Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets

Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets

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

(Spoilers within)

“The Outpost” wasn’t bad but it took me a while to get into it, and in the end I was left with mostly questions. Maybe because it reads more like the first chapter to a book than a short story (I wouldn’t at all be surprised if there is a book). It’s the setup of a story rather than a complete story in and of itself. I think it overdid it with the techno-babble, too. But, if there was more to the story, I would have been interested in continuing to read. Instead I’m mostly left with questions like, “How did her dads know the pilot?”

“Blink” was about a girl who inherited a time travel machine and some of her misadventures trying to stop an embarrassing moment from happening to her. This one suffered a bit from being short, too. It was okay, but different things weren’t explained well. I’m confused if, when she time travels back a day, the other versions of herself who traveled back are also still there. Some parts seem to imply “no”, and other parts seem to imply “yes”.
I thought they did, but then one of her past selves bumped into a girl, and when she went back again that didn’t happen anymore. Also, because of the short length, the time travel aspect starts confusing the main character long before it confused me. About the second time she’s using it she starts getting overwhelmed with how many realities she has to remember, while I didn’t find it difficult at all to remember what she’d done so far.
It was an all right story.

“Courage Is” I really liked. It’s set up on a massive space ship type scenario, with billions of people flying to some destination. There’s an advanced AI, Rostom, that takes care of everything, and when people turn 16 they’re hooked up to the AI and become like a hivemind. The main character, Gracie, is 15 and her friends have turned 16, so she’s feeling alone.
But, she happens to see something odd in a building, and decides to investigate. In this case investigating means hooking up to the network. There, she meets up with another girl she knows, Georgie, who is comatose in real life but able to interact with others by having her brain hooked up to the network. As they investigate together a real threat seems to appear and goes after Georgie, who can only defend herself by using the network. She lives out of bounds of the rest of society, so Rostom won’t protect her, and it’s up to Gracie to find and save her.
I really liked this one. It’s good that it focused on a few things – the main characters, Gracie and Georgie, and Rostom as an everpresent side character who can be anywhere at anytime. It gave the short story enough focus. In the end, when Gracie gets to Georgie, I think it had a wonderful setup for more story. Georgie and Gracie had a good reason to have a close relationship, and it could be very interesting for the pair to work as a ream, with Georgie being nothing but a hologram and able to control the ship with her mind and Gracie able to take care of other things. I thought it integrated what it would be like to be comatose in the future in an interesting way, and because the story spends the majority of the time with just them it gives the reader a chance to get attached.

“Of Cat’s Whiskers and Klutzes” confused the heck out of me. The main characters are in some sort of universe that exists based on a story that one of them wrote, but they’re from completely different time periods. I don’t know why this universe exists because of a story. The main character is building a transistor. I’m also not sure why. Then one of the storybook characters who helps them out gets attacked. They go to try and help her, but it turns out the warning message they tried to send earlier got there in time and she’s fine. And that’s about it. I almost don’t know how to describe this story. A million things are thrown at the reader and none seems to really go anywhere, nor does much of anything happen.

“Robin Hacker” was probably the longest in the book, being several chapters long. There were little issues. The main character was trying to hide for example, and complained about a ship she was trying to buy looking like a typical merchant ship. If you want to hide, wouldn’t it be good to blend in? I didn’t see why that would be a complaint. Overall, though, it was fine. It probably could have been condensed into a shorter story. The concept was simple enough: a genius girl discovers they’re being deceived and used in order to do bad things. She abandons school and family, and runs away to fight against them. The entire story covers her running away, and might go into more detail than necessary. It never quite grabbed me. Maybe it had too many characters in a short time to feel connected to them, but there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with it.

“Panic” is basically characters with psionic powers in training trying to fight off an infiltration of other characters with psionic powers. It sets up a tense situation and has some interesting worldbuilding. I wish I got to know more about Kion.

“Graveyard Shift” started me off on the wrong foot with the main character. She showed up late to work, then insulted her boss/coworker in her mind, and was jerk about it. It didn’t get me rooting for her. The story itself is fine with her uncovering a conspiracy, getting in trouble and getting out. It had an unearned ending, though, with her suddenly being promoted to assistant manager for no reason. The rest of the ending was fine, but that part stuck out to me, I even wrote a note that simply said, “Why?”

“A Little Bit Truer” is pretty solid. It focuses on a mother and daughter. The daughter was born with health problems and was blind, so her mother had to leave her behind to pursue her career traveling the universe. She finally comes back now that Zay is older and has been given her eyesight back with an operation, but she and Zay are disconnected and while her mother wants to have her live the high life with her, Zay is more interested in pursuing her own career as a scientist. She becomes even more suspicious when she reads that their re-uniting will be good for her mother’s ratings. It’s focused, so it works out pretty well.

“Lyra” went in a way I wasn’t expecting when I started it. It’s very Cinderella-like, with the main girl being abused by her family and her only friend being the house’s AI. But they replace the AI with a new one, named “Lyra”, who claims to have been made by her long-missing mother in order to protect her.
But it turns out to be over-enthusiastic in how it protects her. At one point she’s riding in a car with a boy, who has been nice to her, and Lyra takes over the car, throws her out and crashes it. Maybe something was just wrong with the program, but I didn’t get how something like that was protecting her when he had only ever tried to help her, and throwing her out of the car could seriously injure or kill her.
I thought it was too over the top with the abuse she received. It leaves things unexplained, like how Jeremy is a threat, but maybe it just considers everyone a threat. I think it also went too fast from the AI arriving and Elizabeth distrusting it. She immediately doesn’t like it, for no particular reason. It probably would have been better if she trusted it at first and then realized something was wrong.
It was okay, but there was just too much abuse from almost every character for me.

“Flight of the Zephyr” was another okay story. By this time I was a bit tired of the desolate future stories, especially with ones where an evil government kills people for no reason and somehow no one can oppose them. The main character discovers that the government is having people work with material that they know poisons them, and she attempts to expose them. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong.
The only thing I noticed was a part where she was “walking gingerly on the heeled shoes she’d forgotten how to wear”, which didn’t seem to fit the setting. In this world they were issued clothes, and she was essentially issued miner’s clothes her entire life. When did she ever wear heels before?
The main issue for me was that I felt like I’d seen this scenario a million times before and nothing new was done with it.

I didn’t like “The Data Tourist”. It was hard to read because it was boring. When it described what was happening it was mostly tech-babble and a bland list of things the main character was doing. Other times it was just awkwardly telling stuff that happened. Plus the present tense was awkward. I usually dislike present tense. It tends to take me out of the story immediately and then I have to overcome that to get into the story, and in this case I was never able to get to that point.

“Robot Repair Girl” was a nice, complete story. I liked the setup of robots wanting to escape and her helping them. I’m not wild about girls who are into clothes constantly being against tech girls, but otherwise I didn’t have any issues.

“The Hive” was pretty good. It’s a solid setup and gets through the main point of the story. Bees are being kept in short supply by the government in order to create a false epidemic and control through fear. The main character teams up with another woman, and brings in the son of one of the government workers.

“Fledgling” was about a hot-headed girl who is picked out by a military man to join a program that uses advanced technology. It reminds me of a sentai show, where she and others are given power suits to fight evil dictators or something. Who they’re fighting isn’t a big deal. The story revolves more around their group and the fact that they think they’re being drugged and used by the government, and trying to escape that. Each character had a personality in a short span of time. It was pretty enjoyable.

“The Mad Scientist’s Daughter” genuinely felt like a short story rather than the first chapter of a book. I liked the lizard, Cika. Viala is the daughter of a man who supposedly went crazy and killed a lot of people with his inventions, and now she’s dealing with the consequences of his actions and hide the fact that she’s a scientist, lest people believe she’s just like her father. It was a good story.

“Helen of Mars” had a boring start but became a decent story with some good action. The main character’s father invested in an android in order to mine on Mars, but his android was destroyed and his caches stolen by mercenaries. In a fit he throws away his remote, but his daughter retrieves it in order to repair it and see if she can reboot the android. With the action happening so far away, it lowered the stakes and made it harder to get invested because there was no danger to her. In the end she decides to use the droid to fight off mercenary droids and help others, though the android has been damaged and isn’t particularly built for fighting, so I’m not sure how far she’d really get. It wasn’t bad, though.

“The Keys to the Stars” was decent. Judy, the main character, gets a call for help from an alien when she’s younger. After helping, she agrees to meet them again much later in her life. The aliens are interesting, and I like that the alien was retired at the end.

“Takes a Hacker” is about a girl named, Vieve, who begs for help from the main character, Jane. Vieve was in a horrible accident and had much of her body replaced with cybernetic parts. Because of that she’s shunned. When their school is having a large contest, Vieve’s entry is sabotaged and she’s set up to look like a cheater. No one believes her, so she asks for Jane’s help to clear her name.
Jane’s boyfriend, Zared, was a bit of a strawman, but other than that it was fine.

As you can probably see from the review, this book was fairly long. The stories in it had a large range of quality.

My two favorites were “Courage Is” and “Fledgling”. These two stood out to me as something I’d liked to follow. “Courage Is” has a great setup for a pair of girls who fly through space completing missions. “Fledgling” had a good setup for something like a sci-fi sentai show. They weren’t perfect, but they were both written well and I was invested.

My least favorites would be “Of Cat’s Whiskers and Klutzes” and “The Data Tourist”. The first was just a confused mess, and the second was boring.

The rest mostly fell in the middle of the road for me. Some had the issue of not setting up the “girls with gadgets” parts very well. They would be more, “And she was super good with gadgets because” instead of putting together a reason why, or it could feel like they were interested in it because the story required it. It’s hard to explain why, so I’m not even sure if people would get the same feeling.

Would I recommend it? I suppose so. There’s a few good ones in there, and many that weren’t a bad read. I’d actually be interested in hearing other people’s opinions of “Of Cat’s Whiskers and Klutzes”, just because being as confused as that makes me wonder if I missed something. I don’t think I did, but it would be nice to have it confirmed.

I give it a 8/10 overall.

Wrath, Prequel to Tredan’s Bane

Wrath, Prequel to Tredan’s Bane

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

(Spoilers within)

This is just a prologue for a series, so it’s not very long at all. It’s about three chapters worth of a story.

It might be a little bit too short. I haven’t read the rest of the series, only this, and at times it felt rushed. There was often little description of their surroundings, so I could get lost. Sometimes descriptions didn’t actually give me a picture of what to see. For example, when Tredan is in his shop and summons a ghost, it says this:

He wore a Sciomancer’s old-fashioned Church vestments and had empty eyes.

I could see the empty eyes, but I have absolutely no idea what that outfit looks like in this fantasy world.

There’s also the issue of those fantasy names. Like “Arnl’jhott”. I have no idea how to pronounce that.

Besides that, it’s a good setup. It’s in what looks like a high fantasy world. While so much was happening in these chapters, sometimes without much explanation, but the time I finished the third chapter I had an idea of what kind of world this was and some basic overall premises. There’s some sort of Church. It’s evil and manipulative. The main character used to be part of it and has left. There’s constant magic, etc.

I could see this being a prologue for a good book. Maybe if you want to see if you’re interested in reading the series but you aren’t sure, pick this up and see if it appeals to you. It’s short, it gets a decent amount of information out in a long time, and it’s not riddled with errors or anything. If you’re looking for a high fantasy, or if you’ve read the story this is related to, I’d say go ahead and buy it.

I give it a 8/10.

The Honeypot Chronicles

The Honeypot Chronicles

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

(Spoilers within)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calhoun: Sacrifice

Calhoun: Sacrifice

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

(Spoilers within)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She sounded scared, he voice like…

Or at least try to make it right. .

…on the closed lid,, sighing…

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

Than man was going in to shock,.

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

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

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

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

I give it a 4/10.

Writing and Motivation

Recently my motivation had been lower than before. It isn’t that I planned on stopping. I have the rough draft for the fourth book, and I’m well into working on several others books. But I’ve always believed in publishing the best quality I’m capable of, which means hiring editors. I’m not a wealthy person, so continuously putting out money for editing isn’t easy and I’m rarely satisfied. I would like to go back to having multiple editors, but that’s even more expensive and I don’t have the sales to cover it.

This makes it difficult when you’re finishing up a book and staring at the next set of expenses you’ll have to incur if you want to elevate that book to a quality you want it to be. This isn’t even bringing in the costs of art. It can feel like going up against a tidal wave, with a constant slew of “things I need” hovering over my head. So, it was becoming stressful for me.

Anyone who has read the acknowledgments in my first book knows that I dedicated my first book to my niece. I started the Outlander Leander series for her because I wasn’t satisfied with the options she had at a book fair I attended with her. There were various reasons, from the fact that none of the characters on any book cover looked anything like her to not feeling like any of them were challenging enough for her. She’s always been very smart, and I’m of the mind that kids aren’t given enough credit in the intelligence department these days.

I’ll also readily admit that I’ve been appalled by how romance is portrayed in all too many books. It’s not that I don’t think you can write an abusive boyfriend. It’s that I don’t think you should write an abusive, obsessive, possessive, jealous, angry stalker and sell it to me as an ideal romance.

(If you want some examples of romances I thought were done well, in The Book of Deacon, Myranda doesn’t even meet Deacon until halfway through the book, and they actually spend time together and get to know each other. He’s supportive through her trials. They listen to each other’s troubles.
Another is in Draykon. Eva essentially married Vale for political reasons, doing it because it made the most sense logically rather than because they had any romantic interest in each other. She doesn’t complain and they don’t hate each other. They actually form a comradery, and I’d say that it looks like Vale has fallen in love with her over the years.
What makes these romances different from the usual I see is that I can picture the couple sitting down in a room together and having a in-depth conversation about hundreds of subjects. They don’t just stare longingly at each other or ‘love’ each other for their looks.)

When I started writing I aimed for a Young Adult audience my niece was still a bit young to be reading the books. She’s a pre-teen now, and this year she finally picked up my first book and started reading it for her class. She’s already read the first book, and the second book, and she picked up the third book the other day. It seems like she liked them, and the other day she was asking me questions about different things that happened in the book.

Maybe it sounds a little strange. She’s not exactly going to leave a positive review for it on a website, nor is she going to boost booksales in any way. This doesn’t negate money problems or any of the others issues I’ve been running into in publishing. But my motivation is higher now than it has been in a while. I originally wrote these books for her and she’s reading and enjoying them. I also now have a bridge to broach different subjects with her, and I look forward to talking to her about things like homosexuality and transsexuality, as well as discussing some of the mistakes Leander makes because of his youth (and he does make many, even when he is well-meaning).

So, if you’re writing or thinking of writing, I would recommend having a purpose beyond getting famous or rich. As independent authors in an inundated market it’s unlikely the majority of us will ever make much. There’s a lot of work that goes into making a book and most don’t even have the means to hire an editor. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. We need something else to keep us motivated, to feel rewarded for years of work. I don’t know what reasons other authors use, but right now I need to finish the fourth book for my niece.


Roscoe (Torin Sinclair Mysteries Book 2)

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

(Spoilers within)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

(Spoilers within)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I give it a 7/10

The Return of the Key

The Return of the Key

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

(Spoilers within)

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, you see, the slightest trigger…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I give it a 6/10.

Spider Eats Fright

Spider Eats Fright

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

(Spoilers within)

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

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

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

There were some errors.

Sugi wa Awaza.

Should be “tsugi”.

Hannah exexplained.

Jade was n never…

…Devan a and Jade…

…depths of h her…

Alley hadn’t quite make it in time.

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

There were also some inconsistencies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I give it a 8/10.

Eventide (The Sepherene Chronicles Book 1)

Eventide (The Sepherene Chronicles Book 1)

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

(Spoilers within)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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