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Review: ‘The Labyrinth Wall’ by Emilyann Girdner

September 17, 2014

Summary: Araina’s isolated teenage life is forever altered when she witnesses a man emerge through a rippling wall into the dark labyrinth she calls home. A Mahk, Araina has never been outside the labyrinth, and has never seen anyone inside it but other Mahks. When the stranger appears, Araina’s world is turned upside down. Working with a dangerous fellow Mahk named Darith, Araina rescues the strange man and escapes with him back into the labyrinth.

But as a result of the stranger’s arrival, Araina’s Creators have unleashed a series of magical attacks using the labyrinth against its inhabitants. Grappling with new revelations, saber toothed mutts, insane creatures, and cannibals as she tries to make her escape from her home, Araina must decide if she will trust potentially deceitful allies in order to reach safety on the other side of the labyrinth wall.

My Thoughts: I found this book interesting, but only so-so. It was written fairly well, and I like the plot and characters overall, but there were also some problem spots for me.

Trapped inside a labyrinth, which is the only home she’s ever known, Araina is a Mahk, or a created human. Grown and given life by the Creators who rule the labyrinth, Araina has only been alive for two years. In that time, she tried to stay alive and stay away from the other Mahk, who might kill or hurt her to steal her food rations. She keeps a pet bird, Blue, and mostly tries to stay in the secluded area where Blue likes to live. A kinder, gentler soul than her fellow Mahk, Araina is very much out of place in her kill-or-be-killed kind of world. Araina is a great main character. There are plenty of conflicts for her to experience, and she does grow over the course of the novel into a more complex character. She mostly just wants to be left alone and to live in a better place.

Darith, her companion at the start of the book, appears to be exactly like the rest of the Mahk: dangerous, deadly, and focused on survival. He joins Araina for part of her quest in saving Korun and then escaping the labyrinth. He then disappears for most of the story and reappears later, but I can’t say more than that without giving away spoilers. My main issue with Darith is, he’s the only one of the Mahk to speak with any kind of accent. Why? In the course of the story, the reader is introduced to numerous other Mahk and other people. But Darith is the only one to speak in a different fashion, and it’s not entirely consistent at that. Why? This actually really annoyed me, but I realize that with my linguistics background, this is something that be an issue for me but may not be an issue for other people. Otherwise, I think he was a good character and I would have liked to have seen more of him.

Some of the relationships seem rather contrived to me. For instance, the relationship between Soll and Saige seems to be there expressly for the purpose of getting Araina to realize that romance among the Mahk is possible. I never buy this relationship as being legit, nor am I invested in it. The relationships that seem to work best, in my view, are Araina’s relationships with Korun and Blue. However, the relationship with Korun at times seems forced. And there was one spot near the end where there is no mention of Blue and I was left very much confused at to what had happened and where Blue was, since Araina was completely unconcerned about the status of her pet, which seems very out of character. Araina’s relationship with Darith is much more interesting because they’re so antagonistic toward each other for so long, but again, he only appears for a small segment of the book. Perhaps their relationship will be developed some more in the next installment.

I was at times not a fan of the writing style, but that is largely a personal preference, and other readers may not mind as much. For me, there was instances when I thought the writing could have been tighter, or I would have appreciated further description of something when there was none. There was also one point at which Araina goes swimming and says swimming is a new experience for her–but she knows how to swim without ever having done it before. It’s explained that the Mahk are created with certain knowledge, but the way this scene was written was very confusing to me and illogical for a while. Even though this gets explained, I feel a reader should never be left with the feeling that something is illogical or out of place.

As for the plot, I have nothing negative to say about it. I thought the plot was very well done and set out a logical, suspenseful fashion. There was a point when I worried that some items in the beginning of the book had been forgotten or wouldn’t be wrapped up, but everything came to a fairly satisfying conclusion. I thought some of the enemies Araina faces were very creative and thoroughly terrifying, though the saber tooth dogs/mutts reminded me a little too strongly of the mutts from The Hunger Games, though that may just be because of word choice.

If you’re looking for a book with suspense, betrayal, action, and a Hunger Games kind of feel to it, this may be a good read for you.

Overall, I give it 3 stars. I just can’t get past the writing style and some of the flaws in relationships and descriptions. I may pick up the next book just to find out what happens, but I’m not sure how much re-readability this one has for me.

3 stars: Still a pretty good read, but I can set it aside if I need to for things like school, eating, sleeping, etc.

Find on Amazon * Author Info * GoodReads * Shelfari

Book info: published 2013, 308 pages, ASIN B00HMFAESO

Copy is a free ebook copy from author in exchange for an honest review.

Review: ‘Soul Forge’ by Terry W. Ervin II

September 9, 2014

cover artSummary: Young Enchantress Thereese lays stricken and silent, her vital essence sapped by the Shard Staff, and she edges ever closer toward death. Supreme Enchantress Thulease refuses to allow her daughter to fade beyond recovery.

To that end, Enchantress Thulease recruits Mercenary Flank Hawk to accompany her as she seeks the legendary Sleeping Sage, and confronts the secretive Svartálfar, known only for their magical prowess and their menacing cruelty.

But first, the mercenary and enchantress, and their stalwart company, must survive brutal beasts and ruthless nomads roaming the Southern Continent’s harsh desert. Then, the untamed wilds of the Northern Mountains must be traversed in a final bid to reach their ultimate goal–the Soul Forge.

Even if Flank Hawk and Thulease reach the mythical forge in time, can its magic revive the ailing young enchantress, whose life is somehow tied to the Kingdom of Keesee’s ultimate fate?

My Thoughts:  I liked this book so much I want to go buy the first two in the series and read up on what I missed! This is the third novel in the First Civilization’s Legacy series. I was somewhat hesitant about how much of the story I would be able to pick up on, since I was reading without benefit of reading the first two, but I had no trouble getting a grasp of the characters, understanding previous events, or understanding relationships or the setting. I got hooked very quickly–by the third chapter, I couldn’t put the book down!

This novel is dominated by a cast of wonderful characters. Told in first-person from Flank Hawk’s point of view, the reader sees the other characters only through his perspective. Even so, all the characters are very well fleshed-out and detailed, and all of them are intriguing. Flank Hawk, also known as Krish, is an excellent main character. He has honor and lives by a code, but his hands are far from clean. As a mercenary, he is skilled in dealing death, and kills both people and dangerous creatures in the book. He does question some of his actions, and at times feels remorse for having to take lives, but in the end, he will always do what needs to be done. Unflinching and loyal, Flank Hawk makes for a very likable, complex character.

Supreme Enchantress Thulease, who employs Flank Hawk in her quest, came as something of a surprise to me. I didn’t expect her to be as authoritative or ruthless as she is. Since I’m introduced to the characters and story in the third installment of the series and don’t have the benefit of prior knowledge from the first two books, I learned about the characters on the go. I found Thulease to be a fascinating companion for Flank Hawk–she perhaps lives by a slightly different code, but ultimately she and Flank Hawk complement each other.

 

Ervin doesn’t shy away from harsh realities, either. His characters die left and right, even some characters I really liked.  While not exactly thrilling, it does add an element of realism to the story. We don’t necessarily want anyone to die, but everyone knows that death happens. Given the very dangerous events taking place in this novel, it would be unrealistic for none of the likable characters to die. Death is something of a theme in this book, given that the enchantress Thereese is near death for most of it.

Other strengths of this book are the plot and the pacing. I was constantly engaged and hooked very early. I had trouble putting it aside in order to sleep! So the pacing was very well done and kept me engaged in the story and characters. The plot was also quite well done, being very interesting and full of unexpected elements that kept me guessing. There was one point when I thought I knew the outcome of the events and was surprised, and pleased, when it turned out differently.

I wish I did half-star ratings so I could give this 4.5 stars. What makes this just under a 5-star read for me is there are multiple small mistakes in punctuation, spacing, and grammar that should have been caught in the final proofread, and the last three to four chapters felt a little bit rushed. It is otherwise extremely well written. These are minor considerations, but to be consistent in my rating scheme and with previous reviews, I have to give it 4 stars.

Aside from that, I loved this book!  I will absolutely be reading it again, and will pick up the rest of the series.

Find on Amazon * Author Info * GoodReads * Shelfari

Book info: published 2014, 307 pages, ISBN 978-1940095189

Copy is a free paperback copy from author in exchange for an honest review.

Featured Author: Kira R. Tregoning

September 2, 2014

ABOUT KIRA

Yes, I know this is my own book review blog. I placed myself last in the Featured Author queue for a bit of shameless self promo–and last in order to make sure everyone else got featured first!

My name is Kira Tregoning. I’m a language enthusiast, writer, and book lover. I’m also a big UMD Terps fan.

I read A LOT, and the number of books I have in my living space is a running joke among my family and friends. Mostly I read fantasy, but I enjoy other genres as well, including historical fiction, science fiction, and the classics. I write mostly fantasy books right now, though I have some ideas for expanding into other genres later on.

Website: http://theworldofcora.wordpress.com/

FEATURED BOOKS

Rise of the Aligerai (The Aligerai series, Book 1)

Sita Newbury is more interested in surviving college and making friends than playing with magic.  Her gifts had only ever caused problems, and the wings she had been born with would have sentenced her to a life of scientific study if anyone found out.  But her new college friends reveal secrets of their own, and soon Sita and her friends find themselves in a magical world called Corá . . . and facing enemies more interested in seeing them dead than alive.  Sita must find a way to handle magical tests, magic lessons, revelations about her family, and stop inter-world occultists called Imbri Mors from taking over both Earth and Corá–all while keeping her grades up and herself and her friends hidden.

*This book is permanently free on Amazon and Smashwords!*

Find it on Amazon!

A Shadowed Soul (The Aligerai series, Book 2)

Imbri Mors is in pieces.  Rumors of Darci’s whereabouts and speculation over what she might do next haunt Sita and her friends.  And Owen Madison, Sita’s boyfriend, has disappeared without a trace.  On top of everything else, Queen Catherine takes an interest in the Aligerai, Ka’len increases Sita’s training, and something very strange is happening with Roxie . . . and Alexander Knight makes it clear he would like to cultivate the Aligerai for his own ends.  Can Sita hold her friends and family together, or will they splinter under the pressure?

Find it on Amazon!

INTERVIEW

Why did you choose to self-publish?

I tried to do it the traditional way and went nowhere. So I looked into self-publishing in 2011 and kicked the idea around for almost a year while I did my research into possible distributors and marketing and all that fun stuff. Then I just did it. From everything I read, self-publishing was the way to go. I stood a chance to earn more than I would if I went the traditional route. I still had to do all the leg work, but from my research, traditional authors were having to do that anyway. I figured, why not get paid more for the same amount of work? I’m really glad I made the decision I did. It allowed me to choose my own fabulous cover artist, for example. (Her work is on the second book, not the first! The first book is my own crappy attempt at a cover.)  Self-pubbing allowed me to tell the story I wanted to tell, and since my series is a bit in-between in terms of genre, themes, and character ages, I have doubts now that any traditional publisher would have picked it up.

Which authors or books influenced your writing the most?

Tamora Pierce and Mercedes Lackey, for sure. Then I’d say

What are your current projects / What are you working on next?

I’m about halfway through the first draft of Book 3 of The Aligerai series, which is tentatively titled Into the Light. I’m also working on two other ideas, but I don’t want to spill the beans on those just yet!  I will say they are both fantasy, they’re both novels, and they could potentially turn into series, but I don’t want to make any promises on that front just yet. Let’s get the first books written first!

I’m also getting started on Wattpad, as I would really like to write a serialized story released chapter by chapter. I have an idea I think will work, but I haven’t sat down to work on it just yet. Stay tuned!

Anything else you would like to mention?

I love to hear from readers!  Please, if you like the books, don’t hesitate to contact me and tell me!  Send emails, tweet at me, write reviews, anything at all. I want to hear from you, and I think most authors would say the same. It brightens our days to receive messages of support from our readers.

Featured Author: Austin Bouse

September 1, 2014

ABOUT AUSTIN

Austin is a writer, comic book enthusiast, actor and filmmaker living in central Texas. He is the author of The Lost Princess and Rise of the Dragon Slayer, the first and second volumes of his Young Adult series The Dream Chronicles.

Website: www.austinbouse.tumblr.com

FEATURED BOOKS

The Lost Princess (The Dream Chronicles, Book 1)

Sara Hamilton is not your average fantasy heroine. She likes to wear black clothing, listens to Punk rock, and has a knack for getting in trouble. But when she wakes up in a world called Dream, a world where everything that has ever been imagined exists, everything she thought she knew is turned upside down. With the help of a Dragon Slayer, she must defeat The Dark King and restore order to Dream. All the while battling the darkness within herself. Part Lord Of The Rings, part Alice In Wonderland, and part The Dark Crystal, The Lost Princess is a very new take on a very old story.

Find it on Amazon!

Rise of the Dragon Slayer (The Dream Chronicles, Book 2)

All Arthur Montague ever wanted to be was a Dragon Slayer, a peacekeeper of the real of Dream. Now at the age of seventeen, he is able to pursue that wish by entering the annual Dragon Slayer training course. But when he sent on a mission to capture the evil Lord of Dragons, Arthur soon finds out that being a Slayer might be harder than he thought. Telling the origin of one of The Lost Princess’ greatest characters, Rise of the Dragon Slayer is a story of magic, terror, and what it means to be a hero.

Find it on Amazon!


INTERVIEW

Why did you choose to self-publish?

I found it to be far more easier and creatively freeing than if I went through a regular publisher. I honestly think it’s going to change the way we look at books in the next decade or so.

Which authors or books influenced your writing the most?

The authors that inspired me the most are people like Gregory Maguire, Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Anne Rice, Kurt Vonnegut, Stephen King, and Lois Lowery. I could go on and on, but those are just a few.

What are your current projects / What are you working on next?

I am currently working on the third volume in The Dream Chronicles entitled The Witch’s Labyrinth. As well as my first horror novel for adults called Blood Trade.

Anything else you would like to mention?

You can purchase both The Lost Princess and Rise of the Dragon Slayer on Amazon and Createspace. You can find me on Twitter: @austinbouse, my Tumblr: www.austinbouse.tumblr.com, or my YouTube channel: SuperStandAlone.

Featured Author: Charlotte Jain

August 31, 2014

ABOUT CHARLOTTE

Charlotte Jain is an Arts graduate from Melbourne, Australia She enjoys long walks on the beach and mango smoothies. In her spare time, she enjoys relaxing on the couch with a good movie and attempting to create MasterChef-style edible masterpieces. Champions: at fire’s end is her first book. She is currently writing the second book in the Champions series, Champions: into shattered ice.

Website: www.charlottejain.blogspot.com.au

FEATURED BOOK

Champions: At Fire’s End (The Champions series, Book 1)

After an eternity of impossible battles between two immortal warring factions, an uneasy truce was reached. Their solution? Send out pairs of mortal champions for one final battle. Winner takes all.

17-year-old April Fall and Kyle Brown are best friends with a dark secret. April and Kyle were bestowed with control over fire and water, and were raised by immortals with a single purpose – win the war.

But, when April and Kyle finally uncover the remaining two champions’ identities, they must launch themselves headfirst into their final battle for survival. Amidst their trials, an immortal stranger brings April more questions than answers, while Kyle must face off against the third champion: his girlfriend, Kim.

With time running out, April and Kyle must harness their elemental controls in their struggle for freedom and answer a single question: what would you do if your opponent was your best friend?

Find it on Amazon!

INTERVIEW

Why did you choose to self-publish?

I decided to launch myself into the deep end a little over a year ago, after years and years (I finished the first manuscript in high school 5 or 6 years ago) toiling with a story I adored but nobody seemed to want (sad face). The idea was to bring my beloved tales to life in someone’s imagination other than my own. Self-publishing has become such an exciting part of the publishing world. Deciding to jump in and trust in myself and my work has been one of the best choices I’ve made.

Which authors or books influenced your writing the most?

Melina Marchetta, Emily Rodda, John Marsden, JK Rowling, Lemony Snicket, Suzanne Collins, Skye Melki-Wegner, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

What are your current projects / What are you working on next?

Publishing Champions: At fire’s end has been such a whirlwind! But there is so much more to get to know about these characters. At the moment, I am brainstorming and planning like crazy for the entire series (5 more books) and getting down to drafting book 2: into shattered ice. We’ve met the characters in book 1, so now it’s time to go a little deeper and amp up the adventure!

Anything else you would like to mention?

Writing my own stories has always been a dream, and now my wonderful team has made it happen – thank you to my team and to the readers! None of this could happen without you.  Although I’m self-published, my team and I strive to create content that can hold its own – quality wise – with books by traditional publishers. Thanks for reading! 
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8445150.Charlotte_Jain
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