Monday, June 30, 2014

Sequel of ninjas... well, maybe

So, where have I been? Why have a fallen off the radar (yet again)? I have been reading, landscaping, and recovering from landscaping by reading. Two of the books I am still writing up reviews for now, and I should have them posted later this week after my contest winner reveal.

The Guild of Assassins by Anna Kashina

Now we will be taking a look at part two in "The Majat Code." This next leg in the journey against the Kaddim brothers was not as impactful to me as the first. I was immensely impressed with the action and adventure of Blades. It could have possibly been a case where my excitement for the sequel was just so great that it was bound to fall a little flat. However, I really think (if I will admit my own honesty to myself) it was the addition of a love story that threw me off a bit. 

These are bad, ---kicking ninja warriors here. Trained from incredibly young ages to be stoic and death dealing weapons of mass destruction. They sleep on dirt for comfort. We are left instead with some serious teenage angst. I concede the argument that in the extremely intense training to become the baddest warrior in the world your adrenaline can heighten the sexual energy, and these feelings should be explored to understand the limitations of your distractions. Warriors need to know themselves in every situation to be fighting machines. Premise of sex and war being a knife's edge accepted. However, I felt the romance left the original beauty of Blades in the dust.

I understand that the more intense you are the more likely your romance will be intense with all the pent up sexual energy and angst on top of your bad--- warrior skills, but I'll pass on reading about it. Romance just isn't my genre, and it really didn't fit here with the first book being almost devoid of the very open, intense touchie-feelies. This second novel is certainly more for the adult reader with multiple semi-explicit scenes.

What I did love... I do appreciate the true science behind the attraction. Chemicals and pheromones leading to a scent that drives you wild and lusty. People are commonly attracted to their partner based on scent as much as on sight. We do have five senses after all. Making the point of smell being an attractant, now that is some real storytelling there. Give me some scientific fact in my fiction and I am a happy camper. This adds a depth of connection to the characters that give them life outside the pages. It also kept to the depth I know is possible with Blades.

There were still some amazing action scenes, and I was even tumbling around my deck trying to figure out how some of it all played out (much to the amusement of my neighbors I am sure). So I will give the book 3 and half stars. I will certainly be looking out for the conclusion to this trilogy with as much enthusiasm I did this novel. 

The Guild of Assassins releases next month and you can learn more from the publisher's website. Visit Amazon to pre-order your copy or hit up your local indie bookseller. 

You can read about Anna's research on chemical attraction more on her website

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer has begun

And what better start than a review for a book all about summer. 

I have planted some more hedges for privacy along my border, and it seems like I am never finished landscaping. I enjoyed taking some breaks for reading in there though that probably made the job last longer. (What is a bookworm to do?) The Last Kings of Sark kicked off my summer reading list quite nicely.

The Last Kings of Sark by Rosa Rankin-Gee

Four very solid stars. I have to take away one star for the format of the book. I'm kind of an old-fashioned reader who likes my story sequential with obvious transitions. This novel is divided with a feel of short story chapters that combine to make up a whole book. We start with Jude on the first day of her summer tutoring job, and then more or less follow a timeline that spans 10 or so years. Unfortunately, I did feel a little lost sometimes. So, four stars it is.

The first chapter focuses on the longest stretch of time and has no particular order other than Summer, but I feel that was a very necessary technique.  Part of the absolute beauty of this novel is Jude's complete awareness of time. It moves us forward, yet when we look back it doesn't seem to stack up in the same order it was made. The power of nostalgia wraps our memories. Events make time move quickly and slowly all at the same time. It is an ever allusive quality, yet Rosa Rankin-Gee captures the essence of time here.

There is one particular section where no names are used, just the pronouns you and I. I have mixed feelings about this section. Because it took me until the end of the chapter to figure out who the characters were, I was able to read that particular chapter in a couple of different lights. This technique really made it obvious to me that there are three distinct voices to this novel. All the points of view are set out there, and we as readers really get to immerse ourselves in this love story. So, I guess in the end I didn't hate the technique as much as I started out.

This novel is certainly a story about love. Its complications, ups-and-downs, and the moment that you gain it forever or lose it. The story could also be placed in the category of coming-of-age in that magical summer. It always seems to be summer when people think they grow up, but winter when they realize that they haven't. I find that fascinating. And this novel really captures that fascination and awareness of time for me. 

I was very impressed with this story. It was just beautiful. Not grand, or genre inventing. Beautiful. 

It hits the Kindle store for US on 8 July. Happy summer!

Monday, June 16, 2014

In the house of the rising sun

What a week. Phew. Something about Friday the 13th landing on the night of the full moon. Superstitions will abound. What better to go along with the crazy then Beyond the Western Sun chock full of native superstition and the amazing gift of storytelling.

Beyond the Western Sun by Kristina Circelli

I know an author going to IndieFest in FL. As I was perusing their website for other authors attending, Kristina's author bio stuck out with her Native American theme. She is spreading some of her heritage with a mix of the fantasy fiction. Native American's are natural born storytellers, as most of their history is passed through oral tradition. I have always been fascinated with their origin stories and folk legends explaining why we exist in this world and the part humanity plays in nature. This was an author I had to check out. I looked her works up on Amazon, and the first of the Whisper series was free, so of course I had to download it.

This book will not leave you with the warm-fuzzies. Our protagonists are traversing the Land of the Dead. There can't be much fun to be had in Limbo, but lessons will be taught on nature and our spiritual connectivity to all elements around us. The land is full of weird creepy crawlies and Native American totems bent on deceiving or capturing your soul. Gross, disturbing, and I loved every minute of it! Circelli's writing really took me to the Land of the Dead. She really captured the art of storytelling in true native fashion.

Another plus--her characters were not overly romanticized and gooey. They were disturbed with the actions of their lives and the choices they had made (or were made for them). There is a hunt for the true answer to the question, not what you want it to be or what others are expecting to hear. The honest truth with all the ugliness inside the beauty. Her main character Whisper has a dark side that terrifically reflects the evil struggling to dominate the good.

Now the rest of the series is $2.99 a piece; well priced for me to continue reading. At 4 stars for the first book, I look forward to what comes next.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Happy 100th Post Giveaway!

That is correct, you have indeed read properly. I have made 100 entries on this website. Not all of them have been reviews as I had initially pictured, but have been so much more as they have transformed and grown with my reviewer process. I have made it through a goal to read 75 books in one year. I have made connections with multiple authors and gotten the opportunity to expand my blog into interviews. I have become what I hope is a useful reviewer to the amazing Netgalley system.

Now, I want to get anyone who missed out on this amazing series a chance to indulge in the steampunk goodness of Holmes revitalization. Up for grabs is the first book in the Baskerville Series, A Study in Silks. You can catch my review over here for more inspiration on this fabulous series starter.

It starts at Midnight and continues through the rest of the month, so get tallying some points for your free copy! The winner will be announced on July 1st.

UPDATE: The winner has been chosen and announced. Thanks so much for participating in my giveaway. I will do another one when at my next centennial. Here is to reading 100 more books!!

Friday, June 6, 2014

When words attack your brain

This post has been like 3 weeks coming. Eek. The whole review is a little different style since the book runs different to my standard fare. It is not a book many will find enjoyable, but to those that would prefer a mind-stretching exercise machine, this will be a profitable review.

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

I write this review with very mixed feelings and can't decide where to place the star rating, so I don't think I will because I want to be fair. There is going to be a very specific audience for this novel. I chose it from the description tugging my heartstrings for the fate of the printed word. It proclaimed a lexicography thriller for the digital age.

Let me begin with--I found this a painful read. In terms of general fiction with a smattering of futuristic thriller and dash of romance in the background, the book really could not grab my attention (if I read it too late at night, I instantly fell asleep). I needed all brain cells firing to keep pace with the intensity of language and doctoral thesis writing.

Now that I have gotten that unpleasant fact out of the way, let's continue. The book itself is written from a future stand point reflecting back on how events stacked up to get Anana a.k.a. Alice to the point of writing this memoir. The chapters are alphabetical, which makes for a very long 26 chapters. They switch between the telling of past events from Anana to the journal entries of Bart. What I liked about this concept: it gives layers to the perspective, we have a varying cast of characters, and there is an added dimension to the story that often falls flat and dry in other areas. What I do not like about the concept: it is very clunky in formatting and flow, Bart's journal entries remind me of my college theses (very boring, irrelevant dissertations on the world of linguistics and literature) not diary entries, and it loses a very personal touch to the characters making them almost anesthetic.

Another con that kept me from reading this novel smoothly--the actual writing. Sometimes it feels like a memoir, a PhD level treatise better suited for an educational journal, or a dime-store mystery novel. There is no real style but a mash up. (Yes I do understand that is the point. I did not like it.)

While the novel is about an editor for the dictionary, that should not require me to have an actual dictionary next to me while I am reading. The author often chose to use archaic, overly pompous words from characters who aren't really either of those things. I'm all for stretching the brain muscles while I read, but the language here really took it a step too far.

What I did like about this novel--the message of language degradation. Unfortunately, the thesis isn't quite valid to me. Her argument for media, the constant drive to create streams of conscious instead of treatises, and the creation of new words is pointed in the wrong direction. Media must spring from somewhere, and that is the ingenuity and creativity of writers. There will always be creators of the story. Our written word may fade (which would indeed make this bookworm very sad), but there was a time that our histories were oral traditions and art not words. It will all cycle back around; a true ouroboros. The true shame of language degradation comes in far more nefarious forms in sheep's clothing. Look at educational institutions eliminating English standards in favor of boosting student self-confidence. 

Wow, that was a lengthy review. All these negative factors and minor complaints aside, this novel could easily shape up to be a great book in your collection, and it will certainly make you think about the world around you. I really do suggest this book to those who want a lot more intellect with their reading.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Happy Release Day, Ed Greenwood!

Wizards of the Coast are unleashing their last Sundering novel into the wild today. The six-novel series has concluded after an (amazingly) brief 10 months. We are now all geared up for the new world of D&D. I had never really known, played, or even researched anything D&D related until my Christmas present of Time of the Twins from the Legend series, which prompted me to buy the boxed set of the Dragonlance Chronicles. Even then, I still really had no clue about D&D and the Forbidden Realms. Then, Wizards of the Coast granted me access to their new series, and I now find myself really immersed and considering getting more involved.

The Herald by Ed Greenwood

We conclude The Sundering series with veteran D&D writer Ed Greenwood. He continues to develop his iconic character Elminster with a few new characters in the mix (which totally fits the D&D for a new generation theme). One of the huge pros for this novel was the sense of not being lost. There was a new feeling to the story instead of getting tangled in past history. It seems like Elminster has some great stories in his past (considering Ed Greenwood started writing about him as a boy and now he is centuries old), but they stayed there and didn't muddy up the new thread. As a new reader to D&D, I really appreciated that. 

I wasn't completely in love with the story and took almost two weeks to finish the book because I just couldn't really get involved, nothing really hooked me from the start. I cannot leave a book unfinished, and I am glad that I made it all the way through to the end. I now at least know how it all wrapped up.

I really loved the elves vs Shadovar duels and magic. (I'm always the wizard or healer in fantasy video games.) The war kept the story line action packed and moved the story around. But, I also found this to be a slight fault because it could get a little scattered. I lost the time line several times and ending up exiting the imagery to think about the math. There was even a cheesy attempt at some romance amongst all the war. There just really seemed to be a little bit of everything to love here, but never really stacked up to great for me. I left the story at 3 stars.

This might be a potential spoiler (but it really isn't)--the story isn't really over. The Sundering was not completed and neither good guys nor bad guys came out ahead. What did happen? We are now set up for a new generation of D&Ders in a new Forgotten Realms. There are a new set of heroes for more development. And I must say, it was all set up wonderfully. You still have some of your old favorites hanging around, but you new material to grow. There were some bumps in the series, but I chalk that up to writing styles being so vastly different, just as readers are so vastly different. There is certainly a book for every reader in this series and I recommend them all as a whole unit. They stand strongly together if not individually.

Go to the product page for a sample chapter. For more on the series as a whole, go to this website.