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Review: Jeweled Fire by Sharon Shinn

Review: Jeweled Fire by Sharon Shinn published on

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The national bestselling author of Troubled Waters and Royal Airs returns to her Elemental Blessings series with the story of a young princess who will need more than blessings to survive in a kingdom where everyone will do whatever it takes to claim the throne…

As one of the four princesses of Welce, Corene always thought she might one day become queen. Only circumstances changed, leaving fiery Corene with nothing to show for a life spent playing the game of court intrigue—until a chance arises to become the ruler of a nearby country.

After stowing away on a ship bound for Malinqua with her loyal bodyguard, Foley, Corene must try to win the throne by making a play to marry one of the empress’s three nephews. But Corene is not the only foreign princess in search of a crown.

Unaccustomed to being anyone’s friend, Corene is surprised to find companionship among her fellow competitors. But behind Malinqua’s beautiful facade lie many secrets.

The visiting princesses are more hostages than guests. And as the deadly nature of the court is revealed, Corene must rely on both her new allies and Foley’s unwavering protection—for the game she has entered is far more perilous than she ever imagined…

Sharon Shinn occupies an interesting spot in the world of science fiction and fantasy writing, hovering as she does right between both. The angelic culture she introduced in her first Samaria novel, Archangel, seemed straight up fantasy, but in later books the science fiction elements were revealed. Her Elemental Blessings novels are not nearly as fantastical as her Twelve Houses series. Here, the society she built in Troubled Waters and Royal Airs is poised on the brink of industrial revolution, ushered along by a crazy man with a singular connection to air magic.

I’ve really enjoyed reading about the Welchin society. Shinn always offers something unique in her books, and the surprises and twists inherent in her stories are well thought-out and often remarkable. Welce is a place of magical blessings anyone can have (and, in fact, the parents of infants are culturally bound to acquire the blessings their baby will hold to for the rest of his or her life on the day he or she is born). These blessings are separated into categories: hunti (wood), sweela (fire), coru (water), torz (earth), and elay (air). The Primes of each possess a connection to the actual element, and even now, three books into the series, it’s not entirely certain what these powers entail.

The heroine of Jeweled Fire is a sweela sort-of princess with a complicated history, and a penchant for mischief. Said mischief has taken across the sea, away from family, and into a rat’s maze of imperial politics. Here is where the former princess begins to shine. Shinn has written a delicate coming-of-age story for a headstrong girl, and it’s wonderful.

More interestingly, the stakes are hugely high. Corene is placed in very real, very frightening danger. Shinn is never an exploitative writer, but the later pages of Jeweled Fire contain a subtle darkness that makes Corene’s fiery nature even more brilliant.

Jeweled Fire is An Elemental Blessings Novel (Book 3), and will be released November 3, 2015. It can be pre-ordered on Amazon HERE.

The next book in the series is called Dangerous Grounds, and will be published in 2016.

 

Review: Soulless by Jacinta Maree

Review: Soulless by Jacinta Maree published on

Soulless cover

Review

In the past, I’ve been asked how I’ve picked the books that I’ve done reviews on. In the past, I would’ve usually given a snarky and smartass remark. But, not this time. I feel like I’ve grown over the years and in doing so, it has changed my attitudes to others and how they feel when I say things to them. So I sat back and thought long and hard about it and then I considered the answer for a moment and it reminded me of how this review came to fruition. I first started reading a different title, by a different author…It’s ok, I’m not going to mention the author’s name I’m a better person than that. But as I was saying, I was reading a different book, and believe me when I say that it hurts when I can’t get through a book. So, after trying twice to get through it, I sighed and put it aside. I then moped around my home, wondering what to read and review next.

Then it hit me, why not check my email. It’s helped in the past, and so I did. As I stared into the vast abyss of what is my inbox, that’s where I saw it. Stuck between the email of my order from Barnes and Noble and my last Hot Topic announcement…(don’t ask) I saw it: the notice that would allow me to make up for my past attempt at a review. The aforementioned email was from a newsletter that sends me notices of new books, be it free or offers of books with a small fee. In the past I’ve found their choices to be very well rounded. And, that’s where I saw it the latest from author Jacinta Maree from Melbourne Australia, a book titled Soulless: The Immortal Gene Trilogy Book One.

I was drawn by its cover but that’s not what made me buy it, it was on sale people and there is nothing I love more than a book sale. Even a bad book that is on sale, but this is not the case. So, I decided to give it a shot and said to myself it’s only a dollar. Wow, was that dollar worth it. I have to admit that I have not read a story with such an imaginative and original plot line than this story. Jacinta knows how to draw you in with her rich characters and very good story telling. I don’t do much on the spoiler aspect so you can make the decision for yourself. But, I’ll say this: it’s worth it, from the first page to the last page. I have to say that not many people catch or should I say grab my attention like Jacinta Maree. And in the sense of page turning, this one has it, and even though I’ve only finished the book a bit ago, the characters stayed with me in my memory.

This book is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. As this book caught my attention, I’m sure you’ll get caught up in it as well. With it’s rich characters and well-written prose, I myself am looking forward to seeing what else she has in store for us when she puts out the rest of the this very well-written trilogy.

Soulless is available from Inked Rabbit Press on 10/1/2015 via Amazon HERE.

About the Book

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Welcome to Soulless.

We are the generation that laughs at death.

Reincarnation; what was once considered a gift of immortality has become an eternity of nightmares.

Nadia Richards lives in a world plagued by reincarnation, a system of recycling souls where all past memories, personalities and traumatic events are relived daily in disjointed sequences. Trapped within their own warped realities, not even the richest and most powerful are saved from their own minds unraveling. Madness is the new human nature, and civilizations are crumpling beneath themselves trying to outrun it.

Within a society that ignores death, Nadia appears to be the one exception to the reincarnation trap. Born without any reincarnated memories and with printless eyes, the hot tempered 19 year old quickly becomes the ultimate prize to all those wishing to end the vicious cycle, or for some, to ensure they could evade death forever.

Readers discretion: Adult language, violence and some adult scenes. For mature audiences only.

About the Author

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Born in Melbourne Australia, Jacinta Maree considers herself a chocoholic with an obsession with dragons, video gaming and Japan. She writes a variety of genres including YA paranormal, steampunk, horror, new adult, dystopian and fantasy. Winner of 2014 Horror of the year and bestselling author, Jacinta writes to bring enjoyment to others while fulfilling her own need to explore the weird and the impossible.

Author Links

Site: http://jacintamaree.wix.com/jacintamaree
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jacinta.maree.10
Deviant art: http://jacintamaree.deviantart.com/
Twitter: jacintamaree6.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6448929.Jacinta_Maree

Review: Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

Review: Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older published on

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About the Book

Paint a mural. Start a battle. Change the world.

Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears… Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.

With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one — and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family’s past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come.

Full of a joyful, defiant spirit and writing as luscious as a Brooklyn summer night, Shadowshaper introduces a heroine and magic unlike anything else in fantasy fiction, and marks the YA debut of a bold new voice.

Review

This is a unique, clever, sometimes-scary, always engaging story featuring family, music, art, gentrification, friendship, racism, cultural anthropology, cultural appropriation, community, zombies, spirits, self delusion, and self confidence. Among other things.

This is the most unique YA urban fantasy I’ve read, without qualifications. It has been a while since I read an urban fantasy and didn’t see a lot of stuff I had already read in five other urban fantasy series. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy these, as there’s something comfortable in familiarity. But sometimes you want to feel a little less comfortable.

The book isn’t overly complicated, but there’s a lot going on; the characters are intelligent, passionate, and brave; the teens talk like teens; the motivations (except, in my opinion, of the primary antagonist) are believable, understandable, true. The setting is vivid. I love how the tower is utilized by Older in so many ways. I love the cityscape of Brooklyn, which acts as a powerful place.

Just about everything clicks in this dark tale. Spirits in the city are deeply linked to the cultural heritage of the neighborhoods, and that heritage must be seized by a Shadowshaper in order to keep the magic alive. Nobody can come from outside and own it. Sierra is a powerful character, and she goes through some things that many teens go through–like not liking what she sees in the mirror– and some things most don’t go through–like being pursued by a throng haint, a shadow monster covered in mouths. I got a kick out of the numerous cool old men in the neighborhood, particularly in one scene at the University.

I like Sierra, which is nice, because I don’t always like the heroes and heroines in YA novels. She’s spirited, makes generally good choices, and keeps her head in tough situations. Also, she doesn’t spend a lot of time complaining, which is nice.

There are aspects of this novel that feel like they live in a universe nestled right alongside Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. And for me, that’s high praise: American Gods is a favorite of mine.

This book has led me to pick up a copy of Older’s Half-Resurrection Blues: A Bone Street Rumba Novel. My understanding is that these books are decidedly not YA, which suits me just fine.

About the Author

61ynfd6lqpL._UX250_Daniel José Older is the author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series from Penguin’s Roc Books and the Young Adult novel Shadowshaper (Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015), which was nominated for the Kirkus Prize in Young Readers’ Literature. His first collection of short stories, Salsa Nocturna and the Locus and World Fantasy nominated anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, which he co-edited, are available from Crossed Genres Publications. You can find Daniel’s thoughts on writing, read dispatches from his decade-long career as an NYC paramedic and hear his music at ghoststar.net/ and @djolder on twitter and YouTube.

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Author’s Links

Website
YouTube
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads

Between the covers, or

Between the covers, or published on

I am a MONSTER for keeping secrets from you

Dear Reader,

What. A. Week.

24611882I read two amazing books this week, one of which won’t come out for months and months (also known as January) so I have to keep it under wraps.

But the other one was my book for the week, new from Stephen R Donaldson. The King’s Justice is actually a pair of novellas (the other being ‘The Auger’s Gambit’), which is like getting a two for one on Mike’n’Ike’s! Seriously, so amazing!!

The first story, ‘The King’s Justice’, was by far my favorite. The world felt richer, and the characters more vibrant to me. I really liked the pacing as well, it never felt too rushed, but methodical, which fit the character, marvelous.

‘The Auger’s Gambit’ was, for me, a bit of a miss. The main character lacked a little in motivation, and I never felt the world-building nearly as much. However, the prose, as always with Donaldson, is superb and worth your time.

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Also Read


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OH my god! even better than the first book! Quickly becoming one of my favoritest writers, and a milieu that I can’t get enough of. So amazing.

Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey-

One of those books I go back to over and over. Perfectly balanced world and characters, and epic in the most amazing way. I adore all the books in the series, but I do go back to Dart more than the others.

‘The Collectors’ by Phillip Pullman

A short story in the ‘His Dark Materials’ universe, I really enjoyed it’s blend of mystery and knowing winks at the reader.

Forgotten Gem

360280The Wars of Light and Shadow series by Janny Wurts
Pick up The Curse of the Mistwraith and fall into the most criminally under-read epic fantasy I can think of. This is large scale fantasy done right, with much of the pacing and brilliant characterization that you remember from the ‘Empire’ trilogy she wrote with Raymond Feist, and a lot of world-building beyond that which is all her own. Seriously, give this a try.

Review: The Hookman Legacy by Hayley L. Bernard

Review: The Hookman Legacy by Hayley L. Bernard published on 1 Comment on Review: The Hookman Legacy by Hayley L. Bernard

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Black Ash Swamp has given birth to a new or perhaps very ancient legacy; a curse that has befallen upon a small town in Connecticut: The Hookman of Black Ash Swamp. A curse dating back to the ancient Indians and early pioneer explorers… The Hookman is a mythical swamp creature with a very unique power. When he hooks people, they don’t just simply die. Anyone who encounters The Hookman vanishes completely, so no trace of their life is left. Anything they’ve ever owned, anything they’ve ever written, anything they’ve ever done, disappears and no one knows they’ve ever existed. Not even their own parents… Zachary Hartman is a popular boy in the sixth grade. Even though he is a year older than Lynn, they become fast friends when he rescues her from being eaten by a huge snapping turtle. Yet Lynn is unable to save him when The Hookman emerges from the water and scratches Zachary’s arm. The wound is far more serious than it appears. Zachary keeps vanishing from sight against his will. He and Lynn are in a race against time to confront The Hookman and kill him before Zachary is gone and forgotten completely…

Remember the Hookman? The first time I ever heard a variant of this story, it was a foggy night, and my parents and I were sitting in traffic on a two lane highway. There was an accident up ahead, and it was damn hard for emergency services to get out there to clear the road. My mom decided that this was the perfect moment to tell her seven year old creepy stories. It’s one of those memories that really sticks. I’m not the only one — the Hookman has long since been an urban legend (it was even featured in the movie Urban Legend — Joshua Jackson’s character died a grisly death), and Sam and Dean of Supernatural have gone up against them.

The Hookman Legacy takes advantage of the popularity of the modern day fairy tale. It’s deceptively slow at the beginning. Bernard takes her time weaving a creepy story based on a legend most people know. The heroine is a child poised to become a teenager, thus almost ready to leave behind any odd fears of that which goes bump in the night — almost ready, but not quite. I read this in one afternoon on a rainy day, and it’s an excellent way to spend a quiet afternoon.

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Hayley Bernard lives in Philadelphia, where she writes and paints. The Hookman Legacy was published by SNM Publishing.

Review: Kensei by Jeremy Zimmerman

Review: Kensei by Jeremy Zimmerman published on

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About the Book

Jamie Hattori’s alter ego, the masked hero Kensei, has been doing pretty well protecting her neighborhood from petty villains with her martial arts skills, her father’s katana, and a little help from the local spirits. But things get rough when the spirits start flaking out, the Goddess of Discord throws a few cursed apples, and an online gossip site sics an angry football player on her. Then there’s her slipping grades, the vampire owls, and the cute roller derby chick looking for romance. And even worse, Jamie’s hero-hating mom is starting to get suspicious. Can Jamie defeat her mysterious nemesis without tearing her family apart? And more importantly, will she score her first kiss?

Review

I really enjoyed this novel. Zimmerman starts off with an action scene and keeps the energy flowing throughout the book. It clocks in at a seems-slightly-longer-than-advertised, taut 188 pages. I think these pages might be packed with a greater than average number of words. It feels like a 220-250 page book to me.

Jamie Hattori, alter-ego Kensei, is a teen in transition. She is living a secret life, keeping her superpowers and night outings from her mother. Her dad knows all about it. He’s a pretty laid-back, reasonable guy. Mom lost her parents in the middle of a superhero battle, and hasn’t been able to let it go since. She watches one of those channels that rile people up against specific groups, spouting bile and anger, and she lets herself seethe in it. She’s, admittedly, tightly-wound and not willing to see shades of gray when it comes to vigilante activities. Jamie’s extra-curricular activities are hurting her grades and social life. But what can she do? She has the power to help others, and doesn’t take that lightly.

Jamie Hattori resides in the portion of Cobalt City known as Karlsburg, and the supernatural dangers are pretty light there. Usually, it’s just enough to keep her busy at night. She takes on muggers and robbers and physical abusers. But things change suddenly, and she’s in over her inexperienced head. Someone is running a gossip blog called 2thefairest, and it is putting out some ugly envy magic. Golden apples are turning up around town, sowing seeds of discord. And Jamie has been targeted. This might also be connected to Roman vampires, Greek deities, and a bunch of missing students from Jamie’s high school.

Cobalt City exists in a world where superheroes are fairly common. A flaming hero might chase an ice-chucking villain across the street as you’re waiting on a red light. The Traffic Enforcer might fly past, being dragged by the back of a car. Heroes and villains are everywhere, like erectile dysfunction ads, or internet trolls.

The problem is that a group of big-time superheroes, the Protectorate, was infiltrated a few years back, and achieved a lot of destruction and created mistrust among the citizens of Cobalt City. Even the big-time heroes, The A-Listers, like Star Dust, the Worm Queen, Wild Kat, Libertine, Velvet, and the Huntsman, need to remain secretive. Except Star Dust, because he’s one of the richest people in the world, and he isn’t really touchable.

Then there are small-timers, maybe the C-and-D-listers, like Kensei and the Traffic Enforcer, (who spends most of his time beating people up for using their cellphones while driving, or misusing roundabouts). These sorts need to remain cautious. Anybody could be a danger.

Zimmerman captures the teen experience pretty well. We view a lot of Jamie’s firsts: first date, first kiss, first arch-nemesis, first fight with god, first battle with a superhero. Each character comes pre-loaded with motivations and reasons for his/her/their actions. The characters have histories and goals. The characters are dynamic and drive the novel, even if Jamie doesn’t have a license.

I love Jamie’s powers. She can interact with the spirits of places and things. Pretty much every place and every thing has one or more spirits, and being able to see them and talk to them is actually very helpful. Especially when they are feeling cooperative; sometimes they aren’t, which can be quite funny.

I am also a huge fan of the fact that Jamie received martial arts training from the age of three. Her powers aren’t specifically physical, and therefore knowing how to use her body as a weapon is very important.

Among my favorite characters are Jamie’s father, Charles Hattori; Agyo, the Cobalt City Buddhist Church guardian; and the manic-pixie-girl-esque Parker. Jamie is multi-faceted: she’s gay, she’s biracial, she’s a Buddhist, she’s in high school; she is hiding things from her mom, her dad, her classmates, her potential girlfriend; she can talk to the spirits of cars and buildings and light bulbs. She has to deal with how these things affect other parts of her life. Zimmerman navigates these muddy waters expertly.

The second book in the series, Love of Danger, recently went through a successful Kickstarter campaign, and is expected to be released soon. I will certainly be reading and reviewing it here sometimes after that.

About the Author

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Jeremy Zimmerman is a teller of tales who dislikes cute euphemisms for writing like “teller of tales.” His fiction has most recently appeared in 10Flash Quarterly, Arcane and anthologies from Timid Pirate Publishing. He is also the editor for Mad Scientist Journal. He lives in Seattle with five cats and his lovely wife (and fellow author) Dawn Vogel.

Author’s Links

Website
Mad Scientist Journal
Amazon Author’s Page
Goodreads
Twitter

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