Monthly Archives: January 2015

Breathless Bundle 1 – Radium Halos

I found a free bundle on Google Books that promises “6 fantasy/supernatural/paranormal stories that will leave you breathless…Each woman has a destined fate and an extraordinary story to tell.” Being that this stuff is right up this blog’s alley, I decided to give it a go, after all, heroines are just as cool to read about…usually… *cough Twilight*. So naturally I downloaded Breathless and found out that some of the books are not books. They aren’t even short stories. Or poems… The first of these “novellas” as they are called is Radium Halos, by W.J. May.

Amazon: 4.5 (25 ratings)

Barnes and Noble: 4.4 (9 ratings)

Goodreads: 3.5 (77 ratings)

 

Synopsis

“Everyone needs to be a hero at one point in their life. The small town of Elliot Lake will never be the same again after Zoe, a high school senior from Elliot Lake, and five of her friends take shelter in an abandoned uranium mine during a violent thunderstorm. Over the next few days, Zoe’s hearing sharpens drastically… to supernatural levels. She tells her friends, only to learn that four others have an increased sense as well. Zoe is determined to use her new power for good, while trying to keep her growing feelings for Kieran, the new Scottish boy from their group, under control.

Fashioning themselves into superheroes, the group tries to stop the strange occurrences happening in their little town. Muggings, break-ins, disappearances, and murder begin to hit too close to home. It leads the team to think someone knows about their secret – someone who wants them all dead.

An incredulous group of heroes. A traitor in the midst. Some dreams are written in blood.

** This is Part 1 of 2 **
*Warning: This book will end on a cliffhanger. Book 2 picks up where this book ends.*”

Soundbite from the Internet

Good: “Fantastic start to a series! I loved the play between the friends and the intensity during the storm when they are caught in a cave. W.J. May makes the characters come to life and I can’t wait to find out what happens with their senses in the rest of the series. Love the characters that this author creates. She never fails to entertain.” (5-star rater on Amazon)

Bad: “The book has potential, but the author leaves us hanging before really developing the plot.” (2-star rater on Goodreads)

Ugly: “Why don’t they put the WHOLE story in one book??” (5-star rater on Barnes and Noble)

My Take

The book centers around a group of friends: Zoey, Heidi, Rylee,Brent, Seth, and Kieran. They live by Elliot Lake (except Kieran, he’s Scottish). I didn’t find out until the 3rd chapter that they were in Canada. If one of them said “Eh?” just once or said some Canadian slang or spoke French I would have singled out Canada as the setting, but nothing really gave that away until someone finally says Canada. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just that I had no idea these people were Canadian. As far as the author fleshed them out in the beginning, they could have been teenagers anywhere where English is spoken as a first language.

That’s not what bothered me in the book. What bothered me was Kieran’s written accent. I’ve some English and Scottish people and I was trying to match the way they spoke to the way Kieran spoke in the book and none of it matched up. I don’t claim to be a linguist or specialist in accents, but Kieran seems to speak more like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. At the very least Kieran could have shouted “FREEDOM!!” at the climax of the book to tie off the American in Scots’ clothing idea in my head.

These characters get caught in a storm and take shelter in a uranium mine, hence the title Radium Halos.  You know, because radium and uranium are the same thing. But on the other hand, radium sounds better than uranium halos and gives readers a sense of chemical wonder as opposed to nuclear fallout and angelic zombies, so I really have no complaint here. The mine electrifies them and infuses each one the a superpower.

This is the part I liked. None of these superpowers is actually useful. Super smell, super hearing, super seeing-through anything-you-touch. No strength, no speed. Only Kieran doesn’t get a super power. They save a girl from getting raped and begin training and then they all develop super strength and speed so they can fight crime and then… the end. Go buy book 2.

I would say I spoiled the plot of the entire book, but that’s what irks me: the entire first book is exposition and the beginning of a conflict (dealing with having super powers). All of the conflict of the synopsis of this book isn’t in this book. In fact, the ending was so abrupt that I wonder why the author chose to split the story into two books. It doesn’t need to be two books. The cliff hanger wasn’t the kind that would get me to grab the second book, I still feel like I should be reading the first book.

With some books, it’s okay to split into multiple books. After 400 pages of exposition, conflict, minor climaxes, tiny resolutions, and build up to one climax to rule them all, it’s great to end on a cliff hanger and write the next 400 pages. I am not a fan of “episodic” writing, or novellas. I can’t stand the novellas on the Spanish-speaking channels on my TV…or my telly, as Kieran should say it.

I give 2 stars. Half the number of stars I would have given for the half-a-book that I got.

To all the readers, do you like the “episodic” way of writing? Like and leave a comment below if you want.

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The Dystopian Nation of City-State

So a few days ago, I got to read a short story from this dystopian series. I liked it enough that I wanted to see how it fit in the context of the rest of the stories. The Dystopian Nation of City State is coauthored by James Courtney and Daisy Wilkerson-Mills. This marks the first true “unseen tale” that I’ll be reviewing. Please pardon our dust as we jump into the beak future of mankind, brought to you by the present and the letter V.

Length: 203 pages (Kindle)

Amazon: 4.6 (8 ratings)

Barnes and Noble: N/A

Goodreads: 4.2 (4 ratings)

Synopsis

“Welcome to City-State.

After war and turmoil destroyed the United States in 2195, a new nation emerged, and The Second Dark Age ended. In the year 3211, the people of the nation of City-State are tormented by their current government.

Beneath a beautiful urban landscape of bright lights, two-hundred story skyscrapers, and breathtaking technology, City-State holds deep, destructive secrets, rife with political subterfuge, and inhumane barbarism.

Here, each story illuminates the common man, the cruel politicians, and the bizarre, yet unique citizens who fall somewhere in the middle.  This collection of short stories showcases the perils of a heartless nation, the promises of hope, and the shadow of rebellion.”

Soundbite from the Web

Good: “This book combines two of my favorite elements – a dystopian theme and being an anthology. There’s nothing I like more than a collection of short stories and with dystopian/postapoc being my favored genre, this one is a natural…” (5-star rater on Amazon)

Bad: “The anthology reads like an author’s background notes at times, and as world-building at other times. Clearly, a great story or series of stories can emerge from this background. I look forward to reading the finished product in the form of a novel (or series). The current form, however, was too scatter-shot for my taste and still full of errata which distracts from the immersive goal of science fiction.” (2-star rater on Goodreads. This review is as long as the book itself, so I cut out one of the bits where they say why they didn’t like it as much.)

What Says I

Foremost, it is important to keep in mind that this is an ANTHOLOGY, not a single story. I didn’t keep that in mind so when I started reading, I started to dislike it. Then I remembered what an anthology is and everything began to click in my head. This book is structured similarly to The Martian Chronicles, meaning it is a collection of short stories, some loosely knit together, and others having no real relation to the others. The loosely knit stories were far more interesting in that I got to see a bit of a character from a past story in the current story, but only briefly. This and another anthology-in-writing lay the foundation for an upcoming trilogy of novels set in this dystopian world called Starchild. I say, be on the lookout for it because, even though the Dystopian Nation could use some beefing up, the series is definitely working toward what could be a great dystopian novel.

I give 4 stars.

How to Kill Your Senator (Short)

I get to be part of a promo for a short story (and consequently, the anthology it pertains to) called How to Kill Your Senator, coauthored by James Courtney and Kaisy Wilkerson-Mills. Set in a dystopian earth roughly 1000 years from now, this story centers on the truth behind government and who is truly responsible for the oppressive laws and terrible ideas. Assuming you, the reader, come from a country where you get to elect officials (and are thoroughly displeased with them), I’m sure you’ll be able to relate to the overarching theme of How to Kill Your Senator.

I enjoyed reading it and I dislike politics and politic-themed books very much. I prefer medicine (helping others) or math (where numbers don’t lie) and other hard sciences. That being said, I enjoyed this. Be aware that it is only a short story and doesn’t get into the details of the world or anything, just simple Jackson Cartwright (no relation to the Bonanza family) and the Senate.

My rating: 4 stars

Magic, Myth and Majesty 7 – The White Tree

Well, I’ve saved this one for last for no reason other than it was the last one I read. The White Tree, by Edward W. Robertson, is the first in the Cycle of Arawn series. Can the Magic, Myth & Majesty bundle dish out one last majestic mythical magical quest? Well, yeah that’s what it’s on the market for. Don’t confuse this white tree with the tree of the kings of Minas Tirith or you will be greatly mistaken.

Amazon: 4.0 (210 ratings)

Barnes and Noble: N/A

Goodreads: 3.5 (389 ratings)

Synopsis

“Sixteen-year-old Dante is obsessed with learning to wield the nether, the powerful magic of the death god Arawn. But a century ago, Arawn’s followers were scoured from the kingdom of Mallon. Their temples smashed. Their secrets lost.

When Dante tracks down a copy of their holiest book, he throws himself into its study–and finds himself under siege in the city streets. Arawn’s believers aren’t dead. They’re in hiding, and they want back their book. With the help of the nether and a loudmouthed bodyguard named Blays, Dante escapes into the wilds. But Arawn’s army is ready to march from the shadows. As they move against Mallon, they hunt Dante relentlessly, in search of the book.

And with his powers growing by the day, Dante finds himself used as a tool in the war against them. He and Blays are dispatched on a thousand-mile journey to assassinate the Arawnites’ leader. If they fail, their homeland will fall.”

Soundbite from the Interwebs

Good: “This was one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read. I could absolutely see it as a movie. The use of a sort of psychic power of the “nether” was something I’ve never seen or heard of before and it was quite intriguing. I hope to see more from Dante and Blays in the future!” (5-star rater on Amazon)

Bad: “Thought this would be a very good book,but I was disappointed.I could never really get interested in it bc to me,it was very boring.I forced myself to finish it bc I kept thinking it would get better,but it never did.” (1-star rater on Amazon)

Ugly: “like read my book” (3-star rater on Amazon)

My Verdict

The White Tree begins like this: “It was the dog’s fault Dante was about to die.” What an interesting opening sentence. When I read that, I had no idea what to think so I kept reading to see why Dante blamed Lassie for his troubles. The story goes that Dante had seen a dead dog in a river and then someone came along and reanimated its corpse. He begins a mild ques of finding a way to get the power the man had, so he journeys to find a presumed-destroyed holy book of an ancient and forbidden religion.

He finds the book, reads the book, and the owners of the book hunt him down to get the book back. This was the part of the book that was most confusing to me. One plot of The White Tree is that these people want him dead, but also want to grow their cult by baiting people into getting a copy of Dante’s book. They don’t even give him a chance to join them.

Anyways, he hires Blays (another teenager) to guard him and they wreak havoc on Arawn’s cultists through steel and Arawn’s power: the nether. The nether is another way of saying magic, but this is black magic. It feeds on your blood and guts people for you. It is pure darkness and can block the sun from reaching your eyes. This I definitely found intriguing, but Dante is not very creative. My favorite nether scene is when Dante blinds a horse by covering its head with nether, thus preventing sunlight from reaching the horse’s eyes. Dante could have done that more often, but didn’t.

I think the most grating part of the book was the parts where Dante reads the book and we get to read it with him. I commend the author for writing chapters of a book within the chapters of his book, but as a reader, I didn’t find it worth my time to read and I sometimes skipped those parts.

My final rating: 3.00 stars

Author Edward W. Robertson definitely shows his ability to create a fantasy world for characters to live in, but the delivery was a bit shaky.  Have any of you read The White Tree or any other book in the Magic, Myth and Majesty bundle? I want to hear what you thought about it!

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