Soul Breaker: City of Crows Book One by Clara Coulson

Soul Breaker by Clara Coulson, a.k.a. Therin Knite, is not only an Urban Fantasy, but also a fast-paced police procedural, only the police are a special division of paranormal detectives called DSI (Department of Supernatural Investigation). The expression “page-turner” comes to mind. Clara Coulson has a style and pacing which make for a quick read.

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In the magic users’ underworld of Aurora, DSI agents are referred to as Crows; hence the name of the series, City of Crows. Within the pages of this somewhat campy-supernatural-Urban Fantasy-whodunit, we meet Cal Kinsey, an entry-level investigator with the DSI. The man is rather cocky but not too sure of himself at the same time. He wears a confident face for the sake of other DSI agents. However, self-doubt, botched moments during an investigation and a haunting prologue experience make for a well-rounded character.

All in all, the main character’s inner thoughts, personality, et al are positives. The only “con” would be a bombshell about Cal Kinsey dropped into chapter 24. There was no previous reference or hints about a peculiar aspect of his personality. This information has no bearing on the rest of the book, either. Don’t fret, though, this little surprise quirk doesn’t take anything away from the overall entertaining aspects of Soul Breaker or its main character.

Although written in the first person, Soul Breaker doesn’t suffer from overusing “I.” In fact, Ms. Coulson seems quite adept at using beats and other body language to prevent large blocks of talking-head or speaker-tag-laden dialog. Except for two lesser characters, Riker and Delarosa, most of the DSI agents tend to speak in millennial voices. I would’ve preferred more professionalism in their speech. Perhaps it is my middle-aged eyes. Of course, the mannerisms of the agents do lend to the campy quality.

The complicated plot is properly paced and I didn’t spot any holes. Clara Coulson has created and delivered a story which could’ve gotten out of hand and drifted quite easily. There could’ve been a lot of info dumping concerning magic and the Eververse. However, the world-building information is properly presented in dribs and drabs, and woven into the text quite well.

Soul Breaker is the first in a trilogy. The good news is you won’t have to wait for the rest. The second book, Wraith Hunter, the third, Shade Chaser, and a novella, Dream Snatcher, are ready for purchase. I’m looking forward to another adventure with Cal Kinsey, the DSI, and interesting Eververse creatures invading our realm.

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

francesco25

Review: Emotional Beats by Nicholas C. Rossis

I am not one of those authors with a veritable library of craft books, because I tend to be quite selective in my choices. However, Emotional Beats: How to Convert Your Writing into Palpable Feelings by Nicholas C. Rossis is a writing resource that I can heartily recommend.

First, there is the opening five-page essay on beats, how to use them, why they are necessary, etc.. I especially enjoyed Nick’s analogy of comparing writing to painting. Although short, the introduction should leave no doubt as to the importance of giving your characters a proper beating. 🙂

EBEatsThe rest of the book is divided into four parts, Feelings and Emotions, Body Parts, Other Beats, and Extras.

Part I: Feelings and Emotions

For me, this section comprises the genius of this book. The different beats used to convey emotions are fleshed out. However, unlike the famous emotion thesaurus, each emotion is sub-divided into the separate body parts.

For example, the first emotion is Anger. The many ways to describe Anger are broken down by eyes, face and head, hands, and voice. To make things even better, all emotions are presented as different from each other. The different ways to express Joy are feet, hands, laughter, and smile.  Joy is explored through a completely different subset of body language from Anger.

Part II: Body Parts

In this section you’ll find clever ways to describe the motion of body parts and facial expressions. There’s even a section on breath and the different ways to express hearing. The largest sub-section is dedicated to eyes, because so many different emotions can be conveyed. For me, the most interesting list concerns head motions for a nod. Whether the nod is emphatic or subtle, they also can be used to prevent repetitive wording.

Part III: Other Beats

Here is where one gains an appreciation for Nick Rossis’ attention to painstaking details. Besides using a beat to portray emotion, Mr. Rossis has delved through many other aspects of physical movement that occur while a character is interacting with the world around them.

Think about how many times a character walks, sits, stands, or fights. Even the act of opening doors, eating, drinking, and driving are explored. For fantasy or western authors, there’s a section for the movements of horses as well.

Part IV: Extras

As the name of the section implies, the final part is a hodgepodge of techniques to fine tune your writing. The main body of “Extras” contains a list of strong verbs options, aiding and advising humble authors. Picking through this list should add some extra polish to your manuscript. There’s also a section for Describing Death, Synonyms, Sensory Words (remember to let your character experience their five senses), Crying, Snoring, and Writing. Nick Rossis doesn’t take credit for everything. He acknowledges other authors who have contributed.

So far, I’ve referred to Emotional Beats several times in the course of editing my novels and short stories. However, at times, I’ve made changes to an existing manuscript simply because this book has sharpened my eyes. I was able to spot something dull and augment the quality without referring back to any lists.

Emotional Beats: How to Convert Your Writing into Palpable Feelings is a must have craft book for indie authors who have to do a lot of self-editing. I have to congratulate Nick Rossis. He has thrown down the gauntlet in the war against indie-author stigma by giving us this valuable tool.

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry 🙂francesco25

REVIEW: Death on a Dirty Afternoon by Colin Garrow

I love a good detective story, and Colin Garrow delivers beautifully within the pages of Death on a Dirty Afternoon (The Terry Bell Mysteries Book 1).

The most interesting detective / thrillers always have an ordinary John Q. Public thrust into a mystery that needs to be solved for self-preservation (for example, The Thirty-Nine Steps, North by Northwest, or The Man Who Knew Too Much, all directed by Alfred Hitchcock). This wry whodunit follows that tradition, telling the tale of a cab driver named Terry Bell who becomes a suspect in a series of murders. The cabbie must conduct his own investigation in order to prove his innocence.

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In the Author’s Notes, Colin Garrow states that he did spend some time as a cab driver in a seaside English town. The otherwise quaint setting for tourists is a veil for a seedy underworld culture lurking in the city. Naturally, a cab driver would get familiar with the locations of brothels, and at least be acquainted with certain “less than savory” residents. He worked this aspect of a cab driver’s life into the story, and it lends credence to the overall plot.

Author Colin Garrow has a flowing style which never comes across as heavy-handed. I did not have to backtrack at any point. I am in disagreement with some reviewers at Amazon who stated that the author should’ve Americanized some of the dialog instead of delving too deeply in local slang and accents in the UK. An author must be honest and try to present a true representation of the setting. Good show, Colin.

Also, Mr. Garrow daringly wrote this clever story in the first person. I usually shy away from that narrative perspective. My ears screech too often in critique sessions when someone makes an attempt at writing in the first person. Normally, the word “I” is used 45-60 times per page. Therefore, I usually beg them to stop and try it from a different angle. However, Colin Garrow handles this problem quite deftly without over-using the dreaded pronoun.

Mr. Garrow has created a rather complicated plot with all of the investigative dead ends, discoveries, and twists which are indicative of the genre. Yet I did not get lost or confused at any time. Also, when our hero Terry Bell uses his ingenuity to get out of tight scrapes, it always seems plausible.

At only $2.99 (USD) on Amazon, this little gem is a bargain and comes highly recommended. You can also pay a visit Colin Garrow’s website here.

How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

Never was History so exciting, enticing, and revealing. Within these pages, Mr. Woods divulges enough information to leave one feeling somewhat foolish for not knowing all of the contributions of the #Catholic Church.

Woods negates many modern secular (and sadly all too common) bigoted anti-Catholic historical notions.  If one believes that the Church was (and still is) an enemy of science, that economics started with Adam Smith, that human rights began with the enlightenment, or that the Medieval period was the “Dark Ages,” then this book will serve as an eye-opening cure.

Thomas E. Woods, Jr. holds an A.B. from Harvard and a Ph.D. from Columbia. Of course, as a true academic scholar, Mr. Woods does not simply unload his personal opinions onto the reader. There is a staggering amount of painstaking research behind all of his claims. Yes, he quotes from the tomes of those medieval thinkers, but also from other historians who are not Catholic – some of whom even espouse a history of being unsympathetic to the Church. Yet they too agree with Mr. Woods, and thusly prove his points.

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The chapter on science alone makes this book worthy of one’s time. However, the author delves into the raw roots of other disciplines and philosophies concerning art, architecture, international law, and economics, to name a few. Woods’ treatment of the logic and reason-based proofs for the existence of God by St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Anselm also serve as enough of a reason to immerse oneself into these pages.

I must admit, I had previous knowledge of some of the history, like the true story of Galileo, the Church’s creation of the university system, and the scientific method. However, this book has launched some new heroes for me, like Thierry of Chartres, Father Boscovich, and Father Francisco de Vitoria.

If you would like a taste of this book without a purchase, there is a show on EWTN hosted by Mr. Woods entitled The Catholic Church: Builder of Civilization. Each episode could be described as a “talking-points-outline-lecture” for each chapter. I stumbled onto the show one Sunday evening and then promptly purchased the book.

Besides his proofs about the Catholic Church’s role in history, Woods also espouses a discourse as to why these advancements did not occur within Pagan or Islamic civilization. How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods, Jr. is one of the most pleasurable, enlightening, and enjoyable historical reads to ever grace one of my bookshelves.

Fowl Summer Nights by Diane Lynn McGyver

See what happens when empty nest syndrome and retirement are taken to their “Nth degree.” The exchanges between the main character and her neighbors make this work into a light-hearted romp. Diane spins a great humorous tale filled with comic believability laced with a healthy dose of outlandish circumstances.

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Click the cover photo to link to Amazon

Despite the humorous, I think McGyver is also giving us a lesson about aging, family, and society in general without a heavy hand. These more serious matters are delivered via subtext.

McGyver’s professional prose style makes for an easy and enjoyable read. Especially when she uses her language skills to deliver clever wordplay quips. The novella is free of typographical and formatting errors, and is well edited, which is quite a relief in today’s indie market.

A perfect quick read! I’m giving this one five stars *****

Padre Pio: Man of Hope, by Renzo Allegri

I was already convinced of Padre Pio’s blessedness before I read this book. Although if I were not convinced, I think it would’ve made me think otherwise.

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I liked Renzo Allegri’s journalistic approach. His writing is clean, crisp, and clear, no nonsense and all business.  It is not a book that has a religious axe to grind, in the sense that it’s an attempt to proselytize and convert people. The book reads like a true piece of investigative journalism.

Allegri draws upon personal and professional statements from doctors, clergy, and Vatican records. I can see some skeptics claiming that this book is an attempt to proselytize #Catholicism because of the conclusions it draws. However, Renzo’s final analyses are the results of logic and fact-finding that inevitably lead to supernatural conclusions, and bring total vindication to the status of Padre Pio’s sainthood.

If you wish to be inspired by the life of the last stigmatist who was examined by twentieth century medicine, then this is a must-read. Molto bene Signor Allegri.

 

 

Our Lady of Victory by Shirley Harris-Slaughter

Our Lady of Victory by Shirley Harris Slaughter chronicles the short history of a Black #Catholic Church in Detroit. Within its pages, we not only learn about some of the pastors of the flock, but also hear many personal anecdotal memories culled from interviews with former members.

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Parts I & II are heavily laced with those memories, while Parts III & IV delve into more objective history. Although references are used throughout the book.

I’m not sure how to classify this book. Sometimes it reads like a subjective memoir, and at other times it reads like an objective history (I’m using the word “objective” on account of the citations made). I don’t mean this as a criticism, just an observation.

It is a sad yet triumphant story that reminds us of the accomplishments that real people can make as a community without reliance on the outside. However, and quite sadly, it also reminds us about how outside large interests can work to hinder a small group.

There were some conclusions that left me unconvinced. They could be true, but some sort of documentation should have been mentioned or cited. Notice that I said “some” and not “all.” There are plenty of valuable lessons to be learned in this book.

In an era when it seems like Anti-Catholicism has replaced baseball as America’s favorite sport, this is a refreshing look at priests, nuns and laity, namely their care, concerns, and dedication to the Church and to each other.

Nice job, Shirley!

Daydream’s Daughter, Nightmare’s Friend by Nonnie Jules

Daydream’s Daughter, Nightmare’s Friend starts with a proverbial bang and doesn’t let up. The saga of the main character Maiya James is a gut-wrenching punch from beginning to end. It makes the reader want to rail against the hypocrisy of our so-called justice system, and against dysfunctional parents.

However, author Nonnie Jules balances all things. She presents us with starkly good and evil characters. For example, evil parents are juxtaposed with saintly grandparents. The same goes for the representations of guards, inmates, peers, and lovers.

DDNF1


With that said, I purchased the print version of Daydream’s Daughter, Nightmare’s Friend, and found quite a few format errors. Double spacing between paragraphs, no indentation, all dialog in italics (sometimes all caps), and quite a few instances of choosing to “tell” instead of “show.”
Normally, the errors listed above serve as a large stumbling block to a reader, but I got accustomed to it after a couple of chapters. With such a powerful story and characters, I looked past the formatting because I was pulled into the novel.

The psychology of the main character is believable. I’ve read about others who have had experiences like Maiya; her personality traits and habits were quite realistic. However, further explanation would constitute “spoiling.”

Congratulations, Nonnie Jules, this novel is certainly a page-turner.