REVIEW - Bad Company: From the Casefiles of Detective 'Mal" Malone (Jen Schoenbein)

Bad Company"Proof that your eggs don’t always have to age to perfection."
RainHand Rating:
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(Review appearing for the first time on!)
Bad Company, being written from the perspective of a P.I.’s case files, is a hard-boiled private-eye story, but I wouldn’t call it noir. That’s what makes it unique really, since you can have your eggs without the Double Indemnity aftertaste if you so choose.

Our first person heroine has a lot on her plate, and the story balances well while leading us on a thorough, twisted chain of coffee-soaked circumstances to develop it all. There’s action, romance (for better or for worse), regret, sorrow, and a hot fire of vengeance. It keeps you moving too, which is important for a first person story so as not to bog the reader down in too much stream of consciousness from our narrator.

From a constructive standpoint, I can say that I wasn’t surprised to find out that this is the author’s first foray. There are some unrefined bits in the dialogue, structure, and descriptiveness that sometimes prevented me from forming a good image of what was going on in my head. Rather than crippling, however, I see it as an opportunity for the author’s development over time. Readers, there be promise in these urban waters! (yarrrr and all that)

I’m not sure it counts as a fair criticism because it’s quite possible the culprit is unintentionally technical in nature, but my copy of this book was very poorly formatted. Page numbers and the author’s name constantly popping up in the middle of the page, word wrap drastically different on some pages than others, awkward breaks, no indentation to mark paragraphs, too much space between lines, so forth. I don’t own a kindle and I was only able to obtain a copy of this book in Amazon’s proprietary ‘mobi’ format (which I’m told is in itself twice outdated, first in favor of .az3, and later .kfx), so that might have been the reason why, although a quick .epub swap didn’t help. I didn’t factor this into my rating, but I felt it should be noted.

If P.I. drama is your thing, I say give this one a chance.

About the Author: Jen Schoenbein lives in the Midwest with her husband, teenage daughter, Puck the dog and Willow the cat. She is an amateur violinist, an herbalist, hobby painter, gardener, and crafter. She enjoys spending time with her family, being outdoors and breaking rules wherever possible. Jen owes her nomadic tendencies to growing up as an Air Force brat. She loves to travel far and often. Immersing herself in other cultures allows her to bring other landscapes onto page to share with her readers
('About' info reprinted from

REVIEW - The Last Fairy Door: Fairies of Titania #1 (N.A. Davenport)

The Last Fairy Door"89% Octane, the perfect mid-grade mix!”"
RainHand Rating:
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(Review appearing for the first time on!)
The important thing about Middle Grade fiction is its potential versatility to many audiences – a fact that I think is too often lost on the content. Adult content is intended to appeal to adults, without taking children into account. YA content opens this up a bit more by including both teen and adult audiences, but neither tends to be appropriate for children. Middle Grade and under often take the opposite road, including young audiences without a nod to any other. But they *can* be so much more.

This book took a higher road, and I appreciate that. Perhaps it is mid-grade, but I enjoyed it, and further I would recommend it as a lighter, simpler read for anyone interested in some good nights with a fairytale adventure. There’s something to be said for being able to just kick back and…experience the story.

Well, that’s my take as an adult reader. I had to reach into the dusty old memory pouch to put myself in the right mindset for it, and I think I can comfortably say I would recommend this for your kids, and mine too. Our protagonist, a young lady forced to cope with the realities of harsh circumstances, might have gone through some experiences not common to all of us. But dealing with our troubles and rolling with change are common to us all, and as such I find Amy highly relatable. From here, we’re on an enchanted journey filled with fairies, magic and wishes that stays heartfelt, but doesn’t dig deeper than it really needs to. It’s just enough, without being too little, and without being too much.

My criticisms for this book are minimal, but if I had to offer one, I’ll say that I’d really have liked to see chapter titles. I think they’d add a nice little extra dimension to a tale like this, and excite me even more to find out what might happen next.

Give it a shot, it’ll put a smile on your face.

About the Author: N. A. Davenport writes magical books for the young and young at heart. She picked up the pen when her own son was having trouble finding books which were both easy to read and interesting enough to keep his attention. Frustrated that the selection seemed so small, she finally wrote books for him herself. Davenport writes stories that are lightning-paced, wild, and adventurous. Books that will sink their teeth into a kid and not let go.
('About' info abridged from

REVIEW - Among Those You Know (Joshua Valentine)

Among Those You Know"Vivid and thoughtful, a character-driven piece from a new young author!"
RainHand Rating:
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(Review appearing for the first time on!)
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked this one up – the synopsis makes it sound like a hard-boiled crime novel, or not. But hey, you really can’t judge a book by its cover, and sometimes you just have to dive in. I think I’ve come out the better for it.

The first thing I can say I appreciate about this story is that it’s first person, written by an author that understands how first person is supposed to work. Yes there are large chunks of narration in it that may require you to take breaks here and there, but that tends to come with the territory. We’re kept on task with our narrator and his take on the facts, and we’re drawn into his life until we feel like we know him – like he’s there with us in the room, telling us his tale. I appreciate that, and as it turns out the mystery I was looking for is not only there, but it’s there really well.

My main issue with this story was a personal one. It just feels…young. No, that’s not a bad thing. But it’s on an edge that I’m not really on anymore in my life, and as a result I found myself not quite able to hit a sweet spot in terms of my interest. That’s a personal misgiving, but I think a somewhat younger audience demographic is better suited for this story.

There are some technical issues that would lead me to suggest another runthrough by the book’s editor, but in general, neither that nor the above issues aren’t enough to ruin the story, so if you’re up for it, I would still recommend this read.

Note that there’s a big focus on gender and sexual identity in this book. Not a good or bad thing, just it might be good for a reader to be aware of. The story leans a bit more towards character study than it does hard-boiled mystery work.

About the Author: Joshua Valentine began writing 'Among Those You Know' at the age of 14 and finally published it earlier this year at the age of 16. Primary influences for Joshua's written work(s) include a wide range of things, from musical taste, to life experiences, and all of the way to a passion for politics. As a young member of the LGBT community, Joshua has a passion for writing about LGBT characters, and exposing the countless injustices faced in their community.
('About' info abridged from

REVIEW - The Sapphire Eruption: The Sword's Choice #1 (I.M. Redwright)

Her Name Was Abby"I got yer sweet piece of narrative world building right here!"
RainHand Rating:
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(Review appearing for the first time on!)
Ah, sweet worldbuilding, thou art my nectar. There are stories written in our world, where we have to mind all sorts of things to keep the situation realistic (which can be quite a challenge if you’re not necessarily up on every modern trend). There are stories written in worlds similar to our own, where we authors still have to keep our feet on the ground. But you know what’s great about writing a story in your own world? Nobody to check up on you. It’s a clean slate to paint on, and the sky is the absolute limit to what you can bring to life. Of course, this privilege is not without its trials. For one, being responsible for everything means that you are, in fact, responsible for everything. And that’s no mean feat. People, places, ideas, concepts, faiths…it’s all on you. And there is something to be said for how you tie it all together. Just having facts is never enough, you’ve got to turn it into a narrative.

The Sapphire Eruption lives up to that narrative feel. There’s a lot going on here – several independent nations, each with their own personalities and outlooks on life vie for attention, and of course we have our main cast of characters to mind. This book is on the chunky side and I often say how that can be a bit of a concern for the potential for losing your reader, but ample time is spent developing everything the way it needs to be, from landmasses to cities, and on down to the cast of people we need to care about in order to become invested in the story. It’s a tangled web of a story, but a sweet one if you don’t mind getting tied up.

Mind, however, that fantasy is never the same snowflake twice, and thus there’s no promise this flavor is going to be to your liking. The concept of elemental kingdoms is certainly nothing new under the sun – so not new that it miiiight just have turned me off from picking this up had I seen it on a shelf at a store, just because such an angle is so, well, done. You’re going to be reading high fantasy here, with all the swords and sorcery and thievery and so forth theretofore pertaining. Make sure that’s what you’re after, because the inside of this book is what it looks like on the outside.

That really isn’t much of a criticism, I suppose. Well, there’s not much here to complain about. Spare a few minutes for it and it’s sure to wrap you up – just make sure you have the time to invest in it all!

About the Author: I.M. Redwright didn't know he wanted to be a fantasy author, instead, he had a story in mind and had the urge to write about it. He could have made things easy but that wouldn't be fun, so his first novel had to be the first volume of a series, which by the way he expects you will enjoy.

As a fantasy book fan, having his own fantasy series is just fascinating. However, when he wakes up every day he still thinks it was all a dream.
('About' info reprinted from

REVIEW - Her Name Was Abby (Peter Martuneac)

Her Name Was Abby"You didn't think it was over, did you?"
RainHand Rating:
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(Review appearing for the first time on!)
Well, for once I got to start at book one! It’s always troublesome to review a sequel when you’re coming in cold. This time I didn’t have to. Her Name Was Abby is the second book in Peter Martuneac’s “His Name Was Zach” series, and adds enough to the story to suggest it be given an overall name beyond just that of the first book. I’ll say the same thing I say just about every time – start at book one, you’ll be glad you did. As a worthwhile read from word one, you really need that backstory from the first tale to appreciate the second. I’m still more a fan of the zombie movie than the zombie TV series, but there’s no option for that by the time we get to this sequel, so I’ve just got to take it for what it is.

Her Name Was Abby is book two of the series, and weighs in at just about the same chunky length. We’re swept right back up into the story by an applause-worthy prologue – this is what a good prologue should be. Short, sweet, smacks you upside the head and demands you take notice. Abby, now in the spotlight by herself, is nowhere near any sort of resolution, and it’s time to head off on another adventure in the hopes of getting her there. We already know Abby and so not as much initial character development is required here, but I still felt well invested in her and her situation. Once again, you’ve gotta care enough to want to root for the hero/heroine. And so I do.

Length, however, is still a double-edged sword, and I still think this series is in need of some shaving down. It’s not always a good thing to pack in every possible detail, and there’s something to be said for the psychological advantage of a reader feeling as though they’re making good progress, which becomes tougher the more they have to get through. Again, detail is not a bad thing per se. It’s a question of quality over quantity.

Writing, like any craft, is always improved upon with experience. In the second installment I saw some marked improvements of things I was critical of in the past. I no longer feel quite so alienated by the excessive attention to military/firearm details. They’re still present, but they didn’t toss me off base so far this time. Then again, maybe I know what to expect now and so perhaps I just wasn’t noticing as much. Overall the author’s technique has improved all across the board – if there’s a part three to this, I’ll look forward to checking out that continued progress.

In short – if you liked the first one, definitely keep up with the second. If the first was meh to you, then you should probably leave it at that. So anyway, can I spoil the ending now, can I? …fine, just read it already.

Nice cover too, by the way. So simple and yet says so much.

About the Author: Husband, father of two, Boilermaker alum, and former United States Marine. Ever since reading The Lord of the Rings at a young age, Peter has wanted to be a writer. "His Name Was Zach" is his debut novel, followed by the short story prequel"Abby: Alone". A second novel is in the works, entitled "Her Name Was Abby".

Peter's writings tend to share a theme that focuses on PTSD and the different ways people cope with trauma, some healthy and others not. He also writes about redemption, and not being chained to your former self.

P.S. Martuneac is a Romanian name, and is pronounced "Mar-TOO-knee-ack", for all those wondering.
('About' info reprinted from

REVIEW - His Name Was Zach (Peter Martuneac)

His Name Was Zach"It might be just what your desiccated flesh is looking for."
RainHand Rating:
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(Review appearing for the first time on!)
‘His Name Was Zach’ looks, on the outside, to follow the now very overdone formula (overdone since long before things like ‘The Walking Dead’) of a standard dystopian zombie apocalypse. And yes, related tropes are present. But the reason something becomes a ‘trope’ to begin with is that the formula generally works, and such stories attract people who are not bothered by that expectation – that’s exactly the kind of story they’re looking for. To that end, if this is the kind of story you’re looking for, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

I will admit that this isn’t the most ideal setup for my interest in zombie stories, but that’s a personal matter. I prefer zombie movies to zombie TV shows, because to me it’s all about the shock of the undead hordes as they mow society down (movies don’t typically have the run time to go beyond that part of the story). This book is more like a zombie TV show, due to being set two years after the outbreak. Post-apocalyptic, as opposed to apocalyptic. His Name Was Zach is closer to TWD, or possibly The Last of Us, than it is to a Romero flick. I just wanted a few more scarifying zombie encounters and not as many scarifying people encounters (perhaps I, too, like my tropes).

There’s a lot to appreciate in this lengthy tale. Our two main characters, that we are introduced to immediately on the very first page, have a lot of time to grow as people and in their familial relationship to one another. We, in turn, are given ample reason to become involved in their story – to appreciate their challenges, their emotions, and generally root for them. What happens to them matters to us, and to me that’s a key tenant of good writing. Don’t just show me a bunch of characters, invest me in them. Make me care about them. I won’t give away the ending of course, but I will say that it’s worth the journey that takes you there, so stick with it. Points for all of the above, good show.

The longer a story is, the more difficulty arises from maintaining the audience’s attention, and I did run into a few instances where I felt mine wavering. There are a few scenes that appear to go on far longer than they need to in order to be effective (a certain game of Texas Hold ‘em comes to mind). Also, not being a firearms or military hobbyist/enthusiast, the excessive attention to detail on these things made the story feel a little more distant to me. It’s enough to tell me that the pants are camouflage, the knife is a combat knife, and the handgun is of the 9mm style. I really didn’t need the production years, manufacturer names, what that particular camo pattern is officially called, and so forth, although to someone specifically interested in these topics, such information might be desirable. Detail is good, but this sort of detail didn’t feel relevant to the story. As a writer I know firsthand that it’s hard to cut up your baby. But some scraps just have to end up on the cutting room floor, in order to fit the runtime.

Beyond the above and a few technical issues here and there (a bit heavy on ‘tell’ at some points and some instances of more than one character speaking in the same paragraph), there’s a worthwhile post-apocalyptic zombie tale here, with enough going on between characters and plotline events to keep you reading. If you’re daunted by the length, all I can say is just dive in to the pond and wait for that hook to dig into your desiccated, decaying flesh. It doesn’t take long!

About the Author: Husband, father of two, Boilermaker alum, and former United States Marine. Ever since reading The Lord of the Rings at a young age, Peter has wanted to be a writer. "His Name Was Zach" is his debut novel, followed by the short story prequel"Abby: Alone". A second novel is in the works, entitled "Her Name Was Abby".

Peter's writings tend to share a theme that focuses on PTSD and the different ways people cope with trauma, some healthy and others not. He also writes about redemption, and not being chained to your former self.

P.S. Martuneac is a Romanian name, and is pronounced "Mar-TOO-knee-ack", for all those wondering.
('About' info reprinted from

REVIEW - Child of Fire, Child of Ice: The Waljan Chronicles #1 (J.B. Trepagnier)

Child of Fire, Child of Ice"Creative premise, good story idea. Just needs stylistic/technical work."
RainHand Rating:
Find Child of Fire, Child of Ice on Amazon, and Goodreads!

(RainHand Books will be beginning its new review initiative soon - there has been some delay in the wake of the COVID-19 situation. For the time being, please enjoy a selection of my previously published reviews of books by self-published/independent authors, appearing for the first time on!)
Let me begin by saying that the premise of this book is a good one. There's nothing really new under the sun anymore in my opinion - it's just a matter of what unique spin we can put on the tried and the true. I felt that this tale was able to be different in a pleasing way, and the way that it seeks to mix the feel of sci-fi and fantasy together was successful. In that respect, I thought there was a solid story here with a lot of potential.

The trouble I had with this book appears to have already been mentioned in a number of comments so I feel as though I'm reiterating, but for the sake of a complete review I believe I ought to include it. In short, this book is in need of an editor's eye. I found it rather difficult to parse some of the text for the following reasons:

1) Run-on sentences.

2) A jumble of rapid-fire pronouns that make it difficult to determine which characters are being referred to.

3) Lots of 'names' all at once;.

4) Short, choppy sentences that would flow better if combined.

5) Large infodump sections that could stand to be broken up throughout the story so as not to appear pedantic.

6) Less "tell".

Note that some items on my list above seem contradictory - in some places I speak of excessively long sentences and too many pronouns, whilst in others, I talk about sentences that are too short, and too many names all at once. What I think this book needs is to strike a balance between the two in both cases. Merging of very short thoughts, setting of commas to or breaking up very long thoughts, and taking care to consider which characters of what genders are in each scene, so a mixture of names and specific pronouns can keep the reader dialed in to who is where, and saying what (this is especially important when all the characters being referred to are of the same gender, since the obvious assignment of 'he' and 'she' is lost). I think it would be of some benefit to trust the reader a bit more too, in terms of letting them form some mental images and come to some conclusions in their head. This can be a daunting task, but there's a definite balance between setting a scene for the play, and just acting it out one's self.

About the Author: JB Trepagnier is a huge liar. She first started lying as a child when someone asked who colored on the walls. She later went on to major in art, so they really should have framed it instead of sending her to the principals office so many times. When she was fourteen, she wrote a very large lie into several notebooks, which later became her first book, Midnight's Sonata. Rather than dabbling in politics and possibly ending up in jail for lying when it counts or under oath, JB chooses to craft elaborate lies into word documents and use them for entertainment rather than harm because she is really batman, just without all the money to fight crime ('About' info reprinted from