Reading List – April 2020

This is my second of four Indie Book Months in 2020!

Child of Humanity – Alyse N. Steves

514w6vjoailI’m a pretty big fan of sci-fi, but it seems a little more rare than fantasy when it comes to indie books. Still, I’m excited for this in part because I’m fairly certain the author is a PhD in the science (like me! Oh man, I’m so glad I’m not in grad school anymore, holy shit). The author also runs/ran the old twitter game #MeetAWriter, which I enjoyed.

Amazon Link

51n4vq2bfuylLegacy of Souls – D. Wallace Peach

I reviewed The Melding of Aeris by Diane back in April 2019, and I really enjoyed it. For that reason, I decided to see if her quality carries through to her newest series, The Shattered Sea! It seems to be a fantasy with soul-based magic, and I hope it carries similar tinges of darkness as Aeris did.

Amazon Link

 

Laevatein’s Choice – E. Kathryn

51wxlvkpovlSo, as an aside/heads up: I beta read this book. Whenever I beta read something, I get a little more attached to it than if I just pick the book up cold. I feel like I had some input with it, and I tend to give it more benefit of the doubt than I would otherwise.

Still, I can go ahead and tell you that this book is really cool, and it even blows Fire’s Hope out of the water! If you like YA and superheroes, definitely an indie book to check out.

Amazon Link

The Leftovers: Something from YOU?

Do you have a published book and a method of purchasing it that isn’t sketch as hell?  I need indie books to read, and those slots will be opening before you know it!  Let me know if you have something you’d like me to peruse!

See my old reviews here

The Aberrant Storage Site

green-shed-in-trees

“No,” Major Jennings ordered, “Don’t go near that.”

I stopped, not being one to question, but I ached to know why. The box was covered in vines, surrounded by trees, as if it hadn’t been touched in a long time. If I were going to work at this Aberrant Storage Site (or ASS, as military personnel were inevitably going to dub it), shouldn’t I know what was going on?

I swallowed a bit of fear. “Who’s in charge of this, then?”

“No one,” Jennings answered. “There are reports from 1962 that say some men captured a thing – creature, artifact, it’s not clear – and started doing it’s bidding. Soldiers disappeared, guns were found in strange places, and inscrutable symbols were carved into the sides of the barracks.”

“So?” I asked.

“Eventually, the group of men in charge of the object started bleeding themselves and collecting it in a barrack bathtub. The Base Commander at the time was appalled and put them in prison, but they kept bleeding then used the blood to write strange words all over their cell walls. Orders meant nothing to them, food or friends didn’t either. He ended up having them executed out by the hangar, then burned the corpses off site. They sealed whatever it was in this lead-lined box, and standing orders have been to shoot anyone who gets too close.”

I hadn’t expected something like this. “So, how close do you think the brainwashed soldiers came to fulfilling the thing’s goal?”

Jennings shrugged. “Unclear. It’s even possible they succeeded.” He pulled something out of his pocket. “Werther’s Original?”

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This was written for Crimson’s Creative Challenge #73. I saw this picture and just couldn’t resist.

 

Embrace Engineering

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“Then using the continuity equation, we…”

The ceiling closed in to a circular point around the visitor’s mysterious symbols. We did not understand but jotted them in notebooks and promised to use them on pipes…

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This Lovecraftian flash was inspired by Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt #150, continuity. The continuity equation is used in fluid dynamics to describe continuous flow and conserve mass/energy. Since Lovecraft was traumatized with geometry, I thought I’d use that equation to cause even MORE trauma.

The Roofing Rabbit

close up of rabbit on field

Velour wiped her brow and sat back, hammer in paw. The roof of the cabin had been difficult so far, as they only had honey locust thorns as nails and bark for shingles.

“How goes it?” Velour’s mate, Timber, asked. His ears drooped from exhaustion, as he’d built the catted chimney.

She smiled. “We’ll have this finished by winter.” She pointed to a clay bottle sitting on a stump. “Take a break and have some ginger beer.”

“Only if you come down from the roof and drink with me.”

Velour clambered down, and the pioneer rabbits rested a minute.

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This was written for the March 19th Carrot Ranch prompt, Rabbit on the Roof. My mom just started reading Redwall again, and I couldn’t think of anything that didn’t involve anthropomorphic rabbits. These pioneer rabbits are building a cabin much like the one recently built on one of my favorite YouTube channels, Townsends.

The Terror In the Suburbs

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This story was continued from Joanne the Geek’s part 1, which you can find here or by reading just below:

One (Joanne’s Part)

One  sunny afternoon Jennifer was happily walking along the footpath only to find a crowd of people suddenly run past her in abject terror. Mystified, she managed to stop one of them. They were pale and seemed terrified.

“What’s happened?” she asked him.

“This portal opened up and these creatures from another world appeared. They were huge with long tentacles and large legs like leathery tree stumps.” he exclaimed. Jennifer let him go, and he ran off in terror following the others.

“Right.” she said. Someone had to do something about this, she thought. She strode off home. She went into her bedroom closet and fished out her old battered cricket bat. “I’m going to hit those freaks for six!” She stomped out of the house.

Jennifer walked down the road until she could see a glimmering portal that pulsed with a bright light. Before it were either two or three creatures that were as tall as small office blocks. They had dark leathery skin, massive tree stump legs (as already mentioned), long protruding arms, and their heads were a mass of long writhing tentacles. Jennifer watched them, and instead of feeling scared, she felt angry. She walked towards them until she was sure she had gained their attention.

“Look I don’t know where you freaks are from, but I’m not letting monsters like you take over our world. We’re already have enough monsters here to deal with.” she told them while thinking of the current assortment of world leaders. “So be warned. I have my cricket bat!” She held her cricket bat aloft in front of them. The monsters stopped in their tracks, as if unsure with what they were dealing with.

Ge dthrth dltyz fkywfhg sdhtu!” the one closest to Jennifer said. As it spoke, from what Jennifer assumed was it’s mouth, the ground shook around them.

“Nope. Didn’t catch a word of that! Go back through your portal now, or I will take drastic steps!” she warned them. The ground shook around her again, as they all seemed to be laughing at her now. “Well I did warn you!” She gripped the handle of her bat with both hands and began running at them. As she ran the cricket bat began to glow…

Two (H.R.R. Gorman’s Part)

The earth, which had shaken as the monster spoke, began to crack beneath her feet. Roots split and shivered as something beneath the ground pushed itself up.

Jennifer rolled to the side and held her cricket bat at the ready. The bat glowed even brighter now and tingled in her grip.

Once the earth had sufficiently broken up and the thing beneath the surface was visible, the monster pointed at it. Its tentacles writhed in a flurry as it said, “Ue kthgyn wysdht dhutyk!

Up from the earth rose a transparent sphere glowing a faint blue. Two humanoid figures stood inside the bubble, and one flicked his fingers to cause the bubble to dissipate. The man, robed in a smooth, blue cloth and a rosy sash, raised a slim hand against the monsters. The hand glowed brightly.

Wkusdth grnsthyk pyblsdth, shtrydk sythyd,” the monster said, somewhat morose and pleading. Some of the creepy eyes on the ends of tentacles looked to Jennifer as if begging. The monsters retreated into the portal once more, and the fantastical apparition disappeared.

A thin woman, her ears long and pointed like the man’s, stepped from the bubble she’s appeared in and put her hands in a prayerful position. She bowed to Jennifer, smiled, and said, “Chosen one, we have protected you now, for you will soon do much to save us from those creatures.”

The man stepped off after her and licked his lips. Though he possessed an otherworldly beauty, Jennifer noticed his teeth were all small and sharp. Or was she just imagining things?

“And just who do you think you are?” Jennifer asked. She still held up her bat, noticing it retained its glow…

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Thanks for sticking around for this story! If you’re ready for more, I’m nominating Chelsea Owens to keep the party rolling. Will she keep the story going, or will she finish it? HAVE I BROKE IT TOO FAR!?

(If you’re not up for it, though, let me know and I’ll nominate someone else – I just seem to remember you are ok with “finish the story” things).

Book Review: Clara

I found this book on Twitter and downloaded this first in the series for free from the author’s website. The Bookfunnel method she uses is legitimate (if you trust someone as sketchy as me to tell you the truth). You can go get this sucker now!

The Book

clara-fjm_thumbnail_200x300Clara (Stories of Lorst, Book 1)
Author: Suzanna J. Linton
2013
Website/Bookfunnel Link

This is an epic high fantasy about a woman who is mute. That alone interested me because there’s not many books about people with disabilities, and muteness seems like a difficult one to portray.

Also, author’s from that other, crazy Carolina (South Carolina), so I thought I needed to do some Carolina represent!

Non-Spoiler Review

Overall, I have really weird feelings about this book. First, there was nothing that I found actually wrong about it. The writing was good and consistent over a massive number of words, and it keeps moving along well.  The characters were also well done. There was absolutely nothing I could point out as to why someone shouldn’t like this book.

At the same time, I could never find myself entirely interested, and I took way more and longer breaks than I felt like I should have.

I think the problem for me was that it didn’t quite hit the genre that I like. It had a significant romance element that I didn’t expect, and I think I kept wanting it to turn into an intense political intrigue or war story when that simply wasn’t the context the book was supposed to have. There was intrigue and war, but that didn’t seem to be the primary focus or the driver of interest.

Another thing that I look for in books is a main character that does things, not a main character that things happen to. Clara’s life is filled with adventure, but for the vast majority of the book her agency is extremely limited and other characters drive most of the plot. As a result, those who like more character driven stories are probably going to like this more.

So, overall, I’d definitely give this a read if you like indie books and character driven stories. It’s well done, consistent, and the premises are sound.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

4 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

As mentioned earlier, I thought the plot was driven by side characters. Emmerich, Gavin, and Asher all decided what to do, and they pushed and pulled Clara around to commit what they wanted. Granted, her powers of seeing the future were important, but rarely effective for her. They usually saw events for the powerful men in her life.

The overall plot – beyond the falling in love bits – was about Marduk and the stolen throne that Emmerich is trying to get back. Emmerich plans the war, leads the rebellion, and is the charismatic center of the book. He makes a good deuterotagonist and male love interest/lead, but he also seemed to be the main driver of the plot. To me, that left the book somewhat lacking, but it added a romantic element that would have been entirely absent had he been the main character.

One thing that was very well done, however, was the tension about who Clara was going to choose. Would it be Gavin? Emmerich? Which king was the pretender, and whose army was actually working for good? Clara was a good unreliable narrator in this respect.

If you prefer romance, however, I’d encourage you to check this book out and give it a try.

Next week:

Whaaat, it’s going to be February soon!? That’s nuts! Stick around!

Book Review: Soul Swallowers

Last year, I read one of D. Wallace Peach’s earlier works and ended up choosing it as my favorite indie book of the year. Excited by the prospect of truly enjoying an author’s work, I wanted to continue reading some of her repertoire and moved to one of her newest series – The Shattered Sea books.

And where else to start except the beginning? I present to you now my review of Soul Swallowers.

The Book

51n4vq2bfuylSoul Swallowers
Author: D. Wallace Peach
2018
Amazon Link

I saw this on D. Wallace Peach’s website/blog. The Amazon review touts it as a fantasy New Adult novel. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel explicitly targeted to New Adult audiences, so I’m interested to see how this goes.

Non-Spoiler Review

Wow.

This book was everything I’d want, indie book or not. The characters were complex, the twists reasonable yet unexpected, and the political situation was at the forefront. The fantasy elements of literal soul swallowing was fit perfectly in with the way the politics worked. Peach’s writing style has always been one of my favorites, and I’m thrilled to say that her word choice, sentence structure, formatting, and paragraph breaks all pleased me.

Basically, I loved this book. I haven’t read The Game of Thrones, but I get the feeling the politics and build of Soul Swallowers would please fans of that more famous book. This book does contain some rather hard subjects (slavery and abuse being primary among these), so it may not be for everyone. Even despite the difficult subjects, Peach does an excellent job qualifying the characters’ experiences to show the evils within the world.

I recommend this to anyone who likes fantasy and doesn’t think the slavery and abuse pieces of the book will get to them.

Biggest complaint: Not a fan of the title. I know it’s just a personal opinion, but that’s really all I can say that I truly disliked.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Usually, I’m not a fan of character driven stories, but I’d have to say this was one of the most enjoyable character driven stories I’ve read. The book makes you become invested in Raze’s well-being as well as his quest to free slaves and see lasting change in his world, even if it’s through humble and slow means.

The political saga of Azalus, Laddon, and Nallea was exciting, and that was probably the story that had the greatest semblance of a plot. Laddon’s fate (dying without a soulstone) was especially important, as it allowed us a sneak peak into the fate of unbound souls. I enjoyed that, because it helped explain the world in a way that cleared so many issues up.

By the end, Azalus and Nallea married. It’s not as exciting now, when I type it, than it felt when I read it. Even though that plot seems tied neatly with a bow, there’s much left to find out, what with the slaver Sajem still at large and bondage still occuring throughout the Vales and Ezar. I’m looking forward to book 2.

Next week:

I’m reading Kevin Parish’s book of poetry, What Words May Come!

Reading List – January 2020

Welcome to my first Indie Book month of 2020! I’m kicking off this year right with a bunch of books that I have high hopes for, and I hope you enjoy these reviews.

A Bit of 2020 Reading Announcements

First, I’ve planned most of this year’s reading. If you go to my reading page here, you’ll see the entire year splayed out! You’ll also see there are 3 open spots for indie books, and you can go to my reading page and send a review request. There’s also a few July slots that I haven’t completely set in stone, but you have to be pretty convincing to get me to switch one of those. Also, even though the open slots are for October reviews, I will do Amazon and/or Goodreads reviews far sooner.

Speaking of Goodreads, I’ve made a new Goodreads profile that you can friend. It’s not well filled-out yet, but you can expect me to start rating and filling it up.

Because I’ve joined Goodreads and committed to giving star ratings, I thought I’d put those on the books I read this year. Present on my blog posts will be Discoball Snowcone ratings!

These snowcones will be given the same as stars. I am also giving old reviews ratings!

51n4vq2bfuylSoul Swallowers – D. Wallace Peach

I reviewed The Melding of Aeris by Diane back in April 2019, and I really enjoyed it. For that reason, I decided to see if her quality carries through to her newest series, The Shattered Sea! It seems to be a fantasy with soul-based magic, and I hope it carries similar tinges of darkness as Aeris did.
Amazon Link

41lpbrmcfsl._sx322_bo1204203200_What Words May Come – Kevin D. Parish

Kevin Parish has a WordPress blog that I follow. Not only does he write good poetry for his blog, he’s one of the nicest people out there. When he announced his book, I looked at the comments on his page and saw that he’d “delayed” publishing this book so his mom could get the first copy.

MY EYES DIDN’T TEAR UP AT THAT I SWEAR.

Anyway, I’m excited to read this book of poetry and see what Kevin publishes that could possibly be better than what’s already on his blog!
Amazon Link

clara-fjm_thumbnail_200x300Clara – Susanna Linton

I saw this advertised for free on Twitter, and I was like, “This person tweets well and seems nice. I’m going to read this first book in the series because I don’t think it will be bad.” Epic fantasy is usually right up my alley anyway.

Want to know something else?

She doesn’t use Amazon, and her system still works incredibly well with Kindle. I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ve downloaded it from Bookfunnel through a link on her beautiful website (which I am freaking jealous of).
Website/Bookfunnel Link

The Leftovers: Something from YOU?

Do you have a published book and a method of purchasing it that isn’t sketch as hell? I need indie books to read, and those slots will be opening before you know it! Let me know if you have something you’d like me to peruse!

See my old reviews here

Favorite Books of 2019

Lucky for me, there’s 5 Mondays this December, which allows an excellent chance to look back at the pile of books (36! Huzzah for me!) I’ve had the privilege to read in 2019!  Here’s a few of my favorites from this year:

Favorite Book On First Read

650Without a doubt, my favorite book this year was Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. If you are a fantasy or a history buff, you should read this absolutely exquisite work. It’s so good that I don’t even feel jealous of the author, just ever so grateful I was able to read the book. 100%, totally recommend. If I hadn’t already given away my copy in earnest effort to get someone to read it, I’d give you mine.

Pro tip, though: get an e-book version. The binding on the paperback is a little weird and can make your experience slightly less enjoyable.

If you allow re-reads, I would have to say this book is competitive with Ancillary Justice, which I still think is probably on of the best books I’ve ever read, but perhaps less fun that Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Favorite Indie Book

This feels like such a dangerous category to even have! First, let me say that so many of my fellow bloggers have written great books. More so than anything, what I’ve found to be important in finding a great Indie Book is to look at how dedicated the author is to the craft. A good blog/website is HIGHLY indicative of a good book to follow.

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That being said, I think my favorite Indie Book this year was Diane Wallace Peach’s The Melding of Aeris. While many books could boast powerful storylines and well-written prose, what continues to stick out about Aeris is the extraordinarily clever world and detailed magic system. The feel is post-apocalyptic, but it doesn’t go into detail as to why the world is such. I had a lot of fun reading it and would recommend to those looking for a way into the indie book scene.

I feel like if I do runners up, I’d just be listing off a bunch of bloggers’ books!

Favorite Series

One of my goals this year was to read more series, and I’ve read several. However, I’ve got to limit my choice to just one!

And, no doubt in my mind, it was the Robert Remini Andrew Jackson trilogy. This trilogy is a fantastic set of biographical works that incorporates both feelings from back in the day when everyone was racist and ideals from a more modern, critical era. Though Jackson was a lunatic, Remini shows you his charisma, wit, and drive in such a way that he becomes more coherent. I’ve always enjoyed studying Jackson, though, so I’m inevitably a bit biased.

Also I’ve read this series in the past, so I feel like I cheated a bit by choosing them here. A good runner up would be the Imperial Radch trilogy, but I think it suffers from having a weak second entry.

Favorite Classic

Surprisingly enough, I didn’t read too many true classics. For that reason, I’m including somewhat recent science fiction and fantasy classics.

dracula1st

Even so, I’d have to go with Dracula by Bram Stoker. I didn’t go in expecting much from this book, but I was pleasantly surprised by the tension, the depth of character, and creativity with the subject matter. I think it’s a great read for anyone interested in expanding their experience with fantasy and classics. Don’t be afraid of it just because of the Twilight craze!

A Couple I Explicitly Didn’t Like

I don’t want to talk about Indie books I didn’t like. If you want to see me rip Indie books, you’ll have to go to my Reviews Page and find them yourself. Part of this is my belief that Indie Books, if done right, should explore niches traditional publishers are afraid to go down – niches that might not be for every reader.

I was sad that I didn’t like Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse. I thought the premise looked really cool, and I very much enjoyed some of the short stories she’d published in other places. I thought the book didn’t explain itself well, and I could never root for the main character. It also came off as tone-deaf in a post 2016 world. 100% worst thing I’ve read this year.

Without anything coming close to Trail of Lightning in terms of sheer dislike, I moved on to thinking about disappointments. Though I enjoyed the book by the end, I was disappointed with The Warrior’s Apprentice. After having read two other novels by McMasters-Bujold, I expected more from this book. I also got more from the books following The Warrior’s Apprentice in the series. I think she tried to fit too much in the novel, and it ended up being an overwhelming tapestry of exciting stuff. It was also her first publication, so that inexperience probably didn’t help.

 

 

The Secret Life of your Hammer

black claw hammer on brown wooden plank

Usually the hammer lived happily in a drawer next to the tape measure and a molten pack of gum, but sometimes the humans would attack. Someone would be abducted, sometimes for days, and abused mercilessly at their hands.

Today storm clouds whirled above, and the humans had innocent sheets of plywood to serve as storm windows. They withdrew a nail from a sack on their belts.

“Ow! Ow!” screeched the hammer.

But the human didn’t care. He beat the hammer senseless, imprisoned the poor nails in the plywood and siding, then left them precariously outside as the hurricane blew…

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This was written for the November 14th Carrot Ranch prompt, storm windows. I think this one has more the feel of a “yarn,” but I enjoyed it and hope you did to!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com