Book Review: Short Literature Pro Market 2019

Short Literature Pro Market 2019

5/5 stars

A helpful, no-nonsense, straightforward guide to the various outlets available for publishing short stories in multiple genres. It’s easy to understand and read, and full of helpful info for writers looking to traditionally publish their work through magazines and other sources. Highly recommend. It’s a all-in-one place to research and find outlets for your short stories.

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Book Review: The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang

Image result for the sword of kaigen

 

5/5 stars

The Sword of Kaigen is the first book I’ve read by this author, and certainly won’t be the last. I had a wide range of feelings and thoughts when I first started reading. What I’ll do for review purposes is start off with what I had (minor) complaints about before I get into the massive amounts of positive things. But first things first.

You can’t read this book thinking it’s about a progressive story, with a typical 5 act structure. The book centers around one battle that takes place about halfway through, and on two characters and how they respond. It took me a bit to get used to this concept. Typically I’m drawn to books that take you multiple different directions with the plot lines, and have some happenings that lead up to the plot climax. This is not that. So, when I finally understood this, I enjoyed the story much better. I’m sure this was purposeful on the author’s part (since this story takes place in a world she already created) so the book, from what I understand, is kind of a prequel type of story. This actually isn’t a complaint as much as a side note to how you should approach reading this book.

A couple things that I had to get used to. There is a LOT of concepts, terms, and language that is new. There is a glossary, which is helpful, but it was so pervasive that at least twice a paragraph I was having to go back to reference what was being said and talked about. For readers familiar with the author’s other works, this probably won’t be as much of a problem. But for me, it was almost too much. I nearly put the book down. I’m SO glad I didn’t. On the one hand, this lends to really being deep in the world, because of course the characters will know exactly what is going on. But there were other sections of the book that were info dumps (helpful in some cases) but I wish there had been a tad bit more of this so I had a better idea of what was going on without having to constantly be referencing the glossary (which is more difficult when reading an eBook, which I was.) Again, all that to say, stick with it. You won’t be disappointed.

Now, on to the good stuff. For me, there were three things that make this writer a stand-out. The book focuses on two characters, for the most part. Mamoru and his mother, Misaki. However, their stories don’t intersect that much until a good bit into the story. This isn’t a problem, though, because it’s actually a very clever worldbuilding element. You right away get the sense that family relationships are VERY different, but without being directly told this is so. That’s my first rave about this author: the worldbuilding is incredible. You immediately get tossed into a fantastic, unique world and story.

Secondly, the characters are multi-layered, unique, and far from predictable. Initially, I REALLY disliked Misaki, because her flaws seemed to far outweigh the good things about her. But then it hit me: this was absolutely intentional and vital to the story itself. Because not only is Misaki an incredibly unique and relateable character, it gradually comes out that this self-view she has is not accurate. And where it IS accurate, it only reveals the brokenness of her story and of the world itself, making her one of the most real, understandable, and fascinating characters I’ve ever read in any book. Ever. And I read A LOT.

Mamoru is also a very well-done character. It was hard at first to get into his story, since initially he comes across as just like every other coming-of-age teenager I’ve read. However, his character arc takes such a great turn that I finally grasped the scope of what the author was trying to accomplish, and was totally blown away. It finally struck me that this is more a story about the characters than the plot itself. And the story was so well crafted that I can’t even complain about it.

Lastly, the themes of this book were deep and so well done that you get the feeling the author is some multi-bestselling genius. Topics such as relationships in marriage, parenting, sexism, patriarchy, self-worth, and a host of others left me in awe. This story hits a hard punch to the gut in all the best ways. I can’t remember the last time I got choked up so many times reading a novel. It’s not just current and raw, it rips your heart up and then heals it.

A HUGE 5 stars. Wish I could leave more than that. This book isn’t even a risk. It’s a guaranteed enjoyable, emotional experience.

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Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

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3/5 stars

I’m a little bit behind on the times. But late is better than never, right? Throne of Glass has much to commend. It sets up the world well, although I feel like a little more worldbuilding would have been helpful. We get a glimpse of the magic system, too. But it seems the author almost entirely focuses on character development. A fair choice, especially considering this is a long series. My preference tends to be worldbuilding and plot alongside character arcs, but I can see why some authors choose not to.

The story centers around Celaena, an eighteen year old assassin. She is a convicted criminal, serving time in what amounts to something similar to a Natzi concentration camp. She’s given a choice: compete to become the Kings Champion, and it she wins, earn back her freedom by being his assassin for four years. The concept of the book is intriguing. A competition isn’t anything new in fantasy or YA literature, but the stakes are definitely high.

The three main characters (Celaena, Chaol, Dorian) have the stereotypical love triangle element, which I feel is entirely overdone. This was one reason this book is 3 stars for me. Nothing new is added, and this takes up a large portion of the character development. We do however get good glimpses into motivations, and a bit of worldbuilding, through this element. The author took advantage of the trope to do a little more with it, so I appreciated it.

Celaena is a fascinating character. There were a couple things about her I felt didn’t fit all that well. She was much too quick to recover from her time in prison without any residual effects besides fear of returning. No PTSD besides an occasional dream, but really, that element came in more to do with her past and her parents than her stint in Endovier. Besides that, though, I really liked her. I’m super curious about her relationship with Arobynn, and I hope that comes out more in the following books. She was badass without being overdone, had elements of vanity that made her seem human, and just enough snark without being annoying. All in all, well written and likeable.

Dorian was bit boring to me, and Chaol was definitely my favorite side character, although he was a bit bland in my opinion, too. I hope the next books expand on their characters and make them more interesting. I liked that with Dorian there were hints of him wanting to man up and stop being a spoiled Prince, and Celaena seems to be part of that motivation. And with Chaol, I liked that his personality and temperament fit the fact that he is a soldier. Yet we saw softer sides to him, that make the reader want to cheer him on.

My favorite part of the book was seeing glimpses into the magic system and the In-between. This makes me think I’ll really enjoy the second book if this comes more into play.

This book was an easy read, more about introducing us to the characters than anything else. I will continue reading the series, since the hints of what’s to come are leading in a direction I usually like: darker, more magic, more political intrigue.

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Book Review: Child of the Kaites by Beth Wangler

Child of the Kaites (The Firstborn's Legacy Book 1) by [Wangler, Beth]

4/5 stars

There is a lot to commend about this book. I’ve never read anything quite like it… retellings are often fairy-tales (Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, etc) but the author took a biblical story and re-imagined it. The characters were well written and unique in their own ways, and the grammar/sentence structure was technically perfect. Which, ironically, is one of the reasons why I don’t think this was a 5 star for me. I didn’t get much of a “voice” for Rai, the main character and the point of view the book was written from. Even though the technicality was really good, it came across a little dry. But don’t let that stop you from getting this book.

I really enjoyed picking out the various themes that were familiar from the story of Moses, but the author also adds her own, too, making it less predictable. Especially if you’re familiar with the Exodus story.

The kaites and aivenkaites were interesting, and toward the end became fairly predictable (another reason this is 4 not 5 stars) but the action was heart-pounding and pretty constant throughout the book. You barely get time to breathe before Rai and her merry band are on the run countless times from the aivenkaites. There were instances where I had to force myself to relax and take a deep breath 🙂

All in all, this was a good read. I look forward to more in the series.

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Book Review: Aletheia by Megan Tennant

 

=Aletheia (The Seventh River Book 1) by [Tennant, Megan]

4/5 stars

There were so many good elements to this story it’s hard to know where to start. I’ll start with the plot itself. It’s a cross between The Walking Dead, Hunger Games, and Red Rising, in all the right ways. There’s zombies, uprisings, and YA elements that blend really well together. The author does a great job of not info dumping, but getting you acquainted with the world through the story, as opposed to just throwing a bunch of stuff at you.

The characters themselves were interesting and unique. 736 came across as multi-layered, and had clear motivations. Arson was one of my favorites, with his humor and snarky tone. Jason, although I had a hard time connecting with him at first, grew on me.

The tension and buildup was so good. The story was going somewhere, and although there were parts that dragged a bit for me, as a whole, the pacing was at times rip-roaring fast, yet with enough breaks to give you a breather.

My only complaints were 1) The love story was a little hard for me to believe, because it happened so fast (but that’s fairly typical with YA type stories) and 2) The flavor of the book was YA, but the characters ages were hard to pin down. At some point, I think Jason was said to be 19 (maybe 18) but 736 seemed to be in her mid-twenties? The memory gaps played into this, I think, but I wish that had been a bit clearer.

The complaints are minor, though, compared to the rest of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful prose, the plot lines and the execution thereof, and where the story took me. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

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Book Review: The Traveler by EB Dawson

The Traveler (Lost Empire Book 1)

4/5 stars

EB Dawson is a part of the Phoenix Fiction Writers, a marketing collective of speculative fiction authors of which I am also a part. PFW authors consistently put out quality work, and Dawson is no exception.

I’m not sure where to start with this review. There were so many fantastic elements to this book. For starters, I think it can all be summed up in one line: “This story isn’t about you.” One character says it to another, and the truth hit me hard. It’s so simple, yet so easy to forget. Each of our stories are so much bigger than we think, and the main character, Anissa, embarks on a journey to show just how true it is.

The descriptions in this book border on stunning. There were moments I felt like I was back in the mountains of Bolivia hiking to small villages with medical supplies strapped to my back. I’m not sure what the author had in mind when she wrote some of the mountain and village scenes, but that’s what it felt like. Rural, beautiful, big, and a reminder that it’s important to step outside our comfort zones.

The characters were in-depth and well fleshed out. I know some of them have side short stories, but even those characters still seemed to have motivations that were believable and real. One of Dawson’s strongest points in her writing is the ability to have characters with many sides. They aren’t one dimensional, a pet peeve of mine particularly reading indie authors. Dawson blows it out of the water. Carson is a good example: is he a good guy, a bad guy, or both? Does he want to do the right thing, or is he only interested in himself? Is he a narcissist, or does he have the ability to empathize? Bit by bit you see layers to him as the story unfolds.

One last thing, or I’ll go on forever. A lot of books have tackled traveling, whether it be time travel, jumping from one world to another, and so on. This book takes a trope that can often be overused and puts a unique edge to it. For me, it was the politics. Both worlds have clear-cut structure, and the interaction between those two structures was compelling. The theme of forced democracy, abuse of the planet, indoctrination of children, and other such “political” issues were delved into, in a way that I’ve never read before. There were times it was tackled head on, other times it was handled delicately. I feel that Dawson’s second strength, besides character development, is politics. This is evident in other books of hers, as well, but it really shines in this one.

The good far outshone the quirks in this novel. There were a few instances of head-hopping, but it wasn’t super distracting. There were a couple action scenes that were hard to follow because it was mostly dialogue, which was odd. But it didn’t take away from the author’s ability to completely submerge you into the worlds in this book. All in all, I can’t recommend it enough.

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Book Review: Out of Nowhere

Out of Nowhere (The Immortal Vagabond Healer Book 1) by [LeClerc, Patrick]

3/5 stars

I can’t remember the last book I’ve read that’s left me with so many mixed opinions about it. That in itself is a good thing, I think. There is a lot to commend, so I’ll start with that. First, the writing is clever and the voice is unique. Sean was a mostly like-able, in an annoying yet funny type of way. He reminded me a lot of one of my brothers, actually. Witty, snarky, with enough eye-rolling humor to make me want to slap him in the back of his head while laughing. Second, it’s refreshing to read a story centered around the medical field by someone who actually knows what they are talking about. As a nurse, one of my pet peeves is an author not doing their research about this, and so it was nice that I didn’t have to that with this story. The jargon wasn’t forced, it was natural. So clearly the author was trained in the field. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book. Third, Sean felt like a real person, with conflicting motivations, emotional responses, and varied reactions to situations that were believable. I liked how, since he is supposed to me immortal, he seemed “set in his ways,” at times yet open to change at others. I suppose that’s why the seeming sexist comments and thoughts he had didn’t bother me like it seems to have bothered other readers. While his views on women leaned toward objectification at times, he didn’t go full throttle in that direction. He has this moment at the end of chapter 34 of self-reflection in this regard, and it was incredibly refreshing how the author handled it. Sean was honest with himself without having an unrealistic, total change of heart or mind. It was a step in the right direction, and much more real to life than other books I’ve read touching on this subject.

So why the three stars? Most of the reason is personal preference, I think. There were aspects of the story that drove me a bit crazy. Immortality is a fascinating concept to explore, but I feel like it was brushed over in favor of witty humor. Sean, although seeming like a real person, seemed to just accept certain things about himself that I feel the author could have delved deeper on. While the character was entertaining, he also came across as only skin deep. I enjoy a read that dives deep into issues instead of only brushing on them. Second, the plot itself left me mostly uncaring what happened. I wanted Sean and Sarah to win, of course, but I wasn’t invested in it, more like a half hearted “Oh yay, hope you guys succeed”, give a thumbs up, and then walk away. And honestly, at the climax I skimmed over it because it was leaving me unsatisfied. It seemed unrealistic to the point of boredom. This is all going to end based on a duel? Except it’s supposed to be modern day but this drug dealer is actually bound by family honor going back centuries? The author tried to address it by commenting that Americans tend to not understand this. Meh. Maybe, but it still fell flat. And since the duel itself was so short, I feel like the author threw a in that last bit about Pete almost dying almost as a bone for the reader. Hurried, here I’ll add this to extend the climax a little bit, type of thing.

All this to say, I enjoyed it enough to finish. And I’m sure lots and lots of people will love it. While I can see why this was entered into SPFBO, I also don’t think it quite fit the criteria. It came across as more thriller than fantasy.

3/5 stars, and kudos to the author. Entertaining, for sure.

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