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Smashwords book reviews by GraceKrispy

  • His Robot Girlfriend on May 29, 2010

    This was a fun story. I found the writing to be entertaining, and the concept unique and engaging. I wish there had been more of a plot; it seemed to really get going at one point, and I thought it was reaching its main "point," but then it turned out to be a minor blip in the road. All in all, a fun read and I look forward to sampling more of this author's work.
  • The Mating: The Original Law of the Lycans Story on May 31, 2010

    I just finished this book in one (long) sitting. It was a fun, original, easy, read. I thought the concept was unique and interesting, if a little predictable in the end. Although I pretty much skipped most of the "love" scenes, I really liked the writing style. I though it flowed well. I would definitely be interested in reading more of this author's work-- I'm sure something exciting is about to take place in Ontario...!
  • Dust on June 01, 2010

    I really enjoyed this story. I was engaged from beginning to end and thought the ending tied in well with the theme. I would have liked to have had more story taking place while in the complex-- more discoveries that implied the mystery, and less that was stated outright. That would allow more suspense to build and put this story in the realm of superb. All in all, I recommend this story!
  • Thin Blood on June 03, 2010

    This book will keep you guessing! You will be engaged in the story as you try to figure out whodunit, how and why. I will be interested in reading other stories by the author as she hones her craft!
  • Dead(ish) on June 03, 2010

    This was a great quick read! The format was original and great fun to read. I can't wait to read the author's next book! If you are looking for a deep, philosophical look at life after death, this is not for you. If you're looking for a fun read- this is it!
  • Soul Identity on June 04, 2010

    This was an really intriguing, suspenseful, yet lighthearted book. It was immediately gripping and and entertaining. I am eager to read the next one!
  • PORTAL (Portal Chronicles Book One) on June 08, 2010

    I enjoyed this book immensely! The concept was really intriguing and I looked forward to picking it up again. I am eager to find out what happens in the next book in the series, as the author's writing continues to develop and the adventure goes on! I definitely recommend this book!
  • We Don’t Plummet Out of the Sky Anymore on June 13, 2010

    I really liked this story! It was interesting and original, and it was thought-provoking as well. I'd love to see more with the characters in the time they live.
  • They Came, They Saw, They Took the Tinfoil on June 13, 2010

    Cute, quick read! Makes me wonder what they do with the tinfoil and saucepan..
  • Maisy May on June 14, 2010

    I really enjoyed the characters in this book. I think there was so many facets to the relationships in this story, it would have been great as a full-length novel. The story was engaging, and I'd love to see a sequel!
  • Making Dylan Maxwell on July 21, 2010

    This was a compelling short story that left you wanting to read more of Moxie's work. The story revolves around a man who has created a game for the bored to play. The rewards may be high, but the stakes are even higher... Thought-provoking and intense, this one's a winner!
  • Soul View on July 22, 2010

    This was a provocative and compelling look at good and evil, and the battle therein. I was captive from beginning to end, and it provided an interesting new perspective to give me food for thought. I'm looking forward to the author's other works!
  • Sarah Palin: Vampire Hunter on July 27, 2010

    As this was titled "Twinkle" on my ereader, it took me a page to figure out what was going on there! It's Sarah Palin, vampire hunter! This short story was silliness and fun all rolled into one rather absurd package. It's a nice parody on the "Twilight" books with a silly twist. Fun read!
  • Counterproductive Man on July 31, 2010

    Are you a productive, efficient worker? Then expect a visit from Counterproductive Man, and his sidekick Inefficiency Lad..err..Guy! This is a fun, silly romp through the not-so-secret division of our government that controls (and quells- or at least slows down) our nation's productivity. It's not really real, though...or is it?
  • The Zodiac Bar and Grill on July 31, 2010

    This is a great example of a classic short story. Although brief, it leads the reader to a fulfilling ending. Follow Bob as his domineering wife bulldozes her way to the unexpected.
  • The Death Trip on Aug. 01, 2010

    What a thrilling ride that challenges your idea of what constitutes life and death! At the end, you're left wondering, and thinking about your own ideals and mortality. I was debating between 4 and 5 stars, and I think the ending and the original plotline make it 5 star worthy.
  • Suicide on Aug. 08, 2010

    Very interesting and thought-provoking short story focusing on John Banks on the day that his world changes. It leaves you wondering "what happens next?"
  • How To Disappear Completely on Aug. 10, 2010

    At the beginning of this story, you are immediately drawn into an exciting scene involving a dog, some big teeth, a kick, a ring, and an inordinate amount of drool. Wondering how he things got to this point? Read on to find out! I really liked this author's writing style; it didn't remind me of high school writing (as many do), nor was it bogged down with superfluous vocabulary. The writing made me want to read a lot more books by this author, but with more engaging plotlines. A few times, I thought the storyline was heading in a certain direction (at one point, I was really thinking "ooh, this is like the movie "Single White Female!"), but, disappointingly, it wasn't. Although the ends were decently tied up, I felt like it was vanilla ice cream when I wanted some chocolate chips thrown in. All in all, it was a fairly interesting story by a really good writer.
  • Graves on Aug. 21, 2010

    A grave randomly appearing in a neighbor's garden, an event that shocks the island, a mystery that terrifies the town...this story had me engaged from beginning to end! The plot was perfectly suited to the short story format, but I could see it being expanded into a longer novel as well. The writing was appealing and it was hard to put down. A fun read!
  • Dark End of the Spectrum on Sep. 04, 2010

    With some serious editing, this book would make a good movie. The plot is consistent with some of the action/adventure thrillers gracing the screen, and the concept is original, and one I haven't quite seen before. That being said, this book needs a lot of work. The author uses a lot of descriptive language, and some of it is quite nice. However, those phrases are thrown into a mix of run-on sentences filled with grammar errors, and noticeably lacking proper punctuation (I'm not sure there is a comma anywhere). Quite a few times, I found myself giggling parts I am pretty sure were not meant to be funny. Many chapter divisions seem to come in the wrong place, throwing off the cadence of the book. The dialogue is awkward, and there seems to be only two ways people talk, one of which is "yelling." At times I felt like the author thought of a few cool ways to say something, couldn't decide which one to use, then put them all in. I think good editing would make for a more succinct and engaging storyline. There are also a lot of strange transitions, confusing action scenes, and extraneous events that detract from the storyline. Less is more. As I started reading, I wanted to give this book at least three stars. Then I kept reading and wanted to give it one star. Just by virtue of actually wanting to finish it (which I did by doing a fair amount of skimming so I wouldn't be distracted so much by the writing), I gave it two stars. I found the topic interesting, and I wanted to like the book. After some serious editing and revising, perhaps I could.
  • Alone in the Company of Others: A Novel on Sep. 05, 2010

    Rife with symbolism and double meanings, this book is a very interesting, although sometimes confusing, ride. Initially slow starting, you are soon swept up in the storyline, wanting to know what happens to all the richly developed characters contained therein. I founds myself drawn in (though vaguely disgusted at times) by the relationship between the Camille and Russell, fascinated by the life of Wilsie, intrigued by the apparent motivations of the various and ever-changing members of the household, and interested, overall, in the events that led up to ending. The story jumps around a little too much for my taste, and a few transitions were confusing as I struggled to put the timeline back in the correct order in my head. That being said, the storyline is rich and unusual, and definitely worth the read. Be forewarned, this is a book upon which you need to concentrate your attention in order to get the full meaning and the rich symbolism.
  • Sweet Dream, Silver Screen on Sep. 05, 2010

    Another intriguing short story from Moxie Mezcal, this story grips you from the beginning to the end. I'd like to have read a little more that would give me more context into the storyline, but it's a great example of a good short story.
  • The Second Coming on Sep. 07, 2010

    This was an intriguing ride through the world after "The Shift." It offered a unique perspective on what things would look like, and an adventurous journey to redemption.
  • The Kinshield Legacy on Sep. 19, 2010

    Wow. I was hooked in the first chapter and had trouble putting the book down to sleep last night. Each of the first few chapters introduces new people, people whose lives and stories become inextricably tied together as the story continues. One of the things that sometimes turns me off about the fantasy genre is the whole new language one must learn to understand what is going on. There are new names for objects, actions, types of people... it's like taking a confusing crash course in a foreign language. That's a lot of work when all I want to do is enjoy. Although K.C. May introduces new creatures and unfamiliar items with unusual names, the book is very readable, and there was no confusion. I didn't have to work to enjoy; this fantastical world is seamlessly woven into terms to which we can all relate. The writing style is such that it was very easy to become engaged in the story. When I read some stories, I find myself constantly thinking of how I would have written certain lines or paragraphs differently. That tells me that the writing is not to my standards, and it distracts me from the story the author is trying to tell. When reading this story, however, I found myself enthralled and fully immersed in the adventure. The pacing of the chapters and introduction of new characters was ideal for maintaining interest and moving the story along without drawing anything out unnecessarily. Sometimes bad things happen to great characters, and I mourned the unavoidable losses along the way, even as I celebrated the small victories. I cringed, I delighted, I was completely and utterly engaged. The ending is very satisfying in and of itself, but it does open the door for a sequel. I, for one, am eager to read more from this talented author.
  • Executive Lunch on Sep. 22, 2010

    Sedona thinks it's just another boring day at Strandfrost, as she goes about her normal activities. And it is a boring day....until she accidentally stumbles upon a mugging happening right there in the hallway! A six-inch switchblade, a shady director, some seedy characters sprinkled in, and suddenly Sedona is unwittingly thrown into the role of "bait" so management can solve a crime of embezzlement going on right under its nose. "Executive Lunch" by Maria E. Schneider is a combination of a few of my favorite genres; it's chick lit with a little "cozy" thrown in. The main character, Sedona, is someone you can't help but like. She's reminiscent of some of our favorite hapless female heroines; accidental sleuths (with an edge) who somehow stumble right into the thick of things. She's joined by Huntington (whose motives initially seem unclear), Turbo (always there when you need him...well, except when you *really* need him), Marilyn (a bigger part of this than even she knows), and the rest of the interesting characters that make up this cast. Although I liked the overall plot and I was eager to read to the ending, I have to admit to being confused by some of the transitions. I had to reread some action scenes to get a grasp on who was doing what, and several times I was surprised to see a character start speaking when I had no clue that character was even in the vicinity. Upon looking back, I'd sometimes see that the character was introduced by not being introduced- in the excitement of the moment, Sedona recognized that body/face/shape/walk, and then we'd find out in the next chapter who it was because he or she would start speaking. I am all for tension building to end a chapter and I think it's a great technique to build suspense, but it seemed that a great deal of the moments in the story were introduced this way. After a quick-moving beginning, the story slowed down and sagged a bit in the middle, and I began to wonder if we were still heading in the direction I thought we were heading. It seemed to meander a bit before it picked up again, drawing me in once again. Overall, I would recommend this story. It's a quick, fun read, and the characters are nicely developed, which makes them interesting. You look forward to seeing what they'll do next, and who they'll do it with. You want to follow them into their next adventure, which, luckily for us, is already available in the next story in the series, Executive Retention. I give it 3.5 stars, which rounds up to 4 here.
  • Hemlock and the Wizard Tower on Sep. 26, 2010

    Within the Prologue of this story, you are immediately drawn into a magical world where practitioners can heal or harm with the use of magic. But the magic is fading in the Warrens, and Hemlock is impelled to find out why. With a bravery known only to a few, she sets out on an epic adventure to infiltrate the Wizard Tower in the City. There, she plans to destroy the machine she believes is sucking all the magic out of the Warrens. This adventure takes on unexpected turns, as Hemlock finds herself joining forces with a series of magical beings, in a variety of unexpected places. This book is truly an epic, following Hemlock through many adventures to accomplish her main goal. It is set up to be a serial, and there is plenty of room for the adventure to continue. Hemlock's story is not over yet. While reading, I was reminded of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, although I must admit I haven't read them for many, many years. The worlds created in this book are rich with detail, and this initial story could easily be divided into two stories. After such detailed adventure throughout the story, the ending seemed quite rushed to me. It felt like the pivotal scene with Falignus would actually be better served in a second story. There are seven Wands, perhaps seven stories would be realistic? As I began reading this book, I immediately noticed that the writing, though fluid and obviously well thought out, was quite dense with description. In trying to trying to decide if I liked the extremely detailed and descriptive writing, I soon realized that it let nothing to the imagination. I think one of the wonderful things about reading is the ability to let the reader infer some of the storyline. When the reader is inferring, the reader is engaged in the story, and it becomes that much more enjoyable. We all want to lose ourselves in great books, this is why we read. In this story, there was nothing to infer, as it was all spelled out quite clearly. Although I think the writing was well-constructed, I really wanted a bit less, so I could engage more. I wasn't able to truly immerse myself in the story; I felt as if I were reading a clinical reporting on an historic adventure. This detached feeling I got from reading was disappointing, as the storyline was ultimately one in which I could have truly engaged. The rich details were engaging, the extensive explanation so there was nothing to infer was not. I really think that revising would take this really interesting storyline to the next step and become the epic adventure the author intended. If you like detailed epic fantasy, this book is right up your alley. Either way, I do think this is a story with great potential, and I was glad to be on Hemlock's adventure.
  • ZombieStop Parade on Oct. 04, 2010

    If you're looking for a book about the undead, "eat-your-brains" type of zombies, you'll need to keep looking. This book is all about the call to stop being a zombie, and to start thinking for yourself. Written in journal format by the unnamed narrator, "ZombieStop Parade," by ZombieStopperUno, is the story of two young men, and the evolution of their website, "ZombieStop." This website was created based on ideas developed early in their friendship, with the goal of helping other young people break free from the zombie-like thinking that characterizes the mentality of the general population. It's an awakening of sorts, for anyone who cares to listen. There are several layers to this story. On the surface, we have the meat of the story, which involves looking with a more critical eye at the corporations and detaching from the zombie mentality that just accepts and never questions. This is also the story of a pair of friends, the evolution of their partnership, and the inequity of power between them. Then there is the "witch hunt," led by the FBI, to find the truth behind the face of this website. The FBI believes the truth to be much more violent and destructive than the partnership claims. Underneath all that, and of far more interest to me personally, is the narrator's journey to discover for himself what he believes, and at the same time, figure out exactly what he doesn't believe. Following his journal entries seems to highlight his struggle to break away from his own "zombie-like" mentality towards his best friend as he learns to become his own man. Corky, the brains behind this operation, guides the direction and mission of the ZombieStop website, pulling his best friend, the narrator, along for the ride. The narrator offers little bits of advice here and there, but his influence is weak, and he mostly follows his trusted friend's lead. Along the way, the narrator finds himself becoming seduced by the media and some of the mythology ZombieStop fights against, including the fame that comes with being the face of ZombieStop. Even as he questions his own place in the partnership, his relationship with his critical girlfriend, and how he wants to portray himself to the FBI agent assigned to monitor the actions of ZombieStop, he is finding himself. With clever nicknames assigned to the various antagonists (can you recognize any?), and flashes of eloquent insight from the narrator, the journey through this book is a fun and enlightening one. At the end, you find yourself wondering about the next step. What is the next step for Corky? The next step for the narrator? Most of all, you may just find yourself wondering what will be the next step.... for you. No longer blinded to the ever-present mythology, you just may find yourself thinking a little differently about your world.
  • The Summoning Fire on Oct. 08, 2010

    We've all heard the phrase "Hell on Earth," but did you know it's an actual place, and it's located in Missouri? David Michael has created a fantastical world in which Hell has recently exploded upwards to create Hell on Earth, a place where Hellish creatures mix with a very human population. It also does a booming tourist trade as the residents of the Suburbs flock over to experience this exotic location. They can meet with demons, the undead, and even the Old Man himself, but they can only hope to make it back home to tell their friends. When I first started this book, I wasn't really into it. I do enjoy horror, but I realize I like thriller horror much more than straight horror. Some of the scenes were grotesque and made me cringe, and others were just horrible and made me very uncomfortable. I didn't feel the immediate draw I usually do towards stories I enjoy. It took me several chapters to get into the story, but once I did, I was hooked. We start off in a pivotal scene, and it makes us wonder "how did we get to this point?" Subsequent chapters vary between what happened before that scene to what happens after. To help us, the chapters all had headings that included either "Before the Fire" or "After the Fire." I quickly caught on and found I really enjoyed the jumping back and forth. I find that plot device to sometimes be a hindrance to a story, if for no other reason than it makes the reader work harder. In this story, however, it fits. It's like you're given the filling of the sandwich, and you gradually build up what's surrounding that filling on both sides. It added a lot to the story to have this unfolding of key pieces of information as you're putting together the plot in your head. It was a device well-suited to this story, and it was used perfectly. Overall, I think this is a really well put-together book. The writing flows nicely, in spite of the presence of several incomplete sentences. Somehow, it works with the characters and the plot. The chapters give us the information we need at just the right times, and the characters are memorable. I think I really got into the story once the Summoned was introduced. It was quite intriguing, to "feel" the thoughts of this "being" and get to experience the story from this different perspective. Although I wasn't as fond of some of the scenes described and I didn't find myself really connected to any one character, I was still engaged in, and enjoyed, this story. I think I'd really enjoy this author's works in other genres as well.
  • The Point of Origin on Oct. 09, 2010

    "The answers to most of our questions have always been there, but our failure to connect the dots could mean the destruction of the human race." In this thrilling ride reminiscent of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," we are taken on a journey of epic proportions to find the truth of our existence here on Earth; a truth that speaks to our past and future, and a truth that may not be easy or safe for anyone to uncover. This fictional novel is founded in the Hopi prophecy, shared with the world during the Hopi address to the United Nations in 1992. With its basis in actual events, this story is both fascinating and eye-opening; just the kind of story I love to read! I could really see this book turned into an exciting movie and, more importantly, I could see this book opening people up to the idea of truth in the Hopi prophecy. With all the potential this book has, I would like to see it go through a serious editing process. Although I wanted to be completely engaged in this story, it was difficult to look past the mechanics of the writing style. There are numerous examples throughout the story. Most distracting to me, however, was the inappropriate use of commas (or lack thereof). Commas were sometimes missing, most notably when someone was addressed in conversation. There were also commas inappropriately placed in ways that broke up the cadence of the sentence, perhaps changing the intended meaning, and rendering the sentence incorrect. I generally look past the occasional typo or grammatical error (I am certainly not a professional proofreader), but there were enough of these errors, on almost every page, to distract me from fully engaging and enjoying the great storyline. At first, I was also distracted by the very short chapters (some are only a paragraph long). This is a style preference, and I did get used to the varying chapter length as the story went on. I was, however, thinking that having longer chapters in the beginning and progressively shortening to match the increased pace of the impending climax may better match the pacing of the book. There was a general abruptness to some of the chapters that could have been avoided with additional context. Additionally, because of the long paragraphs and the failure to begin a new paragraph when a new person speaks, I sometimes found it really difficult to tell who was doing the speaking. This led to some general confusion for me during some of the action scenes. A thorough editing and some additional revising to polish the writing would add variety and a little more "voice," and could turn this fantastic storyline into a bestseller. I would give the storyline 5 stars and the writing 2 stars, which averages out to 3.5 stars. All in all, a fun and adventurous read with great potential!
  • Sleight Malice on Oct. 18, 2010

    A fire destroys a neighbor's house and Desley is anxious to find out what happened to the residents of the house- her best friend and her friend's husband. When it turns out that the only casualty of the fire is an unidentified man, the search for the missing couple is on. Desley's determination to unravel the mystery of what happened to her best friend takes her on a suspenseful journey to the truth; a truth that just may change her forever. Vicki Tyley gives us another great read. Suspenseful and intriguing, this book is hard to put down, and each small twist and turn keeps you engaged right through to the end. Each new secret that is uncovered leads you to make new guesses as you try to discover the truth right along with Desley. With well-developed characters and interesting connections tying them together, there is never a dull moment. You are pulled further into the story with every new discovery, and it's hard to put the book down before you find out what truly happened. Having read the author's first book, "Thin Blood," I was very pleased to find the writing style in her second book more fluid and engaging than her first. The actual writing shows growth and maturity, and proves the author is one to watch. There were several places, however, where I was confused by a seeming jump between chapters. One chapter would end in a bit of a cliffhanger, and the next would start the next day, or hours later in a different location, without any of the intensity of the previous chapter's ending. Those jumps were a bit confusing, and somewhat of a letdown after the ending of the chapter before. It added a bit of an awkward break in an otherwise exciting, flowing storyline. Overall, a great story that is well worth the read. I will continue to look to Vicki Tyley for stories that hold my attention and make me want to read more! 4.5/5 stars (rounded up to 5)
  • The Ghost Of A Flea on Nov. 06, 2010

    Strange things are happening in Roger's life. His wife is saying bizarre things she later denies, his coworkers are sending him on wild goose chases, he's missing things that mysteriously appear right where he's just looked. Nothing is making sense anymore, and Roger questions his sanity. His close friend introduces him to a mysterious and entrancing woman who confuses and intrigues Roger. When that close friends meets an unexpected end, Roger's life goes into overdrive. Soon, the little, nagging things turn into big, baffling things until, suddenly, Roger is running for his life with a mysterious, alluring woman by his side. Who is behind it all? Who else is involved? What are they all after? Most importantly, who can he trust? Someone is chasing Roger and will stop at nothing to get what Roger has. Problem is, Roger doesn't know what they're after, or even who "they" are. Every new development throws him further into confusion, until Roger is desperate just to stay alive. I was immediately drawn into the strange happenings in Roger's life. I tried to figure out what was going on right along with him. Each new development drew me further into the mystery, and the plot winds and twists in a confusing thrill ride. I was never sure what to expect next, and I was almost always surprised. Although the book took me on a few more turns than I thought necessary, I followed along on every topsy-turvy twist, anxious to find out where it would all end. The characters in the story were well-described and easy to picture. Roger is the only character who is what he seems, and every other character is under suspicion (correctly or incorrectly) at some point in the story. There are many levels to each character, and the story peels away each layer like an unending onion. Roger doesn't know who to trust, and neither does the reader, which makes for a series of guesses and false starts as you attempt figure out what's going on even as Roger does the same. On the downside, I do think this book could stand another quick edit, as there were several small errors (you're for your, there for their, etc), and occasionally some missing or misplaced quotation marks. Taken separately, each error was minor, and book was not at all riddled with them. Taken together, there were enough that I did a double take here and there. Towards the ending of the book, I felt there was an excess of exclamation marks in places that sometimes surprised me. ! Although I noticed these things, and may have been momentarily thrown a bit, they didn't detract from the complete story. Overall, this is a fun read that maintains your interest. Just like a roller coaster, it has high points of excitement, followed by momentary lulls as it begins the climb again. Just like a roller coaster, it may have one or two climbs too many for some; nevertheless, a thrilling ride.
  • Lovers and Beloveds: An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom Book One on Nov. 23, 2010

    Temmin has grown up sheltered from the world, living a blissful life in the idyllic countryside at Whithorse Estates with his mother and his faithful servant. But all good things must come to an end; Tremmin is heir to the Tremontine throne, and must move to the Keep to learn his father's ways and prepare himself for his inevitable future. It is at the Keep where Temmin begins to question who he is and who he will become. Is he a ruthless ruler, like his father, who will stop at nothing to get what -and who- he wants? Or is he a caring man who will make thoughtful choices and begin to harness some of the long-forgotten magic of the kingdom? Helping him on his journey of self- discovery is Teacher, a mentor to the royal family who has hundreds of years of experience under his belt, and has long since given up on any heir displaying magical ability. Slowly, Temmin finds himself pulled in two directions. He must decide whether to follow his father's footsteps and become the man his father expects, or if he should let himself be drawn into the seductive ways of the temple of enlightenment. He's discovering that his future truly isn't preordained, and that he alone is responsible for his choices. Beautifully written and edited, MeiLin Miranda has created a rich fantasy world where magic still exists for the rare few, and sex is a cherished and godly endeavor. Although I do enjoy many types of fantasy, I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of fantasy with heavy erotic content, as a rule. That being said, the details and the flow of this story were superb. With fluid writing and nicely-developed characters, the story shines through. Sex becomes an integral part of the conflict of the story; the struggle of power- longing and restraint, duty and desire. The author cleverly uses a legend from the Tremont family history to mirror Temmin's own sexual awakening. Teacher uses this story in pieces as part of the teaching process, and the author uses this story to mirror Tremmin's own emotions, and help move his journey along. Vividly drawn details show this fantasy world to be a land on the verge of exciting, and unalterable, change. The relationships between the characters are complex and intricately woven, and they pull you right along with Temmin. If you are a fan of well-written fantasy stories with a strong sexual element, then this book comes strongly recommended. Some may find the erotic details a little too much, but the fluid and intriguing story makes it worth the read. 4.5 /5 stars @ MotherLode blog
  • Meet Me in Nuthatch on Nov. 27, 2010

    Nuthatch, a tiny town in Massachusetts, is slowly fading away. Day by day, the population dwindles as people move away to find new opportunities and a better life. When the population is down to a scant 63, Everett, a lifetime resident, decides on a quirky plan to draw tourism. Soon, the town residents are dressing like it's 1904, and their mannerisms and choices begin to reflect that era. Tourism does increase, and the town begins to draw the attention of the media. The next thing Everett knows, a huge amusement park company has plans to purchase the entire town and create jobs and opportunity for its residents in the Nuthatch 1904 theme. Now Everett, who has never known- or wanted- any other life, must decide if his future lies in Nuthatch or somewhere else. In "Meet Me In Nuthatch," Jacqueline T. Lynch has created small-town characters who ring true. The various connections between these characters help to show the years of history they have together. There is Roy, the town drug dealer, who has terrorized this tiny town and several of its residents personally. Everett, who isn't quite happy in his life, and is haunted by poor choices he made that put his best friend, Bud, a member of the only Black family in town, at risk. Miss Finchley, the unofficial town historian, has a lot invested in her town her choices may surprise people. The author has woven these complex relationships into a story that leads right back to Everett. At times, these relationships threaten to take over the book. I really enjoyed following the thread of the biggest themes, but I think they compete too heavily at times with the main theme of the story. This story is about Everett and his relationship with his town, but sometimes it seemed that his relationships with Roy or Miss Finchley overpowered what I saw as the true theme. His relationships with Norm and Bud seemed more secondary and blended well with the overall story. This story kept my interest. It was a pleasant read, with interesting characters and a unique premise. Although the writing is simplistic, there are some delightful phrasings intermixed with the prose. For example: "The capital letters stood escorting their lower case versions, ghosts of primary school" was used to describe the faded alphabet letters on the former primary classroom wall. There were some jumps in time without much in the way of explanation that left me a little confused, turning back to see where I had missed a week or more. I think it was somewhat fitting in the style of the story, but still confusing. Altogether, this book is not an exciting read, but it's a comforting, pleasant read that stays with you even after the last page is turned. After finishing the book, I found myself still musing about the relationships and how they'd changed and progressed. This book was a nice, hot chocolate sort of read.
  • Inhuman Salvation on Dec. 01, 2010

    Imagine a world where humans have created a new species, a species designed to be the saviors of mankind. In 2023, people are dying of the Moliomyositis at an alarming rate and the entire population will be killed off in short order, unless a cure can be found. Henry Marsh has engineered an entire species, the Homo sapiens heredis, or "saphers," in an effort to find a cure for Molio. His research is on the cutting edge and he may be closer than he thinks, but time is quickly running out... The saphers live in a compound that offers them everything they could possibly want or need...except their freedom. Henry's daughter, Katie, grew up amongst these saphers and has developed a special relationship with one in particular, Ryder Stone. After several years away, Katie is back to take on the role of reproductive scientist. None of the sapher women can maintain a pregnancy longer than 7 weeks, and this inability to reproduce threatens their continued existence. As they are being groomed to take over if- or when- humans become extinct, this is quite unacceptable. To complicate matters, there are activists on the outside clamoring for the destruction of the entire sapher species. Together, Katie and Ryder work together to discover secrets and betrayals, as well as hope and possibility, as they battle for the continued existence of the sapher people. Can they find a way to guarantee freedom and the continued existence of the species? Is there any hope left for the human species? K. C. May has spun another captivating tale. With this second novel, she once again proves that she knows how to string a story to maintain reader interest. The story flows along cleanly, and the transitions are smooth and do much to carry the reader along. The storyline itself is quite engaging. The idea that a virus could be slowly killing off the entire human population is not too out of the realm of possibility, and some of the ideas the author introduces in this tale are quite amazing, yet believable. It was a compelling read that was able to sweep me away. The author crafts believable and intriguing characters, and I found myself rooting for some while feeling pity for others. As in her previous title, "The Kinshield Legacy," the characters are complex, without "good or bad," only shades of individuality. Although the character development was good, the conversations between characters didn't ring quite as true to me as the dialogue in the previous novel. This novel takes place in a time period more similar to modern-day time, so the language used by the characters is also quite different. Regardless, to me, the phrasing in the dialogue wasn't as rich and vibrant as I had come to expect based on the previous novel. The ending itself was satisfying in terms of giving closure to the story (without giving anything away here!), but was a bit too "tied together" for me. I would have enjoyed a little more ambiguity, leaving room open for more varied predictive interpretation of the immediate and distant future of both species. That is just a personal preference; the actual ending works as it is written. Altogether, a compelling and fascinating read. Just as with K. C. May's first novel, I found it really hard to put this book down. Recommended! 4.5 /5 stars @ MotherLode
  • Freak City on Dec. 04, 2010

    Argus is in a dead-end job, with a crappy living situation and an uneventful life. He is largely absent from the world, choosing not to interact with his many roommates, and having little experience with quality human interaction. That is, this is Argus' life until now. A mysterious encounter with a stranger leaves Argus with a strange box filled with seemingly unrelated artifacts. He doesn't know what it all means, and, with an absent family and no real friends, he doesn't have anyone to ask. When one of his roommates reaches out to him in kindness one night and notices the odd collection, the roommates set out on an adventure to discover the meaning behind the mystery. Tom Lichtenberg has written a short novel that is both appealing and spellbinding as you discover clues right along with Argus. The desire to figure out the meaning behind the box of items keeps you reading until the end. That ending, however, felt somewhat abrupt and rushed, and was a bit of a disappointment after the path of discoveries. It is hinted that this experience has left Argus changed, and I would have liked a little more information about that change and what impact it might have. I wanted to know more about what happened to the other characters at the end as well. I wanted a little more, and I would be interested in further stories in this same vein. The writing style is unique, but well-suited to this type of unconventional story. The character of Argus is fairly well-developed. He is a very insular man who has very few authentic interactions with others, preferring to spend endless hours alone with his own thoughts. There is just enough information given to make you wonder more about Argus' family, as well as his experiences with others growing up. Some of this backstory may well be included in "Snapdragon Alley," a prequel of sorts to this book, where Argus' older brother holds center stage. I also want to know much more about the character of Fulsom. How did he end up needing to be "in charge" of the situation presented at the end? MotherLode blog
  • This Will Not Look Good on My Resume on Dec. 20, 2010

    Have you ever held a job? Maybe two, three, four, seventeen? Ever been fired from a job for speaking your piece? Or have you ever wished you could say whatever came to mind, no matter the consequence? If so, you'll love this chance to live vicariously through Brett Laramie as she plows her way through a series of jobs, leaving nothing unsaid, but many things undone. From teaching to waitressing, from manning a phone for a crisis hotline to applying to be a firefighter, she's done it all, seen it all, and said it all. And she takes us along for the ride! Jass Richards, a comic writer, has created in Brett a strong-willed woman who alternates between ranting manifestos and (persistently) asking the questions we all want to ask. This book is like a roller coaster ride on a stream of consciousness. The writing style very much reflects a speaking style rather than a written narrative, which fits the characterization of the novel rather well. Each chapter reflects one (short-lived) job experience in Brett's wide variety of careers. Anyone who's ever had a job will easily relate to one or more of the experiences in this story. I certainly found a few that hit home for me. Brett easily says things we all wish we could say, and sometimes says things we wouldn't have ever thought to say. At times, this story had me laughing out loud as I recognized myself (or others), but at other times, the ranting went from lighthearted fun to serious missive, leaving me a little cold. There were some very pointed jabs at certain "institutions" (for lack of a better all-encompassing term), such as religion and misogynists. Hilarious at first, but got a little old and just plain bitter-sounding after a while. For the most part, the story flowed along quickly and somewhat hysterically, but some parts seemed more drawn-out, leaving me ready for a change in scenery. Luckily, I never had to wait long for a new chapter, and I was soon delving into a totally different experience. Altogether, a funny, quirky read, good for anyone who is up for a quick escape into someone else's hilarious misery. @ MotherLode blog
  • Few Are Chosen, K'Barthan Series: Part 1 on Dec. 23, 2010

    On K'Barth, the Nimmists are long gone- or long in hiding- and the Chosen One has yet to be found...or so it's thought. Lord Vernon is making plans to take charge of this world, and he will use any tools at his disposal to make sure his plan goes off without a hitch. The Pan is a blacklisted criminal who has managed to stay alive in spite of his lack of courage, or maybe because of it. He lives by his wits, and has survived far longer than expected, against all odds. When he gets trapped into using his skills for a mastermind criminal, his life takes some unexpected turns. He soon becomes a creature of intense interest from all sides of this movement, and he reluctantly becomes part of some of the most daring and adventuresome events of his age. This is the kind of book I really shouldn't have liked- it's filled with odd new beings and some new terminology with magic thrown in; just the kind of fantasy that I normally pass by. I like the magical and otherworldly aspects, I just don't usually like various types of creatures together (even that bar scene in Star Wars bugged me as a kid). It just isn't my "thing." Well, perhaps I'm wrong, and this is my "thing," because I found I was turning pages as fast as I could. There were some lulls here and there, but for the most part, the plot moves along nicely, even though you're not sure exactly where it's headed. The Pan is engaging and likable, surprisingly so. He's sympathetic and plucky all at once. Big Merv undergoes a nice transition in character, and his changes are realistic and fit well with the plot. The characterization in this book is, overall, nicely done and there wasn't a single character that didn't engage me in some way. The plot was intriguing; although a bit slow at times, it really picked up at the end. In fact, I was totally immersed in the action towards the end and was quite surprised to see the story suddenly end. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing, as it made me want to read the next book. If this weren't meant to be a trilogy, I'd feel left cold by the ending. This story did exactly what a first book in a series should do- answered some questions, and left others unanswered (hopefully to be major plot points of the next book). MT McGuire has a very quirky writing style, and uses some interesting phrasing in this book. This style would have been frustrating in a different type of book. Rather than detract from this book, however, it seemed to fit this strange new world with its strange occupants. There were some typos, most notably with punctuation marks, but not so many as to totally distract from the engaging storyline. I wish I could have seen a bit more into the other world briefly introduced, and its connection to this world, but I suspect we'll learn much more in the next installment. Overall, a surprisingly good read, and a fun escape! @ MotherLode blog
  • And Then She Was Gone on Dec. 30, 2010

    Clarke Latham is a cynical PI who's been around the block a few times. With his background on the police force and his jaded life experiences, not much surprises him anymore. When he accepts a job tracking down a wayward adult daughter, he finds himself entrenched in a mystery that extends far beyond this young woman and her proclivity for risk-taking and sexual promiscuity. Something's not quite right about this case- or this girl- and Clarke is going to get to the bottom of this mystery... or die trying. Taking us on a whirlwind tour in short order, J. Daniel Sawyer has pulled out all the stops. The moment I read the first page, it brought to mind the classic noir image of a darkened PI office, a busty blond walking in, and the hard-talking, innocently cynical banter between them. Hard boiled detective novels are not at typical genre for me. That being said, I wonder why I haven't read more; I was hooked from the beginning. There were very few slow spots, but I must admit to being confused by some of the action scenes. In keeping with the pithy and witty writing style so suited to this genre, those scenes lacked a depth that would have allowed me to follow along a little better. No wasted words in this novel, with the exception of the kind of over-description that recalls the banter between Maddie and David in the TV series "Moonlighting." Clarke mostly seemed to banter with himself (or, essentially, the reader), and some of the more succinct paragraphs were sometimes grating when they came one after another. I noticed this more towards the latter half of the novel. It worked for me in most of the book, but left me a little cold in some of the intense action, where I struggled to keep up with too few words to guide me. The storyline adds a modern twist to this genre, and it's pretty compelling to try to follow the tantalizing little clues to determine who did what and, most importantly, why. Quite a bit of the storyline (and what Clarke thinks about it) is shared via Clarke's ruminations on his progress, which was great for me in the beginning, but it started to wear a bit towards the second half of the book. I wanted this lone star to have a foil with whom to interact. Rachael, his intern who is much more present in the end of the story and only pops up briefly here and there before that, would have been perfect as that foil. With a little more "screen time" for Rachael, Clarke would have had a Maddie for his David, and that would have had the added advantage of letting us get to know him through another lens. Clarke had an interesting head full of thoughts, but I didn't want to spend quite so much time just in his head. Stylistically, this book fits its genre rather well. Clarke's and Nya's characters were as developed as they should be for this type of book, with the other characters a little less so. It was pretty well-edited, with only a few minor errors here and there. Like any good serialized novel, the ending leaves you with the hint of a possible adversary, as yet a mystery, who may rear her head again in future stories. Fortunately, fans of the book won't have to wait long for the next book- it's already out.Overall, a nicely written, modernized hard boiled detective story. Witty and pithy, with a storyline that keeps you engaged, this is a recommended read. @ MotherLode blog
  • Spiral X on Jan. 02, 2011

    Cheryl is a Hunter. A Vampire Hunter. Not only that, but she's so good at what she does that the Underworld has a contract out on her. She has the best percentage of Vampire kills in any district and, if that weren't enough, she's about to become drawn into a big, secretive drug deal that has the ability to change the world as she knows it. Not only does Plast have a detrimental and violent effect on humans, it's central to a heinous plan to create a new breed of Vampire that won't succumb to the usual weaponry. In addition to her usual sidekicks Tank and Virgil, Cheryl meets a mysterious Hunter with an unusual past and some interesting connections, who joins them in the never-ending battle against the Underworld and the drug that's fueling their leader's plans. J. J. Westendarp has created in Cheryl a woman who can kick butt and take no prisoners, yet, even with that sense of duty, has a softer side for the human "victims" who have chosen to serve Vampires. Cheryl is very likable and sympathetic, even as she exudes power and control. She's reminiscent of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," with some "Blade" thrown in. I could easily see this story as a movie or a TV action series. Cheryl had all the elements you'd expect in an action hero: a tortured past that gave rise to her current profession, a few trusted associates, a true devotion to saving the world, and the ability to kick ass while still keeping a sense of humor. Overall, all of the characters fit nicely in the mold of typical action figures, and I really found myself rooting for Cheryl in the story. Although an enjoyable and fast-paced read, it was a too neatly tied up for my taste. The surprises are a little too predictable, and the connections between people and events a little too convenient and simplistic. Neat, but a little too neat. Much of the dialogue was trite, with explanations and events that seemed too perfectly organized. They fit the mold of an action story, but there wasn't anything extraordinary or special that got me excited. Instead of feeling like I was immersed in the action, I felt like I was watching a play onstage with everything perfectly scripted. The story is nicely written and the writing style was very readable and interesting, with no more than a handful of obvious typographical errors. A perfect read for those who love fast-paced action stories with a paranormal basis. 3.5 /5 stars @ MotherLode blog
  • Roses of Doom on Jan. 05, 2011

    This book seems geared towards a very young audience- 2nd-3rd graders. As I started to read this, my immediate thought was that the author(s) were either not native English speakers, or were quite young. The writing is very reminiscent of the writing of a upper primary student, or perhaps a middle school student. It's missing the fluidity that comes with a more mature writing style. Although the characters are meant to be 6th graders, there is a distinct lack of slang and relaxed speech. There is an over use of the ellipse, and some issues with a changing point of view as well. It's told in first person, but switches randomly to third person whenever convenient, with no indication to the reader it's switching. It's difficult to rate this. If this is a creation by young people, I want to give encouragement. This isn't a bad place to start, but the writing and concept formation still have a long way to go to achieve the polish that stories geared to this age group should have. If it is truly geared for the young adult/teen audience, it is a 1 star. If it is, instead, more geared towards second-third graders, it would earn closer to a 2. In any case, I hope the authors continue to work on adding voice into the story and creating realistic dialogue that helps to move the story along, as well as developing storylines that are more fluid in nature.
  • The Job: Based on a True Story (I Mean, This is Bound to have Happened Somewhere) on Jan. 07, 2011

    Joe B. has a great job he loves, a loving family, a wonderful house, and is an all-around lucky, lucky guy. Unfortunately, his good deeds have not gone unnoticed by a certain, spiteful employee with enough power to finagle a demotion for him. Suddenly, the former Vice President at Universal Whirligig finds himself working in the mailroom, and his whole words is thrown upside-down. Struggling to find answers to this unexpected life change, he schemes to get a meeting with the Big Boss in the hopes that this (obvious mistake) will be resolved. His situation gets worse and worse until he finally gets the meeting he's looking for, but will he get the answers he's expecting? Humorous and fun to read, this book is, to me, a parable with religious undertones. As I was reading, I found myself reflecting on various Biblical stories and noting the similarities. After reading the story, I went online to read the official blurb and noted it was described as "a modern parable of ancient troubles and truths." I didn't realize that going in, but I definitely could see that as I read it. Although I frequently was reminded of stories from the Bible, this book really struck me as a parable of the story of Jesus- a bit tongue in cheek and with an added sense of humor, but many similarities in the suffering and the questioning of his future. I think the brilliance of this relatively short book is in its simplistic writing style and humorous outlook. I really liked Joe B. He wasn't particularly well-developed as a character, none of the characters really were, but you knew just enough to picture him and to understand his motivations and actions. The other characters were less-developed, but they were really secondary. Big Boss had a mythical quality to him (mysterious and omniscient), and Joe's attempts to get an audience with him ranged from inspired to downright ridiculous. In some places in the story, it seemed that there was an attempt to put a little too many meaningful details in, and I got a little sidetracked in those places. Simplicity in some of the details would have gone well with the writing style. The book lacked depth in the writing, but a reader could certainly read more into various aspects of the tale. This was a fun, lighthearted look at the workplace and the politics at play. It can also be read as a serious parody of belief and suffering, set in a modern workplace. A fun read! @ MotherLode blog
  • The Girl Who Ran With Horses on Jan. 15, 2011

    Stevie has just spent the school year in Tulsa with her aunt and uncle, and she's now headed home to Antler for what she's sure will be the best summer of her life. She's made plans to compete in every barrel race she can manage, and she's eager to see her older brother and her horses again. She's ready to put a recent tragedy behind her and focus on the fun and adventure that will comprise her summer. Unfortunately, things don't always work out as we plann. From arriving home a few days late (because her dad can't be bothered to come and get her), to a surprising new friendship and an unexpected injury, Stevie is quickly finding out that this summer isn't all that she expected. Maybe, just maybe, it's more. Along the way, she finds out some surprising things about her family, her horses and, most importantly, about herself. In my review of another of author David Michael's books, "The Summoning Fire," (read that review here) I commented that I was sure I'd enjoy his work in other genres as well. Luckily, I was right. I delighted in this journey of a girl coming to terms with uncertainty and loss by ignoring all that makes her uncomfortable, and focusing on her dreams for the future. Along the way, she discovers that she must face her past before she can look forward to her future. She can't fully be herself without acknowledging that she is who she is because of where she's been. With her horses to help her cope in unexpected ways, Stevie matures into a young woman who is more whole, and no longer just a sum of her parts. The writing is engaging, as is the storyline. The prose is very readable and perfectly combines maturity and young adult appeal to make it a good read for all ages. I must admit that I've never been the type of girl who dreamed of a horse of her own. In fact, I am not really a horse fan in general. I've ridden a horse exactly twice, and I distinctly remember a few tears (or maybe more than a few) of fear each time. Even with my clear lack of interest in anything equine, something in this story still reached out to me. I think we can all relate to the difficulties involved in change, loss, and in just plain growing up. I was thoroughly engaged in the story- enough that I even cried a few tears of my own along the way. Life doesn't always work out the way we plan, and this story included just the right amount of emotional conflict and growth to keep me entertained and engaged the whole way through. The characters rang true and were well-defined, for the most part. Stevie's character is quite complex and the author does a nice job mimicking teenage angst. However, some of Stevie's actions and words seemed to repeat in ways that smacked of redundancy. For example, there was a scene with Travis that I read and immediately thought "didn't I just read this scene?" because of a very similar scene happening shortly before. Altogether, a great example of a touching and entertaining young adult novel that brings the reader through a gamut of emotions to an ending the satisfies. 4.5 /5 stars @ MotherLode blog
  • Trevor's Song on Jan. 17, 2011

    Trevor Wolff is the vision behind ShapeShifter, the hottest new band. What he lacks in musical talent, he makes up for in attitude. He's a love 'em and leave 'em kind of guy, and he plays life according to his own rules. When his best friend and talented band member, Mitchell, finds the girl of his dreams (Kerri, aka "Rusty"), Trevor is forced to reevaluate his own idea of what it means to be Trevor Wolff. His friendship with Mitchell must change, and he begins to wonder if he's ready for a real relationship himself. With a few potentially life-changing decisions in front of him, Trevor has to dig deep and truly question who he is and what's important to him in order to move forward. The author, Susan Helene Gottfried, has a background in the music industry, and she's given us an inside look at a band on the edge of stardom. The characters of Trevor, Mitchell, and Kerri are well-defined, with Trevor truly as the star of this story. There are several layers of complexity to Trevor in his feelings and his relationships; he doesn't even really understand himself. Conflicted by memories of a hinted past and uncertainty about his future, Trevor's story is an engaging study of emotional growth. It's Trevor's song that reverberates throughout this story, and the background music of other characters is there only to support and reinforce Trevor's own refrain. In addition to Trevor's other relationships, a special relationship is implied with Kerri; animosity on the outside, but an unexplainable internal connection. I felt this relationship lacked something to help define it. Perhaps it would have been clearer with more backstory on Kerri that could help explain why they had that special connection. Trevor felt Kerri truly understood him, but I wanted to know more about Kerri to find out why that was. There was also a thread of abuse between Trevor and Mitchell that would benefit from some fleshing out, or it could have been left out entirely. It came up enough to make it seem like a stray thread, but not enough to have it be another facet that helped support and round out what we learn of Trevor's past. The storyline is complex, and a lot of growth can be seen in Trevor's character. The story is really about Trevor and his need to change and adapt in order to continue, and it's an intriguing tale. I felt the beginning of the book dragged, perhaps offering too much of a foundation for the rest of the story. It really picked up in the latter half of the book as Trevor's character become more defined and I was more clear on the direction we were headed. I read the first half of the story with some detached interest, but in the second half, I was engaged. There is some ambiguity at the end that is very fitting for the story, and is satisfying in its own way. Even without knowing the outcome of the final action, the reader still understands that it will all work out. 3.5 stars @ MotherLode blog
  • The Eye of the Idol on Jan. 22, 2011

    The Eye of the Idol. An incredible and mesmerizing artifact that has touched the lives of many. An artifact with a story and a history- cursed, perhaps, as those who touch it seem to suffer the consequences. North Korea on the warpath, a luxury ship sunk in the early 1900s, a thief forced to execute his own wife; all seemingly unrelated elements that are somehow connected in the most unusual ways. Blending fact with fiction, Paul Dayton weaves a tale of intrigue that spans centuries. The author pulls seemingly unrelated pieces of history together in a fictional tale fueled by actual truths. I thought the concept was really interesting, and I was pulled in by the description. I was envisioning an exciting tale filled with historical facts and fascinating ties. I wanted to be drawn into the story, to escape into a fascinating tale of adventure. I really wanted to love this book. While I was interested in the historical details included in the book, I just couldn't immerse myself in the story. I was confused by some of the exchanges and events in the story; perhaps because the characters all sounded the same to me. The conversations between characters didn't ring true, and I felt the characters were mostly one-dimensional. A lot of historical context gets explained by way of conversation between several RCMP officers, and, although the facts themselves were of interest, the conversation relaying those facts was dry. Adding to my confusion, there were several sentences with entire words missing, and the punctuation (including quotation marks) was incomplete in places-- this story would really benefit from additional editing. Some of the transitions to different time periods in history were clearly defined by chapters and headings, others were not defined at all, leaving me to wonder where in time I was. I felt the characters and the connections needed some more polish and substance. I think the potential is there for this story to be a riveting adventure, and the author has really done his research into these historical events, but the execution fell flat for me. In the beginning of the story, there were numbers (but not hyperlinks) that I assumed corresponded to endnotes. Later in the text, there were hyperlinks that led to websites with more information. When I got to the endnotes after the epilogue, the notes had no numbers attached. It wasn't easy to see which note went with which item in the story. As I read most of this story on my Sony PRS-505, the endnotes and the hyperlinks were useless to me. I could click on the hyperlinks on my Droid X, and that was nice, but for ereaders with no touchscreen capability, it doesn't serve much purpose. I wish the author would have chosen either endnotes or hyperlinks: I vote hyperlinks, even though I couldn't access them on my 505, as they are less obtrusive. Endnotes make me feel I'm reading a history book, and this was meant to be a fictional tale with historical facts embedded. If I'm reading a novel, I don't want to be flipping back and forth (a frustrating task on an ereader, in particular). A hyperlink I can ignore or follow (if my device supports it). In short, a great concept with real possibility, but it just didn't do it for me. Add in the need for further editing, and I gave this 2.5 stars at MotherLode blog.
  • Luminous and Ominous on Jan. 27, 2011

    When Henry gets a disturbing video from a friend in the Peace Corps, he formulates a plan to save a dozen or so of his closest friends from an alien invasion. Gathering the friends turns out to be the first of his problems. After convincing them of the danger, he must plan for how to keep them alive and safe until this danger blows over. Something goes wrong in his plan, and he and two friends are left out in the world to fend against the alien plant life and find a way to escape the "Cornucopia Blue." Does Henry have what it takes to survive? Is it even worth the effort? Written by Noah K. Mullette-Gillman, this story jumps between the story's present time (2014) and the beginning of the alien plant invasion (2012). I found this a really clever and effective way to tell this tale. The story starts out with Noah and his two surviving friends making their way through the altered landscape, and quickly switches to show the start of the invasion. With two such intriguing introductions to the two time periods, I was immediately engaged. Telling the two parts of the tale concurrently was a great technique to maintain attention, and, with clearly marked chapters and predicatable switches, it's easy to follow both story lines until they connect at the very end. Original and descriptive, it was an appealing tale. Where this story really shines is in the originality of the concept and the imagination involved in creating this alien life form. I could easily picture "Cornucopia Blue," as the plant invasion was christened, and I could almost feel the power of its allure. Where this story really lacks is in the editing and the writing style. This story could definitely use another editing pass. There were enough errors to be annoying, with typos and some sentences that didn't make sense because of missing words. The writing style itself was very simple. It was written as though geared towards (or written by) a pretty young audience, with trite dialogue and a lack of true depth. I had to do a double check, thinking perhaps this was marketed for a youthful reader. It does make for a fast read, but I felt the writing style was much too simplistic and somewhat immature for a tale that had the potential to be truly intense and wonderful. There were also several points in the story where there was a sudden proliferation of exclamation points (in the narrative as well as the dialogue!), which increased the feel of a juvenile writing style. The ending tied the two parts of the story together, yet left some ambiguity for the reader to decide what truly happened to Henry and his friends. All in all, not a bad ending. It answers the question of how they got from one half of the story to the other, and it leaves the reader to wonder "what happens next?" Although the ending was ok, I wish there had been a little more. There was a thread throughout the story that started with something Henry's stepdad had said to him: "Are you in a cave, or in the Universe?" Henry thinks of this question at several points throughout the story, but it's conspicuously missing at the end of the book. I think this could really have tied the story together in a way that added depth and left the reader with a greater sense of satisfaction, and made the ambiguous ending stronger. Overall, a clever and unique tale that I felt was held back by the writing style. The originality and interest level of the storyline itself bumps it up for me to: 3 /5 stars @ MotherLode blog
  • Backwoods on Jan. 31, 2011

    After a mysterious creature pops out from the trees, Andrew Braddock, a self-claimed "tree counter," crashes his jeep in the midst of the Appalachian mountains. The day started out with a routine research assignment, but is quickly turning bizarre as he fends for his life in a creek. He is quickly pulled to safety by an Army reservist who takes him to a top-secret research facility deep in the Appalachian mountains. As Andrew gets to know these new surroundings, he becomes acquainted with an entrancing nurse, an autistic child, an eccentric scientist, a forceful Major, and a collection of the enlisted, including his very own hero, the alluring Dani. Things are not quite as they seem, and soon Andrew finds himself putting together the pieces to form a truly horrific whole. Will he survive? Will anyone? This contemporary horror novel by Sara Reinke pulls you in from the beginning and doesn't let you go until the very last page. Along the way, you're given hints as to the big secret at this "top-secret" facility, but the truth is so much worse than you can even imagine. What starts out as a bit of a mystery quickly reveals a truly horrific experiment gone out of control. With nicely developed characters, the story is an easy and colorful read. Andrew finds himself in a few romantic trysts in this story, but the star relationship is the intriguing connection between Alice (the autistic child) and Andrew. The ending offers a nice sense of closure while still leaving the reader guessing as to what may happen- the perfect mix for this type of horror novel. There is suspense and intrigue, with a good dose of gore thrown in for good measure. I loved the idea behind this story. I can imagine such an event actually taking place in some remote location, as terrifying as it is. I was really drawn in by Andrew's character as we both tried to figure out what was going on. Although the major characters were, for the most part, well-developed, I felt Suzette's character didn't quite have the depth that the storyline required. She was somewhat of a major player, but I didn't quite understand her motivation and why she would take the job that she did, with the history that she had. She felt a little unrealistic compared to the other characters. I think the suspense was nicely done, but the gory "finale" lasted a few too many pages for my taste. Overall, a compelling tale!
  • Leviathan on Feb. 11, 2011

    Hero lives a blessed life. He is married to the woman of his dreams, his strength is legendary, and he is revered the world round. When Death comes to kill his love, Beauty, and change his perfect world into one of pain and loss, Hero is set on vengeance. With some prompting from the Snake, Hero sets out to exact his revenge on God Himself. An epic poem by Zachary Harper, in the style of "Beowulf," "Leviathan" is a "parable of modern man's response to the guilt and pain of death." During Hero's journey to avenge his loss, he affects change in a number of ways. His mind focused on his mission, he doesn't even notice whose lives are altered by his actions. When Hero eventually finds his way to Leviathan, the meeting doesn't go quite as planned, leaving the reader to think about what it all was for. It also offers the opportunity to think of how Hero's journey relates to your own life, as I found myself reflecting on my own journey. Although I studied "Beowulf" back in high school, this is admittedly not my typical genre choice for reading material. That being said, it was a refreshing experience to engage in this poetic tale. I particularly liked the last chapter and thought it fitting closure to the adventure. For fans of this genre, or if you're ready to try out a new type of adventure, this is a good bet. @ MotherLode blog
  • The Only Thing I See on Feb. 12, 2011

    Annabelle is a wedding photographer. She has a talent for capturing other people's happiness, but has trouble recognizing her own. When she herself becomes engaged, she starts "seeing" the future happiness (or unhappiness) of the lovestruck couples she photographs. The only problem is, she can't seem to see the truth in the relationship right in front of her. With the unintentional nudges of her best friend and her quirky mom, Annabelle finds herself taking a philosophical journey she just wasn't quite ready to take. She can't see herself through her camera lens, but perhaps she can see finally herself through the reflection of the two people who mean the most to her. I really had fun with this tale by Jessica Barksdale Inclan, devouring it in short order. The characters of Annabelle, her best friend (Khalie), and her mother (Ramona) are all well-developed and quite engaging. Easy to read and utterly charming, it's effortless to become absorbed in this tale of emotional growth overlaid in romantic tones. Although the ending is predictable, it's still satisfying as you wait for Annabelle to finally realize what you've known the whole time. It's a feel-good tale that will leave you with a happy sigh, content that things are right with the world. There were a few more than a handful of typos in the story- not super distracting, but still noticeable. The storyline flows along fairly smoothly; there are a few bumps for Annabelle along the way, but not really that "gasp" moment present in some books of this genre. I may have preferred a bit more conflict along the way to make that neatly tied-up ending even sweeter. I sometimes prefer a bit of ambiguity in an ending, even for a storyline meant to leave you feeling happy and satisfied. Overall, a great read, one that fans of this genre will devour. @ MotherLode blog
  • The Black God's War: A Novella Introducing a New Epic Fantasy on Feb. 16, 2011

    A day of wondrous glory, a day of devastating despair. A long-awaited, holy child is born and minutes later his mother dies. Lucia, his 10-year-old sister, is the only one who can see Lord Danato, the god who takes their mother's life. Nothing in Lucia's own life will never be the same again. Haunted by regular visitations from Lord Danato, and living in the shadow of her holy brother, Lucia must find her place in the world. 19 years later, Lucia's father, King Vieri is leading the Rezzia people in war against the Pawelon people. Caio and Lucia have very important roles to play in the future of the Rezzia people, and they wonder if the cause is worth the death toll that will certainly follow. A novella by Moses Siregar III, the story opens with a scene that pulls you in at once. I was immediately sympathetic to Lucia and very curious about Lord Danato. We are given just enough context to pique our interest and help us understand the people of this time, but we are still left wanting more. This novella consists of 15 of the early chapters of a planned 85 chapter novel (to be released in May 2011), and it's an intriguing taste of what is to come. The characterization in this story is fitting to the length, but I was curious to know more about the main characters. Some characters we get to know a bit better while we are only given a taste of others. The full book promises a more in-depth exploration of some of the characters, particularly the Pawelon people (to whom we are only given a brief introduction). Gaining more perspective on where the Pawelons stand will really help to round out the story and draw us further in. Well-paced and fluid, the writing style is engaging and descriptive. I really got a feel for the time period and the surroundings. There is more to the story than it seems; I noted religious undertones that brought to mind stories of a biblical nature. I hope the actual novel capitalizes on this as one of its themes without being preachy or blatant. I'm excited to know more about the journey of the Pawelons, as well as hopefully get more backstory on Lucia and what it was like for her and Caio to grow up a part of this legend. I felt the ending wasn't really satisfying by itself; it left me feeling let down. As a stand-alone novel, I wanted more. As a "teaser" to a full-length novel, it works to prepare you for the rest of the story. Knowing that there will be a book that will take this same story and push it further, while giving me more backstory on the Pawelon people, I'm excited to read more! @MotherLode blog
  • Vestal Virgin on March 04, 2011

    Taken from her home when still a child, Elissa is a revered Vestal Virgin. Somewhat sequestered from the rest of Roman society, educated and powerful in ways that are different from other women of the time, Elissa struggles between doing what is expected of her and dealing with her strong emotions of longing towards one man and hatred towards another. When her brother and sister become part of the drama that surrounds Elissa, she must fight with every bit of her being in order to survive the perilous future laid out before her. With a fluid writing style, Suzanne Tyrpak has created a gripping tale that immerses you in another time and culture. From the very beginning, I was pulled into the storyline. The plot is well-paced, with excellent timing on the introduction of characters and situations. Initially, more time is spent getting to know the various characters, and the pace picks up in sync with the increasing tension. Throughout the story, we follow the characters as their lives become inextricably intertwined. Each character plays a very important part in the overall story, and they are very well-developed and interesting in their own right. Although the storyline focuses upon Elissa as she struggles to put her world right, the supporting characters are no minor parts. On the contrary, they are just as engaging and complex as Elissa herself. The ending was artfully written, providing both closure and peace. My only real quibble is that I felt the story of Flavia was unfinished. As the story of Elissa was more complete and offered more closure, the ending for Flavia seemed incomplete by comparison and I felt as though there was a bothersome, dangling thread. Although not the main character, Flavia played such an important role that the incompleteness of her tale left me wanting more. Although they were several scenes involving "deviant sex," as the official blurb calls it, they were so skillfully integrated and told suggestively rather than with explicit detail, and they added to the overall story. This tale was truly about Elissa's journey to save herself and her family and to carve out a bit of happiness along the way, and everything in this story supported that theme. Altogether, a beautifully written story from a very talented author! 4.5 stars @ MotherLode review blog
  • The Goblin Brothers Adventures Vol. 1 on March 05, 2011

    Malagach and Gortok are brothers. Goblin brothers, that is. Smart and literate, they are quite unusual in their village, and often the target of Zakrog and his gang of bullies. Gortok is the inventor of the two, always coming up with amazing new tools to use. Malagach is a bit of an "idea boy," and he makes a great assistant for his younger brother. Together, they find themselves in some crazy dilemmas, and it takes every bit of knowledge and ingenuity they have to get themselves right back out! Written as a middle-grade book, this collection of adventures by Lindsay Buroker is entertaining and fun for all ages. The writing style offers a good combination of easy-to-understand language along with higher level words that will challenge younger readers. It's the type of story that will entice reluctant readers to learn new vocabulary while providing an engaging story for more advanced younger readers. The mix of simple sentence structure with more complex structures is a great technique to appeal to many levels of reading. Some middle-grade books feel a bit mind-numbing to an adult, but that was not true in this case. I know my own kids would enjoy it as much as I did. The world that is presented to us is an adventure in itself. We are able to explore the relationships between goblins, humans, orcs, and other creatures, enticing our imaginations while providing entertainment. The brothers themselves are utterly engaging and fun, with good characterization. The dialogue between them really helps establish each brother's personality. I really liked the fact that the brothers were always on the lookout for new books, and were interested in new math and science facts. Other characters are brought in as concerns the plot, and each personality presented is quite distinct and well-defined. Although all the stories are about the brothers, there isn't a lot in the way of continuity between stories. Each adventure stands alone nicely, which can be a draw for this age group. Some chapters provide a little more backstory into the brothers' lives and some are much more adventuresome than some others. Each story presents a challenge for the brothers to overcome. I found myself more engaged in some of the stories than in others, with one story in particular much less appealing to me than the rest. Overall, a wonderful adventure with universal appeal! 4.5 /5 stars @ MotherLode
  • Under Witch Moon on March 24, 2011

    When a giggly, nervous woman comes to Adriel asking for protection from a werewolf, Adriel thinks nothing of it. After all, she makes her living selling spells to the public. Sewing silver protection into a blouse isn't such a difficult job. But Adriel realizes it may not be so simple after all when that woman ends up dead, ripped apart by the very werewolf now staring straight at Adriel. Even worse, it turns out this isn't the first woman to have played with a werewolf and lost. As she tries to uncover the secret of these deaths, Adriel quickly realizes she may be playing with much more powerful magic than she ever imagined. She may be good at spells, but is she good enough to stop an evil witch with an evil plan and friends in high places? A first installment in the Moon Shadow series by Maria E. Schneider, this paranormal mystery is an engaging, quick read. Wonderfully lighthearted, but solid in its structure, this story contains an interesting cast of characters. Adriel herself is a fun character- she's got some good skills and ideas, but needs a little boost sometimes to make them work. That boost comes in the form of Lynx and White Feather. Lynx, a young shapeshifter, is Adriel's link to new customers, and to information that helps Adriel do her job. White Feather is a mysterious connection who uses Adriel for information, but he's got a few secrets of his own. The main characters in this story have some nice characterization, but in the length of the novel, it could have gone a few steps further to help flesh out some of these characters. White Feather, in particular, could have used some additional meat to his story. He seems to have such a fascinating history and some more secrets to share. I really wanted to get to know him a bit more. Lynx and Adriel have some nice development, but I hope to find out more about their backstories as well in the next installment. One of the things I loved about this novel was the explanation of all things "witchy." This world of spells has clear rules and structure, and the author does a delightful job of weaving that information into the storyline. The story flows along pretty well, with very few bumps along the way. There were a few times I took a quick look back to confirm an action or a character, or reread a passage to be sure I could visualize what just happened, but that was the exception rather than the rule. For the most part, the story flows along smoothly. I only noticed a few typos (two come to mind immediately: the first being a word that didn't quite make sense--"train" when I thought maybe "gain" would be more fitting, and the second was an apostrophe on a plural). Overall, a fun read and a great start to a new series! @ MotherLode blogt
  • Jimmy Stone's Ghost Town on March 26, 2011

    Jimmy Stone has had a hard life. It all really started when his mom came home from the hospital with a puppy instead of the new baby sister he was expecting, and it went downhill from there. Now, he's been relocated to "Boredsylvania" with his largely absent father. With no friends, he finds himself the number one target of the local bully gang. Luckily, he manages to make friends with David, who has successfully survived his year of being the gang's whipping boy, and David is willing to teach Jimmy some survival tips. A spontaneous walk with this new friend in the woods behind Jimmy's house leads to an exciting discovery, and an unexpected adventure. Now Jimmy has to solve a riddle that foretells the end of everything Jimmy holds dear. Can he save the seven realms in time? I've mentioned before that I don't usually notice cover art, but I must say that I love the cover of this book. I think it's fitting to the story, and quite striking to boot. While I usually skip right by the cover, I find myself mesmerized by this one. That being said, on with the review! This middle grade novel by Scott Neumyer begins when Jimmy is in third grade and his family suffers one tragic loss after another. The story is told from Jimmy's point of view, and you can feel his frustration and lack of understanding in the events that took place. I found the writing in the beginning sections very fluid and engaging in telling the story from Jimmy's point of view. During the course of the book, however, the writing flips between present and past tense with no apparent reason (that I could see). Although I found the beginning of the story to flow well, I found it flowed less in the latter half of the story. The writing and dialogue seemed a bit more disjointed and immature later in the book. Additionally, although I found the overall writing style and storyline to be appropriate for the intended age group, there was enough extraneous swearing to definitely make me think twice before sharing this story with my own middle grade sons. Jimmy's character was developed enough that I got a good feel for him, his life, and his feelings. I found him interesting and, swearing aside, age appropriate. I liked the relationship between Jimmy and his dog, Trex and I felt it added a nice texture to the story. The character of David, on the other hand, confused me. He seemed almost psychic in places, and I expected that to play into the story more. I expected him to have a mysterious connection to the ghost town in the title. Instead, he seemed just as surprised by the ghost town, and his actions and dialogue just plain confused me in places. I'm not sure if it was a lack of development or just inconsistencies, but I think a lot more could have been done with his character that would have added to the storyline. The story itself was disjointed to me. It was almost like two halves of a story linked together by a walk in the woods. During the first half of the story, I found myself wondering when in the world we were getting to any ghost town. When it happened, I wondered why the extended back story on Jimmy's life. I kept waiting for them to tie together, but it never really happened. Things were hinted upon, but then the ending came somewhat abruptly and prematurely. I didn't see anywhere that officially listed this as the start to a series, but I can't imagine it's anything but. The ending really sets itself up for six more books- one for each of the mentioned realms. I think further books could really help solidify the connection between Jimmy's past and his future, as well as further develop David's character. In spite of what I felt were shortcomings, I did enjoy the read. I think the author does possess some nice fiction writing skills that could really bloom with tightening of a storyline, and particular attention paid to consistency. @ MotherLode blog
  • The Salbine Sisters on March 26, 2011

    A novel by Sarah Ettritch, "The Salbine Sisters" looks at a world where powerful women are revered for their magical ability to draw upon the four elements. What happens when one of the chosen turns out to not have the same abilities? Is there truly a place in the order for those who cannot perform as expected? Part sweet love story, part personal journey, this tale is masterfully woven together with fluid prose and a well-paced storyline. The author entwines key details of the world perfectly into the story, and I was never left confused or unsure about what was going on. Being able to draw my own conclusions from the dialogue and events really allowed me to become completely engaged. And this story was engaging from the very beginning; it never really seemed to lag and I was riveted throughout. The ending offers the reader closure, tying up the threads nicely while still leaving room to think about the future. The story doesn't progress the way you might expect, which lends its own element of delight and satisfaction. The message I see in the story is applicable to all of us in that we may not always realize that the answers given us are not necessarily the answers we expect. Maddy and Lillian possess both strong and fragile characteristics, but their strengths and weaknesses compliment one other. I loved the interchanges between the two of them, and those scenes allowed us to learn a lot about their characters without ever being told explicitly by the author. Their relationship was sweet, but it was not without its own bumps in the road, and those bumps gave the chance for the characters to show growth. Each woman discovers what she needs to become whole, and for each of them, it's not what she had expected. The supporting characters were perfectly placed in a way that added much to the overall story. A very enjoyable and heartwarming story that utterly engages from start to finish! Strongly recommended. @ MotherLode blog
  • The Milieu Principle on April 30, 2011

    Mike Daniels is not the most social man in the business world. He has a good heart, but it's deeply hidden under his rough exterior. He's a man of numbers, and has no time for social niceties. Business is business. When Mike receives a memory stick in the mail, he thinks nothing of it... until he takes a look at what it contains. Now his life is in turmoil as he changes his identity and goes on the run to protect this secret. His race against time takes him around the world and puts him up against highly trained opponents who want nothing more than to see him dead. Can he stay alive long enough to save the world? In this thriller by Malcom Franks, an ingenious plot has been hatched that will address overpopulation. Ingenious, and insidious. The masters behind the curtain get to control who is worthy of life and who is superfluous. I thought this concept was really intriguing, the stuff of blockbuster thrillers. It's the type of storyline that really pulls you in and has the potential to take you on a breathless ride. As Mike/Matt plows his way towards answers, he encounters so many twists and turns that he doesn't know what- or who- to trust. Even with an exciting plot with such potential, the actual writing really varied for me. I started the first page thinking the writing was really nice- descriptive and varied in language and structure. However, as I read on, I felt like the writing was trying too hard. Some sentences felt as if the author worked really hard to craft each sentence as a work of art. The result didn't have the effortless feel that my favorite books have had. Additionally, there was inconsistent comma use, occasional tense changes in a single sentence, missing punctuation, a confusing use of "Matt" instead of "Mike" early on (apparently a foretelling of a new identity down the road). Some sentences were somewhat confusing as written. Additionally, there is a lot of smirking from the bad guys in the beginning of the story, and I had no idea someone could actually "smirk harder." A really thorough editing would elevate this story quite a bit. There are many characters in this story, some only slightly developed, making it difficult to keep track of everyone along the way. Mike goes through a major metamorphosis in this book- interesting and necessary, but the actual changes were sometimes unrealistic and obvious. This story is really driven by plot rather than characters, and the result is an uneven development of the characters, with some a little more interesting than others. Even though it's the plot events that drive the story, some events in the story seemed to have been done for the sake of convenience just to get to the next event, and the overall effect lacks some fluidity and realism. Some events didn't seem as logical as I would have expected, and I couldn't always follow the "why" of the choices made. At times, the plot dragged enough to make me forget where we were going and why. The overall effect felt somewhat disjointed to me. An intriguing concept with tons of potential, but would really benefit from some editing of the writing and tightening of the plot events. I'm giving it a slight boost in star rating soley based on the fact that I loved the underlying concept. @ MotherLode blog-
  • Hazel Wetherby & The Elixir of Love on May 05, 2011

    Author Bill Defelis describes his first published work as ”Nancy Drew meets Men in Black,” and that’s a very apt description. Hazel’s detective work and the surreal situation make for an enticing combination. Once I was able to get into the “Men in Black” zone, I was better able to suspend belief (particularly about things like 13-year-old Hazel starting her own detective agency and hiring her own housekeeper without any adults batting an eye) and enjoy the ride. Generally well-edited (not enough typos to be distracting), this book is unique and entertaining, taking readers on a fantastical ride full of surprises. The writing style is well-suited for its target age group, with the kind of vocabulary and sentence structure that will stretch younger readers while still providing an interesting story for older readers. With its bizarre storyline and eccentric characters, this story has a lot of entertainment value. Even if I was a bit confused at times, I was never bored. A quick review after I’d finished the story really shed some light on the storyline as a whole for me, and earlier passages that served to initially confuse me made sense after all. I wish it hadn’t taken me that second read to get that closure, and that may actually speak to my own difficulty in completely immersing in the story. Although the plot is intriguing and humorous enough to draw in readers, this story really shines through its quirky characters. Hazel is relatively down-to-Earth, but she thinks outside the box, adding interest and surprise to her character. Her younger brother is never boring, and I found myself wondering several times if his story would turn out to be more than it seemed. It did, but not in the way I expected, and that was a little disappointing. The ending expertly leaves the door wide open for a second installment in this potential series, which leads me to believe there may be more to Kierkegaard’s story after all. Rounding out the cast, the reader is introduced to a variety of alien life forms along with a selection of humans in on the action. None of the characters are really forgettable, and that’s always a good thing. Overall, a fun and unique adventure for the middle school set. 3.5 /5 stars @ MotherLode review blog-
  • Dead Man's Eye on May 25, 2011

    Joanna's corneal transplant surgery was successful. Rather than continuing to suffer with failing sight, she now has the ability to see things she hasn't been able to see clearly for a while. But not everything is meant to be seen, and Joanna may soon come to realize she may have been safer going blind. At least when you're blind, you can't see the evil that lurks within some of your most trusted friends... This novella by Shaun Jeffrey puts a nice twist on a classic horror theme. Joanna is (almost) the only one who can see what she sees, but getting someone to believe her in time to save others may be next to impossible. With such a classic premise, the storyline tends towards the predictable. I found the prose to be very simplistic and lacking in maturity. The resulting writing style is more "young adult" in feel, although the story itself does not fall into that category. The uncomplicated writing did make for a very quick and easy read, but it didn't allow me to immerse myself in the horror and to feel what Joanna was feeling. There was too much explained and not enough left for the reader to experience. The story lacked "voice" that would have allowed the reader to fully experience the horror firsthand. More detail and less explanation would have made it feel less like watching a horror movie and more like participating in it. This is a story driven by events and not characters. The characters feel secondary to the plot events that drive this story. The pacing of the events is nicely done, and really helps to build to the climax, but it feels somewhat monochromatic without strong character development. In particular, I wanted more of Lincoln and his experience of being inhabited by a demon. I think more could have been done with his quandary. I also felt that Margaret, the other recipient of the corneal transplant, could have played a more integral role (or else be left out entirely). Joanna goes to visit Margaret twice to enlist her help, and each time, she gives up when Margaret turns her down. It felt really incomplete. It was obvious Margaret had seen things she wished she hadn't, but that information and those visits added nothing to the story that I could see. There were also a few handfuls of very small editing errors- not totally distracting, but present. Overall, it was a fun read and a good bet for fans of horror. It was difficult to put the book down before I got to the end, and I did like the ending. Predictable, perhaps, but satisfying, nonetheless. Originally posted @ MotherLode blog
  • Promise Kept on May 29, 2011

    The year is 2187. Ever since the Passing, it's a whole new world, one that is comfortable to Lila Howell, but somewhat distasteful to Susanne Newton. Lila is a young archival historian who makes a living by using her psychic gifts to interview people at the end of their lives. This information is essentially used by forthe current government as intel. When Lila is assigned to interview Susanne Newton, Lila's confused. Susanne is not dying, and there's something suspicious about the work order. It seems that someone high up in the government is not being honest about the facts of this case. As Lila gets more involved in Susanne's story, Lila starts to make some surprising realizations that may have far-reaching implications. Suddenly, the New Dawn doesn't look so warm after all. Almost immediately, the dystopian world described in this book reminded me a bit of Margaret Atwood's classic, "The Handmaid's Tale". Something about a new society without aggression, where everyone has a proper place and rules were made to be followed seemed familiar. I love "The Handmaid's Tale," so that was definitely a plus for me. This story is by no means a copycat, in fact, it's quite different, but the feel of the society is similar. When Lila was a child in the city, she was given by her parents to be raised in a Creche, and there she was tested to assess her talents and IQ in order to determine her rightful place in society. Those who don't live in the cities may live on farmsteads, and they are not yet under the control of the new government. Susanne comes from a farmstead, and she personally lived through the Passing. Her experience with some integral events makes her knowledge quite valuable to the current government. I found the characters interesting; in particular, Susanne and Lila held my attention, and the development of their relationship kept me reading. Lila goes through some significant changes in her perspective of her society in his story, and those changes were worth reading. The story told by Susanne is riveting, and it's easy, yet somewhat terrifying, to imagine the world changing in the way she describes. This is the first book by this author, and I think that showed. The book definitely needs another edit. The dialogue in the story often seemed much more stilted than expected, even with the idea that this was an entirely different, perhaps more "proper," time. There were also a number of inconsistencies in Lila's character, which made it somewhat confusing.Overall, what I liked best about this story was the concept. There really is an intriguing plot, and a thorough editing, along with some revising to maintain consistency and lend some additional maturity to the writing style, would go a long way. I especially loved the timeline provided right in the beginning, as it really sets up the story well. In fact, when I was finished with the book, I went back and read that timeline again, to make sure I caught all I needed to catch. In the course of the book, I would have liked to have seen some additional use of the psychic abilities of various characters, particularly Lila. Although it was difficult at first to engage in the book, by the end, I didn't really want to put it down until I found out what happened. The twist at the end left me scratching my head a bit, and gave me more questions than answers, but I know there's a sequel in the works, so perhaps they'll be answered there. Read the full review at on the MotherLode book review blog
  • Falling Star on June 02, 2011

    The premise of this novel is one that elicits images of a blockbuster film. Intrigue, politics, extraterrestrial life, and suspense are all part of this thriller. The author's own experience mirrors those of Mike Liu's character to some extent, and this is apparent in the details scattered throughout the book. This information is both an asset and a detractor for the book. The wealth of information creates a feeling of documentary rather than novel. With so many characters and so much background information about each, the development of each character wasn't as strong as I would have liked. I really like being immersed in a book, and I especially like when I can imagine myself talking to (or being) at least one of the characters. With this documentary-type feel, I felt more like I was watching an event being uncovered, but I wasn't taking part myself. The actual plot is very interesting and has a lot of potential. It's reminiscent of a Tom Clancy creation, and the Soviet connection really cements that idea. It's apparent that the author thought about how the two main aspects of the storyline would come together, and the Soviet connection, in particular, was quite clever and well-crafted as an idea. The story drags a bit in places, and lacks fluidity in plot events. At some places in the story, it got somewhat exciting, but then cooled to a dead halt when the scene changed. I think this story would benefit from some tightening of the storyline, including leaving out part of the explanation-heavy beginning, and tying the main concepts closer together. I think there is so much potential to this story, I would have loved to see it focused in a bit more. I felt there were several threads that were left unfinished, and that gave me a somewhat dissatisfied feeling at the end. Overall, a good read for those who love techno-thrillers and appreciate copious amounts of detail. There is certainly much information to be learned in this story. (Full review @ MotherLode blog)
  • Twit Publishing Presents: PULP! Summer/Fall 2010 on June 19, 2011

    I considered writing mini reviews for each of the stories in the book, but decided too many of them would say the same thing. So I’ll make some generalizations. Although the stories were all authored by different people, many of them had a really similar feel. In fact, for the first handful of stories, I felt like it was the same author. I’m not sure if this was a reflection on the choice of authors or on the editing process. The premise of each story was certainly different, but most of the stories had an unpolished and unfinished feel to me. I think short stories have to be somewhat succinct and focused to make their point, and strong endings are paramount. Readers want that short story to make an imprint and leave them with a taste in their mouths they can’t shake until long after they’ve finished the story. I felt like I finished too many of these stories thinking “so?” or “it’s over?” and then couldn’t remember specifics when I began to write this review. It wasn’t that they weren’t interesting-most of them were- it was that they didn’t leave me with anything at the end, and some of them took such a meandering road to the end that I lost the point somewhere along the way. I wanted to be blown away by the package, but I wasn’t. I love the idea behind this type of anthology, and I hope the next one in the series includes stories with a stronger bite. I enjoyed reading most of the stories, but none of them truly left me wanting more. While each had an original premise that had a ton of potential, I felt the actual execution was lacking. When rating the individual stories, they ranged from 2 stars to 3 stars, so that leaves me with: 2.5 /5 stars (full review @ MotherLode blog-
  • 30 Failures by Age 30 on June 28, 2011

    A short memoir divided in 30 essays, this book by Katharine Miller chronicles one woman’s “failures” (or not) to do some of the more expected things. I loved the format of this book- each essay was just the right length, and offered good insight into the author’s thinking about a wide variety of topics. Although I didn’t think all of the things were “failures” (and neither did the author), it was a clever way to package essays about the author's various experiences (or lack thereof). The author starts off by stating that her failure to participate in these expected events has rendered her a social misfit. Part humor and part rant, this was a quick and (mostly) fun read. There were some serious undertones, especially when the author talks about her experiences with her disability and with the cruelness of other children. Although couched in humor, some of the bitterness came through a little more than expected considering I was anticipating a somewhat lighthearted memoir poking fun at the expected "rites of passage." The author makes it clear in the beginning that she makes no promises, but I guess maybe I was expecting (or hoping) for more growth in the character, something that would make me feel satisfied at this peek into someone else’s life. Overall, I enjoyed this read. Entertaining and uniquely packaged, it held my attention and kept me company. It made me smile in places, made me sad in places. What it didn’t do was give me a new perspective on things. Lack of promises aside, I think I was hoping it would. (Full review @ MotherLode blog
  • The Roman and the Runaway on July 02, 2011

    Written by A.J. Braithwaite, this relatively short book is marketed for a young adult audience. I found the writing style geared perfectly for a middle grade audience. Unlike the average, modern young adult book, which leaves more to the imagination, the writing in this book is careful to spell out everything the reader should be understanding. As a result, it lacked voice; I wasn't experiencing what the characters were experiencing, I was reading what they were experiencing. The writing felt proper and old-fashioned in places, with a nice, somewhat sanitized feel typical of older books, but with some edge in the form of swear words .Overall, I was reminded of a high school creative writing contest. The writing style wasn't bad and there is definitely an audience for it. I just think the audience it's meant for is much younger than the modern young adult set. The story begins with Luke's experiences from summer holidays up to partway through his term at school, when he meets the runaway. Then the story backtracks to briefly describe the runaway's experiences up to the point where she meets Luke. The story then continues from there with both experiences. I was thrown off by the seemingly totally different story when the runaway's story started and wondered if this was actually a collection of two separate stories. I think introducing the runaway earlier and alternating her timeline with Luke's (as indicated by chapter headings) up until they meet would have solved that problem. The overall story was interesting, but some of the plot events seemed illogical and it became somewhat absurd at the end. The ending ties things up in a strangely perfect and extremely serendipitous way, which is something I'd expect more from a middle grade novel. It's hard to rate the characters because I didn't get a real feel for them. The only characters I really felt like I "knew" to any extent were Luke, Pagan, Ned, and possibly Mr. Wilmot. Mr. Wilmot actually felt like he could be the most complex character in the book, as he was the only one who didn't feel completely straightforward. It's difficult to gauge my reaction to this book. It has a nice middle-grade feel to it, the writing is generally clear and moves the story along, but it feels very bland because the characters and events are explained in such a way that I didn't get to experience them. I rate books according to their intended audience. If this book were for a middle grade audience, I'd likely give it 3 stars (the ending was still a little *too* much, and I'd want the swear words to go away). As it's meant for today's young adult market, I give it: 2.5 /5 stars Full review @ MotherLode
  • Union of Renegades: The Rys Chronicles Book I on July 08, 2011

    Tracy Falbe has created a magical landscape that comes to life. The hierarchical structure is fascinating, and I find the dynamics between the people who populate this world quite interesting. There are several different races of people in this book, and I felt like I had a good feel for the spoken (and unspoken) rules of each culture. I didn’t feel I knew each of the individual characters quite as well, however. I think this author did a great job with description and creation of this world, but the dialogue between the individual characters felt flat. The book is a touch lengthy and builds slowly. It was an interesting read the entire way through, but, by the end, I could hardly remember where we had started. This first book in the Rys Chronicles establishes the world and the battle to be fought, and it sets up expectations for the following book. There is plenty of action and some romance interspersed throughout the tale, and the book prepares the reader for the next adventure in the series. There were a noticeable number of minor typos in my copy of the book. Some sentences and phrases flowed beautifully while others were a little awkward and somewhat ambiguous. Add in the wonderfully crafted world in contrast to the flat dialogue, and the writing style feels somewhat inconsistent. Overall, the story is very engaging and, typos aside, makes for a very good start to what's sure to be an intriguing fantasy series. If you're a fan of epic fantasy, this book will offer you a glimpse into a riveting world and provide you with the start to what's sure to be an adventure of a lifetime. 3.5 stars Full review @ MotherLode blog
  • The Black God's War [A Stand-Alone Novel] (Prelude to the Splendor and Ruin Trilogy) on Aug. 01, 2011

    This newly released epic fantasy by Moses Siregar III takes the novella of this same name and expands it to a full-length novel. The author does a fantastic job really fleshing out the culture of each tribe, and the personalities of the important players. As a result, my sympathies didn’t fall squarely on one side or the other. In fact, I was conflicted about who should win this war, and that really added to my investment in this story. I was no longer just a reader, I was involved. With well-defined main characters, I was really able to feel I knew them through their actions and thoughts as well as their words. Inside each of them rested both positive and negative qualities, rounding them out to make them realistic and whole. There were quite a few unexpected events in this book. I loved that I couldn’t predict anything, and I read in disbelief as unexpected things happened. The ending felt very complete in itself, and it left me anxious to discover where we were headed in the next book. The epic war waged in the story resembled any number of wars battled in our own history for similar reasons. Diverse beliefs are the ultimate battleground, and this book does a good job of making it clear that “right” is perhaps not always easy to discern. As with the novella, this book is well-written and the pacing is excellent. Although the beginning felt a bit slow, I was quickly engaged in the adventure. The number of characters could be overwhelming at times, however, and sometimes I lost track of the more minor characters. The author uses italics to show the thoughts of many of the main characters throughout the book, and some were placed in such a way that caused me to question who was thinking. Small points, but clarification in these two areas would have made less work for the reader. I can’t stop thinking about the characters and their journeys. I find myself contemplating the messages that were delivered (whether overtly or veiled). Overall, I find I really can’t stop thinking about this story. Unforgettable story, intriguing characters, compelling journey with unexpected twists- in short, a very satisfying and engaging read. Isn’t that why we read for pleasure? Full review @ GraceKrispy's MotherLode blog
  • Backlash: A Novelette on Aug. 29, 2011

    Billed as a "novelette," this short work is immediately engaging. When Eugene gets the strange fortune cookie and we start to find out a little more about his past, I found myself drawn even more into the story. One thing this author did really well in a short space was to provide enough backstory to flesh out the characters, which made them interesting and relatable. That being said, I was a bit confused by Clarise's motivations. I understand what she shared with Eugene at the end, but I would have liked just that little bit more that would have explained how she fell in with this crowd in the first place, and why she thought her involvement would have bettered the overall situation. I liked the twist that involved this conflict between her and her father, but it left me a little unsure as to "why." Although it's nicely written for its length, I think it would be really interesting to take this short selection and flesh it out to a longer novella or a full-length novel. I think there is a lot to work with, and more pages would allow the time to really flesh out the storyline. This would be a novel in which I could become completely engaged. Overall, this was another solid, engaging read from this author. I look forward to more of her work!