Tuesday, November 30, 2010

REVIEW: "The Venom of Vipers" by K. C. May


Imagine a world where humans have created a new species, a species designed to be the saviors of mankind. In 2023, people are dying of the Moliomyositis at an alarming rate and the entire population will be killed off in short order, unless a cure can be found. Henry Marsh has engineered an entire species, the Homo sapiens heredis, or "saphers," in an effort to find a cure for Molio.  His research is on the cutting edge and he may be closer than he thinks, but time is quickly running out...

The saphers live in a compound that offers them everything they could possibly want or need...except their freedom. Henry's daughter, Katie, grew up amongst these saphers and has developed a special relationship with one in particular, Ryder Stone. After several years away, Katie is back to take on the role of reproductive scientist. None of the sapher women can maintain a pregnancy longer than 7 weeks, and this inability to reproduce threatens their continued existence. As they are being groomed to take over if- or when- humans become extinct, this is quite unacceptable. To complicate matters, there are activists on the outside clamoring for the destruction of the entire sapher species.

Together, Katie and Ryder work together to discover secrets and betrayals, as well as hope and possibility, as they battle for the continued existence of the sapher people. Can they find a way to guarantee freedom and the continued existence of the species? Is there any hope left for the human species?

K. C. May has spun another captivating tale. With this second novel, she once again proves that she knows how to string a story to maintain reader interest. The story flows along cleanly, and the transitions are smooth and do much to carry the reader along. The storyline itself is quite engaging. The idea that a virus could be slowly killing off the entire human population is not too out of the realm of possibility, and some of the ideas the author introduces in this tale are quite amazing, yet believable. It was a compelling read that was able to sweep me away.

The author crafts believable and intriguing characters, and I found myself rooting for some while feeling pity for others. As in her previous title, "The Kinshield Legacy," the characters are complex, without "good or bad," only shades of individuality. Although the character development was good, the conversations between characters didn't ring quite as true to me as the dialogue in the previous novel. This novel takes place in a time period more similar to modern-day time, so the language used by the characters is also quite different. Regardless, to me, the phrasing in the dialogue wasn't as rich and vibrant as I had come to expect based on the previous novel.

The ending itself was satisfying in terms of giving closure to the story (without giving anything away here!), but was a bit too "tied together" for me. I would have enjoyed a little more ambiguity, leaving room open for more varied predictive interpretation of the immediate and distant future of both species. That is just a personal preference; the actual ending works as it is written.

**I received a digital ARC of this title, and it's possible that some changes have been made in the book since my copy. Small details I noticed: it seemed "ASP" and "ASAP" were used interchangeably to name the guards, and I never quite caught onto whether they could be called either. Another thing was that whenever Nelson is thinking of Katie, the narrative calls her "Marsh," which was a little confusing, as I immediately thought of her father, Henry. As the narration is third person and omniscient, being consistent in the names used in the narration to refer to characters would offer consistency for the reader, while still allowing the characters to call the other characters whatever they like in dialogue.

Altogether, a compelling and fascinating read. Just as with K. C. May's first novel, I found it really hard to put this book down. Recommended!

4.5 /5 stars

Now available on Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble!

**Edited to add that the things I noted (ASP/ASAP and Katie/Marsh) were intentional, as the story is told from various POV throughout the storyline.

Monday, November 29, 2010

REVIEW: "The Eye of the Storm" by William L. K.

"Danger lurks in the shadows for the royal siblings Dmitri and  Becki.  
The loyalty of family is tested as the eye of the storm approaches."

Dmitri and Becki live on the planet of Stritonoly where all children not born into nobility learn only art and religion. The main exports of Stritonoly are sculptures made of the mesmerizing purple purock that is unique to this planet. The acidel, small and numerous, work as slaves on Stritonoly, tirelessly cutting away the purock for the artisans to sculpt. Life has continued in just this way for ages, but it's about to change. The eye of the storm is coming, and will leave a different world in its wake.

I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of this novel to review and it's difficult to talk more about the storyline without giving something away. Suffice it to say, there is heavy symbolism and some interesting metaphors that are further explained in the epilogue of the story. Taken as a whole, this book was engaging, with a quirky style. The beginning of the story immediately drew me in, but confused me. It wasn't until I read to the end and then reread the beginning that it all made sense. The beginning is a foreshadowing of things to come, and the first chapter is another foreshadowing; it isn't until the second chapter of the book that we start learning what has led the characters on their journeys. The overall result is somewhat of a circle with a small tail; we end up right where we started towards the end of the book, and then we move on to the ending.

This book wasn't like much of the science fiction I have experienced in the past; it took a different approach. Parts of this story read more like an ethnography of the Stritonoly people, taking care to explain various aspects of their society and what it meant for the people who live there. Parts of the story read a bit like a philosophy of religion, with profound ideas and a discussion of faith. The writing style was generally simple, with poetic phrasing interspersed with the simple sentences, adding to the quirkiness of the story. The plot elements were a mish-mash of various elements, all centering around one of the main characters. It's the type of book that may require a second or third look to catch all the little references you may have missed the first time around.

The characters in this story have clear personalities, but they are somewhat unrealistic; at times some appear to gain wisdom and unexpectedly gush erudite philosophy. As a result, this was not a book I was able to fully immerse myself into, yet I read it with interest, much as I would watch a documentary. The world created was engrossing and the plot was stimulating. There is a lot to infer in this relatively short book rife with symbolism and metaphor.

I would have liked to see the connections in the story made tighter, a more seamless weave between the main elements of the story. I think perhaps less may then need to be explained in the epilogue and readers could glean some of that information from the story itself. I think the same could be said for some of the philosophical and ethnographical aspects of the story; tempering those aspects may let more of the reader's imagination through. Once I started catching on to a major subplot, I was compelled to read the story through to the end, but a more clearly structured plot would have increased my enjoyment even more. In general, engaging and interesting, with a lot of potential.

3 /5 stars

The official release date for this story is Dec 11th, check out William L. K.'s blog for more information!

The author has also informed me that he has made several changes to the book since my review copy was sent out, and will likely be making more before the final release date, so be sure to check out his final copy due out on Dec 11th!

FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY! "Roses of Doom" by S.P. Wish

"When horror strikes..............black roses are left behind.

A school camping trip leads quirky middle schooler Mizu, her twin brother Kaji, her friend Akumu and school newspaper reporter Seiya to a mysterious mansion in Greenfire Forest. In the mansion, Mizu's friend is swallowed up by a hole that opens up and closes instantly! Many other unexplained happenings follow until Mizu discovers an old newspaper with information about a centuries old intrigue which has remained hidden till now..........and no person who knows of its existence is allowed to live......."

Written by the writing duo of S. P. Wish, this is a YA horror novel. I'll be reviewing this book in the upcoming weeks, but you don't need to wait for my review. Why not pick up your own copy right now, as it's FREE on Smashwords for a limited time only! No games to play, no contest to win, no need to follow or leave a comment (but please feel free to follow or leave a comment!)- anyone can download this book today, in a variety of formats. Be sure to take a few minutes to write your own review on Smashwords or Goodreads (or any other location you choose) to help other readers decide if this is the right book for them. 

Still deciding? Watch the book trailer on YouTube!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"The Lost Hero" by Rick Riordan

Just for fun, I just read Rick Riordan's "The Lost Hero." My son brought it home from his school library and finished it in one night, so I took it and did the same the next night. I really enjoyed his Olympians series with Percy Jackson, but my favorite book by Rick Riordan (so far) has been "The Red Pyramid" from his Kane Chronicles. The second book doesn't come out until next spring, unfortunately. There is just something about ancient Egypt that has the Greek (and Roman) gods beat, in my book!

Have any of you ever read his books for adults? I haven't, but may check one out at some point when I have some free time ;)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

REVIEW: "Meet Me in Nuthatch" by Jacqueline T. Lynch

Nuthatch, a tiny town in Massachusetts, is slowly fading away. Day by day, the population dwindles as people move away to find new opportunities and a better life. When the population is down to a scant 63, Everett, a lifetime resident, decides on a quirky plan to draw tourism. Soon, the town residents are dressing like it's 1904, and their mannerisms and choices begin to reflect that era. Tourism does increase, and the town begins to draw the attention of the media. The next thing Everett knows, a huge amusement park company has plans to purchase the entire town and create jobs and opportunity for its residents in the Nuthatch 1904 theme. Now Everett, who has never known- or wanted- any other life, must decide if his future lies in Nuthatch or somewhere else.

In "Meet Me In Nuthatch," Jacqueline T. Lynch has created small-town characters who ring true. The various connections between these characters help to show the years of history they have together. There is Roy, the town drug dealer, who has terrorized this tiny town and several of its residents personally. Everett, who isn't quite happy in his life, and is haunted by poor choices he made that put his best friend, Bud, a member of the only Black family in town, at risk. Miss Finchley, the unofficial town historian, has a lot invested in her town her choices may surprise people. The author has woven these complex relationships into a story that leads right back to Everett. At times, these relationships threaten to take over the book. I really enjoyed following the thread of the biggest themes, but I think they compete too heavily at times with the main theme of the story. This story is about Everett and his relationship with his town, but sometimes it seemed that his relationships with Roy or Miss Finchley overpowered what I saw as the true theme. His relationships with Norm and Bud seemed more secondary and blended well with the overall story.

This story kept my interest. It was a pleasant read, with interesting characters and a unique premise. Although the writing is simplistic, there are some delightful phrasings intermixed with the prose. For example: "The capital letters stood escorting their lower case versions, ghosts of
primary school" was used to describe the faded alphabet letters on the former primary classroom wall. There were some jumps in time without much in the way of explanation that left me a little confused, turning back to see where I had missed a week or more. I think it was somewhat fitting in the style of the story, but still confusing.

Altogether, this book is not an exciting read, but it's a comforting, pleasant read that stays with you even after the last page is turned. After finishing the book, I found myself still musing about the relationships and how they'd changed and progressed. This book was a nice, hot chocolate sort of read.

4 /5 stars

Available at Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble

Thursday, November 25, 2010

REVIEW: "Heirs of Mars" by Joseph Robert Lewis

It's the middle of the 22nd century, and humans have been occupying space on Mars for well over a century. For as long as anyone can remember, the war between man and machine has been a integral thread to life on Mars and there is no end in sight. Human birth rates have fallen on Mars, and cloning becomes the most logical option to allow the collective intellect of humans live on. Meanwhile, the Cartesians, or "mechs," are programmed to follow "Mother's" orders to wipe out the human race, and cloners are at the top of the list. Asher is one of those cloners who is part of an underground rebellion. Haunted by his past, he's trying to strive for a future that will allow him some peace and give all humans hope. With the help of Claudia, a local Martian celebrity, Asher comes up with the idea to create the perfect weapon against the machines. No one will be the same when the Martian dust settles on this battle of clones, humans and machines. One way or another, this war will end, but who will be around to see the results?  

Joseph Robert Lewis has written a compelling book that follows the lives of 6 sentient beings during the days leading up to the end of the war. Each chapter tells a piece of the adventure from one of those beings' reference points. The chapters are clearly marked, and I found this to be a very effective way to give us a more complete picture of what was going on in the minds of the humans, clones and machines involved in this war. The premise of the story was really intriguing, and brought up some interesting concepts; cloning people minutes before they die to save their knowledge, machines that seem almost human and yet they're not, Mars being a viable habitat for people when Earth is not enough. With the changing viewpoints and the engaging concept, this was an easy book to get into. 

In addition to the main theme of hope and redemption, there were several underlying themes. For example, what qualifies one to be a person? Seeing the individual thoughts and feelings of three different types of beings, the question is raised- what makes someone (or something) a person? With their synthetic bodies and brains saturated with the memories and experiences of another, are clones closer to humans or machines? Are machines who make choices independent of their programming more like humans than machines? Is it possible for all three types of beings to coexist, and are their goals really all that different?

I found this to be an interesting read. Although the story moves along at a fairly good pace, I found the ending to be somewhat abrupt. When I saw the epilogue, I wondered if I'd missed something in the story. When I turned the last page of the epilogue, I was expecting more. I had taken the journey through the last part of the war, and I wanted a little something else at the end to give me more closure. I'm honestly not exactly sure what form that would have taken, but I felt a bit letdown by the ending. Some of the transitions and relationships between characters were a little difficult for me to follow at times as well. I'm not sure if that's because we were following so many characters (each of the six characters had at least one or more partners associated with them), or because of a lack of development in the writing of the characters. It wasn't a major flaw of the story, and just a minor complaint on my part. 

Overall, a good read for anyone who likes speculative science fiction, and for anyone who thinks about the future of machines and clones, and what it will mean for the human race. 

4 /5 stars

Available at SmashwordsAmazon, and Barnes & Noble

Monday, November 22, 2010

REVIEW: "Lovers and Beloveds" by MeiLin Miranda

Temmin has grown up sheltered from the world, living a blissful life in the idyllic countryside at Whithorse Estates with his mother and his faithful servant. But all good things must come to an end; Tremmin is heir to the Tremontine throne, and must move to the Keep to learn his father's ways and prepare himself for his inevitable future. It is at the Keep where Temmin begins to question who he is and who he will become. Is he a ruthless ruler, like his father, who will stop at nothing to get what -and who- he wants? Or is he a caring man who will make thoughtful choices and begin to harness some of the long-forgotten magic of the kingdom? Helping him on his journey of self- discovery is Teacher, a mentor to the royal family who has hundreds of years of experience under his belt, and has long since given up on any heir displaying magical ability. Slowly, Temmin finds himself pulled in two directions. He must decide whether to follow his father's footsteps and become the man his father expects, or if he should let himself be drawn into the seductive ways of the temple of enlightenment. He's discovering that his future truly isn't preordained, and that he alone is responsible for his choices. 

Beautifully written and edited, MeiLin Miranda has created a rich fantasy world where magic still exists for the rare few, and sex is a cherished and godly endeavor. Although I do enjoy many types of fantasy, I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of fantasy with heavy erotic content, as a rule. That being said, the details and the flow of this story were superb. With fluid writing and nicely-developed characters, the story shines through. Sex becomes an integral part of the conflict of the story; the struggle of power- longing and restraint, duty and desire.  

The author cleverly uses a legend from the Tremont family history to mirror Temmin's own sexual awakening. Teacher uses this story in pieces as part of the teaching process, and the author uses this story to mirror Tremmin's own emotions, and help move his journey along. Vividly drawn details show this fantasy world to be a land on the verge of exciting, and unalterable, change. The relationships between the characters are complex and intricately woven, and they pull you right along with Temmin.

If you are a fan of well-written fantasy stories with a strong sexual element, then this book comes strongly recommended. Some may find the erotic details a little too much, but the fluid and intriguing story makes it worth the read.

4.5 /5 stars

Available at Smashwords and Amazon!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

TEASER-- "The Venom of Vipers" by K.C. May

K.C. May is releasing her new book, "The Venom of Vipers," on December 1st. I have had the privilege of receiving an advance copy, and you can look forward to reading my review right here on the book's release date. It's not too late to get in on the contest on her blog to receive an Amazon gift certificate you can put towards the purchase of this book!

Without spilling any secrets, I'll just tell you that this is a ride you won't want to miss! Set your calendar for the release of "The Venom of Vipers!"  

(I previously reviewed K.C. May's first novel, "The Kinshield Legacy" in September.) 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

REVIEW: "Six Clicks Away" by Bonnie Rozanski

It all started with a sociology lecture on the six degrees of separation, an assignment to recreate the process, and Rachel's desire to connect with the Dalai Lama. The next thing she knew, Rachel had somehow hooked up with Jeremy, the geekiest guy in class, for an experiment that would change the look of "MyFace," and connect people in the most serendipitous ways. Old friendships are rekindled and new contacts are formed. The internet is truly the world-wide web, bringing people together from all reaches of the earth. 

The premise of this story is really appealing; take the good old "six degrees of separation" and apply it to our modern, technological world. Using "MyFace" (an online social network that sounds very familiar to all of us with computer access), the author shows just how tiny our world really is. One small plan put into action can have a ripple effect, and the characters in this story prove this with their developing relationships. Each character introduced ties in with one or more other characters in an engaging way. Like the internet worm Jeremy creates, the story twists and winds through the lives of six very distinct people.

The story started with several pages filled with texting between friends, which really supported the feel of a modern, technological story. This technique wasn't carried through the storyline, however, which made it feel like a loose end. Although I thought the original connections between people were well done to good effect, I felt it began to drag a little towards the middle. It seemed we spent a lot of time with a character or two here and there, and didn't get back to other characters for a while. As a result, I felt it needed just a touch more tightening up. For this type of story, I would have liked to see the characters and their storylines more closely intertwined; relationships inextricably pulled closer together until it was difficult to remember they were ever strangers. At the very least, a culminating event that somehow involved everyone (such as the ending of the movie "Love Actually") would have offered a satisfying closure. Without that final connection, the ending felt a little unfinished. Although the author clearly tried to tie up the various storylines, the lack of synchronicity made it seem like some of the stories were left hanging, just waiting to be addressed again. I was surprised when there wasn't another page after the last page. 

All in all, a really fun and appealing story that kept my interest and made me want to read until the end. An clever concept, and a quick read. 

3.5 /5 stars 

Available at Amazon

Sunday, November 14, 2010

REVIEW: "Descending" by Catherine Chisnall

How far would you go to change your life? 

Emily works two part-time jobs to make ends meet in her lonely life. She has just two friends, and her one love relationship has long since ended. She's frustrated with where her life is headed, and things just don't seem to be getting any better. One fateful afternoon, she finds herself trapped in a rapidly descending elevator with one of her students. The brush with death, the exciting and rogue personality of this student, and Emily's own mixed-up feelings of frustration and loneliness make for a fateful combination as she finds herself embarking on a course she cannot escape. She loses herself in this relationship, and her life is irrevocably changed as a result. 

The concept behind this novella is provocative and intense in nature. It makes you question your own sense of right and wrong as you struggle to understand what is going on in Emily's head. The book is pretty well-edited (always a plus), and the writing style is simplistically clear and concise. While I think there is a place for such a clean writing style, a book laden with intense emotional conflict isn't it. As a result of the simplicity of the writing, the characters lacked depth and the events lacked emotion. The relationship that developed was described in such a detached way, it became unbelievable and less engaging. What attracted Emily to this boy? What was truly going on in her head? I didn't get a real feel for what Emily was experiencing. The combination of the simple way things were described and the lack of emotional depth left me with the impression that Emily was actually a 30-year-old, slow-witted girl. I really wanted to connect with Emily, but just couldn't.   

I think the events in the elevator as they were trapped and descending against their will could have been a powerful mirror for the events of the rest of the story, as they were trapped in a relationship that was quickly spiraling out of control. Although I suspect that connection was intentional, the lack of emotional depth didn't support the idea that it was meant to be a recurring theme. There were a few flashbacks in the story, but I had difficulty understanding why they were there. It seemed there should have been more of a clear purpose to include them. One, in particular, about Emily's father had the real potential to be woven into a motivation for Emily's actions. Instead, it just seemed to hang there, unattached to the events of the story. Although the start to the story does draw you in, the ending felt unsatisfying. I didn't feel closure on why the events transpired as they had, and where the story would have gone from there. A stronger more abrupt ending, or even a more detailed extended ending, would have been preferable to the mediocre "in-between" ending I read. 

I do think this story has great potential, but I think it needs some more voice and emotional expression to become the story it could be. In a plot with such (potentially) intense and powerful events, I was left wanting much more than what I was given. 

2.5 /5 stars

Available as an ebook (FREE!) at Smashwords

Saturday, November 13, 2010

REVIEW: "The Year We Finally Solved Everything" by Rudolph Kerkhoven

"Shan Won seems to only exist deep
within the dark rumour-crazed underbelly of the internet. ....
But the common thread throughout all this writing is
glaringly obvious: people stumble upon Shan Won, espouse its
perfection, and never, ever—ever—return. "

A sparsely written letter received by a friend, a determined google search, a lot of individual soul searching, and Richard finds himself on the path to Shan Won. Shan Won is a refuge of perfection that welcomes everyone, and renders its visitors virtually incapable of leaving; not because they can't, but because, well, why would they ever want to? Who could leave a place where hunger, sickness and societal discord are things of the past? The question is not one of wondering *if* you will go or what to do there, the questions is simply "how will I get there?"  

I was hooked from the very first page. There was just something about the story and the direction it took that made me eager to continue. I wouldn't be satisfied until I had read every page. Although not at all what I anticipated, the ending was satisfying in its own way. My questions were answered, but not in the manner I was expecting. Instead, my questions were answered in a way that forced me to think about my own life choices. 

We can all read deeply into this idea of a "Shangri-La" called Shan Won. At times, it almost seems like a heavenly afterlife, and at other times, it seems the perfect utopian society on Earth. The choices Richard had to make along the way were reminiscent of choices we all make in life, both big and small. Our individual choices may affect someone else, and, collectively, the choices of a large group can be devastating to a society dependent upon its members. This story makes you think about your own personal haven, and who is ultimately responsible for creating happiness. Does it come from circumstances outside yourself, or are you responsible for creating your own happiness?  

Although the book is pretty well-edited, there are a few missed errors here and there, and some "interesting" comma placement. Many of the strangely-placed commas were in the conversational speech of the characters, and I began to suspect they may be purposeful- meant to show "halting" or uncertain speech patterns. Although that isn't a terrible use of a comma per se, there were so many of these extra commas that it appeared an accidental result instead of a purposeful writing choice. Otherwise, the writing is simple but clear, and the overall story is concise but engaging. 

The Lowdown: I would recommend this book. It's one of those books that stays with you even after you've clicked past your last page. I finished the book Thursday night, and I'm still thinking about it on Saturday. What would my Shan Won look like? Would it be worth leaving everything in my current life? Which character's actions most closely resemble the actions I would likely take? Most importantly, what choices do I need to make to put myself on the path to my own personal Shan Won?   

4.5 /5 stars

(Available at Smashwords and Amazon)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

REVIEW: "Pandora's Succession" by Russell Brooks

Imagine a biological weapon so incredibly powerful, it can "eat" through a human in mere minutes. Now imagine that weapon in the hands of a terrorist, a terrorist so elusive and terrifying you don't even know where to start looking. Ridley Fox finds himself in the position of hunting down this weapon, and he is misled every step of the way. Never knowing who to trust, he is led on a whirlwind adventure to try to take control of this deadly weapon in order to safeguard all of humanity. Every time Ridley thinks he's made progress, there is a another surprise waiting to smack him upside the head and keep him on the chase. Time is running out; will he be able to accomplish his mission? Or will most of the world be wiped out by a cloud of red?

Russell Brooks  has created an action thriller that is immediately engaging, as well as terrifying, quickly drawing in readers. This fast-paced adventure offers a different take on bioterrorism and its potential uses. The results are altogether scary, as you find yourself pondering the potential reality of this plot. This book reads like it was meant to be an action-packed thriller on the silver screen. It is pretty well-edited and the writing is clean and easy to read. The book moves along quickly, but some of the pacing seemed a bit "off" for me. Some of the secrets were revealed a little earlier than I would have expected, and something about the pacing of character introductions threw me off a little. I can't quite put a finger on what it was, but it just didn't "flow" as well as I would have liked.

Although I think that would make a fabulous and entrancing movie- one I would surely line up to see- it left me a little cold as a book. I found the writing to be a little "sterile," leaving it completely up to the reader to do a lot of interpretation to add feeling and emotion to the story. In a movie, this would be the actor's job to interpret. In a book, I like a little more "voice" to help me imagine the characters and the scenes. In that same vein, the characters were not fully developed, and, as a result, their conversations didn't ring completely "true." It's not that the writing style was bad, it really wasn't. I just wanted a little more "flesh" to help me engage more completely in the storyline. I really want to be inside a character's head, or at least be able to imagine what it might be like to be in there. Motivations were explained, but I wanted to actually feel them, not just read about them.

Sidenote that will not apply to all: When I used my sony software to download the pdf onto my reader, it made for some really bizarre font styling. I've never quite seen any other pdf do that on my reader or my reader software.  There were at least 3 font sizes randomly changing throughout the entire book in the middle of sentences and even words, making for a really "unique" reading experience. When I tried to reload, I got the same result. I ended up reading the book on the computer instead, using the original pdf. Perhaps it's a Sony glitch, but it's a first for me! Even in the original pdf copy read on the computer, there were a few different sizes on the characters' "thoughts" which were written in an italic font. This only impacted a few sentences every few pages, and it wasn't terribly distracting, but it just seemed odd. (I tried to copy and paste a sample here, but it didn't work.) Anyone know what would cause that?

For readers who don't focus on character development and motivation, and are much more interested in events in fast-paced action thrillers, this can be the perfect story for you! There are just a few days left on Russell Brooks' "Stop the Succession" tour, so check it out to find more reviews, interviews, and general book information. Buy "Pandora's Succession" here!

3.5 /5 stars

ETA: Russell Brooks has commented that he is working to get other formats up and running, and the issues I had with the formatting will not be a problem at that point.

Monday, November 08, 2010

REVIEW: "The Noble Pirates" by R. L. Jean

If you know the future, would you be able to change it? 
Should you be able to change it? 

Sabrina finds herself treading cool water after a storm hits her party boat near the Bahamas. When she is rescued by brusque, smelly men with funny accents, she's relieved but irritated. She's ready for them to stop playacting so she can get back to where she needs to be. Slowly, she realizes that it's not an act put on by drunken pirate re-enactors, it's the real deal. She's a woman in the wrong time, in the wrong place, and she must figure out how to survive amongst pirates until she can find her way back to 2009.

I must admit, I've never had much of an interest in pirates before. Bloodthirsty, smelly, scurvy-infested thieves who spent ages at sea, looking for unsuspecting prey... it's just never been my thing. Even Captain Sparrow, undeniably an attractive pirate who probably really does bathe in real life, doesn't do much for me. Howel Davis, on the other hand... there's just something about him...

In this well-edited, time-travel, historical, adventure/romance, R. L. Jean  has brought to life some of the most famous pirates of the Golden Age. Sure, they were bloodthirsty and cruel, but the author brings out a very human side to some of these pirates, and manages to spin a tale that was quite difficult to put down. The characters are well-developed, and it was easy to lose yourself in the adventure as you followed Sabrina on her unbelievable journey in history.

Although the idea behind this book was unique enough to appeal to me, I have to admit that, not only are pirates not my thing, historical fiction isn't usually high on my list of favorite genres. But this book did what few other historical novels have done for me; made me interested enough in the main characters to do a little googling. These pirates did exist, and R.L. Jean has given them new life. This book had just the right amount of facts seamlessly woven together with just the right amount of fiction to make the story thoroughly engaging throughout. Although most of the characters spoke in the manner of the 18th century pirates that they were, Sabrina's comments and thoughts were so perfectly modern, it offered a nice balance in the tone and added just the right amount of humor with perfect timing.

It's difficult to find anything I didn't like about this book. I think the only part of the book that dragged a bit for me was towards the end, when Sabrina is listening to Robert, and then she's thinking about the choices that he's made. Those pages seemed to drag a bit for me, but it wasn't long before we were quickly back in the story. I think I normally wouldn't have thought of that section as dragging, except that the rest of the book moved along at such a great pace.

Overall, this was a fantastic story that came together quite nicely with a very satisfying ending. I think the events of the last 5 chapters really clinched the 5 star rating, as it offered a few surprises and left me wanting more, in a good way.

5 /5 stars

Sunday, November 07, 2010

REVIEW: "Awakening: Dead Forever Book 1" by William Campbell

Strange dreams of fire and loss, visions of familiar specters appearing from nowhere, blinding headaches that come to cover confusing bits of memory... This is Carl's reality, as he plugs forward in his bland, monotonous life. Until now. With an unexpected event, his life is turned upside down. He's not who he thought he was, and his current life is nothing more than a farce created by a society determined to erase all individuality. As Carl struggles to figure out what is going on, he begins to remember all that he's forgotten. As he regains his memory, he gains power, strength and determination. He's on a mission now, and he will not fail.

Reminiscent of "The Matrix," this is the first book in William Campbell's Dead Forever series. The book is written in first-person, present tense, which may take a bit of adjustment for some readers. With its quirky feel and campy writing style, I found this book to be quite readable. The campy style of writing, which would be out of place in a more epic adventure, suits the story and gives the book a sense of humor. There are many dream sequences in the book, which made for great transitions that helped move the story along. I was almost immediately engaged in the story, excited to find out what would happen next, and eager to uncover the forgotten aspects of Adam's life right along with him.

Although I enjoyed this book overall, there were some parts that I felt dragged a bit more than others. I think the relationship between Maddie and Adam seemed a little awkward, either overdone or underdone, and it made the middle section drag a bit. Their interactions felt a little unbelievable at times, and I feel that that relationship either needed to be expanded upon, or made to be less of a major storyline.  Some of the other developments in the story seemed a bit sudden, as though the readers should be a little more familiar with the characters and the history than they already were. It could be this was intentional, meant to mimic Adam's feeling as he "rediscovered" things he already knew, but some of the rediscoveries seemed to be less believable. As a result, I think certain parts of the story could stand a little "fleshing out."

Altogether, a fun, quick read. Although I'd rate the the writing to be a little less developed, the interesting storyline and the overall readability helps compensate. I'm interested in seeing where the storyline goes in the next installment in this series!

4 /5 stars

Friday, November 05, 2010

REVIEW: "The Ghost of a Flea" by John Brinling

Roger, momentarily transfixed, could only
stare at the blood thirsty demon’s strong naked body, short neck,
and sadistic face. Half-human, half-animal, its scaly skin
glistened a green, dusky gold. One murderous eye was in profile,
and its eager tongue whisked out of its mouth toward a bloody cup
held in its clawed left hand. The grotesque creature stood against
a starry background traversed by a flaming meteor. 
"What is it?"
Gideon waited an infuriatingly long time
before answering. "The Ghost of a Flea."

Strange things are happening in Roger's life. His wife is saying bizarre things she later denies, his coworkers are sending him on wild goose chases, he's missing things that mysteriously appear right where he's just looked. Nothing is making sense anymore, and Roger questions his sanity. His close friend introduces him to a mysterious and entrancing woman who confuses and intrigues Roger. When that close friends meets an unexpected end, Roger's life goes into overdrive. Soon, the little, nagging things turn into big, baffling things until, suddenly, Roger is running for his life with a mysterious, alluring woman by his side. Who is behind it all? Who else is involved? What are they all after? Most importantly, who can he trust? Someone is chasing Roger and will stop at nothing to get what Roger has. Problem is, Roger doesn't know what they're after, or even who "they" are. Every new development throws him further into confusion, until Roger is desperate just to stay alive. 

I was immediately drawn into the strange happenings in Roger's life. I tried to figure out what was going on right along with him. Each new development drew me further into the mystery, and the plot winds and twists in a confusing thrill ride. I was never sure what to expect next, and I was almost always surprised. Although the book took me on a few more turns than I thought necessary, I followed along on every topsy-turvy twist, anxious to find out where it would all end. 

The characters in the story were well-described and easy to picture.  Roger is the only character who is what he seems, and every other character is under suspicion (correctly or incorrectly) at some point in the story. There are many levels to each character, and the story peels away each layer like an unending onion. Roger doesn't know who to trust, and neither does the reader, which makes for a series of guesses and false starts as you attempt figure out what's going on even as Roger does the same. 

On the downside, I do think this book could stand another quick edit, as there were several small errors (you're for your, there for their, etc), and occasionally some missing or misplaced quotation marks. Taken separately, each error was minor, and book was not at all riddled with them. Taken together, there were enough that I did a double take here and there. Towards the ending of the book, I felt there was an excess of exclamation marks in places that sometimes surprised me. ! Although I noticed these things, and may have been momentarily thrown a bit, they didn't detract from the complete story.

Overall, this is a fun read that maintains your interest. Just like a roller coaster, it has high points of excitement, followed by momentary lulls as it begins the climb again. Just like a roller coaster, it may have one or two climbs too many for some; nevertheless, a thrilling ride. 

4 /5 stars