Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Still Looking...

Still looking... It's been very quiet here on the blog for the last several months. You might have noticed or it might have just been a welcome respite from the relentless onslaught of blog updates crowding your inbox. In either case, I apologize. It's not that I haven't been reading self published novels - I have read a few in the past few months. Unfortunately... Well, it's just one of those things I guess. Sometimes you don't enjoy all the books you're reading (or really any of them). And that minimal enjoyment you might feel is nowhere near enough to pop out an inspiring review. That's been what it's like here. Maybe I'm becoming a little too critical, or I'm in some kind of funk where all of the indie books I read are getting a bit too familiar, a little too error-full, or just plain... no. If I have to be honest, the last time I enjoyed a self published indie book was last summer. And for the whole summer, I think I enjoyed maybe two books. Both were by the same author, H.P. Mallory. So if you're looking for an enjoyable indie book in the paranormal romance genre - not exactly the usual fare for this blog but I'm stretching it - then I can recommend these:

To Kill a Warlock
Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble
Both of these have a fun story, are very quick reads, have engaging characters and -for those of you who are secretly romance readers- smutty, racy bits that are fun and even embarrassing. They're also both free and the first book in a series.

If you're looking for a childrens' book - I did find a cute one. It's short (100 pages) and it stars a mouse. What else can I say? It was very alright. Nostradormouse by Chris Tinniswood.

Sadly, some of the better books I have been reading are not self published. They're big six or smaller publisher (but not all that small). The most notable of these I finished two weeks ago. It was an extraordinarily weird horror book. Engines of the Broken World by Jason Vanhee is an apocalyptic - not post apocalyptic - story told in first person by a twelve year old girl (in places I would almost call it first person hillbilly narration). Never the less, this was one of the creepiest end of days stories I have read. While the characters could be frustrating, I have to give it to the author. He has completely mastered the disturbing. If you are looking for something strange, completely unique with a weirdly biblical end of the world... then I would recommend this one. You might have to buy it though. I haven't seen it in any of the library systems around here yet.

That's all for now. *Sad face* I will keep keep looking and hopefully come up with some indie books that are 4 or 5 star review worthy. Until then... happy holidays everyone.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Wanted (Flick Carter #1) by Tim Arnot

Wanted (Flick Carter #1)Wanted by Tim Arnot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Action, straight out of the gate, makes for a nearly perfect beginning to a YA adventure. So it's always a thrill to pick up a story with plenty of action right from page one. And it just gets better from there when the action continues. All the way to the end. So for me, the action was what really made this book a good read.

Wanted is the first book in a series that takes place in a not too distant future (23rd century) where technology and society as we know it have collapsed. People are living simply, in a village like atmosphere where scavenging for relics like radios and other pieces of scientific equipment is outlawed. Trading a few long lost trinkets is fine, but keeping anything potentially useful... not so fine. Fear and oppression (as required by most YA post apocalyptic settings) is provided by the head village thug, known as the Mayor, and his band of minion thugs (I think they're pretty much just known as minion thugs). There is however, a nicely added second layer of oppression provided by the well organized and darkly clad group of thugs known as the Kingsmen. The Kingsmen are the ones responsible for enforcing the simplistic lifestyle, 'disappearing' the subversive folks and accumulating the technologically useful items for themselves. Somewhere in between these evil oppressive forces, the down trodden villagers and our resourceful protagonist Flick, a tense and action filled adventure is spawned.

For a first-in-the-series YA adventure, I thought Wanted was pretty good. And if I could just rate it on the action, I would give it five stars. In fact, for most of the book, I would give it five stars. There were however a few things that held me back from completely enjoying the story. Weird, I know. Usually really good action sequences can make me forget all those things that bug me in a story. But not this time. There were these few plot bits that just didn't work for me. They either didn't seem to have much of a point (and interrupted the flow), or they didn't really go anywhere and just kind of hung around unresolved. For some reason they bugged me - a lot - enough that I couldn't really forget them, or sweep them under the review.

The first weird plot thing was this Joe-snake dream. For me anyway, it just popped up all of a sudden, out of nowhere, didn't really have that much relevance and interrupted the flow. It really bugged me - not because of what it was but because of how it was placed in the story. It was like it was going to be something important, but then it wasn't. Maybe it's just me, but I don't really think so. There were a few other moments like that one, where the writing just kind of threw something at me that felt jarring but then was left kind of unresolved. The REALLY big one that got to me though was a sudden termination of one of the characters. I'm trying to avoid spoilers here, so I'll eschew the details, but this was a big one for me. It was just so sudden - and yes, jarring. And yes that can work sometimes... but in this case, I was just left feeling kind of ripped off. The character's exit was just something that happened. And then it was over. And not really written much about after. I felt like the author really should have made this character's exit bigger. I felt like - as a reader - I should have been either lost in a sea of confusion and mystery surrounding the exit, or reduced to a blubbering pool or tears. It just seemed like there was about a chapter worth of writing missing. I know it was close to the end and all, but still.

I realize there is going to be a second book in the series; a book in which these issues I have may all be resolved and I'll just look like a giant schmuck for pointing out these things in the first place. I'm not trying to be overly critical - it's still a four star read. And as for action and a story that keeps moving - this is a good one. It's worth the read and the cover price. (I also hope that my pointing out the death of an un-named character, somewhere near the end, doesn't really qualify as a spoiler. After all, just think about how many books you could pick up and say, "Hey. Somebody dies in this. Near the end." I mean, there are loads of books like that, right?)

View all my reviews

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Unhinged by Tempest C. Avery

It all depends on what you're looking for in a YA - if it's romance with a hefty wrench thrown in and then topped up with a little mythology, this could be it. Of course when the story begins there's the obvious problem - Spencer Perry's soul mate boyfriend is dead. And after all, what could be a bigger wrench than hiding and hanging out with your ghost boyfriend in your room because you are the only one who can see him? For months? While everyone else seems to be healing and getting on with their lives? Sure it's a wrench. But then, how about tricking a grim reaper into ferrying you to the underworld to make a deal with the god of the dead and ending up endangering not just yourself and your boyfriend but everyone you care about? And maybe just about everyone else as well? And then of course there's that complication with the god of the dead being quite hot... That's the kind of wrench in the romance that protagonist Spencer Perry is facing. It's also the kind of wrench that makes it a pretty good story. The mythology is just the icing on the story, but I will say that the author twists up the mythology enough to make it a little more unique.

I would definitely put Unhinged with the books I consider to be girl reads, because I really think that's the audience here. And I don't consider that a bad thing, but it might be a mood thing. If you're looking for a romance with appealing characters (yes they're all quite appealing and thankfully the Spencer character isn't a weak dimwit although she does have her moments) - then I recommend it. It's a smooth easy read and I look forward to the next one in the series.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Fargoer by Petteri Hannila

Fargoer is a remarkable fantasy taking place during a time when Vikings thrived and terrorized many different peoples across northern Europe. It is a compelling read that follows the life of a girl, Vierra on her journey into adulthood. Her path is a difficult one and filled with many hardships, both physical and spiritual.

At the beginning of the story, Vierra and her cousin Aure must endure an initiation into womanhood that involves a trek to a sacred lake and meeting with the Kainu people's First Mother. The outcome of the meeting will determine the girls' futures. Only one of the girls will become the next Chieftain and the two girls must fight to the death to determine who it will be. If Aure becomes Chieftain, the Kainu people will eventually fade away. If Vierra succeeds and becomes Chieftain, her people will suffer many hardships but survive. When Vierra chooses to spare her cousin from death, she alters fate and the two girls' futures are set in motion. Vierra is set on a path to become the Fargoer.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The writing style is enchanting and although there were a few places where some things were lost in translation (the odd missing article or wrong possessive adjectives) the overall effect isn't bothersome. Knowing the original tale is in Finnish, and the type of story it is just allows the rare mistake to add to the charm. Besides, the setting is fantastic. You can almost feel the old northern magic that haunts the pages as the story unfolds, taking the reader from place to place and experiencing tenebrious situations like encountering the grey mist people of the forest or the gigantic stone age men creatures.

Just reading about the different peoples and how they live is a fascinating part of the novel. The character Vierra is part of a very unique culture, a type of hunter gatherer people who are infrequently encountered in legends and history. Overall it's an engrossing tale. I recommend it to readers who enjoy a good fantasy and are looking for something other than wizards and dragons. Here are the links to the book.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Fargoer - A Unique and Gripping Northern Fantasy

I've just finished Fargoer, a remarkable fantasy set in the north during a time when Vikings thrived and terrorized many different peoples across Scandanavia and northern Europe. It is a very compelling read that follows the life of a girl, Vierra who journeys into adulthood and experiences many hardships on her path to becoming the Fargoer. She is part of a very unique culture, a type of hunter gatherer people who are infrequently encountered in legends and history. It's a n engrossing tale. I'll write a full review when I have a little more time this evening or tomorrow. But for now I'm posting the links to the book. It was just that good.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Star Dwellers by David Estes

Book series often start out with that first book that gets you hooked and ends with something that either wows you, leaves you sad, satisfied or confused. Right after that first book and all the way up to the last book there are those middle books. You know what I mean? There might be one, or several, but one thing about them is almost always the same - they are just part of a story. I find it so difficult to review middle books. Spin it any way you like - they could be full of action and excitement, suspense, tense drama filled situations - middle books are always just going to part of a story. It's a little like built-in disappointment just because it can never be a complete, satisfying story.

This is such a horrible way to start a review for a good book. So I'll do a little backtracking here. For a middle book, The Star Dwellers is great. The plot moves along fairly steadily, taking the characters from danger filled skirmishes in the first book all the way into a more organized resistance situation in this book. There are even a few character twists and surprises thrown in. All in all it's enjoyable, a good adventure and very imaginative. I could be critical and point out that the characters don't really develop significantly or that some of the situations seem a little abrupt or too sudden - but it's an adventure. I don't think those things are all that necessary if the story is entertaining. The only thing that really holds me back is the undeniable fact that it is the middle of the story. So, if you really want that feeling of satisfaction, you'll just have to go ahead and get the next one.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Two Very Different YA Novels - Fantasies Worth the Read

IcefireIcefire by Patty Jansen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Icefire was a good fast read although I really think it was too short for the type of story it was.

The fantasy takes place in a cold and somewhat forbidding world, typical of the genre but intriguing none the less. The main character,Isandor is a boy who may be physically incomplete, but has a hidden magic that makes up for his disability. When the boy tries to remove the heart of an animal, he replaces it with icefire, a glowing magic that keeps the animal alive as a slave to Isandor. However, the boy's talent is not permitted in his world and he is forced to remain an outcast until a mysterious man with a similar ability takes the boy under his wing. Unfortunately for Isandor, it turns out to be worse than being an outcast loved by no one, not even his mother. The path to becoming an Eagle Knight it seems is far more difficult than Isandor could ever have imagined.

While it took me a little reading to get used to the writing style - at first I found it a little choppy - I soon felt the style was a good fit for the story. The only real problem I had was the romance part. It was just too fast and I think that's really where the story needed to be longer. For me it didn't work, but it might for others. Aside from the romance issue, I think the story had potential and the dangerous fantasy world created was an interesting one. The full trilogy could be worthwhile.

View all my reviews Dark Currents (The Emperor's Edge #2)Dark Currents by Lindsay Buroker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dark Currents is the second book in the Emperor's Edge series and still worth the reading addiction. Although I didn't enjoy it as much as the first book, largely due to a slower moving plot, I still found the characters every bit as appealing as they were in Emperor's Edge. This second novel continues along with the band of men led by Amaranthe in their quest to prove themselves valuable to the Emperor, but it also focuses on one of the supporting characters and pulls him into the limelight - Books Mugdildor.

I'm whole heartedly enjoying the storyline and can't wait to pick up the next one.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Emperor's Edge - YA Fantasy

The Emperor's Edge (The Emperor's Edge #1)The Emperor's Edge by Lindsay Buroker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For the avid YA reader (and probably girls in particular) this is a highly satisfying read. It's always great to find a YA novel that has a strong female lead character who is intelligent and ambitious but still has personality. Plus her OCD just makes her better. Even the secondary characters she (Amaranthe) pulls into her group throughout the tale are equally charming in their different ways. Maldynado and 'Books' were probably my favorites. In fact I'd say the whole novel is full of appealing characters and despicable villains -which of course just makes the villains appealing as well (Sicarius of course being both).

The fantasy setting also has its charm - a steam powered empire that foolishly denies the existence of magic. I would have enjoyed a smattering more detail in the surroundings - but leaving it to my imagination turned out to be just as good.

Here's the book synopsis from Goodreads:

Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.

Worse, Sicarius, the empire's most notorious assassin is in town. He's tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down. Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills... or someone wants her dead.

I loved that the ebook was free - it's a great strategy for the rest of the series. I immediately bought the second. It's going on my favorites shelf.

View all my reviews

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Moon Dwellers

<script src="" type="text/javascript"></script>

Here's the story synopsis from Goodreads:

In a desperate attempt to escape destruction decades earlier, humankind was forced underground, into the depths of the earth, creating a new society called the Tri-Realms. After her parents and sister are abducted by the Enforcers, seventeen-year-old Adele, a member of the middle-class moon dwellers, is unjustly sentenced to life in prison for her parents' crimes of treason.Against all odds, Adele must escape from the Pen and find her family, while being hunted by a deranged, killing machine named Rivet, who works for the President. She is helped by two other inmates, Tawni and Cole, each of whom have dark secrets that are better left undiscovered. Other than her friends, the only thing she has going for her is a wicked roundhouse kick and two fists that have been well-trained for combat by her father.

At the other end of the social spectrum is Tristan, the son of the President and a sun dweller. His mother is gone. He hates his father. Backed by only his servant and best friend, Roc, he leaves his lavish lifestyle in the Sun Realm, seeking to make something good out of his troubled life.

When a war breaks out within the Tri-Realms, Tristan is thrust into the middle of a conflict that seems to mysteriously follow Adele as she seeks to find her family and uncover her parents true past.

This is one of those YA reads I didn't really know how to rate. There were parts that were fully deserving of five stars, but at the same time (for me anyway), there were parts that pulled it back. I loved the whole idea and the setting - the author has done a splendid job of creating an underground world complete with an evil oppressive government and imagination teasing labels (the Sun Realm, the Moon Realm and the Star Realm). It made for a fantastically dystopian world, perfect for a budding/struggling revolution and challenge-laden characters. Plus, the adventure the characters were thrown into was page turner enough to keep me interested (although it was slower to progress than I expected). Even the action sequences were great, very well described (although maybe fewer roundhouse kicks would be better). So for many YAers I can see this being five stars. However, for me there was one thing I couldn't quite get past, and that was how the story swung between Adele's and Tristan's viewpoints. Although it works sometimes, I found that the overall result was to slow the story down by going over a scene from a different perspective (and sometimes providing too much character thinking time).

Again, just because the writing perspective didn't work for me doesn't mean it won't work for others. The story had all those other things that make it appealing: danger, star-crossed lovers (although they don't know it yet), heroic good looking young people and evil bad guys. So I have to say, it's well worth a try.