Monthly Archives: November 2012

Caught in a Moment – Martin Dukes

 

Imagine if when you were idly daydreaming you suddenly realized that everything around you had stopped. That you were now caught in a time between moments.

This is the world that Martin Dukes creates.

Alex Trueman is a 15 year old boy who ends up in this moment. The existence he finds is surreal and full of oddities. Who knew that manatees could fly.

I will be honest this book wasn’t an easy read .I spent the first few pages unsure of whether I was going to like it or not. Dukes is not shy about showing off his flair for language. He has a singular knack for threading words together into intricate descriptions that tend toward the grandiose. They are beautiful, but sometimes a bit distracting. Pair this with the rather indirect storytelling method and the reader must pay close attention. I personally enjoyed this challenge. This is not a book for light, turn your brain off, spread it over a few weeks reading. It is an intense read. It is also set in England and as such has some turns of phrase and ideas that require a second glance from an American to truly get. Luckily I am married to a Englishman and had some 2nd hand experience with some of these cultural concepts.

The story in and of itself is fascinating. I have read a lot of books and have never come across this story line before – or anything really similar. A world existing within ours and yet separate. A world where time as we understand it has no meaning. Peopled with people who aren’t even sure how or why they are there.

I enjoyed discovering the quirks and realities of the realm as much as the character driven storyline itself. As you discover more about how this moment world is created you are also forced to reevaluate how you feel about the characters you have already met and most likely formed a like or dislike for.

As this supposed to be part of a trilogy, I am looking forward to the next book. Hopefully Dukes will delve deeper into the realms he hinted at and briefly introduced in this book.

This is an intriguing and mentally stimulating book. It was nice to come across a book that did not hide that it would require you to think and work for the reward of the great story it is. As I said this is not a casual read and there is nothing wrong with that.

 

I was provided a free copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing it.

Desert Fire – H. M. Prévost

The first chapter or two took as little getting into. At times the structure is a bit choppy, but by chapter 5 I was hooked.

Nick is a Canadian teenager suddenly living in the UAE with his mom and older sister. I would like to know a bit more about how exactly everything went down that led to this situation (several unresolved questions about his father and such) but am hoping that will all be forthcoming in a future installment.

And I will be reading any future installments if they continue to be as compelling as this book.

This is a nice mix of a teenage James Bond and 90210 type character. Prévost does an admirable job of keeping this YA without sanitizing it. There is a nice mix of naiveté and knowledge that fits well.

Nick is believable as a character. I was a little worried that Faris and Mohammed would not be during my first few encounters with them, but that fear is put to rest by the middle of the book. I found myself liking them much more – almost like an annoying kid brother.

I thought it quite wise that while Prévost draws the readers attention to what are very different social customs, ideals and norms in the Arabic world in which this is set, she does not lecture or moralize. It would be very easy to present stereotypes and not delve any deeper into them. Instead we get a better picture of the complicated social strictures and reasons why some young people retain aspects of them.

In this fast paced, yet still fleshed out, story there are a lot of things which could be hard to accept and go with. Teenager turned amateur spy, falling transport planes that no one seems to notice even the idea that a fellow teenager could be a terrorist operative. But the only thing I truly had trouble wrapping my head around was the CIF – Canadian Intelligence Force. Supposedly super-secret with better operatives than the CIA, MI-6 or the Navy seals. In Nick’s own words “We had a top notch covert spy agency? Get outta here.”

There is some room for improvement in the descriptions of people, specifically female characters. Their descriptions were a little awkward at times.

Cover Art – this is one of my most frequent complaints, especially with ebooks. Make your cover art compelling. This is an action adventure story it should have a cover that reaches out and grabs you. The current choice of an angsty looking androgynous teen boys face hovering over a desert with some smoke does not do it. The cover looks like an already old book, something from 1982, not a fresh new story full of excitement.

This is a book that 12-14 year old boys would love but they aren’t going to be reaching for that cover. I wouldn’t look twice at a book with that cover. I am glad I was passed along a free copy to read, because I enjoyed – a lot.

All in all a very good book with a lot to offer and the beginning of what appears to be a thrilling new series.

Keep it up.

The Forever Contract – Avery Sawyer

This is a short novella in the burgeoning YA dystopian fiction genre.

There are some really good ideas here. The underlying main concept is fantastic. A world where you can choose to have your consciousness uploaded into a virtual world. Still being able to interact with those in the “real” world via computers screens is fascinating. The idea of watching those you know in their self-created virtual worlds. Even the reasoning behind why this is happening works – water shortages that cause wars, arid land that won’t support crops. Then throw in an undercurrent of suspicion. A few that don’t believe everything they are being told. The set up and the background are great.

Where this novella lets the reader down is in the execution.

Perhaps it is because the concept is too large to be contained in a novella, but the entire story feels rushed and lacking.

The bare bones are there but nothing is given depth or fleshed out. The main characters, Casey and James, are mere facades. They are not real people yet who encourage the reader to become attached. The potential is there.

Casey is a young woman about to make a huge life altering decision. Her boyfriend James is facing the same decision. But the entire tension between their differing views is played out in grade school type dialogue that is far too simplistic for what should be complex and deeply layered emotions.

The same happens in what should be climactic moments. They end up falling flat because the reader has not suspended that disbelief and embraced the world Sawyer is trying to create.

This disappointed me. I wanted more. If the time were taken to develop this into a full length series (if properly fleshed out I easily see 2 books just with what story is already there and a 3rd or even 4th book of what is hinted and left unanswered) it could be mesmerizing. I want to know what the secrets are. What caused the water wars? What is really going on in Chicago? What is the real purpose behind the uploads? What was James’ mom doing?

There is a lot of potential. But it cannot be recognized until the story, the world and most importantly the characters are fully realized. This means giving the depth and complexity they now lack.

 I was given a free copy of this novella to review. And while happy to have had the chance to glimpse what could be, I would not have purchased this in its current form.

Review: Idlewild by Nick Sagan

Idlewild
Idlewild by Nick Sagan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Halloween wakes up disoriented, confused, with no memory, and is temporarily paralyzed. All he knows is someone (something?) is trying to kill him via electrocution, but he has no idea how to even begin to investigate.

Slowly but surely, our protagonist reunites with his friends and his environment, the pieces of the puzzle slowly clicking into place as time moves forward. Plagued by intermittent holes in his memory, Halloween re-integrates himself back into the land of the … living?

Sort of.

Quickly we learn that Halloween and his quirky and enigmatic friends are living in a inter-conscious virtual reality termed IVR (Immersive Virtual Reality) where they are receiving an education unlike anything they’d find in the “outside” world. With virtual nannies, instructors, vampires, and the ability to travel anywhere in the world instantaneously, what could be better? What could go wrong?

Pesky time to interrupt and remind the reader of the paralyzing electrocution – a failed, yet very much attempted assassination.

Through searching for simply his own memory, Halloween uncovers an epic reality nobody could have imagined. Peeling back multiple layers (a la Inception) bring the reader to a shocking and haunting realization, and hurl our cast of characters into a sobering pit of responsibility that they won’t all survive.

Nick Sagan’s Idlewild is disorienting at first, and fairly so given the state of our protagonist. I am confused as much as Halloween is. As the light of understanding brightens slowly upon him, so do I gain my bearings and try to make sense of this world around me. As the story progresses and the intensity increases, I find myself enlightened and darkened at the same time. What a wonderful thing to gain understanding, but when what you’re understanding is fraught with danger and the threat of being buried alive? You long for a sense of normalcy. My emotions were highly charged while reading this book, and I am already well into book #2. I look around and appreciate the world around me, all the while wondering if what I’m perceiving is what really IS.

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Excellent YA fiction – and no one sparkles…Deck of Lies by Jade Varden

Reviewed by: CharDixon

Wow. It is 4:09 am. My friend Nicole sent me this book to review at 10:21. I couldn’t sleep, so I thought maybe I’d read a little bit of it until I got sleepy. That was about 12:10.

I have just finished the book and as soon as I finish writing this I will be finding the next in the series.

Jade Varden has completely sucked me into this story she is weaving.

What could oh so easily have been just another fish out of water story full of trite and tired cliché is instead a well thought out and cleverly written page turner.

I’m normally a science fantasy and occasional history inspired thriller type (with the occasional historical romance fling) so this isn’t something I would have picked up on my own.

Rain/Chloe is an emotional angsty teenage girl – who happens to have just found out that her parents aren’t her parents, her brother isn’t her brother and nothing else makes sense either in the new life she is dropped into. But she isn’t annoying or over the top. I like her. I would have wanted to be friends with her.

That is the key point that makes this more than just throw away YA fiction. Rain/Chloe seems real and that makes the extraordinary situation and everything that revolves around it work.

Varden has created a fantastic cast of supporting characters as well. They are fully realized individuals not just plot devices or frosting. She also has a knack for throwing in surprises you drop your jaw at but also work.

Jade Varden is an excellent storyteller with a deft hand at flowing prose. The story is compelling and interesting. The reader is drawn in and lead through the book in a journey made seamless by the adroit choice of words and sentence structure.

I was surprised, shocked, upset and angry right along with Rain/Chloe.

I am trying really hard not to give any spoilers away in this review and it is hard. The shocking revelations and intrigue start almost immediately. Who should she trust? What is still being hidden?

If Justice (Deck of Lies #1) is any indication this is going to be an excellent series.

Well done and thank you Jade Varden.

My only suggestion at this point would be to rethink the cover art. The current choice does not do justice to the story within.

P.S.
It is now 8:33 am and I have read books 2 and 3

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Check our bookshelf with the available books for review! Reviewers: If you’re interested in read…

Our books-needing-reviews shelf

Little Sacrifices
Fargoer - The Beginning
Cathedral of Dreams
Pure at Heart
The Sun Zebra
The Sum of My Parts: A Survivor's Story of Dissociative Identity Disorder
Caught in a Moment
The Last Of The Rings
The Void
Our Blissful Bayou Beginnings
Dawn's End
The Metaphysical Double Life of Eri Lane
Bras, Boys, and Blunders: Juliet & Romeo in Bahrain
Under the Black Clouds
Distant Shores
Xor: The Shape of Darkness
The Forever Contract
The Donors
Night of the Purple Moon
The First Zombies Dead Awakening



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