Saturday, June 28, 2014

Scattered Links by M. Weidenbenner

Scattered Links
Author:  M. Weidenbenner
Publisher:  Createspace
Pages: 256
Release Date: January 20th, 2014
Source: Received from the author in exchange for
an honest review

Scattered Links is a novel that pulls its characters from the gutters and, in the end, celebrates the tenacity of the human spirit. 

Thirteen-year-old Oksana lives on the streets of Russia with her pregnant mama and abusive aunt—both prostitutes. When Mama swells into labor, Oksana makes a decision to save herself from abandonment, a decision that torments her forever. But her plan fails when her aunt dumps her in an orphanage before she has the chance to say goodbye to her mama or tell her the secret that haunts her.

Scattered Links is a story of family and the consequences that come from never learning how to love, of a girl’s inability to bond with her adopted family and the frustrations that follow. 

How can a child understand the mechanics of forming a healthy relationship when she never had a mother who answered her cries, held her when she was frightened, fed her when she was hungry, or loved her unconditionally?

Only when the child meets a rescued abused horse, and recognizes the pain in his eyes, does she begin to trust again.

Scattered Links is a story that tackles some tough issues, and manages to bring a level of warmth and hope into the mix even if things don't turn out perfectly. The story follows Oksana, and her struggles through poverty until she finds her new home in America. 

The story is really touching, but it is also very "real". You can tell the author really understands these kids and the trials they go through changing cultures and finding new homes. There are small details that really shows the author has experience with adoptions like this and has done her research, from the culture shocks to the small things like saving food after a meal. 

The writing can be a little different, and it takes some patience in some areas. Since Oksana isn't from America, the words and language can feel clipped and the sentence structure is stylized to fit Oksana's voice. There were a few times the idioms and gradual adaptation to an American way of speaking felt distracting to me, but I think it showed her growing process in the end and at least had a good purpose. 

I liked the twists in the story, and I felt Oksana developed well as a character. I did feel it was hard to gauge the growth of the other characters though because of the very personal first perspective. Sometimes I wanted to know more of what they were thinking or feeling, but that's just a personal preference. 

Altogether this was a very well done book with a touching story line.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Travel Glasses by Chess Desalls

Travel Glasses
Author:  Chess Desalls
Publisher:  Czidor Lore, LLC
Pages: 214
Release Date: May 7th, 2014
Source: Received from the author in exchange for
an honest review

When an ethereal being knocks Calla to the ground near her family’s lakeside cottage, Valcas helps her to escape by traveling to another place and time. At first, Calla is as intrigued by the otherworldly Valcas as she is by his method of time travel: an altered pair of sunglasses that enable the wearer to search for anyone or anywhere in the past, present or future. That is until she suspects that his search for her was no mere coincidence.

With her trust broken, Calla sets off on her own, taking the Travel Glasses with her. Torn between searching for her estranged father and reuniting with the rest of her family, she tracks down the inventor of the Travel Glasses in hopes of discovering more about Valcas’ past and motivations. With Valcas hot on her trail, Calla hopes to find what she’s looking for before he catches up.

Time travel, a little romance, some mystery and adventure, Travel Glasses has the elements to be a good start to a series. There were some disappointments for me as a reader, but I feel like there is potential in perhaps following books in this series. 

To be honest, I had some trouble reading Travel Glasses. While the premise was interesting, one of my big tests with any sci-fi novel is believability, and there were many areas where the story really didn’t pass that test. I mean, after being back-stabbed by an online friend, Calla abandons all technology from the betrayal. Yet some random guy knocks her over, asks her to dinner and she says yes? It didn't add up to me, and continued to bother me as the story continued. If she had her trust broken that badly, she should be suspicious of strangers more than ever. Plus, her captivation with Valcas really felt shallow and unwarranted to me. It just felt like this random hot guy drops from the sky, and Calla turns into a zombie letting him take her away with his time traveling glasses. I really had trouble rooting for Calla when she seemed like she was making terrible judgment calls from the start.

Don’t get me wrong though, the book itself wasn’t bad. Travel Glasses is easy to read, and it seems like it would be appealing to the YA market. But there was something missing in the character motivation for me. She doesn't develop caution and question her actions until much later in the story. Some of the elements of this story were interesting, like how people in the past react to a time traveler, but it wasn't my favorite take on time traveling because there were still unanswered questions. There were also too many cases where things felt really coincidental. If it's hard for you to suspend your disbelief, this may be a tough read.

I think I would read the sequel, just to see how some of the plot lines work out, but I don't think it was for everyone. The story gets more engaging near the end, but it didn't quite captivate me like I was hoping. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Blue Fire by Janice Hardy

Blue Fire
Author:  Janice Hardy
Publisher:  Baltzer + Bray
Pages: 336
Release Date: October 1st, 2010
Source: Oyster Book Subscription Service

Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.

Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer— if she doesn’t destroy it first.

Blue Fire is the second installment in the Healing Wars books. While I really enjoyed the first book, The Shifter, I will admit Blue Fire left a little to be desired. 

Nya's powers have continued to develop since book one, and she is struggling as she tries to use her new abilities in the right way. But things don't really go as planned with the Duke and his people continually hunting her and other Takers. 

What I had trouble with in this book was the distance I felt with the minor characters in this story. I hoped we would get to know the supporting cast a bit better, but the world really felt like it revolved around Nya. I didn't feel like anyone really developed between book one and book two, and it made it hard to really engage at times in the story. Run away, get captured, fight back, save people. Somehow some of these elements felt a little robotic, rather than exciting like the first book. Maybe I was just expecting something a little different. I just didn't feel as captivated as I did readingThe Shifter

Regardless, I enjoy Janice Hardy's writing, and I felt like there was enough new material to make a exciting conclusion in the final book. I don't feel like the book was bad, I just know it didn't quite meet the expectations I had. I still like Nya and her friends, and eagerly wait the conclusion.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Minutes Before Sunset by Shannon A. Thompson

Minutes Before Sunset
Author:  Shannon A. Thompson
Publisher:  AEC Stellar Publishing
Pages: 247
Release Date: May 1st, 2014
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an 
honest review.

She was undoubtedly a shade, but I didn’t know her.

Eric Welborn isn’t completely human, but he isn’t the only shade in the small Midwest town of Hayworth. With one year left before his eighteenth birthday, Eric is destined to win a long-raging war for his kind. But then she happens. In the middle of the night, Eric meets a nameless shade, and she’s powerful—too powerful—and his beliefs are altered. The Dark has lied to him, and he’s determined to figure out exactly what lies were told, even if the secrets protect his survival.

He had gotten so close to me—and I couldn’t move—I couldn’t get away.

Jessica Taylor moves to Hayworth, and her only goal is to find more information on her deceased biological family. Her adoptive parents agree to help on one condition: perfect grades. And Jessica is distraught when she’s assigned as Eric’s class partner. He won’t help, let alone talk to her, but she’s determined to change him—even if it means revealing everything he’s strived to hide.

Minutes Before Sunset is a captivating book that follows two characters: Eric and Jessica, and a world that has a conflict between the Light and the Dark. Eric is the First Descendant, sided with the dark, and destined to fight the Second Descendant, who is sided with the light. Jessica is new in town, and quickly becomes caught in the middle. 

The book has action, a little suspense and some romance, and felt like it gave a promising introduction to future stories. The premise is interesting, although I will admit I found some of the facts a bit muddy throughout the book, but we'll get to that in a few minutes. The characters themselves were easy to connect with. While Eric/Shoman is somewhat distant and aloof after the loss he's faced in life, Jessica strikes me as being hopeful, full of life and searching for herself as much as her birth parents. I didn't feel like Eric was overly mopey, which can happen in stories like these, and I didn't feel like Jessica and him connected too quickly, which is also a plus. The story was easy to read, the dialog and settings felt natural. Overall I was quite taken with the book and the way it was pieced together.

While I enjoy learning more as series progress, I felt this story had some areas where a little world building would have helped me. This is probably the biggest flaw about this book in my eyes. I never really felt like I understood what the Light and Dark really were, and why it existed. Near the end we started to get some answers, but I didn't really feel it was clear. I just felt like something was missing and unclear, and I wanted a better grounding in the world the author had created.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

Hi everyone! Today I had the lovely opportunity to participate in a writing process blog tour. I was invited by the lovely Jesikah Sundin.

Jesikah is a sci-fi/fantasy author. Many of you may recognize her first novel, Legacy, which I reviewed earlier in the year. [link] She is currently working on the next installment of The Biodome Chronicles, which I was thrilled to hear. I hope you guys keep an eye out for it just like I am!

When I read Jesikah's work, it was hard not to fangirl a little when I came across mentions to one of my favorite television shows. While the mention was subtle, it eventually came a point of conversation that let us share our experiences as writers. It's always fun to share what you're working on and how you tackle things, which is why I thought this blog tour was so great. Hopefully you enjoy the break from book reviews for a moment, and enjoy hearing a little about writing as well.

The Questions and Answers
1. What am I working on?
I am currently working on two novels, actually, but those are really just the 'active' projects. I have a little graveyard of half-started novels that gets picked through from time to time, depending on my motivation. There is a werewolf story in there I tucked away when the market got crazy, and another fantasy work that I started turning into a graphic novel instead. I never get rid of old ideas, but I sometimes wait until the right time to tackle them. 

The two big projects I have are a steampunk nove,l and the sequel to my urban fantasy, Archipelago. Confluence is book two of The Lantern Project, and I am about 30,000 words in, gunning for a release between December and February. My steampunk novel, Silverline City, manages to cut ahead of other projects from time to time, and it's about halfway done. While Confluence is due for release first, Silverline City is hot on it's heels. I try to keep them in that order, but sometimes motivation changes best laid plans.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I think my work differs because I love dynamic characters. I really try to know every character in my book. It's one thing to know their name or their powers, but I really love getting to know my characters histories and motivations. I could probably write a mini-novel for every character in my story if I wanted to, and that appeals to me. I used to tell myself that "every person is the main character in their own story". What that means is in real life, no one is a minor character, and I wanted to feel like my characters always had a chance to grow and adapt, even if it wasn't in the pages of my book.

I spend a lot of time building the worlds I write in. Since I'm an artist and an author, I make all my own blueprints, character art, book covers and I even made my own website. It is time consuming to do everything myself, but I know nothing ever strays from my vision. Hopefully, people get a sense of that.

3. Why do I write what I do?
I'm a sucker for superpowers, for one, so almost every book I write has superhuman elements to them. And I love dystopians because there is an element of 'what if' to them. I don't write much pure fantasy because it eleminates a lot of the 'rules' that comes with fiction grounded in our world. It's easy to hand wave unknowns as magic or a similar force, but urban fantasy or similar novels make you question how. I want things to feel possible and I writes stories that seem to embrace that.

I write the genres I do because they question problems but the solutions feel within our reach. Themes are unlikely, but it gives you the hope to dream a bit. I write to fuel those sparks of hope. 

4. How does my writing process work?
I sit, I write. 

Okay, maybe not that simple. 

I usually smash out a good three chapters of any-book I write before I actively do any planning about where it could go. Often, this takes place during NaNoWriMo, when I can just toss out a rough draft and not feel embarrassed by it. After I reach a certain point, I start asking the questions, and that's when the documents and the papers come out. I fill up files and folders on my computers with reference pictures, character biographies, and random thoughts I jot down. Gradually, I start letting the book show me the world it exists in. I write much like I do art, starting with a splot of detail, then letting the canvas fill in around that. Some areas are sketchier than others, some aren't filled it, but I like to get the vivid details down first. Most people outline, but I don't think I ever wrote an outline for a book. I just write and let it happen, and deal with revision later.

Once I have a complete novel, then I do several rounds of editing. Sometimes I toss out giant chunks of writing for one reason or another. Refining can take almost as much time as writing, because I have to whittle down to the core story that emerged. Once I think I've found that, I send it to my editor and we start doing some more precise editing work. However my writing doesn't just stay within a word document or a set project.

I do literature roleplay on the sides , and I find this is also helpful in addition to my professional writing. Working with other authors and writers to construct the same story lets you relinquish some of the control you typically find in writing, and challenges you to write better. Working on side-stories in role-play is an important part of my process to me, because it lets me bounce my writing off others. You don't have to be social to be a social writer. I think every author really just needs an outlet to share with other writers, otherwise their voice becomes static and it's hard to keep an upward trajectory.

Anyway, that's sort of my process, Thanks for swinging by to take a look at it. Since all the authors I wanted to tag already did this tour early on, I don't have anyone new to send you to. But I hoped you enjoyed taking a peak at my writing process anyway!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Guest Post: Kayti Nika Raet

Hi guys! Today we have a guest post from author Kayti Nika Raet. Kayti is the author of Niko, a YA dystopian novel I will be reviewing later this month. To find out more about her book, follow this fancy little link to Goodreads: Fancy Link!.

Otherwise, keep reading for her post!

Guest Post: What If?
Recently, I was reading What If? Which is an exercise book for fiction writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. One of the exercises in there is called Three by Three and has a premise that I think is really useful (not to mention fun).

It requires you to break a story down into three sentences, three words long. It can be any story.
A fairy tale,

Queen hates girl
Queen gives apple
Girl falls asleep

A favorite story,

Demon loves angel
War comes between
Does love survive?

Or one of your own,

Girl kills monsters
City wants power
Girl brings revolution

Of course such simplistic summaries can't tell the complete story and some books are way too complicated to even be broken down into a three by three format but whether you are a writer or a reader it is a really helpful way of getting to the bare bones of a story and revealing some of its most important aspects. Try it with some of your favorite books and see what you come up with, you may be surprised ( I would try it with Game of Thrones but someone is bound to die and mess up my careful structure).

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Unsung Melody by Jasmine Bowen

Unsung Melody
Author:  Jasmine Bowen
Publisher:  Rascal Hearts
Pages: 150
Release Date: January 23rd, 2014 
Source: Kindle

Bard's Tale is the most successful musical theater company around, complete with paparazzi and world tours. Benedict, the younger male lead, is on top of the world, with girls in his bed every night, and all the best roles. His best friend, Jana, is Bard's Tale only regular female lead, and they have played opposite each other for 10 years, particularly close since tragedy struck the company and Ben's heart. But now, Jana is leaving, and the company has turned to reality TV to find a new lead. Ben is confident he will hate every choice, until he hears her sing. 

Melody is a community theater actress with big dreams, and a special place in her heart for Bard's Tale and Benedict. She has idolized both of them since she was young, and can't believe she is selected to audition for the show. But as the episodes go on, she finds herself at the center of Ben's unnecessary harsh judgement. Some-days, he's wonderful to her and some-days, he's cold as ice. What is it causing this change of heart, and can she turn it around, before it's too late?

Unsung Melody was one of the books I have picked up for free during an Amazon promotion, and I was really pleased with the find. The story follows Melody, a hopeful performer who entered the competition to become a member of Bard's Tale, and I found the story just the right mix of romance, drama, and fun. 

I may not be a performer, but I probably watch more musicals than is healthy for me. It was really fun picking up this novel and being able to laugh at some of the jokes and smile at some of the plays mentioned. While it initially sounded like pure romance, which may disappoint some people, I like that this story felt like a little "slice-of-life" as well. Part of the story was just about an actress trying to find her way. I don't think I would have enjoyed it as much if it was just about the hunky co-performer you are already guessing she'll end up with.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and may pick up the sequel just to see what happens next. Came for the romance, stayed for the great story in the end.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Exodus 2022 by Kenneth G. Bennett

Exodus 2022
Author:  Kenneth G. Bennett
Publisher:  Booktrope Publishing
Pages: 420
Release Date: May 20th, 2014
Source: Received from author in exchange for an 
honest review

Eco, sci-fi, thriller EXODUS 2022:

"Bennett, after a neat Dean Koontz–style curtain-raiser, keeps raising the stakes… Deft storytelling and a riptide of action propel this cataclysmic narrative." --KIRKUS REVIEWS

IS HE LOSING HIS MIND-- OR HIS WORLD? Joe Stanton is in agony. Out of his mind over the death of his young daughter. Unable to contain his grief, Joe loses control in public, screaming his daughter’s name and causing a huge scene at a hotel on San Juan Island in Washington State. Thing is, Joe Stanton doesn't have a daughter. Never did. And when the authorities arrive they blame the 28-year-old’s outburst on drugs. What they don’t yet know is that others up and down the Pacific coast—from the Bering Sea to the Puget Sound—are suffering identical, always fatal mental breakdowns. With the help of his girlfriend, Joe struggles to unravel the meaning of the hallucination destroying his mind. As the couple begins to perceive its significance—and Joe’s role in a looming global calamity—they must also outwit a billionaire weapons contractor bent on exploiting Joe’s new-found understanding of the cosmos, and outlast the time bomb ticking in Joe’s brain. 

"I'm not usually a sci-fi thriller enthusiast. But Kenneth G. Bennett has set this on-the-edge-of-your-seat story in the Great Pacific Northwest where I make my home. After reading EXODUS 2022, this place will never look quite the same. His best yet."--Rebecca Wells, author of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and other novels.

Suspense, drama, and an underlying grain of truth, Exodus 2022 was a fast-paced read that kept you tethered until the end. Filled with dynamic characters and a unique story-line, this was a read that was easy to engage in and hard to put down. 

While it's hard to review this book without giving much away, there was a lot I enjoyed about it. The plot seemed well thought out, and the messages were clear without being over-the-top. I have read a number of "End of the World" novels, but this book was unique in the sense that the scenario felt unlikely, but the core warnings were all too real. 

I liked the characters, and I liked watching how both the protagonists and antagonists developed along the way. There were times the chapters felt a little fragmented, but after awhile the book's snappy speed took away some of those concerns. The writing was well done, it was easy to engage in and it felt well researched. Overall, this was a great book, and one that keeps you thinking long after the last page.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hector Trogg's Perfect World by P.A. Booth

Hector Trogg's Perfect World
Author: P.A. Booth
Publisher:  Abas UK Ltd
Pages: 456
Release Date: July 1st, 2014
Source: Received in exchange for an honest review

The book is about a bored schoolboy who daydreams of aerial dogfights and tank battles. An inheritance leads to his dreams becoming reality, and this impulsive boy causes more damage and destruction than the assassin pursuing him. Yet, it is his annoying sister who is the real hero.

The book is YA, adventure, comedy - no profanity or erotica. It has a fast plot, the complications of a dog and a cat, as well as lots of incident and humour.

Here's the blurb . . .

A brother and sister - An inheritance - An assassin

Through every boring day of school Hector Trogg dreamt of adventure. He wanted to fly a fighter plane, drive a tank, and leap from burning buildings. An unusual inheritance and the world's most feared killer turn Hector's daydreams into reality.

While Hector's family struggle to stay alive with the help of French special forces, Hector and his sister Kate carve a trail of destruction, aided by a dog called Bandit. The French fight for justice. The dog fights for the turkey.

Can Hector save the day?

Can Kate rescue Hector?

Can Dad save lunch?

Hector Trogg's Perfect world is unique book aimed at young readers. While many books for this age range seem short, and the series eventually feel repetitive, Hector Trogg is exciting both for the young, and the young at heart.

To be honest, this isn't a book I would typically pick up on my own. It seemed like it would appeal to a younger audience, and while I read YA, the age of the characters made me hesitate. Once I started reading, however, I was glad I gave it a chance. The story isn't just a book for 'kids'. It has elements that would appeal to those much older, and while there is plenty of adventure and humor, some of the challenges the characters deal with bring a maturity to this story I feel is missing in a lot of novels in this age range. 

I had the chance to listen to the audio book, and it traveled with me on several car rides. P.A. Booth is a wonderful narrator, and I could really imagine parents sitting down and sharing this with their kids. It made me a little sad I didn't have kids of my own to share this with, because I was sure they would find it entertaining. 

While the story itself was very engaging, there were a few areas where, as an adult, I was perhaps not as open to as a kid might have been. Some of the scenes with the airplanes and tanks are good for an adventure story, but I did think it venture out of the realistic setting. I'm big on books like this pushing boundaries, but still feeling believable, and some of Hector's accomplishments seemed to cross the line. I do understand a younger audience would enjoy this larger-than-life figure though, so I gave that some leeway.

Overall, this was a good book and I had fun listening to it on all my car rides. Well-written, engaging and willing to tackle hard subjects, I enjoyed the story and see promise in the books to come.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Shifter by Janice Hardy

The Shifter
Author: Janice Hardy
Publisher:  Harperteen
Pages: 370
Release Date: October 1st, 2009
Source: Oyster Book Subscription Service

Nya is an orphan struggling for survival in a city crippled by war. She is also a Taker—with her touch, she can heal injuries, pulling pain from another person into her own body. But unlike her sister, Tali, and the other Takers who become Healers' League apprentices, Nya's skill is flawed: She can't push that pain into pynvium, the enchanted metal used to store it. All she can do is shift it into another person, a dangerous skill that she must keep hidden from forces occupying her city. If discovered, she'd be used as a human weapon against her own people. 

Rumors of another war make Nya's life harder, forcing her to take desperate risks just to find work and food. She pushes her luck too far and exposes her secret to a pain merchant eager to use her shifting ability for his own sinister purposes. At first Nya refuses, but when Tali and other League Healers mysteriously disappear, she's faced with some difficult choices. As her father used to say, principles are a bargain at any price; but how many will Nya have to sell to get Tali back alive?

The Shifter is an engaging read that's easy to pick up and finish in one sitting. The plot flows well and the characters, at least to me, felt believable. 

Nya was born with an ability she has to hide, but I like that it's because her powers are 'flawed', not because she has them at all. While many people can take pain and put it into pynvium, Nya can send this pain into others. The emotional struggles such an ability creates make the plot captivating to me. What would you do if you could take another persons pain? What would you do if you could then pass it on?

Nya isn't perfect as a heroine. She makes some choices right, the others wrong. She doesn't save everyone, but she tries her best to make the right decisions. In the end, she has to live with the consequences. It isn't a perfect ending, and it leads into future books without feeling like an unnecessary cliffhanger. I appreciate a book that leaves room for growth and doesn't feel too dense.

Nya's powers develop at an acceptable rate to me, which was another plus. While I've been frustrated in the past with books because characters feel overpowered, at least for now Nya seemed to fit the powerset she was given. The other characters aren't as fleshed out as her, perhaps, but I did feel Nya herself was dimensional. I also did see the potential for growth in the future without having too much in this first segment. 

Overall, I look forward to reading the next few books in the series. Not going to lie, they may have cheated their way up my reading list. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Experimental Heart: Pieces by Shannon Pemrick

Experimental Heart: Pieces
Author: Shannon Pemrick
Publisher:  Self-Published
Pages: 740
Release Date: December 4th, 2014
Source: Received from author in exchange for an 
honest review

"...Do you know what it's like to kill without regret?"

Eira only knew one thing in life. To kill. Designed to be an emotionless killing machine of war she had no desire to be a puppet of another's master plan. Escape was the only option. A normal, free life was the only goal. Labeled as a failure, she took the opportunity to run and was hunted.

"...Do you know what it's like to kill without being able to feel?"

Now given a second chance at life thanks to a mysterious dragon, Eira is forced to make a crucial decision. Accept his help to gain her desired freedom or keep running with an eye over her shoulder.

"...Do you know what it's like to live in hell?"

But, can she really trust him?

"...Didn't think so..."

Experimental Heart: Pieces is a well-thought out book that clearly has more story to tell. With a rich world, interesting characters, and an action filled story, there is a lot of promise in this novel. Eira is a interesting narrator, and her relationship with Radikidan develops slowly as the story progresses. I liked the world and the setting, and would be interested to see where it would go from here.

I did feel like there were places the story dragged a bit, and sometimes the rich detail felt unnecessary. Personally I don't need to know every outfit the characters wear, and some scenes felt a little distracting from the main story line. There was a training sequence in particular that seemed to take up a large segment of the book and I felt it could have been shortened, and there were other areas where a little trimming might have helped with flow. I can tell the author put a lot of work into the story, but sometimes, details can be distracting if they aren't entirely relevant. There were also a few places where the narrator changed, and perspective shifts always bug me when you're dealing with first perspective, but that's a personal pet peeve. 

I liked the characters for the most part. I felt they were dimensional and believable. There were times I got a little frustrated though with Radikidan. He felt a little like a scapegoat for explanations, and while he was curious and it helped fill the reader in on the story, I wanted to hear a little of Eira's back story in narration. It felt odd having so many details in the dialog.

Overall, the story was engaging, and while long, there was plenty to fill the pages.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Holy Delays, Batman!

Hi guys! Just an update, I'm still alive out here in cyberspace! Sorry for the lack of posting these past few days, I've been crazy busy with a few unexpected art projects that wedged themselves into my schedule. I am still reading as quickly as possible, and am trying my best to catch up this next week. I apologize for my neglect, it's just been long days and little time to sit down and formulate coherent thoughts.

I appreciate your patience and understanding, hopefully I will have a new review for you within a few days. In the meantime, I am still looking for guest posts from authors. If you're interested, give me an e-mail!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Second on the Right by Elizabeth Los

This week we have a special post for the promotion of Second on the Right by Elizabeth Los. 

Author Bio:
Elizabeth uses writing as therapy, her release from everyday stress. At night, after work and once the children are finally tucked in bed, for the fifth time, she sits at her laptop and lets her imagination flow.
Elizabeth has produced short stories, one of which will be published in an anthology. She’s had fun writing a Sherlock Holmes fan fiction story, A Case of Need, based on the BBC’s Sherlock. By July 2011, her first novel, Second on the Right, had been completed. She spent several years polishing the story in order to provide a high quality product to the public. Second on the Right is her first professional novel.

Author Links:
Twitter: @SantaFlash

Book Links:
ISBN-10: 1492340480
ISBN-13: 978-1492340485
eBook ISBN-13: 978-1310988455
Amazon: Coming May 9th!
Barnes & Noble:

Audio Excerpt:

(In case code doesn’t work) Actual Link:

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Here we stop for a quick lesson in nature.

Saltwater crocodiles can range from seven to nine meters long. The head is quite large, with a heavy set jaw that contains numerous amounts of teeth. A pair of ridges runs from its eyes down the center of its snout. The crocodile is covered in oval shaped scales like bony plates.

In Second on the Right, the crocodile is a particular species of saltwater crocodile considered to be extremely intelligent and sophisticated. Communicable noises consists of barks, ticks, hisses and growls.

A strong swimmer, it is not uncommon to see these crocodiles in open water very far from land. As is their nature, saltwater crocodiles hide in the water, exposing only the eyes and nose and are commonly found on the coasts of Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia and India.

The ticks of the crocodile in Second on the Right are especially noticeable. No doubt it  was for this reason that the pirates likened it to the sound of a clock. Some might go so far as to say that the crocodile symbolizes death, lurking in the shadows, waiting as life’s years tick on.

Nah! It’s just a crocodile, a pawn used to satisfy Pan’s insatiable desire to torment Captain Hook.

Care to learn about the largest crocodile ever found? Take a look at this article from the National Geographic. A crocodile, named Lolong, was over twenty feet (over six meters) in length.

Second on the Right
Author: Elizabeth Los
Publisher: Createspace
Pages: 506
Release Date: May 9th, 2014
Source: Received from author in exchange for an honest review.

Spawned from an ancient promise, treachery and intrigue follow the protagonists through our world and one lost to the waves. Bound by an invisible bond, they are thrust into a fantastical world of pirates and demons.

James Benedict is a just man haunted by evil. Pushed to the edge, everything stripped from him, a new man arises . . . a man whose name strikes fear into the hearts of all who hear it: "Captain Hook".

Eileen Davis was a timid woman. Through a fateful cruise she finds herself in the company of the Captain of the Mistral Thief. With his guidance, and the meddling of the local barista, she eventually finds her inner strength.

Will the two of them unite through time to fulfill the promise of their ancestors or will tempers ignite leading all to failure?

True love's magic is not to avoid changes,
But to navigate them successfully.

It is often difficult to take on a classic story and give it a new twist. Is is especially difficult to tackle a story that has been redone more than once, and done well. Despite the challenges, I feel like Elizabeth Los did well adding something new to the timeless tale of Peter Pan, and this time traveling adventure on the high sea was worth the read in the end.

I'll be honest, Second On the Right had a lot to live up to in my book. I watched Disney's Peter Pan (1 and 2), the live action movie Hook with Robin Williams, as well as Finding Neverland and all the different Pixie Hallow movies with my sister. I've read the original story (although that was quite a while back), and seen so many twists on this story I have become a bit hard to impress when it comes to Peter Pan. Yet, I was won over in the end by this gradual transformation of the character Captain Hook, and the almost Folk Lore-ish take on Pan himself. I like retellings like this, to be honest. You can see where the story 'came from' but it has a fresh new element to it.

I like seeing Pan as a villain, honestly. He was always portrayed as this boyish hero ready to rescue children from the trials of adulthood. But this story shapes that into something more sinister, and the brainwashing carelessness is a great change from traditional avenues. I also like Eileen's part in the story. Hook finally has motivation, and someone fighting alongside him. While most stories turn Hook into this singular villain, this story allowed him to be human as well. 

Captain Benedict was interesting, but his place in the story felt a little confusing to me. He seems really important in the beginning, and then it just feels like it's accomplished, and he's gone. I wanted more resolution with him I guess. 

The time traveling aspect did create several questions for me I didn't feel were really answered by the end of the story. Maybe I just missed the wrap up somewhere. I was also confused by the poetry in the book and the way it suddenly appears and then ends again. Overall, just a few critiques, but overall a well-done story. 

Review Questions and Answers

1. Where did the poem segments come from? Did you write them all at once, or as you went along? What made you choose to add them?
The poems were actually just an experiment. I wasn’t sure how it would be accepted by beta readers, but I wanted a way to drop hints about what was going on. I treated them like a summary, separated from the story. I wrote them as I went along.

2. What made you choose Peter Pan? Did you ever feel intimidated tackling such a well known character like Captain Hook? How did you choose a modern 'starting point' for him (what made you pick James, his career, ect?)
I love Captain Hook, always have. When I first discovered the story, I was cheering for him. My love for this character isn’t the same as my fondness for Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is a character that I feel intimidated by and can’t imagine ever writing a story for him. But Hook, for me, is different. I felt he wasn’t justly served, especially with his portrayal in Disny’s Peter Pan.

I made him CEO of a shipping company for a few reasons: 1) He’s highly intelligent. If he can manage the Jolly Roger, surely he could handle a company. 2) I made it a shipping company as a nod to his captaincy of the Jolly Roger. 3) I named the company Just A Second, aka JAS, which was a nickname Barrie gave to Hook in the original story. Of course, in the original story, he also noted that “James Hook” was not his true name, but that no one knew what his true name was. That gave me enough room to work with and thus I named him James Benedict.

3. We see James as a thicker in this story, which seems to set him apart as a villain. The other pirates seem to just be pure ruthless. Is this something you drew from other sources or an idea you came up with as you went along.
I imagined that if he grew up a pirate, that would be all he knew. But if he had started somewhere else and was thrown into the pirate situation, he’d act completely different. Though Robert and James come from the same family like, they are nearly complete opposites in some respects. Was that due to upbringing, environment, time period, personality or genetics? That’s always been an interesting thought to me.
In Barrie’s story, there were some fearsome pirates, such as Cecco and Jukes. Even Starkey had to be a ruthless pirate. After all, he had attempted a mutiny against Hook, both in the original and in Second on the Right. In both instances, it didn’t end well for him.
I’ve seen all sorts of pirate movies and have read all sorts of pirate stories. Pirates range from pure evil or ruthless, or misunderstood (ha!). For the Jolly Roger crew, I wanted a typical pirate represented. But I needed James to stand out among them.

4. Where did the idea for Eileen come from, as well as Hook having a family?
I wanted a really flawed character. From that thought came Eileen. She only truly comes into her own when she is truly needed. Otherwise, she seems to fall back into her old habits.
As for Hook having a family, I had that idea from the very beginning. Why would Hook be so angry with Pan for cutting off his right hand? Yeah, it would be awful, but would he be so blinded by rage from that alone? I didn’t think so. I imagined there had to have been something more to it than just the loss of a limb. Hook must have had a family, at least a wife and perhaps a child, all of which was taken from him.

5. What made you shape Wendy and her brothers into such minor characters in the end?

Don’t shoot the author :)  Honestly, I never cared for Wendy or her brothers. So when I developed Second on the Right, I wanted to make it obvious that they weren’t anything special, that there were many more before and after them. One reader said they were amused by my portrayal of Wendy. Perhaps I was a bit too harsh? In Barrie’s story, when Wendy first takes in the sight of Hook, she isn’t afraid but ”entranced”. Thus, I wrote James as very tolerant of Wendy, but up to a point. There’s only so much a man can stand and even less when you factor in Hook’s temper.