Book Review: Greek Key by K.B. Spangler

 

GK Cover

Buy it HERE from K.B.’S A Girl and Her Fed Store (I imagine she gets more for it here).

Buy it HERE on Amazon (Because sometimes it is simply easier)

So, I have talked about the A Girl and Her Fed universe before. If you read any of my reviews about the Rachel Peng books, then you will be running into some familiar faces here.

We have Speedy and Hope as the primary protagonists this time around. Rachel’s not the focus here and we are, instead, introduced to the universe through Hope’s eyes and seeing her try to solve a mystery that has a lot more to do with the origins of how OACET and the ghosts work in the A Girl and Her Fed universe.

I’m not spoiling much in this review, but if you haven’t read A Girl and Her Fed yet, you might want to back out and go read it before you read on because some of this will go into spoilage as to how the rules of the Universe there work.

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The main mystery revolves around an artifact, a piece of the Antikythera mechanism, that is commented on in both the comic and in the Peng novels. They have a piece of a machine that is out of place and out of time for the development of the period. Hope, Speedy, and the Ghost of Benjamin Franklin (I’m not sure if that’s a title or not…maybe I’ll tweet the author to ask) have been discussing the limits of how a ghost can work and how time flows in the A Girl And Her Fed (AGAHF for short) universe.

It boils down to this: ghosts can move backward and forward in time. However, this requires a great deal of power. A ghost gets its power from his/her effect on the world. Also, a ghosts power appears to be limited to the culture in which it was created. This means that most ghosts are quite limited in their power.  Benjamin Franklin’s ghost is very powerful in the United States (as are the other ghosts of the Founding Fathers. And Lincoln…oh dear lord, Lincoln). However, when Hope travels outside of the U.S., Franklin can’t follow / can’t manifest  (side-note: given his years in Europe, I wonder if he can manifest there as well…).

We already know from AGAHF that Franklin can time travel. He did it to help Hope play the stock market so she didn’t have to focus on gaining money and could instead prepare for the coming of OACET and Sparky and a few other slightly more world shattering elements coming to the U.S. (and the world) than whether or not she could pay the bills.  Of course she originally thought he was a drug induced hallucination, but that would be getting off topic and into AGAHF rather than Greek Key.

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I’ll just leave this here as an explanation Image is Copyright (C) K.B. Spangler

 

The point being, his power lets him jump forward in time and, unlike many ghosts, he can bring back elements of what he finds in the future. In the comic, he brings back a ring that is linked to OACET so she can call in help from Sparky whenever she needs it. This takes a tremendous amount of power and the ring is only a small thing.

The mechanism piece? It’s a bit bigger. Which means a lot more power would be needed. Not only that, but we’re looking at a time jump that would make Doc Brown jealous.

And without a DeLorean.

Or a Flux Capacitor.

This machine piece that they have found, however, appears to have come from someone a bit more…universal. Think mathematics. Like Universal mathematics.

It’s Archimedes. Yes, that Archimedes.

I told you it was Universal Mathematics.

This has everyone baffled and a bit worried as it was found in a stash that was being supervised by the main antagonist of AGAHF.

Hope, being one of the few who knows the ghost connection in OACET, decides to investigate and she takes along Mike. The pair are psychic and are able to use that ability to tap into the ghost spectrum – though neither is particularly good at it. You do what you can with what you have.

Then we run into an archaeologist, Atlas, (who’s probably not on the up-and-up) and his sister, Darling (who’s definitely not on the up-and-up) and they get involved in examining the mystery as well.

Helen of Troy also ends up entangled.

It’s…complicated.

The story is also a lot of fun. As a fan of AGAHF, I got a lot of satisfaction out of reading the story. Hope is a fun character and Speedy is a highlight as well. They play their typical roles, but those roles are written quite well.

Hope is a strong protagonist. It is immediately obvious that she is in charge of herself and her choices; there’s no damsel in distress here. No one is ‘letting’ her do the things that she does. She is doing them through her action and through her conscious choice. It’s a good message and one that shouldn’t have to be said, but I’m pointing it out because that message is often lost in other media and stories. Hope’s a character that is strong on her own and she happens to be female.

Speedy is still a hyper-intelligent Koala. I don’t really feel the need to elaborate there, but he is enjoyable. However, I’m a Speedy fan and I hear there are those that disagree with him. That’s your choice – I can assure you that he doesn’t care in the slightest.

The mystery of Archimedes’ machine is the central plot of the story and its practically a character in and of itself. The jumping and shifting of ideas and ‘OK, that didn’t work, next plan’ is a lot of fun.

For me this book had a lot to tell. It establishes quite a bit of the rules for the AGAHF universe. The world building is fascinating and I enjoyed those elements a lot.

My major complaint comes from only two elements. My first is Hope’s attraction to Atlas. It seems overplayed and not especially relevant to the plot. I get that it is part of the character of Hope to be easily distracted, but I just did not like the Atlas bit at all. It’s a personal element, but I feel it detracts from Hope’s character to have that be a focus of her distractions. The rest of her jumps, however, are hilarious and/or plot related and I enjoyed them, but the Atlas ones didn’t ping right for me. Maybe it’s my sense of humor.

Which brings me to Atlas himself. As a character and an antagonist (I won’t go far enough to call him a villain) he’s in the gray area. It could be argued that he’s not even really an antagonist so much as a stumbling point. He’s a pretty face and something for Hope to get distracted by given his amazing Mediterranean body and that’s pretty much it. There is some effort at characterization by having him have a rivalry with his sister, but it doesn’t come off as particularly effective. His reveal and subsequent plot related items come off as convenient and/or out of place when reading and that appeared to defeat the purpose of having him in play. He helps the plot along and gives Hope a few things to think about, but it doesn’t really bring out anything new or interesting in the characters and so he falls flat.

On the whole, though, Greek Key is a strong novel with an interesting mystery. Hope, Mike, and Speedy make up for the lack of a traditional antagonist by fighting with the mystery surrounding the Archimedes device. The solution is a fascinating twist and turn as Spangler develops her world and reveals new and fascinating bits about how the world works in her universe of ghosts and government. For AGAHF fans, this will be a lot of fun. For inductees and those new to the universe, it will be an exciting adventure with a strong protagonist and companions that will lead you into a complex and fun world.

Characters: 4.0 / 5
Plot: 5 / 5
Action: 4 / 5
Value: 5 / 5
Writing: 5 / 5

Overall: 4.2 / 5

 

 

Book Review: Red Hot Steele (Daggers and Steele Vol. 1)

 

Cover Steele

But the book on Amazon HERE!

Things here have been a little bit crazy as of late, so I haven’t had a lot of time to write.

I have, however, had a lot of time to read. So, I grabbed up my tablet and looked through for something fun but different. The cover for this one caught my eye and it was on a promotion for $0.00 so I downloaded it.

It’s a crack!

This is a detective story that is playing with all of the tropes of a detective story while throwing in elements of fantasy. Apparently there is a movement towards fantasy-crime novels (something I didn’t know) and this was my first full dip into it.

The plot is, pretty much, a standard NCIS, CSI, etc plot. Someone’s been murdered and Jake Daggers (our narrator) has to solve the mystery. Unfortunately (at least according to his perspective at first) he’s just had his long time partner replaced with a newbie fresh from the academy. To make matters worse, the newbie is a woman and an elf. So he has to deal with the newbie and a murder. Lots of fun.

The plot is pretty much straight out of those style outlines, but that’s to make room for the characterization. Daggers is clearly the focus and it shows. He has a fantastic characterization and reading him is just like reading the old detective serials that used to be on the radio. I can hear Howard Duff’s Sam Spade as I read the novel and it’s fantastic. Daggers is not a fantastic role-model – some of his views and perceptions are out of that same era and it makes for him to be very much a throw back of the era. This is particularly true regarding his partner, Steele. And while his view of Steele changes over the course of the story and becomes somewhat better, that doesn’t happen for women in general. It’s a part of the character and the setting, so it makes for good characterization. Daggers has faults – lots of them (women just being one), but he is overall a likable character with a strong voice.

Steele, his partner, does a fair job of standing up to him and its pretty obvious that the rest of his team (there are four total agents on Daggers’ task force) don’t share his archaic views. She even calls him out a few times but, unfortunately, they don’t stick. The rest of the team just let it pass, so it Daggers does come off as a bit of a bully that the reader is expected to excuse. For the most part, I am a forgiving reader and I am anticipating that this will change over the course of the series. It’s an easy place to have character growth and development and I cannot imagine that the author won’t take advantage of it.

But back to the team. The team is interesting, though most of our experience is with Daggers and Steele (imagine that!). Steele gets some screen time and it becomes clear that she’s not going to take Daggers lying down – yet she sometimes lets things slide that make this inconsistent. It’s a significant flaw, and, again, I’m assuming the author is going to fix it eventually.

The answer to the puzzle becomes a bit obvious as the novel gets close to then end, but its still a good solution and fun to reach. The ‘getting there is half the fun’ trope really holds sway through the novel, and the novel is a lot of fun to read.

Despite the flaws of the story, this is a fun book to pick up and read if you enjoy shows like NCIS or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. For the price of free, you really have no excuse not to.

Characters: 4.5 / 5
Plot: 3.5 / 5
Action: 4 / 5
Value: 5 / 5
Writing: 4 / 5

Overall: 4.2 / 5

 

 

 

Book Review – Veiled Eyes

Lake People

Click HERE to buy Veiled Eyes (Lake People) from Amazon.com

Veiled eyes is a peculiar book. It’s not quite 100% romance, it’s not quite 100% mystery, it’s not quite 100% paranormal. It’s an odd mix of conventions that, often, pays off.

The story revolves around Anna St. Thais – an orphan who knew little of her father or her mother. She was, instead, raised in an orphanage of her namesake. When a trucker kidnaps her to rape and murder her, Anna is rather surprised to hear voices in her head – voices which respond and manage to rescue her. It turns out that Anna, and her lineage, are telepathic and she managed to communicate with a small, hidden community of similarly powered individuals that live in the South. From there, Anna learns to be a part of the community while still trying to understand the people she shares blood with as well as answer some nagging questions about her abilities – and her past.

Anna is an interesting narrator and protagonist. The author does an excellent job working her out to be both realistic and interesting. She is fun to experience the world through as well as to delve in to in depth. Anna’s innate sense of curiosity is accented by her doggedness to answer the questions that she develops about the community.

The author’s true love, however, is with the Cajun culture and the land of the south. You are literally swimming in it throughout the novel and it quickly becomes evident that the author is an expert – either through life experience or extensive research. She clearly loves the culture and land of the south and it shows in her exploration of it through Anna’s eyes. She even makes Anna an outsider to start with so that you get that feeling of what it might be like to be exposed to such a diverse place through the eyes of a similar outsider. I have no idea how a reader from the south might react to the descriptions and ideals explored in this novel, but, as a Michigander, I enjoyed it immensely when I could understand.

That being said, sometimes the descriptions of the local flavor are too extensive or mired in their imagery, making it hard for a non-native to track precisely what the author is going for. This does not happen often, but it happens often enough so as to detract from the reading experience.

The only major obstacle that I experienced in reading the book is the pacing. Things move quickly, which in a thriller or a mystery can be a good thing. Unfortunately, this backfired at the climax of the story – we got to the Climax and it appeared as though the individual responsible for the crimes Anna is pursuing came out of nowhere. There were a few hints, but not a lot of development on that end of the mystery part of the novel which made it feel a bit rushed and a bit too extended.

On the whole, veiled eyes is a lot of fun to read and worth it’s current price point (free) up to the ‘discount’ kindle rate of $2.99.

Writing: 4/5
Characterization: 4/5
Plot: 3/5
Flow: 3/5
Value: 3/5 (At Free)
Total rating: 3.6/5

Book Review – Sunset (Book 1 of Pact Arcanum)

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Click HERE to buy Sunset – Book 1 of Pact Arcanum at Amazon.com

The world of Sunset (Pact Arcanum book 1) has an interesting premise. The world is our current Earth, but humanity co-exists with human appearing magical races – the Sentinels, the Nightwalkers, and the Daywalkers. Sentinels have magic and steel and are trained to kill vampires (the Nightwalkers); Nightwalkers are Vampires (with all that entails. Daywalkers are Vampires that now have a soul and have been reborn to redeem.

Being in the presence of a Sentinel can activate the innate magical potential an individual possesses. This is what happens when Jeremy Harkness is working as a part of Medusa. His abilities are activated by accident which forces Daywalker Nick Jameson (someone who isn’t fond of the rules anyway) to break their Pact’s general laws and reveal himself to the world in the midst of the Medusa terrorist incident. Deactivating the nuke doesn’t take too long and Nick uses Jeremy’s activation to convince the laws of the Pact to get out of having himself punished. Fortunately, Nick knows the person who is going to be judging him pretty well and makes his case, thus preserving him for future pages.

From there, we learn more about the world as it evolves with the knowledge of magic. We also find out what has occurred in the history of the pact and how magic works within the world and the various forces of the races. There is a lot of history to the world (that happens when some of your characters are over 500 years old) and explanations for how we got to where we are flow freely. The world building is interesting and some of the concepts are neat, if a bit overdone. The history is interesting enough, but it does start to drag on the story.

The other major drag, unfortunately, are the characters. None of them are particularly deep. Most of the characters are likeable enough, but they are too perfect. Nick gets away with consistently flaunting the rules and *almost* breaking the laws of his Pact; nothing happens. Even when he breaks their most sacred rule and reveals the presence of magic to the world, he gets a slap on the wrist and a ‘well, you were technically saving a citizen of our group and that makes it O.K’ sort of speech. The other main characters do similar things with similar consequences. This makes no sense with the aura of mystery and concealment that the author speaks of that the groups are trying to maintain.

The other major problem with the characters is their relationships. The relationships are unrealistic and either A) fantasized heavily or B) overtly unimportant. There is a warning on the Amazon page for the novel that the series contains references to homosexual relationships – O.K. , whatever. It’s not the first one that I have read, nor will it be the last. Unfortunately, it is one of the worst written relationships that I have read. Nick cannot fail in maintaining his threesome. He faces few choices that could consequence the relationship, and the few times where those choices would have mattered, they are blown off from the other characters. This is similar to the above issues with the law system – there are no significant consequences for poor decisions. The characters do not act like real people involved in real relationships in the slightest, and the drama of the scenes where ‘bad things’ happen is so over played, I skipped them until the next scene. Since there was little, if any, impact from said conversations this did not hurt my understanding of the novel in the slightest.

In short, the world of Pact Arcanum has a lot of potential to it, but the characters drag it so far down that I doubt I will invest in the next book in the series.

Writing: 2/5
Characterization: 1/5
Plot: 2/5
Flow: 3/5
Value: 2/5 (At Free)
Total rating: 2/5

Book Review – Soul of Flame

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Click Here to buy Soul of Flame from Amazon.com

Soul of Flame continues the Imdalind Series tradition of amazing characterization and complex motivations.

The book starts out almost immediately after where Book 3 left off – which is good considering the events of that book. I’ll try to make this review as spoiler free as possible.

Here, Joclyn has to work through her motivations, fears, and personal faults in order to move forward toward her destiny as described in the sights. Unfortunately, what Joclyn has seen in the sights does not bode well for her or her companions – something that Joclyn must struggle with as she discovers where she belongs and cements who she belongs with. And that’s just Jos.

The other major characters – Illyan, Ryland, Thom, Cail, Wyn, Sain, all of them are present and accounted for. And each of them gets their own bits and piece. Illyan must determine how to make his continued future with Joclyn work, Wyn struggles with what has happened to her love, Ryland is…without spoiling too much, going through Hell, and Sain? Sain gets to struggle with Illyan and Joclyn and his own personal beliefs regarding the sight and what it is/how it works in a way that will make you wonder if the man spits arsenic.

Many of the emotional scenes in the book are wonderfully described and entirely immersive. Ethington’s imagery and focus on feeling is so well connected and well flowing that you don’t realize that several pages have passed while you watch the characters interact. One of the most enchanting ‘love’ scenes that I have read in a very long while is contained within this novel. If you are looking for spectacular emotion, grab this book.

In other words, Ethington’s spectacular character development continues to shine in the novel. Joclyn and Illyan are the major ones, but everyone gets a few moments in the sun that really round out the character arcs. There are a few minor questions left regarding each personal journey, but, on the whole, a lot of the characters feel ‘accomplished.’

There is not a lot of ‘plot’ advancement in the book. We know about Edmund and his evil and that our friends/lovers/horrible father figures have to stop him from moving forward and attacking others to conquer the world in darkness and pain. Only a few days, however, actually pass in the course of the novel. Instead on focusing on the action of the battle and the confrontation, the physical side of it, Ethington focuses on what it means TO the fighters and the future. The opening salvos are fired, yes, but it’s clear that Ethington is saving the major stuff for the concluding novel (due out sometime this year according to her website). Rather than make a reader feel ripped off or disappointed, Ethington’s pacing simply makes you hungry for the conclusion. The conclusion of the novel is spectacular and sets us up perfectly to see the confrontations that are sure to happen in the final volume.

On the whole, Ethington continues to shine. The Imdalind series is a shining example of excellent characters with a complex plot. If you haven’t started reading it, go grab the first three and Soul of Flame and prepare yourself for an amazing journey.

Writing – 5/5
Characterization – 5/5
Setting – 5/5
Story – 5/5
Flow – 5/5
Value – 5/5

GET IT NOW!

Book Review – Breathless

Breathless-cover
To buy Breathless by Scott Prussing, click HERE

‘Breahthless’ is an interesting take on the Vampire Fiction that is so big right now. Yes, it has the handsome vampire love interest and yes it has the handsome vampire hating love interest for the female protagonist. It’d probably be easier to list the books that don’t do that at the moment.

On the other hand, however, the characters are not quite the assumed cliché that is running around with it.

The premise is a good start. Our heroine, Leesa, is going to college in Connecticut. She’s always had an interest in vampires – primarily because her delusional mother repeatedly discusses the fact that she was attacked by a one-fanged vampire when she was pregnant with Leesa. This has lead to a great deal of separation between Leesa and her mother and so she was primarily raised by her brother. Her Aunt and Uncle also play a big role in her upbringing and serve as surrogate parents. When her brother disappears, Leesa decides to follow him to the University that he vanished at. Leesa enrolls in her university and discovers that there is a course on ‘Vampire Mythology’ offered as a credit and so grabs on to it given her fascination. The professor, as it turns out, is a believer. While there she meets a charming gentleman as well as the mysterious Rave. From there we discover more and more about the world that the author is trying to build.

Of all of the characters, Leesa and Rave receive the most attention and development. Of the pair, I enjoyed Rave the most. The civilization that Rave lives as a part of is interesting. They don’t have traditional ‘family’ units (which makes his perception of her care for her brother peculiar) and they don’t use technology. They remind me a lot of the Amish that live and work here in Michigan. Rave also won’t kiss her, but that is due to his secret ability and feud with the vampires. Rave is an interesting character and, while we see him struggle between his society and his feelings for Leesa quite a bit, the solutions come off as a bit convenient or hollow several times. I can get in with Rave’s head and his emotions well, but his reasoning just doesn’t tune with me – it feels a bit rushed and also as if he is far too willing to sacrifice his known world for this young woman he has just met.

Leesa is our other major protagonist and she is interesting in that she is not entirely generic. The most prominent feature that gets mentioned is her shorter leg, giving her a limp. However, she also has preferences and feelings that actually matter to her that she holds to. As opposed to many of the charactes that I read in Supernatural Fiction, Leesa makes an attempt to show a good growth from non-believer to believer. It feels a bit abrupt, but, given the motivations that she has for her change of perspective it somewhat makes sense. It feels fast, but given the circumstances I can understand it.

The setting is well described and it is clear the author has a love for college campuses and Connecticut. Also Mead (it makes sense when you reach it in the book). Which makes for some good reading and interesting descriptions. It makes you want to visit the area that is described in the book and, I would guess, is based on actual locations in the state.

The plot is well paced, if fairly standard fare. The setting makes up for the predictability of the plot. The characters make up for some of the convenient moments within the story. As long as you are with Leesa or Rave, at least. Several of the secondary cast members – the Professor and the Best Friend in particular – don’t really expand beyond their trope role. This is a shame, because both secondary characters have a great deal of potential for fun in them that gets overlooked.

Overall, Breathless is a fun, if predictable, read. The author clearly cares about his main characters and his setting. Given that this is the first in a series of books, I would imagine that the secondary characters get a chance to shine in later stories. On the whole, given its free price, this is worth the time investment that you will have to commit to it.

Overall Rating: 4/5
Writing: 3/5
Characterization: 4/5
Setting: 5/5
Story: 3/5
Flow: 2.5/5
Value: 5/5 (Free!) 2/5 (Hard Cover Print Version)

Book Review: Day Soldiers

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I grabbed this book while it was free on Amazon for my Kindle App. It had some good reviews and discussed the fact that the monsters of the book – the vampires and werewolves – are not Twilight copies. These are monsters and they act like monsters. This is probably the highlight of the novel.

The rest of the characters, however, are nothing special. The protagonist of the novel, Lily, is the most developed of all of the characters, and she is, at best, 2.5 of 3 dimensions of a character. We are very rarely given insight in to her thinking process or emotional state. There are few, if any, ramifications psychologically to her actions.

As a for instance – At the start of the novel, Lily kills her father (who has been turned in to a Vampire). She shoots him in cold blood, rationalizing that there is nothing of her father left. Makes sense. The only problem with this is that, immediately prior, Lilly talks about how valuable her father is to her and how much she loves him.

All right, fine, she has a moment of regret following it, but there’s never any real resolution to her. She doesn’t feel guilty, she doesn’t feel regret, she doesn’t even really reflect on her actions. This is in conflict with her previously established characterization – however brief. The incident is brought up several more times throughout the novel, and each time it’s merely reflected on and reminded of. Other than that, there is little, to no, consequence to Lily from her actions or her thoughts. She doesn’t really react to anything and, more or less, moves on to the next conflict.

The rest of the characters are one-shots. There is a lot of POTENTIAL in many of the characters – one gets injured and replaced with implants, their trainer is a Nun, the overall leader of the `Day Soldiers’ is a friendly Werewolf who happens to be against his kind. All of these are opportunities for fantastic characterization, but they are missed in favor of having one or two palette traits. There could be a LOT more to these characters – they have tremendous narrative potential – but those developments are simply not there.

As to conflicts – there are a LOT of conflicts. The villains here don’t, in general, grab the Idiot ball. They are monsters and it shows. This is a good thing, even if it keeps the villains as two-dimensional characters. They behave like Monsters and don’t just `wait for the hero’ to bring up their weapons – they attack. Many of the attacks are intelligent as well – the author has checked through the tropes and made sure to avoid a large number of the common errors that authors have.

The action moves with the speed and determination of a typical spy thriller – we bounce from conflict to conflict and battle to battle like a cat with a short attention span. It moves extremely quickly, pausing only for a breath here and there. In that way, the novel is a lot like a James Patterson novel – lots of quick and easy scenes. Unlike a Patterson novel, however, this breathing room isn’t really used to develop the characters but is, instead, used to develop the world setting.

There is a lot of World Building to the novel and *sometimes* it is done well. The majority of the time, however, it is thrown in with a comment that is the authorial equivalent of `because that’s the way it is.’ The creation of the military organization that Lily works for, for instance, is one of the former development moments – it is explained and justified fairly well and with some roundedness. The individual `units’ within the organization, however, are examples of the latter. There’s no reason for a military organization to identify themselves the way these units are identified. It doesn’t make tactical sense, nor does it make organizational sense. It does sound cool and simple, but that’s not enough to make it feel/sound authentic. Unfortunately, most of the world building falls in to that category rather than the first.

On the whole, this novel is OK. There are parts of it that really shine, but getting to those parts can be….a test of patience and credulity. I am hoping that the sequels are better – with all of the World Building taken care of in this first novel, the author can focus on his characters and conflict better in the sequels. For the price of free, this novel is worth it, but I would not follow that with the suggested retail price.

Overall ratings – 3.2/5
Writing – 3/5
Characterization – 2/5
Setting – 3/5
Story – 3/5
Flow – 2.5/5
Value – 5/5 (At FREE), 1/5 (At Standard Listing)

Book Review: Kiss of Fire

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Kiss of Fire is an excellent novel to begin a series.

BIG BONUS: NO VAMPIRES, NO WEREWOLVES!

The story is a fairly simple one – one we have all heard before. A child of a single parent is left trying to understand why her father left while her mother struggles to make ends meet. Luckily her Mother is employed by the local rich guy and his son happens to be near her age. Thus, they become best friends. This is well-tread territory, but Rebecca Ethington manages to make it all feel fun and exciting.

There is a bit of world-building to the novel as well. There’s a war going on. Said war is happening in the shadows and in secret and our heroine is caught in the middle of it. Ethington does a bang-up job of building the world and not losing the characters along the way. There isn’t a lot of extra text explaining things to a 16 year old girl – several of the characters just tell her “That’s the way it is” which makes sense given who they are speaking to. The consistency and interest of the characters carries the novel a lot of the way and separates it quite a bit from other similar novels.

The action is well paced and interposed with opportunities for rest and reflection. The beginning is a bit of a drag, but after about 20-30 pages it really picks up and is completely worth wading through to get to the meat of the story. There is a lot to track and not all of it is answered within the first volume of what is set up as a trilogy. EDIT: I am informed that the Kindle Store was inaccurate and that this is the first in a series of FIVE novels, not a Trilogy. My apologies for missing this.

The greatest strength of the novel, however, is the characters. Even the minor characters are given enough attention that they are not flat, but the main characters are expanded upon tremendously. Joclyn and Ryland are typical teens – despite their disparate upbringing – and they ACT like them. Not in the prejudiced, more common media way, but in the ‘hey I really am a Teen and I’m going to do stupid things and forget about it the next day’ kind of way that most of the teens that I work with behave in. The characters are the strongest part of the book and make it worth the read alone.

On the whole, I highly recommend this novel to anyone looking to start a new series and enjoy themselves with an excellent start that is complex enough to maintain interest but simple enough that you don’t get lost. A Kiss of Fire is an excellent beginning to a strong series.

Writing – 4/5
Characterization – 5/5
Setting – 4/5
Story – 4.5/5
Flow – 5/5
Value – 5/5

Check it out here on amazon.com – http://www.amazon.com/Kiss-Fire-Imdalind-Series-ebook/dp/B009ZF5SLM/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Book Review: Tarnished Knight

Tarnished Knight

So, I thought I would check out something completely out of my typical genre. I’ve read a several romances, a few vampire novels, but no steampunk. So, I found Tarnished Knight (on sale for Free! (Have you noticed a theme to my Kindle Purchases?)

So, here’s a quick summary – we’re in Victorian London and there’s a group of vampires hiding out. The vampires are very hierarchical and an interesting part of the mythos. We’re introduced to the protagonist John `Rip’ Doolan. He enters the story with his mechanical arm and infected by the Vampire Virus. There’s quite a bit of internal dialogue as `Rip’ struggles to control his vampirism and his feelings for Esme – his longtime friend and one of the keepers at the house the vampires share.

The two of them spend much of the novel trying to sort out their feelings for each other. Rip fears that he’ll lose control of his vampire aspects and drain Esme, killing her. Esme doesn’t understand why Rip is ignoring her – they were excellent friends before his being turned in to a vampire.

Meanwhile, in the darkness of the London night, groups of Slashers are moving through the region. While the vampire group is not afraid of them, the reputation of their leader keeps the Slashers from doing anything to those protected by the vampires. It creates a good bit of backdrop and motivation for the Slashers in the story to have this conflict available, because otherwise all we would have to look at is the conflict between Esme and Rip and that could not sustain the novel in and of its entirety.

I won’t go in to many more details, but the story is decent if sloooooooow to start. It does start to pick up about half way through but I could have done with a little less focus on the characterization at the start to get to some of the conflict outside of Rip and Esme’s feelings. Those parts are fairly well written, but *something* has to happen to keep the reader on board, and it takes awhile for the story to do that. The writing, however, is compelling enough to keep a dedicated reader committed.

The romance is fairly well played, if a bit predictable. All of the traditional phrases of romance novels are present in the book and used to their full effect. Rip’s internal conflict is contrasted against some of these feelings, though, which makes for some interesting reading as he pushes at his vampirism while working through his passions. The contrasts are some of the best pieces of writing in the book and make for a change compared to what I see in a lot of romance novels.

On the whole, this is a pretty well crafted story. The slow beginning is the only true `down’ side to the novel, but it could be a deal breaker in a busy schedule.

Characters: 4/5
Plot: 3/5
Action: 3/5
Word Count 5/5
Price: 5/5
Overall: 4/5

Book Review: How to Date a Werewolf

Gotta Wonder how she fits in those pants with a tail
Cover – stolen from the Kindle edition

 

 

How to Date a Werewolf has a lot going for it. That being said, The few fumbles
that the book makes detract, sometimes quite seriously, from the rest of the
story. If you are looking for a quick fairly fun read, this is the book for
you.

The premise of the story is simple – Rylie Cruz runs a match making
service for supernatural beings out of New Orleans. Her job is to pair up the
folks and help them avoid the chaos of having to ‘reveal’ themselves to the
population at large. Unfortunatly, one of her more recent customers is not happy
with her match. At the same time, threatening notes begin to show up at her
business and a human psychologist moves in accross the hall from her office /
apartment. There are a number of strong set-ups here and, for the most part,
they pay off.

We don’t see a lot of Rylie as a match-maker. Her office is really more of a
backdrop for events as well as a ‘meeting’ place for the characters. It does set up
some tension with the romantic interest when he begins to sort through her
papers and starts to ask odd questions, but it doesn’t really pay off. On the whole,
she could have just as easily been a supernatural librarian and it would not have
had a significant impact on the plot – which is sad since there was a lot of potential
in the premise.

We do see a lot of the consequences of Lily and her threats however. The main
conflict of the book comes from Rylie trying to sort out Lily and the backdraft
from her failure to match the woman up. The threatening notes, weird followers,
and other items of ‘tension’ are all resolved – at least in Rylie’s mind – as
being from Lily. This sort of makes sense, given how Rylie portrays herself as a
werewolf and the hints we get about werewolf society, but it quickly becomes a
real stretch. When someone starts mailing you threatening letters, you call the
police. Her love interest is quick to point out that it is a federal offense to
do such a thing and, really, I cannot fathom how Rylie is stupid enough to
ignore such a thing. Given that part of her job is being able to read people she
somehow misses that the threats are more than what she sees in Lily.

Most of the book deals with Rylie and her efforts to hide her Lycanthrope from Jack –
the ever perfect love interest of the novel. A lot of her interactions with Jack
are clever, as are a number of her monologued thoughts. A lot of the dialogue is
worth a good quick laugh out loud, and those that aren’t are generally worth at
least a chuckle. The only part of the relationship that isn’t particularly
enjoyable is all of Rylie’s whining to herself about lying to Jack and worrying
about the relationship. To put it bluntly, Rylie spends A LOT of time worrying
and self monologuing for us to follow. It makes for a good establishment of
character at the beggining. After three times, it gets to be a bother to read.
After six, it is just plain annoying. It’s the one part of the novel that I
didn’t really enjoy.

On the whole, it was a good, quick read. I’m told there is a sequel to the book
and, assuming it is reasonably priced in the kindle store, I will probably pick up
a copy. On the whole, 4/5 stars.