Cave of Journeys

Cave of Journeys

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

“Cave of Journeys” is a very clean read with a lot of information packed into it. If you’re looking for something safe for kids, there’s absolutely nothing unsavory in here. This is the kind of book where the characters are constantly saying “please”, “thank you” and apologizing when they do something that might be considered rude.

I think another reviewer pretty much summed up the main issue the book has: a lack of conflict. There’s never any tension. The only time there was a tense moment – when the tree became mad at them – it was resolved in about a page. It never feels like there’s anything at stake and everyone always gets along. There’s no danger and barely any disagreements.

It also needed editing. For example:

“When it did tell time proudly displayed it for all to see.”
“He repeated his maneuvers repeatedly…”

There’s also a spot where I felt like a line was meant to be deleted but got left in.

“”…Young man, do you have any questions?” the Elder asked Mattie.
“I like your stories. You make them easy to understand.”
Mattie thought for a moment. “Nope, I don’t have any questions yet.””

The middle line felt out of place. “Then” and “than” are also mixed up constantly in the book. Sometimes they’re used correctly, and then they’ll be used incorrectly several times, so the book is in need of an editor.

A lot of the book is basically characters talking to each other about history, respect, and other lessons. They’re not bad morals to take in or anything, but it is rather exposition-heavy. There also wasn’t really an explanation for a lot of things (like why the main characters were the ones picked to go on the journey. There wasn’t anything they did that couldn’t be done by anyone else).

I’m not sure if the book would hold a child’s attention because of the lack of conflict, but it is an innocent enough read and it might. It could be a nice introduction to Native American beliefs if they were interested in it, and it certainly has plenty of nice values to teach them and a lot of information. It didn’t keep my attention very well because I need more tension in what I read, but if one of the kids enjoyed it that wouldn’t bother me at all.

I’d say it wouldn’t hurt to see if your kids enjoy this book, but it probably wouldn’t hold the attention of many adults.

I give it a 6/10.

Vampire Romance

Vampire Romance 1: Erotic Sex Romance of Hannah the Vampire

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

“Vampire Romance”, if I were to describe it briefly, is essentially a pornographic short story, which I don’t have a problem with. I enjoy stuff like this once in awhile.

I think the main issue is that it reads like the rough draft to a story. There were a lot of errors. Sometimes there would be several sentences with missing words on the same page, and there were a lot of places that needed commas/apostrophes/quotes that were missing.

For example:
“Hannah knew the broken leg.”
instead of
“Hannah knew it was a broken leg.”

There were parts that could have worked great if they were revised. For example:
“The punctures look like nasty snake bites from a giant snake.”

As it is, the sentence is repetitive.

For what the story is trying to be it could work fine if it was fixed up. I don’t mind Hannah as a character, though I’m not fond of her relationship with Jake. At least she realizes it’s abusive and horrible.
A lot of the sex is, oddly, skipped over. A lot of the story is also told instead of shown. I don’t always mind this, especially when it’s such a short story, but there’s only a few scenes centering around the brothel that we really see much of.

Like I said before, I think the best way I can describe this is to say it’s like a rough draft. I’d give about a 5/10 right now.

Doubt (Among Us Trilogy)

Doubt (Among Us Trilogy)

The story has some interesting ideas.
Unfortunately, there was a lot of telling instead of showing in the beginning, on top of which we’re introduced to a lot of characters. I’ve never been good with names, and with the way this story is set up there are both real names and aliases, so right off the bat if five characters are introduced I’m supposed to remember ten names. With the telling instead of showing on top of that, I didn’t have a lot to remember the characters by. We get told “X doesn’t like Y” or “Z is a genius”.
When they text each other a lot of times the book is pretty good about mentioning which alias is who, but not always.

The characters are trying to find their missing parents. It’s a good setup, but Harry is the only one we get much background about. And it was good. Harry had a genius father that people admired, but his father mostly ignored him so he never felt very attached. Instead, he felt more attached to his mother, who actually paid attention to him. I wish we’d seen more with his mother.

I know almost nothing about the other parents people are looking for. It’s like a missed opportunity to get to know each character and their stories.
There are a lot of times when characters look for a McGuffin in a story and it’s fine (for example, pirate stories almost always involve finding treasure, but the treasure is rarely that important to the story). The parents shouldn’t be McGuffins. They should be people the reader is hoping get saved.
There’s a lot of talk about ‘decrypting files’, ‘having secret meetings’, ‘secret missions’ or ‘playing the Truth Seeker game’. All of these things stay vague a lot of the time and take up more of the book than needed, because they discuss them but we don’t see much. I couldn’t even say exactly what type of game ‘Truth Seeker’ is.

I didn’t feel the connection between the characters. Some were there, like Cristal and Kerim. I believed they were decent friends after the time we saw them together. The book pushed for me to believe that they were a lot more than that, though, and I just never felt it.
The same was true for many other characters. I think the book suffered for having so many characters in it. Not only that, but much of the time we’re seeing things from Cristal’s point of view, and she doesn’t understand other languages, which the characters kept talking in.
This left me at points trying to remember who some characters were because we only see them briefly and they didn’t do much.

At times I didn’t understand the motivations or reactions of the characters, either. I didn’t see a reason for Harry to keep information to himself the way he did, and it wasn’t surprising when that backfired. Kerim and Gabriel first meeting each other was confusing because they were fighting, for some reason, and then weren’t, for some reason.
At the end there was a lot of exposition by two of the characters, so it was a lot more telling.

One of the things that took me out of the story was how Cristal couldn’t learn Spanish. Not because she had trouble with the language, but because she and her teacher decided it was hopeless for her to ever learn Spanish after she took classes for two months and had three lessons with the teacher.
People who are fully immersed in a language usually give yes-no like responses and are generally silent for the first three months, and people who have less exposure will take even longer to learn. Even if Cristal had unrealistic expectations for herself, her teacher should have known better.

When the author showed us stuff, on the other hand, it worked so much better. Also at the end of the story, Cristal is trying to deal with beams of light energy coming from her, and yelling that if Harry really wanted to help her he’d help her deal with all the light beams. It was a good visual, and it was funny and showed her personality.

Like I said before, with the scenes she had with Kerim I believed they got along. They had some decent scenes together for me to believe that Cristal would trust him more than Harry. I never felt like it built up to as much as the book was pushing, though.

I think the story is original and the ideas for it were good, but it didn’t carry through in the execution. These same ideas could work great if the story was polished up. I tried to get into the book but had a really hard time connecting with the characters.

I’d give it about a 5 out of 10.

Hallowed: The Collection

Hallowed: The Collection by Donald White

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a non-reciprocal review.

The first thing I noticed about this book was the formatting. I had a mobi file, and there were no page breaks. The table of contents starts right under the copyrights (on the same page), and then the story starts right under the table of contents, instead of each having their own pages.

It opens with something to set the scene to connect the stories. That’s an interesting enough concept since most short story collections like this don’t bother to link them.
However, picturing a bunch of people in robes standing around a stone table and reading the tales can be pretty humorous at moments. Why?

Well, imagine a hooded figure standing in a circle with other cloaked figures, reading a scroll. Now, imagine that cloaked figure reading this from the scroll:
“That pool boy is sooo handsome.”

I keep picturing the cloaked figure adding some sass into that line.

The author also threw in lines with exclamation points, which made it read more like a comic book instead of a horror story.
“”So do I,” she smirked, patting him on the rear!”
“Even in the darkness of the room, he could make out the face of a woman in the reflection behind him!”
“There, in the darkness of his bedroom, was the face of a woman staring back at him!”

There were some good ideas here. For example, in the second story the idea of having children jumping rope to a rhyme, and the rhyme changing to be a little more sinister each time could work well in a scary story.
But the execution was lacking.

For example, I spent much of the second story confused because it goes right into mentioning the “realms” and “the mist” without explaining anything about them. I had no idea what the setting was supposed to be or why the main character seemed to find it all normal. The text bounced back and forth without making it coherent, so he would be entering “the mist” and then suddenly he would be somewhere where kids were jumping rope.

“Lady Killer”, I think, was one of my favorites both in the story and writing style. Both of the characters were interesting, and there could probably be a series written about Lisa. “The Hound” was also pretty good. “The Thing in the Shadows” was fine, too, although it had purple prose breaking up the story that I thought was unnecessary.

“Temple of the Life-Giver” felt like way too much was crammed into a short story.

The writing improved significantly from “Lady Killer” and on, but it still maintained the issues the previous stories did to a lesser extent. When I started reading the book, I thought I was going to end up giving it 4 stars after the first few stories. It started off with way too many italic thoughts, and the writing in the beginning didn’t build suspense for me (you can see some of the quotes from above). The latter parts of the book felt a lot different. The characters were built up better in most of them and the writing was more polished.
Still, because the writing did get better later on I bumped it up to to about 5 or 6/10 stars. It would be great if an editor looked over the work to fix it up.

Path To Success : The Failure Factor

Path To Success : The Failure Factor (Eagle Success Series)

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest (non-reciprocal) review.

– This book has a positive message to keep trying despite failure.

– It has some nice examples of people who failed many times before they succeeded.

– It was a quick read.

– This book needed some serious editing.
“Show me someone who would come out to say he is a failure or that he loves failure and I would show you a man that does only exist in planet Mercury!”
“But is mistake really a bad thing?”
“To answers this question”
The book is full of errors like these. It’s difficult to take a book about success seriously when it seems like every paragraph has an error in it.

– There are parts where it repeats or rambles.

I think the entire message could have been written as a more concise essay. I appreciate the message it’s trying to give people to inspire them to keep trying, but unfortunately it was riddled with mistakes. It might be good if you need a little pep talk.

I’d say something like a 4.5/10 or 5/10.



I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest (non-reciprocal) review.
(Spoilers within)

– I liked the two main characters, Luke and Anya, and they had some good lines. I particularly liked Anya’s thought:
“Maybe she could throw the couch at him, all she’d need would be a forklift.”

At the end I was genuinely interested in what would happen with Luke and Anya.

– The plot was quite good and I was interested in what was going on with the reaper and the graces.

– The world was constructed well enough to paint a pretty good picture.

– I really enjoyed the parts where they were attempting to solve the crime, as well as the confrontation near the end.

– Sometimes the hatred made no sense to me. For example, in this part:

“What am I allowed to do?” He asked finally.
“Nothing we haven’t allowed.” Immogy said quickly.
Luke frowned at him, which always seemed to irritate Immogy more for some reason. As if to illustrate that, Immogy scowled at him. “Don’t look at me like that, boy. If it were up to me, you wouldn’t be allowed to look at me at all.”
Luke nodded silently and tried to change whatever expression was on his face to a more neutral one. “I just want to understand what’s expected of me.”
“Really? Is that what you want?” Immogy asked, narrowing his gaze on him. “Does it matter what you want?”

To explain, Luke is discovering that he’s going to be sent after a serial killer. He hasn’t been out in the world for probably over a decade. He asks what he’s allowed to do, and for some reason the question is treated as an offense. It just makes no sense. He’s not defying orders, he’s asking what permissions he has in order to complete the given task. It would make sense for them to want him to have a clear set of rules he must follow.

– Repetitiveness. This was a pretty big issue with the book. Here’s an example:
Chapter 15
“She could probably argue temporary insanity. Yes, that was it, Anya thought, she was insane. Or maybe it was the bump on her head, or maybe she was still passed out on the floor of her apartment, hallucinating all this. No, probably not that last one, her feet were complaining too much.
She could blame it on the pills the doctors had given her, or on the bump on her head, or even the pain.”

Or a smaller one:
“His muscles complained at the movement when he ordered himself to move…”

It wasn’t just the same words or phrases being used close to each other, but many of the same descriptions or actions would be used again and again. If you start reading this book, try to count how many times there’s darkness in Luke’s eyes.
Another was having characters roll their eyes, which I thought was even a larger problem when characters of high status did it. For the average person, such as Anya, eye rolling might be expected. But when it comes to someone who is meant to be the leader of a country, eye rolling comes off as childish and seems like something they would avoid doing.

– It took me a long time to get into this book. I was probably about 35% in before the story picked up. Maybe around 65% in it started dragging again for another long while, and picked up at the end. Part of this was because of what I pointed out above; different points were constantly being pounded on over and over in the story.
There were also parts that I think could have been eliminated altogether. Chapter 1 could have been deleted entirely. The story starts off with Luke, then in chapter 1 it switches off to a bunch of different people, only to switch back again and stay with Luke almost the entire story. It was disorienting, and when the story finally got to Anya I don’t think I’d learned anything in chapter 1 that I needed to know.

I liked the story, but how much it lagged at parts really brought it down for me. If I hadn’t been reading it to do a review I probably would have stopped reading it early on; which is too bad because there are good parts in there.

I’d give it about 6/10.

Remembered (The Vistira Trilogy)

Remembered (The Vistira Trilogy: Book 1)

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest (non-reciprocal) review.
(Spoilers within)

– There were a lot of errors in the book. The biggest one I found repeatedly was missing quotation marks or quotations that didn’t need to be there.

Much less of a problem, but there were also times like this:

“The scream of a police car, blazing down Queens Boulevard, ripped Emily from sleep.”

This is the opening line and I thought the awkward pauses in the middle kept it from having the intended impact. It’s full of strong words (scream, blazing, ripped) that seem to have their oomf punched out of them. (Compare it to “The scream of a police car ripped Emily from sleep.”).

Or awkward phrasing.

“”Never leave me,” he breathed into her mouth.”

“This was not a house she’d been in as a child. She grew up in this little house with her mother and father, as well as her brother and sister.”

– “”That means very little,” the doctor countered. “Most young girls have their first sexual fantasy about their own father, or at least Freud thought so.””

Genetic sexual attraction is actually a known phenomenon where family members who meet as adults are drawn to each other. Most people probably won’t think much of this, it just happened to be something I’ve looked into before so I was waiting for the psychiatrist to mention it.

– I enjoyed some of the buildup between Annella and Kellus, like the part where he walked backwards to look back at her, but I think it’s important to keep in mind that there is a line where looking at someone goes from cute to creepy. The next time when he was watching her shop and staring at her, unflinching, came off as creepy and obsessive. If he had a more natural reaction, like looking away when she spotted him, it would have come off better to me than staring. There was too much staring. Having someone stare at you all the time is uncomfortable and creepy.

There was something bugging me for a portion of the story. Kellus was an apprentice, and he wasn’t supposed to be in a relationship, but once he graduated (five years from start to finish, and it didn’t say what year he was) he could have a lover. The story constantly states how useless it was to fall for him, but the fact was that they could be together if they waited awhile and it wouldn’t have been breaking any rules.
When the story finally acknowledges that point he makes a big deal about how he wouldn’t be home often enough. I know it sucks if you want to be home more and you can’t be, but a lot of people live in this situation. It’s not the end of the world. (I forgive this a bit since they’re teenagers).

– “Danus is in charge of making sure the hospital is clean and orderly,” Nordorum explained. “It seems that Cora has been amusing him with funny stories all week.”
I wish we saw more of this. I liked Cora and I liked Danus, and when this was said I was almost hoping they’d end up together.

– The last about 15% of the story picks up a lot and I was happy to read that section.

I think I need to explain in more detail how I felt about the overall story.
I’m not big on romances, but I’m fine with them when they’re done well. The story starts off with Annie living in New York under a different name, not remembering any of her past. She keeps having a dream about a guy. It was a little slow but I went with it.
The first thing that bugged me was that she was being treated like a bizarre woman and an “Ice Queen” because she was a virgin at 22. I suppose there are some people who would believe something like that, but for me you’d have to be way older for me to think, “That’s a really long time”. I’ve known so many people who were still engrossed in other things in their twenties to think it’s weird that a 22 year old hasn’t dated yet. There’s other things to do in the world!

When she traverses to the other dimension and regains her memories we go back in time to see how she met Kellus. At first I thought it started off strong. As I mentioned before, when they first meet she goes to glance back at him, only to find he’s walking backwards and looking back at her. It was fine. He was with a group of guys who were having a good time. That he would do something silly like that wasn’t odd.
Then he starts the staring. So much staring.
Another thing that bothered me was the “she’s pretty”, “he’s pretty”. Attraction is great and all, but if I’m to be convinced these two have a special sort of love I need a lot more than that. About 95% of their love was them swooning over how the other looked.

It reminds me of a story about a blind shamisen player. The man who helped her fell for her, but another man wanted her. When she rejected him he threw acid in her face, and she didn’t want anyone to see her anymore. So the man who loved her poked out his own eyes, and they lived happily ever after.
It wasn’t about the way she looked. He didn’t care that she was burned and scarred.

I didn’t get the same feeling from these two, so when the book was trying to convince me that they had a special love than transcended others I didn’t buy it. Almost the entire first half of the book was about how much she was attracted to him. I wish it had been cut down to a few cute scenes.

At about 50% in the story it picked up and we finally got to the part where she ended up in New York. I was happy because now it could move onto the plot with how she ended up in New York.

But then we see Kellus’ side of the story. A lot of parts are shown over again from Kellus’ point of view. I didn’t mind some, but I think too much got repeated. My view of him actually lowered because of the insane amount of jealousy he seemed to have. He was jealous of any male who talked to Annie, even his own dad. It was too much. His thought process rarely strayed far from the groin area, too.

Then there were a couple, “Oh, by the way…” moments. Two of these really stick out in my mind:
– The first time they’re discussing the plot and Kellus’ parents bring up out of nowhere, “Oh yeah, and there’s this whole prophecy about Kellus and how he’ll give birth to a super baby.” It’s brushed off as something they didn’t believe in so they never told anyone.

– The second one, and the one that really left me going, “Huh?”, was someone attempting to seduce Kellus. Remember, there’s a whole section devoted to the story from Kellus’ point of view. We see how he felt about Annie, we see what happened when she was kidnapped, and we see him start drinking and end up back at the Citadom. More angst than I like, but okay.
Then, after his section the plot gets moving again. When he’s back home and everyone is discussing what’s going on he suddenly brings up that a woman was entering his bedroom at the Citadom and attempting to seduce him.
My immediate thought was, “What? I don’t remember that part.”
I even went back and read his chapters again but I don’t see anything about someone in the Citadom trying to seduce him. It was brought up later out of nowhere. I’d think that would be something important to mention when he’s the main character for a few chapters.

Several of the characters spent time training with swords, including Annie. When it finally got around to them going after the bad guy I was looking forward to seeing her and Cora taking part in the action. Unfortunately, when he was confronted Cora wasn’t even there and Annie had her wrist broken in about a sentence. I was left wondering why I read so much about them training with swords; it made no difference at all. Then she got shoved around until the men saved her. I wanted to see her and Cora take part in the fight (although Danus, the cool guy who doesn’t let things get him down, was nearby, so that counts for something).

I think a huge problem with much of the story was the lack of real conflict. Most of the story spends time on the dilemma that Kellus and Annie had because he’s not supposed to have a lover as an apprentice. However, everyone around them seemed to be understanding, and even their leader nudged Kellus towards being with her.
There was some conflict when she first got back from New York to Kellus’ family and his brother was mad at Annie, but that was resolved with him apologizing. There were two bad guys, one who we never really see and the other we only see at the end of the book.

One other note I was disappointed on was that Annie lived an entire second life in New York, but after she got all her memories of her old life it was all but forgotten. I think she mentioned her friend of ten years about once after that, and none of her other life seemed to seep into her new life. She was never upset by anything, like how men and women were treated differently, and never had a different way of thinking through problems. Even when the women decided to learn to use swords she wasn’t the one who brought it up; Cora did. I’d have loved to see more of how living an entirely separate life in another dimension changed her view of the world.

It wasn’t all bad. I was fine with Annie for the most part. I felt like Kellus had a lot of worrisome traits (especially with the horrid jealousy). A lot of the side characters I was fine with. I liked Danus because he was an awesome guy who took care of his friends, and I liked Cora because she was assertive and confident.
The plot itself was also all right. It just got shoved to the side for so much of the book. If the flashback of Annie and Kellus’ romance was limited to some cute moments, and possibly some things they have in common rather than how much they want to have sex, and it got on with the plot sooner I think it would be a lot better.
I was confused why they didn’t do certain things (Annie was back and she knew who kidnapped her. Even if he was in a position of power, no other characters were shown as bad. Why not build up support and around town with her story then confront him?)
HOWEVER, I am interested in the story with the krogs and where that is going. I’m also curious about Dinora, who escaped, and why she’s with them. Despite all my criticisms, there is a plot going on here that has a lot of potential, and I’m actually curious where it’s going and what is happening behind the scenes. I wish this book had an editor to cut out a lot of the filler, but I’d be willing to give it another chance. Hopefully book 2 will have more Danus and Cora.

I’d give it about 5/10.