The Family: The Brotherhood
By Donte M McNeal

Based in Michigan, Donte's Playground is a blog by Donte M McNeal. His posts range from nonsensical ramblings about anime, in-depth reviews of books and television/film, to random spurts of philosophical babble.

Year's End Roundup Pt. 4: Books

Year's End Roundup Pt. 4: Books

Okay, I’ve gone over the tv shows, movies and anime I’ve enjoyed this year, so that only leaves one thing, right? Books of course! What books did I love this year? Well, most of the ones I really enjoyed I’ve already covered on here, so I’ll link those so I won’t need to rehash. Still there were a few more, so how’s about we just jump into it?

Wick (Spark Form Chronicles)

The first book I read this year was a little gem by indie author, Matt Doyle (who I did an author spotlight on here, earlier this year) called “Wick.” It's the first of the Spark Form Chronicles duology, the sequel also having been published this year, along with a short story. It’s set in a world where a card game where overblown visuals, stunning entrances and bloody battles are played out in real time by holograms. Trust me, it’s much more exciting than that sounds, unless that sounds really interesting to you . . . Then you’d be right. Now, fair warning, this book boasts an ensemble cast, the characters getting their own chapters written from their respective POVs, the characters each bring their own distinct flavor to the story. I can't think of one of the characters that I didn't at least find intriguing. With that said, if you’re in the mood for a book with humor, action and interesting characters, this is the way to go.

Singing Fire

T. L. Martin’s Singing Fire is a book about a young woman who comes into a supernatural world she hadn’t known existed, only to find out she’s being hunted for the power that resides in her. Martin did a great job crafting complex characters that were more than just tropes or one-note characters, and the way the magic is presented is . . . magical, for lack of a more fitting term. It put me in the mind of my favorite series, The Mystic Series, which is the best series about magic and romance I've ever read. It's very easy to visualize the world that was built, and that's thanks to the vivid descriptions, believable characters and real-world ties.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy this book. While it wasn't perfect, (because what book is, right?) it was a stellar debut. Honestly it didn't even seem like the work of a new author, but a seasoned writer at the top of their game. I wouldn't have done some of the things Charlie did, like deciding to keep things from those who could help her, or her decisions regarding the deliciously evil Tempest (who I freaking loved by the way. She's a character you just love to hate), but that’s just me. All in all, Singing Fire was a great read, and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys magnetic characters that make you care, a great villain, and complex relationships.

Sunborn Rising

Okay, so this is one of the books I already gushed about, but I enjoyed it so much I wanted to include it on the list. Aaron Safronoff’s Sunborn Rising: Beneath the Fall. Safronoff develops an almost overwhelmingly vivid world of light, wonder and creativity, while balancing that with a story that melds a tale of lighthearted adventure with the fear of the unknown in the form of the threat of our antagonist Argus, the Creepervine and all that comes with it, including the very real possibility that the world as they know will end. Not too light nor too heavy, right? Yep, there’s intriguing characters with believable and grounded relationships despite being in a fantastical world; a beautiful and well-developed world; and awesome character designs that jump off the page. What more can you ask for in a book?

Catalyst Moon

The set up: In Aredia Mages are feared, and kept like prisoners by sentinels - Warriors sworn to protect the world from magic. So what happens when a mage and a sentinel are forced to rely on each other to survive?

Fantasy novels are some of my favorite to read, because they allow for the reader to lose themselves in a new world . . . if done correctly that is. Catalyst Moon introduces us to a world where mages are feared and imprisoned, for all intents and purposes at least. From the get go, you realize that even though there are those who can wield magic, it isn't a cure-all for everything; quite the opposite actually. The very first page opens with our mc, Kali being dragged away in magic-muting chains from the place she was raised (after what's hinted at her losing the last person who cared for her), so from that alone we can tell that just because magic exists in this world, it doesn't mean that things will always go a mage's way. I mean, Kali has an injury she was born with and her magic can do nothing about it. It's a far cry from the magic of other stories that can do darn near anything. The way that Garcia portrayed the way magic works in her world is really creative. It isn't all flowers and bright lights in this world. It's one of the stronger parts of the story.

The magic of this world is done in a much more creative way than I've seen done before. You don't just wave your wand, and poof, magic! No, there's much more complexity to how mages perform feats of magic and the way Garcia shows this is so engrossing, so vivid, you can't help but picture it in your head. Her skill with imagery is top notch. On another note though, I didn't expect to enjoy the areas of the story that dealt with the religion and social hierarchy of this world. To think that people would literally be branded based on where they stand in society, and whether they're a mage or not; it was interesting to say the least, if not a bit unsettling. Seeing the underlying (and most of the time, outright blatant) tension between mages and everyone else was interesting, especially when you think of how people would react to the possibility of magic in the real world. I think it'd be the same way. People generally tend to fear what they don't understand after all.

 All in all, Catalyst Moon was an enjoyable read, with a rich world and entertaining characters. I'll admit that I enjoyed Kali and Stone's (the other mc) story more than the other mages and Sentinels' journeys, but that's not to say that they were uninteresting. I just enjoyed our main mage and sentinel's story the most. Plus, Kali's wry humor and sarcasm was one of my favorite parts of the book. She was a delight to read! The side characters in the book, while not eye-catching, didn't feel unnecessary and I came to care about what happened to them. Though I would point out that there are a few errors that seemed to have slipped through the cracks of the editing process. That said, I'm definitely looking forward to what comes next for these characters. Can't wait for book 2.

Hell's Glitch

This is another one I already talked about here, with spoilers mind you. But it was my first look into the LitRPG genre and boy was it good one! In Hell's Glitch, we have Sam who is a game tester tasked with testing a mysterious and overly secretive full-immersion virtual reality game only known as Project DH. It's chocked full of creative monsters (who earn just as creative nicknames from our MC), a detailed world and a dark shadow looming over the project as a whole. What is that shadow? It is none other than the “genius” Fulton Milner, a heartless bastard who has shady goals, for a game that becomes all too real for its players. It's a story ripe with emotional moments of both triumph and failure, and characters that jump off the page.

HM: Fuuka

Fuuka is a manga that I’ve only recently got into, despite it being out for a while now. Here’s the low down: The protagonist, Yuu Haruna, moves into a new town where he meets a somewhat strange girl who doesn't have a cell phone. The girl, Fuuka, seems to have a strange allure that draws people to her, very much like a summer breeze. Looks like Yuu has been caught up in one wild love story!

Now, this usually isn’t my type of story, but I thought I’d give it a shot, and I’m glad I did. I’m really enjoying the story so far. I can’t really say much on it, since I’m only a few chapters in, but the characters are so charming and relatable and just fun to read that I’ll probably end up getting all of the series that’s out so far.

Well, that’s all for books this. I’m sure next year’s list will be much longer, considering I read just under 30 this year. Man, that number bums me out! Anywhoo, till next time, stay golden Ponyboy. And yes, I will be retiring that line in the new year.


Plans for 2017

Plans for 2017

Year's End Roundup Pt. 3: Anime

Year's End Roundup Pt. 3: Anime