Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cover reveal for The Master Magician

I am super excited to see that we are getting close enough to the conclusion of the Paper Magician series for a cover reveal of the third book The Master Magician.

The final novel will be releasing June 2, 2015 from 47North. I highly suggest pre-ordering a copy (I already have!!) and there is a link at the bottom of the article. Here is a little about the book:

Throughout her studies, Ceony Twill has harbored a secret, one she’s kept from even her mentor, Emery Thane. She’s discovered how to practice forms of magic other than her own—an ability long thought impossible.
While all seems set for Ceony to complete her apprenticeship and pass her final magician’s exam, life quickly becomes complicated. To avoid favoritism, Emery sends her to another paper magician for testing--a Folder who despises Emery and cares even less for his apprentice. To make matters worse, a murderous criminal from Ceony’s past escapes imprisonment. Now she must track the power-hungry convict across England before he can take his revenge. With her life and loved ones hanging in the balance, Ceony must face a criminal who wields the one magic that she does not, and it may prove more powerful than all her skills combined.

And now for the super awesome cover that makes me incredibly happy I have already placed my pre-order.

You can check out more news and updates for Charlie Holmberg's books at her great website. Pre-order from Amazon.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I'm already hooked

Since joining Netgalley, I have been introduced to some great new writers. I have expanded my author connections through twitter and found some promising new talent. I have spent a year writing plenty of 4 star and above reviews. I think I actually forgot what it took to really knock my socks off. Then, I was offered Seeker.

Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

This novel was amazing. The email "trailer" to get me interested in the novel definitely worked. I was very interested and incredibly pleased when my ARC request was approved. I am so glad I was able to read this novel.

It is great.

The plot is fresh and exciting. You can't really figure out if this is Earth of the future, past, or alternate timeline. I really, really loved that. There were aspects from the fantasy and sci-fi genres blending in a way to made my heart oh-so-happy. Oh, and just touch of steampunk.

There is a coming of age for three protagonists; and we are involved with all three growth plots. The chapters were evenly divided and made sense where each left off with the timeline and how they connected together. Gritty reality exists in each story line that really makes this series stand out from your over redundant YA novels filling the shelves right now. No spoilers here, but seriously, the way that each character handles the trauma in their life--woah! It was so easy to connect with these characters and their life struggles even if you have never experienced such hardships because of Dayton's realistic writing. If you have ever been in any of their shoes, then you will connect even deeper. 

There is a love story that is so realistic I want to shake the author's hand, or envelop her in a really big hug. You will get moments of mushy-gushy if you are a sap. But, if you are a cynic, then you will really appreciate the relationship development and most likely turn into a sap.

So many great things to say, but I'll stop now before I write my own book. The author has an amazing website. Visit it here. Then, go pre-order your copy today.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Biography of The Dragon Lady

I remember in high school asking my good friend (now turned author of dragon novels interestingly enough) for a recommendation for some new reading material. I was looking for something that was not what I had read. I needed a huge refresher from the Tolkien fantasy copycats. She suggested I read Anne McCaffrey's Acorna series. Not the first recommendation most would consider from McCaffrey, but I was thrilled with the complete change of pace. It, of course, then introduced me to the world of Pern.

Dragonholder by Todd McCaffrey

This is a unique style of biography scrapbook. It blends old photos with anecdotal stories. Written by her son and originally published in 1999, this biography shows not necessarily how dragons became to be Anne McCaffrey's bread and butter but how writing as a profession affects a person. Here came a lady in the late 60s who planned on writing in the man-club science fiction arena and being successful at it.

Anne McCaffrey made the conscious decision to make her living writing about the creatures she so loved. In her mind they were not devilish monsters of irredeemable quality, they were noble creatures with as varying personalities as humans. She created a vast landscape where they interacted and grew. We loved and lost with ALL the residents of Pern as this book shows us the love and loss McCaffrey experienced while creating her vast universe of dragons. Todd shows great humor and love for his mother and her journey to make Sci-Fi a world for women authors. 

For the aspiring novelist, they should take a look at this book. There are plenty of examples why you don't become an international bestseller overnight and why authors typically have some other (very forgiving and understanding) day job. At only $7.99, it is a great introductory and fun lesson about writing.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Modern fable for the reader of all ages

After my heavy brain detour in non-fiction, I needed a quick jump back into my wheelhouse of fantasy. As I eagerly await the next novel in the Great North Woods Pack series, I understand that authors sometimes need a break from their worlds to get a fresh perspective and knock off the spiderwebs. Shawn Underhill has done just that with a detour into a new series starting with The Earthkeepers, which is a series shelved in the children's section for a middle age audience. 

The Earthkeepers by Shawn Underhill

The EarthkeepersWhile it is targeted at a younger reading level than usual for me, I found the book to be extremely well written and intellectual. The author makes some very important points on the lessons we should be learning even in our adulthood.

The plot and dialogue aren't overly complicated and can border on plain to an adult reader, but the transparency for the young reader is excellent. This book has a great cast of characters to keep young readers interested for the future of fantasy. The main protagonist, Ethan, is a shy boy with a serious speech problem. He is a good kid from a good home with few struggles besides constantly being misunderstood from not speaking. I love that the most. Not every coming of age story has to be filled with darkness and broken homes for the hero/heroine to overcome. It is still hard to grow up in the best of circumstances. Ethan is the kind of character that kids can relate to because he feels awkward while he is trying to do something important--like most kids.

The pacing stays nice and steady with plenty of laughter and action throughout to keep a young reader's attention. The brilliant whimsy of the story comes from all the secondary characters being animals like any good fable. I seriously love Clodstomper, the moose. I really felt a different voice in my mind while reading his dialogue. I do not often get that dynamic of a reading experience. Shawn managed to really play up all the different personalities of the forest. Even adults can learn some valuable lessons from their furry, forest friends. The whole story really made for a fun read. We really can't loose our imaginations as adults. This book can help you keep in touch with your childish innocence.

I am really glad I gave this young reader a shot. It is easily 5 stars (despite some editing hiccups, which seem inevitable in today's self-publishing market), and Shawn does not charge steep prices for his novels. They are all $2.99 or less and worth every penny. Spread the word and pick up your copy today.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Adventuring under the Venice canals

Clear, crisp skies and freezing temperatures. Great weather to stay huddled under my blanket, staring out the window wistfully, and reading a good book. I got to spend the weekend with the ever amazing Lady of Devices. Perfection.

A Lady of Integrity by Shelley Adina

I bought this the minute it was released on Christmas. Such an amazing present. Only disappointed that I didn't get to reading it right away. Life, and it happening when I would rather be reading. 

A Lady of Integrity is the seventh novel in what is quickly becoming my all time favorite series. This series is brilliant. As I reflected on how to write up this review, besides it being filled with glowing praise, I decided a few things about steampunk. Now that I have read several authors and spent a year pondering this new genre of fiction, I have fully decided what makes the genre so great for me and where my pet peeves lie. Shelley Adina has managed to only fall into the great column.
  1. Strong women characters that are represented in multiple spheres of society. 
  2. Language that is genuine for the timescape of steampunk and societal London, street urchin, or rough neck Texan.
  3. No people who actually lived in the Victorian time period make a feature character.
  4. No sex but plenty of love.
  5. Danger and excitement that isn't overdone to boring.
  6. Characters with intelligence and wit - and more importantly: development.
  7. Morals. Integrity. Loyalty.
Have I praised this book enough? Have you bought a copy for yourself yet? If you haven't started this series yet, the first novel is free and the rest are only $4.99. So there is absolutely no excuse. Amazon

All right, to the meat of the story. In previous novels, we have developed Claire, the Lady of Devices herself, and the Mopsies with their subsequent male partners. Now we get a chance to come back around to Alice, that wily Texican. With life ever full of adventure for the Wilton Crescent gang, they most complete a daring rescue mission in Venice. Nothing like a little change of scenery to keep stories fresh, and this was wonderfully researched for authenticity in local flora/fauna if not the actual geography. There are also plenty of bombs and kraken to keep things exciting.

My only disappointment with this novel was the development for Alice's story felt a little lost in the overly large personalities of the other characters. The beginning makes it clear that it will be Alice's adventure, but she seems to be unable to complete it without a gaggle of supporting characters who demand to be heard loudly. Then, we are surprised with a ghost from the past and a small tangent for her development that also seemed a little lackluster. However, I was pleased with the closing letter promising further development. Maybe we will get more of Alice with that crazy adventure too. 

As always, I eagerly await the release of Magnificent Devices, Book Eight: A Gentleman of Means

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Science and religion do not have to be separate

Well, it definitely took me a little longer to read the second half of my two book challenge. The book has been an amazing read, but it suffers from being a non-fiction type of up hill battle in the reading department. If you put in the effort, I promise you will come out the other side with an amazing reading experience.

John Muir: The Scotsman Who Saved America's Wild Places by Mary Colwell

This look into one of the founding father's of federal reserve land that managed to preserve some of the final pristine landscapes of the Wild West, now recognized as some of the most visited National Parks, is absolutely amazing. I have always loved biology and geography subjects in school, yet somehow I had never been made aware of the impact John Muir had on the natural sciences. He was an intriguing blend of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nikola Tesla. The man made astonishing inventions that forwarded industry while travelling the continent searching for the beauty of God in nature. He had a hard life and still managed to just appreciate the beauty. Amazing.

The duality of his nature pulses with the very nature of modern society. There are large pushes in the technologies to make our lives distanced from the natural evolution process in medicine and manufacturing at the same time that major movements for a greener living with little impact on the environment are taking root. 

I really cannot express the brilliance Mary Colwell has brought to John Muir's life in a mere book review. I have gone from never knowing the name John Muir to finding the beauty in my own surroundings. His light and spirituality has seriously made me look inside myself and my living decisions, which would not have been so vibrant of a search without the elegance of Mary Colwell's research. Her enthusiasm for the man and sharing his legacy have added to the sheer brilliance of an American hero and icon. This immigrant was why our country was founded, and his life can be a present reminder about seeing God in everything and everyone.

I supremely recommend this book to everyone. It can be a long read and might even need some extra mental fortitude to push through, but it is well worth the uplift it will give to your soul. 5 stars. No question.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Chaos is a highly appropriate title

I hope everyone had an excellent holiday season. During my lovely vacation from work, I took some time to read two books at once. A feat I had not challenged myself to since college. I had fiction reading for night time and non-fiction for the day. As usual, I progressed through the fiction quicker than the non-fiction. While the non-fiction is absolutely wonderful and fascinating, it provides so much food for thought I take my time reading.

Bird of Chaos by Susie Mander

I picked this novel because the author followed me on Twitter. I honestly try to get the authors who follow me into my to-read pile, and I am really hoping to find a new Australian author to replace the fabulous Sara Douglass. The review, however, will be very mixed. I tried to take some notes after I finished reading to make sure I captured everything today (now that I have a full computer back to write my review). What I found actually managed to surprise me. I had more items in the con column, yet I feel that the book is worth recommending. So allow me to clarify.

There were some seriously fantastic fantasy aspects to this novel. The author took the time to really create a new world strongly shaped from Greek mythology. However, this all had some serious ups and downs for me.

  • Tibuta has a very clear religious faction with a very well developed philosophy.  Characters are struggling with their understanding of tradition and evolution of culture and government. 
  • World creation is strong. While she may have been influenced by Ancient Greece, the author has developed an entire world that Tibuta interacts with; including cultures, races, species, and gods.
  • The plot takes some unexpected turns. I love when an author can through a curveball at me, and I am absolutely blind-sided.
Cons (unfortunately most of these are paired with the pros)
  • The species are randomly mentioned and poorly described. I never really felt connected to the richness of creation the author was attempting. It all just needed a little more oomph and some more detail.
  • The book seems to have feminist leanings with women being the key persons of power and authority; yet the author has managed to make the gender look foolish and incapable.
  • The main protagonist just really needs slapped in the face. Her growth (or lack thereof) is traumatic to the reader.
  • The Greek references are so thick and without explanation you may need a dictionary at times to clarify what is happening.
What I came away with at the end of this novel was a feeling of confusion. The cons seemed to outweigh the pros, yet I will consider reading the second novel. I think the author shows potential with this first novel and also some lessons that need to be learned. I'm not sure if there wasn't enough time at the editor or what, but there is such great promise with the world creation for this to turn into an amazing fantasy. I understand that you don't want to bog your readers down with detail and superfluous pages, but I really think this book could have used some extra padding with the foundation that had been laid.

Check out more details about the series from the Author's Blog.