Tag Archives: fantasy

Book Reviews: Lady of the Dead: Night World Series by Gretchen S. B.

As is often the case I received this book in exchange for an honest review but despite that kindness my candid thoughts appear below.

The nutshell-no-spoilers-summary on this one is tough because it spans several genres that don’t typically tend to cohabitate between the covers of a single book. It’s part crime drama, part action adventure and part John Edwards psychic fiction. One book features the undead, gritty cops, fierce warriors, werecreatures, immortals and spirits all in the backdrop of modern day Northwest America.

On the positive side, the author certainly isn’t afraid to mix things up. She’s brought together a lot of otherwise dissonant strings and isn’t afraid to weave them together in new and creative ways. There’s a lot of creativity evident in this book and the writer’s textual style isn’t half bad and is fairly devoid of typos and textual errors.

Sadly, the negative side gives the positive a run for its money. The overarching story is weak and the author introduces so many various characters and new types of creatures in her book that it seems forced. One barely wraps one’s mind around one group of people before another one is introduced and then either included for the duration or suddenly dropped. It’s as if the author tried to force several longer books into one shorter one. The whole story lacks patience and pacing is barely readable. The only way I managed to force myself to the end was hope that all the creative energy would somehow pay off. It didn’t.

The author skims over so much at such a high level that I thought for a long time I was reading a YA novel. That was until I got to the EXTREMELY graphic sex scenes at which point any misunderstanding about that point was entirely lost. The author’s only real attempt during the story to add any level of detail to any interaction is in those scenes of copulation.

In summary, I can’t recommend this book to anyone but there is hope for the author. Given a bit more time and patience Gretchen could go far but this one particular example of her work is pretty poor.

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Book Reviews: Ashes by Timothy R. Lyon Jr.

As is often the case I received this book in exchange for a review. Also as usual I’ll be completely honest because readers and authors both deserve that much at least.

The overarching concept here is that we’re looking at a steampunk novel with a rather dark and ominous theme to it.

To the positive, I love the setting and the plot the author has chosen. If you look past the book’s issues you can see a delightfully dark and entertaining plot unfolding.

Unfortunately, to the negative, the author’s writing stumbles terribly. While the author has a great story his choice of words is contradictory and distracting. It really subtracts from the novel as a whole and leaves the reader struggling to stay focused on what he’s really trying to say. A few examples:

p8: “Nathaniel raised his hand and scratched his beard stubble … His beard was long enough to not be stubble…” — is it stubble or not?

p38: “a lady, casual by glance, stood next to a pillar looking with intent” — is she casual or is she intent? And I’m not sure what ‘casual by glance’ even means??
p38: “… steps as precise as her casual garments …” — precise and casual are near antonyms so it seems an odd comparison
p38: “… each step nearly shattering the floor …” — shattered is a bizarre choice of words unless you’re walking on a glass floor which the character is not

p60: “*lots of tense build-up* … the whip extended with excellent craftsmanship…” — Author is building a sense of mood or tension but then diverts rather oddly to talk about the craftmanship of the whip and that breaks the mental flow of the passage.

So in summary, it’s a shame. It’s like a cheese sandwich that’s burned on one side. You know there’s good stuff in there and you really want to love it but that one burned side is a distraction and you just can’t get past it. Suggest a good sound editing to clean things up.


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Book Reviews: Unwanted (The Unwanted Chronicles) (Volume 1) by Matthew Muns

I received this book free in exchange for a review but despite that kindness I will be completely candid below.

The nutshell on this book is that it is a direct descendant of The Hunger Games and Divergent. There is a group of privileged few who live in relative luxury while the balance of the population slaves away to support them. Of course this enslaved majority doesn’t like that very much and they’ve united to try to unburden themselves.

To the positive side, and it’s difficult to find a positive side, the author does at least keep it simple. There’s no winding complexity to be had in this book. It’s lots of short choppy sentences that are fairly easy to digest.

To the negative, the book isn’t terribly original. It’s completely derivative and doesn’t have a lot of original things to say that make logical sense. Characters behave in ways that are nonsensical and ill befit their positions while saying things that contradict their actions. The text is over-dramatic and rife with typos and words that simply vanish into thin air via some form of typographical omission.

In summary, I have trouble finding a demographic to which I can recommend this book. It’s a pale shadow of a greater thing.

Some reviewers have asked if this is the “next big thing” but sadly it cannot be because this particular “big thing” is already over. Our author, as well intentioned as he must be, is simply copying what has come before. Unwanted is rather sadly derivative of things that have already been popular.

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Book Reviews: Guardian of the Gold Breathers by Elise Stephens


I received this book free for review from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review. Despite the privilege of receiving a free book, I’m absolutely candid about it below because I believe authors and readers will benefit most from honest reviews rather than vacuous 5-star reviews.

The nutshell on this book is that it’s a fairly standard one of the genre in which a young person finds that they are somehow special or exceptional and must overcome some set of trials in order to achieve an elevated status in the world. Just think Harry Potter and the like.

This is a YA novel so I consider three simple questions when evaluating it. The first is to ask if I there’s any reason I wouldn’t want my kids to read it. I have a zero-tolerance attitude when it comes to sex and drugs and this one is clean as a whistle in that respect. Kids won’t pick up any negative lessons and they certainly won’t learn any “new” words. For those that are of a deeply religious bent, do know there is magic and the like.

One small word of caution, however, that requires a non-specific spoiler. Our hero goes about his journey and comes to a conclusion that from the perspective of those not in the know, looks exactly like getting burned alive. I would not want readers to somehow get the impression that the best way to escape a troubling family situation has any resemblance whatsoever to actual death. I think the risk is fairly small but it is something to note.

The second question is to ask if there’s any reason I would want my kids to read it. I love when a book teaches a lesson and this one does a fair job of demonstrating the virtues of loyalty and dedication to a goal. While I don’t think these themes are necessarily front and center to the narrative they are present and certainly not overly intrusive to the story.

The last question is to ponder whether kids will actually want to read it. In this case, I think the story is a rich one and it gives the reader plenty to enjoy and look forward to on each succeeding page. My only reservation is that kids might get a tad confused because the book seems to lack continuity in places. I won’t go into specifics but it feels like the book has been cut down from a longer version and sometimes references to previous events creep in that were edited out. I can’t validate this, of course, but a few times I asked myself, “When did THAT happen?”

In summary, reading this as an adult I found it pretty entertaining and it is a solid entrant in the YA market. The aspect that stands out for me most is the ending. The author closed this story in a way that balanced closure and uncertainty brilliantly. I’d be intensely interested in reading a sequel; this could bloom into a wonderful series of books akin to Pern.

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The week in book reviews for 5/31

It is sometimes mind-boggling to look back on a week and realize how much bookage I’ve ploughed through in the past week. So without further ado, I give you the lucky 13

BodiesBodies by Si Spencer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This graphic novel is a multi-threaded time travel murder mystery of sorts. It has many mythological aspects and delves into the ideas of secret societies, ancient texts and even manages to rope in bog bodies. The narrative is exceptionally complex and at times, honestly, is beyond total comprehension. I was able to unravel the overarching concept of the book but many of the details simply escaped me completely.

To the positive, the book does touch on some interesting concepts and its use of language is a joy. I found myself heading to the dictionary quite a few times and there are dozens of wonderful period English colloquialisms. The artwork is solid, sometimes shocking and exceptionally adult. This is not a novel for the kiddos of any age. There is much sexual congress, drinking of blood (straight from the proverbial ‘tap’) and outright murder.

To the negative, as I said, I just couldn’t quite tease out all the meaning in the various storylines. I know generally what happened and the storyline is reasonably satisfying but there are so many loose ends in my head that I think it would take a couple more readings to properly sort out. The text isn’t terribly dense it’s just that there are so many threads and there is little visual difference between some characters to properly tell them apart. Adding to that the rapid switches between timelines make it difficult to know not only who is acting but also when they are in time and where they are. It is certainly a bit of a puzzle.

In summary, for intense fans of the genre, this is probably a winner but for me as a more casual fan this blew my head apart. It’s graphic, innovative and complex but maybe a bit too complex for my addled mind.

When It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super BowlWhen It Was Just a Game: Remembering the First Super Bowl by by Harvey Frommer (Author), Frank Gifford (Foreword)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book covers, in epic detail and from the view of the person’s involved, the first Super Bowl, though it wasn’t strictly speaking called that at the time. About 80% of the text is quotation from the people involved with the events described (or their children) including but not limited to Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford, Lamar Hunt Jr, Hank Stram, Susan Lombardi, Len Dawson and Bart Starr.

On the positive side, the book’s level of detail is dizzying. This single event in sports history is covered at a depth which is unprecedented. The story takes you from the childhoods of the two battling coaches and winds its way to the fallout after the game and a ‘where are they now’ of the players on both sides of the ball. The coverage of the game composes only about 20-25% of the book but you get keen psychological insight on both the winners and the losers.

To the negative side, the book is primarily quotation and most of those seem to be verbatim transcripts of video conversations about the game. As such they can tend to be a bit rambling and not as concise or on-point as they could be. Also, while the detail is wonderful it can at times be overwhelming with so many names and places whizzing by it’s hard to keep a firm grip on all of them at one time.

In summary, this book smells like someone’s doctoral dissertation on the game. It is extremely well researched and masterfully detailed and sometimes almost TOO detailed. This is a great reference tool and good for the expert in football history but as a casual fan I was at times overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. A great book but you’ve got to be committed to take it pretty seriously and give it your utmost attention.

Excellence in Forgiving & ToleranceExcellence in Forgiving & Tolerance by Tanveer Ahmed

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is a very short book so I’m just going to make a few notes as I go through. Take them for what you will.

* Formatting in the web reader is VERY poor. Almost to the point of unreadability.
* The text is composed of 13 very short phrases or passages which illustrate the point of the book. In total the book is about 3 and a half pages in the cloud reader’s view of things.
* Text is littered with citations such as (Musnad Imam Ahmad, pp. 71, vol. 7, hadis 19264) and every mention of the prophet has a… benediction in curly braces like so: {peace be upon him}. This can get very distracting.
* The subject matter itself is very true and basically boils down to what Christians would term “love your enemy” and general forgiveness. These are extremely positive messages but most readers will have a hard time teasing them out of the text of this book.

In summary, I think it has a great message and one that many could appreciate but it needs a LOT of work to reach a wider audience if that is the intent.

Nesselorette: The BookNesselorette: The Book by Clem Maddox

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Thematically, this book is a mixed bag. You’ve got voodoo and witchcraft somehow bound up in an ancient hunt for treasure that can only be revealed by one person because of their mystical bloodline. Enough said probably to avoid spoilers.

On the positive side, the book does have some very, VERY brief interesting moments. With enough work you could craft this into a passable novella but it would be a fairly cliche one. There are some amusing tidbits about Louisiana swamp culture but I’m giving the book the benefit of the doubt in assuming that they have some vague basis in truth.

To the negative side…. where do I begin. Firstly, the story, by the time you get to the end, is just an impossible mess and is a Frankenstein monster of old tired premises all bundled together in a completely untenable manner. You start out right away with the foundling on the doorstep of the hospital and from there you wind your way into the mysterious family history motif. This sort of thing isn’t entertaining even when done properly. Connecting all these narrative bits together you have long strings of impossible situations most notably involving Child Protective Services. My fiancee and I laughed at length at how profoundly misrepresented those sections were.

Further, the writing is clumsy and unprofessional. The author uses bizarre turns of phrase and melodramatic lines that don’t fit with the total mood of the book. Some of my favorites include:

“she tried desperately to lift the heavy phone book”
“falling into a deep subconscious sleep”
“I have heard so much about Cajun food and the spiciness of its flavor”
“your brilliant hereditary genes”
“That idiot of a b-tch”

I wondered many times if the author’s first language might be something other than English. Add to this the fact that the dialog is wooden and implausible and I’m sad to say the book unravels into a complete mess. It’s rare that I am called upon to review a book that has so little to recommend it to readers.

Kalki Evian: The Ring of KhaoripheaKalki Evian: The Ring of Khaoriphea by Malay Upadhyay

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Firstly, it must be stated that I could not bring myself to finish this book. After 100 pages I had to tap out and move on to something else. From what I did read the narrative is a two-threaded story of a man who wakes from a 23-year coma to find himself in a strange new futuristic world. The other thread of narrative seems to take place in the same timeframe but it’s not clear to me how they’re connected. In it a woman escapes an abusive husband to find a caring protector. Again, I’m not sure how these two threads are connected and clearly they will be later in the book but I just couldn’t make it.

To the positive side, the book does have an intriguing story. The setting the author has chosen is one of those impossibly bright futures but that has a not-yet-revealed dark side to it. I’m a big fan of not-yet-revealed dark sides. There’s goodness at the core of this book but…

To the negative side, the writing is abominably perplexing. I found myself understanding about half of what was trying to be conveyed (at least I THINK I did) but was constantly bamboozled by the use of language. It is filled with unintentional malapropisms, awkward phrasing and at times descends into utter nonsense. A random sampling that I noted:

“…Kanha lay submerged in thoughts and simple set of metals stocked in a separate room…”
“…her lips reduced to faint shiver instead of the lush they were born to revel in…”
“Quin lied down and shut his eyes. Sleep dawned abnormally quickly…”
“She was there to attend to a splurge of curiosities he bore in his heart…”
“So we were forced to transcend our mental fixations with vertical growth.”

In summary, there is a good story here but it’s hopelessly bogged down by exceptionally poor writing. Writing so poor that I can’t even be entirely sure what the book is trying to tell me. It needs to be thoroughly scrubbed up and redone I’m afraid but there is a solid start at an idea here.

Ray RyanRay Ryan by Aiden Riley

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The two-second summary of this is that it is essentially a biographical sketch of the main character from childhood through early adulthood. Each chapter section is a year starting with 1994 and extending to 2022. During this time he deals with an abusive father, the standard childhood enemies and drug-dealing thugs. The story isn’t terribly original and one wonders if on some level it’s not an embellished autobiography but I have no basis for that proposition except that the author is from the same town as his protagonist.

To the positive, the author has laid out in great detail a life in Nottingham. It feels very much like a life that could have been lived by a real person… at least the first bit. The characters are vividly rendered and the reader can certainly sympathize with their situations.

To the negative, realism is all well and good unless the story becomes painfully bogged down by it. The text is full of what seems to be irrelevant detail that doesn’t really add to the story but instead distracts from it. The story does eventually pick up but by the time it did I was just tired of reading every intricate tidbit of the hero’s life. Further, the author’s writing style is passable but it seems to be comprised largely of “Yoda speak” in which verb and subject switched they are. This is tolerable but does eventually become rather a painful distraction.

In summary, I don’t really have a target audience that I would suggest this to except those who themselves have lived in this area and feel share they a parallel history. It feels to me as if the author didn’t quite know what it was he wanted to write and instead just kept writing and writing and writing until something that seemed completely cooked came out on the other side. As it turns out, he seems to have written himself two books: one an episode of “The Wonder Years” and another an Episode of “CSI London”

Pumice Seed (Tullman #1)Pumice Seed by Patrick Stoves

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The nutshell summary on this book is…. Well, honestly, I couldn’t tell you. I could not get past page 10. The book suffers so horribly from typographical problems and just downright poor writing that I can’t make heads nor tails of it. Since I received it as an ePub I was able to copy and paste some direct quotes from it.

“A facet drew chilled water.”

“As I closed off all trace on the automations a scythe swing in my mind caught me unaware forcing me to open those blood red eyes again.”

“Lucidity wanders over to the feather.”

“Clouds dance the sky and fall onto a far away landscape alike.”

“Over the horizon once again the gas guzzling miasma makes its debut. A caught up wind buffets the car as I compensate with an oversteer to the right around a mountain incline. The precipice blocks any oncoming drag from my path. Slight relief at the perceived change I relieve my grip from the wheel tired of fighting with it.”

These are direct quotes copied from the text of the book. I hope fervently that this is an erroneous copy of some sort. It seems to be missing about 80% of the apostrophes and most question marks and the text reads more like a haiku than it does a novel. Perhaps this is some sort of literary device that I’m just not quite smart enough to figure out?

The Book of StoneThe Book of Stone by Jonathan Papernick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The nutshell view on this is that it’s a complex character development novel that traces the evolution of a son after the death of his emotionally estranged father. The book describes itself as incendiary but I would call it more of a slow, methodical burn. It brings to the fore some very controversial ideas.
To the positive, the author has brilliantly portrayed the psychology of a young man in mental crisis. The protagonist demonstrates so many traits that could be pulled straight from the DSM and it is delightful and head-nod inducing as he manages to project his own needs on the facts of a situation. As a reader you never QUITE are sure which ideas are real and which ones are just Stone’s warped imaginings. The author’s ending too, which is all of about 10 pages and hits you like a ton of matzah, leaves you nodding your head as all those long-held suspicions turn out to be justified. It’s a wonderful conclusion to an exceptionally complex novel.

To the positive, the story centers on a very contentious topic, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. At times the book goes on a length about the rightness of one side over the other and it does seem almost preachy. I realize this must be included to demonstrate the motivation of the protagonist but it can sometimes be rather wearisome. In that general vein, the narrative is a rather long one. It’s not a punch-filled action novel but rather a bit of a plod at times.

In summary, I enjoyed this book both much more and much less than I expected to. Its depths from a character development standpoint are profound. From an action/plot standpoint it’s fairly middle of the road. If you like epic battles that are waged between the ears then I think you’re well served with this book. Everything else is just backdrop to that conflict in one man’s mind.<

Robert Heinlein's Citizen of the GalaxyRobert Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert Lazaro

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The nutshell on this book is essentially that a poor slave boy rises to become “not a slave” and in the end makes good. I won’t say exactly how good he makes it but suffice to say that it turns out to be good enough.

The positive side of this little novel is that it has a good moral thread which essentially boils down to “Slavery is bad, M’kay” as Mr. Mackey might say. Any reader will get the overarching point easily enough.

To the negative, the whole thing is vastly oversimplified. I realize that the novel on which it’s based is juvenile literature but this graphic novel is too low-brow from the artwork to the dialog and overall structure. Worse than that, the ultimate conclusion, which is essentially a boardroom proxy vote showdown, is completely over the head of anyone who might relate to the puerile style of the novel.

In summary, they’ve taken a good book and made it into a graphic novel that was too short, too simple and just will not resonate with any audience who can relate to it. I was thrilled to have been given the opportunity to review this novel but in the end… I’m just shaking my head.

Christianity. . .It's Like This: An Uncomplicated Look at What It Means to Be a Christ-FollowerChristianity. . .It’s Like This: An Uncomplicated Look at What It Means to Be a Christ-Follower by David R. Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is an accessible introduction to the Christian faith. It covers all the standard topics from what is God? Who is Jesus and the Holy Spirit? And of course all the various points of what happens after you’re dead and what should you do while you’re still alive. In the interest of full disclosure, however, it must be noted that I am not a Christian and generally tend to view the mystical aspects of the Christian faith as pure hogwash. But in the interest of honest reviewing I will not let that obscure my vision as I look at this book as a purely academic endeavor.

To the positive, the book is, as it claims, very uncomplicated and easy to follow. It also adheres to the familiar and rigorous pattern of introducing a topic to you, telling you what it means to you and then backing up the point with citations from the Bible itself. It’s an accessible but also academic form that the author has done a good job of using to make the potentially complicated very easily digested.

The only negative I would point out is that the book isn’t really breaking any new ground. I’ve read lots of similar Christian “explainers” and they all seem to follow very similar lines. These are the same basic arguments that I’ve read a dozen times and as an atheist I’m no closer to believing them in this accessible form than I was when I read them in C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity.”

In summary, this book is what it says it is. It’s very accessible and a great primer for those who might be confused. I’d suggest, however, that it is just that though, a primer. Those who want a more in depth take or have deeper doubts, I’d suggest you go straight to the Lewis and skip this one.

Alive Souls: InceptionAlive Souls: Inception by Elena Yulkina

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book is a weird mix of the Superman “alien sent to Earth to get away” theme and the Never-ending Story’s “the nothing is taking over our world” story. The story is complex and endlessly convoluted but at the same time extremely short which makes for an odd and transition-free reading experience.

To the positive side, the author has no shortage of ideas and seems to spout them onto the page with complete abandon. I’ve read many books that had only a fraction as much to say but took four times longer to say it. This book certainly doesn’t leave you guessing about anything for long.

To the negative, the book is almost painfully difficult to read at times. The narrative thrashes through so much so quickly and completely without transition that there is no time at all for proper plot or character development. You can pound through this book in less than an hour but it seems a lifetime has passed in the life of the protagonist. Add to this the often nonsensical things which happen to the character because of this lack of transition and you end up with a real head-scratcher. Textually, the book has some real problems as well. It reads like a child’s book most of the time but will suddenly launch into vocabulary that sent me to the dictionary and then right back to child lit. It’s almost as if the author consulted a thesaurus just to have something big to throw in about every 20 pages or was not a native speaker of English. Add to this the frequent misuse of words altogether and you’ve got a book that needs a lot of editing.

In summary, the author has a lot of good ideas but has absolutely no idea how to properly cobble them together into a novel. This book feels like the Cliff’s Notes version of a 3-4 volume epic masterpiece. It gives you the general flavor of what the author wanted to accomplish but fails to provide any of the meat. Just as you were getting to know what was going on the book is suddenly over.

A Time-Traveller's Best FriendA Time-Traveller’s Best Friend by W.R. Gingell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The nutshell view of this book is difficult to constrain simply. A pair of time-travelers (a’la Doctor Who) skip about between a series of diverse worlds and engage in various rather disconnected adventures mostly involving criminal activities of a non-threatening sort.

To the positive, the author’s work has a tongue-in-cheek Douglas Adams feel about it though it must be admitted Gingell’s main theme of stealing a spacecraft (which can communicate verbally and has an annoying personality) and taking off in it does have somewhat of a derivative and familiar feel to it. The writing is solid in style and flows along quite nicely from a textual standpoint. The pace is fast, the action is reasonably gripping and the sense of world and character is intriguing and original.

To the negative, the work as a whole seems somewhat fragmented. I arrived at the end and wasn’t entirely sure how (or if) the beginning, middle and end related to each other. Certainly the characters are consistent throughout but there was no solid sense of A then B then C. In part this is a result of the non-linear construction and is a typical result of time-travel as a plot element but generally one expects things to finally come together in a more cohesive corpus when the end is finally reached.

In summary, this is a solid first effort in this series and has much potential but I think that in order to really take off the over-arching plot needs more solidity and consistency to give the reader a firmer sense of completion and narrative arc once the last page is reached.

Freddy Fumple and the MindmonstersFreddy Fumple and the Mindmonsters by Vegard Svingen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The nutshell view on this book is that it lies closely along the lines of the movie “The Never-ending story” from a few decades back. It’s fairly standard youth escapism in which the protagonist has some exceptional ability that means only they can save some faraway world from the oncoming devastation caused by the unbelief of the rest of the world. That’s the general idea and telling you any more would constitute a spoiler so I’ll just leave it at that.

I believe this to be primarily YA literature so I judge it by my standard three rules for books intended for children. Firstly, I ask myself if there’s any reason I wouldn’t want my children to read this book. I have absolutely no tolerance for drug or sexual references and this book is clean in that regard. There is some mild violence but nothing that’s going to make the average child concerned. Language, however, could be a major problem. There is a LOT of profanity and some of it is used in somewhat abusive situations. There are several dam*s, a couple shi*s, one godda&m and dozens of a$$ because one of the villains name is, I kid you not, A$s so his name is used as a running joke in every puerile manner possible from dumba$s to half-a$s to every other thing you can imagine. So on these grounds if you don’t want your child exposed to profanity, there’s your warning.

The second question I ask myself is whether I would want my child to read this book for some positive reason. Usually this involves some good life lesson that children can benefit from. In this case, the lessons, if there are any, are pretty week. The crux of the whole thing revolves around belief in a mysterious Other world which… I’m not terribly concerned if my children believe in myths or not. There is a weak thread of sticking with your friends and building teamwork but it’s not a terribly central theme. So the book is rather weak in this regard.

The last question is whether the reader will enjoy it. In this case I’d say it’s a strong yes. For all the book lacks in moral fibre and age-appropriate language, it is surprisingly entertaining. Because of the way in which characters and monsters are named it comes across as very 7-9 year old though so it’s going to be hard to get kids who might appreciate it to look past the silliness of that.

In summary, the book is much better than its cover and its title. I had a fair amount of fun reading it though I did start to get the creeping feeling that this story wasn’t all that original. At its heart, it’s just The Never-ending Story in a different venue but it’s a fairly original venue and the characters are entertaining and fresh at least.

And there you have it. The week that was in book reviews here at the Tattered Thread. Do you have a book that you would like reviewed? Just drop me an email or a comment and I can add you to my queue.

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Eternal Redemption (novella) – Amusing and allegorical (4/5)

As usual, this book came to me free in exchange for a review. Also as usual, my scrupulously honest opinions follow in spite of the kindness of receiving a free copy of the book.

In a nutshell, this novella is a standard Faustian tale in which our protagonist regrets the bargain he made centuries ago. The story is amusing because the author has chosen a familiar and popular premise. One can almost never lose when the devil appears in your book. The one twist we see is that we view the story from the perspective of the aftermath of the bargain rather than the time which led up to it.

The writing style of this book is rather perplexing. Within the first 5 pages, the narrator speaks much like a man would who has had the benefit of centuries to hone his mode of speech. His erudition is vastly conspicuous and his sentences ramble on interminably as if the utterer had nothing better to do for several more centuries. Personally I found the effect to be most literary and refreshing but after that brief introduction the text settles down into something quite pedestrian. To illustrate this point, from page 1:

“An ill mind acts in accordance with its forsaken nature, but is inhibited from the capacity to predict the long-term effects of an erred volition.”

Then about half-way through the story:

“He stepped into the cavern and waited, half expecting a booby trap to seal the portal shut behind him.”

This is not to say that one is qualitatively inferior to the other, but merely to point out that there is a wide swing in tone from the beginning to the end. So if you’re reading a sample that includes page 1 and don’t understand a word of it, fear not. It does come back down to Earth. Personally I would have preferred it had stayed in its lofty prolixity but if that were the case then I am confident that I really would be the only one who wanted to read it.

Moving beyond the writing itself, the story, while entertaining, seems to lack subtlety. I judge much about the quality of a book based on the images which come unbidden to mind as I read the text. In this case the images were those you might see in a graphic novel. The plot raced along but seemed to lack details and artistry. That is no doubt because the author’s real intent is more allegorical than descriptive, but that theme didn’t seem sufficiently strong to distract me from the rather surface treatment of the action.

In summary, it’s a worthwhile buy at its current price point but I think that the writing style within the first 5 pages caused my own expectations to ascend to unattainable heights. This novella is a unique blend between descriptive action and poignant allegory but I’m not sure it has attained exactly the right blend between the two. It definitely spurs further interest in the author and I am anxious to see what else he may produce in the future.

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In The Kingdom Of Dragons: Dwarf And Dragon – Reminds me strongly of an episode of the Smurfs

As usual I received this book free in exchange for a review; this time via NetGalley. Also as usual I give my scrupulously honest opinions below anyway.

This story is written in the standard fantasy milieu featuring grumpy, irascible, greedy dwarves and large destructive dragons that ravage the countryside or protect it depending on your point of view. We also have dual narrative threads with one existing in the real world and one taking place in a sort of dragonish afterlife of sorts.

On the positive side, the story flows along well enough I suppose and at least threatens to be interesting at times. There’s a reasonable amount of action but nothing you can’t tear your eyes away from. The cast of characters is broad and interesting enough, I suppose.

The negative side of this book though really does a good job of overshadowing anything good about it. Firstly, it reminds me strongly of an episode of the Smurfs. For those that remember the Smurfs used the the word ‘Smurf’ to mean just about anything from expletives to Smurfberry wine. This book has the same premise except that their word is Dragon. They’ve got the Dragon guard that wears Dragon leather and they have Dragon shields and they all drink dragon blood, though it’s not clear if this is an every day thing or just an occasional thing. All this focus on dragons despite the fact that there only really seems to be one dragon in evidence early on and he’s certainly not big enough to be supplying all this leather and blood by himself. If I had a dollar for every time this book mentions drinking dragon blood I could go buy a better book… or ten.

Continuing on the negative side, while the cast of characters is broad, it’s not really clear to me as a reader who belongs to which race. Characters flit into the story with almost no introduction and then vanish for a hundred pages. Those characters that are left and consistently present seem to behave in ways that don’t make a lot of sense and generally the cause given for any erratic behavior is that someone at some point has gone and drunk dragon blood, or drank the blood of someone who drank dragon blood, or been around someone who drank dragon blood. You get the idea.

In summary, there’s the kernel of something good here but it seems to be just a kernel. The whole thing is so intent on talking about dragons and all the great drink recipes that exist for their life’s blood that we forgot to have a sensical plot. It’s possible that this book could be great but right now it’s just … not.

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Witchbreaker: The Dragon Apocalypse 3 by James Maxey

Witchbreaker: The Dragon Apocalypse 3Witchbreaker: The Dragon Apocalypse 3 by James Maxey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As is my usual preamble, I received this book as part of a GoodReads giveaway. In fact, I would like to thank the author once again because not only did he send me this book in specific, but also the two predecessors as well. Despite this very kind consideration, I give my honest feedback below.

So, you’ve no doubt noticed that in addition to this book I also made my way through the previous two books the author sent along. When I received the unexpectedly voluminous package in the mail I will admit that my first thought was, to put it succinctly, “I sure hope these don’t suck.” There’s nothing worse than 1100 pages that you feel mildly obligated to read. Luckily, those thousand plus pages were really quite engaging.

In previous reviews I’ve gone on and on about Maxey’s originality, his ability to stretch the typical “ogres and dwarves” platform to entertaining limits and his unique ability to mix sex, violence and fantasy in just the right ratios. In deference to those recent reviews I won’t prattle on further about those characteristics. However, a new thing that I realized about the series in this book specifically was that he has a very solid way of just letting things go once they’ve played out. In a lot of modern books characters and plotlines carry on far beyond their welcome. They’re like Joe Montana in a Chiefs uniform. You can understand why someone might have thought it was a good idea but ultimately you just wonder if it would have been better had things just ended. Authors seem to get married to their characters and drag them on and on through book after book. In Maxey’s books when a character’s work is done they just die. You mourn for a moment and then, like life, Maxey comes along with something else to entertain you. He’s an author who’s in love with his world, but like any God he’s willing to just let bits and pieces go for the benefit of the whole. It’s surprisingly refreshing.

In summary, I will relate a brief illustrative story. My fiancée perused a few pages on the strength of my previous reviews and after a short read she handed it back to me and stated simply, “reads like Tolkien.” Early on I had the same thought but felt it rather cliché to put such a thing in a review but I think she’s right. There’s just something that rings true about Maxey’s work, a richness that’s missing in almost of all of his modern peers. It should be noted that my fiancée didn’t express any desire to read the rest; this is clearly ‘guy lit’ but that should not diminish the positivity with which it should be regarded.

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Hush (Dragon Apocalypse, #2)

Hush (Dragon Apocalypse, #2)Hush by James Maxey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a slight variation to a usual theme, I received this book as a result of a GoodReads giveaway but somewhat indirectly. I won the third book in the series but the author was exuberantly kind enough to send the entire series. Despite this wonderfully kind consideration, my candid opinions follow below.

Like Maxey’s immediately previous novel, Greatshadow, this book has a touch of everything. Sex, violence, and humor abound in optimal proportions. Hush picks up exactly where Greatshadow leaves off and continues the same basic plotline. While this is a continuation of previous work Maxey does a good job of helping the second novel stand on its own if you haven’t made time for the first.

Hush is a novel almost identical in tone to the first though at one point the story does become rather maudlin. Otherwise our author does very well at build a milieu for the reader that is not only entertaining but thought provoking. As usual Maxey proves himself a master of the fantasy genre.

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Greatshadow (Dragon Apocalypse, #1)

Greatshadow (Dragon Apocalypse, #1)Greatshadow by James Maxey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a slight variation to a usual theme, I received this book as a result of a GoodReads giveaway but somewhat indirectly. I won the third book in the series but the author was exuberantly kind enough to send the entire series. Despite this wonderfully kind consideration, my candid opinions follow below.

It is difficult to begin without resorting to cliche, assuming that the opening about winning a book in a GoodReads giveaway is not already cliche. Maxey’s work, to sum it up, has a touch of everything. There’s a slight thread of testosterone. A twinge of adventure. A modicum of adventure. A dollop of humor (the long accepted standard unit of humor has long been acknowledged to be the dollop, I will point out). Unlike the vast majority of novels which try to walk such a wending and tormented path, Maxey’s work actually manages to make it all function together in a pleasing way. The humor isn’t tortured. The testosterone isn’t fetid. The adventure isn’t overwrought. It all balances well together and through the whole thing he manages to introduce fresh new ideas. He takes the standard orc/ogre/dwarf/elf milieu and stretches it into something that has the and pleasing aroma of originality.

To back up moderately, Maxey’s plotline is nothing fancy or innovative. Boy meets girl, girl meets boy, boy-girl somewhat happy though ironically and comically star-crossed, boy-girl set out to slay terrible beast. There’s nothing shocking about any of that but the brush that Maxey paints with is one of almost dizzying originality.

Furthering the positive commentary, Maxey isn’t afraid to make a broader statement with his work. His villains aren’t mere pasteboard with no analogous relative in real life, no simple shadows upon a puppeteer’s screen. Like Tolkien before him he has a sociological statement to make and he’s not afraid to put it front and center.

In summary, and resorting completely to cliché, this book is one of the most entertaining things I’ve read in a long time. While it is fairly narrow in scope to the fantasy genre, among those players I think it ranks rather highly. Greatshadow is great “mind cake” with a thin thread of substance for those who wish to partake of it. To put it even more summarily, I’m impressed. I’ve read quite a lot of trite and worthless drivel and this quite nicely makes up for it. Highly recommended.

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