Brother, Frankenstein by Michael Bunker

25451480Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a killer robot? Maybe you were curious about what goes through the mind of those who are considered “mentally handicapped” by the elitist society around us? What if you could experience both in the same package. Michael Bunker delivers a thrilling story of one autistic Amish boy stuck in the body of a killer robot. Talk about a culture clash!

The Good:
Bunker‘s writing style, once again, comes to the forefront. It makes you feel like an outsider looking in on the lives of a troubled doctor and his pet robot. This is not to say that the story in unengaging or the characters hard to relate with. On the contrary, the reader will feel conflicted as if this book is the type to be enjoyed on the back porch swing with a cup of tea but as equally practical in the low-light of a bus terminal at rush hour. You can relax with this book but can never put it down, even with the world screaming at you.

Bunker shows that research is important. He is so well-versed in the Amish culture that you feel like you’re there. His knowledge also shines in the mind of an autistic boy. It’s almost as if Bunker was autistic in his former life, providing an intense attention to detail with the inner-workings of a troubled mind. Believable is putting it mildly. The author provides just enough detail to get you invested, and just enough emotion to keep you there. The characters are believable, relatable, and cared for (even if one of them is a Amish autistic child stuck in a robot body).

The Bad:
Though not every book needs to have a long, sprawling plot, some could benefit from more. Brother, Frankenstein is one such book. It is by no means plotless, and what is there is engaging, but it feel like the story is just getting started as it ends. This shows Bunkers focus on characters and plot (which are essential), but it couldn’t hurt from a bit more plot intricacy. There was nothing here that surprised me.

Conclusion:
Bunker provides a pleasant journey through the a troubled mind. Every character is well developed and gives the reader a reason to cheer them on (or hate them). The setting is wonderfully laid out and the premise is unique, but nothing in the plot really stands out. If you are looking for a lighter read that sucks you in with its small-town feel while maintaining the elements of sci-fi that we all love, this book is right for you.

Where to buy it:
Amazon (COM) (CA)

Eleanor by Jason Gurley

Rating: 
Mature-content Rating: PG (coarse language, mature themes)

A tragic tale of one girl, one mother, one father–one family–who loses everything: their sister, daughter, and the only thread holding life together. Eleanor desperately tries to keep her family from falling apart while dealing with her own grief in short snippets. Her world slowly drowns, waves of time passing, taking her sister further out to sea… but not forgotten. Eleanor is lost and time is out of her hands until she learns that time is a river, it flows in a circle, and she knows how to swim.

The Good:

First, it should be noted that anyone with a heart greater than a lump of coal might cry during the beginning of this book. Jason Gurley sets up Eleanor with her sister, mother, father, as this wonderfully happy family. It is such a delight to read their interactions and see the two little girls bantering back and forth like siblings will. The characterization is beautifully executed so that the reader smiles at the cute little girls, feels the nagging pain of a mother’s headache, and the longing of a father who is away from home. Why, then, would non-coal-lump-hearts cry? Because this is just the beginning. The book synopsis leaves no room for questions. Eleanor’s sister dies.

The set-up really makes the reader care about Eleanor as a character and able to feel and relate with her. The book is extremely depressing as any book should be about a girl who’s world is slowly falling apart. Gurley pumps emotions into the scenes so tangibly that they almost jump off the page and drag your heart into Eleanor’s world.

This book, however, has much more to offer than depression (thank goodness). Gurley shifts point of view adding much suspense to each encounter and heightening the emotional impact. This also gives the pacing a unique flavour as some of the POVs are in this strange “other” world that Eleanor finds herself slipping into. What is happening, where is this strange world, and who is in control?

This mysterious “other world” feeling lasts right up to the very end. There is little explanation until everything comes to a head in the final pages. Some things are still not fully explained, but this just adds to the fantastical nature of the tale. Does everything have to be understood perfectly in a fantasy world?

The Bad:

There is not much bad to say about this book. The only complaint I had was with a single scene that takes place far in the future of most of the book adding some pacing issues. Because of the amount of time that was skipped over, certain elements had to be explained using tell instead of show. Because of the emotionally wrenching potential that this skipped over scene could have had, I felt a little bit cheated as a reader (especially because Gurley is so good at pulling my heart out and slapping it around the page until it has nothing left to feel). This one scene, however, is short lived and does not detract greatly from the book over-all.

Conclusion:

I don’t suppose there is any better way of putting it: buy this book! I remember a number of times while reading where I had to stop, wipe an eye, shake it off, and verbally declare, “Jason Gurley, you are a god.” If you like an emotionally packed tale filled with mystery, suspense, drama, and fantasy this book is for you. If you don’t… then your heart must be a giant lump of coal.

Where you can find it:

Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)

The Man Who Ended The World by Jason Gurley

All he wanted was to be alone…

The Rating: 
Mature-content Rating: PG-13

Dystopian fiction is exploding in today’s culture. Everywhere you turn, there is some new end-of-the-world piece of media, ready to be consumed. What would happen if it came true? What would you do if the world ended, and you were one the survivors? More importantly, what would you do if you knew the man who was going to end the world?

The Good:

The Man Who Ended The World is the first thing I have ever read by Jason Gurley, and I must say, that it was a treat. The story is told from two different perspective — the man who ended the world and a young boy who finds out about him. These two select POVs add flavourful suspense as two lives work toward each other. The POV split between this little boy and the man adds different layers to the sociological reveals as they mirror each other wonderfully with the book’s progression. As the plot progresses, the chapter endings and POV switches are particularly punctuating, adding suspense by leaving the reader hanging, but informing about what is to come.

The book opens with a young boy tailing the man who will end the world. This early reveal of him is a great suspense builder as well. It keeps the reader guessing what will happen next, already knowing where the story will end up, but not how it gets there. Watching the man progress from a lonely bachelor, who just wants solitude, to a crazy psychopath killer is a wonderful psychological trip. His character is wonderfully developed, and the progression is believably sadistic.

A number of times, the story jumps backward in a “memory” scene. This adds incredible flavour to the character(s) while keeping the pacing up and functioning as a world building mechanism.

When the “computer” becomes a character, you know that the book is going to be a classic science fiction treat. Witnessing the human-AI interaction is a wonderful comedic treat, adding humour to this dire-straights end-of-the-world plot.

Conclusion:

From beginning to end, the book is wonderful. Jason Gurley has a handle on character and plot development that leaves many other books swimming in a post apocalyptic wasteland while Gurley hides out, safely underground, imagining worlds and breathing life back into the death above. If you like well-rounded characters, science fiction, comedy, and dystopian art with a touch of psychological thrills, this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)

The Scream of Angels by David Haynes

The Scream of Angels and people alike bleed through the pages

The Rating:
Mature Content Rating: R (Disturbing imagery)

In a time before entertainment was about sex, giant explosions, and cocky superheroes. In a time when the fantastic was pushed aside in favour of brutal realism on the stage. In a time when our inner monsters portray themselves for all to see. In this time we find David Haynes, a mentally disturbed writer trying to bleed the murderous thoughts from his mind onto pages in the dark recesses of his lonely room. Oops, I meant Robert Bishop. Did I say David Haynes was in this story? Silly me.

The Good:

In a word (or perhaps phrase): if you liked the Macabre Collection you will love this book. If you have never heard of it, you should go read it right now. The Scream of Angels carries on the Victorian horror style of writing that Haynes has become known for. Mix this with a mystery killer and you have a book that will not cease to amaze.

Who doesn’t love the mentally disturbed? Okay, so maybe you don’t want to be one, but staying at the safe distance of holding a book about one in your hand is quite a pleasant ride. No more “I’m just a normal dude trying to save the world” or some such silliness. Robert Bishop writes down the darkest images his mind can conjure, in hopes to escape the murderous tendencies that follow him by day and torture him by night. The colourful and rich words used in scene description are magnificently mood setting. The mental state of our protagonist enhances that dark tone even further, letting it bleed through the pages and into the minds of the reader.

How did Robert Bishop get to be the way he is? Where do these demons come from that torture him from within, threatening to pour out in acts of murder and mutilation? David Haynes leaves no room for speculation, taking the reader back to Bishop’s childhood, back to his nightly terrors, back to a mental doctor’s office. The back-story (flashbacks) progress with the main story, adding flavour along the way, starting with hints before growing to full reveals. This gives the reader a glimpse into David Haynes’ mind – seeing the work of art was once derived of a tiny seed of dread, sprouting, twisting, and coming into existence as a gnarled tree: The Scream of Angels. Haynes doesn’t just share the facts of Bishop’s past, but feeds the reader with the story itself, diving right in as if re-entering the memories of Bishop. This is a beautiful reversal of the tell vs. show issues that plague many books, showing the flashbacks to be so complete and whole that the reader believes them to be as equally important as the main story they parallel.

The reader not only gets to see this world through the eyes of Robert Bishop, for there is a killer running loose. This killer is not left on the sidelines, but is brought to the front through POV changes. The realism and horror behind the killings reaches a whole new level when the reader sees the acts being performed, or feels the dread of the aftermath through the eyes of the murderer.

The Bad:

You know that a book is good when you have a hard time coming up with something bad to say. This does not happen to me often (I know. Call me cynical), but when it does I am blown away. In a nutshell, the only bad about this book is that I wanted more of it: more of those things that made it good. I would have liked to see more scenes from the antagonists perspective. There was just enough salting the pages to add flavour, but more character development with the killer would have added to our hatred of him. His character wasn’t as well rounded or revealed as it could have been through more attention to what was going on in his mind. This addition has potential to add more shock value to the final reveal, as the reader thinks they know the murderer in and out.

The flashback model that Haynes implements is brilliant and flavourful… mostly. At the beginning it is great, but as the story progresses, I found that there was seemingly less care given to these flash back scenes. They held less meat, and almost slipped into why-is-this-scene-here territory. Again, more character development or attention given to Dr. Cunningham (Bishop’s childhood mental doctor) would have built up these scenes to their pleasant meaty potential.

At the beginning of the book, there is much attention given to Bishop’s personal demons. As the story progresses, however, they take a back seat. I wanted more of Bishop facing his inner demons. If his mind is truly tortured, let the reader experience that torture in all the realism that Bishop himself feels. Haynes shows the potential to write such disturbingly realistic scenes, and I would have loved to see these inner demons taking more of an antagonistic focus throughout.

Conclusion:

This is yet another great work of Victorian horror. It will take you back to a time of realistic and gruesome entertainment. No giant explosions or special effects here, just personal demons and murderers, tortured by their own minds. The only bad thing I can say about this book is that I wanted more of it. Haynes gives us a holistic look at Robert Bishop (the protagonist), taking the reader back to his childhood for a wonderfully implemented flashback effect. The imagery is so real and thoroughly described that you will be transported right into the acts of brutal entertainment that Haynes depicts. If you like rich description, believable story telling, and don’t mind getting your hands a little bloody, this book is right for you.

Where you can find it:

Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)
Kobo

Wool (Omnibus) by Hugh Howey

A DRM-free dystopian tale of the dangers without, and the people within… the Silo.

The Rating: 
Mature-content Rating: PG-13 (for mind to moderate swearing)

It’s the end of the world as we know it, but what is it that we know?  How much of the world around us is reality and how much of it is mixed in with the poison fed from up top?  The world “outside” is a dangerous place and the only remnant left of humanity has holed themselves up in an old silo all working toward a common goal: survival.  Growing food, running water… but it takes more than food and water to survive.  It takes hierarchy, rule, order, and a will to follow those rules at all costs… even if it might kill you.

When I started reading this I had a small idea of what to expect when it comes to writing style.  Previously I read   bu Hugh Howey, to give me a taste of the writing style.  This did not disappoint, thus prodding me to read the “big one” that everyone is talking about: Wool.  With the recent release of Dust (part 3 of the Wool series), I may be a little late to the game, but better late than never.  If you haven’t yet heard it from anyone else, you have now heard it from me.  “Go and buy this book!”

The Good:

Right from page one, the reader is sucked into this unknown world where the residents of Silo 18 are trying to survive inside a  (you guessed it) giant silo.  With each plodding step up a never-(well… eventually)-ending staircase, you can feel the atmosphere, smell the life, taste the… metal staircase… okay, so maybe my words ran ahead of my brain there, but that is not the case for Hugh Howey.  I was not as blown away by the beauty of the prose as I have been before, but Howey brings a special magic of his own that makes you lose yourself in the pages of this story.

The story opens with Holston, a man mourning (in his own way) over the loss of his wife.  By the end of part 1, the reader has learned so much about Holston, and what makes this man tick.  The internal monologue in this book is great, and it bleeds into the writing throughout making the whole story (not just the parts in those nice little italics that tell the world “this guy is thinking now!”) sound like it coming from the protagonist’s perspective.  The imagery is magnificent, and it changes with the POV. A mechanic compares a loner to an odd-sized washer that doesn’t fit any standard bolt.  Hugh Howey puts his mechanic hat on and thinks, “how would a mechanic describe this scene, this person, etc.” and then when the POV is from the perspective of a depressed sheriff or an old mayor, Howey takes off the mechanics hat and chooses either a cowboy suit with a star or an overly white wig (where appropriate of course).  Wool does not sound like it was written by Howey at all.  The characters inform the writing style/words used so much that every page turn feels fresh and vibrant with the magic of the moment.

The first three “parts” of this book are from a different character’s perspective, breathing new life into their character and Silo 18 as a whole.  The separating-one-book-into-smaller-parts model has never worked as well as it does in Wool.  The story continues on from part 1 to part 2, but it feels new and fresh through the eyes of someone else.  The silo comes alive again.

Not only are the characters so excellent that the reader feels a part of themselves being lost within the book, but the plot is astounding.  The chapters are nice bite-sized packages (allowing you to grab a “bite” in between if you so desire… or just another coffee) and as you tear through them like it really is the end of the world, and if you stop the book might disintegrate – forever lost to your longing mind – suddenly the plot twists and plot twists and your hands and left shaking.  Your mouth longs for water, stomach screams for food, eyes lack more sleep than a college student, but Wool is all you can think about.  It is all that is important.  “Just one more page.  Just one more chapter.”

The build-up throughout the parts is wonderful as a new character POV is introduced, things slow down a little, more of the culture and magic of what makes Silo 18 alive is revealed, and just when you wonder when the climax is coming, it hits you like a speeding rocket.  Things happen, plots are twisted, people might even die… but the story must go on.  Each part has a solid ending and a solid gear change into the next instalment, but the story is far from over.

Let’s pause for a second and be honest.  Sometimes a story gets slow.  Not every scene can have a shotgun wielding lunatic hiding around the corner waiting to kill you, or an impending nuclear explosion, or a car chase.  Sometimes things slow down and that can be okay, to a point.  Howey realised the benefit of the slower parts while not allowing the reader to get bogged down and begin to think, “when do we get back to that laser gun part.  That sounded pretty cool.” Whether it be a jump of POV or a jump in the timeline, Howey throws the reader around like a pinball, allowing the tension and emotion to build, even when things get slow.  The pacing is wonderful.

The Bad:

As far as “the bad,” I only have one things to say… The end of the world? Bad news guys.  That is the bad…

Okay, seriously though, there isn’t much I could pull out of this book as bad.  I hate to pick books apart (okay, that’s a lie.  I love it), and Wool really made me dig to find “the bad” to talk about.  Just like any split-into-parts-book I have read, the mode has it’s failings.  As I have stated above, I loved the way it was implemented with POV/voice changes in the first 3 parts, but that is where the magic ends.  The latter half of the book is good, but the part separation magic is lost.  The POV jumps between multiple characters like any other book out there and even the end of part 4 just feels like a “to be continued…” I way the book was written is engaging and successful, but I was sad to see the initial magic of the differentiated “parts” implementation be set by the way-side.

Conclusion:

What more is there to say.  Hugh Howey does everything right.  From the DRM-free packaging to the story, characters, and writing within, Wool smacks of excellence.  It is a riveting ride that will keep you on your toes and open your imagination to the beauty of the story, world, and characters.  If you like strong characters, wonderful prose (or books at all, really) this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Hugh Howey’s Official Website
Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)
Kobo

Kinshield’s Redemption by K. C. May

The Rating: 
Mature-content Rating: PG-13 (for profanity, sexually suggestive language, and fantasy violence.)

The Good:

A beautiful end to a beautiful series. K.C. May does it again. After being less than impressed with the conclusion of Well of the Damned, it was great to see that this book tied the series off with a nice little red bow at Christmas time. It struck me while reading this book that K.C. May does not have a lot of the things in her writing style that usually make me fall in love with a book. I am enraptured by beautiful prose that paint the scene with words as easily as a painter’s brush. I like to feel my mouth water with the roasted chicken on the spit, or feel the goosebumps as snow whips through tired boughs of trees. Beautiful feeling can be experienced through well crafted prose that does not bog the story down, but adds to the flavour of everything being experiences.

Don’t get me wrong. K.C. May does not write bad prose, but this is never what drew me into her writing. Half way through this book, while I was enjoying it so much, I stopped and scratched my head, “What is it about May’s writing that makes me not want to put the book down?” I’m sure it is a lot of things combined… the short chapters that keep things going. The jumping POVs between prominent characters that gives me a fully formed idea of what is going on in everyone’s head(s), but most importantly it is story and characters that sell this book (and the the Saga as a whole). When Gavin was telling stupid jokes about making his own bubbles in the bath I had to sigh and say, “Oh, Gavin” with the rest of the characters in the scene. Why? Because after reading four books with the man, I feel like I know him. Every character has their own mannerisms that make them distinct from each other to the point that even simple scenes with Gavin entertaining his family can be the most memorable of moments.

The plot comes together well, and even the small holes I found in it had nothing to do with the plot at all, but the character flaws of those engaged. I found myself talking to the character, saying things like, “Why are you doing that! I know a better way!” or “No, stop being a moron.” Sadly though, my words did not reach their ears, and poor choices were made, the consequences being discovered too late.

The Bad:

Conclusion:

This is not just a book, it is an adventure with well rounded characters and a plot that will enrapture you from beginning to end. Similarly (though not really at all) this is not a review, but a praise fest of Kinshield’s Redemption, the Kinshield Saga as a whole and K.C. May for capturing my imagination for more hours in a row than is healthy or sane.

Where you can find it:

Smashwords
Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)
Kobo

Bad Radio by Michael Langlois

A DRM-free dark sci-fi action adventure… with zombies?

The Rating
Mature Content Rating: R (for strong language, violence, and graphic images)

I don’t do this often, but every once in a while I count my blessing: food in my belly, a roof over my head, not being chased by worm-infested humans… Abe Griffin might be able to count these blessings, except for the last one, but I hope that you can count all three of these blessings.  If you haven’t guess already, this is yet-another-zombie-apocalypse-book… and yet not.  They are not “zombies” in the purest sense of the word and the world is only ending because some big baddy is trying to destroy it… Doesn’t that sound like the plot of almost every book out there?  Though this book has that end-of-the-world-running-from-ugly-things feel, it is not your standard must-fight-to-survive-against-the-undead-horde.  Bad Radio is a wonderfully crafted tale of loyalty and vengeance on the backdrop of a social commentary about the human condition.

 

The Good:

Michael Langlois knows how to set a mood.  Bad Radio opens with an old man waiting for life to end.  The scene progresses in a slow meaningful manner as the reader gets a taste of some back story and who this Abe Griffin character is.  Suddenly the scene changes and we are sitting on the edge of our seat within the final paragraph before the “Chapter 2” heading.  Not only does Langlois know how to set a scene, he also does a beautiful job of ending them and causing the story to progress in such a way that leaves the reader wanting more.  Most chapters end on a cliffhanger, which would be bad enough, but a lot of them (especially near the beginning) end with something crazy about to happen which was unforeseen until a few sentences before the end.  For the sake of not revealing spoilers, I will use some fictional examples that may get the point across.

Scene 1: An old man.  A wooden boat.  A fishing pole, line loosely dropping beneath the surreal water.  A nice relaxing fishing trip.  The line goes taught.  Did he catch something?  A tiny fish on the end of the line.  As he reaches out to grab his prize of the day, he is already thinking about how it would taste slowly cooked over the flames.  Suddenly a meteor lands on the tail of the boat and the man disappears beneath the water.

Scene 2: A mother. A stroller.  A beautiful baby.  A beautiful day.  Cool breeze, warm sun, bird’s chirping.  “There’s nothing better after a long day of work than a nice stroll in the park.  Wouldn’t you agree?” She leans down to kiss her child on the forehead.  Though she knows he cannot answer, sometimes she just like to talk to him.
“No, I wouldn’t agree.” the reply does not come from the lips of her child, who is yet too old to speak.  A man steps out from behind a nearby tree, and points a gun at her child, a cruel smile not disguising the intent.

The chapters are often short and end in ways that keep the reader glued to the edge of their seat to see what is coming.  Many times while reading, I had no idea what was going to happen next, and almost expected some outlandishness thing to come out from the recessed of Langlois creative mind to jump into the scene.  The problem is that his mind is not mine, so when I expected things to happen, they didn’t, and when I didn’t expect anything, the most outlandish thing happened leaving many chapter closing with these words on my lips, “What is happening in this book!”  It’s so crazy, it’s good.

As I previously mentioned, Langlois is amazing at mood-setting.  Whether it is a high-octane action scene or more slow paced, the reader feels like they are in the scene, living it not only through the eyes of the characters, but through their hearts.  The descriptions are rich, hearty, and effective.  A scene isn’t often bogged down or slowed by the description used, but instead it makes the scene come alive with vibrant flavour.

The book is split into two parts, each with their own characters and mood.  The “parts” are not distinct from each other, but employ a definite change in the mood of the story.  At the end of part one, a sub-plot is complete, but the story is far from over.  I wasn’t so sure what the point of splitting this book into parts was until I got through the second part.  The solid shift in mood between parts one and two give a new flavour to the story, and splitting it in two was a nice touch which re-guides the reader as new scenes and characters are developed.

The Bad:

The first half of the book is the strongest, by far.  Part one leads the reader on a journey of discovery about the characters and world without letting the action drop.  There are many on-the-edge-of-your-seat moments that draw the reader right in, and the descriptions are amazing.  I feel that part two fell behind on this a bit.  It is not bad, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is just not as good.  Once part two gets going, there are a lot more action sequences which are split up with seemingly meaningless chapter breaks.  The reader still gets that edge-of-your-seat feel, but for completely different reasons.  Instead of the suspense of what is going to happen next because of crazy and innovative chapter endings, the suspense is held by ending chapters in the middle of the action.  Though I still enjoyed the short chapters in the second half, I don’t feel like they were used as well as they were in part one, and often I felt like I had to keep reading just so that when I came back to it I wouldn’t be lost in the middle of a scene.  Instead of chapters ending at well-crafted commercial breaks, they seemed to come simply because they were required by the television network after x number of words.

As you can tell by the mature content rating, there is a lot of strong language and graphic images in this book.  The swearing was quite off-putting for me.  I understand that people swear, especially when they are angry, but the frequent use of the F word disturbed me.  Because of the nature of the story, there are a lot of gruesome scenes, and Langlois has no qualms about describing them in all their grotesque detail.  This didn’t bother me specifically, but I do think that maybe the gut-wrenching descriptions were a bit over done at times, and this could put a lot of people off.  Every book must find a good balance between reality and readability.  Bad Radio was leaning a little bit too hard one way.

Conclusion:

If you are not bothered by strong language and gruesome description, this book is for you.  A high-octane tale of people going to save the world from the “big baddy.”  Though this may sound over-used, Bad Radio is anything but traditional.  Be prepared for a wild ride through mood-setting descriptive scenes and a strange world with strange magic to discover.  Whether you are looking for the magic of the world, or the magic of words bringing a story to life, this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)

The Kinshield Legacy by K. C. May

The Rating: 
Mature Content Rating: PG-13 (for mild swearing, partial nudity, and suggestive sexual content)

We have all heard the story of the Sword in the Stone.  “The one who pulls the sword from the stone in the true king.”  What if Arthur didn’t want to be king?  What if a dark sorcerer did?  How about you read The Kinshield Legacy by K.C. May and find out!

A sword for a king, a destiny for a king, a pitcher of ale for a king.  Will you find this king in a palace, sitting on his throne?  Maybe you will find him out on the road, smiting evil?  Maybe you will find him picking him queen from a line of ladies?  Or, maybe you will find him in a tavern making crude jokes.  This is Gavin Kinshield, the destined king of the land.

The Good:

First of all… what is not good about this book?  Wait… I will talk about that when I get to the bad… so… not first of all… This book is a brilliant masterpiece that any and every fan of a good epic fantasy tale would be dying to read if they knew about it.  Now that you know about it, you should really go and read it.  K.C. May crafts a brilliant world in the classic swords & sorcery style but stays away from the dwarfs and elves and all that.  What stands out to me is the character development.  May uses the third-person shifting POV style magnificently, allowing the reader to get into the head of every character.  I have seen this done very poorly in the past, making the story feel disjointed and wrong, but May pulls it off well.  Just as much time in spent inside of and outside of a character’s head, letting the reader in on his or her inner secrets, desires, thoughts, and feelings, developing well rounded characters with proper motivation.  At no point does a character feel like it’s  just thrown in to progress the story.  Every character is well thought out and well crafted.  I thought at first that knowing so much about every character (good guys and the bad) would take away from the on-the-edge-of-your-seat-suspense, but it does not.  Sometimes suspense is actually built as the POV changes at a crucial moment in the story, leaving the reader hanging on a limb, itching to read more.

Not only are the character well crafted and set in a believably intriguing setting, but as the plot unfolds we learn that there is more to it than just a tavern grunt who doesn’t want to be king.  It has been a while since I have read a book where the plot grabbed me, and I applaud The Kinshield Legacy for this.  The reader truly doesn’t know all the ins and outs of the story until the very end, and even then we are left with enough questions to provide for a sequel.  Though there are many things for this would-be-king and his band of followers to accomplish, by the end of the book the plot is wrapped up well.  A secret plot thread is woven throughout the whole book until a tiny piece of it is revealed at the end giving the reader a dry-mouth-must-read-more feeling.

In places the book has a darker tone (which you can’t really help when dealing with evil sorcerers and demons and the like) which I really enjoyed.  However, The Kinshield Legacy stays light throughout, so this point should not turn off the more squeemish readers.

The Bad:

At the beginning when the POV was jumping around quite a bit, I was a little bit confused and wasn’t sure how all of the story arcs tied together.  Fairly quickly, however, we see the characters coming together into one succinct plot that drives the story.  Not much “action-wise” happens at the very beginning of the book while characters and setting are being developed.  The introduction would have potentially been aided by more draw-you-in moments.

This was “bad” for me, but other might not mind it.  I was really thrown by the author’s use of words in dialogue.  If someone had a slur, or a speech impediment, it came through in between the “quotes.”  Someone might say, “You have bread?” instead of “Do you have any bread?”  I realize that in real life (how boring!  This is a fantasy novel.  Let’s not talk about real life, okay?) that people actually talk like this, but I felt like it got in the way of the readability (similar to how it would get in the way of you understanding someone who is speaking like this, I suppose).  One of the biggest ones that threw me was the use of “awright” instead of “alright” throughout.  Based on its use this may be a “thing” that I am unaware of, but it came across to me as a typo until I had read it enough times to realise that it was done on purpose.

Another thing that I didn’t like, but might not be a problem for some, was the tavern scenes.  Gavin Kinshield makes a number of rude comments, as do many of his friends, and this works to develop character.  The problem I had was the women who came up to him constantly wanting to bed him.  It seemed to me like every time he went for a drink someone wanted to get into his pants!  Though this may be a teen-age boys paradise it isn’t very representative of reality and I felt it came across rather sexist, playing into the idea that all men are pigs and all women are whores.  This was even more surprising to me coming from a female author and I was almost intrigued by the use of sexism in book realizing that it wasn’t just some guy living out his fantasy to have every woman jump him in the bar.  I was pleased, however, there are a few “strong” woman in the book who did not fit this moulded stereo-type, but still even they put up with more that I thought was acceptable.

Conclusion:

All in all, this book was great.  I was dying to read more and definitely pick up the rest in the series.  This free book as the first in the series does what it should, drawing me into the world and the writing style of May making me want to buy everything she has every written!  The characters, world, and plot are all well-crafted and believable.

PS.  I also read Soul Sacrifice (actually before I read The Kinshield Legacy) and it is worth your time.  This novella tells the back story of one of the most mysterious characters in The Kinshield Legacy.  I would rate is 4 stars on its own.  The story didn’t draw me in at first, but the ending made up for any pitfalls throughout.

Where you can find it:

Smashwords
Kobo

Osric’s Wand: The Wand-Maker’s Debate by Jack D. Albrecht Jr. & Ashley Delay

A story about wand, maker’s, and the debates thereof.

The Rating:

“I just want to be a dude.” Osric says.
“Oh, but you can’t!  That would make a boring story!”  Boom!  The earth shook and things exploded.
“Oh noes!  I am trapped under a pile of rubble!”
“Not today!” Buzz Lightyear comes swooping in and blasts away the rock.
“Fine!” Osric pouts.  “If you’re going to be like that, I guess I will save the world!” And he flies away on a dragon.

Note: This is not a true representation of the book in anyway.  Some characters and event are loosely based off of Osric’s Wand but are heavily screwed for comedic effect.  Also, Buzz Lightyear is a purely fictitious addition on the part of this editor

What did this book not do well?  We will get to that, but first… the good.

Teh Good (yes I wrote “teh” on purpose):
I was drawn into this book right from the start.  A mystery is afoot and though not a lot happens at first, the author draws you in by describing the world and the character’s thereof.  Now, this is not the type of dry description you would see as a caption on a painting, but the description of the painting itself.  A picture is worth 1,000 words, and though the author does not use that many (though I never counted them, so if there is a 1,000 word description, don’t hold it against me) the world feels full of life.  This is what made me fall in love with the book right from the start, because the writing within me surges with passion and is humbled in respect of an author who can describe something so vividly that I am pulled into the world to a point where I don’t want to leave.

If the description is what sold me, the dialogue is what kept me reading.  I have seen (and written, sadly) enough slap-stick dialogue to notice good writing in between the “”s when I see it.  The author uses humour fabulously as the characters foil off of each other that will keep you engaged and interested in what they have to say.  A number of times I caught myself laughing without realizing it and my wife had to ask me what was so funny.  If a work of art gets me laughing or crying (or illicits any other strong emotion, I guess) I give it two +s, or thumbs up.  Whichever you prefer.

I enjoyed the author’s use of the third-person omniscient POV.  It have seen this done very poorly in the past, and this was a beautiful refresher.  Though it was told from such a perspective, I still felt like I was engaged in the story-telling, and not reading as if engaged in an out-of-body experience.

Teh Bad (no, that was not a typo):
“Why is there any bad, Daniel?  If you gave this book 5 stars, shouldn’t it be perfect?”
While this is a good question, I also have a good answer (well, at least I think it’s good).  I have never before rated a book 5 stars because of this very question.  The problem is that I can be cynical enough that there is always room for improvement.  Unless I would rather read the book through in its entirety than eat, work, and any other business that is required of my body, I don’t know if it truly deserves a 5 star review.  That being said, I was torn for a while in deciding whether to rate this 4 or 5 stars.

Now for my reasoning (finally, I know.  Get to the point already, eh?)  It is better than most books that I have rated 4 stars. (Yes, all that build up for such a simple reason.)  Though it has some faults I believe it is an exceptional book.

The first fault it has is probably also what I liked the best about this book.  Sometimes the descriptions and world-building elements can be lengthy enough that it breaks up the action quite a bit.  This happens less and less as the story progresses, but this is probably due to the fact that more “action” is happening.  This bring me to my second problem with this book.  Not a lot happens.  Yes there is some action and fighting and stuffs, but that doesn’t make it an action driven tale.  The backbone of this story is not the story itself but the world-building.  The plot doesn’t jump all over the place, but it isn’t as it seems.  The story starts out telling you it will be about a guy trying to prevent a war, and then its about some mysterious wand… but that’s not actually the plot of the book.  A lot of this is set up (I presume) for the second book, but the plot is actually about dragons (say no more to prevent spoilers).  The reader only finds out about the plot about halfway through the book, and the action doesn’t pick up until the final quarter.

This plot/action issue has its good and bad points.  I was not initially impressed by the “I’m going to save the world” plot and was almost happy to see that, in the end, that is not what this book was about.  I also though, given the length of the book, that this plot would have to be rushed in order to get through it by the end.  Because of this it is almost better that the plot is not as it first appears, but instead there is a single conflict that is resolved nicely by the end.

Conclusion:
This book is beautifully written and despite the minor plot disruptions, it is one of my favourites.  It is full of colourful description, humorous dialogue, and some great concepts when dealing with magic and its various elements.  Oh, also talking animals.  That’s a thing.

Where you can find it:

Smashwords