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Guest Post: Brendon Bertram

Hey all, I’ve got an awesome guest  post for you today from Brendon Bertram, the author of Moira Ashe: Enemy Within. He’s talking about secrets and what makes him want to write. Enjoy!

Moira Ashe cover

All of my secrets.

There were a lot of things that possessed me to write; the world, the characters, their relationships and stories, the perfect scenes in my head begging to be written. But it was the secrets that excited me the most.

Of course writing a scene that has been rattling around in my head gives me an immense sense of satisfaction, it’s thinking about all the clues, the foreshadowing, the patterns I’ve set up in the book series that compel me to dance for joy, and that is no joke, I literally do!

I was inspired to start my writing career when I delved into the world of the fan theory, people were generating the craziest theories about their favorite movies and books. Some were convincing, other probable, but most were outlandish beyond belief. It was all go fun though, but I had a thought, what if the theory was true? What if there were clues hidden throughout a story for people to find, a secret that could shake everything they thought they knew? So I wrote Moira Ashe.

My first series, Moira Ashe, has its ending already planned, it was planned before the first word was written. It’s been an ordeal coming up with over seven books of the story in advance, but it has been worth it. I have references scattered throughout about things the reader dosen’t even know exist yet. There are even clues that spoil the ending of the seventh book in book one.

As much as I’m enjoying the secrecy, I’m looking forwards to when the secret’s discovery. They were written to be found after all. I want my secrets will blow people’s minds, to have them realize that the answers were there all along and they never realized it. I want them to question everything they thought they knew about a character. That is why I write.

It continues to be great fun weaving these mysteries into my stories, and I hope you have just as much fun uncovering them.

Thank you to Lauren’s Bookshelf for hosting me and thank you for giving me your time today. Check out brendonbertram.com to find out more information on the Moira Ashe series.

If you want to try uncovering my secrets or just want a great read Moira Ashe: Enemy Within is available on Amazon.com.

 

Brendon Charles Bertram was born on May 28, 1994. Working on the family farm on PEI, it wasn’t until March 27, 2015, after the death of his father that he began pursuing writing. He continues to live on PEI, but now occupies his time with travelling the globe, reading texts on philosophy and psychology, and exploring a deep fascination and passion for storytelling.

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This one was difficult. I try to avoid spoiling the books I review, but then this one had a basic enough plot that there wasn’t a ton to dig into. I had fun with it though. This is another one from First Second books, Mike Lawrence’s Star Scouts: The League of Lasers. Enjoy!

Star Scouts The League of Lasers cover

During a routine troop meeting Avani receives an invitation to join the Star Scouts’ elite secret society, the League of Lasers. It’s the chance of a life time and all she has to do to join them is survive a minor initiation challenge. It wouldn’t be a big deal if she was just trapped on a planet full of hostile frog aliens with no breathable air and dwindling supplies, but the worst possible thing had to happen and land her stranded with her worst enemy, Pam. How will she make it a full week?

I missed the first volume of Mike Lawrence’s Star Scouts, having read The League of Lasers I feel like that is something of an over site. This one does mostly stand alone though, so not having read the first one winds up being mostly a matter of not being familiar with characters instead of missing big chunks of plot or anything of that nature. Plus, I had a ton of fun with reading it anyway.

Let’s start from there. This was a really fun graphic novel that is, at its core, about teamwork and building friendships past misunderstandings. It does that by throwing the two leads in a situation that neither of them are individually able to deal with and letting the emergency situation force them to team up. This is one of those plots that crop of fairly regularly, but I’m a fan of it and enjoy reading it when I come across it. That aside, it’s also a really nifty adventure on an alien world.

The world itself is familiar with forests and mountains and bodies of water, familiar, but just different enough. The fauna is largely big and threatening, because there needs to be an outside threat for our protagonists to face, but they’re also notably alien. That’s actually a pretty big thing with the character design, the aliens look alien. Some of them have more human features or features like earth animals, but all of them have things that make them notably non-human. That’s something that I really enjoyed.

The story itself gives us Avani and Pam having to survive on a world with air one can’t breathe and dwindling supplies. The technologically developed native species is hostile to them, but largely out of fear. I do admit that the turnaround in Avani and Pam’s behavior towards each other feels a little fast, but that can easily be chalked up to the graphic novel being short. They have a number of scenes that sort of fast track them from enemies to teammates and, while quick, they do their job and the two working together is believable and fun. The side plot, with Avani’s Star Scouts troop similarly deals with characters being forced to work together and emphasizes the main plot well.

I am not the target audience for the Star Scouts books, which throws my opinion on this off a bit. The big thing with The League of Lasers is that I had fun with it. It’s a cute sci-fi adventure comic with nifty character designs and a fun story. I would review the next one given the chance. Likewise, if Lawrence ever wrote a sci-fi YA novel I would be tempted to check it out. So, I’m giving it a five out of five.

Hey all, sorry I’m late with this. Odd couple days at work, so I wound up taking a nap once I got home.

Good news, the review is going live tomorrow as planned and I’ve got a guest post coming up for you all on Friday.

Bad news is I’m still working on the Crossing Over and Ghostbusters Annual reviews and I’ve also just tonight discovered that my video camera is not compatible with Windows 10, so I’m going to need to get a newer one before I can do any of the videos I’d planned. It also means that the unboxing video I’d filmed is unusable. Probably should have checked that earlier.

Of course, with that temporarily off the table, I’m going to let myself just sort of jot out ideas for things and work on polishing them up as I have the time instead of attempting to juggle the reviews and work and that. It’s a bit of a relief even if I am a bit disappointed.

That’s about it for this week. Standard things, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. And if you really like what I’m doing here you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a Ko-fi. For until I’ve saved enough to cover it, any Ko-fis I receive will go towards buying a new camera. More content’s incoming but, for now, enjoy!

 

This one was a ton of fun to read and then not so much to review, I kept trying to stretch it to my usual review length and feeling like I was being over repetitive. So this one is short, but I think I’m happier with it this way. This one’s from First Second books, here’s George O’Connor’s Olympians: Hermes: Tales of the Trickster. Enjoy!

Olympians Hermes cover

God of thieves and businessmen, travelers and shepherds, Hermes began his godly career the night of his birth by sneaking away from the cave his mother had sequestered them away in and stealing his half brother Apollo’s cattle. He features in many stories and has inspired many more. For now, let a wanderer entertain you with a few of them.

I have a tendency to assume that everyone had a middle school Greek mythology phase, where they were super into it and wanted to know all the things. George O’Connor’s Olympians: Hermes: Tales of the Trickster reminds me of that pretty seriously.

This isn’t a super in depth book of mythology, it isn’t trying to be, but it is a fantastic introduction and includes some of the better known Hermes myths with a couple that I don’t remember ever seeing before. That was pretty nifty. The lack of going super in depth is likely also because this is aimed at a younger audience. That’s worth noting mostly because reading this really made me wish that my schools’ libraries had had something like it back in the day.

The art here is awesome. It makes me think of super hero comics with how buff the male characters tend to be and how bright the colors are. The character art is expressive and fun, especially when Pan is being focused on. Similarly, the back ground art can be fantastic with sprawling hills and forests and night scenes that have fantastic light work. I almost want to track down the previous books just for the art.

Overall after reading Olympians: Hermes: Tales of the Trickster I find myself very much wanting to read the other nine in the series. I very much enjoyed this comic and would happily suggest it to readers who want to check into or back into Greek mythology. It’s definitely aimed at a younger audience than me, but then is still well written enough to be entertaining outside of that. I give it a five out of five and note again that, if the rest of the series is as good as this one, O’Connor’s Olympians series would fit well in a school library.

House Keeping 6/5/18

I’m continuing to pick away at my To Be Read pile. I am vastly no longer caught up and more than a little worried on that. It is, as ever, my own fault but I’m still having a good time. So I’ll count it as not a loss.

The June Second Star Books box should be here before the weekend. Funny thing on that, I was telling myself earlier that there was no way that, even with them having posted about packing all weekend, it would be out this early in the week. I got the email about it right as I was leaving work, complete with tracking number. That’s pretty awesome.

Depending on when it arrives I should be able to do the box opening before the week is out. Looking forward to trying that again.

Other than that, I have a couple of ideas for non review writing. I’ll just have to make time to actually write it. Always the problem, but one I’ve been working on with some success.

I’m hoping to finally have reviews up for the Ghostbusters annual and Crossing Over issues one and two some time this week. I’m thinking of doing all three of those in one day, possibly in one big post. That said, I’m not going to be able to pick up my copy of the third issue of Crossing Over until next week or maybe the week after. So that’ll get posted whenever I get the chance to pick it up.

And, of course, standard stuff. If you like what I’m doing feel free to leave a comment or a like. And, if you really like what I’m doing, consider enabling my caffeine addiction and buy me a Ko-fi. Either way, I’ll have a review up tomorrow and in the meantime, enjoy!

Past the line on this one. I’ve had a lot of fun getting my review for this one done though, so it works out. I’m still fiddling with the video editing software, with work and all I haven’t had as much time for that as I would like, so at this point I think I’m going to do June’s box but not May’s. It’s a little late at this point. I’m excited to see where Second Star Books goes from here though.

Alright, let’s get this thing started. I really dig the little thank you sticker on the tissue paper that’s around everything. It’s a cute little detail.

May pic 4

The coloring pages and the cover sheets for Jesikah Sundin’s Biodome Chronicles series are, likewise, a nice addition. Plus the bonus code for the ebook of the first Biodome Chronicles book, Legacy, was an awesome touch. I’ll definitely be digging into that once I have a chance. I admit that with this layer I think fewer cover sheets would have worked a bit better, with all four plus the book mark and dropcards.com code card it feels a little cluttered on this level.

That said, I am seriously enjoying the “Aboard the Rochester” candle for this month. It’s billed as having a blackberry, sage, and spice scent but I get more plum or blueberry out of it. The wooden wick crackles a little as it burns, adding a nice secondary sensory detail. It is something I would look for again if Second Star Books started offering their candles on their own.

May pic 3

The “Tea With Stella” tea is an interesting thing for me since it’s more of an herbal tea than what I usually drink. The on tin instructions were quite useful as well, especially the suggested time for steeping. The strawberry flavor really stands out, though I don’t catch much of the lemon. I had it hot, but this is definitely a tea that I could see being awesome with a little more sugar and iced. As a bonus, the loose leaf nature of the tea gave me an excuse to try out the tea ball that came with the box. I’ve been meaning to get one of those for awhile now, so that was a pretty great surprise.

The mug is about the only place in the box where I have any sort of issue. It’s very much more Jane Eyre than Brightly Burning, so it stands out a little compared to the other items included, no space them for the mug. Plus there was no indication on if it was microwave or dishwasher safe. I have roommates who do the dished fairly often, so not knowing is something of an issue for me.

May pic 5

I don’t have a ton to say about the books themselves. I do like that Jane Eyre was included with the sci-fi reimagining, and the ribcage and flower cover is nifty. The note from the author, Alexa Donne , and the signed book plate are both totally awesome. I’m also looking forward to the online author talk this Saturday, that’s a non-physical aspect of the box that I just find cool. It’s a nice way to let readers get introduced to authors while also having everyone in the comfort of their own homes.

So, yeah, I’m definitely happy that I was able to order one of the Second Star Books May boxes, and I’m excited to see what’s going to be in June’s box.

After a pause over the weekend I’m ready to get back into it. This one is thanks to the awesome folks at First Second, here’s Antoine Revoy’s Animus. Enjoy!

Animus cover

There’s a strange playground tucked away in a quiet neighborhood. The swings see into dreams and the concrete animals hear all within the park. When they accidentally stay past sundown, friends Hisao and Sayuri meet the park’s resident ghost. He knows all about the magic of the playground but can’t remember his own fate. When their friend is injured finding out what happened to Toothless might be the only way to save him. They’ll have to bring Toothless’ story and remains to light with nothing to go on but a handful of vague memories.

I find Antoine Revoy’s Animus frustrating. The concept is fantastic and I am, repeatedly admittedly, a sucker for a good ghost story. The idea of a playground haunted by a dead child, his trapped spirit anchoring magic to the playground itself, is fantastic. The protagonists needing to break his curse to save their friend is great. But then the end falls apart and everything feels like lead up to skipped side plots.

There is a lot going on in Animus, and it all feels like it should add up to something. The police superintendent is shown talking about the missing kids a couple of times. There’s whatever connection is between Toothless and the playground. And there’s the maybe saving their friend by saving Toothless. But then it feels very much like our friendly ghost is up to something nefarious. Like he isn’t on the up and up where the hurt friend is concerned. But the connective tissue isn’t there.

There are hints at maybe things and a second or third read paying close attention will offer some connections, but it isn’t anything solid. Things never tie up neatly or otherwise and I found myself with more questions at the end of the book than I had to start with. Not in a fun way that leaves me hoping for a sequel either. I felt like Revoy forgot to include half of his story or got bored part way through writing it and spun up an ending so that he could get to the art.

The art is pretty fantastic though, especially the backgrounds. There is a section with a bridge and the forest around it that is absolutely gorgeous. The art for the human characters isn’t as great, but I feel like that is more for effect than an issue with Revoy’s skill. The faces are a sort of cartoony but in a way that feels like an exaggeration of life rather than a simplification of it. That lends itself really well to moments of uncanny creepiness.

My issue with Animus comes entirely from how rushed the ending feels. There are things that happen that aren’t adequately set up or that are only hinted at in such a way that the payoff for them feels really weak. Again, I’m left with more questions than answers on this one, which is unfortunate because if more time had been taken to work things into the story everything that bothered me about the end could have been awesome pay offs for character work. This could have been a really cool first book in a series with side plots digging into the characters and what makes them tick, but instead it winds up being a lot of build up to a nothing ending.

I keep coming back to that, like a missing tooth or a scab, Animus could have been really good with a little more work put into it. It could have been but, as it stands, it’s a five star start with a one star follow up. I would check out something else by Antoine Revoy, but it would definitely be a library borrow. That lands Animus with a three out of five.

House Keeping 5/29/18

It feels like May has gone by way too fast. The holiday weekend and people getting ready for school to be out probably helped with that. Not a lot happening at work, but just enough to stay busy. The weekend did let me get started on a number of things though, I’m not ahead on anything by any means, but started is better than nothing. It feels a lot better too.

As to the month having seemed really short, I’m still trying to figure out how to make that Second Star Books unboxing video work. But I’m planning on keeping tinkering with it. I’ve got the footage done but no idea what to do with the editing software I’ve got. Even if I don’t get it done though I’m going to have the review of the box up by midnight Thursday. That way I’ll have it up in time to do the whole thing over with June’s box.

There’s going to be a lot of graphic novel reviews coming up in the next few weeks. I got several from First Second not too long ago and also found some that had been set to the side for later. That was more than a little while ago, but they’re nifty books and I’m excited to share them.

I’m also hoping to get a little more work done on the reviews for some of the novels I’ve been sent. I keep planning on scheduling daily time on this and then it all goes to reading instead of working on reviews or other things I had planned. It’s brilliant. But, I figure that if I keep aware of it I should be able to work on it better.

Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a like or a comment. And, if you really like what I’m doing here you can enable my caffeine addiction and buy me a Ko-fi.

Down to Oath

This is totally Thursday, right? Yeah, trip to get my car fixed was a lot less productive blogging wise than I’d intended, but I have working AC again and my brakes are fixed! I digress. This one is from Curiosity Quill Press, here’s Tyrolin Puxty’s Down to Oath. Enjoy!

Down to Oath cover

Oath is boring. Scheduled to the second, everyone likes all the same things, nothing changes. Boring. But not Codi, she’s different, she goes against the flow. She’s the only one to use the library at the edge of town. More than that, she’s certain that she’s the only one to have met a child, much less a child that claims to be her somehow. The child says she has to find her other selves in other worlds but won’t say why. How much can this child Codi be trusted? Are the other Codis any more trustworthy?

Tyrolin Puxty’s Down to Oath is a super weird book. Multiple worlds layer together, each with reflected versions of the same people. But each world is vastly different, ruled by different emotions and different ideals. It’s sort of an adventure unto itself to try and figure out where the story is headed and what various things mean. That said though, there is a minor spoiler for the whole thing in the blurb itself. It’s a weird oversight given how well the plot works as a sort of mystery about itself aside from that.

The worlds themselves fascinate me. Each is the size of a small town and each is a reflection of the others with the same buildings and people, just different versions of them. Oath is boring and quiet and unchanging. Bond is full of children, left to play and explore and do as they will. Pledge burns with passion and conflict, each citizen a warrior scholar and deeply serious. Then there’s Word, the realm of unbound creativity where everyone is an artist of some stripe. Each world has or had a version of the same people and they’re all notably different from Codi’s view point. I would have loved to have seen more of the worlds and how they compare. I would have really liked to have seen more of how the various core parts of the worlds come together to balance each other out.

While the worlds fascinate me the characters, Codi aside, fall a bit flat. I do think that that ties into the worlds being so different, it winds up meaning that characters who are meant to be different iterations of the same person often wind up not really resembling each other. That winds up being part of where the book falls apart for me. Puxty has a number of really cool ideas both for her world and for how her characters work, unfortunately the book is both short enough and focused in enough on Codi that other characters don’t get the chance to shine.

This shows up pretty heavily with the antagonist and Codi’s love interest, which is pretty jarring. The story proper doesn’t really hit its stride until a fair way in so we spend a good amount of time with Codi and her Bond and Pledge versions. But then other characters bounce between being basically sketches, unrecognizable from one world to another. After Codi herself, the next two most developed characters are rather one note, a joyous love interest and a raging antagonist. There’s a lot with both characters that the reader and Codi are told, but it leads to the whole thing feeling rushed and incomplete.

I feel like that is an issue that sort of eats at the end of the book. There’s a sense to the first parts of the book of adventure as Codi is introduced to all these new things and places. But then the end feels like there was a bigger story planned, a wider arc to the story, but not enough page space for it. There wasn’t a lot of lead up to it either so, again, it feels cramped against itself with all this exposition just coming out of nowhere. It’s frustrating in a lot of ways, I really enjoyed the first part of the book but then the end didn’t live up to it.

This is one of those books that I feel could have been really awesome if it had been given another draft or a go around with a beta reader. The bones of it are solid, but the finished novel winds up feeling very like a first book. That informs a lot on my final feelings here. I think that Tyrolin Puxty has the makings of a good writer and that if she works on her pacing and character focus she could do some fantastic stuff. Down to Oath gets a three out of five, but I would give one of Puxty’s other novels a shot.

 

House Keeping 5/22/18

Short one this week, I don’t have a ton going on in light of the holiday weekend. I’m figuring most folks will be out doing family stuff, so extra blog posts would be better saved for later.

That said, I’ve got the Ghostbusters annual comic picked up, just a couple of months late, plus the first two issues of the Crossing Over mini to review at some point. With that, I’m planning on posting the reviews for all three on the same day, since the annual is pretty immediately followed by issue one.

It’s a little sad, I’m ahead on my reading a little bit, but haven’t had the time to get caught up with the reviewing bit. I’m going to need to just sit down and do them all at some point soon. I’ll be pretty fun actually, I just have to get started going and that’s where the problem lives. Getting started isn’t a thing I’m fantastic at.

Review is going to be a bit late this week. I’m going to have it up Thursday because tomorrow I’ll be getting my car out to the shop to be looked at and will be away from my computer because of that. The AC is busted, and that’s not a good thing with summer looming ever here-er.

Standard stuff then, if you like what I’m doing feel free to leave a like or a comment. It’s always good to see what folks like or not. And, if you really like what I’m doing, you can enable my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. I actually managed to spell caffeine right the first time that time, progress! And, as ever, enjoy!