The Shadow War by Stephanie Flint

Shadow WarThe Shadow War is another amazing book by Stephanie Flint. Inside you’ll find great character development, action scenes, witty dialogue, and, of course, magic! Toranih and Daernen return as main characters in the second volume of The Wishing Blade series, except this time, Toranih’s sister, Siklana, plays a leading role as well. The three are separated at various times in the book, allowing for different points of view, which I always enjoy, especially when the bad guy gets some of the talking time. The story continues where it left off in Book 1. Some questions are answered, while others arise. I was pleased and intrigued to find out who the mysterious “Destroyer of Worlds” turned out to be. My imagination flew, trying to figure out how the person came to be this way. No spoilers, though!

In this volume, Toranih, Daernen, and Siklana go to Cirena to warn the inhabitants of the impending shadow army’s arrival, only to find they are too late. Shadows are spreading through the town, turning townspeople into shadows themselves. Daernen, the only one who can terminate a shadow, faces his conscience when he learns there may be a chance the shadows can be saved. Much of the book is about the moral and weighty decision of stopping the spread by killing the current shadows (who are, after all, innocents), or letting the spread continue with the hopes of saving them. This reminded me of zombie/viral infection dilemmas. Do you sacrifice the few to save the many? Or do you try to save the few, at the risk of killing everyone? Daernen experienced a lot of emotional growth in this book. When Toranih is no longer able to help, he has to take the lead and grows up quickly. It was a fantastic read and definitely a mind-bender with loops and twists that have you turning the pages. Below is Ms. Flint’s back cover blurb.

Though a shadow is as good as a ghost, with no free will to speak of, they may still be saved…  The kingdom of Cirena is under attack from an army of shadows—beings who can only be hurt by magic or fire. Magic has been stolen, and as the shadows spread, infecting all they touch, the last two ribbon mages race to the nearest port city to warn them of the impending invasion.  One of those mages, Toranih, is among the few who can see the Trickster-cursed army, and she’s determined to get magic back—no matter how much she distrusts it. When she is captured by shadows and a dark secret is revealed about her future, her best friend, Daernan, is left to defend the city. But his only methods of stopping the shadows are by fire and the devastating magic of the shodo’charl.  With the knowledge that the shadows are innocent townsfolk forced to do a warlord’s bidding, Daernan must choose between saving the shadows or saving those who have not yet turned.

If you enjoyed Magic’s Stealing, you will certainly like The Shadow War. To purchase the book, click on one of these links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

BN.com

iTunes

Kobo

Smashwords

Paperback Edition

 

-Reviewed by Julie LaVoie

 

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Dire : Born by Andrew Seiple

direbornTo start, let’s not kid ourselves. Andrew Seiple can write. Both his prose and his plot development are stellar.

The reader begins this story in media res, i.e. in the middle of a high-action scene without any of the tools to understand what’s going on. This is not an accident, but the perfect point to start this unusual ride, since Dire, the lead character of the story, knows vaguely more than we do: Someone’s after her; she has some basic tech equipment; and the city she escapes to is a dark dog-eat-dog world that has seen its share of disasters.

Having no memory of her past, she is taken in by a group of homeless misfits who have their own difficulties. It is through Dire’s interaction with these people that the reader first gets a glimpse of the things that make her special, mainly her extraordinary ability to reason, her sense of right and wrong, and the single-mindedness with which she pursues her goals. Pitted against the superheroes and the supervillains of this universe, she develops into a hero/villain combo that stands out even in her unusual environment. In fact, the whole good vs. bad ideology is turned on its head, and through her eyes, dirty outcasts become deserving, and heroes are pretty much useless. That’s not to say Dire herself is perfect. Far from it. But any way you look at it, she’s an entertaining protagonist.

The author has a lightness of tone which lifts what could otherwise be a depressing high-tech world to a world worth reading about. His use of foreshadowing and action scenes make this a fast-paced whodunit of sorts, although he takes care to let us catch our breaths with emotional and thoroughly poignant scenes. Every character is well thought out, every scene has multiple angles and facets.

I’m not a habitual reader of the superhero genre, but I thoroughly enjoyed this excursion into the bizarre and yet perfectly believable imaginations of Andrew Seiple. If you’d like to venture into this realm as well, you can purchase Dire : Born on Amazon at the link below.

https://www.amazon.com/DIRE-BORN-Dire-Saga-Book-ebook/dp/B018L5DJN

-Reviewed by Carmen Fox

Magic’s Stealing by Stephanie Flint

magic-pictureThe very first amazing book we’re showcasing came to us from self-published author Stephanie Flint. Magic’s Stealing is the first novella in her YA Fantasy series, “The Wishing Blade.” What struck me most about this book was Ms. Flint’s attention to detail. Her excellent world-building introduces the history, atmosphere and politics, and I was able to immerse myself fully in the story without confusion. Like the whimsical magic ribbons the characters wield, the backstory was weaved in lightly and effortlessly. The settings are fully fleshed out and the characters have three-dimensional personalities. Also, the cover art is high quality and the chapter headings in the print edition are equally cool (the page turns from dark to light with an aurora lights-style illustration at the top).

So, on to the story itself. In the first chapter, we’re introduced to the two main characters, Toranih and Daernan. The first is a teenage girl, the latter a teenage boy. Now, let me pause here for a moment. Teen girl plus teen boy does not always equal romance. And in this book that’s definitely the case. The story is pure fantasy with zero romantic drama. No handholding, no kissing, and no gazing into each other’s eyes. And you know what? That’s alright with me. The plot has enough going on, it doesn’t need to be complicated with the typical love triangles you see in YAs. This may change as the series develops, but for now, they’re just friends.

Toranih comes from a noble family who practices ribbon magic, but she prefers to wield weapons. Not everyone in this world can practice (or see) magic. They all know it exists, but about half are ordinary people and the other half are mages. Daernan is an expert at using ribbon magic and often shapeshifts. Over the course of the book he shifts into an owl, a dog, and a horse, which is pretty neat. Ruling over this world are levels of Gods similar to Greek Gods but with different names and they interact with the mortals in times of need. I won’t go into too much detail about the plot because I don’t want to give anything away, but by the title you can at least guess that at some point, the magic in the land is stolen and Toranih and Daernan are put in a position where they need to get it back. Here is the back cover blurb:

For centuries, ribbons of magic have provided the kingdom of Cirena with light, healing, and protection. Then, in a span of minutes, those ribbons fly from their masters, stolen, save for the magic of a few chosen mages. One of these mages is Toranih, a young noblewoman who would rather have a sword in her hand than use her powers to heal or throw fireballs. As a result, her magic skills are lacking. But with former mages dying from magic withdrawal, and the looming threat of an army of shadows who are impervious to mortal weapons, she must either embrace the responsibilities of a mage or watch her home perish.

This book has a wonderful balance of dialogue, planning, and fight scenes as one would expect in a quest story such as this. It’s a fast read and there’s a fair amount of mystery to keep your interest piqued. One warning though. The ending isn’t exactly satisfying because remember this is the first book in a series. If you want to find out what happens next you’ll just have to wait for Book 2, The Shadow War. No need to pout though. In stalking Ms. Flint’s site, I happened to see she has a sister short story set in this world that just came out called Stone and String.

If you’d like to purchase Magic’s Stealing, you can find it at these locations:

Purchase on Amazon US

Purchase on Amazon UK

Purchase at BN.com

Purchase for Kobo

Purchase on Smashwords

Happy reading!

-Reviewed by Julie LaVoie

A Wounded World by Crit Kincaid

wounded worldAuthors have been inquiring into what our reviews might look like. So to give you an idea, I thought I’d start with a young adult book that has stuck with me for over a year. A Wounded World by Crit Kincaid is a perfect example of an amazing self-published book. I do not know Mr. Kincaid personally apart from his Facebook page, which tells us he’s a water systems maintenance coordinator. That sounds about as exciting as my day job. When I purchased his ebook on a whim last year it took me by surprise. This man has a gift. Not just with words, but with evoking emotions. Making us care! He does it so well, he can introduce a character, and in the length of one page, yes ONE page, have you bawling your eyes out at their death.

Before I summarize the story I need to warn you about something. This is not a book to read while you’re waiting for your daughter to get out of dance lessons, or on your lunch break at work. Or even on a day where you intend to actually show your face in public. You will be crying. A LOT. I went through an entire box of tissues, then had to move onto the toilet paper. And after all was said and done, I had to patch up the raw skin beneath my nose with petroleum jelly and take two ibuprofen for my crying headache. Wow, I’m really selling this, aren’t I? I assure you though it’s all worth it. A satisfying ending that changes your outlook on life.

I would describe A Wounded World as a mash up of Bridge to Terabithia, The Shack, and Mean Girls. It’s a literary novel with commercial components, similar to The Fault in Our Stars. The seamless transition between gorgeous, literary prose and mean girl “teen speak,” is utterly ridiculous. How can one writer be so good at both and to combine them in one book? But Mr. Kincaid does just that, all while tugging our heart strings over and over again.

The story follows a boy “self-named” Normal after he’s the sole survivor of a tragic car accident that takes the lives of his parents and twin sister. At the young age of 9, he goes to live with his Granny, who later is found to have ALS (we’ve all seen the ice bucket challenges.) At 14, both he and his Granny move into a Hospice-style home where Normal meets a multitude of quirky characters. Surrounded by death, and not having accepted his own past, he faces his demons nightly in the form of nightmares. The only thing that gives Normal any kind of happiness is his art. But nothing truly gives him a reason to live.

Told in dual POV, the other character is Koren, a girl from Normal’s high school who is climbing the popularity ladder. She has it all, although death hasn’t left her family untouched either. Her mother dies of cancer when she’s 14.  But unlike Normal, she chooses to remember her mother with a memory book. For her, it’s looking past her shallowness, and learning the true meaning of love she finds difficult.

Amongst the high school drama of bullying, isolation, pranks, and teen suicide, this unlikely couple is forced together by circumstance, and finds in each other what both were missing.

I found the dialogue believable, the imagery realistic, and the pace perfect. For me, this book is a new coming of age classic. It not only deals with deeper issues of grieving and death but other problems all teens face like bullying and teen suicide. Honestly, it’s a masterpiece in the making. I say “in the making” because the cover art could be improved upon and there were a couple of typos. But this is commonplace for self-published books so I can’t fault the author when the rest of the book is magnificent.

Mr. Kincaid’s tale, so wonderfully spun and packed with soulful characters, needs to be shared with the world, not just the twenty people who have given him 5 star reviews on Amazon. So please read the book, share it with others, and hopefully, we can get it out to as many people as possible. And as I said before, I have no idea who this Mr. Kincaid is, but he’s earned my respect, and as a fellow author, he deserves my support.

If you’d like to support him too, and read an amazing heartfelt story, you can order A Wounded World here.

-Reviewed by Julie LaVoie

5 Reasons Why We Might Reject Your Book

We’ve received quite a few submissions already, but have not yet found a gem we’d be happy to recommend to our readers. So we thought we’d put out a list of why you might receive a rejection.

  1. Telling, telling, and more telling. This is our number one pet peeve. If you look at your first chapter and see the emotion words “guilty, sad, happy, relieved, excited, scared,” you can expect to receive an automatic rejection. Instead of saying “Sadness overcame her,” try, “Her vision blurred and her lower lip trembled.” Readers are smart. They’ll figure out she’s sad, and they’ll have a much better reading experience if you show your characters’ emotions.
  2. Head jumping. This is a huge no-no for us. Readers should hear the internal thoughts of one character and one character only. Mind you, you can alternate perspectives in different chapters, but shouldn’t do so within the same chapter, and certainly not within the same scene. This can be tricky, like in the case of “Confusion was written across his face.” Here, one character is observing another and reading into their expression. But they can’t truly tell what he’s thinking. Not to mention this sentence is passive AND tells rather than shows. Instead, you could say, “His brow dipped in the center and he squinted at me through one eye.” Follow this with appropriate dialogue, and you’ve made your point without moving into head-jumping territory.
  3. Passive writing/settings. Passive writing is an easy trap to fall into. Mind you, it does get the message across, but it also lacks the “something extra” a scene needs to draw the reader in. So how can you replace passive, tired description with a section that’s lively and hopping with action? Say you’ve written, “The room was large.” Short and to the point, but it doesn’t paint a picture. A better option would be, “My feet padded across a plush, red runner that led from one end of the room to the other, past rows of bookcases and brightly trimmed windows.” Changing it up not only introduces vivid imagery of the room, it gives the scene a sense of motion.
  4. Clichés. New writers find it hard to let go of clichés. Like really, really hard. Examples of clichés are “black as night, proud as a peacock, mix like oil and water…” And what’s funny is that some clichés don’t even make sense. Like “dumb as a box of rocks.” Last time I checked, rocks had no ability to think whatsoever. This is a chance to come up with your OWN metaphors. Be creative. You’re a writer! Don’t fall back on the same overused clichés just because they’re the first things that pop into your head.
  5. Forced/unbelievable dialogue. A writer’s job is to create a thrilling/heart-wrenching/comedic/scary experience similar to that of a movie, but without the luxury of talented actors, stunt doubles or special effects to help make your scene pop. What you do have is your characters’ actions and dialogue (both internal and external) to translate your words into a vivid scene in your reader’s mind. Not an easy task to be sure. And forced or unbelievable dialogue can kill a scene in seconds. This is especially true for middle grade and young adult books. Do the characters sound like teens? Like, for real? Or do they sound like adults attempting to be teens? Nothing turns off a reader more than when a character says something out of…well, character, for them. Another pet peeve we have is when a character’s actions and dialogue don’t match or seem off. For instance, if you have a character battling slimy green aliens, sweat seeping from her pores, she shouldn’t be thinking about what she’s going to have for dinner later. Unless of course, you’re writing a parody. Then something like this would be acceptable.

And there you have it, the top 5 reasons why we may reject your book. If you’re in the process of writing your next story, it would be a good idea to keep these common writing mistakes in the forefront of your mind. It will give you the best chance at pleasing fans and creating an Amazing book we’d be proud to review for our readers.

Attention Authors

There’s no use having a review site if there aren’t any books to review. That’s why we need you. In particular, the you’s that are self-published, independent, or authors with small presses. There’s a lot of white noise out there in the book world and the AMAZING books are being smothered. This is your chance to have a spotlight centered on you. If we LOVE your book we’ll review it and feature it on our site for a full week! Yes, you heard that right. This isn’t your typical review mill where your book gets pushed down the page within hours of posting. If we don’t love your book, we’ll nicely tell you so, but only you. There are no one or two star reviews here that will have you wishing you never sent it in the first place. There’s absolutely nothing to lose. As we gain a readership, they’ll quickly discover that any books reviewed on our site are the best of the best and they can trust their money won’t be wasted on zero-edited flops. It’s a win-win all around.

So go on over to our “Submissions” section using the menu at the top right-hand side of this page, and send in your work. We look forwarding to reading it!