December 11, 2013

Review: Nebador Book 7 - The Local Universe by J. Z. Colby

So, now we've been through The Test, have made the Journey and survived the Selection. We've been succesful in our Flight Training, went Back to the Stars and met the Star Station. It's time to meet the Local Universe!

I've mentioned before that I  LOVE the Nebador series. And it's very well known to book bloggers that the more you love a book or series, the harder it is to review it, because you feel like you're not making it sound as interesting or cool as it really is, you feel like you're not doing the book any good. So I've been writing this review for a few months now... Not a good idea, as you start to forget what exactly you wanted to tell about the book and just keep that fuzzy feeling that it was such an awesome book. But let's try.

We have two major plots during this book and they are slightly different from previous ones. Now, we have our crew reasonably integrated with the Nebador lifestyle, but we need them to grow up as beings, to evolve, in a way. One of the "light" beings (evolved beings!) is going to watch and be with our crew, it's been decided, and interestingly, they are being assigned to advanced training before it's usual.

Their first mission takes them to try and locate a ship that has been drifting for several hundred years, there's supposed to be 3 of the ships and the crew's mission is to find it and then "deal" with it, according to what they find. With them, a whole group of "bugs" will be the experts and passengers of the Manessa Kwi, small and regular size, with mates and groups not so much like theirs, they will have to learn to respect and deal with people much different than them, for a long time (unlike the shorter interactions they've had so far) This is a mission that will teach them much, even if Ilika has explained some things before, now they will see in practice and they will be able to deal with life, death, loss, understanding of Bad and Evil. It is different when you feel it, of course. We'll see a lot of growth here, when they realize some things happen for a reason and not everything and everyone is meant to get help.

The second mission is very different from the first, when we follow 4 common children/teens, into this strange school that is different from anything in their world, called Lyceum. It's a school/monastry/religion-with-all-religions/lifestyle that teaches everyone can be responsible, respectful and that everone has gifts that can be used towards the greater good. Not unlike Nebador, it seems, and that's why, from the whole world, this school is the only one that actually meets Nebador people. They aren't informed of how's, where's and what's but they know they are from space and that they are special beings.

Our crew goes through an interesting mission here, they don't know what it is. They are supposed to find out. Also, the crew is without Ilika, which is the first time ever since they got together in their homeworld. Ilika disguises himself as a potential student at Lyceum, while the rest of the crew will show themselves to the staff as the citizens of Nebador they are, so they can work in different ways to try and find out what their mission is and accomplish it.

Obviously, they do. But the interesting isn't only the mission itself, but how they get there. They end up influencing the people outside their small group, learn more things and eventually find their mission where they weren't looking. Manessa Kwi's crew, in a way, is used to saving people or just helping them, in whatever way they see as saving. But sometimes, what a person needs isn't the same thing you believe is help. And that's actually hard to spot, empathy isn't as easy, when the person you are trying to help sees life in a different way than you do.

Again, another masterpiece by J. Z. Colby, showing children and young adults (and some older adults), that it is possible to live a better life, that a better society is possible - if only people would help - and that you should be the first one to do it. J. Z., if only every teen would read your books, I'm sure we would have a better world in a couple generations' time.

Find out where you can buy Book 7 - The Local Universe in several formats: here.
Read my reviews for Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, Book 4, Book 5 and Book 6

October 09, 2013

Review: The Weeping Empress - Sadie S. Forsythe

Chiyo wakes up, suddenly, on the grass, watching the blue sky. A man in a uniform yanks her up and doesn't seem very friendly, yelling at her, making her walk. She looks around and see more people in uniforms, none of them look really nice and one of them actually kills an old woman, just because. Chiyo is definitely not on their side, she decides, and tries to run. When she can't, she picks up a sword and joins the only two men who seem to be truly doing something - fighting, killing - and starts doing the same, the best she can. Fighting for her life.
That's how we're introduced to our main characters, Chiyo, Muhjah and Senka.  

The Weeping Empress by Sadie S. Forsythe is a mix of fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, action and drama. It's the story of how Chiyo is taken from her peaceful life only to appear in an oriental kind of world, medieval in time, with two very letal swordsmen and a raging beast in her chest.

I think it's necessary to say that I really liked the book. It's strange, because I didn't receive this for review, but I downloaded from Smashwords for free, after they emailed me advertising it. It's weird because it's been ages since I last got a book just to read it, because I liked the idea, and not because someone offered for review. Not that I don't like the ones I review, I obviously do, but I usually don't have time to go around and get OTHER books that I didn't agree in reviewing. This one, however, was worth it.

Muhjah is a large man with a smile on his face, Senka is slim, pale and mysterious, never speaking more than a few words a day or, sometimes, going silent for weeks. Chiyo has left a life behind, husband and a daughter, who she loved very much, a life as a wife and mother to a newborn. She gets mixed in that mess and knows she has to fight to stay alive but, more than that, when she fights, when she concentrates and kills, the pain is buried deep inside, the pain from leaving her family, from losing them.

Things start getting more complicated when an underground-ish sect starts spreading rumours about her and how she's "the chosen" of the Goddess. She starts being seen by the people as the savior they've been waiting for, even if the only things she does is to kill.

I'm not going to say much more, needless to say more would be spoiler, but it's a really interesting book and Chiyo is a very interesting character, deep and confused. It's interesting to see how she grows, in a way and how she places her loyalties (or lack of them). Senka is a very interesting character too, we see him, understand his history and see him change. However, Muhjah is a simple one, which bothers me a bit, it's like the whole character development stood with Senka and Chiyo and there was nothing left for Muhjah.

There are some books that, when I finish, the first thing I do is to google "name of the book sequel" and for this one, I had a delightful surprise and now, I just really really want to know when!

10. Will there be a sequel? If so, can you give me any hints as to what it will be about/ if any of the characters will be returning?!
There will be a sequel. It will address three things: why Chiyo, how Chiyo got to Dashkalil, and what happened to Chiyo and the Sacerdotisa after the end of The Weeping Empress [sorry no spoilers]. Senka and Muhjah will be in it of course, plus Michael and Hannah will play a much larger role.

You can buy The Weeping Empress at Amazon or Smashwords.

July 22, 2013

Review: The Road Trip Dialogues - Jass Richards

Hi there! I bring you, today, another one of Jass Richards' books. Previous books were "This Will Not Look Good on My Resume" and "The Blasphemy Tour", which were amazing and you can click the book titles to read the reviews.

Jass is a comedic author, full of feminism, atheism and irony on her books. She's funny, witty and outright adorable. I loved her previous books and since The Road Trip Dialogues is sort of like a prequel to The Blasphemy Tour, with the setup of the main characters and the actions that led to the Tour itself, I was more than eager to read it.

I had, however, issues getting started with the book. Somehow I felt like I wasn't getting in to the mood of the book, it didn't feel as funny or as smart as the ones I've read before. I knew it was there, but I wasn't on the same level, this time. So I took a break, read some other stuff, started my driving license mandatory classes and got my rhythm back.

Here we see Dylan and Rev getting back together after studying together in college (if I'm not mistaken). Rev is on her way to Montreal to see the fireworks and meets Dylan in the way. Dylan house-sits, randomly, so he doesn't have a proper house, but a storage, and he travels around staying in houses for people. He searchs and finds that there is a house to be sat in Montreal, so they go and do that. Well, not properly, as they always get things confused, but they try.

Probably the funniest part is about the cats. I had to stop reading and tell my mom that part, because she kept staring at me while I laughed out loud. So, the house owners have two cats, Fish & Chips, who are indoor cats. Accidentally, Rev lets them out, since her own cat is an outdoor cat and goes out and walks around and always comes back. But, since Fish & Chips are NOT outdoor cats, there's a big problem, they might just not come back. They start looking for them but can't find them. Suddenly, a couple of cats show up at the house and since they can't remember what color the cats were, they assume it's Fish & Chips. But, suddenly, when they see themselves with 6 cats instead of 2, they have a major issue - which ones are Fish & Chips?

After that, we see the sequence of events that leads to The Blasphemy Tour - namely, the Blasphemy charge for defacing a billboard against abortion with, yes, a Bible verse. Got to love these two. So they go to trial and all that. They also save a mommy and baby deer. But that's another story ;)

Jass, you are still a comedy genious. But I prefer the ideology-heavy parts, definitely!

Jass is working on a new book, I can't recall the name, but it's about having permission to have children aaaand I'm looking forward to it, eagerly.

I highly recommend this book, as well as Jass' other books.

July 08, 2013

Review - Fishpunk by Rick Novy

So, everyone knows Steampunk? The first time I've been exposed to Steampunk was with the movie "Captain Sky and the World of Tomorrow" (not sure if that's the original title, but I'm guessing you all know which one it is), where they defined the movie as being "the future as seen from the past". Which is a very interesting and accurate description: it's the future but the future that people living in the steam world could have imagined.

Fishpunk is just that. But with fish. Get it? Fish-punk! Rick Novy writes a very funny parody about the steampunk movement, talking about ichthyotech, biologists, the 1800's USA and the Amazon jungle. Calvin Scholz, a botanic, receives a weird package from a long time friend, an ichthyologist (meaning, a fish expert). He is supposed to take that package to his friend's brother, so off he goes. 

After a few attempts on his life, he manages to reach the farm, where he was going either way as he was hired to try and save the plantation from a plague. As he reaches... But no, no, I can't tell you. It's enough to say both brothers were interested in ichthyotech, meaning, technology powered by fish. Yes my people, it's a thing, and it's probably the future. Or the future of the past. Or the past of the future... Anyways...

After that, first the brother and then Calvin depart to Brazil, to the Amazon. And while he spends some time with Mexicans... Having a good time (or not really), just hanging around (well, kind of) and passing time (that's precise). He eventually arrives at the Amazon and, while I'm Brazilian, I've never so much as been to the Amazon. Is more or less like being American and never have been to the Florida swamps. Pretty common and a lot of people simply never do. But we all know some of it and know how it is. I believe it was very well described in the book, which I admire, because not many can do it. It's easy to fall into the "random jungle" description and ignore that the Amazon is huge as hell (or even larger, if legends are real) and forget the language, the rivers, the history. There is a lot there that people tend to get wrong.

And that's where all the magic happens. I can't tell you the story, obviously, the review is meant for you to want to READ the book, peoples! But I can tell you that's a funny story, full of non-intended (or intended) puns, interesting characters, interesting plot development (what's with the Mexicans anyway?) and very good setting. It's a satire, but it's very smart, could be, perfectly, a steampunk novel, but the fish dictate the rhythm.

You can buy Fishpunk at Amazon

PS: I need new banners. I don't like mine anymore :(

June 24, 2013

Review: Royal Flush - Scott Bartlett

Hello there!

Royal Flush is about The King. That's his name (kind of like "The Doctor" you know?). He is the King at The Kingdom and rules there, of course. Not that he does much, he hangs people every now and then or throws them into dungeons, but mostly, he embarrasses himself and shows up on the local tabloid in shameful stories that aren't always true, but sometimes, sadly, they are.

The King is a loner, but his advisor keeps telling him he must marry - a King must have a Queen and heirs, of course. But The King never wanted to marry. He did want to be King, of course, that's basically why he IS King. I mean, no one else wanted to.

So there is the King and hisAdvisor. And suddenly the King falls in love with someone at a bar, while drunk. And decides to marry her. But she doesn't want to - he's not really that much fun. And from then on, well, the story gets a bit... Weird.

You see, this is a complicated yet simple book. The plot isn't confusing, one thing happen after the other and you understand it perfectly. But, on the other hand, things become quite extraordinaire, the characters are JUST as obvious as they seem, which is a new one for me, usually authors try to make their characters deep, confusing, complete as human beings. Here we see people who are, really, just people in the end. You can always relate them to that cousin you know isn't very deep or that co-worker who seems to survive on instinct. But that's exactly where it gets complicated. It's hard to talk about it without spoiling the whole story - no plot twists, you see. Well, several plot twists, but not on the way we usually see them on the "I bet you didn't see that coming, right, so now I changed everything so you'd be surprised" kind of way. More on the "hum let's do something different with the characters now!"

Our King isn't the brightest or the fittest, or even the most charming. He isn't any of those things at all, bright, fit or charming. He's just plain and boring. And yet, you keep on reading and turning pages because, well, you just have to find out why on Earth he keeps on living and how on hell the author will find yet another way to torture him.

He almost loses his kingdom, but doesn't, then he really does, then he roams the land, finds another kingdom, goes back, travels, regains his kingdom, loses the kingdom and so on. It's complicated, of course. Always with a "companion", the Fiddler. The Fiddler has a name, but I didn't bother to look it up. The fiddler also has a lady-friend, a girlfriend if you like, who, of course, the King falls in love with. That's a very interesting part of the book, that and The Wisest Man Alive.

When I write it down, it seems like a stupid book. And in a way, it is. But it is so clearly intentionally stupid that you just have to keep on reading. It's a quick read, a fast paced book that can keep you busy during your boring idle hours, like Lunch Hour!

Book Summary: 
The Kingdom is careening toward catastrophe. Meanwhile, the King is cruising seedy taverns looking for likely maidens.
Maybe it's his incompetence and his weakness for beautiful women dragging him deeper and deeper into trouble. Or maybe it's that he has no other name than "the King".
Either way, he is portrayed as a cross dresser by the Kingdom Crier (the Kingdom’s most popular tabloid). Shortly after, he must defend his castle against a siege, with only his royal fiddler—while attempting to steal his royal fiddler’s girlfriend.
Winner of the H. R. (Bill) Percy Prize, Royal Flush seeks to answer that timeless question: can a man who throws his dates in a dungeon find a girlfriend?

You can buy Royal Flush at Amazon.

June 12, 2013

Guest Post: Gorillas and Such by Lance Manion

Gorillas and Such

Like most people I daydream about having a lot of money. Not the kind of money where you win a lottery and the state takes half of it and unscrupulous relatives take the rest and leave you alone and bitter and addicted to pain medication in some seedy split-level in Alabama. I mean big money.

"This is where 'the help' (said with practiced disdain) sleeps" kind of money.

The kind of money that people like myself never actually acquire because they spend all day trying to figure out which state they should deposit the unfortunate lottery winner in and if they should Google a specific pain medication instead of just saying they were addicted to "pain medication."

But if I did have that kind of bread I think I would open a store in the mall that exclusively sold apes and monkeys. A big place. Not the usual pet store-sized spot sandwiched between the bargain footwear outlet and the old record place that now just sells bad jewelry and ear piercing services but where the Sears would usually go. A couple floors of primates. Every conceivable monkey and ape you've ever thought of.

I'd call it Gorillas And Such.

And before you ask, we would absolutely have a strict policy against selling prosimians. Why you would even suggest that I have no idea. Use your head before interrupting me next time ok?

(Prosimians ... really?)

Obviously it would be expensive to maintain such a place of business but why would I need the "big" money you ask? (finally an intelligent question) Because what fun would it be to own a giant store that sells every species of monkey and ape if you couldn't 'accidently' let one out every now and again.

The lawsuits would no doubt start to pile up but I can't think of a better way to use my money. The idea of an enormous gibbon running wild through the food court and savaging the surly teenager who works behind the Jamba Juice counter gets my toes to tapping.

That's to say nothing of the silverback we 'accidently' let loose in the parking lot during the July 4th fireworks spectacular.

Another selling point, although completely unnecessary ... you had me at gorilla, would be that after only a few weeks in business the stench of the place would be overpowering. I think even Yankee Candle would fly the white linen-smelling flag. And the noise complaints ... just thinking about them is intoxicating.

Perhaps the best part is that even in the best of economies primates are expensive, let alone now after the effects of the current government policies have really taken hold. There would be weeks where we didn't sell a single baboon, mandrill or orangutan. I bet the bank holding our loans would love that. Trying to keep a straight face while sitting across from a dour-faced bank officer and pitching my idea of having a real gorilla hand out flyers in the mall to improve traffic would be awesome.

And finally, what Xmas season would be complete without the traditional group of chimps (decked out in full Santa gear) chasing a colubus monkey (sporting elven garb complete with jinglebells on his attractive-yet-slippery boots) up the tree, cornering it, tearing it apart amidst an ear-piercing cacophony of agonized screams and guttural roars, and then eating the unfortunate elf in full view of hundreds of formerly-festive children? I can think of no better way to express the true spirit of the season and reinforce to the traumatized kids how thankful they should be for the thin line that exists between their cushy lives and the violence and cruelty that awaits them in the forest than the dripping red of the Santa's beards.

A very thin line indeed.

All brought to you by Gorillas And Such.

Lance Manion is the author of four short story collection; Merciful Flush, Results May Vary, The Ball Washer his latest one Homo sayswhaticus.
He contributes to many online flash fiction sites and blogs daily on his website
He was born to neither run nor be wild and finds the na at the end of banana as annoying as you would if it were bananana.

June 05, 2013

Review: Drayling - Terry J. Newman

Hello there!
Drayling is a dystopia. And everyone knows that I love my dystopias, right?

Here we meet 25th Century England (and I also love England), the county/area/city of Drayling and its inhabitants. We follow the Graves family, with its members Uri Graves, the father and Local Historian, Marius Graves, the son, who's also very interested in History (like myself) and has a very questioning mind, which his father appreciates. Della, the mother and Urania, the younger daughter are secondary to the story but also bring important questions, specially concerning women's rights on this future.

The BFF, or British Friendly Federation, has been peaceful for many many years - several generations, actually - ever since Dunstan Heathfield's  Revolution. It's the work of this wonderful man, Dunstan Heathfiel, who in his time, went around the world and convinced people of the way to live. Mostly, travelling was forbidden, first between countries and then, between counties/cities. Also, soon, trading between districts was also forbidden and all non-oficial communications. This was essential to the Revolution and the new Way of Life they were building. So, cities were to be self-suficient, as they are not allowed to trade around, which is the largest difference between them and now - no communicating, no traveling and no trading.

I'm sorry, but that's already raised me with a few red, purple and orange flags. Excuse ME? So I'm now supposed to just trust whoever is in charge that the whole world has simply agreed to stop fighting, end all religion and just... Sit by a camp fire and sing Kumbayah? Here, in real life, whenever someone stops another person from communicating or even leaving the house, we call it a crime, they are isolating the person, most likely abusing them, and trying to break their spirits... So that can't be a good thing to do to a country, let alone the world!

But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's go back to the Graves. They are a normal family, a decently important one in the community, since Uri is the Local Historian, one of the Worthies, a kind of Town Council that rules the city. The Historian duties are, mostly, to spread the word about the Revolution, to teach it at the Learning Facility, to make sure all the right days are honoured and to keep record of things that happen. The same structure rules larger areas, the country and supposedly the world.

Marius gets permission to make an excavation where the new Worthy Hall is going to be built, since it seems like historical grounds and this may be the last chance to do so. They find a Cricket Field and then they decide to play a cricket match, just to see how it was, since all sports have been banned with the Revolution, since they lead to competition. For the excavation and for the cricket match organization, they make Marius a Thinker (Th.) and give him custody of a historical device, since people can't travel to see museums, historical devices travel from district to district, always staying with one guardian until their death, when they pass to the next district/city.

Almost at the same time, strange things begin to happen, the Regional Administration and the Archwitan (higher forms of government) start sending out strange, very strange, new orders, changing the way they were ruling so far. Not only that, but they mandate that a new male be introduced to each area - the first new person to be seen there (not born and raised there) in centuries! Stin is that person, a bright young man who soon becomes friends with Marius.

Things are changing, for better or for worse, and their way of life is starting to fall apart. They have to take action - are they the right kind of people? What will they find, when they start looking? What's going on?

Drayling starts out a bit slow, because of the world setting, but, to me, it's perfect, because it's shown pretty much all that I didn't like about the Matched Trilogy - world setting, history. How did they get there, why did they get there, what happened to the world. I LOVE that. And after it's been all set and done, the author took great care to explain what the characters were doing, how they were feeling, what they were thinking, making you understand and even agree with them that they were doing the best choice there was (no "what are you doing! don't do that" moments). And yet, I didn't feel very deeply connected to the characters, emotionally. I felt like the book was a great first one, was a great setup, but it could use another one or two, to make us see more of the world, but mostly, of the characters. We spend so long learning and getting used to the scenario that we don't get too deep into the people and that's something I would like to see in the future.

I recommend  Drayling to everyone that loves Dystopias, sci fi, political drama-ish. You can buy Drayling at Amazon

May 27, 2013

Review: Athena's Son - Jeryl Schoenbeck

Hello there!

I simply ADORE historical fiction. Now, YA historical fiction is definitelly a great idea and something you don't see as often, in my opinion.

And by historical fiction I mean fiction that has some base on historical facts (not to be mixed with stories of helpless heroins with shirtless heroes). And this is exactly what Athena's Son is.

Jeryl Schoenbeck writes about Archimedes. You know, that "old Greek science guy"? Well, yeah. Except on this book he is young and in Egypt, where he's been educated as a young man. He arrives there after an irritating boat trip across the Mediterranean and already getting into trouble with a stealing-thief-sailor who he teaches a lesson or two about levers, pulleys and such.

As soon as he lands in Egypt, he gets himself into trouble - actually, trouble seems to find him rather easy - with the priests, after helping a man enhance his wheelbarrow/cart thingy. The priest is ready to hurt him badly, but agrees to take him to the school where he is supposed to be. The headmaster is amazingly influential and manages to free Archimedes, which really angers the head priest man.

Our main boy also meets Berenike, the Pharaoh's daughter and obviously falls in love with her like only a teenage boy can. They get into trouble on and on, as is expected, but in the middle of some troubles, they solve some issues.

The Pharaoh is trying to build the great Alexandria Lighthouse, one of the World's Wonders, but people are dying there, the workers keep dying and no one can tell what's wrong with them, so now the workers think it's the work of Anubis, an Egyptian God with a dog's head. But it can't be! Can it?
There's also this weird roman guy who seems to appear randomly in different places where he simply can't be... Or can he?

It's a dynamic and exciting story that teaches a bit about physics, curiosity and some history, perfect for YA, but also for us, "not so young" adults ;) I strongly reccomend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction.

You can buy Athena's Sonat Amazon.

April 24, 2013

Review: The Skin Map - Stephen Lawhead

I received this book through BookSneeze ("Books are contagious" loved the slogan!), which has a slight focus on religious books, but also has other non-religious books, and The Skin Map, by Stephen Lawhead is a work of fiction - non religious, but aparently from a Christian publisher or something? It seems to pop up on Christian sites around the web.

I was sure I knew that author, but I couldn't place the feeling. I'm pretty sure it's about the "Taliesin" books, I think I wanted to read them, but haven't yet. Now, however, I want to read the sequel to The Skin Map because, as I was very frustrated and excited to find out at the end of The Skin Map, it is only book 1 of a 5 books series. Frustrated because I would have to get more books to find the end of the story (and wait for them to get ready) but excited because it's a great story and I'd be able to savour it for another 4 books (if that makes sense at all).

In The Skin Map we meet Kit Livingstone (real name - Cosimo) who is... No one. Has a sad life, a not-interesting job and an apathic girlfriend Willhelmina (Mina).

Kit goes out to meet his girlfriend one day and, after missing the train, takes a different path, only to stumble into the weirdest of storms and his great-grandfather who had been missing for generations. Cosimo, Kit's great-grandpa, shows him the way to a Ley Line, close by, and they jump into another world, another time and another place. It's a gift, of sorts, and Cosimo needs Kit's help for a quest.

When he goes back and finally gets to his girlfriend place it's late, several hours later that day, and he tries to show her the ley and the jump, so she believes him and doesn't get angry. However, they get separated and, I must say, I like Mina's story much more than Kit's. Mina wasn't a great character at first, I didn't like her, she was whining and complaining and ... Being annoying. But after she makes the jump and ends on her own, she becomes someone else - she becomes an independent, smart and interesting woman, someone with will to live and such fun character! You'd never think they're the same.

Kit, on the other hand, as many pointed out, is not a... Compelling character. He is, sad to say, quite dull. His narrative voice is full of fear and confusion, like he's not quite sure of anything, while Mina's is much more interesting.

Kit and Cosimo start looking for Mina, because being lost, she may endanger the whole universe by creating disturbances in time - when you travel through a Ley Line you end up in another universe, anywhere in time, but if you change something (as a Doctor Who fan, I'd say "if you try to change a fixed point in time") there are consequences and they can be terrible and possibly rip off the universe apart or something. However, the Burley Man (the enemy!) always seem to know where they are and follow them around, looking for The Skin Map.

I don't want to open up more of the plot, but I can tell that Time Travel, Universe Travel, different cultures, we have ALL of those and I really liked it. However, the ending is very frustrating. I only found out then that it wasn't a standalone work, so I was depressed to know that I would have to wait some time to get all the books as only 3 out of the 5 total books were released, although there has been one release each year, so I'm guessing Book #4 comes out this year. Still...

You can buy The Skin Map at Amazon.

The Skin Map's trailer is very well done, so I'll leave that for you here:

April 19, 2013

Review: The Travel Auction - Mark Green

Today we're going to discuss "The Travel Auction" a wonderful book by Mark Green. I had the most amazing time reading it, really liked it, and I believe you are going to like it too, so read on and then read the book!

On one side we have Jonathan who just broke up with his long time girlfriend, Kate Thornly, because of a nasty cheating shortly before they would leave for a three months' trip to South America. The agency refuses to change the name on the ticket and he can't go alone because of a very severe nut allergy that can kill him (specially in places with new food, different languages, all that). Jon decides to do an Ebay auction, looking for a Kate Thornly willing to travel with him in exchange of being ready for nutty emergencies (no pun intended. Ok, maybe a bit).

On the other side we have Angel. Kate Angela Thornly. Angel is pretty, young and a nurse. Perfect! Jon chooses her... Except she's blind, well, pretty much, can't see more than shapes from very close by. And she didn't really enter the auction or submit her picture, her friend Maria did it for her. They set off to adventure either way, it's not like Jon has much of a choice after KT2 (Kate Thornly the Second) proves she's quite able of both handling herself as well as a possible nut allergy reaction.

They head off to Buenos Aires and, as we can guess, of course they don't get along well at first... It's not easy to adapt to a different place or different people, but adapting to another continent, language, people AND someone with impared sight, that's a very tough job.

KT2 is bubbly, cheeky, funny and likes to use her blindness to laugh at people. Jon is a cold analyst, someone who likes to plan things, organize and follow strict rules and plans. KT2 makes him rethink that.

After their first moments, they start to get more at ease with eachother, with Jon having to describe everything he sees, KT2 having to trust someone she doesn't know and who is, by her book, a very boring person and not at all someone she would choose to be around. Jon didn't know how he felt about the trip before he went on it. His mother incentived him, before she died, and so he, an uptight analyst, goes on a spontaneous and barely planned trip.

What we see, later on, is two people learning with each other and working their differences out. It's a book about boundaries and trust, about seeing the wonderful world around us and not just passing by. It's a book about a blind girl climbing the Inca Trail, up to Machu Pichu, and making me incredibly jealous. I love traveling and I live much closer to Machu Pichu than England and yet -I- have never been there. I would love to live on the road, seeing the world, meeting new people, learning new things, eating different foods. So far, I'm left stuck here, waiting for the start.

What really touched my heart, though, was that the Inca Trail is real (I SO want to climb it someday!) and that there was a blind girl that finished it and inspired the author to write the book. Inspired me to do a lot, too.

You can buy The Travel Auction at Amazon or Smashwords. (real cheap, guys, it's worth every cent and many more!)

April 11, 2013

Anna Karenina - The Movie

Anna Karenina

Well hello there! This is very unusual! I don't think I've ever reviewed a movie, but this one, oh, this one I simply must. It HAS been based off of a book, so I think it's a good excuse, right? ;)

I've watched Anna Karenina during Easter and I thought it was AWESOME. The story, of course, being a huge classic, was to be expected - happy and sad, passionate, beautiful, tragic, impressive, emotional... Tragic and sad. Like, double, triple, tragic and sad.

The story is both simple and complex. On a trip to her brother's house in Moscow, Anna meets Count Vronsky and feels this weird and amazing attraction, borderline crazy. Although I can't understand why, maybe on the book he's described in a more... Attractive manner, but the actor, not so much - specially the mustache. Anna (Keira Knightley) is married to Karenin (Jude Law), who is an important senator or something, at the government (sorry, I'm not sure about the proper position/term) and they have a son. Anna resists temptation for two reasons - one, the obvious, she is a faithful and loyal wife in the 1870's Russia, second, her brother's wife's sister is in love with Vronsky and was expecting a proposal for him on the very night he meets Anna at a ball.

Anna goes back to St. Petersburg and Vronsky goes after her, follows her around all parties and get togethers where she goes. Eventually, everyone is noticing. He's getting ridiculous. He's offered a promotion and asks her if she wants him to go... But no, of course. She can't accept and can't give in. It's a beautiful, terrible and heartbreaking decision. When her husband confronts her saying that, maybe, without noticing, she's given people reason to talk she replies "it's too late", because (and she doesn't say that, but you can feel it) she didn't only give people reason to talk, she's given her heart, her mind and soul to Vronsky (despite the terrible mustache - no really, what's with the mustache?).

I won't go into more detail on the story, but I have to say, I haven't felt this passionate about a movie in a while, I'm usually very drawn to musicals (Rent, Chicago, Phantom of the Opera), but I managed to even dream about Anna Karenina.

Keira Knightley is amazing, beautiful, passionate, crazy. She can translate the character so beautifully, with her faces and looks and the way she can change from rage to love.

I didn't like Vronsky, I must say, the mustache bothered me, but more than anything, he felt... Conquering. I mean, Anna was always doubting him and thinking he was going to find someone else, but he wasn't exactly emotional. I felt like he was only worried about defying the other people, trying to be a rebel, in love with a married woman, but decided to get her all to himself. When she surrenders to him, he still seems to be defying the whole world that thinks they don't belong together... But when all the new wears off and Anna starts getting a little bit ... Off. He seems to distance himself - he isn't judged by society, he is a man after all - his friends don't distance themselves, he's still invited to parties and all that, people still want to marry him. He's not disgraced, but she is.

Karenin is a complex character. Even after knowing his wife's lover, he's still with her and refuses to divorce her. It's a shame for him, he tries to pretend all is normal out of love. For her, for their child, for everything. Without marriage with him, she would be disgraced and would never see their son again. Jude Law is fantastic as Karenin, the emotion he tries not to show but does, the shame and confusion, the pain.

I'm eager to get to the book, I'm sure it'll be beautiful, but I'm glad I watched the movie first, as I'll never be able to forget Keira and Jude's performance as Anna and Karenin.

March 27, 2013

Review: The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt - Book I of Hartlandia by Ilana Waters

Hello there book-a-holics!
I'm here today to talk to you about Ilana Waters' book "The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt".

Stanley is a 10 year old boy who is a librarian in a medieval  kingdom called Hartlandia, in a small town called Meadowwood. His friends, Will, the farm boy and Sophie, the Apothecary also live there. They used to go to school together and hang around, but they ended up being needed at their works and had to drop out, now they only see eachother eventually.

At first, I thought the writing rythm was too slow. I had a hard time picking up and warming up to the book, but it was when I was feeling book blocked, so that may be it. After a while, after the first third or so, I finally got into the story - that's when bad things happen and the adventure properly starts.

I had a hard time believing bad things really happened. I mean, something HAD to happen, or the adventure wouldn't start and we all know adventures would happen - it was "The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt" after all - but it was very sad and being a Bookworm, a Book Lover and a Book-A-Holic, it depressed me to no end. His best friend Will is killed and his Library is burnt t he ground. Please don't judge me for being more depressed about the Library than Will, it's just that I've never really believed he was really dead until the very ending.

Some new rules and regulations come out when the new Ruler, Christopher Siren, takes over, after the King and Queen are off to a diferent country to negotiate on something. Everything is very shady and a bit suspicious but, interestingly enough, no one suspects much. Recess and art classes are cancelled and a curfew is placed but no one is warned of it. And the penalty for disobeying is death. Also, a new Rainbow Rule is set in place, no colors are allowed anymore, outdoors or indoors, on anything man made, so all clothes are shades of grey and dark blue, all very boring.

Stanley sets out on a quest to find out what's going on and confront Siren about Will's death and ends up finding that the world is so much bigger and so much more interesting, that his books were very interesting indeed, but the world was so much more.He always felt like he didn't really belong anywhere, being an orphan and all, but Sophie was an orphan too (or, at least, she got dropped off at the Apothecary's door, so she might as well be) and she stayed put.

It's a fun, but not light, adventure, which can make you think about actual society. Are we questioning the orders we get? Are we trying to build our life the best way we can or are we just following what's been set out for us? What we do has a purpose or are just doing it for useless rewards?

Stanley is very charismatic and we see a real character development with both Stanley and Sophie - they learn more about themselves and more about the world, they grow, even if they are still young, they have more life experience than many grown-ups.

Overall, it's a wonderful book. Aside from my struggle at the beggining, I think it is beautiful, interesting and fun and I'm adding Book #2 to my evergrowing To Be Read pile.

You can buy The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt HERE.

March 04, 2013

Review: Reached - Ally Condie

I actually liked it. Having had a bad experience with series finales lately (Inheritance), I was afraid to read this one and find out that the author had failed to answer most or all of the questions developed during the previous books, but, to my surprise, the end of the Matched series was both surprisingly good and providing closure.

We get back to seeing Cassia, Xander and Ky separated, working on their Rising-assigned works. And then it starts, the rebellion, the Plague.
It's hard to talk about it without spoiling things, but I really liked Cassia's growth, she does finally sort out her feelings and starts understanding emotions - more than words, she finally understands what she feels and how she feels it. Also, she starts understanding creativity instead of worshipping old poems. It's probably harder for her, since she was so society-based before Ky. Also, we find out more about her family and of course, it makes sense, I loved it.
The one thing that I missed was the explanation about The Others and The Otherlands. Really, can we have another book talking about that part of the "Not-Society"? Also, some history. We got the history about the way the Society evolved and formed itself, but was it really just that? It simply evolved?

Aside from that, I liked the whole book. The Rising and the whole thing. Oh, for crying out loud, how am I not to spoil this? I REALLY want to talk about spoiler-y things...

Let's see, let's see. We get more information about the blue and red tablet, also about the Plague, which is the main story in this book, and what was happening with the banquets - little things we didn't notice, but like, in Matched, one girl just didn't have a Match  (blank screen)... And we learn about the red pill and that your memories can be recovered! (omg was that a spoiler?)

Indie's ending was, not being harsh, EXTREMELY disapointing. Like, got me saying out loud "WTF"? Because, well, Indie was an odd character, I was never sure if she was really a friend or not, but I can understand parts of what she did. But that ending? I didn't like it. How could anyone like it?

I think the love triangle was well solved and was quite obvious. Sorry Team Xander, but I think from page 1 it is obvious she's chosen Ky, so I won't even hide that. Xander is well solved, though, he understands himself and others much better than it looked like and can see everything much clearer around the middle and ending of the book.

The ending is sort of bittersweet. I was hoping for something else, like I said, specially about the Otherlands, but I can understand what happened and I can see why it is needed - hopefully, for the best. I could read another book about that world, but with other characters... I like how dystopias like that make you think about your own world and how much that is true - how much of the "rebels" are actually the system trying to make you believe you have a choice, how much of your choices aren't real, how much of the "for your own good" really binds you and makes you defenseless. I could enjoy seeing what that world will become, after the events in the end of the book.

I highly recommend to anyone who likes sci fi, dystopias, love triangles and stories that make you think (or not, since you can take both approaches, I guess).
You can buy Reached here.
You can read my reviews for the previous books here: Matched and Crossed.

From my Crossed review:

Other questions I'd like answered include (but are not limited to):
- Who is The Enemy and how did they become "The Enemy"? Not answered.
- What happened (history-wise) to create the separation between The Society and The Enemy? Not answered.
- What's with that weird Society Employee who told Cassia that they'd put Ky's name on her card? Why did she lie like that? Not answered. And that's one that I really would like to know. But at least we know how the card happened...
- What's with The Rising and what's the connection with The Society? Answered pretty well.
- What's with Xander? Did he know... (spoiler)? Answered. Poor Xander.
- What's happened to the artifacts? Where are the things that were "removed" from The Society? Not answered.
- What's happened to the farmers (sure we know part, but why now?)? Not the why now. Not that I understood anyways (could be because of the Plague?)
- What's happening in The Society? Why it's getting different? Sort of answered, I guess. The Plague.

February 20, 2013

Book Blocked

I'm book blocked.
And blog blocked.

I can't seem to blog and I can't seem to read.
I start reading and 10 minutes later I'm doing something else, like I can't focus. I used to be able to focus very well - is this getting old or what?
Also, I can't seem to review the books I've read before. I have around 10 unfinished reviews I just can't get myself to finish - it's like I have nothing to say - and that would be a new one...

I've trying taking time out from my blog, but it's not really helping.
Now I'm going to start re-reading a book I really loved, to see if that does the trick. I'm just worried what's wrong...

Any tips? Any ideas?

January 24, 2013

Review: Nebador Book Six - Star Station - J. Z. Colby

The Nebador Series by J. Z. Colby is probably one of my favorites, now. Right along Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Mists of Avalon, the Graal Trilogy, The Vampire Chronicles and some others, there sit the 6 books of the Nebador Series.

As the author himself says, this isn't the end of the story, but it is a great resting point. Our characters have made their way from a backwards little medieval planet's lowest of the low, to the honored Nebador Transport Service, where they are the crew of a small deep space response ship.

4 former slaves and one inkeeper's daughter form this crew that has travelled further away from their home world than anyone there will probably go and are now bonded beyond anything they thought they would, specially the slaves, who've always had a deep issue with trust, trusting people isn't something a slave does, as they are on the world on their own, being traded around and bossed around.

Mati, with her bad knee, is on the edge of a new life. It's hard and it's new. It's more of a change than traveling all across the universe, to her, since it's her body, it's something she always lived with, and it's going to change everything she does and is. Not who she is, but the way her being interacts with the world.

Kibi has to learn to interact with the rest of the universe. Understand what is appropriate and when, but also, be confident that she has value and that there is a job for her and her feelings, which are as valuable as other skills. I think Kibi is the character that bothered me the most all through the books, because she doesn't SEEM valuable, her skills don't seem important, like the others. She has no definite skill, math, language, anything, and yet, she is Ilika's girl and that gives you the feeling that she was on the crew from the start. But, the thing is, she has the strongest intuition and she can sense people's feelings, she can understand people and relate to them. I couldn't really see that on the first books, probably because I am one of those people that can "feel people" but can't understand how those feelings can be a skill. Much like Kibi :)

All of the characters learn very valuable lessons, each to their own, and make new friends, all very different people - Ursines, Birds, Lizards, balls of light/energy and Monkey-Mammals! And we get to understand more of Nebador. So far, all we got were glimpses and visions, promisses, but now we finally understand more about it, like the food - everyone gets what they need, no cost, just take it, but not more than you need (you can, however, get stuffed from good food now and then ;) ), people are polite and expect you to be nice as well. And, importantly, people help each other - no matter what they do, or how important they are. Actually, there is no concept of important people or tasks, only different responsabilities.

Original cover art commissioned to artist Rachael Hedges
Mati and Sata have a big lesson to learn, and so do Boro and Rini, who are in different stages of a relationship with the girls. After they make a huge and very serious mistake that has terrible consequences, they are "sentenced" to go through the "Great Transformation" and help a whole civilization to survive, a lot over their shoulders, by living and learning. But I won't spoil, since that is one of the parts to love ;)

Kibi's test of the heart, as mentioned on the summary, is one I would probably fail myself. Damn licking on the neck. J.Z., Nebador's author, writes with such emotion and so many details that I get shivers to this day. After that, she puts her feet on a path she must take, specially to be in the Nebador Transport Service, along with her friends and her lover, but that is hard and complicated, making her face several fears and issues.

I love Nebador and I would read 100 books on this series. But we have definitely reached a stopping point, if needed. No other book before this has left me with such an accomplishment feeling, you can see there may be more coming, but you can also stop here and know that the story has been told, of the path a small team of young adults took from the lowest of the low to the stars, from poverty to respected equals to the whole universe. There is more to learn, but now they are well on their way.

I reccomend the whole Nebador series to anyone who likes reading, learning and loves to read good writing, great character development and awesome plot.

Find out where you can buy Book 6 - Star Station in several formats: here.
Read my reviews for Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, Book 4 and Book 5.

January 14, 2013

Review: Inheritance - Christopher Paolini

So is this the ending of the Inheritance Cycle?
I must confess, I'm disapointed. Sure, Christopher has grown, but I believe his story hasn't. His writing style may have, I wouldn't know, this is the first book I read on the native language, so I can't tell how much the translator has helped him before, but I actually thought the story got... thinner? Shallow, I guess. And, at the same time, simply failed to address most of the possible depths in it.

I simply hated that the author has decided to ignore some of the mysteries and subplots. It just seems to me like he put them there in the first place because he wasn't sure how to solve an issue and in the end he just didn't have the answer to it. Like Angela. Or even Sloan. Or that hermit guy from book 1 or 2, who aparently taught Angela.

I don't want to spoil anything, but Angela's last scene, where I was hoping some light would be shred - I even had a few theories to who she was and why she was so, let's say, peculiar - but NOTHING. Just some watered scene, very badly done and really awkward where you could simply see that something was meant to be said but simply wasn't said.

The Vault of Souls was pretty obvious too, predictable. Well, the first half was, anyways, the second half (the one they come back later to get) was... Decently obvious but not that badly predictable. Murtagh was so obvious it hurt, although the reason for the change wasn't, I think. Nasuada's part was pretty good, I thought that was one of the best parts in the book, since everyone else's plot was annoyingly predictable.

I mean, geez, who would've thought (SPOILER ALERT) Murtagh would go against Galbatorix, Nasuada would become Queen, Arya would become Queen, finally show some feelings for Eragon and would also become a rider and that Saphira would also fall for that dragon? Who'd have thought Eragon would find Eldunarí's to guide him on that Vault of Souls and that Roran would become a big man commander and win himself some land/castle/whatever...? Oh yeah ANYONE who read the damn books. No, really. The freaking plot, man!

I did like some things, of course. I liked the battle against Galbatorix. I liked the way the Dwarves and Urgals were solved in the end, I really liked the Snalgí and the grubs that go Skree-Skree XD For the cute noise factor, obviously.

Also, the recovery of knowledge, I loved that the author took some time to mention that not only treasures were recovered but also books and the knowledge that might fade away otherwise.

Something else that frustrated me was the whole control the magic thing. It's very creepy and censorship like. I can SEE that it's like "you do whatever you want unless it hurts others" but it's still kind of creepy. Even if we have laws for that "normally" (as in, not magically), somehow the way it was put on the book was very censorship-like. I don't care if it makes sense, nothing the bad-guy-Galbatorix says can be used after he is gone. Just NO.

Overall, it was very weak book, with some of the best chapters happening on Nasuada's POV, even if the whole nail-description thing was annoyingly useless. Nasuada's voice is different from the others, more reasonable. She IS human, but she is strong and certain, not desperate or bossed around. Roran is an amazing character aswell, but he's not so sure of himself and that gets a bit annoying, he's the sort of guy who will do what has to be done, but doesn't really want that kind of thing, doesn't really believe he can do it. And I like my characters believable but strong.

I'd like to see more of Murtagh, he really is a character with many facets, an interesting one, really. Eragon is too... Goody. Sure, we all love the good guy, but being good all the time is REALLY boring. Learn to deal with stuff, grow some balls, show some nerve! HIT PEOPLE DAMNIT.

I didn't dislike the book, unlike what may seem by now. But I just couldn't get myself to like it, the first 2/3 of the book were boring battles, like no one could stand. Sure, Dras-Leona was fun, while it lasted and I looked forward to Angela's scenes all the time, same as Elva, who was always interesting, but none of the battles had the Bernard Cornwell kind of quality and since I always have a hard time visualizing battle scenes and Cornwell is basically the only author who writes battles in ways I understand, I mostly skimmed through the battles here.

I still want to know what Angela said to the priest in Dras-Leona, where she said he should know her name before dying - I'm betting she's the Soothsayer - and I really wanted to know more about her and the Hermit we saw in previous books - who are they and how do they know so much magic? Everyone respects Angela so bad, but no one really knows her, so what? Who? I hate that it's not going to be mentioned. Also, the belt thingy that Eragon loses... He simply loses it. It disappears. And that's it?! What's the purpose of it disappearing? It doesn't serve any purpose on the plot, so what's the use? I don't GET it, why to add something to the story if it serves nothing?

And, again, Angela. I can't get enough of saying that - What about Angela, Angela, Angela?  Also, there were a woman and a child that Eragon blessed on book 2 or 3... What about them? They felt like they were important, that they would show up later. And then nothing. I keep thinking if the author forgot, if he simply didn't know what to do with them or just had no plans and thought no one would notice. Puhlease!

Overall, it wasn't a bad book. But it was definitely below average and shallow. The plot was barely solved, in the most cliché way possible and with a whole lot of Deus ex Machina (or whatever you spell it) where things simply get solved way too fast and way too easy for the drama of 4 books.

You can buy Inheritance (The Inheritance Cycle) at Amazon.

January 09, 2013

Review: No Exit - Hamilton C. Burger

Hello everyone!

I'm here to talk about No Exit by Hamilton C. Burger, a wonderful Middle Grade book about a group of kids who finds themselves fighting the existing order and trying to get back what's theirs and helping their community all in one run.

We follow the Apple Grove Gang in an adventure - it's the first day of summer, school is out and they're free for several months, to play with their friends but... What if they can't?

Their usual place of fun, the Community Center, is closed down by the mayor and Cliff, Bug's brother, is out of a job at the toll station and the Community Center too, so they have two major issues that they want solved before they can enjoy the summer. But they are just children and what can children do against the mayor and other politicians?

Well, a lot, it seems, with hope and determination. And a little bit of luck too, of course. With a little help from their friends, looks like everything is possible and people can be actually happy.

This book has that Sunday afternoon movie kind of feeling, where children are off to save the world and it seems so much easier and nicer than the real world. Even if the bad guys are evil, sometimes only because they feel like being evil, for money or because they don't like children, they are always defeated and the children are always the ones to do it, on their simple way.

I think that's what I liked about the book and I've been having a hard time putting into words. It is a simple book, with an easy-to-follow plot, characters that are as deep as children can be - not very complicated but very emotional, honest and simply willing to help-, and a lovable "you can be anything you want" kind of mood. It really put me in a great mood that I couldn`t translate and for that I apologize, specially to the author, who has been waiting for the review for months now.

For children looking for a simple big book or adults who just need a break from all the complicated issues in life, to enjoy some childhood simple-ness again, I highly recommend this book.

You can buy No Exit at Amazon. It also has 2 more books on the series, Gold Fever and Amazing Journey.