Review of Iron Core by Rebekah DeVall

Iron Core CoverIron Core by Rebekah DeVall

Wow. This is a short, gritty, action-packed little story. I must confess, I sat down and read it one sitting and simply flew through it barely remembering to breathe. There truly isn’t a dull moment in this story. My biggest regret is that is was so short, but I’ll get to that later.

First, what I liked:

  1. Lunetta – The main character is both brave and fragile at the same, a girl who lived in prison her entire life because of a crime her mother committed before she was born. I liked the contrast of strength and weakness in her character. I liked her determination against insurmountable odds. She is so determined to escape and wants desperately to bring her mother with her—qualities I really loved in her. You can’t help but want this poor girl to escape from these terrible circumstances.
  2. The pacing – This story simply jumps right in and takes off and you’re barely given time to wrap your head around what is happening as you are pulled deeper and deeper into the story. Seriously, you will fly through this story and read it in one sitting.
  3. The characters are flawed – I know, this one sounds a little crazy. But I love flawed characters—their quirks and mistakes are what make them real and relatable. I think every character has something about them that could be improved upon, sometimes slight, sometimes major.
  4. I also liked Persa and the baby – They were a sweet but painful touch to a brutal story. I don’t want to go into details because of spoilers, but I hope we get to see their story developed more and find a happy ending for them. A story this grim needs a few happy moments to carry us through.

What I would have liked differently:

  1. The pacing – Okay! I know, I know! I listed this as a POSITIVE. But because the pacing is so fast, I felt as if the world building and character development suffered a little. I have so many questions about the world and how it works and what it looks like…I think it would have been a good idea to make this short story into a full-length novella and flesh out the world and characters more. The author could have continued the “serial” nature of the book and still given a broader scope of the world and characters she was presenting.
  2. The gritty nature of the story – Because this is a serial and not a complete work of fiction, this first installment is painfully grim. The main character is definitely angry at God. I like gritty stories, so I almost hesitate to mention this, but I think folks should know going into it that THIS installment won’t end happily. I think I can speculate the that the story AS A WHOLE will brighten with the light of the message the author will bring to it, but readers will have to slog through some grim events to get there. I think it might have been a good idea to introduce a lighter/hopeful theme a little stronger in the first installment of the serial, to let us know that there will be hope for this world and the characters we are beginning to like. I would have also liked Lunetta’s mother to have presented her case for her faith more strongly, to help us understand how a woman in such horrific circumstances could discover her faith in prison. It would have added a rich layer of sub-characterization to the tale. I have hopes that this will be revisited in future installments.
  3. The anxiety attacks – This is going to sound a little weird, so please don’t laugh at me, but I think the anxiety attacks weren’t grim enough. Yes, I just said how gritty the world was and how I would have liked some more light in it and now I’m saying to make it grimmer. My reasoning, anxiety attacks are MESSY. I’ve experienced them. I’ve witnessed them in those I love. They’re painful, messy, tearful, horrible things…and I think Lunetta handles hers TOO well. She’s a prisoner with almost no comfort in her life and the fact she is able to control her anxiety right from the beginning almost seems too convenient. I would have liked to see poor Lunetta struggle with her anxiety more and learning how to talk herself down from the ledge, etc.

I can’t tell you enough how intense this story is. You’ll truly be captivated from the first page. If you like stories like the Hunger Games, I think you will enjoy this one. It’s tight, punchy, grim, and compelling. You’ll wish you’d waited until the entire serial was published (like I do!) so that you wouldn’t have to wait for the next installment. Buckle your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen, because this story is one wild read.

I rate this story a high PG-13 for Thematic elements, hints of abuse/rape/violence (almost all shown off stage). This one is not suitable for young children and may be disturbing for abuse/anxiety victims.

Get your copy of Iron Core today!


Cinder Ellie by JM Stengl

Cinder EllieI just read this charming little short story by Ms. J.M. Stengl introducing her new Faraway Castle series…and I was positively delighted. It was short and sweet, a perfect hook to intrigue new readers such as myself. Ellie is the perfect heroine, kind and brave in her own way, and terribly clever. The Prince is tall, dark, and handsome…what’s not to love about that? And my favorite part of all…there are a ton of adorable little fantasy animals running around. The sprites were my favorite. I don’t want to tell you anything else, because of spoilers, but trust me: the cinder sprites are the most original fantasy creature I’ve ever stumbled upon.

The setting for this new series is also quite original. It takes place…at a resort. Yes, you heard me, a fantasy resort. Ellie is a worker at the resort where Prince Omar is staying with his family…and the story takes off from there. I never would have imagined a fairy tale about a resort would be so positively endearing, but it WORKS.

I rate this little novel PG for most audiences. (There are some mild thematic elements that might not be okay for little kids, but otherwise this is clean and easy to read!)

Get your copy of Cinder Ellie for only $.99


Review of Minstrel’s Call by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt

Minstrel's Call coverThis is one of those series that grows on you. I liked the first book, but I wasn’t invested enough in the story yet to truly appreciate it. The author was still growing her craft and developing her characters. By the time I got to book four, I found myself completely enraptured in her world, begging for more, and saddened to realize the series had finally come to an end. What an epic, enthralling adventure.

What I liked:

The world-building. Ms. Schmidt has a gift for painting full-scale worlds with unique cultures and compelling histories, a world so real I wish I could hop on a plane and go for a visit. The backstory is so rich and cleverly sprinkled throughout the story that I never felt as if I were sitting in a history class, but rather like I was living it as it happened.

The characters. Ah, the characters! Even the minor cast will tug at your heart and leave you wishing you had more. And I’m so glad that many of the cast carry over from book to book, allowing us to experience their tales to the fullest. Brant is, as always, my favorite—but the other characters grew on me even more. Particularly Yole, Kitry, the Minstrel and especially Kamarie. I felt that THIS book of all the books pulled her to her lowest and yet to her highest, finally giving her the chance to prove her mettle. I wept with her, cheered with her, longed for her to succeed.

The author’s voice. Ms. Schmidt has a compelling way with words. I love her descriptions, the richness of her passages, the detail and love she installs on the page. I tried to pick one quote from the book to share, but there are too many of them…I would have to copy half the book. I finally chose this bit, because it is at once chilling and beautiful.

“The sea of undead fighters was endless…Their ferocity was only matched by their eerie silence. Even as they fought and fell, they uttered not a word or cry, as if the silence of the grave had risen up to swallow the living.”

What I would have liked done differently:

Um. Not much. This story blew me away with its complexity and beauty. In the earlier books, the omniscient point of view was distracting and took me forever to get used to, but by the time she reached book four, Ms. Schmidt had mastered the technique so well I didn’t even NOTICE the point of view. I think I would have liked more of the story to be told from Kamarie’s perspective. So much of her adventure we see through the eyes of others, and her story is SO GOOD in this book. But I love the characters surrounding her too much to make a big fuss about this point, because in all honesty I wouldn’t want to give up a minute of my time with them either. My only other constructive comment is…why can’t there be a book five? Wink, wink. Just saying. I could really use one more book.

I suggest this book to fans of Tolkien and Lewis. If you like epic fantasy, compelling allegory and rich story-worlds, this book is a sure win. I rate this book high PG for thematic elements and battle sequences.


Review of Dissemble by Sarah Addison-Fox

Dissemble Kindle Cover 3rd ProofI was very excited to read the second book in the Allegiance Series by budding novelist, Sarah Addison-Fox. Book One surprised me with its unique nature, how the author combined a YA themed novel with family values, and book two followed in the same venue but with some new twists of its own.

What I liked: Book Two is just as fast paced and endearing as book one, but it is a harsher tale. The heroine, a former slave, finds herself in new and more dangerous circumstances as she finds herself moving from one form of slavery to another when she is forced to become a spy. War is blooming on the horizon and the stakes have risen.

The family values are still there. I think the author should write an entire series for MG readers about the kids in this book. I think she would be very successful with it. I love how the story alternates between the hero and heroine as well as with Mick’s family and the kids, following their own unique plot line and struggles. It was a very refreshing change but the typical YA novel.

What I would have liked to see different: I personally prefer my books without swearing, but the usage in this book was kept to a minimum and the author was careful to use “milder” swear words which I appreciated. There was also some more kissing in this book, which does not bother me because it was not at all explicit, but it irked my romantic sensibilities that the poor heroine was kissing the WRONG dude. I can’t say any more (Spoilers), but this complaint stems mostly from my inability to be patient and wait for the happy ending resolution than from anything the author should have done differently LOL. I can’t help it: I love a good romance and happy ending.

Ms. Addison-Fox is off to a great start trying to make her mark in the Indie world with her unique style of combining endearing family values and compelling action. I look forward to watching her grow as she continues to develop her craft.

Content: I rate this book for Adults, for mild swearing, kissing and tasteful violence. There is one scene of attempted assault which may be difficult for some readers.



Review of White Wolf and the Ash Princess by Tammy Lash

White wolfThis is one of those stories that gets under your skin and consumes your soul. Ms. Lash’s debut novel is a rare treasure indeed. Rarely do books these days move me to tears, but this historical Christian novel with just a dash of steampunk and fantasy did just that. I reviewed this book back when it first released but somehow I must have forgotten to post it here, so I’m going to rewrite it because this book deserves it!!

One of the things I loved most about this book was the characters. They are so real they felt like my friends by the time I finished reading, and left me longing for more. They made me laugh, they made me cry, they made me mad, they made me sigh…Jonathan was such a terrific tragic hero, truly swoon worthy and at other times SO FRUSTRATINGLY MALE lol. I couldn’t help but fall in love with him. Izzy was spunky, fragile and so real, I felt as if she were a mirror of myself at times. And Tubs, don’t get me started on him because I could talk all day about him.

I’m not usually a huge fan of historical fiction, but this story cured me for the genre. Ms. Lash had such a fresh perspective on how she dealt with history and yet made it her own world at the same time, with hints of steampunk technology and just whispers of fantasy. Her White Wolf legend was absolutely stunning, and how she weaved it throughout the story…so well done.

Usually, I like to leave at least one constructive comment on what I would have liked to have seen differently, but I loved everything about this book. I think the only thing I can say is, “I wish it hadn’t made me cry” LOL because it truly was wrenching at times, yet the ending is so full of hope and left room for the next book in the series. I can’t wait to read book two.

Content: I would rate this story PG-13 for thematic elements. There is no language or sexuality in this book.


Review of So Sang the Dawn by Annmarie Pavese

coverfinal4 copyWOW. This book was so huge, so deep, so intense…I had to take a week off after reading it before I could coherently review it. This is an amazing novel from debut author, Miss Ann Marie Pavese. Did I mention how HUGE it is? I love big books personally, so the size did not daunt me in the least bit. The first couple of chapters were a little slow, but they laid the groundwork for some amazing characters. The characters were what I loved most about this story. The main character, Aurora, is the perfect balance of fragility and strength. She faces moral dilemmas and has to make hard choices. Sometimes good ones, sometimes bad ones—but through it all her character remains likable and you want her to somehow escape the terrible circumstances surrounding her. Her best friend Raine is just as endearing, a gentler soul than Aurora and yet with a hidden strength of her own. (I hear rumors she will be getting her own story in the near future, something I am hugely in favor of). And the side characters—don’t get me started on them. They are AMAZING. The setting is dark, the plot even grimmer, and yet the characters who follow Rory through her journey are good, kind, lovable people. I found myself just as enraptured with their stories as I was with Rory’s. And the twists in this story…I don’t know how many times I set the book down and gasped out loud because I didn’t see them coming.

One thing I would have liked done differently was a bit of “house cleaning.” There were several chapters, especially in the first half of the book, that could have been condensed or cut without losing the overall story. But, since I like big books and every word the author wrote was so beautifully crafted, I almost hate to even mention it.

The only other thing I feel I should mention is a warning that this is a grim story. The circumstances are bleak. The darkness is about as black as it can be. There are scenes that some readers will find difficult. But at the same time…there is light in this story. This story, above all else, is a contrast of light versus darkness, of good versus evil…and of the struggle within the soul to choose between the two. There is a hint of allegory, especially in the back half of the book, and a redemption scene that literally had me weeping. There were several scenes in the climax that had me in tears because they were so beautifully written, because the character had come through so much to get to the ending, and she deserved every word of the beautiful climax.

If you like dark words, fantastic characters, unique creatures and BIG BOOKS…So Sang the Dawn will sing to your soul and utterly consume you as you read, and long after. It’s one of those stories that does not leave you when you close the cover. Bravo, Ms. Pavese. I see great stories in your future and cannot wait to read them.

RATING: I rate this story PG-13 for dark sequences, emotional abuse and thematic elements. There is no swearing or sexual content in this book.