Categories
Fantasy

Song of Echoes (book review) by R.E. Palmer

I am reading a ton of self published fantasy this fall, thanks to some amazing indie authors that have reached out about their books. One such author was R.E. Palmer!

Song of Echoes reads like a classic fantasy. I’ve been in a huge slump recently toward all the character driven drivel and romance in new fantasy books. This book presented it’s world and told a story, one with inherent magic and two very different character points of view that don’t interact. It’s kind of what I love about self published work

Overall it was not perfect, but interesting and refreshing

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Song of Echoes
  • Series: Song of Echoes, #1
  • Author: R.E. Palmer
  • Publisher & Release: FrontRunner Publications, 07/05/21
  • Length: 434 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for classic, adult fantasy fans

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

All that has gone before is woven into the Song; joy, sorrow; kind acts and cruel acts; creation and destruction. Past, present, and what has yet to come, make themselves known — if you know how to listen.

For three hundred years, the people of the Five Realms have lived in relative peace, protected by their great leader, the Archon. Yet, far to the north, in the frozen lands beyond the Draegalen Trench, the Ruuk stir, driven by a rising evil, long believed banished from the world. But rumors questioning the Archon’s ability to defend the realms once more, persist.

Elodi, the Lady Harlyn, uneasy in her new role following the death of her father, and Toryn, a farmworker and outsider in his village, must discover a way to fight an enemy that all but defeated their ancestors.

The story starts with a legend, and then throws a lot of places and names and lore at the reader.  It didn’t take long to figure out what areas were important to remember though, and once the story got started with Toryn and Elodi it was hard to put down.  Who would know that maybe those old legends are true?

The world has inherent magic, but it isn’t really elaborated on or discussed at all until towards the end.  There is also workable magic, presented as a handful of feared sorcerers with inherent abilities.  The source is hinted at but will be further explored in later books.

The world seems like a geographically diverse continent, with forests and mountains and everything in between.  I did like how the setting of each area shaped the characters and their personalities, as they should. 

Elodi is the newish leader of her realm, gathered at the Archon’s keep with the other Lords to inspect the realms defenses.  Toryn is a farmer, dying to see beyond the gates of his home region but unable to due to restrictions placed by the Archon on travel.

As we learn more about the politics, dangers, and impending war of the realm, everything starts to make sense and fall into place.  There are multiple dangers to each border but the Archon is obsessed with only one enemy, totally ready to leave the rest of the realm to fend for itself on extremely limited men and resources.

I really ended up liking Elodi, she was brave as hell at the end and a credit to her title, leading her knights.  Toryn had less of an impressive story arc but set himself up to be a bigger player in the next book.  I actually liked that the storylines didn’t intersect, it’s a nice change from every author just shoving romance down my throat for the sake of it.

There are a lot of really good side characters too and Palmer doesn’t hold back from inserting some tragedy into the pages. There are some tough siege and battle scenes.

I think the physical descriptions and setting were my favorite aspect.  The mountains and bridges form some amazing natural defenses, and everything sounds so majestic.  Without being repetitive, Palmer brings each area and vista to life.

Theme wise … Honor, veteran pride, loyalty, found family, and the value in stories, are some of my favorites.

I think the down side was that the book got off to a slow start.  It does take a bit to figure out who is who, who is important, and what regions we need to remember, but I think it’s worth it.  I would have liked more from the inherent magic.  I will definitely be keeping an eye out for book 2!


Shout out to the cover artist as well –  Kentaro Kanamoto does some amazing fantasy artwork! http://www.kentarokanamoto.com/

Find the book online!

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58145883-song-of-echoes

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B095XQ9VQ
Website: www.frontrunnerbooks.com

 

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Earth On Fire, Ocean of Blood (book thoughts) by A4

I was so excited when the fourth Far Forest Scrolls book released! I read it this October and figured that since I’ve been diligently reading from the start, I would post my spoiler free book thoughts.

There may be series spoilers – I think and hope not but it’s hard after four books to remember 😂

Series recap and reviews:

Na Cearcaill – 🗡🗡🗡🗡

Hourglass of Destruction – 🗡🗡🗡🗡

Rise Above the Storm – 🗡🗡🗡🗡🗡

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Earth on Fire, Ocean of Blood
  • Series: Far Forest Scrolls, #4
  • Author: A4 – Alpha Four
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 09/07/21
  • Length: 481 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ I’m in for the series at this point, I do think it’s good for advanced young readers 

Here is the book blurb:

Pushed into civil war, the nations of Verngaurd descend into a series of devastating and fatal battles that leave the ground bloodied and in flames. Will Friar Pallium’s years of planning be enough to overcome the considerably larger army of nations arrayed against them? With an elaborate series of feints and ambushes planned, the only assured outcome is substantial death on both sides. With the Allies and the Confederacy focused on fighting each other, the Dark Warriors are all too happy to move in and conquer territory.

When the trials of their odyssey are finally revealed the League quickly discovers it will be longer, more strenuous, and infinitely more dangerous than they could have imaged. Bellae will have to face eccentric guardians of uncertain motives while struggling with the devastating loss of one of her companions—and her part to play in his tragic death.  

I like the concept, storyline, presentation, and artwork of these books so much.  What I’m struggling with is who to recommend them to, and also the pacing of the series as a whole.

The best line of this fourth installment was Bellae and the League of Truth – they finally started their quest and got so far as to find two sets of crystals.  The issue: it took four books to get here.  I get that it’s a slow burning series and epic quest, but I’m struggling with how long it took to get them here.

The guardians and the quest itself is awesome though.  Bellae is starting to crack a bit under the tragedy and pressure.  It’s truly unfortunate that she had to do this at her age since the quest was never intended for a child.  The other squires are such a good team and I like the other league members too.

Oh Crann, why though 😭

The other storyline was the beginning of the civil war – it was brilliantly thought out, including maps, but I honestly just tuned out at the length of the battle scenes.  The traps and prestidigitation were amazing and incredibly well thought out – but again, half of the entire book only covered the start of the war, and only a few encounters.  The cliffhanger though 😭

J think Luchar stole the whole book at the end with his diatribe prior to the final battle.  I think he secretly became my favorite knight and I’m just blown away by the depth he has hidden the whole time.  Half crushed or not, he’s joining that final battle.

Speaking of depth: I think this fourth book had the broadest emotional spectrum yet.  Oh I have both cracked up laughing and been absolutely bawling at points throughout the other books, but this one went straight to the dark pit of the Eaglian’s souls with black humor about Tallcon, death, and religious fanaticism, to the point that I found some of the exchanges truly terrifying.

So what do I think overall? These books are more about the journey than the speed. About the pearls of wisdom and range of emotions, and the author taking his time to get the story where he wants it to be.  It’s truly an indie project and I bet a labor of love, including the continuation of all the wonderful artwork in the book. 

This one still stays clear of language and romance, but continues with gore gore and gore in the war scenes.  It’s almost cartoonist at times but I still would strictly say 14+ with these and probably try them for boys trying to find fantasy books.

Lastly: I am just going to throw some of my favorite quotes here at the end!

Dreams, which can seem so hardy, even sturdy, within the fortified confines of our skull, acutely become fragile and vulnerable when exposed to the outside world. Each time we fight to achieve a dream, we uncover part of our heart. It takes courage to reveal a dream and diligent fortitude to achieve it

– Veneficus

 

At the end of the day, even those of us who have never fought in a war have battle scars, visible and invisible, repressed and haunting, external and internal, public and confidential. Regrets can cling to our souls like invasive dew

– a scroll

 

“When you’re fighting the wrong war, there can be no victory, no matter the outcome.”

-Friar

 

“In life, and on this quest, do not lose sight of the importance of the journey itself. Concentrate on your heart and dedicated effort. Those are the things you can control. Isn’t your best all that you, and the world, can ask?”

– Patuljak

 

“Just because I don’t worship your god does not mean that I have a lesser conviction, or right, to victory”

– Friar

And … Lastly:

“Even as the clouds of confusion rumble and turn black, I stand. I stand in front of uncertainty and scream, ‘I will know you.’ I will fight to know you. As long as I have breath, I will never let doubt or fear win. As long as I can move even one part of my body, I will fight, tear, and claw for Knight victory. When I heave my last breath, I leave no regrets.”

– someone I really hope survives 


Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Horror

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Lee Conley!

Welcome back to GrimDarkTober month on the SBAIS! For episode 10 this week, fantasy/horror/Grimdark author Lee Conley was nice enough to take the time to interview!  

Now I feel bad for asking if he is heartless, but he took it like a champ and talked about what it takes to present a grim, realistic, immersive fantasy world, and what makes a great fantasy in general.  

Enough from me, here he is!


Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your literary life!

Hello, great to be here. I am Lee, author of The Dead Sagas series. I am from the UK and work as a professional guitarist by day, and write things by night. I’m also very passionate about the study of history and am a longsword and medieval martial arts instructor, which means I get to fight with actual swords with full contact, which is amazing fun.

When I’m not doing that I am part of a small team that runs Bard of the Isles Literary Magazine, which represents and showcases work from our British and Irish Writing Community group. My own writing is usually a weird blend of horror and grimdark fantasy which is basically what you will get from The Dead Sagas.

1) After reading A Ritual of Flesh, I have to get the elephant out of the room first – are you heartless or a lord of chaos?

I could be heartless when it comes to my characters I suppose, but I think I’d prefer to go with Lord of Chaos, as there is certainly the element of pure chaos in the events unfolding in my books that I try to capture and put down on the page. But hear me out, there is reason behind it all, not just mindless chaos. I am all too aware that life is a fragile thing, people die, sometimes important ones, sometimes pointlessly. I try to give a sense of that in my books, the feeling that absolutely no-one is safe or has invincible plot-armour. I think a large unfolding story is made up of many parts rather than a handful of central invincible characters (I usually find that quite boring to read), so I try to show the bravery and courage (or lack of) of those playing those parts even if it leads to their unexpected demise. Perhaps that makes me heartless? But it does lead to unpredictable, unexpected reading hopefully. I did really enjoy the utter chaos that the combination of the Cursed and the Dead bring to the novels, there’s so much sheer horror to play with there, and its really great fun to write.

2) Is there a character in The Dead Sagas that you either wrote yourself into or relate to the most? 

I think all the characters have part of the writer in them to some degree. You have to tap into their, and thus your own, emotions to portray them and show their hopes and fears. I think a lot of the characters have a lot of heart, and to show those qualities I put them through some very traumatic experiences, experiences I have not had, and would not want to have, but can only imagine. I sit and think what it would be like to go through that, what would I think, feel or do if I were in their shoes, so in that respect those reactions are part of me I suppose. There is no single character that I wrote to be me though, I really wouldn’t want to be any of them. I can only wish I was a fearless and bad ass as some of them.

 

3) Does it take a mental toll to write so many character deaths and put them through such tough actions and decisions? 

You do develop a certain emotional attachment to the characters. I wouldn’t say it takes a toll with the amount of deaths, or particularly the acute darkness of the writing. Harking back to that earlier question, does that make me heartless? Maybe? I have to be a little heartless in some respect, and I’ll kill them, hurt them, maim them, and utterly destroy them all ruthlessly on a whim. But, saying that, there is a certain emotional attachment, as mentioned to some of the characters. One example is Hafgan, I very quickly realized that Hafgan was amazing, and originally Hafgan played Hagen’s part and met his demise early in the first book. I couldn’t do it, Hafgan I knew had a larger role to play somehow so I had to create Hagen to die in his place (Sorry Hagen) and keep Hafgan, and I’m glad I did. There are some emotional scenes in Flesh too, a certain scene at the gates where characters die was emotional to write, and certain unspeakable things that some characters have to do to their loved ones were also hard to write. I hope I harnessed that emotion and that it shows through in the books though as it will enrich them all the more.  

({{That scene at the gate 😭 if all innocence wasn’t lost yet, it was there}}

4} I would 100% recommend your blog for those looking for fantasy recommendations I hadn’t heard of many books that you review and it seems like a wealth of good reading! That said – what do you think sets apart a particularly good fantasy novel?

Thank you, I generally only really read books that genuinely interest me and I like to spread the word about excellent and unusual books that I have come across that I feel should get more attention. Personally I am a big fan of a realistic element in fantasy. I am less drawn to the high fantasy tropes where a single invincible character defeats all evil, magic can be Deus Ex Machina, and everyone has a happy ending. Don’t get me wrong I love Tolkien, (like, really love it) and have read a lot of that type of fantasy, but I am usually drawn to the grimmer, low fantasy, something that shows normal people experiencing incredible things. I like good prose, and vivid settings too. I like it to be something different and set apart. In the end though a good book is a good book so I trawl the fantasy and horror genre looking for things that I think the author got right for me.

  

5) Feeding off #5 – Immersion is huge for me and it was one of my favorite aspects of the Sagas so far, are there any aspects of the writing or world building that you focus on to help make it a more immersive reading experience?  

I am not a huge fan of world building exposition style info dumps, I think too many writers spend too long building their world instead of their plot. Saying that, the setting is vitally important, it has to be familiar enough to immerse yourself in and rich enough in background detail to have the world shape the character’s personalities. I try to connect to the human side of a character, the everyday things we all think and feel.

 

6) From your first notes to the final edition, would you say that the books got lighter, darker, or about the same as you initially imagined?

I think the darkness differs between the two books, the first is very atmospheric and spooky, whereas the second leans more towards outright violent gory horror, although there are certainly elements of both in both books so far – it’s a balance I aim to continue over the series. I think I did let myself go a little more with A Ritual of Flesh and pulled no punches, in the first I didn’t hold back per se as much I was cautious. So in that respect I think Flesh is more full on, with full levels of depravity, but I wouldn’t say they got darker or lighter, I think they started quite dark and already quite extreme in places and I have been quite happy that I maintained that level of grim nastiness throughout.

 

7) If you’ve ever worn a Halloween costume, what was your favorite? Bonus points if you have a picture!

Not surprisingly I have often dressed as a zombie. I was a musketeer zombie, a pirate zombie, general zombie, I’ve been a zombie a lot. This year I’m pretty sure I’m going with something different but of course there are pics…

received_685974085668119

8) How do you feel about brunch? Do you have a favorite brunch food?

Favourite brunch is probably the full English breakfast, we quite often go for a full English for brunch, Lincolnshire sausage, smoky bacon, black puddings, mushrooms, tomatoes, hash browns – the works. In fact I cannot wait until I can go get one again.

9) Were there to be an actual zombie apocalypse, what do you reckon would start it? Would you survive?

I imagine it would be some kind of virus or genetic experiments. Especially after the worlds recent events, it really brings it home how easily it could happen. I have seen some pretty worrying experiments on bringing back dead animals or brains recently, and I always say to myself “That how you get zombies, you fools”. Would I survive? I doubt anyone would in the long term. In the end the apocalypse part of the zombie apocalypse is going to win and everyone will likely die. Sorry to crush those hopes folks. Would I survive for a while? I’d like to think so. I have a certain amount of close combat skill at arms and survival skills which most don’t. However, like I said earlier, often important people fail or die pointlessly. I am a family man and would no doubt be caught out whilst saving those who I love, I could never leave them behind, but still, I will I will fight my damned hardest and keep us all safe.

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

Malazan, or Dark tower are my favourite series.

Conan is my favourite character.

Habits? I buy physicals and often never read them, and instead read them on kindle, I suppose that’s a weird pointless habit but I just like good books on my shelves.

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to interview for GrimDarkTober month!! 

It’s been a pleasure, thanks for having me.

Author pic 1

Check out the book and author links below for more info, purchasing The Dead Sagas, and connecting on social media!

Website

www.leeconleyauthor.com

Social media links

Facebook: www.facebook.com/LeeConleyAuthor/

Twitter: @LongswordLee  or  https://twitter.com/LongswordLee

Instagram: @LeeConleyAuthor  or  https://www.instagram.com/leeconleyauthor/

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/14649012.Lee_Conley

 

Mailing list

Sign up to Lee’s mailing list!

If anyone would like to sign up for occasional (once or twice a year) email of news and updates on Lee’s work, with the occasional competition or giveaway too, please sign yourselves up to Lee’s mailing list. https://mailchi.mp/ec0e4d5c30e7/leeconleyauthlaningpage

Universal Order links:

getbook.at/ARitualofBone

getbook.at/ARitualofFlesh


Categories
Fantasy

The Dragon Reborn (book thoughts) by Robert Jordan

 

The Wheel of Time – see review: 🗡🗡🗡🗡

The Great Hunt – see review – 🗡🗡🗡🗡🗡

 

I can’t believe it took nearly three months to struggle through this book, although there were multiple reasons for it.

First off, after the first two chapters or so I was bored to tears.  It took RJ 300+ pages just to get the characters down their respective rivers, and I was so bored by the Egwene & Nynaeve & Aes Sedai storyline.

Mat turning into a superhero was the only reason I didn’t just give up

Secondly, the buddy read itself.  I was doing well with it until my ex ghosted and of course obviously dropped the chat. I really liked our buddy reads so it soured the book for me a bit. I got so far behind the rest of the group and ended up letting it sit for a few weeks.

Towards the end, once the action picked back up – say the last 100 pages – I couldn’t put it down.  Overall I would say TDR was unevenly paced, mostly slow, and so repetitive

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Dragon Reborn
  • Series: The Wheel of Time, #3
  • Author: Robert Jordan
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Books, Sept 1991
  • Length: 624pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🗡🗡🗡 three swords for being what it is

Here is the synopsis:

The Dragon Reborn—the leader long prophesied who will save the world, but in the saving destroy it; the savior who will run mad and kill all those dearest to him—is on the run from his destiny.

Able to touch the One Power, but unable to control it, and with no one to teach him how—for no man has done it in three thousand years—Rand al’Thor knows only that he must face the Dark One. But how?

Winter has stopped the war—almost—yet men are dying, calling out for the Dragon. But where is he?

Perrin Aybara is in pursuit with Moiraine Sedai, her Warder Lan, and Loial the Ogier. Bedeviled by dreams, Perrin is grappling with another deadly problem—how is he to escape the loss of his own humanity?

Egwene, Elayne and Nynaeve are approaching Tar Valon, where Mat will be healed—if he lives until they arrive. But who will tell the Amyrlin their news—that the Black Ajah, long thought only a hideous rumor, is all too real? They cannot know that in Tar Valon far worse awaits…

Ahead, for all of them, in the Heart of the Stone, lies the next great test of the Dragon reborn….

The worldbuilding and characters continue to be good in themselves but I really didn’t care for the three women at all in this installment. Their chapters were mostly the hard to read, boring ones, although Person got awfully repetitive too in the dream world.

Mat randomly turned into a superhero, and he was my favorite. The amount of Perrin has to be leading up to something, while it was just weird to see so little of Rand, minus his little coup de grâce at the end.  Like seriously I expected a lot more of Rand.

 

** this paragraph may contain a spoiler but it’s fairly obvious from book one:** My theory about Ba’alzamon vs Ishamael was finally confirmed, which was something.  It was so naïve of Rand to think he was dead!

The ending was exciting though, I just think Jordan could have shortened it up a lot by not repeating himself so much and maybe speeding up some of the travelling segments. Like did Rand just run the whole way on foot and still beat the others?  Why 300 pages to have them sailing down the rivers?

The new dark creatures, and the banter of the new character (falcon) were some of my favorite parts.  I liked the addition of the Aiel in the storyline too.   Also, where was Min in this one?

I’m going to give this series one more book but I’m really not sure if I will end up continuing past the next book, all 1001 pages of it!

I mean I’m not delusional enough to think that all 14 books are going to be exciting but this one was by far the hardest to get through so far. 

Have you read them? What do you think?


Categories
Fantasy Horror

Book Tour & Giveaway: A Ritual of Flesh by Lee C. Conley!

As always, a huge thank you to Storytellers On Tour and Lee Conley for having me this time around!  Last year I featured the debut novel in The Dead Sagas, A Ritual of Bone, you can find that review here! Now comes the sequel, a even more grim dark-er read called A Ritual of Flesh. Definitely check out the tour schedule and giveaway below because I am 100% fully recommending these books to any dark fantasy and horror fans!

It is also of note that the author is going to be coming onto my GrimDarkTober interview lineup so definitely keep an eye open for that!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: A Ritual of Flesh
  • Series: The Dead Sagas #2
  • Author: Lee C. Conley 
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 10/10/20
  • Length: 476
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ fully!

Here is the synopsis:

As evil ravages the north and the dead walk, all eyes fall to Arn… The apprentice journeys south, home to the College, unaware of the dark events that transpired in the High Passes after his departure. His leg in ruins, and haunted by watching shadows, the College council in Arn awaits him, but he does not travel south alone.

Arnulf and his warriors must travel to Arn also, with tidings for the king of the risen dead and the terrible curse which has destroyed all that he knew. Arnulf seeks vengeance upon the College, but must choose wisely if he is to save his son.

Meanwhile in the west, Bjorn and his strange Wildman companion report back to High Lord Archeon at Oldstones with grim news of cannibal Stonemen encroaching from the Barrens, but is embroiled in news of war and invasion as Archeon requests his service once more.

In the capital sickness awaits them all, Nym has fled to the city and must now continue her struggle for survival on the plague ridden streets of Arn, keeping all who she cares for safe from the halls of Old Night.

The many threads of this Saga converge on the city of Arn, but amid plague, invasion and terror, a greater darkness is looming. Dark forces are seeking to unleash evil upon Arnar, honour and renown is all, and sword, axe and shield is all that stands between the living and the grasping hands of the dead

Holy crap, so I thought that book one was immersive, desperate, dark, and a true grabber from page one .. and then I read this installment. Conley blew it out of the water in terms of maturity, atmosphere, and bringing the storylines together in a cohesive, interesting, and seamless way.

Imagine if you will, the stinking bloody dead victims of a plague piling up in the gutters, no food to be had, and the gates of the towns all sealed. A man is crawling through the corpses, risking the plague himself, trying to find some coin – but even if he found something to steal, he couldn’t buy food. The surviving townsfolk just look on, too numb to bother.

That, friends, is an actual scene (but not a quote) from the novel. I can’t tell you the immersive, seeping atmosphere of dread throughout this book without just describing the scene where I feel they *almost* hit rock bottom.

Each surviving character experiences significant loss and witnesses family as well as other loved ones die, so I know Conley is setting the end up for something even more desperate and epic.

I loved how the characters still managed to find something to fight for, even if all they have left is their family legacy and claim to their homeland.

One thing I have to mention too is the utter chaos of some scenes … Certain parts are just absolutely crazy but still remain within world possibility.

My favorite thing is that this is such a welcome break from the newer fantasy I have been reading: I honestly don’t care about romance and character development and all that crap, just entertain me with something amazing and immersive and intelligent and well written, and this is IT.

Long story short: if you like chaos, dark fantasy, fantasy horror, fighting and honor set in a world reminiscent of Skyrim (I hold by that comparison in terms of my visualization of the world): you need these books!

Has this captured your attention yet?? Enter here to win a copy!

You can also check out the links below to learn more!!

Amazon: http://getbook.at/ARitualofFlesh 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43245727-a-ritual-of-flesh  

Website:http://www.leeconleyauthor.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LeeConleyAuthor/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LongswordLee

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

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14649012.Lee_Conley

Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/user/LeeConleyAuthor 

Categories
Fantasy Paranormal Young Adult

The Keeper of Night (ARC Review) by Kylie Lee Baker

Bring on the morally grey characters and complicated endings, it’s fall! Thank you so much to Inkyard Press for my proof of The Keeper of Night! This is a YA fantasy with Japanese mythology, and I still enjoyed it quite a bit as an adult

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Keeper of Night
  • Series: The Keeper of Night #1
  • Author: Kylie Lee Baker
  • Publisher & Release: Inkyard Press, 10/12/21
  • Length: 400 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ all the stars for this dark fantasy

Here is the book blurb:

A girl of two worlds, accepted by none… A half Reaper, half Shinigami soul collector seeks her destiny in this haunting and compulsively readable dark fantasy duology set in 1890s Japan.

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death…only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.

I liked the premise here, a young British Reaper is also half Japanese Shinigami, and she is bullied by the other Reapers. They don’t treat her much better in Japan and she just goes into this totally selfish spiral of darkness after being forced out of London. Her brother, Neven, would have followed her to the ends of the world and I was surprised by Ren’s lack of empathy towards him, how brutal!

I guess that’s what makes a good morally gray character, their self serving attitude and willingness to do whatever it takes to reach their goals.

It was cool to get a look at Japanese mythology and legends too, especially the underworld.  Baker does a great job with descriptive language, world building, and setting.  I felt like I was there, seeing the sights and smells, being crushed by darkness, wondering what would come next.  A very immersive read.

The magic system was pretty low key, the Reapers had a very cool time turning ability and a lot of the Japanese folklore involved abilities as well.  It was well described and once again I liked the concept of magic/legends/beings only being susceptible to the fatal influences of their own culture.

This is a great October read. I’m shocked that it’s a debut. Minus a few wordy forays into similes and purple prose that I thought hurt the flow – it was beautifully descriptive enough without going over the top those few times!  I thought overall it was a mature enough novel to enjoy as an adult.

There was some humor and good dialogue too, as well as a darker romance, but my favorite part was definitely the legends and stories.

Overall? This is an interesting, fast paced novel with good themes, morally questionable main characters, lovely language, and fresh mythology. You might cry though! A big ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ from me as an adult or for YA

Categories
Contemporary Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews Paranormal Thrillers Young Adult

September Unblogged Book Thoughts

I normally don’t do wrap up posts but I read quite a few books in September that I don’t plan on reviewing in depth, so here is a super quick summary of my reading month! If anyone searches for the titles at least it will show up somewhere now 😂

September:

1) Dreams of the Dying ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐- I took the time to read the appendices and extras and therefore counted it as a September read.  Review here. Also the author is doing an extra special Sunday Brunch Series this month 😍

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2) Loves of Shadow and Power – ⭐⭐⭐⭐ review here. A good adult Asian mythology. Author Edith Pawlicki also did a wonderful SBAIS interview here!

3.  The Diviners by Libba Bray – ⭐⭐⭐⭐ loved it.  A fantastic audiobook. Review here

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4. Ringlander: The Path and the Way by Michael S. Jackson – ⭐⭐⚡ so I was part of a book tour for this one and truly just didn’t understand more than the bare bones of what was happening due to lack of background, plus the editing really ruined it for me. The book was a good idea though and did have some high points. I interviewed him for my tour stop and never posted a review.

5. Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I really wanted to review each of these individually but it became too hard without spoilers.  Plus I binge read them so they all melded into one another.  Book 3 finally brought things together and I have a lot more respect for each of the queens.  Katharine is actually not a bad queen crowned and the others are each pulling their weight now.  Love all the plotting and sub plots and more plotting, plus lore and legends

6. On the Winds of Quasars by T.A. Bruno – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ this series is definitely my top sci-fi pick of the past two years. Only good things to say

7. The First Christmas by Steohen Mitchell ⭐⭐⭐⚡ – a different perspective on the nativity, stripped away the Christian lens to present a real/magic realism. Review here

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8. Speechless by Ava Cates ⭐⭐⭐- the author hates me for this one but I just can’t read books where high school kids go from class to class anymore. The editing on the Kindle version made it hard for me too, it was hard to tell chapter breaks and such. I think a little more supernatural background might have carried it for me but the details were slow coming. Either way this is a quick, high school age appropriate read with deaf rep. I think younger readers will love it!

9. The Job by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg ⭐⭐⭐ I know I have been writing up reviews for the rest of the books in this series but this third installment was my least favorite so far. The chemistry and banter totally carried the book since I really didn’t think the case and con were as interesting as the others. They lost me on the fake sunken treasure scheme and trying to understand how it worked. They had a point about men and shiny beepy consoles though 😂 I just love O’Hara’s dad and his fixation with weaponry, but overall this one fell flat

10. The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I am actually going to blog this one next so hold my thoughts. It’s a beautifully wonderfully dark YA debut that made me so sad but it’s perfect for fall

11. Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake ⭐⭐⭐⭐ haha ok I really liked what she did with the ending. Each queen finally bucked up and put their big girl pants on and did what they had to do for the island and the people.  We finally got some main character deaths and I am more or less onboard with who Blake chose to off vs. keep alive! She commented on my Instagram post too so that’s amazing!

 11.5 The Young Queens by Kendare Blake – I liked the novella a lot! It was good to get more background into the raising and separations and early lives of the queens.  Mirabella and Luca stole the show in this one, I would have seen them in a totally new light having read this novella before the books. I would either read it after the second or third if it were me again

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy

The Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Michael S. Jackson!

Thank you so much to Michael S. Jackson for inviting me onto his blog tour for Ringlander: The Path and the Way!  I turned that around and invited him onto the Sunday Brunch Series, and was super excited when he said yes!!
So, welcome to episode 8 of the Sunday Brunch Series!! Michael is a Scottish author who released his debut novel back in April.  Here he talks a bit about it, offers some publishing advice, gives a fascinating chat about maps, and more!! Do read on!

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

Hello!!! I guess I can call myself an author now that I’ve written a book and I can hold the thing in my hand — that’s going to take some getting used to. Let’s go with writer. I’m Michael S. Jackson, writer AND author of Ringlander: The Path and the Way, the first book in a new original epic fantasy adventure

2) What led you to self publishing? Do you have any advice for hopeful authors trying to write or publish a book?

I wanted to give self publishing a go because through my working life I’ve done all the various pieces like design, typography, file formatting, copywriting, and indie publishing brings it all together. What better project to work on than your own book? The thing you’ve ached, cried and bled over for the past x number of years. It definitely was something I fancied trying so I just thought, let’s check it out.

It’s actually pretty straightforward, although there are some nuances that make for some interesting quirks. For example KDP’s user interface wants you to upload a cover, and it checks to see if it is ok before you print a proof, but if you refresh the page during the process it can cause issues. The KDP service is incredible but the UI has some ways to go before it’s up there. Reedsy has a phenomenal user interface and even some writing tools that build your ebook files for you. That’s the level Amazon needs to get to.

For advice though, the best I can offer is – don’t be afraid to talk to people. If you need an artist for your cover, go and speak to some artists. Twitter makes things so easy. Find some artists you like, tell them you love their work (and why) and send them some of your book. Suggest scenes, be passionate and soon enough you’ll find yourself with an artist eager to work with you. Apply that same mechanic for editors, formatters, and the wheels of your project will be thoroughly greased. It will cost you, but ultimately it will be worth it.

3) What’s your favorite brunch food??

Ohhhh, good question. Banana & blueberry no-egg pancakes with bacon and/or black pudding is pretty hot right now in our house. Sunday food.

{{Ah gosh guys if you are squeamish don’t look up black pudding 😂😂 this must be a Scottish thing! I do love hearing how other countries do brunch!}}

4) There are lots of themes, ideas, characters, major events, etc happening in The Path and the Way – do you remember which idea came first? Was there one that you built the book around?

Absolutely. I wrote the first chapter first, although it was actually the third chapter then, as weird as that sounds. Chapter one and two ended feeling like filler, which is never good for the beginning of a book, so I went back to basics and gave chapter three the spotlight. The start of Ringlander is pretty brutal, but it was such a visceral opening and introduction to the main character Kyira that I decided to keep it.

5) Do you have a particular favorite scene or chapter from the book?

Games. That chapter has got such rich visual descriptions as Fia walks through the city of Tyr, and I think it perfectly introduces her. I had to do some character merging early on with Janike and another female character, but the soul of that chapter has remained the same from very early on, and even after I’ve read it over a hundred times (literally) it still is as bright and clear in my mind as when I first wrote it.

6) I noticed an ongoing theme of maps and there was a pretty cool puzzle box too, do you have a real life interest in maps or is it more of a fantasy novel thing?

Maps are a very real part of Ringlander, so it was also a nice opportunity to try illustrating a map. I had the shape down after I accidentally spilled coffee on a bowl and it printed a ring on some paper, so I traced it with pencil and took a photo. It became the the shape of Rengas, the world of the Ringlanders.

I also don’t have some weird map-type job or anything, I just really liked the idea of including something that stood for finding one’s way, which is what every character in Ringlander is doing.

We take maps for granted. The fact that Google has mapped the entire world to the street level is an incredible feat, like science-fiction level of accomplishment and yet no one really talks about it. It’s weird, as a concept, always knowing where you are. This is the only time in human history that a human can work out where they are to within inches and see images of their environment from where they stand, and it’s only happened in the past ten years or so. Remove that and the world descends into chaos.

Knowing where you stand geographically is tied very much to where you stand everywhere else. We’re all trying to find out who we are and where we’re going, and the idea that a culture like Kyira’s has the blood of the navigators in their veins, enabled the Ringlander story to work on many different levels. It became a wonderful tapestry and as I wrote I began to see those layers unravel and reweave into new ideas that helped keep me on track.

7. Do you have a favorite fantasy map??

Two of the most beautiful fantasy maps I’ve seen (and I researched a lot of them) are Illka Auer’s (https://twitter.com/IlkkaAuer/status/1189464988618051585 or https://twitter.com/ilkkaauer/status/1226872574623219714) but honourable mention to Stephen Aryan’s The Coward, which is also beautiful. I spent a fair amount of time checking out r/mapmakers too, which has some amazing fictional world maps.

7) if you could go have adult beverages with any author (or fantasy character) in the world, who would you pick and why?

Uhhh, Logen Ninefingers. Easy. Or maybe Gandalf. I’d ask him to explain some of those powers, and if he was really reborn to become Gandalf the White. If it had to be an author I’d love to pick Patrick Rothfuss’ brains, the way he devised Sympathy in The Kingkiller Chronicles is just… I’d love to ask him how he did it. Or actually maybe Brandon Sanderson and how he manages to write so much detail over and over again.

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

I’m gunna sound like a fanboy here, but the First Law is such an easy recommendation. It’s got everything: magic, intrigue, attitude. Sold. As for strange bookish habits… I can’t read unless all is quiet. I’m a total purist and I read to be able to immerse myself in the world, so if I’m being pestered, then I can’t read. Weirdly though, I can usually write, even if the house is quite busy. Not sure what that’s about to be honest.

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

The people in the indie business are the nicest I have come across in any industry. They’re passionate and clever and love their work (which is often unpaid or voluntary). Going self published was something I really liked the idea of, but I was not prepared for how many cool people there are in the business. Every single person I’ve liaised with since Ringlander hit the shelves has been so helpful. I also run Author Interviews and the authors I’ve worked there are the same. So I’ve come to the conclusion it’s a book thing. Books clearly bring out the best in people.

{{I totally agree, the indie community is absolutely amazing and I’m so glad to be a part of it as well}}


Here is the general info and book blurb if you want to read more! One link below does contain the first chapter excerpt too!

  • Title: The Path and the Way
  • Series: The Ringlander, #1
  • Publisher: Self, 04/27/21
  • Length: 526 pages
  • Genre: fantasy, epic fantasy, adult fantasy

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Here is the synopsis via Amazon:

The first book in the Ringlander Series: a fast-paced, epic fantasy adventure full of games, grit and magic.

Holes between worlds are tearing through Rengas. Firestorms are raging as multiple realities battle for control of the elements. Even the Way, the turbulent channel that separates Nord, Határ and Kemen, the lifeblood of the city of Tyr, has turned.

Kyira’s search for her missing brother draws her away from the familiar frozen lines of Nord and south into the chaotic streets of Tyr where games are played & battles fought. As reality tears Kyira must choose between her family or her path before the worlds catch up with her.her.


Book & Author Links!

To read an excerpt: https://ringlander.com/

On Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/mikestepjack

Author Website: mjackson.co.uk

On Instagram: https://instagram.com/mikestepjack?utm_medium=copy_link

On Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ringlander-Path-Epic-Fantasy-Adventure-ebook/dp/B093C93P46

Categories
audiobooks Thrillers

The Chase (Book thoughts) by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

These books are so much fun. I always liked heist books in the fantasy genre, but they are really good too in the contemporary setting.  I think if anyone reads The Heist and finds it too ridiculous, give the series one more book because The Chase is more streamlined and I thought it was better overall!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Chase
  • Series: Fox and O’Hare, #2
  • Author: Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
  • Publisher & Release: Bantam, 2014
  • Length: 320
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fun and a fun audiobook as well

Here is the book blurb:

Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg, bestselling authors of The Heist, return in this action-packed, exciting adventure featuring master con artist Nicolas Fox and die-hard FBI agent Kate O’Hare. And this time around, things go from hot to nuclear when government secrets are on the line.
 
Internationally renowned thief and con artist Nicolas Fox is famous for running elaborate and daring scams. His greatest con of all: convincing the FBI to team him up with the only person who has ever caught him, and the only woman to ever capture his attention, Special Agent Kate O’Hare. Together they’ll go undercover to swindle and catch the world’s most wanted—and untouchable—criminals.

Their newest target is Carter Grove, a former White House chief of staff and the ruthless leader of a private security agency. Grove has stolen a rare Chinese artifact from the Smithsonian, a crime that will torpedo U.S. relations with China if it ever becomes public. Nick and Kate must work under the radar—and against the clock—to devise a plan to steal the piece back. Confronting Grove’s elite assassins, Nick and Kate rely on the skills of their ragtag crew, including a flamboyant actor, a Geek Squad techie, and a band of AARP-card-carrying mercenaries led by none other than Kate’s dad.

A daring heist and a deadly chase lead Nick and Kate from Washington, D.C., to Shanghai, from the highlands of Scotland to the underbelly of Montreal. But it’ll take more than death threats, trained henchmen, sleepless nights, and the fate of a dynasty’s priceless heirloom to outsmart Fox and O’Hare.

Fox and O’Hare are all across the world from Scotland to Montreal in this one. They are trying to nail a retired White House chief of staff, who is involved with some absolutely heinous international criminal activity including funding of multiple extremist groups, practically starting or at least encouraging civil wars, and art theft.

Willy and Boyd are back as well as a new member of the crew named Joe, a computer hacker, and it’s a great group. They are all good humored people who need the money.  Boyd in the pancake suit was… 😂

It’s exciting, dramatic, there are plenty of explosions and danger and things gone wrong.  The heist itself was pretty brilliant, but also had much higher stakes than the first book.  I love these little pageturners.

Kate and Nick are working out their dynamic now, and it’s both exciting and funny at times.  They have amazing banter. The scene in the hotel hallway had me cracking up when she was *definitely not* peeking through her fingers at him.

Overall I think the dialogue and banter carries these books a long way, even with all the excitement going on.

Don’t forget Jake and the senior citizen Army veterans swooping in to save the day again, I hate to say but I think they are my favorite characters so far!

A quick note on the audio- Scott Brick does a great job keeping things entertaining! Definitely recommend these on audio since it doesn’t require a ton of brain power to follow, they are good driving books! It was released in 2014 from Random House Audio, running just about 9 hours!

From butt cheeks to Hellfire missiles I definitely think that fans of FBI Thrillers, heists, comedy, and any other fans of the genre should check these books out!

Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Fiction General Fiction Historical Fiction

The First Christmas (ARC Review) by Stephen Mitchell

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Essentials for the early reading copy of The First Christmas by Stephen Mitchell!

Have you read any books recently that made you think of something from a new angle?  Stripping away the lens of Catholicism through the decades, Mitchell takes em objective look at the Nativity and Annunciation as they may have actually looked. How would a traditional Jewish couple take the news? What about a simple shepherd or stressed innkeeper? He even lightens the mood by sharing the views of the Ox and Donkey in the stable.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The First Christmas
  • Author: Stephen Mitchell
  • Publisher & Release: St. Martin’s Essentials, 11/02/21
  • Length: 224
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for interested readers, secular and non

Here is the description from Amazon:

In The First Christmas, Stephen Mitchell brings the Nativity story to vivid life as never before. A narrative that is only sketched out in two Gospels becomes fully realized here with nuanced characters and a setting that reflects the culture of the time. Mitchell has suffused the birth of Jesus with a sense of beauty that will delight and astonish readers.

In this version, we see the world through the eyes of a Whitmanesque ox and a visionary donkey, starry-eyed shepherds and Zen-like wise men, each of them providing a unique perspective on a scene that is, in Western culture, the central symbol for good tidings of great joy. Rather than superimposing later Christian concepts onto the Annunciation and Nativity scenes, he imagines Mary and Joseph experiencing the angelic message as a young Jewish woman and man living in the year 4 bce might have experienced it, with terror, dismay, and ultimate acceptance. In this context, their yes becomes an act of great moral courage.

Readers of every background will be enchanted by this startlingly beautiful reimagining of the Christmas tale.

It was fun to see which stories, psalms, passages Mitchell was pulling his ideas from as well as his own thoughts. Some of his interpretation was tangential and distracting but overall it was an interesting mix of story, analyzing, and asking the reader to reflect and think for themselves.

There is a running theme of finding God, light, hope, etc, inside yourself before finding Him in the outside world, which I can appreciate as a fact since it’s one’s own lens that shapes their world view.

The one fascinating point that I hope makes it to the final copy, is where a character separated his hurtful and angry thoughts into a separate entity and simply said “no” to them. This idea of separating certain lies that one’s brain tells them, like an outside evil, is a fairly new concept to me but I’m interested!

Some parts were pretty far out there, but I’m comfortable recommending this one to interested readers, whether secular or non, for a well described tale of the times and journey of personal reflection on your own beliefs as well.

Thank you again endlessly to the publisher for my free review copy, all opinions are my own!