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Eleanor and Park – Review

Title: Eleanor and Park

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Genre: Young Adult Romance

Book procurement: Received a copy from the author for an honest review. Currently available on Amazon.

Synopsis:

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.

Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

Review:

First Thoughts

Oh man, this book makes me want to fall in love and experience all the gushy, mushy feelings of finding that one person who just gets you on a whole different level.

Every time I listen to Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart – this book and its characters come to mind and my chest just fills up with incredible warmth. That’s how much I loved this book.

Writing

It is written with so much passion and realism and heartfelt emotion, I could imagine Eleanor and Park and Tina and Beeby and DeNice and Steven as real people. Tangible. As though I could go to that location and meet them in person.

Not only that, but to be able to experience the emotions of the characters without it feeling forced or cliche or anything of the sort – well that’s real talent. That’s what books are supposed to do. Suspended disbelief literally had my heart aflutter for a while.

It’s more than just a story about a girl in a difficult life and world experiencing the joy’s of meeting someone who takes her breath away. It’s more than just a story about a guy who meets a girl who just completes a hole he didn’t know he had. It’s not just another typical boy meets girl/girl meets boy kind of story. It’s richer. It’s stronger. It’s real.

Final Thoughts

It’s just an amazing book and I can’t fault it. I went through the ups and downs. I wanted to slap a few characters. I wanted to hug a few characters. I was completely enthralled by Rainbow Rowell’s writing style.

As a fan of horror and sci-fi, this romance was a breath of fresh air. With the right hint of humour, geeky knowledge trivia and music I actually listen to. Fantastic book. Fantastic read.

Rating: An amazing 5 out of 5

Grey Magic by JT Lawrence – Review

Title: Grey Magic

Author: J.T. Lawrence

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Book procurement: Received a copy from the author for an honest review. Currently available on Amazon.

Synopsis:

No one appreciates the irony of her situation more than Raven Kane: she’s a burnt-out witch. Raven is a hip, hexing-and-texting sorceress – or at least, she used to be.

Now her ancient timber house is falling down around her, and the bank wants to repossess it. Nothing would make her cantankerous neighbour happier than seeing Raven and her messy menagerie out on the street. To add to her stress, the reckless Wicked Witches are causing mischief and it’s her job to reign them in. Worst of all is that her magic seems to be fading.

Just as everything seems to be too much to handle, there’s a knock on the (splintering) door. A not-unattractive man appears in her life: not to save her, as a fairytale would have you believe, but to arrest her for the murder of one of her clients. It wouldn’t be that bad for Raven, except that she knows she’s guilty.

Review:

First Thoughts

First and foremost, I thought this was a great book. It’s a fresh take on the whole “magic” and “witches” perspective. Grounds it in a natural and almost believable setting of earthly charms. Very apt for a South African novel considering the African cultural perspective on magic.

The entire story kept its center around the idea of “Grey Magic”, this idea that intention has nothing to do with consequence. Where something with the best of intentions can spiral towards a dark consequence.

There were a few inconsistencies or perhaps better to call them irregularities in the story, but they weren’t so major as to derail the story. They did break my sense of suspended disbelief though and it took a while to reign myself back in.

Writing

The writing flows well from beginning to end. It’s clear there was a good deal of research invested into the novel. Not only in execution of  the magic and spells, but the descriptions that captured places and events not rooted in our current age.

The clever use of technology and social media was also well written. If one can communicate with someone from across the world through Twitter, why not tweet spells and magical advice too. Perhaps we need more tech savvy-witches.

Raven, the main character, remains true to herself throughout the novel. Even as the story starts with Raven displaying sarcasm and wit, it’s all just building towards her self-discovery. The rest of the characters were also well captured. From detective Kruger, to Father Stephen Bishop, and the coven of witches with well-meaning agendas. I’d love to break each character down but then… I’d spoil the book for you. Some clever twists there.

I did feel as though their roles were to set Raven up as the main character. Thankfully their individual personalities made up for that.

Final Thoughts

Overall the novel is great. I really enjoyed the interconnected symbols appearing through the course of the novel. Ravens, fire, Fenrir and more. It was a beautiful amalgamation of fate, destiny and karma swirling about.

I was a bit disconcerted by the modern pitchfork wielding mob and the whole mob mentality, especially considering our time frame. Also the types of people who had shown up don’t seem like mob-mentality people, unless that’s just my ignorance speaking.

The criticism of the Christian ethos made me roll my eyes, as though every Christian is an ignorant fundamentalist with no concept of the bible (or God) they read. Picking and choosing context for their purposes. It’s not something I’ll get into now but it did annoy a bit.

Nonetheless it culminated perfectly, aligning all of the obstacles that had plagued Raven in the beginning to a perfect conclusion of karma, and the Grey Magic that spilled through lifetimes.

Rating: An enjoyable 3 out of 5


JT Lawrence

JT Lawrence is an author, playwright and bookdealer based in Parkhurst, Johannesburg. She is the mother of two small boys and lives in a house with a red front door.

She has written various plays for SAFM including ‘The Shelter’, ‘Unspilling the Milk’, ‘Every Breath You Take’, and serials, the most recent being the crime drama ‘Jigsaw’. Her short story collection ‘Sticky Fingers’ was broadcast in the last quarter of 2015, and will be available as a paperback and ebook in 2016.

Her first novel, ‘The Memory of Water’ (2011), is about a writer who would do anything for a story. Her 2015 offering, ‘Why You Were Taken’is a pre-dystopian sci-fi thriller starring a synaesthete, and takes place is a futuristic Jo’burg burdened by infertility and a water crisis. It was optioned by the national broadcaster, SABC, for a radio adaption.

She is currently working on her new novel, ‘Grey Magic’, slated for December 2016, about an eccentric modern-day witch, accused of murder, who must explore her past lives in order to keep her freedom — and find her way back to magic.

Website: Pulpbooks

Amazon: J.T. Lawrence

Twitter: @pulpbooks

Facebook: facebook.com/JanitaTLawrence

Instagram: pulp_junkie


Have you read anything interesting lately?

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The Warren by Brian Evenson – Review

Title: The Warren

Author: Brian Evenson

Genre: Science Fiction

Book procurement: Received a copy from Tor.com for Gamecca Magazine Vol 8 Issue 88.

Synopsis:

X doesn’t have a name. He thought he had one—or many—but that might be the result of the failing memories of the personalities imprinted within him. Or maybe he really is called X.

He’s also not as human as he believes himself to be.

But when he discovers the existence of another—above ground, outside the protection of the Warren—X must learn what it means to be human, or face the destruction of their two species.

Review:

First Thoughts

X, if that is his name, is a but a single person. Within him lies the imprinted personalities of others before him, salvaged minds seeking to keep knowledge within the last remaining human. However, X begins to question his humanity when he discovers another on the surface of what he calls, the Warren. Things begin to spin out of control as the two wrestle with an existential question: what makes one human.

I won’t say this was an easy read. Sometimes confusing. Sometimes annoying. Most importantly, it really did what it’s supposed to do: make us question the concept of what makes us human.

Writing

The Warren is a fascinating science fiction thriller, a dive into the mind of a man with multiple-personas within him. Only they aren’t just personas, bu the minds of people who came before X. Imprinting what remained of their minds into the remaining living being. The really creepy part was when X described the opening of eyes within his mind, as the individuals grew coherent of the fact that they too are fragmented minds living within another conscious mind. *shivers

Unable to comprehend the individuals within, X begins to seek out questions regarding his existence in the Warren. The personalities don’t share much and his only other source of knowledge is Monitor, a computer of some sort. It carries some of the information from before, but not enough to make a lot of sense to the questions that X asks. Questions that plague his existence. The most pertinent question, especially when X finds another human on the surface of the Warren, is: what makes someone human.

In light of this, you can imagine the conversations that occur. Also, the surface above the Warren is poisonous to all who stand in its air, and no one who has left has come back. Only there’s no way to know why it’s so bad, and why this person on the surface even exists. The only way to survive is to look for resources and continue your existence yet even resources have become scarce.

Not only that but imagine being the only living person with just a computer as your companion, trying to figure out who or what you are, and who the other person could possibly be. Would you risk the possibility of death to find out? Or continue in the routine of solitude and scouring where you can for resources.

Final Thoughts

Brian Evenson captures the isolation and alienation really well. One can almost imagine the paranoia and anxiety of solitude and confusion. Of having multiple minds just sitting in the darkness of your mind. More importantly, of trying to understand the world around you when there’s nothing to truly help. Except for the one thing you know you shouldn’t… exploring the surface.

Rating: A borderline 3 out of 5


What are you currently reading?

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Greedy Pigs by Matt Wallace – Review

Title: Greedy Pigs (Sin du Jour #5)

Author: Matt Wallace

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Book procurement: Received a copy from Tor.com for Gamecca Magazine Vol 8 Issue 94.

Synopsis:

The Sin du Jour crew caters to the Shadow Government in Greedy Pigs, Matt Wallace’s fifth Sin du Jour Affair

I never did give them hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell.

Politics is a dirty game. When the team at Sin du Jour accidentally caters a meal for the President of the United States and his entourage, they discover a conspiracy that has been in place since before living memory. Meanwhile, the Shadow Government that oversees the co-existence of the natural and supernatural worlds is under threat from the most unlikely of sources.

It s up to one member of the Sin du Jour staff to prevent war on an unimaginable scale.

Between courses, naturally.

Review:

First Thoughts

 

First I just want to say I love the very concept of chefs and cooks who cater to both humans and supernatural entities. A clandestine operation in the most unexpected setting.

Sin Du Jour is definitely one of my favourite series, it just unfortunate how each novella is so short, and yet it is that very fact that makes the stories work.

This fifth book in the Sin Du Jour series is yet another great piece of writing from the talented Matt Wallace. He keeps the drama and intrigue going with just enough wit to lighten the load while getting the point across. Character growth. Excellent setting. Perfect cliff hanger ending. Looking forward to the next book.

 

Writing

The writing is as crisp and humourous as usual, with a weighty, earnest realism to it. Events from Idle Ingredients continue to escalate when politics came in to play and a massive war creeps to the fore. The staff members are still reeling from the last demonic entity that entrapped them, and the consequences of their actions haunt them.

What I enjoyed most about the writing, is how well the characters are captured. There was growth to the main female character Lena, and a foreshadowing of what is to come. Nikki brings a different perspective to the second female character the novel follows. Both are strong and as similar as they are different. I like both.

The roster of characters balances out well and adds a dynamic experience to reading the novel. We don’t see the whole team this time around, but Bronc the main chef and Darren are suffering more after the last encounter. How all of this will proceed opens up a ton of speculation. And let’s not talk about the big baddie who remains in shadow yet oozes an ominous presence throughout the books.

A couple of recognizable celebrities make cameos, and Matt Wallace doesn’t need to use names to capture their essence. You’ll know immediately when you read them. It’s clever. It’s sneaky. It’s great!

Final Thoughts

Perhaps I was a bit biased when I read the book, considering how well I enjoyed it. I can’t say if I did found anything wrong with the pace, the writing or the characters. I don’t know when the next book will be available, but I hope I get a chance to read that too.

Rating: A gratifying 4 out of 5


What book have you read with a unique setting and character roster? Is there a series out there you enjoyed immensely? What are you currently reading?

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Blood Moon by John David Bethel – Review

Title: Blood Moon

Author: John David Bethel

Genre: Psychological Crime Thriller

Book procurement: I was contacted by the author for an honest review.

Synopsis:

On a hot, steamy afternoon in Miami, Cuban-American businessman Recidio Suarez is brutally beaten and abducted. Handcuffed, shackled and blindfolded, he has no idea why he has been targeted. What he discovers is heart-stopping. What he endures during almost a month of captivity compares only to the most horrendous stories of prisoners of war. He is tortured, and under the threat of death, and worse – the rape of his wife and torture of his children – Suarez is forced to hand over his multi-million dollar holdings to his captors.

Suarez survives and then spends the next few months staying one step ahead of the murderous pack. During this time, he and his lawyer, Nolan Stevens – a former Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Office of the FBI – are having difficulties convincing the Miami-Dade Police Department that a crime has been committed. Their efforts are complicated by Steven’s difficult history with the head of the MDPD Special Investigations Division, who is not interested in pursuing the case.

Review:

First Thoughts

It’s quite difficult to write a review on such a tragic story. To filter past the horrendous events the story tells, to focus on seemingly petty things such as writing style, emotion and general narrative devices used. However all of these combined make for compelling story telling which Blood Moon was not.

Nonetheless, the story begins right into the action. We get a glimpse of the man that is Recidio Suarez. We experience his kidnapping, and his confusion. As the story unfolds, and characters come to light, there was a sense of sickness at the inhumanity his kidnappers were willing to display.

Writing

From a writing perspective, Blood Moon was not thrilling. Not suspenseful. This is due to how close the novel was to the truth. Sitting through the thirty days of a man’s torture is not supposed to be fun or easy or thrilling, and on that merit, Blood Moon is spot on. At the same time, without all the context of “based on a true story”, there isn’t anything gripping about the story. Disturbing, yes, but not engaging.

I did not relate to, or felt moved by Recidio’s perilous situation. The writing was more of a journal than a delve into the frayed mind of a man who is on the brink of losing everything. No internal monologues. No thoughts about “what ifs” or “could haves” or anything that would give us an emotional tie-in during the horror of his experience. Just the gritty day to day of surviving. Not to undermine what he went through, but a little humanity would have made it more digestible.

Humour was thrown in here and there to show how Recidio was working to cope with the fact that he’d been kidnapped and would most likely end up dead. The unlikely friendship forming also broke the monotony. The violence was gruesome, descriptions visceral, and it all made me wonder just how depraved humans can be.

Final Thoughts

While this wasn’t my favourite book to read, it was respectable. I applaud John Bethel for the amount of research and effort he must have put in to write this novel true enough to the actual tragedy. The foreword and afterword put a real perspective on the whole thing. That it’s not just a fictional tale, but a reminder of a tragedy re-written in fictional form.

Rating: A fair 3 out of 5


J. David Bethel is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. He has been published in popular consumer magazines and respected political journals. He is the author of Evil Town, a novel of political intrigue that is receiving praise from a number of Washington opinion leaders

Facebook: Facebook.com/Inspiredbytruecrime

Amazon: John David Bethel


Have you read any books based on real events? How did that affect you during and after reading? Would you recommend any?

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May Update

Camp NaNo is done and dusted, and while I did not get to the appended 50K mark, I did get to my original 25K goal. So it is both a win and a non-win.

Sadly, my blog and reading suffered quite a bit during NaNo. And also April is practically a public holiday here in South Africa so I was barely at home or barely writing when I was. It was heavy busy, but I do not regret anything. I experienced a lot of great things I wouldn’t trade for an addition 25K words.

May Goals

I always feel like I have the potential to do so much more than I plan for, but do not have the time to do it all. Nonetheless, goals are great for motivation and when I cross off a goal, I feel fantastic.

Reading: I finished two incredible books. The first was Rules of the Game, the third and final book of the Endgame series. So much action. So much drama. So much almost crying. Click the covers for a review. Rules of the game will have a proper review later on the blog but you can read the initial review on Goodreads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second book was Eleanor & Park, a YA romance novel that hit me harder than I expected it to. My heart was in my throat the whole time. Beautiful. Click the cover for my Goodreads review.

Next on the list are:

  1. Blood Moon – John David Bethel
  2. Grey Magic – J.T. Lawrence
  3. Why You Were Taken – J.T. Lawrence
  4. Enden – David Kummer

I still have my Brandon Sanderson Mist Born Trilogy to read as well.

Writing:

Innocence: I will be finishing this horror novella this month. There are 10 chapters in total, each about 1500 words or so. It is available for free on Wattpad and you can read chapter 7 later today. To catch up on what has already happened, (and follow me on Wattpad) follow this link -> Wattpad Story – Innocence.

 

A quick synopsis:

The law exists to protect citizens from injustice, violence, and immorality. However, the law itself is also bound to it’s own statutes, and sometimes, the guilty are set free.
Four officers and a young medical student decide to take the law into their own hands, sentencing the known murderer, Marius de Wet, to an illegal Death Penalty within the unused Melville police precinct basement.
If word got out, the repercussions would be insurmountable for the five overseers of the unauthorized execution, and they vow to keep their silence.
But Marius is calling from the grave, seeking justice.
And he will claim his innocence.

Do be warned, it is rated “Mature” due to violence and language.

Last Robot on Earth: I have written about 16,001 words of this. This first arc will probably run up to 25,000 words. Unfortunately I did not write this main character as I was supposed to. Got too caught up in the story to realize he’s way off personality wise. So I’ll be rounding up the first arc and editing the character before moving on with the story.

While it is a Patreon project, I’ll be sharing some of the processes with you. This is one of the novels I will be completing this year.

Dominae Mortem: This is at 10,713 words. I covered two of the four main protagonists that the story revolves around. While I enjoyed the process, it involved so much world building and research that it took longer to write. I still haven’t planned out the other two characters so writing this will be quite a drawn out process.

From a planning perspective, I have the first arc figured out. Basically it is the “who” arc, where you get to know more about both the characters and the world they live in. Each is supposed to end with a “WHAT?!” cliff hanger that will lead into the second arc, “what now?” This will probably cover the first 50-75K mark. It is a Dark Fantasy novel after all so it could get long.

Junk Yard Angel: Ugh don’t even ask haha. This is novel is like that TV series you want to watch, then watch only one episode before moving on to other series. There’s so much potential but I’m too lazy to dig through it. It also has massive amounts of research and plotting to get through. Nonetheless, the novel itself is 8181 words of the introductory arc.

The JYA Short Stories – a prequel to the events of the main novel, is going pretty well. I’m enjoying that much better, but of course this is because all the characters are so much fun to write. 6452 words so far broken between five short stories that are all related and linked to each other and to the main novel. I will be releasing this once JYA itself is written.

Portals: This is a secret novel from last years NaNoWriMo – the Science Fantasy Horror Thriller of 33,865 words. It is a convoluted mess but a fascinating convoluted mess. Intertwining time-lines, characters and motivations. This little side project is not important but it’s fun.


What are your goals for May? How well did you do during Camp NaNo if you participated?

Wednesday Book Review: Mapping the Interior

Title: Mapping the Interior

Author: Stephen Graham Jones

Genre: Horror

Book procurement: Received a copy from Tor.com for Gamecca Magazine Vol 8 Issue 94.

Synopsis:

Walking through his own house at night, a fifteen-year-old thinks he sees another person stepping through a doorway. Instead of the people who could be there, his mother or his brother, the figure reminds him of his long-gone father, who died mysteriously before his family left the reservation. When he follows it he discovers his house is bigger and deeper than he knew.

The house is the kind of wrong place where you can lose yourself and find things you’d rather not have. Over the course of a few nights, the boy tries to map out his house in an effort that puts his little brother in the worst danger, and puts him in the position to save them . . . at terrible cost.

Review:

First Thoughts

I came away from this book feeling deeply troubled in a way that only good horror stories can manage. It’s not just about the innocence of young Junior during the whole narration, but his naivety that only makes things worse. As a Native American, moving into an obscure neighbourhood, there are a number of challenges they already have to face.  Let alone a mother hoping to raise two boys after their father dies mysteriously at the reservation. And Juniors little brother already has his own learning problems.

And that ending though, gee I was not expecting that. Troubled indeed.

Writing

The writing is fast paced. Moving between the scenes with clarity and a touch of mystery. Told from the perspective of an older Junior, we see just how traumatic his childhood was, following the dark silhouette of his dead father disappearing through a doorway. The desperation of a child hoping to reconnect with his father, regardless of the monster he may have become. It is melancholic woe pushing this story forward.

 

At the same time, there are a number of horrific episodes that occur. I loved it! I mean… you know… its horror. How Junior is driven by hope through all of these numerous episodes is in itself naive and just sad. Yet brings a realism that I could relate to.

There are a number of characters who appear alongside Junior. His brother has a learning disability that makes him the target of bullies. Junior’s mother is struggling to rebuild her life, as her kids always come first. Junior himself sees his role as both big brother and man of the house. It’s a story of broken people in a broken world.

Final Thoughts

While I may classify this book as a horror, it reminds me of the Stephen King sort of horror. Where the story is not about the evil entity roused from an Indian burial ground (Classic King ain’t it?) but a story about the people who have to deal with it. It’s a story about Junior, and his brother, his mother, and the community. And it’s a great read.

Rating: A melancholic 4 out of 5


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Wednesday Book Review: Endgame – Sky Key

Title: Sky Key – An Endgame Novel #2

Author: James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton

Genre: YA / Action

Book procurement: Bought from my new favourite bookstore Estoril Books.

Synopsis:

Endgame is here. Earth Key has been found. Two keys—and nine Players—remain. The keys must be found, and only one Player can win.

Queens, New York. Aisling Kopp believes the unthinkable: that Endgame can be stopped. But before she can get home to regroup, she is approached by the CIA. They know about Endgame. And they have their own ideas about how it should be Played. Ideas that could change everything.

Kingdom of Aksum, Ethiopia. Hilal ibn Isa al-Salt narrowly survived an attack that leaves him horribly disfigured. He now knows something the other Players do not. But the Aksumites have a secret that is unique to their line. A secret that can help redeem humanity—and maybe even be used to help defeat the beings behind Endgame.

London, England. Sarah Alopay has found the first key. She is with Jago—and they are winning.But getting Earth Key has come at a great cost to Sarah. The only thing that keeps the demons at bay is Playing. Playing to win.

Sky Key—wherever it is, whatever it is—is next. And the nine remaining Players will stop at nothing to get it.

Review:

First Thoughts

Well what can I say, I loved the first book. It was riveting and action packed and those players were ruthless. Some were human to a good degree. Others were monsters. This second book continues the ongoing saga to save humanity from Endgame… but the rules are changing. It’s amazing to see how at one point everyone was moving in one direction and then suddenly they are moving in a different direction. It’s brilliant.

Writing

Nothing has changed from the initial book in terms of writing. We switch between the remaining Players as they seek out Sky Key, the second of three keys that are supposed to save their line from Endgame – a world ending cataclsymic event.

Every character is unique. They have their own quirks that make them not only the best Players, but the best of who they each are as Players. Assassins. Snipers. Fighters. They are not only resourceful, but they are mentally amazing. I could never think, react or even manage to survive like they do. And the writing switching between the characters allows you to see from their own perspectives. There were times when I was freaking out because Player A knew Player B was approaching and Player B didn’t know! I was reading as fast as I could to get to the encounters! I almost cried at one point.

It’s interesting to see how some of the Players have changed during the course of the game. Moving from determined killer to compassionate killer. Other’s spiraling head first into pure psychotic behaviour. It’s brilliant.

Final Thoughts

Although I feel the ending is somewhat anti-climatic, it was a fair ending. A good ending. A proper ending. The first few hundred pages of the book I’m just trying to see where everyone is going. We as the readers know where Sky Key is and just waiting to see when everyone else will catch up. Then it’s a whole new game and I’m just trying to root for one of the Players but I have no idea who. I don’t even know whether I want them to find Sky Key after all or not. It was emotional in every sense.

Rating: An emotional 5 out of 5


You can find my review of the first book here: Endgame: The Calling.

If you have read the books, let me know what you thought. If you’re looking to get the books, ask me about them. No spoilers I promise.

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Wednesday Book Review: Tales of Wonder

Title: Tales of Wonder

Author: E.M. Swift-Hook, Jessica Holmes, Leo McBride, Matthew Harvey, Rob Edwards, Brent A. Harris, Terri Pray, Jeff Provine, Ricardo Victoria.

Genre: Science Fantasy

Book procurement: Received from Inklings Press for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Science Fantasy is the collision of science fiction and fantasy – where the impossible and the improbable come together. This is a universe of spaceships and sorcery, of mechanics and magic, where zeppelins soar through the ether and conjurers stalk dark tunnels with a ball of light in their fist. So cut loose, let slip the mooring ropes on your imagination, and join these nine authors as they set course for the horizon – and beyond.

Nine tales of science. Nine tales of fantasy. Nine tales to make you wonder.

Review:

First Thoughts

Ah Inklings Press. Quite literally my favourite publishers right now. The talent they have “harvested” to compile their anthologies is just brilliant and once again I find myself treated to amazing stories.

From the first story The Lair of the Thunderlord, right through, I fell more and more in love with this Science Fantasy genre. This intermingling of science fiction and fantasy, where magic and science coalesce with fascinating characters to enrich the stories told. Just brilliant.

Stories and Writing

 

A total of nine stories make up Tales of Wonder. I usually don’t dig through each short in anthologies for a review, but I think this anthology deserves proper in-depth reviewing:

The Lair of the Thunderlord by Rob Edwards

The crew of the Acumen are suddenly pulled from the dark recess of space, and onto a planet they shouldn’t be on. They are a “scout” ship afterall. The crash leaves them unprotected, and the magic they carry doesn’t work quite right. Martins is the ship’s Documenter, and for the first time gets to experience life on another planet. But things don’t go as planned and… well you’ll have to read the rest to know.

Really solid character work, and… chickens. Yep you heard that right. It’s brilliantly told, and it all culminates shockingly as the in the end.

Changeling Child by E.M. Swift-Hook

It begins with a nursery rhyme. If you know anything about nursery rhymes then you can guess that they are not as playful and innocent as they seem. And neither is Changeling Child.

What I loved most is the innocence of young Tani, who finds herself in quite a predicament and remembers the nursery rhyme as her guide. That link between the unfolding story, the rhyme, and Tani is pieced together really well.

Kaana by Ricardo Victoria

When one thinks of terraforming, they think of massive alien ships hovering over the skyline drilling through the Earth’s core, changing it for suitable environments. One might also think of gargantuan parasitic lifeforms tethered from space onto Earth and rearranging the atmosphere to suit the new hosts. One does not think of a humanoid creature uttering incomprehensible words (spells? wink wink nudge nudge) to coax life out of barren patches of land. I was already sold.

And then, of course, things begin to unravel that shed more light on this multi-racial planet and it’s custodian mages in the form of… giant robots? Adding that dash of science fiction to the fantastical world was a great touch. The magic is so unique. I hope Ricardo turns this into a proper novel. It definitely has that potential after that ending.

An Honest Trader by Jessica Holmes

This was an interesting one. Captain Prikos sails the skies on a ship that also sails the seas. It’s clever. Of course it doesn’t end there, and this rather short, short story has rich world building, fascinating technology, and an ending that begs for more.

Sedna’s Hair by Jeff Provine

One always wonders just how true myths and folklore are. Whether a superstitious belief has some semblance of truth or if it’s all just hogwash. Sedna’s Hair finds ship Inuit crew members on a routine swing around a blackhole. Their artificially intelligent captain urges the crew member to explain a long held tradition for the new crew member; the story of Sedna, a rather gruesome tale I might add. I can’t say much without ruining the story… you’ll have to read it to enjoy what happens next.

A Twist in Time by Brent A Harris

Okay so you don’t have to read far to see the correlation between Oliver Twist and this short story. But things aren’t about an orphan reduced to being a thief. No. Oliver steals a pocketwatch from a mystrious man only to find it is no ordinary watch. The man is no ordinary man. The adventure he is dragged in to… is no ordinary adventure.

There might be a nod at “the Doctor” in this story but as Brent A Harris so cryptically said to me, “I can neither confirm nor deny. Afterall, it’s all timey-wimey, wibbly-wobbly stuff.” Well played sir. Well played.

A Very Improper Adventure by Matthew Harvey

I’m writing a Steampunk novel at the moment, so when I started reading this short story… well you can imagine I may have swooned a little. Lady Madeleine Bierce is an upstanding woman in her community. Sharp of tongue. No nonsense type. Her daughter Lady Lillian Bierce – not so much. An engineer at heart, with an adventurous soul, hopes to explain why her dress is in disarray. Her explanation sparks quite an adventure atop an airship.

There’s just so much to applaud here. The writing style. The dictation. The pacing. The world building. The action. Or maybe I’m just biased haha.

Grace by Terri Pray

He is a code monkey. A programmer. The greatest of his time. His life is his work and his work is his life. Until the “delicate woman with an elegance that matched her name, Grace,” walked into his life. The story takes place on a distant planet, where the genius programmer lives in solitude to focus on his work, save for the servant-cum-guard who watches over him. Only none are like Grace. None at all.

You know it’s good writing when you begin to feel what the character feels. When you are moved by them. With them. Grace is an enchanting tale that is more than just Science Fantasy.

The Last Sorceror by Leo Mcbride

Oi what riveting good stuff here of magic vs technology; either one cannot exist around the other. All set in London where technology has slowly prevailed over magic to the point where magic is almost out of existence. Eli and Maggie are on the run from Techquisitors – enforcers who are hell bent on eradicating all sorcerors.

It feels much like The Sorceror’s Apprentice but set in a future where magic is banned. Eli has appointed Maggie as his own apprentice but Eli has never used magic in fourteen years. His vow. And his burden to guard Maggie. Fast paced. Witty. Intense. Leo Mcbride writes a story right out of the top drawer, and ends the anthology on a high note.

Final Thoughts

The one thing I dislike about anthologies, is the fact that you only get a glimpse of the bigger picture. Of the full story. Of the potentially immersive world. However, there is no doubt that this collection of short stories is worth a read. I implore you to get yourself a copy and let your imagination loose for just a smidge, and enjoy some Tales of Wonder.

Rating: A wonderful 5 out of 5


Also, a shout out to my dear friend and Folklore/Myhthology guru Carin Marais and her interview today on The Folklore Podcast. You can listen on iTunes or on their website: thefolklorepodcast.com

Wednesday Book Review: My Abigail

Title: My Abigail

Author: David Kummer

Genre: Thriller

Book procurement: Received from the author for an honest review.

Synopsis:

In this gripping, terrifying read, Caleb meets the girl of his dreams. She’s different, beautiful, and cares more than anyone ever has. But Abigail isn’t who he thinks.

He begins to notice things. The way she disappears for days on end… How she won’t go home at night… All the warnings he gets about her… He must ask himself, Who is she really?

When Caleb is faced the choice of a lifetime -to love or to hate, to give in and try again- he must make the ultimate decision. Who will he hurt? What will he choose? And is it too late to turn back now?

…Abigail had a secret.
I knew it soon after meeting her.
She was different than other girls, and not just because she actually showed some interest in me. She was really different. I loved it. I loved her.
But Abigail had a secret.
Damian told me so, the first time I met him. I wasn’t sure whether to believe him or not. He wasn’t trustworthy. He wasn’t nice. He was a terrifying figure, the embodiment of fear. But he was right.
She had a secret.
I’m sorry I keep repeating it. It’s still hard to believe. How could somebody so gentle, nice, and loving be so… scary?
That’s the only word I knew to describe her after it all ended. Everything about her being was scary.
Abigail was my life, I told myself. She was my everything.
She left me with nothing.
If she was my life, does that make this suicide?…

Review:

First Thoughts

My Abigail started strong. The main character Caleb is a bullied young man who seems to be very reserved and quiet. He has no friends. He keeps to himself. That’s the sort of character I thought he was. Then in comes the mysterious Abigail, a girl who actually likes him and they become friends. He also meets another quiet, reserved boy Xavier and befriends him too. It all seems to be going relatively well and then Abigail simply vanishes for days. Xavier also tends to just disappear. Then he meets the very weird, and exceptionally creepy Damian. He has has a secret about Abigail that Caleb may not want to here.

Story

It’s very difficult to place the story. It’s a thriller with some elements of horror that aren’t really horror and more dramatic abnormalities. Caleb is the main character who begins to unravel the secrets behind his two new friends Abigail and Xavier, while trying to figure out who Damian is, what his ties are with the other two, and why he gets the creeps when around him.

I must admit I was not expecting the truth that came out. Completely threw me off. Rocked my boat, and because of that particular aspect, I enjoyed My Abigail more than I would have. It’s hauntingly tragic, and the ending is just heartbreaking, even though it feels a bit rushed.

Writing

The writing itself wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. It flowed well, and progressed steadily. You get a real sense of who Caleb is, and the drama that surrounds him. My main issue was regarding the characters, and how the adults act more like teenagers than adults (even the psychologist) which was a little off putting. Caleb, who also seemed very reserved is suddenly shouting at parents and then there’s a scene that was so out of character, (and written weirdly) that I had to re-read it.

Final Thoughts

There is so much potential in this story, and with a little more work on the characterisation it would be even better. A wonderful story overall nonetheless.

Rating: A budding 3 out of 5


Hi. My name is David Kummer. I’m an author that’s only in high school and so I’m still learning and growing (I’m not Caillou, so sorry if that sounded like it) and figuring out how to become a better author.

If you’d like to know about my releases or promotions as soon as they happen, go here:

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I live in Madison, Indiana, which is a small town on the Ohio River. There’s lots of history and creepy places, which probably have influenced my writings. In my book SHE, most of the places and buildings are based off similar settings here in my home town, although I’ve changed them so that you wouldn’t know really if I didn’t tell you.

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