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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Living End by Craig Schaefer (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order The Living End HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Long Way Down
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The White Gold Score
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Redemption Song
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Winter's Reach
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Instruments Of Control
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Craig Schaefer

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Craig Schaefer was born in Chicago and wanted to be a writer since a very young age. His writing was inspired by Elmore Leonard, Richard Stark, Clive Barker & H. P. Lovecraft. After reaching his 40th birthday he decided to give in to his passion and since then has released twelve novels in the last three years. He currently lives in Joliet, Illinois and loves visiting museums and libraries for inspiration.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: As the FBI closes in on the Las Vegas underworld, Daniel Faust -- grifter, thief, and sorcerer -- isn't the only one feeling the heat. Half-demon racket boss Nicky Agnelli is fighting to hang onto his empire, leaving a trail of dead informants in his wake, while Daniel's ex-girlfriend Jennifer rallies her forces on the street and aims her sights at Nicky's crown.

Meanwhile, homeless people are vanishing by the dozens. Daniel has bigger problems to worry about, but a plea from an old friend sends him on a search for answers. What he finds is a conspiracy twenty years in the making, involving a power-hungry senator, occult experiments, murderous British mercenaries...and Lauren Carmichael, Daniel's nemesis.

From a gunfight in the Arizona badlands to unearthing buried secrets in a New York laboratory, the hunt is on. With Lauren's deadly plan revealed and time running out, Daniel and his crew will stop at nothing to take her down. She's got the law in her pocket and a hired army at her back. He's got black magic, bullets, and the art of the con. It's high noon in Vegas and when the dust settles, only one side will be left standing.

May the best villain win.

FORMAT/INFO: The Living End is 381 pages long divided over forty-five chapters and a prologue and an epilogue. Narration is in the first-person, via Daniel Faust solely and different third-person narratives for the prologue and epilogue. This is the third book in The Daniel Faust series.

August 27, 2014 marked the North American paperback and e-book publication of The Living End and it was self-published by the author. Cover art and design is by James T. Egan of Bookfly Design.

CLASSIFICATION: Featuring a cast of anti-heroes and with a magician con-man as the protagonist, the Daniel Faust series is Richard Stark's Parker crossed with The Dresden Files and set in Las Vegas.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Living End is the third volume in the Daniel Faust series and brings to a close to the first arc of the series (Lauren Carmichael trilogy). This book like its predecessors has a host of plot threads that are set into play. In reviewing this book, I'll have to discuss some plot points from the previous titles so be warned those who detest even mild spoilers or haven't read the previous titles.

The previous titles have had Faust clash with both Lauren Carmichael and Harmony Black, due to his meddling, they both have felt repercussions in their plans. So they both are trying to get back at him albeit in completely different ways. Lauren has her sights set on her grand plan that Daniel disrupted so bitterly in The Long Way Down. She also has her personal psychopath Meadow Brand who hates Faust for reasons that are cosmetic but are important to her nonetheless. Lauren's new plan that's set into motion, is the culmination of her efforts from the past two decades.

Harmony on the other hand is a law-abiding officer who is simply doing her job and is the Ahab to Faust's Moby. She might not be as vehement as Ahab was but she's dedicated to putting behind bars, folks who operate on the other side of the law. Daniel is set in her sights because of the events in Redemption Song due to which an honest man's life was upended and ruined. She begrudges his cavalier attitude and wants an end to his nefarious activities. Due to the actions of both these ladies, the law is coming down hard on the gangs in Las Vegas and it has Nicky Angelli in its sights because of his position as the Cosa Nostra head. This sets off a survival mechanism in many players' minds and foremost is Jennifer whose drug enterprise has been taking some serious hits due to all the legal issues.

All of these plot threads are set into motion and there's a lot more happening which will bring to a close the first arc in this highly absorbing series. I very much enjoyed this book as it's action packed (even much more than Redemption Song) and it builds up on the events from the last two books, bringing to a successful conclusion all of the stories that have been set up. In this aspect, Craig Schaefer really shows off his storytelling & plotting skills as the readers get the big payoff that has been in the making from the first book. I like it when authors really plot things well and it seems that Craig Schaefer really has all of his ducks in a row. There's also minor things introduced in the book which I believe will fuel the next arc. This is highly indicated in the epilogue which has been the case in all the books so far.

It was fun to read Daniel fight against both Harmony and Lauren, though they both are on different ends of the moral spectrum. Harmony Black is such a terrific character and even though she's an antagonist to Faust (from a plot perspective), you have to admire her tenacity and moral strength. I'm glad she's got her own spinoff series as I can't wait to read about the world & Faust from her POV. Daniel Faust as always is the solo narrator and he's back to his amoral self. This book though is a bit better now that his relationship with Caitlin is strengthened. He also wants to bring to an end to Lauren Carmichael for her murderous actions but to truly end her, he needs to find out her history and her source of powers. All of this is very fascinatingly revealed in this volume and I hope the author further explores some of the concepts, worlds & history that he introduces within.

This book is one of the most action-packed ones of the series. The climax deals with some pretty major sequences and also has some tinges of horror to it. I loved how the author really dug into the main antagonist's past as well as show some fascinating world-building bits. After reading the next couple of books, I realize how crucial these bits are and how much they go into the overall picture. Another plus point of this series is the gorgeous cover art and this book has one that specifically ties into one crucial plot point and adds to the creepiness factor. As far as any drawbacks, I didn't find any besides major ones.  This book draws on a lot of threads from the past two books and while giving them a resounding climax, it also makes sure that the epilogue lays the groundwork for the forthcoming sequels.

CONCLUSION: All in all this book is a superb read and brings to a throughly solid conclusion to the Lauren Carmichael arc of the Daniel Faust series and it just highlights how well plotted and written this series is (so far). In this regards, it fares much better than the Dresden Files if you directly compare the first 3 books. This series is shaping up to a fascinating read and each book just seems to up the ante. Craig Schaefer is rapidly becoming my favorite author and so far he hasn't disappointed me in the least. The Living End has a fantastic conclusion and is a book that will resonate with its readers for its dark storyline, action-packed plot & a morally loose protagonist who will do his best to accomplish what he thinks is right.
Friday, January 27, 2017

GUEST BLOG: At Night the City Streets Became a Forest by M.A. Griffin (Author of Lifers)

Fantasy Book Critic is excited to take part in the blog tour (thaks to RockStar Book Tours) for the soon-to-be released book Lifers by M.A. Griffin. Lifers is scheduled to be released January 31, 2017 by Chicken House (Scholastic). Find it available for purchase at AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksAudibleGoodreads

About Lifers:  

Fear haunts the streets of Preston's city: a girl has disappeared. Preston is drawn to investigate, exploring the city in the hunt for his missing friend. And deep in the bowels of a secret scientific institute, he discovers a sinister machine used to banish teenage criminals for their offenses.

Captured and condemned to a cavernous dimension, Preston is determined to escape. But this is no ordinary jail. Friendships will be forged and lives will be lost in a reckless battle for freedom, revenge--and revolution. 

Set in a world all too similar to our own, Lifers is thrilling, pulse-pounding storytelling of the highest degree. 

Today as part of the blog tour, M.A. Griffin stops by to talk about how he took the familiar setting of Manchester and turned it into an unfamiliar setting that readers found to be different and alternative.

Before welcoming M.A. Griffin, I'd like to supply you with an overview of the book. If you would like to read other guest blog posts by this author or read some reviews, feel free to visit the other blogs on this blog tour. And of course, you can enter the blog tour giveaway for your chance to win a copy of Lifers!

Blog Tour Schedule -
Week One:
1/23/2017- YA Book MadnessInterview
1/24/2017-Here's to Happy EndingsReview
1/25/2017-Novel NoviceExcerpt
1/26/2017- A Dream Within A DreamReview
1/27/2017- Fantasy Book CriticGuest Post

Week Two:
1/30/2017- Hopelessly Devoted BibliophileReview
1/31/2017- Tales of the Ravenous ReaderInterview
2/1/2017- Book-KeepingReview
2/2/2017- Wishful EndingsInterview
2/3/2017- A Gingerly ReviewReview

Without further ado, I welcome M.A. Griffin. 
 At Night the City Streets Became a Forest by M.A. Griffin

Lifers, my YA thriller, is set in Manchester, a UK city that’s often familiar to non-Brits because of its connection with football and music. It’s been my home now for over twenty-five years since the day I arrived, bright-eyed and terrified, as an eighteen-year-old student. (Manchester University is considered a pretty good place to study but I’d chosen it based on one factor: I figured I’d got a decent chance of ‘accidentally’ bumping into Morrissey.) 

Anyway. One day a few years back I was hanging out in The Whitworth, an art gallery in the heart of Manchester’s student-land, and I saw this awesome video installation. It was by Willie Doherty, and it was called The Visitor. There were long slow shots of Belfast towerblocks cut with dark woodland sequences, the camera passing low through roots and fallen leaves; this striking contrast of the urban and the wild with a voiceover that finished by saying, “…at night, the city streets became a forest.” Terrific, eh? I was blown away by the idea that a city might change at night – after we’ve all gone to sleep – into something feral.

That’s one of the places Lifers started; with this idea that a kid might wake at night to find his or her world utterly changed.

I called the setting of Lifers ‘Dark Manchester’ because I wanted to make this distinction between the knowable reality of the city during the day, and the unfamiliar, frightening city of the night. There’s this moment near the start of the book where Preston, my protagonist, is being interviewed by the cops about his missing friend. He’s exhausted and sleepless. As he crosses the boundary between day and night his surroundings change; “The room seemed to dip into darkness, as if a shadow had shouldered the moon out for a moment.” That’s my feeble attempt at distilling what I’m trying to get at I s’pose. 

Here’s the thing, though – this head-stretching defamiliarisation happens more often (and more powerfully) when you’re a kid. We’re scared of monsters under the bed because our cosy familiar room actually becomes a distinct, parallel place in the dark. There’s this poem by British poet Simon Armitage that covers similar territory. Here’s the deal: imagine finding a huge abandoned tractor tyre up on the moors and, along with a gang of mates, lifting it upright and rolling it onto the road. Once on tarmac this vast tyre accelerates, breaks free of your grip and rolls over the lip of the hill down towards a nearby village. Terrified, you chase it, imagining a trail of devastation. Instead?   

…down in the village the tyre was gone…
Not there or anywhere. No trace. Thin air.

What I love most about the poem is how the young poet justifies the tyre’s mysterious disappearance: 

Being more in tune with the feel of things
than science and facts, we knew that the tyre
had travelled too fast for its size and mass…
and at that moment gone beyond itself
towards some other sphere, and disappeared.

I guess the possibility for a kind of dislocating magic – ‘some other sphere’ – is much higher in childhood. The Dark Manchester of Lifers is my other sphere. I get to move landmarks, adjust roads and buildings and generally meddle with things to make weirdness happen. And I had an absolute blast doing it!

Tell you what though – there’s no chance of ‘accidentally’ bumping into Morrissey in either city. Having spent a quarter-century trying, I can declare that feat, at least, to be officially impossible. 

About M.A:
I'm a writer of children's fiction, represented by Ben Illis at the B.I.A., available for workshops and school visits when I'm not chained to a laptop cursing my lack of progress and/or poverty of imagination.

My debut novel, The Poison Boy, was written as Fletcher Moss. My second novel, Lifers, is my first for teen readers. It arrives April 2016.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

GIVEAWAY: Win a Copy of Terry Goodkind's Death's Mistress: Sister of Darkness

We are celebrating the release of Terry Goodkind's new book Death's Mistress: Sister of Darkness by providing you with the chance to win a copy! All you have to do is follow the rules, send an email, and you are entered to win!

To learn more about Death's Mistress: Sister of Darkness, visit our Book Release Day Blitz post that features a summary and more information regarding this wonderful book.The post can be found here.

A huge thank you to Tor for providing us with the opportunity to give our readers a chance to win a copy of this book! 


Giveaway Rules

1. This contest is open to the US and Canada. 

2. Contest starts January 24, 2017 and ends February 2, 2017 at 12:01 a.m. EST. Entries after this time period will not be considered. 

3. Only one entry per person. 

4. To enter please send an email with the subject "DEATH'S MISTRESS" to Please include your name, email, and physical address you want the book sent to. 

5. One entry will be picked at random to win a copy. 

6. All entries will be deleted once a winner is picked and contacted. 

Good luck!

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