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Thursday, August 5, 2021

To Awaken in Elysium by Raymond St. Elmo review


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Order To Awaken in Elysium over HERE (USA) or HERE(UK)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Raymond St. Elmo wandered into a degree in Spanish Literature, which gave no job, just a love of Magic Realism. Moving on to a degree in programming gave him a job and an interest in virtual reality and artificial intelligence, which lead him back into the world of magic realism. Author of many fantasy books, possibly comic, certainly unusual. He lives in Texas.

FORMAT/INFO: Self-published on July 29, 2021 | 244 Pages | 

OVERVIEW: The story opens with a car chase on a stormy night. With thunders, lightning, and heavy rain. Unusual things happen but I wouldn’t expect anything less.

The titular Elysium is a sleepy farm town with a weird side. And lots of graveyards. The new art teacher, Cora Waterhouse, expected her assignment to be dull. Instead, she starts bedding a ghost. The new English teacher, Trey Street, takes poetry seriously. His students think he’s a poser, he thinks he’s fascinating. 

They both give their students similar assignments. Cora wants her students to paint clouds. Trey expects them to write a story about what they see in the clouds. Written by hand because: “pen and paper discouraged copy-and-paste, encouraged originality. Pens, pencils, clay tablets or quills and parchment... physical writing created a link twixt hand, heart and word. “

The story features more characters, some alive (local youth, their parents, and teachers) some undead (I’ve mentioned graveyards, right? Graveyards and ghosts go together). Each of them has a role to play, a truth to discover, a life to experience.

Like most of St. Elmo’s books, To Awaken in Elysium is philosophical, humorous, and romantic. It’s filled with quotable lines, intriguing thoughts, and metaphysical yearnings. It plays with the narrative and contains stories within stories (even a few rated by the lunatic English teacher). The book culminates with a poetry slam in which a living poet faces a dead poet. It’s...unusual. And immensely fun!

To Awaken in Elysium won’t appeal to everyone; it lacks high stakes or tight plotting. It defies easy categorization and plays with readers’ expectations and assumptions. It’s lighthearted, yes, but also sad and nostalgic. Its characters want more than trivial jobs and lives. They believe in art and creativity. It’s the book you read for excellent prose, intriguing humor, excellent and humorous wordplay. Take this quick exchange between Cora and her ghost lover, for example:

“Hmm. Wasn’t your hair brown? 

“Seriously? I dyed it. Weeks ago, I point out.” 

“Well, I died too. Weeks ago, I also point out.”

Or this description of the darker sides of some lives in small towns.

“Well, teacher-lounge rumor said the boy lived a latch-key life. His father spending the days fishing, so drunk by sunset the fish sent him home, calling him a cab, helping with his coat and tackle box…”

If you’re into slice-of-life coming-of-age stories with metaphysical ambitions tempered with self-deprecating (but subtle) humor, you can’t go wrong with To Awaken in Elysium. If you like ghost sex, it’s here, too. Vampires? You’re covered. Tigers? There’s one in Elysium. In other words, it’s a journey worth taking!

PS: Now, I need to discover the weird and unexpected side of Theory, the last of the forgotten cities in Central Texas. To Awaken in Elysium is a part of the series of standalone novels depicting the weird side of the following towns: Angelica (Stations of the Angels), Elysium (To Awaken in Elysium), Hell (Letters from The Well in The Season of the Ghosts), and Theory (In Theory, It Works Fine). 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Interview with Nicole Willison, the author of Tidepool

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nicole Willson lives outside of Washington, DC with her husband and her cats. She has been a frequent visitor to small coastal towns located along the Eastern seaboard but has yet to see anything truly alarming emerge from those waters, much to her disappointment. She's hopeful that her lifelong aversion to eating fish or seafood might earn her a little mercy when the hungry ocean gods finally start coming ashore.

Find Nicole online: Website, Twitter, Instagram

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Audiobook Giveaway: Pawn's Gambit by Rob J. Hayes & narrated by Kim Bretton


Official Author Website
Order Pawn’s Gambit over HERE (USA) and HERE (UK)Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Pawn’s Gambit
Monday, August 2, 2021

Tidepool by Nicole Willison review

Tidepool by Nicole Willison Book Review

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Friday, July 30, 2021

SPFBO: The Fourth Depletion & Semifinalist Update (by Mihir Wanchoo)


Read Fantasy Book Critic’s first semifinalist update

Read Fantasy Book Critic’s second semifinalist update

Read Fantasy Book Critic’s third semifinalist update


Thursday, July 29, 2021

Blogtour: Interview with B.T. Keaton, the author of Transference

Thank you for joining us, B.T., and welcome to Fantasy Book Critic! Before we start, tell us a little about yourself.

Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of this, and please, do call me Brandon. We’re all friends here (laughs).

Okay Brandon, before we start, tell us a little about yourself.

I’m not sure how to answer that succinctly and not come across as more interesting than I really am. I’m just a big kid really. I love to help people, and I love to laugh, and to make people laugh. If you want to delve deeper we’d need an hour or two (laughs).

Do you have a day job? If so, what is it?

I am the office manager for a small tech company here in New Zealand. It’s a somewhat sophisticated title for what’s easily the most expendable job in the office (laughs).

Who are your favorite current writers, and who are your greatest influencers?

Grady Hendrix really blew me away this year with “Southern Guide” by not only taking me out of my comfort zone and scaring me, but also taking me back to a different place in time. I’m an unashamed, lifelong fan of Tolkien. Jeff Smith was and is a huge influence on me to this day. But my greatest influences would have to be my late parents, John and Natalie. I just want to make them proud of me, even if only in some small way.

Serious writing takes not only a story to tell, but the craft of writing to tell it well—can you comment on your journey as a writer?

I’ve recently discovered that, among the writing community, I’m what’s referred to as a “pantser.” Pretty funny really because it’s fairly accurate. I start with a general idea and then that seems to morph and take shape from someplace I don’t know where. I love that part of the process, though, because I think any good idea probably should go beyond what we ourselves imagine it to be in its infancy. I’m not saying I’ve always been able to do that with my ideas, but I try to let go of the reins enough to at least allow for it. As far as learning to write? I’m pretty certain I have my schoolteachers and all the guys and gals writing in the comic book industry in the 80s and 90s to blame for that. (laughs)

What do you think characterizes your writing style?

I think of everything I write in a cinematic sense. I don’t fully know why that is. It could be from my boyhood in the 80s, and growing up with film, and being so influenced at a young age by the movies. You’ve only got roughly two hours to tell a good story on the screen, which is ironically about the length of my attention span on a really good day (laughs). But yeah, you know, I guess my writing style, if you could even call it that, is just an outgrowth of thinking visually.

How would you describe the plot of Transference if you had to do so in just one or two sentences?

It’s interesting though because when people ask me about it, if they allow me, I’ll go off on several tangents. And some people get it and some people don’t. If I were a super-hero I’d be the guy who had the power to make eyes glaze over. (laughs) Honestly though? I think Foreword Clarion reviews said it best when they wrote, “… self-sacrifice, a desire for revenge, and a mother’s love could save the world in this….”

Okay, so you have decided to write a book, where did you start? Research? A scene that came to you? A character that you dreamed up? Tell us what got the ball rolling?

If we’re talking about Transference specifically, the idea came to me because I wanted to criss-cross something like Ghostbusters with Aliens, but also sort of introduce spiritual elements into the mix. I think we as human beings are spiritual, and that we look for the spiritual in life. Whether we ignore it, or deny it, or embrace it is the real question. But yes, research is so vital to all of that, and an enjoyable part of the writing process for me. You ever fall down the YouTube rabbit hole late at night? Research is the same! (laughs) I’ll often find myself studying up perhaps a bit too much, and I end up down a well of information for half an hour, or whatever, all over fine details for what may amount to only a few sentences.

 How did you come up with the title for the book? And how does it tie in with the plot?

The title aptly describes a sort of metaphysical transformation that happens to many characters in the story. I also wanted the process of transference to serve as punishment to some and as a reward to others. That’s a frightening proposition. The entire plot of course revolves around it, in some way or another. To say anything more would probably spoil it.

Who are the key players in this story? Could you introduce us to Transference's protagonists and antagonists?

Barrabas Madzimure is the main character, but I have never thought of him as the protagonist in the traditional sense. Some readers may think I’ve broken convention by having a “hero” who doesn’t grab the bull by the horns and take control of the situation. So, while it may seem like events are happening around Madzimure, you’ll see that the man’s been in prison for thirty years, light years away from Earth. He’s broken down, and weary, and I think in our own lives we can feel that way, and indeed become that way. Subsequently, we can get taken along for the ride, if you will, rather than carving our own way ahead by action or by choice. Madzimure’s story, if you bear with it, is still one of design. The primary antagonists are Corvus the interrogator, and a prophet named Jovian. They are the driving force behind the way the story plays out because they are the ones with the most power, or at least the perception of it. The second half of the book features what I consider the real heroes like Elisabeth, Terra, the Surgeon, and even Nav… all major and minor characters which flesh the narrative out in a better way than the claustrophobic start, which was done intentionally.

The book sounds very complex. Can you describe its tone? Is it violent? Scary? Comical? Hopeful?

Hey, you nailed it. It’s all of those things! (laughs). It’s violent yes, and vulgar in its language. And I really struggled with that. The first half of the story takes place in a prison, so the crassness is there out of necessity. I think it’s scary in the sense that it points a finger towards the dangers of blind conformity and gross intolerance. But yes, it’s absolutely hopeful, and by the time you get to the end, that becomes more apparent amidst the carnage of it all.

Cover art is always an important factor in book sales. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of Transference?

The cover art had been doodled out in a sketch pad of mine dating back quite a few years. I had three or four ideas that I thought might work, and I took my thoughts to Damonza. The team there did an amazing job. I wanted to portray a sort of human cloning/frozen on ice type of feel. Duality with the split colours. The metaphysical aspect of the human soul. All those things. Damonza created several different mock-ups, and when I saw it, the one that it ended up being, I just knew. I knew that’s what it was meant to be.

Have you written it with a particular audience in mind? Who'll enjoy it?

The story is told from multiple points of view, so while that felt very natural to me, it might not be easy for everyone to follow. But hey, I don’t want to exclude anybody. I can say that I purposely wrote equally strong men and women, you know, so that it wasn’t all a male-dominated slug-fest? (laughs). I realize that not everyone is going to like it, and it’s not a perfect book. The story is driven forward by transference itself as a plot device, but I did also put my heart into it, so I think that means it’s also rife with deeper meaning. I think anyone looking for something substantial in a more “broad” type of sci-fi will get something from it.

What are you most excited for readers to discover in this book?

The book is littered with a fair few pop-culture and historical shout-outs. Some of them have been picked up on quickly, others haven’t. So yeah, I really have enjoyed the fact that some readers have said, oh I liked that you mentioned this, or how you described that. I did that to give the story a grounding, and a past which would be relatable. But ultimately, the story is about family, and the love of family. And it’s also about asking questions. By the time you get to the last chapter, I hope that you are asking yourself some deep questions. If I did my job even half-right, then you will be. (laughs)

Can you, please, offer us a taste of your book, via one completely out-of-context sentence.

“Before I can get a word in edgewise, Doctor Rathbone pulls my nose hard to the right with a scientific but feral yank.”

What's your publishing Schedule for 2021/2022?

Wow, no pressure! (laughs) Well to be quite honest, when I wrote the book I was in a much different and more supportive place in my life. Now I find myself very distracted and lacking the energy to devote to doing the work, and I’m seeking out ways to be better at that. That said, I am writing the sequel to Transference. I would’ve liked to have had it ready this year, but I don’t want to put a timestamp on it. Fingers crossed for 2022, eh? If I can’t make that happen, I’d like to put out what is hopefully the first of many picture books.

Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

No way, thank you! Does my thank you cancel out your thank you?? (laughs) I don’t know about you guys, but man, 2020 and 2021 has been tough on us all. And sometimes I can be of the glass-half-empty sort right along with the best of them, but I’d rather just say to anyone reading, hey, keep going. Keep forging ahead even if everyone around you says you can’t do it. I’m hopeful that there’s still good things ahead of us.

NOTE: Many thanks to Justine, Timy & the Storytellers On Tours for giving us an opportunity to take part in this tour.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

THE JASMINE THRONE by Tasha Suri - Review

Order the book HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR WEBSITE: Tasha Suri is the award-winning author of The Books of Ambha duology (Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash) and the epic fantasy The Jasmine Throne. She is an occasional librarian and cat owner. She has won the Best Newcomer (Sydney J. Bounds) Award from the British Fantasy Society and has been nominated for the Astounding Award and Locus Award for Best First Novel. When she isn’t writing, Tasha likes to cry over TV shows, buy too many notebooks, and indulge her geeky passion for reading about South Asian history. She lives with her family in a mildly haunted house in London.
Monday, July 26, 2021

Project Hail Mary by Andrew Weir

Official Author Website
Order Project Hail Mary over HERE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andy Weir built a two-decade career as a software engineer until the success of his first published novel, The Martian, allowed him to live out his dream of writing full-time. He is a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of such subjects as relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. He also mixes a mean cocktail. He lives in California.

FORMAT: Published by Ballantine Books on May 04, 2021 | 496 Pages | Book design by Caroline Cunningham

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Interview with Andy Giesler, the auhtor of The Nothing Within

Today, we have the immense pleasure to host a Q&A with Andy Giesler whose genre-bending book, The Nothing Within, awed us last year. 

ABOUT ANDY: Andy has been a library page, dairy science programmer, teacher, technical writer, and healthcare software developer. He’s schooled in computer science, philosophy, and library science, and grew up in a town in Ohio Amish country. He’s a husband, father, and nonprofit web developer living in Madison, Wisconsin. The Nothing Within is his first novel.

Find Andy online: WebsiteFacebook

Order The Nothing Within: Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Audible

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The Dying Squad by Adam Simcox review

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Order The Dying Squad over HERE

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