Monster Hunter Memoirs: Sinners
If you haven’t read Grunge, the previous memoir by these fine collaborators, you should buy that first because that is where our primary character’s awesomeness is fully explicated. Oliver Chadwick Gardenier, Iron Hand, is literally on a mission from God.
Often you hear a book described as being non-stop action. With this one it is true. It has action ranging from dueling with multiple werewolves in a cemetery at night to action of a different kind with some of the more attractive denizens of New Orleans. I said the protagonist was on a mission from God; that doesn’t mean he’s religious, or anything . . . inhibiting like that.
N.O. is very strange for our friend Chad because the feds are not trying to pretend the mystic source of monsters does not exist. That would not work in the Big Easy. Everyone knows. So from having to be as clandestine as you can be, blowing off tons of ammo and slathering the streets with blood/ichor, our monster slayer is a public hero. It gets him laid frequently. Since he wound up with this assignment by fleeing an indiscretion with an underage trailer park elf, you would expect that of him. Great swashbuckling fun!!!
John Ringo, Larry Correia
Eons ago, the nation of Caladorn and the kingdoms of the Rhen existed in harmony. Those days are long past. Though they still share a root philosophy, at least so far as the nature of magic is concerned, relations between Bryn Calazar and Aerysius are far from friendly. Braden Reis is a Master of the Lyceum, sent to Aerysius as an ambassador in a last-ditch attempt to prevent war . . . but all is not as it seems. When an Acolyte from Aerysius Hall of Watchers stumbles upon an unholy conspiracy involving the demonic power of Xerys, Prince of Chaos, Braden finds himself embroiled in a struggle against the most powerful members of both Colleges of Magic for the future of his entire world. If he fails, Chaos will reign supreme. If he succeeds, it may mean the end of the world as he knows it.
The world presented in Darkstorm is fascinating, to say the least. I initially feared Caladorn would prove the stereotypical fantasy land where women are forced to rely on men to protect them, but this wasnt quite accuratethat only proves necessary if the woman in question has little status. There are many powerful women in Caladorn, though a good deal of their status and prestige seems to be founded in how alluring they are able to make themselves. Aerysius seems to be a bit more founded on equality, but as we spend a comparatively short time there I cannot say for certain. Fantasy tropes pop up left and right, but usually cast in a new light or employed in interesting combinations that dampen any potential annoyance.
The characters shown here are without fail three-dimensional and complex. One seems inconsistent at times, but that turns out to be intentional. Braden Reis is a man of convictions, with blood on his hands despite (or because of) his strong moral compass. Bradens lover, Master Sephana Clemley, holds a similarly steady morality despite serving a rival nation. Faced with evidence of corruption infecting both their orders, Braden and Sephana barely hesitate before seeking the truth. Also caught up in events is Sephanas apprentice, Merris Bryar, whose nosiness tips the Masters off to the conspiracy in their midst, and Bradens wine-sotted brother Quinlan. Even the antagonists prove complicated, and their motivations understandable even as we deplore their methods. We arent even entirely sure theyre wrong, in most cases.
Bottom line, this was an amazingly entertaining read. I do have some issues with the ending, but I cannot discuss them without courting spoilers, and so will leave off with merely that vague caveat. I look forward to seeing more in this trilogy when the time comes.
Maya Rising (Last Call for Caviar, vol.2)
SPOILER ALERT: The following contains spoilers for Volume 1 Last Call for Caviar.
This sequel to Last Call for Caviar is equally delicious as the first installment. A warning for persnickety readers, this is not a standalone volume. It will make almost no sense if you havent read the first book. This isnt to say that author Melissa Roen doesnt weave the storylines together seamlesslyshe doesbut she doesnt fully set up volume 2 the way she does volume 1. I recommend reading the books in order to get the full effect. And do NOT miss the prologues. Start at the very beginning.
Having said that
Destruction, death and blood cultsoh my! Maya Jade is still stranded on the continent during what can only be accurately described as Armageddon. Having finally found her way out of the Riviera and back into the arms of sexy surgeon Julian, the future is anything but certain. What perils lurk on the interior of Europe? Will they reach their destination in the safety of Switzerland? Will the safety promised there be real? Again, there are more questions than answers. And the few answers there are lead Maya further into trouble and the deviant and devious schemes for power and control that broil beneath the surface of a splintered civilization.
Finally reunited with lover Julian, Maya believes she has escaped the dangers of her past until they appear right on her tail bumper ready to rear end her into oblivion. And we are there to watch her dangle on the edge. Maya Rising jumps right into the action, and it doesnt let up. The plot winds through the French countryside and down back into the Riviera, coming full circle. Maya is forced to face the demons that have hounded her steps throughout both volumes.
The earth trembles with a mystical power that haunts Maya. The mysteries of this force seem to hold her destiny in its grip and the blazing red eye of the Purifier scorches. Through the melee, Maya has to figure out if her love for Julian is as strong as shes always believed. Could her feelings for another powerful man jeopardize their fairytale ending? Could unfinished business render all of the questions moot? Always just one step away from the end, Maya Jade is on an unrelenting journey toward her truth and the fate of the world.
This novel is a fast paced whirlwind of adventure, hurdling towards an odd conclusion that will keep you guessing until the very end. Roen is cruel in her conclusion. I implore her to reconsider, and serve us at least one more serving of Caviar.
Last Call for Caviar ( vol.1)
Destruction, death and blood cultsoh my! Maya Jade has been stranded in the Riviera during what can only be accurately described as Armageddon. Author Melissa Roen creates a rather convincing alternate reality in Last Call for Caviar, one in which the world as we know it is quickly and definitively coming to an end. The earth seems to have entered a purge mode, spewing, shattering and shocking humanity right off of her face. Earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, extreme weather of all kinds are testing the limits of mankind and the results are catastrophic. War rages everywhere as bands fight against bands, governments fight against their citizens, and individuals fight for their lives. The landscape is chaotic.
Yet, in the midst of all this devastation, there are places where champagne still flows lavishly and caviar is consumed in abundance. Tucked away on the beautiful coast of the Côte dAzur, the wealthy hide from the treacherous minefields of the disintegrating world. It is in this glittery, gilded backdrop that Maya finds herselfcut off from the security of family, the safety of civilization, and the love she found in France. Having traveled to the region for school and making a life there because of connections, Maya fell in love with the Riviera. When sexy surgeon Julian steals her heart, Mayas destiny is sealed. After a fated lovers quarrel leads to their separation, and tragic world events lead to a splintering of society, Maya becomes desperate. Should she abandon her hopes of happiness with the love of her life and run tail for home in the US? Should she stick it out on the slim chance that Julian will return to her? Should she cultivate her resources to find another way to survive the end of the world? Is survival even possible? The questions keep mounting as more and more craziness ensues.
With each new episode of insanity, a greater truth is revealed to Maya, a truth that only she seems to understand or see.
Roen is convincing here. Her vision of the end is so well crafted and executed, as I read, the news humming in the background, it seemed not just feasible but utterly possible that Roen herself is a seer. There is nothing overly farfetched here, which makes the fantastical elements of Last Call for Caviar that much more intriguing; any of this could happen at any moment. And thats what made me keep turning the pages (and watching the skies).
A fairly long volume at 302 pages, the book was a swift read, sucking me in from the very beginning. There is little fat here, this is a trim and tone narrative. Maya Jade is a kick-ass heroine, dynamic and organic, nuanced and complex. At turns shrinking violet and fierce lioness, damsel in distress and irreverent daredevil. The plot allows for rich interactions that lend cinematic interest, with intense action, gut-wrenching drama, sensual and haunting sizzle, well-placed comedy, and the type of fantasy/sci-fi that makes you think Could this really happen?.
There really isnt much to complain about here. A word of caution: read the whole book from the Prologue; its incredibly important to understand the story and set you up for Volume 2 (which I started before even finishing volume 1). Small deductions for: cover art, I found myself wanting to turn the book over, but I have never been one for messy eaters; typos, Im sorry to say but there were a few that pulled me out of the story occasionally; and an incomplete and hard to use glossary of terms. These are the smallest of complaints. The meat here is worth the price and then some. I just might feast on this tasty meal again and again. I hate caviar, but I loved Last Call.
The Children of Darkness
In this case, you really cant judge a book by its cover. The Children of Darkness is not at all the post-apocalyptic tale that you might expect, based on the cover or the title. It is, in actuality, a delightful sci-fi/fantasy story about three kids trying to find themselves and achieve their potential through understanding their history and, consequently, the history of the world. While not categorized as a YA novel, I think it should be. There is probably more meat here that kids on the cusp of adulthood would find nourishing than more mature readers (although its not an unwelcome trip down memory lane).
Orah (the smart girl), Nathaniel (the strapping leader), and Thomas (the nimble artist) unwittingly embark upon a life-changing journey to find the truth after each has a teaching encounter with the vicars of the Temple of Light. In this post-post-post-modern world with little-to-no technology, defined castes, and isolation between communities, the Temple of Light controls all life functionsfrom how many children may be born to what citizens may think. These three kids bumble into a treasure hunt that will finally lead them to the truth about the darkness.
Litwack has created a gem that incorporates some of the best of the genre: Orah will likely remind many readers of J.K. Rowlings Hermoine (Harry Potter). Elements of the story arch are classic, but will seem particularly familiar to readers of Terry Goodkind (The Wizards First Rule). And while Litwack uses typical archetypes, his characters approach conflict in some ways that diverge from expectation while also providing enough of the familiar, tried and true not to disappoint.
The pacing of The Children of Darkness drags in places; all of the inner dialogue and story setup may not be appealing to every reader, and so you may feel a niggling desire to skip a few pages to get back into the action. But, in general, there is careful craftsmanship at play that endeavors to provide enough description without becoming bogged in unnecessary detailswhich could easily happen as Litwack creates an in-between world that is not quite medieval, but not modern either.
There are also seems to be a bit of a struggle with light and darkness not just in the themes but in the presentation as well; there is a tension in the novel that Im not sure is intentional. Litwack seems to want to convey the darkness of humanity but seems timid in just how much to describe, how dark to go. The story hovers in an uncomfortable realm that suggests horrors, but never truly shows them. There is order, but a sinister element bubbles just under the surface; however, Litwack never really allows us to look at it. Never giving into the grotesque or graphic for graphics sake, Litwacks restrained pen seems to be the balance to contemporary sci-fi productions (Mad Max: Road to Fury , Dredd ). There is something about the seemingly inevitable direction of the story that wants some moment of violence, something explosive in the pot that the three young adults stir.
If it is Litwacks project to complicate the notions of good and evil, he succeeds. In unexpected ways, he shows the fallibility and potential of human beings as a race and as individuals to effect changeperhaps neither for good nor ill. There is much to unpack here and a great deal worth expecting in the sequel.
A good read if you check your expectations at the door.
Tomorrows End Book One
Tomorrows End is the first book in a series by author G. R. Morris. This book starts with some pretty basic science fiction themes and extrapolates out in some interesting and unexpected directions. Focusing mainly on two teenage main characters who come into their abilities in varying stages of reluctance, this novel follows Daren, a girl trapped in a horrible foster home, and Kevin, a boy trapped in a home with an abusive stepfather. Both characters become major players in an age old battle of light vs. dark. Mr. Morris also introduces a very interesting theory about free will and destiny in Kevins story arc, while also informing readers about alien technology that is running the world, as well as aliens who are impersonating and replacing humans.
Part one unfortunately begins with a few stumbles and has lines of banal text such as; Some people believed love conquers all. And they were right. It had beaten him. However, I would urge readers to keep reading past the initial pages and really discover the original ideas that Morris has integrated alongside traditional sci-fi staples. The dual story lines are not perfect, but they are handled well and have completely different styles and tones. I enjoyed Darens story line more because the audience was allowed to share her story and her experiences, we got to know her as a person. Kevins story seemed more like exposition. There was an entire three or four chapter section in the middle of the book devoted to explaining the philosophy behind the story. At one point the author seems to even make light of the length with this exchange; Stop interrupting. Robert yelled, I have a whole speech going on here. Sorry, Im beginning to get bored Kevin laughed.
While Tomorrows End may not be the most entertaining novel I have read recently, it is one of the more thought provoking. In a genre that is already crowded with rehashes of ideas, it is truly remarkable to find a debut novel with something new and compelling to offer readers. I hope to see this creativity continue throughout the rest of the series.