Author Archives: chardixon

The Eye of God: A Sigma Force Novel by James Rollins

eye of god

I like all of James Rollins’ novels. After first discovering his books last year I did a “Complete Alternate Reality Immersion” (CARI) and read everything he had published in about 3 weeks. That was 16 books. And I enjoyed every second of it.

Rollins is known for creating amazing quazi-historical, semi-real places… and then completely obliterating them. If you have read his work you know what I mean. You’ll be reading along thinking “wow, what an amazing temple/forest/cave” only to check yourself and almost immediately  think “how is Rollins going to blow it up?”

So it was with excitement and a wee bit of trepidation that I picked up “The Eye of God” last night.

Rollins delivered – again.

The Sigma Force team finds themselves trying to avert the end of the world. Literally the end of the world. And as in most of his books science and faith both play a large part.

On the faith side Monsignor Vigor Verona and his niece Rachel are back in the thick of it after receiving a strange package from another priest.

On the science side we meet a super smart astrophysicist with some complex theories on dark energy and a new SIGMA member with multiple science degrees and kick-ass combat skills.

While there is not nearly as much Painter as I would like (you can never have enough Painter) we do get to spend some quality time with Seichan and Grayson. Kowalski and Monk are back as well.

The huge blurry gray line that lies between science and faith is at the heart of this book. And Rollins does an excellent job of balancing the two. One of the themes running through not only his SIGMA Force novels, but many of his stand alone books and his YA series as well, is that not only are science and faith not mutually exclusive, they are actually incredibly intertwined.

One is used to explain and prove the other. This should end up seeming a lot less plausible than it ends up being. That is what Rollins does really well. Making Dark energy and quantum theory pair perfectly with St. Thomas and Genghis Khan = brilliant!

He also creates diverse and interesting characters who the reader is able to develop a connection to over the course of the series.

He also treats these characters as real people- meaning he sometimes kills them. And you curse outloud when he does it.

But if you like intelligent action stories liberally peppered with historical, religious and scientific awesomeness you need to read this.

 

Now… for some spoilers…. So if you haven’t read the book, stop now and come back when you have to read the rest.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not kidding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok – I’m assuming you are here by choice, so here goes.

He didn’t blow it up!!!!! I’m still wrapping my head around the idea that the golden room in the awesome ice cave is all in 1 piece.

I love it – don’t get me wrong- but it is surprising to say the least.

But Rachel and Vigor are both dead. Talk about a double whammy. I really thought somehow Rachel was going to survive in our reality (not just the alternate one). Rollins prepped us for Vigor’s death,it still sucked, but we were ready for it. Rachel some out of the blue though. A real gut punch.

Seichan’s story  seems a little played out to be honest. I like her as a character, but I either want her to actually join the team or go away. To be clear – I think she would make an excellent team member.

I’d like to see Tucker Wayne back in the mix – I missed him.

 

 

 

Colony East: The Toucan Trilogy Book 2 by Scott Cramer #Review

In November of last year I was offered the chance to read and review the first book in this series, Night of the Purple Moon. I loved it. So I was excited to be offered the chance to read and review the second book a couple of weeks ago.

Scott Cramer has delivered a fantastic and moving sequel to that first book.

If you haven’t read the first book (go read it – now!) you can read my review here which will give you the background.

Colony East picks up almost exactly where we left off. Abby and Jordan have gone to get the pills that will save their lives and must journey back to the island to deliver them. Again the incredibly stark contrasts between the choices that each child left alone makes are startling and thought provoking. Abby and Jordan do make it back to the island but the cost of that journey is hard to quantify.

We then fast forward a year. The pitifully few remaining adults are trying to “rebuild society” and have 3 small enclaves on the North American continent into which they have brought the few children they deem worthy. The rest of children are left to fend for themselves.There is also a new threat in threat in the form of a mutated form of the sickness that killed the adults.

Abby and Jordan are both almost 2 years older than when we first met them. They have both lost people they had grown to love and in the process done more growing up than I can personally fathom. Their younger sister, Toucan, has grown up as well and shows quite brilliantly the innate resilience of children. She and the other youngest survivors do not carry the heavy burden of memory and loss that the older children do. Instead they are learning to thrive and succeed in this new world.

Colony East actually refers to one of these adult developed enclaves. Some inspiration was obviously drawn from many of the dystopian worlds that have been created before – but it never feels derivative or like it is overtly copying any of them. The adults have a plan and quite naturally while intentions maybe good – execution and results are not.

Along with further exploring this devastated world from the children’s point of view, we also begin to see it from the view of the few adults left. The contrasts between the two are massive and telling. Cramer manages to comment on modern society and preconceptions while not feeling preachy in the least. An impressive feat all by itself. Managing to do this in a beautifully written and youth friendly novel is breathtaking.

I look forward immensely to the third in this series and hope to read more from this author.

 

 

I was provided a copy of this book for the purpose of review.

 

 

 

 

Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon’s Fury by L.R.W. Lee #review

I am a sucker for dragons and fantasy and misunderstood kids. It is almost always a great combination.

I began to read this book with anticipation and a little bit of trepidation. Anticipation for the possibility that the book seemed to promise. The trepidation came because I had just finished a book that utterly disappointed me by not living up to the promise of the jacket blurb.

I am relieved to say that this book was not a disappointment.

It was a joy.

L.R.W. Lee writes a delightful story for a  younger audience.

Our newly minted hero, Andy, is relate-able. He is an imaginative kid who feels constantly misunderstood by his family. So it is with more excitement than fear that he finds himself transported to a magical land called Oomaldee. On arrival he is tasked with helping to break a curse for a centuries old king while being thwarted by a spiteful ghost. He makes new friends and grows as an individual while discovering secrets and battling dragons.

The intro to the book and the history of the curse is nicely done. A funny and fresh take on what awaits those who have passed on.

This book is intended for a younger reader than most of the YA fiction I review. As such it seemed at times to over simplify some situations and maybe underestimate the intended reader. I think that even the younger 8-11 year olds this seems geared towards could understand and appreciate a little more nuance.

The story is well crafted and enjoyable. As an adult I still found the story interesting. It was whimsically quirky without being patronizing or obvious. A very hard combination to achieve. I wanted to know more about this land.

I am hoping that some of the questions I had will be answered in the next book in the series. (How is Andy a descendant being the main one.)

I think this would be an excellent book for a parent and child to read together as both will enjoy it.

My advice to the author would be to trust the young reader and to fully explore the vivid world she is creating.

 

I was provided a gratis copy of this book for review.

 

The Reluctant Reaper: Death Is What Happens While You’re Making Other Plans by Gina X. Grant #review

The teaser for this book sounded really quirky and fun. Like a mish-mash of Piers Anthony and Dead Like Me. I love the Xanth novels. I loved Dead Like Me for the 2 seasons I got to enjoy it (thanks alot Showtime). Combining the two seemed like a good idea.

In fact I still think it is a good idea. Just not as executed in this book.

Gina X. Grant fails to create characters that are sympathetic or even really likeable. Kirsty is an annoying whiner. She also seems incredibly dense. They way her actual death is set up makes her seem like the least observant, slowest person in the world. This is due to the heavy handed way the story is setup. The reader is being smacked upside the head with hints and clues that a 2 year old couldn’t miss. There is no subtlety or craft employed.

So we find ourselves reading a scene with more bad situation warning bells than a Scary Movie sequel and wondering how on earth our protagonist Kirsty could possibly be so naive. And the truth is there is no plausible or logical way she could be.

This is how we meet a reaper named Dante.

Yes – that Dante.

Who in this book is a ridiculously awkward man-boy with no eloquence. Seriously no eloquence from the guy who wrote The Inferno?

I wish I had stopped reading there.

Puns the world over should be rising up in revolt against their shabby treatment in this book. Where Piers Anthony deftly wields puns to create whimsically literal worlds and situations – Ms. Grant lobs them about like a drunken darts player. Instead of being seamlessly woven into the story she is creating they seemed forced and often painfully setup.

I wanted to like, even love this book. But I just couldn’t. Aside from essentially uninteresting main characters and poor use of puns, the story itself felt cursory and pedantic. She attempted to create a new and different idea of Hell. Some of the elements had great potential. Sadly that potential was unrealized.

I still think the underlying idea could be pretty brilliant.

I was provided a gratis copy of this book for review.

Paperback and ebook giveaway

Enter to win a paperback or ebook copy of Eyes of the Chameleon, The - Graham A. Dixon

The Eyes of the Chameleon

by Graham Dixon

Cassius Toledo is a detective with the Berkeley Police Department. And while unusual is not unexpected in the Berkeley area, even he finds the randomly placed eyeballs that keep popping up at various locations a bit odd. What they lead to is even odder. He finds himself involved in a mystery that is much larger than just the Berkeley campus and eventually takes him and an unusual team halfway around the world. How do eyeballs, a group of witches and the Yangtze Damn all come together… that is what he has to find out before it is too late.

 

 

 

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Eyes of the Chameleon by Graham A. Dixon

The Eyes of the Chameleon

by Graham A. Dixon

Giveaway ends September 15, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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You can also read a free excerpt at www.cassiustoledo.us

The Stone Guardian by Danielle Monsch #review

The start of this book is a bit chaotic and confusing – and while I feel that was on purpose – it did make it a little difficult to get into the story.

Danielle Monsch has imagined a world where our earth has collided and combined with another dimension in which many of the creatures and races we had thought to be myth actually exist.

The main story takes place 26 years after this event.

Larissa is a 26 year old young woman born at the very moment of this cataclysmic merging of two realities. Her father and 4 brothers are all police in the same town. This town is supposedly protected by magical wards from many of these new mythical races.

And as to be expected – there is something about Larissa that makes her different and special – that she is of course unaware of.

The Stone Guardian from the title is actually a Gargoyle. He is the leader of the secretive and feared gargoyles and is called Terak.

Terak and Larissa are drawn into a life or death mystery about what makes her special and how it relates to the end of the world.

And there is a love story. Between the Gargoyle and the human.

And that would be ok – if it wasn’t so awkwardly  portrayed.

Monsch does not seem comfortable writing about and expressing sexual thoughts and situations – so you end up with 2 twentysomething adults expressing their sexual desires and wishes like gawky teens in the middle of puberty. And they are both virgins. I don’t know if this is a nod to the ridiculous Twilight series or some misplaced nod to old fashioned Christian values – either way it gets in the way of what is basically a decent and interesting story – and that is unfortunate.

A good concept, some decent writing and the start of intriguing characters are bogged down by the fact that the author can’t decide whether she is writing a YA novel or more mature adult fiction.

If she can make a decision and embrace it – and leave out the awkward sex scenes – this series could be alright.

I was provided a gratis copy for review.

A Study in Darkness by Emma Jane Holloway #review

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Steam Punk.

I have heard alot about it, but have tended to avoid it.

The idea of mixing Victorian sensibilities with fantastical steam powered pseudo-modern gadgetry and a dash of magic seemed to be trying too hard. I have picked up and put back several of the tomes over the years without feeling the need to sit down and dig in.

SO – this is the first Steam Punk novel I have actually read.

And it was’t bad.

Jane Holloway writes an intriguing tale.

Because this was the second book in a series it took me a bit to feel like I really had a grasp on the world and how it works. Exactly how steam is supposed to do everything it somehow does is still a mystery to me. For the sake of the story I was able to suspend most of my questions and just accept it though.

The story somewhat centers around the niece of Sherlock Holmes, Evelina, and her friends. Evelina is a very progressive modern girl who happens to be able to use magic. Her friend Imogen is having lucid nightmares that may be tied to a string of Jack the Ripperish murders. Nick is a Gypsy pirate who also possess magical powers and happens to have an elemental spirit to control his airship.

From what I can tell this is a well thought out series. This second book could stand alone as a story but obviously works within the larger narrative as well.

I felt the opening dragged a little and was a tad confusing – but if one has read the first book that might not be a problem.

It was engaging and I might be tempted to read the next in the series – but I’m still on the fence about completely embracing the whole steam-punk world.

I was provided a gratis copy for the purpose of review.

 

Doon by Carey Corp & Lorie Langdon #review

 

As reimaginings go this is pretty good.

Had I been sitting around thinking “Someone really needs to retell Brigadoon as a YA fantasy series”… well um… no. But if I had this series would have met the expectations that I didn’t know I already had.

I am a theatre geek at heart and absolutely adored that one of the characters was also. Relating events to their musical theatre equivalent and constantly thinking of songs to suit the occurrences and mood really resonated with me. So I was a little disappointed that Kenna didn’t end up being the real focal point of the story – but the ending gives me hope for the next installment.

The real focus of the book is Veronica – Vee – a tiny slip of a dancer who has an appetite that I can appreciate.

The opening scene was a little rough and not quite completely believable. It is the only scene set in high school and it just felt awkward.  Stephanie and Eric both seemed more like 90210 caricatures than actual teenagers. Thankfully, once removed from the school setting, the writing and characters felt much more natural.

Best friends Vee and Kenna end up in Scotland after their senior year because of a bequest from Kenna’s aunt of a cottage. As in any good YA fantasy story that is where ordinary ends. This cottage happens to be next to the “Bridge of Doon” (did ya catch that?). And there are 2 handsome princes ready to match wits with our spunky American heroines and work together to save the mystical land of Doon from an evil witch.

About 1/4 of the way in I really got used to the switching between storytellers. Some chapters are from Vee’s point of view other’s from Kenna’s. While I m not sure how the book was actually written – it certainly feels like slightly different writing styles take the lead for each of the characters chapters. Oddly this helped to really bring the nuances of each character into focus and provide what felt like two distinct narrators – without being confusing or muddling.

The literal princes of this story are Duncan and Jamie. And both are quite dashing and everything one could want in a modern fairytale-ish story. Luckily they both have distinct and intriguing personalities as well.

I would like to have seen some more of the supporting characters really fleshed out. There were hints of what they could be if fully developed – and it was tantalizing – but ultimately I was left unfulfilled. Vee’s mom and Kenna’s dad both fall into this category as do some of the denizens of Doon.

Overall a very worthwhile read – I look forward to the next installment.

I was provided a gratis copy for review.

 

Guardians Inc: The Cypher by Julian Rosado-Machain #review

 

Tongue-in-cheek YA fiction is one of my favorite sub-genres.

Clever quips, eye-rolling puns and the like are sure to draw me in if done well.

Julian Rosado-Machain does them fairly well. He has created a quirky world with intriguing characters.

Thomas and his grandfather Morgan have only each other after the disappearance of Thomas’ parents while abroad. And it seems both of them have a unique skill set that can help ad ultra-secret ages old society to save the world.

Where this story becomes more intriguing than the slew of similar books in the genre is in how it ends up placing Thomas and Morgan on opposing sides of a race against time. This has set up what could become (and I hope does) a very precarious dynamic in future books.

And I now want gargoyles guarding my house as well.

At only 169 pages this is a very quick read and I imagine would easily hold the interest of most 8-12 year olds. I think it is also interesting enough to hold the attention of slightly older readers as well.

My only suggestion would be to perhaps slow it down just a tiny bit. At times it felt like we were speeding through exposition and plot at 80 mph when 50 mph might have been more appropriate.

Fae by C.J. Abedi #review

C.J. Abedi (which actually stands for sisters Colet and Jasmine) have started a new series in the realm of YA fantasy literature.

“Fae” is a welcome addition to the genre.

The entire story is based in Roanoke, North Carolina and draws heavily from the missing colony lore surrounding it. The Abedi sisters have created some beautiful mythology weaving the Fae into this narrative.

Caroline is busy trying to be a normal teen when she is drawn into this Fae world by the handsome and intriguing Devilyn. All of this is because of Caroline’s lineage, which she of course knows nothing about.

Helping to make this story relate-able is a fantastic set of supporting characters. Caroline has a best friend, Teddy, that anyone would be lucky to have. Devilyn’s grandfather is amazing and adds an incredibly interesting twist to the whole story. Caroline’s parents are near perfect and the depth of their caring for her is beautiful.

Chosen family vs. blood family is a large theme throughout this book. Are the bonds that we choose to create stronger than the bonds we are born into? What is loyalty?

In this very crowded field it is hard for a book to really break out and distinguish itself. Fae does this. It provides a well thought out story. The back-story and history are fully developed and well presented. The introduction to all of the elements flows well for the reader. The characters interact believably.

It is a well crafted story that deserves to find an abundance of readers.

I would also like to add that the cover is beautiful. Simple and evocative. Perfect.

I was provided a gratis copy for the purpose of review.

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