Book Blitz: Talisman Of El Trilogy

 

Talisman Of El
T.O.E. Trilogy, Book 1
Author: Al Stone
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Centrinian

Book Description:
WHAT IF YOUR WHOLE LIFE WAS A LIE?

One Planet.

Two Worlds.

Population: Human … 7 billion.
Others … unknown.

When 14-year-old Char­lie Blake wakes up sweat­ing and gasp­ing for air in the mid­dle of the night, he knows it is hap­pen­ing again. This time he wit­nesses a bru­tal mur­der. He’s afraid to tell any­one. No one would believe him … because it was a dream. Just like the one he had four years ago – the day before his dad died.

Char­lie doesn’t know why this is hap­pen­ing. He would give any­thing to have an ordi­nary life. The prob­lem: he doesn’t belong in the world he knows as home.

He belongs with the others.

On Sale for $0.99 for a limited time on Amazon!

Buy Links:
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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13419125-talisman-of-el

 

Blackout
T.O.E. Trilogy, Book 2

Book Description:
What was shall no longer be. What was not shall now become.

Despite having the protection of the talisman and the Legion, a reforming force of warrior angels and elementals, guarding his every move, things are not looking good for Charlie Blake. Tasked with the responsibility of saving mankind, finding the four diamonds to restore the talisman is all he can think of, but when his prophetic visions start to invade his reality and he suddenly can’t distinguish the dream world from the real world, the pending extinction of mankind becomes the least of his problems. Everyone assumes Charlie’s dormant powers are activating, until he starts showing symptoms of a deadly disease.

With his nemesis, Gaddis, threatening the lives of his loved ones, he faces a race against time to locate the Stone of Raphael, the air diamond, before an imminent pandemic destroys civilization. As he ventures into dangerous lands once again, he unearths shocking revelations about his past life that forces him to question his allegiance. With no one to turn to for answers, he can’t help but wonder if his purpose is truly to save mankind.

On Sale for $3.99 for a limited time on Amazon!

Buy Links:
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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13419125-talisman-of-el

 

Ground Zero
T.O.E. Trilogy, Book 3

Book Description:
It happens every 26,000 years.

Only a few ever survive.

This time …

No one will.

That is unless Charlie Blake can locate all four diamonds to restore the Talisman of El and receive his calling from the remaining three elements before the Annus Magnus strikes. With both Arcadia and the mortal world in a state of unrest, his life quickly spirals out of control as it seems everyone has put a bounty on his head. Maybe even his closest allies.

Not knowing who to trust, Charlie starts to dig up the past. When new revelations arise, he begins to question whether the Legion of Light really is what it claims to be and whether he’s been fighting for the wrong side all along. The line between good and evil is no longer as clear-cut as it used to be, especially when it appears Charlie’s destiny could very well be to destroy everything he loves.

Hero or villain? Charlie isn’t so sure anymore.

On Sale for $4.99 for a limited time on Amazon!

Buy Links:
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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13419125-talisman-of-el

 

About the Author
Al Stone is the author of the YA fantasy trilogy T.O.E. After graduating with a BA in Film & Television, Al had worked in the television industry for a short period before a disabling injury caused her to turn her hand to storytelling. Talisman Of El is her debut novel. The sequels Blackout and Ground Zero are currently available for sale.

When she isn’t writing, she enjoys going to the movies, listening to music and travelling. At present, she lives in England, United Kingdom with her family.

 

Author Links:
Website ¦ Twitter ¦ Blog ¦ Facebook (Author) ¦ Facebook (Trilogy) ¦ Goodreads ¦ Pinterest ¦ Amazon Author Page

 

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The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan, Robbie Daymond

The Dark ProphecyThe Dark Prophecy

by Rick Riordan, Robbie Daymond
Series: Trials of Apollo, #2

Undabridged Audiobook, 12 hrs, and 31 min.
Listening Library, 2017

Read: October 5 – 11, 2017


I’m not sure how to give a plot synopsis here — basically, it’s the continuation of the Trials of Apollo. He has another task to accomplish — another of the new emperors to take down before the third one, in the next book. It’s the same ol’ set up that has served Riordan so well — and will continue to do so for years to come.

Basically, Apollo/Lester has to go and find another Oracle. To do so, really, he has to face a lot of people that he’s hurt/disappointed over the millennia. He learns a lot about himself, matures a bit. That part was good — and the whole thing was entertaining. But it felt stale. I liked The Hidden Oracle a lot and was excited to see where this series went. Now, I’m not so sure. I’ll finish the series, but with greatly diminished expectations.

Not that it got into details, but there was a lot more intimated/flat-out said Apollo’s sexual history than I’m comfortable with for a MG book. The previous books in the Percy-verse suggested sexual orientation and activity, there was some romance, but this went much further than any of those. Honestly, it went a step too far. If this wasn’t a part of the Percy-verse, or was clearly marketed toward older readers, it wouldn’t have been that bad and I wouldn’t have said anything about it. But that’s not the case here.

As far as the audiobook goes, it was rough. Robbie Daymond was very aware that he was reading amusing material and he read it like each line was a punchline. It was the vocal equivalent of mugging for the camera, if you will. Now, there were a couple of serious and poignant moments, and Daymond pulled those off well, but otherwise it was tough to listen to.

I didn’t like the narration, and didn’t think the story/writing was as crisp as the first book in the series. But it was still entertaining enough. This isn’t the one to start reading Riordan. But it’ll do for his older readers.

—–

3 Stars

Wonder Woman: Warbringer (Audiobook) by Leigh Bardugo, Mozhan Marno

Wonder Woman: Warbringer Wonder Woman: Warbringer

by Leigh Bardugo, Mozhan Marno (Narrator)
Series: DC Icons, #1

Unabridged Audiobook, 11 hrs. and 55 mins.
Listening Library, 2017

Read: September 12 – 15, 2017


So this YA Wonder Woman novel starts off on Themyscira, where 17-ish year-old Diana is struggling to find her identity in the shadow of her mother. In this novel, Themyscira is populated by more than just ancient Amazons, they’ve been augmented by women throughout history who, while dying in battle, call upon a female god. They are then transplanted to Themyscira as a sort of feminist Valhalla.

Diana rescues a young woman from a boat explosion she witnesses, bringing her to the island (but not letting anyone know about her). This starts to destroy the island and the women who live there — and Diana receives quite the prophetic word about this girl. She’s a descendant of Helen of Troy, and like her ancestor, her mere existence promises to bring war throughout the Earth. Unless Diana can bring her to a certain place in the next few days. So Diana grabs a certain lasso, a couple of bracelets and takes off.

Basically, what ensues is a Rick Riordan-esque journey to get Alia to the goal. Sure, they start with a heck of a detour to New York City — which is pretty fun detour for the reader. While in NYC, they pick up a little entourage to accompany them. There are people who are trying to kill the Warbringer (not realizing there’s a way to cure her) before World War III erupts and a few minor figures from Greek mythology show up to make things more difficult.

There’s some really good interaction between Diana, Alia and Alia’s BFF (name escapes me). The action scenes are pretty good. The big twisty reveal wasn’t. There seemed to be some inconsistency about how familiar Diana was with things in the modern world, but on the whole, the book worked well enough I could ignore that. What worked in this book, worked really well. The things that didn’t work, also didn’t ruin anything

As far as the audiobook part goes — Marno does a fine job. Initially, I thought she sounded too much like Hillary Huber, but the more I listened the more I decided I was silly for thinking that. I do think that she could put a little more excitement in her voice during the combat or chase scenes (see the aforementioned Huber for an example), it really didn’t seem matter what was going on in the scene, her reading was the same. But aside from that, I had no complaints.

I’m not saying that i loved it, but I’d absolutely read/listen to the sequel that’s hinted at in the last chapter. Good story, interesting characters, and a pretty good narrator. All the elements for an entertaining 12 hours are there — a good way to spend some time, and a promising beginning to this new series. Although, the next is Batman, and so you have to guess that the third will be everyone’s favorite Kryptonian Boy Scout — hopefully they move beyond DC’s Trinity soon, I’d quite enjoy something like this about The Flash, Green Lantern, etc.

—–

3.5 Stars

The Blue Curtain by L. G. Metcalf

The Blue CurtainThe Blue Curtain

by L. G. Metcalf
Series: The Well of Many Worlds, #1

Kindle Edition, 314 pg.
Moleyco Press, 2017

Read: September 1 – 4, 2017


I really want to say something nice about this book — I don’t like to just knock books. I don’t mind saying what I think didn’t work, but I try to find something to commend in a book. I’m just not sure what positive things I can say about The Blue Curtain.

We’ve got Mitchell, the heir of a British nobleman in 16th Century England, who begins a revolt against am improbable despot who is being manipulated by a mysterious man. One thing leads to another, and this manipulator turns Mitchell into a vampire. Almost instantly, another vampire, Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez — I mean, Fionn, shows up to instruct him in the ways of vampires. He really reminded me of Ramirez from Highlander — not only does he teach him to use and understand his new abilities, but he tells him about the history of vampires and the differing and strange factions within the race. Why his maker, who is the leader of the evil cult didn’t stick around to initiate Mitchell himself, we’re only told at the end. Mitchell doesn’t join the crusade against the cult with Fionn, but does share the same goal and works with Fionn throughout his training. Time goes by, things happen, and eventually Mitchell finds himself in present day Portland, ME.

While we’ve been learning about this, we’ve also been learning about Emily — a high schooler in Portland, whose father was recently murdered. She’s not having a good time adjusting to this new reality, and like all teens in novels, she decides that she’ll find the murderer herself. Through dumb luck and recklessness, she finds the killer — but has no way to prove it to the police. She also discovers that she’s descended from necromancers and has a magical imp to train her. Sure, he’s evil and bent on destruction and death, but hey, you take whatever help you can get, right? There’s also a lot of High School Drama — where a certified Mean Girl is causing all sorts of trouble for Emily because out-of-the-blue the hunky, rich, sensitive guy is paying attention to her.

Naturally, Emily’s and Mitchell’s paths cross and it becomes clear that their goals intersect, so they team up to solve the murder, stop the evil vampires and more.

It’d be great if there was any emotional depth to these characters — the crazed, hedonist vampire who is a model of emotional shallowness is just as deep as the Emily, who can’t seem to hold on to one overriding emotion for more than a few seconds. Emily — yes, she’s under great stress, but if I’m supposed to be rooting for a character, I’d like the character to hold on to an emotional state for more than two pages.

The book could’ve used a continuity edit — there are so many hiccups throughout Mitchell’s story and vampire history in general that could’ve been cleaned up with little trouble. There wasn’t a strong authorial voice, the dialogue was frequently painful, the characters were poorly drawn and shallow.

I want to say something positive, to find the silver lining, but I can’t think of anything. Your mileage may vary, but I can’t recommend this to anyone.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for this post and my honest opinion. Sorry about that, Mr. Metcalf.

—–

2 Stars

Miles Morales (Audiobook) by Jason Reynolds, Guy Lockard

Miles MoralesMiles Morales

by Jason Reynolds, Guy Lockard (Narrator)

Unabridged Audiobook, 6 hrs. 53 min.
Listening Library, 2017

Read: August 7 – 8, 2017


It was Bendis/Bagley’s Ultimate Spider-Man that brought me back to comics after a decade-plus break, and no matter what else I read, it was one of my Top 2 titles on my pull-list. Financial concerns got me to stop reading/collecting about a year before Miles Morales showed up. I was able to deal with letting everything else go, but USM was tough — especially when I heard about this new kid. I never learned much about him, I know he’s Afro-Hispanic, that his uniform is the best one since Ditko’s original, I heard they did a good job showing Miles and his parents going through a Charter School lottery, I know he’s popular enough they brought him over from the Ultimate universe.

Still, I saw this cover floating around Twitter last week and thought it looked pretty cool, so grabbed it when I had a moment. There’s a lot of Miles, his family and his school, not a lot of Web Head. But when he shows up, it counts.

Miles is having some Spidey Sense problems, which is leading to problems at school — a suspension and some trouble with his History teacher. He’s not sleeping well — tormented by nightmares about his uncle’s death. Miles starts to wonder if people like him — descendants of criminals –should have super-powers, if he should be a super-hero. It’s hard to describe the threat that Miles and his alter-ego face, really it unveils itself slowly throughout the book. But it’s a doozy, and it’s not what it seems to be early on.

I think Miles is a great character, he’s Peter Parker-esque in the best sense of the word, while being his own guy. His parents are fun, his dad in particular is a wonderful character — a great dad, it seems. Miles’ best friend and roommate, Ganke is a hoot. There’s a girl, of course, because he’s 16. I don’t know if Alicia’s a fixture in the comic or not, but it’d be interesting to see how she is outside of this.

Oh, Miles having camouflage powers? That’s just cool.

I think Lockard went over the top occasionally with his narration. Maybe part of that is pandering to the 11-13 year-old audience that Audible tells me this is directed toward. Maybe he and the director are just excitable and/or excited. It didn’t detract from anything, it was just occasionally too much. By and large, his energy kept things moving, lively — just the way a Spider-Man story should be.

This isn’t for everyone, but for those who like the idea of a Spider-Man novel, for fans of Miles Morales, or those who are just curious about him — this’ll entertain. I won’t say I’ve read every Spider-Man novel printed in the last couple of decades — but I’m willing to be my percentage is pretty high. Miles Morales is among the best.

—–

3.5 Stars

The Hate U Give (Audiobook) by Angie Thomas, Bahni Turpin

There’s just so much I want to say about this book, I know I’m leaving stuff out even as I prepare to hit “Publish.” Also, I know that I’m not doing justice to how good this book is. Given that, here’s my best shot.

The Hate U Give (Audiobook)The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas, Bahni Turpin (Narrator)
Unabridged Audiobook, 11 hrs., 40 min.
HarperAudio, 2017

Read: July 27 – August 1, 2017

I’ll be honest, the hype around this one turned me off initially. It just didn’t seem like my kind of thing. But my wife bought a copy and tore through it and started telling everyone she came across that they needed to read it (especially those of us she lives with). When I saw the library had a copy of the audiobook, I snagged it, because I hadn’t got that far on my TBR. By this time, I only remembered “YA,” “something about Black Lives Matter,” and “Mrs. Irresponsible Reader said I needed to.” Which is about as tabula rasa as one could get when coming to a book.

Our central character is Starr Carter. She attends a very nice private school in the suburbs of whatever unidentified city she lives in. She plays basketball there, has friends and a boyfriend and seems to be generally well-regarded by all. Then there’s her “other life”, that has almost no relation to that one — she and her family live in a poor neighborhood where almost no one knows her by anything but “Mav’s daughter what works at the store” (or something close to that). She has a friend or two in the neighborhood, but mostly works and then goes home. On one of the rare nights she goes out to do something social, she runs into her childhood best friend, Khalil, who she hasn’t seen for a few months. Their reunion is cut short, sadly, while he drives her home and they’re pulled over by a police officer for a routine traffic stop. I’ll leave the details for you to read on your own, but essentially, her unarmed friend is shot repeatedly by the police officer in front of Starr.

In the days that follow Khalil’s death is a nationwide story, Starr’s being questioned by the police and is trying to keep her psyche intact while the wheels of justice grind slowly. There are problems at school, unforeseen challenges at home and in the neighborhood, add in the involvement with the criminal justice system and activists, and it’s clear that neither of Starr’s lives are going to be the same again.

Yes, this book is about the shooting of Khalil and the aftermath. But it’s about more than that, too. Similar to the way you could say that To Kill a Mockingbird is about the trial Tom Robinson and its aftermath. There’s a whole lot of other things going on in both books that are just as much a part of the essence as the shooting/trial. There’s family growth and change, individual characters learning more about the world and changing, there’s the evolution of localities and best of all, there are characters taking all of this in and exercising a little agency to change themselves — and impact everything in around them.

One thing I didn’t expect was how fun this book would end up being. I laughed a lot — her father’s strange theories about Harry Potter, her Fresh Prince of Bel Air obsession, the teasing between her friends, her family’s very cut-throat approach to watching the NBA finals and trying to jinx each other’s teams, are just a start. Even when it’s not being out-and-out funny, there’s a joie de vivre that characterizes the lives of these characters.

When they’re not grieving, being threatened (by criminals or those who are supposed to be protecting them from criminals), being angered at the way that the system seems to be destined to fail them, or scared about their lives, that is. Because there’s a lot of that, too. All of which is justified. The interplay between the emotional extremes speaks volumes to the authenticity of Thomas’ work, and makes it much more effective than it could’ve been in less careful hands.

There are so few YA novels with healthy — or existing families — that Thomas should probably win an award or three just for having so many in one book. None of the families are perfect (though Starr’s comes close), some push the boundaries of “dysfunctional” into something we need a new word for; but at the very least there were at least a core of people caring about each other and trying to help each other, in their own way.

Yes, there are political overtones — or at least ramifications — to this book, but this is first and foremost a human story and can be appreciated by humans from all over the political spectrum. Thomas, as far as I can tell, went out of her way to be fair and balanced. It’d have been very easy to paint some of these characters/groups as all evil, all good, all misunderstood, all [fill in the blank]. Instead, she took the more difficult, more honest, and much more interesting approach and filled the book with people all over the moral spectrum, no matter their profession, ethnicity, socio-economic background, education, etc.

A few words about Turpin’s work. I loved it. She was just fantastic, and rose to the challenge of bringing this kind of book to life. Looking at her credits just now, that doesn’t seem like much of a stretch for her — she’s clearly a talented heavy-hitter on the audiobook front.

I laughed, I cried . . . it moved me. This is the whole package, really. It’ll challenge you, it’ll entertain you, and give you a little hope for tomorrow (while helping you despair about the time until tomorrow comes).

—–

5 Stars

Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith by Shaun Hume

Ewan Pendle and the White WraithEwan Pendle and the White Wraith

by Shaun Hume
Series: Ewan Pendle, #1

Kindle Edition, 496 pg.
Popcorn & Rice Publishing, 2012

Read: August 1 – 2, 2017d


Yeah, so this is a MG Fantasy about an orphan boy with horrible foster parents being recruited to go to a private school where he’s trained in mystical arts and gets in all sorts of adventures. But it’s totally not Harry Potter. Clearly inspired by that series by Rowling — but others as well, don’t get me wrong (Riordan and Mull leap to mind as examples) — but Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith is its own thing. Every now and then its non-Harry Potterness gets in your face and is a bit distracting. At the same time, focusing on how Hume zags when Rowling zigs, or how they approach the same convention differently displays the strengths of this project while making it appealing for the reader missing the Hogwarts crew.

Ewan and the others at his school have the rare ability to see all sorts of mythical Creatures, and as such, are trained to deal with them and other exotic threats. Classic boarding school-type hijinks ensue, Ewan makes a couple of really good friends, and a few others. He and Mathilde and Enid, his two best friends, come across some information which they believe indicates that graduates, officials and at least one student are involved in an attempt to kill the Queen. They bend, break, and ignore rules to investigate and try to stop this plot.

Meanwhile, they have all sorts of interesting studies — there’s a class involving swords, one hand-to-hand combat, one involving making potions (of sorts), one involving the Creatures (of course), and things of that nature. That’s pretty fun.

The relationships between Ewan and his two closest friends, as well as those between the other students and some of the teachers are just great. I can easily see fan favorites emerging from among the student body as the series continues. There’s a couple of kids in his class that have an irrational hatred of Ewan and his friends. Those two are a little too underdeveloped now, they might as well have mustaches to twirl. It won’t take much in book 2 to develop them into something interesting.

On the whole, an entertaining, heartfelt, and quick fantasy novel that’ll please the MG crowd. The plot is solid, ditto for the characters, and the world is both familiar and foreign. I’d like book 2 to deepened everything a little, but given the worldbuilding and plotting that one had to establish that it won’t, that should be easy. Give this one a shot.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for this post and my honest opinion.

—–

3.5 Stars