Friday, October 26, 2012

(Indy Review) The Chosen by Denise Grover Swank

Chosen (The Chosen #1)
Denise Grover Swank

Overall **** Plot *** Interactions **** Characters **** World **** Originality *** Grammar **** Style ****

What is it with prophecies and fantasy? It seems to me they either be irrelevant or complete story killers. If they are true, they represent a complete lack of control on the part of the hero. Predestination wins over free choice. If they aren't then why do we care? I don't know, but when they're handled well, they really can add to the story. Case in point, Denise Swank uses the prophecy in her story to good effect.

(Mild spoiler alert)

“Chosen” is a contemporary fantasy with a prophecy about the rise to power of two individuals. One of whom will defeat the other—and go on to rule the world one would suppose. It's unusual to combine prophecies with contemporary settings and it put me off when I first learned about it. After all, it's set in this world and we are not currently awash in accurate, or at least understandable prophecies. But, I kept on and felt well rewarded that I did.

“Chosen” is a story which explores questions about loyalty and love in a world where the protagonists are stuck between groups of bad guys. It starts out with a woman, Emma, and her mystically gifted son on the run from unknown assailants whose motives are completely unknown, but whose methods are brutal. She meets a man, Will, who seemingly jumps into her life to save her.

Happily, she is no feinting, helpless princess and he is no Prince Charming. We soon find out that he is a ruthless, seemingly amoral, bounty hunter hired to find her and deliver her to a mysterious group of powerful and wealthy men. From then on the story is about what happens to them.

The reader doesn't find out about the prophecy until the second third of the story and it completely changed the tone from dangerous chase to full-blown contemporary fantasy. I think it would have been less jarring to know where it was going before I read it—which is why I put it here.

The characters are not complex, but they are passionate, feel real, and I found myself caring about them. The story is not complex, but it is entertaining and gripping in places. The writing is well done and for the most part transparent. It does not hinder the story or pull you out of it, which meets my idea of good writing. The story is the first in a series and comes to barely enough of a conclusion so I didn't feel cheated.

Of course, it's hard to feel cheated when I got the book for free, but for me, a free book that waists my time is an expensive book. This one was a bargain. It's a good solid four out of five stars overall.

Of course, now I'm going to buy the second one.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Indy Review: A Death Displaced by Andrew Butcher

A Death Displaced
Andrew Butcher

Overall ** Plot ** Interactions **1/2 Characters *** World **** Originality **** Grammar *** Style ****

Nick Crystan is a man without much of a purpose in life. He spends his time trying to find enlightenment in various ways and ekes by with part time work in a new-age shop on Lansin Island. “A Death Displaced” begins with Nick having a startling and realistic vision of a woman falling to her death. A few days later when Nick recognizes the early parts of his vision are actually occurring, he acts fast to save the life of the woman, Juliet.

Although Juliet doesn't stick around to thank Nick, this experience seems to indicate that maybe life has a purpose for Nick after all. He begins having prophetic visions that he struggles to understand.

Juliet finds her life changed as well. Since the accident, she feels oddly disconnected from the world and is told by a seer that she should have died that day and now her spirit resided in the spirit realm while her body is still alive. Because of this, she can now see the spirits of the departed. She has a visit from Nick's mother, who seemingly abandoned her family when Nick was young. Samantha Crystan asks Juliet to find her son Nick and tell him to go to Grendel Manor.

Juliet does as she is asked and she and Nick are thrown together to try and solve the mystery of Samantha Crystan's disappearance.

For the most part, despite several errors that should have been picked up in the proofreading, the prose in “A Death Displaced” is good and after the first few chapters the characters are engaging and three dimensional. The mystery surrounding Samantha's disappearance lead Juliet and Nick to discover some interesting history of the island and introduces some intriguing characters. Nick and Juliet have an instant attraction to each other that has a promise of romance and a nice hook to provide urgency to the plot.

“A Death Displaced” is Andrew Butcher's first novel and suffers from some structural issues that I am increasingly discovering are fairly typical of self-published books. As I mentioned above, the characters and story are engaging, but the pacing could use some tweaking and tightening.

In the first couple of chapters, Nick was such a wet rag of a person, that I wondered if I really cared what happened to him, but as the story unfolds, we discover more of his past and his general attitude towards life gets explained.

Mr. Butcher make some odd choices in the plot. For me, the climax of the book arrived too soon and without sufficient tension to really be satisfying. After the climax, Juliet and Nick find themselves at odds and the story follows them as they try to figure out what happened and how to move on. Then, instead of coming to a more satisfying conclusion, the story line switches to a new character who, until now, has played a bit part in the story and has little reader sympathy.

In general, it left me wondering why I had read the last 20% of the book.

It's obvious that “A Death Displaced” was intended as an introduction to future books in the series and if you read it with that in mind, you might not find the structure as off putting as I did. As I stated earlier, the writing itself is strong, the setting is interesting and the premise is intriguing. It shows that Mr. Butcher has the potential to create some excellent works in the future. Having invested the time to read the first book, I will be likely to pick up the second if the reviews look good.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Quicky Reviews: 10 Indy books

Lately, I've discovered that I'm reading a lot more books than I am reviewing so I'm going to try and catch up. Since I've been immersed in the independent publishing world, I've been reading a lot of Indie books, so most of these are not mainstream. If someone out there wants a more in-depth review of a book, feel free to ask.

Historically, I've generally not been a critical reader or cognizant of grammatical errors, unless they are egregious, but the more I've been studying grammar as writer, the more aware of it I've become. I hope I don't get to be one of these grammar crazed readers, but I've already seen it happening. Sigh.

No Rating - Too many grammar errors for me to read.  Will try again if they get it edited.             
*          = terrible, avoid
***      = a decent read
*****  = amazingly amazing

No Rating Books
  • The Wisdom of Evil by Scarlet Black
    This book needs a serious edit before I can read it.
  • Shadow of Death by Karen Dales
    Same as above.
  • The Ghost Hunters Club by L.K. Jay
    This is a competently written book, but it reads like an English episode of Sex in the City. It's a nice peek into British life, but I was hoping for a bit more action. I think this is a case of the Not My Kind Of Book misunderstanding. As far as I got, it did not appear to be urban fantasy as I had assumed.

2 Star books.
  • Bite Me by Parker Blue
    Bite Me reads like someone made a checklist for what would make a good urban fantasy. Kick butt hero? Check. Crisis in hero's personal life?
    Check. Conflicted love interest? Check. Irreverent, snarky sidekick? Check. It only caught my interest near the end. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't read so many books like it.
  • A Lucky Break by Terry Callister
    A long, slow book about a man who discovers he can time travel. This is a simple wish fulfillment book and explores just how cool time travel would be. Not much drama.
3.5 Star books
  • Glamour by Penelope Fletcher
    I read Glamour last year and the details are fuzzy, but there are scenes from the book that
    have made enough impression on me to be lodged in my brain. I still remember clearly enjoying this interesting novel. Some new and old ideas mixed together in a pleasant way.
  • Lady of Devices by Shelly Adina
    A steampunk novel about a high born lady laid low, who lifts herself up with her steampunk engineering. I plan to read the sequel I just discovered. I suspect it will get even better.
4 star books.
  • Vampire Games by J.R. Rain
    I really like this entire series. Samantha Moon is a mother first, a vampire second, and a private investigator third. She is a refreshing change of pace in the Vampire genre's cast of characters. She's a mother who never asked to be a vampire and never wanted to be one. My only beef? These are more like novellas than full length novels.

  • The Dark Path by Luke Romyn
    The opening scenes of this book hit me as terribly gruesome, but the rest of the book didn't follow that path, which is a good thing for me. I enjoyed this story of a man beyond redemption who yet chooses to do the right thing.

  • Zero Sight by Justin Shier
    A fun, well written book. Well worth the read.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ryder On The Storm - Violet Paterson (paranormal romance)

Ryder On The Storm by Violet Paterson, Edited by Trace Broyles

Overall *** Plot *** Interactions *** Characters *** World **** Originality **** Grammar **** Style ****
Review Format
This review is based upon a review copy given to me by the author.

Storm Sullivan comes from a long line of Seers, but she doesn't care.  In fact, for most of her life, she hasn't cared about much of anything.  When she learns of her Aunt Trin's death, no tears come. Her two best friends Dan and Shane are gorgeous men who both love her, but she feels no attraction to them. In fact, she's never really felt any attraction for any man. Until she meets Ryder, an immortal who has been tasked to destroy the Sullivan seer's to avert the fulfillment of an old prophecy.

When Storm meets Ryder, the sheer intensity of the physical attraction between the two overwhelms them, leaving both of them shocked and confused.

After Storm encounters Ryder, her life changes.  Suddenly she can feel again and just as suddenly, powers that she has never experienced before begin to manifest.  At the same time, ancient prophecies by her ancestor's come to the fore and she finds herself in the middle of a battleground between her kind and the immortals.

The writing in Ryder On The Storm is generally solid and clean. It is told from the points of view of the two main characters, Ryder and Storm (thus the title).  It fulfills its role as a paranormal romance and should satisfy lover's of that genre.

In Ryder, Violet Patterson has a deft hand at description, but some of her dialog seems a bit forced or out of place.  The book starts up and grabs the readers attention quickly, and I found myself enjoying the story. It carried my interested even though the characters felt a little two dimensional. It wasn't enough to seriously interfere with my enjoyment of the book or the characters, but with one exception, there  were few surprises lurking inside the characters.

The story-line is engaging and satisfying through the majority of the book. I found myself drawn into Storm and Ryder's world and found it easy to root for both protagonists and their budding romance.  Unfortunately for me, I found the ending a bit flat. The climax and conclusion of the story was a bit forced and held very little tension. When it was over I found myself wondering if the author had just gotten tired of the story.

Despite the uninspiring conclusion, overall, this is a fun quick read and not a bad start to a new series.  Typically, as a series continues, the author's skills improve markedly and I wouldn't be surprised to see that here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Jack Kursed by Glen Bullion (Urban Fantasy)

Jack Kursed by Glen Bullion  

Enjoyment **** Plot *** Interactions *** Characters **** World ***** Originality **** Grammar **** Style ****
Review Format

I have no idea what the cover of this book has to do with the story, but it is a good story.

Jack Kursed started out life in the Eighteen hundreds as a poor farmer.  His life takes a turn for the different when out of kindness he invites a woman said to be a witch to stay with him for the night.  Turns out she is actually a witch and she feeds him a potion that renders him immortal and sleepless.

Advance the story two hundred years and the only thing Jack wants to do is die. He is a cold hearted, angry, bitter, pitiless, self-centered bastard, who has kept himself out of mainstream human life and views 'mortals' as little more than vermin.  If they die now or in fifty years, who cares, they are still dead. His one goal in life is to die.

Jack Kursed is an anti-hero whose only friend is a vampire twice his age.  Unlike him, she's enjoying life and is fully immersed in it. She drops in to visit him after a hundred years grudge on his part has kept her away.

The lion's share of the story takes place in the present day and follows Jack's completely unsubtle and un-empathic methods of dealing with problems.

Jack likes to live a simple, uncomplicated life and just be left alone, but of course, events conspire to pull him back into the world.

Watching Jack struggles is both appalling and appealing. He's a serious jerk, but by the end of the story you end up sort of liking and envying the guy his freedom to indulge in his particularly pragmatic and bloody style of judgement.

This book takes place in the same world as other's of Mr. Bullion's books which feature Kursed's beautiful vampire friend.  The history is laid out enough that you don't feel lost, but feels rich enough to make me want to investigate the other books, none of which I've read.

The pacing of the book is not frantic, but moves along nicely.

Strong character development, believable dialog, solid writing.  Lots of other books to read by Mr. Bullion.

Given the premise, there is not a lot of ways to take a story like this, so it is a little too predictable.


Solid 4 out of 5 stars for entertainment value.  It kept my interest and had a satisfying conclusion. All in all, I would recommend this book to enjoyer's of Urban Fantasy.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Once A Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Enjoyment *** Plot ** Interactions *** Characters **** World *** Originality *** Grammar **** Style ****

Review Format

Once a Witch is a young adult contemporary fantasy about a girl, Tamsin, who comes from a family of 'witches'. Every member of their family, except Tamsin, has a Ttalent' or a magic ability. At her birth, Tamsin is proclaimed to be very special, but by the time she is 8, by which time every other member of her family gets their talent, Tamsin still doesn't have one.

Tired of being pitied by her Talented family, Tamsin escapes to New York to attend school there and be around 'normal' people.

On one of her frequent trips home, Tamsin is working at the family store when a man comes in looking for someone who can find an old clock that was lost by his family many years before. Tamsin takes his job, even though she has no Talent and starts a terrible chain of events.

This is the start of a whirlwind adventure for Tamsin where she unexpectedly finds her 'Talent' and comes face to face with a man who would see her entire family destroyed.

This book had most of the right pieces in place to be very enjoyable for me. The prose was clear and the characters were sympathetic and enjoyable but ultimately, the plot disappointed me. There are lots of dark hints and secrets which Tamsin has to deal with as she tries to resolve her troubles, but in the end, when the secrets are revealed, I felt many were anticlimatic and not resolved in a clever way by the author or Tamsin.

It was fun to spend time with Tamsin, but nothing else made me jump for joy.

I probably will read another book in this series to see if it delivers a bit more on its promise.