Friday, April 24, 2015

Through Fire & Sea - Nicole Luiken

A fast-paced and thrilling tale of otherworlds and otherselves brought to a war with each other by the evil Qeturah rated at FIVE STARS.

“Why don’t I give you my cell phone number? Or you could give me yours.” Then she could text him and—He stared at the red bricks. “I don’t have a cell phone. Or a Blackberry or any other type of fruit.”

Schwartz Synopsis

This novel follows a young 17-year-old Leah. The illegitimate daughter of a duke with a plot for power. She has been living in secret, away from her father under her mother’s protective care. However, her protection is shattered when the duke plots include Leah. She must take her half-sister’s place and follow Qeturah to her tower, where she must spy on the duchess to gain insight into the dragon attacks. Failure is not an option.
Leah soon discovers Qeturah has insight into mirror magic and teaches Leah the basics. There are otherworlds, otherselves. A completely new life behind each mirror. Leah unwittingly helps Qeturah gain access to water world and vows vengeance. She must learn quickly, and act surely to save her otherselve’s worlds before it is too late. However, Holly, her water world otherself has other plans. Can they work together for the life of Holly’s world? Or will Qeturah succeed in wreaking havoc on both worlds?

Ryan hadn’t had anything to do with her sleepwalking episode. Was she going crazy, after all? The only other explanation was even nastier: that when she’d looked into her reflection, someone else had taken over her body.

Schwartz Thoughts

I found that the beginning of this novel was quite confusing and somewhat hard to follow. However, as a reader, I was intrigued from the beginning. From the beginning, I also felt a connection to the main character Leah. When she was wronged, I felt bad for her. I wanted things to work out for her since I met her, which, knowing novels as I do should have had me expecting a roller coaster ride of emotions with Leah’s trials. This book provided such a ride. This book played heavily on my emotions. It nearly brought me to tears but also had me laughing at other parts. I was glued to the edge of my seat as I rapidly flipped through the pages.
The characters were extremely well developed, which is something quite fantastic given the nature of this book. Leah’s character grew exponentially within the novel. I also found it interesting that even though the book had pairs of characters (otherselves); each pair differed greatly from one another. That to me was exceptional writing.
This book is the first in a series, I am assuming anyway, but works just as well as a single. However, I would definitely be interested in reading deeper into Leah’s story. This book was just that well written.

Reading the threat behind his words—if she wasn’t a good spy, her mother would suffer—Leah shivered.


I would highly recommend this book to fantasy readers, young adult readers, and adventure readers who enjoy faster-paced novels with romance sprinkled in. This is worth the read!

(Review Written by Kristine Schwartz)

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★★★Weekend Giveaway★★★

I want to thank all of my readers by giving away an Amazon Gift Card! Let me know in the comments what else you would like to see as giveaways!

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

All the Lonely People - Patrick Roesle

A slower paced TWO STAR read from the Schwartz Reviews.

Schwartz Synopsis

All the Lonely People is about the internet, and the people that may be using it. Mary is in her late twenties and begins hanging out in AOL chat rooms. She is bored with her life, or lack thereof, after a recent break-up. After beginning her chat sessions on AOL, she meets Una1133 online and begins to enjoy the budding relationship and cannot get enough of Una. Mary wishes to take their relationship to the next level but does Una understand what Mary is looking for? 

Benjamin never could figure out the social aspects of life. He stuck with industrial, mechanical, and civil engineering, or advanced mathematics. Those are the topics that he understands and can relate to. After taking his retirement leave, Benjamin finds himself perplexed about social and verbal communication and his desire to understand.

She felt like she was in some Disney World attraction stacked with animatronic pseudo-people with jerky limbs and clacking mechanical jaws, all spouting grainy recorded claptrap about buying shoes.

Schwartz Thoughts

I really struggled with not putting this book down. Although the story was somewhat intriguing, I found it overwhelming with non-essential detail. Mary's character was well developed, however, the author made her life seem incredibly boring which makes this a difficult and very slow read. Benjamin's character overwhelms the reader with his intense academic knowledge, which leaves the reader confused and unable to follow completely. With the novel being mostly about this chat room, there was a lack of developing of the settings in which the characters roamed. 

This wasn't just an extreme measure. It was idioti. It was insane. But Mary saw no alternative.


If you have a wide vocabulary and patience for a slower paced novel, then this book may be for you.

(Review Written by Sister Schwartz)

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Highland Wolf Clan: The Reluctant Alpha (Book One) - A. K. Michaels

The Schwartz Reviews rated this fast paced, action packed, slightly romantic, supernatural novel at FOUR STARS.

Schwartz Synopsis

Cameron Sinclair is a savvy businessman worth billions, with his own private jet, and corporations to run. Nevertheless, he can’t hide from his past, or his inner beast. When problems arise with his uncle’s clan, Cam quickly drops everything and flies to America to investigate the issues. With his best friend, Jinx, at his side, and a few close friends from Scotland joining his pack, the wolves begin their hunt. With his uncle’s pack in danger, and an enemy far more disturbing than originally believed, will Cam and his pack be able to hunt the threat before it is too late? Can they save the pack from a tyrant and protect their loved ones in this race against evil?

Cam had pondered his mother’s words all the way here and this was the only solution he could come up with. There was no way in hell he was going to be Alpha. Not a chance!

Schwartz Thoughts

I am just going to come out and say it. I loved this book. Right from the beginning, it had my attention. Then, once my attention was taken, it was kept by the fast-paced and thrilling read. It just moves quickly through the confrontations but keeps surprising you along the way. It will play with your emotions fully.
I loved Cam, his character and take charge attitude. His passion for the pack life rooted inside him, ensuring that his pack, and friends, remain safe. He did, however, have me angry at times. You know, when he refused to listen to me… I tried to tell him to smarten up, but he did his own thing and, ugh! He did make up for it though, eventually. I was just so taken with him that I really cared how things were going to play out for him. That to me speaks volumes for this book.
I also really enjoyed the romance that was trickled in. I am not a huge fan of just romance novels, but I love a good story with touches of romance. This book was excellent in that department.
There were some typos and punctuation errors within the pages. However, do not let that ruin a great read for you. The ending leaves you with a bit of a hook, but book two is already available so there is still hope yet. The style of writing was awesome, had me racing through the novel in a day.

His midnight black fur rippled as he shook his body, getting a feel for his Wolf once again. A feeling of joy encompassed him as he embraced his beast and he wondered why he ever tried to contain it. This was what he was, a great beast full of raw power and strength. A Wolf, an Alpha!


I have always been a vampire lover, but this novel made me a wolf lover as well. So if you are into either of those topics, pick this book up. It is a great supernatural read, fast paced, and just an overall great book. 

(Review Written by Kristine Schwartz)

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

The "I would have done it differently" moment

Any reader knows what I am talking about when they read that title. We have all had the “I would have done it differently” moment when reading a good book. It is not necessarily a bad thing either, it is just a feeling the reader will most likely have at some point through a read.

Awe, Jane! Do not do THAT! You should have done THIS instead.

So you are reading a long and thoroughly enjoying the book when all of a sudden, WHAM! Something goes not to your specific plan for the book. Do not lie; you know you have had it happen. Again, I say, this is not a negative aspect for any book (and in my reviews, it is never mentioned, due to possible spoilers). Jane does THAT instead of THIS and you sit there scolding Jane for her choice. I mean, come on! Jane, why are you doing that to us?

Jane! What are you doing? Do not do THAT! You need to do THIS instead!

Nevertheless, Jane does not listen to our plans and continues doing THAT instead. Ugh! *Shakes head*

Jane, why do you have to do this to me? Stop THAT! No? You’re just going to continue to do THAT when THIS is what I would rather read you do. Fine Jane, be that way!

We keep reading anyway and eventually we have the “Oh! I see” moment and understand Jane’s reasoning. Still, we may not agree with our beloved Jane, but we can understand her motives at least. Jane is ultimately going to do what Jane wants to do (or rather, what the author wants her to do). That is fine, I get it. The story usually ends up working just fine THAT way too.

Why this is good for the reader

This is awesome for every reader. Why? Isn’t it obvious? It gets our brains working overtime as we now envision the whole scene going THIS way instead of THAT way. Our imagination takes the story somewhere completely different for the time being and then brings us back to THAT and we again get to envision the whole story THAT way as well. Isn’t reading grand? I absolutely love the “I would have done it differently” moments because I feel that it adds so much more to the story than what was originally planned out by the author. These moments are generally extremely difficult for an author to plan, but when one appears, you have to give the author props for getting us readers thinking more deeply about their work.

Reader input

I am not the only one with these moments, am I? Come on, let me hear it! Tell me why you love, or possible hate, these “I would have done it differently” moments! Don’t leave a girl hanging! Hello? Hello? Oh dear, I’m alone aren’t I? 

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Unending - A Sands

A completely new fantasy, with all new beings and dangers, rated at FOUR STARS by the Schwartz Reviews.

Schwartz Synopsis

Herendak has a past of mistakes to make up for. He, being an immortal Geomancer, has been plotting the restoration of the world for a long, long time. Finally, with the help from a mortal, Meryn, he has a child who is the key to everything. However, he will not go unchallenged, as the only other Geomancer will plot, plan, and control the human race to prevent Herendak’s plans from succeeding, all with an agenda of his own. A battle of the immortals that touch all around them, who will win? And at what cost?

“But who is she, Drael? Do you know who she is? Will you tell me?” This close, Brogan’s voice was strangely soothing. There was a delay before Drael replied. His voice was smaller, like she was drifting away. “She’s the queen’s little sister,” he said. “This, Brogan my friend, is Princess Meryn.”

Schwartz Thoughts

It is no secret that I thoroughly enjoy fantasy writing. Where anything goes, and the sky is the limit. The author, A Sands, was very imaginative in creating an entire new world, with completely new rules, and filled it full crazy new beings. With a beginning that will pull you in, making you want to learn more about what the world is all about, the problems that caused Herendak to act, it makes the reader very interested to read on.
I found that the pace of the story was a little slower for my liking. In the beginning, I was confused, with what was happening, the terms used, the scenes being described. As I continued my read however, it became less confusing and more interesting. There were several moments that I was shocked to read, several ‘I didn’t see that coming’ moments. Sometimes I felt as though the writing style was short, concise, and to the point. As if, words themselves were limited.
I found that the story was quite the unique read. I also felt as though there could have been more description (yea, I said it). It was not easy to predict what was happening, it was shocking and had me gasping in surprise, and it kept me guessing until the very end. Overall, it was a good read.

And so it was Rilenheim who had given Herendak the idea. A child. What if he – a Geomancer – could have a child? A vessel through time, a way to survive it. For all of them.


I would recommend this novel to the fantasy readers who enjoy slower paced unique novels. It was quite interesting, and worth the read.

(Review written by Kristine Schwartz)

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Vampire Affliction: The Vampires of Athens, Book TWO

Vampires, Demigods, and Gods--Oh, My!

It's time to reveal the cover for the second book in Amazon bestselling author Eva Pohler's The Vampires of Athens series.


Gertie has become friends, and has possibly fallen in love, with both a demigod and a vampire, who happen to be at war. Although she sympathizes with the vampire uprising, she distrusts the leaders, especially when they plan to kill humans to cull out the demigods before ambushing them. As the three unlikely friends discover that neither side is perfectly good or evil or right or wrong, they work together to try to bring about the best outcome; but, when their parents and the gods undermine their efforts and hang them out to dry, the three teens realize they're on their own and no one will save them.

To celebrate the reveal of Vampire Affliction: The Vampires of Athens, Book, Two, we are giving away a $50 Amazon gift card! You can enter the Rafflecopter widget below each day through April 21st, which is PARTY DAY!

If you haven't already joined the party, you can do so here!

We are also celebrating by running a special on the first book in the series. For a limited time, you can purchase the first book, Vampire Addiction, for 0.99 cents! Go here for purchase links, or click on the image below to go directly to Amazon.

Vampire Addiction Ebook Final

Here is a list of places participating in this reveal. Go check them out!

Charles' Book Nook
Lisa's Book Lair
The Power of Three Readers
Wicked Women Book Blog
Dowie's Place
Pure Jonel
tanyas book nook
Escaping Life's Craziness With Books
Word Wenches Guilty Pleasure
Tia Bach, Author
Rose Garcia
Dina Given, Author
Devouring Books
The Crazy Booksellers
Blame It On The Books
Book Crazy Gals
Steph's Reads & Reviews
Author Erin Danzer
Jeanine Walsh Palinkas
Kristi's Bookreadery
The Paranormal Bookworm
Sarah Darlington-Jones
A Thousand Worlds Book Blog
The Paisley Reader
The Schwartz Reviews
Beth Pabalan Leneberg
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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Silent - Kris Radcliffe

This is an extremely fast paced, short read, keep you at the edge of your seat the entire time, tale of Gavin, and is rated at FIVE STARS by the Schwartz Reviews.

The weirdness of the man’s face had to be a trick of the light. No one’s eyes glinted red. And no one’s teeth gleamed. No one smelled like a chemical spill and still danced around like a king’s jester. No one real.

Schwartz Synopsis

This story takes you back to when Rysa is kidnapped, but this time, you are reading from Gavin’s point of view. Now you get to see just how Gavin meets Daisy, and the terror that they encounter together as Shifter’s demand answers from Daisy. Gavin, with Dimitri and Ivan’s help, runs in to try and give any support he can to the woman who he owes his life to. How will they survive their encounter with a very dangerous, semi-crazy, raging Shifter? This is the beginning of their story, and probably the most important piece of their puzzle. Do not miss this fantastic beginning filled with terror, questions, and answers.

A threatened life, he had. Hackers out for his blood? He had that, too. But why did they care about him?
Clarity, though, he did not have.
Maybe this Daisy knew. How hard could it be to find a flower?

Schwartz Thoughts

I found the read extremely interesting to be with Gavin while Rysa was being kidnapped. Watching him, hearing his thoughts, while his best friend was taken was an all-new experience for the reader. While this short read was jammed packed with action, there were moments that it had me giggling to myself (thankfully I read without an audience ;). It had me guessing at times as well, wondering what was going on??? It is no secret that I adore Kris Radcliffe’s writing, but I do honestly review her work unbiased. Her writing is well thought up, nothing is added in ‘willy-nilly spur of the moment because I need it’ because I am positive she has storylines prepared. You can feel the amount of work that has gone into these books. The characters are well developed and even though you spend time in each of their heads, they all sound different from one another. The scenes are described perfectly, not overly so but enough that the reader can get the idea of what is around them.
Another thing I enjoy about these novels is the amount of work behind these words. There are no errors, and the story is unique. I have read nothing prior to these works about the types of supernaturals within these pages. And even if they are in other books, hers are done so differently that they really are on a different level. Overall, great book and again, I look forward to reading anything by this author in the future. She is one to keep your eye on.

It all seemed… surreal. In his head, little voices argued: Go through the door. Don’t go through the door. A Fate chose you. A Fate’s using you. Be a man. Be a wuss. Maybe you’re enthralled.
Maybe you’re a normal guy in over your head.
Gavin groaned.
Another little voice piped up: Oh, yeah, motherfuckers? Challenge accepted.


I would recommend these books to anyone who loves fast-paced science fiction. I would recommend the series to anyone who enjoys sci-fi spiced with soft romance. But honestly, I would recommend these novels to anyone, anywhere. Honestly, happy reading!

(Review written by Kristine Schwartz)

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Fiction Book Shout Outs

As you all know, I'm really into this whole blog thing as a way to help as many authors as possible. It also helps that I really enjoy reading, it is one of my biggest passions in life. Over the past week I have added several social media sites to my blog. I am now on Twitter and Instagram. I have been on Facebook for awhile now also. Well I've decided to branch out in a different way today.

I have decided to create a group on Facebook because pretty much anyone who is anyone is on Facebook. So enter the "Fiction Book Shout Outs" group. It is my hope that this group will take off and run to space! OK maybe not to space, but I'm hoping to gather a good growing member base that will allow authors, readers, and bloggers connect with one another to share what they know. Whether it be book sales, cover reveals, tours, interviews, etc. As long as it is fiction book related than it belongs in this group! So head on over, everyone is welcome, read the group description and jump right in :)

The Link:

Group Entrance

(Photos in this post and in the group were provided by Kris Radcliffe)
Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Sisters: A Tale of Good and Evil - Don Sloan

This Mystery/Horror novel that keeps you guessing receives THREE STARS from The Schwartz Reviews.

Schwartz Synopsis

Nathan a CPA for a respected large firm, decides to take a much needed vacation at his family's old beachfront property on Cape May's Boulevard. Nathan thinks he's alone in the middle of winter but soon finds himself surprised. Sarah is a petite young woman thinking just the same. Together they find themselves still not alone, now frightened and scared they begin their journey solving a hundred year old mystery with heart wrenching horror at every corner. With mansions whispering secrets and a dangerous shadow lurking along the wintery boulevard, Nathan and Sarah are horrified with what they learn.

“'I hear that most women never met a dark chocolate they didn’t like. Is that true?’ ‘You’ve been watching too much Oprah. We also like regular chocolate.’ This time Nathan laughed.”

Schwartz Thoughts

I absolutely loved the main characters Nathan, Sarah and their suspenseful journey. Definitely unique story lines that I have not come across throughout my many reads. Although some of the character changes and time lines were rough going at first, it all merged and made sense by the end of the read. The lack of quotations for one character was a challenge to understand. However Don Sloan brings it together nicely.
This was not my typical read however, I did enjoy this book.

“'It looks like the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz,’ said Sarah.
‘Well, Oz it may be, but beware of Munchkins and Tin Men, is all I’ve got to say,’ replied Nathan.
‘Pooh, you’re no fun,’ she said.”


I recommend this read for your mystery/horror lover who enjoy suspenseful mysteries of good and evil.

(Review written by Sister Schwartz)

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Why a Three Star Review Could Mean a Great Read

As a book blogging reviewer I often get some questions about why I have reviewed a novel at THREE STARS and yet raved about the great read. It is quite simple really. I use my own personal rubric for rating each book that comes to me (I also have any of the reviewers working under me use this same rubric). Let me explain this rubric now.

How I Give Out Stars

The Unique Star - I have read a lot of books. So have the reviewers that work with me. Yet one thing remains the same, we all enjoy a good unique read. That is why the first star I will give a book goes to a unique read. If we read something that is unique or unlike anything we have read before, then this star is earned. However, if you have just rewrote a novel that is too similar to a previous read, this star blacks out and it will not be given out. After all, no one wants to read another Hunger Games no matter how much they enjoyed that novel. So unique books will earn at least one star from The Schwartz Reviews.

The Perfection Star – One of my greatest pet peeves as a reader are the mistakes found within the pages of a novel. It irks me all to hell to see an unpolished version of your novel for review. If you didn’t take the time or energy or whatever to ensure that your novel is reader ready then you will not earn this star. I may let a mistake or two slip by, but any more than that and I will make a note of it and dock you this star. However, you are guaranteed this star if you send your novel in for an edit/proof reading.

The Rating Stars – The last three stars are based on how well I (or any reviewers I work with) enjoy the novel. While reading the book we will take notes all the way through, some are used to show quotes to use, but the majority show how we felt during certain parts of the novel (what we enjoyed, what we disliked, emotions, etc.). This is where the real rating comes into play in regards to the entertainment level of the novel.
·         0 Stars – The book was not enjoyable at all.
·         1 Star – The book was OK I guess
·         2 Stars – The book was a good read
·         3 Stars – The book was a GREAT read

Why You Should Read the Whole Review

Now that we all know how I rate the novels that I read, let’s get to the important part of this post. I know that several people just look at the stars and then move on, but there are some important things in the review that you may not want to miss. For instance, by reading the review I write, you will know exactly what stars the book earned. Which means, you will be better informed in order to make a decision about whether or not you would like to purchase the novel I reviewed.

I make it quite clear in each review where the stars came from, as long as you know how I review that is. I make it a point to say:
“This was quite the unique read…”
“I found a few errors within the pages…”
Just by those two statements, you now know that the book earned The Unique Star and that it did not earn The Perfection Star. Therefore, if that review states that the book was rated at FOUR STARS, you now know that it earned 3 out of 3 of The Rating Stars. Which means? I thought that it was a GREAT read!

However, if you did not read the whole review, you would be left in the dark as to why the novel is rated the way that it is. Which is silly when I shout it out loud just by the way I do my ratings J

Why You Shouldn’t Count a THREE STAR Review Out

Let’s say that I reviewed a novel that did not earn The Unique Star or The Perfection Star but that I found was still an amazing edge-of-your-seat thrilling page turner of a read so it earned 3 out of 3 of The Rating Stars. You wouldn’t understand the awesomeness of this novel if you didn’t read the review to find where it earned its stars. Which means, you may count the novel out when really, it should be added to the top of your TBR list! Tsk Tsk! Don’t miss out on the amazing reads that I find!

More About My Reviews

OK. So now we know where the stars come from and that they aren’t just given out randomly and that there is a system behind every star. Check. What about the rest of my review? If you follow this blog (firstly, huge shout out to you and you have my thanks) then you have noticed some changes over the past month while I iron out some rough edges. I’m quite happy with the new format that I use. What does THAT mean? It means that every review written follows a systematic approach to allow for easy information for the readers. Here is how it all works:
The Rating – First things first, I will write a short sentence or two describing the overall feeling of the read along with the star rating.
Schwartz Synopsis – Here I thought I would briefly describe the novel in my own words. I mean anyone can copy the author’s synopsis from the back of a book or the synopsis on any buy page or goodreads. So just to be different, here at The Schwartz Reviews, we make our own (without spoilers).
Schwartz Thoughts – This is the important section. This is where you will find out what stars were earned throughout the book. You will find any pros and cons about the read. Plus, you will be informed of any personal thoughts that I (or my reviewers) had during the read. Were there errors? Was it unique? What were our emotions? Were the characters developed well? Was it realistic? All that and more in this section.
The Recommendation – Here is where we generalize who would enjoy this book. Maybe paranormal lovers? Pirate readers? Historic fans? This is always at the bottom of the review.
The Reviewer – Who wrote the review? This will always be stated in brackets at the bottom. I, Kristine Schwartz, the creator of this blog will personally go over every review to perfect it as well as post it. So rest assured, I am the only poster to the page. I do, however, enlist various family members to help me do some reading. After all, I almost always have well over 300 emails in my account at any given time and want to ensure I help as many authors as possible.
Buy Links – This is where I make it super easy for you to find the reviewed book. I place buy links for amazon, kindle, kobo, and/or nook where available.

The End

And that right there folks, is everything you need to know about how I do my reviews, and why it is important to read the whole review before deciding on whether the novel is for you or not. Does this all make sense now? Do you have any questions? Leave a COMMENT and I will reply personally. Till then, Happy Reading!
Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sky Masterson Private Detective - Marcus Gorman

A musical theatrical fantasy read rated at THREE STARS by The Schwartz Reviews.

Schwartz Synopsis

Set in New York City, a private detective is hired by the strange yet intriguing Liesl Von Trapp. Liesl hears that Masterson is the best because of his otherworldly knowledge of demons and angels and everything in-between. And she needs the best so this sets Sky Masterson on an action packed, off-the-wall journey for answers.  He is on the hunt to discover the murderer of Trapp’s sister, Maria. This case is bizarre and may just be the end of him. Can he find the answers he seeks and live to tell about it?

Schwartz Thoughts

This was quite the unique read, I can honestly say that I have never read anything like this before. I also loved the fact that it was edited perfectly. There was a lot of information thrown at you throughout the novel, it was obvious that the author did his research well. However, this made the novel a bit confusing and could mean that it would be hard to follow. The main storyline, the whodunit, was extremely interesting and had me at the edge of my seat. There was quite a bit of weird things that were going on, for example the giant man-sized glitter cats that would wreck Masterson’s office.

This book made me laugh out loud, especially at the mention of the Jesus loving Schwartzes. It had my mind thinking with all of the mention of theatrical musicals with famous singer(s). I loved the characters, especially the cowgirl Annie Oakley assistant (do not call her Masterson’s sidekick or she will drop you).

All in all, it was a good read. In fact, I look forward to reading more from this author.


I would recommend this novel to anyone who likes off-the-wall novels, who enjoy whodunits, musicals, mystery novels with tons of surprises.

(Review Written by Mama Schwartz)

Buy Links:




Monday, April 6, 2015

I Love Maps - Guest Post by Benjamin Descovich

Maps are a special kind of art. Their beauty is often passed over for their function, but every map possesses a rare kind of potential, something magical.

Whoa there! Magical?

You must think I’m just a typical fantasy writer, banging on about magic again. Well that might be part of it, but let me explain the rest.

Jingle Bells

Ever since I was a kid, looking at a map would send jingling bells up my spine. From mud maps on a scrap of paper to detailed foldouts in National Geographic, I couldn’t resist them. My desk drawer was stuffed with piles of hand-sketched maps, documenting secret hideouts, traps and treasure. I even had a map of my hometown sticky-taped to my wall with annotations showing the locations of my friends’ houses. My favourite fantasy books all began with a map and followed with a story that delivered the promise hidden in the landscape. Dungeons and Dragons lured me in to play the magic upon the map, and with the digital age came an evolving boon of sci-fi and fantasy computer games. Even today, at the bleeding edge of gaming, the most immersive and well-loved games revolve around a map. The map is our foundation; it is the lynchpin that connects us to the magic of possibility.

Mental Stretch

No matter how large or detailed the map, I examine the edges and wonder what exists outside its jurisdiction. Maps trigger a mental stretching that teases out the possible from the known. There is always more to a map than what you see; change the scale, change the perspective, and change your world.

Sticks and Sand

I contend that maps are a link to our deepest psychological urges of curiosity and territory. They are an embodiment of demarcation, inherently political in how they are depicted and interpreted. Once our primal drive involved patrolling the clan patch and scent marking trees as we went (I know some people who still do), wondering what lay on the other side of a river or ravine. We evolved from sticks drawing lines in the sand, to quill and ink, charting ever further across oceans to exotic lands, always pushing the boundaries of existing maps (often to the detriment of those in discovered territories). Today the great unknowns of nautical and geographic exploration expand further still with astronomical pioneers.

Maps are Magic

The humble map is the device that mentally transports us and inserts us in a physical terrain tinted with cultural heritage, lined with political borders and soaked in context. Maps weave a world and compress it into an image. That, for me, is something magical.

Political Correctness & Cartography

For my debut novel, Dragon Choir, I wanted to create a map that spoke with the politics of the fictional mapmaker. My map establishes the bigoted perspective of a colonising power. Maps throughout history have been tools of propaganda, yet I have noticed that the majority of maps for fantasy fiction are devoid of political or cultural imprints. Fantasy maps can add extra punch to a narrative if they have a contextual point of view. Why be politically neutral if the plot of your book is politically contentious? Political borders are as fluid as the opinion of the powers that commission the maps. Below is the map I created using ProFantasy software, Campaign Cartographer 3 (CC3). Why did I use this software? The simple answer is that it is the best mapmaking software on the market. The ProFantasy website and community is jam full of support and ideas. The CAD software is powerful and upgradable, allowing an amateur cartographer like me to produce a professional looking map like this.

Benjamin Descovich is the founder of and works everyday writing the seeds to grow a better future. He is a passionate environmentalist, social justice advocate and holds a degree in Political Science. As an Australian living and working in Scotland, he has been spoilt with inspiration for his fiction. Dramatic landscapes, political intrigue and epic battles will keep you turning the pages while the dragons and magic take your breath away.

Grab a free copy of his latest fantasy adventure - The Devil is in the Potato

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

How Description Can Make or Break Your Novel

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now. After reading several novels that have nearly put me to sleep due to the amount of description I got the idea to write about just how easy it is to turn your readers off of your novel due to your descriptive writing. Another reason why I have decided to write this post is because while I was chatting to several of my reading friends, they all agreed with my rant about over descriptive writing. So here it goes…

How Description Works for a Reader

Unfortunately for writers there are several types of readers. This means that it is hard to please everyone. However, description can kill your novel quite easily if you do not walk that fine line between all of us readers. I’m the type of reader that wants just enough description for me to use my imagination to picture the scene. Too much description and I get bored.

Telling us readers the texture of a brick wall, how the bricks were placed, the colours of each brick, the length and height of the wall as your character walks past is unnecessary. All the reader really wants to know is that your character walked past a red brick wall. The rest is up to the reader to decide.

Placement of your setting is important to inform us about. Tell us the locations, tell us how the layout is, tell us generalizations about everything. But do not go on a five paragraph spree about the grassy field your character is walking through. It is just overkill and your reader will most likely skim through that part anyway. And once a reader starts skimming through your words, you run the risk of them closing that book for good and giving it up.

How Description Can Kill

“Leah slowly walked through the field behind her house towards the road to the city. She could see the tiny drops of dew on each blade of bright green grass sparkling in the early morning sunlight. The prickly grass felt sharp and cold on her bare feet with each slow step she took towards the fence. She always enjoyed walking slowly through the early morning field barefoot with her shoes dangling over her slim shoulder. She would slowly put her shoes back on as she reached the edge of her fields. But for the moment she enjoyed the cool feel of nature upon the soles of her bare feet.”

That is just something I wrote just now, which includes WAY too much description for my liking. If every sentence were written like that, I would lose interest in that story fast. I am assuming that it would include way too much description for anyone’s liking. Simply tell me that she enjoyed walking barefoot through her fields enjoying the feel of nature in the early morning. Done. Too much more than that and you will bore your reader and they will not get too far in your novel.

Some super descriptive sentences would be fine, but if every sentence looks like my example then there would be some bored readers out there. Description is used to help picture your story. Do not use description to fluff up your page count. It is not worth it. And you will have some very unhappy readers out there that may not come back for another reading of your books. And that would be bad.

How Description Can Make Your Novel

Have you ever picked up a 300 page novel and read through all of the pages and didn’t die of boredom due to over descriptive writing? That the novel was literally filled with story and conflict throughout the entire book? How did you feel after that read?

After I read a novel that has been filled with story and conflicts and interesting hooks, without the
over descriptive fluff writing, I feel like I absolutely have to find more books by that author. I will add the rest of their novels to my TBR list and spread the news to all of my reader friends. And we all know that word-of-mouth does wonders for the authors out there. This is how writing without too much description can make your novel.

We all agree that we need some description. The reader needs to be able to picture the story that you are trying to tell but without boring them to death with description. Sprinkle your description throughout your pages. Do not include description in every sentence to the degree I wrote above or your novel will bore us readers to death. If that happens, word-of-mouth will backfire and good news will not spread.

My Experience

I have read a LOT of novels. It’s kind of what I do. So this blog post is written from the readers perspective. I would love to see your comments below of whether you agree or disagree and why. Let’s discuss this topic. But from my experience, if you bore me to death with your over descriptive fluff-like writing, I will most likely not give a great review. I just can’t really write a whole lot of positives when the only thing that is on my mind is the fact that you were way too descriptive. I am one of those readers that hate to skim read, so I will read every word on every page, and the entire time I will be thinking how bored I am. So that will be the underlying thought and feel to the review that I will write. Just the way I am I guess.

Don’t fall into the descriptive death trap. Use it properly and your readers will rave about your writing and spread the word to their friends about the book that they loved. A book full of story and twists and hooks, not filled with descriptive fluff.

Happy Reading… And Happy Writing!
Saturday, April 4, 2015

Broken - Kris Radcliffe

A short tale of disaster and terrifying experiences for Daisy, a quick read rated at FIVE STARS by the Schwartz Reviews.

Schwartz Synopsis:

Following Daisy’s tale from Bonds, she continues her story to Gavin, catching him up on her disastrous past. After running for her life from Burners and Fates she finds what she is looking for only to fear once more that her secrets will be found. Fleeing from the Land of Milk and Honey, the bar that the dragons frequent, she meets Aiden, the nicest Fate she has ever met. They begin a journey that ends in terror. What happens when the protection and answers you sought end up being more dangerous than the unknown? Will she escape the surrounding danger? Will the answers she seek be found before it’s too late?

“This man who had to be the human half of the Dracos was probably the most terrifying human being Daisy had ever seen in her entire life. More terrifying even than a Burner.”

Schwartz Thoughts:

Such a quick and short read that was extremely well written. Even though the novel is sci-fi/fantasy, the novel is written in a way that makes it all sound realistic. Everything happens in a fashion that makes sense, nothing is thrown in out of place, and everything fits perfectly. The characters are real and well developed and enjoyable. There are hooks at the end of every chapter that keeps the reader interested and reading. The pages practically turn themselves as you race to find out what will happen to Daisy. After reading this short read you are still left with a few questions, which just makes the reader want to pick up the next book in this short series. Which I will be reading and reviewing as well. Can’t stop now.  All in all, a very enjoyable read.

“Run! screamed through her brain again. Just Run! Not look around. Just Run right now!”

I would recommend this short read to any sci-fi, fantasy readers looking for a quick day read. Pick up this series, you will not regret it.

(Review written by Kristine Schwartz)

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Friday, April 3, 2015

The Color of Clouds - J. C. Whyte

This suspenseful mysterious other worldly novel is rated at THREE STARS from The Schwartz Reviews.

“But even as she smiled, Deanna felt uneasy. Danger ahead, the psychic had said. And that’s exactly what I’d told her.”

Schwartz Synopsis:

After Deanna’s husband suffered a heart attack six months ago, she and Paul decide to take a relaxing cruise together. Unfortunately for them, the cruise ends up being anything but relaxing. When they arrive at their assigned meal seating and are introduced to a wonderful elderly couple, and a psychic and her sister, things begin to get a little strange. A strange light slips past the ship, changing the lives of these six characters and placing them all on a hunt for answers. Nothing is what it seems, and things begin to escalate quickly… for the worse. Can Paul figure out what is going on? Will they all get off this cruise alive? Only time will tell, for Pedro (a spirit guide) is not allowed to foretell just what will happen to these six characters that were thrown together.

“When Drew lifted Carly’s mask with his good hand, he was stunned to see her blank-looking eyes staring wide open at him.”

Schwartz Thoughts:

I found that this novel began extremely well, capturing my complete attention while I began my own hunt for answers. It was quite mysterious. It was a very unique story, one I have never read anything like before. Although it was extremely interesting I did have a harder time with this novel due to its slower pace. Yes I was interested. Yes I wanted to know what was going on. But it just wasn’t happening fast enough for me.

I was impressed with the amount of work that went into this book. My hats off to the author for all the research that it must have taken to complete writing this book. I didn’t understand the physics behind a lot of it but the author explained everything just enough that I was able to follow the characters theories. It was clear that there was a lot of research behind the pages and that the author didn’t just try and make things up as the story progressed.

I did find some errors and some inconsistencies throughout the pages. Not many mind you, just enough to make a reviewers notes (I’m a bit of a perfectionist when reading). I was able to keep reading though so the mistakes shouldn’t be a reason not to pick up this novel. Another thing that I noticed was the fact that this book seemed to be somewhat all over the place. Again, the story is easy enough to follow but things just kept happening that seemed strange or out of place somewhat. It all tied together in the end rather nicely. I guess my only complaints really lie with the middle of the novel. The beginning was fabulous, the ending was superb, but the middle was slightly slow paced and bouncy (like I said earlier, it was all over the place). Things just kept happening and it was crazy bad luck for the characters.

“Oh, so now you think we’re dealing with the paranormal?”

I would recommend this novel to anyone who loves reading paranormal suspenseful mysteries. 

(Review written by Kristine Schwartz)

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Why I Love my E-reader

I dare say that I am a fan of the e-books. I don’t even own an e-reader at this time (I did own the very first Kobo reader though it hasn’t fared well over the years… OK, it hasn’t fared well over the years around FOUR young children…). I read just about every book on my iPhone, on one of three e-reading apps that I have downloaded. Kobo, Kindle, or iBooks.
Here are FOURTEEN reasons why I prefer the e-books over the book book (though I still own a ton of books and love them too).

  1. E-books can be read in the dark, as long as you have a reader with a backlight. This is great for the lazy reader who doesn’t want to reach over to turn the light off at night to go to sleep… Not that this is me or anything… OK moving on.
  2. They are usually cheaper than the book book (this is a big one when you read as much as I do)
  3. They are easier to get comfortable with (you can’t deny this one! Try lying down with a book book, I know you’ve been facebooked at least a time or two)
  4. You can literally have hundreds of books on an e-reader (or in my case my iPhone) all available at the touch of a button. And it doesn’t weigh more than a single e-reader device.
  5. You can take your entire library with you wherever you go! Read on the bus, waiting rooms, the bus, between classes, bus….
  6. You can make notes while reading in the e-book without ruining the books future readability (this is a great tool for us reviewers)
  7. No more paper cuts! Seriously, they hurt!
  8. Your bookmark can’t fall out and lose your page, even if you shake the e-reader really hard, your page is still waiting for you.
  9. An e-book is lighter to carry around than a book book. We can carry around smaller purses! I mean we could, but we probably won’t…
  10. An e-book can be purchased with a few taps of a button, and BAM you have it instantly. You don’t have to go to a book store or library, you don’t even have to leave your house…You can literally buy a book from anywhere and at any time.
  11. You can feel good about the environment when reading an e-book. Think of the tree that didn’t have to get cut down because you didn’t buy a paperback. (Honestly speaking, that poor tree still probably got cut down…but for furniture instead or something… sigh)
  12. You can’t lose an e-book like you can misplace a book book. I swear I left that book beside the bed… Oh here it is! In the bathroom… blush
  13. No visible book cover! You can read anything anywhere and no one will ever know that you’re reading erotica at the bus stop!
  14. And the best about e-books, they help indie authors get their books out and reviewed more easily and cost efficiently rather than having to send out physical copies of their novels to reviewers.

What do you think? Do you have anymore reasons why you prefer your e-reader? Let me know in the comments. Till then, Happy Reading!

(Written by Kristine Schwartz)

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