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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The End of Refuge by Beth Martin

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

First Impression: I've never read a book about living in a bomb shelter that I recall, sounds scary.

Characters: Juliet is an innocent, literally sheltered young adult who comes of age amid the aftermath of conflict with North Korea. Her relationships and the supporting characters are realistic people with problems and charms like any of us.

World Building: There were moments of claustrophobia, which is not even something I struggle with in real life. While reading in bed I felt the walls close in and wondered what it might be like to never see the sun or feel its warmth on my face - to live in less than a square mile underground. What might that do to a person? The answer is many different things.

Writing Style: Martin's use of appropriate foreshadowing and answering questions as they unfold is comforting and like discussing a plot with a friend. I often wondered, "but what about this...?" only to be answered almost right away. The ending was satisfying yet unexpected, but I won't spoil the fun.

What I Enjoyed: The story really sparked for me around Avery and Juliet's relationship, as he shares his life story with her. From that point on I could barely put the book down as I wanted to know what became of these unlikely friends and the rest of the underground survivors.

Deal Benders: It takes about 10 chapters to really get into the story. I felt there could be less buildup to the main plot, or maybe a sideplot from another character's perspective. I was concerned for a bit, but after chapter 11 or so I was hooked on the story.

Overall Rating: 4 stars for an excellent last two thirds of the book.

For Fans Of: Anne Frank's Diary, Blast From the Past (movie with Brendan Fraser)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Everly (Everly #1) by Meg Bonney

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

First Impression: Nerdery, sign me up!

Characters: Maddy and Jason are snarky and brave for their age, while Ren throws a brooding yet loveable shadow on the group. Fae and other creatures of Everly have unique personalities and dialogue. There is a scene with witches reminiscent of Hocus Pocus.

World Building: I could easily imagine the world on the other side of the tree, but I would have liked more description expected in a fantasy series.

Writing Style: Bonney uses nerd references and sarcastic conversations to drive the plot along, which makes this series suitable for teen readers.

What I Enjoyed: References are always appreciated, much like finding Easter eggs. I enjoyed some of the fantasy creatures like trolls that the trio encounter on their journey.

Deal Benders: I struggled to connect with the narrative and dialogue. It's quite possibly a case of growing older. This story would be most relatable to young teens.

Overall Rating: 3 stars for an enjoyable frolick through a fantasy realm.

For Fans Of: The Guild by Felicia Day

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Dissident by Nikki McCormack

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

First Impression: What a gorgeous cover and interesting premise! I want to learn more about this "ascard" power.

Characters: What I adored about each character in Dissident, is the full realization of personality. Every one is distinct and beautifully drawn. The real issues and struggles between chracters and their world will pull you in like somehow you're one of them. Spoiler****I almost fell in love with Yiloch myself, let alone as an interest for Indigo.****

World Building: I imagined a world somewhere between Middle Earth and a scene from Final Fantasy. Although not overly described, the sense of time and place are easy to discern.

Writing Style: The way McCormack pulls you into relationships is breathtaking. Everything from battle scenes to quiet moments is realistically developed.

What I Enjoyed: I didn't want this first book of the series to end! I want to know what happens to my new friends, and what new challenges await the realm. The ending gives the perfect sendoff for Forbidden Things #2.

Deal Benders: The only complaint I found was a slow beginning. Hang in there because about 1/3 through you won't want to put this book down.

Overall Rating: 4 stars. With a stronger start, this could be a 5 star series!

For Fans Of: Rhapsody by Elizabeth Haydon, The Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Portal (Junction 2020 #1) by Carol Riggs

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

First Impression: Traveling through time or dimensions is an intriguing prospect.

Characters: I found the characters to be a bit flat in this first installment. Although younger readers might relate to the young characters in The Portal, older readers may struggle with the lack of development.

World Building: Riggs shines once she pulls you from the real world into her imagination. This is the second book I've read, and she really has a masterful way of painting a picture.

Writing Style: Middle grade level and large print make this a quick and easy read.

What I Enjoyed: I'm addicted to the author's imagination! From beautiful music scapes to scary creatures, I can't wait to see what Riggs comes up with next.

Deal Benders: The books starts off with too many adjectives, which bothered me for some reason. I was also annoyed that the main character thought about her dad's poor opinion of women way too often. Along this line the main character thinks about her dreams relating to the portal world to the point of obvious. I think once or twice as foreshadowing would have been appropriate.

Overall Rating: 3 stars because I enjoyed the story, but would like to see some of the deal benders worked out in the second installment.

For Fans Of: His Dark Materials, The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland