Whispered Echoes

Whispered Echoes

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

(Spoilers within)

So, how to start this. This book had some good ideas. It revolved around Alyx, and her ability to see ghosts, most importantly the ghost of her sister. She’s put in a mental hospital because of it, where people are doing experiments on people like her. She finally escapes and goes to a school for people with her kind of powers, and she keeps trying to figure out a way to save her now possessed friends at the mental hospital. It could work.

I think where it falls short is characters and description. Character-wise, there were so many characters who spent so much of the time being mad that it was hard to get attached, as well as a lack of understanding about how other characters would feel or naturally be. When Alyx arrives at the school, Transcend, her mother’s former friend, Xan, is the worst example of this.

Alyx has essentially just escaped a dangerous hostage situation from a mental ward, where she’s been held captive for years and had to fight with possessed people for at least several months, including people who are now attacking her who used to be her friends. Xan is perfectly aware of where Alyx has been. You’d think it would be obvious that a girl like this would have some problems, regardless of whether or not she’s insane because she sees ghosts (which is normal in the school). So how do they prepare to handle a new recruit who is coming in after fleeing for her life?

They don’t seem to at all. They allow other students to openly shun her, they get mad at her for not immediately knowing the ins-and-outs of how they do things, they get mad when she’s in class and explains to the other students what people being possessed is like, etc. She’s told that they use their powers to help people in high positions earn money and get intel and they show no interest in helping her with her “all my friends are possessed by evil people and will be killed soon” problem.

I thought it was odd when Alyx first got to the school and refused to say that she wanted to be there to help her friends. Her excuse that ‘people don’t like to be used’ seemed weak, and in the end it turned out to be a forced plot device.

Alyx’ only friend is her new roommate, who seems to be the only one interested in helping her out. They go back to the hospital and manage to exorcise one of the nurses. The nurse promptly kills herself when she’s back in her own mind and remembers everything she did. When they return to the school Xan ends up demanding to have a talk with her.

Xan demands that Alyx trust her and tell her the real reason she’s at the school, and in order to earn her trust she seemingly decides to take her rock climbing. But, rather than helping her or teaching her, she forces her to do it, climbs to the top on her own and leaves the inexperienced Alyx hanging in the middle. When Alyx doesn’t give answers that she likes, she messes with the rope holding Alyx up and threatens her.

“Sorry, my hands slipped. If you don’t want them to slip again, make sure I can trust you, Alyx.”

When Alyx gets to the top she angrily asserts that Alyx has to trust her, and complains about Alyx going back to the hospital with Skye without telling her.

The problem is, Xan has never been any more likable than she is at that moment. She’s angry, she’s not particularly warm to Alyx, she gets mad at her for talking about possession in class when Alyx would have no reason not to talk about her experience, she allows other students in her class to be rude to her… What has she done to earn Alyx’ trust? This is all after Alyx has basically been told that she wouldn’t get any help from them to begin with.

Then she climbs down without Alyx and leaves. She leaves Alyx, an amateur, on top of a rock-climbing thing on her own in the middle of a storm. You know who I wouldn’t trust? I wouldn’t trust a person who yelled at me, threatening my life, and then dumped me in a life-threatening situation for no reason. Xan is horrible. Her points about Alyx being selfish fall completely flat.

“You still don’t get it, Alyx. Can’t you see how much you need to learn, that you need us to teach you? You have to stop thinking of yourself all the time. You have to let us in. Trust us.”

Yes, trust the person leaving you dangling on a rope in a storm when she tells you how selfish you are for wanting to save your friends’ lives. Alyx is so selfish, not wanting her friends to die. And all of this was something Xan should have predicted easily even with Alyx not telling her. She knew where Alyx had been. Alyx talks about her friends’ predicament. She knows Alyx has come from a horrible situation, and she does pretty much nothing to assist her. Nothing to try and earn her trust, nothing to make her feel welcome or comfortable, nothing to help her integrate or get along with the other students… Xan should be tied up and dangled off a cliff.

A lot of other characters feel like they just sort of exist. For example, Pashmi. She just sort of wanders around with some science-box-thing that does readings. I don’t know anything about her beyond that. She pops up once in a while and that’s it. Suddenly, at the end, she’s going along to help Alyx at the hospital. I’m not sure why besides “science”. She’s just suddenly in on it, no real connection to Alyx or anything.

Then there’s the descriptions. Many times I got lost in how long something took, where it took place, or it would mention something and I would be thinking, “Wait, that happened?”

When she originally gets to Transcend the description made it feel like she drove a few minutes. Later it says that it was hours. Because her sister’s ghost has disappeared, a familiar is summoned for her. It describes it, then the book sort of seems to forget about it for a while, and I was left wondering, “Wait, what was that about?” Then, it suddenly pops up again down the line as ‘her gargoyle’, and it felt weird and disconnected how it completely disappears to the extent that I was wondering if she did get a familiar or if I’d misread it, and then bam, suddenly there again.

When they go to the hospital at the end and they’re inside trying to exorcise the spirits, there’s suddenly mention of a fire, and I was wondering when, where and how a fire happened. Then, not long after that, there’s suddenly mention of ‘going with the medics’, and I was wondering when, where and how medics were suddenly there. Maybe there were some sort of mentions somewhere beforehand, but the descriptions often left me lost and wondering where stuff was popping out from.

So, there’s some good ideas, but with so many angry characters and action that was hard to follow I couldn’t get that into the book. If I’m supposed to like a character like Xan, I think he actions would need to be reassessed and I’d need to be shown something other than her spending 95% of the time being a jerk to agree with her.

There are other things that I won’t hold against it because I believe they’re meant to play into the plot. Ghosts are being kept at Transcend, and when Alyx sends one to the other side it makes the people very upset, even though they can’t only be sent away if they’re ready to go. They’re keeping spirits around who are ready to move on and using them. I think this is a good way to hint that Transcend may not be a great place. It drills it in a bit harder later with her sensing trapped, upset spirits. Maybe if Xan is part of the evil side of the place her character would make more sense, but I’d still recommend it be toned down a bit so that it would make sense for Alyx to trust her.

So, it’s a mixed pot. There’s some good ideas with the ideas and plot, but I don’t think the author properly conveyed what they were going for all of the time. I’d give it about a 6/10.

The Lion of Rivers (The River Chronicles Book 1)

The Lion of Rivers (The River Chronicles Book 1)

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

(Spoilers within)

The story starts with Evan, an abused boy who is studying to be a blacksmith in a rural country. A knight passing through sees that he’s being mistreated and offers to take him with him. Evan decides to go, and he and Falcon go traveling together. After that many storylines happen. Sometimes the story follows Evan while he’s trying to survive in the big city. Sometimes it’s following Falcon as he’s sent on another mission. Sometimes it’s following Bailey, who watches over Evan after Evan leaves, and once in a while a different character takes over.

Overall, I liked this story. I like Evan’s evolution as a character. He starts lowly, and by the end he has good reason to have changed and be angry. I like that some characters introduced early on end up coming back. There were some good twists in the story that I liked.

One thing I did notice is that there were errors. What it felt like to me was an author who couldn’t get someone to give it a second lookover, so some noticable errors slipped through.

Even knew there would be no more work today,

Stephen turned to guide and looked down on him,

Memory of where he was, how he got there was slow to return.

Olin’s words haunted him as set out.

He tried to sit up but the ground titled underneath him…

“I was glad when you choose me last night,” she said.

They’re the type of errors that aren’t likely to be caught with a spell checker.

There were both good and bad points with the romances. Evan is learning to become, essentially, an assassin, and he’s given a gold coin to ‘enjoy himself’ out on the town. He goes to a brothel that’s recommended (though he had no idea it was a brothel) and ends up sleeping with one of the girls there. They’re talking about running away together before he even knows her name.

Then, he meets up with her one more time quite a while later. At that point his master decides a woman can get in the way of his training. At first, I thought he would kill her, but I was pleasantly surprised that he decided to go a different route. At this point I like some of the things that happen. He bribes and threatens her, giving her money to leave and also implying that bad things will happen to her if she doesn’t She accepts the bribe and leaves. When Evan finds out that she’s gone, he says:

“I was quite relieved, actually.”

I really, really liked this. For me, that made the relationship work much better. I could believe that he got caught up in the moment and made a stupid promise that he regretted, with a girl he knows nothing about. I also like that she went ahead and left, which seemed like the smart thing for her to do. There is a hint of her seemingly wondering how much she would regret leaving Evan behind, but thankfully it doesn’t dwell on this. She’s a prostitute, and not a new one. She’s seen Evan all of twice, and it’s doubtful that he’s the first person who has made promises to her. There’s no reason someone who has experienced the world as she has such be greatly lamenting leaving behind some guy who paid to sleep with her once.

If anything, the promises and such that she had him made to her could very well be her purposely manipulating him in the hopes of leaving that life. It’s much more suitable than having a “true love” story. I didn’t like how it started because of how quickly they were talking about running away together and I was expecting the book to try and convince me that they’re super in love, so I was pleasantly surprised when he was relieved that she left and she was able to be bribed to leave. It was a good depiction of what that situation would probably be like.

On the other hand, in part of Falcon’s story, he meets up again with a knight they met early on named Aaron. While they’re escaping from a prison together and wandering in the woods, they meet a foreigner from the north named Sulla. Aaron seems interested in her fast, and while I can’t say she necessarily returns his feelings immediately, they do start to present themselves soon. That’s all right, but it seemed like their relationship developed ‘off-screen’. It’s mentioned that she starts to like his horse, and they develop some of their bond over that, but we don’t really see it.

When they arrive at her home and there’s a conflict about the fact that she’s meant to marry someone else, and she shouldn’t have a relationship with Aaron (which isn’t the only part of the conflict. There’s also the fact that people in certain jobs dedicate their lives to that job and don’t take a spouse). It didn’t strike me very hard, because while they had been traveling together for a while and the story implies that they’ve grown closer, I didn’t really see it.

I will say that in some of the scenes shown of Aaron and the late Stephen, I started to think they were a couple. I don’t think they were, and I’m saddened by that.

Were they bad characters? No. I’d say that I like the characters in this book. There were some parts that I don’t think got developed quite enough, and others that might have lingered too long, but as a whole I thought it was an enjoyable read that did go somewhere. The book is the beginning of a series, so not everything is resolved at the end, but it does have a satisfying conclusion for this novel that felt like it was earned. The author went in some directions that I didn’t expect and found refreshing.

If you’re into epic fantasies, go ahead and give it a try. I give it a good 8/10.

The Last Night on Earth

The Last Night on Earth

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

(Spoilers within)

This is very short, only about 17 pages. It takes place during a future war, switching its point of view between a few citizens. David, the husband, Kara, the wife, and Simon, an actor. We’re given hints about what their lives are like in this dreary future where over a billion have been killed.

David and Kara’s marriage isn’t going well. He wakes up to find she’s gone, and the first thing he does is check for any messages reporting her death. As it turns out, she’s elsewhere after having had an affair. She then steals the other man’s car to try and bring some thrill in her life. Simon is the man she slept with, who essentially has a job of reporting the dead in a mandatory play.

David is an angry, abusive person. While Kara is cheating and stole the car, she has other problems, too. When someone needs medical attention at the play, she simply says she “isn’t that kind of doctor” when David starts telling her to go help. He’s an angry man, but he’s also frustrated that Kara isn’t trying to save someone when she can. Kara, on the other hand, isn’t sure what the point is in bothering when a billion people can be wiped away in a single nuke anyway. Simon has a little less development going for him, mostly having lost the thrill of being able to sleep with a lot of women.

I’d agree with other reviewers I saw in that this is too short. The writing is good. The issues are there, and even though none of the characters can be described as great people you can kind of relate to their situations and how depressing it’s gotten. You can’t get overly attached to them in the short amount of time, though. It’s a very brief glimpse into their lives.

As an author, it’s probably better to hear that someone “wants more” than “wants less”.

I only noticed two errors while reading, and that’s actually the only notes I took for this book when reading it.

…only fire and chaos and says “I don’t know…

But the show must go on.The show must go on.

I’m actually not certain about the second one. The second line in it is italicized, so it looks like it’s missing a space between sentences but maybe it actually is there.

Anyway, if you’re interested then take a look. It’s well-written and it wouldn’t take very long to read, but I think its short length is a little detrimental to its impact in this case.

I give it a solid 8/10.

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.

Letters to Nan

Letters to Nan

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

(Spoilers within)

This is going to be one that is difficult to say much about. The story is fairly simple. It’s about James and his relationship with his Nan. He’s about to pursue his dream job, which means leaving to go to another country, when they find out that she has Alzheimer’s. He leaves for several years and has to deal with the fact that when he comes home she probably won’t remember him anymore.

I would say it’s written well and the characters are well fleshed out (although other characters are mentioned, for the most part James and his Nan are the only characters who appear a significant amount in it). That’s why it’s hard to say a lot. I neither have whole lot to talk about (the overall story is fairly simple) nor much bad to say about it.

I’ll admit I didn’t get very invested in the story but I don’t think it’s because anything was wrong with it. The characters have specific interests that I don’t share and they discuss them a lot. I liked them and I thought it was good, but it didn’t grab me emotionally. This isn’t even something I would suggest changing because the characters are who they are, it just didn’t get me personally attached. Someone else will probably relate to them more.

My main criticism would be that it starts out in past tense and switched to present. I usually find present tense to be jarring, but especially when there’s a switch. I would have liked it more if it had just stayed in the past tense.

I can definitely see how another person might get a lot more out of this than I did, so if you’re interested in a sad story about Alzheimer’s, I’d recommend it. I give it a 8/10, it’s pretty solid.



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.



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

(Spoilers within)

This review will discuss some content that is NSFW.

I can sum up what I had a problem with in this book very quickly. It’s overwritten. Surprisingly, for how much information it gives the readers, I was often left confused because I wasn’t given the right information.

Now, the story itself is all right and ends with a bang. It was too much work to get there, though. It felt like there was a thesaurus involved, with words like “trapezius”, “cumulus” and “phalanx” being tossed in. It felt like every noun required at least one adjective, and every insignificant action could have an entire paragraph dedicated to describing it. For example, there was a decent sized paragraph about Saint looking slightly in a different direction. Many times the descriptions in these paragraphs included things like descriptions of clothing or the colors of different body parts, no matter what they were doing.

Here’s a few examples:

Julia reminded Saint so much of Shana, the long, wavy blonde tresses falling over a delicate pointed expression sharpened with a sensual pen, dark eyes gleaming with a piercing love thrusting through the contentment of loneliness Spike resonated.

(Yes, this is talking about Cowboy Bebop). Anyway, do we need to be told the pen is sensual? What does a sexy pen look like? The phrase “eyes gleaming with a piercing love thrusting through the contentment of loneliness Spike resonated” is so oddly written that it’s hard to be sure what it’s even supposed to mean.

It’s far from the only time something is worded strangely.

Shana’s painted nails digging into his lanky yet defined back while Saint dug into the wet walls of her details.

The dark threshold widened, the darkness in the living room brightening with the living embodiment of a sunray standing on the rotted out front deck with her veil of dirty blonde hair covering the sadness Saint felt dripping from her soft diamond countenance.

This is continuous. The purple prose is pronounced, and often takes away from a scene rather thans adds to it.

Saint and Shana found themselves in the thralls of ecstacy, Saint’s pronounced nostril taking in the scent…

…his phalanx filling Shana.

Saint jammed his cocktail sausage sized thumb…

In the sex scene do you really want to immediately send us up a character’s nose? And with his phalanx, that makes me think of a finger or toe, but the way the scene was described made it seem and if he lifted her up, sat on the bed, and she was on his lap. I’m not sure if a wrong word was used or if this was not going the way I imagined. And randomly describing people’s thumbs as cocktail sausage sized just seems silly.

We treated to all of these overwrought descriptions, and at the same time I often wasn’t sure where they were or even who some people were. Many pages into the book I didn’t know if they were at their house, at a hideout, or what. I’m guessing now they were at their house, but I honestly couldn’t even tell you for certain. The night after Saint goes out with Shana, he ends up spending time with Mariah. I don’t know who Mariah is. The book talks about her like I should know, but I have no clue. Maybe it mentioned her connection at some point between talking about what pants they were wearing and what color their lips were, but I don’t remember seeing it.

Many times, less is more. We don’t need to be told bricks are “cherry” colored, we know bricks are typically red. I don’t need the flow of dialogue interrupted to tell me someone is wearing a “wrinkled black polo and ruffled navy blue denims”. I can’t tell you much of anything about Shana, beyond what she looked like and the fact that Saint was obsessed with her. What aspirations did she have? Why did Saint like her, other than lust? How did she end up in this sort of life? No idea.

So, while I think it came to a decent conclusion and I don’t regret reading it, it’s not something I’d want to go back to. There were a few errors (“But Saint would nothing of slumber”), but my main issue was the style it was written in.

It’s a short book, so if you’re curious it wouldn’t take very long to look at it. I give it a 5/10.

Diary of a Gay Teenage Zombie

Diary of a Gay Teenage Zombie

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

(Spoilers within)

I should start this off by saying it wasn’t exactly the type of book I was interested in reading. I do like material that features gay men in particular, but I usually look more for stories where the character happens to be gay, rather than the story revolving around the character being gay. I’m also not into the zombie craze. I wouldn’t say I went into this book with something against it, but it wasn’t something that quite lined up with what catches my attention.

Since it wasn’t a subject I was attracted to, the beginning didn’t really catch me right away. Jay was very much a spoiled teenager, so he started off not being the most pleasant person to be around. Not that he was particularly horrible, but it had the sort of stuff where he complains that he didn’t get a car for his birthday as he plays on his new X-box. That sort of attitude that can be insufferable pretty quickly.

Luckily it didn’t become the main subject, but there was also a mention of him thinking he’d be the only virgin left at school. He’s 16. It reminded me of 90’s films like “Hocus Pocus” where there is a strange fixation on teenagers not having had sex yet. But, I’m glad this subject was abandoned early.

It took a while with some frustration for it to get started. Mostly entries about Jay hiding that he’s a zombie and sometimes saying he should tell someone, but he doesn’t. I’d say at around the 50% mark it gets better. As he runs into more and more problems with being a zombie, he has to make many decisions about if it’s safe for him to be around people, if he should bite his boyfriend, if he should attack an abusive man, among other things. In the later part his thoughts felt less shallow and he took greater consideration in what people around him were going through.

The character’s were fine. I was glad that CC, Jay’s ‘goth’ friend, didn’t follow stereotypes and acted like a pretty typical teenager, with smiles and jokes. Jay grows from the beginning to the end, and his parents felt like real people. When he complained about his mother, I felt more like they were “teenage complaints” than that his mother was a bad person. His mother is also shown taking in an abused woman and protecting her.

I’d say the only other character we see a lot from is Archer. Because Jay idolized him, it might have made it more difficult to put a finger on exactly what type of person he was, other than he liked Jay, too.

There were some errors in it. A little much for such a short book, I think.

…I was sure that already been drinking.

There was no way that Jay would be seen with me… (The character narrating is Jay)

…he didn’t show up f for work…

There are a few times it says “patents” instead of “parents”, as well as many times that there’s no period or comma when a character is speaking, like:

“Mom didn’t even ask me” I reminded him.

Some of the symbolism is a bit too hammered in, but it isn’t a bad read. If the summary for the story interests you, you’ll likely enjoy it. I didn’t have the excitement for it, but I found it to be an overall enjoyable story.

I give it a 7/10.

Read more reviews here.

The Lioness of Kell

Lioness of Kell

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

(Spoilers within)

My first impression of this book after reading the first few chapters was that it’s very busy. I didn’t particularly have a problem with the stories or characters, it’s just that things were flashing by so fast I didn’t have time to get absorbed into the story. For example, when Maud arrives in Port Brisa, she must have had half a dozen confrontations, all squished into one chapter. Every time she takes a step random people are popping out and attacking. It feels like an on rail shooter rather than a character in a new city.

I think it would have been better and more meaningful to have fewer confrontations, but flesh them out more. And have characters react more realistically to the fact that, though she is a woman, she’s quite a bit larger than them and obviously well muscled.

There was also so much use of the “ess” endings that it was distracting. On page one, “warrioress”, “lioness”, “tigress”… There’s six on the very first page, which isn’t including anything else that ended with ‘ess’ like “huffiness” or “breathless”. I especially didn’t think “warrioress” was necessary. It sounds very awkward and was overdoing it. This happens throughout the story with things like “archeresses”. We already know they’re a clan of female-only warriors, so it doesn’t need to be reiterated with every word they use to describe themselves.

There are many characters, and while I got to know the main ones relatively well I did get lost with side characters. Maud is a warrior who comes from a clan of all-female-only warriors. She’s large and enhanced using magic to make her even larger. She’s only 19, but she has been training her entire life. She’s sent on a training mission outside of her home with a veteran leading her.

As it turns out, Basil, the son of one of the warlocks, has a disfigurement that could have him thrown out of the warlockry and have his magic removed, in something akin to receiving a lobotomy. His father has summoned the two warriors in order to find a double for his son, in a desperate attempt to save him. His son is sheltered and finicky, but is rightfully angered that his brain will be cut up, so he runs away while Maud and her superior are still looking for his double.

For a while the stories are split, with Maud finding Basil’s body double, Jurgis, on her own and Basil fleeing with a pirate friend of his, only to end up captured by some more loathsome pirates. Maud is forced to take control of the mission when the veteran she was with passes away, and she and Jurgis end up taking another path entirely than what was originally ordered. Eventually they all meet up and have a series of adventures, uncovering secrets and finding out what truly happened to cause a war 100 years before.

Probably around 60% into the book, another two main characters are introduced: Wargall and Wemawee, both Kells. For me, the introduction of Wargall brought a lot of problems in the book. Throughout the book male Kells are constantly described as weak. Other characters compare it to the way female characters are treated elsewhere. However, when we finally do meet Wargall, a male Kell, as it turns out they’re not weak at all and they’re just not quite as strong as the women (who are enhanced by magic). It hardly feels like there’s any real challenges towards Wargall becoming a warrior. He’s not actually weak, he almost immediately picks up a sword and is able to kill a bunch of people, he doesn’t receive much resistence save from a character who had been set up as troublesome and abusive…

It made the entire comparison with how female characters were treated fall apart, as well as made almost the entire setup about how weak male Kells are feel like lip service. I was expecting male Kells to be small and soft like Basil or Jurgis were, especially considering how Maud had been attracted to them, but it ended up being a cop out.

There’s a part where he’s introduced where they discover a trap they have to disarm, and the woman who drags Wargall around, Wemawee, forces him to help disarm it because he’s expendable. After it’s disarmed, Jurgis tells Wemawee that Wargall was braver than her because he helped with the trap. I would have liked to see more of that, but after that it just turns into telling the big strong guy that he is a big strong guy. There were no real obstacles. I would have rather they ran into one of the “whores” they mention from Jurgis’ place and she became a warrior, because a character like that would have had to face much more discrimination and challenges. But, more than that, I would have liked for the male Kells to be weak as they were described, not “they’re slightly smaller than us and didn’t get enhanced with magic”.

Even when Wargall first fought I didn’t feel the struggle. He’s temporarily frightened by a large battle mage who is sending snakes at him, but then he just stabs him and it’s fine. Things like this could have been changed to make it feel a lot harder for him than it does. Like, when he runs into the mage, he could have trembling with fear and jabbed the sword forward while trying to step back from the snakes. He could have even fallen over while trying to back away. He still would have killed the battle mage, but in that scenario it would actually seem like it was something new and frightening for him.

It does serve a second unfortunate purpose as well. If the whole book has been spent telling us how weak Kell males are, and the first Kell male we bump into can pick up a sword and, completely untrained, take out several enemy soldiers and one of their giant battle mages, then how intimidating is this enemy? Send some children after them, that ought to take care of it. For the other characters their skills coincided with the lives they led.

The sex between Wemawee and Wargall bothered me, too. Not because I think that writers shouldn’t write about rape, but because of the way it seemed to brush aside the fact that it was rape. It is clearly stated that she would use him, and he didn’t want to, but then later that’s softened up with him saying he didn’t mind sex with her and that he’d have gladly done it if she just asked. It’s like it sets him up as someone who has been raped for years, and then backs off from that and tries to make it less horrible.

I liked Weamwee’s character growth for the most part, save for the fact that I didn’t feel like the sexual abuse was taken seriously enough.

As for the rest, there was still a lot happening quickly, but I did enjoy the story. I liked Maud’s and Basil’s growth. Maud starts out as a rookie, and her progression into someone who leads felt natural. She doesn’t go straight into knowing how to do everything. At times she looks back at her choices and realizes she could have done things better – she neither ignores the faults nor obsesses over them, but learns from them and moves on.

Basil himself goes from a shut-in with an ego to an adventurer with an ego. Though the relationships seemed to progress very quickly, I did like the way he was introduced to Yarwan. He’s attracted, and he spends a long time discussing how they figure out their location on a ship using measuring tools. It was good to focus less on the initial attraction – though attraction is certainly there – and have them actually talk. Not only that, but in a way that would interest both, since it’s something Yarwan loves and Basil is interested in learning. It worked.

I didn’t think Maud and Jurgis’ beginning worked out as well as theirs, with the way Jurgis got huffy and angry the second she refused to sleep with him.

I did like the main characters, and I felt like they were different from each other.

There were some pretty good parts. I particularly liked one where a rival merchant has trashed the shop of Yarwan’s mother, and the guards are demanding answers since the rival is the son of a noble. In response each character starts announcing their titles, with Yarwan now a captain, Darquine (his friend) the daughter of another prosperous merchant, Basil the Spellwarden, and Maud the ‘lioness of the Kell Queen’. It finally gets around to Jurgis, who had lived his life in the streets:

Jurgis opened his mouth, but then he shook his head. “I’ll not boast to the law of my status.’

I like the way they call back to Yarwan and Basil’s meeting later, and measure the direction an enemy flew away from two different points to determine where he was hiding.

Although I already said what I disliked about Wemawee’s part of the story, I like that when she was captured she was obstinate, even tossing and turning in her cage purposely to create noise and prevent the guards from being able to sleep.

I also liked that this was a complete story. Everything was wrapped up at the end, and while it could be continued if the author wanted, I wouldn’t feel like anything was missing if it was left as is.

There were a few errors, but not enough that I found it particularly distracting.

If the book sounds interesting to you, I would say go for it and realize a lot of stuff is going to happen almost immediately. If you can get through the opening and understand that a multitude of side characters will flutter in and out, you will probably enjoy it. The characters are overall enjoyable to be around, and I liked some of the revelations in the plot. Although it’s called the “Lioness of Kell”, there are several characters who play large roles. I would say I started out worrying that it was going to be a very long read, and ended up enjoying it in the end.

I give it a 8/10.


For anyone wondering about reviews, the last book took a while because it was fairly long.

Right now, I’m reading over another book for a friend. I’m not going to be posting a review of it, they just wanted my feedback and to bounce ideas with me.

It’s also Nanowrimo, so I’ve been focusing on writing. While I need to work on editing “Lorough”, the fourth book in the Outlander Leander series, I’ve been working on two books for Nanowrimo. One isn’t posted anywhere yet, the other is “Love, Android,” which will be a one-shot sci-fi novel.

The other will also be sci-fi but, like Outlander Leander, will be wrapped in a fantasy package. Even more so that Outlander Leander is, which will make sense when it’s done.

An author who is a friend of mine recently received some good news from an agent about their book. It’s another one I read and gave feedback on before, and it was a good book. I haven’t read the updated version, but she said she fixed up some of the things I mentioned to her. I’ll be sure to post about it when it’s released.