Friday, April 10, 2015

Book Review: Seeking Unseen

Today's book Review: Seeking Unseen by Kat Heckenbach

From the "back of the book":
"It may be Angel's wish...but it's Melinda's journey.
It's been two years since Angel learned the magic chip of wood inside her locket would grant any wish. What is taking her so long to choose?

An alarming discovery about her beloved foster brother Zack makes the decision easy...but everything else gets complicated after she runs into her old friend Melinda, who demands to go along for the return to Toch Island.

Melinda doesn't fit in with the magical freaks any more than she did with the losers back in Florida, but she never wanted to belong before. A secret world surrounds her where even the bugs have magic...She's more of an outsider than ever. So when ex-con Doran Ashe slinks out of the shadows and offers her an easy road to powers of her own, Melinda follows him despite--or maybe because of--everyone's warnings."

Seeking Unseen is the sequel to "Finding Angel"

First, a spoiler about that "back of the book" text....

Angel looks at the wood chip once or twice, but doesn't use it. Yup, no major role in the book...

Seeking Unseen is a little faster paced than Finding Angel, which isn't a bad thing, and it still has a whimsical feel to it.

Angel is about the same here character wise as she is in Finding Angel, only now it's here turn to play old hat at showing the newbie around the magic island. Also, she gets a love interest in this book, which was nice, as the author writes the character interactions almost the same as she did with Angel and Gregor in the first book, which is nice, as that's one of the things that Finding Angel was missing, a nice, sweet romance.

Then there's Melinda. I'd almost forgotten here from the first book. She's back now, and I spent the first half of the book not being able to stand her. As the character changes throughout the book, she becomes more relate-able, and by the end we the readers are able to see the tiny seed of good in Melinda that Angel saw from the beginning.

The story was fun and enjoyable, and it's always nice to spend time with old friends. Four stars, easy.

Book Review: Failstate

Today's book review: Failstate, by John Otte

From the "Back of the book":
"Why did Robin Laughlin (aka. Failstate) think being a superhero on a reality show would be a good idea again? Things seemed so simple: win the show, become an official, licensed hero. But with his brother, Ben (aka. Gauntlet) stealing America's heart and his own powers proving too unwieldy even for the monitored studio challenges, Robin begins to wonder if his calling isn't to save the world after all.

Until one of his competitors is murdered.

Vowing to find the killer, Robin sets out on a very real quest to unmask the hidden villain. Can Robin find justice? Or will his lunk of a big brother ruin everything?"

Failstate is the first in a series (followed by Failstate: Legends, then Failstate: Nemesis) of superhero novels.

Let's talk about my favorite part of any book, the characters.

Failstate is basically me when I was in Jr. High... nerdy, average looking, and not popular. And he makes similar choices to what I would have made. Looking back at this from an adult prospective, he's an "average Joe" character, but I probably would have seen this differently in Jr. High or High school (most popular books then, as now, are usually about the good-looking, popular, great at everything types) So, the character resonated with me.

Gauntlet comes across as a real jerk in this book... which surprised me, as I'd read the novella "Gauntlet Goes to Prom" before I read Failstate, and in that, he's a nice guy... but then, the novella is in his viewpoint, and Failstate is, of course, in Failstate's viewpoint, so...
And did I mention that Guantlet is Failstate's older, good-looking, popular, and gets-away-with-everything older brother?

And then there's Elizabeth... *sigh* I spent the first 2/3rds of the book loving her. She's nice to Failstate, and sees him for who he really is. And then the last 1/3rd of the book hit, when she [SPOILER] (Editor's note: This portion of the spoiler is redacted for being too spoiler-y) (Author's note: These posts are edited? ...and I don't think "spoiler-y" is a word...) so after she did that, I wanted someone to throw her under a bus... and have the bus back up... and possibly forward, then back again... But Failstate has to learn to forgive her to stop the real bad guys. Sadly, that scene only got a paragraph or two... I would have loved to see a whole chapter dedicated to how Failstate learns to forgive and tolerate her mere presence after she did THAT. [/SPOILER]

On the one hand, I expected to love this book because it's basically a comic book only better because it's a novel, and you can get so much more detail. On the other hand, I'm surprised I liked it, because it combined two of my least favorite things: - High School, and - Reality shows.
Despite that, I really liked the book. Otte is great at giving characters depth and keeping the reader engaged in the story.
Four stars!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Book Review: One Realm Beyond

Today's book review: One Realm Beyond (Book 1 of the Realm Walkers series) by Donita K Paul

From the "Back of the Book":
"Cantor D’Ahma waited his whole life for this day. Born with a gift to jump between worlds, the young realm walker is finally ready to leave his elderly mentor and accept his role as protector and defender of the realms.

But mere hours after he steps through his first portal, Cantor discovers that his job will be more dangerous and difficult than he ever imagined. The realms are plagued with crime and cruelty, and even members of the once-noble Realm Walkers Guild can no longer be trusted. To make matters worse, his first assignment—finding a dragon to assist him on his quest—has led him to Bridger, who is clearly inept and won’t leave him alone.

With the help of his new friends Bixby and Dukmee, Cantor must uncover the secrets of the corrupt guild before they become too powerful to be stopped. But his skills aren’t progressing as fast as he would like, and as he finds himself deeper and deeper in the guild’s layers of deceit, Cantor struggles to determine where his true allegiance lies."

I've been a Donita K Paul fan since Dragonspell first came out, so I've been looking forward to reading her latest series. The premise is rather interesting, instead of different planets, there are different realms, described as a stack of discs sharing the same orbit. Realm Walkers can see and use portals to go between the worlds. Each Realm has it's own culture, geography, and climate.

Cantor is our main character. He's eager and adventurous, but tends to act and then think. Still, he has a good heart and cares about his friends.

Bixby was my favorite character in the book. She's fun, whimsical, and a tad mysterious. They don't really name her race, but she's short and tiny and described almost like a pixy or elf (the north pole kind.) She's a good counter balance to Cantor, and a lot more knowledgeable about the different realms.

Bridger is Cantor's dragon. Well, everyone but Cantor knows this... more on that in a moment. Bridger reminds me a lot of myself--good at his own talent, but really clumsy and too curious for his own good.

The dragons are always my favorite parts of Paul's books. The dragons in the Realm Walkers series are rather classic fantasy dragon in appearance, and part Pern dragon and part Meech dragon in temperament and intellect.

The story is written on a YA level, and, in my opinion, the characters outshine the plot. There's basically enough plot to give the characters a reason to exist. This might change as the series develops... and that leads me to my (least) favorite fantasy rant. I'll put a minor spoiler alert here. I won't say anything explicit about the plot, but still...





Why, oh why must EVERY fantasy book I've read lately not have a self-contained story? Just as we get to the climax of the plot... BOOM the book's over. Buy the next book to find out what happens. I don't care that you have to wait six months to a year to find out. Now, don't get me wrong, you want at least one over-arching plot element in a series, but you still want to have your main plot lines wrapped up by the end of the book. This is the reason I bought the box set of The Lord of the Rings, instead of buying one, reading it, then buying the next one... it's one story, not three. Same problem here.
To be fair, Paul does this better than a lot of other authors I've read, but it's still irritating. Especially since Paul's other books aren't written in this style, and do a nice job of balancing book and series plotlines.

Overall, though, the story was enjoyable, and I loved spending time with the characters. Four stars.