described kept me from getting really into it, but it might not bother someone else.

I give it a 6/10.

Spider Eats Fright

Spider Eats Fright

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

(Spoilers within)

I’m writing this a few days after reading it so I might not remember everything as clearly as I usually do in reviews. This was a nice read. It didn’t pull me all the way in but it got close at points.

Basically, Alley is a practicing witch who has moved to Japan because her dreams told her to, but she keeps seeing spirits there. Many of whom are dangerous. She meets some people like her new roommate, Hannah, and two coworkers, Devan and Jade. Together they have to deal with hauntings and ghost stalkings. A lot of Japanese folklore is brought up in this book, whether it’s mentioned briefly or used as a main plot point. I do like Japanese mythology, so I enjoyed hearing about the different spirits and even knew some of them right away.

Sometimes not much happened with them which left me with some questions about why they appeared. It did explain why Alley could see the ghosts suddenly, but it didn’t really explain why they all seemed to be in one spot. But, that’s not really a big deal.

There were some errors.

Sugi wa Awaza.

Should be “tsugi”.

Hannah exexplained.

Jade was n never…

…Devan a and Jade…

…depths of h her…

Alley hadn’t quite make it in time.

Then I got a bit confused because in Japanese “kaeru” is “frog” and it can also be “to return”, but it kept saying “kaerou”. That works as a conjugation for “to return” (it would be “Let’s return” or something that effect) but not for “frog”.

There were also some inconsistencies.

“This place does good ramen, it’s got a TV, and even better, a drinks vending machine. Trust me, you’ll want the drink,” she said.
“You think it’s that spicy?” Devan scoffed. “Seriously?”

Little things like this. She mentioned a lot of things, but never mentioned anything about it being spicy, so while I was reading I did a double-take.

I don’t have too much to say. I generally enjoyed it enough to keep reading without a problem, and there were a few spots I was really drawn in, but it didn’t captivate me as much as some other books. I’m not sure I can exactly pinpoint why. There’s nothing terrible I have to say about it, either. There were a couple things that may have been too much (too many spirits mentioned, or like with Devan and his weapons). Those parts could feel likes they were just listing Japanese words.

We also do find out the ghost haunting a teapot is the ghost of a murderer, but I still didn’t feel like I had enough explanation. Alley found an article and learned the very basics of his crime, but I don’t recall there being much explanation of his motive or what happened. (I know he apparently drowned someone but I mean who were they? Why did he drown them? How were they connected to him?) I understand the idea that in Japan spirits can be resentful and lash out at anyone, even people totally unrelated to what happened, but I felt like I needed more of a “why” explanation. The nukekubi didn’t need much of an explanation because feeding on humans is just what it does, but the ghost was of a previous person and people need some sort of motivation. I didn’t come away feeling like I understood why he murdered people while he was alive.

I did like in the end that they used a ghost from England to defeat spirits from Japan. I wasn’t expecting that, but it was great that there was some brief acknowledgment of other folklore.

Thinking on it now, usually I tell people these days that they split up one book into many unnecessarily, but this is a series that’s probably the opposite. Instead of having so many spirits crammed into one book just to make brief appearances, it would be good to have a story revolving around different ones in different books. There’s a lot to work with. I could easily imagine Alley trying to deal with something like a series of attacks by Kuchisake-Onna.

Overall it came together. If you have any interest in folklore, particularly in Japanese spirits, you’ll probably enjoy this book. I probably got more distracted by things like the Japanese than some other people would because it stuck out to me when it was wrong.

I give it a 8/10.

Eventide (The Sepherene Chronicles Book 1)

Eventide (The Sepherene Chronicles Book 1)

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

(Spoilers within)

I finished this book a few days ago but I was too busy to write a review. To summarize it quickly, this book is about angels and fallen angels. Sepherene is an angel who fell and is seeking redemption by carrying out His orders and killing fallen angels who choose not to repent. Since there’s a rule that she can’t show her true form on the surface, she uses the body of a man named Lucius. They live in a futuristic world with space travel and such that Sepherene doesn’t seem to be familiar with.

It’s not bad. It kept my attention well enough and it’s a good setup for a story. It’s like a sci-fi/fantasy mix. The action scenes were enjoyable and some eerie fighting locations were set up, including a catacomb and a ‘haunted’ forest.

This is one of those books that’s really not quite a complete book. There’s no conclusion to anything. It’s more like a beginning and middle. This is becoming common these days and I haven’t been a fan of it because without an end for a book I think it’s just chopping up one book into many pieces in order to sell them separately. There’s nothing that separates this book from the next book. I believe I said before that this should be like TV episode. You can have an overarching plot for an entire season, but each episode has to be able to stand alone by itself.

If you were watching TMNT (everyone knows ninja turtles, right?) and they were in the middle of the story, then Leonardo got knocked out and it just ended abruptly – not a 2 parter, nothing in the episode had been solved – it would be a little weird. I’m of the mindset that if people pay for a book they should have a full book. They shouldn’t just get the start of a book. I think authors who plan on making a series should ask themselves this: why am I separating these into different books? Is it because a story arch has been completed?

In this book we meet Sepherene and Lucius. The setting is established, and they go hunt down a few fallen angels. The writing was solid and it moved along well, but not too much beyond that happens. Sepherene has some regrets and they continue moving on from one to the next. We get the exposition and the rising action.

The two main characters, Lucius and Sepherene, work well off each other. I did notice one thing that I found amusing. On one of the planets he visits, Lucius claims to be a hunter. He’s told that most of the forests have been cleared so he won’t find much work. But, not much later and not even trying to find anything to hunt, he sees a deer springing away into trees. I just thought it was a bit funny that the story establishes that the planet is nearly devoid of wildlife to hunt and the main character almost instantly bumps into wildlife to hunt. It wasn’t really a big deal, just something that struck me while I was reading it.

Other than that, I don’t really have too much to say. There isn’t much explained in the book yet so it’s hard to talk about it. It’s mostly: “We hunt fallen angels. [Commence hunting some fallen angels]. End”. I don’t even have many notes. If the premise looks interesting to you, go for it. I give it a 8/10, a bit with the assumption that the next parts are good.

Calves In The Mud Room

Calves In The Mud Room

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

(Spoilers within)

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to make of this book. The entire book takes place over maybe a day, and it’s a snippet of the life of a boy in a broken home. I tend to go into books blind – sometimes it helps me judge the book for what it is. Not always, but there’s plenty of times where I dive straight into a book, and that’s what I did here. Knowing nothing about it, the title “Calves in the Mud Room” sounded a lot sillier than the book is.

The overall plot is pretty simple. Wade has been asked to go with her to a dance by Glory, a cheerleader. On the day of the dance the cows on his farm start giving birth, and because his mother and step-dad are extremely unreliable people in his life, he has to take care of the cows himself. He ends up going to the dance late and Glory is mad at him. He deals with a variety of issues, from cows’ and calves’ lives depending on him, an abusive stepfather, his peers shunning him and having to take care of his little siblings.

I wasn’t as captivated by the book as some other reviewers seem to have been. I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it. There’s a lot of talk about the prose, but it wasn’t really for me. It works fine at some parts, but there were a lot of lists that I thought were unnecessary.

The back of the old truck hauls scattered stems of straw and alfalfa leaves, a scoop shovel (no handle), a pitchfork, a dented spray can of DW40, a rusty set of tire chains, a flattened box of windshield wipers, one battery cable (black), an empty red gas can (no cap), a wad of bent-up barb wire, miles of orange twine, a spool of electric fence wire, rubber irrigation boots, a run-over straw hat, an empty tub of horse vitamins, and one old fallen-down cowboy boot with the spur still riding the heel (left foot).

Wade collects a bent screwdriver, an ice scraper, a heavy-duty metal cutter (you could cut a car open with this puppy), a socket set still in the red plastic holder, two Crescent wrenches (one about four inches long, the other about two feet), a hoof scraper, a flashlight (still works), an unopened can of Udder Balm, and one frozen flat glove (right hand, hole in thumb).

On the dash sits opened and unopened mail, bills and statements, a flier for a used hayin’ package (cutter, baler and rake) marked down from 25 grand to 17; a cigar box full of paper clips, rubber bands, pens, pencils, two black sharpies and four silver dollars (minted in 1896); a box of horseshoe nails, a red Conoco Hottest Brand Going to-go cup, an empty staple gun, a pocket calendar from Barlow’s Feed with appointments and the day’s temperatures, and the calving log book for the last few years (#9919 eats rocks).

He removes the garbage, recycling, dog food, bottles of bleach, detergent, household sprays, cleaners, rat poison, boots, shoes, jackets, gloves and hats. Anything the calf might get into.

There’s broken glass, pizza crust and French fries under the coffee table. On top are Burger King bags, a greasy pizza box, half-eaten slices, specks of mushroom, chunks of cheeseburger, decapitated Bud Light longnecks, a passed out bottle of Cuervo Gold and a smashed fifth of Black Jack.

This sort of listing sneaks into some of the dialogue, too.

Medium lapels, three button, single vent, silk interlining, sharp, clean lines at the shoulder, fitted under the arms, tapered at the waist with a slight flair.

Yeah, she’s going to make some wannabe mid-level-executive-master-of-the-universe dude a real good trophy wife. Get her own McMansion out there on Dry Lake, Lexus SUV hybrid, Nordstrom card, Costco membership, jet ski in July, downhill in January, a little tennis on Tuesdays, a little golf on Thursdays, a nanny, her skinny double pump vanilla latte no whip, couple of brats on Ratlin, drag her droopy boobs and sorry cookie dough baby butt to Curves for some cardio, maybe some yoga without the meditating-touchy-feely-tofu parts.

At times the dialogue was strange to me, and sometimes things were unclear. He flashes back to a discussion with his grandfather when he puts on his suit. They talked about suit his grandfather gave him and the grandfather’s time in New York after coming back from Korea, then suddenly it’s back in the present without much indicator. You might assume that a switch from past and present tense would be the indicator, but like many books that use present tense it often shifts, so in the middle of a flashback it says:

He’s too young to be familiar with…

If I were to describe the prose, for me it was reminiscent of old 1990’s roleplays on telnet. (I know, this is a pretty specific example). Way back when, people would use telnet to roleplay in text over the internet. These places were called MU*’s (MUCK, MUD, MUSH, MUSE…) People could create a character and set things like text descriptions for them, and when you ‘looked’ at another character you would get their description. The current closest thing to this would probably be something like character descriptions in WoW, but I’m less familiar with that.

Anyway, when people wrote these descriptions they would always try to make them as fancy as possible. You wouldn’t have “black hair”, you’d have a “waterfall of ebony strands”. Never blue eyes. Always “sapphire orbs shimmering in the moonlight”. It was purple prose at its finest. When I started this book that was the first thing I thought of. We start off with “juicy fruit lips,” “dark chocolate eyes,” “honey-streaked corn silk hair,” etc. Now, every sentence wasn’t like that, but it was enough that I was occasionally lost when an excessive description was used for something simple. In the very first sentence I was confused because I didn’t know where the character was and after a lengthy description of a girl it was telling me his headlights were falling on “rump roast, rib eyes, t-bones, tenderloins, flank strips, hot dogs and moo-burger…” (there’s those lists again). I thought he might have been related to a butcher or something and was literally looking at hanging meat.

To me, for a joke “rump roast” would have been plenty. It would have been short and simple. It spent so time telling me all kinds of meat that I thought he was looking at meat before it told me it was a full cow. Here’s part of the original (the first line is too long, I’m not going to copy it all):

Visions of Glory Schoonover […] vanish the instant the truck lights sweep through the pin streaks of snow and gunmetal fog and land on the smoky blobs of rump roast, rib eyes, t-bones, tenderloins, flank strips, hot dogs and moo-burger piling up at the gate and blocking Wade Summers’ way.
Stupid cows. Stand in cow shit all day cows.

I think it’s too lengthy. I’d prefer to see:

Visions of Glory Schoonover […] vanish the instant the truck lights sweep through the snow and land on the rump roasts blocking Wade Summers’ way.
Stupid cows. Stand in cow shit all day cows.

You get to the point quicker without getting too convoluted. Cows are blocking his way.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the story at first. It seemed depressing to me, and I’m not usually one who goes for depressing. Reading some other reviews though, I did see someone else’ take on it that I liked, about how one good person (his grandfather) can make a big difference in someone’s life.

Every single other person seemed to be horrible, including Wade at times. Maybe it’s just me, but the women seemed especially awful. I’m not even talking about Glory and the fact that she and her friends were upset at him for being late for their date. That, I get. Mostly. It seemed a little odd to me that she would ask if something like “giving birth” could wait. Maggie was ready to ditch her own date for him. Rochelle had sex with him and then seemed suddenly mad at him the next day (she was most confusing because nothing had happened between them in the lapse of time). Even grown women are saying things like:

“Hon,” she says in a low voice, “with a big pony like Rose Stuffle, just use a fold of blubber instead of her vagina. She won’t mind and you won’t know the difference.”

That’s not even getting into his mom being a drunkard and selling off things he was supposed to inherit from his grandpa behind his back. There’s a constant feeling of anger coming from 90% of the characters and sometimes it’s unclear why. Maybe that’s why I just couldn’t get into it.

I wouldn’t say that this was a bad book, but it wasn’t for me. As a warning for some people who might be sensitive to this, not all of the calves survive.

I’d give it a 6/10.

Another Vanishing Act: A Novel

Another Vanishing Act: A Novel

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

(Spoilers within)

This wasn’t a bad book but it didn’t grip me. I’ve been trying to figure out why, and I think I’ve got it. It’s not the errors. Though there were a decent amount of them, they weren’t too distracting. I think what it was for me is that the main protagonist, Dan, is very passive throughout the book. It’s more things happening to or around him than anything. I’m trying to think of something that he did, and I’m not coming up with anything. He’s told to do things or things happen and he reacts.

The story starts off with Dan fleeing because he has massive gambling debts. He gets a job at an apartment complex for seniors, where he ends up practically being a one-man-show and doing almost everything. While he’s there he’s approached by Simon with a scheme to get money: simply don’t report it when a senior passes on and take their income when it keeps coming.

Seems simple enough, but not long after that he starts suspecting that the “natural” deaths may not be so natural after all. And he never really does anything about it. Even his role in the scheme is very passive – all he does is pass on a list of residents that don’t get visitors. He doesn’t do much else.

The apartments house many residents, including cranky folks and a pair who have finally found romance. Dan himself happens to meet a woman named Betty and falls for her. I think this is where his passivity kills it. The reason he stays at the building when he suspects Simon is highly dangerous is that he wants to flee with Betty, so he has to convince her to come with him. So, what does he do to convince her?

Absolutely nothing. I don’t think he ever even asked her. But every time he thinks of leaving he uses her as an excuse for why he’s staying, when he hasn’t so much as said, “Want to move with me?” Almost 80% through the book Dan lamented the fact that he needed to convince Betty to leave with him, and I wrote the note: “Has he even asked her yet?”

The ending wraps up a bit abruptly with the senior residents figuring Simon out and ganging up on him. Dan, again, does very little here. I think there’s a part of the story that we seem to be left out of. I would have liked to see more of how the residents figured out what was going on. We overhear a conversation about them wanting to ‘look into it’, and there might have been a time when they gave Dan funny looks, but beyond that there wasn’t anything I can remember so it felt sudden at the end. I would have liked to see what detective skills they were using, how they were collaborating, and how they got organized at the end to trap him. I was also a little confused about Mr. Fryer’s involvement. We don’t really get a summary of everything everyone did in the scheme, and Dan doesn’t even see them most of the time.

That’s not to say it was a bad book. Maybe it just had the wrong protagonist. Imagine the same plot told from one of the tenant’s points of view. They suspect something is going on. Maybe they suspect Dan is involved, and then see both Simon and Dan at one of their events. Then they could see that Dan looks rather scared of Simon and think that he might be bein blackmailed. All the while they’re putting together clues and investigating, trying to figure out what’s happening to the disappearing residents and dealing with the different personalities of the residents. How do you keep Mrs. Zimmer from blabbing? Can you trust the guy who is in charge of taking care of you? How are the residents being killed off? Worse: could you be next? There’s quite a lot to work with here and it’s unfortunate that the book felt rather distant from the plot as Dan “kind-of-sort-of suspects things but doesn’t really do anything”.

I did like the relationships overall in this book. It was nice to see something a little different. Many books I read have relationships that can be summarized as “He’s hot/She’s hot”. Here it was more based on their personalities and their situations in life.

I bet a good editor could do a lot with this book. If the author has an opportunity to hire an editor (I know it’s expensive) I would recommend it.

I give it a 7/10. A fine read that can use some tune-ups.



I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

(Spoilers within)

Foehammer is the story of an unknown threat that has infiltrated several areas in the world, and how a team of people is put together to neutralize the threat when no one else can. This is set in a future where cities have been gated off and poor people have been left outside of the gates.

The group barely know anything about each other before they’re thrown into their first mission.

I think the main five characters chosen for the mission are fine. I think Jester is the author favorite and possibly overutilized, though Helga was my favorite and I felt she was a little underutilized. This didn’t go on to an extent that I hated Jester or anything like that. I didn’t mind him doing a lot in the story.

I thought the way Helga’s chapters were handled was actually very clever. She’s a large, incredibly strong Russian woman who isn’t confident in her English speaking skills. The majority of her chapters are summarizations of events rather than showing a lot of dialogue. I think that works very well for her. As someone who speaks English as a second language, she might be good enough to pick up overall what people are talking about but not catch every single word, so it’s great that writing out the dialogue is avoided in her sections. I thought that was a great way to handle it.

I’m not positive if this was done on purpose because there are other parts of the story where dialogue will randomly be cut out and summarized instead.

“Lots of very unusual stuff down there,” he told them.
Jester asked if it might be the animals Weaver had mentioned.
“If I can…”

Jester spat out a mouthful of fur and blood. “Why thank you, young sir.”
She peered curiously at Jester, and then asked him if he was okay.

She ignored him and asked Cutis what the creatures were.

“I’ll keep an eye on ya, Jodie,” he said cheerily. “Any signs of going under and I’ll pull you right out of there.”
She nodded and thanked them.

It was unusual how some of the dialogue would be left out, especially when it would take even more words than just writing it out the begin with. Like:

“and then she asked him if he was okay.”

is longer than

“”Are you okay?” she asked.”

The story goes at a fairly stead pace and doesn’t take long to get the group into their first mission. From there they’re quickly taken to other missions.

Not all of the main characters were very likable, but I liked how that was handled. For example, their hacker, Cryboy, could be summarized as “that creeper everyone runs into on the internet sometimes”. But that’s what he’s portrayed as. The book doesn’t try to tell us, “No, he’s a wonderful person, really”. He’s arrogant and creepy, but his skills are useful for the mission. His chapters often revolve around him looking down on other people and criticizing the way they’re doing their jobs. Like Helga, I thought they were handled well and were a good representation of the character.

Although this story revolves around several people, and each chapter will often switch to another point of view, the majority of it is seen from Jodie’s POV. When they go into each mission, Jodie, Jester and Curtis are the team who go down to face the monsters because the three of them can resist the hypnosis (Jodie is protected via Curtis), and most of this is seen through Jodie’s eyes. I didn’t mind Jodie overall. She was a sharpshooter who had never been in actual combat, while Jester was a veteran and Curtis was a shaman who was often quiet.

Jodie was the most normal of the characters, and while she didn’t just sit around and watch I think having everything in her POV worked against her at times. She would describe what Jester and Curtis were doing, and there were several cases where you might get an entire page of what Jester is doing. When that would happen, I would start wondering what Jodie was doing. Like, if Jodie explains paragraph after paragraph of Jester getting backed into a corner while he’s fighting, it would leave me wondering, “Are you going to do something about that, Jodie?” This was especially true when all of their opponents would be focused on someone else.

There’s times when the hypnosis is starting to effect her and mess with her mind and that was fine, because we had a reason why she wasn’t helping. I’m talking about times when she seemed to be narrating events for awhile without taking any action herself, or giving reasons why she wasn’t trying to do something.

At times that would make it feel like she was just gawking and saying how cool Jester and Curtis were, while they did everything. She also didn’t speak up at vital times. Like, when Curtis was first going into his trance and Jester decided to wander away, the entire time she inwardly complains about him moving on instead of confronting him about it. His actions are putting her life in danger, and he has supposedly dealt with a lot of trauma of losing his teammates. She should have pointed out that he was trying to get her killed because he was leaving her vulnerable.

I also felt like Helga should have had another moment in the spotlight. Towards the beginning she does something, but after that she never really gets to do much again.

Overall, I was fine with the main five characters, though. I think it’s Weaver and Maddie that I’m more confused about – namely Maddie. They’re both the “organizers”, but I didn’t see a reason they needed two of them. I can’t think of anything significant Maddie did in the entire story. She went with them, but she had no skills to actually contribute to any missions, and she didn’t even organize well. In the beginning Helga had to act on her own to save the team. She neither helped nor hindered anything in particular, so she didn’t really do anything in the story besides exist. Her character could have probably been combined with Weaver’s. Both were organizers who weren’t prepared for the situation and were nervous about their decisions.

Weaver himself was left out of the missions and often in another area entirely, so when the story switched to him he couldn’t say much of anything about the action that was going on. He often complained about the people of the world not doing anything about the situation – but the situation was a monster that would hypnotize and eat people. Did he really want people to run in and try to fight that? What exactly did he expect them to do? The majority of people would have just gotten in the way.

There were also flashbacks to Curtis’ past sprinkled throughout the book. I think some were interesting, but it was jarring that they would switch to present tense. I’m not sure every single one was needed, either.

There was a chapter that described him going into his trance and having to battle fear. From a character who didn’t show any fear during the story it would have been nice to expand on that more. Did he have to battle his fears when he went into a trance every time?

I liked a lot of the action in the book and the overall story was good. I was actually surprised to see that sequels are planned because it was mostly wrapped up at the end. There were a few errors, like things being pulled “taught” instead of “taut”. I think it needed a second eye on it to point out things like that, as well as the odd spacing that occurred at random intervals between paragraphs and parts that could have been tightened (like having Jodie do something instead of gawk, or pointing out when dialogue would flow more naturally than a summary). But it was a good, enjoyable book, and if the summary intrigues you I would recommend it.

I give it a 8/10.

(8/25/2015 Note: The author has mentioned that he’s updated the book and made correction since I’ve posted this review.)