Writer. Freelance Editor. Book Reviewer for Midwest Book Review. International Women's Writing Guild North Carolina Regional Representive.
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Smashwords book reviews by Tracy Riva
- A Measure of Disorder
on Aug. 31, 2010
A Measure of Disorder by Alan Tucker is a wonderful foray into fantasy and imagination. Technically a young adult book, the book is just as likely to appeal to middle-graders as the heroine of the book is a fourteen-year-old eighth grader name Jenni Kershaw.
Jenni and her eighth grade science class are on a field to a nearby campground to collect plant samples for a science project. Suddenly, after lunch, the entire class finds themselves going unexpectedly sleepy. A mist rolls over the lake they are picnicking near and when everyone awakes they discover they are now in an alternate reality that is very different from their own.
Slowly, as time goes on Jenny and her classmates find themselves surrounded by strange people and new and threatening circumstances. One after another Jenni’s classmates begin to change, some for the better; others for the worse. Then two distinct camps are developed. One wishes to live in peace, but the other seeks the destruction of the peaceable camp. What will the outcome be?
What follows is an excerpt from the story, taken from approximately midway through:
“Rodrin lowered himself down and returned shortly with a small Nomenstrastenai girl, and a tiny flying Faerstrastenai that immediately sped over to Jenni and landed on her shoulder, hugging her neck.
“Oh Jenni! I’m so glad to see you!” the Faerstrastenai said in a soft voice that sounded familiar.
Jenni let the hug continue for a few seconds, then offered her hand to step onto so she could see the Faerstrastenai face to face. She apologized and buzzed to Jenni’s hand. Jenni thought first of Rachael, but her features and hair were different.
“Deena!” Jenni exclaimed. “Oh my gosh! I wish I could hug you back!”
Deena laughed. “Me too.”
“Deena, this is Ba’ize. He’s the mayor of Seren’naie”
Deena performed a curtsy in midair and Ba’ize smiled. “A pleasure to meet you Deena,” he said. “And who has come along with you?”
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” Deena ushered the girl forward. “This is Feeder, she's from Crank’s village.”
The girl sniffled and bowed to both Ba’ize and Jenni. As she straightened, Jenni saw tears in her eyes. She had blond hair, like Crank, and wore a simple tan dress, typical of her people, but it was soiled and torn. She also looked incredibly tired. Jenni then recalled this was the girl she had seen tending the tamed birds in the village while they were there.
Jenni looked back to Deena, “What happened? How did you get here?”
Deena proceeded to tell the story of the transformations of Mrs. Minch, Mike, and Scott and the subsequent attack on the village. The Gobinstrastorai had arrived and camped around the village for two or three days, then somehow managed to destroy the defense mechanism that protected the Nomenstrastenai. Deena and Feeder had been able to slip out during the battle and hide. The next day when they had seen the devastation of the village, the two had decided to follow the trail of Ms. Pap and the class, and make their way to Seren’naie.
Feeder began to cry and Jenni sat on the floor, holding her. Ba’ize sat in a chair, trying to make sense of their story.
A few minutes later, Crank arrived back from his errands, and the painful tale was relayed to him. Feeder ran to him and Crank absently comforted her while he sat in shock at the realization that his mother and father were dead.”
A Measure of Disaster by Alan Tucker, copyright 2010, MAD Design, Inc, 212 Fair Park Drive, billings Montana 59012, author’s website: http://www.mother-earthseries.com Smashwords Edition http://www.smashwords.com ISBN 978-0-9826864-0-9 $3.99
- A Cure for Chaos
on Feb. 23, 2011
A Cure for Chaos
By Alan Tucker
Copyright 2011 by Alan Tucker, published by MAD Design , Inc paperback $14.99 from Amazon or Barnes and Noble ISBN 978-0982686430, eBook from Smashwords $3.99 ISBN 978-0-9826864-2-3
A Cure for Chaos is Alan Tucker’s much anticipated sequel to A Measure of Disorder the premier book in Tucker’s Mother-Earth series. A Cure for Chaos reacquaints us with beloved characters from A Measure of Disorder including Jenni Kershaw, now a freshman who still wants nothing more than to be an ordinary teen and who finds herself being forced into situations that repeatedly require her to rise above the ordinary into the extraordinary.
A Cure for Chaos takes you across America and into Mother, a world beyond ours where beings from our fairy tales and mythologies come to vivid life, offering a unique glance into a world that offers a chance to experience what life could be like if all these things were real.
Jenni Kershaw, one of our heroes/heroines finds her kind, helpful, giving nature keeps landing her in difficult and often dangerous situations. Newcomers to Mother find themselves undergoing transformations and Jenni makes an unforeseen sacrifice.
A Cure for Chaos offers Tucker’s unique and fantastical perspective to children, teens and adults alike in a wonderful world where dreams can come true and where they can be magical things. It is a visit to the best places in the human spirit, where good prevails and uniqueness is celebrated. It’s a stellar trip into the world of imagination and a voyage you will never want to return from. I can’t wait till the third volume comes out!
- Imago Chronicles: Book Four, The Tears of God
on April 12, 2011
The imagination of Lorna Suzuki is a rich and complex place and nowhere is this made more apparent than in her stellar novel "The Tears of God". "The Tears of God" is the fourth installment in the fantastic Imago Chronicles.
The land of Imago is a wondrous place where brave warriors and knights still fight to preserve their people and keep them free of any evil that threatens to harm them. Imago is people with humans, elves, knights, kings, princes, princesses and all the wonderful things you love to see in fantasy. It is also full of great evil that threatens the lives and loves of the characters you have come to care about intensely.
In "The Tears of God" Nayla finds herself battling evil in a new form, but this time it’s more personal than it’s ever been before and she must not fail or cost would be unimaginable. The Order is gathered together once again to confront an unknown enemy, or is it really an enemy from the past? Could it be one they thought they had vanquished?
"Imago Chronicles Book Four: The Tears of God" is the best of the Imago novels to date. Suzuki’s storytelling skills exceed all expectations and the story sets you in the middle of heart-stopping action from the outset. Suzuki handles multiple points of view with ease, always placing you where the story is the most intense. The pace is relentless in this addition to Imago Chronicles.
I highly recommend "The Tears of God". It is a wonderful fantasy in the old tradition where the fates of not only individuals, but kingdoms, and entire lands are all at risk. The stakes are high, the action pounds through the pages like a herd of stampeding cattle and all you can do is get out of the way and keep reading till the final climax.
I highly recommend "Imago Chronicles Book Four: The Tears of God". "The Tears of God" can absolutely be read as a stand-alone novel. There is no need to have read the previous novels in order to understand it, any backstory that is necessary is provided within the novel itself.
- Imago Chronicles: Book Five, Destiny's End
on April 12, 2011
"Imago Chronicles Book Five: Destiny’s End" by L.T. Suzuki is the fifth installment in the popular Imago series. Once again Nayla is reunited with the men of the Order for an adventure that along with being their most difficult to date, could well prove to be their last.
Taiko Saikyu, also known as the Sorceress, has reappeared in Imago and has stolen an artifact necessary for the continuation of life in Imago; not only that, but her actions are putting Imago and another world, whose existence was previously unknown, in jeopardy. The brave people of the Order must band together in order to defeat the Sorceress once and for all or face the loss of everything they hold dear. So real is the threat that should the Order fail King Kal-lel, Prince Arerys father, is prepared to lead all of elf-kind into the Twilight so they can enter the elf Haven.
L.T. Suzuki does a wonderful job weaving together divergent strands of the story into a new, complete whole that offers fans of this fantasy highs and lows unlike any they have ever experienced before. With Nayla and the men of the Order racing across an unknown dimension in pursuit of the Sorceress, even the smallest of actions can have far-reaching effects that no one could anticipate.
I loved the change in the storyline for Destiny’s End. There was no way I could have predicted the way events would unfold as I began the book. Suzuki’s writing had me laughing hysterically at parts of the story and reaching for another box of tissues at another, particularly heartbreaking part. I ran the gamut of emotions as Suzuki orchestrated events like a maestro, moving neither too slowly or too quickly toward what was, in hindsight, a perfectly natural conclusion to the book. The story took twists and turns throughout and it was almost as though there were two different adventures going on at once, one unfolding in Imago, while the other unfolded in a new world.
I highly recommend "Imago Chronicles Book Five: Destiny’s End". It is an absolute must read for fans of the series, but fans of fantasy and speculative fiction will enjoy it as well. I think it’s highly original and entertaining with well developed characters, tension and storyline. You have to read it for yourself to experience the difference.
- Jade Darcy and the Affair of Honor
on July 14, 2012
Jade Darcy and the Affair of Honor
By Stephen Goldin and Mary Mason
It has been awhile since I have read a book I enjoyed as much as Jade Darcy and the Affair of Honor. It is complex and intricately developed. The action is driven by the characters in the story and by Jade Darcy in particular.
The slate of foreign characters is amazing. The story is set on a planet on the edges of developed society. It is comprised of many different species, some of whom are humanoid and others who are insectoid and still others who inhabit more or less dimensions than our simple three dimensions. The characters are rich, interesting, and the different problems that can occur when such varied life forms, with all their intricacies, interact causes situations that range from the comic to the life threatening.
Jade Darcy herself is an enigma. Early in the story we are led to believe Jade Darcy might not be her real name, but other than a clue to part of it at the end of the book we aren’t let in on that particular secret. What we do know is that Jade has had a specialized operation to computer augment her reflexes. She is a carc, a computer-augmented reflex commando, and her existence outside of the military world makes her a rarity. She hides the fact she is a carc for reasons that aren’t clear. It is implied that she may be wanted. She takes what is certain to be a suicide mission rather than face another human being – the first to come to the planet of Cablans where Jade lives in the seven years she has been there. It is apparent she has run from human contact before.
The story and the action in it are wonderful. The science fiction in it feels realistic; it isn’t simply another Earth-like setting with futuristic sounding problems, but a setting on an outpost planet favorable to life that teems with diversity that becomes a driving force for part of the story. The matter of honor the story addresses exists on several different levels and becomes the driving force for the evolution of the main character. And the Greest, why he/she or it will just have you wondering how many dimensions it is possible for a being to exist in and what creatures from all those different dimensions might be like. I know I personally will be puzzling over the Greest and hiss/hers/its manipulativeness for some time.
If you are a fan of science fiction, or even just futuristic literature that doesn’t simply result in some apocalyptic version of our demise, then you should read this story. I think you will find it believable on all the levels that count and thoroughly enjoyable. I know I did.
on Sep. 25, 2013
Polly was a highly unusual read. After his wife leaves him, Herodotus finds himself in trouble with the IRS over past due taxes, as if all this isn’t bad enough his bookstore – above which he lives – catches fire in the middle of the night. Rod, as Herodotus is known, escapes with his life but little else. Beaten down he decides to head for his brother’s ranch in Nevada to lick his wounds and hide away from the world for a while – preferably while huddled in bed in the fetal position, but life has other plans for Rod.
Whilst on his way to Nevada, Rod’s car breaks down in front of the only residence for miles. Approaching the mansion, Rod notices what looks like a snowman standing in the heat, but this is only the first of several surprises in store for our erstwhile traveler when he meets the mansion’s owner, Polly.
Polly is an enigma. The more Rod, who is now called Hero, tries to figure her out the less he understands her. She tries to teach him some truths about the universe, but can he learn the most important of those lessons?
Polly made me think deeply about many things and realize some truths I already knew, but hadn’t verbalized. At the same time there was one philosophical point in Polly I disagreed with – there being no afterlife. I don’t know what that afterlife might look like, but I believe there is one. On most other points I was in agreement with what Goldin postulated through his imaginary character.
On the surface Polly is a lighthearted, fun read, but it is also a philosophical primer of sorts which teaches that in the end, hope, and our ability to act upon it is our most powerful tool. It is what truly distinguishes from all other life on the planet. We have the choice to damage, or to contribute. To aid the inevitability of entropy or to slow it through our positive actions.
Polly is interesting, insightful, irreverent and thought provoking. I would recommend it most to philosophers, those who wonder about the deeper meaning of life and people in search of a hopeful and lighthearted, but relevant read.