Saturday, May 28, 2011

Virtue by Amanda Hocking

Nutshell:  Amanda Hocking's "fairy tale" follows Lux and Lily as they try to safely navigate a world in which good and evil are literally battling around them.  Some problems with the text may make adults less enthusiastic, but this book will undoubtedly be devoured by her fans.  Four stars.

Review:  Hocking seems to have successfully walked the fine line between literature which appeals to girls and that which appeals to boys, creating in Virtue a book which should captivate both.

In line with our no spoilers policy, I'm not going into much detail about the plot, but this tale of the struggle of good versus evil nicely balances romantic elements with magic, action and adventure.  The world Hocking has created is nicely detailed with small touches that are sometimes reminiscent of the work of J.K. Rowling and which help the reader easily envision the goings-on.  Although the characterization of Lux and Lily at first seemed flat, once the reader learns more about who the characters are--or rather, who they represent--you could argue that the characterization is sufficient.

Hocking's writing is clear and simple--almost curiously simple sometimes--and appropriate for the age group she's aiming for with this work (Virtue is recommended for readers 14 and up, according to the product description.

An adult reader, however, may find it difficult to remain engaged with the plot given the many errors scattered throughout the work.  Most of them involve wrong words flying under the radar of the spell check function, but which should have been caught by whoever assisted Hocking with the editing--things like the use of aide instead of aid, illicit instead of elicit, and so on.  I was amused, however, by one particular slip.  Note to Hocking's editors:  decanter and cantor don't mean the same thing.  Once a cantor is full of wine, you don't want it back.

Still, these are minor problems overall, and considering the intended age group, many of them won't be noticed at all.  In the end, I suspect that Virtue will please Hocking's fans and may earn her some new ones. 

Rating:  Four stars.  In spite of the problems with the text, this is an entertaining book that will appeal to both boys and girls.  Virtue is a recommended buy.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Anathema by Megg Jensen

Nutshell:  When Reychel, a lifelong slave, is rescued from her life of servitude on her fifteenth birthday, it's the start of a journey that will eventually reveal the important role that she'll play in the future of her people.  Megg Jensen has created an engaging, richly detailed read.  4 stars.

Review: With Anathema, Megg Jensen has created a richly detailed, interesting world that drew me in almost immediately (the whole business with the coin didn't really work for me, so it was a bit wobbly at the start, but that's probably just me).  As I've written before, I'm a sucker for fantasy to begin with, so the bar is set pretty low.  However, Jensen has just done such a nice job with her book that I think she'll win over lots of fans regardless of their literary preferences.  The story is engaging, the details allow you to easily imagine the world the characters inhabit, and although some aspects feel a bit familiar, the twists and turns in the story are interesting and unexpected.  This is one of those books that will leave you thinking about the characters well after you finish reading.

Is this a perfect book?  No.  I have some minor issues with a few things--there are some small typographical and continuity errors scattered throughout that should have been caught by her beta readers, the language is sometimes jarringly modern and several scenes seem underdeveloped.  However, overall those are small problems, and they didn't detract too much from my enjoyment of the book. 

Rating:  4 stars and a recommended buy.  This is well worth your time and money, and keep your eyes open for more from Megg Jensen in the future!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Caribbean Moon by Rick Murcer

Coming soon--review scheduled for June 2011!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Saving Rachel by John Locke

Nutshell:  A computer whiz who specializes in hiding other people's money finds himself targeted and two women--his mistress and his wife--are used as leverage to get him to cough up the codes the bad guys need to access billions of dollars.  This is a really crappy book.  One star.

Review:  I do admire John Locke.  He has repeatedly said that his aim was to dominate the 99-cent ebook market, and he appears to have hit his goal repeatedly.  As he has proclaimed in various places, every seven seconds of every day, a John Locke book is bought.  However, if his other books are of the same caliber as Saving Rachel, then I'm stumped as to how that happened since he appears to have nearly no ability as a writer.

The entire book seems to have been written in shorthand:  instead of characterization, we get brand names thrown around.  Exposition is provided in long stretches of dialogue, as if Locke were too lazy to develop a story and instead just had the characters explain how reasonable the book's multiple implausibilities really are.  We're somehow supposed to care about the main character, who is having an affair with a beautiful blonde (as he claims, "I just banged Karen Vogel") yet somehow also really loves his wife Rachel.  Or maybe we're not supposed to care, in which case Locke succeeded. 

I would never denigrate anybody for getting people to read, and I still admire Locke for that.  It's just too bad that he's not a better writer.  If you're tired of the intellectual effort required by Mack Bolan books, then this is for you.  Otherwise, go to Taco Bell and spend your 99 cents on a bean burrito.  The guy who squirts refried beans into a tortilla, sprinkles cheese on it and wraps it up will display greater craftsmanship than Locke does here, and trust me, you'll feel better after the burrito.

Rating:  A solid one star.  This is not a book for serious readers.