Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Rogue Mountain

A creature hidden in the mountains, lurking, watching, waiting.  Down below a town living to survive with hellish beings living in their backyard, learning to protect themselves from the creatures of the mountains.  Three teenagers long for a life away from wood devils and hell cats.  A woman doing everything she can do to survive while another lives in a perpetual nightmare.  A monster hunter comes on a mission to cleanse the area of the beasts, only to bring unwanted attention from the witch on the mountain.  Secrets rise to the surface and a town finds out the truth behind their fears.  Welcome to the Rogue Mountains where nothing is ever what it seems.


I will start the disclaimer that this book is not available yet, it is set to release in October, October 3rd I believe.  But I had the honor of sort of beta reading this book for an author dear to me.  This is the debut novel for Joshua Tarquinio.  The book is a mix of supernatural/post-apocalyptic thriller, horror, fantasy, self-realization, with a touch of questioning theology.  The story centers around a small town outside of Pittsburgh after an apocalyptic event that opens the doors to the supernatural.   Now this town learns to survive with various beings attacking them, and the knowledge that there is a witch hidden in the mountains that no one has ever been able to go near. Three teens are the only entertainment in town, but long for something more.  Everyone basically lives their lives one day at a time hoping to survive, hoping to one day be free of the beings that prowl their woods and mountains.  Then a monster hunter, Del Ballatine rolls into town with the intent of ridding them of these creatures.  He and na├»ve Nigel venture out to the woods and happen upon a hell hound, which they take down.  But this gains the attention of the witch in the mountain and all hell breaks lose, literally.  Secrets are revealed and the state of the village changes forever.


The novel does start out a little slow with a great deal of background on the characters, and takes a little bit of time to build up to the climax.  But those details are necessary in understanding the characters and why they act and react the way the do in situations that arise further into the book, also this gives you an understanding of the town functions together, how they arise to the mob mentality so to speak.  Through this part you form a connection with the characters and town in general.  It helps with the wow factor and the twists that's happen throughout the novel.  Tarquinio does a fantastic job dragging his readers into his world, and holds them under a spell, much like the cave worm in his story.  One of my favorite elements in the story was a being known as a nightmare, one that attaches itself to a person and causes them to live in a state of a living nightmare.  It preys on the happy memories and changes them into nightmares.  This element is something I want more of and feel it could be a story in and of itself. 


There are times in the novel when some of the characters question the existence of God in that the book takes place 20 years after the Biblical apocalypse takes place and well the world didn't end.  So characters wonder where is God, did he ever exist, is there such as thing as intrinsically evil or can a supposed evil being redeem itself.  A couple points in the story I found myself audibly whispering "no" when something happen.

I am excited to see what else Tarquinio has in store for readers with sequels, prequels or other stories unrelated to this one.  He has a knack for bringing the thrill of the unknown to the surface and his readers.  I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy supernatural thrillers, horror, fantasy, adventure.  Because I am a little bias for the fact the Josh is a dear friend of mine and my opinion of the book reflects my friendship, I will not rate the book the way I normally do.  But will simply say definitely keep your eyes out in October for when the book is release.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Confluence

I have been MIA lately for various different reasons, but I am coming back with some awesome books, including several that i have gotten from Pittsburgh's science fiction and fantasy convention "Confluence".  What could be better for a bibliophile than a convention all about books!  So far I have met some really awesome authors and publsihers, helped celebrate the launch of several books from two dear friends, and found numerous books, even attempted a picture with JD Barker that didn't come out (sad panda). 

Each time i attend the convention i am reminded of why i love reading and why fantasy is one of my favorite genres.  There are so many novels and variations of the genre to get lost in.  Something that I absolutely love about Confluence is being able to find books and new authors that I may not have discovered otherwise.  I was like an unsupervised child in a candy store.  So, be prepared to take a journey with me and some TV Gods, Bad-Ass Faeries, Bounty Hunters, and Superhumans, as I conquer the world once again one book at a time. 

 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Cooking With Fire

I absolutely love cooking and am always on the look out for unique cookbooks to add to my collection and ones that give me things to experiment with.  While at a flea market in Ohio, I came across this gem.  Biker Billy Cooks With Fire.  So many different things about this cookbook appealed to me.  1. It's a biker, one that makes me think of someone I love dearly, 2. It's cooking with fire whether it is grilling, or hot and spicy things, either way it's good in my mind, 3. It is just so outrageous that I had to pick it up.  While doing a quick skim through I seen many different recipes that I wanted to try and wouldn't have thought of trying.

Each recipe has something to do with a pepper or hot sauce.  Perfect for me because I as my friend say, like to burn my face off, meaning I like my food spicy enough that it clears my sinuses.  It starts off giving tips and techniques of cooking with peppers and other ingredients, then it goes into the recipes.  Each one starts off with a small note describing the recipe and how it will come out and./or why Billy choose to add it into his cookbook.  There is everything in this cookbook from sauces and marinades to desserts and everything in between.  There are times when looking through a cookbook that I am not sure if I would try a recipe or not, but there are a lot of different recipes in this book that I would love to try and look forward to trying in the future.

Just from reading this book so far I get high hopes for the food inside.  I would recommend this for foodies who are looking for something different in their cooking repertoire. Bike Billy has some interesting ideas, and I will update this when I have cooked some of the recipes contained in this book.  So far the rating if 4 out 5 stars, this may change to a 5 once I have prepared some of the recipes.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Heartless

All Catherine wants for her life is to open a bakery with her best friend Mary Ann. But her parents have a different plan. For her to marry the King of Hearts. Cath believed her life to be boring and without excitement. That is until the new court jester, Jest, arrives on the scene. In the middle of a grand ball before the king makes a announcement the ball is attacked by a monstrous creature known as the Jabberwock. Since that night, Cath's life is forever changed as she tries to figure out how to open her bakery, avoid the king's advances, falls in love with Jest and evades the attacks of the Jabberwock.  All she wants to do is live the life she wants, but there are obstacles in her way at every turn.  Soon fate reveals itself and Cath learns sometimes you cannot outrun fate.

As many of you know I am an avid reader of Alice in Wonderland retellings, and absolutely love anything Alice in Wonderland related, so when I seen Marissa Meyer (Lunar Chronicles) wrote an Alice in Wonderland adaptation, of course I had to read it.  I have to say this was not what I was expecting, but I enjoyed reading it immensely.  There wasn't an "Alice" character per-say, but Catherine is a representation of the Queen of Hearts.  This novel is almost a backstory of how she became who she is and the way she is. We see some of the same beloved characters like Hatter, March Hare, Cheshire, but we also see different characters that seem to always take a backseat to some of the other characters like the Mock Turtle or the Walrus. It was interesting to see these characters in a different light than what we see in the classic tale.

I am a huge fan of Meyer's Lunar Chronicles and I came into this novel with high hopes, and this book met every one of my expectations.  I wanted to see more of Jest and Raven, and hope to see them more in the future maybe if there happens to be more novels, maybe one about the kingdom of Chess or the white kingdom.  Meyer has a certain style to her writing that paints the picture vividly, it is easy to envision everything happening from the turtle turning into the Mock Turtle or the Jabberwock attacks, even smell the delicious tarts that Cath makes.  I enjoyed the use of the Fate sisters and treacle, as well as many element from Carol's tale.  It was still very much a Meyer story, but held some of the traditional elements we would find in Alice in Wonderland.

I would highly recommend this novel for anyone who enjoys Alice in Wonderland, fairy tales, Lunar Chronicles, and young adult novels.  Even if those may not be genres/topics that are your typical go to novel, break out from the norm and check out this book.  You will not regret it.  I give this book a 4 out of 5 star rating.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Patchwork

The night of prom, Renata and her friends pull the greatest of practical jokes, but the moment is lost on Renata as she reflects on rejecting her boyfriend's proposal.  After watching him throw the ring into the river, she jumps in after it.  Moments before the rive boat the student body is aboard explodes.  Renata wakes up in a patchwork world of memories taken back a few months prior, where REnata thinks she can stop this murder, only to have it happen again at a different time.  She quickly realizes someone is after her and her friends, but she cannot figure out why.  This patchwork world holds clues to help her figure out how to make the madness end,  but will she figure it out quick enough to save the people she loves?



** I received a copy of this book from Netgally in exchange for an honest review**




I was excited about this book when I read the summary, it sounded very interesting because not many authors play with the idea of a phoenix.  But I have to say I struggled to get into this novel and I am not 100% sure of why.  The writing was good, the idea was good.  I think it was more so the character of Renata.  In the beginning she comes off as not a horrible person but one that was hard to like and hard to feel compassion for even though her friends kept dying over and over again.  I would have liked to have her learn something more in the patchwork world in the beginning rather than that she was reliving memories and going back to stop someone from killing her friends and possibly her.


It takes a long time to build up and formulate into a story until it gets further into the plot, then it does pick up, so readers need to be able to get through. 


It was a decent enough read to be able to read it on a wonderful Saturday afternoon in the park or alongside the pool, but I am not sure if it would be one that has me coming back to reading it again and again.  Although other readers might.  This would be a good book for young adult readers and some adult readers as well.  There is a lot that happens in the novel with murder, betrayal, heartbreak, love and romance to magical forces.  I did like the idea of going back in time and being able to change things, or try to change things, but for Renata she remembers everything from the point at prom and no one else does which does make it interesting to see her interact with people differently and see people differently second or third times around.


Overall as stated it's an alright book, it was entertaining and interesting, it just didn't tickle my fancy in the end.  I would recommend it to other readers and hope others do find it enjoying.  As for a rating I would give it a 3 out of 5.



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Interview with Little Sparrow herself: RA Winter

Every now and again a reviewer is able to form a strong bond with the authors they have been working with. I am happy to say that RA Winter has become a dear friend of mine, and I do hope we can meet for coffee one day. I began reading her books a few years ago when I did a review of her novel Little Sparrow, and just fell in love with her writing and stories.  It was only natural to want to do an interview with her so here you are!




                                              




Falcor, Harley and Orion wanted me to get the most important question out of the way first…Do you have any “Literary Cats” or Literary Pup?


I have a calico cat, Carmen.  She reminds me of my older sister who passed away.  Always watching and maybe she disapproves but she doesn’t interfere.  She just has that look on her face like she’s tolerating me and letting me find my own way.  Carmen is the best cat ever.  Neat, quiet, and cuddly.


Dingle, who is a cat character in my books, was actually my cat.  He died a few years ago.  That’s when I started writing.  He lives on now, with his wink and his naughty attitude.  A comic, that cat knew how to get a laugh out of everyone.


What inspired you to write the Kiowa in Love series?  This is a long answer... I didn’t start out to write romance.  I wanted to write about how life’s experiences change us.  Why do people act the way they do?  Why do they think that way? For years I’ve wanted to write Grandfather’s story.  Benjamin NoName is a hodge-podge of my family members and their experiences all wrapped into one person.  Raised in an orphange, he didn’t know who his family was.  He spent his whole life wondering if they were searching for him.  Perhaps, they were dead and he just couldn’t remember?  His story would take a depth that I didn’t know how to show.  Then, he told me, why write the beginning?  Write me near the end.  I want grandbabies. 


What was the hardest thing about writing it? Keeping the plot lines as untangled as possible but writing about three women who grew up together.  Have you ever seen a detective show where the policeman asks three people setting near each other what happened and they all have different answers?  That’s how I envisioned my stories.  Wrapped around a central core, each girl experiences something different.


What was the easiest? Insomnia brings out the really bad jokes in me. RedDress Two Wives was written during a very sleep deprived time.  For that one, I was in Gatlinburg, and decided to visit a... naughty shop.  I couldn’t help thinking, if I bought one, what if I died?  Who would find that?  What worse case scenario would happen? So... the rest is history.


What has been your reaction to the reviews you have gotten so far for the series? I’m always happy to receive a review.  I learn from them.  I had a problem with my first manuscript... insomnia and the wrong file converged to make a nightmare for me.  But, without the reviews, I would have never known there was a problem.  The reviews since then have been positive and that always makes me happy.  The more feedback, the more confidence I get in my writing.  You never know if someone enjoys your writing unless they say so.


Do you currently have anything in the works? Lots! I have ‘The Spirit Key’, it is a rewrite of Painted Girl but with RedHorse as the main character.  We go into the war and cover his injury. I think it will be one of my best and it will be published soon.  It’s in the final beta read stages.  Grandfather’s time in the orphanage is almost finished. Somehow, it turned into a scary story of skinwalkers.  I also have “A stiff one for Nona”, and the stiff one is Nona’s dead husband. Grandfather can see the ghost but doesn’t tell her.  The spirit causes trouble in their romance. I thought Grandfather deserved love after so many years alone. He’s not so sure. Then there is the newest Bowman’s Inn piece for the Fall Anthology.  We’ll go back to Han and Ann as they fall in love in this time.


Did you publish anything prior to Little Sparrow?  Yep!  Genealogy reference books under my married name. I took technical and research writing in college.  I wish now that I had started with creative writing. I’m a history lover at heart.


Do the characters write the story?  Ha!  Yes.  Generally it is Grandfather.  I hear his voice all the time!  He wakes me up often, too.  Dingle sometimes sticks his nose in there.


Where do you see the story progressing in the future? It’s going more paranormal with the Spirit Key. Outside forces that prod us along and scary ghosts that want something from Grandfather.


What do you think makes your series different from the other series in the romance genre?  There isn’t much written about contemporary Native Americans.  Most is historical.  I want to tell the story of fitting in but accepting that you are different and  what makes a person unique.  Especially in RedDress, I wanted to tell the story of just how far a girl will go when in the depths of self-doubt.


When did your love of books/writing develop? I’ve been a reader since I can remember.  I’ll read anything.  I was lucky enough that my best friend owned a bookstore.  I think I tore through most of it! I didn’t start writing until a few years ago though.  My husband was like, why don’t you just write your own?  I never want a good story to end once I love the characters so that’s why I keep writing about the same family.  Until readers say... no! I’ll keep writing.


What are some of the ways that you manage writer’s block? Imagine the scene as the character.  If it isn’t working, then you’re forcing the character to do something she doesn’t want to.  In my latest story, everyone kept asking for a character to do something.  He refused.  I couldn’t write the scene, so he suggested something better and my critters were happy.


How have you been able to handle rejection as a writer?  The rejection I’ve gotten so far has been constructive.  As long as you can tell me what isn’t hitting the mark, I can work on that.


What are some of your ambitions and goals as a writer? Ambitions?  I’d like to be a USA Today Best Selling Author.  Goals. To write a lot more books! It’s not as easy as it sounds.


What is your go to feel good book?  Your guilty pleasure book? Honestly, I don’t have one.  I really love Scribophile.com, it is a community of aspiring writers.  When I need a pick me up, I read other stories.  There are so many wonderful writers out there.


What is a book you always recommend to other people? It depends on the person, actually.  There are books I wouldn’t recommend to my dad, or my sister-in-law, but would to my best friend.  Good mysteries are always safe and the classics never disappoint readers. I just reread ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’. 


If you could meet any author, who would it be?  If I point to Edgar Allen Poe, would that mean I’d have to die first?  Scratch that and Plato, too! Can you imagine sitting down with the authors of ‘The Republic’, ‘Dante’s Inferno’, ‘Frankenstein’ or my favorite ‘The Iliad’?  The insight into history from some of the best classics ever written? 


Who has been some of your biggest inspirations?  My dad.  He wrote three books but never published them.  He has published a book of poems though.  I have his manuscripts and at some point I’ll publish those for him.  He’s a wonderful father.


I also have to say Dingle.  His death put me in a bad place.  I wrote to relieve the pain.  Now, he’s being the antagonist I know he’d love.


What advice would you give young writers looking to begin somewhere?  I would join a writing group, either Scribophile.com or something else.  I didn’t know these existed when I published Little Sparrow.  The feedback is great and you meet some wonderful writers.  Crits help you focus and you can gauge engagement, flow, style, and plot.  These can be hard when you do it alone.


I would begin with an idea and write.  The hardest part of writing to me is finishing.  Know your ending. The best part is the journey getting there.  If you have the ending and the beginning, you’ll get there.
How can your readers discover more about you and your work? I have a blog, https://wordpress.com/post/rawinterwriter.wordpress.com  I’ve posted deleted chapters of a few of my books.  They were ones that I just couldn’t get rid of, but critters thought the book was too long.  My characters weren’t happy about it!  So, I posted them for anyone who’d like more

Friday, May 26, 2017

Hearts Under Siege




 Alexandra awaits the brief return of her twin brother Jeffy, when a steamboat he is supposed to be on explodes and she fears he is dead.  Refusing to believe her brother to be dead she goes in search of him, bringing herself into the middle of the Civil War.  Her grandfather soon gets kidnapped and she is needed to deliver an important message to Confederate officers.  WHile she travels the lands she is stalked by an unknown man, and protected by a handsome man she believes to be a Yankee soldier.  Through their travels the mysterious stalker turns his sights onto Thomas.  Now they need to struggle to survive and make it through the war torn lands.  Will their affections for one another be strong enough to make it through?







Within the first few moments of this book I found myself gasping, you already find yourself feeling for Alexandra as she awaits her brother only to have the steamboat explode! Holy crap, I may have also audibly whispered "NO."  There were a few things that had me a little weary such as the events leading to Alexandra and Thomas's first meeting.  Thankful nothing too graphic was described and I like that about Kelly's writing, there isn't anything graphic or explicit in this novel.  I would be willing to allow a teenaged reader to read this novel.  It is a clean romance, by that I mean little to no sex scenes.  GASP what do I mean?  How can there be romance without sex right?  Kelly focuses on the build-up of their relationship almost in a courting like sense.




There were points when Alexandra would have memories or dreams about something and it flowed with the same text as when she was awake, it would have been easier to distinguish if the text was in italics to differentiate the state of consciousness.  There is a lot that happens throughout the story from Grand-pere being arrested, to Jackson being shot, Alexandra trying to deliver this message through war zones and the romance building between her and Thomas.  The time period is the 1800's so a few things don't fit, but at the same time would it be as interesting if the dialogue fit exactly to how a Southern Belle and gentleman solider would?  I actually liked the more modern way of speaking as it made it easier to understand their emotions and get a feel for the characters. 

There are some surprises and twists to the story and the characters are relatable.  They develop slowly and pretty much stay true to their original characteristics they had in the beginning.  I have read other reviews about the story jumping around a lot, but I honestly do not see that within this book.  It all remains pretty consistent and true to the original plot.  When George comes into the picture, I am unsure of how Thomas figures out who he is, I caught onto something that wasn't addressed during this point and doesn't makes much sense, but I may have missed something in my reading leading up to it.


That being said, I enjoyed reading this book, I pretty much finished it within a day. Hearts Under Siege was the perfect novel to read on a rainy spring day.  I do recommend this book for those who like clean romances, historical romances, and romance in general, even chick lit in general.  If an I am not mistaken this is the first book in a series and I look forward to reading other books in the series and other books from Kathryn Kelly.  As for a rating, I would give this a 3.5 because there did seem to be moments where things didn't add up for me, but it was still a great book to read to pass the day away.








Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Magic Queen

Baba Yaga has a reputation as a baby eating, ruthless badass witch.  Finding love has never been on her list of things to do with her life.  She was content with the way things were.  Until Calypso and Aphtodite decided to play a little matchmaking game.  Now Baba is psir with Freyr a god of sex and lust as they battle five other "couples".  The goal?  To fall in love and proclaim their love for one another before the deadline or they will be punished.  Will Freyr break through her tough exterior or will Baba be too stubborn to admit that to love doesn't mean weakness.

I got interested in this book based on the fact that it involved Baba Yaga.  For those unfamiliar, Bsba Yaga is a figure in Russian/Slovak folklore as a witch with iron teeth.  Many stories have her as having two sisters also named Baba Yaga, others have her having three forms.  It is said that she hold power over the elements and is the goddess of wisdom and death even though she isn't a goddess.  I find her to be a fascinating character and was happy to see her used in a story.  This story uses her in the form of having three forms to which Aphrodite and Calypso requests she be in maiden form for the "games."  We do see the crone form at another point in the story, but not the mother, which part of me wishes we had.  It would have added a different dimension to the story.

I enjoyed the romantic build up of their relationship even if it was far from romantic, but their banter back and forth was adorable.   There was a scene where Freyr was a frog in her bodice that made me laugh of loud.  The beginning of the stort takes a while to build up and really take off.  I almost wanted a little more of the battles, especially with the Pied Piper, but I understand why there wasn't more.  The dialog was well done, as I said the banter between them was funny and when theygot serious it was believable.

I  enjoyed the general concept of the story and the idea that love isn't a weakness, or allowing oneself to be vulnerable in order to allow love to enter into our lives.  I loved seeing her becoming soft and growing love in the beginning with Phlegm, and agreeing to the challenge that Freyr poses to her after their first battle.  There seems to be a lot happening in the story, but it all works well together and doing feel forced or unnatural.  When you read this book you not only get a story, but you get transplanted into different worlds as each battle takes place and have a front row seat to the love forming between Baba Yaga and Freyr.

Would I recommend this book?  Yes, I think anyone who enjoys fantasy, romance, and folklore would enjoy this book.  It was something different and unique to some of the other books I have read recently.  I give this a 4 out of 5 and hope others enjoy it as well.
 
 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Bowman's Inn

Bowman's Inn is a collection of short stories from several amazing authors. Anything can happen at Bowman's Inn you might even find your soul mate.  This anthology includes stories with magic, romance, even a little action and adventure.  There is definitely something for every reading tastes within this collection.
I normally am not one for collections or short stories, i always feel like I'm left wanting more, needing more from characters.  Not with this collection, sure i want a grander story with each of these characters, but i wasn't left feeling like the stories were only half told.  I was able to get fully interested in the characters and fall in love with them equally.

I am already familiar with RA Winter's writing and she didn't disappoint.  I absolutely loved her story.  The exchange between the two about babies made me giggle, and then tugged at my heart!  I loved this story and want more from Han and Ann.  Maybe something of them finding one another in this lifetime.

It was a pleasure getting to know some other authors througg their writi6like Bel Cosi and E.D. Vaughn.  Its hard with an anthology to talk about every author who contributed but everyone had a unique story that fit in with the feel and tone of the other stories.  Everything matched well and didn't feel like a jumble of different stories. It really did feel like Val was moving between people helping them  find their loves.

I would definitely suggest checking this book out, i had the honor of being able to read it.  I will give it a 4 out of 5 for a rating.   I am hoping to be able to read the next edition in the Bowman's Inn series.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Ninth Circle

Aiva has someone break into her house and steals the necklace off her neck.  The next day she collides with her sister who is missing her family necklace as well/  Tala informs Aiva that their third sister has been missing for several weeks and she needed her help to find Hartley.  Aiva has not been involved with the world of magic for years, and now she is thrown back into this world to save her younger sister from the mouth of Hell.  The clues they have lead them further and further into Dublin's criminal underground, where demons and other supernatural beings lie.  They are taken into the depths of the 9th Circle where a demon lord awaits their arrival. 


There were a few things that drew me into the book, and then a few things that kind of drew me away from it as well.  The cover and plot drew me in, but the pacing and character interaction somewhat drew me away. While there is a lot happening that moves the story along, it still feels like the plot moves slowly with things added into the story that don't pertain to the search of the missing sister such as a brothel using sirens to kidnap girls.  That felt like it could be a different story all on it's own. 


The take on the nine circles of Hell and twist on the Morrigan mythos was interesting and was one of the things that drew me into this story.  I haven't read too many books that address the Morrigan, but to get to that point seemed to drag on very slowly for me.  I can see how it would grasp the attention of other readers, it has a lot of action, suspense, thrills, but for some reason it'd didn't do it for me.  I have read other reviews linking it to shows like Supernatural and I can agree with those reviewers, but at the same time I can also see vast differences.  I don't think enough time is spend in each circle, I understand the need to get through each quickly to get to the Ninth Circle, but so more time in each would have helped keep my interest in this story.


At times the dialogue and character interaction felt forced and out of place, a little hard to believe. While the story didn't feel like a good fit for me, it could be that perfect story for someone else.  I do recommend the novel for others who enjoy the paranormal, fantasy genre.  I give this book a rating of 3 out of 5 and will return to it again in the future.


** I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.  The opinions in this review is completely my own and not encouraged or influenced by anyone else.**

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Dark Citadel

Darik is a young slave boy who happens to find himself in with a pair of spies while the city is attacked by the dark wizard.  Out west lies an army of wizards, griffin riders and a band of knights all of whom the companions work to encourage to come to aid of the falling city.  They need their help in order to defeat the dark wizard.  The dark wizard is not only interested in the city, he has his sights set on the beautiful queen, Kallia.  She struggles to keep her distance from the wizards embrace.

This was one of those books that came in my email as a daily free book, and it seemed interesting enough, and I did enjoy it, but it wasn't as satisfying as some of the other novels I have read in this genre.  Although any young adult, young reader would find the story engaging and interesting.  There are references to a past history that readers don't get an insight to, so there is a feeling of missing out on something important to the story. 

One thing that made it difficult to read and makes me lean on the fence about reading the next book in the series is that each chapter jumps time periods as well as perspectives.  While some readers may be able to follow the jumping around like that, other readers will find it difficult and be completely turned off by it. Most of the characters are develop except for the antagonist.  We know nothing about this dark wizard other than the fact that he wants to take over the world.  How can readers begin to hate a character they know nothing about?  There almost seems to be too much happening within the story and details that some of the character development suffers for it.  I hope this changes in the other books in the series.

With any genre there are books that excel and some books that seem to fall short, for me this was one of those books that fell short.  Not to say that it wasn't a good book to read which it was.  It just felt like it was trying to be more than it should be at this point.  Being the first novel, it felt like too much was pushed into the story to make room for what's to happen in the next novels at the expense of some background and character development.  As a rating...I give this a 2.5 out of 5 and as I stated before, I am not sure if I will read the other books in the series.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Getting Inside the Mind of Rita Stradling!

I could not be anymore excited about this post.  Recently I had read Ensnared by Rita Stradling, a sci-fi retelling of Beauty and the Beast.  It was beautifully written and a unique concept that I hadn't read in other re-telling with the use of AI units.  It can be describe as something akin to the movie Ex Machina. Why does this have me super excited?  I got to have an interview with the woman herself: Rita Stradling!  Complete fan-girling over here, so let's get right to it!


Falcor, Harley and Orion wanted me to get the most important question out of the way first…Do you have any “Literary Cats” or Literary Pup?

I have a literary dog named Stewie and two literary chickens named Katy and Boo (my son named them). They fight over territory on my lap as I read or write. However, at almost seventy pounds, Stewie, as cute as he is trying to sit on my lap, sometimes makes my legs fall asleep.

What inspired you to write “Ensnared”?

A combination of things, really. I love retellings of the original Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, and I’ve always been tempted to write one. Also, I’ve been mesmerized and terrified by the new breakthroughs in humanoid robots and AI being developed right now, and the new world change that might be right on our doorstep. These two fascinations merged together to form this story.


What was the hardest thing about writing it?
The science. 

Hands down, the science. 

Even though I really tried to keep the technical elements of this book underplayed, I wanted every technological element to be both theoretically feasible and imaginably achievable. Basically, I wanted you to believe it without for a second going, ‘huh?’

I am no scientist. Actually, if there was an anti-scientist, that would be me. But, thankfully, I happen to know a scientific genius who summoned the patience to turn my abstract ideas into something that would theoretically work. I am leaving this science fiction experience with a new awe for hard science-fiction writers. I just dipped my toes in, and it was quite the experience!

What was the easiest?

I’d have to say that it was the romance. Lorccan and Alainn really just fell in love on their own. They wouldn’t be rushed; they had too much internal stuff to work out. 
What has been your reaction to the reviews you have gotten so far for Ensnared?

To be honest, the reviews for this book have been quite a bit more mixed than I’m used to, but such is life. Many readers seem to truly connect with the story, and that’s something I’m really excited about. Almost all of the reviews that are posted now are for the ARC version of the book, and I’m curious to see the change when the finished version is available – for good or ill. Two editors had their hands on the book since the ARC version. It’s almost exactly the same, but there were a couple cut sections (particularly one of the longer “sexy” passages) and some stylistic changes throughout. 

Truthfully, when I listed this book on NetGalley and it rose to #1 most requested in New Adult and #7 most requested in Sci-fi/Fantasy in less than a month, the experience was a little overwhelming. I’m used to about two hundred reviewer downloads, and with this book some days it was nearly two hundred a day. But, I have to say that I appreciate the time and interest so many have devoted to this book already!
Do you currently have anything in the works?
I actually just finished a book titled Colorless. 
Kind of a funny coincidence, the reason I wrote Colorless was because of another interview I did for Ensnared. A little over a month ago, I interviewed on the “This is Lit” blog, and the interviewer asked me if I had any never-published works. I told her that I wrote a book eight years ago that I loved, but it was my first book ever and it needed a lot of TLC. Unfortunately, I abandoned it and never planned to pick it up again. 
But . . . 
After the interview I just couldn’t stop thinking about how much I loved the story of Colorless, and how the world I had created had just passed into the ether, unread. 
It took me a month, but I rewrote the whole thing. And, I mean the WHOLE thing. It has the basics of the story, characters, and world but all of the words are freshly written. 
Did you publish anything prior to Ensnared?
Yes. I have eleven other books out, among them a young adult urban fantasy series, young adult/new adult paranormal series, women’s fiction serial, and a new adult romance.


When did your love of books/writing develop?
The answer to that is a little complicated. My passion for books came from, perhaps, infancy. My father would read aloud to my sister and me every night, from The Cat in the Hat to Bunnicula to The Hobbit. It was my favorite time of the day. I also created many stories of my own, some of which I wrote out to the best of my ability. However, I had an unusually hard time learning to read and write due to a myriad of learning disabilities (including dyslexia). Also, unfortunately, this was during a time (late 80s, early 90s) where there was this lingering attitude that you could humiliate a learning disability out of a kid by having them do things like struggle through long passages in front of their peers. So, while the passion and love of the written word remained, I truly thought it something that I was too incompetent to master. It wasn’t until my last years of High School when several of my teachers asked to read my essays aloud to the class or to save the essays for examples, that I started to think that maybe I wasn’t all that inferior to the rest of the world at writing. Fifteen years later, I write full time (and have an awesome editor).
What are some of the ways that you manage writer’s block?
It depends. If I have a deadline, I’ll usually just power through it. If I don’t have any sort of deadline, I’ll put the project away for a while and work on another book until inspiration hits.

How have you been able to handle rejection as a writer?

As Yann Martel says in the Life of Pi, “You can get used to anything”. I think rejection becomes just a part of the day-to-day life for artists of any profession, writers, actors, directors, chefs – as does acceptance. There are the small rejections and acceptances and then the really big ones, but they all pass quickly with more opportunities near on the horizon. 
 What are some of your ambitions and goals as a writer?
My biggest ambition would be to write a book worthy of becoming a movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

 **That answer made me squeal as I LOVE Miyazaki's work as well, and can almost picture "Ensnared" being told in his style.**
What is your go to feel good book?  Your guilty pleasure book?

My feel good book(s) would be anything by Ilona Andrews. Growing up my feel-good book(s) was anything by Isabel Allende. Their words are my safety blankets.
For guilty pleasure, hmmm, maybe books more of the Tijan, Penelope Douglas, and Erin Watt variety.

 What is a book you always recommend to other people?
Oh, that’s a hard one because it really depends on the person. However, if you’re looking for an amazing fairy tale retelling, I’d recommend The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. Shannon Hale just has an amazing rhythm about her writing. I’ve recommended that book to several friends who loved it.
 If you could meet any author, who would it be?
Can I say two people who make up one author? Gordon and Ilona Andrews. I’m just a little bit of an obsessive fan-girl for this pair.
Who has been some of your biggest inspirations?
I have so many favorite authors that it’s really hard to pin down just a few. Definitely the ones I’ve mentioned thus far in the interview along with the movies by Hayao Miyazaki. I also really enjoy studying old folklore, myths, legends and parables – I always want to give even my contemporary stories an authentic, old-world feel.

What advice would you give young writers looking to begin somewhere?
Just write. Just write your first draft without stopping, and you can make the writing good on your many revisions. Fact is that you just need to get all of your ideas out first. Most books go unfinished, and I think that’s because people get so caught up in their individual sentences they lose all momentum. It’s way easier to fix something into becoming amazing than to invent it perfect the first time around.

How can your readers discover more about you and your work?
You can check me out at:

My Website
Blog
Facebook
Twitter
Amazon
Goodreads

Thank you Rita for taking the time out to answer my questions and making this girl's dream come true.  Be sure to check out Ensnared if you haven't yet.  I am going to run over to amazon and hunt for those 11 other books!  Also if you haven't read my review of Ensnared just click the link here.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Tale of Two Kitties

Owen and Hercules are two special kitties, they have a keen scene of intuition and seem to have super powers.  Kathleen has learn to trust their instincts when something feels amiss.  When Owen leads her to the door of Leo Janes father, she discovers a murder.  The town of Mayville whisper about the rivalry and scandal between the Janes brothers as well as their arrival in town at the same time.  While it seems the brothers are trying to reconcile, Leo's death may prove otherwise.  While police sights are on Simon, Leo's son, Kathleen knows something is missing and there is more to the story than everyone knows.

** I received a copy of this book from Netgally in exchange for an honest review**

My love for reading started at a young age with cozy mysteries like the Cat Who series, and lately I have been getting back into the habit of reading them.  This book is adorably cozy and reflects everything I loved when I was young reader.  Owen and Hercules remind me so much of my own literary cats Falcor and Orion (sometimes I think Orion has super powers to magically appear).  One thing I love about this book is while there is romance in the novel, there is no sexual content other than a kiss here and there, we see couples being just that couples sharing daily life together.  It was a nice refreshing change.  Perfect book for young readers.

The book does start out a little slow and has ALOT of description throughout, sometimes it felt a little overwhelming, but it does not take away from the book.  Sofie does a great job writing the story and making it interesting and have the readers get involved with not just the main characters but the whole town.  It starts off with a dead body and I had to chuckle as I realized what was being described.  What cat owner hasn't stepped on a freshly chewed cat toy?

This may be the 9th book in the series, but it really is a stand alone novel, you don't need to read the other books in the series to understand the characters or what is going on.  Sofie's writing is clear, concise.  Readers will not be confused when reading this book and may try to figure out the mystery themselves.  I highly enjoyed reading this novel and recommend it for anyone who enjoys a cozy mystery.  4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, May 1, 2017

30 Days of Hope For Dealing With Depression


**I received a copy of this book from Netgally in exchange for an honest review, thank you to the publisher, author and netgally for this opportunity.**


I haven't posted much for self help books, but there are a bunch that I have read and enjoyed and this is one of them.  There is a lot in this book that is super helpful and insightful.  You don't have to be diagnosed with Depression to read this book, I believe it is helpful for anyone.  Sometimes it is hard to remain hopeful all the time and this book brings out ways to remain optimistic and hopeful everyday.  There are Biblical references so if you are not into the Bible or those references then this might not be the book for you, though I do still recommend it.  You never know what might help through dark times. 


There were a lot of things in this book that spoke to me and hit close to home with how I feel and think.  One thing that Poinsett says is how stress can trigger depression, for some reason I never really thought about it in that sense, and works to help readers answer the question of Why am I stressed. I admit I finished this book in less than 30 days because I just couldn't stop reading it when I would start each day.  This is something I will continue to read periodically because no matter how many times you read it, there is seems to always be something you can take away from it.  I found this to be very uplifting and refreshing.  Perfect to read in the morning and then again at night.


I like how it was informative, but at the easy to follow and understand.  I've found many books on this topic tend to be too clinical or scientific that makes it hard for one to put things into practice.  This book is very practical when it comes to finding hope through the darkness of depression regardless of level.  I would highly recommend this book and give it a 4 out of 5 stars.


Friday, April 28, 2017

Blow Out

The murder of a Supreme Court justice is always a terrible thing, for Sherlock and Savich as their weekend away in the Poconos is ended when they need to fly back for the investigation.  Callie Markham is an investigative reporter with a lot riding on this investigation for her career and personal life as the Justice was her father.  She is partnered with the police liaison, Ben, but within a day there is another murder.  One exactly the same as Callie's father's.  Every lead the detectives find seem to be far-fetched and unrelatable to each murder, but is it possible that everything is somehow connected to one another.  Is Callie onto something about the murder of her father and the others that seem to have the police detectives stumped.  Callie is a woman determined to find out all the answers no matter what the costs may be.




This was my first novel by this author, and honestly I wasn't all too impressed, but some other reviews I have read stated this wasn't her best novel.  I had a hard time relating to Callie, sure I felt for her with the lose of her father but I had a hard time beyond that.  While the story is engaging and interesting it seemed to be lacking something, something that I cannot put my finger on what it is.  The book didn't do much for me being a first time reader.  I wish I can say that it did.  I had a hard time connecting with the characters, in fact thinking now it's a little hard to remember much about them (I read the book about a month ago). 


While there were moments of suspense, it wasn't something that had me on the edge of my seat excitedly waiting to see what will happen next.  Some things were almost predictable which seemed to be a let down when discovered that my theories early on were correct.  The characters were kind of bland as I mentioned before, but they didn't seem to grow as the story progressed and the situations they were in did not feel realistic, nor did the dialogue. 


I had high hopes for this novel because I have heard such great things about Coulter.  The plot itself seemed interesting enough, but I don't think it was executed well.  Unfortunately, I would not recommend this novel and give it a 1.5 out of 5 rating.
 


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Firefly Hollow

Sarah had a plan for her future,  but while away at school the tragic death of her father forces her to rearrange her plans.  Her family's land borders the land of the Campbell's and she was not supposed to go on their land, but she discovered a swimming hole that is perfect to read and reflect.  Owen Campbell has taken over his family's estate and has a secret about himself he wishes no one to know about, but keeping his secret is harder with Sarah around.  His attempts to keep her at bay seem futile.  Both are faced with new realities they need to come to terms with.

I'm not 100% sure how i feel about this book. I had a really hard time getting into it and believing in the characters. They seemed cookie cutter characters,  not that that is a bad thing, but it was hard to relate to them and feel a connection.  The characters are not one sided there is a lot of depth to them, probably the sister Kathy most of all.  We see them all experience a wide range of emotions throughout the novel.  I'm not sure why i couldn't get behind these characters.

The story is well right enough.  There were moments when i knew i was being told a story rather than watching it unfold before my eyes.  We do watch as their relationship grows from the awkward meetings to something more...um..steamy.  It was an interesting read, just not exactly what i was expecting.  It was a sweet story, and I can see people falling in love with the characters.  Haddix does a good job presenting the characters and their conflicts.  I wanted to see the story build up a little more, more of the shifting involved like with him visiting her as a deer.  I thought that was cute and almost hoped for a little more or him saving her as a wolf.  The sex scenes are very descriptive and are not for those who love a clean romance. As I said, things get steamy.

I do recommend the novel, it may not have tickled my fancy, but someone else who enjoys romance novels  may enjoy it.   My rating would be a 3 out 5.  I have not decided if I will check out the other books in the series, I guess we will have to wait and see.
 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Alice

Through a hole in the wall, Alice makes her only friend, Hatcher, in the hospital. After days, months, years the two form a bond.  Then one night Hatcher is frantic, the hospital is one fire and he urges Alice that a creature under thr hospital will escape. A creature he feels connexted to, one he calls the Jabberwock.  The two escpae their confinement and emabrk on a quest to find the object that the Jabberwock is searching for.  Their quest takes them throughout different territories of Old Town to Chesire, Caterpillar, The Walrus and ultimately to the one place Alice never wanted to face again, the Rabbit.  They make alliances along the way and Alice learns secrets about herself and Hatcher that strengthens the belief that only they can stop the terror of the Jabberwock.

This book is a retelling of Alice in Wonderlan, a morbid, grotesque version.  Christina Henry has a way of writing some of the most horrific scenes in an utterly beautiful way.  There are topics that might be a trigger for some such as rape,  but Henry does it in a way that gives strength to Alice.
I lived every character in this novel, they dit their roles perfectly and contained aspects from Carrol's characters as well.  I couldn't get enough of them and simply fell in love with Hatcher (a variation of Hatter, which could be why I love him so.) 

Alice is great she starts out weak and unsure of herself and begins to grow into a badass character.  Hatchet was already a badass from the beginning.  Cheshire i wanted to both hug and kill him.  The others...made me crimge and hate the roles they were given, but interested to see them in those roles.  I was able to picture them each as Henry described them. I love how Henry integrates some of the characters like the white rabbit, Dormouse,  and March Hare.
 
I am completely fascinated with retellings especially Alice in Wonderland.  Some have been well done while others have not.  This novel was very well done and had an American McGee's Alice in Wonderland feel to it, and I love that feel.  I couldn't get enough of this book once i began to read it.  Some parts did seem a little bit slower than others but i still flew through it in about a day.  I did not want to put it down, I have read a lot of different Alice in Wonderland retellings, but honestly nothing come close to this one.  This may be my favorite retelling thus far, and I know there is more to the series.

I highly recommend it for those who enjoy retellings or want something a bit different from the normal or thise who enjoy a horrorish (not really horror but grotesque if that makes sense) either way i recommend it.  Rating I would give is a large 5 out of 5.  I cannot wait to pick up Red Queen, the next book in the series and see where Henry decides to take this story.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

I read too





SOmetimes you just need a little fuzzy reading partner to snuggle with...but sometimes that little partner attacks when you try to turn the pages.  Little miss Harley loves to snuggle up with books, instilling the love of books at a young age....how cute is she!


Friday, April 21, 2017

Ensnared

Alainn's father is a genius when it comes to robotics, he has created some of the most useful AI units around.  He promises a unit to Lorccan, but needs more time to complete the project, time Lorccan declines.    The AI Unit Rose devises a plan of her own to send Alainn in her place and then try to rescue her when another unit is created.  When presented with this idea at the last minute Alainn goes through with it, against her better judgment.  She then spends the next few weeks having dinner with a scarred man, pretending to be a self-actualized AI unit.  Things begin to get cloudy when they begin to fall for each other and Alainn discovers Rose's true plans.  Will Lorccan still love Alainn once he discovers she is not a robot?  Will she be able to put a stop to Rose's plans before it's too late, and save her father from imprisonment.




**This is another book I have received through Netgalley for an honest review.  Seriously if you haven't tried it yet..do so soon.**




I have really gotten back into fairy-tale retellings lately and this one is fantastic!  I could not put my kindle down until I finished it.  I wasn't sure how I would feel about it when I began because I am not really one for stories with AI units, but I loved this one.  I loved the Lor has little monkey AI's and that they could communicate or that the tower itself was an AI unit.  Very interesting and different from others.  What I was a little confused on was what did her father do to get himself into this predicament, there were different things mentioned like fraud, gambling, booze.  Were those what got him into such trouble that he could have gone to prison for it?


I have seen shows and things about people falling in love with AI units, such as Ex-Machina movie or the anime Chobits, so this didn't faze me too much.  What I did question a few times was how did Lor not question a lot of things including romantic things.  Regardless, this was a great retelling.  It still had the feel of Beauty and the Beast, but it was it's own story.  It almost had the same feel as Melissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles, but different as well.  Aliann is an interesting character, its a little uncertain of what she wants in life or even what she expects.  We get little snippets of her past that play a small role in the story, but it isn't heavy like we don't have whole chapters devoted to flashbacks and memories, which I liked.  The novel kept to the story and didn't deviate into something else. 


The descriptions were interesting, I could picture the scar on Lor's face or the feel of the computerized windows.  Something I found very interesting and plausible was the use of 3d printing, it seems this is something that is making headway now and I enjoyed seeing the ideas that Rita took with this concept.  She used a lot of things in her book that I have not seen used before.  The novel is well written, it didn't feel slow or forced, everything flowed well together.


For those who enjoy fairy tales, retellings, Beauty and the Beast, then I highly suggest this novel.  I also suggest it if you like sci-fi, and romance because those elements play a large role in this story.  As for a rating I would give this a 4 because there were still some questions left unanswered.  I look forward to reading more from Rita, maybe a retelling of Aladdin or even Thumbelina *hint hint Rita!**