Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Twisted Reflections by Shay West

★★★★✩ 
Alexis Davenport's fortune has taken a change for the better but the tampering of historical events drags her back in time once again. Another time traveler lends aid and provides insight into her developing abilities. Meanwhile her old adversary is growing more desperate forcing Alexis to ask herself how far she is willing to go to stop him from altering history. This is the second book in the Adventures Of Alexis Davenport trilogy.

Twisted Reflections is a coming of age story with realistic characterization combined with exciting time travel adventures. It has a different rhythm and lacks the structure found in the first book. The new composition captures and enhances the transitional phase in Alexis' character development perfectly.

The timeline for this story is broken up more because there are larger gaps in between time travel opportunities. The additional downtime gives Alexis the chance to process everything that has happened since the first book. She has normal teenage problems, insecurities and adulthood aspirations but these are further complicated by her abilities.

With each summons back in time the danger increases for Alexis. It was pivotal moment when Alexis had to consider if she could kill to protect herself or even kill to preserve history. I liked that the story showcased Alexis' internal struggle to accept her abilities and the responsibilities entrusted to her. It was interesting to see how the continual anxiety of facing her dangerous adversary affected her.

I was excited to learn more about the story's depiction of time travel. I liked the introduction of knowledgeable new characters as well as the the development of Alexis' new abilities. I enjoyed reading the time travel portions of the story the most, these scenes were vivid and descriptive. They gave a wonderful sense of the location, time period and culture. I also liked that one of Alexis' improved abilities enabled the personality of the vessel she occupied to come through more.

I enjoyed reading Twisted Reflections, I loved it's ability to demonstrate a sense of growth in the main character while continually building up tension to the final book that promises to be a dramatic conclusion to the series.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.] 

Related Posts: 
Dangerous Reflections (Adventures of Alexis Davenport, #1)
Desperate Reflections (Adventures of Alexis Davenport, #3)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Chasers Of The Wind by Alexey Pehov

★★★★✩ 
The Empire has been invaded by Nabatorians with the aid of powerful necromancers. Gray and his wife are master assassins who have been living peacefully in hiding after completing a high profile assignment and faking their own deaths. Their past catches up to them and they must travel to Al'sgara to kill the person who put a bounty on their heads. They are joined by a variety of skilled companions as they try to outpace the hordes of undead and reach the city before the coming war. This is the first book in The Cycle Of Wind And Sparks series.

Chasers Of The Wind is an intricate story with interesting characters and massive worldbuilding. It's a bit dense in the beginning because the world building is descriptive and overly informative with a few translation issues. I felt it leveled out after the first few chapters and became a more immersive reading experience. The world is large with an in-depth history, a diverse range of cultures, and continues to develop throughout the story.

The magic system was also continually built and expanded upon. I liked the story's interpretation of necromancy and how the undead were portrayed. The other mages had a rigid hierarchy and interesting interdependence. I also liked that there were a variety of unique creatures that the characters got to battle.

The story was told from multiple perspectives which tended to focus on the characters in pairs. Gray's perspective was told from first person while the others were told from third person. This gave the narrative an interesting cadence and flexibility with cast involvement. I liked how it avoided an omniscient narrative but still managed to give a broad rounded experience.

The characters were skilled with specific expertise and had interesting backstories. I liked that they all had roguish qualities but managed to remain likable. I enjoyed reading the character interactions especially when they were forced to overcome obstacles together with trust still developing or completely absent between them.

The story managed to combine a myriad of familiar fantasy tropes into an engaging story. The journey aspect of the story gave it an episodic quality. I liked how there was constant forward momentum and continual conflict. The story ends with a suspenseful cliffhanger but promises that there is more to discover about the world and its characters.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Tor Books, through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Touched With Sight by Nenia Campbell

★★★★✩ 
The Otherkind reside amongst humans in secret and prefer to remain segregated based on their supernatural class. Catherine's rebellious and impulsive nature attracts attention when her abilities transcend that of a normal shapeshifter. Phineas is a powerful witch whose forbidden attraction towards Catherine intensifies by becoming darkly obsessive. When Others begin disappearing they must overcome their abhorrence of each other in order to locate the victims and those responsible. This is the second book in the Shadow Thane series.

Touched With Sight is an indulgent story that my inner fangirl enjoyed reading. I found the interplay between the main characters to be captivating. Phineas has a lust-hate obsession with Catherine with the added intention of establishing dominance. Catherine is outmatched in terms of strength yet relentlessly fights back with aid from her shapeshifter instincts. This character conflict creates unresolved sexual tension combined with rivalry. I found their interactions to be amusing because of Catherine's wit and moxie.

I didn't think romance was established or even the true aim but the possibility was presented while also enabling me to get a better understanding of the characters. I appreciated the additional character development because I initially didn't like Phineas or care much for Catherine. They've both grown on me through the course of this second book.

I was so enthralled and oblivious that I didn't realize over half the book went by without development into the main story arc. The first portion grounds the story in reality by including realistic details of high school life. I liked that the mundane elements were presented in the beginning while steadily incorporating fantastical elements. World building remains consistent from the first book while the magic system is expanded upon. I particularly enjoyed the focus on the Otherkind culture and resulting prejudices that the main characters struggled with. The secondary characters being absent created an odd distortion to the story and there was a vagueness concerning their welfare.  

I thought the second portion of the book was intense and engaging. It was instilled with action and suspense as they finally got to confront the Slayers. Other characters set treacherous plans concerning vampires into motion. All with this underlying sense of an imminent war in conjunction with dark prophetic entities. I thought the cliffhanger ending was well executed and it made me want to continue reading the series.

I enjoyed reading Touched With Sight, it focused on developing the main characters and laid the framework for the next book in the series.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

Related Posts:
Black Beast (Shadow Thane, Book One)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Zeus Is Dead by Michael G. Munz

★★★★✩
The death of Zeus has removed previous restrictions placed on the Pantheon allowing them access to the mortal realm once again. The Pantheon integrates eagerly into modern society by garnering new worshipers, creating new monsters, and reclaiming their mantles with added celebrity status. Apollo soon receives prophetic visions that test his loyalty and makes him question the loyalty of those around him.

Zeus Is Dead is an amusing cohesive story with a narrative that parodies familiar literary tropes while simultaneously breaking the fourth wall. I enjoyed the modern adaptation of Greek mythical entities within this book. Though they were satirical representations they were still identifiable and possessed qualities from their mythological origin.

I thought the narrative created a unique and engaging reading experience. It took me a while to get used to the writing style but once adjusted, I found the narrative to be charming. There is a constant stream of embedded jokes that are cleverly reinforced and built upon. The humor is present on multiple levels creating an ironic, self-reflective metafiction.

Though the humor elements are dominant, this book also has a well composed underlying story. I was further impressed by it's ability to instill tension while still remaining transparent. I enjoyed how built up tension was resolved by something silly and unexpected transpiring.

I liked the characters especially their interactions with each other. I adored the odd fantastical creatures that appeared. I also liked that the world building and magic systems were detailed, descriptive, and explained well.

I enjoyed reading Zeus Is Dead and can honestly say I've never read anything like it. It's an amusing story that explores humor on multiple levels while actively involving the reader.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Child Of A Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica

★★★✩✩
Sophie rescues her estranged aunt from being attacked only to find herself swept away to a strange yet familiar world. Stormwrack appeals to her inquisitive and adventurous nature but the more questions she asks about her family ties the more she is met with opposition and threatened with exile. A political conspiracy gives her the opportunity to further explore the world she's become fascinated with and forge her own place within it.

Child Of A Hidden Sea is a combination of familiar fantasy tropes within a wonderful setting. I loved the world building within this book. Stormwrack is an alternate earth with larger seas, numerous islands, fantastical creatures, diverse cultures and a honor based legal system. It's an intriguing mixture of familiar and new. I liked how the magic system was simple but had numerous effects. The portal connection was vaguely explained but I enjoyed how it created additional opportunities and complications with the incorporation of modern technology. The world building was further enhanced by the main character having a scientific outlook and inquisitive personality.

I loved these elements of the story and I thought it had a strong beginning. However, the story soon settled and lost some of it's charm for me. Mainly to do with characterization inconsistencies of the main character. I didn't care much for the sleuthing aspects of the investigation or subsequent trial. Overall, I thought Child Of A Hidden Sea was an okay story that possessed wonderful world building.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Tor Books, through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Vicarious Kinks: S/M in the Socio-Legal Imaginary by Ummni Khan

★★★✩✩
An academic book that examines the negative societal perception against sadomasochism and interprets its subsequent management as a combination of guilty fascination and truth claims presented by science, feminism, film and law.

The first section establishes definitions for the terms sadism and masochism in addition to revealing their etymological origin. It reflects on classic theories from psychology, sociology, and biology about sadism and masochism. It also highlights the societal and legal consequences of sadism, masochism, and paraphilia becoming entries within the different editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

The second section gives a broad, in depth overview of the Feminist Sex Wars with examples mainly from Britain and the United States. It examines the different ideologies of anti-porn feminists and sex-positive feminists. It explains why some feminists were against sadomasochism especially when it was depicted in pornography and the different defaming campaigns endorsed. It places additional emphasis on how lesbian feminists that practiced BDSM or identified it as part of their sexual identity were ostracized. The essay attempts to present both sides of the debate but the negative stance against sadomasochism is given more weight.

The third section is a collection of in depth film analyses for mainstream movies that  feature elements of sadomasochism as part of the plot. It emphasizes the feminist perspective, relationship dynamics, symbolism, contradictions, inaccuracies, discrimination, and perceived messages. The films analyzed include; Cruising (1980), Videodrome (1983), Crimes Of Passion (1984), Something Wild (1986), Hellraiser (1987), Basic Instinct (1992), Body Of Evidence (1993), Exit To Eden (1994), Pulp Fiction (1994), Preaching To The Perverted (1997), Nine And A Half Weeks (1997), One Night At McCool's (2001), Secretary (2002), Killing Me Softly (2002), Wedding Crashers (2005), and Walk All Over Me (2007).

The fourth section summarizes Canadian court cases and instances of censorship that were pivotal in establishing pornography regulation in addition to creating the criteria for labeling something as obscene. It lays the foundation for the fifth section that summarizes Canadian and British court cases where an individual's sadomasochistic lifestyle played a prominent role in sentencing or was the reason for them being on trial. The summaries are comprehensive with embedded narration that questions the semantics of the rulings and identifies common themes of perceptions. It also illustrates the ambiguity and obscurity of the abstract threshold of what is acceptable or perverse. It discusses the paradox sadomasochism presents especially when examined from a legal standpoint. The book concludes with a summary and an analyses of the Fifty Shades of Grey book trilogy and Rihanna's 'S&M' music video. 

Vicarious Kinks is a social commentary with an academic structure that identifies common themes in societal conjecture against sadomasochism. It examines how they relate and affect one another to the point of influencing law. I liked how the book illustrated this evolution and progression in terms of time. A majority of the focus is placed on the 1980's to late 1990's which made the information feel dated. However, it demonstrated that attitudes from the past played a pivotal role in more recent court cases involving sadomasochism that took place throughout the 2000's. Vicarious Kinks doesn't present any new information or thoroughly examine either stance but identifies correlations, patterns, and recurring themes.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher, University of Toronto Press, through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Project Northwoods by Jonathan Charles Bruce

★★★★
Arthur Lovelass is an aspiring super villain but in a world where acts of villainy and heroics are heavily regulated and even scheduled being a villain means ensuring the success of a hero. After his latest proposal is rejected for being infallible and he's denied his villain license once again, Arthur decides to strike back through a petty act of vandalism only to witness the first maneuver in a deadly conspiracy.

Project Northwoods is an amusing, dramatic story with memorable characters and fantastic world building. It's written in an interesting style that's visually descriptive with a focus on action. There are numerous fight scenes that are well choreographed and detailed. The dialogue is sprinkled with amusing and witty one liners. It's somewhat reminiscent of a screenplay in the sense that I imagine it could easily be adapted into a graphic novel, television series or film.

There is a large cast of characters and the story is told from multiple points of view with fluid transitions grouped into sections that are labeled by sigils as villain or hero. Narration is in third person omniscient which I rarely come across so it took me a while to adjust to the style.

I loved the world building in this story. It flips various tropes from super hero stories in a way that surpasses a simple parody by forging its own identity and reality. I liked how much detail was given to the society's structure such as the government model, laws and their enforcement. I also liked that there was diversity among the characters in terms of their powers, competence, mind set, and gender.

I adored the underlying social commentary on the ambiguity of good and evil especially when the story began exploring concepts such as conformity, government, war, and genocide. The alternate parallel war history was interesting with the incorporation of supernatural elements. These components gave the story a darker intensity that was unexpected but I enjoyed how it added depth to the story and heightened the tension.

I don't know the exact word count but I would estimate Project Northwoods to be the length of about three average books at 80,000 words a piece. Definitely getting your money's worth but the length and complexity seemed to enhance rough spots that arose occasionally. Mainly issues that can be contributed to a large cast and the descriptive nature of the story. Though it was distracting at times I found that my investment in the characters and story enabled me to forgive these rough patches.

Project Northwoods is an ambitious novel that blends humor with drama to create a vivid and engaging story where heroes and villains are difficult to tell apart.

[Note: I won my initial copy of this book through a blog giveaway from Shay West's blog. I have since personally purchased it.]