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The Reluctant Reaper: Death Is What Happens While You’re Making Other Plans by Gina X. Grant #review

The teaser for this book sounded really quirky and fun. Like a mish-mash of Piers Anthony and Dead Like Me. I love the Xanth novels. I loved Dead Like Me for the 2 seasons I got to enjoy it (thanks alot Showtime). Combining the two seemed like a good idea.

In fact I still think it is a good idea. Just not as executed in this book.

Gina X. Grant fails to create characters that are sympathetic or even really likeable. Kirsty is an annoying whiner. She also seems incredibly dense. They way her actual death is set up makes her seem like the least observant, slowest person in the world. This is due to the heavy handed way the story is setup. The reader is being smacked upside the head with hints and clues that a 2 year old couldn’t miss. There is no subtlety or craft employed.

So we find ourselves reading a scene with more bad situation warning bells than a Scary Movie sequel and wondering how on earth our protagonist Kirsty could possibly be so naive. And the truth is there is no plausible or logical way she could be.

This is how we meet a reaper named Dante.

Yes – that Dante.

Who in this book is a ridiculously awkward man-boy with no eloquence. Seriously no eloquence from the guy who wrote The Inferno?

I wish I had stopped reading there.

Puns the world over should be rising up in revolt against their shabby treatment in this book. Where Piers Anthony deftly wields puns to create whimsically literal worlds and situations – Ms. Grant lobs them about like a drunken darts player. Instead of being seamlessly woven into the story she is creating they seemed forced and often painfully setup.

I wanted to like, even love this book. But I just couldn’t. Aside from essentially uninteresting main characters and poor use of puns, the story itself felt cursory and pedantic. She attempted to create a new and different idea of Hell. Some of the elements had great potential. Sadly that potential was unrealized.

I still think the underlying idea could be pretty brilliant.

I was provided a gratis copy of this book for review.

The Forever Contract – Avery Sawyer

This is a short novella in the burgeoning YA dystopian fiction genre.

There are some really good ideas here. The underlying main concept is fantastic. A world where you can choose to have your consciousness uploaded into a virtual world. Still being able to interact with those in the “real” world via computers screens is fascinating. The idea of watching those you know in their self-created virtual worlds. Even the reasoning behind why this is happening works – water shortages that cause wars, arid land that won’t support crops. Then throw in an undercurrent of suspicion. A few that don’t believe everything they are being told. The set up and the background are great.

Where this novella lets the reader down is in the execution.

Perhaps it is because the concept is too large to be contained in a novella, but the entire story feels rushed and lacking.

The bare bones are there but nothing is given depth or fleshed out. The main characters, Casey and James, are mere facades. They are not real people yet who encourage the reader to become attached. The potential is there.

Casey is a young woman about to make a huge life altering decision. Her boyfriend James is facing the same decision. But the entire tension between their differing views is played out in grade school type dialogue that is far too simplistic for what should be complex and deeply layered emotions.

The same happens in what should be climactic moments. They end up falling flat because the reader has not suspended that disbelief and embraced the world Sawyer is trying to create.

This disappointed me. I wanted more. If the time were taken to develop this into a full length series (if properly fleshed out I easily see 2 books just with what story is already there and a 3rd or even 4th book of what is hinted and left unanswered) it could be mesmerizing. I want to know what the secrets are. What caused the water wars? What is really going on in Chicago? What is the real purpose behind the uploads? What was James’ mom doing?

There is a lot of potential. But it cannot be recognized until the story, the world and most importantly the characters are fully realized. This means giving the depth and complexity they now lack.

 I was given a free copy of this novella to review. And while happy to have had the chance to glimpse what could be, I would not have purchased this in its current form.

Review: Latter-Day of the Dead by @kevinkrohn

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If I had to describe this book in two words I would probably use creepy and page-turner.

I have to say I wondered towards the beginning if Kevin Krohn was a Mormon.  Not only a Mormon, but of the Fundamentalist variety.  When he contacted me to do the review, he gave me the basic premise of the book, and I can’t say that I had any idea the depth and breadth of knowledge this author would have for a condemned lifestyle so far out on the fringe.

The feeling of desperation I had for the characters living within this compound before the zombies even become an issue blindsided me.  Kevin has wonderful style of storytelling that didn’t even need to “bring me in” to where his characters were living, he actually wove the story around me.  Can I make that make sense to onlooker (onreader?)? Not likely, so when you read the book, take note – you’ll look around and wonder how you got pulled in so fast.

Our protagonist, Brother Elias, is a very young man, albeit the compound’s doctor, whose whims and wishes match that of a kid his age, while his wisdom and faith go decades past.  He is a shining star in comparison to the feeble (but mostly sweet) minds of so many of the compound’s inhabitants.  We’re there with him when his heart is full, nearly immediately broken, and then watch as he tries to do the right thing even though the “captain of the ship” town prophet isn’t man enough to do it himself.

The zombie gore is delicious (too soon?) and being a huge fan of The Walking Dead, I’m not lying when I say I hope this goes the direction of film – a hope that is encouraged by the book having its own video trailer.  I found myself wincing in a many spots, and downright covering my eyes in others.  Having no visuals to elicit that reaction in me is a testament to the skill of this author.

At the end of the book I kept looking down at the progress bar and feeling very apprehensive and even a little anxious that the content was running out while the action and intensity was heating up.  At the end I literally said out loud, “You did not end it there.”

Kevin, kudos to you.  More, please.

Rating (5/5):

Review: Rust & Salt by Evan Brandon Bruno

Rust & Salt
Rust & Salt by Evan Brandon Bruno

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

Rust & Salt began invading my dreams right about at the halfway mark.

In the beginning, this book was a gathering of the ingredients for a new recipe. A slow, methodical, careful introduction to all of the components that would later result in a delicious feast. We learned about each character and their strengths and weaknesses. We learned about the characters’ connections to each other, and how deep or shallow the individual connections were. This process took up a good portion of time leading up to the action, and once you get there – you’re glad Bruno took the time to develop everybody in the manner he did.

I’m a bonafide agnostic. I don’t think I expected the Biblical force that would pack a punch in my general direction while reading. But there it was, completely bare and honest in front of me without feeling preachy or judgmental. There is a lot of reference to Heaven and Hell, angels and demons, light versus dark, etc, so do go into this book understanding the basic premise. As an agnostic, I am typically leery of subject matter that might have a strong tendency to judge those of us who are not “on the same page”, but Rust & Salt avoids anything resembling judgment. In fact, a passage stands out to me, even now, where Amarillo Rust speaks to the little sliver of “but what if it’s all nothing?” that exists in all of us, and boy do I appreciate that. So while this author is clearly writing from a perspective I can all but assume I understand, I felt really comfortable with the overall story. I consumed this story! I wanted more!

But be prepared for the dreams.

As I stated initially, the dreams hit me as the action increased. I don’t dream about books that I’m reading too often, and Rust & Salt has been terrifying me for at least the past week. The imagery and Bruno’s incredible skill in sharing description with the reader will sink its teeth directly into your brain and never let go. His prose is truly excellent in its ability to flow to you, the reader, for your immediate comfort and consumption.

I am excited that there seems to be more in the works in this series. Hook a sister up, I’ll be reading!

View all my reviews

Book Review: Fateful (Book One) by Cherri Schmidt – Guest Reviewer!

Review provided by Jeannette of Walking On Bookshelves!
Fateful (Fateful, #1)
A huge fan of Jane Austen, Danielle hopes to find her own Mr. Darcy when she leaves Colorado to attend art school in London. Of course she knows it’s silly to wish for that, naive even. But she’s met enough males who lacked respect for women, a growing trend it seemed. And at nineteen…well…. However, on only her second night there she gets lost and is threatened by a stalker who proves to be immune to her martial arts training. Before she is completely overpowered, she is then saved by Ethan Deveroux.
While Danielle does find the romance she seeks in Ethan, he’s no Mr. Darcy. Her hero is held by a spell which fractures their chance at a happy ending. During the day Ethan is closer to mortal than immortal and can date her like any other man. Yet, as the sun sets, the powerful magic of an ancient curse returns and the evil of that spell is revealed. When that magic begins, Danielle’s fairytale romance ends because Ethan Deveroux is a vampire.
Rating: 3/5
Where to begin…?  Well, let’s start with the MC Danielle.  I didn’t really care for her.  She was insecure to a point that I think she needed therapy.  For a girl who has a black belt in martial arts she needed a good dose of attitude to go with it.  She often came off as a helpless, pouty child.  The only time we get to see her with any fight at all is towards the end of the book.  Once the climax was over, so was her bravery.  She was like Bella in Twilight, but the watered down version.  Now on to Ethan.  I found him rather boring.  He wasn’t really consistent either.  First he wants to protect Danielle from his evil dark magic then he wants to take her to a ball, at night, when his & several others’ dark magic is in full force!  He’s so concerned with being proper, but he likes to get her drunk on his magical breath.  Um, weird.  The character I liked the most was Max.  He flirted with Danielle and that is so much more entertaining than being instantly worshiped.
The climax of the book was really good.  This is where Schmidt showed us some great writing.  My heart was actually pounding.  It’s because of that, I will read the next book in this series.  I would  really love to see a whole book just about Max!  Oh, one last tid bit that annoyed me was the whole lidded eye thing.  All I could picture were all these people talking to Danielle looking kind of stoned because they had to look at her through barely open eye lids due to the effect their eyes had on humans.
So, if you fall into the category of Twilight haters (I don’t judge), I don’t recommend this book.  But I do recommend it as a series to keep watch on.  I think it will improve.
Review provided by Jeannette of Walking On Bookshelves!