Review: Dragon Dreamer

Dragon Dreamer

by J. S. Burke

Reviewed by JMD Reid

 

B00K9DHTU2.01.LZZZZZZZ“But there had to be more to life than avoiding danger. Helping a friend was certainly more important…”

Arak is a young dragon on his first ever solo flight, a right of passage for his kind. He’s a dreamer, the odd dragon out always thinking and imagining, forever getting his head lost in the clouds. And this time it may cost him his life. He went out too far, hoping to be the dragon to find new copper mines for his race and an ice storm has caught up with him. Injured, he falls to the sea ice below, his wings hurt, his leg broken.

In the oceans below, Scree the octopus healer leaves the safety of her pod’s home on the reef to look for supplies. She’s an inquisitive and helpful octopus, with a caring heart. While collecting slug eggs near the surface, she is shocked when Arak crashes onto the ice. At first frightened by the massive dragon, her caring nature compels her to help poor Arak. And thus starts a friendship that will change the fortunes of both Arak’s dragons and Scree’s octopi.

Dragon Dreamer is the fascinating tale of two cultures meeting and growing better for their union. There is no great enemy to vanquish or dark prophecy to prevent. All that faces the dragons and the octopi are survival. From underwater volcanoes to sickness, Arak and Scree work together to help both their peoples prosper.

While Dragon Dreamer is clearly aimed at a younger, grade school audience, the story is both sweet and heartwarming and at times suspenseful. J.S. Burke has crafted a unique fantasy world unlike any I have ever read. Out of all the unlikely pairing in storys, a dragon and an octopus is the most out there, and yet J.S. Burke makes this story work. I would recommend this book for any child embarking into the wonderful world of books with great characters, stories, and values.

You can buy Dragon Dreamer from Amazon!

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Review: Lands of Ash by H.L.Burke

Lands of Ash (Elemental Realms 1)

by H. L. Burke

Reviewed by JMD Reid

 

B00X50R0XC.01.LZZZZZZZIn a fantasy world ravaged by invading Fire Elementals, humans struggle to survive. Every year, the fire elementals burn and consume, driving back the human settlements. The strength of man is failing. Only a few strongholds remain. When Ketyl comes across signs of scouting portals, he realizes the elementals have discovered the Fortress.

As Ketyl and his brother Karvir summon the remaining militias to the defense of the Fortress in a last stand against the elementals, a young boy flees his home with his pregnant step-mother. His father has died fighting the elementals, and it is no longer safe at their farm.

The forces of men prepare for their final battle when Ketyl comes across a vital piece of information. He has a plan to end the war. It maybe folly. It may be suicidal. But what choice do they have?

Lands of Ash was a surprising book. When I first came across this book, I was intrigued by the premise. The story seemed very predictable, the characters familiar, but H.L. Burke packs surprising twists and powerful moments between her characters. I couldn’t put the second half of the book down and I can’t wait for the sequel to come out next year.

Any fan of good, imaginative fantasy will love Lands of Ash. H.L. Burke is a wife of a soldier, and her experience comes through, particularly with Karvir’s wife and daughters. Strong characters, magic, danger, and heart-pounding action is painted across the pages of this fantastic book.

You can buy Lands of Ash from Amazon!

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Review: The Extraction List

The Extraction List

by Renee N. Meland

Reviewed by JMD Reid

 

B00V8KADEY.01.LZZZZZZZIn the wake of an economic collapse in the United States and a plague that devastated Europe, the world is a darker place. Crime is rampant in the US, particularly juvenile crime. When Riley’s brother is killed by gang violence, her mother goes on a Crusade to save the children. The Parental Morality Act is passed, and Riley’s mother is the face of this controversial legislature. If a parent is found unfit to raise their children for committing a crime, unemployment, alcoholism, or many other reasons, their children are placed in a boarding school run by the government.

Children live in fear of the day government agents will come and take them. When Riley’s name ends up on the extraction list, despite her mother’s prominence, she is forced to flee. Riley is plunged into danger as her mother and her mother’s friend Bo make contact with a guide, a man who sneaks children and their families out of the country. Cain is a dangerous man, but will he be enough to guide Riley to safety?

This young adult novel is a fast-paced read, thrusting you into the dark, dystopic future. What starts as a good idea, to save children, spirals so far out of control. Claire, Riley’s mother, is forced to confront the horrors she helped create when she championed the Parental Morality Act. The writing flows swiftly, leaving you wanting to keep turning the pages. This story is unflinching when tackling the world that Riley is put into.

The Extraction List is a great read, illuminating the problems of depending too much on the government to change behavior of its citizens. Change through force will never be lasting change. And force is the only tool the government has at its disposal. So be careful the power you give your government. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

The Extraction List is avalable from Amazon.

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Killing your Characters or Writers are Monsters

Killing your Characters or Writers are Monsters

In the latest novel I’m writing, Reavers of the Tempest (Book Two of the Storm Below), I came to the point where I killed a major character. I was torn up inside. I grieved for this fictitious person even as I wrote the words that condemned the character to death. I felt like a complete monster. I felt real guilt in the moment of writing.

For me, the characters I write are almost real people. I think about them, putting myself into their heads. I have to believe they’re real so I can capture their personalty. My characters are almost my friends, or at least casual co-workers.

And then you come to that point where you kill them. You have to harden your heart. You have to set aside the care you feel for this imaginary character and thrust the dagger into their backs. And then you have to write their deaths. You have to get into their minds and experience the loss and fear all for the service of your story.

Because that’s why you’re killing the character. For the story. After breathing life to this fictitious person, you lead them into circumstances and pull the rug out from under them. They lose all those dreams and hopes, their plans for the future. It all ends abruptly because you have a story to tell.

To be a writer, you have to be a little monstrous. You have to be willing to put your imagination into the darkest parts of life and humanity. As William Faulkner put it, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” You need to be prepared to do what it takes for the service of your story. You can’t flinch. You have to harden your heart and plunge the dagger into your character’s back even if they don’t deserve it.

Even though I felt like a monster for killing my characters, I’m sharpening my knife. The story must be satisfied. I cannot flinch. Without risk and conflict, a story is a limp, boring affair.

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Review: Spirit of Life

Spirit of Life (Rise of the Five Orders 3)

by Autumn Brit

Reviewed by JMD Reid

 

91wuXBO2NKL._SL1500_War is coming. Sinika, the power-hungry fire elemental has taken control of the Church of the Four Orders through murder, blackmail, and betrayal. He wants vengeance on Niri for almost killing him in the Temple of Dust and to ensure the Church’s rule is absolute throughout the land.

The only chance for our heroes is to return the four Spheres to their proper place in the world. But only the Sphere of Air is in the right place. The Sphere of Earth is in the dungeons of their enemies, the Sphere of Fire was lost to the seas, and the Sphere of Water was sent to the spirit realm. Without this balance, the world is doomed to Sinika’s tyranny.

The odds of success are long as the Church launches its assault against the land of the Kith. The last free groups of elementals make their stand while Niri, Lavinia, Darag, and Ria set out on their quest to reclaim the missing spheres.

Autumn ups the action with this one. What had been skirmishes between elementals in the last book turn into full on war. She uses creative blends of powers and magic, weaving together all the powers she had introduced into a conflagration of exciting, fantasy war. Her characters have to rise to the occasion.

If you loved the last two, I don’t need to twist your arm to read this one. It is fast paced and a great end to a wonderful Fantasy trilogy. Autumn had to juggle quite a few story lines and she brought them all together in the end, answering the last lingering questions of the series. If you love fun Fantasy, then the Rise of the Five Orders trilogy will delight you as you fall in love with the world and the characters.

You can buy Spirit of Life from Amazon!

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Review: Rule of Fire

Rule of Fire (Rise of the Five Orders 2)

by Autumn Brit

Reviewed by JMD Reid

 

81m171ahfFL._SL1500_The curse has been defeated. Ria, Niri, Ty, Liviana and there new allies Darag and Zhao can finally stop running. But now what do they do? They have escaped the Church’s wrath, defeated its most powerful creation: the curse.

They search for answers.

The curse had once been a man, and thanks to Ria’s powers, he has regained his human form. But he possesses none of his memories. Ria is desperate to understand her strange powers, and the only other man who can help her has no memories.

And in the ruins of the Temple of Dust, Sinnika, a High Priest and Fire Elemental of the church, is rescued from the prison Niri left him in. Sinnika burns to get revenge on his once pupil.

Rule of Fire is a great followup to Born of Water. Autumn nurtures the seeds the last book planted, the secrets buried in the past sprouting and are revealed to the light of day. Questions are answered, mysterious are solved, and a new war brews, sparked by the decisions of our heroes as they search for the answers they need to find peace.

The characters soon begin splitting up. The flight from the Church and its Curse was what kept them together, now other concerns move them. Niri has promised Kalila, the former Curse, that she would help him find his people.

Once again, the magic shines in this book. Autumn is always finding new ways to weave the magic into her action scenes. There are some tense moments in the middle part of the book as characters sneak through places they shouldn’t be, and Sinnika only grows as a more disgusting villain as the book grows.

If you read Born of Water and loved it, then you’ll find Rule of Fire even more satisfying, building on the solid foundation of book one. I’m excited to start Spirit of Law and find out how this story ends!

You can pick up Rule of Fire from Amazon.

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Review: Blood of the Fallen (Blood Scrolls Trilogy 1) by Poppy Reid

Blood of the Fallen (Blood Scrolls Trilogy 1)

by Poppy Reid

Reviewed by JMD Reid

 

A1c9ZO68mEL._SL1500_On the eve of the Tyran’s attack on a small, Elven village, a Tyran warrior named Villid is approached by a Seer. Villid respects the Seer and listens to the old man’s prediction that cataclysm will befall the world if the Tyrans kill the Elven seer. But the Tyran warleader is bent on exterminating the elves. Villid’s loyalties are torn and he makes a fateful decision.

Aya is a young, Elven woman, an acolyte of the Elven seer helping her village get ready for a festival. But horror descends as the Tyrans attack, and Aya finds herself saved by a Tyran warrior. Forced to join with Villid, the pair are hunted by the Tyrans as they search for the Elven seer. But enmity burns in Aya’s heart. Her people were just butchered by Villid’s. Can they work together, or will their races bitter history drive them apart?

Blood of the Fallen is a fun read. Villid is torn between his loyalty to his people and his loyalty to the Seer, forced to make a moral decision. Aya starts out as a weaker character, the innocent waif, but she gets her eyes opened by the far more world-wise Villid as the pair are both the hunters and the hunted. The plot takes a number of twists and turns and at the end, I was left wondering what would happen next.

Poppy Reid’s first book might not be the most original fantasy plot, but it is written with heart and with characters that you’ll come to care for. I enjoyed this book immensely. Poppy is just starting out, but I know she’ll have a great writing career ahead of her. So if you love a fun Fantasy with great characters, you’ll love Blood of the Fallen!

You can pick up Blood of the Fallen  from Amazon and Amazon UK

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Review: Born of Water (Rise of the Fifth Order Book 1)

Born of Water (Rise of the Fifth Order Book 1)

by Autumn M. Brit

Reviewed by JMD Reid

81vG6hkWFyL._SL1500_On the night of the summer solstice festival, Niri, an acolyte of the Church pf the Four Orders, hunts through the streets of to find the girls he had witnessed during the ceremony. The girl had shone with potential—she was an Elemental. And Niri had to find her. Niri was a water elemental, like all elementals, she was raised by the Church, taken from her family at a young age. And if she doesn’t find this girl and returns empty handed, she knows her punishment will be sever.

But when she finds Ria, the potential, with her best friend Lavina and Lavina’s brother Ty, Niri can’t bring herself to ruin this girl’s life. But when a group of armed men accost the group, Ria uses magic. Not elemental powers, but the forbidden arts that had caused a war a thousand years ago.

Panic fills Niri. She knows that the Curse, a shape-changing beast bred to hunt down mages, is even now coursing from the Temple of Solaire to hunt them down. Niri can’t stand by and let this young, innocent girl be killed and flees with Lavinia, Ria, and Ty by boat, sailing south to the lost Temple of Dust where, according to a message from Niri’s mentor, answers might be found.

Born of Water is a fun read. Autumn sets the stage right from the beginning, putting you in Niri’s panic mind as she searches the city for Ria while reflecting on the cruelties the Church of the Four Orders is capable of committing. When she decides to betray her order and join the youths in flight, you understand why.

The journey is full of much bickering. Niri is the oldest, but she’s barely an adult, and Ria and Lavinia are teenagers. Their flight is punctuated by teenage squabbling and angst that seems quite real, but can be a little tiresome.

But the book really shines with the magic, from the way Niri’s eyes cry tears of lavender when she works magic, to the battle between elementals. The action scenes are crisp and imaginative, with some creative uses of the powers. The book has a level of adrenaline through much of it that keeps you reading, wanting to find out what new obstacle the band of four will have to contend with as they sail the world. And while the teenage angst can be annoying, it fades as the four work through their problems.

If you’re a fan of fantasy and great world building, then you’ll love Born of Water. I can’t wait to start reading the sequel, Rule of Fire. Born of Water is a great foundation for a fantasy series!

You can buy Born of Water from Amazon. Follow Autumn on twitter @Weifarer and check out her blog.

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Story Hop Blogtour

The Frustration of Bureaucracy

By J.M.D. Reid

TheStoryHopLogothumbnailI used to have a job as a paratransit operator for Pierce Transit’s SHUTTLE program. And yes every letter of SHUTTLE has to be capitalized. I have no idea why, but it does.

Now I didn’t work directly for Pierce Transit but for a private company that had a contract to drive the SHUTTLE. Pierce Transit contracted the work out because of Federal money. According to the ADA (Americans with Disability Act) a public transit agency had to provide alternates means of transportation for those who cannot walk to the nearest bus stop within a mile. So we drove these small buses around, picking up people. It’s expensive to operate. A person riding the SHUTTLE pays the same disabled fare as the regular bus ($.75 per trip) and we often often ran with only one or two passengers at a time. We even would deadhead (drive empty) across the entire county to pick up a passenger. Because of the expense, the Federal government sends grant money. But this money comes with strings requiring a percentage of the work has be performed by private companies.

1024px-Pierce_Transit_Shuttle
One of the SHUTTLEs I used to drive. 5097 (pictured above) once broke down on me in University Place.

So I answered an want ad I found on Worksource’s website and found myself a job driving around senior citizens, people in wheelchairs, those suffering from various mental and physical disabilities, and patients using dialysis. It was a rewarding, stressful, long, tiring job. Some of the riders were pleasant, thankful for the SHUTTLE allowing them to have lives outside of their homes, no longer prisoners of the afflictions of their bodies. Other passengers were bitter, blaming the world for the pain and suffering they had gone through.

And then there were the mentally handicapped. Many were adults, but they often had a zest for life, going to church or to the endless activities that community centers were always offering. But sometimes their handicap could make them…difficult.

I only ever had one major injury on the job. It was my day off, of course. I normally worked an afternoon/evening route starting between 1 and 3 PM and getting off between 9 and 11 PM. The thing with the SHUTTLE is routes had to be filled. If someone was sick, if someone was on vacation, or just due to the attrition of the job (we lost 4 drivers a month) those routes still had to be filled. So you could be mandatoried on your day off. For evening drivers, that often meant working a morning route on your day off. That day, I had to start at 6 AM. I was tired. I pulled up at this apartment complex to pick up a rider suffering from some form of autism. I stepped out of my bus.

Right onto a drain. It was lower down than I expected. Stepping out of the driver door of the SHUTTLE was already a long step. My ankle rolled, pain exploded, and I collapsed in a heap on the ground. I tried to stand, but my ankle wouldn’t support my weight. The day before, we had Nextel radios for communication, but Pierce Transit had just phased them out in favor of the CAD system. I had a radio phone in my SHUTTLE and I had to crawl back into my vehicle to radio for help.

While I was lying in pain on the ground, my passenger had boarded the SHUTTLE. He didn’t seem to understand that I had seriously hurt my foot. I couldn’t drive my SHUTTLE if I wanted to and he’s demanding I take him to work, growing more and more agitated, yelling at me as I’m trying not to erupt and yell at him.

Dispatch followed procedure and, despite my protests, called 911 for an ambulance. I wasn’t that injured. I just needed a supervisor to drive me to an urgent care unit. Well, the fire department arrived while my passenger continued to complain and shout at me. I just wanted to throttle him. It wasn’t his fault, he had a condition and he couldn’t understand why he wasn’t going to work. He had a schedule to keep. When the fire department arrived, they stared at my foot for about thirty seconds, demanded to know why dispatch called 911 for a non-emergency, berated me for wasting their time, and left.

My supervisor arrived with a relief driver a few minutes later. I was then berated for letting 911 leave without checking me out. Apparently, dispatched expected 911 to drive me to the emergency room on a badly sprained ankle.

My boss wasn’t happy that I had been injured. We were allowed three minor accidents accidents in the SHUTTLE per year. Little fender benders, minor damage to the shuttle, backing into a mailbox. My boss decided to count my physical injury as one of these accidents. Only a month early I had minor accident on the SHUTTLE. Now I couldn’t afford another accident for almost a year.

It was such a great day. This is one of the many reasons I don’t do this job anymore.

Oh, and of course this was government work, so I had fill out an incident report so that it was all documented before I was taken to the doctors. I spent a month on time-loss before my ankle had recovered enough for me to go back to work, my boss demanding that I get back to work as fast as possible.

One of my worst days on the job.

TheStoryHopLogothumbnailIf you want to read more stories, check out the other amazing authors that are participating in The Story Hop blog tour, part of the 2015 Author Cyber Convention

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