Saturday, January 30, 2016

Blinding Sky

Yay! I got to read Blinding Sky, the second book in The Journeyers' Tale series by John Brage. And, Yup, this e-version was provided for review by the author.

This book read quite differently than did Protocols of Uma, the first book. Protocols was a somewhat serene and calm beginning to the series, at least by comparison. Things heat up considerably in Blinding Sky. The gloves are off and the bad guys come out to play for real. Much more brutal than its predecessor. This is not a knock at all, it was just a surprise for me.

There are a lot of twists and turns in the story lines here, so for me at least, the book is not predictable at all. Most characters behaved true their natures as developed in the first book, but there were a couple....

Overall I probably enjoyed Blinding Sky a little more than the first book. Mainly because it didn't have the feeling of having to lay groundwork for the following books. Although a little bit techy (if that's a word, my spell-check doesn't think so), the story is not dependent on or overwhelmed by the tech aspects.

On the negative side, I did not feel as much of an emotional connection this time around. Most likely because interpersonal relationships were not as much a focus here. The story is more global in focus. Also the story did not seem to flow as easily, more jumping around.  But, these drawbacks did not hurt my enjoyment of Blinding Sky,

Blinding Sky is not a stand alone read. The reader needs to have read Protocols. But in his favor John Brage does not fall into the trap of retelling the first book while trying to continue the main story. For me, a great thing about this book is the ending. Yes, the ending! Not because it was over, but because while it leaves the reader wanting more, it's not the dreaded "cliffhanger". You know how much I hate those. I think a story should create enough curiosity without resorting to such an obvious trick as the cliffhanger.

If you liked the first book in The Journeyers' Tale you will like Blinding Sky, and eagerly anticipate the next installment. Enjoy!


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Fire

The Fire by John A. Heldt was gifted to me because I enjoy The Northwest Passage series. He didn't request a review, but here goes anyway.

The 1910 fire which devastated much of Montana and Idaho is the backdrop for The Fire. Set in Wallace, Idaho, county seat of Shoshone County, the story describes the destruction of that city. More than that, it is the vehicle whereby author John A. Heldt spins a tale of love, loss, history, humor and morality. The Fire is at times heart-warming, heart-rending, and downright heart-breaking.

I found this book interesting because I happen to live 4 miles from Wallace. My city, Osburn, even gets a mention on the book (eat your heart out). Mr. Heldt continues to provide his audience with an emotionally engaging story that encourages continued reading well past usual bedtimes. There are, of course, characters to love, others to hate, and some misunderstood.

Knowing what is coming to the town because we know the history of The Fire gives the reader a tenseness, wanting the main characters to get out of Dodge before it's too late. Of course I won't spoil the story and divulge how that all works out, but I will encourage you to read this book.

The Fire is the fourth book in The Northwest Passage series, but does not necessarily require that the other books be read first. There are a couple of references to earlier books, but those are few and not integral to the enjoyment of the story.

I don't know if it is a function of this being the third book I have read by this author, or just my mind trying to work out plot complications, but I did see one situation coming. The way it played out was not what I expected but the end result was. The book left some questions for me regarding what becomes of some of the important characters. Maybe the final work in the series will tie them up. This would be my only criticism of the book: What happened to some of the secondary characters that I came to care about? Oh well, minor irritation but it is there.

John Heldt still shows his ability to write. (I was trying to find the way to describe Heldt's particular style.) That is it, he knows how to write, period.

No secret by now, I loved this book and recommend it to pretty much all readers, I think there is something there for anybody. Enjoy!


Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Show

I received an e-version of The Show from author John A. Heldt after I reviewed The Mine. He did not specifically ask for a review, but hey, it's what I do.

After enjoying The Mine as much as I did, I was intrigued that there was another book in the series focusing on character Grace Vandenburg. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from The Show, but wanted more about Grace. I guessed there would be some rehash from the first book, and there was. I don't think it was too much. Since I knew at least a part of what was coming, I got a little impatient waiting for Grace and Joel's reunion. I chalk that up to my own impatience rather than any great flaw in the book.

There were twists and turns that kept the story fresh and compelling for me. The story is an emotional roller coaster for Grace. It shouldn't be a spoiler to say that her life is once again thrown into turmoil. I suppose the readers reaction to Grace's dealing with her situation will be rooted in their own coping mechanisms. Yeah, I know, psychobabble, but the reader can respond to the situation in a few differing ways. To some, her actions will be seen as flighty, fickle, or maybe even selfish. To others, they will be perfectly reasonable given the realities she is faced with.

I usually do not try to delve too deeply into the psychological ramifications of the books I read, I just sit back and enjoy the ride. I consider myself to be somewhat cynical when it comes to deep emotions in the characters I read about. If the story is good, I acknowledge the emotions, but don't usually spend much time thinking about them, they're just part of the story.  That's one of the differences I find in John Heldt's work. I get so drawn into the story, I find myself, experiencing the emotional conflicts of the characters. I do get drawn into the best books I read, but Heldt is able to draw me farther than other authors. I look forward to reading more of his work. In fact, I have already started the next book in the series. More on that when I finish.

Since I didn't mention it before, The Show is, I believe, the third book of the Northwest Passage series of five books.

The Show is a great player in the time-travel genre for the audience that prefers emotional connections over technological wizardry. I do, so I say, "Great read!" Enjoy!


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Emperor's Shadow

I was given an e-version of Emperor's Shadow by Yi Zhu for review.

Author Yi Zhu has written a fascinating book in Emperor's Shadow. Given the author's name and "Emperor" in the title, I expected this story to be set in China or at least an Oriental country. Actually it is not clear where the story is set, only that it is in a society dominated by an upper class and a government that dominates the poor underclass. The characters are not described in terms of their ethnicity but rather their morals, loyalties, love and honor. In short, their humanity.

It is a wonderfully engaging story with several converging plot lines. The author does a great job of weaving the separate plot lines into a coherent and, I'll say it, riveting book. I stayed up much later last night than I wanted because I couldn't leave the story. I had to finish.

Emperor's Shadow is a story of rebellion. The characters are a mixed bag, definitely not one dimensional "good guys" and "bad guys". There are characters to root for on both sides of the political divide here.

Over all, it is difficult to find any flaws in this story. It is a well paced, suspenseful, action oriented story with undertones of love, honor, duty, humor and survival. I highly recommend it. Enjoy!


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Galadria: Peter Huddleston & The Rites Of Passage

I won Galadria: Peter Huddleston & The Rites Of Passage by Miguel Lopez de Leon in a Goodreads Firstreads giveaway.

Galadria: Peter Huddleston & The Rites Of Passage is a fun story of adventure middle grade readers will no doubt enjoy. I being somewhat older than middle grade also enjoyed it.

Peter is a young boy who doesn't feel he belongs. Guess what... he doesn't. Otherwise we wouldn't have this story to read. This is the first installment of at least three books detailing Peter Huddleston's adventures. It is a fairly quick read (at least for adults) at 172 pages, a fantasy that draws the reader in.

Young Huddleston learns he has more family than he realizes and, of course, he is the center of some pretty big goings on. As I said, middle grade readers of fantasy will enjoy Galadria: Peter Huddleston & The Rites Of Passage a lot, and parents who give them this book can rest assured their is nothing here they have to worry about their children reading. It is good clean fun without coming off as a "baby" book. I highly recommend it for fantasy adventure readers of any age. Hey, I liked it and I'm an old guy! Enjoy!


Mondo Bohemiano

I was given an e-version of Mondo Bohemiano by author Quentin J. Parker for review.

This story is very different from the other books I've reviewed. I liked it a lot, but it is difficult to put his story into a nice neat pigeon hole.

On the surface it is, to me, a story of unfulfilled love. It is not strictly unrequited love I think because the two know they are in love, they just can't seem to make it work. The story is actually about how the male half of this unlucky in love duo is trying to live his life without thee woman he loves and who he knows loves him.

The story is set in Philadelphia, in what, I guess, would be called the "underground culture". Don't know if that is an accurate label, but the characters definitely march to the beat of a different drummer.

The book itself is a comfortable read. It is not particularly fast paced. It's not edge-of-your-seat action or suspense. It is just a pleasant story of one man's life. The characters he interacts with are about as diverse as they can be while still being cut from the same cloth so to speak. You'll just have to read the book to understand.

Mondo Bohemiano is the first of the series following the life of Nigel Bunnytail, a man with a code. A very sympathetic character you will find yourself rooting for even if you don't approve of his lifestyle.

Quentin J. Parker has quite a good story going here, I think you might like it. Enjoy!


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Saving Raine

Author Frederick Lee Brooke provided me with an e-version of Saving Raine for review.

Saving Raine is set in a dystopian future of the United States. It is a post-apocalyptic without the apocalypse story. The country has become terrifying place to live. The protagonist in the story is an unwitting and at times, unwilling rebel hero. A lot of high tech gadgetry is used in the story, but it is not a techie book. There is romance (kind of ), action, humor (the hog farmers are great), political intrigue, betrayal, and a quest. I enjoyed Saving Raine immensely. It's no secret I love post-apocalyptic stories. As I said, this book is not strictly speaking a post-apocalyptic story, but it reads kind of like one.

Saving Raine is the first entry in The Drone Wars series, and a great first entry it is. There are many characters who grabbed my interest, some positively, some not so much. I am definitely interested in reading where this story goes. Since, I believe, that is the goal of any series beginning book, Frederick Lee Brooke can feel good about his series.

If you are at all a fan of dystopian fiction, sort of post-apocalyptic action adventure, anti heroes and real heroes, I think you'll find Saving Raine by Frederick Lee Brooke a good representative of the genre. If you have never read books of this genre, this may be a good place for you to start. Enjoy!


Friday, January 8, 2016

Ice Magic, Fire Magic

I won Ice Magic, Fire Magic by Shauna Roberts in a Goodreads Firstreads Giveaway.

I was surprised by my reaction to Ice Magic, Fire Magic. The more I read the book, the more I liked it.! When I first received it, I thought it was going to be a story aimed at women. Wrong! It is a complex story of political intrigue, action, magic, and romance.

I suppose the argument could be made that it is a book for women (I dislike the moniker "Chick-Lit"). The story does focus more on the female characters than the male, but given the plot, it makes sense. Magic has been clearly divided between male and female, and of course the female magic is the nurturing variety where male magic is destructive. But the book does a good job of pointing out the necessity of both types of magic, in fact, the female "ruler"(not really the right word, but you'll have to read the book to understand) needs a male "Consort" in order to be complete. It's not a "women are good, men suck" book.

As I said, the more time I spent with Ice Magic, Fire Magic, the more I got pulled into the story. I'm not sure if the book really did start slow, or the fact that I was ill when I began to read it was the cause, but it did take me a while to get into the story. There were plenty of twists and turns which I didn't expect in a "magic" story. There is a hard edge to the story that both surprised me and pleased me. Although suitable for younger readers to be sure, I really felt Shauna Roberts wrote this story for mature readers. It is not a warm and fuzzy fairy tale, it is a story of hard choices and heartbreaking consequences.

If you like your Fantasy stories to be more adult oriented (not because of sexual content) rather than watered down pablum, Ice Magic, Fire Magic by Shauna Roberts fills the bill. Enjoy!