Got Luck by Michael Darling

Star Rating

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4 stars

I read this book twice. Once before it was anywhere near being published and again as just before it was published. For full disclosure, I am noted in this book’s acknowledgments. An author in a writing group gave Michael Darling my email. I’d received and read the first copy long before I ever met the author. So I would consider this review unbiased.

This book earned the four stars. It is a pretty good debut novel. Both times I struggled with the beginning. The cliche of starting in the office of a private eye didn’t escape me. But how many debut novels don’t have a less than ideal beginning. Even J. K. Rowling’s first chapter from Uncle Vernon’s point of view is criticized heavily. Needless to say, I forgive rough beginnings for debut authors.

Why did it come up short of 5 stars? Well, both times I struggled with the beginning. The cliche of starting in the office of a private eye didn’t escape me. But how many debut novels don’t have a less than ideal beginning. Even J. K. Rowling’s first chapter from Uncle Vernon’s point of view is criticized heavily. Needless to say, I forgive rough beginnings for debut authors.

Also, at times the writing of the character movement and descriptions seemed stiff. Fortunately, he had just enough humor and tension for me to mostly ignore that, but for some, this stiffness might be an issue that pulls them from the story too often.

Book Details

Got Luck was written by Michael Darling and was published by Future House Publishing on March 16, 2016. It is 330 pages long. This is Michael Darling’s first novel.

The novel’s premise

Goethe (Got) Luck is private investigator about reach his 10,000th day of being alive and find out who he really is. He can use magic. He is the first to have strength in earth magic for hundreds of years. And it just turns out that the case he is working on just happens to more about him than he every would have realized.

Editing

Quality: Above Average

The published version is far more polished than the early version I read. I found less that two errors per 100 pages. In fact, I only noted four things.

  1. She gently rolled up my pants leg (pant leg?)
  2. Never apologize.”” (Two end quotes)
  3. *** (More than one of the section breaks were not centered, though most were.)
  4. certain . . . activities . . . that (The ellipsis are formatted wrong. See: How to write an Ellipsis in a Novel)

Imagination and Uniqueness

The author’s imagination is definitely not lacking. Getting that imagination onto paper was mostly executed well. I already discussed the struggle with the beginning and some of the stiff descriptions and character movement. Despite that, the world was vividly depicted by the author. I never struggled with imagining the characters, the setting, or the action.

I wouldn’t be able to call it extremely unique. Jim Butcher starts off Harry Dresden as a Private Investigator and wizard. This is pretty similar, but not the same. Got doesn’t know who he is, he just knows that magic and weird stuff exists.

However, despite the lack of apparent uniqueness, the story held up quite well.

Characters

Goethe “Got” Luck is the unusual name of the main character. The feel of the writing suggests this guy is approaching forty, but we quickly learn her is only twenty-seven. Despite the inconsistency of the age in feel versus reality, Got was a very likable character. The hints of his past and his lack of heavy emotional reaction to weirdness were foreshadowing us to understand who he really is.

Erin is a drop dead gorgeous county coroner who doesn’t really give Goethe too much attention until they meet up in the Behindbeyond and are unexpectedly paired together. Her character is very deep and we only just start delving into it when the novel ends.

Got has a best friend, who is a stiff and easy to write one-dimensional filler character. He doesn’t talk or say much, yet seems to be a chick magnet. A conflict, perhaps. But he is in the novel little enough that it works.

The bad guy, I loved to hate. Which is all one can ask for, right? I’m not going to tell you who it is because that is revealed later in the novel and I wouldn’t want to give it away. His motivations are real-world, or real for the Behindbeyond, anyway.

Magic System (fantasy)

Magic

The magic system is heavily based on the Fae and the Behindbeyond. Humans don’t have magic, the fae do. The magic didn’t have anything unique. Normally I would bash the magic system for the lack of uniqueness. There were different powers for the different elements, but somehow, I despite its lack of uniqueness, I found little complaint in the magic system.

Perhaps the story of the magic system was unique enough. The author told the story of the first half-fae half-human born with earth power. And supposedly most with earth power die the first time they tap into the earth.

It also probably helped that we didn’t have a movie montage of him learning spells, though there definitely were some learning scenes, however, those all served the dual purpose of adding sexual tension, too, so they weren’t boring.

Stain

There was a second magical element to Got. I really liked that Got could see colors swirling around certain people. I really hated that it was called a “stain.” That word just didn’t fit, especially when the colors were beautiful. It seemed to me like “stain” would be a good name when a person’s colors were corrupted, but when not corrupted, there should have been a different name.

However, the name aside, it was a unique take on seeing someone’s aura. This wasn’t in the early copy of the book, the first time I read it, but was in the second copy and made the book much better.

eBook Quality

Quality: Average

There weren’t any problems with the eBook quality, which is good.

Parental Guide

Profanity: Zero F-words. There was very little profanity. I’d have to search the book to figure out
Sexuality: There is a fair amount of sexual tension. There is one description of a fae who was barely covered (mostly naked)
Violence: The violence involves fighting and magic and demons. It is mostly gore-free, with some descriptive blood and frightening scenes.

The author toned down some extremes. I remember a scene in the early copy of this book where, the author described one of the Fae standing naked in all her womanly glory, without an ounce of shame. While that made a statement about the fae and had an edge to it, I might have said readers of this book had to be fifteen or older. However, in the published release, that scene was cleaned up by partially covering her up. It seems much cleaner than I remembered it. Any child twelve and up could read and enjoy this book.

About the Author

Michael Darling graduated from Weber State University with a degree in English Literature and loves to blend the classic with the contemporary in his writing.

He has worked as a butcher, a librarian, and a magician. Not all at the same time. He nests in the exquisitely beautiful Rocky Mountains with his equally breathtaking wife and six guinea pigs, one of whom thinks she’s a dog and three of whom claim to be children. Michael’s award-winning short fiction is frequently featured in anthologies. Got Luck is his first novel, which is scheduled for publication in March 2016.

Please visit Michael at http://www.michaelcdarling.com where you can find links to stock him via your favorite soical media outlets.

Celeste the Unseen by Johnny Worthen

Star Rating

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We already reviewed and loved Eleanor the Unseen by Johnny Worthen. This should be the next young adult series you read.

I gave Celeste The Unseen 5 stars. Eleanor’s story continues to thrill in this second installment to the series.

From start to finish, this book passed the stay up late test. I started just before midnight thinking to read myself to sleep and had to force myself to stop reading at 4:00 AM and finish the following evening.

The meeting with Celeste held intrigue and Eleanor’s social situation made the book so real to life that I almost didn’t consider this book a sci-fi or fantasy, yet it is.

Book Details

Celeste The Unseen by Johnny Worthen is 376 pages. Jolly Fish Press published it on June 1, 2015. It is a young adult novel approved for ages 12 and up.

The novel’s premise

A girl of 16 is no longer a wallflower, no longer unseen, as she desperately hopes to be. What is being seen going to cost her?

 

Editing

Quality: High

 

When I read the first eBook (Eleanor the Unseen), I highlighted a dozen typos and formatting issues. I contacted the publisher due to the low quality. The publisher responded that they fixed them all with a post release update; which means we at Sci-fi Fantasy Readers contributed to the higher quality of the first eBook.

I expected the same in  this eBook but it did not happen. I usually find just less than one typo per 100 pages from the biggest publishing houses. In 370+ pages, I found two, indicating this book was published with a higher quality that you would expect.

The quality publishing of this book makes it a candidate for our Certificate of Quality.

Imagination and Uniqueness

This 2nd book can’t be unique as it is a second book in the series, right? Wrong. Despite knowing what I was getting into after reading book 1, the story still felt fresh and new.

The character’s history, the social situations, the complexity of trying to remain unseen yet be forced into an unexpected popularity creates a unique juxtaposition that pulls the reader forward in the story without a desire to put the book down.

Having read a lot of good first books in a series, I don’t always follow-up with the series unless it is too compelling not to, as this book was.

Characters

Eleanor is now sixteen, and though wanting to stay ignored by her peers in a small town with a small K through 12 school, popularity hits her unexpectedly. Her attempts to hide in plain sight are thwarted and she must deal with impending fear of what will happen when she is seen.

David Venn is her boyfriend, and with Tabitha now passed, his mother steps in to provide guardianship. But the situation is precarious and cannot last. When will she suffer the consequences of failing to be unseen?

There were numerous side characters that were surprising flushed out without any boring info dumps on them. Every character had depth, something that is quite hard to accomplish with primarily one point of view character.

Magic System (fantasy) / Real Science (Science Fiction)

It is pretty much magical realism done well. One person is special in the entire novel. The world is 100% normal. The setting is a small town in Wyoming. The specialty follows scientific rules. Laws of matter and mass, and one could argue that this was just nature fiction not sci-fi or fantasy.

eBook Quality

Quality: High

I found zero eBook quality issue in this book. That is impressive.

 

Parental Guide

Profanity: There was very minor swearing. No extreme words.
Sexuality: There is little more than teenage hormones.
Violence: Their is a an abusive man. A violent scene in a trailer. final scene involves guns and a man is shot and killed.

About the Author

Johnny (Tie Dye) Worthen is also the author of Eleanor the Unseen and Beatresyl. He graduated with a B.A. in English, minor in Classics and a Master’s in American Studies from the University of Utah. His novels have a very realistic feel. He lives in Sandy, Utah and enjoys spending time with his boys.

Eleanor the Unseen by Johnny Worthen

Star Rating

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If you are looking for a great read, just stop here. You’ve found it.

I gave Eleanor The Unseen 5 stars. Eleanor’s story is superb. I could see this rising to be one of the books that captures many of readers.

The second half passed the stay up late test. It was so good I stayed up til 2:45 AM finishing the story. The first half was good, but I could put it down and go to sleep.

The renewing of a childhood friendship was done amazingly well. The progression of the story, Eleanor’s character arc, all enhanced the enjoyment of this novel for me.

Book Details

Eleanor The Unseen by Johnny Worthen is 360 pages. Jolly Fish Press published it on July 1, 2014. It is a young adult novel approved for ages 12 and up.

The novel’s premise

A girl of 15 wants to remain a wallflower to hide who and what she really is.

Editing

Quality: Average

I made almost a dozen editing highlights that will glaring typos. Also, the editors allowed a lot of weak sentences. Most weak sentences are easy to find as they are passive voice and slow down the reading. Added to the eBook isues and there were over twenty glaring issues with the novel.

Imagination and Uniqueness

I wouldn’t normally call a paranormal romance unique, but this book did not have the feel of other paranormal romance novels. I felt it was unique, but what was unique. It took me a while to realize the uniqueness was in the details. First, it wasn’t completely romance. It was part well-done cancer drama in Tabitha. It was part well-done high school girl-boy drama. It was part an introduction to small town life. It was part introduction to an Native American (Shoshone) folklore.

Characters

Eleanor is a girl of fifteen trying to stay ignored by her peers in a small town with a small K through 12 school. Why she chooses to hide in plain sight is a mystery.

Tabitha, Eleanor’s adopted mother, almost steals the show—er novel. She is a very well-written character. He story and her fight with cancer is almost worthy of her own novel.

David Venn is a good guy. A childhood friend who moved away and has moved back around the start of sophmore year.

Magic System (fantasy) / Real Science (Science Fiction)

It is pretty much magical realism done well. One person is special in the entire novel. The world is normal. The specialty followed scientific rules. Laws of matter and mass, and one could argue that this was natural fiction, not science fiction.

eBook Quality

Quality: Below Average

Update: The publisher notified me that the below formatting issue has been resolved.

The Kindle format had indents of a single space. It really distracted my reading. In fact, it was a distracting problem for me for the entire book. Indents should be a minimum of two spaces and three to five is recommended. It was especially difficult during dialog with quotes. This is an inexcusable mistake by the publisher.

Multiple times after hyphen, either a new line or a carriage return broke the sentence to the next line early.

The story deserves 5 stars but the eBook formatting didn’t. In fact, if the formatting is improved, I will gladly come back and edit rate this book 5 stars.

Parental Guide

Profanity: There was very minor swearing. No extreme words.
Sexuality: There is little more than teenage hormones.
Violence: Minor fighting. Knife wounds.

About the Author

Johnny (Tie Dye) Worthen is also the author of Beatresyl. He graduated with a B.A. in English, minor in Classics and a Master’s in American Studies from the University of Utah. His novels have a very realistic feel. He lives in Sandy, Utah and enjoys spending time with his boys.

Five: Out of the Dark by Holli Anderson

Star Rating

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I gave Five – Out of the Dark 3-1/2 stars. I had fun reading this urban fantasy world. The book had enjoyable characters and a descent plot. A lot of the ideas resonated with other stories that I’ve read.

At first, the story felt a little rushed. I struggled through the first 25%. However, once I got through that part, it turned into a much better read. The story didn’t disappoint and I finished the book a few days later.

Parts of the book passed the “keep me up reading” test. I read past midnight two nights and had to stop myself from staying up late.

Five is definitely a fun read. I recommend it for young teenage boys and girls everywhere.

Also Five: Out of the Pit (Book 2) is out. The first book is plenty good enough to warrant buying book 2 as well.

Book Details

Five: Out of the Dark (Five #1) by Holli Anderson was published by Curiosity Quills Press on August 20, 2013. It is 267 pages long and targeted toward young adults.

The novel’s premise

Five kids who can use magic are pulled toward each other. The meet in Seattle and live on the streets (or under them) together fighting the evil that goes unseen by ordinary people. A string of paranormally suspicious suicides in a nearby high school sets them on a quest to save the students. All the while they have their own problems they are dealing with as well, such as curing Lyconthropy.

Editing

Quality: Below Average

I didn’t highlight any typos, so you will be happy to know this book is pretty much typo free. However, I made 55 highlights, almost all were editing issues beyond your typical typo. This is a great example of why a good editor does more than spell checking.

There were some distracting comma problems. OK, let’s be real. The commas went crazy. Commas immediately after a conjunction should be rare, if ever, not almost always. I didn’t even highlight the all. When your comma’s are bad to the point of being distracting to the reader, it means the editor didn’t do a good job. Commas after conjunction stats: but (419)

There were multiple places where the sentences were confusing. More often than usual, I had to re-read sentences to understand them. This is where and editor or proofreader should step in. Every author writes confusing sentences. But having editors and proofreaders highlight sentences that are confusing and ask for them to be clarified can really help.

Also there were a few writer’s convenience moments. In fact, one of them was the utterly cliche “by the way I know karate” moment, which is such an obvious and well-known faux pas that it’s appearance was doubly shocking. Such character skills should be introduced and developed, so they don’t come across as the result of writer’s convenience.

Imagination and Uniqueness

The imagination was solid. She built her world in Seattle around the Five and her world came to life in my mind as I read.

While a lot of the ideas resonated with other stories that I’ve read, I found very little that stood out as unique in this book. This book had young adult characters using urban fantasy magic. I really wish there was something unique I could point to.

Characters

Out of the Five, the main character is Paige. She starts to use magic and ends up running away. She finds herself running into Jonathan, who also becomes one of the five. He also becomes her main crush.

Alec, Seth, and Halli join up soon after. Halli has no memory of her past.

Jonathan is bitten by a changeling. The affect it has on him hinders Paige and his relationship. The pinnacle of the story hinges on what Paige is willing to do to save him.

I think Paige and Jonathan and Halli and well done. Alec is more of one dimensional side character who likes to tease. To me, Seth was the most fuzzy character. I felt like I never clearly envisioned him.

Magic System

The magic came on fast. The information about the world was pretty much dropped in a sentence or two. We go from having met a single demon to suddenly this:

We stayed out of human affairs and concentrated our efforts on the un-human. On dark forces like Demons and the evil men who summoned them. Or baby-stealing Faeries, flesh-eating Trolls, annoying Goblins, and other such nefarious creatures.

I would have liked to have been shown the world subtlety throughout the story, but instead the mystery of the world was ripped away by that unnecessary sentence.

As the characters use magic, they get tired. Magic had adverse affects on technology.

eBook Quality

Quality: Average in regular mode but Poor in night mode.

The eBook was easy to read. There were little to no eBook formatting issues. With the regular white background and black text, the eBook is great.

The table of contents being oddly placed at the end of the book seemed out of place. Also a second book cover also placed at the end of the book, as well as the TOC linking to the cover at the end of the book felt strange.

Unfortunately, all the images had white backgrounds and were blaring white in night mode. Chapters had huge images with too much white. The drop caps and separators were done with white-background images too. It really makes me wonder if Curiosity Quills has anyone with any experience creating eBooks. Don’t use white-background images for letters, no, not even drop caps. Especially not for the “Chapter Three” heading. And the image wouldn’t be so bad if the surrounding background was transparent and they had only left a one or two pixel white outline around important part of the image.

Parental Guide

Profanity: There was no swearing that I remember.
Sexuality: Nothing beyond a kiss.
Violence: There was a little blood here and there. Nothing of major note.

Though the character’s ages are young adult, I think Five: Out of the Dark is clean enough for all ages, from middle grade on up.

About the Author

We sat by Holli at a book signing at a writers conference. She is as nice as a woman can get. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing and has a particular love for anything fantasy.

She is a member of the Utah Fantasy Authors group and will be signing copies of her book at the Salt Lake City Comic Con this coming September 4, 5, 6 of 2014.

Along with her husband, Steve, and their four sons, she lives in Grantsville, Utah—the same small town in which she grew up.

We need to ask Holli how she grew up in Grantville all her life but somehow chose Seattle as the setting for her book.

Blood Bound (A Gallows Novel) by Sharon Stevenson

This review actually covers the first three books: Blood Bound, Demon Divided, Fate Fallen

Star Rating

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Two stars is all I can give this one. I enjoyed the characters but the story was a little rough. While I liked Sarah, her flippant jumping from boy to boy did seem believable. She went from Ben, to Dev and Ray, to just Ray, to War.

This book almost lost me right from the beginning. Shaun and Sarah Gallows walk into a nest of about twenty vampires and kill them all as if it were child’s play. It didn’t seem hard for them. The characters were never in danger. The tension was zero. The only cost: vampire dust made Shaun cough. It got a little better and there were eventually some more difficult tasks that actually cost the characters more than coughing up vampire dust.

I eventually got into the first novel, if barely. Sharon hooked me more with Shaun than with Sarah. I identified enough with him to want to keep reading even though other parts of the book had me wanted to throw it out.

Star Rating

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2-1/2 stars is a slight improvement from book 1. But again, book 2 was just barely good enough for me to keep reading too. I think the Shaun and Elle relationship really worked—that subplot made the least sense. The real plot was just a confusing mess. The repeated teleportation to Melissa’s house didn’t work for me. I found myself bored until Shaun actually fought Melissa’s Vampire father. Then all it took to destabilize Melissa was a single comment about how Melissa’s dad should have removed her curse but didn’t? Really? She got all emotional from that? I didn’t buy it.

Star Rating

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I give this three stars, and Sharon once again showed improvement. I had a hard time believing Shaun was as stupid as he came across to start the novel. But I kept reading. I’m two books in and I’ve overlooked a lot already, why stop now right? This is like when you watch B-movies but you just can’t stop because they are so dumb you keep reading.

This book showed a little more depth and character growth. Sharon exposed the magic system a bit better. The plot held more tension and there was a whodunit element to the novel.

The characters seemed to be in plenty of distress. There was less, though still some, random jumping around of characters. This time it was Ellie, not Shaun, who jumped around a little crazily.

The novel’s premise

Shaun and Sarah are fallen angles and basically Buffy-the-vampire-killer types. This is their story.

Parental Guide

Profanity:
The books come with the following warning:

Warning – these books are Adult Modern Fantasy, not YA. They are littered with profanity and may be considered sexually rampant by more conservative readers!

I thought that meant there might be a dozen f-words. Yeah. She used the word an absurd amount of times. The word “littered” in her warning is quite accurate, because the extreme amount f-words cheapened her story and became a major distraction, especially in book 2.

F-Word counts
Blood Bound: 37
Demon Divided: 87
Fate Fallen: 41

Sexuality: There is sex, but it isn’t graphically described. Sarah and the demon/vampire have a sexual relationship. Shaun gets it on in the kitchen with a werewolf in book three.

Violence: Lots of violence. Plenty of blood and gore, though not always, for example vampires turn to dust when killed.

Editing

Quality:
Blood Bound: Poor. I made almost 40 highlights and most were editing issues.
Demon Divided: Poor. I made almost 30 highlights and most were editing issues.
Fate Fallen: Poor but improving. I only made 21 highlights and most were editing issues.

It seemed there is a language barrier I had to deal with. Sure the book is in English but I live in the western United States. I couldn’t find details on where the author lives exactly but the novels are set in fictional Scotland cities. The language issues involved much more than just an extra u in words like color/colour. There were missing words in a lot of sentences and it was distracting. However, some sentences were repeated with the same missing word, making me think the word wasn’t missing but excluding that word is just a dialect issue. So I am left wondering if all my highlights are editing issues or language differences.

The dialog was pretty good as the character interaction goes, but the dialog formatting became a major distraction. The author needs to start new paragraphs between one character talking and going into a separate character’s view. It is one thing the exclude dialog tags, it is another to have what looks like a dialog tag actually just be the next paragraph and suggest the wrong person is talking. Below is an example where Shaun is talking and then immediately after the quote, she has a tag indicating it was Sarah talking.

Sharon Stevens needs better editing and a few more rounds of proofreading to clean up these self-published stories.

“I don’t know about that.” She sighed. (In this sentence, Shaun is talking even though Sarah sighed—I think.)

I found myself lost and having to re-read sections quite often. A few times, I never figured out what was going on and just moved on. As I write this I am still astounded that I actually finished these books.

Imagination and Uniqueness

It got better. The imagination was weak to start book one, but it improved over the three books. The world grows with her imagination.

Characters

Shaun is a pretty good character. He is a flawed protagonist. He is described as having a missing eye, do to a fight with werewolves that happened earlier in his life.
Sarah starts out as an invincible, annoying brat, who crushes on bullies. Not really likable. It took a while before I cared for her as a character.

She did a good job with Ray and Dev. Sometimes side characters blend together, but these two didn’t blend at all. They are different and easily identifiable.

Magic System (fantasy)

I am still confused about what can and can’t be done with magic in this world. If the author has rules, I haven’t figured them out yet. A few things are done well, such as Sarah and Shaun’s ability to release a spirit from this world.

eBook Quality

Quality: Acceptable
I normally do poor, average, or high. But Sharon Stevenson was different and it was quite acceptable. She took a very plain text and completely featureless approach to formatting her eBook. The good news. It pretty much worked. Her books flow just fine. The simplicity prevented the formatting issues many indie authors face. She successfully pulled off not letting the eBook formatting get in the way of her story, which is most important.

Blood Bound, Book 1 has a very good cover. However, I thought the quality of the covers for books two and three were significantly worse. I think she needs to redo the covers for both books.

About the Author

Sharon Stevenson likes to read a lot and watches a bit too much horror. Here is a quote from her blog:

I spend too much time indoors and probably watch too many horror films. Some of my favourite things are; Alone time, people who know when to shut up, having a drink, eating pizza (usually after having too much drink the night before), reading books, adult swim cartoons, bad horror and sci-fi movies, proper good TV shows like Dexter & The Walking Dead, and last but not least having a laugh with my hilarious other half – this would usually include some of the above.