Thursday, October 8, 2020

Guest post from Sharon C. Williams, author of 'Jasper the Amazon Parrot'

Hello readers! We hope you're staying healthy and sane during these crazy times. If not, pick up a book. It usually helps. (:

Today, we have a guest post from author Sharon C. Williams. She's here to talk about what it's like living with the main character of her book (hint: he's a parrot).

I live with my main character: The ride of a lifetime

Compared to the writers in my area, I come to the writing game late in life. I only started to write when my husband told a family friend that he felt I wrote well. She passed that on to me. I mulled that over for a few months.

Having two surgeries coming up soon I knew I would have a lot of down time. So, I looked around my house for ideas on something I could write about. Something that I could write a book around.

My eyes landed on Jasper, our Yellow Cheek Amazon parrot.  We rescued and adopted him in 1999 at the age of five. This was just a year after I started to rescue birds of any kind. At that point he had been with us for 10 years. 

Wanting to learn as much as possible about him, I started to research his home and what he would see. I wanted to better understand this amazing animal who was now with us. What I came across was the issues that plague this region. The more research I did the more I got a better understanding of what he could lose if he was still there.

That got me thinking. It lead me to want to write a book that was educational and entertaining for this age group. A book that would make them appreciate, learn and perhaps become advocates of the animals and what they face. Being an avid reader, since forever it seems, I was fortunate to come across books by wonderful authors who made my love for reading just grow. If I could accomplish that for children I would be very happy.

Inspired to try my hand at a children’s book for any future grandchildren, I made the leap and started with volume one to my Jasper, Amazon parrot series.

I had an advantage from the start. Being around Jasper as long as I have, and at this point it is 21 years, we have seen how intelligent and adaptable he is. But not only that, his ability to learn and grow is remarkable. I would not have known this prior to rescuing him. Also, I could not have possibly imagined how to write it.

Fortunately, inside my series are scenes that have actually played out with us. One certain situation in one volume has ants on Jasper. He has to figure out how to get rid of them without getting bit.

One day an ant crawled onto Jasper’s beak. First, he called for help. Then, he tried to figure it out. Watching him go through that gave me the perfect way to describe it to the tee.

Another example is how Jasper is around my other birds. While he is not a fan of some of them, if anyone or anything tries to mess with them he is all into your business. His mannerisms, time and time again, have given me insight into writing how Jasper takes care of his brother Willie in the series.

It’s little things like this that make this series special. I have actual insight into his mood and how he works things out. All I have to do is observe and pay attention. 

Living with my main character is a joy. Not many people can say this. It has given me an invaluable information that I could not possibly understand or view if he was not right by my side. 

It is only fitting that my book and series is wrapped around him. I could not ask for a better companion to help me write my books.

Want to learn more about Jasper the Amazon Parrot? 

Get the book on Amazon!

Listen to it on Audible! or iTunes!

Lastly, check out the author's website.

Happy reading,

Erin & Anna

Thursday, September 24, 2020

A spunky heroine, a cursed sword, and a lost knight: Rob Keeley's The Sword of the Spirit

Title: The Sword of the Spirit
Series: The Spirits series
Author: Rob Keeley
Genre: MG Fantasy
Pages: 128
Published: 2016
Buy Childish Spirits (#1 in the Spirits series)

What Goodreads has to say:

Following the success of his award-longlisted Childish Spirits and its sequel The Spirit of London, prolific children’s author Rob Keeley is back with The Sword of the Spirit, the third instalment in his thrilling and suspenseful Spirits series.

“There are truths which must be revealed before the battle may commence. You do not yet know the meaning of the sword.”

Ellie’s investigations into the spirit world have reached a medieval castle, where archaeologists are digging for the fabled Sword of St Merrell. But she didn’t expect to meet a real medieval knight. Nor was she expecting him to be an ancestor of Edward Fitzberranger. Ellie discovers that behind a legend of chivalry and bravery lies a dark and nasty truth. And worse is to come. Ellie’s meddling has consequences she could never have foreseen. This time, she may have gone too far...

What I have to say:

The third novel in Rob Keeley's Spirits series is just as mesmerizing, just as suspenseful, and just as much fun as the first two. At this point, did I expect anything less? Of course not.

Ellie has a new ghostly mystery on her hands: a cursed sword, a knight who's traveled forward in time, and an enigmatic woman telling her not to meddle in what she doesn't understand. Not that Ellie has ever listened to warnings like that in the past. Now, it's up to her to solve the mystery and return the knight to his own time period before the curse destroys everything.

As usual, the narrative voice is charming. It makes me feel like I've snuggled up on the couch with a warm blanket and a cup of tea. The good characters feel like friends, while the villains are spooky and/or intriguing. Edward makes a brief appearance, and of course Ellie's mom and brother are still here, as is Marcus. But we're also introduced to new characters, like Sir Francis the knight, who are delightful and fun, if not quite as endearing as the mischievous Edward (I love him and will accept no substitute.)

The mystery is riveting, and the action perfectly paced. Just as in the first two novels, I was eager to find out how all the threads connected, who was really guilty and who was really innocent, and how Ellie would solve this latest puzzle. Speaking of which, Ellie is just so fantastic. 

She's a preteen English girl whose pastimes include painting, writing poetry, and befriending spirits in need. She's adventurous, always up for anything, and indisputably good. She cares about people and her role as a protector and helper of spirits is so cool!

Without spoiling the ending, I loved how fearless and decisive she was at the climax. (It involves wielding a cursed sword before a demon.)

So yeah. Ellie is awesome. This series is awesome. Rob Keeley is awesome. If you want a supernatural story with a mildly creepy vibe and a spunky, heroic in her own way main character, get yourself over to Amazon and buy all the Spirits books. 

The Sword of the Spirit could stand alone, as it contains its own story without relying too much on the previous books, but I don't know why you'd want to rob yourself of the marvelous and adorable first novel Childish Spirits.

I'm sure Ellie will get into plenty more trouble in the next two books, and I am here for it.


Until tomorrow.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Review: Hûw Steer's 'Ad Luna' brilliantly reimagines the first science fiction story

Cover of Ad Luna
Title: Ad Luna
Author: Hûw Steer
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 424
Published: July 4 2020

What Goodreads has to say:

The Moon is on the brink of war.

Alexander Dio, an officer of the Vulture Dragoons, flies in defense of the Lunar people against the monstrous armies of the Sun. He is ready for war - or at least he thinks he is.

But when Dio's patrol finds a crashed ship out in the Sea of Tranquility, his life is turned upside-down. Because the ship is not from the Moon, and its captain is unlike anyone he's ever known.

His name is Lucian, and he comes from the Earth.

Based on the ancient Greek story by Lucian of Samosata, this epic voyage of discovery goes back to the very beginning of science-fiction.

What I have to say:

Back in the second century AD, this Greek guy named Lucian of Samosata wrote an outlandish story about a trip to the moon. 

OK, so he wasn't just some Greek guy. He was a pretty cool dude who was also a scholar, politician, teacher, and first-class satirist.

He wrote A True History to poke fun at historians and travel-writers who would write "true," in-depth accounts of places they'd never visited. To one-up them, Lucian wrote a story about his voyage to mythical islands, the sun, moon, and stars. In doing so, he unwittingly created the first science fiction story.

Hûw Steer, author of The Blackbird and the Ghost, admits to wishing Lucian's book was a little longer. (It's only 53 pages). So, as you do, he wrote his own, longer version.

And folks. It. Is. Epic.

Imagine battles atop giant three-headed vultures, fire-creatures who live in the heart of the sun, and massive space spiders that spin new worlds, and you'll have a little bit of an idea how awesome Hûw Steer's imagination is. 

Couple that with engaging characters, weighty dilemmas, and a great prose style, and you might see why I enjoyed this book so much.

Let's be honest, though. I also liked it because it combined three of my all-time loves: classic lit, Greek stuff, and space. 

Our main character is Dio, a young lieutenant in the army of Lord Endymion, ruler of the moon. The enemy is Phaethon, ruler of the sun and its race of Solars. Both the Solars and the Lunars (Endymion's race of moon-dwellers) are bent on settling the Morning Star, and the result is a long-standing war between the two peoples. 

Things get more complicated when a guy named Lucian of Samosata (hey) shows up with a ship of earth-dwellers who've accidentally landed on the moon. Now, Dio has to balance fighting for his people with entertaining a group of alien tourists. 

From there, there's intense battles between the Solars and Lunars, a fiery prison located on the sun, and a lot of tense, life-or-death negotiating. It's a ride. (Like, one day I just camped out in my yard and read this book for several hours until I finished it, because I couldn't stop.)

I haven't actually read A True History (now on my to-read list), so I can't say how the two stack up or how faithful Ad Luna is to the original. It's certainly an interesting thought experiment to see things like centaurs, dryads (or something similar, anyway), and mythical spiders translated into the medium of space. 

It's equally intriguing to see how Greco-Roman hot button topics like slavery play out on alien planets, and it's fun to think about the mythical Endymion becoming Lord of the moon and leading a whole race of alien people when, according to the Greeks, he's just locked in eternal slumber.

In the end, I'll fall back on what Lucian tells Dio when the latter remarks that neither of their races will believe the stories they tell: 

"It does not matter. Whether a good story is true or not, it is still a good story."

Since this is a heck of a good story, I think Lucian of Samosata would approve.


Until tomorrow.

Friday, July 31, 2020

GIVEAWAY: KindleFire and 17 YA Fantasy Books Contest with 4 Chances to Win

Hey readers! We heard you like giveaways, so we thought we'd let you in on this one.

For the whole month of August, author Abby Arthur is running a giveaway with multiple prizes, including a Kindle Fire. 

Enter here.

Every entrant receives a free copy of Abby Arthur's Twins of Shadow

Twins of Shadow book cover

Then, on August 7th, a winner will be drawn for hardcover copies of Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes series, which includes:
  • An Ember in the Ashes
  • A Torch Against the Night
  • A Reaper at the Gates
Total value is $60.

An Ember in the Ashes book covers

On August 14th, a winner will be drawn for three books by New York Times Best Selling Authors:
These will be hardcover copies with a total value of $80.

Book covers for 3 titles

On August 21st, a winner will be drawn for Holly Black's series Folk of the Air.
  • The Cruel Prince
  • The Wicked King
  • The Queen of Nothing
These are hardcovers with a total value of $80.

Folk of the Air book covers

On August 28th, a winner will be drawn for the grand prize, which includes a Kindle Fire 7 and eight eBooks at a total of $150.

  • Kindle Fire 7
  • A Song of Wraths and Ruin by Roseanne A Brown
  • The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
  • Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan
  • The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White
  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K Rowling
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
Image of a Kindle Fire and 8 book covers

Feeling lucky? Starting August 3rd, you can enter here.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Erin & Anna

Thursday, June 11, 2020

A Holiday in Hell - Lorin Morgan-Richards' "The Goodbye Family and the Great Mountain"

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Title: The Goodbye Family and the Great Mountain
Series: Weird West Tales
Author: Lorin Morgan-Richards
Published: February 2020
Publisher: A Raven Above Press

Goodreads Blurb: 
The Goodbye Family and the Great Mountain follows the lives of Weird West undertakers Otis, Pyridine, and their daughter Orphie. Pyridine is a witch and matriarch mortician, Otis is a brainless but bold hearse driver, and Orphie is appointed grave digger for her strength of twenty men. Through bumbling, Otis discovers his neighbors are turning into zombies, a mystery that is directly affecting their burial business. In their backyard cemetery, they travel to the underworld for answers and uncover a plot to surface the evil entities that would otherwise burn in the Lake of Fire, have risen again through oil pumps that are bottled up as a tonic medicine for the ground above. The tonic goes fast, and the host takes over the body when the body perishes. Can the Goodbyes hilarious gaffes and revelations plug up the works? Find out in this fast-paced carriage ride through the underworld.

My Thoughts:
This book is weird, it's wacky, funny, clever, and also pretty gross. It follows the Goodbye family as they learn of the current zombie invasion, and deal with it by taking a trip to Hell, (well, the underworld. I think. Pretty sure there were living people there as well . . .). I found myself laughing out loud (or at least exhaling from my nose) at many of the clever and ridiculous lines in the book. Otis and Pyridine combined are a force no one wants to be on the wrong side of. Otis is great at throwing out sentences that are so confusing any villain (living or otherwise) must stop in order to process. Pyridine is where the brains of the family truly lies. She even tells Otis at one point - "I've never been under your leadership, you know a witch is always in charge." Orphie was also a delight. The strength and utter ridiculousness of her character was charming and highly entertaining.

One of my favorite scenes was when the family had to sneak by the man-eating plant disguised as an outhouse. Where does Morgan-Richards get this stuff?? Another lovely part was Orphie and Fleck creating more inhabitants for the city of Unabridged. The plot itself was solid, and the extra characters added to the frivolity and general wonderfully weird feeling of the story. A fun read, and something that younger fans of Addams family, or Eva Ibbotson would definitely love. Or really any kindred spirit of Orphie's with a similar love for the macabre and disgusting. 

I, however, am not a fan of the macabre or disgusting. In fact I believe I have a lower than average gross tolerance. There were quite a few spelling or grammar mistakes in the book, and some parts that didn't quite make sense structure or plot-wise. However, if this sounds like something you would like, then I highly suggest it. As for me, I give it 3/5 trees.

Rating: 3/5 trees

Thursday, May 28, 2020

A gritty sci-fi thriller: Review of 'Dust and Lightning' by Rebecca Crunden

Title: Dust and Lightning
Author: Rebecca Crunden
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 121

What Goodreads has to say:

In the near future, humans have gone beyond simple space travel. By the year 4054, multiple solar systems are inhabited, and taking a spaceship is as commonplace as taking an aeroplane.

Unfortunately, not everything about the future is so advanced. The central planets, led by Earth, have risen high at the expense of cheap labour on distant worlds. Dissent is widespread and arrests are common. Sometimes prisoners are released; sometimes they disappear without a trace, sent to labour camps in other solar systems.

When Ames Emerys receives a letter telling him that his brother Callum has died en route to the remote planet of Kilnin, he takes the first ship he can off Earth, desperate for answers. But the secrets Ames uncovers prove far more dangerous than he could have imagined.

And trouble isn’t far behind. 

What I have to say:

Dust and Lightning was a fun read that kept me engaged and guessing right up to the end. The characters are sympathetic, the settings exciting, and the action non-stop. 

From the very first sentence, I was intrigued. A man stands on a platform waiting for a space shuttle to arrive. But he's a mysterious figure and it's obvious he's on his guard. He's ready to spring up and run at the first sight of danger--and he fully expects danger to follow him.

The man's name is Ames Emerys, and it turns out he's searching for his missing brother--someone who wouldn't hurt a fly but has somehow got on the tyrannical government's bad side and been arrested, deported, then declared dead. 

Aboard the space shuttle, Ames meets Violet--a lawyer who's surprisingly eager to stick it to the government and join him on a quest that will take them to unforgiving climates and strictly off-limit prisons. In other words, she's boss.

I really enjoyed the action and the world-building of this story. The pacing was relentless in a good way: hardly were the heroes out of one scrape when they found themselves in another, and every time they thought they were safe, government agents would descend on them again. 

There are also some cool sci-fi concepts in this story. Without giving any spoilers, I'll just say I'm definitely a fan of Stranger Things vibes. 

Having said all that, I'm handing out three trees for this story that was well-written and well-paced, but maybe could use a little more fleshing out and polishing. Or, it could just be that I tend to steer clear of stories this gritty and gory, and/or that at this point I'm just a little tired of futuristic dystopian stories that all feel like they run along the same basic plot lines. That's not a reflection on the author, it's just a matter of taste. (And to be fair, I was warned in advance about the gore and it really wasn't that terrible.)

Regardless, Dust and Lightning is a fun, action-packed read that I think fans of gritty sci-fi thrillers will appreciate.


Until tomorrow.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Spellbinding short stories in 'Voyagers: The Third Ghost'

Title: Voyagers: The Third Ghost
Louise MacBeath Barbour 
Roland Clarke 
Bish Denham 
Rebecca M. Douglass
Sherry Ellis 
Katharina Gerlach 
Charles Kowalski 
Beth Anderson Schuck
Yvonne Ventresca
L.T. Ward
Genre: Short stories (historical fiction, fantasy, mystery)
Pages: 168 

What Goodreads has to say:

Journey into the past…

Will the third ghost be found before fires take more lives? Can everyone be warned before Pompeii is buried again? What happens if a blizzard traps a family in East Germany? Will the Firebird help Soviet sisters outwit evil during WWII? And sneaking off to see the first aeroplane – what could go wrong?

Ten authors explore the past, sending their young protagonists on harrowing adventures. Featuring the talents of Yvonne Ventresca, Katharina Gerlach, Roland Clarke, Sherry Ellis, Rebecca M. Douglass, Bish Denham, Charles Kowalski, Louise MacBeath Barbour, Beth Anderson Schuck, and L.T. Ward.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents, authors, and editors, these ten tales will take readers on a voyage of wonder into history. Get ready for an exciting ride!

What I have to say:

What do slave ships, ghosts, time travel, Pompeii, WWII, aeroplanes, and the Iron Curtain have in common? 

They all appear in this absolutely fantastic collection of short stories by the Insecure Writer's Support Group. 

"Voyagers" is an appropriate title for this collection, since most of the stories involve a journey of some kind. A journey across the sea. A journey across the border. A journey back in time. A journey to the afterlife.

But they're not just physical journeys. These are journeys away from innocence, away from safety, toward understanding, toward acceptance, toward redemption.

The genres vary, but for the most part these are works of historical fiction. Thus, there's a story about a young boy traveling aboard a slave ship to meet his father, a story about a Ukrainian girl whose sister flies with the Night Witches (an all-female bomber regiment in WWII), and a story about a family who tries to cross the Iron Curtain to spend the holidays with family. 

But many of these stories have a little something else thrown in. Thus, there's a story about two travelers who encounter a Yamamba (a mythical Japanese creature) in the mountains, a story about a young orchardist who talks to trees, and a story about a boy in the 1980s who keeps seeing ghosts.

By turns intriguing, gripping, funny, and poignant--these are masterfully told stories by a first-rate group of writers. Their imaginative powers put me through the whole spectrum of emotions: 

  • Shivers ("The Third Ghost", "Simon Grey and The Yamamba")
  • Amusement ("The Ghosts of Pompeii," "Dare, Double Dare")
  • Horror ("The Blind Ship")
  • Awe ("Return to Cahokia")
  • Joy ("The Orchard")
  • Suspense ("A World of Trouble")
  • Tears ("Feathered Fire," "Winter Days")

A shout-out to those last two, which I found unexpectedly moving--especially "Feathered Fire." The story of a Ukrainian girl reunited with her sister, interwoven with the Russian legend of The Firebird, was absolutely beautiful and a masterclass in storytelling.

And I can't resist a final shout-out to "Return to Cahokia." This story of the Native American weather gods returning to their summer home was unique and powerful in its imagery. I enjoyed reveling in the vivid, richly woven world the author has created.

In short, this is a great collection of short pieces that are fun to read but lend themselves to pondering. A hearty round of applause to all the authors who contributed to this spellbinding tapestry of stories.


Until tomorrow.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Bookish Hero - Anay Ayarovu's "STAZR The World of Z: The Dawn of Athir"

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Title: STAZR The World of Z: The Dawn of Athir
Series: STAZR The World of Z
Author: Dr. Anay Ayarovu
Publisher: Stazr
Published: February 2020

Goodreads Blurb: A strange and mystical prophecy was found in the city of Treebarad. On a piece of parchment, old long-forgotten events come back to life, the memory of which was intentionally erased. A mysterious prophecy now gives hope to the twisted ruling race that the power they seek lies behind an ancient gate. On the reverse side of the oracle are coordinates to the location of the Chosen One.

Lael is an introverted and naive writer who grew up with a book in one hand and a quill in the other. All his life, he has lived in a peaceful solitude, reading and writing his short stories and dreaming big of one day becoming a prestigious author. To his surprise and delight he must now become savior of the Stazr people and take the journey to find answers that do not exist in books.

My Thoughts: This book is a mix of high fantasy and science fiction. The lore is pretty heavy stuff and never fully explained, so prepare to be confused. Ayarovu reveals information just enough to give things names, but not enough for the reader to be able to give a full definition. In this way Stazr is as alien and backward for the reader as it would be for an actual human visitor. Even days, hours, minutes and seconds, as well as other numbers, have different names, which requires the reader to learn new words and phrases. In this way the story is quite immersive. Let's move on to the characters.

Lael is the main character and (arguably) hero of the story. I didn't like him. I don't think I was supposed to. He comes into a world he knows little about and imposes his philosophies and ideas on people and situations he has never lived through or experienced in any way, shape or form. He let's "destiny" sweep him along because he figures it will be good as a story later. He relies mostly on harsh logic and societal customs to make choices instead of feeling his way, or even reasoning. For example, he easily straight up and personally murders several people in order to fulfill a prophecy he knows little about and hardly believes in, because it makes him look good to the higher circle that he badly wants to impress. There is no effort to find a way around killing, and hardly any remorse after. This man is broken, and would fit better among robots than feeling creatures. He firmly believes "lesser creatures" (different races) were created only to serve his, and should have no other aspirations or desires than to meet every demand of a Great. Lael disgusted me.

Kharis didn't seem much better. While he seemed to dream of slight changes, he still hardly questioned any authority or societal rules even though he felt it was deeply wrong. Because of his very slight deviation from the norm he is cast out and severely punished. This society is ruled by old men (because apparently there are no women of their race??) who detest communication or compromise. There is clearly a reason they are dying out - any free thinkers are almost immediately done away with. Also disgusting.

I wasn't a huge fan of the characters, but the plot was fine until the last chapter when everything suddenly got super sexual. In a weird vision about the beginnings of their planet (I think?) Lael and another Great are witness to a human couple having sex in a forest, and then green monsters ripping limbs off of humans and raping a woman after tearing off her arm and leg, and then ripping off her jaw. Yuck. The strange sexual turn seemed fairly out of place with the rest of the story, and was fairly graphic. Double yuck. (yuck yuck). In the end I'm pretty sure Lael got his heart ripped out by a green monster, but is still oddly alive, and the group is off to make more terrible decisions.

A Note - I am fully aware that I am not the target audience for this book based on my reaction to it. My review and rating are a culmination of my character, ideals, and beliefs, and should not be seen as ill will toward any author or creator. I would've given this 2/5 trees, but because of the yucky sexual stuff at the end I'm dropping a tree.

Rating: 1/5 trees

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Dreams may be overrated, but 'Enemy of the Gods' is not

Title: Enemy of the Gods
Author: C. Hofsetz
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 376 

What Goodreads has to say:

Unbeknownst to most humans, there is a place where our consciousness drifts when we sleep. An ancient alien race of self-proclaimed “gods” calls this realm Pangea. For millennia, they needed no intervention from us. Until now.

Oblivious to the world of dreams, neuroengineer Zeon is busy being in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. But when Pangea’s deceitful “gods” contact Zeon, he has no choice but to dive headfirst into their war—a war complicated by a band of human rebels led by the last person he’d ever expect.

If the war is lost, it’ll be the downfall of Pangea—and without a world to dream in, the entire human race will die with it.

What I have to say:

Um, a sequel to the absolutely riveting, mind-bending, all-around amazing debut novel Challenges of the Gods? Does this sound like something that will automatically get a five-star rating from me? The answer is yes.

OK, let me qualify that: no book "automatically" gets a five-star rating on here. But when I heard the long-awaited sequel to Challenges of the Gods was ready to hit bookshelves (or my Kindle, I guess), I was pretty sure I'd love it, just as I'd loved the first one.

And I was not wrong.

Everything I loved about Challenges of the Gods is back: an interplanetary struggle, apocalyptic battles in a manufactured dream-sphere, last-second surprises, and of course, a wry, sarcastic narrator who's both powerful and vulnerable.

From the first chapter, I was glad to be back in the competent hands of master storyteller C. Hofsetz. He knows what he's doing, people. Well, OK, I'm not sure any of us writers exactly know what we're doing, but those of us who are successful do a really good job making it look like we know what we're doing, and Hofsetz is amazing at this. 

The story starts in an intriguing place: our hero is stuck in a sophisticated if isolated prison and several missiles are heading straight for him. Yet in this high-stakes moment, the storytelling is so great that while I'm dying to know the outcome, I'm also laughing at Zeon's witty asides, self-deprecating humor, and really smart robo-cat named Harry. (Ask me later.)

That blend of humor and high-stakes intensity sets the tone perfectly for this story. I've heard it said that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy sometimes errs on the side of humor at the expense of story. And while whether or not I agree with that is also a topic for another time, let's just say Enemy of the Gods walks a fine line between humor and plot--and the thing is, it never loses its balance.

(Look, you knew it was only a matter of time before I mentioned Hitchhiker's Guide, right? I mean, am I wearing my Zaphod Beeblebrox for President shirt as I type this? You decide....)

On top of that, our author has done in this book what some might consider self-sabotage: telling a story that contains multiple parallel worlds. This means some characters have not one, but two or more dopplegangers from different worlds--and they are all stuck in the same dream-sphere, battling each other. 

But hands together for Hofsetz, who presents this in a way that is not only not confusing, but very entertaining and surprisingly easy to follow. I absolutely loved a certain scene where two parallel characters (John and Jonathan) are absolutely thrilled to meet each other and immediately become best friends for life, while Zeon is left shaking his head. 

Speaking of characters, they are also great. Clearly, I'm biased in favor of Zeon, main character and narrator, as I absolutely love his narratorial voice, but there are strong characters all around. Jane, Zeon's love interest, is awesome, and Primavera--a little girl with crazy supernatural abilities--is fantastic. 

Words cannot express how fun, funny, and awesome this book is, but I might as well end this here because I don't know how much longer I can just gush about this story before my readers start to roll their eyes and tell me to move on.


Until tomorrow.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Musings in Hades - JB Dennis' "Heir to the Underworld"

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Title: Heir to the Underworld
Series: New God of Olympus (book one)
Author: JB Dennis
Publisher: Kristi King-Morgan
Published: January 2020

Goodreads BlurbFourteen young mortals find themselves the unexpected heirs to the powers of the ancient Greek gods. Benjamin Darke, the new god of the dead, soon discovers that being a god isn’t as easy as one might expect.

My Thoughts: First off I would like to congratulate Dennis on their excellent portrayal of the major Greek gods and goddesses, minor Greek gods and goddesses, complete underworld, and basically everything else pertaining to Greek mythology. I can only imagine the plethora of hours of research that went into that. 

While it may seem like Greek myths have been redone hundreds of time, and that there are many "Percy Jackson" spin-offs, this is not one of them. Somehow Dennis took the myths and characters of legend and created something new. The story is exciting and engaging.

Fourteen+ main characters is a lot to keep track of, and there were a few times I got lost. Thankfully the new gods have many of the same personality traits as their mentors, so after a few sentences you can usually figure out who's talking. So I'm gonna list those new gods and what I thought of each one. Starting with the new king of the gods, Andrew.

Andrew St. Cloud is taking over for Zeus. He's a leader, jock, and  generally good guy, which is why it's a bit strange that he's replacing Zeus. Or maybe it's not. Zeus often overlooks his bad qualities, maybe when you take them away you get Andrew. We didn't get to see much of Andrew because he was very busy with sports.

Ashley Queen is Hera's replacement and a total snob. Also stuck up. Also apparently super powerful and secretive. She's seems like a good Queen. 

Samuel Poole is Poseidon's heir and super awesome. He's by far one the the friendliest and kindest of the group. 

Benjamin Darke is heir to Hades and the Underworld. He's quiet, but courageous and saves everyone's butts multiple times. Ben was, of course, my favorite character, this book is mostly about him, so that makes sense. I loved how well he jived with Hades and Persephone. 

Sara Gardener is taking over for Demeter. I honestly got Sophia and Sara mixed up a lot. I did think the scene with Sara's father was very touching.

Ana Maria Sabio is Athena's replacement and she's ready for it. Inquisitive to a fault, Ana Maria is not someone to be taken lightly.

John Strong is Ares' heir and he sucks. He's mean, rude, homophobic, and a jerk. Which, also sums up Ares. (maybe minus the homophobia)

Sophia Hunt is replacing Artemis, she's boss, loud, and not afraid to speak her mind.

Mathew Golden is taking Apollo's place, and no title could fit him better. He's fabulous, kind, dazzling, and gay. I mean, that's Apollo, right?

Renée Hart is almost as lovely as her mentor Aphrodite. Renée is of course beautiful, and charming, but also generous.

Lance Smith is heir to Hephaestus. He shoots fire from his hands a few times, otherwise I kind of lost him in the crowd.

Gavin Swift is replacing Hermes, but where the god is mischievous, confident and cunning, Gavin is more quiet, shy, and unsure of himself. He also demonstrates selflessness and care.

Vincent Hops, heir to Dionysus seems to live only on alcohol. Seriously, how does this boy not have liver damage? He's also generous, almost to a point of carelessness.

And, last but not least - Irene Adler, replacement for Hestia. Irene was by far the most mysterious. She disappears at odd hours and then lies about where she's been. I assume we'll learn more about her in another book.

SO, there you have it, the New Gods of Olympus. How they all managed to share a house and not blow everything up is a mystery to me.

My last few thoughts I wanted to dedicate to Hades and Persephone. I LOVED their fight scenes in the Underworld. I loved how their magic complemented each other and gave them strength. I also really loved Hades true form. Basically I just loved the entire jail break and throw-down with Medea. It was riveting.

This was a solid first book in seems to be a promising series. I look forward the the further exploits of the new gods of Olympus.

Rating: 3/5 trees

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Anna's a Super Genius - Nadeau's Death By Midnight

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Title: Death by Midnight
Series: The Secret Life of Anna Goode
Author: Nicole Nadeau
Published: November 2019

Goodreads Blurb: Anna Goode is a teenaged-genius with a secret—her homemade inventions that she only shares with her best friend, Jake. But when a shadowy figure kidnaps Anna’s parents, she is forced to help him carry out his mysterious plan. With her inventions and Jake by her side, Anna must use her gifted mind to save not only her parents, but countless others. And she better hurry. Because the clock is ticking.

My Thoughts: Guys, this book is awesome. The story is gripping with enough twists and turns to keep the reader satisfied, and to keep the plot racing. Also, super timely. Hats off to Nadeau who wrote a book about a super virus just a month before Covid-19 broke out across the world. Made me wonder if some saboteur is behind the whole thing. (Zoom, I'm looking at you.(JK. unless . . .)). ANyWaY, maybe the reason I enjoyed this book so much was because I share a name with the protagonist, and I do have a good friend named Jake (well, Jacob, but still). It was quite easy to drop into Anna's world and run along side her. 

The plot of Death by Midnight is well thought-out, and the writing is good. The complications and risks the CIA must deal with by getting involved is very real. As is the fact that large organizations often ignore individuals in crisis so that they can save the majority. And that's good, but it doesn't make it any less horrible. In order to save the USA from a supervirus, the CIA is willing to sacrifice Anna's parents - 2 lives or millions of lives? The answer seems simple. Except when those two people are your entire world. To Anna, the world won't matter if her parents are gone, which is why they're very lucky she's a genius. Nadeau makes it very clear that the whole situation would have been much different without Anna. Sure Anna and Jake wouldn't have been there to steal the vials for Komarov, but I'm certain he could've easily blackmailed someone else to do it. We'll assume the vials would still be obtained, and the device built, but there is no other outcome where the victims live, and the virus is not released. Anna is the only variable that could make that outcome occur. But man, was it down to the second!

I was a big fan of Anna's and Jake's friendship, and how they worked together and depended on each other. It was refreshing to have a hero actually need support. I also liked how easily Anna could be manipulated, because that's how real humans are! Most people would do anything to spare their loved ones harm. Humans tend to protect their own people, not complete strangers, so it was nice that Nadeau recognized this and reflected it in Anna.

I would definitely recommend this book to readers who like espionage, strong female characters, and grounded fiction. I look forward to book 2!

Rating: 4/5 trees

Thursday, April 2, 2020

D&D Meets the Real World - RJ Parker's "Requiem, Changing TImes"

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Title: Requiem, Changing Times
Author: R J Parker
Publisher: Olympia Publishers
Published: September 2019

Goodreads Summary: Clint and Corbin are having a weird day. Best friends for life, things are getting a little strange around their town, and at school. When they're followed by a strange man looking for Clint and later attacked by an imp, it makes sense to retreat to the safety of home. But when strangers from another world, Banks and O'Neil, arrive with their medley of allies, things get even weirder. Why are they here? What do they want? And what is The Requiem that everyone keeps talking about? As Clint and his friends and family are drawn deeper into a thrilling adventure, only one thing is for sure. They may not be getting out alive. And class with Mrs Christenson will seem like a walk in the park after this.

My Thoughts: Okay, let's dive in. This book is non-stop action from start to finish. Any time things start to slow down, a dwarf crashes through a window, everyone gets shot by arrows, or a troll crashes the Halloween Dance. Each battle scene is well thought out, very akin to a D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) combat encounter. In fact, this book draws very heavily (like super super heavily) from D&D. Not only does Parker borrow races, and creatures, he even uses the same classes as D&D - druid and paladin stand out the most. Don't get me wrong, I love D&D. I've participated in multiple campaigns, and am currently playing a gnome grandma (code name: Gwam-Gwam) who happens to be a druid. The game can get crazy, ridiculous, and terrifying, and it's fun, but when being adapted to a written story it would need heavy editing and some re-writing to be successful. Requiem, Changing Times does not do this. 

The plethora of typos, grammar mistakes, general formatting errors, and rough writing made me wonder if this book had even been edited. In fact, I believe that a good editor would make this book much more palatable. The story is interesting, and most of the characters are fairly well developed, but the "first-draft"iness of the book ruins what could be awesome plot points. For example, I really liked the characters Tamara, Kayla, Banks and Nix, but their characteristics seemed to fluctuate greatly from chapter to chapter. I know Tamara goes through a total personality change, so I'll let that one slide. Characters may face horrible trials that change them as a person, but they still have a base personality that needs to stay consistent for their responses to stimuli to make sense. 

The characters in this book don't seem to have that base line consistency. I realize half of them are teenagers, but their personalities were a jumble of contradictions that didn't work together. I would say especially Corbin. That kid not only annoyed the heck out of me, but really wasn't that great of a friend. Clint keeps stating how great of a friend Corbin is, but I never saw it. The boy sabotages Clint at every turn, and is plain rude the rest of the time. Maybe that's just how teenage boys are, I don't know because I was never one. However, I do know something about teenage girls, and Parker's portrayal of them was ridiculous. Almost all the high school interactions felt like something from a TV show. Yes, there's bullying and weirdness and hormones, but no one is so absolutely ridiculous and vain as Amber. No one takes selfies right after almost being blown-up. I could go on about how stereotypical everyone was, but I'll spare you.  

In the end the story itself isn't bad, but the execution is. This book has enough material and crazy plot points to be something really unique and wonderful, if it just had some decent editing and rewriting. 

Rating:  1/5 trees

Thursday, February 27, 2020

A Step Back in Time: A. G. Rivett's "The Seaborne"


Title: The Seaborne
Author: A.G. Rivett
Published: November 2019
Publisher: Wordcatcher Publishing

Goodreads Blurb:
Seaborne. The word echoes in Dermot's mind. Washed up from who knows where, with no people to belong to, no clan to speak for him: a man alone in the world. If this man lives, what will he turn out to be? What might he bring among the Islanders? 
John had not dreamed that anywhere in the North Atlantic could be this remote. There must be someone, if not here, then not far away, who even if they didn't speak English would at least recognise it. John Finlay, engineer, is running away from his failed business, his failed relationship and his debts. He runs away to sea. 
Dermot, pulling a body, barely alive, from the water, has never seen anyone so strangely dressed. His Celtic island knows nothing of debt or of engineering. And John, waking among a people who cannot understand his language, struggles to accept that he has been carried across time and into another world. From this starting point, tensions build between cultures and outlooks, and focus on Shinane, the blacksmith's daughter, who is looking for something beyond. John and Dermot find themselves stretched to their limits. It is a matter of survival, or transformation. 
Choice is key - and not only for John, Dermot and Shinane: the whole community finds itself caught up in conflict over The Seaborne

My Thoughts:
The idea of this story - accidentally traveling back in time, didn't really appeal to me. I love Doctor Who, and well-done time travel scripts, but I find that too often bad writing ruins the adventure. That is not the case with this book. This book is beautiful. Rivett's way with imagery is fantastical. You, the reader, feel as if you were born on the island along side Shinane and Dermot, and yet, you are also alien to its customs and practices much like John. The writing style in this book reads almost like poetry, the mountains and pools call to you like water burbling over stones. I found myself sad when I had to leave the island at the end of the book, because I enjoyed the peace and strength that it lent me. 

It is that same peace and strength that John/Dhion finds on the island which is so enticing to him. Yes, our world is easier, more technologically advanced, and travel is much quicker, but do we take time to celebrate the sky on a winter's night? Or feel so connected to our land that we would never think of leaving it? There is not an overabundance of stillness in our modern world unless we make it. John is not someone who took the time to make stillness. His whole world was absorbed by his career, so much so, that when it began to crumble he ran away instead of facing his problems and adapting to his new life. John's landing on the island represents a new life for him. His own life had become so hectic and cold that he needed to start fresh in order to become his true self: Dhion.

Some of the themes that I really loved while reading this story were: 1) No era or age is better than another, 2) People make life worth living, and 3) You must make your own stillness.

So first, no era or age is better than another. The first things John really notices about this new world he has landed in, is how difficult everything is. The technological advances that this people have made are small compared to his modern world. When there is sickness, people die, children and adults alike. Surviving takes all your energy, this is no time for recreation. And yet, these people are happy. They enjoy the closeness they feel with their community, and the lack of distractions and conflict that higher technology might bring. While our world has modern medicine, and machines that make life so much easier, we tend to be less attached to people around us, failing to make meaningful connections.

Second, People make life worth living. I feel that I've already touched on this, but I would like to reemphasize this point. Dhion's soul was dying inside of him because of his inability to love well enough. Do you want your soul to die inside of you? Do you? Would you rather live as a shell encased in technology, than take the time to love? I think that in the world, and especially in the United States (I'm from Oregon) we tend to make our jobs our entire life. We work so often and for so long, that once we retire some people don't know who they are. They realize that their work was so encompassing in their life that they made no hobbies, or had no time for friends. That is no way to live.

Which brings us to number three, you must make your own stillness. The world isn't gonna give you a break to take a walk and look at the blossoms. Industry isn't going to pause so that you can appreciate the beauty of the world around you. You must actively stop and live outside your career. The Head and The Heart have a song about this called "Let's Be Still" go give it a listen.

This book is fantastic. Truly a beautiful historical fiction work of art. I don't know if you've read any of Stephen Lawhead's books, but this is on par with them, and better than any Philippa Gregory. I would definitely recommend this book to any fans of ancient Britain, or historical fiction.

Rating: 4/5 trees !!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

2020 Book Fairs Worldwide

Happy 2020, readers! We hope you've already devoured many delicious books.

But in case your appetite still needs satiating, here's a list of 2020 book fairs happening all over the world, put together by Kotobee just for you.

The list is nearly endless, but luckily you can filter by continent to find book fairs happening near you.

We're nose deep in books right now, but watch out for some more reviews headed your way soon!

Happy reading,
Erin & Anna

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A mystery in low gravity: Frozen Secrets by Myles Christensen

Title: Frozen Secrets
Author: Myles Christensen
Series: Europa Academy (Book 1)
Genre: MG Science Fiction / Mystery
Pages: 298

What Goodreads has to say:

He has trouble following the rules on Earth, but Jupiter’s moon could kill his curiosity for good…

Thirteen-year-old Max Parker is a grounded Earthling with the soul of a space explorer. So when he learns his family is relocating to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, he readily agrees to stay out of trouble. But his promise is soon forgotten, and his snooping lands him on a shuttle doomed for a fiery disintegration.

Convinced someone sabotaged the craft to cover up the theft he witnessed, Max digs into the incident. What else could they be hiding? Dodging a series of deadly accidents, he follows the clues to an abandoned outpost and discovers a secret that could blow the lid off a moon-wide conspiracy. Can he solve the mystery before his interplanetary escapade gets him killed?

What I have to say:

A mystery in space? Sign me up!

The climax is an Iditarod race across the frozen surface of Jupiter's moon?

Even better!

From page one, I knew this was going to be a fun, action packed book. 

It starts off with two kids trying to launch an antique jetpack that they rebuilt.

In Jonathan's (one of said kids) words: "The fuel lines might leak, the combustion chamber might explode, the nozzles might shear--" 

Any number of things could go wrong, and Max (the kid strapped to the jetpack) could very likely die.

But that doesn't put Max off one bit. He has a talent (problem?) for getting into life-threatening situations. And while the jetpack adventure comes just shy of proving fatal, don't worry, because it's very probably the least life-threatening situation he'll find himself in for the rest of the book.

Getting stuck in a sabotaged shuttle, getting sealed in an underground tunnel, getting stranded in the wilderness with low oxygen levels, getting caught in a crazy car chase, getting caught by enemy spies, nearly blowing himself up in a drilling rig, jumping off a precipice--these are all in a day's work for Max Parker: super secret spy.

OK, he's not a super secret spy, he's 13, and he's probably grounded for life at this point. But he wants to be a super secret spy.

And honestly, for a frequently grounded 13-year-old, he does pretty dang well.

Max is a fun character. And his supporting cast is fun, too--from his seriously awesome older sister to his diverse group of friends and the villainous members of the Xenium League. 

I especially like Max's friend Cameron, who gets pulled into the spy adventure reluctantly and isn't fond of taking risks. (He's a rock-solid friend, though.)

And what's any young teen mystery in space without a little awkward romance? YES. Bring it on.

Oh yeah, it's a mystery. That part is fun, too. It kept me guessing as to who was on the good guys list and who was on the bad guys list. 

Did I mention it's in space? While the book starts on Earth and has a brief sojourn there in the middle, most of the action takes place in the new Europa colony on Jupiter's moon. Europa City is an awe-inspiring place that speaks to the space-happy child in me. Also....

Zero gravity is awesome. 

So basically, picture trying to solve a mystery as a 13-year-old with the fate of humanity at stake and your friends and family in danger. Then picture doing it in low gravity, on a frozen moon. That's this book. You like?

I do. I had a lot of fun solving this mystery in space. 

Well, credit where credit's due. I didn't really solve it. 

That was Max Parker: super secret space spy.


Until tomorrow.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Review: The Spirit of London by Rob Keeley

Title: The Spirit of London
Author: Rob Keeley
Series: The Spirits series
Genre: MG Fantasy / Ghosts
Pages: 152
Buy Childish Spirits (#1)

What Goodreads has to say:

On returning to London, Ellie investigates the mystery surrounding 47 Foster Square. Who is the sender of ghostly messages asking her for help? What is the secret of the Meadowes family? And what does Edward know about all this?

With her parents about to divorce, and her Mum acting very strangely, Ellie quickly discovers that a sinister force lies between her and the truth...

The Spirit of London is the second instalment in the thrilling and suspenseful ‘Spirits’ series and follows the success of The People’s Book Prize-nominated Childish Spirits. It focuses on slavery and a mixed-race family in Georgian times. Ellie finds herself facing a very dangerous foe and will need all her courage and humanity to get her through. The Spirit of London also sets up a story arc that will continue into future books in the series. The book will appeal to girls and boys of upper primary and lower secondary age – and to parents and teachers reading the book aloud!

What I have to say:

If you've read a previous review in which I praised Rob Keeley's novel Childish Spirits to the skies, it should come as no surprise that I also loved the sequel, The Spirit of London. Much like the first novel in the Spirits series, the sequel is mysterious, engaging, slightly creepy, and all-around adorable.

There's a new house, new ghosts, a new mystery to solve. And Ellie is on the case...even if she'd rather not be.

I actually read this novel in one sitting because I was so engrossed. (Also I was on a 6+ hour flight so what else are you going to do, but honestly I might have read it in one sitting regardless.) Just as in the first novel, the characters are strong, the mystery intriguing, and the stakes high.

Edward is just as annoying as ever, but somehow I now want to adopt him more than ever. The scene where he and Ellie go out on the town was hilarious and quite possibly my favorite part of the novel. He's so exasperating but in such an adorable way. Don't ask me how.

I also loved the new mystery. It's cool that in these books geared toward children/preteens, the author manages to bring up historical and societal issues like the poor treatment of governesses and the stigma against interracial marriages. Was that a spoiler? I hope not.

But not all the issues are in the past. In the present day, Ellie's struggles with the breaking up of her family make for a nice echo (or maybe it's the other way around?) of the family issues faced by the historical characters. Maybe it suggests that the problems of the past don't go away, they just change shape a little. And maybe by looking to the past, Ellie can resolve her own problems in the present.

As for the future, it's anybody's guess, but that ending is one heck of a good way to make me want read the next book. What new adventures will Ellie face next? I can only imagine.


Until tomorrow.