Tag Archives: review

“Heart of Mystery”– Mark Laporta

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Plot: 5/5       Characters: 5/5       Writing: 3/5        Entertainment: 5/5       World Building: 5/5

 

51wgxgwbihl-_sx331_bo1204203200_   When an unlikely intergalactic alliance comes to light, Ixdahan Daharek (AKA Derek) and his human best friend, Lena Gabrilowicz, must save not only the Earth this time, but the very fabric of space itself. Between their search for alien cookware, stopping a clone army, and calming down a moody robot, Ixdahan and Lena must also figure out their feelings for one another once and for all. But no pressure, right?

 

Guys. I love these books so much. Mark Laporta officially has a spot on my “Favorite Indie Authors of All Times” list and I haven’t even been reviewing for a full year yet. “Heart of Mystery” is just as funny, creative, zany, endearing, and memorable as “Heart of Earth,” if not more-so since it builds on such a great foundation.

 

Just like the first installment, the sci-fi elements are funny, colorful, and an absolute joy to read. Between the new, strange aliens and the action there’s never a dull moment, no matter what species Derek is around and, yet again Derek and his friends are some of the best teenagers I’ve ever read.

 

Laporta knows how to tap into the most universal aspects of being a teenager and bring them to life in the most outlandish situations. Derek and Lena not only grow as an individual characters, but as teenagers entering adulthood, which can be hard to capture, regardless of the YA subgenre.

 

I don’t want to give too much away, but I just want to give an example. There’s a scene where Derek is talking with another character about the gravity of his situation and what the adults are asking of him. The conversation turns to Derek himself and how important it is for him to stick to his morals, especially in a situation with such dire consequences.

 

That kind of message is so important for young people, especially in times like these. Not only that, but Laporta makes the world around Derek and his friends so much fun and exciting that the message is bound to stick. I know the scene itself will stick with me for a long time and I’m 24.

 

So, if you like bizarre worlds, even more bizarre conflicts, and wonderful characters, go read “Heart of Earth,” if you haven’t already, and read “Heart of Mystery” intermediately after, regardless of your age. Your inner kid will thank you. And don’t forget to look for the conclusion to Derek’s adventures in “Mirror at the Heart of Time,” set to be released this summer!   

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Succubus– Brandon Varnell

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Succubus– Brandon Varnell

Plot: 4/5       Characters: 3/5       Writing: 3/5       Entertainment: 3/5       World Building: 4/5

“Succubus” is a decent read, but unfortunately, it’s anime/manga tropes are probably going to loose readers who aren’t already into the medium.

Christian has repaid the Catholic church for their protection with his work as an Executioner, a killing machine charged with the extermination of supernatural threats to humanity. Vampires, werewolves, ghouls, Christian can handle it all. But when the church sends him to destroy a succubus, he quickly discovers that he’s over his head. Nothing about Lilith, his target, adds up. Succubi aren’t supposed to be afraid of men, yet Lilith is terrified. Supernatural beings aren’t supposed to be captivated by her either, yet Christian has to fight them off. Can Christian figure out what’s going on and get the job done, or will this be his last mission from God?

The mystery that drives this plot had me curious from the start and held me until the end. It’s nearly impossible to take a simple creature, like a succubus, turn it on it’s head, and not grab the reader’s attention. Varnell does a great job revealing this world’s secrets bit by bit, laying a trail of clues that you can’t help but follow and enjoy, at least a little bit.

Unfortunately, Varnell’s obsession with anime bleeds through the rest of the book, making anything outside the central plot awkward, annoying, or dull unless you share his passion.

From the very first chapter it was obvious that Varnell was trying to narrate a manga or anime rather than write a novel. The action is over-ornamented and drags on, which works well for a visual medium, but not so much for a written one, Christian is every bad-ass hero with a heart of gold and a tragic past, and Lilith is every cookie-cutter cutesy heroine from the last twenty-ish years of anime. She even yells, “Kya!” on occasion, which grated on my nerves a bit. These tropes have been overused enough in actual anime and manga. We really don’t need novel versions.

In conclusion, if you’re into anime or if you’re at all nostalgic for it, you might enjoy this. If the phenomenon is foreign to you or you’ve had your fill of it, there are definitely better urban fantasy titles out there. Maybe check those out first.

The Mine–John A. Heldt

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The Mine–John A. Heldt

Plot: 3/5       Characters: 3/5        Writing: 3/5       Entertainment: 4/5       World Building: 5/5

Well researched and brilliantly executed, The Mine is a vivid, memorable step back in time with a love story that could rival The Notebook (Pen Possessed).

In the year 2000, Joel Smith enters an abandoned mine in Montana out of simple curiosity. Thirty minutes later he emerges in the year 1941. With a band of colorful friends at his side, including his 21-year-old grandmother, Joel must carve a new life for himself or find a way home, but when a beautiful young woman named Grace walks into his life, making that decision becomes far more difficult.

Overall, I would say that The Mine works. The characters are believable and interesting enough to care about, both Joel and Grace are likable people, so I really did want to see them together, and with WWII right around the corner, how could you not be on the edge of your seat waiting for the other shoe to drop? My only real complaint was there wasn’t enough of that other shoe, so to speak. The Mine had a ton of potential thanks to number of well-written characters and the conflicts they’re bound to face and, as someone who loves history, I would have loved to see more about how they faced them. But, at the same time, I realize The Mine is a romance, so it’s only natural that the focus is more on Joel and Grace than the others, so the complaint really is a personal one rather than any sort of shortcoming on Heldt’s part.

And, speaking of history, that’s really where The Mine shines. The attention to detail and the obvious research that went into this book is remarkable and had me hooked more than the story itself. In fact, if you’re a writer and need to work with world building at all, whether via realism or fantasy, I highly recommend checking this book out, even if it’s not your typical genre. It’s a brilliant example of how to pull it all together and just how much it lends credibility to your story. When Joel is in 1941, it really feels like he’s in 1941.

So, over all, The Mine is good. While I would have liked more from the side character’s thoughts and experiences as WWII closes in, it still held my attention and the construction of America in 1941 is brilliantly done. Some of the other reviewers have compared The Mine to Nicholas’ Sparks works, so, if you’re a fan of romance, or a fan of history, definitely add it to your list and take a trip with Joel through The Mine.

Alpha Male–Joshua Corey Mays

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Alpha Male–Joshua Corey Mays

Plot: 3/5       Writing: 3/5       Characters: 3/5       Entertainment: 3/5       World Building: 3/5

Alpha Male is an interesting thought experiment about the world of super heroes and their actions, but the areas where super hero stories usually shine, the characters and the action, it falls a little flat.

Thanks to Alpha Male, the city has grown quiet. As a result, few people see any real need for him and treat him either as a celebrity or a washed up attraction, until a new super villain comes to town, anyway. With the city looking to him once again for protection, can Alpha Male rise to the occasion? Or have his days of catching common criminals caused him to loose his edge?

I have to admit, Mays has done an brilliant job exploring the long-term and far-reaching effects a super hero would have on a big city. From the police force, to the lives criminals have after Alpha Male has captured them, to the manifestation of the resentment people feel due to Alpha Male’s collateral damage, Mays puts a great deal of thought into how the hero exists in his world. Not a stone is left unturned and there were quite a few that I hadn’t expected to show up, which as impressive. So, if you enjoy idea-driven books, especially of the sci-fi/fantasy type, I think Alpha Male would be a good piece to add to your reading list.

If you like more story or character driven works, however, you might not enjoy this as much. I still can’t put my finger on why, but none of the characters really clicked for me, Alpha Male least of all. To me, he’s just not an enjoyable character to watch, which really hurt the story since we’re supposed to want to see him save the day. In a similar vein, while the action is passable and definitively has some creative scenarios, it never felt as exciting as one would expect from a super hero piece.

Over all, Alpha Male explores some really interesting ideas and premises, which definitely make it worth your time if you enjoy books with that sort of focus. If you’re looking for the fun characters and exciting action that usually comes from the super hero genre, you may want to keep looking.