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.)

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:
Find The Last Fairy Door on Amazon, and Goodreads!

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

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:
Find Among Those You Know on Amazon, and Goodreads!

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