logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: fantasy-or-sci-fi
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-01-16 06:24
Siren's Song (Siren Trilogy - #3) by Mary Weber
Siren's Song (The Storm Siren Trilogy) - Mary Weber

After a fierce battle with Draewulf, Nym barely escaped with her life. Now, fleeing the scorched landscape of Tulla, her storm-summoning abilities are returning; only . . . the dark power is still inside her. Broken and bloodied, Nym needs time to recover, but when the full scope of the shapeshifter’s horrific plot is revealed, the strong-willed Elemental must race across the Hidden Lands and warn the other kingdoms before Draewulf’s final attack. From the crystalline palaces of Cashlin to the legendary Valley of Origin, Nym scrambles to gather an army. But even if she can, will she be able to uncover the secret to defeating Draewulf that has eluded her people for generations? With a legion of monsters approaching, and the Hidden Lands standing on the brink of destruction, the stage is set for a battle that will decide the fate of the world. This time, will the Siren’s Song have the power to save it?

Amazon.com

 

 

 

**** WARNING: DISCUSSING BK 3 OF A TRILOGY... SPOILERS AHEAD *********

 

 

 

So here we are in the third installment of Mary Weber’s Storm Siren Trilogy and our protagonist Nym is still trying to defeat that evil Draewulf. Siren’s Song picks up pretty much right where Siren’s Fury left off. Nym is en route to rescue the captured Princess Rasha. Nym and her posse try to warn Rasha’s mother, Queen Laiha, of the dangers headed her way but the meeting doesn’t go as well as hoped. 

 

If you’ve worked your way through the first two books, you might remember Nym losing her Elemental powers. To compensate, she made a visit to a witch and picked up some powers more dark in nature. It proved to be a decent quick fix to get her Eogan back but now she has to figure out how to keep those dark powers from overtaking the good, light part of her soul. It was always funny to see how the bouts of foul weather would give away Nym’s rough mood days. X-D

 

“Never destroy what simply needs taming, Nymia. Mercy grows hearts more than bitterness.”

 

And how did I not pick up til now that Eogan is only 22?! Seemed so much older! And the “Skinny Love” reference... did Mary Weber slip in a Bon Iver reference in there?! :-)

 

Much of the same drama you’ve seen from earlier in the series continues here, only with the ramped up intensity that you’d expect of a series closer book. Some of my interest in the plot waned here and there whenever the battle scenes declined -- there are some wonderfully LARPy battles near the end! -- and talk of court politics increased. A little intrigue here and there I’m all for but some of it went on a little long. I do really enjoy this cast of characters though, so the humorous banter often pulled me through the drier parts. I also liked the tension that was built around the character Myles as his powers grew. It was fun to keep guessing if he would turn good or bad in the end. There’s also the adorable little boy Kel who brings some sweet levity to otherwise intense scenes. 

 

I remember noticing that Weber got a little heavy-handed with the fake swearing in the second book -- this book is put out by a Christian publishing house so when characters needed to swear, she had them using made up curses like “litches”, “hulls”, “bolcrane” (bolcrane doubles, also the name of a feared, deadly lizard-like creature within the Storm Siren world). Though the presence of that pseudo-swearing felt rather ever-present in Siren’s Fury, here in the third book it seems to fall off to nearly non-existent. 

I would’ve loved to see a few more scenes within the Valley Of Origin, but otherwise I thought this was a strong finish to this whirlwind nature-inspired fantasy series. Definitely an improvement from the somewhat lackluster plot of Siren’s Fury. This closing book features a strong ending with one pretty epic final battle. Those scenes in the final pages are seriously LOL adorable! 

 

YA fans, check out the shout-out to author Jay Asher (Thirteen Reasons Why) in the acknowledgements! It was neat to learn that he helped write the few chapters written from Eogan’s POV. 

 

POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING: Because Nym using cutting as a way to process her internal pain throughout part of this series, author Mary Weber recommends that readers who might be triggered visit the website To Write Love On Her Arms (twloha.com) for information and help. 

 

FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book & requested that I check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-01-12 01:59
Unblemished (Unblemished Trilogy - #1) by Sara Ella
Unblemished - Sara Ella

Eliyana is used to the shadows. With a birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her like he does: normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved. But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird. Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly. Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself?

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Eliyana is just a couple weeks away from her eighteenth birthday when she tragically loses her mother, Elizabeth, in a structure fire. Not quite of age, her welfare is strangely left in the hands of best friend and next door neighbor, Joshua, who is only 21 himself. Eliyana has always struggled with fitting in, mostly because of a noticeable facial birthmark covering an entire half of her face. When Joshua came into her life he was the first person (aside from her mother) to treat her normally, dare we say even considered her pretty? But how is he supposed to be the legal guardian to someone so close to his own age? In just a matter of hours, El learns that that question is the least of her worries. 

 

A couple nights after her mother's funeral, El is persuaded to indulge in a night out with a friend. That night turns dangerous when a potential stalking turns into a definite kidnapping. In an attempt to escape, El is caught up in a mess of confusing, questionable sights, one being that of her mother! Turns out that whole death scene was a ruse to protect El. Just as Eliyana is trying to comprehend her mother NOT being dead, Elizabeth is kidnapped. Joshua pops up to explain to El and the reader just what all is going on.

 

Long story short: Josh is a member of the League of Guardians for one of seven Reflections or alternate realities accessible through Thresholds (think: portal). He was specifically assigned to protect Eliyana as she has something special about her that His Sovereignty, Jasyn Crowe, very much wants. Crowe is a servant of The Void, essence of all evil within The Reflections (something like Star Wars' "The Dark Side"). The Guardians are collectively trying to battle this by recruiting dedicated servants of The Verity (all that is truth, light and goodness). In this battle of good vs. evil, or Era of Shadows as Joshua calls it, Eliyana's birthmark indicates that she may have a most powerful role at the heart of it all. What turns out to be one of the biggest challenges for El is Joshua himself. He acts like a completely different person within this alternate reality El is thrust into... a man that is inexplicably cold and distant. In fact, he transfers the duty of protecting El to a fellow Guardian, Kyaphus (Ky). Multiple times, Ky tries to break it to El that maybe Joshua's "friendship" was just him doing his job but El can't let herself believe that. She's convinced there's more there, just ... for some reason Joshua is forcing himself to deny it. One way or another, she'll have to choose who honestly has her best interests in mind before it's too late to turn back. 

 

There were some things I noticed at the beginning of this novel that had me saying "uh oh, not another one..." Most noticeably, I spotted A LOT of elements that I've seen in various fantasy movies, tv shows and novels in recent years. Sprinkles of Once Upon A Time here and there... at times it felt like I could almost imagine Sara Ella's DVR line up. I'm not saying anything was directly lifted, I'm just saying if you're a fan of the genre, there is a ton of stuff here that you're likely to quickly recognize. First off was the similarities to The Never Ending Story: 1) mother dies 2) teased kid in this world becomes hero in alternate world 3) The Void = The Nothing >>> El has to find vessel of Verity to save world from The Void = Atreyu & Bastian have to stop the spread of the Nothing. Step away from Never Ending Story and you still see likenesses to Star Wars (especially when it came to that almost awkward link between Ky and El... Clueless-esque awkward). El transporting from NYC to the Reflection where she thinks her mother was taken = very 10th Kingdom. Even the tense triangle between Joshua, El and Ky was reminiscent of the Edward, Bella, Jacob business from Twilight -- there's even a blink-and-you-might-miss-it reference to one of the Twilight films. Oh and btw, I myself am totally team Ky throughout this whole book.

 

A jagged surface doesn't always allude to what truly lies beneath.

 

 

So, given that I was spotting all these similarities, I was concerned that this was just going to be a sloppy rehashing of popular fantasy plots from the past. Good news though! This one is a little shaky in the early portions but gets REALLY good after Act III! All the characters here are dynamic with great personalities (healthy doses of snark included) that keep the story moving at a fun pace. While the plot itself can get a little muddled and murky at times, I do think Sara Ella developed her characters admirably well, giving them all noticeable yet reasonable amounts of individual growth... some towards the light, others going dark... as it should be if you want your reader to get heavily invested! ;-)

 

Peer beyond the surface; you may find there a rose...

 

As for our protagonist, El, I liked her personality for the majority of the story. My one gripe with her is how she would persistently knock any meat-eater she came across yet she proudly rocked UGG boots. Weirdly though, her harping on this topic seemed to stop halfway through the book... guess everyone just got so caught up in the battle of good and evil there was no longer any time for meal breaks! 

 

So if you're all about any of those stories I mentioned above: Never Ending Story, Star Wars, Twilight, The 10th Kingdom, etc... or if you want to just dip a reading toe into the fantasy genre pool, definitely try out this one. I'm all set to jump into the second book of this series -- I need to know what all's gonna go down if / when Ky returns! -- but sadly Amazon says it won't be available for release until this summer :-(

 

 

FTC Disclaimer: Both TNZ Fiction Guild and Book Look Bloggers kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book with a request that I might check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-01-05 14:31
Siren's Fury (Siren Trilogy - #2) by Mary Weber
Siren's Fury (The Storm Siren Trilogy) - Mary Weber

Nym risked her life to save Faelen, her homeland, from a losing war, only to discover that the shapeshifter Draewulf has stolen everything she holds dear. But when the repulsive monster robs Nym of her storm-summoning abilities as well, the beautiful Elemental realizes her war is only just beginning. Now powerless to control the elements that once emboldened her, Nym stows away on an airship traveling to the metallic kingdom of Bron. She must stop Draewulf. But the horrors he’s brought to life and the secrets of Bron are more than Nym bargained for. Then the disturbing Lord Myles tempts her with new powers that could destroy the monster, and Nym must decide whether she can compromise in the name of good even if it costs her very soul. As she navigates the stark industrial cityscape of Bron, Nym is faced with an impossible choice: change the future with one slice of a blade . . . or sacrifice the entire kingdom for the one thing her heart just can’t let go.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

*** Warning: We're discussing Book 2 of a series here, so heads up there's likely to be some spoilers below

 

 

Going into Siren's Fury, we find that Nym has lost much of her Elemental powers just as she was beginning to make them work in her favor. Now the people of Faelen are counting on her to defeat the evil Draewolf that caused so much trouble in the first book, but she's not sure how she's supposed to pull that off without her powers to guide her. Still, she doesn't want to cause any further fear or unrest, so she's choosing to hide the fact that her powers are gone until she can figure out how to either get them back or defeat Draewolf without them. Her search for answers will take her down one seriously dark path of choices.

Though Nym put a significant dent in Draewolf's army at the close of Book 1, he's now hard at work building his forces back up, all while having commandeered the body of Eogan (in the form of possession).

 

(spoiler show)

 

Even though her newly learned battlefield strategies went a long way to bring the war to a close, the Five Kingdoms are still struggling to maintain peace when it comes to border and trade agreements. Though Nym has been freed from the bonds of slavery, she is still being used as a pawn in a power struggle between the kingdoms of Bron and Faelen. Bron suffered a great loss in the last battle and now the people of Bron have built up quite a bit of bitterness against Nym. 

 

Nym's sort-of adversary, Myles, returns in this second installment. Here he offers her a way to save Eogan but Nym's friend, the Luminescent Rasha, warns that it's probably best if Nym doesn't trust him too far. Sure he has moments of being personable, but he also still puts off that air of maybe having ulterior motives to any gift or offer of help. But has Nym proven herself to be stellar at following directions or heeding warnings so far? Nah, not so much. 

 

Siren's Fury was something of a letdown after how much I became invested in Storm Siren. Not that it was terrible. Not at all. I'm still having fun with the series to be sure, something just fell flat here. If I'm being completely honest, a lot of the time I found myself just waiting for Eogan to get some scene time again! 

 

Nym's powers didn't seem as well-described -- it was tough for me to get a clear picture of what all happened with the "vortex" -- the plot felt less intense, just a lot of cold stares and threats thrown around. There was this sense of a lot of build up for virtually nothing happening (when compared to the first book)... other than a lot of sneaking around on airships and then getting caught. Multiple times. Seriously, why was everyone so bad at sneaking around in this book?

 

Characters are talking about how terrifying Lady Isobel (Draewolf's daughter) is but honestly I found Lady Adora from the first book way more chillingly evil than Isobel ever was. Isobel just sounded like a bratty kid trying to sound scary but never getting much steam beyond "Just wait til my dad gets here!". But I was caught off guard by her blip of a moment where she let down her guard and was what? Almost helpful to Nym?!

 

Weber continues to weave inspirational / motivational themes into her fantasy, which I love. Through her characters readers are delivered the message to not let their inner demons control them; no matter how dire the situation, there is always a choice to turn away from or fight against the darkness. Weber's characters also learn to fight evil with compassion and empathy... a lesson all the world could currently benefit from! 

 

Check out the acknowledgements page of this book and you'll spot some familiar names: Jay Asher, CJ Redwine, Marissa Meyer, Colleen Coble.

 

Have to say though, Mary Weber... not sure this arachnophobe can entirely forgive you for those two SUPER creepy spider scenes! Yes, I get that the spider was the symbol for the center of dark power but dang, you described those creepy crawlies TOO well! Blech. 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-12-28 23:29
The Greatest Gift by Phillip Van Doren Stern
The Greatest Gift: The Original Story That Inspired the Christmas Classic It's a Wonderful Life - Philip Van Doren Stern

For almost seventy years, people the world over have fallen in love with Frank Capra’s classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life. But few of those fans know that Capra’s film was based on a short story by author Philip Van Doren Stern, which came to Stern in a dream one night.  Unable at first to find a publisher for his evocative tale about a man named George Pratt who ponders suicide until he receives an opportunity to see what the world would be like without him, Stern ultimately published the story in a small pamphlet and sent it out as his 1943 Christmas card. One of those 200 cards found its way into the hands of Frank Capra, who shared it with Jimmy Stewart, and the film that resulted became the holiday tradition we cherish today.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

It's likely that most of us by now have seen the Christmas classic film It's A Wonderful Life at least once by now... but honestly probably multiple times thanks to that copyright loophole that had television stations running it on an almost constant loop for years during the holiday season (that's since been fixed, which is why you don't really see it on tv much anymore). Being a big fan of classic film in general, I remember watching a documentary years ago where the director of the film, Frank Capra, mentioned that the idea came from a Christmas card. Well, I thought he meant someone sent him a Christmas card, and a regular one at that -- you know, the typical snowy scene with a nice 1-2 line sentiment inside. Wrong on both counts it turns, but more on that in a bit.

 

If by chance you're not familiar with this story, it's a short little tale about a one Mr. George Pratt (changed to Bailey in Capra's film version). George is a good-hearted guy, very selfless nature, always doing everything he can for friends and family even if it means him going without... but during one particularly hard Christmas season where money is unbelievably tight and George feels like he's being crushed by the stress of it all, he in his darkest moment considers what the world would've been like without him altogether. From a place of momentary pain and hopelessness, he makes the wish for this to be so, a wish granted by the angel Clarence. Immediately, George is able to see all the things that would've never come to be had he not been in the world. Through these sights, George is taught the lesson that every soul is important, every soul has a purpose, even if we don't see it right off or if it seems too inconsequential an existence to matter... believe that it does.

 

That's the basic gist of the story. Now how this story came to be: Well, Van Doren Stern, an editor for a publishing house that printed travel-size books for armed service members, first wrote up the story in 1938 after being inspired by a particularly vivid dream. He tried to sell it for publication, but it seemed at the time no magazine or newspaper offices had any interest in buying it. Van Doren Stern already had some 40 or so books published to his name but they were primarily non-fiction topics. He suspected that maybe he wasn't fluid enough in fiction writing for the story to flow quite the way he intended. His agent theorized that the idea of the story -- an angel temporarily making someone non-existent -- was too fantastical for most markets at that time. Saturday Evening Post rejected it, heck -- Van Doren Stern said he couldn't even sell it to any of the farming magazines! So he stuck the piece away, taking it out every so often to make little revisions here and there. Finally, in 1943, Van Doren Stern decided to pay to have 200 copies of the 24 page printed up. He then sent these out to friends and family as a unique kind of Christmas card that year!

 

A studio exec at RKO Pictures got ahold of a copy. By March 1944 RKO bought the movie rights to the story. The studio soon ran into trouble though... they found that even with the most skilled writers they had, no one there could quite figure out how to successfully translate the story to screen. Legendary Hollywood director Frank Capra had just gotten back from serving in World War 2, got wind of the story and soon agreed to direct the picture, even taking on the rewriting of the script himself (much to the relief of those RKO execs!). Capra got in touch with old friend Jimmy Stewart (who had been in a few Capra films previously and also newly back from serving in WW2) and quickly got him signed on to play George Bailey. The film was released December 1946 and a classic was born! Eventually.... because the film wasn't a huge box office smash right out of the gate. It took years (and that copyright glitch mentioned above) to build up the audience of beloved fans the film now has today. People became so in love with the film, the original short story has since largely fallen into obscurity! In their later years, Stewart with 70+ movie credits to his name, Capra having written / directed over 50 films himself, both said It's A Wonderful Life was their very favorite film of their careers, Capra even went on to say it was the best film he ever made. 

 

So how to the film & book compare? Well, there might be a reason the film is more well remembered. I personally found that while the original short story is sweet, I think I am pulled in more by the nostalgia and yearning for simpler times it stirs up rather than the writing itself. It's tough to read that the story went through multiple revisions because even now it's good, but not epic. It's the type of story you might find in an anthology of holiday stories, enjoy in the moment, but then largely forget about. I'd say Capra's interpretation of Van Doren Stern's idea helped keep both versions circulating in the minds of generations of people since the film's release.

 

While you'll find much of Van Doren Stern's original dialogue worked into the film script and the opening sequence of George saving his drowning brother was kept in the film, there were some notable changes. For one thing, Clarence the angel was much more delightfully memorable in the film. In the book he poses as a random brush salesman, which I found a little odd but as some say, "It was a different time back then." :-P So instead of Zuzu's bell at the end of the film, book Clarence leaves the family one of his brushes... yaaaay. :-S Also changed: the idea of "spinster librarian Mary" from the film was actually "Mary marries one of George's oldest & dearest friends" in the book :-P Mean Old Man Potter, the nasty, manipulative banker that runs Bedford Falls? Not even mean in the book! Nope, he's just a simple photographer in town! Fun fact though: After the movie's release, there were whispers that the film could be interpreted as Communist propaganda because Old Man Potter made bankers look like such an evil sort! 

 

I'd still recommend checking out the original story if you come across a copy. It's a short little thing so you could probably even read it online for free somewhere. I may not have liked it quite as much as the film but hey, I still gave it four stars for the warm fuzzy holiday factor, that element is definitely there! But this is another one where you're really just doubling up on enjoyment if you experience the story and the film together. 

 

We may go through some seriously tough times now and then, but as Capra himself said once in an interview shortly before his passing, "It really IS a wonderful life..."

 

Happy Holidays, everyone! 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2016-12-13 18:08
The Sculptor (Graphic Novel) by Scott McCloud
The Sculptor - Scott McCloud

David Smith is giving his life for his art―literally. Thanks to a deal with Death, the young sculptor gets his childhood wish: to sculpt anything he can imagine with his bare hands. But now that he only has 200 days to live, deciding what to create is harder than he thought, and discovering the love of his life at the 11th hour isn't making it any easier!

This is a story of desire taken to the edge of reason and beyond; of the frantic, clumsy dance steps of young love; and a gorgeous, street-level portrait of the world's greatest city. It's about the small, warm, human moments of everyday life…and the great surging forces that lie just under the surface. Scott McCloud wrote the book on how comics work; now he vaults into great fiction with a breathtaking, funny, and unforgettable new work.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Sculptor David is going through a rough patch with his art.... in that he can't seem to bring himself to make any, or if he does it comes out a big ol' dud. In the middle of a booze soaked mope-fest one day, he meets up with his great uncle Harry whom he hasn't seen in ages. Then he remembers -- Harry's been dead for ages! So it comes out that "Harry" is actually Death using Harry's body. Death makes David a deal: By sunrise the next day, anything David's mind can dream up he will be able to carve with his bare hands. Yep, sculpting solid stone with his bare hands like it's butter. But only for 200 days. On the 200th day, David's life will end. David, honestly believing that he would do literally anything for his art quickly agrees. What he never plans on is meeting his perfectly imperfect love, Meg.

So what can I say in my review here. I was feeling some slight shades of Faust in this story!

I've read a number of the lower rated reviews out of curiosity, have seen the rants about Meg being too much of the cliche "manic pixie dream girl", the plot being on the predictable side, all that. I even agree, to a point. For me though, this book is one of those cases in which I see the flaws and I just don't care. Yes, I did find elements of the story predictable. Yes, Meg's character was a bit much at times. AND YET I can comfortably dismiss all that because this book seemed to so perfectly meet my emotional needs. It was the right book for the right mood at the right time. It lingered in my mind for DAYS... something that almost never happens with my graphic novel reading... and I love graphic novels! I just tend to enjoy them in the moment and then largely forget them. Not this one. This one sucked me in like a beautifully shot film. In fact I hope there are plans to translate this to the big screen one day because I see plenty of potential for cinematic amazingness here!
 
 

 

 

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?