The Official M.L John Website

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Book Reviews

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Saga of Menyoral, By M.A Ray

Posted by Michelle John on December 7, 2013 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Today’s review is of M.A Ray’s debut novel, the Saga of Menyoral: Hard Luck. The main character is Dingus, a sixteen-year-old boy with extraordinarily bad luck. Not only was he born a half-breed in a racist backwater, but he has a tendency to lose his temper in a spectacular way. It would be better for Dingus if he could keep his head down-an ability which he quickly proves he does not possess. He only survives a lynching due to the interference of Sir Vandis Vail, a famous knight with orders from a goddess to make poor Dingus his squire.

I enjoyed Hard Luck more than anything I’ve read in a while. It reads like an extended beginning, which makes sense because it is the first book of what sounds like it will be a pretty long series. Even so, it kept my interest: the characters were as real as people you’d meet on a bus, even the ones that could fly. There was just a hint of the epic battle to come, but there was enough to keep me rooted in place. I read the whole thing in two sittings and wished I had more.

This book was a solid beginning and a riveting review. If you have time for a well-written fantasy epic in your life, Hard Luck is for you. Five stars here.

 

You can find Hard Luck at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H5IPASW

 

 

Daughter of Mythos, By Melissa Drake

Posted by Michelle John on December 5, 2013 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (0)

I recently finished reading “Daughter of Mythos,” by Melissa Drake. This book is a YA fantasy about a girl named Nora with a mysterious past and an uncertain future. Nora is a foster kid, but she has a bigger problem than most: whenever she gets comfortable in a new home, something terrible happens. An unseen force tears her new home apart, leaving Nora to clean up the mess. Usually, that involves moving to yet another foster home, trying to integrate into another new school, and trying to build a life with people who really don’t trust her. When it happens again, she’s off to yet another new home, but this time, something is different. The people here know she is something different. Something special.

It isn’t long before Nora has a quest before her: She will travel through a new world, be dogged my demons and wicked sorcerers, and she will be asked to perform tasks she thought impossible. Along the way, she might fall in love, she might make a new friend, and she might even die. Who knew growing up could be so uncertain?

This book was fun and fast-paced, and the beginning immediately drew me in. The story was interesting throughout, and I kept reading until I got to the end because I wanted to know what happened next. The editing was good and the plotline was easy to follow. It took me a while to read this, though. I think it was because there was a lack of depth: description, dialogue, and character. We are left to make assumptions about creatures and lands we have never seen. We are told Nora is fighting demons, but we are never really told what demons are; what they look like, sure, but not why demons are present in a world that is more Fantasyland than Hell. Mythos is beautiful and has a purple sky, but beyond that I never really got a good image of it in my head. All relationships were a little thin, a little surface-only—I never connected with anyone, even when Nora did. Because of this, emotional impacts didn’t hit as hard as one might hope, and I repeatedly put the book down. In short, this book was not true love for me, but it was true like.

I am giving this book four stars because it was entertaining and I think kids would really enjoy it. My son (who is ten) picked up my Kindle and was hooked. Mythos is a safe world for him to read with Melissa as his tour guide. I have recommended it to a few different young readers. So if you are looking for something light and good fun, you’ll like Daughter of Mythos.

You can pick up Daughter of Mythos at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Daughter-Mythos-Melissa-Drake-ebook/dp/B00DZDRJ94/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386274699&sr=8-1&keywords=daughter+of+mythos

100 Unfortunate Days, By Penelope Crowe

Posted by Michelle John on November 30, 2013 at 10:20 PM Comments comments (0)

I just finished reading 100 Unfortunate Days, by Penelope Crowe. It was horror, which isn’t my normal cup of tea, but if you like your fiction to frighten you, I recommend it wholeheartedly. I gave it four stars, which may be because it scared me too much to sleep after I read it. You horror buffs would probably call that a 5 star read!

 

This book read like the stream-of-consciousness diary of a woman losing her mind. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I read it, and at first, I wasn’t sure if it was fiction or the actual thoughts of someone suffering from mental illness. I thought, there’s no story to this, but there is. It’s buried in the ramblings. Strange and dark, this book left me with a heavy chill that wouldn’t let me sleep even after I put it down. The spookiest part was that some of this madwoman’s thoughts echoed feelings I’ve had myself. It was really

frightening because it made me wonder if I was the one losing my mind. It is real horror, and real art. It’s the only thing like it I have ever read. If you are a horror fan, this is sure to frighten you, because it’s about the darkness that lurks in us all.

 

For the interested, a link: http://www.amazon.com/100-Unfortunate-Days-Penelope-Crowe-ebook/dp/B009WR2BFO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1385867583&sr=8-1&keywords=100+unfortunate+days

 

Take my advice: This is one to read during the day.

 

Irish Mouse Tales, By Violetta Antcliff

Posted by Michelle John on August 3, 2012 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Irish Mouse Tales is a new short by Violetta Antcliff. This lovely little story was the winner of the Nottingham Short Story Competition, and in my opinion it deserved the award fully.

Irish Mouse Tales is about three Irish mice indulging in the classic Irish tradition of a story competition. There are technically three stories in one, each a little taller than the last. The characters are warm and homey. In short, though this book is quite short, it is very sweet and appropriate for children of all ages.

Troll or Derby, by Red Tash

Posted by Michelle John on August 2, 2012 at 11:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Troll or Derby by Red Tash is an urban fantasy about a girl named Deb. Deb lives in rural Pennsylvania with her mother, an alcoholic, and her sister Gennifer, a beautiful girl with a big problem: she’s become involved with a dangerous meth dealer named Dave. Deb has always felt protective of her sister, so when Dave kidnaps Gennifer, Deb knows she has to rescue her from whatever twisted plan he has in store.

Everything gets weird(er) when Deb’s mother finds out Gennifer’s been kidnapped. She goes crazy and kicks Deb out of the house, saying she only took Deb in because she was promised Deb would always protect Gennifer. She sends Deb off on her own with an ultimatum. Until Deb saves Gennifer, she’s not allowed to come home.

It’s not long before Deb finds herself caught up in a world below the one she has always known, avoiding dangers she’s never been trained to handle. Can Deb rescue her sister, and can she uncover her deeper purpose in the process? And wait just a minute: did somebody say fairies?

This book was a blast. A truly original fairy tale, it was gory, gritty, and hilarious. Troll or Derby was full of round, interesting characters and a setting that felt crazily real. Go on, ask me if there was a unicorn! Ask me, ask me! All right, you twisted my arm. There was a unicorn. But if you think anything about it was sweet, you’re going to have to reassess. If the Unseelie Court was left to run rampant in modern day America, this is surely what they’d get up to.

If you like urban fantasy with some horror mixed in, this is the book for you. Go on, pick it up. It’s loads of fun.

Review of Jason Sinks to a New Low, by Violetta Antcliff

Posted by Michelle John on October 29, 2011 at 2:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Chasing adventure, best friends Jason and Wayne sneak onto private property to play on the way home from school. It’s not long before clumsy Wayne manages to get himself stuck down a hole in the ground, and in the attempt to rescue him Jason falls in as well. They discover that the hole connects to a series of underground caves they can’t escape. Cold, hungry, hurt, and chased by murderous bank robbers with secrets to keep, the boys have to use their wits to somehow stay alive.

Sadly, I must admit that I have never had the pleasure of reading the first three Jason stories. When Violetta asked me to review this one I was pleased to try something new. I am very glad I did. I found this story to be a great read for a middle grade kid with a love of adventure. It reminded me of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew stories that I so much enjoyed when I was that age. It managed to be exciting without being inappropriate for the age group. If you are looking for a good book for a young reader, I highly recommend it to you and your children. I’m giving this lovely little book five stars just for making me happy.

On a side note, I found the British slang really enjoyable. Your children might need to take the author’s advice and Google a couple of the more colorful terms, (Like gormless, for example) but a smart kid will have a lot of fun expanding his vocabulary this way.

Here is a link: http://www.amazon.com/Jason-Sinks-Adventures-Foster-ebook/dp/B005NWRKY4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1319824370&sr=8-1

Have fun!

Review: Solstice, by P.J Hoover

Posted by Michelle John on October 7, 2011 at 2:20 AM Comments comments (0)

After eighteen years of endless summer, Earth is dying a slow, hot death. Oceans are wastelands of dead fish, deadly heat bubbles threaten to wipe out entire cities, and the soil is so desiccated that plants are in danger of extinction. This is Piper’s reality, and her domineering,overprotective mother makes it even more suffocating.

Piper’s best friend Chloe is her only outlet from the bleak reality within and without. However,when Piper rebels by secretly opening a mysterious birthday present and getting a tattoo with Chloe, she just exchanges her Global Heating Crisis nightmare for a mythological one.

Suddenly, Piper’s world teems with murderous, deceitful gods, legendary monsters, and criminals damned to suffer eternal torments in hell. A creeping moss that only Piper can see coats the skin of the people around her, and a woman with fog-filled eyes stalks her, insisting that Chloe is about to die. As if all that isn’t enough, two gorgeous guys show up at her school,both claiming to know her, and they both pursue her. And, strangely, they might be the key to this mythical mystery.

The trouble is, Piper can’t resist either of them, even though they seem to be sworn enemies.She’s falling for brooding, passionate Shayne and for seductive, rebellious Reese. Piper needs to make a decision, and the stakes are high in ways she can’t even begin to guess.

Choose the wrong guy, and the uneasy boundary between the mythological world and the human world will disappear, Piper will never learn the truth about herself or her family, and … all hope for the future will be lost.

 

I actually finished this one a few days ago and didn’t write this review until today because I wanted to get my thoughts in order before I started it. To be honest, I began reading it a long time ago, put it down, and then rediscovered it. When I picked it up the second time, I wondered why I had ever stopped. It was really an excellent read. But there was something about it I couldn’t read through.

 

The beginning of the book is hard science fiction. The world is post-apocalyptic in a way that my deep fears find horribly realistic. Piper’s life is about heat and fear, with her cloying mother choking her as much as the Global Heating Crisis. When the book changes into a Greek myth based in the future, it happens with the same dreamy unbelievability with which such a turn would happen to a real girl. The setting is vividly built and the mythology is expertly woven. The way P.J used myth to explain trouble in the future the same way people explained trouble in the past was truly phenomenal. I think my real problem is with the boys and Piper’s relationship with them.

 

At the beginning I could see the appeal. Both gents were physically lovely and Piper’s mother was, to say the least, overprotective. A girl like that would love the freedom and attention such boys couldpromise. It was obvious to the reader,

if not to the naive young protagonist, that these boys had something pretty unusual going on. And for quite a while that was interesting and fun. But when one boy was basically using magic to control Piper’s mind and the other one was blaming her for having her mind controlled, it left a very uneasy feeling in me. It reminded me a little of a rape victim being blamed for her victimization by the one who should most empathize with her. It is true that Piper got a little angry about that, but not as angry as she got about theoretically being cheated on. This whole thing should have, in my mind, been a lot darker and more outraged. The way she was treated by thevillain was unforgivable, but the way she was treated by her “soulmate” was, in my opinion, even worse.

 

I’m having a hard time scoring this book, and I’ll tell you why. Without the romance plot I would have loved this. I can’t think of another book that made a modern myth work so well. The world was so, so good, and the twist ending was very well done. But the romance plot and its dysfunction was just about enough to turn me off of anotherwise great read. I want to recommend a talented writer to the world, but I do not want to recommend a sexist message to young girls. This kind of thing was rampant in Greek mythology, but why would we bother to set a book in a modern age if we aren’t going to drop some of those distasteful biases? I’m going to give it three stars out of five because of my own internal conflict.

 

In conclusion, I guess I will say this: if your kids are going to read this, please read it with them. There is a lot of value in this book, but it is missing one value that is very important to me. That value is a heroine with self-respect. I’d like to think that parental guidance will improve on the entertainment value I found here.

 

If you are interested in Solstice, the Amazon link is here: http://www.amazon.com/Solstice-ebook/dp/B004ZF804E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1317921362&sr=8-1

Review: The Darkness, Crystal Connor

Posted by Michelle John on September 20, 2011 at 2:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Crystal Connor recently sent me a copy of her first novel, The Darkness. In my house it’s always an exciting proposition when a book comes in the mail. My family just can’t seem to grasp the concept of how this book review thing works. There’s always a discussion about it.

“You got a book in the mail? Why?”

“She just sent you a book in exchange for you writing about it? For free?”

Eventually, after dinner I got my kids calmed down and I settled in to read. There is a warning in the front of the book. It says, “There are pieces of the magic rituals purposely left out of this book.” Basically, the gist was, “Don’t try these dangerous spells at home.”

I must admit I was intrigued.

The story I found inside was about two powerful women. One is an alchemist. The other is a dark witch. Between them is a little boy with great power and uncertain origins. Both women use every skill they have to win control of the boy’s mind and heart in the attempt to command his special talents.

At first I thought this book was about two women who shape a great man, but I was wrong. I then had the idea that the book was a little about adoption and the love of two types of mothers, but I was wrong about that, too. For a time I thought it was a retelling of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein written from a woman’s point of view, and for a while it may really have been about that. But at its core this book, which is a mixture of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and suspense, was about power and the pursuit of it by any means necessary. No one in the book is good. No one is the hero. And that is what made this book so very incredible.

I read the whole book between the time when I finished dinner and the time when I went to bed. I couldn’t put it down. It was that good. Do I recommend this book? Yes I do. Pick it up. You’d be remiss not to.

That being said, I am giving the book four out of five stars, and I will tell you why. To me five denotes perfection, and this one had a little way to go. There are some mistakes in grammar, some tense switching, and the word ‘alter’ was used in place of the word ‘altar’ throughout the book. It wasn’t bad, not by any stretch. It was enough to distract this particular jack-booted grammar thug from a truly brilliant story. Admittedly every book has mistakes, and I think for a lot of people content is more important than mechanics. Once again, it wasn’t even a bad problem, it was just a little distracting.

In conclusion, thanks for the really good free book, Crystal, and I can’t wait to read the sequel. I would even pay money for that one.

A link to the Amazon listing is here: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?field-keywords=The+Darkness+by+crystal+connors&url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks

Review: The Lowlands of Heaven, by F.J Dagg

Posted by Michelle John on June 25, 2011 at 10:03 PM Comments comments (0)

The Lowlands of Heaven, by F.J Dagg, was a mix of fantasy and inspiration with a little bit of a Christmas story thrown in just for the egg nog smell. Our story begins in the 1920′s with a young couple pregnant with their first child and starting out in in their very own happy ending. Before the end of the prologue, though, the young couple has died and left a little girl alone in the world. The accident is so traumatic that it separates their daughter from her guardian angel, Laurel. The little angel is meant to give the baby a gift that enables her to do something that will positively impact the world.

 

The little girl is named Kate and grows up to be a beautiful, talented nurse. She has dreams of starting a group that will fly around the world and bring medical care to children who have been wounded by the burgeoning of the second World War. But there is something missing from Kate’s life: she seems incapable of romantic love. This becomes a problem when she meets Sam, a rich and handsome aviator who quickly falls in love with her and her idealistic dreams. Sam’s money would make all of Kate’s dreams come true, but she can’t bring herself to return his love. Meanwhile, Laurel is too hurt to approach the Earth, let alone give the gift to Kate that will let her change the world.

 

I thought this book was elegantly written by someone with a real interest in history and a love of people. After a very promising beginning it got a little slow toward the middle while Laurel healed and Kate just didn’t fall in love with Sam. But overall I still thought it was a lovely book and I would probably read more by this author. The scenery alone was vivid enough to make me wish I were in the Lowlands on Heaven myself.

Review: Sabriel, by Garth Nix

Posted by Michelle John on June 6, 2011 at 1:06 PM Comments comments (0)

I read Sabriel by Garth Nix when I was in high school, and it rocked my world. When I was young I read a lot of fantasy, as you can imagine, and since I was too young to know how to differentiate between good and bad I read a whole lot of stuff based on D&D, which is in turn loosely based on the Lord of the Rings series, which I had not even read. Because I had newly discovered the fantasy genre I would read anything that had a dragon in it and say, thank you, sir, may I have another? When I picked up Sabriel I expected more of the same. I got anything but.

Sabriel is the story of a young girl at a boarding school with a weird talent: she can bring the dead back to life. But this talent isn’t specific to her. Her father, The Abhorrsen, is a dignitary from the land beyond the Wall, and though Sabriel doesn’t know much about life there she does know that his work involves protecting people from the Dead. When Dad doesn’t show up for their nightly meeting in her fireplace, Sabriel realizes that he is in danger and she crosses the Wall to save him. Rescuing her father, even surviving, will take all of her resources and each of her seven magical bells.

Here’s what I loved about this story: The Wall is a physical barrier between a magical land and a real, twentieth century one. Sabriel is smart, resourceful, and powerful despite all of her youthful innocence. And Sabriel had zombies before zombies were ‘in’. To this day I have rarely read anything so very original. I mean, bells to fight the undead?

There was one thing I didn’t like about this book, but for me it wasn’t enough to decrease my love of it. The romance plot felt strained and tacked on, like Mr. Nix wasn’t really sure how an eighteen year old girl would feel as she fell in love. But I forgave it and I hope you will too.

You may be thinking, wow, Michelle really loved this book and I suspect she’s a little biased toward it, and you might be right. I am a giant Sabriel fan girl. It was a huge inspiration for me in my own work and I recommend it to everybody. Five stars, people. Five big, shiny stars. If you are interested, here is a link:

http://www.amazon.com/Sabriel-Abhorsen-Trilogy-Garth-Nix/dp/0061474355/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1307379033&sr=1-1


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