Kings of the World is Matt Pike’s first novel, though it’s the second book I have read of his (see my review of Apocalypse: Diary of a Sruvivor, whereKings of the World is Matt Pike’s first novel, though it’s the second book I have read of his (see my review of Apocalypse: Diary of a Sruvivor, where I decided I must read every book he ever writes).
Kings of the World is about four teenage boys—Cooper, The Ginge, Knuckles, and Pete—who are chosen to represent Earth on the Galactic Council, a committee comprising of members from all civilized worlds throughout the universe. Every so often, the council meets on Galactica, where the council originated. Sessions can last for weeks or for decades, during which time all members get to know each other and vote on important decisions that affect their planets. They also party hard.
Although the boys start off as enemies, they learn to appreciate each other’s strengths and come to form a team. Life on Galactica is hard initially, between getting used to new customs, learning how to make Earth look good to other planets, and of course, dealing with the occasional attacks on the councilors. Earth’s initiation into the Galactic Council coincides with 37 other new intake species—a record high. The attacks seem more than coincidental, and Cooper decides he will spend his time trying to figure out who is behind them.
But life is not always so serious. The boys quickly learn how to use the Universal Translator, which, in addition to translating universal languages, can be used to create anything the boys desire: food, entertainment, and more. With their new tool they are able to build their own realistic war games and become popular among the other new intake groups.
Like in Apocalypse, Matt incorporates a lot of gaming into the story, though it’s on a completely different level in Kings of the World. Though I’m not a big gamer, it’s entertaining to read about all the innovations and ways to take gaming to the next level in a world where there are no boundaries.
Matt also deftly inserts humor in the strange circumstances the boys often find themselves in. Cooper, The Ginge, Knuckles, and Pete all have traits that are very relatable. They each have distinct personalities, and though they struggle at times, they each come into their own by the end of the story. They do grow up and learn to become leaders, but at the same time they manage to retain their youth.
The story ends with an epic battle, one that is both political and physical. They antagonists of the book have shades of grey, and Matt reveals the complexities and moral dilemmas of alien politics, which though they claim to be superior and wiser, closely resemble politics on Earth.
Matt has created a fascinating world full of characters with different motivations and personalities. The very end of Kings of the World is a nice setup for a sequel, which Matt has promised in his Q & A session in the back of the book will come out soon. So now, I’ll be eagerly awaiting the sequel’s release....more
Imago is a gripping, complex thriller. Although I’m not particularly religious and tend not to gravitate towards fiction that revolves around religionImago is a gripping, complex thriller. Although I’m not particularly religious and tend not to gravitate towards fiction that revolves around religion, Imago was fast-paced, and had a great underlying message.
The story involves two groups of people: the rationalists and the religionists. Both sides have extremists, and both sides also have moderates who have interesting arguments defending their respective views. For example, the rationalists point to the Crusades and other events where fear and emotion gave some people too much power. On the other hand, religionsists argue that the rationalists have become intolerant, and are acting the way they feared the religionists would act.
At the center of the story is Julian Harvey, a rationalist agent who must try to strike a balance between religionists and rationalists, without giving religionists too much power. He teams up with a religionist, a woman named Zoe Rousseau who ends up saving Julian’s life.
The two uncover a conspiracy that runs very deep in the rationalist government. Zoe also runs into Freyja Barrett, a former soldier who was enlisted to help a priest who died in the cause, Father Boucher. Between the thre of them, they are able to piece together who is involved in the conspiracy and why. In doing so, they collect a number of clues about the imago sanctarissima, an ancient, sacred artifact that is supposedly so powerful that anyone who holds it can control the world.
Obviously, this story carries a lot of intrigue, and author Jack Reyn skillfully weaves in all the main character’s tragic backstories to show their true motives. The beginning has a great build-up, with almost every chapter revealing new mysteries and secrets. But it all wraps up into a satisfying end, leaving room open for an action-packed sequel.
The only detail in the story that bothered me was the fact that Eliya, a high-priest in France considered one of the most dangerous terrorists in the world, insisted so often that “Christians do not kill.” He was so adamant, and throughout the story he only bombed areas that were empty, so as not to hurt anyone. He also felt very guilty that he may have been the reason at least one person dies. Yet, *SPOILER ALERT* his role in the book is to help start a war between the religionists and rationalists. He wants to make both sides angry enough to fight a war, which would mean that he and his fellow Christians would end up doing a lot of killing.
I also would have liked to know the timeframe of the story. Sometimes it sounded like it took place in the future, and I think the year 700-something was mentioned at one point. Other times it sounded like it took place in a parallel world, with some modern technologies that we take for granted, such as an elevator, being introduced as new.
Other than those minor details, Imago is a great, fast-paced read that really delves into human nature, and what it means to believe in something so deeply. The ending is messy and real, and very believable about what would happen in that situation....more
Apocalypse: Diary of a Survivor may be my new favorite book, which means I will now have to read everything author Matt Pike has written or will writeApocalypse: Diary of a Survivor may be my new favorite book, which means I will now have to read everything author Matt Pike has written or will write.
Set in the present day, starting in April 2014, the book follows the life of Australian teenager Jack, just before and after a giant dark comet unexpectedly hits Earth and causes an apocalypse. It’s written as a diary, which Pike explained in a Q&A at the end of the book was inspired by his great-grandfather’s WWI diary. The idea was to make the story more personal by incorporating day-to-day events with life-changing ones. And it works really well.
Pike manages to capture the essence of a teenager, coupled with the devastation and effects of losing so much, so quickly. He clearly researched all the details, and this a believable tale of death and destruction. There is also quite a bit of emphasis put on the weather conditions, which would play a significant part in an actual apocalyptic scenario.
One of the most interesting aspects of apocalyptic stories is the beginning stages, when the characters have to rebuild their world and learn survival skills. Jack is very resourceful, and his preparations before the catastrophe help him to survive. I also liked all the details about Adelaide, the city in Australia where the main story takes place. Though I have never been, this book details its geography and culture, and as I was reading I could practically hear the words being said in an Aussie accent. (I’ll admit, a couple times it took me a minute to remember that July in Australia is winter.)
Pike also does an excellent job of showing how different people would react in that terrible situation, ranging from violence to hiding to giving each other support. The need for a support network, in particular, is emphasized throughout the story. Some people rise up as leaders, and the way everyone interacts with each other changes quickly, particularly as food supplies start to run low.
Jack also has a love interest, who comes into his life a bit unexpectedly. But their relationship grows strong in a short amount of time, as they learn to work together for their survival. they encourage each other, and it makes a big difference in terms of giving them a will to live and keep going.
So many horrible things happen that Jack has to witness, but his diary also gives insight into his age. For example, some days he needs a break, and he spends hours playing games to relax. He also watches movies occasionally to make life feel normal again, for a short period of time. And he plans special dates for his girlfriend.
He’s a very thoughtful and complex character, who I very much hope to learn more about in a sequel, should Pike choose to write one. Without giving the ending away, let’s just say there seems to be even bigger changes in store for Jack, both emotionally and in terms of his environment....more
I could not put The Memory Box down. Though the first few pages sound like a typical story about a bored housewife who never wanted to end up in the sI could not put The Memory Box down. Though the first few pages sound like a typical story about a bored housewife who never wanted to end up in the suburbs, a big mystery is soon revealed that leaves the reader constantly questioning what happens next, all the way until the end of the book.
The Memory Box is a great thriller. The pacing is fast, especially with so many twists and unexpected revelations. The way the book is written is also fresh. Part one we get to experience the story from an unreliable narrator’s point of view, whose world is turned upside down the more she delves into her past to figure out the truth behind the mystery.
It all starts when Caroline Thompson decides to do a Google search of her name, for fun. But this leads her to find out that her only sister is dead. Confused and not able to remember the last time she spoke to her sister, Caroline works hard to find out more information. But the uncovering of this event only leads to more questions and a pile-up of secrets, and soon Caroline knows more than she can handle.
The one big question for me, that nagged me throughout the story, was how could Caroline possibly forget the death of her sister? Especially given that they were very close growing up. In part one there is a vague answer of repressed memories, but the truth comes out in part two.
In part two we are introduced to a different Caroline narrator. This Caroline’s memory is crystal clear, and she is much more cunning than the Caroline in part one. The reason for this is a huge plot twist, where we learn that the story told in part one has been fictionalized, and is actually a manuscript the real Caroline has been working on. The story is based on Caroline’s real life, but she decided to make it a novel in order to tell her story but also keep her new life intact.
Caroline confesses to her therapist that she was actually the one behind her sister’s death, after she discovered her sister had had sex with her ex-fiance, and the two of them had a child.
I normally don’t like to write about spoilers in reviews, but in this case there was one piece of the story that didn’t quite make sense to me. Caroline claims her secret is safe because her therapist has to keep patient confidentiality. However, therapists are obligated to tell the police if their patients threaten to harm themselves or others. Even though in this case the deed was done, it would make sense that Caroline’s therapist could break confidentiality to report her to the authorities.
Overall, I was completely hooked on this story, until the very end. Although I think the final twists are clever, I was looking forward to learning how Caroline could possibly forget her life from the past few years. But, thinking on it now, there is no plausible way to make that work. Regardless, I’m looking forward to reading Eva Lesko Natiello’s next novel....more
Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai is an action packed, fast paced story with several twists and a lot of adventure. The characters are complicatKill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai is an action packed, fast paced story with several twists and a lot of adventure. The characters are complicated and have multiple motivations, which are fun to try and figure out.
Told from the first-person perspective of Agent Ai, also known as George Quant, Kill with a Borrowed Knife is about his experiences working as an undercover agent. He gets lured to helping out British Intelligence as a young journalist, partly because he falls in love with a woman. He follows her instructions, and becomes intoxicated with the lifestyle. However, he doesn’t quite fit in, and he falls into some bad habits.
The book covers a short period of time, during which George is a journalist and SIS (M16) contract agent, running away to Beijing from his problems in Moscow. Unfortunately for George, he can’t start a clean slate in China, and he soon finds himself struggling to meet the demands of his two employers, Pierce de Havilland and Ho, while staying out of reach of the Russian men who are looking to kill him.
Kill with a Borrowed Knife is a thriller and a page-turner, but it felt like the story could have easily been expanded. It took a few chapters to keep all the characters straight, and to understand who George is and what he is trying to accomplish. There are many flashbacks that show scenes that happened not much earlier, and though it was great fill in the gaps of the backstory, it may have been less confusing if those details came out earlier.
That said, there were many nice details woven throughout the story that made it feel very authentic. Michael Wreford clearly either did a lot of research or knew a lot about the different cultures and countries that are mentioned in the story. I particularly enjoyed the snippets of Russian, French, Chinese, and other languages sprinkled throughout the story. There are also many details about Chinese culture and history in particular, since the story is mainly set in Beijing.
Wreford also skillfully showed George’s love for Karen, and their complicated, twisted relationship. Though it took a while to truly understand George and learn about his character, it’s always clear how much he cares for Karen, and how far he is willing to go for her.
The other interesting aspect of Kill with a Borrowed Knife is its focus on cyberterrorism. The story is set in 2001, around the time of the September 11 attacks. The conflicts and potential problems are very modern, and deal with issues that would not have been a problem not that long ago.
For anyone who enjoys thrillers about spies, Kill with a Borrowed Knife is a fun, quick read, with many complex characters and twists in the plot. George himself has many sides, and changes throughout the story. It’s fun to see him develop and grow as an agent, who eventually learns to stand up for what he wants and what he believes in....more
Seeing Colette is a beautifully written novella, with lyrical prose that provides vivid imagery. Every paragraph is pretty*I did the ebook conversion.
Seeing Colette is a beautifully written novella, with lyrical prose that provides vivid imagery. Every paragraph is pretty to read, such as this one from Part One of the book:
As she spoke, he imagined a stone thrown into glistening water and could almost imagine the feel of a stone baked by the sun. She was naturally alert and very beautiful.
Colette, the protagonist, endures many hardships and tragedies as a young woman, which eventually leads her to a life helping the poor, before and during World War I, in one of the fastest changing cities.
Although Colette is the titular character, the story is not only about her. It also covers the people who surround her, including her parents Effie and Moon, her eventual lover Morgan Wright, Morgan’s cousin Anna, Anna’s lover Beacon, and Colette’s roommate Lisele. The reader gets to see the backstory and motivations of each of these main characters, in sections that jump back and forth between 1892 and 1918 and in cities ranging from Hawtorne, IL to Grey Hawk, KY to New York City, and more.
The way the story is structured makes it read almost more like a collection of short stories than a novella. Many sections seem to focus on different characters’ pasts, which are often alluded to in previous sections. And, as I said earlier, the story is not entirely about Colette, but rather about the people she lives among and who influence her in her childhood and young adulthood.
My one critique is that this story could be fleshed out more. There is so much going on that it feels it could easily stretch out into a full length novel, and it would nice to see more of what happens to the characters as they grow older and the world around them changes even more.
I’d be especially interested in learning more about Colette as she deals with, to quote the book’s description, the thing she inherits “that will endure the generations.” Colette’s life is never too deeply rooted in any particular place, which goes well with her free spirit and deep curiosity. This helps her adapt to anything life throws her way, and though she goes through more than her fair share of suffering, she always willingly accepts what is in store for her and finds a way to embrace change.
Overall, Seeing Colette is about change. In addition to physical changes, such as moving to new cities, the characters live during a time of great civil and political change. War changes the way people view the world, and the part of the story set in the early 1900s depicts the way people view each other socially. Some of the characters are white, while others are not. This means not everyone sees everyone as equal, yet, but there are some characters who see past skin color and allow themselves to fall in love.
If you’re looking for a relatively quick, but sensory read, with rich characters who live in a time of great upheaval, then I recommend getting Seeing Colette....more
Dianne Sagan kindly gave me a review copy of her latest book, The Hybrid Author. Full disclosure: she used my article for IndieReader, "Why TraditionaDianne Sagan kindly gave me a review copy of her latest book, The Hybrid Author. Full disclosure: she used my article for IndieReader, "Why Traditionally Published Authors Are Going Indie," as part of her research.
The Hybrid Author is a great resource, and really digs deep into what the relatively new term means. According to Dianne, there are four ways to publish a book: traditionally, subsidy, self, and vanity (she also later explains that the term can be applied to freelancers who write articles, speeches, copy, and more). To writers not familiar with the industry or those who are just getting started, it’s helpful to know the differences. The book provides an overview of each, along with the pros and cons to consider when deciding which path to take.
It’s also helpful to hear other writers’ journeys, what they did, and what worked and didn’t work for them. Dianne devotes a whole chapter to her own experiences as an author who has self-published and had books published by traditional publishers.
But the most value in the book can be found in later chapters. In addition to providing interviews with successful hybrid authors, who freely share advice and insight, there is a chapter that details how agents fit in with hybrid authors. The chapter reads like a well thought out FAQ section, with questions and answers that are both pertinent and well researched.
There are some areas that repeats advice often found online shared among indie and hybrid authors. For example, it’s important to research material and thoroughly edit manuscripts. Dianne also lists questions every aspiring author should ask themselves when deciding whether or not to pursue a career in writing.
I do wish that this ebook took a little bit more advantage of the format. Dianne has obviously done some great research, and she includes many facts and examples to illustrate each chapter. However, as someone who likes to learn as much as she can about topics of interest, I wish there were more links or at least web URLs so I could click through and find out more about specific subjects and read the articles cited.
Dianne also lists a number of resources that cover various aspects of the publishing process, which is a good starting point for writers just getting into the industry but is not fully comprehensive. And at the end of the book are examples of a publishing contract and literary agent agreement. These types of contracts are hard to find on the Internet, and they can be very helpful for new writers who want to get familiar with what to expect.
Overall, The Hybrid Author is a great resource for new writers, writers looking to diversify how they publish, and anyone in general who wants to know more about the recent big changes in the publishing industry. There are a lot of options today for authors, and it’s important for writers to stay informed in order to make the best decisions for their works and their careers....more
Other reviewers have called The Author Training Manual a must-read, and I have to agree. Nina Amir has compiled a great amount of research, experienceOther reviewers have called The Author Training Manual a must-read, and I have to agree. Nina Amir has compiled a great amount of research, experience, and real-life samples that can help any other, self-published, traditionally published, or aspiring, to succeed.
The manual outlines nine steps that authors should take to achieve their goals. Some of the steps feel more obvious, such as figuring out the benefits of your book and why people will buy it, as well as structuring the content. But other steps can really help authors stand out from the crowd, such as writing out your intentions and sticking with your goals, determining how to make the best use of your time, and thoroughly researching your target market and topic. When writing book proposals, having done research is key to getting the attention of agents and publishers, but it’s not always clear to aspiring writers what information is important to mention. And for self-publishers, having a clear book proposal is the equivalent of having a business plan, which helps to outline budgets and strategy and takes a lot of the stress out of a book’s launch.
Though many of the steps seem to easily apply to nonfiction books, Nina often goes into detail on how to apply the plan to fiction books and memoirs, which makes the manual valuable to all types of writers. She also stresses getting an author attitude in order to have the best chance of success. She created an acronym, WOOT, for the four characteristics of an author attitude: willingness, optimism, objectivity, and tenacity.
Included in each step are lots of other resources and helpful books, as well as examples of Nina’s students who followed her advice and took their writing careers to the next level. Nina even specifies what changes she made to The Author Training Manual, both during the editing process and before the book was picked for publication.
Though it’s great to read through the manual, it’s also very valuable that writers can easily flip through to whatever step they may be on when working on their own book proposals. Nina includes a list of exercises for each step that breaks down what needs to be done, and makes the whole process feel very do-able.
Additionally, the book has four samples of book proposals and business plans with detailed feedback from agents and acquisition editors. For aspiring writers, these comments can really help show what people in the publishing industry are looking for. It can also help indie authors see how to create a clear plan.
I fully intend to use The Author Training Manual for my future books, at least as a business plan. Being able to work on small chunks at a time and have a concrete plan for book promotion and marketing will really save me time and money, and help me better know what works and what doesn’t. For all writers of book-length works, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Nina Amir’s The Author Training Manual....more
J E Henderson’s first book in The Credara Trilogy, Rise of the Kraylen, was a great start to the series. It’s billed as an epic tale of good versus evJ E Henderson’s first book in The Credara Trilogy, Rise of the Kraylen, was a great start to the series. It’s billed as an epic tale of good versus evil and it really lives up to the hype.
The battle is between God and his army of Sitcians, angel warriors, and Lucifer and his army of Kraylens, demonic, former angels. The Kraylens are banished to Earth after Lucifer is beaten and locked up in Hell. Though the Kraylen have leathery skin and burned wings, they have the ability to transform and look like any human. Over thousands of years, they breed with humans to gain strength as they plot their revenge and plan to free Lucifer. Their leader is known as Licronus.
Mankind’s safety depends on a select group of Hamen warriors, people marked by God and trained as human weapons. But the warriors are scattered and in hiding, and it is up to the reluctant hero Agean to unite them and fight against the Kraylen before they find a way to release Lucifer.
The story has very high stakes, and is action-packed. Agean and his fellow warriors are highly trained and can take on any evil being, using specialized weapons that only respond to their touch. Henderson skillfully weaves in Agean’s backstory, a tragic tale of loss that causes him great pain and anger and threatens to ruin his chances of succeeding in his mission to save the world.
It doesn’t help that, in a creative twist, the Kraylen capture the angel of death, forcing humans to suffer through disease and intense injury indefinitely. Anyone with stab wounds or worse must learn to cope with the pain while Agean and his friends fight to regain the balance of good and evil.
Even with all the serious drama and heavy action, Henderson manages to break up with tension with well-timed humor. Quilin, a friend of Agean, is lighthearted and often gets into trouble with Flittorin, the hawk that watches over the Hamen warriors. He flings pebbles at the bird, and in retaliation Flittorin poops on his shoulder. Being a Hamen warrior, Flittorin never misses his mark.
The one detail that didn’t quite make sense to me was the vanquishing of the Kralyen. No one could die while the angel of death was captured, yet Agean and the Hamen warriors were able to vanquish Kraylen, causing them to disintegrate into dust.
But it’s exciting to see Agean battle his inner demons as well as the physical demons. He’s a powerful, out-of-the-ordinary priest able to wield many weapons. And he works hard to protect his friends.
Book one ends with another big twist that opens up the story for book two. Without spoiling anything, I’m excited to see where this is going, and how Agean and his friends deal with the next big hurdle. I look forward to when the next book in the trilogy comes out. And, religious or not, I recommend reading Rise of the Kraylen. It’s a fast-paced, fun read....more
Terror at Mirror Lake has some great twists, and delves deep into the backgrounds and psyche of all the main characters.
The plot is intriguing. Two meTerror at Mirror Lake has some great twists, and delves deep into the backgrounds and psyche of all the main characters.
The plot is intriguing. Two men go to the middle of nowhere up north every year for a relaxing fishing trip. However, a death on their most recent trip changes both men forever. With heavy consciences due to the part they played, they decide to tell their wives the truth about their weekend to help free themselves. The couples head to the lake, but little do the husbands know that the wives have their own carefully guarded secrets.
And then of course, there is Luke Downing. Downing is described as a creep, and even called Luke the Puke, and he has issues from his childhood that have seeped into his adult life and turned him into a crazy, evil, sadist.
The interactions between all these characters provides great conflict and tension, but at times it felt the story spent a little too much time on each character’s backstory. There is also one whole chapter devoted to the dreams of six different characters, which seemed a little too drawn out.
However, there were a lot of intricate details, and by the end of the book I felt like I really knew the characters. I could sympathize with the wives, Barbara and Martha, and really understand the motives of their husbands, Hal and Peter. And the author Hank Kellner does a great job showing just how crazy Luke Downing is, and slowly building up to his menacing nature.
The book is full of suspense and moments that could play out well in a TV show or a movie. There’s also a lot of foreshadowing that keeps the reader guessing without giving too much away.
Unlike those in other towns—towns in which secrets were whispered over the telephone or mentioned at church meetings—Hamptonville’s secretes remained unspoken.
Some were buried in the tiny cemetery on the hill to the south of town. Others were hidden in the minds of the few people who lived in its dilapidated frame houses. And still others hovered over the town like shadows creeping over the landscape.
The story also has a lot of vivid imagery, especially when it comes to describing the scenery around the lake, where most of the action takes place.:
To the east, the trees petered out against the rocky foothills of a mountain. More than 5,000 feet high, the mountain seemed indomitable, impassable. Hope Mountain, the locals called it. Nobody knew why.
On the western edge of the lake, a footpath meandered through thickets and shrubs toward a small clearing. At one corner of the clearing, a dirt road snaked through the wilderness toward the town of Hamptonville eighteen miles to the west.
If you’re looking for a story with multiple dark sides, then I recommend picking up Terror at Mirror Lake. The title is apt, and I enjoyed all the thought that went into what made each of the main characters tick....more
I have been waiting to read Dorothy Through the Looking Glass ever since I finished the first book in Ron Glick’s Oz-Wonderland Series, The Wizard inI have been waiting to read Dorothy Through the Looking Glass ever since I finished the first book in Ron Glick’s Oz-Wonderland Series, The Wizard in Wonderland.
And book two does not disappoint. There is just as much intrigue as in the first book, and the plot thickens, as more characters’ roles in the stories are introduced. I don’t want to give too much away, but the Cheshire Cat proves to be more than a talking cat with a disappearing act, and not only are the four witches of Oz not what they seem, they are also not all necessarily on each other’s side.
Similar to the first book in the series, Dorothy Through the Looking Glass ends with a wonderful twist and cliff hanger, and I can’t wait to read the third book in this series. There are many alliances between unlikely characters, and mysteries behind the fates of others.
Again, Ron does a great job in bringing the wacky world of Wonderland to life, even down to how people are allowed to move about in the land. He also introduces the rules of the land through the looking glass, which is backwards like Wonderland, but in reverse. And if that doesn’t make much sense, don’t worry, it all gets explained in the book.
I thought the way books are read in the looking glass world was particularly clever. All books are written backward, making them illegible unless you hold it up to a mirror, but one book that Dorothy picks up has gold embossed lettering on the cover. She accidentally falls into the snow, and the words on the cover are imprinted upon the snow. It gives her the name of Mombi, one of the wicked witches of Oz, and a clue to the mystery Dorothy is trying to solve.
For the most part, I felt the book had great, vivid descriptions of the different worlds and the characters. At times however, it felt like there was almost too much dialogue. Someone once used the phrase “talking heads” to describe one of my works, and I think it could fit here to describe a handful of chapters. Although the dialogue was convincing and realistic and moved the story forward, filling in important gaps, at times I wished it was broken up a little more.
But the last third of the book was when the story really picked up for me, and became a page turner. Hints of main characters’ true motives become more clear, as well as some surprising partnerships.
Being a fan of magic, I like that more characters are gaining magical abilities in a strategic way. I’m very interested in seeing how it all unfolds, and being familiar with Ron’s work I know he will continue to tell the story in a way that delights and surprises, all while using characters that have strong motivations and both good and bad qualities. I just hope we don’t have to wait too long for book three in the Oz-Wonderland series!...more
I liked A Dangerous Low, I really did. The prologue started out strong, with a tense, high-stakes action, life-or-death scene. And then I read on andI liked A Dangerous Low, I really did. The prologue started out strong, with a tense, high-stakes action, life-or-death scene. And then I read on and found out that everything happens in seven days, which I knew meant the story would be exciting and impressive.
The story is set in Atlanta, GA, and the protagonist is Assistant District Attorney Benjamin Howard, who is set to run for mayor. But he makes a major political mistake when he has an affair with a man. Benjamin accidentally kills the man, who turns out to be the leader of one of the biggest gangs in Atlanta. Ben’s actions haunt him the next seven days and quickly turn into a larger problem, one that threatens his and his family’s lives.
I thought the story was very fast-paced, and there is definitely a lot of intrigue. Michael Stephenson does an excellent job of crafting complicated sub-plots and showing most character’s motives.
The author is also good about planting clues that are not necessarily obvious at the time, but then make sense later. Several times throughout the book I had satisfactory “a-ha!” moments.
However, I felt this book could use a little bit more editing. There were a few spelling and grammatical errors that stood out enough to take me out of the story momentarily. Also, though Stephenson does a good job writing dialogue that fits with his characters, occasionally the way the dialogue was written for one character seeped into another character’s speech. This made things a little confusing at times.
Also, sometimes I think there was too much explanatory information. For example, occasionally via dialogue or a character’s actions I could figure out what a character was feeling, but then the next line would tell me what I was supposed to get out of it, instead of letting me figure it out on my own.
I believe A Dangerous Low is the first book in a series, and I think Stephenson has created a very strong set up. There are a lot of characters to contend with, and everyone seems to have a secret. In addition to gangsters, there are politicians, police officers, and other lawyers. Not all those secrets are revealed, though I’m sure they will come out later in the series.
The tension and love between Ben and his wife Sheneka was well done. Sheneka finds out an awful truth about her husband, so naturally there is conflict. But the couple is also thrust into some dangerous situations they must work through together, where they realize they are still in love.
There were plenty of chase scenes, where Ben and his wife got to fight their attackers in (pardon my language) badass ways. I’m interested in what happens next for these two, especially after Sheneka reveals her own secret to her husband.
Overall I think Stephenson is a good storyteller, who has a well-thought out storyline. A Dangerous Low is a quick, entertaining read—action packed but with bits of humor sprinkled throughout....more
The title of The Prince and the Singularity: A Circular Tale is very apt. The story has many circles, which for the most part I found fascinating.
It’sThe title of The Prince and the Singularity: A Circular Tale is very apt. The story has many circles, which for the most part I found fascinating.
It’s another great example of the experimenting you can do with self-publishing, and I really enjoyed how the author Pedro Barrento was upfront in the beginning of the book about what the story is:
“It’s prose, but it reads like poetry.
It has elements of the fantastical including a prince and a damsel in distress, but it doesn’t belong to the fantasy genre.
It’s a fairy tale, but it is not meant for children.
It has no sex, no violence and no foul language, but it is definitely not boring.
It is circular, but not round.[…]”
There are certainly lyrical elements in this book, such as in the beginning of Chapter 1, which actually gets repeated a few times throughout the story (“In the beginning, there was nothing…”).
At first, I thought this was going to be a retelling of the New Testament, with a twist. There are gods, but we are introduced to one man, known as the Prince, who has taken it upon himself to save humanity. We follow him through his journey, where we see him fail with several disciples, including Mary Magdalene.
But then it gets more interesting.
We find out that the world is just a part of a game. And the game consists of multiple layers of players, and each level is unaware of the players in the level above them. Everything happens over and over again in a cycle, and it is up to the players in the lower level to break their cycles and move up in the game.
I was a little thrown off when the Prince walked away from Mary Magdalene and suddenly ended up in the future where people are driving cars.
But I did like that everything was connected somehow, and that it was easy to see the same actions play out over and over again. History repeats itself, over and over and over, until finally someone learns from it and is able to start a new cycle. The last chapter is called “Final Musings” and it offers a lot of different ideas about the meaning of life and where we stand in the universe.
I found the whole concept fascinating, and I think Barrento did an excellent job combining so many complicated ideas into one circular story.
The way this book was written is also interesting. In the credits, Barrento thanks “everybody on the authonomy.com and youwriteon.com sites who made suggestions on how I could improve the book.” I’ve heard about a lot of indie authors who use beta readers and have been experimenting with agile publishing—basically incorporating feedback as they write—and it seems that in the self-publishing sphere at least, collaborating more with readers online is becoming more the norm.
I think The Prince and the Singularity is a success story, both in terms of teamwork and being a really entertaining, captivating read....more
I loved Two. Having read all of Ron Glick’s fantasy novels in his multiple series, I can safely say that his writing and complex story telling abilitiI loved Two. Having read all of Ron Glick’s fantasy novels in his multiple series, I can safely say that his writing and complex story telling abilities keep getting better and stronger. And they already started off strong.
Two is (obviously) the second book in Glick’s The Godslayer Cycle series. While I did enjoy the first book, One, much of the book was spent setting up the story for the whole series. But in Two, the backstories are laid out, the main premise is clear, and Glick had plenty of space to delve deeper into subplots and motivations of other, more minor characters.
Reading Two, I was reminded a little of the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. It probably helps that both are fantasy series, but they are also both incredibly layered stories, and it’s clear Glick has really thought out and planned his Godslayer world of Na’Ril. And to make it easier on his readers, Glick has included a map of Na’Ril, as well as a list of all the characters and locations, and how they are all connected. He even includes a short synopsis of One, in case readers have forgotten some of the important details.
I remember when I read One that I really wanted to see more of the immortal known as The Witness. In Two, The Witness plays a much bigger role, and I was delighted to find out more about his powers, as well as how the immortals (not gods) interact with one another.
There are also a few new characters, and though each has a unique background and motivation, they are all drawn to the same powerful swords created by the old gods. And that makes things interesting, knowing that eventually they will all converge.
Glick does a great job of showing the good and bad sides of his characters. Certain characters, such as Avery, the pretend god, seemed so misguided and verging on evil in the last book, but in Two he grows and becomes much more sympathetic.
As the story continues, it becomes less clear who the “hero” will be. Sure, Nathaniel still plays an important role, but other forces are convinced he is not the avatar meant to take control of all the swords. Beings with more power are helping out other people in their quest to find the swords.
It’s also interesting to learn the limitations of the various gods, even when they claim to be all powerful. And, I think Two had a stronger ending than One. Both ended on cliffhangers, but the last chapter of Two felt a lot more natural.
I’m looking forward to Glick’s next installment of the Godslayer Cycle. He has created an intriguing world and his characters are so vivid and compelling. I know he’s currently hard at work on his other series, so it will probably be a while. To be honest though, I’m such a fan of his work I don’t care which book comes next. But I do want to read more!...more