LitRPG Reviews 10/18/2021 by SyncSelyrian

Towers of Heaven (Towers of Heaven Book 1 of 3) by Cameron Milan

Humanity is wiped out and the last standing survivor of a dangerous tower climb is granted a single wish, so he is sent back in time to save the world from extinction. After already having reached the top he now finds himself back at the bottom of the tower at level 1. How will he save the world?

Really am not trying to be rude but I’m slightly confused by the high ratings for this one. I found the writing to be borderline unreadable, it sounded more like a wikipedia summary than a book to me. The story was also nothing new and the characters were not very memorable. Sadly really did not love this at all.

2/10

Using Your Power for Evil by Nolan Locke

Readers have vast, sometimes unknown power: they can elevate the mediocre to a meteoric rise, make them successful and famous. They can also destroy a writer’s career well before it ever gets going. Readers have that ability. They may not even realize what unbelievable power they have at first.

Many of the unknown, poor and struggling authors stretch themselves to extraordinary lengths in order to put out a book capable of delighting. Myself, just these past two weeks, I’ve worked from 8am until 10pm, with a writing break squished somewhere in there to squeak toward the culmination of the second book of a series.


There won’t be a third. I hate to break this to you, if you’ve read the most recent release by Damien and I, and you were like ‘yes!’ or even if you eyed the book and were like ‘I’ll wait until the series is done’.

It won’t be.

And here’s why: someone, possibly several someones, read this book and then used their almighty power to bury the book in the dung heap of low reviews. Every one star rating takes something like 10 five star ratings to combat it. For writers like Shirtaloon and Dinniman, this isn’t a problem: they have thousands of rabid followers ready to five star them by now. Aleron Kong has the same. And that matters so much more than you can imagine. And the opposite can be true… let’s imagine for a second those rabid fans, even a fraction of them, were tasked with finding new books in the genre and just throwing shade all over them. It would really only take 3 or 4 low star reviews in order to kill a book. Do these people exist? Nah, of course not.

What kind of monster would try to undercut what’s not even competition? After all, people can read books faster than authors can write them, so having a robust and professional new genre of books is ideal, isn’t it? So psssh, wave off the nagging idea that someone with a lot of money, or even a mid-lister is targeting your books for obliteration. The only person who would do that sort of thing is the type of author who would try to carve out the entire genre for himself and claim ownership over the whole thing… luckily such people don’t exist.

Say for instance I’m a new author. I work hard at my book, I spend most of a year polishing it, I shell out five hundred bucks for the cover, and I promote it with the last of my pocket change, a couple hundred bucks. It sells all right, maybe I make 300 off the pre-order. I’m feeling all right!

And then the first one or two star appears. I don’t have a following to offset this nasty reviewer… and it doesn’t look like they’ve even read the book? The review is incredibly vague, to the point where it’s impossible to believe they made their way through the book and honestly thought it was a pile of dogshit they’d cross the street to avoid.

While I might have plans for a five book series, I can’t fork over a thousand dollars on a loss on the next five books. It doesn’t make sense. I have to cut somewhere. My wife and kid need to eat and go out and have fun sometimes. I can’t keep propping up a cover designer and Facebook’s or Amazon’s algorithms.

I give up. Series over.

Back to Nolan, because while the hypothetical new author is a sad story, I’m here with the real story. Nolan, the real guy with the real wife and the real kid, the real attempt at a writing career.

I want to reiterate, that, if by chance you know someone who’s tanking new authors on purpose, please for the love of all that’s holy, don’t flame people’s art. Approach this person, shame them, tell them to take down whatever spurious and bullshit reviews they’ve written. And if you’re that person, and you’re somehow reading this, I want to let you know that I’ve worked for hundreds of hours. Honed the work for literally thousands of hours over the course of fifteen plus years. I know what ridiculous incoherent drivel looks like. I’ve read some, and I’ve written some. My book ain’t it.

And if you’ve written one star and two star reviews for other reasons, go back and take a look at them. See if the author deserved it. One star means you didn’t get what you paid for. You bought something and were handed something COMPLETELY different. Again, our book ain’t that. It says dark fantasy isekai in the blurb, it’s dark fantasy isekai. Give two stars to something broken, something you bought and immediately didn’t work. Two stars is for oh, okay, this… oh it fell apart.

Three stars for a shitty book, four stars for a passable book, five stars for a book you want to see in sequel or series form.

And spread the word amongst your people: tearing people down is bad for everybody. You have the power to change that. You have the power to wield for good or ill.

My Sister, the Serial Killer: A Review

Ah, serial killer books. The guilty pleasure of many and watchlist fodder of the FBI.

Before Google stopped bothering with my internet search history and went straight to reading my mind, the ads I got weren’t the best.

Hungry? There’s this burger…

Thirsty? There’s this water that will go great with that burger.

Out of toilet paper? We don’t know if you’ve heard of burger patties, but­—

It’s almost like they were hinting at something…

Anyway, when they really focused, it was clear to them that I had a morbid interest in serial killers, the human body, and books. As such, I started to get recommendations for ‘dark and gritty’ entertainment.

The grittiest.

Among the suggestions were novels like I am not a serial killer, Darkly Dreaming Dexter and (lol) The Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence (which I thoroughly enjoyed). There’s something about badass characters who are genuinely terrible people that makes the book interesting. Oftentimes a main character’s actions are so deplorable that there is no doubt in your mind that they are the villain of the story. With some hard drugs and soft introspection, you may even need to sit down with a licensed therapist after reading the books and explain why you were rooting for them.

But that’s not the case with “My Sister, the Serial Killer” by Oyinkan Braithwaite.

Now, as an African myself, it was great to see a book like this, one that was not magical realism (at least not in my personal interpretation), was not a ‘serious novel’ written for ‘serious novel awards’ and was most importantly (again, I must emphasize, to me) not about:

  • HIV or AIDS
  • Street kids
  • Unhappy marriages
  • Being the only person from a village to go to university in the city and then indulging in drugs and women.

The reason for my aversion to these types of stories is because I read a lot of them already, particularly when I was about twelve years old. Right around the time I discovered the wonder of fantasy novels and figured out which books I absolutely love (Hint: absolutely not non-fiction).

Before I go into the novel, I will, against my better judgment, say that I have discussed often, how easy it is to commit murder in my country. All you really need is your chosen method and the ability to keep your mouth shut about it. So when I saw that a book about a serial killer was coming out, I can honestly say I kinda spazzed to my friends because “A serial killer who looks like me?”

Representation, in all its forms, is important.

“My Sister, the Serial Killer” takes place in Nigeria and follows the story of Korede, whose sister murders her boyfriends, calls her up (or texts) , says it was self defense and lets Korede take care of it.

Now, the first murder clean-up we’re privy to, is that of a pretty boy (with abs) called Femi. They wrap him up in some sheets, go down an elevator, throw him in a trunk and let a river take care of the rest.

Now, and this is important, if this story was based in any country that has working CCTV and a competent police force, this murder and poor dispatch would have probably been solved the next day before dinnertime, because short of leaving behind their IDs, phone numbers and video evidence just for kicks, the sisters definitely left DNA in the elevator and were also kinda sorta seen by the guy’s neighbor, though it was ‘too dark’.

Neighbors, cops, possible witness, literally everyone that night…

Sounds ridiculous but the thing is, the story is plausible. You don’t need to suspend belief if you’ve dealt with a similar justice system. I once knew someone who vaguely recollected to me that years before they permanently moved to the city, they had found a dead body when they were working in a rural area, and they could not report it to the police because in my country, the person who discovers the body is the prime suspect, and if they don’t find anyone else, you take the fall, simple as that.  

But DNA spatterings aside (though Korede did bleach the house in a seemingly obsessive manner), I have several issues with the story.

The novel’s plot seems to exist on the premise that Korede cares about her sister, but is extremely jealous of her. Korede was judgmental, arrogant, self-righteous and whiny… and because of all that, I thought I would end up liking her sister more because as Korede was so unpleasant, surely someone else in the book had to be decent. But as I read on, I ended up on the hill of: “I don’t condone killing your sister, but if you do…”

Ayoola—the sister—is beautiful, in an almost ‘magical realism’ type of way. When she enters a room, time stops, people stare, birds fly into windows… When Ayoola is introduced to others as the MC’s sister, people seem to have obvious questions, both asked and unasked­—

“How?”

 “Are you sure?”

 “Sister as in… from church?”

Everyone channeling Gregor Mendel after finding out Ayoola and Korede are related. (Source: Tenor)

Ayoola is light skinned and Korede is dark (someone more capable than me can go into colorism because it may be important here but generally, it wasn’t that deep); Ayoola is gorgeous and Korede is… not. Ayoola has a free spirited, work from home when she feels like it type of job (fashion designer, and she models her own clothes) and Korede is an underappreciated nurse.

Ayoola is portrayed as an irresistible beauty, one that knows it, and I was starting to think that maybe I was biased because she was hot, but then she ‘shows interest’ in a doctor Korede has been in love with for ages.

And by in love, I mean she’s watched him, eaten with him once or twice, and seems to know absolutely nothing of substance about him. She has not told him she likes him, and he is oblivious to her desire, and seemingly that of everyone around him.

By all rights, Korede deserves him for her perseverance or something.

But in comes man-killer, Ayoola, and Hot Doctor Person suddenly is not some sort of asexual.

Figuring out that the reason her sister never wanted her to visit her at work is because of the Hot Doctor Man, Ayoola tells her that men love pretty faces and ‘Men are all the same’ . She also says she will prove these statements to Korede.

So here’s the thing:

  1. There was really no need for that.
  2. Them’s fighting words.

Korede should have beaten her ass for that because she was definitely calling her ugly.

Ayoola could have anyone. And she always does. But the declaration that she could have the man Korede has been pining for, cements the idea that Ayoola is also unnecessarily cruel to her sister, and any kindness that she may show, in any way, to Korede, is simply coincidental.

Ayoola seems to be a psychopath (sociopath?). She is an intelligent and charming narcissist, and after her murders, she shows no remorse of any kind and goes about her day, even having to be reminded to ‘grieve’ by Korede.

Even with someone as unlikeable as Ayoola, it was hard to root for Korede in any sort of way. I think it was because she was too realistic. I did relate to her a little (and after looking deep inside myself, I suspect that perhaps I, too, am incredibly annoying).

Korede was unbelievably petty, she wasn’t as smart as she thought she was, and she was consumed by jealousy for her sister while also wanting to protect her. She complained about everyone and had a victim complex so deeply entwined with her inferiority complex, they could have created a black hole of self-pity and self-absorbance.

Korede as she tosses a dead body into the river.

Something that made me angry was Korede cleaning up after Ayoola’s bloody messes. If my sister called me up to essentially do chores, I would swiftly hang up on her.

“Hey, um, someone fell on my knife and I need your help scrubbing the floors so— hello? Hello?”

You would never find me scrubbing the blood out of anyone’s carpet. (Fineprint: Without proper compensation)

So…

Is the book worth reading? A soft yes from me. I complained about the characters like they were real people. And that’s not always a bad thing for me. I was invested enough for it to raise my blood pressure. Kudos, book.

The chapters with the girl’s father were absolutely fascinating to me, and those sections were beautiful to read. Those were honestly my favourite parts.

Oyinkan Braithwaite knows how to write believably human characters. This is not a novel about a villain and a hero trying to save something or overcome something. If anything, this is more the tale of someone who would usually be a side character.

The story is told in a light hearted manner, but it wasn’t laugh out loud funny. Maybe one page did get a soft ‘released puff of breath from the nose’ type of chuckle but I can’t recall. Additionally, the story did feel incomplete because Ayoola’s motivations are never really revealed or even looked into and her relationship with Korede is only told through Korede’s green-eyed gaze.

It was an alright read, a good read at times even, but it could have been a lot better.

A 3.5/5 from me.

If you liked the review, prepare for some good old fashioned author pandering:

Now, you may be thinking “Hey, I like this person’s brand of humor” or “Dang, this review was fun, let’s see what else they got” or even “Golly gee willikers, I wanna read whatever else this writer has written”.
To which I say: “Totally understandable, but why are you talking like that?”

Fair warning: though I read a wide range of genres (fantasy, lit rpg, wuxia, webtoons…) and frequently scour through r/nosleep, I write… *drumroll* romantic comedies.

Really, guys?

Now hold on, don’t run off just yet. Let me at least get my pitch out, dang.

You might be thinking “Why should I read your books, author-that-is-currently-holding-my-family-hostage?”
Well, because I guarantee that my writing will deliver at least one “hyuk” per book or your money back (sorry that’s a lie. Instead of giving you a refund, you can have a fight to the death with any of the other authors. I suggest Damien. Really, where else will you get a deal like this?).
Additionally, for the price of one book, your family will be safe for the low, low price of another book.
(Can you tell I went to business school? ‘Cause I didn’t).

Granted, if romance isn’t your cup of tea, I wrote a creepy story for the author’s anthology called “Zamaya Sesinde” which is about a crossroads demon (always fun, and fans of the earlier seasons of Supernatural might like it. So go on, don’t be shy, go get that book).

Save your family at: Buy Cali Burem Books Now Or Else.

Amy’s Reviews || Reliance by Paul McMurrough

A crisis looms on the horizon. Professor Martin Monroe has predicted that a massive solar flare is on a direct path for Earth. The result will be a global power outage. 

Cell towers, power grids, water systems, prisons— nothing will be left untouched. 

How will the world handle this disaster? 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_5661.png
Cover taken from Amazon.

Style: First of all, McMurrough has a wonderful voice. It’s easy-to-read but really dives into the emotion of each character. He easily balances four points of view seamlessly, something that I definitely can’t do. He’s just descriptive enough to paint a clear picture, but he doesn’t linger too long. 

Length: “Reliance” is just about as long as my own book. It took me about four days to finish, but that’s only because I had other things to do. I bet if I’d sat down to read non-stop I would had finished earlier. The story was absolutely intriguing from start to finish, but we will get to that later. 

Character Development: There’s four different characters in this book: Martin Monroe, Lisa Keenan, Simon Wilson, and Derek Henderson. Let’s touch base on each of those for a second. 

Martin is the professor who predicts the crisis. Years before our story takes place, Martin made a bad call on the Haley Bopp comet and has since been branded as a bit of a wackjob. Yet, he refuses to let people ignore him this time. The author paints Martin as a anxious, jittery, somewhat depressed man who would do whatever it takes to look out for the people around him. 

Lisa works on an emergency response team for the government. Her job is simple: put together a statement to the public and help coordinate relief efforts if needed. That gets made a lot more complicated when the power goes out and no one has a working phone. She joins forces with Martin to try and get the news out to the locals, if they can get anyone to believe them in the first place. The author paints Lisa as a kind, determined girl who cares strongly about her job and the people she serves. I was genuinely concerned about Lisa towards the end of the book! No spoilers this time, but I thought she was a goner

Simon is Martin’s closest— and only, really— friend. Having lost his wife a few years back, Simon is a bit of a loner. But, when push comes to shove, Simon will stand up for Martin and his neighbors. I really liked this character. He was helpful but showed a lot of vulnerability when it came to the things he witnessed. 

Last but not least is Derek. As a prison guard, Derek’s job was never easy. The power outage only makes it worse, though. Staff stop coming into work; supplies start running low. Derek’s forced to make one of the hardest decisions of his life. Derek was my FAVORITE character! His story pulled me in. I felt for him, rooted for him, and wanted to cry for him. 

Plot: Now, I know I ranted on and on about the characters, but truly, the best part of this book was the plot. As it follows the four characters, there never was a slow part. Sometimes, I find myself skipping around books that are a bit slower, but I promise you, I read every word of this book. From the moment Simon got the phone call from Martin about the solar flare all the way to the final farewell, I was hooked. 

Each character’s story adds something to the plot. I honestly would have never thought about how a response team would handle a near-apocalypse. Yet, with Lisa, I get to see that. Simon shows us the civilian point of view, including all the looting and stealing and murdering. With Derek, we get to see a man struggle to take care of his family and worry about the people he’s tasked with. 

This story is so immersive. I swear. I felt like I was there the entire time. It almost makes me want to start being a prepper. I’m going to start buying non-electric supplies and stocking up on batteries. First, I need to actually find a flashlight that isn’t my phone. 

The Big Picture here, I believe, is on the fact that we rely so much on electricity. We’d be doomed without it, and this book shows that clearly. It’s scary. 

Pick up this book. You WILL NOT regret it. 

This is the link here to buy it. 

As as always, if you’re interested in MY dark dystopian book, you can always check “Caged” out here: mybook.to/Caged_AJohnson.