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Smashwords book reviews by justmax

  • The Magician's Castle on May 03, 2011

    Cynthia's Attic: The Magician's Castle is the fourth in a series of children's books by author, Mary Cunningham. It is the story of two twelve-year-old girls who find themselves traveling through time with the aid of an old trunk. It is difficult for me to write a review of this book because I am definitely not from the target audience. As an older reader (a very much older reader), I can, honestly, say I didn't hate it but I also can't say I loved it either. A large part of the problem for me was that there were several references to the previous books which I have not read and, thus, I was somewhat lost, at least at the beginning. I also felt that things seemed to happen a little too conveniently in the story: even without the trunk, they were able to travel through time, characters appear seemingly out of thin air to help them, and any and all problems are a little too easily resolved. Despite my problems with the book, I suspect that, if I were nine years old, I probably would have enjoyed it, as long as I had read the rest of the series. It is fast-paced and the heroines are likable. There are a couple of scary scenes but nothing too frightening for the younger reader. I also liked the fact that Cunningham didn't feel the need to 'dumb down' her vocabulary or explain things like record players, something which many of her young audience have probably never seen. This is not the kind of book that would appeal to adults as well as children like, for example, The Chronicles of Narnia, but I would definitely recommend it for children (both girls and boys) between the ages of, say, 7 and 11.
  • Rise of the Raven on May 09, 2011

    In Rise of the Raven, by Steven R Drennon, an evil wizard raises a powerful demon to help him free his master from another dimension where he is trapped. He is opposed by the Khand, a group of five wizards, including a young apprentice who may be the saviour of them all. First, what I didn't like about the book. At times the prose seemed somewhat stilted and awkward but much of this could have been prevented with a little judicious editing. The same was true of the conversations. which, at times, bordered on the kind of speech you found in old melodramas. I should say here that I am a huge fan of epic fantasy, especially the dark and gritty stuff and, here, I come to what I liked about the book. I love great battle scenes and Drennon wrote some brilliant ones. His descriptions were vivid and completely captured my attention. Once they started, I couldn't put the book down. Oddly, as these progressed the stilted language became flowing and vibrant so that by the end of the book, I was a fan. In fact, I look forward to the next installment. Like most first books, Rise of the Raven was not perfect but it was pretty damn good. Kudos to Mr Drennan!
  • Legacy - Book One of the Balancer Chronicles on June 05, 2011

    Legacy-Book One of the Balancer Chronicles, by Chris Adonn, is a hard book to categorize - urban fantasy, paranormal romance, historical fantasy - it could be categorized as any, or all of these things - but this is not a bad thing. In fact, Legacy is one of the most original books I have read in a long time. Told almost entirely in the form of a journal by James Blackburne to his niece, Katrina Blake, we learn of a group of immortals known as the balancers. In a world populated by werewolves and vampires and all kinds of supernatural beings, it is the job of the balancers to ensure that good and evil remain in check. Legacy is very well written. It grabs your attention immediately and holds it throughout. If you are looking for something just that little bit different, give this a try. But make sure you have nothing else planned because, I guarantee once you start reading, you will not want to put it down.
  • Transfection on July 03, 2011

    I tend to avoid short stories because, usually, it just feels like there is too much missing, the characters are flat, and there isn't enough time for the willing suspension of disbelief to kick in. Not so with Transfection - in a very few pages, you become invested in the story and the main character, Dr Carl Peters. Author David Gaughran has a real gift for saying big things in short spaces. This short story deals with the question of genetically modified foods, their risk to the public , the willingness of some corporations to trade the public safety for profit, and the willingness of some scientists to bend (or fake) their research to match the corporate line. And, at the same time he is filling the reader with a sense of suspense and paranoia about the industry, he lets us know Dr Peters, warts and all, and, what's more, he makes us care about him. And he does all this in 18 pages, not a mean feat by any stretch of the imagination. This is the first story I have read by this author and all I can say is, I want more!
  • If You Go Into The Woods on July 06, 2011

    This book consisted of two very short, beautifully written. stories. The first has the rhythm and lyrical prose of a fairy tale, the second, the terse, economy of words of science fiction. Yet, in fourteen short pages, author David Gaughran says more about the human condition than most writers can say in four hundred.
  • Concerto on July 06, 2011

    What would you do if you found yourself being stalked by a mad man who fills your fax machines and covers your lawn with pages which say 'I see you', who drugs your iced tea, and breaks into your house to leave pictures of yourself with your head cut off. I know what I wouldn't do - I wouldn't destroy all the evidence and then get all lovey dovey with the guy everybody else, including the police and my mother, thinks is a murderer. But that is exactly what Crispin, the heroine of this story does. And why is she convinced that he didn't do it you might ask. Well, because he lays the violin so beautifully - a sure sign of an innocent man. This book started out great. The whole stalker thing was suitably creepy and sent chills up my spine. Unfortunately, the story quickly devolved into a rather tepid romance with occasional glimpses of the original excitement. And, within a couple of chapters, I knew exactly who the murderer was - no mystery here. Don't get me wrong, I rather liked this book. It was a fast, easy read. The question I had to ask myself, though, was do I give it four stars because it had such great potential as a straight up suspense novel or two stars because it was wasted. Finally, I decided to compromise and give it three stars. So, if you're looking for a fast little read on a lazy summer afternoon, you might enjoy this book. However, if you're looking for a good mystery, I'd give it a pass.
  • Hot Ticket (Ticket Trilogy #1) on July 07, 2011

    'I didn't punch Cindy Newsome in the face on purpose.' This is the first line of Traci Marchini's little charmer of a book, Hot Ticket. And it sums up the story of heroine, Juliet Robinson's life exactly. No matter what she does, something seems to go wrong, but never intentionally. Juliet is headstrong, impulsive and very likable, so when she is the only kid in school who hasn't received a hot ticket, or, at least, a shame ticket, she has to find out why. Given how far I am past the target audience for this book, I'm was surprised how much I liked it and much of this is due to Juliet, the main character, and her friends, Lucy and the unfortunately named Crammit Gibson (a nickname Juliet accidentally gave him back in third grade but which, somehow, stuck). Ms Marchini has captured, quite well, what it feels to be a sixth grade middle schooler, the lowest of the low on the school rung and, worse, to feel like you're the least cool kid around. If you're looking for a book to entertain your middle schooler on a rainy afternoon, this book would be perfect. And you might want to sneak a quick peek yourself, not, of course, to read it read it but, to, you know...umm...to make sure it's a safe read because, as Lucy might say, that wouldn't be 'tote ridic'.
  • Shelter (Blood Haze: Book One) on July 07, 2011

    Shelter is the story of 17-year-old Alice Wright who just happens to be a vampire. Alice is torn between two guys, one a vampire, one a vampire hunter-in-training. One is passive aggressive, one is just plain old-fashioned aggressive; in other words, perfect boyfriend material - if you happen to be a complete, self-loathing twit, that is. But they're both gorgeous so what's a girl to do? Well, she might think about running very, very, fast in any other direction but, hey, I guess that's a story for another, better book. So what did I think about this book - not much. It was poorly written, the prose bordered on purple, and it strained my willing suspension of disbelief way beyond the breaking point. In other words, if you will pardon the pun, it sucked and not in a good vampire way
  • LilyPad Princess on Aug. 02, 2011

    Princess Gwendolyn is playing in the garden with her annoying brother Jack when she notices a frog with a crown on its head. Thinking it might be a prince, she kisses it. However, instead of a prince, the frog turns into a little girl but she might not be what she seems. This is a charming retelling of the fairy tale, The princess and the Frog and I would recommend it to anyone with a little girl especially if she has an annoying brother.
  • Dirty Little Angels on Aug. 12, 2011

    Dirty Little Angels is a dark and gritty coming-of-age tale of growing up poor in New Orleans. It is both compelling and thought-provoking and, at times, very depressing but it is also about hope and faith and love within families. This is definitely not a book for everyone, there are no happy endings here, but if you like books which force you to think, then you should give this one a try.
  • The Road Trip Dialogues on Sep. 07, 2011

    Rev and Dylan run into each other twenty years after Teachers'College. Rev is on her way to Montreal to see the fireworks and, since Dylan has nothing else to do, he decides to go along for the ride. What follows is a lot of talk about life, feminism, politics, religion, and the nature of cats as well as the consumption of copious amounts of weed and junk food. All of this sounds kinda boring but, really, it wasn't. It was fun and funny and it's definitely the kind of book that makes you think. It also gave me my new favourite Biblical quote, Psalm 137:9. It can really liven up a conversation. Anyway, if you're looking for adventure, romance, or mystery you might want to skip this book but if you just want a fun read that'll make you think long after you finish the last page, definitely give this one a try.
  • American Nightmare on Sep. 09, 2011
    (no rating)
    Okay, I have to be honest here. I thought this story sounded good and I really liked the premise. Unfortunately, the poor editing made it impossible for me to finish the story. Too bad, because it has a lot of promise.
  • Merrie Axemas: A Killer Holiday Tale on Sep. 09, 2011

    What a terrific little story! A great little Xmas tale! Loved it and couldn't put it down. I will definitely be looking for more by this writer.
  • The Old One on Sep. 15, 2011

    Enjoyable story reminiscent of HP Lovecraft. Starts out slow but quickly builds up speed to a very satisfying denouement.
  • Campaign Promises on Sep. 26, 2011

    This is a fun and witty novella comparing relationships to politicians. Definitely not for the Michelle Bachman fans out there but for those of us with a more liberal bent and at least a modicum of humour, this is a winning combination.
  • Elegy: Book 1 of the Arbiter Codex on Oct. 27, 2011

    In Elegy, author Christopher kKellen has created an interesting world with a unique magic system. However, I thought that could have used a little more plot and character development. Otherwise, a pretty good read.
  • Warleader - A Blood and Tears Short Story on Nov. 29, 2011

    For such a short story (and it is very short), Warleader packs one hell of a punch. The characters are well wrough as is the world building. However, this is a very dark and gritty world, definitely not for the squeamish. This is dark fantasy in the tradition of Glen Cook and Steven Erikson - lots of cruel and often wanton violence, very little magic. Fortunately, at least for me, this is my favourite kind of fantasy. My one quibble with the story however - this is less prequel and more prologue. It is really a tiny taste of the author's upcoming fantasy series. I have to admit, though, now that I have whetted my appetite with this appetizer, I am hungry for more.
  • The Shoemaker's Son on Dec. 01, 2011

    This short story was great fun to read. If this prequel is any indication, author Gayle Ramage's new Assassination series is gonna be a doozy. I'm definitely adding it to my TBR pile.
  • Anathema (Causal Enchantment, #1) on May 21, 2012

    Evangeline has just turned 18 and feeling like a social outcast when, on a trip to New York, she meets a mysterious woman who offers her a job. Soon she is part of a life she could never have imagined but it is becoming clear to her that things are definitely not as simple or as good as they seem. This is an interesting take on the vampire tale. It is an easy read and, for the most part, lots of fun. If you are a fan of the fangs, this is definitely worth the time.
  • Happy on May 26, 2012

    Happy is the tale of a kitten who is born in a shelter. Unfortunately, it is born with a lame leg and cannot play with its litter mates. However, as it watches the other cats and kittens interact with the people who take care of it, it struggles to do the same and is happy. Then, as the other cats, kittens and even its mother disappear, it is sure this is a happy event and waits excitedly for its own chance to disappear. Happy is a very short, sad story. I enjoyed it and shed a tear or two. I did find the story a bit melodramatic for my taste, sort of a Dickensian Tiny Tim tale for pet owners but it points out the real problem of all those animals who are waiting to disappear everyday in shelters because no one wants them. And I realize that, sometimes, melodrama is needed to make people wake up and pay attention. Witness all the sad commercials at Christmas time featuring Sarah MacLaughlin and some horribly abused animals. So, hats off to Ms. Braziel for a story with an important message. And if it encourages even one person to donate to a no-kill shelter or, even better, rescue an animal that previously no one wanted because it's crippled or too old, not pure bred, or just not cute enough, it will have achieved something wonderful.