Review of Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith

from Towers Trilogy

Radiant tells a coming-of-age story set in a dystopian world where magic is the Radiantcurrency of power. The heroine’s apparent power, seeing ghosts, gets her more trouble than any food or shelter she could trade for its use. She is shunned by most, even residents of the lower city. This makes her more than just a lonely orphan. She’s desperate. Her deep longing for companionship leads her to defending a ghost who’s powers have lasted beyond death. The ghost’s future may be as a zombie in another person’s body, if Xhea doesn’t help. A powerful high tower in the upper city wants the ghosts magic to run their complex. Xhea willing puts her life on the line for the ghost, Shai. As they work together Shai teaches Xhea how to unlock her power. Dark magic flows through Xhea. Not the type of magic the towers want for good, and not a power Xhea wants used for bad.

Chapter 1 Analysis of Radiant

For those interested in writing: A well turned phrase is a wonderful talent and Karina Sumner-Smith uses plenty of them. Although not flashy, they imbue the narration with her unique style.

Review of Radiant by Karina Sumner-SmithRadiant (Towers Trilogy, #1) by Karina Sumner-Smith
Series: Towers Trilogy #1
Published by Talos on September 30th 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Paranormal, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 400

Xhea has no magic. Born without the power that everyone else takes for granted, Xhea is an outcast—no way to earn a living, buy food, or change the life that fate has dealt her. Yet she has a unique talent: the ability to see ghosts and the tethers that bind them to the living world, which she uses to scratch out a bare existence in the ruins beneath the City’s floating Towers.

When a rich City man comes to her with a young woman’s ghost tethered to his chest, Xhea has no idea that this ghost will change everything. The ghost, Shai, is a Radiant, a rare person who generates so much power that the Towers use it to fuel their magic, heedless of the pain such use causes. Shai’s home Tower is desperate to get the ghost back and force her into a body—any body—so that it can regain its position, while the Tower’s rivals seek the ghost to use her magic for their own ends. Caught between a multitude of enemies and desperate to save Shai, Xhea thinks herself powerless—until a strange magic wakes within her. Magic dark and slow, like rising smoke, like seeping oil. A magic whose very touch brings death.

With two extremely strong female protagonists, Radiant is a story of fighting for what you believe in and finding strength that you never thought you had.

Book Review, Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda Jones

A Charley Davidson Book

Darynda Jones writes cross-genre novels that highlight romance, by Darynda Jonesmystery and the occult. Her writing style captures her protagonist’s sharp, irreverent personality and keeps you in Charley’s mind set. Jones breaks the traditional literary approach, but she punches her story up with fun similes, creative descriptions and unexpected subplots that take the reader on tangents into the world of angels, Lucifer’s children and the afterlife.

The protagonist, Charley, sees ghosts. She inherited the role of ‘grim reaper’ which gives her the power to help souls transition, but additional powers, hinted-at, lurk beneath the surface. With a compassionate perspective and defiant approach, Charley blunders forward resolving crisis for the living and dead alike.

To spice the story up romantically, the devil’s son, Reyes, entangles Charley in his sexy-hot tentacles which creates tension, titillation and intrigue.

For me, a muddled middle of subplots left me wondering. By the end I was left wondering. Many of the subplots don’t resolve cleanly and the ending opened as many doors as it closed. Regardless, plenty more books in the series carry Charley’s tale forward.

Darynda Jones Writes with Wit

Darynda Jones’ fresh writing (as writing coach, Margie Lawson, would say) entertains and keeps the reader captivated. Her characters verge on the hilarious; such as a corpse with a hard-on who rides shot-gun in her car.

A review on the first three Charley Davidson novels at FictionVixen provides the foundation for the series, although it contains spoilers.

Book Review, Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda JonesSixth Grave on the Edge (Charley Davidson, #6) by Darynda Jones
Series: Charley Davidson #6
Published by St. Martin's Press on May 20th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 326

Few things in life can come between a grim reaper and her coffee, but the sexy, sultry son of Satan is one of them. Now that Reyes Farrow has asked for her hand, Charley Davidson feels it's time to learn more about his past, but Reyes is reluctant to open up. When the official FBI file of his childhood abduction lands in her lap, Charley decides to go behind her mysterious beau’s back and conduct her own investigation. Because what could go wrong?
Unfortunately, another case has fallen into her lap—one with dangerous implications. Some very insistent men want Charley to hunt down a witness who is scheduled to testify against their boss, a major player in the local crime syndicate. If Charley doesn't come up with an address in 48 hours, the people closest to her will start to disappear.
Add to that a desperate man in search of the soul he lost in a card game, a dogged mother determined to find the ghost of her son, and a beautiful, young Deaf boy haunted by his new ability to see the departed as clearly as he sees the living, and Charley has her hands full. The fact that Reyes has caught on to her latest venture only adds fuel to the inferno that he is. Good thing for Charley she's used to multi-tasking and always up for a challenge…especially when that challenge comes in the form of Reyes Farrow.

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines, vampires versus magic

LibriomancerRedd Becker Book Review

From the start Libriomancer left little ambiguity about what would come. Hines set up sides, defined issues, laid out backstory and engaged in two battles within the first fifty-four pages of this science fiction adventure. From there the novel quickly introduced  a love interest and a mystery.

In the Libriomancer’s world a group of magicians, called Porters, constrain vampires. The Porters, run by Johannes Guttenberg, try to ensure human’s are safe from a vampire’s drive to drink blood. A war between vampires and Porters begins.  No one knows who started it or why, but Isaac is determined to find out. Obstacle upon obstacle thwart his efforts to stop the war, however, while Isaac is caught in the middle, he doesn’t possess any authority to take action.

Hines utilizes his knowledge of literature throughout Libriomancer. References to others’ novels  become incremental to the plot and enhance the read for science fiction buffs. Hines starts with his hero’s name, Isaac. He references numerous details in books that enable Isaac to perform magic, whether real or not. Isaac’s power relies on his ability to pull objects from books, but they have to fit through the pages. Objects range from weapons to potions; such as Alice’s shrinking elixir and a variety of ray guns. Smudge, a pet spider, acts as Isaac’s pet, but also his protector at key times.

The hero, Isaac, serves as narrator. At first the style reminded me of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe narrative, but it soon transformed to Isaac’s voice for me.

Social Commentary in Libriomancer

True to form for a science fiction novel, Libriomancer weaves philosophical ideas into the action. Abuse of power becomes a central theme that Hines attacks on several fronts, from vampire domination over humans to interpersonal relationships.

Hines uses a love interest, between Isaac and a wood nymph, to expound on personal relationships. The nymph offers herself to Isaac, but Isaac balks at the ethical dilemma of her submission. Wood nymphs naturally serve their master’s desires unquestioningly, which is an appealing situation for Isaac, but he fights his attraction to her, while he considers the implications of her voluntary slavery to him. The alternative perspective, however, is for Isaac to understand and respect his lover’s nature, whatever that may be. I felt the end Hines chose resolved the issue well.

Libriomancer: published by Daw

Daw Publishing remains committed to publishing science fiction adventures. True to their mission, Libriomancer doesn’t let readers down. Daw started in 1971 as the first publishing company who devoted itself exclusively to science fiction and fantasy. Science fiction fans are probably familiar with many of over 1000 titles Daw published over the past thirty years

For those interested in writing science fiction: Daw Publishing still accepts manuscript submissions directly from authors, so check out their submission guidelines.

A guest review by CarrieS on Smart Bitches Trashy Books blog covers Jim C. Hines and Libriomancer. For some of the fun pictures she references, demonstrating Hines’ sense of humor you can see some of his interpretation of female book covers.

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines, vampires versus magicLibriomancer (Magic Ex Libris, #1) by Jim C. Hines
Series: Magic ex Libris #1
Published by DAW on August 7th 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal
Pages: 308

Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of the secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg. Libriomancers are gifted with the ability to magically reach into books and draw forth objects. When Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world, he barely manages to escape. To his horror he discovers that vampires have been attacking other magic-users as well, and Gutenberg has been kidnapped.With the help of a motorcycle-riding dryad who packs a pair of oak cudgels, Isaac finds himself hunting the unknown dark power that has been manipulating humans and vampires alike. And his search will uncover dangerous secrets about Libriomancy, Gutenberg, and the history of magic. . . .

The Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

 Redd Becker Book Review

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkin's Rachel HawkinsAlthough Rachel Hawkin’s female protagonist engages the reader, she is somewhat cliched. Harper Price carried the role of  ‘bad ass’ paladin in Hawkin’s Greek oracle meets American south adventure. The addition of Southern culture was fun, but I wondered why the ‘living Oracle’ lives there. The valley-girl, cheerleader as narrator would appeal to some, but it didn’t add the emotional depth here that one expects.

When Harper Price runs into a deadly scene in the bathroom of her homecoming dance, she is thrust on the path of a hero’s journey. Magically inheriting the powers of a paladin and the responsibility to protect the living Oracle, she must learn to use her new powers and unravel her role are one of a trio destined to fulfill the Oracle’s legacy.  Layer this on typical issues of a  high school junior/cheerleader/president-of-her-class/southern belle with boyfriend problems.

Rachel Hawkin’s Novela

The first chapter of the sequel lengthens a fairly short story. It also serves to entice the reader further into Harper’s adventures.

My Rating three-stars

The Rebel Belle by Rachel HawkinsRebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
Published by Putnam Juvenile on April 8th 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary, Romance, Magical Realism, Paranormal
Pages: 345
Buy on Amazon

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.
Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper's least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.
With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y'all beg for more.

Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop, where wolves, vampires and humans meet

Redd Becker Book Review

Marked in Flesh by Anne BishopIf you like dogs or wolves, as I do, this is a particularly fun read. Anne Bishop creates a world where wolves rule – sort of. They shape-shift to human, but their thinking doesn’t mesh with human expectations. A wolf’s perspective creates humor in unexpected encounters. Oh, how species can misinterpret each other.

Bishop’s world building is wonderful. Bishop presents us with an alternate history of the United States, settled by humans from across the ‘Atlantik’, where animals act as nature’s guardians. Everything has a say in how the earth develops: animals, elements, elders, vampires and a new breed of human who receive pictures of the future during altered states. In this universe humans are a lower species, but some of them haven’t figured that out yet.

Anne Bishop writes on many levels

True to sci-fi tradition social commentary is ever-present: environmental issues, greed, power, compassion. While integrating theme, Bishop weaves plenty of subplots through the story and she creates characters with individual motives and personalities.

For those interested in writing: This is a good example of 3rd person omniscient POV. Personally I would like a bit more attention to the main characters. Meg and Simon Wolfgard carry that role, but there are so many characters to care about that it’s easy to lose track of Meg’s thread.

My Rating five-stars

Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop, where wolves, vampires and humans meetMarked in Flesh (The Others, #4) by Anne Bishop
Series: The Others #4
Published by Roc on March 8th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal
Pages: 399
Buy on Amazon

For centuries, the Others and humans have lived side by side in uneasy peace. But when humankind oversteps its bounds, the Others will have to decide how much humanity they’re willing to tolerate—both within themselves and within their community...
Since the Others allied themselves with the cassandra sangue, the fragile yet powerful human blood prophets who were being exploited by their own kind, the delicate dynamic between humans and Others changed. Some, like Simon Wolfgard, wolf shifter and leader of the Lakeside Courtyard, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn, see the new, closer companionship as beneficial—both personally and practically.
But not everyone is convinced. A group of radical humans is seeking to usurp land through a series of violent attacks on the Others. What they don’t realize is that there are older and more dangerous forces than shifters and vampires protecting the land that belongs to the Others—and those forces are willing to do whatever is necessary to protect what is theirs…

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie

Redd Becker Book Review

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzieI was attracted to the cover of The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, en etherial, haunting and somewhat creepy picture. Paige McKenzie’s story was predictable, however. It may work well for the YouTube series, but didn’t have the depth I expect from a book.

The story starts warmly with Sunshine and her mom moving into a new house, but as Paige orients to new surroundings she hears laughing during the night and the hauntings begin. At one point I wondered why the dog and cat didn’t react to the haunting?

YouTube Star Writes Book for her Role

Paige McKenzie is a teen actress on the youtube series The Haunting of Sunshine Girl.

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzieThe Haunting of Sunshine Girl (The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, #1) by Paige McKenzie, Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Series: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl #1
Published by Weinstein Books on March 24th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Paranormal, Mystery
Pages: 296
Buy on Amazon

Something freaky's going on with Sunshine's new house . . . there's the chill that wraps itself around her bones, the giggling she can hear in the dead of night, and then the strange shadows that lurk in her photographs. But the more weird stuff that happens, the less her mom believes her. Sunshine's always had a quirky affiliation with the past, but this time, history is getting much too close for comfort . . .
If there is something, or someone, haunting her house, what do they want? And what will they do if Sunshine can't help them?
As things become more frightening and dangerous, and the giggles she hears turn to sobs and screams, Sunshine has no choice but to accept what she is, face the test before her and save her mother from a fate worse than death.
The first in a frighteningly good new series based on the popular YouTube sensation The Haunting of Sunshine Girl Network, created by Paige McKenzie.

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Redd Becker Book Review

In Archived, Victoria Schwab examines some of the ways we deal with our dead, our memories, guilt and trust. It is both dark and fun.

The Archived (The Archived, #1) byVictoria SchwabThe first person perspective pulled me in from the beginning with Mackenzie’s reaction to her grandfather and brother’s death. As an adventurous mystery the story tackles parent issues, moving, new friendships and a budding love interest.

Mackenzie inherits the Keeper duties of her grandfather in the Archive (a special library where each person’s life history is stored when they die). She is tasked with ensuring Histories  don’t wake up and cause havoc. When Histories begin to wake up, causing dangerous situations,  she realizes someone is altering things in the library. If she doesn’t find who and stop them the entire archival library will crumble and release all the Histories. 

Victoria Schwab Taps into our Fascination with Death

Archived is a warped vision answering the question of where we go after we die, but I enjoyed the ride.

My Rating four-stars

The Archived by Victoria SchwabThe Archived (The Archived, #1) by Victoria Schwab
Series: The Archived #1
Published by Hyperion on January 22nd 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 321
Source: Goodreads
Buy on Amazon

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.
Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.
Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous—it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost, Da's death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself may crumble and fall.
In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.