Categories
Science Fiction

On the Winds of Quasars – Book Tour and Giveaway!!

Happiest of pub dates to T.A. Bruno and his new book On the Winds of Quasars! Book 2 of The Song of Kamaria has released today and I am once again totally honored to be part of the Storytellers On Tour book tour for this awesome sci-fi series!

Make sure to check out the other tour posts as well, here is the schedule with links! click here for that!! 

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Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: On the Winds of Quasars
  • Series: The Song of Kamaria, #2
  • Author: T.A. Bruno
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 09/20/21
  • Length: 353 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⚡ for sci-fi and fantasy fans! This one would *probably* read as a standalone, plenty of background is provided in a not info-dumpy way but I would recommend reading both

Here is the Book Blurb: 

The thrilling sequel to In the Orbit of Sirens

THE WORLD OF KAMARIA WILL NEVER BE THE SAME.

In the aftermath of the brutal slaying of a sacred auk’nai deity, Cade and Nella Castus are taken from their home and brought deep into the wilderness. They must make their way back to civilization, traversing dangerous landscapes as they are pursued relentlessly by their captor—a winged abomination.

As Denton and Eliana search for their missing children, they uncover something that will change all life on Kamaria forever.

T.A. drops us right back into the world of Kamaria, where 26 years have passed since the warship Telemachus was crashed into the Siren bent on destroying the human settlers.  With the same alternating point of view style and breakneck pace, these books are quick reads and hard to put down!

Eliana and Denton have two accomplished children of their own now, Cade and Nella, and they are both interesting new characters.  I liked the sign language and deaf character rep, a clear ton of research went into that portrayal and it showed! If the next book has a blind character >.>

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Set 26 years after the forming of a mixed Auk’Nai and human colony, Bruno takes an honest look at what the new city developed into. There is poverty and clear class separation, auk’nai youth losing some of their cultural traditions, new memorials, even down to slowed emergency response times in some areas. What evils might have seeped up from that huge crack in the planet into the Telemachus too? My favorite parts were seeing how the two races learned to co-exist, and what socio-economic divides were present in the city. Another interesting differentiation was between the Auk’nai from the cities and the “wild” ones, the Auk’gnell. He finally brought meaning to the literal term “The Song of Kamaria” and I was on board for it.

If anyone read the interview I did with the author – if not omg read it HERE – he stated that he wanted to bring us through Kamaria with a cinematic eye, and he definitely continues to succeed in this book two.  With vivid imagery, a new connection to nature, even unheard songs, and new wildlife, this is truly a world to get lost in.  The artwork is stunning too, I love the section headings and drawings!

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With many darker undertones like possession, murder, poverty, the return of an old enemy, and a cliffhanger that is just so unfair …. I really have a ton of respect for this story and can’t wait for the ending.


Guys there is also a giveaway associated with the book tour!!

Prize: A paperback copy of On the Winds of Quasars by T. A. Bruno – US OnlyStarts: September 19th, 2021 at 12:00am ESTEnds: September 26th, 2021 at 11:59pm EST

Do find that here!


Author and book links!

Website:https://tabruno.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/TABrunoAuthor

Instagram: http://instagram.com/TABrunoAuthor 

Facebook: http://facebook.com/TABrunoAuthor

Goodreads: http://goodreads.com/TABrunoAuthor

Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58697255-on-the-winds-of-quasars

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Winds-Quasars-Song-Kamaria-Book-ebook/dp/B09BS8FGX5 

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Young Adult

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Edith Pawlicki!

Helllllo once again, I can’t believe we are on episode 7 of the Sunday Brunch Series!  Today features Edith Pawlicki, an author that I “met” through Bookstagram and now have read and reviewed three of her books!  All three of those are searchable on the blog. The most recent released this past Tuesday so congratulations on that!

Here she talks about her publishing journey, compares writing for YA vs Adult audiences,  shares a co-op food story, and even shouts out Rochester too 😁

This is a bit of a longer interview so I won’t hold it up, here she is!


1) Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your books!

Thank you for hosting; I love brunch! 

I write science fiction and fantasy books with a big dash of romance and family. My books are character-driven. 

I am a stay-at-home mom and my family shares a duplex with my sisters (there were five children under five here for a while), so my time is split between little people and fictional worlds. Which means I’m a little quirky but very happy!

2)What was your publishing journey like? Do you have any advice for hopeful authors trying to write or publish a book?

I queried for two different books in 2013 and got a lot of rejections.The plots were neither fresh nor compelling, but I didn’t know how to fix them. I did write sporadically over the next five years, around my sons’ second birthday, I found the time to get back into it and audited David Farland’s writing courses online. If you’re aware of a weakness in your writing (characters, setting, plotting, or the writing itself), I highly recommend Farland (https://mystorydoctor.com/). If you can’t afford some version of his course (though he always offers an audit bundle of all of them during NaNoWriMo), his newsletter is free and covers pretty much everything in his lectures in bite-sized chunks. His courses took my writing to a new level. 

I started querying agents for Minerva in 2019. I didn’t query as many as I had been advised to (I’ve heard 50-100 agents), but the process is slow and put me in a negative headspace for writing. Since writing is my main hobby/stress-reliever, my husband persuaded me to self-publish. Even though promotion is very difficult for me, I am so glad that I did because having books in the world, holding the hard copies in my hands, and getting positive reviews from strangers has been joyous and motivating.

As a self-published author, I have not followed the majority of advice. I did not hire an editor (I know all my beta readers personally – none of them had ever beta read before, but just as I got better at revisions, their feedback has improved massively over just three books), and I did my book design and covers myself. I did commission art: maps for Minerva (by Michael Engard:  https://www.kaelri.com/projects/ ) and the cover and interior artwork for the Immortal Beings series (by Goldfinch1 of Fiverr: https://www.fiverr.com/goldfinch01 ).

After publishing Vows, I realized that there are options between traditional publishing and doing it completely alone (like me). You can look for indie presses; sometimes these presses expect you to invest financially in the publishing but manage cover art, editing, etc. Alternatively, you can find editors and book designers online. I have no desire right now to hire a book designer because I really enjoy doing the layout (I use Word) and creating the covers (which I do in Google Drawings), but I have some regrets about not having an editor. Most of the self-published authors I’ve talked to do have editors, and I would really like to at least try it. I think one thing to keep in mind if you self-publish is you will have to spend some money. At absolute minimum, you need to be prepared to print and mail free copies to reviewers, but expect to pay for covers, editing, and advertising. I’ve been told that you should expect it to take at least six books before you have a base audience. As for promotion, a few things that were effective for me were book tours on Instagram and running a paperback giveaway on Goodreads. Be wary of scammers – there are lots of people who will reach out to talk about your book who just want to make a quick buck. Also, talk to libraries and local bookstores – most are very friendly and supportive of local authors.

3) There was a pretty big jump between your first novel, Minerva, a Young Adult post-apocalyptic, and the second, an adult epic fantasy series!  Do you find that you prefer writing to one target audience vs. the other?

I don’t prefer one audience over the other, but I find it more relaxing writing for an adult audience because of my standards for YA. For example, in my latest book, Loves of Shadow and Power, a main character says “One way of loving isn’t better than any other. There are as many right ways to love as there are beings in this world.” When my husband read that, he turned to me and asked if I agreed. And while I do think there are as many right ways to love as people, there are definitely bad ways to love – many controlling/abusive relationships are in fact twisted expressions of love. When my target audience is adult, I feel I don’t have to qualify all the character’s beliefs though – I am trusting readers to assess the statements for themselves. But if that line had been in Minerva, I would have felt compelled to offer a counter opinion, which would necessitate a listening character with a contradictory opinion who was determined to express it, and having the response/argument be relevant to the plot. Anyway, that’s why I find it challenging – and why Minerva was outlined while the Immortal Beings series was discovery-written. 

4) What do you look for when finding readers to contact about your books? Are you looking for any specific style or content for your reviewers?

This question is giving me way too much credit! When I started the publishing process, I signed up for Inkers Con 2020 and one of its lectures suggested using Instagram for promotion. I stumbled into Bookstagram, and messaged ten Bookstagrammers who posted regularly, wrote coherent reviews, had at least 100 followers, and had followed me (I had probably 30 followers at that point). I was super nervous, and I remember I freaked out when you accepted a copy because you had about five thousand followers, which was mind-boggling to me! Anyway, only two of the Bookstagrammers who accepted copies actually posted, so I felt I had to do something different for the Immortal Beings. I ended up discovering book tour organizers, and decided to try that – it was far more effective in getting follow-through than when I was messaging bookstagrammers directly. As for who got ARC offers for the Immortal Beings sequel – I contacted people from the original tour that had posted their reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, had written more than just a synopsis, and had liked the first book. I’m not planning any tours for the sequel because I don’t think it would read well on its own; instead, I am focusing on promoting the first book and relying on read-through.

{{pssst: hey people, especially if you take a physical review copy from an author, write a review!  It doesn’t have to be long or even necessarily right on time – most authors are understanding – but write something!!

As a fun fact I actually took Minerva because she mentioned doing Uni in Rochester, and I am totally 100% glad that happened}}

5) What brunch item would you pair with your books so far??

For Minerva, I would do Christmas Tree bread! It’s a family tradition: sweet bread with whatever dried fruits you fancy, spread with cinnamon, sugar, and butter before it’s cut and twisted to resemble an evergreen tree and baked. Then you drizzle with frosting and M&M/gumdrops. My grandmother invented it as a Christmas present for her many in-laws (my mom’s side is a prolific New England farm family), and I can’t remember a Christmas brunch without it! Minerva always feels like a holiday book for me, maybe because Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years are such pivotal days in the story.

For the Immortal Beings series, I would say chawanmushi, which is a savory Japanese egg custard that might feature fish and any number of veggies. When it comes out perfectly, it’s like silk, but all of my attempts have been scrambled eggs…

6) I actually misread Edith’s bio and thought she moved around frequently – so this question turned into “How have your travels and experiences influence your writing”?

I was surprised by this question because I’ve spent at least three quarters of my life in the same rural Connecticut town, but I was exposed to a lot of different cultures because my grandfather grew up in India and my father spent large portions of his childhood in Japan and Germany. We ate lots of “foreign” food as well as read stories from around the world. Yes, the places I’ve been shape my writing. The tunnels in Minerva have roots in the tunnels at the University of Rochester, which let students walk between buildings without going out in snowstorms. And of course, Japanese culture, aesthetic, and mythology obviously influenced the Immortal Beings. It isn’t just places though –  everything (and everyone!) that I know creeps into the books one way or another. For as long as I can remember, I have always read author bios when I finished a book, and it struck me early on that my favorite authors had collected many life experiences – different jobs, different homes, widely read. And so I have tried to collect experiences too – I am always trying to log the atmosphere, the essence of my surroundings so that I can pull them out for my stories! 

{{I love those tunnels!}}

7) Wayyy back in the day you mentioned that you lived in a vegan co-op, and that some of the food fails were inspirations for your army’s cuisine in Minerva! I am calling in that promised story if you can remember any particularly epic fails!

So most of the meals I ate there really were delicious spreads that I still try to mimic in my own cooking, but I had one housemate who believed that he could toss any fresh produce from the farmer’s market into a frying pan, some tofu or nuts, add the spices we used for granola (cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg) along with some generous shakes of yeast flakes (a savory topping that often replaces grated cheese in vegan dishes), and it would work. The first time he did this, I think it was with apples and potatoes and it was tasty, but multiple people tried to convince him to explore other recipes. The worst one I remember had swiss chard and peanut butter – the flavors didn’t mesh well, but the biggest problem was that he didn’t properly clean the chard, so there was a generous seasoning of dirt and small stones. Anyway, all of these “stir-fries” tended to become mushy stews that looked really unappetizing, even when they tasted good, and he sometimes pureed them (why?), which you probably recall from Minerva!

8) Here is the easy round of rapid fire bookish questions – do you have a favorite book or series you always recommend? Favorite literary character? Any wonderful or strange bookish habits?

My favorite author is Mary Balogh. Her books are a delightful blend of life lessons and happy-ever-afters. I know the regency romance wrapping isn’t for everyone, but her books have made me a better person. My favorite character would be Kel from the Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce, partially because I grew up with her. She always relentlessly chose to do the right thing, regardless of how hard it was. She demanded so much of herself, while always granting the benefit of the doubt to others. She has always inspired me, and I think that Minerva is a little like Kel. As for strange habits – when I was younger (not a mother) I pretty much either read a book straight through (if a book was really long, like the Wheel of Time, I would carry it with me constantly, reading during school passing periods and every free moment until it was done) or DNF – if I put the book down, it usually meant I was either finding it boring or disliked the characters and once that happened, I almost never would pick it back up.  (I do read quite quickly, which is probably why I like to reread because I often miss details on the first read through). Now I usually have to set books aside for even days at a time (because children can’t wait while fiction can), but I never feel guilty about stopping a book – honestly, I was shocked to realize how many people seem to after joining Bookstagram. Usually my DNF happens within the first chapter because I’m not enjoying the writing, but I’ve stopped 75% through if I realized I didn’t care what happened next. I guess I feel I have too many things I want to or have to do to waste time doing something that’s neither!

9) Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there’s anything else you’d like to say about anything at all, please do so here!

Thank you so much for the interview! It was fun. I will end by sharing my writing goals: to write stories that take people on adventures, leave them happy and encouraged, while provoking them to think about themselves or the world. Life lessons through fantasy!


Find Edith online at:

https://edithpawlicki.com/about.html

Categories
General Posts, Non Reviews

A New England Literary Tour, Plus Some Cool Books

Title says it all, right? I spent the past week with mom driving from WNY to Boston, seeing the sights, cheering on the Patriots in peace, and of course hitting some literary landmarks.

Here are a few things that I hope book nerds can appreciate!


Our first stop was in Middlebury, VT, at Monroe Street Books! The largest used bookstore in Vermont! The shelves were towering almost to ceiling height and there were ladders to reach the high shelves! Great prices and dollar bins outside with plenty of great titles. Verdict: a must visit, bring a friend in case you need your ladder held! 

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Categories
audiobooks Historical Fiction Horror Paranormal Young Adult

The Diviners (Book/Audiobook thoughts) by Libba Bray

Lo and behold I finally read a book this month! The Diviners by Libba Bray is a great fall or Halloween time of the year pick.  The frights and gore and level of creepiness probably make this YA paranormal read appropriate for age 16+, but would not recommend for younger kids!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Diviners
  • Series: The Diviners, #1
  • Author: Libba Bray
  • Publisher & Release: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – September 2012
  • Length: 578 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of paranormal, 1920s, creepy vibes and darker themes

Here is the book blurb:

A young woman discovers her mysterious powers could help catch a killer in the first book of The Diviners series–a stunning supernatural historical mystery set in 1920s New York City, from Printz Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray.

Evangeline O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and sent off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult. Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far.

When the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer. As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfurl in the city that never sleeps. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened…

Audiobook note: it is slightly over 18 hours of listening time, narrated by January LaVoy. Published by Listening Library in 2012.  LaVoy is a freaking amazing narrator, she has to cover everything from flappers to demons to jazz musicians and totally nails it

“Your mother and I do not approve of drinking. Have you not heard of the Eighteenth Amendment?”

“Prohibition? I drink to it’s health whenever I can”

Ok so this book, AND the audio, both have truly creepy vibes at times.  It is a chonker but for the most part extremely quick paced and a lot of fun to both read and listen to. I felt the danger while they were investigating the murders and dealing with the spirit!

There is a lot of 1920s slang that was a little annoying, and I don’t know if it’s authentic or not.  Evie and Sam, Jericho, Theta, Memphis, Will, they were all great characters with their own arcs of trauma, self acceptance, and skills to bring to the table. Their back stories were interesting, sad and dark.  There were a lot of characters but no one was wasted. I just docked a star because I was not buying the romance at the end, at all, it happened pretty  quick and just didn’t feel real

“People will believe anything if it means they can go on with their lives and not have to think too hard about it.”

The mystery itself seemed dark for YA, but unique and I loved it.  A demon? Spirit? Ghost? Is acting out the 12 offerings in a sacred text to become the prophesied beast, reign hellfire, reshape the Earth.  It results in bloody murders across NYC that Evie is in a unique position to help solve

How do you invent a religion?” Evie asked.

Will looked over the top of his spectacles. “You say, ‘God told me the following,’ and then wait for people to sign up.”

I was thinking about the concept of having to banish/kill the spirit on his own terms, as in the legend/religion/prophecy becomes true because it’s believed, or is fuelled by beliefs. I see that theme in paranormal and mythology texts lot, and then got to laughing because in a Christmas eve homily about 10 years ago the priest said something like “it’s true because we believe it” — and we all looked at each other saying “no, we believe it because it’s true, not vice versa” lol.

Now I am stuck on this whole belief vs truth thing.  It is a huge theme in the book and an interesting one for that YA age to ponder

“People tend to think that hate is the most dangerous emotion. But love is equally dangerous,” Will said. “There are many stories of spirits haunting the places and people who meant the most to them. In fact, there are more of those than there are revenge stories.

So yeah, this is a book/audio that I’d definitely  recommend for those who like sassy female leads, paranormal, mysteries, life in the 20s, and all that.  Some tough themes are handled like death, violence, corpse and live body mutilation, confronting dead parents, religious zealotry, a kitty is killed for a ritual 😭 and implied sexual thoughts, but 16+ should be fine!

Are you reading any spooky books yet this fall!?

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Science Fiction

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Dustin R. Cummings

As part of the Feather & Dove book tour for Exiles of a Gilded Moon Volume II: Kingdom’s Edge, I am happy to have author Dustin R. Cummings on episode 6 of the SBAIS today! He nailed some tough questions about the narrative, his literary life, and of course brunch!

As far as the books – I read and reviewed book one, Empire’s Wake, a few months ago and you guys can search for that here on the blog if interested! I’ll be posting thoughts on Kingdom’s Edge soon and am definitely curious to see where he takes the series from here.

Enough from me – here he is!


1) Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your books!

Thank you for inviting me! I’m originally from  Mid-Michigan and have lived in New York City for the past several years. 
 
I am a practicing surgeon in the metropolitan area, with a speciality in minimally invasive surgery. In my free time, I like to read, write, exercise and go to museums, especially the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I love the ambiance, and being around ancient things. 
 
I am about to publish the second book in my series, Exiles of a Gilded Moon in a week. I am working on the 3rd and final book in the series, which will hopefully come out in 2022. 
 
2) I think Empire’s Wake is the first book I have read by an MD that isn’t medically related fiction! Did you think about writing something medically inclined or have you always wanted to write a SFF?
 
I have long been interested in writing and literature, and most of all history – I am a professed history nerd. I often contemplate the major events that preceded all of us, and wonder what things would look like today if certain points in history had been different. 
 
The Exiles of a Gilded Moon Series originated from my rumination on history, specifically the European age of conquest. My story arose from a short literary sketch I started, which was inspired by a painting I created for my high school French class. Surprisingly, it happened to be an abstract sci-fi painting! Back then, I wondered what a story about that painting would look like, and Exiles of a Gilded Moon came from that moment.
 
I have definitely contemplated writing something medically related, and I hope to in the future. I wouldn’t necessarily make medicine the main focus. I feel that medical related issues contribute an intriguing narrative arc, and they are most interesting as part of a larger story.
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3) What has your literary life been like? As in – what genres and authors did you love as a kid, vs. as an adult? 
 
As a kid, I really enjoyed any sort of book that involved horror and fantastic elements. I was a fan of the R.L Stine Goosebumps series, and Steven King’s Pet Sematary.
 
As an adult, much of my literary exposure was through my French major in college. I enjoyed reading enlightenment era works by Rousseau and Diderot. I also learned a lot from reading  French Caribbean literature. I was particularly interested in works that dealt with identity, colonization, and the complex relations between the Caribbean islands and metropolitan France, as they transitioned from colonies to integral parts of the country. 
 
As for now, I enjoy reading a variety of genres – anything with a fantastical element will usually get my attention! I also read a decent amount of non-fiction historical works, specifically related to the European age of conquest, or the history of the Americas. 
 
4) Exiles of a Gilded Moon covers some tough narratives like conquest and slavery, but I also see themes like coming of age, redemption, and moreso in book 2 discovering your identity – what are your thoughts on putting these more difficult narratives into Scifi/fantasy? 
 
Exiles of a Gilded Moon indeed covers difficult themes in the course of a young man’s coming of age. I wanted to show how someone who is dealing with his own inner turmoil might navigate his complex, human society with its historical legacy, societal divides, and cultural intricacies. 
 
I wanted to examine what it would look like if someone like Darshima, and the diverse people of his realm suffered a singular, monumental injustice. We often think of invasion and slavery in its general aspects, but I wanted to examine it from the individual level, as well as the global aspect. I sought to use a fantastical location, to tell a story that would feel familiar to readers, that was hopefully less weighted with bias and pre-conceived notions. I used fantastical elements, as they speak to all of us on a deeper level. We all wish that we had some power to shape events seemingly beyond our control. Fantasy allows us to envision worlds where this is possible. 
 
5) Was there any particular scene that was hard to write for you??  {{I’ll tell you the hardest to read afterwards}}!
 
There were several scenes that were challenging to write. I would say the invasion was difficult to compose, given the vividness of the imagery and the description the suffering. As you know, the first half of the book is a very methodical buildup of Darshima’s world and a meticulous exploration of his family and social dynamic. I spent much time with descriptions of people and places. I wanted everything to feel real, and for readers to bond with the peoples, cultures and places. 
 
The invasion represents a violent and calamitous end of innocence for Darshima and his people. As Darshima and the readers learn through the rest of the book, what they thought was an age of innocent before their realm’s fall, was anything but. The transition from freedom to slavery, conquerer to conquered at the individual and societal level is abrupt and jarring. It took some time to settle within me. 
 
The scenes of Darshima’s capture and enslavement were particularly difficult to write. My personal background is Caribbean and South American. In a sense, these scenes were a reflection of my own ancestry through a fantastical mirror. Having to imagine every aspect of Darshima’s toil was a unique emotional experience, and I did my best to express the characters’ thoughts and actions during their suffering. 
 
{{Yes, so like he said in the first paragraph – he spent a lot of time world building a beautiful city, creating a culture, got me all attached to it …. then totally levelled it in the invasion and conquest.  It was hard to read but thinking back on it, the sense of loss was real}}
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6) Specifically in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, do you have a favorite author or one you always recommend?
 
I tend to enjoy the classics, specifically H. G Wells (The invisible Man, The Time Machine, etc.) and Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles.
 
{{This is a response after my own heart, I totally grew up on Asimov and Bradbury and to a lesser extent, Heinlein had a few fantastic stories)
 
7) Did you base any of your characters on real life people?? Darshima’s whole complicated family dynamic felt very real 
 
I like to think that all of the characters have a bit of myself in them, as well as people I know. I have a twin brother (I am the younger twin), and a mother and father whom I adore. I’ve been fortunate to meet and work with so many interesting people throughout my life. My family and friends have all had an influence on me, and that is represented in the story through the events and in the characters.   
 
I really wanted to portray Darshima’s complicated but nurturing family dynamic and how it helps him grow. How he learns to navigate relationships, solve predicaments, etc. is based on some of my own experiences. I would also say, some of the scenes were fantastical portrayals of some of the things I’ve seen and experienced in my own life. 
 
8) What is your favorite brunch food?
 
There are so many to choose from. I love eggs Benedict, either with Canadian bacon or smoked salmon. 
 
9) I know it’s cliché but I aim these interviews at indie authors and the indie community, so I always ask if you have any advice for authors trying to write or publish a novel?
 
I would suggest that anyone interested in writing, please keep writing and don’t be discouraged! We are in a difficult time right now, and people are seeking some means of escape and whimsy, what better means than your future book?  Work on your craft, read in the genres that interest you – even if it isn’t the genre you necessarily want to write in. See how your interests can help you craft your own unique voice and tell your story. 
 
Moreover, reach out to other writers and authors via social media, and don’t be scared to share your writing, its the best way to achieve growth, and get you ready for the steps needed to publish. 
 
10) Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there’s anything else you’d like to add or mention or talk about, please do so here!!
 
{{Dustin didn’t have additional comments so I’ll just take the space to say THANK YOU for serving during a pandemic! To him and all the other HCWs working, struggling, bringing hope, and getting through right now, keep your heads up!  I started reading a lot more SFF during the pandemic and I am personally endlessly thankful for the authors giving me these stories to escape into. Again, thank you)!
 

Meet the Author:
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Dustin Cummings is an author who lives in New York, NY. Originally from Mid-Michigan, he is an avid fan of science fiction and fantasy. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, classical music, and long walks. He is an assistant professor of surgery in the New York metropolitan area.

Find Dustin and Exiles of a Gilded Moon online:

Author Website: https://www.dustinrcummings.com/

Twitter: @dorenavant2020

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dorenavant/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08LDBW29J?binding=kindle_edition&ref=dbs_dp_awt_ser_img_widg_tukn

Categories
Fantasy

Loves of Shadow and Power (book review) by Edith Pawlicki

Hi all! Sorry for my relative silence across media recently, I’m having a hard time getting anything done that’s not work and sleep related. Also I am on a Northeast road trip for the next two weeks but I’ll be back towards the end of the month

I finished Loves of Shadow and Power and really want to thank the author for the early copy! I love anything orange so I’m super happy to have these in print!

One fun note is that Edith will be joining me on the blog next week for the Sunday Brunch Series!

Here is my review for book one in the series!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Loves of Shadow and Power
  • Series: The Immortal Beings #2 (duology)
  • Author: Edith Pawlicki 
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 09/14/21
  • Length: 393
  • Rate & Recommend: 🍁🍁🍁🍁 for Asian based mythology and character driven adult fantasy

Here is the book blurb:

Are the worst demons within or without?

Finally in the Underworld, Jin must find the black peony – and survive the immortal creatures that hunger for her.

Xiao would prefer ravenous immortal creatures to his parents. Imprisoned and continuously drained of power, Xiao is spiralling into addiction and despair…

Nanami doesn’t know Xiao is drinking again. She just knows she needs to save the man she loves, even if it means getting help from an old foe. And if no one believes she can handle the powers she is challenging, well, Nanami has always defied expectations.

Speaking of expectations, Bai is shocked by the power that mortal worship grants the gods. Humbled by a confrontation with them, he must reinvent himself if he wants to claim the place next to Jin.

Separated by circumstance, the four friends must fight gods, monsters, and even themselves to come together again. But if they find each other, will they have changed too much to reunite?

I think the biggest difference in the second novel was the pacing and style.  She went for longer chapters and more breaks, with a mini cliffhanger style that I learned is called Xianxia.  It helped the pacing a lot and made the book hard to put down.

I went pretty deep into the world building in my review for book one.  The main addition to LoSaP was the Underworld, which I think was also my favorite part.  Meeting many of the Immortal Creatures was another high point since the author is skilled at creating lush visual images of places and animals.  I liked that Jin had to reason with them and trust her judgement as well as her power.

The characters learned (mostly) to love and trust in themselves in book one, and now they have to get over initial misconceptions and changing world views to see if they can truly love each other and embrace their roles as responsible deities.

Does deification change them? How do prayers even work? Where does this immense amount of power fit into the grand scheme of things?  Bai and Cheng had me laughing trying to figure these things out.

Theme wise there was self reflection, cause & effect, consequences, and lots of coming of age in this one.  Friendship and sacrifice, justice and judgement, plus natural vs found family and breaking ties

You all know I’m a sucker for a found family.  There was a bit of a morality nosedive towards the end that I would have really appreciated if I wasn’t half brain dead.

I just docked a star for some repetitive language and other small things, nothing serious at all.

Overall: a satisfying conclusion to the duology. Definitely recommend this series for fans of Asian based mythology & fantasy, lush descriptions, character driven coming of age stories and lore.

Stay tuned on the 19th for the author interview!

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Young Adult

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring V. Romas Burton!

Hi everyone! Thank you so much for tuning in to the 5th episode of the SBAIS! I screwed up and am posting this as a super late edition because I miiiiight have thought that today was Saturday.  I swear I am getting way too old for these night shifts.

Today I’m here with a very special guest, the author of the YA epic fantasy series Heartmender! I found her books through the Monster Ivy Publishing Instagram page, and was really honored to read two out of three of her books as ARCs!! The last novel in the trilogy, Heartrender, releases on September 7th and you can find all of my reviews here on the blog for those books!

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Without further ado, here is V. Romas Burton!!

1) Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your books!

Thank you so much for having me! My name is Vanessa and I write under the pen name V. Romas Burton. I write YA Fantasy for Monster Ivy Publishing. The third book in my debut series, Heartrender, comes out this fall! I’m so excited for this series to be complete!


2)What was your publishing journey like? Do you have any advice for hopeful authors trying to write or publish a book? 

I actually spent a while searching for a publisher/agent the traditional way: through querying. However, one day I heard about a Twitter pitch party named Faith Pitch. I decided to participate for fun and ended up with a contract with my publisher

3) The Heartmender books are YA epic fantasy with a strong allegorical theme. What main takeaways would you like Christian youth, vs non Christian youth to take away from the series?

I would like all youth to understand the same message: there will always be trials and temptations in life. But through  your perseverance and God’s guidance, you will get through the hard times.

4) Is there a character that you wrote yourself into more than the others?  I won’t ask who your favorite is 😅

Although there’s a little of me in each character, I would definitely say I’m a lot more like Claire than any of the others. ☺️


5) Content has been a huge debate recently, especially in YA novels. What content and themes do you think are important to present to young readers? I try really hard to spotlight “clean reads” whenever possible, and your books definitely fall into that category

I definitely think YA books should focus more on standing up for what’s right and including good morals. Now, I enjoy a good love story and an epic battle. But sometimes the scenes in YA books, I believe, are extremely erotic or gorey for young readers. I believe it’s possible to write an exciting story without adding all those extra things.

6) I found the video on your Instagram where you mentioned the Verse that sparked the idea for the series! Essentially the thought was: what would it be like if people physically traded their heart to the creator, vs only doing so in spirit? What would you have traded your heart for at the Heart Reign?

Oh I probably would’ve traded it for power or unlimited clothes 😁


7) I can’t imagine how busy you’ve been with the two boys and a book coming out soon!  What do you do for fun/relaxation/selfcare?

Life is definitely busy right now! I’m so thankful that I have had my family’s help! Most nights I’m just ready to crash into bed 🤣 But when I have a little more energy, I love reading webtoons at night to decompress from the day.


8) Here is the easy round of rapid fire bookish questions! Do you have a favorite book or series that you always recommend? Favorite literary character? Any wonderful or strange bookish habits?

I always recommend The Lunar Chronicles to anyone interested in YA. It’s one of my favorite series and was the series that got me hooked on YA Fantasy.

I love the March sisters from Little Women. I enjoyed reading the series as a child, teenager, and adult and was able to identify with a different one at each stage in my life.

I love to binge read genres. If I read a fairytale retelling I love then I will proceed to read all the fairytale retellings! Then, once I’m tired of that, I’ll move on to something else like dystopian and then read all the dystopian! 

{{I’m just adding here that on her website, she has a list of books that she recommends and it’s organized by genre and age group! We have really similar tastes! I was psyched to see Ted Dekker on someone’s recommendation list, and I definitely bookmarked that incase I ever need more book recs!}} 

9  Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there’s anything else you’d like to say about anything at all, please do so here!

Thank you so much for having me! I’ve enjoyed the fun questions! Heartrender, the epic conclusion to the Heartmender trilogy releases Sept. 7! Be sure to read books 1 & 2 before it comes out!


Meet the Author!

V. Romas Burton grew up bouncing up and down the East Coast where she wrote her first story about magical ponies at age seven. Years later, after studying government and earning an M.A. in Theological Studies, V. Romas Burton realized something even bigger was calling out to her–stories that contained great adventures and encouraging messages. Her debut novel, Heartmender, has won several awards including: First Place in Young Adult for the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Second Place in Juvenile/ Young Adult for the 2021 Illumination Book Awards and tied for Third Place for Young Adult Fiction- Fantasy/ Sci- Fi in the 2020 Moonbeam Children’s Awards.


Find Vanessa and the Heartmender series online!

On facebook: https://m.facebook.com/vromasburton/

On Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vromasburton/

Author Website: https://vromasburton.com/

Purchase the Heartmender books on Amazon:

Categories
Fantasy

Eulogy for the Dawn (Book Blitz & Giveaway) by Jeramy Goble!

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Hi everyone! Today I’m jumping into the Storytellers On Tour Book Blitz to show some love to Eulogy for the Dawn!

Come see the Tour Link!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Eulogy for the Dawn
  • Series: Wrathlore, #1
  • Author: Jeramy Goble
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 04/29/21
  • Length: 400 pages

Here is the Book Blurb:

Domaren constructs peace using his tools of war. He is a silencer of rebellions and a butcher of tyrants. To some, he is a champion defender. To others, he is a merciless eradicator. Together with his fellow Godknights, Domaren wields might and magic to carry out the will of the creators.

But the creators have suddenly gone silent.

As the last living Godknight present during the ancient rebellion known as Wrathlore, Domaren must rise above suspicions of deceit, faltering powers, and a world erupting in chaos if he hopes to learn the fate of the missing creators.

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I honestly have only read the prologue but Goble’s writing drew me right in. Gods of various races? Dragon knights? Named swords? I’m planning on reading it when I can!


There is a giveaway too, you have until 09/06/21 to enter!!

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Click here to enter!!


Meet the Author:

Jeramy Goble is an epic fantasy and science-fiction author, originally from Morganton, North Carolina. While traveling with his sister, mother, and military father, Jeramy accumulated passions for the wonders of world faiths, and the excitement of science and technology. In addition to being an author, Jeramy is an IT professional, composer and avid gamer. After studying music, Jeramy received his bachelor’s degree in 2004. He and his wife, Julia, were married in 2010.

Author links:


Website: https://www.jeramygoble.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jeramygoble
Instagram: http://instagram.com/jeramygoblebooks
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JeramyGoble/

Bookish Links:

Amazon: http://geni.us/wrathlore1
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43261792-eulogy-for-the-dawn

Categories
Fantasy Horror

Dreams of the Dying (book review) by Nicolas Lietzau

Happy September! I am feeling the fall vibes, pumpkin spice, wearing of long sleeves, and books that contain corpses and nightmares …. Hey!

Today I am endlessly grateful to self published author Nicolas Lietzau (pronounced Lee-tsow) for the stunning hardcover of his novel Dreams of the Dying.  The naked cover mirrors the dust jacket and makes the book an excellent Halloween/shelf decoration as well as a memorable read, so definitely put this on your radar to read while he’s working on book two!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dreams of the Dying
  • Series: Enderal #1
  • Author: Nicolas Lietzau
  • Publisher & Release: Self, December 2020
  • Length: 826 pages (hardcover)
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes to those with any interest in fantasy, horror elements, mental health rep

Here is the book blurb from GoodReads:

If your mind is the enemy, where do you run?

Years after a harrowing war experience, ex-mercenary Jespar Dal’Varek has taken to drifting. It’s a lonely existence, but, barring the occasional bout of melancholia, he has found the closest thing to peace a man like him deserves. Life is “all right.”

Or so he believes. Hoping to turn the page, Jespar accepts a mysterious invitation into the beautiful but dangerous archipelago of Kilay-and everything changes.

Plagued by explosive social tensions and terrorism, the tropical empire is edging ever closer to civil war. Kilay’s merchant king is the only person able to prevent this catastrophe, but he has fallen into a preternatural coma-and it’s Jespar’s task to figure out what or who caused it. As the investigation takes him across the archipelago and into the king’s nightmares, unexpected events not only tie Jespar’s own life to the mystery but also unearth inner demons he believed to be long exorcised.

Battling old trauma while fighting for his life, his sanity, and the fate of Kilay, the line between dream and reality blurs until only one question remains: If your mind is the enemy, where do you run?

Described as “Inception in a Polynesian fantasy setting,” Dreams of the Dying is a slow-burning, haunting blend of fantasy, mystery, and psychological horror, that explores mental illness, morality, and the dark corners of our minds.

This is a pretty difficult book to unpack! I know a lot of my followers have played Skyrim – if you played the Enderal mod you may be familiar with the author of this book, or at least his writing! (I admit that I entirely stopped gaming around 2016, it wasn’t compatible with travel nursing, but knowledge of the Enderal story is not required to enjoy the book!)

 The Worldbuilding: I thought the best part about the hardcover was all of the extras in the appendix.  This is a clearly lovingly crafted world that had an insane amount of planning involved, both on a macro and micro level.  There is plenty of world building in the book including local foods, customs and culture, architecture, a religious synopsis, weather, and the feel of the populace…

Then the book is over and the appendix is there! The micro world-building is just ..  it’s just something that only an indie author can do and it’s perfect.  Pages on and drawings of animals, even their named skeletons, local fashions, drawings, more about the Gods and Goddesses, and just an incredible breakdown of the language that was created for the Makehu people.

Take this example of how the language and lingual barriers feed overall immersion – it integrates into the story and creates comic relief at times!

‘kaia ‘ō kā teteie e māu kū.’ Do you know it?”

“‘Look out for … the emotional fish?’”

Kawu snorted. “Not quite.

I just love how much local culture and lore was included without being burdensome to the story.  I was going to share another quote about the tension/feel of the city but it contains a typo … The sentiment is there though. (Mostly the editing is extremely well done).

  • The only issue I had with the world is – the heck is up with the seasons? The 6th moon of dry season only has 5 days … but the rainy season month has 33 days? 
  • Also as far as immersion ..  Lietzau probably wrote one of the most creative languages I’ve ever seen in a low fantasy, including such slang gems as “by the excretions of the sacred donkey.” Yet with nothing else modern about the world, he throws in modern slang.  I got used to it … (yes yes even though it’s a Bavarian cultural thing) … but it threw off an otherwise near perfect immersion.  I’m sure the Makehu swear too 😂

The Characters: ah gosh this book was so perfectly tailored to people who are struggling through their 30s.  Jespar has PTSD, anxiety, and guilt, and the representation is just so real that reading his journey through it was a bit jarring at times.   Lysia is a physician that runs a slum clinic even though her debts are piling up, and Kawu is an innocent, selfless little thing that had way too much trauma thrown at him at once.  Neither of them were particularly good people but they seemed real and I think anyone with struggling mental health will be able to relate to someone in the novel.

The point of view is mostly Jespar’s, but there is another that is referred to as “The Man”.  This POV brings out a whole spectrum of one’s own personal hell, confronting past demons, and learning a thing or two about what exactly it means to be a monster.

Between the monster, the swamp, and the court of corpses, the analogies are spot on.

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The Content: this seems like a good time to mention that September is suicide awareness month: I don’t need to give you guys the lecture but PLEASE reach out to a professional if you ever feel like you’ re losing the will to keep going. https://www.nami.org/get-involved/awareness-events/suicide-prevention-awareness-month

Alright the book is heavy content wise: briefly there is anxiety, crippling guilt, parental death, fairly graphic suicide description involving a knife, a drowning attempt, a not too scary corpse, other corpses, kind of descriptive (maybe R rated) m/f and m/m intercourse, smoking and alcohol use, and some really cute fluffy animals.

Tae ite nū’iwilo, tae hūnā ‘o. ‘You won’t find out if you give up.’ Because that is what it comes down to with melancholia and despair: just as other people lie when they tell you things always get better, your mind lies when it tells you that it doesn’t. The only way to know is to stay and find out … as hard as it might be.”

That quote hit me HARD, and it felt like something extremely personal that the author left in the text. When he recapped it in the afterword and talked about his own mental health struggles; I am just glad to see people speaking openly of this.  My mental health is total trash as a critical care nurse right now and I’ll openly admit that I had to clam up on this review for a bit.

The Magic: alright let’s perk this back up.  The magic system ranges from dream-walking to necromancy, healing, mind control, and seems to work as a mental and physical drain.  There are quite a few abilities and it’s pretty interesting overall.  Y’all know me, throw in necromancy and I’m there. There’s a lot of cause and effect related to the magic, and a professorial lecture in the appendix if you are still curious!

Closing thoughts : it’s a long book but nothing is extra, and the plot keeps moving forward without much drag at all.  This is a more intellectual breed of fantasy that I would push towards fans of Gene Wolfe or NK Jemisin rather than those expecting pure escapism.

To break the book down into a one sentence synopsis:

A comatose magnate, insurgent terrorists, furious commoners.

With a side theme of mental health, and….

If you fight injustice with injustice, no matter how deserved it may feel, you’ll always end up as just another turn of the wheel.”

I do strongly encourage everyone with an even casual interest in fantasy to check this one out.  It won’t be for everyone with some of the strong themes but I definitely think it’s worth consideration!

Again thank you so much to the author for my review copy, all opinions are my own 🖤


Find Nicolas and Dreams of the Dying online:

instagram.com/niseam_stories goodreads.com/nicolaslietzau facebook.com/nicolaslietzau patreon.com/niseam discord.com/invite/zdJyuHV (“The Enderal Novels” Section) niseamstories.tumblr.com reddit.com/r/enderal

 


Now that no one is still reading, a quick bookish note and SBAIS update:  I am endlessly grateful to ALL of the Indie authors that have been reaching out to me with their novels this year!  There are thousands of reviewers out there and it’s an honor! Everyone stay tuned this Sunday because I’ve got Heartmender series author V Romas Burton on and I can’t wait to share that with you all!

Categories
Dystopian Science Fiction

Twenty Five to Life (ARC review) by R.W.W. Greene

Thank you so much to Angry Robot for having me on the book tour for Twenty Five to Life by R.W.W. Greene!

This book is a futuristic “what-if”- what will happen when sea levels rise and pollution is unbreathable? How will the governments manage the end of the world crisis? The book starts at an end of the world party as colony spaceships are deserting the Earth, and everyone left is going to have to fend for themselves.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Twenty Five to Life
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: RWW Greene
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 8/24/21
  • Length: 279 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for Scifi, dystopian fans!

Here is the book blurb:

Life goes on for the billions left behind after the humanity-saving colony mission to Proxima Centauri leaves Earth orbit … but what’s the point?

Julie Riley is two years too young to get out from under her mother’s thumb, and what does it matter? She’s over-educated, under-employed, and kept mostly numb by her pharma emplant. Her best friend, who she’s mostly been interacting with via virtual reality for the past decade, is part of the colony mission to Proxima Centauri. Plus, the world is coming to an end. So, there’s that.

When Julie’s mother decides it’s time to let go of the family home in a failing suburb and move to the city to be closer to work and her new beau, Julie decides to take matters into her own hands. She runs, illegally, hoping to find and hide with the Volksgeist, a loose-knit culture of tramps, hoboes, senior citizens, artists, and never-do-wells who have elected to ride out the end of the world in their campers and converted vans, constantly on the move over the back roads of America

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It’s hard to pinpoint this book, but I think it’s really about living out your days as best as you can, keeping hope in the worst situations, and finding “the point”.

Most of the population has moved into these tiny cube apartments in towers in the big cities, where the government can offer housing, food, and keep everyone happy aka addicted to pharma emplants and living in Virtual Reality.  While this is life for most of the world, a few citizens live out their lives roaming America’s roads and seeing the sights in caravans.   That certainly sounds better than living as an avatar with no purpose, and no sense of how to interact with anyone anymore!

Julie isn’t quite legal age but she decides to risk running away to join these drifters rather than live out the days till the end of the world in a box.  I really liked Julie and the lady that kind of adopts her on the road, called Ranger. The roads are dangerous and filled with caravans, gangs, and tons of other dangers including disease and weather phenomenon. I like that these people would rather be free than submit to VR, and most have become survivalists.

There are themes of looking out for your neighbor, taking care of the Earth before it is too late, addiction, friendship, sickness and loss, hope and generally making the most of one’s life. It’s almost a plausible future too, who’s to say what would happen if the population has to converge mostly on one continent? Yikes!

The book is funny at times with great banter and plenty of girl power, I gave this one a strong four stars!

Please do check out the other tour hosts as well!