Clade by James Bradley, A cautionary tale.

clade.jpgAdam is in Antartica, marking the passage of the solstice. Across the globe, his wife Ellie is waiting for the results of her IVF treatment. So begins the story of one family in a changing world, where the apocalyptic mingles with the everyday; a father battles a biblical storm; an immigrant is mysteriously drawn to the art of beekeeping; a young girl’s diary chronicles a pandemic; and a young man finds solace in building virtual recreations of the dead…

Let’s be honest, this book was bound to come to my view one day and I’m glad that it did because I happen to absolutely love time travel or alternate reality type stories. This goes beyond that–it follows a family through the expanse of time, so readers get to enjoy a great story that explores both science fiction and something of a family drama. As far as I can see, it isn’t part of a series, either, so for those who enjoy single stories (instead of having to read multiple novels in order to get the full view of the characters and their plights), this is a great fit.

I have never read any of James Bradley’s other works, but I feel like I might. My to-be-read pile is absolutely huge right now, but I’ll make room and I would imagine that after reading Clade, others will too. He’s a good writer, but some of the characters weren’t as strong as I would have liked. He did, however, deliver a great premise and he followed through until the very last chapter. The climate change cautionary tale James Bradley has written for us is certainly thought provoking.

If you would like to find out for yourself, I found Clade by James Bradley on Amazon, but you can also buy it from Titan Books.

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Dark Immolation by Christopher Husberg

husbergA new religion is rising, gathering followers drawn by rumors of prophetess Jane Oden. Her sister Cinzia—once a Cantic priestess—is by her side, but fears that Jane will lead them to ruin. For both the Church and the Nazaniin assassins are still on their trail, and much worse may come.
Knot, his true nature now revealed if not truly understood, is haunted by his memories, and is not the ally he once was. Astrid travels to Tinska to find answers for her friend, but the child-like vampire has old enemies who have been waiting for her return. And beyond the Blood Gate in the empire of Roden, a tiellan woman finds herself with a new protector. One who wants to use her extraordinary abilities for his own ends…

Here’s the thing, kids. I read the first book in this quintet and wasn’t impressed. I didn’t even mark a review or rating on Goodreads or Amazon because I was that unimpressed with the story. Husberg is a good author. I like his style and I like his characters, but the plot in his novel, Duskfall, I disliked. But, I always approach novels with an open mind, particularly when I know the writer behind it can actually write and can create very believable characters. Characters were never an issue for me in Duskfall, FYI. So, with this all being established, I’ll get on with the review for the subsequent novel (the second in a quintet, I’m told), Dark Immolation.

As was true in Duskfall, Dark Immolation’s characters were great. That’s always key in a good story. I can’t read a book if I really could care less what happens to the people (or creatures) in it. If I can’t imagine them, if their dialogue is vague and generic, or if I just really dislike them, I’m not going to keep reading. One of Christopher Husberg’s strongest writing abilities (in my opinion) is that he can flesh out characters with an insane amount of skill. I’d like to buy him coffee and discuss this, but I’m sure that would border on stalker behavior and maybe he has a blog instead.

I feel like Christopher Husberg’s storytelling has improved since Duskfall. I enjoyed the feeling of dipping your toes into the waters of theology throughout this story and I enjoyed questioning my own thoughts as I read. I also like that when reading anything he has written (applies to both Duskfall and Dark Immolation) there is a good balance in the writing. Not too much dialog, but just the right amount. Not too much description, but just enough. Not too much this, nor too much that…See what I mean? He never lost my interest due to over stimulation or under stimulation. That’s important for me.

I would recommend this book. Heck, I’ll recommend the entire quintet (though, as of right now, subsequent books are not available yet). Just because Duskfall didn’t do it for me doesn’t mean it won’t some of you.

If you’re interested in seeing for yourself, hop over to Amazon and check it out. Read more reviews, if you so wish to do.

Books I haven’t enjoyed…

cropped-snapshot_20150626_1.jpgSometimes when I go through my review pile, I come across books I don’t like. It happens and I hate it because in most cases I know there will be other people who might really love those books. So, I try my best to write an honest review and give the author their fair reviews.

I have a list of those books here. And, for the sake of fairness, I’m not going to write a full review of any of them because I don’t feel like I’m the right person to do so. However, I feel like there is a handful of books that deserve some attention and a few mentions in my blog as being books I would recommend to friends, even though I didn’t enjoy them myself.

Off Rock by Kieran Shea

This book was good,but I didn’t finish it because I wasn’t interested. The beginning is strong, as a beginning should be. Characters are fleshed out the right way, too, but the story itself found me looking for something else to do by the third chapter. iO9 gave it a great review on Amazon (link above, just click the book’s title).

The Age Of Olympus by Gavin Scott

Duncan Forrester’s research on an Aegean island is interrupted first by the murder of a British archaeologist, and then by the outbreak of the Greek Civil War. The worship of ancient gods may provide a clue to the murderer, but in such a tumultuous time, little is what it seems.

Another one I couldn’t get into. I think I had such a hard time with this novel because it’s the second in the series and I haven’t read the first one. I may remedy that one day soon. There is already a third in this series for pre-order, so I assume the author is having some good success with these books. I wish him all the best, too. If you’re interested in this book, click the title and check it out.

The Vinyl Detective- The Run Out Groove by Andrew Cartmel 

His first adventure consisted of the search for a rare record; his second begins with the discovery of one.  When a mint copy of the final album by “Valerian”—England’s great lost rock band of the 1960s—surfaces in a charity shop, all hell breaks loose. 

This one is another that is a second in a series. I have no idea why I keep ending up with books that are out of order from series, but that’s the way it happens sometimes. As a general rule of thumb, a writer’s job (when writing multiple books in the same series) is to ensure that the reader can enjoy the book out of order without feeling something is missing. That is sometimes not how it is done, unfortunately, but with this novel (which I DID manage to finish, even though it wasn’t my type) I was able to set it apart and it could easily live on its own. Kudos, Andrew Cartmel. It still wasn’t my cup of tea, but I would recommend it to others, so it is here, in THIS post instead of on its own, though I’ll give it its own rating on Goodreads and Amazon. I may actually pass this book onto my daughter as it seems more her speed than mine! As always, click the title and head over to Amazon if you’d like to know more or purchase your own copy.

 

Stay tuned for more reviews and some overdue ones! I’ve just gotten my little office nook into order and figured out what on earth was going on with my blog. Technical issues are not my strong suit. 

But, nonetheless, keep calm and read on, folks! 

 

Relics by Tim Lebbon

Relics

Relics by Tim Lebbon, Titan Books 2017

Release Date: March 21, 2017

SYNOPSIS FROM TITAN BOOKS:

Beneath the surface of our world, mythological creatures and their artifacts still exist—corrupt people pay fortunes for a sliver of dragon bone, a basilisk’s scale, or an angel’s wing. Angela Gough is an American criminology student in London whose fiancé Vince disappears, and her investigation leads her into a black market specializing in arcane relics. She meets Mary Rock, a criminal of mythic status who also wants to find Vince… to kill him. Angela and a growing team of adventurers must stop this horrific trade, yet they face a growing menace as the hunted creatures begin to fight back.

 

To start, the characters in the story are lifelike and believable, but I don’t like them. If they were real, they wouldn’t be my kind of people at all, so they were hard for me (personally) to relate too, particularly female characters. The fact that I didn’t particularly like Vince or Angela made it really hard to follow their story. Thankfully, I do enjoy science fiction much more when there are characters and beings written into the story that are not human and that is what you will find in RELICS.

Unfortunately, the black market aspects of the story felt almost like something found in a late night cartoon or as a made for TV movie on Syfy channel. The idea was exciting, but the execution of which left much to be desired. Much of the story meandered because there were times I felt like I was reading the same scenes or themes over and over again.

I would recommend this book to the right kinds of readers if I felt it was what they might be looking for, but for most, I’d say it’s a three star read from me and maybe something else by the same author would suit because I hear he’s written some excellent books. This one isn’t one of them.

But, if you’re brave and bored…

Buy Relics by Tim Lebbon on Amazon.
Buy Relics by Tim Lebbon from Titan Books.

Escapology by Ren Warom

I’ve never read anything by this author (probably because it’s her debut novel), but I gave this book a good, fair shot because all books deserve a fair shot and I don’t believe in sticking to the same authors all the time. It’s not good for the soul. Let’s move on to my thoughts, shall we?

There are a few big points to remember when reading this book.

  1. It’s very fast paced.
  2. There is a SHARK on the cover. Who doesn’t like sharks? Keep up!
escapology (1)

Release date: 6/14/16

Shock Pao is not just any Haunt—he’s the best. There isn’t a system that he can’t crack into, no virtual lock he can’t pick, nothing he can’t steal for the right price. Outside virtual world the Slip, though, he’s a Fail—no degree, no job, no affiliations to protect him from angry ex-customers. Of which he has quite a few. So when his ex brings Shock a job which could help him escape his miserable existence, he accepts, little realizing that it will turn out to be his most impossible, illegal and insane assignment yet.

Amiga works for Twist Calhoun, one of the toughest crime lords in the Gung, as a Cleaner—assassin. Trapped in a world of kill-or-be-killed, she wants out. But when Shock’s war comes to her, she doesn’t have a choice: it’s her job to bring him to Twist, dead or alive—or it’ll be her head in a bag in Twist’s vault.

See?  There’s a thing called the Slip (which is sort of described in the blurb above) and all of these people doing all of these crazy, great things. Very fast paced, as advertised.

The story is told through the points of view of a handful of characters, though I am partial to the story line of one in particular, Shock Pao. Shock is every bit the character I want to read about when I pick up a book to read. There is something deep and needed in a character who has been well fleshed out—let’s face it, we (as readers) don’t always get that. Shock, I think, is one of those figures we always want to read, but can’t find. One of the best things I can say about Shock Pao is that he is not perfect. He has problems that could stack up as high as the Eiffel Tower, but he keeps going, perhaps because he has little choice. In that way, I think a lot of readers can probably relate to him, if even on a smaller scale.

But, wait! There is another character from this very same novel I like even more and I am disappointed I didn’t get to read more from or about him. His name is Cassius Angel and he’s the captain of a land ship called Resurrection. Those blog readers who know me know I have a weakness for all things nautical. This particular captain needs his own book. I want to read about the life and times of Captain Cassius Angel and his ship, the Resurrection. The more I read about him in Escapology, the more I wanted to know. While reading the novel, my own unmet whim to hear more from Cassius Angel began to overshadow my need to give a hoot about the other characters. This actually became a big problem for me.

Amiga was the one character I couldn’t really relate to on any scale whatsoever and, more than that, I just didn’t want to read what she was doing. I couldn’t force myself to be interested in Amiga no matter how hard I tried and, believe me, I did try.

This book is great for some people. It wasn’t really my bag, though, because I’m not into cyberpunk at all. I didn’t choose this book, it chose me. Honestly, I’m glad it did. As I say often, it’s good to read something you wouldn’t normally read. The story is well written and the characters are well fleshed and well placed. I am disappointed that Cassius Angel doesn’t have his own book, but there is always time for that and here’s to hoping! Ultimately, I found it difficult to bounce from one character’s point of view to another to another. Some folks have no qualms with this, but I have a hard time with more than two POVs, especially toward the beginning of a story because the beginning is where the reader is supposed to be hooked.

I will not be including a star rating in my blog for this book because I don’t think it would be fair of me to do so as this story wasn’t for me. This does NOT mean Escapology isn’t worthy of any stars. I simply don’t want to be unfair to the author or the book and I feel that by rating a book that just wasn’t what I’m into, I’d be slighting a writer because though this story wasn’t something I’m interested in, the writing and storytelling abilities are very there and I’m just not Ren Warom’s audience  for this title. Maybe the next one.

If you happen to be into cyberpunk, futuristic sort of things, please head on over to Titan Books and buy a copy by clicking here.   

If you feel like this genre simply isn’t for you, I’ve made a note in my stash of notes to keep up with this author. I want to see what she does next.

 

 

 

 

 

Welcoming 2016 With Stories and Changing Tastes

books

Every year I keep a log of books, short stories, and articles of note that I’ve read. In 2015, I logged an awful lot of books. Some were new releases, but more often than not, not. By this log, though, I figured that I read more how-to books, gardening books, and history books than anything else. I don’t know why it happened this way, but maybe because I’ve been sort of fighting a dark depression and anxiety with hobbies–gardening, sewing, and just about anything I can do which would keep my hands busy. I’m the kind of person who needs to be doing something, even if it’s something small, such as mending a buttonhole or planting a seed. And, once I’m focused, that’s it. I’m addicted to something new and you’ll soon find me in bookshops and online seeking out books regarding my new hobby, whatever it may be. I can’t just be a novice at anything. I will constantly strive to master it.

But, in 2010, for example, I logged mostly romance and horror novels. In 2011 and 2012, same. In 2013, by some strange tap of the reading fairy’s wand, I changed directions and returned to my science fiction and fantasy roots. You see, the firsts books I really loved–and I mean REALLY loved–were sci-fi novels, comics, fantasy tomes, and short stories in magazines involving elves, ghosts, goblins, werewolves, aliens, and vampires. I started reading time travel novels again. I started picking up newer novels by authors I’d forgotten I loved so much in high school. And, I began to change the way I think about things again. I think that’s just something that happens ever so often in life. Your life changes direction, so your reading lists change direction, too.

By 2014, I’d changed completely. I haven’t completely let go of reading romance, but I want to read everything about everything. Sometimes there just isn’t enough space on a year’s worth of bookshelf for all of the books a person would wish to read. I think that might be what happens to me. I am too ambitious. But, there are just so many books!

But, back to 2015.

Last year, my children grew. My fortunes changed (sort of) with the coming of a move which will take me from living in a small 3 bedroom house with a small yard to a small 4 bedroom house with a yard that reaches beyond what the eye can see (my husband’s family’s farm). In anticipation of this move, my family and I have discussed a lot of changes. We’re letting go of cable because it won’t be available. We’re going to have an internet connection to watch Netflix and Hulu and do internety things. But, we’ve also decided that we’re going to raise some chickens and continue growing beautiful herbs and Cherokee purple tomatoes (which are to die for, by the way, and can be found at Burpee’s online). On the farm, my father-in-law and brother-in-laws (and their wives and families) raise chickens, horses, cows, pigs, and sometimes goats. And, I think my niece has some rabbits somewhere. So, with all of this in mind, I’ve been reading about soil, about how to raise animals (because I’m absolutely terrified of horses and have no clue how to manage livestock, much less live with them), and about how to live a simpler life.

Now, hold on, people. Before you start thinking ahead, NO. No, we are not homesteaders. Absolutely, just no. I have mad amounts of respect for homesteaders, but that’s not what we’re doing  at all. We’re just simplifying things and moving forward with raising our family in an area where I won’t have to worry about being so close to other people. Well, except for my husband’s family. Two of his brothers, their wives, their collective six children, and my mother-in-law and father-in-law all live on the same stretch of property, but it’s big enough that none of us have to look at each other if we don’t want to. Or unless I need to be saved from the horses (ha ha).

The beautiful part of how life changes your reading habits, though, is that when I move to my little farm shack in the middle of nowhere, I’ll have new places to read. Also, I have a niece and a sister-in-law who both love to read, too, so maybe we can exchange good books ever so often. Who knows–we might even start our own book club right on the edge of the mountain. I’m sure the new experiences I have there will absolutely reflect in the 2016 reading log. I have plans to pick up a Farmer’s Almanac and a Gardener’s Almanac next time I’m in the Dollar General store in town. And, beyond that, there’s a discount store in Beckley (about 35 minutes from me) where I can pick up as many books about flowers and plants as I want because they’re really cheap. I’d love a book about flowers so I can learn about which ones are the easiest to grow and which ones need what because I do have plans for a white rose bush and roses are not things I know a lot about, although I’ve always loved white roses (among other white flowers, I also love the white moonflowers/Datura).

bookThere are a few crime fiction novels I plan to read this year, though, and they’re already sitting on my nightstand. AND, I do have some drama, history, and romance novels sitting in my shelf, waiting on me to give them some attention. First, though, I have a book filled with the love letters between Lucrezia Borgia and Pietro Bembo. The book is called “The Prettiest Love Letters In the World” because they truly are. I’ve already taken a peek at them.

scandalsAnd, of course, it’s January 3rd, which means I’ve already read a book this year. It’s was called “Treasury of Royal Scandals” and it was published some years back, but still such a great read. Books aren’t like food–they don’t ruin after a while. They stay great. I’ve learned that there is also a book out there called “A Treasury of Great American Scandals,” which I’d like to add to my collection, too. The author, Michael Farquhar, has many books out I’d like to snatch. Seriously, where has this guy been all my life as a reader? “Treasury of Royal Scandals” was brilliant. It was a great way to start the year, in my opinion.

I’m curious to know how everyone else feels on the subject of changing tastes in books. Is it just me? Do the rest of you change tastes every now and then? I can’t imagine I’m the only person on the face of the planet who sometimes switches from medieval kings and queens to cyborgs and werewolves.

 

10 Things For Writers To Be Thankful For

snoopy-writing

 

  1. Free word processing programs. A lot of writers are on a tight budget (who would have thought, right?), so sometimes it’s convenient to have free MS Word Alternatives. I’ve used Open Office many, many times and I like it quite a bit. It’s more than adequate. Remember the days when computers came equipped with Word? Those were the days, huh?
  2. Coffee pots that turn themselves off. Sometimes, when writing, one might forget to get up and turn it off themselves. Not naming any names or anything…
  3. Friends who are also writers. Online, offline, or anywhere in between, sometimes only another writer will understand what’s going on in our heads. Spouses, children, parents, and other friends may try and do a really great job supporting us, but when you have a deadline and you need a shove, sometimes it just takes another writer to kick your butt into gear. AND, they sometimes know of submission calls you’ve never heard of.
  4. A comfy writing spot. Is it just me, or do other writers out there also have a favorite spot to write? In bed? On the couch? Outside? In the car? You name the place and I promise I know a writer who prefers to write there. I even know a lady who likes to write in her bathroom floor. Beer may or may not play a role in that scenario.
  5. Failures, great and small. Without them, we wouldn’t grow and learn. We all have them. If a writer ever tells you they’ve never failed with a project, they’re just lying.
  6. A life story. Everybody has a life story. Some are normal, but of all the writers I know, I only know a few with a normal upbringing. Experiences gained through childhood and beyond shape who we are as people and that seeps into a person’s writing in so many ways. Be thankful, even if your life has been shitty. Or don’t. That’s up to you.
  7. Bookshelves (or boxes, crates, stacks…) full of books. These are our greatest tools. You can’t write if you don’t read.
  8. Beta readers. These people are crazy important. They’re our test subjects, sort of. They read our books before anyone else. Good betas give honest feedback. I have a beta I know will tell me the truth. If my book sucks, she’ll say, “Honey, this is trash. Fix this shit.” And I totally love her for it.
  9. Imagination and the willingness to use it. Why would a twenty-something scientist’s assistant take off in a beat up Ford to venture into alternate realities, knowing death was always a likely scenario? Because I wanted to write that, that’s why.
  10. Foods of convenience. Frozen or delivery pizzas, ramen noodles, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, microwave meals, soup in a can, Chinese delivery–while I don’t suggest on living off of these things, they come in handy when you have a deadline or when you’re at the end of your novel and you just have to keep going or else you might burst.