Al & Rollu

Al & Rollu: Part 1. Out of body (Battle for the Astral)

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

(Spoilers within)

This is a short book about a girl who can travel to the Astral when she sleeps and a boy who can heal people. In reality, not too much happens in this first book. She goes to an apartment in another country. She meets her love interest on Facebook and there’s some bad guys hanging around but they don’t do a lot. That’s mostly it.

In the very beginning Rollu is on a plane next to a man. His major sin is being unattractive. The narration goes out of its way to describe him to make him unlikable (“…bloated, sweaty and not particularly attractive…”), and insinuates that he’s he’s oggling her (although she’s also wearing something shining on her chest, so that might attract the eye). However, if you read their conversation without all of this stuff added to make the reader dislike him:

(Guy) “Do you want a coffee?”
(Rollu) “No thanks.”
(Guy) “What are you reading?”
(Rollu) “Curonian tales.”
(Guy) “Curonia – strange name for a country. I’ve never heard of it!”
(Rollu) “That would be because there’s no such country. The Curonians were a tribe that lived on the Baltic coast a long time ago.”
(Guy) “Well, well! You learn something new every day, huh? By the way, let me introduce myself – I’m Robert.”
(Rollu) “Rollu.”
(Guy) “Rollu? What an unusual name!”
(Rollu) “Yes, very rare.” – etc

When you take out the physical traits that tell us that we should hate him because he’s sweaty and likes a girl, he’s being perfectly nice, and she hasn’t said anything about not feeling like talking. This exact same conversation could be used to describe meeting the love of her life. So his major sin is that she doesn’t think he’s hot.

In a way, this first conversation wants to put him in a bad light, but it puts her in a bad light. I immediately got the impression that she was haughty. Not because she didn’t want to talk to him, because she isn’t obligated to talk to anyone, but because of the way she handled it and thought about it. See the conversation above? Here are things she thinks during it:

…she had no desire to get to know her persistent admirers. She couldn’t work out what was more annoying – their cliched compliments or shameless glances.
tedious guy
restless neighbor
tedious leech
Robert beamed at her in a way that he probably thought was charming.
clingy admirer
Robert’s insistent, dumb questions were irritating Rollu.
…Rollu said, hoping to blindside the leech…
She glanced at Robert’s chestnut bangs with hostility.

She had the perfect excuse not to talk in her hands – she was busy reading a book. She doesn’t even try asking not to be bothered and instead sits around thinking degrading thoughts not just about him, but all of her admirers (she models, too). She doesn’t come off as a nice person. She comes off as someone who turns her nose up at other people. Can guys annoy women? Yes, sure. But they’re not doing something wrong every time they introduce themselves. This guy didn’t whistle or make lewd remarks. He asked if she wanted a drink and look how negative her thoughts are.

Instead of asking if she could have quiet so she could read her book, she thrusts out her chest, talks about how she’s going to pose for an erotic magazine and the thong she’s going to wear for it, crosses her legs to purposely be suggestive, and then talks about how she goes into the Astral. It’s a very unusual way to try and discourage a guy from talking to her. I would have tried, “Sorry, I’m not really in the mood for conversation,” before talking about posing in thongs. It also didn’t jive well when not much later the narrative talks about how shy she is.

When writing sometimes you need to choose your words carefully or you might give off an impression that you didn’t mean to. By the time this next part happened, I already thought Rollu was full of herself because the story had revolved around how she “was an awakened one” and a motorcycle racer and super model material – you can have a good character with all of those traits, but those traits seemed to be about all there was to the character. The entirety of the material felt like it was saying, “Isn’t she so much better than the people around her because she’s hot and rides motorcycles?”

Then it got to her sitting alone in an apartment. This part definitely reads like it’s written by a man, where she’s gracefully going around in lingerie. A real woman would probably have traveller’s diarrhea or something. Then she goes on Facebook, and there are many ways to say that no one she knew was on, but it was put this way:

Rollu scanned through the list of her so-called friends on Facebook but couldn’t find a single worthwhile person to chat with…

It starts off by implying that they aren’t really friends, which could be a fine if she friended a lot of people she didn’t know. But, instead of simply saying she doesn’t know anyone, they’re “not worthwhile”. This goes along with the rest of the book that makes it seem like no one else is ‘worth’ her time.

The book shouldn’t jump through hoops chastizing male characters for looking at her body and then do the same thing.

And although this stunner loved posing for fashion photographers…

…except that she now looked even more stunning…

This incorporeal beauty…

It was a shame no one was there to admire her slim figure…

…looking every inch the natural beauty she was.

There’s something authors should know when they’re writing. I think it’s okay to use descriptions like “beautiful” here and there, but people vary in their definition of what “beautiful” is. It’s better to describe a character and let the reader decide what they think of those looks. What concrete description I got of her, I mostly shrugged.

It’s also a bad idea to constantly criticize male characters for gazing at her and then not only obsesses about her body but goes as far as to mention what a shame it is that there aren’t people there to stare at her.

I honestly didn’t like the way it handled this subject, either. It made it seem like men are wrong for showing interest in her based off looks. There’s nothing wrong with being attracted to someone. If she was attracted to someone it wouldn’t treat her the same way (because she’s super hot and everyone in the world wants her, so it’s okay for her to find other people attractive).

It shouldn’t treat men as wrong for finding someone pretty. It should treat them wrong when they take the wrong approach. To put it simply, if you approach a woman because you find her attractive, don’t turn around and expect her to react to you in any way besides judging if she finds you attractive in return. You can’t call her shallow and expect her to judge your inner being when the only thing you cared about was her looks.

On the other hand, if she’s into motorcycles, and you’re also into motorcycles, you’re showing more interest in her as a person if you talk to her about that. She still has no obligation to be interested in you or even talk to you (and in that case, leave her alone), but you’re giving her a lot more to react positively to.

There are other problems as well. The book used so many exclamation points that I decided to count them on one of the pages. 15. The next page had 11. 26 exclamation points in the span of two pages. I’m okay with exclamation points being used sometimes – some characters are the type to be very exciteable – but they should be especially used sparingly outside of speech.

Beyond that, there’s even more that makes the text difficult to read.

Albert was now seriously mad. He clicked the cursor onto the search bard and crashed out an entry: YOU GODDAMN LAGGING RELIC! I’M GONNA SMASH YOU TO DEATH! Having yelled these words so loudly that the neighbors probably heard, Al hit the return key, almost breaking the keyboard…

I started that paragraph with, “okay, he’s typing it”. Then, “Wait, was he supposed to be shouting it?” Then it goes back to him having typed it. Was he typing it, then shouted it aloud?

The text is full of characters’ thoughts, too, which isn’t separated by italics or quotes or anything. It got even worse when they were chatting on the computer.

Al began tapping away on the keyboard. I’m called Albert, or just Al. I’m a student – a sophomore. Well, almost a Junior actually. I’m at the state medical uni – in the sports medicine faculty. But I guess you’ve already seen all that info on my page. Nice to e-meet you 🙂 – Al added a smiley to show his goodwill.
Well then, Al, I’ll answer your question. Yes, I’m interested in death. But that doesn’t mean I like it. Do you get the difference. Rollu wrote. Even in the emotionless medium of Facebook chat it was clear she was ticked-off. She continued: I don’t understand people like you who just toss that word around mindlessly. Oh, and by the way, there hasn’t been much nice about meeting you yet.
I saw “death” on the list of your interests, and then pictures of corpses in your albums, so that’s why I thought that you liked talking about death. It was dumb of me – I’m sorry, Al replied apologetically.

That’s how it’s written and it keeps going. There’s nothing separating texts, thoughts, narrative, etc. On another point, look at how she talks again. If you thought maybe I was over-stating it on the first part of the story, she’s being negative and hostile again the second someone sends her a message – a message about something that she has all over her Facebook page. I don’t know why anyone would want to talk to her. She’s an angry jerk who looks for opportunities to take shots at people.

Rollu and Al end up deciding to meet the next day. There’s some sort of prophecy about Rollu’s betrothed having white hair, and Al has white hair and is naturally betrothed. Things that Rollu starts calling Al the first day they’ve met: hon, darling, sweetie. They walk around, some kid gets shot, and Al heals the kid’s bullet wound. But healing wounds passes the pain onto him. Rollu takes him back to her apartment in a taxi while he’s barely able to do anything.

My betrothed, my darling, my beloved. Could she say those words one day to this guy she hardly knew…

She’s already said he was her betrothed, and called him darling, so the only one she hadn’t said yet was ‘beloved’. So, yes. She then calls him “my dear” and “sweetheart” in the next paragraph.

The bad guys were at the scene of the shooting (though one was the target of the shooting, not the shooter) and have followed her to where he apartment is. At this point, one spies on her for a while and thinks about how he wants her. Then he leaves and gets mad that he was kicked out of the Astral plane before, and that pretty much what’s in this book.

I’m not going to lie, this book needs a lot of help. The way it’s written with character’s thoughts everywhere without anything separating thoughts from the narrative is distracting and confusing at times. Rollu is oddly negative and hostile, and her actions don’t match the personality she’s described to have. The romance is two people knowing each other for about a day.

If I gave advice to the author, I think the best way to approach this would be to find a female writer who would be willing to read it over and help re-write it. The book goes very far out of its way to criticize men for objectifying Rollu, and then the book objectifies her without seeming to realize it. It even has the “girl has to be a shy virgin” trope. I think the author could learn a lot if he’s willing to listen to a woman’s perspective.

I give it a 3/10.



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

(Spoilers within)

After finishing this book, I can tell what it was going for, and the idea could work, but I can’t say it worked here for various reasons. For a brief summary, Oscar is a normal guy with a wife and two kids. He wakes up, is told he was in a coma and that his family is dead, and he keeps falling asleep and switching where he is. Sometimes he wakes up with his wife and kids, sometimes he wakes up in a strange world with a man named ‘Balder’ who claims that he’s an old friend, and that Oscar had an accident and has just woken up.

That could be a compelling story, but there are several problems that get in the way. The first thing that struck me was the writing style. There are errors, but I’m talking more about how trains of thought inside the text don’t add up with each other, and it makes it confusing.

“I don’t know how to put this, so I guess it’s better to just get it out…Lizzie and the kids – they’re gone. They couldn’t handle the grief after your accident – nobody has seen them since.”
“What are you suggesting? Are you suggesting my family are dead? …”

If this continued on and he had misinterpretted what was said, I would have written it off as Oscar being confused because he just came out of a coma. However, Balder’s reply is this:

“I’m sorry I had to break it to you this way, but that’s the hand you’ve been dealt my friend. I can’t express how sorry I am for you.”

So, a couple things about this. When I read what Balder said about the family, he mentions not having seen them since, and them not being able to handle the grief. To me that suggests that they simply left, not that they’re dead. If they’re dead there’s no reason to say they haven’t been seen. He would know they haven’t been seen because they’re buried. Nothing about the statement says, “They’re dead” to me. But not only does Oscar jump to that conclusion, but he’s also right. I have no idea how his family died. My best guesses are that they all died from grief, or a plane landed on them while they were leaving.

This also had no impact for me. After pages of Oscar waking up, this information is dumped very quickly. I’ve never seen these characters, and they haven’t been built up. He goes into a long paragraph about how he can’t believe they’re dead that just doesn’t work. People don’t generally say things like, “I will see her glistening smile” or “I will touch her soft skin and kiss her once more”, and there’s nothing about the way he speaks later that suggests he has an eccentric way of talking. This is how someone tries to write a nice sentence, not how someone speaks, and it feels that way when I read it.

These are problems that continue throughout the book. People don’t react in normal ways, everyone talks oddly and the focus goes on the strange things. When we do meet his wife, his sandwich gets more of a description than she does. The narrative even jumps from third to first person, which should be deleted:

She was certainly less than average looking I suppose you could say.

Oscar breaks the alarm clock and his wife gets really mad about this. I know it could be inconvenient to lose an alarm clock, and if you’re tight on money it sucks to have to buy a new one, but they’re not all that expensive. They never sounded so strapped for cash that they couldn’t afford little things.

She doesn’t talk like a person, either. Here’s what she says about the broken alarm clock.

“What is wrong with you? Now I must go and buy another.”

It sounds so unnatural. Unless the clock had sentimental value attached to it, I don’t get why she’s so mad about it. And the book never says there’s anything special about it.

This leads to another problem. The characters not being likable. I found myself agreeing with most everyone but Oscar. Oscar goes to work late, complains about his younger co-worker and how she’s mean to him. But, at the same time, she not only showed up to work on time but got everything ready. In this scenario she’s completely in the right. She’s there doing her job, and even though he’s only a few minutes late, he’s still late.

It’s really hard to figure out some things about this book because it’s full of holes. He works at a tiny coffee shop, where the only employees we see are Oscar, Ruby, and their boss, Kevin. Oscar is a few minutes late and this upsets Kevin enough to immediately send him home. He sends him home the next day, too, for being late. Can their business really afford to send employees home for the entire day because they were a few minutes late? It’s certainly something a boss should reprimand an employee for, but this seems like overkill.

On top of that, this entire book takes place over the course of about three days. We learn that Kevin had been planning on promoting Oscar because of what a great job he did. He’s a little late twice. And for that Kevin fires him. I can see why he would re-consider promoting him, but fire him? How extreme his reaction is suggests that this isn’t the only issue Oscar has ever had, but the fact that he was going to promote Oscar for doing so great suggests that Oscar has been a model employee and then had a somewhat bad couple of days. Who would fire an employee who has done an amazing job that quickly?

This book is too short for that kind of reaction. If it went on longer, and this was happening over weeks, I can definitely see a boss tiring of it and seeing that it’s a pattern. Two days could mean anything. For all he knows the guy just lost someone or hasn’t been feeling well. It’s too soon to take such an extreme turn on how he views an employee – particularly for doing something that is bad, but certainly not unforgivable.

Then there’s Oscar. When he first wakes up and is told he was in a coma, and learns his family is dead, he almost immediately just goes back to sleep. He sees mechanical animals and flying pigs, and only somewhat asks anything about it. For example, he learns about pigs because he feels like eating bacon, not because he asks about the weird animals. It’s frustrating waiting for him to ask about obvious things, and instead he’ll stay quiet, follow Balder, then fall asleep somewhere.

I couldn’t like him. He complains about Ruby using her looks to try and get the promotion, and yet she’s there early getting work done and she works hard. I agreed with her character more than his even though she’s supposed to be bad. He goes to work late, and when he gets sent home for some reason he drinks and falls asleep, and that’s mostly what we see of him. He doesn’t pick up after himself or get anything done. He does very little, so it’s no wonder his wife is mad.

His wife does nonsensical things too, though. I can see why she would be upset, but when she’s worried that her husband might lose his job, and they need him to have that job because they have two kids to support, it isn’t the time to let him sleep in because she’s upset. Be upset, but kick him until he wakes up and goes to work so that your kids have financial stability.

Just like with his boss, she gets angry at him very fast. If this is the first time he’s been late to work and had issues, I’d expect more sympathy. Instead she acts like this is what he always does and she’s fed up, but other things suggest he’s been fine and this is unusual for him. She even implies that he’s not like the man she married anymore. It’s been two days. Why are people having this much of a reaction to tiny little things over the course of two days?

Even when he’s in the ‘other world’, Balder doesn’t make sense many times. At one point he complains:

“Oscar, you’ve been having mad dreams lately – you keep on like I should know them all inside out – like I was really there. It’s all absurd. Just your imagination I’m afraid.”

I don’t remember if Oscar even mentioned his dreams to him before this, but if he did, it wasn’t to the extent that warranted this response. My response was, “Wait, he’s barely talked to you. Did he even mention his dreams?”

Later he says:

“It’s not as if you haven’t seen it all before. We’ve been friends for some time now. There’s nothing I could show you to shock you that you wouldn’t have already seen before…”

He says this to a man who has woken up from a coma, whom he knows has amnesia, who was just shocked by what he saw. Why would he say this? It makes no sense for him to tell the person suffering from amnesia who was just shocked by what he saw that he’s seen it before and nothing he can do can shock him.

To top it off, when Oscar does get fired for being slightly late two days in a row, he throws coffee at and punches Ruby for some reason. Ruby is probably the only likable character in the book. She shows up to work and does what she’s supposed to do.

In the end he jumps off a bridge, and it ends with him seemingly waking up, suggesting that the ‘accident’ that put him in the coma was jumping off the bridge. This doesn’t explain where he met Balder if he didn’t know him when his wife and kids were alive, and he’s been in a coma the entire time. It just didn’t fit together.

Sidenotes were also in the middle of sentences.

He remembered that for all the joy he was experienced (confusion aside) that…

…and hurried (as quickly as he could) home.

Plus there was one particular thing that confused me.

He was beginning to wonder if now might be a good time to book a one-way flight to Switzerland. He’d much rather lose his body than his mind.

Wait. Are people in Switzerland losing their bodies? I don’t know if this is a reference to something, but I’m confused.

I get what the book wanted to do. A guy is going back and forth between two lives, gets pushed over the edge and ends up causing his own accident and putting himself in the coma. But it escalated too fast over very little. There was no reason for the characters to have such extreme reactions to such small problems. Too much time is spent on the wrong things. There’s pages dedicated to the main character waking up, then almost no time spent on the fact that he just learned his family is dead. He just goes back to sleep. It doesn’t add up in the end.

It’s disjointed and the way none of the characters feel natural makes it awkward. The idea could work, but it would really need to be fixed up. This feels like a rough draft of a script, where the author has gone back and changed his mind about several things, but hasn’t updated the rest of the script yet to match up with the changes. I would suggest the author re-read it a few times and do some re-writes, making sure the facts in the story match, taking out notes from the middle of the text, and possibly speaking the dialogue out loud to make sure it sounds like something a person would say. It would also help to make character reactions more reasonable. If Oscar is only going to make small mistakes, then the book should probably be longer in order to explain why the other characters are tired of him.

I give it a 3/10.

Read more reviews here.

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.

Bright Fire (Bright Fire Series Book 1)

Bright Fire (Bright Fire Series Book 1)

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

(Spoilers within)

I received a mobi file for this book that didn’t work and ad to read a PDF file instead(definitely not preferred). That should have been a bad sign from the beginning. If you send a book for someone to read, please make sure the file works.

This book is written in first person present tense, which right away made it a more difficult read. It’s very hard to do right, and I can’t say it’s used well here.

There are many other problems in the writing, too.

“…Am I staring at my locker without really seeing it.”

“What was that about?” my mother asks as I shut the car door. “I’m not sure.”

As you can see, it switches speakers without making a new paragraph and even puts words in the wrong order or leaves out words sometimes. It’s full of errors. The writing also didn’t invoke emotions. There was one time when it got close, but I’ll address that later.

The premise of this book has a difficult one to build on right away. It makes Hades the villain, which is an unfortunate problem with modern day literature. The book references “Hell” and “the Devil” many times, confusing Hades for someone like Satan when they couldn’t be more different.

Hades isn’t only far more reasonable and not very villainous, but he’s tame compared to the other Greek gods. Extremely tame. Just compare the things he does to what Zeus does, including the way he treats women/his wife. Kidnapping his wife is obviously bad, but the myth needs to be taken in context of the times and “kidnapping whoever you like” wasn’t exactly uncommon in any the myths. This is a culture where “ritual abduction” was a thing, so it wouldn’t be right to take it exactly the same as you would from a modern day viewpoint.

So, right from the start it lacks research because it confuses Hades for Satan. Hades is not Satan. He is nothing like Satan. As a friend told me, “Hades isn’t any more the devil than Zeus is the Christian God.”

When she goes to see Alec after her parents are murdered mysteriously and there’s obviously something supernatural involved she slaps him for suggesting something unusual. It was bizarre. She heard her dad’s voice in her head and everything that happened to her parents, then acts like Alec isn’t only weird but physically assaults him. I could understand disbelief, or even still having a hard time accepting it, but after she just told a bizarre story she gets offended when he gives her a bizarre answer.

The book informs us of many things instead of showing us.

“Is that so?” She looks at him like he is cow dung on her shoe. I can tell she’s the brains of the duo; that means the guy was the braun.

She hasn’t done anything to show this, nor does she ever show this. We’re just told it.

Then there is a huge problem setting them up as the ‘heroes’ of the story. They bump into a homeless guy who starts ranting at her. Alec breaks his hands. And then they leave.

When he’s mentioned not long after by her she says:

“Yeah, that’s it!” I jump up. “Oh! Do you think? But no that guy was just a homeless man.”

A homeless man with two broken hands. This is trying to set up Alec as being protective of Dell, but instead it makes him look like a madman and makes Dell look like a psychopath. She saw him break the hands of a harmless homeless man and that is her reaction to the event. He grabbed her shoulders, yes. They have the right to get the homeless man away from her, but he was not attacking her. How he even knew about ‘Bright Fire’ or anything is never explained. He simply existed to yell at her and then be attacked and tossed aside.

The man may very well have been mentally ill and Dell had no problem with him being left horribly injured on the streets. How is that man supposed to get help for his injuries? This is a case of protagonist centered morality at its worst. Because it’s Dell who matters in the story and the homeless man is a nameless McGuffin, it doesn’t matter what happens to him and the story and characters just move on. But this is a terrible way to set them up as the supposed good guys or show that Alec is protective.

Let’s just put it this way: Would you start off your story with Alec blowing up a busload of orphans because the bus ‘might have hurt’ Dell if he didn’t? If you do, you have to climb up a very steep mountain to convince me to root for the characters. This story started me off almost right away with “These characters are monsters” and expected me to forget about it.

Because the mobi file I received for this didn’t work, I had to read it on a PDF and couldn’t highlight and take notes the way I would have wanted. Instead, I was bookmarking pages where there was an issue and hoping that I could remember what the issue was. The problem is I ended up bookmarking almost every page.

The book takes place over probably less than a week, and in this week I’m expected to believe that the main character has formed tight bonds with brand new people. With Cass, it might have been a matter of hours before she happily accepted Cass as her foster mother and was making it out like they were extremely close.

Another example of the book informing us of things came later when Dell notes about Alec and Lyla (Dell’s best friend):

I’ve noticed recently that they both seem to have put aside their issues and get along. Even rely on each other.

At first I wondered, “What issues?” And then I remember back at the beginning of the book Lyla called him a freak for some reason. It’s not explained well and worked against how likeable she was. She didn’t know about the attack on the homeless man or anything. She only said that because she thought he was a weird high school boy. However, there was close to nothing about it for many chapters – so much so that I completely forgot that even happened by the time Dell says this. This whole thing also takes place in maybe a week, probably less, so it’s all strange to talk as if a lot of time has passed. I also don’t remember Alec and Lyla interacting much.

There was another part that did make me uncomfortable with Hermes:

“Four; Pan, Priapus, Autolycus, and I just had a beautiful little girl Angelica. Some texts say I had a child named Hermaphoditus. But come on seriously, I would never punish a child with that name.”

Aside from the fact that a Greek god is talking like a modern day teenager, and the errors (including the misspelling of “Hermaphroditus”), I wasn’t sure if he was talking about the name being a punishment because it’s long – which would seem out of place because many of their names are long – or because of the meaning. There’s also the possibility that he means it would be embarrassing because it’s two names combined, but I don’t feel like there is a ton of research in this book so I’m hesitant to believe that’s the reason.

It’s not explained at all why it would be a bad name, though, so it leaves it dangling in the air that it could be implying hermaphrodites/androgyny is a bad thing.

There are quotes in the wrong places all over.

“My stomach drops and I choke back the bile rising in my throat. I feel Alec squeeze my hand a little…

While it would be interesting if Dell was suddenly narrating her life aloud, that’s probably not what is happening.

At the beginning I mentioned there was a part in the book that almost brought some emotion into it. They fight three sirens and kill them, and after that she discovers the sirens had a child who was hiding nearby. That is a great moral dilemma to have and a good reason for the protagonist to second guess her actions. However, on the next page the conflict is resolved by simply explaining that sirens can’t feel grief so the kid was fine. It got so close to having something of substance and immediately washed it away so that the main character wouldn’t have to feel bad.

For a book that is supposed to have huge conflicts, it feels like there’s little that the main character has to go through. Her parents die, but somehow I never felt anything for that. We not only barely see them, but she had the worst foster parents ever. For some reason they didn’t tell her about the Greek gods or anything, leaving her vulnerable and ill-prepared to protect herself after they died. There doesn’t seem to be any reason they did this other than to let her be confused and traumatized (or, to create forced conflict for the main character).

Cass is kidnapped. I also felt nothing because they hardly knew her. Despite being immortal, she did stereotypical modern day mom stuff (example: getting freaked out because Alec and Dell slept in the same bed).

Then there’s the physical trials they go through, like when they go to the Underworld.

They go through the Chasm of Lost Souls, where what starts as a good idea is wasted. Each soul is trapped in a mound, and if someone steps on that mound the soul can pull them in and take their place, essentially. But, apparently if they get grabbed all they have to do is stab the soul with the dagger they have and that works just fine, so there was almost no danger.

The next trial they face they have to walk across a bridge, which would be apparently no problem if someone didn’t drop a soda in the river (seriously, that’s what happens. Why are they littering in the Underworld? I’d be mad if I was Hades.)

Like with the “dropping of the soda”, problems seem to occur because the main characters are incompetent. When they go to fight the sirens they supposedly discuss strategy at length. Yet, when they get there and meet the first siren, the male character is immediately lured away into her trap and Dell is knocked out cold. What strategy were they discussing?! This is the most obvious thing sirens do and they were completely and entirely unprepared for it (not to mention what a terrible idea it is to bring a male character for that in the first place).

Then there’s the romance. This is a case of “romance without the romance”. That is, instead of writing out romance the story goes with “it’s fate” or “they’re soulmates”. I never felt like they were close, I just felt like I was told it, especially since they barely knew each other.

So, the book didn’t work for me on many levels. The writing style, the relationships, the portrayal of characters (especially ones who were supposed to be immortal and old), the challenges… It all needs an editor to fix these issues.

There are some ideas that could be built on (killing the sirens and leaving a child behind, the Underworld looking like a nice place, etc), it just doesn’t do much with it right now. If the author gets the funds for it I would recommend looking for a good editor to go over this story with. It would probably have a lot more impact if Hades was portrayed as his original self as well, rather than just the big bad.

I give it a 3/10.

Destiny’s Hand

Destiny’s Hand: Book One of Destiny’s Exodus

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

(Spoilers within)

Okay, I’ll just start off this review saying I was confused. The story starts off in one plot, after a murder, and it seems like the goal of the story would be to figure out what happened. Then we pop over to some other guy who is probably someone running the place or something, and he says a couple of things. Then we’re spending a bunch of time with a guy and his girlfriend as they talk in extreme detail about how history is being rewritten and they want to stop that, so then it seems like the goal of the book is to fix history. Then there’s some sort of AI that is smart but being kept stupid or something, and it seems like the book must have something to do about that.

But then we go into the past of the girlfriend character, where she seems to be contemplating suicide and another women walks up and explains, in great length, how awesome the girlfriend character is. During this time we learn that she was 15 and a bunch of guys are creeping on her.

All the while, made up technical terms and names and places and… ‘things?’ are being constantly mentioned. I was so lost. I had no idea what kind of storyline I was supposed to be following or even what half the things they were talking about were. The dialogue was stiff and constantly dropping more information, as well as jumping back and forth between time, people and places in order to drop more information. Because the dialogue was 90% exposition, I didn’t really feel like I knew any characters, either, I was just being told things about them.

On top of that, the two main characters spend a huge portion of this discussing how they’ll be able to talk about stuff. They’re openly and blatantly talking about what they want to do, not just in this “love pod”, but while they’re walking somewhere. They’re doing so without any fear of being caught, so if there are all these places they can talk openly like that, why not just discuss their super top secret plans in those places?

Which was another problem. 25% in and we mainly see… two people talking. Nothing is happening, just these two talking about potentially doing things at some point. In reality, the thing I was most intrigued by was why the one guy was so interested in having the other guy braid his hair. At first I thought there was a sexual interest, but then were both clearly and creepily shown having interest in women (and I say creepily because apparently there were minors involved, and the other is pretty much a stalker) or being obsessed with the girlfriend that apparently everyone is obsessed with.

So in all the constant chatter of AIs and history revision and secrecy, the thing I got most curious about was the guy braiding his hair. I think because it was the thing that was actually shown and not explained.

When I got to the second part of the story, I quickly realized I was once again reading about someone sitting around and talking. And then he was thinking to himself. And even when action started about 50% into the book, it felt like so much of it was talking. So much of the text involved, “And then he overclocked. And then he stopped. And then he overclocked again. And then his drone’s AI was green. And then it was blue…” Taking out the constant status updates would greatly reduce the amount of unnecessary text and stop slowing down the book.

Another problem was that I would start in a scene fine, like with Katelle going somewhere in a dress. All right, I’d be on board, following her. But after some time she’d still be walking around, pondering over things that have happened in the past, talking about different people she knew, and I’d be really unclear what he goal was. I started off thinking she wanted to meet Milden and make a connection or something, and then the story would go off on other tangents, and I’d start wondering what the dance choreographer or bodyguard or her batchsister had to do with anything. The action stopped and it felt more like I was being given history lessons about each character than following her on a mission. By the time she got to Milden I was questioning if I was remembering correctly what she was trying to do, because the story had gone all over the place in between with no mentions of him.

As another example, Katelle is dealing with a body. During this, it goes off on a tangent for four decent sized paragraphs about her history with medical care and how she felt nervous about continuing on in the field. Probably not the best time to reminisce, and this is the sort of thing that slows the story to a crawl often.

So this was my experience reading the book. It felt like I was reading about characters talking about a story instead of experiencing the story.

It was about the last 30% of the book that picked up. I was fairly interested in how the characters would carry out their mission and lay the blame on others. Characters were reluctantly recruited or used and they started running into some real problems. I liked it more when Katelle controlled things using her wits rather than because everyone thought she was attractive.

That’s not to say I think the book should be thrown out. My best advice for this book would be to get a good editor. There are good ideas there, and a whole world. Someone needs to make sure they’re presented in a way that’s easy to follow.

Just an example of one of the lines that confused me:

Kat, you’re a one one blue bird.

I have no idea what that means other than it’s suppose to be a compliment. There are a lot of strange phrases and odd dialogue that could be cleaned up, and I don’t just mean the made up words and jargon. An editor could help this book a lot.

I give it about a 3/10, because I had to struggle to get to the end.

The Beethoven Incident

The Beethoven Incident

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

“The Beethoven Incident” is a fairly fast-paced and light-hearted read. I didn’t get the feeling that it was meant to change someone’s life. It felt more like it was just meant to be a quick bit of fun.

There were parts I enjoyed, such as Mark calling Nicholas his dad and Valeria catching on quickly that it wasn’t true, and seeing how different periods in the past were changed.

There were also major issues, though.

Here’s an example of one of the paragraphs:
“Quite right.” He turned to his pilot, “Well, Ernest?” Ernie punched a few keys and looked at his control panel. “In a minute, Nick” he replied. “I just gotta scan the payload for mass and volume. We’ll be all set.” He punched a few keys and grinned at Mark.

This was very typical of the story. Multiple people would all have speaking parts jammed into the same paragraph. Many times I wasn’t sure which character was meant to be speaking. The “punched a few keys” is repeated twice. Periods instead of commas also bothers me.

Exclamation points were used too often. Random words would also get capitalized a lot.

“I’ve got a Kid…”
“You are Americans, No?’ The Officer asked.

Besides the writing issues, there were also parts of the story that were a huge issue for me: the biggest part probably being Valorie. There’s nothing wrong with Valorie in and of herself, but it felt like she was put there to “be the girl” and her capabilities seemed unrealistic and forced.
Any time a woman appeared in the story everything seemed to revolve around how sexy she was, even if it made no sense for the characters to be attracted to her. For example, women that were from the 1800’s. The story does mention how much the place smells because the people barely bathe and and feces is left everywhere and such, but when a woman comes on scene the fact that she barely bathes isn’t taken into consideration. I think how dirty and smelly she is would play a large part in how much a man over a hundred years in the future would be attracted to her.

Valorie suffers this same fate. They meet her in the 1960’s and the first thing to be mentioned about her is how beautiful she is.

…he thought she was just about the prettiest girl he’d ever seen.

She starts off in a very stereotypical female role – trying to heal people.
She also turns out the be smart, but as I mentioned before it felt like that was just forced onto her rather than being a natural role. The majority of the story happens within a span of about thirteen hours. In those hours she figures out how to make a program on a machine she’s never seen before to reverse the polarity of time. Not even Ernie, the man who lives in the future and does this for a living, knows how to run her program. I’d like her to be smart but that’s way too unrealistic. It also doesn’t hold, because just a few chapters later Ernie is working out a problem with the time machine that “not even Valorie” can do. Why not? Just because. So it establishes her as being a genius who can figure out things in an impossible amount of time but then it takes it back.

The way the men treat her also feels like they come from a few centuries back. They’re often patronizing and treat her like a child.

“What’s this “we” stuff, honey?” he (Ernie) replied.

I don’t think he would say that to another man. I would hope that in the future men would be a little more respectful of women.
That doesn’t stay consistent, either. One page later Ernie has gone from being condescending about letting her participate in their mission to this:

“Let her go, Nick.” Ernie suggested. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. Maybe she’ll be of some use out there.”

I felt really disappointed with Valorie’s character because I ended up feeling like she existed only to be a love interest and her abilities were thrust on her to try and make her a strong character and not because it made any sense for her. Ernie even brings up that she’s a virgin, which bothered me. He didn’t bring up whether Mark was a virgin or not. It could have worked if he had also poked at Mark about being a virgin, but it just seemed like it was brought up so she could be ‘untainted’ for Mark.

Even at the end when she is running the time machine while Mark is outside and he gets attacked, she ends up hitting the attacker with a pipe. Then, of course, the attacker goes after her and she has to be saved. It made no sense at all because the reason she was running the machine was because only she understood how to use the program she made, and Nicholas and Ernie were both there. Why did she go out only to need rescuing? Why didn’t either of the other two help?
The main characters often felt interchangeable, but I was most disappointed with Valorie because she had so much potential and came out flat. Her romance with Mark was strange to me as well (remember, this story happened in a very short span of time), making it seem even more like she only existed to be his love interest.

To me this is the rough draft for a book that could be really good but it needs a lot of editing. I was mulling over what to rate this, but I’m going with 4/10 because I’ve certainly seen worse.

The Crumb Snatchers

The Crumb Snatchers

I requested a copy of this book because it sounded cute. (Spoilers within).
I’ll admit, this wasn’t what I expected it to be when I got it. I thought the story was going to be about a little girl and her various attempts to get to the cookie jar. She does try to get to the cookie jar, but that part takes up a small part of the story.

– I think the pictures worked well and were cute.

– The overall lessons were fine. I like that Penny intended to pay for the pantry she broke. I also like that she thought of working all over the place and her mother restricted her to doing some stuff at the home.

– The formatting and placement of the text, especially around pictures, is done very well. The background also matches with the story, and the page numbers are placed on little cookies.

– Characters say each other’s names constantly. It felt a little strange.

– I think their were too many characters for such a short story, and not much that warranted having them all there. I think this story could be chopped down to four characters and have the same effect (Penny, the mom, a cat and a sister).

– Sometimes the narrative went all over the place. Here’s an example:
“Mama was scrambling eggs when the girls walked into the kitchen. How’s everyone this morning? The wall clock chimed ten times. One at a time the girls gave their mom a kiss on the cheek and said good morning. Penny turned to go and answer the door.”

– Some parts felt unnatural. Example:
“Click, click, wow, got you,” said Terrie as she mastered the game control device.

I would say something more like:
“Got you!” Terrie yelled, having mastered the controls.

– “Penny ripped the sheet of paper from the tablet…”
I’m just picturing someone using an iPad like a sticky pad.

– The text seemed small to me since it’s a children’s story. It was also very verbose, too. I think the story could have started on page ten without losing anything. The text could be made bigger for kids, too, and many of the paragraphs and sentences can be made more concise. There’s a lot of time spent on random niceties and day to day chores that has nothing to do with the plot of the book and doesn’t seem to go anywhere.

– There were also a lot of errors considering the short length of the book.

– At the end characters brought up the fact that Penny didn’t think through her actions and the consequences quite a bit. I wish a character had also brought up that you can’t feed chocolate to a cat (luckily Penny didn’t get to do this, but she had planned to).

I think if the fluff was cut out and it got down to the basic story it would be better. There’s some good points in the story for kids, but I’m not sure what age group this would be good for. I deal with a 9 year old and a 5 year old – it’s too short and simplistic for the nine year old, and far too verbose for the five year old to be able to handle. It seems like a story that should be made for someone who is around 6, but I don’t think they would be able to handle the vocabulary. (“Deliberately”, “vomeronasal organ”, “construction”, “tetanus medicine”…) Add to that how long the paragraphs and sentences are and it would probably be too difficult for young children to read.
My suggestion would be to simplify the story so that kids could keep up with it.

I’d give this story about a 4/10.

The Sword of Hope: Destiny Awaits

The Sword of Hope: Destiny Awaits

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

– The use of exclamation points in the narrative was too much. For example, here’s a few (but not all) that appeared on just two of the pages near the beginning:
“Christian started screaming and shaking violently!”
“She gave him a sarcastic look, grabbed a pillow, and hit him in the head!”
“It was a beautiful day!”
“Christian got up, smiled, and tackled him!”

This happens throughout the whole book.

– The start could have been stronger. It’s starts off with an introduction that spends a page talking about a peaceful town and why it was chosen by the gods and such. The last paragraph brings up a forest outside the town where people keep disappearing and never coming back. If I lived there that would be the first thing I wanted to bring up – that the town seemed peaceful but there was something lurking out there.
Then the first chapter begins with a fight between two brothers. I found myself asking questions like, “Where are they?” “What is he trying to hit his brother with?” “What is his mother doing while they’re fighting and why isn’t she intervening even though she’s yelling at them?” “Is it night time?”
This action scene could have been put together better by removing repetitive information (“Their mother screamed as Barkley attacked his little brother.” We already know he’s being attacked, so it can just say she screamed or add more information, like what if he picked up a rock at that point?) and having the descriptions effect the characters somehow. One brother just pushed the other down – instead of saying puddles are forming on the ground why not mention how water soaked Christian’s clothing when he falls over?
Since it turns out to be a dream it could also mention things that commonly happen in dreams. Maybe his mother could be completely oblivious to what’s happening even though she’s right there and he’s trying to call for her help. Maybe she’s trying to get to them but never seems to make it to them.

– There’s a LOT of telling.
“Christian, who came from a family with a much higher status and calling in life, was destined from birth to become what his family expected him to be. Tiberius, on the other hand, was born into a family who worked for Christian’s parents, doing anything and everything required of them. They were recognized for who they were and nothing more. Never once were they recognized for what they did or could do. This stuck with Tiberius and became a large part of his personality. Recognition was what Tiberius wanted for himself and his family. One day, he always said, one day, the world would see what his family, his bloodline, were capable of.”

This is an interesting story I’d like to see, but we’re told it instead. I’d prefer not to be told this at all, and instead see Tiberius and Christian being treated differently and them reacting accordingly. (What does Christian’s family expect him to be, anyway? It didn’t say.)

I should note here that none of the interactions here show what we’ve just been told.

– Information could be combined.
“Most, if not all, of the houses in Bachwood were the same.” … “Only one residence differed from the rest.”

This has all of the information those two sentences provided but is more concise:
“All of the houses in Bachwood were the same except for one.”
Of course, there’s better ways to say one lone house stood out among the rest, too.

– The narration isn’t being told by one of the characters, so it shouldn’t tell us things like something looks perfect.
“The look of perfection and similarity was apparent in everything.”

A lot of people probably wouldn’t like living in a place where all the houses looked exactly alike. If you ever go somewhere where houses have been built the same and a good amount of time has passed, you’ll probably see that people have changed them. Added rooms, different paint jobs, re-designed gardens… So the narration is telling us this place is perfect and yet it sounded like a place I wouldn’t really want to live in because I like variety.
If one of the characters, like Christian, was giving his opinion that Bachwood was perfect that would be different. Instead of being told objectively that “this is perfection”, it would be Christian’s opinion that “this is perfection” and we would see how he feels about the place.

– Some things didn’t make sense.
In chapter 2, Christian and Tiberius are at Shino’s house. After awhile they hear a scream and run to find Shino in a clearing. Half of a house has been eradicated and a little girl has been abducted. So if they could hear him scream, why didn’t they hear a building being destroyed or a little girl screaming?

Speaking of which – a house has just been destroyed by monstrous creatures and a little girl has been kidnapped. Why is Shino laughing about stuff when he wakes up an hour later? Why is there no sense of urgency about this little girl? Hasn’t anyone done anything in the hour that Shino was unconscious?

Many times in the story I was wondering why the bad guy didn’t do things like kill them in their sleep as well.

– There’s some odd choice of speaking verbs.
“At first, Shino looked at him, chuckled sarcastically, then retorted, “Your Mom wanted to show you something as well? About time if you ask me. Legacies should never be hidden.”
That doesn’t sound like a retort to me. A retort is usually snappish, maybe angry, like this:
“You’re a butt,” Christian told Tiberius.
“I am not a butt!” Tiberius retorted.

– No emotion. Because of some of the things above, sometimes it feels like there’s a massive lack of emotions. Christian sees his father, who has been missing for a long time, and he doesn’t even say anything. We don’t get any insight to how he feels about seeing his father suddenly appear to him. He simply nods and answers a question his father asked, then moves on.
When just a short time later he’s yelling, “FOR YOU DAD!” it feels empty because of this.

– Chapter 8 tells us it has been a week since the attack. By that point I was starting to feel like the characters weren’t very good people because no one seemed concerned about doing anything at all about the little girl who had been kidnapped. Why did they wait a week? Why is no one concerned? Where is her family?
This is also the first time we’re told that his brother left. He dreamed about his brother, and he fought his brother’s spirit or whatever in the dungeon, but we were never actually told anything about his brother. Up to this point I didn’t know if his brother had died, if he was still living at home and Christian was having prophetic dreams about him going bad later, or something else.

– His sword glowing blue when there’s danger reminded me too much of another sword.

– Chapter 11: They tell Gmonkis that they came for the girl but before this it sounded like they were out on some other holy mission.

– Cars didn’t seem like they fit with the rest of the world. It was magic, swords, axes, forests, evil spider things, evil goo monsters, then suddenly a city of rusted cars.

– Mithril is actually a registered trademark.

– Cryo tells a story about another boy accidentally shooting his teacher, “Everything around him slowed to a near halt as he stared at the neon green feathers of his arrow sticking out of our teacher’s chest.”
How would Cryo know the inner thoughts of the other boy?
In Cryo’s story he also talks about a new teacher taking over who does things like breaking both a boy’s arms and giving him a black eye, or how another boy got an arrow in his arm. Why did the people of the city let this guy teach their kids?
He also didn’t meet Christian and Tiberius until they showed up in Rusty City, so how could he comment on how much they’d grown up? Cryo does a lot of things like this where he seems to know things he shouldn’t.

– When I started the story it seemed to be built up like a typical medieval fantasy world, which is fine. Then things like monster cars and cell-phones were tossed in. That’s fine, too, but I should have had an idea that those things existed in the world and that the characters were familiar with them long before I did. Despite the amount of time spent describing Bachwood as perfect and being full of nature, nothing like this was shown or mentioned there. In reality, even though the characters don’t head out until about 30% of the way through the book, I couldn’t say much about Bachwood except the houses all look alike and all have a single window. Did the characters have phones? I have no idea. Did they have cars or trucks? No clue. If they didn’t, and they’re in this secluded area, why do they know about phones and cars?

– None of the characters seem to have defined personalities. Christian, Tiberius and Cryo were all alike, and sometimes they would start talking like adults instead of like 12 year old boys. This shouldn’t be so. Each boy has a good reason to have a different personality: Christian was practically born with a silver spoon in his mouth; Tiberius was supposedly treated as if his bloodline didn’t matter beyond serving Christian’s family, and Cryo was living alone in a city were everyone was dead.

– “Christian walked up, opened the chest, and took out a small key. “Yes!” he yelled as he held the key in the air.”
I thought of this:
And I’ll admit, it brought a smile to my lips.

Remember how I said this was a story I’d like to see, not be told? That’s pretty much what I’ll say here. This is more like the skeleton of a story; the ideas are all down on the paper, but they need a lot of editing and re-writing. We’re told that Tiberius has a different lot in life than Christian, but never once do we see this in action. It’s as if the author wants him to have been treated different but isn’t willing to make any of the other characters actually treat him different, because doing so would make them look bad.
As a matter of fact, Tiberius seemed to do most of the stuff in the story and he’s practically handed a magic soul-stealing axe that does almost everything.
(I forgot to mention, but “Hope Fighting” is never explained.)

I think the book still needs a lot of work.

I’d give it a 3/10.