Wrestling Demons, by Jason Brick

5_14_15 Wrestling Demons

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Release date is June 19, 2017

Wrestling Demons, as it turns out, is about a high-school wrestler that–wait for it–fights demons.

 

Not on purpose. Not at first, anyway.

 

Connor Morgan is a varsity wrestler whose life changes after a strange attack on school grounds. The mystery that follows is a tightly constructed one. One of the good types. I thought for sure I had the actual end figured out. Nope. Point to the author.

 

Drawing heavily on Japanese mythology, the author demonstrates their commitment to research. Yet, it avoids most of the stereotypes that usually follow. Connor isn’t the “Chosen One,” or the white savior. Connor is part of a team. While that team consists of supporting characters, they all feel indispensable. No one gets left behind, and there was some attention paid to their character development. They still felt like individuals with their own personalities. All their interactions were well-done, and the dialogue never felt clunky.

 

Despite past occurrences, Connor still has a loving family. Words can’t express how much I loved the dynamic. The implicit trust (and refusal to break said trust). The communication that families should have. It still utilizes the broken family trope, but they’re more cracked than anything. Still held together.

 

I see what the author was doing with romantic subplot. It served a purpose, and it started promising. The farther along in the narrative it got, the less and less I liked his love interest. Her character was fine. It was the actual interaction and conversations between her and Connor I didn’t like.

 

Speaking of narrative, Connor does an excellent job of recounting his adventures. The tone was appropriate for his character. Details were where they needed to be. They felt more like passing observations, but still gave the reader a good idea of what was going on. Action scenes were well-written. There wasn’t anything super-elaborate or flowery. It wasn’t all “this happened, then this.” There were no “superpowered” kids that learned Kung-Fu in two weeks. It had a nice pace with excellent attention to continuity. When it came down to wrestling, the author didn’t assume that the reader knew the rules. I learned something from this novel. Always a bonus.

 

I liked the positive metaphors Wrestling Demons contained. And they were obvious metaphors as well. Nothing too convoluted. Nice and simple. The story ended tied up, neat and clean. There was enough left in place to hint at the possibility of a sequel; something I would very much look forward to.

 

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Quest of the Golden Apple, by Geoffrey Angapa

5_9_17 Quest for the Golden Apple

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Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Tolkien and Lewis Carroll wrote a book? Not just any book, but a fairytale. The Quest of the Golden Apple shows us exactly how awesome that would be.
 
Now, there is quite a bit of editing that needs doing. Paragraphs are super-long, and have multiple characters talking in them at once. The occasional punctuation and grammar mix-up. The sentence structure is long, too, but it sets the right tone and pace for the story.
 
From talking animals to elves, Geoffrey’s quest leads him all across the land. It reads almost like the Hobbit. It has flowery prose paired with an older type of language. It has elements of more modern times, yet medieval characteristics. Kings and princesses amidst the existence of London and Tokyo.
 
The sequence of events is creative. For what it was, I don’t have questions left unanswered. Character development is palpable. Not only are stereotypes for men and women broken, but also for the main character. Geoffrey learns many lessons throughout his journey. In turn, the readers learn lessons–positive ones, at that. The journey that we start on won’t always go our way. What’s important is how we adapt, refocus. I would love to read this again once edits happen.
Buy it here!

Dragonsoul, by Kayl Karadjian

4_27_17 Dragonsoul

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This was so. Cute.

 

Gloom and doom have got people feeling a little…gray. In a literal sense. Denyth is a young boy whose life consists of nothing but gray. Kid’s never seen a color before, though he has heard of the legends. Of a place called Evenar. And dragons. But that’s only a legend, right? In the first few pages, the author immediately sets the tone of the novel.

 

We’re also introduced to D-Zero, the king’s personal go-to guy. He’s the kind whose deprived personality fits in with the rest of the world. D-Zero also goes to show how anti-heroes can distinguish themselves from villains. The line between good and bad is as gray as the rest of the world.

 

The story narrates back and forth between a few characters. All are necessary to move the story along. Point of view switches were smooth. Flashbacks were not. They happened without much transition, though the author tried to be subtle. I had to re-read often to see why things changed.

 

Each subplot serves to add another layer to depth of the world. It’s obvious great care and thought went into the creation of the setting. The description and style choice between the two lands change to alter the mood of the reader.

 

A few errors slipped through editing. Obvious, but nothing deal-breaking. Some of the narration sounded a little too stiff and formal. Out of place, even.

 

I liked the way the dialogue flowed and how smooth character interactions were. Each character was different. Each on had their own voice, something made easy to discern. All were well-rounded.

 

Character development was fabulous. A story line unique to each character was present. They all faced different hurdles at different times and the differences showed. The best part? It was all accomplished without a silly little romantic subplot.

 

Whether I’m reading too far into thing or not, this novel felt rife with metaphors. Reminded me quite a bit of The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis. The Gloom feels like a metaphor for the monotony of everyday life, and feels like one for depression. It creeps into the hearts of even the brightest soul and changes them. The author does an excellent job of conveying that feeling.

 

Intentional or not, the metaphors make the story feel more relatable. And did I mention how cute the story was? The moment we’re introduced to Littlehorn, I fell in love. The bond and interactions shared between Littlehorn and Denyth were so adorable.

 

I enjoyed the authors’ writing style and imagination. Fantasy lovers are sure to get enjoyment from this novel.

 

Buy it here!

Deity’s Soulmate, by Angelina Kerner

4_25_17 Deity's Soulamte

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Deity’s Soulmate is an interesting amalgamation of Greek mythos and modern storytelling. Modern in that it takes place with current amenities, so to speak. While the deity’s can go anywhere and to any time, the story itself feels like it takes place in the year 2017. Gardenia, Apollo and Athena’s daughter, starts her journey creating her very first universe. Like all her relatives before her. She is in fierce competition with Harvest, daughter of Hera and Zeus. Both women are always trying to one up each other. As a result, it pushes Gardenia to make the most important decision of her life.

 

I can say without a doubt that I don’t like Gardenia’s character. Based on her familial background, I know the readers are supposed to sympathize with her. I can’t. The more the story progresses, the more we see that she’s the same as everyone else. Demanding, rude, self-centered, and petty. Read: everything a Greek deity’s described as. So, while her personality is canon, I don’t find her likable. Or relatable. Negative traits in a character are good things, usually. Not very many people seem to grasp that fact that they’re needed for a full personality. Unfortunately, Gardenia’s outweighs her good traits. And it feels so over the top it’s like she’s trying to show off. Trying too hard.

 

There isn’t much in the way of character development. Gardenia does everything with relative ease. Magic is what she relies on. It does everything for her. No limits in sight. This gives her an unnatural advantage during her quest. Cheapens her victories, if you will. There’s a vague idea that somewhere, somehow, she’s struggling to fulfill her task. I have yet to see it.

 

The writing style was very fast-paced. It suited the story…for the most part. There was a lot more telling than showing. Telling can be useful. This case was very overdone.

 

The pacing of the story itself felt off. Every so often Gardenia would do something, only to have years pass. Except it doesn’t feel like years have passed. It feels like Gardenia is vomiting her story out. That everything is happening one right after another. The fact that her character stays the same from beginning to end doesn’t help. Generally, with the passage of time, people change. Gardenia didn’t.

 

Deity’s Soulmate has potential. It’s hard to find Greek mythology that hasn’t been overdone, and this novel can do it. It would take some work. Still, it’s a step in the right direction.

 

Buy it here!

 

Campion’s Choice, by Geoff Warwick

4_17_17 Campions Choice

4 stars

Meet Jack Campion, your average thirteen-year-old. Except he finds weird coins and elephants in abandoned air-raid shelters. And makes piggy banks explode, and…Jack does a lot more than the usual kid his age.
I like the fact that while Jack’s life takes the obvious weird turn, his focus is clear: make his dad better. After an accident left his dad a walking vegetable, things haven’t been so great for the Campion family. It shows in the way Jack presents himself to other people. His emotions have range, and he uses them to his advantage to stay focused. Even when the aliens come for him. Or people get murdered. And now Jack must channel his inner Nancy Drew to figure out what’s going on.
The author’s style suits this novel. It was weird and choppy, like a kids’ brain. Not once did I experience an information dump. Backstory and minute details get fleshed out through dialogue and worldly encounters. The writing is very solid. It’s descriptive enough without being too much or too little. It’s humorous, without detracting from the importance of the situation.
Each of the characters were three-dimensional as well. Jack, Tia, and Liam all have their own unique personalities important to the story. All supporting characters, such as Jack’s dad, were all distinct. While distinct, yes, character development lacked. The character development for Jack is obvious. Main characters are easiest to coax along. Secondary characters are where the struggle gets real. That’s one area where this novel lacked. Or, in Tia’s case, thrown in as an afterthought. Only a few sentences at the end.
Another thing that bothered me was the age of the characters. Jack and Tia, the two that the narrative focuses on, are thirteen. Boy, do they not sound like it. While they don’t sound like it, their age explains why they up and agree to go along with aliens without much of a problem. Downside is, Tia’s character feels thrown in only to be Jack’s ‘love interest.’ There’s too much there. They’re kids. Boys and girls can be friends without any romantic attraction. Please, stop this trope. It’s so bad. And I don’t see any way it serves the plot.
Armed with a unique plot (something so rare nowadays), the author manages to tie up all the loose ends except for one or two—and they’re the ones you know are going to be the focus of the next few books. I love knowing that I finished a book without a multitude of questions that won’t have any play in the future. Well done.

 

 

Buy it here!

Dragon’s Bane, by Melody Jackson

4_14_17 Dragon's Bane

4 stars

After reading the summary, I had two initial impressions.
First, that Dragon’s Bane was going to be a classic “Chosen One” story trope. Only the main character could solve all the problems. Second: the main character was going to become engrossed in an awful love story.
All things considered, I wasn’t wrong.
A young woman named Lena narrates how she didn’t mean to steal that dragon–and there it is. The reader’s hooked. How does one ‘accidentally’ steal a dragon? How does she not know that she stole a dragon? What circumstances led to that? The reader is asking a million questions, and they’re only a few pages in. Conflict’s established right off the bat. Not only for the chapter, but the novel as well.
The story premise is not wholly unique–but I like it. One country looking for a hostile takeover of another. People live in fear of infected dragons that want to burn their cities to the ground. A must-have quest for the one item to win the war for the underdogs–and Lena is the person to do that. There’s the possible evidence to support the “Chosen One” trope. I use the term “possible” because things seemed straightforward at first. Foreshadowing was in all the right places. Still, one of the two twists caught me off-guard. Kudos to the author here: it’s hard to do that to me. Later books could prove me wrong.
While not the most diverse of casts, Dragon’s Bane still contained more than most. Jackson was explicit when ensuring readers knew which characters weren’t white.
Grammar and punctuation are all solid. Dragon’s Bane has an excellent level of readability. Characterization is solid as well. Each character has their own unique voice. They feel three-dimensional. The narrator, when the point-of-view switches away from Lena, feels like a character. Jackson made sure that the POV switches came at appropriate times. Not once did I ever feel lost or disconnected from the story when it switched from first to third person.
Story pacing was okay. A few points in the exposition were too drawn out. They slowed the story down too much. Then the action resumed and I forgot about it.
These are all very good things that make this novel stand out. There were some things later on that I felt weakened it.
At first the banter between Lena and another character, Blaze, was cute. They both have smart mouths and hot tempers. They don’t like each other: I get that. After a while, it became a chore to read. It was constant. It got so old so fast that I found myself gritting my teeth when they were in the same scene. I hated the way he treated her. I hated the way she let it all go and tried to “fix” him. I still do not like their relationship.
As for Blaze himself…much like the banter, his personality was bearable at first. Then he started taking the ‘brooding bad boy’ trope too far. Everyone seemed ready and eager to brush it off as ‘that’s Blaze,’ no harm no foul. I started to hate him. Still do, though the reason behind his actions gets explained. There was no excuse for his behavior. Later content could change my mind, but for now I stand by my opinion.
Actually, there’s one or two things that I hope get explained later. I loved the idea behind the cliff-hanger at the end, don’t get me wrong. I read the final few paragraphs, sat down, and wondered aloud: “then what was the entire point of all this?”
Dragon’s Bane was a good read. I enjoyed it despite the few personal problems I had. Jackson is a talented author, and I am excited to read more.
Buy it here!

Review of “Shattered Advances (The Struggle for Probana) by TC Squires

Shattered Advances (The Struggle for Probana) by TC Squires is a YA sci-fi adventure told through the eyes of a young man, conscripted by the military to ward off invasions from the mysterious enemy known only as Shrouds. It takes you on an emotional train ride as Kaene suffers through loss, responsibility, and the escalating pressure put on him by his new position in the military, as well as his own determination to see the war end.

The writing was detailed and consistent, giving a refreshing taste of a narrative being told through dialogue rather than an off-page narrator, which helps you stay immersed in the story as well as the world. It stays well-paced, revealing only what needs to be revealed at the time, and never skips a beat in unfolding the narrative.

However, some of that dialogue was difficult to navigate as well as read. Everyone talked so formally—and I mean everyone. It made things a bit dry and boring occasionally.

Some of the interactions felt really forced as well; it felt like the author felt obliged to include a romantic subplot, and that was fine, but it was put together rather poorly. At one point Kaene’s advances start to come off as really creepy, though I don’t think that’s what the author meant for.

All in all, Shattered Advances is an excellent set up and beginning to what very well may play out like Ender’s Game.

Buy on Amazon

Review of ‘The City Darkens’ by Sophia Martin

The City Darkens by Sophia Martin is everything one would want in a fantasy, decopunk world (and I had to look up what decopunk really was). It creates a whole new world where robots run rampant with a roaring 20’s backdrop. Sophia’s writing style brings it all to life in the mind’s eye without being overbearing on the senses.

Throw in a dystopian regime which eventually shows signs of giving way to Nazism, a Norse theme by which society and religion are governed, a very mature outlook on both feminism and sexuality, The City Darkens has a tight grip on exactly what kind of message it’s trying to convey.

Not only the world, but the main character, Myadar, is brilliantly crafted as one of the best-written heroines I’ve seen in a very long time. Myadar is a woman. Just that. Sophia doesn’t make any distinction about what ‘category’ Myadar fits into. She just is. And I loved that; a refreshing step back from how women are traditionally written.

Perfectly paced to, quite literally, keep you turning the pages. I devoured the book in a day. I was reading before work, at work, and when I got home from work. To make it better, Sophia ended the novel with a cliffhanger that was infuriating and oh-so-tantalizing. I smell a sequel? I can only hope.

Also, I worked very hard to keep this concise; there’s so much to go on about it’s not even funny.

Buy on Amazon