Monday, September 26, 2016

At Yomi's Gate

 Rating:  


About the Author:
(Taken from Amazon)

John Meszaros graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Biology, which combined with his love for world cultures and history has served him well in his writing and art. He's worked a variety of jobs and volunteer positions: Cancer Research Lab Assistant, Museum Docent, Aquarium Diver and Cleaner, Traveling Marine Life Educator, Graphic Layout Artist, Zookeeper and Landscaper, and Stay-at-Home Parent. When not writing or drawing, John is often outside in nature-- or underwater when he can get his SCUBA gear out-- doing research for his art and stories. John lives in Connecticut with his wife, children, a dog and way, way too many plants.


Blurb:

Storyteller and scroll-painter Fumito has been forced by his paranoid and homicidal uncle, daimyo Kotoheisei, to track down a young woman named Sakura who bears the destructive god of fire imprisoned in a tattoo on her back. At stake is Fumito’s family, who will be brutally tortured and executed if he cannot capture her. 

Yet when he finally finds Sakura and her rescuer, the imposing but shy priestess Ikuko, he decides to help them escape rather than turn them over to his uncle, who will use the fire god’s power for terror and slaughter. The fate of Fumito’s family is sealed, but that is a price he desperately hopes he can live with. 

When an ancient artifact merges Sakura with the god, granting her control over fire and the magma that is the very lifeblood of the world, she resolves to repay Fumito’s sacrifice by saving his family and defeating his uncle. But Sakura does not realize the full extent of her power and her rescue mission may end up hurting more people than it saves. And eventually her actions will bring her, Fumito and their companions into a confrontation with the creatures of the underworld whose dark magic is responsible for Sakura’s transformation.

Review:

Disclaimer
I have received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is an amazing story that kept me enthralled and reading well into the night.

The audience follows a band of unlikely heroes — a tiny woman who'd been abused most of her life, a story-teller who is also Byronic (IMHO), an uncommonly tall priestess, and a woman with a massive chip on her shoulder.  There is also an outcast. a person considered filthy and beneath everyone else, who can't read but has taught himself how to be a doctor.  While Fumito (the story-teller) is my favorite character, all of the characters warmed up to me after a while.

One of the things that I loved about this novel is that the author was not afraid to put his characters through life-altering events.  This resulted in a read where I felt anything could happen.  I didn't feel like any of the characters were safe, and this guaranteed that I stuck with the novel.

I don''t want to go into too much detail so as not to spoil this, and I think the author's blurb does more than enough to relay the story.  I will say that there were a number of fascinating concepts/minor plots brought up and I am still upset that they weren't elaborated on.  For instance, there was a plot line concerning ten liars.  By the end, I had enough of an understanding of who the ten liars were and why they deserved to be punished as they were, but I did want to hear more about the tenth liar and why he was kept in the particular manner depicted in the novel.  But these few questions were not enough to keep me from enjoying the novel.  Besides, I have a strong feeling that these were threads to connect in later books, which would help create a rich world.

The novel is set with multiple point-of-views, so the readers are able to get to know multiple characters and receive information that would not have been available had there only been one point-of-view.  So while I typically shy away from novels with rotating POVs, I thoroughly enjoyed this with no issues.

The writing style is smooth and easy to read.    All in all, I can't wait for the next installment!  This has landed on my must-read list at kcgray (dot) com.



Do yourself a favor and grab your copy at Amazon.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Naming the Bane

 
Rating:  



About the Author:
(Taken from Amazon)

Kal S. Davian grew up in Wisconsin's Fox Cities surrounded by science fiction and fantasy stories. He spent much of his life designing and fiddling with his ideas. With a love of books and a desire to create, writing was the most achievable method with which to share his works. Most of his time is spent taking care of his family or developing his life's work, Nihilian Effect.

For more information: https://www.ForgottenFiction.webs.com


Blurb:

Cursed from birth, Daggis travels with a caravan of misfits and outcasts, fleeing a goddess hellbent on their destruction. He does what he can to protect his family, but when the caravan is raided by the goddess's army, one man can only do so much.


Review:


This is considered Book II, coming after Branding of a Heretic.  While I had a few issues with Book I, I absolutely adored this story!  Daggis is a man fighting for control, but when the caravan he's traveling with is attacked by the army, he not only loses control, he revels in his anger.

Daggis is a likable character from the start.  While he goes down a dark road and refuses to turn back, the things that he's gone through makes him way too sympathetic to dislike.  In fact, I cheered him on!

I can't wait to read more!  This has landed on my must-read list at kcgray (dot) com.



Do yourself a favor and grab your copy at Amazon.

Branding of a Heretic

Rating: 




About the Author:
(Taken from Amazon)

Kal S. Davian grew up in Wisconsin's Fox Cities surrounded by science fiction and fantasy stories. He spent much of his life designing and fiddling with his ideas. With a love of books and a desire to create, writing was the most achievable method with which to share his works. Most of his time is spent taking care of his family or developing his life's work, Nihilian Effect.

For more information: https://www.ForgottenFiction.webs.com

  
Blurb:

Claradina is a calm and collected historical scholar, that is until she stumbles upon information in a recently uncovered document that could change the world forever. With the collective Mind standing in her way, she must gain allies and bend the rules if she is ever going to expose the truth behind the history.


Review:


Disclaimer
I have received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


This was a pretty good read.  The characters are fascinating and interesting.  The biggest issue that I had with this was the plot.  While the plot was simple and straightforward (a document had been found which goes against what everyone believes), I don't think there was enough set up to show this world as a dystopian, where people cannot hold their own beliefs... they have to believe what The Mind and everyone else believes.  In saying this, by the end I fully understood what Claradina had at stake by bringing this document to The Mind.  But, by the end is too late.  I missed out of feeling the apprehension of the situation.

There was also the sudden addition of a major character near the end.  I'm still not sure who Sanaiya really is or what stakes she holds in this world.  She did heighten the tension quite a bit, I only wish I had a better understanding of how she fits into the world.

Overall, I'm glad I read it and will continue to look for other works by this author.  While I had my issues with this novella, the writing and the characters really pushed me to want to know more.



To find out more about this novel, please visit Amazon.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Hair Power

Rating:



About the Author:
(Taken from Amazon)

Piers Anthony is one of the world's most popular fantasy authors, and a New York Times bestseller twenty-one times over. His Xanth novels have been read and loved by millions of readers around the world, and he daily receives hundreds of letters from his devoted fans. In addition to the Xanth series, Anthony is the author of many other best-selling works. Piers Anthony lives in Inverness, Florida.





Blurb:

Terminal cancer patient, Quiti, walks into an abandoned building planning on taking her life. Instead, she encounters a telepathic ball of hair that insists it is an alien seeking to facilitate diplomatic communication on Earth. Quiti assumes it is all a hallucination conjured up by her brain tumor. Because of this assumption, when she saves the alien’s life and it insists on doing Quiti a favor in return, she only asks for her hair back. She soon discovers, however, that the creature’s gift extends much further than her new locks that can change color with a thought. As her powers grow and her deadly illness goes into remission, Quiti quickly realizes that there are those that would want to use her for her abilities and is forced to leave behind everything that she knew. Will this blessing curse her to a life on the run, or does the mysterious hairball have more in store for her? Piers Anthony, critically acclaimed author of the New York Times bestselling Xanth series, brings together humor and adventure in this original story of loyalty, friendship, extraordinary powers, and hair. 


Review:

Disclaimers

1. I have received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

2. To be perfectly honest and open, I love Piers Anthony!  His imagination has always allowed mine to soar.


I really, really want to speak on the Xanth series because they were an intricate part of my life growing up, and, therefore, they are an intricate part of who I am today.  But, I will refrain from doing so and only focus on Hair Power.

From the first line, nostalgic memories surged and I felt like that kid tucked into a corner and reading as though that's what sustained me.  I enjoyed the play on words, the humor infused into the plot, and the characters who seemed to enjoy the story as much as I did.

While I enjoyed the quick read and loved the memories such quirky characters brought about, there were a few things that affected the read for me.

The first thing is the dialogue.  It's fun at times, but at others it's very formal, and even if I took into consideration the powers of the hair, all characters spoke in a similar manner, including a prostitute.  My feeling about this would be different were there a bit more variety in word choice and sentence construction based on character.

The other thing is odder than usual plot points.  One major plot point that bothered me to no end had to do with Quiti, the main character, being invited to a dance by 16-year old Speedo.  During the dance, Quiti discovers new things about her powers, but multiple men hit on her and one man spiked her drink while he had vodka... how in the world is this a dance for 16-year olds?

These issues were minor, at best, when compared with the overall story.  I'm very interested in finding out more about the hairballs and seeing how the world adapts to their presence.


To find out more about this novel, please visit Amazon.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Silvana The Greening

Rating:



About the Author:
(Taken from Amazon)

Belinda Mellor is a wanderer, currently living in New Zealand (she arrived on holiday 8 years ago and forgot to leave). Before that the same thing happened to her in Ireland. She was actually born in England. She loves myths and legends and folklore, so all her stories touch on those things because she believes that's where truth is to be found.





Blurb:

Once heard, the song of a Silvana can never be forgotten.

Yet for every man who wins such a wife, there are three destroyed in the attempt.

Fabiom of Deepvale, dreams of winning the love of a Silvana, one of the mysterious and powerful tree spirits who haunt the deepest groves of the wildwood. But when he is suddenly thrown into the political arena and expected to keep the family silk business running, everything changes. Fabiom fears he will have to put aside his dream, for such a quest is perilous and Deepvale cannot afford to lose its young lord.
However, the piece of amber he finds beneath the huge ash tree could change his mind. If one of the Silvanii is upset enough to weep golden tears at the thought of losing him, then presenting himself on the eve of his seventeenth birth-anniversary might not be so dangerous after all.
What Fabiom does not know, is that the fiercely guarded secrets of silk-making have been sold abroad, putting more than the economic stability of his holding at risk; it was the Silvanii who first gifted Morene’s people with those secrets, and they do not take kindly to betrayal.


Review:

I really enjoyed this novel!  The characters and the dialogue were the best parts, and the author has created a fascinating world!

And while I'd enjoyed the novel, there were a couple of aspects that really affected the read for me.  The first issue was the frequent switch of scene with no warning to the reader.  I would be enthralled in a conversation, imagining it vividly, and then another sentence of dialogue would suddenly be shown as taking place at a later time and date.

The best example of this was when the main character and his father had an intense conversation about whether or not the father would leave home to go on a political voyage.  The interaction was fantastic and vivid to me, and then the time switch felt sudden and jarring.

Example:
"Thank you," Fabiom managed, realising the magnitude of his father's praise.  "Well?" Vida demanded, as Fabiom left the library and walked, distracted, towards his own room.


The switch from Fabiom speaking to his father to someone else speaking to Fabiom within the same paragraph and no transition pulled me violently from the text.  And in the thread of fairness, there were as many well transitioned scenes as there were jarring ones.


Another reason for the three stars is that the novel felt more episodic than a single, cohesive narrative.  Fabiom and his lovely wife go through a lot of different issues, from personal to political, from human to Silvanii.  While the switches allowed unique scenes and struggles throughout the novel, interest waned and rose with each new plotline.


And because I believe honest and well-balanced should go together, along with the interesting characters and worlds, I did find the writing smooth and easy to follow.  Beautiful sentences and images throughout the novel also pulled me through the read.

Example:
... he informed them in an accent almost as heavy as his clothing.



Overall, this was a wonderful reading experience, and I recommend this to anyone who enjoys beautiful settings and interesting characters!


To find out more about this novel, please visit Amazon.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Before I Wake: Two Epic Love Stories. Two Earth Shattering Twist [sic]

 Rating:


About the Author:
(Taken from Amazon)

"Let me be that I am and seek not to alter me." William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing.I am a working wife and mother and have been writing for as long as I can remember. One of my first book reviewers (you know who you are) often reminds me of my first short story. I was in third grade. It was about a bee's journey to find a pot of missing honey. He says that I have improved since then. I think that he's right.

I enjoy hanging out with my family, thrifting, and Disney vacations. My favorite hobby is starting hobbies that I wont finish.

There are a thousand stories in my head at any given time. Hopefully, some of them will make it out for you to enjoy.
Feel free to checkout my website and sign up for my mailing list at https://www.sevenstepsauthor.wix.com/home



Blurb:  
 
In the spirit of The Twilight Zone, Unsolved Mysteries, and the X Files, BEFORE I WAKE contains two haunting love stories with a mind blowing endings that will leave you with one simple question: Was It Real?

The Cottage
Ashling's quiet farm life suddenly becomes a lot more interesting when a handsome stranger, bloodied and unconscious, appears next to a haystack. When he awakens, her world will never be the same again.

The Playthings
People are disappearing by the second, including Samantha Patterson's husband. As her world shifts around her, Samantha questions everything that she knows is real. Her husband, her child, her life... was it all just a dream?
 
 

Review:

 
 
I thinks it's important to first explain that I'm giving this novel three stars simply because the stories weren't long enough!

The first story, Playthings: A Brief Thriller, was exciting to read. The audience starts off viewing a loving, almost new, relationship, where the couple can barely keep their hands off of one another. In the blink of an eye, everything changes as the main character, Samantha, has her life ripped away from her. In the end, the reader is left wondering what was real and what was merely a dream.

The second story, The Cottage, starts with two young women living their lives in what I believe to be over a century ago. Their lives are interrupted by a strange man they help nurse back to health. This one resonated more with me for some reason. I enjoyed reading the interactions between Ashling and Liam, and found myself smiling through it all.

And I found my favorite quote for the novel in The Cottage.

"There was no world outside of his eyes. No breath away from the air stored in his lungs. No life away from his beating heart."

The second sentence, more than the other two, really hit me.

Overall, the writing style is simple and easy to read, there were no technical issues that stuck out to me, and the imagination revealed with these stories is wonderful!

So, in the end, these are really good short stories, but I can't help but feel they would have been excellent novels had they been fleshed out!
 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Desert Son

Rating:




About the Author:
(Taken from Amazon)

Glenn Maynard is the author of the books "Strapped Into An American Dream" and "Desert Son." He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Connecticut, and a degree in Communications. After spending 4 years living in Denver, Colorado, he returned home to Connecticut and now resides in Wethersfield. Glenn has a 14 year-old son named Andrew. As a travel correspondent for three newspapers while exploring the United States, Canada and Mexico during his one-year journey, Glenn published a total of twenty newspaper articles. His story was captured on the NBC local news upon his return.




Blurb:

Carter Spence is a 26 year-old accountant out of Boston who has an out-of-body experience following a car accident that kills his parents. He views the chaos from above the scene of the accident, then passes through the tunnel and reunites with relatives who have long been dead. A woman he does not recognize approaches him and says, "Welcome, son." Her message to him is that he needs to be aware of his true identity and should follow signs that will lead him there. She mentions mountains, but Carter is jolted back into his physical body before she can finish. After burying his parents, Carter heads west and meets a free-spirit named Brenda, whom he is drawn to on many levels. She becomes his travelling companion and leads him to Boulder, Colorado, and to an old white house of an old man named Martin. Diaries, hypnosis, and past-life regression reveal a bizarre connection between these three. Carter discovers that the truth to his identity can only be found by pursuing the answer to whether he is the reincarnation of his biological father in what is shaping up to be a love affair rekindled beyond the grave.


Review:

This story is quite fascinating.  The audience begins watching the main character, Carter, hovering high in the sky while watching as the police and fire department respond to a horrible wreck.  Carter has no clue what's happening, but at the same time he doesn't care.

After a while, after the audience gets a better understanding of the situation, Carter moves on to the afterlife and gets a taste of what he can have, and then he's tossed out, back into his body and back to the pain of the world.  From here, he continues on a journey to discover who he truly is and his purpose in this life.

The reason for the three stars is because there were so many elements I'm conflicted about.  While I enjoy and appreciate the different ways Carter was pushed and pulled into the final understanding of what makes him special in unique, many of the things that pushed and pulled him were not explained and not "tied up" in the end.

Unfortunately, my explanation of what these things are include spoilers, so if you do not like spoilers, please stop reading here and understand that I did enjoy the read and recommend it for anyone who likes these types of novels.

***SPOILERS***

Shortly after leaving town, Carter stops at a gas station.  On his way back to his car, he interrupts a young kid trying to steal the license plate from the back of the car using a screw driver.  There is a struggle, and the screw driver plunges into the kid's chest.  Carter does his best to hide the body and then flees.

There is nothing more about this for the rest of the book.  We don't know if the kid dies, and Carter certainly doesn't have to face the consequences of his actions, which is a tough thing to pull off with him being the protagonist of the story.  And if this was touched on later, it wasn't enough to resonate with me.

Another instance was Carter getting headaches whenever he looked at some mountains.  This is shown as significant because these mountains are something that were a part of his past life.  But, again, this didn't feel like it tied into the narrative, at all.  It felt like a plot device rather than a natural extension of the laws within the novel.

And lastly, Carter starts off being a nice, normal guy, but in the end, he was more than willing to allow someone to die a painful death just because he wanted answers.  I'm not going to go into specifics about the characters, but I will say this was an elderly man laying on the bed, sounding delusional, and there was no mention of anyone calling the police or an ambulance to get this man help.  The only thing the characters wanted to do was interrogate him.


Aside from these plot devices feeling like the heavy hand of an author, the writing itself was decent and the plot interesting.  I kept reading because I wanted to know what would happen, I wanted to explore more of the theories being explored within the text (existentialism, spirituality, and reincarnation being some of them), and I wanted to continue following Carter on his journey.  In the end, keeping the reader reading is the author's main goal, and this author did just that.

To find out more about this novel, please visit Amazon.