Archive | October 2015

A Vanishing Glow (The Mystech Arcanum, Vol. I & II) by Alexis Radcliff

Political intrigue, civil unrest, unlikely allies…

Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk
Length: 346 pages

Synopsis: There are so many different minor story lines that I could not do justice by trying to write my own synopsis. So, here is the official blurb:

“It is an Age of Revolution, an Age of Industrialism. Constructs, living men who are as much brass and steel as they are flesh, man the factories and wage the wars of a ruling elite who gorge themselves on the fruits of the common man’s labor. Mystech, a brilliant fusion of magic and machine, gives rise to a new class of privileged inventors and merchants even as the country festers with wounds from decades of internal strife.

Only one man holds the promise of a brighter future: Nole Ryon, the crown prince. When his childhood friend Jason Tern answers his call for aid, the two of them set out to fight for the change their country needs in order to survive, even as shadowy foes frustrate their efforts. But soon, Jason and Nole’s idealistic mission of hope becomes a furious manhunt for a political murderer as the nation balances on the precipice of a country-wide civil war. Can they cut through the threads of intrigue to discover their true enemy before everything is lost?

Sweeping from the ancient cities at the heart of the nation to the dusty edges of the war-torn frontier, A Vanishing Glow tells a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and assassins, friends and lovers, who come together in a time of epic struggle. Here a brave officer risks everything to win back his estranged father’s respect; a brilliant young engineer attempts to atone for her sins; a war-weary commander tries to pick up the pieces of the life he lost; and a man touched by the gods struggles to prepare a nation for the coming of an ancient evil which only he can see. In the dying light of a once-prosperous society, amid twisting plots, suffering and betrayal, lost love and shattered dreams, all must fight for what they hold dear. Who will taste the fruits of victory and who will lie bloodied on the ground in the light of a vanishing glow?”

Cover Art: The cover is interesting in that the man looks like he’s not sure what to think of his mechanical hand. It’s like he can’t believe it’s his hand. I can just picture him flexing the mechanical fingers and thinking, this really IS my hand! After I’ve read the book, I’ll have a better idea if that is the case. Okay, so the man on the cover is Jason Tern. He doesn’t start off with a brass arm, but does end up with one.

The background is the town of Adaron, the capital of the Federation of Ghavarim. With it being in the background and done in light, neutral colors, it’s harder to see the details. It would be nice if it had been just a little bit darker because it looks like it shows the disparity between the classes with all the factories and what appear to be residences of the wealthy.

I must say, though, it’s nice to see a cover where the character is how you picture him based on what you read in the book- the blue uniform, the mechanical left arm, dark hair…

My Thoughts: Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to keep all story lines straight. The main story revolves around Jason and the people he comes in contact with. The other secondary story revolves around Nilya and who she interacts with. I kept hoping through the book that Jason and Nilya would meet, but they don’t. That would have been a nice way to tie their stories together. Instead, one of the bigger characters at the beginning of Nilya’s story makes an appearance near the end of Jason’s story.

There also isn’t any confusion with names. You won’t find characters referred to by their titles in one chapter and then by their names in the next. If the character is called by their title, the author does a good job of making sure you know who it is, and you don’t have to sit there thinking, is Lord So-and-so Eddie, Pinky, Yoda, or Han?

Notes: I have not read much steampunk, so I don’t know if the books I’ve read in the past have been typical of the genre or not. I say this because this book doesn’t have as much of the steampunk flavor as the others. This book is more about politics and civil unrest and less about all the gadgetry associated with steampunk.

Rating: 3.5 stars

disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Gingerbread by Victor Davis

Genre: Definitely not a bedtime story
Length: 32 pages

Synopsis: Do you take the dare or not? That’s what Arainy had to decide. Did she want to stay the good girl who followed all the rules? Or did she want to go with Eddie and break in to the candy factory?

Arainy chooses to take the dare, and after dinner, she and Eddie sneak in to the candy factory. All those sweets and temptations! They find candy canes and taffy and gingerbread and so much more! So much they can indulge in! The gingerbread brings back happy memories for Arainy as she digs in and stuffs herself.

After a little bit, the Candy Man makes an appearance and tries to catch them. The two try to escape, but Eddie gets caught. Here is where the story gets interesting and a little freaky. Arainy offers to take Eddie’s place and the punishment.

Cover Art: My first impression of the cover was what is it? Is it the scent of gingerbread wafting up and forming a face? Does one of the characters look like that? Was the smiley face intentional or unintentional (do you see it?)? I’ll let you know after I’ve read this short story. Be right back!

Hmmm… Think I might need the author’s take on the cover. This is part of what I emailed:  I figure [the cover’s] probably not the scent of gingerbread wafting into the air making designs and smiley faces. This is how he responded:

“Haha. I’m a terrible artist. I went through a period years ago where I tried to get better. That’s a charcoal sketch (one of the better ones) I found in one of my journals. After writing the story and looking around for cover art, it jumped out at me. So, yes, I guess it is intended to be a representation of the Candy Man, but the picture has existed long before the story.”

I’m glad he has a sense of humor. 🙂

My Thoughts:  I read this story before bed. I’m thinking that might not have been such a good idea; I didn’t sleep very well. Someone, please remind me not to do that again!

The story is well written and leaves room for interpretation- especially about how Arainy is punished. It was kind of freaky not knowing for sure what happened to her.

Notes: This is a dark retelling of Peter Rabbit.

Rating: 3.5 stars

disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

The Descendants (Evolution of Angels Book 2) by Nathan Wall

Genre: Science Fiction, Supernatural, Thriller
Length: 220 pages

Notes: Normally I put the notes near the very end of my review, but I felt it necessary to place it near the beginning for this book. Why, you ask? The author notes that the universe he created was originally going to come alive in the form of a comic book. I do not know how much of that comic book feel he put into this book, but I’m thinking there was just enough to bug me. It doesn’t matter if there are fun characters and action; I just cannot stay focused on reading the book. I don’t know if it is the writing style or what, but it quite possibly influenced my rating some.

If you like angels and supernatural beings, you could easily like this book. So please, don’t let my review influence you that much, if at all.

Synopsis: Emma Brighton and Jonas Reid are in for a wild ride involving some not-so-human beings. The stage is set in the prologue when Emma and Jonas are injured by the Ourea (an elemental knight) when they were at a murder scene investigating the death of a teenage girl. Fast forward three years. Emma and Jonas are no longer investigating crimes; instead, they are looking for explanations and the Ourea they met in the past. Nobody had believed them in the past, but present events back up their story of something inhuman visiting (and possibly living on) earth. Unfortunately, Jonas stops making appearances in the book (you will find out why when you read the book). So, continuing with Emma, her story intersects with the Ourea (Athos) once again, while at the same time she is interacting with “Descendants.” But this time, Athos teams up with Emma so that he can save his creator and father, Zeus. Continue reading

The Unlikely Adventures of Race & Cookie McCloud by Tom Hoefner

Genre: Adventure/Comedy
Length: 112 pages, 111 pages, and 111 pages

Synopsis: This is another review where I am using the official blurb for the books. It’s worded so much better than I could do and also gives you a feel for the writing style of the serial tale.

“A superhero with anger management issues! A living stone idol with a love for pop-culture trivia! Fist-pumping vampires! These are but a few of the nefarious (and ridiculous) challenges facing awful private investigator Race McCloud and his teenaged niece, all-star spy-in-training Cookie McCloud, as they scour the globe in search of their missing secret agent family. Stuck together by Cookie’s parents under the pretense of ‘babysitting’ (who is sitting for whom is left largely unclarified), the pair find themselves the target of special forces who are out to capture Cookie and KILL RACE! With nowhere left to turn, they seek the aid of Green Suit Jacket Man, the night-stalking vigilante that Race has been hunting for six months and that Cookie finds in one night. With the hero’s reluctant support, the dysfunctional duo are off! To find Cookie’s parents, spies of a Bond-ian sort! To find Margolis McCloud, a tomb-raiding treasure hunter! To find Nyte McCloud, a monster slayer and practitioner of badassery! Through it all, our two heroes must figure out why the military is so hellbent on capturing Cookie, how to act like partners and, most of all, how to be a family.” Continue reading

Fort Applegate and the Battle at Wounded Knee by Brian Wu, Ph.D.

Back, you germs! Back!

Genre: Children’s
Length: 64 pages

Synopsis: Nolan Applegate is a young boy who is out looking for the perfect place for a fort. He explores the forest behind his house and reaches a stream. The stream is shallow enough that he could walk through it and only get his waterproof boots wet. But, like most of us have done in the past, he makes it a game to get across the stream without getting wet.

It is on the way back that the “Battle” begins. Nolan slips on a rock while crossing the stream the second time and lands in the stream. He skins his knee and bacteria get into his body. The rest of this cute story is about how his body goes about attacking the germs and how he helps his body fight off the germs.

There is a glossary of six terms at the end of the book. The author has done a nice job of making the terms understandable for young kids. For example T-cells are explained in this manner: “Created by the Thymus gland, these cells devour bacteria.  Nolan describes these as his body’s Navy.” Continue reading