Short but Poignant (Tested by Magic Review)

Normally when an author offers up a novella, I worry that some of the story will get lost in the rush for keeping it within word count. That didn’t happen with Jasmine Walt’s offering Tested by Magic. The first “short” story in Ms. Walt’s Baine Chronicles, Tested by Magic is a fabulous introduction to the heroine, Sunaya Baine, and does not require reading of any other book in the series (which isn’t to say you shouldn’t read the others.)

Tested by Magic gives us a glimpse into Sunaya’s start as an Enforcer, showing a different side to the girl readers might have met in Burned by Magic and allows us to see what she was like before she begins her journey. It’s a slightly different Sunaya (but not really) who starts her first day as an Enforcer: making friends with Annia (another enforcer) and searching for a lost little girl.

Sunaya struggles with her morals in this book, which underlays a nice little bit to things that will come up later in the series and characters that will be major players are introduced, but for the most part, this is a nice little introduction. For readers who aren’t quite ready to dive into the whole series, this is a nice little toe dip.

Me? I’ve read the first book and have the second book ready to cue up on my Kindle. You? Can rush over to your favorite eBook retailer right now and snag a pre-order of Tested by Magic. I highly recommend this one!

Pledge Review

Pledge by Christiana Gardner (Book One in the Witches of Coventry House) seems at first glance to be a story about a group of sorority sisters starting out on a new adventure. But secrets lurk within the walls of Coventry House; not just with the new pledges, but also among the sisters and the house mother.

The story mostly follows the group of pledges: Eden, Sarah, Hannah, Rebecca, Paige, Talia, Lexi, and Julie. Although you also see a lot of the pledge leader, Alex, and the house mother, Carolyn. Just as you are getting to know the girls, they start failing the “tests”. There is no hazing in Coventry House, but everything is a test. And failing means removal from Coventry House.

Although the idea of the story was interesting, I found myself wanting to get to the meat of the story. There was a lot of buildup and false “mystery” in the story and the only reason to keep reading was to find out what was happening, not why it was happening. Ms. Gardner seems to want to leave her reader craving more. Although this can be a good thing, too much leaves the reader frustrated. And I reached that point.

I got to the point where I was starting to make guesses on what Eden’s “problem” was and predicting Sarah’s reactions to things. I also guessed things like the true meaning of Coventry House long before the characters in the book which left me with an almost unfilled feeling. (I didn’t read the subtitle so that didn’t clue me in.)

Taking the story at face-value, it’s a nice little college romp that happens to have some paranormal elements. While it’s probably not something I’ll continue reading (it’s the first book in a series), I don’t regret trying this one.

Radio Silence

I apologize that y’all haven’t heard much in the last few months, I moved and started a new job. And that job has been kicking. My. Butt!

I’m enjoying my new house, still working on unpacking, but the job is… well, a job. For now, I’ll be doing my best to keep things moving, but please don’t expect much unless I get some breaks.

Meanwhile “What Happens When the Prince…” is still avaliable on smashwords and Amazon. If you buy and read, please review!

 

I’ve got a Halloween prompt and I’m hoping to offer it up before the actual day, but no promises! See y’all soon!

Announcing…

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I’m pleased to announce the release of “When the Prince Didn’t Come In Time”, a rewrite of the classic Sleeping Beauty tale… or is it?

What would happen if the Prince didn’t come to wake Sleeping Beauty from her 100 year nap? Sometimes happily ever after… isn’t.

The release date is August 2nd and right now it’s only available on Kindle, but I have hopes that I’ll be putting it out on a broader platform (smashwords so it’s available on Nook, etc). I most likely won’t be releasing this one in print ever because it’s so short.

I had planned to release the cover a few days ago and then do another release when the book was available for pre-order, but my life got away from me.

You can preorder the story here.

Why Sirens?

A few days ago, I posted a review for Sirens and I hope y’all have had a chance to read it. And have now had a chance to pick up the book (it was released this past Tuesday). Today I have the genuine pleasure of introducing LS Johnson, one of the contributors to the anthology. LS speaks on “Why Sirens?” especially in reference to this day and age.

 

Check it out, check out more of the blog tour (I’ll try to see about updating the links later today or tomorrow). And make sure to pick up your copy of Sirens from your favorite retailer.

 

Why Sirens?

 

There are few original references to sirens: Jason and the Argonauts, Odysseus on his ship, a handful of others . . . If that wasn’t bad enough, the details are inconsistent. Sometimes they’re winged and sometimes they’re scaly and sometimes they’re just beautiful women, sometimes they eat men and sometimes they mourn them, sometimes there’s two and sometimes they’re five and sometimes they were changed against their will and sometimes they were always thus. It’s barely enough for an episode in a man’s journey.

 

Which is the only purpose they have: to provide a temptation that the hero can overcome, preferably while exhibiting his craftiness or proving himself more noble than his fellows.  But it makes me wonder about these beautiful temptresses.  What motivates them? What do they actually sing? What do they think about, what do they do with themselves, when they’re not ruining men? No one seems to know or care, because they’re not really people in the end; they’re temptation embodied, useful only to the extent that they serve the hero’s narrative.

 

Unless, of course, someone writes them otherwise.  

 

You can look at a project like Sirens in a couple different ways. You can view it as, say, reworking a trope—a fun exercise that can produce some amazing stories, for it has.

 

But as I type these words, my social media is filled with the outcome of the Stanford rape trial. The victim’s statement had me in tears; the backlash against her, and the messages in support of her rapist, have left me shaking with anger. In such a framework every act of voicing by a woman—whatever the content or the medium, whatever her race and creed, whether she is cis or trans, queer or straight—is an urgent and necessary act.

 

Julian Jaynes posits that Greek mythology arose from a time when humanity had no self-consciousness as such, and instead was possessed of a bicameral consciousness: that their decision-making occurred when one hemisphere projected orders/images to the other, like a kind of schizophrenia. What the Greeks called gods—Athena, Zeus, Apollo, Hera—were in fact personifications of the voices in their heads. Bearing in mind that nearly all the texts we have were written by males, with male protagonists: what do creatures like the sirens personify, and why have they continued to resonate all this time? For “there’s always a siren singing you to shipwreck” as Radiohead tells us.

 

What motivates sirens, what’s their story? Because we need to know their story: we need to understand why the shipwrecks, why the ruination, if it’s even really about shipwrecks and ruination. Because behind every siren is a woman, and no matter how much she sings, she may be heard but she’s sure as hell not being listened to.

 

L.S. Johnson was born in New York and now lives in Northern California, where she feeds her cats by writing book indexes. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Interzone, Long Hidden, Year’s Best Weird Fiction, and other venues, and she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and longlisted for the Tiptree Award. Her first collection, Vacui Magia: Stories, is now available. Currently she’s working on a fantasy trilogy set in 18th century Europe.

 

Wolfhaven Promo

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From author, Jay Shaw, comes a new werewolf novel. Wolfhaven is the first book in her Duality series and looks to be a fun and exciting romp. Although I haven’t read this particular novel yet, I’ve read other books by her. This book sounds like it will be a lot of fun.

From the blub:

For three generations, an uneasy truce has existed between the shapeshifter packs of Wolfhaven and Silver Ridge. But Equinox is fast approaching; and all is about to change.
Connell, grandson of Wolfhaven’s chief, is hungry for adventure; and eager to explore the world beyond the boundaries of where he grew up. Is this a plan set for failure? Only Lupa, Goddess of Wolves, can know; for it is she who bends destiny to her will.
Thayer, heir apparent and Connell’s older brother, has found love with Lena – Mistress of the Moon – and daughter of Silver Ridge’s alpha. Yet, the course of true love never runs smooth. Lena is matched to another. A wolf of her father’s choosing.
Fierce and strong, Kellan is Arden’s second and will make the perfect mate. If only Lena wished it. Silver Ridge, a world of zealotry and submission, is no place for a freethinking female. Especially not one, whose lover whispers of a world beyond her father’s reach.
Will Connell’s dreams of freedom and adventure be thwarted, as Thayer and Kellan challenge for the right to claim Lena as their own? Or will Lena resolve to put the traditions of her pack and the demands of her father over those of her own heart?

So if shifters and goddesses are your cup of tea. If the idea of mates and challenges makes you want to flip the pages to find out what happens next… Wolfhaven might be the novel for you.

Available right now on Amazon for Kindle. And soon it should be available in print. A review will follow.

Introducing Nerd Cactus

Normally I prompt new books or authors that have new books coming out, but I have two friends that are working on building a platform (not unlike me) for their books. They are in the process of editing their first book together (Killing Mercutio) and although I don’t know much about the book yet, I have been following along on their wordpress site as they write, edit, and just generally talk about things Shakespeare and literary.

Now I know what you’re saying “Shakespeare”?! Who reads Shakespeare once they aren’t forced to?! First off, you’d be surprised how many things you read, see, say, and love are based on Shakespeare. I’m not going to get into that though, I’ll let the girls tell you about it (just peruse some of their posts to find out.) Second of all, Shakespeare can be FUN! No, let me restate that, Shakespeare IS FUN! Yeah, I know… I can see/ hear all the teenagers I’ve taught screaming. Then I’d remind them that we read a graphic novel (yes, a COMIC book) for Romeo and Juliet and watched a modern movie so we didn’t miss any of the nuances. So yes, Shakespeare is FUN!

To get back to the actual point of this post… While the girls do not (yet) have anything published, they do have a strong showing in social media. You can follow them on Twitter or Facebook. Or do what I do and enjoy their posts (almost daily) on wordpress. They are Nerd Cactus in all three places.

Twitter

Facebook

Word Press Blog

Introducing WR Gingell

I’d like you all to meet WR Gingell. She’s got a delightful book entitled Masque which is on sale this month along with some other books (which are not on sale). Although I haven’t yet had the chance to read more than a sample (what can I say, I’m behind on my reading list), I’m going to let her words speak for herself and I’ll be back later with a review!

 

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MASQUE buy links (99c special for January):
Amazon: http://geni.us/34k2
Kobo: http://geni.us/1gro
iTunes: http://geni.us/3hlQ
Barnes&Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/masque-w-r-gingell/1121106001?ean=2940151885416

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Author Bio:
W.R. Gingell is a Tasmanian author who lives in a house with a green door. She spends her time reading, drinking an inordinate amount of tea, and slouching in front of the fire to write. Like Peter Pan, she never really grew up, and is still occasionally to be found climbing trees.
Author Page Links:
Website: http://www.wrgingell.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wrgingell/
Twitter: @WRGingell
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/W.R.-Gingell/e/B00HMM6VX4/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1451646677&sr=8-1
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7849833.W_R_Gingell

Excerpts from MASQUE:
EXCERPT #1
“I think I would like to see your face,” he said thoughtfully. “Would it stretch politeness too far to ask you to remove your mask?”

“After you, my lord.”

I thought he laughed at me, but again it was hard to tell. “I don’t think I understand you, my lady.”

I looked at him steadily for a moment, my chin propped up in my palm. “Forgive me if I seem rude, but I think you understand me very well.”

He sat forward again, leaning his forearms on his knees. His bulk was so considerable that this maneuver put his face only inches from mine, and I found his eyes uncomfortably piercing. “Very well, my lady. Remove your mask, and I will remove mine.”

I was burning with curiosity that was tempered by a touch of self-satisfaction that I was about to accomplish something that even Delysia had not been able to accomplish, but I untied my mask with fingers that were steady enough.

“Well, my lord?”

“Charming,” he said softly, deliberately misunderstanding. I found myself blushing for the first time in many years. It was annoying to know that he’d intended as much. “How old are you, Lady Farrah?”

“Very nearly thirty, my lord,” I told him composedly, ignoring the rudeness of the question. “And a confirmed old maid, so you’ve no need to waste your compliments on me.”

“What brings you to the Ambassadorial Ball?”

“The proposed militia merger, my lord; and I believe you’re stalling.”

He gave me a slow, considering smile, and I wondered if the face beneath the mask was smiling also. “Is that so? Are you sure you want to see my face?”

Courtesy compelled me to say, albeit with reluctance: “Not if you’re unwilling, my lord.”

Lord Pecus sat silent for a moment as if in thought, his mask unreadable.

“Hm. I don’t believe I am,” he said at last, as if he had surprised himself.

“Try not to scream, my lady.”

If he had said it with the slightest theatricality, I would have laughed and gone back to the ballroom, content not to know what his face really looked like. But he said it unemotionally, a plain warning; and I had to take myself firmly to task for the quickly accelerating beat of my heart as he removed the charms that kept his mask in place. I settled my chin a little more firmly in my palm and waited, watching the process with some interest. I had not much talent for magic, and my knowledge was almost as slight: my training had mostly to do with international policy and diplomatic processes.

At last he seemed to be done. He raised both hands to remove the mask – beautiful hands, strong and bare of rings – and it came away cleanly. For a moment I thought he had yet another mask beneath: firelight played on tawny brown hair – no, fur!- in a face that looked like the worst parts of wolf and bear mixed. I blinked once, realising in that instant that it was his face, his real face, and no mask. His mask must be magic indeed to have hidden that snout under the pretence of a plain common-or-garden human nose.

“I see,” I said into the silent warmth of the room. I dropped my hand back to the arm of the chair and let a small sigh escape. “That explains a good deal.”

 

EXCERPT #2
A voice spoke behind me, startlingly close. “Lady Farrah.”

His voice was an unfamiliar tenor tone, with a light, lilting touch to it that sounded as if it could rise to the pitch of madness without much provocation. I heard him draw in a deep breath, very close behind me now, and came to the disturbing conclusion that he was smelling my hair.

“I believe you have the advantage of me,” I said quietly. Movement teased my periphery, but I looked steadfastly ahead, refusing to turn my head.

“Don’t you want to know who I am?”

Petulance. I said, hardly daring to breathe: “That would ruin the suspense.”

He laughed. “I knew I liked you! Why did they tie you up?”

“They didn’t want me to run away.”

Even a child of ten years would have protested that I hadn’t given a proper answer, but he didn’t. The cold feeling in my stomach spread in an icy rush to my outer extremities: I was at the mercy of a man whose homicidal mania was governed by a childlike whimsy.

The movement in my peripheral vision died away as he moved behind me again. “Did you know them?”

“Barely.” I had the distinct impression that this man would know if I lied to him, and so I told the exact truth. “A countryman of mine was killed a short while ago, and we had reason to believe that it was in connection with a leak in our covert affairs. Those two were encouraging me not to follow up the investigation.”

“Oh.” It sounded as though he was thinking. At length, he said: “I didn’t kill him for that. You’re playing with me, aren’t you? You know it was me.”

“As soon as I heard Claude die,” I said, nodding. “But I don’t know why you did it.”

He chuckled mischievously. “I’m not going to tell you. You have to figure it out for yourself.”

“How delightful!” I managed to say. My throat was becoming steadily drier, but I didn’t dare so much as lick my lips to moisten them. I knew instinctively that he would take it for a sign of weakness.

“Who’s that at the door?” There was a sudden scuffle of dust as he spun sharply to face the door. “Someone’s coming. A little girl.”

I closed my eyes. Vadim.

“It’s my maid,” I said. “I would prefer if you did not kill her.”

The Clockwork Crown

clockwork-crown-678x1024It’s been over a year since I introduced my readers to Beth Cato and her book, The Clockwork Dagger. Since then, she has been hard at work with more publications, more baking, and more steampunk!

I’ve finally finished her sequel to The Clockwork Dagger a few weeks ago and I will admit that it took me longer than the first book. This has nothing to do with The Clockwork Crown being less engaging than the first book, but with me knowing that this is the only planned sequel at the moment.

General Spoilers!!
Ms. Cato picks up her story with Octavia and Alonzo pretty much where she’d left off at the end of Dagger, with the two of them journeying across Caskentia and looking to escape their pursuers. They have bounded since the first book, but Ms. Cato is quick to remind her readers (in a few short paragraphs) what has happened. I never felt like I was being reminded or treated like an idiot as she gently reminded what had already occurred to Octavia and Alonzo and eased me back into their world.

Ms. Cato is adept at weaving the narrative together with both the past and present actions, adding new characters, and keeping the story moving forward. At the same time, she expands the world they live in, adding more information (explaining the gremlins—reintroducing Leaf) and creating villains that we want to root both for and against.

By the end of the book, I was anxiously turning the pages (and being thankful I bought the Kindle version so I couldn’t flip to the end and check to make sure everything turned out all right.) I’ve read quite a few books lately where the heroine is in danger until the last page and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what Octavia’s fate would be. Ms. Cato didn’t disappoint and left me hanging until the very end. Although she hasn’t planned (that I know of) to write a sequel to this book, she did leave it a bit open to writing something else. Still the conclusion was satisfying and I look forward to reading more work by her.

Meanwhile, if you enjoy steampunk, I greatly suggest getting ahold of this series
The Clockwork Dagger
The Clockwork Crown
The Deepest Poison (ebook only)
Wings of Sorrow and Bone (ebook only)

And follow Ms. Cato at her blog.