Book Review: Cool Kids Wear Glasses

 Mandy Harper, one of the meanest girls ever, viciously ruled the school. She decided who was in and who was out. At least until Kayla Littlebe started standing up to her.

But one day Mandy found out she might need glasses. Would she still be able to rule the school or would her new glasses help her see the error of her ways?

Lessons taught in this adventure include:
Friendship
The importance of being kind to others
Standing up for others
Not judging a book by its cover

This is a wonderful read for children of all ages.  Written for the younger readers, it has simple words and phrases they can understand without being talked down to, yet with a message that even teens and adults can appreciate and take to heart.  The examples given to highlight the lessons are ones I’m sure everyone has either participated in, or observed sometime during their life.

 

Getting down into the nuts and bolts:

World building

As this is a very sort story, there is a minimum of world building that occurs.  The illustrations carry the burden, and do a wonderful job helping to visualize where each of the encounters occurs.

Character development

Umm.. wow?  In the pacing, the sense of this being a snap shot in the lives of these children really makes it critical for the personalities to shine through.  The time covered in the story prevents any real physical development, so what is addressed is the mental and emotional development.

Having a personal experience or two, where some event drastically changed my outlook on life, I can say the changes presented in this story are not just plausible, but also realistic.  There is a tremendous amount of personal growth, and understanding by the main character.  And, even the support cast (barring a few who serve the purpose of villains here) have some growth as well.

When seen through adult eyes, the characters feel a little shallow and under developed.  However, if you can shift your thinking into how a child sees the world – every thing is new and exciting – then the characters take on a depth and complexity that make them feel as if they do exist.

Pacing

Again, being a book designed to the young readers sets the framework for this book.  It is short enough to keep their attention, yet the story is entirely told by the last page.  It only spans a couple of days, something most young minds will have no problem understanding, yet presents a sense of being a snap shot in the life of the characters.

It does not feel rushed, or like it drags as each encounter has a sparkle with a fresh, lively bounce to it.

Overall Rating

A wonderfully written 5 of 5 paws from this pukah.  Thank you Teddy O’Malley for letting me read this.

If you would like to read this for your self, or with your children, you can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

If you enjoyed this review, and wish me to review some of your own work, please stop by my offered services page and send me a submission.  I’ll be willing to discuss details with you.

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Book Review: The Lost Mage

Book Review: The Lost Mage

The Avatar of Calderia: Book Three: The Lost Mage by [Echeandia, David]

 

The Dark sorcerer, Rak`koth, invades Balleterria, bringing death and destruction to the land as he unleashes his vast Imperial armies of ruthless killers and vicious war beasts upon the brave but greatly outnumbered Alliance of human and Elfin defenders. Only they stand between him and certain doom for their peoples as he pursues his malevolent dream of bloody conquest.

Meanwhile, Killian, Ellianthia and their intrepid companions continue their long, perilous quest for the mysterious lost mage, leaving the Plains people behind and following the shining stone ever southward into the ominous black Glass Mountains. Great danger, ferocious beasts, mythical creatures and startling surprises await them as they search for what lies beyond the enigmatic “door above the clouds,” knowing that every day’s delay means that more of their countrymen will suffer and die.

Battered by the enemy’s relentless assault, the Alliance forces led by Gavan, Rillandariel and Mik`kel struggle to survive epic battles fought with deadly steel and arcane magic—and a treacherous assassin in their own ranks—desperately hoping to endure long enough for Killian to return with the only weapon that can defeat the evil wizard and save them from annihilation.

 

 

 

Starting to catch up on promised read and reviews.  This one is another MASSIVELY over due review.  To Mr. Echeandia – I humbly apologize it took so long to get around to this, I know it was promised a very long time ago.

 

Expectations

Since I’d read the second book in the series, there was a sense of what should come in this one.  David did not disappoint.  There’s lots of action, a little romance, and a several surprises along the way.

World Building

One of the hardest things to do when writing sequels is to continue to develop the world in new and interesting ways.  David had an advantage with this, because of the quest style story he was telling.  That kept pushing the boundaries beyond what was known, yet created a challenge to continue the world building with the same quality as the last installment.  Each new setting was sketched in, and carefully developed without losing the momentum the story had built.  As the conclusion approached, the new settings also created their own sense of tension – placing the characters in more challenging situations, or creating a greater threat to their survival.  Very nicely done.

Character Development

Even though this is the third installment, the characters continued to learn and grow.  Sometimes, it was through self-realizations; other times it was through learning additional skills.  There is also a nice bonus, that the characters continued to learn about each other, giving the reader a chance to discover more about the entire cast.

There were a few expected developments, which I expected earlier in the tale.  Most of these involved romantic interactions, which wound up adding a new layer of interest.  Too many times adding such interactions in causes a loss of tension for the story, so this was a nice surprise.  And there were a couple of times I downright laughed due to the results of these changes.

Pacing

Subtly handled, and very well done.  With two interwoven/interdependent story lines, David did a wonderful job keeping the overall story moving while keeping both branches of the story aligned.  In doing so, David allowed the reader to have a short break from the “Oh, no, the sky is falling on everyone” tension, which allowed me a chance to wrap my head around some of the new developments.  And, there were a few unexpected ones, which made turning the pages even more exciting.  (No, I will not go into detail, as that leads to spoiler territory.)

Overall rating?  A well deserved 5 of 5 paws from this pukah.  Even though there are a few overused character types, they fit the story very well.  (I’d wondered about one of the final introductions, and David’s answer to that question actually made me laugh a bit.)  As I haven’t read the first book to the series yet, I’m looking forward to adding it to my collection and reading everything in chronological order!

 

If you’d like to pick up a copy of The Lost Mage you can find it on Amazon Here.  This is part of a series, so while it is enjoyable on it’s own, there are some references that require previous books to understand.  You can find Awakenings, the first book in the Avatar of Calderia Trilogy on Amazon Here, and The Shining Stone, the second book of the Avatar of Calderia Trilogy Here.

 

Arts Reborn (Book 2) Blood of the Water

Arts Reborn (Book 2) Blood of the Water

Fire returned in a blaze of war and destruction.
What will Water bring to the one who finds her?

A slave dreams of freedom for all.
An aristocratic soldier yearns for power.
A sculptress covets revenge.
But the painter she loves urges her to use her Talent for peace.

When those aims collide, new friends join in the desperate race through foreign lands and ancient ruins to uncover knowledge of the mysterious Damoz. What do they want? Can they be stopped?

Blood of the Water (Arts Reborn: Book II) continues the journey of Simon, Elysia and Persei that began in Brush With Darkness.

The ARTS REBORN series follows the return of opposing forces of artistic creation and elemental destruction to the Republic of Pazh, a world where echoes of ancient Greece and Rome mix with the fantastical.

 

Expectations

This was a re-read, so I knew what I was getting into.  Since I knew I’d enjoyed it the first time through, I really was looking forward to discovering some extra depth, and hidden layers to the story this time around.

World Building

Even though this is a second installment to the story, Mr. Maltman takes us to new places, through new cultures, and an entirely new political structure.  The cast remains the same, so there’s no need to completely rebuild the magic system in the installment, just refine it and add some depth to what he’s already developed.

Once again, this has a very immersive experience with the new surroundings given a quick sketch, then developed layer by layer as the story plays out.  Blood of the Water has quite a bit of interesting, and unexpected developments in the world, which provide a lighter tone to the overall feel of the story.

Character Development

There are a few new characters introduced in this installment, enlarging the main cast from two to four.  The newcomers are as carefully developed as the familiar faces without sacrificing additional development and growth for the original cast.  The nice thing is that everyone learns from each other, along with the experiences they have along the way giving the overall development a chance to keep pace with what’s going on around them.

They both continue to grow and develop as people, with all that entails.  The many, many wrong choices that are countered by just a few simple great choices.  Elysia burns for revenge, and while Simon does not stop her, he also does he best to keep that desire from consuming her.  Along the way, new friends are encountered, all of whom have their own facet of the Talent to create.  What these people will do with their talent is still up in the air, but the potential for what the Talent CAN do is explored in more depth as this book winds to an unexpected ending.

One minor quibble, similar to what I had with Brush with Darkness is that there is a slight jar when the last female lead is introduced.  Yes, she’s a natural (as are the others), yet she appears in the story without training and able keep up with those who have had such training.  It’s not enough to break the flow of the story, but is enough to cause me to quirk and eyebrow and wonder “How?” and “Why her?”

Pacing

The pacing in this installment was spot on.  Nothing felt rushed, and nothing felt like it lagged.  There was a natural ebb and flow to the action, each piece carefully woven through the rest so that the immersion in the story was seamless.  (Barring the above mentioned developmental quibble.)

Overall Rating

I give this a very enthusiastic 5 of 5 paws from the pukah!  Enjoyable, expansive, and only a few tendrils left loose for the reader to be curious about what comes next.  Looking forward to the next installment!

 

If you enjoyed the review and wish to pick up a copy of Blood of the Water you can find it in your Amazon store Here.

 

If you would like for me to review your work, please go here to contact with me in order to make arrangements.  Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Book Review:  Arts Reborn (Book 1) Brush With Darkness

Book Review: Arts Reborn (Book 1) Brush With Darkness

It started with a simple dream for Simon: join the legions, escape a life of mediocrity, and bring respect to the family name. A border incursion by restive Scentari barbarians looked like that opportunity for an artist turned soldier to transcend his roots, and fight for the glory of the Pazian Republic. Or so it seemed.

The return of dark magic, thought to be the stuff of myth and legend, turns a simple mission into a brutal slaughter, and Simon must warn the Senate of the unimaginable defeat. But a mysterious sculptress shows him that his buried creativity may be their only hope against an ancient foe that poses the greatest threat the Republic has ever seen.

Simon must explore this Talent while navigating a treacherous maelstrom of political intrigue and shifting allegiances, torn between ambition and curiosity, duty and love.

The ARTS REBORN series follows the story of the lives touched by the return of opposing magical forces of artistic creation and elemental destruction to the Republic of Pazh, a historically-inspired world where hints of ancient Rome, Greece and the Mediterranean mix with the fantastical.

Brush With Darkness is Book I of Arts Reborn, but stands alone as a story, with additional arcs that continue on in the series.

 

 Expectations

This was a re-read for me, so the review will be a blend of the original review and the current read through.

I came to enjoy Maltman’s work when I first read it, and so I knew I’d enjoy it on the second read through.  I expected to see some extra layers in the plot, since I’d already read it once and picked up the story’s surface.  In this I wasn’t disappointed – I suspect that on other readings I will discover a few more layers hidden beneath what I’ve already discovered.  Mr. Maltman does an wonderful job in building very complex plots.

World Building

As this is the first actual book of the series, there is a lot of world building that takes place.  Not only does Maltman need to develop the time-sense (Roman Republic), but also the culture and political arenas, as well.  Each layer is given a quick sketch as it is introduced, then at need it is developed further and refined allowing a completely immersive reading experience.

There are large battles, small skirmishes, webs of political intrigues, as well as the personal understanding of the characters woven together to bring the world for the Arts Reborn series into focus.  A few points are left shadowed, much like the real world.  And like the real world, these shadowed places have a greater impact on the rest than expected.  I’ve enjoyed being able to return and look upon the rich tapestry once again while getting lost in Maltman’s world.

Character Development

Each of the main characters is definitely their own well-developed person.  A few may seem a tad shallow, but that is the same as in life.  The secondary cast, most have just a bit part in the story, though major influences along the way, are also developed, though there remains enough left to the imagination they don’t always quite feel realistic.

For the main cast, watching the two grow from uncertain adolescents into semi-certain quasi-adults is a joy, and one I’d hope to emulate in my own work.  Both continue to show vulnerabilities, insecurities, and uncertainties through the end of this installment, yet both started as regular people who had even more along with the lack of self confidence being out in the world provides.  Both are tested, and through their decisions learn what they can, or cannot, do though they do not discover their limits in this installment.  (With a multi-book series, I’d hope they don’t!)

Pacing

The overall pacing in the book is well done.  It sets up an organic ebb and flow that fits with the events that are occurring most of the time.  The only real quibble I have is about midway through the book when the characters are training – I’ve been around artists, and I know just how many grueling hours they put in to practice their skills.  Being able to master even just a portion in two weeks – that doesn’t quite work for me, even though this is fantasy and the training is with someone who’s a natural.  It just feels a bit rushed.

Overall Rating

I will always freely admit when I’m an addict to a particular author, and that it influences my ratings.  In this case, I’m fully addicted to the Arts Reborn, and so give it a whole hearted 5 of 5 paws.  Battles, magic, love, and a touch of redemption all make this book well worth reading.

 

If you enjoyed the review, you can find a copy on your Amazon store Here.

 

If you would like for me to review your work, please go here to contact with me in order to make arrangements.  Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Book Review: Brane Child

Brane Child: A Science Fiction Counter-Fantasy (Adventures of the Brane Child Book 1) by [Morrese, D.L.]

The Brane Skip device may provide a way for humanity to overcome the light-speed barrier and finally head for the stars. It seems like magic to Lisa Chang, the young engineer in command the first crewed test flight, and Lisa doesn’t believe in magic. But she does believe in the mission. Humanity must explore space in order to survive and prosper, and she feels honored to be among the first to go where no one has gone before. She does not know what will happen when the Brane Skip engages. She thinks it will do nothing. She fears it will explode. She does not expect it will cast them adrift in space and on a collision course with a fantasy version of Earth, complete with dragons, orcs, and wizards.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens.

This is a massively over due review, and I’d like to take the chance now to extend my deepest regrets to D. L. Morreese for taking so long.

World Building

  • I’m going to start with the fact that this was a hilarious blend of the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Role Play genres.  Starting out, you’re in hard science, and the world develops along expected lines – research, experiments, scientists and other such.  Within a few chapters, however, you find yourself shifting gears as you enter a medieval world with it’s own rules.  That’s where the role play games come in – a little more scientific than true fantasy, but definitely not actual history.The setting for both the science world and the fantasy world are built up layer by layer, making it fun to explore each of them further and further as the story unfolds.

Character Development

  • As carefully as the settings are built up, the characters follow the same idea.  Each one is introduced, a little history is provided for them, so the reader can keep track of who’s who in the story, then the real development work begins.  Each has a nice depth to them, and their own unique view point that gets a chance to shine through to highlight different pieces of the tale.  The only one I found myself a little confused with, starting out, was the Doctor.  I though he was a psychiatrist, not a medical doctor at first.  Was a bit of a shock when that clarified, but added to the overall value to the tale.

Pacing

  • Morrese  handles the steady build up of tension throughout the story very well.  A few small “pops” here and there to highlight important pieces, or to add humor value to the setting, which made the overall story more memorable and enjoyable.When I finished, I knew I’d had a satisfied read.  In fact, I started this one late, and really didn’t want to put it down when I realized just HOW late it was – I had that much fun with it.

Overall score?  5 out of 5 paws from this pukah.  I’ll need to give it a bit, for the story to settle, but I know I’m looking forward to coming back to it and reading it again.  Something tells me there are a few more layers under the surface that I didn’t find this time.

If you want to pick up your own copy of Brane Child, you can find a copy of it on Amazon Here.