Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: Crossings by Ashley Capes

crossingsCrossings by Ashley Capes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

This is the second book I have read by Ashley Capes (the first was The Fairy Wren, which I gave 5 stars), and it was every bit as fantastic. Capes’s books straddle the line between genres – they are a unique blend of supernatural and thriller, with a dash of crime mystery. Point blank: readers who enjoy any one of those genres should be reading Ashley’s books.

Crossings follows Lisa, a volunteer wildlife ranger, as she investigates a local farmer’s claim that he saw a giant white kangaroo. As the novel unfolds, the mystery of the white roo grows increasingly more complex and is complicated by other troubling occurrences in Lisa’s life. Mainly, her abusive ex-boyfriend comes back into town, right about the same time as mutilated animal corpses begin showing up outside her house. Lisa must get to the bottom of these brutalities as well as the mystery of the white roo, all while dealing with the declining health of her elderly father.

As I raved in my other book review, Capes has a phenomenal ability to craft realistic, flawed characters. Lisa is not perfect – she sometimes lets her emotions get the best of her, but she has strong redeeming qualities (such as her compassion for animals), too. Likewise, the side characters are well-developed and complex, and they have established, significant relationships with Lisa and each other. One of my favorite qualities in a novel is when characters feel like real people, flaws and all, and Ashley Capes delivers.

I cannot say much more about the plot without revealing spoilers. However, for those plot-oriented readers, I will say this. The plot contains a few twists and turns – nothing comes out of no where, but the journey is still fun and you will be guessing several times. While the ending is satisfying, it does leave some questions unanswered. For me, this isn’t a bad thing, and I’m happy to come to my own conclusions. However, I imagine some readers will find this frustrating and feel a small lack of closure.

Overall, Crossings is a gripping cross-genre novel with the perfect blend of supernatural elements and thriller style. Once again, Capes has crafted realistic, flawed characters that lead the reader through a story with just the right amount of twists and turns. If you love supernatural, thriller, crime, or mystery and you haven’t read Capes’s work yet, you’re missing out.

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crossingsIf you are interested in reading Crossings and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it through my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: Unknown Sender by Ryan Lanz

unknown senderUnknown Sender by Ryan Lanz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this short story in exchange for an honest review.

Unknown Sender by Ryan Lanz is a horror/suspense short story in which Jessica, a college student, begins receiving threatening text messages from a blocked number. The story only takes around half an hour or 45 minutes to read, making it a fast-paced thrill.

Given that the story is short and relies on a few twists, there is not much I can say about the plot without revealing spoilers. However, I will say that it was quick-paced, suspenseful, and kept me hooked all the way through. While I do feel a college student and university setting is a bit overdone in horror and suspense novels (and movies especially), the twist at the end provides a refreshing spin and saves the story from becoming too cliché. My one criticism of the story is that I feel it would benefit from being a bit longer, not only for my own enjoyment, but for there to have been more development leading up to the end, as the conclusion felt a bit rushed.

The writing is strong and concise. Likewise, Lanz’s characters are well-developed, especially considering how little space he gives himself to craft them. The characters play well with each other – the relationships are multi-faceted and believable.

Overall, Unknown Sender by Ryan Lanz is an enjoyable and quick horror/suspense short story that will keep fans of the genre captivated until the end…and wishing the end didn’t come quite so soon.

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unknown senderIf you are interested in reading Unknown Sender and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it through my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: The Fairy Wren by Ashley Capes

the fairy wrenThe Fairy Wren by Ashley Capes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

The Fairy Wren by Ashley Capes is a fantasy novel. It follows Paul Fischer during one of the worst times of his life. Paul is separated from his wife, about to lose his bookstore, nagged by a shady friend, and dealing with an Italian runaway. On top of all of that, he receives a mysterious phone call that makes him concerned for his ex-wife and seems to be stalked by a fairy wren, who appears to be more than just a normal bird.

Paul is the working person’s hero. While he is not in a blue collar field, he has that “real” person charm, which is most strongly reflected in his fights (both literal and figurative) with the rich real estate tycoons. Paul is a complex, imperfect character, and I mean “imperfect” in the best way. He is flawed, and he recognizes it. He reacts poorly under stress, and he quickly becomes the underdog that the reader cannot help but root for.

There are a lot of secondary characters in The Fairy Wren, and Capes does a fantastic job of balancing them. Each character feels fleshed out, even the ones we do not see often, and fits firmly in his/her place in the community. Likewise, the relationships between Paul and the supporting characters feel organic and filled with history. This chemistry makes the story that much more compelling.

As far as the plot goes, there is a lot going on in The Fairy Wren. Paul’s life is falling apart, piece by piece, and he is juggling conflict from all angles. However, Capes masterfully leads the reader down each path and manages to interweave them in a way that is simultaneously creative, sensible, and satisfying. There is rarely a dull moment in the novel, and with the wide variety of Paul’s problems, there is something that will interest nearly every reader in this novel.

That being said, my one critique of The Fairy Wren is that I think the author’s classification of it as a fantasy novel isn’t entirely accurate. There are fantasy elements, most notably at the end, but the rest of the novel reads much more like literary fiction, or perhaps light magical realism. Likewise, there is a thriller element to the novel, especially with the plots around Paul’s friend and Paul’s ex-wife. This was a pleasant and captivating surprise, and I think advertising the thriller edge might attract even more readers.

Overall, The Fairy Wren is a compelling and complex novel. It grapples with serious themes—everything from life, death, and love to financial problems, psychological imbalance, and criminal activity. The novel is captivating and will pull readers through to the end quickly. With the diverse plot points, there is something for everyone (specifically readers of fantasy, literary fiction, magical realism, and thrillers) in The Fairy Wren.

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the fairy wrenIf you are interested in reading The Fairy Wren and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it through my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.