Reboot to my review process

I have had an unspoken goal this year of reading books that would normally be outside of my preferences.  The hope is that this could do one of several things: 1) Open me up to a new favorite author or genre, 2) expose me to new people groups that I might not otherwise see (especially in historical fiction or non-fiction), or 3) help me avoid book ruts where I feel like I always read the same thing over and over again.

Of course this comes with some risks: 1) I know what I like and I like what I know, so these new books have to earn their way in, 2) I will be uncomfortable at points in the reading of these books, or 3) how do I write a review for a book that wasn’t for me after all, but that I could still see why others might like it.

Now after reading several books that have stretched me, and after giving some thought to how I should write reviews, I have settled on this.

  1. If I loved the book, I will treat the review like any other book I have loved and will review accordingly.
  2. If I didn’t finish a book, or struggled to get through it, I will likely pass on a review.  (Side note, I have no interest in bashing books or authors, especially when I know I was never the intended target audience.)
  3. If I “liked” the book, or at least can see why other people might, I will write a shorter review, prioritizing what I did like and making clear that it was not a book “for me”.

And, in a more general statement, I have been going through a stretch where I am managing some internal struggles, particularly in the realm of mental health.  With that in mind, focusing on the positives of what I read, and projecting that out as gratitude toward the authors, I believe will be a healthy experience for me.  Likewise, I must be kind to myself and not expect my reviews to look like those out there who do amazing written or video reviews.  Any reviews, especially positive ones, are better than no reviews.

Hopefully, this all translates to a flurry of upcoming reviews over the days and weeks to come as I catch up on my backlog of pending reviews.  I truly have enjoyed several reads this year, and I would love to see others reading those stories as well.

Review: The Coward by Stephen Aryan

I went into this book not knowing what to expect.  Other than the brief book teaser, I knew only that a few readers that I follow liked it.  The Coward was the first Stephen Aryan book that I have read, and if it represents what I might expect from the rest of his books, it won’t be my last.

When reading anything, my big hook is books that portray well-crafted, complex characters who must wrestle through regrets from their past, and difficult choices that will affect their future.  I want to see characters with flaws, and those who change over time.  This book hit the sweet spot.

I loved the cast in this story, especially our main character, Kell.  This story tells us about current events that are happening 10 years after a legendary adventure where Kell went in as a starry-eyed teenager surrounded by experienced heroes and came out as the victorious lone survivor.  Everyone now sees him as the hero, but he knows the truth of what happened.  Now he is called into action since the threat is back.

As an aside, Kell fits one of my favorite character types.  He is world weary, has seen too much and knows to much, and just wants to be left alone.  He is conflicted and complicated.  (chef’s kiss)  The way that flashbacks and campfire confessions are used to look back at the past, and the ways that the glamor that has been projected onto Kell begins to peel away, seem so natural and create an authenticity to it all.

The team that surrounds him now is balanced well and complements our Kell, from the next generation teenager who wants to follow in his hero’s footsteps, to seasoned warriors and a bard, and finally to a mysterious creature.  Each are wonderful and perfect for the story.

I should also mention that the plot is well done and pulled more emotional punch than I was expecting.  There was some nice resolution while leaving me eager to read book 2 (The Warrior) when I can.

This is a book that I will quickly recommend, giving it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Thank you to SFF Oasis for coordinating the copy.

Cover Reveal & Mini Review – The Alchemy of Sorrow, a Fantasy & Sci-Fi Anthology of Grief & Hope

Here be dragons and sorcery, time travel and sorrow.

Vicious garden gnomes. A grounded phoenix rider. A new mother consumed with vengeance. A dying god. Soul magic.

These stories wrestle with the experience of loss—of loved ones, of relationships, of a sense of self, of health—and forge a path to hope as characters fight their way forward.

From bestsellers and SPFBO finalists to rising voices, 13 exceptionally talented authors explore the many facets of grief and healing through the lens of fantasy and sci-fi.


In February, a Kickstarter campaign went live and promptly went on to surpass all stretch goals over the next few weeks, thereby proving that they were tapping into a current reality for hundreds of readers. That reality is that we will all face (or perhaps are currently facing) loss or pain or heartache, and that we also want to find something to hold on to during those time.

Grief, but with hope. We all know what this is, but we often don’t talk about it.

Our world can quickly feel like it’s coming apart at the seams, whether it’s at a global scale like a pandemic or warfare, or something much more close to home like death of someone close or a chronic illness.

Without hope, each day feels worse than the previous, and despair overwhelms. With hope, those trying circumstances don’t go away, but they lose a little of their punch.

This collection of stories tries to hold grief and hope in a form of tension. That tension is awkward, unpleasant, and difficult, but also compelling and necessary.

As with any anthology, a reader will likely prefer some stories over others, and will find themselves relating to some more than others, but I would argue that every one of the tales in this collection will make the reader think … and hopefully feel.

Those who backed this through Kickstarter have already received the e-book, and had options for the soon to be released print and audio versions. For everyone else this book has a public release date of November 1, 2022.

Pre-order link for ebooks and audiobooks (audio will be available for pre-order in a few months):

So, without any further delay, here is the cover: