Offbeat Vagabond

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Smashwords book reviews by Offbeat Vagabond

  • First Chosen on Oct. 21, 2011

    I have been lucky enough to be asked to review First Chosen by the author himself. M. Todd Gallowglas. This is a part of the Blog Tour de Force. First Chosen is set in a beautiful dark and epic fantasy world. It is about a girl (a duchess) named Julianna, who has been chosen as the Lord Morigahn (high priest) to protect and lead the Morigahnti (followers of Grandfather Shadow), physically and spiritually. But she can only do this when she speaks the words that will release Grandfather Shadow, a god who has been held prisoner for 1000 years. When she is put in a frightening and traumatizing situation that causes her to use the words, everyone wants a piece of her. So Julianna is in quite a predicament. Not only does she have lots to learn about those after her and who to trust, she also has to figure out her new found powers and who she is. I really enjoyed this book. The storytelling was truly out of this world. Gallowglas has created something gorgeous and complex. I love a plot that has so many layers that you can pick a part. Not only is the story deep and compelling, but the characters are as well. Gallowglas wrote it in a way where no one is left out. I love that I get a sense of everyone in the story. There is so much mythology in this book and no matter the species, everyone was playing a game. This book is full of betrayals, secrets and lies. If you want a great story on the battle of good vs. evil, First Chosen is a great choice. I loved the characters. I loved Julianna. After her initial shock of knowing everything rests on her shoulders, you see her growing into it. It was a nice journey with her and Faelin. Faelin was chosen by Grandfather Shadow to help guide and direct Julianna since he is a true believer in Grandfather Shadow. We also have characters that we meet that have their own agendas about Julianna. For instance, the Goddess of Lies, Yrgaeshkil, she has power over Daemyns. But she wants more power, more dominions to control. Her husband is Old Uncle Night. Old Uncle Night is a rival to Grandfather Shadow and he has followers of his own trying to kill off the Morigahnti. But she isn’t the only villain in this story. Some are villains that might be closer to Julianna than she thinks. Now for a few complaints I have for this book. As I said, we have a lot of characters which was both good and bad. The good: we have many characters to love and/or hate. We get lots of diversity and different sides of the same story. The bad: we have a lot of characters and at times, it is hard to keep up with them. Some get more “screen” time than others, so when another gets mentioned, it is hard to remember who they are in the story. I have seen that was an issue with some people, which leads me to another issue. When starting the book, it is a bit of information overload. Gallowglas wastes no time getting you into the heat of it all. As I said, this book is complex, but it does start off a bit overwhelming. We meet a lot of people in a short amount of time. Last issue, editing. This book had quite a few grammar issues. Not enough to be distracting, mind you. But you do notice them. Overall, I highly recommend this book for fans of dark and epic fantasy books. This book has a very clever and rich story that made it difficult for me to put it down. There is definitely has a Game of Thrones feel to this book that made me love it even more. Political intrigue, lies, secrets, wars, and supernatural creatures; this book has a little something for everyone. The plot is very deep and makes me very happy that there will be a sequel because there is still more to know. Even with a few kinks, First Chosen isn’t hard to read; well besides some of the characters names. I definitely want to know how to pronounce some of those. Nonetheless, read this book. You won’t regret it.
  • O N C E-----Ask me anything, not Love on Nov. 08, 2012

    Original post here: http://offbeatvagabond.blogspot.com/2012/11/indie-book-review-once-ask-me-anything.html Once (Ask Me Anything, Not Love) is a story about a successful novelist named 'M---, No Time For Love' aka Morkel. Morkel doesn't ever use a female protagonist. He doesn't see the need to have a woman be the focus of his books or his life. He has never been inspired enough to have a main one is his books. But things change when he visits Ukraine where he meets a woman that has changed his perception on life. But he doesn't realize how much he has changed until it is to late. I really enjoyed our main character Morkel, well more towards the end of the book to be honest. I won't lie, I wanted to punch the mess out of him in this book. It is not so much he was a bad guy, but just the fact he was acting like the typical guy. He was so selfish and worried about his image, he couldn't see what was in front of him. He observes people for his books, but doesn't much pay attention to their emotions. I loved Maya. I can see how she inspired Morkel so much. She was so sweet and innocent and it kept me on edge to see what would happen between her and Morkel. This is one of those reads that will stick with me for a very long time. I finished it yesterday and I have been thinking about it all day. Wow, what a storyteller Zia is. The story was paced so well and had moments that just killed me. Morkel meets Maya and is instantly enthralled with her. She wants to learn more English and he lies to her by telling her she is an English teacher. He doesn't want to be seen as the famous novelist. He says people put on a face when he tells them he is a writer. This is the perfect example of how one simple thing can change everything. I found myself shouting at the book at times. This story just pulled at me and didn't let go. I was bouncing all over the place on what to give this. Like I said, Morkel made some questionable choices. There were things he did that made me quite angry. For instance, the flight scene had me raging. Morkel likes to go out of his way to comfort perfect strangers at a funeral of someone he has never met. But when it came time to comfort Maya, he ran off and left her. Again, I was pissed. And when he actually took flight, it still wasn't the first thing he thought of. He was excited about his book more. But his change in the end was so uplifting. I won't lie, I had tears in my eyes. I don't want to give away anything, but this book truly blew me away. It was just so powerful and enlightening. The emotions that went through me reading this were so overwhelming and heart wrenching. There were times I had to stop and take a breather a time or two. This isn't your everyday contemporary romance. It belongs in a class of its own. The ending is so emotionally draining and I know not everything can be tied up into a perfect little bow, but dammit, I shall beg for a sequel. I don't think this review did this book justice. You just have to read this for yourself. Truly incredible.
  • Victim of Shame: Why me, God? on Nov. 29, 2012

    Original post here: http://offbeatvagabond.blogspot.com/2012/11/indie-book-review-victim-of-shame-why.html Victim of Shame is a tragic story about a man named Ryan Campbell. Ryan has done something that has ruined the life of another - his wife Sarah. Something horrible happened in his life and that one accident changed him for the worst. He writes about women's rights, but it is a way to relieve his overwhelming guilt. He is trying to redeem himself for what he has done, but it seems someone might do that for him. I enjoyed this read a lot. I don't like this more than Once though. While it does have a few similarities, I found that world to be a bit more believable. Our main character Ryan drove me nuts. He was good at first, but he was a downright jerk most of this book. His attitude sometimes was just awful and for no particular reason. Take his job hunting for example. He “resigned” from his job and needed a new one soon or else he would be homeless. When he does get the call, his reaction was just so insipid and sort of clipped with his answers. He didn't care that he not only got a job, but a new apartment. But just the day before he was anxious about the new job and always running to the phone when it rang. Where did the attitude come from? Why isn't he happy that his life is getting better? Just doesn't make any sense. Kim was Ryan's fiancee who treated him like crap after his accident. This was something I also thought was so weird. They were going to get married in a couple of days and his accident instantly switches her b**** mode on. Her and her new fiancee force Ryan out of work and leave him behind. How can someone go so soulless in less than a week? Then again, I think Zia did that on purpose to show how easy it is to go over the edge. But one character I did love was Maria. She was so full of wisdom and spirit. She instantly put a smile on my face. I really liked Sarah as well. I wish we got more of her specifically before the incident. The story was very emotional and heavy. Ryan suffers from the accident he had. He is now impotent and can't have children. His fiancee pretty much kicks him aside and insults him and his manhood. Ryan no can't trust women. In fact, he hates them. His hate grows and grows unless he is talking to Maria. His hate gets him to do something truly despicable. He humiliates Sarah and she might be beyond repair. Ryan is trying desperately to get rid of his guilt and to change his views. Now I do have complaints about this book. As I said before, the attitudes were just awful. Another thing was that the book does get a tad bit preachy specifically about religions. There were times when religion was thrown and it didn't seem to fit. For instance, Maria approaches Ryan at his new job about covering a story about a girl who has been mutilated. Ryan asked her why she is helping when the girl is Christian and she is Muslim. How is that a relevant question? Maria isn't a heartless woman. Why would did he have to ask that? Then there was how Ryan was talking about how boisterous Sarah was before they were together, But he never took the time out to get to know her before everything happened. He was very rude towards her, so that didn't make sense. Then there was what had happened after the accident. Ryan never asks about the other people that were in the accident as well. Are they okay? Who were they? I have no idea and I would have liked to have known that. Overall, I did enjoy this book a lot. It was very human, but it had its moments where it straddled the line of being angry and being downright soulless. Ryan was a hard character to like and a hard character to hate. But as I said, he was very human. I was very invested in this story. The journey was amazing. It was full of sadness, anger, guilt, redemption, and forgiveness. This is a read that will stick with me especially the end. The book was beautifully written and I loved the scene at the end between Ryan and Sarah. I am very happy I read this. I definitely recommend it.
  • The Strange Loyalist-----Inspired by True Events on Dec. 23, 2012

    The Strange Loyalist follows a man named Mike who is starting his first year of grad school. He got accepted into SOS, School of Scholars. He is very happy to know that his hard work has paid off given that they only accept 125 students. But Mike's excitement quickly wears off when he realizes the school isn't all it is cracked up to be. Mike sees he is surrounded by people who are are willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead. The same thing goes for the teachers. Things take a huge turn for Mike when his favorite teacher's son dies and his relationship with the teacher grows. They become family and many don't approve including those he is close to. I hated and loved this book. Mike was a good character to follow He was very smart and helpful. But his helpfulness worked against him since he makes “friends” with people who have no problem using him. Not only are the students of questionable characters, but the teachers are also questionable. They discriminate against the students. There seem to be some who favor the female students over the male students. I did like through all the adversity Mike went through, he had Madam Shirley. She was there for him when no one listened to him (beside Marlboro). They become like best friends despite their age differences. Madam Shirley was such a sweet woman and I loved how she was there for Mike. Well, how they were there for each other, specifically after Madam Shirley's son, Adam, commits suicide. The plot quickly changes after Adam's death and Christmas break She starts to treat him differently and just starts acting differently toward Mike. There is a wedge between the two of them even though Mike has been there for Shirley even after she was sick. An even bigger twist occurs when tragedy also strikes Shirley and Mike ends up in jail for it. Mike takes a turn for the worst and he does whatever it takes to make things right. I won't lie, there was a point in this book I got really pissed. Be prepared for a few complaints. When Mike goes to jail, there were just little things that were done that didn't make sense to me. Then when he was released from jail, it makes even less sense. As much as I liked the “brother-sister” relationship between Mike and Shirley, I don't understand why Mike didn't fight for his real family. He could have at least tell them what happened and while in jail, they could have done some investigation. Why not fight for your real family that raised you? Then when he leaves, he meets his friends from before going to jail. They are so happy to see him and they say they miss him. But none of them ever visited him in jail. No one did except for someone who knows he is innocent and suddenly wants to help. Why didn't they do more as well? It makes no sense. Then the biggest thing was that Mike did something very extreme to one of the teachers for doing something quite rude. I didn't like that like specifically because it could have been avoided. I love how dark the book was though and the teacher was scum, but that was uncalled for. It just seem sudden and a bit out of character since Mike still worries about being rude and impolite to people. Overall, I did enjoy this book. The last few chapters were amazing and I didn't see that coming. While the reason why Mike gets sent to jail also made me mad (seriously, this is why talking is so important). I really loved the visit to Russia. I would have liked it if the book was set here longer because we meet Tatiana and I really liked her. This book was well written although some of the dialogue was a tad bit formal. I was screaming at the book in the middle, but it did make me happy in the end. Zia's style definitely gives a little twist to the average revenge story and I was glad to have read this. I would recommend this.
  • Ascent of Blood, The Red Veil Series, Book I on March 17, 2013

    Ascent of Blood follows the story of vampire named Sebastian Pearce. He is one of the last vampires of his line. He has been on the search for the longest time to find the only human female that can breed his children. But his search may be over when he is trapped with the female, Everleigh, he was meant for by his enemies. Even though she is one of the few that can breed with vampires and they have an incredible attraction to each other, something is getting in the way...Everleigh's pregnancy. She has been impregnated and it seems that is was out of revenge against Sebastian. Everleigh and Sebastian fight their attraction tooth and nail. But they know big things are at play when Everleigh is special for a reason and they have been used as pawns in a game centuries in the making. Oh this is absolutely going on the favorites' list. I am putting Marx on my must buy list. This woman really knows how to put a story together. I couldn't put this down even if I wanted to. I loved the characters in this book. Everleigh was a great lead in this book. Man, does this woman have a lot guts. It takes a special woman to stand up to a room full of vampires older than time. I loved her attitude and spunk. Not to mention her humor. I loved her independence and her sass. I loved Sebastian as well. He is quite mean and volatile at times, but he has his reasons. He is the prince of the House (there are different houses for every type of vampire) and expects things to run his way. But this doesn't sit well with Everleigh. She defies him at every turn. She hates that her freewill has been taken from her and doesn't want to breed with Sebastian even though she is attracted to him. She wants to choose her own vampire to breed with. This makes tensions between them even greater. I love the connection between Sebastian and Everleigh. They hated each other, but they wanted each other. They are both as stubborn as mules. They were like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, they wanted each other, but would kill each other. I love the push-and-pull between them. They had me laughing very hard in this book. I love all the secondary characters in this book as well. Gillian, Sebastian's sister, cracked me up in this book. I loved her relationship with Everleigh. They were like sisters. Then there was Cain. He is Sebastian's right hand man and I loved his relationship with Everleigh as well. This, of course, has Sebastian seeing red in this book. I loved all the connections made in this book. The characters were just so much fun. Something about this book sort of reminded me of Tessa Dawn's Blood Curse series. I love Marx take on the vampire world and the idea of different levels of vampires. I like the idea of the Nosferatu being the villain. They were quite vile in this book, but they were just a part of the scheme. I love all the things that are uncovered. What is so different about the human women that can breed immortal children compared to other human women? Everleigh is a researcher and she is given the chance to research her family's history. She discovers some terrible things about her family and herself. She also finds out that Sebastian has a bigger connection to her as well. I absolutely loved this book. The only complaint I have is there are a few editing issues in the book, but that are minor. It could be just my copy, but still letting you guys know. Nonetheless, I just dived into this book. I didn't even start the prequel, Descent of Blood. I am definitely going to check that out as well. I am glad to have stumbled on Marx's work. She has herself a new fan. The characters were great. The dialogue between them is one of my favorite things about the book. I love the mystery and the chemistry between Sebastian and Everleigh. The worldbuilding is complex and downright right amazing. Highly recommended.