Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Shannon Hill's: Aesop's Twist 5/5 stars

Shannon Hill did not just retell Aesop's fables. He has reincarnated them. This review is for his adult collection, Aesop's Twist, but I feel I must comment on both volumes as a whole before I talk about Aesop's Twist specifically. 

His collection of fables would make Aesop himself proud. Hill has punctuated each fable with his own humor, while staying true to the methodology and language of Aesop's original work: preserving and respecting a historical work, while at the same time making it his own.

As an author I cannot imagine how hard a task like that must be. I am very comfortable with creating my own worlds for my characters to frolic in, but I don't think I could ever have the skill or the audacity to retell such appreciated tales.

Well, Shannon Hill does have the skill required for such a daunting task. 

Aesop's Twist is written perfectly for an audience of 18+. Hill's prose is rich with well-placed elevated vocabulary. Every image he illustrates is thus rendered a little bit sharper in the mind's eye. It's how reading becomes preferable to watching a movie. While I do love movies, nothing is as visceral or cinematic as prose projected by an author who has mastered his craft. Every tale retold in this collection is evidence that Shannon Hill exudes that kind of excellence. As I did with Aesop's Ghost, I gave Aseop's Twist 5/5 stars. 

Shannon Hill's: Aesop's Ghost: 5/5 stars

Shannon Hill retells Aesop's fables by paying homage to the originals while breathing new life into them. His collection for ages 9+, Aesop's Ghost, features 31 stimulating tales. I recognized a few of his selections from when I first heard them as a boy. I don't have much criticism to offer, as most of the tales were very accessible. In this case my step-son Colin and his younger brothers, Alex and David assisted me with this review. Their only qualm was with the vocabulary in some instances, but honestly helping them discover new ways of perceiving the world starts with new words.

Hill's prose is clean, confident and witty. He relates Aesop's morals in a way that is readily explainable without a jarring prompt. (ie the moral of this story is...) I highly recommend this retelling of Aesop's fables for parents seeking engaging reading materials for their children, nine and up. Based on my children's interest, its readability and my own scrutiny; I gave Aesop's Ghost 5/5 stars.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Ken C. Ping's: Once in a Blue Moon 4/5 stars

Whenever I read collections of any kind, I always try to find the link between each installment. In other words, what the overarching concept is and whether or not it is expressed successfully. Once in a Blue Moon seems to focus on an individual's sense of belonging and purpose. By the end of the collection, I felt satisfied. This is largely because of the final installment, the title short story, Once in a Blue Moon.

Once in a Blue Moon is enthralling and enchanting. His characterization of the mythological made this installment my favorite of his three short stories instantly. Ping's prose spoke with sincerity, passion and confidence. His descriptions seem to explore themselves, delving into the subtle art of stream of consciousness. Ping is very gifted at expressing his settings, characters and ideas in this way. It gives his writing a certain signature. The quality of the writing is flawless in this installment. While the longest of the three tales, it moves with a deliberate fluidity. In short, it mesmerized me.

I gave Once in a Blue Moon 5/5 stars.

The Mother's Day Gift, the second story in this collection, changed the pace nicely. I appreciated how easily he shifted his style and narration to accommodate the main character of the story, a 6 year old boy. The boy muses about his relationship he has with his mother and wants more than anything to show his appreciation for her. What he learns about his relationship threatens to change his perception of his mother and his life in general. Ping expresses the love shared between the mother and son genuinely, again with the use of stream of consciousness from the point of view of the boy. Upon finishing this story I felt a certain afterglow, like I would when finishing a phenomenal poem.

I gave The Mother's Day Gift 4/5 stars.

This brings me to first installment presented in this collection: Of Sand and Castles. As a whole this story is underdeveloped. I have a soft spot in my heart for feudal tales. I ate, slept and breathed Arthurian romance and anything involving kings, their ladies and their knights as a boy, and felt very excited at the story's start because I knew it was headed in that direction. Unfortunately it did not meet my expectations.

Descriptions are muddy in most areas: I have a very hard time picturing the characters and the setting. While there are places in this tale where Ping could develop his characters to illustrate their obligations as princes and their disdain for being so cloistered, he fails to do so in this story.

Ping attempts to utilize language and sentence structure in his narration to draw readers into the time period and setting of his tale, and while I understood that; he only succeeds in bogging the narration and the whole of the story down.

As in his other stories, there are moments that display his talent. Without a doubt I know, with more development, Of Sand and Castles can be as memorable as the other stories presented in the Once in a Blue Moon collection.

In its current state, Of Sand and Castles received 1/5 stars.

As I said before, I felt satisfied by the end of the collection and decided to average my three ratings together. It comes to an average of 3.7 stars, which I rounded up to 4.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

John Heldt's: The Mine 5/5 stars

There are so many wonderful aspects within the pages of this novel. I don't know where to begin. I guess that's a good beginning as any: I'm at a loss for words.

The Mine sets a high standard for the romance genre. Its sci-fi undertones provide enigma and wonderment. I really have not read anything like it before. H.G. Well's, The Time Machine, was the best time-traveling novel I had read and my favorite sci-fi tale. I would dare say that this novel equaled what I felt when I finished that classic. My mouth hung open. My skin tingled. Simultaneously the hairs on my arm stood up. Heldt's prose holds that kind of power over a reader, as if some kind of mystical energy is channeled through his words as they are read and processed.

 Reader's will fall in love with Joel, one of The Mine's major characters. His sense of humor lights up every scene he is in. Joel's characterization fits the romance genre perfectly. I cannot say much about his character's progression without spoiling the plot, but I can say that his decisions throughout the novel are believable and make him a very dynamic character.

Heldt always provides well-thought out descriptions of his characters, using similes and metaphors to bring their most unique qualities into focus. His rendering of 1941 must make readers feel as if he, himself went back to the time period, took extensive notes and returned with the barebones of The Mine in hand. Indie authors: read The Mine if you are planning on writing anything romance related. Heldt will show you how its done.

I recommend The Mine for readers who enjoy thrilling romance novels: this one will take your breath away.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Keith Yatsuhashi's: Kojiki, 5/5 Stars


Mr. Yatsuhashi has a created a work of art with his novel Kojiki. Readers are eased into the waters of his intricate universe and its hierarchy of gods, goddesses and their Guardians. In this way, Yatsuhashi creates a sense of mystery and awe as he unveils his stunning world gradually, delivering one cinematic visual after another. I found myself re-reading portions of the novel to simply savor his imagery.

His characters are built with complexities and nuances that make each of them unique and integral to the overall narrative. His ability to make his multitude of characters relevant to the plot and memorable really impressed me.

With fluid, visceral action scenes, larger than life characters and language that never fails to render his enchanting visuals sharply in the mind's eye, Kojiki by Keith Yatsuhashi deserves 5 stars.

I highly recommend this fantastic novel for lovers of fantasy and action, and for those who want to be swept off their feet and taken places novels have never taken them before.

Kojiki is suitable for ages 12+. Read it!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Henry Martin's: Mad Days of Me: Escaping Barcelona, 5/5 Stars

Henry Martin's "Escaping Barcelona", the introductory novel of The Mad Days of Me trilogy, thrilled me from the start. I believe the best plots, whether told off screen or on, are those that are aware of their epicenter. In other words, what drives the story and the event that introduces it. Martin gives readers this event before the close of the first chapter, and while being vague is cruel, writing a review full of spoilers would be crueler still. Martin is a master of his craft, and that is all you need to know.

"Mad Days of Me: Escaping Barcelona" met and exceeded my initial expectations. Martin draws his readers in with alluring imagery of Barcelona: a city whose skin shines with an irresistible beauty, obscuring the living contagion beneath. Rudy is pulled beneath her skin and into the darkest pits of the city. He survives any way he can, holding his optimistic outlook like a shield and prays it does not rust in the presence of the filth that seeks to permeate his very soul every day.

As a narrator, Rudy was extremely reliable. Sometimes first person novels can be annoying because you find yourself wanting something the narrator is not giving you. This is not one of those cases. Rudy's concise descriptions of the city, his enemies and friends, his mindset and of himself are well crafted. I was very impressed with the literary techniques employed by Mr. Martin. Imagery, parallelism, similes, metaphors, stream of consciousness, and well placed anecdotes are just some of the mechanisms turning inside this novel.

With every twist of the plot, Martin thrusts Rudy deeper into the dregs of Barcelona. I believed at some points he was purposely thinking of ways to make Rudy's darkest moments bleaker still, just to see how his characterization would develop. I am just happy there are two more novels to read after this one.

As a side note, Martin's "Escaping Barcelona", is the first Indie novel I have ever read. The first chapter hooked me deeply and yanked me into the universe of Indie prose. I felt chained by suspense throughout the last 80 pages and anxiously awaited the fate of his main character. Sweat covered my hands and iPhone. I had to shake cramps from my hands before beginning this review because I had been gripping the phone so tight, highly anticipating the climax and conclusion.

 All and all a very impressive, inspirational ride. I am looking forward to reading the sequel. I recommend this novel for anyone looking for a solid literary novel with great characterization.

It begins with a bloom...

Hello everyone! I'm Sherrod and I hope to post a multitude of reviews for your reading pleasure as requests come in. I have wanted to do this since my paranormal romance novel "From Heaven to Earth"  was published last year. As I searched high and low for reviewers and had little or no success, I decided very quickly that I wanted become a part of the indie community, not only as an author but as a reviewer. I have other plans in the works that will expand upon this blog and enhance the services I will provide for indie authors who are looking for exposure. I know from experience how impossible it may seem some days, wondering whether or not someone you've submitted your hard work to is going to follow through with their review. Novels deserve to be treated with respect, and I when you decide to submit here at The Wallflower Review that is what you will receive. I hope to positively influence the indie community and plan on doing everything I can to meet that goal. This is the beginning of something beautiful.