Granted, I’m not a 14-year-old boy, but…

Today’s book is Dragonkyn, by Nathan Smith Jones. 🙂

Book Info

Length: 213 pages

Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc

Released: February 14, 2017

Amazon | Goodreads

Marc Mondragon is your average teenager: always getting into trouble, crushing on the pretty girl in school. But when strange things begin happening to his body, Marc is thrust into a new world where dragons are no longer just fairytales. Now knowing he’s part dragon, Marc joins a group of Dragonkyn who call themselves Sorceron. As Marc discovers new powers within himself, he starts to wonder how much he can really trust his fellow Dragonkyn. After the leader of Sorceron orders the rest of the group to kill Marc, he flees. But when he discovers that people are going to attack the Sorceron, Marc is faced with a dilemma. Will he try to help the Dragonkyn who tried to kill him?

Real Quick

Between flat characters and lackluster writing, I wasn’t hooked.

Ramble

Dragonkyn‘s premise would make for some great middle-grade fantasy fare – after a vicious rewrite.

There’s definitely potential here! The plot gallops along with nonstop action and fun, reminding me a lot of Kaza Kingsley’s Erec Rex series (one of my favorites growing up). However, the writing is marred by dozens verb tense errors and misplaced modifiers. The narrative also has this weird quirk of telling you what’s going to happen at the end of a scene before it even plays out. Here’s what I mean:

Marc knew he should have kept his mouth shut, but when Mrs. Kessler targeted Katie, who had done nothing wrong, he had to rush to her defense.

Only after this line do we find out what Katie did (or didn’t do) and why Marc had to stand up for her. It reads oddly to me – why not just show me what happens in the first place?

The author’s penchant for telling extends to the characters as well. I kept being told what Marc felt, instead of feeling it along with him. It made the characters feel two-dimensional, and I really couldn’t connect with them very well.

But the main issue I took offense to is the way Marc interacts with the two main female characters – his classmate, Katie, and his fellow Dragonkyn, Jen. He develops crushes on both and gets upset and depressed when they pay attention to other boys instead of him.

Regarding Katie:

Marc was going to say something, but didn’t. Why try? he thought miserably. He knew that Luke was funnier than he was. Great, I impress her, I’m the reason we’re walking home together, but he gets her attention.

And regarding Jen:

Great, Marc thought. I’m just the dorky friend to her. I might as well be a eunuch.

Dude. You’re fourteen! These neckbeard-y, ‘nice guy’ comments are alarming in their own right, but when I got to the end and realized that neither relationship was even important to the plot… yikes. Marc doesn’t learn or grow from these experiences at all. The story would be exactly the same – and probably better – without them.

I may not be have been impressed by Dragonkyn‘s current state of affairs, but I still think it has the makings of a great MG fantasy after a good clean-up.

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Age groups are definitely a thing

Today’s book is Molly Bell and the Wishing Well, by Bridget Geraghty. 🙂

Book Info

Length: 101 pages

Publisher: Self-published

Released: December 28, 2016

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

Molly Bell is an eleven-year old girl who used to be a whimsical, sporty type of a child with a zest for living. All that has been turned upside down by the untimely death of her cherished mother two years ago. To make matters worse, her father is getting remarried to a high-maintenance beauty that Molly seemingly has nothing in common with, and she comes with an annoying six-year old son, Henry, who finds a way to wreck everything in his path.

Molly can’t find anything about her new circumstances to be excited about, until her Aunt Joan tells her about the wishing well at Molly’s grandparents’ farm. According to Aunt Joan, every wish she ever made there came true. And it just so happens that Molly and Henry will be staying at the farm for a week while their parents are on their honeymoon. Molly is convinced if she could just find that wishing well, she could wish for her mom to come back to life and everything will be okay again.

But Molly is in for a few surprises, and more that a few hard lessons about being careful what you wish for when the consequences of Molly’s selfish desires wreak havoc on her entire family. Can Molly make things right again through the wishing well? Or will she need to find it within herself to bring back the joy in her life that has been missing all this time?

Real Quick

Sweet middle-grade fiction that tackles a heavy subject with grace, though it may not satisfy adult readers.

Ramble

I’m stepping into the shoes of eleven-year-old me when I say that this book would be a fantastic read for any middle-grader. The main character, Molly, faces a double whammy of grief over her late mother and anger and uncertainty over her father’s remarriage. The story follows her as she comes to grips with these drastic changes with help from her family (and a very sweet dog) – the overall message is wonderfully uplifting, and I think it’s safe to say that it would make a lovely gift for any kid that’s going through similar upheavals.

Stepping back into my twenty-two-year-old mindset, I will say that I found Molly Bell to be slightly lacking in personality. The narration was a bit matter-of-fact, the dialogue rather formal… I also would have liked some more depth to the characters – I liked Molly, but I didn’t love her

However, this is definitely the perspective of an adult reading a book that wasn’t written for an adult in the first place. I think these are non-issues from a kid’s perspective, but since I know I’m not the only lover of MG who left middle school a looong time ago, I figure it’s worth mentioning.

In short, Molly Bell and the Wishing Well definitely gets my recommendation as a middle-grade novel. Kids-at-heart, your mileage may vary. 🙂

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Why am I like this

Today’s book is A Solitary Awakening, by Kevin Cady.

Book Info

Length: 233 pages

Publisher: Lulu

Released: April 29, 2016

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

Elijah Warren’s world has always been one haunted by murderers. His personal life is non-existent, though it’s not like he’s noticed. Work consumes him, and he’s buried himself in the FBI’s exhaustive demands. There’s no time for romance with killers to track–that is, until the beautiful and erudite Aurelia Blanc is thrown into his life, along with the so-called “Poetic Murderer.”

The Poetic Murderer makes murder an art form, each crime scene an exhibit. To catch him, Elijah and Aurelia must decipher cryptic poems and study imaginative death scenes. They traverse the United States, into the uncharted past of a killer most twisted, whose brutal violence evokes not only empathy for the victims, but an interest in the killer himself.

In time, what these detectives discover about both themselves and the Poetic Murderer will change their lives forever. First, they must understand him. Then, they must stop him, but will a romantic liaison make the killings more personal? If Elijah and Aurelia don’t stay focused, one could end up dead at the hand of a Poetic Murderer.

Real Quick

The writing style was borderline impenetrable for me, and unfortunately I just couldn’t stick it out until the end.

Ramble

Don’t get me wrong, the storyline is interesting enough – typical hard-boiled detective stuff that I’m sure would please any lover of the genre. But the writing…

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m overly attuned to this kind of thing. But either way, I found the narrative to be stilted, awkward, and even hard to understand in certain places. Between the odd turns of phrase and the tendency towards long-winded sentence fragments, I just couldn’t get hooked. Here are a couple of extracts – draw your own conclusions.

Days off from the bureau he found himself deep in Central Park, as far as he could get, loftily musing that he was beyond the city and away from concrete. He felt whole in those scarce moments, though it was work that satisfied, maybe occupied him, more wholly than that. He wore time-borne jeans and an Alice In Chains T-shirt. Elijah stood almost six feel tall and both men and women at the office wondered how his naturally-formed arms – that shone through that same white dress shirt he wore – got there to begin with.

Another from a later chapter:

The words eloquent and intricate were displaying in Elijah’s mind. The words ruthless, calculated, followed. A sudden wave of heat fell over him and he set down the images. He was at once overwhelmed with the idea that this was the beginning of something not soon realized.

I’m putting this one down as a not-for-me. If you feel like I’m being inordinately picky, though, I’d suggest that you check out a few other reviews before you write off A Solitary Awakening.

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Take a hint, George RR Martin

Today’s book is Ink and Tarnish, by Elizabeth Colburn. I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review – you know the drill. 🙂

Book Info

Length: 64 pages

Publisher: Self-published

Released: January 18, 2017

Amazon | Goodreads

He laid his hand over mine, patting it like I was a horse that needed calming. “Do not fret, Inali. I would not give my daughter to just anyone.”

No. Only someone who had 5,000 gold coins to spend on a woman he’d never even met.

__________

Three years ago, a plague swept through the Rak’si kingdom, eliminating half the female population. Now, women are sold and traded like prized cattle. And a noble girl named Inali is among the most expensive.

When her wedding day arrives, Inali has no choice but to marry her purchaser.

But will she be bound to a man? Or a monster?

Real Quick

A great quickie for lovers of medieval fantasy – but it will definitely leave you wanting more.

Ramble

Ink and Tarnish is the first installment of a serialized fantasy novel – the pilot, if you will – with more episodes scheduled for every other month. At just 64 pages, it’s a featherweight. Whether that’s a warning or a bonus is really up to you. 😛

What I can say is that Colburn introduces the makings of a rich fantasy world full ofthieves, merchants, and an underground tattoo trade in this super-readable debut. While this first episode is mostly exposition, it sets the stage for a plotline that seems quite interesting. It’s definitely worth a read, and I’m very interested to see how things develop in future releases.

If you’re a sucker for suspense and anticipation, give this one a try and enjoy the ride.

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Literary drama is best drama

Today’s book is Of His Bones, by Tracey Scott-Townsend, who was kind enough to provide an advance copy in exchange for a review. 🙂

Book Info

Length: 228 pages

Publisher: Inspired Quill

Released: March 1, 2017

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

“Gabe and I are happy this way. We don’t need anyone else in our lives.”

Mariana feels like a pawn in other people’s games. Her birth mother is ill and opportunities for them to be reconciled are running out.

Despite being adopted, Mariana has always felt secure with who she is. But both sides of her birth family are now closing in, and whatever she decides will irrevocably alter many lives; most of all the man and woman who created her.

Real Quick

I was entirely enthralled. A must for my fellow lovers of character-driven literary fiction.

Ramble

I’ve mentioned my love of a good character study, and Of His Bones absolutely spoiled me, providing mountains of emotion and internal conflict, expressed in a gorgeous writing style that kept me under its spell. (And nursed me through a cold, so cheers for that too!)

This book had a plot like a forgotten knitting project – storylines and relationships tangled together in a strange, wonderful, interconnected mess. Scott-Townsend did a fantastic job spooling out that yarn despite such snags as having multiple characters with similar names – not once did I feel lost. Each POV character had a distinct voice, and the pacing was excellent, with each mystery unraveling just quick enough to keep me reading without feeling like information overload.

(Stop with the yarn metaphors, Ashley.)

It had a similar vibe to another family drama I enjoyed recently, Gail Cleare’s The Taste of Air. Of His Bones was definitely on the darker side, tackling some more weighty issues and luxuriating in a few chilling scenes – and I ate it all up.

This just might be my favorite book of 2017 so far! Highly recommended.

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Hey, I’m Ashley

Devouring indie books in search of the next great novel.

I'm on Goodreads and Tumblr if you wanna say hi, or recommend me a book, or yell about stuff with me.

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Unless stated otherwise, I receive a copy of each book I feature, in exchange for my review. That said, I pull no punches - all of my reviews express my honest thoughts, good or bad. 🙂

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Currently Reading

Ashley's bookshelf: currently-reading

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tagged: currently-reading
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