Tag Archives: fiction

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.

 

 

 

 

Chameleon: The Awakening by Maggie Faire #review

The general idea is that there is a complete other world basically coexisting with our modern one that we know nothing about. There are clans that are human like – but not exactly human – that inhabit the forest. And there is a young teen girl who is responsible for saving it all, but of course she doesn’t know that.

Maggie Faire seems to draw on variety sources for the frame work of this world. Native American and Aboriginal myth seem to have been a large inspiration. I would also guess that the author is an Anne McCaffrey fan because her thunder dragons and void are drawn directly from McCaffrey’s dragons and between.

As with any new realm there is a lot of new information/history/myth to establish. One area where this book is lacking is in really fleshing all of this other world out. By the end of the book I was still wondering where these tribes came from, why they were splintered and why a savior was needed exactly.

There is an attempt to merge some myth and science with this 10 dimensions and traveling through dimensions 5-10 via lichen (yes you read that correctly) though it is never really explained.

There is potential for an intriguing story and I would read another book – but I sincerely hope there is some fleshing out of the back story that occurs. As the book was only 156 pages perhaps it could have been extended a bit and more of the history explained and made clear.

Legends of Amun Ra – The Emerald Tablet

amun

I started Legends of Amun Ra- The Emerald Tablet with high hopes.
I have been interested in myths and legends, specifically Greek and Egyptian since I was a wee little one. This book sounded like it would mix some of my favorite old legends with a modern sci-fi twist.
Joshua Silverman has created a concept that is very intriguing, playing on the whole Stargate idea of aliens and earth’s history. The basic ideas behind the story are great. The execution is not quite as flawless.
Let me start with the fact there are typos and other errors in the copy I received – which is an ebook. The formatting was off. There were lines of space in the middle of sentences for no reason and page breaks in incorrect places. This made it difficult to read. Occasionally some of the text almost appeared formatted for poetry – I hope that was unintentional as it made no sense. The choice of order for some of the chapters and how they were divided was confusing as well.
I understand the need to provide exposition and back story – but it is not done in a very easily understandable manner. I can respect wanting to create mystery and questions that will be answered, but that needs to be tempered with making sure the reader can firmly grasp everything they need to enjoy and understand the rest of the story.
And the one, for this book, semi-graphic sex scene at the beginning of chapter 2 seems like it comes from a completely different book. It felt ill-fitting the first time I read it and I understood why after finishing the book. It doesn’t match with anything else in the book and what needed to be conveyed in that scene could have been provided in another way – much less awkwardly.
The story itself is an interesting one. Leoros is an adolescent boy who has been dragged around the world by his archaeologist mom. It is on one such dig that Leoros manages to get himself transported to another planet via an Egyptian artifact.
One thing I am still not clear on is how this other planet (and the moon that some people were banished to) fit into our timeline. At times it seemed as if the number of years talked about on Earth versus this other planet were not matching up.
There are some very interesting characters and when I could force myself past the poor formatting and rather heavy handed writing I found myself being drawn into the story. Unfortunately I would be popped right back out when I had to pause to try to clarify some point by going back in the book or when there was no clarification or reason for something that I could find.
Complicated interesting stories are great but they can’t be so complicated as to be rendered almost incomprehensible. At times it felt almost as if too many ideas were being worked into one story. Egyptian mythology, magic, coming of age, space travel, saving the world, falling in love, rebelling against your parents, revenge, action – it is quite a bit for one story. Not to mention jumping back and forth between Earth, a far off planet and some moon and about 12 different story lines.
The ending of this book really chapped my hide though. It was as if someone cut the power to the TV 10 minutes before end of a movie you had never seen or ripped out the last 10 pages of a book you had never read.
It may seem like I am being really harsh and critical – and I am – but it is because there is some really great potential in there. Joshua Silverman needs a really firm editor to help focus his ideas and he could be creating something amazing. Someone to help him sift through and hone what is a potentially a really great story.
All in all this is a book with great potential but that probably needed another round of editing before being released.

Dead Ever After – Charlaine Harris #review

sookieHad I not been reading it on my Nook I would have thrown this book at the wall.

The 13th and final Sookie Stackhouse novel was a complete disappointment. Character choices make no sense. Continuity has left the building.

 

Now – if you haven’t read the book and don’t want spoilers I suggest you stop reading now.

 

I usually try to do spoiler free reviews but in this instance I can not explain my profound disappointment in this book without spoiling.

 

 

 

 

Sookie Loves Eric. Eric loves Sookie. Unless we have entered an alternate dimension it makes absolutely no sense for her to end up with Sam. He is a nice enough guy but he is not her endgame.

Charlaine Harris has spent the last 11 books developing a relationship between Sookie and Eric that is complex and interesting and real. And as a reader I became deeply invested in this relationship.

So when in this last book she decides to for some inexplicable reason turn Eric into some 2 dimensional stereotype of the vampires she created it pissed me off. Abandoning the relationship she had crafted in favor of a cop out pissed me off.

I think Ms. Harris got to a point about ½ way through book 12 when she started thinking “hmm – how do I give Eric and Sookie a happy ending?”

That is her first error. We don’t need a Happily-Ever-After. Human/fairy in love with a Vampire – it is complicated. We get that.

I think she got hung up on having to neatly tie it all up. Does Sookie become a vampire? Does Eric somehow become human? Do they both become trolls? There are a lot of options.

My theory is that she copped-out. She couldn’t decide which way to go with them so she chickened out and decided to go with a safe option. A nice much more human compatible shifter. Someone she can grow old with and die with and have little furry babies with.

Completely ignoring the fact that it makes no sense. Let’s just have Sookie raise him from the dead and that will magically also turn him into the perfect man for her.

But Ms. Harris really underestimated her readers with this one.

We didn’t need that perfect ending – just an ending where Eric and Sookie are together muddling through it like the rest of us.

And what is with the Fairy Claude revenge plot line? Either he is really smart and conniving or he isn’t. You can’t have it both ways. Either way the sheer elaborateness of  it makes no sense for his endgame – a dead Sookie.

Then let’s parade through a whole bunch of characters for no real reason. I like a weretiger as much as the next girl – but what purpose did he serve?

Then we get back to the continuity issues. A full list could be a book. One of the most obvious being that suddenly Sookie can’t hear Shifter or Were thoughts. In the past Sam could actively block her but she could still hear them clearly if he wasn’t. Now suddenly they are just fuzzy abstract concepts.

I am just one voice being added to the many – but I almost wish I hadn’t read it at all. Like many readers I had overlooked the minor continuity issues and occasional weak story or character – because the sum of the parts was worth it.

No more.

I despise the book most for essentially castrating Eric. She stripped the character of every bit of emotional depth and complexity and humanity she had built.

Terminal (Book 6 of Tunnels Series) By Roderick Gordon & Brian WIlliams

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I love you and I hate you Roderick Gordon (an your co-conspirator Brian Williams)!
Love you because the “Tunnels” series of books have been one of the most phenomenal series I have ever come across. Notice I don’y say YA series, just series – because this is not merely a YA series. It is a fantastic series for adults.
Hate you because you have said this is the last in that series. And that is just not acceptable.
I discovered the “Tunnels” series by accident one day at B&N. I was just wondering through the kids section looking for new YA series and the cover of the first book caught my eye. I picked it up, went and got a venti passion tea lemonade and sat down to see how it was. 3 1/2 hours later I had finished the first book, was completely hooked, and looking for the next one. And the next one. The first three books were out and I devoured them within 48 hours.
Then came the wait. For the 4th book… and the 5th book… and the 6th book (you know, that supposedly final one). I actually ordered the last 2 directly from Britain so I didn’t have to wait 4 months or more for the U.S. release date.
Terminal – the sixth book. Wow. It picks up right where Spiral left off. Literally. In the middle of a free fall struggle between Jiggs and a Styx limiter. Will and Elliott are still trying to save the world. Chester has gone a bit off his rocker (not that you can really blame him) and at least one Rebecca remains.
Amazing stuff. Finding out more about the Styx was fantastic and threw a couple of curve-balls I wasn’t fully expecting. Hints that had been dropped in the previous books now made sense.
I still thoroughly enjoy the world that has been created. A subterranean world beneath our own and another world below that. Layers upon layers that make sense and pull you into a story that is compelling.
And much like another favorite author, George R. R. Martin, Gordon and Williams have no fear of sacrificing characters for the sake of the story. As a reader it sometimes sucks, of course, but it serves the greater purpose of the story. So, even as my heart, which has become sincerely attached is screaming “Nooooo”, I know I will love the story to follow even more because of it.
If you are confused by any of that then you need to go read the books before continuing.
I mean it. They are unbelievably fantastic books.
And after this point “thar be spoilers” (please read in your best pirate voice for full effect).

 

 

 

 

Last chance before the spoilers…

 

 

 

 

 

 
If you are still reading I am assuming you have read the book (and the whole series for that matter) or you are one of those sick twisted individuals who doesn’t like to be surprised in a book.
Will and Elliott – I’m still a little heartbroken. I want them to finally be happy after everything… I’m actually still hoping… 7th book? Pretty please?
And Chester? I know it is a more realistic ending – but he had been through so much already – to put him back with Martha – brilliant and heart wrenching.
Did not see the earth as spaceship thing coming at all. But it makes sense and totally sent me trolling through the past books looking for clues and hints that I felt sure I had missed or misinterpreted.

I want – nay – need to know more  of this story.

The Last Secret of the Temple

I would not have found this book if not for the Nook free Friday offerings. I am so glad I did though. A “thriller set against the tumultuous politics of the present-day Middle East” is not a book I would normally pick up, but this was a pleasant surprise. There is an intriguing mix of history, politics, religion and mysticism that grabs you and keeps you in the story.

My knowledge of the Middle East as it currently exists is probably on par with most Westerners. My historical context is perhaps slightly above the average, but not by a whole lot. Where I feel I have a certainly more than fair grasp of the context is the religious history and folklore. Why am I telling you this – so you can understand better what I brought into reading this book.

It would be so very easy to adopt a moral position and tone and turn any story set against this backdrop into a heavy-handed lecture. Paul Sussman not only avoids this trap, but makes it seem effortless to have done so.

The 3 main characters are an Egyptian police inspector, a Palestinian journalist and a Jewish detective. A diverse cast, but even more interesting is the fact that for a good portion of the book they inhabit their own worlds only being brought into each other’s as the book nears its climax.

Oddly I found myself relating most closely to the middle aged Muslim Egyptian detective, Khalifa. His love of history and sadness at giving up the life he had planned paired with his love of family, questions about his faith and his sense of right and wrong is perfect. Arieh and Layla are dynamic and fully developed characters as well. In Arieh, the Jewesh detective, Sussman gives us a man grieving, hurt and angry – but who still wants to do what is right, even if he isn’t sure what that is. The Palestinian journalist Layla is hard and fierce but also vulnerable deep down inside.  The history given to both of them deepens not only the characters but the reader’s understanding of the two sides involved in this ever present conflict.

Add to this a brilliant storyline crossing centuries and continents and what you have is an amazing book. The way in which the story weaves together is always fascinating and the pattern that develops constantly surprises but never in a contrived or forced way.

I took more time reading this book than I normally do. As I read very quickly normally and would usually have finished this book in less than 4 hours I was surprised to find that I spent about 6 ½ hours reading this. Part of that can be attributed to pausing to research a couple of things, but mostly it was because it caused be to think about my own beliefs and prejudices.

This book is described as a thriller, which it most definitely is, but it is also part political and social commentary – in the best way.

Thank you Paul Sussman for an exciting, well written and moving book.

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.