Book Review: Super Easy Keto Cookbook

reviewcover-supereasyketocookbookTitle: Super Easy Keto Cookbook

Author: Georgina Bomer

Genre: Non-Fiction, Cookbook

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Eating keto for every meal can be challenging, especially if you’re pressed for time or feeding a full household. This dinner cookbook relieves the stress with 100 delicious keto meals that come together with minimal effort. Keep your culinary repertoire fresh with a variety of flavorful dishes that everyone will love.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

This is a fantastic cookbook for those trying to follow a Keto or low-carb diet. The book was well-organized and full of super-helpful information – from what to keep in your pantry, to an equipment list and easy substitutions and swap-outs.

The recipes are easy to follow and include helpful tags to make it easy to find particular dietary-needs or prep-work. I love the author’s inclusion of nutritional information and variations for each recipe.

This is a fantastic cookbook that I’m definitely adding to my shelf.

Woops! I disappeared.

Hello people of blogland! I know, I know, it’s been awhile. I have been so ridiculously busy lately that it’s not even funny – mostly with just living life, enjoying the summer with my family, and keeping up with breeding fish, which I’ve been doing for the past year or so now.  You may have noticed that I disappeared for a bit. Don’t worry. I’m still here, and I’m gearing up for some reviews. At the moment I am slogging through the few hundred review requests sitting in my inbox. It will probably take me a little while to get through them all, organize them, and decide which ones I’m adding to my list, so be patient. It will happen. I’m not gone.

All of that being said, this is a casual reminder, that if you don’t read my review faqs, and don’t send me a copy of your book with your review request.. well… your request goes in the trash. There are a lot of you.  I don’t have the time or willpower to reply personally to every single request – so if you don’t hear from me, don’t freak out. I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, I’m just quietly buried under piles of e-mails.

Anyways, give me some time. I’m sorting things out, and then I’m going to start scheduling reviews and free fiction fridays again. I may or may not do some articles to give you more info on what I’ve been up to the last few months, so keep an eye out. As you may have realized, even when I’m not here actively posting and scheduling reviews, I am still accepting requests and editorial work – so keep sending them my way. I will get to them when I get to them, but I’m still open.

Upcoming…

Wow, you guys. I’ve been busy. You may have noticed that the last few review days and Free Fiction Fridays have gone un-posted over the last few weeks. Don’t worry. As some of you may have noticed from previous years, August-> December is one of the busiest times of the year in this household. Between a ton of birthdays, holidays, and the beginning of the new school year, things get crazy. That doesn’t mean that the reviews are on hold though! I’ve just been doing a bit of catch-up.

I’ve gotten in an astounding amount of review requests over the last month, far more than previous years (we’re talking 40 a day) and I’ve just now managed to sort through them all, send out e-mails to authors, and updated my TBR list. I’ve got some great book reviews headed your way, and very soon! I’ve just been taking a little time to get organized and ready for the push to the end of the year – so hang onto your seats!

Want to see what’s coming up? Below is a list of the books on my TBR and a little bit about them – check them out!

TBR1The Infernal Lands [The Aionach Saga 1] by J.C. Staudt

Genre: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic, Fantasy

Across the heat-blasted wastelands of a post-apocalyptic world, ages of high technology lay in ruin. Mutants and madmen roam vast derelict cities while nomads and monsters haunt the edges of a brutal wilderness. Armies rise up to war over what yesterday left behind.

But something larger than war is brewing beneath the Aionach. The inhabitants of this lawless realm are beginning to unearth mysteries from a forgotten age. Mysteries that may reveal the true nature of their dying world and unlock its darkest secrets.

The Infernal Lands is a tale of survival and heroism that follows a stunning cast of characters: the vengeful drifter, the council of kinetic mages, the cult priestess with a taste for human sacrifice, the bitter mercenary, the slaver king, and the sand sorceress who wields the power to command the very ground she walks on.

TBR2Bentwhistle the Dragon in a Threat From The Past [Bentwhistle the Dragon 1] by Paul Cude

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Young Adult

Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Threat from the Past is an adventure story children and adults alike will love, about the present day world in which dragons disguised as humans have infiltrated the human race at almost every level, to guide and protect them. Three young dragons in their human guises become caught up in an evil plot to steal a precious commodity, vital to the dragon community. How will the reluctant hero and his friends fare against an enemy of his race from far in the past? Fascinating insights into the dragon world are interspersed throughout the book. Ever wondered how dragons travel below ground at almost the speed of sound? Or how they use magical mantras to transform their giant bodies into convincing human shapes? In an action packed adventure that features both human and dragon sports, you’ll get a dragon-like perspective on human social issues and insight into what to do if you meet a giant spider grinning at you when you’re wearing nothing but your smile! You’d be flamin’ mad to miss it.

TBR3Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Chilling Revelation [Bentwhistle the Dragon 2] by Paul Cude

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Young Adult

Following his harrowing and near death experience at the talons of the evil dragon Manson in ‘A Threat From The Past’, Peter Bentwhistle, the human shaped dragon and reluctant hero, finds himself on the slow path to recovery.
Helped by his dragon friends, Tank and Richie (both in their human forms), he finds solace in his new found friendship with the dragon king. But the three friends are soon unwittingly drawn into a deadly plot, when a straight forward meeting with the monarch sees them helping an injured dragon agent, straight back from his mission in Antarctica with news of a devastating encounter with another ancient race.

Blackmail, intrigue, forbidden love interests, a near fatal mantra gone wrong, a highly charged rugby match in which Tank takes a beating, combined with enough laminium ball action to please dragons the world over, stretch the bonds of the dragons’ friendship like never before. New friends and ancient enemies clash as the planet braces itself for one of the most outrageous attacks it has ever seen. Lost secrets and untold lore come to light, while sinister forces attempt to steal much coveted magic.

Explosive exploits, interspersed with a chilly backdrop and unexpected danger at every turn, make for an action-packed, electrifying adventure.
‘Snow way you’ll wanna miss this!

TBR4Beyond The Sapphire Gate [The Flow of Power 1] by R.V. Johnson

Genre: Fantasy

Some magic should remain untouched.

Beyond the Sapphire Gate is the fascinating world of Astura, a world where a frothing, river of magic addicts those who use the power it holds.

Indentured to a private artifact collector on a dying world of high technology, Crystalyn naively activates a gateway. The temptation to touch the gate is irresistible for her sister Jade, who vanishes when she does. Crystalyn follows, stepping into a vibrant world infused with magic and those that Use.

Aided by symbol magic killing her with each use, the defining line between good and evil is not as clear as Crystalyn once believed. The Dark Users want to help her, the Circle of Light wishes to use her. The War of a Hundred Seasons makes her choose.

Half a world away, equipped with a seemingly useless ability to read auras, Jade embarks on a harrowing journey to escape the Dark Citadel with her soul intact.

Propelled to Astura by a devious assault, Garn has only two desires. Reuniting family and destroying those enforcing his servitude.

TBR5Darkly, Deeply, Beautifully [Ceruleans 5] by Megan Tayte

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, New Adult, Paranormal

The Ceruleans: mere mortals infused with power over life and death. Five books; one question: If the might of the heavens were in your hands, would you be sinner or saint?

With her mother’s life hanging in the balance, Scarlett is devastated – and done with being in the dark. She wants answers, all of them.

But when was her pursuit of the truth ever straightforward?

Pulling a single thread impels a great unraveling. And each revelation will force Scarlett to rethink what she thought she knew about the Ceruleans, the Fallen, her family – herself.

All that came before was a mere prelude to this, the last journey. From London to Twycombe to Hollythwaite to Cerulea, Scarlett will be stalked by the ghosts of what has been, what may have been and what may come to pass. Until she reaches the place where it all began, and it all must end.

But in the final reckoning, none will survive unscathed. And some will not survive at all.

In this explosive conclusion to The Ceruleans series, all must be defined by their actions: sinner, saint… or something more beautiful entirely?

TBR6I Am Sleepless: Sim 299 by Johan Twiss

Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Young Adult

While the others slept, Aidan spent hours each night running sim after sim. Although he was only a twelve-year cadet, he had completed more simulations than any prime— ever.

“You are setting history,” General Estrago told him. “No one has ever made it to the current simulation you are attempting. The other Masters and I are eager to see what comes next.”

So was Aidan.

The planet Ethos is at war with a mysterious enemy known as the Splicers. Their only successful defense is the Prime Initiative. All newborns with the compatible genetic code are taken from their families and injected with the Prime Stimulus. Each child that survives the stimulus develops an extraordinary ability and is conscripted into the military for training.

After turning twelve, Aidan is moved to the upper-class at the Mount Fegorio training complex. His special gifts allow him unprecedented success in the virtual training simulations, advancing him further than any prime cadet in history. No one knows what lies after sim 299, not even Director Tuskin, the ruthless and reclusive ruler of their planet. But something, or someone, has been guiding Aidan there. If he can pass the final tests, he may discover the key to ending the Splicer War.

TBR7Dead Silver by Max Florschutz

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

It’s been almost a year since Hawke Decroux had his run-in with adventure, and in that time he’s settled back to his usual day-to-day standard. Work as a humane animal control officer isn’t always riveting, but it’s steady and pays the bills. Plus, it’s pretty easy when your Unusual talent lets you speak with animals. For Hawke, life is right where he wants it.

At least until an old friend, an NSAU spook named Jacob Rocke, calls him with an intriguing offer. Silver Dreams, New Mexico is suffering a rash of animal attacks, all signs pointing towards a chupacabra as the culprit—a creature so rare no one has never taken one alive. Rocke is convinced that if they work together, they’ll have a good chance of catching it—and claiming the fifty thousand dollar live reward—for themselves. And if that doesn’t work out, it’ll still be fun to catch up and take a bit of a vacation.

But when Hawke arrives in Silver Dreams, things aren’t as hoped. Rocke has gone missing. The animal attacks are growing more violent in both size and scope. Townspeople are vanishing in the dead of night, walking out their doors and leaving no trace of their whereabouts. As the attacks pile up and the body count rises, Hawke is certain of only one thing: this definitely isn’t the vacation he had planned.

TBR8My Journey Through War and Peace: Explorations of a Young Filmaker, Feminist and Spiritual Seeker by Melissa Burch

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

“My Journey Through War and Peace: Explorations of a Young Filmmaker, Feminist and Spiritual Seeker” is based on Melissa Burch s experiences as a war journalist for BBC, CBS, and other networks. Her team was one of the first documentary crews allowed in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, and she was featured in a New York Times story about her time in Afghanistan. She was just in my twenties when she traveled with the moujahedeen, filmed an attack on a Soviet convoy, slept with an Afghan commander, and climbed 14,000-foot mountains in the Hindu Kush. My Journey Through War and Peace examines how, through outward action and inward exploration, life can unfold in mysterious ways, far beyond cultural and family expectations. In looking back at this momentous decade, Burch shares why she pursued such dangerous and difficult circumstances at such a young age and continued to live on the edge. She now understands that she was seeking self-discovery, a connection to something greater, and ultimately inner peace. This exciting memoir will resonate with fans of “Eat Pray Love,” “Wild,” and other popular memoirs that describe extraordinary inner and outer journeys.

TBR9An Empire of Traitors [Of Hate And Laughter 1] by Serban V.C. Enache

Genre: Epic, Dark Fantasy

Flesh will bleed. Bones will break. Swords will turn.

An Empire Of Traitors follows several principal storylines simultaneously. It’s been eight years since the end of the civil war between the Inquisition and emperor Zygar Ferus, worshiper of blood gods. Eight years into the aftermath, a new emperor sits the Sun Throne, and the Inquisition is no more.

In the five realms of the Empire things are stirring. Driven by ambition or wounded pride, many nobles like the dog-headed serpent of Stoneweed seek to change their fortunes, even with the price of treachery. And from exile, from the heathen nations of the Lowlands, another Sunborn scion of house Mero gathers strength behind his claim. No family, great or small, shall remain indifferent to fate’s whim. It takes an emperor to rule an empire, but it takes numbers and honored oaths to keep both crown and throne.

In the Westlands, Drakanes, a sister of the temple finds herself in the role of witness and proctor, of passing judgment on a man accused of murder, who claims to have been possessed. The trial’s proceedings enlighten her as to the truth of it all, and the good sister is willing to, out of pure stubbornness, risk death for justice. Emperor Hagyai Rovines Mero fears for the continuation of his line, and sends Sycarus on an errand to the Desertlands to bring back an Aharo maiden for his son and heir. It is said that the Aharo savage women always give birth to healthy babes. Hagyai Rovines desires a betrothal between the prince heir and a savage girl – trying to emulate a long dead custom of the Sunborn emperors. Such a move is most unpopular, and the whispers of another civil war are once again in the air.

The imperial chancellor warns Birus Mandon, lord of Rivermark and warden of the Streamlands, of a plot against the emperor, a plot made by his exiled brother, Amarius Soronius. Mandon tries to gather knowledge on the schemes of potential oathbreakers, but his trade is not that of a spy. When he hires the Mounted Arrows Company of Narak al Zull, Birus learns more than mere outlandish tactics; he finds a new source of strength in the sellsword’s foreign warrior god.

Kalafar Sodomis, lord of Weiyenor and warden of the Northlands, has seen his brother get married, and he himself is tried by notions of passion toward a certain lady of a southern house. But as the conflict breaks out, Kalafar needs to act as a proper lord, as a man, not a boy. He summons his vassals for a council at Devil Mound, to decide if the north will go to war or no; and there to also perform a certain ritual to honor the dead of Fengard and Wyrm.

TBR10A Heretical Divide [Of Hate And Laughter 2] by Serban V.C. Enache

Genre: Epic, Dark Fantasy

A Heretical Divide picks up right where An Empire Of Traitors left off. The Inquisition proves itself a hydra of murderers and schemers. The ram’s war in the Winterlands gets mired in betrayal, and the hawk’s vengeance comes to the devil’s home under sorcery and ploy. Even with a new emperor, the Sun Throne’s vassals are still brewing; each house following its own petty interests. Death’s breath looms upon the weak and strong, upon country and sovereign. The princes of ruin have many servants upon the earth – many souls to claim by storm and blood.

TBR11October 32 by Larry Rodness

Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Mystery

It’s October 31, and insurance agent Alexander Malefant is sent to picturesque Elora during its annual Halloween festival. No sooner does Alexander arrive than he witnesses the near-drowning of a boy bobbing for apples. Shortly after that, a group of children are attacked by crows. Later that evening, all the children in the village suddenly disappear. Soon, every person becomes a suspect as residents frantically try to discover what happened to the children. Who or what is behind these disappearances, and can they get the children back before it’s too late?

TBR12Bloodwalker by L.X. Cain

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Crime, Fantasy, Thriller & Suspense

When Zorka Circus performs, its big top roars with laughter and cheers, but when it moves on, there are fewer children in the European towns it leaves behind.

Circus Security Chief Rurik suspects a killer hides among the international performers, but they close ranks—they’ve always viewed lightning-scarred Rurik as the monster. Nevertheless, he’s determined to find the culprit and stop them before anyone else dies and the only place he can call home is ripped apart by the murders.

Into Zorka Circus comes the Skomori clan, despised as gravediggers and ghoulish bloodwalkers. A one-day truce allows bloodwalker Sylvie to marry. Instead, she finds a body. Alerting others will defy her clan’s strict rules, break the truce, and leave her an outcast.

When more bodies turn up, the killer’s trail becomes impossible to ignore. Rurik and Sylvie must follow the clues—even if they lead to something unimaginable.

TBR13Devil’s Cove by R.C. Matthews

Genre: Gothic, Historical Romance

Shrouded in unspeakable horror and spoken of only in whispers, the abandoned Devil’s Cove Manor lures Captain Devlin Limmerick and his unquenchable thirst for revenge to its doors. Feared as the Devil on the high seas, the pirate’s desire to avenge his past is matched only by his hunger for the powerful young medium he has coerced to aid him in his nefarious quest.

Blinded from youth and touched with an ability to communicate beyond the grave, Grace is both feared and revered by the uneasy town folk. Yet she is powerless against the unrest brewing within the manor walls and finds herself drawn to the Devil’s darkness. Still, she refuses to sacrifice her soul to set Devlin’s unspeakable plans in motion.

But an evil lurks within these walls, and their very souls are in jeopardy. Grace’s presence at the manor spurs inexplicable happenings, forcing Devlin to believe nothing is as dead as it seems—not even his heart. Plunged into the throes of passion and danger, they discover the only way out is to search deep within and summon the courage to believe in true love.

TBR14Chakana by W.E. Lawrence

Genre: Historical Romance

Can a romance save the world? Maybe this one could. Chakana is a historical romance novel filled with action, adventure, suspense, and intrigue.

In 1939, before the start of World War II, James Fleming, the original British secret agent, races on a high-stakes chase to track down the ancient lost treasure of King Huascar of the Incas. He must recover it before the Nazis do or the whole world will be in imminent danger.

But this is no ordinary treasure hunt. The Incas have proven their cunning and intellect in not only how they hid their treasure, but how they protected it. Fleming joins forces in the remote ruins of Peru, South America with Kate Rhodes, a policewoman on leave from the United States, her archaeologist brother, Nick, and their college professor, Dr. Charlie. Together, they must decode, interpret the clues, and face the challenges of the Chakana on their hunt for the treasure.

If this wasn’t difficult enough, the group is hounded throughout their search of the ancient Sacred Valley by international artifact smugglers, familiar with the Chakana and working with the Nazis, who are determined to acquire the treasure to help finance their war effort. Intrigue, danger, suspense, action, adventure, and even romance abound in this brave band’s quest to save the free world.

Vanish by Becca J. Campbell

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Mystery

Reviewer’s Note: There’s not a lot I can say about this book. It arrived in my inbox with a 2-line teaser and an agreement to read it within a narrow 3-week period. I was intrigued, and agreed. I read it, it was a 4-star read, and is currently being edited based on reviewer’s feedback. I’m not sure when this book is going to be released, but I’m really excited for it to come out so I can tell you a bit more about it. Here’s the teaser:

Eva had two secrets. The second was that she periodically vanished into thin air.

TBR15Resurrecting Ghosts [Kings of Chaos 4] by Shyla Colt

Genre: Romance

Ruthie Gregg was the independent woman who had everything together. A homeowner with a successful job in advertising, and a busy social life, she never wanted to get serious with a man. Things with Kings of Chaos member, Skull, were meant to be fun and light. Then she made the mistake of catching feelings without discussing their relationship status. Misunderstandings and indiscretions lead her to call things off. But life is a cruel mistress who wasn’t done uprooting her perfectly managed existence. To get the life she’s dreamed of, she must put her past behind her, and fight for her future with a man who just may be the love of her life.

Tritt “Skull” Matthews was a man who wanted nothing to do with love. After watching the four letter word and mental illness destroy his family, he opted to take the path of a permanent bachelor. His brothers in the Kings of Chaos MC were all the family he needed until he took up with Ruthie. The mouthy red head with her vintage style and a strong back bone derailed his plans. When denial, drinking, and self-sabotage doesn’t shake her from his soul, he starts a new mission, to get her back at any cost.

Happiness is within their reach if they’re willing to lay the resurrected ghosts in their lives to rest. The things they fear the most holds them captive in invisible chains. Breaking free is imperative, lest they are doomed to repeat the past.

TBR16Lie to Me [A Touched Trilogy 1] by Angela Fristoe

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance

Phoebe Matlin has always felt broken. While one of her sisters sees the future, and the other can heal people, Phoebe has come to accept that her truth telling gift just doesn’t work.

Then her best friend, Tonya, lies to her and Phoebe’s gift flares to life. With Tonya pissed at her, being a Truth Teller suddenly doesn’t seem like such a great gift. Although, it is nice knowing she was the reason her crush, Nathan, dumped his stalker girlfriend.

But in lies, intention is everything and Tonya’s lies are a cry for help. The fear that her friend is covering darker and more serious truths is something Phoebe can’t ignore. But knowing when someone is lying is the easy part. Now she has to decide what to do about it. And with Nathan and his doubts about her ability confusing things, finding a way to help Tonya isn’t as easy as Phoebe thought it would be.

TBR17Inarticulate by Eden Summers

Genre: Contemporary Romance

At first sight, Savannah is drawn to the harsh appeal of a man who refuses to talk to her. Keenan’s hard stare is arrogant and unapologetic. The quirk of his sensuous lips is cocky and in control.

But there’s more. There’s something deeper he’s trying to hide behind those steely grey eyes—a slight hint of vulnerability which captures her intrigue.
She’d been warned, told that his silence hides a myriad of lies capable of affecting her career and relationships with loved ones. Only she can’t help herself. Testing Keenan’s defenses is an addiction she can’t deny.

TBR18My Heart’s Desire [Barrett 1] by Andrea Kane

Genre: Historical Romance

Never were there two more unlikely people to fall in love… Lady Alexandria Cassel scorned London’s frivolous social whirl, seeking adventure as a stowawayaboard a merchant ship. Drake Barrett was the vessel’s powerful captain — and a cynical duke who disdained a noble’s shallow life. At sea he revealed neither his origins nor his wealth, and to Alexandria he was simply a man who made her cool reserve fly with the winds…whose desire for her was as wildas the ocean they sailed. Caught in the crossfire of war, they were shipwrecked on an idyllic island, where they tasted perfect passion…and tenderness. But Drake dreaded the day of their rescue — when his love would discover that the virile man she adored was at the pinnacle of the aristocracy she despised. Hardlydid they suspect the base treachery that would soon threaten them…and the dangers each would brave to join forever their hearts and lives!

TBR19Samantha [Barrett 2] by Andrea Kane

Genre: Historical Romance

Samantha Barrett is looking for a hero. He can’t be just any man, but one worthy of her girlish fantasies. Dashing. Dangerous. Forbidden. Exactly like the mesmerizingly handsome stranger who just strode into the smoky tavern. Except he isn’t a stranger, he’s Remington Worth, earl of Gresham. London’s most notorious rake. Though tempted by Samantha’s beauty and innocent desire, Remington cannot allow her to be tainted by his perilous exploits. For he isn’t the man she thinks he is. As the Crown’s most loyal covert agent, the former navy captain and war hero leads a dangerous double life. But as passion builds between them, risking his life for his country is nothing compared to how far Remington will go to keep Samantha safe—and locked in his arms forever.

TBR20Beautiful Chaos by Alex Tully

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance

While most seventeen year-olds work part-time delivering pizzas or whipping up frappuccinos, Brady O’Connell’s job is a little less conventional. Helping his dad with the family ‘business’ is a responsibility he doesn’t take lightly, especially when thousands of dollars are being exchanged. There are rules to be followed, timetables to be kept. But when his best friend Jay gets backstage concert tickets, and business interferes with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet their favorite band, Brady decides to break the rules, just one time.

And one time is all it takes to send his life spinning out of control. When an envelope full of cash ends up in the wrong hands—specifically in the hands of a pretty red-head named Vivienne—things get messy in a hurry. Where Vivienne goes, a whole lot of chaos seems to follow.

But sometimes…chaos is a beautiful thing.

From the author of Hope for Garbage comes another fast-moving, emotionally-charged tale, full of plot twists that will keep you guessing, and true-to-life characters you will root for. Most of all, this is a story of first love—crazy, chaotic first love—love that hits us hard, and never lets go.

TBR21The Longest Con by Michaelbrent Collings

Genre: Supernatural, Mystery

Would you like to know – I mean, REALLY know – what they’re doing when they go to those fancy comic-cons? Because it ain’t just writing.

See, every year, thousands of people attend comic-cons dressed as monsters.
Of course, you probably already knew that.
But did you ALSO know that…
every year, thousands of MONSTERS attend comic-cons dressed as PEOPLE.

Sure. Nothing could POSSIBLY go wrong there.

Luckily, the con organizers have placed Wardens throughout the conventions. These undercover supernatural troubleshooters are tasked with stopping mayhem before it starts . . . or solving the murders after they happen.

I’M MICHAELBRENT COLLINGS: author of this book, and one of the Wardens. My job is to go to the cons, where I sell books, make fans, and kill the occasional monster.

It’s not just me, either. Those authors I told you about, and even more . . . you’d never guess what many of your favorite authors are REALLY up to at the conventions.

TBR22Tormented By Ghosts: True Life Experiences by Lynda Bogert

Genre: Non-Fiction, Paranormal, Memoir

She wants to be normal, but the spirit world has other plans. Tormented by Ghosts is a true story about unfortunate encounters with ghosts and other otherworldly paranormal phenomena that have greatly affected Lynda’s life. The struggles include harrowing encounters of unwanted Out of Body Experiences (OBEs), her Near Death Experience (NDE), her horrifying visit from a demonic apparition, and mysterious bone-chilling ghostly visits. This book encompasses her thirty years of coping to learn and educate herself to understand and utilize her spiritual abilities and tools to help herself and others. Her daily battle is to overcome the paranormal and control the abilities that she has been given! Is she seeing and hearing ghosts that may have a message for her or to let themselves be known or to simply taunt her? This is a story with many stories. You’ll want to sleep with the lights on because it could also happen to you, too…

TBR23Sacred Planet [The Dominion 1] by Austin Rogers

Genre: Science Fiction

Only one woman can stop it. Only one man can save her.

After centuries of expansion into the galaxy and no contact with intelligent, extra-terrestrial life, humanity is split into three superpowers, each dominating one of the spiral arms closest to Earth: Orion, Carina, and Sagittarius. Divided along political, cultural, and religious lines, these galactic mega-states have grown alien to each other over time. Inter-arm relations have eroded. Minor differences have become dangerous disparities.

Now a ruthless religious faction threatens to plunge the galaxy into a catastrophic war.

Conflict sparks when Sierra Falco, the Carinian prime minister’s daughter, is attacked on her space yacht by a powerful and shadowy enemy. As a popular advocate for peace, Sierra’s loss destabilizes the fragile balance of the galaxy. But her attackers’ plans are disrupted when a rugged band of scavengers stumble across the yacht and jump at the opportunity to make a profit. Davin, captain of the scavenger ship, is caught between the lure of fabulous wealth and the nag of conscience as he is dragged into a conspiracy bigger than he can imagine.

A race begins between those who seek to prevent war and the secretive forces who want to escalate it-apparently with Earth in their crosshairs.

In this universe, Earth-the Sacred Planet, the epicenter of human civilization-holds the coveted key to victory.

Whoever controls Earth controls the galaxy.

TBR24Bite of a Vampire [Bite of a Vampire 1] by Anna Belsky

Genre: Paranormal Romance

I never was a romance novel kind of girl, maybe that’s why I decided to get in the business of proving that love was meant to be unfaithful. Call me bitter but my full name is Emily Johnson, and I work as a private investigator for Jonesville Extramarital Affairs. It’s my daily job to investigate, snap photos of and usually proves that a spouse has found someone else to dilly-dally with. It was a bit of a dream job after having my own respect and dignity broken so many times in college by a guy named Robert, Bob for short. I don’t hold a grudge against him, he was my first, and he taught me that love relationships are not really things that exist. My best friend Abby doesn’t believe me so I decided to prove my point and become a Private Investigator.

On this night Emily’s world turns upside down when she comes across a vampire attacking one of her investigations. She is swept into a world of the supernatural and must draw from all her experiences as Private Investigator to survive… or so she thinks until she meets Michael.

TBR25Candlelight [Ember Series Novella] by Stacy McWilliams

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Life was full of nothing but darkness for Nathan Stevenson until Jasmine appeared in his life. She brought his innermost desires to the surface. She burned her way through to his heart to become embedded in his soul. He knew she was dangerous but would she break down his wall as he dreamed of her touch and fought against the impulse to protect her?Would their love be enough to defeat his demons? Was he strong enough to resist her or would her light burn irrevocably?

TBR26Luminosity [Escaping Demons Saga 1] by Stacy McWilliams

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal Fantasy, Urban fantasy, Horror, Romance
Jasmine Johnstone’s life was relatively normal until she was forced to live with the Stevenson family. As she stayed she found she had no choice but to battle mythical creatures. Strengths she never knew she possessed began to surface, surprising those around her. Her only chance of surviving the rising tide of evil was Nathan Stevenson. Could she really trust him as he fought against his love for her? With the world against them and time running out, would their love be enough to defeat demons?

TBR27Ignition [Escaping Demons Saga 2] by Stacy McWilliams

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Horror, Romance

Life has never been Easy for Jasmine Johnstone, but failing for Nathan Stevenson brings a whole new level of difficulty. He is sworn to kill her, and fights against his love for her more than ever, but he knows he can’t live without her.

As they run from monsters, and each other, can their love survive?
Time begins to run out and with new friends and enemies in the strangest places, will they learn who to trust in time?

With their love stronger than ever, but forces pulling them apart, is love enough to keep them together or will Nathan’s parents win and pull them apart?

So You Want To Be A Professional Reader

 

FrustrationNo one grows up saying “I want to be a book reviewer when I grow up!” Professional Reader isn’t a job like Veterinarian or Doctor or Pilot. We grew up having literature forced down our throats from the time we were first taught to read until we’re out of college, so we’ve all see the little blurbs on covers and introduction pages quoting some author or book-related group we’ve never heard of. Most of us never question these little snippets of opinions—we don’t wonder where they come from.

Two years ago, if you’d told me I’d someday be writing those little snippets of opinion, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. Professional Reader (which is a fancy way of saying Book Reviewer) is one of those jobs that we all know exists, but we never think about… like the people who manufacture toilets. Someone’s got to do it, but most of us have never met someone who does. Two years ago, I couldn’t even imagine how someone would become a Professional Reader. It was mysterious… unattainable. Two years ago, I barely read books.

Don’t get me wrong—I love literature. I always have. I’ve been writing and reading most of my life, and I’ve always enjoyed books, but somewhere between 18 and 30, life got complicated. It got busy. I didn’t have time to read. Before I knew it, years had passed and I hadn’t picked up a single book. That all changed a little over a year ago.

I was poking around YouTube when I stumbled across a book-club meeting that centered around Romance novels. I love Romance novels. Growing up, my mother always seemed to have a huge pile of Harlequin Romances stacked up beside her bed. My family had a cabin out in the woods that we spent weekends and summers at, and there was no phone, internet, or TV. So, we read. I have vivid memories of my mother sunbathing on the lake with her huge floppy straw hat and a book. When I was thirteen, my mother finally handed me one of her prized Romance novels and told me I was old enough to read them. I instantly fell in love… but Romance isn’t a genre most people are comfortable with sharing. Romance has this sense of taboo about it, and a lot of people think it’s straight out porn. A lot of people are embarrassed to read Romance, so when I stumbled across a group dedicated to reading Romance, I was floored. This—finally—was something I could really enjoy.

The group brought the passion of reading back into my life. It was so fun to finally be able to discuss my favorite literature with like-minded individuals. Reading became social to me for the first time in my life. I wasn’t just a bookworm, this was a community. Eventually, I wanted to share my opinions and reviews of the literature I’d read (and I began reading quite a bit), so I started blogging my reviews. This was the beginning of my life as a Professional Reader.

Professional Reader isn’t really a job. You can make money off it with ads or (heaven forbid) charging authors for your opinion, but for the most part, it’s a passion. Book reviewing is for those that truly love literature. It’s not just a hobby, and it is ridiculously easy to get into.

So you want to be a Professional Reader? All you have to do is read. Read and share your opinions. Now, I’ve made a bit of a list here of things you may want to consider, or know about as you venture into book reviewing. My opinion is of course, not the only opinion out there, but I learned a lot in the last year, and I want to share with you some of what I’ve learned.

  • You’re going to need to share your opinion. I’d recommend having a blog. It’s a wonderful way of creating a community for yourself of readers, authors, and reviewers. You should also consider joining several book sites such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Smashwords, etc where you can post your review opinions for other readers to find.
  • Review everything you’ve read. Doesn’t matter if it’s a kid’s book you’re reading to your son or daughter, a book you picked up at the library, the store, etc. If you read it, review it. The more reviews you have, the more likely you are to get offers from authors and publishers to read their books.
  • Authors and Publishers will approach you with Free books in exchange for honest reviews. Make sure they can contact you (which is another reason having a blog is a good idea. Make sure you have a contact page!) If you run out of books and don’t want to spend money, there are a TON of Free books floating around sites like Amazon daily. You can also sign up to review books at sites like NetGalley and StoryCartel. You don’t have to spend money to review books. Most people are thrilled to give you a free book in exchange for a review. Don’t be afraid to ask if you have to.
  • Always be honest. It’s okay not to like a book. No one likes every book they’ve read, and authors generally understand that at least a percentage of their audience just isn’t going to like their work. It happens. It can be daunting to share a negative opinion, but don’t be afraid. Take the time to explain why a book didn’t work for you, and try your best not to be insulting about it. Understand that authors/publishers want to market their book. If you have a negative opinion, that’s great (negative opinions are just as important as positive opinions!) but if you want to avoid offending anyone, be polite about your negative opinions. It helps if you spin the negatives in such a way that it doesn’t inherently hurt the book or the author’s feelings. You can always make a suggestion for what sort of reader may enjoy the book more than you did, and even if you really hated a book, you can usually think of at least one positive quote to say about it.
  • Have the ability to turn off your inner editor. There are times when it’s nearly impossible to get through a book unless you can turn off your inner editor. You should be able to look at a book, admit that it’s poorly written, and then enjoy the plotline and story while ignoring the typos. If you have a problem doing this, book reviewing isn’t going to be easy for you. We often get early drafts of stories that haven’t even been published yet, and there will be frequent errors. Find your inner Zen, and turn off the grammar Nazi for a little while.
  • You’re going to need free time. It doesn’t take a lot. If you are an avid reader, you can probably finish a book a day (or every two days) without a problem (it takes me about two to four hours to read an average novel). Reading before bed is a great way to wind down! Take your book with you everywhere and read when you can find the time. Some Authors/Publishers will give you deadlines for posting a review because they want the review out before their book hits the shelves. If you can’t get through a book in a week, reviewing books probably isn’t for you.
  • Take notes while you read, and promptly review a book as soon as you finish. Trust me on this. As a book reviewer, you will read a lot of books, and because of this, after a while your brain is trained to forget a book nearly as soon as it’s read to make space for the next one. Writing yourself notes as you read is a good way to remember points you want to bring up in your review and keep track of how you were feeling throughout the book. Reviewing quickly after you’ve finished helps to keep you from forgetting the plot and the character’s names.
  • Keep track of books you’ve reviewed (I suggest making a list on your blog) not only is it handy for other readers to be able to skim through and find books they like, but it’ll also help authors/publishers see what kind of books you tend to enjoy (so they don’t waste time sending you requests for things you’ll hate), and it helps you remember which books you –don’t- need to re-read.
  • Decide upon a post format and schedule, and then stick to it. It’ll keep you organized.
  • Learn to entertain. Book reviewing can be an art form. If you want people to read your reviews, you’re going to need to write them in such a way that keeps people interested (it’s sort of like writing a novel!) You need to hook people into reading your review, and you need to make it clear, and engaging so they read it all the way through. This doesn’t mean you need to be rude, nasty, or over dramatic… but keep in mind that your review doesn’t do a bit of good if no one reads it.
  • Use proper grammar and spell check. If you sound like a 16 year old sending a text message, or a YouTube troll, no one’s going to take your opinion seriously (and therefore no one’s going to request a review from you!)

This is by no means a comprehensive list. Book Reviewing isn’t for everyone either. It takes gumption. Sometimes authors will harass you and readers will argue with your opinion. There will be times when you’ll write a negative review and then hand it directly to the author—and that author will read it (and sometimes, e-mail you a response). It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you love literature as I do, you may really enjoy becoming a Professional Reader. There is nothing quite like losing yourself in another world for a few hours.

Sometimes it’s hard to be a reviewer…

book-15584_640This is one of those things that I’m pretty sure any reviewer has experienced at one point in time. There are days when being a reviewer is very difficult. We often have to weigh our sense of responsibility with the practical sides of our nature. Today, I’m experiencing one of those days, and since I want to gripe about it anyway, I figured I might as well write up a half-decent post on the subject to share my frustrations.

As a reviewer sometimes people send me novels to review that I have to accept sight-unseen. I don’t get to look at the cover (sometimes they aren’t published yet!). Usually I just get a title and a very brief synopsis, or sometimes, just the genre. I’m pretty open to most books, so usually my first response is “sure! I’ll take a look at it!” and it’s only a week later when I finally get around to opening up the book that I wish I’d never said yes.

The problem is this: Not all books are written equal. Sometimes I’ll get a book and it turns out to be very different from the synopsis or the genre categories I was given. My expectations for that book aren’t met, and I end up disappointed. Other times the writing is just so awful I can’t stand it, and even more often that that, I just don’t like the book. It may not have anything to do with the book itself – but I just don’t connect with it. That’s the downside of reviewing books by request: I’m not picking them myself. I know what I like… but these authors don’t.

Of course, this leads me to a very difficult decision: do I force myself to read this book I really have no interest in continuing because I’ve given a promise to the author to do a review, even though chances are the review is going to be overwhelmingly negative… or do I throw in the towel and say “It just wasn’t my kind of book.” Personally, I feel really awkward about giving partial reviews when I know an author was expecting me to read their whole book… but again, the alternative is to waste a week forcing myself to read a book I know I’m not going to like. It’s a no-win situation.

I bring all of this up of course because currently I am “dabbling” in reading five books. I won’t post their titles or authors here, but you can clearly see them on my Upcoming Reviews tab of this blog. Here’s the thing: I am stuck at around 9-15% in four of them. In no particular order, let’s go through the books:

Book 1: This book is extremely well written. The narrative is colorful and descriptive, and I have absolutely no trouble getting pulled into the world building. The characters are well-written and entertaining… BUT it’s not my kind of book. It’s an epic fantasy where the main character is male. I read a lot of romance.  For me, it’s kind of boring.. not because it was ill-written… but it’s just not my thing.

Book 2: I had to close this book after the first page. The author included a prologue that basically gave me a ton of back-story for the main character (even though this is a series of short stories) that I really didn’t think was needed. It was an info dump and didn’t tell me anything I really needed to know in order to read the rest of the book. It irritated me because it’s poor writing. If the whole book is going to be written that way, I don’t want to read it.

Book 3: This book started off strong and interesting, but the farther I got into the story, the weirder it became. At one point the character is having a dialogue with two imaginary women living in her head (one of which is baking) while discussing the death of a man she refers to as “the pink man” because he wore a pink shirt… and… I just sat back and went “WTF am I reading?” It’s very distracting and hard to follow along even though I really liked the main character up until that point.

Book 4: I got through the first two pages, and closed it. Like the second book, it had a prologue where the ENTIRE history behind the book was written out in a huge info-dump just so when the story started I’d know what was going on. When has this ever been acceptable? It’s like the cheap way of saying “I don’t want to try to work all this back story into the narrative where it belongs so… here you go. Have a cheat sheet.” Blech.

Book 5: I’m fairly certain the author’s going to read this. Anyways,  I’m two pages in and I really like where this story is going. The voice it’s written in is very similar to my own in a way, so I’m familiar with it and it’s easy to read. The chapter starts out strong, and I like the main character… BUT I can tell that it hasn’t been through a set of beta readers, proofreader, or copyeditor. There’s a lot of what I’d call “weak writing” not bad, but a little redundant and wordy at times. I keep finding myself highlighting little bits and pieces as I go along, and it has me at the point where I almost want to volunteer to help copyedit the thing for free because I think the story has a lot of potential… I just don’t know if I can get through it without frustrating the crap out of myself with all the notes I feel inclined to place on it.

So I guess the question I have is this: At what point do you throw up your hands and move on to something you actually want to read? Usually if I find that I’m having a difficult time getting through a book I’ll set it aside, pick up a book I know I’m going to like (something fun, short, and romantic!), and then when I’m done with that book, I’ll go back and try again. This keeps me from putting down a book just because I’m having a hard time getting into it on that particular day. Sometimes I’m just tired and can’t get my head around a book. Sometimes I have other pressing things to do and I can’t concentrate—but eventually I go back and try again and only then, on the second attempt, will I put a book down if I still can’t manage to get through it.

I’m curious to see how others broach this dilemma. Personally, I feel guilty for accepting a book for review if I don’t finish reading the whole thing… but sometimes you just’ can’t. At what point do you give up and say “sorry. I just couldn’t get through it.” Do any other reviewers out there run into this problem, and if you do, how do you deal with it. Am I just being too sensitive towards the author’s feelings by feeling guilty about it? Let me know what you think!

Being a reviewer is hard sometimes.

Book Review: The Darkest Night

 

cover-TheDarkestNightTitle: The Darkest Night [Lords of the Underworld 1]

Author: Gena Showalter

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: All her life, Ashlyn Darrow has been tormented by voices from the past. To end the nightmare, she has come to Budapest seeking help from men rumored to have supernatural abilities, not knowing she’ll be swept into the arms of Maddox, their most dangerous member — a man trapped in a hell of his own.

Neither can resist the instant hunger than calms their torments… and ignites an irresistible passion. But every heated touch and burning kiss will edge them closer to destruction — and a soul-shattering test of love…
Though they carry an eternal curse, the Lords of the Underworld are irresistibly seductive — and unimaginably powerful…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

First of all: The cover. I think it was well done. It’s seductive in a way that isn’t super-flashy, and the color scheme works well. *thumbs up*. It’s one of those few romance covers that wouldn’t embarrass you too much out in public. As for the book itself, I’m not sure where to begin. Gena Showalter is an author who’s popped in and out of my periphery for awhile now, but I hadn’t picked up any of her books until just recently. I went on a bit of a paranormal romance kick last week and shoved a bunch of random titles onto my Kindle, and this was one of them. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed The Darkest Night.

The story revolves around Ashlyn Darrow, a young woman with an extraordinary gift that allows her to hear conversations–ALL conversations– that have ever happened in a specific location. Because of this gift she’s stayed isolated most of her life, working for a scientific group that works to find supernatural creatures, help them flourish, and also at the same time, use their abilities to help the world at large. Unfortunately, Ashlyn doesn’t appreciate her gift as much as you may expect. To her, it’s more of a curse. People, even those at the institute, treat her badly because she’s privy to everything they’ve ever said… and that includes a lot of secrets. Desperate to remove this curse, she seeks out a group of supernatural beings that have been rumored to be Angels near Budapest. She’s heard all sorts of information about how they seem to help the town, supporting it with charity and keeping outside forces from hurting the townspeople. There’s also a few rumors that maybe the men living in the secluded compound are demons, but that can’t be true. Right? She desperately hopes that these supernatural men will know more about her ability, and possibly help her rid herself of this so called “gift”.

From there the story stems into an action-packed, supernatural gore-fest as Ashlyn learns the truth behind the so called “angels” of Budapest, and is taken hostage by the wary group of demon-possessed warriors. She even begins to fall for one of them, despite trying her best not to. The story is dotted with mythology of titans and greek gods, immortal warriors and demons from the deepest, darkest regions of hell. I found the world building compelling without being so over the top that I felt I was watching a history lesson in mythology. There was just enough to build up the world and set the stage without overshadowing the romance of the plot or the struggles of the characters, and I certainly appreciated the way it was done. The writing itself from a technical stand point was clear, engaging, and well written. The only thing that really drew me away from truly adoring it was that the author’s voice tended to be a bit… sugary. I guess is the best way to put it. This was a dark story, but the writing wasn’t always dark. In fact, one character in particular, a child of the gods, was downright vivacious. I think I would have preferred the silliness to be toned down a bit considering the plot of the story, but I’m willing to let it slide, because it didn’t keep the story from being believable.

As for the characters: I loved them. Even the evil demon-possessed warriors at their worst were loveable. Ms. Showalter did an excellent job of balancing the proud, honor-bound personalities of the demon-possessed men with the darker sides of their nature. I had no trouble believing that they were good men, and by the same token, didn’t have a problem believing that they were capable of horrendous things. It’s often so hard to reach that sort of balance in a character and have them remain believable, but the author did it effortlessly.

There were a few things that weird-ed me out about this story, mainly having to do with the outside help of the Greek god’s daughter (I still have no idea what her name was) and her sassy attitude. Her personality seemed so out of place next to all the very serious characters of the book. Another issue for me was the way Ashlyn basically clung to Maddox from the very beginning. On the one hand, I understand that she was desperate for his help and the silence he provided just being around her. (though I should remark that it was never explained why she couldn’t hear anything when she was around the demon-warriors). It seemed like she was a kid clinging to a stuffed rabbit. Despite the obvious danger she was in and the very real situation of being held captive (and even starved in a dungeon for a night), she was almost… loyal… to Maddox. She wanted to be around him all the time. I can see the appeal of the silence, like I said, but I have a hard time believing she’d throw personal safety out the window so eagerly. Another (small) issue I had was that I really wish more time had been spent on the overthrowing of the Greek Gods. It was mentioned and there were certainly some things that cropped up in the story because of it, but there just wasn’t a lot of time spent on the upheaval or the consequences as they trickled down to the warriors. I was expecting more to happen (and that’s one of the big reasons this is only four stars). Maybe the series will get more into that with subsequent books, but I certainly felt the absence in this one.

Those points aside, I really have nothing else to complain about. I really liked this book despite it’s few flaws, and I’m mostly willing to let them go. Overall, I’d certainly recommend the book to anyone who likes Paranormal Romance. (specially if you’re like me and like brooding domineering men in your romance novels). It was different than I’d expected the story to be, but I ended up liking it because of that rather than despite the fact. I’ll certainly be looking into the rest  of the series, and more titles from this author.

Book Review: Breathless

cover-breathlessTitle: Breathless [Blue Fire Saga 1]

Author: Scott Prussing

Genre: New Adult, Paranormal, Romance

Rating: 2 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: College freshman Leesa Nyland has been fascinated by vampires since she was three years old. That’s when her mom started acting weird, refusing to go outside during the day and insisting the sunlight hurt her skin because she had been bitten by a one-fanged vampire…

But fascinated doesn’t mean Leesa believes—any more than she believes in blue fire, people who live for centuries, and kisses that can kill. When her beloved older brother suddenly disappears, she is forced to confront all these and more.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I really wanted to like this book. The cover was gorgeous, the writing was clear, and easy to follow… and the author obviously took their time to really explore the lore and world-building behind this series.  It had a down-to-earth but intriguing plot. Unfortunately, the characters had the depth of a half-mopped spill. Their actions in this story were so utterly unbelievable that I was actually angry by the time I finished the book.

It’s not that I didn’t like the characters. I found Leesa’s shyness endearing. Stefan and Rave were a gorgeous mix of masculinity, kindness, and brooding predator. Even Leesa’s almost-non-existent friends had great personalities… but that’s pretty much as far as they went. There was no back-story to any of the characters except to mention Leesa’s part-vampire mother, and we rarely even saw her in the story. Most of the narrative consisted of Leesa going to class, hanging out in her dorm room with friends, or awkwardly wandering around campus.  It was mostly mundane tasks and conversations and very little action, intrigue, or suspense… which… given the plot, should have been present.

The most infuriating part of this story, however, was the wishy-washy nature of all the characters… and complete lack of common sense.  Vampires, Volkaane… all the immortal beings were perfectly fine divulging all of their secrets to the human populace despite the fact they frequently talked about how they wanted to stay under the radar.  It was a good thing though – because Leesa couldn’t keep her mouth shut. She told all of her friends, her family, even the enemy of her “boyfriend” everything there was to know about everyone else’s business. She couldn’t keep a secret to save her life–not that anyone seemed to mind. Also, despite the fact that Rave and Stefan were supposedly mortal enemies (though it was never explained why), Leesa was magically able to tell them to quit fighting… and they listened. Suddenly everyone was behaving as though they had no choice. Hello? These two immortal beings are centuries older than this shy little mouse of a college student, but they were both willing to do whatever she asked.  In fact, by the time I was half-way through the story, the two men were so completely smitten with her they were more than willing to marry her.

W. T. F.

Between her selfishness, stupidity, and inability to keep her mouth shut… I just couldn’t understand the appeal.

Another oddity was that despite the fact that these two immortal species were supposed to be “secret”, the minute Leesa informed everyone (and I do mean everyone) that they existed… no one questioned her. Everyone took it at face value and went “oh.. okay. cool!”  and we’re not just talking about her close friends; I’m talking friends, family, even her teacher. No one questioned it. No one thought she was crazy, no one seemed to be frightened either. How does this happen? I’m still trying to understand.  There was a complete lack of any sort of tension or mystery to this story. Everyone… got along in a sort-of saturday morning cartoon way, and the one or two “fights” that were presented were easily dissolved away once Leesa stepped into the middle of them. She’s like a magic tranquilizer in human form.

The frustrating part of it was that there were so many instances where tension and conflict could have been introduced. I would have killed to have Edwina show up and harass Leesa, or to have seen the Volkaane lead an assault against the Vampire coven. They never did. Rave wouldn’t even fight to keep Leesa. At the final moment when Leesa revealed her plan to sacrifice herself for her brother, he pretty much stepped aside and agreed with her. He didn’t try to stop her or rescue her… there were no daring plans to steal her brother back.  The ending was wrapped up in a shiny little perfect bow, and no one got hurt, or angry, or swore retaliation. Nothing.

I am completely baffled.

The one truly redeeming feature of the story was the lore/world building. It was obvious the author had taken a lot of time to research vampire lore and adapt it to their own unique version. The concept of the Volkaane was interesting and unique (though now that I think about it, the moodus noises never were explained…), and a bit of a neat twist on the usual immortal beings we find in these kinds of stories. The only area that lacked in their development was an explanation of WHY the Volkaane fought the Vampires at all. I knew they hunted the vamps, but never why. The vampires didn’t seem all that evil to me. A total of.. what… 3 people were murdered during the entire book? Considering their food source and the circumstances they were in… I’d consider that pretty damn nice of them.

In the end, I just couldn’t enjoy the story. It wasn’t a bad idea for a novel, and there were certain aspects of it that were done very well, but in the end the execution was more of a “limp rag” than a “taunt bowstring”. It lacked any sense of immediacy, action, tension, or suspense. The pieces fell into place easily and without effort… to the point that the narrative became mundane and unfulfilling. Would I recommend it? No. I don’t think I would. If I had one way to sum up how ill-written this book was, it would be to quote the first line of chapter 33:

“It was a dark and stormy night.”

Book Review: Across The Universe

cover-acrosstheuniverseTitle: Across the Universe

Author: Beth Revis

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I have to admit, posting a 3-star review for this book, I feel a bit like I’m going against the grain. Everywhere I look I see rave reviews for Across the Universe, even from my fellow bloggers… but I stand by 3 stars. The book was okay, but it wasn’t anything special. From the very beginning the plot (teenager wakes up from cryo-sleep early, on board a spaceship overrun by the managerial crew who’ve taken over) was a familiar one. In fact, one of my favorite science fiction books from when I was still in grade-school started off the same way (wayyy back in the 80’s)… kid wakes up from cryo-sleep early.  I wasn’t surprised or enthralled.

For the most part, the story kept me reading, partly due to the fun of reminiscing over a familiar plot from my childhood, but despite the many assurances I had from other reviewers… the book wasn’t thrilling or suspenseful. I had the bad-guy picked out the first time they mentioned him. This wasn’t a great mystery. The characters had an inkling of depth, but I feel as though more could have been done with them. It almost felt as if something were missing. I’d have liked to hear more about Kaleigh and what happened to her, or even the full story behind why the Eldest tried to have Orion killed, but neither were fully explained. The author spent more time on The Season than the back-stories of the characters, which was a shame. I inwardly cringed when the season came up.  Now, understand that I’m not some great prude.  I read a LOT of romance novels and erotica–it’s somewhat my forte–but in a book labeled as YA, I couldn’t help but think “and how old do these YA need to be?” while the characters proceeded to join ship-wide orgies, and the main character nearly being raped.

I honestly don’t think the season had any direct relationship to the plot in any way… other than being a moment were the author tried to say “look here! i’m so clever! look at my world building!” Some of the world building was interesting. I really liked the beginning when Amy was being put into cryo-sleep. It was nice to see a book where the realities of how embarrassing and uncomfortable the whole situation was wasn’t glossed over. I also liked the (cliche) idea of how the crew took over the ship… but that’s where the fun ends. It’s all been done before, and in some cases, better. Even the romance was lack-luster… if you can even call it a romance. Elder had a teenage crush on Amy even before he met her, but Amy never seemed to respond to his affections (or anyone else’s) and then it just… faded away. The author stopped talking about the romance at some point, and it became background noise.

In the end, I did enjoy the book, but I wish the author had spent more time developing the story. It’s a fun read, but it lacks depth… to the characters, the plot, the romance… everything.

Authors & Reviewers: Free books in exchange for Feedback

This is my “I’m too lazy to post a real article today” article (’cause I haven’t finished reading any books in a few days). In case any of you authors or reviewers out there in blog-land have somehow missed these, I thought I’d share some links today…

The following are links to various websites where authors/publishers can post e-books in exchange for honest reviews from hundreds of different reviewers.  Reviewers-you can snag some free books in exchange for a little of your time and review (who doesn’t love free books? especially when all you need to do is share your opinion on them!) So be sure to check these out! 

Reviews are great for marketing books, and a helpful way to get feedback from a wide array of people. It’d be silly not to use these opportunities to your advantage.

That’s all for today folks. *salutes* I need to get back to organizing that horrendous e-library of mine. 3,000 down, 5,500 to go! I may be a bit addicted to reading. *pinches fingers together* just a bit.

Partial Reviews: How to write them, how to accept them.

bookshelves-at-the-library_w482_h725 One controversial topic that seems to frequently pop up between authors and reviewers, is that of books that are reviewed negatively after a reviewer has stopped midway through reading it. I’ve seen both sides of the conversation: that of the author that is perplexed and angry that someone has rated their book without bothering to finish reading it, and the other; the reviewer’s, who feels that the fact that they didn’t finish the book may signify that something is greatly wrong with it. As a reviewer myself, I’d like to attempt to explain the second viewpoint, but also, offer up some advice on how to review a book you haven’t bothered to finish reading in a way that is honest, and helpful to the author.

Sometimes as a reviewer, I am put in a very difficult position. I love reading books, and the fact that I can get 100% free books if I’m willing to review them, is a mind blowing idea. It’s akin to leading a kid to the candy isle and telling them “You can eat any of the candy here you want… as long as you’ll tell me what it tastes like.” Do you know any kids that are going to turn that down? The problem is… the adult leading this hypothetical kid through the candy store… is also the adult who made the candy. As a reviewer, it’s tough to give negative reviews to an author. Having been given the gift of their creative child, it often feels like I’m telling them their kid is ugly. There’s no real polite way to it. I can be honest, and if they’re of a fair mind, they’ll take my honesty for what it is: just my opinion–of course, how many parents do you know would take that well?

So you might ask, what’s worse than telling an author that you didn’t like their book? How about telling them it was so awful you couldn’t force yourself to read it? We’d all like to think that we could push our way through any book, but sometimes, you just can’t, and it’s unreasonable to expect you to. Now, it’s not often that I’ll get a book that’s so awful I can’t finish it… but it has happened. In fact, the book I’m currently reading, is on that very short list. Sometimes there comes a point in a story when your misery of reading that book overwhelms your sense of duty, and you can do nothing more than close the cover and give up.

From the author’s point of view, this seems unfair. They want to know why we couldn’t finish reading it. That’s a fair thing to ask. You SHOULD tell the author why you couldn’t finish reading it… because whatever it is that made you close that book–they need to know about it. Unfortunately, though they want the answer, they also don’t want your negative rating attached to it. They have to make sales. Once again, we’re back to calling their kid ugly. So what, as reviewers should we do?

Tell them anyway.

We are not obligated as reviews to pander to their hurt feelings. There’s a difference between writing a flaming, unreasonably negative review, and being honest. Should you write them a review that says “THIS SUCKED, DON’T BUY IT!”? No. Should you write a review saying you didn’t enjoy the book because you found the character’s actions unbelievable and the dialogue very stiff? Yes. They need to know that, and although it may hurt their feelings, any author worth their salt is going to listen to what you had to say and use it to improve. Just because your opinion is negative doesn’t make it any less valid.

So, you may ask, how do we write a review that basically equates to “I couldn’t force myself to read this.”? The answer is simple: Explain why you couldn’t read it. It’s okay to tell an author that it “just wasn’t my kind of book.” or “I didn’t get it.” Everyone has a different preference for the type of stories they like. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Romance, Dystopians, and Paranormal. You may be a huge fan of Military History, Humorous Fantasy, or Science Fiction Thrillers. If you like that sort of book and want to give it a 5-star review, more power to you. I’d probably think it was boring. It’s okay to disagree with the masses… just make sure your review reflects the honest reason behind why you couldn’t read that book.

Take the time to explain what bothered you about the book, and cite examples. Examples are your friend, because no one can refute them. If you say “the grammar was horrible, the character was an airhead, and the plot was stupid.” Well, that’s your opinion. An author, or other reader will look at the review and say “okay.. they just wanted to be mean. Haters gunna hate. ”  If you give an example, such as:

“I found the grammar in this book to be lacking. For instance, on line 4 of page 36 (location 915 on kindle), the sentence reads: “You no idea what your talking about.” Obviously, it should have read more like “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”  Mistakes like these should have been caught in the first draft.”

There’s nothing they can say to dispute that. It’s an error. You have proof. If a character does something you feel is air-headed, quote the lines. Point it out, and explain why you found these instances unsavory. What bothered you about the scene?

In the end, the author may still choose to take your partial review as a personal attack, but they’re going to look stupid arguing with you. If they want to ignore the fact that you’re providing invaluable feedback towards improving their craft, well, that’s their problem. There’s only so much you can do.

As for the authors out there: read your negative reviews. It may be painful, it may make you angry, but it’ll provide you with useful information. It’s usually pretty easy to tell who the haters are… they’re the reviewers that say “THIS SUCKS!”, but if you happen to run across one of these infamous partial-reviews, try not to take it as a personal attack against your literary baby. Look past the opinions and try to find the reason behind them. Chances are, there’s a kernel of truth to what they’re telling you, OR, there may be something you need to clean up in your narrative that’s causing people to get the wrong opinion. Pay close attention to the repeated comments, you may find a few weak points in your writing you weren’t aware of. Negative reviews can only hurt you if you let them. Use them as a stepping stool to get better at your craft–and more importantly–thank all your reviewers for being honest. They are brave individuals that took the time to share their opinions and advice despite the fact they knew you probably wouldn’t take their criticism well. Reviewers that pander to your feelings are a dime a dozen. Those few who are unflinchingly honest? Priceless.