- See more at: http://myblogrtricks.blogspot.com/2014/07/how-to-show-post-title-before-blog.html#sthash.p9yUfIwF.dpuf

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Suzanne Lilly's A Thousand Little Secrets Shows Nothing Can Remain Hidden

Just one wrong move,

And you're cursed

With knowing too much.

Imagine that. Claircognizance sounds fun, but is it, really?

image via http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Dsb16TRqL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg
Cover design by KJ Jacobs

A Thousand Little Secrets is a YA paranormal romance written by Suzanne Lilly.

So what's it about?

All Marin wants is a normal life. Being claircognizant, however, makes that pretty much impossible. See, any time she touches someone whose emotions are high, she has a chance of hearing everything they're thinking. To most people that would seem like a benefit. But what happens when you 'hear' about a crime being planned, and have no way of explaining how you know about it?

Brock is the new guy in town, and Marin is his school ambassador. Her job is to show him the ropes and make sure he can find all of his classes. Marin doesn't quite know what to think of him in the beginning. Slowly, though, she begins to realize that there's more to Brock than his shallow appearance would suggest. When Marin discovers a plot to swindle the people of Olympus, Brock ends up being the only person she trusts to help her save the town.

Imagine what it would be like to know people's secrets - the ones that they've told no one.

It sounds like fun. That is, it sounds fun until you realize that some things aren't said for a reason. We wouldn't just hear the cool stuff... we'd hear the sad, the angry, and the boring things, as well.

Not only that, but we'd feel responsible for fixing some of these situations we hear about. That is, unless we suffer from clinical narcissism, which I assume the majority of us don't. When we see people in trouble, we want to help. Basically, this knowledge would be draining.

In Marin's case, she learns that a shell company is threatening the livelihoods of several people in town. She has no proof, of course. She knows this simply because she heard somebody else thinking about it.

So much for telling the police, right?

Lilly takes us through this dilemma, showing us the uncertainty, confusion, and frustration that Marin feels as she tries to do something about a crime that hasn't yet been committed. Naturally, she runs into one barrier after another, and even ends up placing herself into uncomfortable situations that cause people to doubt her character.

And then there's Brock.

The new guy in town, Marin is forced to spend time with him, since her high school places her in charge of getting him accustomed to his new environment. In the beginning, she's unimpressed with him - he's just some annoying, shallow guy that's gotten the attention of the popular crowd.

But at least she only has to deal with him for a few days...

Soon, though, she realizes that he's not annoying. Or shallow. Indeed, she finds herself trusting him more than anyone else after only a short amount of time. So much, in fact, that she

Tells. Him. Her. Secret.

Yep, he learns about her claircognizance. While he's unsettled at first, soon he's helping her try to save the town that he's so new to.

This ebook flows beautifully, leading the reader through Marin's world. Lilly did a spectacular job with character development, making us understand the difficulties that Marin and Brock face. While there were times I wanted to strangle them for making really bad decisions, I can't complain about this - we all make decisions that make sense in a given moment, but in hindsight, were really, really stupid. This is normal. Frustrating, but normal.

And real.

I did, however, feel that there was one glaring loose end that went nowhere. One of the characters mentioned a Society (capital S), but I never really discovered what that Society was. This appeared important, but no explanations were given, turning an interesting mystery into a red herring.

If you're interested in dialogue, however, the conversations were highly readable. I smiled quite a bit over the humor within some of the conversations, and shook my head in frustration when people refused to believe things Marin told them. Dialogue was extremely well done.

If you're looking for a light paranormal romance with a bit of amateur detective work mixed into it, A Thousand Little Secrets would be a good choice.

A Thousand Little Secrets can be found on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

CJ Brightley's Things Unseen Reveals What's Hidden Beneath the Surface

It's urban fantasy time, again!

What are the things 

Just beyond our perception?

Cruel Creatures out for blood?

Or beautiful beings hunted toward extinction?

Both?!

image via http://i1.wp.com/www.cjbrightley.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Things-Unseen-EBOOK-copy.jpg?fit=400%2C400

Things Unseen is the first book in the A Long-Forgotten Song series, an urban fantasy written by C.J. Brightley.

So what's it about?

Aria Forsyth is frustrated. She became a history major because she wanted to understand the past. Unfortunately, the last paper she wrote that deviated from the norm earned her an F. Her professor refused to grant anything more to a paper so full of unsubstantiated, unpatriotic drivel. It didn't matter, of course, that everything within the paper was cited, and that she had given opposing viewpoints, rather than proclaiming those words as truth.

That yearning for knowledge of history was clearly bad for her future. More so, however, her curiosity turned out to be bad for her health. After overhearing a conversation in a bookstore, Aria found herself unable to keep from paying attention to a man whose very presence was strange. Anything deemed unusual should be pointed out to the authorities, but Aria couldn't help but follow him so that she could learn more. Little did she know, her decision would change her life forever...

Brightley gives us a world in which people's knowledge clashes with the truth. Even things people remember are false. There's a whole world that goes unseen by the majority of the human population. People believe what the authorities tell them, never questioning what lies beneath the surface.

Hmmm... sounds kind of like our own world, doesn't it?

Ok, ok... I realize I'm being a bit of a cynic here, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if Brightley was trying to point out this very issue.

Or not.

It's very possible that I'm trying to dig a little too deeply beneath the surface. Like Aria. Of course, Aria's curiosity leads her toward the truth, so maybe I'm not so wrong here. Hmmm...

Brightley takes us into a world where the government was toppled a few decades prior. "Things are better" now, of course. Nobody has any reason to doubt that.

No reason that they understand, anyway...

And therein lies the problem within Aria's world. People believe in their government wholeheartedly. They have no doubts. The government protects them, keeps them happy, and makes their lives comfortable.

That is, as long as they're not too curious...

Unfortunately for Aria, she is.  When she meets a man named Owen, one that very clearly doesn't seem to belong, she discovers that much of what she thought she knew was wrong. Not only is there more to the world than she thought,

There are more than just humans.

Owen isn't human. Rather, he's fae. He's stronger, faster, and older... older than any human, though he appears to be relatively young. He's also trying to save his entire society from the human government, which is trying to eradicate them... and they're doing a rather good job of it, too.

Aria finds herself drawn not only to Owen, but also to his cause, and soon she finds herself in a deadly battle with the human authorities and their experimental pets.

Brightley created a vivid world with vivid characters.

She took pieces from several different myths and legends in order to create the fae within these pages. These are not the fairies that you're accustomed to, with flitting wings and mischievous giggles. They're strong, they're rough around the edges, and I never saw a single wing flitting about.

Brightley did something different with their creation, and I strongly recommend that you discover the intricacies of the species of fae that she designed.

The characters are well fleshed out and easy to relate to. Even the fae, whose entire society has different rules from our own, can be sympathized with. You don't just like her characters... you really like them. And the ones you dislike? They'll truly disgust you.

This work is well worth reading, and I look forward to the next book in the series, 

Things Unseen can be found on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

D.L. Denham's Reho is an Apocalyptic Blast!

Forget the Zombie apocalypse.

Nuclear holocaust? Scratch that, too.

But don't clear out your emergency stash...

Because today we're talking Alien Apocalypse!!!


image via http://amzn.to/UNK5pK
Cover Art by Pavel Sokov.

Reho is the first installment of The Hegemon Wars, an apocalyptic science fiction series written by D.L. Denham.

So what's it about?

During the Hegemon invasion, the powerful alien race took over a human society that had already torn itself apart through nuclear warfare. Radiation levels are high outside the safe zones, and humans can't survive away from those boundaries for more than a few minutes without protective gear. The world did this to itself, but the Hegemon invasion created a new - and even more immediate - danger. Most humans live in fear and poverty... exactly the way the Hegemon want it.

But then there's Reho. He's never been like everyone else. He's stronger, faster, and he can survive outside of the safe zones. He's been living away from society for the last few years, but finally decides to return. He has family that he misses. When he finally returns home, however, events propel him away from his hometown again, this time placing him at the epicenter of a rebel plan that could change the world. But will he have the ability to do what's required?

Ok, so there is a bit of nuclear holocaust thrown in... but this centers on the evil green men that arrive in the midst of it... doing even more damage to the human race... so it's not quite the same. 

So, there!

Reho is a character centered novel that takes place within the heart of a future ruled by cruel alien overlords.

You know... the kind of ebook that makes me a happy girl!

See, we all know that anything post-apocalyptic gets me pretty excited: it gives me plenty of fuel for my "what to do in case of an emergency" file cabinet that I keep in a nice, easy to access part of my brain. Adding aliens to my list puts me in seventh heaven.

Yeah... I'm a little weird. I know it.

But Denham gave those of us that do this sort of thing quite a bit to work with! He gave us an advanced alien race (of course) that breathes a different atmosphere than our own, made it humanoid so that we can relate, then gave us funky mutations that spring up amongst the humans. He did all of this while giving us danger zones that can physically annihilate us.

Ah, the sweet smell of total destruction!

Oh, wait... No, that's actually the scent of Reho, who spends so little time around human society that he rarely has the opportunity to bathe. Add the fact that water only runs for about five minutes when he does get the chance, and... yeah. It's ugly.

His personality, on the other hand? I love him. Every choice he makes, every action he takes, is filled with purpose. He doesn't do anything 'just because it's fun.' He sees the world through different eyes than the rest of us. And that's not just because his eyes appear to be different from the human norm.

Kind of like the eyes of a Hegemon, in fact...

See, he knows there's something different about him. He simply doesn't know what that is. He does discover the truth, however, after he joins a ship's crew. He thinks he's simply there to protect the delivery of some important goods to New Afrika.

Soon, though, he discovers that his part to play is much bigger than that.

What part is that? Well... SPOILERS! Yep. Totally not telling you. You'll have to read it.

And you'll enjoy doing so. Denham has written a novel that keeps you turning the pages. Even moments that should be dull end up keeping your eyes plastered to the page. He paints a vivid picture of a world gone wrong, continually making you think, "Yeah, I can see that happening. We humans are really messed up, aren't we?"

There were a decent amount of mistypes, but I found them easy to overlook, since both dialogue and narration were extremely well done. Reho didn't quite achieve Treasured Tome status, since my heartstrings weren't tugged hard enough for that, but it wasn't far off.

And Denham has also published a short prequel to Reho, called Red Denver... something I'm very interested in. The future of our world felt realistic, and was obviously well researched. Reading something that deals with what happened before Reho would be quite a treat!

If you have a thing for apocalyptic sci-fi that deals with alien invasion, you'll want to read this one. You'll also want to wear an AIM. Because AIMs are cool. I'm putting one in my "what to do in case of an emergency" file cabinet.

But you have to read Reho to understand why.

Reho can only be found on Kindle.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Nikolai Bird's Malspire Brings Us Courage Through Fear on the High Seas!

Time for a tale on the high seas!

Battleships, brigands, and destroyers!

Also, a rather clunky and abused frigate...

War is in full swing.

image via http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-3ziN7F8NuzU/UxZCJFxY-CI/AAAAAAAAD8s/p-RXANNhKDI/s1600/malspire-cover1.jpg

Malspire is a fantasy that takes place within a steampunk setting, written by Nikolai Bird.

So what's it about?

Ajator and Malspire were born twins, but that's where their similarity ends. While his brother is the perfect naval officer, likeable in every way and undeniably handsome, Malspire is a rogue and a loner. He was also crippled at birth, cursed to never have the ability to stand straight and tall, his back curved and misshapen.

Even so, he is a lord. This means that he'll rise to the top whether his superiors want him to or not... and they don't. He's unkempt and uncouth. He has no interest in becoming the perfect officer, preferring to mix with the common seaman below deck.

When he is promoted to captain, Malspire is given a small frigate to command, one that isn't even seaworthy, and the barest of skeleton crews. He's angered, but he has to make do. During this time, he realizes that there may be more to the war against the Empire than he ever dreamed.

Some of you probably remember when I reviewed a very short story called Cthulhu: Something in the Mud, written by the same author. I mentioned I had added a full novel by the same author to my reading list.

And here it is!

With Malspire we have a protagonist that is very much an anti-hero. I wouldn't quite proclaim him the perfect example of an anti-hero - he does have some heroic ideals that he sticks to - but he's close enough that we'll go with the term.

See, Malspire is, quite frankly, someone that I wouldn't take the time to get to know. He's short tempered, crude, and not exactly a nice guy. There's a reason most people within this story don't like him, and it doesn't have to do entirely with his looks.

But he grows on you.

While at first he seems to be nothing more than a cold-hearted, unlikeable ass, we soon see things as he sees them. We start thinking things like,

"Well, yeah, he's a complete prick... but they're worse."

Then, that changes into,

"Well, you know... maybe he's not so bad. Just a little rough around the edges."

Which later becomes,

"Hmmm... That Malspire is actually pretty awesome."

It's a slow process, but also a particularly thorough one.

See, Malspire considers himself a coward, and I agreed with him... in the beginning. Later, though, I changed my mind, realizing that he's actually pretty courageous. Courage isn't the absence of fear, after all. It's action in spite of it.

And Malspire lives with quite a large amount of fear: fear of danger, fear of society, and even fear of himself. His life is pretty rough, and his fears are all completely understandable. Malspire is forced to navigate through these waters, fighting fear every step of the way.

And there is quite a bit to fear!

Naval officers that make Malspire look absolutely kind-hearted, creatures that are half man, half fish, sword fighting, guns blasting, heavy artillery, assassins, and even a sea hag... Malspire deals with it all. Sometimes he's on the losing end, but he always gets back up again.

Characters in this ebook are well-written, and I never confused any of them with another. Some I liked, and some I despised, but each one was true.

Narrative, on the other hand, seemed to go on for a bit too long, on occasion. There were times that long lengths of prose became frustrating, making me think, "Just get on with it, already!"

So... yeah. I did skip over a few paragraphs from time to time. If, however, you're the type that enjoys heavy narration, this won't bother you. None of it was useless, understand. Everything fit into the story. I just felt that at times I was being told things that I didn't particularly need to know.

Things that slowed the action, sometimes stopping it altogether.

But! When Bird wrote an actual action scene, I hung on each word. He has a special talent for it. Every sword thrust, every step was important, and highly necessary. It was exciting, and at times, a single sentence would cause me to gasp with surprise.

Finally, as much as I complain about narration slowing the action, I felt that the end happened far too quickly. I ended up frustrated, wanting to know enough to feel a sense of closure, but not enough to be completely comfortable.

You see, it's clear that there will be a sequel. 

I'm pretty sure that will be worth reading, as well. I just wish Bird had given me enough closure that I had a sense of what led up to the point that we left off at. I know I'm supposed to be left wondering. That's clear. I just wish I knew what direction my imagination should head in.

Then again, perhaps that feeling will keep me looking for the second installment...

Am I being too critical? It's possible, considering how much I loved his short story. What do you think?

Malspire can be found on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.










Thursday, September 18, 2014

Chris Farnell's Dirty Work is WILD!

Today we have another short story collection.

It's wild. It's crazy.

And I'll never look at video games

Or time travel

The same way again.

image via http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51wWIKiq98L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_.jpg
Cover design by Phil Cooper.
Dirty Work is a fantasy/sci-fi short story collection written by Chris Farnell.

So what's it about?

A broker negotiates a demonic deal. A soldier fights for her life during the dolphin apocalypse. An unemployed man searches for a job in a future where sponsorship means everything. A food and drink industry consultant tries to avoid a PR disaster when fingers start showing up in soda cans. A man repeatedly travels back in time for a length of ten-minutes each. A caller discovers that it's always important to read an insurance company's fine print - even in a zombie infested society. A man discovers that an 8 bit childhood video game is more than just a game. A ninja has an "average" day at the office.

So... this one is... wierd.

I guess that's kind of obvious, though, right? Dirty Jobs takes the reader on a wild ride, and doesn't hold back. There's absolutely no sense of the author saying, "Well, gee... maybe I'm going too far."

Nope. 

Chris Farnell opens up his imagination to the rest of us, inviting us through not one, but several different alternative realities. He doesn't hold back at all.

And I'm afraid I'll never look at my favorite childhood video games the same way, again. As if that's not enough, I'm now wondering what it'd be like to experience kissing myself. Would I be any good it it? And why in the world am I even considering that possibility?!

Darn you, Farnell!

This one is well worth reading. It set my imagination on fire, hit me with a blast of confusion on a few occasions, and amazed me with its possibilities.

The stories are very short, and are something that I could have easily used in a National Forensic League competition when I was in high school... and won it. Reading this aloud would be quite easy, and would entertain any Oral Reading judge.

I would have blown through the competition.

I would have gotten all the way to the State level.

And maybe even into the semifinals, from there.

Sorry... I got a wee bit nostalgic for a second. But that's what this short story collection did to me. It was wild and exciting. It got my heart beating. My eyes leapt from one word to the next, transfixed. 

It brought back that buzzing sensation I used to have when I found that one perfect story to use for competition. The one that was fast paced, full of twists, and easy to draw people into. Something that brought me back a couple of decades into my past.

That's something that's worth reading.

It's very likely that a few of these stories will cause gigantic question marks to form above your head. You'll hit a couple of points where you'll think, "What in the heck just happened?"

Just go with it. It's worth it.

And read the acknowledgements. They won't give you any amazing eruptions of insight. They won't impart any special knowledge. But they will entertain you. The acknowledgements really feel as though the author is sitting across from you at a pub, amusing you with a great conversation.

This one is a bit pricey for its length, but it's worth every penny. 

Chris Farnell has done something different with this collection, even going as far as to change the format between stories. That's a bit of a risk, of course, but I feel that it works, giving this not just entertaining words, but visual appeal, as well.

Dirty work can be found on Kindle

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Darren Simon's Guardian's Nightmare Totally "Gets It."

Protecting two worlds

From total chaos and suffering

At the hands of a ruthless and powerful sorceress.

That's not too much to ask of a middle-schooler, right?

image via http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41guneLWBdL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg
Cover Design by Kenneth Tupper
The YA urban fantasy Guardian's Nightmare is the first installment of the Last Princess of Latara series, written by Darren Simon.

So what's it about?

Charlee just moved to San Francisco. She's thirteen, the new kid at school, and feeling pretty miserable about it. In an effort to make her feel better, Charlee's father decides to give her a bike that he discovered at the college campus where he works. Unfortunately, it's an old, rusty thing... and she hates it. He may call it a "classic," but she sees it as yet another thing to set her apart from everyone at her new school. Even worse? No matter how hard she tries to get rid of the thing, it mysteriously returns to her. 

And now she's having nightmares. The everything-about-them-seems-real kind of nightmares. Can things possibly get any worse??? As a matter of fact, yes. They can... and they do.

I really liked this one. 

Charlee was, to put it in a rather egotistical manner, me at age thirteen. Charlee didn't even come close to being perfect:

She was never sure of the right thing to say or do, second-guessing herself. 
She felt as though life was going to swallow her whole. 
She didn't have the perfect body. 
She was constantly upset at her parents, even when she didn't need to be.
And she just couldn't seem to fit in.

In other words, she was a normal middle school girl.

Darren Simon totally got it. It felt as though he understood exactly what it was like to be a girl going through puberty. 

Middle school sucked. 

I'm not sure I've ever met a single girl that disagrees with that statement. Nobody walked with confidence, we all had pimples erupting like ant holes shooting out from the main colony, and we were all miserable a good portion of the time. If you don't remember feeling that way... you blocked it out.

Simon clearly didn't block it out. He brought it all out loud and clear, and held nothing back.

And then he added some extra stress into the equation.

Like Charlee's discovery that she has a pivotal role to play in the battle to bring down a powerful sorceress bent on destroying everything she loves dear. She's a guardian of the gateway between worlds... and she may be the last one. And the evil sorceress? It's her great-aunt.

And we think we have problems!

Charlee doesn't handle it all with pizazz. She gets herself and others into trouble. She constantly messes everything up. She has absolutely no clue what she's doing, and it's pretty obvious.

But she has guts.

Even though everything is way above her head, and even though she has absolutely no idea how to make things right, she tries. Charlee pushes through, intent on not giving up.

I really flipping like that girl.

It's not a perfect book, though, understand. While Simon truly creates a character that anyone can identify with, there is one thing about this story that really bugged me.

The dialogue felt wrong. 

While each statement made by a character made sense, and I have no desire to say otherwise, the dialogue felt forced, as though the author was trying to convey too much with each statement. I wouldn't have been able to read the discussions within this ebook out loud. They just wouldn't sound true.

I know. I tried it.

Keep in mind, though, that I'm a dialogue fiend. I mean, I minored in theatre in college, just so I could spend time with all of the glorious dialogue within each play. I love dialogue, and it makes me picky.

The narrative within Guardian's Nightmare, however, was spectacular. 

There was never a dull moment. Scenes were vivid, and even the grammar was spot on - not a single error. I never once doubted the use of any words within the narrative text. It was all right.

And as I mentioned, Charlee was easy to identify with. She was 100% real.

Guardian's Nightmare can be found on Kindle and Nook.






Saturday, September 13, 2014

CC Rogers' Wizards and Kings: Sacrifice Hits like a Thunderbolt to the Heart

I just thought I'd let you know

In case you never realized it...

Love spells are kind of risky.

So, uh... Don't ever cast one. 

Ok?

This next review takes us on a journey into a land on the brink of civil war.

image via http://riverfiction.com/_Media/wizards_and_kings_400x600.jpg

Wizards and Kings: Sacrifice is a fantasy novelette written by C.C. Rogers.

So what's it about?

The king is dead, murdered by bandits with a crossbow. Justin couldn't protect him. As if that isn't enough, the entire kingdom is now on the brink of civil war, and the only path he can see that would keep it from crumbling is to take up the throne and marry the manipulative daughter of a neighboring ruler, a ruler that considers invasion to be a valid option. Not an enjoyable choice, but one that would protect the kingdom and its inhabitants from war.

But in the realm of politics, even basic facts such as these aren't always cut and dried, as Justin soon discovers.

Quite a bit to cover in a single novelette, right?

Rogers, though, dives in without fear, creating a short piece that not only covers everything within the description that I've given, but delves into the territory of the heart. This is not to say that Sacrifice is a romance - far from it! 

Love spells are at the forefront in this, but rather than turning it into a story that's loaded with mushy declarations of love and dialogue filled with longing, Rogers gives us something different: she shows us how changes in daily life can come about when a person's perspective is altered, and how that modification can affect everyone around us.

Throw an entire kingdom into the mix, and things become interesting!

Can love bring about positive change on a large scale? Can it change a nobleman's entire territory? What if the love is false, only occurring due to the power of a spell? Can it still do so? And if so, will that alteration hold once the spell has run its course, and is no longer active?

Rogers attacks these questions, head first. Whether we actually get the answers or not, she makes us consider them. She makes us ask, "But what now?"

I don't have those answers.

But what I do have is an overwhelming need to find them. I want to know what happens to the kingdom in the long run, and those answers aren't apparent in this short novelette. Fortunately, Rogers gave me some good news that kept my curiosity from overflowing and drowning me.

This isn't all she's written about these characters. 

Rogers wrote and illustrated Rune: A Tale of Wizards and Kings from 2010 to 2012, and it's now available as a graphic novel.

Here's the trailer for it:


Looks good, huh?

This webcomic answers a lot of the questions that occasionally sprout up as we read this story. More that once, I found myself asking what happened in the past to create a given situation. I asked what history caused specific pieces of dialogue. The webcomic answers these questions.

But!

There's so much more that I want to know. Many loose ends were left for a reader to think about, leaving me to believe that Rogers has plans to write more in the future. These felt like leads into the next installment.

And I hope I'm right!

Rogers' work is quite well done. The pacing within this novelette is perfect. Dialogue is smooth, and believable. Each character feels real, and I was able to see and feel the scenes that were written. And I didn't find a single proofreading error!!! One might be there, but I certainly didn't notice it.

I believe that if Rogers had wanted to expand this novelette into a full novel, ensnaring us even more deeply into the web of her universe, this story would have earned Treasured Tome status.

I really hope to see more from her in the future. This is an author well worth reading.

Wizards and Kings: Sacrifice can only be found on Kindle.

Update (9/16/2014): I made an "Oops!" Originally, I claimed that this novel was written within the Bloodchained universe. I misread a couple of statements, and decided that two plus two equals the negative square root of 3... plus or minus four. 
     What's the truth, then, you ask? Diana Laurence's Bloodchained novels are set in an entirely different universe. CC Rogers collaborated with her on a webcomic based on the universe, but only did the illustrations for it. The Rune webcomic is an entirely different affair.
     Changes have been made within the review, and I deeply apologize for the confusion.

Friday, September 12, 2014

C.K. Nolan's The Mazer Communicates the Magical Beauty of the Trees

Trees live far longer than humans.

They watch.

They listen.

And sometimes... they act.

Sounds a bit like a horror novel, right? Nothing, though, could be further from the truth.

image via http://www.cknolan.com/images/the-mazer-cover.jpg

The Mazer is a fantasy written by C.K. Nolan.

So what's it about?

After the mysterious death of her father and the loss of her mother and unborn sibling soon after, Silva chooses to live in a small cottage set apart from the rest of the people of Southernwood. This life has worked well for her, but one day the tree that she calls Isleaf writes a confusing message upon its leaves. This wouldn't be a big deal... tree speech is always confusing, since these beautiful giants speak in riddles most of the time, but this message is different: part of it disappears soon after she reads it. This means there is no way to place its words in the Southernwood archives - something that is done with each leaf message that falls.

Silva recognizes that this message is important. There's a strange tree sickness attacking many of the trees on the island, and the trees are all nervous. The message spoke of something called a mazer, and mentioned a traitor. But what is this mazer? And who is the traitor? 

As you've already figured out, this ebook is set in a world very different from our own.

Oh! And I found a book trailer, as well! It does a good job of matching the mood of the ebook.




Unlike most fantasies, the humans of Southernwood don't actually use magic. Rather, they're very much like us. There's one crucial difference, however.

They communicate with the trees.

The trees are sentient, have unique personalities, and guide the people's decisions. Indeed, people even bring their newborn children to touch the trees as a way to create a 'birth leaf.' This is very similar to a birth certificate, and shows important information about every given child.

The sickness that attacks the trees throws everything into upheaval. The population as a whole is extraordinarily edgy, and the council in charge of society is a complete mess. Indeed, the council goes through three different Legators (the equivalent of a president or prime minister) during the story!

I thoroughly enjoyed the trees, which speak by forming words upon their own leaves, then dropping them from their limbs once the message is completed. Humans speak to them through leaves, as well, using treequills to write their own messages, so that the trees can take the messages on through their branches, then into their trunks.

There's a great reverence for the trees, which I found to be quite uplifting.

Whereas we look at trees as tools, or as important pieces of an ecosystem, the Great Trees are at the heart of everything done within Southernwood. These people recognize the necessity of the Great Aspen, the Yew at Yewlith, and all of the others. Harming a tree is a serious offense. And!

Each tree has a specific personality. 

Some are whimsical, and some straightforward. All are unique. The intricacy of these remarkable trees was no doubt time-consuming for Nolan, who truly breathes life into their roots. They feel wise, patient, and honorable... and completely believable.

Indeed, the trees are more complex than the humans.

While fun to read, oftentimes the characters felt two-dimensional. This is probably due to the amount of painstaking time spent on the trees. It takes a lot of work to make a plant feel like a person, after all. I imagine it cut into the time spent on human character development.

But I did enjoy the human characters.

Narration, as well, felt somewhat off. It seemed that there were many long sequences of prose that could have been cut shorter, while others could have been lengthened. Understand, though, that even though I felt this way, it still worked reasonably well.

Up to a point.

The ending of the story felt as though it came apart. On occasion, people acted in ways that didn't seem to match the background given to us within the text. There were various actions that felt unbelievable, and the the resolution seemed somewhat shallow.

But!

These incongruencies don't really seem to occur until we get somewhere around 85% of the way through the book. Up until then, everything makes sense. Perhaps this has to do with the author becoming exhausted toward the end of the editing process.

I say this, because everything else was well proofread and logistically clean. 

It's not until that same point that we begin to see proofreading errors, as well. Whether exhaustion is truly the case, or not, I don't know, but that's what my gut tells me.

If this is the case, going through the final pages and updating the manuscript would increase the overall beauty of this work.

Because, like I said, the complexity of the trees was truly fascinating. That same eye for detail, focused on the human interactions, would transform this ebook from a mere good to great.

The Mazer can be found on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Frankie Rose's Halo Makes Emotions Surge Forth!

You've lived

Almost entirely devoid of emotion

For as long as you can remember.

One day, though, the emotions all come back.

Can you imagine what that would be like? And I thought I had problems...

image via http://frankierosewrites.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Screen-Shot-2013-11-19-at-3.58.23-PM.png

Halo is the first installment of the YA dystopian Blood and Fire series, written by Frankie Rose.

So what's it about?

Falin Kitsch is a member of Sanctuary's fighting caste, and uses her knives to compete within the Colloseum. The halo she wears around her neck infuses her with drugs that keep her from feeling emotion, enabling her to apply her training with a clear mind, making her a perfect fighter.

Or does it? One day, she is pitted against Falin Asha, who has trained with her for years. His last action before he dies is to grab ahold of her halo, ripping it almost entirely free of her neck. "Don't let them see..." 

Suddenly, she begins to feel emotions surging back to her. She now has a choice: Have technicians repair her halo so that she can continue to be the perfect Falin, or apply her well-honed skills to leave Sanctuary and the only life she's ever known... 

To us, the answer seems pretty easy: Get rid of that darned device. But imagine what it would be like to have your first memory of emotion be one that comes in the aftermath of blood and pain. That's your emotional awakening.

The choice isn't so clear anymore, is it?

Rose gives us the opportunity to feel what that would be like, through the eyes of the Falin of House Kitsch. We go through our lives constantly keeping our reactions to our emotions in check. We consider the feelings of others when we reply to their statements. We gauge society's response to every choice.

We've trained ourselves to control our emotions.

Small children, on the other hand, are still learning. Their reactions are juvenile, and often confusing.They don't always understand our decisions, and many times respond with anger or sadness when they have no need to do so.

Now imagine knowing you have to react maturely, like an adult, without having the training to do so, like a child.

Welcome to Kit's world.

As you can imagine, her emotional reactions are often juvenile. She doesn't have the experience that we do. This tends to get her into trouble, which tends to make her emotions spiral even more out of control.

Poor Kit...

And we're taken on that overwhelmingly intense ride along with her, meaning that we feel much of what she feels... plus the added frustration of realizing that proper emotional control would have kept her out of trouble, minimizing her agony.

Poor us!

This ebook was extraordinarily exhausting... in a good way. I felt like I was right there next to Kit, and I wanted her to succeed. I needed her to succeed. She was important to me, and I had to know that she'd be able to pry herself from any situation she placed herself in.

And there were many of those!

I didn't want to put this one down. I had to know what would happen. Naturally, then, this ebook became the very next...

Treasured Tome!!!
Treasured Tome!!!
If you're looking for a highly emotional story that rips your heart out, throws it on the floor, and stomps on it a few times, you'll love this one. Be warned, though: you'll want to read it when you're alone.

Interruptions will not be welcomed, and you'll notice that your fuse is remarkably short if someone is silly enough to get in between yourself and Halo for even a few moments.

You'll start wondering if you need a halo!

Halo can be found on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Doreen Cox's A Sacred Journey Leads Us Through Nature's Mystique

There is more to nature

than what we allow ourselves to see.

Something...

Sacred.

But we need to be willing to open our eyes if we want to see it.

image via
Cover design by Laura Wright LaRoche
A Sacred Journey is a fantasy short story written by Doreen Cox.

So what's it about?

A group of trackers is out looking for Leah... again. The elderly woman has been leaving her house in the evenings, walking out into the forest. Tonight, though, she's gone farther than usual. Animals within the forest are acting strangely, and the trackers begin to realize that there may be more afoot than simply a woman wandering out into the night...

What I expected to read and what I actually read were two very different things.

See, my expectation came from the cover. I honestly thought this was going to be some sort of Little Red Riding Hood retelling. I'm sure you can see what gave me this impression.

But the cover, aside from being beautiful, paints an accurate picture of what we find within the pages. Each creature that graces the cover is necessary and important to the story as a whole, and yes... Leah does wear a red cloak.

The story takes quite a different turn from what I expected. Rather than running from a big, bad wolf, Leah is actively moving toward the creatures of the forest. Things have been planned. Leah and the animals all work toward a common aim.

A ceremony.

She understands the animals, and they, in turn, understand her. As the trackers search for a gentle, elderly woman with a penchant for wandering into dangerous situations, Leah herself is skillfully navigating through the brambles in perfect safety.

During this time, the trackers deal with animals acting in unusual ways. The dogs that they brought to track Leah's scent run into difficulties, as well. This is all carefully planned by the creatures of the forest.

But while the trackers may be nervous, there is no danger... only the fear of danger.

Our emotions are powerful. The creatures realize this, and use this knowledge to confuse, then guide the trackers.

This story brings us into a mystical world, leading us on a woman's sacred journey. It causes us to wonder what is truly at work in this world. Cox makes us see that situations may come into play due to a greater purpose.

She teaches us not to fear the unknown.

While I think this short story could go through one more round of copy-editing, and the ending wasn't quite as strong as I'd like, this story can teach us to view the world with wonder, and to not assume that our perceptions are always the correct ones.

A sacred Journey can be found on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.




Wednesday, September 3, 2014

John Swan's In Your Dreams Gives Us a True Definition of Love

Update (9-17-2014): In Your Dreams has now been published. You can now find the link below the original review text!

Violet Eyes.

Untold Power.

A Naive and Scared Girl.

This is could be a recipe for disaster... but also a recipe for hope.

image courtesy John Swan and Natalie Spasic
Cover Art and Design by Natalie Spasic.

In Your Dreams, a fantasy, is the first installment of The Aldaya Series, written by John Swan.

So what's it about?

Long ago, long before anyone can remember, a great evil was imprisoned within the subterranean depths of Aldaya by the Esme, beings of great power and light. Once the free races of Aldaya were seen to be safe from this danger, the Esme all disappeared. Life was good for the people of Aldaya.

But now everything is changing. The fear-inspiring swamp mists are covering more land, and all those that enter them are lost. Evil once again appears to be gaining a foothold along the borders of the swamp. Towns are attacked by terrifying creatures, and governments are becoming distrustful of one another, leaving them open to further devastation.

Eolin knows that something dark and powerful is gaining strength, and fears the return of the evil that was long ago imprisoned. When he meets Mim, a violet eyed girl he has dreamed about since before she was even born, he becomes certain the land is in danger. 

I have to tell you... in the beginning, reviewing this particular ebook turned me into one big, twitchy ball of stress.

Why?

Well, this is the first ebook that I ever agreed to review sight unseen. I had a rough description, and I'd talked to Swan's publicist (a very sweet, fun woman), but I hadn't even seen a sample of the first few pages. We all know that I only post reviews of books that I consider good. Nothing so-so hits my blog, and nothing poorly written has even the slightest chance.

So what made me do it?

I'm not entirely sure. All I had when I offered to review this ebook was a slight feeling that this was going to be worth it. It was a gut feeling, and certainly not anything concrete, but I went with it. Hence the stress.

What I got was an advance review copy (ARC), and so far, In Your Dreams has yet to be published. Again, this is contrary to my norm. By this time, I was beginning to feel as though the stress was causing my hair to stand on end, which would have been very awesome if I was planning on going to a costume party dressed as a banshee, but not so awesome when all I was doing was sitting at home, reading.

But sometimes, moving outside of your comfort zone is a good thing.

I trusted my gut, and proved my theory that doing so will lead a person in the right direction. Anecdotal proof, perhaps, but we'll just politely ignore that, if that okay with you.

You see, this ebook did something that I found overwhelmingly impressive. While most books have a tendency to focus on the more sexual aspects of love, Swan didn't. Rather, he dug straight to the core, zeroing in on the true basis of love: mutual respect and trust.

In a fight between good and evil, a solid idea of love in its purest form is essential. 

Most writers, though doing a great job with it, fall short of that ideal, but Swan nails it. He shows the power of love for friends, for family, for a spouse, and even for a stranger. While vastly different, they all come from a place of respect and trust.

While hatred is the basis for every action committed by the enemy, love is at the heart of everything done by our heroes. Eolin is driven by his love for his assistant Chessa, for Mim, and for his husband. Mim is driven by her love for her friends.

I keep talking about love, but this ebook is a far cry from a romance. 

It's a high fantasy that comes straight from the author's heart. I really think his emotions bled out onto the pages, because the emotional weight of this story is intense.

Swan's writing ability is at its strongest when he composes dialogue, as well as when he describes the emotions that drive the characters. He has a deep understanding of the human heart, and actually...

He kinda makes me jealous.

Seriously. while his narrative didn't draw me in quite as much as I would have liked (especially in the prologue), his true ability to see the human heart as something beautiful, strong, and enduring took my breath away. I wish I had the ability to write such expressively true emotions.

His ebook gives me hope: Hope for a better, more loving, more accepting society. He wrote fiction... but gave us truth.

In Your Dreams is yet to be published, but you can follow the author on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. When he has a solid publishing date, you'll be the first to know if you do this!

Update (9-17-2014):
 In Your Dreams is now available on Kindle!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Susan Griner's The Cemetery Sleeper Reminds Us of the Power Grief Has Over Us

We've all heard superstitions about graveyards:

Hold your breath while passing by one so your life isn't cut short.

Don't sit on a tombstone.

Don't ever lay down on top of a grave.

Unfortunately, the characters within this next YA paranormal work didn't get the memo on that last one.

image via http://www.pacificbookreview.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/c63a84_a1a28-e1407105094787.png
Cover art by Nicole Stremlow-Monahan

The Cemetery Sleeper is a paranormal YA novel written by Susan Griner. It's her first published piece of fiction, as well, and I'm sure it won't be her last.

So what's it about?

After the death of Freddy's mother, he is sent to the town of Mabry to live with his aunt Teri and cousin Emily until his father completes the process of packing and moving their possessions from their home. One day, he and Emily are listening to a local boy, Matt, as he tells a ghost story that warns of the dangers of laying down on top of a grave. Seeking to prove that Matt's ideas are ridiculous, and that nothing will come of such an action, Emily declares that she'll lay on one, thereby disproving Matt's claims... and she drags Freddy along to act as a witness.

Sure enough, nothing happens... to Emily. Freddy, on the other hand, stumbles into a headstone marked, quite simply, "Tump." All seems well until Freddy goes to sleep that evening. When he does, however, he dreams about Tump's life as viewed through Tump's own eyes. This wouldn't be a big deal, except that upon wakening he feels the same physical pain as Tump felt within the dream.

And things only get worse from there...

Throughout this ebook, we get to know Freddy, and we see the pain and grief he goes through after the death of his mother.

Indeed, we get to see the power grief has over us.

Griner takes us through the different stages of grief, showing us that they don't have to come in any particular order, and that each one is both necessary and profound, and we should take care not to stagnate within any one of them.

In this story, the paranormal - ghosts, in this case - have power over us when we believe in them.

Belief is a strong factor in The Cemetery Sleeper: Belief of superstition, Freddy's belief in himself, everyone's belief in Freddy. Indeed, there's a huge lack of belief within the pages.

I mean, who would really believe that some dead guy from the distant past has come back through someone we know?

Characters have to wrestle with their knowledge of fact and their knowledge of Freddy himself. And as a freshly grieving son, who can blame him for what seem like fantastic stories? He's just working through his pain.

Or not.

Griner's ability to not only show us what the stages of grief look like, but also to show us what the responses of others can do to us during this time is brilliant. I both understood and hated people's reactions. Just as in reality, nothing anyone did really felt right. Freddy acted in an unpredictable manner, and people around him reacted without really understanding what was happening to him.

Just as in reality.

I was impressed. Indeed, I was convinced that Griner had a background in psychology, though I've found nothing to show that. She did work within elementary schools, however, so perhaps her understanding came from a connection with the students she worked with.

This, of course, is all speculation. 

What I do know, though, is that Griner did a spectacular job of thinking like a young boy. Freddy felt real. Whether I agreed with his decisions or not, I understood them - I could even imagine myself doing many of the same things Freddy did, even though I knew the results wouldn't be particularly sterling. 

While it didn't quite tug on my heartstrings as much as I would have liked, The Cemetery Sleeper was a great work, and successfully dealt with grief in a manner that felt true, even going as far as to give the reader an idea of how necessary it is that we not stagnate in any one of the stages.

The Cemetery Sleeper can only be found on Kindle.