Stories from the Nation of Wisland by Bryce Paradis and Evan Coupland

Summary

In Wisland, the church is the state and God’s word is law. The nation’s supreme leader, the Diviner, is resting on his deathbed. A secretly atheistic cleric is poised to succeed him and speak for God. A drought is devastating this year’s crops, and the underclass is bracing for a starving winter. Follow five characters as they struggle to survive a pre-industrial nation being torn apart by an onslaught of change.

Amazon

Characters

This jumps around between multiple points of view, most of which are main characters. Each character was well built and unqiue…although most are difficult to like. The authors did a good job of making them feel real. Tam—the gentle giant, Linne—the odd aristocrat, Talos—the ambitious change agent, Etta—the ‘wolf pup,’ and Duncan—the aged believer. There are also snapshots into other stories and entries from journals from other secondary characters. Downside of getting flashes into people’s lives is context. At times an entire chapter was confusing, while others were easy to understand and follow. Once the familiar faces return, it gets easier to get into the story’s flow. That being said I very much enjoyed Linne’s story.

Plot

In this fully immersive world, you are dropped into Wisland. This book doesn’t ease you in, it throws you in, so hold on! It has impressive world building with its own language and feel. It creates an authentic feel to the stories and characters.

That being said the plot never really forms, as it focuses more on the characters. That gave it a story for story sake feel. If you are looking for happy endings, go elsewhere. These felt like real and unforgiving stories that unfolded. They pack a punch. I’m not sure if there was a conclusion or even an overall direction, other then just reading a collection of stories from this unique dytopian world. The themes I picked up on were: People are people and we are our choices. 

Overall

Melodic but pointed prose that have a tenancy to explain in a round about sort of way but mostly still get its point across. At times it felt like a different dialect with no context.  I also noticed many times there was a tendency for long-winded run on in text and dialogue. Not always bad but ones mind did tend to wander when it ran too long. Even though the stories were dark and visceral, they had an authentic feel to our own sorted history with religion. It presented the aspects of religion nicely without being overbearing or swinging harsh in either direction. I believe this was achieved because it was a character driven, rather than a plot driven book. The sort of non-ending conclusion was my least favorite part of the book.

Rating

4 Stars

A literary fiction set in a dystopian time, immerse yourself in the world of Wisland and its sordid characters as you catch a glimpse of their lives.

Where did I get a copy?

The author sent me a copy. This is a voluntary and honest review.

Advertisements

Snapped by Jacci Turner

Summary

Ari Wren has a great life: Two best friends and a family she loves.

Cade Waters is by far the most popular guy at Sierra High School. Why then has he suddenly noticed Ari, a freshman nobody? Her friends are surprised by his attention and more than a little jealous. As Ari finds herself falling for Cade, his requests become more intimate and personal. Ari feels confused and unsure about what to do.

Follow Ari as she navigates budding romance, tough decisions, betrayal, and a trip to an island in this young adult story of growing up the hard way.

Amazon

Characters

Ari was blah at first. By the end of the book she blossoms and I almost missed her. I rallied behind her as she proved herself to be stronger then she thought. Shyla, her best friend, was a delightful addition. I also liked the relationship with her ‘German exchange sister’ as it developed throughout the book. Thea is thankfully a mostly two dimensional character that helped Ari find who she is in her own way. Clayton is such a gentleman and a catalyst for her but I’m happy to say Ari is eventually able to make her decisions for herself. Cade is exactly what you thought he’d be…or is he?

Plot

I’ll admit, when I started this book I thought “here we go again, another high school story about the ‘shy normal girl’ and the super popular guy.” I mentally rolled my eyes but dug in, sometimes they are still fun. Boy was I way off. The author does a good job lulling you into a state of calm and then throws a curve ball. Then a few more for good show and I was sucked in. This book is NOT at all what you think it is. All I’ll say is it was a delusional teenager in love with the idea of the person or what I like to call ‘The Prince Charming Trap.’ I’m afraid to say more but give this book a chance, it might just surprise you in a good way, too! 

Overall

The writing was enjoyable and straight forward—I read it very quickly. After the initial plot pointed me in one direction I significantly lowered my expectations.The plot could have gone really two ways and this one was very lighthearted and hopeful. Then it hit on themes that young girls are dealing with today and gives them a voice through a fourteen-year-old girl who doesn’t think she’s anyone special. It isn’t perfect but it has the right tone and lots of right messages that I could stand behind. I’d highly recommend picking this up for a teenage girl you know.  My only compliant was everything seemed to come together quickly and in a nice neat bow. Not really realistic but it was a positive message!

Rating

4.5 Stars (rounded up)

Sometimes you want the edgy tragedy, sometimes you want the high school romance, and sometimes you want the Hallmark story with an actual point. This is the teenage equivalent of a Hallmark read with life lessons to be learned.

This is a voluntary review.

 

Justice: A Steward Saga Short Story Collection by Janelle Garrett

Summary

When Captain Trinn and her crew of slavers encounter an unusual mist on the surface of the Passage Sea, Trinn begins to have strange experiences. The lines between reality and nightmare blur, leaving Trinn at the mercy of a dark power.

And there are more mysteries in the mist. For it calls forth something darker, something bigger, something capable of destroying everything Trinn has worked so hard to build. And when everything is stripped away, what will be left? Dive into a series of short stories full of magic, betrayal, monsters, and myths. Contains Part 1 – The Misty Sea, Part 2 – The Palisade Kingdom, Part 3 – The Nomad, Part 4 -The Dreadwood, and Part 5 – The New Name.

From the author of the Rift in the Deep and Rise of the Warlock King comes a Steward Saga epic fantasy tale that will leave you breathless.

It is the story of Justice.

Amazon

Overall

Trinn is a stubborn (almost to epic proportions), powerful woman on the hunt for vengeance.  It would have been nice to have more information on the two power sources (the Deep and the Rift). They were never really explained but it didn’t detract from the story too much. The world building was interesting and the plot fast paced. Many of the themes and lessons felt true—such as grief and the old adage about revenge. There were a few far fetched moments, but they just added to the flavor of the novel. 

Yep. Its a novel. This is marked as a short story collection but it is not a collection of short stories. Short stories are normally not so linked or telling a greater story that started with the first through the last. In the end I’ll say this was a book/novel. The ‘parts’ did have an episodic feel to it but mostly picked up where the last one left off, in chronological order. The writing was enjoyable and easy to follow.

Rating

4 stars

Not a collection of short stories but still an enjoyable fantasy story.

Symbiont Dawn by R. Leib

Summary

Robert Breslawn was a modern man, a man of urban mediocrity, but a desire for so much more roiled within him. He took a trek into the country side, in the hope of finding something special within himself there. Instead something special found him, and he was changed in ways no one could have ever imagined.

Overall

This short story reads like a quick fairy-tale. It has the lesson (don’t do the thing or something bad will happen) which of course our protagonist ignores. The beginning is a confusing cloud of information that are like scattered pieces of a puzzle. As the story progresses the pieces fall into place and becomes very interesting. It can easily be read in one sitting. I loved the descriptions and playfulness of the story. The author paints vivid pictures that are intriguing and easy to follow. Overall a worthwhile read.

Rating

4 stars

You need a short story with a unique fairy-tale feeling story? Read this one.

Where did I get a copy?

Author provided me with copy. This is a voluntary review.

Far-Knowing (Book 1) by Melinda Brasher

Summary

After the Chaos Mage traps their mentor within a deadly spell, two apprentice mages set off to find and defeat this menace to the kingdom. But how can these inexperienced young women possibly track down and battle the sort of man who destroys villages with summoned wind or fire just for fun? They’ve learned no aggressive magic and never tested themselves against a real enemy.

Kallinesha, still an apprentice after seven years, struggles against her lack of raw magical power, compensating instead with discipline and study. Daughter of the High Commander, driven relentlessly by the duty in her blood, she knows they can defeat the Chaos Mage and safeguard the kingdom.

Ista, a commoner and daughter of a city baker, harbors no such delusions. But after only three years of study, her power burns much brighter than Kallinesha’s. The task before them terrifies her, but she loves her mentor too much to let her waste away under the Chaos Mage’s spell. Not if there’s the slimmest chance of saving her.

The two have never been able to get along while studying magic. Will they be able to work together now when so much is at stake?

Amazon

Characters

There are two primary character for most of the novel—Kallinesha (or Kalli) and Ista—with Ryveld joining later as a third point of view. The rest are supporting characters, my favorite of which is Taylendar (or Tay). For the first half of the novel it is Kalli and Ista…bickering. Right when it really starts to get annoying, Tay comes into the mix, followed closely by Ryveld. I would say that was a turning point in the novel once there was someone else in the dynamic besides Kalli and Ista.

Plot

The Chaos Mage has been wreaking havoc all across their land; killing and destroying. When Kalli and Ista’s mistress performs a far-knowing and gets a glimpse of the Chaos Mage, they are sent to stop him at all cost. Inexperienced but not powerless, the girls set out to rid their land of this powerful evil. This is where the book lost me. Why send such terribly unprepared girls? They aren’t the best or the most powerful. It didn’t make sense. Right up until they started to question why they were sent and perspectives change. I don’t want to get into specifics but the book picks up about halfway through and there are a few twists.

Overall

There is an entire big world built by the author. One of the major aspects is the magic, but it gets back to basics. Such as spells needing ingredients and time to be cast. Also there are hints of romance later in the story but it became very prominent at the end. As a part of the stories aftermath. For young adult readers, but many adults will likely enjoy too.

This novel had a slow start. I very much expected from the premise and what I was reading for it to be ‘just another fantasy novel’ but it wasn’t long until that slow start turned into a non-stop, read in one sitting kind of book. This author also relies on subtleties, so it may be missed by many readers, but it was all there for those who are paying attention. In the end it is worth reading the first half of the book so you can thoroughly enjoy the second half!

Rating

4  stars

A rough start to an interesting fantasy novel that will teach you a lesson on perspectives and taking people at their word. A start to a sword and sorcery series for young adults. I’m looking forward to book 2!

Where did I get a copy?

The author provided me one. This is a voluntary review.

Forbidden by Haru Ichiban

Summary

A promise of unbound carnal delights. That’s what her sultry, proud classmate Lei is to Sween. However, only known to her, much more than just lust binds her to this man.

Despite competing against a love rival which holds the upper hand, her carefree college days are full of laughter, but they hide a sinister reality: if Sween succeded in making his heart hers, being branded a criminal and relentlessly chased down by angels would only be the beginning of her problems. However, if only Lei loved her back, she would not mind breaking every law for him. No matter the consequences. Even if it meant living a forbidden love with a dubious future as she defied everyone and everything in Heaven… and everything she once stood for.

Forbidden is the first book in a long saga of romance full of sweetness and erotism, plots with substance, smart heroines, manly and sensitive heroes, morally ambiguous main characters, a mysterious supernatural world, detectives and lots of humor.

Amazon

Characters

This book is written like steaming consciousnesses every thought is on page. I could not for the life of me like Sween for most of the book. I found her over the top, obsessive, and obnoxious. I actually thought she was a very ugly person. Although later on I felt there was a clear issues with the contradiction/dichotomy between the virgin and the whore—a concept that could have been really powerful. Lei was a little easier to like because you understood he was ‘controlled’ by a demon. So his behavior, although ridiculous and cruel at times, was easier to swallow. I cannot say I liked Sween by the end of the book but I no longer disliked her as much either. There are a few supporting characters but they mostly seem to come and go.

Plot

Sween wants Lei. Wants to kill the demon controlling him and be with him. That much was easy to see. Think high school angst with mature content and a paranormal flare (interesting take on angels and demons). It felt like reading an over the top anime or manga. Sween and Lei are attending police academy and there were some very interesting facts there—almost felt out of place with the story at times, but well done there.

Overall

This book needs an editor—badly (just look at the two spelling errors in the summary above taken directly from Amazon). I rarely post this unless it is painfully apparent or detracts from the story and in this case it does. The first 20% of the book could be significantly reduced because I felt like I was stuck in a unexplained and unclear loop. Same information, actions, and no furtherance of a story. That being said—I noticed a significant shift after a scene were Lei drives her and a group (about 20% of the way in). It was the first crystal clear scene that actually sucked me in—like those bloody Buggypop were a hoot. Some of the nonsense was great and some of it was just…well nonsense. The sexy parts were decent but I had a hard time just because it felt like a fantasy (as in so far outside reality) so I ended up laughing instead.

The biggest redeeming factor for me was I could feel how much the author loves to write. I have a distinct feeling the author sees each character clearly in their mind and each scene is no doubt like a movie. There in lies an issue—the author assumes you can see what they can see. Which we, of course, cannot. It leaves a lot of context and description out. And just like that driving scene, there were some amazing concepts and ideas that really showed potential!

Rating

2 stars

Great concepts, specially on the paranormal side, so others may enjoy it but it was too unpolished for me.

Where did I get a copy?

Author provided me a copy. This review is voluntary.

Three Incidents at Foster Manor by P.T. Phronk

Summary

An old mansion. An apocalyptic storm. Whispering voices in the air. She was right to fear the worst-case scenario.

Amy Burnett has been buried in her work as a security expert. She likes it that way—her dark past can’t invade her thoughts as long as she stays holed up in her office. So why the heck has she ended up at a gothic mansion’s doorstep in the middle of the night?

It’s because Craig Foster summoned her there. Amy’s company built the sealed chamber in his basement, for any worrisome worst-case scenario, but now the safe room has presented a scenario of its own: Craig’s daughter is trapped inside.

It should be a quick fix. After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen when a stranger arrives at a remote mansion on a stormy night? An impossible mystery? A haunting? A visit from the lurking strangers in the woods? Surely not all three—that would require extraordinarily bad luck.

Unfortunately, Amy’s been short on luck lately.

Amazon

Characters

Amy is the primary character but there are a litany of supporting characters. She is an interesting character, with a lot of baggage. Despite some of her characters flaws, I quite liked her. Other characters include Caleb the needy teenager, Ash the jerk, Craig the weak-willed father, Marcus the likable dad, Jasmine the plucky one, and Trista the girl locked in the room. Each has a role to play and by saying much more I may be ruining it.

Plot

It reminded me of reading horror  genre clue. A very interesting who-dunnit where it isn’t just about who…but also about the bigger mystery and the bad dudes that show up. It will keep you on your toes with constant tension. Amy is the only one you can trust so everyone else is suspect—leading to great scenes. I did figure out both aspects but it took quite a while and I wasn’t 100% spot on—there are a bit of a twist on each. This book never lets up—in a good way.

Overall

A very easy and enjoyable read. I read this in two sittings and stayed up late to finish it. Because I just had to know if I was right and turning the pages was easy. I felt I could easily have read it on the weekend in one sitting. The writing and imagery created such vivid scenes, many of which had me gripping my phone from the suspense! A real page turner!

My only compliant was—I didn’t catch onto the whole ‘rain is dangerous because this is in the future when the environment is going to heck in a hand-basket.’ So I could not understand why people didn’t just leave. It wasn’t until much later that some very subtle hints finally made sense. Some more world-building throughout would have fixed this but it wasn’t enjoy to ruin my enjoyment of the book.

Rating

4.5 (rounded up)

A great mystery suspense for an airplane ride or a quite night in. You’ll easily read this in one sitting and feel satisfied by the end of it. Be ready for one crazy ride!

Where did I get a copy?

From the author. This review is voluntary.