Thursday, July 20, 2017

Southern Dust by Caspar Vega

35122700
(this cover is lovely but slightly misleading, as the story takes place in the near future)

Title: Southern Dust

Author: Caspar Vega
Number of Pages: 228
Genre: Pulp / Thriller (I guess...)
Buy: Amazon

Favorite line from the book: "You need light to fight the dark. It's the oldest story in the book."

What Goodreads has to say (with my interspersed comments):

Gretchen Walker: A Southern belle living an idyllic life in the newly independent Alabama; worrying about the upcoming cotillion, and hoping more than anything to find a dapper young suitor from a good family. Might she end up getting more than she bargained for? [yes, she definitely will - run now, Gretchen]

The Governor: The enigmatic leader responsible for achieving the aforementioned independence. [did I mention he's slightly crazy?]

Roger Conaway: An enforcer trying to make a clean break. When his boss tells him a friend's daughter has gone missing, can Roger find the girl and get out of the game while he still has a shard of innocence left? [sadly, no]

Dominic White: An obsessive Hornbuster overcome with grief; recovering from a nervous breakdown, and actively seeking revenge for his murdered sister. [when he's not chilling on the couch for days at a time]

Discover their interconnected stories in this diesel-fueled, black magic powered, vampire-creating extravaganza! [extravaganza is a good word for it]

What I have to say:

OK, wow, where to start? This is a weird story. And I don't mean that in a bad way, because I generally think weird is awesome. There's just no denying this story is definitely weird.

We've got a Southern belle getting tangled up with the young, attractive governor of Alabama, who may be crazy? (I thought he was crazy, but the aforementioned Southern belle was apparently crazy about him, so go figure). We've also got a Captain America type of experiment gone wrong (as in hairy vampire wrong), and a freelance law enforcer/assassin with serious mental health problems. Oh yeah, and black magic - don't forget that one.

All taking place in a post-Trump America in which Alabama has declared independence (go them). And bloodshed abounds. Also some characters with seriously psycho relationship issues.


The narrative structure of Southern Dust is very well done (with one exception which I'll get to later). The story is told through the eyes of four characters, each getting their own vignette. So in essence it's more like four interconnected short stories, each with its own protagonist and plot arc. Vega does a great job getting inside the characters' heads and presenting vastly different personalities. 

My favorite narrative voice was the last one (Dominic White), whose life philosophy cracked me up and reminded me - on a much less drastic scale - of myself. My favorite quote is this one: 


"I'm a procrastinator and a lazy person by nature. However, I require the laziness for greatness."

Basically, he can only handle one event a day. So if he works out one day, that's it. He gets to sit on the couch for the rest of the day and chill. Or if he goes grocery shopping for the day, or does a job for work, or goes out with his nephew - ditto. Rest of the day: canceled.

I had a harder time connecting with the Governor, who seemed like an all around irate guy who was born thinking he was better than everyone else and never changed his mind. But hey, it takes all kinds to make an independent Southern, vampire-super-soldier, black magic world, right? (And I mean literally all kinds).

Here's my one beef with the narrative structure: I would have liked to get more of Gretchen's story. She only gets one chapter at the beginning of the book, and I was just starting to connect with her when we jumped into the Governor's diary and never came out again. Gretchen's story ended too abruptly, I felt. Plus, I think, since we get three stories from men's perspectives (though, oddly enough, they all seem to center on women, which I find very interesting), it would have been nice to get a full vignette from Gretchen's perspective. Or, if not that, maybe come back to her for one chapter at the end, which would add some narrative consistency.

Just as a matter of taste, there was a little too much blood and profanity in this book for my appetite (I'm not a super-soldier-vampire, after all). But that's not a criticism of the work itself, just personal opinion.

On another note, the story is very fast-paced and a quick pulp read. So if you're in the mood for a politically-charged, crime-ridden, supernatural I don't even know what - step into Vega's strange but weirdly fascinating world and take a ride. You may get dizzy, but you'll have fun.

Rating: 



Until tomorrow.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Six Year Old, An Assassin and Dragons!!



A Precarious Beginning

34870162

Title: A Precarious Beginning
Series: Chronicles of Castlemount
Authors: Siena and Fritz Rollins
Date Published: April 14, 2017
Publisher: Harpalin Press

Summary: “There are only two powers in the universe that determine what a person will become in life — luck and willpower.” 

Orphaned at a young age and forced to become a pickpocket to survive, a chance meeting with the King’s Assassin is the lucky break Hyla needs. At the massive fortress city of Castlemount, Hyla discovers she is destined to become a Dragonrider! Training every day to understand her new role and the magical dragon bond, Hyla learns that mingling with the rich and powerful has its own dangers. Will her street smarts keep her alive? Join Hyla in the precarious beginning to her incredible adventure! 


My Thoughts: When asked to read this book I was informed that the authors were father and daughter and had written this book together, the daughter being around 8 years old. I found that fascinating, and quite endearing. The book is well written, and the world of Castlemount is quite intriguing. I enjoyed the story, and became quite attached to Hyla and her dragons. However, I have some questions - where is Hyla actually from? Is it possible she is royalty from her original country? Is anyone going to fix the problem of the City Watch? Where were the dragons being shipped to? Will Jop ever come back into the story? I expect these questions will be answered later in the series, but that doesn't stop me from wondering. 

Yes, the story is good, but some of the characters (Hyla's fellow Dragonriders) come across as flat and nonessential. This may be because the story is not about them, but with the amount of times they are mentioned you would expect more character development. Perhaps this will occur later in the series. That's another thing; I felt like this book was seriously setting up further stories down the line, and wasn't quite a complete story in and of itself. The could be due to the fact that Hyla is only six, so even a small adventure seems huge to her. Speaking of Hyla's age, I found it hard to sometimes follow the narrative, there were three stories going on, present day Hyla, present day Sergeant Troy, and Hyla's past. While Hyla wasn't a narrator in first person, she was in third - which sometimes made the things she saw or did slightly unreliable. How much of the story is true when a six year old is the narrator? 

Just as Hyla doesn't really understand what is happening around her, the king also doesn't seem to understand what is happening around him. He is slow to trust his advisors and quick to blame everything on a mythical truce that may no longer be in effect (if it ever was). To put it lightly, I hated the king. He was childish, and quick to believe superstitions and lies. He didn't seem like a man that could lead a kingdom, if anyone displeases or contradicts him they are killed by Troy, and if two young Dragonriders come up with a conspiracy theory he believes it wholeheartedly. Ugh.

Sergeant Troy was awesome. I liked that he wasn't one sided. He wasn't just the king's assassin, but that was what most people knew him as. Hyla however first knew him as the man that was kind and shared his food. This changed her whole perspective of him. I liked that he felt responsible for Hyla and wanted to make sure everything was going well for her.

Rating: 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Thoreau turns 200

Hey book-lovers,

Thought you might like to know that Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden and Civil Disobedience (both of which Erin highly recommends) turns 200 today! 

Here's a quote for you:

"The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star." (Henry David Thoreau, Walden)

Pretty deep, right? Kind of reminds me of this:

"Should we continue to look upwards? Is the light we can see in the sky one of those which will presently be extinguished? The ideal is terrifying to behold... brilliant but threatened on all sides by the dark forces that surround it: nevertheless, no more in danger than a star in the jaws of the clouds." (Victor Hugo, Les Misérables)

And this: 

"There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach." (J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King)

Or maybe this is a little closer:

"'The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.' And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before." (C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle)

I guess what I'm really trying to say is, happy birthday, Thoreau.

The sun (or is it just a morning star?) in Walden Woods

 This has been quote time with Erin. 'Til tomorrow.