Category: Reading

Book Review: The Big Sheep by: Robert Kroese

I give this five out of five stars for an excellent array of characters, laugh out loud humor, the twisting tale to a hidden outcome, and the exploration of the moral dilemma’s that come with advances in our knowledge of the human genome.

What I liked most:

  • The characters, I can’t help it I have a thing for anything with a nod to Sherlock Holmes. I adored the antics between the eccentric savant and his well-grounded assistant. I’m happy Kroese is considering a sequel to this story. The world established in the story is well constructed and the characters can easily support many future humorous intrigues.
  • Kroese’s talent for composing a narrative that incorporates a wonderful array of humor endures in The Big Sheep. My favorite laugh out loud moment includes a subject interview that was lacking Dr.Pepper and Circus Peanuts. I also enjoyed the shameless number of puns surrounding Mary, the missing 300 pound sheep. This is a great read if you prefer books that make you laugh.
  • There’s some sharp insight about intellectual property and how it applies to a fictional character. The concepts of human cloning, agelessness, advanced gene therapy, and mind alteration were tangible in the world building of the story. These added a fantastic layer of creepiness as I tried to guess at the final outcome. Several aspects of the plot sucked me in and made the read hard to put down and something I was eager to pick back up.

An advanced review copy was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of this book. You can find out more about the author Robert Kroese and his other works on his website HERE.

Something happened to me this week. It’s a change I knew was going to happen, but when it did it still left me amazed by the event. A short story I submitted last summer, for a chance at being included in an anthology, is now published. I’ve known for a few months this was going to happen, but now with the moment here, I’m  spinning with awe. I received an email from goodreads Wednesday morning notifying me that my profile is now an author’s profile. An authors profile. The originating author of the Feyland series, Anthea Sharp, lovingly reminded me to get my butt to Amazon and set up my author profile already. Authors profile, that means it happened-I have something published. I’ve been writing full time for three years. I knew this day was going to come, but here I am totally stunned and humbled by the change.

I am so excited for this release. Its an honor to share a cover with the other authors in this anthology. Each of us created standalone stories that are set in the imaginative world created by USA Today bestselling author Anthea Sharp. Feyland is an immersive, virtual reality computer game, that is actually a gateway to the very real realm of faerie.

Chronicle Worlds: Feyland Cover
Chronicle Worlds: Feyland Cover


You don’t need to have read the original Feyland books to understand and enjoy the stories in this anthology. Our advanced review copy readers have confirmed the read can be enjoyed without any prior reading or knowledge of Anthea Sharp’s Feyland series. However I must say, there’s a reason Feyland is a best seller. I for sure have some bias, but anyone who follows my reviews knows I’m honest in sharing my opinion. I enjoyed each of the Feyland books. They have solid characters and each one expands the fascinating world that is part fantasy and part science fiction. The first book and Novella can be read for free, and are out on Amazon HERE.

This is the first Chronicle Worlds release by curator Samuel Peralta, owner and genius behind the best selling anthology series the Future Chronicles. A series, which has fourteen titles with several that have hit the overall Amazon Top 10 Bestsellers list. The Chronicle Worlds is a line of anthologies charting new territories of a shared universe, within already-existing worlds.

The special 99c ebook launch price is still going on, you can pick up a copy HERE. We are excited by all of the early reviews and looking forward to the upcoming launch of the paperback version of Chronicle Worlds: Feyland the weekend of July 15th. You can join our virtual Facebook book launch party HERE.

Book Review: Horizon by: Carol Davis

I give this book three out of five stars for being entertaining, taking me to a new alien place, and presenting complex social ideas about race, government, and failure in a manner still appropriate for a YA audience.

What I liked about the book:
1. The world building was really well done. I liked how the foreign planet was strange but still tangible. There’s a nice climactic construction and it impacts adaptations in the native sentient beings. I liked the sociology behind the Uuvali and their culture and the way it contrasted with average humans, including language, clothing, and food choices.

2. The layering of secondary plots, I enjoyed how these ran in conjunction with the main plot. I think the best one was the double antagonist plot, and figuring out which of the two would prevail over the other.

3. The ending is not a neat little bundle of happily ever after, there’s some heartbreak that comes with it. I wanted things to be so much more different for one of the main protagonists, but it was a real world look at how things don’t always work out for people even when they try their hardest.

Book Review Poe by: J. Lincoln Fenn

I give this book five out of five stars, and I need to remember to not read J. Lincoln Fenn’s work when I’m home alone. This book was awesomely scary, laugh out loud funny, and touching in unexpected ways. The characters are strong and relatable. The plot had interesting twists that made the read enjoyable and hard to put down.

What I loved about this book:

  1. The humor, I never expected this book to make me laugh as much as it did. For me any book of the horror genre that can make me laugh as much as this one, deserves five stars. The funny character banter and perspective made them even more endearing to me.
  1. The characters, all of them were very well done. Each one had something unique and unforgettable about them, which made remembering the many supporting characters easy. The descriptions of Dmitri’s co-workers, and the characters collected at the mansion on Halloween were unforgettable and so funny.
  1. Dimitri’s grief and the impact it had on him felt real to me. Whenever his grief was touched on it rang with a deep sincerity. It’s the kind of honest insight I love, where I’m left wondering if I stumbled onto a part where the author bled into their work.

Lincoln Fenn has a clean style with a clear voice. Everything conveyed is necessary, and her plot structure omits all trick ponies and plot devices. I really look forward to reading her future works.

The Fire Mages by: Pauline M. Ross

I gave this three out of five stars for a lovely fantasy world, a well defined magic system, and a plot that pulled me through from start to finish.

What I liked:

1) The magic system. It has layers and levels of mysteries. Most of the magical things were defined through the action of the story or in bits of exposition as needed. For the amount of magical material it is a feat that readers are spared from lengthy info dumps. I especially loved the library and the city built for mages. I really thought the dangers in this city for non-mages was wonderfully constructed and made for a great twist towards the end of the plot.

2) The plot. I was rooting for the young Kyra from the beginning, hoping she saves the needed money to attend school and pursue her dreams. It was a fun ride watching her navigate obstacles capable of derailing or destroying her.

3) The fantasy realm. It’s well defined and different enough to feel like a strange and foreign place, but relatable with human customs and behaviors.

What I didn’t enjoy.

1) The protagonist. She was too selfish and emotionally immature for my taste. To me her inability to read other people or empathize with them meant she is at best sitting somewhere on the autism spectrum, or at worst is some form of sociopath. It was detectable in the beginning when she easily loses all sentiments and ties to her family. She was far too willing, and had zero emotional reaction to the contract forcing her to give up her child. It took far too long for her to decipher her attachment to Cal. I also think it’s the only way you can explain a character saying in all sincere honesty to her long-term mentor, “I didn’t know you had a mother.”

2) The lack of dialog. The best scenes in this book are ones where the ongoing action of the story is presented in a scene with dialog. Too many of the dramatic character interactions are filtered as a memory or passively mentioned with major emotions about the other character stated as a fact of how the protagonist felt at the time. It killed my emotional tie to the ongoing action.

3) The romantic pacing. The romantic tie was in the scenes presented, but if more of the moments mentioned in passing had been presented and not filtered, the emotional resolution would have had a greater impact. The ending left me a little cold. If their confessions had come before the final climactic arc, the entire ending would have been more dramatic.

Time Heist (Firstborn Saga #1) by: Anthony Vicino

I gave this four out of five stars for the break neck pace of an action movie, the beautiful language of a beloved classic, and the vivid imagery I wish existed in more contemporary works of this genre.

What I liked:

1) The characters, each one was full of hidden surprises that were just as intriguing as the plot of the book. In the beginning most are sketched together and appear very typical to the crime-thriller genre, they evolve and transform which made them fresh and added depth to the novel.

2) The Futuristic world, in my opinion is one of the stand out features of the book. I like being taken to new places that are strange and different, and Vicino took me somewhere new with gusto. Nano technology that does everything from brushing teeth to fixing a broken leg, flying cars, hologram clothing, and air transport that works off of a real scientific theory.

3) The plot, there are a lot of moving parts in it. Some of the early scenario’s seemed to bump against my suspended disbelief, but somehow the protagonists impending death made it work. I like the role of time in the plot, and how as time wore out it became more important.

Radiance (Wraith Kings, Volume 1) by: Grace Draven

I give this book four out of five stars for a beautifully constructed romance, an authentic and engaging fantasy realm, and well done plot pacing. I audio binged my way through this book, and was upset to discover I have to wait to binge on the second book.

What I liked:

1) The fantastic execution of the plot of two royals from opposing worlds being married off as part of a treaty and falling in love. Ildiko and Brishen come to terms with the hideous appearance of their spouse, and slowly grow attached to admirable qualities of each other. Sound familiar, maybe, but it’s a plot that when done well stands out against a romance market saturated with characters in love over appearances. I got a happily ever after high when these two no longer cared about the others ugly appearance, and actually started to see things they admired in the unfamiliar features. The way their relationship builds is lovely and I enjoyed both characters.

2) There’s some great humor throughout the book. It’s clever how the protagonists meet for the first time. The tension built in a real and honest way and was broken with moments that had me laughing out loud. Their observations are candid and a lot is revealed about them in just that scene. I laughed through scenes where they are forced to eat new foods, and at the pair playing off the others culture shocks.

3) The fantasy realm. Draven’s constructed a world and cultures on par with traditional epic fantasy. It’s not a romance set in troupe like fantasy so fantastic plot devices can be used when the authors writing fails. This world felt genuine, was vividly captured, and held my interest. It’s a place with some grit and ugly realities. With fight scenes that have consequences, and a magic system I want to learn more about.

What I didn’t like:

1) The interactions between Brishen’s mother and Ildiko. It seemed odd to me that Ildiko’s noblewoman character would choose to verbally spar the way she did with her new mother in law and Queen. It still worked, but I thought it was a little out of place.

I listened to this book through audible and thought the narration by Gabrielle Baker was excellent.

Book Review: The Magic Mines of Asharim By: Pauline M. Ross

I give this book four out of five stars for it’s witty and flawed heroine, the authors talent in creating a foreign yet relatable world, and lovely new creatures who are more than just part of the setting.

Things I liked about the book:

1) The magic and fantastical creatures, especially the flickers. They played an important role in the story and they added a great deal to the setting. I liked how the heroine came into some of her magic abilities during the course of the book and it was a natural process. Some of my favorite displays of magic came when the heroine fled the mines. What actively created new tunnels and walls, or watched her in the shadows of an underground city? It was fun to think about the underground room with the reflecting floor and guessing which of the characters was right about what it housed. I could not understand why extinct mages had trapped an entire race of people’s sexual desire; it’s a different concept and added a lot of tension for part of the story.

2) This is a stand-alone novel. In a sea of series books that comprise most of the Fantasy genre, here’s one you can pick up and be happy the story is all contained inside one cover.

3) There is tremendous world building in this book, and it was nice to see how the tensions between the cultures collided and intertwined with the plot. I especially enjoyed the time spent in the mines, and the magic city around the mine. The journey along the canals and the journey up to the lake were well done.

What I thought could have been better:

1) The overuse of narrative exposition. I’m usually lenient on epic fantasy when it comes to exposition narrative and the descriptions of places, however the narrative used in this work tended to override action being shown or oddly there was one instance where it cut it off. I really enjoyed parts of the story, and because of this I paid attention to where my interest waned. The key culprit was always the author telling me and not showing me the action. The author has a talent in providing a picture of where each scene takes place. This level of detail combined with exposition narratives really made parts of the book feel too long. There were things described that were entirely irrelevant and added little value to the story. One example is characters walking down a hallway to bed; nothing happens between the characters and nothing-unexpected takes place during the walk. This little walk was a page and a half of nothing important to the story. It’s the kind of thing where if nothing happens, or if the location has no impact on the character or the story, then it needs to be cut or summarized.

2) My own views about sex are reflected in my negative opinion of the heroine, and the outcome of the story. There’s a lot of sex in this novel, don’t worry all you haters of sex in books it’s not graphic. It’s also not the prolific amounts of sex that bother me. I disliked the way the heroine treated those who became attached to her because of the sexual relationships she started. She pursued sex with Hyi when she knew she didn’t love him, and I hate how she compromised her self worth with Zak. I’m still reflecting on all the ways sex influenced the action in this book, which I consider a good thing. This book has given me something to think about, but even though I’m thinking about it, I can’t help the way I baulked and was disappointed with the ending. There’s this big emotional journey, so much material spent on the relationships and heartbreak, but in the end it’s all tied up in one neat little scene. One scene, just one, and the heroine’s off skipping down halls all happy and cool being a third wheel. I felt so cheated by this. I think I would have been happier if she ended up alone. Really, based on her actions, this would have been the more realistic ending. As a side note, if the sex were more graphic, this book could be launched as an erotic romance, a very twisted erotic romance. With so much of the book focused on the heroine’s relationships and her ability to read others emotions, turning this into an erotic romance is not a stretch, and that stuff sells.

3) The heroine’s goals seem inconsistent. At the front of the book she’s hiding. Then her lot changes and suddenly she’s embracing a danger she had taken great care to avoid. Then her focus shifts and she’s out to save her homeland, which her internal thoughts claim were her long-term goals all along, and I’m scratching my head thinking I didn’t remember any of that. Then she doesn’t care if she survives or if she’s conveniently elevated into an entirely new job. This inconsistency, and hiding the protagonists “grand plan” bothered me and seemed silly. As a reader I want to root for the protagonist, but it was hard in this book when I didn’t always know or was confused about what to root for.

Overall I think the strengths of the book out weighs its weaknesses. It’s a fantastic journey and the parts well done were really well done.

*Special note for those sensitive or opposed to reading about rape and sexual violence. There is difficult scene where the heroine is chained up, beaten, and raped multiple times while also witnessing the rape of a child.

I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Liars Key (The Red Queen’s War: Book Two), By: Mark Lawrence

I give this book five out of five stars for making me laugh from its beginning to end. Anyone who thinks grimdark fantasy has no room for humor will be proven wrong with this book. I never expected the second book in this series to be better than the first. I’m just blown away and astounded that it is, because Prince of Fools is one of my favorite reads from the past two years. I think die-hard fans of the Broken Empire series will appreciate the appearance and mention of some much loved characters.

What I loved about the book:
1) Mark Lawrence is a master at writing first person narratives. For me, reading his prose is like fine artists marveling over the brush strokes in a masterpiece painting. I’m in awe at the narratives construction, the distinct voice of each character, and the very visual action, all compiled into a perfectly synced tale. I’m so happy to know writing is now the author’s full time profession.

2) The plot kept me guessing, and it was fantastic. I assumed the story would follow a neater trail, and it was great to learn I was wrong. The magic played a different role than it has in previous books. It felt new by its very visual representation, layering current action to times and events opened by magic for Prince Jalan.

3) It has the epic fun I search for and crave when I pick up a fantasy novel. I want monsters, magic, interesting characters, battle scenes, friendship, conflict, learning something unexpected, and visiting a world that looks nothing like my backyard. I got all of that and more in this book including: robots, old gods, ghosts, angels, demons, and objects imbued with strange power. It reads odd to see all those things listed off and know some authors can’t handle more than three of these things in one manuscript. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.

I also wanted to mention how brilliant I think the author’s note at the start of the book is. More fantasy authors need to replicate this tidy summary to avoid annoying chapters of characters parroting the plot of the first book in the series. It would be great to have notes like these added to future novel audio versions as well; they were not included in my audible copy of this book.

You can find out more about the author Mark Lawrence and his other works on his website HERE. Indie authors should check out the ongoing self-published fantasy blog-off he started.

Book Review: Lightness, By: C.A. Higgins

I give this book two and a half stars but I am rounding it up to three. Fans of the “science” part of the sci-fi genre should enjoy this book. There’s cool stuff like black holes, asteroids getting farmed with a man made atmosphere, people growing up on the dark side of the moon, and lots of “rules of physics”. Crime fans or professionals in the fields of investigations, the military, and well anything to do with running a criminal interview or interrogation DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. I also have to believe anyone who’s studied human interpersonal behavior, or those who can’t tolerate complete lunatic decisions made by “best in their field” characters, will be dissatisfied with this book.

What I liked about the book:

1) The author has used her intense love and study of science to ground the futuristic ideas in real scientific theory. I had a love hate relationship with everything science all through school, so I don’t know/don’t care if the authors science is nonsense or real. It is one of the laurels marketing this book, and I did enjoy the science bits. It was cool to learn what the Anake’s super secret mission was, and I liked the idea of a black hole being inside the ship.

2) There are quite a few messages worked into this bit of fiction. The discussions about God and socialism were well presented. One of my favorite scenes is the back and forth between Althea and the Anake about God.

What I didn’t like about this book:

1) The author failed to do research about the less scientific things taking up at least fifty percent of the book. The interrogation of Ivan, and the military culture on board the Anake were poorly done. This book is a great example as to why writers need beta readers who are subject matter experts. It’s so sad to see a writer succeed at writing what she knows, but then fall flat on her face for not doing simple research into the occupations she’s not intimately familiar with. The interrogations were bad. Really-really bad. The awkward cobbled together military culture was even worse. As someone who has worked in both fields, it was insulting.

2) The plot is predictable. I think the biggest factor playing into this downfall is the number of one-dimensional characters. The only thing I didn’t correctly guess as each plot question presented, was the Anake’s super secret mission. Most of the plot can be determined by the books thirty five percent mark.

3) Call me a stickler for setting details, but there were several moments where I had a hard time believing this was set in the future. I was pulled out of the story every time a character shut off a manual alarm clock, or banged on a door. There is technology to house a black hole inside a spaceship, to run an entire craft on a crew of three, but bedside alarm clocks are still being used? Remote arms have replaced normal human functions, but characters are manually opening doors? My local Target store has auto doors, but the spaceship with a black hole in it doesn’t? That makes no sense to me.

I received an ARC of this book through Light in exchange for an honest review.