April 2015 – Andy Peloquin

Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Month: April 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

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Book Review: The Dockland Kingslayer by V.C. Remus

For today’s book, we’re headed into the world of Steampunk–one of my favorites, but one of the hardest to do right!

 

The Dockland Kingslayer

After witnessing the wrongful execution of his parents, Alistair Métis seeks his king for answers to a never-ending list of questions. However, a lowborn child cannot escape the shackles of poverty to scour cobbled streets while on the run from the law. Alistair, too, was sentenced to die for his father’s crimes.

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In Book 1 of the Steamworks in the Bylea series, Alistair’’s journey spans the unforgiving Western realm of Falone. His tale brims with airships, cutthroats, war, mischief, and wonder.

 

My Review: 3 Stars

I opened this book expecting a great steampunk novel, but was sadly disappointed: THERE WAS NO STEAMPUNK! Or at least, none that stood out to me. I read nothing of airships, steampunk vehicles, or gadgets. The only thing (I think) that was remotely steampunk was a set of armor, but even that was unclear to me. It could have been a normal fantasy book and the story wouldn’t have changed.

The wording throughout the book is quite clunky and overdone. It’s hard to understand, and not because it’s too intelligent. It’s just phrased awkwardly, with expressions that make you read them three or four times to comprehend.

The book starts off too slowly, and it doesn’t pick up speed for at least a few chapters. Even then, it takes until the middle of the book to really get rolling and interesting. There’s no natural flow to the book, and it just doesn’t have the climax and tension that you want in an action novel.

The present tense of the story seems a bit off. When it switches to past tense for the flashbacks, it’s jarring. The flashbacks are not only unnecessary, but they could have been done much better. The ending didn’t make any sense to me, and it felt like the story didn’t work.

I got a feeling that the author was trying to be very creative and original in their writing, which could be a good thing, but it fell flat in this case.

Of course, the world built by the author is rich and fascinating, but the writing detracted from the story so much that it was hard to enjoy.

 

Here’s a Taste:

Arrows whistle past Alistair’s ears. He falls to the snow, dropping his rusted blade. Scrambling to retrieve his weapon, Alistair crawls past Tiro Gage. The young man lies pierced with an entire quiver’s worth of arrows. Two arrows pin his neck to the blood-drenched snow, five litter his chest, one in his shin, and the last goes through his armpit.

“Exemplar, no . . .” Alistair mutters, his lips trembling at the sight of the wheat-haired boy spitting out and gulping down a fountain of his own fluids. Tiro Gage squirms, writhing in pain.

“Leave him!” Tiro Beckett exclaims, taking off into the woods. “Get out of their line of sight!”

“Tiro Gage, y-you have to stand. They’re sending another volley.” Alistair holds his hand above an arrow piercing Tiro Gage’s lung. “D-do you want me to pull it out?”

Tiro Gage does not respond. His head, though resting against his chest, angles toward the redoubt.

“Come on, Tiro Métis! Move your arse!” shouts Tiro Beckett over her shoulder. “Leave him!”

Alistair scrambles through the snow, grabs his falcata, and takes off running in Tiro Beckett’s direction. He dances past a swarm of arrows landing just short of his feet. Leaping and ducking under the volley as he sprints across the field, Alistair finds safety in the trees.

Tiro Beckett holds her back to a tree thick enough to provide cover for a few more Tirones. Short sword in hand, her chest rises and falls rapidly, fear splaying her face. Alistair sprints over to her tree, then takes a squat at her feet.

“What do we do?”

“I don’t know! Give me a minute to think,” Tiro Beckett responds, tearing at the sight of Tiro Gage lying in a puddle of his own blood. “Is he—”

“We don’t have a minute!” Alistair interrupts, poking his head out of cover. “They’re going to know where we’re hiding.”

“Okay.” Tiro Beckett inhales and exhales a triplet of breaths. “Okay, I know what to do.” She pokes her head out from the other side of the tree, then waves Alistair over. Lifting a finger at the side of the redoubt, she says, “See those men running out to the front? They’re going to hook inward to hit our incoming swordsmen.”

“Yes, and?”

“Well, they’re going to flank our men, Tiro Métis; it will be our job to stop them. When they hook in, we attack from the back and take them down for good.”

“And what about the archers? We don’t want to end up like Tiro Gage.”

“Shields.” Tiro Beckett takes the clunky piece off her back and slaps the embroidered iron star on the front. “Tough hide may not be the best against spears, but it’ll stop most arrows from that distance. Plus, I doubt these rebels have spearmen.”

Alistair nods. “Okay, okay, I-I think we can do this.”

Tiro Beckett peeks out once more, then looks back at Alistair. “Ready?”

“Aye. Let’s do it.”

The two charge out into the field just as a small group of rebels in civilian wear comes running out, swords held high above their heads.

What in blazes are they doing? Do they even know how to swing a sword?

One of the rebels—a bearded, plump man—turns his gaze on Alistair, then charges in his direction. He roars a blood-chilling cry before swiping twice at Alistair with the full force of his sword arm. Alistair blocks the first attack, then ducks under the second. He kicks the rebel in the chest and plunges his sword into his opponent’s upper leg—right below the knee; the man collapses to the snow, screaming in pain.

“Do it, you miserable bastard!” he shouts up at Alistair, clenching his weeping wound.

Before Alistair can stab his falcata downward, into the heart of the rebel, Tiro Beckett shoves Alistair aside as another rebel swings down on him. He misses, and Alistair falls face-first into the snow. The ice burns his face.

Alistair cranes his head to find Tiro Beckett sliding her sword across the downed rebel’s throat. She turns her attention on the second rebel closing in on her. Unlike his ally, the other rebel appears to know how to fight—not as well as any Tiro, but enough to assume there had been a scheduled sword practice every month or so.

Tiro Beckett deflects his attacks with her shield arm, then falls to the ground as he delivers a swift kick square into the middle of her shield. The force is enough to drop and disarm her.

“Gotcha now, you filthy bitch!” the rebel yells, jumping on top of her.

Tiro Beckett grabs the dirk strapped to her hip and slides the blade across the rebel’s forearm.

“Blazes!” he bellows, leaping off. He loses control of his sword arm, and resorts to holding his sword in his other hand. “I’ll have your head for this, tart.”

Alistair grips his falcata tight. “For king and country. He takes off running.

With a sickening sloshing and unnatural resistance, Alistair drives his falcata to the hilt through the rebel. The man wails in agony, looking down at the blade pierced through his stomach.

“Exemplar! Why have you forsaken me?” the rebel shrieks skyward. He does not move—not until Alistair pulls out the sword and drives a heel into his back.

With the rebel flat on his stomach, Alistair stabs his falcata into the stranger’s back, plunging it deep below the man’s navel, pulling it out, and then stabbing repeatedly with increased momentum each time. The man cries weaker and weaker in response to each stab, until his cries fade and he can no longer speak at all.

About the Author:

V.C. Remus holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Northern Illinois University. He is an economist, chess instructor, runner, RPG gamer, musician, songwriter, and avid reader of numerous genres. He is from Chicago, Illinois and owns three bunnies. To escape studying for his Series 7 and 63 examinations, he writes fantasy novels. His critically acclaimed debut series “Steamworks in the Bylea” was imagined on a late night in June of 2013 and completed on an early February morning in 2015. Watch for the sequel in 2016.

Find him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vcremusauthor

Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Steamworks-Bylea-V-C-Remus-ebook/dp/B00TWJNULQ

 

The Reader Problems Book Tag Post

I was tagged by my good friend at Coffee2Words, so Challenge Accepted!

You have 20,000 books on your TBR. How in the world do you decide what to read next?

I have a very specific book preference, so I know what I’m in the mood for at all times. A good friend of mine also makes recommendations for me, and his recommendations are usually spot on. I’ll read those books any day.

You’re halfway through a book and you’re just not loving it. Do you quit or commit?

Quit. Unless I’m committed to reading/reviewing the book, I don’t have time to waste on a book that doesn’t hook me right away. My reading time is VERY limited these days, so I have to fill it with things that actually entertain me.

The end of the year is coming and you’re so close yet so far away on your Goodreads Challenge. Do you quit or commit?

I’d commit. Once I take up a challenge, I ALWAYS finish it!

The covers of a series you love DO. NOT. MATCH. How do you cope?

I don’t do much reading in paperback–mainly in audiobook and Kindle format. That being said, I dislike it when covers are inconsistent. It definitely influences my opinion of the book.

Everyone and their mother loves a book you really don’t like. Who do you bond with over shared feelings?

I have a couple of good buddies whose tastes run fairly similar to mine. But even if they like a book I don’t, they’re usually willing to deal.

You’re reading a book and you’re about to start crying in public. How do you deal?

I let it flow. If a book is good enough to make me cry, the least I can do is let it do what it is supposed to. MAD PROPS to an author that can do that.

A sequel of a book you loved just came out, but you’ve forgotten a lot from the prior novel. Will you re-read the book? Skip the sequel? Try to find a summary on Goodreads? Cry in frustration?

I never forget a book! If there are little details I have forgotten, I will Google it to try and remember, but usually they will come back to me in the course of reading/listening to the book.

You don’t want ANYONE borrowing your books. How do you politely tell people “nope” when they ask?

I LOVE sharing my books! That way I have something to talk with others about. That being said, if there is a book I want to keep all to myself, I don’t care if I say “no” politely or not. MY PRECIOUS!!!

You’ve picked up and put down five different books in the past month. How do you get over your slump?

Keep looking for a new one! I read as I exercise, so I need something to keep me entertained while on the treadmill. It’s the impetus I need to keep looking for good books.

There are so many new books coming out that you are dying to read! How many do you actually buy?

Far fewer than I’d like!

After you’ve bought a new book you want to get to, how long do they sit on your shelf until you actually read them?

No more than a few weeks–usually until I’ve finished the book/series I’m in the middle of at the moment.

 

I tag…

EJ Bouinatchova

Peter J. Story

 

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Writing Has Taught Me Focus

There are a few people lucky enough to spend their entire work day doing what they love. Whether it’s building computer components, racing sports cars, or writing fiction, those people have the life that we all want.

For the rest of us, it can be pretty tough to fit in the things we WANT to do around the things we HAVE to do every day. One of the greatest obstacles every writer faces is their day job. It pays their bills, but it takes away the time they could spend writing.

So, let’s say you’re lucky enough to get an hour or two of writing time every day. But what about your kids, your spouse, the maintenance of your house, or the meals that have to be cooked? These things all take up more time, and they certainly weigh on your mind. If they take up too much mental effort, they’ll cut into the time you have set aside to do the things you want to do.

Thankfully, writing has taught me to focus!

I get about an hour or so every day to write (thanks to my gorgeous wife). That hour does NOT come at the same time every day, but I can only fit it in once I know everything is taken care of. For me, that means:

  • Making sure my two oldest kids are off to the gym
  • Dropping my son off at his basketball training
  • Make sure I have an idea of what will be prepared for dinner
  • Having an evening activity ready

My solution: get these things out of the way, THEN sit down to write.

I have about 90 minutes between dropping off and picking up the kids, so that’s when I fit in my writing time. Dinner and the evening activity are worries for AFTER the kids are picked up, so my mind is free to focus on the writing.

To add to the laser focus: a cup of black tea, wonderful music, a quiet house, and a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Close my Gmail window, log out of Facebook, and give my wife a kiss before I sit down. With everything taken care of and distractions averted, I can get some writing time in.

As a writer–or as anyone trying to accomplish anything–you HAVE to focus. That means doing whatever it takes to clear your mind of worries and to-do’s, and focusing only on what you’re doing.

 

What do you do to ensure that you stay focused? Drop a comment below and share your secrets…

Things are Not as they Appear

Just because we think of something one way, that doesn’t mean it is that way!

Think about our perception of Nazi Germany from World War II. We see Hitler and the Nazis as being horrible people who did horrible things. But, as Winston Churchill said, “History is written by the victors.” Thanks to the Allied victory, history has been written one very specific way. But how would we look back on the Nazis had the Axis won the war? Would they be the villains of the piece, or would our perception of the entire situation be totally different?

I find that looking at things from a different angle gives me a whole new perspective on the situation. That’s not to say that I’m pro-Nazi or Holocaust, but it does set you to thinking. What REALLY happened? What were things REALLY like in situations throughout history?

Here are some things to ponder:

  • Had Christianity not become so popular and widespread, would Jesus have simply been viewed as just another nuisance in the Roman Empire’s rule?
  • Had the Hebrews never left Egypt, would Moses have been just one more “upstart” that the Pharaoh put down?

We hear stories from history about great men and women, but how great were they really? Was Florence Nightingale a caring woman who was concerned about the sick soldiers in the Crimean War? Was Gandhi really an inspiring teacher, or was he just one more cult leader with a huge following? Was Albert Einstein really that smart, or, if he lived today, would he just be seen as “one more genius among hundreds”?

I’m not saying that history is wrong, but I have to question if our perception or version of history is actually correct. I love to ask myself these questions and look at them from a different angle. Instead of taking what I am told at face value, I find that it helps me to expand my thought process when I question everything.

So, when you are writing, ask yourself, “What really happened here?” Just because someone LOOKS like the bad guy, is he/she really the villain? Are the heroes really heroic? It makes for an interesting mental exercise, and it can make for much deeper stories!

 

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Book Review: The Kingdom on the Edge of Reality by Gahan Hanmer

Today is going to be a different sort of Friday, as I’m doing a book review instead of a blog post. Have no fear: Friday’s post will be up tomorrow…

On this auspicious day, we’re looking at a brand new fantasy novel like you have NEVER before read…

 

The Kingdom on the Edge of Reality

Welcome to Albert Keane’s beautifully designed medieval kingdom nestled in a completely isolated river valley in the Canadian wilderness. Peaceful, happy, and prosperous, it takes nothing from the modern world, not so much as a single clock.

There is a castle, of course, and a monastery. There is even a pitch dark, rat-infested dungeon – because you simply have to have one if you are trying a rule a feudal kingdom!

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Farmers work the land, artisans ply their trades, monks keep school and visit the sick, and nobody (well, almost nobody) misses the modern world at all.

So why has Jack Darcey – actor, wanderer, ex-competitive fencer – been tricked and seduced into paying a visit? And why hasn’t anyone told him that the only way to leave is a perilous trek across hundreds of miles of trackless wilderness without a compass or a map?

Because a tide of fear and violence is rising from the twisted ambitions of one of King Albert’s nobles, and Albert’s fortune teller believes that Jack could turn the tide – if he lives long enough.

 

My Review: 3.5 Stars

To call this book “unusual” would be an understatement. It’s like all the classic portal fantasy (person from this world ends up in another world), but without the portal. Instead, the main character is transported to “another world” established in the wilderness of Northern Canada. An intriguing setup, I must admit.

Unfortunately, the book falls a bit flat from Page 1. It stars out with some interaction with a sheriff that made no sense at all, and the book continues on VERY slowly for the next chapter or two. There’s none of that “jolt” or “rush” to make you interested, so I had to force myself to keep reading. The story has no real cohesion at first. It sort of jumps from one plot thread to the next without taking any time to dwell on each.

It takes way too long for the main character to end up in the “fantasy world”, and even longer for any story to build. The main character’s backstory is done in an amateur fashion, using an info dump rather than adding bits and pieces throughout the book.

There are quite a few punctuation and grammatical errors, and the occasional tense switch makes it very hard to read. It’s hard to differentiate between flashbacks/back story and the present tense, as there is nothing to indicate any sort of change. The writing comes off a bit stilted and hard to follow.

That being said, I have yet to read a better description of fencing and sword-fighting. When the character first picks up a sword (he fenced in school but hadn’t for years), the description of getting the feel and heft of the blade is masterfully done. It goes on for a few paragraphs, and it is highly complex without being dry. Absolutely well done.

The book started out slow and had a few issues, but it ended well enough. The ending was perhaps a bit cliché, but I felt satisfied when I closed the book.

 

Here’s a Taste:

As we approached the castle I was struck once again by the same feelings I had experienced when I had seen it from a distance. The castle beckoned to me; it made me want to own it and live there. But owning a castle had never been one of my dreams. I knew nothing about castles and had no particular interest in them. So why should I covet this one? It made me wonder whether the designer, Joel Mason, had conceived it with that effect in mind, weaving something irresistible right into the architecture.

Our procession poured over the drawbridge and under the portcullis into a great courtyard where even more people were waiting for us. A cheer rang out from the crowd that startled birds into flight from every battlement. Albert turned in his saddle to acknowledge the cheering, and it made me feel sad about my drifty life. I knew no crowd anywhere would ever welcome me that way.

On the steps of the castle was a small group of nobles who also looked glad to see Albert. As we were dismounting, one of the noblemen held up a hand to me in greeting; it took me only a few seconds to recognize him as another acquaintance from my prep school days. We had never been particularly close, nor did I remember him being close to anyone else; back then, he seemed to find everyone and everything equally ludicrous. But he had been a good person to hang out with when I was taking life too seriously, and I was glad to see him now.

 

About the Author:

Born into a family of actors and painters, Gahan Hanmer naturally gravitated toward the arts. As a youth, he was not an exceptional student or much of an athlete, but he received satisfaction and appreciation from the work he did on the stage, which began when he was eight years old. Under the guidance of his uncle actor Marlon Brando, Gahan developed his talent exclusively as a theater artist, working with many inspired teachers and directors.

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In the classical theater Gahan played soldiers, princes, kings and gods, along with beggars, villains, criminals and madmen. Trained in the Stanislavski ‘method’, living truly in the skins and minds of these characters, he absorbed what each of them had to teach him. But life in the theater is a kind of sacrifice; there is little or no money in it. He left the theater and came back to it many times. He wandered, stumbling through life, searching for he wasn’t sure what, supporting himself in a variety of occupations. The real world was his teacher then.

Later in life, when he had outgrown his need for the world of the theater and began living a more normal life, he began to try to organize some of what life had taught him in a novel of romance and adventure. Every night, after his two daughters were in bed, he became the main character in a perilous mythical journey and recorded it as it unfolded in his imagination. Years later, rewritten and revised many times and finally pruned and polished, the result was The Kingdom on the Edge of Reality.

 

Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Kingdom-Edge-Reality-Gahan-Hanmer-ebook/dp/B007GDUFVI/

Read Gahan’s thoughts on his website: http://thekingdomontheedgeofreality.com/thekingdomontheedgeofrealitybooktour.htm
 

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Book Review: Everflame by Dylan Lee Peters

It’s Book Review Wednesday, my very favoritist day of the week! Today’s book is an unusual one, involving talking bears, evil humans, and the fate of the universe…

 

Everflame

Long ago, when the earth was young, four ancient beings created man to be the bastion of the earth and its creatures, but when the Great Tyrant came and chased the Ancients away, the world was transformed into a place of fear and isolation. Over time, humans lost their connection with a world they had been created to protect, they forgot the ways of their ancient creators, and accepted the Tyrant’s lies as truths from the mouth of a god.

Now, deep in the forests that surround Gray Mountain, two bears find a small child that is abandoned and left for dead. The bears name him Evercloud, raise him as a member of their kingdom, and teach the boy of the Ancients, all underneath the light of the Everflame, the flame that burns atop Gray Mountain as a monument to the integrity and spirit of the bears.

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As Evercloud grows, rumors reach the bear kingdom of the Ancients’ return, and now the young man must leave his home to find them, and help save the world he holds dear.

Will Evercloud lose himself in the darkness of the Great Tyrant’s lies, or will he have the courage to judge his own heart, the strength to master the darkness, and the faith to follow his purpose until it burns within his heart like the Everflame?

 

My Review: 3 Stars

There is a lot about this story to make it great, but there is a lot that made it iffy.

For example, the first few chapters are dedicated to the bears, how they find the child, how one bear has to fight to be king, and more. Those chapters could have been made shorter, particularly the part about the fight. It added nothing to the story, and didn’t flesh out the characters any more. The bear who found the child could have started out as the king, and it wouldn’t have affected the backstory at all.

There could have been some pretty epic moments in the story, but due to the amateur quality of the writing, I felt no tension or drama. Only the death of one character really caused any sort of reaction in me, and he wasn’t even a main character. I almost missed another important death because there was very little attention paid to it.

The quality of the writing definitely earns a 3-star rating at best. There are lots of grammar and punctuation mistakes, though thankfully no misspellings. I understand that this is the first book written and published by the author, but it was just a bit too bland for me to give it a good review.

That being said, the characters were fairly interesting–particularly the one who becomes the villain. While they could all have been developed much better, there was enough to make me like them at least in passing.

 

Here’s a Taste:

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” said the tall man as he and the short man stood with Evercloud by the stream, watching two large bears come lumbering toward them.

“Put the knife on him,” whispered the short man to the tall man.

The tall man grabbed Evercloud and held the knife to his throat. “You make the bears play nice and we’ll play nice, got it?”

Whiteclaw and Riverpaw stopped just a few yards short of Evercloud and the men. They saw the knife, up to Evercloud’s throat, and they both began to growl.

“It’s okay,” said Evercloud to the bears. “They just want to be sure that they can trust you. Speak to them.” Whiteclaw shook his head very slightly at Evercloud, not wanting to give away that bears could speak or even understand speech. “Really, it’s okay. They helped me in the village. They’re just protecting themselves.”

“Take the knife away from his throat or I’ll crush your heads,” said Riverpaw to the men.

Whiteclaw spun on his son. “What are you doing?”

For a moment, everything was silent. The two men were wide-eyed in amazement. Then they began to whisper to each other.

“The bears are talking, right?”

“Yes, the bears are talking.”

“They’re going to kill us.”

“Say something to them, would you?”

“Um,” started the tall man. “We mean you no harm…nor your friend here. Um…are we correct in assuming that you are friends to those who search for the Ancients and reject the Great Tyrant?”

This time Whiteclaw spoke, however reluctantly. “I don’t know. Are we correct in assuming that you will not do anything that will force us to kill you?”

The short man came up behind the tall man and whispered into his ear. “Tell him yes.”

The tall man spoke, “Yes.”

“Then, yes,” said Whiteclaw.

“So what do we do now?” asked the tall man, obviously unsettled by the events that were taking place.

“Well, first,” said Whiteclaw. “I suggest that you remove the knife from Evercloud’s neck and tell us who you are.”

 

 

Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Everflame-Dylan-Peters-ebook/dp/B008QZMX7E

Read Dylan’s thoughts on his website: www.dylanleepeters.com

Connect with him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Dylan-Lee-Peters/109222362447009

Tweet at him: @dylanleepeters

 

Writing Has Taught Me to Accept My Decisions

It can be pretty tough to make choices, especially big ones that will affect your future or that of your children!

As a (fairly new) parent, I’ve had to make tough choices over the last few years. Now that the kids are becoming teenagers, the choices are going to get harder. I have to think not only about their future, but also about our future once the kids have left home. These are decisions I feel supremely unqualified to make, yet I am forced to make them.

But thankfully, writing has helped me learn that I can make the right decisions!

Think about it: in your novel, you are deciding where the story goes. Many of the decisions are subconscious, but ultimately it is YOU making them. You decide if a character lives or dies, if they get the girl or boy in the end, if they kill that person or not, and so on.

Every story is made up of hundreds or thousands of tiny decisions: turn left or right, open that door or not, accept or refuse an offer, etc. As the writer, you are making the decision for the character. Where that decision ultimately leads, that’s what the story is all about. But you do have to make that decision.

Those decisions don’t always lead to good things for the character, but they are good for you. You know that you need to take the character on the journey, so the decisions you make help them to walk down the path. By the end, they have learned what the consequences of their choices are, and so have you.

So, in large part thanks to writing, I’ve learned that even a small bad choice NOW can be fixed in the long run. After all, the hero that nearly dies because he made the wrong turn can kill the dragon and save the princess in the end.

That sort of takes a huge weight of burden off my shoulders. The small decision I make today may have negative consequences, but it won’t be the end of the world. As the hero of my own story, I can make decisions that will help me to have that “and they lived happily ever after”, no matter how far off I stray.

When it comes time to make those decisions, I still have to be smart and use the information that I have. But even if I make the wrong choice now, everything is fixable. It helps me to accept the decisions I make, making life much easier to swallow one day at a time.

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Book Review: Lifemaker by Dean Wilson

It’s Bonus Book Review Saturday, and today we’re going way off the beaten path with a steampunk novel. It’s the Part 2 to Hopebreaker, a book I reviewed a few months ago.

 

Lifemaker

The Regime is on the hunt, forcing the Resistance to take refuge aboard the Lifemaker, an advanced submarine that houses a special cargo: a handful of women who can still give birth to human children.

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To evade the Regime’s own submersibles, all parties must work together, but tensions are high, and not everyone on board is looking out for the greater good.

As they descend into the deeps, they quickly learn that not all monsters work for the Regime.

 

My Review: 4 Stars

I read Book 1 more out of duty than desire, but when I opened the pages of Lifemaker, I was pretty quickly hooked by the story.

In Book 1, the main character, Jacob, is fairly unlikeable. It made the book a bit hard to read, and it felt like the author was trying to push readers away from bonding with the main character. But now, in Book 2, he still has the same brash, abrasive, combative personality, but he is much more likeable. Within a few chapters, I was actually rooting for him instead of praying that I would get the book over with.

I love the concept of steampunk, and the way the author described the various vehicles and machines was beautifully simple. No fancy, in-depth explanations of complicated machines only an engineer would have a hope of understanding. Instead, the book focused more on the characters, and that’s what made me like it so much.

The intro is a bit clunky and awkward, and it takes a while to build up steam (pun intended), but once the book gets going, it’s great. I had to give it a 4-star rating because the writing just felt “off” in a lot of places. I can’t explain why, but there was something about the sentence construction, the wording of certain phrases, and some of the expressions used that just didn’t sit right with me. Perhaps it’s the fact that the author is writing in more UK English than my American English brain is accustomed to.

Either way, VERY good Part 2, and definitely a book worth reading if you enjoy steampunk.

 

Here’s a Taste:

Jacob immediately regretted volunteering as soon as he jammed himself inside one of the submersibles. It so was tiny it made his quarters look and feel like a palace. Within minutes his legs already felt a hint of a cramp, which was not reassuring, given how much he would come to rely on them to pedal that ball of metal and glass.

Perhaps Taberah was also complaining in her submersible, but it did not seem like it. Jacob presumed she had used these contraptions before.

“You know how to steer it?” Rommond asked Jacob.

“It looks simple enough. Basically a bicycle in a ball.”

“With a propeller,” Rommond added. “Many thousand leagues beneath the sea.”

“Yeah, I forgot about the sea part.”

“Don’t,” Rommond cautioned.

“Don’t worry. Something tells me it’ll stick in my mind.”

He was shown how to use the two mechanical arms on the front of the vessel, which were powered by levers on either side of those that steered the craft. It was such a tight fit that the levers were very close to one another, making it very easy to pull the wrong one. So much for the Resistance’s fabled engineering, he thought. He patted his legs. It’s all about muscle and stamina now.

“Should this lamp be burning now?” Jacob asked. The oil-lamp had already been lit for several minutes, and it dangled above the dashboard, faintly illuminating the meagre controls. There was no room for a spare lamp, or spare fuel. There was barely enough space for the one, and for Jacob’s head, which banged against the lamp from time to time. Jacob could not help but think of the submersible as being like a coffin. He hoped it would not end up being true.

“Don’t worry,” Rommond said. “You’ll run out of air before that light goes out.”

With those final words, the door was closed and sealed air-tight. Though this was reassuring, to save Jacob being killed by the immense pressure, or by drowning, it also started the clock ticking away on the air supply, counting down to his untimely death. He glanced once at the chronometer on the ever so close dashboard, before feeling a sudden jerk as the submersible was pushed into a tube, which was then sealed off on the inside. Another door on the outside of the tube opened, flooding it with water, which buoyed the submersible and brought it into the black sea.

Then Jacob began pedalling, and the propeller set in motion. The submersible glided out of the tube and into the great emptiness of the ocean, which was not empty at all, but filled with many bobbing bombs, which Jacob and Taberah pedalled towards, instead of away from. Jacob decided to pedal at an even pace, to save his strength, but part of him felt like giving it his all, knowing that his all might end in several minutes’ time.

The gloom around him made him appreciate more the glimmer of his oil lamp.

“Hell, this is dark,” he said. He liked the darkness, but this was oppressing. It almost flooded his being. He was afraid that even when he returned to the light—or if he returned to the light—he would still feel that darkness in his soul.

He caught sight of Taberah’s submersible leaving another tube, illuminated by one of the Lifemaker’s blinding lights.

“The Lightmaker,” Jacob quipped. He was not sure who he was talking to.

Taberah led the way to the mines in front of the submarine. They were further away than Jacob thought, and the Lifemaker’s immense size was better appreciated when he had to pedal half its length to get to the front of it. He was already panting. It was a frightening feeling, because not only was he tired, but he thought the pants might be consuming more of that precious, and dwindling, supply of oxygen.

They reached the mines, which were slightly larger than the submersibles were, yet they looked monstrously large compared to how they looked from the Lifemaker. Taberah was already using the mechanical arms to stretch forth and gentle nudge one of the mines to the side.

Jacob glanced at the chronometer. Almost six minutes had passed, and only one of the mines was out of the way. To the Resistance, Jacob was a newfound ally; Time was not.

He fiddled with the levers that controlled the mechanical arms of his craft. They sprang into action, and their sudden, jerky movements made Jacob afraid that they might suddenly clatter off a mine, and so be the end of them, and him.

He heard the metal fingers scratching off the metal of the mine. Each scrape almost sounded like the countdown of a bomb. Five. The mine was not budging. Four. He had to pedal a little more, to push it forward. Three. He had to be careful he did not pedal too much. Two. He had to let it drift away a little of its own accord. One. He had to hope it did not collide with another mine behind it.

Zero. There was no explosion. He was still alive. But a different counter was ticking away. Only eight minutes of oxygen remained.

Taberah had already cleared two of the mines by the time Jacob was starting on his second. He saw her whizzing over to a third. It was just those last two to go. And then get back. Perhaps the mines were not the trouble. It was getting back in time.

 

 

About the Author:

Dean F. Wilson was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1987. He started writing at age 11, when he began his first (unpublished) novel, entitled The Power Source. He won a TAP Educational Award from Trinity College Dublin for an early draft of The Call of Agon (then called Protos Mythos) in 2001.

His epic fantasy trilogy, The Children of Telm, was released between 2013 and 2014.

Dean also works as a journalist, primarily in the field of technology. He has written for TechEye, Thinq, V3, VR-Zone, ITProPortal, TechRadar Pro, and The Inquirer.

 

Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00RMZD6JI/

And Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00RMZD6JI/

As well as Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lifemaker-dean-f-wilson/1121680313

Read Dean’s ramblings on his website: http://www.deanfwilson.com

Connect with him via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deanfwilson

Tweet at him: https://twitter.com/deanfwilson

 

The Most Important Rules for a Happy Life

An article from The Open Mind popped up on my Facebook feed the other day, listing the Dalai Lama’s 18 Rules of Living. These are all rules meant to help us be more mindful in your lives, not to mention find our true happiness.

All 18 rules are great, but here are the ones that really stood out to me:

Rule 2: When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

I’ve posted many times about how failure and mistakes are the best thing that can happen to us. The Dalai Lama says the same thing in far fewer words. “Losing” is EXCELLENT provided you take something away from the experience and it makes you a better person.

Rule 4: Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

I can’t remember what movie or TV show it was, but it involved how winning the lottery or gaining ultimate power was the worst thing that could have happened to a person. Once you get what you want, you realize that it’s not as awesome as you thought it would be. Just like they say “Never meet your heroes”, it’s usually better to NOT get what you want. You’ll definitely have to work harder for it if things aren’t just handed to you!

Rule 16: Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.

This is one that my beautiful wife has helped me to learn a lot more in recent years. I’m the kind of guy who LOVES comfort and routine, but in the last couple of years I have done a whole lot of new things and visited many new places thanks to her. In fact, I’m planning a summer trip to the Grand Canyon with my whole family, which–for anyone who knows me–is absolutely out of character for me. But I’m looking forward to it!

Rule 18: Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

The harder you have to work for something, the better it feels when you actually achieve it. I am giving up A LOT to write, so once I do achieve some modicum of success, it will feel just that much better!

The Falcon's Eye

Book Review: Falcon’s Eye by Surya Vaidyanathan

For today’s Book Review Wednesday, we’re going for some old school high fantasy, complete with the lost princess and the secret magical powers. Sounds cliché, but surprisingly good!

 

The Falcon’s Eye

The queen of Aundour is assassinated. The Falcon’s Eye, a talisman of great power, is sealed within the infant heir to the throne, who is exiled for her own safety.

Sixteen years later, land pirate Ava is rescued from execution by a stranger who reveals that she’s being hunted for more than her crimes. Aundour’s sworn enemy seeks the amulet hidden beneath her birthmark, and the only place where she will be safe is with her real father, the king who sent her away.

The Falcon's Eye

A dormant power now awakens within her, a destructive force too strong for an untrained mind to handle. But Ava never asked for magic, wealth, or even a father. All she wants is to escape the lords and liars trying to control her. When the web of evil closes in, and Aundour’s fate hangs by a thread, Ava must make a choice: her need for freedom, or the kingdom doomed to fall without her?

 

My Review: 5 Stars

It’s rare that I give books five-star reviews, but this book definitely earns it overall.

The minute you’re introduced to the main character, you come to like her. She’s very prickly and defensive, but it makes sense given her back-story.

I have to say that the story was a wee bit cliché–lost heroine, daughter of the king, destined for greatness, etc. There was a lot of action in the beginning that sort of detracted from getting to know the character, and the book definitely dragged on way too much. It was nearly as long as one of the Malazan books, and longer than even the Wheel of Time books. It could have been shorter and with fewer diverging story lines, but overall it was well done. The writing was absolutely solid, with perhaps three typos in the entire book.

Overall, though it’s not my new favorite, it’s a book I would recommend to anyone looking for a great read.

 

Here’s a Taste

Ava and Durhaeus stopped at a small oasis a safe distance from Nardarac. Durhaeus led the tired horse to the water and let it drink while he filled his canteens. Ava retreated to one side and wrapped a borrowed cloak tightly around herself. He stoppered the canteens, led the horse to the trees, and tied it securely.

Ava took the canteen Durhaeus offered her and drank deeply. Just a few hours ago, she had been unsure whether she would live to see another day, and yet, now, she was alive. She was with a stranger who knew about her past and had saved her from both a prison and a man who had immobilized her without touching her. She handed the canteen back to Durhaeus, her hand unconsciously moving over her arm, where the hooded stranger had made it flare with agonizing pain. She remembered a tugging feeling inside, as if there was something within her trying to come out.

“We’ll rest here for a while,” said Durhaeus. “Nardarac will be too busy trying to control a riot and a fire. Are you cold?”

“I’m fine.” She sat down next to the horse and drew her knees up, making herself as small as possible. “Who was that back there?”

“I don’t know,” he replied.

“Yes, you do. Who was he? A Scorpion Brother? A Death Cleric?”

“He wasn’t any assassin’s guildsman.”

“He had to have been. No ordinary man could have done what he did.”

Durhaeus remained silent, twisting the strings of the canteen.

“Tell me,” said Ava. “I’m a hunted woman in many cities in Aesolys, but nothing to merit something like that.”

“This has nothing to do with you being Ava Noface.”

“Then what is it?”

“You should get some rest. I can keep watch.”

“I’m not tired. Answer me.”

“Are you hungry?”

“I was nearly killed today,” she snapped. “Twice. The only reason I’m still sitting here is because you haven’t killed me yet. I don’t know how you know about Cawhirith or claim to know my birth parents. I don’t know what that man did to hold me in place like that or how he made fire out of nothing, and I don’t care to know. Just tell me this: is he going to come after me again?”

“Yes,” said Durhaeus.

 

About the Author:

S. Nathan took to writing to calm the stories bubbling in her cauldron of a mind. Her love for fantasy stemmed from her interest in legends, folklore, and the seemingly impossible, and her interests in art and history only fanned the flames. Raised in both India and America, she has traveled all over Europe and Australia, getting a taste for different kinds of people, cultures, and the tales they tell. She is also an architect, UX designer, music junkie, and a pop culture nerd. The Falcon’s Eye is her first book.

 

Find the book on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1yN0BUz

Read S. Nathan’s ramblings on her website: www.sdotnathan.wordpress.com

Tweet at her: https://twitter.com/sdotnathan

Connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorsnathan?ref=bookmarks
 

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