My first round of books was very, very strong, which had me all sorts of excited for the next round of books. Unfortunately, this is the first round of books where I didn’t finish all of them. That’s really hard for me. I absolutely hate not finishing a book, but in reality, I’m not obligated by anyone but myself to actually finish any of these books, and if I’m being completely honest, not many real agents would (from what I know of them).
So this is the first round where I DNF’d some books, and others really impressed me. This is also the first round where I really came to terms with the fact that I’m not really doing this right. I’m acting like a reviewer rather than an “agent” of sorts. It’s something that comes so naturally to me it takes some real thought for me to break out of that role. When I slush read for publishers, I almost never read the whole book. I usually give each book about three chapters and then I’m done if I’m unimpressed. If I’m impressed, I’ll read further. I should probably try and slip into that mindset, but I think I’ve already set the tone for myself thus far, and it would be unfair to everyone else if I changed my mind all the sudden. So, I’ll keep on keeping on.
I really do need to write an apology to this group of five. I have delayed your mini-reviews by over a week, and that’s no fault of yours. My life has just been absolutely insane, and it’s been hard for me to keep up.
Well, onto the mini reviews.
The Bone Wall – D. Wallace Peach
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This is the first book that hit my DNF pile. The style is fantastic, and the prose were fluid and artistic. The world and plot had such potential to wow me, but it just didn’t work. The world, a sort of post apocalyptic under-the-dome type thing was hard for me to believe. There is almost no technology, but somehow there are lampposts. A few thousand people live there, but there is no explanation of how their resources come to them, for a few examples. I had a hard time feeling any real relationship between characters, and the pacing was off, sometimes things went a bit too fast and sometimes they went a bit too slow. All of this worked to keep me rather detached from the book. It’s a slow burn, and takes some effort to get into. When I realized that, I put it aside. However, as I said above, the writing was beautiful, I just felt the book could have used a bit more thought and depth regarding world, characters and their relationships, and plot pacing.
Rating: Did not finish
Award: Beautiful prose
The Darkness Undivided – Jesse Jones
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This book has a lot of heart, which is refreshing. Sometimes the prose would really take off and the language would be nothing short of beautiful, and the plot would match. I enjoy tropes. I think tropes and tropes for a reason – they work, but sometimes authors can fall into a comfort zone with tropes. Comfortable isn’t always better, and this book lacked some of the daring qualities I look for in my literature. Great writing aside, there were too many plot holes early on, and the author focused too heavily on tropes without enough of his own vision. Furthermore, this book could have used a bit more in the way of professional editing. In essence, this is a book about good vs. evil, and that storyline has been done and done and done, and sometimes it works, but due to the fact that the plot is so familiar, it requires something a bit more unique to catch my eye and this one just fell short. Regardless, the author’s enthusiasm was obvious, and his protagonist’s love for adventure was rather infectious.
Rating: Did not finish
Award: The most heart
Stranger’s Descent – Tony Barrett
(I couldn’t find this book on Amazon to link to)
Stranger’s Descent has a lot going for it. It doesn’t really fit in any one genre. It has a Wild West feel, which I love, including magic, villains, dust, struggle and everything else. Stranger is a hard character to pin down. He’s pretty mysterious, with a rather loaded past that slowly gets revealed (in part) as the plot unravels. The other characters are distinct with their own voices, but those voices tend to get lost as the tension mounts. There are a lot of politics and conflict, and the world is pretty dark but the characters are lovable and enjoyable in their context. There is obviously room for Barrett to expand in future books, and as this is the first book in a series, I think the rest of the series should be pretty exciting. However, nothing is perfect, and sometimes the writing was a bit thick. Some of the characters felt a little too flawless to be believable. This book was a breath of fresh air, and while it’s not perfect, I enjoyed it immensely.
Rating: 3/5 stars
Award: Best setting
Bloodrush – Ben Galley
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This book came out of nowhere and it was impossible for me to put down. First, notice that stunning cover art. Seriously, it’s amazing. Secondly, this book has a truly unique, fascinating magic system. Galley seems to know just how to strike the balance between fantasy and reality. The protagonist, Tonmerion, is a young boy whose world is turned upside-down. There isn’t really anything unique about that, but he’s forced to relocate and the world ends up being different from what he expected it to be. Fell Falls, Wyoming, is far different than London, and it’s the perfect setting for an eerie, almost Neil Gaiman approach to reality – a twist and a turn and the world is both the same and far different than anything you expect it to be. Tonmerion is more than he appears, and he has to learn about himself, and the world he lives in as he grows into an adult. Galley hits the right notes with adventure, love, and coming of age, and it was absolutely captivating. Honestly, this one is superb.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Award: Most Captivating
The Five Elements – Scott Marlowe
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There are young adult books, and then there are books about young people that can appeal to just about anyone. Sometimes the two converge. I think this is one of those kind of books. It’s a book about fifteen-year-olds. Usually I see that age, and I kind of shut off. I’m really not into young adult books, which is my own flaw, but I do enjoy books about young people. I don’t know if the distinction means anything to anyone but me, but there it is. At its heart, this is a book about two friend who take two very different routes to get to the same place. It’s really interesting how Marlowe decided to tell their respective stories, and is pretty well done. The magic and fantasy of the book add a nice spice to things and keep the plot interesting and even unexpected. Life experiences can change people, and change friendships, and I felt that Marlowe addressed that complex issue in a realistic way that young adults and adults can both enjoy. The book kind of loses it’s get-up-and-go after the start (which is, by and large, the best part of the book). Naming conventions don’t usually bother me, but I did have a hard time keeping some of the names, which could get pretty annoying at times. Sometimes Marlowe went too far into the details and gave readers step-by-step instructions about how mundane things were done, which got tiring and could bog things down. Regardless, this is a promising book that will appeal to fans of young adult, and adult books that are young at heart.
Rating: 3/5 stars
Award: Most Endearing Characters
My favorite book for this group of five was…..
Bloodrush by Ben Galley
My next group of five will be: