Hello readers! Three of my recent review submissions to the almighty ’Zon were rejected. I feel especially bad about the review for Cecilia Pulliam’s fantasy novel Plighted because Pulliam is such a sweet person. Her thoughtful, faith-filled blog posts fill me with hope. She’s a good writer, and her book only has one review.
My review for David Watkins’ Rhitta Gawr (from my favorite horror book series, argh!) was also rejected. AND my review for the talented wordsmith Tyler Jones’ The Dark Side of the Room was rejected.
I studied the ’Zon guidelines to make sure I hadn’t violated any rules in my reviews. (At first I thought using the word climactic was the reason my review got rejected, but no.) I dutifully followed their instructions for appeal. Their response didn’t help me understand why my reviews were rejected. The only thing they told me (via email) is I violated guidelines, and I’m not allowed to submit another review for these books since I’ve already been rejected for violating guidelines. Frustrating and not helpful!
Today I present the reviews that the ‘Zon rejected. I feel like the authors have been cheated out of a review on a big platform, but I hope by putting them on my website it’ll still help.
Plighted by Cecilia Pulliam
In Pulliam’s high fantasy novel, smart, and kind Ilona agrees to marry an older, retired war hero named Elgar. But Elgar has a secret concerning their marriage and subsequent journey from Ilona’s homeland.
I appreciated that Pulliam introduced the characters and the locations slowly. Sometimes with fantasy names it takes a while to remember the unusual spellings and keep everyone straight. In Plighted, I had no trouble at all.
Ilona is naïve but learns fast, and she’s brave. Sometimes I was frustrated with her; sometimes I felt sorry for her. But she’s a character worth cheering on. I liked Elgar. He’s stoic and unapproachable, at least at first, but he’s also respectful and has wisdom we can use in our own lives: “Let’s not borrow problems.”
As the story unfolds, both Ilona and the reader learn about her powerful gifts and how important she is to the peoples and their land. Elgar’s secret and Ilona’s mission become clear during their travels. Stakes rise. Dangerous creatures close in. It’s all rather exciting.
I also liked that the (clean) romance element of the story develops slowly and is believable. And some of the species in Ilona and Elgar’s world communicate telepathically, but Pulliam handles it well without making the story too fantastical or using the communication as a plot copout.
The climactic ending is so tense and emotional that I cried. Then Pulliam includes a sweet epilogue for a pillowy-soft landing.
Ilona’s journey in this book can be seen as an allegory for spiritual growth, trusting that God knows our way even if we can’t see the path.
My only complaint is that there are too many similar scenes/encounters in the middle during Ilona and her companions’ journey. So I took off half a star. But fantasy is not my normal reading genre, so fantasy fans may not share my complaint.
Overall, this is a sweet, exciting story with creative creatures and a lovely but dangerous world. Kudos to Pulliam. 4.5 stars.
I read Plighted through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.
Rhitta Gawr by David Watkins
This is number 73 in the Short Sharp Shocks! series. In Watkins’ novelette, Quin and Philip travel to Northern Wales for an adventurous getaway. They underestimate the local legend when they go hiking at night.
Seren, the alluring bar tender, has the two men wrapped around her little finger. I kept wanted to tell Quin and Philip, “No, don’t go hiking with her!” The dread is thick. The ending is satisfying (not necessarily a happy ending, because it’s horror).
Great fun, fast read, five stars.
I read this story through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.
The Dark Side of the Room by Tyler Jones
Elderly Betsy is a resident of a rundown apartment building. There is a dark side of her living room. Is it her failing eyesight, or has that side of the room actually gotten darker, perhaps hiding something in the shadows?
Somehow Jones’ gentle prose and simple metaphors create sharp, memorable images. The reader knows exactly what Betsy’s apartment looks like, how her cats act, and how her neighbors behave. It’s a pleasure to read.
I like the way Jones describes other characters by showing the reader how Betsy sees them. The whole first third of the book I was thinking how I definitely didn’t like her landlord, Al, and he doesn’t even show up in any scenes until 41 percent of the way through the book.
I also like the way Jones hides what is really happening. Is Betsy going senile? The bizarre events could just be her brain short circuiting. Is there something paranormal going on? Maybe deceased loved ones are haunting her. Or is there an infestation of rats wreaking havoc? The mysterious cause of the bizarre events in Betsy’s apartment building kept me turning pages.
As for any negatives, sensitive readers may find some scenes too brutal or gross. I actually gagged during one scene. And most of the story isn’t high-action. It’s more character-driven, not a negative for me, but readers’ mileage may vary.
I really enjoyed this dark story (even the gross parts). Five big stars.
“Along the Shadow,” a related novelette, is included in the “extended edition” of this book. I think The Dark Side of the Room is better, but “Along the Shadow” is also a fun read.
I read The Dark Side of the Room through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.
p.s. After about 10 days, the ’Zon accepted a new review from me, so I guess I’m back in their good graces.
p.p.s. Today’s feature image is the lunar eclipse on the 19th of November, 2021, looking from our back yard toward the Blue Ridge Mountains. The moon was a big, orange beauty!