Sunday, June 26, 2016

Haven Awakening by Gryffyn Phoenix

Haven Awakening
by Gryffyn Phoenix
Publication Date: July 11th 2014
Publisher: Avalerion Books, Inc.
Source: Author
Find This Book: Haven Awakening
Rating: 5/5

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This novel was set at the perfect pace with a character I could understand and relate to, on top of being told in a great writing style. The plot is about Verity/Very/Lucky Flower who was blinded in an accident at the age of 12. At the age of 16 her parents sign her up for an eye transplant where she doesn’t get normal eyes. Verity acquires magical eyes that see through all of the different dimensions. She can see the paranormal oogey bogeys and the creatures that go bump in the night. Naturally this freaks her out and a girl named Cass (who I thought was really cool at her first impression but slowly devolved into a terrible person) takes Verity to Haven to train her in how to use her eyes. The teens at Haven are all magical/paranormal in some way and use their abilities to fight evil creatures and maintain balance in the world. The only problem is that they need Verity’s eyes to see the monsters. So not only does Verity need to learn how to use her eyes, she needs to learn the lore to identify these creatures, and she needs to survive the fight in order to keep seeing for Haven. However, in these fights Haven’s enemy, a group named Shade, was doing the majority of the Verity-saving. Pretty unsettling if you ask me that this supposedly evil group is doing more of the honorable protecting than her ‘friends’. This kindles a romance between Verity and Haydn, a member of the Shade who wants her to change sides and live at Helm instead of Haven.

I was glued to the pages of this book while reading it. I was so involved that I almost forgot to give my dog is lunch! I can’t remember the last time I’ve read a book in less than 12 hours. Normally I take at least two days because I have to put the book down and do other things. This was not the case with Haven Awakening. Over the course of several months, Verity befriends some of the citizens of Haven which was really cool to read about. So many mythological creatures appeared throughout the book and had such great interactions with Very, it was such an enjoyable read. I was reading about elementals, wraiths, afrits, unicorns, dwarves, nephilim, elves, spiritual energy in trees and rocks, wiccans, the whole shebang and it was awesome. It sort of felt like a mix between Percy Jackson, and The Companions Quartet by Julia Golding (though I never finished the quartet). Both are also great on the mythical creatures’ front and these are my favorite kind of stories. I even learned about some new creatures such as Zoroastrians which seems to be a sort of rock entity, and a Tsiatko which is a sick Native American spirit. Drawing from different cultures only improved the book in my eyes. Diversity and the American melting pot is something too many people are trying to erase and forget about these days.

On top of the magical creatures there’s lessons about friendship, family, trust and betrayal sprinkled in for good measure. Good stuff, good stuff. While the book started off a bit clich├ęd, right on page one was cringe-worthy, just past that was were the good stuff starts and it never stopped. While debating between staying in Haven or switching to Helm’s side, Verity’s friends in Haven were with her the whole way. Even when faced with leaving them, her friends supported her. I was SOOO happy I didn’t have to read a scene about Verity leaving and all of her friends now becoming her enemies just because they were on different ‘sides’. It was also nice to read about our hero returning to their family and trying to make both lives work instead of disappearing and never contacting their family again. That was refreshing. Haven Awakening was perfectly blended and balanced between all of the different themes, romance and action, and the author’s writing style was unique and gratifying. I’ve got Book 2, Helm’s Abomination lined up to read next!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Reciprocal (Infinity #1) by Heather Couch

Reciprocal (Infinity #1)
by Heather Couch
Publication Date: Jan 3rd 2015
Publisher: Dream Big Publishing
Source: Author
Find This Book: Reciprocal
Rating: 2/5

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve got to be honest, this novel still needs a lot of work and was not ready to be published. However, I do not believe this is entirely the author’s fault. The foundation plot is intriguing, and simple tweaks could have easily made this a 3 or 4 star book. For this foundational plot the book gets 2 stars because this really could have been great. This book clearly was just not meant to be published yet. One key reason? As Heather told me herself, there was obviously no read through or editing done by the publishing company. I started off reading with the notes section of my phone on to record spelling errors or grammatical mistakes, eventually the task became too large and tedious for me to continue because there were multiple on every page. There were even instances where the character’s names were spelled wrong or the wrong character was mentioned. An editing service could have easily fixed these issues and considering Heather is now on her third re-write, I hope this problem has been fixed.

Another issue I had was how rushed the book felt. Events that could have been pages, even chapters, were done away with in mere sentences. This tell instead of show writing style was off putting and made the story and characters distant from the reader, additionally this just made the book seem awkward. 30 pages into the novel and I had been in and out of the town of Mobile, had a race of aliens thrust upon me (which wasn’t explained the entire book), the main character (or at least I think she was the main character) was kidnapped, and the main character’s pseudo-boyfriend was behind the kidnapping and was actually evil, and there are about 20 different teenage characters and I haven’t gotten a chance to know any of them yet. I don’t even think I could give a single character’s same after the first 30 pages. Overwhelming to say the least. By page 169 I could name names, but I didn’t know the characters well, and I definitely didn’t care about any of them. The writing was underdeveloped and stiff. By elaborating and creating more detail these flaws could be easily fixed. Establish things that the characters know, such as Castra, Infinity, Tutus, Pestis, or even characters, before they become to crucial to the plot, even while they’re crucial to the plot is tolerable, but please explain them instead of inserting a word that’s never been mentioned before and never gets explained. For example, “Victoria explained the old customs of soul mates sharing hearts,” ok… I guess that helps the character? But as the author you did not actual explain anything and I am still just as confused as before this sentence. This literally tell me nothing about sharing hearts aside from it being a ‘old custom’ (p158). Earlier on, someone was giving a speech and instead of just writing a quote and giving me some hearty writing I just got a single sentence saying “they were the same commands every dictator gave before trying to take over the world” that’s nice, so you’re not going to actually tell me what he said? And then this huge battle happens in literally 2 sentences. TWO SENTENCES. I am writing more details to explain this than in the book! Along the same lines is the use of adjectives. The same one’s were used over and over in neighboring sentences. It felt like a word search where the same vowel is used multiple times in a row creating an unusable chunk of the puzzle. No English word has 5 E’s in a row. No book should use the word ‘technology’ this often. Not even a science textbook.

Reading a book should not be this mentally draining trying to piece together everything because the author left so much out. There is just so much I’m still confused about. Why has the federal government not interfered? Aliens literally crashed unto the earth. Why is the federal or even state government not involved? How did aliens seriously go unnoticed? Why did aliens crash all over the U.S. over years at a time? Some many ships not travelling together just happen to crash on the same planet? The government is entirely incompetent and these teenagers have a ridiculous amount of sway. They haven’t even graduated high school. They’ve never even left this town before. How are they more effective then people trained to be in political seats pf power? How can Stephen’s dad, who’s been dead for an undetermined amount of time, have waited 17 years for peace with the humans when about the only thing that has been established is that they crashed on Earth 10 years ago? This is less crucial, but Alicia’s mom is totally alive, so why doesn’t she wear her engagement ring? You’re supposed to wear that right next to the wedding band. Why is is just in a box? Why is she not upset with the fact that her daughter literally stole this expensive piece of jewelry that is a symbol of her parent’s marriage. Why did her mom’s engagement ring just become Alicia’s? An easy fix would just to make it the grandmother’s old ring.

This book could have easily been twice as long, or split into two different books and I would have been much happier. The Chitimacha tribe is never mentioned the second half of the book, but they were made out to be the main bad guys for the first 100 or so pages. I still don’t entirely understand that organization or where they just disappeared to or why a group of teenagers on the battlefield changes anything at all, but that whole plot could have been expanded upon and made into it’s own arc. The second half of the book villainizes Michelle for seemingly no reason whatsoever and has Stephen’s uncle be the real secret bad guy. Again, this could have been its own separate arc. Too much is squished into this one novel.

Another flaw was how the plot moves un-linearly but does not indicate any change. It flows one paragraph to the next leaving me confused and grasping at straws trying to put together what just happened. Similarly, it switches POV’s with no indication whatsoever. What would have been best would be to switch between Alicia and Stephen’s POV and theirs only, maybe a different POV per chapter. Then start the book off with the aliens crashing to earth and the two of them meeting. Establish the aliens, their markings, their special abilities, their inability to be in the sun, and their segregation right off the bat instead of randomly bringing up facts after I though I already somewhatedly knew the situation yet never once got a description of what these aliens look like throughout the entire book.

I know it seems like I’m totally bashing this novel, but the basic plot is genuinely cool and interesting. This had so much potential. If the grammatical errors were fixed, the expanding upon of details and information happened, as well as the rearrangement of the non-linear scenes in a way that made sense, this book could easily jump up to 3 stars. Having less characters but developing and creating three dimensional characters with the one’s left over could easily have added on another star. I will be reading Constant (book 2) next and will give you guys an update about the writing.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ignite (Defy #2) by Sara B. Larson

Ignite (Defy #2)
by Sara B. Larson
Publication Date: December 30th 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Bought
Find This Book: Ignite
Rating: 4/5

As you may know, I was given an ARC of Defy back in 2013. You can read the review here if you’re interested: Defy Review
So I decided to follow up on the series and read book two!

This book was nowhere near as awesome as Defy was, but it was still good. I know I had lots of questions after I finished reading Defy, and I don’t think any of them were answered in book two. I’m still not sure if you’re born a sorcerer or learn how to be one, or how one becomes a certain type, and apparently I also don’t know how one can have powers and NOT be a sorcerer. Additionally, I felt like the characters had become more flat, less three-dimensional from last time. I remember being stunned with Defy, there was a badass swordswoman, there were different types of relationships expressed, they lived in a tropical jungle AND there was magic. But we’re two thirds of the way done with the series and I still don’t see or understand the politics/relationships/cultures of the three different kingdoms. World building is crucial to any book, but this particular series is ABOUT the 3 kingdoms and war. Their world building seems crucial to the plot and is pretty nonexistent.

The plot of this book is that now Damian is king, there needs to be delegations from the surrounding allied countries just to reestablish connections with the new ruler. People from Dansii and Bvelon both show up, oddly around the same time, and it turns out the Bvelon soldiers are under a sorcerer’s control to attack the king. An attempt on the king’s life would be bad enough, but he’s the newly established monarch so his country is already unstable, and the Bvelonese were the people they literally just stopped fighting a war with in book 1. Basically, something’s fishy. Additionally, the Dansii couldn’t just send a normal delegation, they had to send a young pretty woman to seduce Damian, and to the torment of Alexa, she is successful in controlling the king. More complicated relationship stuff happens between Alexa, Rylan and Damian which eventually resolves itself to the conclusion of book 1. Alexa is still a badass swordswoman, but now she gets disrespected by the guards and the commoners which literally makes no sense because the guard knew her and was friends with her and respected her before she revealed her true gender. Being a girl doesn’t suddenly change the fact that she can kick all of their butts because she’s the best swordsman in the kingdom. So that was annoying but expected I suppose.

I also liked how Alexa’s relationship with Damian’s little brother was expanded upon. Their sibling bond is really cute and a great contrast to her complicated relationships with Damian and Rylan. The little brother looks up to Alexa and she helps him train and they platonically love each other and trust each other. When he is in danger, his life is put above all else. Not because he is heir to the throne, but because she cares for him. I will probably get around to reading book 3. Hopefully I will finally get some answers to all of my questions as well as a conclusion with some closure!