The October Book Cover of the Month Begins

The October Book Cover of the Month Begins

November’s bracket has 31 new books. Last month’s runner up, The Festival of Trial and Ember, by Logan Miehl,  also has another chance to win the month.

You can vote all the way through the tournament, supporting the covers you like best through each round. I like to make sure people get the credit they deserve, so please show your support. Please vote and share as much as possible to get people a chance to pick their favorite.

As always, I’d appreciate it if you tag the authors and artists if you know them. I try to tag or friend every author I can, but sometimes it’s hard to track someone down. Max participation is a huge deal to me. The more people who vote, the more recognition these authors and artists receive, and I want this to be as legitimate as possible.

If you are the author, let’s remember to be good sports! 1) Please feel free to message or contact me at any time. 2) Please feel free to like, share, text, ask for support, and call everyone you know. I absolutely want max participation. However, if you’re going to offer giveaways or prizes, please offer them for voting, not just voting for you.

Also, while your summoning your army of voting soldiers, please make sure you ask them to vote in every match. Part of the idea of this is to get exposure to as many artists and authors as possible. By all means, if you can get 1,000 people to vote for your book, do it. Just please also send some eyeballs to the other matches.

A final note to authors and artists: I currently have links to the books’ Amazon pages. If you’d prefer I switch that link to sign up for your newsletter or like your social media page or whatever, just send me the link and let me know. I want this to help you. I want this to be as helpful as possible, so whatever you need me to do to facilitate that, just let me know.

Also, this will be the next to last month of the year. After November’s tournament, I’ll have been doing this for a year. (WOW!) That means the Book Cover of the Year tournament is coming. I’ll start out by having a Wild Card bracket, featuring eight covers that came close, but didn’t quite make it. Those covers will be runners up or high-vote earners. The top four from THAT bracket will be placed in the Book Cover of the Year bracket. The Book Cover of the Year Wild Card Bracket will kick off just as soon as the November Book Cover of the Month tournament ends. If you want to leave a comment for a cover you liked that didn’t get in, feel free. I’ll consider the options, though I think the ones I’m looking at now all have a justifiable right to be consider wild card entrants.

That’s still a month away. For now, please have fun with October’s bracket.

I hope you keep having fun. Please, vote, share, and discuss as much as possible.

All you have to do now is head over here to vote!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Centyr Dominance by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: Centyr Dominance by Michael G. Manning

510gRhw1dtL._SY346_Centyr Dominance is the second book of the Champions of the Dawning Dragons series, which is the third series in the Mageborn saga. My review for the first book in this series is here. My review for the earliest series (Embers of Illeniel) is here.  My review for the central series (Mageborn) is here.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Moira Illeniel has an unusual history. She’s the ancient (and yet teenage) daughter of an even more ancient wizard from another family. Her biological mother’s ability allows her to tap into a great power, but that power is dangerous, and it can lead to darkness. She’s set out to find her missing father, but as things get worse for her, that power calls her to darkness; it calls her to let go of her innocence.  Between her and answers about her father’s location are a god and new, terrifying enemy.

Character:  Moira is my favorite of this series so far. Her character is so well-balanced. Her conflict is fantastic, and her struggle to maintain her innocence reminds me of her many times removed grandfather. Where Thorbear was a fairly adventurous story. This book is more action packed, and it also has a higher emotion rang.  I found myself invested in her, and if she’s rumored to be anywhere in any future books in the series, I’ll pick them up just to see how shoe’s doing.

Exposition: This is right on par with Manning’s best work. Yes, the dialogue becomes a back-handed way for him fill in the reader. That’s still better than just four or five pages of exposition just to help the reader know what’s going on.

Dialogue: I felt this was pretty solid in comparison to his other work, which is a bit better than average for most. It’s not as snappy as the central saga, but it’s still solid back and forth at times despite the aforementioned exposition, which was used to help fill the reader in on some things.

Description:  I find myself picturing his scenes in my mind. The emotional description is sometimes lacking, but there’s plenty there to be happy about.  My point is, I feel like a I’m there when I read his work.

Overall:  This book required zero “hanging in there” like the last one did. Every page has conflict and tension. Every moment seems happy, but tragic. Fans of the saga as a whole need to pick this book up, because it stands out with one of the best in the timeline.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Book Review: Thornbear by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: Thornbear by Michael G. Manning
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This image was pulled from the Amazon buy page for review proposed and is used for that reason in accordance with copyright doctrine.

Thornbear is the first book of the Champions of the Dawning Dragons series, which is the third series in the Mageborn saga. My review for the earliest series (Embers of Illeniel) is here.  My review for the central series (Mageborn) is here.

Spoiler Free Summary:  In Thornier, Gram, named after his grandfather, is a young man raised in the shadow of his legendary father’s name, but he doesn’t have the opportunity to prove himself as his mother refuses to allow him to work to become a knight. Just as he gains a secret mentor, he also meets a young woman who seems intent on winning his heart. He’ll have to choose which path means more to him when his friends are threatened.

Character:  It was nice to see some familiar faces in this story, but most of the book centers around Gram. Gram is just enough of his father to be endearing. His kindness and compassion do a lot to build sympathy. His earnestness (a key trait of his father) is what drew me in. What surprised me was how quickly I grew to appreciate the bear. (Her name escapes me at the moment, but she was probably my favorite character in this particular book.)  I will say this book doesn’t hold up in comparison with others from my perspective. This book is essentially a teen romance story. It’s a well told story, and if you like the themes in that sort of book, then you’ll love this.  I just don’t, though. It’s not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination. It just focuses on a plot line (relationship) that I’m not much of a fan of.

Exposition: This was pretty seamless here. The time jump in this book wasn’t as much of a challenge as the one I noticed in his earlier series. There are some scenes that slow the pace, but at least those scenes deal more with Gram’s training than his other challenge.

Dialogue: If the romance between Gram and his lady friend didn’t have this dialogue, I’d probably be less of a fan. That said, the wit and interaction of these characters carried me through a plot line that isn’t normally my cup of tea.

Description:  I enjoy the way Manning can make description a part of the action. Most authors (including me) tend to have “blocks” of description. Here, the visuals (mostly visuals anyway) are a part of what’s happening. This allows the scene and setting to add to the story rather than interrupt it.

Overall:  I hung with this book because of how much I enjoy this universe as a whole. I don’t really think this one holds up against the others, but it’s enjoyable. The ending has a few big payoffs, and there was enough interesting material to hold my attention. Fans of young-love romance will like this far better than I did. CONTENT WARNING: I won’t go so far as to say some of these scenes are explicit, but there is definitely some material in this book that might challenge some readers. As is usual for Manning, this is treated in the interest of realistic situation, and the actions characters take have consequences.  This book does a better job of setting up the saga than anything else, but it was still cool to look at this new generation of characters.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Book Review: The Final Redemption by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: The Final Redemption by Michael G. Manning
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Image taken from the Amazon buy page for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

This is book five of the Mageborn saga. My review for book one can be found here.  My review for book two can be found here. My review of book three can be found here. The review for book four is here.

Spoiler Free Summary:  In The Final Redemption, Mordecai is in quite an awkward position because of what happened in book four (remember, I said no spoilers). He’s gained some horrific, destructive powers, and those powers have isolated him. The last dark god has set his sites on bringing the world to its knees, and Mort has to use his newfound power to take on someone many times more powerful than even himself. He has to do all of this without friends or family.

Character:  Mort took center stage here. By taking everything from him, we were able to see him in a different light. His changes did a lot to set up not just the climax of this book, but the next era in the Mageborn universe. That said, all of our favorites are back for this final showdown with the big bad of the series.

Exposition: Manning was back at full strength here. I’m more certain that the heavy exposition I mentioned in book four was more because of the huge gap between books than anything else. Here, we get what we need when we need it. Sure, there’s some dialogue loosely hiding some exposition, but at least in that manner, we don’t feel force fed information.

Dialogue:  I love the interaction between Mort and the dragon (whose name escapes me at the moment). Some of the other conversations are great. James has a bit of time in the limelight as does his daughter, who steals a bit of the show. Their dialogue was crips and fun to read.

Description:  This book doesn’t rely on description nearly as much, which is a relief to me as I’m not a big fan of it. It does a good job of highlighting what matters (and BOY does some of it matter). It helps create the visual tone and mood of the story. It’s visceral without bogging the story down.

Overall:  There was one particular scene during which I wanted to cry. I HAVE cried while reading some books, but I didn’t cry during this scene. It was sad, and it was painful. I’m just trying to create a range so you know my emotional spectrum. This is a satisfying end to a great era in an even better universe. I still feel Tyrion’s era was the most satisfying so far, but I’m still a big fan of the story as a whole. This book puts a reader through a strong range of emotions. It puts a nice bow around all the plot points and teases the universe going forward. I think fans of epic fantasy will enjoy this series.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Book Review: The God-Stone War by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: The God-Stone War by Michael G. Manning

51cnOJqN3lL._SY346_This is book four of the Mageborn saga. My review for book one can be found here.  My review for book two can be found here. My review of book three can be found here.

Spoiler Free Summary:  In The God-Stone War, which takes place seven years after book three, things are looking up for Mordecai. He’s moving forward with plans to unite kingdoms. His dear friend and uncle is king. His children are grown strong. But when a visitor from a neighboring kingdom comes by, things fall apart quickly. Penny, his wife, has a visit from her future self: “If you want any of your children to survive…” What will he do when he learns failure is the guaranteed death of his entire family? When the threat of angry gods comes down, what will he do against it when his powers are then taken from him?

Character:  Penny stole the show again for me here, but Mordecai is the driving force behind the saga and this story. Manning does a great job showing his struggles and emotions without bashing readers over the head with it. The cast of characters here really does a nice job. I’ll talk a bit more about this book (obviously), but these characters are what kept me in the story and turning the pages.

Exposition: Normally a point of strength for Manning, I have to admit the exposition in this book, particularly in the beginning, is super heave on exposition. I found myself grinding through a ton of world building and history. Part of this, I feel, was to cover the seven-year gap between books, but it slowed the book down. Once the book gets running, Mort and his cast once again takes center stage and shine.

Dialogue:  The dialogue here is not only solid, but a charming part of one of the twists in the book. I enjoyed it. I like how Manning uses this to push the plot and develop characters.

Description:  This was also an essential part of this book. This book relies on this element of storytelling, which isn’t my personal bag, but fans of vivid description are going to enjoy this book. I’m unlike most readers and authors in this regard. I tend to like a little less description. Manning usually has a lighter mix, which I like, but what’s important to note is the description in this book is more than usual for him, but not more than usual for most authors.

Overall:  This book was simultaneously what I’d been waiting for and not what I wanted. The last book in this era of the saga brings it all back, but the heavy-handed exposition and more detailed description seemed to take away from what should have been the best book in the series. However, if you skip this book, you’d be making a tragic mistake. The plot twist at the end of this book is brilliant. That, combined with the woven threads of the earlier era of the saga establish this book as a great part of the whole story.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Book Review: The Archmage Unbound by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: The Archmage Unbound by Michael G. Manning

Unbound is book three of the Mageborn saga. My review for book one can be found here.  My review for book two can be found here.

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This image was taken from Amazon for review purposes under Fair Use Doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  In The Archmage Unbound, Mordecai has become a powerful figure in politics as well as a powerful mage. That power makes him a threat to those who should appreciate him. When his position and status is pit against his love for his friends and family, Mort has to do something that will change the face of his nation forever.

Character:  This is where the characters stole the show for me. I’d said in other reviews that the driving force behind reading this saga was to see bits of how Embers of Illeniel connects.  While Mort and Penny were engaging characters, this is where I truly felt a connection to them. Rose and Dorian are equally lovable. Their struggles and their journey drag the reader through a powerful book.

Exposition: This was seamless. Other books in this series can get a little weighty in the data dump category, but this book had the perfect mix of explanation and action.

5215279Worldbuilding:  This isn’t the book where we see the direct connection to Illeniel, but it’s a fine book all by itself. We learn more about archmages and the shining gods. We get introduced to, two pretty cool new characters. We get a sense for what Mort is capable of, and that has some wonderful foreshadowing elements.

Dialogue:  In his previous book, I said Manning found his rhythm, and he only continued to get better. The exchanges in this novel are powerful, snappy, and fun (well, maybe not all at once, but still good.)

Description:  I like the fight scenes the best. I’m a sucker for a good action-packed novel, and this book gives me the detail in a fight that I enjoy. It also provides a nice benchmark where I see what I  must, and my imagination is allowed to do the rest.

Overall:  I know I said the last book was my favorite, but I was wrong. Looking back at my notes and reading what I even posted on GoodreadsI can say with certainty (I promise) this is my favorite. Book 2 was fun and powerful. The last book had a scene or two that made me tear up, but this book is the winner in my opinion. I couldn’t put it down, and it seemed like  every page had something that was just plain cool.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Book Review: The Line of Illeniel by Michael Manning

Book Review: The Line of Illeniel by Michael Manning

Line is book two of the Mageborn saga. My review for book one can be found here.

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Image taken from Amazon.com for review purpose under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  In The Line of Illeniel, Mordecai is coming to terns with his status as a lord. But the history of wizards in the world has more catches than he was aware. Forced by his king to take a bond that limits his ability and could get the woman he loves killed,  Mort is struggling to find the truth. Is this bond the only think keeping him sane? Are the voices he hears those of a madman’s fraying mental state? Things come to a head when a neighboring kingdom invades. Their insurgency point? Mordecais’ newly retaken family land.

Character:  Mort is good, and Penny really came into her own. Dorian is still my favorite character by far (and he remains so). This book really helps readers connect with these characters. They’re human, but honorable. Smart, but have weaknesses. This book, to me, does the best job of setting the tone for not just the characters, but how they grown through the rest of the saga.

Exposition: Manning balanced this well. In fact, a lot of the scenes that feel like exposition dumps become valuable later in the saga. The aforementioned info dumps are few and far between. Limiting the exposition (despite the amount necessary when writing in first person) makes this feel like a fast-paced story.

5215279Worldbuilding:  While not quite the book I was waiting for, what this book does is start connecting Mageborn with Embers of Illeniel. Manning lets the deep history of his saga trickling into the story gently rather than beating the reader to death with a history lesson. He also lets the world take shape in a lot of ways. What impresses me most about this story is how gently interwoven the magic system and scope of the world are not the plot and dialogue of the story.

Dialogue:  I’m comfortable saying this is Manning’s best, most natural dialogue in the series. It’s witty, without being forced, and engaging, without being overly dramatic. In fact, one of the more dramatic scenes is undercut Ala Joss Whedon by an endearingly funny  moment. Manning’s dialogue isn’t bad, but I think this story is Manning near his best. (Embers is his best work by far in my opinion.)

Description:  This, and his work with character, is Manning’s strength. It takes skill to weave visceral imagery into a plot. Most writers are blocky with their description, making the act of reading a scene feel like a workout before the reward of a plot. Manning doesn’t do that. He gives the details of the story when they’re relevant, and the information is most appropriate.

Overall:  I think this is arguably my favorite book in the Mageborn series. The last book in the series has an argument, but this was the book that made me fall in love with these characters. While The Blacksmith’s Son wasn’t bad, I think this is the book that truly starts the series. The conflict and plots in this story are truly compelling. It kept me reading when I should have been working or sleeping, which is a great compliment for any book.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Book Review: The Blacksmith’s Son by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: The Blacksmith’s Son by Michael G. Manning
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Images taken from the Amazon buy page for review purposes. Featured Image pulled from dailywaffle.co.uk.

Spoiler Free Summary:  The Blacksmith’s Son by Michael G. Manning takes place 2,000 years after Betrayer’s Banewhich was December Book Cover of the Month, which I reviewed and you can find here. I started this series up right away via Audible because I loved Embers so much. Mordecai was raised as a humble son of a blacksmith with some rather affluent friends. Just as he learns the truth of his birth, he also discovers his magical ability and makes a powerful enemy. When everything in his life should start looking up, it all takes a turn, and Mort must figure it all out before the secrets that led to his unusual upbringing come back to haunt the kingdom of Lothion.

Character:  Mordecai is a fun character. He’s clever and proactive. Some may think he’s too good at too many things, but I like a skilled character. He’s not a Mary Sue by any stretch of the imagination, but some might argue how quickly he learns. What I like about him is his emotions. He’s a passionate person (meaning he cares deeply).  A lot of his conflict starts with how he reacts to certain people or events. That emotion (I’ve actually finished the whole series and will post reviews in time) is what draws me to him and helps me connect to him. Dorian is someone I want to highlight. I like him. He’s my favorite character in the series. He’s a solid, stand-up, white-hat kind of guy. He’s honest, fair, and truthful to a fault. These traits make him a charming character to meet.

5215279Exposition: Manning breaks the fourth wall quite freely here, and that reduces the impact of any exposition. Told (mostly) in first person, the story does have a touch or two moments of exposition, but Manning does something here that I don’t see often. He switches perspective. Most of the story is told by Mort, but the story switches to third-person omniscient and back. It’s actually a bit jarring for a reader the first few times it happens.  That said, the technique allows Manning to get around some of the info dumps first person usually forces. There are also excerpts from an in-world book that are pretty heavy. They serve to tease the chapter, but also tend to slow things down just a touch.

Worldbuilding: For me, the big reward of the book (and this series) was seeing the world evolve from Betrayer’s Bane. This book feels sort of more like a prequel than an actual first book. It’s a ton of setup, which bogs this first book down. Most of this book either tells us how things got to this point or set us up for the overall conflict. It doesn’t make it a boring story by any stretch, but I won’t lie. I found myself wanting to get into it. It may be unfair though coming right off of Embers.  Seeing the world as it’s progressed since then was one of the major reasons I kept with it. Mageborn is a great series, but this book is more of a warmup to a great saga.

51ynOSd1JtL._SX345_BO1,204,203,200_Dialogue:  A lot of the exposition for this story comes through dialogue (but most authors (including me) do that). It’s noticed here because Mort is either conversing with another character about what he means to do, what’s going on with his friends, or what happened in his past. The best conversations are those between him and Penny (which are charming). His conversations with Rose (who’s honestly more like a Mary Sue than any other of these characters) are also endearing.

Description:  This was pretty natural for Manning. The scenes were visceral without being overly detailed. This is the highest compliment I could offer any book.

Overall: With a charming cast and a ridiculously compelling prequel trilogy, The Blacksmith’s Son sets the stage for a new saga in Manning’s world. While not remotely Manning’s strongest book, it teases at great stories to come while it also provides clever intrigue and deep world building. Fans of large worlds and complex magic systems would enjoy this story.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Book Review: The Silent Tempest by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: The Silent Tempest by Michael G. Manning
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Cover and portraits of Michael G. Manning were taken from Amazon or his website for review purposes under Fair Use Doctrine.

Character:  I stand behind my previous assessment regarding Manning’s ability here. The characters in this story are all deep, and their motivations are heartbreakingly sympathetic. I found his relationships here so powerful. This book is truly about a father who would do any horrible thing if it meant extending the lives of his children. I worded that very carefully, and I stand by that clause. This book did a fantastic job of helping the reader spiral downward with Tyrion rather than contemptibly watch him plummet.

5215279Worldbuilding:  One downside to reading this trilogy out of order was a plot twist regarding one of the races in the book. I think those who choose to read it in order (though I’d still stand behind how I read it) will get a bigger thrill out of some of the revelations in this book. The plot weaving in this series is wonderful, and the world just feels like a place one could visit (if he truly hated himself).

Dialogue:  The dialogue in this book is solid.  One of the characters we’ve only seen glimpses of in the first book gets a larger role, and her character brings a certain wit and light to the story that brightens the tale. To have such a huge cast and still give them each a unique voice is no small feat.

Description: I honestly felt like I was there in almost every scene in the book. Weather I was trapped or fighting for my life, Manning has a cinematic voice that makes the reader feel like they’re quietly observing this tragic, dark tale.

Overall: This whole series is one of the best I’ve read in 2017. This particular book was a brilliant second act with equal parts tragedy and triumph. It’s dark, but touching. It’s exciting, but tragic. Those who love dark fantasy should check out all of Manning’s work.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: The Mountains Rise by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: The Mountains Rise by Michael G. Manning

Character:  Manning has proven to be a master character developer. Seeing Daniel’s journey begin was a rewarding experience for me. I expected to learn more about Daniel, but the trilogy truly was about all of the characters we meet in this saga. Not all of these characters are good, but they’re all well thought out. Their motivations and limitations are clear. Tyrion was always a heartbreaking character, reading this book brought exactly the sort of clarity I hoped for.

5215279Worldbuilding:  I already knew the world building to this series was great. What I appreciate (and what has me reading the Mageborn series) is for all the dots to connect. This book eases the reader into the magic and species of the realm with patience. What I look for in world building is what I need to know as I need to know it.  This book does that wonderfully (as does the series). I think the character and the overall world building (perhaps the plotting) are what make this series so easy to read through.

Dialogue:  I’m neutral about the dialogue in this book with one exception. While I don’t think the dialogue here was “snappy” or “quick,” it was powerful. There is an element here that requires note. There is a content warning with this book (and the series). Something happens in the beginning that might test some readers or even have some readers turn away. It’s honestly an issue I’m very sensitive about. That said, Manning treated that situation with respect, showing the impact this despicable act can have on not just the ones involved, but by all the ones those people care about. The dialogue and reactions of the character in this issue were done with sympathy. I despise books that use real-world terrible issues just to get a shock out of the audience. Manning didn’t do this. It was an integral part to Daniel’s development and being. You’ll have to read the book to find out more on what “act” I’m speaking of.

Description: Manning’s strength in description is in the sense of touch. A lot of times through this book I could almost feel (sometimes unfortunately so) what was happening to the characters. He’s decent in the other areas of description, but fans of books that make you feel like the characters will like this aspect of the book.

Overall: Manning delivers a world that is both dark and amazing. His story is built on such sadness, tragedy, and betrayal, one can’t help but want to see what happens. It’s heartbreaking to see how things go and to think of how they could have gone if only…

Thanks for reading,

Matt