November In Review

December is here and Christmas is almost here. It looks like it will be a different kind of Christmas for us all but with Covid-19 vaccines on the horizon hopefully next year will see us return to a more normal routine, whilst maybe retaining some of the better things we learned about each other and the importance of family. I digress…this is not meant to be a life observation but a review of November so here goes.

November was a busy month and a good month for me. I have of course been busy writing book three of the Morhudrim Cycle – Darkness Resides and progress has been steady.

I also received my first not so good review on Amazon – a two star for Rivers Run Red. My initial reaction was Eck!! and whilst the reviewer did not say much other than critiquing my grammar skills it did force me to go back and look again at both Rivers Run Red and Shadows Fall and run a more stringent grammar check on them. So actually while it was disappointing to get a 2 star review, ultimately it proved a useful one that made me look at my work.

As a consequence I have just done a 4 day deep clean edit of both book’s one and two of The Morhudrim Cycle to correct a whole bunch of grammatical errors I somehow managed to miss in the first 6 or so edits! I am not saying a got them all but to my shame I nailed alot more of those embarrassing little suckers than I expected. There should now, no longer be any of those little distractions of ‘to’ when it should have been ‘too’ and pluralising with apostrophes and so on. If you have downloaded the eBooks you can download them again to these ‘cleaner’ copies if you want. If you brought the paperbacks….erm hold on to them – they might be collector’s editions in a few years time 😁

In November I reviewed 3 other Indie books all of which can be found on my blog.

Red Gambit (4/5 stars) by Luke Mitchell – a post apocalyptic Sci-Fi with magic that was great fun and so easy to read and is my book of the month.

Shadow City (2.5/5 stars) by Anna Modikat – a post apocalyptic fantasy that was an enjoyable read but was not without a few issues.

The Jealousy of Jalice (4/5 Stars) by Jesse Nolan Bailey – A Dark Fantasy that was well written but that was perhaps the toughest read for me – with characters I was not that invested in. Despite this it was beautifully written and for lovers of Dark fantasy is recommended.

Stay safe and have a great Christmas everybody.

Red Gambit (The harvester Series Book One) by Luke Mitchell

An Apocalyptic, Sci-Fi with Magic 4/5 stars

This story is set in an apocalyptic world, where the Raknoth have reined destruction down wiping out much of humanity and leaving the rest limping along trying to survive. Refreshingly there were no zombies.

The Story is about Rachel an arcanist that manipulates energy hunting for her missing brother and Jarek, a not so heartless mercenary looking for his iron man suit and willing to do just about anything to get it back again.

Off the bat – This was such a great read and a real page turner. It is full of action, fun and has everything from shotguns to high tech weapons and a wizard’s staff which adds a touch of fantasy but kind of fits. I mean the bad guys are alien lizard vampires that can morph into human form so why not a touch of magic.

Jaric is a wise-cracking, kickass mercenary that cares about people more than he wants to admit (all though he does kill a lot of them) and Rachel is a gifted arcanist that is more than a match for Jaric and indeed pretty much everyone. The dialogue flows whip quick and smart and had me grinning like an idiot half the time.

I’ve read many books with these types of protagonists in. Confident, clever, cocky and with an answer for every occasion. Sometimes it can get tiresome. Not here…not for me. The story was well woven, the scenes choreographed with characters that fit so neatly together it was a pleasure to read. The fight scenes were really well executed. The world building was simple but well-crafted.  The bad guys were…well bad but also dangerous, cunning and ruthless. Everything you want to see in a villain(s).

This was an easy read. It was no brain teaser to be sure but that’s not to say it wasn’t clever and it was certainly Fun with a capital F. Sometimes the best thing you can say about a book is that the end came too soon. It did.

If you like Apocalyptic action books I highly recommend this one.  

Shadow City by Anna Modikat

Post-apocalyptic fantasy with multiple POV’s – 2.5/5 stars.

First and foremost I enjoyed reading this story. Fun is what most readily springs to mind. Though there are plenty of dark moments and gritty action that elevated this from the YA vibe I got from the writing style.

I liked that the story was told through multiple POV’s, though at times the transitions were clumsily handled, switching from one character to another sometimes two or three times in one page which I found jarring. This I kind of got use to but there were numerous things that I didn’t. Primarily the grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, words used out of context or in the wrong tense or just plain didn’t make sense. I expected this to improve as the story unfolded but alas it did not.

I understand as an Indie author that a certain amount of mistakes will slip through the net of self-editing but I really believe if this book was given another edit to tidy up those area’s it would enhance the story greatly and elevate this to a solid 3 stars and maybe more.

Why not more? Well I liked the characters but they need fleshing out. I didn’t feel any depth to them which is a shame because there are some with great potential. Eurydice was by far and away my favourite and this is because I think she was not only badass but had more nuance.

It’s a bit of a catch 22 this issue, I think. The problem being for, Anna Modikat, that adding to much depth and background to the characters would probably take away from the fast pace and excitement of the non-stop action. That could potentially slow down the pace and change the tone and it is this that I found most compelling.

I also have to say the finale was disappointing to me. The final act was built quickly and with menace but went from over-whelming to under-whelming so fast I skipped back to make sure I hadn’t missed a page or two.

Ultimately this was an easy read and I enjoyed it. It is the first in a series and there is more to come to shed light on the story arc’s that went un-concluded (which was most of them). I think the author has a natural feel for story-telling so, if you can over-look the issues raised above, then I would recommend this book to you.

The Jealousy of Jalice by Jesse Nolan Bailey

4/5 stars. First of all this book is artfully written. It is grim, descriptive and compelling. The story is many layered and skilfully revealed and I really liked that element of the story telling. That said I found this book difficult to finish and I was torn between 3 or 4 stars for that reason (for me 3 is good and 4 is excellent). In the end I believe it deserves 4 because the story was that good and the writing so strong that it left me asking questions of myself as much as the tale. Like why didn’t I enjoy it more?

I think the answer is one of personal taste. For me, I like to be engaged with the characters I am reading, good or bad and I wasn’t. I had no strong feelings for any of the main protagonists. I didn’t really care for any of them and really it was only the narrative that kept me reading on. That too though gave me some cause and I feel really bad for saying it because it was so wonderfully evocative, but I found the descriptive narrative almost overwhelming in places. It left nothing to my imagination because it was so skilfully painted in my mind.

Make no mistake. Jesse Nolan Bailey in my view is a fantastic writer. But maybe this particular book is just not quite my flavour. I think however, that many readers will thoroughly enjoy this story, especially if they are a fan of dark fantasy. It just wasn’t for me.

Deadbreak: A Zombie Apocalypse Thriller by Jorge Sanchez

My Rating 4.5/5

I picked this book up on a free promotion. It is my first foray into this genre so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Well… I loved it.

To me, it felt like Jack Reacher meets the walking dead and it was just so much damn fun. I enjoyed it from first page to last. There were a few, minor grammatical errors near the end that stuck out but as a fellow author who am I to cast stones! It was only a few and did not detract enough from my enjoyment of the story.

The action was fast paced and brutal. The zombies weren’t the biggest monsters in this story however, it was humans. The story is told from Jeremiah’s POV and you can’t help but love his no nonsense character. Cliched? A bit but done so well. Our boy is strong and mean but with a moral streak he can’t help. His humour is as sharp as his knives and a bit wacked and it is done so well you can see that it comes from a place of deep hurt. I mean this guy is carrying some baggage around in his head.

There is a strong female character that was kick-ass and a perfect foil for our hero. The star of the show though was Joe, the dog. The conversations Jeremiah had with Joe were so much fun.

In summary, if you want a fast paced, action thriller set in a zombie apocalyptic world then you would do no better than picking this book up. This is a standalone story but Jorge – if you read this – and write a follow on story I will be there to read it. Good job.   

Voice of War by Zack Argyle

Epic Fantasy from a new author 4/5

I picked this book from a new first time author hoping to find a gem but with middling expectations.

I have to say I was impressed. The story was gripping, the magic system was intriguing. An easy concept to follow with interesting possibilities. I read a review that compared the writer with Sanderson and it does have that flavour to it which is not a bad thing.

The characters were well told, all distinct and interesting. The dialogue and prose in general was exceptional. That this is the authors first novel bodes well.

Turns out I found a gem after all. Looking forward to Book 2. If you are looking for a gripping fantasy that is easy to read, full of intrigue and action then I can recommend this book.

Earth Alone by Daniel Arenson

Fullmetal Jacket with Aliens 3/5

Set in the future where Earth is at war with a powerful insectoid alien species that is more advanced and just plain meaner than us. Half the worlds population has gone, destroyed but the remnants learnt fast and struck back and it has become a war of attrition.

I really enjoyed this book. The writing is clean and the characters written are very engaging. The story moved along at a good pace.

So why only 3 (which is good in my book). Well for me the story was pretty 2-dimensional and hit pretty much every trope I imagined for this genre – which is not a bad thing if you like that sort of thing, especially since it was executed so well. The story revolves around Marco an newly drafted 18 year old Canadian recruit going through the rigours of boot camp. I found this more a tale about people and emotion than action and it was well done. The action I was craving took time coming but when it arrived I was left a little disappointed by it and for me at least it was the least engaging part of the story. If this had been handled as well as the character interaction this would have been a solid 3.5 for me. If it had a bit more technical/scifi stuff underpinning it then maybe a 4.

Will I read more. Yep I think so. It is an easy and importantly an enjoyable read and lets face it – they’re just out of boot camp and ready for the real stuff now!

Fire Within by Morten W Simonsen

4 Stars for this gritty, grim fantasy

I just finished Fire Within and this is my review posted on Amazon and Goodreads.

The tale is told in a fantasy world that is dirty, grim and fully fleshed. It is not a happy story. There is no joy to be had for any of our protagonist with the threat to each present from first page to last but for very different reasons. The journey is a hard one and artfully written. The descriptive narrative is some of the best I have read and so evocative. The characters are flawed and interesting and none of them is safe!!

Did I enjoy it is always the first question I ask myself and the answer is, mostly. The reason is that every great story read is personal and in the mind of the reader. In my mind I did not particularly engage with any of the main characters, the story did not grab me as I was hoping and the principal threat was peripheral at best. This last though is intentional and I presume more will unfold in book two and beyond. This is I suspect is only the start of our journey through Morten W Simonsen’s marvellous world.

Will I read more? Absolutely and really that is all you need to know. I feel the surface is just scratched here and I am looking forward to seeing what happens next.

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