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Review: Switch! The Lost Kingdoms of Karibu by Karen Prince

“Switch!” by Karen Prince

Available on: Amazon
Released on: 7 December 2013

I received this book free via the Masquerade Crew in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Switch! A fantasy adventure about magic, friendship and bravery, but also about bad judgement, rascally witches and thoroughly irresponsible adults.

Trouble is brewing in the secret African rift valley of Karibu and Gogo Maya, the witch, and her leopard are about to make matters worse. Of all the dubious magic tricks they know, they choose a risky ‘switch’ they’ve been working on, to escape from somebody lurking in the forest. Unfortunately they overshoot, switching right out of Karibu and drawing an ordinary Zimbabwean boy into the mess they leave behind them. The whole disaster that followed might have been averted if another boy had not gone and sucked up what was left of the witch’s power, leaving her too weak to switch back again. CPR, the daft boy called it. He should know better than to risk kissing a witch

If you had to choose between Joe’s two best friends or his cousin, Ethan, to lead an adventure into the bush to rescue him, Ethan would be the last one you’d pick because, well … he’s useless that way. Yet the witch’s leopard inexplicably starts issuing plans right into his head. Apparently he’s Joe’s best hope because he has absorbed some of the witch’s questionable magic powers. Powers which might come in handy if he ever learns how to wield them, and if he can endure the painful backlash he suffers every time he tries.

In a world that quite literally defies belief, where magic seeps into the drinking water for anyone to use or abuse, and the terrain is impossible to navigate without help from extremely risky sources, this is the tale of Ethan’s struggle to reach his cousin, Joe, before he falls into the wrong hands and gets himself killed.

Review: Although I didn’t at all dislike this book, I think I may need to stay away from most Young Adult, because it rarely seems to work for me. I will say that having a male main character did make it easier for me to read than your average YA with a female at the helm, but still, teenagers are just difficult–in real life or in fiction!

I found the first few chapters all right, somewhat interesting but kind of unengaged. We saw what happened, but I didn’t really FEEL it, and Ethan was a little tough to tolerate at first. Once the “switch” happened, it did start improving. One of the things that I really liked going in was the setting–which sets it apart from most novels of its kind–and that was fun. The concept and mythology of it was great. The Tokoloshe were of particular amusement, and the sentient animals were a particular favorite; especially Salih. I think he was my favorite character.

Ethan grew a little easier to read through as the story continued, but I found myself very sad that we didn’t learn more about the secondary characters; about their histories.

There were surprising elements to the climax, although one part wrapped up a touch quickly and cleanly for its build up. And there was some cute stuff at the very end that I liked. As it says “end of book one,” I know there’ll be another and I might be curious enough to check it out. This being one of those books that hovers between ratings, ultimately, I have to go with 3.5 Fireballs. It just didn’t quite hit REALLY liked it, but it was better than average.

3.5 Fireballs

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“Forbidden Future” by Various

“Forbidden Future” by Various

Available on: Amazon
Released on: 12 September 2013

I received this book free via the Masquerade Crew in exchange for an honest review, as part of the ‘Forbidden Future’ blog tour.

Description: Is life better or worse?

Forbidden Future by James Wymore
When a time machine technician working the graveyard shift gets divorce papers from his wife, he decides it’s time to take the machine for a ride—no matter the consequences.

Jump by Jon Bradbury
Jesse Kendall thinks he’s seen it all. He’s about to see more.

Road Trip by Matt Mitrovich
Four friends drive to a college party and take an unexpected detour into the future.

Cacotopia by James Lauren
Kayne Adamson went into suspension to await a cure, but never imagined how long his sleep would last or the world he would awaken into. Is it really the utopia it first appears to be?

Society by Terra Harmony
Take a ride on the Energy of the Future where society gets a fresh, clean start—no matter who they have to leave behind.

The Mountains Haven’t by Kade Anderson
Something is very wrong in the downtrodden town of Dignity and only the town’s Watcher, Julia, can see what it is.

Between Utopias by Michael Trimmer

Review: “Between Utopias” by Michael Trimmer: This story wasn’t uninteresting, but felt lacking in enough originality to really stand out to me. The character wasn’t particularly sympathetic, although perhaps relatable. It had a couple interesting aspects, though. A bit better editing and streamlining would’ve helped earlier in the prose to make it feel less muddled.

“Forbidden Future” by James Wymore: Again, interesting but without that unique flair to really make it stand out. Although I did find it particularly interesting that it spent less time on the details of the future and more on the cycles inherent in the story. Again, though, despite the circumstances, I didn’t find enough to make the main character particularly sympathetic.

“Jump” by Jon Bradbury: This one caught my attention better because it presented what I found was a more original angle, at least comparatively: Jesse’s job and the reason for his time jump. Unfortunately, the plot felt a little too straight line; given the set-up, I’d expected a twist at the end but didn’t get that and was a little let down. Still, I found this story and character more engaging, even so.

“Society” by Terra Harmony: This one I liked. Perhaps the first person narrative helped me anchor into the character more, but I just thought it gave me more to ground myself in both the story and narrator. I also liked that it started in the future, and had a less self-focused character leading into a slightly more…hopeful feeling at the end, despite the presented dystopia.

“Road Trip” by Matt Mitrovich: This one amused me by the random cloud-based time travel, although I don’t think it was supposed to amuse me. The story wandered and the characters didn’t engage the reader much, but it was okay, and had a couple interesting points. Steve’s drive towards the end feels a little sudden, less organically shown/developed through the story, but the ending was interesting.

“Cacotopia” by James Lauren: Harkening back to the first two, there was a rather unoriginal and predictable feeling to this one. But it still engaged me just enough to move through and feel something for the main character. And there was a certain…uncertainty in his “world view” right at the end of the story that I actually liked, since that one detail is not usually seen in these types of story.

“The Mountains Haven’t” by Kade Anderson: This is my favorite. The journal format was good and the narrator very engaging. It was also, strangely, the only story out of seven that had a female main character. The “secret” of the mountains made for a very interesting angle, and a more original twist on the time travel idea than any of the other stories. It was a good one to end on. (Oh, and the cows thing amused me in a dark way.)

Over all, this wasn’t a bad anthology although I didn’t find it great either. I only “really” liked a couple of the stories, but I didn’t dislike the rest. Time travel stories aren’t my usual read, so maybe there were subtle elements that I missed and am not giving the stories their due. I acknowledge this possibility.

So for an average total, I give this 3.5 Fireballs. It probably would’ve been a 3 (not great but not terrible), except for Anderson’s story. Which I really liked.

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Review: “The Armageddon Shadow” by Lee Pletzers

The Armageddon Shadow by Lee Pletzers. I received this in exchange for an honest review. You can buy your own copy at Amazon.

Description: Zombies are the new Vampires. And this is how it all began.

27 BC: Darian Farmer is a peaceful man. All he wants to do is plough his field and hope the crops keep his family fed. It’s been a bad year and in desperation his wife and son have gone into town in the hopes of finding a good deal to trade. Instead they are accused of theft and sentenced to die. Learning of this, Darian takes a friend’s sword and attacks but it is not enough to stop the slaughter of those he holds dear. This one act will change the course of his life and bring forth a leader who will drive an army into the bowels of hell for vengeance.

2007: Agent Baxter continues his pursuit of the entity, Darkness. It has become his main focus in life. Everything else, including his feelings for fellow agent Susan Temple are in the backseat. But failure is a constant companion, regardless of their tactics, their prey always eludes them.

2007: Darian, known as Darkness has continued to build his army in this new world. But this time he has something extra for them: an infection from the bowels of Hell. A virus that will take them to the next step in evolution.

Review: This is the third book by this author that I’ve read–two for review and one that I’m editing for him–and I’m forced to wonder if I just don’t read enough horror, and if it’s not really my thing. I’ll explain as I go along.

First things first, the book starts off right in the action and keeps that pace pretty good. It definitely did not drag anywhere and things rolled quickly along. The “counting clock” device, where in the author puts time stamps through out the story to build tension, works very well. It was one thing I liked about a lot of Michael Crichton’s stuff, and it works here too.

There was an interesting mix of mythology and having the good guys and the bad guys be more grey in their moral ground can be fun, and there was a lot of that going on. Bad guys you can’t always hate and good guys you don’t always like.

I was a little iffy on the “old” language used for dialog in the Past scenes, but I’m no expert. And it needed to be a bit better edited. I got caught on several spots. Also, for some reason, my copy went wonky with the formatting. This isn’t the writer’s fault. I only note it because if I missed any salient details, that was probably why.

Pletzer’s work likes to leave a lot of things “open” in his stories; leave you wondering why certain things happened or were the way they were, why or how certain characters did such-and-such. But it works, and doesn’t take you from the story. It kind of leaves the edges messy, which works for horror.

And yet… the story, while fast-paced and easily read, didn’t grab me.

This is why I wonder if I’m just not a horror fan. Because it had all the elements a good horror should, but I wasn’t quite captivated. (Now, this could be partially fatigue, but I’m thinking there’s a genre disconnect, too.) The horror I’ve read has tended to the subtler horror in certain classics, or what was once called “horror” but really just became paranormal.

There was one other thing that’s worked against it, though, which is entirely my thing, but in case this sort of plot element may bother others, I’m going to mention it.

As I said before, this is the third book of Pletzers’ that I’ve read and in all three there are multiple cases of rape/sexual violence against women. Now, I can’t say it’s gratuitous, per se, because it did fit with the tenor of the story, and is a tragic fact of reality… but to have it come up so many times in all of the books, well, it disturbed me.

I can’t help that and don’t hold it against the author, but have to note it.

So… over all, this was a pretty decent book with many intriguing aspects, but I can’t say I really liked it, and much of that for very subjective reasons, so have to go with a 3.5 Fireballs on this one.

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Review: “Resurrection Child” by Lee Pletzers

Resurrection Child by Lee Pletzers. I received this free from the author in exchange for an honest review. You can purchase your own copy at Amazon.

Description: Cthulhu introduced himself to a writer in the eighteenth century, with the full knowledge that more people would investigate the Cthulhu myth and soon a belief would spread. Like a virus it would infect millions as others learned of the old gods and their imprisonment. These writers wove more stories into the minds of millions, until one person discovered the hidden clues in all the stories, pieced together the ‘voices’ and understood what needed to be done.

The Old Ones will return.

Damon Hutter is a neo-Nazi thug going through a belief change. But when he witnesses the seeding of Caroline for the Old Ones, Damon realizes he must protect her from Roy and the rest of the Cthulhu cult in order to correctly bring forth the dawning of a new age: Cthulhu’s birth. Now it’s a race against time, the police, and two warring cults to get to Carol first.

His life change is the will of Cthulhu.
The killings are the will of Cthulhu.
Everything is the will of Cthulhu.
Carol…is the will of Cthulhu.

Review: This was an interesting book.

I’ll admit from the outset that I’ve actually never read Lovecraft and know very little about the Cthulhu mythos and stories. I’m not sure why this book intrigued me of the two that Pletzers offered for review, but it did and here I am. I think I may have gotten into it all more if I’d had more experience with Lovecraft, but I never felt like I needed to know things I didn’t to understand the story.

This entire story was full of characters very much in moral grey area. I often like characters like that, although these were further on the shadier side so one couldn’t really “sympathize” with any of them. Carol was the primary exception, and you definitely could only feel bad for her, though I liked her too.

Pletzers’ writing flows very well. It’s a decently long story, but it doesn’t feel long. It moves at a good pace, although towards the end, the plot had a wandering feeling to me. Kind of like it was plotted on the fly. Which doesn’t mean it didn’t work, but I tend to go for more structure. It’s not bad, but I just kind of wandered at times. It was more a feeling, so hard to put into words.

There were some very harsh scenes which were cringe-worthy to read, but all in tone of the book. Still, reader be warned.

Generally speaking, I can’t say I really enjoyed the story but I didn’t dislike it either. It was kind of mid-line for me. I did like the ending, however. Some of it was a surprise, some not, but I found it… amusing, in a morbid way, so I think I ultimately liked the story and will go for a 3.5 Fireballs on this one.

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Review: “The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap” by Paulette Mahurin

The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap by Paulette Mahurin. I received this free in exchange for an honest review. You can purchase your own copy at Amazon.

Description: A women’s Brokeback Mountain. The year 1895 was filled with memorable historical events: the Dreyfus Affair divided France; Booker T. Washington gave his Atlanta address; the United States expanded the effects of the Monroe Doctrine to cover South America; and Oscar Wilde was tried and convicted for gross indecency under Britain’s recently passed law that made sex between males a criminal offense. When news of Wilde’s conviction went out over telegraphs worldwide, it threw a small Nevada town into chaos. This is the story of what happened when the lives of its citizens were impacted by the news of Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment. It is a chronicle of hatred and prejudice with all its unintended and devastating consequences, and how love and friendship bring strength and healing.

All profits are going to Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center, Ventura County, CA. (the first and only no-kill animal shelter in Ventura County). For more info contact the author through facebook. Buy a book; save a life.

Review: This is going to be another complicated review, because I can’t “grade” the story on any one element. To me, there are three distinct aspects to it: there’s the story crafting, the story telling, and the message. This is a very strong “message” story.

1) The story crafting, which is to say the writing itself. This was my least favorite part, because I found the story to be primarily Tell and not nearly enough Show. We were told far more than shown that Mildred was such a wonderful person, at least until the end. We were told things repeatedly in a very heavy-handed way of making the reader understand things.

Personal histories were thrown in as big hunks of information. And then we were supposed to take the information about their histories as the whole explanation of their present selves, without a little more nuance to their present portrayals. The same points were made again and again. It was just kind of hard to really get into the story through that much.

It would have been better longer, with points given more time to really be shown and draw the reader in through that way.

2) The story telling, which is to say the story on its own and what was being told. This was better. It was a good story. I didn’t find Mildred quite as sympathetic in her own right as I think I was supposed to, but not entirely unsympathetic either. I just didn’t find her as three-dimensional as I’d hoped. Charley was the surprise, and I liked him most. Gus ended up being very interesting, too.

3) The message, which is the big point in this book. This was a message book more than anything. It was about prejudice and love and friendship. Speaking as someone who has a few aspects of herself that don’t match up with the traditional mainstream, I could definitely connect with this story on that level.

I believe that who a person loves is not the business of anyone but that person and that love. That was the message of this book. That people should keep their business to themselves and just let people live the lives their choose, without hatred or judgment. And that’s a good message.

So, that makes this one tough. I think I’m going to average it out and go with 3.5 Fireballs. It’s worth it for the message and the story its trying to tell.

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Review: “Primae Noctis” by Aimery Thomas

Primae Noctis by Aimery Thomas. I received this book free in exchange for an honest review. You can purchase your own copy at Amazon.

Description: Humanity had passed far beyond any reasonable expectation of redemption. The dark veil of fear and night would descend upon every person on Earth.

A frightful, new age had begun.

It was the first night of humanity, now known as the Calamity: a time of global crisis that led to the deaths of more than 99% of the world’s 13.6 billion inhabitants.

Sixty years later, and with the guidance of the Archonae, the survivors live in an idyllic society of secure and protected cities designed to elevate humanity to its full potential and prevent the problems of the past from recurring.

However, not everyone is content with life in the new utopia.

Primae Noctis follows a diverse cast of characters through an expansive, future world:

Nan Allegra is a political historian with outspoken views. She is in pursuit of a mystery that no one else seems to care about, but could be of critical importance to the future.

Archon Devlin is responsible for the Recovery, a global programme to recycle the remains of the former cities of Earth into useful, raw materials. He is deeply concerned with the future direction of humanity.

Jones is a man who doesn’t remember his first name or his past, but hopes to change the future. His mission is to assemble a group of citizens in the world’s second-largest city to aid him on his quest.

Reginald Mullen is a Knight charged with protecting the citizens from the dangers of the Wilderness. He finds strength in ensuring a secure future for the citizens of his city.

Franklin Murakami is an administrator and designer at the largest nanotech production facility in the world. His designs help to shape the future.

Sylvie Mathieu is an AIC administrator in Republica. She has never engaged in an intimate relationship with anyone, and only cares about the future of her daughter, Leila.

Henry Roston is an engineer who lives a carefree existence and spends his leisure time in the Entertainment District of the city. For him, the future is the present.

Primae Noctis is the first in a trilogy of high-concept, science fiction novels filled with action, intrigue, and suspense.

With a tasteful modicum of violence, sexuality, history, and philosophy, Primae Noctis was written for the adult, hard science fiction audience by author, Aimery Thomas.

Review: This is going to be a really difficult review to write, because I’m kind of conflicted in what I thought about this book. To give you an idea of how many thoughts I’ll be wrangling, I should explain how it works. As I read, I take notes — usually stream of consciousness stuff and first reactions — on my iPhone. I then email said notes to myself, put it into a document and try to turn it into a review.

Primae Noctis is epic length, over 650 pages in its print version. I have four Word pages worth of notes to condense.

Admittedly, the majority of them never see the review. They are reactionary, unpolished, and often relate to spoilers. Still, I have to make sense of the melee to write a decent review. And since I had a lot of thoughts about this book, it’s a lot of melee! I need a sword and shield just to survive it, I think…

…but I digress.

I think I generally liked it, but still found it a little hard to read. Thomas is a very exacting writer, which is okay, but for my tastes, it makes the writing kind of dense. I had been concerned about the “hard” science fiction angle, but the tech/science wasn’t a problem. It was mostly that everything world-building related seems to be described in detail, down to clothing and food. Thomas reminds me of a sci-fi Robert Jordan. That works very well for a lot of people, but I apparently am a little hyper when reading. I tend to want to keep up a quicker pace.

And when the writing is too exact, it can make you feel disconnected from the story and characters, it’s harder to feel what they feel and can give the prose an almost bloodless quality at points. It’s a delicate line and the writing in Primae Noctis tended to straddle the fence for much of the beginning.

I felt like the story dragged through much of the first 40% (roughly 250 pages). The first several chapters don’t seem to see many things happening, but just introduce you to the characters. Which is fine, we need to know them, but I like to see more plot at the same time. I would rather more plot and less world building details. But again, this could just be me.

There was a real feel hearkening back to the cinematic days of “Logan’s Run” and its like, which I think was part of my problem: everything seemed to be written out like describing a movie visual with every detail. I prefer things a little fuzzier, so I can make my own pictures.

Semi-related to the “hearkening feel,” the book had a strange quality of sliding between originality and stereotype. I found the world building and technology to be very precise and intriguing, even if I didn’t feel like I needed to see as much as I did. I liked the cohort marriage idea, though I worried that the book would end up demonizing the idea as being part of the “bad” society, but that didn’t happen. (Hopefully it won’t in the next book.) There were elements of the story — such as the history of the Calamity and the connections of the Anarchon’s early comrades, along with a few other things — that stood out and I liked.

Yet on the other side, a lot of the book didn’t feel very new or ground breaking in the genre. Which is fine, few books truly do and no story can be truly original, but with a book of such heft, I guess my expectations got a little high.

Sometimes it felt like character development was sacrificed for world building: emotional reactions in scenes went from A to C without time on B. Like, person A says something that person B reacts hugely to, when what A said wasn’t yet that big a deal You want to see more emotional build up before B hits the ceiling. To understand it and feel it yourself. Such as the Reveal talk between Jones and Nan. I would have liked to have seen more foreshadowing in Nan before she accepts it so easily.

And sometimes there were large events that caused interpersonal schisms, but we only returned to those characters when things were good again. We didn’t see the changing and the healing, even if we saw the breaking.

Despite the slow start, around 40% there is a Major Event, and things really do start picking up after that. While what I said above about sacrificing a bit of a character and a little too much world building remains true, it wasn’t as pronounced. Emotional reactions we saw started making sense.

In fact, it almost felt like I was reading two different books. In the first half, I didn’t really like how many of the female characters were portrayed, but that improved in the second half. The prose felt a little bloodless in the first half, but that improved in the second. None of the characters really “grabbed” me in the first half, but they did in the second… etc., etc.,

I did like a lot of elements of the story. By the end, I was very much keeping my fingers crossed for the cohort, and I liked Jones and Prospero a lot. I ended up liking Reg and Alysha and Ito, too. I thought the Major Event around 40% was well done, if naturally harsh, and I thought Ito’s Big Scene towards the end was very well done.

So, here’s where I’m conflicted. If I would review/rate this book based on the first half, I probably wouldn’t like it. Just on the second, I would… but since I usually judge a book more by how it ends than by how it starts, I’m going with I liked it. Although I struggled early on, I did get into it in that latter half and I want to know what happens next enough that I’ll probably get the next book.

I think I gotta give this one 3.5 Fireballs.

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Review: “The Fall to Power: Part One (The Graeme Stone Saga)” by Gareth K. Pengelly

The Fall to Power: Part One (The Graeme Stone Saga) by Gareth K. Pengelly. I received this free from the author in exchange for an honest review. You can purchase it at Amazon.

Description: If you were given unlimited power, would you be a benevolent god?

Or a hedonistic demon?

THE FALL TO POWER, Book One of the Graeme Stone Saga, is an epic fantasy adventure that begins the travails of its eponymous hero.

Snatched from modern Britain and his life of humdrum misery, Stone is thrust into a harsh world of barbarian raiders, peaceful tribes and ancient spirits. With no memory of his former life, he does his best to gain acceptance in a strange land and come to terms with mighty new powers that manifest day by day.

But how did he come to be in this land?

Why does he have these newfound gifts?

And, when ancient evil comes knocking once more upon his door, will Stone stand up for what he knows is right?

Or will he let his anger rule and sit on the sidelines as the world burns…?

Begin his adventures in this, Part One of The Fall to Power.

Review: This is going to be a hard review to write for me, because my over all opinion is kind of conflicting between the first part and end part of the book.

For the first 80% of it, I found it over-written and wordy. Now, admittedly, I’m a little quicker to label something as both of these traits than a lot of people. Some people love the style. I used to, but I apparently have less patience for it. There were some strange word choices and the feeling of an author trying to hard to write epic.

Sometimes writing out every detail makes writing more mechanical, encyclopedic, than engaging. But then, I’ve been accused in my own writing of being too succinct, so this is a rather subjective issue and I freely admit that.

Stone was a tough character. He was hard to like/sympathize with, but he wasn’t unlikable either. I mean, the self-pity of the first couple chapters was a little hard, but never to the point where I had to kick myself to keep reading. After that, though, I kind of lost a sense of the character, in that he sort of just… was. Events happened around him, but I never really felt I knew him.

He didn’t know himself that well either, but I still wanted to feel him more. To see more of his personality, but I didn’t.

Perhaps in a combination of these two things, I struggled to find a sense of tension in the book. It just… moved along. We just saw things happening. I wonder if the first 80% had been sheared down of excess verbiage, it would’ve been more taut. Maybe quite good, rather than just… being. It was mainly curiosity that drew me on.

Plus — while I understand the need to show some of the hunting — there was a huge emphasis on food and eating that I found… odd, and perhaps a bit more than I wanted to read on the topic. But that could just be me.

Yet for all this, I never had my eyes cross with the desire to stop reading. So I was able to keep reading, and the reading did flow fairly easily.

I found the last 20% to be really quite interesting, and I saw Stone better and was more intrigued than curious. I was driven along better, and wanted to know what happened. Where as I’d not been sure if I wanted to read Part Two, the last segment made me think that I do and probably will.

The world building was interesting, and I particularly liked the Journey. I thought the village Stone falls into was a little stereotypical of the idea, but good none the less and I liked the characters of it, particularly Wrynn and Lanah.

There were a couple points of editing I found odd — and I usually don’t call on this stuff — but the continued use of the word “span” instead of “spun” was… interesting. Never heard of this as a different between American and British English, but maybe I’ve just missed that knowledge.

So over all, it was interesting. And the last part did draw me in, though with shearing and streamlining, more time on character over description, the whole of it would’ve been as grabbing as the end… in my ever-so-humble opinion. So I can’t give this a super rating, but can give it a 3.5 Fireballs and will be reading Part Two.

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Review: “Dirty Work (The Red Fox Series)” by Michael Lamendola

Dirty Work (The Red Fox Series) by Michael Lamendola. I purchased this on my own from Amazon.

Description: Bloody basement poker games. Midnight street races. A small Mexican crime family. Stuck in the middle: two men who have no clue how to drive fast or shoot first.

Sal and his buddy didn’t mean to piss off the mob, and they didn’t have any intention of stealing from an illegal gambling kingpin. Stumbling face first into a world of organized crime, they realize that staying alive means learning who to trust and how to kill. A handshake deal with the Mexicans who want them dead takes more than guts, and to survive they’ll need all the booze-fueled courage they can swallow, quick and dirty lessons in semi-automatics, and a rust-bucket Buick with a leaky trunk full of luck.

DIRTY WORK is a fast and funny crime thriller set in San Diego’s grimy underbelly where the hustlers, hit men, and crooks have no patience for a couple of guys who find themselves in a wrong place that never had a right time. Full of slick wit and gritty action, it will appeal to anyone with an appreciation for fast talking, cynical underdogs who fight like hell to beat the odds.

Review: It’s happened again. I’m one of, like, the only people to not rave about a given book. I should be getting used to this. I also almost didn’t read it, cause I dislike books with too much hyperbole in the descriptions.

The truth was that Dirty Work is not a bad book. It was fast-paced, very funny and action-packed. It had that gritty feel. I read it in a couple of days and didn’t at any point wonder why the hell I was reading it. Believe me, that reaction happens to me more often than I care to admit. I’m hard to please apparently.

Anyways, my only real issue with this story was the characters. I… didn’t really like any of them. Even the narrator. I suppose I can’t say that I disliked him, but I didn’t like him either. Aside from being a smart-ass — which is a trait I can appreciate — I didn’t find all that much redeeming about him. He was just carried by events of the story.

Then there was Janet, whose motivations just made no sense at all to me. I don’t know why she was drawn to the main character, and I kept hoping for something that never came and that left me a little disappointed.

I didn’t really find this book “full of twists and turns” like one reviewer said. It had a couple, but not one that was all that surprising, and the twists I had hoped were coming, didn’t. So… eh.

Still, it was a fun and quick read. I can’t say I really liked it, but it was better than average. I don’t know if I’ll read any more books in the series, but I may. So this gets a 3.5 Fireballs.

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Review: “A Circle of Iron (Eldernost: Book 1)” by Greg Benage

A Circle of Iron (Eldernost: Book 1) by Greg Benage. I purchased this on my own from Smashwords.

Description: Given a choice between the hangman’s noose and the fallen city of Eldernost, bounty-hunter Caleb Thorn is forced to venture into the ruins to confront the notorious wight raider known as Redmourn. Amidst the crumbling remnants of a lost age, Thorn must face the demons of his own troubled past if he is to find the strength to protect those he cares about most.

Review: This story is going to be kind of hard to review.

I liked it, but I did have some issues with it. The prologue felt entirely unneeded to me and I almost didn’t get into the book, maybe because of it. The prologue didn’t grab me, but the first and second chapters did. If I had started at the first chapter, it probably would have gotten me better.

This was epic fantasy without enough backing up the epic. I did like the characters, and the world. I thought it was a very interesting take on what’s on otherwise common creature. (Read the story to understand.) But it felt like not enough was given for what was trying to be accomplished.

I would have liked more ominous foreshadowing on Redmourne, and a little more about the characters leading into the dramatic parts towards the end. Things about the history of the wights and of magic were kind of tossed in later and felt more like… last minute plot devices. I would have liked those foreshadowed more, little bits and pieces dropped in earlier.

And yet… I did like it. I’m not sure I can say I really liked it, but I will be checking out the second book when it comes out next month, so that makes this a 3.5 Fireballs review.

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Review: Two Erotic Anthologies

Inappropriate Behavior and Other Stories by Aussie Scribbler. I purchased this on my own from Smashwords.

Description: A psychiatrist who resorts to spanking his bratty nymphomaniac patient ; a rascally Arab who swaps places with his identical twin eunuch brother in order to sample the delights of the harem ; supermarket workers who raise money for the homeless with their Cop a Feel Day ; a woman who dreams she is a talking Playboy centrefold ; a perverted prince who takes advantage of Sleeping Beauty. And more!

Review: I liked this collection, and there was a vein of humor that made it more enjoyable for me. I wouldn’t have minded a little more diversity in the gender/groupings, but otherwise, these stories were sexy and fun. I give it 4 Fireballs.

* * *

Sensuous Stories by Keziah Hill. I purchased this on my own from Smashwords.

Description: A collection of erotic, slightly twisted stories to simulate your libido and your mind. A sexy ghost haunts an art exhibition; strawberries as a sex aid; gardeners up to more than just weeding; a new secretary who’s not what she seems. These and more are included in this anthology for your reading pleasure.

Review: These were nice. Nothing that necessarily blew me away, but they were well done and I liked some of the turns in the stories. The writing was competent and the sex scenes were generally good. As with another sexy anthology I just wrote a quick review for, I wouldn’t have minded some more diversity to the M/F monogamous pairing set-up, but was still fun to read. I give it a 3.5 Fireballs because I more than liked it, but can’t quite say I really liked it.

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