Friday, March 18, 2016

Soaring on the wings of a phoenix

Hopefully everyone had an enjoyable and safe St. Patrick's Day (and hopefully the hangovers are few). For those who need to relax this weekend and recover, I recommend they pick up the Wycaan Master series and tuck in for some good reading. Books can cure anything. I do warn you--this epic fantasy series can make your weekend go by in the blink of an eye; the tale is so engrossing.

From Ashes They Rose by Alon Shalev

26257509We start the fifth in the Wycaan series wondering if he did it again. Did the author really kill off another beloved character? Well, the other characters just don't think it is possible. Our close knit warriors are divided in their individual missions. Some to find Seanchai--because let's face it, he is super awesome and just cannot be killed. I repeat CANNOT be killed. Right?-- and others on their own quests of discovery. 

Just when the crew thought they had the upper hand on the nation and could finally start to rebuild; a larger, more deadly threat strikes fear in their hearts. The amazing races from book four have made a return to endear our hearts further with the depth of Shalev's world creation. The epic mystery builds as we are presented with yet another unique race of beings. Shalev has a talent for creating in depth idealogies and backgrounds for his races. I really dig the realism of Taragusii running around being bitter mercenaries. Will they gain a conscious in the sixth book? I like debating and wondering until I find out. And whatever happened to my Aqua'lanis?

I have so many wonderful questions--and theories to go along with the all glorious plot opportunities--that have piled up my excitement for book six. A true epic fantasy builds a big enough picture that you come back to look in all the nooks and crannies. That is what the Wycaan series brings to the table.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Howl at the moon

While spring is apparently here, at least according to the timelords, let's catch up with a review from last fall about a winter book. Since my circadian rhythm is all out of funk, it only seems apropos to have a chaos of seasons colliding in today's review. We are going to be checking in with the last novel in the Great North Woods series.

Snow Rising by Shawn Underhill

Snow Rising (The Great North Woods Pack Book 4)
I was sad to read the author's note on the back about this being the last book. For a while. Maybe. He has run out of ways to take the story. And I must agree that this is probably true. We had excellent resolution here, but I love these characters and this concept of shape-shifters (I refuse to use the word werewolves with these spiritual, majestic creatures). I do extremely appreciate his honesty that he is tapped. Oh, how I wish some other authors would have been willing to admit they were bled dry and refused to publish sub-par narrative.

While we started this series with Evie running head long into her family secret, we have come a long way down the rabbit hole. The story is now more centralized around the Snow family in general, and their family feud of Hatfield-McCoy standards. The future has come hunting for the Snows, and they must find a way to face their problems head on, as hiding has become moot. We know fanatics in history have dabbled with these very experiments given this novel a chill of realism. 

This story line could easily be happening today just as the narrative pictures it, and it is why I love this series. The transition from a coming-of-age story to sci-fi-esque battleground is remarkably subtle. After reflecting back on the series, this is not the direction I would have foreseen this series taking. Kudos to the author. 

I will give this 5 stars for the following: clear plot completion, hopes of more stories to come if we all love them enough, and swinging the story arc in a direction I never would have guessed with a young adult protagonist in book one.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The mecha that wasn't

After finishing United States of Japan, I find myself in another review dilemma. Due to an impressive fascination with quantum entanglement and paradigms from the current comic nerd culture, alternate fiction has gained large success. A genre I am quickly starting to disapprove of highly for its historical dilution. I selected this novel for the mecha from the cover and an admittedly intriguing description. I knew I would struggle with the content, but I also am keenly aware that books are read for the entertainment value. Therefore, I will base my review solely on that value.

United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas

This is a story of North America if Japan had won the exchange at Pearl Harbor. A big manipulation of the timeline for sure. I will give credit to the vibrant reality of the world Tieryas created. The whole book really felt like a Japanese colony. The foods, the culture; they all felt very Imperial Japan. I enjoyed the authenticity of a Japan that developed from the Empire culture since our concept of modern Japan would not exist in Tieryas's paradigm. 

Ishimura and Tsukino are incredibly memorable characters with an impressionable dynamic. They make the story line flow along in a realistic timescale. They moral struggles they face as we learn about their growth in a colony filled with oppression is hooking. Honestly, they were really the only reason why I managed to finish the book. There were two major factors that killed the joy of the book for me despite the compelling character development.

1.) NO MECHA until 52% of the book. What? How can you put a giant, shiny, awesome mecha on your cover--one in which you base the ability to manipulate timelines--and then not have it involved to well after half the book has gone by? And then it doesn't actually see action until 90%? I'm hurt. 

2.) People are forced to assimilate to Japanese culture or be neutralized. Extreme. Yet they didn't rename any of the American cities? Seriously? Germany renamed all the East Coast cities because there was no way they were accepting another culture into their own. But California gets to keep all their names despite the open despising of their culture? Didn't jive with me. UPDATE: After a very interesting explanation from the author, which I truly appreciated as a reader, I accept the naming convention "in spirit of syncretism of Shinto, as well as for dramatic purposes," which ties in with the research that has clearly been done of the Japanese culture by Tieryas.

Both of these factors made the book lack an air of authenticity to me that is an absolute must if I am going to read alternate fiction. That is my humble opinion and recognize that this book from its writing alone has the power to be a HUGE success. It is motivating, compelling, and fascinating narrative. The characters are real and gritty. It is available now; so check it out and see what you think for yourself.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Irish fables for St. Patrick's Day

With St. Patrick's Day approaching, it would be a marvelous idea to head to the store and pick up your copy of The Last Days of Magic. A novel of Ireland and its magic. Patrick even makes a guest appearance!

The Last Days of Magic by Mark Tompkins

Myth, legend, and lore. Angels, fairies, and magic. Conspiracy. This book has it all in such compelling narrative. This story highlights a time when illiteracy was rampant and the records were what the victors made of them. Ireland relied on their fables to guide them through the mysteries of life, while the Romans were busy focusing on the power of the Vatican priests to dictate people's future. This book shines light on the struggle between the two magics.

I was originally drawn to historical fiction because of the imaginative freedom to build the characters and motives of history. I was drawn to this novel in particular because Tompkins ties the religious connection to magic. They really are more interconnected than many realize, and I want this part of history to see some more popularity. Tompkins clearly put some good research behind his development of the battle for the last days of magic.

While I knew most of the myths and historical names presented, I don't believe that will hinder the reading for any new to the subject. The narrative can get a little bogged down with all the history, but the characters are rich and intriguing. The action moves along with a choppy pace. I wouldn't classify it can't-put-down; however, it kept me picking it back up. The action, violence, and sex are not frivolous. They all have meaning for the movement of the story. 

This novel is 4 stars narrative wise. It is well written and entertaining. Tompkins captures the essence of magic living in every part of our lives.

Monday, March 7, 2016

My March madness means something different

Happy Monday everyone. Since I have spent the last month settling into my new home, I have fallen behind with my reading. Fortunately I have built a small pile of unpublished reviews. To kick off the week, I am going to get started with a novel that published last fall. It took me awhile to get through this book and then even longer to get through the review. See below the fold for why.

The Paladin Caper by Patrick Weekes

I finally made it through the next of the Rogues of the Republic series. Then I wrote my review. Then I rewrote it, scrapped all of it, wrote a new one, edited it... Get the feeling I had no idea how to write this review? I didn't. Here is what I could come up with best. We have another fun caper of mayhem and best-laid-plans shenanigans with some serious satirical problems. 

All the original characters plus some of the background support group are all back to participate in the new con. The plot and story itself felt the same as the first two novels. This in itself is not terrible. There are many authors who make a lot of money with a formula. When you are in the mood for a witty thief escapade, you will now have a go-to series. This gang of bandits definitely knows how to make a plan and then disastrously go through the rest of the plan alphabet. There are some surprising new character traits that popped up. A couple of plot twists even threw me. Those are the highlights of the book. And the only ups for me this go around.

Now for my con, which almost made me stop reading. The commentary of social problems is much more present. Like way more present. (To me) Like way too annoying, upfront present. I understand the point of satire, but I don't like mine forcing my face in it as if I'm insensible. Granted it did not ruin the story, but it will easily knock it down into the 3 star range.