Thursday, June 30, 2011

Christmas in July - Giveaways!

This month I'm participating in Christmas in July at Susanne Drazic's blog, Putting Words Down on Paper.  There will be daily posts and more daily prizes than you have ever dreamed! 

(Disclaimer: I have no idea how many daily prizes you've ever dreamed about, but it does sound like there will be a lot.)

The prize on July 7th (next Thursday) will be an e-book copy of The Death of Torberta Turchin.  Be sure to take a look!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Review: Witch Awakening by Karen Nilsen

My rating: 3.75/5

From Amazon: 
"Safire of Long Marsh ... struggles to keep the curse of her psychic abilities secret, lest she be burned at the stake as a witch in her native land Cormalen. Forced to keep her talents hidden instead of learning how to use them, Safire is ill-prepared to face the evil that awaits her. When she meets the rebellious Merius of Landers, a nobleman determined to escape his overbearing father's influence, she finally finds someone who accepts her. But their romance interferes with court plots and family duty and ultimately leads Safire to confront the dark secrets of the House of Landers alone. What she finds there proves to be a test of her unusual gifts, a test that could free the soul of a haunted man--or end in her death." 

The short review: If something like the movie Everafter combined with ghosts and magic sounds like your cup of tea, then I would definitely recommend Witch Awakening to you.  (Note: This is not, however, a clone of Everafter; just similar in setting and in parts of the story.)

The long review:  Karen Nilsen has a real talent for description, and for building a complete, believable world. Many times I came to the end of a chapter and had to keep reading to see what came next.  I wouldn't say that the story is entirely action-packed, but Nilsen clearly knows her created world very well and describes it flowingly and with ease; and that is what kept me reading.

I don't really understand the reviews that describe this as soft-core porn.  It gets a little descriptive in a couple of scenes, but they're certainly not the majority of the story.  My complaint, though, is in the characterization of the main character, Safire.  In the beginning, she's independent, strong, and sarcastic, and I liked her. But then she spends probably the last half of the book crying and vulnerable, and I found myself angry with Safire, wondering what had happened.  I hope this isn't the case, but it seemed like after Safire had her man, she became a stereotypically weak woman.  It bothered me, and is why I couldn't quite rate the book a 4.

That being said though, I would like to read the next book. The author did an excellent job of ending the book but leaving enough suspense to keep the reader wanting more. I especially want to see where Safire goes with her witchiness and what all she's capable of.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Book Review: Psychiatric Tales by Darryl Cunningham

My rating: 4.5/5

Psychiatric Tales is a graphic novel written by an artist who formerly worked in an acute psychiatric ward in the UK.  It includes eleven stories, mostly about the author's experiences on that ward.  In the introduction, he clearly states the point of writing and illustrating this book: "'Psychiatric Tales' is intended to be a stigma-busting book. This is needed because fear and ignorance of mental illness remain widespread in society."

I would recommend this book to anyone, whether you know nothing about mental illness, think you know about mental illness, suffer from mental illness, or know someone with a mental illness. It's a quick read, and it's informative.  For example, I believed incorrectly that schizophrenia is the same thing as multiple personality disorder.  It's not.  And that people with schizophrenia are by definition dangerous. They're not.

My only complaint is that I would've liked to have more stories included in the book.  On that note though, the author is working on a second volume.  If you would like to see examples from the book, or from his upcoming book, check out his blog and his Flickr stream.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Book Review: Realm Hunter: Pursuit of the Silver Dirk

My rating: 4/5

From Amazon:
"Bear Waters, one of the top bounty hunters in the city of Northport, is in trouble.

"He is in pursuit of a mad cultist whom the Sheriff's Guard has called the Silver Dirk, after the weapon he uses to attack - but never kill - his victims. After some consultation, he has deduced that the Silver Dirk is preparing for an ancient ritual intended to summon the Elder Gods, those ancient beings of horror from primordial days.

"But in his pursuit, he - along with his friend and ally, Grace Hilltop of the Sheriff's Guard - has been transported to a world that we would find very familiar, but that they find amazing and unfamiliar.

"Getting home is but one issue facing Waters and Hilltop. They have to get home before the Silver Dirk can succeed in his plan, threatening the well-being of more than one world.

"In this opening volume of a new series blending fantasy, science fiction, and much more, Realm Hunter: Pursuit of the Silver Dirk begins an exploration of Bear Waters' native world, one closely resembling our own, and several others in a stimulating adventure spanning multiple worlds - and multiple genres."

For the right reader, this is an awesome read.  The story is well thought out and described, and the author does an excellent job of placing himself in the shoes of someone who has never experienced "our world;" that is, the dimension of our world that Bear Waters travels to, specifically to Portland, and to other dimensions as well.  Bear's dimension could be described as somewhere between ours and a medieval Europe, where magic exists and is a part of everyday life.  Bear himself is inquisitive and interested both in learning all he can about the different dimensions, and in finding and stopping the Silver Dirk.  The other dimensions are interesting and sometimes even terrifying, and I applaud the author for his world-building.

My only complaint comes in the amount of explanation and description at times (though to be fair, the same has been said famously of The Lord of the Rings trilogy).  The author, like I said, does a great job of describing our world from an outsider's perspective; but at the same time, he goes a little too far in giving the reader descriptions of things that he or she (so long as the reader is from the U.S. I suppose) already knows.  Many times, a run of several paragraphs could easily be replaced with "So-and-so explained the concept of X." The dialogue is sometimes tedious as well, in the same vein that a conversation could easily be summarized for the reader's sake rather than being completely written out.

Otherwise, this is a great book, and I'd recommend it to fans of fantasy/supernatural and mysteries, and of movies like Journey to the Center of the Earth. Others have recommended it to fans of Dr. Who (which I still need to watch and read).