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Archives: Book Reviews

The Fault in Our Stars Review

The Fault in Our Stars Review

★★★★★

Here is my video review for John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, a funny, touching look at teens with cancer. This video includes a preview of my Anticipation Guide, which can be found here.

UPDATE: It was announced today that The Fault In Our Stars is going to be adapted into a film! Hooray! See John Green reading the ENTIRE first chapter here.

Pocket Full of Sunshine

Pocket Full of Sunshine

My sister-in-law and husband put out a childrens’ book, Sunshine’s Night Out, at the end of October. It has received some GREAT reviews and sold a bunch of copies. A few weeks back I let y’all in on an opportunity to win the book with a plushie. Now we have a new prize, a super-sweet T-shirt.

Carly, the illustrator, also created the covers for the Olympia Heights series and my newest promotional poster (below). She designed the Pocket Full of Sunshine shirt that we’re giving away now. Check out the latest review and enter through the Rafflecopter form on that entry to win the shirt. Still looking for a holiday gift for the child or teacher in your family? Sunshine’s Night Out is on sale at Amazon.com for $9.35 and qualifies for super saver shipping. Support Indie Artists!

Amy’s Brief, All-Encompassing Review of Jenny Pox, by JL Bryan

Amy’s Brief, All-Encompassing Review of Jenny Pox, by JL Bryan

★★★★★

After reading Fairy Metal Thunder, I was totally up for some more JL Bryan. When a fellow TCR Derby Girl, Molly Mongoose, said “have you heard of Jenny Pox?” the night before Thanksgiving, I decided to dive right in. It tore through it as fast as possible with grad school, derby, and surrendering NaNoWriMo. Here is a summary of my thoughts.

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Book: Fairy Metal Thunder

Book: Fairy Metal Thunder

by JL Bryan

★★★★★

I’ve been working on reading more Indie books, which is hard because I still have so many classic books to read and so many school books to read… my reading list is like my Netflix queu (I’m adding titles at a rate faster than I can consume them). I did get the chance to read JL Bryan’s Fairy Metal Thunder over the last few weeks. He’s a really friendly guy on Twitter, always willing to have @mention conversations, and I decided I needed to get into his books.

His Jenny Pox trilogy was a bit intimidating at first (because I have so much on my plate right now), so I decided to start with a series that was just starting. I picked up Fairy Metal Thunder and it was awesome. I did a video review for this one. Hope you like it!

Book: Vs. Reality

Book: Vs. Reality

by Blake Northcott
★★★★★

Available for 99¢ on Amazon Kindle
Vs. Reality is a quick and engaging read that will keep you pressing that [Next Page] button until there’s nothing left to read. The first volume is short, but creates an entertaining introduction to a series that promises longer future volumes. It’s an amazing debut from a first-time author, blogger Blake Northcott.
I bought Vs. Reality on the reputation that Northcott had already built up as one of my favorite bloggers and tweeters. The thing that impresses me most about her reviews is that Northcott seems to be one of the few people out there who understands that Entertainment Value is value.
So often we see fun movies, novels, and TV shows discarded because they aren’t artistic or deep enough or because they *gasp* have some kind of mass appeal. Rarely do we see anything involving super powers getting any kind of praise by the serious critics because they forget that not every movie has the same purpose as Black Swan. Northcott has never been one to shy away from praising the commercial action movies, so I knew that no matter what, Vs. Reality was going to be fun.


Vs. Reality
 tells the story of Donovan Cole, a fighter who is used to concussions and beat-downs. When a chance encounter with a mysterious girl drags Donovan into her serious drama, Cole takes a hit that triggers a glitch in reality and allows him to manifest super-human abilities based on his own self image.

Vs. Reality blends the aesthetic of a comic book movie with the mind-f#@& of a Chuck Palahniuk novel. There’s the suped-up action balanced well with gritty imagery. If there is one thing that I noticed straight from the start of Vs. Reality, it’s that Blake Northcott is amazing at writing uncomfortable imagery. At her best moments, her imagery gives you a shiver reminiscent of that nails on the chalkboard sound. At the very least it makes me think of some of the more cringe-worthy impressions from the Aeon Flux cartoons.
In the end, Vs. Reality is a lot of things. It’s an adrenaline rush. It’s a commentary on addiction. It’s the source material for a future summer Blockbuster.
Spend that 99¢ and get yourself a Kindle copy of Vs. Reality. Don’t have a Kindle? Read it on your iPhone, Mac, PC, Blackberry, etc… (see how).The 2nd Volume comes out in October, 2011

Notes:
  • Since writing this post, Blake Northcott got a book deal and had to delay Relapse. Its date is now unknown.
  • The dialogue may seem odd at first, but if you put it in the frame of reference of a comic book, it’s perfect.
Book: Soul Quest

Book: Soul Quest

by Amy Jones
★★★☆☆

Available for 99¢ on Amazon Kindle



Soul Quest starts off in need of a tough editor, but rounds off to a formidable first publication. Structure problems early on do not stop Amy Jones’ story from being suspenseful and touching.

I read Soul Quest on my Kindle for a humble 99¢. When I posted my review on Goodreads, Amy Jones contacted me to thank me for my review. She is a smart, gracious, level-headed woman who can appreciate constructive criticism. I highly recommend Soul Quest because– while the first acts of the book are a bit shaky– it pulls together to be what promises to be an engaging trilogy. Plus, you can’t really go wrong for less than a dollar.

Soul Quest is one of those books that has a really excellent premise but could have stood to be edited a few more times. I feel like the indie writing community has been really supportive of Amy Jones, but perhaps because of the glowing support, she hasn’t had anyone be honest with her. George Lucas realized after it was too late that he had spent too much money making The Phantom Menace a terrible fuster-cluck of a story. Nobody told him they had doubts because he was freakin’ George Lucas, but the Star Wars book series shows that it could have been saved. Lucas has good ideas, as proven by the original trilogy.

Luckily with books, until they are published or the release date is announced, it’s never too late to fix some major problems. Hopefully, as Soul Quest is the start of a trilogy, Amy Jones can learn from some of the problems with the first book. Soul Quest may have suffered from a lack of a tough editor, but it is in no way irredeemable. I enjoyed the book overall. Everyone needs feedback and editing, even if they don’t have a major publishing house behind them. Amy Jones just needs to find a tough friend to help her hone her ideas.

The premise, that demons (we’ll call them demons for those who haven’t read it) would orchestrate a world event on the scale of 9/11 to start a war and feed off of the suffering of humanity is brilliant. I’m still not sure if it’s too soon to use 9/11, but that was a bold risk and I can’t say I was determinately against it.

The real problem is with the structure. Jones jumps between multiple narrators and relies too much on telling us her backstory rather than showing it. We meet Liv at the start of the book and then jump back in time to just before her birth. This is a smart choice, but one that sets up a missed opportunity.

As we go through the years bringing us back to present, Liv could have been used as an outsider. Characters who were insiders could have taught Liv all of the backstory we needed to know as readers. I think Jones worried that if she didn’t explain it all early on, she’d lose her audience, but I would rather be left curious than read multiple paragraphs coldly explaining how spirits in this universe work. We get back to near-present about 20% of the way through the book (according to my Kindle progress). In the first of a trilogy, that is not too long to wait to really understand what is going on.

Because the narrator changes, I often found myself confused over who was talking. Changing first person narratives need very distinct character voices and not too many of them. A third person narration– or one that jumped simply between Liv and Beau, would have been easier to manage. She might have lost some opportunity to hear how the head of the oracles felt, but I’m not sure we needed that. Literary critics bash on female writers for talking too much about feelings and not about events. I’m a woman and I maintain that you need to understand emotional processes to understand motive sometimes. We just have to be sure that we try to show feelings rather than tell them, where we can, and that we don’t forget to be concrete about what is actually happening in a scene.

As for formatting, the Kindle version had some flaws. From my own experience, I’m going to guess that return spaces were used where section/page breaks should have been. I found quite a few blank pages between chapters in my read. I also would have liked to see some kind of formatting change between first person, past tense narrative and first person, present tense thoughts. There were a few minor homonym switches (wondering/wandering) that an editor could have caught, as well.

Jones starts off every chapter with a quote. I like it. I’ve been doing the same thing in my book series. Jones isn’t limited to famous Greeks like I am. Jones doesn’t limit herself to pretty, popular, neat inspiration quotes either. She boldly quotes Hitler at a poignant moment.

The descriptions in Soul Quest are quite beautiful. I especially like the description of Arcadia (and that she chose to call it that). Her interpretations of demonic infection, guardian angels, and soul mirrors are clever and serve the story well.

I tend to have a problem in modern fiction when everyone has names that sound like Bratz dolls. It’s my own personal taste and I try to put it aside. Real people have odd names like Brayan, but I like to see them balanced out with normal, common names. That’s probably why I was tickled pink that an oracle, a spirit, a non-human character, was named Kevin. My best friend always wanted to name a hamster Kevin because it was so normal and non-threatening. Naming him Kevin gave me a laugh. I think it’s good when you can find little spurts of joy in something as heavy as a post-9/11 spiritual drama.

As for the characters, I thought they were all very distinct and well rounded. Brayan reminds me of one of my own characters in his heart-breaking insecurity and just as Jones intended, I can’t help but like Laith. I think I liked his narration best. It was sweet, genuine, and distinct. Laith is one of the few characters who isn’t as-smart or smarter than the writer and so his simple diction was refreshing. I am a total Hermione Granger type. Laith’s thought-process was endearing without being too stereotypical slow kid.

More than half-way through you start to see the kids discovering and using their powers. It’s cool, but I feel like it would have been more exciting if we hadn’t gotten a Cerebro File-esque breakdown of their abilities much earlier in the book. Again, I feel like some reorganization and cuts could have made this book a 5-star, easily. By the time the third act was really taking off, I was eager to join the cast and shank the baddie with a light sword in the school cafeteria.

The final act really showed the true potential of this series. Jones writes grief beautifully and genuinely. She has created a cast of balanced, diverse characters and a story I care to see resolved. Soul Quest is an honorable first publication and I believe that I will be reading the next book on my Kindle to see if it gets better.

One last idea. What if this book was subtitled: Soul Quest: The Daeva You Know. Just an idea.