Sorry for the Random Silence

It’s been two weeks since I posted anything and I think I owe you guys at least an explanation for that, seeing as I dropped off the face of the internet with no warning whatsoever.

Essentially, things got very, very stressful for me at work as I had to take on more and more responsibilities (including training the new employees) and I just couldn’t find time to read.  I just didn’t have my heart in my blog and I didn’t want to keep posting half-arsed articles that were essentially meaningless.  So I didn’t post anything.  I’m not sorry that I didn’t post but I am sorry that I didn’t warn you guys about it since you deserve at least an explanation for my random disappearance (especially since some of you emailed me with quite a bit of concern).

Basically: things got stressful and I made the decision to drop the ball.  I’m picking it up again now and I’m ready to get back into the game, where I feel like I belong.  I’ve missed posting here on the blog these past two weeks and I’ve really missed the awesome community I’ve built up here.  I can’t wait to get back to that!

Thanks for staying with me!  In the future I’ll at least warn you before I go incommunicado.

Dragonlove by Marc Secchia

Dragonlove by Marc Secchia(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

When a woman loves a Dragon, that love will change the world.

Six years have passed since Hualiama and Grandion defied the Island-World’s most sacred law. They burned the heavens together as Rider and Dragon. For his crime, Grandion the Tourmaline Dragon suffered exile and imprisonment. The Dragons forced Hualiama to forget her past.

Now, the suns must set upon the age of the Ancient Dragons. Amaryllion Fireborn, last of his kind, bequeaths Hualiama an astonishing legacy. She is the Dragonfriend. Raised by Dragons. Burned by Dragon fire. Oath-bound to a Dragon. Crossing the Island-World in search of her Dragonlove, she will forge an indelible mark upon history.

As war between Dragons and Humans engulfs the Islands, Hualiama must unravel the secrets of her tragic past in order to confront an evil that threatens the very existence of the Dragonkind. For love that is tested in the crucible of fate must burn, or die.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received an ebook ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

In the beginning of Dragonlove, Hualiama is definitely not herself.  Or, rather, she’s not the person she was six years ago when she and Grandion put down a coup on Fra’anior led by her own father, Ra’aba and the dragons.  Normally, this would not shock readers because this second book takes place a full six years after those events.  Of course people change!  But what’s missing is Hualiama’s pure love and determination when it comes to Grandion, the Dragon that she defied sacred law for.  At the end of Dragonfriend, Hualiama had her memories wiped by the powerful Amaryllion Fireborn in an attempt to make things easier for her by not letting her remember that she and Grandion were in love, not just friends.  But before his death here in Dragonlove, Amaryllion restores those memories and sets Hualiama on a quest that will irrevocably change the Island World.

As with before, Hualiama is an amazing character.  With her memories back her love for Grandion is just as strong as ever and she’s willing to not only defy sacred law but defy Dragons for it.  She goes to the ends of the Island World during an all-out Dragon war in order to find him, risking death at every turn.  At the same time, despite her love for Grandion, Hualiama most definitely has her doubts at times.  What if Grandion will never forgive her for abandoning him to the will of the Dragon Elders council, who set him an impossible quest that he would have to complete in order to restore his honour?  Can the Island World ever forgive Grandion and Hualiama for profaning the sacred laws by daring to become Dragon and Dragon Rider?  The answers aren’t straightforward and Hualiama goes through so much on her quest as she learns about her past and about Dragonkind in general.  She also learns that not only did Amaryllion give her his inner fire before he died, she carries a darker power within her from her erstwhile caretaker Ianthine.  I don’t want to give too much away, but Hualiama’s inner powers that she discovers along her journey are part of how she changes the Island World forever.  Particularly with the ruzal, the power that binds magic to words and allows practitioners of it to shape the very world that they live in.

The plot of Dragonlove was absolutely amazing.  Not only is it driven by memorable characters like Hualiama and Grandion, it has many, many twists and turns.  For example, the introduction of some new dragon subspecies, ones that are seemingly either extinct or hidden by Pip’s and Aranya’s times in the other series.  We also learn quite a bit about magic and human magic-users like Hualiama and others who harness the magic drifting all around the Island World.  And of course there’s a huge surprise at the end of the novel during the final battle that sets up the third and final book, Dragonsoul.  (Well, there’s actually more than one surprise at the end if I’m honest but one was more earth-shattering than the other.)  Even though Dragonlove is slightly over 500 pages, you’re also never bored because Marc Secchia keeps it fairly fast-paced throughout.  The beginning is a little slow as Hualiama re-learns about Grandion and sets off on her quest to find him, but things quickly get interesting when she finally finds him and discovers he’s not the same person (Dragon?) he was six years ago either.

One of the things I’ve liked about Marc Secchia’s books is that he always has a realistic view of war.  There are a lot of wars going on currently in Hualiama’s world between not only Dragonkind and humans but Dragonkind and itself.  He presents a picture of war that is of sheer brutality and strife.  Civilians are caught unwittingly in the crosshairs or, worse, are deliberately targeted by one or both sides as a way to gain an advantage over the other side.  What’s most realistic of all is that no one really comes out unscathed from these wars.  Without giving too much away, Grandion himself has physically changed in a very drastic way.  Hualiama has scars all over her body not only from when her own father tried to kill her but also the myriad burns and scrapes she acquired amongst Dragonkind.  Neither Dragon nor Rider escapes the psychological implications either.  And that brings me to the larger point I’m trying to make here: for all that this is fantasy, Marc Secchia has a dedication to truth.  He brings to life three dimensional characters with realistic motivations and places them in a world governed not only by magic, but by natural laws as well.  The technology present in all of his books is well thought out and there are even laws governing the use of magic that place restrictions on even the Dragons.  And best of all in my view, he’s practically invented Dragon anatomy as a hobby so he can bring these mythical creatures to life in a consistent and dare I say realistic way.

Basically, I absolutely adored Dragonlove and will eagerly await the third book in the trilogy, Dragonsoul.  This second book had everything I expected and more: memorable characters, a fast-paced plot, lots of twists and turns and world-building of the highest calibre.  You really can’t go wrong with the Dragonfriend Trilogy.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble*     Goodreads     Powell’s*

*Unavailable.

Book Blast: Dragonlove by Marc Secchia

For love that is tested in the crucible of fate must burn, or die…
 
Publication Date: August 15, 2015
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Series: Dragonfriend #2

When a woman loves a Dragon, that love will change the world.

Six years have passed since Hualiama and Grandion defied the Island-World’s most sacred law. They burned the heavens together as Rider and Dragon. For his crime, Grandion the Tourmaline Dragon suffered exile and imprisonment. The Dragons forced Hualiama to forget her past.

Now, the suns must set upon the age of the Ancient Dragons. Amaryllion Fireborn, last of his kind, bequeaths Hualiama an astonishing legacy. She is the Dragonfriend. Raised by Dragons. Burned by Dragon fire. Oath-bound to a Dragon. Crossing the Island-World in search of her Dragonlove, she will forge an indelible mark upon history.

As war between Dragons and Humans engulfs the Islands, Hualiama must unravel the secrets of her tragic past in order to confront an evil that threatens the very existence of the Dragonkind. For love that is tested in the crucible of fate must burn, or die.

Marc is a South African-born author who lives and works in Ethiopia with his wife and 4 children, 2 dogs, a rabbit, and a variable number of marabou storks that roost on the acacia trees out back. On a good night there are also hyenas patrolling the back fence.


When he’s not writing about Africa Marc can be found travelling to remote locations. He thinks there’s nothing better than standing on a mountaintop wondering what lies over the next horizon.



 

Poll: What kind of eReader do you own?

It seems like now almost every book blogger and/or author owns an ereader.  People like me own an ereader for convenience as a book blogger but still prefer paperbacks.  Others have almost exclusively switched to ebooks.  However you like to read, it doesn’t really matter.  What I’m curious about is this: what kind of ereader do you own?

If you do own an ereader, let us know what kind in the comments as well!  Are you happy with it?  Would you buy another one from that particular brand or would you try to switch over to a different kind?  (i.e. from a Kindle to a Kobo or would you try one of the less popular ones like a PocketBook?)

Omega Days by John L. Campbell

Omega Days by John L. Campbell(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

When the end came, it came quickly. No one knew where or exactly when the Omega Virus started, but soon it was everywhere. And when the ones spreading it can’t die, no one stands a chance of surviving.

San Francisco, California. Father Xavier Church has spent his life ministering to unfortunate souls, but he has never witnessed horror like this. After he forsakes his vows in the most heartrending of ways, he watches helplessly as a zombie nun takes a bite out of a fellow priest’s face…
University of California, Berkeley. Skye Dennison is moving into her college dorm for the first time, simultaneously excited to be leaving the nest and terrified to be on her own. When her mother and father are eaten alive in front of her, she realizes the terror has just begun…
Alameda, California. Angie West made millions off her family’s reality gun show on the History Channel. But after she is cornered by the swarming undead, her knowledge of heavy artillery is called into play like never before…
Within weeks, the world is overrun by the walking dead. Only the quick and the smart, the strong and the determined, will survive—for now.

[Full disclosure: I received a free paperback at Book Expo America 2015 with no expectation of a review.]

One of the things I have to make clear from the start is that this is not the original ebook that some other people have reviewed.  This is the new, expanded paperback edition that was published by Penguin under their Berkley imprint.  I don’t know how many differences there really are between the two editions but apparently there are a few more little points of view to add interest and some tightening of certain narratives in a couple of places.  In the relative scheme of things, I think the few distinctions don’t really matter all that much.

First, let’s start off with the characters.  We have a huge variety of characters from your typical college student who turns into a killing machine to a reality TV show star who has a fully stocked arsenal of guns.  And while Skye and Angie are fascinating characters, one of the characters that isn’t really your typical ‘stock character’ in a zombie apocalypse is Xavier, the priest.  He is definitely an unconventional priest coming from a very rough background but at the same time he really does seem to care about all of the survivors he meets.  For a while he loses his faith (who wouldn’t?) but then toward the end of the novel we start to see a sort of transformation in him as he learns that perhaps all is not hopeless, despite the devastation around him.

One of the things I found very realistic is that people in the Omega universe actually knew about zombies.  It’s not like Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy where people immediately knew what to do with zombies, but they did make occasional references to zombies in popular culture.  Another thing I appreciated was that although the government of the United States fell fairly quickly, independent pockets of the military managed to cling on and try to rescue as many people as they could.  That’s more realistic in my view than a total collapse of everything as surely there would be some military units out there with a strong enough chain of command to hold people together during a crisis, even one as big as a zombie apocalypse.  And throughout the story we see the points of view of various peoples who survive in various ways: doctors whose hospitals were mostly overrun but were protected by the military for a time while they worked on a cure, a Russian military pilot sent to train American soldiers, a crazy televangelist who is about as ruthless as you might expect, etc.  Some of these people play large parts in the story while others only get a single point of view before dying or just passing from notice.  It’s a very realistic look into how different people would cope during a nationwide disaster like a zombie apocalypse.

Which brings me to one thing: the plot.  Normally you would expect all of these points of view to really slow down the plot or make it confusing.  Omega Days really didn’t have that problem, oddly enough.  The little side stories were nice and were short enough that they didn’t take away from the main plot as the different pockets of survivors converged.  They also imparted important information regarding how the military and governmental structures fell and what doctors and scientists were able to find out about the Omega Virus and zombies in general before most of the hospitals were overrun.  I think it will be very interesting in future books to see Campbell expand upon the idea that the zombies aren’t just infected with one virus, they have two different viruses working in tandem.  I would love to gush on about this very different idea of making zombies come to life (so to speak) but I’ll leave that for you to discover as you read the book.

Basically, Omega Days really was a pleasant surprise.  A lot of zombie books read the same or are shameless rip-offs of The Walking Dead, what with its current popularity.  But Omega Days is really different and I appreciated all of the different points of view John L. Campbell wove together into a coherent narrative that told the story of the zombie apocalypse.  I can’t say that this book is the most amazing I’ve ever read but it is very well written, with interesting characters and plenty of suspense.  You can’t go wrong with that.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Goodreads     Powell’s

Long Weekend!

Today it’s the long weekend and I really don’t feel like doing anything so I’m taking the day off.  If you’re Canadian, enjoy your long weekend as well!  If you’re like the majority of my readership and aren’t Canadian, then try to have an adequate or even great Monday.  (Yeah, I know, Mondays are the worst.)

Lazy Sundays: Posting Inconsistencies

I know my posting hasn’t been the most consistent lately.  It’s partly because of a project I’m working on that’s unrelated to my blog that’s sucking up a lot of my time but also partly because I’m not feeling quite my best.  No, it’s not an infection on my tonsil beds or anything serious like that.  I’m just feeling tired all of the time and a little sick to my stomach if I engage in too much activity at once.  On Friday I had a fever in the morning so I think it’s just a minor viral thing.  It should pass and I’m already starting to feel a little better.  It’s just really taking the energy out of me.

I hope you guys are having a much better Sunday!