Book Review: It’s All Fun and Games

its-all-fun-and-games-bookDave Barrett is a winner. He won the Nerdist Inkshares contest, sure, but more than that, he wrote a book that wins the hearts and minds of anyone who reads it. It’s All Fun and Games is the story of Allison, a normal girl dragged kicking and screaming into the world of Live Action Role Play. When a weekend of pretend fun becomes all too real, Allison and her friends will learn what they are really made of.

I like to call these sorts of books romps. It’s a YA novel, sure, but it’s so fast-paced and action-packed you don’t get any real time to learn more than the basics about your characters because they are too busy doing things. Those things in this case are fighting goblins and bandits, learning skills from the characters they are slowly starting to become, and figuring out that the way out is the way through.

I enjoyed this book. It was fun, pun intended, easy to read, and surprising in many ways — the greatest of which was the cliffhanger ending.  I only realized that the action was going to continue to ramp right up to the end when I looked down at my Kindle and saw there was only 7% left in the book but the characters were still busy adventuring. The most interesting bit I found was actually about Chuck, the group’s sneaky little rogue, who slides furthest into his character persona and uses those newfound instincts to help his party win the day. For the rest we don’t get much time to learn about them, and I felt a little hungry for more character by the end of the novel, especially in contrast to Chuck.

I recommend It’s All Fun and Games for anyone a fan of the Fantasy genre, YA readers who are looking for an exciting adventure, and those who are looking for a quick read while traveling.

Book Review: Asteroid Made of Dragons

Asteroid-Made-of-DragonsWith a title like Asteroid Made of Dragons, and a cover with a big ol’ eyeball staring me in the face, I just wasn’t sure what I was in for when I picked up this book. What I encountered was some of the richest figurative language in a fantasy book I’ve ever encountered, rich, complex characters at the peak of their development, and a storyline that veered left on me whenever I thought I knew I had it pinned.

Shortly put, this book is delightful on every level.

Throughout the tale I was reminded of Anthony’s Xanth series, particularly in the strange cast of characters you’re presented with. Only where Anthony falls flat on relatable characters and deep storytelling, Adams soars. It’s incredibly difficult to talk about what I liked best about the plot of this book without giving anything away, but suffice it to say story elements that seem to have been building from before this book (it is the last of a trilogy) were used expertly in this culmative title.

I did find myself wishing I had started at the beginning of the trilogy as I read this book, because there are moments where I feel elements were spoiled from the other two books. However now that I am going back and reading the first book, I sort of feel like I am getting a prequel story to the one I already know, and that is satisfying all on its own.

If you love fantasy, buy this book. If you love science fiction, buy this book. If you love treasure hunting and archaeology of lost civilizations, buy this book. If you love framed narratives, buy this book. If you love books, buy this book.

It should be no surprise if you’ve read thusfar to hear that this is now one of my top five favorite books of all time.

Inkshares Review: Dax Harrison

12241358_998757730183751_677454016536824773_nYesterday a bevvy of fellow Inkshares writers banded together to help promote our books and the service that hosts them. Dubbed by the illustrious Cara Weston, the inaugural Review-a-thon drew more than 170 reviews to currently funding projects on Inkshares.

During the Review-a-thon I got the opportunity to review a book I instantly fell in love with: Dax Harrison. This rolicking space opera is written by the incredibly talented Tony Valdez. Here’s a little bit about the book:

Commander Dax Harrison. Hero of the Alliance. Legendary soldier for the space age. …Schmuck.

A decade ago, Dax made his claim to fame in a decisive battle against the Carteagans, a ruthless alien race which waged war on humanity as we spread out into space. Dax cunningly destroyed the Carteagan’s greatest warship, signaling a turning point in the war and leading to humanity’s eventual victory.

Or so we’ve been told.

Ten years on, we join Dax as the anniversary of the ceasefire approaches. While career-wise he has faded into obscurity, the legend of Commander Harrison has grown immensely in the public eye through pulp stories and media based on exceedingly embellished versions of his exploits. Dax has not-so-humbly allowed himself to enjoy a bit of that fame (and a few royalty checks) while coasting into retirement on cushy assignments. But as he counts the days until he can disappear on a beach somewhere, naturally, fate has other plans.

A dangerous shadow from the past puts a wrench in Dax’s easygoing existence, and he is forced to finally live up to his legend, whether he likes it or not.

Dax is aided in his adventure by an unorthodox but trusty crew. Good thing, because he’ll need all the help he can get! To name a few: a bad-ass female 2nd in command, an enthusiastic fanboy cadet, a mechanical whiz kid, a crotchety old doctor and more!

This book is just as good as it sounds, so what follows is my review of Dax Harrison.  If you are at all a fan of science fiction, you really need to preorder this book.  It’s in its last week of funding, so make sure you jump on this quickly!

To prove how much I like this book, here’s my review of Dax Harrison by Tony Valdez:

Humorous space opera at its finest, Dax Harrison tells the story of a washed up former hero that gets pulled back into saving the universe just months before his much-longed-for retirement.

The four chapters I read gave me a brief glimpse into a vibrant-yet-grounded world that feels incredibly authentic, despite being set in the far future.  There’s something incredibly believable about Dax and his merchandise empire built around his likeness.  He’s treated the way we treat our sports stars, throwing endorsement deals at them and making movies about them.  Only in this case Dax is known for saving the galaxy.

The third chapter is a little incongruous as its just a series of out of context notes which I assume are from the larger story.  I feel that in this case I’m getting spoiled on story beats in the writer’s attempt to share with us some of his best writing — and in a story I care about, like this one, I would rather come across these gems in context and not be spoiled.

Dax Harrison reads like a combination of Firefly, Captain America, and the Stainless Steel Rat.  It’s funny, irreverent, and incredibly fast-paced.  Anyone who loves humor, science-fiction, and relatable characters really should preorder this book because it gives you all of these in spades.


Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

night-circusTitle: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Publisher: Anchor Books

Publication Date: July 1, 2012

Amazon Page

Rating: 5/5 stars

Recommended to: Lovers of fantasy, fans of magical realism, readers who wish to fall in love with vibrant characters.

I had heard about this book in reading circles for a while, but it wasn’t until it was selected as the November book in my book club that I really got a chance to sit down and read it.

I have to say I was completely enchanted by the world of this book, but it was the bravery of point of view that first piqued my interest.  This book slides from second person to third person throughout the novel, and as a writer I know how difficult it is to write in second person so I was immediately impressed.

Morgenstern creates a mysterious world you want to know more about, and much like the night circus itself, the book unfolds it’s mysteries one act at a time.  At the heart of the book is a simple premise:  Two magicians challenge each other to a game where they pit their apprentices against one another until one is deemed the victor.  The story is much richer than the sum of its parts though, and by the end of the tale you are as invested in the characters within the story as you are in the magical circus itself.

Thematically I would summarize this book as “the Prestige meets Romeo and Juliet,” but on the spectrum of Shakespearean plays, this would fall much closer to the comedy end of the continuum than the tragedy.