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!

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Young Adult

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Edith Pawlicki!

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

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

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


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

Thank you for hosting; I love brunch! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

{{I love those tunnels!}}

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

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

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

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

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

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


Find Edith online at:

https://edithpawlicki.com/about.html

Categories
audiobooks Historical Fiction Horror Paranormal Young Adult

The Diviners (Book/Audiobook thoughts) by Libba Bray

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

Bookish Quick Facts:

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

Here is the book blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you invent a religion?” Evie asked.

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

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

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

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

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

Are you reading any spooky books yet this fall!?

Categories
Dystopian Science Fiction

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

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

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

Bookish Quick Facts:

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

Here is the book blurb:

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

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

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

IMG_20210831_155357_072

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

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

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

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

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

Please do check out the other tour hosts as well!

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Science Fiction

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series – featuring Steven J. Morris!

Happy Sunday everyone and thank you so much for tuning in to the fourth installment of the SBAIS!  I originally was introduced to Steve’s books through a tour company, and have had a lot of fun reading his first two books which bring fantasy and sci-fi elements into the modern world.   I was super excited when he reached out to participate here!

The SBAIS is now booking into October! If you are reading this thinking “wow I would really like to do that too,” please do contact me!


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

Hi. My name is Steve, and I’ve been writing fantasy for a couple of years now. 

(“Hi, Steve,” says the writers anonymous group in my head. Ha.)

I’m editing the 3rd of a four book series called The Guardian League, about a group of unlikely heroes saving the world from invasion by magic-wielding aliens. I’ve targeted Dec/Jan for the release of Book 3, but it feels ahead of schedule to me. I’m married and have three daughters spanning the Elementary to High School age, and I do engineering work at Intel to pay the bills.

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

There’s a surprising amount of work that happens after writing to get your baby out the door. That said, when I was a kid, there was nothing like the capabilities available now to self-publish. I have suggestions regarding writing: embrace learning, read how to write through books and podcasts, pay for editing and learn from it (find someone good). Regarding publishing, just keep swimming – if you’re not naturally technical (or even if you are), there’s a lot of steps to learn. Once you’ve gone through it, maybe a couple of times, it isn’t so bad. Sadly, you’re not done there – there’s a lot to learn about advertising. I’m still a beginner there, so I won’t offer advice.

3) The Guardian series is full of fantasy, FBI thrills, and a lot of sci-fi elements all brought into the modern, if not slightly futuristic world.  Do you remember what idea came first? As in, what did you build the series around?

Ironically, I built it around the ending, in book 4, which you haven’t seen yet. So I can’t say too much about it. I started at the end, and sketched the story backwards.  Then I began writing book 1. I did have some components I knew I wanted, magic and science together, travel between worlds, but the actual story was built on top of those components.

4) I loved that there was a bit of a D&D / Warcraft feel to the series, are you a gamer? If you want to nerd out about a game, I’m here for it

For about 10 years, my two brothers and I would meet online once a week and play Everquest. I played an enchanter (go team Galad). The Lost Dungeons of Norrath were some of the most fun adventures I remember in any game ever – one hour cooperative dungeons that you’d finish within seconds of the timer running out… nothing beats that feeling of pulling victory from the jaws of defeat. Yeah, D&D as a kid, played some Worlds of Warcraft, and a few others as well. Believe it or not, I created a shareware game back in 1998 or so – “Homeland: The Stone of Night.”  https://www.mobygames.com/game/homeland-the-stone-of-night It was okay for its time (total junk now). Regardless, yeah, definitely have a big gaming past. 

5) What brunch item do you think would go with your books?

Chilli-cheese fries, and I’d have a beer with it too. IPA, like Red would drink.

{{There you have it – based on these interviews, I am forced to assume that brunch is a NorthEastern thing))

6) I can imagine being self published that it’s hard to get the word out about your book, has that been a challenge? Was using a book tour company a positive experience?

Oh, I should have read ahead, since I mentioned advertising already. So I exited “writing/publishing” having done NOTHING in regards to exposing my book or writing. I’m naturally a pretty socially timid guy (introverts unite! But, um, keep your distance). I don’t know if a book tour would be the right move for everyone, but it helped me build a community and get connected, so for me, it was a positive experience (and I *have* recommended it to people). But set your expectations – you’re competing with a lot of other authors for attention, and the quick bursts from a tour can’t replace doing continuous advertising work. I am far far far from figuring out the right way to do advertising. So much to learn!

{{That said, thank you to By The Book Tours for originally introducing me to Steve’s books!}}

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

Favorite book(s) – The Mirror of Her Dreams and A Man Rides Through

I guess it is cheating, but also natural, to say that the characters in my favorite books are my favorite characters: Terisa Morgan and Geraden. 

Strange habits: I have multiple copies of my favorite books. I’ve never written in books, including textbooks. I’d see other people with their highlighters and cringe like someone was spray-painting the Washington Monument. (And now I have to sign them… )

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

Just a shout-out to all the folks who promote writing, of their own time and energy, for indie authors. It’s really heart-warming. Thanks!


I hope you guys will check out the author’s website and bookish links too!

Website: https://sjmorriswrites.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/steven.j.morris.writer/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08TV879J6/ref=x_gr_mw_bb_sin?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_mw_bb_sin-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B08TV879J6&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2

GoodReadshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56811451-the-guardian-of-the-palace?ref=nav_sb_ss_1_23

Categories
Adventure audiobooks Fiction Thrillers

The Heist (Book Review) by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg

This is another one of those backlist books that I don’t always blog about, but I have decided that it’s important to share joy and I really freaking enjoyed listening to this book on Audio!

This is an adult series where the FBI ropes an agent and a conman into performing heists and cons together in order to nail bad guys that the FBI probably couldn’t get to by conventional means.  I knew that I liked heist books in fantasy, so I figured why not try it in a contemporary setting!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Heist
  • Series: Fox and O’Hare, #1
  • Author: Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg
  • Publisher & Release: Bantam, June 2013
  • Length: 320 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend:  Yes for some summer fun

((The audiobook is from 2013, Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, about 8 hours long and narrated by Scott Brick))

Here is the bookblurb from Amazon:

From Janet Evanovich, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum novels, and Lee Goldberg, bestselling author and television writer for Monk, comes the first adventure in an electrifying new series featuring an FBI agent who always gets her man, and a fearless con artist who lives for the chase.

FBI Special Agent Kate O’Hare is known for her fierce dedication and discipline on the job, chasing down the world’s most wanted criminals and putting them behind bars. Her boss thinks she is tenacious and ambitious; her friends think she is tough, stubborn, and maybe even a bit obsessed. And while Kate has made quite a name for herself for the past five years, the only name she’s cared about is Nicolas Fox—an international crook she wants in more ways than one.

Audacious, handsome, and dangerously charming, Nicolas Fox is a natural con man, notorious for running elaborate scams on very high-profile people. At first he did it for the money. Now he does it for the thrill. He knows that the FBI has been hot on his trail—particularly Kate O’Hare, who has been watching his every move. For Nick, there’s no greater rush than being pursued by a beautiful woman . . . even one who aims to lock him up. But just when it seems that Nicolas Fox has been captured for good, he pulls off his greatest con of all: he convinces the FBI to offer him a job, working side by side with Special Agent Kate O’Hare.

Problem is, teaming up to stop a corrupt investment banker who’s hiding on a private island in Indonesia is going to test O’Hare’s patience and Fox’s skill. Not to mention the skills of their ragtag team made up of flamboyant actors, wanted wheelmen, and Kate’s dad. High-speed chases, pirates, and Toblerone bars are all in a day’s work . . . if O’Hare and Fox don’t kill each other first.

This was my first Evanovich book, and I was kind of expecting to see a little bit of Monk in it too since Lee Goldberg is the co-author.  I didn’t get that vibe except for the ridiculous plot in general, and I think that he might have contributed some of the funnier bits?

The plot is absolutely ridiculous but it made for a fun read, or listen.  The action is extremely fast paced and Scott Brick is an entertaining narrator.  I don’t think you need 100% brainpower to listen to these books either which is a huge plus since I usually listen while driving!

The characters are amazing;  Kate OHare is an ex-navy seal (I don’t think that is realistic but it makes for a good story) and Nick Fox is a brilliant con artist that Kate has been chasing for years.  Pairing them up creates all the tension and humor you would expect from that situation.

The other members of the heist team are funny too.  There’s a hilarious lady who likes to drive just about anything with a motor.  Fox creates hilarious fake names for them while traveling too.  My favorite character though was Kate’s dad, he was (I think) a Marine? and they keep joking that he can kill someone 16 ways with a pair of tweezers and it’s probably accurate.  Him and another senior citizen ex-military swooped in and saved the day in the best fashion ever, but I also just liked his relationship with Kate.

All in all: recommending if you are looking for a fast paced, light read, and can laugh about the ridiculous plot and take it for entertainment value and a few laughs.  I wouldn’t call it in any way shape or form a literary masterpiece but it made me happy!

Have you guys read anything by Evanovich? I think it worked in my favor that I haven’t read any Plum books and can’t compare them!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Heartrender (Book Review) by V. Romas Burton

Thank you so much to Monster Ivy Publishing for the ARC of Heartrender! This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and I was so beyond thrilled to receive an ARC box in exchange for a feature and honest review!

Due to the nature of this being a review for the conclusion of a trilogy, I am going to try really hard to avoid spoilers but a series spoiler may be inevitable. What I would say is that if you read the first two books definitely read the third.  If you are seeking YA appropriate epic fantasy or allegorical fiction , clean content, this is definitely a good series for you ❤

Review of book 1: https://onereadingnurse.com/2020/12/14/book-review-heartmender-by-v-romas-burton/

Review of book 2: https://onereadingnurse.com/2021/06/30/heartbreaker-by-v-romas-burton-book-review/

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Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Heartrender
  • Series: Heartmender #3
  • Author: V. Romas Burton
  • Publisher & Release: Monster Ivy Publishing, 09/07/21
  • Length: 388
  • Rate & Recommend : 🌟🌟🌟 yes because at this point you probably read the first two books! This is a lovely series

Here is the synopsis:

Eman is gone. Silas is gone. Claire is gone.

When Addie returns to Ramni after her devastating encounter with Ophidian, she finds her heart broken from her recent losses. Yet, even though she is grieving, Addie continues her journey through the Twelve Lands of Decim to unite the Twelve Magisters. With the aid of Romen and Lyle, she travels to each Northern Land to find that Ophidian is no longer harvesting Decim’s hearts, but their souls. With this new power, Ophidian will be almost impossible to defeat.

Will Addie be able to complete her promise to Eman before darkness rules?

I think this was a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, although unfortunately by far the weakest of the three books in my mind.

One of my favorite parts was the character arcs, especially Addie finally trusting in Eman and the others enough to ask for help. The boys completely stole the show in this one though. Seeing Silas’ history put a lot of the rest of the series into context and it was the most interesting to me. His trials provided a lot of necessary background to understand various character’s actions and also explained the whole Rexus thing.

Lyle just took control of everything with his newfound powers and I think he’s going to make a great Elder.  It was also great to see Claire get some validation.  Addie’s ending bugged me a little bit, I kind of feel like she should be a magister or something too but it looks like she’s going to be relegated to… Well… Yeah no spoilers 😂

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A lot of the imagery, especially in Silas’  chapters, was excellent again in this book. The castle in the tree and the imagery of the Elders was very well done.

Something about the allegory has been bugging me though. The resurrection is a tricky thing to represent and I feel like where the allegory was broader before, the author just tried to get too specific here and missed.  Then again it is entirely possible that I could just be missing something. Not to say it’s not still a good read though. Jeff Wheeler did something similar at the end of a few of his trilogies where he just seems to get lost in his Theology.

I know that I’ve talked about the pacing of certain events in the prior two books, and the absolute frantic pace of the ending confused me here as well. I would have read a longer book to find out more about the missing magisters and Romen’s role, the time travelling, and a few other things.  Characters were popping in and out all over the place in the second half of this book in order to get everything ready for the conclusion, and it was just happening so quickly that I got confused.

This is a lovely series though and I would totally recommend this to anyone seeking light fantasy, clean content, allegorical fiction / fantasy!
❤❤❤

Categories
Crime Mysteries Suspense

Unholy Murder (Book Review) by Lynda LaPlante

Thank you so much to Bookish First and the publisher for my finished paperback review copy of Unholy Murder!  Thankfully I remember most of the British slang I had to look up whilw reading Judas Horse, so this was a fairly smooth reading experience!

This is my first read in the Tennison series, though I have liked her DS Jack Warr books quite a bit.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Unholy Murder
  • Series: Tennison, #7
  • Author: Lynda LaPlants
  • Publisher & Release: Zaffre, 08/19/21
  • Length: 416 Pages
  • Rate & Recommend: Yes for fans of crime drama

Here is the Book Blurb:

A coffin is dug up by builders in the grounds of an historic convent – inside is the body of a young nun.

In a city as old as London, the discovery is hardly surprising. But w hen scratch marks are found on the inside of the coffin lid, Detective Jane Tennison believes she has unearthed a mystery far darker than any she’s investigated before. However, not everyone agrees. Tennison’s superiors dismiss it as an historic cold case, and the Church seems desperate to conceal the facts from the investigation. It’s clear that someone is hiding the truth, and perhaps even the killer. Tennison must pray she can find both – before they are buried forever…

In Unholy Murder, Tennison must lift the lid on the most chilling murder case of her career to date . . .

A coffin is unearthed at a dig site attached to an old convent, and the police are called in case there is a body inside! Has the ground been de consecrated? Who would kill a nun and why? Tennison and DS Boon end up having to solve a murder that must have happened at least 25+ years ago.  I didn’t realize that these books take place in the 80s, once Jane took her typewriter out of a cupboard I kind of went “ohhh so that’s why these guys don’t have cell phones!”

There was a lot of interesting information about the church, sisters vs nuns, convents and burial rites in the book.  Lots of different theories tying into the murder(s), one of which was that the builders were involved. Or was it other nuns? A local priest? The Bishop had done some serious, serious cover ups in the past so the plethora of potential suspects and theories kept it interesting for me.  The church looks real great in this one but it was interesting to see internal politics in play.

Most of the theories had some grain of truth in them too, and LaPlante keeps me turning the pages for sure. It was a good mystery but not so much of a thriller, I think the “crime drama” or mysery genre fits it well. I would have never guessed who either murderer was.

My main issue with the book was that I just really didn’t like Tennison very much. I do wonder if reading the prior books would help connect to her more though.  None of her personal relationships seemed realistic. The book happened over a fairly short period of time and Jane was practically in love with a guy she had just met and shagged one or two times. She is a good investigator but needs to learn to work with the team – it was a little bit satisfying that she had gotten reprimanded for keeping things to herself, and then someone died as a result – like maybe she will learn to trust in the future finally?

I think Barnes, Boon, and Stanley were my favorites, they all had a turnaround related to their jobs and came up big at the end.

Definitely recommend this author for fans of crime dramas, she is a great writer as far as keeping things flowing and interesting

Who is your favorite crime drama author? I think I like British crime dramas more than American ones

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Three Dark Crowns (book review) by Kendare Blake

I finally participated in another Openly Booked Book Club read this summer! Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake was the pick for July, and I had off-handedly said that it would make a good book club series … So not sure but I might have sparked this suggestion, and I was super thrilled when it won the vote😂

Bookish Quick Facts: 

  • Title: Three Dark Crowns
  • Series: Three Dark Crowns, #1
  • Author: Kendare Blake
  • Publisher & Release: Quill Tree Books, September 2016
  • Length: 416 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ yes for YA fantasy fans

Here is the Book Blurb:

Fans of acclaimed author Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood will devour Three Dark Crowns, the first book in a dark and inventive fantasy series about three sisters who must fight to the death to become queen.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

This is definitely a YA fantasy, I know it’s only book one but no one has fought to the death yet!  With my biggest disappointment out of the way first, let’s chat about the rest of the book!

Strengths

1) History and lore as part of the world building.  Fennbirn is steeped in Queenly traditions and lore, some bloody and some … Well, bloodier.  I liked learning about all the cultural facets such as the Gave Noir (poisoner’s feast), traditional hunts, and clashing belief systems. Each of the three regions has their own foods, styles of living, ways of life, and magic, so there were a lot of pages spent building the island. I’m on board.

The lore also ties into the magic system, and if you know me you know that I LOVE LOVE LOVE land and Kingdom based magic.  When magic is part of the world itself and rulers can draw on it, that’s a good magic system.  The magic is all over the place here but it’s kind of cool

2) Political plotting.  I love a good political plot, and the poisoners in power plot just as much as the priestesses trying to put the Elemental Queen in power.  If you love assassinations, power plays, and duplicity., this is a great book for you.

3) The plot itself: I love the sibling rivalry trope.  Each sister’s strengths and weaknesses were tied into the storyline, and I think a queendom steeped in bloody history is a great idea at heart.

Weaknesses:

1) too many characters and places at first.  Trying to establish three sisters, in three different households, with all different characters surrounding them, including place names was way too much for me to remember.  Eventually it worked out in my mind but I found this name overload distracting at first

2) Death – I know it’s only book one, but no major characters have died yet.  I would expect one major death to set the tone for the series, but alas, this *is* YA.  I had a similar complaint about The Night Circus

Important themes: battling misconceptions seems to be a huge theme here. So does the valuing of family, both blood and found, and the power of friendships.  Additionally that all actions have consequences.  I do like the themes presented and find them suitable for a YA audience

Random notes, thoughts, and points:

  • The women had cool names like Arsinoe, Mirabella, Julienne, while the men’s names were Matt, Joseph, etc
  • I now know how to pronounce Kendare
  • The animal familiars were really cool, i love animal familiars
  • The book presents a ton of potential routes forward and theories, which makes it a great book club read
  • The audiobook failed for me because the narrator can absolutely not do male voices
  • I docked a star for presenting two characters hooking up randomly, and it was out of character for both of them.  I get it as a plot point going forward but this doesn’t need to be presented to a YA audience

This is a more scatterbrained review format than I normally take with fantasy books, but my brain hurts!