Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Fantasy New Release: The Endless Hills (Water Road Trilogy #2) by J.D. Byrne

The Endless Hills (Water Road Trilogy #2)
by J.D. Byrne

Release Date: 31AUG2016

Description:
The Second Great Neldathi Uprising has begun, setting the world of the Water Road on fire.

United by Antrey Ranbren, the Neldathi clans have attacked across the great river, laying waste to the metropolis of Innisport. Now they hunt the Triumvirate army in the Endless Hills of Telebria. Antrey knows a crushing victory in pitched battle is what they need to win this war. The Neldathi have swept aside everything in their path, but time is not on their side. That’s why she’s sent Naath and Goshen on desperate missions to find help.
Trapped in Oberton by the negative reaction to her book exposing the Triumvirate’s treatment of the Neldathi, Strefer wonders how the Neldathi have been so successful on the battlefield. She leaves the safety of the city in the trees to find the truth. Along with Rurek, she traces the evidence back to the last place she ever expected.
A world torn apart by war and a dwindling sense of hope for the future - the next chapter in the epic saga of The Water Road.


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Until Sunday, September 4, get The Water Road for free and The Endless Hills for just 99 cents, both at Amazon!

Get them here:
The Water Road
The Endless Hills

Learn more about The Water Road trilogy from the Water Road Wednesday posts on J.D. Byrne's blog.

Social media links:
Facebook: JDBAuthor

Twitter: @JDBAuthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/JDByrne

Web: jdbyrne.net

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Fiction Review: Johnny and Jamaal by K.M. Breakey

Johnny and Jamaal
by K.M. Breakey

Description:
Two athletes from different planets are on the verge of greatness. Johnny’s a carefree Canadian making his mark in the NHL. Jamaal’s set to follow LeBron and Kyrie out of the ghetto. When their worlds collide, the catastrophic clash ignites racial conflict not seen since Ferguson. The incident tests the fledgling love of Johnny’s best friend Lucas and his African-American girlfriend Chantal, and sets them on a quest for truth and justice in the perverse racial landscape of 2016.

As chaos escalates across American cities, an MLK-like voice rises from the ashes. Wilbur Rufus Holmes may be salvation for Luke and Chantal, but can he stop society’s relentless descent into racial discord?

Johnny and Jamaal is awash with sports, violence and political taboo, as America’s seething dysfunction is laid bare.


My Review:
I was provided a copy of this book by the author so that I could write this review.

This was a tough, but very carefully laid out story. Told from the perspective, mostly, of a young man from Vancouver, it highlights and explores the nature of America’s racial tension in the not so distant past.

Again, it isn’t an easy read, not due to any issues with the writing, but due to the topic and the tragedies that arise from it. The author holds back nothing. He pulls you right in, into both sides of the dynamic and the many shades between them. There are strong opinions behind these words.

This is also one of those stories that blend the line between fiction and reality. I found myself wanting to google some of the names to see if they were based in fact or fiction. Some were definitely fact, featuring heavily in real-life news and in the background of the story.

The story aims to inform, but also to influence the reader. To caution, but also to inspire hope. It is told by a fellow from outside, a man who witnesses what’s happening in our streets from a place where race isn’t a defining factor. I don’t know whether that will make it easier to take or harder. All I can say is that it made me think, question.

This isn’t for everyone, and I can see some folks getting riled up by it, particularly those closest to the real conflict. But who knows? There is that glimmer of hope if one reads through to the end.


View all my reviews

Friday, August 26, 2016

Cover Reveal for Charity Anthology: In the Beginning


Today Month9Books is revealing the cover and some excerpts for their Charity Anthology IN THE BEGINNING, which releases October 25, 2016. Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!

On to the reveal!



Title: IN THE BEGINNING: Dark Retellings of Biblical Tales
Editors: Laureen P. Cantwell and Georgia McBride
Author: Stephen Clements, Nicole Crucial, Mike Hays, Sharon Hughson, Marti Johnson, Elle O'Neill, Lora Palmer, & Christina Raus
Pub. Date: October 25, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon | B&N |Goodreads

In the Beginning (Oct. 25, 2016) –Eight authors come together to build a powerful collection of dark young adult short stories inspired by the mysteries, faith, and darkness found within the Bible. Old Testament and New Testament, iconic and obscure figures alike are illuminated, explored, and re-envisioned throughout this charity anthology from Month9Books.

Daniel and the Dragon by Stephen Clements
A troubled orphan named Habakkuk dutifully follows his master, the prophet Daniel, into temples of blood-thirsty demon-gods, battles with unspeakable horrors, and bears witnesses to mind-breaking evil until his master's zealous defiance of the king's law seals their fate.

Babylon by Nicole Crucial
Far above the earth, in Second Eden, where moments and eternities all blur together, young Babylon befriends Sefer, the Book of Life. As Babylon awaits the moment she'll fulfill her destiny, she and Sefer try to understand the world in which they live.

Last Will and Testament by Mike Hays
A homeless young boy, Baz, bears the weight of humanity on his shoulders and upon his body. When dark forces test a new-found friendship, Baz’s willingness to bear the ugliness of their world will be shaken. 

The Demon Was Me by Sharon Hughson
Based on the story of the demon-possessed boy healed by Jesus, this tale provides a glimpse into a post-apocalyptic world where a teenage boy seeks to journey to a better land and yearns to discover the kind of man he's meant to be, only to be hijacked by an evil spirit intent upon chipping away at the hope, faith, and resilience of its host.

The Deluge by Marti Johnson
A non-believer shares the story of Noah’s ark-building and the deadly downpour that follows. Fear, faithlessness, and the fallibility of mankind collide in a community where second chances aren’t unlimited and a better-late-than-never attitude just might be your doom.

Condemned by Elle O'Neill
Just sixteen-years-old, Barabbas finds himself pulled out of Routlege Academy and into a reality show competition—against Jesus himself—where the reward for the winner is life.

First Wife by Lora Palmer
In a first-person retelling of the saga of Jacob, Rachel and Leah, themes of family, deception, guilt, and heartache emerge amidst the first days of Leah’s marriage to Jacob—a marriage mired in trickery a mere week before Jacob was to marry Leah's sister Rachel.

Emmaculate by Christina Raus
Based on the story of Mary's Immaculate Conception, we enter the troubled mind of Emma, who finds herself torn between her religious upbringing and the purity ring that binds her to her boyfriend and the pregnancy that results from her relationship with another boy.
 
Read on for excerpts of each...

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Read it Again! Cinnamon Twigs by Darren Freebury-Jones

Cinnamon Twigs
by Darren Freebury-Jones

Read again in July 2016:
Gosh, I think I love this even more! I had to up my star rating. Anyway, bought my copy for this go around since I don't hang on to the read for review copies. Highly recommended for folks who love memoirs (this one's fictional, but feels real) and stories that really suck you in.

Original Review from June 2013:
Intelligent, poignant, believable...

These are the three words I'd use to describe Cinnamon Twigs. This fictional memoir follows the rise and fall of Daniel Mace from childhood, through college, love, loss, fame, and finally redemption. Daniel falls in love with drama as a child, and this early love molds his life and guides him towards greatness as an adult. His memories of youth include best friends Lisa and Elliot, making home movies, and playing small parts in school productions. Not all is perfect even then. His friend Lisa's father is abusive and violent, his mother is bipolar, his own father abandoned him and his mother.

From there, the story progresses into his teen and college years. Daniel meets best friend, Michael, and their adventures play out in the youthful illusion of invincibility. His love of theater matures at this stage of life, and romantic love also blooms. However, as in real life, the path to true and lasting love isn't an easy or direct route.

Even after he hits it big, success isn't all he'd expected it to be. The people are fickle and easily swayed by the tabloids and press. This works in his favor when these institutions paint him in bright rosy colors, but when they turn to darker shades for the sake of a better story, his life takes a turn for the worse. A disintegrating marriage, self-destructive social life, and growing addiction lead him to a drastic solution.

Having recently read a few non-fiction memoirs, I must say the author has pulled off the format and feel in Cinnamon Twigs. While reading, I kept having to remind myself "this isn't real." So much insight, feeling and personality filter through from the narrator, that it's easy to forget. Though most of the story is told in linear fashion, an occasional detour into the past or a glimmer into a future yet unknown to the younger Daniel give the feeling that a real person is behind the words, that these things truly happened.

This leads to one of the things I most enjoyed about the story: guessing just how much of it comes from the author's personal experience and how much comes from his imagination. One of my guesses is that he is exploring an alternate branch that his own life may have taken had he decided to follow his dreams rather than finish his PhD or had he made other, equally life-altering decisions. The author's take on the power of the press to guide and control public thought and opinions, the futile quest for immortality through pursuit of fame, and the intertwining natures of love and loss flow naturally from Daniel's experiences, the people he meets, and the path his life takes. The line between fiction and non-fiction is delightfully blurred.

Another thing that I found both challenging and enjoyable was the quality of the writing. This story is written at a reading level much higher than I'm used to and I found myself whipping out the virtual dictionary and Google Translate with some frequency. I'm pleased to say most of my contextual guesses for both the unfamiliar English vocabulary and the multi-linguistic phrases were at least somewhat correct, but I'm glad I decided to check behind them. I took notes for quicker reading next time.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. Cinnamon Twigs forced me to think, broadened my perspective, and entertained me. And, though challenged by the sophisticated language and writing style, I was not overwhelmed by it.

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy literary fiction, contemporary fiction, social commentary shrouded in fiction, and fictional memoirs. Besides that, I recommend having your dictionary and a translation application of choice handy.


I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest, non-reciprocal review.


View all my reviews

Monday, August 15, 2016

Tour Stop and Excerpt: The Dragon Sphere (Nation of Dragons #1) by Abel Gallardo

The Dragon Sphere banner

This is my stop during the blog tour for The Dragon Sphere by Abel Gallardo. This blog tour is organized by Lola's Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 8 till 21 August, you can view the tour schedule here

The Dragon SphereThe Dragon Sphere (Nation of Dragons #1)
by Abel Gallardo
Genre: Fantasy
Age category: Young Adult
Release Date: July 20, 2016

Blurb:
Landon Brown, fifteen year old high school football star, is always on the top of his game. That is until he receives a visit from an uncle he’s never met with information about Landon’s father, who disappeared without a trace thirteen years before. Landon learns that the life he’s been living is a lie and that his true nature is powerful and dangerous. He’s half dragon and a threat to the delicate balance that has kept dragon society hidden from humans for hundreds of years.

Landon now must learn about his dragon heritage and train to control his incredible abilities with the help of the Elder Dragons, a bizarre trainer named Alpha, and other dragonoids like himself.

He quickly realizes that the mysterious world of dragons, spirits, and secret societies are not for the weak. Tasked with finding the Dragon Sphere, an ancient relic harboring a terrible power that could destroy the world, Landon recognizes that he just might be way in over his head. Will he be able to control his newfound power in time for the fight of his life?
Excerpt:
“I want you to close your eyes. Okay, now visualize your target. Just relax your mind and let your body sense the distance. Let the ground tell you where everything is. Do you feel the burning sensation in your chest?” Alpha asked.

“Yes,” I responded.

“Good―now push that energy towards your arms. You should feel them get tense. Good, it looks like you got it. Now when I say go, I want you to unleash that power right underneath the target. Ready… set… go!”

 I felt energy pulse through my arms as I raised them in the air, willing the ground underneath a wooden dummy to rise and knock the target forty feet high.

 “Now volley him!” Alpha ordered. Just before the wooden dummy hit the ground, I willed the earth to rise again at a forty-five-degree angle, knocking the target left. Then I did it again, but this time to the right. I continued to volley the wooden dummy, watching as wooden limbs started flying everywhere. When I stopped, the only thing remaining of the doll was its torso.

“Good job, Cyclops,” Alpha said encouragingly. “You’re getting better at controlling your power, brah! It will only be a matter of time before you have full control.”

It was nice to hear Alpha’s encouragement. I had been training with him and the other trainees for two weeks now. He had been drilling us so we could learn how to control our powers, especially after I caused a small earthquake in the cavern by accident. A nightmare had triggered it; I still don’t think I could’ve controlled it.

“Okay, so you’re progressing well on manipulating the earth, but we still need to work on the quakes,” Alpha said. “Maybe one of these days you could set us up for some mud surfing!”

“What is that?” I asked.

“I’m just joking, brah. It includes you causing a mudslide and riding it like a righteous wave. Sounds amazing, right?” I nodded my head, pretending that the idea was a good one.

“Oh, I almost forgot,” Alpha said, “you have a visitor coming in fifteen minutes, so you should get cleaned up. We’re just about done for the day anyway.”

I asked Alpha who it was, but he ignored me and went on to help one of the other trainees. As I walked up the rocky slopes, I noticed some of the other students working on their powers.

Aurora was showing off as usual. She had pockets of air swirling around her in the form of three funnels. The rotating air picked up loose rocks, dirt, and anything else that got in its way. Much closer to the main cavern entrance, I saw James Braddock crushing large boulders with his bare hands. He punched one boulder so hard that it exploded on contact. It didn’t crumble or split into many pieces. It literally exploded! What was interesting about James was his ability to breathe poisonous gas. His mother Jada is a green dragon, and from what I hear, the poisonous gas that they breathe is among the most lethal in the world. Once Alpha and James went down near the valley, and Alpha showed him how dangerous it was. He had James blow out the poison gas onto a flower―and immediately, it .
***End of Excerpt***

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You can find The Dragon Sphere on Goodreads

You can buy The Dragon Sphere here:
- Amazon Paperback

Abel GallardoAbout the Author:
Abel Gallardo was greatly influenced by Greek mythology, comic books, and the fantasy/mystery novels he had read as a child. Shortly after graduating with his Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology, he began writing stories that reminded him of the adventures he cherished growing up. Abel Gallardo now lives with his wife and children in Albuquerque, NM.

You can find and contact Abel here:
- Website
- Facebook
- Twitter
- Goodreads

Giveaway
There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of The Dragon Sphere. Two winners will each win a 10$ amazon gift card!

For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter giveaway below:
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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Fantasy Review: The Water Road (Book One of The Water Road Trilogy) by JD Byrne

The Water Road by J.D. Byrne
Genre: Fantasy

Description:
Two women are about to expose a terrible secret that will turn their world upside down.

For centuries the great river known as the Water Road separated the Altrerians in the north from the Neldathi in the south. When the Neldathi clans united and struck out across the river, the nations of Altreria formed an alliance, the Triumvirate, to drive them back. For more than a hundred years after, the Triumvirate kept the Neldathi barbarians at bay, fighting amongst themselves across the Water Road.

Antrey is a woman without a country, the daughter of a Neldathi mother and an Altrerian father. She’s found a role for herself in Tolenor, the headquarters of the Triumvirate, that's given her access to a secret the alliance has kept for generations. When she finds it, she explodes with rage and embarks on a quest to find justice for the Neldathi people.

Strefer is a reporter without a story, desperately working the streets of Tolenor for any kind of lead. When Antrey flees the city, Strefer slips in and discovers her uncovered secret, stained with blood and fury. It’s the story of a lifetime, one powerful forces want to keep her from telling. With the help of a renegade Sentinel, Strefer sets out for a mythical city in hopes she can make the world listen to the truth.

Together, they’ll inflame the passions of a people and set the world alight. The Water Road - first book of The Water Road trilogy.



My Review:
The Water Road is an epic in the making. Antrey’s story is all about righteous indignation and a quest for justice and vengeance. Strefer’s story is about revealing the truth to a people who don’t want to hear it.

I thought this was a rather well put together read. Both stories and heroines are fully developed and engaging. In both cases, their chosen path is something they feel is right, but is it? That’s a question that can only be answered in later volumes. This story sets the stage for what promises to be an epic-scale struggle both between two civilizations and within each of the two women that spark it in the first place.

As a fantasy, this one isn’t concerned with any magic systems or peoples. However, the world building is flawless and the history is intriguing and rich. I love the details sprinkled into the story, but also how they don’t take over. The focus is on the people and the struggles they face: past, present and future. And the characters are relatable, and the pacing is steady, but good for this sort of book. There’s a balance between information and action with no unnecessary romance clouding things up.

Overall, I loved this story, and I’d strongly recommend it to fans of fantasy, intrigue and politics, and other worlds. You won’t find dwarves or elves in these pages, but you won’t miss them either.

I received a copy of this book from the author so that I could write this review.


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Book Links:

Official Webpage: The Water Road Trilogy
Goodreads: The Water Road (book 1)
Amazon: The Water Road


About the Author:

 
JD Byrne
JD Byrne was born and raised around Charleston, West Virginia, before spending seven years in Morgantown getting degrees in history and law from West Virginia University. He's practiced law for more than 15 years, writing briefs where he has to stick to real facts and real law. In his fiction, he gets to make up the facts, take or leave the law, and let his imagination run wild. He lives outside Charleston with his wife and one-eyed dog.

Follow JD Byrne:
Official Webpage
Facebook
Twitter @JDBAuthor
Goodreads




Friday, August 5, 2016

Romantic Suspense Review and Blog Tour Stop: A Cunning Plan by Astrid Arditi

A Cunning Plan banner

This is my stop during the blog tour for A Cunning Plan by Astrid Arditi. This blog tour is organized by Lola's Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 1 till 14 August, you can view the tour schedule here.

A Cunning PlanA Cunning Plan (Sloane Harper #1)
by Astrid Arditi
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Age category: Adult
Release Date: 8 May, 2016

Description:
Determined to put her family back together, Sloane Harper stalks her ex husband and his annoyingly stunning mistress, Kate. And she’s not the only one. Handsome IRS agent Ethan Cunning is surveying them too, but not for the same reasons. He is attempting to nail Kate’s playboy boss.

Ethan and Sloane decide to help each other, which sends Sloane’s wobbly life spinning out of control. She’ll have to face danger, humiliation, and scariest of all, the dating scene, to lure her daughters’ father home.

Losing control was the best thing to happen to Sloane… until it turned lethal.
My Review:
A Cunning Plan is about a woman who’s resorted to staking out (not stalking) her ex’s new girlfriend in the hopes of figuring out how to get her husband back. She’s pretty much in denial, and it’s obvious she’s going down a desperate path. And then the most unexpected thing knocks her off that path, and she’s drawn into the plans of the mysterious and handsome agent, Ethan Cunning.

The description sparked my interest from the start. I was intrigued, hoping this would be what I thought it was, a romance/unlikely-spy thriller. Perhaps with some humor. Perhaps with a good dose of danger. I wasn’t disappointed. It had all of that, plus a really believable main character who grows from desperate ex-housewife into confident, self-reliant single mom.

And I think that character arc is what I love the most from this book. Sloane’s obviously never been on her own, and she’s still not convinced she is. I just wanted to shake her at times and say, “Lady, drop him! He’s no good.” But, then Ethan and even the target, mmm, and watching her figure it out and make mistakes, and eventually start making fewer of those, until finally, wow, what an awesome turnaround.

I also like how this is a clean read, but still honest and realistic about sex and desire. And, to be honest, I burst into giggles every time she mentions her hoo-ha’s reaction to something. On that note, I’d have to say that this feels like a read that women, in particular, would enjoy. The issues, the perspectives, the plot, all of it really. But it isn’t mushy, or boring, or full of poignant emotions, or something that’s so woman that it’s sickening. It’s unique, fun, and dangerous, with a touch of romance. It simply resonates. Take out the spy stuff, and it feels like Sloane and her family are real. Her girls, her mother, her housekeeper/friend. I love that.

So yes, overall, I loved this book. It’s a great read, and I would strongly recommend it to folks who enjoy romance, thrills and a bit of inept sleuthing.

I received a free copy of this book from the author via Lola’s Blog Tours so that I could review it on my blog, I read too much!

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You can find A Cunning Plan on Goodreads

You can buy A Cunning Plan here:
- Amazon
- Amazon UK
- Barnes & Noble
- Kobo
- iBooks

Astrid ArditiAbout the Author:
Astrid Arditi was born from a French father and Swedish mother. She lived in Paris and Rome before moving to London with her husband and daughter back in 2013.

After dabbling in journalism, interning at Glamour magazine, and teaching kindergarten, Arditi returned to her first love: writing.

She now splits her time between raising her kids (a brand new baby boy just joined the family) and making up stories.

A Cunning Plan is Arditi’s first published work.

You can find and contact Astrid here:
- Website
- Facebook
- Twitter
- Goodreads

Giveaway
There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of A Cunning Plan. These are the prizes you can win:
- a Kindle Fire
- a 20$ amazon gift card
- 2 signed copies of A Cunning Plan by Astrid Arditi

For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:
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