Perhaps too elementary.

Sherloc: Reboot, by Nathan Boeker

109 pages

Published on November 7, 2017 by Boekerbooks

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

John is an ordinary student at an extraordinary school. When his phone is taken over by an artificial intelligence program, John becomes an unwitting accomplice in a broadening web of intrigue. Get drawn into a high-tech world of adventure and suspense.

I’m always down for a Sherlock Holmes remix, and teaming up a teenaged Watson with an AI version of everyone’s favorite detective is a concept I haven’t seen before. However, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle left some big shoes to fill, and the storytelling in Sherloc: Reboot just doesn’t compare.

The writing is rather threadbare – a torrent of simple sentences that do nothing to build suspense or emotion. Have an excerpt for one of the more gripping scenes:

A few seconds later the door to the cage squealed closed and the lock rattled again. Footsteps retreated. Lights turned off. A door closed.

Darkness again.

I started breathing. I looked down at the phone in my hand and then up at the network router. The rows of green lights went dark. A single red light began blinking on the left side of the box.

“Sherloc?” My mouth was dry and my voice sounded shakier than I liked.

His voice was reassuring in the darkness. “I have changed the security protocols and rebooted the routers. We can now access any network from this building without being tracked.”

I pulled the cable out of the router and stepped off the bucket. I walked as quickly as I could back between the dark storage cases. Enough secrets for tonight.

The elevator ride back to Floor 17 was silent. Sherloc was probably inside some network somewhere.

It’s just not doing it for me. I want my heart to pound with worry the whole time John’s in danger! Instead, the action is over within a few sentences and John comes across as only faintly discomforted.

With more attention to detail and evocative prose, this bland novella could easily turn into a thrilling YA novel. The substance is there – it just needs a little extra oomph.

Needs more aliens

Diary of a Security Guard at Area 51, by Helen Culver

130 pages

Published on September 16, 2017 by Troy International Publishing Limited

Amazon | Author’s Website

Melissa is 26, utterly bored, and isn’t far off ending it all with a nail gun.

Her witty, dry and twisted sense of humour gets her through each day. Her diary is an insight to where the ordinary meets the extraordinary, and every desk assessment and alien invasion in-between. Will she reach a truce with Sandra, her arch-rival?

Will she be able to ditch Colin? And can she coax Fran away from turning into a complete psychopath?

I was so intrigued by the premise of this book, but the execution fell rather flat for me. Diary of a Security Guard at Area 51 is episodic, as opposed to having an overarching plotline, and it’s full to bursting with crass humor. I’m not a huge fan of either of those things, but that’s just personal preference, not an issue with the book.

However, the book did have some issues, which is why I’m still not recommending it to those of us who love a good, raunchy, slice-of-life story.

First off, it really needs a proofread; there were grammatical errors all over the place and it quickly became distracting. The more disappointing thing, though, was that the setting felt like an afterthought. I was expecting to be walloped with all the sci-fi mystery of Area 51 – no such luck. Sure, there were funny mentions of alien insurrections here and there, but it was all happening in the background and hardly impacted the characters. Change the setting to a department store in Springfield, and Melissa’s story would’ve been exactly the same.

I had high hopes for this book, but unfortunately it’s just not there yet.

No place on my Kindle either

No Place in Heaven, by David Lee Dambrosio

307 pages

Self-published on September 19, 2017

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

Under the safe, family-values façade of the suburbs of a city in the Midwest lies infidelity and corruption.

Gina is not an innocent Catholic girl anymore. She’s both a devil and an angel. Gina loves the wrong man. More and more, she learns how wrong. A theft leads to a murder. She’s involved up to her rosary beads. How many times before the stay-out-of-hell card, offered through confession and forgiveness, is revoked by God? She needs to atone or there may be no place in heaven for her. Isn’t a contrived miracle better than no miracle at all? Life is short. Life after death is forever.

What is Sub Rosa? No one would suspect Sub Rosa’s existence in these quiet suburbs. What happens at Sub Rosa needs to be kept secret. Secrets exist because revealing secrets can be deadly.

What about Sam Price, Phil Price, and their lifelong friend Stan? Although everyone likes Sam, his only true friends are Stan and his brother. Sam believes his brother would choose Stan in a life-or-death situation, though he hopes it would be a difficult decision. Sam also hopes it will never come to that.

This page-turning, sexy, smart, and suspenseful story is a mystery of romantic danger and consequences, of money and bad behavior. Who reaps what they sow? Who doesn’t.

The Amazon blurb is a really good indication of what you’ll find in this book: simple sentences, matter-of-fact storytelling, and an unfortunate lack of emotion. Even with all the cops, intrigue, and seduction, No Place In Heaven was about as suspenseful and sexy as a technical manual. For example:

Bob worked long hours. His donuts were homemade and delicious. His coffee was strong – but not too strong. His business struggled. Competition came from donut franchises, coffee franchises, and every other business from burger joints to gas stations claiming good coffee. More and more people were on diets and cutting out donuts. The worst foe was the current depressed economy.

The characters are described only in the broadest of strokes, and it got more and more difficult to tell them apart as the book went on. Even the more adult scenes were bland and soulless. There was hardly any sensory description to be found, so the whole thing ended up being decidedly less than captivating. There’s the makings of a good story in there, but it needs a serious rewrite before I’d want to give it another shot.

Yikes.

I Was An Evil Teenager: Remastered, by Anthony Avina

274 pages

Self-published on October 20, 2017

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

Lisa Etron is the girl next door. Lisa Etron is the most beautiful and popular girl in her school. Lisa Etron is the girl of Dave Trent’s dreams. Lisa Etron is a demented killer, hellbent on chaos and murder, and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to achieve those two goals. While a seasoned detective works to solve the mystery of a series of brutal murders, Lisa plans a deadly killing spree that threatens to destroy those who have made the mistake of loving her.

Let me start with an excerpt.

Abruptly, the woman brought the knife down upon Kristina, driving the blade deep into her neck. Instinctively, Kris slammed her foot down on the pedal and shot the car forward. Blood spout out onto the dashboard of the truck, and Kris lost control of the wheel. All she could feel was a hot, flowing pain on her neck, and all she could see was the cabin of the truck, spinning out of control. Suddenly the truck struck a tree dead on, going on 45 miles per hour the police would later say.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I Was An Evil Teenager is pretty rough. Like the excerpt above, the book is plagued by grammatical errors, odd phrasing, and underwhelming writing. The narration is all tell and no show, so instead of a spine-chilling horror novel, it’s more of a bland play-by-play featuring a bunch of one-dimensional characters.

I was ready to put it down after the first chapter, but I skimmed through a bit more to see if there was any improvement later on. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

He looked down at her. She looked back up at him and met his gaze as the lights went down, and he kissed her, with the love of a couple who’s experienced months of a relationship. The previews played, and the audience began commenting on each movie, but the two lovers ignored them, and were lost in a world all their own.

This book needs a serious tune-up before I would consider it worth the price of admission.

Lots of potential, but something’s missing

The Legend of Dollaretta, by Cherry Gunzenhauser

218 pages

Published on August 10, 2017 through Amazon

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

The 17-year-old (vampire) Demi Chevalier is angry, fed-up and socially indifferent, yet she has accepted that Elizabeth Rose Convent will be her home for the next two years. She anticipates many hindrances, but does not expect her curiosity to be so deeply ignited by what she is told of the Convent’s infamous legend of Dollaretta.

According to the legend, those who speak of Dollaretta will find themselves fated to peril, and incidentally, the first student to tell Demi about the legend, finds herself in a grave situation. Demi refuses to acknowledge the strange coincidence, although there is a part of her that begins to feel a deep-rooted sense of paranoia. For the next few weeks Demi experiences vivid nightmares about the legend then as if to test her better judgement, she is confronted by a student who is convinced that the legend is real. Despite the eerie and suggestive nature of Demi’s nightmares, she tries to tell herself that paranoia is to be expected under the given circumstances.

Gothic? Check. Vampires? Check. Graphic novel? Check. The concept of The Legend of Dollaretta caught my imagination, and I really wanted to love it, but unfortunately, it kind of misses the mark for me.

The main issue is that the artwork just didn’t captivate me. All the characters look extremely similar – the same faces sporting slightly different hairstyles – and that made it difficult to differentiate them. The backgrounds are also rather plain, which doesn’t do the setting any favors. Take a look:

The writing wasn’t enough to carry the novel either. Between the occasional misspelling (‘heredatory’ for ‘hereditary’) and some awkward phrasing (‘a journey of paranormal complexions’), I just wasn’t hooked.

The premise was super intriguing, and I’d love to see Dollaretta reworked with stronger storytelling and a more diverse-looking cast.