Tuesday, September 19, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Gunslinger (Book 1 of the Dark Tower) by Stephen King

An evocative literary mystical journey…

But one that doesn’t really go anywhere. Book one of the Dark Tower sets the stage, introduces the character, his protagonist, and asks a lot of questions.

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*3 STARS*
Dark Fantasy | Re-Published: January 2016 | Scribner | 340 pages

The Gunslinger is a story of a man on a journey, one he has been at for countless years; pursuit of a man in black, a man he knows nothing about, but suspects much. This man must answer for crimes, but those are oft unclear. The Gunslinger will travel to the ends of the earth, though, and stop at nothing to reach his journey’s end.

While King fashions an interesting world that is part nuclear, far-flung dystopia, part wild western showdown with a tall-walking hero, there is little to connect with as the Gunslinger’s journey is one of grave solitude. This is a story of remembrance, of old haunted (sometimes tormenting) memories. If anything is achieved here it is in laying a groundwork, a solid character we can sympathize with even if we do not wholly understand.

Much remained a question, left me wondering if what I read was “real”, some figment of a dying man’s last breaths, a conjuring by the mysterious sorcerer, or deeply buried allegory that never came back up for air.

The Gunslinger is a lonely man and the book is a lonely book. There was little grounding here, the side characters were superfluous, there to serve a means, and time seemed to mean nothing in this universe we are still coming to grips with.

I would have liked to have had more connection with the characters, to understand more of the Gunslinger’s journey, and when it started, to know what grave offense the man in black committed, the list goes on…

These and many more are questions brought up and never answered. There are allusions, and the ending brought a level of satisfaction, then twisted right back upon itself to make you question the reality created.

And why would the Gunslinger linger so long in that old western town while the outlaw continued on the run; and what about the child? The child! I should stop here.

It all seemed a literary experiment to blend and mash up your brain, leaving me unsure if the story would ever go anywhere in particular, or at least anywhere particularly interesting. I’d rather it had been more literal and less literary. That said, the ending brought light to some questions, ramped up the interest, but then trod upon my expectations with one last twist.

Will this amount to something in Book 2? I hope so. As a standalone story I rate this as 3 spent lead slugs (out of 5). Strangely appealing, though it is in desperate need of some answers to draw out my interest.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

50+ Free Fantasy Books

Fill Your Bookshelves to the Brim!

Looking for some free books to try? InstaFreebie has a ton.

Click Here!

Try Rotten Magic, the beginning intrigues and the author has a way with the character's voice that made me want to read more. Or Trials of Magic where the opening scene has a nurse and a patient in a hospital where magic is used to cure. There are over 50 stories in all, each one is available for free on InstaFreebie.

What is InstaFreebie you may ask? Well dear reader, I am just feeling super helpful today: It's a service that offers free books if you provide your e-mail address to the individual author for each book you choose and sign up for their newsletter. This is just a way for readers to find new authors that they may (or may not) fall in love with. No commitment needed, every author taking part should remove you from their list immediately upon request, or fear terrible retribution. I've been using the service myself to help get the word out about Seeking the Veil.

And check out some of these beautiful covers: Click here to support the authors, download some today, and have a Fantasy-tastic week! (Yeah, ok, pretty cheesy, I know. But, what can I say? It makes me grin.)


And a final thanks to author, Devyn Jayse for putting together the giveaway (and for including Seeking the Veil!) She's a new author and certainly has a fine sense of style.

Monday, September 4, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Flame Kissed by Alexis Radcliff (Seeking the Dragon: Book 1)

A girl whose life was changed by a tragic fire, budding romance, a frightening mystery, and a fantasy twist that will knock your socks off.

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*4 STARS*

Ella was an orphan, her family taken by fire. With high school nearly over, her dreams of musical talents obsessing her time, her family arranges a ski trip while her adoptive sister plots romance. Life will never be the same after this trip, and it has nothing to do with rippling abs or chiseled jaws.

Or does it?

It’s hard to adequately review a short story like Flame Kissed. The story is well told, characters fleshed out, dialogue true, but it is short. A great ground breaking, the story has set the scene for fantasy and romance, and what seems like a whole lot more to come.

I’m intrigued by the fantasy elements; they come late, but they feel authentic, fun, and real. When constantly shown that people with power abuse it in the real world it is hard to believe that those in a fantasy setting will not just do the same. Radcliff realizes this and Ella’s stoic “savior” shows that too much power tends to corrupt (at least some of our better morals.)

I was less taken by the romance between Ella and…well, we’ll skip on that and let you see for yourself.

I caution about a cliffhanger ending that will have you chomping at the bit for more. But thankfully, book 2 is now available. So that’s probably a good thing.

Published: August 2017 | www.lexirad.com

*As of August 2017, the author confirmed by e-mail that book 3 will be out in the next month or so and books 4-5 will soon follow. Sign up for the author’s newsletter to be first to know.
*Disclaimer: I’ve met Radcliff at a local writer’s group in the past, and was given a copy of this book by the publisher for review

Thursday, August 31, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Emotional impact with every grain.

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*5 STARS*

Salt to the Sea tells of the real-world tragedy that swept up and down the Baltic States from Lithuania to Estonia as Hitler’s machine began to crumble under Stallin’s Red Army. Four young lives are impacted in her tale, fleeing the Russian invading force, each with their own mystery that unveils in careful precision as they stumble toward Gotenhafen and refuge upon the repurposed cruise ship: the Wilhem Gustloff.

Sepetys’s prose is spare and exacting, cutting like a knife, weaving four storylines slowly together until the bitter, climactic end. Despite the circumstances, she builds a sweet and genuine romance and each character’s mystery unfolds with each piece adding and building upon the rest.

There is Emilia – spoiled innocence with a haunted past; Florian – desperate, clever, seeking a daring retribution; Joanna – determined to make amends; and Alfred - delusional, a day dreamer, eager to be the best German soldier he can be (even if he can not.)

Just as salvation seems eminent, the long road over, dear friends lost, while new ones cling together, their refuge is targeted by a Russian sub and 9,000 perish in the worst maritime disaster of modern times. But the story does not end as you expect, and Sepetys once again proves her mettle with a conclusion that is poignant, heart-wrenching, and yet still rewarding.

Rare is it to want to read a book again—especially right after—but this was one of those oddities. And this from a guy sunk eyeball deep in the lore of fantasy and the cautionary wonder of sci-fi. Go figure.

As a novel, Salt to the Sea is superb; as a piece of history, slid under the magnifying glass, it is a telling reminder that in war, there are no winners and the true losses happen between the lines of war.

As conflicts boil throughout the world, as one country goes to fight some evil for the “greater good”, there are real people stuck in the middle, suffering. It is a point to remember.

February 2016 | Penguin Group

Friday, August 25, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I read Hunger Games, finally. Started great. But the actual contest was fairly contrived, and the fake romance tension missed the mark for me.

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*3 STARS*

Still, I continued on to read Book 2. Which just goes to show that a great concept can pull your story along. So long as you don't totally flub it.

And when I say "totally", I mean, she was pretty close.

Nothing worse than when a character acts inconsistently. Not to say we act consistent in real life, 100% of the time. But there needs to be a good reason for that inconsistency, and it needs to make sense.

All I have to say is...Poison Berries. Double Suicide. My thoughts? Katniss was nuts, it was a cop-out moment for the author, no way the Gamemakers would have stepped in. They want drama. How does it get any better than that?

3 arrows for hitting all the points, even if they were forced at times, and for a strong concept.

September 2009 | Scholastic Press

Monday, July 10, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop

Lavishly sensual, sexuality breathes throughout the book, with a humming roar of violence lurking in the background, or sometimes just exploding across the page in a fury.

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*3 STARS*

Daughter of the Blood is Book 1 of the Black Jewels trilogy, where there is a Light Realm, Dark Realm, a Twisted Kingdom, and for powerful practitioners of the Craft they can travel through the veil of death itself. There is a struggle in the background, an epic contest that transcends realities, but for now the story centers on the ruler of Hell, a lost son, and a cast of characters raging at their bonds. But the story ends up very personal, very small; there are no epic battles, though the danger often buzzes in the background.

Read the rest of my review at SFFWorld.com

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Make me write faster on Patreon

Love the books? Want more of Kip's wild antics, or more incredible  adventures and battles with Hestea?

Well, time is limited and I have a day job. But with enough patrons supporting just a couple dollars a month or more, and increasing sale of the books: I can achieve more. Much more.

Kip was my first professional cover and edit, but readers of my Hammerblood books know they are quality, fun stories with depth. I have high expectations for my stories. Help me get there faster and get cool rewards to boot. (And help Hestea get his own pro-covers. Remember, he has a really big hammer, knows how to swing it, and has a temper.)

How's it work?
You pledge a small amount monthly to support. Patreon takes care of collection and distribution with a small 5% fee (which is a great deal for what they offer) and patrons get special rewards on my Patreon page. There's a snippet of the sequel of Kip the Quick up there now.

Check out my Patreon page, become a patron today, and thanks for your support!

Think about it like a digital tip jar, and me with my book in hand, reading aloud on the street corner, entertaining passerby. (Perhaps a guitar would work better?)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

MOVIE REVIEW: Fantastics Beasts and Where to Find Them

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We watched Fantastic Beasts recently and while it was full of strong performances, took the Potter world into a darker, different direction, I felt as if the narrative lost its direction and veered into something more epic than I really wanted. Now, that’s said from a guy that loves epic fantasy, that writes epic fantasy, that pushed on reading through 14, 900+ page novels of the Wheel of Time, despite 100’s of pages where nothing happened of note. The simple reason I say this is because the derailing change in tone for Fantastic Beasts wasn’t needed.


*MINOR SPOILER ALERT* — Though really, it's pretty obvious in the movie.

Newt’s story of visiting New York, losing some of his animals and having to find them, felt a lot more interesting to me than the eventual Grindelwald reveal with his desires to out wizard society and stop hiding behind the scenes; bringing about the eventual no-maj and wizard war that would result. While I wanted to see all of those underhanded dealings, and Farrell’s character was a beautiful mix of conflicted power and passion, I was annoyed as the retrieval of the beasts took a back seat.

One of the brilliant parts of Harry Potter is it started small. Yes, it was evident that Potter was akin to a chosen one, but for the most part it seemed that his time in the spotlight had already come and passed. His celebration was for what he had done, not for what he would do. Fantastic Beasts misses that beat for me, by trying to start too big right out of the gate. I loved the budding relationship with the baker, as Newt's strangely willing sidekick, and while we got some vignette scenes of them in the suitcase displaying Newt’s passion for the odd and magical, the release and recapture of the beasts was thoroughly trumped by building Story B.

I’m not Rowling, but my inner writer was screaming to want to rewrite the script and push Story B into hints and foreshadowing that could lay the path to explode prominently on the scene in the sequel to Fantastic Beasts. There was enough drama and fun to let the retrieval of the beasts stand on its own as THE story.

I also have to say the climactic conclusion was just a back and forth mess where direction was lacking and it seemed the characters weren't even sure what they were supposed to be doing. Eventually it came together, and yes: it was big, it was tense, but the excitement and edge of your seat anticipation just felt forced.

Nevertheless, it was a solid movie, stronger than some of the Potter movies, even if it missed some of the pacing of the Harry Potter books.

As a fan of the Potterverse, one of the most exciting parts of the movie was imagining what may come with Rowling (maybe) delving into other side stories and building the world still greater and larger. Potter's story may be done, but there is so much more to tell.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Into the Fire (Samantha Kane, Book 1) by Patrick Hester

Detective Samantha Kane just saw a ghost, a werewolf eviscerated her partner, and she burned down a building with magic. But not a bad day…all things considered.

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*3.5 STARS*

Patrick Hester’s full length debut novel is full of the characteristic humor that you’ve grown to love on his multitude of podcasts and in his written word. An admitted fan of Butcher’s Dresden Files (shall we say Devoted Fan?), Detective Samantha Kane’s world is Hester’s own playground built in mimicry of Butcher’s. For fans of the genre he hits all the right points and has his own style and touches to make it authentic.

Read the rest of my review at MYLIFEMYBOOKSMYESCAPE

Author's Book Page
For the person looking to support someone other than the Mighty Zon (Amazon), you can buy non DRM locked content for reasonable prices on Baen’s website

Full Disclaimer: I know the author from online interactions and collaborated on the ShadowBytes.com webcomic with Hester, but this has not factored into my review or rating.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Catalyst (STAR WARS): A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno

Even overgrown battle stations need something that goes BOOM.

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*2 STARS*

In the pursuit of a new super weapon to bring lasting peace through fear, the Republic rapes worlds to build what could be an impossibility.

Read the rest of my review at SFFWorld.com