Book Reivew: Sand Dancer by Trudie Skies

Publishing Date: July 2019

Publisher: Uproar


Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.4/5

Publisher’s Description: Only monsters summon fire by magic. It’s a sin against the sun god and a crime against the king. The punishment is death. But when sixteen-year-old Mina discovers fire magic runs in her family’s blood, it’s just the beginning of the secrets her father has been keeping from her. When her father is murdered, this half-starved peasant girl finds herself on the run—pursued across the desert by the soldiers and guards of the noble Houses. To survive, she knows she’ll have to abandon her past and learn the way of the sword. But only boys are allowed to carry a blade. There’s only one solution…

Review: The cover art is hideous.

This novel had everything I loathe and more. Super speshully main character, and “leering and sneering” bad guys smirking their way across the pages under an Oliver type story line.

Mina is an alley rat whom is not only gifted with powers she doesn’t want but somehow gets into a sword fighting academy disguised as a boy and proceeds to fool everyone of said. Right.  She is slight of build but manages to kick ass against full grown, battle hardened men utilizing her “Sand Dance”. <Sigh>. Which you really have to accept on faith, as the Sand Dance fight scenes are clogged with a visual mirage where, through discernment, you find that nothing makes sense.

The supporting caste either suck outright (i.e.: Snidley Whiplash) or are fairly well built and have some depth despite the limited development time. The world is pleasantly creative and moves in a descriptively robust manner from realm to realm.

At the end of this read the story line is what really elevated my interest. The movement never stops and each turn reveals something new and interesting. Mina grows on you as does her plight and that echoes the talents of a good writer. Well done.

Book Review: Contact by Doug Dandridge

Publishing Date: June 2019

Publisher: IBPA


Genre: SciFi

Rating: DNF

Publisher’s Description: Montana is a newly independent colony, home to both colonizing humans and the Xakalar, who are native to the planet. When deposits of an extremely rare mineral are discovered on the Montana, everyone’s eyes focus on the small colony…and everyone wants a piece of the planet.

Review: That cover art is in need of a makeover. Wow.

This started off really good. Alien invasions, tactical space wars, good solid made up science and characters with some promising beginnings. It starts turning to shjt when douche….er, Matt Chin first meets his sister Maggie, at the space port. Of course she is frikin’ hotter than a hydrogen fart and proceeds to get accosted by off-world space marines with LEERING faces veiling malicious intent. So these drunkards, out of the blue, hit on a “babe” in a busy space port, which….gets ol’ Matty Doucheb….er Chin and his alien buddy all riled up. See, the problem I got with this, is what might be the beginning of a patterned bullshjt story line we see time and time again. Right away we can guess the outcome of the entire novel as there is nothing surprising or inventive.

Well the aliens have attacked (giving nothing away here) and the resident alien chief whatever, gives a grand speech that is so corny that it rides the fringes of racially demeaning the Native American Indian. And I quote…, “This is Zhontalis, chief of the Western Canyonlands Xakalar Tribe. This is a message for my people, Let us lead you to shelter in the mountains……etc.”. This goes on for a bit and really doesn’t fit the story line in two ways. They are currently being bombed (no time for big speeches) and aliens talking like Hollywood Indians is not only insulting but is very non-alien. Did this author grow up virtue signaling or was it acquired later in life? So of course Matty dumb-dumb is anointed Captain hero while Maggie swishes her red tresses and blinks those perfect almond eyes because her Dad is Chinese and their Mom is tall. Right.

So what once had great designs on the imagination, prevails in stamping any entertainment value right out of your dirty scrabbling little fingers, you mewling grovelers.

Book Review: Starship Repo by Patrick S. Tomlinson


Publishing Date: May 2019

Publisher: Tor/Forge

ISBN: 9781250302717

Genre: SciFI

Rating: 4.7/5

Publisher’s Description: Firstname Lastname is a no one with nowhere to go. With a name that is the result of an unfortunate clerical error and destined to be one of the only humans on an alien space station. That is until she sneaks aboard a ship and joins up with a crew of repomen (they are definitely not pirates). Now she’s traveling the galaxy “recovering” ships. What could go wrong?

Review: One of the main elements in a novel that I look for is character development. Story lines and logical progression come in second-ish. There are many ways to develop characters as to win over the reader. Mainly the movement is inspired enough to engage these personas with time molding the differences.

One douchebag reviewer stated that, “tThe “light episodic humor” just did nothing for me. The allusions current events seemed inappropriate and references to current cultural icons such as ‘Star Wars’ have no place in a novel set 4 centuries in the future. The humor just seemed silly and forced.”.  So ignore the grammatical/spelling errors for now from said 4-year old reviewer and lets focus on the finer points. IMO, if the novel expands a creative world to develop their burgeoning characters, then the humor is almost tertiary to the outcome; being entertained and captivated by the various personalities.  To arbitrarily say a novel is not worth the paper it’s printed on because the humor is silly, dismisses the most important aspects contained and relegates the entirety to a dismissive state (poopy bottom).  I may be wrong, but I do not remember any “allusions” to Star Wars, but I may have missed it.

That purged, I found the novel highly entertaining. The aliens are numerous and the author builds them into a believable state. They are all gifted with relevant personalities that pair well with their counterpart species to create a cogent civilization (good world building). First is an impeccably built character as are her surrounding adopted familial’s. Even brief appearances of aliens are gifted with enough personality to enhance the scenes and build the story line.

I really would like to see this become a series to my own myopic ends…….continuing high-level entertainment.

Book Review: Sandcastle at Pirates Beach by D.Edward Williams


Publishing Date: June 2019

Publisher: Clovercraft


Genre: Fantasy/YA

Rating: 2.7/5

Publisher’s Description: Exciting adventure awaits two cousins when they accidentally stumble upon a hidden magical Sandcastle! Before either boy can say “Treasure Chest,” they are swept into this new world by a mysterious artifact, shrinking them to the size of local sand crabs! Without giving them any time to understand what has happened, a new foe, with his own magical “Object of Power,” launches a sudden attack. To the boy’s surprise and relief, the door of the Sandcastle swings open just in time, revealing an amazing underground world

Review: A whimsical tale about two cousins thrust into a quest of grand design. Every dire near-death situation is quickly remedied with ol’ deus ex and the plot has so much fore shadowing as to wallow in it.

This was written for the teen crowd and I find that a bit of a stretch. The writing platform is built for those without guile, and teens don’t fit that paradigm. There is little room for YA’s to join in a grande adventure that is stretched thin with obvious plot developments and a narrative that calls to a 5 year-old.

The overall story is fun and highly creative and benefits from the constant movement.  The series continues on, so no culmination for you.

Book Review: Crowfall by Ed McDonald

Publishing Date: July 2019

Publisher: Berkely


Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.7/5

Publisher’s Description: A sorcerous cataclysm has hit the Range, the final defensive line between the republic and the immortal Deep Kings. Tormenting red rains sweep the land, new monstrosities feed on fear in the darkness, and the power of the Nameless, the gods who protect the republic, lies broken. The Blackwing captains who serve them are being picked off one by one, and even immortals have learned what it means to die. Meanwhile, the Deep Kings have only grown stronger, and they are poised to deliver a blow that will finally end the war. Ryhalt Galharrow stands apart from it all.

Review: Wow, what awesome cover art.

The world building is what sets this novel apart from others in the genre. It is built around the characters in order to influence the direction of the story line. Very clever writing, as it also develops the characters in various ways as to be mesmerizing at times. This novel does not lack in creativity or poignancy. The distressed often have personal insights that are not only deeply appropriate for the scene but might churn the thoughts of the reader to consternation, bereft of the classic comfortable read of the detached.

The plot device(s) were consistent with the theme of the novel where Ryhalt is the primal focus and pivotal player in everything that occurs. For example, as Ryhalt is infused with power from the Misery the dire situations should pose no threat. Yet, somehow he is physically limited or constrained in some way that enables the scene to move and develop to an emotional state.  The opposite of the former is used often as well, where he is diminished beyond comprehension but somehow becomes super human as the situation demands to further the development towards the grande finale.  These instances drive much of the scene and story lines throughout the novel.

One reviewer thought the ending was “too pat”, whatever the fuk that means. I thought it was in direct opposition to what came before and diminished Ryhalt’s character to a marked degree. But that is creative license and in no way takes away from the novel entire. Let’s just say that my preference was not fulfilled.

A very good read that leaves room for more.

Book Review: Sio by C.A. Blocke


Publishing Date: April 2019

Publisher: Ninestar

ISBN: 9781950412488

Genre: SciFi

Rating: DNF

Publisher’s Description: James Marks and his crew of scav trash operate their ship, SIO, on a mission to obtain a mysterious piece of new tech. It changes everything and leaves him stranded somewhere he doesn’t recognize with a cute, if not a bit annoying, tech scientist. James doesn’t know, when he first meets Michael, but his life is about to change in a very surprising way.

Review: Not too many reviews out there to gauge whether or not my opinion is consistent with what others are finding. As time time goes on, I am guessing this will reside in average-land. Here’s why.

Pretty dam good writing marred by inexplicable insertions of filler romance crap. It is not that romance can sometimes build characters and enhance the story line, but driven to excess can almost always confuse the story line while diminishing the characters. Love born in a few days is what pushes this novel to stall interest while relieving the reader of a cogent and logical plot.

The supporting cast is never adequately developed as the there is no room to do so. What you get is hastily built personas that are over-the-top in order to compensate for their lack of depth. James Marks lacks depth as a main character, as he is driven by greed and libido, which leaves no room for giving two shits about him. Michael is a mewling, whimpering, addled douche bag that just happens to be a genius when the crew needs it the most. These plot devices a scattered throughout the novel where no effort is expended to enhance the novel with intricate and compelling scenes.

If I were given two choices: 1) Read this to completion or, 2) blow myself out the nearest airlock, I would be pressed in choosing.

Book Review: Emporer of Mu by Jason Beveridge


Publishing Date: June 2017

Publisher: Booksgosocial

ISBN: 9780648508205

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.4/5

Publisher’s Description: Doomed to die at the hand of a hidden foe, the Emperor prepares to meet his fate. On the eve of war, Emperor Constantine discovers a hidden foe; one that has manipulated from behind the scenes for centuries. In secrecy, the emperor dispatches a letter to the Sorceress of the Powers, but the news arrives too late. Constantine is murdered, and Mu is thrown into turmoil as the rulers of the six realms decide who is to become the next emperor.

Review: This was a looooong novel. Not long in a bad way, where the characters are thinly painted and the story line contrived, but where the world building is so expansive that it boggles.

As a preface I would normally lightly outline the main characters and the plot and then go to town on it. With Mu it is impossible to grasp any one thing. There are multiple story line threads, weaved by characters that stand alone in their own right while merging with the principle- Empire ending threat. Every story is lent it’s fair share of depth in order to build something cogent, especially where the characters are concerned. There is constant movement that builds visualization to a marked degree.

The not-so-good aspects of this novel were some of the characters and the plethora of Kings, Dukes, Princes, Princesses, Chancellors, Mages, Demons, Elves, Dwarves and Dragons all exhibiting enormous amounts of high brow rhetoric (buffoonery).  I mean you really need 7 realms with their own rulers to stir the confusion pot? Just keeping the names and stories of the three Guild Masters was hard enough.

What really sucked parts of this novel down the shjtter was Delseer. A guild/mage/farseer/hottie that can do no wrong. She does all the right things while fighting demon thingies while loving her man hunky guy. Everyone defers to her in matters of importance with no basis in fact to support that trust.  And wow, wouldn’t you know, she can talk to dragons. She really should have been consumed by a ravenous giant condor at the get-go so save us from her righteous mewlings and smug delivery.

All told I had a good time with this. A very ambitious attempt at creating expansive fantasy that to me, was entirely successful. (Except Delseer……bad accident next novel. Hint, hint.)

Book Review: Like Lions by Brian Panowich


Publishing Date: April 2019

Publisher: St. Martins

ISBN: 9781250206947

Genre: Mystery

Rating: 2.4/5

Publisher’s Description: Clayton Burroughs is a small-town Georgia sheriff, a new father, and, improbably, the heir apparent of Bull Mountain’s most notorious criminal family. As he tries to juggle fatherhood, his job and his recovery from being shot in the confrontation that killed his two criminally-inclined brothers last year, he’s doing all he can just to survive. Yet after years of carefully toeing the line between his life in law enforcement and his family, he finally has to make a choice.

Review: This was a conflicted read for me. As the novel came to an end, there were no exclamations of wonder as to the profound impact the story line had on my being. More like air escaping a slowly flattening tire. Here’s why.

Sheriff Dingus…, Clayton roams around in a world of constant inner negativity. This condition is bludgeoned into the reader page after page between trysts of drugs and alcohol abuse. The trope of “Down and out lawman solving a problem bigger than himself” is often used by writers to manufacture an easy story line in hopes of a movie deal.  Although Clayton is written very well, there is nothing really different about him. He is basically a negative asshole for most of the novel, and this is somehow supposed to make us sympathetic to his plight. His wife on the other hand, is an interesting piece of work and should have been expanded upon to widen her more visceral side.

The bad guys are typically Deliverance style bad in both demeanor and countenance with the usual acts of casual killing littered throughout the novel. The instances are not real believable and tend to be artificially expanded to include any Film Producers that are lurking in wait. All the women are hillbilly hot and the men, repugnant or ruggedly handsome.  The idea that in the modern age, one family controls everyone and everything through fear, is Hollywood genuflecting, at it’s best.

To me fiction is best served skittering along the fringes of reality and this did not take me anywhere near it.