Saros by Zenko – A Review
The ancient gods are dying.
After millenia of surviving on the worship and sacrifice of mankind, these celestial beings find themselves wasting away as the humans turn away from ritual in pursuit of more ‘scientific’ beliefs. Now the immortals watch helplessly while one by one, those they love dissolve into stardust. And they’re next.
Fearing the death of his people, Ocote seeks to claim a human sacrifice himself. One bloodline, a product of a union between the immortals and man, may be enough to sustain his people, to be the key to their survival. But another immortal, Jerico, stands in his way, vowing to protect the human and cease the barbaric rites and reliance on mortal men. But will this rogue Jerico be enough to protect the innocent mortal? Or will his celestial race overwhelm his efforts and slay the innocent?
My first experience with manga came from an art classmate of mine at school. While the other members of the class were copying the works of famous artists, trying to get our oil pastels just right, she was creating unique works of manga art topped with gentle watercolors done by a steady hand. This classmate has since grown up (obviously) and now she creates fantastic works for businesses and authors.
In other words, I met my first professional artist.
Whenever I consider manga, I immediately start to feel old. Sure, people have been reading comic books forever, but the rise of this particular style of graphic novels was just starting to gain popularity in the states (or at least my corner of them) when I was finishing high school. Because of this, I’ve never been one to pick up these books. I stick mainly to novels, my comfort zone and my little niche. Recently, however, I have become friends with a manga artist, and I cannot help but sit and stare at her works!
Where I have spent hours, days, weeks, and months learning how to draw with words, she can actually draw! Her characters are lifelike, expressive, and filled with emotions communicated through visuals. In other words, it’s a skill I don’t have and I’m a little jealous about it.
Zenko’s latest graphic novel Scatheless is in the works to be released very soon by Walnut Street Publishers, and I have already read and have a review waiting in the wings, but, while waiting for that launch, I dove back into some of her earlier works. Saros is a three-part series filled with crazy, fantastical creatures battling it out over the ethics of human sacrifice. Which, from, you know, a human view sounds like a no-brainer, but Zenko skillfully shows the desperation of people seeking only to survive through moving pictures, high-stakes battles, and funny (and sexy) characters.
I encourage you to head on over to https://globalcomix.com/c/saros to see her works (the comic is free to view) and keep an eye out for Zenko’s next novel to release: Scatheless!
The King is dead. Long live the Queen!
Evangeline never expected to rule the Nine Hundred Worlds. Upon her father’s death that job was supposed to fall upon the shoulders of her older brother. But when an assassin slays the heir apparent on his way to his coronation back on earth, the title falls to his baby sister.
Ottrimus, the organization that slayed her brother, could not be happier about the change. With their operatives in place, they now have a chance at manipulating the most powerful woman in the galaxy, but they do not contend for one problem: the Queen’s body guard.
The Guardian as he is called is a technologically enhanced human clone with one job: protect the Empress of the Nine Worlds no matter the cost. From ocular implants to teleportation capabilities, the Guardian has the tools to do just that, but when they carved out the man to make space for the machine, his makers carved out his soul as well. At least, that is what Evangeline has been told.
But the Empress is a stubborn woman. Although it might risk her safety, Evangeline seeks out her Guardian’s soul, encouraging him to experience joy and pleasure beyond his prescribed functions. She names him Adam and tells him regularly of his worth, but will it be enough to resurrect the human inside him that was so meticulously removed?
And will it cost her everything if she can?
JS Clark brings his readers along for one heck of a ride in this action-packed but well thought out novel. From political intrigue to heart-warming scenes between an Empress and her overpowered Guardian, this novel touches not just the heart but the mind as well.
As a light sci-fi reader, there were some places that were just a touch on the technical side, but that’s likely just me. From an objective standpoint, these elements were well-described and well-written. The voices of his characters–especially Adam–were spot on, and he wrote eloquently about difficult topics from multiple points of view. This is a thinking novel, but it’s also a fun one! So, if you’re up for the challenge, I recommend this book for you!
Hard copies can be purchased Here
Ebooks and paperback are available on Amazon
And strictly ebooks Here
Heavenly beings and creatures of myth and legend gather from this dimension and the next as a prophecy of ancient times begins to unfurl. Among these celestial creatures are two human mortals united by an invisible chain that links them together, even when they are physically far apart.
Star-crossed lovers? Parents of a promised child? No one quite knows the meaning of the prophecy E1:10, only that these two lie at the center of it and that a great conflict swirls around them.
Stars Below the Concrete follows the journey of the two humans, Sparrow and Pillar, as they face the destinies laid out before them and struggle with the timeless challenge: Do you believe? Does Sparrow, who has for the past several years been under the thumb of an abusive, drug-addicted boyfriend, believe enough in her own self-worth and destiny to keep herself clean while she journeys to find Pillar? And does Pillar believe enough while standing in place to wait for Pillar to arrive, or will his belief falter across the years as he embraces the life around him?
All the while, we see the progress of the allies of the prophecy, namely three brothers, Abraham, Cyrus, and Roland, sons of the creators of Earth, as they gather together their companions for the coming war. Through beautiful imagery and elegant prose, we travel with these characters to worlds of ice and fire, visiting creatures of awe-inspiring strength and cunning. Together they rise against their singular enemy: Makayla.
Makayla, a merciless and deceptive enemy, has also heard of the prophecy and seeks to destroy Pillar and Sparrow before they can bring it to fruition. The sons of the creators seek to protect the mortals, but their powers are limited by the inability to restrain free will. Will Pillar and Sparrow maintain their belief in the prophecy and their destiny? Or will they fall sway to the influence of this sinister being?
Stars Below the Concrete is a Tolkienesque high fantasy novel that had elements reminiscent of A Wrinkle in Time. This combination is not part of the genre I typically read, but I walked away intrigued by the amount of creativity and elegance found in this word-smith. The cast of characters proved to be quite unique, and I grew especially fond of the character ‘Shadow’--an invisible immortal being with just enough humor and grumpiness to make him downright likable. Stars Below the Concrete is book one in a planned five part series. As we await the release of the next installments, we are left to wonder, what does Quinn have for us next?
I cannot recall if it was a librarian that introduced me to the Shadow Children Series or if I picked up the first volume on my own. Either way, I recall being hooked by the first page, and I devoured the following books in a matter of days. Yet, when I talk to other book lovers, I rarely hear them speak about this little book series that captivated my young imagination and influences my writing to this day.
Among the Hidden is volume one of Haddix’s middle-grade dystopian series following the story of Luke Garner, a third child born in a country where having three children is illegal. For years, Luke has secretly lived on his family’s farm. While he has never been to town, to school, or even ridden in a car, he has been able to tromp across the family’s land, help out in the barn, and catch fireflies in the backyard during the summer. All this changes, however, when the woods behind Luke’s house are torn down to create space for a ritzy neighborhood.
Now that prying eyes abound, Luke is forced to stay in the attic of his home. If anyone finds out that Luke exists, his family will be reported to the population police and Luke will be killed for merely existing. With nothing else to do, Luke spends his days re-reading the same books and watching the houses pop up in the new neighborhood. Once built, he watches the new families that come to live in the nice houses, memorizes the details of all their movements, and notices when a child’s face appears in a window of the house where two children already live.
Luke knows that he must meet this other third child, but doing so will mean risking everything—his family included. But doing nothing will mean risking everything else.
Haddix outdoes herself in this incredible series. These books, written for kids between the ages of 8-12, cover a wide range of heavy topics such as tyranny, poverty, personal grief, and so much more. Not once does she cross the line on ‘too much’ for this age group, but she takes the hands of kids and guides them through these challenging topics. The writing is excellent, engaging, and heartfelt.
I would recommend these books to any reader of any age group. They are not hard to read and the benefits are far greater than I can hope to cover with a single book review. 5 stars!
Two nations. Two cultures. One trapped in the narrow alleys and quarters of their tightly packed city; the other trapped in ancient feuds and traditions. Both are determined to exist.
Frost’s novel holds no punches and is as sharp as the rock from which it is named. In Frost’s own words, each of her characters are like obsidian–sharper and harder because they have been broken.
The story opens with a captured woman facing the man that slaughtered her people, the Vilarhiti of the White Desert. He demands information from her–information that would lead to the demise of her culture as she knows it. But this Bhavari woman is strong and refuses to speak even under penalty of death. So her captor chooses life as her punishment–she will live as his prisoner, his wife, and be forced to watch any children born to her be raised by her enemy and transformed into the next conqueror of her people.
Next we meet Hasheem, a former male prostitute turned assassin who now flees the city that used up his youth for its pleasures. Hasheem, too, is one of these sharp-edged people, and this flight to freedom drives him into the White Desert where his ability to survive in the dark alleys of the city will be of no help. Little does he or either nation know that his escape will signal the resurgence of conflict, shaking both peoples to their very core.
Obsidian is a dark tale of political intrigue, secrets, depravity, and love. Each of the characters flow with passion–hatred, desire, ambition. Each character wants something and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. They are broken. They are survivors. They are dangerous.
They are Obsidian itself.
This story is not for the faint of heart. Frost takes off the rose-colored sheen of the world and explores deeply the dark, hidden places of human existence. With beautiful prose, exceptional story-telling, and captivating visuals, she brings the reader along on a journey that keeps them turning pages, drinking in more. Her characters worm their way into your heart and mind, and you find yourself thinking about them hours after the book has been closed.
If you are up for the soul challenge, I recommend this book for you.
Barbara Avon’s Revived
Avon sums up her main character best by stating that Steven Gold was a man who turned heads. Men in suits wanted to be him. Women wanted to know him. Little old ladies wished to adopt him to fill the void of missing grandsons.
But Steven Gold has secrets, many secrets in fact. Behind each of his successes–his marriage of eleven years to a beautiful woman, his career as an award-winning journalist–there is a dark secret waiting to catch up with him. And, after a close encounter with death, these secrets, or these bodies rather, decide they’ve waited long enough in the shadows and draw near to claim Gold as their own.
Using vivid imagery, Avon paints pictures of an idyllic life, but even from the beginning, hidden in every scene, is just a hint of the macabre or of something not quite right. At first, the reader focuses on Steven’s wife Cassie, thinking that the mystery revolves around her as she battles decaying mental health and slowly falls into hallucinations and delusion. Everything changes, however, after Steven’s accident where a head injury causes him to enter delusions of his own.
As Steven’s visions grow more intense, the reader is forced to weigh this man, not only by his appearance but by the content of his character as well. Is he as truly as golden as his name? Or is there more corruption than shine?
This book was a good, quick read. The characters are likable and convincing–you find yourself rooting for them even, perhaps, when you should not. Avon does well to portray the difficulties of living with a mental illness and the complications that this can bring–especially when delusions encounter real life. She also brings out how trauma can impact this healing and how some things ‘forgotten’ can impact us to our very core.
If psychological thrillers are your thing, I recommend this book for you!
The post I had planned for today fell through, so we’re going to review a throwback Thursday novel, ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card!
This book, made famous by the Hollywood movie of the same title, was first published in 1985 during the thriving era of several sci-fi classics, STAR WARS probably being the most popular title of that time. I, however, did not read this novel until this summer. I sought out Card’s popular novel after reading his book on writing entitled ELEMENTS OF WRITING FICTION: CHARACTERS AND VIEWPOINT at the suggestion of an editor. I truly enjoyed that book and intend on reading it again.
But I was less than thrilled about ENDER’S GAME.
I know, who am I to criticize a man who has made millions of dollars in his writing career? But the writing landscape has changed a lot since 1985, and I wonder if ENDER’S GAME would have ended up on the slush pile of a number of agents had it been submitted today. Don’t get me wrong, the plot is intriguing – I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and especially the twist at the end. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, here’s the gist (spoilers not included).
Sometime in the distant future, the world has united to prepare for the next ‘Bugger’ invasion – an attack from a distant alien race that has nearly destroyed Earth in previous wars. Now the nations are gathering the best and brightest children with plans on training the next generation of military leaders. Among those chosen is Ender, the third child chosen from his family for the training, and the one with the most promise.
Everyone identifies brilliance and leadership in Ender the moment he steps into the school. Instructors rave about him, competitors despise him, and his companions immediately seek to follow him, even at his very young age. Fearing that special adult attention will stifle his drive to problem solve and advance, however, Ender receives no help from his guardians when interactions with competitors turn confrontational – even when violence is involved. In fact, if anything, the adults in Ender’s life do whatever they can to create more challenges for Ender whether that be by isolation, sleep deprivation, or extreme physical exertion – all in the pursuit of creating an unbeatable commander to destroy the ‘Buggers.’
As I said, this is an exceptional plot (and I’d love to see the movie again) but what I found disappointing was the actual writing. Now, that’s not to say the writing was bad, but it was functional at best. Not much attention was given to prose. Perhaps that was in the interest of word count – there was a lot to fit in this novel meant for children – but there were, I thought, several pacing issues, and the final act was a bit rushed. Much of the literature is about emotions and, although I felt sympathy for Ender in many situations, it never translated much into empathy.
I bring up this novel today more to note the change in literary expectations from then to now. It’s not enough anymore to write well or to have a good story. There has to be a spark, a life behind the words that pierce the soul. Competition has never been so high in the self-publishing era. With the click of a button, anyone can publish their thoughts, but not everyone can sell. Indie authors ESPECIALLY know this, but the Big 5 Publishers are feeling the pinch as well. I don’t have any advice about how to proceed in this current climate – I’m trying to figure that out as well – but it’s always interesting to look back to see what was considered great for the time as compared to now.
J. S. Frankel's Randor's Moon -- A Review
Complex intergalactic conflict? Political intrigue? Deception and betrayal? If these things are your cup of tea, then Randor’s Moon is a must-read for you!
Randor, a young scientist – one of the last living scientists among his people – is tasked with the impossible: finding a cure to a virus found in a race of creatures he’s never met until that afternoon. And if he doesn’t? No big deal. The creatures of Falanar will just keep bombing his planet into extinction.
With the fate of his people hanging in the balance, Randor journeys with Minnara, the Crown Princess of this warring nation, to Falanar in order to run his tests and apply a cure, but things go terribly wrong when their navigation system forces their spacecraft into the tail of a passing comet. This freak accident (or was it an accident?) destroys their craft, marooning them on a moon inhabited by fearsome and horrific creatures.
If Randor and Minnara wish to survive, they will have to find some way to put aside their grievances and work together. Things only get increasingly complicated, however, when the sentient inhabitants of the planet become hostile, Minnara starts to show symptoms of the virus, and help is slow to arrive. If Randor’s wits and Minnara’s strength fail, it’s only a matter of time before they succumb to the terrors of this frightening world, and with their deaths will come the extinction of both of their peoples.
J. S. Frankel keeps you on your toes and guessing all the way to the end of this Young Adult Sci-Fi tale of self-resilience and survival!
I am accepting submissions for reviews at this time. I am primarily interested in thrillers, suspense, magical realism, dystopians, and light sci-fi. I have a taste for the grim and love novels that make you think. Leave me haunted but hopeful.