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...


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: 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.