Tag Archives: reviews

Weekly Writer’s Ramble: October 24, 2014

I just finished reading Alethea Kontis’ Enchanted. She tells s a tale utilizing all sorts of familiar fairy tales, but with her own spin. Sunday Woodcutter, the heroine of the story, tells us a story of family and growing up, of magic and adventure, of love and heartbreak. She’s the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, with more power than she knows. It’s a coming of age story that readers of all ages can enjoy. Even better, the princess of the story is just as capable as the prince. Rather than write a regular old review, I shall use her book and the characters Kontis crafted to illustrate this month’s theme of characterization. Enchanted ***Spoilers*** Sunday Woodcutter comes from a large family. At the beginning of the story she tells her friend Grumble about her siblings and parents. Even so, it isn’t the stories she reads Grumble that bring each character to life.  As any good writer is told, “show, don’t tell”.  Sunday tells us that she is closest to her brother Trix, but it is her interactions with him which illustrate this. While attempting to spin wool into gold, she chats with her brother. She spins him a tale to cheer both of them up and then her fey brother rushes to prick his finger immediately after she purposely pricks hers on the spinning wheel, just in case it happens to be a cursed spinning wheel. “Why did you do that?” “If you fall asleep for a hundred years, then so will I.” That short exchange illustrates perfectly the love Trix has for his sister Sunday. When Sunday presses their two bleeding fingers together and declares they are brother and sister, no matter what, that too shows us how deeply she cares.  Later on Trix tunnels from his dreams to hers to make them better. What more could one ask from a brother? When we meet Rumbold, the hero of the story, we discover him bit by bit through his interactions with others. Through kind actions, playful jests, foolhardy choices, and selfless acts Rumbold demonstrates his character far more than any typical fairytale prince. Kontis’ tale, while filled with magic and mystery, is an excellent example of a character driven story and one I endorse as an enjoyable read for readers of all ages.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, wander over to Amazon and support my global domination fund by buying one of my books 😉

Book Review: Hounded

Yesterday I mentioned I got the chance to read two books. I must admit I preferred my second literary foray, Hounded, by Kevin Hearne.

Hounded

Amazon blurb:

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

Kearne hooked me on page one. I admit to a special fondness for anything sci-fi or fantasy, so maybe I have a teensie bit of bias. Still, Hounded introduces a main character with attitude and humor, two traits which will pretty much guarantee I’ll like the character, unless they kill a puppy or something.

The story is written well, with a tight first person point of view that doesn’t waiver, and well-paced prose and dialogue which keep the story moving from start to finish. The character’s take on deities I found humorous, his dog is entertaining, and Atticus’ relationships with other characters paint a character with depth.

If you like magic, myths, and snark, I suggest taking a look at Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series.


Book Review: Annhilation

This past weekend I hopped on a plane, well, technically there were 4 of them– 2 going and 2 returning– and meandered over to Topeka, KS for a wedding. En route I found time to read, something I tend to have very little time to do on the ground.

I read TWO books, which means you’ll get two reviews, but I’ll only hit you with one today.

The first book I read was, “Annihilation” by Jeff Vandermeer. A friend of mine gave me a free copy awhile back and I finally had a chance to read it.

vandemeerHere’s the Amazon blurb:

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

Annihilation is the first volume in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, which will be published throughout 2014: volume two (Authority) in June, and volume three (Acceptance) in September.

Pros

  1. Prose was well written. Not once did my inner editor kick in.
  2. Excellent use of description.
  3. All five senses are evoked.
  4. Good pacing.

CONS

  1. No real surprises. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, or because I’ve read enough stories that followed a similar premise that I knew early on exactly what path the story would take.
  2. The story is purposely written in a very objective sort of manner,  and this is done well. Perhaps, maybe too well, as the main character is so emotionally distant that I did not really feel the same connection I usually do to characters. The very end hooked me just enough to have a bit of a curiosity as to what happens to her, but if I don’t get a chance to read book 2, I won’t fret over it.
  3. While the concept of the story was creepy, it failed to evoke the kind of skin-crawl, avoid dark room sort of feeling that I had expected.
  4. The characters have no depth and die pretty quickly. The main character sticks around for awhile, but has very little character growth. I get the no name thing, but you don’t need a name to connect a reader to a character. Besides, at some point the main character should have thought of her name if merely to show her reaction to it and the changes she’s undergone.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read, but less character driven than the stories that I prefer. For readers who don’t mind more plot centered stories, this drawback might not matter.

 

Review- The Displaced Detective Series: The Case of the Cosmological Killer (Endings and Beginnings and The Rendlesham Incident)

I could have used Holmes’ skill this morning when I sadly discovered my brand new bicycle had been liberated from my laundry room. Alas, I can only find him within the realm of fiction.

However, in that realm, he rules. I reviewed the first and second books in Stephanie Osborn’s series last week. All ebooks are currently on sale over on Amazon.

In this case, these two books are best read back to back. It’s very clear that the publisher decided a page count had been met and literally published half a book, so I’ll review the two as basically one story.

**SPOILERS**

Our hero, the one and only Sherlock Holmes, gets hitched and then shortly thereafter visits London with his new bride to handle a particularly confounding case for the Queen.

The ups and downs of seeing his home and yet not his home is handled quite well. Osborn makes us empathize with her characters. Poor Dr. Chadwick-Holmes finds herself in the odd position of being viewed as an impediment or handy convenience rather than as a wife when introduced to those who know that Holmes is the Holmes. That subplot speaks volumes to the human tendency to make assumptions, especially about people we view as heroes.

Not long after arriving in England, Skye and Sherlock discover the true nature of the UFO. A tessaract from another multiverse is viewing them. Due to design differences, it creates an orb like structure visible in their multiverse. While Sherlock explores a mysterious death, Skye once again must save the very fabric of the multiverse from disaster, but this time she has a little help.

It’s a fun read with excellent character growth and intriguing science melded around a mystery that reveals itself one clue at a time.  Check it out!

Endings and Beginnings

Book Review- The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed

I shall bookend this week with another review. This one is for book two in the Displaced Detective Series by Stephanie Osborn. This past Monday I reviewed book one. 

***Contains a few spoilers***

Book two, The Case of the Displaced Detective: At Speed, picks up right where book one left off. The heroine, Skye Chadwick spends a good portion of this book recovering from a gunshot wound received in book one. Sherlock finds himself torn between the principles of logic and reason and his emotions. While Holmes and Chadwick believe they thwarted the spy ring’s attempt to sabotage the Tessaract, they still must identity the members of the spy ring and determine the motive for the sabotage.

The romance holds center court in the first half of the book, but the mystery and the danger surrounding it influences the motivations of each character. As clues are slowly revealed, the plot unfolds and tension mounts. Even toward the end of the book, the insecurities of each character makes for romantic tension, as one isn’t sure they’ll find common ground.

In regards to the mystery, they end up chasing their quarry across dimensions to prevent catastrophic damage to multiple continuums, and in the process of their investigation Holmes and Chadwick each end up injured multiple times. Moriarty in any continuum is not a fellow one wishes to trifle with.

The book is primarily character driven and written to mimic Arthur Connan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes writing style. The pacing makes one feel the passage of time, and the frustration that comes with having to wait for the next information tidbit, rather than making it seem as if complex investigations magically wrap up in twenty-four hours. Another thing I liked, was that the characters are not “super people”. You know how in so many stories the hero or heroine face overwhelming odds and escape without so much as scratch? Holmes and Chadwick each earn their fair share of bruises and they feel it. One winces as it seems they spend a good portion of the story recuperating from yet another mishap.

If you enjoy fast paced, action pack stories, I’d suggest you read another book. If, however, you enjoy character driven stories where mystery and science entwine with romance, give this series a shot.

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