I won this book in a contest along with Smiles by Trials. I didn’t know anything about the book or the author but decided to read it, and I was more than pleasantly surprised.
The story follows two characters attending a small college in Appalachia, Sawyer and Andrew. Both are learning to live on their own away from their families, and both are recovering from trauma. Andrew’s trauma is revealed right away while Sawyer is plagued by something dark and secretive. It takes a lot to draw out the truth of her pain.
The characterization and storytelling in this book were extremely well done. Writing the intense anxiety of undiagnosed PTSD, and making it both realistic and relatable, is not an easy feat. Alyse Rains is a master at drawing out emotional tension and holding it steady. This is especially true because the scenes are not depicting danger or action, but in surviving everyday life with crippling anxiety.
Ms. Raines leads Sawyer and Andrew not only through a budding relationship, but through the steps of healing throughout the story. Learning to love and trust, to grow internally and externally in order to find their places in the world. By the end of the story I was left feeling that they were people in I knew in my real life. I would gladly read a sequel to this book to find out where they go next in their relationship.
This book is a romance, and it touches on themes of abuse and survival, of family and friends, and of healing. It also has some steamy moments, as well as some descriptions of violence, and so I would put the rating at M for Mature audience.
I give this book 5 Stars
I recommend this book. You can find it on Amazon and you can follow Alyse Raines on Twitter.
I previously reviewed the first book in this series: Tails by Rails. I was looking forward to the second instalment of the Rays of Sunshine series, and I was not disappointed. In fact, the second book is better than the first, which says a lot since the first was very good.
Jewel E. Leonard is a master of characterization. Her characters all feel like real people that you could run into on the street. This was true of Rhea (pronounced Ray) and Adam in the first book, and it continued in the second book with a growing cast of characters. The newest edition being Brianna, an acquaintance from Rhea’s high school years.
Besides the excellent characterization, Leonard knows how to pace her story. Her descriptions are vivid without being overwrought. The storytelling stays on track through all of the twists and turns, guiding the reader through conflict, steamy encounters, and the real-life drama that is both believable and true to the heart of each character.
My only complaint about this book is that it ended. I would have loved to have followed Rhea through many more chapters of her life. I’m hoping that there will more books in this series so that I can do just that.
Be aware that if you pick up Tails by Rails or Smiles by Trials, I would rate it M for Mature due to sexual content and strong language.
Windbound is a very short novella set in an unnamed island in Greece. It follows the tale of Armynta and her best friend Sofia. They are both locals to the island and also happen to be sirens. All manner of mythological sea people exist in the world including mermaids and sea witches. All together, these people are termed Neptunians, and although they look human, but they are not.
Good tension building
From the story’s opening, I expected it to contain more romance. I was wrong. This story is more suspenseful. Told in first person narrative, you find yourself following Armynta on the way to meet a date from classmate named Kostas. To her dismay, her friend Sofia has enthralled him with siren song to get revenge on Armynta for a previous disagreement.
The conflict between Armynta and Sofia feels genuine for two teenage girls who are squabbling over differences in opinion and boys. Armynta goes so far as to say Sofia is both her best friend and her nemesis.
The story also explores ideas behind tourism and the effect it has on the local population. Armynta and Sofia both see the tourists as outsiders. Armynta admonishes Sofia for enthralling a local boy instead of a tourist, but at the same time respects that tourists are also people and should not be used for ill gain. Alternately, Sofia sees no ham in using her powers on tourists or the locals because they are all humans and the island should belong to the Neptunians.
Sofia is not the antagonist, however; and the real issue is a Hunter. The Hunter is a human who knows a way to suppress the siren song. Although Armynta and Sofia are forced to deal with the Hunter, we do not learn the full story behind his presence on the island because this is part of a series.
Errors in sentence structure
There are quite a few typos and errors in the story, such as odd sentence structure and word use. The story is still understandable, but it’s clear that a few more editing passes could help.
Sometimes I wondered if the errors were on purpose to give Armynta an accent, but if that was the case it wasn’t used consistently. That is why I felt as if they were errors rather than tone.
Despite the errors, I did enjoy the story and was able to read without difficulty. It was a quick and fun story to read and I will consider reading more books in the series.
Warning: This book contains explicit sexual content and is not intended for readers under the age of 18. This book also contains a lot of curse words. If either of those things do not appeal to you, this book is not for you.
This review, however; doesn’t contain those things. It is also an unbiased and unsolicited review.
Tales by Rails by Jewel E. Leonard is the story of Rhea (pronounced Ray) soon after settling a divorce from her much talked about but never seen ex-husband Mark. After many years in a loveless marriage, she is out on her own and decides to take a train trip from her home in California to Chicago on a whim. She meets a handsome man whom she refers to as Surfer Boy and they have whirlwind relationship during the train ride.
In general, a book classified as erotica is a book that I would pass by on the shelves. What drove me to purchase this book is that I follow the author on Twitter and she plays along in weekly games where authors share lines from their works in progress. She also likes to say she only writes fluff. Upon observing her lines from works in progress, I came to the conclusion that she doesn’t give herself enough credit. I decided to take a risk and read this novella and was pleased to discover I was right.
Despite the explicit material, this book doesn’t read like a romance. Rhea has suffered quite a bit emotionally and is carrying a lot of baggage. Her time with Surfer Boy is not just steamy encounters, (in fact, those do not start until later in the story.) They have deep, meaningful conversation and share very touching moments with each other. This book is more the fiction of two people who need to heal and happen to meet by fate, and then spend some time steaming up the windows.
Realistic Storytelling and Setting
Excellent writing and formatting
Okay, so it’s kind of funny to say this book is completely plausible but it’s actually true. One reason romance is often a genre I usually avoid is because of the unrealistic nature of “romance.” It’s hard for me to hold my suspension of disbelief in most cases. It’s not that I never read or watch romance, because I do, but just like this book those romances need to be about more than bosoms heaving, hair blowing back in the wind, and heavy sighs.
The way the characters are developed is what makes this story believable. Rhea could be any woman who has just left a bad marriage. She struggles with her identity now that she’s on her own. This is a real issue that women face. In the process of running away she meets Surfer Boy. She calls him this because she doesn’t want to form an attachment. She’s trying to find herself before a new relationship, even though she admits the marriage was dead long before the divorce papers were signed.
Surfer Boy is not what she expects. Although he’s described as very attractive, he isn’t the impossible Fabio. He’s had his fair share of troubles and behaves like a normal guy, not the impossible dreamboat. Although Rhea tries to cast him as the mysterious man on the train, he really doesn’t fit that mold. He’s too real to be mysterious, and this is a good thing.
Leonard is very blunt and straightforward in her writing. Her characters bare all; body and soul, and you actually care about what will happen to both Rhea and Surfer Boy. By the end you feel like you’re leaving behind two friends who just happen to share too much information about their relationship.
The book is also well written. There were no problems with grammar, structure or formatting.
I have two reasons I gave this only four stars. Both are more opinions and do not reflect the writing. First, the story is too short. Maybe that’s normal for the genre. I have nothing to compare it to as this is my first book in this genre. I would have preferred it to be longer and find out what happens next. Although the book ends in a good place, it only feels like half a story.
I know it’s a novella. I know a second book is in the works. I would have just preferred the story to have been a full novel instead.
My other note is with Rhea’s name, although not the name itself but the pronunciation. My book is full of names that are unusual. My theory is, even if the reader is saying the name wrong at least they will say it wrong consistently.
I was pronouncing Rhea as “REE-uh” because I used to know someone with that name. Well, at the very end of the story it’s revealed that her name is pronounced Ray, and Rhea hates it when people say it the other way, the way I was using. It made me feel bad, because as I said these people feel realistic. My note, therefore; is this should have come near the beginning somewhere. It’s a little thing, and my own personal thing and basically more of a nitpick.
I give this book four stars!
If you would like to read this book you can find it on Amazon. You can also follow Jewel E. Leonard on Twitter @JewelELeonard or on her blog.
I want to begin by saying this is an unsolicited and unbiased review.
From the very start I thought this book was going to be a private detective story; something a little old school set in modern times. I was completely wrong, but that doesn’t mean I was disappointed.
From the Desk of Buster Heywood follows the titular character and he is not a PI but an accountant with sever social anxiety. Buster has recently moved to the fictional town of Aviario, set in Connecticut, and works for the town government. Although he has only lived there for a approximately a year, he already feels responsible for the town and thus gets himself embroiled into dangerous situations for reasons he doesn’t fully understand.
First for the Positives
Excellent characterization and relationship building
Suspenseful and mysterious plot
Strong single character third person narrative
This story is wonderful because it feels realistic and plausible. D’Onofrio has done a beautiful job of crafting not only the town of Aviario but all of the characters who live there. Every new location feels like a place you could visit. Her attention to detail is in perfect balance with her narrative; giving just enough to allow your own imagination to fill in the blanks and not slow the flow of the story.
The best part about this book are the characters. Buster’s social anxiety is believable and realistic. The attempts he makes to find acceptance despite his disability only heighten the reality of living with anxiety. His slow growth toward conquering his fears is beautiful to watcher.
The villains are equally shady and sinister in their subtlety. There are no mustache twirling going on, only an underlying sense of dread occasionally punctured by red flags. I often found myself gritting my teeth as I watched Buster blindly his path due to his misguided loyalties. Although the antagonists are clearly shady, they are also people. Many times I wondered if I was the one misjudging them, which really says something for strong characterization.
Each character that Buster encounters on his journey is unique and well crafted. From his new friends and sister to the waiters he meets only briefly, the cast is well defined. They are characters that you care about, even when they are only in the story for a single scene.
The story itself follows a wide arc, at times leaving you wondering how deep he will delve into the darkness. Page after page you start to doubt that Buster will ever find his way back to light. From start to finish the narrative takes hold and pulls you along, only wanting you to keep going to find out what happens next.
Now for My Notes
Really, I don’t have any notes. The only thing I can mention is a few cases where it seemed the paragraph formatting didn’t take properly. There would be a strange break between sentences rather than the start of a new paragraph. It happened a few times but was not enough to take away from the overall pacing or understanding of the story.
My Overall Rating for this Book is 5 Stars! I’m also looking forward to the next book set in Aviario.
If you’d like to read this book you can find it on Amazon.
I want to begin by saying I was given an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
Novel summary by the author:
Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.
Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.
As you may be guessing, this review is a little different than those I’ve laid out in my guidelines. That is fine with me, however; to help Danielle E. Shipley launch her newest novel. This is the first time I’ve read an advanced reader copy of another author’s book.
The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale follows the titular character as he is brought from another world into modern times. His culture shock is eased by the fact that he lands in a Renaissance Faire, and not not just any Faire, but one that houses the real Robin Hood, Maid Marion, Will Scarlet, and Little John. There are also characters from King Arthur’s court.
I have to confess that I went into this blind. I did not realize that Allyn-a-Dale is a character from the Robin Hood legends. If you do not know who he is, he’s the minstrel of the Merry Men. (I had to look it up on Wikipedia, don’t laugh! Most of my study of Robin Hood has been historical reference rather than the myth itself.)
First for the positives
This book is absolutely fantastic. I can’t say it any other way. Shipley uses wonderful tone to tell the tale. Her writing reminds me of a more classic form of literature, although not as heavy and difficult to wade through. She often gives asides to the fourth wall to make humorous commentary as well, which gives you the impression of having the story told you. It is very much like a performer at a Renaissance Faire, who pretends to speak Olde English, but then reminds you that we are still in 2016.
The characters were delightful and their relationships believable and interesting. My favorites were Will Scarlet and his roguish ways and Allyn’s father Gant-o-the-Lute, who is always ready to offer helpful advice, even when it is rather obvious advice. Both characters made me laugh, which is what I like best in a book.
The action sequences were exciting, often unexpected, and Shipley is very good at creating an air of mystery and tension. I’m looking forward to when the rest of the series comes out because there are questions that remain once the antagonist is dealt with, which probably means I’ll be waiting for a while as this is only book one.
There are no editing or formatting errors to speak of, and the book is beautifully laid out. Being an advanced copy, I did not get to see the artwork which the final copy will contain. That’s okay, though, because I will when I get my actual copy once it releases.
As for my notes.
Really the only thing I can say is at the very beginning of the book I was a little disoriented. We start with two characters with roles that still seem uncertain, even at the end. After a short prologue we are moved to the point of view of Maid Marion, and then to a whole new world with Allyn-a-Dale.
After that it doesn’t take long for the confusion to be unraveled and everything from the start makes sense soon after. This note is chalked up to my own misunderstanding of the opening being more of a prologue than the actual story.
My overall rating of this book is five stars.
Important Information for The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale
The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale: The Outlaws of Avalon, Book One by Danielle E. Shipley
Allyn would have known Will Scarlet for a relation of Robin Hood’s even had he not been introduced as his cousin. Though clean-shaven, younger, and framed by thick locks of gold tinged with the color of his name, Will’s face was patently similar to Robin’s, with the same blue eyes that sparkled cheerily at Allyn when the two were presented to each other.
“And where’d you pick this fellow up, then, Robin?” he asked blithely.
“In my tent,” replied Robin, “with Marion.”
Will’s brows leapt toward his crimson cap’s pointed brim. “Wish I were Allyn!”
“Joking, joking,” Will waved aside Marion’s halfhearted rebuke. He coughed. “…Mostly. So, Allyn-a-Dale — looking to join the Merry Men, are you?”
“I don’t really know,” Allyn said doubtfully. “What are the Merry Men?”
To Allyn’s heart-thudding dismay, Will answered, “We’re an infamous band of outlaws.”
“Not really,” Marion hastened to jump in.
“Not anymore,” Little John amended.
“It’s complicated,” said Robin. “But we’re really not at liberty to tell you much more about it until we’ve spoken to Merlin.”
“That would be King Arthur’s chief counselor and illustrious wizard,” Will said in answer to Allyn’s questioning expression. “He literally runs the show around here, so—”
“No,” said Little John, his gaze a grim weight on Will Scarlet.
“Oh, would you chillax, you pedant?” Will huffed, facial muscles ticking with minor irritation. “I know you think the Outsiders have been using the word with nary a care to its meaning, of late, but I know what ‘literally’ means, and in this case, I literally meant ‘literally’!”
The marginal lowering of Little John’s brow silently warned what he would literally do to Will if he said that word but once more.
“And they’re off,” said Robin, shaking his head. “Don’t worry, Allyn, they only bicker like this when they’re both breathing.” Allyn’s lips twitched toward the beginnings of a smile, but froze halfway, his mind only just now becoming fully conscious of what he’d heard. “Robin,” he said, fighting a sudden swell of anxiety. “Did Will just say we’re off to see a wizard?”
About the Author
Danielle E. Shipley is the author of the Wilderhark Tales novellas, the novel Inspired, and several other expressions of wishful thinking. She has spent most of her life in the Chicago area and increasing amounts of time in Germany. She hopes to ultimately retire to a private immortal forest. But first, there are stories to make.
I’m going to start by saying this is an unsolicited and unbiased review.
Fenix Rising is a novella which focuses on the titular character Vincent Fenix and his becoming involved with a sinister group known as the Death Division. This is a quick read even for me, and I’m slow. It is the prequel to a series.
I know what you’re thinking: this looks like a Vin Disel movie. Yes, and that’s why I chose to read it. I was looking for something with a lot of action and this book didn’t let me down.
I’m going to start out with the positives.
Fast paced action
Well described fight sequences
No technical issues
Being a novella, the story moves along pretty quickly. I haven’t read the remaining books as of yet, but Jeff Liboiron did a good enough job with storytelling that I would read more. It reminds me of films like Mad Max or The Fast and the Furious. This is book you read for fun, just like an action movie is for fun.
It does have a violence and gore factor. I’d say on a level of 1 being the least gore and 10 being a bloody nightmare, this story is a solid 8. If you don’t enjoy battles and swear words, I’d steer clear because this novella uses both pretty regularly.
The fight sequences are the best part of the the story. They are very well described. It’s pretty clear that Liboiron knows something about fighting. He uses very technical descriptions that make it easy to follow along. It actually makes the battles feel realistic because everyone involved is a seasoned veteran rather than a noob with a stick.
As for the book itself and the formatting, I didn’t have any difficulty reading it on my iPhone. The grammar and spelling were all fine along with paragraph and sentence structure. I didn’t notice any errors.
Now for a few notes.
Too much tell, not enough show
Relationships between characters are lacking
The book is too short to have the full impact of what the author is attempting
Confusing world building
My biggest complaint is this story struggles with “show and tell.” There’s a lot of tell and not enough show in a few areas. I realize it’s a novella, but I feel like it could have been much more in depth in certain areas.
Right from the start we get a big tell on a failed mission with the antagonists. I feel it would have been better to have been part of that mission instead of hearing about it after the fact.
Another concern is we don’t get to meet Fenix until 45% mark of the book. The story opens with the antagonists. I’m not saying that’s necessarily bad because it’s clear Liboiron was going for a dramatic entrance for his hero. I’d be fine with that in a longer book. The antagonists are pretty intense and they fill up a page nicely. Unfortunately, being a novella means that the story is over before you get to know the protagonist.
Relationship building for Fenix would be appreciated earlier. Being told who his friends are isn’t as helpful as getting to see him interact with them. Telling the reader “you should feel bad for this character because” just doesn’t cut it. I’d rather get to know the character in his natural environment to decide if he’s worth caring about.
Lastly, the world is very reminiscent of Mad Max, or at least it seems to be at first glance. It’s a dystopian world which seems to be overrun by anarchy. At the same time, there is mention of access of advanced medical care and technology which require other infrastructure such as education. Granted, those things could exist in a post-apocalyptic world, but in a world steeped in extreme violence it doesn’t seem to fit. More world building would be beneficial to have this make sense.
I think with a little rearranging and a a bit more polish, this story could really shine. If you enjoy B-Movie type action flicks and want a quick read, I recommend this book.