Book Review: Tales of the Zodiac: The Goat’s Tale

Note: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: Tales of the Zodiac: The Goat’s Tale

Author: P.J. Hetherhouse

Publisher: Createspace

Release Date: December 6th, 2014

Genre: Young Adult, Action/Adventure, Dystopia

Pages: 467

Synopsis:

It is the distant future. Time has seen humanity rise and fall many times, seemingly unable to learn from the mistakes of the past. Now, on the brink of another decline, twelve people step forward to change the course of destiny. Each of them has a tale to tell…

The tales of the zodiac is a series inspired by Celtic mythology, Arthurian legend and, most importantly, astrology. Living in a time when Mother Nature has resumed control, the human race has regressed back to its feudal past. It is here, in two civilizations gripped by political intrigue and religious fanaticism, that the tales take place. We begin with Capricorn—The Goat’s Tale.

A boy of sixteen, Gruff is old beyond his years. He is a dour, dogged, determined character driven by competitiveness and his rigid moral code. Unsurprisingly, this attitude wins him more enemies than friends and, eventually, earns him the most powerful enemy of all—the king.

This royal enmity sets him on a quest that will change his life forever. With nothing but sheer belligerence, and the help of fierce companions (including Cancer and Scorpio), he defies the king and ultimately achieves an unthinkable personal victory. Above all things, The Goat’s Tale is a tribute to the indomitable soul of the Capricorn.

My First Thoughts:

Astrology, in general, doesn’t really interest me all that often. Most of the time I find it to be quite annoying actually, especially when people use it as an excuse to make terrible decisions. But I really like Celtic mythology and Arthurian legends, so I thought I would give this book a go!

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

It took me well over a month to read this book, it actually took me almost two months to read this. Granted, some of that time was taken up by a busy work schedule, but overall this book took so long because it actually drained me to read it. I had to read this book when I was in the mood and normally I couldn’t read it for more than an hour before I had to take a break. I believe in total this book spans about two years, but in the middle of reading the story it felt like it actually lasted a lot longer than that.

If you can’t tell, one of my first complaints is that this book is incredibly slow. It takes forever to get to the action or even the main objective of the story; I believe it took almost 100 to get to the very beginning of the quest and then another 20 before the characters actually set out on the quest. Even on the quest there are several pages between big points of action, that don’t even last that long in hindsight, before there’s another long drag of really nothing. When we did get to the action it felt too drawn out, and not by long fight scenes, but by the hyper attention to every single detail by Gruff. The pacing was just terrible and inconsistent. There were times when the author would spend tons of words and pages on little things, but then do massive skips in time and summarizing them in long boring passages. The author really needed an editor, if they had one then this book would be at least 100 pages shorter.

I like world building as much as the next person. In fact, it’s something that I look forward to when starting a new series. However, it is not something that I wish to drown in when reading the first book. While a lot of the world building was very interesting in this story, there was just too much of it to handle at times. As a writer, one needs to focus on the important information that the reader needs in the moment to understand what is happening and why. If there’s an adequate space for expansion, then do so sparingly and in ways that don’t hinder the storytelling. At times in The Goat’s Tale, I felt like the story was suspended to have a history lesson of the current status of the world and its people. Sometimes, it was very interesting and actually added some to the story. Other times it felt like it didn’t actually belong and the author just shoved it into the story because they wanted to show it off. There were even passages about people and places that we briefly meet or visit, but the passages were longer than the time spent in the location or with the people.

For the most part, the characters were alright. The one that gets the most ‘on-screen’ development is Gruff, which is a little bit of a shame. The story is in his point of view, so it makes sense for him to get the most development but I felt like we spent too much time focused on Gruff. The other characters that he encounters just sort of disappear and then reappear with slightly different personalities and viewpoints. For instance, there are arguably two other main characters in this story who at one point disappear for several chapters. When these characters reappear again they’ve changed in ways that don’t make a whole lot of sense. Then there are other characters that change along the journey but we’re told about it rather than shown, and I felt that it would’ve been nice to actually see these developments unfold. For someone as observant as Gruff seems to be, when it came to details regarding other people he was uncharacteristically quiet about it—and this kid had a lot to say about almost everything else.

The last thing I’ll touch on here is the conventional story structure of The Goat’s Tale. Most stories are told in the shape of a hill, there’s a rise to the top and shortly after we get to the top there’s a fall to the bottom. I honestly had a hard time telling where the ‘top’ or the climax of this story was, I can narrow it down to two events but they didn’t feel very climatic just more so than the other noteworthy events. But after those two events I didn’t feel like I was reading the falling action, or the decline, of the story. To me, after what I could argue was the climax the story just kind of sputtered until it ran out of pages. Even the ‘end’ didn’t feel like an actual ending because it was an obvious setup for the next book. If the series suddenly ends at that point then the story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and feels uncompleted. I understand that nowadays books are written with the idea of a series in mind, but a good author ends each book like there might not be a next one while leaving unfinished threads that could expand on the story.

Final Thoughts:

This book wasn’t really for me. There were several times in which I thought about putting it down and reading something more enjoyable, but I wanted to get to the end to see how the tale unfolded. But when I got to the end I felt a bit let down. My favorite character isn’t in the story anymore, and my next favorite character I feel might not get an interesting story because of how she was handled at the end. And on top of all this, I felt like this story read more like a long-winded fantasy rather than a dystopian. If you take out any references to plastic, muskets, or anything related to technology I would’ve believed that this story was set in some sort of fantastical setting. Instead it’s a dystopian that doesn’t really read like any other that I’ve read so far, which may not be a point against it—just depends on the person I guess.

I would recommend this story to anyone who is looking for something a bit different and wants to get into a new series. While it honestly wasn’t my cup of tea, I can see how other people might enjoy it, especially if you are into long stories with a ton, and I mean a ton, of world building.

Rating:

2/5

I don’t think I’d want to continue the series, especially with how this book ended. There was no real resolve to this story, just a short lull before a big lead into the next book. I don’t really care for stories that end like this, but I understand that other people are different. I felt like the narrative of this story was too long winded, I felt that I could cut 100 pages from this book and the story wouldn’t have suffered the loss. However, I’ve always been rather picky about the length of my books only a few rather lengthy ones have ever been able to hold my complete interest all the way through. For those who love long stories, this one may be a breeze for you to read. I really enjoyed a lot of the world building, but at times I felt like it was too much and could’ve been saved for other books later in the series. The characters are alright, though I found the main character, Gruff, to be a bit unemotional and extremely pessimistic. The one line of thought I didn’t care for of his, was that when he becomes maimed he views himself as an invalid due to his acquired disability. While this is an arguable thought for the setting of the story, I feel like this can become hurtful to some readers, especially since it felt in some cases that the author went out of their way to make Gruff that way.

Overall, it’s an okay story. It’s not one that I will continue, but I found the premise of the story to be quite interesting. I believe what made me not want to continue the most was actually Gruff, because I spent too much time in his head. There’s a chance that the next book will be led by a different character, but with how this one ended and with the cast so far, I doubt I can pick up the next one.

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Book Review: Queek’s Race in Space

Note: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: Queek’s Race in Outer Space

Author: Carrie Mortleman

Publisher: Createspace

Release Date: April 26th, 2017

Genre: Children’s Book, Illustrated, Science Fiction

Pages: 32

Synopsis:

Queek the scrumptious sugar mouse teams up with his best friend Hellie the Hovercraft Elephant for a very important race against the aliens of Mars!

Their journey takes them past fluffy clouds and the Milky Wat, where they stop to gather yummy white chocolate stars.

Will Queek and Hellie make friends with the aliens?

Can they win the race and take home the treasure snacks?

My First Thoughts:

I’ve read Hellie the Hovercraft Elephant by the same author and so I was very open to reading the next book in her Hellie & Queek series. I have really enjoyed reading Ms. Mortleman’s work so far and so I was quite excited to get her next book in the mail!

Rating:

4/5

Queek’s Race in Outer Space was a lot of fun to read and did not disappoint me! The storytelling, while strong in the last book, has improved in the last year and made the story easy to follow from the get-go. The author sets up the story so that you don’t have to read the previous story to understand the characters and their relationship. Within the first few pages and a few rhyming lines the readers are introduced to the characters, their relationship, and the journey they want to take! As in the last book, the rhyme scheme is very simple and easy to follow. There were a few times in which I felt there was a bit of a stretch to get a few lines to rhyme, but it didn’t impact the overall story and I doubt many kids would notice it too. I’ve always been a fan of the illustration work in Mortleman’s children’s books because it’s so different, it easily introduces different textures and colors in a way that I believe would help stimulate a child’s imagination. Overall, I believe that this book would be a fantastic tool for any parent or teacher to help children widen their vocabulary; the easy use of long complicated words followed by easy context clues should make it simple for parents to help their kids learn new vocabulary. And if they don’t pick it up right away, the harder vocabulary doesn’t take away from the story either and doesn’t hinder the younger reader’s ability to understand and enjoy the story. This fun, unique, and exciting book about mars aliens and treats will make a wonderful gift for any child and a fantastic tool for education!

DNF Confronting Destiny

 

 

Why I Couldn’t Finish This Book:

It’s a real shame that I have to shelve this story for now because it held a lot of promise for me. The story sounded interesting and the characters made for a good first impression. However, it has taken me a while to try and get into this book. I read for a few pages and then get distracted by something else, so I’ve only read a few chapters at this point. I think the biggest problem was the writing style, not that it was terribly written or sounded awful, it was just really hard to get into at the moment. The writing style wasn’t difficult to read, but it reminded me some of my dad’s old high fantasy books. At times there was information woven into the sentences that, while important for world building and character development, felt a bit extra for the given moment the author was trying to write. I’m not completely giving up this story, I still would love to read it one day. But at the moment I have several other books that I need to get to and review as well. So for now, I’m going to shelve this book and hopefully when there is a lull in requested reviews I can pick this one up again and read in earnest.

Details:

Title: Confronting Destiny

Author: A.L

Publisher: Self-published

Release Date: May 18th, 2016

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Action/Adventure

Pages: 247

Synopsis:

The once proud kingdom of Rekhia is being rebuilt with the character of her conquerors. They lost their freedom when they lost the war. Over the years, their foreign overlords had caused the erosion of their customs, their language, their way of life. They were losing their identity.

Kaleen, heir to the Rekhian throne, grew up in the peaceful sanctuary of the Misty Mountains, protected by its fiercely independent citizens. For almost two decades, she had been groomed by her uncle to take back what is rightfully hers, to return her country back to her people.

The time has come for her to be what her family expects her to be, what her people need her to be. She embarks on a quest that becomes a journey of self-discovery. She fights new dangers, battles evil in the form of man and monsters. But it is doubt, both in her desires and her abilities, that is her greatest foe.

Her cousins Milan and Milena travel by her side, holding her up when she needs support. Nobles, peasants, monks, knights… help her along the way. But it is ultimately up to Kaleen, to save her kingdom, to free Rekhia, to find her true self, and to confront destiny.

Book Haul from Philcon 2017

Hello everyone, I hope you all are having a fantastic day!

A few weeks ago (November 10-12) I went up to Cherry Hill, New Jersey with my boyfriend and his family to attend Philcon. No, Philcon is not a convention where a bunch of Phils get together to have some drinks and catch up. Instead, it’s a science fiction convention that has a huge focus on literature and it is the oldest science fiction convention on the East Coast! It’s the second year that I’ve gone and I find the con to be pretty laid back and relaxing.

Like last time, I come back from that weekend with a ton of books, though they are not all for me. I actually got a good stack of books for my dad for Christmas because he’s an avid reader himself, I swear the man can get through a high fantasy doorstopper in a single afternoon if he had the chance! I just wanted to share with you guys all the neat books that I found, a lot of which were actually free.

One of the things that I really like about Philcon is that their dealers’ room is normally full of books. They invite local authors and small publishing groups to sell their books, and they’re generally really nice people to talk to. That weekend I met some guys from Realm Makers, which appears to be a Writers Conference. They were really nice guys and they told me that all the books they were selling were from authors who have won awards at their conference and that most of them were local-ish to the area. They had a really nice collection books, but sadly my wallet could only afford so many of them. Pictured here we have:

  • Breakwater (Broken Tides #1) by Catherine Jones Payne
  • Tainted (The Soul Chronicles #1) by Morgan L. Busse
  • The Gold Son by Carrie Anne Noble
  • The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrier Anne Noble
  • Dragonspell by Donita K. Paul
  • Wrath and Ruin by C.W. Briar
  • Curio by Evangeline Denmark
  • Willoughby and the Terribly Itchy Itch by Pam Halter

 

Not only did the dealers’ room have a bunch of authors selling books but just general book sellers too. From these guys I had found an assortment of books, from new to decades old. One guy even had a bunch of really nice hardcovers, but they were way too expensive for my wallet. But most of them had really good book deals and they had titles that were either out of print or not normally found in the major book stores. From them I got:

  • The Chessmen of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • At the Earth’s Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • The Moon Men by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • The Copper Crown by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison
  • The Throne of Scone by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison
  • Slow Fall to Dawn by Stephen Leigh
  • The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. LeGuin
  • Get off the Unicorn by Anne McCaffrey
  • Bard: The Odyssey of the Irish by Morgan Llywelyn
  • Through the Darkness by Harry Turtledove
  • Into the Darkness by Harry Turtledove
  • Darkness Descending by Harry Turtledove
  • Like a Mighty Army by David Weber
  • Fortune’s Blight by Evie Manieri
  • The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
  • The Lord of Castle Black by Steven Brust
  • The Cat who Walks Through Walls by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Mother of Storms by John Barnes

 

The rest of the books came from one of the greatest (and possibly most damning) inventions in the literary community: the free table. This year I checked the free table regularly because there was a constant stream of interesting things being placed on it. There were tons of various magazines, books, cheap jewelry, and even special cereal boxes and backs of action figure boxes. Saturday night we even found a dress that someone had left there. From the table I picked up:

  • Wonder Women by Sam Maggs
  • A Death in the Family by James Agee
  • Star Wars Del Rey 2016 Free Sampler
  • Hawke by Ted Bell
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
  • Lifelode by Jo Walton
  • The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop by Kate Saunders
  • In the Shadow of the Gods by Rachel Dunne
  • A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
  • Alice by Christina Henry
  • A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge
  • Black Powder War by Naomi Novik

Bottom line, if you want to add a large number of books to your collection or if you’re looking for books by small press and/or self-published authors, this is the con to go to. Philcon is a nice laidback con that I highly recommend to anyone who loves science fiction and fantasy. Also, pro-tip: if you’re a book blogger, don’t be afraid to let authors know because they’ll usually open up more to you and will be more willing to give you a deal!

PS: sorry for the terrible photos, I tried really hard to get them right but I don’t quite have a place set up to take pictures yet and it was a cloudy day (I prefer natural lighting to light bulbs). Thanks for reading!

Book Review: Heartbeat (Morta Fox #1)

Note: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

 

Synopsis:

When I first saw the monster hidden in the dark, teeth sharp and face covered in blood, the first thing I did was jump over Boston’s Wall of Protection to warn the people inside it. Turns out the people already knew, and all I did was turn myself into a delicious little snack for the most terrifying creature to have ever existed.

I was sure he’d kill me. He didn’t. Instead, he turned me into one of them.

Being saved against your own will is no fun, especially when the knight in shining armor is a vampire who calls himself Hammer. He’s arrogant, flirty, and even more stubborn than me. Left with no other choice but to make a deal with him, I soon find out that I’m not just your usual bloodsucker. I’m something far worse. But at least I’m no longer all alone.

Promises are not to be broken in my newfound world, and when my part of the deal is done, Hammer has seven days to complete his.

If he does, I will no longer be alive.

My First Thoughts:

The premise for this story sounded very interesting and I’m always looking for a good vampire story to read. Seriously, it’s hard to find good vampire fiction anymore which is a real shame. If you find the right vampire fiction it can be a whole bucket of angst and drama or a blood bath, anything else jut gets too boring or cliché.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

Warning: Mentions of attempted suicide, suicidal thoughts and tendencies, and attempted rape.

For the life of me I could not finish this story and it really upsets me. I really wanted to like this book and I really wanted to read it to the end because it reminded me of a bad movie that people still found enjoyable because of its flaws. Unfortunately, I lost all interest and will to read this book and could only read a few pages a sitting before I got bored or frustrated. So, for the sake of all the other books I need and/or want to read I’ve decided to put this one down and I don’t think I’m ever going to pick it up again. At nearly 20% of the way though the book I had to shelve it.

In the beginning of the story I was a bit intrigued. Dystopians can be hard for me to get into, so most of the time I stay away from them unless they have an interesting story. So far I had never run into a dystopian novel that also had vampires, so that acted as the initial hook for me. However, it kind of dropped from there.

The one thing that really made this story hard to read were all the plot holes that were just so glaringly obvious that it became frustrating. Morta made decisions that made absolutely no sense just so that the author could have her in the right place to progress the story. The author describes how vampires were created, which at first I thought it was clever until I really started thinking about it. The author used a virus to create vampires. When infected, the body’s organs all fail and stop working except for the brain, which needs blood to survive. At first, I thought it was an interesting idea but then I really started thinking about it. If the stomach is no longer functioning, then how does the blood get to the brain? When the blood is consumed it goes down the throat and to the stomach. First thought is that the new blood just gets absorbed into the blood stream and is taken to the brain. However, that’s not how things work. For something to get into the blood stream it must either be immediately be absorbed into muscles, directly supplied by injecting into a vain, or it must be digested by the stomach. If swallowed, blood to my knowledge can’t be absorbed into the muscles so it would have to be digested, if that’s possible, which it can’t be because the stomach is no longer functioning. Also, if the heart stops beating then how would the blood, if it could, get to the brain? The pumping of the heart is the main mechanism for blood circulation, so how does the new blood get to the brain if the heart isn’t beating? There were several other issues I had with the virus approach, but I’ll stop there and spare you from my rant.

The mistakes I found in this book made it obvious that this was a self-published piece. At first they were quite humorous. Occasionally the author would use the wrong verb, ex: “I heard the smell of blood…” Other times there were issues with continuity, one minute a character would be one thing and the next they were doing an action that completely contradicted what they had just done with no real mention of it. After a while the mistakes just kept piling up and it made the story a little hard to follow, all of which could have been avoid if there was an experienced editor involved with this story.

I think I could have gotten past all of the errors in this story, because they really were funny most of the time, if I even liked the characters I was following. I hated Morta and I liked Hammer only a smidgen more than her. Morta is a pessimistic, childish, and frustrating character. It was like the author didn’t want to make her a Mary Sue, or the perfect heroine, but in doing so made an unrealistic character that just became too annoying to even care for. She doesn’t want to be a monster so she tries to commit suicide. At least four times she tries to kill herself within the first few chapters after she becomes a vampire. She is so determined to die that she keeps doing things that may get her killed and honestly I can’t stand those characters. As someone who had to talk a friend out of suicide I was extremely uncomfortable with this and many times pissed with how the author handled it. I can’t imagine what someone who actually has attempted suicide would feel when reading this.

Like I said, Hammer was a little more likeable than Morta but not enough to make me care what happens to him. When you first meet him he’s a cocky show off who just tries to convince Morta to sleep with him. Ignoring the impossibility of vampire sex, it made him come off poorly because he kept insisting until Morta gave him a firm, hard refusal. After Morta told him no though, he dropped the subject completely and then it felt like he was a teacher mentoring a young bratty child which doesn’t scream romance to me. Also, outside those two main characters nine out of ten people were complete scum and completely unredeemable. For instance, for some reason the doctors Morta ran into in the beginning tried doing nonconsensual experiments for no immediate reason. Slightly later, when Morta leaves the city she is immediately set upon by a group of men that try to coerce her into having sex with them. Not even a chapter later another guy tries forcing her to have sex with him and no one tries to stop him. And of course, because it’s a dystopian all government officials and law enforcement are sadistic, murdering scum.

Rating:

I got about 19% of the way through this book and decided to quit. This book needs some serious editing work because it read like the first draft of a manuscript, before an editor takes their red pen to the pages and make them bleed. The characters are unlikable. There are plot holes everywhere that distract from the story. The word building is lazy and reads like the author just took our reality and slapped a bunch of cheap stickers on it. I feel like I could have finished this book if I found that I had even a grain of compassion towards Morta and Hammer. Instead I doubt that I will ever pick this story up again. It’s possible that the story gets better from where I left off, but I have no motivation to find out.

I would recommend this story to anyone who likes dystopian or vampire stories, I feel like people should still give this book a try if they really want to. However, I must warn you that there are mentions of attempted suicide, suicidal thoughts and tendencies, and attempted rape. If you are someone who has any experience with suicide I seriously suggest staying away from this book because the main character only wants to die and attempts to kill herself several times. If these things don’t bother you, then by all means give this story a try if you really want to.

Details:

Title: Heartbeat (Morta Fox #1)

Author: D.N. Hoxa

Publisher: self-published

Release Date: October 16, 2016

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Dystopia, Romance

Pages: 326

Book Review: The Golden Spider

the-golden-spider

Details:

Title: The Golden Spider (The Elemental Web Chronicles)

Author: Ann Renwick

Publisher: self-published

Release Date: August 8th 2016

Genre: Steampunk, Romance, Mystery

Pages: 482

Synopsis:

London papers scream of dirigible attacks, kraken swarms, and lung-clogging, sulfurous fogs. But a rash of gypsy murders barely rates mention.

Lady Amanda is tired of having both her intelligence and her work dismissed.

After blackmailing her way into medical school, she catches the eye of her anatomy professor from the moment she walks into his lecture hall. Is he interested in her? Or only her invention–a clockwork spider that can spin artificial nerves?

Lord Thornton, a prominent neurobiologist, has been betrayed.

Secret government technology has been stolen from his laboratory, and a foreign spy is attempting to perfect it via a grisly procedure… using gypsies as test subjects. The last thing he needs is the distraction of a beautiful–and brilliant–new student, even if her spider could heal a deteriorating personal injury.

Until her device is stolen and used in the latest murder.

Lord Thornton has no option but to bring her into his laboratory as well as the investigation where they must fight their growing, yet forbidden, attraction. Bodies accumulate and fragile bonds are tested as they race across London, trying to catch the spy before it’s too late.

My First Thoughts:

I always love to find good steampunk books and there are never enough of them! So when I was presented with story I immediately said yes.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

This story was absolutely fantastic! While this book is a romance, that single element doesn’t drive the story like other books. The Golden Spider is very much a mystery novel with a side of romance and a touch and steampunk.

The mystery of this story was quite interesting to follow, and it had me guessing for most of the book. The murders weren’t too gruesome to read about, the author didn’t go into a lot of detail describing the look of the body and such. When she did go into detail, she used very scientific words, which made sense because both of the main characters are in the medical field, to describe what had happened to the body and thus allowing the reader to be slightly removed and less repulsed by the image in their mind. By the end of the novel none of the big twists shocked me. This isn’t a slight against the story telling, most books fail to shock me with their big twists because I’ve guessed them early on. The mystery did stump me for most of this book and there were some minor twists that I didn’t see coming.

The characters were likeable enough. I really enjoyed Thorton more than Amanda. Lady Amanda was fine, however she seemed rather basic. It’s not uncommon for the heroine of a romance novel to be extraordinary in some way, normally there super smart compared to their peers. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that her character was cliché, because the author took great strides in proving how intelligent her female lead was by showing her thought process and even including the right terminology when necessary. However, Lady Amanda fails to stand out in my mind, which isn’t a point against the author, unlike her male counterpart. Thorton was different. I’ve never read a story before, especially a romance, where the male lead is handicapped in some way and is a bit self-conscious about it, afraid of receiving help from others but needing it in the end. Normally, a male character with his kind of personality would turn me off, but his injury and all the related baggage helped round out his character, making him rather likeable.

For the most part, the minor characters were interesting as well. There were a few that were quite forgettable, but the others had unique characteristics or actions that helped them stick in the mind, the gypsies were my favorite.

With any steampunk, I’m curious about how the author weaves the normal elements of the genre into their story. For many stories, the steampunk elements are mostly in the detailing of the environment, the fashion, etc. Not many stories that I have read actually do much with steampunk ideas beyond ‘oh look I added gears and steam to everything’. The Golden Spider actually weaves the elements into the plot, especially with Amanda’s device and the work that it does. I was absolutely fascinated with the world that the author created with steampunk, and I enjoyed the detailing and the functionality of her creations.

For the most part, this book is fantastic. My only complaints are the ending and some of the random sections with our killer. A few times the author chose to write from the killer’s perspective, as a way of giving the readers some clues as to who they might be. However, they were random and very far from each other. I would have preferred if we saw more from the villain’s side, not much, but a few more times to make those sections appear less disjointed with the rest of the story. As for the end, it was a fine ending but with how the rest of the story read I was expecting more. Everything seemed to wrap up so nicely with most of the loose ends getting tied in the last couple of pages. I wanted to know more about the killer’s motives and some answers to some of the backstory that was presented earlier in the story. I guess I’ll just have to wait for the next installment, which I will definitely be looking for.

Final Thoughts:

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves steampunk, romance, or mystery, or all of the above. No one genre dominates the story, which I appreciated because sometimes romance driven mysteries are rather dry and cliché. This mystery is well balanced, not very gory, and fun to follow. There are some pretty heavy scientific and medical terms in this book, they are scientists so it makes sense, however, there’s enough context to make it easier to get a general idea of what’s being said without relying on Google. Also, there is sex in this book, just to warn you in case it turns you off like some of the other reviewers I’ve read.

Rating(s):

4/5

Overall this book is fantastic. The world the author creates is detailed and well imagined while leaving the reader with enough questions to want to keep exploring in later books. The romance, while a little cliché, is realistic and enjoyable without stealing the spotlight. Some people might not enjoy the technical jargon or medical terminology, but they’re easy enough to understand. What keeps this story from getting 5/5 for me is the ending and the few sections told about our killer. There were 2-3 times in which the story followed the villain, which is fine, but they seemed so random and jarring that it took me out of the story a little. Just a few more sections with the killer, and it would have been fine. As for the ending, it was too short and clean for me. Most of the loose ends were taken care of, but they were all told to us and not shown. The rest of the book goes through great lengths to show and not tell, and I feel like the ending falls short of the standard the rest of the book set up. I understand if the author didn’t want to  go into too much detail, however, I think the readers deserved more than two or three pages. All in all, I’mm looking forward to the next book!

Related Reviews/Books:

A Curse of Ash and Iron

Book Review: Kyle Evans and the Key to the Universe

kyle-evans-is-shitNOTICE: I was given a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: Kyle Evans and the Key to the Universe

Author: Rob H Hunt

Illustrator: James Chapman

Publisher: self-published

Release Date:  March 2nd 2016 

Genre: Action/Adventure,  Science fiction, Middle Reader

Pages: 166

Synopsis:

Some kids love adventure, and dream of being a hero. Ten-year-old Kyle Evans is not one of those kids, but when a giant hole appears in his bedroom and swallows his mom, a hero is what Kyle must become. Kyle sets out on the journey of a lifetime, and discovers along the way that Battle Droids are scarier than Search Droids, Kranken are more terrifying than either of these, and you should never stand still near a Burgly Bug. But more important than any of this, Kyle learns that sometimes a cat is not just a cat. Kyle Evans and The Key to The Universe is the first book in an exciting adventure trilogy that takes a boy, his cat and his friend Sofia across the universe, gradually revealing their amazing destiny

My First Thoughts:

I’m always looking for a good science fiction book, especially one that is geared toward children, so I was rather excited to read and review another children’s book.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. The story held promise, and I really did want to see how everything panned out. However, it took me more time than I want to admit to finish this book. After almost every chapter I put the book down to briefly do something else, and the chapters weren’t very long. The writing couldn’t hold my interest long, I wanted to read more of the story, but I felt like the writing was constantly pulling me out.

The dialogue was stiff. I felt no chemistry between the characters, and even less so when they were speaking to each other. None of the conversations flowed naturally and it was a bit painful to read sometimes. Now, I understand that most children in upper elementary school or lower middle school won’t care about the dialogue, but that shouldn’t stop an author from writing good, or even decent, conversations between characters.

I found the main character Kyle to be rather annoying by the end of the story. At first he was interesting because he was a young kid how didn’t like adventures, like a less proper and very young Bilbo Baggins. However, you don’t really see a clear transition out of that phase for his character. Instead, he is constantly being thrown into these actin roles with very little thought except for helping his cat. Cool, that’s great. I love cats and characters who protect their cats are awesome in my book, but the author missed some great opportunities for good character development for Kyle. Again, how many kids are looking very closely at character development? Not very many, but kids do pick up on the subtle messages in what they hear and read, so things like good character development that makes sense is always needed, no matter what the age group is. He annoyed me because no matter how many times he encountered something strange or out-of-this-world he always had a major freak out about it or had a hard time grasping the issue at hand.

Sophia was a little better. She is his supposed best friend that shows up early in the book but doesn’t actually have a real role until about three quarter of the way through. But she’s on the cover, right? Yes, she’s the girl on the cover but most of the story is over with by the time she’s really apart of the action. She  handled the weirdness a lot better than Kyle, unfortunately, she handled it a little too well for a 10 year old. My one big complaint was that you don’t find out a lot about Sophia, you just pick up that she speaks Spanish and are told that she’s Kyle’s best friend, but I don’t really see it.

The one character that I enjoyed the most was Bootles. To me, he read like the cat version of David Tennant’s Doctor Who. He was highly intelligent, spoke a lot and went of on odd tangents that somehow made it back to the main idea. However, he still bothered me because he spoke of things that no average 10 year old would have a real concept of and constantly confused Kyle, which got real old real fast. One example is that he spoke of endothermic and exothermic reactions and how metals react to acetic acid. Not very many children would know about acetic acid, let alone it’s reactions to metal. He is an interesting character, but I feel like this isn’t the book for this character. In fact, I believe that Bootles would be better suited for a Young Adult novel instead of a Middle Reader.

My main problems were the about the dialogue and the chemistry between the characters. I enjoyed the concept of the story and the action was entertaining and flowed rather smoothly for the most part.  Honestly, I believe that this story is fine for young readers but it isn’t the best. The greatest kids books are able to capture and hold the attention of adults, and this book had a hard time holding my attention.

Ratings:

2/5

Overall I believe that this book would be an interesting read for young readers. There’s a lot of action and fun illustrations to go along with the story that would entertain them for a while. This may prove to be a good gift to any child, though probably those ten or younger. It would be especially good for any young reader that may be interested in Sci-fi literature, because I believe that it serves as a great gateway book to other science fiction novels. There’s no overall message with this story, not even a minor lesson. This is just basically a way to keep kids quiet for a few hours or more.

For anyone older than ten, this may prove to be a difficult read. The dialogue is unnatural and the characters don’t really fit together as well as they should. There are other story elements that are a bit subpar that older readers would pick up on rather quickly. For people with experience with page layout and design, don’t pick this book up because it will drive you insane just looking at it.