Review: Untamed by Madeline Dyer

Untamed is a science-fiction adventure novel in the same vein as Uglies by Scott Westerfeld.

The main character and first person narrator is named Seven Sarr. She lives with a band of Untamed in the wilderness. The Untamed are fighting against The Enhanced, humans who augment themselves with addictive chemicals and plastic surgery. The augments alter their emotions as well as their ability.

The story combines this science fiction bio-chemistry with a strong spiritual story line. There are Spirits in the wilderness, dangerous and angry. This adds to the difficulties facing the Untamed.

Along with Seven there is a small community of Untamed: her brother Three, their leader, Rahn, and Rahn’s cousins, Corin and Esther, make up the main cast of the book.

The beginning was very strong. I felt immersed in the world right away but the action and tension were very high as well. True to the genre and style you move fast through the story and are faced with lies and conflicting stories from all sides. The narrative is tight and the narrator refreshing, unreliable, and easy to relate to.

The only downside to the book was that I figured out the twists WAY before the characters did. I know it’s a case of things being easier to see from the outside where you have the big picture, but the story has a first person narrator. I only know and see what she knows and sees.

I did really enjoy this book and the writing style and I give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Review: Wonder Woman

I saw Wonder Woman in theatres on June 6th and I waited until the 11th to write this (won’t show up on my blog until the 25th). I like to wait a few days after I see a movie before reviewing it. I like to think about it first.

Visually Wonder Woman was wonderful. You start on the sun swept beaches of her island home watching Diana grow up in a sequence that is emotional and fun, not at all tedious. It’s made even better by the cast. You move from there to London in the 1900s – all fog and smog and dirty streets. Then into Paris and Belgium to the front lines of the war.

The stunts were visually pleasing, the effects were spot on and not overwhelming. Gal Gabot’s acting was amazing.

The story, of course, is about Diana’s first foray into the world of mankind during World War 1. She is at turns innocent and wise, strong and vulnerable, powerful and powerless. She has choices to make, and she maintains her right to make them herself.

“What I do is none of your concern” “But it’s what I’m going to do”

She was a woman of strong convictions who faces an existential crisis.

I am beyond pleased that this is the first super hero movie we took my daughter to see. She wore her bracers and skirt and headband to the theatre. She was mesmerized. She beams when I call her my little Wonder Woman, my little Diana. I will likely make her a little brown tunic for October so she can attend C4 as a little Diana. She has been in love with Wonder Woman from the first trailer.

This will be the Wonder Woman my daughter grows up with. This woman who is full of moral conviction, who refuses to be left out, who refuses to be silenced. She demands that her knowledge be acknowledged, she demands that she be seen and heard. She is curious and bold. She is full of wonder. She is full of compassion. She is athletic and graceful but at times awkward and blunt. She fights because she has to and does not relish in the destruction. She loves and she mourns and she looks for the best in people always.

I loved the entire cast. The vulnerability of “Dr. Poison”, the pig-headedness of the British High Command, the endearing babbling of the secretary, the misfit band she travels with, the too-smooth British lord, the bull-headed German general – the boys at the end, relieved to be alive. And I loved that the ending was so strong. They didn’t back down. They didn’t cop out. And they leave Diana full of regret, and full of hope.

With a little luck this will be out on DVD for Christmas and I’ll be able to buy my daughter a copy to keep forever. Because Wonder Woman is her first favourite super hero and so very rightly so.


I apologize. There was supposed to be a new review up today and there won’t be. I’ve been swamped with personal things for a week, I’m behind on sleep, my kids are behind on sleep, and I’ve got too much to do and not enough time to do it.

So, I would rather the reviews be bumped back a week so I can give the books the time and attention they deserve than try to rush them. As such, there will be no review on Saturday either. There is a post scheduled for Sunday and hopefully next week we’ll be back to reviews.

Thank you for your understanding.

I Hate Writing Sequels

A follow up to The Reader Author Contract post from last week.

I’m writing two different series right now. The first is a light fantasy romance series with a big twist in book three. The second is a middle grade science fiction adventure series about super powers and what not. I just finished book two in the fantasy series and I’ve started book two in the sci fi series, and I’ve realized that writing book twos sucks.

I still love the series idea, and they’re both goal oriented series so they have a set ending (5 in the fantasy series, 8 or 9 in the sci fi) but writing book two was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I hit so many road blocks, so many days where I didn’t want to work on it, so many times where I got tired of the project. I felt overwhelmed. I’ll be writing these series for another 2-2.5 years!

Book ones, those are fun. You’re meeting new characters, building a world, it’s a new project, it feels awesome.

Book lasts, those are fun too. You’re wrapping up all the plot lines and writing the big scenes and when it’s done the whole project is done and that is awesome too.

The ones in the middle – even when the story is good – feel tedious to me. I get a serious case of the new project itch. I want to be done. I want to quit. And as an indie author that would be VERY BAD.

Because of the contract. Because indie authors already have a rep as being unprofessional.

If I don’t finish these series the readers who did take a chance on me will not come back, they will not give me a second chance, they won’t recommend me to other people, and if they bother to leave me a review it won’t be a good one.

When I started The Rose Garden and Underground I knew what I was getting into. I knew I had to write all the books. I committed myself to this project, I will finish it, even if it means banging my head against the wall some days.

And that’s what I’m off to do today … er … work on Underground book 2, not bang my head on things.

Review: Tomoiya’s Story – Escape to Darkness

Tomoiya’s Story – Escape to Darkness is the first book in a paranormal science fiction story by C.A. King

Phew, okay, this book starts out with star ships and space travel. A young girl, Tomoiya, is on a space ship leaving home. She has a book with her, a keepsake from her mother. The captain comes to tell her the ending of the story that is in that book – a story about Allaynie. When he is settling in to tell the story I was reminded of the opening scenes of The Princess Bride.

The majority of the book is actually about Allaynie and a criminal named Woden. The story was interesting but distant. Because the story is being told to Tomoiya by the captain it has that recounting feeling to it. There’s very little immediacy and very little tension. You know all this happened years or decades before the actual story. Even hints that Tomoiya and Allaynie are somehow linked, somehow will walk a similar path, and that this story is a warning to the young girl, isn’t really enough to spice the story up.

What I did enjoy was the way Woden spun things so he’d look like the good guy and Allaynie and her entire race would forever be condemned. I think it really played on the fake news and media fed fears we face now, but at such a scale it almost seems ridiculous. And yet, it worked.

Sadly, I feel I know more about Woden than I do about either Allaynie or Tomoiya, their families, or even their race.

This is definitely more of a prequel than a stand alone, or even a book 1. (Having written a prequel story that is very much telling and not showing myself I know how difficult it can be to write something like this).

I give the writing a 3 out of 5 stars BUT I give the concept a 4 out of 5 stars and I would like to read book 2 in the series to see where this is going. I’m hopeful book 2 will be more action, more emotion, and less distant storytelling.

Review: PAWS

PAWS is the first book in an urban fantasy paranormal series by Debbie Manber Kupfer.

The main character of PAWS is a teenage girl named Miriam Katz. The cast includes werewovlves, shapeshifters, and magicians who have mastered the art of changing shape.

The story revolves around a rather old, cruel, werewolf and his quest for power. PAWS is an organization of magical beings who can, in some way, change their shape into animals. The bad guy feels that PAWS is one of the biggest threats to his quest for power.

The beginning of the book is rather long and it takes a while for Miri to find out how she fits into the paranormal side of this world. This book also has a lot of training and practicing and backstory.

One interesting thing was that many of the main characters, Miri, Josh, and Mandy, were Jewish. It was actually quite the diverse cast with an Irishwoman and her son, a British magician, and an Australian exchange student who could change into a kangaroo.

There were a few things that bothered me. First of all, shapeshifters are sort of genetic and their magic relies on a talisman of sorts. The magicians who learn to change shape do not have these talismans. At one point Joey, the kangaroo, had an amulet that he shouldn’t have had because he doesn’t need it. There were a few places where the formatting was wacky as well. I found the pacing was a little off. She spent the whole book building towards this fight scene and it was short and lacked tension.

Other than that the book was very good. It is definitely designed for younger teen readers – say 12 or 13 and up. It was a very easy read with a very simple story. The violence was not graphic, there was no swearing, and the romance was teen sweet with no sex scenes.

I give this book 3.5 stars out of 5. It has great potential and I hope the rest of the series will pick up a little.

The Reader-Author Contract

We don’t talk about this, not really, but there are expectations that a reader has of a writer, and a writer has of their readers, especially where the series is concerned. This post is inspired by the fact that I have been waiting nearly 6 years for book 6 in the Song of Fire and Ice series by George RR Martin.

For the purpose of this article we’ll be talking about two types of series. The first is the open ended series. Think Anita Blake by Laurel K Hamilton, Mercedes Thompson and Alpha & Omega by Patricia Briggs, or Janet Evonovich’s Stephanie Plum books. These are all series in which each book has one or two large plots which are wrapped in over the course of that single book as well as several smaller, more personal, character based plots that continue on through the series. Really, any book could be the last because the personal plot lines won’t ever really end. These series can last a few books or a few dozen books, as long as the author continues to come up with original plots for each book.

On the flip side you have what I call goal-oriented series. Think Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones by George RR Martin, or the Belgariad and Malloreon by David Eddings. There is a point to the series, something the characters are trying to achieve, (destroy the ring and defeat the evil, put someone on the throne and restore peace, get the heir on the throne and destroy the mad god, rescue a kidnapped child and save the universe) and the series ends when this has been completed.

So what is the contract? Well, it depends on which type of series you read/write. For an open ended series the writer is responsible for consistent and continuing character development and for coming up with unique situations to put the characters in for each book. If the reader likes book 1 and book 2 they will generally continue buying books in the series until the plots become boring and stagnate.

If you are writing this type of series pay attention to your readers. When the plots are starting to feel forced or your readers are losing interest maybe it’s time to retire these characters, wrap up any lose ends, and start something new. Or pass the torch if a character is aging.

For a goal oriented series the writer is responsible for setting up a clear goal, getting the characters to the climax scene, where the characters will succeed or fail, and then wrapping the story up. Whether it takes three books or five or ten or whatever, this is the pattern that readers expect. Part of this responsibility is not stretching the series on too long past the entertainment value of the “quest” or past the completion of the goal.

If you are writing this type of series, finish it. If I wrote a stand alone novel and it ended just as the hero was walking into the dragon’s cave no one would publish it. It’s not complete. Publishers take a chance on a series. They take the chance that readers will like the first books enough to buy the rest but they also take a chance on the author because they are essentially publishing an incomplete book a piece at a time.

Readers are also taking a chance on a series because there’s always the chance you’ll find someone like George RR Martin who decides not to finish a series that you, the reader, have come to enjoy.

Review: Electric Blue

Electric Blue is a collection of poetry by Lia Rees being released this weekend. I had the opportunity to read an advance copy for this review.

This book contains 20 poems. They are generally personal in nature, reflecting on the self rather than on nature or the state of the world. Most of them are free form though a few are loosely metered and rhyming.

My two favourite poems were If My Doctors were Electricians and Apocalyptic Bethlehem: A Fable.

Poetry is a very subjective and personal writing form. It’s easy to dismiss as rambling lines, incomplete sentences just thrown on a page, but good poetry is deeper than that. Good poetry paints vivid images with only the necessary words. Quite a few poems in this book had real power and drive, others were heavy with emotion. And yet, they remained almost conversational in nature. They were profound but also personal.

Poetry is a tough market these days so best of luck to Lia Rees with the release of this collection. I give it four out of five stars.

Review: Portal Prophesies Book 1

The Portal Prophesies Book 1 is called A Keeper’s Destiny and it is by C.A. King. This is a high fantasy epic novel.

The book starts with Willow, the orphaned teenage misfit who has a tattoo of two black cats that she doesn’t remember getting, it’s always been there. She also hears voices. Willow lives in a little village where she sells produce. The village is segregated by caste or class. The people of her village have hair that changes colour when they are young until it settles on a colour at sixteen cycles. Their hair reflects their mood until it stops changing, then it would announce the strength and type of her abilities. Which means this world also has in-born magics or abilities.

From here we move on to meet the people of her town and get a feel for the social structure. The history of the world, which involves Guardians and Keepers, who are bonded to each other, dividing up and protecting realms of fantastical races to keep them safe or keep them from causing harm, is gradually revealed, as is Willow’s role in all this.

The social turmoil within the village provides the opportunity for an attack that ends their peaceful existence and forces the survivors to use a Portal to one of these other realms. We get a few training sequences and some character growth, and then end with a major character in distress.

On the one hand this world is extremely unique with an interesting history and some potential for “that’s not what you told me” and a bad guy who believes he’s the good guy and the Guardians are evil tyrants. On the other hand, it’s prophesy based, and that runs the risk of being either cliched or forced or both. She can’t lose because she’s the chosen one, right? She’s just going to keep unlocking abilities until she’s big enough and strong enough to win no matter what. BUT I hold out hope for this series based on the wide cast of characters, the interesting set-up with potential for betrayals and side reversals, and the decent writing style.

This book is perfect for older middle years and high school students. It has that teen drama feel to it, with amazing powers and adventure and self-discovery.

Considering what this book is trying to be, and what it achieves, I give it a four out of five stars and I look forward to reviewing the second book later this summer.

Review: Dreaming of Dillon

I don’t normally read straight up romance but I’m glad I read this one. Aside from a few genre-cliches the story was very good and longer than I expected.

I started off the book slightly confused as I didn’t realize Dillon was his last name and was going “who’s Marcus?” Once I had that sorted out I settled in to enjoy the story.

The narrator – Sophie – is an underappreciated assistant PA with good friends, a nice flat, and a crush on her boss. The story takes us through her journey to a more confident and less stressful work environment, as well as seeing her come to terms with her personal tragedy. Of course, in the meanwhile, she’s falling in love with her boss and his family.

I teared up a few times reading this book as Sophie’s personal story is similar to mine. No, I didn’t fall in love with a multi-millionaire, but I did lose my mother to cancer. This book really captures that longing and aching that comes with losing someone.

Dreaming of Dillon is a clean but sassy romance and I give it four out of five stars.