Friday, February 23, 2024

Review: Twist Me by S.K. Pryntz

by S.K. Pryntz
Release Date: February 14, 2024
2024 SK Narrations LLC
Ebook ARC: 310 Pages
ISBN: 979-8989152520
Genre: Fiction / NA Romance / Harem
Source: Review copy from author
3.75 / 5 Stars
My Thoughts
Twist Me is the first book in the Asylum Devils Trilogy and while it had some really great elements, there were times when I was shaking my head wondering how we went from y to z without more explanation or background information.  

First of all, I really enjoyed the actual story line and wish it had been more developed; Ezello going undercover into the asylum was quite interesting and I would have liked that whole scenario to be explained in greater detail with a lot more development.  There were some interesting secondary characters involved in the story who could have been used to further develop the story line rather than just for sexual reasons.  I wasn't opposed to the sexual stuff, but when that is all a character is useful for in a story, it kind of leaves a bad feeling in my gut as people are so much more than that.  The plot did move along quickly, and told from alternating POV between Ezello and Goliath, it was easy to follow and see both sides of the story.  

Goliath, Pharoah, and Judas were certainly devilish characters and I adored them, but that doesn't mean I always adored their behaviour.  I would think that Ezello would have a major concussion considering the amount of times she got slammed against a wall by one of them.  The brothers go from being angry to sexual play rather quickly and to me, it was a form of dominance, not playful at all.  But my criticism doesn't stem from that, more about the reasons why they switch back and forth which wasn't clear at all. Throughout the story though, they go from being bullyish to supportive and I am not sure how or why the behaviour changed. Was is simply because they understood Goliath was falling in love? That didn't make sense though as they were prepared to cut off Goliath from their pact if he chose her over them.  

The spice in the novel was fun and definitely a wild ride, no pun intended.  Again, I would have liked it better if everything had slowed down a bit and the plot and characters delved into a bit more.  But, man, I will never look at a carnival setting the same way again!!

Twist Me was a fun, easy, twisted read, and if you like unhinged men, then this one is for you.  I would recommend you check your trigger warnings before reading this book; for me, maybe because I read so much horror, I didn't find the TWs that bad.  Overall, the book did feel rushed,  I thought the character development wasn't overly complex, and there were plot elements that didn't quite make sense or you were just supposed to accept them as they occurred, and that is not something that I can overlook.  If you are looking for a quick and smutty read, then this one is for you. I will definitely be picking up book two when it is released as the ending for this one had me reeling. 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Review: The Rocking Chair Prophet by Matthew Kelly

by Matthew Kelly
Release Date: August 15, 2023
2023 Blue Sparrow
Hardcopy ARC: 320 Pages
ISBN: 978-1635822083
Audiobook: B0C94ZH8NH
Genre: Fiction / Philosophical
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

After an unspeakable tragedy devastates his life, Daniel, a thirty-three-year-old suburban man, disappears into the mountains. Years later, he reemerges filled with uncommon wisdom and other extraordinary gifts.

From that day on, people travel from far and wide to meet with Daniel, who sits on his rocking chair, meeting with visitors, and helping them explore their deeply personal questions. These questions lead to a series of epic conversations that traverse life’s quintessential topics: love, suffering, health and well-being, education, work, money and things, spirituality, regrets, depression, ambition, nature, parenting, midlife crisis, choices, our hopes and dreams, the meaning of life, and enduring friendship.
My Thoughts
The Rocking Chair Prophet is one of those books from which I have to analyze from two completely different perspectives: one, the fictional side, and two, the spiritual side. As a novel, it was relatively weak without much of a story line.  As far as philosophical truths went, this one did resonate with me on many levels, but on a superficial level.  Had it gone deeper, I would have given it a different rating.

First of all, the actually story line did not have a lot of substance to it.  We have this young man losing his entire family very tragically, who enters the forest to heal his soul, returns some years later only to become this wise prophet dispensing truths and helping people with their lives.  The character development was rather non-existent and the secondary characters all blended into one another, with little development.  Many of them miraculously transformed their lives because of Daniel's wisdom, but while i agree on how simplistic it can actually be, realistically, most people, with mortgages and bills to pay, can not simply do this.  I know the author tried hard to add humour to the story by adding some anecdotes to when the boys were small and some of the trouble they got up to, it didn't really add much to the relationships as adults as those relationships are different.  I would have liked to have seen more dialogue and development to build up those relationships and to really get a sense of who Daniel and the others were.

Despite the story flaws, there were a lot of great concepts in this book.  I definitely resonated with some of them and feel that we are dealing with a world-wide identity crisis at the moment, but would have liked to have seen these concepts be more developed as they seem to be written for young people just learning philosophical thoughts or for adults who have never dabbled in philosophy.  For someone like myself, this was too simplistic for me.  That being said, the overall message and Daniel's journey are worthwhile and will give you pause for thought, make you think about your own life and how you live it every day, and the relationships you have with others.

The Rocking Chair Prophet is a good book for those who are new to philosophy and/or spirituality, and are looking to explore their own life and the choices they have made.  It is definitely on the lighter side however, so if you are looking for something more profound, this isn't for you.  The writing is easy to understand and the author has this ability to take complicated concepts and write them in a way that makes sense, unlike more famous philosophers.  I would take a look at this author's non-fiction work as I think those are quite a bit better developed, both in ideas and concepts, than this book. 


Review: A Life with Ghosts by Steve Gonsalves with Michael Aloisi

by Steve Gonsalves with Michael Aloisi
Release Date: August 22, 2023
2023 Gallery Books
EbookARC; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-16678008324
Audiobook: B0BSB5YJ1B
Genre: Non-fiction / Memoir / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Widely known as a lead investigator of the smash hit TV series Ghost Hunters as well as Ghost Hunters Academy and Travel Channel’s ratings king, Ghost Nation , Steve presents a collection of his most meaningful paranormal experiences from some of his favorite haunted locations.

Along with the compelling history of each location, Steve recounts his terrifying experiences with disembodied voices, haunting EVPS, mysterious dark masses, and other unexplained phenomena—in addition to what he learned about living through a life with ghosts. His beliefs and theories on the craft are told through heartwarming, hilarious, and profound stories, reflecting the fun-loving personality that has garnered him millions of fans. 
My Thoughts
A Life with Ghosts drew my attention because it was a book about different locations around the U.S. that have paranormal stories attached to them.  I am not really someone who watches Ghost Hunters so who wrote the book wasn't really relevant to me, it was more about the stories and the job. As a kid, I was always drawn to books about people who investigated murders, in particular those that had paranormal twists to them, so I was curious as to the approach this author would take in this book. The conversational tone format of the book worked really well, the insights into the job were interesting, but I especially loved the human interest stories woven into the book, the way he puts the emotions about those who suffered torment and abuse at the forefront. 
First of all, the tone of the book was really good and I enjoyed the more conversational format of the book. I do think this would work really well for audiobook format and may listen to it in that format just to see if there is a difference in effectiveness.   Now I'm a skeptic when it comes to paranormal investigating, so I definitely appreciated the ways in which Steve and the crew debunked things in this book.  The critical, conservative approach appealed to me, making me trust in their observations. Even when they had experienced something out of the ordinary, Steve goes on to mention that just because they can't explain the phenomena at that moment doesn't mean it couldn't be explained in the future and debunked later on.  

What I especially liked was the human element, the human interest stories, both historical and about the Steve and the team.  First of all, I looked forward to the beginning of each chapter as Steve gave a concise history of each location including some of the tragedies that occurred at each site. As someone with a history background, this appealed to me quite a bit.  He was very quick to mention in each chapter that the suffering of the people at these places must never be forgotten and should always be highlighted.  He stressed that debunking local legends was a good thing at times as it gave the people who actually lived and suffered their moment to be remembered for what they suffered, not always focusing on superstitious legend that has a tendency to grow and change with re-tellings.  Learning about Steve and the gang was also fun as I didn't know a lot about his past endeavours, including him being a musician and jewellery designer. 

A Life With Ghosts was a quick, fascinating read about a young man who was fascinated about the paranormal and grew up doing something he loved.  It was interesting to learn about his backstory as well as his other endeavours and the work the team puts into their locations when they visit.  Steve never acknowledges or denies his belief in the paranormal, only that he is fascinated by the idea of it, loves meeting and helping people who are dealing with events that are unexplained (at least until they come in), and trying to preserve local historical monuments through their work.  He has mentioned numerous times in the book that he has countless stories to tell, so I hope he writes another book as I would love to read more about his adventures.  


Monday, February 12, 2024

Review: Echoes of Reckoning by Ron Shaw

by Ron Shaw
Release Date: December 12, 2023
2023 Evocative Impressions LLC
Softcover Edition; 357 Pages
ISBN: 970-8989124015
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from author

4 / 5 Stars

Following an unexpected demise, Clayton "Clay" Mitchell is thrust into the labyrinthine confines of Purgatory. With a heart fueled by twin desires—to find his treasured fiancĂ©, Ava, who preceded him in death, and to escape the spectral chains binding him—Clay embarks on an odyssey unlike any other.Azrael "Az" Angue, the chilling embodiment of Death, shadows his every move, seeking to erase the memories that empower Clay's spirit. As the countdown to oblivion grows ever louder, Clay forms bonds with a band of other lost souls, all battling their own internal demons and external threats. Together, they strive to decipher the riddle of the elusive gateway that offers a return to the world of the living.
My Thoughts
Echoes of Reckoning is a very different book from what I expected, but in a good way. This is a story about an average man who lives an average life, but his story and life was so compelling, and his character so relatable, that I found myself unable to put down the book.  I think that being told in the first person helped with this as you can't help but be sucked into the story.

The story has quite a slow burn to it, but it was so engrossing that I enjoyed the backstory we were given to Clay's life and his relationship with Ava.  Normally, this would not have appealed to me at all as I prefer to discover this information as I read about the main conflict, but again, I found the storytelling engaging and interesting.  Being written in the first person connects you to him so when he suffered the biggest loss of his life, I suffered right along with him, shocked at how brutally everything changed even though I was expecting it.  While I would like to say my favourite part was when he was in Purgatory, it wasn't as I appreciated both parts of the book for different reasons.  However, I did really enjoy the atmosphere of Purgatory as well as the creativity of the setting; it certainly made me think about my own life and the choices I've made throughout the years and how they could affect my own afterlife. 

Clay was an enjoyable character and I enjoyed his development quite a bit. I was happy to learn more about Ava as the story progressed as I didn't feel like I really knew her until she landed in Purgatory; the part about how they finally connected was fascinating and it gave me some food for thought when thinking about my own relationships. I particularly enjoyed Grayson and would have liked to learn more about him as he was such an intriguing character. 
Echoes of Reckoning was a slow-burn type of novel that definitely drew you into the setting, the characters, and the story. Even though there wasn't a lot of action, the author had a way of connecting you to the story and the characters which made it very compelling and hard to put down.  And that ending caught me completely off guard. I am hoping there will be another book after this because I need to know what happens to my buddy Clay next.  Highly recommend this book!!


Sunday, February 11, 2024

Review: Murder in a Care Home by Dawn Brookes

by Dawn Brookes
Release Date: January 31, 2024
2024 Oakwood Publishing
Ebook ARC; 282 Pages
ISBN: 978-1913065959
Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery
Source: Review copy from author

4 / 5 Stars

A spate of deaths in a care home. Someone is getting away with murder...When her friend Edna suspects foul play following the deaths of two residents from a prestigious retirement community, Marjorie goes undercover to investigate.

Along with her trusted friends Horace, Frederick, and Edna, Marjorie must catch the killer before anyone else dies. Going undercover as new residents, Marjorie and Horace set out to uncover the truth. But there is a ruthless killer in their midst, and Marjorie must catch them before she becomes the next victim. The four friends risk life and limb to uncover the dark secrets hidden behind the walls of the not-so-idyllic community.
My Thoughts
Murder in a Care Home is the fifth book in this series and the first one I read by this author. And while I may have missed out on some of the character and relationship development from the previous books, I thought the author did a great job of introducing just enough information about each of them to make me feel connected to them and to the story.  As a result, I enjoyed the rapport between the characters as well as the actual mystery.
Marjorie and Horace featured the most in this book as they were the ones who entered the care home pretending to be convalescing from an injury and a surgery, and for an exorbitant fee. I loved Marjorie's inner monologue as some of the things about the home were explained to her, especially when she was confronted with the physical activity portion she would have to undergo, and the extra fees she would have to pay.  That she is the leader of the group is not in doubt as she seemed to be the most stable of the four and seemed to be the more logical one as well, so I naturally preferred her character. As I am getting older, I feel like I am preferring my MCs to be older as well so I liked the fact they were all in their eighties and facing issues with health, families, and money as it was more relatable. It also made me think a lot about my own future and what would happen when I reached that age. I will be frank however, and mention that Edna's character is very annoying, almost like a child. The ''What about me?" and "I thought about it first" constant neediness and whininess was extremely tiresome. 

The murder itself was fun, if a bit predictable.  I think I figured it out quite early in the book, but it didn't deter from my liking the story or enjoying the twists and turns the author tried to throw into the story.  Maybe I've read way too many of these, I don't know.  The main characters, while they snooped, didn't really do anything too out there, so I rather like that, and they were willing to share information with each other. The parrot had me cracking up. It makes you think that even though you may plan everything to a tee, forgetting even one little thing, like a bird in a covered cage, can play havoc with your plans. I am not giving away anything to do with the murderer by mentioning this, but I loved that parrot. 

Murder in a Care Home was entertaining, with a plot that was fun and engaging, even if predictable.  While I was not a fan of all the characters, Marjorie is someone with whom I'd love to have a cup of tea and chat about things as I feel she would be very observant and interesting.  I am looking forward to reading the next book when it is released in December 2024.


Monday, February 5, 2024

Review: Deep Graves by Lucius Valiant

by Lucius Valiant
Release Date: December 27, 2023
2023 Thornhill Publishing
Ebook ARC; 270 Pages
ISBN: 978-1738402939
Genre: Fiction / Horror / Vampires
Source: Review copy from publisher

4.5 / 5 Stars

Haunted by the tragic loss of his sister Elizabeth to the Black Death in 1665, Gabriel embarks on a perilous journey through time to rescue her from death's embrace. But time travel is a dangerous gamble, fraught with unpredictable consequences.

Landing in the plague-ridden London of the past, Gabriel faces a tremendous challenge: stripped of his vampiric powers, he must gain the favor of the undead twins, Isadore and Isadora, guardians of the immortal blood. All while contending with the swirling rumors about his true nature, surprise visits from Octavia Thornhill, a fledgling who might hold a grudge against him, and Malm Westminster, a plague doctor with a terrible secret.

My Thoughts
Deep Graves is the second entry in The Thornhill Vampire Chronicles, and while I don't think you necessarily need to read the first book in order to enjoy this, it will definitely give you a different perspective of Gabriel and some more background information.  Gabriel is a lot nicer of a person in this book than in the first one, and perhaps his circumstances, going back to the 17th century, and being stripped of his vampiric powers have given him a new understanding of the 'gift' he was given. I liked seeing him struggle to gain the upper hand in situations over which he would normal have total control, so I found this book, and the development of Gabriel's character, quite intriguing.
First of all, I love that the author chose to have Gabriel go back in time to 1665 London in the midst of the Great Plague. The historical details were fascinating and I enjoyed reading about all the ways the people tried to protect themselves during the break-out. But it was also heartbreaking to read about, knowing that over 75 000 people died, possibly over 100 000, and the fear that would have inflicted on people trying to protect themselves.  Therefore, I loved the story line about Malm Westminster, the plague doctor, and the opportunities someone like him would have taken advantage of as well as the profit he would have made during this time period.  I thought the author wrote about the time period quite well and did a lot of research about it so that you felt like you were right there.
Gabriel was a lot nicer in this book than in the first one, something I appreciated.  Now let me be clear, I loved him in the first book as I hate it when vampires are romanticized and when they are 'cute', so I loved Gabriel's ruthlessness in the first book. His behaviour was different in this one because he was not a vampire for most of the book having misjudged his return to the past, so he had to play nice or face never being a vampire again, and I liked seeing him grovel a bit.  
The story moved along quickly, with quite a few twists and turns I wasn't expecting, one big one that actually shocked me and now I am wondering how the author will deal with this in the third book.  It was interesting to meet Elizabeth and I really liked her character; she is tough, with strong morals, and although Gabriel constantly mentions how similar she is to him, I don't quite think so as Gabriel is a lot more ruthless and selfish.  

Deep Graves is a book about a deeply flawed character, but one to whom you can relate as he cares deeply about his family and only wants to protect them. Because he is mostly human in this one, you get to see a much-different Gabriel, so that was interesting to see.  He was completely obsessed with getting his vampiric powers back and that pretty much drove everything he did. My only concern: What about his mother? He was so wrapped up in protecting Elizabeth, but there was little mention or thought about his mother, and this bothered me.  Definitely looking forward to reading the next entry in this series. 



Sunday, February 4, 2024

Review: The World He Once Knew by Micah Castle

by Micah Castle
Release Date: January 26, 2024
2024 Fedowar Press, LLC
Ebook ARC: 190 Pages
ISBN: 978-1956492484
Genre: Fiction / Horror / Sci-fi
Source: Review copy from author
4 / 5 Stars
Jay has been uploaded into a new body to investigate why the transporter ship Candlemass went dark fourteen days ago. After the ship's owner gives him the rundown of the assignment, he's quickly ushered on board. In the halls of the derelict vessel, Jay discovers black sludge coating the inner hull, leading him to a container in the Cargo Bay. As Jay digs further, he's thrown into a psychological maelstrom of the ship's and, more importantly, his own history and what led him to be uploaded in the first place.
The World He Once Knew is a transcendental, sci-fi horror novel set in the distant future. Here, the deceased's consciousness can be bought and uploaded and forced into labor. They can't quit, even if their new lives make them wish they were dead again.
My Thoughts
The World He Once Knew takes place in the far-distant future where Jay, married and a police detective in his old life, is uploaded into a new body and is now a HUSK, someone who was bought and created in this future world for a specific purpose.  On the shorter side at under 200 pages, the story follows Jay as he is sent to the ship Candlemass to discover why it went dark and what happened to the crew. Full of twists and turns, this short story definitely packed a lot into it and left me with a lot of questions, especially in terms of ethical ones and what the future may actually hold for us as humans.

Jay is pretty much the only character in this book that we get to know.  There are a couple of secondary characters, but Jay's interaction with them is so brief we don't really get to know them well or discover much about them.  Jay was downloaded for his skillset as a detective in his old life; combine that with the fact that his current body doesn't need rest, food, or does any of the other bodily functions of a normal human being, he is the perfect person to send into something that could be dangerous.  I loved his inner monologue as he explored the ship and thought the flashbacks to his former life blended seamlessly into the story.  I kept hoping those flashbacks would allow him to regain his humanity and lead a normal life once he got off the ship, but as the story progressed, you learned the true horror behind all of it.  

The world building was my favourite part of this book, and it took me a while to realize how subtle and amazing it actually was. As Jay roamed around the ship, I developed this inner map of what the ship looked like, something I do for any sci-fi book I read, as I need to visualize the setting, especially for something so alien.  However, I realized as the book progressed the ship was sort of...changing, depending on what was happening to Jay. It was so subtle I didn't even realize it was happening until a certain episode happened, and then I was thinking how cool that was, how I was manipulated without even realizing it.  Then I wondered what else I missed because the writing style and the horror are not in your face bloodshed, rather it's a subtle horror that just creeps up on you as you read.  

The World He Once Knew is a fantastic title and definitely has a double-meaning behind it now that I have finished this book.  I thought it was creepy in a deceptive kind of way, the horror sort of enveloping you without you realizing what was happening. It's not a campy, bloody type of horror, but a psychological one, one that I loved as I appreciated the subtlety of the writing. The twists and turns were definitely there and as such, I didn't know what to expect, but the same thing happening in the previous book I read by this author as well.  The biggest horror element in this book though, is the thought that this could be our future, our reality, and that scares me the most of all.