Wednesday, October 24, 2012

CSFF Blog Tour: The Spirit Well by Stephen R. Lawhead -Review

This month, the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring The Spirit Well by Stephen R. Lawhead. The Spirit Well is the third book in the Bright Empires series. If you'd like to read my review of The Skin Map, the first book in the series, you can find it here. My review of the second book, The Bone House, can be found here.
The Spirit Well picks up where The Bone House left off. I won't say much about the plot for fear of spoiling it for those who haven't read the other two books yet. However, I will say that it involves ley lines, travel across space and time, and the search for an unusual map that is said to lead to the mysterious Spirit Well.
What I really liked about The Spirit Well is that it started to become more clear how various characters, places, and events in the books were related to each other. Some of my favorite stories are the ones where everything turns out to be connected. It's starting to look like the Bright Empires series is going to be one of those stories.
It bothered me that a few plot threads seemingly got dropped before they had been resolved. But I guess that's the nature of ley travel. The characters are sometimes pulled from a world or time without warning, leaving unfinished business behind them. I suppose real life can be like that sometimes too. Hopefully anything important will be picked up and tied back in by the end of the final book. I trust Stephen R. Lawhead to handle the many pieces well.
Revisiting characters I'd come to like and know in the first two books was fun. They were further developed in The Spirit Well and I got to see more of what drives them. A few new characters were also introduced, and they were all unique and interesting. Mina is still my favorite though. I like her common sense, bravery, and kindness.
I can't believe I'll have to wait for two more books before I find out how this all ends. I was frustrated with the wait, but then I realized that my impatience was a sign of a good story. Stephen R. Lawhead's Bright Empires series has me hooked.
If you like history, science fiction, and multiple realities, you should read this book. But first you should read the ones that come before it. I have a feeling you'll get pulled into the story just like I was.
If you'd like to read what other people on the CSFF Blog Tour are saying about The Spirit Well, you can find links to their blogs on the right of the page.
In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fathom by Merrie Destefano -Review

Wow! Every book Merrie Destefano writes is even better than the last. I loved the books she wrote before, but Fathom is unquestionably my favorite of her stories. The characters, plot, and world are all well-developed and they sucked me right in. I spent almost an entire day immersed in Fathom, and I didn't want to leave when it ended.

Fathom's characters feel real and true-to-life. They're complicated and fascinating, and their interactions are full of life and depth. I like that Fathom avoids cliches in the characters' relationships. Everything is fresh and more like real life in that nothing is black and white. Relationships in the book aren't simple, but they are more interesting and meaningful because of that.

I didn’t guess where the plot was going right away, which I always appreciate. I didn’t see revelations or twists coming until it was almost time or until they’d already snuck up on me. Nothing was predictable, but it all made sense when it happened. I love it when I find a book like that.

Merrie chooses just the right words to create a vivid atmosphere for Fathom. The story is full of magic, danger, mystery, beauty, and legend. The world Merrie has created for Fathom is just as rich as its characters. It was so fun to watch layer after layer unfold as the story progressed.

And because I almost always mention in my reviews who my favorite character was, for those who are curious, this time it was Caleb.

I immensely enjoyed Fathom, and I hope we get to further explore its world someday in more stories.

Fathom will be released as an ebook on October 1st.

Waiting for Midnight by Merrie Destefano -Review

Waiting for Midnight by Merrie Destefano is my favorite collection of short stories that I’ve read. Each story was unique, was told well, and had a satisfying ending. The collection consists of six short stories, two stories told in three acts, and eight flash fiction stories.

“Dog Boy,” the first of the short stories, tells the tale of a werewolf and of a priest’s struggle for redemption. The imagery makes you feel like you’re right there with the characters.

“In the Garden” is probably my favorite story in Waiting for Midnight. It’s told from an unusual point of view, but Merrie does an excellent job of getting the reader to identify with the main character. I was impressed with all the small details she thought of and the beauty and emotions she was able to evoke through her words. “In the Garden” explores life, death, and love from a new perspective, and it will really stick with you.

“Afterlife: Chasing Spring-Heeled Jack” is about Chaz from Merrie’s book Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles. It takes place in a future world where people can download into new bodies when they die. The world is well developed, with its own slang, laws, and technology. Despite all the new concepts and terms, it’s easy to follow what’s happening and get sucked into this fascinating, dangerous world.

“Feast: Learning to Hunt” is about the character Ash from Merrie’s book Feast: Harvest of Dreams. This story was another favorite of mine. I’ve found the Darklings from the book fascinating, so it was fun to be able to see more of their lives and how they work. In this story, Ash learns from his father how to hunt in seventeenth-century Amsterdam. The writing is beautiful and feels like the magic inherent in this story.

“Letters from Home” contains some of the most imaginative settings, characters, and situations in this collection. I loved all the unique ideas Merrie came up with for this story and she did a great job of describing everything and painting a clear picture in my mind. It’s a touching story of how far a mother’s love will go for her errant child.

“Waiting for Midnight” is a ghost story but not in the creepy sense. It has more of a wild, magical feel to it. It explores themes like passion and obsession and what comes of them. The imagery Merrie used in this story is lovely and vivid.

“Charlie Brown Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” is the first of the stories told in three acts. It’s a light-hearted, funny tale of a dog and a coyote shown from the animals’ perspective.

“The Great Gray Cubicle” captures the bleak outlook of a person trapped in a soul-wearying job. It’s told from the second-person point of view, and it’s done so smoothly that you hardly even notice.

“Thursday” begins the section of flash fiction in Waiting for Midnight. It imagines a time in our future where ominous changes are made to the world. “Breathtaking” draws you into the main character and the terrible things happening to him. “Dirty Jobs” is an imaginative envisioning of the entrance to hell. “Heads or Tails” sticks with the theme of the previous story, portraying a demon and his favorite way to torment the human he’s assigned to. “Rolling Away” is told from another unusual perspective, and once again, Merrie does a great job of portraying how that character might see the world. “Sentimental Ending” explores what ifs and has a fun twist to it. “Chiaroscuro” is all about images and lives up to its name amazingly well. “Just So” explores the life of an ordinary person, and the writing matches the title well in its preciseness.

Each of these stories is strong and draws the reader into its world and characters. They’re filled with beauty, magic, and emotion, and they all feature relatable characters, intricate settings, and satisfying—or intriguing—endings. If you’re looking for something that will immerse you in stories that capture your imagination, I recommend Waiting for Midnight.