Jaeth’s Eye by K.S. Villoso

Jaeth's EyeJaeth’s Eye

by K.S. Villoso
Series: The Agartes Epilogues, #1

Kindle Edition, 372 pg.
World Tree Publishing, 2014

Read: February 9 – 11, 2017


There is no doubt in my mind that Villoso had a very clear idea what was going on in these pages — but as I read, I felt like I was constantly e-evaluating what was going on — guessing what I was supposed to understand, and what was supposed to be being revealed to me (either where I was or in the future).

Not only did I not understand where I was, I couldn’t really tell you until the end how everything tied together and what the overall story was. I didn’t get the various cultures/ethnicities, I couldn’t tell how the various moves by the characters — or by those they were talking about — meant anything.

Now, I liked the characters — I liked the interactions, and every time that the story moved on I hated it, because I’d have to reorient myself. The characters seem to change almost every time I encountered them.

Glancing around the internet I see that I’m alone in this — every other reviewer seems to have really dug the way Villoso told the story. Great — that’s a relief. I’d rather that I missed out on something good than the alternative — that Villoso didn’t put out something good.

Well, there’s one thing that you cannot convince me belongs in this fantasy world — dime novels. Nope, that just doesn’t fit.

I’m going to give this a three because the individual scenes, the character moments were great — I just couldn’t put the pieces together. Go read someone else’s take on the book, it’s bound to be better than mine.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for this post — sorry it worked out this way for you, K. S.

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3 Stars

The Last Adventure of Constance Verity by A. Lee Martinez

I’ve been trying to finish this since September — thankfully, today being A. Lee Martinez Appreciation Day gave me the motivation.

The Last Adventure of Constance VerityThe Last Adventure of Constance Verity

by A. Lee Martinez
Series: Constance Verity, #1

Hardcover, 384 pg.
Saga Press, 2016

Read: September 8 -12, 2016

“I didn’t think you believed in jinxes,” said Tia.

Connie didn’t.

But she wasn’t so sure that jinxes didn’t believe in her, and they’d had a long, long time to build a grudge.

I go in to a Martinez book assuming I’ll like it, this one took less time than usual for me to know I liked it. Lines like that are just part of why.

Thanks to a gift from a fairy godmother, since she was 7, Constance Verity has been saving the world as she goes on unbelievable adventure after unbelievable adventure — she travels the galaxy, time, alternate realities and all over (and under) the Earth. She’s run into demons, aliens, wizards, killer robots, mad scientists and many more threats — and overcome them all. A couple of decades later, she’s starting to think that she’s missing out on something despite all the excitement. She’s missing out on being ordinary.

Haven’t you saved the world on multiple occasions?”

“That’s what people tell me, but I’m beginning to think that the world isn’t as fragile as all that. The universe got along just fine for billions of years without me. I don’t think it needs me to save it. I think it all works out about the same in the end. Sometimes, I like to think of myself with a dead-end job that I dislike, a husband who is letting himself go, and some ungrateful kids I take to soccer practice. It sounds dreary, but at least it would be my life.”

Connie doesn’t stop to consider if she’s really cut out for ordinary, but if anyone can rise to the challenge of normality, it’s Constance Verity.

So she and her sidekick best-friend, Tia, head out to get that normal life for her. Step 1: Kill her fairly godmother.

I really don’t know what to say about the book beyond this without getting into more details than I ought. I guess I could say a few things about character. Connie is a great character, for someone who’s lived a superhuman life, she’s really human. Tia is incredible — wise, funny, caring, a real good friend. The relationship between the two is almost perfect.

This is a typical Martinez — a strange combination of loony and thoughtful. You can laugh and then be struck by a profound thought within a couple of pages. This is a fun adventure (a handful, really), and a bit of a commentary on heroes, villains, tropes and themes in SF stories (particularly the pulp-ier variety).

This is the first installment in a series — which is something Martinez hasn’t done before — I have no clue how he’ll pull this off, the book ends like I’d expect a Martinez stand-alone to end, so I have no idea how he’s going to follow this up. But I cannot wait to see.

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4 Stars

Cover Reveal: Chameleon by Zoe Kalo

Premise

Kicked out of school, 17-year old Paloma finds herself in an isolated convent in the tropical forests of 1970s Puerto Rico, where she must overcome her psychosis in order to help a spirit and unveil a killer

Blurb:

An isolated convent, a supernatural presence, a dark secret…

17-year-old Paloma only wanted to hold a séance to contact her dead father. She never thought she would be kicked out of school and end up in an isolated convent. Now, all she wants is to be left alone. But slowly, she develops a bond with a group of girls: kind-hearted Maria, insolent Silvy, pathological liar Adelita, and their charismatic leader Rubia. When, yet again, Paloma holds a séance in the hope of contacting her father, she awakens an entity that has been dormant for years. And then, the body count begins. Someone doesn’t want the secret out…

Are the ghost and Paloma’s suspicions real—or only part of her growing paranoia and delusions?

Genre: YA/Gothic/Ghost/Multicultural
Word Count: 55,000
Release Date: February 2017

About the Author:

A certified bookworm, Zoe Kalo has always been obsessed with books and reading. Reading led to writing—compulsively. No surprise that at 16, she wrote her first novel, which her classmates read and passed around secretly. The pleasure of writing and sharing her fantasy worlds has stayed with her, so now she wants to pass her stories to you with no secrecy—but with lots of mystery…

A daughter of adventurous expats, she’s had the good fortune of living on 3 continents, learning 4 languages, and experiencing a multicultural life. Currently, she’s working on a Master’s degree in Comparative Literature, which she balances between writing, taking care of her clowder of cats, and searching for the perfect bottle of pinot noir.

Connect with Zoe Kalo on the web: www.ZoeKalo.com / Facebook / Twitter

Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells

Hunger Makes the WolfHunger Makes the Wolf

by Alex Wells

eARC, 326 pg.
Angry Robot, 2017

Read: January 6 – 10, 2016


Let’s just get this out there — this is a very cool novel. If you dig SF that’s not beholden to space ships and lots of future tech — and can even handle a little bit of magic, you’ll want to read this one.

Tanegawa’s World is a little forgotten backwater of a planet — think Tatooine — so forgotten that none of the colonists there really have a clue that there’s an interplanetary government, or what’s going on with any other planet. The company that runs the mines (and by extension, the farming communities that support the mines) runs the whole show. There are organizations of workers in individual towns, and there’s a loose network connecting them, for mutual assistance and support. And then there are the Ghost Wolves — a band of mercenary bikers. They are a law unto themselves, but have strong ties to the miner groups. They may be supported by/sympathized with by most people in the towns, but officially they’re outlaws.

Hob Ravani is the lowest ranked member of the Wolves — she’s made some serious blunders that required her to go through the training/probationary process twice. But she’s a full-fledged member now, and the leader, Nick Ravani (no blood tie, but he gave her his name), seems to trust her, even as he’s still testing her commitment following these blunders. Making a routine run with a couple of other Wolves, Hob finds the body of Nick’s brother lying dead in the sand, shot in the back several times. This discovery — and the ensuing investigation, retaliation, and the side-effects of both — will end up changing Tanegawa’s World and the lives of many of its people in ways that no one can expect.

Which is not to say that this is a big, global story. It’s not. This is about Hob and her immediate circle. They just find themselves (and, eventually, put themselves) in some critical areas — and also don’t realize just what they’re getting themselves into. Mag, the dead man’s daughter, is Hob’s estranged best friend, and will be the favorite character of many readers. There are Geri and Freki — twins who are only slightly senior to Hob when we meet them, they’re not really friends of hers, but they are allies she can count on when she needs to — and on this world, that might be more important. There’s Coyote, who I enjoyed immensely, and a couple of other Wolves that we spend time with, but most aren’t factors in the story. There’s one more person in her circle, the Bone Collector — I’m not even going to try to sum him up in a sentence, but he’s worth getting to know.

On the flip side we have Mr. Green, who is just creepifyin’ (as Mal Reynolds would say), a Weatherman (not like Al Roker) and a couple of cut-throat corporate types who just this side of wearing black hats and twirling their mustaches They are absolutely believable and not cartoon-y, but reek of “bad guy.”

There is something that could be magic going on here — it’s definitely seen as magic by some. It might be radiation-induced mutation. It could be some sort of world-spirit/alien entity doing something to people. It’s tough to say, and it really doesn’t matter — some individuals on Tanegawa’s World possess abilities that others don’t. The ultimate cause of those abilities makes no difference to the story, it’s interesting to speculate about (and to see why various groups adopt their interpretation and how they use it) — but at the end of the day, it just means that there are a few characters walking around with extra abilities which don’t define them, but are definitely helpful.

The plotting is good, the pacing is strong, and there’s a strong voice throughout the work. This is just an impression — I can’t quote anything to verify it (were I a professional, I’d make the effort), but while the voice is consistent and strong throughout, I think Wells is a bit more aggressive about it in the opening chapters. In sort of a “come on strong and get you into the world” then dial back to “now here’s the story.” Or maybe it’s “throw you into the deep end” and then let you swim undisturbed. Or maybe I acclimatized Or maybe I should stop trying to make this point and move on. My overall point on voice — both the narrative voice, and the individual characters — it that it was strong, clear and engaging — the kind that you want to spend 300 pages with. Wells demonstrates the chops to keep and build an audience, if they’ll just give the book a shot.

I’ve seen a lot of comparisons to Dune and this world — I’ve never been able to get through much of the first book, and nor the adaptations — so I can’t comment. There’s a lot of sand, so, I guess maybe. Tanegawa’s World feels like something out of O’Keefe’s Scorched Continent or Firefly — a mining/agricultural society in what might as well be the Old West with (some) better technology than we have. Arguably, this planet is a little less hospitable to humans and The Powers That Be are a shade more corrupt.

I’ve also seen a lot of talk about the biker gang aspect of the book. It didn’t feel as prominent as I’d have liked — it was there, but it didn’t seem that vital to the nature of the mercenary crew the Ravani leads. If I had to compare it to anything, the Ghost Wolves felt more like a UF werewolf pack than anything else. That may say more about what I’ve been reading than anything that Wells wrote, still I got more of a Briggs/Vaughn/etc. vibe to the group than a Kurt Sutter-vibe. Outside of a handful of individual members, I didn’t get a clear feel for the Wolves. It’s understandable, Wells had a lot balls in the air and was doing just a good job juggling them that I didn’t notice. In retrospect, however, I’d have appreciated a little more time with this aspect.

I feel like I’ve gone on too long here, but I haven’t touched all the things I want to say. There’s just so much going on in these few hundred pages! Despite all that, you don’t get bogged down in the worldbuilding, the details, the backstories, or anything — Hunger Makes the Wolf is a fun, fast, gripping read. I trust there’s a sequel on the way. There just has to be. Not that this isn’t a complete story — there’s just a lot of threads that beg to be picked up. Either way, you’ll want to read this one.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Angry Robot via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this opportunity.

—–

4 Stars

The Gift-Knight’s Quest by Dylan Madeley

The Gift-Knight’s QuestThe Gift-Knight’s Quest

by Dylan Madeley

Kindle Edition, 289 pg.
Matador, 2015

Read: December 29 – 30, 2016


I typically try to be thoughtful and at least semi-thorough when I write about a book here — even (maybe especially) those I didn’t care for. I don’t think I have it in me for this one.

This fantasy novel is full of political intrigue, secrets, revelations (not nearly enough of those), and deception — it felt like someone who wanted to write a streamlined George R. R. Martin novel. But here’s why Martin works — we care about the people involved (we may not like them, but we care what happens to them — even if that’s just them getting molten gold poured over them, we care that it happens). Speaking of Martin, his books are complex webs — this was a convoluted mess. It wouldn’t have been too hard to clear up things a bit — but it still wouldn’t have made it good, but it’d have been easier to read.

The characters were sketches, when not clichés. Chandra, the central(ish) character is close to an actual character that I can almost care about, understand and root for. Close, but not quite there.

Actually, that sums up the book — close, but not quite there.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. This is overdue, and I am sorry about that, however.

—–

2 Stars

Oasis in the Clouds by C. Esther

Oasis in the CloudsOasis in the Clouds

by C. Esther

Kindle Edition, 248 pg.
Createspace, 2016

Read: December 27 – 28, 2016


I started this with a degree of trepidation — I’ve been burned lately by sub-par fantasy novels, and try as I might, I couldn’t ignore that when I pulled this up. Thankfully, it took less than a chapter to dispel the trepidation, and not much longer to win me over.

Niri is the Crown Princess and the subject of prophecy. Which is why she’s been kidnapped, imprisoned in an idyllic floating island, and had her memory wiped. Or so she’s been told by a rescuer. She’s really not sure, because, well, that whole memory wipe thing.

Why don’t bad guys, misguided people’s champions, pranksters, etc. ever learn what prophecy means before trying to defeat it? We’re not talking weather forecasting, punditry, or statistical analysis — we’re talking prophecy. It’s going to happen. (not really a spoiler, here) Sure, we’d lose out on some good stories if not for this stubborn refusal to pay attention to definition — or self-deception. And, it needs to be remembered, not every prophecy is going to be interpreted correctly.

Anyway, I need to jump off of that particular rabbit trail . . . her rescuer helps her start to retrieve her memories, as well as to develop magical abilities she didn’t know she had (even before the memory wipe), in an effort to confront her kidnapper, fulfill the prophecy and save the kingdom.

The book blurbs give away less than most, and I’m going to try to honor that here, so that’s it for plot from me.

I liked the characters — the King and Queen aren’t as useless as most authors would make them, Niri’s kid sister is a pretty good character, Love Interest Guy seems pretty decent, too. Niri’s allies are great (I wouldn’t have minded the snarky one being snarkier). I liked Niri and started rooting for her almost instantly. The villain of the story is believable and fairly sympathetic. Really well-drawn.

The writing is warm and engaging — it could be better, some of the dialogue is stilted; there are goofs like using “implicated” instead of “implemented” (just a guess, but given context, I’m betting that’s what she was going for); commas out of place, someone having a “photo” in a fantasy kingdom — minor, and relatively rare, goofs. The story and people C. Esther has wrapped around these flubs are entertaining and compelling enough that you shake them off and move on.

This is a fun book — it could’ve used a little more polishing, sharpening up some plot points and character beats a little. But it’s good enough as it is to recommend it. Fun, a little out of the norm, with a satisfying conclusion. That’s good enough for me. Check this one out.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. Honest, not punctual. Really sorry for the delay, C. Esther.

—–

3 Stars

Sovereign’s Wake by Lee LaCroix

Sovereign’s WakeSovereign’s Wake

by Lee LaCroix
Series: In the Absence of Kings, #1

PDF, 344 pg.
2015

Read: December 26 – 27, 2016


I don’t normally get into the nitty-gritty of the writing when I compose these posts — not because I don’t notice or care about it — but sometimes you have to. When I can’t make it past the first three paragraphs without the writing drawing attention to itself (not in the delicious way that Neil Gaiman or Don Winslow do so often), I feel like I’ve got to mention it.

In a different time, there was a forest that was as deep as it was plentiful. . .

That boy, Novas, possessed deep green eyes as verdant as the wild around him . . .

. . . He was taught that the land was just as alive as he was . . .”

That phraseology isn’t wrong — but it’s easy to overuse, and when you do it once in each of the first three paragraphs, you might was well be waving a flag to draw attention to it. Now, there’s no author that doesn’t stumble a bit, I can’t tall you how many times I’ve posted something here that I wish I’d rewritten a few times — I don’t want to pick on him, but wow, this kind of thing kept coming.

It wasn’t too much later that Garreth (I’ll talk about him in a bit) tells his son,

“Over my employment, many people tried to kill the King, and it was my duty to stand in between them. Instead, I put them to death…”

Uh, what?

Soon, Garreth and his son head to the capital, but we read:

In order to reach the capital of Amatharsus, their journey was not an odyssey of undertaking.

Editing is about more than just grammar and spell checking — it shouldn’t be less than that. I don’t know if I could find a page that didn’t have a problem with the writing.

Enough about that, I had a few more notes on that front, but no one wants to read it (I don’t want to write it). Let’s get on to story and character.

Garreth is a former guard of the king, who has taken a post guarding the forest. And, let’s be honest, doing something else, too. But LaCroix won’t reveal that until book three. We know nothing about his wife and/or the mother of his son. We’ll probably learn about Novas’ parentage in book three, too. Anyway, the two learn that the king is dead and that The Queen/Powers acting without knowledge and consent of the Queen/The Queen working with these Powers have decided to level the forest for economic reasons.

Garreth can’t believe this, so he and the boy leave for the capital to find out what’s really going on. Along the way, they learn more about the Blackwoods Company — the same people out to raze the forest — who are playing both sides of the law — thieving, pillaging and whatnot, while acting as enforcers for the authorities. The two join up with — and taking leading roles — in the resistance to the new order that has developed in the absence of a king.

Overall, this is a poorly written book. The story was adequate, but there was nothing about it that made you pay attention. Many of the characters had potential to be something, but they end up being something we’ve all seen dozens of times before in better stories. I can’t think of anything to commend this novel.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. I really wish this had been more timely, sorry about that.

—–

2 Stars