eBook Review: Player Choice by Jeff Deck

Recently I was contacted by Jeff Deck co-author of The Great Typo Hunt, which was one of my very early reviews on this website. You can read my review of The Great Typo Hunt here. Jeff sent me a free copy of his newest creation, his eBook Player Choice, in exchange for an honest review.

player choice

Summary from Amazon:

It’s 2040. With neural implants, people can play games in an immersive virtual reality known as the aether space. Game designer Glen Cullather has a plan for the most ambitious aether game ever imagined: a fantasy epic that gives players the freedom to do anything.

But Glen’s own life is fragmenting into alternate realities. He can’t tell whether his aether game idea has succeeded, or failed miserably. And Freya Janoske is either his biggest rival, or his most intimate partner. Glen must figure out what’s real and what’s, well, fantasy—for his own survival.

Player Choice is a fast-paced gaming sci-fi adventure that dares to ask:

What happens when unreality becomes our reality?

The book is divided into two very distinct parts. The first part is about Glen’s very real alternate realities that are akin to reading about some very lucid dreams. The question is which one is real. Like lucid dreams there are some really real and emotional moments that make it hard to decipher what is happening, but like Glen I knew something was up and while I figured out mostly what was going on, I didn’t quite figure out everything. Which, as we all know, I enjoy immensely. I also enjoy reading about, discussing, and researching lucid dreaming, so this was definitely my favorite part of the book.

Part of the message that Glen is trying to tell in his games is about player choice besides violence and human agency. But Glen has almost no agency in his own life. In fact, I really didn’t like his character at all for quite a bit. He’s that guy. The guy that thinks every single romantic female wants to cut away at his manhood. Just because he fantasizes about her, she must be who he thinks she is. He has no idea how to socially interact with anyone except for two people, and even then after years of friendship, he has hidden huge areas of his life from them. Yet, he expects everyone to respect him. This is the guy I’ve avoided all my life. Glen is unable to express anything except through anger or leaving. His interests must be everyone’s interests. How he sees the world is how it is. Introspection is for the weak. Yes, real healthy there Glen. Thankfully, Glen does learn a lesson or two and by the end of the first part I could at least stand him if not completely empathize with him. His choices led to where he is, and he has to deal with those consequences.

The second part of the book delves into Glen’s gaming world, the one that he created. I’ll be honest, not my favorite part of the book. But, I’m not the worlds biggest gamer. So reading about, what I’ll admit is a very cool gaming world, wasn’t as exciting for me as the lucid dreaming like part. I think people who are gamers, will really enjoy this part of the book. Jeff has definitely built a cool game in Glen’s world and the game has nuances that make it interesting on a deeper level than just conquering bosses. It was interesting, but I was looking for human interest pieces in among the gaming. Glen’s relationship with his girlfriend was interesting and Glen’s past was interesting. I wish there had been more of that than of the gaming, but that is just the type of thing I enjoy more personally.

Glen’s past is rather sordid. He has a lot of family issues. Which are usually the points of a book I really enjoy. I did have one minor issue and that was Glen’s relationship with his sister. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it is not a healthy relationship, and may even need a trigger warning that it is of very adult non-healthy relationship issue. I think such things do need to be talked about, and dealt with and definitely fiction is an avenue for that discussion. But I don’t think gaming is therapy. Glen did not deal with his “coming to terms” with their relationship in a way that is conducive to him actually healing from it. He goes from one emotion about it to the next without any real introspective reflection or decision about what is healthy for him. I also believe it takes more than a few days to heal from something like that and while it is definitely a very good start that Glen started talking about his past with his friends, it is just that, a start.

I wish authors would create some sort of sci fi/ fantasy universal health center that they would periodically send their characters to so that people who read these books could see a way of dealing with emotions that isn’t slashing at them with magical swords or dousing them in potions. Take Harry Potter for example, that is one character that really needs some sort of therapy. I could name a ton billion trillion characters like that. I know this is one of my personal soap boxes, so other people who read this book may not have the same reaction.

What I do think is telling, is that I had a reaction. I like books that strike up an emotional feeling and engage me  in the world that I am reading. Jeff has definitely written such a book. As a side note, Jeff’s grammar past has definitely done him some good. I’ve read a few self-published books recently and his is definitely formatted the best, and didn’t have any typos or grammar mistakes that I caught. It was quite refreshing! If you want to give Player Choice a try, check it out on Amazon where it is free! I assume that is for a limited time, so hurry up and head on over there.

Player Choice leads the reader down dream like paths into alternative realities and worlds that will make them reexamine their own choices and agency.

eBook Review: Taking the Fall by Laney Monday

Taking the Fall by Laney Monday is a free ebook I downloaded after reading about it in my BookBub daily email. If you haven’t been getting BookBub’s emails, you really should sign up for their free service! It is awesome.

taking the fall

Summary via Amazon:

Olympian Brenna Battle once had the fire. Now, she’s just burned out—and burned by love. She’s ready to retire from competitive judo and pursue a new dream in a new town, with her biggest supporter, her recently divorced little sister, Blythe. But on their first day in town, Blythe falls for local sleaze-bag reporter, Ellison Baxter, and their small-town welcome is stained by Baxter’s murder. The weapon—Blythe Battle’s hair brush.

In this fast-paced, fun cozy mystery, Brenna, the proud new owner of the building that formerly housed Bonney Bay’s lone recreational opportunity for kids, Little Swans Ballet, is ready to turn tutu-clad powder-puffs into little warriors by opening a judo school for kids in its place. But now she must clear her sister’s name and save her new dream from ending even more disastrously than her Olympic hopes. Brenna must deal with one crazy member of the local police force, who’s determined to see the sisters pay—and another cop, whose deep brown eyes just might drive Brenna crazy—in a way her battered heart just can’t take.

I’ve read a lot of cozy tea novel mysteries, so I think I have a fair idea of what to expect when I read them. I found this book to be a bit aggravating. For a fairly intelligent woman and written character, Brenna does some crazy stupid things. Once something that did not even make sense with her character. Other than this flaw, the story is lively and interesting with some fun quirky characters. I liked Blythe as a character and I wish her background had been worked into the story a little more. I get that she is a side character, but a pretty big one. If she and Brenna have a great relationship this should be shown with back story, and it was a little lacking in the first book. I get that it is the first book in a series and the author doesn’t want to reveal everything, but a little more background of their relationship would have flushed out the story and filled in some gaps.

Riggens is the romantic interest in the story, and he is surprise! a cop. One of my favorite tea cozy novel series is the Aurora Teagarden series by Charlaine Harris.  What was so unique about the series was the intelligence and ingenuity of Aurora while throwing away a lot of the cliches of the genre, for example her romantic interest was not a cop/FBI/badboywhoworksforthegoodguys type of person. While the character Riggens was different his insertion and place in the plot line was predictable. I would also have liked a little more background on him as he is another important secondary character. Hopefully that part of the story is also expounded upon in future books. In the mean time, can he at least make a decent move on Brenna? A kiss? A kiss! Not even a date. Bah. One of the reasons people read cozy tea novels is for the romantic interest, and his interest was a little low and a little lame. Get it together Riggens!

A decently written tea cozy novel, Taking the Fall by Laney Monday fits nicely into its category and gives the reader what they expect from the genre. Interesting and fairly strong female characters with a dose of danger and mystery.

You can read another review here.

eBook Review: Dreamwalker

I recently joined NetGalley and received an eBook of Dreamwalker (The Red Dragon Academy Book 1) by Rhys Bowen and C.M. Broyles in exchange for an honest review.

dreamwalker 1

Summary from Amazon:

Seven Children, Seven Powers. One Enemy. Addy Walker is a normal California surfer girl until her mother dies and her British aunt enrolls her at a boarding school called Red Dragon Academy in Wales. At first the school seems okay, if a little weird. Which other school has a sun-day when it’s not raining? But when Addy stumbles upon a hallway that leads to a different and horrible part of the school she begins to have her doubts. Addy has always had vivid dreams but now these dreams are becoming frighteningly real and she has a hard time telling dreams from reality. Was it really only in a dream that she visited the cold palace and met the man who wants her captured? He calls her a dreamwalker and it seems that this is a special and dangerous power. Is Addy really able to move between two worlds or is she finally cracking up? Dreamwalker is the first book in the Red Dragon Academy series and in it we meet Addy, as well as snooty Pippa, brainy Raj, cheeky Sam, serious Coby, shy Gwyllum and worldly Celeste—all who may have been brought to the school because of their special powers. All of whom may be in mortal danger from a terrifying tyrant who calls himself The One, in a land that seems a lot like Wales, but isn’t.

Dreamwalker starts out with a great premise. Who doesn’t love schools full of magic and powers? The characters are all interesting and different, and I see a lot of promise in their abilities and friendships as the series grows. I was also fascinated that Addy’s power is one of dreamwalking since I have such vivid dreams myself. I easily related to how she felt when she realized that what she thought was something that really happened turned out to be her unconscious mind.

However, some of the promise I saw in the series was not realized in the story itself. I felt the pacing of the book was off, some parts moved extremely slow while the emotional aspects of some serious moments moved quickly with little development of Addy’s psyche. Addy finds out some things about her past that are quite shocking and would be devastating, especially to someone who has just lost their only support system. Yet she spends little time processing these things in anyway whatsoever, let alone in a constructive way. While I understand people have a perception of children as being resilient and teenagers as being closed mouthed when it comes to emotions, the inner turmoil is still there and that is something I did not see. Personally, I wish there had been more development of the emotional side of her character verses the adventures.

And the book is full of adventures. It has treasure hunts, haunted hallways, mysterious teachers, etc. I really did enjoy some of those scenes and moments that Addy has on her adventures. The premise and even the world building are well done. It is a decently written book except for some pacing and emotional character development. It is possible that these will be improved in the next book in a series, but I’m not sure I will read them to find out. While I felt a connection to Addy’s ability in dreamwalking, I didn’t feel a connection to Addy herself. Personally, I look for connections to the characters not just the world they live in. Overall, I think the story was interesting and it kept me reading despite some drawbacks. (This may have something to do with the fact that much of the explanation for things didn’t happen until I was ninety percent of the way through the book. Ninety percent!)

If you enjoy adventure stories about schools full of children with interesting abilities, you may find this book to your liking.

P,S. I know this is basically an ARC via NetGalley, but the formatting on my mobile device was severely lacking. I spent a goodly amount of my time trying to sus out who said what. I hope these formatting kinks are worked out for the people who pay to read the story.

Audio Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I downloaded The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (as read by the author himself) via Audible with a free credit. I’m quite a fan of Gaiman, so when I was searching for an audio book I am always drawn to his stories and discovered this one.

ocean at the end of the lane

Summary from Audible:

Sussex, England: A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. He is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet sitting by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean), the unremembered past comes flooding back. Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie – magical, comforting, wise beyond her years – promised to protect him, no matter what.

One of the reasons that I am constantly downloading audiobooks is that I like to listen to stories as I fall asleep at night as well as listen to them as I drive around town. I started The Ocean at the End of the Lane and immediately found myself drawn to this strange otherworldly tale, at times scary and intense, always imaginative and all consuming. But soon discovered this is not a good bed time story. I would lie there at night as Chris slept soundly beside me, wide awake staring at my phone to caught up in the story, too scared to stop the story, too frightened to keep going. I would pause it, try to drift off, then worried about the boy, sit up and start it again. Restless I started a different audiobook and drifted off to sleep within a matter of minutes.

This is not a book to try to fall asleep to.

Like his other stories, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is full of strange mythologies interwoven with such relatable characters that I was pulled into the story, sucked in, and had to fight to find my way out again. Though the main part of the story happens in a man’s past when he is quite young, it is not a story for children. At the same time, Gaiman is able to capture the voice of a young boy, reminding me of how I used to view the world, that I began to recall my own childhood, well, at least all the scary moments of growing up.

quote

As I’ve come to expect from Gaiman, his prose is wonderful and wonderfully read by himself. The pacing of Gaiman’s writing is beyond compare and I never step outside the story to wonder what will happen because I am always entranced by what is happening, in that moment. Some times so engulfed in the story that I can’t sleep. Gaiman has such an amazing talent for voice acting that I have come to love the stories he reads himself. Just the other day I was in a bookstore and discovered a book of his I have yet to read, but didn’t pick it up because I want to find out if it is an audiobook instead. My queue in Audible is full of books by Gaiman and I don’t see that discontinuing any time soon.

I realize that my review more describes my experience reading this book than what it is about, but as far as I can tell, this is the best way to review this book. For one, to describe the story would be to ruin the magic of the tale, anything more said than the blurb ruins the world building and character building that Gaiman worked hard to create. Secondly, I’m not alone in my experiential review of this book. Patrick Rothfuss’ own meandering love story about this book is more about his experience of reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane than a typical review.

This is a story to experience. So, go out there and find your experience. Buy a copy, listen to the audiobook, fall in love with Gaiman just a little bit more.

Book Quotes I Love

Clicking on the second and third pictures will take you to posts that have even more pictures of book quotes.

 

wilson quote

eBook Review: Better Off Dead by H. P. Mallory

I downloaded Better Off Dead (Lily Harper Series) by H. P. Mallory onto my AmazonKindle app because it was free and looked interesting.

better off dead

Summary from Goodreads

If there’s such a thing as luck, Lily Harper definitely doesn’t have it.

Killed in a car accident before it’s her time to go, Lily learns that the hereafter isn’t exactly what she hoped it might be.

First, there’s AfterLife Enterprises, the company responsible for sorting out the recently dead and sending them on their way to the Kingdom, (aka happily ever after,) or to the Underground City, (not so happily ever after.)

Learning that Lily’s death was indirectly their fault (her guardian angel, Bill, was MIA during her accident and was one of their employees,) Afterlife Enterprises offers Lily the chance to live again.

But, as with most things involving the afterlife, beware the fine print. Most notably, Lily will become a soul retriever, venturing into the bowels of the Underground City to retrieve souls that were mistakenly sent there by Afterlife Enterprises during a Y2K computer glitch.

Second, there’s angel Bill. As if risking her second life in the Underground City wasn’t enough, Lily’s guide to the Underground is none other than her incompetent, alcoholic, womanizing guardian angel, Bill, the antithesis of anything wholesome. With only Dante’s Inferno and Bill to help her in her quest, Lily’s future isn’t looking bright.

Finally, there’s the legendary bladesmith, Tallis Black. As Scottish as his kilts and heavy brogue, Tallis Black is a centuries-old Celt who, for reasons only known to him, offers to train Lily and act as her escort into the depths of the Underground City. Dark, brooding and definitely dangerous, Lily knows she shouldn’t trust Tallis, but she also can’t deny her attraction to him.

Between soul retrieving in hell, dealing with Bill and trying to figure out what’s in it for Tallis, Lily wonders if maybe she would’ve just been better off dead.

I really like the other H.P. Mallory series and think she is a good writer, but I have some reservations about this series and it didn’t catch my interest like her other two did. I was intrigued by the premise, I like Reaper Mystery tea cozy novels a lot, and I enjoy quirky characters which Better Off Dead has in spades. Angel Bill is quite hilarious even if he was a bit cringe worthy a few times, but in a way that made me laugh in spite of myself. He was the best parts of the book.

Lily is a well developed character who has a lot to learn about her new life. I can see her growing over the series and becoming a wonderful character. I just have a few issues with the premise of her character. My first issue is that when she becomes a Reaper she gets to choose a new body, and since she hates her old fat self she chooses to be a tall, curvy (but in all the right places), redhead- just like every other urban fantasy female lead. Her gangling movements, I’m in a new taller more beautiful body, scenes were off putting to me. It wasn’t as though she chose the right body for the job, she just chose her dream body. And I guess I would be fine with that realism, if the author addressed Lily’s hate of her old body in some way. And maybe Lily will come to realize that her old body wasn’t so bad, or learn something from this in the end, but there was no indication in the first book that this would happen. It seemed an odd point to make about the universe.

My other issue with Lily is that she is yet another virgin, and not necessarily because she wants to be, not because she is choosing for herself her own sexuality, in fact there is no female agency around her choice. I started reading another Reaper Mystery cozy tea novel that I at the same time and I really appreciated that character’s choice about her own sexuality, female agency was a real thing so it was hard not to compare the two. Perhaps Lily’s virginity would not have been such a big deal to me if I wasn’t comparing it to the other, on the other hand it was part of the plot in Better Off Dead.

H. P. Mallory sets up some great characters in Better Off Dead, they aren’t perfect and they have some room to grow. The premise remains interesting and the AfterLife was definitely different from other Reaper Mysteries that I read, so that was a huge plus. There is a kick-ass female in the story, she just happens not to be the heroine. Some of my favorite characters have started out as underwhelming female leads and have grown into amazing women, hopefully Lily is headed in that direction as well.

A Reaper Mystery tea novel about the after life, Better Off Dead has an interesting premise and some quirky characters that will keep you turning the pages.

Beautiful Books on Pinterest

Sometimes I go onto Pinterest just to pine over other people’s rooms full of beautiful books, shelves, and reading nooks. It is both soul fulfilling and soul longing to do so, as I want such rooms, shelves, and nooks, and do not have them nor the room for them. Nor do I really want to give up much of my home space to items I will generally use once. What I need is a holiday in such a place where I can sit in the reading nooks for a week or so, by a fire of course, reading to my heart’s content. In the mean time, I stare at these images longingly and pin them to my Beautiful Books board.

A reading alcove

reading alcove

The Floating Bookshop @ Foxton Locks by Marble Giant on Flickr

the floating bookshop

Stairway bookshelves

stairway book shelves

How books work

how books work

One of the best book places to be (check out 29 more)

best book place to be

My own shelves of books (and other media)

my book shelves