Monday, December 22, 2014

Hagridden by Samuel Snoek-Brown

Hagridden
Author:  Samuel Snoek-Brown
Publisher:  Columbus Press
Pages: 252
Release Date: August 19th, 2014
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

As the Civil War winds violently down, fears of the South's uncertain future fuse with its unraveling traditions. Against the backdrop of this post-apocalyptic landscape, so littered with corpses and mythology and desperation, two women, stranded and alone in the Louisiana bayou, fight to survive.



To be honest with you, I had a lot of trouble getting through this book. While the writer does have some talent and there is some good writing in the bones of this novel, there were just some stylistic things that bugged me at a point it made it difficult to even read. Between the confusing opening, to the odd writing style, I admit, I just couldn't get over some of my first impressions. 

The one thing that I severely disliked was the lack of quotation marks in Hagridden. Dialog was just throw in here and there and there was nothing to separate it from the rest of the text. I know, Samuel Snoek-Brown isn't the first author to use this technique, but it personally just distracting for me and interrupts the flow of a book. The speech itself did give a nice impression of the area and the people in the story, but I felt like I was often backtracking when I hit conversation to read it as intended. 

The other thing that gets annoying is the two women in this story never get names. Everyone around them is given an identity, but the main characters remain faceless. Again, this is a stylistic thing, but it made it hard for me to relate to them. When you start the story with so much distance, it makes it hard to immerse yourself.

The story itself was interesting. The pacing to start was awkward (I don't even know how to explain it, but it was just difficult to read. The perspectives felt off, and it sort of had that 'shaky camera angle' type feel to it), but after the first chapter it was easier to read. The story had a strong sense of place, and you could feel like you were in the correct point in history, which is always a plus with historical novels. Characters felt dynamic, and there was a good mix of events happening (romance, drama, suspense). It's a bit hard for me to talk about the story since the main characters don't have names, but the relationship dynamics were unique to see. I liked the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship because it's a bit unusual. I also liked seeing their struggles with the husband of the girl out of the picture. 

Overall, the bones were really nice. Just some overlying problems that really kept me from getting into things. Other readers may really like this, but it wasn't the book for me in the end. 


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Taken With a Grain of Salt by Aaron Galvin

Taken With a Grain of Salt
Author:  Aaron Galvin
Publisher:  Self-Published
Pages: 294
Release Date: November 24, 2014
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Anyone can be taken - a simple truth for Salt folk, a stark reality for innocent teens Garrett Weaver and Kellen Winstel. Kidnapped by Selkie slave catchers and dragged into the realm beneath the waves, both teens must adapt to their new surroundings if they hope to see the shore again. Yet even if they escape their captors, both will need to embrace their fears. For darker things than Selkies lurk in the Salted depths and not all of them have pure intentions for the innocent ones brought down into their watery world.

To read my review of the first book in this series, Salted, click here.


Taken With a Grain of Salt is the sequel to the novel Salted, a book I reviewed back in March. Featuring the same great cast of characters, this novel further explores the world of the selkies, Salt Children, and their ocean bound world. While Salted started with a story line that largely centered in our world, this sequel explores the larger reaches of the salt, and the creatures that live there. 

What I like most about these novels is the characters continue to grow and develop as time wears on. While we follow multiple story lines, no character feels neglected and still feels important to the central story. I liked seeing the slow progression of Kellen and Garrett's relationship with the people around them, and I also enjoyed learning more of the lore that created the selkies and the system surrounding them. I will admit, it's hard to speak too much about any one element without throwing out spoilers, but I will say this book was great to fill in information that maybe wasn't in the first novel. 

I liked that this book brushed a little more against some of the mermaid elements, while still keeping it's own twists. The concept of selkies and the transformations involved is really cool, but it's also nice to see maybe some elements of what are more typical ocean tails. (tales, tails, yeah, really couldn't avoid that little moment there). I also enjoyed seeing that even those that were the authorities in the Salted world have larger forces they have to be on guard for. Always a bigger fish in the ocean right? Or something like that. 

Overall, I love the Salt series because it maintains an element of freshness. The elements the author uses just have a new feeling to them, and the characters are diverse, dynamic and really well rounded. As they adapt to new situations, powers, and relationships, each character in this story is truly tested by the ocean, fighting for survival in both an internal and external way. I enjoyed this book even more than the first one, so hopefully the rest of the series will continue to live up to my now high expectations for this author. No pressure right? 



Monday, December 1, 2014

Blog Update!

Hi guys!

In case you haven't noticed, there has been a sort of reading list train-wreck that occurred this month. My daytime job sort of took over my life for a few weeks, and I'm trying my best to catch up, so I appreciate your patience with me. My reading list calendar is going to require some reshuffling, so I apologize for any confusion that may cause.

If you were NaNoWriMoing, I bet you were pretty busy too! I have enjoyed meeting new authors this month, and have been excited to see new writers embracing the November chaos. I've also had a handful of new beta reading projects come through, so it's been great to see some works-in-progress on their way towards publication.

While I have one new review about to be release, here's a little teaser present for the holidays in honor of that review. Aaron Galvin has recently released one of my favorite books from this year, Salted, as a free ebook. So get out there and grab that freebee! http://www.amazon.com/Salted-Aaron-Galvin-ebook/dp/B00JSKYEB4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1417460352&sr=8-2&keywords=salted

Meanwhile, stay tuned for my upcoming review of the sequelWith a Grain of Salt.

Happy Holidays and let's get December off to a good start!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Alora: The Wander-Jewel by Tamie Dearen

Alora: The Wander-Jewel
Author:  Tamie Dearen
Publisher:  Self-Published
Pages: 209
Release Date: February 24, 2014
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Alora is a normal fifteen-year-old girl who lives on a ranch in rural Montana. Her biggest excitement is the upcoming school dance. Until one day while taking a shower, she sees an image that almost seems real. A boy, with long brown hair and the most intense green eyes she’s ever seen.

Little does she know that this vision is only the beginning of a great adventure. That her life will be forever altered as she discovers another realm, a strange world of magic and gifts, where a man full of evil power will use any means possible to capture and control her or else to end her life.

Alora must decide whether to hide in the relative safety of her Montana home or risk everything to fulfill her destiny and defend a home she never knew existed. Though despised for their youth, Alora and her friends, mark the beginning of a new era in Laegenshire.

Alora is a book of powers and magic, good and evil, fighting and valor, and love that conquers all. Where urban fantasy and medieval fantasy merge, there we find the adventures of Alora.

Alora is a book that will appeal to a lot of young readers. Romance, fantasy, some coming-of-age sort of elements mixed in, there was plenty to entertain. The characters were fun, it was easy to read, and overall the book was a worthwhile story. I have to admit, teleportation by body jewelry is a concept I haven't encountered before in a book, and the Soulmate aspect could have been cheesy if it wasn't pulled off right, but somehow, those little things were charming in their own way. While a lot of YA appeals to young and old, I wondered if I would have loved it even more if I were just a bit closer to the main character's age. That's not to say I didn't like it quite a bit as it was.

Alora is one of those fantasy books where our world, and another realm, exist separate from each other. Or, at least they did. In comes one outsider, and a girl who can magically bring people to her or send them away with just her thoughts. The first person she ends up summoning turns out to be a boy named Kaevin. Turns out, the two of them are soulmates, which means separation from each other can have deadly consequences. 

When the romance first developed between Kaevin and Alora, I really liked it, but the rather forced intimacy between him and Alora did take away from that somewhere near the end of the story. I felt like the need for physical contact to restore each others energy made it hard for their relationship to develop naturally. Rather than having that romantic swoon when they're kissing, I felt like I was maybe watching to kids awkwardly make out for the first time. I guess I was sitting in the corner with Alora's Uncle, feeling like it was too much too fast. On the romance level, it probably wasn't my cup of tea for that reason. Soulmates+life or death+hand holding=yes. Awkward kissing for life or death reasons=no. It just took away the spark you can usually get with a good romance. 

The other little thing that I wasn't quite a fan of was the pairings that happened near the end of the book. It felt like every teenager instantly found their match. I don't know, I always feel like someone would end up as the third wheel in that situation. That whole, equal guy to girl ration just never feels believable to me. Again, personal taste, but it knocked my rating down a little bit. 

The last little criticism I had was Alora's attitude towards her dad. I just felt like her determination to "give him a chance" made me want to smack her upside the head. I don't know, but when you hear how he became her "father", I just think that would be a pretty clear indicator this guy can't be trusted. It's not like she just heard he's on a power hunting spree by itself. Being responsible for her mother's death alone should have caused some more caution that I felt she exhibited. The ending seemed to let things work out, but there was a large portion of the story I was praying she would smarten up. 

In the end, the story turned out nice. There was a good premise for future books, and a little prophecy is always good for momentum. I do think this could appeal even more to Teens closer to Alora's age, so I tried to factor that in with my rating, but overall it's a good book with plenty to look forward to later in the series. 



Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Fourth Sage by Stefan Bolz

The Fourth Sage
Author:  Stefan Bolz
Publisher:  Beacon Books Publishing
Pages: 414
Release Date: June 15, 2014
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Fifteen-year-old Aries Egan lives in one of five super high rises in a nameless city. There is no government. There are no schools. People are controlled by a ruthless Corporation. Any deviation from the Moral Code, the code of living set forth by the Corporation, is punished - sometimes with prison, sometimes with torture, sometimes with death. 

Aries hacks into the main frame computer, creating a loop with the camera feed to her room and so stealing one hour per night for herself. Sometimes she reads a book. That alone could send her to prison for three months. At other times, she roams the massive building via the air ducts. During one of her nightly excursions, she finds something that has the power to change her life and that of everyone around her. But in order for her to follow it, she has to become an outlaw, a criminal, an enemy of the Corporation. 

As the hunt for her unravels, she flees ever deeper into the belly of her building. What awaits her there, she could not possibly have foreseen. And the fate of her people now rests on her ability to survive.

The Fourth Sage is a book that takes its own twist on familiar genres. A splash of super powers, dystopia, and fantasy, I found it engaging from the start. Aries is a character who is easy to like, and her plight is unique but not unrelatable. As she struggled to maintain a sense of freedom and identity in a world focused on duty, it wasn't hard to root for her. 

The plot was interesting, and I was never quite sure where it would lead. The deeper we delve into the building, the more we learn about the world and the forces driving it. The characters didn't feel too alike, which was nice, and the pacing worked pretty well. For the most part, I really enjoyed this book. There were a few points that kept The Fourth Sage from having a perfect score with me, however. 

While the beginning really drew me in, somewhere near the end on the book I felt the story got really dialogue heavy. Rather than being carried by prose and narration, it started to feel like constant talking. I just sort of had that "budget cut" sort of sensation, where every character was pointing and describing what was happening ("Look over there, what's that!" "I hear something coming." etc.) I just didn't feel like I was experiencing as much on my own. I would look at a page and it was just line after line of conversation. I just felt like the beginning did a better job at putting me into the world and letting me feel what was going on, while those end sections relied far too much on what everyone was saying. The final confrontation picked back up, and once again I enjoyed the book, but there was certainly a lull in the middle I had to push through. I would consider that maybe a context editing problem rather than an overall problem with the story. While fixable, it does mark it down a notch, which is always a bummer for a book you really enjoy when you first pick it up.

In the end, I would read later books in this series. While it had a few areas for polishing, I still liked the story in the long run. 





Saturday, November 1, 2014

NaNoWriMo Time!

Hey everyone! This is your friendly neighborhood blogger just letting you know I'm still alive. I've been finishing up a few beta reads and art commissions this week, so my reviewing was a little slower than normal. I appreciate the patience though. I've got a number of new books in the dockets, and I'm eager to tell you my feedback (having fun with The Fourth Sage currently, and just bought W World Without Princes, so excited for that). There is one more thing that may make things a little slower...

NaNoWriMo!

In case you have never participated, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. Basically, the goal is to write 50,000 words in one month. 1557 words a day, a little over four weeks. You can read some more about it here: http://nanowrimo.org/dashboard. While most people start a new book, I sometimes use this as my "get your crap together and write" month, and finish up projects already in the works. The sequel to my first book Archipelago is my current target, along with a steampunk novel on the side. I'd love to hear what everyone else is going to be plucking away at, and if you've got some encouragement or need some on this grand adventure, let me know!

NaNoWriMo usually gives everyone some pep talk to get you started, but my only advice is this: there is no secret recipe. Just write. Some people outline, some people gather pictures and blueprint out the book. Some people write biographies (I've done this). While all of that helps, there is no cure better than just putting words on paper. Write something good. Write something terrible. The point of this month is to break through the cobwebs, and convince yourself to write even when you may not have the perfect idea already mapped out. Some people make perfectly polished novels, but the real freedom I've found with this month is to let go of all that.

NaNoWriMo is about breaking the rules and abandoning thought to let your words be as raw and pure as you can let them be. It won't all be beautiful, but that doesn't mean the experience isn't super fun.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Steampunk Carnival by Cassandra Leuthold || Blog Tour Post




Steampunk Carnival
Author:  Cassandra Leuthold
Publisher:  Green Hill Press
Pages: 253
Release Date: August 10th, 2014
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Katya Romanova gave up everything to work at the one-of-a-kind Steampunk Carnival – her family, her home, her reputation.  She wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.  As a guide to the guests, Katya enjoys more freedom than most.  She makes time to gossip with her best friend, Magdalene.  She basks in the elaborate costumes that bring her awed attention, hoping they might also win her a husband.  And no man pays her more attention than her boss and carnival owner, William Warden.

But in the summer of 1887, death threats against Mr. Warden break the spell.  Katya knows he might be as underhanded as he is charming, but who would actually want him dead?  When Katya finds unexpected evidence about the carnival’s true origins, the stakes jump even higher.  Not sure whom they can trust, Katya and Magdalene work to unravel the carnival’s mysteries.  Who really invented the innovative rides?  Is Mr. Warden protecting his employees or only himself from the looming violence?  And will Katya cling to the better side of his nature or eventually turn her affections for him into a powerful rivalry?

Before I start this review I need to make a confession: I'm a sucker for Steampunk. Looking around my blog, I'm pretty sure that shows. However, my love can be both helpful and a hindrance. While I can instantly adore anything in this genre, I can also be a bit tough on those who overdo it. Thankfully, Cassandra is tasteful with her story, and the way she mixes gears and glamour with the story line. 

What I like about Steampunk Carnival is that the corsets aren't thrown in just to be part on the fad, and the story can stand on it's own two feet without needing to have all the other bells and whistles (although, the steam elements are delightfully fun). The characters feel dynamic without being overly done, and the pacing and writing are handled well. The story itself is interesting: like some of my favorite novels, the mystery is woven into the story and lets the reader slowly piece things together on their own. I also enjoy that Cassandra doesn't overdo some of the world-building elements like other authors. I get to hear about fancy embroidery when it matters, and don't feel bogged down by overly detailed Victorian clothing descriptions the rest of the time.

Katya is also an interesting character. She feels feminine, yet capable, and doesn't feel "perfect"; there is something I found believable about her. Having a good character like this made it easy to engage in the story, so I was really happy with that. One critique was that there were a few points other female characters maybe felt a little flat or interchangeable (Mary and Magdalene, for instance, didn't really have enough that made them feel individual the same way Katya did). I think sometimes those places were plot driven more than character driven, but it was a minor complaint more than anything. It didn't detract from my general enjoyment of the book. 

Overall, I think this might be a good book if you like Steampunk, and want to try reading a novel in this genre. It has all the fun, without feeling a bit too saturated by "steam". I'm interested to see where the rest of the story goes!





About the Author

Cassandra grew up in the small town of La Porte, Indiana, exploring wooded parks and sparkling lakes. Making South Bend her home, the scenery hasn’t changed much - inspiring trees and a long, winding river. From the time she started writing in second grade up to the projects she works on now, the nature, history, and people around her inspire the stories she tells. You can find her work listed under many different genres, but the heart of each story remains the same. What keeps us together, and what pulls us apart?


She lives with her writer husband and their moody cat, Gaia, in a house three sizes too big. She holds a Bachelor’s in Liberal Studies and a Master’s in English. When she’s not writing, you can find her sewing, enjoying nature, listening to music, researching family history, and watching TV.


Author Links
https://www.facebook.com/WriterUninterrupted
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7425979.Cassandra_Leuthold
http://writeruninterrupted.blogspot.com
http://www.pinterest.com/uninterrupted

Purchase Links
Amazon.com:  http://www.amazon.com/Steampunk-Carnival-Steam-World-Book-ebook/dp/B00MK9FPH2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408213825&sr=8-1&keywords=steampunk+carnival
Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22890426-steampunk-carnival?ac=1

Trailer
http://youtu.be/PXH02pnBtjM

Giveaway

Playlist

Widget:
Link: http://open.spotify.com/user/knovitzke/playlist/69TP9kW9jha9Vmidx6IMO3

“What I Wouldn’t Do,” She Swings, She Sways
The first chapter of Steampunk Carnival is different than the rest of the book.  It’s narrated by someone whose name isn’t revealed for several chapters.  The reason he’s obsessed with filling a journal with his ideas isn’t clear until we find out who he is, but the song gives insight into his situation.  He’s a man driven by longing, loneliness, and desperation.  It adds extra layers and emotions to what’s shared at that point in the book.

“Kill The Lights,” The Birthday Massacre
I’m a big fan of the movie “Moulin Rouge.”  In the director’s commentary, Baz Luhrmann talks about the interesting difference between points of view in the climactic scene when Satine dies after the big, pulse-pounding performance.  The audience applauds.  They loved what they saw.  But what they missed was a murder attempt, and what they can’t see after the curtain closes is Satine’s heartbreaking death.  This song represents that for Steampunk Carnival.  All the guests see are beautiful costumes, spectacular rides, fun games, and delicious treats.  They don’t know about the death threats, the violence, and the arguments.  They never find out the games are rigged.

“Common Reaction,” Uh Huh Her
As the story unwinds, Katya finds herself in deeper and deeper trouble.  She acquires more to lose – friends, her safety, a boyfriend – and realizes there are fewer things she can be sure of.  A lot she took for granted isn’t true.  This song expresses Katya’s confusion and caution.  She doesn’t know how much to trust her boss, William Warden.  She hopes everything will work out all right, but she knows any ending is possible.

“Hold My Hand,” Mister Heavenly
This song reminds me of Maddox’s approach to Katya in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way.  If Maddox has one thing going for him, it’s persistence.  He tries several different tricks to get Katya to go out with him, and she turns him down several times.  She’s not easily persuaded to trade her love of money for appreciation of simple fun.

“Shake It Out,” Florence & the Machine
This song provides the perfect backdrop to the night Katya finally gives in to spending time with Maddox.  She leaves her fear, her distrust, and her rigid ideas about dating behind.  Katya and Maddox ride three attractions at the carnival, which thrills Katya more than she anticipated.  But more importantly, they’re finally able to share more about themselves and build a solid foundation for their relationship.

“Baptized by Fire,” Spinnerette
The lyrics and driving guitar in this song mirror what Katya and her friends are feeling by the time they confront the forces conspiring against them.  Katya has seen William Warden’s inner nature, and she doesn’t like it.  His security guards, allegedly hired to keep the employees safe, have been watching Magdalene like a hawk for weeks.  Katya’s tired of meeting in secret, worrying about how the carnival’s reputation will survive the truth about its origins.  But true to the song, with going to battle against powerful rivals comes a new beginning for all of them.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

This Languid Earth by Paul McCormack

This Languid Earth
Author:  Paul McCormack
Publisher:  Ichabod Dozer Press
Pages: 364
Release Date: August 19th, 2014
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The greatest tragi-comic romantic sci-fi ghost story written this millennium.

After finishing this book, I struggled a bit to put my thoughts into words. I skimmed some of the other reviews, good and bad, and found many of them already hit on the things I was feeling. The book did have potential, and I could tell there was a lot woven into this story. The problem was, there were some things that just didn't quite "click" to me. I was reading along, waiting for the "aha" moment. I didn't really ever get it. Can't say if that's the author's doing though, or mine.

This story had some elements that promised to make it interesting. There were interwoven stories, a plot that came together as you went, and some abstract thinking that had a slight psychological twist. When we hit the sci-fi, it borders somewhere between cool and odd, but it was unique, so it got points for that. 

The spacing between sections threw me off, though. We stayed so long with one character, that by the time we got to the next, I had already stopped caring about them. When I was with Hope, I wanted to just stay with her. When we were with Moses, I felt dragged away from another story to be there. It's hard to invest in characters when you're torn away from them after such a long time. I didn't really want to listen to Pastor Dave's sermons, because there were other, more interesting things happening. Then I struggled to figure out what the author was trying to do with Hope's story. It's like getting partway through the movie and someone switches to another channel. You kind of want to finish the one you're in first.

I think the biggest downfall for me as a reader was the Narratives thing. I think if you get what's happening, the story will start coming together at that point. I tried. I really did. But I don't think my brain quite put together all the blocks in the right places. Because I couldn't really make sense of what was being explained, as I kept reading, I felt more confused, rather than less. As things accelerated, I was still trying to fix a proverbial flat tire. 

That's not to say other people don't "get it". And that's not to say the whole book went over my head. There were a lot of good messages intermingled in this story. It was just a little hard to find, and a little hard to wait for. 

I think this is a good book for people who are patient. You need to be patient with the characters, the plot, and the author. It's not going to just instantaneously make sense. And for some people, sadly, it may never make sense. But I'll leave that for you as a reader to figure out. It's not that there isn't a lot here to be found. I just may not be talented enough for the scavenger hunt.



Monday, September 29, 2014

The Sixteen by Ali B.

The Sixteen
Author:  Ali B.
Publisher:  Dewey Larson
Pages: 161
Release Date: July 30th, 2014
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

There are people out there who don’t die with their bodies. Their souls live on in the bodies of others. Some good, some bad—they are soul jumpers. 

Nothing in Iris Brave’s world make sense anymore. Her father, Micah, is still alive—his soul survives in the body of a teenage boy. 

It is up to Iris and a group of soul jumpers called the Sixteen to save Micah. To do so Iris must take on the unscrupulous leaders of the Council. Can she save her father? Will she survive? 

This is the second book in the Soul Jumpers Series, and so far my favorite of the two that are out. While I have commented before on how short these books are, overall I have enjoyed them. Iris is a fairly likable character, and The Sixteen does answer a lot of questions from the first book. If you're not a cliffhanger person, I would recommend maybe waiting until a few of these are out so you don't have to sit in suspense for so long, but I think there is a lot of potential here. 

In this story, we get to see a bit more of the inner workings of the Sixteen and the Council. Plot twists didn't feel too predictable, which is always nice, and Iris felt her age, yet did seem to develop a little as the book went on. I liked some of the new characters, like Lewis, and found the story easy to read in one sitting. While these books are aimed at a younger market, I think it was a nice series to pick up if you're older but just looking for some lighter reading material.

While I can't comment much more on the story without getting into spoiler territory, I will probably keep this series on my radar. It's unique, engaging, and entertaining. The only real flaw is the books are all so short! Oh well, can't win them all.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Review Preview

Hello everyone! I know it's been a rather quiet month, but I finally have some days off from work, so keep an eye out for a new stack of book reviews on it's way. I have a couple beta reads to finish, so there may be some quiet days, but hopefully things will get back into a routine here soon.

The first review I'm working on is The Sixteen by Ali B. My review of the first book, Iris Brave, just went up this week. If you're interested in that series, I noticed the first book is on sale for 99cents currently. But the sale could end at anytime, so pick it up while you can.


Another upcoming review is This Languid Earth by Paul McCormack. (link


I also got a stunning book in the mail this week, Iron Sky Dread Eagle, which I am super excited to pick up. I'm an artist, so I never grew out of enjoying books with pictures in them. The art is pretty fantastic.


While I'd love to list every book I'm reading, I'll leave some suspense. Looking forward to sharing my thoughts in the upcoming weeks! What books are you excited to read next?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Iris Brave by Ali B.

Iris Brave
Author:  Ali B.
Publisher:  New Shelves Publishing Services
Pages: 184
Release Date: August 6th, 2013
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Iris Brave isn't as courageous as her name suggests. That's about to change. Iris doesn't take risks. Heights make her dizzy and she prefers to swim in the shallow end... with nose plugs. On a summer visit to her grandpa's farm, a mysterious stranger shadows Iris, leaving her cryptic messages. When this outsider turns out be a phantom from her family's past, Iris sheds her timid ways to uncover the truth and protect the family she loves. Along the way Iris discovers family secrets and enigmatic figures that lead her to question everything she's ever thought was real.

When I got the chance to review this book, the concept seemed pretty interesting. I've read my share of novels, but the Soul Jumping concept is still pretty unique. While the writing is young,  I did enjoy the book overall (Keep in mind, some YA books easily appeal to adults, this one would appeal in the Middle School market, so the writing may be a little simplistic to some readers). Length was something that was personally a bit short, but again, that fits the market. A combined edition with several books would probably help this appeal to older readers, that way the abrupt ending doesn't feel as sudden. Younger readers may find the length more manageable though. 

Migrating back to the actual story...this book follows Iris, who is visiting her grandpa when a guy in a hoodie starts leaving her messages. At the same time, she is starting to learn bits and pieces about her families past. While the pacing is nice in these sections, and I like the way things unravel, there were a few points where facts seemed to be thrown in a little too abruptly. Some of that is just context editing (a transition needed here, some dialog smoothing there), so it's hard to tell if later editions of this book would fix those problems. There were also some typos along the way, the most noticeable being missing quotation marks and a characters name being misspelled, but some of those things are typical for review copies, so they may get fixed in later editions. 

I found Iris likable as a character, although some of the secondary characters felt a little flat, especially towards the end. Hopefully the sequel will build on some of those things though, so I'm waiting to see what will happen. I liked Iris' family overall, and the pacing of the novel. The only real complaint I probably had was Iris' age made a few things feel a little questionable. I didn't feel like enough adults really questioned her traveling alone at times, and there were a few points things were said in narration that also didn't seem to match up with her character. (I don't know many kids who would identify a gap between someone's teeth as a result of refusing to wear a retainer after braces. Since the narration is so personal to the character, small things like that detracted from the story).

It is hard to give much feedback on this book because it's so short. By the time we get to the end, a lot of questions haven't quite been answered, but it is a good launching point for the next novel. I enjoyed what I've seen so far, but a bit of my commentary will probably be reserved for book two. If you have any younger readers around though, this may be one to keep in mind. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Niko by Kayti Nika Raet

Niko
Author:  Kayti Nika Raet
Publisher:  Self-Published
Pages: 205
Release Date: April 29th, 2013
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

One can live for several weeks without food but only a few days without water, a fact that seventeen year old Niko is only too aware of as she struggles to provide for her two younger brothers in a post-apocalyptic landscape where the rain burns like acid, food grows scarce, and any Slither that crosses her path is laid low before it can sink its teeth into her.

Then one night everything she's ever worked for, everything she's ever loved is consumed by a raging fire, leaving her with one brother dead, the other missing and herself gravely injured.

She's rescued by the Rose Circle, a rogue group of Slither hunters. They sneak her into Amaryllis City, a decadent metropolis where those able to afford the exorbitant entrance fee live a life of relative ease.

But for Niko, Amaryllis City is not the haven she grew up believing it would be, the deeper she delves the nastier it gets and when her unique abilities as a Slither hunter are discovered things get positively filthy.

All Niko ever wanted to do was find her baby brother but that's proving to be harder than she ever would have expected

So, I feel like I need to start this review off with some disclosure: while this book had a unique plot and was really interesting, it's rating did get knocked down for me upfront just because of some of the distracting punctuation problems. I normally try not to mark books down for things like grammar and formatting (because I know sometimes they just sneak past) but there were a number of areas in this book where commas were needed, periods were needed, and it was generally hard to read because punctuation wasn't handled properly. When the editing gets in the way of how readable a book is, it makes it less enjoyable, thus the lower rating. The good news there is editing is one of the easiest things to fix, so later editions may not have the problems I encounter. 

Plot wise, I thought the story was interesting. The deadly properties of water in this world pose some unique threats, although I'm not sure how plausible it is from a scientific basis. The explanation about why the rain was so deadly felt a little hand-waved to me, but it was executed well, and I liked how people adapted in this society. The characters were diverse, although some of the romantic elements between them felt a bit...I guess unrealistic? I felt like maybe in this society relationships were handled a little differently, or should have been handled differently, but I didn't have much to really help me understand that side of life. I guess I questioned how Niko should handle her interactions with the guys when her society is about survival. How would people deal with feelings and affection and kissing? Has it changed from our society? I felt like there were some unanswered questions there. 

The Slithers and the plot around them added some twists, and I did want to read more by the time I reached the end. The pacing of the book was good, although I did wish the book was longer. It didn't feel entirely necessary to stop at the cliffhanger, but that's just me. I'm not a fan of cliffhangers like that. 

Overall, I did like the story, but there were small things around the way that were distracting from it, if that makes sense. The plot was good, and the transitions were nice, which could make a strong story, but the punctuation tripped me up and then it made it feel like a beta read. The characters were interesting, and I wanted to get to know them, which was great, but then the romance felt strange and sometimes forced. The world felt unique, yet it wasn't quite fleshed out enough to feel believable. Because of these things, I would probably just put this book in a "too-soon" pile. It's not bad, but it needs some time to get edited and polished before it can stand up to it's competition. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Full Moon Rising by J.A.J. Hutchisson & J.L. Hutchisson

Full Moon Rising
Author:  J.A.J. Hutchisson & J.L. Hutchisson
Publisher:  Self-Published
Pages: 352
Release Date: August 29th, 2013
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

After receiving a terrifying prophecy, Constin Sal Tamind, an Elder Priest in the Heartfield Church, gathers his daughter and those close to him in an attempt to outrun destiny. From the moment he decides to run, trouble seems to follow him, starting with the army at his city's gates.

As they desperately flee from the werewolf destined to protect his daughter, Olesa Tamind, who will one day save the known world, their resolve will be tested, their faith will be challenged, and their freedom will be in jeopardy.

During the journey, they will come across an unexpected companion and in the end, fight a danger worse than what they had originally fled from.

Werewolf books can be a hit or a miss in the current market; it's really hard for me to say where this story fell for me. While some areas read cleanly and seemed interesting, I felt the story needed some context editing before it appeal to a lot of readers. Some dialog felt flat, some scenes had repetitive words, and other small things stood out along the way, which can be common with self-published work. The biggest thing that kept me from really enjoying this work, however, was that it fell into the rather typical mythology. Overall, there wasn't enough that felt unique to this story that engaged me as a reader.

With fantasy, I really like seeing something new, but the werewolves in this book were just your pretty typical, turn into a wolf-man at a full moon werewolves. It's hard to get past the sort of "same old" vibe that gives off. The characters felt a bit predictable, and Olesa was really impossible for me to believe as a character. You know when a character is just way too perfect and innocent yet mature for their age and holds the fate of the whole world etc. etc? I am just not a fan of that sort of story.

I don't want to say this was poorly written, because there are elements that will appeal to some readers. I'm probably just not one of them. The structure wasn't terrible, just some of the elements of the story turned me off. About half-way through I was pushing myself to keep going because I didn't feel like there was enough I was interested in. I just felt...bored. Maybe it was just the characters that felt a little cookie cutter to me. Priests who can't trust a guy because he's a monster, little innocent girl that is constantly in danger and needs saving, elves who think they're better than everyone... In the end, I just got stuck at "meh". 

I appreciate that the author gave me a chance to read their work, and other readers may take away something different. This just fell into the "not my cup of tea" category for me personally.




Sunday, September 14, 2014

Battle Not with Monsters by Overton Scott

Battle Not With Monsters
Author: Overton Scott
Publisher:  Good Heart Press
Pages: 360
Release Date: March 8, 2014
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Victim? Neen Ford is a loner, drifting from town to town, working as a security guard and teaching martial arts. One hot night in Dallas, she witnesses the brutal murder of a Ukrainian prostitute and becomes the killer’s next target. Neen’s never backed down from a fight, but she’s never tangled with a human trafficking ring before. Until now. Hero? Naïve young women are being trafficked into the United States by Russian criminals. Someone needs to help them. The police are trying, but they’re not moving fast enough for Neen, who is now being stalked by a man who enjoys inflicting pain. Vigilante? How far will Neen go to save herself? How far, to save three young women from a life of fear and suffering? And what price will she pay for battling the monster? There’s a thin line between hero and vigilante – will she cross it?

In books like this, more often than not women end up being the victims. Helpless damsels in distress wait for some tough guys to save them, or they are so manly and tough, they may as well just be men. What I loved about this book is Neen is believable: she's fit, trained in martial arts, but still feels fear when danger suddenly comes her way. She works two jobs, but still struggles a bit to stay afloat with her budget. She tries to eat well, but all her good habits don't keep her completely out of danger. This is a book about a confident woman who still has to make some tough decisions. I applaud it for steering around the character holes so many thrillers seem to throw out there. Neen was someone I could cheer for.

This book did get a little information heavy in some places, but I didn't mind it too much. We learned about self-defense. We learned about guns. We learned with Neen as she tries to avoid a killer who is out to get her. Neen doesn't just sit around and wait for the police to save her skin. While her actions may not be great from a role model point of view, it is fitting for her character. 

The only thing that felt a little lacking with this story was the roles of the problem solver guy, and the priest. While Neen was a strong character, I almost felt like these two men could have been lumped into one because they were introduced so close together. Had one come a little sooner, maybe I would have found their characters more believable. I am glad neither takes over the fight and turns Neen into a helpless victim, but I still felt they could have been fleshed out just a little bit more.

Overall, I was still really pleased with this story. Thank goodness for a strong female character who isn't just "one of the guys".



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New Job! Thanks for your patience!

Hi guys,

Just a note to let you know I am still alive. I have a handful of books I am ready to review in the next few days, I've just been a little delayed by work. I got a new job, and I'm working 9 and 10 hour days right now which has taken up a huge chunk of my reading time. I'm also finishing up a handful of beta reads. So thanks for hanging in there!

Because this weeks Top Ten Tuesday didn't interest me quite enough to participate in, here's a mini preview of some of the reviews I am cooking up next:


 

Friday, August 29, 2014

TBR Tag - My To-Be Read List

So, A Perfection Called Books made a fun TBR Tag post with some questions for other bloggers and readers to participate in. Since I'm finishing up a beta read and won't have a new review for you guys today, I thought I would share some of my answers to this little challenge. I don't really have many people to tag, but I'd love to see everyone's answers anyway! It's fun seeing what everyone is reading this year!


The Questions!


How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
I use Goodreads, as well as my Google Calendar. While Goodreads is great for putting books I'm just mildly interested and want to pick up someday, my Google Calendar organizes the upcoming books so I can actually keep a reading schedule.

Is your TBR mostly print or ebook?
It's sort of a mix. I have a lot of review requests come in as ebooks, so that takes up a good portion of the list, but I also buy random print books at thrift stores and get them from events, so there are still plenty of print editions. I put them in my list in the same format I own them. If it's just something I want to read and haven't bought yet, I usually just do the e-book version.

How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?
My Google Calendar knows all. I organize all the upcoming reviews and reads on that, and just pick which one is next. Sometimes something will REALLY catch my eye though and it cuts in line, so it's not a perfect system.

A Book That's Been On Your TBR List The Longest 


Oh dear lol. Uh, Clockwork Prince has been on my list since 2012. I actually own it, and started reading it once, but then college got crazy and I set it aside and apparently never got back to it. I keep meaning to, but then I move and it gets boxed back up... Lol I feel like this is reader shaming. I'm sorry poor little book! I didn't mean to neglect you!

A Book You Recently Added To Your TBR

So, Storm Siren was the most recent book on my list. Another blogger reviewed it, and I was actually pretty interested in giving it a shot, even after their thoughts. It had a really cool cover. What can I say? I'm a sucker for pretty things.


A Book In Your TBR Strictly Because Of Its Beautiful Cover
I love pretty things, so there are quite a few in my To-Read list based on their appearances (I'm an artist, what can I say? I really like pretty shiny things). This one was actually on there twice because I added it at two different times, so I think that's noteworthy. I really don't remember what it was about, all I know is I find the cover really striking.

A Book On Your TBR That You Never Plan on Reading
I've actually read it before, so I don't know why I put it in my TBR pile. I think I keep telling myself someday I'll re-read it because I can't remember what I liked about it. But the more new books I get, the farther down my list it seems to go.


An Unpublished Book On Your TBR That You’re Excited For
It's not on my Goodreads list, but it's still in my Google To-Read pile until she puts the info up ;). I am really excited to see where this story goes, since I think the few things I didn't like in the first book will finally be resolved. Elements is still in the works, but I am hoping to get my paws on it soon....


A Book On Your TBR That Basically Everyone’s Read
But You  I want to read it, but it costs so much! I was so bummed that it's like a $9 ebook. An ebook! *sigh* I may buy the print version, but it will have to wait until a good pay day. In the meantime, I will just wait while everyone else reads. *does not sulk* *okay, sulks*

A Book On Your TBR That Everyone Recommends To You
I own it, it's in my Nook. I'm waiting to buy the paperback when it comes out as well to complete my collection. But I know as soon as I read it I'm going to sulk because the next book isn't out yet, so I've starved myself from the story line for the sake of the greater good! Or, that's what I've told myself. I also sort of want to read it during November as my NaNoWriMo inspiration. So there is that also.

A Book On Your TBR That You’re Dying To Read
Also Cress. I really want to read it. >.> It's like a cookie, just sitting there... waiting for me...

How many books are on your Goodreads TBR shelf?
131 currently. That number is probably going to jump though in the next week when I start prowling the Goodreads giveaways again. *shifty eyes*

I Tag:
Jesikah Sundin 
And anyone who read this. : )