Book Review: Immurement

review-cover-immurementTitle: Immurement [The Undergrounders 1]

Author: Norma Hinkens

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description / Synopsis:

The earth’s core overheats. The sovereign leader vanishes. A young girl is the survivors’ only hope …
What little land is habitable is patrolled by cutthroat gangs of escaped subversives, but that’s not the greatest threat facing sixteen-year-old Derry Connelly, her brother Owen, and a ragged band of Preppers holed up in a bunker in the Sawtooth Mountains. Mysterious hoverships operated by clones are targeting adolescents for extraction.

Owen, is one of the first to disappear. To save him, Derry must strike a deal with the murderous subversives, and risk a daring raid to infiltrate the heart of the extraction operation.

But will the rookie leader falter when forced to choose between her brother and a clone who ignites something inside her she didn’t know was possible?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

There’s so much that I want to say about Immurement by Norma Hinkens that it’s been hard for me to take it all and bundle it up into an organized review. On one hand, the book had a lot of problems—some of them big problems—but on the other hand, it was a very solid read, and depending on how much certain aspects of the plot bother you, this may be a fantastic read, or a very “meh” one for you.

Technically speaking, the book was well written. There were maybe two typos in the whole book (missing words in sentences mostly), but nothing so big as to make me pause for more than a second. It was still easy to understand the narrative and what was happening, even with the errors. The narrative itself was well paced, the sentences flowing easily, and I liked the main character. She was interesting and placed in a very stressful situation that had me wanting to read more to find out how she was going to handle everything the author threw at her. The book was action-packed and kept me reading straight through in just a handful of hours.

But there were some pretty serious problems with the book as well. This was by no means a new plot. I saw bits and pieces of plot ideas thrown in from an array of dystopians I’ve read before—and I’m not saying that’s necessarily bad. I love dystopians, and there are very few original ideas out there anymore…but by the same token, I wish there had been more to this particular book that had made it stand out as something new to the genre. I won’t point out other series or authors, but I can say that the plot of this book was extremely similar to another dystopian series I’ve read, just minus a space-related central theme. The familiarity made me sit back and go “oh. okay.” rather than “wow! what’s going to happen next?”

One minor problem for me was the lukewarm romance sub-plot between Sven, Jakob, and Derry. There was no sexual or romantic tension in this love triangle, and although the author kept reassuring the reader that Derry had feelings and chemistry with Sven and Jakob… I wasn’t feeling it. It just didn’t seem genuine.

Another minor problem was the obvious casting of the dog, Tucker, as a plot device. I know, I know. It’s a dog! So cute! But it seemed like he knew an extraordinarily absurd amount of commands and hand signals for a dog that belonged to a pair of teenage suburbanites. When Derry got lost, the dog jumped in and showed her the way. When Derry couldn’t decide if someone was good or bad, the dog would give his opinion. Other than chime in to keep the plot moving by solving complications for Derry, the dog didn’t seem to exist for any other reason.

To be honest, some parts of the book left me with a rather “meh” feeling, but when it came down to it, I still liked it. Maybe it wasn’t as exciting or innovative as I’d hoped, but it was interesting, at parts, engaging, and I’m glad I read it. I’m interested in continuing with the series and seeing how the second book unfolds. Right now I can’t imagine this dragging on for a third book, but maybe the author will surprise me. If you’re looking for a decent dystopian read to while away an afternoon, I recommend you give this a try.

Book Review: Ideas & Inspiration for Fantasy & Science Fiction Writers

review-cover-ideas and inspirationsTitle: Ideas and Inspiration for Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers

Author: James Hutchings

Genre: Non-Fiction, Inspiration, Writing

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

If you want to spark new ideas for worlds, plots or characters, you want Ideas and Inspiration for Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers. Medicinal corpses, the jargons of thieves and carnies, Nazi UFOs, the colonization of space and green children from nowhere are only a few of the topics covered. This sourcebook is for all writers of fantasy or science fiction–whether novels, short stories, games, or any other form of storytelling.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

No. Just no. This book was a DNF for me after the very first page—though to be fair, I did read through 68% of the book before I settled down on a solid DNF rating. Rather than Ideas and Inspirations for Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers, this book would have been better-titled Facts and Folklore, because that’s basically what this book was.

I was perhaps mistakenly under the impression that this book would be filled with inspirational writing advice, writing prompts, writing advice, or at the very least, a list of Science Fiction and Fantasy ideas… but that isn’t what I got. The book was basically a list of random facts and bits and pieces of folklore. gathered en-masse and regurgitated. There was no sense of the author’s individual voice, nor introduction to the various bits of information. It felt as if the author had spent some time roaming around Wikipedia researching and then copy and pasted that research into this book as–is, and called it done. As a writing resource for authors looking for some kind of inspiration for writing… it’s rather subpar.

At one point, I skimmed past a 20-page essay of sorts on a historical event. I was half convinced that this book was a scam at first, but I think it was honestly just poorly put together. I can’t in good conscience recommend any aspiring authors out there pick this up as a source of inspiration. It isn’t going to be helpful to you.

Book Review: Whatever It Takes

review-cover-whatever it takesTitle: Whatever It Takes [Nothing But Trouble 1]

Author: Lindsey Pogue

Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Four years ago, I thought my life was pretty normal for a teenager. Three years ago, my world was shattered, and now I’m just trying to hold the pieces together.But regret and anger aren’t so easy to ignore.

I just need to catch my breath … For it all to go away …

I thought I might finally be ready to move on from that horrible night, but then he decided to come back.

He can’t come back … he’ll ruin me completely.

One horror-filled night changes the course of Samantha’s seemingly normal life. She’s ruined everything. Despite her determination to keep the family ranch up and running, her guilt makes it impossible to completely move on or forget.

Sam takes comfort in her quirky, endearing friends as she tries to balance between the girl she was and the woman she wants to become. Just when she thinks she’s finally making amends with her past, someone she never thought she’d see again returns, and Sam’s life is once again turned upside down. Both her head and her heart want different things, so she’s lost when, once again, she’s forced to make a decision that will inevitably change her life.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Whatever It Takes is the first contemporary new adult romance I’ve read by Lindsey Pogue, but certainly not the first book of hers I’ve delved into. I wasn’t initially sure how I was going to feel about a change of genres from the author because some authors simply don’t write well in several genres, so while excited to read another book by a favorite author of mine, I went into this book with a healthy dose of trepidation.

Luckily, it was unwarranted. This was a solid romance read. The characters were full of depth and likable, the narrative was well-written and only contained a few typos (though to be fair, I got this book as an ARC pre-publication, so there’s a chance those typos are probably fixed by now). The pace was steady, the sentence structure flowed well… I have nothing to complain about. It was a good book.

If I had to pick out one thing I questioned about this all around well-balanced read, it would be the ending. I don’t know what I was expecting (okay, that’s a lie, I was expecting the usual trope-y romance ending where the couple got married and had a pregnancy prolog)—and for a while that seemed like what I was getting… but it wasn’t real clear. The book ended with a strange extra scene between Mac and Sam that was obviously meant as a teaser for the second book in the series, but to me, it felt a little out of place. It wasn’t a big deal.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I wasn’t sure I’d like it. I’m a huge romance reader, so when an author switches from dystopian to a flat out romance genre book, I’m a little nervous that it isn’t going to meet my expectations, but I liked it. It turned out well, it met my overall expectations, and I’m happy that I read it. I did knock it down 1 star because of the strange vague ending but don’t let that discourage you. If you like contemporary new adult romance, I recommend you give this a try.

Reasons I Didn’t Accept Your Review Request

photo-1424115087662-5845efc6b366Awhile back I wrote an article entitled “Four Reasons I Didn’t Finish Your Book”; it was a basic rundown of reasons why I usually DNF books. The article is one of my most liked articles, and thinking back on it, I decided to take the same idea in another direction.

Here’s the thing: I get a lot of review requests. I’m three years into my Author Unpublished blog and I now get sometimes upwards of 10-40 e-mails each week from authors who are interested in having me review their books. It’s awesome—it really is—but as much as I’d love to, I can’t accept every review request sent my way. It’s just not possible to read that many books each year. I mean, that’s like 520-2,080 review requests in a year. Even if I read a book a day, there’s no way I could get that done. It’s inevitable that I will turn some requests down… but I also understand that being on the other end of things, authors may not always realize why they aren’t getting responses, or why their requests are denied. So, I thought I’d sit down today and shed some light on the complicated process of whittling down a year’s worth of review requests to something a bit more manageable.

First of all, understand that I only read 50-112 books a year on average, and that’s my ideal number barring illness, vacations, computer issues, or whatever else that may pop up to prevent me from reading and posting reviews. So the number one reason your book may get denied is that I simply already have too many books on my list that I’ve agreed to review. This is made worse by the fact that if I do end up agreeing to a review and then not getting it done… that book review request is then rolled forward into the next year. So already, that 50-112 books a year is starting to look more like 30-92.

book-1171564_1920The second hurdle is whether or not you’ve read my Review Policy & FAQs. I can tell when you haven’t. To be fair, I’m a pretty good sport about it. If you haven’t read my FAQs, I may give you some leeway, because I understand that you, as an author, have probably sent review requests to any number of reviewers, and as long as my FAQs page is, you probably didn’t bother to read it. I get it. At the same time, however, the FAQs is important because all the steps I wrote into it for you to follow… yah… it makes the process of deciding if I want to read your book easier. So if you didn’t follow my FAQs, well, sometimes I just can’t be bothered. A lot of what I’m going to be including on this list from this point forward is directly related to my Review Policy & FAQs, so seriously… read it.

Super nice, personable authors are more likely to have their books reviewed. I’m all for the professional, impersonal review request, but the less human you seem, the less likely I am to feel bad about turning your review request down. Sometimes I accept review requests because authors are super nice and friendly, and I want to do a favor for them. I know, it’s ridiculous, but it works. By the same token, if you’re demanding, sound arrogant, or you’re just a good old fashioned jerk… I’ll probably toss out your review request without reading any of it.

pen-1329258I also throw out review requests from authors if I’ve read their work before and didn’t like it because they’re wasting my time. Chances are if I didn’t give your previous book at least a 3-star review, I’m not going to like any books you write after that… so don’t bother. Really. It’s nothing personal, I just don’t want to write you another negative review. I know it hurts your feelings, and I feel bad about it. Don’t make me.

Another reason I might toss out a review request is if the cover is terrible. I feel like I need a caveat here. Your book cover has to be really terrible for me to toss out your review request—like you’ve put in almost no effort at all. If your cover is just sort of “meh” then I’ll still go on to investigate further. Don’t freak out.

If your back-cover blurb isn’t interesting, or contains a topic that I’m not a fan of, you’ll probably get tossed… because let me be honest, I don’t want to read a boring book, and if you can’t hook me with a blurb, there’s no way you’re going to hook me with the actual book. That doesn’t mean your book is bad, every reader has a genre they just aren’t a fan of, and if you fall into that category, I’m not going to waste my time or your stars.

book-15584_1920So here’s where things become less of a checklist and more of a process. When I receive a review request, the first thing I do is read the genre, any personal note you’ve included, and then the back-cover blurb. If you haven’t included any of those things, your book is in the trash. (Okay, that’s not true. I have an actual folder dedicated to rejected review requests. Yes, I keep track of them.) If I don’t immediately throw out your request because it sounds sort of interesting in any way shape or form, I’ll do further investigation. Step one of that process is to see if you’ve bothered to send me the book file. If I’m only sort of interested in your request and you don’t send a file, it’s trashed. I don’t want to waste time e-mailing you to get ahold of a file if I’m not really into the book in the first place. As an author, this is an easily passable step. Just follow my FAQs and include the file. It’s as simple as that.

If I’m still interested (and by interested I mean I’m anywhere from “OMG this sounds so good! Gimme!” to “Meh. Maybe it’s okay?”) I’ll go look up your book on Amazon and Goodreads. What am I looking for? Your previous reviews. Let me state it now: If you copy and pasted your previous positive reviews or quotes about your book into your review request… I don’t care. I guarantee you that I won’t read them, because obviously you’re only going to include the most glowing of reviews—and usually those sound fake. No, what I’m looking for are your worst reviews. The one, two, and three-star reviews. If you don’t have any and I was on the fence about your review request, it’s immediately in the trash. The only time this doesn’t apply is if you have zero reviews. I like to give new authors a chance, so if you don’t have any reviews, period, you might still make it through my process.

stamp-114438_1920So, I read the negative reviews—and I mean, really read them. I look to see if there’s a running theme for why people didn’t like your book – or if they’re just being jerks. If the reasons your books got negative reviews aren’t horrendous, you’re probably still in the running. So what qualifies as horrendous? 1. Anything that is my personal pet peeve. 2. Characters that have little to no depth and make decisions that make no logical sense. 3. Rumors of stolen property. 4. Egregious typos. (anywhere under 20 typos is fine… but if you can’t even complete a grammatical sentence, I’m not going to bother.)

If I’m still not sure if I want to read your book, I’ll then go look at the sample on Amazon. I read the first page. If it’s not terrible, your book is in. I’ve accepted it. If it’s boring or ill-written—and believe me, after three years or reviewing, I know if your book is terrible after the first page—I’ll throw it out.

The process I have for accepting and rejecting book reviews isn’t as simple as it first appears. I genuinely don’t arbitrarily reject books very often (and if I do, it’s probably because it was a novella, about poetry, or it had something to do with the military because I can’t be bothered with my least favorite topics). I investigate. I read and re-read requests… and if your book sounds even remotely interesting, I’ll probably read it. I will go out of my way to give your book a fair shot at being read—but again, I can’t read everything. I do reject a lot of books.

Finally, here’s a list of things that won’t get your book arbitrarily rejected—because sometimes I don’t care. If it sounds interesting, I’m going to read it.

  • You followed my Review Policy & FAQs and your book sounds even remotely interesting.approval-15914_1280
  • Your book sounds interesting despite not following my FAQs.
  • Your cover isn’t great, but it doesn’t look like it was painted by a 6-year-old in MS paint.
  • Your book falls into a genre or category that I don’t usually read… but It’s not a novella or poetry.
  • You’ve never had a review.
  • You are an indie author.
  • You’re a brand new author who’s never written a book before.
  • Your book has some typos.
  • Your book/plot sounds weird.
  • Your book’s plot or topic is considered taboo.
  • Your book is x-rated.
  • I’ve reached my quota of review requests for the year. Honestly, I never even look at my quota. You may have to wait awhile, but I won’t dismiss your request because I have too many books on my TBR list.

I try to give authors a shot. So, even though I do reject book review requests quite often, I also don’t arbitrarily dismiss a request for flippant reasons. There are lots of times when I make exceptions. Even though I hate novellas, sometimes I read them. A book’s genre isn’t necessarily going to make me throw it out. I don’t care if your editing is perfect (though I’ll mention it), and I don’t care if you’re an indie author. In fact, 90% of the books I read are from indie authors, not publishers.

So don’t be intimidated in sending me a review request. Yes, I turn a lot of them down, but that shouldn’t keep you from sending them because I honestly try to give a fair shot to every request I get. It’s a complicated process. Just follow the rules and cross your fingers.

Book Review: Resthaven

review-cover-resthavenTitle: Resthaven

Author: Erik Therme

Genre: Young Adult, Thriller

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

The last thing Kaylee wants to do is participate in a childish scavenger hunt–especially inside the abandoned retirement home on the edge oftown. When she finds a bruised, deaf boy hiding inside one of the rooms, she vows to lead him to safety . . . only to discover the front doorsare now padlocked, and her friends are nowhere to be found. Kaylee isabout to learn that not everything that goes ‘bump in the night’ isimaginary, and sometimes there are worse things to fear than ghosts.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAYE ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Resthaven by Erik Therme was not exactly what I was expecting when I opened the front cover, and yet, was everything it promised. A good old-fashioned YA Thriller set in a creepy, abandoned retirement home, the pages of Resthaven were filled with terrifying moments, a vivid atmosphere, and ever-present danger. The book was thrilling, scary, and engaging in a way that kept me reading as I devoured the story of Kaylee and her group of angsty teenage friends.

Okay, so they weren’t really friends in the strictest sense of the world. In fact, as far as I could tell, none of the teens even liked each other. Jamie was a wreck of a spoiled trust-fund teen who drew in broken people around her and continually told them how lucky they were to even be in her presence. Personally, I couldn’t stand her. For the most part, the characters were selfish, cowardly, and at times very close to being considered crazy. Kaylee though not perfect, seemed to be the most stable of the bunch.

My favorite character by far, though was Corbin, the deaf, dinosaur-loving kid who lived in little more than a closet. Without him, this story would have been vastly different. He really helped to solidify Kaylee as the protagonist and kept the plot moving.

Honestly, I liked the book a lot, but I wasn’t a fan of the characters. I found it hard to identify with them, and the story leading up to the scavenger hunt at Resthaven seemed flimsy. Did I enjoy the book? Yes. It was engaging, well edited, and the danger was exciting… but I don’t think it was as good as it could have been. In the end, I gave it a solid 4 stars because even though it wasn’t perfect, it was still an engaging read, and I’m glad to have read it.

Book Review: My Best Friend’s Bear

review-cover-my best friend's bearTitle: My Best Friend’s Bear [Wild Ties 1]

Author: Eva Thorne

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Fantasy, Bear Shifter, Erotica

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Sandra Brown is a recent college graduate stuck in a drifting life. Her days are spent reading about hot guys while her best friend Gem is out dating them. That all changes when her best friend brings home a mysterious and sexy stranger, Daniel Harrison.

At first, Sandra believes that no man as sexy as Daniel would ever give her the time of day. But as time goes by she learns that there’s more to Daniel than there appears to be. Daniel is a bear shifter with a dangerous past, and Sandra might be just the woman to heal his wounds.

This is steamy and sassy romance that contains no cheating, has no cliffhangers, and finishes with a happily ever after that will put a smile on your face and send tingles through your body. It’s the start of a new series but stands alone as an exciting read for anyone who could use a little more romance in their life.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

My Best Friend’s Bear by Eva Thorne was a bit of a mixed bag for me. There were some definite positive qualities to the story… but by the same token, there were a lot of negatives as well.

The book was… well, poorly written if I’m honest. There were numerous typos,  one or two tense problems, and a few formatting errors. They were a little distracting, but not to the point of absurdity—it just made me wonder if the editor that looked over this book really took enough time to properly look over the book. The typos were pretty blatant, and not easily skimmed over, so I feel like even though I received a copy of this book pre-publish date (by about a week), they really should have been cleaned up before hand.

Technical issues aside, the writing seemed a bit rushed, even clunky at times. The sex scenes especially were awkward, sort of skimmed over, and littered with an array of replacement words, as if the author had tried hard not to say the same thing the same way more than once. Look, there’s only so many ways you can describe the same body part… and the more attempts an author makes to rename that body part on one page, the more obvious it becomes that they’re trying too hard to do so. Coupled with the fact that the “romance” was little more than thinly veiled erotica… well, it made the sex scenes sound awkward and not genuine.

Don’t get me wrong though, for all the nitpicky roll-my-eyes moments that the book gave me, it was actually an entertaining read. I really liked the main character and her strange, talkative and humorous voice. She made the narrative fun and surprising, and it was nice seeing a book of this particular genre trying to throw in some humor. I also liked that the main character was a bit of an underdog, and though she wasn’t a skinny, beautiful, sex-bomb like her roommate, she was able to hold her own and eventually learn to appreciate herself—even if she wasn’t perfect.

While not the end all, be all of a romance novel, this was a short, easy read that kept me entertained—and there’s not much more I can ask for. It certainly had it’s fair share of problems, but I’m willing to give it a little leeway because this is a new author. It’ll be interesting to see how the author’s work will evolve as time goes on. Though the book isn’t going to be for everyone, it makes a great light read for someone looking for something fun to devour in a few hours… just try not to take the typos seriously.

Book Review: Midnight Burning

review-cover-midnight burningTitle: Midnight Burning [The Norse Chronicles 1]

Author: Karissa Laurel

Genre: Mythology, Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Solina Mundy lives a quiet life, running the family bakery in her small North Carolina hometown. But one night, she suffers a vivid nightmare in which a wolfish beast is devouring her twin brother, who lives in Alaska. The next morning, police notify her that Mani is dead. Driven to learn the truth, Solina heads for the Land of the Midnight Sun. Once there, she begins to suspect Mani’s friends know more about his death than they’ve let on. Skyla, an ex-Marine, is the only one willing to help her.

As Solina and Skyla delve into the mystery surrounding Mani’s death, Solina is stunned to learn that her own life is tied to Mani’s friends, his death, and the fate of the entire world. If she can’t learn to control her newfound gifts and keep her friends safe, a long-lost dominion over mortals will rise again, and everything she knows will fall into darkness.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

To be honest, I’m not sure how best to categorize Midnight Burning by Karissa Laurel. Going into the story I didn’t know a lot about the book, and at first, I was under the mistaken impression that this was going to be a werewolf-oriented paranormal romance. Don’t ask me why. It was so much more than that.

The book was part romance, part paranormal thriller with a whole lot of Nordic mythology thrown in.

The plot was interesting and complex, filled with healthy doses of danger, a smoldering love triangle and supernatural powers woven together with a new spin on a very old mythos. I was engrossed from the very beginning. The book was well written, fast paced, and I never felt the need to pause, re-read, or put the book down until the very end. The characters were complex and distinct (with the exception of some of the minor Valkyrie characters, but who cares?).

Honestly, my only real complaint about the book at all is that I was kind of perturbed by the abrupt ending. It seemed like just when the romance was about to break through into something juicy, the book ended. My inner fangirl died a little as I was really looking forward to seeing where the relationship between Solina and Thorin might go. Instead, the situation was left open-ended. On one hand, I understand. I’m sure (read: I hope) there will be further books in this series that will delve further into the romance, but on the other hand, my romance-reader heartfelt unfulfilled.

Either way, it was a good book. I loved the mythos, the danger, Solina’s ever-growing and out of control powers…and I can’t really argue the ending because although it wasn’t what I wanted, it was intriguing. I enjoyed my peek into the work of this new author, and I can’t wait to see how this story will evolve as the series goes on.

If you’re looking for a solid paranormal thriller with a bit of romance and mythology mixed in, I’d highly recommend you check this book out.