Review: Sol of the Coliseum by Adam Gaylord

Sol of the Coliseum by Adam Gaylord

Title: Sol of the Coliseum
Author: Adam Gaylord
Series: N/A
Pages: 262 pages
Publisher: Mirror World Publishing (September 17, 2015)
Rating: 4.5 stars (Read It!-Choose It!)


GoodReads Synopsis

Deep in the bowels of the Coliseum of the mighty Astrolian Empire, the orphan, Sol, is raised by a makeshift family of guards and fellow slaves to become the most famed Gladiator in all the land. Alongside K’nal, his giant Frorian fighting partner, Sol must battle cunning warriors and fantastic beasts to delight the crowd and stay alive. But when an oppressed populace transforms Sol into a revolutionary folk hero, the Empire sends its most ruthless assassin to put an end to the uprising. Sol’s only chance is to do what no slave has ever done: escape from the Coliseum and the only home he’s ever known.

With elegant prose, Adam Gaylord tells a fast-paced gladiator story with layered, multi-dimensional characters. Sol of the Coliseum is not your typical Hollywood gladiator story. It is a story about someone just trying to survive to see the next day with their humanity. Even though he is a famous gladiator, Sol (the main character) kills only for survival, has strong values (despite his circumstances), and tries hard to keep his humanity, which I admired.

The author’s skilled prose made reading great fun (despite the small smart phone screen I read on). When Sol must fight in the Coliseum, the fights are detailed and descriptive with Sol more often than not having a clear strategy in mind for how he and his fighting partner (K’nal) are going to survive.

I am giving Sol of the Coliseum 4.5 stars, but there were just several small things that were preventing me from giving the extra half star. While the majority of the book was very suspenseful and action-packed, the beginning got off to a slightly slow start, so I had to power through for a small stretch before things started to pick up. However this wasn’t too much of a problem because the author took that time to help the reader gain a better understanding of Sol’s world and its inhabitants. Also I would’ve liked to see more character motivations/objectives/goals. Does Sol really want to escape or just live to see another day? Why is Lysik the evil sadistic assassin that he is? Why does he serve the empire and how did he come into its service?–since I don’t see a clear motive for his homicidal streaks other than that he is clearly insane, does he have some secret backstory or history?

On a positive note, I really liked how the author had the main POV’s storyline and then minor POVs’ storylines told and then at the end they all came together and fell into place. Also I liked how there was no love triangle between Sol, K’nal, and Korra and just a friendship, which is a hard phenomenon to come by sometimes. I’m also pleased that there was more than what meets the eye with Slink (a guard who puts up an unfriendly front who is constantly enduring ridicule from the other Colisium guards) instead of just having Slink being the classic nasty guard. Furthermore, Sol was actually mature enough to listen to Occi (his mother figure) and try to be nicer to Slink.

Overall I immensely enjoyed Sol of the Coliseum and am pleased that I got the chance to read it in exchange for an honest review as I do not think that I would’ve picked up this book (much less heard of it) on my own. This book is definitely a hidden gem in gladiator stories and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a unique gladiator story. I’m left with wondering whether there will be a sequel after Sol of the Coliseum‘s ending–what will happen to Sol, K’nal, Korra, and Slink?

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of Sol of the Coliseum by Adam Gaylord in exchange for an honest review.


Review: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Title: Murder on the Orient Express
Author: Agatha Christie
Series: N/A
Pages: 336 pages
Publisher: Harper; Reissue edition (March 29, 2011)
Rating: 5 stars (Read It!)

The novel, Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie describes an enthralling murder mystery on the Orient Express.

GoodReads Synopsis

Just after midnight, a snowdrift stopped the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train was surprisingly full for the time of the year. But by the morning there was one passenger fewer. A passenger lay dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside.

As usual, Belgium detective Hercule Poirot must solve the mystery of who the murderer is. But as he begins investigating, every new fact he learns complicates everything he already knows about the mystery. Can Poirot find the killer before they escape?

Warning: This review contains spoilers!

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Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Series: N/A
Pages: 181 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (June 3, 2014)
Rating: 5 stars (Read It!)

The novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman weaves a psychological thriller about an ‘ocean’ at the end of a lane where a man (unnamed deliberately by the author) lived as a young boy.

GoodReads Synopsis

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

Despite it’s relatively thin length for a novel (181 pages), The Ocean at the End of the Lane compacts a lot of meaning into those pages. And it left me still thinking after I’d finished it with the thought-provoking plotline. The author, Neil Gaiman, did a good job holding my interest through every page and generating intrigue.

A unique twist on the classic good vs. evil story with an adult tone to it, The Ocean at the End of the Lane took a little time to set up before fully launching into the story. I think what made this book fascinating was the surprise ending, and–highlight for spoiler– (the horridness of one Ursula Monkton), and how the author described memory and trauma.

One aspect of the novel that I found to be an interesting choice on the author’s part was the deliberate decision to keep the man (the main character) namelesss throughout the novel. In a way, I thought that it made sense.

Although the novel’s synopsis did not  intrigue me, I decided to give it a try and I’m glad that I did. Once you begin to read the book, it grips you and does not let you go until you finish. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel from the excellent writing, plot development, and character development.

I’d recommend this book to people who’ve read and enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s other novel Coraline or are looking for a good horror-psychological-suspense novel.

Review: The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

Title: The Elements of Style
Author: William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
Series: N/A
Pages: 105 pages
Publisher: Longman; 4th edition (August 2, 1999)
Rating: 4 stars (Read It!-Choose It!)

The writer’s reference book, The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White provides writers a handy resource for editorial advice.

True to its description of “manual,” The Elements of Style gave practical editorial advice on writing style and grammar. Everything was definitely good advice and was a good writing book as many reviews said, but I can’t say I was very interested since informational non-fiction isn’t my favorite genre.

However I did like the fact that this reference book was thin and only included good advice, so it was a much more feasible reference book read than The Chicago Manual of Style. I’d recommend The Elements of Style to anyone who wants to become better at writing or editing. In addition to The Elements of Style, I’d also recommend On Writing by Stephen King and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott to anyone interested in writing.

Review: On Writing by Stephen King

TitleOn Writing
Author: Stephen King
Series: N/A
Pages: 288
Publisher: Scribner; 10 Anv edition (July 6, 2010)
Rating: 4 stars (Read It!-Choose It!)


The part memoir, On Writing by Stephen King delivers advice hand in hand humor stories to aspiring and experienced writers alike.

Two of my favorite sections in this captivating part memoir and part writing book were:

  • C.V.–The hilarious memoir section.
  • On Writing–The instructional and helpful part on writing, as the title suggests.

On Writing, written in first person, is a funny, yet informational read filled with useful pointers for all writers. Throughout the book, King includes personal experiences and how they shaped him as a writer.

Along with Bird by Bird by Anne Lammott, How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card, and The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, On Writing is one of the best books on writing I’ve read.

Review: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Title: Unbroken
Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Series: N/A
Pages: 528
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (July 29, 2014)
Rating: 5 stars (Read It!)

The biography, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand describes the life of Olympics runner and World War II POW Louis Zamperini.

In his childhood, Zamperini was a locally notorious boy with cunning mind. He’d break into people’s houses (to steal something edible) or set up a prank contraption.

Determined to find a way to channel Louis’s wildness, Pete Zamperini (his older brother) attempted to interest him in track. Initially the attempt failed, but eventually Louis gained interest and he began to break records.

But when Pearl Harbor was bombed and America entered into World War II, Louis became an Army Air Corps bombardier. After narrowly surviving combat missions from the Hawaii base, Zamperini and two fellow Air Corps men, crashed in the Pacific Ocean and set a record for longest record at sea.

Eventually as they drifted east, the Japanese captured Louis and his crew. Following his capture, Louis was sent to various POW camps where several cruel POW camp officials and guards abused them. One official, known as the Bird, was exceptionally fixated upon abusing Louis.

Will Louis be able to survive and recover the physical and emotional torments of the Japanese POW camps?

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Review: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle*, by Jeannette Walls,  is a true story memoir on Jeannette Wall’s life and childhood.

Jeannette Walls grew up with her older sister Lori, younger brother Brian, younger sister, Maureen, and her parents, Rex, an electrician and Rose Mary Walls, an artist.

As a young child, Jeannette is constantly on the move with her parents moving from place to place with little money and low resources. Moving reasons usually were because the bills had ascended too high, her father had lost her job, or her parents are bored of the place and sought adventure. Every moment of her childhood, Jeannette is resourceful and savvy and makes do with what she had and sometimes even had to scavenge food to eat from the dump.

With her first major memory consisting of remembering “being on fire” and burning herself seriously from cooking sausages at age three, she’s rushed to the hospital by her parents. At the hospital, Jeannette’s introduced to the ease of being cared for at a hospital and the art of chewing gum. Her mother and father, who didn’t approve of civilized places like hospitals complained about how long her healing was taking and insisted to their daughter that a man who had healed Lori when she had gotten hurt would’ve fixed her up much quicker than these new-fangled stitches.

Throughout her life, with constant excitement, problems, and new situations advancing on her family and her every moment of the memoir, you will never take for granted a poor, full lunch or a good roof over your head again. The Glass Castle is a memoir that tells Jeannette and her family’s triumphs and struggles beautifully.

Rating: Read it!

*Strong language and a few sections of material is not suggested for children. If you’re a child, have your parent read it over first and mark-off the inappropriate parts.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on this book in the comments section. Are there any similar books you would recommend?

Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The biography novel, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks* by Rebecca Skloot tells you about the woman behind the famous, immortal HeLa cells: African American, Henrietta Lacks. Henrietta Lacks was born poor in Clover, in a four-room house on a tobacco farm. In 1951, Henrietta went to John Hopkins hospital (segregated hospital) to have the doctors investigate a “knot” on her womb. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer and revisited the hospital for radiation treatments.

During the surgery, without her knowledge and consent, a small part of her tumor with the cancer cells was removed and given to a man called George Gey, who experimented with cancer cells. With his procedure, George Gey discovered that Henrietta’s cells were immortal. Eagerly, he spread the news and a lucrative medical revolution was born with one woman’s cells. However, her family never received one cent of the profit.

I enjoyed this book because of the unique characters and the fascinating story of the woman who created HeLa cells. I recommend this book to anyone who would like to read about the science of cancer in a time of segregation.

*There are a few parts in this book that may be considered inappropriate for kids. Check with your parents before reading.

Rating: Read It!

Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on this book in the comments section. Are there any similar books you would recommend?

Review: How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card

The book, How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, by Orson Scott Card (well-known as the author of Ender’s Game) is an informational read for anyone who has ever wanted to write science fiction or fantasy.

Card’s book talks about the boundaries between the two similar genres and why clearly defining your genre is important. He also has a useful chapter for aspiring writers on how to get into the business of writing science fiction or fantasy.

This book was a very useful and information-packed read with a clear and easy to follow writing style. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys writing.

Rating: Read It!

Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on this book in the comments section. Are there any similar books you would recommend?

Review: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

The novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell sweeps you into the world of Oceania, Airstrip One.

In Air Strip One, there are two parties: the Inner Party (the ruling party) and the Outer Party (the working party.) People in both Parties work in one of the four ministries: the Ministry of Love, the Ministry of Truth, the Ministry of Plenty, and the Ministry of Peace. Ironically each ministry concerns itself with affairs opposing their name.  For instance, the Ministry of Love deals in killing and torture.

Within the Inner Party is Air Strip One’s leader who is called “Big Brother.” Big Brother, who the Air Strip One citizens treat like a god, controls and watches everything. Through the Thought Police, Big Brother knows of every rebellious scheme against the country. Alone time is discouraged and a country belief is that “everyone belongs to everyone.”

In the Ministry of Truth, works a young man called Winston Smith. Although Winston feels like he does’t fit into the Party community, he never crosses a line. That is until he meets a woman called Julia. Julia is a woman who convincingly plays the role of a devoted Party member, but who actually despises the Party. As Winston and Julia bond and sneak away for longer periods of times, both unwittingly forget the forbidden nature of what they’re doing. And at the end of the book, the reader will discover just how far Air Strip One will go to break an individual’s will.

I enjoyed this book because of George Orwell’s vivid description of his prediction of life in 1984. The characters were also very compelling, along with the suspenseful action and disturbing thought of what a world would look like with no privacy, individualization, and free thought.

However, I thought the pace of the book took awhile to pick up. I would recommend Nineteen Eighty-Four to anyone who enjoys reading about haunting, dystopian worlds with disturbing thoughts about the future or enjoyed reading Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I would not recommend this book to someone who dislikes dystopian books, sad endings, and complicated worlds.

Rating: Read It! Choose It!

Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on this book in the comments section. Are there any similar books you would recommend?