Reading Radar – City of Masks by Ashley Capes

This week’s edition of Reading Radar features a book I got through an Amazon promotion.

City of Masks by Ashley Capes

51q8tuxl6nlThis epic fantasy starts with the former mercenary, Notch, in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. He escapes from prison and meets the future Protector of the Monarchy, Sofia Falco. Sofia, however, has her own problems. She becomes the first female Protector in a hundred years when her brother is proclaimed dead at sea. The person she is supposed to protect, the prince and heir to the throne, makes it clear he does not want her services. She discovers that her noble House is under threat from enemies within as a war begins to brew in the world beyond her kingdom.

I found the world-building in the opening chapters very well-written, and I have to applaud the author for following three very different POV characters. These three character threads seem rather disjointed at first, but I could tell from the beginning that the threads intersect later on. I appreciate the author’s fairly crisp narrative, and I found the characters to be very fascinating. I look forward to reading the rest of the story, and I think you will too.

 

 

That’s it for now. I should get back to reading – and writing, of course!

 

 


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Reading Radar – The Life Engineered and Witherfist

Two books from Inkshares reached my radar this week.

Why Inkshares you ask? It might just be the place to launch my own book in the near future!

The Life Engineered by J.F. Dubeau

I loved the sample of The Life Engineered so much that I went ahead and nabbed the ebook. I would have got the paperback, but alas, international shipping fees would have tripled the price. The story opens a vast, detailed universe with A.I. characters that are as compelling as humans. The prose moves quickly, making it a fun read and an excellent introduction to Dubeau’s writing. The story follows the Capeks, a race of sentient robots left behind by humanity (humans are nowhere to be found). The robots were given the tools to build a better society than humans could ever manage, but once an important Capek is murdered, everything changes.

I’m still reading this now, but it won’t take long to finish. It’s only 150 pages long, and $0.99 as an ebook – so go check it out!

 

 

Witherfist by J. Graham-Jones

The sample for Witherfist is really, really cool. I’ve been enjoying the exploration of a fantasy world not centered on European culture and mythology. Instead, Witherfist draws on Asian characters and presents a world where the true name of a person or  being allows you to hold power over it. The book follows multiple characters, but most interesting for me is the character of Irusai. She’s a warlord (warlady?) who gained power by tattooing the name of a dark spirit on her arm. She gained its power and skill – she can drain the life force of her enemies through her cursed touch. Now she wants to redeem herself and get rid of this evil spirit, so that she can be with her husband and daughter.

Just in the preview, this story really drew me in with its worldbuilding and interesting characters. I think this is a project worth funding.

 

All right, just what are you reading this week?


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Reading Radar – Kingdom of Dreams and Soul Siphon

Welcome, readers, to my picks for this week!

Reading Radar tends to focus on self-published and crowdfunded projects, especially by authors who have not had huge exposure in the market. This week, I look at two more works I want to read – and I think you should check them out too!

InksharesKingdom of Dreams by Kevin O’Coffey

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This one has pictures – by the author, no less! If I could draw, I’d be doing something very similar to what O’Coffey is doing with Kingdom of Dreams. The byline gives it a nice, weird feel right from the start: “Nightmares that eradicate bullies, possessed vacuum cleaners that bestow binding quests of kingdoms torn asunder. Adolescents have many normal problems–these are not.”

O’Coffey is adding illustrations in with the text, turning this into a mix of graphic novel and standard novel. The pictures I’ve seen so far only add to the surreal, creepy, but perhaps not-too-serious vibe suggested by the byline.

The story is about Jimmy Reve, a boy who just wants his bullies to go away. One day, the bullies start to disappear, one by one, and Jimmy realizes his problems are much worse than he thought. He is introduced to the Kingdom of Dreams, and has to find a way to fix the damage he has caused – or he will disappear next.

This work is currently seeking backers. I usually toss in $10 to one Inkshares book each month, and I think this will be my choice for December. Check it out – I think this project deserves a proper chance.

Website Visitor – Soul Siphon by James Harrington

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This book appeared on my radar thanks to a visitor to my website! I tracked down a like for a previous post, and found that James Harrington’s latest book is Soul Siphon, and that it came out last April on Amazon. So I decided to give the preview a read.

This book has a cool premise – good enough to keep me interested through the free preview. The story follows Corban, a man who was possessed by a demon and who died as a result. He is brought back to life by a mysterious figure and joins others who have been mysteriously resurrected. From the looks of it, these once-dead characters have mystical powers based on how they died. It seems they have been recruited into fighting evil beings – but honestly, it’s a bit hard to tell where this story is going from the preview.

The writing is a bit clunky, with a lot of tell where there could be show. Entire paragraphs are written in the past perfect tense, describing backstory without allowing the reader to experience the events. The prose could use tightening – a lot of sentences could be shorter and simpler. The worldbuilding and detail seem interesting enough to merit a full read, however, so I’ll give it a shot.

That’s it for Reading Radar this week. What are you reading?


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“North of Reality” – Weird & Funny short fiction by Uel Aramcheck

I was looking around Web Fiction Guide today, searching for hidden gems…

I think I found one!

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I’ve been reading a lot of serial and web fiction lately, but North of Reality by Uel Aramcheck is different from most.

Rather than being a strict serial, it is a blog from the author’s imaginary realm – each piece is either a short story or an encyclopedic entry from another universe.

One of the best examples of the self-contained story entries is “Then Before If“- I loved how this piece plays around with the paradox that arises from knowing the future, and builds a rather poignant story around it.

My favorite encyclopedia entry so far  is “The Projectile Heart“, informing readers that humans can eject their hearts through their mouths in extreme situations (just like sea cucumbers vomiting up their insides).

I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve read from this site so far. Since each piece can be read on its own, it makes it a great site to stop by once every few days for a weird fiction fix.


jukepopMy next writing goal – have Chapter 10 of Far Flung ready for the next Tuesday Serial Collector!

First Impressions – Fade to Black by Tim McBain & L.T. Vargus

Awake in the Dark

Howdy! I’ve got a First Impression here. I’m looking at Fade to Black today because one of the authors contacted me and asked me to. Yeah, I do that kind of thing, when I can.

At the Amazon page for the Awake in the Dark series, I read the first chapters of Fade to Black by Tim McBain & L.T. Vargus.

It starts off with:

Any minute now a hooded man will come barreling out of nowhere and kill me.
So that sucks.
I know this because it has happened six times before. I wake up in this alley, hung from a post by a piece of rope lashed to one ankle, tied in a hangman’s knot. After several minutes of work, I pry my bonds free, and about thirty seconds after I hit the ground, this guy in a black hooded robe gives me a pretty bad case of death.

So that gives a pretty good idea of the “voice” of this work – witty, sardonic, and dark all mingled nicely. It’s a funny read with a quick pace, making for nice easy reading. The narrative is a little raw at times – I thought it could have been a bit crisper. There are few too many adjectives and adverbs for my critical eye, but the style can be justified as the main character’s storytelling. I thought some lines were trying too hard to be witty, but overall I appreciated the humour.

The story starts with a nicely intense sequence with Jeff Grobnagger running from someone trying to kill him. The reader learns that Jeff has run down this datrk alley before and has been killed already, six times before! The reader then finds out that Jeff passed out from a seizure while in a grocery store and had the dream or vision of his own grizzly death. Jeff is helped by Glenn, another customer at the store. Jeff, refusing to take an ambulance, instead accepts a ride to Glenn’s home.  Glenn thinks that Jeff’s seizures are a form of astral projection, and Glenn reveals that his missing daughter was involved with groups interested in magic and the occult.

This all happens in the first 2 chapters, so it’s a lot. I appreciate the fast pace, however I really thought it odd that Glenn reveals so much right away. It was a bit of a stretch to go from “I’ll help this guy who passed out” to “I’ll take him home” and then to “I’ll tell him everything about my missing daughter”. Sure, it gets the exposition out of the way quickly and gets the story going, but I would have appreciated a little more justification. (I have to admit – this might be part of the humour going straight over my head…)

Thanks to the fast pace and humour, this is a series I’ll definitely try out. At the very least, I’ll check out the first book in the series – it’s less than $1 for Kindle.

Other things I’ve learned from looking in to this:

  • Having a dirt cheap or free first book in your series is really effective
  • Never be afraid to contact bloggers / authors and ask them to check out your free sample
  • Make sure you have a free sample that rocks

Check out the Awake in the Dark Series on Amazon:

L.T. Vargus can be found at ltvargus.com

Tim McBain can be found on Twitter, @RealTimMcBain

First Impressions – The Watchmage of New York

While I work to get the next chapter of Far Flung out for next week, here’s a review of a book I’ve been checking out. This work started as a serial on Jukepop.com, and is now available on Amazon.com.

The Watchmage of Old New York by C.A. Sanders

(Yes, that’s an affiliate link. I checked the rules, should be okay!)

I read through the first two chapters on Jukepop and re-read them in the version I purchased from Amazon, and I must say – wow! This is an urban fantasy rich with detail and backstory to begin with, and in the final verison, it’s much deeper and even more detailed.

My very first thought when I read the descriptions of this book was “Steampunk Harry Dresden, nice!” Makes for a nice tagline to sell it, but it’s much deeper – even just from reading the beginning I can see that.

Our protagonist, Nathaniel, is an immortal Watchmage who lives in New York in an alternate 19th century. He’s charged with watching over fantasy beings who cross over into this world and try to live among humans. The first chapter does a wonderful job of setting up his backstory, describing his powers, and showing how he tends to use them.

The second chapter focuses on the police officer, Jonas, who works with the Watchmage, and thus provides even more detail on what life is like in this alternate world, as weell as giving the reader a hint what it’s like to work with someone who can conjure the elements at will.

I was sold on both characters right away, and needed to know more. I think it was the working of the worldbuilding into the characters’ first-person narratives that really got me into it. Details from real-world history are worked into the fantasy history to create a New York both familiar and strange.

I couldn’t find any major difficulties in what I’ve read so far. The writing is crisp, brisk, and obviously well-edited. Some readers might be put off by the amount of backstory and detail that comes into play, but I think it’s handled very well.

Go check it out!

The Watchmage of Old New York on Amazon.com

Official Site of C.A. Sanders

First Impressions – Conviction by M. Howalt

My attention turns to Conviction, another serial on Jukepop

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The author, M. Howalt, frequently replies to posts here (Hi! Always a pleasure to see you here!), so how could I not?

I’m now somewhere in the 5th installment of Conviction, and this post is about why you’ll want to check more of it out after the first chapter.

This story establishes a mood and a character very quickly, with the protagonist Iliya Radov trying to recover his memory in a horrible jail cell. As his cell is described, there are great little lines like “The paint and the plaster of his mind were crumbling, and it would be only a matter of time before he broke” that get the reader into this man’s head. At the end a bit of hope, a man who knows Iliya, and whom Illiya seems to have some fractured memory of. What does this man want? Illyia is an ‘Infantry Assault Wizard’? Such tantalizing clues!

It’s a lot to take in, but I think most readers will be drawn in by exactly that! I’ve kept on reading because of the mysteries and the simple narrative that navigates them quickly. That’s why I encourage you, dear reader, to check this out. Be sure to post your thoughts – let me know if you enjoyed Conviction as well!