Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

Sorry for any glitches in this post. I write it from the mobile app, but this is perfect for today.

What better Christmas Eve story to read than Lily Stargazer? This review will be brief because the story is brief but filled with the spirit of the holidays.

Chasing Christmas Past by Melanie Karsak

That's right. Melanie Karsak has given us a short story about my favorite airship crew on Christmas Eve. It is an excellent little short and a great introduction to the series if you haven't started it yet. We get to meet the full crew gearing up for the annual Yuletide Airship Race and see how some of our favorite relationships began. I love these little short stories in between publications; they keep my excitement from fading and the series on my mind.

This is seriously one of my favorite series. Earlier on my blog, I reviewed both Chasing the Star Garden and Chasing the Green Fairy so read through those if you are curious about this great series. I am also very much looking forward to Chasing the Fog next year.

I hope everyone enjoys their individual holiday season!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Peculiarity abounds through time and space

This review is for the second book in a series! I will not be divulging any spoilers to the initial plot, but please be mindful that Hollow City will not be as much of a fun read if you do not start with Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, of which I gave 3 stars.

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was an excellent first novel. Of course it had its limitations and growing pains of a fledgling book, but I appreciated the new story and unusual gang of characters. There is a sideshow, vaudeville theme combined with creepy photos from history. The main character is dealing with tragedy and new found extraordinary life. Young adults, of a sort, coming of age, of a sort (oooo--mystery), while they travel across South England. These ragamuffins are actually quite endearing. The second book is even quite the improvement on the first gaining it an easy 4.5 stars.

This is not a horror story; this is not a pee-your-pants, bone-tingler; this is not for those who wish to shut the book in the freezer. Perhaps for this reason the books have been getting a mix of praise and abysmal reviews. Know what you are reading before you rate it in the trash bin. The book is about a group of teenagers. If you expected it to be anything but a tad bit creepy and chock full of odd, then shame on you.

The adventure continues on directly where the last book left off. This beginning is not made to just walk right into; you will need to read the first novel to understand the plight the children find themselves facing. As the story develops, we get to meet even more peculiar children and even a few peculiar animals, and the pacing for the whole plot is quite right. There is a deadline to this story, and we are certainly pushed along (while also getting to enjoy the scenery). The writing develops quite nicely in this sophomore novel as well as the plot. I can really feel this author getting his feet under him.

The book abruptly ends as with the first novel. The story itself is wrapped up nicely, but we are then presented with so many new questions. Excellent form of cliffhanger. I look forward to the third novel. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Seriously awesome magic here

Phew, that is over. As much as I love the success of our conferences at the day job, they are a bit exhausting. I end up with very little time to read. I need to have a new resolution for next year--find more time to read and find someone who will pay me to do so. I am unfortunately going to fall short on my reading goal of 75 books as well this year. Plus side to this, promotion at work is what is eating up my time. This week, back to Netgalley for some of my standard fair--epic fantasy!!

The Fifth Vertex by Kevin Hoffman

I got an email from Netgalley about a great new Young Adult writer who is going to compete with the big dogs of epic fantasy. After reading this novel, I believe they got it right. I would easily give The Fifth Vertex 5 stars based on its writing and fantasy creation. This is a great fantasy novel with some seriously awesome magic. You don't see the standard elf/dwarf/magician dynamic in this story and that is refreshing in itself, but what I absolutely love about the story is the global span. You have cultures that clearly never leave their little spheres suddenly crushed together and having to get along. They need to determine where to lay their trust amongst betrayal and deception.

These are also not races of the dark ages with nothing but stick huts and horses that are found in your typical epic fantasy. Hoffman has broken out of the box to find interest for the modern Young Adult fantasy enthusiast. The races he created have technologies--really cool technologies: wind cloaks, submarines, and siege towers from hell. 

I appreciated the growth of the main protagonist, Urus Noellor. This is clearly a coming-of-age story being in the Young Adult category, but it had a fresh feel. He is learning his magic with no help from anyone and completely (realistically) scared out of his wits about what the magic could do to him and those around him. He is also deaf, which puts a wrench in anyone teaching him and a new meaning to isolation. While at the same time, we get to see the development of Cailix in her magic via tutors--deranged, frightening tutors, but at least she has someone to teach her. Hoffman is uniquely showing us both sides of the coin. 

The antagonists of the story are appropriately creepy and villainous. They are truly disgusting. There are multiple types of magic and each is very well developed in the story. I never really felt lost for character abilities. The mystery of what we don't know struck my curiosity, not my frustration--love. This book has all the great epic fantasy aspects. I am really looking forward to The Blood Sigil

A sad fact that seems to becoming more of my reality--I am not happy with where modern literature is going. This fact did not completely detract from my enjoyment of the story and it certainly cannot reflect on the magnitude of awesome that is The Fifth Vertex. Fortunately for me, there are still plenty of classic pieces of literature out there that I have not read to give me relief between struggling with adapting to modern literature.

To keep up-to-date with The Sigilord Chronicles visit Kevin Hoffman's website, his Facebook page, or follow him on Twitter.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Quantum mechanics in modern fantasy

What a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. I am grateful to have had such a relaxing break from work with my family. It really recharged my soul. I was also able to read quite a bit. One of the books from the weekend was a gift from the author. I really liked the concept of the plot so was pleased to be invited to review it. I think it could be placed somewhere in between the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres; it definitely has aspects from both present. The novel should appeal to quite a large crowd.

The Branches of Time by Luca Rossi

I found this book to be very intriguing. The first couple of chapters were a little rough as I got used to the author's writing style. The flow and language didn't pull me in right away (which could be caused by some translation struggles), but I am glad I continued reading. The pacing evens out and we get to the meat of the problem for the protagonists pretty quickly leaving plenty of pages for the actual development of characters and plot. I was extremely pleased with the depth of world creation happening straight from the beginning.

There are a lot of threads being carried out simultaneously in both time and space. We have two countries that were once one. They are divided by physical barriers to keep each other safe from one another, but 2,000 years later the citizens are questioning the wisdom of their forefathers. Then we have some time travelers. Then we have some aliens/gods (who knows just yet) watching over all of it. That is a lot to have happening. Surprisingly, I didn't really feel all that lost with the characters. Each chapter has a feel of its own to separate out where the story is going.

Some of the character arcs are not to my liking, but that is all a matter of personal taste. Once again, I find a book getting a little too explicit without the real need. Especially when all the other scenes are handled so wonderfully without it. It does give the story a nice dynamic difference, however, and I certainly hate the character (which I am pretty sure is to be expected of me). I guess I'm just not ready to role with the literary times of gratuity.

What I truly enjoyed about the story was the concept. Time travel and quantum mechanics can bring up the most fascinating discussions. I really appreciated Rossi's description of how time and space are interconnected like the branches of a bush. There was a lot of thought provoking story line despite feeling like the narrative was a little chaotic. The ending just sort of happened, and I kept hitting the forward button on the Kindle anyway looking for the last chapter. 

Honestly, I just think there was a lot for the author to tackle with so many story lines needing to be woven together. Certain aspects are going to suffer with all the juggling. I look forward to seeing where the series goes, and I give this first novel a healthy 4 stars. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Under a different genre

I came out of my reading zone again for a switch to Sci-Fi. I have never really been a fan of the genre, and I feel that to usually be the case with readers. You either love elves or aliens. For me, it has always been the fantastical creatures and races of this possible world. A time long forgotten where there was so much more. For others, the mystery of the world yet explored and discovered attracts their imagination. I have enjoyed parts of the sci-fi world because in the end I am an overall nerd. I've watch Star Trek and Star Wars after all. But, ultimately, when I walk into a book store, I go to the fantasy shelves to pick up that 600 page exhausting looking tome of epic greatness. This galley made me think about heading to the sci-fi aisle for a change.

Under Different Stars by Amy Bartol

I have already pointed out I do not favor the Sci-Fi genre, nor will I shun it. My lack of interest in the subject comes from the arbitrariness that comes from creating galatic races from a completely unknown medium. That cannot be easy to create, so I will give authors their credit for even attempting. The ouch moment for me in Under Different Stars came from the dialogue of the Etharian race. Kricket  has a very Douglas Adam-esque translation device injected into her mind as soon as she arrives to Ethar; however, there are some words that seem to not be uploaded to the translator because the author sprinkles new terms arbitrarily throughout the dialogue. And there you have my pet peeve of Sci-Fi. It makes no sense when the they invent something. It just is because they are aliens. Ouch.

I will admit that it did not detract from the fact the story is good. The plot arc is very intriguing, and I continued to read to find out what came next. It is kind of a Stockholm syndrome love story, but very sweet and simple. There are five sects of a race that has been horrifically devastated by plague. After finally starting to bounce back in population, the inevitable vie for power has begun. Standard topic for this kind of book, but I found it managed to make its own impression. There is a nice coming of age story with Kricket beginning to develop as an Etharian when she thought for the longest time she was human. I predict she is going to break the mold with her revolutionary ideas. 

I enjoyed the overall reading experience. The story moved along very well, despite feeling like I ran into a brick wall headlong at the ending. It is an excellent addition to the YA market and made me give some new consideration to the Sci-Fi genre. I will certainly be moving onto the next book.

The revised 2nd edition will be available next week, December 2. I advise getting a copy at the fantastic rate of $3.99 for digital.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Edwardian artistic reform

Spent the last two days sick on the couch. I knew I really had come down with something when I really wasn't even that interested in reading. What a missed opportunity. I mostly snuggled under the blankets fighting a horrible fever and sleeping on and off with TV in the background for some noise. Fortunately, I had a review in queue for you. I finished this one a couple of weeks ago, but it is finally getting close to releasing. I actually am found of the break from fantasy fiction on this one. It will be hitting store shelves next month.

Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar

There are plenty of letters, notes, postcards, diaries, and other literary proofs of the lives of Virginia Woolf and her slightly less recognized sister Vanessa Bell. This is a story of what built around those letters. 

This is a fine example of historical fiction. The people are real, the events are factual, the story is fiction. The author extensively researched her subjects and Edwardian England. Ms. Parmar beautifully captures the essence that the sisters' letters provided and builds a full painting as if we were a part of the Bloomsbury movement.

These two women were from the upper layers of British society and had a sense of entitlement to them. They were given privilege from their eccentric parents and grew to be wild, artistic bohemians who did not want to mold to convention. They wanted to shock their peers and destroy social conventions, yet rarely interacted with anyone outside their social circle. They influenced an entire movement in literature and art with their works through sheer strength of personality.

Vanessa's tale is the heartbreaking side to entitled rebellion. Ms. Parmar shows how bending the rules sometimes breaks the heart. Vanessa does not want to be a part of social convention because she is surrounded by self-indulgent elitists and that is what she knows. She puts off marriage and courtship thinking she is not able to abandon her family to such traditional hogwash.

The tragedy of loss and madness plagues the Stephens family and there is only so much strength one person can handle alone. When Vanessa finally finds her happiness in Clive, she blooms and radiates her glory to everyone she contacts. She is strengthened by finally having a family of her own. She realizes that she is a traditionalist for marriage and has always wanted something of her own, unspoiled by madness. Her previous Bohemian ideals have no place in her new life and when they interject themselves anyway, she is devastated.

This book is very raw and real. It is not a happy-go-lucky read, but a great piece of literature. I highly recommend this for an intelligent pallet cleanse after reading too many fantasies.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cover Reveal for Arrows of Darkness

I apologize for the horrible delay to this amazing cover reveal. I was on vacation fulfilling my nerdom at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (which was absolutely amazing despite my complete lackluster experience in FL, as usual). I attempted to create a new post through my phone, which technologically trumped me by good measure. So I bring this reveal to you several days late with my deepest apologies.

Please revel in the beauty and glory of Mae I Design's cover for (to me) a very anticipated sequel to The Hunter, The Bear, and The Seventh Sister below. You can also visit my previous review post to learn more about the first novel and take this chance to become a part of what promises to be a very endearing series. My post over here.

Now, drum roll, please...........

Arrows of Darkness by B.I. Woolet


Jackson returns to Arcas expecting to find peace—a peace greatly lacking within his own home. But when a violent archer takes over as Lord of the White Palace, the future of the ancient kingdoms is shaken.

While Rigel, Otava, and Merope work together to rescue the six sisters trapped at the White Palace, Sephdar returns from shadowy crusades to find White Wings’ army leaderless. The new self-proclaimed ruler has a plan for the Seven Sisters and a plan for The Bridge to Earth. But when his ambitious arrows pierce the peaceful kingdoms, an unlikely force confronts the dark lord and the future of the crowns is changed forever.
In absence of the seven sisters, Jackson returns to find that dark creatures have overtaken the beautiful Starling Forest, destroying everything in their path. Jackson and Nekkar narrowly escape together, but Nekkar blames the Son of Earth for releasing the present darkness in Arcas. The rocky, new friendship strengthens as they journey through dangerous lands toward the Free Realms. Can their loyalties survive when the beautiful Princess Andromeda interrupts their quest and the darkness of war batters their souls?

Hold to your axe and hold to your lass as you join Jackson to combat the darkness spreading through the world of Arcas. But remember, the most powerful arrows do not pierce the body but the soul.

B. I. Woolet (Benji & Ila Woolet) is the author of the World of Arcas book series. They enjoy creating lyrical and literary arts, playing music together, and exploring nature. They are happily married and live in Indiana with their children.

They are currently working on the second installment of the World of Arcas series titled “Arrows of Darkness” due for release in spring of 2015.

Get plenty of good information about the authors, the story, and prequel to prepare yourself this spring. I know I'm ready for the next adventure!!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Another tangle with a Prussian necromancer

My leaves are turning to the vibrant colors of fall, and they are beautiful. Until they fall in my yard, and I realize that it is a never ending battle to get them raked. So many trees line my yard. So many leaves. So many.

Storms of Lazarus by Karen Kincy

I have a definite love-hate relationship with this series. The first book was an introductory promotion on Amazon and the second was on sale for 99 cents. I really do not forsee me ever paying the full price for these stories, nor getting paperback copies for my shelf. With that being said, I would recommend them to people who match the writing style and enjoy the dieselpunk genre.

LOVE: 1.) The use of mechanized suits to amp up the battle scenes. My husband is a huge Armored Core fan and this gives me a feel of being a little part of his geekdom without actually having to learn the overly complicated button scheme as a part-time gamer. 2.) The actual writing. The story moves at the right pace, I don't find continuity errors, and the plot is interesting. There is a clear continuation from the first novel without reloading the reader with information. 3.) The characters--Ardis and Wendel are compelling characters because they are dynamic in their emotions. They are not static personalities, they have depth and flavor to their ups-and-downs.

HATE: 1.) Alternative history that uses (and skews) historical figures and facts outside their context. This is clearly fogging the history of WWI, not a fan. Why is everyone suddenly obsessed with Tesla? Sad he couldn't get this recognition in his life. 2.) Overdoing sex scenes and being overly descriptive with the language while not being transparent. If you are going to go there, go all there, not allude at some points and be blatant at others. If your publisher is limiting you on the language, then maybe you should just cut the scene.

I bought this novel on sale during a promotion, so I had both book 1 and 2 without having read the first one (always a dangerous gamble, and one I feel did not pan out for me this roll of the dice). Since I owned it, I was reading it. No book sits on my shelf (Kindle or real) without being read just because I didn't like the first one. I will not be moving forward with the series, however. I am at least happy Storms of Lazarus had an ending point that won't drive me crazy. 

I realize that not every book trend is going to be for me, which also means that they will be for some other reader out there. To those readers, I recommend this novel based on its writing merits. I would even take a guess that the third novel will be successful as well. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Would you be a Gaffer?

Good afternoon, and as promised, Happy Release Day to Charlie Holmberg. 

The Glass Magician by Charlie Holmberg

Excellent follow up to The Paper Magician. I really have been impressed with this series so far, and I am very excited for the next installment.

This time we experience the exploits of Ceony and her friend Delilah, a burgeoning glass magician, aka Gaffer. To not be horrifically spoiler crushing to The Paper Magician, I will only state that we are now in hot pursuit of the Excisioners yet again. Ceony has taken on crime fighting despite her apprentice status because she was able to complete finishing school in a record year. Clearly she is enthusiastic about her abilities. If only they could hold a candle to the actual magicians.

Chaos and tragedy ensue. We are able to learn a completely different side of the magic system in this second novel and it is even more enchanting than in the first novel. Not only does Mrs. Holmberg delve into the creative ingenuity of glass magic, but she presents us with the mystery of the Bonding magic. The originality is still strong in this story.

The story line moved a little awkwardly for me this time around. There were moments that rushed by and I felt like it was pushed a little too much. Some of the writing felt a touch forced. The plot was still fabulous and I finished the whole novel in 18 hours. This novel also deserves 5 stars. It has a strong re-read capability which makes it worthy of joining my shelves.

What magician type would you be?

My drizzly weekend continues to provide payouts for this week's reviews. I was able to start another fabulous series in the steampunk genre, and I fell in love with the magic system. In honor of The Glass Magician releasing today, I will be doing a double post. But let us start at the beginning--and what a wonderful beginning it is.

The Paper Magician by Charlie Holmberg

Great system of magic. Great treatment of steampunk; Victorian England without the zany clockwork and gears, just a splash of magic, and no actual historical figures involved. No muddying of the historical waters. Three cheers!

I don't think I can be entirely spoiler-free, but I promise my review does not give away any ending clues, just a wee little plot point, but it is just so cool. As an author, it must be incredibly difficult to come up with something new and exciting to catch reader's attention. Especially in this day of mass media. I really found the spell to trap Ceony in a heart (and her pursuant travels through the chambers to escape) brilliant--and somewhat wonderfully, disturbingly researched with anatomical correctness. A little squeamishness was a nice addition to my Halloween weekend. What would it be like to see inside and walk the paths of the person we care about? Ms. Holmberg took a turn at plotting it out for us.

I also very much enjoyed the concept of magic introduced. We are able to bond and therefore control any element that is created by man. In the first novel, we are introduced to glass, metal, rubber, plastic, and paper. These are your good, wholesome magicians who make excellent inventions to help out people. They imbue an already pretty nifty invention with just a touch of something extraordinary to lift the creativity. I was enthralled with the creative imagination of what paper magic would be like. I would love to be a Folder. 

Then we meet the dark side of magic--Excisioners. These are individuals who have bonded to flesh. Some wonderful concepts arise in the novel and the dilemma of the choices we make. Are they inherently bad people for the choices they make? Do we make the entire practice illegal and lock them all up without the key? Questions that we will get to delve into even deeper in The Glass Magician, so make sure you read The Paper Magician now to be ready for the release today.

This novel stretched the imagination and had moral thinking. There is some serious goodness crammed in between the covers. I give the novel 5 stars. The action moves quickly and the plot feels new and refreshing. I cannot recommend this novel enough. Check back later this afternoon for my second review.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The truly dark ages

A business trip last week really threw off my reading schedule. Anyone want to pay me to read full time? That would be great. Until that magical day arrives, I hit the books hard this weekend with incredibly cold, drizzly rain ruining my outside plans. But who can argue with a day snuggled under the blankets and a good book (or two, or three)? I have quite a few reviews to catch up on this week, so start your Monday off right with some assassin nuns.

Dark Triumph by Robin Lafevers

I was certainly correct in my prediction Sybella's story would be darker than Ismae's. It is a good story. There is the gritty quality of a train wreck you just can't look away from despite knowing it is horrible and will haunt you. It is a story of redemption.

What I have noticed about this series: It is set up like Nora Roberts. Three stories. Three heroines. Three love connections. Each novel focuses on the path of the heroine to her lover and overcoming her personal obstacles to that love. 

What I like about this series: Assassin nuns is a nice twist. With it having a pretty formulaic romance series foundation, I was happy to have the 15th century France background to shake up my expectations and keep me interested in the story. The romance is not overly sweet and deluded. These are clearly stories about love, yet do not overdo the butterflies in the stomach. There is no gratuitous sex.

What I do not like about the series: The attempt to market these to young adults. I'm not sure I really get the connection to that market. Yes, the girls themselves are young at 14-18. However, at the era these stories are to take place, they would be considered child-rearing adults and not face adolescent challenges. They are experiencing love at a very mature level that I sure don't remember being part of my first crushes. I consider these the perfect read for an adult.

I will give this novel 4 stars. The writing was well handled and well edited. The story line moved along smoothly. For it involving assassin nuns, the action was a little dull, but the plot moved along at a good clip (I never really found my interest flagging). I am now interested in moving along to the final novel Mortal Heart, which releases tomorrow.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Assassin nuns of the 16th century

I was offered to read the first two novels in the His Fair Assassin trilogy in anticipation of the release of the concluding novel. I have a difficult time turning down any requests made directly from the publisher of a fantasy imprint. I am really glad I didn't pass these up. After a lovely (I mean truly beautiful) fall day at the Renaissance Festival, which also seemed a wildly appropriate theme for the reading material of the weekend, I focused my attentions on the nuns of St. Mortain.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

I have read plenty of Middle Ages stories that take place in England. Authors seem to love writing the story of Camelot, Henry VIII, and Elizabeth very much. They are pretty dramatic stories that would naturally draw the nature of a fiction author. Plus, with a British heritage, I just get drawn in by the stories and their familiarity. I was intrigued when these stories took place in medieval France.

The research from those eras is very limited (hence its nickname of the Dark Ages) so this time period can be easy to abuse the facts since there is a lot to embellish. It is a section of literature that I enjoy but struggle to accept. We want to know what the life was like for these people who did not have access to our technologies. We have a certain craving to comprehend a lifestyle so far from our own (be it simple, rustic, uncomplicated, or dramatic depending on your personal spin). Robin LaFevers stays to the facts of her research through the background of places and chain of events but builds that curiosity of people and their motives. Plus, assassin nuns is just a cool concept.

There are parts of the story which stumble along. There are plenty of awkward moments that prove no matter how much research you do, you can't write what you don't know. The concept might have been perfect for the story line, but the reality just didn't come through the writing. I am also not sure I would package these as YA novels since murder, death, and luring men are some key covenants the nuns of St. Mortain live by. However, the female lead is strong and she is overcoming some very strong obstacles in life (oh, and she is 14 when the book starts which I did not recognize--often forgot--throughout the whole story because her character does not feel young in any way). The overall concept was good, the characters were strong, and I was opened to a new angle of history. I consider all of those wins for a good read.

I will give this novel 3 stars and happily move to the next story where we get to focus on events from Sybella's angle. (I anticipate a darker twist here.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Is dieselpunk for me?

A weekend spent between my craft room and snuggled on my couch with a good book. Wonderful October! I am always in search of new reading material and Netgalley certainly feeds my reader, but sometimes an author I have gotten to appreciate makes a recommendation. This was the case for Shadows of Asphodel, and it was on Kindle promotion to get to know the series as the second book released. Of course I bit!

Shadows of Asphodel by Karen Kincy

I will have to rate this book 3 stars. The writing was excellent, but the theme and content were not my niche. I have enjoyed my foray into the steampunk genre, it seemed natural to try a dieselpunk novel next. These authors veer away from a solely steam driven what-if, to a general inventor's paradise where progress wasn't shut down and magic can always be added into the recipe. Kincy introduces mechs on a level with Armored Core to her adaptation of pre-WWI Austria. It borders on my fine line of distaste for alternative fiction. I am all for the what-if game, but there has to be a point where we leave some historical facts sacred.

Another deduction in stars comes from this book being in the New Adult category. I am once again having a love-hate relationship with the progress of literature and new genres. New Adult is refreshing with the characters actually being somewhat closer to my own age and life experiences but hard to swallow the gratuitous aspect that seems to be coming from most of the authors. I really do not need to read extensive scenes from the bedroom (Before y'all jump me, I am very aware this is my own personal taste, and certainly will not dampen the story for many readers. This is being honest about the state of the book for those who share my opinion and may want to skip this series). Some of the moments left me glad to step out on my back porch to the cooling October fall air. Whooo. 

While the actual content may not have please me, the writing, characters, and plot points certainly did. These redeeming factors got a star each to make the book certainly worth the time spent reading. I would probably consider this a rent from the library or bargain sale book. It is not enough of my personal tastes to shell out the full $13 for paperback. However, I am very aware that to many others it definitely is, and I highly recommend those readers put this on their shelf.