Sunday, September 30, 2012

Review of The Chosen of Gaia by M. Mariz

Fifteen year old Albert has just received an invitation that could transform his disappointing life completely – a chance to belong to an advanced and hidden society that only reveals itself to a select few. 

Immersed in a new world of mind-boggling technology and intriguing peers, Albert will overcome his fears enough to ignore a few suspicious details. But soon he'll find his family dragged to the center of a scandal that threatens to tear them apart and erase their very identities.

A conflicted Albert must find the strength to challenge authority by relying on his newfound allies and gift for Revelation.

Prepare for adventure, humor and suspense in this fast-paced tale of a "normal" family striving for their place in a "perfect" world.

4 stars

The Chosen of Gaia by M. Mariz is a great story for young adults.  It tells the story of Albert, a 15 year old boy, and the rest of his family on their adventure into an advanced society.  The Gaians keep an eye out for people that meet certain requirements to bring into their society to help enrich their way of life.  Despite the claims of an ideal society made by the Gaians Albert learns that there are hidden elements that don't agree with the policy of bringing in outsiders.  Albert's family must keep their wits about them in order to prove their worth if they want to stay in their new home and possibly survive.

I really enjoyed many aspects of this book with the information on Atlantis being a neat addition.  The pacing of this book was pretty good with twists coming at the appropriate times to spark another level of interest.  The technology exhibited by the Gaians was great and had some very intriguing applications, especially the variety of changes the houses were capable of affecting.

There is a little something for everyone in this book.  There is crime to solve, futuristic technology, young love, sports, action, intrigue, thrills, conspiracies, and more.  If you pick up a copy of the book for yourself or your child (I'd guess middle school and above but I'm pretty bad at guessing reading levels) you won't regret it.

Pick up your copy on Amazon.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review of The Madman Theory by Harvey Simon

It is 1962 and there are children at play in the White House for the first time since the presidency of William Howard Taft. Richard Nixon, the vigorous 49-year-old president, has been in office less than two years, having won election by a razor-thin margin over Senator John Kennedy. In Moscow, the wildly unpredictable Nikita Khrushchev is looking forward to visiting his cherished revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro. Just 90 miles from American shores, Khrushchev will announce an audacious and dangerous nuclear stunt to abruptly shift the balance of power: a secretly-built network of missiles across Cuba that put American cities in the atomic crosshairs. But President Nixon has his own announcement planned. A U.S. spy plane has discovered the missiles being set up in Cuba and Nixon will soon address the nation to announce his response. Meanwhile, First Lady Pat Nixon is in California to look at a San Clemente house the first couple may purchase. Seeing shoppers crowd around a store-window television, Pat gets her first inkling of trouble. Dick has always insisted she not listen to the news and she is happy, for now, to return to her correspondence. In the coming days, the confrontation between the U.S. and its nuclear foe will escalate. The president will weigh his determination to overthrow Castro against the risk of all-out war as Pat struggles to reconcile her proper role as a wife with her estrangement from the man who thrust her into a public life she despises.

4 stars

The Madman Theory by Harvey Simon is being released in October in recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the book Harvey puts a small twist on the election of 1960 by proposing the Nixon was the winner instead of Kennedy. The book then follows the actions that Nixon's "Madman Theory" of political power playing result in.

Personally I'm a bit young to really remember much of the Cold War and didn't know a ton about the Cuban Missile Crisis going into the book, but my limited knowledge did not take away from my understanding or enjoyment of the book.

I have always enjoyed history so this book held a lot of appeal to me. I was not disappointed in what I found between the covers of this one. While the book does not cover any actual battle, it does an excellent job building the tension of the men who were in the position to make the decision on whether or not to start a fight that could have led to the end of life as we know it. Nixon is shown as a thoughtful man who is riddled with insecurities, making him feel the need to prove how tough he really is to those around him. This makes the threat of war seem even more frightening, not knowing if he would order the nukes launched just to prove how tough he is.

This book is an excellent read for people who enjoy history and especially alternate timeline reading. Well done Mr. Simon.

Pick up your copy on Amazon.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Interview with Heather Leighton Dickson author of Tails from the Upper Kingdom

Thanks for stopping by the blog to let us know about you and your work Heather, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Thanks for taking the time to interview me. I’m excited to be talking about my books – they’re doing very well on Kindle. It’s an exciting time to be an Indie author, isn’t it? Full of promise and potential. I’m a zoologist by training, actually. I specialized in the carnivores – wolves, big cats, predatory birds, etc, so I suppose it’s no accident that Tails from the Upper Kingdom are heavy with zoological speculation. I am married, have three kids, three dogs, two cats and a horse, and live in Northwestern Ontario, Canada.

Has being a zoologist had an impact on your writing?

Oh yes, I think zoology plays a huge role in my books. I understand animals, how they think, what motivates them (usually food, shelter, mates, etc). I have always been the neighbourhood ‘animal whisperer’, even to the point of having wild foxes eat from my hand. The cats of ‘Tiger’ and ‘Lion’ are people, but still cats, and I tried to bring into their characters aspects of their species. For example, tigers do love water, so it’s natural that Fallon would as well. Snow Leopards are extremely solitary, so that is core to Ursa’s character. In ‘Lion’, when we meet the Dogs of the Lower Kingdom, I tried to give them different characteristics than the Cats of the Upper Kingdom and tried to blend early Mongolian society with life in a wolf pack. Also, the horses in the books are predators. They have evolved to be essentially omnivores, and while they can survive on grass and hay, the way a cat can survive on vegetables, it is really the meat that they crave. I enjoyed describing how a herd of horses might hunt down and kill a gazelle like a pride of lions, a wolf pack or a vorely of velociraptors. (Also, in the Steampunk book I have written, the Mad Lord has six dogs and breeds Dutch Warmblood horses! I’m never too far from animals in my life!)

What is your favorite mythozoological creature? 

Ooh, that’s a good question. Since I am a rider, I would have to say a Pegasus. I loved the Pegasus from the new Clash of the Titans (the only thing good about that movie!) It was a black Friesian, totally reversing the notion that all Pegasi must be white! I love Hippogryphs as well. Since I worked with predatory birds, I love the combination of horse and eagle/falcon. (Although I have been to Loch Ness and you can’t help but look for Nessie! I think she must be everyone’s fave!)

I understand that you have a series called Tails from the Upper Kingdom available right now on Amazon, what is that about?

Tails from the Upper Kingdom is a fantasy series based on a sci-fi premise – that the fall of human society is not necessarily so bad for the fate of the planet. It’s a bit like the concept behind Planet of the Apes – genetic engineering not going wrong, but actually taking off, with human/cat hybrids becoming one of the dominant civilizations on the planet. It is a very Asian-based culture, weaving Dynastic China, Feudal Japan and Ancient India together for a fascinating and complex blend, which was a ball to write. The rules, regulations, castes etc of the society, and the Empire itself, are almost characters and they serve to take the story from ‘outside threat’ to ‘inner turmoil’. It is the story of six characters that must travel to the edges of their Empire, and then, go Beyond and for people from such a society, that is a very scary thing.

Do you have any other work coming out soon and when can we expect it?

As I mentioned earlier, I have a Steampunk mystery called Cold Stone and Ivy that is being agented right now. Steampunk is another genre that has always been close to my heart, as I grew up reading Verne, Wells, Doyle, etc. I’m a Science geek but in love with all things Victorian, and actually have dozens of clocks and large gears in my house! It’s a natural fit.

How many books are you planning on in the Tails from the Upper Kingdom series?

I have two other books planned for the Upper Kingdom Series, both prequels, with characters, plot and storyline all worked out. I have also been kicking around the idea of following up with the original characters from “Tiger” and “Lion”, as the ending leaves HUGE room to continue!

Are there any authors that have inspired you to write anthropomorphic characters?

Funny you should ask! I’m going to be dating myself with the answer to this, but as I said, I have always been a Science geek, even as a little girl, and a huge fan of Star Trek. When they aired the animated series (yes, first run. Sigh…) they had an episode written by Larry Niven called the Slaver Weapon and it featured cat people. I was young, and it stuck, so when I was a teen and reading Niven’s Known Space series, I realized that the cats in that Star Trek episode were base on Niven’s Kzinti! So I suppose, deep down in my subconscious, I owe my Upper Kingdom to Larry Niven! Also, on another note, I don’t think I’ve ever read really well-written anthropomorphic characters: at least, not ones that actively functioned as their species would dictate (for example, I’ve yet to read or see a convincing werewolf!) so I think it was something I really wanted to do right.

Do you have any advice for other people looking to publish independently?

I think Independent Publishing is a bold move. Sure, it may be ‘easy’ compared to traditional publishing, but this is a free market. The good stuff will rise to the top, the bad stuff with languish. It’s like movies, right? It’s taken decades for Sundance and the Toronto Film Festival to be the new Cannes. Soon, Kindle will be giving the traditional publishing houses a run for their money. My Steampunk book is making the rounds of agents right now, but I know it will go crazy on Kindle so I’m really debating on putting it up on Kindle to see what happens. My advice? Read lots, write well and honestly, pay an editor. They are your best friends!

Well thanks for taking the time to stop by and share some things about yourself Heather. I'm looking forward to reading your books soon.

Thanks Scott! I hope I answered the questions! I look forward to seeing what you do with this!

Be sure to check out Heather's two books To Journey in the Year of the Tiger and To Walk in the Way of Lions

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Wolverine's Daughter by Doranna Durgin review

Kelyn of Ketura.

Daughter of a legendary warrior who left the mountains before she was born. Brave. Strong. Tempered by her struggle to survive in the hostile, craggy Keturan mountains. And plagued by moments of enormous and puzzling clumsiness.

"Find your father," the local wisewoman tells her. "To find your true self, find the Wolverine."

Angered by his abandonment, Kelyn doesn't care about her father--but the lure of adventure in the Out Lands calls to her, just as it called to the Wolverine before her, and she accepts the challenge.

New languages, new weapons. Magic. Witch hunts. The treacheries of civilization. She doesn't know just how much of a challenge it'll be.

4 stars

Wolverine's Daughter by Doranna Durgin tells the story of Kelyn of Ketura.  A young lady who has had to work extra hard to survive in her harsh mountain environment because she is cursed with clumsiness.  When her mother, the only thing keeping her around, passes away she goes out in search of her father.  The local wisewoman tells her that this is the only way to remove the curse of her clumsiness.

This is a pretty straightforward example of a sword and sorcery book.  The characters aren't exceptionally deep and the plot is driven by the action more than anything.  The story flows well and Wolverine was an interesting addition to the story and really helped advance the story of the curse.  If you are a fan of action based stories than this should be right up your alley.  It has all the elements of a classic fantasy tale: romance, evil wizards, mercenaries, and a main character trying to resolve some kind of personal flaw.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review of Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear

A hoverboard appeared in her rearview mirror. “This is the Los Angeles Air Patrol,” a voice boomed. “I command you to land your vehicle in the name of the law.”
Noli Braddock and her best friend V’s incident with a flying auto have landed them in a heap of trouble. And when Noli is sent to a spirit-squelching reform school in San Francisco, she’s sure that her rebellious adventures are over.

Meanwhile, Kevighn Silver has been ordered by the Faerie Queen to bring a mortal girl back to the Otherworld. The magic requires a blood sacrifice every seven years, and only a mortal girl who shines with the Spark—a girl like Noli—will keep the Otherworld from complete destruction.

When an ill-timed wish sends Noli tumbling into the Otherworld, she’s more homesick than ever . . . until V arrives to save her from an untimely demise. But who exactly is V? And if he helps Noli escape, who will save the realm of Faerie from utter annihilation?

3 stars

The premise of Innocent Darkness had me very excited.  The idea of mixing steampunk with the world of faeries is fantastic, and the book started out very strongly . Unfortunately my interest in it faded a bit as the book progressed.  Early in the story there was a lot of the technology that seems familiar in the steampunk genre.  The deeper I got into the book though the more that faded and romance took over the story.  While that is not a bad thing, it really does not work for me personally.

The characters weren't bad and Noli's neighbor was probably my favorite.  The way the realm of the Fairie were linked was an interesting twist that added a unique level to the book.  Overall there were a lot of positives to the book just not enough to overcome the romance angle for me.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Review of and coupon for FREE copies of Sulan by Camille Picott

Before I get to the review I just wanted to let everyone know that as part of her blog tour Camille has provided an exclusive coupon to readers of this blog.  Check out the book on Smashwords and use the coupon code EF64J to get your free copy, this coupon is only valid from Sept 8-10 so get your copy quickly.  

Sixteen-year-old Sulan Hom can’t remember life before the Default—the day the United States government declared bankruptcy. As a math prodigy, she leads a protected life, kept safe from the hunger and crime plaguing the streets of America. She attends the corporate-sponsored Virtual High School, an academy in Vex (Virtual Experience) for gifted children.

Beyond the security of Sulan’s high-tech world, the Anti-American League wages a guerrilla war against the United States. Their leader, Imugi, is dedicated to undermining the nation’s reconstruction attempts. He attacks anything considered a national resource, including corporations, food storage facilities—and schools. When Sulan witnesses the public execution of a teenage student and the bombing of a college dorm, she panics.

Her mother, a retired mercenary, refuses to teach her how to defend herself. Sulan takes matters into her own hands. With the help of her hacker best friend, Hank, Sulan acquires Touch—an illegal Vex technology that allows her to share the physical experience of her avatar. With Touch, Sulan defies her mother and trains herself to fight.

When Imugi unleashes a new attack on the United States, Sulan finds herself caught in his net. Will her Vex training be enough to help her survive and escape?

4.5 stars

In Sulan by Camille Picott the government has pretty much failed and mega corporations have stepped in to run things. The world is a pretty rough place with America having fallen way down the ladder in terms of power. Even a well to do family, like Sulan's, rarely sees fresh food. They live off of rationed cans that are provided to them because her father is a very important scientist. There is also an Anti-American League that bombs schools and destroys food shipments in order to keep America in it's place at the bottom.

Sulan attends one of the most prestigious schools there is and it is a totally virtual experience. She also wants nothing more than to actually learn to defend herself, but as her mother is an ex-mercenary she will not let her into that world. Sulan decides to get some black market tech in order to get some fighting experience that can help her in the real world.

I really enjoyed this book. The world was very easy to immerse myself into and it was difficult to come up for air. I even switched from reading the print copy to an ebook on my phone so I could continue to read through the night without disturbing my wife. The characters are well done with individual personalities, strengths, and flaws. The thing that may have been my favorite (besides Riska) is the fact that the pacing is so well done. There are mysteries in the story that are slowly peeled away, but while not everything is uncovered by the end of this book there is not feeling of an incomplete story. I'm hooked on this series and my only regret is that since the first book just released I'm sure I'll have a bit of a wait until I get to see book 2.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Interview with Camille Picott author of Sulan

Hi Camille, first off I'd like to say thanks for making the Indie Book Blog a stop on your Sulan release book tour. Tell us a little about yourself.

Hi, Scott! Thanks for hosting me today on your site!

I am a life-long geek. I am obsessed with aliens, spaceships, and everything in between. I have original unicorn paintings by fantasy artist Rowena Morrill in my office over my computer. I own the Buffy Musical soundtrack and can sing every song. I have a not-so-secret crush on Captain Malcolm Reynolds. I have taken fencing, archery, and broadsword lessons at various points in my life, though my exercise these days usually involves running at a local track.

In the real-world, I am a full-time working mom and wife. I work in the wine industry as a purchasing agent. I get to buy all the corks, bottles, cartons, etc. needed for wine. It’s a fun industry and I love it.

Sulan is a bit of a dystopian/cyberpunk fusion, what made you write a story using those elements?

The technological advancements we see every year never cease to amaze me. (I grew up in an era where the Internet didn’t even exist!) I am also fascinated by what appears to be a downward spiral of our economy and environment, and disheartened by the power and influence wielded by corporations.

I took all of these factors and imagined each of them exponentially to create the near-future dystopia of Sulan: a post-economic collapse, post-environmental disaster world, all governed by a flimsy American government. All real power, wealth, and security comes from America’s powerful corporations, and those who run them. I anticipate seeing virtual reality made mainstream in my lifetime, and so I could not imagine a near-future without it.

I purposely set out to create a dystopian society that was near-future, as opposed to a setting existing hundreds of years in the future. I want readers to feel the reality of Sulan as something that could be just around the corner.

Do you relate to any of the characters more than others?

I definitely have a paranoid streak like Killy, though I’m not that extreme.

I probably relate the most to Sulan. I very much remember being a teen and wanting adult freedom. Not to the extent that Sulan experiences it, but I think a lot of teens get to a point where they’re ready to beat down adult barriers and strike out into the world on their own terms.

What kind of age is this series aimed at?

I wrote this as a young adult series with the hope that it will cross over into an adult audience. I read a lot of YA myself and I love it.

What kind of plans do you have for these books as a series?

I don’t generally outline, but I do have a rough idea of where the series is going. I think there will be six or seven books total.

I was a big fan of the concept of Riska, where did he come from?

I’m so glad you liked Riska! I am a “cat person.” I totally expect to be an old lady with way too many cats. Riska’s personality is the hybrid of two of my cats, one of whom even rides around on my shoulder the way Riska does.

The concept of Riska came from an earlier draft of Sulan. Sulan was originally a young girl of about eight. She had a stuffed white tiger that brought her good luck. I eventually decided to make Sulan older with the hope of appealing to a larger audience, but I just could not let go of Riska. Since no self-respecting teenager can carry around a stuffed animal, I made him real. Riska also serves to foreshadow the large-scale genetic engineering that appears later in Sulan.

Do you have any other work available?

I have a middle grade fantasy series called Chinese Heritage Tales. The books in this series are Raggedy Chan and Nine-Tail Fox. Both are adventure stories that feature mythological creatures from classic Chinese mythology.

I also have a dozen or so short stories published in various e-zines, which you can find by googling my name.

With your book Raggedy Chan you have a limited edition doll available on your website. Do you have any plans for any special bonus merc for Sulan (stuffed Riska please!)?

I have a pipe dream of turning Sulan into a full-color, fully illustrated novel. If I garner enough support for the novel, I hope to launch a campaign on Kickstarter to help raise funds for it.

I had not considered a Riska doll! Thanks for suggestion. I will definitely keep it in mind!

Who are some of your writing role models?

There are a lot of writers I like, but there are a few that I particularly idolize. Suzanne Collins and Susan Ee are both masters at pacing. Rhiannon Frater and Lois McMaster Bujold are character experts. And Octavia Butler writes serious SF that I can only aspire to.

What is the first book your remember reading that really left an impression on you?

My most beloved books as a child was The Secret of the Unicorn Queen. They were about a teenage girl who falls into an alternate dimension and meets up with a band of female warrior who ride unicorns. (I did mention that I have been a geek for my entire life!)

C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books were my “gateway” drug. Once my dad read those to me, I could not stop reading.

Well thanks for taking the time to stop by Camille. I know you are super busy with your tour and wish you all the best luck with your writing.

Thanks again for hosting me on your blog! You run a great site and I always enjoy reading your reviews.

Check back tomorrow for my review of the book and a coupon code for Sulan free on Smashwords.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Review of Laid Hold the Dragon by Richard Shury

Into a world of slumbering dust and anarchy, a young woman is thrown. How Janice came to this new city, and more importantly why, are mysteries. Someone or something has caused her to arrive; someone or something seems to be following her. The world she encounters is dark, and grey, and the people she meets there seem tired and battered down by the effort of living in their all-but-dead city. There are strange energies around, and one of the group, Darian, has been strangely affected by one of them. Still, they have hope, and they have what they think is a way out. Janice joins them on their journey, but she soon finds what looked like escape may in fact be something else altogether.

The party’s journey will not be easy, and things aren’t helped by the Darian’s increasingly erratic behaviour and the eerie visions he experiences. Janice tries to cope with the situation into which she’s been thrust, and the small group try to hold themselves and each other together long enough to reach some sort of help or safe haven, but in a sense they are driving blind, and none of them know what might happen next.  As energies converge and dangers increase, the people try to make sense of what is happening. Janice longs for home even as the others search for a new home, and things turn violent and desperate. The events that unfold seem both familiar and yet strange. Eventually, one truth is realised by them all: their lives and their beliefs will never be the same again."

4 stars

Laid Hold the Dragon is a very unique story.  I wasn't really sure where the book was going for a good portion of it, but I was very interested in finding out.  The book starts out with what seems like a post apocalyptic landscape. It then flashes to a future that could easily spin off of the world today.  The book transfers back and forth occasionally revealing a little bit more of how the dark future came to be until eventually the stories merge.

The book has an almost poetic feel to it at times, especially early on.  While the core of the story is familiar with a post apocalyptic feel there is a lot of stuff to set this book apart.  There is a bit of a spiritual feel to the book in the contest between good and evil, there is also a totally different feel to the post destruction world.  I really can't even identify what made it stand out as so original to me.  The survivors belong to a few different groups.  There are the thugs who have formed gangs and rule territory through fear, doing whatever they want and taking whatever they can.  There are also people who live a hidden life.  They sneak around and scavenge whatever they can find to build useful items and have a bit of an underground trade system set up.  The level of technology is a bit more advanced than we currently have and the successful scavengers are ones who can take the parts to build higher level tech.

This is a pretty great read.  There is a lot of action, good characters, the spiritual aspect works very well, and the pure originality all make this a great choice to pick up.  Richard Shury is an author to keep an eye on.

\Get your copy on Amazon or get some more info from the author's website or the Facebook page.