Dead Scary

I fell ill so it took me awhile to get this up.

Dead Scary: The Ghost who refused to leave

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

(Spoilers within)

The story is simple enough. In this tale the main character, Adam, can see ghosts, or “Earthbound Spirits”. He’s always been able to do this and considers dealing with them a normal part of life even though his parents can’t see them and don’t believe they exist. His family inherits a dream home. Unfortunately, the ghost who lives there, Eddie, is stubborn and demanding and won’t leave. Adam has to deal with Eddie all by himself.

I’d say there’s mostly two characters in this book: Adam and Eddie. Other characters tend to exist to fill a role, like Adam’s parents being big disbelievers, or his little sister being easily scared.

The story moves along at a good pace. The first strange I noticed was incomplete sentences. I think there were more of these at the beginning of the story than at the end, but there were still several cases.

His voice was as posh as.

Waiting until tomorrow to find out about this Edward Lawrence wasn’t on.

Isabel, of course, thought she was as clever as.

Ghosts are pure energy, so teleporting is as easy as.

Every time I ran into one of these I stopped to re-read and make sure I hadn’t missed something.

There were also times it just said stuff.

That must’ve been a good answer, because Mom gave me a quick smile and Eddie rolled his eyes and disappeared. We’d only just moved in and he already seemed to be fond of Emily.

His action doesn’t show him being fond of her at all. It’s just said out of nowhere.

So, the story goes along, Adam and Eddie can’t stand each other, and Eddie decides to use his connections in order to force Adam and his family out of the house. Apparently, because of his high position in the Earthbound Spirit world, he can get the Council to send Warrior Spirits in order to force them out, and Warrior Spirits can essentially destroy a person’s soul or something.

There were two things about the plot that boggled my mind.

One: When Isabel says, I don’t see why the Council can’t sit them both down and force them to work things out.

The response she gets is:
The Council doesn’t have the authority to do that.”

The Council can send the elite supernatural assassin squad but they can’t ask them to try and talk it out? This isn’t even attempted.

The second problem is that Adam is a child and is the only one who knows about the spirit world, and they’re expecting Adam to convince his family to leave their brand new house. How? Young children are the ones who make those sort of decisions. You can’t just hand them a magazine listing other houses and expect Adam to hop on over to the next home. It made no sense for so many people to expect Adam to be able to do that.

This book is meant for grade schoolers who may not even notice those things. It definitely taxed my suspension of disbelief as an adult, but kids might just chug along and not care.

It otherwise has a fun story to follow along with that the target audience will probably love so, despite the issues I had with it, I didn’t have a hard time reading it. I give it a 6/10.

Deep in the Bin of Bob

Deep In The Bin Of Bob

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

(Spoilers within)

To say that “Deep In The Bin Of Bob” is a strange story would be an understatement. The story starts from one bizarre scenario and rapidly switches to new outlandish scenarios. In the beginning, “Deep”, the main character, follows a woman into her home, which is completely dark and lit by glowworms. There’s a bottomless pit in the middle of her kitchen, and she has things like a hippopotamus skin stuffed inside of a bear skin. It just gets stranger from there as Deep goes through the building working his way towards the roof, where a hot air balloon has crashed into it and he’s convinced someone needs help.

If I were to describe what the story was like, I think I’d pick “Jacob’s Ladder” as something similar. It’s kind of like reading a fever dream.

Like the main character, this book tries very hard to be deep, and in a lot of spots it works. There’s a lot of parts that will make you think. The writing is very stylistic, spending a lot of time describing scenes in detail and using a lot of metaphors. The author is good at painting strange, surreal scenes in a way that can be pictured. There’s even the odd morbid but entertaining thought:

He would sit the owner down, and tell them how sorry he was, but their dog had been murdered by gravity.

Deep minded the sinkhole, he minded the sinkhole very much.

However, the book does get majorly bogged down by its own need to follow that style and be overly lengthy. One of the first issues I ran into was metaphors that make no sense.

His muscles felt heavy, like he was walking on toothpaste.

Walking on toothpaste could be a good description for the floor, but how does it relate to how heavy his muscles are?

His voice was thin and curly.

Thin I could maybe equate to weak, but curly? You can say that someone’s hair feels like a poodle’s fur – that brings up a very specific image and feel. You can say something smells like grass. People know what grass smells like. But if you say something was like flying the way poodles do or sounded like grass screaming it doesn’t add anything because it’s meaningless gibberish. Poodles don’t fly, grass doesn’t scream, putting those words into a sentence just pads it out with confusing chatter. It feels more like metaphors being shoved into a sentence because there’s a metaphor quota rather than something that adds to the description, and they take away from the time of more meaningful things.

Then, there are parts where things are shoved into paragraphs that have nothing to do with anything. In one part it’s talking about giants, caves and the smell of the air, and then there’s this:

Deep imagined Christmas day being a war between those who wanted to celebrate, and those who wanted to get it over with.

And then it’s back to describing the size of the cutlery the giant is using. What did that sentence have to do with what was being described? Why is it there? It didn’t add to the situation at all, had nothing to do with what was being talked about, and is never mentioned again. It’s a random thought barfed into the middle of a scene. There’s also many times the stories repeats things.

There are entire scenes in this book that could be removed without losing anything from the story, and parts that feel shoved in there. For example, there’s a scene where Deep ends up in a room with Truman, Churchill and Hitler, and it’s about how dropping atomic bombs is a bad thing and how people fight wars and such in the name of God. The scene revolves around Truman and Churchill’s guilt, essentially, and them being in a match to see who’ll take the ‘blame’, sort of. This scene didn’t really have anything to do with anything else going on and could have been completely taken out, but with it in there I couldn’t help but keep thinking how someone very, very important was missing from this scene if it was trying to make a point about what happens in war.

What about the Emperor of the very country that was being talked about? He’s not even mentioned. So the whole scene plays out like it’s touching on the most obvious – atomic bombs are bad – and sweeping by anything deep about it. On top of that, it’s just sort of there and interrupts the flow of what was happening (Deep chasing “Loony Jikininki” to get his pig back).

To be honest, I had to force myself through a good portion of the book. These sort of odd, random scenarios constantly happening just made it seem like Deep was walking from one random scene to another with little rhyme or reason. Many times I’m not even sure how he got into a scene. There was a part in the middle where everything turned into ‘words’ and the book started talking about what the reader on the Kindle was thinking (I actually don’t have a Kindle to begin with) that didn’t work for me at all because of this. It tried to set up a scenario with a dog dying and the reader not wanting the dog to die, but I was impatiently waiting for that part to end so that something could happen. Because the story meandered about I was just waiting for it to go somewhere. I actually still don’t see a need for that part even after finishing the story. It’s like a movie that’s sitting on a landscape shot for too long.

I liked Richard the best as a character I think. Most characters in this book couldn’t really be considered a character. It was more like Deep walked in on them somewhere and they started monologuing about stuff. Richard was probably the only one who stuck around and had her own thoughts about different events. Deep could be a character, and Beena at the end could be a character, but everyone else is a monologue. They don’t really act or talk like people. It suits the story well enough but it means there’s a limit to how much anyone can be related to.

That said, after getting through all of that the ending itself was pretty good. Not necessarily the parts with Hitler, but the parts that actually had to do with Deep and what was happening in his life. I liked his talk with Beena, and I liked his realization of who some people had been previously. I thought that part was particularly well done after painting Beena out to be almost like she was someone perfect before.

The ending was good. Not necessarily “good” in the happy sense, but it suited the book. It was enough that I was glad I read the book, even if at times I had to keep pushing myself forward. I do think this is probably a book that someone could read twice and look into what happened earlier after they know the ending.

If things like child molestation, gory imagery or suicide are something that you want to avoid, then you probably shouldn’t read this book.

I give it a 6/10, because even though I thought the ending was good I have to remember how hard it was to push myself through some of the chapters.

Law of the Land

Law of the Land (The Scofflaw Series Book 2)

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

(Spoilers within)

I fell ill when I started reading this book, so it took me longer to get through than it normally would and might have affected might perceptions. Regardless, these are my thoughts.

Right away I knew this book would have a major problem with characters. At the beginning of the book there is a list of characters with short snippets about who they are. This is a very short book, so having that many characters listed meant there wouldn’t be enough time to develop them all. I understood who a few of the characters were, but there were definitely many who were little more than names to me.

There were quite a few errors littering the text. I always knew what the author meant to say, but there was plenty like this:

“Salvage,” Cazmeran corrected., “Are you…

He moved to help the boy but stopped when a solder clad head to toe is steel plates…

…and brandished is wildly at he fog.

…the creature growled and pointed up the mountain with he spear.

These sorts of errors were common.

The story also just sort of ends.There’s no real conclusions, nothing is pulled together. It’s more like we got the first chapters of a story. Now, I understand this is a series, but stories still have a beginning, middle and end.

Consider television for a second. There may be an overarching plot for a season or entire series, but each episode will feel complete in and of itself. This is becoming pretty common as more people write series where books will just ‘stop’ without anything having been solved, and you’re expected to buy the next book. Instead of feeling like a series it feels more like a single book that was chopped up and sold in parts. There’s no particular reason for these chapters to be separated from the rest.

That said, it was a fairly fun book. It was easy to read and had a fast pace. I wouldn’t mind reading more into the story. I enjoyed some of the conversations Taelyn and Cazmeran had. I didn’t have a problem following along with the story save for some of the motivations/plans of the gods (mostly because there are so many and not a lot of time to show them). There was one particular chapter that opened up describing Sarith that I thought was done particularly well. I wish that sort of time had been devoted to more of the characters, because I really got a feel for who he was in that chapter.

It isn’t a bad book to pick up if you’re interested in reading a book revolving around the politics between gods and a boy chosen to go on an adventure. Just be aware that it does have a lot of errors and you won’t get any sort of conclusion.

Also, people who are sensitive to rape may not want to read this book. There isn’t anything particularly graphic about that subject, but it is brought up a lot.

I give it about a 6/10.



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

(Spoilers within)

I’m honestly not sure what to say about this one. I’m very confused by it. The book was presented to me as an interview with a candidate for the President of the United States. However, I doubt “Citizen N” is a real person. There was very little information about this book. Even trying to look it up I couldn’t find more. I considered e-mailing the author to ask for clarification about what I was reading but I decided against it. This is what is put out there, and this is the information other readers would have.

So, here’s the information:

“The book is an interview with Citizen N, a candidate for President of the United States. In this short interview, he discusses the family structure and how it relates to our social problems here and around the world.”

My first feeling is that this book is just a way for the author to right their opinions by creating a fake interview. I’m not positive, though. It could be based on a real interview somewhere. And that’s all the book is. It’s a transcript of an interview, which probably isn’t real. I don’t really know what to say about that. I disagreed with some things, agreed with others, but I didn’t feel like anything was said in the book that struck me. When I read I usually don’t try to judge other people’s opinions or anything like that, but this felt more like rambling with an occasional point.

Some spots I felt were misinformed, like saying that people would only play games on things like the iPad instead of reading, so it’s not a good way to get kids to read and only buy them print books. The e-book market is huge because people are reading on devices a lot. I like print books, but I will admit I’ve read a huge number of books on an iPad compared to the few I read in print, and this is quickly becoming the trend. It’s just more convenient and cheaper to use a device (if you don’t take into account the price of the device, that is, and even then if I had as many print books as I did e-books the price of the books and the shipping would add up to a lot). Like this, some of the opinions felt dated, like someone who was out of touch with the current generation and technology.

There were also some errors.

I think my overall issue with this book is that I don’t understand why it exists. I don’t know what the author was going for exactly, or even if I’m correct in my assessment that it’s just some way for the author to write down their opinions. It’s short and it wasn’t awful, although it did ramble sometimes like I mentioned. I just don’t know why it was made or who it’s meant for. I could barely even find mentions of this book anywhere, Goodreads or otherwise. The author really needs to elaborate on what this is about. The author has a responsibility to present their book in a clear way.

I give it about a 5/10.

Almost Lost Hope: From Struggles to Triumph

Almost Lost Hope: From Struggles to Triumph

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

(Spoilers within)

I’m perplexed why this book was given to me to review, since I said I don’t intend to review religious literature. It’s an autobiography, but very much focused on God and constantly talks about his religious beliefs.

That’s not to say I have anything against religious people. If you were to ask me if I could trust someone based on only knowing their occupation, something like “nun” or “monk” would be at the top of my list. But the author comes to conclusions that I don’t necessarily agree with, and it’s definitely a book that preaches.

As far as reading it, it flowed pretty quickly and was easy to read but it felt like English might not have been the author’s first language.

“One very day…”

Making it to the hospital was a great mystery.

The reason is we had been seeking the fruit of the womb for over six months…”

Even her family took sides with her and forced at me.

There were odd word choices as well as some misspellings, and times where the author spelled something one way on one page and another way on the next.

I do have a feeling that other people would give very different accounts of some of the times he described. However, I’m not really here to judge or argue so much, just to talk about whether a book was enjoyable or not. It was all right. It’s not the type of book I would seek out – I’m still confused why this was sent to me. It was very quick, it’s not a long book. It wasn’t difficult to read despite oddly chosen words and such.

If ‘inspirational stories’ are something that you’re interested in, I’d say “it’s okay”. It’s not something that left an impression on me, but I’m far from the target audience.

I’d give it about a 5/10.

The Pink Dolphin Tale

Children Books: The Pink Dolphin Tale: (Preschool Values book) – Bedtime Stories Picture Book for Early & Beginner Readers fiction (Balu Baldauf Series 6)

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

This is a pretty straightforward and simple tale, which is what you’d expect from a children’s book. The main character finds a dolphin that continually depends on him no matter how big she gets. Eventually she has to learn that she can take care of herself.

The value is good – learning to be independent. The story is fine for young children. There’s nothing wrong with it on that front.

The reason I’m giving it the score I am is because of several spelling and grammar errors that I found. If a book is only about ten pages, which each only have a few sentences, there shouldn’t be any errors. Story-wise, I think it’s fine for kids. I personally wouldn’t give this to my kids right now because I don’t want them to memorize spelling errors or grammatical errors. Hopefully these get fixed.
I give it about a 6/10.

NOTE: The author has said that she has fixed these issues now.

Tainted (The ARC) Vol.1

Tainted (The ARC) (Volume 1)

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

(Spoilers within).

This book has a pretty decent premise to work with. The surface of the Earth has been contaminated and people have moved underground in order to survive. Even so, the people living underground have to be tested to make sure that they don’t get sick, and if they turn up “tainted” they disappear.

The main character, as well as pretty much everyone in the book, has dealt with losing many important people in her life. Finally, she wants to uncover what really happens to the people who are tainted.

It’s not bad. I was really curious to see where it would go, but two things majorly bogged down this book: Elle and forced romance. In a book where characters are being carted away to never come back, a lot of time is given to her romantic interests. I found myself pushing through those parts and waiting for it to get back to the actual story.

It’s nothing you haven’t seen before. She loves her best friend, but she can’t tell him she loves him, and she has no idea that he likes her even though it’s blatantly obvious (she’s also doesn’t think she’s pretty like the other girls, even though more than one guy is infatuated with her. To quote the book, “But with my large blue eyes, thick lashes and long brown hair they see me as cute, rather than hot.”).

At first I gave it the benefit of the doubt, but then the uglier side of forced romances reared its ugly head: jealousy, anger, possessiveness… Sebastian sees Elle with another man and he throws a tantrum. If a high school girl told me that a boy was acting like that around her, I wouldn’t find it romantic. I’d tell her to stay far away from him.

The other romantic interest is thirteen years older than her. I don’t remember if Elle’s exact age was mentioned, but she’s still a student. This is creepy. And to be honest, I don’t mind that she thinks he’s sexy. That wouldn’t be weird for someone her age to think that about an older man, but it makes him really, really creepy.

I’m not sure timelines added up. She talks about meeting Ryan a year before, and then talks about him disappearing for months at a time. And based on the brief meeting shown in the book, if that’s how their meetings go and then he leaves for months, how much time could she have spent with him total? Half an hour? And how did Sebastian come to the conclusion that she’s dating a man that she sees for a couple minutes every few months anyway?

The second thing that bogged down the book was Elle herself. She’s very negative towards most other characters.

In the beginning, she gets detention for not paying attention in class.

If I didn’t have this stupid detention, I’d already be on my way back home to see Quinn.

Why doesn’t she say anything about why she was distracted? Most people are empathetic, and if this is a common situation then it should be easy for her to explain with a simple, “I’m sorry, Ms. Matthews, I’ve been having a hard time concentrating because my friend is getting tested today.” Even later in the book it makes it clear that people are very understanding about this. She probably could have avoided detention easily if she just said something.

The first other girl who wants Sebastian’s attention is depicted horribly by Elle, and she didn’t even do anything. She just happened to talk to the guy that Elle likes. And this sort of bitterness towards side characters continues through the book. It’s very strange and nonsensical in places.

For example, when Chelsea is taken, Elle is upset that other other kids are gossiping and the other half are acting devastated even though they didn’t know Chelsea. Then, when Sebastian is taken, she’s upset that the other kids are all being sickeningly sweet to her. First: nothing they do makes Elle happy. If they gossip like normal, she’s mad. If they’re upset, she’s mad. If they try to be nice to the person who lost someone, she’s mad. Second, why are the side characters reacting so differently based on who was taken? Why are they nice when Sebastian is taken, and rude when Chelsea is taken?

Elle is absolutely clueless about obvious things. She has no idea why Sebastian gets upset when she talks to another guy. She sees Sebastian talking to Chelsea, and then Chelsea is taken and he’s upset, and she immediately jumps to the conclusion that they must have been dating. Why? This makes as much sense as Sebastian thinking that Elle is dating some guy she talks to for a couple minutes every few months.

Not only that, but this uncaring attitude towards other characters pops up in weird places and makes both of them seem unexpectedly cold. For example, again with Chelsea: Elle is mad that she thinks Sebastian is trying to find the “tainted” people because of Chelsea’s disappearance. Sebastian has to convince Elle that it’s not about Chelsea.

What did Chelsea ever do wrong? What would be so horrible about him wanting to find his friend? Why is Chelsea not worth finding? They basically have to agree that this character doesn’t matter for it to appease Elle and it’s just awful. I felt terrible for Chelsea, having two people sitting there discussing about how meaningless she is and how much they aren’t doing this to find her. It doesn’t reflect well on the main characters.

Elle has glimmers of hope throughout the book. At one point, another guy, Cam, is trying to get the attention of a girl he likes during a dance. Elle gets close to him and:

When I get to him I stand on my tiptoes to get close to his ear. ‘Just ask her to dance already!’ I yell loudly.

This is cute. This isn’t self-absorbed or forced. This is her genuinely being interested in helping someone else when she knows he has a crush.

Once his arms are around me I begin to cry. Like really, embarrassingly cry.

This is another part that I like, because it’s understandable. People don’t usually like to cry in front of other people, and most would probably be embarrassed if they had a breakdown in front of someone. I get this. This is a part of her character that I understand and want to see more of.

Unfortunately, that gets overshadowed by this Elle for most of the book:

Away from everyone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to lose your best friend.

I’m pretty sure every character in this book knows what that’s like.

It also takes her about 19 chapters to do anything proactive. Before that, other people have secret connections. Other people have theories. Other people have to push her into doing things, and she complains the whole way.

Chapter 20 and on the book picks up a lot. I liked these chapters and was interested in seeing what would happen.

There was another time that stuck out to me with Elle being oddly angry at people again:

I look at the boy’s face on the paper and then angrily shove the picture back into my pocket, not caring if it crinkles. The doctor had been supposed to help me, not get me thrown in remand.

The only thing the doctor did was tell her exactly what she wanted to know so that she could get tainted blood. Which she successfully did. It was her own fault that she got caught. He wasn’t involved with her break-in at all, and now she’s beating up the photo of his grandson? The message he desperately hoped that he might be able to pass on? Why? He didn’t do anything but help her!

But besides that, the last part of the book went pretty smoothly and kept me engaged. I wish the rest of this book had gone like that. In my opinion, Sebastian and Ryan could have been completely deleted and it could have been the Elle and Quinn show, and it would have been better. Nothing about the romance worked for me – both characters were uglier when it was the focus. Jealous, angry, possessive, snippy, mean, clueless, bitter… They didn’t become characters I wanted to root for or spend time with. It didn’t add to the story for me, either. The same story could have been told without Sebastian, and perhaps in a much more interesting way (imagine if Elle was the one making connections, learning how to play with her CommuCuff, deciding on her own to sneak into restricted areas…)

If you want to read a dystopian book and romances like these don’t bother you, then you may enjoy this book. People who have read my reviews probably know that I don’t like certain portrayals of romance. I would be interested in seeing what happens next – I just hope Sebastian doesn’t take over again.

I give it a 6/10.

Trial By Fear

Trial By Fear (Fallen Powers Book 1)

The author of this book gave me a free copy in exchange for a review.

(Spoilers within)
“Trial By Fear” has a pretty good setup. The main character, Beon, starts out as a boy who has been raised by goblins and wants to escape. He makes an attempt, and it goes very badly very fast. This makes for a good beginning, as I was curious where it would go from there.

I think the book needed to be longer. It shot through a lot of scenes, and left me confused in places. For example, there was a flashback scene where Beon states that “he’s in his room”, but I had no idea what that meant. Did he mean his room back where he was raised by the goblins, which would make the most sense as feeling like ‘his room’? Did he mean the room that he stayed at after being saved? Did he mean the room in his flashback? The story didn’t provide much detail about his statement and left me a bit disoriented as he was in a flashback, then back in present – and at the time I wasn’t clear exactly about his present circumstances, either.

Basically, it needed to slow down. Another issue was the amount of characters. This is a short book, and there are a lot of names thrown around in it – Beon, Rezon, Cheltok, Calandria, Calno, Kayna, Lisilsa, Garor, Vorray, Arlia, Derap… Needless to say, there wasn’t enough time for all of these characters to be developed. Many of them appear briefly, and their backstories are gone through in a flash.

On the other hand, there’s nothing really bad in this book. There’s some violence, but I didn’t think it lingered too long on gory details. There’s a good setup. I think my favorite character development was when Beon first learned to read. After getting praise, he began almost obsessively writing. It made sense for him, after living with constant insults his entire life, to really desire to succeed and get more praise. I wish the story had slowed down and given more scenes like this.

This book doesn’t really have an ending, it just stops. It felt more like I read half of the book and the next half of the book was missing. We basically got the “training montage” and then it ended.

A teen may very well enjoy this book. If it looks interesting to you, go ahead and give it a try. I give it about a 6/10.

Rebellion (Chronicles of Charanthe) (Vol.1)

Rebellion (Chronicles of Charanthe) (Volume 1)

(Spoilers inside)

Having read this book, I can say it did suck me in for a good portion of it. It took me awhile to get into it, especially because I didn’t know where it was going, but it made enough sense in the end why Eleanor was picked and for what. Some parts may have been overly long, but overall it was a fairly fastpaced adventure with a lot going on.

There were a few common writing problems this book suffered from that struck me immediately and made it harder for me to get into at the start. One is the “protagonist centered universe”. Eleanor, for example, wasn’t given the job she wanted because of her attitude. I believe we’re supposed to take her side because she’s worked so hard, but no one wants to work with someone who has a bad attitude, so I don’t really take her side. The only reason we would take her side on that is because she’s the protagonist. The exact same character from a different point of view could easily be painted as a villain: “She works so hard and is talented, but her personality…”

My initial impression in this book was not just that Eleanor didn’t agree with the system, but that of the people she lived with her entire life she didn’t trust any of them enough to speak in private. It’s one thing to put on a face in front of officials, but it’s another when the main character can’t have a real, private conversation with anyone she’s lived with her entire life. Surely she’s not the only one who ever has different thoughts? Little things like that left me feeling like she almost had disdain for the people she grew up with.

I had several little issues at the beginning, but I think the biggest was Eleanor’s sudden fame. After she leaves the school she starts pick-pocketing, and eventually gets caught. In a panic, she pulls a knife on a guy then immediately runs away. This seemingly makes her incredibly famous across cities (note: she doesn’t use the knife, she just got scared and pulled it out). I had some issues with that.

1. Is there no other crime going on at all that’s more worthy of note? Really? Why are people being assigned as police in different places if this is the most noteworthy crime happening? So much so that word of her spreads to other cities in a flash about the “assassin”.

2. Everyone will recognize her because she has red hair. Are there really no other women with red hair in the world? How did she end up with red hair if no one else has red hair? I know some hair colors are more common than others, but even if only 1% of the population has red hair, that still means that there would be a few dozen others running around that city. Not to mention there are simple ways to disguise hair color.

Now, I know the guy recognized the knife she had, but the amount of fame she got for this seemed ridiculous, and it also seemed weird how fast word spread of the non-incident. They sail for weeks/months and they’re still worried about her being recognized in some far away land. She didn’t do anything worthy of note. It felt too forced.

Now, beyond that, there’s a lot that happens in this story and it’s a pretty decent read. At times I was lost on what the characters were supposed to be accomplishing (for example, when she’s at the Academy, I have no idea what they were trying to accomplish by drugging her and holding her hostage. I was never clear on that, especially when they’re upset that she escaped). When I set it aside and just assumed that they must have been trying to do something productive, the story moved along fine.

I found the relationship between her and Raf fairly believable. They went through a lot together, so it made sense. I predicted he would come back the next year, but that was all right.

At times Eleanor could be frustrating. At one point she wondered Raf might be hiding from her and why. At the same time, she was hiding information from him, so it was hypocritical, and she didn’t even think of this when she was wishing he would trust her. She wasn’t trusting him, either.

There were also other points that felt forced. For example, at the Academy another student, Jorge, goes out of his way to try and kill her more than once. In front of people. For some reason Eleanor gets labeled as the crazy one, though. Why? Other people are there to witness what happened, so why would she be written off as crazy? Do they really find it acceptable for another student to attempt to choke her in the middle of lessons? Or for that same student to stalk her with a pair of knives and demand a fight? They would also have seen her try to walk away several times before scaring him off. There was absolutely no reason why they held these things against her instead of him. It was like she needed to feel left out for drama, and that was the only reason for them to be against her instead of him.

There’s also a point when she overhears Ivan scheming with Jorge, and she goes through a list of people and reasons why she can’t talk to them. She completely forgets Laban. During the second half of the book, after a certain point, he mostly disappears, and she never tries to bring any of these things to his attention even though she knows him and he’s on the council.

I actually liked that she laughed off her wounds and focused on more important things. At one point she looks at a mirror and wonders when “her changed features had stopped horrifying her”, but this is a case of being told and not shown. She worried about how she looked about once in the book, and otherwise laughed it off.

There were also times when I was waiting for her to fix things but instead they just fell in place for her. For example, towards the end, she beat one of her other classmates on a test by essentially cheating off of him. When she tells this to them, they’re understandably upset at her. Instead of trying to do anything to sort things out with them, she mostly mopes or hangs out with the other boys (that they don’t like). I know she’s had an experience with Raf that would make her close to him, but there’s no reason why she should snub the people she’s been with for a year, especially when they have reason to be upset. I was waiting for her to tell Laban or someone else on the council, and then bring it back to them and inform them that she had told the council in order to at least try to make things right with them. Instead, she let’s them be mad at her without any attempts to fix the situation, and things just sort of fall in place for her and they forgive her. I wanted her to be more proactive about things like that. I would have loved to see her work more on getting along with people. Joke about the way Daniel is a “smug bastard” or something.

And one last thing that I noticed that bothered me: at the end of the book she distances herself from Raf and thinks that he’s “just like the others from Venncastle”. It’s fine for her to argue with him and disagree with him, and get mad about the things she got mad about, but this made no sense. She had previously overheard Ivan and Jorge talking, and she heard them talk about how Raf was rooting for her instead of him. She knows already that they believe Raf is on her side. I didn’t see any reason why she suddenly lumped him in with the rest of them. It made sense to be awkward around him or try to avoid him, but not to suddenly act like “all people from Venncastle are scum” or something.

There were very minor errors in this book. First paragraphs weren’t indented, and once in awhile there would be a missing word or quote:

Even now they were older, most of the girls wouldn’t venture beyond the first few trees.

“And thank you all for coming.

…the girl can make good on her promise to drive all your custom away.

Overall it was written well, though, and errors were few and far between.

I think Daniel actually ended up being my favorite character. Although he was smug and stubborn, he stuck to his beliefs. I was glad he ended up on the council as well. A lot of the other students I didn’t get too much from beyond “they’re from Venncastle” or “they’re not from Venncastle”.

I really wasn’t sure what rating to give this, because for a good portion of it I was reading quite happily, but there were definitely parts that frustrated me, and it took awhile for me to get into it. I saw another reviewer thought it slowed down when they got to the Academy. I can see what they mean, but it still read fine for me at that point. I didn’t think it slowed down too much, and I at least liked reading about Daniel and the way he interpretted things differently. It was only awhile after they got to the Academy that it slowed down a lot for me.

So I think it is an enjoyable read, but I settled on my score because there were a lot of things that bothered me and it did take up a good portion of the book. I give it a 6 out of 10.

The Black Cane

The Black Cane (Dowager Diaries Book 1)

The decision to help one small boy turns eight elderly women’s lives upside-down. Danger becomes a way of life. If the women are going to save the boy and stay alive, they are going to have to use skills that have been dormant way too long.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a non-reciprocal review.
(There will be spoilers).

I was excited to read this book. A group of elderly ladies who play bridge together become detectives? I was all in.

There are several cases handled in the book besides the main one which I liked. I also like that the main case was mostly wrapped up by the end of the book. I was worried that, like many series, it would end on a cliffhanger to try and draw readers back. I don’t like that. I prefer a complete story in one book, even if it connects to other books. Instead of dragging on the main story with Marc, it starts up a new mystery that will be continued in the next book.

In general I didn’t find much to dislike about the characters save for Marc. He got better as the story went on, possibly because he took a backseat in the story, but when he first showed up he read more like a caricature than a child to me.

I liked Amelia and may have been a little biased because she was a translator. Most of the characters were fine, though there are quite a few and they didn’t all have time to be developed. That’s all right in a case like this where a few characters can be focused on in one book and a few others can be focused on in the next. I’ve only read the first book, though, and I could honestly only name a few of the members off the top of my head, so I hope the others each get a chance to have the spotlight in the future.

As far as the writing, this book came off like a nice rough draft to a story. There were a lot of errors I caught, mostly missing quotation marks or grammatical errors.

Examples: “There was lots of good-natured complaint about the luck of the cards…”
“If it were reasonable…”
“When she completed that chore. she and Darlene had time…”

On top of that, the prose could get repetitive. There’s a lot of:
XX said, “Hi.”
YY said, “The weather is nice today.”
ZZ said, “I don’t feel comfortable speaking.”

I know it’s better to use ‘said’ than browse through a thesaurus and throw in weird words, but there was little variation in how a lot of the dialogue was put together.

A good editor could have helped correct the errors as well as smooth out some plot points. Overall I liked the mysteries they solved but I wish some things had been addressed, like how people were hearing about the club. It seemed strange that someone like a school boy they had never met would know about them and I would have liked an explanation. There were also pieces of dialogue that could have been fixed up, like:

“A retired cop could come in handy, because I’m sure there is a crime involved here somewhere.”

This is in response to a child being kidnapped, held hostage, starved and beaten, among other things. The fact that she seems unsure about there being a crime involved sounds off.

I know it’s expensive for an indie author to hire an editor, but I think it would be worth it. There’s a lot of good ideas here that just need polished.

In the end, I give it a 6/10. Good ideas are nice, but presentation is important, too, and I hope the author finds the resources to work some more on this book.

About the Author:
From living off the grid in the Arizona desert, Eileen has moved to the woods of upstate New York. She has authored a standalone adventure novel called Desert Shadow. She is also the author of Alicia Trent Series. The Black Cane : Dowager Diaries Book 1 is her latest release.

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