October 16, 2o17

Bring your colorful nail polish and your open mind to a delightful collection of human stories… oh, and bring a big box of tissues too, because you’re going to need them.

TITLE: Leaps of Faith

AUTHOR: A.M. Leibowitz

PUBLICATION TYPE: Self-published

LENGTH: 463 pages

GENRE: Contemporary Fiction/ Short Story Collection

RELEASE DATE: 7/12/2017

COVER EVALUATION: Nice and simple but speaks volumes about what lies within

AUTHOR BIO: (FROM AMAZON) A. M. Leibowitz is a queer spouse, parent, feminist, and book-lover falling somewhere on the Geek-Nerd Spectrum. They keep warm through the long, cold western New York winters by writing about life, relationships, hope, and happy-for-now endings. In between noveling and editing, they blog coffee-fueled, quirky commentary on faith, culture, writing, books, and their family.

BLURB: (FROM AMAZON) From Christmas to Easter and from childhood through the end of life, here are ten interconnected stories revolving around one couple and the people who love them. These are tales of friendship, family, sensuality, and all the intimate moments that make them who they are, together and apart. The stories, while standalone, also fill in the gaps before and around the events in the novels in the Passing on Faith series. Included: a youth embraces his identity; two women build a life together; a former rebellious teen finds her way; a pair of lovers explore each other’s minds and bodies; a man copes with loss and grief.

NO SPOILER REVIEW: I pride myself in being a reader who doesn’t cry over a story or its characters, no matter how tragic or inspirational the story might be, (perhaps I’m a bit cold in that regard) but this collection of short stories, Leaps of Faith,made me cry. Seriously, I bawled…tear-streaked face, sobbing, dirty tissue in hand, bawling, often alongside the characters. I feel I lived with them through triumphs, tragedies, new relationships, illness, the comforts of familiar, long-term lovers, the fear of the unknown, a bit of insanity, joy, and, more than anything, life itself. That strong sense of personal connection to the characters, at least for me, is one of the best parts of the collection.

Bonus: the fact that this collection was based on characters in a series I’ve not read didn’t present a problem, and that honestly shocked me as a reader. But now, I can’t wait to read the rest of the Passing on Faith series.

Speaking on faith. Yes, Faith, indeed, Christianity, is one of the overarching themes for this collection (along with LGBT acceptance and family) but it was neither shoved down my throat nor shown to be the only faith-path available, both of which I greatly appreciated.

One note on content: There is some mild erotic content in this collection, but I, as someone who doesn’t like erotica, wasn’t one bit put off. The scenes were brief, non-gratuitous, and delicately written. I had no problem with them whatsoever.

My review rating: Well, I don’t really do those anymore, but I can say with confidence that Leaps of Faith is well worth the modest price, but make certain you have those tissues available.

You’re going to need them.

August 10, 2017

Great concept, characters and world building, but where’s the actual story? Translucid fails to deliver what it promises.

This is a cross post from a review site I occasionally post on: Reviewing the Gaps.

TITLE: Translucid: A Galactic Empire Space Opera Series (Dragonfire Station Book 1)

Author:  Zen DiPietro

Publication Type: Small Press

Length: 275 pgs

Genre: Science Fiction/ Space Opera/ LGBT Content

Release: 9/13/2016

Cover Evaluation: If this is stock, I certainly can’t tell. It sparked my interest from the get-go.

Author Bio: (From Amazon) Zen DiPietro is a lifelong bookworm, dreamer, 3D maker, and writer. Perhaps most importantly, a Browncoat Trekkie Whovian. Also red-haired, left-handed, and a vegetarian geek.

Blurb: (From Amazon)

“Fallon has a job to do, but she’s forgotten what it is.

Not forgotten, exactly. More like it’s been ripped out of her brain.

She can get through her daily life just fine, but there are things about her that don’t add up against what her service record says. Or what people tell her about herself.

Whatever it is she’s forgotten…it’s bigger than anyone can imagine.

Emé Fallon is a PAC officer and the security chief of Dragonfire Station–and she does a damn good job of it. That’s where her competence ends. Outside of work, she has a wife she doesn’t know, a captain who seems to hate her, and a lot of questions that don’t add up.

When she begins to discover that she has skills she shouldn’t, she starts to understand what she’s capable of.

While she’s fighting for herself, she’ll realize that she and the galaxy have the same problem–and she’ll need to fight for them both.

One person can change a galactic empire, once she knows who she is. Will she end the PAC–or save it?”

Review: Great concept, characters and world building, but where’s the actual story?

I was quickly and completely absorbed into the world of Eme’ Fallon, her situation, and Dragonfire Station in general. It’s an interesting place. A bit of mystery, (okay, a lot) tons of unique alien culture, and a hint of romance… but that’s where the fun stopped. Really, as a reader, I was thoroughly disappointed with how it “ended.” (quotes used here because there wasn’t any real ending at all) The set up was there, I was in…then it… I felt like I hit a brick wall. There was such a great build but one without any climax or resolution. It was like watching a cliff-hanger episode of your favorite television show… however, this wasn’t a one-hour episode, but rather, a full-length novel. I was disappointed to say the least. I expected some sense of ending, some conclusion.

IMO, novels should follow some sort of plot arc, give readers a sense of closure, and not drop the reader off a cliff—no matter how well written the path to that cliff might be.

Simply put, this wasn’t a full story but a lead in… a hook so you’ll pay for the next installment.

I walked away so unfulfilled and frustrated as a reader, I am now pondering whether I’ll read the other books in the trilogy—even though I foolishly purchased them as a set based solely on someone’s recommendation.

July 5, 2017


 What are we without our dreams? How do our dreams define us? Atmosphere: We don’t Orbit but Fall all the Same, addresses these issues on a galactic scale.

This is a cross post from a review site I occasionally post on: Reviewing the Gaps.

Title: Atmosphere: We don’t Orbit but Fall all the Same/ Author: Garth Buns/  Publication Type: Self-Published/ Length: 280 pgs/ Genre: Science-Fiction/ Release Date: April 2016

Cover Evaluation: eye-catching and great use of color

Author Bio: Tennessee born. Ran away to Quito, Santa Cruz, New College and Oaxaca. Lives happily with his wife and son in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Book Blurb: (Taken from Amazon)

“Atmosphere: We Don’t Orbit but Fall the Same is a struggle for survival between two alien species that hinges on an unlikely collaboration. *** Kora Green learned to talk in her sleep. In fact, everything she has ever been taught occurred while sleeping. She has lived so robustly while unconscious that she cannot ever remember being awake. Her community tells her that she has everything she needs, but then she feels sunlight on her skin and remembers, for the first time, the sensation of cool water between her toes. Kora soon learns that it is forbidden to discuss what happens in the wake-state. But when a spacecraft from another solar system arrives, the heretic Kora may hold the key to her species’ survival. *** Dr. Phlox Swenno was raised in the tree tops, and his people believe that emotions are a sign of weakness. His primate-like species trusts violence and science, but the doctor is trying to outrun an unspoken shame, and he is ill-equipped for life aboard a deep-space freighter. The planet they begin to orbit incubates new diseases and unforeseen dangers, and the doctor may be the only one who can read the clues. *** Atmosphere, at its deepest level, becomes an allegory regarding the importance of memory, dreams, and forgiveness.”

Review: What are we without our dreams? How do our dreams define us? Atmosphere: We don’t Orbit but Fall all the Same, addresses these issues on a galactic scale. In this novel, there’s no humanity to be found, but humanity’s faults and struggles abound in alien form. Atmosphere is a Sociological Sci-Fi lover’s dream, pun perhaps intended. The world-building is rich, and the protagonist, Phlox Sweeno, is as brave as he is often confused by his own dreams. Again, dreams. Phlox’s species is not only scared of them, but they’re a social taboo derived from past enslavement by another species. A series of catastrophic events forces Phlox to face his dreams during space flight and everything old and new that comes with them. The complexity and weaving of worlds versus dreams versus the struggle to survive made for worthwhile reading, but the story isn’t without its faults.

The story dragged early and was often difficult to follow. Two worlds were being presented at once, which isn’t a problem for this reviewer as long as there are proper transitions for reader understanding– there sometimes were not. Phlox Sweeno and his story were presented in a linear fashion while the other protagonist, Kora Green’s, tale read like a Greek tragedy, complete with a chorus. This proved distracting, and at times, frustrating. The verb tense often shifted between scenes without discernible breaks and the story was further complicated by Phlox’s sudden present-tense dreams. The novel was also plagued with anachronisms that didn’t fit the world the author created. Word choices such as Braille, human error, toothpaste, and sitting ducks threw this reviewer out of the story, and each time it proved more difficult to return. I did return, however, and was rewarded with a well thought out and intense ending worth the wade to reach.