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

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.

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.)

Reagan’s Ashes

Reagan’s Ashes

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

(Spoilers within)

This was a good book. Paced well, and the plot was fairly solid for the most part. Reagan’s father has left her a parting wish – to copy a hiking trip she took with him and dump his ashes in the lake. Reagan loves her father very much and wants to find some sort of closure about his death, so she gets ready to go immediately. When she gets there, she finds that two of her cousins are suddenly planning on tagging along and much more is going on.

There were things I appreciated, like Anne. Though she’s at first painted off to seem like the evil step-mother, that gets left behind and she’s not evil so much as someone who has had to deal with a lot while being married to Reagan’s father, and she feels abandoned when he leaves her with nothing.

It has a good setup with Reagan hiking and being isolated from help, and with Spoon being injured and far from his home. It puts both characters in vulnerable and stressful situations. On top of that, Reagan has forgotten the medication she needs for her bipolar disorder, and after several days she starts falling apart, making her a loose cannon when it comes to making decisions.

It does have a few things that annoyed me about 75% of the way in. Spoon, Reagan’s boyfriend, gets beaten up by Tyson, the man who wants to get his money back from Reagan’s dad. He then wakes up outside of a hospital. There was a lot of flaws with that setup, the most obvious being that he’s five second away from being able to contact the police. He decides not to go to the hospital or contact the police because he thinks he’ll be stuck for hours being interrogated while Reagan might be being tracked down. But Spoon has a broken leg and doesn’t know where Reagan is anymore than the police know. What exactly is he going to do?

That part irritated me because it set up an easy fix for a main character, who then chose to walk away instead. He does realize that it’s possible to tell the police that the men who beat him up are after Reagan and she’s in danger, right? And he could tell them where she went hiking and that she may have forgotten her medication. It’s not like the police don’t check on people who might be in danger. They do welfare checks all the time.

I think the second thing that got me was that I didn’t feel like her mother’s absence was explained well. I still don’t understand why she wasn’t able to call for 6 years. She doesn’t get much of a chance to speak about it, but from what I gathered her and Reagan’s father weren’t getting along and they split up. She says that “her father wouldn’t let her” or something like that, but we don’t get much else. I know that she had an oddly close relationship to Tyson, Reagan’s uncle and the man after her, but I didn’t get the impression she was cheating with him or anything like that. We know Tyson is a drug dealer, but there weren’t any hints that I saw that she was doing anything like that. We also know she talked to Anne sometimes. The book paints it out like she desperately wanted to be in Reagan’s life but she couldn’t, but I didn’t feel like I had an adequate explanation of why not. Especially when Reagan’s father was a gambler, but everyone kept saying he was a decent guy, he was a nice guy, so it didn’t sound like the type who would intimidate or threaten her mom to keep her away.

The third thing was probably the “timer/the main characters putting themselves in harm’s way”. There wasn’t actually any need to pick up the money immediately. They could have gotten away from danger and gone back for it later, but they keep immediately going straight for the next clue when the bad guys can still follow them and putting themselves in unnecessary danger. For example, they know they just escaped from Tyson, but they immediately drive to the next spot – a crowded public area, where they manage to isolate themselves from the rest of the people so that Spoon can be beaten up. Once again, all they had to do was stay in an area that was full of people and they would have had witnesses/assistance/could have called for help. At least the text talked about how there was no parking left, but somehow they kept ending up out of sight of everyone when they would get assaulted.

Otherwise, it’s a solid story and if it looks interesting to you then you should pick it up.

I give it a 8/10.

The Rental

The Rental

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

(Spoilers within)

The Rental is a fairly dark noir-type short story. Just to warn right now, there’s torture, murder and rape in the book, so if those aren’t things you want to hear about you should avoid it.

The story sort of follows Cole, a writer who was once a sensation but has since been buried by the success of other rival writers. A woman’s car breaks down in front of the trashy place he’s renting and he decides to help her out. In exchange, she takes him home and let’s him stay in her pool house.

What he doesn’t expect is to be the entertainment for her parties, where she invites a series of deplorable people who do everything from grope him to setting his shoe on fire. If he wants to keep his temporary financial boost in life he has to put up with it, but as time goes on the guests start dwindling in numbers.

It was an interesting enough story. I don’t think there was a single innocent person in it, at times to an unrealistic extent (you would think everyone participates in a little murder now and then the way things go in the book. Everyone ever apparently has a rap sheet they can be threatened with to keep them silent). There’s also unrealistic things like Constance being able to guess he was a writer. Her exlanation was just that he had a look of resignation (are writers the only ones who deal with that?). I would have believed it more if she had recognized a picture or something.

There was also a point I remember where he asks two sisters if they read Shakespeare, and even though one is an avid reader and they’ve heard him on the radio, the instant response is “Who?”. I would have believed them not recognizing “Chaucer” or something, but not knowing who Shakespeare is would be like roaming America trying to find someone who doesn’t know who Batman is. Not only did the one who asked like to read, but they listened to one of his plays on the radio, so the book didn’t set up a reasonable explanation for them to not know such ordinary knowledge.

I noticed another odd thing in a chapter with Jennifer Finch. She and Dale North go on a killing spree. They start out by poisoning everyone at a youth detention facility, where Dale exclaims:

‘It worked, baby… it worked!’

And then he calls her a genius, seemingly giving her credit for coming up with the plan. It’s actually the first bit of dialogue in the chapter. It goes on to describe them going around and continuing their killing spree, but at one point it says:

…although his darling had never spoken a syllable for as long as he’d known her…

What? How did they formulate a plan if she never spoke to him? Was she writing him notes or something? It never said. And all this time they traveled together, did he think she was mute? It really felt out of nowhere, especially when not long after that they formulate another plan (again, it doesn’t explain how they plan things out if she doesn’t talk to him) where she talks just fine. And it doesn’t surprise him at all, there’s no mention of her suddenly using her voice.

Although there were interesting aspects to that chapter, I actually don’t know how it fit into the rest of the story, either. I don’t remember her being mentioned before or after.

There were a few small errors in the book, but the biggest error seemed to be that a chapter was copy and pasted into the wrong spot in the book. In chapter 8, about halfway through the chapter, there’s this:

Claire went to bed to read, leaving Clarissa behind to seethe and wonder what the hell happened to the spineless lackie she’d spent a lifetime cultivating.

Then when I got to chapter 10, I noticed it started out in a familiar way.

Claire went to bed to read, leaving Clarissa behind to seethe and wonder what the hell happened to the spineless lackie she’d spent a lifetime cultivating.

And it continues on exactly the same to the end of the chapter. Somehow chapter 10 got copy and pasted at the end of chapter 8, so the entire thing was in the book twice.

The last issue I had was transitions.

…Claire stood in her sister’s bedroom, staring at the coat while Clarissa snored.
‘You should be mine,’ Claire whispered, ‘you will be mine.’
When Eunice Chambers ran out of bullets, although she could have sword she packed them, she reached for the bag that lay on the ground next to hers.

There were a few instances like this that completely lost me. Claire is inside, looking in her sister’s bedroom, and then suddenly in the next paragraph it’s somewhere else completely without any explanation. Whenever this happened it would take me some time to figure out where the heck it was suppose to be again. It made it easy to get lost.

The stories themselves were good for a short novel. They were interesting and kept me invested, though if it was longer I would have wanted more out of them. Knowing that it was a short novelette, I was fine with them being on the simpler side of things. There were some clever twists and interesting tales of comeuppance. For awhile I was wondering why Cole needed to be there at all, but I think they way he was tied into the last murder was fine.

If you’re willing to suspend of disbelief, it’s a quick, dark read. I do hope some of the errors get cleaned up, especially that pasted in chapter, and some transitions are made clearer.

I give it a 7/10.

Mental Damnation – Dream

Dream (Part 1 of Mental Damnation)

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

(Spoilers within)

This is a fantasy novel where vazeleads – lizard people – have been banished underground for centuries by paladins. One of the young vazeleads is Krista. She’s lived as street vermin, trying to survive by stealing scraps with her friend, Darkwing. They live in a violent society, so life is difficult. Then, she’s targeted to be infected with the illness “Mental Damnation” by one of their leaders who has become crazed with the disease himself. She tries to flee, even going as far as to join a cult just to survive, but she’s eventually caught.

Somehow, after she’s infected during a ritual, she ends up back on the surface world, and the last remaining paladin finds her. Slowly she starts seeing things that no one else can, and she’s being told all sorts of different things about the disease. A ghoul she starts seeing, Malpherities, tells her about the god called the Weaver and Dreadweave Pass. Paladin believes that it’s a spiritual disease, and the doctor believes it’s an illness of the body that has stayed so similar in all of the victims because it hasn’t gone through many mutations. Her hallucinations keep getting stronger and more dangerous, even causing harm to her, and no one has a solid answer or a cure.

Before I started reading I glanced at some other reviews. One of the reviews said “It seems rushed in a lot of parts, like the author had plans to come back and fill in the rough draft, but then forgot.” Now that I’ve read it, I understand exactly what they mean. Especially in the first part of the book, there are many parts where pieces of the story are quickly summed up in a sentence or paragraph. Things that seem like you could write entire chapters about.

For example, here’s an excerpt:

Through a series of events, she met an outcast – a half-breed named Abesun exiled by the vazeleads for being half-human.

That’s it. She just suddenly met him somehow.

There were also parts where it feels like the author might have adjusted how events went later on. At one point, Krista is part of a cult, and another member tells her they’d been summoned to meet the high council.

…Saulaph was acting strange. He informed her they’d been summoned to meet the high council.
But instead of the high council, it was Danil…

That’s the scene. Later on, the same event is recounted by her friend, Darkwing. In his version, the cultists are being mass slaughtered by the guards, Krista is being forcefully taken by Saulaph, and Krista is screaming for Darkwing while cultists stop him from getting to her. None of that was mentioned when it was summed up before. I had thought that Saulaph told her that the high council wanted to see them and she simply went – maybe nervously, but willingly. There was no mention of everyone being killed by a raid or her fighting him or anything. It gives me the feeling that the author had originally glossed over some events and went back to give them more detail, but missed some parts.

There’s also infodumps, especially at the beginning, where huge portions of the text and dialogue are exposition. There were a few times where this exposition made the character’s feelings seem strange. Paladin, for example, was thinking about how they had rounded up the vazeleads hundreds of years earlier and banished them. He thinks it was justified. But then, when it goes into an explanation about what happened, it sounds very sympathetic to the vazeleads, which didn’t sync with his thought that “they deserved it”. I wasn’t sure if we were suddenly taken out of his thoughts for an infodump or if the explanation was supposed to be coming from him.

Another one was when Krista is thinking about the humans and, again, she sounds far too positive towards them for someone of her position. They banished her people, killed the dragons (who had been good to her people and freed them from slavery), slaughtered her family, she’s terrified of paladins and other humans, yet she thinks this:

It was depressing to hear that the humans now fought one another after they had banded together and brought an end to the dragons.

Along with some text that came before, this sounds far too much like describing the humans as the heroes of the situation rather than being horrified that they had murdered the dragons. It sounds like how a human would describe the situation, not how a vazelead should.

So, does that mean this is a bad book? No, actually. There’s a lot of solid and creative ideas. I liked the explanation for why the Weaver needed blood. I liked that the book makes you wonder exactly what Krista is suffering from. There are signs that she’s just hallucinating, like when she sees Malpherities pound the stone wall and create cracks in it, and then she turns up with heavily damaged hands. It makes you wonder if she caused all the damage and her mind is making him up.

On the other hand, there’s also signs that point in the other direction, like when Malpherities reads something while Krista is very poor at reading, so it’s an something she would have trouble doing herself.

It’s a colorful, fleshed out world, even if there are spots that are rushed. Krista can be weak, but she’s not so bad that I dislike her. She still tries to be positive, she still takes some actions on her own. The romance is weak (you can see who the love interests will be a mile away), but I did like how Darkwing handled his. He openly admitted that he wasn’t sure if he just felt that way because the other girl reminded him of Krista, instead of hiding it.

There are also some lovely illustrations in the book, at the end of some chapters. It’s formatted nicely and looks great.

People who are sensitive about rape may not want to read. It’s not shown, but it is brought up rather suddenly, and then its mentioned again several times after that.

Anyone interested in a fantasy with some dark aspects may enjoy this. Rather than “bad”, it feels “unfinished” at parts, and is still overall enjoyable. I’m also confused about the order of this series. I see in spots that “Dream” is “volume 2” of the series. In another it’s “part 1” and “Fusion” is “part 2”. I didn’t feel like I needed to read another book before reading this one, but I’m not sure if there’s something else that comes before it.

I give it a 7/10.

Bunny and the Grizzly Bear

Bunny and the Grizzly Bear (United Shifter’s Alliance Book 1)

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

(Spoilers within)

This book is pretty much exactly what it presents itself to be. If you’re interested in one pure smut scene, that’s about what you get. There’s some mention of shapeshifters and some background story given for the main character, but the vast majority is sex.

The main character is a rabbit. Though I like the idea of shapeshifting into humans, I do wish there was more description. I figured she looked like a regular human, and then some of her thoughts and actions were rabbit-like. I think she was in human form during the whole story but I’m not positive. I also wasn’t positive about the bear when he showed up. She says a naked bear is in her den, but then it seems like she describes a human form later, and I don’t know if he was in human form from the beginning and she can just tell he’s another shapeshifter or if he started as a bear and shifted at some point… Basically, for what plot it has, it doesn’t necessarily explain clearly.

For an adult book it also uses a lot of exclamation points. There were a few errors, which is a bit much for such a short book. It was also written in present tense, which isn’t my favorite tense to begin with, but switches a lot for flashbacks or suddenly switches to past tense.

I click my tongue at him. Gave him a good frown. Scolded…

I think it would be best just to switch it to past tense and avoid the issues.

It’s all shameless. The main character, a bunny shapeshifter is horny. A grizzly bear shapeshifter with a large penis pops up in her house. They have sex. It is what it is. It’s all consensual. The sex read fine to me, though I suppose there could have been more description, but I wasn’t put off by it or left confused.

Some of the misunderstandings Bunny had were amusing. Although the summary mentions falling in love, I didn’t really see that. I saw more of a carnal longing than anything loving.

If you’re just interested in some quick smut and don’t need much else, then you may enjoy this book. I would like to see it polished. It has a good basis for a fun adult series. It’s not even very long, so it’s possible getting a good beta reader who is interested in some smut or even hiring an editor is a possibility.

I give it a 7/10.

Sleepy Beach

Sleepy Beach: Beginner Reader

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

(Spoilers within)

This is a short children’s book. My review of this book is probably going to be longer than the book.

I actually have a few things to say about the files. I was given a few options, including audio, so I decided I would just download the mobi and read that on my iPad. The file was about 26MB, so pretty big for a mobi file. I transferred it over and opened it up only to discover it only had three pages. The cover and some text credits.

Confused that I seemed to have gotten a credits page, I listened to the audio file, where it was obvious there were supposed to be pictures to go along with it. So then I tried to epub file and e-mailed it over to the iPad, and the iPad would just sit there and think about it forever when I tried to open that one.

Finally, I opened up the epub on the Kindle Previewer on my computer and had to read it on the computer.

The story is fine for a children’s book. Not too much really happens and the artwork is nice.

There was a page were a few pages where the text was far too light for me to read it. I’m not sure why the text is like that on those pages when it’s dark on the others. The biggest problem for this book would be readability. The font chosen for the text might be a font children would have trouble making out (I recall reading “swam” as “susan” when I was glancing over it). There’s also the pages where the text is way too light on a white background to read it.

(Having tried the mobi file on Kindle Previewer, it seems to work there. It didn’t work on my Kindle app on my iPad. Now I can see why the text was so hard to read on the epub – on the epub file white squares were showing up behind the text. On the mobi file the text is directly on the picture. So on pages where the text was white against a dark picture, it looked like white text on a white square on the epub.

Sleepy Beach

Hopefully people who buy this book don’t experience any of the issues that I did.)

It’s a kids’ book and you get pretty much what you expect.

So I’ll give it a 8/10. and hope that my problems were unique.