Monthly Archives: August 2014

COYER Book Review: Embers (Guild of the Cowry Catchers #1)

Guild of the Cowry CatchersEmbers (Guild of the Cowry Catchers #1), by Abigail Hilton

Embers (Guild of the Cowry Catchers #1) is an interesting book. I’m not quite sure how it ended up on my TBR list, because I’m usually not drawn to fantasy with non-human characters. The characters in the world of Wefrivain are shelts, humanoid on top and animal on the bottom. Except for a few details, though, I found Gerard, the honorable new Chief of Police for the High Priestess (who is a humanoid-griffin combination), and Silveo, the corrupt, ruthless and damaged Admiral (humanoid-fox) to be very human on the inside. I had a hard time maintaining the visualization of the characters as described with their fox/griffin lower halves and long, pointy ears (I don’t do long pointy ears) so I just imagined them as human to myself, editing that visualization when things like tails or paws were mentioned.

The story is engaging and well-written. Gerard and Silveo, who can’t stand each other, are assigned to work together to find the elusive leader of the Resistance. Understanding and trust gradually grows between them (which, going by the reviews of later books, eventually turns into considerably more) as they face danger and track down clues. I enjoyed their interactions and seeing their characters unfold through the story.

I found a few things besides the half-animal appearance of the characters a little difficult, particularly the fairly bleak nature of the world and the fact that sentient beings hunt and eat other sentient beings.

The book ends abruptly; it’s the first part of a serial, and the reason given for cutting the story into smaller parts is to accomodate the illustrations without making the ebook file too big. So be warned that this isn’t a complete story; this installment doesn’t even have its own complete story arc.

Later installments of the Guild of the Cowry Catchers veer into definite not-my-thing territory, so I won’t be reading on. It’s a good, well-written story; not continuing is just a matter of my own personal preferences. Also be aware that Guild of the Cowry Catchers is very much for adults (not a problem for me, but it appears that other readers have been taken by surprise, not noticing the author’s very direct warning to that effect). I would suggest before starting that you read the descriptions and reviews of all the books to decide if it’s for you. If you do decide to go for it, I would recommend buying the individual installments to get the beautiful illustrations (which aren’t included in the omnibus edition).

See my main Clean Out Your eReader post for reading list and review links.

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COYER Book Review: All Fall Down

All Fall Down All Fall Down, by Christine Pope

All Fall Down is the tale of Merys, a physician who is captured by slavers and ends up being bought by Lord Shaine, whose desperately ill daughter needs Merys’s help. Though Merys chafes at the loss of her freedom, she soon finds that her heart belongs to the people at Donnishold, and especially Lord Shaine. When the plague hits her new home, she must use all her strength and ingenuity and resources to try to save the people she has come to love.

Romantic fantasy is my favorite thing to read, so that automatically gave this book a boost. I found the style clear and easy to read, and I enjoyed the world and the characters. I did feel that the book was kind of light on both the fantasy and the romance aspects. Other than being set in another world, there really isn’t any fantastical element other than near the end, during the plague, when the goddess appears to Merys in her dreams to reveal the cure for the plague. This appearance seemed poorly timed – there didn’t seem to be any reason why the goddess should appear then and not sooner; if she had shown up sooner, a number of characters I wanted to live wouldn’t have died. Or, for that matter, why she should have shown up at all.

As for the romance, of course it’s clear that Merys and Shaine will end up together, but I had a hard time believing in their attraction to each other. The Merys-Shaine relationship doesn’t really develop, it just happens. We know that Merys falls in love with Shaine because the book is written in first person so we see her thoughts and feelings, but there doesn’t seem to be a process of growing attraction and affection; she just realizes one day that she’s in love with him. As for Lord Shaine, he doesn’t get a lot of attention in the book. We know that he loves his daughter and treats his slaves and servants well, has a tragic past, and seems like an overall good guy in spite of his brooding, but we never really get to know him on a deeper level or get to see his (presumably) growing attraction towards Merys. Part of this could be because of the limitations of writing in first person, but this can be overcome by a more observant first person protagonist and creating scenes with more varied interactions between the characters. Still, I could see that Merys and Shaine would suit each other; it wasn’t hard for me to imagine them together, I just would have liked to see the feelings and the relationship develop instead of just suddenly being there.

Unlike some other reviewers, I didn’t have a problem with the kind of iffy biological and medical science in the book, because Fantasy. This isn’t our world, it doesn’t work the same. Though I would have liked to see the author make freer use of the possibilities inherent in writing in a fantasy world other than the aforementioned divine intervention.

All Fall Down is sweet romance, with a few sexual references but no actual sex.

From reading other reviews, I understand All Fall Down is not the author’s strongest work. It’s an enjoyable read, but I feel it could be much stronger if the author had dug deeper into the characters’ emotions and relationships and the freedom of writing in a fantasy world. Still, it’s an enjoyable, quick read, and I will definitely try more of Ms. Pope’s work.

See my main Clean Out Your eReader post for reading list and review links.


COYER Book Review: Hal Spacejock

Hal SpacejockHal Spacejock, by Simon Haynes

All Hal Spacejock, the galaxy’s most inept space pilot, wants is an honest hauling job so that he can pay off the creditors who are (literally) beating down his door and save his ship. When he’s hired to transport a load of spare robot parts, he believes all his problems are over. Unfortunately for him, a rival company wants those parts too, badly, and Hal finds himself in the middle of a space heist. Fortunately for him, he’s also been asked to transport the competent and much-put-upon robot Clunk to the parts yard for an “overhaul”. With Clunk’s help and a fair bit of luck, can Hal extricate himself from the mess he’s in and save his ship?

This was really funny, with humor ranging from broad slapstick to sly observations on business and government. The pace is fast and the storytelling fairly easy to follow, though a few times I had a hard time figuring out what was going on, probably because I was reading too fast to find out what happens next. I also lost patience with Hal a few times for being so determinedly ignorant. It’s hard to believe that someone like him, who absolutely rejects any kind of reasoning or instruction in the face of the results of his own incompetence, could have become a space pilot in the first place, but if you can suspend your disbelief in that one area, the rest of it flows pretty well. And Hal redeemed himself in my eyes with his concern and loyalty for the doomed Clunk.

I will defintely check out the rest of the series. Recommended for those who enjoy humorous science fiction on the silly side. Simon Haynes is also the author of the Hal Junior series for middle-grade readers, and the creator of the popular yWriter writing software.

See my main Clean Out Your eReader post for reading list and review links.


Author Spotlight: Jessica Page

Thanks to the magic of laptop computers and free hotel Wifi, this post is coming to you today from beautiful Flagstaff, AZ, where our youngest son is starting school at Northern Arizona University.

And now I’m pleased to welcome Jessica Page, author of The Agency:

Jessica Page1. Tell us a little about yourself.

Let’s see… I’m Canadian… I’m a Virgo (yes I believe in astrology (don’t judge me))… I love pasta… I married my high school sweetheart. I speak French and English and I like to pretend I can understand Spanish (although three classes doesn’t mean you actually know the language). I have a very anxious personality which I have passed onto my animals. I have a dog (a husky) and two cats (that I am terribly allergic to but I love them so I suffer). I’m a political junkie (it is like high school but they wear suits) and I cry watching/reading books, songs, commercials and movies. And although they are incredibly interesting, I’m terrified of space and large bodies of water (although relaxing near a lake or ocean is one of my favorite things to do).

2. When did you start writing, and why?
I sort of always enjoyed storytelling and when I was little I would write and draw pictures for hours.  I always picked essays over exams in school and always loved writing poetry and often wrote down story ideas but lacked the confidence to actually write an entire story. I read a lot and one day in my mid-twenties I just decided that I finally didn’t care anymore and I would see if I could write a novel. I’ve only been writing novels for a few years so I’m still developing a style and getting the hang of it but like everything else practice makes perfect (or so I hear…).

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I often like to write from more than one characters POV (although not always) and I write mainly paranormal and contemporary romance fiction for adults. I like adult fiction romances because I find it less restrictive in that, I can use adult content (i.e. strong language, sexuality and violence) and not feel bad about it.  I try to ensure I use adult content in the right moments but when characters find themselves in intense situations I like for the reaction to be realistic. My hope is obviously that others will enjoy them too. Reading and writing for me is a distraction from life. I love to get lost in a story so I hope to provide that same distraction to others. I do also have a YA novel I’ve been working on but I’m not sure when I’ll complete it.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
The Agency is my debut novel and the first of the Agency Hunger Series. I’m currently working on the second novel to series (as well as few others) and my first romantic contemporary/suspense novel Misguided Target should be released in the near future (although I don’t have a release date yet).

5. “Welcome To My Worlds”: Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
My book is set in modern day New York City but there is an entire supernatural world which includes vampires, mages and werewolves that also exist. Their existence is kept a secret from humans (for obvious reasons) and only a few high ranking officials (i.e. Presidents, Prime Ministers, so on) around the world know of their existence. The Supernatural Enforcement and Control Agency is sort of like the ICC/CIA/FBI of the supernatural world. They have divisions all over the world and their goal is to monitor, control and manage supernaturals through their own laws and justice system.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Harper Andrews is a mind reader who has no idea why she can do the things she can do. She ends up getting herself in a compromising situation (which is where she meets Reid) and discovers that there is a whole supernatural world within the human world that few know about. She discovers that she is a supernatural and she begins working for SECA. I like this character because she starts off a little lost and vulnerable in life and in her relationship with Reid (which I think many of us can relate to) but we follow as she finds her way and becomes a pretty badass.

Agent Reid Doyle is a vampire who is pretty much a jerk which likely has a lot to do with a painful past (which is again something we can all relate to). He thinks he has it all figured out but that all changes when he meets Harper. She’s different and he’s attracted to her which he isn’t happy about. We watch as their relationship develops both professionally and personally.

Agent Zoe Dagger gets an honorable mention because she’s a little bit of a vixen and has a way of getting Harper out of her shell. She’s hilarious while still being a hard edged/spunky werewolf who I think might be one of the most entertaining and interesting characters. I see her having a role in many of the books to come.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
Fun fact about me: I have a twin brother who is one of my best friends and I also have an older brother and sister who are twins as well.

The AgencyThe Agency:

HARPER ANDREWS, is a mind reader who has no idea how or why she is the way she is. After being saved by Agent Reid Doyle from a vampire attack she is introduced to a secret world guarded and protected by the Supernatural Enforcement and Control Agency (SECA). A world where vampires, werewolves and mages are normal and humans are at the bottom of the food chain. Things are not perfect but she finds herself thriving and feeling at home for the first time in her life.

AGENT REID DOYLE, is a vampire who likes his solitude so the last thing he wanted when he saved Harper was to have to spend more time with her. The fact that he’s attracted to her is inconvenient and he resents having to be responsible for someone else. Losing another loved one is out of the question and he intends to avoid it at all cost.

Both Harper and Reid can’t seem to turn off their attraction for one another and love, sex and blood have a way of complicating things quickly in their world. They need to stay focused and find out who’s responsible for the vampire caused human murders with additional internal and external threats working against them. Choices will be made to protect the things and people they love, choices that will change everything, including each other.

The Agency is available at:
Amazon | Smashwords

About the Author:
I’m an avid reader (and dreamer) who hails from northern Ontario Canada where I live with my husband and fur babies. I hope my stories provide you with an escape and some entertainment for a little while (that’s really all I can ask for).

Where to find Jessica:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads Amazon Author Page


Author Spotlight: Angela Norton Tyler

Angela Norton TylerWelcoming author Angela Norton Tyler to the blog:


Q: Tell us a little about yourself.
A: I was born in the Bronx (New York), but we moved to the Bay Area when I was two. I actually remember bits and pieces of driving across the country as a two year old with my parents. Currently, I live in Sacramento (CA), but I did most of my growing up in Oakland (CA), and that will always be my hometown.

I received my undergraduate degree from Wellesley College (MA), my teaching credential from Holy Names University (CA) and my master’s in Children’s Literature from Hollins University (VA). They are all women’s colleges, and now my daughter attends another amazing woman’s college, Mills College (CA)!

Q: When did you start writing, and why?
A: I have always written, though not, of course, professionally! I was writing stories and making little booklets when I was four years old. 3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write? I write both fiction and non-fiction, although I most DEFINITELY prefer fiction! I love escaping to other worlds, and the best way to do that (besides dreaming) is to create those worlds myself.

Q: What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
A: I am working on a children’s series about a princess and her family that live inside a terrarium: Princess Brownie. I told you that I love escapism!

There will definitely be a sequel to Queen Mother!

Q:  Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
A: I love all of my characters! I have to admit that I don’t feel as though I really created them, however. They showed up, said things, did other things, and constantly amazed me! I used to hear writers say this, and I thought they were crazy! Now, I get it.

That being said, my favorite character is Matai. He is one cool dude- wait and see what he does in the sequel!

Q: A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
I’ve always had vivid dreams, but the dream I had about The Kingdom one night in 2009 was particularly amazing. I woke up, heart pounding, and I immediately scribbled the entire dream into a notebook. It goes without saying that slavery was an utter abomination, but the very idea of the Kingdom brought me such peace and a feeling of closure. It was a story I felt compelled to share.

Queen MotherAbout Queen Mother:

Slavery is a tragedy that continues to haunt us. Consider the millions of Africans that did not even reach the Americas but died during the horrors of the Middle Passage. The world has yet to recover from the loss of two million souls, three million loved ones gone forever, four million lives brought to a final and violent end.

Was the Middle Passage their last journey?

Imagine that not all of those counted as dead are truly gone.

Imagine that some of the bravest found freedom in a paradise beneath the ocean and joined others who chose to die rather than suffer through slavery.

Imagine that they sent us a King.

Queen Mother is the adventure of Nala, an orphaned African whose search for romance and relevance takes her from slavery and the Middle Passage to wisdom and royalty in The Kingdom.

NALA RUNS!

Nala, a young African woman orphaned half her life, has been treated more like servant than a beloved member of her uncle’s family. Nala dreams of true love and a life free from her cousin Shazila’s constant demands and bullying. After a magical night of romance with Prince Adomi, the future King of Swaziland, Nala becomes pregnant. When she hears of a prophesy foretelling that either she or Shazila will be Queen Mother, Nala knows that she is the Chosen One. The problem? Adomi intends to marry Shazila. Determined to tell Adomi that she is carrying his child and that he has chosen the wrong bride, Nala sneaks away from her village.

NALA WALKS!

Nala falls into the clutches of Red Beard, a brutal slave catcher who subjects her to nights of degradation and days of non-stop walking. After a harrowing, months-long journey, Red Beard eventually sells Nala onto a slave ship headed to America. After learning that she and her child will never reach Adomi, Nala jumps ship.

NALA LIVES!

Nala arrives at The Kingdom, a paradise beneath the ocean filled with others who chose death above slavery. Nala’s child, Matai, is born and lauded as King. Wise friends arrive to teach Matai The Seven Lessons to prepare him to someday leave The Kingdom and begin his own epic journey.

Will Nala, now Queen Mother, allow Matai to leave The Kingdom so that he can save his ancestral home and assume his rightful place as King?

*

This adventure written by African American author Angela Norton Tyler blends historical fiction with a touch of fantasy. Adults and teens will fall in love with Nala and Matai and will benefit from the life lessons taught by the wise teachers of The Kingdom. Queen Mother gives us a proud alternative history and an exciting, hopeful future.

Let Queen Mother Inform, Entertain and Transform You!

Queen Mother is available at Amazon.
Find Angela Norton Tyler at:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads


COYER Book Review: The Case of the Misplaced Hero

The Case of the Misplaced HeroThe Case of the Misplaced Hero, by Camille LaGuire

Camille LaGuire is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I love her Mick and Casey stories (Have Gun, Will Play) and there’s always something interesting going on on her blog, so I decided to give some of her other mystery/adventures a try.

In The Case of the Misplaced Hero, Alex’s eccentric aunt once gave him a special ring and advised him to go jump in a lake. One evening, while escorting his drunk professor, Thorny, home from the bar, Alex discovers what she meant when he and Thorny fall in the river. On the other side, they find themselves in a different world, in the middle of mysterious goings-on involving a train wreck, a missing spy, and an assassination plot.

The action is fun and exciting, with plenty of twists and turns (the story was originally posted as a serial on Ms. LaGuire’s blog and follows that same structure), and the characters are enjoyable and well-drawn. I especially like Alex, Thorny, and Rozinshura, the much-put-upon captain of the garrison in the town where the train wreck happened and where Alex and Thorny washed up to everyone’s confusion. There’s also plenty of humor – “Anarcho-Bureaucracy” is my favorite political system that I’ve ever come across in a novel.

Plots are discovered, mysteries are solved (though there are loose ends which hopefully will be continued in the companion story about the Baronness of Beethingham, aka Plink), and Alex learns that when the time is right, anyone can be a hero. A fun, fast-paced, and enjoyable read.

See my main COYER post for reading list and review links.


The Lost Book of Anggird Serial-Style for Free!

The Lost Book of AnggirdFor a limited time, over on my main site, you can read The Lost Book of Anggird serial-style for free! I’ll be posting a chapter 3 times a week, with up to six chapters available at a time. (Plus the first chapter, which is permanently on my site.)

Why am I doing this? Well, because I hope a few readers will take the opportunity to try out a new author or a new book for free, and that they’ll like what they read and be eager enough to find out what happens next to buy the book!

And because I know not everyone can afford $4.99 for an ebook, so from time to time I like to give everyone the opportunity to read my stories, not just those who can afford it.

I hope you’ll check it out!


COYER Book Review: Brood of Bones

Brood of BonesBrood of Bones, by A.E. Marling

Colorful, complex fantasy about an enchantress trying to deal with an epidemic of bizarre and unexplainable pregnancies in her city.

Hiresha the Elder Enchantress (“elder” being a title, not an indication of her age) is a wonderful, complex character. Afflicted with chronic sleepiness, she assumes an air of cold arrogance to cover up deep shame and insecurities, a painful compassion for the women and children afflicted by the unnatural pregnancies, and her own longings for love, family, and a normal life. She studied sorcery in an attempt to find a cure for her somnolence so she could have a hope of living a normal life, but instead, her position as an enchantress sets her even farther apart from normal. (Having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I especially sympathized with Hiresha’s frustrations and feelings of inadequacy at being unable to do things that most people take for granted.)

Hiresha works most of her magic when she’s asleep, in a bejeweled dream laboratory that allows her to observe people and events with amazing precision. These sections are memorable for how colorful they are, in Hiresha’s use of various gemstones to work her magic, and in the scientific approach she takes to her work.

The city of Morimound is a unique setting, certainly not your standard pseudo-medieval-Europe fantasy setting – which I definitely consider another plus. The culture, especially the religion and the belief in a cycle of floods, is interesting and well-developed. The other characters in the story are all well-drawn, unique, and well-rounded, especially Maid Janny, Hiresha’s nursemaid/lady’s maid/scold/comic sidekick, who helps Hiresha deal with the twenty-seven gowns she is required to wear as symbols of her sorcerous achievements and takes her down a notch when her defensive show of arrogance gets out of hand, and the Lord of the Feast, villain/ally/almost love interest.

Brood of Bones is written in a clear, colorful, beautiful style (though sometimes it’s definitely creepy!), with an intriguing, suspenseful plotline that kept me reading, eager to find out what was behind the bizarre pregnancies, how Hiresha would save the women of her city, and if Hiresha could eventually come to terms with herself and her own desires. I was glad to see that the author has written other books set in the same world and featuring Enchantress Hiresha.

See my main Clean Out Your eReader post for reading list and review links.


July 2014 Review, and Coming Up in August

The Warrior and the Holy ManMishka Jenkins at A Writer’s Life for Me does a monthly roundup/overview (check out the post for July/August), which I decided is a great idea to keep myself on track and keep my readers (Hi!) informed of what I’m doing and what’s coming up.

In July, if you missed it on the post before this, The Warrior and the Holy Man got a great new cover by Mominur Rahman. Currently, The Warrior and the Holy Man is available exclusively at Amazon, $2.99 for the ebook or, if you have a Kindle Unlimited membership (U.S. only) or Amazon Prime, you can read it for free! I will also be scheduling some free days. (Hint: there’s one coming up soon!)Don’t have a Kindle? Never fear! You can download the free Kindle reading app for PC, Mac, Android, and iPad/iPod/iPhone; read in the Amazon Cloud Reader, or, since all my ebooks are DRM-free, you can download free Calibre ebook management software to convert my Kindle books into epub format for your Nook, Kobo, Sony, or iDevice.

Camp NaNoWriMo Winner 2014I also participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, and met my goal of 12,000 words! Not a very big goal, but on top of doing heavy revisions on Daughter of the Wildings, it was enough to keep me busy. I’m working on Tales of Azara, a collection of short stories, character sketches, and vignettes to go along with Chosen of Azara. Even though I met my Camp goal, the project still isn’t finished, so I’m going to continue working on it in August.

I also finished the revision of To the Gap, book 4 of Daughter of the Wildings, and sent it out to the test readers. Response to the series from the test readers has been pretty positive so far 🙂

And finally, I’ve read thirteen books so far for the Clean Out Your eReader Summer Vacation challenge, which beats my original goal of ten books read, and there’s still a month to go! Watch my main COYER post for my reading list and links to reviews.

 

For the WildingsSo, on to August. Job one is to finish this first major revision of Daughter of the Wildings. I’m nearly through with City of Mages, book 5, and then should be able to finish up For the Wildings by the end of the month, keeping to my three scenes a day quota. I’ve allowed a few extra days to finish, since we’re hitting the road for a few days later this month to take our younger son to Northern Arizona University for his freshman year there. I’ll take my writing with me, but probably won’t be able to get in a full day’s work on any of those days. Still, the goal for finishing this revision is August 30.

Another goal is to write 500 words a day of new fiction, for a total of 11,500 words (minus Sundays and a few days for travel). I want to finish Tales of Azara, and in the meantime start planning… whatever the next project is going to be. Probably another novel/novella set in Estelend (the world of Chosen of Azara) so I can start on that next. Once this heavy-duty revision of Daughter of the Wildings is done, I may be able to increase my daily word count goal.

I’m also aiming to read at least five more books on the COYER challenge, for a total of twenty.

And finally, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted a novel for free on the site. Starting today, you can read The Lost Book of Anggird! I’ll post a chapter three times a week, and leave the first several chapters up for a couple of weeks to give anyone who’s interested time to start, and then continue with up to 6 chapters available at a time (plus the first chapter, which is always free on the site).