Saturday, July 26, 2014

Dystopian Thriller Review: Only the Cold Remains by Curran Geist

Only the Cold Remains (The Sity, #2)Only the Cold Remains by Curran Geist
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book doesn't hold back...

Only the Cold Remains is a complex and action packed thriller set in a dystopian future where aliens (Kuljiks) have rescued the last surviving remnants of humanity from the Earth. The company, Medtronic, that is supposed to maintain their habitat and protect them from extinction is led by a perverted, evil Kuljik who has created a secret pleasure-ship, which features human slaves as the main attraction.

This book is well written and exciting. It is told from several distinct points of view, and this was used to good effect by the author to create tension, to build emotional connection with the characters, and to draw the reader onwards through the story. I found that it was difficult to put down the story while in a certain perspective, so it's probably a good thing the author switches between them every few chapters (episodes) or so or I'd never have gotten any sleep.

Like the previous book, this one features both the good and the bad, and let me say that the bad is really bad. The author handles the themes of good vs. evil well and is particularly skilled at showing how one cannot judge someone by their heritage. Even though much of the evil and degradation is spawned by the aliens, several of the most kind-hearted and relatable characters also happen to be aliens. I think this is one of the things that makes this book such a delight to read.

And, let's not overlook the fight and chase scenes. This book is packed with them. It truly is a thrilling experience, though sometimes they might have lasted a bit too long or followed action with action in too many sequences. Still, I think this is appropriate for this genre of book.

So, with all of this, I think the only thing, other than too much action for my taste in places, was the inconsistent execution of the inner monologue. This book, being told from many perspectives, is peppered with the inner thoughts, worries and dreams of it's featured characters. For those thoughts that were identified in italics as if the character was thinking them in real time, it would have been better to word them as one would word dialog, in present tense as if the thought were spoken aloud. Many of them were in past tense, not all, but many. If you're simply describing someones thoughts, past tense is fine, but don't italicize. If you're revealing someone's thoughts, it needs to be as if you are hearing their thoughts. I know I don't think in past tense for things that are happening now.

I must also reinforce the author's 17 and up warning. He wasn't kidding. This book doesn't hold back. Love, lust, violence, death, blood, gore, perversion, all of this and more is packed into this novel. It's not for the faint of heart, but mature readers who like a good thrill will likely love this story. I highly recommend it.

I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest, non-reciprocal review.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Middlegrade Fantasy Review: Blast of the Dragon's Fury by L.R.W. Lee

Blast of the Dragon's Fury (Andy Smithson, #1)Blast of the Dragon's Fury by L.R.W. Lee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Adventure, moral lessons, and humor.
This is a story about a regular kid who gets magically transported to the Land of Oomaldee, where he is tasked with ending a 500 year old curse that cloaks that land in perpetual fog, among other things.

There were quite a few things I enjoyed about this story, particularly the humor (much of it anyway). The method for clearing away the fog was amusing. I liked how Andy, throughout the story, discovers things about himself and begins to improve. The story was easy to read and obviously written with an eye for teaching moral and life lessons. The author even has a webpage where parents can find discussion questions to use with their kids to take advantage of the morals of the story.

As for the things that I didn't especially like, I'd have to say the Elmer Fudd accent of one of the main characters was high on the list. I think it was meant to be funny, but it didn't come off that way. I also thought the crime that sparked the curse was too much for a book aimed at middleschoolers, plus the battles were much more bloody than I expected to find in an otherwise amusing and entertaining children's book.

Overall, I liked the book but would caution parents to read it before giving it to their children. Many of the lessons and morals in the story are well executed, but some of the violence was a bit too much for the intended audience. The humor was overall well-executed, but sometimes overdone. I think middleschoolers might like this, though I don't think it would appeal to teenagers.

I found this book on Amazon while it was on a free promotion. I also enjoy following the author on Twitter. Her posts are always fun.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

It's Been a While, Here's What I'm Up to

Today I've decided to post a little status update instead of a book review. Primarily, that's because I don't have any book reviews lined up.

What I'm reading...

I'm currently reading Only the Cold Remains by Curran Geist, which the author sent me a copy of since I read and reviewed the first one for him.  I must say, it's keeping me turning the pages. I was up until 4am this morning.  Good thing I'm on vacation.

Anyway, the other thing I'm reading is the Wheel of Time series (yes, still). I'm stuck about mid-way through book 5, The Fires of Heaven. Not because there's anything wrong with the book, but because I've read this series about a dozen times and now that I have ebooks, reading new, shiny material is much cheaper and easier to do than ever before.

I'm seriously considering taking my chances with skipping the next several books and just reading the last one in the series. I'm only rereading these because I want the full experience and want to know who's who in the last book. Robert Jordan tended to create minor characters early on and then make them major several books later. Very easy to move into the "huh?" zone.

On a lighter note, I just ninja re-read Twilight. This makes about four or five reads this year.  I don't know exactly why I like this book so much, but I do. It's my favorite of all the Twilight Saga books, too.  Anyway, I think I might have picked it up this time so I'd have something light to read to balance the dark and scary in Curran's story.  I like having several options open, based on whatever mood I'm in.

What I want to read next...

Ok, so this one's a little more vague. I tend to make snap decisions about what to read next. That's why I don't post "this month's reads" or anything like that. However, I did pick up a new story on Kindle yesterday (free at the time) that I'm looking forward to reading.  So, I'll be reading the first Andy Smithson adventure by L.R.W. Lee.  I found the link to it from one of the author's Twitter postings (@LRWLee). I tell you, her snippets, quotes and quirky adventure sayings have really piqued my interest.  One of my favorite authors to follow at the moment.

What I'm writing...

NOTHING! Why? Because I just finished writing the draft for Shadows of Valor #3. Yeah, yeah, I probably should have mentioned that first, but I do like to save the best for last.  So, I'm not done with it, but I've moved from the writing phase to the revision and editing phase. As I posted to Twitter earlier today (@PatriciaHamill2), editing is how you take your writing from meh to wow.

Now that I'm done with the Shadows of Valor #3 draft, I'll also have some time to finish up revisions and edits for The Freeze, the YA dystopian romance I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2013. That one is super close to done, and I'm very excited about it.  The only thing that's causing me to wring my hands is the romantic scenes. I tend to write pretty clean stuff, but I got a little carried away.  Still, I've read steamier scenes in other YA books, so I don't think it's quite too much. I might have to break my habit of ninja publishing and recruit a few beta readers when I'm done with it.

So, I have two books in editing mode, that's my cue to stop writing.  So far this process has worked. I've managed to publish two books per year for the last two years. This year looks like I'll be able to do the same.

What's going on with my other books...

Er, nothing.  I suppose I've gotten somewhat lax in my self promotion and book promotion.

I do plan to publish Fearless in paperback a little later this year, around Halloween, or maybe a little earlier. I think it would be neat to offer it up in time for people to start reading it in time with the journal entries.  Then, they could just read the entries for each day.  Of course, I don't think I could hold back that long. I've read it dozens of times (mostly during editing), and it usually takes me about two days to do so. I'm amazed at how much of myself I managed to put into this zombie story. It's fiction, but it's almost real to me.  Maybe that's why it's scored such good reviews. The best stories are told from the heart. I also edited the heck out of it, which probably helped at least a little. 

As for Shadows of Valor and Forgotten Valor, I might have to put them up for some read and reviews and do some tweets to build some interest in the series.  Now that the last book is in editing, I feel much better at promoting the series. I had this horrible self-doubt up until now. I didn't want people to read the first two and then not be able to finish the story. I think this comes from being a pantser. I like to let let the stories tell themselves and develop as I write, and the end game was always a little fuzzy for me. I also don't want the last book to be a let down. I've read plenty of trilogies and series that ended in a whimper. I tell you, it's a lot of pressure, especially for a perfectionist like me. I can tell you I've really enjoyed writing this story and I've enjoyed re-reading it as I did so. I really hope you pick up a copy some time and let me know what you think.


Here are a few links to help you find my books in the format you want.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Harry Potter Fan-Fic Review: James Potter and The Morrigan Web by G. Norman Lippert

James Potter and The Morrigan Web (James Potter, #4)James Potter and The Morrigan Web by G. Norman Lippert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First impression: Wow, this book is long! Second impression: Wow, this book is awesome!

Ok, now that I've got that out of the way, this is the fourth installment of G. Norman Lippert's fan-fic continuation of the Harry Potter series, which focuses on Harry's son, James. If you've not read the first three books and don't want spoilers, I recommend you go and read those first. Still, I'll try not to give away too much.

The world has been turned up on it's head, but life goes on. James returns to Hogwarts for his fourth year, haunted by what happened at Alma Aleron and New Amsterdam (NY City). Soon, he discovers that no one believes him about the Lady of the Lake, and the entire magical community has marked Petra, his soul-mate and long-time crush, as undesirable number one.

This book quickly takes on the oppressive feel of book 5 in the Harry Potter series, the one that features the overbearing Umbridge as head master. However, this is not a rehash of that book. The ministry, faced with the aftermath of the previous book's epic ending, has come up with a plan to foster cooperation, not only between the magical schools, but also with a muggle school. Students are required to sign up for at least two classes at one of the four other school. Meanwhile at Hogwarts, teachers who are against Headmaster Grudje's policies are summarily dismissed and replaced, punishments and restrictions are on the rise, and even Filch begins to feel the pressure.

I really enjoyed this book, but it is incredibly long. It took me three weeks to get through it, and I tend to devour books in only a couple of days. I'm not complaining, though. I like books that keep me busy for a while, and this one doesn't drag on. It's entertaining, action-packed and full of intrigue, like a book based on the Harry Potter series should be. Again, I enjoyed it, but was surprised every time I checked my progress and discovered that I'd barely made a dent.

The quality of this book is excellent from an editing standpoint as well. Even though this is fan fiction, the book feels polished and the plot is purposeful and solid, while still existing in the greater realm of J.K. Rowling's creation.

As for what comes next, who knows? The book ends with an author's note where he says he cannot commit to writing the fifth book, though he does have a plan for it. I really hope he finds some time to finish the series, but I must say I am happy for these four novels he's already provided. I have no complaints.

Overall, I loved this book. I recommend it to fans of the Harry Potter series, particularly those who were left wanting more when that series ended.

This book is available for free on

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Middle Grade and up Sci-Fi Review: Cave World by John Cosper

Cave WorldCave World by John Cosper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved the story. Original, yet familiar. A bit bloody in places. Funny and exciting, too.

Cave World is a fantastic journey into the sci-fi creation of Donny, a kid who spends his days dreaming up a complex, interconnected galaxy. When a bully takes his notebook and tosses it out a window, he finds all but the map of the world that links all the planets together, Arrax. Of course, he's drawn the map many times before, so he decides to just draw it again. Things take an interesting and dangerous twist when he decides to label a spot on the map (just a flaw on the paper) as the portal to Earth.

I am surprised to see that no one else has reviewed this, so I guess it's on me to give the first opinions.

First, let me say I related strongly to the hero, Donny, who doodles and daydreams about his sci-fi realm and hopes to one day publish it. As I read the story, I found that Donny (and likely the author of Cave World) loves the same movies and books I do, and it comes out in the plots and even some of the locales in Donny's worlds. Not a rip off of those works, but a nod to greatness. Cave World is supremely original, even with these familiar elements embedded.

The idea that a real world (or in this case, worlds) could be generated from the imagination of an author intrigued me. That his creations could become sentient and take their own paths, despite his plans for them, that they would develop prophesies of him, their creator, and dream of his arrival, couldn't help but capture my imagination. The story asks us to imagine god, the supreme author of all we know, as a middle school kid. As Donny joins the forces of good, he must come to grips with the reality of his creation, realizing that his plot twists, evil empire, and nearly indestructible foes (all created to make an interesting story) are more horrifying than even he imagined.

The themes of religion, fate, and free-will are intertwined into the story in a realistic way, even in the fantasy of one being drawn into a made-up world. The characters, not just Donny, are well-drawn and interesting. The worlds are unique and varied, and even those that take on the familiar aspects of stories like Star Wars are original in their own right. I love how this book made me think and I enjoyed trying to link what I was reading to the real world and to the imaginary worlds of other stories I love. The connections are subtle in places, more obvious in others.

There is a religious theme, but I didn't feel like the author was trying to convince me to convert to any particular religion. I would rank this one in the realm of middle-grade or pre-teen readers, but I must caution that there is a great deal of violence in the story, often bloody. Like with any story told for a younger crowd, parents may want to read this one first. Still, as an adult and as a parent, I would not mind my son reading it. After all, if you look at the Harry Potter books, for example, they have quite a bit of danger and violence in them as well.

Overall, I highly recommend this story to fans of fantasy and sci-fi (particularly the latter). The book presents an interesting take on religion and an equally interesting take on the power of the human imagination.

I found this book for free on Amazon. (Definitely worth paying for, though.)

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