Sunday, December 31, 2017

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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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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: Agrathias by Conor Nicholl

Agrathias

31365562900 years ago, Dogane fell at the hands of Ubinion and Ramas. That day, the people rejoiced to the heavens, which had finally removed its dark veil and given them the warmth they had deserved for so long. Since then, nearly everyone had forgotten Dogane's power that almost tore Agrathias apart. 
But Ubinion and Ramas had always warned of the corruption they were never able to completely rid of the world of. A corruption that now allows one sorcerer the chance to rule Agrathias...forever...

My Take:

Dogane, a wicked sorcerer who wielded lightning, and held the world enslaved in fear and darkness for 1200 years, was dead. Dead at the hands of Ramas and Ubinion, two sorcerers who wielded fire and ice.
The world enjoyed centuries of peace, but there was a warning, left by the two sorcerers, that Dogane was only defeated, not destroyed, and would someday return. Because of this, they would return as well, to defeat him again, hopefully for good this time.

Arone had heard the stories, of Dogane, Ubinion, and Ramas. The dusty stuff of legend, buried under centuries of peace. But as armies of Arcams wiped out the town he lived in, and he escaped alone, he discovered the ability to wield fire buried within him, released by tragedy and fury. And he began to suspect that he was the returning Ramas, destined to face Dogane again, and defeat him once and for all... or die trying.

This debut book by Conor Nicholl is an action-packed, high-stakes sword and sorcery romp through a medieval country that has paid dearly for a millennium under the cruel dictatorship of the insane wizard Dogane. Filled with adventure, violence, camaraderie, as well as betrayal and rebellion, I looked forward to diving between the covers and escaping into a world of fantasy.

Plot twists, talking griffons, monsters, ghosts, wizards, sword-fighting, and alternate dimensions. What a ride!


Content:

Drug Content:
G - Though I believe alcohol might have existed in a tavern somewhere in one scene, there was really no mention of it 

Violence:
PG-13 - This is a war-torn, overrun epic fantasy novel replete with swords, archery, and monsters that want nothing more than to run you through, and wizards that burn, shock, or vaporize you. It's filled with anime-style action and a ton of violence. It's not deeply graphic but it's borderline R.

Language:
PG - I don't recall any swear words at all.

Adult Content:
G - Squeaky clean. 

Christian content:
Nothing. There's discussion at some points of reincarnation, and the afterlife actually has a place where spirits return on earth, similar somewhat to Purgatory, and even named similarly. There is a massive temple with gargantuan statues in it, and an altar, but if deities are discussed I breezed over it. It had some serious moral lessons about honesty, faithfulness, forgiveness, redemption, and remorse. Characters turned over a new leaf, went from bad to good, and some went from good to bad. Self-sacrifice and substitutionary death play a major role in this book.

Final analysis:
This was an epic story, covering a period of several months and two worlds. The world-building was immersive, though the characters seemed a bit two dimensional. For a debut novel this was an extremely well-constructed adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed the action, and the plot was wonderful. As I understand it, I was reading an earlier copy, and a professional edit was done, so I won't give it a ding on quality.

Fast-paced, immersive, high-stakes, an enjoyable read. I look forward to seeing what Conor puts out next. Five Stars!

About the Author:

An image posted by the author.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Review: Sweet Secrets by Stephanie L. Weippert

Sweet Secrets

29778220
My Take:
Michael is an independent-thinking seven-year-old who has a talent for cooking with his stepdad Brad. When Brad is asked to watch his new stepson, he doesn't realize just how much trouble the boy could get into when left alone for just one minute.

The postman misdelivers a box of candy to their house, and while Brad is digging up the number to their mysterious new neighbor, to whom the package is actually addressed, Michael opens the package and digs out one of the candy bars.

When Brad comes back into the kitchen he sees Michael taking a bite out of a candy bar, and disappearing right before his eyes. When he confronts the neighbor, he learns that the candy are actually teleporting treats that send the person eating them to the stranger's home in another dimension, one where chefs are magicians and create incredible spells with their culinary masterpieces.

What's worse, Michael had to have talent to activate the treats, and is now in danger of being snatched up in the other dimension as a master magician. To top it all off, Michael has to be returned before Mom gets home, or Brad will have to answer for it... and the truth is an answer that no one would believe.


Content:

Drug Content:
PG - Several scenes in this book include drinking with a meal, none to excess.

Violence:
G - While there are certain veiled threats and some underlying unexplained fear in the top-notch school Michael finds himself in, the prodigy is fairly well treated. And while some bullying is present, it's quickly squashed by a ring of protecting friends.

Language:
PG - I don't recall any swear words at all. I think the stepdad uses the D-word a few times.

Adult Content:
G - Squeaky clean. 

Christian content:
Nothing. From a moral standpoint, certain subjects are broached in discussions, like faithfulness, family, and obedience. Pretty clearly depicted are the dangerous consequences of disobedience to parents, and the lengths that a parent, even a step-parent, will go to retrieve a lost child.

Final analysis:
It was an interesting and fun concept, sweets and foods making magic happen. The settings in the book were fun, and fairly well fleshed out. Michael and some of his friends were three dimensional, and Brad had some character shown, though a lot of it was desperation and anger over the frustrating situation he was placed in. I didn't find much deep content to recommend it from a teaching perspective, but it was fairly realistic in setting and action, and it was an interesting adventure, to say the least. Five Stars!

About the Author:
I write because I must. My writing addiction started with a slug.

Okay, I'll explain...

A Local convention held a contest for short stories involving a slug, and I entered just for fun, and found it hard to stop once I started. (Take note kids. This could be YOU!) 

I started with stories from the POV of wizard's familiars and even finished two 60,000+ books about them, but found that as I wrote more to build my skills, I wrote about lots of stuff from love stories to dystopias, including magic and space invasions. Fortunately for my sanity, not all in the same tale. lol

My muse is still an intelligent, ok very intelligent (you can retract claws now-thank you), cat. 

And if you're not scared away yet, I may be reached at my writing e-mail stephanie.weippert@gmail.com.:D

Friday, June 9, 2017

Zombie World Domination (The Destruction Begins) by L.D. King

Zombie World Domination (The Destruction Begins)
by L.D. King

30755697In 2036 the zombie outbreak exploded throughout the world. Hundreds of thousands of people were being killed daily around the world. Nothing man did could stop the zombies. The zombies moved forward like a conquering army.

For nearly a year, the world as they knew it, had ground to a stop. Every utility, communication and transportation that had existed was gone. They had been replaced with surviving from one day to next.

During that same year the number of zombies had grown. They had been able to kill hundreds of millions or even several billion people worldwide. There was no way to keep an accurate count of the killed and missing. Adding to the zombie killings bandits were killing other survivors for their meager supplies.

The Destruction Begins follows groups of people as they fight to survive the zombie outbreak. They fight for their lives. They fight just to survive. A year of fighting nothing mankind did stopped the zombies. The human race was doomed.

After a year of the killings there was still no relief in sight. If the zombies could not be stopped, and stopped quickly, the human race on the planet Earth would cease to exist.

My Take:
When a group of teens head to New York City for a last getaway adventure before heading off to college, they have no idea they are going to be meeting up with zombies in an abandoned subway they were using as a shortcut. I mean, zombies don't exist, do they?

From that brief encounter in NYC, to a simultaneous encounter in Australia, and similar occurrences at the same time around the globe, zombies have suddenly appeared out of nowhere. And they seem to be on a mission to kill every human still alive. Join us or die. Or rather, die and join us.

The zombies appear to be horrifically mutated and rotting versions of their former selves, lumbering deceptively quickly around ripping people to shreds in a bloodbath of mayhem and death worldwide. There doesn't seem to be any way to stop them. Baseball bats, clubs, and bullets don't even seem to faze them. I mean, how do you stop somebody that's already dead?

From Egypt to Russia, Australia to NYC, they are everywhere at once and taking people down. Is this the last gasp of the human race?


Content:

Drug Content:
PG - There seems to be very little in the way of drinking in the novel. That is, there are a few wild parties, and a couple people get out of control, but overall the booze is not present through much of the story. 

Violence:
R+ - Zombies are on a rampage, and from the opening paragraphs where people are ripped to shreds, disemboweled and left to die in their own entrails, it's incredibly graphic. If blood, guts, and stench are an issue for you, this is a good one to give a pass on. If it's your thing, you'll be gratified to know that there's a lot of it.

Language:
R - The F-bomb is quite common in this book, milder expletives occur but are not even as common. The language is adult, not teen.

Adult Content:
PG - As gruesome as the violence is, I would have expected a significant amount of adult content, but this book is fairly clean in the regards to sex. In passing some mention is made to characters pairing up but for the most part the sex lives of the characters are completely off set. 

Christian content:
Ah, pretty much nada. In fact, the only characters that seem to mention their deity are the Muslims. Not sure how much of that is simple conversation, because prayer rugs or praying towards Mecca wasn't in existence. I don't think Christ came up even as a swear word.

Final analysis:
I'm really not big on horror, though I am not turned off by it. And I rarely give a book low marks just based on the genre, and I won't here either. But while the story line was rather exciting, the shocking level of the gore was almost desensitizing, as common as it was, and many people simply stood there in shock waiting to be the next shredded victim. It took an amazing amount of distance in the book to pass major reveals in the plot, and many of the characters you might get involved in, partially because of their significant backstory, simply ran into a group of zombies and died.

The characters were relatively three-dimensional, though their struggles before the outbreak seemed superficial, vain, and self-indulgent. Some of them were likeable, honorable even. But some just reminded me of the boys in Lord of the Flies; left without restraint, they just went bad. The plot is interesting enough, and the post-apocalyptic backdrop is pretty well described. It's immersive, but the pacing just dragged horribly, and there were far too many characters to follow, all over the world. The author was obviously trying to give a feel for the global nature of the zombie apocalypse, but there was far too much text for the plot, and too much author intrusion into the story line, for me to enjoy the adventure. Three Stars.

About the Author:
L.D. KingI have been a resident of Las Vegas for over 46 years. I grew up on a working a cattle ranch near Silverton Oregon. In Silverton High School I was a starting lineman for the school’s football team. During my last two years I became a bull rider with the rodeo. In the late 1960’s I proudly served my country in the U.S. Army. 

After my time in the Army was over I moved to Las Vegas for my health. Oregon was just too wet me. My first job in Las Vegas I programmed slot machines for casinos on the famous Las Vegas Strip. In my spare time I started to perform as a standup comedian in the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. As my fame as a comedian grew so did my bookings.

I am an outgoing person. I quickly grew tired of the cubicle. I left my day job of programming slot machines. I started a small construction company building and remodeling homes in Las Vegas. After many years of being a contractor my injuries, the desert heat and I was getting a little long in the tooth. I sold my construction company. 

Owning a construction company I was still able to perform as a standup comic. Following the sale of my construction company I took a booking on a cruise ship plying the waters of the Mexican Riviera. Years of late nights and smoky rooms I left comedy for good.

Following comedy I became a residential real estate agent. For the next 25 years of my life I sold homes in Las Vegas.

25 years of being a real estate agent I have recently retired to pursue my writing full time.

Throughout my career as a slot programmer, comedian, contractor and real estate agent I held a private pilot’s license. With a number of relationships with casino host’s in a number of casinos. I offered a unique service to the casino host’s. I would fly their high-rollers or whales to one of the many legal bordellos in Nevada. I did this for many years. As my age crept up on me my injuries that I received as a professional bull riding grounded my career as a pimp. I could still fly, just not with paying customers.

What I am most proud of is being married to my wonderful bride. Our marriage brought 6 children together into a blended family. My hobbies are cooking and building hot rods.

Today, I am a proud husband, father and grandfather to my blended family with 6 children and 4 grandchildren.

Drawing from my various careers I is able to add a unique twist to my novels as I brings them to life.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

For the Joy Set Before Us: Insights Into the Missionary Journey by Erica Fye, Erica Mbasan

For the Joy Set Before Us: Insights Into the Missionary Journey
by Erica Fye, Erica Mbasan

30207235What does it take to leave behind everything you know, all the comforts of home, to travel into the unknown to answer the call? For the Joy Set Before Us invites you into the depths of the mission field, offering insights into the life God may have in store for you. Whether you are called to serve overseas or to serve right where you are, this book is for you.


My Take:
The call to Missions can be a daunting and frightening concept to many Christians in our comfortable air-conditioned living rooms. Those of us who are considering whether we are called to short-term or long-term missions work would be well-advised to pick up a copy of this book. In it, Erica Mbasan clearly illuminates many of the mysteries and covers some of the misconceptions and fears surrounding the surrender to the mission field.

With riveting true stories of salvation and the miraculous work of God in the war-torn country of Uganda, this book equips the new missionary with an understanding of what to expect both at home and abroad during their life as a missionary, including such topics as mission board requirements for service, spiritual warfare, loss of friends, disillusionment, pride and its consequences, wolves in sheep clothing, the loneliness and isolation. It encourages camaraderie with other Christian missionaries to bolster and encourage you in the faith, how to stay immersed in the Word and prayer, how to get out of your comfort zone. How to deal with the culture shock both when immersing into the field, and when returning home for short visits to the home church or family.

There is much more meat in this book for the aspiring missionary, I'd label it a must-read if you are considering service in the mission field, or if you simply want to understand the decision your friends have made in going to the mission field, the struggles and opposition they will face, and how you as a fellow believer and friend should support them.


Content:

Drug Content:
PG - There is some mention of rampant homemade alcohol, alcoholism and its devastating consequences. 

Violence:
PG - A few scenes in this book cover some very violent true events, including one where a fellow missionary is tied up, stabbed multiple times, and left for dead. The ravages of war and its impact on the people of Uganda is covered, though not in graphic detail.

Language:
G - No language issues.

Adult Content:
PG - There is some discussion of the widespread AIDS epidemic and wanton rape. Missionaries are warned that the missionary is not immune to the violence, rape, and even threat of robbery or death. No adult events are described, that I remember, however.

Christian content:
It's full of meat and brimming with scripture and encouragement, as well as admonishment and biblical warnings. I would say that if you read this, you cannot come away without a clear understanding of the reality of spiritual darkness outside our comfy borders, or the crying need for workers in the field.

Final analysis:
Oh, wow. My heart goes out to those on the mission field. It's both harder than I ever dreamed, and more rewarding than this armchair quarterback could ever imagine. This book is well-written, clearly equipping missionaries for the field, from a spiritual readiness standpoint. Five Stars!

About the Author:
Erica MbasanErica was born and raised in New York State. She developed a passion for writing at a young age, and also a desire to help those in need. In 2006, Erica went to Kitgum, Uganda for the first time. She fell in love. After that, her life has revolved around doing missions work, writing, and traveling. She is the founder of Africa for God NGO in Uganda. She works with orphans, widows and others who were negatively effected by a 20 year war. She works with a wonderful team of people doing Biblical discipleship, literacy training, and outreaches. Her passion for writing has never dwindled, and in late 2014 Erica published her first book. She also maintains a personal blog, ministry blog, and writes a quarterly newsletter for the missions organization.

In August 2015, she was blessed to marry an amazing man, Robert (Robb). Robb and Erica live together in Kitgum, sharing the Good News and reaching out to the most vulnerable people.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Unlikely Adventures of Race & Cookie McCloud: Volume 1 by Tom Hoefner

The Unlikely Adventures of Race & Cookie McCloud: Volume 1
by Tom Hoefner
Illustrated by  Kevin Gillespie

28095142
A superhero with anger management issues! A living stone idol with a love for pop-culture trivia! Fist-pumping vampires! These are but a few of the nefarious (and ridiculous) challenges facing awful private investigator Race McCloud and his teenaged niece, all-star spy-in-training Cookie McCloud, as they scour the globe in search of their missing secret agent family. Stuck together by Cookie’s parents under the pretense of ‘babysitting’ (who is sitting for whom is left largely unclarified), the pair find themselves the target of special forces who are out to capture Cookie and KILL RACE! With nowhere left to turn, they seek the aid of Green Suit Jacket Man, the night-stalking vigilante that Race has been hunting for six months and that Cookie finds in one night. With the hero’s reluctant support, the dysfunctional duo are off! To find Cookie’s parents, spies of a Bond-ian sort! To find Margolis McCloud, a tomb-raiding treasure hunter! To find Nyte McCloud, a monster slayer and practitioner of badassery! Through it all, our two heroes must figure out why the military is so hellbent on capturing Cookie, how to act like partners and, most of all, how to be a family.


My Take:
If you like adventure stories with nonstop action, werewolves, vampires, zombies, mafia, superpowers, gadgetry, lost civilizations, mummy curses, and ninja skills, this one's for you.

When Race McCloud, private eye, agrees to babysit his sixteen-year-old niece Cookie, he knows it's not going to be an easy task - after all, she's in training to be a super-spy like her parents, and all of her extended family as well. And the clandestine way her parents dropped her off, with strict instructions not to take her back to 'school', make it clear that somebody's coming to get her, and probably kill Race in the bargain. Without the protection of her spy extended family, I might add... all of whom seem to excel at something exciting and deadly.

The only, well, reasonably 'normal' one in the family is Race, a never-even-has-been with a penchant for collecting useless bits of trivia on comic books and video games, who lives in a hovel rent-free as the janitor. Yeah, THAT guy.

With the help of the mysterious hero Green Suited Jacket Man, who Race has been hunting for six months, and who Cookie finds in one night, they attempt to stay at least one step ahead of their pursuers as they attempt to reassemble their over-powered family and save the world.


Content:

Drug Content:
PG - Several scenes in this book occur in a nightclub where there is some drinking.

Violence:
PG - Like in any YA Spy novel, there's quite a bit, but not gratuitous or explicit in its description. Bones are snapped, jaws are broken, some thugs get killed. Lots of high-velocity chases and some explosions occur. A lot of violence is done to a werewolf and a bar full of vampires.

Language:
PG - I don't recall any swear words at all, except perhaps the D-word tossed in a couple times, but nothing that I took note of.

Adult Content:
PG - I would have kept this at G, but there are a few innuendos tossed around and some mention of a gay vampire, and a few scantily clad succubusses. There's also some discourse about the objectifying of women and a brief discussion about the physical discomforts of females battling without proper attire.

Christian content:
Apart from some mention of holy water and silver crosses, and a slight nod to a side character who if I remember correctly is a priest, there's no mention of scripture or prayer anywhere. The characters depend solely on their own admittedly adequate power to overcome significant obstacles. There's no real discourse on life after death or a higher power.

However, Race tries very hard to be a protector for his niece, and in his bumbling way is clearly depicted as better than the rest of his amazing family. Cookie begins the novel with nothing but contempt for him but in the end realizes his true value and character. Issues like character, diligence, family, self-sacrifice, and consequences, are pretty well depicted here, in a manner that, after the laughter dies down, will make you think.

Final analysis:
Race and Cookie make an unlikely 'odd couple' but the combination works wonders not only for the plot but the flow. Their interactions are priceless, and Race plays the part of comedy relief well. The author transitions him smoothly into the part of a real three-dimensional hero. Pace, setting, world-building, action, dialog - it's a solid, complete package of fun as a fast-paced laugh-a-minute getaway.
The book was well-edited and kept my attention pretty much cover to cover. Five Stars!

About the Author:
Tom Hoefner is a writer, director, and teacher (not necessarily in that order) who lives in Brooklyn with his wife Jaime, his daughters Gabby and Audrey, and their cat Zelda. In his spare time he stages college and high school musicals, plays too much Nintendo, and roots for the Mets.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Six Months to a Year by E.P. Grace

Six Months to a Year
by E.P. Grace
29491334
Scottslynn Steele and Martin Drake happened into each other’s lives out of the blue and fell in love just as quickly. It was love at first sight – perfect chemistry. Most would call it fate. Scottslynn calls it God’s Will. But then the unthinkable happens. A latent disease becomes terminal. It cannot be stopped - neither can her reason for living. In what will become her darkest hours Scottslynn must learn to accept God's Will no matter what it brings, and find the courage to face a future that suddenly leaves her with only Six Months to a Year.

My Take:
When Scottslynn Steele accidentally cuts her foot on barnacles in the ocean, her blase lack of treatment of it causes a serious infection. A newfound acquaintance, Dr. Martin Drake, suggests she get it treated at his office. It doesn't take long for chemistry to take effect, and the two fall in love. Both are strong Christians with a solid faith, and Scottslynn is sure their future together is God's sovereign will.

But just when her future seems brightest, a latent lung disease she has carried since birth becomes terminal, and Martin must give Scottslynn the tragic news that her time left is only... six months to a year.



Content:

Drug Content:
PG - There is a some slight discussion of drinking, but the main characters do not drink.

Violence:
G-The most violent thing that happens in this book is a debilitating disease that slowly suffocates the main character. Much of the suffering in that decline is glossed over, so there's only a light dwelling on the serious physical aspects of the disease..

Language:
G - I don't recall running across a single swear word in the novel.

Adult Content:
G - There is one short discussion about one of the ladies in the church suspecting the main characters in the novel of having an affair. This is squeaky clean.

Christian content:
There is a tremendous amount of meat in here, of the struggle for faith in doubtful circumstances, or crying out to God for an explanation, of being angry with Him. Some emotions are very raw. Good Christian advice is shared between good friends, and the characters must come to grips with the brevity of life. Heaven is portrayed clearly in a positive light. Scripture is quoted only a few times in this book, and it does not come across as preachy but open and honest.

Final analysis:
I normally don't like to dive into a book that is filled with the promise of impending death and suffering, and usually expect I will have to crawl through it kicking and screaming to the tragic bitter end.

But what i found instead in between the covers of this 270pp novel is a chronicle of faith and doubt, love and loss, and ultimately acceptance and triumph over one of our darkest foes, Death. The characters and struggle were believable and the setting was immersive. The pace was good and the conflict was real. Five Stars!


About the Author:

E.P. Grace
Hello everyone, I'm E.P. Grace, author of Six Months to a Year. 

I've read a lot of books over the years. Lots and lots. And I've figured out that my favorite types of stories are usually kind of sad. They're the ones that stay with me, the kind that make me think about the plot and characters after I've finished the book and ultimately make me go back and say hello again a year or two later.

I have a little stack of those books that I keep in my bedroom. They aren't all best sellers and they aren't ALL bittersweet or sad (I have some happy favorites too!) Some were given as gifts and some are library discards by obscure authors. Their social status isn't important to me. What's important is that they leave me wanting more when I reach the end. As a reader and as a writer, I think that's the best place to stop. 

My hope - my goal really - is that you as readers will think about the characters in Six Months to a Year even after you've reached the end. Because if you do, if you can put yourself in one of the character's shoes and emote with them and think about them when you're away from the pages then I'll know I've succeeded as an author and that'll make me really happy.

So. All of that said, I'd love your feedback! if you liked Six Months to a Year please let me and others know by leaving a comment and a rating here on Amazon and over on my Facebook page, facebook.com/epgrace.author