Book Review: Tales of the Zodiac: The Goat’s Tale

Note: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: Tales of the Zodiac: The Goat’s Tale

Author: P.J. Hetherhouse

Publisher: Createspace

Release Date: December 6th, 2014

Genre: Young Adult, Action/Adventure, Dystopia

Pages: 467

Synopsis:

It is the distant future. Time has seen humanity rise and fall many times, seemingly unable to learn from the mistakes of the past. Now, on the brink of another decline, twelve people step forward to change the course of destiny. Each of them has a tale to tell…

The tales of the zodiac is a series inspired by Celtic mythology, Arthurian legend and, most importantly, astrology. Living in a time when Mother Nature has resumed control, the human race has regressed back to its feudal past. It is here, in two civilizations gripped by political intrigue and religious fanaticism, that the tales take place. We begin with Capricorn—The Goat’s Tale.

A boy of sixteen, Gruff is old beyond his years. He is a dour, dogged, determined character driven by competitiveness and his rigid moral code. Unsurprisingly, this attitude wins him more enemies than friends and, eventually, earns him the most powerful enemy of all—the king.

This royal enmity sets him on a quest that will change his life forever. With nothing but sheer belligerence, and the help of fierce companions (including Cancer and Scorpio), he defies the king and ultimately achieves an unthinkable personal victory. Above all things, The Goat’s Tale is a tribute to the indomitable soul of the Capricorn.

My First Thoughts:

Astrology, in general, doesn’t really interest me all that often. Most of the time I find it to be quite annoying actually, especially when people use it as an excuse to make terrible decisions. But I really like Celtic mythology and Arthurian legends, so I thought I would give this book a go!

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

It took me well over a month to read this book, it actually took me almost two months to read this. Granted, some of that time was taken up by a busy work schedule, but overall this book took so long because it actually drained me to read it. I had to read this book when I was in the mood and normally I couldn’t read it for more than an hour before I had to take a break. I believe in total this book spans about two years, but in the middle of reading the story it felt like it actually lasted a lot longer than that.

If you can’t tell, one of my first complaints is that this book is incredibly slow. It takes forever to get to the action or even the main objective of the story; I believe it took almost 100 to get to the very beginning of the quest and then another 20 before the characters actually set out on the quest. Even on the quest there are several pages between big points of action, that don’t even last that long in hindsight, before there’s another long drag of really nothing. When we did get to the action it felt too drawn out, and not by long fight scenes, but by the hyper attention to every single detail by Gruff. The pacing was just terrible and inconsistent. There were times when the author would spend tons of words and pages on little things, but then do massive skips in time and summarizing them in long boring passages. The author really needed an editor, if they had one then this book would be at least 100 pages shorter.

I like world building as much as the next person. In fact, it’s something that I look forward to when starting a new series. However, it is not something that I wish to drown in when reading the first book. While a lot of the world building was very interesting in this story, there was just too much of it to handle at times. As a writer, one needs to focus on the important information that the reader needs in the moment to understand what is happening and why. If there’s an adequate space for expansion, then do so sparingly and in ways that don’t hinder the storytelling. At times in The Goat’s Tale, I felt like the story was suspended to have a history lesson of the current status of the world and its people. Sometimes, it was very interesting and actually added some to the story. Other times it felt like it didn’t actually belong and the author just shoved it into the story because they wanted to show it off. There were even passages about people and places that we briefly meet or visit, but the passages were longer than the time spent in the location or with the people.

For the most part, the characters were alright. The one that gets the most ‘on-screen’ development is Gruff, which is a little bit of a shame. The story is in his point of view, so it makes sense for him to get the most development but I felt like we spent too much time focused on Gruff. The other characters that he encounters just sort of disappear and then reappear with slightly different personalities and viewpoints. For instance, there are arguably two other main characters in this story who at one point disappear for several chapters. When these characters reappear again they’ve changed in ways that don’t make a whole lot of sense. Then there are other characters that change along the journey but we’re told about it rather than shown, and I felt that it would’ve been nice to actually see these developments unfold. For someone as observant as Gruff seems to be, when it came to details regarding other people he was uncharacteristically quiet about it—and this kid had a lot to say about almost everything else.

The last thing I’ll touch on here is the conventional story structure of The Goat’s Tale. Most stories are told in the shape of a hill, there’s a rise to the top and shortly after we get to the top there’s a fall to the bottom. I honestly had a hard time telling where the ‘top’ or the climax of this story was, I can narrow it down to two events but they didn’t feel very climatic just more so than the other noteworthy events. But after those two events I didn’t feel like I was reading the falling action, or the decline, of the story. To me, after what I could argue was the climax the story just kind of sputtered until it ran out of pages. Even the ‘end’ didn’t feel like an actual ending because it was an obvious setup for the next book. If the series suddenly ends at that point then the story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and feels uncompleted. I understand that nowadays books are written with the idea of a series in mind, but a good author ends each book like there might not be a next one while leaving unfinished threads that could expand on the story.

Final Thoughts:

This book wasn’t really for me. There were several times in which I thought about putting it down and reading something more enjoyable, but I wanted to get to the end to see how the tale unfolded. But when I got to the end I felt a bit let down. My favorite character isn’t in the story anymore, and my next favorite character I feel might not get an interesting story because of how she was handled at the end. And on top of all this, I felt like this story read more like a long-winded fantasy rather than a dystopian. If you take out any references to plastic, muskets, or anything related to technology I would’ve believed that this story was set in some sort of fantastical setting. Instead it’s a dystopian that doesn’t really read like any other that I’ve read so far, which may not be a point against it—just depends on the person I guess.

I would recommend this story to anyone who is looking for something a bit different and wants to get into a new series. While it honestly wasn’t my cup of tea, I can see how other people might enjoy it, especially if you are into long stories with a ton, and I mean a ton, of world building.

Rating:

2/5

I don’t think I’d want to continue the series, especially with how this book ended. There was no real resolve to this story, just a short lull before a big lead into the next book. I don’t really care for stories that end like this, but I understand that other people are different. I felt like the narrative of this story was too long winded, I felt that I could cut 100 pages from this book and the story wouldn’t have suffered the loss. However, I’ve always been rather picky about the length of my books only a few rather lengthy ones have ever been able to hold my complete interest all the way through. For those who love long stories, this one may be a breeze for you to read. I really enjoyed a lot of the world building, but at times I felt like it was too much and could’ve been saved for other books later in the series. The characters are alright, though I found the main character, Gruff, to be a bit unemotional and extremely pessimistic. The one line of thought I didn’t care for of his, was that when he becomes maimed he views himself as an invalid due to his acquired disability. While this is an arguable thought for the setting of the story, I feel like this can become hurtful to some readers, especially since it felt in some cases that the author went out of their way to make Gruff that way.

Overall, it’s an okay story. It’s not one that I will continue, but I found the premise of the story to be quite interesting. I believe what made me not want to continue the most was actually Gruff, because I spent too much time in his head. There’s a chance that the next book will be led by a different character, but with how this one ended and with the cast so far, I doubt I can pick up the next one.

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Book Review: Queek’s Race in Space

Note: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: Queek’s Race in Outer Space

Author: Carrie Mortleman

Publisher: Createspace

Release Date: April 26th, 2017

Genre: Children’s Book, Illustrated, Science Fiction

Pages: 32

Synopsis:

Queek the scrumptious sugar mouse teams up with his best friend Hellie the Hovercraft Elephant for a very important race against the aliens of Mars!

Their journey takes them past fluffy clouds and the Milky Wat, where they stop to gather yummy white chocolate stars.

Will Queek and Hellie make friends with the aliens?

Can they win the race and take home the treasure snacks?

My First Thoughts:

I’ve read Hellie the Hovercraft Elephant by the same author and so I was very open to reading the next book in her Hellie & Queek series. I have really enjoyed reading Ms. Mortleman’s work so far and so I was quite excited to get her next book in the mail!

Rating:

4/5

Queek’s Race in Outer Space was a lot of fun to read and did not disappoint me! The storytelling, while strong in the last book, has improved in the last year and made the story easy to follow from the get-go. The author sets up the story so that you don’t have to read the previous story to understand the characters and their relationship. Within the first few pages and a few rhyming lines the readers are introduced to the characters, their relationship, and the journey they want to take! As in the last book, the rhyme scheme is very simple and easy to follow. There were a few times in which I felt there was a bit of a stretch to get a few lines to rhyme, but it didn’t impact the overall story and I doubt many kids would notice it too. I’ve always been a fan of the illustration work in Mortleman’s children’s books because it’s so different, it easily introduces different textures and colors in a way that I believe would help stimulate a child’s imagination. Overall, I believe that this book would be a fantastic tool for any parent or teacher to help children widen their vocabulary; the easy use of long complicated words followed by easy context clues should make it simple for parents to help their kids learn new vocabulary. And if they don’t pick it up right away, the harder vocabulary doesn’t take away from the story either and doesn’t hinder the younger reader’s ability to understand and enjoy the story. This fun, unique, and exciting book about mars aliens and treats will make a wonderful gift for any child and a fantastic tool for education!

DNF Confronting Destiny

 

 

Why I Couldn’t Finish This Book:

It’s a real shame that I have to shelve this story for now because it held a lot of promise for me. The story sounded interesting and the characters made for a good first impression. However, it has taken me a while to try and get into this book. I read for a few pages and then get distracted by something else, so I’ve only read a few chapters at this point. I think the biggest problem was the writing style, not that it was terribly written or sounded awful, it was just really hard to get into at the moment. The writing style wasn’t difficult to read, but it reminded me some of my dad’s old high fantasy books. At times there was information woven into the sentences that, while important for world building and character development, felt a bit extra for the given moment the author was trying to write. I’m not completely giving up this story, I still would love to read it one day. But at the moment I have several other books that I need to get to and review as well. So for now, I’m going to shelve this book and hopefully when there is a lull in requested reviews I can pick this one up again and read in earnest.

Details:

Title: Confronting Destiny

Author: A.L

Publisher: Self-published

Release Date: May 18th, 2016

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Action/Adventure

Pages: 247

Synopsis:

The once proud kingdom of Rekhia is being rebuilt with the character of her conquerors. They lost their freedom when they lost the war. Over the years, their foreign overlords had caused the erosion of their customs, their language, their way of life. They were losing their identity.

Kaleen, heir to the Rekhian throne, grew up in the peaceful sanctuary of the Misty Mountains, protected by its fiercely independent citizens. For almost two decades, she had been groomed by her uncle to take back what is rightfully hers, to return her country back to her people.

The time has come for her to be what her family expects her to be, what her people need her to be. She embarks on a quest that becomes a journey of self-discovery. She fights new dangers, battles evil in the form of man and monsters. But it is doubt, both in her desires and her abilities, that is her greatest foe.

Her cousins Milan and Milena travel by her side, holding her up when she needs support. Nobles, peasants, monks, knights… help her along the way. But it is ultimately up to Kaleen, to save her kingdom, to free Rekhia, to find her true self, and to confront destiny.

Book Review: Heartbeat (Morta Fox #1)

Note: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

 

Synopsis:

When I first saw the monster hidden in the dark, teeth sharp and face covered in blood, the first thing I did was jump over Boston’s Wall of Protection to warn the people inside it. Turns out the people already knew, and all I did was turn myself into a delicious little snack for the most terrifying creature to have ever existed.

I was sure he’d kill me. He didn’t. Instead, he turned me into one of them.

Being saved against your own will is no fun, especially when the knight in shining armor is a vampire who calls himself Hammer. He’s arrogant, flirty, and even more stubborn than me. Left with no other choice but to make a deal with him, I soon find out that I’m not just your usual bloodsucker. I’m something far worse. But at least I’m no longer all alone.

Promises are not to be broken in my newfound world, and when my part of the deal is done, Hammer has seven days to complete his.

If he does, I will no longer be alive.

My First Thoughts:

The premise for this story sounded very interesting and I’m always looking for a good vampire story to read. Seriously, it’s hard to find good vampire fiction anymore which is a real shame. If you find the right vampire fiction it can be a whole bucket of angst and drama or a blood bath, anything else jut gets too boring or cliché.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

Warning: Mentions of attempted suicide, suicidal thoughts and tendencies, and attempted rape.

For the life of me I could not finish this story and it really upsets me. I really wanted to like this book and I really wanted to read it to the end because it reminded me of a bad movie that people still found enjoyable because of its flaws. Unfortunately, I lost all interest and will to read this book and could only read a few pages a sitting before I got bored or frustrated. So, for the sake of all the other books I need and/or want to read I’ve decided to put this one down and I don’t think I’m ever going to pick it up again. At nearly 20% of the way though the book I had to shelve it.

In the beginning of the story I was a bit intrigued. Dystopians can be hard for me to get into, so most of the time I stay away from them unless they have an interesting story. So far I had never run into a dystopian novel that also had vampires, so that acted as the initial hook for me. However, it kind of dropped from there.

The one thing that really made this story hard to read were all the plot holes that were just so glaringly obvious that it became frustrating. Morta made decisions that made absolutely no sense just so that the author could have her in the right place to progress the story. The author describes how vampires were created, which at first I thought it was clever until I really started thinking about it. The author used a virus to create vampires. When infected, the body’s organs all fail and stop working except for the brain, which needs blood to survive. At first, I thought it was an interesting idea but then I really started thinking about it. If the stomach is no longer functioning, then how does the blood get to the brain? When the blood is consumed it goes down the throat and to the stomach. First thought is that the new blood just gets absorbed into the blood stream and is taken to the brain. However, that’s not how things work. For something to get into the blood stream it must either be immediately be absorbed into muscles, directly supplied by injecting into a vain, or it must be digested by the stomach. If swallowed, blood to my knowledge can’t be absorbed into the muscles so it would have to be digested, if that’s possible, which it can’t be because the stomach is no longer functioning. Also, if the heart stops beating then how would the blood, if it could, get to the brain? The pumping of the heart is the main mechanism for blood circulation, so how does the new blood get to the brain if the heart isn’t beating? There were several other issues I had with the virus approach, but I’ll stop there and spare you from my rant.

The mistakes I found in this book made it obvious that this was a self-published piece. At first they were quite humorous. Occasionally the author would use the wrong verb, ex: “I heard the smell of blood…” Other times there were issues with continuity, one minute a character would be one thing and the next they were doing an action that completely contradicted what they had just done with no real mention of it. After a while the mistakes just kept piling up and it made the story a little hard to follow, all of which could have been avoid if there was an experienced editor involved with this story.

I think I could have gotten past all of the errors in this story, because they really were funny most of the time, if I even liked the characters I was following. I hated Morta and I liked Hammer only a smidgen more than her. Morta is a pessimistic, childish, and frustrating character. It was like the author didn’t want to make her a Mary Sue, or the perfect heroine, but in doing so made an unrealistic character that just became too annoying to even care for. She doesn’t want to be a monster so she tries to commit suicide. At least four times she tries to kill herself within the first few chapters after she becomes a vampire. She is so determined to die that she keeps doing things that may get her killed and honestly I can’t stand those characters. As someone who had to talk a friend out of suicide I was extremely uncomfortable with this and many times pissed with how the author handled it. I can’t imagine what someone who actually has attempted suicide would feel when reading this.

Like I said, Hammer was a little more likeable than Morta but not enough to make me care what happens to him. When you first meet him he’s a cocky show off who just tries to convince Morta to sleep with him. Ignoring the impossibility of vampire sex, it made him come off poorly because he kept insisting until Morta gave him a firm, hard refusal. After Morta told him no though, he dropped the subject completely and then it felt like he was a teacher mentoring a young bratty child which doesn’t scream romance to me. Also, outside those two main characters nine out of ten people were complete scum and completely unredeemable. For instance, for some reason the doctors Morta ran into in the beginning tried doing nonconsensual experiments for no immediate reason. Slightly later, when Morta leaves the city she is immediately set upon by a group of men that try to coerce her into having sex with them. Not even a chapter later another guy tries forcing her to have sex with him and no one tries to stop him. And of course, because it’s a dystopian all government officials and law enforcement are sadistic, murdering scum.

Rating:

I got about 19% of the way through this book and decided to quit. This book needs some serious editing work because it read like the first draft of a manuscript, before an editor takes their red pen to the pages and make them bleed. The characters are unlikable. There are plot holes everywhere that distract from the story. The word building is lazy and reads like the author just took our reality and slapped a bunch of cheap stickers on it. I feel like I could have finished this book if I found that I had even a grain of compassion towards Morta and Hammer. Instead I doubt that I will ever pick this story up again. It’s possible that the story gets better from where I left off, but I have no motivation to find out.

I would recommend this story to anyone who likes dystopian or vampire stories, I feel like people should still give this book a try if they really want to. However, I must warn you that there are mentions of attempted suicide, suicidal thoughts and tendencies, and attempted rape. If you are someone who has any experience with suicide I seriously suggest staying away from this book because the main character only wants to die and attempts to kill herself several times. If these things don’t bother you, then by all means give this story a try if you really want to.

Details:

Title: Heartbeat (Morta Fox #1)

Author: D.N. Hoxa

Publisher: self-published

Release Date: October 16, 2016

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Dystopia, Romance

Pages: 326

Anthology Review: The Dead Smile (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Title: The Dead Smile (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Author: F. Marion Crawford

Genre: Short Story, Horror, Gothic, Paranormal

Pages:  13 (75-87)

Thoughts:

Oh wow…so this one put my imagination to good use to scare me a little witless. There’s no gore in this story. Nowhere does it describe bloody scenes, decapitation, or dismemberment; the only disturbing things described are the conditions of corpses and the frightening ‘dead smile’. And it is that smile that my mind recreated to frighten me!

This story was nothing like I was expecting and it had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. The imagery was beautifully done, nothing to elaborate, just enough to get the point across and the image into your mind. While originally published in 1899, The Dead Smile does not quite read like it’s over a century old. Some of the words and phrasing show its true age, but overall the story does not appear to have been weathered by time. In fact, if I had not read the author’s bibliography in the back I wouldn’t have realized how old it was!

Crawford’s writing is different than other authors that I’ve read from that time. He knows when to be poetic with his details and when to be simple and straightforward. He focuses on action and dialogue to keep the readers going, to keep them hooked until the end, but he draws out the passages when tension is high to try and force the reader to feel the same. And he uses just enough information to keep the readers wanting more, reading until the very last page. It might have been one of the longer short stories so far, but it sure didn’t feel like it!

Rating:

The Dead Smile was a fantastic short story with an intriguing concept. The most chilling aspect of the story is the imagery that Crawford use to invoke the ‘death smile’ in your mind. Every time the smile appear on the page it appeared in my mind and made me shiver. Again, the writing was fantastic and almost timeless, which I haven’t found a lot of recently. My biggest complaint is that it appears that the editor fell asleep on the job. Why? Because there were weird periods in the middle of sentences or breaking up words, one place even had a random 4 when it should’ve been a t. The transcription mistakes were so weird that it took me out of the story just a little bit. Overall, The Dead Smile was a wonderfully chilling read and I would recommend it to anyone who may be interested, the language is easy enough to follow for almost anyone.

4/5

Anthology Review: Breach (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Title: Breach (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Author: Justin Coates

Genre: Short Story, Horror, Science-Fiction, Paranormal

Pages:  7 (68-74)

Thoughts:

After reading this short story the first thing that comes to mind is Hellboy. Main character is a large mysterious man that unsettles people, he comes from a mysterious agency, and he gets called to investigate really freaky cases that are beyond real…Yea, that really sounds like Hellboy!

Anyways, I found this short story to be quite enjoyable, though it didn’t freak me out as much as I had hoped. I still squirmed a bit while reading, though that’s because this story has a bit of descriptive gore that my mind had fun (but not for me) recreating the scenes. This to me definitely read like a gory scary story rather than an honestly frightening one. If this were made into a movie (or some other form of visual media) then I would be scared witless from all the carnage, but to read it doesn’t translate the same for me, at least this time.

Other than the less than chilling impact of the story, Breach is still a fantastic short story to read. It’s a little slow in the beginning as the author sets the stage, but after the first page it picks up rather quickly until the end. There’s not a lot of science, just weird devices and concepts that aren’t explained fully and that you’re supposed to take at face value. There’s lots of action in this short story, and the author does well to keep sentences short and description simple to keep the mood and pacing brief.

Rating:

Overall, Breach was an interesting short story that I flew through and enjoyed immensely! Though I didn’t find it terribly frightening, the writing is well crafted and easy enough to follow. I would recommend this to anyone who loves Hellboy and similar works, gore, and more paranormal-esque stories. Breach does have a bit of historical content which may intrigue some readers; personally, I found it rather (enjoyably) surprising. If you aren’t much for detailed gore and death, then I would suggest skipping this one.

5/5

Anthology Review: The Yellow Sign (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Title: The Yellow Sign (Chilling Horror Short Stories)

Author: Robert W. Chambers

Genre: Short Story, Horror, Historical-fiction

Pages:  12 (56-67)

Thoughts:

It has taken me a while to sort through all my thoughts for The Yellow Sign, and unfortunately, I don’t think that will ever happen. The story was originally written in 1895 and seems to be a little easier to read than other works of the time. While there were some phrasing and terminology that took me a moment to decipher, it was still a wonderfully written piece with more hard details than poetic ramblings. Don’t get me wrong, I love poetic writing but this story was definitely better without it.

The main character of this short story did very little to impress me, his thoughts and opinions made me dislike him and ramblings. While there were no long passages of useless thoughts, there were still mentioned details that seemed to add no real depth to the story at all. There’s mentions of mysterious and/or tragic past lovers, mentions of The King in Yellow, and supposed tragedy befalling people he knew who read the work. Doing some research, I’ve found that The King in Yellow is a play that the author mentions in some of his other short stories as well, but have found very little to do with the content of the mentioned work. While The Yellow Sign was a bit disturbing, I found it less enjoyable because I didn’t understand the importance of The King in Yellow and the obvious pull it had on the plot.

Rating:

Overall, The Yellow Sign was an interesting story that left me with some chills but nothing more. I would recommend this one to any classic literature lover or anyone familiar with The King in Yellow. Otherwise, I don’t think many readers will find this tale as frightening as it may have been when originally published and the tales of The King in Yellow were a bit fresher in the public mind.

3/5