Posts Tagged Independent

IndieBooks Review – Shot Through the Heart: A Faerie Tale

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Shot Through the Heart: A Faerie Tale by C.A. King

Readers love myths, legends and fairy tales. Whether it has to do with vampires, werewolves, Greek gods or little red riding hood, mythical creatures and tales of magic and happy endings allow our imaginations to run wild while teaching us lessons in morality. More to the point, fairy tales have a legendary sensibility to them, which is why a lot of writers continue to re-envision these stories with a fresh eye, helping new generations believe in something otherworldly (and maybe teach them a lesson in life, love and friendship). Vampires were given sparkles in Twilight; King Arthur and Robin Hood have seen many  an iteration, and the most prominent re-imagining of fairy tale characters was in the television show Once Upon A Time. In Shot Through the Heart: A Faerie Story, C.A. King brings a new spin to a character not many have tackled, taking us behind the scenes of Cupid and adding a fun twist on the classic god of love and attraction.

In this short story, Cupid isn’t just one being; it’s an agency of faeries who travel from their unseen realm to our world with a pair of names they are tasked with helping to fall in love. I thought it was quite interesting to see this concept as a regular job, where one misstep could get you fired, or worse, demoted to troll duty. Some of the lore that King sets up is a little on the light side (meaning it doesn’t dig too deep into how all of this was established or what the rules are), but she provides just enough to understand how the world works and how it affects the characters.

The main character is Adelia, a new recruit for the Cupid agency. Her first job upon her promotion is to pair a man named Ricky Sage with a girl named May. Another new recruit, Junapree, is also tasked with pairing a couple named Dean Sage and Mary. When Janapree accidentally targets May instead of Mary, things get a bit sticky. Adelia returns to the agency to report the mistake and is soon tasked with fixing the issue by finding another match for Ricky. To do so, she needs to enter the mortal world, which leads her to learn that the faerie’s mistake goes a lot deeper than anyone first believed.

The story is quick and breezy. With only twelve chapters (each with about two to six pages each), it’s easy to get through. The tone is light and airy, matching the core of the characters that inhabit the world. The stakes may be high, but they also feel inconsequential in so far as that everything will more than likely work itself out in the end, a fairy tale trope that works well for the story King is telling. This isn’t supposed to be a dense, dramatic or tense story. You’re supposed to fall in love with Adelia as she seeks to produce love in others, and that’s what happens.

So much so that you want more than you’re allowed to have. There is so much content that could be mined from this idea, that you always have the sense something is missing. I yearn to learn about this world in more detail and travel along with these characters as they try to fix their mistakes. It was a great story, with some interesting characters, it just wasn’t enough, which seems to be a trend with King’s story (see my review of Tomoiya’s Story: Escape to Darkness) — there isn’t enough meat on the bones to satisfy you. Some stories are meant to be short and sweet. I don’t think this should have been one of them, and I would love to see what King could do if she allowed herself to develop her stories beyond the simple short narrative.

My Grade: A-

Born and raised in Halton County, Ontario, Canada, C.A. King is proud to be among the list of Canadian-born authors. King wasn’t always a writer; it wasn’t until her husband and both parents passed that King found her passion for the written word. After retiring from the workforce to do some soul searching, she found she could redirect her emotions onto the page, and in 2014, decided to follow that passion and publish some of her works. She hopes her writing can inspire a new generation of Canadian authors and add to the literary heritage and culture Canada has to offer.

Check out all of C.A.’s social media platforms:

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C.A. King

Author Blog

Amazon Author Page

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Goodreads

YouTube

If you are an independent author and would like your book reviewed, let me know in the comments section with a link to where I can purchase the book. If I find it intriguing, and it’s something I think I’d like, I will purchase a copy and add it to my reading list. Not all requests will be accepted.

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IndieBooks Review – Tomoiya’s Story: Escape To Darkness

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Tomoiya’s Story: Escape to Darkness; Written by C.A. King

When telling a story, there are a multitude of things to think about, the main ones being the main plot, subplots, character development, relationships, tone and themes. One that is just as important is the relationship between the narrator of the story being told and the reader. For most writers, this connection is ingrained in the art form. In other words, they don’t have to consciously think about it as they write; they simply understand what type of relationship one is looking to have with the reader, which could be anything from trust to ignorance. C.A. King’s novella, Tomoiya’s Story: Escape to Darkness, is a story within story, so the challenge of building a relationship with the reader is two-fold — there’s the overall narrator who is telling us the story of Tomoiya, and then there’s the secondary narrator conveying a story to Tomoiya. Because of this duel narrative, I couldn’t help but feel that I was missing something, even though the characters have some interesting layers and the ideas throughout are solid.

The Tomoiya of the title is a young girl who wants to know more about her favorite book, one left behind by her mother. We’re told through her eyes that the book ends with the wedding of its protagonist, Princess Allaynie, to her chosen suitor, Mijellin. But according to “the man” (our secondary narrator), the story itself is incomplete. Just before the wedding, a trader known as Wodon arrives and quickly finds out that Allaynie has a secret — she’s what’s known as a vampire. And not just any vampire, but a very rare breed that has special powers that can benefit Wodon greatly. He kidnaps her for his own nefarious purposes, but when she escapes, he becomes hellbent on destroying all vampires in the universe.

What’s inherent in this scenario is whether or not we can trust the man who tells the bulk of the story. What we’re getting is what amounts to a second-hand account of history, so it’s very hard to know how much is fact and how much is fabricated to enhance or alter the past in the man’s favor. Which is fine, however, without knowing who this person is, we’re never clear as to what motivates him, so to a degree, we can’t decipher what’s happening, or for what purpose, and so it made me feel as if I wasn’t in on all of the King’s secrets.

This isn’t just in regards to the narrator, either. Because of the nature of the format, we’re thrown into this situation without truly knowing who all of the characters are, and because of the length of the book (a quick 98 pages), King doesn’t allow us to spend the time with these characters to become familiar enough to understand and empathize with their motivations, forcing the reader to follow the actions of characters through ideas that aren’t fully fleshed out. And when one of the more interesting characters disappears half-way through the book and is never heard from again, it’s a bit off-putting.

I did find the changes to the vampire lore that King creates to be very interesting, however, it’s hard to follow as they seem to be some contradictory ideas as to where and when the lore started and/or evolved across the universe. Is this meant to take place close to Earth, where most vampire lore has seen varying iterations, or is this in a galaxy far far away, where this type of idea wouldn’t be known? Or is this the beginning of the lore, which would eventually expand across the universe to where we see it today? This confused me and drew a disconnect with the overall flow of the book.

The pace, though, is swift, which makes the story an easy read. But because of this, there are many holes where large chunks of time are omitted, forcing King to simply tell us what happened — sequences I wish we could have seen play out to some degree. I understand why it works in the context of the man’s story, but without being immersed into the visuals of these moments, we’re left with dry exposition, inevitably leading to moments that have no real impact because they happen so abruptly.

Overall, King’s ideas are good, and I liked a few of the characters, but would have liked to have had a much stronger relationship with the narrator, both from the author and the man within the story, so that I could connect with the characters on a deeper level and understand the difference between what was truly important and what was simply being told for effect.

My Grade: B

Born and raised in Halton County, Ontario, Canada, C.A. King is proud to be among the list of Canadian-born authors. King wasn’t always a writer; it wasn’t until her husband and both parents passed that King found her passion for the written word. After retiring from the workforce to do some soul searching, she found she could redirect her emotions onto the page, and in 2014, decided to follow that passion and publish some of her works. She hopes her writing can inspire a new generation of Canadian authors and add to the literary heritage and culture Canada has to offer.

Check out all of C.A.’s social media platforms:

51QDrJbkTuL._UY200_

C.A. King

Author Blog

Amazon Author Page

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Goodreads

YouTube

If you are an independent author and would like your book reviewed, let me know in the comments section with a link to where I can purchase the book. If I find it intriguing, and it’s something I think I’d like, I will purchase a copy and add it to my reading list. I will be doing one independent book review per month, so not all requests will be accepted.

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IndieBooks Review – Eomix Galaxy Books: Identity

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Eomix Galaxy Books: Identity by Christa Yelich-Koth

When you end a book, movie or an episode of a television series in a way that informs the reader or viewer that the story will continue, speculation, especially now through the use of the Internet, can run quite rampant. People who enjoyed your work may begin to dissect everything that happened and devise their own theories about what’s to come and what should happen to the characters they love, leading to high expectations that more than likely will be crushed under the hammer of the author’s plans. One recent example of this phenomenon is Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which subverted a lot of fan theories and upset a lot of people because it didn’t go the way they thought it should. This is a tricky thing to navigate for writers, but that shouldn’t stop them from telling the story they are inclined to write. It is up to the reader to subvert their own prejudicial expectations; if they can’t, there’s nothing the writer can really do about that. But when they can, it becomes a much richer experience for the reader as they enjoy the evolution of the story the way it was meant to be told.

In my review for Christa Yelich-Koth’s novel, Eomix Galaxy Books: Illusion, I thought it was a little off-putting that the book didn’t feel complete; the story abruptly ended without any real closure on the events that happened. My feelings haven’t changed after reading the second half of the story, Eomix Galaxy Books: Identity, which does a good job of bringing the story to a satisfying conclusion. The thing is, had the two books been combined into one larger piece, a lot of what feels superfluous and repetitious could have been stripped, leaving behind a story and pace that would have made the entire thing that much more riveting.

Identity picks up a few days after the events of Illusion, but the focus of the book dramatically shifts from the trials and tribulations of our original heroine, Daith, to a rescue mission orchestrated by her friend, Torrak. This shift might be somewhat jarring for those who are more interested in Daith and how she handles the events of the last book, but where I thought Daith and her journey was the most exciting part of Illusion, her storyline becomes quite flat for the first two-thirds of Identity, giving way for Torrak and his adventure to become the highlight of this chapter in the Eomix Galaxy series.

Because Torrak was a witness to Daith’s abduction by Trey Xiven, the commander of the Aleet Army, he is now a target of clean-up attempts by Xiven to hide what happened. When Torrak wakes up in the hospital, he quickly learns that he’s the only person who remembers Daith. Not even her own sister can remember (and when she starts to, the mind-altering drug she was given causes her to forget once again). So it is up to Torrak and his best friend Kalil to find out what happened and rescue her from Xiven’s nefarious plans. Along the way, the two unlikely heroes run into a bevy of colorful characters who help Torrak track her across the galaxy in one form or another, while being pursued by one of Xiven’s assassins.

Meanwhile, Daith continues her struggle to find peace with her new life. She still isn’t quite sure who to trust, and her determination for revenge grows stronger as Xiven and the Aleet Army get closer to their ultimate destination. To prepare her for the eventual war on Xiven’s home planet of Sintaur, Daith begins training with a new mentor, Cenjo, who starts to have reservations about where everything is heading. He isn’t quite sure Xiven is on the up-and-up, so he keeps a watchful eye over the both of them to hopefully prove himself wrong.

A lot of what happens with Daith feels a bit repetitive as she continues her training and fights her daemons — in this case, her dreams — for control over her powers. At the same time, some of what happens to Torrak feels like a waste of time, as it doesn’t do anything much for the story. Take for example a scene in which Torrak stops on a planet to fuel his ship. Though this is an example of grounding the story in reality, the entire moment of him landing and fueling takes up about a page or so where nothing at all significant happens. Something like this could have been mentioned in one quick sentence in passing and no one would have batted an eye as to the realities of space travel.

It is instances such as these when I wish Illusion and Identity would have been combined into one book. This way, the timeline could have been condensed so it didn’t feel so stretched out, and both Daith and Torrak’s stories could have been told simultaneously, making the pace much quicker and keeping our interest more contained.

But with all of that aside, the last third of Identity almost makes up for everything. Christa does a terrific job setting up all of the character arcs to lead to an explosive finale that is written with an extraordinary flair, wrapping everything up in a way that was wonderfully unexpected, giving weight to Daith’s character and ending Torrak’s wild, fun adventure on a high Illusion failed to achieve.

My Grade: A-

Christa Yelich-Koth is an award-winning author and graphic novelist, and co-founder and head of submissions for Buzz & Roar Publishing. Born in Milwaukee, Christa graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, which helps her when writing creatures and worlds in her science fiction. She writes because “I love creating something that pulls me out of my own world and lets me, for a little while, get lost inside someone or someplace else.”

Check out all of Christa’s social media platforms:

christa yelich-koth

Christa Yelich-Koth

Author Blog

Amazon Author Page

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

YouTube

If you are an independent author and would like your book reviewed, let me know in the comments section with a link to where I can purchase the book. If I find it intriguing, and it’s something I think I’d like, I will purchase a copy and add it to my reading list. I will be doing one independent book review per month, so not all requests will be accepted.

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IndieBooks Review – Eomix Galaxy Books: Illusion

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Eomix Galaxy Books: Illusion by Christa Yelich-Koth

There’s been a debate among authors and readers of independent books for quite a while in regards to the etiquette surrounding a book series. As more and more authors choose the independent route over traditional publishing, there seems to be a mindset that you can’t be successful unless you’re writing a book series. One of the major points of contention is how to end the initial book in a series. Some say that if it’s a series, then we should know that everything may not wrap up properly; others will say a first book in a series should stand on its own. If you look at some of the more successful book series, such as Harry Potter or The Dark Tower, the answer tends to be the latter — the first book in the series may have an overarching goal that isn’t necessarily reached, but the book itself has a complete story. Only in the later books do the stories start to intermingle and become less structured, but by then, we’re already heavily invested. A lot of times, having a first book in a series that doesn’t have a complete story makes it feel as if the author opted to divide their story in two because they feel it was easier to sell two 300-page books as opposed to one 600-page book.

I’m not sure what Christa Yelich-Koth’s process was as she wrote Eomix Galaxy Books: Illusion, but even before you begin reading, you already know this is only the first book of at least two, so either it was planned that way or it was split for the sake of, in my opinion, an arbitrary word count. Either way is fine, so long as there is a complete story arc that doesn’t make the novel feel incomplete. Sadly, Illusion feels more like a movie studio splitting a novel into two parts simply to extend a series past it’s expiration date. Christa slowly and expertly leads her story on a path to a specific destination, but then pulls the rug out from under us by providing no closure without spending more money on the next book.

Illusion follows Daith Tocc, a normal girl living a quiet life until she’s abducted and has her memory completely erased by Trey Xiven, commander of the space vessel, Horizon. It’s quickly learned that Trey believes Daith to be the daughter of his former commanding officer, Jacin Jaxx, a very powerful being in the universe, and is hoping to use Daith as a weapon to secure peace in the Eomix Galaxy. To do so, he recruits his brother, Dru, to run several tests on her in order to find out if she truly is what he thinks, and whether she harbors the same power her father did.

The reason I felt there wasn’t any closure is because there aren’t any full character arcs. As Daith goes through her trials and discovers a few breakthroughs in her powers, nothing actually happens to solidify a change in her or any of the other characters. In other words, she learns how to tap into her skills, but with the exception of a few smaller moments and revelations, she doesn’t ever have a chance to utilize them the way I hoped she would (or in the way she eventually will in the next book).

That aside, the book does have some intriguing concepts and a few interesting characters. Both Daith and Dru are extremely likeable; together, they have some of the best parts of the book. Whenever Christa stepped away from them to focus on Trey, I wanted to get back to Dru and Daith and their budding relationship. For whatever the reason, Trey never really connected with me. I’m not sure if it was because of the character, how he was written, or because most of his focus was on the life of Jacin Jaxx, most of which fell a little flat for me. I was much more interested in Daith and how she was going to handle her newfound gifts than I was in learning the history of Jacin Jaxx and how he handled his powers.

Which brings up another interesting topic in the structure of the story itself. In the first chapter, we’re introduced to Daith before she gets her mind wiped, which is all well and good, but with a story like this, a lot of the intrigue comes with not knowing who she was before her memory was erased. By this I mean, the urgency of Daith’s predicament isn’t as strong as it could have been. Had we, the reader, woken up with Daith on the ship without knowing anything about her or her past, and were able to learn everything right alongside her, we would have been able to connect with her more than we already do, heightening an air of mystery that is non-existent since we already know why everything is happening.

Don’t get me wrong, the majority of Illusion is well-written (there are some moments that feel a little stale and dialogue that gets a little stunted), and Daith’s storyline kept me interested, I just wish we would have seen a better, more developed arc that led Daith to examine her powers beyond the mere accident or test that fill the majority of the book.

My Grade: B+

Christa Yelich-Koth is an award-winning author and graphic novelist, and co-founder and head of submissions for Buzz & Roar Publishing. Born in Milwaukee, Christa graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, which helps her when writing creatures and worlds in her science fiction. She writes because “I love creating something that pulls me out of my own world and lets me, for a little while, get lost inside someone or someplace else.”

Check out all of Christa’s social media platforms:

christa yelich-koth

Christa Yelich-Koth

Author Blog

Amazon Author Page

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

YouTube

If you are an independent author and would like your book reviewed, let me know in the comments section with a link to where I can purchase the book. If I find it intriguing, and it’s something I think I’d like, I will purchase a copy and add it to my reading list. I will be doing one independent book review per month, so not all requests will be accepted.

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IndieBook Review: First Words: Final Lesson

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First Word: Final Lesson by Shakyra Dunn

While I was reading Shakyra Dunn’s novelette, First Words: Final Lesson, I had no idea it was a prequel to a much larger world that has yet to be written. There is a small note in the book’s description that it sets the stage for a larger event, but it’s not as clear as it could be, so until I got to the very end and was given a taste of the actual first book in the forthcoming series (titled “The Final Lesson”), I was under the impression this was just the first book in a new series, when in actuality all it’s meant to do is showcase a few key pieces of information that should help in your enjoyment of the actual first book. With that said, the following review is on my initial read while under the impression that it was a complete novel that as opposed to a simple compendium setting up what’s to come. Read Full Review

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IndieBook Review – Gemini Gambit

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Gemini Gambit — A Novel by D. Scott Johnson

I’m a sci-fi geek. I can admit that. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved the idea of aliens and other worlds, futuristic technology and time travel. I believe it’s because they tend to explore the human condition while having the liberty to traverse strange new worlds and are provided the freedom to turn everything upside down on a whim without being branded impossible. That’s because science fiction  is inherently unrealistic — until it isn’t. The best sci-fi writers have a tendency to predict the future, the best of which have already innovated new technology before its time. Others have seen the future, or created technology and got it wrong, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t any less worthwhile. It’s a way to study the what-if of human nature, to explore the tendencies of mankind and provide a unique opinion on what might happen if we continue down the road we all travel at any given point in time. And for me, it’s one of the greatest roads a man can travel to free his imagination. Read Full Review

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IndieBook Review – Watership

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Watership — A Novel by Jenna Whittaker

“Show don’t tell.”

It’s one of the first things fiction authors learn. It essentially means to set every scene with emotion, details and physical action rather than bluntly telling the reader what happened. For example, if a major battle happens, it’s always more satisfying to revel in all of the gory details than to simply say, “Both sides fought an epic war and side A became the victor.” Readers hunger to be part of the action, as if they are standing right alongside each of the characters. They can’t live every moment if they feel like an outside bystander being told the events of a story secondhand. A reader’s investment relies heavily on details, and when their attention wanes, that’s when a book tends to be replaced with another before “The End” is reached.

Author Jenna Whittaker falls into this trap quite often in her novel, Watership. Though I did sluggishly make it to the final page, it was extremely hard to invest any interest in what was happening. Read Full Review

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IndieBook Review – Where Have All the Elves Gone?

One of the old adages for a majority of literary and creative writing “gurus” is to write what you know. This can take on different meanings with different people, but to me it means write for your passion; it means write for yourself first and the public later. By doing so you’re able to imbue your characters with the love, the pain and the life experiences that you’ve personally had, which in turn allows them to live and breathe through you while having the freedom to add the wild ideas you’ve always wished to explore as a scintillating garnish. Christian Warren Freed, author of Where Have All the Elves Gone? gives this wise-old adage an interesting spin by not only giving his characters backstories that may correspond in certain ways with his own, but creatively compounds the idea by turning the life we know into something far from what we think it to be. Read Full Review

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IndieBook Review – Indiot

Indiot is the follow-up to Ana Spoke’s debut novel, Shizzle, Inc., chronicling the hijinks of Isabella Maxwell, a naive blond who wants nothing more than to change (or help) the world, getting herself into extraordinary circumstances along the way. In Shizzle, Inc., this trouble came upon her mostly by accident, as the world seemed to open opportunities she’d then exploit for her own means, messaging the truth and more often than not, putting her foot in her mouth. In Indiot, the tables turn a bit, as Isabella (or Isa, for short) begins to take hold of the reigns of her own destiny. She still gets into plenty of trouble, but instead of unbelievable circumstances pushing her into various comedic predicaments, her conscious decisions now tend to lead her into trouble — a switch that gives her narrative more reliability than in Shizzle, Inc. It doesn’t feel as if Isa is lying as much about what’s happening, making her adventures more authentic and enjoyable. At the same time, her character seems to grow too much too fast, as if the lessons she learned in Shizzle Inc. have taken root, but have matured faster than an alien baby in a science-fiction movie. Read Full Review

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IndieBook Review – 30 Days Stream of Consciousness: A Haunting

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30 Days Stream of Consciousness: A Haunting — A novel by L.E. Moebius

Stream of consciousness is a writing technique wherein you write what you’re thinking at one specific time without going back to change or edit anything. It’s mostly used as a tool to get a writer back into the groove of writing whenever they’re trapped in an existential quandary or have a bout of writer’s block. Unless a character in a book is having a stream of consciousness moment, generally an exercise like this isn’t usually published for mass consumption. But L.E. Moebius has taken this tool and used it to her advantage. From what I know, every day for thirty days, Moebius wrote one chapter without pause, without double checking aspects from other chapters or going back to fuss over anything she wrote. Whatever came to her mind in however much time it took is what the chapter became. In her second attempt at this format, 30 Days Stream of Consciousness: A Haunting, Moebius intelligently crafts a fast, creative, but somewhat generic story of a haunted house and its unwitting occupant. Read Full Review

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