J. B. Garner
J. B. Garner was born in Baltimore, MD on December 1, 1976, the youngest of three children. While still young, the family moved to Peachtree City, GA. His parents always encouraged his creative side and J. B. began writing and drawing from an early age. Though considered talented by his teachers, he never fully applied himself and bounced through high school and into college at the Georgia Institute of Technology. During his freshman year, his father died suddenly.
Grief and lack of purpose caused J. B. to drop out of school. If not for a few close friends, he might have dropped out of life as well. Taken in by his friends and given a second chance, J. B. matured, applied himself, and finally, after over a decade of hard work, is now back to doing what he loves the most: writing.
Where to find J. B. Garner online
Where to buy in print
The Twelfth Labor
by J. B. Garner
Hardened by the ring, Leilana Ito is a rookie wrestler no longer as she nears her goal: winning freedom from the Von Richters, mistresses of the wrestling world. The storm is fiercest before the calm and Leilana's most dangerous challenges lie ahead. Joined by fellow wrestler and newfound love, Dana Harding, and a motley band of allies, Leilana fights on to complete the Twelfth Labor!
by J. B. Garner
Irene Roman a.k.a Indomitable and the heroes of Atlanta have lost. The city is now the personal fiefdom of a man losing control of his extremist Pushed vigilantes and there is little hope left. Everything changes when a mysterious force gives Irene her freedom. Alongside new and old allies, Indomitable faces a final confrontation that will change not only the city but the world.
The Tale of the Tape
by J. B. Garner
Forced apart by the Von Richters, rookie wrestler Leilana Ito finds herself facing a gauntlet of rigged matches and dangerous trials alone. Her only hope is Dana Harding, the reformed veteran, who follows the trail of her friend, spurred on now only by danger but the unspoken love in her heart. Can they find each other and, if so, will they be enough to stand against the Von Richter clan?
by J. B. Garner
Three months after the Whiteout spawned superheroes and villains, Irene Roman, a.k.a Indomitable, is near her breaking point fighting to protect the normal people. Now, what began as a simple kidnapping investigation catalyzes overnight into the worst threat the city of Atlanta has had to face. Will this finally be Irene's breaking point or will she prove to be indefatigable?
The Opening Bell (2nd edition)
by J. B. Garner
When Leilana Ito, a rookie wrestler with an unknown past, and Dana Harding, the heelish veteran looking for one more bit of glory, meet in the ring, both of them are embroiled in corporate machinations, family rivalries, and the secrets of the past. When everything is put on the line, will Leilana and Dana rise to the challenge and find a path to victory? Revised edition!
Indomitable (2nd edition)
by J. B. Garner
Irene Roman never wanted to be a hero, but when a strange betrayal literally changes all of reality, she may not have a choice. Now the Earth is filled with superhumans, both good and evil, and Irene is one of the only people on the planet who knows why and may be the only person in the world who can set things right. What price will Irene pay to be the hero she never wanted to be?
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Smashwords book reviews by J. B. Garner
- Hybrid (The Evolution Trilogy)
on Oct. 15, 2014
This week’s main course is Hybrid, the first book in a paranormal romance series, The Evolution Trilogy. What you say? The guy who writes superhero and wrestling fiction picking up a romance book? To that I say, ‘Broaden your minds! The Tale of the Tape had a huge romance sub-plot! Plus I was starving!’. As per my standards, I will do my best to make this review as spoiler-free as possible and to see this in the light of a fan of the genre in question.
Let’s start off by saying this: On a technical level, the writing is quite good. The pacing, character development, and depth of story are well ahead of many of Hybrid‘s brothers and sisters in the paranormal romance genre. On a personal relationship level, there are fewer contrivances and those that do come up fit into the well-worn tropes of the romance genre … in other words, they are things that the readers will want to see. The inevitable romantic entanglements and love dodecahedrons fit together much more naturally than most books of this kind.
In fact, talking about the genre tropes, at first blush, Hybrid seems to be a standard, if better written, book of the type, very paint-by-numbers. However, at about the quarter way mark, Ms. Wester eschews the paint brush and brings in an industrial car painting robot, setting it on ‘CRAZY’ mode. That may sound bad. It’s not. In fact, it’s almost glorious in the insanity it reaps!
You see, Hybrid goes off the rails now in the sense of the personal relationships and characterizations, which remain solid, but in a very Silver Age comic book/1950s atomic horror kind of way. As the paranormal species that is core to the book is introduced and explained, the book takes glee as it smashes basic conventions and sets up the world these beings live in and how they operate. I can’t really go into details without major spoilers, but simply let me say that I, as a comic book fan, really loved the general crazy involved. It is a good kind of crazy and one that, for a genre that generally has more angst that sense, delights in that as much as the interpersonal conflicts.
Another point where Hybrid bucks the usual paranormal romance formula is in the rather expansive range of characters and points of view it dances over, adding to the narrative depth. Add on to that the fact that the main PoV character for large sections of the book is the male lead and you get another turn off the over-trod path of the first person, female lead formula. Refreshing.
Now, Hybrid isn’t without flaws. Sometimes the over-the-top elements become too much even for a lover of such things to take seriously. One incident in particular involving a mass mental manipulation (that should be vague enough to dodge the Spoiler Police) really made me pause and the later explanation of it did nothing to make it better. There is little action, which while not a requirement in this genre can add to it, and the overall dramatic and romantic tension is uneven at times. There is a fair amount of world-building that goes on in this book and, while Wester does a fairly good job at weaving it in with the actual story, there is a bit on info-dumping and a few cringe-worthy scenes of ‘As You Know‘ exposition. Final flaw: the sudden climax and twist to set up the next book comes out of nowhere at the last minute, though the epilogue sweeps in and salvages part of it with a clever bit of follow-up on foreshadowing early in the book.
Let’s bring it all together then.
Hybrid is a solid paranormal romance and a good start for it’s series of books. There are some intriguing surprises and Vanessa Wester wisely is not afraid to blaze off of the over-used pathways other writers in this genre have tread, bringing about a gleeful insanity to the whole thing. It’s not perfect, but it stands above the majority of this genre that I’ve read. If you enjoy this genre, definitely give this a read. If you don’t, you may still want to give it a shot. The first book is free, after all.
FINAL VERDICT: **** (Vanilla on the outside, crazy mix of flavors on the inside)
- Dust and Sand
on Dec. 09, 2014
Literary genre fusion is much like culinary cuisine fusion. It can combine to make fantastic new delights, taking in the best concepts of two or more different sources, or it can ruin an otherwise tasty treat, mixing conflicting flavors until the whole thing is a muddled mess. Both of those possibilities wavered in my mind as I cracked open Dust and Sand, a book with fusion concepts from Westerns, horror, and fantasy, and sunk my teeth in. Did Dust and Sand deliver a wonderful new taste sensation or did it go down like its namesake?
Before I answer that question, let us remind ourselves of the Starving Review creed:
I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre.
I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible.
Let’s start with that answer in broad strokes. Tasty.
Hey! I said broad strokes, right?
The mixing of those three genres actually comes together quite easily in Mr. Wallace’s hands, which may be why I can so nonchalantly say that it was a good meal. The elements are all there, if you think about it. The Western and the fantasy often feature rugged heroes dealing with dangers both environmental and adversarial. The fact that the Wild West *was* untamed and unexplored provides the horror connection through the inherent mystery caused by such a vast untamed space. Horror and fantasy, then, complete the genre triangle with their shared love of supernatural content. Dust and Sand deftly connects those pieces and does so in a solid, imaginative fashion, weaving a well-thought alternate history and deviant United States.
Each ingredient of the genre mix gets its fair share of time in the pot and that leads to a well-blended mix of all three. A lover of any one flavor won’t go lacking and may even develop a taste for the others in the process. Aiding this mix is a solid cast of protagonists. Though the major players are certainly archetypical, they are not cardboard, being fully realized and stepping beyond their core archetypes. All of the main protagonists run a full character arc and the set-up for future tales is handled with aplomb, neither cutting off the first book’s plot prematurely while leaving a clear path to move forward (much like my last review Orconomics).
The action itself is well-paced and well-plotted, vital to an action-heavy piece like this. Also, the overall solid world-building leads to a fairly consistent set of rules in regards to what supernatural elements arise. All of that makes the integration of supernatural things and good old fashioned Western gunslinging come across smoothly and keeps the action moving hot and heavy. For all the action, though, Mr. Wallace isn’t afraid to slow down for important parts to build both character and plot for the next shoot-out, keeping a steady pace for a majority of the book.
Now, you may have noticed that I only mentioned protagonists above. While I did truly enjoy my dinner with Dust and Sand, there were some flaws and the biggest one would be in the antagonists. In big concept terms, the overarching antagonists as they are set up are quite intriguing and will certainly lead to fascinating future adventures. The problem lies in that the specific antagonists for *this* singular volume are fairly uninspired. Most of them are very stock and the one that shows some very intriguing promise doesn’t really follow through with that promise. I wanted to know more about him, about his character, and why he did what he did, but those things are only hinted at before the end of the book with no indication that they will ever be answered. The bad guys are certainly evil enough and threatening enough, but there really only exist as things to thwart and not as full-blown characters so far.
There is one other minor flaw in Dust and Sand, and I do stress this is fairly minor, that comes into play in certain expository sections. For the most part, Mr. Wallace handles the set-up and world-building smoothly, weaving it in with the rest of the story’s events. There are a few parts, however, when one of the characters feels inclined to have a moment of total introspection, info-dumping chunks of history and/or biographical data in a multi-page sequence. Now, these dumps aren’t handled as badly as they could be … while they do disrupt the pacing the couple of times it happens, they do make a degree of sense to have happen at those times, they remain personal remembrances, and still feel ‘in-character’. The fact remains though that, after how well all the other exposition is blended, those few moments stand out sorely.
So, how does Dust and Sand pan out in the end? The book was a delightful treat for me, filling my belly with a tasty blend of cowboys, monsters, and magic that would satisfy a fan of any of those elements. With only a few minor hitches, none of which ruin the book, Mr. Wallace has whipped up an excellent first volume for this book series.
FINAL VERDICT: **** (A delightful blend of Westerns, high fantasy, and horror, with just a few minor bland spots to work through!)
- Terror Beyond Measure: A Norton Pumblesmythe Short Story
on March 05, 2015
Some literary foods are full meals, heaping quantities to be ingested and enjoyed at a table over a course of time. Others, however, are tender morsels, snacks meant to be gulped down quickly in this fast ‘on-the-go’ world we live in. Terror Beyond Measure is one of those snacks. Does its small size mean it lacks flavor or is it a taste-filled delight in a minute package?
Before I answer that, let us remember the Starving Review creed:
I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre.
I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible.
The old saying, ‘It’s not the size of the tool but how you use it.’, is most fitting for this wonderful little romp. Terror comes in like a bolt from the blue with excellent prose and doesn’t stop. What we are given is a microcosm of a larger piece: an interesting hook, character build-up, rising action, a fantastic climax, then a proper denouement. What is truly remarkable is that none of these bite-sized story elements is poorly executed. Everything comes off without a hitch.
The main character is cooked up with a sure hand and plenty of dashes of flavor, aided by an intimate first-person perspective, but the primary minor character isn’t left out either. Just this one adventure is enough that I hope to read more of Norton’s tales in the future … that’s how much this short story’s depiction of its protagonist impacted me.
The plot itself takes a careful blend of British wit, a classic time period, and some liberal dashes of Lovecraftian horror, gives it all a good stir, then gets it nice and hot in a short period of time. I would argue that the writer actually turns the short subject into an advantage here, as this one adventure would suffer from exaggerated and drawn-out pacing if it wasn’t tackled as a short subject. Very well done.
The framing device set up by the Prologue also works well here, providing some added world-building as well as giving the reader some fun interesting facts about some real-world events. Brilliant.
Just like the piece itself, I think it’s best to leave this review as a bite-sized morsel as well. There is little else to be said without dragging on for too long or giving away potential spoilers. Let’s just sum it up as this: Terror Beyond Measure is worth every penny of its cost and delivers wit, humor, action, and supernatural thrills in a snack-sized delight of a tale! I highly recommend this to any horror fan and, well, just about anyone who loves fantasy or adventure tales.
FINAL VERDICT: ***** (Wit, humor, action, and the supernatural in a snack-sized delight!)
- This Changes Everything
on April 03, 2015
Every once in a while, I feel like I have to break the rules set down for me by the Starving Reviews, LLC corporate office. So far, I have restrained myself because, well, I'm starving, darn it! I need this literary sustenance to flow and I dare not cut off my biggest supplier. Today, though, I may wind up breaking that creed, as today's long-delayed culinary snack can't be dissected without some SPOILERS!
This Changes Everything is, on the surface, a science fiction novel talking about an alternate future where aliens approach Earth and offer entrance into a galactic collective. This sort of treat, at first glance, looks scrumptious, offering a many-layered look at the interactions between our delightfully bizarre little planet and a vast series of societies and species. In some ways, Changes delivers on some aspects of that promise.
The writing itself is solid, at least once you get used to the various styles employed. The book is comprised of many nuggets of scenes, each written in a different style and from different view points. It can be a bit jarring at first but is easy to get a grip on once you realize what's going on.
The plot ... has problems. The majority of the rest of this review will touch on that, but let me get one thing out of the way. If you ever wanted a true definition of a Mary Sue, read Changes. You see, the Mary Sue concept isn't one of abilities or perfection (though those help), it is the plot black hole they represent. The protagonist in this book is the most important person in the world (literally), receives almost universal praise from most quarters, gets pretty much everything she could desire, lives happily ever after, and nothing really bad, dramatic, or dangerous really happens. There is the hint of tension at several points but, as described below, there are certain story and structure elements that destroy all the drama before it even has a chance to start.
The problems start to come in when the concepts of the 'reality' of how time and history work in this universe. The core concepts of the book (that all time exists simultaneously and that time lines can be altered and culled by anyone with the appropriate psychic training) do provide some interesting promise, but the way they are actualized in the story create a rolling cascade of issues that really break the book down as a fictional slice of cake.
It boils down to a few major, seemingly paradoxical, concepts. First, the concept of all time being simultaneous doesn't really hold out in how the events of the book work. The aliens, and later Earthlings, can alter time by changing events (which don't often require them actually doing the actions, which is strangely dissatisfying) ... but how does that work when all time is simultaneous, which suggests there cannot be true causality? Likewise, the book repeatedly talks about the existence of free will, but how can free will truly exist in a world where others can reset and alter their personal time lines, altering entire sequences of events, thereby altering those free will decisions? Finally, there are strange arbitrary limits on how often people can alter their time lines, with no mention on how this is enforced or even known to be. Maybe it's something touched on later in what is supposed to turn into a ten book series, but arbitrary, unexplained limits on what is essentially a 'magic' system in a fictional world is always a bit of a distaste for me.
The main story issue that this concept of time and time altering brings about is the total destruction of dramatic tension. Very early in Changes, we already know, from the characters that can see the future as well as future documents included, that everything turns out A-OK. The girl gets the boy, Earth turns out fantastic, and the main character gets a healthy, happy ending. We know this by (if I remember correctly) chapter 5 of a 30+ chapter book. Yes, you can argue that the meal can be no less tasty when you sneak in dessert early, but that's usually not the case. Knowing everything turns out great turns every attempt at adding some drama or tension to any point of the novel fall flat.
That is a key component of what really leeches the taste out of Changes. I could excuse the very strange time alteration parts (it is a fictional universe, after all) and roll with it, but the lack of dramatic tension, the lack of any real conflict and consequences (something that the writer tries to interject with the idea of 'Psi-P', the emotional backlash of choosing to go with time-lines that benefit others but are not the best for you personally, something that never gets written to have the real impact it could), just makes Changes a sludge of a book. It is simply tiring to read, with no real emotional high or pay-off. It's just not entertaining and that is the biggest sin a work of fiction can have.
You may be wondering where the spoilers were? Well, I saved that for last because I have to take a moment to chew the fat about something that may very well be opinion. This next bit isn't a critique of the book, which is why it comes at the end, but a critique of some ideas in the book (a very different thing). Changes has some very insulting and, to me personally, dangerous ideas about what is good about humanity. Humans are depicted in some cases as being so unable to cope with the idea of actual alien contact that they die or go crazy from the news. Like significant swaths of the population, at least before the aliens change history again. Not to mention there is an Appendix, as well as mentions in the main text, where it is shown that many human achievements in many areas, from the Underground Railroad to splitting the atom to most major religious figures (Jesus, the Dahli Lama, and others) were directly influenced by this alien collective, either through dreams or direct intervention. It frankly made my gut curdle to see so much of humanity's accomplishments turned into the results of alien meddling. Changes pains humans with a very savage and ignorant brush, laying our salvation and much of our past good points in the hands of our alien saviors. Now, about those aliens ...
The aliens in this world alter time repeatedly to change human history to make the Earth a better fit for their galactic collective. They banish people unable to conform with their way of doing things to a 'prison' alternate time line until they reform or die. They alter the biochemistry of the ENTIRE human race in one chapter to make them more receptive and peaceful without the consent of, well, anyone. They are fully telepathic and casually mind-read the main character (and the rest of humanity) for most of the book. In a different book, these aliens would be the worst kind of manipulative overlords. In this book, though, they are perfect, wonderful utopians. I find especially that their methods really don't jive with that 'free will' concept. How can you have free will when aliens are altering your biochemistry, psychically manipulating you, and implanting thoughts, dreams, and knowledge into you?
Wow, that went on for a while. Okay, so, how does this come together? This Changes Everything is a science fiction yarn that just has no drama or fun in it. Regardless of how you may feel about its philosophical or moral points, Changes breaks the cardinal rule of any fictional work, and that is to entertain. If you're looking for good, interesting sci-fi, look elsewhere. If you, however, are looking for a very unusual tract on philosophy and morals, you might want to give this a read, just don't expect to be entertained by it.
FINAL VERDICT: ** (Heavy on philosophy and moral tracts, without a single tasty bit of fun!)