Book Review: Blood and Ember

review-blood and emberTitle: Blood and Ember [Stormbringer 3]

Author: Isabel Cooper

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

A century ago, the Traitor God’s fury left the world broken by violent storms and twisted monsters born of darkness and death. Now those storms are sweeping across the continent again and it will take everything the armies of man can muster to survive. As a sworn knight, Olvir is prepared to do his part–even if that means journeying deep into the magic-tainted Battlefield to face the enemy alone.

Sentinel Vivian Bathari has lost too much to allow her closest friend to make such a sacrifice alone. Besides, there are whispers that Olvir’s strange new powers are somehow connected to the Traitor God, and she’d rather be by his side should the worst occur. But as they travel deep into the heart of danger, their growing attraction burns into mutual desire, and the true depth of Olvir’s connection to the evil haunting their world is made clear. In the end, Vivian will have to decide what she’s willing to sacrifice to save their world…and the man she loves.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I gave Blood and Ember 1 Star, not because it’s an awful book, but because I couldn’t finish it. I hadn’t read the previous books in the series, so I can’t attest to whether that would have made this book easier to read or not, but I suspect it might have in some sense.

So, let’s talk about what I liked. The writing was clean and well-edited. The lore and worldbuilding were rich and complex, and I think the author did a spectacular job of creating a vivid atmosphere with which to submerge the plot. If you’re a fan of high fantasy in any sense, you’ll probably love this aspect of the story, and though high-fantasy isn’t my favorite, I could at least appreciate the craft that went into this story because of these things.

So where did it fail? The narrative and its characters lacked soul. The characters didn’t engage me or even seem different from one another. I had no sense of who they were as people, and it made it very hard to get sucked into the story – because I love character-driven stories… and that isn’t what this was. I only got to about chapter 8 before I set the book aside, and I can’t imagine how the romance in this book will even develop given how the characters were written.

I think this is one of those stories that would excel if put to screen – where the visual aspects push the story forward…. But I didn’t enjoy how it was written. It didn’t help that the author kept head-hopping between what I can only assume were the two main characters (they didn’t stick out, so I can’t be sure). It felt as if the characters were there only as a vehicle to the plot, rather than a part of it.

Although this book wasn’t for me, I don’t think it was a bad book – simply not what I was looking for. If you like high fantasy with complicated world-building, I think you’d enjoy this book, regardless of how I felt about it.

Book Review: Breeder

review-breederTitle: Breeder

Author: Honni Van Rijswijk

Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Will Meadows is a seemingly average fifteen-year-old Westie, who lives and works in Zone F, the run-down outermost ring of the Corporation. In the future state of the Corp, a person’s value comes down to productivity: the right actions win units, the wrong ones lose them. If Will is unlucky and goes into unit debt, there’s only one place to go: the Rator. But for Zone F Breeders, things are much worse–they’re born into debt and can only accrue units through reproduction.

Every day in Zone F is a struggle, especially for Will who is fighting against time for access to an illegal medical drug, Crystal 8. Under the cover of night, Will travels to the Gray Zone, where life is less regulated and drugs–and people–are exchanged for gold. There, Will meets Rob, a corrupt member of the Corporation running a Breeder smuggling operation. Will also meets Alex, another teen whom he quickly recognizes as a Breeder in disguise.

Suddenly, Will has an illicit job and money, access to Crystal, and a real friend. As the pair grows closer, Alex shares her secret: she is part of the Response, an uprising to overthrow the Corporation. Caught up in the new friendship, Will and Alex become careless as the two covertly travel into Zone B for a day of adventure. Nothing goes as planned and Will’s greatest fear is realized. Will his true identity be revealed?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’m going to be honest… I found it extremely difficult to get through this book. In fact, I dropped it at 56% in. The book had an interesting concept and some well-thought-out world-building that I enjoyed, but that’s about where my praise ends.

The opening narrative was stilted and a bit confusing. There was lots of back-telling, poor grammar, a break in the 4th wall that seemed unintentional, and worse, the book was written in present tense… which is just… the worst. I disliked the narrative voice and because the writing was so disjointed and choppy, it was hard to like the characters, let alone empathize with them.

It felt like I was reading a book from the point of view of an alien, pretending to be a human, who had never actually met a human. It was… off and choppy. I didn’t feel engaged or sucked into the story, and I figured out the big “reveal” about the main character before the first three chapters were up.

There are going to be readers out there that appreciate this book for the world-building and the plot – because those things were really well done…. But I appreciate the narrative flow of a book, the atmosphere, and the human struggle – and this book just absolutely butchered those.

Book Review: The Forgotten Book

reviewcover-the forgotten bookTitle: The Forgotten Book

Author: Mecthild Glaser

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Emma is used to things going her way. Her father is headmaster of her prestigious boarding school, her friends take her advice as gospel, and she’s convinced that a relationship with her long-time crush is on the horizon.

As it turns out, Emma hasn’t seen anything yet. When she finds an old book in an abandoned library, things really start going Emma’s way: anything she writes in the book comes true.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ll be honest, I was incredibly disappointed with this book. I read a lot of YA books even as an adult, so I can say with some confidence that most YA books, despite being written for a younger audience, are still great reads, even for those of us that are outside of the YA demographic. Heck, I often even read Juvenile fiction that are still great reads – but this one?

Insert exasperated sigh here.

The writing style of this book was incredibly juvenile – not in the way that it was written for a juvenile audience (though by definition, it was), but the writing itself was juvenile. There was a decided lack of atmosphere to it and a lot of telling and redundancy. The narrative lacked flow and didn’t pull me into the story. The dialogue in particular was cringe-worthy, especially for the adults in the book. It felt like I was reading something written by a pre-teen. I’ve had this book sitting on my bookshelf for 2 years, and I’ve tried to get past the first chapter on three separate occasions, and I just can’t – it’s that bad. I’ve never made it past page 17.

Look, I’m not going to say the book is categorically terrible, because it wasn’t intended for an older audience, and for a younger reader, it could be a good read – I am sure there are those out there that would enjoy this book immensely…but if you are an adult that likes to dabble in YA books, maybe pass this one up. There are other authors out there that do a fantastic job of writing solid books that any age can enjoy… this just isn’t one of them.

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.