Saturday, December 28, 2013

Review - Dragon Blade by J.D. Hallowell

Swords forged by dragon magic. Ancient rivalries flaring into all-out war. Dragon Riders caught up in a clash of hidden powers. A world hangs in the balance.

Dragon Blade, the final book in The War of the Blades, is the epic sequel to the story begun in Dragon Fate. Delno Okonan, his draconic bond-mate, Geneva, and their allies among the Dragons and Riders are once again caught up in events controlled by unseen forces. They must uncover the real secrets behind Corolan's death and the Rorack insurgency to defeat a threat that could destroy them all and leave the world they know forever altered.

Review by: Scott

5 stars

Dragon Blade by J.D. Hallowell is the conclusion to the War of the Blades series.  The world created by Hallowell continues to be enriched in the second novel, with a lot more information being revealed about the wild dragons.

There are some mild surprises that occur in this book with some of the established characters from Dragon Fate.  Nothing that really had me shocked, but some little twists that I enjoyed.  There are also a lot more characters involved in this book so the focus pulls back a bit.  Delno, Rita, and their Dragons are still the major players.

I can't say much about the plot without going into some spoilers and I don't want to do that.  I'll say that the conspiracy that is discovered in Dragon Fate in fully revealed and is pretty amazing in the depth and planning that have gone into it.  Having a 3000 year life expectancy can really allow someone to make some major plans and take plenty of time to get things set.

This book has all the strengths that made the first book such a great read.  The only thing that was a minor annoyance to me was the constant use of pet names between Delno and Geneva.  Nothing that should make anyone steer away from the book though.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Feature: Christmas from Heaven by Tom Brokaw

Christmas from Heaven is the story of the humble beginnings of what became a beacon of hope to a war-torn land, the story of Gail Halvorsen, a young pilot in the US Army Air Corps who was assigned as a cargo pilot to the Berlin Airlift, in which US forces flew much-needed supplies into a Soviet-blockaded Berlin.

As he performed his duties, Lt. Halvorsen began to notice the German children gathered by the fences of Tempelhof Air Base. Knowing that they had very little, he one day offered them some chewing gum. From that small act, an idea sprang: He would "bomb" Berlin with candy. Fashioning small parachutes, he and his crew sent them floating down as they approached the Berlin airport, wiggling the wings of their C-54 as a signal to the children that their anticipated cargo would soon arrive.

Lt. Halvorsen became known by hundreds, if not thousands, of children in Berlin as "Uncle Wiggly Wings" or "The Candy Bomber." Word soon spread, and donations of candy and other supplies poured in from sympathetic Americans. Lt. Halvorsen's small idea became a great symbol of hope not only to German children in a bombed-out city but to all those who yearned for freedom.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review - Dragon Fate by J.D. Hallowell

Dragon Fate, the first novel in J.D. Hallowell's bestselling War of the Blades series, is a heroic fantasy adventure in the classic tradition of the genre. Delno Okonan is a young former soldier eager to put the swords and strife of war behind him, when a chance encounter leaves him inextricably entwined in a tangled web of dragons, magic, and intrigue, as he struggles to find his place among dragons and men, and stave off a plot by renegade dragon riders that threatens all he now holds dear.

Review by: Scott

5 stars

Dragon Fate by J.D. Hallowell is an excellent fantasy novel.  I actually read this book twice before writing my review and that isn't something that I do all that often due to the length of my TBR list.  I'll have to say that I enjoyed the second reading immensely and easily see this series getting multiple more readings (the second book is just as good) in the future.

I really like the main character Delno.  He is just a good guy and tries to do the right thing to the best of his ability.  He is a famous war hero in his home country, but doesn't use that to really benefit himself in any major way.  One day while trying to find some space to think about his future he runs into a dragon whose rider was killed and wants nothing more that to go off on her own and die.  The issue is that she is with egg and cannot let herself go until she sees to her children.  Delno helps and forms a bond with the egg that he helps deliver and becomes a Dragon Rider.

The relationship between dragon and rider is complex and complete, with each gaining a stronger ability with magic, telepathic communication, and the human getting a vastly longer lifespan.  The fact that Delno raises his dragon, Geneva, from a hatchling allows J.D. to explain the various abilities that dragons have by watching Delno learn them. This prevented a huge info dump slowing down the story, which I always appreciate.

There are also some fantastic secondary characters.  I really liked the way that Delno and Rita get along.  I would have to say that Nat is my favorite though.  The healer is full of surprises and his personality quirks make him amusing at times.

If you are at all a fan of the fantasy genre this is a book you should check out.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Holiday book feature: Kat McGee and The School of Christmas Spirit

If Kat McGee had one Christmas wish, she'd wish to be special. Instead, she's the boring middle in a family packed with sparkly siblings, including three sisters who have all starred as Mary in Totsville, Maine's annual big-deal Christmas Pageant. All Kat's done is wet her pants on a rollercoaster and earn herself the horrible nickname, "Kat McPee." When she doesn't get the part of Mary, Kat's convinced that Christmas will be just another Kat McPee failure. But then Kat's beloved Gram lets it slip that she went to school with Mrs. Claus. The Mrs. Claus. Before Kat knows it, a magical snowglobe whisks her away to the North Pole, where she makes friends, checks naughty and nice lists, and takes classes in cookie baking, reindeer training, and toy designing. It's a Christmas miracle... But something is wrong. The North Pole is being threatened, and only Kat McGee can help. Kat McGee and The School of Christmas Spirit is about a modern girl in a magical adventure. Kat is about to learn who you can be if you believe in Christmas... and yourself.

Each book in this series also comes with a specialized recipe and some discussion points.  For more info check the publishers website or take a look at the book on Amazon.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Review - Island Shifters by Valerie Zambito

When your family, your home, and the very land you stand on are destroyed, what do you do? If you are a shifter of Massa, you turn around and fight. You fight, because the blood oath will have it no other way.

The idyllic lives of four elemental shifters living in the exiled land of Pyraan are shattered when a tour of legion duty gives witness to a brutal enemy invasion. Despite the heroic efforts of the shifters, the land falls to the invaders. As the only survivors, the four friends are forced to flee south into the lands from which they were banished to warn of the invasion. Heartbroken and weary, the shifters soon learn that the safe haven they hoped to find is cloaked in danger. Throughout a journey fraught with prophesy, betrayal and peril, an enduring friendship prevails, love blossoms, and a riveting saga unravels.

Review by: Scott

4 stars

Island Shifters  by Valerie Zambito is a strong start to a fantasy series.  Magic is an inborn talent, but it is one that is shunned and leads to banishment.  These shifters are charged with being the first line of defense of their home countries, even if almost no one remembers the reason for it.

The introduction to the magical system is pretty interesting.  There seem to be four major kind of shifters each with a specialized form of magic.  There are fire, earth, mind, and body.  There are more things revealed later in the book and it is set up to reveal a lot more in the follow ups.

There is some romance involved though it remains more of a background thing than a major plot point.  The interactions between the characters are a fairly strong point of this book.  I really enjoy the way that Rogan and Airron lighten the mood in some places with their banter and pranks.  Bajan is also an amazing character, though I think it is the idea of him more than a personality thing.

The pacing of the book is pretty decent for the most part.  There were a few parts where I thought things slowed down and it seemed like the characters did some things I had trouble reconciling with their overall personas.

This is a strong start to a fantasy series and I'm curious to see where the rest of the books go.  Strong recommendation to fans of traditional quest based fantasy stories, easily enjoyed by most people who like fantasy in general.

This book is currently FREE on Amazon for Kindle readers.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Evaluations of the Tribe (Prossia) Blog Tour

-Aliens Get Bullied Too

Aly’s a seventeen-year-old Goolian who can charge into the street, exposing herself to enemy fire, because she’s a good soldier. She’s willing to do what needs done for the greater good, and I must say, she looks pretty epic when she does it too! She’ll keep an entire platoon of enemy soldiers at bay on her own if she has to, only with the aid of two Goolian blades and an alien blaster. Yes, as the novel, “Prossia” says, “Aly is a sight to behold.”

So, it might come as a bit of a surprise to know that Aly used to walk to school, eyeing the ground, being too nervous to look anyone else in the eye. At one point in her life, she would hunch over a little, so she could appear as short as the other girls in her class and village. Why, she even had a stuttering complex whenever people spoke to her! That was Aly, not long before the events in “Prossia” took place, when her main concern was proving her worth so she wouldn’t be bullied anymore in “Evaluations of the Tribe.”

In this story, we don’t see an Aly who’ll put a guy in his place, if he crosses his boundaries. Instead, we see an insecure, low-self esteemed, severely troubled young girl who wants nothing more than the kids in her class to leave her alone. It’s not like she ever did anything to them. Still, Aly finds herself facing that ultimate adversary many children – and even adults – must face on a day-to-day basis. She knows all too well what the grounds to being bullied are:

·         Not having anyone to stand up for you

·         Having parents or guardians who can’t seem to help

·         Having parents or guardians who only make matters worse when they try to help

·         Wondering what you possibly did to deserve being born different, the reason to your harassment
·         Wishing that you were either dead, or better yet, had never been born at all

·         Hating yourself along with those who make your existence miserable

·         Dreading every morning you wake up, knowing “that person” or “those people” are just waiting on you, and you can’t do anything about it

Regardless of the circumstances, having to deal with the constant harassment, both verbal and physical, of the people you must mingle with is not acceptable. Like Aly, you do not have to simply “cope” with it. If you do, you might break, just the way she did one day in “Evaluations.” Still, there is hope. I know it’s hard to believe, but it does get better. Take it from someone who’s gone through the trenches, himself.

And what about those of us who now get to watch the travesty from the sideline? It is in our power to act and stand up for those who cannot defend themselves, much the way Aly’s best friend, Catty, does for her in the story. That means you’ll have to go out of your comfort zone. It means everyone around you will look at you, as if you’ve lost your mind. It means, at times, you might lose the support of some friends, and yes, even family.

Thing is, we’re all stuck on this tiny blue dot in the vast universe, so it’s way past time we start standing up for ourselves, and those around us. No, it doesn’t mean you have to do something as epic as a March On Washington every single day. But maybe we can learn a thing or two from Catty, who took the time to help Aly pick up her things when someone knocked her down. Who knows how that small gesture will come back in good favor. You might just save a world, at least for a day. One down. Over 7 billion to go. Good thing there’s a bunch of us around ready to do our part, eh? ;)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Prossia by Raphyel M. Jordan


by Raphyel M. Jordan

Giveaway ends December 31, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
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Get the book at Amazon, Smashwords, or B&N.