Reading List – July 2020

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

Through the Nethergate – Roberta Cheadle

41umochifzlRoberta Cheadle announced the publication of her paranormal novel on her blog, and I was instantly stoked. I like a lot of what she posts on her blog, and I know her research is spot-on fantastic. I have been looking forward to reading this for quite a while now, so let’s hop in!

Amazon LinkThough Cheadle has made other purchase options available

From Ashes to Magic – Various, Edited by Mikki Noble

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I follow Ari Meghlen on Twitter and WordPress, and she announced that she was taking part of this series. It’s about various magical creatures and creative interpretations of their lives, struggles, existences, and relationships, and I thought that would be a great way to get introduced to a lot of authors! Haven’t tried a “various authors” short story collection yet!

Amazon Link

The Gate – D.L. Cross

45946171Sometimes, I’ll surf around Twitter and look at books people have up for sale. This one attracted my attention because it’s a science fiction novel that contains archaeology, promises twists, and seems like it will probably have a humorous element to it. I’m excited to see if I chose something well!

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 filled my slots this year using Twitter, but I’m always looking for new indie books to review. I buy books I review because I don’t want to be beholden to anyone.

See my old reviews here

Adoption – #TankaTuesday #Haibun

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The medicine man draws the marks of the chosen one on her forehead, her cheeks, with a muddle of red clay and pure springwater. The gourd bowl he draws from is stained red by years, decades, and generations of uses before. It is a holy day, and a gift must be flown to the gods. He places a bearskin cape on the chosen one’s back, the horns of a deer on her head, and precious shells in her hands. He commands her,

Stretch your holy wings –
the gods’ gift on sacred days.
Brave the daunting jump!

And so she leaps, the cape flapping in the wind, feathered wings of the gods sprouting from her back. She becomes the bird, the bear, the deer, and radiance as the child soars to her new, adopted parents.

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This was written for Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday #184, a picture and form prompt! We were to write a haibun inspired by Frank J. Tassone’s picture of a New York natural area. I went a fantasy route.

Book Review: Laevatein’s Choice

I read E. Kathryn’s first installation in The Shadows series because I beta read the book. You can find that review here. I also beta’d this one, so I can go ahead and tell you that this one is gonna be straight-up great. I’m excited to see the changes between the beta version and the final version!

The Book

51wxlvkpovlThe Shadows: Laevatein’s Choice
Author: E. Kathryn
2018
Amazon Link

This is a YA book about kids with superpowers. The source of these powers, when we left off at the end of Fire’s Hope, was mysterious. There seemed to be a lot more to what it meant to be one of these people, and it had that air of mystery even though there was a definitive end to it.

And, like I said, I beta read this book. I put that up front on my blog reviews because it could be considered a conflict of interest. However, I’ve never asked E. Kathryn anything in return for my beta reading, and I bought the book with my own money.

Non-Spoiler Review

Ok, so, the good thing is I can confirm this book is great. There’s a powerful sense of plot here, and Mark as a character can be related to. The book gets into some pretty dark themes of abuse, neglect, mental illness, and adult manipulation of teens, but it’s done in such a wonderful manner that I think teens not only can read this book on their own, but should.

I grew up in a less-than-ideal household, one perhaps most similar to the one presented as Emilie’s in Laevatein’s Choice. (Mild spoiler for the rest of the paragraph, maybe?) In Emilie’s plotline, she struggles to convince anyone else that her mother and father aren’t great for her or each other. The way adults and other kids downplay her concerns is so awful, but also terrifyingly realistic. The struggles within Mark’s family after Mark goes through the massive changes in Book 1, Fire’s Hope, are also very interesting.

Something plot-related but not spoilerific is that what I consider the climax happens pretty early. Even so, the rest of the book leaves this ever-present air of tension that doesn’t let up until right when it needs to. Also, good hint: read this book while you work out. I read the final version of this as my “workout read”, and I definitely suggest doing that with this book. The physical oomph of this book makes it perfect for that cause.

Issues with the book are some that I tend to have with many indie books and many series. The first is that you’ll have to read Fire’s Hope in order to understand Laevatein’s Choice. While Fire’s Hope is good, it definitely feels like an author’s first book and like one written by a young author. It also doesn’t have a similar feel or gravity to Laevatein’s Choice, which could be disconcerting to people unprepared for the shift. The second is that you’ll run upon a few sentences that feel awkward or contain typos, but Kathryn’s writing has improved between the two books and I was interested enough in the plot and characters to forgive these few mistakes.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

I know, I know; you’re going to say, “H.R.R., you scoundrel of a human being, you like plot-centered books.”

Guilty. As. Charged.

In this book, we meet up with some of the characters from Fire’s Hope and see how they’re coping with newfound freedom after escaping Superhero School/Prison. Some, like Sil, are faring well, while others, like Emilie, are going through some deep sh*t. The secondary characters’ plots are fantastic, and I thought the changes in Emilie’s situation were well-done.

However, Mark’s story is fantastic. His desire to be a winner, his desire to finally best Sil at something, and his need to feel welcomed draw him into a toxic relationship with a sensei. No, it’s not sexy or anything untoward in a manner you wouldn’t let your kid read it – it’s toxic in that Geoffery sensei belittles Mark, pushes him too far, delights in athletic injuries. Oh man, all the hints were there, but somehow I didn’t expect it on first read when Geoffery freaking turns on Mark and just destroys him with the sword Morglay. Geoffery, who reveals himself to be a quarter of the evil Shadow Strength, has made Mark into another vessel of Strength for reasons unknown.

The back 40% of the book examines the changes and struggles between Mark’s friends and family as they rush to save him. Secrets about his father’s origins and amnesia are revealed, Shadow magic is done, and much is explained about the universe. Though Laevatein’s Choice ends with a satisfying conclusion to the main story, it has set up for Book 3 very well.

Next week:

I’m moving on to a new month, so stay tuned to see what I read next!

Dark Divinations – What’s in YOUR Future?

The time is nigh, my friends, to speak of horrors and things… unseen.

On May 1st, the anthology Dark Divinations goes live! And look at that cover – it’s pretty great, if you ask me.

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Here’s the teaser which can be found on the book’s webpage:

It’s the height of Queen Victoria’s rule. Fog swirls in the gas-lit streets, while in the parlor, hands are linked. Pale and expectant faces gaze upon a woman, her eyes closed and shoulders slumped. The medium speaks, her tone hollow and inhuman. The séance has begun.

Join us as we explore fourteen frightening tales of Victorian horror, each centered around a method of divination. Can the reading of tea leaves influence the future? Can dreams keep a soldier from death in the Crimea? Can a pocket watch foretell a deadly family curse? From entrail reading and fortune-telling machines to prophetic spiders and voodoo spells, sometimes the future is better left unknown.

There’s tons of goodies for people who pre-order! Horror Addicts is giving away free tarot-inspired cards for those who take the dive and search for their Dark Divination, and you can get a sneak peak on this YouTube teaser:

And, won’t you look at that – one of the authors featured in the anthology is little ol’ H.R.R. Gorman. I wrote a short called Miss Mae’s Prayers, of which I will be releasing a snippit later… mwahaha!

You can pre-order this anthology of Victorian horror here, and you can find the Horror Addicts Patreon here. A Kindle or Amazon link will be on a later post, since those don’t come with pre-order goodies.

Book Review: Legacy of Souls

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.

I recently read the fantastic Soul Swallowers, and I decided following that up with the second entry in the series was worthwhile.

The Book

51r2wjeqkzl._sy346_Soul Swallowers
Author: D. Wallace Peach
2018
Amazon Link

I thought the first entry in the series was absolutely fantastic and I suggest it to everyone. I thought this seemed like a Game of Thrones done in a way more fantastical and more up my alley (i.e. less flopping wieners). I’m excited to see where this goes.

Non-Spoiler Review

Peach continues to amaze me and convince me that indie books are worth a try. Legacy of Souls is an epic book about deep characters (Johzar alone is just an amazing amalgam of so many pieces). I enjoyed reading it, though perhaps not as much as the first book in the series.

If you know me, you can probably expect that I love books about political nonsense. That’s probably part of why I enjoyed this – the court intrigue, the master plots concerning slavery laws, the class struggles, and all that really drew me in. Because of this political complexity, however, I would definitely say this book couldn’t stand on its own. Without that introduction from Soul Swallowers, I believe the situations as they are at the beginning of the book would be hard to understand. That’s not a bad thing since Soul Swallowers is just so damn good, but it should be taken into account in the case you want to read this.

This book focused on Raze, similarly to the last book, but there was a larger cast of characters that the narrator zoomed in on. Despite Raze’s continued involvement, I would say the main character of this book was actually a woman named Danzell. I was a little torn over this decision since Raze’s story was still complex enough to carry a plot, but Danzell was way more interesting in this book and could have also been the primary focus. I think Peach pulled off a fantastic story, but part of me wishes that there had been a more definitive main character.

There were also far more fight scenes in this book. Peach’s skills with fight scenes have definitely been honed since she wrote Aeris, but I thought there may have been a few too many. A few times I wondered if it wouldn’t have been better to talk their way into a solution, but the added battles did add to a sense of urgency that wasn’t as obvious in Soul Swallowers.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

In this book, the fates of Laddon and Nallea from book one feeds directly into the issue with Benjmur and his schemes to gain power in The Vales. Nallea’s relationship with her traitorous dad was very complex and nuanced. Despite having proof that her dad was a slimeball, Nallea still loved him. Her prior life experience had led her to believe he was kind and good, and she couldn’t fight that belief despite the evidence pointing otherwise.

Throughout the book, the importance of putting Danzell on the Ezarian throne becomes more important. Though a relatively minor character in Soul Swallowers, I would dare to say she may have been the main character in Legacy of Souls. Her story was the most pressing and important, and this made sense – however, there was also a focus on Raze, which I found a little less exciting.

Now, don’t think this is anything knocking the overall book. The book as a whole was one of the best indie books I’ve ever read (probably second to Soul Swallowers). What I think made it second to Swallowers was the Bel storyline. It felt like her abduction into slavery was mostly intended as motivation for Raze and Johzar to cross the Shattered Sea, but there was plenty of other reason to go ahead and cross. Johzar, who felt loyal to Danzell, could have crossed to help her. Raze could have crossed to clear his family’s name at the expense of Benjmur and Emperor Kyzan. Bel’s abduction here made her seem helpless, since she essentially spends most of both books with the threat of forced labor and rape looming over her constantly. She felt pretty underutilized in this book, since she served primarily as additional motivation rather than contributing actively to the plot. You may disagree, though! Get a move on and buy these books already so you can prove me wrong!

Next week:

I’m reading E. Kathryn’s Laevatein’s Choice, a paranormal novel! Get hype!

Book Review: Child of Humanity

Are you in the mood for some science fiction? Because I’m in the mood for some science fiction.

The Book

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Child of Humanity
Author: Dr. Alyse N. Steves
2016
Amazon Link

This book was written by an author who runs/ran the Twitter game #MeetAWriter. That’s all well and good, but the author is also a PhD in the sciences (not sure which one), which made me instantly interested for obvious reasons. What kept me from reading/reviewing this earlier was the cover – I just don’t like it. I also don’t really like the title, but I like more esoteric bullshit for titles.

Non-Spoiler Review

I thought this book was solid, but not perfect. The idea behind it – that advanced aliens can act as doppelgangers (or “Gangers”) to help/hinder less advanced species’ growth – was totally innovative and integral to the plot. It was interesting to see how the narrator(s)’ opinions on the Ganger system changed as more information was revealed to everyone. I enjoyed much of the plot, at least from a global point of view, and there was always tension to keep the story going. The first chapter felt a little off since it didn’t really give you any of the real premise, but once you’re past that, it was a good story.

The writing was also tight and clean. I noticed no grammar mistakes or typos, though I did catch some word repetition and a few key phrases that were overused. There were several paragraphs that contained background or backstory information that I sheepishly admit that I skimmed or skipped, but they were very long and not integral to the story.

The main character, Saira, was usually pretty relatable, but in some ways I disliked that. Though she had trained to infiltrate human society within a manufactured human body, I didn’t really get much alien feeling from her. She was vegetarian and “pacifist,” but neither of those really felt inhuman. None of the aliens, no matter their form, truly felt alien. I also felt weird about how the aliens called themselves aliens, as if they took the perspective of the humans throughout the book. More about this is in the spoilers.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Something I look for in books focusing on aliens, robots, monsters, or other, non-human sentients, is this feeling of “other” without the Pinnochio-like desire to become “normal” like the humans in the rest of the story. In the end of Child of Humanity, Saira becomes Sarah and lives her life out as a human. The other Gangers do the same thing, and all of them opt for shorter lifespans in order to be like the people they impersonated. Because the aliens never really felt alien, this desire to become human at the end felt a little off to me. Why, if they’d lived thousands of years with aliens and only about a hundred years with humans, did they develop such strong desire to identify with the humans? The connections back to their home planets and original families felt undervalued.

There were also a couple chapters about halfway through that felt repetitive. The efforts Saira made towards getting her friends to accept her as an alien kept getting reverted, and I didn’t quite understand why the same plot and character progress had to be repeated several times.

Lastly, the part where it’s revealed Jillian was a Ganger of herself, then how she was sent to the Council and saved all of intergalactic space with a 3-day speech didn’t really make sense. It felt like her efforts to save humanity and change the Council’s political direction should have failed if all the other efforts had failed. Most of it isn’t even on-screen.

Next week:

Next week, we’re pursuing a book I’ve wanted to review for a while: Kevin Parish’s What Words May Come. Stay tuned!

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

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“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.