Monthly Archives: March 2013

Review of Nicholas Kerkoff’s Be’askaas – Tales of Death and Redemption.

Be'askaas

Author, Nicholas Kerkoff, sent me a copy of his novel Be’askaas – Tales of Death and RedemptionI was relieved to discover that it isn’t, in fact, a series of short stories, but one novel.

Description from Goodreads:
Two young brothers are cast out into the hard world when their inebriated father loses the family farm. Their only option is to become apprentices for an elderly necromancer many miles away. It’s a disgusting occupation which society fears and despises. The poor rural kids know little of magic and even less about the world at large, but through a series of wizardly jobs and perilous adventures they begin to learn the true nature of power and the potential of their new dark art.

Review:
Honestly, I have a hard time sub-categorising Be’askaas – Tales of Death and Redemption. Yes, at its core it’s a fantasy novel. It has sorcerers, Earth witches, Niads, demons, necromancers, gods, dragons and zombies. No question about it. It’s a fantasy novel. But somehow it doesn’t have the whimsy I associate with the upbeat contributions to the genre, it isn’t epic (though there are a couple long treks), and somehow despite its subject matter I wouldn’t call it dark fantasy either. It’s…philosophical…maybe.

As the two young students, Rafe and Gywn, spend their first year in the company of the necromancer, Yulsef, they learn how little they understood of the world around them and some important life lessons. The reader, by extension, does too. I consider these lessons more important that the story that encompasses them; simple gems like knowledge complicates life. It’s much easier to live in comfortable ignorance than to separate yourself from the herd with true understanding. It’s really particularly genius that the characters are so young. Their minds are relatively uncluttered to start with. So while they spend a lot of time gaping in amazement, there is very little unlearning necessary.

The book is slow. I don’t mean in a ‘god, please let something happen soon’ kind of way. Plenty happens. Rather it is paced and methodical, so that was all good. I only had two true complaints. One, there are quite a few characters introduced in such a short book and often the POV would shift to these new characters before they were introduced. This threw me every single time. Second, I probably would have given the book five stars if it had a little bit more of an ending. I suspect there is a lot more to come. After all one year in the life of a 10 and 13 year old apprentice leaves plenty of room for more and the inkling of civil unrest sets the stage for future adventure. It’s just that this book feels unfinished. It’s only 118 pages long and ends abruptly, with no real wrap up. No real task accomplished or quest finished, either for that matter. There isn’t any real indication of why it should end when it ends. It just does. I was let staring at the phrase “to be continued…” with a distinct sense of dissatisfaction.

Review of Deniece Greene’s Treasure Tide (The Coins #1)

Treasure Tides

I downloaded Denice Greene‘s PNR novel, Treasure Tides from the KDP list. At the time of posting this review it was still free.

Description from Goodreads:
Becki Stephens is living the dream in a beach house along the coast of South Carolina. A diving expedition leads to the discovery of more than sharks’ teeth when she discovers a crate on the ocean floor…Becki’s world is about to change in ways she never dreamed possible. Her crate holds secrets she may not be able to handle, and a man who steals her heart the first moment she sees him… walking naked through her living room!

Review:
Before I say anything more let me say that I liked the story of this book. I want that said first because I also have a boatload of complaints, but while I might grouse about certain things I don’t want them to overshadow the basic fact that I liked the book well enough. 

It had a fun premise and a couple interesting twists in the plot. It also had a lot of strong male characters who considered it important to protect the women in their lives. And who can’t approve of that? Most of those women were children, nieces and sisters but a few were of the mating sort. I appreciated this about Kurt, Landon and Royce. They took their fatherly roles seriously (even if they weren’t strictly fathers of the girls/women under their care). It was nice to know that the girls were so loved, but it got old quick. Contradictorily, I liked that they were the type to try and be paternalistic and overly protective, but hated that they were allowed to indulge in the behaviour at the same time.

The main heroine, Becky, would have been easy to relate to if her character hadn’t so persistently chipped away at any respect I had for her. I started out thinking she was a spunky woman. Then she went and fell into a passionate kiss with the frighteningly large naked stranger she found in her living room roughly 45 seconds after meeting him, told the same naked man he couldn’t stay the night and then relented because she was afraid of a little thunder and lightning. (Really? How very cliché.) She ruined perfectly strong coffee with unprecedented amounts of cinnamon creamer and whipped cream from a can (eww) and she allowed all of the men in her life to order her around.

I would ask why, but it was perfectly in keeping with the infantile persona applied to her. She stuck her tongue out at people, threw tantrums, cried at the drop of a hat, liked to play in fountains, jumped too quickly to conclusions, apparently loved sweets (since she was constantly buying or making them), and could relate far too easily with her 12,14, and 16 year old cousins. At one point her mother was even supposed to have described  her as  ‘reaching for her independence.’ She’s 22! If she hasn’t yet reached for and found at least a little independence there’s a problem. If I’m honest all of the women were a little weak, weepy, and in need of male protection–even when described as strong. Eventually it started to feel just a little condescending.

In the end I gave up liking Becky. Joanne fared a little better. I liked her alright, at least she was portrayed as victim instead of a child. But still, there it was, the fragile broken women in need of a big strong man to protect her. Then there was Natie. She didn’t need to be protected at least…nope, she needed to be rescued. But that’s apparently a story for another book. Other that being a lead in for a sequel she seemed to have no purpose in this book what-so-ever.

None of that is my main complaint, however. What irritated me most of all was that just about everything in this book was said at least two times. To call it repetitive just doesn’t seem accurate enough. Everything from narrative descriptions of the team Royce heads, to explanations of familial relationships, to Becky’s hatred of mornings, to Royce and Becky’s instant lust/instant hate/instant love/instant hate/instant comfortable couple holding hands on the porch swing like they’ve known each other for 20 years is repeated ad nauseam. (And that’s just on the first day.) It does smooth out 50 or so percent of the way through, but by then I was just about ready to give up. 

Lastly, there were some formatting and editing issues. I’m always reluctant to mention formatting in case it’s actually my device that is at fault instead of the file, but in this case there didn’t seem to be any sort of paragraph identification. Neither indentations nor hard returns between paragraphs were regularly present. That made it a little hard to read at times and I don’t think my Kindle could cause that. 

I want to conclude as I started. I had a lot of grievances with this novel, but it was still a fun story. I did like some of the characters. Yes they were almost all male, but that means that there were characters I liked. Landon especially seemed to resonate with me, as did Trevor and the ‘gentlemen’. (I don’t want to give anything away.) Plus it’s set in Charleston, SC, a city with a lot of interesting architecture and history. You gotta love that. It’s also a really clean read. There isn’t anything any racier than a deep kiss. 

Review of Autumn Dawn’s No Words Alone (Sparks, #1)

No Words Alone

I grabbed Autumn Dawn‘s Science Fiction Romance, No Words Alone, off of the KDP free list.

Description from Goodreads:
As the only woman in a team of marooned explorers, whom do you trust–your friends…or your enemy?

When Xera is stranded on a desert planet with a hostile crew and a cadre of murdering aliens, her friends aren’t who she thinks they are. As the translator, she’s the only one who can forge a truce. As the only woman, she’s the prize they lust for, and when her captain turns on her, she’s going to need the help of her enemies to escape his wrath.

Because on this inhospitable world, the warlike Scorpio were her only chance. Looking into the fiery eyes of their handsome leader, Xera saw a nobility and potency she’d never before encountered–a reaction she knew her fellow humans would despise. A future with Commander Ryven was…something to consider. But first they had to survive.

Review:
For the most part I enjoyed this book. It starts out by introducing us to Xera and her crew mates. They’re in a bit of a tight spot, having crash-landed on a hostile planet with the enemy. It’s tense, but the two groups need each-other to survive. It all felt a little reminiscent of the movie Pitch Black really—the beasts come out at night and all. Shortly thereafter Xera’s thoughts, quite reasonably, turn to her very specific danger as the only woman among a group of unknown, probably dangerous alien males and the definitely not all together trustworthy men of her own crew. Lucky for Xera the enemy captain, Ryven, seems to have a soft spot for women and sees to her safety.

I had a few issues though. I say Xera’s fears were reasonable and they were (almost any woman would recognise them), but part of me had to wonder how likely it would be for a woman to be on the crew in the first place if the risk was so real. There really is something to be said for not PUTTING YOURSELF into dangerous situations. Ryven was wonderful. He was smart, ruthless, kind, and loyal. He seemed to understand human nature enough to recognise the signs of danger in Xera’s crew. The problem was there wasn’t any reason he should understand human nature. He’s a Scorpio and Scorpio men apparently aren’t anything like human men.

I liked this beginning far better than the rest of the book if I’m honest. The beginning is Sci-fi, the rest is predominantly romance. Yes they go out on the occasional space ship and encounter the occasional hostile alien, but it’s mostly about Xera, Ryven and the process of Xera settling into her new life with Ryven. I like a good romance as much as the next person but this one has all the hallmarks of being too positive. Too positive? Yes, too positive. A totally hot, kind, considerate, rich, heir to government falls in love with Xera on sight, then rescues her and takes her home to his wonderful family, who welcome her with open arms. She helps the downtrodden princess, thumbs her nose at local gender expectations without repercussions, and despite being an alien from a trespassing race is accepted by the populace at large. Granted, she wasn’t really given any choice in the matter of marriage, but could it really all of been so painless? She never even bothered to fight it.

The problem with narratives of this sort is that you know in advance that nothing really bad is going to happen. Everything will work out in her favour one way or another, be it realistic or not. That takes a lot of the suspense out of the story. I also was extremely saddened to think that even after humanity colonises the stars basic patriarchal attitudes towards women and sexual virtue would still hold such a strangle hold on Xera.

Having made my complaints I have to reiterate that I did enjoy the read. I liked almost all of the Scorpio men. Xera was easy to relate to, and the book was well written, without too many editorial mishaps. If I see the sequel on the free list I’ll definitely grab them.