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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

GUEST POST: Writing With Joy by Mercedes M. Yardley

Authors often discuss writing with the same weariness that we’d discuss any job. Let’s be realistic and admit that writing really is work. Authors need to set deadlines. Achieve goals. We have to glue ourselves to the chair even if it’s sunny outside/there’s a good rerun of something on TV/we don’t wanna. And sometimes we really don’t wanna.

True authors persevere. If we only write when the muse strikes, then perhaps we’d only be writing a few weeks of the year. The rest of the time we show up, work, create, and try to love every difficult, bloody second of it. And quite honestly, most of us do. There’s a masochistic side to writers. We’re a hardy bunch. We isolate ourselves and create worlds that don’t exist. We turn down movies and other things we want to do in order to slave over a manuscript and then send it to people who pick it apart and tell us everything wrong with it. We’re tough. We like challenges. We’re scrappy.

And then something magical happens, and we write pieces with pure joy.

Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy was this waterfall of happiness for me. I sat down to write a sequel to a novel, which would have been the responsible thing to do. But I had this one line in my head. “Bryony Adams was the type of girl who got murdered.”

What was this? This had nothing to do with my sequel! This was something different entirely! Why, that simply won’t do! I need to be professional. I need to stick with the plan, Stan. But this Bryony. Who is she? Why was she the type of girl who was murdered?

I needed to find out. I set my other project aside and dove into this new, exciting story with nothing more than that opening line. Bryony, her friends, the vengeful desert…they were all new. Intriguing to me. They took my breath away.

I loved them! Loved the characters and their simple goodness. Loved the way they spoke. They loved with their whole hearts. They were, for the most part, guileless. They exemplified the best of humanity. I cherished Bryony’s drive. Chad’s almost baffled devotion. I love the flowers that begged her to run, the celestial bodies that chattered to our mysterious star girl. I couldn’t get enough of the story, quite literally.

I wrote every spare moment. I dreamed of Bryony’s desert at night. After Thanksgiving dinner while everybody else conversed, I crept away and wrote more. This entire novel was written in three weeks.

Three weeks.

My soul was on fire. I had stardust in my eyes. I wrote with an urgency powered not by self-imposed deadlines or contracts, but with a joy that was completely unmatched. I finished this book feeling transformed. Cleansed in a way. I’ve never had that experience before or since. Every second was special. When I think of this book, I think of the pleasure that went into it. It was like an open conduit to the stars. A channel of pure joy. It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever written, and this is why.

Official Author Website
Order the book HERE
Read The Nocturnal Library's review of Pretty Little Dead Girls

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Mercedes M. Yardley has two broken laptops, three kids, a husband and no time to write, although she tries her very best. She likes to write stories. She likes to write poems. She likes to write essays and sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they aren’t. She is the author of Beautiful Sorrows, Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love, and Nameless: The Darkness Comes, which is the first book of what she is calling The Bone Angel Trilogy.

Want to a win a gorgeous hardcover edition of this lovely book, and a voodoo doll made by Mercedes herself as well as other goodies then enter the giveaway Rafflecopter giveaway.

NOTE: Bryony Star Girl art courtesy of Orion Zangara.
Sunday, September 28, 2014

2014 Cybils Awards Celebrating Great Children's and YA Books

The Cybils Awards are back! The Cybils, or Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards are held every year. I am excited to announce that I will be serving as a first round judge in the Middle Grade Speculative Fiction Category.

The Cybils provide a wonderful opportunity for passionate book blogger to gather together and recognize the most outstanding books of the year for a variety of YA and children categories that include graphic novels, fiction, poetry, picture books, and speculative fiction.  

This year I will be joined by an amazing group of first round judges who share a love of all things sci-fi, fantasy, and speculative fiction (and books in general!).

My fellow 2014 panelists include:
Rana Bardisi from Reader Noir
Sherry Early from Semicolon
Katy Kramp from A Library Mama
Brandy Painter from Random Musing of a Bibliophile
Charlotte Taylor from Charlotte's Library
Maureen Eichner from By Singing Light

Have a favorite book you want to see nominated?

Nominations for books to be considered come in via the public. That is your opportunity to nominate a favorite book in its appropriate category. The only requirement is the book must have been published between October 16, 2013 and October 15, 2014.

Nominations for books begin October 1, 2014 and runs until October 15, 2014. Visit the Cybils official website here to nominate your favorite title!
Friday, September 26, 2014

Interview with Robert J. Bennett (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Mr. Shivers
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of City Of Stairs

Robert Jackson Bennett is a writer who has made it extremely hard for reviewers and readers to pin his books down in any single genre. Readers though have lots to rejoice with the release of his books in the past few years as they all have been terrific to say the least. With his newest release City Of Stairs, he has gone on to write a book that is easily the one of the three best titles we have seen this year. Robert was kind enough to talk about the world and characters in City Of Stairs as well as his wacky twitter account. Read ahead and enjoy...

Q) Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic, thank you for joining us. How would you describe your writing style and which book of yours would you recommend readers start with? 

RJB: I would say that I write novels set in worlds where reality is somewhat soft, where there’s a great deal happening beyond the boundaries of conventional existence. Sometimes these function more like fantasies (The Troupe), and sometimes they function more like science fiction (American Elsewhere), but that’s what they are at their heart.

Q) You have in your previous works focused on various aspects of American life but then you also added some strange twists to them. What was your fascination with such aspects (Military-Industrial complex, Vaudeville, small town suburbia) of America? 

RJB: I suppose it’s because America is so vociferously rigorous about re-imagining itself in various forms and fantasies, with each era and facet about its own origins overloaded with stories, nuance, and symbols. Untangling and uprooting these elements is something of a hobby of mine.

Q) Talking about American Elsewhere, I loved the amalgamation of SF and the post-cold war era science race. What was the inception for its plot? 

RJB: It was actually an idea that eventually became City of Stairs. I was thinking of a city visited by a woman where all the residents were secretly gods. It was originally going to be this gothic, 1920’s affair, but I found I was bored with the “secret gods” idea in this regard, so it slowly morphed into Lovecraftian horrors. Lovecraft is really tied up with early 20th Century science, but it hadn't been paired up with mid-Century, golden-era sci-fi all that much, or so it seemed.

Q) Moving onto City Of Stairs, this is your first post-secondary fantasy world. Why did you wait to write about secondary fantasy so long? 

RJB: I didn't quite have a good enough idea to write about. I have to like the world enough for me to hang around in it for two to five years of my life or however long, and none of the ideas I had before this seemed worth it.

Q) In City Of Stairs, the naming convention seems to have a strong Indian & Russian bent to them. Was this a purposeful move on your part? 

RJB: A bit. The idea was inspired by a novel by Alan Furst, Dark Star, which is a WWII spy novel but the spy is a Soviet, operating in Eastern Europe. It was an interesting perspective that I rarely saw. I was thinking about setting a story in this region, this densely balkanized, patriarchal old world, and I thought it’d be very hard to be a diplomat in this region. I wondered which sort of person would clash the most in this place, and my immediately went to a Southeast Asian woman.

Q) Talking about the characters within your newest work, the protagonist Shara Komayd is a very fascinating character. Her past is shrouded with youthful mistakes but she now has gained experience & no longer sees the world with stark good-bad clarity. How did you approach writing about her? 

RJB: Shara was initially quite hard to write, because she is, like most spies, very withdrawn. She’s been burned before, she’s made mistakes, so she’s very careful not to let anything unintentional peek through. So this was difficult to write, in that on the surface she’s extraordinarily taciturn and doesn't let people in.

Except with her passion – history. History, I found, was the easiest way to get inside of Shara and see what made her tick.

Q) With regards to Saypur and its citizens, we are not given much of a glimpse into the island. Can you talk to us and describe what it is like? 

RJB: It’s extremely large, with northern coastline with many islands, very wet, very fertile, and very resource abundant. It’s also extremely modern, as all of its cities have been developed only in the past 50 years or so. In other words, it’s the opposite of the Continent in every way.

Q) Your book deals with some pretty heavy effects of history (or its denial), & colonialism. You also did a reverse with the brown folks subjugating the white people. Can you tell why you chose to go this way? 

RJB: There’s an ongoing issue with schoolbooks in Texas right now, in that our history textbooks have been heavily edited to make sure they’re presenting history in the “right way.” Often people don’t even bother to pretend that this isn't a nakedly political act. But people will always worry about history. They will worry that reality may claim that they are not important, that they are wrong, that the future might not go their way, so they wish to override it. It’s an impulse that is vain in both meanings of the word.

Q) This book is basically about science versus magic. Bulikov’s magical past versus Saypur’s technological advances. What truly is at stake as per your thinking? 

RJB: It’s not quite about that, though – it’s about the past versus the present. Almost no one controls the Continent’s magic – those who claim to often do so at their peril. And neither the Saypuri forces nor the Continental ones are particularly in the right – both are trying to force reality to bend to their wishes, either through laws or through miracles. What’s at stake is Shara’s heart – will she continue to enforce Saypur’s policies, or will she strike out on her own?

Q) Previously your book The Company Man came close to this style of noir wherein the protagonist ventured into a new environment, which is partly fascinating and partly hostile. Besides the magic component, which do you feel was the tougher environment for the protagonists? 

RJB: Probably the one in The Company Man. That city was wholly built and controlled by people with their own agenda, and it’s gamed in such a way that denying that agenda is almost impossible.

Bulikov, after the Blink, has no agenda. It’s structurally insane, and hazardous to everyone.

Q) What can you tell us about City Of Blades? What will be its plot focusing on? Will there be newer POV characters introduced? 

RJB: As I’m writing it, it’s Mulaghesh and Sigrud in the polis that once belonged to the Divinity of war and death, searching for a missing Ministry agent and trying not to interfere in one of the great construction projects intended to bring aid to the Continent. They’re two soldiers and killers in their own right, and both they and Saypur itself are wondering if they can change and move beyond their pasts.

Q) How many books do you plan to write in this series? Is there a title for it, I refereed to it as the Divinities series in my review as I haven’t found any official one so far. 

RJB: I’m not sure yet, to be honest. It could go in a lot of directions. I believe we’re considering calling it “The Continental Saga.” I’ll have to let you know!

Q) What are your thoughts on the current state of fantasy fiction, and what is fantasy to you? 

RJB: I don’t have much, I’m afraid. Sam Sykes made a very good point, though, in that we tend to ask what influenced a book or what other, highly regarded books it’s like, rather than what the book itself is actually about. That suggests how extraordinarily rigid our expectations are, in that the only way we can approach new fiction is by asking if it’s like what came before. If this is true, then it offers far less flexibility than I think a healthy genre needs.

Q) In many articles, you have mentioned how Alan Furst’s Dark Star and The Third Man were so instrumental in shaping the narrative focus of your story? What are your thoughts about recent TV series like Americans, Homeland that focus on such similar subjects but in America? 

RJB: I haven’t seen Homeland, but I do love The Americans. Spy stories, despite the Bond pyrotechnics, are intensely introspective stories, maybe the only action-packed introspective stories out there. The main driving force behind spy stories is doubt, so it’s immensely fruitful to point that doubt in new directions: be it a marriage, or a government or a faith.

Q) Your twitter account often seems to run in a very wacky manner. Can you say what’s your reasoning behind your goofy & sometimes NSFW tweets? 

RJB: There’s an idea in people’s heads that if they get to know me, personally, then that will somehow make your experience of my novels better. As if a personal relationship with me, perceived or real, will give people some desperately needed context.

I don’t believe this is true, and I often delight in denying people that connection online, providing an online persona that is wholly ridiculous.

NOTE: Author picture courtesy of the author himself.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rooms by Lauren Oliver (Reviewed by Will Byrnes)

Official Author Website
Order the book HERE
Read the Qwillery interview with Lauren Oliver

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Lauren Oliver, is the pen name adopted by Laura Schechter, a young author who has already seen considerable success with her youth-oriented novels, most notably the YA Delirium trilogy. Her latest YA novel, Panic, was released in March, 2014. Rooms is her first novel for adults. Oliver’s parents are both literature professors. Her father is Harold Schechter, who has written many books on true-crime and American popular culture. She currently lives in Brooklyn.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: "We’ve nested in the walls like bacteria. We’ve taken over the house, its insulation and its plumbing–we’ve made it our own. Or maybe it’s life that is the infection: a feverish dream, a hallucination of feelings. Death is purification, a cleansing, a cure."

If death ever takes a holiday I expect he might vacation in Coral River, the upstate New York locale where Richard Walker lives…well…lived. Richard’s recent passing is what has brought the Walker family back together for a spell. A funeral, a burial, a will-reading, and a chance to go over some of the events, the challenges, the hopes and disappointments, the failings of their lives.

Ex-wife Caroline tries to lubricate the process with a steady ingestion of alcohol. Their children are not faring much better. Twenty-something single-mother Minna has a taste for spirits as well. Failure and desperation to fill the emptiness inside will do that. Even the introduction of cosmetic surgery and various prescription meds seem unable to fill that void. Trenton is Richard and Caroline’s teenage son, and he has issues. He barely survived a car crash that left him feeling even more of an outsider than he already was. Trenton sees things that the rest of us cannot, actual holes in the fabric of reality. He wonders if he might be better off dead. Of course some of the household residents already are.

Sandra, whose gray matter once decorated a wall, and Alice, an abused wife who has also contributed to the body count of the house, have made the place their own, or is it the other way round? These golden girls are not necessarily precious. In addition to remembering their lives and observing the Walkers, they squabble and tell lies. And while they may not be able to exactly tote luggage or dig ditches, it is possible for them to effect small acts in the living world, pushing this, bursting that. Having some unresolved issues keeps them from being able to open a doorway to a less geographically restricted existence. Reports of missing children also figure in, from decades past and right now. There are plenty of secrets to be delved into here. Such as just how did Sandra and Alice die? What happened to the missing girls? Who is that new girl ghost who just showed up? And who is Minna banging now?

This is not a scary ghost story sort of tale. No spectres coming to take over anyone’s body. More Topper than The Evil Dead, although not a comedy. A bit of spookery goes on, but there are two elements here that seem dominant, mystery and sadness. In a way, I was reminded of Agatha Christie, as the author presents readers with a sequence of mysteries to be solved, offering clues here and there, hints, red herrings, the usual tools of that trade. While the ghosts may not be scary, their stories and the stories of the living as well are intensely haunting. Choices, mistakes, regrets, the impact of the past echoes in the present, for both the dead and the living.

Oliver organizes her story into eleven parts, representing diverse rooms in the house. The tales told connect with each room in turn. Rooms features an ensemble cast. Oliver’s characters are well-drawn and very human. It is hard not to sympathize with Alice or relate to Trenton. And it is possible to understand why some of the others behave the way they do, given what we learn of their histories.

There is a lot here about identity, being oneself or wanting to be someone, or something else, to have some other life, and coping with other people’s masks:

"It was unfair that people could pretend to be one thing when they were really something else. That they would get you on their side and then do nothing but fail, and fail, and fail again. People should come with warnings, like cigarette packs: involvement would kill you over time."

There is also a lot about being trapped whether as a child in a abusive household, a woman in an abusive marriage, a teen in what seems a dead-end existence, or a ghost in an empty house. There are some moments of humor, although none of the LOL variety, but dollops of charm do seep through the walls from time to time.

CONCLUSION: In short, Rooms is a fun, engaging and fast read. There is real content in the very believable characters’ attempts to make sense of their lives. While this spirited entry into the adult novel category is not the sort of ghost tale that will cause anyone to leave on the lights at night, there is considerable material here that is indeed quite haunting.

NOTE: This review was previously posted on Will's blog. Topper movie still courtesy of Vanessa Campos. Author picture courtesy of the author.
Monday, September 22, 2014

GUEST REVIEW: California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout (Reviewed by A. E. Marling)

Official Author Website
California Bones Website
Order California Bones HERE 
Read You Are The Magic You Eat by Greg Van Eekhout (Guest Post)
Watch John Scalzi interview Greg Van Eekhout about the book & its locations

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS:Psst! We’re planning a heist on the Ossuary, a vault of priceless dinosaur and dragon bones pulsing with magic. You in or you out?”

You had me at ‘Ossuary.’”

Nibble on kraken cartilage and possess the power of the typhoon. Gnaw on mastodon knuckles and gain gargantuan strength. Crunch on the porous wing bones of a griffin and leap into the air. Regenerate your dying friend with powdered hydra. Open secret ways with sphinx-tooth lock picks. A fossilized banquet of magic has bubbled up in the La Brea Tar Pits of California.

In the LA noir fantasy California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout, the Golden State has seceded from the nation thanks to the earthshaking powers of the Hierarch. He now rules the kingdom of Southern California. His nobles include Baron Chandler, Disney the Glamour Mage, and Mulholland the Water Mage.

In part because I live in the bellybutton of California, I loved the local references, such as the Battle of Santa Barbara. More than that, the setting is a delight, with Beverley Hills as the kingdom’s Golden City. Jade teeth veneers are coming into fashion, in part to cover the dental discoloring from magic absorbing into the skeletons of the osteomancers.

Daniel inherited his osteomancy from his father. That and his enemies. His father crafted Daniel the Vorpal Sword using his baby teeth. The Hierarch stole the sword after eating the bones of Daniel’s murdered father. Daniel now must recover his blade from the most secure vault in the kingdom, the Ossuary.

Every respectable heist needs a team of mavericks incapable of working together. I regret to say that Daniel’s associates are a little too trustworthy for my tastes. One regenerating hulk, one sharpshooting ex-lover, one shapeshifter, all are devoted to Daniel. Even the inside woman, the traitor who helps them plan the scheme, integrates with the rest of the friends with minimal fuss, though Daniel can’t be certain of her motivations. And, oh boy, are they interesting. The heist itself was everything I hoped for. The infiltrators must solve a sphinx’s riddle then brave the waterways under Hollywood guarded by lurking monstrosities. Daniel must face an enemy osteomancer who’s nearing magic feels like “a mass of roiling dragon and thundering mammoth herds.”

In the city’s more upright channels, Investigator Gabriel is searching for unauthorized osteomancers, such as Daniel. Gabriel hates the insipid schmoozing required to get ahead in Los Angeles. If only people could be silent together at parties. Gabriel believes in hard work and good bureaucracy. He also has a soft spot for hounds. That’s the name given to people with a gift for sniffing out magic. These “hounds” are enslaved and kept in kennels. Gabriel picks one about to be put down. The hound’s name is Max, and Gabriel lets the man walk around without a collar. The two form a friendship and begin tracking Daniel even as he pursues vengeance against the Hierarch.

California Bones is a short novel with a light plot, more of an ulna bone than a femur. The ending did not thrill me in terms of pacing, and the protagonist’s victory struck me as too easy. His character change seemed unsupported. That said, the heroes of pulp fiction rarely change at all, and this fun story tips its fedora to that genre. I smiled at many of the book’s lines, such as the description of a man who had “a confidence that must’ve required dance lessons.”

CONCLUSION: The last thing I should mention is that mages are often on the menu. The feast description doesn't reach G.R.R.M. levels, but a little cannibalism goes a long way. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to blend a blueberry smoothie with the fossilized tooth of a megalodon shark. Then I’ll swim out of San Francisco Bay and into the sunset.

GUEST AUTHOR INFORMATION: A.E. Marling is a fantasy writer, dancer, law-abiding citizen, human being (in that order). Discover his fantasy-appreciation blog and follow him on Twitter, @AEMarling, or the kitty gets it.
Friday, September 19, 2014

GUEST POST: Known Things by Edward Cox

A certain kind of vindication, a validation, comes with signing a book deal. Someone like Gollancz doesn’t buy your novel unless they believe it is good enough to publish. Knowing this will patch up the shaky confidence of any writer, at least for a time. However, writing a novel good enough for Gollancz is only the beginning, because when you’ve signed up for a trilogy, you sort of have to do it again.

There’s a big difference between knowing a thing and experiencing it. I’ve often learned this the hard way, and it’s one of the themes of The Relic Guild, a book that took me two and half years to write. Actually, no – it took me two and a half years to finish. Other stories were written during that time, I took breaks from writing altogether, and when I did work it was at a leisurely, relaxed pace. In fact, writing The Relic Guild was no more stressful than deciding which sort of cake I would eat with my cup of tea, primarily because there was no deadline.

Dead. Line. Sounds sinister, doesn’t it?

I always knew that getting a book deal would mean that any sequels had to be written to a deadline, but I’m not sure anything can prepare an author for how it will affect them when it happens. Signing that contract carries a responsibility, which I understood straight away, and was ready to shoulder. There was a whole year and a quarter to go before deadline, and that was plenty of time to get book two written. No worries! You should have seen how carefree and confident I was at the beginning. I only wish that I had a before and after picture to show you.

For the record, I should say that book two of The Relic Guild was mostly a joy to write. It continued the story as I wanted it to; all the seeds I’d sown grew into sturdy plot threads; there were twists and surprises along the way, and much more meat on the bones of my material than I realised there would be. But what I hadn’t factored in to my process was how much benefit I gained from all that time I’d spent not writing book one. As a lot of writers will tell you, it’s important to occasionally step away from a work in progress, as it freshens the eyes and clears the mind. Not so for me. Not this time. And so a doubt blossomed at the back of my mind: I was about to learn the hard way again.

The mistake I made was believing that I’d used a quantifiable process with writing The Relic Guild, which could be used again with the sequel. Two and a half years it took me to finish the first book, but I reasoned that if you removed all the time I had spent not writing it, that would mean the novel had been completed in only one year. Therefore, with a whole year and a quarter to finish book two, the maths was looking very much in my favour. This is fine in theory, but in practice? I discovered that writers can be masters of creating their own stress.

Book two of The Relic Guild was also a nightmare to write. I mean that literally. I had bad dreams about it. Especially during the last two months when I had to cut 20,000 words, realised it was 15,000 words longer than book one, and had to give the final quarter such an extensive rewrite that I worked days and nights and weekends, only breaking to eat and sleep, for eight weeks solid.

Imagine the wild-haired writer, tearing up sheets of paper as he ignores his family, bemoaning his blocked genius, destined to be misunderstood, and blah, blah, and so on and so forth, and all the other ridiculous dramas of the creative dreamer that should gain not one jot of sympathy from anyone on this planet. I pretty much played them all out during those last two months, and I worked on that manuscript until the very last second ticked down to deadline.

Dead. Line.

There really is a big difference between thinking you know a thing and experiencing it for real. I’m trying very hard to remember this as I head in to write the third and final part of The Relic Guild trilogy. I’m hoping I’m a little wiser now, but that small doubt remains at the back of my mind. I imagine that it sounds like Han Solo telling Luke Skywalker not to be cocky, and maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’ll keep me on my toes this time, and learning the hard way won’t always be my forte.

Official Author Website
Order the book HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Edward Cox began writing stories at school as a way to pass time in boring lessons. With his first short story published in 2000, Edward spent much of the next decade earning a BA 1st class with honours in creative writing, and a Master degree in the same subject. He then went on to teach creative writing at the University of Bedfordshire.

Currently living in Essex with his wife and daughter, Edward is mostly surrounded by fine greenery and spiders the size of his hand. The Relic Guild is his first completed novel, and it is the result of more than ten years of obsessive writing.

 This is part of Ed's Blog tour and my thanks to Sophie Calder for giving us the chance to participate. The readers can check out the rest of his stops:

15th September: (1) Interview over at Geek Planet Online
                                    (2) Guest post over at Falcata Times

16th September: (1) Interview over at Book Plank
                                    (2) Guest post over at Sci-Fi London

17th September: (1) Audio book clip over at Cult Den
                                    (2) Guest post over at Reader Dad

18th September: (1) Guest post over at Wonderous Reads
                                    (2) Interview with Alasdair Stuart

19th September: (1) Audio book clip over at Geek Native
                                    (2) FBC guest post

20th September: (1) Interview over at Fantasy Book Review
                                     (2) Guest post over at Civilian Reader

NOTE: All pictures courtesy of the author.
Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cover and Blurb Reveal: The Broken Road (The Frayed Empire #1) by Teresa Frohock

Official Author Website
Order The Broken Road HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Miserere
Read an excerpt of Love Crystal and Stone by Teresa Frohock

I would like to thank Teresa for giving us a chance to host this reveal of her upcoming dark fantasy-horror novella The Broken Road. Checkout the striking cover which is courtesy of Kelly Crimi. This is book one of The Frayed Empire series and here’s what the The Broken Road is all about:

 The world of Lehbet is under siege. The threads that divide Lehbet from the mirror world of Heled are fraying, opening the way for an invasion by an alien enemy that feeds on human flesh. 

 Travys, the youngest of the queen’s twin sons, was born mute. He is a prince of the Chanteuse, nobles who channel their magic through their voices. Their purpose is to monitor the threads and close the paths between the worlds, but the Chanteuse have given themselves over to decadence. They disregard their responsibilities to the people they protect—all but Travys, who fears he’ll fail to wake the Chanteuse to Heled’s threat in time to prevent the destruction of Lehbet

 Within the palace, intrigue creates illusions of love where there is none, and when Travys’ own brother turns against him, he is forced to flee all that he has known and enter the mirror world of Heled where the enemy has already won. In Heled, he must find his true voice and close the threads, or lose everyone that he loves. 

Also if any of you haven’t read Teresa’s previous works then why haven’t you done so yet? As a reader, I love her combination of dark, fantastical settings combined with terrific prose & flawed but strong characters. This is what, some folks who have read this gorgeous story, have to say about it:

This is the kind of rich, fevered, and nuanced worldbuilding that is fast becoming Frohock’s signature style. Amazing characters, deception and danger around every corner, and with real stakes and high costs for victory, I couldn’t put it down until it was over, and when it was, my only thought was, “Please, sir, I want some more!”M. L. Brennan, author of Generation V and Iron Night.

A silent hero in a world where magic comes through voices has to find his own way to save his people in Teresa Frohock's gripping new fantasy. – Alex Bledsoe, author of The Hum and the Shiver

The Broken Road is a page-turner (and a roaring good read) set in a richly textured world where magic is both beautiful and nightmarish, and where power is contested from first breath to last. Frohock's imagination always draws me in, but it's her seamless writing and satisfyingly complicated characters that keep me reading to the last word. – Sabrina Vourvoulias, author of Ink

The Broken Road is an alt-world tale of betrayal and redemption and the burden of love. Sharp of wit and fantastically imagined, Teresa Frohock weaves beauty in silence. – Tim Marquitz, author of the Demon Squad series

As for me, I’ll be dipping into this new title from one of my favorite authors straight away and be on the lookout for the review next week.

NOTE: TBE cover courtesy of the author. Author picture courtesy of Jennifer Neri.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"The Accidental Keyhand: Ninja Librarian Book 1" by Jen Swann Downey (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Visit the Official Website for Jen Swann Downey Here

OVERVIEW: Just a little story about your average sword-swinging, karate-chopping, crime-fighting ninja librarians

Dorrie Barnes had no idea an overdue library book would change her life. When Dorrie and her brother Marcus chase her pet mongoose into the janitor's closet of their local library, they accidentally fall through a passage into Petrarch's Library -the headquarters of a secret society of ninja librarians who have an important mission: protect those whose words have gotten them into trouble. Anywhere in the world and at any time in history.

Dorrie would love nothing more than to join the society. But when a traitor surfaces, she and her friends are the prime suspects. Can they clear their names before the only passage back to the twenty-first century closes forever?

FORMAT: The Accidental Keyhand is the first book in the Ninja Librarian series. It is a children's fantasy novel that combines time traveling, adventure, sword fighting, magic, and mystery. It stands at 384 pages and was published April 15, 2014 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

ANALYSIS: When I first saw Ninja Librarians in the library, I was a bit unsure how this book would be received. It seemed to take a whole bunch of random stuff and pack it into one book. It claimed to have adventure, mystery, time-traveling, ninjas/fighting, libraries, and lots and lots of books. There was a lot that could go wrong with this book, so I approached it cautiously.

After reading it, all I can say is – I was wrong. Ninja Librarians is a fun, adventurous children's novel that is unique, fast-paced and designed for readers of all ages. At just under 400 pages, this novel creates a truly unique world, takes readers on an adventure, and leaves the door open for more adventure and fun!

The basics of the plot for this first book of the series is that two youngsters – Dorrie and Marcus – fall through a portal of sorts. The portal, which is located in the closest of their local library, takes them to a mysterious labyrinth that is made up of dozens of different libraries. Only these libraries are connected to different parts of the word and different times.

The labyrinth, which is known as Petrarch's Library, is actually a secret headquarters of sorts for librarians who are fighting to protect the rights of others who have gotten in trouble for what they wrote/penned. Librarians aren't the people that you see behind the desk. These librarians are trained fighters who are quick on their feet and ready to fight.

The Accidental Keyhand follows Dorrie and Marcus as they learn more about Petrarch's Library and fight to earn a place in the highly secretive society. Unfortunately, there is an evil counter organization out there that would like nothing more than to see Petrarch's Library and all those associated with it taken down. Dorrie and Marcus must work to clear their name and prove they are not a part of this society before it is too late.

 There is so much to like about The Accidental Keyhand - the strong, fast-paced nature of the writing, the unique world that is created, and the likeable characters. It is almost impossible to know where to start.

Jen Swann Downey does an amazing job of crafting a story that moves at an extremely fast-pace, but that doesn't seem to brush over tiny details. While reading, I was able to acquaint myself with the world, learn about the characters, and get a whole backstory to the main story, without feeling like I was being bogged down with endless details or unimportant information. In fact, the whole story seemed to just fly right by and before I knew it – the book was over.

The world of Petrarch's Library did take some time to get used to. I was afraid it wouldn't work, but something 'clicked' halfway through and I found it intriguing. I've seen some people compare the world to Harry Potter and that feeling they got when reading that series. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but there is a certain magical, unique feel to Petrarch's Library that makes the entire novel feel special.

One of the amazing things about The Accidental Keyhand is that I really feel it appeals to both children and adults. Yes, for all intense and purposes it is a children's fantasy novel, but it really has a gripping, page-turning quality to it that will make adults like it. Adults will certainly like the way favorite books/literary characters are weaved into the novel without seeming forced.

Overall, The Accidental Keyhand is a truly amazing, fun read. In fact, I almost wish I could become a Ninja Librarian – but I won't be asked! I anxiously await the next book in this series and until then, you'll be able to find me looking for an entrance to Petrarch's Library!
Tuesday, September 16, 2014

NEWS: Pretty Little Dead Things by Mercedes M. Yardley and Straggletaggle by J. M. McDermott

Press Release: “Murder and whimsy.” These things may sound incompatible, but dark fantasy author Mercedes M. Yardley’s latest novel manages to entwine the two concepts with lyrical language, beautiful imagery—and a high body count.

Ragnarok Publications is proud to announce the release of Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy, coming on September 29th. A dark but lovely fairy tale, this is Yardley at her finest: a tapestry of lush imagery, poetic prose, and beautiful violence about a woman destined to be murdered and her flight from Fate’s inevitable—yet seemingly terrible—marksmanship.

Yardley’s fans are no strangers to her lovely, tragic style. She is also the author of the acclaimed novella “Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love”, winner of the 2013 Reddit Stabby Award for Best Short Fiction, and the novel Nameless: The Darkness Comes, the first of The Bone Angel trilogy.

The creation of Pretty Little Dead Girls was something special for Yardley, however: “Pretty Little Dead Girls was created out of sheer joy,” Yardley says. “I've never experienced anything like it. This novel was written in three weeks. It bled from my pores, it was so intense. But so joyful.”

Hugo award-winning artist Galen Dara was commissioned to create a cover image that would capture the idea of lovely murder. The result, coupled with the design skills of J.M. Martin, is absolutely stunning. So stunning, in fact, that Ragnarok Publications has decided to release a special, limited hardcover edition of the book. Only one hundred of these signed hardcovers will be available, and preorders have already begun.

Also included in the package for the preordered hardcovers is a signed print from artist Orion Zangara, renowned for creating fairy tales with his lavish pen and ink drawings. Dark and evocative, this stunning image by Zangara was made with a particular scene from Pretty Little Dead Girls in mind.

Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy is not just a novel; with the poignant words of Mercedes M. Yardley, and the haunting images of both Dara and Zangara, it is, without a doubt, a work of art. The special signed hardcover edition of Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy, along with the Orion Zangara print, is NOW AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER.

Also author J. M. McDermott is kickstarting his newest standalone dark fantasy-steampunk amalgamation titled Straggletaggle. Here's the blurb for this exciting tale:

 "The clockwork kingdom of Saxonia engineered itself into a machine of the law, refashioning even its citizens’ bodies into cogs and pistons. Before the chirurgeons and engineers splice his brain inside the crown, Prince Hollownot escapes into the kingdom’s flogistan soul, where he sees all possible futures. In one, Princess Sapsorrow can break the law with contradiction and shatter the kingdom. But saving the world from the machine comes at a high price: Her love, her family, and her physical body will all be destroyed."

 "The neighboring kingdom of Bavaria has seen nothing come past the great clockwork wall of Saxonia for centuries until a Straggletaggle appears with an odd physiognomy — maybe human, maybe not — and an incredible tale of escape from Saxonia. She claims ignorance of the nearby fatal airship crash and the exquisite prosthetic foot in the wreckage. When a phonograph wrapped in the shell of a man arrives demanding Princess Sapsorrow’s return, Bavaria's disgraced prince and scientist princess, with their intrepid bodyguard, embark on a perilous mission with the Straggletaggle as their guide, to stop a war that, should it start, can only end with Saxonia turning the people of Bavaria into components of its horrific machine."

With a complex world setting, this book will be a must read for all those readers who are tired of simplistic fantasy stories. So please do consider donating to this wonderful project & helping out a wonderful author at the same time.

NOTE: All images courtesy of the respective authors.

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