Thursday, December 31, 2020

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The purpose of this site is to Review self-published and small-press published books. If a book is reviewed here, you can expect the quality and content to be sufficient for human consumption (at least ours, your mileage might vary), or know the reason why not. We will post clearly in our review the general quality, the amount of violence, language, sexual and spiritual content.

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Review: A Coronation of Kings (A Kingdom Divided #1) by Samuel Stokes

A Coronation of Kings (A Kingdom Divided #1)

26819448
My Take:
The golden throne has stood vacant for a hundred years, but a power-mad baron will stop at nothing to take it.

Tristan Listar watches helplessly as his family is massacred and his home burned to the ground. The villains who performed this heinous act were soldiers of the Baron of Belnair. Bereft of family, home, and even country, Tristan must unite the most unlikely allies to prevent the murderous baron from ascending the throne.



Content:
Drug Content:
PG - One of the characters in this book is a drunkard. 

Violence:
PG-13 - There's a war going on in this book, so there's a great deal of fighting, especially in the latter half. A man is decapitated. A person is shoved through a window and falls to his death. A battalion of soldiers burns alive. A man with a sword buried in his chest manages to battle several opponents. A man is tortured and beaten nearly to death. A magic wielder destroys a ship full of pirates. Cannon and cutlass abound. But for the most part, the violence is not gratuitously graphic.

Language:
G - squeaky clean.

Adult Content:
G - There's some love interest between Tristan and the girl he likes, but the level of romance in this novel is what you would expect in a Disney movie.   

Christian content:
Nada. I'd place the belief structure in the book somewhere between the Norse mythology and that of the Greeks. The basic premise of this world is one in which the AllFather creates a race of demigods with incredible powers, which they abuse and are somewhat disenchanted. On the positive side, there is self sacrifice, honor, duty, depicted against villainy, deceit, and intrigue.

Final analysis:
I thoroughly enjoyed this fast-paced fantasy. Great world-building, exciting action, sterling characters vs. classic villains. A solid plot line leaving you satisfied yet wanting more. Stokes has painted a solid picture of good versus evil, and   Five Stars!

About the Author:
Many people love to read a great fantasy book. I love to live it! When I am not glued to my keyboard busily writing my next work, I can be found clad head to foot in armor, LARPing like a mad man. For those not familiar with the notion, LARP stands for Live Action Role Play where people get in costume and armor and fight over real-life battlefields. It's action packed and amazing, which is exactly how I like to write.

In my work, you will find yourself submerged in thrilling new fantasy worlds. Each coursing with conflict that transpires at an incredible pace. I draw on experiences from my life and time spent living in Australia, the U.S.A, and Japan to enrich the narrative of my books and provide you a taste of familiarity, as you plunge headlong into a scintillating new world. 

If you enjoy my work, and I very much hope you will. Please take the time to connect with me via Amazon, Facebook or my website (www.samuelcstokes.com). I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Review: A Window to Your Heart by Sean McKissack

A Window to Your Heart



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My Take:
Jason Dennereck has a serious problem. He can't seem to get past the word 'Hello' with the girl he wants to spend the rest of his life with. As chance after chance to push the relationship past that word pass him by, he begins to realize that she may slip away without even knowing how he feels. His best friend informs him that everyone, including the girl, is aware of his infatuation, so why can't he summon up the courage to just ask her out? But for Jason, that moment never can seem to come.

Enter Lydia, the strange, Goth girl who promises she can help him achieve those dreams, his own way, without any fear of rejection. At the same time, a new teen at school, named Gabe, tries to encourage him to do things God's way, and let the relationship grow organically.

As Gabe pulls out a flaming sword and opens a portal to show Jason his past, and Lydia brings him a tome she promises is a recording of his dream girl's entire life, and the easy way into a future with her, Jason begins to realize these two are not average students.

Jason is given the rare opportunity to choose the future he wants, or accept the future God gives him. If he chooses to do things his own way, he may gain everything he's ever dreamed of, but lose himself in the process.


Content:
Drug Content:
G - squeaky clean.

Violence:
PG - There is a fist fight at school. There is one scene, a dream, where a student is cut to pieces by flaming daggers.

Language:
G - squeaky clean.

Adult Content:
G - It's clean. Pre-teen angst is about as far as it goes.

Christian content:
Gabe is obviously a younger rendition of the Angel Gabriel, and his encouragement to have Jason follow the guidance of God is clear Christian content. Lydia is never truly described as the demoness she probably is. The book of Life is referred to. The importance of a life, of the destiny of an individual, temptation and character, longing and patience, are discussed and dealt with. The battling of Good and Evil is clear, and the spiritual forces are represented well. An event in the past concerning a church youth camp is visited.

No scripture is quoted, God is not given center stage, and church attendance is only present during a wedding. But that does not mean that Christian values or an eternal perspective are not here.

Final analysis:
Window to Your Heart explores the struggle most boys this age go through. I certainly went through it myself. The struggle to overcome the fear of rejection enough to tell a girl how you feel about her. The struggles Jason goes through, the trauma and drama of Junior High School is very real, painful, dimensional. Trips through time, alternate realities, life-altering decisions, all make for an exciting and spellbinding MG fantasy with some life lessons thrown in. Jason is likable, realistic, and has to go through a very real character arc to navigate the dangerous waters of Middle School.

I would love to have given this a five star rating, but I found some of the scenes, carried primarily by dialog, to be a bit confusing, and I got lost trying to follow who was saying what, and where they were, to the point where it pulled me out of the story for a bit. This was an excellent read, though. Fast action, a quick read, real characters, and a solid plot. Four Stars!
About the Author:
Sean McKissack's ability to view the world around him and find a story and truth enables him to prepare the stage in a reader's mind for a heart-felt life cinema. Inspired by God, music and his experiences, he captures teaching and growing moments commonly found during adolescence. His writings epitomize the good and the bad in life, the joys and the pain, culminating in the coming of age and wisdom.

Sean hails from Southaven, Mississippi and he's always thinking of new stories to write

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Review: Capering on Glass Bridges (Hawk of Stone #1) by Jessica Hernandez

Capering on Glass Bridges (Hawk of Stone #1)


26209793The Utdrendans have spoken, and everything has changed as a consequence. 
People normally avoid the fog surrounding the cursed Kingdom of Mar, but now they are asking sixteen-year-old Kaia Stone to venture into it. The Utdrendans implied that there is something special about Kaia. They claimed that she could help free the land; she need only carry out their instructions and deliver a message to the Marian king.
Mar, however, is a land in which dark secrets abound, and many will stop at nothing to ensure that it remains forever cursed. Determined to work against Kaia, unfriendly forces have already begun to gather.

Will Kaia choose to abandon the only life she’s ever known—perhaps indefinitely—in pursuit of the greater good…in pursuit of her purpose?



My Take:
Sixteen-year-old Kaia Stone feels like a misfit. In the land of Grey, where she lives, almost all citizens have a canonipoms, a small intelligent creature that bonds with them for life, and lives to serve and protect them. The two are linked telepathically from birth, and on a given day, the canonipom is called, and they meet to share the rest of their lives together.

When Kaia's canonipom was called, however, she no-showed. The bitter disappointment, the incompleteness, still festered in her. She felt useless and unimportant, rejected, really, until her family was called to Zavonia, to the city of the Makers, to discuss her role in freeing the captive and cursed Kingdom of Mar.

Mar was cursed over a decade previously by the Zavonians, when King Richard committed genocide against the Tivmicans. The curse took the form of an impenetrable barrier of fog. The people inside could not escape, and were left to deal with the... other... ramifications of the curse. The land was obscured by fog and darkness, but there were rumors. Of horrors lurking there. Of evil waiting.

The Zavonians, who have the ability to speak and create by that spoken word, intended the curse to be permanent and irrevocable. But the Utdrendans, who were the first people and creators, considered the punishment of Mar too harsh. And the curse was imperfect, ill-spoken and flawed. With the flaw, a chance for redemption offered itself for the people of Mar.

They could be freed, but a message had to be delivered to the Marian King, and only Kaia could deliver it. But would she, when there was no guarantee she could ever return?



Content:
Drug Content:
G - squeaky clean.

Violence:
PG-13 - The curse has some horrific transforming power, and some descriptions of it are a bit graphic. Monsters attack and rip people apart. Several murder attempts are made. There is a passage where children are quietly murdered.

Language:
G - squeaky clean.

Adult Content:
G - It's clean.   

Christian content:
While God is not mentioned at all in this book, nor is church or faith, the basic workings of the curse are that immorality transforms the immoral person. Liars receive a forked tongue. Murderers immediately transform into a creature of horror. Because of this, sin in its various forms is limited in its presence in the land of nightmare.

Self sacrifice, the greater good, loyalty and its lack, are major themes. Compassion and mercy are bold brush here. Risking all for the undeserving becomes an undercurrent as well.

Final analysis:
Capering on Glass Bridges was a gripping tale. The stakes were very high for Kaia, and the plot twists abounded. The settings were quite realistic, the flora and fauna captivating. The world-building here was astounding. This fast-paced adventure had me ripping through it, from the moment they embarked on the adventure to the very end. Well written, fast-paced, captivating! Five Stars!

About the Author:
Jessica HernandezHello, everyone! My name is Jessica. Pleasure to make your acquaintance. :) Allow me to share a bit about myself with you. I was born and raised in the beautiful, sunny state of Florida. I attended the University of Miami, where I spent more time than I care to admit daydreaming of a faraway land called Acu. Upon graduating with a degree in English and Political Science in 2014, I put pen to paper and brought Acu to life—so was born the Hawk of Stone duology. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Review: The Explorers of Serdame (The Alfred Arnold Saga Book 2) by Phoenix Williams

The Explorers of Serdame (The Alfred Arnold Saga Book 2)


33015521Alfred Arnold’s Great Adventure of No Direction Whatsoever has begun! With the company of Sir Procrastination and the curious Lavandra, Serdame’s first explorer sets out from Villedge to find the capital of the land. 

Explore some of the most fascinating landmarks in the world, such as rolling sand dunes, vibrant oases, and a mountain made entirely of wood. Face dangerous waterfalls, poisonous insects, and a total loss of direction. Follow the three adventures as they cross countless strange inhabitants in their journey north, from suicidal fish to the most peaceful man in Serdame. 

Join our hero and his companions in the second installment of Phoenix Williams’ Alfred Arnold Saga!

My Take:
Alfred Arnold seems to have overcome much of his debilitating OCD and panic attacks in this sequel, as his journey continues, now with the companions of Sir Procrastination and the resourceful Lavandra from the village of Villedge. They are off to find the Capitol, confident in their combined abilities. A ship awaits them on the coast to carry them across the ocean.

The Explorers of Serdame travel through amazing regions of Serdame: massive waterfalls, raging rivers, an endless ocean, an expansive moving desert, and a mountain constructed entirely of wood. Along the way they meet some of the oddest fauna of the land, like suicidal fish, a deadly beetle, and a fish that plays fetch with a stick.

After many delays and the death of someone close, their journey seems destined to leap off the tracks, and it seems there is no way they can reach the coast before their ship to the Capitol departs.



Content:
Drug Content:
PG - There is a scene where brigands ransack an important man's home and raid his stash of wine. An innkeeper witholds beer from barbarians, driving them to a frenzy.


Violence:
PG-13 - The brigands try to murder Alfred Arnold. There's a dark threat of serious violence to one of the villains.

Language:
G - squeaky clean.

Adult Content:
G - Squeaky clean.   

Christian content:
Nada. The main character seems to have a moral code but it is driven by pacifism and benevolence, not from any faith he exudes. Camaraderie, self sacrifice, and teamwork play an important role in this work, and the characters care deeply for one another, defending each other no matter the cost.

Final analysis:
Reading a book where the main character suffers from debilitating panic attacks makes for an interesting twist. The idea of him being in a world of his own creation has been done, and well, but it's not a tired theme, and makes for interesting stakes. I constantly wonder, as he is embedded in a map in a house that is on fire, whether the world will start to burn, or if he has truly been transported to another dimension, or just suffering a fainting spell while his home burns down around him (If you don't know what I'm talking about, this is covered in the first few chapters of the first book).

Unfortunately, none of these threads are touched in this sequel, and although Alfred's amnesia is showing some signs of abating, he remembers nothing of critical import.

Alfred Arnold's character has shown significant growth and he has become more real, more likable, but the best character development in this book seems to be granted to Lavandra. As a possible later love interest, she has dimension and promise. Sir Procrastination seems, if anything, more one dimensional than he was in the first novel, as he falls almost to the level of wooden comic relief. Still, he shows a bit of resourcefulness and nerve, especially when fighting the Brigands.

As before, the world building here is excellent, though obviously fantastical and unrealistic, and the character development is relatively engrossing. The plot didn't really hook me; while the characters seem bent on a visit to the Capitol, I did not get a good reason why. With that and some pacing issues, I found it difficult to stay invested in the story. Four Stars.

About the Author:
Phoenix  WardPhoenix Ward is the author of thought-provoking science fiction and dark thrillers. The inventive mind behind A Guardian Angel, Oneironaut, the Alfred Arnold Saga, and the Installed Intelligence series, Phoenix captures the bizarre eccentricities that make reading unique.

When he’s not writing foreboding tales of futures-to-be, Phoenix is an avid gamer. In fact, he is the owner and primary contributor for a video game blog called Ham Goblin Gaming.

Phoenix wears pajama pants under his jeans in the winter and has a ham tattooed on his chest. He draws inspiration from such science fiction legends as Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov. He currently resides in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Review: I'll Rescue You (I'll Rescue You, #1) by M.T. Thomas

I'll Rescue You (I'll Rescue You, #1)


33788900Even after 40 years, earth is ready; ready for another attempted invasion. Join our characters as they travel the world in order to save it. Experience growth and self-realization with Apollo as events open his eyes to see beyond what he had always thought was true. Does his home planet and species truly have the right to invade and acquire other worlds?

Half-sisters Belle and Teneille must find a way back to each other while facing alien forces and overwhelming obstacles. Enemies become friends and friends become enemies while star-crossed lovers rescue each other in this science-fiction fantasy.


My Take:
Earth suffered a ruthless and brutal invasion by a race of technologically advanced aliens, impervious to bullets, flames, and bombs. The aliens apparently communicated by telepathy, and considered earth to just be another easily harvested planet. After the leader of the incoming invasion was captured, however, the aliens broke off and retreated, uncertain of victory.

The aliens were considered completely devoid of compassion, mercy, even emotions at all. Concerned about a subsequent invasion, earth scientists managed to create a hybrid half human, half Olympian who had the impervious skin, night sight, long lifespan, and telepathic abilities of the invaders. When they came back, Belle would be able to detect their communications and alert the earth of their plans.

What she didn't expect, what none of them expected, was that she would be the next target. And that she would fall for the alien sent to destroy her.



Content:
Drug Content:
G - squeaky clean.

Violence:
PG - There is a decapitation, some indication of torture. One of the aliens' useful items is made from the skin of a conquered intelligent race. The aliens take some level of delight in torturing or lording it over subjugated civilizations. There are multiple bloody battles, an unarmed man is shot. A person is frozen to death. A man commits suicide by blowing his brains out. The violence is not excessively graphic.

Language:
PG - the D word is dropped a few times.

Adult Content:
PG - There is some angst but not much else. A buff soldier takes off his shirt and is admired by some of the women present.   

Christian content:
Belle's mother is a solid Christian with a strong faith. Providence plays an obvious part in this story. The alien sent to kill Belle, Apollo, is given a series of memories from Belle that causes him to question the cold and vicious methods of his race. To experience hope, love, joy. Self sacrifice, redemption, and hope are strong strokes in this hopeful post-apocalyptic painting. Racism is an undercurrent here.

Final analysis:
I'll Rescue You is an enjoyable read, with memorable characters and solid world-building. The action and pace are gripping, and the message of hope shared here is tangible. The common condemnation of the aliens out of hand is a bit cookie cutter in its depiction, but the tension and judgmentalism that comes with it is realistically sculpted. Five Stars!


About the Author:
M.T. ThomasHello! My name is Michelle Thomas, also known as “M.T. Thomas” and I am the author of the book “I’ll Rescue You” that you can find on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble as a paperback or on Kindle and Nook as an ebook.

I enjoy sunsets and long walks on the beach…just kidding! My true passions range from all forms of art, to church and family, and to science. I am a Medial Laboratory Scientist by day and an author by night. I have two daughters and a wonderful husband whom I’ve been with for 12 years.

I’ve always wanted to write. I had a couple poems published back in the day and planned out my novel years ago but never had a chance to write it down. 
I always thought, “I’ll write my book right after I graduate University! I just have to make it till then.” However, right after graduation, I started my new job and we began building our dream house. Again, there was no time. After our house was built and I became comfortably settled in my job, I became pregnant with our second daughter. It would be another 2 years before I felt I had another moment to breathe and actually think about my book. Now, here I am, 5 years post-graduation and I have finally written the story I came up with 10 years ago.

I hope everyone enjoys reading my books as much as I enjoy writing them.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Upcoming Reviews for April

The next few months may be quite busy months for me, with an implementation during my paying job. But I will still have some time to read here and there. Here's what is up and coming for April:

33788900I'll Rescue You (I'll Rescue You, #1)

Even after 40 years, earth is ready; ready for another attempted invasion. Join our characters as they travel the world in order to save it. Experience growth and self-realization with Apollo as events open his eyes to see beyond what he had always thought was true. Does his home planet and species truly have the right to invade and acquire other worlds?

Half-sisters Belle and Teneille must find a way back to each other while facing alien forces and overwhelming obstacles. Enemies become friends and friends become enemies while star-crossed lovers rescue each other in this science-fiction fantasy.

The Explorers of Serdame (The Alfred Arnold Saga Book 2)

33015521Alfred Arnold’s Great Adventure of No Direction Whatsoever has begun! With the company of Sir Procrastination and the curious Lavandra, Serdame’s first explorer sets out from Villedge to find the capital of the land.

Explore some of the most fascinating landmarks in the world, such as rolling sand dunes, vibrant oases, and a mountain made entirely of wood. Face dangerous waterfalls, poisonous insects, and a total loss of direction. Follow the three adventures as they cross countless strange inhabitants in their journey north, from suicidal fish to the most peaceful man in Serdame.

Join our hero and his companions in the second installment of Phoenix Williams’ Alfred Arnold Saga!
 


Capering on Glass Bridges (Hawk of Stone #1)

26209793The Utdrendans have spoken, and everything has changed as a consequence. People normally avoid the fog surrounding the cursed Kingdom of Mar, but now they are asking sixteen-year-old Kaia Stone to venture into it. The Utdrendans implied that there is something special about Kaia. They claimed that she could help free the land; she need only carry out their instructions and deliver a message to the Marian king.

Mar, however, is a land in which dark secrets abound, and many will stop at nothing to ensure that it remains forever cursed. Determined to work against Kaia, unfriendly forces have already begun to gather.

Will Kaia choose to abandon the only life she’s ever known—perhaps indefinitely—in pursuit of the greater good…in pursuit of her purpose?

A Coronation of Kings (A Kingdom Divided #1)

26819448