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(Art by hamburger.)
Tales From The Edge: Emergence by Stephen Gaskell (Author), Tomas L. Martin (Author, Editor), Andrew Everett (Author)
Traditional or self-published: Self-published
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

What a rare book, self published and yet got a 'loved' rating from me!

This collection of short stories, set in the Maelstrom's Edge universe, was perfect for me. Maelstrom's Edge is a tabletop game that had a successful launch through Kickstarter. A series of books were written to flesh out the game's world, so this book was everything I loved: Completely focused on worldbuilding.

Set in the distant figure, a network of wormholes (sort of) has been found, which allows humans to settle on worlds far and wide. Life is generally good for humanity until the Maelstrom -- a "storm" of violent energy sweeping through the galaxy, strong enough to destroy everything in its path.

This book focused on all the little stories that happen within a species's flight from destruction.

I loved almost every story in the book. Only one, written by the guest author (Everett) didn't work for me. While that single one was more action oriented (a big space battle), the rest were about people and how they were reacting to the coming Maelstrom.

I liked this book enough that I'm looking for the others now. Another collection of short stories and two full novels have already been put out by the game's lead authors.

The editing wasn't perfect, especially in the book's later stories, but it was still enjoyable enough for me to recommend.

2019 book: Gift of the Master

Gift of the Master by Robert Fluege
Traditional or self-published: Self-published
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

This story was fun enough that for a while I stuck with it through the many, many writing and editing issues. Set in our world, a chosen few people tend to get sucked into books. Literally. The main character of this book was one of them.

The first book he got sucked into, a Clan of the Cavebear-like book, was so much fun. It was great seeing his experiences with all the differences between a story and reality. Like walking back to camp after a successful hunt can be covered in a couple sentences in a story, but in reality the walk took hours and hours. Things like how bad people could smell when they never wash, the stink of the camp, realistic fighting stuff as opposed to how it reads on the page... all really good stuff.

The second book he got sucked into, a generic fantasy one, was a lot less fun, and that's where I gave up on reading.

Rating based on the story: Liked
Rating based on the writing/editing: Hated
Averaged it out to: Okay

Partial book credits:
Point reached in this book: 20%
Previous abandoned book total: 314%
New total: 334% (3 books!)

2019 book: Feral Empires: First Spark

Feral Empires: First Spark by Stephen L. Hadley
Traditional or self-published: Self-published
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

So, um... is YA erotica a thing? Amazon has it listed as SciFi, but the characters are all teenagers(?), but in the 14% I read there's been little happening but sex, so... I'm really confused. This completely feels like a YA book, and another reviewer called it "YA erotica", but the author had a warning "novel intended for mature readers only".

Whatever it is, I'm not interested in detailed scenes of teenagers making out. If they are teenagers. I really have no clue. The characters felt like teenagers, but there were no descriptions of them (other than the girl being naked, repeatedly).

I learned way more about the plot from the other reviews than I did from what I read. I guess it's a post-apocalyptic story. All I know is the main character boy escaped from somewhere where they experiment on kids with super powers.

I have no issues about sex scenes in books, but these characters felt way too young for me to be comfortable reading about it. I suppose teenagers would be fine with the story.

Partial book credits:
Point reached in this book: 14%
Previous abandoned book total: 300%
New total: 314% (3 books!)

Book #30 of 2019: Hounds of Autumn

Hounds of Autumn by Heather Blackwood
Traditional or self-published: Self-published (Has a publisher listed, but "Triple Hare Press is the publishing company [Heather Blackwood] has started to publish her novels.")
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Without question, the best thing about this book was the cover. I love it!

While I enjoyed the main character a lot, and the worldsetting was fine (though light on the steampunk), the story and mystery fell completely flat for me.

Set in Victoria England, Chloe Sullivan is a steampunk engineer when almost no women are able or permitted to be one. Her best friend (and fellow female steampunk engineer) as well as her husband are both killed, and it's up to her to find out who did it and why.

I finished this book last night, and for the life of me I can't even remember who killed the best friend. The mystery aspect of the story didn't kick in until the last 10% or so, and seemed to be solved too easily by the main character.

The book had some repeated grammar issues, which always kicks me out of the story.

Those issues aside, the book was still okay. I enjoyed it at first, solely due to the main character.

Chloe drew herself up to her full height, which, combined with her plump figure and freckles, made her about as imposing as an angry hen.

And: Chloe was built like a teapot.

It was nice to read about something other than a 20-something, beautiful, perfect woman. The steampunk aspect was good, though I wish it had been around in the world more. Multiple times I considered abandoning the book though, sadly it just didn't hold my interest through the latter half.

Book #29 of 2019: Cat in the Clouds

Cat in the Clouds by Eric Pinder
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Liked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

When I went to visit my mother in Maine, we took the cog railroad up to the Mount Washington Observatory. The observatory is the "Home of the World's Worst Weather," and it was the high point of my trip (literally and otherwise). The wind was so strong, it almost blew me off my feet! So cool!

So when I spotted this book, a story about cats living in the Mount Washington Observatory, I knew I had to read it. I went into the book knowing no more about it than that.

Turns out it was nonfiction (not something I usually read, but in this case that was okay) and a children's book (which was an issue only because it was so very short). I enjoyed it quite a bit, and learned a few details I hadn't already known. I only wish it had been a lot, lot longer. It took me maybe 15 minutes to read the whole book.

There were illustrations, but they were too small on my Kindle to see. I'm sure they were nice.

Book #28 of 2019: MiNRS

MiNRS by Kevin Sylvester
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Set a good distance into the future, humanity has a colony on a near-Earth planet and is mining ores and such for Earth. The colony is established enough that the miners could have their families there. Someone attacks it and all the adults are killed, leaving a small handful of pre-teen kids to deal with the situation... and with the attackers.

While I liked the idea for this book, unfortunately I didn't believe most of it could happen. However, it is a middle grade book, so I'm very much not the target audience of it. I'm sure young kids wouldn't think the characters were way too smart or mature for their ages. To adult reader me, the kids seemed more adults than pre-teens.

While I don't usually notice much about gender ratios of characters in books, this one was off enough for me to really pick up on it. Almost all the characters were male (or at least the ones with speaking parts). There were two "main character" level female characters, but one was aggressively mean and the other didn't arrive until the latter half of the book. It really felt like a book meant for young boy readers.

I liked parts of the story, but I was bored through just as many parts. In the last quarter of it, I was close to abandoning it multiple times. It ended on a great cliffhanger, but unfortunately I don't care enough about the characters to continue with it.

Take all this with a grain of salt though. It's a middle grade book, so it's written for readers too young for YA.

Book #27 of 2019: Gather the Daughters

Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Hated, but this scale does not work for this book (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

This was probably the worst story I have read in my entire life.
This was one of the best-written books I read in the year so far.

How in the world do I rate a book like this? I hated it. It made me sick. I can't put into words how much I hated the story.

But it was really well written. The author trusted her readers. She didn't come out and say what was happening, she dropped hints until you eventually went "Wait, is X what's happening?" and you realized you were right... and then you felt sick because of how horrific X is. That happened repeatedly, and I love an author who does that.

The plot: A group of families are living alone on an island. The world has ended in fire and plagues, and a few families went off to live on the island to survive. [Spoiler]Or did the world end? While the other reviewers accepted what the islanders thought, I believe it didn't really end, that that was just part of the cult's lies. /end spoiler

Plot sounds fine so far? Hold onto your hats... Those seven families set up their own religion. Sort of an evolved (devolved...) version of Christianity. Some parts of what was happening were clear from the beginning of the book. To say women were second-class citizens would be an understatement. Women only existed to support the men and have babies. Literally their only purpose in life was to make their husbands' lives better. (And if you think they had control over who they married, think again.) But that was the kindest, nicest part of life on the island... [Spoiler]Slowly, bit by bit, the reader realizes something else is going on. For some reason, fathers are sleeping in the same beds as their daughters. Slowly you learn that the fathers are having sex with their daughters. This isn't just something they want to do (and they all do), their religion tells them they MUST have sex with their daughters... but they must stop once their daughter gets their period. That tells you how young these girls are.

I wish I had saved the line, because it was so chilling. One of the mothers said something like "[The fathers] really should start when their daughters are too young to understand what's really happening, then it becomes just a normal part of [the daughters'] lives."

This book was written by a psychologist who specializes in sexual assault on children, which explains why all of this was so realistic and horrible. /end spoiler

One of the daughters tries to "fight back" in the only way she can: She stops eating so that she never has her period. See, as soon as a girl has her period, she's married off... So through the book, she's slowly starving to death.

The ending was just as bad as the rest of the book. [Spoiler]You'd expect something to happen at the end. The girls to win, the island to burn down, something positive. But nope. One family left the island, but all the others remained behind, molesting their daughters, marrying them off, etc. WHAT WAS THE WHOLE POINT OF THIS BOOK? All it was was horrible stuff for women, sexual abuse of young girls, sadness, nothingness. And there was no payoff at the end! /end spoiler

When I rate a book, the difference between 'dislike' and 'hate' is an emotional one. If I'm just "meh, another bad book for the stack", it gets a dislike. If I have a strong emotional dislike for a book, I rate it hated. I hated this book more than I hated the worst-written book ever! ...yet I also couldn't stop reading it. In the first third of the book, once I realized what was happening to the young girls, I almost stopped reading. But after that I was never tempted to stop. As much as I hated it, I couldn't stop reading it...

I have no idea how to rate the book. It feels wrong to rate a well-written book as hated, but my god how I hated it.

I do not recommend that anyone read this book. I'm still pissed off at the book a day later. ...yet I'm not unhappy that I finished it.

This makes no sense at all. All I know is that I felt the need to shower when I was finished reading it. I left the book feeling like [Spoiler]I was the one who had molested the young girls.

2019 book: The Prophecy (Animorphs #34)

The Prophecy (Animorphs #34) by "K. A. Applegate" (Melinda Metz)
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

I think maybe the Hork-Bajir alien race just doesn't work for me. Every time they show up in one of the books, my enjoyment seems to go downhill.

In this one, a character from The Hork-Bajir Chronicles (which I also didn't finish) returned. Cassie ends up with a second personality in her head, and the whole team goes into space to fight on another planet.

I really didn't enjoy this one from the first page, but I slogged through until the 50% point. Hopefully I'll enjoy the next one more.

Also, the cover of this one was a surprise to me, because I hadn't been picturing the Hork-Bajir as looking like that at all. At first I had had no idea what she was supposed to be morphing into...

Partial book credits:
Point reached in this book: 50%
Previous abandoned book total: 250%
New total: 300% (2 books!)
The Illusion (Animorphs #33) by "K. A. Applegate" (Ellen Geroux)
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

In the last book, for the first time in the series, the Animorphs tortured one of their enemies. In this book, the tables turned. This whole book was about one of the Animorphs being tortured.

Let me repeat that: This whole book was about one of the main characters being tortured. Not the setup to torture, not dealing with the aftermath of being tortured. The whole book was him being tortured.

I'm just sitting here boggling. I've said it before (so many times before), but how much more serious can this silly-seeming series get?

There wasn't much plot in this book (job goes bad, basically. One of them got captured), but that was fine. Most of the story was just two people in a room (the Animorph and his torturer), and that was great. At the end, there is a fight scene (I could have completely done with that, but every book needs a fight scene), but that couldn't take away from the rest of the story.

Where in the world is this series going to go from here? About 20 more books left to go!

Edit: After I write my own review, I like going to Goodreads and seeing what others have said. This comment surprised me.

I was horrified and upset, seeing into his psyche as he was tortured almost to the point of insanity. Even though this is clearly a fictional series, it was a horrible reminder of some of the things that humanity is capable of. I’m happy to go back to farfetched tales about time travel to the Jurassic period. :(

I know different people like different things, but the silly time travel back to the Jurassic period was the absolute low in the series to me, while this book was the high point so far.

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