Jaran by Kate Elliott
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Open Road
Re-Published: July 30th, 2013 (Originally published in 2002)
The first book of Kate Elliott’s epic Novels of the Jaran, set in an alien-controlled galaxy where a young woman seeks to find her own life and love, but is tied to her brother’s revolutionary fate
In the future, Earth is just one of the planets ruled by the vast Chapalii empire. The volatility of these alien overlords is something with which Tess Soerensen is all too familiar. Her brother, Charles, rebelled against them at one time and was rewarded by being elevated into their interstellar system—yet there is reason to believe they murdered his and Tess’s parents.
Struggling to find her place in the world and still mending a broken heart, Tess sneaks aboard a shuttle bound for Rhui, one of her brother’s planets. On the ground, she joins up with the native jaran people, becoming immersed in their nomadic society and customs while also attempting to get to the bottom of a smuggling scheme she encountered on her journey there. As she grows ever closer to the charismatic jaran ruler, Ilya—who is inflamed by an urgent mission of his own—Tess must choose between her feelings for him and her loyalty to her brother.
Jaran is the first volume of the Novels of the Jaran, which continues with An Earthly Crown, His Conquering Sword, and The Law of Becoming.
JARAN brings into existence a planet as real as our own. The culture on Rhui is unlike any I have ever known and it’s dizzying to imagine how much work it must have taken to create a culture so vastly different from our own yet so fleshed out and alive.
Even the minor characters have developed personalities and backstories, which I suppose might be why this book is so long. Still, I never felt like any scene dragged or that any of the descriptions or character interactions were overly explained. It truly felt like I was transported into this alien planet and learned the culture organically, like Tess.
It’s refreshing that Tess maintains a brotherly connection to Yuri throughout the novel and they never cross into a romantic relationship. Even though Tess is ‘adopted’ into Yuri’s family, the bond and playful banter between them feels like they’re actual sister and brother. Tess’s relationship with Ilya is a firecracker one. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one develop so slowly, yet so compellingly.
A couple complaints: In the first couple chapters, Tess leaves her husband and travels to Rhui without her brother’s knowledge. Tess’s motivations for arriving on the planet don’t ever seem to be made clear. Also, I don’t think that the situation with her husband (ex?) is ever elaborated on. He seems to be there for setting up Tess’s background and not much else. Perhaps future books in the series will clear this up. Although the book is nearly 500 pages, I felt like the scenes from Charles and Marcus’s POV are rushed. I wish that there was more of a background set up for both of those characters as well as given some clarity as to what being the Duke entailed.
JURAN is a fantastic blend of epic fantasy and science fiction adventure.
(I received a copy of this book from the publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)Read More
Awakening: Book One of The Geis by Christy Dorrity
Cover designed by Mythic Studios
Cover reveal organized by Xpresso Book Tours
I love everything about this cover. The font choice, the simplicity of the colors, and those deadly claws. I love how evil our cover lady looks. A perfect Ice Queen.
. . .because some Celtic stories won’t be contained in myth.
A little magic has always run in sixteen-year-old McKayla McCleery’s family—at least that’s what she’s been told. McKayla’s eccentric Aunt Avril travels the world as a clairvoyant for the FBI, and her mother can make amazing delicacies out of the most basic of ingredients. But McKayla doesn’t think for a second that the magic is real—it’s just good storytelling. Besides, McKayla doesn’t need magic. She just moved to beautiful Star Valley, Wyoming, and already she has an amazing best friend, a solo in her upcoming ballet recital, and the gorgeous guy in her physics class keeps looking her way.
When an unexpected fascination with Irish dance leads McKayla to seek instruction from the mute, crippled, janitor at her high school, she learns that her family is not the only one with unexplained abilities.
After Aunt Avril comes to the valley in pursuit of the supernatural killer that she has been chasing her entire career, people in the valley begin disappearing, and the lives of those McKayla holds most dear are threatened. When an ancient curse, known as a geis, awakens powers that defy explanation, McKayla is forced to come to terms with what is real and what is fantasy.
A thrilling first novel, Awakening is a gripping contemporary fantasy rife with magic, romance, and mystery.
Christy Dorrity lives in the mountains with her husband, five children, and a cocker spaniel. She grew up on a trout ranch in Star Valley, Wyoming, and is the author of The Book Blogger’s Cookbooks. Christy is a champion Irish dancer and when she’s not reading or writing, she’s probably trying out a new recipe in the kitchen.
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Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines
Publisher: Permuted Press
Published: February 25th, 2010
Genre: Horror, Superheroes
Stealth. Gorgon. Regenerator. Cerberus. Zzzap. The Mighty Dragon. They were heroes. Vigilantes. Crusaders for justice, using their superhuman abilites to make Los Angeles a better place. Then the plague of living death spread around the globe. Despite the best efforts of the superheroes, the police, and the military, the hungry corpses rose up and overwhelmed the country. The population was decimated, heroes fell, and the city of angels was left a desolate zombie wasteland like so many others. Now, a year later, the Mighty Dragon and his companions must overcome their differences and recover from their own scars to protect the thousands of survivors sheltered in their film studio-turned-fortress, the Mount. The heroes lead teams out to scavenge supplies, keep the peace within the walls of their home, and try to be the symbols the survivors so desperately need. For while the ex-humans walk the streets night and day, they are not the only threat left in the world, and the people of the Mount are not the only survivors left in Los Angeles. Across the city, another group has grown and gained power. And they are not heroes.
When EX-HEROES mixed super-heroes and zombies, I didn’t realize how dumb un-scary zombies would be if there is no threat of dying. Besides the fact that three of the main characters are immuned to zombie bites, zombies are incredibly slow and dumb, they’re developing a vaccine to cure everyone of zombie bites so eventually everyone will be immune. Yay. Zombies are only cool when there’s a high likeliness of the entire world’s population ending up as zombies. Zombies are not cool when some guy in flashy underwear man-handle zombies like zerglings.
This has to be one of the most difficult reviews I’ve written, because I have almost nothing to say about the book. Why? Because the scenes are repetitive and the set-up for character introduction are redundant.
How EX-HEROES unfolds:
Scene involve the character killing zombies
Introduce next character
Scene involving the character killing zombies
Repeat 6 more times
Introduce plot for next book
BAM! The end
One thing is for sure. I’ve never read a zombie novel quite like this one. I would say that at least 80% of the novel was outright zombie killing (zombies are known as ex-es). It’s awful that I had not a single ounce of empathy for any of the characters throughout the story. I was shocked by how often little kids were killed, mutilated and/or zombified. It didn’t add to the story and it felt like a ploy to get the reader’s heartstrings moving.
The plot doesn’t kick in until the final couple of chapters. If the next book picks up where this one stops, then it stands a good chance of being a decent read. But, EX-HEROES is not a standalone book. It’s an introduction to a series. There’s a huge character cast and it really kills the pacing of the book (along with several thousands zombies). If you are committed to reading the second book, then you might not mind this. If you’d rather a book that can survive on its own, then feed this one to your pet zombie.
(I received a copy of this book from the publisher/Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.)Read More
Innocent Darkness (The Aether Chronicles #1) by Suzanne Lazear
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: August 8th, 2013
Wish. Love. Desire. Live.
Sixteen-year-old Noli Braddock’s hoyden ways land her in an abusive reform school far from home. On mid-summer’s eve she wishes to be anyplace but that dreadful school. A mysterious man from the Realm of Faerie rescues her and brings her to the Otherworld, only to reveal that she must be sacrificed, otherwise, the entire Otherworld civilization will perish.
I purchased INNOCENT DARKNESS months ago after meeting the author, but didn’t start reading until I saw its sequel available on Netgalley. Upon first picking up the novel, I thought that it would be a seamless blend of fairy and steampunk, however after the first couple of chapters there is nearly nothing steampunk about the novel. There’s a mention of a robotic dog, but the rest of the steampunk elements vanish. It’s ironic that the steampunk setting felt magical and the fairy realm lacked inspiration. Its like comparing a Mercedes to a Hyundai. Once you dug beneath the mentions of fairies and portals, there was nothing else. There’s no mention of any of the fairy folk actively using magic and there was zero descriptions on anything other than people. The author spent too much time describing attire and not enough time detailing how exactly the Otherworld functions.
The characters were shadows of their potential – one dimensional and constrained by their individual purposes in the plot - and what resulted was a formulatic feel for a potentially great story. And poor Charlotte. She had the potential to be my favorite character, but then the author molested all her hopes and dreams – well, unless the author pulls some magic undo button in book two, which would make me quite literally throw my ereader. There was an interested twist with the bargain struck at the end, but everything else was easy to predict. It felt like the author made a story outline and forced her characters to do exactly what she wanted to, instead of letting them guide the story. Much of the pieces to the plot puzzle are redundantly mentioned and/or overexplained. The medallion/necklace Noli wears must be mentioned (no joke) a hundred times and on top of that the other characters have “suspicions” of its importance. Yeah, I figured out in chapter two that it was important.
I’m left with too many unanswered questions that arise very early in the story: Why was there so much emphasis on Noli’s father dissapearing in the beginning and none in the middle or end of the book? Why is being marked “unmarriageable” the worst thing possible? What is the Officer’s true motive for sending her to this particular school? Why is the headmistress so bitter and hates children? Why doesn’t Charlotte ever try to run away?
Despite all its faults, this is not a one star book. Not once did I feel like not finishing and in fact I do still retain some excitement for the sequel. Although, I think the author managed quite an accomplishment by making her climatic action scenes more anti-climatic than those in the Twilight series. (2 stars)
(I purchased a copy of this book from my local indie bookstore.)
(Information gathered from publisher’s website)
Suzanne Lazear is the author of the Aether Chronicles series for young adult. In addition to writing for teens, Lazear gives presentations on the steampunk subgenre at conferences nationwide—resplendently attired in all the bustles and whistles. She is a regular contributor to the steampunk-themed blog, Steamed!, and is an active member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the young adult debut author groups the Apocalypsies and the Class of 2k12. Lazear has her master’s degree in public policy from Pepperdine University. She lives with her family in Los Angeles.Read More
Ink (The Paper Gods #1) by Amanda Sun
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
Published: June 25th, 2013
I looked down at the paper, still touching the tip of my shoe. I reached for it, flipping the page over to look.
Scrawls of ink outlined a drawing of a girl lying on a bench.
A sick feeling started to twist in my stomach, like motion sickness.
And then the girl in the drawing turned her head, and her inky eyes glared straight into mine.
Ink is in their blood.
On the heels of a family tragedy, Katie Greene must move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.
When Katie meets aloof but gorgeous Tomohiro, the star of the school’s kendo team, she is intrigued by him…and a little scared. His tough attitude seems meant to keep her at a distance, and when they’re near each other, strange things happen. Pens explode. Ink drips from nowhere. And unless Katie is seeing things, drawingscome to life.
Somehow Tomo is connected to the kami, powerful ancient beings who once ruled Japan—and as feelings develop between Katie and Tomo, things begin to spiral out of control. The wrong people are starting to ask questions, and if they discover the truth, no one will be safe.
Reading INK was like watching someone test the water with their toes. The potential for a great story was within the author’s grasp, but I didn’t feel like she was willing to part from the comforts of YA cliches. The setting and culture of Japan was kept at arms length from the reader, since the narrator was neither a native nor wanted to become one. There’s a huge difference between watching a foreign movie with subtitles and a foreign movie “Americanized” (try watching both versions of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO). This book was the latter.
The book seems well researched enough. I enjoyed the descriptions of the area and the authenticity of the food. The scenes involving the ink were vividly described and were the few times I connected to the characters. I felt the magic and with the gray-tone images within the book I almost could see them come to life on my screen. I also enjoyed learning about the Kami, which are part of Japanese mythology (at least in this book).
Katie’s best friends, Yuki and Tanaka, lack depth and seems like they only exist for plot purposes. Neither one has any personal progression throughout the novel. I’m not quite sure why Myu disappears completely from the novel after the breakup. I would think that she would get involve in Katie’s life (negatively or positively) once it becomes apparent that her ex has a new girl on his mind. The love triangle, sigh, do I need to even go there?
It becomes apparent as the story progressed that it was moving in a very linear and predictable path. I wasn’t surprised at any of the twists, but I was pissed off at Katie for how she treated Jun during his big reveal. I was disappointed by Katie’s decision at the end and moreso by the fact that INK is not a standalone novel. Not every story needs to be drawn out into a trilogy. I think that even with the ambiguous ending that I would have been satisfied with letting my imagination fill in the future for Katie. (C+)
(I received a copy of this book from the publisher/Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.)
Amanda Sun was born in Deep River, a small town where she could escape into the surrounding forest to read. An archaeologist by training, her intense fear of spiders keeps her indoors where she writes novels instead. She will write your name in Egyptian Hieroglyphic if you ask, though. The Paper Gods is inspired by her time living in Osaka and travelling throughout Japan. She currently lives in Toronto, where she keeps busy knitting companion cubes, gaming and sewing costumes for anime conventions. Ink is her first novel