Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Paranormal Romance New Release: Raene and the Three Bears by R.S. McCoy

Today Raene and the Three Bears is live on Amazon. I received a very lovely ARC copy of this paperback from the author, and I enjoyed every bit of it. Take a look at the book details below and then keep reading for a rundown of my impressions of the newest installment of The Alder Tales.

Raene and the Three Bears  (The Alder Tales #2)
by R.S. McCoy (Goodreads Author) 
Release Date: November 29, 2016

*A paranormal romance retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears*

A golden-haired beauty with a tiger totem, Raene Randal is powerless to stop the dissolution of her life. Her uncle and best friend, Kaide, is sending her away for good. While Raene knows his actions are fueled by the sudden and unexplained loss of his bride, Blossom, that doesn’t change the fact that her future is certain. As the niece of a Pyro politician, it’s Raene’s duty to cross the realm and fulfill her marriage arrangements with an Alderwood Bear Clan.

The rest of her life is mapped out, but Raene has one choice left: to choose a husband from the sons of the Bear Clan’s leader—too bad she’s not interested in any of them. She knows her duty, but so far from her home and everyone she knows, Raene finds keeping her promises harder than she ever thought.

On the far side of the realm, Blossom knows nothing of Kaide’s implosion or Raene’s departure. She’s trapped in the Aero city at the whim of Syndicate Mercer. As much as she tries to adapt to her aerial totem and her new role within the Aero branch, Blossom knows it’s only a matter of time before she sees Kaide again, but this time, she’ll be his enemy.

A new paranormal romance from RS McCoy, author of The Sparks Saga, The Luminary Chronicles, and The Extraction Files series.

Book Two of The Alder Tales.

What I thought about the paperback:
One word: fantastic.

This book was everything I have come to expect from books by R.S. McCoy. It isn't all butterflies and happiness, but there's some of that. There's strife, danger, love, attraction, and loss. Not everything goes to plan, but I still get that warm and fuzzy feeling I demand from a romance. Raene is beautiful and strong and vicious (from her tiger totem), and watching her come to terms with both sides of herself was a delight.

Anyhow, about the actual paperback, it's lovely!  There's a good solid feel to it, not too thick, even at 405 pages of story. The font is pleasing to the eye and appropriate for the sort of novel this is, and it looks really nice against the off-white paper, which has a nice texture to it and isn't too thin. The formatting is consistent throughout, and the pages have plenty of whitespace around the edges. It doesn't feel cramped or pressed in. Just right.

Oh, and that cover, it's even more magnificent in person. I couldn't really tell on my computer screen or kindle what the animal was, but on the paperback, it is very obviously a tiger in shadows. You can even see her face (well, her tiger face). It has a really clean, pleasing look that carries over to the spine of the book, so it would look great either end out or front out on a bookshelf.

Overall, I think this would be a great gift for fans of paranormal romance, but I strongly recommend picking up Blossom and the Beast, too, because you'll need to read them in order.

I liked this book so much I wrote two reviews for it. For a more story-oriented take, check out my review on PureTextuality.com. I'm sure it will post there either today or close, so check it out, too! And don't forget to share with your friends.

About the Author:
Rachel McCoy is a Texan living in New Jersey. Between binge watching MTV reality shows and baking gluten free treats, she writes paranormal fantasy and science fiction novels. She is the self-published author of the Sparks Saga trilogy as well as numerous short stories, some of which now reside in anthologies. Back when she lived in the real world, Rachel earned a degree in marine biology, which contributed to her die-hard love of manta rays.

To connect with RS McCoy (or swap recipes), visit her on her website (www.rsmccoyauthor.com) or check out her Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRSMcCoy). You can also join her newsletter to receive release updates, free stories, and bonus extras (http://eepurl.com/YItp1).

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sci-Fi Review: The Host: A Novel by Stephanie Meyer

The Host: A Novel
by Stephanie Meyer 

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, didn't expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

As Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she's never met. Reluctant allies, Wanderer and Melanie set off to search for the man they both love.

My Review:
I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from The Host, but I didn’t expect to love it so much. It takes the body-snatcher invasion idea to another level. Benevolent, non-violent invaders who, nevertheless, destroy entire civilizations by taking over the bodies and suppressing the minds of their victims.

The two main characters, Wanderer and Melanie, are fantastic together. Wanderer didn’t ask to be given Melanie’s body, but she was. Unfortunately for Wanderer, Melanie’s will to survive is strong and she refuses to fade into nothingness. Wanderer can’t help but feel what Melanie feels, and it leads them both into danger and an unexpected life path.

I pretty much loved everything about this story, but one thing I couldn’t help but realize was that this would likely make a rather boring movie. Most of it would be set in the caverns, and a lot of it would have to focus on the inner dialog between Melanie and Wanderer. Not the stuff of movie magic. Perhaps that’s why I’ve heard the movie was no good. Anyhow, I am glad I picked up the book because it’s perfect. Makes you think, makes you feel, and makes you care.

I recommend this story to folks who love sci-fi with a bit of romance. It would mostly appeal, in my opinion, to those who love YA, but it’s smarter than many YA stories I’ve read and really makes you think.

I borrowed this book from the library.

About the Author (from Stephanie Meyer's Goodreads profile):

I was born in Connecticut in 1973, during a brief blip in my family's otherwise western U.S. existence. We were settled in Phoenix by the time I was four, and I think of myself as a native. The unusual spelling of my name was a gift from my father, Stephen (+ ie = me). Though I have had my name spelled wrong on pretty much everything my entire life long, I must admit that it makes it easier to google myself now.

I filled the "Jan Brady" spot in my family-the second of three girls. Unlike the Brady's, none of my three brothers are steps, and all of them are younger than all the girls. I went to high school in Scottsdale, Arizona, the kind of place where every fall a few girls would come back to school with new noses and there were Porsches in the student lot (for the record, I have my original nose, and never had a car until after I was in my twenties). I was awarded a National Merit Scholarship, and I used it to pay my way to Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah. I majored in English, but concentrated on literature rather than creative writing, mostly because I didn't consider reading books "work" (as long as I was going to be doing something anyway, I might as well get course credit for it, right?).

I met my husband, Pancho (his real name is Christiaan), when I was four, but we were never anywhere close to being childhood sweethearts. In fact, though we saw each other at least weekly through church activities, I can't recall a single instance when we so much as greeted each other with a friendly wave, let alone exchanged actual words. This may have been for the best, because when we did eventually get around to exchanging words, sixteen years after our first meeting, it only took nine months from the first "hello" to the wedding. Of course, we were able to skip over a lot of the getting to know you parts (many of our conversations would go something like this: "This one time, when I was ten, I broke my hand at a party when-" "Yeah, I know what happened. I was there, remember?")

We've been married for ten and a half years now, and have three beautiful, brilliant, wonderful boys who often remind me chimpanzees on crack. I can't write without music, and my biggest muse is, ironically enough, the band Muse. My other favorite sources of inspiration are Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, Coldplay, The All American Rejects, Travis, The Strokes, Brand New, U2, Kasabian, Jimmy Eat World, and Weezer, to mention a few.   
Follow the author here:

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

High Fantasy Review: A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle #1) by Ursula LeQuin

A Wizard of Earthsea  (Earthsea Cycle #1)
by Ursula K. Le Guin 

Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, was called Sparrowhawk in his reckless youth.

Hungry for power and knowledge, Sparrowhawk tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death's threshold to restore the balance.

My review:
A Wizard of Earthsea is the story about the origins of Sparrowhawk, a boy destined to be archmage and hero in the land (sea?) of Earthsea. I added this book to my to-be-read list back in 2013 when the miniseries based on the Earthsea books came out because I love fantasy and it had all the elements: young protagonist, magic, quests.

Still, having now read it, I can’t help but feel a little let down. The story itself is interesting. The struggle, the quest, and the danger, all progress logically and pull you along as Sparrowhawk grows into a more likeable hero.

Then again, it all falls flat. Part of that is due to the distant, 3rd person point of view. It’s all about Sparrowhawk, in the past, before he becomes famous, with lots of reminders that he will, in fact, fight this battle or that, become arch mage, or be an all-powerful master of the arcane of some sort. But, it reads more like a campfire tale by someone who’s memorized the words than an immersive adventure where the reader feels like they’re there in the action.

Also, there’s just a ton of hooptedoodle (look that up in the first few pages of John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday). Anyhow, I found myself skimming it. I just wanted the book to get to the point, the action, and while I can totally dig a few paragraphs of flowery words and fanciful description, there was way too much of both in some parts.

Also, if one’s true name is so important and powerful, why does Sparrowhawk find it so easy to share his? Right after going on and on about the true name, the first thing he does upon reaching the wizard school is state his true name to the keeper of the door. I recall this from the miniseries, too, and it didn’t sit well then, either. And if your friend shares their true name with you, why in the world would you then insist on greeting them with that name in public, ever? Seems incongruous.

Anyhow, while I didn’t find it a struggle to keep reading this book, it did make me second guess my own love of fantasy books. I couldn’t help but feel that if I’d read this ten years ago, I might have absolutely loved this book. But I didn’t read it ten years ago, I read it now.

So, overall, I must say I thought the book was ok and somewhat likeable, but not quite up my alley. Folks who really dig traditional fantasy with all the flowery words and hints of future greatness might enjoy this book. It’s not the most immersive experience, but there’s a good story in there. Still, I probably won’t continue reading the series.

I borrowed this book from the library.

About the Author:

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin is an American author of novels, children's books, and short stories, mainly in the genres of fantasy and science fiction. She has also written poetry and essays. First published in the 1960s, her work has often depicted futuristic or imaginary alternative worlds in politics, the natural environment, gender, religion, sexuality and ethnography.

She influenced such Booker Prize winners and other writers as Salman Rushdie and David Mitchell – and notable science fiction and fantasy writers including Neil Gaiman and Iain Banks. She has won the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award, each more than once. In 2014, she was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Le Guin has resided in Portland, Oregon since 1959.

Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.                

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Short Story Review: Demon Rising: A Dark Fantasy Short Story by R.S. McCoy

Demon Rising: A Dark Fantasy Short Story
by R.S. McCoy

A demon hides under little Katherine's bed, only he isn't there to haunt her.

My Review:
A very short story, Demon Rising, is quick and intriguing.

The demon isn’t what you’d expect, and that’s part of the charm. I felt bad for him. Anyhow, it’s a good read. Took me about fifteen minutes to get through.

Folks who like short stories and fantasy might like this.

I picked my copy of this book during a free promotion.

View all my reviews

About the Author:
Rachel McCoy is a Texan living in New Jersey. Between binge watching MTV reality shows and baking gluten free treats, she writes paranormal fantasy and science fiction novels. She is the self-published author of the Sparks Saga trilogy as well as numerous short stories, some of which now reside in anthologies. Back when she lived in the real world, Rachel earned a degree in marine biology, which contributed to her die-hard love of manta rays.

To connect with RS McCoy (or swap recipes), visit her on her website (www.rsmccoyauthor.com) or check out her Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRSMcCoy). You can also join her newsletter to receive release updates, free stories, and bonus extras (http://eepurl.com/YItp1).

Saturday, November 5, 2016

New Release and Review: Immortal Writers by Jill Bowers

Immortal Writers
by Jill Bowers

Young up-and-coming author Liz McKinnen has no idea that her life is about to change forever when she comes home from her first book tour.

When she's kidnapped and told by her captors that she has to kill her fantasy book's antagonist, she thinks that she's fallen into the hands of crazy, dangerous fans... until her antagonist sends a real, fire-breathing dragon after her. Liz is quickly initiated into the Immortal Writers, a group of authors from throughout time whose words have given them eternal life, and whose prose is so powerful that it's brought stories over from the Imagination Field into the Reality Field.

As Liz meets authors such as William Shakespeare, JRR Tolkien, Edgar Allan Poe, and Jane Austen, she has to learn how to control magic, fight dragons, and face her own troubled past before her power-hungry villain takes over the world. Will she survive the ultimate battle against the dragon lord whom she created?

My Review:
Immortal Writers takes a rather literal spin to finding immortality through the written word. Imagine learning, as an author, that your plot twists, dashing heroes, and darkest villains have come to life. Not just come to life in the minds of your readers, but in reality. All I can say is Liz has her work cut out for her.

First off, I love how the story brings to life some of the things writers often say about writing. That they’ll live on through their words, that their characters take over the story, that the story itself has to happen the way it does, despite their intentions. I’ve felt this in my own writing, but to imagine that all of this might happen because the story is becoming real is just mind-blowing.
I also love which authors were chosen to be featured in this story and how they’re portrayed. Poe is one of my favorite characters in the story, mostly because of how the other authors react to him. But as a fantasy/sci fi fan, I particularly loved how Anne McCaffrey, J.R.R Tolkien, and even Gene Rodenberry make an appearance. And not just an appearance, some of them get involved in the plot personally. There’s mostly an air of fantasy, but also a few elements of sci fi, based on the writer’s who’ve been immortalized and the aspects of their writing that have leaked into the real world.
Now, all that’s related to the premise, but the story itself, the struggle and the romance and the personal growth of the main character, Liz, are all handled exceptionally well. It’s a satisfying read, and Liz’s story seems complete at the end.

That being said, there were points where the famous authors’ cameos made me roll my eyes. Just a little cheesy at times. And it was funny that Shakespeare seems to be the leader of all the immortal writers.

For folks looking for a book club read, there are some questions at the end specifically for that. In my opinion, this story would make an interesting discussion topic, particularly in book clubs where the members also enjoy writing.

Overall, I loved this book. I think folks who like to write, whether published or not, will be entranced by this story and the way it unfolds. Fantasy and sci fi fans in particular will dig the references to their genre and likely their favorite authors.

I received the review copy of this book from NetGalley.

About the Author:
Jill Bowers is a technical writer by day and a fantasy author by night. She is one of two composers-in-residence for the Westminster Bell Choir and has a great love for all music. She used to be the writer and host for the award-winning radio show Olde Tyme Radio on the Aggie Radio Station at USU and has dabbled in stage play writing as well.

Jill enjoys attending Utah's Comic Con and Fantasy Con and has an unhealthy attachment to Netflix. She lives in Utah and has a lovely dachshund that needs to lose weight because she probably doesn't get enough walks and is too cute to not feed. Jill attended Utah State University for their creative writing program, where she actually specialized in creative nonfiction rather than fiction. However, Jill loves delving into different worlds in fantasy and sci-fi novels and is excited to have people enter the worlds she has created.

Author Links:
w: www.immortalauthor.com/
t: @Jilliard08
f: facebook.com/immortalauthorjill
g: goodreads.com/user/show/2509616-jill-bowers
p: pinterest.com/jilliard08/
i: instagram.com/jilliard08/
y: youtube.com/channel/UC4FH9bS51qVga7rPot7awTw

**Updated 05NOV2017 with Author Info and Links!**

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

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

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

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.

My review:
A continuation of The Water Road, The Endless Hills takes on both sides of the new uprising. Antrey and Strefer still play important parts, but we also meet a new Ranger captain, who’s pretty interesting, and an ex-prisoner pressed into service on the Triumvirate side.

One of the things I love about this book, and the series so far, is how it draws you in emotionally. I want Antrey to win, but I also care about the characters introduced on the other side of the conflict. Both sides of the story are put out there in a relatable way. Good people on both sides. Old wrongs needing to be made right, but a new generation that isn’t at fault. Complex themes that really get you thinking.

Then, add the action and you have quite a fun and engaging read. Battles, strategy, personal conflict and favorite characters put in the line of danger make it all worth reading. The suspense in places had me on edge, and some of the outcomes are shocking. In the final chapters, one in particular left me reeling. That emotional connection to the characters is really what tipped this over for me.

So, overall, I loved this book. I’d highly recommend it to fans of epic fantasy. It’s just a good, solid read with a lot of meat to it. Fun and emotionally engaging. A great escape.

I received the review copy of this book from the author.

Book Links:
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.

About the Author:

J.D. 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, one-eyed dog, and black cat.

Facebook: JDBAuthor

Twitter: @JDBAuthor

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

Web: jdbyrne.net

New Release Review: Orphans of Time-Space by Robby Charters

Orphans of Time-Space
by Robby Charters

Release Date: November 1, 2016

 At nine years old, Drake was sure he had a best friend named Timmy Browning, but it turns out, Timmy never existed.

Later, at age sixteen, he has other weird memories, which remind him of his earlier one of Timmy Browning. While looking further, he realises he also knows things that he shouldn’t, such as the interior of the actual house that Timmy would have lived in, and Timmy’s mum (now the mother of Drake’s girlfriend, Jeanette); and weirder still: the name of a mysterious assassin.

These types of memories are the mark of one who has the “gift” of time perception. Thus, Drake’s adventures begin…

Saving Timmy Browning is the first in a collection of short stories, novelettes and a novella, all set in the same universe, some with the same characters. Saving Timmy Browning is a novelette, with an “uh-oh” ending if you want to take it on its own; or a cliff-hanger if you want to read straight into the sequel…

Saving the Time-line: Timmy Browning and his younger sister, Jessica have been saved from non-existence, but now the world has been plunged into a nightmarish alternative history of international proportions (no, not like Biff Tannen’s Hill Valley)

By now, we’ve already met Johann, a member of “The Order”. They have the task of streamlining history, and helping humanity avoid nasty things like nuclear war and mass genocide. They’ve been working overtime to keep the USSR and Argentina from a devastating war. They’ve run out of options, except for one, that Drake, Timmy, Jeanette and Jessica can help them with.

Episode Three is more like a chapter in the book that ties a few loose ends together.

The Murder Victim Who Was Still Alive is a stand-alone short story, set in the same universe, same premise. Police Inspector Dylan Murphy is working on a weird case: the body of a six-year-old boy was found buried under a pavement that hadn’t been been dug up in fifty years. But the time of death was only two hours ago. What’s even more strange: the boy, Mickey Stewart, is still very much alive.

The Great Time Shift (What would happen if Hannibal didn’t defeat Rome?) – How “The Order” was founded; Thoma tells the story of how it all started in a monastery in Iskandar (Kandahar). It was a time-line in which Rome never rose to be a great empire. First century Judea was under the Parthian Empire, so Christianity spread Eastward instead of Westward. India and China have been Christianised and Yoga is a Christian discipline. Thoma and his fellow monk Yoseph discover time-travel, and how to do it safely, avoiding the dangers of becoming embedded in the earth or dropping from the sky (because of the spin and orbit of the earth).

This novella answers the questions: how did history shift from the Parthian to the Roman time line; and how could the Incarnation and the rise of Christianity have possibly occurred in such a barbaric civilisation as the Roman Empire?

My Review:
The Orphans of Time Space is a rather intriguing collection of stories, all revolving around the possibility that some people may not only be predisposed to perceiving broken timelines, but also to traveling forwards and backwards along them.

The main character in the first one is Drake, and his story is all about discovering his own abilities and then learning to use them to save his abruptly non-existent friend, well, exist again. It gets complicated when he figures out that if he saves Timmy, his girlfriend Jeanette will go poof instead.
My favorite of the stories, however, is the one that stands alone in the middle, The Murder Victim Who Was Still Alive, even though the 6-year-old murder victim was incredibly well-spoken, especially when it cuts to his perspective. Still, I liked it. There was tension, and it really drew me in.
The longest one, I think, was the one about the history of The Order. It gets pretty deep, and Drake and friends reappear, but only as observers or students hearing a story second hand. I enjoyed the interesting take on the first Christmas. Clever.

Obviously, the author did a lot of research on the historical figures and put some real time into working through some plausible alternate realities, paradoxes, and methods to protect his time travelers from the influence of their own actions. I’m not as well versed in my history, but I didn’t any have trouble following along and enjoying the story.

The stories seem to be written in such a way as they could be read as standalone works, but as such, there are some redundancies, particularly in explaining the logistics around time travel.

Overall, I really liked these stories, particularly the mystery, the Saving Timmy Browning one, and the one with the first Christmas in it.  It’s an eclectic collection, all in the same world, but not all directly linked.

I received the review copy of this book from the author.

Book Links:

About the Author:
I presently live in Belfast with my family. That's where my dad was from, and where I have family connections. Most of my life was spent in Thailand, where I was born, and where my wife is from. I've done a number of things in my life, including charity work, training and mentoring, teaching English, telemarketing (don't hit me), working with homeless children, and, of course, writing. In three of my books you'll find a character named Boz. That's me. Oh, and I also do freelance book design. Just Google "Robby Charters" to find me, or go to my website: www.RobbyCharters.co.uk.

Author Links:

Twitter @robbycharters


On a side note, this isn't the first book I've read by this author. Nope, the first was The Zondon, which I picked up on Amazon back in 2013 because it started with a Z, it wasn't about zombies, and I was trying to complete an A-Z reading challenge.

Here's my review for The Zondon on Goodreads. It's one of those books I still find myself thinking about even a few years later.