REVIEW - Whiplash: The Rust Chronicles #1 (Morgan Quaid)

Whiplash“CAUTION: SHARP. Handle With Care!”
RainHand Rating:
Find Whiplash on Amazon, and Goodreads!

(Review appearing for the first time on Rainhandbooks.com!)
Whiplash is a ‘sharp’ story—it goes right for the throat with neither apology nor restraint both in content and style. Short, piercing sentences, darker vocabulary choices, basic metaphors that don’t leave you much to ponder, and a narrative that dives right in from page one without any sort of lead-in. You’ll be introduced to young Jack at the outset, but you’d better make sure you strapped in before you cracked that cover, because you’re not going to see the “keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times” warning light come on again. That said, I can’t possibly have come up with a more appropriate title for this book!

At first glance you might be a bit off-put by the somewhat cliché idea of ‘young person suddenly thrust into a fantasy world’, but I ask you to stay your concerns and give this book a chance. To be honest I really don’t even like using the word ‘cliché’ when reviewing new content because, like most buzz words, it’s overused and has outstripped the original meaning; now often peeled from the backing paper and applied to any work that isn’t 15465887789.492% original. Folks, really…everything’s been done before. The thing to look for is innovative ways of mixing up existing ideas, and in that, Whiplash succeeds admirably. The use of dreamscapes, the sudden left turns that toss you across the deck when you think you’ve found your footing, and a good shuffle of character types keep this ball rolling, or dribbling…or hurtling through the air towards a barbed-wire fence at Mach 1.

As for criticisms, our hero, Jack, didn’t really pop for me overall. Call it a matter of personal preference, but I was sort of hoping he might grow past the snide commentary and saucy one-liners as the stakes rose. Perhaps that’s my own fault—expecting a young man who was never really intended to be a white knight to begin with to mount his horse at some point. Hopeless romance won’t help you much on this ride, I guess. Other than that I feel the author did not disappoint in the bold employment of first person/present tense, save for a few bits here and there where characters who are in the moment seem to know a bit more than they should for their perspective. In fairness, it’s a very bold way to construct a novel-length piece to begin with. Hats off.

Whiplash is a high-octane caffeine high, not a subtle journey through complex flavors. The latter may be golden for some, but I think we could all use a blast of the former from time to time. If that’s what you’re looking for in your next story, then by all means I recommend it, but it may not be to taste if you’re going in looking for a deep-developing, paced-out epic.

About the Author: Morgan Quaid is a writer of speculative fiction, specializing in comics, graphic novels, short stories and fast-paced, first person novels. Quaid’s writing tends to blend concision and fast-moving plots with epic sci-fi/fantasy themes, creating stories that often have more in common with film rather than traditional novels.
('About' info reprinted from amazon.com.)

REVIEW - Enoch's Thread (John Aubrey)

Enoch's Thread“A conspiring brew – you’ll try it, won’t you?"
RainHand Rating:
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(Review appearing for the first time on Rainhandbooks.com!)
I’ll admit up front that I’m usually not a huge fan of conspiracy stories (be they occult/religious or anything else). Still, I was intrigued enough by the premise to give this one a try, and it was worth the time. For one, I have to appreciate all the work that went into generating such a narrative. Despite the ‘work of fiction’ disclaimer at the outset, it’s clear to me that such a piece could not have been properly conceived without a lot of research on the author’s part, and it shows. The ‘threads’ of religious apocrypha, scientific theory, and climatological concerns spin together well; resulting in a colorful, clever tapestry revolving around characters complex enough for me to care about and become invested in. I’m not particularly knowledgeable of the subject matter aside from some past encounters/experience with the LDS church, but I didn’t have to be, and so I stuck around for the end. Yes, I know it’s only fiction…but it’s real enough to leave you wondering, and I can’t think of a more successful feeling to instill in a reader when they walk away from such a tale.

I can’t really find a whole lot of fault here. Some technical issues; minor enough to be beneath specific mention. The biggest one for me was the terseness of the prose, which occasionally left me feeling as though I was reading a report (I’m more of a flowery, literary fiction type). This in turn resulted in a bit of trouble keeping my focus, although relatively short chapters (and thus more opportunities to take a break) helped. There are a number of intimidating ‘text-walls’ throughout that might benefit from even a minor 6-point lead between paragraphs. I can’t really think it fair to make something like that a formal criticism however, since it’s no ‘error’ – just a reader’s preference.

I hesitate to bring up the Da Vinci Code as a reference point here since that’s sort of a least common denominator approach, but I really could see Enoch’s Thread held in a similar vein – perhaps even on the big screen, someday. In previous reviews I have often said something along the lines of ‘if this sort of thing is your cup of tea, go for it’. This time, however, I think it’s fair to recommend that folks try out a new flavor. Even if you don’t end up switching your daily brew over entirely, I think you’ll be pleased to make Enoch’s Thread your refreshing cup of exception.

Oh, and John Aubrey the writer, writing about John Aubrey the writer who is writing a book…well done. I can’t say it three times fast, but I can certainly read it through.

About the Author: Writing this book became part of a larger plan to use occult practice against disaster capitalists who endanger us all; because Art creates Life.
('About' info reprinted from amazon.com.)

REVIEW - Scribbles of the Mind (Elie Azar)

Scribbles of the Mind“When is a word worth a thousand pictures?"
RainHand Rating:
Find Scribbles of the Mind on Amazon, and Goodreads!

(Review appearing for the first time on Rainhandbooks.com!)
Scribbles of the Mind is not a linear narrative - it is, rather, a book of poetry, and given that it is my first opportunity to review a collection of verse since RainHand began, I was eager to get into it.

Each poem is presented with complimentary illustration in the form of simple, minimalist line drawings that mingle with or accentuate the text, helping to bring each short verse together. Also present (on their own pages, after the poem they relate to) are a number of color photographs; most of which provide a thoughtful visual aid for the reader to ruminate upon after experiencing the work in question. I found the simplistic format refreshing. A picture may indeed be worth a thousand words, but good words can stand on their own, and I feel that Scribbles of the Mind would have been done a disservice by adding too much distracting images. As it stands, I appreciate the emptiness – it’s just what my mind needs to clear up and think about what I’ve read.

Within these pages are a number of, to say the very least, heartfelt words, and I though I do not know the author personally, I feel that I have learned something intimate and touching about them through what they’ve allowed me to see. I felt generally uplifted by Elie Azar’s words on family, friends, love, and all the happiness and sorrows of life. Each of these poems is a small-relatable story, easily applied to daily living, and the entire book is, well…easy to just pick up and read, as opposed to a deeper narrative that requires a larger commitment. Need a daily affirmation? Pick this up off the shelf and peruse it with your morning beverage of choice!

It’s difficult to apply the technical criticisms of prose to a body of poetry, since, unless your plan is to stick to iambic petameter, there’s really no ‘wrong’ way to write a poem. Perhaps the author meant to convey a specific emotion. Perhaps to queue a certain school of thought. Perhaps neither. I can’t say for sure, and thus I can only gauge based on what I, in particular, got out of it. That said, I’ll point out that certain portions of Scribbles of the Mind were a tad confusing for me. Some of the images-for example, an image depicting a camera placed after a poem that had mostly to do with music-focused my thoughts on likely the wrong thing – I began to wonder what the significance of the camera is and how it relates to the piece (maybe I was supposed to think about that, but I doubt that was the intention). As I look back on it I consider that perhaps the camera had to do with ‘memories’, but that didn’t occur to me at the time, and as such the whole thing felt it a little jarring. Again, it was probably my own lack of understanding, so I can’t judge too harshly. Poetry is a lot like visual art in that way – we can compare a fresco of a beautiful sunset to other frescos of beautiful sunsets, and if the painter has declared a specific inspiration we can compare their work to that, but otherwise…who are we to judge, really?

The above said, I have pointed out in the past that the purpose of my reviews is not to simply bring glory (or infamy) to an author and their work. They’re intended to help readers find their next good read. And so, if you’re a fan of soft, simple, heartfelt verse, I think there’s something for you to enjoy here, and I suggest you give Scribbles of the Mind a try.

About the Author: I am 27 years old, born and raised in Lebanon, I currently work as a financial reporter and I am a licensed (non - active) CPA from the state board of accountancy of the state of New Hampshire. To me, writing is a safe space where I can freely express myself and let my emotions be. A place where I forget my own gender, age and race, a place where my heart is the only boss. Throughout the course of my life, writing has been my coping mechanism, writing about people and things that happened with me, and how I wish things could have been, gave me this sense of power and freedom. Every time I write, I feel like I broke the chains of my chaotic silence.
('About' info abridged from goodreads.com.)

REVIEW - The Curse of the Spider-Riders: A Magical Adventure (Michael Dane)

The Curse of the Spider-Riders: A Magical Adventure“Punch him in the throat!"
RainHand Rating:
Find The Curse of the Spider-Riders: A Magical Adventure on Amazon, and Goodreads!

(Review appearing for the first time on Rainhandbooks.com!)
Really, how can you argue with a book that starts with ‘punch him in the throat?’

Getting young folks to sit down with a good book these days can be somewhat more challenging than it was many moons ago. We all know the drill – technology, attention spans, whatnot. Grabbing the interest of your audience is more important now than ever. Maybe some throat-punching is exactly what’s needed, but there’s more to this tale than just the threat of bone-snapping and a few dog turds. (And that’s only page two!)

The Curse of the Spider-Riders does indeed have rideable spiders. And wasps. And beetles. And slugs. Not to mention faeries, talking rodents, talking squirrels, and some critters you may not have heard of before, like thistle-wraiths. We’ve got war, a very healthy dose of action to keep those pages turning, some thought-provoking moments, and a taste of mystery to keep curious minds trying to work out a thing or two as they read. (Sorry, can’t give that away!) All of it set against the backdrop of a refreshingly unique fantasy world. But as I’ve said, there’s more to your wild fantasy ride through bug-infested skies here. Our hero, an orphan boy who always wanted a family of his own, has some difficult choices to make, and he won’t be making them without an abundance of scary and heartfelt moments alike.

On the technical side, I was as happy as always to find a mid-grade book with chapter names. Frankly I think the practice of putting a mini-title to all those mini-tales that occur inside a larger work helps to excite any reader to read on (so long as they don’t give away too much, of course), but it’s that much more of a delight for younger audiences. The book is constructed well for a mid-grade piece, with short chapters, easy language, readable font, and good pacing. Personally I like seeing a table of contents so we can review all the delicious looking chapter headings, but the absence of one is certainly no deal-breaker.

As for issues, I did have a few grammatical ones here and there. The odd sentence that didn’t sound quite right, a few misspellings or omitted letters, such. But it wasn’t enough to detract from the work. There is some language present that while passable for YA, might be a tad strong for mid-grade (words like ‘murder’ and ‘slaughter’, references to blood, phrases like ‘shut up’, and so forth). Fair warning that parents might want to give this book a once-over before handing it down the chain to their kids.

This story is on the short side, and I think that’s good too. It reaches out with some action and doesn’t let go, but manages to hold you just long enough to appreciate its nuances. I would certainly recommend it even for the most finicky of young readers.

About the Author: Having served 15 years in the Australian Army, M. Dane turned to writing children's fantasy as a means of unwinding at the end of a difficult day. He quickly fell in love with the process, along with the magical world of Hemoertha and all of its inhabitants.

His journey began in 2017 when he published The Traitor in the Trees (MG fantasy). This was followed up with The Other Side of Blood (fantasy), and he is most excited about his recent release of The Curse of the Spider-riders (MG fantasy).
('About' info reprinted from goodreads.com.)

The Status of RainHand

Hello, readers!

I believe it appropriate that I should say something, since it has been quite some time since I made a post here. Well, I could provide you all with a laundry list of excuses, but I'm of the impression that everybody had a pretty rough 2020, and I'm sure we all have a few stories to share. In 2021 things have shaped up well for me, but there's been a lot of runaround, catching up with life, a few health issues, some family losses, the daily grind, and so forth. (It would seem I provided a list anyway...ah well.)

There are, of course, my own efforts with my latest manuscript to consider, and believe me when I say that I understand your grind, writers of the world! I have been on this opus journey longer than any other I have ever undertaken-more than three years-but the goal is finally in sight!

At any rate, I have not forgotten about this blog, and I would like to offer my apologies to those of you who have submitted your works to me and are still waiting for a review (some of you, I know, have been waiting far longer than merely the date of my last post). Rest assured, if you submitted anything to me before today, I HAVE read your book. As of today I'm caught up on every outstanding reading obligation - it's just a matter of organizing my thoughts to generate a worthwhile review. As a result, I will be making my next few review posts more rapidly in order to catch up, and see that everybody gets the time and attention they deserve for their work. I will also be getting in touch with each of you individually to let you know the status of your submission.

Thank you for your interest in RainHandBooks - I appreciate it, I really do, and I'm looking forward to getting back to the business of helping to recognize the talent of indie authors. The time to read is once again nigh, and I can't wait to go on some exciting new journeys with you all!

Don't be a stranger - emailed submissions and comments are always welcome at RainHand Books!

REVIEW - Proof: the Novel (Ted D. Berner)

Proof: the Novel“An intriguing read for those with a mind for theology."
RainHand Rating:
Find Proof: the Novel on Amazon, and Goodreads!

(Review appearing for the first time on Rainhandbooks.com!)
Would it be fair of me to compare this book to the Call of Cthulhu? Bear with me when I draw a comparison like that, for I mean it from the standpoint of the storytelling, not the content (although perhaps one could draw a fictional allegory between biblical titans and Lovecraftian horrors). It’s just how I felt going through it. Large portions of this book seem to favor tell over show, and serve as a complex treatise of the situation rather than a tale taking us through it. There's some fascinating content involving ancient, larger than life beings. At times, however, it all made me feel like somebody was trying to tell me a joke, but knew I wouldn’t understand the punchline without enough explanation to ruin the telling in the first place. If you’re interested in the subject matter from a theological standpoint, there’s definitely a lot to intrigue you here. If you’re just looking for an entertaining read, however, you might get lost in the conjecture. An interest in Christian mythology and/or some biblical training are a definite plus, as you’ll encounter a lot of related content in this book.

The book is well written and clearly has had the eye of a professional editor on it. In terms of structure you won’t be disappointed, as it is quite easy to follow. In terms of content, there’s a lot going on, and the author takes us through it well. We’ve got a deep plot involving WW2 personalities, visitations to many lands throughout the world, and an overarching global threat that surely keeps pages turning. It’s unlikely you’ll go through it without learning something about the topic, and the compulsion to look a few things up on your own is certainly present.

If I am to offer a technical criticism, I’ll say that the forward/acknowledgement/documentation sections of this book are a bit excessive, both at the beginning and the end of the story. There's a heartfelt dedication to friends and family, but after the preface we're presented with an additional 'acknowledgements' section that reads like an acceptance speech that’s gone on too long. At the end, our narrative text cuts off far more abruptly than even your average cliffhanger usually allows, and transitions into an author's notes page that presents a list of 'questions to be answered in the sequel'. (Same bat-time, same bat-channel I presume?) Opinions are just that, but personally I consider it questionable form to print promises in a book regarding a sequel, when as far as I know there currently is no sequel to read (the text says 'in progress'). A giveaway offer for a t-shirt was also mentioned, as well as a link to leave a review...these are all perhaps better presented on a website or social media platform. Not in the book itself.

Check the synopsis. If it’s your thing, it’s well written to the point that I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

About the Author: Ted Berner grew up in the Mountains of Montana where he and his wife currently live on a ranch with several four-legged furry friends. Besides raising horses and Bernese Mountain Dogs, Berner is also an airline pilot and spends a few hours each week traveling around the country at thirty-five thousand feet.

Ted started his writing career in 2010 when he became fascinated with a mysterious civilization that is only briefly mentioned in the Bible. The topic of the Nephilim, the giants from the Bible, is such an intriguing subject that Berner has been a guest speaker on several shows, including Caravan to Midnight with John B. Wells and Late Night in the Midlands with Michael Vara.
('About' info reprinted from goodreads.com.)

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:
Find Bad Company on Amazon, and Goodreads!

(Review appearing for the first time on Rainhandbooks.com!)
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 amazon.com.)