Monday, May 27, 2013

Review - Secrets Clockwork Skies 1 by J. Cunningham

Gelton isn't the revolutionary type. If you asked him, it would be the last thing he would ever use to describe himself - if you could get the gefling to answer at all. When he gets entangled in events larger than his own story, he finds that he's got more than a few things to learn about himself.

Part speculative history, part fantasy, and definitively steampunk, Secrets is the first novel in the Clockwork Skies series. Action packed and full of political intrigue, romance, and richly detailed fantasy settings, Secrets will entice you from the first page and keep you guessing until the last.

Review by: Scott

4 stars

Secrets (Clockwork Skies 1) by J. Cunningham is a book that has a Victorian setting.  It has a bit of a steam punk feel though clockwork is probably a more appropriate description.  A lot of the technology seen is similar to what you would see in steam punk stories, but the powering seems to be more magic than steam.

I really enjoyed the Gefling resistance aspect of the book.  The name Gefling reminds me of the creatures from The Dark Crystal though the mannerisms of the characters in the book are very gnome like.  The combination of the two images in my head made for an interesting creature to follow.  As I mentioned earlier the technology in the book enriched the world nicely.  The clockwork soldiers were very cool and the technology that is used to travel is pretty fantastic.

The characters were dynamic and entertaining (well Gelton isn't particularly dynamic but that fits him).  Tink, Dev, and Mia more than make up for the subdued nature of Gelton's contribution.  There is a lot of potential in this series and it's something that I look forward to seeing some more of when the second book is released.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Review - Asclepias by Christopher Kline

Illegal immigrants are turning up dead in the remote mountains of southern Arizona. Cochise County Sheriff Detective Jake Caldwell soon discovers that United States Geological Survey biologist Tony Spencer is the only person with the knowledge to solve the murders, but will Spencer live long enough to share the secret?

4 stars

Asclepias is the second book in the Tony Spencer mystery series. I picked up a copy of this book at a book release party for his third book. It was interesting to see the slideshow that he had detailing some of the actual locations and plant and insect species that are discussed in the book. The fact that the restaurants and research areas that are featured in the book are real and the author has visited them several times seemed to add an extra element to the book. 

This book features the same strengths of his first book, Hostile Lookout. Tony is a likeable guy who really just wants to do his job. He has come out of the shell he was in after the death of his wife and child a bit more with the introduction of Melissa to his life. While looking for a new species of Milk Thistle Tony once again stumbles across some things that he shouldn't know and ends up in some pretty serious trouble. 

This book had a good flow and kept me turning pages rather quickly. I finished the book in under two days and was very happy that I had the third book on hand to continue reading the series. Though the book has a solid ending the story and the people are enough to keep interest in the series high. Check this book out if you like mystery thrillers.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Review of Awakening Evarun by Tom Barczak

A thief named Talus hides among the ruins of Galadash. Hunted by the wizards and dragons who rule there, he escapes with the help of a boy who is more than what he seems, and who opens the door to the greatest adventure Talus has ever known.
So begins Awakening Evarun Part I of VI. Awakening Evarun is a serial novel. Part II of VI will be coming soon.

4 stars

Awakening Evarun is the first part in a seven part series.  It tells the story of a man hiding on the streets trying to avoid the attention of the wizards who rule and their dragons.  When he is noticed by their minions a young boy leads him to "safety" and beings to change his life dramatically.

This is the first book I have read the is broken into serialized portions and I don't think it works really well for me.  The story just starts to get going and this chapter ends.  I will say that I was starting to get interested in the story and I'm very curios to see where it goes, but I really dislike waiting for sequels and it seems like this series will have a lot of that.  If the book is released at a single unit after all of the smaller sections are released I would be interested in picking that up.  Overall 3.5 stars for the enjoyment of the story and the less enjoyable format of the release.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

First Annual Book Bloggies

I was recently informed that I have been nominated by the folks at JKSCommunications for an award in their first annual Book Bloggie awards.  JKS is a literary publicity company that works with tons of bloggers to help promote books.  They have four categories of awards and I have been nominated for Indie Reviewer of the Year.  If anyone would care to vote you can find the surveys on their Facebook page.

If anyone has a moment to go out and check out the other categories and vote to help me win a little bit of acclaim I would certainly appreciate the support.

Thanks in advance everyone!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Reviews - Chinese Heritage Tales by Camille Piccot

Emma Chan-McDougal receives a special gift from her Auntie Gracie: a rag doll named Raggedy Chan. But Raggedy Chan is no ordinary doll. She is a beautiful Chinese princess who lives in a jasper palace on the enchanted isle of Kunlun. The peace of her island home is threatened when Drought Fury steals Winged Dragon, bringer of rain. Without Winged Dragon, Kunlun will wither and die. To save her stricken homeland, Raggedy Chan sets forth alone. Her quest leads her to America, where she meets people who distrust her because she’s different. Can Raggedy Chan adapt to the strange ways of this new land and rescue her beloved dragon? In this modern fairy tale, Chinese-American author Camille Picott draws on her heritage to weave a story of magic, adventure, and sacrifice.

4 stars

Raggedy Chan by Camille Picott involves Auntie Grace telling a story to her niece Emily about respecting her heritage.  The story she chooses to tell is one of a Princess of a faraway place who comes to another land in order to save her home.  She has to make some major sacrifices in order to find what she needs to save her family.

The beginning and end of each chapter involve a scene with Aunt Grace teaching Emily a little of what it means to be Chinese with the middle of the chapters following Raggedy Chan.  The illustrated version of this book has some wonderful pictures to accompany the story.  The pictures of the mythical creatures were especially excellent.

When fifth-grade Emma Chan-McDougal is ridiculed by her classmates for being part Chinese, she's devastated. To ease Emma's wounded self-esteem, her aunt, a Chinese immigrant, spins the mythical tale of a brave little Nine-Tail Fox named Ainu who lives in San Francisco. In a parallel animal world that comes to life when humans slumber, Ainu Nine-Tail and her mother face off against Chih Yu, an ancient demon who feeds on hatred. As the last of their clan, the Nine-Tails are honor-bound by a family oath to defend the Chinese animals from the demon. When Chih Yu kills her mother and leads an angry mob against Chinatown, Ainu is left to complete the task alone. Raw with grief and only partially trained for battle, Ainu must reach deep inside herself to find the wisdom and courage to save her people. Will the journey of Ainu Nine-Tail help Emma find the strength to confront the school bullies and win back her confidence? In this modern Chinese fable, Chinese-American author Camille Picott draws on her heritage to weave a story of courage, truth, and adventure.

4 stars

Nine-Tail Fox by Camille Picott is a story about being strong in the face of prejudice to help children.  The book tells a tale a Chinese girl having to deal with adversity in school though the lessons can be applied to any child who feels like an outcast.

The story was influenced by actual events that Chinese immigrants were forced to live through.  The lessons taught are familiar from many childhood stories, but I found the use of characters that aren't normally seen in the tales I grew up with.  This is a book that I will be sharing with my daughter as she grows up for sure.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Review - Silver Knight by Caron Rider

When seventeen-year-old Diana recognizes an elderly priest in a video on YouTube, she realizes that reincarnation is real and that she’s been alive before! Every night in her dreams, she relives her past learning that it’s kill or be killed. Now a bishop at the Vatican whom she saved in another life calls on her once more. She is needed to help defeat evil within the catacombs of Rome. But when she arrives in Rome, she meets Alexander – the man of her dreams! Through the centuries she has loved him…betrayed him...been killed by him. Will she give him another chance or this time will she strike first?

3 stars

Silver Knight by Caron Rider tells about the constant struggle of light vs darkness.  Seventeen year old Diana is a fairly typical highschool girl with the exception of her horrible nightmares.  When she recognizes a bishop in a viral YouTube video calling for an army of warriors for the light from one of her dreams she begins to realize her dreams may be memories.  

I really enjoyed the concept behind this book, there being a certain amount of warriors on the side of the light that are reincarnated to continue their battles as they fall to the shadow.  There were a lot of flashbacks and the use of prominent figures through history as warriors on both sides of the conflict.  The downside of this arrangement was that it seemed that the majority of the story took place during flashbacks.  There really wasn't that much that drew me into the story that was taking place in the present which is a shame because there was a lot of potential.  Another issue I had was the relationship between Diana, on the side of the light and Alexander, a demon who has haunted her in many lives.  Alexander had made it his mission to see her die terribly for many reincarnations, but when they meet in the present she seems to be willing to forget that at the drop of a hat.  Despite the criticisms I have listed I was interested enough to keep an eye out for the rest of the books in the series. 

This book is aimed at a slightly younger crowd and I think it could really shine with some younger readers.  The flashbacks contain references to real historical figures and spin them in an interesting way that could encourage kids to look into their eras a bit more.  The romance angle also will most likely appeal to people who enjoy that sort of a plot element a bit more than I do.  If you enjoy YA action books that have a strong romantic element this book will most likely work out wonderfully for you.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Fall of Ossard by Colin Taber review

Ossard is falling...

Growing up in a city of Merchant Princes, Juvela discovers she can see what others can't. The very currents of the celestial are open to her, and that includes the truths they hide: An escalating series of unsolved kidnappings have been haunting the city-state, leaving its shadows pooled deep with innocent blood.

Has Juvela been cursed with the Witches' Kiss - or perhaps something worse?

Yet, more is to come, for not only has she witnessed an abduction, but she will have to endure a role in the victim's ritual death. For Juvela is about to become forsaken, and that's before she learns the real truth of not just the crimes plaguing Ossard's bloody streets, but the wider world: A world at war, and governed by gods whose highest pleasure is to sup on the taste of death.

4 stars

The Fall of Ossard by Colin Taber tells the story of Juvela, a young girl in the city of Ossard.  Her grandmother was burned as a witch during a turbulent time that saw The Inquisition banished from the city.  The religion of Ossard looks to all magic other than that of their priests as evil corruption that must be rooted out and destroyed.  When the city begins to fall victim to a plague of child abductions Juvela's parents hire her a personal guard to ensure her safety.  Sef is an experienced warrior who has been fighting to save the Flet's homeland for some time. The other major character is Juvela's husband, too much info on him is a bit of a spoiler so I'll just leave it at that.

First off the book has some wonderful maps and a very nice glossary as well.  Both of these items are helpful when the world is as in depth as the one that Colin has created.  There are also a few parts where I felt the story dragged a bit because of the explanations needed to bring his world to life.  Nothing horrendous by any means, just a little bit of a hiccup.  He does a very nice job with wrapping up the story enough to conclude the first book while leaving enough questions to draw the reader into the second book, which is on my shelf waiting to be read.  Even though Juvela has some large revelations and interesting twists to her character I liked Sef the best.  The book ends leaving some serious questions about his background and what part he will have in the world that is being created by the events in Book 1.

Buy this book on Amazon or find out more info on Colin's webpage.