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Review of His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

His Majesty's Dragon - Naomi Novik

Anyone who loves stories with dragons should read this!

 

The storyline is basically about a naval commander who comes into ownership of a dragon egg and, when it hatches, the dragon chooses him as his rider. They join the aviator army.

 

What I loved most about this was the relationship of Laurence and his dragon, Temeraire. It developed fast, sometimes feeling a bit too quick, but it brought the story along at a nice pace. Temeraire is a character in and of himself. Though the story follows Laurence’s PoV solely—which I must say was a great choice by Novik—the dragon still shined in its own way. However, I was caught up most in Laurence’s story. 

 

The world is set in the Napoleonic Wars but with dragons. Brilliantly done. I’m not a history buff, but I never felt bored or bogged down by military tactics or lines upon lines of history. Instead, it just moved along and I felt as comfortable as if the setting were entirely imaginary. This makes me believe that both those interested in this particular part of history and those not will enjoy it equally. 

 

With that said, Laurence is a man born of station and thus under ridicule for his choices by the society he kept. His proper manners and how he carries himself in his new station—which was way less formal—were handled incredibly well. I felt for him and his struggles, and Novik, in my mind, did a brilliant job conveying it all.

 

The action scenes were great, the pacing wonderful. The plot isn’t complicated but is far from boring. I will say it took me a bit to adjust to Novik’s writing style. It felt a bit choppy with an excessive use of colons and semicolons. Not that I felt they were used improperly, but I’ve never read a book that favored them so. Also, for those visual folks like me, take a look in the back of the book before you start. Novak has a few diagrams that help show us rigging and compares some dragon sizes. I wish I would have seen it at the beginning.

 

Overall, this is a great fantasy and an incredible book for those who love dragons. I highly recommend it.

Review of Th Benighted by A.M. Dunnewin

The Benighted (The Benighted Saga) - A.M. Dunnewin, Noah Schwinghamer

So this year is starting out great for reading!

 

To boil down the plot, this is basically told from the perspective of an imprisoned princess, Skylar, who is tortured to get her to accept the terms of her usurpers. The book description nails it.

 

It’s an incredibly fast read. I blew through it in half a day. After my last read, I wanted something a little more lighthearted, and though Skylar’s situation and treatment is appalling, compared to what I just read it was exactly what I was looking for. It had hope, love, and heroes. 

 

We start the story right after Skylar is imprisoned and we learn how she got there and of her Benighted protecter, Harlin, by means of flashbacks. Initially, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it, but Dunnewin did a great job easing us from one to the other. My only complaint was it wasn’t very chronological. I would have liked it a bit more streamlined. A minor nit-pick.

 

I found Skylar to be a very likable heroine. She’s coming into a situation that’s difficult and she has been given no tools on how to cope with it, but she manages to make good choices sprinkled by a few not so good. It was interesting to see her grow and learn under some instruction by her Benighted, who himself verged on intriguing. I think my problem with Harlin was he was a little too collected, and we saw him through Skylar’s eyes with her perceptions. There was a more romantic tone to it than I was expecting. It lacked a bit of action throughout, which based on a badass Benighted character I was expecting more. However, the story moved fast enough I never noticed until it was over. I’m hoping the next book will show us more of Harlin’s skill. Matter of fact, I’d love it from his PoV.

 

Now, I’ve said the book was light, but I’ve come off of a rather gritty tale. There’s torture and murder and a darker tone, so be prepared. The writing was nice, the pace enough to keep me interested, and the story, while not unique, was told well. The world was built up enough for me.

 

Overall, if you’re looking for an entertaining, fast read, I suggest giving this a go. I really enjoyed it.

Review of Havoc's Cry by Loren Weaver

Havoc's Cry (Victoria Novak: Paranormal Division) - Loren Weaver

This book basically follows Victoria as she becomes a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Paranormal and hunts down a murderer.

 

I’m going to start by saying I don’t have a lot of experience with urban/paranormal books. I’ve been branching out to them lately and have found that I can enjoy them so long as they have the right tone. In my limited experience, I’ve never run across a world such as the one in this book where the monsters are out in plain view, actual citizens. They usually skulk in the shadows, and only a few know about them and kill them. In this book, there’s vampires and lycanthropes, witches and sorceresses and sorcerers. The normal humans know about their existence, and the paranormal has recently been accepted, so to speak. They are still feared, but the witch hunting and vampire staking is dwindling. The division Victoria joins is there to help these paranormals with crimes against them. It was an interesting take. Now, I’m not a fan of the standard vampire and werewolf monsters. I feel they’ve been overdone. I feel I haven’t seen/read anything new. The creatures in this book don’t strike me as completely unique, but I did enjoy the story despite the standard. The nuances introduced helped me stomach it all.

 

As for the characters, I wasn’t in love with Victoria, which made it slightly challenging because it’s written in first person. I didn’t hate her, just didn’t really connect to her. She’s supposed to be a sassy girl with a harsh past. In the paranormal community, she’s a legend of sorts. I like sassy. I like legend. But to me she came across more haughty. Instead of her hard life haunting her, she seemed to throw it out there for attention. Perhaps I’m used to my characters brooding a bit more, holding their pasts closer, hoarding all that pain. When she would mention a horror from her past or anything about her abilities, she would congratulate herself when she scored shock from her audience. It’s a nit picky thing, but one that got on my nerves. I think I would have liked her more if she wasn’t so proud of how people reacted. 

 

As for the other characters, I found Trey extremely likable. A good guy at heart and a badass werewolf. We’re given hints that he’s got a dominant side to him, though we’re not shown. Kinda wish I’d seen him go crazy badass. Honestly, he’s the reason I’ll return to this series. The other characters were a bit blended, but this is the first in the series. I’m hoping future books really make them stick out from one another. 

 

I found a good amount of typos. Unfortunately, this got really bogged down by redundancy. I knew Trey was affectionate because he was a werewolf. I didn’t need to hear about it every chapter. Victoria was constantly giving herself “brownie points” which stuck out more often than it should have, probably adding to the reasons I didn’t love her. 

 

Overall, this review might sound negative but I do think I’ll pick up the next book. I’m curious enough about the world and the characters to give the series another go. If you’re a diehard paranormal/urban fantasy reader, I’d recommend giving this a try.

 

Review of One by Ron Glick

One (The Godslayer Cycle Volume 1) - Ron Glick, Pamela L Phelps

But it is the way of corrupt men to protect other corrupt men.

 

To boil down this plot, it’s about a man deciding if he will help the old gods kill off some new gods (or rather, the New Order), and another guy who picks up a sword meant for the chosen guy and then thinks he’s a god because of the sword’s power. And then there’s a priestess of the New Order who learns her god was not all she had thought.

 

If this book was half the length, I would have loved it. As it was, it just felt entirely too long, drawn out, redundant, and slow. Shame, cause I really did enjoy the basic story.

 

The world was focused on religion instead of government, but what we learned was good enough for me to be satisfied with the world building. Others might find it slightly lacking, as we really are focused purely on the religion aspect.The New Order has come to the world and taken over the worshippers of the old gods, thus making them pretty much powerless. Magic is explored, how gods receive their power is explored, and our characters’ struggles to decide what to do is definitely explored. All in detail. For me, too much exposition and not enough story movement. Like I said, if all this exploration would have been cut in half, I might have really enjoyed this. As it was, I skimmed. A lot. 

 

The characters were explored enough. I felt I knew what motivated them, their struggles, their reasoning. However, if I look back, they felt a tiny bit flat. Through all the pages of dialog, I never felt a personality really shine. Of course, this could be simply because I did skim, or because it all felt long and my mind wasn’t in it 100%. Shame, because as I said, the story idea, while not completely original, was still fun and interesting. Also, the dwarf’s dialog was a pain to read. The accent used was fun at first, but when you get into pages of conversations, it isn’t fun anymore.

 

Now, I keep saying it was a long read. For me, the writing was heavy. Meaning, the sentences were incredibly lengthy at times, there was a lot of word repetition from one sentence to the next, and I felt a lot of redundancies in not only musings of the characters but settings as well. Here’s an example:

Up until four years ago, Nathaniel had actually lived in town and had witnessed quite a few oddities himself. Only Bracken himself knew many had come before Nathaniel had begun frequenting the tavern or since he had moved his family out of the town proper, moving into the property he had inherited from his mother.

That’s only two sentences. This happened a lot, which is why I ended up skimming. 

 

The other thing that threw me off was the head hopping. There was a lot. Paragraph to paragraph sometimes. I can’t remember ever loving a book that head hopped, except for the Dragonlance books. Those will always get a pass. For me, I just can’t sink myself into a story if I’m moving from character to character so abruptly.

 

Again, the story idea was great. Mortals caught in the middle a power struggle between two sets of gods. A few men and women chosen to be their vessels to gain dominance and kill off the losing gods. A beaten down outcast coming into power and how he handles it. All great potential, all interesting and fun. It just didn’t get there fast enough for me.

 

Overall, this is a great story idea that took too long to unravel and move. It’s not a short 200 page book that you can blow through. It’s over 400 pages. However, it’s got a great average rating on Goodreads. For those with patience, you might really enjoy this. Sadly, I lack a drop of patience.

Review of The Last Dragon Slayer by Martyn Stanley

Deathsworn Arc: The Last Dragon Slayer - Martyn Stanley

Years and years ago, I might have really enjoyed this book. It’s a very, very lighthearted fantasy. It’s from the days of old school fantasy where a group sets out on a task. They pick up companions along the way, they talk, and run into a few bandits and towns with problems. The tone is incredibly light. Not humorous, just light and airy. It’s not what I’m in the mood for as of late, unless it’s blown out of the park. Meaning, I don’t mind a light story, mixed with humor, and lots of action. I don’t mind quest driven stories. This simply fell a little flat for me.

 

First off, the world and storyline are very standard. An emperor sets a wizard on a quest to kill a dragon. There’s unrest with orcs invading and the kingdom is stretched too thin to give up troops to assist said wizard. So he finds his own would-be-heroes, saves some elves along the way, and voila! We’re on our way. There’s not much more to the world than that. Those not heavy into world building will find this just fine.

‘’

If this maybe had humor, I could have gotten more involved. If it had way less dialog, I could’ve been drawn in. With a quest type storyline, I thought I would have had some great character moments, but they all seemed flat. I never felt like I knew any of them. One elf undergoes training a human, and that seemed to take up way too much page time, for me. I got bored and found myself skimming. The magic of whispering was pretty nifty. The elf “whispered” to heal the body, to take control over someone, to turn the tides in a fight. The way it was described a few times kept my interest in it.

 

Another thing that was distracting was all the head hopping. Again, very reminiscent of old fantasy. I like to stick with one character until there’s a clear break, so the head hopping definitely pulled me out of the book several times. There’s some poor comma usage, like not using it around names. That’ll always slow down my reading.

 

Overall, I think many people will like this book. For me, I like a little more darkness in my story, characters that struggle with their past, and a lot more action or movement. This has received a very decent rating on Goodreads, which goes to show that it’s just not up my alley. Others have found it enjoyable. So if you want a light read, you should check this one out.

Review of The Feral

The Feral (Empire One Mission Files:) - David Elias Jenkins

He took a few beatings for it, his drunken father calling him a wastrel, but Isaac knew life was about beatings and tempering, like hardening steel.

 

Isaac did not understand how in modern time people managed to put an invisible barrier between themselves and horror using nothing but a smartphone, but it seemed to work in countless tragedies of recent times.

As long as you’re watching it on a screen it isn’t real.

 

As they desperately mumbled some final pleading prayer to the lord of whatever gospels they followed, Usher usually gave them his own ‘good news’ with both barrels.

 

After so many years of deniable missions, compromised morality and putrid violence, Usher’s conscience was a battered and starved legionnaire, broken down and rebuilt from scratch, who did not usually speak until spoken to.

 

It severed two of them in half with one swipe, spattering the gleaming walls in dark gore, and spilling metres of intestines onto the floor like discarded rubber tubing.

 

This is super hard for me to write. There were parts of this book I really liked, and there were parts I didn’t. It was such a swing from one side to another that I ended up just bumping up my rating. It could’ve gone either way, honestly.

 

Boiled down storyline is about some bad guys from another realm trying to infiltrate our world. The good guys try to stop it.

 

I thought is was refreshing to get an urban/paranormal fantasy where the character is not some lone wolf or detective or go it alone cop. It’s a branch of the military specifically there for the supernatural and we follow a team as they go about trying to uncover what the bad guys are up to. Some of the creatures in here were great. And some of the action scenes simply amazing. I love gore, and this book delivered some tastefully drawn death scenes and fights. It felt realistic, which I loved. The first two action scenes were a nail-biting good time. Actually, I adored the first quarter of this book. I was getting some good character building and action in at once. It was great. Then ...

 

I can’t peg what exactly lost me. I will say there were thoughts that seemed redundant. I felt we were getting to really know two characters and then all that development waned. The team we were following didn’t get fleshed out enough for me in the beginning. There were some parts toward the end that really gave some insight, but receiving it so late did little to regain my love. There was some head-hopping. Nothing too jarring, but when most of the chapter is with one person and a few paragraphs skip, it always pulls me right out of the story. I wish we would have been with the character during a couple scenes, forgoing that omniscient PoV. 

 

There was a wide range of characters in this book. As I said, in the beginning I was really getting into Isaac’s character, but then I lost him. Usher had promise, but I never connected with him. And the others took too long to draw me in. I will say Ariel was a great character. The instant we were in his PoV, I got him. He felt the most developed to me, a scared scientist thrown into an undercover situation. He had all the right emotions, and they were explored perfectly.

 

I must say that what I enjoyed the most were the bad guys. They were hard to beat, which made the action scenes awesome. The good/bad guy in this was incredibly fun.

 

There were a few proofreading errors and some odd comma usage. The typos are not abundant, so they never bothered me. However, the odd comma usage took me a while to adjust. For example, there were no comma’s around names, so it threw me occasionally.

 

As far as pacing goes, I’d say the entire book read long. There was action, but some scenes felt drawn out and really slowed down the story. I admit I did a bit of skimming here and there in order to get to the good parts. When it moved, it moved. But a lot felt slow. Especially in the middle. I always feel that way, though, if I haven’t latched on to a character. It makes a book hard to pick up.

 

Overall, I love the military angle and the bad guys and the gory action scenes. However, I wish I was entrenched with the characters more. With such a mixed outlook, I’m walking away indecisive. 

 

Source: http://booksbylkevans.com/2015/12/03/review-of-the-feral-by-david-elias-jenkins

Review of Aeronaut's Windlass

The Aeronaut's Windlass - Jim  Butcher

But fear was a disease that could swell and spread, incapacitating crews and bringing on the destruction that had been dreaded in the first place.

 

It was a well-known fact that humans become more addled than usual when running in herds.

 

“In my experience, the worst madmen don’t seem odd at all,” Grimm said. “They appear to be quite calm and rational, in fact. Until the screaming starts.”

 

This is a hard review to write. I love Butcher. I’m in love with his writing. But ...

 

Basically this story follows quite a few characters as they embark on a mission to save the Spire Albion.

 

I had a hard time understanding the world. It didn’t feel explored enough. Perhaps it’s because I’m new to the steampunkish type worlds, but I didn’t have any visual images unless we were with the ships. I get there’s a council and some Spirach or something or rather, but the cities themselves I just didn’t get. I’m not sure I can blame Butcher. My imagination has always struggled with new worlds, but I’ve read a few reviews where other readers were experiencing the same problems.

 

The characters were legion. Okay, that might have been a bit dramatic. There’s five different PoV’s we hear from, but tons more characters. I normally don’t mind, but for some reason I struggled with that in this book. I loved Captain Grim. Great character, in my mind. It also doesn’t hurt that he was an airship captain, and I loved the airships. There’s a wealth of character types in this book. You have the loyal honorable Captain, a snotty but well-meant strong young female, a brave logical thinking young female, a warriorborn young man with super human strength, a quirky young female, and then the cat. Yes, there’re cats in this book. I love cats. Heck, I love all animals. There were cat moments that were hilarious. But most of the time I found those sections slow. That’s not the cat’s fault. Which brings me to pacing.

 

Butcher can write action scenes. He’s proven it in his Dresden series and this was no different. When there was action, I couldn’t put the book down, especially when the airships were involved. Butcher creates amazing tension and can expertly paint the scene. But when there wasn’t action, I had a really hard time pushing through the book. A really hard time. Matter of fact, anytime we weren’t in the airships, I had a hard time. So be prepared for some dialog heavy, slow scenes. It’s a long book, so these seem come up a lot.

 

I love Butcher’s writing. I really do. It flows effortlessly. It can draw wonderful images, make you feel what the characters feel, and delve out some lovely thoughts. None of that changed in this book, just the story itself moved slowly.

 

So overall, I’m definitely going to pick up the next one in the series. If you’re a huge Butcher fan, you should read it. Just be prepared for a book that moves way slower than his Dresden series.

Source: http://booksbylkevans.com/2015/11/19/review-of-the-aeronauts-windlass-by-jim-butcher

Review of No Dogs in Philly

No Dogs in Philly - Andy Futuro

There are some books that just don’t click. It’s not necessarily the book’s fault. I’m a picky reader, so I find a lot of books that fall into this rating for me. It’s got a lot of good reviews on Goodreads, which goes to show how picky I can be. I say to the book: It’s not you, it’s me.

 

To really summarize the plot, it’s basically about stopping killers offing blue-eyed girls. There’s some gods involved, different classes of people, and dark forces.

 

First and foremost, I didn’t like the main character. I didn’t like her voice, her actions, or her approach. I don’t mind a rough around the edges character. Matter of fact, the more flaws the better. I like a strong, kickass female lead. I don’t mind if she’s got a mouth on her, enjoys sex, and is rebellious. But Saru takes all those to an extreme, verging on just raunchy, unlikeable, and immature. It was her tone that set me off. So without having a remotely likable character for me, I just didn’t get into it.

 

Character aside, the world was—for me—extremely confusing in the beginning. A lot of terms tossed at me with little to no explanation. I got it soon enough, but it threw me right from the start. However, the world was not without some fun. Her car could drive itself home without her and there was a fun story that went along with that tidbit. Another cool part was that most people had implants that put the internet in their heads, basically. They could search and stream stuff without any computer. She could tune her body so she looked like she was interested in a conversation when she was really watching television in her mind. I found that incredibly fun, though it took me a bit to understand that was what was happening. Other than that, I’m not sure I ever got a good feel for the world. No big picture. However, this could be because of my lack of imagination. The classes of people were interesting, and how each viewed the other was intriguing. Definitely added some depth to the story.

 

The first chapter was a job Saru had finished. It was long and since all we’re given of it is merely a recap, it was fairly boring. I didn’t find it was all needed. Especially in the beginning. These recaps happened a few more times, all of which I had a difficult time plugging through. They slowed down the pacing and I found it hard to push through quite a few sections. Especially since some internal thoughts seemed really drawn out. I ended up skimming a bit.

 

The writing had some moments, but more often than not, I just didn’t connect. I’m a woman. And our main protagonist is a woman. And I can say with absolute certainty that when I’m scared, my breasts have never, ever tingled. Nor have I ever wanted to jam knitting needles in my breasts when I hear a grating sound. It’s not that I find this offensive, it just ... well, it just didn’t make sense to me. I don’t know, maybe my breasts are sleeping on the job.

 

I always felt at a distance with the book. The pacing was on the slow side with—for me—entirely too much internal ramblings that added little to the story and felt too long. A few fun and interesting moments along with some of the ideas were all that kept me going. This review sounds really negative, but the world had fun, intriguing nuances which is why I didn't give up on it.

 

Overall, it was the tone of the main character that kept pushing me from loving this story. Again, I’ll remind potential readers that there’s a lot of good reviews for this book, so I suggest checking out a sample (Futuro has a few on his website as well as Amazon's preview options).

Source: http://booksbylkevans.com/2015/11/12/review-of-no-dogs-in-philly-by-andy-futuro

Review of Nightlife by Rob Thurman

Nightlife - Rob Thurman

Still, Grendels weren’t above using humans, and most humans weren’t above being used.

 

The monsters were there for anyone who just opened his eyes and looked. But ignorance is bliss and there were billions of blissful people in this world.

 

Maybe stupidity was a demon all its own.

 

Funny thing about faith ... it goes a lot faster than it comes.

 

Snap judgments? I’d gotten over those about the time I was toilet trained. Swore off diapers and faith in the human experience all in one week. You had to admire my efficiency.

 

Wouldn’t it be a stupid question really? Kind of like asking someone how it felt to be in hell. Hey, just how hot is it down there, huh? Is it the heat or the humidity? And, hey, is that torture and disemboweling by demons, really as bad as they say it is? Jesus. There’s a sheer level of awfulness that’s incapable of being put into words, a terror so intense it can’t be expressed.

 

Have you ever noticed how people, humans, tend to revert to children in times of great stress? It’s not necessarily that they want someone to take responsibility or to take care of them. And it’s not that they lose the capacity to understand what’s going on. What they do lose is the knowledge that life isn’t fair. As their life is falling apart around them, they absolutely refuse to believe it’s happening, right down to the last second. They start life as a child; they end life as a child.

 

I've said it before: I love stories with close sibling relationships and it'd be damned hard for me not to like a book that contains one. This was no exception.

 

Basic storyline follows two brothers. The younger (Cal) is part elf, and not the glowing Lord of the Rings kind. They are dark and viscous. And they want Cal for their own evil agenda. The older brother has given up his own life to protect his younger brother. It’s told in first person by Cal.

 

There's a wide range of monsters in this book, which is always fun. They're not all bad, and I found one of the good guys utterly entertaining. Not to mention how well he was developed and how nicely he fit into the plot. I really liked the interaction between the monsters and the brothers. The only thing I can see ruining this series for me is a vampire potential romance. I like my vampires bad. Or at least acknowledge how horrible they are. Butcher does this brilliantly. He has a vampire that's on his side, but never romanticizes the hunger of the vampire.

 

The brothers themselves are done nicely. I like their relationship. Cal is full of self loathing. I like my characters to struggle with who they are, and since Cal's father is a monster, he has every right to wonder about himself. It fits a kid of his age. For some, his ramblings might become tiresome. He might sound whiney or self-centered, but I never had a problem with him. His brother ... well, I think he was a little too badass. He knows everything and it made it difficult to relate to him. He's a badass fighter, book smart, healthy, and has crazy instincts. I wish he was a bit more flawed. Or more down to earth. Regardless, I still enjoyed parts of him and his interaction with Cal.

 

The pacing was rather slow at times, but I never had a hard time picking it back up. Just be prepared for drawn out scenes that are more about fleshing out characters than moving the story along. Since I love moments where we get to know characters (as long as they're entertaining), it didn’t really bother me or slow me down.

 

The writing itself was good. It flowed nicely and painted some great pictures. I loved some of Cal’s musing, and his voice never changed. Thurman kept him consistent even while he grew as a character. I also love that I never felt bogged down by lengthy descriptions. There was plenty to get the imagination flowing.

 

The world is urban fantasy, so not much to talk about there. The monster world fits in nicely and I never felt like I didn’t understand what was going on. I think there’s a lot more potential in the next book. I’m curious to see where Thurman takes it. Seems like it’s kinda all wrapped up with this book.

 

So overall, it was good and I plan on continuing the series. I’m not usually fond of young adult books, but this one didn’t have some love triangle or some swooning girl who couldn’t live without a boy. Always a bonus.

Source: http://booksbylkevans.com/2015/10/28/review-of-city-of-burning-shadows-by-barbara-j-webb

Review of City of Burning Shadows

City of Burning Shadows (Apocrypha: The Dying World) - Barbara J. Webb

They used to call Miroc the city where even the gods wouldn’t walk alone after dark. Now the gods are gone, I don’t know what they toss around to scare the tourists, but the sentiment remains true.

 

We’d been in love, but life had intervened.

 

But human nature is what it is, and division breeds competition, which breeds separation and resentment and ... well, you get the idea.

 

I. Loved. A sci-fi book. This is a first. I’m so proud of myself, and I have Webb to thank for it. And Mr. Mark Lawrence for hosting The Great Self-published Fantasy Blog-off! (http://mark---lawrence.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/the-great-self-published-fantasy-blog.html). 

 

So first off, this story is rather hard to summarize. It’s got a lot going on. If I really boil it down, it’s about a priest and his quest to save his city. It’s so much more than that, though.

 

The world is incredibly built. Gods have abandoned it, leaving it to turn upon itself. The priests of these gods are treated poorly by most. There’s some great races in here, each belonging to one of the gods. The setting has a post apocalyptic feel without it being trope. The city still functions, somewhat. There’s a council that’s barely holding things together. People still work, but most of the city has gone to hell. 

 

What I loved most was how well the world was described. It was familiar enough that I could easily imagine it, yet unique enough that I was completely intrigued. Oh, and it had magic! I love magic! So it made everything so much more wonderful. It had the perfect amount of detail to please both the world building fans as well as those who find world building tedious.

 

Oh, and let me tell you how wonderfully delightful I found the pacing. The story moved. When there wasn’t action, there was something as equally enthralling. And the action scenes were done brilliantly. I eased into them and had vivid pictures running around in my head. This would make a great movie, by the way.

 

As far as the characters, I found each developed nicely. Obviously our main protagonist was done brilliantly. Ash had a rough past, and might have withdrawn a bit, but when push came to shove, he was there. Definitely a guy you can get behind and root for. I’m not character obsessed. I wish I was. But the world was enough to make up for it. As I said, the other characters were great as well. All felt fleshed out, each with their own voice, each having a great impact.

 

I’ll tell you, the last 80% flew by. There was so much going on, so many questions, so much treachery around every corner, that you actually felt the same despair as the characters. I wanted to cave to panic right along side Ash. Though it took me a long time to read it, it wasn’t the book’s fault. Life got in the way. When I did have time, I blew through it. 

 

So overall, if you’re hesitant about sci-fi, I’d recommend this. If you’re a hard core fan, I think you’d enjoy it. I plan on recommending it to quite a few people.

Source: http://booksbylkevans.com/2015/10/28/review-of-city-of-burning-shadows-by-barbara-j-webb

Review of Pillars of Natura by Lee Aarons

The Realmwalker Chronicles: The Pillars of Natura, Volume 1 - Lee Aarons

I admit I’m drawn to books that feature a sibling relationship. I’ve said in the past that I’d be hard pressed not to like a book with a strong sibling bond. So for me, that part kept my interest where it otherwise might have waned.

 

As the blurb states, this is basically about the twins coming into their destinies. Not quite a full-fledged coming of age, but you get that sense, nonetheless.

 

First off, the world was nicely touched upon. For this being centered in one small town where mixed races are outcast, the world was developed nicely. There were a few paragraphs that bordered on info dumping, but they were short enough not to bother me. There’s mention of religions and cultures, and though we only got a small taste, I’m sure more is to come in the other books as the characters travel. This one was short, so I’m happy Aarons didn’t try to shove more down my throat than what was relevant to the story.

 

There’s some magic that I think could prove quite fun to read about in future books. Again, since this is a very short beginning, the characters weren’t given tons of opportunity to use magic. But what we’re shown has a nice range, hinting that so much more is available for the characters to use. It ranged from slowing time to manipulating plants to communicating with animals.

 

The story is focused mainly on Kanias, a Seraph that happens upon the outcast village, and of the twins, Raine and Rennick, both of whom are chosen. Trope it is, but I didn’t mind. As I’ve mentioned, this book is short, so character development was ... how should I say ... abrupt? One minute the twins are run of the mill, the next Raine is powerful and seemingly adjusting well to her new role. Sure there’s some struggles, but it all felt rushed. Rennick processed things much more realistically. That being said, I did enjoy the twins and their relationship. I’m hoping it’s explored more in future books, perhaps showing me their closeness with situations rather than stating it. Which brings me to how much I loved the beginning. It might have started out slow, but the first action scene was done brilliantly, in my opinion. It showed me the concern Rennick had for his sister embedded in some great pacing and a tense scene. If not for that, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the story as much as I did. Without it, I wouldn’t have grasped the closeness Rennick and Raine shared.

 

Kanias, however, felt very stationary throughout the story. Granted, it’s short, he’s older and more adjusted to his role, and obviously the twins are our main protagonist. That said, I still wish he would have been fleshed out a bit more.

 

Speaking of pacing, this reads quickly. There were some slow spots, but nothing so boring that I didn’t plow through them. I have to mention, as I do every time I encounter it, there are some errors in this book. I’ve said in the past that I don’t have the best eye for proofreading errors, so if I saw some, there’s probably more. There were a few awkward paragraphs that switched to present tense, forgoing the past tense of the rest of the novel. Obviously those sections stuck out. Also, I felt the writing was strong in the first half of the book, however, later on it seemed to move faster, giving less sensory input and an abundance of duplicated words. It wasn’t enough to turn me off from the story, but I missed the feel of the first part of the book.

 

So overall, it was a great way to pass some time. Because of the twins, I’ll definitely pick up the second book. I’ve read that it’s better than the first, so it’s got my curiosity. If you like fantasy and don’t mind the “chosen one” trope, I’d recommend giving this a whirl.

Source: http://booksbylkevans.com/2015/10/21/the-pillars-of-natura-by-lee-aarons

Review of The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs

The Incorruptibles - John Hornor Jacobs

He hated them with a passion wronged men reserve for gods, dangerous women, and whiskey.

 

You can’t hear their screams of joy at freedom, the imps, but you can feel them, and every shot tears at the air, beats at your ears and exposed skin — as damaging as lying in the too-hot sun. It’s an invisible pressure. The pressure of damnation.

 

Cimbri’s moustache quivered. I couldn’t tell if it was anger or mirth or fleas.

 

The damnedest thing is, everyone is born into this world on the edge of a knife. From the time you’re wet and squalling — the slightest tip of the balance and you go sliding away, consumed by remorse, or guilt. Or revenge. Or even love. Only Ia knows how it will turn out, and he’s not telling.

Faith is just believing he cares.

 

I’ve been at the head, rear, and middle of a string of horses in my time, and they make a terrible ruckus. But once you get going, all those horses moving together, the wagon creaking, it’s a feeling like no other. All this life, Ia-given life, moving together with a single purpose. Damn shame, sometimes, when all that life comes together to take life. 

 

‘Fear is a taint that corrupts resolution,’

 

Oh boy, did I love this book!!! And not for the reasons I would have thought. It’s basically about two guys escorting a boat and its wealthy family down river and encountering challenge after challenge along the way. It starts out easy, then escalates throughout, and by the end, you feel as if the entire world hangs in the balance. Brilliant!

 

First off, the world is great, in my opinion. It has a western vibe blended with a dose of steam-punk (neither of which I have read before), sprinkled with some fantasy. The western part wasn’t over done, just a nice hint here and there, and I settled right into the fantasy part. Admittedly, I’m not versed enough in steam-punk to really speak intelligently about how well it was done in this book. For an inexperienced reader, I thought it was utterly brilliant.

 

This is a first person narrative told by Shoestring the dwarf. It keeps close to him and his partner Fisk. Shoe is not what I would call your normal hero nor is the story really focused solely on him. Fisk seems to play a much bigger role, but Shoe has a way about telling this story that makes you root for both of them. Not only that, but you feel really connected to Shoe, despite the fact that he isn’t the main focus of the story. The family they escort was diverse and fleshed out nicely, the legionnaire had enough screen time to make us feel as if we knew them as well as Shoe and Fisk, and the engineers were artfully drawn. I wasn’t character obsessed by any of them, but I found all the characters — even the ones I hated — fascinating. 

 

For me, where this books shines the most was the use of Hell. I admit, when I first started reading this book, I thought when Shoe mentioned Hell or deamons it was more figuratively speaking. But no, he really meant Hell and demons. It. Was. Great!! Hellfire (their version of guns) was made by trapping a demon. Each bullet had a bad guy trapped in it. I mean, how great is that?!? Here’s when I admit that I’m kinda messed up. Even so, I like it when an author puts a spin on something I’m familiar with. Because I have a hard time with my imagination, it helps when it’s something I know. The way Jacobs utilizes hell and demons was just plain entertaining and creepy and poetically written at times. How Shoe feels about these creatures makes them even more terrible. I couldn’t get enough.

 

Which brings me to an overall statement: The bad guys in this book were incredibly entertaining, creepy (the stuff of nightmares), and painted beautifully by Jacobs writing. I loved them all. The fight scenes were tense and nail-biting. When I reached about half way, I couldn’t put the book down.

 

For me, I loved Jacobs’ writing. I thought it flowed wonderfully, and I easily slipped into my reading trance. He was a tad descriptive at times, but it was through Shoe’s eyes and it made them beautiful.

 

So overall, I absolutely loved this book. I’d recommend it to everyone. It’s got enough in there that any lover of fantasy should be satisfied. Seriously, a great read.

 

Source: http://booksbylkevans.com/2015/09/16/review-of-the-incorruptibles-by-john-hornor-jacobs

Review of Shower of Stones by Zachary Jernigan

Shower of Stones: A Novel of Jeroun - Zachary Jernigan

Normal men can indeed be turned into monsters — ordinary, unimaginative monsters. Even with their lives preserved for eons, they are of one design.

 

Being alone is easier than having a family. When you have a family, you are responsible to each other. It’s easier to navigate the world without that burden.

 

Without a path to redemption, a man would watch the world burn. With a measure of hope, the same man ...

Well. He would not be the same man, would he?

 

Men deluded themselves when they believed in better days, some bygone era when the sun shone brighter. Better days had never existed. Joy had always been stolen, and sweeter because of that fact.

 

Death. Once acknowledged, it could not be unseen.

 

Existence was not so simple as deciding upon ways to think.

“Much of existence is exactly that simple,”

 

Has the world always been this way? Does each world possess a god it must overcome to achieve adulthood?

 

A life could be so long, yet it still failed to teach one about death. That moment, he had always known, would not be meditative. Time would not wait, but hasten the end. It would come too fast, rendering all the periods of one’s life into a fleeting memory, no more substantial than any other life.

 

So this was interesting for me. Different from No Return. Or perhaps I’m a different reader. I’m not sure. I didn’t read the first one again, like I had wanted to. Instead, I jumped right into the second book. I kinda regret that decision, but it is what it is.

 

I’m not sure how to talk about this book without giving stuff away, but I’m going to try. Hopefully I can convey my thoughts in some form of intelligent sounding sentences. As far as a summary of this book’s plot, I’d have to refer to Jernigan’s blurb, which will make more sense than what I’m about to write. The story basically follows three of our main protagonist from No Return as they get caught up in a plot to save Jeroun. Although, that is really really simplified. So, let me get on with my thoughts.

 

As you can see from some of the quotes I listed above, there were some deep thoughts in this book. I’d consider this more reflective than a quest driven standard fantasy/sci-fi mix. Matter of fact, I don’t feel as if the characters changed a lot between the end of No Return and the end of Shower of Stones. Sure there was a little, but not nearly as much as in No Return. Shower of Stones seemed more of an examination of the what it means to live, to die, to love, to fear. That was the focus. Not a god constructing a world-destroying needle in space. At least, that was how I felt. Good? Bad? Yes. It would depend on what kind of mood you’re in and what kind of book you’re looking for. Personally, I enjoy the deep thoughts of Jernigan. I think that’s why I like his Bottom of the Sea shorty story compilation more than I did No Return. Those short stories have stuck with me ever since I read them.

 

Now, normally I’d throw myself a little tantrum and mope around about not having that intense character obsession that I love. I didn’t, though. Instead, I used my pitiful imagination to connect with Jernigan’s writing. When something happened, it wasn’t stated as a fact, it was explored in detail. For instance, there is a scene of a character waking after surviving a horrible experience. The sensations and his physical state were described over about two pages, and then his recollection of events for perhaps another two. The characters in this book are always thinking, and we are along for that ride. It makes for a long read, and if you really, really boil down the plot, not much happens.

 

The length of the book is made up of musings and imagery. As some of you know, the imagery part should have prompted a level of boredom from me. I would be lying if I said on mornings when I was tired and my brain was not yet awake that I still dived into this with reckless abandon. Those mornings I found myself dreading the book because it would remind me how much I truly struggle to create images in my mind based on descriptive descriptions (if that makes any sense). It made me take a nap, because my brain hurt. I can describe a picture, but it’s ten times harder for me to come up with my own picture based on the words of another. It’s one of the challenges I face as a reader. It’s why lengthy, detailed descriptions usually bother me.

 

The reason I overcame this usual annoyance was simply Jernigan’s writing. I find his sentences fascinating, masterful at times. I read him for his descriptions. I read him for how all his characters view situations, life itself. All his works I’ve read have had a level of depth that I’ve enjoyed. The descriptions are not just descriptions, but perceptions and sensations from the characters point of view, conveyed sometimes poetically. It’s hard to find that in books. That type of book isn’t something I would read over and over. I mean, if I did, I’d be devouring a meager book a month and I'm sure at one point my brain would stutter to a halt. There’s a place for fast paced books, books that just move. Then there’s a place for more reflective books. Jernigan, so far, has written the latter, in my humble opinion. 

 

I will say that I didn’t struggle as much with this one as I did with No Return. I think it was because I had a good foothold in the world. It was familiar. There were hardly any new places—places that stretched my imagination. So for those looking for the fun, crazy places delivered in the first book, be prepared to be disappointed. Not to say this one wasn’t inventive, it just didn’t have that out-of-the-box shock factor of the first one. I’d lean it more towards a philosophical tone than the journey tone of No Return. But boy howdy, when there was action it was incredible and fun and descriptive and gory and wonderful! 

 

So overall, if you liked No Return, you should read this. If you didn’t, well, read it anyway. It’s different in a lot of ways. Matter of fact, this would be a book that both my mother and sister would enjoy. The sex is (sadly) less, the cursing as well. Shame for me; good for mom.

 

P.S. A few side things I must mention because I do whenever I notice it. First, there were editing errors that stuck out. Second, the price of this book is painful, especially for an ebook. I know the author doesn’t have control, but ouch. As of now, Amazon (of course) is the cheapest option.

Source: http://booksbylkevans.com/2015/09/02/review-of-shower-of-stones-by-zachary-jernigan

Review of Draven's Light by Anne Stengl

Draven's Light - Anne Elisabeth Stengl

It was important that she learn the truth of this story. For though it happened long ago, in a deep and vital way it was still happening now and would go on happening forever. And if she did not learn it and grasp hold of it tightly with both hands, it would go on without her ... still vital, still true. But she herself would be less true.

 

Here at the dawning of her awareness, that tender threshold between childhood and adulthood when all is new and all is old simultaneously. That thin slice of time when mortality understands immortality without effort, without unconscious trust.

 

 

When I finished the first chapter, I had it in my head that I wasn’t going to like this book. Basically, two brothers are building a huge hall at the top of a hill, and the tiny village at the bottom has been asked to make a water offering to these brothers once a day. We start with a little girl going up the hill to make the offering. Eventually, she somewhat befriends one of the brothers and he ends up telling her a story. So we switch between the little girl’s PoV and that of the characters in the story the brother is telling. I thought I wouldn’t be submersed in the “story” part of the book, but Stengl did a great job keeping me entrenched in both PoVs.

 

The story part of the world is made up of two villages on opposite sides of the river, so as far as world building goes, it isn’t terribly complicated. Matter of fact, it has a very tribal feel to it. No commerce, no kings or kingdoms, no lands to explore. It’s compact. That said, we are mainly with only one of the tribes, so whatever was going on in the other wasn’t explored. Someone looking for intricate or detailed worlds will probably not enjoy this as much as I did.

 

The writing was clean, smooth, and easy to read. Furthermore, it’s a super short book and a great way to pass a few hours.

 

I’m a bit surprised that I picked up a book that’s a spinoff of a series. I didn’t realize that when I bought it. I just saw it on my to-read list and needed something short. However, I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. Like I said, I was surprised to find that out. So I don’t think you need to read the series to enjoy this. 

 

The little girl was developed nicely and ended up being very believable. It was a different reading experience than what I’m used to. Seeing the scary world through the eyes of a child was refreshing. The characters in the story were as nicely delivered. Draven and what he had to go through was heartbreaking. His character pulled me right into that story part and got me invested in him right off the bat. Ita was also engaging; a strong girl that I admired. I felt those two characters were incredibly well drawn.

 

My complaint? When we discover who Ita loves, I found it a bit unbelievable based on time and what we knew. I saw it coming, but I kept telling myself that it couldn’t be. Shortly developed love always kinda bothers me a bit. Relationships and love take a bit more time to bloom than what was conveyed.

 

My other complaint would be how I felt distant from the world. I wish there would have been a hair more world development. That gap made the whole book just hover outside of something I could love.

 

Overall, if you want a quick read to occupy a few hours, I’d recommend this book. It moved fast and kept my interest the entire time.

Source: http://booksbylkevans.com/2015/08/19/review-of-dravens-light-by-anne-elisabeth-stengl

Review of Bound to the Abyss by James Vernon

Bound to the Abyss - James R. Vernon

This was a tough book to review. The plot was pretty simple: There’s a bad monster in a tiny village and 3 youngsters set off to find help. When I say youngsters, I mean between 18-20 year olds, but boy did it feel like they were younger. I’ll get into the characters in a bit, but first ...

 

The world was nicely laid out for us. The town we start in was rather small and recluse, so the world outside was more mysterious in the beginning, but as we travel, it became apparent that it’s a simple, standard fantasy world. What was different was the magic and creatures that live in it. Those were what kept me reading.

 

There appears to be a few different types of magic in this book. Some of them are not explored in detail, which helps set us up for some answers in the following books. The magic we get to know intimately was Ean’s ability to tap into the Abyss. His power to summon creatures added some pretty neat monsters to read about. I found that to be the most entertaining part of the book. Then again, I like me some different monsters. It's also a dark force with some nasty repercussions that we come to learn about as the story progresses. Those were just as fascinating.

 

The traveling and the majority of the book was entirely too descriptive for my taste and had me skimming often. For those who like detail, this will be a great book. I found myself quite bored sometimes with the day-to-day walking, talking, and scenery input. I would have enjoyed it much more if it’d added some character depth, if I felt that perhaps it had a purpose, but I never got that satisfied feeling. What scenes did contain character musings felt redundant. I will mention at this point that this book has gotten some great reviews and has a nice overall rating on Goodreads. Just goes to show how picky of a reader I am.

 

Now, about those characters ... Well, I guess it comes down to what I’m looking for in a book. The dialog, interaction, and actions of the three main characters felt very immature for their age. I guess when I think of a book set in these times, most often people 18 and older are settling down, doing more on their own, even married. And if that’s not the case, they still talk and act a certain way. Ean, 18 years old, is bullied—like take-your-lunch-money bullied. I always imagine this being reserved for younger children, and the dialog and the way it happened made it feel very middle grade instead of young adult. It set the tone and, to me, made the characters seem way younger than their actual age. And of course there's the all too familiar “I love her but she doesn’t love me and is with that other guy” trope that seems to be in nearly every young adult book I've read. Love triangles set my teeth on edge.

 

The bullying happened in the first chapter so my interest was already waning. Ean had a tough childhood, and the way he’s treated made me feel a tinge of sympathy for him. After all, I do like a character that’s had a rough beginning. But the way he treats his “closest friend” zaps whatever sympathy I might’ve had. Again, he felt very immature, more toward 12-13 years old. The other two characters were not as developed and also acted younger than their age. Now, it’s been a while since I was in my teenage years, so maybe I’m being harsher than I should, or perhaps remembering things in a brighter light, so bear that in mind while reading this review.

 

I think this straddles a line between middle grade and young adult. Some say it’s dark fantasy, but I’ve read some dark books, and this didn’t strike me as one. Sure, a few people died, but I didn’t find it overly gory or traumatic. Now, keep in mind, my dark books were very dark and I like my gore very gory.

 

So, overall, I suggest reading a bunch of reviews before you decide to pick this up. Based on Goodreads and Amazon, tons of people love this book. For me, it was just too ... young.

 

Source: http://booksbylkevans.com/2015/08/12/review-of-bound-to-the-abyss-by-james-vernon

Review of Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

Ghost Story - Jim Butcher

People adore monsters. They fill their songs and stories with them. They define themselves in relation to them. 

 

Well, compared to the last book, this one slowed down. Not to say that there wasn’t tons of action, you just didn’t get beat down like the last book.

 

I must say, this one has tons more description. We’re experiencing the aftermath of Changes and we’re thrown some new situations in which Harry is unfamiliar. Explaining and engrossing you in these new found settings was done thoroughly. And I think Butcher’s depth of conveying emotion and physical sensations has improved, thus beefing up those descriptions. I haven’t minded them until this book. I guess I was too curious to know what the heck was going to happen that I ended up reading over those sections a bit fast, almost to the point of skimming.

 

I think what this book pulled off was to show us how impactful Harry is upon Chicago, not to mention a transition from Changes to what we can expect in the next book. It's a nice move forward book that transitions from the almost normal Harry world to this new, crazy one we're about to step into.

 

When I started this series I was worried about the length of it. I mean, 24 books? First person through all of it? I had doubts I’d be able to stick with it without feeling as though I’d read the same thing over and over. I guess that’s the beauty of Butcher’s writing. Besides the descriptions of some reoccurring places and people, it doesn’t have that same ol’ same ol’ feel to it. New stuff gets introduced all the time and it makes each book feel fresh. The characters are changing and not all get happy little endings. It’s alway nice to have a fallback series, one that you know you’ll enjoy. I already want to read through the series again, which is a testament to Butcher’s skill. Re-readability is a hard thing to achieve.

 

Source: http://booksbylkevans.com/2015/08/05/review-of-ghost-story-by-jim-butcher