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Review: “Season 7″ by D. F. Nightshade

“Season 7″ by D. F. Nightshade

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 20 August 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Richard has been a security system salesman for about a year now. He’s good at what he does and loves his job, but doesn’t feel valued at the workplace. He’s passed up for promotions he feels he should get and is constantly second-guessed. His anger starts to affect his job performance. Stressed out Richard goes to a bar to try to calm his nerves. On his way home from the bar he is waved down by Nautilus who is nothing but trouble.

Nautilus is a seemingly normal guy who just so happens to be an alien. Nautilus believes that Richard is the “special one.” The one destined to rule his planet, but everything’s not as it seems and Richard has to find that out the hard way.

Or does he?

Review: This story was…interesting, and strange. I felt that the concept was very creative, and I liked that part of it. I always commend authors on scenarios that aren’t like every other story, and I believe this was the case here.

Unfortunately, the story fell short on the execution of that idea. The mechanics of it didn’t work for me as I felt that the plot wandered a lot and elements were just added “for the hell of it” without true purpose to the story or the characters; the Point of View changes were jarring and I thought unnecessary–since going a long while with one character’s PoV and then adding random others later is something that I generally don’t like; and then this book also suffered from Pointless Female Character Syndrome, where female characters were seemingly just added to have female characters but without giving them strength, depth, or reason.

I wish I could have liked this story better, but unfortunately, it just wasn’t for me. 2.5 Fireballs.

2.5 Fireballs

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Review: “Grievous Angels” by Brian Poole

“Grievous Angels” by Brian Poole

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 4 May 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Can one child be the world’s salvation? Or might he push it to the edge of destruction?

James Callahan isn’t a typical seven-year-old. Two years after disappearing with his desperate mother, a harrowing home invasion leaves James badly shaken and his mother brutally murdered. Ben Callahan had almost given up hope of seeing his lost son again, but the reunion isn’t all that Ben might have hoped. Traumatized by his mother’s death, James is slow to come out of his shell and events no one can quite explain surround the reunited family. Ben’s relatives and fiancée become enmeshed in the oddities that follow James like a specter he can’t shake. What really happened in a park when James’s sympathetic suffering seemed to save a heart attack victim? What do James’s vivid dreams signify? Is someone stalking the family? A late night intruder has the Callahans reeling, before events spin out of their control entirely.

Could James really be the key to an apocalyptic struggle foretold by a tormented ecclesiastic? Two powerful organizations operating in the shadows think so and engage in a deadly competition to acquire and control James. One uses the trappings of a self-help movement to mask far darker motivations and will neutralize James if they can’t control him. The other does nothing to hide that it’s a cult formed around a charismatic would-be prophet and thinks that James could trigger God’s reckoning on the world, leaving it all to burn. When these two ruthless factions ignite a bloody holy war in the streets of Boston, can the Callahan family survive? Can anyone?

Ben learns where James spent his missing years when the secretive group that protected him intervenes at a crucial juncture. Can Ben overcome his skepticism and rely on these modern knights to navigate the deadly pitfalls and impossible choices that beset the family at every turn? Can he give James the chance to survive into adulthood and embrace his destiny? Or is James doomed to become the casualty of a conflict foretold centuries ago that could engulf the world in catastrophe? When one false move could mean destruction beyond imaginations, what’s the ordinary father of an extraordinary child to do? Ben needs to figure it out quickly, before everything he loves is lost.

Review: This book was not really for me.

Plots come in two ways. Those that are/feel like they are written by outline writers, and those that are/feel like they are written by “pantsers.” (That means they were just written as the author went along, plotting on the way.) Neither is better or worse. It’s all a matter of personal preference. And I say “feel like” because some done with outlines read like the other type, or vice versa.

I am an outline writer. It’s my preference to read stories that feel like they were done off an outline, whether they were or not, I just like the feeling of structure and organization that comes with that.

This book didn’t have that, at least not in my opinion. It felt like it was just written as ideas came and no one went back and fixed it when scenarios, events and interactions felt repeated and others felt without any real purpose. Like there was a great deal of suspense built up that was then dropped when it went nowhere. Not to mention it doesn’t feel like any character, even our supposed “experts,” had any clue what they were doing.

None of the characters (except the bad guys) are…to be disliked, but I had trouble liking most of them too. (Well, I mostly liked Mark and Sean. Lindsay started good, but fell short before long. Ben was all anger issues, but then, any parent would understand.)

My other big gripe is that it felt like we had a real issue with our female characters. They were crazy or evil, except for one who felt a little pointless to the story and the main one who was nothing more than a light to shine on the male main character. A character to support and sacrifice, without any point to her existence in the story otherwise.

I’m a woman. I write about strong women. I don’t mind books with evil women for the villains, but balance it out. Give us some strong female characters with their own purposes in the story. Not to say that supportive characters aren’t important, but they need to be more than just sacrificial lambs.

Because of all this, the ending that was supposed to be “the beautiful tragic” just ended up falling flat for me.

But the writing itself was not bad otherwise, and it is fast-paced, and I can’t say I seriously disliked it. It just fell flat for my tastes and was not the story for me. 2.5 Fireballs.

2.5 Fireballs

Review: “Guiamo” by Marshall Best

“Guiamo” by Marshall Best

Available from: Smashwords
Released on: 14 December 2012

Description: Guiamo Durmius Stolo, an exceptionally gifted young Roman boy, is abandoned in Gaul in 60 B.C. Recognized by the gods as having world changing talents, he is given a weapon that directs his destiny forever. First of nine in the epic The Chronicles of Guiamo Durmius Stolo series.

Combining legitimate legends with actual historical events, Marshall Best weaves an epic story that portrays the ancient world as it might have been, a world which the ancient historians recorded as fact; a time when gods ruled the earth and strange creatures dominated the land. It is the era of civilized conquerors exploring distant and primitive new lands. Scant recordings left to us today only touch on the fringe of the fantastic and brutal reality that existed in those distant lands of the west. Into this age, young Guiamo enters the world stage as the great game-changer, and by his hand the gods and beasts become destined to disappear into myth and legend.

Review: There is a very delicate line when writing historical fiction to balance between the historical and the fiction; too much of the latter and it can feel unrealistic to the time and events it’s portraying, yet too much of the former and it feels like a thin veil of a story to cover a history text book.

In the case of this book, it felt like the author was trying to write in the styles of both ancient saga–where things are Told, in depth characterization is not required, and achievements are what’s shown–and modern storytelling, yet in trying to be both, it failed to convincingly be either.

I felt like the beginning was primarily Tell, which I don’t enjoy in modern fiction unless it’s very engaging. This wasn’t. What we saw had small glimmers of good character–like Guiamo is honest and hardworking–but is mostly focused on skills he’s learning, like a systemic skill-up for what he’ll need later in this book and series. But without emotional attachment, I don’t really care what happens to the character.

The primary thing that is supposed to show how “extraordinary” he is, is how hard he works to feed his dog. I guess for some that’s enough, but to me, it wasn’t. It was “of course he fed his dog,” rather than “look how great he is.” And then when the dog is quickly set aside later on, it makes it look less like a real attachment and more like a device. (Although he is brought back later, it still feels like device.)

All authors have to use devices and conveniently convenient things, but you have to hide them, because when they’re obvious, they remove the reader from the experience.

About a third of the way through and we’re seeing more Show and more glimmers of character, but it’s still somewhat bloodless and not enough. The dialog often comes across as clunky and heavy-handed. (Perhaps trying to sound natural to the time period, but it doesn’t come across smoothly.) And our characters, including Guiamo, read somewhat two-dimensional. Like more was spent on historical realism than character realism.

Ultimately, Guiamo proves a somewhat inactive narrator. He’s pulled along by events, and never rebels and rarely questions what he’s doing or being told to do or when he’s told about what his “extraordinary” fate will be. Here in, I think, lies one of it’s biggest battles between ancient saga and modern story.

One of Guiamo’s big character facets is that he’s very bright and is an inventor, but it’s overused. There were literally scenes where I stopped reading and thought, “Did he invite fire and the wheel too?” Or he’d be the only person to come up with an often simple idea that made everyone else figuratively smack their heads and say, “Brilliant!” This is okay in small doses, but not when it happens as often as it did in this book.

Yet, there were some things I liked about the story. I liked what good character traits there were to Guiamo, he just lacked balanced flaws. The anthropomorphizing of the spear was cool, and I did like the dog angle, when it was presented. I liked the druid stuff, too. And there were some sweet moments towards the end.

The prose was technically competent and I do have some minor curiosity about what will come of the saga, but I don’t see myself reading the second book. This book clearly wasn’t for me, but obviously works well for others. Once again, I’m the salmon swimming upstream, but it just didn’t hit the notes I wanted. So, I give this 2.5 Fireballs.

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Review: “Hemlock and the Wizard’s Tower (The Maker’s Fire – Book One)” by B. Throwsnaill

Hemlock and the Wizard’s Tower (The Maker’s Fire – Book One) by B. Throwsnaill. I purchased this on my own from Smashwords.

Description: A young rogue named Hemlock fights crime in her rundown neighborhood, which lies at the fringe of a magical city. Her sister relies on magical healing, and the spells are failing. When Hemlock confronts the wizards by breaking into their tower, events are set into motion that determine the destiny of the entire realm. Her adventure features brutal combat, cunning politics and tragic romance.

Review: I must be, like, the hardest reader on the planet to please. I know that part of it is that I cannot separate the writer in me from the reader in me when I see problems with the writing. I try. I want to just lose myself. Sometimes I have, but sometimes things just bug me and I can’t let them go. But I’m led to write a not-so-great review on a story many others seem to find awesome.

Let me start out by saying that there were a lot of elements of this story that I did like. That is to say, it had a lot of concepts I had high hopes for. I like high fantasy worlds with magic and cool creatures, good versus evil, kick ass female characters, epic stories, grey morality, etc., This story promised all of those things.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really feel it in the execution.

I found it a bit over-written. I love the West Wing quote where the president says, “Anyone in my family who uses five words when they could have used ten just isn’t trying hard enough.” It’s funny, and something I do when talking, but doesn’t work for me in fiction.

Too much description weighs a story down for me. Telling every single detail of every movement, expression, thought, and so on makes the writing mechanical. It also — and man, I feel so mean to say it — but it always makes me think of a writer trying very hard to be epic, rather than letting the story be epic for itself.

There was an excess of character monologing that goes along with this. The reader does not really need to know everything. “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.” Having struggled with this in my own writing, I really do understand the drive to do it, but you gotta weed that stuff out in editing. (Which this book needed more of, but that’s minor to me.)

…which leads me to my second problem. This felt like a story trying to be epic and complex, when all of the motivations and actions of the characters seemed incredibly simplistic to me. Characters that were allegedly complicated with multiple layers of intentions and morality didn’t seem complex at all to me. Every one was a straight line.

And that comes to my third “major” issues, which was that I didn’t like Hemlock. Now, I will freely and happily confess that this is not entirely on the writer. I tend to dislike young (teenage, early 20s) female main characters. I don’t know why, but they annoy me. I think I only have one author where that doesn’t happen to me.

That being said… Hemlock just struck me as kind of… stupid. She didn’t think anything through and it wasn’t until the end that I felt I could believe that any of her actions were driven by a Higher Ideal. She felt very self-focused to me, which made it hard to connect with her. And the stuff with Falignus felt forced to me.

I felt like I was Told a lot. Like… that various characters were smart or powerful or cunning warriors, but their actions rarely showed it. They often came across as simple-minded or naive.

Merit was cute, however, and I did like Gwineval.

God knows, I hate to write any review I can’t rave about a fellow indie author. I wish I could, but this book was kind of a struggle for me to get through. I did like the concepts, but the story and the characters really didn’t grab me. That’s not to say I thought it was terrible, just not great, and obviously plenty of folk feel otherwise.

This falls mid-range for me with a 2.5 Fireballs.

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Review: “The Red Man” by Anna Reith

The Red Man by Anna Reith, purchased on my own from Smashwords.

Description: An archaeological dig unearths an ancient Celtic secret that should have stayed buried.

Review: We hit another one of those books that has lots of raves and then… my opinion. I just didn’t like it that much. The idea was interesting, and I liked the history she chose to use, but I found the story far from riveting and like… 90% of it was Tell. Now, in a short story, that’s hard to avoid. In First Person, it’s also hard to avoid, but it felt like the entire thing was just Telling me. I want to be Shown a little more than that.

I’m afraid I can only give this a 2.5 Fireballs, but it seems other people enjoyed it far more and I wish everyone to like it better than I did.


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