A few reviews

I’m playing catch up with my reviews so I’m going to do a few today.

Let’s start with the one I didn’t like so I can finish strong. The Shadow Rises by K S Marden, Witch Hunters book 1. Witch hunters and witches and inherited powers. A little confused with poorly developed characters. DNF. Not much to say but at least it was free.

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Adrenaline by Jeff Abbott, Sam Capra book 1

Sam works for the CIA. His wife is expecting their first baby. She also works for the Company. One day Sam goes to work and receives a call to from her to come outside right this second. As soon as he does a bomb goes off in the building and she disappears.

Sam is now the only survivor and the chief suspect. He only wants to escape custody and find his wife and baby. To do that he has to make some new allies and go on the run.

I love a good thriller and this one sounded really exciting. It has a great premise, as who doesn’t identify with wanting to find your family and keep them safe? The bad guys were pretty bad,the pace was goos. But the writing kept me from giving it more than 3.5 stars. Also I don’t enjoy political thrillers as much, so it wasn’t quite what I expected.


 

Goldmayne by Kate Stradling

Duncan escapes an abusive father to wind up servant to a witch. There he meets a talking 🐎 who helps him escape. They set off for a neighboring country and find work at the castle.

This was a fairy tale retelling of two French stories, Scurvyhead and Goldmayne. I was unfamiliar with either story, so I couldn’t tell at first how it was going to end. It has a happy ending, of course, and the hero gets the girl. Fun stuffstuff. This one is on Kindle Unlimited or it’s only $1.

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Finally my favorite of the bunch, Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

“Far from city politics in the Calderon Valley, the boy Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting. At fifteen, he has no wind fury to help him fly, no fire fury to light his lamps. Yet as the Alerans’ most savage enemy – the Marat – return to the Valley, he will discover that his destiny is much greater than he could ever imagine.” Caught in a storm of deadly wind furies, Tavi saves the life of a runaway slave named Amara. But she is actually a spy for Gaius Sextus, sent to the Valley to gather intelligence on traitors to the Crown, who may be in league with the barbaric Marat horde. And when the Valley erupts in chaos – when rebels war with loyalists and furies clash with furies – Amara will find Tavi’s courage and resourcefulness to be a power greater than any fury – one that could turn the tides of war.

I actually liked this better than the Dresden Files. I liked Tavi and Amara better than I like Harry Dresden. It still has some problems, mainly a hyper sexualized female villain (her character does get explained though), but I thought it was a lot of fun. Looking forward to the next book.I

 

Hope this have you done ideas for your next read. See you later!

 

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Pirates AND Dragons!

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Are you looking for a great escape read? After watching Marvel’s The Avengers: Infinity War – no spoilers, I promise! – I *really* needed something light and happy. What could be better than a fantasy story with a love triangle, pirates, and a little dragon? How about a kick-ass heroine who gets in there and mixes it up? And how about doing it all for less than a dollar?

The book is Moss Forest Orchid, book 1 in the Silver & Orchids series by one of my favorite fairy tale writers, Shari L. Tapscott. I’ve talked about Shari’s books before on here, so you know that I love them, but these books are not based on a fairy tale. They are entirely new.

Lucia is from a family of chicken farmers, looking for a way into a better life. She teams up with best friend (and grandson of the local lord) Sebastian and sets up as adventurers. Unfortunately, she invests all their earnings with a man who turns out to be a con artist, and the two have nothing to show for all their hard work. Then they hear about a new job – bringing back a cutting of a rare flower, an orchid that only grows in a distant and dangerous swamp. The pay would be enough for Lucia to pay back Sebastian and make a new start.

There’s only a few problems with this plan. First, Lucia and Sebastian can hardly talk to each other without fighting, so teaming up is going to be rough. And second, there’s this distracting (and sexy) pirate captain who keeping turning up. Finally, Lucia has hm, acquired a dragon egg, which is going to be trouble. The whole thing is a bit of a mess. But hey, pirates are good!

I loved this one so much that the love triangle didn’t even phase me. Normally I avoid those books, but this one was just done right. I was really deceived by the first book, but as soon as I finished, I downloaded book 2, Greybrow Serpent, and completely switched my ship! The first book is available on Amazon right now for only $1 so you have no reason not to check it out. Love, love this series!

 

 

Blog Tour! Happily by Chauncey Rogers

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Hey bookies! I’m so excited today to tell you about this book that I really enjoyed, Happily by Chauncey Rogers. Today I’m just doing a book review, but I’ll be back tomorrow with a fun Q&A with one of the main characters!

No Fairy Godmother

No Magic Pumpkin.

Just One Grumpy Girl

And a Glass Slipper.

C’mon, how can you resist a tag line like that? I’m such a sucker for fairy tale retellings (In fact, I’m writing one myself!) that I knew this one was going to be fun. Cinderella without the magic? Yes, please!

Only this one is not about Cinderella. It’s about Laure, a street urchin who’s been hustling to survive on the streets of the capital. Laure is trying to make a big score, one that will get her out this miserable town and her rotten life and onto something better. But the day of her big score, everything goes wrong and she winds up in the company of a wannabe merchant named Luc. Luc is completely the opposite of Laure in terms of personality and outlook. He’s sure things will get better, but he needs Laure’s help. She comes up with a scheme, and here’s a hint – it involves a glass slipper.

I enjoyed this one so much! Laure is a brat in the beginning of the book, but I did come to like her and Luc is just great all the way through. I loved the way the writer took a familiar tale and added his own twist, by creating new characters and a fresh plot. Laure and Luc’s dynamic is well done, with the way they have to team up in the beginning, but slowly coming to trust each other as the book progresses. I just heard that a sequel may be in the future. This one does have room for more developments, but it’s not a cliffhanger, so if you hate those, don’t worry about that. Also, it’s available for free right now through Kindle Unlimited.

In short, if you like fantasy or fairy tales, give this one a try.

Ready for Camelot?

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This castle is in Spain, but you get the idea

I’ve been in the mood for some real Happily Ever After type stuff. Lots of fluff, the happier the better! Nothing too heavy or serious, just good fun. I’ve also had plenty of time to read, so I’m really going through my TBR list.

This series I want to recommend is by author K M Shea and it’s got a King Arthur twist. The series is called “King Arthur and Her Knights.” Right there, you get one of the major twists – that King Arthur is actually female. In fact, Merlin did a spell that summoned her from our day and brought Britt Arthurs back into his time to unite all England and save the day.

She’s not thrilled at first. She misses her home and her family, her phone and sanitation. But she adjusts. To find out how it all works, you really have to read the series. There are 8 books and they’re all included in Kindle Unlimited or they’re about $1.99 each. They are also short quick reads. The first one, Enthroned, is available here. I finished the series last night and it was so, so good! I loved the way the series ended.

Hope your month is going great! I need to do a best of / worst of 2017, but I’m still reading! So it may not happen until after Christmas. Tell me what your favorite happy books are and maybe I’ll pick them up!

Blog Tour: White Water, Black Death

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Title: White Water, Black Death

Author: Shaun Ebelthite

Publication Date: September 5, 2017

Genre: Thriller/ Suspense/ Mystery

Book Description:

“A cruise ship is the perfect target for a biological attack”

These are the chilling words emailed to the Seaborne Symphony in the mid-Atlantic.

Magazine editor Geneva Jones has been sent on the trans-Atlantic cruise to help secure a major advertising agreement from the CEO of the cruise line Rachel Atkinson, but her efforts to win her over are curtailed by a mysterious crew death. Geneva suspects foul play. Rachel insists its suicide. A former investigative journalist, Geneva can’t resist digging deeper, but what she finds is far more devastating. There’s an Ebola outbreak on the ship, everyone is trapped aboard and Rachel is trying to keep it secret.

Geneva knows enough about Ebola to be terrified, but she’s also onto the biggest story of her career. As panic surges through the ship, she becomes fixated on a single question. How was the virus brought aboard? The answer is worse than she could have imagined, and the greatest exposé she’ll ever get, if she can only prove it.

My Review:

Aaron Atkinson is taking a cruise because his mom insisted that he come along. He doesn’t mind, of course. At least, he’s having fun until the storm hits and a waitress dies. They also rescue a stranded boat in the storm. Then the deaths on board start. Aaron can tell something is wrong, but he doesn’t know what to do. Meanwhile, reporter Geneva Jones is under pressure to both get the story and make the cruise line look good. She has the sense that she’s on to the story of her career, but is she being manipulated? Who can she trust?

The story is told from various POV, including Aaron Atkinson, adopted son of the CEO; a young housekeeper with a child; Geneva Jones, a reporter digging for the dirt; and the captain of the cruise ship. That lets the author tell the whole story, which would be impossible if you only followed one character. It made the book more suspenseful as I waited to see what would happen next.

I enjoyed this book, but I must say it didn’t make me any more anxious to take a cruise! The behind the scenes look at what went on, even when things went right, still made me realize how much the cruise industry exploits its workers. When things go wrong, it was truly horrifying. Normal food poisoning is enough of a trouble, but a real plague, with no way to get to safety – that’s the stuff of nightmares.

I had the chance to read this one for free in exchange for an honest review, but my opinions remain entirely my own.

This book is available for free from Kindle Unlimited right now or for purchase at the links below.

On Goodreads

On Amazon

Guest Blog Post: Karen Charlton

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Author Karen Charlton

Today I have a guest post from historical fiction writer Karen Charlton.  An English graduate and a former teacher, she now writes full-time and lives in a remote fishing village on the North East coast of England. She is a stalwart of the village pub quiz and her team once won the BBC quiz show ‘Eggheads.’ Her other claim to fame is that she won a Yorkshire Tourist Board award for writing Murder Mystery Weekends. Her series featuring Inspector Stephen Lavender and Constable Woods are available through Amazon here. Her books are available on audio, in print, and on Kindle Unlimited.

My Detective Lavender Mysteries, published by Thomas & Mercer, are the fictional adventures of Stephen Lavender, who was a real-life Principal Officer with the Bow Street Police Office in London.

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Bow Street

By the early 19th century, Principal Officers had a variety of different and important roles although they were still nicknamed ‘Bow Street Runners’ as if they were messenger boys. Apart from supporting their colleagues solve crime in the capital, they were often sent out to help magistrates in the provinces with difficult cases. They also took part in undercover work in periods of insurrection, for example, during the Luddite riots in the Midlands and were available for hire by wealthy landowners.

They were Britain’s earliest private detectives and they were famous throughout London. The exploits of Stephen Lavender in particular filled many column inches in The Times. He was a Regency celebrity.

They were the only policemen allowed into Buckingham House (the forerunner of the palace) and did security work for the Bank of England. On some occasions, they were even sent abroad to help with crimes and criminals who had spilled out over our borders onto the continent.

Unlike modern crime fighters, the Bow Street officers usually worked alone. However, successful crime fiction novels normally have a pair of heroes – or heroines – resolving the mysteries. So, I decided to change history and gave Lavender a side-kick, Constable Ned Woods, in keeping with this modern literary convention. Woods brings down-to-earth humour and kindness to the novels and is a great foil to Lavender’s slightly-introverted, bookish intelligence. Many readers tell me he is their favourite character.

I frequently find records of Lavender’s cases in the newspapers and often use them as the basis for the plots of my novels. For example, the third book in the series, The Sculthorpe Murder, is based around one of Lavender’s most famous cases which was extensively reported. In 1818, a gang of thugs burst into the home of an elderly man called William Sculthorpe who lived in rural Northamptonshire. They viciously attacked and robbed the eighty-seven-year-old and his son.

The newspapers are always vague about how Lavender actually solved his cases. They tend to be rather gory publications and prefer to dwell more on the horror; the size of the pool of blood and ‘the large quantity of clotted blood that had settled in the victim’s mouth.’ This lack of detail about the police procedure of the time gives me plenty of opportunity to flex my imagination and use artistic license. This is how I prefer to work. I take the bare bones of a real case and then make up the rest. My latest mystery, Plague Pits & River Bones (to be published: 11th January 2018) is a mixture of one of Lavender’s real cases and several other fictional sub-plots.

Inevitably, other real characters do occasionally appear in my books. These have ranged from William, Duke of Clarence and his mistress, the famous actress, Dorothy Jordan; to the artist, William Turner, other Bow Street officers and a range of British Politicians. However, Magdalena, Lavender’s spirited and exotic love-interest, is a figment of my imagination.

My favourite part of writing is usually the first 50,000 words. I tend to think about my books for over a year and when I start writing the words flow over the page with the smoothness of silk. By the time I’m at 50,000 words, it usually gets more difficult. I’ve often got three or four sub-plots running at the same time and dozens of loose ends to tie-up. At this point, I usually take a little break. I hate the cold, dark British winters and last year I flew south to the sunshine of the Canary Islands for a month to finish Plague Pits and River Bones.

But I normally spend this ‘break’ time pottering around my beloved garden, or reading a historical fiction novel by another author (my favourite genre.) Then I come back to my desk refreshed, and race towards the dramatic conclusion. The best two words when writing a novel are always: ‘The End.’

But it’s usually not long before the voices of Lavender and Woods are clamouring in my head, demanding another outing.

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Author Interview: Young-Im Lee

I’m very excited to offer you another author interview. This time I’m featuring the author of the historical drama, Forgotten Reflections. Young-Im Lee lives in South Korea and this is her first book. I really enjoyed it and I’m so happy to speak with her.

Young-Im Lee was born in Mokpo, South Korea and relocated to Manila, Philippines at the age of one where she grew up in an international setting. She graduated with a BA in English Language and Literature from Seoul National University and an MA in English Literary Studies from the University of York (UK). She currently resides in Seoul, South Korea.

51t-0avsrNLBook Description

DARE TO DREAM IN THE MIDST OF WAR.

1945. Rice fields seem endless in a quaint farming village of South Korea, yet Iseul and the villagers have been on the verge of starvation for as long as they can remember; the last of their Japanese colonizers have taken every last grain with them. In the newly independent Korea, Iseul dreams of what her future might bring. Yet, war is on the horizon, and the boy she has fallen for is an alleged North Korean communist spy.

Amidst war, Jung-Soo and Iseul embark on a comic journey of self-discovery across the mountainous peninsula, as they are aided by the occasional appearances of long forgotten legendary figures. Music helps them pass the time, as does the radio and the crafty carpentry skills of Iseul who would eventually make history with her handcrafted hanji paper. Unexpected friendships are forged, love burgeons and betrayal taints their elusive dreams.

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What research did you do for your book?

Researching for this book seemed to have no end. I visited one of the many museums here in Seoul and found that much of the relevant information could be found online. I tried to channel this feeling of being overwhelmed into the book where we see Jia, the granddaughter, feeling quite helpless in her own search for the truth of her grandmother’s past. After watching a few more documentaries about the Korean War, I did what I could to focus on letters and accounts of day-to-day occurrences in the lives of the soldiers coming from such a multi-national background.

In particular, I found an account of a Korean woman who remembered how grateful she felt as a young girl when the war had broken out. She explained how, for the first time, people focused on men dying, instead of her being a disgrace for having been born a daughter. As shocking as this statement was, it was somewhat understandable considering the status of women at the time. From this interview, the character “Mi-Jung” came into focus who can be found sharing the same sentiment as this woman from the interview since Mi-Jung is born as a daughter to a single mom who was pitied for having a daughter instead of a son.

article-2299134-006938EF00000258-941_964x639As for the events/plot that transpires in the story, I was particularly taken by the battle of Chosin Reservoir where UN troops were surrounded by over 120,000 Chinese troops who were hiding in the mountains before mounting an attack in a strategic location that trapped UN forces in the Northern Territory. A task force was created to rescue those trapped, though so few survived that those who did were later nicknamed “The Chosin Few.”

While my story is not located in Chosin, I was inspired by this battle that highlighted the mountainous landscape of the Korean Peninsula, the international scale of this war and the heroism displayed by those who risked their lives to save those trapped in by the mountains.

This is a really long, detailed book. How long did it take you to write? Can you describe your writing process?

Yes, it is certainly long! I had been living with my grandmother when the idea first struck and that was over two years ago! While I had written a rough screenplay of this story soon after, I eventually abandoned the project for over a year before finally returning to it, this time opting to write the story in the novel form instead. It took eight months of full-time writing to complete this project.

Writing the screenplay first was helpful since it made me focus on scenes that pushed the plot forward. It made transcribing the story into the novel form somewhat easier, although it took a while to seamlessly integrate the thoughts of each character into prose. I had a notebook dedicated to scribbling my way towards a novel. It was certainly non-linear and possibly the most round-about way of writing, but it somehow resulted in a novel. Honestly, I don’t think I remember it being a “process” at all.

Is this your first book you wrote? What are you working on right now?

Yes, this is my first book. I am currently doing research on post-colonial orientalism. I am grateful for this novel since it inspired a new academic topic of interest. I would love to continue writing fiction, but at the moment, I have been consumed with my research and a part-time job (I teach English here in Korea, which was one major inspiration for the character, Jia).

Part of your book centers around an elderly woman suffering from dementia. Do you have any experience with relatives in nursing homes?

While living with my grandmother, I had visited her sister in the hospice center who was also suffering from some form of dementia. Likewise, my late grandfather showed symptoms while I was living with my grandparents. It was certainly an eye-opening experience and one that was quite scary. Nursing homes have become quite common in Korea and I think I am at that age where I see my parents, aunts, and uncles seriously consider the possibilities of how best to care for our grandparents.

Iseul lives in a tiny village. Her granddaughter lives in a big town. Which one more closely relates to your experience? What are the advantages to where you grew up?

Contrary to what many readers may think, my background is quite far removed from that of Jia’s (the granddaughter). I did not strictly grow up in a city, nor did I grow up in Korea. I actually grew up in a somewhat suburban area in Manila, Philippines which was a cross between a big city and a smaller city. When I first moved to Seoul, I was both enthralled and overwhelmed. At eighteen, I was also living alone in the dormitory with my parents in a different country, which made Seoul seem even more vast. But during the course of my studies in Seoul, I moved to some of the rural areas of Korea for months at a time and found the contrast so shocking! Likewise, my grandfather lives in one of the smallest villages in Mokpo which had always been uncomfortable, to say the least! The toilet was outside and a truck would come and empty it only once a week or so. The house would reek of hay and manure from the barn that was attached to the living space. I was quite shocked to know that people still lived in old-fashioned hanok houses. It was only through research into the tradition of hanok homes was I able to appreciate the structure and utility of these homes that adapted so well to the bitter cold winters and hot summers.

 

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Hanok style house in modern city

Iseul’s granddaughter faces a lot of pressure about her education. What’s the difference between the American education system and the Korean one? 

I grew up in the American-adapted international education system. I had always known about the so-called “horrors” of the Korean education system growing up, but it was never something I experienced first-hand. I now live vicariously through my students who are under the same pressure, and it makes my heart break. On the other hand, what I also see is the resilience of children, though honestly, I don’t think Korean students can imagine it any other way. It is a sobering thought and one that made me want to write about fostering the imagination in students. How else would things change if people can’t imagine a different future?

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? What writers do you admire?

Between my job teaching English and doing research, I feel like the day goes by so quickly!

Honestly, I love knitting! It does take up a lot of time so I’m trying to limit myself J I also enjoy playing the guitar and taking a long stroll around my neighborhood/ nearby Gwanak mountain. I’ve recently joined a writer’s group and it has been so nice to finally meet other aspiring authors.

If I had to pick a few of my favorite novels, it would be Murakami’s “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,” Bronte’s “Jane Eyre,” Towle’s “A Gentleman in Moscow,” Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” and Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

 

If a reader wants to keep in touch with what you’re working on, where’s the best place to keep up with your work?

I currently have a facebook page and a website where I post a few blogs every once in a while, including upcoming writing projects and updates about this book. You can reach me through both of these channels.

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/youngimleeauthor/

Website: youngimleeauthor.wordpress.com


Hope you enjoyed this interview. If you want to read more, Young-Im’s book is available free right now from Kindle Unlimited.

What are you doing this weekend?

What are your plans this weekend? I’m looking forward to some more sewing time. I’ve been going through my Netflix queue and watching some pretty good stuff. I discovered a new Amazon series, Medieval Deaths, which is like Historic CSI.

I’ve also been watching Rosewood, but I can’t decide if I like it. The main character is kind of a know it all, and I really want to smack both him and his partner detective. I like the secondary characters though. Crossing Jordan is the opposite – all about the MC, secondary characters not really engaging at all. But I’m not very far into either series.

541803I do like the Father Brown series. Have you read the books by GK Chesterton? Mostly short stories, and in this case, I think the TV show is better than the books, but the books are free through Kindle Unlimited.

I’ve also been sewing a lot. I have a denim quilt I’ve been working on while I watch TV or listen to my audiobook and it’s close to being done. Then I have another quilt top done and I just need the batting and the backing. It’s a camping/woods quilt.

Here’s my list of what I’m currently reading:

  • Queens of the Conquest: England’s Medieval Queens
  • American Colonies: The Settling of North America (audio)
  • The Queen of Attolia (audio)
  • Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen

 

Review: Hawkeye

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Title: Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon

Authors: Matt Fraction, David Aja

Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, and Kate Bishop, aka Hawkeye, team up in a series of adventures. The first stories are mainly about Clint, while the last story is mainly about Kate with the Young Avengers. The art was good, but the stories weren’t anything special. The exception was the last story about Clint and Kate. That one I really liked. This is part of the Marvel Now! series, which I have generally enjoyed and is available free through Kindle Unlimited.

Unlocking the Past

Title: On Little Wings

Author: Regina Sirois

I’d whispered the entire thing. Every detail that fit into words. It sounded so much more civilized when I whispered it, when I turned down the volume of the fear and disgust. But horrible things whispered are still horrible.

Jennifer’s family is turned upside down when she discovers a photograph of a young girl – a girl who looks surprisingly like Jennifer. The trouble – the picture is 20 years old. Her mom has lied about her past. She’s not an only child. She has a sister. Jennifer wants to meet this aunt, get to know her, but her mother wants Jennifer to leave it alone. After some negotiations, Jennifer heads to Maine to discover her family’s past and along the way, discover herself.

I heard a little about this YA book, enough to add it to my list and then forget about it. But when I found it free on Kindle Unlimited, I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did. I don’t read a lot of contemporary YA. Most of what I read is fantasy, so this was a change of pace for me, but it turned out to be a good one.

The story kind of struck home for me. My mom also had a sister she didn’t talk about. Her sister wasn’t a secret or anything, but it was still a big shock when this woman called from out of the blue saying, “Hi, I’m your aunt.” I already had an aunt, and I knew this woman was not her. I guess I experienced this story from the other side.

Our relationship was still distant and things didn’t turn out quite the way they did for Jennifer, but I still felt it was worth getting to know something about this stranger who was my relative. Now my mom and my aunt have both passed away and I can only guess at what their relationship used to be.

I recommend this one to anyone who likes contemporary YA. There is some romance, but that wasn’t what stuck with me about the book. What I liked was the main character herself and her journey to figure out who she was and where she belonged. 3.5 stars/5