Monday, May 28, 2018

Land of Nod, The Artifact (Land of Nod #1) by Gary Hoover

First Impression: Traveling to another realm is always a fascination of mine. Let's dive in!

Characters: Mainly about a group of kids who are a bit precocious and mature for their age. One of them happens to be from Earth, and the others from an alternate dimension of some kind. The themes and relationships throughout are a social commentary with valuable lessons for life outside the page.

World Building: I adored the setup, the science, and the creatures in <i>The Artifact</i>. Readers will easily visualize the other world, similar enough to Earth for us to imagine while fantastic enough to excite that fantasy world within.

Writing Style: Middle-grade accessible reading flow with dialogue and character thoughts that reveal the author's personality. The adults are supporting characters, and you get to see their decisions through the perspective of a young boy. It's not easy to regress the adult mind while reading, but Hoover manages to do so delightfully.

What I Enjoyed: The way Jeff enters the other world from Earth is so whimsical yet scientifically believable. I won't give it away, but I really liked that part. The gadgets and creatures are also intriguing. I look forward to seeing what Jeff and his friends get up to in the next installment.

Deal Benders: I thought this would be a bit more YA than Middle Grade, but it's not the end of the world. If you appreciate a nostalgic children's story every once in a while, definitely pick this one.

Overall Rating: 4 stars: Fast-paced and feel-good.

For Fans Of: The Chronicles of Narnia, Peter Pan

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Bottled by Carol Riggs

First Impression: I haven't read a genie story in a very long time - plus that cover looks magical!

Characters: Clean YA romance themes throughout with a touch of magic. Adeelah is a genie trapped by a sort of magic curse. After centuries of spoiled "masters", she finds one who will change her world. What is most important is the characters each grow and evolve throughout the story, making them come to life.

World Building: Everything was plausible, if yet fantastic. The background of how Adeelah comes by her powers, as well as the impact of her abilities are fully realized in this short book.

Writing Style: This is the third book I've read by this author. Riggs brings a wonderfully new twist on an old story.

What I Enjoyed: I want a sequel. Bottled will likely stay with me, as the relationships and plot were so different from what I've read lately. I wanted to pick this book up every chance I had, which speaks to its magic.

Deal Benders: I'm not sure of the intended audience. If written for YA, there are violent themes I would suggest for adults only.

Overall Rating: 4.5 stars for this short gem of a story. I wish for another installment, so now you have to write one - right?

For Fans Of: Aladdin, Harry Potter

Stars Uncharted by S.K. Dunstall

First Impression: A beautiful cover among the stars - take me away! 

Characters: Everyone has a unique personality with a sense of individual background and outlook. I would have liked more character development as the story progressed.

World Building: Set on space stations and ships, the universe feels realistic. Most of the building is spent describing the mod machines, ingredients, and history.

Writing Style: The Dunstall duo offers a fast-paced adventure with easy to read language. I appreciate their ability to create new words and ideas without making them confusing or distracting to the story.

What I Enjoyed: New technology and terminology is exciting to my creative mind, and is handled wonderfully in Stars Uncharted.

Deal Benders: I wanted more to happen than just a group of bad guys chasing down a group of good guys. Some parts were repetitive, and the ending left me feeling unresolved.

Overall Rating: 3 stars solid for an enjoyable among the stars.

For Fans Of: Firefly

Friday, April 20, 2018

Magic-Price (The Crown of Stones #1) by C.L. Schneider

First Impression: A cover full of emotion an an exciting magical premise.

Characters: Ian Troy narrates his painful journey of confronting his past to fight for his future. His family, friends, and enemies are well thought out and often relatable. I was saddened how all characters seem to be hopeless addicts to either magic or power. Although I don't like Troy very much, there are redeeming supporting mates to cheer on such as Jarryd. The connections and relationships are tangible and complex, making for a compelling story.

World Building: Rella and the surrounding world are from a simpler time before techonology and industry. The magic addiction and oppression, slavery, and obsession are difficult and heady themes throughout. Magic is written as something addictive and unpredictable with severe consequences - something not often considered in the fantasy genre so in love with the idea of magic.

Writing Style: Schneider weaves magic with words, like a song on the wind. No part of this story was boring or rushed, which is no easy task at 500 pages.

What I Enjoyed: The author has a gift for writing, and the characters are unique and dimensional. Ian's interactions with his companions felt authentic. It's not always clear who the "bad guys" are, which is often true in life. Whomever records history has the perspective of virtue.

Deal Benders: The sexual themes throughout this first book could definitely trigger some readers. I would rate it R for adult content, which seemed to be added simply as a show of violence. These themes felt cheap and egregious, as if the author was trying too hard to impress a lustful audience. I think there are better ways to create tension than to describe sex scenes in detail, as it usually detracts from the story. The violence, torture, and other themes made for a very bleak read.

Overall Rating: 3 stars - I enjoyed many parts of this book, so this was a tough one. I would have given another star for the excellent writing and characters if there was less extreme violence and a little bit of hope.

For Fans Of: Game of Thrones

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Trinity (Dark Legacy #1) by Domenico Italio Composto-Hart

First Impression: Great title and cover although 600-some pages is daunting.

Characters: Kieko and Aiko are adolescents with typical teen problems. They hate each other out of fear and jealousy, yet strive towards a common goal. Their mentor is reminiscent of an old samurai warrior mixed with a Buddhist priest. I thought at any moment he would say, "patience, young grasshopper." Their relationships with family and each other were my favorite parts. The pieces that fell flat for me surrounded the character building of the evil enemies.

World Building: Set in the time of the fabled Atlantis, narrations by some wise and aged yet unknown lifeform interject the plot. We get to know the story of a previous generation, then focus for the remainder on Kieko's present. The descriptions of the temple and the Lemurian way of life paint an image of some remote untouched corner of the world.

Writing Style: Domenico is gifted with the ability to draw the reader into a story, even if it's not their typical preferred type of story. The details are reminiscent of Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series. At times however, I felt the dialogue a bit overdone. Shinsei and Keiko especially would benefit from variation.

What I Enjoyed: The relationships between all characters ring true and complex, which is not always easy to accomplish in the fantasy / sci-fi realm. Many of the action scenes are shocking yet realistic, which is appreciated in an adult series.

Deal Benders: Why were the Atlanteans attacking? Were they even the Atlanteans at this point? What is behind this evil force? What motivates them to kill and destroy with such force? I had way too many questions about the motives and the whole point of the antagonist throughout. I think if this is to be a 6-part series each installment could be condensed by removing uber-detailed depictions and lengthy conversations.

Overall Rating: 3.5 stars - An enjoyable read with a fresh premise. However, this first book does not warrant 616 pages.

For Fans Of: Kung Fu, The Karate Kid

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Nightwing Vol. 3: Nightwing Must Die by Tim Seeley (Illustrations by Javier Fernandez)

Rarely do I enjoy superhero dialogue as much as in this volume! I thought for sure this would garner 5 stars from superhero fans, so was shocked to see some really low ones. Then I started reading why...

I need to take a minute and rant. If you're a diehard nerd wading through hundreds of trade paperbacks every month, complaining about whether or not every detail is "canon" and how nothing will never be the same as your favorite edition of blah-blah-blah...then maybe your 1-2 star whiny reviews belong elsewhere. I found nothing of actual merit in them, but rather found myself reacting like so many people who shy away from the nerd realm due to snobbery.

Rant over. For the rest of us muggles, Nightwing Vol. 3: Nightwing Must Die is a fast-paced and wonderfully illustrated chapter in the quests of Nightwing and Robin. The chracter relationships and enemy dynamics were realistic and well-executed. I am now a fan of Tim Seeley, who brought humanity to the often flat superhero characters. The illustrations brought this story to life with brilliant colors. I will look for more in this series - now I want to go back and read the first two!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Enchanters by K.F. Bradshaw

** I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.**

First Impression: Magical cover and premise.

Characters: Relationship and dialogue driven, the plot follows a band of ragtag rebels on their quest to save the kingdom. I found the conversations on the repetitive side, and the characters lacked complexity. Andrea and Cassie do not seem to grow at all as the story progresses.

World Building: Damea is a world losing its magic. This magical loss is not tangible until near the end, besides effecting a few pieces of machinery. I wanted more depth in the world building.

Writing Style: I think this one fell flat for me, especially in parts where the author nicknames "The Legionnaire" or "the boy" excessively. Perhaps another draft would provide more of a polish, with more involvement from character emotions and experiences. I felt like someone was telling me a bedtime story rather than reading in real time.

What I Enjoyed: Although predictable, the last 100 pages are the best part of the story. Perhaps this book could be shortened, with the climax more in the middle.

Deal Benders: Lack of world building coupled with flat chracters ultimately ruined the story for me.

Overall Rating: 2 stars - not terrible yet not memorable.