Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book Review: Wings of Arian by Devri Walls

Wings of Arian (The Solus, #1)
by Devri Walls 

Genre: Fantasy
Reading Grade: Young Adult
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Source: review copy from author
Age Rating: 14+

Kiora thought she had never heard a lie until she was sixteen. But she was wrong. Her entire existence was based on nothing but. She thought that evil did not exist. Lie. That magic was not real. Lie. And that the land of Meros was all there was. One more lie.

With Aleric telling her that evil is knocking on the door and that she is the only one who can stop them she has a choice to make. Refuse, or start the wildest most painful ride of her life.
She reluctantly dips her toe into her new existence of magic and threads, dragons and shapeshifters, and the person who wants to take control of it all: the evil Dralazar.

However, this journey was never meant to be hers alone. She will be accompanied by a Protector. To her disbelief, and utter irritation they name the hotheaded, stubborn, non -magical, (albeit gorgeous) Prince Emane. They will have to trust each other with their lives, but right now Kiora would settle for a non hostile conversation.

And now it comes down to this, If you had never heard a lie, would you know when you heard one? Is knowing good from evil innate? Kiora finds herself having to decide who lives and who dies on those very questions. 

I will be a host next week for Devri Walls' Wings of Arian Book Blog Tour, so come back later to read my interview with her about her book and having self-esteem...

My Review

  • Plot: Kiora is a young girl born into a completely innocent existence, free of any evil. Neither she nor any of her people have ever encountered evil until Aleric, an adviser to the King of Meros, claims the Prophecy is about to come to pass and evil will be reintroduced into their land. They need a being of magic to protect them called the Solus and the Solus is the unwitting Kiora. She must train in magic—something none of her people ever knew existed before—in order to prepare to fight the evil Dralazar from taking over Meros.
  • Characters: Kiora is just a pure innocent and she's very relatable. She may be the heroine of the story, but she lives with doubt on a daily basis. She's not sure she's good enough to be the Solus and is afraid of failure. Prince Emane is her Protector, called to be by her side at all times, although he is the first Protector to be non-magical. His self-esteem, too, is put to the test as he tries to protect Kiora from the nearly constant threat of harm to her, even though he has very little ability to succeed at doing so. I like that they struggle so much like real people do. They have their own natural talents, but that doesn't stop them from struggling to believe in themselves.
  • Story: I liked the story, although it spends a lot of time showing Kiora and Emane's training, which is less than exciting. It makes up for it with a lot of character development and the development of their relationship. Thankfully, they don't suffer from the 'insta-love' trope because they take the entire book to fall truly “in love” with each other. Even being physically close doesn't qualify as love, which is good. It feels more real-world to me that way. Not everybody declares their undying love for you right before or after they kiss you for the first time. Or, even after many times. In fact, when does it ever happen like that in real life? The story starts to really get cooking by the end, before the climax and throughout the climactic battle scene, which is extremely well done. Definitely the best part. Instead of being small and squirmy, it's grand and epic. Real fighting with real bloodshed and wounds. Characters actually die and it even causes the main character incredible grief. This book raises the stakes when truly needed.
  • Writing: It's decent, though not stellar. It could use some work on the technical side. Plotting-wise, I think it needed the crucial plot points to stand out, and the resolution took a very long time to wrap up. After such an epic climax, I just wanted the story to quickly end, but it started another almost-arc right afterward for quite a bit beyond that. A lot of questions were answered in that second almost-arc, but most of them could have been saved for the beginning of Book 2.
  • Overall Quality: Good. This is a pure fantasy novel with no paranormal elements. Just high fantasy, so people who enjoy this kind of literature might like it. I say give it a try. Here be some characters that actually dare to go beyond being one-dimensional.
  • Favorite Scene/Moment: Any scene where Kiora has to deal with hate in her face from either Emane's fiancee or her own older sister. She handles herself so wonderfully, despite being emotionally hurt by these horrible people. I always admire characters like this and only wish I could react like her under that sort of duress.
  • My Score: 3.5/5 stars.

*I received this ebook as a complementary copy from the author in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why Writing a Book Is Where I Belong: Guest Author Janiera Eldridge

I've got another author guest blogger today. Welcome, Janiera Eldridge! She's blogging today about her bold move to quit college and become an author. I'm always up for stories about people who take big risks and go after their dreams....

Her novel Soul Sisters is available as an ebook at Amazon, currently FREE to AmazonPrime members ($2.99 regular).

Every day I’m able to get up and write is a blessing for me. Since I suffer from Fibromyalgia, a day of good health is nothing to take for granted. About a year ago, I made the decision I was not going to return to college, I was ill and college life just wasn’t what I wanted.  For me college was not worth the hassle and writing was what I really wanted to do. I was terrified of what my parents thought, but believe it or not, they were extremely supportive.
I achieved graduating at the top 10% of my class in high-school but I had so many books that I started writing, but never finished. Soul Sisters was the first book I started on since leaving college and it felt right from the moment I started writing it. Every character (especially Ani and Dana) spoke loud and clear in my head, even when I wish they wouldn’t.  Freelance writing can be a fun and rewarding gig but, some days I couldn’t wait to pop open the laptop and return to visit my characters. I wanted to know what they had been up to, what they were feeling and thinking.
Sometimes they chat when they’re not supposed to and they want me to give them love and attention. Most of the time I’m forced (and happy) to oblige. The feeling I get from writing and creating my own world is peaceful exhilaration. There is so much in life you can’t control but in my book I control almost everything! There is no better feeling than seeing a story evolve and come to life right under the tapping of your fingers. Every time, I go to start a writing session I know that writing a book is where I belong. One day I hope to be able to make a living out of being an author. If you know writing books is where you belong, don’t be afraid to take steps to make that dream a reality. Nothing is impossible to achieve with some hard work and a dream.

About Soul Sisters:

Soul Sisters is an urban fantasy novel about African-American twin sisters Ani and Dana who have a rather unique secret: one sister is human while the other is a vampire. While the sisters have lived peacefully with each other for many years one fateful night will change both their lives forever. When a drunken man tries to attack Dana (the human sister) Ani (the vampire sister) protects her sister with all of her ferocious power.

However, when the vampire’s leader Donovan finds out about the public display he calls for the sisters to be assassinated for disobedience. Ani and Dana now are in for the fight of their lives to protect each other as well as the lives of their dedicated friends who have joined them on their mission for survival. If Dana and Ani can make it through this time of uncertainty, Ani can take her new place as vampire queen. Soul Sisters is expected to be a trilogy; The book also features a multicultural cast of characters that brings a new edge of chic to the vampire world.

About the Author:

Janiera enjoys feeding her book addiction when she not writing. She is also a book blogger at Beauty and Books where she mixes being a book nerd with keeping things chic. When not reading or writing she is freelance writing in the entertainment industry. Soul Sisters is her debut novel.

Connect with Janiera...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Review: Wool by Hugh Howey

Wool (Wool, #1)
by Hugh Howey 

Genre: Sci-fi/Dystopia/Post-Apocalypse
Reading Grade: Adult (Novella)
Publication Date: July 29, 2011
Source: Kindle store
Age Rating: 16+

They live beneath the earth in a prison of their own making. There is a view of the outside world, a spoiled and rotten world, their forefathers left behind. But this view fades over time, ruined by the toxic airs that kill any who brave them.

So they leave it to the criminals, those who break the rules, and who are sent to cleaning. Why do they do it, these people condemned to death? Sheriff Holston has always wondered. Now he is about to find out.

My Review

I read about this story in a blog post somewhere (I forgot where). It's very short (12,000 words), yet was making waves like it's the next great sci-fi/dystopia out there for adult readers. I had to check out how this self-published novella got all these people so riveted over it.

  • Plot: Holston is an aging man, weighed down by his desperation over wanting to leave his home in an underground silo. His wife is already dead because she dared to break the stringent rules of their community, and the sentence was to go outside, above ground, and clean the lenses on the cameras that reveal the outside world's view. That outside world is filled with toxic gases that will destroy anything in minutes, so this punishment truly is a death sentence. But now Holston wants to follow in her footsteps. He wants to find out why she and all the others sentenced to clean the lenses have always followed through with cleaning them, as ordered, even though they all died shortly afterward. He wants to know what's really up on the surface outside.
  • Characters: It mostly centers around the very depressed Holston and why he's decided to willfully break a rule, despite being the silo sheriff, in order to get the cleaning sentence. His wife is featured in a few flashbacks, and she's an amazing character, what little we see of her. She's the one that got this ball rolling because she thought she found some evidence that computer files had been deleted or altered from previous generations. Did it mean their ancestors had lied to them? She ended up wanting to go outside so badly, she broke the rule of declaring she wanted to go out, and thus, got exactly what she wanted. That happened three years earlier, and now Holston is unable to live without her anymore. He wants to put all the pieces of the puzzle she left behind together and solve it, once and for all.
  • Writing: The writing is really top-notch. This author is quite good with words, not to mention his storytelling ability.
  • Story: And, now to mention that storytelling ability. Wow. This one is impressive. I finished it thinking, “I couldn't possibly hope to ever think up something like this. What a story!” It left me questioning so many things about the society Holston and Alison (his wife) had been raised in. And, the shocker at the end.... Yeah, not a happy ending, but it answers the question of why the cleaners always end up cleaning the lenses. Leaves you wondering a lot about stuff like, what did Holston do to get his sentence? I either missed it or can't remember. Who is really in charge down in that silo? Holston is the sheriff and there is a woman mayor, but she seemed so uniformed about stuff. Alison said the IT guys knew everything. Did they? There are sequel novellas, but I'm unsure if they reveal these answers.
  • Overall Quality: Super high! I don't think there was a thing wrong with it, unless you count how short it is.
  • Favorite Scene/Moment: I can't even reveal it to you because it is a major spoiler, but it happens at the end when Holston does finally go outside the silo, above ground to see the real world with his own eyes. Craziest fake-out ever. O__o
  • My Score: 5/5 stars. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Free YA Audiobooks for the Summer!

Hey, everyone. AudioFile Magazine is hosting a giveaway of 2 FREE YA audiobooks each week between the weeks of June 14 - August 22, 2012.

This is a really great opportunity to download some free MP3 audiobooks if you're into listening to them. I did this last year and got a few really cool YA titles, including Shiver by Maggie Stievater. Of course, this year, the books are going to be different, but they are going to be giving away some great reads again. A few that stand out are:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

Cleopatra's Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter 

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

They are also throwing in with each recent YA title, a classic title as well, including:

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare (read by a full cast)

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Wow! That is a great line up. I can't wait to download these books. Each week, two new ones will be available to download for one week only until the giveaway ends. Be sure you download OverDrive Software in order to download the MP3 files. That is a requirement. Go here to see the schedule of downloads and don't forget to check back each week for new audiobooks.

Don't miss out on this opportunity, you guys! 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Review: Across the Galaxy by Heather Hildenbrand

Across the Galaxy 
by Heather Hildenbrand 

Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Reading Grade: Young Adult
Publication Date: March 9, 2011
Source: Author review copy
Age Rating: 12+

Orphaned as a young girl, Alina Leone has spent the last few years in dusty Arizona, being raised by her guardian, Peter, and wishing for a friendship that isn’t filled with lies and deception about exactly what she really is. Just before she can begin senior year she meets someone from her past – a talking wolf from another galaxy who won’t stop calling her ‘Empress’ - and in a single moment, her future is changed forever. She becomes a fugitive, on the run from the Shadows, the same monsters who killed her parents, and flees to the safety of the planet Bardawulf for refuge. But not everyone in this magically protected fortress is what they seem.

My Review

  • Plot: I had a feeling as I read Across the Galaxy that the plot was a bit off to my natural senses. It seemed some key plot points were arrived at either too early, too late, more than one time, or not at all. It made it hard to get into a good flow of reading. The inciting incident/catalyst happened perhaps too early, although that's my own opinion. I don't even remember what happened at the halfway point, and the ending had two different climaxes. Very confusing. I found myself wondering why the book still had 60 pages to go after reading the first climax, only to discover the second one at, appropriately, the end.
  • Characters: Main character Alina is an Ilya, a being from a world called Gliese, but she spent several years of her childhood in Arizona in order to hide out from Tharos and his evil shadow minions that had taken over her world. She had lost her memory of ever being on Gliese, but her caretaker, Peter, raised her informed of her identity as the heir to the throne of Gliese. She was a pretty good female character and brave enough to respect, but I didn't find her all that interesting. None of the characters really stood out to me and made me take notice of them. They felt like they were all just there to play their parts and then “exit stage left” when the final curtain fell.
  • Writing: The writing left something to be desired, not counting the lack of proofreading. Not that it was altogether fail, but there were times I felt like it was weak in how it conveyed simple events that occurred. Also, there were quite a few little scenes and conversations that were unnecessary. A lot of those moments and exchanges were pointless and probably should have been cut out because they made the story drag.
  • Story: First of all, Alina and her people were called “Glows” because they could generate a glow from the cores of their bodies. Not sure why this was, although it was a pretty good set up for them being the natural enemy of alien shadow people. And, there were large talking wolves for no apparent reason. Why not cows or ferrets? It seemed like a very random animal to use when there was no organic need for any anthropomorphic characters at all. Not that I'm against that sort of thing, but I like the author to make sense of why they are in the story. Otherwise, I found all the other characters' behavior annoying because they constantly restricted Alina from doing anything and everything in an effort to protect her “Royal Highness.” It got super old really fast. “Alina, are you okay? Are you all right?” Multiply this by 1,000 and that's about how many times she gets asked this by various characters. Not to mention she just happened to be the most powerful of her kind. A little too convenient if you ask me.
  • Overall Quality: It's inferior to a lot of YA fiction in this genre, but overall not entirely awful. I just have very high standards for my favorite genre (sci-fi/fantasy). It's enjoyable to plenty of people out there, so get a second opinion, but it lacked way too much for me.
  • Favorite Moment/Scene: Unfortunately, I can't say I have a favorite scene.
  • My Score: 2.5 stars out of 5. 

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