Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

Spotlight & Interview with Crisanta Knight Author Geanna Culbertson!

Hi everyone! As promised this week, I have a special interview to bring to you guys! Have you read the Crisanta Knight books?? If not, I guarantee you will want to after reading this amazing interview!

I want to take a quick second to thank Geanna Culbertson for taking the time to answer a few questions about her writing, content, content in general, and plans going forward!  I originally became a fan of her clean content and writing style after winning a giveaway that introduced me to the books, and even more so once we incidentally got to chatting about inappropriate content! (See Question 3)!

Alright I’m done talking, here she is!


Meet the author!

Image: Author Geanna Culbertson

Geanna Culbertson is the award-winning author of The Crisanta Knight Series. The series follows the kids and siblings of fairytale characters, all of whom live in a magical world called “Book,” where citizens train to be the next generation of main characters in stories. The majority of this coming-of-age series is told from the empowering, sassy perspective of Cinderella’s daughter—Crisanta Knight. 

Image: the Crisanta Knight book covers

Her full biography can be found on her website, here:

https://crisantaknight.com/bio-by-me/book-bio/


1) How did the Crisanta Knight books take shape for you? Did you know from the start it would be a fairytale re-imagining?

When I was a sophomore in school I took a course devoted to classic and contemporary fairytale analysis. It was a fabulous experience that I loved. Having all that exposure to the classic tales filled me with so much wonder and inspiration, and one day on my way to class the name for the school in my book series: Lady Agnue’s School for Princesses & Other Female Protagonists popped into my head. Later that week I drew out a map of the world, aka the realm of Book and I wrote the prologue and first chapter to go along with it. So that’s how it all started!

In terms of the “reimagining” aspect—I am a girl who is a big believer in the power of change and moving forward. People remake stories all the time; I want to know what happens next. Furthermore, I am someone who is extremely passionate about heroic female characters and living a life where you are always challenging yourself to be better, stronger, wiser, etc. Those qualities helped my main character of Crisanta Knight take shape. 

As the plot formed, fairytales were the main backdrop, but my love of superheroes, princesses, action-packed comedy, and elaborate world-building fused with that and started to grow. The idea for the story simmered in my mind for a little while and then eventually I came to a point where I had to explore it. And so the adventure began . . .  

2) I like the focus on character, identity, and friendship in the books so far! What are some of the topics and themes you think are important for girls and young women to see on-page?

At the beginning of my author journey, I set out to write a story that would inspire others the way my favorite tales have inspired me, featuring characters who balance heart, humor, and a genuine sense of honor. I always thought it was important that a great story not just be about an exciting external plot—magic, adventure, larger-than-life stakes—the true power of story has to be in the internal arc. Some themes I explore throughout my series that I think are very important for girls, young women, and all people are: self-acceptance, trust, taking fate into your own hands, making proactive choices, fighting for what matters to you, understanding, respect, perseverance, and more. However, the overarching theme of my series is CHANGE. To paraphrase a line in Book One, change is a beautiful thing because within it is the opportunity to do anything and become anyone. I hope that as my readers experience the series, they are inspired by all these themes to try and live as fiercely, wisely, kindly, and optimistically as possible. 

3) We talked a bit about “clean reads” and your philosophy on content, could you talk about that a bit?

There is a word I came up with in college: “scandalosity.” It’s a term that encompasses inappropriate, intimate things that take a movie from PG-13 to R, if you catch my drift. I tried to put that word into one of my college English papers lol, but the TA said she’d dock me a letter grade. Anyway, my books are scandalosity free. It’s not my thing, neither is extreme violence or gore—basically anything that would cause adults to want to cover the eyes of their under 18 children. 

I think that there is a lot of unnecessary violence and scandalosity in stories these days. You don’t need to rely on that to create something compelling or intrigue an audience. Strong storylines should always take the lead and if you are going to have romantic moments, action, death, etc. it needs to serve a greater purpose and push the story forward. If it’s just being used for shock and awe, it has no point there and it is lazy writing—storytellers trying to make an impact through cheap shots. 

Action and drama can be handled with style and class, and should genuinely matter to plot/character development. I once heard director David Leitch say something akin to: “You should learn as much about a character from a good action scene as from dialogue.” I agree with that. Death (the killing of characters) can also be a valid event in a story if it truly is integral to plot/character development. But again, there is no need to make it overly graphic. Like, maybe a death needs to happen, but there are many ways that it can be portrayed. No need to scar someone traumatically. 

Also, if utilized in a story that targets younger audiences, death should be eased into. Take Harry Potter for example. You don’t start in Book One with characters dramatically dying left and right. The story progressively explores the themes of loss and death—each book getting more intense so audiences of different ages are eased into some of the harder moments as they grow with the characters and the scope of the story.

Romantic encounters are also fine if they meet the same criteria of being integral to plot/character development (though it’s important to note that you can get the feel of intimacy across without random boobs or whatever flying in your face). I come back to the idea of handling things with style and class i.e. the choices of how intense moments are portrayed.

I’m often quite surprised by the types of content targeting the YA and middle grade markets. I feel like every other TV channel is showing something with murder or scandalosity. However, I firmly believe that audiences of all ages want more than that. People watch those darker things because that’s what’s on; that’s what the media is putting out there the most. But there is plenty of cleaner, goodhearted programming out there that is beloved, proving my point. There just needs to be more of it.

That is what I have brought, and intend to keep bringing to the world. My stories will have action, romance, drama, and deal with intense topics—morality, loss, anger, and so forth—but they will always be handled with care, finesse, and consideration of all the above factors. Any book I ever write can be equally and appropriately enjoyed by an eleven-year-old, a twenty-five-year-old, and a seventy-two-year-old.

4) I wish I had read all the books to know where this is going, but so far (The end of book 3) you have Crisa worrying about herself before she starts worrying too much about boys! Is there hidden advice in that? 

Growing up, most of my favorite stories have had male main characters. I think part of the reason for this is that while a male main character may have a love interest, that love interest/romantic relationship is never the point of his story; it is just another factor. Meanwhile, in most female-led fiction, the love interest/romantic relationship is of equal value and importance to that female protagonist’s individual journey. It shouldn’t be that way. She should come first. Most girls have more on their mind than boys. They just do. The complexities of growing up, taking ownership of your choices and goals, accepting yourself, and learning who you are and who you want to be is way more pivotal to a person than deciding which hot guy you want to end up with. So while there are romantic, shippable elements to my series, I do not belittle my female characters and their potential by limiting the scope of what they focus on to romantic entanglements.

5) What is your favorite fairytale? Do you have a favorite fairytale twist that you’ve written so far? (Mine is definitely everything you did with Aladdin, from the sarcastic cave to the flying furniture!)

In terms of my favorite fairytales—Cinderella has been close to my heart since I was very little. That’s why I made my main character Cinderella’s daughter. If we’re talking strictly about Disney interpretations of fairytales, The Princes & the Frog is one of my favorites. Then in terms of the classic, old-timey tales I have a lot of respect for Snow White because that story created the roots of the fairytale-loving culture we have today.

In terms of the twists I’ve written, that’s such a hard question!!

I have highlighted so many fairytales and classic tales in my series now—diving really deep into quite a few. For example, the majority of Book Five takes place in Camelot, so there are a lot of characters, myths, and settings I work with there. In that space, developing Merlin as a character has been really interesting, specifically regarding his relationship to Crisanta. However, as Book Eight is freshest to me, I would have to say that diving into Mulan and Alice in Wonderland lore in that novel has definitely been one of my most challenging and rewarding fairytale exploration experiences thus far. All of Book Eight really was an intense adventure to write—Toyland, Swan Lake, Rumpelstiltskin, there’s just so much!

6) Many books in the series have been nominated for and received Feathered Quill book awards (yay -congrats)!!! Can you talk about that a bit?

I feel very grateful for the many awards that different books in my series have won. In terms of Feathered Quill, I have won six awards so far. Winning such an array of awards in the last two years has been awesome—two awards for Best in Teen Fiction (13-18 years), two awards for Science Fiction/Fantasy, Best of Backlist, and The Write Companion Award for Best Overall TOP PICK (Adult, Children’s and Young Adult categories included).

Winning these awards, combined with the wide array of other awards that my series has won, is quite flattering. I think what makes me the happiest about this range though, is that it shows the huge scope of audiences that my series appeals to. I have always believed that one of the strongest elements of my series is how many different kinds of people it can connect with. If in one week I can get fan mail from a nine-year-old girl, a twenty-year-old college student, a forty-year-old woman, and a fifty-year-old father, then it means I have done my job right. Because, at the end of the day, this isn’t a story about a princess, or even fairytales. This is a story about a good-hearted, honorable person trying to figure out how to best live her life, live up to her potential, and do right by the world, the people she cares for, and herself. That’s a story anyone should be able to relate to theoretically.

7) As an author looking for feedback from reviewers and readers, what do you hope to see from those people?

I love positive reviews; I mean who doesn’t? But I particularly love it when people go into specific details about their favorite parts or moments in a book. Getting five stars is awesome, but knowing how specific jokes landed, or how twists affected my readers, what they connected with most, etc.—it is great feedback for me.

Also, I like to use a “Mario Cart” comparison when it comes to how reviews affect me (you know, the video game). So in that videogame, as you’re driving your racecar along, players can throw exploding mushrooms or other brickabrack at you. When that hits you, your car spins or you crash temporarily or slow down. That’s what negative reviews are; they don’t take you out of the game, but they can still hit you hard. Positive reviews are like the magical stars or rainbows or bonus coins that you pick up as you’re driving along. You could still keep going on fine without them, but they give you extra power and supercharge you. ☺

8) Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed! Is there anything else you’d like to talk about or add?

The Crisanta Knight Series is my beginning. I have so many other wonderful series and standalone novels coming down the line. For example, in addition to working on the Crisanta Knight finale right now, I am working on the first novel in my new “guardian angels” series that releases next year. Also, my magical, heartwarming Christmas standalone novel releases November 3, 2021—official book announcement and book trailer launching in June. 

***Audiobook Two for The Crisanta Knight Series releases this summer as well.

For more information, you can visit: www.CrisantaKnight.com

To stay updated on my latest book news, sign up to be a part of my email list through the website.

And go ahead and follow me on social media too, if you like:

Instagram/Twitter/Pinterest: @gculbert14

Facebook: @CrisantaKnightSeries

#crisantaknight #crisantaknightseries #geannaculbertson

Categories
audiobooks Crime Thrillers

Book Review and Musings: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

This week I read another backlist TBR book!  I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo back in college but really didn’t remember it.  What I can remember is talking about the book with my dad and being in complete disbelief that two people can read a book so differently!

So that’s my muse of the day: how do people read books differently, notice different things, focus on totally opposite aspects?

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
  • Series: Millennium, #1
  • Author: Stieg Larsson (trans- Reg Keeland
  • Publisher & Release: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, September 2008
  • Length: 465 pg
  • Rate & recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes but maybe on audio if the Swedish pronunciations throw you off!

Here is the synopsis:

Murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue combine into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel, the first in Stieg Larsson’s thrilling Millenium series featuring Lisbeth Salander.

Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.

What a book and mystery!! I liked the format of having two separate storylines, one for Blomkvist and one for Salander – each storyline was vaguely connected, while not necessarily related. Salander’s storyline established her history, personality, and potential, while the other introduced the magazine, plot, characters. Once the storylines merged the book never slowed down!

As a younger person I was so interested in the action and kick-assery, that I couldn’t believe my dad read it and was focusing more on the characters. Throughout the years for some reason Salander was a favorite character study of his, and I can appreciate that a little more now.

After Salander wrapped up her…troubles …for the time being, she was able to progress as a person emotionally as well as professionally and I think she had a great storyline. I don’t think Blomkvist would have gotten the mystery and link about hating women without her. He was the more static character but multifaceted too at least. Henrik also haha I loved that old shark.

Anyway – I think the Swedes have a certain distinct style of writing thrillers and mysteries that also incorporates a little more horror and grotesque than most other cultures. I read The Wolf and the Watchman maybe last year and the absolute horror story involved reminded me of the hatred and violence in this book. Men that hate women would have been a good title to keep😳. This book wasn’t just about a disappearing heiress – there was a corrupt sadist acting as a guardian of state Wards, biblical justifications for brutal torturing and murders in the past, a few romantic subplots, it was really a thriller once it got going. I wasn’t sure if the book wanted to be an investigative thriller or a psychological drama but it can be all of it, right?

Overall: I totally loved it, and I also was really glad for some reason that – now bear with me – anytime a Nazi pops up they are usually the criminal, but while the Nazi in this book was obviously a shithead – he wasn’t one of the main antagonists, more like some crazy old guy.

I had no freaking idea who the real criminal(s) were.

I also listened to a few chapters on audio and think Simon Vance is a great narrator. He took the guesswork out of the pronunciations and did fantastic voices.

My only gripe was literally the last paragraph of the book, why end it on a Misunderstanding? When that device wasn’t used throughout the rest of the book? I can’t wait to read the rest of these books!

Categories
Dystopian Literary Fiction Science Fiction

Book Tour & Review: Composite Creatures by Caroline Hardaker

Thank you so much to Angry Robot Books (Caroline, Gemma, and Sam are good eggs!) for having me on the book tour for Composite Creatures, an exciting new book that releases on 04/13/21!  This is a low-key science fiction novel that is also a meditation on the future of healthcare ethics, growing up, growing older, and prioritizing what matters most

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

How close would you hold those you love, when the end comes?

In a society where self-preservation is as much an art as a science, Norah and Arthur Ratare learning how to co-exist in their new little world. Though they hardly know each other, everything seems to be going perfectly – from the home they’re building together to the ring on Norah’s finger.

But survival in this world is a tricky thing, the air is thicker every day and illness creeps fast through the body. And the earth is becoming increasingly hostile to live in. Fortunately, Easton Grove is here for that in the form of a perfect little bundle to take home and harvest. You can live for as long as you keep it – or her – close.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Composite Creatures
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Caroline Hardaker
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 04/13/21
  • Length: 400 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨  Yes for the patient readers

The Plot & Story: I honestly believe that the less you know going in about this book, the better.  Health in the UK is going drastically downhill in the future as the air itself causes cancer, the animals are all extinct, healthy life expectancy is pathetic… and the NHS is handing the reins over to a private company.   Enter an elitist group called Easton Grove, that promises health and happiness to those who can afford it, and pass all the tests.  

What exactly is this little bundle that Easton Grove offer?

Hardaker makes us wait, and wait, and wait, and wait, and wait……and wait for it.  Most of the reveal happens towards the end of the book so I definitely recommend this one for the patient readers.  In the meantime we get a lovely meditation on life, losing one’s parents, falling out from our old friends, and co-existing with our chosen company.  This one takes a good hard look at life’s hardships.  The question becomes – is it worth holding out so long for the answers?  It took until the very last page but I think so.

The characters: I also think that the less you know about the characters, the better.   Norah and Arthur seem like a good pair, except it again takes a very long time for the book to reveal how they got together.  I liked Norah a lot and really, really hated Arthur until almost the end.  I think Hardaker did that on purpose though, she waited until page 400 out of 400 to make me forgive him, in that she also showed Norah as a “Composite Creature”

What does that even mean? Well – read it to find out

The World: Think of a slightly futuristic, overly polluted London with toxic soil, a sky with no birds, and a generally gray atmosphere.  The book creates gorgeous reminisces of the past through artwork and Norah’s memories of her mother.  I will give Hardaker endless Kudoes for the imagery in the book.  Hardaker is a published poet and I think that shows in her debut novel quite a bit.

Miscellaneous: One other cool thing I noticed is that RJ Barker (you know I always rave about The Bone Ships) blurbed the book, so that’s awesome.

The only thing that I really didn’t like was that Hardaker made us wait, for EVERYTHING.  She would mention a name, or a conflict, or a story, and give us absolutely no background until much later in the book.  Luke and Aubrey were good examples of this – I spent half of the book feeling like I missed something, but eventually I realized that we would eventually learn what’s going on.  I didn’t feel like these smaller reveals were necessarily worth waiting for though, which is where I docked the 1.5 stars.  I would have liked an occasional “bone” from the author.

Overall: Definitely recommend for fans of twisty, meditative books, mysteries, speculative fiction, sci-fi, and strong character builds.  


Meet the Author:

Author and poet Caroline Hardaker in her workspace. Caroline has published several books, including Bone Ovation.

Instagram: @angryrobotbooks – @caroluna_writes_stuff

Twitter: @angryrobotbooks | @carolinehwrites

More Information can be found about the author on her website:

https://carolinehardakerwrites.com/about-caroline-hardaker/


There is also plenty of book tour left, so make sure to check out the following hosts on Instagram or on their blogs! Thank you again to Angry Robot for letting me participate and feature the book!

graphic: list of book tour, blog hosts
Categories
Dystopian Fiction

Book Review: Minerva by Edith Pawlicki

Thank you so much to the other for my finished copy of Minerva in exchange for an honest review! This is a post-apocalyptic dystopian for new adults, maybe older teens,  that I think a lot of people will enjoy.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Minerva
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Edith Pawlicki
  • Publisher & Release: Indie, December 2020
  • Length: 372 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟sure if it sounds up your alley

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Action is driven by thought, thought is ruled by emotion, and emotion is controlled by Empaths.

Eighteen-year-old Minerva lives in a city of repurposed shipping containers, dependent on a hydroelectric plant for light and heat, while a nuclear winter blankets the world in snow. Hemp powder meals and patchwork clothes are a fact of life – as is human evolution. An unparalleled Empath, not only can Minerva sense emotions, she can read minds and influence thoughts.

Power has a price.

Starting with her mother’s postpartum depression, suffering has surrounded Minerva. But she has a core of steel, and to prove it, she joins the Guard like her dad. At first, Minerva loves the camaraderie she finds among the brash, strong Vitals, and she learns to use her Empathy defensively. Then two discoveries shock Minerva, and she starts asking hard questions.

The answers may cost her life.

This sounded amazing, so I readily agreed to read and review the book!

The Plot & Story:  the synopsis does a pretty good job summarizing the story. Minerva is graduating from the equivalent of high school, and despite what the society recommends for her as am Empath, she is going into the Guard.  I personally like stories where Underdog characters are training and beating the odds, so I enjoyed the parts that take place at the cadet academy.

There is plenty of action throughout the novel as well as a deep discussion of various ethical issues.  Almost immediately Minerva learns that one of the cadet officers is using his Empathy to Compel women, which opens up the story to a meditation on the slippery slope from well intentioned to evil, PTSD, trauma, consent, and sexual coercion.  

The Characters: Minerva is a great main character, she is learning to use her Empathy while dealing with a brutish training leader at the Academy.  I liked her cousin, Rex is like a big Labrador but also has a serious side.  There is a great group element among the group of cadets, and all of the characters contribute something meaningful to the story.

The villain…let’s just say the villain is multifaceted, and like an onion – Minerva just keeps peeling layers back to reveal who he truly is, and it’s a terrible but excellent story

There is also an enemies to friends to lovers element.. So… Yeah.  I shipped it.

The World: we are set in a post nuclear winter, somewhere in what used to be Canada.  We learned enough about the man made disaster to be content.  I envision a city of shipping containers and repurposed materials, strict rules and strict government, and man is it always cold.  The whole thing is surrounded by a defensive wall of snow that has been made over the years by the city.  Great imagery.  I liked that the setting directly contributed to the story and wasn’t just a backdrop for another story.  

Others:  I LOVE that the author created her own slang for the book, its pretty easy to follow but there’s also a glossary, which was awesome.  I also liked that the society chucked labels and just calls everyone Inda – short for individual.  It’s ridiculous how everyone today is so hyper fixated on labelling themselves – just be a good Inda.  I mostly docked a star for editing mishaps and 

I 100% recommend this book for anyone who likes post-apocalyptic settings, enemies to lovers, groups of found friends, strong family elements, ethics, or just a good story.


The author can be found at :

https://edithpawlicki.com/

Inatagram: @edithPawlicki

And the book can be purchased through Amazon at:

Categories
Fiction Historical Fiction

ARC Review: Legacy of War by Wilbur Smith

Hi everyone! I have been taking some time away from bookish media and just focusing on life, spring cleaning, and reading some older books from my home library!

Legacy of War is the 19th book in the Courtney series, publishing on April 15th, so it seems like a good time to chat about this amazing book.  Thank you so much to Bookish First and Zaffre Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Legacy of War
  • Series: Courtney #19 (**can be read as a standalone**)
  • Author: Wilbur Smith
  • Publisher & Release: Zaffre, 4/15/21
  • Length: 417 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of unapologetically gritty Histfic

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

A nail-biting story of courage, bravery, rebellion and war from the master of adventure fiction.

The war is over, Hitler is dead – and yet his evil legacy lives on. Saffron Courtney and her beloved husband Gerhard only just survived the brutal conflict, but Gerhard’s Nazi-supporting brother, Konrad, is still free and determined to regain power. As a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse develops, a plot against the couple begins to stir. One that will have ramifications throughout Europe. . .

Further afield in Kenya, the last outcrop of the colonial empire is feeling the stirrings of rebellion. As the situation becomes violent, and the Courtney family home is under threat, Leon Courtney finds himself caught between two powerful sides – and a battle for the freedom of a country.

This is Historical fiction at it’s best, and not for the faint of heart! I love Smith because he has absolutely no filter, and I will continue to read anything he writes. This installment happens after the end of WWII, and the hunt for Gerhard’s Nazi Officer brother in on. Meanwhile, in Kenya, the Mau Mau rebellion is starting and the Courtney estate tribes are right in the war zone. Are they loyal enough to resist the uprising??

To touch on the series: this is, I believe, the third and final Saffron and Gerhard book (or maybe they are more of a duology, I’m not sure) but there is enough background given to read the end of their story as a standalone.  Enough new things are revealed that readers new and old will be in love with this pair and the Courtney family.

This is an absolutely brutal and brutally exciting novel! All of the Courtney family books seem to have this gritty accuracy and I love them so freaking much.  There does tend to be some gratuitous violence and murder, but these sadistic things happened in real life and I think they add to the nail-biting-ness of the novel.

This book, like the rest, is fast paced and unapologetic (but Saffron and Gerhard do apologize in their own sweet ways). Between the hair raising race to track down Konrad and the methods of the Mau Mau – chopped up babies, anyone? I couldn’t put this book down! Real historical figures like Jomo Kenyatta, Dior, Wangari, and a few others are present as well. Some events and people are given fictional names but mirror real life events, such as the broad daylight assassination of a chief in his vehicle.

Leon is an amazing character as well and I loved his friendship with the Kikuru chieftain.  The Courtney family dynamics are so just wonderful. I was thoroughly choked up at the end of the novel but I think Smith brought this era to a wonderful conclusion.  I have to wonder though – with the WWII storyline at a close and the Courtneys in Kenya kind of on their way out…will there be more books?

Do you like histfic? Have you read Wilbur Smith!?

Categories
Fantasy

Book Review: The Day Star by W.N. Cleckler

Thank you so much to W.N. Cleckler for sending me the second book in The Wisprian World series, The Day Star! This is an epic fantasy series that is unapologetically Christian in nature, perfect for the Easter time of year. I am totally delighted by this book filled with cunning and gore, hope and hopelessness, war and betrayal, as well as found family, faith, friendship, and sacrifice.

Click here for my review for Book 1, Tears of Alphega

Quick Facts: 

  • Title: The Day Star
  • Series: The Wisprian World, #2
  • Author: W.N. Cleckler
  • Publisher & Release; Whisper Press,  12/25/20
  • Length: 402 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for those who like a healthy dollop of faith with their fantasy!

Here is the Synopsis from GoodReads:

Perfect love.
Ancient rebellion.
Overwhelming redemption.

The shattered heavens empower unlikely heroes to overcome the origin of darkness.

Before the spoken earth, Alphega treasured His whispered world, Wispria, from the heavenly realm of Agapia. Yet, after destruction of the Agapian Gate, by the Archeon leader, Lure, and his legions, Alphega wept tears of power over seven Wisprian companions. These survivors must discern when to use them, journey to find magical shards of agapate, and use their elemental abilities against the evil that seeks the stones. As the darkened world grows colder ushering in an age of ice, can these unlikely heroes overcome Lure before he reaches Agapia and enslaves The Wisprian World?

With a cast of fantastical characters, new adventures in undiscovered lands, ancient rebellion, overwhelming redemption, and perfect love, W.N. Cleckler’s fantasy series will have you unearthing a new world of possibilities in our ultimate origin story.

The Plot and Story:  I find it endlessly difficult to summarize these books!  Basically now that Lure has formed his armies, he is ready to march across Wispria to the main city and this book encompasses what I would call the first open conflicts.

The seven adventurers from book one also reunite and learn more about their destinies.  Vague prophecies don’t help so much, but they must discover how to use their gifts and agapate to survive, and fight back against Lure.

I felt some of the same disjointedness from book one in this novel as well, except it made more sense as we learn a lot more about each hero and Lure’s history on Wispria. I think the author realized where the holes in the World Build were and really shored it all up so the books can move forward!

I was certainly never bored though, there is just so much going on in the different storylines, and the battles were so exciting!

The Characters: The original seven tear bearers from book one are back, and we learn a lot more about their back stories.  Duolos became an unexpected leader, Pales and Animus became real people, and each character really has to accept their role as an uncelebrated ‘hero’ in this war.

I liked spending more time with each character and how they embraced each other as newfound family.

There is one new character, Kit, who deserves mention – Telle the unicorn took him under his wing to go accomplish side tasks, and I am extremely interested in his role moving forward.  There is so much juxtaposition of good vs evil in this book and Kit (a nephilim) vs the various depravities of the Dephilim are in as much contrast as the Archeon (angels) vs Archestokos (essentially fallen angels).

Themes: Really if you haven’t guessed yet, good vs evil is the main theme in these novels.  This splits beautifully into faith in the creator, trusting Him, free will and choice, identity, personal sacrifice, and obviously a soul crushing war as well.

Animus’ speech about heroes and family was absolutely everything

The World:  I’ve already described how intricate and well fleshed this world is, in both reviews.  The Day Star expands on individual kingdoms, weather, customs and highlights in individual regions, and some of the utter atrocities that Lure is committing. 

I liked Tears of Alphega quite a bit, but The Day Star truly takes the time to invest the reader in the world and characters.

Where did I dock a star? I hate to do it but this book honestly needed one more proof read.  Nothing too glaring but there were typos, inconsistencies in the narrator’s voice (most of the time when Alphega spoke to the reader directly, it was italicized – but not always. This was confusing). Additionally towards the start there were just a ton of commas, and intermittently words that I think were left when edits were made.

This is a beautiful book with gorgeous artwork, rich development, and so many intricacies.  I think it’s an absolute must for epic fantasy fans and Christian readers!

 

Categories
Fiction Horror Suspense Thrillers

Misery : My First King (and why I haven’t read one yet)

I don’t think there is anything to say about Misery that hasn’t been said already.  I am 32 years old and finally read a King novel, despite owning two shelves full of his works myself, and growing up in a house filled with a nearly complete collection.  I even took some good-natured flack (WHAT? YOU READ SO MUCH! HOW HAVEN’T YOU READ A KING YET)? So here we go, with my experience.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Misery
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Series: N/A
  • Release: 1987 by Viking Penguin
  • Length: 310 (see HC edition above)
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ probably!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon in case anyone isn’t familiar:

Paul Sheldon is a bestselling novelist who has finally met his number one fan. Her name is Annie Wilkes, and she is more than a rabid reader—she is Paul’s nurse, tending his shattered body after an automobile accident. But she is also furious that the author has killed off her favorite character in his latest book. Annie becomes his captor, keeping him prisoner in her isolated house.

Annie wants Paul to write a book that brings Misery back to life—just for her. She has a lot of ways to spur him on. One is a needle. Another is an axe. And if they don’t work, she can get really nasty.

I have seen the Misery movie, of course, and Kathy Bates plays a completely, totally insane Annie Wilkes, but the book… oh the book makes her out to be somehow even crazier, the things that you just can’t act out without a description.  King is clearly a talented writer, and I liked the little extras {like the n’s filled in differently on the pages} in the novel.  Was reading a King the prophetic experience I thought it would be?  Not really, no, (but it was better than all the fantasy people telling me Sanderson was prophetic – hahaha). There were lots of tangents, including pages and pages of the Misery manuscript, which I couldn’t really get into and found myself thinking constantly just thinking “why is this in the book?”

One quote that got me was – in referring to writing (it) and the creative process:

It had always been the single toughest thing, the most abiding thing, in his life – Nothing had ever been able to pollute that crazy well of dreams: no drink, no drug, no pain.

I wonder if that is a nod to King’s own issues with drugs and alcohol, I know the 80s were a rough time for him in those regards.  I wonder if he saw some of himself in Paul and felt trapped, and just let it all out in this crazy captor horror fantasy.

This is probably one of my favorite lines in literature so far, only because I am an RN and find this absolutely blitheringly iconic in my mind – 

“Don’t worry,”, she said, “I’m a trained nurse.”

The axe came whistling down…..

If anyone has read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Next and met Nurse Rached, or I guess seen the new show that is out, she is probably the other quintessentially insane nurse in modern literature.  I am team Annie though – her hospital travelling murder spree is just something to be truly terrified of.

My one last note on Misery is that I really liked King/Paul’s musings on going insane, and whether or not it really matters since we are all just racing towards death, although some obviously more quickly than others.  I also liked how he mentioned some of his other books, as well as books by other authors, like little shout-outs. 

I will leave you with one last quote to show you how well I think King captured the essence of crazy in the final scene:

He could smell her – cooked flesh, sweat, hate, madness

How many times have you heard a person’s smell described in a book? Are they saying death, fish, rotten things, sweat hate and madness? I just… Anyone with even a slight interest in psychological thrillers or horror needs to read this.

I think this was a good choice for a first King

Now I did mention that I would talk about how I choose my TBR but this post has gone on long enough – so I will just say that I never let popular opinion get to me. A better explanation for why I haven’t read one of his books yet is that he is widely known as the king of horror – which is a huge turn off for me because I don’t like scary books! Not all of his books are terrifying though, I am told, so I will find out I guess!

Categories
Fantasy Science Fiction

In the Orbit of Sirens : Book Tour Review & Giveaway!

Thank you so much to Storytellers On Tour for having me on the book tour for In the Orbit of Sirens by T.A. Bruno! This is a sci-fi adventure novel with excellent plot and world building, plenty of action, and a classic sci-fi feel. 

Quick Facts:

  • Title: In the Orbit of Sirens
  • Series: The Song of Kamaria, #1
  • Author: T.A. Bruno
  • Publisher & Release: Indie, October, 2020
  • Length: 502 pg
  • Rate & Recommend:  5 ^ and yes to anyone with even the vaguest interest in sci-fi! 

Here is the synopsis:

THE LAST FRAGMENTS OF THE HUMAN RACE ARE FORCED TO ADAPT TO A DANGEROUS NEW WORLD OR FACE EXTINCTION.
 
When starship mechanic Denton Castus is caught in the destructive path of a devastating war, he abandons his home and seeks refuge on a distant planet. However, this new safe haven has undiscovered threats of its own.
 
Eliana Veston, a scout preparing the planet for the refugees, struggles with a deadly pandemic that is killing off colonists. The hunt for a cure unleashes a new threat to humanity-the Sirens-mysterious beings with incredible powers and a deep hatred for invaders.

This is one of those independently published gems that I think deserves all the exposure in the world! From the cover to the internal illustrations, section titles, dual timelines, and storylines for days, this is definitely one to check out

The Plot & Story: There is a lot going on in this book, causing the pages to just fly by. One storyline is happening on the new planet, where the scientists and settlers are trying to ready the settlement for the rest of the refugees from our current solar system. An invading race is chasing humanity away from Sol, and the second storyline picks up at the end of this war where the very last humans are making their escape.

The new planet is not all fun and game; the air is breathable but causes humans; lungs to lock up, and not all of the planetary natives are friendly. These two plot lines marge fairly quickly and a third develops, but you’ll just have to read it to learn why an army veteran wreaks havoc and then disappears

First contact, exploration, tons of danger, plus a romantic subplot as well….. for a 500 page novel it’s an achievement to say that I was never once bored!

The World Building & Setting: This is a world build that I could truly get lost in. There is just enough history given of the expansion and war in Sol to know what is going on, and then that element was closed in a most satisfying way. The settlers’ new planet, Kamaria, is so rich in wildlife and fauna and Bruno’s descriptions made me feel like I was there! The descriptions of the white trees, purple grass, lazily grazing animals, and the bird-like natives, gave everything a lovely alien feel. Other regions have different fauna and it always made me want to see what the scouts and scientists would discover next. There is slang and local tradition and everything you need to make a solidly immersive world.

There is lots of lore and storytelling from the two main native species. The story of the sirens and the Auk’nai are kind of heart breaking. I did have a few questions about the choice of planet and spaceship technology, and funny enough the Author then said he had written these answers into an earlier draft but cut it out for length, so I felt better knowing that he had thought the holes through!

The Characters: Lets just say the characters are real people with tons of resilience. There is death and murder, an inhospitable new world, and a war against a crazed Siren, but Eliana and Denton and the others just keep striding forward. I enjoyed watching them overcome so many obstacles and discover where they really fit into life in the colony. Sometimes I find a lot of character building boring, but absolutely not here. It helped to know everyones strengths, weaknesses, and personalities before the battles at the end of the book. These people have suffered and I think Bruno really makes a statement about the resilience of humanity. There are tons of good and funny side characters as well, some with surprising character arcs of their own! Maybe don’t get too attached to anyone though *wink*

Overall: This is one of those reviews where I could talk about a book forever and point out so many cool things, but I think it’s best to just read the book yourself. Go hike through those forests, meet those natives, and fly into battle with the characters. Go be a part of their banter, sit in on the memorial services. This is an immersive, page flying sci-fi adventure that you won’t regret picking up! I mean honestly it’s one of my favorite modern scifi reads!

If you are more of an audiobook fan, this was recently released as well! Check it out at


So yes first off, here is the link to the giveaway! Click here!

Next up, I really enjoyed reading what everyone else thought of the book, so make sure to check out the rest of the tour!

Tour page link here!


Meet the author!

T. A. BRUNO grew up in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. Since then, he has brought stories to life for over a decade as a previsualization artist. At home, he is a proud father of two boys and a husband to a wonderful wife. IN THE ORBIT OF SIRENS is his debut science fiction novel

Author Links:
Website: http://tabruno.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TABrunoAuthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/TABrunoAuthor/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TABrunoAuthor
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/T.-A.-Bruno/e/B08FW4T3VF
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/tabrunoauthor

Categories
Adventure Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review ÷ SAS: Red Notice by Andy McNab

Thank you so much to the publisher, via Bookish First, for the advanced copy of SAS: Red Notice in exchange for an honest review!

I have been hit or miss on military themed thrillers but overally enjoyed this one for the characters, plot line, and action!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: SAS: Red Notice
  • Series: SAS (Tom Buckingham)#1
  • Author: Andy McNab
  • Publisher & Release: Welbeck Publishing, 4/06/21 re-release
  • Length: 400 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ for fans of military ops and thrillers

Here is the synopsis:

Soon to be a major motion picture.

Deep beneath the English Channel, a small army of vicious terrorists has seized control of the Eurostar to Paris, taken 400 hostages at gunpoint – and declared war on a government that has more than its own fair share of secrets to keep.

One man stands in their way. An off-duty SAS soldier is hiding somewhere inside the train. Alone and injured, he’s the only chance the passengers and crew have of getting out alive. Meet Andy McNab’s explosive new creation, Sergeant Tom Buckingham, as he unleashes a whirlwind of intrigue and retribution in his attempt to stop the terrorists and save everyone on board – including Delphine, the beautiful woman he loves.

Hurtling us at breakneck speed between the Regiment’s crack assault teams, Whitehall’s corridors of power and the heart of the Eurotunnel action, RED NOTICE is McNab at his devastatingly authentic, pulse pounding best.

Plot & action:  The book opens with the terrorists using a flame thrower on a small village, so I can definitely say that the book started – and stayed fairly exciting throughout.  Tom Buckingham and the SAS are chasing a terrorist cell with an enigmatic leader and a devastating plan.

There is action throughout as they run multiple ops against this group, and the book got even more exciting once the train was hijacked.  Some of the intricacies of the international intrigue were lost on me as we learn who the terrorists are and why they were acting, but it created an interesting race against time.  There is an inside man at SAS helping the terrorists as well, so the book definitely wasn’t boring

The Characters: Tom Buckingham is the main character, the SAS agent, and I liked him.  He’s a bit career/boys club oriented but I think most soldiers are.  His girlfriend, Delphine, incidentally ends up on the train with the terrorists which is why Tom was also on the train.  When not in action, the book spends time developing Delphine’s character and her struggles building a life with a soldier who obviously prioritizes his job and buddies over her.

I liked the other soldiers too though and even the head terrorist is an interesting character!  One thing I didn’t like though was all the names and extras thrown into the COBRA meetings, I ended up confusing names and departments.

Others: McNab spent his career with the military and I think there’s a lot of authenticity there.  The operations were well described and fairly interesting, although sometimes the military lingo and abbreviations lost me.  Most were explained and not terribly relevant to the story to understand the action.  One thing I did like was all the technology used, like the sniper coordinator!

Overall: definitely recommend for military ops and thriller fans.  Plenty of explosions and gunfire and daring escapes for all readers, and short chapters keep the pages flipping.

I am interested in the movie adaptation!

Do you like military op books/movies?

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Paranormal Romance

Book Review: River Magic by M.A. Philips (local author alert)!

I am glad this month to have some to read books from my own backlogged TBR!  One book that I have been meaning to get to is River Magic, because I try hard to support local authors!

The book is a new adult coming of age/romance, and takes place in the area my mom’s side of the family is from. The tippy top corner of Northern NY, St Lawrence / Alexandria Bay / Watertown region.  It was so cool to read a book featuring places I’ve been, a hospital I’ve worked at, etc! I’m just picturing the highway scenery as the characters drive along!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: River Magic
  • Series: Rituals of Rock Bay, #1
  • Author: M.A. Philips
  • Publisher & Release: Shadow Spark Publishing, October 2020
  • Length: 366 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ yes but be aware of mature romantic content

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Budding clairvoyant Lacey Moran seeks to understand her dreams and find her life’s purpose along the St. Lawrence River. If only her visions of silver arms and Cian O’Connor’s blue eyes were easier to understand! The pieces begin coming together when she encounters a mermaid in the river, joins a group of Druids, and opens herself to romance with an old friend.

Can Lacey overcome her doubts, or is she in over her head?

I was so thrilled to see a book set in the Alexandria Bay and Watertown area!  A story of finding oneself as an adult, embracing life choices, finding one’s faith, and reconciling adult friendships. I loved how everyone worked together and supported one another.

This is a romance (low steam level but it’s there), and coming of age story. I wasn’t expecting bedroom content so it threw me a bit, but it’s easily skimmable without missing storyline.

The main character, Lacey, is a sort of pagan who discovers Druidism and feels like she found a new home. It was interesting to learn about the rituals as Lacey did, and some of the Irish Mythology attached. Her eventual boyfriend, Cian, is trying to find his own way as well. His family is traditionally Catholic but it doesn’t seem like the right road for him. Man the struggle was real for his parents too, I felt for them. The relationships were level headed and real, with the characters talking through things instead of losing their minds.  Very refreshing to not have conflict without undue drama. The other characters were supportive and interesting as well.

One other theme I appreciated was how hard it can be to change and accept new viewpoints and changing culture, especially from a religious standpoint. The Catholicism vs Pagan interactions were handled realistically, I think, and a lot of the novel is about embracing instinct and one’s own path in life.  Trust me that Catholics know it’s 2020, they don’t need to be reminded in argument.  Changing times are a little bit much sometimes but I think Cian’s parents handled things well for how much was thrown at them at once.

It was interesting to learn a little about Druidism and rituals too, and all the other mystic elements in the book. I thought the mermaid was going to be one of the lost island residents but that storyline surprised me! A twist of mystery and danger was fun to read as someone is threatening a local endangered species.

All in all, a great new adult aged novel about finding your own paths, adult friendships and relationships, community and conservation. All set along the gorgeous St Lawrence River!

Will be reading book two!