Thursday, July 10, 2014

Santa Rita Stories by Andrew J. Rodriguez

Welcome to Santa Rita, a Cuban fishing town populated by a colorful cast of saints and sinners, con men and fishermen, athletes and hunchbacks, politicians and priests...where everyone eventually knows everyone else’s business and the collective memory reaches backward for generations. To help him unravel the deeply rooted traditions and gossip of this tropical melting pot, fifteen-year-old Carlos turns often to his friend Pedro, a foul-smelling, cigar-chomping vagrant who lives on the docks and is affectionately known as el Viejo—the Old Man. In the course of ten linked stories, Andy Rodriguez brings to vivid life the rhythms of daily life in mid-1950’s Cuba, and the transition from Carlos’s carefree, nurturing childhood to his awakening to the responsibilities—and possibilities—of young manhood. Carlos resists authority; but he can’t resist Pedro’s wisdom as the Old Man dispenses advice about everything from the proper method of romantic kissing, to how to avoid judging a book by its cover—dramatized by a tale of Ernest Hemingway and an encounter with a Nazi spy. By the final story, just as Carlos longs to escape the restrictions of a small town and spread his wings in the big city of Havana, we also long, right along with him, to linger forever in the magical, love-filled world of Santa Rita. (taken from the back of the book)

I'll admit, looking at the front cover, this isn't a book I'd pick up.  The description sounds alright though.  It sounds like the sort of book you'd sit back and read when you've run out of all the stuff you really are anxious to read, right?

Sometimes I'm a poor judge.  I thought for sure this book would just be an alright read, possibly even boring.  That wasn't the case at all.

The characters are not only realistic, but colorful as well.  Not only that, they portray the lost art of humanity.  They have rigid morals and a love for beauty and art.  Though there are some who are greed-infested and worthless, the others in the community don't think highly of them and you can tell by their reactions alone that that is neither the norm nor acceptable behavior.  Though Pedro was my favorite character,all of them had these wonderful little quirks that made you want to hold them tightly. Just being a part of their way of life made me feel like a better person.  It's a wholesome and loving environment that you just want to be around.  

You'll find drama and action and romance, but you'll find the real truth to life in here.  It's like a community of wizened individuals that hold all the secrets and keys to happiness, but dispersed among themselves and you have to pay close attention to glean the information from them.  

Andrew, I give you my most sincere apology.  This is not the book you want to hold back until you've read everything else you're anxious to read.  This is the book you want to curl yourself up in when you need to understand the world, humanity.  It's the book you want to grab when you want to feel a sense of home and joy.  It's the book you want to grab when you're feeling disconnected from yourself and just want to feel whole again.

I've read lots of books by self-proclaimed 'people watchers', but I have to admit I've never read one with this much soul before.  

Immortal's Discord by Ron Glick

The threat raised by Tarinel's Song has passed, but the prophecy is still unfinished. Once more, the unlikely heroes of the Eastern Realms are pulled into the path of destiny woven by this centuries' old divination. With only two verses of eight fulfilled, great portent is now given to the ancient predictions, yet still none understand when and where the elements of the prophecy will come to pass. 

A new dawn is coming to the Eastern Realms - a new God is destined to rise and a great tyrant is foretold to be defeated. But much must fall in the path of the prophecy, as well - including an extradimensional stronghold and even magic itself! 

Can the heroes of Tarinel's Song be able to reunite in time to save their world, or will the prophecy's demands be too great for mere mortals to withstand? (taken from Amazon description)

This is the second book in the Chaos Rising series.  Now, if you've read my review of the first book, Tarinel's Song, you know I found the first book a bit painful due to an over abundance of back story and history that I felt was unnecessary.  This book, however, completely makes up for that. 

We pick up right where the first book left off, mostly.  As we go from character to character and group to group, we find ourselves wondering just how many have survived.  Not only that, some of our characters are going through some pretty severe changes.  Characters that we came to know in the first book have been given new levels of depth.

The prophesy is revealed to be much more layered than first believed.  The cast of our remaining characters, along with some new ones, are not only trying to fulfill their part of the prophesy, but figure out how they can help stop the end of the world.  A new character pops in at the end that will cause them to question everything.

In this second book, I found that Glick did a good enough job filling in the history in the first one so that this one just flew by.  I was able to sit back and enjoy the journey without having to pull my head out and examine why something is the way it is.  Not only that, his story flow has greatly increased.  It almost feels like the first book was nearly painful for him to write, due to making sure everyone understood what was going on, but by the time he hit this book, he was finally able to start spewing forth the actual story he set out to write.

You'll find lots of extras in this second book as well.  There's a map and a few pages of names and other important information so that you can easily flip to the front of the book if you happen to forget who is who or what is what or where is where.  For me, the groundwork was laid well enough that I didn't use it at all, but it's nice that Glick went to the trouble of making it all.  It shows me that it's a completely formed world in his head and makes me anxious to read the next book.

One little teaser here:  At the end of the second book I had one of those 'ooooooooooh!' moments.  You know those moments where all of a sudden you realize that everything is on a much grander scale than you'd realized.  That moment when you know something incredible is about to happen and you should have seen it coming and didn''s all here :)  

Bring on the next one, Ron!!!

Tarinel's Song by Ron Glick

The world will end with the sounding of Tarinel's Song - or so the prophecy claims. Yet when the prophecy is fulfilled and the world continues on, it becomes clear that there is more to the prophecy than is commonly known. 

The fate of the world rests upon the shoulders of mismatched individuals drawn towards what seems to be the center of the crisis - a city at the heart of an empire, sealed off by magic beyond even the power of the Gods to control. But even if they are able to overthrow an unknown power within the city walls, will they be able to put an end to the chaos this harbinger portends? 

Tarinel's Song is set in the world of Na'Ril, the epic setting for The Godslayer Cycle. This first in a three book series explores how deities have evolved in another part of the world, and sets the foundation for events that will effect the world as a whole. (taken from Amazon description)

If you know anything about Dungeons and Dragons, then you have a lot of the background information necessary for this book. If that's your sort of thing, this is a definite series to pick up.  I had some issues with this first book, but after continuing on to the second, I can see that it's going to end up being a rather epic trilogy.  

In this book, the problem I have is that we have sooooo much background information.  If this is the sort of book you're into, then you already have a working knowledge of most of the information that drowns out the story in the beginning.  To make this a bit less dry for my reading, I simply skipped over a few parts. For example, I already know what a Drow is. Instead of reading it again, I was able to move on and continue with the beginnings of the saga.  

Now, there are a lot of new characters to learn and some of them get a bit confusing.  The world itself is pretty easy to understand.  Of course, it's always difficult when creating a new world with such a large cast of characters.  I think Glick actually did a pretty good job.  By the end of the first book, I had no trouble confusing them anymore and was able to have them set as individual characters in my mind.  Most of them could have used a bit more personality, but over all he did a pretty good job creating them.  They're what you would expect of this sort of journey, but I think a little more work on them could have made them 'pop'.  

If anything I've said here has turned you off, then please take a moment to read my review for Immortal's Discord, the second book, before making up your mind. 

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