I was curious to read Jordan J. Scavone’s Young Adult Urban Fantasy, Night Warrior. This author has also written several books for much younger readers, which I’ve also read, so I was curious to see how his imagination would evolve into a longer, speculative work for older audiences. I was not disappointed.
I was immediately drawn in when I discovered that the main character was female. Gender opposite writing is a technique I’m pleased to see more writers utilizing. Imagination excels when authors step outside of their normal touchstones and investigate character emotions and thoughts in this way. Mr. Scavone’s ability to become his main character as he told us this story was fluid and believable.
The magical elements were also intriguing. Artifacts of both good and evil drove suspension of disbelief, bringing new layers of power to the factions that wielded them. The environments Jordan designed were also quite interesting. Three very different worlds; one physical, one we only know by inference, and the last embedded deep in imagination. These worlds compare and contrast with such vitality that it’s easy to imagine traveling between them. My favorite locale, not surprising to anyone who knows me, was the bookshop. I always get sucked into a story the minute a bookshop or library is mentioned. Extra points to Mr. Scavone for feeding my greatest love inside his story.
Most memorable, however, was the technique of bringing us a terrific puzzle through a complex narration sequence. This book is written primarily in first person, from the main character, with multiple assists from other strong characters who often vie for the reader’s attention. The fantasy comes to life as we are invited to live directly in the experience of being a fledgling author, with all its gifts, quirks, and curses. The parallels to real-life writer’s block and the frustrations of knowing - and not knowing - what might come next in a book one is writing makes this a story perfect for anyone who writes, no matter their age or process.
This is high fantasy, presented in an urban setting, and meets all the criteria to fit the genre. There are magical artifacts, special potions and spells, a hierarchy of power, sacred societies, and exotic beasts. Also true to the genre, there are plenty of battles, and a few were fairly intense. Mr. Scavone has done his research on stage combat, as each fight was step-by-step visually believable.
My only critique for this book is that I would have preferred more emphasis on the backstory and the emotional and intellectual “emergence” of the main character rather than the many moments of combat. I’m far more interested in the psychological elements of a struggle than the physical… and I recognize that I am in the minority among Young Adult Fantasy readers.
The ending left me wondering if this book may be the first in a series. If it is, I will watch for the next book, and read it, too. I would also be interested in reading a prequel… should such a thing ever come into being. Thank you, Jordan, for a fun romp through a writer’s imagination.
To begin, I fully appreciate that poetry is HARD! Not just difficult to write, but also challenging to read. I honor all authors who take on this Herculean task.
Writing poetry requires an author to step outside of their “normal” self and engage with a deeper set of emotions and observations usually overlooked in everyday life. Reading poetry requires that we disconnect from our philosophical defaults, and allow the writer to lead us somewhere new, without judgement. For both the author and reader, it can be an amazing ride, a train wreck, or anything in between… and usually, whatever your interpretation, another reader will always see something different… as it should be with this genre.
Inside Social Suicide, some of the pieces are lovely and introspective. They show tremendous depth of sensitivity and awareness. My favorites were Inner Child: A Monologue, A Gift To Remember, and For My Grandfather. However, the bulk of the poems, although still drawing from a deep well of emotion, were either angry, extremely dark, or simply depressing. I suppose I should have anticipated that by the title, but as I said, I feel reading poetry requires relinquishing all preconceived expectations.
I see poetry as a specialized art form. As art, each piece will speak to us differently, depending on our mood, belief systems, and connectivity with the touchstones of life. I also consider that poetry is meant as a study of the human condition and the nature of the world we live in. This collection certainly offers an opportunity for all of that. I found some interesting perspective within its pages, and some of it was deeply moving. However, I felt the collection was microscopically tunnel-visioned with an emphasis on the emotional injustices of living, almost to the point of complaining. The result was an intellectual distress and an energetic drain that made reading to the end arduous.
I was also dismayed to discover so many editorial errors… homophones, odd line breaks, uneven formatting and fonts, and punctuation that seemed poorly placed. These problems distracted from what could have been a much more thought-provoking encounter. As a poet, Ms. Crandall certainly has the potential to reach readers, but with this particular collection, I felt so mired in a mechanical quicksand by the editorial mistakes, that I feel this work misses the beauty of meter and alliteration that I could have discovered inside the lines.
I truly believe Ms. Crandall to be a terrific author, her poetic interludes invite seeing the world in a way that, although uncomfortable, may give us an opening to be more appreciative of the gifts we enjoy every day. I sincerely look forward to investigating her novels.
The Science Fiction genre is overflowing with unusual stories… almost to the point of saturation. So much attention is focused on space battles and the strange, weird aliens, that the possibilities of invention inside a more familiar territory are often overlooked. But this one is different.
Not since Jules Verne, can I recall such a creative approach to speculative science. The adventure takes us to another planet, sure… but the depths we explore are far more intriguing. This underwater military expedition delivers impressive cleverness page after page.
The world building and innovative technology of this book are fascinating. From the specific details of the alien races, and their formidable strengths and equally worrisome weaknesses, to the training exercises which are psychological as much as physical, the weapons detail, and transportation used to explore and fight in this environment is simply fun. Made more believable by the real-life experience Ms. Ash holds in environmental science, everything, right down to the unusual food, is assumed real. Why wouldn’t it be? This author allows us to experience the story through strong sensorial and memory triggers. Even the “new” pieces feel somehow familiar.
Added to this unique storytelling style are two powerful women as main characters. They don’t just dominate because they are “strong” women. They shine with equal brightness to their male counterparts. It was refreshing to read character development that wasn’t lopsided in psychological and physical traits. There are no weak characters in this story. Each is given ample time to grow into their roles, while still being emotionally vulnerable, intellectually evolved, and physically believable. The focus is on the morality of the situation, rather than which gender excels at that objective more effectively. A few characters are more repugnant than others – as it should be – but none is trapped in gender expectation. That alone, is a fantastic reason to read this book.
This is the first in a series of four books, and I am anticipating with delight where the next adventure will lead.
The most wonderful thing about books is that if you need to set one aside to deal with life's distractions and interruptions, it'll still be there, waiting patiently, for your return.
Such was the case with this book for me. To tell you that I was able to pick it up again after several months of neglect is a strong endorsement for the author. The details were still vibrant in my imagination, and I was able to re-engage with the story without re-reading past pages. The author planted vivid memory triggers that were easy to recall.
I enjoyed this mystery. The characters were tenacious, and some of the twists and turns were quite unexpected. Mr. Harms worked well to connect dots I didn't know existed, and still leave me on the edge of my seat in a few pivotal spots. However, I found many of the chapters to be heavy on "info dumps". I would have enjoyed the book more if there were fewer long passages of description and more direct action and dialogue to move the scenes forward.
An interesting element of this book was the author's ability to mix a Christian message inside a police procedural thriller. I don't think I've encountered this mix of genres before, and the end result was an engaging "whodunit" with a morality often disregarded in this genre. Mr. Harms did well to meld the two styles, while offering enough edge to keep my attention through to the end. There were a few dangling details in the last few pages, which leaves me expecting a sequel. If there is, I'll certainly pick it up.
I loved this story! It was a wonderful return to my pre-teen years spent fantasizing my days away between the pages of books. How nice to walk back in time for just a little while and remember those word-immersed worlds.
This is a beautiful, heartfelt story that pays homage to the challenges all young girls encounter along the road to becoming women. Even better is the fact the main character, Emily, gets to do it with new friends who share her angst and support her belief in doing what’s right, without sacrificing adventure.
Ms. Klco clearly understands young people and their imaginations. I found the conversations natural, the concerns real, the adventure exciting, and the voice genuine. The language she uses doesn’t belittle young people, but rather, lifts them up to a place where they are validated for both their intelligence and their strong emotions, simultaneously. It’s easy to step into this story and feel respected and treasured as another soul walking the path with Emily.
The high point for me was that one of Emily’s new friends is a Dragon (no spoilers here, he’s on the cover). As a longstanding, founding member of The SFPCD (Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Dragons), the traits this honorable creature brings to the story reinforces all I have ever believed about them. Will that be a continuing trend in the next books of this series? I sure hope so!
For the record, my TBR pile has just grown by three, to accommodate the rest of this series. Thank you, Ms. Klco.
This book is a ride and a half! Like a corkscrew rollercoaster at an amusement park, this book forces you to put your head on a swivel, so you don’t miss anything. I would not have imagined that the worlds of fine art, environmental science, and commercial espionage would work so well together, but Ms. Falgoust is a seasoned chef, blending the tastes and aromas of each as we become gluttons to her tale.
The pacing of this book is brilliant. The author uses short chapters that change locations, characters, and POV while still maintaining a tight story arc and delivering impressive dividends for our emotional investment in both the hero and the villain. In the beginning of the book, these short introductions give you exactly the information you need to get to know the cast, but not so much that you’re left with useless information dumps. These small bits of intrigue, romance, action, and snark compliment the story and keep it moving… always moving. This book is wonderfully fast paced, so hold on tight.
The conversations that Ms. Falgoust creates between her characters, whether spoken aloud or not, lend great depth to the story. Once we hear their words, we find ourselves agreeing or challenging them in exactly the same way. We find ourselves on a team before we realize that we’re supposed to choose an allegiance. The sprinkles of dialect and exotic language adds credibility to the character’s backstories without leaving the reader thirsting for subtitles. The gentle way the author defines character by utilizing these moments of difference, puts you right in the middle of the action without becoming lost in translation.
As the story progresses, the tension builds, and the connections between each group of characters begin to commingle in surprising ways. Like melting three different cheeses to make a delectable fondue, this book gently tosses in subtle details of emotional spice and adventurous expectation that delivers pages of decadence you didn’t know you craved.
I hope that this is the beginning of a series because I want more!
Even though the title of this book implies that it is a story about a gangster… and part of it certainly is… I think that the real story is about the small town to which he comes and goes. Snapshots of life. That’s as close as I can come to accurately describing what it felt like to read this book.
The story spans the lifetime of several characters. As each chapter unfolds, we are immediately welcomed into their experiences of small-town life. Just as the people change over time, so does the town. There is a curious maturity that we are privileged to watch unfold. But more than that, we are invited to take a walk down Main Street and be a part of it all. It’s an emotional journey that is completely unexpected… and wonderful. Over the course of the story, we are invited to examine the connections that bind a place to its people, and the people to their home.
When I began to read, I thought this would be a book about the inside workings of the titular gangster. Eagerly I read, hoping to get the skinny on him and his outfit. I was hoping to watch his crimes from the inside and watch the how the community endured under his influence. What I got was better. Reading this story, I was able to see inside the gangster himself. I was a witness to his thoughts as a “regular” person who loves his wife, supports his community, and delights in being an “average” person away from his “job”. Ms. Passick skillfully uses individually distinctive dialect styles and vocabulary to help us enjoy a sensation of really getting to know the characters as people, as if we were sitting at the same table, riding in the same car, or standing near the same hunting blind while conversations float in and out of our ears.
Reading this book gave me the sensation of watching the town pull out a photo book. I listened to it tell the story of the years it remembered, and the secrets it kept about the interesting, and sometimes unconventional people who lived there. As time marched on, the town reflected the distinct experiences of each soul and how living side-by-side impacted each of them in very different ways. The story was brisk and unpredictable, making it a genuinely enjoyable read.
I’m so happy to have read this book! Although it is written with middle-grade and early young adult readers in mind, I truly believe that like the Harry Potter series, adults everywhere will enjoy this book, too. I’m also happy to report that this is the first in a series. I know, that’s unusual, coming from me, but it’s true.
This book is about all the things I love in the literary world… books, storytelling, the magic of words, and strong relationships between characters. Somehow, this author has found a way to write an engaging, fictional tale so similar to my Philosophy of Sacred Text, and he’s improved upon my thoughts… even though we came to these ideas quite independently. Writing a story around this concept is something I’ve dreamed of doing for quite some time, and now I don’t have to, because it has already been done extraordinarily well.
The story speaks to the wonderment of storytelling, and how it can be a formidable opponent in the war against shadows and doubt. This book is not just a bunch of pages, it is a reading experience that draws you in and engages you in the adventure… which is extremely interesting, because it does the same thing for the characters in the book. Mr. Bastian drops clues and hints along the way, and although I picked up some of them. I am sure there are other clues I missed. I’m not worried, though. Surely, I’ll learn more as the series continues. This is exactly what is supposed to happen when you discover the first book in a series. I am now compelled to buy the next book, and the next…
If that’s not enough to get you hooked, the artwork in this book is stunning. It begins with a cover that immediately calls to the reader. Then, with each chapter, more fantastic art is woven in between the pages of beautifully crafted paragraphs… which describe the scenes, people, settings and “other things” with such finesse that I could easily imagine it all. This author has mastered the art of giving the reader enough information to put themselves inside the story, but not so much that there is nothing left to the imagination. Mr. Bastian does an extraordinary job of allowing the reader to add padding to the story while leading us on a magical journey.
I’m sending a copy of this book to my eight-year-old niece for her birthday. I’m also sending along a note that encourages her to read it aloud to her younger sister because it was just that good! I am hoping that they both get hooked on the story, as I have, and at some point, we can have lunch and talk all about it! This is a series I will most certainly collect, and probably re-read, too.
This was difficult for me. It is extremely rare that I don't finish a book once I begin reading. I think it's happened perhaps a dozen times in my lifetime. I've always been an equal opportunity reader. Whether fiction or non-fiction, I read carefully and take my time. I try to give each author a fair shake, each book on its own merits… genre, theme, topic, story, character, setting, purpose… you get the picture. My encounter with this book is one of those rare exceptions. I couldn't finish it.
From a craft perspective, the author uses a fictional persona, "Mudflap," to help illustrate his story in third person narrative. Unfortunately, this device is inconsistent. The author frequently switches between personal pronouns (I, me) and back to third person (he, Mudflap), sometimes in alternating paragraphs in the same section or chapter. This inconsistency of narration was very frustrating to read. In addition, I found several grammar, spelling, and formatting mistakes (at least in my ebook version). Also, the "real-time post scripts" at the end of the sections or chapters are enigmatic. Their purpose and function was unclear, aside from acting perhaps as an extension of the author's frustration. This book would have benefited tremendously from professional editing.
The synopsis on the back of the book promises "…a philosophical and satirical humor… with solutions for our rapidly changing world." Unfortunately, I found none of these in the 172 pages I read (about half the book). The marketing for this book indicates it to be anti-bullying, but that's not what I read. Instead, I found a victim who decided that the only way to fight back against the bullies he encountered was to write an angry "tell-all" book. By my read, the author's goal was not to relate experiences so readers could learn and grow. But instead, to shame and blame with retaliation, all while hiding his true intent behind fictitious character names (I'm guessing to avoid a lawsuit or several).
One particular passage that stood out for me relates Mudflap's [the author's] frustration with Mudflap's business clients refusing to buy his book. He called it a "lack of support". He further explains that he "fired" them as clients because they didn't buy his book. In the following passage, he writes about taking great pleasure in this action, actually laughing about it with his crew of helpers afterward. In my opinion, this behavior manifested as bullying his clients into buying the book, and then "getting back at them" when they didn't. This seems to be an inverse of the purpose of the book. It was confusing.
In another passage, he writes about not receiving the treatment he wanted from a town librarian based on his status as a local author. He felt slighted and even angry when the librarian afforded more attention to a more experienced and "not local" author. Later, he engages in a conversation with the other author, belittling his work. In my view, this was bullying the author for his success. Yet, again, this incident seemed counter-productive to what I thought was the book's focus.
Perhaps I misinterpreted the book. Perhaps I don't understand the author's brand of humor. Perhaps all the positive stuff was in the first book, and I made a mistake by reading them out of sequence. Perhaps all is redeemed at the end of the book, and I'll never know because I never got to the last page. Perhaps I'm overly sensitive. But perhaps not.
My opinion of this book is that it is a memoir of the author's life, his frustrations with his community, and his neighbors. He writes about the many bullies Mudflap [the author] encounters with a degree of acrimony I could not continue to read. It was too painful. I found only two instances of positivity in this book, and because of that, I had to stop reading.
It is possible that I'm not giving the work a fair shake by not finishing it. I can allow for that possibility. Perhaps I should have forced myself to suffer through to the last page. Perhaps not.
I believe that reading should be something we enjoy, something we can learn from, something that enriches us emotionally and intellectually. Unfortunately, this book served me in none of these ways, so I put it aside.
This book may have an audience, but I am not it. And that's okay. Not every book is for every reader.
All that having been said, I think it is important to take note that this author's writing is courageous. He emptied a good part of himself onto the page, and for that, he should be commended. All writing should be viewed as Sacred Text. Although this book was not in alignment with my personal reflection of life, that does not retract the Sacred value I place on the words and his effort in recording them. For clarification, please read my Philosophy on Sacred Text HERE.
Witness Testimony was an interesting and engaging collection of short stories. When I first began reading, I found it difficult to ease into a reading rhythm because I had expectations, based on the title and cover. I opened this book preparing for the intrigue of courtroom drama, legal thrills, and witness interactions. However, that’s not what I found, so starting out was slow going for me.
By the time I reached the second half of the book, I let go of my preconceived notions. Once I accepted that these stories, though not bound legally together, were indeed witness accounts of life, it then became easier for me to relax into the absence of pattern and enjoy the journey. Actually, the author allowed the reader to be the witness to a cross section of humanity with all its solaces, uneasiness, and eccentricities. Taken from that interpretation, the collection made sense. My strongest critique would be that the title and cover art set me up for a predisposition against that experience, initially.
Overall, this was an enjoyable book. Here are a few of my favorite stories from this collection:
The Bullfighter’s Waltz was a curiosity. A story that connects emotionally in a setting where emotion is not the expectation, was a pleasant surprise. I felt that I could easily relate to these characters, even though their day-to-day is very distant from my own. The humanity of this story was felt, rather than read. That was nice.
The Matchmaker’s Reward entertained with a bit of fantasy. This is one story that left me wanting more. For me, it read perhaps as a last chapter for a larger novel… and perhaps it is… I hope it is. A bunch of questions were left unanswered, and I wanted to know more about the character’s history and their future. I wanted to know more about the magic and the rules behind how it is used, or how it isn’t. I enjoyed this story very much. It felt a little like a “Pat The Bunny” book for adults… a few words gave the reader so many tactile experiences, it left me wanting to learn more.
The Sending was tremendously poignant for me. Everything about this story, the why behind it, and the minute details of spirituality, evoked something akin to a universal understanding. This story was delicate and powerful simultaneously. It offered just enough to allow for emotional transference, but not quite enough to lose the intellectual intensity of the moment. That duality, for me, made it a great read.
I recommend this book to readers who enjoy the sensation of being a fly on the wall. These are tales experienced through the expression of the temperature of the room, rather than the cold distance of reporting.
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