Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review - The Freedman and the Pharaoh's Staff

Jeb, a former slave, rescues his brother-in-law Crispus from the Ku Klux Klan, pulling him into a world of Creole Voodoo, hatred, time travel, and redemption. The two brothers-in-law set out to stop Verdiss and his Klan followers from using the Pharaoh's Staff, a magical artifact from ancient Egypt. Soon, Jeb and Crispus learn Verdiss’ diabolical plan and discover that he is working for an even more evil force. In the end Jeb and Crispus must stop the eradication of an entire people and each must find redemption for his own past sins.



3 stars

The Freedman and the Pharaoh's Staff takes place in a period of history that I'm not overly familiar with (though admittedly there are a lot of those), post Civil War Reconstruction.  The main character, Jeb, is a former slave who fought for the North after his plantation was freed during the war.  He was a quality soldier who unfortunately carries some severe mental scars from his time in the war.  Married to a woman from Haiti with a daughter and living on a small parcel of land in Louisiana is not the easiest thing for a recently freed black man.  Especially when your brother-in-law is a huge trouble maker who is always in trouble with the law and often stirring up the people who support the old policies of the South.

The book also deals with another topic that I am not really all that familiar with, Voodoo.  Now my very limited "knowledge" of Voodoo comes from an episode of Bones that I have seen a few times.  The only thing that really did was make a few of the terms a little bit familiar to me.  I found the Voodoo aspect of the book to be very interesting especially considering who is using the spells.  There is also a bit of a time ripple that takes place in the book that adds a pretty unique twist.

The reason I only went with three stars is actually tough to explain, the idea of the book was pretty interesting.  It really just didn't draw me in as much as I would have liked.  I've never really liked reading in accents and there is a bit of that in this book from the Haitian characters.  I also had a bit of difficulty understanding the motivation of one of the major bad guys, he had a bit of a conflict of interest and it made it confusing to me why he did what he did (I know it's confusing but saying more would be a pretty major spoiler).

So there are plenty of reasons to check this book out especially if you interested in reading stories involving Voodoo or from the post Civil War era.  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Review - Water Keep (Farworld #1) by J Scott Savage

Other people may see thirteen-year-old Marcus Kanenas as an outcast and a nobody, but he sees himself as a survivor and a dreamer. In fact, his favorite dream is of a world far away, a world where magic is as common as air, where animals tell jokes and trees beg people to pick their fruit. He even has a name for this place — Farworld.

When Marcus magically travels to Farworld, he meets Kyja, a girl without magic in a world where spells, charms, and potions are everywhere, and Master Therapass, a master wizard who has kept a secret hidden for thirteen years, a secret that could change the fate of two worlds.

But the Dark Circle has learned of Master Therapass's secret and their evil influence and power are growing. Farworld's only hope is for Marcus and Kyja to find the mythical Elementals —water, land, air and fire —and convince them to open a drift between the worlds.

As Kyja and Marcus travel to Water Keep, they must face the worst the evil Dark Circle can throw at them —Summoners, who can command the living and the dead; Unmakers, invisible creatures that can destroy both body and soul; and dark mages known as Thrathkin S'Bae.

Along the way, Marcus and Kyja will discover the truth about their own heritage, the strength of their friendship, and the depths of their unique powers.

4 stars

Water Keep by J. Scott Savage is the first book in his Farworld series.  Telling the tale of two kids from different worlds where neither of them really fit in.  Marcus is an orphan on Earth who has been crippled his whole life, when he was found outside a small monastery in Arizona he wasn't expected to survive.  The combination of being in a wheelchair and being an orphan has always made him a target for other kids at the schools where he has bounced around.  Kyja is also an orphan.  She lives on a world called Farworld where everyone, even the animals, can do magic in some form, everyone except Kyja that is.  Growing up for her has been hard as many people fear that she is diseased or cursed and refuse to let their children interact with her for fear that her condition will spread.

This book was very entertaining with strong characters, excellent pacing, and vivid imagery being used to describe the various locations in Farworld.  It's not unusual for children in YA tales to have to overcome a perceived weakness and find strength, but Savage does a great job keeping his story from being a cookie cutter copy of an established trope.  Marcus and Kyja's diversity has given them a bit more resiliency than normal thirteen year old kids would have, but each of them has developed different coping mechanisms that come into play through their adventures.  The supporting cast of characters was also spot on.  Riph Raph, Kyja's pet skyte (a small dragon like creature), was a great source of comedy with his constant verbal sparring with Marcus.

The scenery of Farworld is not too terribly different from Earth, everything just seems to be brighter.  There are plenty of things that set it apart in a major way though.  The fact that farm animals can talk and use that ability to tell jokes is a bit of fun.  The parts where the dawn chimes appear are especially capable of capturing the imagination.

Overall this is a great start to a series and I'm really looking forward to reading the rest and sharing it with my daughter when she is a little older.

If the book sounds good to you please click on the book cover or use the link at the beginning of the review to help support this blog through the affiliate links.  Thank you.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Review - A Demon Lies Within by Tony Hubbard

Following his murder, Andrew McMurray finds himself transported to the depths of hell. There he is indoctrinated as an apprentice to a demon master, Sonneillon. Exposing Andrew to the dark reaches of his evil powers, Sonneillon demonstrates a demons’ ability to posses, torment and control the thoughts and actions of the living. Andrew’s ultimate goal following his apprenticeship? Revenge on his wife, Katelyn and young son, Joshua, both of whom he holds responsible for his murder.

As Katelyn rebuilds her life, following her husbands’ death, she meets Michael Gordon, a recent escapee from Corporate America, who has his own troubled, tragic past. As their relationship grows, they realize they share something more than their burgeoning love for one another— the powers of hell have deeply impacted their pasts. Evil continues to insinuate itself into the pair’s lives, bringing with it haunting and unspeakable horrors. Andrew’s plan of revenge begins to materialize once he inhabits Joshua, having him act out in often violent and disturbing ways. With possession of Joshua’s mind and body complete, will hell’s ultimate evil goals come to pass, or can the local priest of a small Maine town exorcize Father from Son? At stake, doom-laden repercussions for all involved… and perhaps the world as a whole.

4 stars

A Demon Lies Within by Tony Hubbard was an interesting book.  It was a bit darker than my normal selection of book, but it kept me interested and turning the pages.  The journey of a man who is an abusive, cheating husband to the ward of a demon who is teaching him how to torment humanity.

The characters in this book are well done, the evil is pronounced and leaves no doubt while the good people aren't perfect, they are just trying to resist the will of the evil ones.  The relationships that develop seem realistic and really help drive the plot.

While this book isn't for the faint of heart, it is great for anyone who enjoys horror stories.  The great thing about this book is, it's not a gore fest.  There is a psychological aspect to the horror that really helps drive the reader to keep turning the pages.  That is not to say there is no violence, just some terrible mind games taking place driving things forward.

Friday, February 15, 2013

2:32 a.m. by Emily Ford FREE

AND THE STORY BEGINS...

In the early morning hours nearing her 17th birthday, Cat Townsend woke to the sudden blur of a mysterious unknown man sitting on the edge of her bed. She did not feel fear -- rather a strange calmness overtook her. In an instant their eyes locked, he lightly touched her hand, and then he disappeared into the nothingness of night.

Caught in that undefined place between asleep and awake, the moment felt hazy and surreal. A chill ran down Cat’s spine as she glances at the time – it’s 2:32 a.m.

What unfolds in the first book of The Djinn Master’s Legacy trilogy, is young Cat’s personal struggle with the overwhelming choice to accept a destiny of magic. As she contemplates the merits of unparalleled power, her new and ordinary world in Savannah, Georgia is understandably shaken. The closer her decision gets, the more twisted her life with family, friends and boyfriend becomes. Will she choose to give up everything she cherishes?

Find out, in 2:32 A.M. The time everything happens.

Get 2:32 a.m. free from Febraury 15-19.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Guest post with Evelyn Ink author of Ill-Fated and FREE book

On “Where did I hide my creativity again?”

I grew up in a home that wasn’t exactly stocked with books, but completely devoid of television, so reading was a big part of my childhood. My father was a teacher, so we didn’t have a lot of money, but that’s not why we didn’t have a TV. He wasn’t just a teacher, he was one of those teachers who believed television was killing the youth of America: killing their attention spans and creativity that is. Unbelievable huh? Growing up with no TV. We were freaks. I’m sure I was the only child in the nineties still listening to radio programs. Radio programs, are you hearing this? Yeah, I would listen to “Riders in the Sky” on NPR, Sunday nights.

Luckily, we lived in the country so there was plenty to keep my brother and I occupied as long as it wasn’t too dark or too cold out, plus this was Wyoming so it was completely acceptable to allow small children to play unsupervised with fireworks and firearms at all times of the year. C’mon it was fine, we were always under the watchful eye of at least one neighborhood dog (I’m not sure, but I think using dogs as nannies is still completely legal in many midwestern states).

My dad did make sure to take us to the library at least once a week (libraries, much like the outdoors, are free). I would generally leave the library with six to eight books, carefully stacked and balanced under my chin, and I would have all of them read by the time we returned the following week. I can distinctly remember sliding the books carefully onto a counter taller than I was, then standing on tiptoe to hand the librarian my card (the nineties in Wyoming were like the fifties to the rest of the world; no one supervised their children or used seat belts).

My father remained unrepentant about his no television policy, often boasting to other parents about my high reading scores; by the time I was in fourth grade I was reading at a twelfth grade level (of course on the playground, my lack of a proper pop culture education was quite apparent, as I could neither quote the Simpsons nor knew what had happened on Alf the night before, both of which negatively affected my social standing).

It’s impossible to say how well, or how much, I would have read if we had had a TV, but I will say this: the combination of having a whole lot of unspecified play time (being the outdoors, not soccer practice) combined with nothing mindless to fill this void (being no video games or TV), rather than causing boredom, spurred my creativity early on (granted some creative outlets were more desirable than others, but don’t freak out parents, it was Wyoming, all the kids were setting things on fire). Looking back at my childhood as well as watching children today, I can see how imaginative play is almost exactly like storytelling; it’s a combination of acting and playing, and there must always be a plot; stuffed bunnies and bears can become monsters or friends, toys become weapons or magical devices, and always, always, you are the hero of the day.

More and more, in a world cluttered with social media devices, I have to look back on that place I was as a child, and see that as an adult I still need those same things to be creative; large chunks of time and a space free of distractions (so that means turning my Mac’s air port off, leaving my phone in the other room, and turning off the... oh wait, I still don’t have a TV), only then, do I find that same kind of creativity I grasped onto so easily as a kid; a kind of mental play that now fuels my desire to write and tell stories (I don’t set things on fire anymore).

About Ill-fated:

“The stars have aligned to make my life grim and loathsome...” fourteen year old Leila Edgewick stands on the brink of disaster, balancing the fate of Bainland and her father’s legacy against a vague, ill-fated prophecy. A meaningless number, a luckless red moon, and worst of all– a star that falls south– send Leila on a quest she does not expect to survive.

Simultaneously, an unknown boy wakes up in the sunken hull of a decrepit cargo ship. Captured and mind-locked, the boy– dubbed “Sam” by the ship’s crew– must escape the infamous Bonesplitter and the dark schemes of one Captain Erastacus Oren.
All the while, Leila journeys out of Bainland. Crossing the wall for the first, she finds a world where magic meets machine. Aeroskiffs, daguerreotypes, and automatons merge with the earth-dolven magic of the South, leaving her to question, “What is sorcery and what is science?”

When Leila and Sam's paths cross, fate ties them together, sending them deep into the Ramble in search of the Wasteland Witches. Plagued by Sam's erratic memory and Leila's dubious rationale, they must outwit the Southland drudge hunters, and take on the dangers of the Ramble: sandwolves, bloodswamps, and the Kartivause – terrifying night creatures from the Shadowland.

Their friendship develops quickly, but as Leila’s quest unravels, Sam’s past is pieced together– and when Sam’s identity is finally revealed, Leila must face up to a bloody family history that could rip their friendship apart...

If this pricked your curiosity, you can skulk about on my blog: http://evelynink.blogspot.com/

Or check my books out on amazon here.  The exciting news is that if you click on the cover of her book above you can get your own copy of Ill-Fated FREE for the next 5 days!!

Author Bio:

The plaque on Mrs. Ink’s lawn reads the Edgington Mansion, it was once thought to be lovely, though now rather decrepit and certainly full of secrets. She lives here with her husband. He is a philosopher, and said to be quite mad. According to Mrs. Ink their house is full of books, “Stacked, piled, and always advancing out and away from the shelves that ought to keep them in.” She paints and draws, writes and reads, and occasionally goes down into the dark, dismal, cobweb-creepy dungeon, to do laundry.

Evelyn Ink is the author of the YA fantasy novel Ill-fated and the children’s trilogy Sticks, Stones, and Dragon Bones. She was formally trained to be a parachutist, but found it did not fit her longstanding desire to avoid heights and thus decided to study the much less vertically horrifying subject of English Literature.

If interested, you may choose to follow Mrs. Ink on her blog or check in with her on facebook. However, due to her absolute terror of electronics and a crippling phobia of the social media (technical term: Socmephobia), her blog posts tend to be infrequent and erratic. Also, due to several post exile investigations she is generally prevented from giving any specific information regarding her whereabouts...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Guest Post with Raphyel Jordan author of Prossia


Have you ever gotten the chance to ask an artist how long they've been drawing or painting? If I could see you in person, I'd bet ten dollars they'd probably say they've been an artist his/her entire life. Why? Because I could get a pretty snazzy meal for ten bucks.

In all seriousness, having that artistic niche isn't something that just "grows" on a person over time. No, it's something that's always been there, and was more than likely fueled at an early age. Why, I remember my first drawing. It all started long ago. . .

Yep. Story time!

When I was three, my five year old brother drew a cowboy. I thought it looked cool, I wanted did the same. No, no, I'm not about to tell you the finished drawing would hail me to be the next Raphael or anything like. . . oh wait. My name IS Raphyel, so that's pretty cl–. . . oh, you know what I mean! >_<

Anyway, my mom, being the perfect mother she is, told me how great the drawing was, so I kept doing it. Next thing, before I knew it, I'm drawing superheroes on the chalk board during free time in Kindergarten at the age of 5, and the entire class is staring at the picture wide eyed when I turn around to see what everybody else is doing.

Not much later, I noticed that I had a little more attention to detail than most of the other kids when we were in art class. Where children drew dots for eyes, I actually gave pupils. Eventually, while they still placed heads on a shoulders, I was giving people necks and collar bones. And finally, when everyone else had moved on to their own passions, I thought the best birthday present I got was from my oldest brother, who gave me a giant sketch pad and professional set of colored pencils.

When my friends were talking about going to school for engineering, I was looking at art schools for animation. Sadly, the animation thing didn't work out, but graphic design wasn't a bad secondary option. Needless to say, I love to draw. It's my passion that kept getting pushed and fueled just because people would take a moment to pause at my drawings and go "wow."

Thing is, while I was perfecting my craft when I as a kid, I had this other little hobby I liked to dabble in from time to time: storytelling. When I was little, I wrote numerous graphic novels to coincide with my art, all which my mother has perfectly guarded and kept to this day, thank you. ;) See, I didn't only want to draw people. I wanted to give them life, a setting, a purpose. That's probably why I wanted to be an animator so badly. What better way is there for an artist to bring his characters to life than with movement?

So, when this book called "Prossia" came into my brain at the age of 19, it was second nature for me to visualize the creatures and the world the story was set in. I've been blessed with this gift, where not only can I imagine what these aliens and other creatures look like, but I can let others see what my mind envisions as well.

Seeing that malicious smirk on Cy's face, making people wonder if he's just a nice guy with an attitude, or a manipulator with ill-intent ready to execute his next move. Or how about getting a wink that Catty would naturally give if she knows she's posing for a pic? And then there's being able to see Aly's gray eyes, which the book describes as being "brighter than a full moon." When people see these images after reading the book, I can't help but smile when I see their jaws drop.

"Wow, they look so real. Look at their eyes!" tends to be the most common statement I get. And when somebody, like me, is writing about aliens from another galaxy fighting in a galactic war, being able to break into the realm of reality for people is such a reward in its own. I love to write, but I love to draw, and being able to share that part of me with others is the best gift ever. Who would've thought it all started with me drawing a cowboy, and believing people when they said, "That's really good,"?

Check out more of Raphyel work on his webpage or his deviant art page.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Review - Slipstream by Michael Offutt

“Last night I died for the third time this week...”

Jordan Pendragon is crazy good at fixing situations that have gone bad. It’s a talent prized by his high school ice hockey team. However, when a car accident puts Jordan in the hospital, he wakes up with more than just an amazing slapshot in his toolbox. Jordan can manipulate space-time and in just a few weeks, he’ll depend on it to save his life.


4 stars

Slipstream by Michael Offutt has a very entertaining concept.  Combining Arthurian themes with examples of advanced technology, a society that where the rich buy the life essence of the poor, alternate realities, and spirit animals leads to a book that has a unique feel.

The story that the book tells heavily involves two things that I know almost nothing about hockey and advanced math.  Despite those two things being featured I still really enjoyed this book.  The characters are done well for the most part though I find the relationship between Kolin and Jordan to be pretty creepy.  That being said I also feel the need to put in a disclaimer that there is a pretty intense sexual episode in this book, which is not something I enjoy personally.

I think this is the beginning of a great series and I'll be checking it out further.  I've actually already read book II and will be doing a review of that soon as well.  This is a great book for scifi fans who are looking for some new twists to the genre.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Moving

Hey everyone, just a quick note that during the month of February I will be moving so I won't be doing as many updates to the blog as usual.  If I already have something scheduled with you I'll do my best to be sure it hits at the right time.  I will also be responding slower to any review requests, but when we get settled in the new house I'll be sure to get caught up and read through all the requests that have come in in the meantime so keep them coming!