Book Review: The Witchkin Murders, Magicfall – Book 1

Author: Diana Pharaoh Francis
Book Name: The Witchkin Murders
Release Date: June 7, 2019
Series: Magicfall
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Urban Paranormal Romance
Overall SPA: 3.25
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb:

Four years ago, my world—the world—exploded with wild magic. The cherry on top of that crap cake? The supernatural world declared war on humans, and my life went straight to hell.

I used to be a detective, and a damned good one. Then Magicfall happened, and I changed along with the world. I’m witchkin now—something more than human or not quite human, depending on your perspective. To survive, I’ve become a scavenger, searching abandoned houses and stores for the everyday luxuries in short supply—tampons and peanut butter. Oh, how the mighty have fallen, but anything’s better than risking my secret.

Except, old habits die hard. When I discover a murder scene screaming with signs of black magic ritual, I know my days of hiding are over. Any chance I had of escaping my past with my secret intact is gone. Solving the witchkin murders is going to be the hardest case of my life, and not just because every second will torture me with reminders of how much I miss my old life and my partner, who hates my guts for abandoning the department.

But it’s time to suck it up, because if I screw this up, Portland will be wiped out, and I’m not going to let that happen. Hold on to your butts, Portland. Justice is coming, and I don’t take prisoners.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
This one was a hard one to rate as I liked most all of the characters, but not one of the major ones.

Uniqueness Factor: 4/5 Stars
While you have an often seen theme of the real world being changed by a catastrophic event that results in magic and magical beings, I do think it was presented in a new and interesting way.

World Building: 3/5 Stars
Like the uniqueness factor, I mostly enjoyed the world this is built on. I had a few issues with some of the founding facts of the world and how well the author made it work, basically some quirks that didn’t pan out for me.

Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I liked the majority of the characters and there was a freshness to the way magic was brought into the story in this world. That said, I didn’t love it. It was a good story, but there were a few things that kept it from being a much better story for me.

I was not a fan at all of Ray’s character. He comes across as a volatile, angry, nearly abusive person and I’m never a fan of those types of characters being the love interest in the story. This has a touch of the enemies to lovers trope for those that are interested in that theme, but Ray’s character makes it hard for me to get on board with the romantic aspect of this story.

The way the introduction to magic was presented in this book was really intriguing and I was drawn in by that, but there were certain aspects of it that made it hard to believe. The idea that certain things were difficult to obtain was awesome, but it fizzled a bit in the implementation of that idea because you don’t really see the lack. If a region is cut off with regards to communication and transport of goods, there are going to be much larger issues than what you see in this book. Access to a whole lot of different foods, especially something like coffee, kind of grated on me. Mostly because there was very little explanation as to how things were obtained after transportation channels were cut off. Again, I love the idea, but it didn’t feel completely developed.

Though I wasn’t a fan of those aspects, I was still able to enjoy the story.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Other areas of note (not included in the SPA rating):

Cover: 2/5 Stars
I think I’m developing a peeve when it comes to covers. I get this fits the genre, but I’m kind of tired of seeing the ripped, scantily clad bodies, especially women, on most every single cover. Especially when they take up the majority of the cover and don’t really do much of anything to reflect any of the specifics in the story. I think for me it is as much about creativity as anything. How creative did you really have to get when you are doing pretty much the same cover as every other book in this genre?

Peeve Factor: 3/5 Stars
I didn’t include this in the SPA because it wasn’t a horrible abuse of my peeves, but it is worth mentioning and touches a bit on my personal opinion rating. I really don’t like characters like Ray. The angry, never thinks before he speaks, volatile and damn near verbally abusive character. I can tolerate them to an extent and am more willing to do so when it is a side character or a bad guy, but I really dislike them in a lead, romantic role. I’m even willing to overlook that when it is a part of character growth, but you honestly don’t see much of that at all in this.

Also, if you are going to create a world, especially a fantasy one with a magical aspect, I really want to see it fully rounded out. If you are going to do something like in this book and say that transport between regions or even cities is near impossible, then you really need to work on how your characters survive, because in the real world, EVERYTHING is felt on a global basis. There are probably very few areas of the US that could be truly self sustaining without some severe areas of deficits. If the situation in this world had happened over a period of time so that those regions could prepare, that would be one thing, but that isn’t what happened. Granted, this is really a small potatoes issue with regards to the overall story, but it is something that I notice and it irks me a bit when it is glossed over and not actually addressed or dealt with.

There were a couple of others that I noticed while I was reading, but they weren’t really big enough to stick with me by the time I finished. The ones I noted weren’t enough to make me hate this, but it definitely impacted how much I liked it.

 

Book Review: Child’s Play, DI Kim Stone – Book 11

Author: Angela Marsons
Book Name: Child’s Play
Release Date: July 11, 2019
Series: DI Kim Stone
Order: #11
Genre: Crime/Police Drama, Suspense, Mystery
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Finally we’re playing a game. A game that I have chosen. I give one last push of the roundabout and stand back. ‘You really should have played with me,’ I tell her again although I know she can no longer hear.

Late one summer evening, Detective Kim Stone arrives at Haden Hill Park to the scene of a horrific crime: a woman in her sixties tied to a swing with barbed wire and an X carved into the back of her neck.

The victim, Belinda Evans, was a retired college Professor of Child Psychology. As Kim and her team search her home, they find an overnight bag packed and begin to unravel a complex relationship between Belinda and her sister Veronica.

Then two more bodies are found bearing the same distinctive markings, and Kim knows she is on the hunt for a ritualistic serial killer. Linking the victims, Kim discovers they were involved in annual tournaments for gifted children and were on their way to the next event.

With DS Penn immersed in the murder case of a young man, Kim and her team are already stretched and up against one of the most ruthless killer’s they’ve ever encountered. The clues lie in investigating every child who attended the tournaments, dating back decades.

Faced with hundreds of potential leads and a bereaved sister who is refusing to talk, can Kim get inside the mind of a killer and stop another murder before it’s too late?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 5/5 Stars
It isn’t easy writing about characters when you are deep in a series. This one is an exception because, even though it is ongoing, you will ALWAYS get new characters, at least from the perspective of the bad guys. We again get bad guys that are truly bad, but still allow the reader a sense of pity or understanding.

Series Expectations: 4/5 Stars
If I had to compare this to others in the series, it isn’t my favorite because it isn’t quite at the same level as far as the separate storylines (but only slightly less), but I still really enjoyed it.

Believability: 4/5 Stars
Pretty much no matter what scenario you get with a Kim Stone book, or how over the top it may be, it still always works. This one is no exception. The crime aspects may be a little over the top on the believability chart (though I think a lot of truly horrific crimes IRL would fit that the same way), the way those are presented and handled by the characters works well.

Personal Opinion: 5/5 Stars
There are very, very few authors that are capable of keeping me interested in a series this deep into it. Ms. Marsons has proven yet again, that she is more than capable of keeping a series feeling new and fresh.

If I had one small thing to nitpick, and it is small, is that you don’t get to see Penn interacting with the rest of the team in this one. As a newish character and one taking the space of a character that was incredibly difficult to lose, both as the team in the story and as a reader, I would have liked to have seen more of those interactions in this book. I do think that we get an even better feel for him as a character in this, even if it isn’t through his interactions with the team.

I will never get tired of that team and how they work so well together. It is one of the things I love about this series. While you don’t spend huge portions of the book on personal dramas for those characters, you absolutely know who they are as individuals, which makes them so very real.

The two different storylines in this are kind of classic for this series and is one of the many things that I love. One of those threads is the one Penn is working on and the other is the main thread the team is working on. I liked getting to see a new face, similar to the last book, and I’m wondering if those are hints at the team growing in the future.

I always wonder when I get to the end, where the next book can go that is going to feel new, that things are going to start to feel stale. The fact that this is book 11 and not one of them has ever gotten even close should tell me I don’t have anything to worry about any time soon.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Other areas of note (not included in the SPA rating):

Cover: 4/5 Stars
I liked this cover from the beginning as it sets the tone for what is inside. I always like to look at them again after I’m done reading a book to see if I still feel the same way. I love it when I can things in it that only really aren’t noticeable until after you’ve read the book. This has notes of that hinting it it.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Midnight Witness, Louise Rick – Book 1

Author: Sara Blaedel
Book Name: The Midnight Witness
Series: Louise Rick
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Crime Drama
Overall SPA: 2 Stars
2 Stars

 

 

Blurb: A young woman is found strangled in a park, and a male journalist has been killed in the backyard of the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen.

Detective Louise Rick is put on the case of the young girl, but very soon becomes entangled in solving the other homicide too when it turns out her best friend, journalist Camilla Lind, knew the murdered man. Louise tries to keep her friend from getting too involved, but Camilla’s never been one to miss out on an interesting story. And this time, Camilla may have gone too far…

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2/5 Stars
Believability: 2/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars
I didn’t go into specifics above because they are so much a part of the whole, they needed to just be addressed here.

I’m not certain if the major barrier for me here was the cultural differences in how other countries’ police forces operate or something entirely different, but I just could not get on board with this and the way any of the police officer characters were presented. I don’t think a single one came across as anything other than an amateurish, bumbling idiot. So many different officers with their hands in investigative pies and yet they don’t really know what those other officers or investigators are doing or what they’ve found out?! There was no clear process of procedure of things that would automatically, routinely happen in every investigation. The whole police side of this book just felt clumsy at all levels. It is kind of terrifying to think this is the way actual police departments may work in other countries.

The two major characters, Louise and Camilla, were kind of horrible. Louise’s character came across as completely flat. I never got any kind of sense of her personality other than she is rather cold and unemotional. Except we are told she broke down, so I guess that means she has emotional depth? Camilla. What do I say about Camilla? Um… she is that character in every scary movie that everyone watching is screaming at the screen, “DON’T GO IN THERE!” knowing they are actually going to be that stupid. Oh, and she is an emotional basket case, about as unstable as 100 year old dynamite.

Outside of being kind of blindsided by the lack of what I have come to expect in a typical police/crime drama (things like process, procedure, basic intellect and deduction rather than snap judgements and assumptions), I was bored. Almost exactly nothing of note happens in probably 80% of this book. The majority of that only happens in the last 10%. The plot was just really uninteresting. Probably because you spend most of it wondering where the actual, experienced police are.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: War, House War: Book 8

Author: Michelle West (Sagara)
Book Name: War
Series: House War
Order: #8
Genre: Fantasy
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: The eighth and final book in the epic fantasy House War series closes this chapter in a beloved world of magic and political intrigue, where new threats are stirring.

When the Sleepers wake.

Once, that phrase meant: never. The Sleepers were a myth, part of a story told to children. But in truth, the Sleepers, ancient princes in the court of the Winter Queen, were imprisoned in slumber by the gods themselves—in the cold, dark ruins of the ancient city that lies buried beneath the capitol of the Empire. And that prison is fraying, at last.

They are waking.

The gods no longer walk the world. There is no power that can stand against the princes when they wake—and the city that has been Jewel’s home for her entire life will be destroyed when the Sleepers walk. There is only one person to whom they owe allegiance, only one chance to halt them before they destroy everything in their ancient rage.

But that person is the Winter Queen; she is not, and has never been mortal. Jewel carries the last of the surviving saplings that might usher in a new Summer age—but all of the roads that lead to the court of the Queen are closed.

Jewel ATerafin has faced the Oracle’s test. She has control of the prophetic powers that she once considered a curse and a burden. She will find her way to the Winter Queen, and she will ask—or beg—the Winter Queen to intervene to save her kind, her House, and everything she loves.

But she is mortal, and time has never been her friend. The demons are waiting to bar her way, bringing battle to the hidden ancient paths on which she must travel. To win, she must face the true meaning of the Oracle’s test, and risk sanity and life to make the choice that has always lurked at the heart of the firstborn’s test.

And even then, it might be too late.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Series Continuity: 5/5 Stars
I don’t have much to note specifically here other than to say this book definitely stayed true to form, but this does play a huge part in my overall opinion.

Series Expectations: 4/5 Stars
As usual, this exceeds expectations in most areas. Some I saw coming and others I was surprised by in a way I’m still torn on.

Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with this book as the end of the House War series. Because this is so intricately tied with The Sundered, The Sacred Hunt, and The Sun Sword series, I didn’t know for sure if this was the LAST, last book, or just the last House War book. It doesn’t feel like the end of the much larger universe and story arc that ties all those other series together.

There is so much that happens in this one book, I’m not sure how to unpack it all. Many threads that have been introduced throughout this series (and some of the other connected series) get tied up in this book, which was to be expected, but they don’t feel completely done. There are other, much larger, storyline threads outside of the House War series that are still left unfinished.

I wasn’t entirely surprised by the end result of Jewel’s journey. I am a little surprised at the specific events that get her there. I was honestly expecting different events or circumstances would be the catalyst that brought about her decision, a kind of emotional upheaval, but these weren’t. I am by no means disappointed, just… it came about differently than I thought, leaving me a little torn about my response to the actual events.

There is a conclusion to the storyline about The Sleepers, but I feel like this takes a bit of a backseat to Jewel’s story. Since she is essentially the focal character in this particular series, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think I would have liked to have gotten a better glimpse of their interaction with Meralonne, though. But that is the problem with any great character in any book, you never feel like you get nearly enough page time with any of them.

In typical fashion, I get to the last page and I wasn’t ready for it to BE the last page. There are still lots of threads left unfinished, even the threads of many of the focal characters in this series. There are still so many characters in this series that I’m not ready to see the last of. This book, even being the end of the House War series, means that I don’t have to see the last of them just yet. I’m hopeful that means we will still get more of the specific characters in THIS series, wherever the larger storyline takes us.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Other areas of note (not included in the SPA rating):

Cover: 5/5 Stars
I have to be a bit giddy about this cover. I have loved the art on ALL the covers of this series. They all hold an extremely consistent look and feel and this blends in perfectly with the rest. I cannot get over all the detail and how deeply this (and all the other covers) reflect the events in the book.

World Building: 5/5 Stars
It is probably obvious if you were to look at my favorites list that this falls into one of my favorite series. It is because of the world building in this series that I love it so much. Fair warning, though! You’ve GOT to read the books in order to truly understand what is going on, that means the books across all the different series. You may be able to pick up one of the series and not feel entirely lost if you read from the beginning of that series, but you would be missing out on some of those finer details and underlying pieces that are so essential to the whole.

There is so much detail and intricacies woven throughout this as a whole. I honestly don’t think I’d want to ever be in the author’s head. To be able to hold it all together and keep it in line and consistent is kind of astonishing.

 

 

 

Fangirl Moment of SQUEEE!!!

HOLY CRAP!! I’m kinda freaking out at the moment. I’ve JUST started requesting ARCs via NetGalley, not really expecting to actually get approved. I’ve even gotten a rejection, so it kind of confirmed for me that I probably wasn’t quite in the position that publishers are looking for when it comes to handing out ARC copies for reviews and that I needed to do some more work towards getting there. Apparently…

Not only did I get an ARC book, but I got one that I never in a million years expected to get approved for but thought, “What the hell! Can’t hurt to ask!” and requested it anyway. It is my first ever ARC and I’m over the moon giddy over it and what book it is.

Now, I’m not 100% certain on ARC etiquette and how to handle this awesomeness. Do I get to scream about the fact I got an ARC and the book it is? I know about the writing a review piece, that should be the easy part, but there are more things I think that I don’t really know and now I need to dig in and do a bit more research so I don’t goof and this ends up being the only one I get.

If you are an ARC reviewer, please feel free to chime in and give a newbie some much needed advice! Now I’m going to go try to bust my family’s ear drums with some more screeching and freaking, then I’m going to calm down and get to reading.

Book Review: Alone In The Dark, Romantic Suspense: Book 17

Author: Karen Rose
Book Name: Alone In The Dark
Series: Romantic Suspense/Cincinnati
Order: 17/2
Genre: Romance/Suspense/Crime Drama
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Homicide Detective Scarlett Bishop has seen enough bad guys slip through the cracks and too many innocent victims go unavenged to know good doesn’t always prevail. So far she’s been able to lock away her rage and her vigilante fantasies. That lock is about to break.

Former Army Ranger Marcus O’Bannion is a fierce champion of victims’ rights. His secret past gives him good reason. He believes he’s seen the depths of human depravity, but then his investigation into the murder of a young girl who once asked for his help lures him and Scarlett down a dark, dark road—and straight into the crosshairs of a dangerous, powerful underground ring that deals in human trade. To stop them, Scarlett and Marcus have to be just as cunning and just as ruthless. But first they have to make it out alive.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
This could have been a slightly higher rating if every single bad guy in the book wasn’t so extremely “bad guy” cliche, and there are a whole lot of bad guys, with the good guys being a tiny bit too good.

Believability: 3/5 Stars
This ties in with the characters because rarely do people fall into such stark black and white ranges. Even the events in the book all fall into extremes, which kind of breaks some believability lines.

Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars
Overall I enjoyed this book, but there were a few too many pieces that fell on the over the top side of things to make me really love it.

Every bad guy in this book, and there were an abundance of them, either directly related to the plot or indirectly via character histories, were extreme levels of bad guy making them all charactures. They all also had a level of stupidity that made you question how they managed to get where they were and not get caught before.

There is also a nearly black and white level of extreme difference between those bad guys and the good guys, though the good guys did have a few things that might be considered gray areas. Even those are still very much held on the “good” end of the scale. Those extremes push the believability of the entire story, especially when you add in all the actual events.

How many times can one person be shot or shot at in a book before the reader is getting eye strain from all the rolling going on? Marcus is a great example here. When you add in his LONG, extremely dramatic backstory, it makes what is on the surface a likable, human character, into something nearly superhuman because all those parts that make him up are so unbelievable.

Scarlett is a little bit better, but some of her personal issues and struggles that made her interesting lost some of their luster when they got neatly tied up and fixed when a misunderstanding is revealed later in the story. It was one of those easy solutions that tied her up in a pretty bow.

The neat little bow tying can be applied to a lot of the secondary lines threaded throughout this book. While I do appreciate not being left in a cliff hanger or having random threads just left unfinished, I’m not a huge fan of everything being perfectly fixed, especially when it happens in an extremely unlikely and unbelievable way. That is just those little side threads. The main plot was resolved in a somewhat predictable way as the reader is given neon hints along the way.

Reading this reminded me that while I can enjoy a Karen Rose book, I’m not going to love it because all of them tend to be on that over the top/extreme side of things, which I’m not a huge fan of.

 

Other areas of note (not included in the SPA rating):

Cover: 3/5 Stars
This was a nothing special cover for me and so similar to other covers that it just didn’t do anything for me either way.

Uniqueness Factor: 2.5/5 Stars
While the themes of good guy vs. bad guy are pretty standard, the background story and history of Marcus’ character is interesting, if not a little extreme.

Peeve Factor: 3/5 Stars
A couple of aspects brushed up against my peeve issues in this book. The characters border on unrealistic because they tend to range on the extreme ends of the spectrum. For the most part, those extremes were handled in a way to not be obnoxious, but it was enough to drop my overall enjoyment. I’m also not a huge fan of hormonal hornies popping up at the most ridiculous times between characters. It takes away from the seriousness of what is going on in the story.

 

 

 

 

Review Rating Thoughts: Adjustments

After spending some time with this and tossing around ideas, I think I may have come up with something that works for me on my new rating process.

My biggest issue with the way I had set up the new system was the equal weighting across all areas of evaluation. That just doesn’t work for me because not all of those areas are important to all books. I do think that there are a few that are critical, no matter the book.

At the same time, I really liked how that specific breakdown helped me to look at the book from a more structured place rather than strictly opinion and emotional reaction. I liked how it helped me to put some of my thoughts into words.

From those two perspectives, I think what I’m going to try out is narrowing down which areas I feel are critical, at least for me as a reader, to all books and use only those as the basis for my SPA. For now, I am going to try to keep it to just Characters, Believably, and Personal Opinion. I want to keep the other areas for evaluation purposes. If one in particular, say my peeves, plays heavily into my reaction to a particular book, I will include that in the SPA as well.

All the others, I will still give star ratings to, but they will not impact that overall average. I can really love or hate a cover of a book and not have it  impact my enjoyment of the book, but I love book covers and rarely ever find a way to talk about them. The same could be said for any of the other areas, that there was something I want to point out, but it may not play a role in what I thought about the book.

There is a chance I’ll leave a section out of a review because it just doesn’t apply. I might even modify or remove a section or two because there seems to be so much overlap at times. When you are talking about characters and believability and your opinion on a book, you are invariably also talking about plot. That is the big area I’m not entirely sure what I know what to do with, which is kind of crazy because plot is a huge part of every single book.

Whatever I decide, I’m going to need to play with how I lay it all out to make it clear which areas are being included in the SPA and which are not. I am also going to use the write up in the Personal Opinion portion of the review as kind of the full overview as that seems to work best for then being able to transfer my review to Goodreads or Amazon.

I’m sure it will take a time or two running through to see what kinds of issues I may have or what I’ll still need to tweak, but this gives me a starting point for what I feel I want to change. My hope is that these changes will still give a more merit based opinion, but still feel like the rating range I would have been giving books before this revamp.

Now I just need some time to finish a book without having a dozen things interrupt me or distract me.

Just A Little Nudge And A Question

I’m dropping this little nudge for anyone that hasn’t seen it yet or is new around here. I did this thing called “writing a book” a while back. I’m kinda proud of it. At the same time, I’m trying to get really creative in ways to promote it besides spamming people here, on twitter and through their contact pages if they are book bloggers asking if they’d be interested in reviewing.

Would any bloggers be interesting in participating in a post-release party kind of thing (because I can’t do things in the logical, normal way and have done this PRIOR to releasing my book)? Especially book bloggers, but I’m not going to hold it to just that. Basically, I thought it might be fun for bloggers to host either a review or even a book club like discussion around this. Obviously, they’d get a copy of the book in exchange. It might even be fun to offer up a copy to one of their readers for participating if the blogger wanted.

This is just an idea I’ve been tossing around and thought I’d get some feedback or thoughts on whether this is a good/viable idea or not. Feel free to drop any other ideas or suggestions into the mix as well.

If you want to have a look at what the book is about, it is sitting quietly over here.

 

New Rating System Thoughts

Having done a couple of reviews under my new system, I’ve seen a few issues with it that have bothered me and I need to figure out a way to tweak it to work better. I do think it does what I intended in the sense that the final rating is more than just a blanket, subjective opinion. It is a result of a more thought out analysis based on what I consider important in a book. At the same time, I feel like any book I attempt to rate under this system is going to hit an SPA of 3 or very close. That kind of defeats the purpose. At least from one side.

Continue reading “New Rating System Thoughts”

Book Review: The Year of Fog, Michelle Richmond

Author: Michelle Richmond
Book Name: The Year of Fog
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life
Overall SPA: 2.8 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Six-year-old Emma vanished into the thick San Francisco fog. Or into the heaving Pacific. Or somewhere just beyond: to a parking lot, a stranger’s van, or a road with traffic flashing by. Devastated by guilt, haunted by her fears about becoming a stepmother, Abby refuses to believe that Emma is dead. And so she searches for clues about what happened that morning—and cannot stop the flood of memories reaching from her own childhood to illuminate that irreversible moment on the beach.

Now, as the days drag into weeks, as the police lose interest and fliers fade on telephone poles, Emma’s father finds solace in religion and scientific probability—but Abby can only wander the beaches and city streets, attempting to recover the past and the little girl she lost. With her life at a crossroads, she will leave San Francisco for a country thousands of miles away. And there, by the side of another sea, on a journey that has led her to another man and into a strange subculture of wanderers and surfers, Abby will make the most astounding discovery of all—as the truth of Emma’s disappearance unravels with stunning force.

Cover: 4 Stars
This did fit the story sets a good tone for what is inside.

Blurb: 3 Stars
The blurb for this is absolutely what convinced me to read this. Sadly, while it is factually accurate, I feel like it is somewhat misleading in that it makes this seem like a much more intense, adventure kind of a book and this really isn’t.

Characters: 2 Stars
I am really kind of on the fence with the characters in this. Abby is a struggle to identify with as, for me, she really does not come across as being emotionally connected, just more obsessive. I struggle to feel grief or loss from her. Jake is there as a character, as what should really be a more important character, but you honestly do not get enough of him on the page to really get a sense of him. All the remaining characters come across as slightly odd and weird in ways I struggle to pinpoint, but they all behave in ways that make them slightly distasteful.

Plot/Themes: 3 Stars
I obviously really liked the concept that this story was based on, but there were several things that kept pulling me out of the story. The first was the random time jumping that went on, either between chapters or even within the same chapter. It felt really disorienting as a reader to constantly try and figure out where in the timeline the story was at. Then there were all of these random bits of side stories dealing with various pieces of history and facts about memory or photography, some ranging into scientific information. In the end, they really weren’t needed and came across more of a distraction. If there had only been one or two of these, I don’t think it would have been an issue, but you could very easily have cut every single one of those specifics and still had a completely cohesive story. I understand some of their purpose, but it was way over done and did not work well. If anything, it contributed to the lack of emotional connection.

Uniqueness Factor: 3 Stars
While I can’t say that I’ve read a lot of books with this theme exactly, it isn’t unique. The one really unique factor was the perspective of a future step-parent being the central figure. That was part of what drew me to this story because it was a different take and a different perspective, but I think there were a lot of opportunities to go places with this emotionally that this book never did.

Problem Free/Editing: 4 Stars
I didn’t run into any problems in this area. At least nothing that jumped out and yanked me out of the story.

World Building: 2 Stars
You get an inordinate amount of geographic references to both the San Fransisco area and Costa Rica. After a while, it just became too much, especially when all throughout this book I was really looking for a much deeper emotional impact, something that I don’t feel I ever got.

Believably: 2 Stars
The lack of that emotional impact made this whole thing so much harder to believe in the story. When you are talking about a book surrounding a missing child, I cannot see how you can manage to avoid those really strong, extreme emotions. The idea that any parent reacts in a set of scripted rules when their child goes missing is ridiculous, so it really should have been easier for me to fall into this story, but I just never completely bought the actions, or thoughts in Abby’s case, of the characters. Abby really felt like she was going through the motions and doing what she thought was expected more so than because she was compelled. There were some issues with feelings of guilt, but most of that is what the reader is told rather than what is actually demonstrated.

Peeve Factor: 3 Stars
The timeline jumpiness throughout this isn’t a major peeve of mine, but it is an annoyance. The purpose of a book is to compel a reader to follow along, not jerk them from one point to another in an effort to get them lost along the way.

Personal Opinion: 2 Stars
I was just overall disappointed in this. I was expecting a much more emotionally charged book with a lot going on. Instead, this came across as something more along the lines of a person’s extremely dry philosophical debate with themselves that dragged on and on. All the pieces of this story that I would have thought should have been front and center felt kind of as if they were shunted to the sidelines of the bigger story of Abby’s personal search for Emma, which really did feel like it was something done more out of guilt and the need to fix something rather than true loss.

More time was spent on the many, random outside issues that really had no impact on the story overall than on the parts I really expected to see. The impact of Emma going missing on the relationship between Abby and Jake is not really addressed directly on the page. You only see small glimpses along the edges of the story when that really should have been one of the focuses. The other important parts, such as the initial investigation into her disappearance is handled only with small snippets of actual events followed by vague acknowledgements that it was going on in the background.

Instead, you get too many listings of the locations where Abby was, went, or was going at all times. The bits of her personal history and childhood, which didn’t have any relationship to the events in the rest of the story. And, no matter how different loss and grief may work for different individuals, I just could not connect to the characters because I just couldn’t find any of those expected emotions or reactions.

Book Review: Eric Carter Series – Books 1 – 4

As usual, I can’t do things the easy way. Instead of my first book review under the new system being… oh, I don’t know, a single book? I have to do a review on a series. Or at least the first four books in the series so that is going to make this interesting, but I’m gonna just go with it.

Author: Stephen Blackmoore
Book Name: Dead Things, Broken Souls, Hungry Ghosts, Fire Season
Series: Eric Carter
Order: #1-4
Genre: Paranormal Urban/Fantasy
Overall SPA: 2.7 Stars

2.5 Stars

 

 

 

Normally, I’d post the blurb here, but since this is 4 books I’m going to just do my best to summarize them as a group (fair warning, I suck at general summarizations). These books are set in the modern world with the added bonus of magic. Ghosts and gods are real. Magic casters are mages and there are different types. All those types are apparently all arrogant assholes, including the main character. It pretty much actually says that in the books, this isn’t just my opinion. The main character, Eric Carter, is a necromancer. While there are a handful of supporting characters, they don’t really move much from book to book. They are there for a book or two and then they are done. Eric spends all of his time in all these books constantly trying to stay alive from all the various different people or beings that want him dead.

 

Cover: 3 Stars
Again, discussing these as a whole, they have a similar style, but aren’t very consistent with regards to the look of the main character. There is not a lot going on that applies to the books outside of that central figure. While the art is nice, I don’t feel like any of them are spectacular or particularly eye grabbing.

Blurb: 3 Stars
This is kind of a non-issue here as, obviously, the first book was enough to bring me in. I didn’t actually pay much attention to the others after that.

Characters: 2 Stars
I had a particularly hard time with this as I never really liked any of them. I kind of went back and forth on Eric, but the farther into the series I got, the less there was to make him appealing.

Plot/Themes: *
I’m not using this one in this rating because I feel like it is covered in the other areas. Besides, doing this as a series makes this one a little too broad overall.

Uniqueness Factor: 3 Stars
While many of the basic concepts in this were in line with a lot of other books in this genre, this focused more on the necromancy and brought in a lot of Aztec mythology, which was new for me.

Problem Free/Editing: 5 Stars
All four of these were really clean. Nothing jumped out at me as problematic or annoying.

World Building: 3 Stars
This was a tough one to call as there was a lot going on in these books. A whole lot of thought and planning absolutely went into them. The one thing that bothered me, and it cropped up multiple times, is that the author never really gets into the meat of the magic system and how it works, yet this is a prominent aspect of all of these books. The system just apparently works if the person wants it to. You do get a few little bits here and there with the character doing some specific things to get a specific outcome, but then they were often counteracted by the character being able to do the same or similar things without those actions. That aspect felt a little unfinished to me. I also wasn’t a fan of the extreme level of arrogance that was part and parcel of the mage group. The lack of structure for their society or their concern for anyone other than themselves was pretty off-putting.

Believably: 2 Stars
I’d have to say that if I were just rating the first book, this would probably be a bit higher, but as I got through the later books the less I was feeling it because of the above peeves. There is only so much constant chaos and dumb mistakes a character can make before that believability switch gets shut off.

Peeve Factor: 1 Star
These books smashed the ever loving hell out of my peeve button on a couple of fronts. One is the main, male character being pretty much an unemotional prick when it came to his interactions with the female characters, especially the couple of times there was any kind of intimate interaction (very few of these). Another is this never ending, constant battle plot line. Basically when a character stands up, they get knocked back down again before they can even get their balance, repeatedly. Continuously. So much so that it is unrelenting and never gives the reader a chance to breathe. These kinds of hopeless books drive me up a wall and I really dislike them. You also have the issue with the main character not just being a prick, but one that would qualify for a “Too Stupid To Live” award. Every single situation, he would run head first into, trip up somewhere ending up in some kind of epic shitstorm that the only reason he survives is mostly dumb luck with a side of requisite Super Mage Skills. There are only so many times a character can continue to make truly stupid mistakes that cause all kinds of drama and chaos before this starts to push my peeve button. These books tried really hard to break it. Oh, and spoiler altert! Everyone mostly dies. Except Eric, of course.

Personal Opinion: 2 Stars
I honestly wasn’t a huge fan. I read the first book, was intrigued by the interesting storyline, but didn’t love it. I wanted to read the second to see where it would go. I honestly caught myself a couple of times wondering why I was still reading because this hit several of my peeves, but I still picked up the next book anyway. I finally called it quits about a 1/3 of the way into book 4 when I convinced myself that just because this was in a series and I’d read the first few books, that didn’t mean I had to finish this.

I can absolutely see how others would really like these because I do honestly think that for the most part, the writing is really good. These just weren’t for me and I decided there are other things I’d much rather be doing or reading other than a book that left me feeling frustrated and kinda hopeless about anything happening other than dumb luck, Super Mage Skills, and people dying.

An Unexpected Turn: Book Review & Give Away

When I offered my book in exchange for reviews, one of the takers was Jess at Sorting Life’s Issues With Jess. She chose a paperback copy with the goal to then pass that book along when she was done with it, starting a train of passing the book along to others. I loved this idea and the potential that my book could end up on a journey that I might be able to follow. The idea is so intriguing to me so I’m going to do everything I can to help her and this copy of my book along.

Her review and instructions to enter the give away are here. Please go say “Hi” and drop her a note to enter to win this! I would love to see the different places this may end up.

 

Book Review – Tuesday’s Child: Psychic Visions, Book 1

Author: Dale Mayer
Book Name: Tuesday’s Child
Series: Psychic Visions
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/Paranormal
Rating:  Okay/Good
3+stars

 

Blurb:

What she doesn’t want…is exactly what he needs.

Shunned and ridiculed all her life for something she can’t control, Samantha Blair hides her psychic abilities and lives on the fringes of society. Against her will, however, she’s tapped into a killer—or rather, his victims. Each woman’s murder, blow-by-blow, ravages her mind until their death releases her back to her body. Sam knows she must go to the authorities, but will the rugged, no-nonsense detective in charge of tracking down the killer believe her?

Detective Brandt Sutherland only trusts hard evidence, yet Sam’s visions offer clues he needs to catch a killer. The more he learns about her incredible abilities, however, the clearer it becomes that Sam’s visions have put her in the killer’s line of fire. Now Brandt must save her from something he cannot see or understand…and risk losing his heart in the process.

As danger and desire collide, passion raises the stakes in a game Sam and Brandt don’t dare lose.

I have really mixed feelings about this one. I love the basic concept this story is built on, but there are things about it that I really struggled with when it came to overcoming disbelief. Sure, as a paranormal book, that is kind of a requirement, but there still has to be a way for the reader to believe the events/scenarios are possible in the world that is created.

The first issue I had wasn’t with the visions Sam has, but with the physical manifestation of those visions in such a way that make this more than just a paranormal concept. The physical, mortal wounds that miraculously heal within minutes was a really hard one to swallow because there is no logic or explanation given to make it a believable concept. If this were a full on fantasy, it could be because of some magical component or a natural aspect of some fantastical being, but that isn’t the case here. Sam is just a human with psychic abilities, yet has this other seemingly miraculous additional ability. As a reader, you are just required to completely accept it as fact without question.

There are also parts that seem oddly out of place or that feel like they weren’t fully fleshed out. One example would be when Sam’s coworkers found out about her abilities. It was mentioned, the reader is told they talked but isn’t given any details of the conversation, just that every single person just went about it like it was no big deal and Sam is totally accepted by every one of them and everything is fine. No real tension or doubt, no real questioning of her abilities. Just “Oh, you’re psychic. Okay.” Several of the conversations and emotional situations throughout the book are handled in a similar way making it really difficult to believe the emotions of Sam or Brandt. The reader is given a small sentence or two of information and expected to just accept it at that face value.

Those things made it harder to sink into the rest of the book leaving me with kind of a “meh” reaction to the whole. It does appear that this book has the lowest rating of all the others in the series, so I’m willing to give the next one a try to see if those things are handled better because I do still really like the basic psychic concept that seems to be the foundation for this series.

Book Review – Mercy Dogs: Tyler Dilts

Author: Tyler Dilts
Book Name: Mercy Dogs
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Family Life
Rating: Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:

How can a shattered ex-cop follow the rules when he’s no longer sure of them?

For sixteen years, Ben Shepard loyally served the Long Beach Police Department. Then he took a bullet to the head, and his life was shattered. No one expects much of anything from him anymore—except his father, an old man receding into a fog of his own. And except maybe his tenant, Grace, who’s been a warm and friendly constant in his and his father’s bleak lives.

Until the day she vanishes.

After an official investigation stalls, Ben moves forward on his own. But stepping into Grace’s past—and all she was hiding—is a dangerous move for a man who can’t trust his memories from one day to the next. The deeper he gets, the more he has to question whether he’s being driven by the gut instincts of a suspicious former cop or by paranoia.

Recognizing what’s real can save Grace’s life. If only he can trust himself to do it…

This book has sat on my TBR for a while now only because I just wasn’t sure what to expect. Once I finally did pick it up, it took me a bit to get into it because of the jumping around of events and they way things were presented. I completely understand the why behind this and actually ended up liking that, but it took me a bit to sink into because of that.

While you have the overarching story of Grace and what is going on with her disappearance, for me, what made this story so great was seeing the relationship between Ben and his dad and how they were both struggling to overcome some significant struggles. Both of them having major issues that make just getting through the basics of life incredibly difficult, yet still being there and doing what they could for each other made this a really moving story. It is both heartwarming and poignant.

Book Review – Why We Fight: At First Sight, Book 4

Author: TJ Klune
Book Name: Why We Fight
Series: At First Sight
Order: #4
Genre: Romance/LGBTQIA
Rating:  Excellent/Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb:

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Corey Ellis sure doesn’t. Oh, everyone around him seems to have found their happy ending, but he’s far too busy to worry about such things. He’ll have plenty of time for romance after he survives his last summer before graduation. So what if he can’t get his former professor, Jeremy Olsen, out of his head? It’s just hero worship. And that’s the way it should stay.

Except that this summer, bigender Corey—aka Kori—is interning at Phoenix House, a LGBTQI youth center that recently hired an interim director. And because life is extraordinarily unfair, the director just so happens to be a certain former professor, now current boss.

Desperate to keep things professional as he and Jeremy grow closer, Corey makes a major mistake: he turns to his friends, Paul Auster and Sanford Stewart, for help.

But Paul and Sandy have some ideas of their own.

Set in the summer of 2016, Why We Fight is a celebration of queer life and being true to oneself… no matter the cost.

I was so excited to see this one was coming out, it went on preorder for me the moment I saw it was available. As always, TJ Klune is a master at over the top, ridiculous humor threaded through with weightier, heartfelt emotions.

You absolutely get classic TJ Klune snark in this book, but you also get more of the deep, insightful aspects as well. There are points, though not a lot, that are heavy in social commentary about the LGBTQIA community and the current political climate (or where we were in 2016), but it doesn’t ever delve into ugliness, only focusing on the stronger, more positive aspects of being yourself and fighting for your right to be that self. In a way, that is kind of what the whole book is about, but it’s mostly done through the lens of the developing relationship between Corey/Kori and Jeremy.

Corey’s/Kori’s character was also a part of the Bear, Otter and the Kid series. I think of all the books in the At First Sight series, this one reminds me more of BOatK because it does ride the balance closer to the heavy emotions side of things rather than the humor side, as most of the other AFS books seem to do (though they also have that emotional side and is why I love them so much).

I think the end of a deeply loved series is always going to have those heart tugging emotions because you know you won’t get any more from those characters. I love the fact that this book brought on the happy tears with the crazy humor, though I really, really wasn’t ready to let go of all the amazing characters in this one. Honestly, I want to be an Auster. Everyone needs a family like that.

 

 

Last Chance!

The sale and promo for any photo prints or my book ends this Sunday! Details below.

 

Original Post –

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m running a sale on pretty much everything. Pricing for everything runs from Monday, April 29th thru Sunday May 12th. If you’ve ever considered grabbing something, but just weren’t certain, now’s the time to pick up my book or a photo print. Either to treat yourself or as a really unique gift. The book would be especially fitting for a Mother’s Day gift.

My book, An Unexpected Turn, is on sale. The ebook is regularly $4.99 and is on sale for $2.99. Paperback is regularly $11.99 and is on sale for $9.99 (Amazon will not show as sale price and will most likely show early). This price should apply to all platforms, so please drop me a note if for whatever reason it isn’t. It is available in all of these locations:

An Unexpected Turn Cover
An Unexpected Turn Cover

Amazon Kindle
Amazon Paperback
Barns & Noble/Nook
Kobo
Apple Books
Scribd
Playster

 

 

 

ALSO… On my photo print site, everything is 25% off. All prints, stationery and household products like tote bags, pillows and the random phone case. Everything is included, just use the discount code at check out.

Photography Discount Code: NMHZHV

 

Book Genre Placement

This is something that falls heavily into one of my pet peeves in books. Genre categories and incorrect genre placement. Getting to see some of the difficulties with this issue from the publishing side hasn’t changed my stance on this that much. In some areas, available genre choices, it makes it even worse.

Continue reading “Book Genre Placement”

Book Review – Pillars of the World: Tir Alainn, Book 1 (Reread)

Author: Anne Bishop
Book Name: Pillars of the World
Series: Tir Alainn
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Excellent/Favorite
5+stars

 

Blurb: Myth and magic combine in a superb dark fantasy of a world in danger of being destroyed by those who deny themselves and their heritage, and let evil loose in the world.

In Sylvalan, a witch hunt is in full force. As witches and innocents are brutally murdered, magic is disappearing from the land, and the roads between the world of humans and that of faeries are vanishing one by one. Ari’s family has tended one of the Old Places, places which hold the key to travel between human and faery lands, for generations, keeping the magic alive and the land lush and fertile. Ari unknowingly takes a Fae lover, the Lord of the Sun, and immediately becomes the target of the unwanted interest of the faery nobility.

To save their world the Fae must trust humankind, but with a few exceptions they do not believe Ari and her friends can help them. Against the Inquisitor and the arrogant Fae, Ari and those who believe in the world of magic and human unravel the secrets of the Old Places and discover that they all need each other if any are to survive.

This is a story which uses all the myriad stories of humankind, good and evil, to weave a breathtaking tale of action, romance and thought-provoking themes to enthrall readers.

With my kind of reading slump lately, I decided to pick up a book I read a long time ago and has been sitting on my favorites list forever. I was absolutely thrilled to find that it has held up to my memory of a really great book. I was shocked when I discovered that this wasn’t even in my personal book database I keep track of my books in, which I started in 2012. That means I read this long before that. Probably only a few years after it was published as I remember reading the entire series back to back.

Like so many Anne Bishop books, this has deeper themes running through it if you are willing to look past the surface story. When I read this for the first time, I was in a perfect place personally to read the themes that form the basis of this story. The concepts of using people’s fears to push them to do terrible things, often couched in the veil of good vs. evil or religion when in reality the base motive is greed; women being treated as objects or unworthy of basic respect and decency and fighting against that. Some of this is more subtle than others, but it is there. There is more within the series, but I’m attempting to stay with just this book for now. Those concepts made me really think and view my world a little differently, which is something I really needed at the time and sparked a huge personal growth for me at the time.

I no longer needed these themes as I did the first round, but they still speak to me, even if it is a little differently this time. I can see different parallels to the way the world is today and I find those kinds of stories fascinating. Especially the concept of driving fears against “other” or “different” for personal gain.

There are lots of different characters in this to follow and it is told from all those perspectives, which may be difficult for some readers. I enjoyed getting to see the story unfold from those various perspectives. I especially liked getting to see the thoughts from the Fae perspective and how they changed their views, or not, in some cases. While this is the first in a three book series, it ends cleanly without any cliffhangers.

The magic system in this seems to pull heavily from modern pagan/Wiccan practices and has a classic feel to it that I fell in love with the first time around and still held through this second reading years later. While I’m not surprised that I still loved this after all this time, it is Anne Bishop after all, I can say that it isn’t my favorite of hers. I’m not sure anything can top the Others series.

 

Do Or Don’t? Negative Reviews

I’m looking for legitimate feedback here, mostly because I want to understand other people’s thought process behind this. I have seen several people in the indie community expressly complaining about getting negative reviews on their work. I’ve seen traditionally published authors saying that it is a major no-no to tag an author in a negative review. I have even seen a book blogger or two mention the issue of whether or not to write those negative reviews. What are your thoughts on negative reviews?

I’ve always been for them because I feel like it is honest and, no matter the product, but books in particular, other people should have access to those honest opinions to be able to make a fully informed decision on if they want to buy/read something. As with everything, I feel like there are certain stipulations around that, though. I think it is an asshole move to leave inaccurate or malicious feedback just to be a jerk and because you can and that isn’t what I’m talking about here.

As an artist and a creative, it has always been my opinion that the second you do anything where another person can experience it, you’ve opened the door for criticism. Whether or not that criticism is justified falls into a gray area until you deliberately make that creation available to the public. At that point, as the creator, you have to accept the fact that people are going to feel the need to state those opinions. When you expect people to spend money on your creation, you absolutely are opening that door to criticism and, at least in my opinion, you do not get any kind of say in what that criticism is (again, the above exception being deliberately malicious or hateful). It is kind of like an unspoken social contract that criticism comes with the territory and it won’t always be something you like to hear.

I am truly curious as to why some people don’t agree with this concept. I want to understand the other side of this coin because, at the moment, I only see it as people only want to hear that they are awesome no matter if they are or aren’t. If I were to pick up a book with lots of 4 and 5 star ratings only to find it full of errors and plot holes and horrible characters, I would be pretty ticked off as a reader. I have never hesitated to write a negative review on a book if I felt it was necessary and, at least on Goodreads, those seem to be my most liked and commented on. Especially if it was contrary to many of the other reviews available.

Sometimes, even a negative review for one person can actually be what interests someone else because different people have different tastes and opinions. Some people adore steamy scenes, others want a steam free book, or issues with cussing or drugs or mental health issues. Some people may not want to read a book with a certain theme, but another will have that same theme at the top of the “must read” list. A negative review can bring some of those things to light and actually draw in new readers. A 1 or a 2 star review may not actually be a bad thing. Getting lots of those in an area may even alert an author to a genre placement issue or some other issue that got missed before publishing.

As far as tagging an author on social media platforms in negative reviews… that one may be a little different. Just because I don’t have a problem with people leaving negative reviews, as an author, I don’t know that I’d want those reviews shoved under my nose on a constant basis. Just because they are written, doesn’t mean I’m required to read them. Tagging an author kind of forces that issue and takes the choice away from them. I can only imagine how exponentially huge this could be, especially for a traditionally published author or anyone with a really huge following. It has always been my policy here to try not to link back to an author’s website in a review if it is particularly bad, but part of that is a lack of desire to promote an author if I didn’t like their work. I will link to the Goodreads page for the book, though.

Where do you stand on negative reviews and tagging authors and why?

 

 

The Indie Book Club

Pretty sure I’ve complained about how difficult it is to find books by other indie authors. Well, someone got brilliant and created a site that lists books just by indie authors. It’s called The Indie Book Club. It is still very much in its infancy, but it is another resource for both authors and readers of indie books. Lucky, lucky me, they listed me along with about 10 other books for this month.

The site allows visitors to see the most recent books added on the front page, or they can dig deeper into genres to find something specific. I found them on Twitter and managed to snag a spot for this month from a call for submissions, so they do take requests from authors to get their books listed.

Again, the site is still very new and a little basic, but it is a resource that I really haven’t seen before that is just for indie authors. So, if you are an indie author looking for another place to help get your book seen, or you are a reader that wants to help support indie authors, please go check them out.

Oh, and if you are a book blogger, please help them get noticed by sharing this post or writing one of your own. Every tiny bit like that does wonders to help the indie author community.