Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy Halloween!!!

     Happy Halloween everybody, well almost Halloween at least. I've been torn, since I began this blog, on whether or not having a Holiday blog post with related titles would be a bit to cliché and expected.

     The answer was a big resounding "clichés be darned" and here we are now. I did decide to go against the norm a bit, however, and instead of one title like I normally review I'm doing a total of four books for this review. Each story in this is geared up towards an age group, or category, all perfect for cuddling up either solo or as a family.

     I'm going to go in order from 'youngest' to 'oldest' in the reviews so that the family readers can avoid having to skim to the bottom.

     The stories I have for you this evening are:

  1. Where the Wild Things Are - By the late Maurice Sendak
  2. How I met my Monster - By R. L. Stine
  3. Dead Boys - By Michael Penkas
  4. Infected: Click your Poison - By James Schannep

     I know that most of you, if not all, have either read, been read to, or have read to Where the Wild Things Are at one time in your life. Perhaps it was, like me, 20+ years ago during one of my first trips to the library. I can remember cuddling up and being amazed at the world Sendak was able to create utilizing visuals and beautifully crafted words.

     The story follows Max; a young boy who is obsessed with being a 'Wild Thing'. He even goes to the extreme of putting on his wolf pajamas and terrorizing his house, much to the dismay of his mother who sends him to bed without his supper after he screams that he will "Eat YOU UP" when she calls for him.

     As Max grumbles and groans a forest grows in his room, and in moments he is sailing across the ocean in his own private boat. He sails and sails for years and years until he lands on an island, an island that is home to the real 'Wild Things".

     Max's adventures on the island grow and grow until he finally realizes just what it means to be wild, and even being king isn't enough to make him want to stay. Much to the dismay of the Wild Things he sets off on the long journey home, and finding a surprise for him awaiting him in his room.

     Sendak's tale of the Wild Things is a classic tale that really fits the season. Though it is about monsters, of one kind or another, its written in a light hearted safe way that kids of all ages can enjoy without worrying what could be hiding in the shadows when the lights go out.

     Being that this is such a popular tale, and more than anything I'm wanting to reintroduce it and suggest it as a great Halloween story, I'm not going to mention pros or even give it a rating as I will with the stories down the line.

      One thing I do need to note for those that may not know is that in addition to writing the story, Sendak also did the illustrations for it. There are few artists out there that can create ever memorable words, as well as illustrate masterfully.

     If you'd like to get a copy of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak click here.

     I couldn't be more excited to be reviewing this next story. This author was actually my first thought when I had decided to break this post up by age groups, though I had no idea I would get the privilege to get his permission to review one of his works. While this author falls outside of the realm of my typical indie reviews, as did Sendak, his continued success over the past 20 years of scaring the pants off of young readers makes it an impossibility to talk about scary stories without his name coming up.

     I remember opening up the first book in the ever eternal Goosebumps series when I was 8 years old. I had purchased it from our schools Scholastic book fair, and by the end of the week I was out of books from the library. I can even recall my first 'signed' letter from the R.L. Stine fan club after I became a member and began receiving books and a magazine monthly.

     What I remember more than anything else is the sheer joy of hiding underneath my makeshift fort I had made out of bed sheets and a bottom bunk while I reread every story after I finished the newest edition.

     I debated which story of his I wanted to do. I read the list of books and settled on The Haunted Mask. I read the back cover and prepared to dive back in to a story I had loved as a child, but hadn't read in 15 years. I stopped myself and rethought my plan.

     As much as I wanted this post to reintroduce a classic Goosebumps story to the younger crowd; I also thought it would be fun to introduce myself to a new story. Something I could do an honest review on, as well as see how Stine has adapted himself to the younger generation. The result was discovering the newest edition to the series Goosebumps Most Wanted.

     The concept is to take popular stories, characters and worlds from older stories and to give a new twist with a particular focus on classic villains. I was immediately drawn to the story How I met my Monster. It follows Noah Bienstock, or Bean to his friends, and his ever growing obsession with monsters. He sees them everywhere, not just in the nightmares he has every night.

     His obsession grows and grows until it reaches a whole new level when he begins to suspect the new kid in class, who just happens to be his new best friend that lives in his building, of being a monster. He begins spying on Monroe, following him everywhere looking at every 'suspicious' thing he does.

     The 'twist' at the end will seem familiar to anyone who has read The Girl who Cried Monster from the original series. If you haven't, I can say you will be pleasantly surprised.

     I think the thing that surprised me most about this story was Stine's ability to adapt his writing over the years. Besides technological advances that separates the current generation from past, there are also differences in attitudes and priorities that are addressed making it a perfect fit for any school age child.

      Due to the shear amount of pros for this story it was almost impossible for me to narrow down any pros at all, but I managed to pick three that I feel really stand out:
  •  Stine's evolution through the years really surprised me. I was expecting the stories to feel like they did when I read when I was young, but I was wrong. Instead it both feels familiar, but with a young feel that is a testament to the authors adaptability and connection with his audience, even when it changes generation to generation.
  • There is a lighthearted humor to most of the books in the Goosebumps series' and it isn't lost on this one. At 29 I found myself chuckling at the one liners littered throughout the creepy tale.
  • The story, while pulling from a classic Goosebumps world, is original. I expected it to feel very much like the original story from the original series, but instead it is a story that feels new and original.
     I had worried that being a fan of the original series would limit my ability to give this story a fair review, and similarly not be able to give a good referral for a Halloween read. Due to the changes in audience that Stine has adapted to, though,  the book became something brand new for me.

     Overall I'm going to give How I met your Monster by R. L. Stine a very solid 10/10 for both this Halloween or anytime.

     I can't begin to thank R.L. Stine enough for allowing me the pleasure of reviewing one of his books for this special Halloween post. Getting to review a story for an author that you've idolized is a feeling that truly is the pinnacle of my short time writing.

     If you would like to pick up a copy of How I met my Monster, or any other book, by R.L. Stine click here.

     If you're like me you've read your share of spooky Halloween tales at night. Some of my favorites were always books that were compilations of ghost stories pitting unsuspecting mortals against terrifying paranormal villains; particularly when the ghosts psychologically  torment their prey. Each time I would read a few of my favorites I can remember sitting awake staring at shadows in an almost comical display of true cowardice.

     As I've gotten older, and I'm assuming this goes for most of us, the scare factor is kind of lost. Instead of watching shadows you're drifting off to sleep, content with what you read but just not scared.

     The third story for my Halloween review is Dead Boys by Michael Penkas. Dead Boys is a compilation of 4 stories that attempts to bring back that hair-raised feeling you had when you were a kid. The stories inside aren't your typical ghost stories; each one has a twist that leaves you unnerved for different reasons.

     The first story is titled The Parable of the Lazy Rooster and follows a priest drinking alone at a bar. While there he overhears a forlorn woman asking about a drink with particular properties, a drink that allows whoever consumes it to see things that no living person is able to see.

     The priest discusses the drink with her, and her reasons for pursuing it. After informing her that he knows how to prepare the drink, he begins deliberating the consequences of making it for the young lady. What ensues leaves you with a chill that, while not innately scary, emanates through you. Particularly when the priest begins an inner monologue explaining the origins of the drink.

     The second story in this list is a little more explicit so if you pick this title up and wanted to read it to the kids I would reconsider, at least for this particular tale. Cold Comfort follows a young female 'escort' called by a member of a clergy for a special 'job'. (Obviously at first this seems like it could be a less than clever stab at the classic corrupt clergymen but you find out quickly this is not even remotely the case).

     The woman, while willing, is a little hesitant to be fully engaged in her duty. This hesitation, however, is quickly taken away by an almost too close encounter that those that are into extreme ghost stories such as American Horror Story will certainly flock to. I do have to caution again that there is an adult aspect to this so use discretion, but in the end this has become a favorite ghost story of mine and was my favorite so far, until I finished the next story that is.

     Up next is a story titled Wet Dog Perfume which follows a lone man spending his night mourning the loss of his dog at the local dog park. It had only been a week and he isn't sure what to do with himself now that the long walks at the park are over.

     As he sits and tries to cope, a young woman enters the park and takes a seat next to him. You immediately feel the quiet intensity she brings to the story as she begins to feed the pigeons in her own 'special' way. As the two silently watch the pigeons eat their unique meal the man starts to feel something about the girl, something that makes her even more unique than what she used to feed the pigeons.

     This story is a little more unnerving than the first. Whereas the first story gives you a bit of an uneasy feeling from the content, and more towards the end, Penkas uses an environment and emotion to set the scene. As is the trend in all these stories, the twist ending really gives you that pins and needles sensation that we all long for this time of year.

     Batting cleanup is Midnight Cappuccino. It's a story following Wendy Williams, a distraught mother who spends night after night in her comatose son's hotel room. It is a tale that is played over several times in which everyone around her tells her he is gone, yet something keeps her holding on hope that he will come back.

     This particular night there is a new visitor to the hotel room, yet one that Wendy knows all to well. It isn't known whether he is a kindly visitor, or one that is here for his chance to deny the woman something she yearns for. Once the visitor has completed his plea he is gone, and Wendy is left to again make the decision whether to let her son go, or hold on to hope that he will awaken and she can once again hold her baby boy.

     This compilation of tales is very well thought out and perfect for cozying up by the fire, and as such it was easy to find some pros for Dead Boys:
  • Each story brings about an uneasiness that feels perfect for this time of year.
  • Each story is very well written and is a page turner in itself. For me, in particular, I found myself going through the whole book in one sitting due to the ease in which it was written.
  • Penkas does a wonderful job setting up thrilling settings with his words. Each story touches its own emotion in a short time, literally making you feel sickened, angry, happy, and sorrowful.
     As I've done with the other stories I'm going to give an overall rating for the story, but I'm not going to go into the particulars like I've done in past reviews. This isn't a permanent thing, rather just something I'm doing for these four reviews.

     Overall I'm going to give Dead Boys by Michael Penkas a 9/10.

     I have to thank Michael for reaching out to me and giving me the opportunity to read and review his stories. It was a real pleasure to get that uneasy, nervous feeling from a story in the way that Dead Boys delivers.

     If you'd like to pick up a copy of Dead Boys for a Halloween read, click here.

     Lastly this evening I have something so unique I'm yet to read/see anything quite like it. It's entitles Infected: Click your Poison by James Schannep, and it is literally choose your own adventure type, or better yet a Give yourself Goosebumps for adults.

     One thing to note is that Schannep designed the story to be compatible with ereaders, and I can vouch that it works like a charm. He advertises that it takes away the chance you see something on the next page that could be an ending that you spoil for yourself, and that fact really proves true early on.

     If reading a story like this on an ereader doesn't strike your fancy, a print copy is available. After going through a storyline on my kindle, my wife jumped on Amazon and ordered herself a hard copy to have (she's like me and would rather read a physical book whenever possible).

     The story behind Infected is Schannep's take on a zombie apocalypse caused by a corporations drive to create an immortality drug, one that succeeds in its own way. Each decision forces you from one extreme situation into another; some of these decisions are obvious landmines, while others seem to be the only possible good idea...and then you find out otherwise.

     One of the, many, things that sets this apart is the lighthearted nature with which Schannep writes. Each page, and most of the decisions, are riddled with puns that should be dry and not funny, but yet the timing fits so well that I can guarantee you'll laugh at most of them.

     Humor aside the writing is another thing that I would kick myself if I didn't mention. Besides being a creative comedian, Schannep is a wonderful writer. Each page, paragraph and word has been edited and belongs and feels as though you're reading your own novel that is about you.

     Since there are so many options and so many outcomes its impossible for me to give a real synopsis of Infected. I can, however, give you my wife and my first attempt at going through the story together. We started out okay, and escaped certain doom a time or two making decisions together and for a moment it seemed as though we were going to survive...that is until our first real hiccup.

     We were faced with one of the many decisions that seem like you can't go wrong, but after deliberating we could not agree to disagree so she made the decision for us. Next thing we knew we were zombie food and things were over, or at least we thought. It turns out death is not always the end, though through the excitement it quickly became ours.

     I had trouble with this one, due to the uniqueness, in selecting some pros. I did narrow it down a bit, but there are so many more:
  • The overall story lines, I can't tell you how many combinations you could hope to achieve, all work well with a very strong central story.
  • I know I mentioned it already but the humor woven into the dire situation works on so many levels. While most of the jokes are puns, the timing is done like a true pro and they become a wonderful part.
  • Schannep really is an author at the end of the day. The writing is spot on and you will find the adrenaline coursing through your veins as you make your decisions and turn the pages with both anxiety and excitement.
     There is honestly a hundred more things I enjoyed about this story, or stories rather, then I could honestly put down. I feel the best thing to do is give it the overall rating it deserves a very solid 10/10.

     I mentioned above that my wife enjoyed this book on my Kindle so much she had me pick her up a hard copy, I asked her for a quote for my blog:

     "Infected does a wonderful job of  bringing back the Choose your own Adventure books you loved when you were a child. I laughed and cringed page after page and end after end."
                                                                                                                   - My wife, Ronda

     Thank you so much to James Schannep for contacting me with the trailer, and for allowing me the pleasure of reviewing Infected: Click your Poison. For anyone interested here is a link to the trailer.

     If you would like to pick up a copy for yourself click here.

*I didn't mention it above, and I wish I would have, but this book has been written as an adult adventure book and as such there is content that is a little more to the adult side. I suggest reading through before you let your teens try and survive the apocalypse.

     Thank you for taking the time to read the Halloween edition of I hope that I either opened your eyes to a great story that you may have never heard of, and more than that I hope I gave you a great idea for a Halloween read, we sometimes take for granted sitting down with the family and reading a story together.

     Have a very happy, and safe, Halloween.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Middle On by K.R. Cox

     This weeks review is a New Adult fantasy, though its written in a way that makes it different from your typical fantasy. The elements that make a typical fantasy are hidden a bit and come out slowly, rather than forced on you as it normally is.

     The story opens in the town of Middle On with a group of three friends searching for their fourth friend. It's apparent from the beginning that they aren't your ordinary group of friends, its very obvious that they have been bonded over something much deeper than time. The friends separate to find their lost friend, and luckily succeed before he does something unforgivable.

     After the intense prologue, you get into the main story and discover that Orryk is a young man struggling to live life after being orphaned just months before. You also discover that while the friends have been friends since youth, the ever creeping problem of adulthood is approaching. This issue is one that plagues the young protagonist and combined with his ruthlessly abusive cobbler master forces him to pursue the one person that can give him answers, his father.

     Having left years before, Orryk's father has been more than a touchy subject for the young man. It brings out a hatred that emanates from the pages itself and you begin expecting a confrontation straight from an old Johnny Cash song.

     As Orryk begins exploring his options to gain the capital, and information, he needs for his journey several tests are thrown his way. An opportunity to gain back all the money owed to him by his master for his apprenticeship presents a test of his morals, an old friend of his father sheds some light on the man's character; the man also introduces Orryk to one of many wonders he will face on his travels to come.

     You can really feel the boys desperation as he decides what type of man he wants to be, and how far he will go to become it. You also get a connection to this character that is hard to describe, and if you're anything like me you'll learn a little about your own moral compass as you applaud for and sneer at the decisions Orryk makes.

     Once the dust has settled and the time has come for Orryk to begin his journey he faces his ultimate test which is brought to him by a kindly man who shared a drink, and laughs, with him just a few nights before. The stranger confronts Orryk on the road and as the story closes, Orryk finds out just what the world he has entered is all about.

     There are so many things I can say about Middle On I managed to narrow it down to the most notable pros such as:
  • The bond between the four friends isn't something you take from reading, Cox managed to make the dialogue and actions truly present four inseparable lifelong friends.
  • The story continually moves forward and keeps you turning the page.
  • In addition to the bond of the Orryk and his three friends, Cox truly brings out an emotional response to Orryk's lot in life and his struggles, both internal and external.
     It was hard to find any real cons to this story, in reality the ones I did find were definitely more cosmetic and didn't affect the story any:
  • There are a few action scenes early on that seem a bit over the top, though they almost seem as if the reasons for them will come out in a later sequel. For this story they seem to fall a bit short when compared to the action sequences later on in the story.

     In the end Middle On by K.R. Cox delivered on all fronts. It is a story written by an author that knows his audience and knows how to pull an emotional response from a reader, a skill that even some of the most seasoned authors never master. I definitely recommend this story for anyone, even those that don't frequent the fantasy section will enjoy this read as it falls somewhere into a genre of its own.

     Overall I'm going to give Middle On by K.R. Cox a solid 9/10 based on:

8/10 for readability - As I mentioned earlier the story continues to move forward with little to no repetitive ideas or actions. Each word belongs and there is not a wasted one throughout; the result is a page turner that will keep you vested until the end...and then asking for more.

8/10 for characters - I already spoke about the four young friends, but the passion and emotion aren't just limited to them. The vast majority of the citizens of Middle On are very complex and possess a personality of their own. Of course there are a few characters with relatively small parts that may lack that, but even they are recognizable from encounter to encounter.

9/10 for story - The story behind Orryk and his 'coming of age' adventure is truly wonderful. There is everything from loving the strength he possesses, and his ability to draw more from those around him; to hating him for decisions he makes, though that's going to depend on your moral compass when you read. I found myself so drawn in that I am waiting on pins and needles to see where Orryk's journey takes him.

10/10 for emotional response - The real x-factor in this story, at least for me, was without a doubt the emotional response this story draws out of you. Each interaction, flashback, thought etc brings about either a true emotional response where you find yourself angry, sad, sympathetic, or laughing out loud, or it causes you to check your own moral compass which is something I've only had a few other stories bring out.

     A huge thank you to K.R. Cox for contacting me and giving me the opportunity to read Middle On. It truly was a great read that I am more than excited for having had the opportunity to read, and I will be picking up the sequel in the near future.

    If you'd like to pick up a copy of Middle On for yourself click here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Legends of Leone by M.G. Dekle

     As the number of stories I read grow I'm amazed to find how different each author is from one another. Some write stories that seem to extend from a dark place within and create terrifying horror stories, others try and keep us on the edge of our seat with action and thrills, but there are some that seem to try to keep things light hearted. My review for this week, Legends of Leone by M.G. Dekle, was definitely of the ladder.

     The story opens on the city of Toble's Crossing during a time of wonder; the stars themselves have descended from the heavens above onto an island at the center of the lake. As they go to investigate Leone Verrat, a very inquisitive 4-year old, begins collecting small stones that are scattered around the area. Strangely they glow when she focuses her thoughts onto them. Before anybody has a chance to notice this, however, she is pulled into the ground in an Alice in Wonderland type event that catapults her into a room with two very strange men.

     One of the men takes a liking to Leone, the other is standoffish and seems more interested in the stone she brings with her. Luckily for the young girl the kindly man takes her in, promising her that one day she will have a chance to go back through the portal once they can reopen it; he does, unfortunately, neglect to mention exactly just how long that will be.

    Once the prologue ends you're transported 13 years into the future where 17 year old Leone has just graduated from Blueroot Academy, a premiere school for children with unique afflictions for magic. Though she has graduated towards the bottom of her class, she has still been nominated to partake in "The Ordeal". The Ordeal is a test of skill that determines whether or not a person is qualified to take on his/her chosen profession, one that if failed can send the most promising student into the rear of any job candidacy.

     On the way to get the details and her approval to undertake the Ordeal, Leone runs into a young swordsman named Falchion. Falchion is at the top of his class, and you quickly find out that his puns are not on par with his skill in battle. It is revealed in a meeting with the school's dean that the Ordeal requires a partnership to be completed and oddly enough Leone and Falchion are paired together much to both their delights.

     As the two begin their journey it becomes apparent that the two were written to be both polar opposites of one another, but in a way that makes them the perfect fit as staring characters. Their traits also play an integral part in the way they take on the Ordeal's many different obstacles that will be presented to the group, though the obstacles become the last of their worries when they're attacked by a vicious crystal golem that breaks into the cave that houses the trials, a golem that was forbidden to be created.

     While the story progresses and the cast of colorful characters that Dekle created grows, Leone and Falchion are forced to battle kings guards, dodge elves and befriend dwarfs; all while continuing to fire the witty banter and one-liners, and learning more about their heritages. Each page throughout reveals a little more about the sinister plot that is unfolding in the Elvish world, one that threatens to tear the very fabric of the worlds apart and send the races into an all out war for control and survival, all the while keeping you laughing and cringing in the same paragraphs.

     This story is one of those that I could rant about all day, but I've managed to narrow it down to a few major pros:
  • The banter between the characters comes off a little forced at first, but quickly grows on you and you find yourself chuckling page after page regardless of the situation.
  • The way that Dekle portrayed magic usage is something I've never read. Each spell is cast by the mage taking a component and mentally manipulating its properties giving them endless possibilities, though keeping the strength they possess in check.
  • The way the page/chapter transitions flow incredibly smoothly. This is one of those stories where you find it hard to put down due to the smooth way it reads.
     One of the most difficult parts of reviewing stories of this quality is finding a con to list, even something that may be a downside for some people is hard to find. There really is only one or two small things I could find that were minute things when compared to the overall story:
  • The puns and witty banter seem an omen to much more dry humor to come, and to some that's what will happen. As I said earlier I grew to enjoy the borderline silly humor though.
  • One thing that did catch my eye was the way Leone and Falchion solve the various trials in the Ordeal, or at least the ones they are able to solve. I'm not saying they walk in and walk out of each trail, but the solutions come a little easier. This is definitely a small note and when you read this story you'll see what I mean.
     In the end Legends of Leone by M. G. Dekle is a wonderful fantasy story that takes you into a great new world with wonderful new characters. I strongly recommend adding this fantasy to your library, you won't be disappointed.

     Overall I'm going to give this story a 8/10 based on:

9/10 for readability - As I mentioned earlier the transitions in this story are incredibly smooth, combine those transitions with good writing and it creates one of the most readable stories I've read so far.

8/10 for characters - Besides the praise I've already given to the main characters, the ancillary characters you meet throughout Leone's journey are wonderfully done. Each one has his/her own personality that you find yourself falling in love with the wide range of characters.

8/10 for story - The story behind Legends of Leone is a wonderful beginning to what I'm sure is going to be many great stories from this world and characters in general. The story takes races from classic fantasy epics, such as dwarfs, elves, orcs, etc and spins them in their own way that separates them from their classic fantasy brethren.

8/10 for humor - The x-factor for me in this story is the humor aspect. From the unexpected spell mishaps to the puns, to the quick witted comments during dire situations the story really keeps you chuckling throughout. The ease with which the humor is presented is the best part of this particular category.

     A big thank you to M. G. Dekle for contacting me about this story, and a big apology for getting it out later than I had originally intended. I will be back on track after the next review, and will be going to Sunday's only for my reviews.

If you'd like to pick up a copy of Legends of Leone click here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Journey to Altmortis by Thaddeus White

     Anybody who has followed my reviews knows that I'm a little partial when it comes to Fantasies, specifically ones that truly take you to a new world. Journey to Altmortis by Thaddeus White is one of those, and just to stay clear partial doesn't necessarily mean I liked it.

     Journey to Altmortis is a truly epic fantasy adventure that opens up on the main character named Thaddeus. Doing this, in my opinion, was a big risk on White's part. It does, however, become less noticeable fairly early on as you're introduced to more of the characters that become part of this world.

     One of the most notable things you see early on from White's writing is the consistency. Besides creating a new world, new people and an all around new journey, White gives each of these their own voice and you feel as though you've known the characters and the world.

     As is in any fantasy epic, the group is challenged in many different, and unique, ways throughout. Each stop on the way to the ruins of Altmortis is plagued by a new hurdle for the group, and it becomes apparent slowly that there is more than just corrupt city watchmen to worry about.

     I feel like I could rant and rave over the shear amount of pros to this story. From the characters, the story and writing in general there is something that makes this story worth reading throughout. I did manage to narrow it down to a few pros that I think stand out:
  • The story may seem like a cut and dry adventure epic on the surface, but as you read you discover so many differences that make it truly special.
  • The characters are incredibly thoughtful, and stable throughout. You can meet a character once and his/her speech patterns and personality remain the same, which can be daunting in a story as long and as full as this.
  • The world follows the 'book' on what Fantasy worlds should be like, but at the same time feels new. The towns/environments the travelers encounter all have that classic, but original, feel.
     Call it bias or call it a great story but I had issues finding true cons to the story. I did end up narrowing down a couple minor issues I found:
  • The main characters name caused a bit of an issue for me early on, as I stated above it sort of fades away as the story progresses.
  • Though the story is written well, there are a couple of places where it is evident that this is a new author and could have been tightened up a little more, though there is only two or three instances of this over the course of the whole story.
     In the end Journey to Altmortis is a truly epic fantasy that creates both a huge world and characters that familiar but new at the same time. The thing in the end that really sets it apart from the multitudes of other fantasies brought out the veteran feel that White was able to bring out, when many of the titles released in this genre come out very amateurish.

     Overall I'm going to give Journey to Altmortis by Thaddeus White a 8/10 based on:

8/10 for readability - The story itself reads very well, with smooth transitions and very edited writing that keep you turning the page the whole time.

7/10 for characters - There are so many characters introduced throughout, most ancillary but there are a lot of characters that play a part in the overall story. The main group of characters are all written really well and feel very new. Some of the extra characters come off a little flat, but that's hard to avoid when writing on the scale that Journey to Altmortis is written.

8/10 for story - I know I've mentioned this a couple times already, but the story itself combines the classic adventure tale with some overhauls that really make it feel different.

8/10 for concept/execution - I really feel that the x-factor for this story stems from the concept that White had, and the execution with which it was completed.

     A big thanks to Thaddeus White for reaching out to me about this story, and giving me the opportunity to read such an epic tale. I definitely recommend this for any fantasy fan out there. It does its genre justice and is a voice among the over saturation and carbon copy fantasies that seem to come out quite often.

If you would like to pick up Journey to Altmortis for yourself, click here.


Friday, October 4, 2013

This Changes Everything by Sally Ember

     Sometimes a book comes along and you find yourself at a loss while you’re reading it. Sometimes it could be due to the fact that you don’t follow a writer’s point of view, writing style or choices they make; other times it may be the story or the characters that just don’t mesh well; and still there are other times when you may not be able to follow due to a lack of understanding of the material.
     In this week’s review I have found a story that I really feel is going to fall under one of those categories for some, but for others the twisting plots and time lines will be a challenge that is well received. Sally Ember really wrote a story that makes you work, not necessarily in a bad way mind you, but work none the less to keep up with.

     This Changes Everything is the first volume in the “Spanners” series. It follows Clara, a young woman tasked with bringing the human race of planet earth up to speed with the knowledge from an intergalactic council of planets in order for them to become members. If you’re already thinking this feels like a daunting task then you may find yourself in one of the groups I mentioned earlier, if this Sci-fi adventure still seems to be up your alley then read on.

     In addition to being instantaneously force fed the knowledge of the universe, Clara must learn to release this knowledge in spurts at the extraterrestrials discretion. To do this she must use a ‘new and up and coming’ reporter that just so happens to become a bit of a love interest.
     What complicates this is that Ember introduces the idea of a multiverse/multiple time lines into the picture. While I’m a fan, though I can’t say I personally believe the theory, of the multiverse theory that says every decision we make creates a multiple number of other universes in which different choices and consequences are formed, some small scale such as running a stop sign resulting in a ticket up to large scale such as running the stop sign causes an accident that kills someone. Fans of the butterfly effect will relate to the metaphor of every choice creating a ripple with unknown effects.

     This multiverse concept, coupled with multiple time lines throughout, creates both confusion and understanding. I think the attempt is solid, and there are several pros to this story, such as:

  • The concept is wonderful and feels very new. Though there are times that fall short and everything seems confusing, those times are offset by times in which the multiverse idea is really explained in a way that does justice to the incredibly in depth and thoughtful idea.

  • The way Ember writes the first person perspective is very interesting. Though the story is mainly a journal entry, it is written in a laid back manner that really reminds you of someone writing in their journal.

Despite the ‘pros’ I mentioned above, there are a couple of possible downsides I need to mention:

  • As I mentioned earlier, the concept is wonderful and new. It is, however, hard to follow at times; this won’t be a turn off for everyone but if I feel as though it merits a warning.

  • The characters feel like they lack a little depth. This fact makes sense when it comes to the alien visitors, but many of the main characters feel a little one dimensional. I can’t apply this to the main character, Clara, since as I mentioned earlier Ember does a wonderful job of writing in that first person and giving her a voice and a life of her own.

     In the end This Changes Everything by Sally Ember is a well written, complex work that is going to add a strong title to a genre that can sometimes become bogged down with the same old same old.
Overall I'm going to give This Changes Everything a 7/10 based on:
     6/10 for readability - Ember's story, while being well written, is a bit hard to follow at time. The transitions do come off a little rough at times.
     7/10 for characters - As I mentioned earlier the main character is very well done and believable as a normal woman with this huge weight dropped on her. The support characters, however, tend to fall a little short and feel a little one dimensional.
     8/10 for story - The story concept is wonderful and challenging at the same time. There are times when it gets a bit hard to follow, but these times are few and far between. Taking on the task of writing a story that covers multiple time lines and multiple universes  is enough to warrant a hat tip to Ember.
     8/10 for concept/execution - I've mentioned this several times already, but I feel the true x-factor for this story is the vast concept, and execution, of writing a story that spans time lines and universes. It so easily could have turned into a mess, but Ember really reigns it in and edited it down to a point where its, for the most part, easy to follow.
     Thanks goes out to Sally Ember for allowing me to read and review this title. Though I know the review is a bit mixed, overall This Changes Everything is a book that I am very happy to have had the chance to read and I would recommend it to any sci-fi/fantasy fan.
     Currently this book hasn't been released yet, but Ember is projecting the beginning of November as a release date. I will keep my post/blog updated when the story is released. Meanwhile you can see updates on the book, and more information on Sally Ember at the series' homepage here.