Archive for May, 2013

Debra Dunbar’s The Imp Series: Finally, a new author to bookmark

Debra Dunbar author Imp Series A Demon Bound Elven Blood Satan's Sword

Yesterday I finished reading the third book of the Imp series by Debra Dunbar. This woman happens to be a follower of mine and I reciprocate. Day before yesterday I tried reading one of her books, and they rock.

I have been looking for a long, long time for an author to come close to Laurell K Hamilton and Debra Dunbar does it. She has a strong female lead, a new, demonic world (within the modern human world) and some great characters – and plot. Plus it is realistic.

Realistic fantasy fiction is lacking in today’s world of fiction. Too many authors think they can slack on characterisation or realism or plot simply because the book takes place in a different reality. This is certainly not a failing here!

Other than the odd typo, I cannot find anything I dislike with these books and that is saying something – I am picky.

The lead character Samantha is a demon, an imp. She cuts tyres and causes mischief for the hell of it which is great but she is also involved in the demon underworld and is soon contacted by an angel. And this angel wants to kill her.

Not what you were expecting, right?

All these elements can sound a little overwhelming when thrown together but the world Dunbar creates works. It has rules, sense, and some great dialogue (not to mention humour).

A succubus house visit can be a little awkward when your boyfriend is over…

Which reminds me: there is sex in this and it is described but it is not too explicit (but then, I’m not squeamish).

I will be buying more of these books and I hope to any powers that be that more are coming (I’ll certainly be nagging her for more – she had me giggling in my chair and rooted to the screen). I have no doubt that Dunbar will go on to have a very successful career in fantasy fiction.

As you’ve probably guessed, I’ve found one of those gems I’ve been hankering after for a while. As a result of Debra’s accurate observation of human behaviour and the awkward situations that get me laughing, this series gets a big, round 5/5 from me.

It can be bought here…

Book 1 (US UK)

Book 2 (US UK)

Book 3 (US UK)

Have a great day everyone!

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Slate Ahn and the Books of Knowledge: Part I, Graham M Irwin. A fantasy epic with pirates, wolves, shipwrecks AND political corruption

Graham M Irwin Holly Ice Review Slate Ahn Books of Knowledge Legend of Alm

I was gifted this book free of charge on a read for review policy.

Graham Irwin knows how to create a wondrous world full of raspberry coloured bumble bees and exotic plants or wolves which decide to bond to individuals of good merit. He creates habitats and environment as well as original culture.

Of course, world creation is a huge part of fantasy and his achievement here does a lot to ingratiate himself with a fantasy audience. I must also say that the illustrator for the cover did a beautiful job.

Holly Ice blogHowever there are still issues with his writing, particularly in the prologue.

There is a lot of unnecessary description of the Ahn family and their daily lives that adds nothing to the plot; this is things like what they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner and how they act year round. This back story is not necessary to the novel.

In fact, I believe the prologue could be cut significantly. It could do with opening on page 8 with ‘The tradition bound people of the village observed in the workings of the universe an order…’ This chimes in with the ideology of the villagers and within a paragraph the narrative focuses on the Ahn family. It also gets all the major tradition issues in without the boring parts of what they eat for breakfast. Plus, it is a catchier first sentence (and the major tension of the opening is introduced within a few paragraphs!)

This would also get around the fact that Ahn, Alleste and Aelioanei are introduced close together at the original opening. 3 unfamiliar A words that close together just makes my head spin! In fact, place names beginning with any other letter would be a favour: even the world is called Alm! (I was glad that the western half of the island had place names beginning with other letters and wonder if there is a rational reason behind all the A names or it was just coincidental).

The poetic introduction before the prologue is beautiful. I would only change one like: substance bore distinction to nothingness. There are too many long words here which confuses the complex concept the poem is aiming for.

There is also a tendency towards the beginning of the novel for long, convoluted sentences. However this soon evens out as the narrative continues and the action becomes much more immediate.

Characters are mostly realistic, if a little wacky (but this is allowed in a different culture with different morals and values). I only noticed one seeming slip from the alternate world of Alm in the narrative. This is where a character said ‘such and such a city’ which hit me as a little gossipy in tone and too modern a phrase compared to the rest of the narrative. I also noticed one ‘YOUR wife’ which would be better expressed as ‘your wife’ even if it is bellowed.

However these are mostly small sentence-level problems. My major problem with the book was that it lost its direction. The protagonist began by needing to find his family and, about a third of the way into the book, he finds the reason for their disappearance. However, instead of immediately trying to find them he loses focus and goes to school for a year, seemingly for no reason.

From here, political corruption, mercenaries, imprisonment, pirates, shipwreck, fishing and many hikes through endless (and different coloured) forests ensues. I cannot fault the author on his world building here. In fact, I felt the fishing and boat details as well as the multitude of forest habitats were very well researched. Even the stimulants created seemed realistic and well-integrated into the society. My problem with this is that there is no focus.

Holly Ice blog Graham Irwin Slate Ahn

The core thread of the novel was the boy trying to find his family. This is lost and put on hold. At this point, there is no core reason for me to keep reading. I want to know about the boy and his family, not a random thread of events. I feel that the author has tried to fit too many fantasy adventures into the book without connecting them to the main thread of the novel. Even by the end of the novel, the boy has still not found one single member of his family!

So yes, I grew frustrated with this book plot-wise but this does not lessen Irwin’s world building prowess. If you like books that meander through a new, colourful world and are content to read on despite a long-winded approach to plot goals then this book will be a good read.

The sea is bubbling with new hollow jaws, the floors are writing with white grubs that crawl in the dark and the forests hide wolves that can be friends for life. It is, in essence, an open sandbox to a new, bright world.

I give ‘Slate Ahn and The Books of Knowledge Part I’ a robust 3/5.

If you would like to give it a go for yourself, The Legend of Alm, Slate Ahn and The Books of Knowledge Part I can be found on Amazon (UK link and US link)

As always, I can be found on twitter: Holly Ice

A Touch of Magic – M. Ruth Myers – Cards, Romance, Murder

A Touch of Magic, M. Ruth Myers, Holly Ice Review, author, book, romance, murder, cardsA dazzling sleight-of-hand artist is recruited by the State Department to pit her skills – and wits – against a master terrorist. He’s about to receive a piece of stolen film used to make US passports, film that could open the door to terrorists around the world. Although Channing Stuart is the fourth generation in a family of acclaimed magicians, she’s the first of them not to turn pro. Eye-to-eye with a killer, will she have the nerve and nimbleness to pull off a switch that finally proves her worthy of her bloodline? Special agent Bill Ellery is irritated to find himself suddenly teamed with this amateur whose passion to succeed is as great as his own, and whose penchant for the unpredictable unsettles him as much as the woman herself.

In an upscale resort where every enticement hides a trap, they play cat and mouse with enemies known and unknown as a time bomb ticks. Hundreds of lives depend on the deftness of one woman’s fingers and … A TOUCH OF MAGIC.

This was a good read. It had romance, intrigue, some cool magic tricks, family angst and some great characters. The plot was also good although I think the female villain could have done with a little more filling out.

There was nothing overall wrong with the story really and yet I still felt it was missing something. I was not left with much after reading it and I think I should have been. Some thought or feeling should have remained: it usually does with a great book.

Perhaps I wanted more of a conclusion on the romantic side, something cuter, or perhaps I wanted to know what happened with the terrorists – whether good triumphed once and for all.

Of course, this could well be the point. I myself am a lover of grey, where the realistic side of the world creeps into books: the villain doesn’t always lose and the good guy doesn’t win every battle; not everything is solved in one book.

There were some surprises and great twists as well as sleuth work, time-focused problems and murder, all trademarks of a good thriller.

Ultimately, the book kept me interested despite me wanting some undefinable more out of it. Since I can’t define this, despite trying, I’m giving the book a 4/5.

This seems to be a rather popular score for me at the moment!

The book can be found here

Here’s hoping I find a 5/5 soon. Suggestions welcome.

My twitter: Holly Ice

Off to read some more now 🙂

The Lost Dragon – Drako – The Last Spartan Warrior

The Lost Dragon Drako Read Review Holly Ice Author

I was gifted this book on a read for review arrangement

This book surprised me. At first I thought it was going to be a “very boy” action packed fight ’em up. Then I learnt the protagonist was gay. That was a direction I was not expecting and it kept me reading!

The main character, Andreas, is a black dragon god decendant. His father, Jarel, is the black dragon god who holds as much, if not more, power than Zeus, the leader of Olympus. The story follows the action as subordinate gods and “rogues” (those who defy the rules of the gods) try to bring back an ancient power.

It is good to see books which have a twist not usual in their genre and that is what captured me, at first, with this book. However, I have to be honest and mention its faults as well as its great points.

Good Points

Originality – the content of the story does a lot to bring action fantasy out of its stale niche.

Characterisation – almost all characters are well rounded and feel realistic.

Plot – the plot flows really well, obviously crafted with a good hand for structure. It is also original, new, and kept me reading to see what happened next.

Ending – the ending set up for another book and still managed to keep most ends tied up. I myself have trouble with endings so I have to give props where props are due here.

The Discussion

The cover, for instance, would not have made me pick the book up. I understand there is an illustrator etc but it is not my style of art and the picture is not perfectly centred on the background. The writing however is appropriate for genre and looks good.

On to the intro: the protagonist is fighting for Sparta before the main time line of the story in the modern age. The plot idea here is great but this first scene needs tidying up. Words are repeated in the first scene (‘thought’ twice in the first 3 sentences – ‘slash’ is also used as a verb twice on the first page).

This is, of course, looking at the text on a micro level but these repetitions do get noticed by a reader and it makes the narrative seem clunky. There is also a little bit of over exposition here.

However, to the good points: this problem seems to disappear for the most part after the first scene. My advice would be for the author to read over this scene and double check they are happy with it. Perhaps it would read better from Andreas’ POV as a memory? This would give us greater insight into the character early on.

Narrative issues later in the story are much more minor and sparse. I think I saw one ‘site’ instead of ‘sight’ and on one page an ‘is’ was missing from a sentence etc – nothing huge at all.

The only big problem later on is the lack of description for Solaris and Cassandra. Solaris is not described beyond cliffs and big halls. It needs colour to the landscape as well as the gods and others inhabiting it.

Meanwhile Cassandra falls flat for me. All the other characters are well rounded with great characterisation and very original (more good points) but Cassandra accepts things too easily. She is pulled this way and that with no argument at all. Even for a healer, this goes too far for a woman’s personality imo, especially as she is not a mopy young pacifist.

The transition into her “new form” (trying for no spoilers here) also needs better handling. She grows but not much about her appearance or carriage is mentioned otherwise. It also seems as if her personality changes substantially. This character, I feel, needs more time devoted to her.

As a minor point, Jarel sees her as a love interest for Andreas even though he already knows why this romance cannot happen – perhaps this love interest idea should be played down, more implied than real or made more cryptic as a red herring.

The last problem I have is the fight scenes. Mostly, there are, as other reviewers have suggested, descriptive and original. However in a few places I noticed the same area of the body was hit repeatedly and yet the narrative did not say ‘again’ or imply this is recognised. A couple of times the kicks or punches seems infeasible in the positions I was lead to believe the characters were in. Also a few times different characters got hit in the same place, and way, close together. This just needs straightening out a little. Also, I feel these fights could benefit from shorter sentences rather than convoluted ones as sometimes I started to lose interest and fall out of the action.

Although I have to say that these scenes are much more original in flips and moves and injuries than I can think of on the spot so congrats to the author for that.

Considering the good points and the discussion points, as well as my definite enjoyment for the read, I have to give this book a 4/5.

It is well structured and paced with mostly great characters and very original content. This trumps the few minor slip ups as well as the need to re-evaluate Cassandra’s persona as the novel is still very readable as is.

The book can be found on amazon here: The Lost Dragon, Drako should you wish to read it.

As always, I can be found on twitter: Holly Ice

I hope you liked the review. Any suggestions or additions/disagreement with what I’ve said then please comment below. Ciao!

The Perfect Writing Retreat

love books i pinterest I author den writing author's

We all need a little down time now and again. Since I’m between finishing books, this seemed like a good time for a fun post. I’m sure many writers, including myself, have dreamed about the perfect place to write. I’m working on getting it right.

So far I have two ideas. Either a castle home with a secret doorway behind a bookcase – this then leads to a keypad which opens another door with my comfy lair orrrr something like a treehouse with electricity, no leaks, carpet, furniture, internet, and the sound of rain on the roof in bad weather. Both are appropriate for me :).

Of course, being a student in the rather ugly city of Stoke, I have neither of these. I’ve made do with a collection of what-could-bes. Here’s a couple of my favourites:

author's den writing retreattreehouse tree house writing den author's retreatmagical writing retreat writer's author's den tree house treehouse tree-house wendy beautiful

I hope these give you some ideas for where you would most love to write (and doesn’t cause you to procrastinate too much). Of course, writing can happen almost anywhere (at least it can for those of us who don’t mind too much noise/run around with headphones and a music player).

As always, I’m on twitter: Holly Ice
And more of the pictures I like can be found here

Have a great day and feel free to share your ideas below!

But A Dream – Jenny Gill – No Sleep for Me

But A Dream Jenny Gill Amazon Kindle

Well, this is another book that kept me up all night reading it.

I think the premise is what got me interested. It focuses on cellular memory. A woman that got a heart transplant begins to have dreams which make her a witness her donor’s murder.

Of course, this is an area I’m sure many authors have played around with before but the actual witnessing of a murder and the need to do something about it presents a problem. Who would believe her? How could they do anything about it? Etc.

The handling of this topic by the writer was done in an interesting style. Time moves back and forward, mostly at the beginning, to good effect. It feels (in atmosphere) something like investigative books of old – Carmilla, Dracula or Return of the Screw. This isn’t to say it’s old fashioned or boring – it just makes great use of the group investigative method and common sense. It’s welcome and different in a modern book.

The dialogue was very realistic, as were interactions with the children. The only exception to this was perhaps Richard, the protagonist’s husband. He was too soppy in my opinion and tended to repeat himself like an old record. He lacked personality in comparison to every other, fully rounded, character.

I also feel the multitude of people that needed to be filled in about the case was not only a problem for the protagonist, as  stated in the book, but for the author. There was a lot of worry over who should hear what and when. I think this would have gone smoother if the author had accepted there were that many characters and perhaps let some conflict happen over individuals not being kept up to date.

There were also a number of problems in the early pages: a missing comma, commas instead of colons, an abundance of unnecessary adverbs… At this point I think the author needs to read a sentence, taking out the adverb. If it works that way, leave it out. I say this because the imagery in the novel was very good. The adverbs only spoilt this good work.

There was also a slight clunkiness with the ‘he thought’s at the beginning. This could work better, and be more mysterious at the start, if the tags were left out.

However, all that said and done, the writing improved within a small number of pages and the grammar was generally of good standard. The story got me hooked and took me on a fun ride to its conclusion. I would recommend this as a shorter read to others. I think it took me about 2 hours or so to read. It is a book for adults and older teenagers, in my opinion.

And for the rating: 4/5 .
Good book for a summer read. Give it a go 🙂

I found the book through E Reader News , a site which collects daily some of the ‘bargain buys’ and free books on kindle. It also gives blurbs and a cover image to help you decide if you want to read them :).

From the looks of things, Jenny Gill is a self published author. She has two blogs: here and here if you would like to get to know her.

As always, yours truly is on twitter: Holly Ice

Ink Exchange – Melissa Marr – The Bubble Chuckle

Ink Exchange Melissa Marr

This is a fantasy story with fae in the modern world. It already has my interest. Add tattoos and I’m well and truly hooked. There’s even some romance thrown in here. What could be better?

I must say: what a read. The story focuses on Leslie, a human girl whose life isn’t so great. She gets a tattoo to help her get control over her life. Only, it lets Irial, a powerful fae, get limited control over her instead.

I’ll be truthful. The day after I read this book I was supposed to get my first tattoo done. I was reading this before I slept. Only, it was so good I finished the whole thing in one sitting…only getting to sleep at 8am. It was good for the nerves!

The novel also had a hallmark of a great book for me: it made me bubble chuckle. This is that little chuckle in the middle of your throat that bubbles up and down like a hiccough – uncontrollable and full of glee (well, hiccoughs aren’t usually gleeful but you get the idea).

This chuckle only happens (in my experience) with the best of characterisation and witty dialogue. The characters are great, the plot is good and I loved the story.

The only negative to this is perhaps that the king and queen of courts has been done a lot, as has the dark and light courts. Perhaps this could have been tweaked more for originality. However, this is done to an extent: by the end of the book we find the dark fae aren’t all bad. There’s some grey in here, for sure…and I spoon up grey like ice cream.

So for a serving of this I’d give… 5/5

Not much I’d change.

As always, you can also find me here: Holly Ice

Hope you enjoyed my review!

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