Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Winterland by Mike Duran


Summoned into her dying mother’s coma, recovering addict Eunice Ames must traverse a surreal, apocalyptic dreamscape in search of three generational spirits who have imprisoned her mother’s soul.

Together with Joseph, a crippled drifter who serves as her guide, Eunice treks an abandoned highway strewn with debris from her mother’s “emotional” wars. Along the way, she encounters Mister Mordant, a perpetually whiny grub, Reverend Ash a fragile, supremely self-righteous minister, and Sybil, a beautiful sylph with a knack for deception. Eunice and Joseph endeavor to lead this peculiar brigade into the hell of her mother’s making, through the swamp of Mlaise and the volcanic plains of Cinder, to the Dark Throne where they were forged. Along the way, Eunice experiences, in awful living color, the forces that have shaped her mother’s descent into madness and disease.

Yet a more malevolent power conspires against Eunice. For not only is she forced to relive the psychological terrain of her own upbringing, she must now confront the darkness it has spawned... the one inside her. It seems Eunice has harbored horrors of her own; years of abuse, rejection, and generational sin have taken root. And no amount of psycho-babble and positive thinking can withstand the literal monster that is waiting at the end of this highway. Can Eunice destroy the spirits that have cursed her family and rescue her mother, or will the sun set on their hell forever?


I don't know that I can really do my regular pros and cons for this. For one thing, I can't decide if I really love or really dislike this book. It's just...weird. Like a very odd mix of horror/dark fantasy and The Wizard of Oz. It's creepy and mystical and wacky. Yet, I appreciated the allegorical aspects of the book and the triumphant (I can't say happy) ending.

It's definitely not for young teens--I don't know if I'd recommend it for anyone under 18, partially because of the hinted-at content, but mostly because it was so dark.

There's nothing I can say against Mike Duran's writing. He is definitely a master of words. The descriptions and turns of Phrase pulled me into the book just as much as Eunice and the plot did.

My rating: four and a half stars.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Invasion by Jon S. Lewis


He didn't ask to be a hero, but now all that stands between us and chaos . . . is Colt.

Colt McAlister was having the summer of his life. He spent his days surfing and his nights playing guitar on the beach with friends. He even met a girl and got his first car. But everything changes when his parents are killed in a freak accident.

He's forced to leave his old life behind and move to Arizona with his grandfather. The only person he knows at the new high school is a childhood friend named Dani. And Oz, a guy he's sure he's never met but who is strangely familiar.

But what if his parents' death wasn't an accident? His mother, an investigative reporter, was going to expose a secret mind-control program run by one of the world's largest companies. Before she could release the story, what if agents from Trident Biotech made sure she couldn't go public?

Vowing to uncover truth, Colt is drawn into a secret world of aliens, shapeshifters, flying motorcycles, and invisible getaways.


Cons: Colt disobeys authority figures regularly, without much in the way of consequences.

There isn't much original in this book. The alien races and a couple of locations, but I felt like most of the plot had been done before. It was very familiar superhero stuff.

Pros: While there was some teen romance, it wasn't the typical boy-thinks-they're-best-friends-but-girl-has-a-crush scenario that I see in a lot of YA books. That was nice, because frankly I'm tired of that plot line.

I felt like the writing and characterization was well done, so despite the familiarity of the book, I enjoyed it.

I think it's very family friendly and especially would be great for preteen-teen boys.

Rating: three out of five stars

**I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.**

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Novel Spotlight: Shadows: The Book of Aleth Pat 1 by Michael Duncan


A stolen text...When the Book of Aleth is stolen, Aaron, captain of the Royal Guard, is ordered by Emperor Therion to reclaim the ancient tome. The mission thrusts Aaron into a world he's never known--a world of elves and dwarves, races long thought extinct; a world where everything he has known and believed is a lie.

A secret past... Forced to challenge his long-held beliefs, Aaron and his companions, two soldiers of the Royal Guard and two men of the Dwarvish kingdom of Brekken-Dahl, set out on a quest to recover the Book. Aaron resolves to discover the truth, and rescue the empire he is sworn to protect.

My Thoughts:

Cons: I had a hard time getting into the book. The prologue, with an almost omniscient point of view, didn't grab me immediately.

The dialog felt stiff--not necessarily stilted, but stiff.

Likewise, I wanted more about the characters. I can't exactly pinpoint it, but there was just a little something missing. As usual, I'm guessing this is because it's the first book in a series.

Pros: I enjoyed the setting of the book: a medieval country, much of it forest, in snow. Hmm...sounds like the view outside my window. :) I haven't read a lot of fantasy novels set in the winter, and it was interesting to see how the author used that to challenge his characters. I also thought that the abundant descriptions were pretty well done.

Though as a rule, I'm not too fond of allegories, I enjoyed this one. Especially, I liked the perspective of a soldier from the bad side as he tries to untangle the truth from the lies he's grown up with. I also liked that not all of his companions condone his changing loyalties. It made for good tension throughout the book.

It was very family friendly. I could see this book being used for a family's read-aloud time, even though the characters are adults. There are some scenes that might scare younger kids: a man dying in a fire; a fight with a demon-like creature; soldiers attacked by trolls. Other than that, there's no objectionable content.

If you're looking for a decent fantasy read, Shadows is a pretty good one. There are flaws, but I think that Michael Duncan is a promising writer and I'm looking forward to the next installment in The Book of Aleth.

Rating: Three stars

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Book of the Year 2011


I've been looking forward to the Book of Year ever since I read it. This book truly deserves a better award than mine, but I'm glad to give it all the same.

And I know you're probably tired of me saying it...but, seriously, read this book. You won't regret it. I'm also running an GIVEAWAY for this book--head over to the Magical Ink blog for the details!