Review Roundup

The reviews are coming in for my books and I am absolutely loving what people are having to say about them! Whether people flat out love my books or provide honest feedback through their reviews, everything said are nothing more than powerful tools that I use in order to hone my craft as a writer!  With so many reviews coming in, I wanted to round them all up and put them in one place!

Without further adieux, here are all of the reviews my books have seen so far!

Final Hope Vol. 1

From Sara Matherson

An excellent book with a captivating story line, relatable characters and heart wrenching twists. I am on the edge of my seat waiting for book 2!

Rating: 5/5

From Carrie Mills

While there aren’t any illustrations, there’s no need of any. Joshua is very descriptive, and paints a perfect picture of the characters in your mind. With that said, I had a hard time connecting with the characters. Mikomi, the protagonist, Serah and Ryan, friends from his past all felt generic. I feel that it was due to the characters speech, and how it was written down to the crossed T’s and dotted I’s.

Even with the lack of connection, the story unfolded nicely, although somewhat a little slow for my liking. I wished to know more about the shooting in general, but not a lot was said (hopefully in Vol 2!). The detail, however, was great. The fact that Mikomi could change the world with every subtle decision, kept me turning the page.

Rating: 4/5

From Andrew Pierson

Not many books nowadays make me lose track of time. This book did exactly that. I started reading it and ended up staying late at work because I was too enthralled by the story. The ending makes you desire the second volume more than a crack addict wants their next fix.

Rating: 5/5

A.R. Dragonfly Vol. 1

From Sam Koumi

Joshua Piedra’s book A.R. Dragonfly volume 1 carries with it a story about a girl who’s only validation in life is to be the top player in the game she currently plays: “Blaze Auras”.

The story itself is pretty interesting. Piedra manages to write a story about how the main character, Amber Ryann, a girl with extreme social anxiety, manages to handle that exact anxiety. At least a little. He does this very well with a very small cast, two “good” guys and one antagonist. I believe that the choice of having such a small cast helps enforcing the impression of how bad Amber is at socializing, and how few people she surrounds herself with.

There are three main cast members in the story: the main character, Amber, her friend and the manager of her workplace, Sebastian (“Sebb”), and the antagonist, Khaine, whose player we have to meet. I really like Amber as a character, since she feels relatable to me, even if she is a bit more extreme compared to me, and she has her comedic parts in the story. I especially liked how her anxiety in the beginning was something that you could get a chuckle from occasionally, but as the story progressed, you realize how extreme it is, and you start rooting for her even more.
Sebastian is a nice support character who support Amber throughout the story from the shadows, while teasing her all the same.

Khaine is one character I didn’t like that much though; in general he felt a little bit too shallow and his motivations were pretty weak, making him only feel more like a douchebag.

The game, Blaze Auras, seems pretty interesting and I wouldn’t mind trying it out once, although I would probably suck and stop playing pretty soon. Even though the system seems pretty difficult to master, it still seems easy enough for noobs to try it, which makes it seem well balanced. It also makes it easy, even for non-gamer readers to get into the system, which boosts my impression of the book.

The action scenes are also engaging and I sit on the edge of my seat reading them.

In general, this book was pretty good, albeit short, and I therefore give this book a 7/10.

I look forward to seeing what’s happening in volume 2!

Rating: 4/5

From Rob Hunt

Amber is a fascinating character. “Quirky” would not begin to do her justice; she is complicated, contradictory and deeply troubled. Her story is full of twists and turns, with surprising, sometimes shocking, moments that reveal more about her inner turmoil. As I said, she is fascinating.

My only criticism of this book would be that it spends too much time detailing the rules and gameplay of a specific game that Amber plays, but I am not a gamer, so this is probably just a matter of personal taste. As a story of one character’s relationship with the world around her (both real and virtual), however, this book is riveting.

Rating: 4/5

From Sein Ares

Well, it was interesting. Being a gamer and a huge anime/manga fan since I was a wee lad of 6, I expected action and I definitely got it in the first few chapters.

Joshua does a good job describing the battle scenes. I must confess I couldn’t completely follow how the fight went, but it had an easy flow to it which made me imagine everything a little bit, not a lot, but enough.

The plot revolves around Amber, an introverted gamer and her daily challenges both in the physical world as well as the world of Nara. The story is basically simple. And simple is sometimes best. So I really enjoyed it. Plus I enjoyed the various references to other games and anime Joshua brought to the story.

Character development
There’s a reasonable character development shown for Amber and Sebastian, however, I would have liked to have known how Amber became a gaming junkie. A small flashback for the MC, about herself, family etc. would have been nice considering we now know Sebastian’s story somewhat.

But this is the first volume in the series, so I assume Joshua plans to introduce it slowly. But I enjoyed Amber’s and Sebastian’s various quirks, it brought life to their characters which I initially thought where carbon copies of most anime tropes.

Grammar and sentence structure
There are some books which have made me put them down. Not their fault obviously, they did their best but the grammatical mistakes and everything were too much to avoid.
Thankfully in Dragonfly, there was nothing like that. The language like I said earlier had an easy flow and typos were nearly non-existent. There were mistakes but considering this is a self-pub book, that speaks volumes of the sheer hard work that’s gone into editing this work. As an avid reader, I appreciate it greatly.

So if I liked it so much, why deduct a rating? Well, like I said, the story is simple. Even though, I loved it, I had a basic idea of where it was going. Hence that element of the unknown was missing for me.

Don’t be confused though. I definitely plan on reading the next volumes as soon as they are released.

Rating: 4/5

From Iestyn Long

Amber Ryan, the main protagonist in this story, is a gamer. And so, on starting this book, I assumed it was going to be all about videogames. Well, it is, and it isn’t.

I was a gamer, so while reading Joshua Piedra’s book, I liked to think I had some small understanding of Amber’s world. I appreciate how videogames can be addictive, and recognise their inflated importance to many peoples’ lives, but I also remember the immense satisfaction gleaned from completing a quest, solving a mystery, scoring a goal, winning a championship, napalming the undead to oblivion… and not to mention the surprising companionship felt from an inanimate object ― when friends didn’t come round to play, the computer or console was always waiting. Of course, Amber’s gaming and my gaming are very different. My first computer was a Commodore VIC-20; it had 4K of RAM ― enough said. I’m a retired gamer now; it’s far too time-consuming!

Blaze Auras, Amber’s game of choice, sounds brilliant ― I’m thinking better than Chuckie Egg on the Spectrum ― and the author describes it as such. The gaming action is well-written, and I was able to picture the various fight scenes just as if I were playing the game for real. In my mind, Blaze Auras is something like Fortnite, not that I’ve played it, but sometimes I watch my boys shooting seven bells of hell out of everything and everyone. The skill sets, character development and enhancements are all vividly portrayed and believable. In fact, it’s a game I’d like to come out of retirement to play!

I liked the plot; initially, Amber’s desperate attempt to defend her status as the Blaze Auras champion from an all-conquering upstart, and then later, and more importantly for her own sake, the defence of a friend and his loyalty toward her. The book also has a small cast of characters. Other than Amber, there’s Sebastian, her boss and friend, Khain, her online nemesis, and the odd extra, giving the story an intimacy comparable to a small stage play.

As alluded to earlier, this story doesn’t only concern itself with games and gamers. No, it’s really a story about mental illness: Amber’s struggle against overwhelming anxiety. The reader learns how Amber sees the world and how she thinks the world sees her. It’s a story about Amber’s constant day-to-day battle with the condition, her struggle to live when every action must first be assessed, evaluated and scrutinised.

I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say this book made me think, which was a pleasant surprise from the all-out gaming read I thought I was getting ― although I liked the all-out gaming bits too! I’m looking forward to the next volume and reading how Amber’s journey continues.

Rating: 4/5

From Carrie Mills

Amber Ryann’s character had me from the get go. A typical gamer girl with social anxiety that lives for her online battle game, Blaze Auras. Her days consist of sleeping, eating PB&J sandwiches, working a part-time job and whoopin’ ass online at night.

Joshua did a great job in bringing her character to life. With only a few characters in the novel, it was easy to keep track and invest in their wellbeing and in their story.

He went into great depth about the online game, Blaze Auras, which he created for this light novel and it came alive in the writing. I expected Amber to enter the game, like many other light novels, but Joshua wrote it from the standpoint of her playing the game, sitting behind the screen.

At first glance when I realized this, I thought it may be a little boring as I do enjoy novels where the characters jump into virtual reality, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. And that comes from Joshua’s great writing skills. I felt I was battling Khaine along side Amber!

I did hope to see Amber and Khaine meet face-to-face, and, without giving anything away, I’m guessing they kind of did. I just hoped there would have been a bit more to that part of the story. Maybe in Vol 2?

Overall, a quick and entertaining read when you have a few hours to spare!

Rating: Not Given

A.R. Dragonfly Vol. 2

From Sam Koumi

The epic story of neon-coloured sword swinging and gun slinging returns with Joshua Piedra’s volume two of the A.R. Dragonfly series! This time with a thrilling tournament (which was hinted at in the end of volume one) and a fight to save Sebastian’s store!

In this volume we get exposed to more of Amber’s awkwardness and I have gotten a fondness and a feeling of needing to protect her (damn you Piedra!). We also are introduced to a new main cast member: Lynn Aichner, who seems to be a bundle of social activity, and will probably be a nice force who works against Amber’s social anxiety and will hopefully help her cure it in the future. We also get to meet Sebastian’s dad, Joshua, some more, and he’s a prick, as well as Khaine’s handler (whose identity I won’t tell because of spoilers)

This volume is packed with action, which is great because Piedra seems to have a talent for writing action scenes. Thanks to the tournament, we get to see Amber fight for real, instead of against plebs or Khaine, which is nice since she sweats a bit in some of the matches, which made the story more exciting. The fighting in this volume also gave me some of the “Oh-my-god-I-wish-I-could-play-this-game-myself” -hype that I got when I read the Sword Art Online light novels for the first time when I was 15, which was awesome, since I love that series.

Some complaints I have though, is that the matches that was before the final felt way too rushed. They were almost over as soon as they started, and considering the structure of the game, this is no surprise, but this could have been circumvented by making each bracket a best-of-three or something, just to add to the thrill some more. This especially concerns the semi final match that could have been s lot more.

Another complaint, or maybe more of a comment would be that the whole premise of “saving the store by winning the tournament” part felt a bit unnecessary. It didn’t really add to the suspense or the plot in general, I feel that this could be used a lot better in another context.

In general, awsome, action-packed volume, with nice new characters! I give this volume an 8/10. Looking forward to volume 3!

Rating: 4/5

A.R. Dragonfly Vol. 3

From Sam Koumi

Once again I have returned to the series A.R. Dragonfly by Joshua Piedra, this time to volume 3. Piedra manages to once again make an interesting story out of esports, something I to be honest never have had much interest in, however I would probably call this the weakest of the three volumes released until now.

That said, that doesn’t mean it was a bad book, just that it was overshadowed by its predecessors, which amazed me even more.

I think the biggest reason I feel like this is because it kind of feels like a segway volume that mostly resolves some of the struggles the main crew has had during the first two volumes, but it felt like they were resolved too easily, even though they probably weren’t. It was as if the character just had a long rant about their problem, and then it was solved. Again, these struggles had been built on since volume one, but it kind of felt like they were solved too early, although there would have been the risk of dragging it out for too long as well.

Aside from that, it was quite an enjoyable book. Many of the characters evolved and we got to see the lovely Amber be awkward and Sebastian be best boi, as always, which we love.

Throughout the book Amber managed to get a new, although annoying, friend in Triggabyte’s handler Lynn Aichner, and it was wonderful to see Amber grow as a character. She also took huge leaps towards becoming friends with her nemesis.

We also got a few sections where we saw the situation from other characters’, aside from Amber, point of view, which felt like a new breeze and made the other members of the cast feel more personal than they had before. Maybe we’ll get a “a day in Lynn’s life” chapter in the future? (hint hint)

Finally, even though the book was the weakest in the series yet, I still enjoyed it a lot and I give it a 6/10, with looking forward to the next novel, which I hope will come out soon!

Rating: 3/5

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