December 31, 2015

Sometimes you fall a little bit in love with a character, i.e., Luke is hot and I'm mad that he's fictional

The last post of 2015! Today's post includes 2 reviews, a preview, and a promise of what's to come in 2016. Here we go!

I was very kindly sent a copy of Survivors: Secrets by the author, Violet Cross, for review a little earlier this year. (Stay tuned in 2016 for more requested reviews.) The book takes place in post apocalyptic England amid a group of teens and early 20 somethings who are struggling to survive (hence the title, yes?). However, the apocalypse wasn't due to a freak catastrophe of nature...or maybe it was exactly that because it turns out that humankind had tried to augment and alter DNA in order to create something 'better'. The result of their meddling was a group of superhumans who called themselves Divines. If you wanted to survive you had to keep your head down and choose your loyalties carefully as our main character, Lacey, learns the hard way. It's not all about scraping to get by, however. There's also a dash of romance. (Luke is hot. Did I mention that?) If you're a fan of the Divergent series then you'll probably like this one as they both feature strong female leads who are thrust into a world that is less than ideal. This is the first in the series so I highly recommend you strike while the iron is hot. (I should also mention that this is probably rated PG-13 for coarse language, violence, and scenes of a sexual nature so keep that in mind if you care about those sorts of things.)

A few weeks ago I reviewed Heart of Tin and I mentioned how I thought I'd probably enjoy The Straw King more. I was absolutely right. When I watched the film for the first time all those years ago, it was the Scarecrow that stole my heart. His was the story that I found most interesting and when he received his brains I cried tears of joy. The way that Danielle Paige has written Scare (even that nickname hurts my heart), he has been made into a monster. The Straw King gives the reader a glimpse into what the 'gifts' of the Wizard mean to each of the Ozians who received them. For Tin, his heart must surely have been created so that he could do all in his power to win over Dorothy and make her happy. For Lion, he was given his courage so that he could stand up for himself and others even if that meant that blood had to be shed. And then there's Scare. His brains were given to him so that he could attain true wisdom and to him there is nothing more important than learning everything. He struggles with empathy and doing what is 'right'. Seeing his thought processes it's easy to see how these 'gifts' have corrupted these characters much as Dorothy's shoes have clearly corrupted her. There's a lesson here which Spider-Man's uncle explained quite succinctly, "With great power, comes great responsibility." The trouble here is that the Wizard gave them these powers and then they were left to their own devices to wield them as they chose without guidance. Some might argue that is what we all must do as we travel through life and that's true I guess. That's cold comfort to me, however, as I watch one of my favorite characters get warped into a villain. ;'-(

I'm currently reading After Alice by Gregory Maguire. I thought I knew what this story was going to be about but it turns out I had no clue. My mom clued me into this one and I actually picked it up thinking she might read it over Christmas...and here I am reading it on New Year's. Thus far, I can say that it's about Ada who is briefly mentioned as a friend of Alice's in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It's also one of those books that makes one feel like a dullard so keep that in mind and maybe have a dictionary to hand. I'll let you know a little more in my next post. ;-D

And now the promise. In the next few days I hope to post my yearly roundup of all the books that I read in 2015...and maybe a little surprise. Today's post goes up on a Thursday but I'll be back to my regular Friday posting by next week. I hope you all had an ultra awesome year and that I'll see you again in 2016! HAPPY NEW YEAR AND HAPPY READING!


**If you're interested in buying any of these books or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

December 25, 2015

Author Interview: Louise Herman

A little something different today, guys. Louise Herman very kindly supplied me with the following interview and book blurbs for her two YA Fantasy series, The Orcus Games and Split Blood. Please enjoy and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Background

I’m a teacher of Computing and a keen fantasy movie fan from the leafy suburbs of North London. I absolutely adore any film from Guillermo del Toro (especially Pan’s Labyrinth, Devil’s Backbone and Cronos), love listening to music (I especially enjoy listening to Bjork, Daft Punk and Royal Blood),  and am a big 80s fantasy film fan (with my favourite’s including Labyrinth, Big Trouble in Little China and Blade Runner). I also have a big passion for Anime and am slightly obsessed by the genius director, Hayao Miyazaki for his work on Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle. From an early age, I had always had a passion for writing stories, which would take the reader to different fantasy worlds and realms. With a little confidence and the ease of publishing novels on the internet, I have now self-published five fantasy stories to date.

What were you like at school?

It's funny because now I'm a teacher I can finally see how hard it is gaining a student's attention and maintaining it for an hour! I was an average student at school, who prioritise social matters over education and with hindsight, that may not have been the best idea because although I obtained good grades in the three subjects I enjoyed (English, Spanish and Media Studies), I flunked the rest and had to retake Maths at college. I finally realised that my education was more important when I left my peers at school (they stayed on for Sixth form) and went to college, where I gain invaluable experience and found my independence.

Were you good at English?

I loved literature and would often offer to read (and act out) the Shakespeare plays we were studying in class. I found the old English language, the powerful stories and the way Shakespeare would set the scene, to make the reader feel like they were in the story, amazing. One of my favourite plays by Shakespeare was, 'A Midsummer’s Night Dream' and it was the enchanting story, affairs of the heart and magical settings that ignited my passion for writing. Unfortunately, although I had great ideas for storylines, characters and worlds, my grammar and punctuation has always been my 'Achilles heel' which is why I invest in a proof-reader and editor for all my published work.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?

I have always had a vivid imagination and had written short fantasy stories, for my own pleasure, in my teenage years. However, it was not until my English teacher told me she enjoyed one of my stories that I started to take it more seriously. I researched competitions and writing challenges but unfortunately, without the aid of the internet, it was a little harder, than it is now, to gain the information I needed, so my college and university work took presidency and I put my writing passion to one side until I had more time (and resources) to concentrate on it fully.

So far I have written five YA Fantasy books to date:

The Orcus Games: Blood Moon (Book 1)

Guilty until you survive all zones…The Orcus Games is ready to put you on trial…

The lives of a witch and wizard couple, a new vampire and a rogue Lycan intertwine in three magical tales of love, loss and revenge.

The Craft – When witch and wizard couple, Heather and Phoenix make that fatal mistake on that, ‘Blood Moon’ night, they never thought they would be forced to working with a loner Lycan but…is he the only one who saw the, ‘accidental’ fatal act?

The Clan – Ardan would do anything for his wife and daughter but he could not protect them from the new blood thirsty life that was about to be bestowed onto them but what happens when he risks his immortal life for them?

The Pack – Caleb was always the Lycan that wanted more! With constant schemes and risky deals, to increase the potential of a better lifestyle, he thought his latest underground deal was the perfect idea, until he loses more than just his money…

The first book in the prequel to the, ‘Split Blood’ series, this novella is a mind-blowing magical tale of belonging, sacrifice and revenge…The Orcus Games: Blood Moon will drag you, kicking and screaming, on this deadly journey with the ill-fated prisoners.


The Orcus Games: Mistress V (Book 2)

The Underworld as no fury like Mistress V scorned…

Mistress V had it all…looks, power within the vampire clan and men at her disposal but she wanted more. She wanted Ardan, to be precise. He was unlike any other vampire she had turned before and she wanted him, needed him and was determined to do anything to get him…

Frustrated by his lack of interest and constant rejection, Mistress V is dealt another blow as Ardan is accused of a crime and is thrown into The Orcus Games, leaving her to watch her obsession fight for his life, whilst witnessing a second by second account of his budding friendship with fellow vampire contestant, Luan.

Unable to admit defeat, Mistress V plots and plans ways of getting to her man before it was too late but with every minute he is in the show, he grows closer to Luan, enraging Mistress V, leaving her to become more erratic and mentally disturbed, which has disastrous results…

The Prequel to the, ‘Split Blood’ series, this novella is a deliciously dark tale of power, lust and obsession…The Orcus Games: Mistress V will leave you licking your lips, thirsty for more…


The Orcus Games: New Awakening (Book 3)

You can run but you can’t hide…

Escaping The Orcus Games, each of the fugitive’s dreams of a happy reunion with loved ones are short lived as they each find out there is a bounty on each of their lives. Ardan finally accepts his new life as a vampire and enlists the help of Cathal, the vampire leader of the district, to help him make a proposal to the Elders so he can live…but what ulterior motives does Cathal have?

Heather and Phoenix return to their coven, only to find they have moved. After much searching, they find their circle and are reunited with their daughters. They beg their coven to hide them but why is the Grand Witch so reluctant to agree with the plan?

And with Mistress V agreeing to marry Cathal, have the damned foursome finally found peace and safety? Or is there one more ‘hurricane’ coming to destroy all they hold dear? 

The last book in the prequel to the, ‘Split Blood’ series, this novella is an enticing end to a tantalising fantasy trilogy…The Orcus Games: New Awakening gives you the electrifying conclusion, with a seductive surprise, to keep your blood flowing for another possible bite…


Split Blood: The Ancient Codex – Part One (Book 1)


When Faith’s mother starts organising the second stage of her arranged marriage to wizard, Damien, Faith knew she needed to escape, so she used her school as a place to retreat. Throughout her after school duties, she meets the intense, alluring Rohan, who changes her life forever. With his ice cold skin, transfixing eyes and enchanting voice, Rohan took hold of Faith’s heart and soul as soon as they looked at each other.

She knew it was wrong. They were from two different circles and if the Elder’s found out, the consequences would be catastrophic for all involved, but the more time they spent together, the stronger they’re love grew, until one day someone sees them and they are forced to go on the run together.

Will their love be strong enough to combat their conflicting mythical needs? And what will they do when Faith is dealt a life threatening blow that forces her to make a heart-breaking decision?

INTENSELY PASSIONATE WITH EXTRAORDINARY TWISTS AND TURNS, SPLIT BLOOD IS A LOVE STORY WITH A DARK MYTHICAL DIFFERENCE.


Split Blood: Rise of the Wolf (Book 2)

‘You are the oil to my fire and no one will ever extinguish us’ Enya said as she stroked the scar, which reminds him of his horrific childhood.

Lowell was always the outcast in his pack. Coming from a poor, abusive background, the only attention he knew was when his father used him in illegal Lycan fights. He never knew what love was until he met werewolf, Enya. Experiencing a similar, isolated upbringing, Enya was the glue that helped Lowell stick together. She was intoxicating to him and he was her addiction. With every second they spent together, they gave each other the rush they needed – Unfortunately, this union was not to last as the rules of the Aliis World clearly state that Lycan’s are forbidden to communicate, let alone be romantically involved with werewolves.

So what happens when Lycan, Lowell tries to fight his attraction for lower class werewolf, Enya? And can they escape the wrath of vengeful witch, Raven when she finds out Lowell is partly to blame for her sister, Faith’s disappearance?

SEVERELY THOUGHT PROVOKING WITH A STING OF ROMANCE, SPLIT BLOOD: RISE OF THE WOLF IS A DELICATE TALE OF LOVE, LOSS AND VENGEANCE WITH A BITE.


What are you working on at the minute?

I am currently working on the third book in the 'Split Blood' series, which will be published on Amazon and Smashwords by April 2016.

What’s it about?

It concentrates on Raven (Faith's Wiccan sister) and her fight to get her family back. Raven's character also changes due to the trials and tribulations she encounters on her journey and we also meet new magical beings and say goodbye to some favourites. With lots more magic, lust and revenge, 'Split Blood 3' promises to continue the emotional rollercoaster ride further into the 'Split Blood' world.

Give us an insight into your main character.

In the previous two books, Raven has been a minor character, who has always been there for her older sister, Faith. Happy to find out her new magically heritage, Raven tried to show her reluctant sister the benefits of their new life as she grew in power but Faith was not interested in the magic classes and her history as Raven was. Unfortunately, Faith felt suffocated from the endless rules and her curiosity led to her running away, leaving the Coven to deal with the consequences of Faith's illegal choice. This emotional departure left a scar on Raven, who struggles to cope with life without her sister and things get much worse when her parents are taken to the Underworld for questioning about their part in their daughter's detrimental rule breaking. Alone, distraught and unable to deal with some members of her Coven turning against her, Raven becomes obsessed with finding her family, by any means necessary - with disastrous results...

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?

I love the film, 'Mirror, Mirror' and thought Lily Collins was very good as the lead character. I think she would make a great Raven because she has a very fearless, determined attitude in the film, which Raven has in the third book of the 'Split Blood' series as her whole world becomes consumed with finding her family, which has a devastatingly dark effect on her mind and powers.

For more information, please go to: www.louisehermanauthor.com


December 18, 2015

What does it mean to be human?

Oddly enough, when I came up with the title of this blog I was really only thinking about the second book that I read this past week but it actually applies to both in a strange way.

Some of you might recall that I started reading a series which was a retelling of The Wizard of Oz with Dorothy as a villain. The last novella that I read (a prequel) concerned how Dorothy ended up back in Oz and how she came to be worse than all of the witches combined. This time around I learned about the Tin Woodman in Heart of Tin. I have to admit that I didn't find as much enjoyment in this book as I have in most of the others. I'm not sure if it's because I finished up The Lunar Chronicles and it kinda blew this series out of the water or if I just didn't care for the Tin Woodman's storyline as much. (In point of fact, I think it's a combination of the two.) This book is fairly straightforward. We see just how far Tin is willing to go to win over the heart of his one true love, Dorothy. I'm trying to come up with a delicate way of describing his preoccupation with Dorothy who is a teenager but all I can come up with is icky. The best part of Heart of Tin is that we get a few tantalizing glimpses of the schemes that Scarecrow and Glinda are cooking up behind Dorothy's back. I have a feeling that his story, The Straw King, is going to be a doozy. (Don't worry, I've already placed it on hold at the library.)

The next book that I read over the last week was Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder. It's an international bestseller which for some reason I had never heard of until suddenly I found it on my library holds list (I don't remember placing it there but I guess one night I was cruising the library website half asleep). It's translated into English from Norwegian so that might be why it caught my eye (Remember my obsession with Swedish translations? I'm branching out.) or it could be because it's a book on philosophy. I had little to no knowledge about the great philosophers of the past or even what it meant to be a philosopher. I can happily say that is no longer the case. Not only did I learn about it but I experienced what it means to think philosophically...and I may have had an existential crisis as a result. The book starts out with Sophie who discovers a letter in her mailbox asking her questions such as "Who are you?".  It snowballs into packets of lecture notes and suddenly she finds herself enrolled in a philosophy course with a professor who prefers to remain hidden. I don't want to give any more away because it's better to experience it for yourself. I guarantee you'll be scratching your head and asking "Who am I?" by the end.

And now a tantalizing little teaser! I was recently contacted by a publishing company, History of the World, which is interested in creating educational books for children. Of course, I'm on board with that! The book they're starting off with is called The Amazing History of Technology and from the sample I was sent I can tell that this is a winner. It's full of beautifully illustrated scenes from history which chart the history of technology through the ages (I mean duh look at the title. I doubt it was going to be about hairstyles.). Each illustration is accompanied with the name of the creator and/or the name of the device along with the year it was created. This would be a fantastic gift for either the educators (hello, teaching aid!) or the tiny information absorbers in your life (that's children if you were confused). And for the techno geeks among you, it's accompanied by an educational app. Maybe you were looking for the perfect stocking stuffer. If so, you're welcome. ;-)

You can go here to order it

By the way, this is my 200th post. *confetti falls from the ceiling*

December 16, 2015

Holy cheeseballs, it's a competition!

Yes, this is a mid-week posting and no it's not a book review. Instead I come bringing good tidings and joy, dear readers. *sleigh bells ring in the distance*


Australian author of Bird of Chaos, Susie Mander, has extended an exclusive invitation to her book promotion where you could win a $100 Amazon Gift Card. I would like to extend this invitation to you. Yes, you! Enter before January 10, 2016 to take advantage of this great opportunity to win a truly awesome prize!

Susie Mander is an Australian-based author and mother of one. She has been published in Australian Doctor, the Hills Shire Times and the District Reporter, and was recently shortlisted for the AlburyCity Short Story Award. Bird of Chaos is her first fantasy novel. It follows the story of Princess Verne Golding the Third who has to decide whether or not to initiate a coup against her mother, a cruel and manipulative woman who blights the young Verne’s life and threatens not only her future reign but the survival of their kingdom.

To celebrate the anniversary of the publication of Bird of Chaos (as well as Christmas!) Susie Mander is giving away a $100 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky winner.

“I am really excited about the opportunity to give back to readers,” Mander says. “I think this is a great prize because you can spend it on whatever you like and it comes just in time for the festive season.”

 Click here to enter now before time runs out!

December 11, 2015

A trip to Narnia

As you know, I'm a big fan of children's literature. I'm also a big fan of C. S. Lewis, an English author, who is well-known for his series, The Chronicles of Narnia. C. S. Lewis captured and continues to capture the imagination of anyone who makes a trip into the fantastical world that is Narnia. Most people know about The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe because of the Disney movie of the same name. (The same could be said of Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader as well.) It's been labeled as controversial by some for it's religious themes as well as it's discussion of race and gender. It broke the mold in a lot of ways to what was traditionally seen as a children's book. The entire series spans 7 books and has been adapted for radio and theater as well as film.  Let's get right into it!

Depending upon who you ask, the series begins with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe OR it begins with The Magician's Nephew. I prefer to begin with The Magician's Nephew as it's technically the prequel (although written second to last) and sets up the creation of Narnia (the lamppost!). It follows Digory and Polly as they are forcefully transported to Narnia by Digory's not-so-nice aka totally evil uncle, Before they reach Narnia, however, the reach other lands in other realms and on one of these they meet Jadis who is Evil. (The capitalization is definitely warranted and she's worth mentioning as you'll see later in the series.) This is also the book that introduces the reader to Aslan, the lion.

Next is the one I think most people are familiar with: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In this book, we are introduced to the Pevensie children: Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. We're also meeting Digory again except now he's much older and a Professor. We travel to Narnia which is now fully formed (and through a rather unique portal which I don't want to spoil for the uninitiated) and a battle of good vs evil ensues against the White Witch (hello Jadis!). The children discover that they are worth sterner stuff than they had imagined and Aslan rewards them with something a little snazzier than a plaque. This should definitely be categorized as coming-of-age.

I bet you think that Prince Caspian is the next book in the series. Well, you're wrong! It's The Horse and His Boy. This book follows two Narnians (the horses) on a journey back to their homeland with outsiders (two children) who are running away from their lives. This story is quite different from the rest of the series as it takes place during the Golden Age of Narnia (it is difficult not to be spoiler-y isn't it?). It focuses on Shasta, Bree, Aravis, and Hwin. If nothing else, C.S. Lewis was a master at names.

Following The Horse and His Boy is Prince Caspian. By this time, the Pevensie children have returned to our world and a short time has passed. They often think of Narnia but for Peter and Susan it is less and less like a real place. Then BOOM they are suddenly thrust back into Narnia as a cry for help is sounded by Caspian. 1000 years have passed in Narnia and Aslan is missing. The people are in dire need of help and it's up to the Pevensies and their new friend, Caspian, to save everyone.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a favorite of mine because it introduces a character which goes through such a transformation that to meet him at the start is to hardly recognize him by the finish. This is Eustace Scrubb. Eustace and his two cousins, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, find themselves in Narnia and on a boat in the ocean. There's a surprise awaiting them aboard the ship in the form of an old friend (hello spoiler, my old friend) and it's discovered that he and his crew are on an epic quest. It's very nearly a pirate's tale, ya'll. The ending still manages to bring me to tears.

We are again on an adventure with Eustace in The Silver Chair but this time he's accompanied by his new friend, Jill Pole. They are called to Narnia by Aslan to help Caspian, now an old man, find his son. They are aided by Puddleglum who is a Marsh-Wiggle and if you don't grit your teeth he might drive you crazy.

Here we are at the end with The Last Battle which is just as the name suggests. There is a final battle of good vs evil. Jill and Eustace return to help Narnia which is under seige by Shift, an ape, who tricks a donkey into impersonating Aslan (I just read that back and trust me it makes sense if you read the book). By the end of the book you see the true meaning behind everything that has gone before and Aslan is revealed as his true self.


Whew! That was just the books! Now onto the film adaptations. There are two that I'd like to mention. (I'm discussing two different series not individual films.) The first was done by the BBC and was actually a miniseries that ran in 3 installments from 1988-1990. The first covered The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the second was Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and the third was The Silver Chair. This is one of those things that was so bad that it's good. It was low budget and pretty corny but for some reason I LOVED IT. I felt drawn in exactly as I had been in the books and the characterization was pretty spot on. (Puddleglum especially was excellent.) If you haven't seen this, I highly recommend giving it a try. The other series I'd like to mention is the one done by Disney. Thus far, they've done The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Much like the BBC miniseries, they stuck very close to the original books which I really appreciated. It's visually stunning and the soundtracks are beautiful. Also, James McAvoy is Mr. Tumnus. COME ON! Guys, this is a no-brainer.

I did say this was one of my favorites

December 4, 2015

Do you podcast?

Is podcast a verb or just a noun? I have no idea but I do know that after reading Welcome to Night Vale by Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink that I'm likely to check out their podcast of the same name. (If you're interested in checking out the podcast before reading the book then you can go here and start from the beginning.) I had heard about this podcast and the book through the devoted community on Twitter and Tumblr. (I listened to a bit of the podcast but I have a problem committing to podcasts so I picked up the book instead.) It was strange right off of the bat but it was a good kind of strange. Anyone who has read a really intense sci-fi novel will understand the feeling that they have somehow missed a step and landed someplace entirely new. That's what this book is like. I get now why there is such a passionate fandom surrounding this desert community and its inhabitants. Where else could you read about a place where it's perfectly natural to open doors with a blood offering? If your son was a shapeshifter would you just shrug and say he was trying to find himself? Are those helicopters above your house a nuisance or a comfort? For the citizens of Night Vale the answers to these questions are no-brainers. The two main characters, Diane and Jackie, are two polar opposites who suddenly find themselves working toward the same goal.: King City. It's a weird tale of self-discovery and what it truly means to belong. ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD.

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **