Sunday, November 19, 2017

From Ice to Ashes (Titanborn Universe, #2)

Author Rhett C. Bruno was kind enough to provide me with an e-copy of From Ice to Ashes book #2 in the Titanborn Series.

From Ice to Ashes continues the story from Titanborn, the first book in the series. And an excellent continuation of the story it is. Although a sci-fi space fantasy, the story unfolds like a good mystery, little bits of information scattered throughout keeping readers hooked and guessing.

Characters, often not particularly sympathetic, are well developed and multidimensional. We have basic human emotions; love, hate, and bigotry wrapped up in a story of rebellion and oppression. All the makings of a book that will keep readers enthralled from beginning to end. I am stepping out on a rather stout limb in thinking that a third book (fourth if you consider the prequel, which I have not read) will be forthcoming. I don't have any verified information of that, but the story does lend itself to continuation. Not a cliffhanger ending (YAY!), but one which definitely leads to my expectation.

As I said; a story of rebellion, so we have all the best ingredients. We have the Titanborn being oppressed by the Earthers both socially and economically, as well as medically. We have love and romance, honor and deception, hate and violence, and a healthy dose of political intrigue. We have sex, consensual and non, vengeance, retribution and unexpected twists. We have players who don't know they are players and others who don't really want to be.

From Ice to Ashes is a character driven story rather than a techno story. This appeals to me as I don't enjoy stories that rely on the technology of space life. I like the human aspects with space being just where the story is set.

As with any story focused on human emotions and relationships, things are seldom plain and simple. We have conflicting motivations and dynamics. Sometimes even within the same relationship. Author Rhett C. Bruno has given readers a vivid portrayal of an alien world fraught with very human problems. From Ice to Ashes is a great world to get caught up in. Enjoy!


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Wizard's Dark Dominion

Author Lee H. Haywood gave me a print copy of A Wizard's Dark Dominion. The first entry in The God's and Kings Chronicles series.

 A Wizard's Dark Dominion is fantasy at its best.  Okay, I'm done (you know better than that). Seriously, this book hooked me immediately. I finished it last night just before going out to dinner. I kept looking at the clock because had the person I was going to dinner with arrived early, I was wondering how they were going to like waiting while I finished. Fortunately I did finish about five minutes before they arrived.

As the title shows, this is a book about magic (duh! ... I'm just getting started, okay?) Our main character, Demetry, is clearly teetering on the fence of good vs evil. We are not really sure which way he will finally go. I found myself rooting for him to make the right choice, but he didn't always. The other characters are portrayed just as morally ambiguous. For me, this makes for a first rate story. I like not being able to pigeon-hole characters. That leads to predictability and less enjoyment. A Wizard's Dark Dominion keeps us readers on our literary toes, so to speak.

As the first book in the trilogy, A Wizard's Dark Dominion sets the stage well for the next books. Thank yous to Mr. Haywood for not using the ever despised cliffhanger ending. The ending keeps us hooked without leaving us up in the air (aka: hanging).

So, we have lots of magical action (stealing a line from Arlo Guthrie; ...blood, guts and gore, and dead burnt bodies...) no romance, magical and mythical creatures, political intrigue and a tantalizing tease of big things to come. The other two books in the series are already available so readers are able to continue the story uninterrupted. You can't beat that.

Epic fantasy readers definitely will find a lot to like in A Wizard's Dark Dominion by Lee H. Haywood. Enjoy!


Monday, November 13, 2017

It's Me, Hannah

I recently had the pleasure of meeting author Carleen Bunde at a local craft fair. After talking with her for a while, I purchased (yes purchased) her book It's Me, Hannah. 

It's Me, Hannah is the story of a young girl growing up in North Dakota from the 40's til present. Our main character, Hannah is a bit of a rarity in literature these days; a nice, respectful, basically good, farm girl. We get a slice of a bygone era in America. We follow Hannah as she copes with loss of loved ones, but thankfully, does not use this as an excuse to embrace a wild lifestyle. She is basically a happy well adjusted child coming into adulthood.

The best thing about It's Me, Hannah is that it is not full of dysfunctional characters (there may be one). But we still have an engaging, well written story, told in snippets, almost like memoirs. Perhaps at times the reader may wonder what ever became of some story or another, and this may be the drawback to the book. At times we read of some event or other but we don't get the final outcome. Minor, but I felt it a couple of times.

A sideline, one of the things that interested me about Ms. Bunde was that her family had at one time lived in the same small town, Fox Lake, Wisconsin, as my family. I don't know if it was during the same time-frame, but it was a nice little connection.

It's Me, Hannah  is a wonderful change of pace for those who tend to read more action oriented works that often tend to be on the darker side (that would be me). It tapped into a nostalgia for simpler slower paced times, though I am not old enough to have lived in the 40's, I do remember simpler times.

If you are in the mood for a clean, fun, at times funny, at times heartbreaking read, It's Me, Hannah  will satisfy that craving admirably. Enjoy!


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

City Of Gods Hellenica

I won a print copy of City Of Gods Hellenica by Jon Maas (Jonathan Maas on Goodreads) in a Goodreads Firstreads Giveaway.

This book is outstanding! Probably don't need to say anything beyond that: but what fun would that be?

City Of Gods Hellenica is the story of ancient gods behaving poorly; petty and selfish. An academy is created to bring stability to the world. In true YA fashion, the proposed saviors are kids. The godlings (my word not Mr. Maas's) don't seem to get along much better than their adult counterparts. The four main characters are about as diverse as can be. As City Of Gods Hellenica is the beginning of a series we do see these disparate characters starting to meld into a somewhat cohesive unit.

We have plenty of action, violence, political intrigue, young love (or at least infatuation), horror, honor and youthful idealism. Author Jon Maas does a good job of painting a mental picture of the sometimes disturbing atmosphere of the academy. Particularly the more disgusting parts of the local environment.

The development of the characters is progressing nicely, complete with flaws and prejudices. There is suspense and intrigue. The true motivations of several peripheral characters has yet to be revealed. I'm looking forward to reading more of this series; good YA fantasy that does not talk down to its younger audience. I actually hesitate to use the term "YA" in reference to City Of Gods Hellenica. It is simply just very good fantasy that appeals to pretty much any age group of fantasy readers (like me).

I'm finding it very difficult to identify any negatives for City Of Gods Hellenica, so, I guess I'll stop trying now. Jon Mass has given us a fantastic fantasy read in City Of Gods Hellenica (fantastic fantasy, see what i'm doing there? Okay, sorry). Fantasy readers should find this book very enjoyable. So as I always say, Enjoy!

Oh, before I go, one tongue-in-cheek complaint: How on earth do you pronounce "Saoirse"? I think I hurt my mouth trying.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Angels and Avalon

Author Catherine Milos was kind enough to send me an e-version of Angels and Avalon after I failed to win the goodreads giveaway for it.

Angels and Avalon was, for me a bit of a departure from what I usually read. The focus was on mostly good characters; God and Goddess, Angels, and a very good human. Of course Lucifer is also present so not all is wonderful.

The premise: Avalon is a paradise created by Goddess, hidden from the view of other divine beings who would destroy it.

I enjoyed the idyllic setting of Avalon (not Arthur's Avalon) but as is always the case, the paradise is invaded (I guess the book would have become boring otherwise). The Elysian Fields are a myth after all.

We have angels behaving as badly as humans, ... or angels, who knows? We have love, envy, violence, hate, kindness, tenderness and abuse.

Angels and Avalon spans several lifetimes and got a bit confusing towards the end because of this. Not horribly so, and it is an integral part of the story so it can be forgiven by the reader.

The activities of the characters in Angels and Avalon may give pause to more fundamental Christians (Goddess?), but my advice to them would be: It's fiction.Further as a Christian the story does not offend me in the slightest. Lucifer is Lucifer, so it is no spoiler what he is about.

Angels and Avalon is at its core a heartwarming tale of love (see? not my usual fare). But is not saccharin sweet or cloying. A good balance. Author Catharine Milos has given us a nice, clean, often gentle story, yet there are plenty of moments of evil and horror to keep the story balanced. I think if you give Angels and Avalon a look you will find it a pleasing read, Enjoy!


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Humanity's Hope

I won a print copy of Humanity's Hope By Greg P. Farrell in a Goodreads firstreads giveaway.

Humanity's Hope grabbed me immediately and kept me hooked til the end. A good apocalyptic story. It is set actually in the post-apocalypse but refers generously to the pre-time keeping a running account of both.

We have zombies and other unpleasant creatures (which would be a spoiler to share here), survivalists, political machinations and the ultimate fight for control. I particularly enjoyed the creation of Camp H. I really get into the nitty-gritty of building survival camps, as well as the relationships of the survivors. What others may see as the mundane aspects of a post-apocalyptic story is what really grabs me.

Author Greg P. Farrell expands the zombie lexicon by differentiating between slower and faster zombies. so, thanks for that. Plenty of moderately gory action, no sex. We have a world gone mad, full of interesting characters with well developed motivations. All in all, an excellent representation of the genre.

I do hope I was given an uncorrected proof because there were a lot of typos to contend with and hopefully they have been corrected.

Purely personal preference: Toward the end of the book the story went into a turn that while surprising, took me to a place I don't usually go (again, it would be too much of a spoiler to tell here) but does not pose any problem for most readers. Again "personal preference", and does not diminish the quality of the story at all. In fact I would guess that many or even most readers will find it adds positively to the book.

Humanity's Hope is the first installment of the Humanity's Hope series (I don't know how many are planned). Readers of post-apocalyptic stories in general, and zombie-apocalypse stories in particular should have a great time with Humanity's Hope by Greg P. Farrell. Enjoy!


Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Stranger In The Woods

I won a copy of The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel in a Goodreads Firstreads giveaway.

I don't usually read and review non-fiction works, but The Stranger in the Woods caught my eye as a survival oriented book. I did enjoy the book. It is well written, informative, and allows the reader to make their own value judgments.

The Stranger in the Woods is the story of Christopher Knight (no not Peter Brady of the Brady Bunch) aka the Hermit who lived off the grid for almost thirty years in the woods of Maine.

Author Michael Finkel was able to earn the trust of this recluse who really just wanted to be left alone. Mr. Knight survived by stealing from neighboring summer cabins.

The author goes into some exploration of the psychological aspect of Knight's behavior presenting various suppositions of what, if any, psychological disorder may be at work here. Again, no authoritative diagnosis is given (the book would have lost all credibility with me if it had).

The Stranger in the Woods does give an interesting peek into human behavior, not only from the subject, but also from his many victims. It shows that in this case, as it is often with many situations, there are no simple answers, no one size fits all explanation. Which leads me to a bit of self revelation here.

I am a retired psychotherapist. Although I never dealt with this particular situation, I did regularly deal with complex human situations. This is why I don't normally read such works. Basically my response is: Been there, done that. I don't share this to diminish The Stranger in the Woods, it is a well written and fair presentation of the situation. For me personally, the story made me sad, the emotions this man had to deal with throughout his life are heartbreaking. Setting aside for a moment the illegality of his acts, he was actually dealing with his personal needs pretty well. But of course, we can't set aside the illegal acts.

So, taking into account personal and professional biases, The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel is an excellent book which can be enjoyed on several levels of complexity; ranging from simple survival adventure to deep issues involving mental health and the human behavior spectrum. I do recommend it to readers who want to explore such themes. Enjoy!