Hot Pinks by Samuel Astbury

Summary

They built the worlds we’d always wanted. After all, they knew us better than we knew ourselves.

In an AI-controlled future, humans live in “reservations” – e
nhanced remakes of long lost eras and exotic locations from the height of the Anthropocene. From Hong Kong to the Nevada desert. From subtropical Southeast Asian island to the French Riviera, our lost kingdoms were reborn, along with some strange new mutations.

Amid the sun-soaked boulevards and foothills of the idyllic Twin Seeds reservation, Ellen and Chambers’ peaceful life is shattered when they discover an artificial being who closely resembles their late daughter. Pursued by the sinister agents of the powerful and ruthless Conoco organisation, the young girl awakens to spectacular and deadly psychic powers.

The family race through one bizarre and beautiful procedurally-generated world to another, fighting for survival, and to uncover her true lineage.

Amazon

Plot/Characters

The dialogue in this story was frustrating. The characters themselves were fine – even enjoyable and interesting – but the dialogue killed them. How you ask? The overuse of ‘…’ is the answer. I get if one did it but they all did it, example “Ellen…being a…parent…is…a job for…other” and every single character’s speech is like this. The dialogue feels comical at times with excessive verbiage and tone, while other times it is informal and endearing. The swing between them is jarring.

There is also a fair amount of head hoping where the point of view is confusing. Not to mention the over the top villain. That behind said I really liked Chambers as a character. He was gruff and loving. There was real potential there that just never got to shine.

Plot felt like it was on repeat – they get into trouble, Leah works her magic, they escape to a new place. Start over at step one. A lot felt unnecessary and really should be slimmed down.

Overall

Overly descriptive in a way that made it difficult to extract a coherent image. The writing was difficult to enjoy form its stilted prose to its meandering storytelling. There are nostalgic references, but they feel out of place more often then not. The jumping through time and settings a challenge the writing didn’t rise to – but a very awesome concept that did come together at times. It was like a series of side quests that didn’t often tie back to the main story in a meaningful way other then to develop the Leah as a character.

Had I not promised to read this (and I keep my promises) I would have quit before it even got started. That being said I did like the ending. I also think video game enthusiastic who like winding stories and lots of side questions would very much enjoy this novel. It just had too many negatives for me to.

Rating

2 stars

A sci-fi adventure that needs to go back to the writing board with a complete overhaul before it’ll shine.

Tiny Wholesome Tales by Prateek Agrawal

Summary

In our everyday life, the tiniest of things can make the grandest of impact.

In Tiny Wholesome Tales, Prateek Agrawal delves into more than 160 feel-good tales of kindness, humor, friendship, love, and happiness. Experience life from the perspective of men, women and children from around the world, collecting joyous moments in their day-to-day lives.

Vivid and amusing illustrations accompany the tales.

Amazon

Overall

The stories were tiny – some a sentence and some more than a page. Most falling in between those extremes. The writing was easy to follow and the pictures along with them were cute additions. It felt like the author just wanted to spread happiness and that wholesome message was welcome. Some of them did feel two short – leaving me wanting more – but thankfully it was quickly onto the next one with curiosity. I even enjoyed some use of language and phrases that I wasn’t familiar with – such as having a ‘gala time.’

The only problem I had was origin. Many of these stories I’ve seen displayed across the internet for public consumption. This devalued the other stories in my mind because they weren’t original stories the author had collected personally. Instead many of them felt like they’d been plucked from the internet and tossed in. I would hope for original fictional tales or non-fiction tales with references to their origin. Unless that was exactly the source – the internet – in which case it would have been nice to know that.

Rating

3.5 stars (rounded up)

Enjoyable but not necessarily original tales by the author. A collection of stories that may take you a trip down memory lane.

Albatross by Dave Saari

Summary

Wealthy young idealist Trey Isherwood and FBI Special Agent Sybil Atwater head a new cast of complex characters in Dave Saari’s fifth mystery novel. The story, set in Grand Marais and Minneapolis with a side trip to Canada, takes place during the summer of 2021 amid the challenges of Covid-19 and highway construction. As Trey and Sybil investigate the still-unsolved, though officially closed, case first portrayed in Dog Leg Left, matters are complicated by their developing professional and personal relationships, ultimately leading them into mortal danger.

Amazon

Plot/Characters

The characters were really well written. They were varied and engaging. There was a clear divide between the ones you were supposed to like and the ones you were supposed to dislike. At times I half expected them to walk right off the page and go about their lives. The way they were placed into the story was a work of art. The story itself was okay – an interesting mystery with romantic pieces. The female characters all seemed very focused on beauty and sexual aspects of relationships (a common theme) – which stuck out to me throughout the story but overall did not detract too heavily from it. I also had a hard time with the bad guys being a little too dumb – I won’t ruin it so I’ll just leave it there.

Overall

This was a very enjoyable book – although it was heavy on the golf for my tastes. So if you like a good mystery, with romance, clear writing, and characters that are realistic – you’ll enjoy this. If you also happen to like golf, you’ll LOVE this story. I was also impressed how expertly the setting incorporated (in 2021) the affects of COVID-19 had on the world at that time. Except for one brazen reference to vaccines that felt misplaced; it made the story more authentic (it was not a main focus but only enhanced the story). By placing real products and events, the story had an extra layer of enjoyment that not even the excessive focus on golf could ruin.

Rating

4.5 stars (rounded up)

Mystery, romance, murder, and golf were promised and they were delivered!

(I struggled between 4 and 5 stars and ultimately settled on 5 just based on the level of care the author clearly put into editing to make the experience of reading his work so smooth.)

Feeling All My Anger: A rhyming anger management book for kids aged 5-8 by Kim T.S.

Summary

Does your child have tantrums?
Anger can be a difficult emotion for both kids and adults, especially when it gets out of control!

BUT we should remember that there’s a reason for every feeling, including anger.
We should try to understand WHY we feel that way, and find healthy ways to release it. Otherwise, our anger might explode!

Amazon

Overall

It had a lot of great examples of how to deal with anger. The illustrations were charming and the rhyming creative. Kids for sure feel everything and it’s all at the surface. The only part about the road and the big explode was a little wordy when reading outload to my little one – but still a great read overall.

Rating

4.5 stars (rounded up)

I hope the author does more – because these send a great message to parents and kids.

Where did I get it?

Kindle Unlimited

New Year, New….similar goals?

Goals for my writing for 2023:

  1. Regency Fantasy Story – Book 1
    1. Release by Between the Lines Small Press – Spring 2023
  2. Regency Fantasy Story – Book 2
    1. Start outline
    2. Finish writing – 35,660 words written!
    3. Decide to self publish or do small press again
  3. Zendar 3
    • Rewrite start
    • Finish Writing
    • Get Cover
    • Schedule release – 2024
  4. Work on other writing projects:
    1. 1001 Islands
    • Start Writing
    • Finish Writing 2023
    1. Unfathomable 3
      1. Finish Outline
    1. Seven Eves – Alaskan Supernatural Crime Novel (on hold)
    2. Demon’s Due – Paranormal Erotica/Romance (ongoing – when the mood strikes me)
    3. Noble Chronicles Series (5 Books Planned)
  5. Consider Publishing Love’s Metamorphosis in eBook
  6. Rewriting Projects
    1. An Honest Misunderstanding
      1. Rewrite
      2. Professional editor
      3. Cover
      4. Pick Publish Date
      5. Publish
    2. Truthseer
      1. Rewrite – 33% complete
      2. Submit for traditional publishing (small press)
  7. Rewrite/Complete Writing Projects
    1. Red Door
    2. The Lady of the Light Trilogy
  8. Participate in NaNoWriMo 2023
    • Pick Book
    • Set Goal
  9. Keep up momentum on writing events, speaking events, and conventions.
    1. Arctic Comic Con
    2. At least one other event
  10. Read 25

Writing updates:

New year with a lot of the same goals from last year – only a few minor updates on backlogged projects. With my first regency fantasy being published later this year by Between the Lines small press, I’ve jumped right into another book in the same world (not a direct sequel). I hope to wrap it up by the middle of 2023 and start really digging into Zendar 3 (the last book planned in the collection). The other main focus is the rewrite of Truthseer. I built up momenteum and was able to get 1/3 rewritten but then stalled out as I got busy with the small press, book 2 for NaNoWriMo, and publishing Half Gate.

I also booked Arctic Comic Con last week so it’s happening again! I can’t wait to see some of you in May.

Reading Goal:

It is my goal to read 25 books. Unlike last year where I didn’t even get double digits, I already have 5 books lined up right out of the gate.

Happy reading!

Ties of Fate: A 2022 Billionaire Romance Series by Jennifer Hart

Summary

Andrea, a confident young woman who always takes life by the balls. Andrea is going through her daily schedule in a small town in South Carolina when she realizes that life in a small town is not enough for her. They encounter an extremely rude woman that changes her perspective of the town. She talks to her childhood friend and coworker Sarah who also agrees with her. They both decide on a whim that they would move to a big city, they pick up a map and pick a random location and it ends up in New York. Both women are excited and over time start making preparations to leave. They encounter Chad, her high school boyfriend and Andrea starts to rediscover some feelings for him.

Their family throws a going-away party for them which goes well until they encounter the rude woman from earlier. Andrea realizes as her dad protects her that he won’t be there to protect her when she moves to New York City. However, Andrea has made up her mind to move to New York. She realizes that her parents would not be there to protect her forever. They say their goodbyes and plan to leave even though their family members try to stop them. After a lot of heartfelt goodbyes, they leave to start their new life in New York. As they are about to leave, Andrea’s high school boyfriend; Chad, shows up out of the blue and begs her to stay. Andrea is shocked but considers it; she is scared to face the big city of New York, she knows that it’ll be more convenient to stay with Chad and live a simple life. It’s the moment of truth, she is stuck between a rock and a hard place. What will Andrea do?

Amazon

Overall

Where was Chad? I sent nearly the entire book wondering that. He’s supposed to be the main male lead in a romance novella/short story, but other then being an old flame Andrea bumps into, I know next to nothing about him…

Which is one of the major issues with the book. I say one because there are more. I went into it thinking it’s a romance, only to be left hanging. I did like the shorter story telling, which this looks to be serials rather than one big book and that’s appealing, however, the first book was more friendship and breaking out of your shell then a romance. I struggled with the flow, the story didn’t come organically it felt forced. I found myself rolling my eyes at some of the scenes (especially the rude customer coming back near the end). The writing was clunky and needed another round of editing to really flesh out the characters and plot.

To top it all off, I was not a big fan of Andrea. By all means she was an okay character, but I much preferred Sarah. Andrea seemed to be a perfect ‘it’ girl – like a fantasy someone constructed rather than a real person. Sarah on the other hand had more substances and guts. I’d much prefer to read a romance (with a main male lead who actually shows up) then one involving Andrea.

Rating

2.5 (rounded down)

Had the cover and story focused on friendship and growing up story it would have been an easy 3-3.5 stars, but as a romance with its steamy looking cover I only found disappointment. If you are looking for romance, look elsewhere.

Writing Goals 2022 (Final quarter)

Goals for my writing for 2022:

  1. The Gate Trilogy Short Story Collection – HALF GATE
    1. Finish Writing – All stories complete (3/21)
    2. Edit – All stories complete (12/15/2021)
    3. Professional edit – completed (2/15/2022)
    4. Cover – 3/1/2022
    5. Pick Publish Date – Winter 2022
    6. Publish – Published December 3rd on Amazon
  2. Regency Fantasy Story – Book 1
    1. Finish Writing – Completed
    2. Edit
    3. Submit to traditional publishing (small press)
    4. Complete editing with Small Press
    5. Release – Spring 2023
  3. Regency Fantasy Story – Book 2
    1. Start outline
    2. NaNoWriMo Story – 22,429 words written!
    3. Finish writing
  4. Work on other writing projects:
    1. Zendar 3
      1. Finish Outline Start Writing (Four chapters in!)Finish Writing 2023
      1001 Islands 2
      1. Finish Outline Start Writing Finish Writing 2023
      Unfathomable 3
      1. Finish Outline
    1. Seven Eves – Alaskan Supernatural Crime Novel (on hold)
    2. Demon’s Due – Paranormal Erotica/Romance (ongoing – when the mood strikes me)
    3. Noble Chronicles Series (5 Books Planned)
  5. Consider Publishing Love’s Metamorphosis in eBook
  6. Rewriting Projects
    1. An Honest Misunderstanding
      1. Rewrite
      2. Professional editor
      3. Cover
      4. Pick Publish Date
      5. Publish
    2. Truthseer
      1. Rewrite – 33% complete
      2. Submit for traditional publishing (small press)
  7. Rewrite/Complete Writing Projects
    1. Red Door
    2. The Lady of the Light Trilogy
  8. Participate in NaNoWriMo 2022
    1. Regency Fantasy – Book 2
    2. Set a goal!
  9. Keep up momentum on writing events, speaking events, and conventions. Let’s hope they don’t all get cancelled liked last year!
    1. Arctic Comic Con
    2. Senshi Con – NOT HELD
  10. Read 25 – 5 books

Writing updates:

My first regency fantasy was picked up by Between the Lines small press. Yes you read that right! I can’t believe after all these years that I’m going to give traditional publishing a try. Stay tuned but right now release is scheduled for the spring of 2023!

NaNoWriMo was another year of success – even though I didn’t reach my personal goal of 25,000 I came darn close with just over 22K. As of today I just eeked over 30K and am still pushing forward!

I’m happy to say that Half Gate was release earlier this month! If you haven’t already you can pick up a copy on Amazon. It’s a collection of short stories set in the same world at The Gate Trilogy.

Reading Goal:

It is my goal to read 25 books – I was finally able to pick up books and start reading in November – I’m 5 books in and looking to read a few more before the year is out.

Happy reading!

Ka’Azula (Black Hole Radio, #3) by Ann Birdgenaw 

Summary

Stay tuned for another fantastic episode of Black Hole Radio – Ka’Azula!

Fifth-graders Hawk, Matt and Celeste have been given special gifts by the amazing aliens they’ve met so far on their intergalactic adventures. ESP and telekinesis come in handy when they are transported to the racist planet, Ka’Azula, where only blue skin is accepted. They have an action-packed adventure in a matrix-type video game with azulanimals and azulizards and a tricky escape room finale. With help from a sweet, red-skinned alien named Teal, they prove that what counts is not outside skin color but what’s on the inside. But does Matt now understand what his father’s family has to endure on Planet Earth?

Amazon

Overall

Targeted for 10 year old’s this imaginative story is the third installment. I didn’t realize that at first on the Amazon version and had to go back. It is much clearer on Goodreads – so make sure you go back and start with book 1. However, I was already a few chapters in so I just kept going. There is a lot of telling rather than showing which made it difficult to connect with the characters. Most of the writing is clunky and rough, even if the story itself was very creative.

Although the plot had an excellent message about the horrors of racism, it glossed over the violence to the other race (killing them in a game) and started the book with the children using their powers to win a basketball game which was not sportsmanlike at all. In fact it put me off of the story right from the go because they were using ESP and telekinesis to get the ball into the basket. It was nostalgic to read about a basketball game since I played it for most of my childhood, but had a hard time getting past them cheating by using their powers (that they’d apparently gained in the first two books). Not a good message at all.

Rating

3 stars (rounded down)

Creative with mixed messaging and clunky writing.

Tom Woof and Max the Owl by Jane Owen

Summary:

Tom Woof and Max The Owl is the tale of a young puppy who loves to write, who comes to live on a farm full of animals who don’t get along. Tom wants to share his stories, but he ends up writing them wherever he happens to be when he thinks of them, and this makes him very unpopular with the animals who don’t understand him. Fortunately, the wise owl who lives on the farm Max The Owl does understand, and he teaches Tom not only how to write his ideas down in a way that can be enjoyed, but he also shows him how to bring the animals together through their shared love of stories.

Amazon

Overall

The watercolor art is charming and the message wholesome. I very much enjoyed reading through this and then reading it to my daughter. Tom Woof and Max’s friendship is very cute, and the focus on literary development encouraging. The story is engaging to a point but not well paced. It starts off with decent spacing for a children’s book, but as the story progresses more and more words make it onto the page that was hard to hold a child’s attention (I know I read it to my own daughter).

Rating

4 stars

Beautiful art and story that tried to fit too much story towards the end.