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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: “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.

Review: “Succubus Unleashed” by B. R. Kingsolver

Succubus Unleashed by B. R. Kingsolver. I received a copy of this from the author, but it’s available from Smashwords, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Description: It’s not easy being a succubus.

Brenna O’Donnell and Rebecca Healy continue their integration into the Clan. Learning more about their Gifts and always seeking someone who will love them. After a crash course in learning about her genetic heritage, Brenna O’Donnell has discovered what it really means to be a succubus and has learned to embrace her strange Gift. Her major concern is whether Collin will accept her for what she is. As she adjusts to telepathic society, others in the Clan have plans that will strip the last of her freedom.

The social season is around the corner, including events that Brenna never imagined in her wildest dreams. The succubi, representatives of the Goddess on earth, are at the center of an ancient worship. And if a girl is going to be the center of attention, then obviously she needs a new dress.

Between the romance and glistening balls of the Clan’s social events, Brenna and Rebecca discover life is not secure. Telepaths from other Clans are kidnapping young girls and selling them into slavery.

Review: First off, I actually read this as a beta reading copy. I know a few things have changed, but the story is the same and I feel confident in letting folks know what I over-all thought of it. I’ll also admit that I helped do the cover art and blurb, so I’m not entirely not-involved but I think I can write an objective review.

So, on with it…

This is the second book in the Telepathic Clans Saga. I posted my review on Goodreads about the first one, which I had several issues with. However, I beta read the second book and was pleasantly surprised. I had trouble getting into the first until maybe half way through, but then it got me. The second book did a better job of grabbing and holding me all the way through.

I found the world of the telepathic clans to be fascinating, and I liked a succubus as the main character. I found it different and fun. I loved the polyamorous angles to the opinions of certain characters about love, sex, dating and life. It needs to be seen more in mainstream fiction. Not as The Big Deal as some menage romances, but just as a different way of life, of being. The open sexuality for women and men alike was wonderful. Just… it’s a part of who we are. And when you’re a succubus, even more!

The ball/party halfway through nearly made me take a cold shower.

But what I liked a lot better about this book was that we see all of these characters loving the MC, Brenna, but in this one we’re shown why more than we’re told why, which was an issue I had with the last book. I felt like that aspect was Tell rather than Show, but this fixed that and I felt better connected to Brenna. Rebecca was kickass. I’m still not sure I feel this is a “romance” per se, since while the first book felt more like a coming of age story, this was more a political world-builder, and coming into one’s own.

Still, it was a good paced read with a fascinating world. I have the third book waiting on me to beta read it and I’m looking forward to it! This is a solid 4 Fireball tale.

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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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