Friday, January 12, 2018

BOOK CHALLENGE FOR 2018

A new challenge for 2018 from Herding Cats and Burning Soup...I've been doing this for the past couple of years...your turn to join in!  Click link below!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Charlotte's Library: The Cybils shortlists are here!

Charlotte's Library: The Cybils shortlists are here!: The Cybils Awards shortlisted books in a wide variety of children's and YA categories have been announced!  Congratulations especially ...

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Daughter of Aithne, by Karin Rita Gastreich


Daughter of Aithne
by Karin Rita Gastreich

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A terrific fantasy series from author Karin Rita Gastreich, 
and book tour hosted by Goddess Fish Promotions.
The author will be awarding a $15 Amazon or 
Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner 
via rafflecopter during the tour.
You will find my reviews of all three books below.
Follow the tour here .  And remember, the more you comment,
the better your chances of winning.  Enjoy the tour today.



 

GENRE:   fantasy

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BLURB:

Betrayed by her own prodigy, Eolyn stands accused of treason. As power-hungry nobles dismantle her life's work and honor, the desperate queen forges a risky alliance with the ruthless and cunning Mage Corey. Determined to defend her son's claim to the throne of the Mage King, Eolyn prepares for her last and greatest battle, this time against her own sisters in magic.

Across the Furma River, Taesara of Roenfyn is drawn out of seclusion and into an ever-more vicious game of intrigue and war. Subject to the schemes of a shrewd uncle and the mysterious ambitions of the wizards of Galia, Taesara struggles to assert her own destiny, even as she takes up arms to defend her daughter's inheritance.

In the climactic finale to The Silver Web trilogy, threads of love, honor, betrayal, and vengeance culminate in a violent conflict between powerful women, opposed to each other yet destined to shatter a thousand-year cycle of war.

"An enticing and elegant series finale, filled with magic and turmoil." -KIRKUS REVIEWS


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Excerpt

“Speak plainly, my Lord King,” Eolyn said. “I will not be subject to this cat-and-mouse game. If you do not trust me, if you do not believe me, then say so.”

“I trust your heart, Eolyn,” Akmael replied, “but your heart has led you to ill-advised decisions in the past. For this reason, I am not always inclined to trust your judgment.”

“For the love of the Gods! I am not the confused and frightened girl I was when my brother took up arms against you.”

“No, but you must understand the dilemma you have put me in.”

“The dilemma I have put you in?”

“If you knew of Ghemena’s plan and did not inform me, you were party to treason. If you did not know, then your authority over the magas is uncertain. Either way, the magas must remain bound and imprisoned until this conflict is resolved.”

Eolyn blinked and stepped away. “The magas have lived in peace in MoisehĂ©n for more than a decade. You cannot let the action of one woman—”

“Three women. The blatantly treasonous act of three women, all devoted students of yours. They have brought war upon us, Eolyn. Who knows how many others among your followers support them?”

“The magas who remain in my service have done nothing to merit suspicion.”

“All magas merit suspicion.” Akmael hesitated at her stricken look. He let go a slow breath and softened his tone. “There is a history here that we have not yet overcome, Eolyn. You, of all people, must understand that. Too many of our subjects still remember the war against my father.”

“And the purges that followed?” she shot back.

“The violence that tore this kingdom apart,” he conceded. “Right or wrong, the magas were left with the blame. We must manage this situation carefully, to protect you and your daughters. To see that justice is done.”
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Book One, Eolyn  


     I read this book (series) during the summer, so I may be a little hazy on the details, however, I know how I ‘felt’ in the end.  
     I really jumped head first into this journey of magic, women and societal perceptions. I loved reading about the beginning of Eolyn.  How she came to be.  Living in the forest and learning about nature, herbs, healing and Magic.  The world building was wonderful.  The life very descriptive.  Very easy to read (except some of the names/cities throughout the series. I don’t like to have to stop and figure out the sound of a name repeatedly.  I want it to flow when I read, and there were quite a few that tripped me up).  Other than that, it was very easy to get caught up in.  I’m telling you, after reading this book I wanted to become a Maga myself.  I was greatly inspired by the ‘laws’ she lived by, and the tremendous moral compass that guided her every move. I want to learn more about plants and their healing abilities, etc. Truly inspiring.
    Then there was her mysterious friendship with the boy who could travel through the ethers to get to her, and how that story unravels.  And the idea of women as important forces of nature and society, and yet the fear it generates in men; and the lengths to which they will traverse to destroy it. Her secret life lived during her time with the Mage Cory and the others…well played. Gastreich has written a very believable cast of characters.  Well developed, individual voices and ideals.
    I was saddened by the events of her romance.  But again, it was all part of the heritage that governed her actions and motives…dictating her choices, no matter how difficult.  This story really had it all.  It was a really great beginning to a series, and I couldn’t wait to move on to the second book.


Book Two, Sword of Shadows

     Again, I read this book (series) during the summer, so I may be a little hazy on the details, however, I know how I ‘felt’ in the end.  
     Okay, so how much can happen to a couple of women in their lives?  Yikes!
     The story begins with the King visiting the forest and Eolyn’s Aekelahr, and the whole situation with the Queen…ahh!…heartbreaking, all of it.  Eolyn and her sacrifice for the better of the whole.
I was nervous to move forward into this second book as several reviews mention rape and violence…not my cup of tea.  However, even though the violence was brutal when the evil needed to be fed, and the war intense, I don’t recall that it didn’t fit the story.  Yes, it caused me to flinch a couple times and think…‘really?’ (especially with the demon stuff)…and yes, there is a situation where rape was implied.  But I don’t believe it was too visual to the detriment of the story. 
     Betrayal with a capital B in this series…Rishona and her cruel uncle Mechnes (see, how do you say that name?), and that truly twisted relationship.  Mage Cory, and where his story changed and led, and his relationship with Eolyn.  All in all it was a decent follow up to the first book…not as magical, in the broader sense of the word, but still got me hooked into moving onto book three.  


Book Three, Daughter of Aithne

     Again, these are my feelings more than my memory of the details since it’s been a while since I read these.
     First of all I remember the book begins with a jump forward ten years.  That really took me for a loop.  I was like..wait…what about all that life to get here?  I need a little more please.  The first book was so languid and slow, growing into the character and her life, allowing you to feel for her, to believe her.  The second book jumped up in pace, but more centered around a specific time. However, the third book just felt like a bit of a rush job to me.   Especially the ending.

     Once again, I felt, geez, are these women EVER going to elevate or catch a break?  Are they always going to be battered?  I wanted something to be right already.  Adiana’s outcome…what!!  That seriously broke my heart.  And the way the Queen’s uncle spoke and thought of Eolyn really bugged me.  I kept yelling..no, you got it all wrong!  This character was so believable and the story so strong, it felt like a real portrayal of someones life.  I didn’t want anyone to say anything bad about her.  So kudos to the author for this accomplishment.  The growing years of family, children.  The King and that amazing love.  It was one of the best love stories in this regard.  And I'm not usually one for romance in my fantasy.  And the King...I loved this King...I loved him as a boy too.
     However,  for me, the ending came completely out of left field.  I didn’t even get it for a minute.  I had to think back, hey wait why don’t I remember ANYthing relating to this whole HUGE experience?  I actually looked back in the book a bit to see if I missed something because this was just so random to me.  But I couldn’t find anything relating to this specific time…so..yeah?  I don’t know what to say about that.  I just put my kindle down and thought..really?  That’s it?  
     To me the book was depressing.  I never got back to any of that ‘magic’ of the first book, or the ‘hope’ of the second.  Although the author can write, and had a terrific premise for this series, as well as creative world building, for me, the last book fell short.  The ending just didn’t work for me, it was a let down from the first books beginning journey into a thoughtful life, and of something wonderful happening to this girl…this girl with so much promise and magic.



AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Karin Rita Gastreich writes stories of ordinary women and the extraordinary paths they choose. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she is part of the biology faculty at Avila University. An ecologist by vocation, Karin has wandered forests and wildlands all her life. Her pastimes include camping, hiking, music, and flamenco dance. In addition to THE SILVER WEB trilogy, Karin has published short stories in World Jumping, Zahir, Adventures for the Average Woman, and 69 Flavors of Paranoia. She is a recipient of the Spring 2011 Andrews Forest Writer’s Residency. 

Twitter: @EolynChronicles

Purchase link for EOLYN, Book One of THE SILVER WEB: http://www.amazon.com/Eolyn-Silver-Web-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01B8F4G50/ 

Purchase link for SWORD OF SHADOWS, Book Two of THE SILVER WEB: https://www.amazon.com/Sword-Shadows-Silver-Web-Book-ebook/dp/B01G5L1GEG/ 

Purchase link for DAUGHTER OF AITHNE, Book Three of THE SILVER WEB: https://www.amazon.com/Daughter-Aithne-Silver-Web-Book-ebook/dp/B06WCZYRNW/ 

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Charlotte's Library: Winter of Ice and Iron, by Rachel Neumeier

This sounds like a really good read...LOVE the cover!  Check it out!



Charlotte's Library: Winter of Ice and Iron, by Rachel Neumeier: NB-I start this post with blathering.  If you want to find out what I think of the book, skip down to the part where I've written the...

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Keepers of the Stone, by Andrew A. Clement

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From Goddess Fish Promotions a virtual book tour for author,
Andrew A. Clement, and his YA Fantasy Series, 
Keepers of the Stone.
Andrew Anzur Clement will be awarding a $10 Amazon 
or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn 
winner via rafflecopter during the tour. And make sure
you take a look at some questions the author answered
for us...thx for stopping by on this tour.

GENRE:    Historical Young Adult Fantasy





Keepers of the Stone. Book One: The Outcasts

In a far corner of the British Empire, a mysterious girl gallops away on a horse, fleeing for her life.  Malka has sacrificed everything to protect an all-powerful stone from falling into the hands of the malevolent Urumi. The last in a Sect of thieves, the girl is a trained killer. But will her lethal skills be enough to defeat the Shadow Warriors and their superhuman abilities? 

The fate of the stone may depend on Stas, a courageous youth born into exile from a country that is not on any map. Nell, his friend since childhood, has been caught up in the Dark Order's evil designs. The young outcasts must confront demons, real and imagined, with the help of mystical new allies. Their journey will take them to distant lands and change their lives forever.







Keepers of the Stone. Book Two: Exile

Stranded on the American frontier, Malka must stop at nothing to safeguard the all-powerful stone. She has come under the protection of a snarky felinoid – a shape-shifting girl who traces her lineage back to the court of Vlad Dracula. They must rescue with Henry, the American orphan whose thirst for knowledge could help decipher the clues to the next
leg of their journey – if the Urumi don’t kill them first.

Alone in yet another strange land, Stas mourns the unthinkable loss of his friend, Nell.  Cryptic messages offer new hope. But the Dark Order has devised another strategy to outwit the band of misfits. Plans are betrayed and alliances are formed as history points to the final objective of their quest.






Keepers of the Stone Book Three: Homecoming 

Stas and his companions have made their way to the partitioned homeland he has never visited. He dares to hope that Nell may be alive. The doomed princess Bozhena vows revenge on the Shadow Warriors, who have enlisted Malka’s most bitter enemy in their latest plot to control the powerful stone.

With the help of a streetwise gypsy girl, the unlikely travelers must outwit the Urumi and deliver the stone to its final destination. All they have to do is put aside the differences that threaten to tear them apart. The secrets of the past hold the key to the history of the future.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Excerpt: (Book Three: Homecoming)
“Who are you?” the man asked, looking behind himself in surprise. Inside the kitchen, some of the other staff were moving to see what was going on in the lobby. That could not be allowed. The kitchen employee turned back to find himself looking down the barrel of a six-shot revolver.

“I’m the one who’s pointing a gun in your face. Let me in. Now,” Stas demanded.

The man seemed to hesitate for only a second before stepping aside, placing his frame against the open door. Holding the weapon with both hands, Stas edged forward. In front of him, he could see the kitchen. It was a rather dark space. Various dishes sat on the stone counters in different stages of preparation. Most of the staff looked at him with stares of fear and shock. When Stas used to dream of coming to his family’s home city, this was just one more way in which it had not at all been the experience he’d had in mind.

 There was a sudden yowl, followed by the sound of a foot impacting with flesh and a body crumpling to the floor. Stas glanced back just long enough to see that Liza – now in her human form – had taken down a younger man, about Stas’s age, with a side kick. He had been waiting beside the doorframe, apparently intending to attack the Slav from behind with a butcher’s knife. Kneeling quickly, Liza retrieved the cutting tool, which was smeared with blood from some kind of beef or pork meat. Standing in the doorway, she raised it up to a point beside her head. The felinoid turned the blade towards herself as she inspected it briefly, before allowing the ends of her lips to curl slightly upwards, while jutting out her lower jaw. Concurrently she nodded twice, as if deciding that this would do nicely.

“Let’s move!” the felinoid barked at Stas.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Four elements of a compelling YA fantasy 
(as compiled by someone who didn’t like them growing up) 
I was very happy to run across this blog. Just its ‘about’ section says much that I agree with. Both regarding issues in a lot of YA  fantasy fiction and about the challenges of finding readers in this genre. I must confess:  As a teenager, I have to say that I didn’t really enjoy this genre. So it came as quite a shock to me, when I sat down to write what become Keepers of the Stone, that the end result was, well, a YA fantasy trilogy. Except, just a bit different from a lot of what’s out there.  I’ve been given carte blanche for this post. So I think It’s time to lay forth a few things that I think make this genre (and sometimes fantasy fiction in general) interesting and compelling to readers of multiple ages. 

  1. Don’t take your heroes too seriously: It’s fine to be the underdog. Overcoming impossible odds is cool. But, in some books the characters are put forth as being exceptionally capable ‘just because’ or simply plain awesome, despite their status as a supposed weakling. Fighting from a disadvantage is compelling. But, if our protagonists always overcome the villains too easily, or conquer all just because of their determination, this can end up backfiring (e.g.: Seriously? Are you only slightly less stupid than your enemies?). For the main heroes to seem real, and the villains to be threatening, their actions and the outcomes need to come from logic. Or from their own inner flaws. Ones that flow from their defined back stories, rather than plain dumb luck. Or from some contrived pseudo-romantic plot line. I’m not trying to rail against such developments in all their forms; Deus ex machina used judiciously can be quite effective. In fact, if such developments are called out, this can lead to great opportunities for sarcastic humor and good fun that keeps the characters from trying too hard to appear superlative. Really, less is more.
  2. Take romance with a grain of salt: Sticking in a faux-romantic love triangle is a great way to create dramatic friction between the characters. Unfortunately, it often trivializes the characters’ priorities and the threats facing them. Especially when they aren’t any older than sixteen or seventeen. Even when I was that age, this was one of the things that I couldn’t stand when reading much of this genre. (*rolls eyes* Really? You’re in the middle of a life and death struggle/battle/quest and that’s what you’re worried about? For crying out loud! Try thinking with your brain for once.) Of course I’m not saying that romantic plotlines have no place in a story of this type. This is more an argument for keeping them away from the front and center of the plot development. There’s exactly one romantic interest that’s not just implied in the background of Keepers of the Stone. It serves to provide the occasional comic relief, or to advance the plot. Not drive it. The bonds and commitments between the characters slowly grow with difficulty through the challenges they are forced to face together. The larger than life stakes seem all the more threatening if the characters aren’t spending their time mooning over juvenile relationship issues. 
  3. Magic, but…: Not random magic. Whenever I run across a universe that I like, I enjoy finding out everything I can about it. One of the things that’s most disappointing is to see that it doesn’t develop according to defined, internally consistent rules. This might seem a bit obvious. But, it’s important to tell us how your fantasy universe works. To do your homework regarding how it will interface with the story, rather than simply pull things from your behind. If there’s a character with superhuman abilities? Why do they have them? An object with mystical power? What can and what can’t it do? Keep it consistent. Or call it out. This is by no means to say that all must be revealed at the outset (that would be boring) Instead, I enjoy seeing stories that open up in the middle of the action.  Developments that at first are shocking, confounding or inexplicable are explained as you get deeper into the world that a book is creating. The revelations become their own rewards. Keeping your universe’s mysticism straight may seem simple. But, it’s harder than it looks. And it’s a great way of creating and foreshadowing plot twists, while leaving the reader wanting more.
  4. Fantasy and history together: Ok. This is a bit of an optional one. But one I’m a fan of. I’m in no way saying that fantasy universes that stand on their own are without merit. Quite the opposite. Like I said, I love losing myself in the ones I enjoy. Yet, I often find myself thinking that they’d be more compelling if their stories could somehow occur in ‘our’ world: When, How and Where would they happen? To whom? Setting a fantasy story amid real historical places, events and figures has the effect of creating a world that is both informative and alternative at the same time. Even if one isn’t familiar with the history referenced, it has the effect of creating a fascinating new universe that is still closer to home: The action in Keepers of the Stone isn’t something that could only have happened in a completely different world. The quest could have been entrusted to any of us.        

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Andrew Anzur Clement departed his native Los Angeles at the age of nineteen, with a curiosity for far-off lands. He quickly discovered an insatiable wonderlust that has led him to live, work and study in many fascinating places around the globe. Now in his late-twenties the unabashed opera fan is based in Europe. He continues to travel and read widely, finding new inspiration in the places he discovers. In his ‘other’ life Andrew is an academic researcher, focusing on  nationalism and identity formation. He enjoys including insights from his research in his books and the characters he inhabits. 
On social media: 
Purchase Links to book one (Books two and three already out): 
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a Rafflecopter giveaway

BOOK BLAST - SORTILEGE FALLS, by Libby Heily

Welcome to Sortilege Falls
by Libby Heily 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From Goddess Fish Promotions a Book Blast from Author
Libby Heily, Welcome to Sortilege Falls.
Libby will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly 
drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.




~~~~~~~~~~~~~
GENRE: YA Fantasy
BLURB:

Welcome to Sortilege Falls Blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Grape Merriweather moved to Sortilege Falls expecting a fresh start and new friends. But things are never quite what they seem in this sleepy Missouri town. Her math teacher looks like a witch, her school is being stalked by a vampire, and Grape could swear the town’s garden gnomes are moving. None of that compares to the small group of teenage models, blessed with otherworldly beauty, who rule Sortilege Falls. Even the adults are powerless to tell them no. When the models fall ill from a mysterious disease, all of the town’s secrets start leaking out. Grape is determined to help her new friends, but searching for the cure might just get her killed.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Excerpt 

GRAPE IS SERENADED BY GRAESON:

Grape is in her backyard at night.  Her brother, Brad, has just gone off into the woods to collect plants–Brad is a huge botany nut.  Grape is staring into the distance, trying to see into the woods when she hears something behind her:

“Fancy meeting you here.”

Grape screamed.

“Calm down,” the vamp kid from school said, his hands raised in the air like a victim. He had switched his purple shirt for a black one and slicked his curly hair back as well. “It’s cool. It’s just me,” he said and reached out to grab her shoulder.

Grape pushed him hard in the chest, making him stumble backward. “Don’t touch me. What are you doing here?”

He regained his balance and rubbed his chest where she’d shoved him. “I wanted to see where you lived. That really hurt.”

She slit her eyes at him. “I’m glad it hurt. It was supposed to.”

“That’s not very nice.”

Grape grabbed the lawn chair and held it above her head. “Are you a stalker?”

“No.”

“You’re sneaking around my house at night wearing all black.” She readied herself to swing the lawn chair. It was pretty light and wouldn’t do much damage so she decided to aim for a vulnerable spot—his face.

“No. I just thought... I don’t know. I thought you looked nice.”

“Do I look nice now?” She gave the chair a swing, missing his nose by inches. She hopped back a little and held the chair up high again. He got one warning shot, that was it. The next swing would break his nose.

“I’m sorry. I thought this would be romantic.” He reached into his baggy pants pocket and pulled out an iPod with a little set of speakers attached. “I was going to play a song for you.”

“Totally creepy!”

“No. Really, listen.”

He pressed play and an unholy mix of instruments blasted out in a tinny blare. He shut it off quickly. “Wrong song. One second.”

“Leave.”

He looked up at her with heartbreak in his eyes. “I just need one second.”

“Shoo! Go! Off with you!” She shoved the chair at his chest, driving him backward.

He gave her one last dejected look and walked around the corner of the house toward the street.




AUTHOR Bio and Links:

I was born during a blizzard. I’m told it was pretty cool but I have no memory of that time. I grew up in two tiny towns in Virginia and spent most of my twenties moving around the US. I’ve lived in Virginia, Florida, Missouri, and Washington. I’ve settled down, for now, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

I’m a writer and improviser. I studied acting in college but spent more time rewriting lines than memorizing them. My first play, Fourth Wall, was produced my junior year. Since then, I’ve written several full length plays, one acts and screenplays. I started writing fiction in my late twenties. Now, I focus mainly on novels but still dabble in theater.

Fun facts about me: There are none. I’m sorry to disappoint you so soon. But, I do love to read, write, and run. My hubby is my favorite person on earth. Dogs are my second favorite. All dogs. I love orange juice, especially when it’s mixed with club soda. Carbonation is better than alcohol. Jaws is my favorite movie. Everything I’ve said so far is true.

Awards:

Puschcart Prize Nomination for “Grow Your Own Dad” – Published by Mixer Publishing
Semi-finalist Eugene O'Neill Playwrights Conference – “STUFF”
Honorable Mention The Ohio State Newark New Play Contest – “The Last Day”



Contacting Libby:
Email: libbyheilyauthor@gmail.com
Snail Mail:
PO Box 58251
Raleigh, NC 27616



Libby on the Web:
libbyheily.com  http://libbyheily.com/




Purchase Links:




Behind the Scenes Info:

“Welcome to Sortilege Falls” is my second novel. My first, “Tough Girl” was about an eleven-year-old who is slowly starving to death and loses herself in an imaginary world to combat the misery of her life. I wanted to write something happy after that and WTSF is about as “happy” as my writing gets. The idea was to come up with a main character whose very name sounds like a smile, thus Grape Merriweather was born. Stories grow and writers hardly ever end up writing the book they intended. That is definitely true with WTSF. My “happy” story grew to encompass the themes of beauty worship, celebrity, as well as delving into the mysterious relationships between child stars and their parents. In the beginning of the novel, Grape is new at school and eager to impress. She was popular back home and has never had trouble making friends. She spends over an hour the night before trying on outfits and picking the perfect one for her first day. But she is ignored by students and teachers alike. Everyone is too caught up with the beyond gorgeous models to bother with one new student. We discover this weird world along with Grape and I tried to stay true to her voice. It was very important to me that Grape wasn’t perfect, that she partially fell under the Models’ spell as well.



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