Categories
Fantasy

Dark Oak (Book Tour) by Jacob Sannox

Thank you so much to Storytellers On Tour and the author for having me on the Book tour for Dark Oak! This is a dark ish fantasy that takes place after the end of a great war, where the evil has been vanquished and a time of peace is beginning.

Or… Well it should be, anyway.  Unfortunately once the prime evil is gone and unity is no longer necessary, humans tend to create new enemies and now war is brewing in the territories again as the lands and Lords revert back to their pre-war dispositions.  This right here was probably my favorite theme from the book.

Despite my 3 star rating and various struggles: I want to say up front that the ending of this book is EVERYTHING.  Once you learn what “Dark Oak” refers to and things start getting dark, it’s just… Really something else.

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Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dark Oak
  • Series: The Dark Oak Chronicles, #1
  • Author: Jacob Sannox
  • Publisher & Release: self, April 2017
  • Length: 313
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐for dark fantasy fans, maybe military fantasy 

Here is the synopsis:

Humanity has finally defeated the Dark Lord, but Morrick fought on the wrong side.

Though he was a slave, he is branded a traitor and must earn the trust of new lords in order to return to his family – if they are still alive.

Now that their common enemy is dead, the nobles begin to forget old loyalties, and Queen Cathryn’s realm looks set to plunge into war once more. But there are older and more terrible powers dwelling within the forest, and when they are awakened, Morrick will decide who lives or dies.

The starting point of this book was an interesting choice, as it started at the end of a war.  It was hard for me to wrap my head around who and what was relevant at first, even though right at the start of the book it disclaims that it is NOT the story of the dark lord!

Dark Oak has a LOT going on, and a few different points of view to be aware of.  Morrick is the main character, and probably the most interesting one as we watch his moral struggles.  There is a lot of humanity in the book as various tragedies are met and death with, including post war trauma and death of family, seen mostly through the eyes of Morrick.  Cathryn, the queen, and the various lords also have points of view.

I thought his wife, Rowan, was important too but she was mostly entirely brushed over. For example, she went through all this trouble to consider starting a rebellion with some people who showed up, then we hear nothing except that it was over and went badly.  That was probably the hardest part of the book for me – to decide what was relevant. I also struggled with  what parts the author chose to brush over vs. expand on.

I thought jt was pretty real that most of the Lords, including the queen, really just wanted to kick up their feet and essentially retire after the war but there’s always that *one* problem child.

As far as the magic- the Dryads were definitely the best part of the whole book for me.  The supernatural things were dumped into the book kind of suddenly, but once I learned that a main focus going forward was angry Dryads having their home and trees destroyed, things made a lot more sense.  I really loved the descriptions of the tree and water folk, and how their magic worked.

The worldbuilding was high in setting, scenery, and geography, decent in history, but kind of mish mash on the micro level.  I had a good idea of the history and politics of the realm and the forest, but not so much the cities and moods, weather and foods, etc.  There were some interesting cultural pockets like the “whores” in the Whoreswood.  I originally felt like the world lacked any kind of cohesion, but that plays a role since although the humans united under the name “The Combined People”, they didn’t necessarily have anything in common except the enemy.

Here is a preview of the map, which helped SO much to visualize the book

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I think the magic is definitely the strongest aspect.  I liked the political maneuvering by the Lords and watching the kingdom dissolve into mayhem.  The book definitely had both strong and weak points, and it *lived* for the final quarter.  I do plan on ordering book 2 so i can see what happens, and how he grew as a writer going forward.

Definitely check out the tour page and see what others had to say about the book!!

Book Tour: Dark Oak by Jacob Sannox


Meet the author

Jacob Sannox is a 37 year old writer from the sunny climes of Bedfordshire, England. In his spare time he is generally writing, thinking about writing or berating himself for not writing.

He loves to play the acoustic guitar, but wishes he was better at it, and he has recently taken up Dungeons & Dragons. This is dangerous, as he has a propensity for disappearing into fantasy worlds. Nobody saw Jacob Sannox between 2000 and 2010, during which time he was LARPing.

Do not judge him.

Author & Book Links

Website:http://www.jacobsannox.com/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jacobsannox

Facebook: http://www.twitter.com/jacobsannox

Instagram:http://www.instagram.com/jacobsannoxwriter

Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55810045-dark-oak

Purchase Link: https://books2read.com/u/mVQZ65 

Categories
Science Fiction

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

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

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

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Bookish Quick Facts:

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

Here is the Book Blurb: 

The thrilling sequel to In the Orbit of Sirens

THE WORLD OF KAMARIA WILL NEVER BE THE SAME.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Do find that here!


Author and book links!

Website:https://tabruno.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/TABrunoAuthor

Instagram: http://instagram.com/TABrunoAuthor 

Facebook: http://facebook.com/TABrunoAuthor

Goodreads: http://goodreads.com/TABrunoAuthor

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

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

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Young Adult

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Meet the Author!

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


Find Vanessa and the Heartmender series online!

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

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

Author Website: https://vromasburton.com/

Purchase the Heartmender books on Amazon:

Categories
Fantasy

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

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

Come see the Tour Link!

Bookish Quick Facts:

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

Here is the Book Blurb:

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

But the creators have suddenly gone silent.

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

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


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

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Click here to enter!!


Meet the Author:

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

Author links:


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

Bookish Links:

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

Categories
Fantasy Horror

Dreams of the Dying (book review) by Nicolas Lietzau

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

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

Bookish Quick Facts:

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

Here is the book blurb from GoodReads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kawu snorted. “Not quite.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To break the book down into a one sentence synopsis:

A comatose magnate, insurgent terrorists, furious commoners.

With a side theme of mental health, and….

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

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

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


Find Nicolas and Dreams of the Dying online:

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

 


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

Categories
Fantasy

The Echoed Realm (Blog Tour)!! By A.J. Vrana

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Thank you so much to Storytellers on Tour and A.J. Vrana for having me on the tour for The Echoed Realm!   I really enjoyed the first book in the duology (my review for The Hollow Gods is up on the blog too) and A.J. did a phenomenal job bringing this series to conclusion! Just in time for fall reading comes this darkly atmospheric, spooky, haunted and hallowed book where we get the real history of the wolf under the willow tree.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Echoed Realm
  • Series: The Chaos Cycle Duology #2
  • Author: A.J. Vrana
  • Publisher & Release: Parliament House Press, 08/10/21
  • Length: 444 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 Yes for fans of book one, folklore, and unapologetic dark fantasy!

Here is the bookblurb:

Miya’s world ended in Black Hollow.

It’s been three years since the Dreamwalker upended her life and left her with a heavy burden. A fledgling to the ethereal realm, Miya stumbles into the nightmares of those haunted by spectres. Little does she know, one of them is coming for her, clutching a dark secret abreast.

Kai has found a new purpose with his companion, but the price is his freedom. Bound and beholden to Miya, he struggles to adjust to his new role as her vanguard.

Meanwhile, Mason discovers he may be a pawn trapped in a web of schemes. Was his time in Black Hollow an accident, or was it only the beginning of some greater machination?

As Black Hollow’s bloody stain spreads beyond its wooded borders, Miya fights to evade a past she barely understands. The Dreamwalker’s legacy is a vise grip, and it isn’t letting go. Primordial horrors draw near, fables come alive, and long-buried histories rise from the grave, ready to hunt.

Sharpen your claws and bloody your teeth. There’s fear to be sown.

Sharpen your claws and bloody your teeth. There’s fear to be sown

Three years after the events of The Hollow Gods, we see Miya and Kai settled into their new “normal”.  If you can call traversing the dreamscape after demons normal.  Kai has become tethered to the dreamwalker and he really isn’t a fan of this new bond.  There is old evil on the loose and the only way to free themselves and the town of Orme’s Rest is to confront age old trauma and make the choice to move forward.

I think that while reading The Hollow Gods, I missed the kernel of the story.  There was a certain level of ambiguity in the folklore that didn’t make 100% sense at the time, but reading book two answers all the big questions.  I think Vrana did this on purpose, gave us enough to appreciate the legends, and then told us the backstory and revealed the true meaning of The Chaos Cycle at the conclusion.

The folklore aka legend aka bedtime story is amazing.  We learn the origin of the black wolf, the creator, and the dreamwalker, and it’s as dark and bloody and violent as I could have possibly wanted and expected. 

My only question was – Where did Ama fit into it all? Where did she come into the legend? We even got Gavran’s back story so not including Ama felt like a big omission.

One of my favorite themes was how Miya and Kai both had to realize and appreciate their own worth in order to beat their literal and figurative demons.  Yes they were tethered together but individually they are both worth their weight in existence. 

I also looooved the theme that love is a choice, not a need or a calling or a hex or an ages old tether. 

Tie those themes into an utterly dark and atmospheric read that never once loses it’s character, and I think A.J. Vrana wrote the ultimately perfect fall read.

The dreamscape and the roots, trees, swamp, were practically their own characters in this book. I love when the setting and atmosphere are so alive. Fear is practically a living character as well,

The one thing I want to add is that if you tend to avoid horror novels because they are too scary – this really does not fit into that realm for me. It’s definitely a dark fantasy but I don’t want anyone to see “horror” and run! I absolutely recommend these as a quintessential fall spooky season read though!


Like the artwork that you see? Enter the giveaway by clicking here to win your choice of a poster!


Meet the Author!  You can click the tour link below to find all of her social media links!

A. J. Vrana is a Serbian-Canadian academic and writer from Toronto, Canada. She lives with her two rescue cats, Moonstone and Peanut Butter, who nest in her window-side bookshelf and cast judgmental stares at nearby pigeons. Her doctoral research examines the supernatural in modern Japanese and former-Yugoslavian literature and its relationship to violence. When not toiling away at caffeine-fueled, scholarly pursuits, she enjoys jewelry-making, cupcakes, and concocting dark tales to unleash upon the world.

 Please do check out the rest of the tour schedule for more info and to see what the others have to say about The Echoed Realm! 

Book Tour: The Echoed Realm by A. J. Vrana

Lastly here are some preorder links and goodreads!

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: with Rachel Hobbs!

Hi everyone! Welcome to the inaugural Sunday Brunch Author Interview, I hope this will become a long standing series! Shadow Stained author Rachel Hobbs was nice enough to take the leap with me, so read on!

She talks about her publishing journey, morally gray characters, social media, and more!

1. Thank you for taking the time to chat! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your novel!

My name’s Rachel Hobbs and I’m the author of the dark fantasy novel Shadow-Stained. Love and hate, good and evil, I write about morally grey monsters and opposites that both attract and violently polarize. I’m a dental nurse for a small local practice, and when I’m not working with teeth, I’m summoning demons at my keyboard.

My characters don’t always deserve your affection, but just maybe they’ll steal your heart anyway.

2. What was the Indie publishing journey like for you? Do you have any tips for fellow indie authors trying to publish a book?

I actually queried Shadow-Stained for a good nine months before making the decision to self-publish. I had this dream of seeing my book on the shelves of a physical book store, and having done my research on both avenues of publishing, I knew that you could fall back on self publishing after querying, but not the other way around. I went into the querying trenches with realistic expectations and came out on the other side with the kind of thick skin and determination only one hundred plus agent rejections could get you! When I made the decision to go it alone and publish Shadow-Stained anyway, I was nervous of getting it wrong. In hindsight, self-publishing my debut novel was the best decision I could have made. I was in full control of every aspect of my launch – final content, cover design, marketing – and my books still made it into my local indie book shop. I couldn’t be happier with the way things panned out.

If I had one tip, it would be don’t skimp on the cost of your cover. A good cover will sell your book time and time again, so a good cover designer is an investment that you won’t be sorry you made. There are so many amazing book covers out there already. Why set yourself at a disadvantage from the get go?

3. How do you feel about social media? I am seeing a lot of love towards indie authors these days and it’s amazing

I know some authors tend to find social media a chore. Personally, I’ve been made to feel very welcome on Twitter, especially in the writing community. I’ve made a lot of solid friends on that platform and in some ways, it’s almost like having one big online family! Everyone is so supportive of each other and cheering for your success. In a similar way, social media is a goldmine of undiscovered gems. I’ve found a few of my current favourite reads this way, books by extremely talented indie authors that deserve all the love and attention. I don’t enjoy Facebook, but maintain one anyway. It really is each to their own, when it comes to social media.

4. There is also a lot of “noise” out there and I have seen authors on Twitter lamenting about ratings and having their work seen, has that been a challenge?

Ratings are everything when you’re first starting out. When your name means nothing to anyone, a reader is relying solely on existing reviews, the book blurb, the cover. It can be disheartening to put yourself so wholly out there and get very little back, but writing is marathon, not a sprint. There isn’t really such a thing as an overnight success, because the chances are, that successful person worked really hard in the shadows for a long time before being discovered. All you can do is show up and put the work in. It can be a challenge to get your work in front of the right eyeballs, especially when there are so many amazing books already out there. But it’s important to remember that the other authors are not your competitors, they are your community. And the chances are that by supporting and lifting others, you yourself will eventually be lifted in kind.

    5. One of the main characters in Shadow Stained is a morally gray, “destruction and mayhem vs saving a girl” kind of guy. What do you think makes up a good “Gray” character?

Morally grey characters are so deliciously complex. Thorny and often only looking out for number one, one of the best things about a good ‘grey’ character is that they’re unpredictable. One moment they’re saving your life, the next you’re facing off as enemies. They have the potential to be both the hero and the villain at any given moment, depending on what most suits their needs at any given time. They’re not boxed into any one category, and because of this, you never quite know which way they’re going to turn.

With Drayvex, my morally grey Demon Lord from Shadow-Stained, I know I really pushed the boundaries of grey. He’s about as wicked as a character can be without actually being the villain! But to me, this makes it all the more compelling when he finds himself stumbling towards the hero side of antihero, clueless as to how he even got there, but fully committed for his own personal reasons. I think another thing that can have us so attached to a great morally grey character is their unflinching drive, their tunnel vision commitment to what they consider to be the only rational way forward. We don’t always agree with them, but by damn we want them to win.

    6. In your bio you wrote that narcolepsy and parasomnia inspired some of your writing, are you comfortable elaborating on that?

When I was in my early teens, I had a hard time staying awake. Sometimes it felt like I was dragging a physical weight around with me all day long, and I would fall asleep at inconvenient moments at school. What I didn’t know at the time was that this was a neurological condition called narcolepsy, but it was the parasomnia at night on top of this that really pushed me to the edge. To summarize, we’re talking sleepwalking, hallucinations and periods of paralysis upon waking and falling asleep, so I really had my hands full! As a sort of coping mechanism, and a way to explain what I didn’t understand, I made each of these conditions into a demon that was personally responsible for my suffering. It’s for this reason that demons feature so heavily in Shadow-Stained. Turning to creative therapy, when I eventually started to pour my demons onto the blank page, it sparked a wildfire idea for the darkest little monster story. That creative fire has been burning ever since.

    7. What else inspires your writing?

I’ve always thought of ideas as being like sand. Inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere; the secret smile of a stranger, a snippet of conversation you overheard on the train, a vivid memory, a really good film. By themselves, they’re just grains of sand. But meld them all together and they become something else entirely. I suppose that’s quite vague, but I know that a lot of my inspiration is subconscious. It’s a really strange feeling when you read back something you’ve wrote, and only after you’ve wrote it and it’s on the page do you start to pinpoint the origins of such an idea. When I’m looking for inspiration, I can turn to a good book, a curated playlist, or even Pinterest.

    8. Alright let’s end this with some easy rapid fire general bookish questions:  Do you have a favorite book that you always recommend? Favorite literary character? What genre do you usually read? Do you have any strange and wonderful bookish habits?

One of my favourite authors is Darren Shan. He has quite the extensive back catalogue at this point,  and I often change my mind on which of his books is my favourite. But Lady of the Shades is a cracker, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes a dark twisty thriller that will keep you on your toes. If I had to pick a favourite literary character, I’d have to go with August Flynn from V E Schwab’s Monsters of Verity duology. August is effectively the one monster with a conscience in an entire city of savages. His heart and his melancholy, along with this chink of light inside him that makes him want to show up and fight his true nature again and again, is what makes him such an interesting character. I like dark, gritty fantasy, and love to read the kind of things I love to write. Monsters and rogues, enemies to lovers, villains that are the heroes of their own story. I’m sure by now you’re seeing a pattern forming! I don’t really have any strange and wonderful bookish habits that I know of, but maybe it’s time I adopted one. 😉

    9. Thank you so much again for offering to interview! If there is anything else you want to say about yourself, your novels, your life, or anything at all, please do so here!

I get overly attached to book characters. I’ve lost count of how many times over the space of a book or a series that I’ve made a character the latest object of my obsession –ahem, I mean affection– and then had my heart ripped out when there are no more pages left. I love it, I dread it. It’s like losing a friend. And then of course, there’s the void to fill in their absence. But the best characters stay with you, and some even live on in little pieces of my own characters. All in all, the book hangovers are a small price to pay. We really are suckers for punishment!


Meet the author (from Google Books)

​Rachel Hobbs lives in soggy South West Wales, where she hibernates with with her bearded dragon and her husband. By day she is a dental nurse at a small local practice. By night, she writes. ​ Her debut novel SHADOW-STAINED is the first in a dark fantasy series for adults, inspired by her dark and peculiar experiences with narcolepsy and parasomnia. She’s since subjugated her demons, and writes under the tenuous guise that they work for her. ​Fuelled by an unhealthy amount of coffee, she writes about hard-boiled monsters with soft centres and things that go bump in the night

Here are Rachel’s author links and links to view and purchase the book!

Website http://www.authorrachelhobbs.co.uk

Twitter http://www.twitter.com/rhobbsauthor

Instagram http://www.instagram.com/authorrachelhobbs

Amazon Shadow-Stained (Stones of Power Book 1) eBook : Hobbs, Rachel: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

Barnes and Shadow-Stained by Rachel Hobbs, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

Book Depository https://www.bookdepository.com/Shadow-Stained-Rachel-Hobbs/9781527257962

Categories
Paranormal

Shadow Stained (Book Review) by Rachel Hobbs

Thank you so much to Rachel Hobbs for reaching out to respond to an open interview call for my blog! While that feature will be coming later this month, I also read and reviewed her debut novel Shadow Stained!

At least as we speak, the novel is available on Kindle Unlimited and I found it to be a well formatted and compatible copy!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Shadow Stained
  • Series: Stones of Power, #1
  • Author: Rachel Hobbs
  • Publisher & Release: Nielsen, 03/05/20
  • Length: 360 pages
  • Rate & recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of paranormal, demons, etc!

Here is the book blurb from Amazon:

For her, it’s her late grandma’s legacy. For him, the mother of all black arts spoils, granting one demon the power of a God. Immortality.

When occult-magnet Ruby falls victim to Demon Lord Drayvex’s viperous allure, she loses a sentient dark relic to his light fingers and appetite for power. Like calls to like. But when Drayvex himself loses the relic to a traitor to the throne, Ruby coerces him – the tyrant king with a soft spot for humanity – into helping her save her pokey old world village from becoming a ground zero of mass demonic carnage.

Both invested in reclaiming the relic, the one thing Ruby and Drayvex agree on is that it’s in the wrong hands. Co-existing in a precarious arrangement between predator and prey, to save the planet they both love for different reasons, they must become a formidable double-team in the face of an apocalyptic takeover. Now, the fate of both human and demon alike rests with a killer that walks between worlds, and a woman with a curse in her bloodline.

The Plot & Story: This is a paranormal adventure for adult readers, where a young woman and her stone of power inadvertently draw the attention of a demon lord. This escalates into a fullscale invasion of Earth and exciting battle of the most powerful demons in the realm. There is also this ongoing back and forth of whether or not the demon lord and girl will ever just get together already. I still am not sure on that point, I honestly thought it was going to be a paranormal romance (but it isn’t thankfully).

It’s an interesting and quickly moving story. I don’t read very much in this genre so it’s pretty new to me in general.

The characters: the demon, Drayvex, is everything. He is such a sociopath and total egomaniac but has a small amount of cinnamon-roll filling inside, and man does he HATE it! His dialogue and monologue, alongside the plot itself, carried the book for me.  It helps that he has a darkly attractive human form.

Ruby is not a bad character but she has no fighting prowess at all, no clue what’s going on, and can’t defend herself. She wants to stay and fight demons even though she’s almost died multiple times and Drayvex has to keep rescuing her.  I think I would have liked her more if she wasn’t so entirely helpless.  Ruby is some kind of witch or cursed, or something, but the most paranormal thing that happened to her before Drayvex is that she is drawn to occult objects at garage sales? I would have liked to know what this is all hinting at, since it is known to other characters that she is special but the reader gets no indication as to why.  Which means I’m reading book 2.

I really just want more Drayvex.

The side character demons created some funny moments as well. The lower level ones are not very smart, and sometimes created a three stooges feel.  I loved the little chef demon 😍

The Worldbuilding: The descriptions of the demon world were very well done. I loved the twinkling red stars and red sands, as well as the description of the throne.   With a new world like that I want to know what it sounds, smells, feels like.  I want to be standing at the foot of those black mountains! I got small European village vibes from the time on Earth, with plenty of rain.  

Misc: With a tad more to make me care for Ruby and one more round of edits, I would really enjoy this snarky duo.  One thing I want to say is that Drayvex reminded me of the Monty Python skit “The Many Uses of the Word Fuck” – it’s a noun, an adverb, lol.  In an adult novel this is fine and I did love his personality.

Overall I think it’s a solid debut, and I plan on reading the next in the series! Would recommend for fans of paranormal, demons, and snarky bad boy characters

Categories
Fantasy

Vows of Gold and Laughter (Book Review) by Edith Pawlicki

Thank you so much to By the Book VBP for having me on the bookstagram tour for Vows of Gold and Laughter!  I recently read Edith Pawlicki’s debut novel called Minerva, and was extremely excited to see this second novel! I received a lovely finished paperback in exchange for a bookish feature and honest review!

This is an adult fantasy set in a rich world that focuses on Asian mythology, a whole lot of magic, and realizing one’s self worth despite what fate seems to have to store.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Vows of Gold and Laughter
  • Series: The Immortal Beings, #1
  • Author: Edith Pawlicki
  • Publisher & Release: Indie, 04/02/21
  • Length: 442 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for adult fans of the genre!

Here is the book blurb from Amazon:

The meeting of four lonely immortals will change them – and the world.

High in the Heavens, an immortal court celebrates the betrothal of Jin, Goddess of Beauty, and Xiao, God of Pleasure. But as soon as the vows are made, the Sun Emperor collapses from a death curse.

Raised away from the Sun Court after her mother’s murder, Jin is called a useless goddess, but she is now the emperor’s only hope. The curse’s cure is locked in the Underworld, and even though the court dismisses him as a hopeless alcoholic, Xiao vows to help his betrothed find the lost key.

They hire a thief who is more interested in stealing the groom than recovering the key, and begin their search at the legendary grave of the Great Warrior – only it turns out he never died. Tens of millennia old, he is a master of everything but his own heart.

Their journey takes them from the icy peaks of the White Mountain and the lush banks of the Kuanbai River to the palace of the Sea Dragon and the halls of the Moon Deer, through court intrigue and bloody battles, power struggles and magical traps. Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld will forever celebrate their triumphs – and mourn their mistakes.

This is an indie novel that really deserves all the hype of a traditionally published piece of work.  Pawlicki takes us all over the fictional world, into various palaces and homes of the immortals from the Heavens to the Underworld, on a quest to save a despicable ruler, through two love stories and complicated friendships, as well as on a journey of self-discovery than can only be achieved through learning the truth about the past.

The Worldbuilding is richly described, with colorful palaces and equally colorful immortals.  Quite literally because the most powerful gods are colors.  We learn the physical lay of the land, the fauna, weather, food, music, and many local and court customs that help flesh out the world.  It was definitely a little overwhelming at times but there are diagrams to help remember what is where and who is who.

The Characters: The characters are very much part of the world, as Pawlicki realizes and brings to life a full pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, deities, and immortal beings.  There are four main characters who each have their own major flaws to work through, and it is a joy to watch them interact and learn how to work together.  The banter is pretty entertaining at times, and other times quite serious.  The thief, the warrior, the beauty, and…. well I guess the alcoholic, but he’s really a giant cinnamon roll and pretty powerful in his own right.  

I did get absolutely lost in the characters at times though, like without the diagram I would have been lost.  This is where I docked a star – I love all four of the main characters but it was kind of hard to figure out who else was going to be important and who to pay attention to.  The author absolutely did a stunning job bringing so many characters to life though.

The Magic: Is based on colors, and what colors or essences will respond to each deity.  This is pretty cool because it creates a lot of Earth-based magic, building, and transformative abilities which were cool too.  There is also darker and shadow magic which I imagine we will see a lot more of in book two.

Themes: I touched on themes up top, but the main one seemed to be realizing your own self value and embracing who you are.  Each character had to learn what they were capable of, and even the most accomplished ones still had lots of learning to do.  I also docked some points for a recurring ongoing of sexual repression vs expression, and I get it since Xiao was the god of pleasure but don’t really come to fantasy for that discussion.  I believe, as well as because of the ages of the characters, that this is why the book was targeted for adult readers.  There are also themes of found family, family ties, sacrifice, justice, betrayal, civil war, and everything else you would expect from bickering Gods and Goddesses that are full of personality.

Overall: I definitely recommend this one for anyone interested in mythology, fantasy, asian themes, and anyone that loves a gorgeous cover. Thanks again to By the Book VBP and the author for my copy, all opinions are my own!

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