Monday, September 30, 2013

Wyrd Worlds: a collaboration

     For this review I was approached by author Steph Bennion in regards to the title Wyrd Worlds. I didn't realize quite how difficult it would be to review a book that is a collection of short stories collaborated by several different authors. I debated whether or not to do a mini review for each story, but with the book being filled with fourteen stories by twelve different authors that would have been a stretch; even giving each author his/her own review would be a feat in itself.

     There are a few familiar faces in this collection, some of which I've already critiqued at one point or another; specifically Emma Faragher, L.L. Watkin and Stan Morris, click on the names to see the previous review. All three of them offer great contributions to Wyrd Worlds in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres.

     Steph Bennion herself contributes two of the stories, she also took on the role of editor for this book. Due to the amount of different authors and story types, I felt it would benefit both the readers of the book as well as my readers to do a short interview with Bennion which you can find at the end of this review.

     The first of the two stories Bennion contributed is titled Antimatter Me and is a short, science fiction, title involving a take on the advancement and creation of matter transmission, or teleportation. It centers around two beings created during the first human test of the teleportation system. Though I don't typically rate short stories I would definitely give this a 9/10.

     Bennion's second story is titled In the Lap of the Gods and is a modern tale of ancient Gods. Dr. Krakenspreken (a name that will make any fan of Clash of the Titans or Greek mythology in general smile). There are different mythologies brought back to life in this story, each with his/her own agenda. Just as she did in AntiMatter Me, Bennion created a well written, creative story that could very well have been turned into a full-length novel.

     Overall this story really is a must-read, and the $0.99 price-tag on Amazon is a very small price to pay to be introduced to as many great authors as Wyrd Worlds offers. Since the stories are so varied I really can't review it as I typically do with single author titles.

I'm, instead, going to give the title an overall score based on the combination of each story.

As a whole I'm going to give Wyrd Worlds an 8/10 based on the fact that its an overall strong title full of indie authors that each brought their A game.

Since I didn't get to review the title as I nomally do, I decided to do a short interview with editor, and contributing author, Steph Bennion. At the end of the interview I'll post a link where you can purchase Wyrd Worlds and also titles by some of the contributing authors.

Whose idea was the collaboration?
It came about through my role as a moderator for the Smashwords Authors Group on Goodreads. I like to look through comments made by new members and there was a period when every other author joining seemed to be a science-fiction or fantasy writer who wrote short stories. I suggested the idea of an anthology via a post on the same forum and it took off from there.
How did you become tasked with the job of editor?
Once it became clear there were enough people interested, I decided it was only fair that I should volunteer my services! It wasn't a solo effort; a big thanks is due to Ross Harrison (one of the contributing authors), who designed the book cover for us, free of charge. 'Editor' is perhaps not quite the right word; I collated the ebook and made various decisions regarding the overall layout and so on, but on the whole the stories themselves were published as submitted.
There are many great stories by many great authors. We're there any stories that had to be scrapped?
There were a couple of authors who were keen to contribute but in the end didn't manage to write anything in time, which was a shame. There's always next time...
What was the general theme of the collaboration? Was it more of an open forum or did each author have a specific topic or idea to use?
Other than keeping it to science-fiction and fantasy, there was no overall theme. I think the anthology benefits from that; the stories are quite varied, with something for everyone!
Both of your stories were wonderful, I'm a particular fan of Antimatter Me. Did you write these stories before and submit them to the collaboration, or were they written specifically for Wyrd Worlds?
Thank you! Antimatter Me, which is told from the point of view of someone experiencing time in reverse, was written for Wyrd Worlds. I was reading a biography of the late avant-garde writer B.S. Johnson at the time, which gave me the idea to try something a bit more experimental. My other story, In The Lap Of The Gods, is something I've had on the back-burner for a while. It shares the same 'universe' as my science-fiction books and adds a bit of context to my novels Hollow Moon and Paw-Prints Of The Gods. The anthology was the encouragement I needed to actually finish the story!
Are there going to be more collaborations in the future between you and other authors?
I don't see why not. There's been a few comments about Wyrd Worlds II already on the Goodreads forum! I had fun working with everyone on this and I think the end result was well worth the effort of all concerned. And it's free!

If you would like to pick up a copy of Wyrd Worlds you can find it here.

Titles by some of the other contributing authors:

Steph Bennion

Alexandra Butcher

Ubiquitous Bubba

Emma Faragher

Ross Harrison - Harrison also did the wonderful cover art for Wyrd Worlds click here for Ross' personal page

Josh Karaczewski

Peter Lean

Stan Morris

Neil Shooter

Barbara G. Tarn

L.L. Watkin

Gary Weston

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Wake of the Dragon by Jaq D. Hawkins

     For this review, author Jaq D. Hakins reached out to me about her novel The Wake of the Dragon: A Steampunk Adventure. When I was younger I watched a few different animes that were in the steampunk genre, but I'd never read a novel.

     The story opens on a pirate ship, though the high seas are miles away. The ship is in fact a steam powered air ship piloted by Captain Bonny and manned by one of the best, and most unorthodox, crew around. Each one so full of opium and rum they should not be able to walk, let alone swing from the rigging ropes thousands of feet above the ground.

     Early on in the story its established that Captain Bonny is a unique Captain. Hawkins blended, in my opinion, the most likeable qualities in the classic pirate captains in pop culture, though I don't feel as though any certain one was a direct inspiration; He retains the stoic nature of Captain Jack's father Captain Teague, the relatable nature of Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow and the ruthlessness of Black Beard, the real not the one from Pirates of the Caribbean.

     As the story progresses you're introduced to more characters that play a vital role in this story such as James Dudley, the well meaning nervous clerk, Zachary Wyatt, Dudley's scroogeish boss that treats him as a variable slave, Anne Bardwell, the seductive stowaway that longs for adventure in the open skies. Each of these characters, and more, plays an important part of the overall story involving Wyatt's stolen rum, that in itself gets stolen by a certain group of air pirates.

     The story moves along seamlessly, giving you a real insight to the characters and their pasts; all the while taking you all over England and even across the channel into France. It truly is a page turner from the get go, and the ending is possibly one of the most shocking and unexpected I've ever read.

      Besides the shear uniqueness behind the world Hawkins has created for The Wake of the Dragon, the group of characters and sense of adventure are all very creative and well done. The list of pros I could name for this story is immense, but I've narrowed it down to:
  • As I just said, the world Hawkins created is very unique, even for a steam punk story. Everything about it feels new and wonderful.
  • The characters all have a depth to them that keeps you rooting for all of them in one way or another, even the ones that you really hope don't succeed in their goal.
  • The story itself, while being about pirates doing what they do best, is fresh and more importantly it constantly moves forward and keeps you interested.
     As far as cons go for the story, I racked my brain for some time trying to find something. While I did come up with one thing its based more on a personal preference:
  • For the first half of the story Hawkins keeps the transitions smooth between the characters. Once the characters all get together it gets a little hectic and there are a few instances where it becomes a little difficult to follow which character is speaking. This is only on a few occasions, most of the time there is a clear break between who is being followed.
     I was told once by a reader that I like to much to be a reviewer, and the fact that I enjoy multiple things made it hard for him to believe the stories I've reviewed are as good as I've said. I purchased him a copy of The Waters Edge, The Seedbearing Prince, and he picked up a copy of Passion, Power & Sin. He emailed me back a couple weeks later and offered me my money back for the two stories I purchased, a request I turned down. Jaq D. Hawkins and The Wake of the Dragon is another story I would highly recommend to anybody who enjoys high flying action adventure. The steam punk aspect may seem uninteresting, or too odd for some, but I can tell you for certain that if you enjoy adventure stories than you will enjoy this story.

     In the end I give The Wake of the Dragon by Jaq D. Hawkins a solid 8/10 based on:

     7/10 for readability - The story flows well throughout. Its written in a style that is unique to Hawkins. The only downfall to the story flow is the few instances where following characters becomes a bit difficult towards the end.

     8/10 for story - The story itself may be one of piracy and reclaiming what was lost on the surface, but its written in such a way that it becomes so much more. The way the characters take their individual journeys and come together, just to part ways and become individuals again is unique and well done.

     9/10 for characters - Each character in this story has his/her own unique voice. This is a feat in itself as the story has so many characters, and each one is very distinct from the others. Even the classic steam punk mechanoids seem to take on a life of their own.

    9/10 for overall creativity - I wasn't sure how else to label this x-factor when I considered what made this story unique. I listed it as overall creativity because I feel just bringing a steam punk novel to life doesn't describe what this story is. It meshes the most wonderful pieces of pirate lore, that adventure and freedom we've all been in love with sometime in our life, with a steam punk world. It combines wonderful story telling with larger than life characters, it really hits the mark in so many ways that are unique to itself.

     A big thank you to Jaq D. Hawkins for contacting me about The Wake of the Dragon, I truly enjoyed the opium induced pirate epic. I can also guarantee that if you give this story a chance you will have found an author that you're going to want to keep up with, like I did.

     If you'd like to pick up The wake of the Dragon for yourself, simply click here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

That Which is Unexpected by A.L. Bridges

    Before I get started with the review itself, I do have to mention that this story will not be for everyone. It's not that its graphic, mature or that it contains content that may be offensive. What makes this story not right for everybody is the author, and the way the story is written.

    I don't mean that in a negative way at all, I really enjoyed the humor and off the wall pop-culture references that pop up throughout. I can, however, see where many people will read this story and find it a little to laid back and borderline silly. If you enjoy a bit of low-brow, semi-dark humor with off the wall, anime-like action in an overall well written story then please read on. One thing I have to point out is at the end of my review I interviewed Bridges, I feel like the authors personality is prevalent in this and to really understand the story you need to understand the author.

     The story beings following the main character, Cole. He's a college frat boy out enjoying the fast paced party life that involves drinking, smoking and plenty of coeds. The main focus of the opening scene is the bond between Cole and his best friend Jason, a friend who you find out pretty quickly has been dead for some time, and Cole is in fact 5 months past that memory.

     After learning his surrogate father, Uncle Eric, past away Cole travels to his childhood home and is reunited with his past. He falls back into his old 'family' easily, except for his 'little sister' that is a little more than that (While Cheza, this sister like character, was Uncle Eric's adopted daughter. Cole was never adopted and thus the feelings this story brings up are uncomfortable, but they really shouldn't)

     Before Cole can truly get settled in, he is thrust into the middle of a war that has been Eons in the making between the gods of various mythologies, particularly between the Norse god Loki and several gods/goddess' that span Incan, Aztec and other mythologies. These gods have very different agendas, most wanting to work together to stop Loki from bringing about Ragnarok and the end of days.

     While everything is sinking in, Cole finds out that he is a descendant of an ancient group of warriors that were created by the gods themselves. He begins training and honing his skills, all the while trying to avoid Cheza's advances and allow her to continue to live as normal a life as possible.

     Things begin to come to a head as a group of Loki's vampires attack the family compound and the bodies and bullet casings begin piling up, all the while Cold continues to fire off his patented one-liners that keep even the most desperate situation seeming light and even fun.

     The story, while again won't be for everyone, has a lot of aspects that I really enjoyed; some of the pros that I picked out for this one:
  • The mash-up between the different mythologies is something that I've never read before. The cross over works very well.
  • The characters all feel so real, and each one has his/her own personality. Whether it be the sprite-like gun toting maid, the naive teenage schoolgirl coming into her own, or the wise-cracking dead best friend they all have an individuality that work so well together.
  • There is humor and off the wall pop-culture references littered all over this story. Whether it be Dragon Ball-z or Michael Clarke Duncan and so many more. At first it seems a little immature and you feel as though its going to be a distraction, but it becomes anything but a distraction. 
     There are a few cons to it as well, and a couple seem to contradict what I have said earlier:
  • The humor isn't going to hit home for everyone. As I said earlier its a little low brow, and a little dark.
  • There are a few small mistakes that come with new authors, specifically small things such as repeating ideas and 'extra' words. These are the same mistakes that all new authors make, and in no way do they take away from the story.
     In the end That Which is Unexpected by A.L. Bridges is a wonderfully lighthearted, comical, action packed adventure that keeps you turning the pages, and I mean that; I found it hard to put down and ended up finishing it over the course of two evenings though I could have done it in one day if it weren't for the civilian job.

     Overall I'm going to give That Which is Unexpected a 7/10 based on:

6/10 for readability - Being the first story Bridges has wrote it was very well done, and the bulk of the transitions are done well. There are a few times when a chapter seems to end, or start almost prematurely.

8/10 for story - The story is very creative, and new feeling. I know I mentioned it before but I can't give enough credit to the ability of the author to mash up different mythologies and make them feel like they belong together.

7/10 for characters - The characters in the story are very well done, each is an individual and has a distinctive voice. There are a few times when you feel like they change their speech patterns up, the main character does it a few times and it was a distraction until you realize he changes that pattern only when he's speaking to a particular character.

8/10 for uniqueness - I don't just mean the story itself or any particular character. This X-factor for this is overall how unique Bridges writing is as a whole. Whether it be the dark humor at the most inopportune times, or the main character having a fight with himself for two whole pages.

     I want to thank A.L Bridges for allowing me to read and review That Which is Unexpected, it really wasn't like anything I've read before in a great way. It blended action, adventure, anime, drama, romance(sort of), mythology into a, which I would consider on the border of new adult and adult fiction though it is so unique that an exact category would be near impossible.

    Since I mentioned earlier that the story was going to appeal to some more than others, I included an interview I did with A.L. Bridges. I think the authors personality comes out in the story, and I think seeing that personality with help sway some out there that still could be on the fence when thinking about picking this story up.

           What was the inspiration for That Which is Unexpected?

I first started writing That Which is Unexpected after having a bizarre dream. I’m not the type of person to remember my dreams, but this one stuck in my mind for some reason. I don’t remember much of it anymore, but I remember there being a dead uncle that worked in the film industry, a cousin that despised me for having a closer relationship to that uncle than he did, and a house where I grew up that had several goddesses living there. Then the dream ended as I was riding on the roof of a flying Trans-Siberian Express with a blue dragon flying alongside it. I only kept a few parts of that dream but it gave me the starting point for the story that evolved into The Gods’ Executioner Series.
A big part of your story is humor, particularly with the characters Cole and Tia. It seems to predominate much of the story. Would you say this is you putting your personality on paper?
Yeah, I suppose I could say that for Cole, but Tia is more related to putting my friend’s personality on paper. Her sense of humor is a bit like Tia’s and I just imagined how she might react in the situations presented.
Another large part of the story is the take on different mythologies. Have you always been passionate about draw different myths or was it something you researched for this particular novel/series?
When I was younger, I was fascinated by the different mythologies. I was constantly reading books on Greek mythology and really enjoyed them; some of my favorites were written by Rick Riordan. However, as I got a little older, I learned more about mythology on my own and realized that it’s far from the PG rating that most books fall into. The majority of mythology is rather gruesome and twisted, which I bring up several times throughout the series. I also noticed a reoccurring pattern of incest in mythologies around the globe that I also found to be interesting, which is partially why I made Chezarei as Cole’s sister and is something that I bring up in the second book.
As for why I included so many different mythologies, that was mostly because I hadn’t read a book that combined all of them. Most books about mythology only focus on one or two mythologies in depth while disregarding the others. I decided to toss in all the mythologies I could think of and only glance over them instead.
I know there's been talk about what genre your writing falls into, but I would like to know who you feel your audience is.
As I’ve said before, I wrote the books that I wanted to read so I feel that my audience is really myself and those like me: People who grew up reading fantasy books and are looking for something a little different now that they’re older. Several people have told me that the first book falls into the Young Adult genre and I’m inclined to agree with them. However, I wouldn’t feel right putting the rest of the series in the Young Adult genre for two pretty specific reasons.
The first thing is that I’ve always hated reading a book that has a buildup of sexual tension that ultimately just patters off with a blank scene, so I get more explicit in the following books, usually while wrapping humor into the scenes. The second reason is because the series has a time span of about five years and the characters change somewhat as they get older, just like everyone does. For those reasons, I wouldn’t feel right about putting the following books of the series into the Young Adult genre.
One thing I mention in my review is that the book won't be for everyone based on the type of humor, do you feel that's a fair statement?
Definitely. I started writing to write books that I wanted to read, and I have a strange sense of humor. I’m the kind of guy that will watch a sad movie, see the main character break down in the middle of the street while it’s probably raining, and think “How funny would it be if he got hit by a bus right now?” Then I start laughing, annoying everyone around me. I know some people don’t like pop-culture references so I will say that they’ve been greatly toned down for the third book and through the last book of the series. I think I have around two dozen references in the second book while I only have that many in the last three combined.
Lastly, I know this is a question that everybody asks every author, but what made you decide to start writing?
The reason I started writing requires a little background into me as a person. I’ve had chronic pain in my right hip for the past three years and it’s kept me from going to school without being on the kind of painkillers that could bring down a baby elephant. For the past year and a half, I kept postponing my plans to return to school. Last December, after postponing my return to college for the third time, I realized that I couldn’t take another nine months of watching TV, playing video games, or some other mind-numbing activity. So, to remedy that situation, I started writing. It kept my mind active enough so that I was able to jump back into my usual school routine four weeks ago. Now, I’m still writing in my spare time because I enjoy it.
If you would like to pick up That Which is Unexpected for yourself click here.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Jethabel by L.L. Watkin

       I've noticed since I began doing reviews that I've received several requests for stories that take place in space. Some pure sci-fi, some sci-fi fantasy, and even an erotica sci-fi fantasy, among others. At first I worried that I would run into at least one carbon copied space adventure that would be way to close to another that it would be impossible to enjoy it, let alone be able to give an honest review that would do the justice that the story would deserve.

      Luckily with Jethabel by L.L. Watkin, this isn't today. Instead of a clone of some of the more popular science fiction, you get a mash up of a thrilling sci-fi adventure with a little fantasy sprinkled in.

     The story begins on a planet in the Sheraton system in the middle of a galactic war. The ruthless Tren are systematically destroying ships, fleets and colonies in an attempt to expand their reach leaving thousands behind to eventually starve to death. This planet is also where we begin to meet our protagonists, and where the seemingly non-stop opening action takes place as the crew of the crippled warship the Eleisus gathers as many civilians it can carry on its new mission to escort its passengers to safety.

     This is a problem when the ship is caught in a fire fight as it exits the planet and becomes, yet again, crippled. The one glimmer of hope that the hundreds of civilians and military personnel on board have is a derelict, or alien ship, that is left over from a species that has long been extinct. Not much is known about these ships, but fortunately for the crew of the Eleisus the ship is large enough for them to dock inside and get a needed reprieve from the advancing Tren forces.

     Once on board the crew attempts to interface with the alien craft, and discover it is way more than meets the eye. It is learned that the ship is made up of organic parts, and even possesses a conscious of its own.

     As the story deepens Watkin does a wonderful job of growing the story while maintaining the smooth flow that starts from the first page and continues until the end.

     There are a multitude of pros in this story, as usual I've narrowed down a few that I feel are most important:
  • As I just mentioned the story flows very very well. Each chapter, and mid-chapter transition is smooth and seamless.
  • The story is one that shows of Watkin's creativity and overall skill as a writer. The shear scope of the story is immense, yet there is never a moment where you feel lost.
  • The characters all have incredibly individual personalities. There are several instances where you can tell whose talking even before reading who made the statement.
     I had trouble picking anything out that I feel would be a true con to the story. I honestly wasn't able to really come up with anything that I could consider a con to the story. There were a few places where ideas/words repeated themselves, though I mean very few, and it was more of a mark of an author still honing their craft.

     In the end Jethabel by L.L. Watkin is a wonderfully creative, well written work that takes you on a true journey. Unlike many of its fellow sci-fi stories it isn't limited to a sci-fi audience; the story itself could be read by any fan of an action story or a thriller.

     Overall I'm going to give Jethabel a solid 8/10 based on:

8/10 for readability - Watkin created a well written, smooth transitioning story that flows very well. Its one of those rare stories that is truly hard to put down once you start reading.

8/10 for story - The story itself is a very creative one that meshes up different genres to create something very new that you have never read  before.

8/10 for characters - The characters are all very well done and each has his/her own personality. As I mentioned above each character has his/her own voice and you can tell who is talking most of the time by the way they're speaking.

Jethabel is such a well rounded, solid story that picking an x-factor is difficult. Each category above presents an intricate part of the story; without each one in this case it may have missed the mark, but Watkin brought everything together and created a great read.

A big thank you to L.L. Watkin for reaching out and giving me the opportunity to read and review Jethabel. I look forward to reading more of the series, and I know others will be too.

If you'd like to check out Jethabel yourself click here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pam Funke's The World at War

     There is something about a request for a review on a religious story that can be a little daunting, even enough to cause a second thought. You have to worry about it being weighted so heavily that it becomes offensive to some, you may even worry about your conflicting views making it impossible to give a fair unbiased review. The same can be said for a manuscript that mirrors your reviews giving you the inability to find anything wrong.

     Those were all issues I had to think deeply about before, and while, reading The World at War by Pam Funke. Just from reading the back flap it was apparent that she wrote a heavily Christian manuscript, though there was also promise of a strong story on top of a strong spiritual message.

     The story begins right at the start of a true apocalyptic scene. It switches quickly between heads of state in different countries, and a few groups of civilians trying to find cover and survive as missiles from each country is launched at another. The intensity over these first few chapters only continues to increase as the counterattacks begin, and the knowledge that things were no all that they seemed, and those behind it, are revealed.

     As the world is thrust deeper into chaos the UWR, United World Religion, begins accusing the Christians of a plot to destroy the world by utilizing a new biological weapon, and a weapon that seems to randomly cause people to disappear. That accusation puts the world even more on edge, even though it is the Christians themselves that are 'disappearing'.

     Early on there is a particular character that is introduced in a way that gives you the impression he is the key to everything going on. When the world is at the peak of despair he reveals himself and begins performing miracles, specifically healing, just as Jesus did.

     There are biblical versus threaded throughout the story, though these really aren't in any way a distraction. Otherwise the story really reads as a general end of the world thriller that really is a good read. There are several pros to this story throughout:
  • The story, overall, is very well told. It has elements that remind me of the Left Behind series, though it is notably different in its own way.
  • Funke wrote The World at War in a way that is different from other Revelations inspired stories. The shear amount of distance the story covers is quite an undertaking, and is impressive up until, and including, the end.
  • The characters, speaking as a whole, are well done and very human. You find yourself rooting the heroes and cursing the villains, or at least those you think are the villains.
     There are a few cons to the story as well:
  • The story jumps between character/group to character/group so quickly throughout that in a few, and I do mean few, instances becomes a bit of a distraction.
  • There are a few characters that fall a little short and seem a bit more second thought.
     In the end The World at War by Pam Funke is a great rendition of the book of Revelations and has an interestingly real feel to it. It is a good read regardless of your religion and one of the most important aspects is there really wasn't any offense to any other religions, something many manuscripts like this fall short on.

     Overall I'm going to give The World at War by Pam Funke a 7/10 based on:

6/10 for readability - The story, while well written, doesn't flow very well throughout. There are instances where the chapters are broken up to many times to ensure each character/group's stories are told each time. This works for the majority of the story but a few times it becomes a distraction.

8/10 for story - The story itself is a new take on the book of Revelations and really shows the authors interpretations on how the end will come from a 'real worl' perspective.

7/10 for characters - There are several characters that really have great personalities and well written dialogue, but unfortunately there are quite a few that just seem to be there. I did find myself picking some a few favorites and rooting for them throughout, and I am very excited to see where some of them end up in the sequel.

8/10 for interpretation - Being a Christian myself I've found that there are so many ways that people interpret the meaning of Revelations and the end of the world. Some believe it word for word and take it quite literally, others nit pick it down to where its nothing more than a cataclysmic end to the world. Funke did a great job putting her interpretation down on paper and turning it into a well written story.

    A big thanks to Pam for allowing me the opportunity to read and review her work. I'm looking forward to reading more in the series, particularly those books that follow Nicolaitanes

If you'd like to check out The World at War just click here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The House by Emma Faragher

      I've read several different supernatural stories over the years, and quite a few since I have began doing these reviews. The thing that I find the most amazing is the ability of people to bring new, and interesting characters and stories amid the droves that have been put out. The House by Emma Faragher is another one of these stories that has taken something out of mythology and altered it in a great new way.

     The story opens on a young shifter Trixibell 'Trix' Sinclair cruising a bar with a fellow shifter for a night of normalcy. One of the major differences that sets this story apart early on is the fact that the shifters only have the ability to transform into one particular animal. The range of these animals varies from a cat, a lioness even a great eagle larger than a man. One thing Faragher does well is show each individuals personality comes out in his/her animal.

     As Stripes and Trix call it an evening they're forced into a confrontation with 5 vampyres, and quickly its revealed that this encounter is anything but normal. While vampyres display most of the characteristics of their mythological counterparts, in this story they're created, and bound to, witches. Due to an agreement between the races the witches and shifters live with a relative sense of peace.

     The confrontation is brought to a head after the timid Stripes bolts, leaving Trix to fend for herself; though not for long. After a mental call is sent out a barrage of crossbow bolts begin taking the vampyres one by one until there are none left. Its then that Trix's fears really seem to come out when she realizes the man that saves her is none other than an infamous hunter that specializes in killing her kind.

     As the story progresses you begin to learn more and more of the dynamic, and fragile, relationship between the races. More importantly you learn just what makes Trix even more special when compared to her peers, her grandfather is none other than the most powerful witch in the world.

     The story continues to present an even more sinister force that seems to be driving the "treaty" between the races to a breaking point and you find yourself engrossed in figuring out what, or who, is behind everything. Even Trix's own lineage is called into question as everything comes to a head.

     Its somewhat apparent that this is Faragher's first true novel in that the writing could use a little polish here and there. Its also apparent, even early on in the novel, that she is a gifted story teller and the story is full of positives:
  • Each character, even the ancillary ones, is his or her own person. Each one has an individual personality and expresses it throughout.
  • The story feels different and new. Though the species may not be necessarily new, they're presented in a very new way and have several differences that make them different from their mythological cousins.
  • Though the writing could use a little trimming, the story flows very well. Each chapter begins seamlessly and it becomes something hard to put down.
     There are very few things that I would call true 'cons' to this story. There really is only one thing that really falls short in it:
  • As I mentioned earlier the writing could use just a little more polish. In a, very, few instances there are repetitive ideas and some extra words, but I do have to stress that the few bumps do nothing to affect the flow of the story and are in no way distractions.
     Emma Faragher's debut novel, The House, which is also the first novel is the Trix Sinclara series is an excellent one to lead off with. Though it may be apparent that it is in fact a debut novel in some ways, the stories fresh take and great flow will keep you vested throughout and you will find yourself, like me, excited for the second installment.

     Overall I'm going to give The House a 7/10:

     7/10 for readability- The story contains several bits that new authors, ones that haven't quite mastered self editing, miss. Be that as it may the bulk of the story does not have these. Even the few areas they show up are not story affecting, nor do they affect the flow in any way.

     7/10 for story- The story is fresh and flows very well from chapter to chapter. The characters, while being creatures that are part of the main stream supernatural, all are done in a very new and different way.

     8/10 for characters- The characters you're introduced throughout all have their own unique personalities that you can identify by the way they speak. The biggest plus is the way the shifters animals come out in their personalities.

     7/10 for creativity- The x-factor for this story, in my opinion, is the shear creativity behind it. Faragher created a story that is filled with fresh and new feeling ideas, creatures and characters.

     I'd like to thank new author Emma Faragher for allowing me to read and review The House. I really enjoyed reading it and I really look forward to reading the second installment when it comes out.

    If you would like to check out The House for yourself simply click here.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Waters Edge by K.V. McMillan

       As writers we all look towards family for that initial "You can do it" when it comes to our work. Most of us have at least one person that swears our work is worthy of publication and that we are on the right track. The writer of my next review, K.V. McMillan, had a friend take a story she had written for her 'love' and build a whole new publishing company around her work The Waters Edge.

      We have all read stories by authors that were never intended to be published, and the fact that the author was writing for his/herself sometimes enhances the story since the stresses of worrying about the audience is drastically reduced.

      The story follows Cedwynne McKenzie, a young deputy U.S. Marshall, in the 23rd century. Cedwynne is not a typical 26 year old woman, and it becomes apparent early on as she slowly reveals her ability to see the Aura's of living things in addition to a few physical traits that are considered relatively common mutations, known as G-3 mutations, that give her an enhanced muscle and bone density.

      Soon into the story Cedwynne is called into her bosses office and offered a position with a new branch of law enforcement, Counter Section. Little is known about this secret agency, and its clear early on that, despite her many qualifications, Cedwynne's problem with authority and straightforwardness are not taken lightly with her new supervisors.

      Once the true nature of Counter Section is revealed Ced becomes privy to her predecessor's work; though the realization that the existence of certain nightmarish characters draws a bit of both fear and doubt out of the anti-heroine.

       Things become even hairier once she closes, or at least thinks she closes, her first case and the discovery of a plethora of supernatural beings. Ced finds herself in well over her head when a fellow agent orders a hit on her, and afterwards explains that the order came from way above him.

       Everything comes to a head as Cedwynne must decide who she can trust. The mysterious man who speaks in riddles that cuts her grass, those that 'supervise' her activities, the handsome wheirwolf whose pack she helped save, or even herself as the thrills really begin to come out in this supernatural thriller that is true to both of its roots.

      Its easy to see why McMillan's friend became so vested into this story that he built his publishing company around it. There are so many great things about it, and here are a few of the pros that I feel help set it apart:
  • The story, while on paper may seem like yet another supernatural love story, feels fresh and new. McMillan does a wonderful job combining a thriller and an adult supernatural story into something new and entertaining.
  • Each one of the characters is his/her own person. Whether its the hard-nosed anti-heroine, or the soft-spoken man with a heart of a poet, even the President of the United States has his own voice and is easily recognizable throughout the story.
  • The semi-dystopian United States is something I haven't read about before, at least not in this way. The story of the rise and fall of the country, and the whole world is done differently but in a way that isn't so far fetched that you could truly picture what it has become.
      The cons for this particular piece were a bit harder to pick through. I couldn't find any true con to the story, but I did find one small personal note, though I must stress personal:
  • The main character, Cedwynne, is almost a bit to brash. I'm all for an anti-heroine, but on a few, and I have to stress very few, occasions her actions seem a bit to extreme. I do have to note that there is an incident that justifies these later on in the story, I'm just referring to one or two things at the beginning of the story.
      K.V. McMillan's debut novel, The Waters Edge, is a huge must-read from me. The creativity and skill that this story brings, coupled with the true thrills it contains will keep you turning the page throughout.

      Overall I'm going to give The Waters Edge a 9/10 based on:

      9/10 for readability- The way this story flows surprised me, being this authors first published work. Each chapter transitions smoothly from one to the other, and the ideas seem to keep coming throughout adding more layers to the overall story.

      9/10 for story- McMillan brings a creative story that flows well. Each chapter offers a new piece of the overall puzzle that delves deep into political turmoil, interestingly enough there's both turmoil in the human government and the politics of the wheirwolf pack Cedwynne befriends.

      8/10 for characters- As I mentioned earlier, each character truly takes on a life of his/her own. I especially like the way the characters from the wolf pack really feel like, based on the way they speak and act, they are part of a true hierarchy and behave based on their position in the pack.

     9/10 for thrills- I do like the reinvention of the supernatural creatures, but the thriller aspect is what really sets this story apart for me. It has all the aspects of a great thriller with a small degree of mystery thrown in to keep you guessing just how deep Cedwynne's rabbit hole really goes.

      I have to thank K.V. McMillan for allowing me the opportunity to read and review her novel. I really do look forward to reading the next installment in the career of Marshall McKenzie.

      If you would like to check out The Waters Edge click here.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Nexus One by Nicolas Wilson

           I was not sure what Nicolas Wilson meant when he told me he was sending me a copy of his space opera, Nexus One. I had run the gambit in my head of what a space opera could actually be, obviously the main thought was space soap opera. In the end I was pleasantly surprised with what I had received.

          Nexus One takes place in the future during a time when the former U.N., now referred to as the United Government or U.G., is attempting to discover extraterrestrial worlds and obtain mining rights from their inhabitants for precious minerals that are becoming scarce on earth. In particular it follows the crew of the Nexus, one of two space ships tasked with searching these worlds out.

          The story is told in the first person following the Captain of the ship and his daily dealings with crew issues, planetary issues, and his own personal 'demons'. Wilson does well delivering a strong character in the Captain, and though he is a depth of emotions his dark and slightly sociopathic side comes out in most of the dialogues between him and his crewmembers.

          As the ship travels and more about its inner workings are explained as the story progresses, Wilson does a spot on job, in true Sci-Fi fashion, of explaining its operations in a way that doesn't leave you wondering how things are possible. Everything from the way the engines work, which was a new way that hasn't been used in every sci-fi fantasy since Star Wars, to the way the probes that reach new planets scan said planet and monitor the locals.

          Each time they visit a new planet Wilson paints a good, strong, picture of new and amazing creatures that fit well into their environments and still seem plausible. The worlds range from giant shapeless amoebas to strange chameleon-like psychics, each one fascinating and new.

          The one thing that Nexus keeps going back to throughout, and one of the best and worst parts about it, is the crew interactions during the long treks in between planets. As the story progresses you are introduced to more and more characters, each with his or her own personality; even the ships A.I. has a strong individual personality that garnered a chuckle from me on more than one occasion.

          The story has several positive moments that kept me interested throughout:
  • Nexus One travels at, like the ship, near light speed. It quickly moves, in a way that is very smooth and precise.
  • The characters all feel like individuals and have their own nuances in the speak that keeps them feeling separate, which is no easy feat when you consider the amount of characters throughout the story.
  • The setting is new, and the ship itself is unique. This includes each world that feels like something I'd never seen, though also like something I could see.
         In contrast to the pros, there were a couple things that I would consider to be cons:
  • Though the characters are unique, and most dialogues are well done. Several times, especially the character of the Captain, the conversations are filled with more sexual innuendo than they needed.
  • This is more of an extension than the first con than a new one, but the sexual aspects were really forced onto a couple of the worlds where event he A.I. seemed to be getting involved. It almost goes back to Captain Kirk and the green women, though on a more modern and extreme level.

          In the end Nexus One is a really good read with a smooth flow, wonderful characters and a strong new story. I definitely recommend picking it up, even if you aren't a fan of Sci-fi. There is a LOT of adult related material, including two pages of describing combination testicles and breasts, but overall its more fun/funny rather than graphic.

Overall I'm going to give Nexus One by Nicholas Wilson a 7/10 based on:

8/10 for readability- The story flows well throughout and keeps you turning the page wondering what Wilson has in store for the next world.

8/10 for story- Though exploring planets and traveling through space is a premise for several books, Nexus One goes about it in a different way. It's filled with the elements that not only make a good Sci-fi adventure, but also just a good read.

7/10 for characters- As I mentioned earlier I really enjoyed the characters. Wilson created several characters, each with their own personality and behavior. One thing that set them back a bit was the dialogue hindered them a little. On one hand you would have a brilliant psychiatrist, then every other sentence in an exchange is sexual in manner. The humor was there but it being laid on a little bit thick took away from some of the characters.

7/10 for humor- The dialogue is riddled with sexual innuendo and jokes that while funny for the most part, tend to weigh it down some. The humor itself is one of the main pieces that makes this story different than the rest. For the most part it hits home, but there are a few instances when it doesn't quite hit the mark.

          Thank you to Nicolas Wilson for giving me the opportunity to read and review Nexus One. It was a step out of my comfort zone, one that I'm very happy I got to take.

If you're interested in checking out Nexus One for yourself click here.