Book Review: Aching God

Aching God by Mike Shel

4/5 stars

I enjoyed this book overall. It follows the story of Auric Manteo, a retired explorer and fighter, who is called forward to help with returning an ancient relic back to the Djao temple where it originated. A plague has broken out, and it is thought the relic is the cause, a god dispensing retribution for the theft.

There were some really great elements to this story. First, the world-building was extraordinarily well done. You get a really good sense of the culture, the various religions, the history, the current political scene, and the machinations of court life. The whole setting of when Auric and Belech are bringing their quest to the Queen is fantastic.

The characters are really well developed, too, and memorable. I especially liked the insane characters: you get a real sense of the “wrongness” of the whole situation with the queen, and later with the count when he gives Auric the sword. Auric himself was pretty well done, too. I found him a bit boring, in a typical “always does the right thing” type of way. The only real thing that interested me was his PTSD. That aspect was phenomenal, but otherwise, I found him a bit one-dimensional. I liked him, but I didn’t LOVE him. The side characters is where the author seemed to really shine: each of them have something memorable, and each of them have something endearing yet complex.

The plot dragged, which is why this is a 4 instead of a 5 star for me. It seems pacing was sacrificed for the vast amounts of world-building. The last few chapters were so, so good, and I couldn’t put them down. But the middle, up until about 70% of the way through, there were times I had to force myself to keep going. The good thing is, the characters were so well done that I DID keep going.

All in all, if you are looking for a fantasy book with great worldbuilding, well-fleshed characters, and a killer of an ending, grab this on for sure.

Get it on Amazon or add to your Goodreads.

Book Review: Out of Darkness by E.B. Dawson

 

5/5 stars

This book was not what I was expecting. The cover made me think sci-fi, and while it technically is, it isn’t hard sci-fi like Hubert or Pierce. Once I got used to this, I really enjoyed the story. It’s centered around a girl named Logan, who in the course of three years, is recruited and trained as an assassin.

The series is called The Creation of Jack. Dawson takes you on a thrill ride, jumping timelines in Logan’s life and showing you who she is through each of these jumps. As Logan (before the recruitment), as Jack (as the assassin) and as Bailey (the recruit.) The book explores deep issues of identity, asking the question “Who am I?” While there aren’t necessarily hard-set answers to that question, she does a good job exploring the facets of who Logan is, what she is capable of, and the purpose for which Jack is created.

You get the sense of this being an exciting assassin tale, when it still is actually a sci-fi read. Like I said, it was a bit disorienting at first, but once I realized what was going on, I could follow along. A few issues: the dialogue. There aren’t many beats or tags, so it can be difficult to follow who is speaking when. I wouldn’t say I hate this style. I got over it because the story was that good. But definitely not my preference. I don’t mind working hard to understand a book, but I don’t like working hard just to figure out who is talking. This wasn’t a deterrent for me, but it almost was.

The timeline jumps are at first confusing, but once I realized she used different names for Logan to give you an idea of what timeline you were in, I think it was actually pretty genius. I haven’t read a book formatted quite like that before, and found it fresh and new.

Check it out on Amazon or add to your Goodreads.

Book Review: The Traveler by EB Dawson

The Traveler (Lost Empire Book 1)

4/5 stars

EB Dawson is a part of the Phoenix Fiction Writers, a marketing collective of speculative fiction authors of which I am also a part. PFW authors consistently put out quality work, and Dawson is no exception.

I’m not sure where to start with this review. There were so many fantastic elements to this book. For starters, I think it can all be summed up in one line: “This story isn’t about you.” One character says it to another, and the truth hit me hard. It’s so simple, yet so easy to forget. Each of our stories are so much bigger than we think, and the main character, Anissa, embarks on a journey to show just how true it is.

The descriptions in this book border on stunning. There were moments I felt like I was back in the mountains of Bolivia hiking to small villages with medical supplies strapped to my back. I’m not sure what the author had in mind when she wrote some of the mountain and village scenes, but that’s what it felt like. Rural, beautiful, big, and a reminder that it’s important to step outside our comfort zones.

The characters were in-depth and well fleshed out. I know some of them have side short stories, but even those characters still seemed to have motivations that were believable and real. One of Dawson’s strongest points in her writing is the ability to have characters with many sides. They aren’t one dimensional, a pet peeve of mine particularly reading indie authors. Dawson blows it out of the water. Carson is a good example: is he a good guy, a bad guy, or both? Does he want to do the right thing, or is he only interested in himself? Is he a narcissist, or does he have the ability to empathize? Bit by bit you see layers to him as the story unfolds.

One last thing, or I’ll go on forever. A lot of books have tackled traveling, whether it be time travel, jumping from one world to another, and so on. This book takes a trope that can often be overused and puts a unique edge to it. For me, it was the politics. Both worlds have clear-cut structure, and the interaction between those two structures was compelling. The theme of forced democracy, abuse of the planet, indoctrination of children, and other such “political” issues were delved into, in a way that I’ve never read before. There were times it was tackled head on, other times it was handled delicately. I feel that Dawson’s second strength, besides character development, is politics. This is evident in other books of hers, as well, but it really shines in this one.

The good far outshone the quirks in this novel. There were a few instances of head-hopping, but it wasn’t super distracting. There were a couple action scenes that were hard to follow because it was mostly dialogue, which was odd. But it didn’t take away from the author’s ability to completely submerge you into the worlds in this book. All in all, I can’t recommend it enough.

Grab it on Amazon or add to your Goodreads.

Book Review: Disintegration by JE Purrazzi

Disintegration (Malfunction Trilogy Book 2) by [Purrazzi, J.E.]

5/5 stars

JE Purrazzi is a part of the Phoenix Fiction Writers, a marketing collective of speculative fiction authors of which I am also a part. PFW authors consistently put out quality work, and Purrazzi is no exception. Her Malfunction Trilogy (the third book is in process) is one of my favorite dystopian series’ EVER. If you like Red Rising or Wool, you will really enjoy this series.

Disintegration is Part 2 of the series. All I can say is… WOW. What a fantastic follow up to book 1. Purrazzi does it again, and in every way, too. Unforgettable characters, fantastic action, twisting plots, and so much more. Cowl is rib-cracking hilarious, Bas just rips your heart to pieces, and Menrva… well, I’ll just let ya’all read the book. Do it. You won’t be disappointed.

Grab it on Amazon, or add to your Goodreads.

Book Review: Out of Nowhere

Out of Nowhere (The Immortal Vagabond Healer Book 1) by [LeClerc, Patrick]

3/5 stars

I can’t remember the last book I’ve read that’s left me with so many mixed opinions about it. That in itself is a good thing, I think. There is a lot to commend, so I’ll start with that. First, the writing is clever and the voice is unique. Sean was a mostly like-able, in an annoying yet funny type of way. He reminded me a lot of one of my brothers, actually. Witty, snarky, with enough eye-rolling humor to make me want to slap him in the back of his head while laughing. Second, it’s refreshing to read a story centered around the medical field by someone who actually knows what they are talking about. As a nurse, one of my pet peeves is an author not doing their research about this, and so it was nice that I didn’t have to that with this story. The jargon wasn’t forced, it was natural. So clearly the author was trained in the field. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book. Third, Sean felt like a real person, with conflicting motivations, emotional responses, and varied reactions to situations that were believable. I liked how, since he is supposed to me immortal, he seemed “set in his ways,” at times yet open to change at others. I suppose that’s why the seeming sexist comments and thoughts he had didn’t bother me like it seems to have bothered other readers. While his views on women leaned toward objectification at times, he didn’t go full throttle in that direction. He has this moment at the end of chapter 34 of self-reflection in this regard, and it was incredibly refreshing how the author handled it. Sean was honest with himself without having an unrealistic, total change of heart or mind. It was a step in the right direction, and much more real to life than other books I’ve read touching on this subject.

So why the three stars? Most of the reason is personal preference, I think. There were aspects of the story that drove me a bit crazy. Immortality is a fascinating concept to explore, but I feel like it was brushed over in favor of witty humor. Sean, although seeming like a real person, seemed to just accept certain things about himself that I feel the author could have delved deeper on. While the character was entertaining, he also came across as only skin deep. I enjoy a read that dives deep into issues instead of only brushing on them. Second, the plot itself left me mostly uncaring what happened. I wanted Sean and Sarah to win, of course, but I wasn’t invested in it, more like a half hearted “Oh yay, hope you guys succeed”, give a thumbs up, and then walk away. And honestly, at the climax I skimmed over it because it was leaving me unsatisfied. It seemed unrealistic to the point of boredom. This is all going to end based on a duel? Except it’s supposed to be modern day but this drug dealer is actually bound by family honor going back centuries? The author tried to address it by commenting that Americans tend to not understand this. Meh. Maybe, but it still fell flat. And since the duel itself was so short, I feel like the author threw a in that last bit about Pete almost dying almost as a bone for the reader. Hurried, here I’ll add this to extend the climax a little bit, type of thing.

All this to say, I enjoyed it enough to finish. And I’m sure lots and lots of people will love it. While I can see why this was entered into SPFBO, I also don’t think it quite fit the criteria. It came across as more thriller than fantasy.

3/5 stars, and kudos to the author. Entertaining, for sure.

Grab it on Amazon or add to your Goodreads.

Book Review: Skies of Dripping Gold by Hannah Heath

Skies of Dripping Gold by [Heath, Hannah]

5/5 stars

Hannah Heath is a part of the Phoenix Fiction Writers, a marketing collective of speculative fiction authors of which I am also a part. PFW authors consistently put out quality work, and Heath is no exception. Everything she puts out is pure gold (see what I did there?) She is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

Skies of Dripping Gold is my absolute favorite short story I’ve ever read. Heath manages to create a grand, epic scope of a world in just one short story.

Skies of Dripping Gold is a beautiful, haunting story. I read a lot, yet it is rare to find something that really touches you, in your heart and soul. But this story did. The sibling relationship between Gabriel and Lilly was unique. The concept of faith was illustrated in a way I’ve never read before. The themes of pain, suffering, special needs, and love were powerful. There is really no reason why this story shouldn’t be read widely. I loved it.

Go grab this one now for only 99 cents. Or add it to your Goodreads TBR. It’s a steal. Trust me on this one.

Book Review: Never Die

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4.5/5 stars

When I first started the book, I knew I would love it. It starts with a good hook, and then doesn’t disappoint as it delivers chapter after chapter.

In fact, it exceeded my expectations. You know it’s good when throughout the day you find yourself preoccupied with when you can get your tasks done and go finish reading. When I finished, I couldn’t decide whether it was a 4 star are 5 star for me. I finally landed in the middle.

First, the characters were incredibly unique. You’re first introduced to Cho, also called Whispering Blade. There isn’t much backstory given until later in the book, but it only adds to the character’s mysteriousness. Part of the character arc, if you will, is the fact that she takes her oaths incredibly seriously, and endears herself in that way. Then, Ein is introduced. I have a huge soft spot for creepy children characters (weird, I know), and employed one in my own book series. So maybe I’m biased. Either way, Ein has all the right elements: a mysterious power, an unknown backstory, a strange mission, and yet is likeable.

More characters join into a motley crew of strange heroes who are subject to Ein and his mission. Each one of them is unique, to the point it borders on genius. You never confuse who is who, even though they each have two, if not three, names. But the POV is so well written you don’t get confused about whose viewpoint you’re in (although, one critique… it was a more distant POV so sometimes you were into the POV by a few paragraphs before you knew what perspective you were reading from). Although, this isn’t unusual for fantasy. All in all, it’s the characters who really drive the book. My personal favorite was Iron Gut Chen.

The plot was pretty ingenious, but I don’t want to go into too many details so I don’t spoil it. My only minor complaint, and one reason for 4.5 instead of 5 stars, was the endings predictability. The entire book was so well written, though, that is was nearly impossible not to guess what was going on. This is generally the opposite for why I find books to be predictable: bad writing leading to too obvious conclusions for the ending. However, Never Die is so incredibly well done that you can see where it’s going, and the excitement builds, and bam! The delivery comes and you’re left breathless.

I could go on and on. Honestly, this is my favorite book of 2019 so far. One tiny complaint: it needed one more proofread before publication. There were a few punctuation errors per chapter, and a few tense changes mid sentence scattered throughout the book. But it no way detracted from the overall feeling of quality work you get as you read.

All in all, a massively well done story. If you are a fan of fantasy reads, add this one as “next to read” on your TBR piles!