Nicole Etolen

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Smashwords book reviews by Nicole Etolen

  • Acadia, Book I: The Lost King and the Goddess of Time on May 12, 2011
    (no rating)
    Acadia, Book I: The Lost King and the Goddess of Time, is the first part of The Second Great War trilogy by Ali M. Naqvi. When the author wrote me asking if I would be interested in doing a review, the cover is the first thing that drew me to the story. I know, we should never judge a book by its cover, and I especially follow that rule when it comes to self-published e-books, because I realize many writers simply do not have access to someone willing to do an inexpensive cover for them. As a writer, I know I don’t have even an ounce of talent when it comes to drawing, painting, or anything else in the visual arts field. But I just love the way all the colors and elements come together in this fantasy art-style painting. To me, it resembles the style of a set of Tarot cards I used to have years ago, which of course brings up nostalgic feelings for days gone by. But enough about the cover, because the true beauty is what lurks behind that cover- the words that make up the story itself. The epic fantasy tale begins in the past, at the end of a great war. The raw and bleak descriptions of the battle field immediately drew me in, filling my head with vision of the violent and bloody culminating event. I have great admiration for writers capable of bringing a whole new world to life so early on in the story. Naqvi’s world is both new and old, and he clearly spent a lot of time plotting out every last detail of his fantasy realm. He even includes footnotes to help readers understand his made-up words for different beings, places, and objects. After the prologue, Naqvi introduces his main character- Damont. Damont is a fairly average teenage boy. He does his chores, skips school, and yearns to leave his boring little town. He spends an enormous amount of time avoiding his lessons about the past, something that he feels has very little value. Then one night, Damont has a strange dream. A man dressed in black armor appears, taunting Damont with visions he doesn’t understand. Thinking them only a strange dream, Damont dismisses them at first. However, a second voice appears in his dream, telling Damont that these aren’t just nightmares, but rather visions of things to come. From there, Damont starts a long and difficult journey, aided by a sorceress and a vampire, to unite the his world against the cruel gods that seek to oppress them. Acadia, Book I: The Lost King and the Goddess of Time, is definitely an epic fantasy worthy of appearing on shelves alongside the classic, well-known epics! Each of the 370 pages features stunning descriptions and carefully written dialogue that flows mellifluously across the screen (or paper, for those reading the paperback version). I anxiously await the next installment, set to appear on the scene as early as Christmas this year.
  • The Athena Effect on Sep. 20, 2012

    I’ve read and reviewed all the books from her first series, Marina’s Tales, and Anderson quickly skyrocketed into the role of one of my top favorite authors. When Turning Tides ended, I was really sad because I had to say goodbye to many of my favorite characters. Thankfully, The Athena Effect features all new characters to fall in love with! It’s a very strong start to a new series (at least I hope it is going to be a series, I know there is a sequel planned for 2013). I didn’t want to put it down once I started, although life demanded that I do so! Cal, Meet Cal: The Characters of the Athena Effect Caledonia, the main character, lived the first 17 years of her life in seclusion, hidden away from the rest of the world by parents who spent every day in fear that someone would come take her away. She grew up without the luxuries that most of us are accustomed to- like hot water, electricity, and pizza- but she learned to be self-sufficient in a way that none of us really need to be. Anyone who can take down a mountain lion definitely deserves a little respect! When Caledonia’s parents die in a tragic accident, she is sent to live with an aunt she’s never met, where she has to constantly thwart her aunt’s boyfriend’s lascivious advances. Calvin has been living with his brother, Jarod, since his mother died, also in a tragic accidents. While Jarod clearly means well, his lifestyle isn’t exactly conducive to helping raise a productive member of society. Calvin spends his days barely “phoning it in” to finish his senior year, and his nights with countless different girls who mean nothing to him. One night, when he finds himself in danger due to Jarod’s lifestyle, Caledonia ends up rescuing him, and everything changes for both of them. You would think that having two main characters with the same nickname would make things very confusing, but Anderson actually makes it work to enrich the story. At no point did I find myself wondering just which Cal was talking. Caledonia was typically referred to as “Cali” when the two were together. The similar names made the bond between the two seem even stronger. The title of the novel comes from Caledonia’s special ability: the ability to see auras and manipulate them. While Caledonia uses her ability for good, such as to calm a scared dog or settle Jarod long enough to stitch up an injury, there are those who would prefer to use it for more nefarious reasons. For that reason, her parents kept her hidden and completely off the records for as long as they were alive. Unfortunately, when they die and Caledonia is forced to enter society, she pops up on the radar of those who wish to use her for evil. In past reviews, I’ve praised Anderson’s ability to completely draw you into a story through her rich, vivid descriptions, and The Athena Effect is no different. As a reader, you get a really good sense of what Caledonia sees and feels when she looks at someone. Even more fascinating, the first part of Caledonia’s ability- the ability to see feelings as colors- is actually a real thing called synesthesia, which is basically a crossing of the areas of brain involved in sensory perception. For example, someone with the ability may smell numbers or see sounds. The Athena Effect takes it a step further into the realm of paranormal (or perhaps science fiction, it’s really a blend of the two). For those who are a little leery of indie authors (really, get over that all ready!), I assure you that Anderson’s editing is practically flawless in every way. From plot development to character development, from structure to content, even down to the very last punctuation mark, every aspect of her writing and editing is simply awe-inspiring. Review originally published on