Holli is one of the Space Balrogs, a group of local Utah authors I love. I got to know Holli at LTUE this year. She is pure awesome and really really nice. I decided to check out the first book in her paranormal YA series, published with Curiosity Quills Press, and I’m excited today to review Five–Out of the Dark.
Five follows a girl named Paige and her group of friends: Alec, Seth, Halli, and the boy she grows close to named Johnathan. Displaced or run away from their homes due to their magical abilities, the children find each other one by one. They embark on adventures to explore their powers and find opportunities to use them for good by contending with goblins, demons, and other various ghoulish disturbances to humanity. This ultimately leads them to a high school with a string of unusual suicides, and a mysterious plot to take over humanity. The teens also discover a magical mentor who informs them they aren’t just any haphazard gathering of kids with magical inclinations, but the next generation of “Five” who are tasked with protecting mankind from the forces of evil.
This story is a fun adventure with plenty of fantasy action, a mystery to solve, intriguing paranormal elements, and teen romance. I enjoyed the characters. The main characters each had their own distinct personalities that created fun dynamics for the group both in battle with the supernatural and as they drew together in simple matters of everyday survival. There is an intriguing subplot in which Johnathan (Paige’s love interest) must wrestle with an evil transformation that besets him after a changeling bites him. Paige pays a heavy, heart-wrenching price at the end to free Johnathan from his curse. I also liked the dark paranormal mystery twist Holli Anderson created in her depiction of high school life.
Lovers of YA fantasy and YA paranormal are sure to enjoy this opening installment in what promises to be an entertaining series.
*If you’ve read Five and loved it, you might also be interested in my review of YA fantasy Vivatera.
Dave Butler is one of my author heros. LTUE 2014 was my fist year as a writing panelist. If Dave hadn’t encouraged me to get in touch with the organizers of that event, and invited me to join his table of stellar indie authors for that and several subsequent events, I may not have known or engaged in the opportunities to network, sell, and panel that have really bolstered my confidence and grown my audience as an author. He also gave me valuable feedback on my manuscript of Maladaptive Bind before I published the novel edition. Dave is just an all-around awesome guy–and a fabulous salesman to boot. He began as an independently published author, and has recently had a number of his titles picked up by Wordfire Press, including his YA post-apocalyptic thriller Crecheling. I’m very excited for Dave and wish him the best of luck with his new publisher.
I’ve had this book on my physical bookshelf in its indie form for over a year, and decided to pick up Wordfire’s Kindle edition for my phone to read to me at work. I am far past due for reviewing this book, and so excited that I was finally able to read/listen to it.
Crecheling follows the intense story of a young girl named Dyan who must ritualistically kill another “child” or teenager her age named Jak from a lower pastoral class. This boy along with four other teens were deemed too smart for their caste, and therefore too much of a threat to the order of the System. All children raised in upper-class Creches (Creches being groups of children raised together by a “Magistrate” rather than in family units like the lower classes) must join the blood cult of the Urbane class to be inducted into the System–or else become outcasts and outlaws of open rebellion to be “captured or killed” if they refuse. More often, these upper-class people who attempt to flee the System are killed, it seems.
The reward for Dyan and her Crechemates in proving their loyalty to the System through such drastic means is induction into Urbane adulthood and their desired roles in society. (Dyan wants only to be a full-time daycare worker or “Magistrate” at that–an occupation of nurture and compassion rather than brutality). Everything goes wrong, of course when the boys and girls Dyan and her Chrechemates are ordered to kill decide to retaliate–and killing was not at all what she thought would be expected of her.
The central concept I took away from Crehceling was a rather profound exploration of the idea that families are fundamental units of society. In a fictional civilization where families are all but done away, the romantic subplot between Dyan and Jak (as many YA books feature a romantic subplot) results in their beautifully mature resolution to join together as “man and good wife” to create their own family in utter defiance of the System’s grooming. This strikes me as a clever and thought-provoking trope twist. Wrapped up nicely with this progression are other significant revelations about the power of family ties that could not be stifled by the System that come to light toward the end of the book.
The story is bloody with many character-personal casualties (few expendables were slaughtered, which I like). It also features these highly creative “monofilament” whips that can cut a person in half with a single lash. I found these to be the most intriguing–and terrifying–technological features of Butler’s brutal world. As a geologist, I also loved adventuring through the milieu of deserts and canyons scorched by heat.
Butler has created a rich post-apocalyptic world with strong characters. The action-packed plot is full of twists that will keep you on the edge of your seat. If you’re a fan of YA dystopia and post-apocalyptic fiction, put this on your reading list. It is fantastic.
You can buy Crecheling on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Crecheling-Buza-System-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00TZ7TEP6
Or at Barnes and Noble here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/crecheling-d-j-butler/1117499120?ean=9781614753032.
Audible and iTunes have made listening to recorded books affordable and fun the past six months or so as I’ve taken advantage of these digital services. I’ve also been using a Mac program called GhostReader Plus to convert the DRM-free stock of my Kindle collection to audio. This allows me to return reads while I’m at work performing quality control audits on rolls of microfilm and such (I’ve been working for Ancestry.com as an archival digitization specialist for a little shy of a year now). When I’m finished with a story, I go to Amazon and Goodreads (sometimes Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Audible, etc.) to write reviews for fellow authors.
I consider myself an aural learner, so listening to books works well for me. I have a hard time making myself sit down to read “for fun.” Thus I find I’m more likely to focus and finish if someone, or technology, is reading to me. I enjoy hearing a narrator’s interpretation of the text. I also love the timbres and rhythms of spoken word in much the same way I enjoy listening to music.
There are some books I’ve read/listened to lately that I really like. While I’ve focused mostly on reviews for authors I know or share an acquaintance with on my blog, I’d like to branch out content-wise and simply share what I like about a handful of other stories and what I’ve gleaned from them.
Today I’m going to start with Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
I think I was ten years old when I first tried to read this book. I’m not sure why this book was presented to me at that age–the subject matter is dark and disturbing enough on an adult level I probably wouldn’t think to recommend it to children myself. None of the characters in this story demonstrates particularly noble desires or qualities (except maybe Simon). I’d neither want to be any of the protagonists nor be friends with any of them (a storytelling quality that would have been essential to my childhood and teenage pallets). This is very much an adult horror story. But hey! *Shrug*
I remembered bits and pieces of the characters and events from the first time I read this. As a kid, I considered the story confusing, dense, and…well, I think I bounced around to get the main scenes but didn’t actually read the whole thing (though I may have written a school report on it ;-). I decided to go back and read/listen to this book again last week. I’ve made frequent enough references to Lord of the Flies in conversations lately that I wanted to solidify my understanding beyond the mere gist of what I thought the story was about.
Coming to this story with an adult perspective, I enjoy it immensely. The milieu descriptions are exceedingly dense, but the distillation of what I like to think of as the “natural man” (Mosiah 3: 19) is harrowing and insightfully executed. Golding explained in the reading of his story that part of his goal was to show the natural rise and fall of societies. Others have suggested this story describes the male psyche and social behavior in particular. It met my expectations on both fronts (though I can only comment on the male psyche as an outside observer with immense esteem for and curiosity about the mind, behaviors, and inclinations of the opposite sex from myself).
I felt this story gave persuasive and meaningful perspective to the concept of “savage” vs. “civilized.” Humans are not nice to each other. Boys are not nice to each other. (Girls aren’t nice to each other either, but it tends to manifest less in physical confrontations and more in subtler forms of manipulation). It’s natural to be impatient with someone or leave someone behind who may have physical or emotional challenges. That individual might weird us out (are they dangerous?), or they may not be able to contribute to the group the way others can and it becomes difficult to decide what’s fair.
We’re attracted to health and beauty and repulsed by their opposites.
It’s natural to be angry, jealous, or wounded when we’re taken advantage of, abandoned, lost, rejected, deposed, shamed, punished, etc. It’s natural to conform to the group under the duress of pain, terrorism, self-preservation, or even the loneliness of exile. Society tends to settle toward tyranny over anarchy because, even if circumstances are unpleasant, humans prefer some sense of social stability and unity over the chaos of every-man-for-himself.
“Natural” does not mean “good” (or “bad,” per say). Rather, it is a state of feeling, of being, of inclination. We have to choose to reach beyond our fears, wounds, and appetites to defend, nurture, understand, and edify each other. Otherwise we could fall into great evil as we become swept up in social machines. This is the great challenge we face as highly sophisticated social creatures who are capable of moral thought. Lord of the Flies narrates how and why the human condition can go so horribly wrong–due to the sheer inclinations of humanity itself.
I think this is an extremely powerful and fascinating story that describes the dark side of human nature, and I’m glad I took the time to read it anew.
What are your thoughts on Lord of the Flies and the human condition? Feel free to share briefly in the comments.
For any interested persons, you can find the Lord of the Flies audiobook on Audible here:
Or the Kindle edition here:
Another Xchyler author, R. M. Ridley is dedicating the release sales of his latest short story collection, Blondes, Books, & Burbon to help Alyson Grauer and her family. Please check out R. M. Ridley’s release today and help out a great cause!
Here is the link for the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1556534081284093/.
There will also be an opportunity to win R. M. Ridley’s White Dragon Black series in addition to supporting a great cause by tweeting or sharing #BBBBookBomb and http://bit.ly/BBBonAMZ to enter.
If you’d like more information on the Grauer fund, here is a direct link to their donation page: https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/y1v7/mr-grauer-s-cancer-fund.
Xchyler Publishing is hosting a special book bomb today for my author friend, Aly Grauer. Please consider supporting her and her father by purchasing a copy of her fabulous steampunk title, “On the Isle of Sound and Wonder” during the online event.
See the flyer below for details.
To buy the book, follow the Amazon link here: http://bit.ly/OISWonAMZ
If you’d rather donate, here’s a direct link to the family’s donation site: http://bit.ly/GrauerFund
Thank you! And my heartfelt best wishes go out to the Grauer family!