Today's first chapter review is of the Young Adult Fantasy, "The Kingdom of Oceana". I received a request from a publicist, or maybe it was an offer, to review a copy of this book. I replied that I normally read the first chapter and then comment on it on my podcast, when I'm doing a review. What I also told her was that I would prefer to interview the author and allow him to pitch the story and talk about his inspiration, etc. I don't know if she pitched the idea to the author, but she said she would be happy to send me a copy of the book to do the review.
So, Mitchell Charles, if you happen to listen to this podcast, I'd still love to have you on to talk about your book in greater depth than I'm probably going to give it here.
Here is the pitch from the publicist. This is all I knew of the story before I read the first chapter:
The Kingdom of Oceana is a young-adult fantasy novel, by Mitchell Charles, that takes readers on a fun and exciting adventure filled with non-stop action, from big wave surfing, to fire walking and shark taming. Readers have compared it to Disney’s new movie Moana.
I think comparing a book to another is always risky. Here, the publicist compares this novel to the new Disney movie, "Moana". I recently spent a week with my grand kids and we watched Moana about six times. So I know what that movie is all about. Sitting down to read this first chapter, Moana is what I had in mind.
(Read the first chapter)
Here are my thoughts based on this first chapter and the publicist pitch.
I don't see any Moana here. No upbeat, cheerful characters. I see an older brother who is condescening toward his younger brother, referring to him as a parasitic sucker fish. We learn the older's name is Nahoa and he refers to the younger as Omo and Younger Brother. This first chapter seems to be focused more on Nahoa, than who we will find out later is the main character of the book. Nahoa's a bit of a cheat and bully when he jumps off the younger brother's back and then turns on him and tries to kill him. Again, no Moana here.
Standing on this first chapter alone, comparing to the publicist's pitch. I don't know if I would continue on.
Let's read the blurb. I found this further down in the initial email I received from the publicist, and it is also the blurb for the book on the Amazon page.
SURFER. SHARK TAMER. FIRE WALKER. EXPLORER. TEENAGER. HERO.
Set 500 years ago on the island now called Hawaii, there was a kingdom filled with adventure, beauty, and magic. When 16-year-old Prince Ailani and his brother Nahoa trespass on a forbidden burial ground and uncover an ancient tiki mask, they unleash a thousand-year-old curse that threatens to destroy their tropical paradise.
As warring factions collide for control of Oceana, it sparks an age-old conflict between rival sorcerers that threatens to erupt--just like Mauna Kea, the towering volcano. With the help of his ancestral spirit animals, his shape shifting sidekick, and a beautiful princess, Prince Ailani must overcome his own insecurities, a lifetime of sibling rivalry, and a plague of cursed sea creatures brought forth by the tiki's spell. Can peace be restored to the kingdom? Can Prince Ailani claim his rightful place as the future king of Oceana? Two brothers, but only one can rule.
This paints a whole new picture on the story.
We learn that the younger brother's name is Ailani.
We have ancestral spirit animals to look forward to. I'm thinking like the dragon from the Disney story Mulan. Or maybe Pumba and Timon. Again, the image of a Disney classic was put into my mind and I may be rewarded or disappointed. And a shape shifting sidekick, that sounds like fun. And what could be better than a beautiful princess. I would expect someone snarky as well as beautiful.
Is any of this in the first chapter, though? Not much.
Having this added information, I would probably read another two or three chapters to see if story starts to match any of my expectations.
"The Kingdom of Oceana" was first published in December of 2015, so it was out before "Moana".
It has forty reviews with a 4.6 average.
There are three chapters available for preview on the Amazon page. Try them out and see if it compares to Moana.
Again, If you'd like to help out the podcast, it would be great if you could leave a review. Stop by the patreon page, or if you have some ideas of who you'd like to hear on the podcast, leave me a note on the Facebook page, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
She's @kathglasgow on twitter. I saw that she had "Liked" a tweet about the "Killer in Me" review. When I checked her handle I saw she was launching her book. The title and book cover grabbed me.
Published on August 30th of 2016 by Delacort Press
She currently has 40 reviews with a 4.8 star average.
She's in the top 20K of books sold on the Kindle store and at #4, 10, and 60 on three of the Teen>Literature and Fiction lists.
Here is the Amazon preview:
For fans of Girl, Interrupted, Thirteen Reasons Why, and All the Bright Places comes a novel Nicola Yoon, author of Everything, Everything, calls "a haunting, beautiful, and necessary book that will stay with you long after you've read the last page."
Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people do in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.
Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.
A deeply moving portrait of a girl in a world that owes her nothing, and has taken so much, and the journey she undergoes to put herself back together. Kathleen Glasgow's debut is heartbreakingly real and unflinchingly honest. It’s a story you won’t be able to look away from.
"A haunting, beautiful, and necessary book that will stay with you long after you've read the last page." —Nicola Yoon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything
The book is divided into three parts. The chapters are really short. Some only a half a page. The longest I will read is about three pages. In the first part there are 46 of these chapters. The Amazon preview is the first 15 chapters. I will read 13 of those.
"The Killer in Me" written by Margot Harrison was published on July 12, 2016 by Disney Hyperion.
I bought this one a while ago. I think it was the same time that I bought "Learning to swear in America". I believe both of them were on the Goodreads top YA books for July.
Here's the synopsis:
Hasn't he lived long enough? Why not? I could take him like a thief in the night. This is how the Thief thinks. He serves death, the vacuum, the unknown. He's always waiting. Always there. Seventeen-year-old Nina Barrows knows all about the Thief. She's intimately familiar with his hunting methods: how he stalks and kills at random, how he disposes of his victims' bodies in an abandoned mine in the deepest, most desolate part of a desert. Now, for the first time, Nina has the chance to do something about the serial killer that no one else knows exists. With the help of her former best friend, Warren, she tracks the Thief two thousand miles, to his home turf—the deserts of New Mexico. But the man she meets there seems nothing like the brutal sociopath with whom she's had a disturbing connection her whole life. To anyone else, Dylan Shadwell is exactly what he appears to be: a young veteran committed to his girlfriend and her young daughter. As Nina spends more time with him, she begins to doubt the truth she once held as certain: Dylan Shadwell is the Thief. She even starts to wonder . . . what if there is no Thief? From debut author Margot Harrison comes a brilliantly twisted psychological thriller that asks which is more terrifying: the possibility that your nightmares are real . . . or the possibility that they begin and end with you?
The Kindle preview includes the first four chapters. I'm going to read you the first two, which ends up being about 19 pages.
I try to read the first couple chapters and put down my thoughts before reading the synopsis, so I can get an honest feeling for whether I would read on based on those pages. Here's what I got before I read the blurb on the Amazon page.
Nina is a girl who dreams a serial killer's life.
Plenty of opportunity for conflict and character developement.
She's on a life and death mission to save a couple who lives a hundred plus miles away. She's smart enough to realize no one will believe her--the woman she called certainly didn't.
The author's writing is crisp and clear, her characterization is solid, and her use of dialog is effective.
I want to read on initially to see how she does with firing the .38 and secondly to see if she is able to get to upstate New Yord to help the older couple. I believe that these two conflicts are just an introduction to the story and my hopes are that this will ramp up into a solid thriller.
I had an interview with an author scheduled tonight, but she had to cancel for her son's back to school night. Unless I can reconnect with her in the next couple days, it will be another first chapter review next week.
thanks for listening. We'll see you next week.
Cinderella Dreams of Fire by Casey Lane
Published on August 15th by the author.
44 Reviews with a 4.7 star average
What if Cinderella led a double life?
Cinderella has a secret. In the 10 years since her mother's death, she's only pretended to be too weak to challenge her cold-blooded stepmother. By day, she cleans the floors and washes the laundry. By night, she takes to the streets as a fearless thief with no equal. Out on a routine mission, Cinderella never expected that she'd run into him…
Braedon is hardly a model prince. He spends most of his time in the tavern, much to the dismay of his royal mother. When an unexplainable blight strikes the queen's soldiers down, Braedon's attempt to help brings him face-to-face with the beautiful, sardonic thief. He wants nothing more than to partner up with her, even if it could get him killed…
The thief would much rather work alone, but the prince’s persistence starts to wear down her defenses. When the evil force decimating the army turns its attention to the throne, Cinderella and Braedon have one chance to save the kingdom, their loved ones, and themselves.
Cinderella Dreams of Fire is the first book in the Fairy Tales Forever series, a set of fantasy novels that inject the classic retellings you know with a burst of attitude. If you like strong female characters, action-packed fantasy, and simmering chemistry, then you’ll love Casey Lane’s romantic, fast-paced adaptation.
There are five chapters in the Amazon preview. I'm going to read you the first two chapters, about 15 pages.
I wanted to review this one right away because I follow the author on the Sell More Book Show podcast and have read the first book of the "Ted Saves the World" series. He's writing under this new pen name and using the "Write to Market" method to publish books in a niche that is currently under represented but performing well. This method also stresses writing quickly to meet the market demand for the genre. He has promoted the book heavily and it is performing well in the Amazon charts. He's gotten several #1 best seller rankings and is hoping to stay in the top 2500 for all books on Amazon for the next month.
I have to admit, I was a little let down after reading these first two chapters. I had gotten used to the sharply detailed, quality writing of the last few books I've reviewed. This is not "My Lady Jane", "The Paper Magician", or "Learning to Swear in America". It reads like it was written very quickly with a focus on telling the story and not showing us the depth of character detail or the fantasy environment.
I read the first two chapters originally, before I read the synopsis, so it left me a little confused. In fact, it appears to me that the author spent more time fine tuning the synopsis than he did writing the story.
Chapter 1. We view the story through one girl's eyes. Kayla? With a visit to a country tavern. We get the information that they were once princesses but are currently starving. The mother asks about a local Duke. When the tavern keeper's daughter comes in the older sister draws a knife. Besides cruelly cutting the girl, her mother makes an obscure comment that she wants something more than what the keeper can offer. We learn in the second chapter that it was the duke's hand in marriage. How she got that from threatening the tavern keeper isn't explained. Did the tavern keeper have some special connection to the Duke? It's kind of hard for me to believe.
Chapter 2 we meet Cinderella. I'll admit, I expected her to have a slightly different name. I guess that was my bad. I mean the name of the book is "Cinderella Dreams of Fire", but also expected a creatively different approach to the use of the name. We find her cleaning up a wine stain, not cinders, and learn a little of how she came to be in this mess.
It appears that Casy knows the mechanics of story telling and punts a zinger at the end of each chapter to encourage the reader to continue to the next page. Neither zinger worked for me and left me somewhat annoyed. Chapter 1's was a little darker and violent than I had expected, though it showed me what a cruel person the mother and older sister were. And then in the next chapter the introduction that Cinderella works for the Godmother came across as silly and contradictory to the first chapter.
On his recap of his writing process in the bonus episode of the "Sell More Book Show" the author talks about knowing the tropes of the genre. I don't know if silliness is one of the expected tropes, like watching a Shrek movie, or not. If it is, the first chapter was entirely out of place. If the author didn't mean for it to come across as silly, then I completely misread this second chapter ending.
In conclusion, if Fairy Tale retellings is a genre that you like, you might like this one. I've mentioned before that one of my all time favorite books is "Beauty" by Patricia McKillop. It was neither dark not silly, just beautifully written.
I give this a three star recommendation, "Try it. You might like it." I will have to take a pass on this one and spend my time reading something else. Knowing the other things this author has written I expected a higher quality of writing and story telling. It seems like he has put his quality efforts into marketing this one.
Learning to Swear in America
By Katie Kennedy
Published on July 5, 2016 by Bloomsbury Publishing
It has 29 reviews with a 4.8 star average.
Here's the Amazon synopsis:
An asteroid is hurtling toward Earth. A big, bad one. Maybe not kill-all-the-dinosaurs bad, but at least kill-everyone-in-California-and-wipe-out-Japan-with-a-tsunami bad. Yuri, a physicist prodigy from Russia, has been recruited to aid NASA as they calculate a plan to avoid disaster.
The good news is Yuri knows how to stop the asteroid--his research in antimatter will probably win him a Nobel prize if there's ever another Nobel prize awarded. But the trouble is, even though NASA asked for his help, no one there will listen to him. He's seventeen, and they've been studying physics longer than he's been alive.
Then he meets (pretty, wild, unpredictable) Dovie, who lives like a normal teenager, oblivious to the impending doom. Being with her, on the adventures she plans when he's not at NASA, Yuri catches a glimpse of what it means to save the world and live a life worth saving.
Prepare to laugh, cry, cringe, and have your mind burst open with the questions of the universe.
The Amazon Preview has the first two chapters. Here's chapter #1. "No need to panic".
This is a great story told in third person from Yuri's point of view. He's a believable teenage boy. He worries about his sleeves getting too short and how to buy a shirt. He doesn't want to look out of place and is self conscious about his suitcase, and when he's thrown into a room with another younger boy, he plays together with him.
The conflicts are clear and understandable. Humanity is threatened by a devastating asteroid. This gives us all a reason to get behind our young hero and hope for his success. However, there are underlying conflicts which threaten Yuri's potential for success. Two of the most ubiquitous of large workplace conflicts...professional jealousy and distrust. Yuri is distrusted for both his age and his nationality.
Based on the first chapter, and I almost wasn't able to stop myself from jumping directly into the second, this looks to be a wonderfully, exciting book. And of the books I've read most recently, this is the one with the best movie potential (in my humble opinion).
Five stars. Try this one out.
Here's another I found on the Ya Ya Young Adult Books Facebook page.
"Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things" by Martina McAtee
The first thing about it that caught my attention was that it was free for a few days. I looked on Amazon tonight as I am recording this and it is still free. So if you hear this when it goes live and it sounds good to you, you may still be able to get it free. If you wait too long you're going to have to pay for it.
The second thing to catch my eye was the cover. Let me see if I can describe it. There is a silhouette of a grave yard with tomb stones and leafless trees. Above it are swirling storm clouds. Except the scene is upside down. Hanging from the ground, at the top of the page, is a swing, and sitting on the swing, filling most of the page is a girl in a white sleeveless, knee length, cotton dress. She is bare foot and her straight brown covers her face, neck and upper chest.
So, the price was right, I liked the title and the book cover, so I bought it without reading the Amazon description.
It looks like it was published by the author in August of 2015. The second book in the series just published on the 15th of this month, (July of 2016), maybe that's why the first book is free right now.... The second book is called "Dark Dreams and Dead Things".
The first book has 64 customer reviews with a 4.9 star average.
Here is the Amazon description:
17 year old Ember Denning has made an art of isolating herself. She prefers the dead. She spends her days skipping school in old cemeteries and her nights hiding from her alcoholic father at the funeral home where she works. When her own father dies, Ember learns her whole life is a lie. Standing in the cemetery that’s been her sanctuary, she’s threatened by the most beautiful boy she’s ever seen and rescued by two people who claim to be her family. They say she’s special, that she has a supernatural gift like them…they just don’t know exactly what it is.
They take her to a small Florida town, where Ember’s life takes a turn for the weird. She’s living with her reaper cousins, an orphaned werewolf pack, a faery and a human genius. Ember’s powers are growing stronger, morphing into something bigger than anything anybody anticipated. Ember has questions but nobody has answers. Nobody knows what she is. They only know her mysterious magical gift is trying to kill them and that beautiful dangerous boy from the cemetery may be the only thing standing between her and death.
As Ember’s talents are revealed so are the secrets her father hid and those in power who would seek to destroy her. What’s worse, saving Ember has put her cousins in danger and turned her friend’s lives upside down. Ember must learn to embrace her magic or risk losing the family she’s pieced together.
A lot happens in this description. Let's see where the first chapter takes us.
The only bones I have to pick with this first chapter is:
1) The author implies that people often stare at Ember, or shy away from her, possibly from the way she looks. Yet we don't get a good picture of her as to why that would happen. Her hair is "Maybe too orange". Is that her natural color or did she die it tangerine, or fluorescent orange. I've met some people with naturally orange hair and while it was noticeable, it didn't make me feel the person was in some way unnatural.
Her eye color is unusual, but the events are taking place in New Orleans where the unexpected and alarming are qualities that can be considered positive. She even sees people dressed up for the day of the dead on her way to the funeral. As far as the author has shown us, these characters are no more or less alarming in appearance than our main character.
2) My second concern may actually be with the synopsis from the Amazon page. We are told so much that happens in the story and in the first chapter so little of it happens. Knowing what is going to happen doesn't encourage me to read further to find out HOW it happens. I know what will be and I want to get past it, find out what the new conflicts will be, and grow with the character. The Amazon synopsis is almost like a movie preview that shows all the great parts. We've all seen the preview that when it's done we say, well, I don't need to watch that one now.
In conclusion, if I forget the Amazon synopsis, I'm intrigued by the change/seizure Ember has at the funeral. Something is happening to her that I'm hoping will develop her character and give me a reason to root for, and care about, her. We've met a mysterious character on the roof of the mausoleum. Is this the too-beautiful-boy who we are told not to trust in the synopsis? I would rather have developed my own distrust of this character through his behavior and interactions with Ember, but at this point, I willing to read further to see how they relate to each other.
I give this book a strong four stars to read three or four more chapters and see if I start to learn more about the character than I've been told in advance. As I said in the beginning, there are a whopping 9 chapters in the Amazon preview, so you have the opportunity to read a lot of the story before deciding if you want to buy it. But then, while it remains free, it's well worth the cost.
Episode #48 The Paper Magician, Book One of the Paper Magician series. by Charlie N. Holmburg
To get this weeks episode I went to the Kindle top 100 Young Adult books. The number 1 book didn't sound Young Adult at all to me, so I skipped that one. the next six were either from the Harry Potter Series or from the Hunger Games, so I ended up with book #8. Eighth place is nothing to sniff at when you consider those in the first seven places.
Brandon Sanderson give this recommendation “Charlie is a vibrant writer with an excellent voice and great world building. I thoroughly enjoyed the Paper Magician.” —Brandon Sanderson, author of Mistborn and The Way of Kings
Paper Magician was published in September of 2014. The second and third books in the series are available and it is at 160 overall in the Kindle store, so you know it is getting daily sales. It has 3373 reviews with a 4.0 average.
Here's the Amazon book description.
Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.
Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined—animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.
An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.
From the imaginative mind of debut author Charlie N. Holmberg, The Paper Magician is an extraordinary adventure both dark and whimsical that will delight readers of all ages.
Short-Listed for the 2015 ALA Fantasy Reading List
I read the whole first chapter to prepare for the episode and wanted to read the whole thing for you, but it is around 25 pages and almost 10% of the book. The Amazon preview doesn't even give you the whole first chapter, so I'm going to read you about 12 pages
So, this is as far as I'm going to read for you. Using the magic of editing, I have actually listened to the preceding portion of the book before I record this followup and recommendation. I recorded a recommendation after I recorded those pages but there was a problem with the recording and it got all chopped up somehow. I'm glad, because I actually like the story more today, after listening to what I read. I got a better feel for the flow of the story listening to it, more than I did while recording it.
I'll be honest and tell you that I think it's a little slow getting started. There's no major conflict leading from page one. The preview tells us the major conflict of the story, and we've yet to see it happen. I'll give you a minor spoiler...we don't get into the conflict in the first chapter.
Dave Wolverton AKA David Farland, and author and writing teacher tells that one of the major draws of fantasy is the sense of wonder. I think that is what carries this first chapter. I think there is good characterization, the description and prose are beautiful, but what carries us along is discovery and wonder. All the aspects of magic, the paper folder's mansion, the paper flowers, the skeleton, and even Magician Thane create a sense of mystery and wonderful magic.
Last night when I recorded this I gave it a four star recommendation to continue reading, now I'm pushing that up to 4.5. I'm looking forward to hearing this one on audio. In fact, right now I'm listening to the book from last week, "My Lady Jane" on audible.com and while the book is wonderful, the writing terrific, I hate the narrator. She's doing this over the top British theatrical voice that to me is overly dramatic and almost juvenile in it's interpretation. I'm a couple hours into it and will give it another couple hours tomorrow, but if I don't get used to the narrator by then, I'll just drop it and go on to "The Paper Magician".
As usual, thanks for listening, and I'll see you next week.
The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.
At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.
Like that could go wrong.
Published June 7th of 2016 by Harper Teen it has about 58 customer reviews with a 5.4 average. and has a price point of $9.99 for the kindle version.
The cover shows a portrait of a young woman in historical costume, from the shoulders up. I assume this is Lady Jane Grey. the title is in block letters. In cursive there are three quotes written in like a student's graffiti on a book cover with little arrows pointing to the woman's face with the sayings, "sometimes history gets it all wrong", "it isn't easy being queen", and "off with her head".
The amazon preview includes the Prologue, which actually makes reasonable sense in this story, and into the second chapter. I will read a ways into the first chapter. The authors use parenthesis liberally. I won't point them out as I read. That would be tedious. I'll try to change my tone of voice to an explanatory inflection. We'll see if you can tell the difference.
Here's the story...
I found this book on the Goodreads Young Adult news letter among the five most popular YA Books of June. I was drawn to if because of it's comparison to "The Princess Bride". I consider myself a Princess Bride snob, not because I've watched the movie a hundred times, but because I first read the book as a teenager in the seventies. I've read it twice since. If you didn't know there was a book, I would recommend it to anyone who liked the movie. I wouldn't say the book is better than the movie, except that there is so much more of it. I thought the movie did a great service to the original work.
My goal in reading this book was to see if it would hold up to the princess bride. Any time you make a comparison like that, I'm going to judge you harder than I would have if the blurb just said something like, "Light hearted, absurdly non-historical," or words to that effect. As far as I read, I still think "The Princess Bride" is head and shoulders above.
I liked it though, and will probably get the Audible version to be able to finish the book in comfort. Hopefully their English accents are better than mine.
Having only read into the first chapter it's not apparent how the three authors work together, if they confer with each other about the plot, if they write together on each chapter, or if they take on separate characters. It would be interesting to hear from one or more of them how they went about writing it together.
I think the characterization is great and engaging. The writing is beautiful and the voice is clearly one that the young adult audience should, and by the reviews, does love.
I give My Lady Jane a five star reccomendation to continue reading.
Forestium by Christopher D. Morgan
Published March 2016 by himself
12 reviews with 4.3 average
Joshua's life is on the line, as he attempts to navigate through the magical world to find the truth about his father. He and his companions will need to use all their cunning to stay alive and avoid the dark forces of the Goat. Will Joshua find the magical orbs and open the Portallas, a gateway to other worlds, before he is killed?
Joshua sets out to learn the truth about his father. Along the way, he finds friends, enemies, adventure & romance. Most of all, he finds himself.
Joshua, a young woodsman, is approaching the age of decision. Despite the tales of his father having died in a skirmish with another tribe, Joshua's dreams are telling him otherwise. The young man yearns for the truth and decides to enlist the help of his village elder to guide him. Armed with little more than the cryptic musing from the ailing elder, Joshua sets off to find the Oracle with his best friend and an imp, who is travelling the land to find others of his kind. It isn't long before they stumble into a beautiful and ingenious young woman who is herself on a journey of discovery.
On the way to the Oracle, Joshua comes by some curious magical artefacts. Can these help him to find his father? An evil and malevolent creature of the underworld known only as the Goat learns that Joshua has possession of some of the magical orbs needed to open the Portallas, a permanent gateway that links worlds together. Enraged, the Goat sends his dark forces to thwart Joshua and to prevent him from fulfilling his destiny.
Travelling through fantastic landscapes, the four travelling companions meet strange people and creatures alike, and must use all their cunning and ingenuity to find the remaining magical orbs. Will Joshua find all the magical artefacts needed to open the Portallas and free his father?
PORTALLAS - Forestium: The mirror never lies is full of twists and turns, as Joshua goes on a veritable roller-coaster ride of challenges that will test his courage and emotional strength.
This Young Adult Fantasy Adventure is the first in the series and will appeal best to young teens. The magical world of Forestium is filled with adventure and the coming of age story will resonate with young adults. Destined to be one of the best selling fantasy adventure series, book 1 has a storyline that moves at a fast pace with lots of twists and turns.
The first chapter is a prolog. I'll read it for you now:
Here's my problem with prologues.
I think that prologues should give you information to help you better understand the upcoming story, whether it's an in depth look at a character, the world the story takes place in, or the intricacies of the magic system. What did we learn from this prolog that we didn't learn from the Amazon book description.
There are humans and some of them are dying of a plague. There are birds with magical feathers which can change color, though we aren't told what that change of color indicated. I'm not sure if it was leading them to the healer. I guess not, since it had stay perfectly white until they found the Metamorph. I t hought it was going to be the payment for services, but the man told Valoria to put it away before someone saw it. Who knows.
There are Imps. In a crowded rickety town, something appears to be killing them.
There are magical balls of fire which cause carnage, or maybe not. Our family come upon a town square that is filled with carnage. However, each powerball that appears chases down an imp and vaporizes it. So, where did the carnage come from? I'm not sure.
Our family flees the town and finds a Trader. He has an orb which creates a vortex through which Melachor sees another land. The trader climbs through just before Melachor's family is consumed by one of the balls of light. Before he is consumed by another ball, he grabs the orb, left by the trader, and everything goes black.
I think thte story is nicely written. There are enough fantasy elements to keep most readers interested who are into that genre. The book cover is beautiful and remeniscent of the genre with a woodsman holding a hand mirror showing the image of a goat headed man.
But the prolog frustrates me. I would just as soon skip it for the number of questions it raises and doesn't come close to answering. It doesn't appear to relate to the book description at all, and if these don't begin to be answered in the first few chapters, I would probably put it down to read something else.
Two more notes are:
"Barely able to stand" is repeated in the third paragraph. I don't know if this is a literary technique or a mistake. The literary technique is to repeat a word or phrase three times on the first page to create a mood. This phrase occurs only twice and in the same sentence. This second reference takes me out of the story to wonder why this mistake was overlooked by the editors. With a third instance of the phrase would resolve that feeling of confusion, as it was used to nail down a feeling or theme. In this case it doesn't, so, to me, it seems like a mistake.
Such an error on the first page sets me up to look for more editorial errors, rather than to enjoy the story. In the prolog the author mostly regained my interest.
Second, and finally, the book description ends with:
Destined to be one of the best selling fantasy adventure series, book 1 has a storyline that moves at a fast pace with lots of twists and turns.
Best selling fantasy adventures brings to my mind, Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time, The Stormlight Trilogy, The Belgariad, The Sword of Shannarah, Game of Thrones. Is this novel destined to join these fantasy adventure giants? I don't think so.
I would say it looks like it will be good, but I doubt it will overtake any of those.
YA YA (Young Adult Books) Public Facebook Group
Amazon Book Description
At eighteen years old, Cassidy has suffered more loss than most…
At the end of her senior year, her boyfriend, Jace Peters, was killed in a car accident, and her grandmother died only weeks later of a heart attack. Emotionally lost, Cassidy desperately searches for an heirloom her boyfriend was wearing in the crash—her mother’s gold ring. But during her search, Cassidy discovers more than her ring.
She finds a gate to the Demon Realm….
A battle is brewing, and Killian—head of the Demon hunters—preps his Clan for the approaching conflict. They’ve been working to secure the gate between his realm and the mortal world. But it’s been nearly impossible since Rya—a voracious demon on a quest to expand her power—devoured the soul of his Clan’s necromancer. Now Rya is possessed with the necromancer’s powers and she may break through the gate at any moment.
Apparently Rya isn’t the only one Killian has to worry about…
When Cassidy accidentally crosses into the Demon Realm, Killian can’t understand how a human girl survived the transition. Now he has to find a way to return her to her own world, or risk her being caught in the crossfire, which is a complication he definitely doesn’t need.
Once back in the Human Realm, Cassidy readies herself for battle. She signs up for Krav Maga classes, where she meets Tyler Romaitis—a handsome, tenacious, humble guy. He seems almost perfect, but nothing is ever that easy.
And as the balance between good and evil shifts, Cassidy finds herself—and her ring—at the heart of the conflict for the survival of mankind.
Between the Bleeding Willows (The Demon Hunters Series Book 1) by D.A Roach was
Published in March of 2016 by Limitless Publishing, LLC
33 Customer Reviews with a 4.8 average. She has four other books listed on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.
I saw Between the Bleeding Willows mentioned on the YA YA Young Adult Books Facebook Group (Link in the show notes) and it really caught my eye. A dark haired, dark eyed woman blends in with stom clouds in the sky behind her. Ravens wheel around her in the sky of the background. Below her in the foreground, the title is superimposed over a graphical design which implied knives or sword edges from a weapon.
I liked the cover enough to go to the Amazon Kindle page (Link in the shownotes) and read the description. Here's the description.
I found the description compelling enough to buy the kindle edition and read the first chapter. I'll read that now and then we'll see if I want to read further.
So this is chapter 1
Writing excuses,,,,first rule about plot....flashbacks.
This first chapter is a series of flashbacks
You can break the rules if you do it good enough. Did the author? I didn't hate it, It didn't make me want to stop reading. I don't know, at this point, if we've caught up to present time or not.
It's the same reasone I skip most 'Prologs'. I feel like they are telling us about people who are unimportant to the story, or that we will find the salient points in the following chapters.
The author began this final scene with "That night" and not refering to the previous scene, I have to believe she's still narrating the past.
At the end of this first chapter I still have enough interest and questions to keep me reading. I'll give it another few chapters before I decide if I want to finish it.
The cover was great, the Amazon descpription was compelling, the writing is clear, the character empathetic, and I want to find out how Jace is envolved after his death.
While I don't give this a five star raving review, it's good enough to keep me reading.
I should have an interview to share next week. So, thanks for listening and I'll see you then.
Episode 42 A first chapter review of "Water so Deep" by Nichole Giles.
I read this book about a year ago when it was first published and was one of the books that gave me the idea that maybe I should start a podcast talking about Young Adult books. I met Nichole a few years ago at a writing conference. She was so friendly and approachable, I thought, wouldn't it be wonderful to get these authors on a podcast and have them talk about their books, their characters and their inspiration behind their writing. We've talked a bit about doing an interview, but we just never seem to connect.
So, I thought I would go ahead and do a first chapter review of the book that got my mind headed in this direction and see if I can get her on an interveiw some time in the future.
Water so Deep was published in February 2015 by Jelly Bean Press.
It has 72 Amazon reviews with a 4.1 average.
Here is chapter 1:
The book cover shows a girl in a white cotton dress, underwater, and swimming to the surface. I think this is a great cover and illustrates the theme of the story. A young woman who is struggling to find the balance between her underwater and on-land self...between what she has grown up and familiar with becoming more and more out of reach to the person she is becoming, who she knows nothing about.
Nichole's use of imagery and tone in her writing makes her story a delight to read. I give her writing and description five stars. The lightning storm, the falling rain, and the transformation from mermaid back to human create a compelling mystery.
We see the foundations for the mer-folk established in this first chapter which follows throughout the book and builds logically and convincingly. I give plausibility five stars.
Setting is wonderful and clear. Of course, if you're going to have mermaids, you need the ocean.
Characters we meet in the first chapter. Emma Harris, our protagonist. Merrick, a mer-man who we learn is her intended below the surface. Tom, who was her love interest, until just now. Others who are introduced through implication are her parents, grandmother, her brother, and the Sea King.
What makes me want to read further...
Of course, I've already read this book and know what you don't know. But the characters in the first chapter are all compelling. Who is Merrick and why does he feel he has a claim to Emma? What is Tom's problem and what makes him think he has the right to judge Emma beat her up? As a man with daughters, the first time I read this book I wanted to grab Tom by the throat and shake him.
What is Emma's origin that she is turning into a mermaid, and her parents have not? She makes mention of her grandmother. Does she, or did she, know something that she didn't share with her grand daughter?
Who is the love interest that we haven't heard about yet? Oh, that's right. You haven't heard about the love interest who isn't Merrick. I don't think I'll spoil the story to tell you that there is a guy who becomes important to the story who you haven't heard about yet.
Is there a way out of it, or is she destined to become a mermaid, and end up in a marriage to Merrick?
Water so Deep isn't a treatise on the moral values of our contemporary youth. It doesn't make any allusions or assumptions about about society. But if you like a story with endearing characters struggling through conflicts to find love and happiness without having to endure torrid, bodice ripping, love scenes, this will be a book you will enjoy and remember.
Back in episode 31 I interviewed Karl Becktrand for the podcast. I asked him if there were any authors he thought would be good on the podcast and he reccomended Connie Walker. She's in his writing group and he described her as "One of the most underappreciated writers" he knows.
So, for ten weeks now I've been trying to get her interview done and I keep messing up on times and Skypes and all that stuff. I was scheduled to interview her last week and got the day messed up. She waited for me to call her while I sat in la la land, thinking we were scheduled for the next day.
I felt so bad that I went ahead and bought her book and promised to do an Amazon review.
After reading the first few chapters I understood why Karl said what he did. Connie is a wonderful writer and deserves to get more attention.
The Spire of Kylet starts with a prolog of about ten pages, so, I'm going to read that for you now.
The Spire of Kylet, a young adult fantasy, is the first book in The Wolkarean Inscription Trilogy.
Here's the Kindle blurb about the book.
Katrine of Banur has a scheme to escape the tedious life of a herder, with its forced early marriage, that her father has planned for her.
Secretly she applies to the illustrious Recorder’s School in the city of Pardish, where only a few exceptional apprentices are accepted each year. But Katrine has been honing her artistic talents and believes she has all the qualifications necessary to become one of the Regent’s elite historian-couriers. She has saved almost enough money from what she earns working on the family ranch in order to pay for the caravan trip. Regardless of what her parents say, she intends to leave home as soon as she receives notification of her acceptance.
Shortly after Katrine finds a spire, a magical weapon created centuries earlier by the sorcerer Kylet, a series of strange events assail her. Because of an act of heroism, she is adopted by one of the mystical Crennese tribes, the Glainites, and is given powers she does not understand and cannot control. She has upheavals of emotion and peculiar sensations in her body. She is plagued by headaches and blurry vision and horrible nightmares.
She fears her dream of becoming a Recorder is doomed.
Then, unexpectedly, she finds herself on a journey to Pardish in the company of a Master Recorder, his new apprentice, her most despised cousin, and a legendary Warrior. As they travel across the countryside, Katrine is faced with unimaginable dangers and decisions. Before she reaches her destination, she faces death three times, redefining her understanding of the world and her place in it.
The second and third books in the trilogy, The Eyes of Landor and Triumph at Serpent’s Head, are also available.
Spire was published in August of 2012 and has six reviews, all five stars.
The book cover shows a girl on a horse, leaning off toward something spining in the air that looks like a dreamcatcher. The picture is a small inset in the cover and is probably too small for getting atttention on Amazon. I give the cover only 3 stars and it may be the reason this book hasn't gotten more traction on Kindle.
The writing is immaculate. Karl Beckstand describes it in his Amazon review: The Spire of Kylet gets your attention from the start. Walker knows how to weave a great adventure--and she's artful in her use of language.
I agree one hundred percent. She has an economy to her writing. There are no redundant or superflous words.
Plausability: She sets up her magical system and shows the price of using magic in the very beginning. Horrifyingly, Elnid-Kyeh sucks the life force from a little girl to restore his waning strength. His magic is powerful--using a talisman to communicate with a distant underling and drawing up the vision of two young women--but there is an underlying method to the abilities which creates the sense of plausability.
Description: Again, Connie's economy of language and "artful use of language" clearly develop the scene we observe from Elnid-Kyeh's desceptive kindness to the little girl and his callused indiference to the prisoners he will soon consume to maintain his strength.
Setting: Whether with Elnid-Kyeh in the tower above the crashing waves or looking down on the two young women in the open field the setting is broad and believable.
Characters: We only truly meet Elnid-Kyeh in the prolog, though we are introduced to a girl who we will soon find out is Katrine, the heroine of the story. We learn a lot about Elnid-Kyeh in these first ten pages, what a cruel and calculating man he is, what his potential is, and the lengths he will go to achieve his desires. I look forward to learning more about the other characters of the story.
My overall rating is Five Stars. I will definately read the rest of this book. Not only because I promised Connie I would, but because I found the first chapter compelling and indicative of a well crafted story of fantasy and adventure.
I recomend that you read it as well.
YA Books Podcast Episode 38 - A 1st 10 Page Review of "The Rithmatist" by Brandon Sanderson
In my humble opinion Brandon Sanderson is one of the most masterful writers of genre fiction. He's produced many epic fantasy series, for his magical systems and how they are enmeshed in his intensely detailed worlds.
He's probably best known recently in the YA genre for his Reckoners series which started with, "Steelheart". I thought that book was good and the second in the series, "Firefight" was okay. I'm not saying I could write better, by any means. They're filled with very powerful, smack talking, superheroes and anti-heroes, with description, plot and conflict like no one other than Brandon Sanderson can write.
Before Steelheart, (by nearly five months) there was The Rithmatist. Published in May of 2013 it didn't seem to get the attention the later book would elicit.
I'm more of a Peter Parker fan, than I am a Bruce Wayne.
609 reviews, 4.6 average
Here's the blurb:
More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity's only defense against the Wild Chalklings—merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.
As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students study the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery—one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.
The Rithmatist starts with a prolog to give a background foundation to the conversation in the first chapter.
Here's the prolog.
I've been listening to the first dozen or so episodes of the "Writing Excuses" podcast in the last few weeks. You may or may not know that Brandon Sanderson is one of the four main podcasters of the show. In the most recent episode I've been listening to they talk about "Idea as a Genre." They even comment that this is one of Brandon's favorite genres to write in. In it, the reader should be wowwed and fascinated as elements of the world and story unfold.
I think the Rithmatist fits this genre and we can see from the prolog that the idea is, "How would it be if magic could be performed by drawing with chalk on the ground." Elements of conflict in this short intro fascinated me as the little chalk animals chewed through the spell caster's defenses.
The first chapter is too long for me to read and still feel like I'm only providing a short excerpt for editorial discussion. So I'm going to read the first scene of the chapter which brings the total of pages read to about 10. That short enough to asauge my conscience from believing I have violated any copy right.
Listen for elements of wonder:
I'm obviously giving this first chapter a solid 5 Star. It makes me want to read on, and did three years ago when I read it (Or listened to it on Audible).
The cover has a Steampunk flavor. The writing and description are excellent. He creates a foundation for all of his magical or plat based assertions so there is no challenge to the plausibility of the characters actions or plot events. The setting is clear and the characters realistic and dynamic.
I have this book on audio, I have the ebook, and a paperback copy. I had planned on going to the Storymaker's conference in Provo Utah this weekend and corner Brandon and interview him in person, but because of my job change and other concerns, I had to stay home. So this is the next best thing for me to reccomend this book that I enjoyed immensely and hope you will too.
Get it here:
Escape to Eden by Rachel McClellan
Sweetwater Books an imprint of Cedar Fort Inc.
43 Reviews with 4.8 out of 5.0 stars
Feb 9, 2016
Available in ebook and paperback
About my ratings.
I'm not a professional editor, publisher, or journalist. I am only giving my opinion on whether or not the first chapter of this book would compel me to read further.
As on Amazon, five stars does not mean it is perfect, only that I really liked it. It's all about personal preference.
The Cover: The cover shows a portion of a woman's face. Psychologically this tells us that there is more to the woman, a much bigger picture than fits on the single page. The woman has a pensive look. On her left cheek is the blurb, "They'd kill for my genes". I give it a five because it's mysterious and makes me want to find out more about the character.
Writing: If you know me, you know that 1st person present is my least favorite point of view, but for this story, as you've seen, it's pretty much required. We're unfolding the story of a girl who has lost her memory and finds herself in curious surroundings. If could lose a lot of its intensity if told in in third person or in the past tense.
I thought the writing was great. No typos and it flowed nicely as I read it.
Plausibility:This was the only aspect that I would give a four. There were two circumstances that challenged my suspension of disbelief. Turning on the television she happens to catch a discussion of oDNA. As central to this society as it may be, I think it is still very convenient that her first glimps is pertinent to the plot. I know. This is a story and we need the plot to advance, but this is how my mind works. Secondly, the two words written on her fingers. We know she is an anomaly. She was found in the forest, and from her bruising we can assume they have been experimenting or testing on her. They believe she is unintelligent, but I find it difficult to believe no one would have noticed those words written on her fingers and put two and two together. I'm hoping the author will explain in the next few chapters why these things happened when and how they did.
Description: I give her description a five as well. We know where the protagonist is, we have an idea of what she looks like, we can picture her room and the few people we've met. All with an efficiency of description.
Setting: The setting is intriguing. We know she's in North America as Boston is mentioned. We know she was found in a forest and that now she's in a hospital which has two way screens to other rooms.
Characters: Clearly our protagonist is smarter than her captors believe she is. These advanced humans come in interesting shapes and variation, while our unknown girl sounds like a normal human. As I finished this first chapter I had to stop myself from reading further.
Based on my embryonic rating scale, this book gets 29 out of 30 points giving it 4.82 stars. Definitely worth reading further.