Archive for June, 2018


I’m later than I meant to be. After spending the first half of the week stressing out and not getting anything done I kind of crashed yesterday and got even more nothing done. I also hit PM instead of AM scheduling it, which it A+. But I’m back now, so it’s all good. This one is thanks to the awesome folks at Curiosity Quills Press. This is Sarah Madsen’s Weaver’s Folly. Enjoy!

Weavers Folly cover

A run gone bad leaves elven thief Alyssa D’Yaragen, Lysistrata when she’s on a run, with a fantastic opportunity. All she has to do is work with the guy who made the last run go bad for her and steal some data from a company. A super high profile mega corporation , Americorp, whose security is guaranteed to give both of them more than a run for their money, but still. The pay and challenge are way too good to pass up. Complicating things somewhat her ex, Tristan, shows up begging forgiveness and offering a too good to be true opportunity for information gathering. More complicated even than a cheating ex are the sparks that fly when she meets gorgeous Seraphina Dubhan, feelings and all that. When she becomes the target of magical attacks any other concerns have to take a back seat to keeping her friends out of the cross fire and surviving. Surviving and, of course, getting the Americorp job done.

I initially found myself comparing Sarah Madsen’s Weaver’s Folly to a number of things, mostly Shadowrun. The whole protagonist is a highly specialized thief in a world with both magic and cyber punk style tech is what does it I think. Magic and technology not working together is also a similarity, but I feel like that is a sort of ground rule thing. You don’t want to give a character supercharged magic powers and a cybernetic body to keep them from getting worn out using them, so it’s a functional limiter in the world of the story.

I like that a lot actually. It separates the main character from a near necessary set of tools and forces her to rely on other characters, particularly Logan.  It also gives her an edge that most other characters simply can’t access while forcing her to keep it a secret. I feel like more weight could be given to the secrecy aspect later in the series, but it does make a degree of sense. I feel like this would go hand in hand with more focus being brought in on the elven aspect of the magic, or the elven aspect of Alyssa.

The characters interest me more than the magic though. There are a few places where the interactions are a bit stiff, but most of those feel like they’re meant to be a little awkward. I like most of the characters and enjoyed seeing Alyssa and Logan working together. I wanted to see more of Alyssa’s roommate and more of Seraphina, the mysterious woman Alyssa winds up crushing on. Alyssa herself has an interesting thing going on with regard to where she belongs between Arcadia and Atlanta. She has people she cares about in both places and both places are part of her. It was interesting to see her think on that some.

Weaver’s Folly feels like a first book in a couple of ways. This is largely due to some clunky exposition early on, a couple of things get explained in a block immediately upon being brought up rather than later where they would have flowed better. The bit with light elves, like Alyssa, and dark elves historically hating each other was a particularly jarring example. I would have liked to have seen more on that throughout, since it seems like it should be important in later books.

That kind of ties into my other issue, there’s this prophecy early on that comes back up a couple of times and it feels like it should tie really heavily into one of the antagonists. It feels like it should but the support for that connection isn’t there, just boom here’s an antagonist. This was really frustrating for me for a lot of reasons, but a lot of it boils down to looking back and seeing places where foreshadowing might have been attempted but wasn’t done well enough or consistently enough to add up to anything. It wound up feeling like it had been shoved in at the end to lead into the next book.

The thing at the end affected my reading of the book more than anything else. Stumbles are an expected thing in the first book in a series. But I flat don’t like it when the end of a book feels like the prologue to the next. That said, there’s enough that Madsen did well in Weaver’s Folly that I was already planning on reading the next one when it comes out. I liked her characters and would have liked to have seen more of them. The separation between cyber punk Atlanta and deeply magical Arcadia is fascinating to me. I’m curious about the specifics of how magic works here. The whole of the book leaves me wanting more and for that, Weaver’s Folly gets a four out of five.

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House Keeping 6/26/18

Hey all! Running a bit late this week. Things have gone a bit sideways, as they do, and I’m working on getting them back on track.

I’m still planning on having a review up tomorrow, but it might be a little late. It might wind up going live Thursday.

Continuing saga of planned things is as much on going as it ever is, though I’m a bit stuck for getting anything finished. So, that’s basically in a holding pattern.

That’s about it. Standard stuff, 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, you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi.

Mad Cat Franz and the Bomb cover

For me there has always been something a little weird about books. That someone you’ve never met, who may even be long dead, had an idea for a character, a place, a scene, a story form in their mind and translated it into lines of squiggles on pieces of paper. Years later you come along and pick up those pieces of paper and decipher the squiggles and in your mind the images re-form. You may say, well duh-huh stupid, that’s writing and reading! This I know, but there still seems a little magic involved.

Personally, an idea for a novel can quite literally trigger from anything at all. Something seen, heard, read, an event, a feeling experienced, a comment, a joke, an injustice particularly, a silly fact, a conversation overheard. There’s no end to the list really. Also this trigger can provide the missing links to let you chain together any number of ideas you’ve been carrying around for some time into a workable synopsis.

The idea-spark for my latest novel Mad Cat, Franz and the Bomb came from a quip, too vulgar to repeat here, made by a good friend of mine when he deranged a line from the musical Oklahoma. For some bizarre reason it combined with an image I’d had in my head for years that goes like this.

It’s a beautiful summer day and you’re sat at the beach gazing at a calm sea when you notice something moving in the water close in front of you. As you watch, the surface of the water is broken by the top of a blond head, a forehead appears, eyes, a face, shoulders until the figure of a German World War Two pilot in uniform steadily walks up out of the water bone dry. The beach is crowded but no one else sees him. Only you.

In the novel the ‘you’ concerned is a teenage girl, Catherine McEvoy, also known to one and all in the small seaside town as Mad Cat because as a young child she insisted she had three invisible friends who tormented her horribly. Franz is the German pilot and the Bomb in question, which maybe real or not, is used as a metaphor for what is happening to Cat.

The other main characters are two retired gay actors, Teddy and Perry, who are as good as family to Cat. Perry is calm and loving while Teddy is profane and raucous and also, in the story, dying. That these characters are polar opposites allows for the injection of humour at regular intervals to prevent the story becoming too sad or introverted. This wasn’t a conscious, contrived device on my part as the two characters occurred naturally alongside the initial idea, but I did find I enjoyed them as I wrote their scenes and so their interjections became more frequent as the story unfolded.

The world building for the novel was relatively easy given the geographical setting of the story. We’re all familiar with such small, seaside towns and the one I describe is an amalgam of a few I am familiar with. The houses and rooms are imagined to reflect the characters who live in them and are assembled with as much of an eye for detail as possible to try to bring them alive. It wasn’t as if I had to envisage a dystopian future world and I admire writers who are capable of that type of imagination.

I read somewhere Stephen King will sometimes begin writing a novel or short story with no idea how it will end and just let it continue not knowing where it will take him. Just writes. Amazing. Being a mere mortal and old school in comparison, as soon as I get the initial story idea I pretty much know most of the beginning and always the ending and much of the arc leading from one to the other, though as the story develops it can go off at tangents I hadn’t originally thought of at all.

This being in many ways three stories woven and linked together around the central character Cat, made keeping the events and scenes in the arc fluent a little complicated, rather like juggling at times. Also there was quite a bit of historical research involved which can be laborious but it does sometimes uncover unthought-of pearls that enrich the story. I shouldn’t say this but it also looks like you know what you’re talking about!

And as for characters, well, they can cause a real problem. I’m lucky in that they mostly come fully formed right down to the sound of their voice and their clothes  and once they are realised they are fixed as firmly as something ghastly you’ve seen and can’t un-see. Some very occasionally require a little polishing to make them, hopefully, memorable for the reader.

The problem being invariably when writing, other characters will appear which are great but ultimately not right for the particular story and so you have to, as Faulkner says, “…kill all your darlings.” That can be a tough call sometimes to know if it is the right decision or not and the upshot is you end up with a disgruntled mob in the back of your mind grumpily waiting to be employed in their own yarn. Likewise a scene you’ve written can be really on the money but it jars in the context of the overall story. You read and re-read looking for any excuse to include it but eventually and however reluctantly, you admit it just has to go.

Mad Cat, Franz and the Bomb is in essence a ghost story and the three invisible friends who torment Cat as a child I saw as perhaps, the horrid spirits of Victorian children who once inhabited the house where she lives. The concept of invisible friends is interesting to me too in that, in young children they are tolerated but in adults it’s labelled as delusionary or schizophrenia, which is something I explore in the story too. So are they real or is Cat indeed going mad as everyone believes?

Author Picture

Bio of Tony McAndrew:

Having what little education thrashed into him by nuns at the convent caned out of him by grammar school, Tony kept a promise to himself to begin writing when he finished doing tedious stuff like working full time. After a wander through psychiatric nursing, the Met Police and almost thirty years as a frontline paramedic the time seemed about right. He still works now and again in Primary Care somewhere in Wales and lives happily on the Gower indulging in writing, reading, talking with friends, drinking beer and floating in the sea with his wife.

I’m not super pleased with this one, but I also don’t know that I could have written it any better than I have. It sort of makes me wish I had younger family members to bounce this sort of book off of, to get their opinion. Throwing books at children is bad. This one is thanks to the awesome folks at First Second, here is Marcus Sedgwick’s Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter. Enjoy!

Scarlett Hart Monster Hunter cover

The orphaned child of famed monster hunters, Scarlett Hart wants desperately to follow in their footsteps. She has their gadgets and their butler. She has the will to face down everything from grim hounds to dragons. The most dangerous challenge she faces though might be her parents’ old rival, Count Stankovic. His focus switched to her, the Count constantly rats her out to the watch and, worse yet, steals the credit for her kills. He’s up to something more than that though, something that threatens the entire city. It’ll be up to Scarlett to figure out what the Count is planning and save the day.

Marcus Sedgwick’s Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter is, in many ways, a good start that needs more room to be developed. It’s actually a little hard for me to dig into because I am very aware that I am not the target audience for this book. I have issues with this book that I know aren’t entirely fair to the book for what it is. That said, I could see this being enjoyable for the kids it’s written for.

Mostly I find myself curious about the world itself. The monsters seem to be a natural part of it, but then also somewhat separate from it. It’s considered strange when more start showing up. The only protection against them seems to be the hunters, but then we don’t get a lot of how that works beyond Scarlett being too young and that being part of how the Count keeps tripping her up.

The Count himself is also a bit of a sticking point for me. He had history with Scarlett’s parents and is taking it out on her. That’s a little cartoony but I can roll with it. That his nemesis is a literal child and the lengths he’s willing to go makes me wonder how he functions within the setting’s world. It’s a thing that would honestly probably roll past the target audience. Count Stankovic is the bad guy, so of course he’s going to be a problem for our heroine, it doesn’t need to go deeper than that.

The story itself is simple and largely serves to set up the next book. No real complements or complaints there. Though, again, I would like to learn more about the setting. Presumably that would be in later installments. Again, it doesn’t need to go super deep, and the monster designs are cool enough to carry some of the places where the plot it thin.

Thomas Taylor’s art here is interesting. It can be quite expressive and a lot of the back ground elements are really cool. While it’s cartoony that fits the book really well. The faces occasionally feel a little off in places where I’m not sure they’re meant to, but then are really off in the places I’m certain they’re meant to be. It works.

Ultimately, I’m left with this book being functional. It isn’t for me and I didn’t get as much enjoyment out of it as I feel someone pre-middle school might. So, I’m giving Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter a three out of five. It introduces the main character and her story and, while I wish there was more to it, I’m sure that later books with fill in details as they go.

House Keeping 6/19/18

Hey all, I had a nice weekend and am back into the swing of things this week.

Things are in something of a holding pattern right now. I’ve fallen a touch behind on getting reviews written, though I’m in a decent place getting books read wise. There will be a review tomorrow, though after that I’m going to have to set myself a target and get writing.

That aside, I’m going to have another guest post for you all going up on Friday!

Beyond that, I’m still trying to work around the situation with my video camera. I’ve got a couple of ideas on that but don’t know how workable they are. Then, of course, comic stuff is coming. Eventually. It’s sort of been eaten by the falling behind.

And, of course, the standard stuff. 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. Any funds from that will be going towards getting a video camera that is compatible with Windows 10.

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.

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!