SPFBO 5 – The Choppening, Part 1


Welp, it’s that time. It was bound to happen. Esme and I have to cut some books out of our piles and move along towards our semifinalist and finalist hopefuls.

So, we’ll start out with 5, and move on from there. ^_^

Kristen’s Cut #1 – The Innkeeper by JE Porter – Status: DNF 18%


At first, I said to myself that the blurb did this one 0 favors. Basically, it’s about a man named Mann from the town of Slutet who is apparently the very bestest at the sexening, but can also summon anything he likes to him. Mann is an interesting character, and I did find myself wanting to know who (and what) he was and what gives him this mysterious power. It’s a little confusing in the beginning, but not badly written, despite needing another pass of copy edits. I held on, hoping we’d find out the situation.

That was before the chapter long scene in which he and a random whore from the inn he ended up having so much sex that he, and I quote: ‘lost track of the number of times he’d climaxed’ (but it was at least 20 times, he thinks. Yes, twenty. Within a few hours. The mental image of that notion is… something. Yep, it is sure a thing alright.) Then, all the other women in the inn, including the woman who was ready to spit in this guy’s food 10 pages earlier (and consequently the woman that has to clean those sheets), walk in on them, see what’s going down, and then all pretty much line up for who gets to go next. He goes on to have sex with at least one more of the whores in the hallway of the inn against the wall before making it to her room. I guess he just couldn’t wait?

*snaps Kindle shut* Nope. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Sorry, Mann. I’m down with sex scenes (I spend a not-small amount of time reading romance, after all), but this was way too over-the-top and seemed completely unnecessary to… anything. Perhaps it is relevant to Mann’s situation, but I’m suddenly not at all inclined to find out. But hey, it might be right up someone’s alley. If they’re uh… into that sort of thing.

Kristen’s Cut #2 – Sea of Stars by Ivy Smoak – Status: DNF 50%


This is the story of Mahlia, who is a divinare. They are a small (about 2.5 feet tall) race of people who hear through their hair, and used to have the power to see the future, but don’t anymore. Mahlia is the chosen one though. Born with the power of the Moira, she does have the mystical powers, and the symbols on her skin that is the proof of it, and it makes her a hot commodity. Also literally hot. Her skin around the symbols can set stuff on fire.

It’s not a badly written book, all told. It’s told in first person, from Mahlia’s POV. It reads pretty quickly, as I made it halfway in about an hour and a half or so, but Mahlia’s adventures soon became tedious and predictable to me, and I never really latched onto her or any other character. Some of the decisions and observations she made regarding other characters were irritating at times, and so there was a good deal of eye-rolling from me while Mahlia seemed to inexplicably trust someone despite pretty obvious evidence she shouldn’t, then later instantaneously condemns them as evil despite there being no real evidence of that either. She calls them a ‘master of deception’ too at one point, and I just found that hilarious. There was a fairly big twisty bit around the middle of the book and I found that I just didn’t really care, and I think I was probably supposed to. So, this book just wasn’t really my cup of tea overall. I’m sure that many people have and will find enjoyment in it, but I am unfortunately not one of them. Do give it a try if you’re into a magical chosen-one prisoner-to-princess sort of story.

Esme’s Cut #1 – Realm Source by Vincent B Moneymaker – Status: DNF 15%


This one only had two ratings/review on Goodreads and with it being so unknown I didn’t know what to expect. I only got 15% into this book before I DNF’d for a few reasons. It seemed much more of a science fiction than a fantasy, there were aliens, spaceships, high tech etc – perhaps fantasy elements come in later but I’m not certain. There was a lot of terminology that was thrown at you all at once (Medapps, space-cavs, srotes, rog sessions, torus vise, cor-tooth etc) which made the world building overwhelm the characters and plot. Some of the terminology was grating for me because it was just one letter off from modern lexicon. Eg: Evevators instead of elevators and birthdraus instead of birthdays. There was also a choice by the author to spell the word “through” as “thru” which didn’t settle well with me at all. It wouldn’t have been a huge deal if it was just a few times, but when I did a kindle search I found out it was used 565 times throughout the novel.
There was a lot of head hopping, even though I only got to 15% I already was introduced to 5 characters and I assume more came after the 15% mark. It didn’t let me settle into the characters and get to know them before we switched again which left the whole thing feeling up in the air. This combined with timeline jumps and heavy world building via terminology just wasn’t leaving me with much motivation to keep going.

Esme’s Cut #2 – Ezaara by Eileen Mueller – Status: DNF 23%


This is a story about a prophecy and a young girl named Ezaara who’s destined to be the Queen dragon’s rider. Honestly, it came off very simplistic to me, there was a lot of unnecessary exposition and repetition that kept taking me out of the moment. The audience is shown that a dragon is speaking with Ezaara in her mind, and yet, she specifically tells her they are ‘mind melding’ and that she can speak to her through their connection. This sort of thing happens quite a bit very early on and was a turn off for me personally. It also felt a little rushed, within 20 pages she’s being told about her destiny, her families hidden background, prophecies etc. Much of that was told to us via info dump in dialogue between her the Queen dragon. Apparently she was born to be a dragon rider, and not just any dragon rider, but the Queen’s rider. This should be something she has to pause and think about because it would mean leaving everything she’s known behind. Ezaara comes from a culture where even the imagery of dragons is outlawed… riding a dragon is a sure-fire way to get yourself exiled or worse. However, she makes the decision quickly and doesn’t seem too flustered by it which made her feel a little flat to me. It’s not like her family were terrible people that she wanted to get away from and leapt at the opportunity to leave. There was very little character build up before she’s already the hero of the book, in that way the plot sort of overrode the character building. There was a lot of info dumping and dialogue that felt a bit forced which made it difficult to keep up the motivation to continue reading.
About a quarter of the way through the book we learn that not everyone is happy with the Queen, some think she’s too old and senile to lead and think she’s lost her mind picking this backwater girl from a town that hates dragons as her rider. There could be an uprising coming from within the Queen’s own camp. That aspect did sort of catch my interest but not enough to keep going since I wasn’t invested in any of the characters.

Esme’s Cut #3 – Prelude to Mayhem by Edward Aubry – Status: DNF 53%


This book had a lot going on … there were time travel/warp elements, dinosaurs, sentient sunflowers, pixies, talking dragons, weird talking cats, technicolored rats, werewolves, gnomes, elves, demons, futuristic technology and all of it set within a world that’s post-apocalyptic version of our Earth. Ten weeks prior to the start of the book, the vast majority of humanity just disappeared. A survivor described it as people/things turning into dust and floating away. There are very few humans left on Earth and the ones that made it are mostly isolated from one another.
There are a couple main characters, an older guy and a fourteen year old girl in different areas of the world trying to make it by. Harrison has heard a radio broadcast from a potential survivor who’s in Chicago and he starts a trek West from Vermont to try and find her. He runs into a smartass pixie who decides to go with him on his travels. I liked his journey more than Dorothy’s from what I read. The pixie, Glimmer, could be amusing and they run into things like talking dragons that eat dinosaurs.
Dorothy has made a home in a rural town and spends most of her time doing chores to try and survive. She too gets a companion when an older guy wanders into her neck of the woods. He’s disheveled, somewhat incoherent at first, and generally just strange. I think the relationship between these two is what made me DNF. There’s nothing sexual about it, so that was a relief, but the dynamic between the two was still very strange. She acted like the mother, washing his hair, encouraging him to help her get food, and pushing him along for basically every aspect of their lives. All he wants to do is sit around and do nothing, he complains he’s not good for anything and that he should leave and is prone to temper tantrums. Honestly, he came across as a 10 year old child rather than a grown man in his 40’s. He even said to Dorothy “you be the mom” and “you should be the boss” – it was just really strange.
I was left with more questions than answers about the world building – my biggest problem being that the electricity was still running in parts of Dorothy’s town. Maybe there was an explanation later, but most styles of electrical grids require constant human feedback to keep them up and running. Months and months after the disappearance of 99% of humanity and these grids would be down.
My other major issue with the book was the lack of depth to the characters. Yes, they were superficially different but I didn’t understand their motivations. Even though it’s only been 10 weeks, none of the characters thought about their past homes, family members, friends, careers, etc. I felt like I didn’t know them outside of what obvious character traits they had. They did have individualized speech patterns, and if given a bit of dialogue out of context I could likely tell who was speaking which is always a good thing when you have more than one main character.
Given all that, I still think this can be a fun read for the right audience. This may have been aimed at a younger audience, the YA crowd may find a 14 year old being the boss endearing. That coupled with the vast amounts of fantasy and sci fi mash ups could be a lot of fun for those who don’t want to think too critically about why the snack machine still works and just want to read about talking dragons named Gustav. I think the audiobook was pretty decent, I hadn’t listened to that narrator before but I think she did a good job with it.

And then there were 25!

More to come in the coming weeks, but for now, commiserations to the cut, and best of luck to those still in the running.

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