Book Review: The Petrified Flesh

review-cover-the petrified fleshTitle: The Petrified Flesh [Reckless 1]

Author: Cornelia Funke

Genre: Juvenile Fantasy

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Ever since Jacob Reckless was a child, he has been escaping to a hidden world through a portal in his father’s abandoned study. Over the years, he has made a name for himself as a finder of enchanted items and buried secrets. He’s also made many enemies and allies — most important, Fox, a beautiful shape-shifting vixen whom Jacob cares for more than he lets on.

But life in this other world is about to change. Tragedy strikes when Jacob’s younger brother, Will, follows him through the portal. Brutally attacked, Will is infected with a curse that is quickly transforming him into a Goyl — a ruthless killing machine, with skin made of stone.

Jacob is prepared to fight to save his brother, but in a land built on trickery and lies, Jacob will need all the wit, courage, and reckless spirit he can summon to reverse the dark spell — before it’s too late.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I had such high hopes for The Petrified Flesh by Cornelia Funke, so much so that I picked up all three books in the series at once before publication. Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed. As a caveat, if you’re a juvenile reader, you might really enjoy this book – because the plot and the fantasy worldbuilding were captivating. However, as an older reader, and someone who works as a copy editor and reviewer, I could not get into this book.

The major problem I had with the book was the writing itself. There were a lot of repeated words, redundant thoughts, Bad grammar, and missing punctuation – which, okay, some of that can be explained away as I was reading an early review copy that may or may not have been unedited… so take this particular opinion with a grain of salt. That being said, at this stage in a book’s release, where dates are set and it’s being sent out to reviewers, I don’t expect the book to be perfect, but I do expect a certain level of editing that I think this book lacked.

On top of this, the narrative voice kept using words that didn’t seem age-appropriate to the main character. I get it, big words are great for adults, but a 12-year-old isn’t going to say “desiccated” instead of “dried up”. There were other issues with the way the narrative was written, such as the big moments lacking impact, and the author’s aversion to writing in any sort of description or atmosphere. The book ended up feeling muddled and contorted. Five chapters in, I knew nothing about the characters, their lives, or the worldbuilding other than a bunch of unfamiliar names. I didn’t feel drawn in. I began to skim, and eventually, put the book down.

In the end, the book is okay for younger readers, but it’s not something I’d add to my shelf, and I can’t bring myself to push through it. This book just wasn’t for me.

Book Review: Knight in Paper Armor

review-cover-knight in paper armorTitle: Knight in Paper Armor

Author: Nicholas Conley

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Billy Jakobek has always been different. Born with strange and powerful psychic abilities, he has grown up in the laboratories of Thorne Century, a ruthless megacorporation that economically, socially, and politically dominates American society. Every day, Billy absorbs the emotional energies, dreams, and traumas of everyone he meets—from his grandmother’s memories of the Holocaust, to the terror his sheer existence inflicts upon his captors—and he yearns to break free, so he can use his powers to help others.

Natalia Gonzalez, a rebellious artist and daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, lives in Heaven’s Hole, an industrial town built inside a meteor crater, where the poverty-stricken population struggles to survive the nightmarish working conditions of the local Thorne Century factory. Natalia takes care of her ailing mother, her grandmother, and her two younger brothers, and while she dreams of escape, she knows she cannot leave her family behind.

When Billy is transferred to Heaven’s Hole, his chance encounter with Natalia sends shockwaves rippling across the blighted landscape. The two outsiders are pitted against the all-powerful monopoly, while Billy experiences visions of an otherworldly figure known as the Shape, which prophesizes an apocalyptic future that could decimate the world they know.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I wanted to like Knight in Paper Armor by Nicholas Conley. The synopsis was interesting, the cover was beautiful, I liked the genre, and the world-building was interesting… but I put the back down around chapter twenty-one.

Where this book lacked for me, was the writing itself. It was mediocre at best. The children characters didn’t talk like children. The Young Adult characters didn’t talk like Young Adults. There was an elaborate world and past history to the story, but at least as far as I got into the book, none of it was explained or tied into the plot in any way. Throughout the story I got this feeling that the worldbuilding and setting were arbitrary – you could have taken the characters and their histories and put it directly into a contemporary setting, and it would have made zero difference to the book. The connection between Billy and Natalia seemed tenuous and forced.

So much of the beginning of the book was filling in the backstory for the characters that I kept wondering when the story was going to actually begin. By the time I quit, at 21 chapters in, nothing significant had happened to drive the plot forward. I take that back… one thing happened. Natalia was thrown in the trunk of a car – but even that couldn’t keep me reading. I grew bored and tired of slogging through detail that didn’t matter.

There will be readers out there that enjoy this book far more than me, but in my opinion, the writing was lackluster. It didn’t feel like a well-refined and polished book. It didn’t suck me in, I didn’t care about the characters, and I didn’t feel any sort of draw that would keep me reading.

Book Review: A Tracker’s Tale

review-cover-a tracker's taleTitle: A Tracker’s Tale [Trackers 1]

Author: Karen Avizur

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

In Katherine’s world, werewolves, vampires, púcas, and other parasapien species – forced for centuries by human fear and prejudice to live at the fringes of society – have finally come out of hiding to demand their rightful place alongside us. It’s a fragile co-existence, fraught with mutual distrust: a new social contract for which the rules are still evolving. And when those rules break down – usually when a parasapien begins preying on humans – that’s when the Trackers step in. It’s their job to hunt them down and stop them by any means necessary.

Within this elite unit, Katherine Colebrook is one of the best. Her psychic abilities made her a natural for the Trackers Division, allowing her to move between the parasapien and human worlds in ways that no other agent could. But Katherine’s calling hasn’t come without struggle and losses along the way. As a single mother, she must contend with her teenage daughter, Alexandra, who not only shares Katherine’s psychic abilities, but seems determined to follow the same dangerous path as her mother.

And so, when Katherine’s latest assignment threatens to bring that danger too close home, she finds herself faced with the toughest challenge of her career: Can she protect her daughter’s life, while battling a ruthless adversary who’ll stop at nothing to destroy her?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I had a difficult time getting into A Tracker’s Tale by Karen Avizur. Although the plot was interesting and the characters likable, the more technical aspects of the writing left something to be desired.

The narrative was incredibly wordy. Descriptions were over-done and bogged down the pace of the story with irrelevant details. I think a strict editor could have brought the story back from the brink of a one-star rating, but as it is, I quickly grew bored.

For me, the story lacked the draw of good writing. It started with court proceedings and moved on to inane phone calls between professionals, in-head description, and minimal dialogue. There was little to no actions, personality, or soul.

Do I think the book was awful? No. There are definitely people out there that will find this an interesting read… but I didn’t feel drawn in or the need to continue past the first 10% of the book.

Book Review: Chasing Fae

review-cover-chasing faeTitle: Chasing Fae

Author: Cady Hammer

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Grace Richardson is a young mortal woman whose only concerns are providing for her family, playing her violin, and spending as much time as possible with her brother, Leo. When Leo goes into service in the Fae’s world as a mercenary, she expects him to return with the honor that he deserves.

When Leo suddenly dies in an unspecified accident, not a word, medal, or penny comes down from the higher-ups. Suspecting foul play, Grace disguises herself as a Fae and sneaks into the Upper Realm to get some answers. She anticipates being in way over her head, but the Fae soldier who discovers her true identity only a day in? Not so much.

Now Grace is forced to drag Aiden along as she tries to work out exactly how and why her brother died. Along the way, she has no choice but to confront her prejudices against the Fae as she attempts to sort out the difference between the honest and the dishonest. Political conspiracies, demon realm escapades, and family secrets will all lead Grace to the answers she’s looking for… and some that she isn’t.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I tried so hard to get through Chasing Fae by Cady Hammer, in fact, I got more than 60% into the story before I decided to give up… and every minute of that was a push. Honestly, I probably could have stopped in the first chapter. This is one of those books that falls right on the midline of being really awful, or just entertaining enough to read anyway, but barely just.
 
Though the book was easy to read and flowed fairly well, where it fell apart was the characters and their actions. They were overdramatic when there was really no reason to be. It felt like the main characters were fighting and yelling and nearly dying every few seconds, but there was no real reason for them to be acting that way. It felt like the author just didn’t know how to push the story forward, so they threw in a bunch of needless conflicts.

On top of this, Aiden had no real personality of his own. Sure, he smirked a lot, and often gave hugs, and tried to comfort the main character… but that’s about all he did. He didn’t seem to have his own agenda or reason for being around other than to be a sounding board for the main character to yell at, fawn over, or be rescued by.

And the main character, whose name I’ve already forgotten? She was a brat. Constantly throwing tantrums, throwing herself and others into danger, and being rude to everyone she met.
 
It got old fast, and as much as I tried to push on to see how the story ended, I don’t really care enough to continue reading. I think the plot was interesting, but the rest of the writing just wasn’t good enough to carry it.

Book Review: Cynetic Wolf

reviewcover-cynetic wolfTitle: Cynetic Wolf [Wolfish 1]

Author: Matt Ward

Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

It’s 2096, sixty years after ninety percent died from a man-made Bioplague. Humanity has splintered into four unequal subspecies: immortals, cyborgs, enhancers, and subservient half-human, half-animal hybrids.

The world is anything but equal. Hybrids everywhere are suffering, but sixteen-year-old Raek Mekorian, a wolfish with a nose for trouble, doesn’t see an alternative. Except the Resistance, who don’t stand a chance against the world government. His mom always said, “Keep your head down.”

And he does, until his sister is murdered by a pair of cyborgs. Overnight, his simple life is shattered, fracturing the rigid governmental caste as he is thrust into the dangerous world of superhuman hit squads, Resistance uprisings, and secrets better left unsaid.

With only built-in blasters and the advice of a mysterious professor, Raek must navigate crushing betrayal, self-doubt, and a limitless enemy whose evil knows no bounds.

Can Raek unify his people and free them from tyranny? The fate of mankind may rest in his hands.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I had a bit of trouble getting into Cynetic Wolf by Matt Ward, and to be honest, I didn’t finish it. I ended up quitting the book at the end of the first chapter.

Overall, I found the book to be well-written in that there weren’t a lot of typos, it was grammatically correct, the punctuation was clean, and the narrative voice flowed well. I cannot fault its editor. I also adored the world-building – it was a fresh new idea, and vibrant in the way it was described. I found the futuristic world in which the characters lived to be fascinating.

Where I ran into issues with the book, and why I ultimately set it aside, is that though this is a “young adult” book, it read more like a middle-grade book. I genuinely thought the main character was maybe 13 before I looked up what the book was categorized as. Simple writing isn’t bad – as I said earlier, it flowed well and it was clear and easy to read, but it sounded juvenile, especially in the way the main character interacted with his mother and with his internal thought processes. I think the book was miss-categorized as a young adult book, and it would have been better received in a younger audience with some adjustments.

Another issue I ran into was a few minor writing style faults – repetition of ideas when they didn’t need to be repeated, details that didn’t make sense in the timeline, and the pacing of the scenes. The dog running away at the beginning of the story should have been fast-paced, and instead, it dragged on while the kid called his neighbor, walked home, talked to his mom, walked some more, talked to more people, wandered into an alley, and then eventually found the dog. I couldn’t figure out what the author was trying to do by dragging the scene out, and it would have better served the tension of finding the mutilated dog had the whole sequence moved faster and been more impending. Slowing it down muffled the impact, and in the end, I grew bored waiting for things to happen.

I think if you can look past these problems, you might enjoy the story, but as someone who copyedits novels for a living, it’s really hard for me to set these sorts of problems aside to enjoy the greater story.

Book Review: Breaking The Rules

reviewcover-breaking the rulesTitle: Breaking The Rules [Breaking 1]

Author: Ember Leigh

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

For Travis, there’s only ever been one rule: stay away from his best friend’s sister. But Amara Valenzuela has transformed from meek and sweet to a woman that Travis can’t keep his eyes—or hands—off of.

Before long, however, Travis learns that being with Amara isn’t just breaking the rules. She’s a dangerous distraction.

In a room full of hot, hard, sweaty bodies, these two have more than fitness on their minds. Will the undefeated MMA fighter be strong enough to resist the charms of his best friend’s sexy and sweet little sister…or will trying to win her heart be the showdown of his life?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Listen, Breaking The Rules by Ember Leigh wasn’t as bad as you might assume by seeing this one-star rating, but I just could not get into it.

The narrative actually flowed fairly well. The grammar and punctuation were correct, and I didn’t run into any major typos. All good things.

However, despite these strong points, I still had trouble. I didn’t feel anything for the characters. They weren’t particularly interesting and I didn’t really like them to be honest. Their attraction felt superficial because any sexual tension the author threaded through the story was overshadowed by the constant mention of it. It seemed like every few seconds the couple was thinking about boning each other, and it drained the impact. Sadly, there didn’t seem to be any plot outside of the romance and it just wasn’t enough to carry the book for me.

I grew bored. For some readers, this won’t be an issue… but it was for me, and I chose not to carry on.

Book Review: The Crimson Throne

reveiewcover-the crimson throneTitle: The Crimson Throne

Author: Christi Stallard

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Dystopian, Vampires

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synoipsis:

Nearly a decade ago, the supernatural creatures hidden in the shadows conquered the world with unspeakable power. The mass takeover became known as the great fall of civilization and the most devastating event in recorded history. 18-year-old Sadie Carlisle has never seen past the walls of Section 18. After a city siege forces Sadie into a fight for survival, an unlikely ally turns her life into a thrilling and terrifying whirlwind. Peter is the ultimate drug; exciting, addictive, and highly dangerous. The war raging between dark creatures threatens everything they’ve discovered in one another. Loyalties are tested, and the fate of humanity rests in the balance. How far would you go for the one you love most?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I was so disappointed by The Crimson Throne by Christi Stallard. As a rule, I generally love paranormal romances, dystopias, and just vampires in general… but the writing was so poor that I couldn’t force myself through reading it. I gave up at about 7% into the book.

Although the book had a stunning opening, I spotted several typos as the story continued. The narrative didn’t flow well – it was as if it lacked any sort of soul. There was no seduction or charm to the characters, there was no tension, no pull, no impact. The characters lacked defined personalities. As the story wore on, I became bored… mostly attributed to the lackluster narrative voice and complete absence of description or atmosphere.

In the end, I gave up. There will probably be readers out there that get some form of enjoyment out of this story, but I was looking for more. I think the author could have done better.

Book Review: TwoSpells

reviewcover-twospellsTitle: TwoSpells

Author: Mark Morrison

Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Sarah and her twin brother Jon are heirs to an ancient magical realm and its most valuable treasure, an enchanted library. The library endows readers with the supernatural means of crossing into the uncharted inner-sanctum of the second dimension, inhabited with peculiar and sometimes perilous creatures.

The children are emboldened with a wondrous mystical gift that no other being has ever possessed. But fate intervenes and triggers a disastrous inter-dimensional war that disrupts the fabric of time and space spanning multiple universes, tearing destiny a new and savage pathway.

The two must rescue their world from a phantom hybrid alien race controlled by a demented dark-wizard, Jeremy Sermack. They will either assimilate or be exterminated.

Will they be the saviors the prophets spoke of, or will they retreat to the perceived safety of their distant homeland?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ve read some really great Middle-Grade fiction this year, but sadly, TwoSpells by Mark Morrison wasn’t on that list. I just could not get into this book.
 
The beginning was slow. What should have been a fast-paced terrifying wrench off the side of the road as the family’s car drifted across lanes, well, wasn’t. The omniscient voice of the narration gave the book a sort of “backseat” feel – like the story was being narrated by a 3rd party over the radio, rather than by someone living in the action of the scene. There were several times the point of view switched from being centered on the main character, Sarah, to being a 3rd person narrator, or, being in the point of view of the parents. It was weird to have it constantly switching, and it softened the impact of any tension going on.
 
Honestly, I think any middle-grade reader would be bored trying to get through this book if the first chapter or two are anything to go by. It didn’t feel engaging, and I wasn’t particularly drawn to any of the characters – and I think, for the most part, this is due to the narrator’s voice and point of view. I think if this had been rewritten in the first person, to put the reader more in the head of Sarah, or omniscient but stick to one  POV, rather than hopping around, it would have been better received. As it stands, it isn’t my cup of tea, and I don’t feel an inclination to push through it.

Book Review: Crow’s Rest

reviewcover-crow's restTitle: Crow’s Rest [Faerie Crossed 1]

Author: Angelica R. Jackson

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Avery Flynn arrives for a visit at her Uncle Tam’s, eager to rekindle her summertime romance with her crush-next-door, Daniel.

But Daniel’s not the sweet, neurotic guy she remembers, and she wonders if this is her Daniel at all. Or if someone—some thing—has taken his place.

Her quest to find the real Daniel, and get him back, plunges Avery into a world of Fae and changelings, where creatures swap bodies like humans change their socks, and magic lives much closer to home than she ever imagined.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT

I’ll be straight with you, I threw this book across the room (figuratively) somewhere amidst the third chapter. I’m not entirely sure what the author intended, but the narrative style of Crow’s Rest by Angelica R. Jackson was trying too hard to be quirky and charming. The main character, whose name I’ve already forgotten, is a tangled mess of poor writing. She’s ADD and Bipolar, and okay, sure, that can happen – but it has zero relevancy to the plot outside of an attempt at making her… what? Relatable? A special snowflake?

What catapulted everything off for me though, was the author’s need to word-vomit the most inappropriate asides and verbal tangents I’ve ever seen in a Young Adult book. I can’t even begin to repeat some of what was written for fear my review would get flagged.

This book is a mess, and honestly, you could do better.

Book Review: The Healer

reviewcover-the healerTitle: The Healer [The Healer 1]

Author: C.J. Anaya

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Hope Fairmont longs for a normal teenage life, but with a gift like hers, normal equals healing illnesses and injuries instantly. Keeping a secret like that isn’t easy, but a small town is the perfect place for her to heal those who can’t heal themselves, and an even better place for her father, James Fairmont, to hide his daughter from the rest of the world.

Life takes an unexpected turn when two handsome strangers move into town and begin unearthing other secrets concerning Hope’s future and past, revealing to Hope that her gift for healing may be the fulfillment of an ancient, Japanese prophecy gone wrong.

Staying away from these mysterious newcomers would be the smart thing to do, but Victor’s gentle, easy manner, and Tie’s mixed signals and strange mood swings draw her hopelessly closer to revealing the secret she and her father have been so desperate to hide.

Hope’s life is complicated further with visions of a previous life and the arrival of a supernatural demon sent to assassinate her before she learns what she is truly capable of.

With the support of her father, the fiery loyalty of her best friend Angie, and the child-like love of Kirby, a ten-year-old patient, Hope must fight against the forces of a relentless demon god while unwinding the tangled pieces of her past, proving to herself and those she loves that destiny isn’t determined by some cosmic reading of the stars, but by the individual choices one makes.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ll be honest, I expected more from The Healer by C.J. Anaya. Having read some of the author’s other work, I was excited to read more. Sadly, I was disappointed by this one.

The book didn’t open strong – it started with a lot of exposition rather than action, and I felt like I’d stepped into the story mid-series.

Though the narrative was fairly well-written from a technical standpoint and didn’t contain a lot of typos or grammatical errors, the main character kept bringing up topics for which the reader was given no explanation. I constantly felt lost. It took ages for the author to bring in any sort of setting or atmosphere, so until several pages into the book, I had no frame of reference for when or where the story was even taking place.

Let’s take a minute to talk about the healing. The main character goes on about how she doesn’t understand her powers or where they come from, and she’d love for someone to figure it out and tell her – yet goes into huge amounts of detail about how the power works and its limitations. Though the main character is a teenage janitor, they somehow know full medical terminology and boast about knowing more medical knowledge than the actual doctors. Not only did this not make any sense, but it made the main character seem arrogant.

Don’t even get me started on how she “cured autism” – like changing how an 8 year old’s brain functions on a fundamental level will instantly make them “normal”.

I was so incredibly irritated by the end of the first chapter that I almost missed the fact that I still didn’t even know the main character’s name. It isn’t said in the first chapter – at all – and I don’t think this was on purpose, I think it was simply overlooked.

I DNF’d this book because it needs a serious re-write. It didn’t flow the way a story should. I wasn’t pulled in. I didn’t like the characters… it was sloppy in the way it was put together, and I know for a fact the author could have done better. I’ve seen it.