Review: Silent Symmetry (The Embodied Trilogy #1) by J.B. Dutton

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Title: Silent Symmetry
Author: J.B. Dutton
Format: Paperback and eBook
Publisher: Self-Published
Pages: 194
ISBN: 978-1484067468
Source: Author
Genre: YA Sci-Fi / Fantasy
Series: The Embodied Trilogy
Best Read in Order: yes
Stars: 4
Purchase Now:  Amazon § Barnes&Noble

About the Book:

The Embodied glide through the busy streets of New York, uttering barely a sound. Their eerie beauty comes from their perfect symmetry. Are they flawless humans, the epitome of evolution? Are they a genetically modified super-race? Are they extra-terrestrials? Once prep school student Kari Marriner becomes aware of their existence, she is driven to seek out the answer and finds herself ensnared in a web that reaches further than she could possibly have imagined.

Kari’s earliest memory is her father’s death in a car crash back in small-town Wisconsin. Now, 12 years later, her mother has been hired by a pseudo-religious organization in Manhattan called the Temple of Truth (a.k.a. the ToT). At Chelsea Prep, Kari develops a crush on classmate Cruz. But when she realizes that Noon, another attractive guy at school, is involved with the ToT, her curiosity gets the better of her.

Kari stumbles upon a secret tunnel leading from her apartment to another in the building, where an ancient book holds images she can scarcely believe, and a cavernous room contains… something inexplicable. As Kari pieces together the incredible evidence, she discovers that the ToT is run by other-worldly beings called The Embodied who influence human behavior and have established a global long-term human breeding program. But why? And what is her role in all this?

Just as she starts wondering whether the love she feels for Cruz is genuine or if her emotions are being controlled by The Embodied, her mother is kidnapped and Kari has to figure out who is human, who is Embodied, and who she can count on to help rescue her mother.

Book Review:

Kari and her mother move to New York City for a new prestigious position, after leaving her small Wisconsin town and memories of her father’s accident there behind. For a teenaged protagonist, Kari was easy to relate to and care for: her sad past and her eagerness to find the new life, opportunities and possible love interests for her mother were endearing. As with many things, nothing is ever quite what it seems, and that also relates to the wonderful opportunities: scholarship to a prestigious high school, the beautiful people and the ease with which they seem to incorporate a major metropolis into their lives without great distress.

As Kari starts to feel seeds of unease, the questions start to arrive in a fast and furious manner: although the answers are far less apparent. Just what is the ToT and just how much influence it has on this world, and on the live of the people who work for them is a slow-developing reveal, mixed in this smoothly paced story that demands you read on.

I will be the first to admit that Kari is often far more mature in her approach, speech, thinking and behavior than one would expect, or want to see in a high school teen. However, when you take into account her life experience and her only child status, it did fit her well, even as it may be problematic for some readers. Aside from that and my wishing that there was more of an explanation and solidity built to give more substance to the characters of the Embodied, I did enjoy this read. I think that many YA fans would appreciate this story, and be ready to read the second book in the trilogy when it comes available.

I received an eBook from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
About the Author:

After graduating from film school in London, I emigrated to Montreal in 1987, where I still live with my two young children and their even younger goldfish. I spent over a decade as a music TV director before moving into the advertising industry as an award-winning copywriter and translator. In parallel to my corporate work, I’ve written novels, short stories, blogs, screenplays and a stage play. I also write Young Adult and Children’s fiction under the name J.B. Dutton.

Website § @johnbdutton

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Secrets: Clockwork Skies, #1 by J. Cunningham

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Title:  Secrets
Author:  J Cunningham
Format:  Paperback and eBook
Publisher:  Self-Published
Pages: 242
ISBN:  978-1482663099
Source: Author
Genre:  Fantasy, Steampunk
Series: Clockwork Skies # 1
Best Read in Order: Yes
Stars: 4
Purchase Now:  Amazon  §  Barnes&Noble

About the Book: 

Gelton isn’t the revolutionary type. If you asked him, it would be the last thing he would ever use to describe himself – if you could get the gefling to answer at all. When he gets entangled in events larger than his own story, he finds that he’s got more than a few things to learn about himself.

Part speculative history, part fantasy, and definitively steampunk, Secrets is the first novel in the Clockwork Skies series. Action packed and full of political intrigue, romance, and richly detailed fantasy settings, Secrets will entice you from the first page and keep you guessing until the last.

Book Review:

I really enjoyed this book and the perspectives provided by Gelton the Gelfling, servant (although ward suits his situation much better) of the highly placed and regarded Ambassador Grayson. Mixing the steampunk and new character traits with a mystery, rebellion, a touch of romance, a dictatorial king and the overwhelming ecological threats from the acidic rain added levels of complexity that manage to create a story that grabbed my attention almost from the first sentence.

An alternate version of history maintains an easy relationship with readers as Cunningham has managed to cleverly mix plausible and actual references, providing a feel of grounded potential to his story: the events in the book feel more real because of this clever technique. New characters in the Gelflings create an interesting imagined figure, and Gelton being the most predominant introduction to the race as he rushes to tell us how he is different from the ‘norm’, gives a unique insight into their perspective, and the rebellion that is slowly fomenting.

Adding in clockwork soldiers with touches of magic, a murder, walrus for dinner and the increasing influence of Mya’s attentions to the socially awkward Gelton and the story just takes off running. Cunningham has mixed political intrigue and threats of war, introduced new creatures and races, and given us characters to appreciate and empathize with: then set it into a completely unique and clever setting that is highly reminiscent of Victorian-era Britain. Whether you are a steampunk fan, or a newcomer: this is a delightful start to a new series.

I received an eBook copy from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About the Author:

J. Cunningham has over 30 years of fantasy world-building and storytelling experience. He is also a decorated veteran of the special operations community, making him no stranger to combat and government black operations. His list of creative achievements include success as a songwriter, musician, film director, and RPG writer. He brings to
his novels the experience, authenticity, and detailed creativity of a lifelong soldier, story teller, and science fiction fanboy.

Website  § @caesarc

AudioBook Review: A Gentlewoman’s Chronicles (Galvanic Century #5 – 7) by Michael Coorlim

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Title: A Gentlewoman’s Chronicles: Galvanic Century
Author: Michael Coorlim
Narrator: Dawn Hyde
Format: Paperback, eBook and AudioBook
Publisher: Pomoconsumption Press
Audio Producer: Michael Coorlim
Pages: 122
Length: 4 Hours, 39 minutes
ISBN: 978-1481288750
Source: Author
Genre: Fantasy / Steampunk / Mystery
Series: Chronicles of a Gentlewoman # 5 – 7
Best Read in Order: Not Required
Stars: Overall: 4 Narration: 4 Story: 4
Purchase Now:  Amazon  §  Audible  §  Barnes&Noble

About the Book:
Chronicles of a Gentlewoman is an action-packed thriller series set in an alternate history Victorian steampunk world. This collection of three novelletes takes her all the way from London, to the jungles of Mexico, to the Ottoman Empire.

This collection includes:

Sky Pirates Over London
London has been besieged by strange powerful airships targeting the city’s shipping. The poor starve and the rich must ration their luxuries, while the blockaders have made no demands. Parliament and the Home Office have done nothing to rectify the situation, and though it’s hardly proper, sometimes a gentlewoman must act while the men debate.

The Tower of Babbage
A motion-picture crew has gone missing in the mysterious jungles of Southern Mexico while filming ancient Mayan ruins. Desperate to learn the fate of an old friend, gentlewoman Aldora Fiske sponsors an expedition into the heart of the rainforest. Little does she realize that the filmmakers were not the only ones interested in the clockwork secrets that Charles Babbage left behind.

Fine Young Turks
Her loveless wedding of convenience approaching, gentlewoman Aldora Fiske is among the influential Europeans to accept a handsome nobleman’s invitation to show off the Ottoman Empire and its secularist reforms. After she alone escapes the devious plot to kidnap the foreign guests, she’s confronted with an Empire where women are given all the rights of men, and a man who treats her like an equal.

AudioBook Review:

This was a cleverly wrought collection of 3 short tales that have the character of Aldora Frisk at the center of the action. Aldora is a Victorian-era female, living a bit of a double life: refined and proper woman who dashes off to madcap adventures and encounters villains as well defined as are their bad intentions. A bit less satisfying was the speed of the stories: characters did not always seem to be completely flushed out, partly owing to the multiple twists and turns, and partly to the abbreviated length. Additionally, there is a fiancé of convenience for Aldora: his role seems to be background and cover: while the two have a friendship, he does not really know where she disappears to, and their attraction for one another is slowly growing to the point where answers and honesty will be needed. Those were almost the only issues I had with this set of 3 stories though: the action, setting, devices and twists in these stories were all presented with flair that kept interest and surprises moving in equal parts.

Three stories make up this recording, each one has the descriptive prose that provides easy imagery for the reader / listener, with a sense of enjoyment the author brings to the story and the setting he has created shining through. Steampunk can be really good when details are presented properly, and the characters provide a sense of reality in the fantasy. Coorlim manipulates these elements with finesse, playing with the fantasy while grounding it solidly to elements that are familiar and relatable.

Narration is provided by Dawn Hyde: her accent is easily understood and provides the character of Aldora with a voice that both fit her story and background. Subtle modulation of tone and delivery provide the other characters with their own voices, without becoming distracting or feeling as if she has worked to ‘create’ a character voice. Her delivery is clear and present, and provides no distraction from the story she is telling.

These stories are easy to listen to separately, breaking them up over a short time or to listen all at once. Two are just under one and one-half hours long: if you have a long commute this is the perfect listen to keep you amused. If you haven’t tried the steampunk genre: this is a good place to start: well crafted, well written and characters to enjoy.

I received an MP3 download from the author for purpose of honest review for the Heard Word. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About the Author:

Though a prolific writer Michael Coorlim found the prospect and process of traditional publication daunting, often preparing query letters and researching markets only to never get around to submitting any of his work. It wasn’t until he reached his thirties that he took the steps to write professionally, and by then the self-publishing revolution had already begun.

He currently lives in the city of Chicago with his girlfriend and their cat, living his life-long dream of supporting himself as an author of fast-paced character-driven fiction about authentic people in fantastic situations.

Website  §  @mcoorlim  §  Facebook

 

Life Bites: Hunger Chronicles # 1 by Tes Hilaire ~ Review

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Title: Life Bites
Author: Tes Hilaire
Format: eBook
Publisher: Self Published
Pages: 284
ISBN: 978-0989604000
Source: Author
Genre: Apocalyptic Sci-Fi, Paranormal
Series: Hunger Chronicles # 1
Best Read in Order: Not Required
Stars: 4
Purchase Now:  Amazon

About the Book:
Sometimes life really bites…

For socially inept nerds like Eva Harper, the junior prom is bound to suck, especially when her date turns out to be a vampire. Eva wakes from the change knowing her life will never be the same. Not only is the vegan teenager now a vampire, but a vicious virus has struck, spreading across the globe and irreversibly changing much of mankind…into zombies.

…and the only thing to do is to bite back

Fleeing from the vampire hive and their controlling queen, Eva takes up with a rag-tag militia in their seemingly insurmountable quest to rid the world of zombies. But little does she know it’s her own secret, a secret she doesn’t even know she has, that will be the turning point for the zombie wars.

Book Review:

I will admit to not being the world’s largest zombie / apocalyptic reader. What drew me to this title was the mixture of a vampire and a virus that has endangered them, and the main character seemed to be the sort of smart, snarky, geeky girl that I prefer for my heroines.

Hilaire did not disappoint: not only was Eva incredibly clever and very well developed as a vegan now forced to obtain food from “things with faces”, she developed a world that was unique in premise with enough familiarity to be comfortable for readers. Mixing the events in time provided good insight into Eva’s essential nature and self-reliance, and was done with such flair that it was easy to follow and provide layers of information that would not have fallen into place as well as in a straight narrative

Secondary characters are well presented with interactions feeling quite normal, if one can say that about a zombie apocalypse, and the intrigue surrounding John presents potential for some interesting twists in the next instalment. There are some good twists in this book, with enough information to lead seamlessly into the second in the story without the frustration of a large cliff hanger.

This was a fun book to read, and the perfect one to wet my feet with a longer zombie story, and a good read for YA and Adult readers alike.

I received an eBook from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About the Author:

Daphne Award-winning author Tes Hilaire started creating whole new worlds to escape upstate New York’s harsh winters before finally fleeing to sultry North Carolina. Her stories are edgy, exciting, and bring a hint of dark fantasy to paranormal romance. And no one ever has to shovel snow.

Website  § @TesHilaire

 

Love’s Red Heart: Love’s Bright # 2 by Virginnia de Parté ~ Review

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Title:  Love’s Red Heart
Author:  Virginnia DeParté
Format:  eBook
Publisher:  Secret Cravings Publishing
Pages:  119
ISBN:  978-1618855190
Source:  Author
Genre:  Contemporary Fantasy Romance
Series: Love’s Bright # 2
Best Read in Order:  yes
Stars:  4
Purchase Now:  Amazon  §  Barnes & Noble  §  Publisher

About the Book: 

In the near future genetically altered individuals live among the wider population, not always trusted, wanted or even accepted. Jill Corban, a nurse from a g-altered family is looking for ways to control her chameleon genes. A vacation to visit her family teaches her these skills and a meeting with Dr. Michael Scott offers her a chance at the kind of love she’s given up hope of ever finding.

Their romance takes a dusty trip through the heartland of Australia, blending tales of the Dream Time with adventure. Is their attraction to each other strong enough to survive the challenges of prejudice, a time stopping rescue, and challenges to Michael’s research programme?

Can their desire survive these events and grow into love?

Discover the beauty of the Red Desert and how the power of love can change a life, for Love’s Red Heart beats within us all.

About the Book:

In the near future genetically altered individuals live among the wider population, not always trusted, wanted or even accepted. Jill Corban, a nurse from a g-altered family is looking for ways to control her chameleon genes. A vacation to visit her family teaches her these skills and a meeting with Dr. Michael Scott offers her a chance at the kind of love she’s given up hope of ever finding.

Their romance takes a dusty trip through the heartland of Australia, blending tales of the Dream Time with adventure. Is their attraction to each other strong enough to survive the challenges of prejudice, a time stopping rescue, and challenges to Michael’s research programme?

Can their desire survive these events and grow into love?

Discover the beauty of the Red Desert and how the power of love can change a life, for Love’s Red Heart beats within us all.

See my Review of Love’s Bright Star: Love’s Bright # 1 at  Booked and Loaded

Book Review:

For me, the best part of the first in this series was the unique concept of genetic modifications that Virginnia deParté gave her characters, and the way those traits were revealed through behaviors. Mixing those elements with a heady romance and the constant danger of revelation in a society that is not friendly toward those who are different and it was a page turner. Hoping for the same in the second book, I was pleasantly surprised to see many of those elements incorporated into this story with more genetically altered characters tossed into this strange world.

Another moment for a chuckle, Jill is part chameleon, probably the first time I have ever seen a lizard (not a dragon) used to define and craft a character. It is little moments like this, with unexpected twists that capture the enjoyment the author experienced in the story creation that translates into delight for the reader. While the setting has changed to the Red Desert in Australia, we are still at an unnamed future time, about 6 years after the conclusion of the first book.

The relationship between Jill and Michael felt real, as did their characterizations. While Jill is still concerned with hiding her genetic modification and learning to control its effects, the story still contained the same close-minded prejudices and outmoded thought patterns of the first, with discrimination and fear of the ‘different’ being omnipresent threats in the world at large.

While I would have liked there to be a bit more to the suspense, the story moved along quite smoothly, and the characters had concerns that were both particular to their situations and universal. There are moments where you will just laugh at the situation or the conversation, and other times when you speed through the pages of this novella to see what happens next. A great, quick reading series that is uniquely presented, beautifully written and fun to read.

I received an eBook from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About the Author:

Virginnia is a writer of poetry and fiction. She lives on the coast of the Bay of Plenty, an
aptly named region of New Zealand. Now retired she has the time to tell of the lives of
the characters who populate her imagination and hopes their stories bring pleasure to her
readers.

Poetry  §  Blog   § Facebook