If April was an extremely productive reading month, May was average. I only finished three books, despite the fact that, (or maybe because of), I was also reading Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens the whole time. And so, I bring to you three reviews: one for the Phoenix Fiction Anthology (a collection of short stories by four awesome independent authors), one for Dissociate (the third book in a powerful ongoing series), and one for Where the Woods Grow Wild (Author Book Club's May read, and the first indie book I ever read, and re-read).
The independent author community is strong with this post. If you're looking for recommendations towards that end, look no further.
Phoenix Fiction Anthology
Kyle Robert Shultz, J.E. Purrazzi, E.B. Dawson, Beth Wangler
My rating: ★★★★
Kyle Robert Shultz
First up in the Phoenix Fiction Anthology is a retelling of the minotaur-and-labyrinth myth from Greek mythology. It’s carried off with Shultz’s characteristic sense of humor and imagination, but some of the mythological elements came off a little too strong for me. For example the gods and goddesses were explained to be very much human (if immortal), but their behavior didn’t stray far from their original mythological counterparts. Still, it was a light-hearted beginning to the anthology, and I enjoyed getting inside the head of a minotaur for the first time in my life. xD
Our next stop is a wildly creative take on futuristic Japan. Stealing Life is probably the most intense one out of the four, but I enjoyed it. There’s just something about Purrazzi’s writing that’s like watching a movie in your head, and this short story is no exception. Personally, I found it a little creepy, but in a good way. It centers around people doing things with science that they never should have, and asks serious questions about life and death.
I’d been looking forward to reading this one for a while, and was not disappointed! It’s a dystopian adventure told through multiple POVs, following one man’s journey to the realization that he’s been fighting the wrong war all along. Each of the POV characters were unique, and I found myself chuckling more than once while reading the descriptions of Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. (After all, don’t we all know people like that?) And even though the story wrapped up nicely, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing more of Caleb Weiss in the future. :P
The Lake of Living Water
Last up is an imaginative retelling of the Biblical account of the Fall, in a fictional universe. I loved the comfortable form of narration, as if the main character was telling you the story themselves. I think it takes real talent to make a perfect world interesting—and Wangler pulled it off. The synopsis says it’ll leave you feeling hopeful and refreshed, and it does. The Fall was not the end. One day Aia shall repair what was rent.
My rating: ★★★★
~ I received a free ARC in exchange for an honest review ~
Disowned was quiet and home-like, Dissemble was action-packed and intense, and Dissociate struck a nice balance between the two. It was less politically driven than Dissemble, (although the undercurrent of world happenings was still there), but I find myself favoring the “small stuff”—the things that mean a lot to the MCs but maybe have no far-reaching consequences—and there was plenty of that. It reminded me a lot more of Disowned, in fact, which I love.
One of my favorite things about the book was that the relationship we’ve been rooting for concerning certain characters was finally made official. Both of them stopped denying what the rest of the world could see already, and acknowledged their love for each other. (That’s not to say their relationship was not without bumps, however!) There were plenty of obstacles thrown into each character’s way, and there were several times I had to put my Kindle down and grin like a maniac, take a deep breath, or simply stare into space, because Sarah—how could you do such a thing??
As for characters, Mick is still the rather morally upright character I grew to know him as in the previous book, Celeste is learning that people really are capable of loving her, Torrance is on a difficult path to restoration as well, and Amaya grew leaps and bounds in my estimation with this book. Being pregnant suits her. xD Plus, I mean, you have to love a woman who will go full Enjolras and build a barricade while her husband is gone in order to protect orphans. I mean really.
The only thing craft-wise that I didn’t care for in Dissociate is that this is one of those books that just jumps in without any refresher at all, and while I admit that I probably have the worst memory of anyone of my age, I was a little confused sometimes. Also, Mick didn’t seem to know anything. xD I found myself thinking, several times during the first third of the book: “Wait… Mick doesn’t know that yet??” This probably wouldn’t bother me if I could remember what Mick did or didn’t know from the last book, so a quick sentence or two of explanation at critical moments would help tremendously. (But then again, none of this would be a problem for people that get to read all three right through, so this is mostly a personal gripe. *shrugs*)
Content comes in slightly increased swearing, drinking, getting very drunk, mentions of childhood abuse, an “off-screen” suicide, and quite a bit of sexual innuendo… although it was more of the kind concerned with staying pure before marriage and being faithful afterwards, so I personally found that less uncomfortable than the last book. There was also a whole lot of kissing (I lost count of instances early on, quite honestly), so if that bothers you, you’ve been warned.
Altogether, I enjoyed Dissociate a lot! The characters are all growing, and not staying stagnant. Mick, alone, is someone I’ve enjoyed watching mature throughout the series. There’s always a certain warmth to these books that I enjoy, and I think it comes from the family values portrayed within. The Haynes family has issues like any other, but they're courageous enough to love the ones that the world has rejected. And that’s something I think the real world needs a lot more of.
Where the Woods Grow Wild
My rating: ★★★★
Where the Woods Grow Wild is a delightful read. It’s a clean, fast-paced fantasy adventure filled with likeable characters, vivid settings, and hilarious banter. As mentioned in my previous review, there’s a certain nostalgia that comes with this book, similar to stepping into Narnia for the first time, so when #AuthorBookClub decided to read this book for May, I was down for round two!
“And who are some of these likable characters?” you ask. Well, Martin is a lovable grump, Elodie is a beautifully level-headed and strong female character, Illo is another species of lovable grump, and Bramble is the kind of character that's hard not to love even when he creates big problems.
Something I noticed this time around that I don’t think I fully appreciated the first time was just how well thought-out and precise the plot was. It wasn’t overwhelmingly complicated, but it fit together perfectly at the end, and the foreshadowing was spot-on.
This was the first independent book I ever read, and it was a great introduction to a genre that I’ve since dived whole-heartedly into. As I mentioned in my previous review, some scenes were a little rushed, but the weight of the climax makes up for that. The romance is sweet, the forest setting is fully developed, and it’s a book that I would recommend to anyone looking for a wonderful read.
Welcome to Katelyn Buxton Books! I'm a Christian author and blogger, with a passion for writing stories that are not just enjoyable, but also lead people closer to Jesus. Feel free to look around, and enjoy your stay!