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.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Starswept (Starswept #1) by Mary Fan

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

First Impression: Music and stars, sounds dreamy.

Characters: The contrast between humans and their alien patrons is stark enough to be interesting. Readers get to know a few of the main characters from both species, with hopefully more complexity in upcoming installments.

World Building: A unique setting focused on alien abilities and the relationship between art and soul.

Writing Style: Creating an alien language is not easy, but Fan does so as if it already exists. As a linguist and music patron, I appreciate the attention to detail.

What I Enjoyed: Beauty, art, and relatable character themes made for an enjoyable read. Telepathy is a terrifying yet thrilling idea - the implications of which are seemingly endless. The tension towards the end meant reading late into the night, and now I can't wait to read the second Starswept book!

Deal Benders: I didn't understand how Iris fell in love with Damiul so quickly, and would have liked more development of their connection. By the last third of the book they would suddenly do anything for each other, although practically strangers still. Maybe a mind connection speeds up how close you feel to someone?

Overall Rating: 4 stars for a fresh alien fantasy.

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Preferred Observer by Matthew Bruce Alexander

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

First Impression: Martian microbes and a rogue android, yes please!

Characters: A diverse cast of fully realized characters, interconnected in ways that unfold as the story progresses. From Maggie the young heart who had to grow up too fast, to Lilith the call girl with a mission they drive the story of a world gone a bit mad.

World Building: Earth hasn't necessarily changed all that much, but has become a bit bleak in the future. The Government has a tight grip on the population, and everyone is afraid of catching "the Rouge". I became fully immersed in the action-packed plot.

Writing Style: This is what blew me away right from the beginning - Matthew Bruce Alexander's writing. I laughed, then was surprised, and sometimes scared. His ability to write the way someone might think means I'm a fan from this book onward. It rarely happens when I know I'm going to fall into an author's mind, but I can't say enough how I appreciated this mastery of the written word. Enough "big words" to stimulate the mind without going overboard to the point of search and replace in MS Word. Such prose and attention to detail is often missing in the novels of today.

What I Enjoyed: The author gives the impression he really understands his characters, maybe even on a personal level. Drawing the motivations of people like Thomas the insider felt especially insightful. This in an author you want to have dinner with, much like Douglas Adams, and simply listen to their thoughts on any subject.

Deal Benders: I wish this story didn't have to end. That is all.

Overall Rating: 5 stars, and can I give it more!?...but that would be over 100% which we know is not a real number.

For Fans Of: If you've seen the movies Gattica or Aeon Flux, this world has a similar feeling. The story itself is not quite dystopian or sci-fi, but somewhere along the line of a realistic future U.S. 

Empyrean by Nicole L. Bates

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

First Impression: Alien planets and a beautiful cover!

Characters: The story follows two story lines: Jahira and Krnar, people of different species who may not be so different after all. The character relationships and personalities were complex and realistic, which brings full submersion into the book.

World Building: I want to visit this planet, which in some ways is not unlike our own - at times beautiful, and others unforgiving. It was interesting to see the perspective from both a native and foreign species. 

Writing Style: I read through this book in about a week, as Bates writes with easy flow and attention to enough details without overwhelming the reader. 

What I Enjoyed: The character interactions and world building were my favorite parts of this story. Plus what a gorgeous cover and title! I can't wait to read the sequel. I really liked that I read late into the night, which is always a good sign.

Deal Benders: I would have liked a bit more background on Jahira's people. More direct history of Leron would be helpful, and making more use of futuristic technology would bring a more Sci-Fi feel to the series.

Overall Rating: 4 stars for a well delivered first installment. Bring on the next!

For Fans Of: KPAX, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial