Seeds of Hatred by Christian Nadeau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Seeds of Hatred, is a solid debut novel, with deep roots reaching back into the golden age of Sword-and-Sorcery fiction. Christian Nadeau navigates this long, winding tale expertly. And while not perfect, there was never a moment where I didn't want to continue on.
The first chapters introduce us to several characters, of which many will get their own POV. The initial opening scenes with hired thief/assassin Marac, for example, soon plow into strings involving Alex, Dorn, Caras, Murin, Soren, Elyas, and a few more through the middle arcs. Tying these individual pieces together is a daunting task, but Nadeau manages it somehow - albeit with a loss of characterization (more on this later) - by nursing the intertwining political turmoil plot-line with the pursuit and rediscovery of ancient, dark magic. It is an effective effort, what clearly must have taken an enormous amount of work to garden.
But Seeds of Hatred isn't perfect. There are the normal miss-spellings, and editing errors, and the lack of characterization that makes all of the various names blend together. The latter is a casualty to the amount of people introduced in this novel, and is one of those hallmarks of the old D&D/Forgotten Realms stories, of which this piece is obviously inspired by. In the end - though I know it is cliche - towards the latter half the only 'person' I was really invested in, was the world itself. This is in part because Nadeau is very strong at world building, and setting the atmosphere.
This came to me at just the right time; a month or two later, or earlier, and it would not likely have been such an easy pick up. It is a long book, and one that requires a bit of patience to navigate. But patience and timing are always important with good books, and gardening. Personally, I would recommend planting Nadeau's books in your library, at the very least, to see this author grow.
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Vermilion Tears by Tia Lee
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Simple, easy to understand and follow. That defines Vermilion Tears, by Tia Lee, and this summation is at both times a boon and a bane. I read this book while sidelined with the Flu, and while it has been helpful in getting my mind off my body trying to kill me, I can’t say that it was my cup of tea.
The story follows Lydia and Reuben’s journey, both as a couple and individuals through Victorian New York. There are the usual trappings of the paranormal that seems to be popular now – werewolves and vampires - a quintessential evil villain in the professor, and the angst around hidden talents, abilities, etc. Standard fare for anyone familiar with this genre.
What is done well would be the characterizations of Lydia, and Ruben, along with the flow of the plot. In addition, this book didn’t rummage around in too many clichés, and the general pace is effective enough. The ending also does feel proper, and overall the editing is fine. Yet, reading through, there were quite a few things that felt “off” to me.
First, the writing. Now, full disclosure: I tend to appreciate books that are literary, with complex themes, tones, and styles. Vermilion is not this, and never tries to be. Lee’s style is simpler. Unfortunately, there are places where the writing feels dictated; we see an almost exclusive use of “telling rather than showing.” Further, there is never much alteration in the flow, and indeed, the book opens with several paragraphs beginning with a character’s name – Marcus. Moreover, when the writer delves into prose there is a 50/50 shot it will be clear, and not confusing.
Second, the overall theme. I am not going to get into the argument over whether I feel werewolf/vampire stories are overdone. However, Vermilion’s initial setup reminded me too closely of the movie Underworld. This changes later, thankfully, however nothing herein struck me as particularly unique.
Third, the setting. There are too many inaccuracies to put this in Victorian time. This is perhaps, again, a failing of my hobbies and interests; I am quite big into history. From the speech patterns, to certain devices used. It is not believably Victorian.
Now to step back. There is a good thread of a story here, and Lee shows a capable hand in its crafting, that will only grow stronger and more distinct with time. For a debut novel it is effective, and indeed there are quite a few folks out there where Vermilion Tears might be exactly their cup of tea. However, I prefer Earl Gray over a simple black.
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Lioness of Cygnus Five by Alex Beecroft
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A free copy of the kindle was provided for an honest review.
Beecroft has talent, of that there is no question. She deftly wields vivid imagery, and narrative scope into a tale that will draw you in. But the technical errors jar (though I have been told, I have an old copy), one out of two of the main characters are borderline unlikeable, and the sociological viewpoints expressed can be hard to ignore. Suffice to say, I am probably not among the target audience. But when I put my bias aside I can see clearly that there is artistry here, and a strong story. The Lioness of Cygnus Five is a four-star book, ready to escape from the shackles of a three-star editing.
Moments of brilliance speckle a flow of text that is impressive in consistency and rhythm. The first few chapters are exciting, engaging, and quite unique. The second character, Aurora Campos, I can quite relate to. The dialogue, the experiences of the two protagonists are realistic, and have a wonderful touch. In short, they are believable. And lastly, the basic scientific foundation of the experience here is solid, I have no qualms.
However, for lack of a better word, I despised Bryant at the beginning. I did warm up to him later, only to have all the goodwill dashed it all in a decision that brought me back to his original characterization; selfish, smug, self-righteous, naïve, and whiny. This choice, coupled with the ending, that initially sealed my personal feelings for the novel. It is here where I decided I needed to step back, and look at the whole picture to really rate this piece. To wit, counting up all of the beans, I am left with a solid albeit flawed book.
For readers out there, if queer sci-fi romance is your area, you will unlikely never find a more well-versed, character driver piece. I would say that it even stands fairly-well, romance aspects aside, as a sci-fi storyline. Everyone else should however do consider the subject matter, and understand that this novel does not remain ideologically neutral. In the end, I hope Bryant is happy; I chose to only knock the book, rather than murder it.
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Scavenger Girl: Season of Atchem by Jennifer Arntson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
**Rating more akin to 3.5 stars**
I am very particular in my fantasy novels, and usually gravitate towards works ala writers such as Neil Gaiman, or Margaret Atwood. Literary fantasy. It is rare that anything otherwise will grab my attention. But Scavenger girl, by Jennifer Arntson, is not a book to toss away.
The novel starts slow, but this is not a knock. Contrarily, I found this helped me establish a connection with Una’s family. Scenes of their lives as Reclaimers - pariahs who have no rights – are well placed, with effective character and world building. Tension builds with the approach to Talium. And this is where we begin to see the emergence of another aspect of this coming of age drama; a love triangle. I felt that this was given plenty of time to breathe, and came across believable. Blue is a balanced rival, with both annoying, and redeeming qualities. In short, he was pretty realistic. Finally, the ending leads well into what I assume is to be the continuation.
Anything reclaimed though, might have a few rough edges. Long, somewhat overdone explanations bog down the narrative at times (Hanaberries, takes up at least a page), and can distract from the budding drama. Also after the initial confrontation with the Authority I felt that the tension just wasn’t there, floating away like an Atchem dress. Arntson attempts to replace this with the infusion of the romance angle, and some dark imagery, but it doesn’t feel fully successful. Rape, torture, and sacrificial scenes – though the ceremonies were interesting and helped establish Blue’s traits more – were at times a little much. Despite these issues there was enough here to keep me reading on.
Strong writing that avoids repetition, and a solid understanding of world building anchors this novel. Scavenger girl isn’t perfect, but an effective beginning to what should be an interesting series. So, my suggestion: pick this book up, or if you see it laying around somewhere, reclaim it.
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Genesis: The Battle Within by David J. Tucker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
For the sake of the author I am going to be brutally efficient, and forgo my normal opening. Genesis, by David Tucker, needs a development editor. While the idea is unique (and hence, the reason for the two stars), the execution is far from. The book suffers from deep grammar issues, poor and confusing prose, maddeningly boring rants and insights, and an extreme lack of flow – and this is just in the first couple of pages. It took me a good twenty minutes of re-reading to get past the opening paragraph.
Note to the author: do not lecture the reader. I am sure you didn’t want to sit through those during school, readers are unlikely to do so in a sci-fi book. Suffice to say, this was a hard book to get through. With a steady hand by your side, Genesis could be repaired. But, somewhat ironically, I think that will mean going back to the beginning.
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Hello folks, and welcome to my first post here on this new, and essentially non-dairy website. By all rights, if you are reading this you are either a) family b) a stalker or c) hopped up on some mixture involving Vodka, Everclear, and a sports drink, and are soon to be questioning your life choices. Reading my blog won’t be one of them.
I am not going to tell you about me; my biography is on another page. Go there, shoo! Personally, I think it’s more important to know what I am: a debut author*. Curses of Scale, which will be released in November, will be my first traditionally published novel. And the lead up to it has been real eye opening. Now, I could droll on about all the things I have learned. Tip-toe through advice, and try to fool you into thinking I know what I am doing (spoiler: I don’t). But I thought it would be interesting, and perhaps educational, to tell you what I did do, and go over the consequences of my actions after, or in a follow up post. Perhaps it might help someone out there to not repeat what I have done, and thereby avoid the evils which (almost said witch) I have perpetrated upon mankind. So, we will call this little series Chronicles of a Writer, or drop the a, and make it C.O.W** for short.
So, let’s begin with the beginning, where things start, near the early part of any story. Three years ago, I had just finished writing the first ten or so chapters, and I wanted to know if I even had a story. Rather than hunt down a couple of beta-readers, I decided to skip the socializing/human interaction thing, and hired a “Literary Consultant.” Word for the wise, as I found out later: there is no avoiding socializing, as a wannabe author.
I paid a typical, albeit non-cheap sum of $200, for the analysis of my first three chapters. The review came back lightning fast, and there were quite a few helpful notations along the following:
My text: Glass sprayed the forest, and the face of a hidden assassin was ruined.
Reviewer’s Analysis: More specific? This is telling, not showing. What exactly does Calem see in this moment. What does the face look like and how is it damaged? How does the attacker react?
But also, some odd remarks:
My text: Yes! A thousand times yes..But aren’t you already married?
Reviewer’s Analysis: The fairy wants to marry him? A male fairy? I’m confused.***
In short, it was a mixed bag. On one hand there were plenty of in depth insights that did ultimately help my writing. Yet, there were also several comments that made me question if the reviewer was even reading the story, and/or why they insisted on bringing their own non-writing relating beliefs into it.
So, ultimately, was it worth the $200? No. I could have bit the bullet and scoured some forums like Absolute Write - put in a little effort to get to know people, and ended up receiving the same sort of conclusions. Top it off with the person ending their analysis with a pitch for their writing books and other services, and it made me wonder how sincere some of the comments were, or if I was merely being buttered** up for a sale.
Next up: the quest for an editor, or “dear-god I hope this doesn’t end with a 1k price tag commentary of how much I suck.”
*Sure, there was that other book I self-published eleven years ago, but It was like my flirtation with a handlebar mustache; purely a vanity affair.
**I lied when I said this would be a non-dairy website.
***The fairy is just, to note, messing with the character.