Book Review: Lifestyles of Gods & Monsters

Book Reviews
*Disclaimer: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest, free review. All opinions are my own. *

 

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Lifestyles of Gods & Monsters Review

By: Rae

 

 “My parents make me do it because the gods told them to…”

“Haven’t you noticed that the gods mostly tell people to do stuff they already want to do?”

– Emily Roberson, Lifestyles of Gods & Monsters

 

When Greek mythology meets reality TV things are bound to get interesting… and let me tell you, Roberson’s world was petty, hopeful, crushing, amusing, and risky.

 

The idea that royalty sells really is the ultimate summary of this book where sixteen year old Ariadne’s world gets flipped upside down when the gorgeous and mysterious Theseus arrives to compete in The Labyrinth Contest. The Minotaur remains undefeated – much to Ariadne’s relief – but the show’s ratings are dropping and “Daddy” is demanding something more to make Athens continue to pay for their crime. When the attraction between Athen’s prince Theseus and Ariadne is unable to remain hidden, Ariadne’s world falls to lies and heartbreak.  Her mother takes over her makeup, she is onscreen more than off, and she is told she has this important part to play to appease the gods. No pressure…

 

Will she help Theseus?

What will Ariadne sacrifice to get her desire – freedom?

Who is the villain?

The hero?

 

I adored the fact that this entire book was full of reality angst and played on the nitty gritty of sex, drugs, and money. There were strong hints of prostitution, drugs, alcoholism, animalistic… well you get the point. Either way I think Roberson did a great job of bringing these myths into a contemporary world. However, if you aren’t familiar with Ariadne, Theseus, and the minotaur, you may have some struggle with connecting to their reworked storylines. I love the side-eyes and nods to their antique parts and grinned at the crazy that is Greek mythology on the big screen.

 

It was fast, it played dirty, I had a love-hate relationship with 99% of the characters, and I was left wondering at what I really wanted for Ariadne, but overall, I give Lifestyles of Gods & Monsters a 4/5.

 

Lifestyles of Gods & Monsters is available today!

Check out my interview with Emily Roberson here.

 

Blog Tour: Song of the Abyss

Blog Tour

Song of the Abyss (Tower of Winds #2)

By Makiia Lucier

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 27th 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Synopsis:
Ancient grievances, long-held grudges, and dangerous magic combine in this sweeping standalone fantasy perfect for fans of Tamora Pierce and Rachel Hartman.
They came in the night as she dreamt, in her berth, on a ship sailing home to del Mar. After, they would be all Reyna thought about: two carracks painted scorpion black. No emblem on either forecastle, no pennants flying above the mainmasts to hint at a kingdom of origin.
Never a good sign.
As the granddaughter of a famed navigator, seventeen-year-old Reyna has always lived life on her own terms, despite those who say a girl could never be an explorer for the royal house of St. John del Mar. She is determined to prove them wrong, and as she returns home after a year-long expedition, she knows her dream is within reach. No longer an apprentice, instead: Reyna, Master Explorer.
But when menacing raiders attack her ship, those dreams are pushed aside. Reyna’s escape is both desperate and dangerous, and when next she sees her ship, a mystery rises from the deep. The sailors–her captain, her countrymen–have vanished. To find them, Reyna must use every resource at her disposal . . . including placing her trust in a handsome prince from a rival kingdom.
Together they uncover a disturbing truth. The attack was no isolated incident. Troubling signs point to a shadowy kingdom in the north, and for once, the rulers of the Sea of Magdalen agree: something must be done. But can Reyna be brave enough to find a way?
Book Links:
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Guest Post – The Ins & Outs of Writing A Sequel

In Isle of Blood and Stone, Lady Reyna of del Mar is nine years old, the granddaughter of a famed navigator, who wants nothing more than to be an explorer in her own right. When I first started writing about Reyna, I never meant for her to be more than a minor character. But by the end of my first draft, she had worked her way into my heart, much the same way she does with Isle’s hero, Elias, here:

From Isle of Blood and Stone:

Beside Elias, Reyna knelt on a chair and leaned over one map, her brows knit in concentration. Carefully, she sketched in the most vicious-looking sea monsters he had ever seen, in person or on a sea chart.
“That is terrifying,” he commented. When she smiled at him, he asked, “Have you seen the finned lion in person?” Her drawing was very realistic and macabre for someone still wearing double braids. The creature bore the head of a lion, a spiked fin on its back, and a long, curving serpent’s tale. An unlucky seaman dangled from the lion’s jaws, his mouth opened in a scream and his ropy innards spilling onto Elias’s shoreline in black ink.
“Only a baby. Grandfather and I saw it from the clifftops in Alfonse.”
Luca reached around her for a freshly sharpened stylus. “Have you traveled beyond del Mar, Reyna?”
“No, sir. Never.”
Elias caught Luca’s eye. They had both heard the wistful note in her voice, and on her face was a look they both recognized and understood. How could they not? They had felt it themselves, all of their lives.
Wanderlust.
Elias found himself curious. He asked Reyna, “If you could sail off today, where would you go?”
She set aside her quill as she thought about his question. Her face took on a dreamy quality and her answer, when it came, did not surprise him.
“I would go everywhere.”

So that was that. Reyna would get her own story. But how to go about writing a sequel? I had never written one before. First, I decided that the second book would not be a sequel, technically. Instead, I would write it as a standalone companion, which means readers did not have to read the books in any particular order. They were self-contained stories.

In Song of the Abyss, Reyna is seventeen-years old, no longer a young girl. The biggest challenge while writing a companion (in addition to all the regular challenges like plot holes, pacing, cliché avoidance, and character development) was to make sure I didn’t ruin the first book for those who had not read it yet. No spoilers! Was there a villain in the previous book? If so, do not expose her. Or him. Or them. Did I kill anyone off? Well then, don’t have one of the characters visiting their grave and brooding about it.

The key was keeping backstory to a minimum. It also helped to take Reyna away from the original setting and to introduce her to new characters. New to her and, more importantly, new to the reader. Did it work? I hope so! Readers are always welcome to send me a note at makiia@makiialucier.com and tell me so.

About the Author
Makiia is the author of historical fiction and historical fantasy for young adults. She grew up on the Pacific Island of Guam (not too far from the equator), and has degrees in journalism and library science from the University of Oregon and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Her debut novel, A Death-Struck Year, was called a “powerful and disturbing reading experience” by Publishers Weekly, and was a finalist for Germany’s top book prize for children, the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis. Her second novel, Isle of Blood and Stone, was inspired by her love of Indiana Jones movies and old, old maps.
She lives with her family in North Carolina.
Social Media Links: 

 

 

Giveaway Details Below:

Win (1) of (3) finished copies of SONG OF THE ABYSS by Makiia Lucier (US Only)

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Author Interview: Kalyn Josephson

Author Interview

Meet Kalyn Josephson.

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Twitter: @kalynjosephson
Instagram: @kalynmjosephson
Website: kalynjosephson.com

 

Hi Kalyn! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.
Hi all! My name is Kalyn Josephson, and I’m the author of the upcoming YA Fantasy, THE STORM CROW. I live in California with three awesome friends and my two cats, as well as a not so slowly growing collection of books.

First off, I adore your website Kalyn. Is this your first website or an update? What was it like to have an author website and see it first go live for public viewing?
Thank you so much! I had a simple one prior, but only for a couple weeks. This new one was designed by Hafsah Faizal, who in addition to being a stellar designer, is author of the upcoming YA Fantasy, WE HUNT THE FLAME (which is so, so good!). I adore the design she came up with, and was so excited to share it when it went life. It felt like the first big step in my debut journey!
As a technical writer, what has been a favorite bad pun you’ve come across or used?
Oh dear. I may occasionally tell people that as a technical writer, I’m technically a writer (I know, I know).
Degrees in biology and creative writing – phew, you must have been busy! How has the biology degree strengthened and or weakened your writing?
Definitely busy! But it was a lot of fun to stretch both sides of my brain. Each major sort of provided a respite from the other, and my biology degree really helped me with the technical aspect of my writing. Clarity, logical flow, word choice—they’re all very important in technical writing, because you want to be as clear as possible in as few words as possible. That translated well to my creative writing, because it helped me capture scenes succinctly.
Why have crows as the focal animal in your upcoming release, The Storm Crow?
I absolutely LOVE crows. I think they’re adorable, but they’re also so beautiful and clever, and there’s a lot of fantastic lore, mythology, and imagery that comes with them.
Two sisters, two princess, and I can imagine a whole lot of mischief and rebellion. Did you struggle at any point with the princesses overpowering each other or trying to take center stage away from the other?
I didn’t! Their domains were so vastly different, that the story is more about them coming to understand that each of their leadership roles is equally as important to their kingdom as the other. Caliza, who post-prologue is actually queen, is about the political and economic well-being, while Thia, her sister, is focused on the cultural and emotional well-being. They have to work together to do what’s best for their kingdom.
When did you have that eureka moment, where it all came together and made sense, for The Storm Crow?
The moment I got the idea, actually. I had the idea for a kingdom centered on these elemental crows, and I asked the question, what would happen if they disappeared? From there, everything just clicked and the story spilled out of me!
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?
THE STORM CROW is a story about healing that is very near and dear to my heart, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

Author Interview: Cassandra Hendricks

Author Interview

Meet Cassandra Hendricks.

20190126_212520.jpgHi Cassandra! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.

Cassandra Hendricks has always been a lover of all things books. Choosing to stay up in the wee hours of the night, literally under the covers reading books like Little Women or Anne of Green Gables and following X-men, Spiderman and Hulk comics until she passed out. Yeah, she had eclectic taste. Still does.

Her love of reading was only rivaled by her affinity for writing. Poems, short stories and editorials were written in her free time. Somewhere along life’s journey she’d happened upon the idea that she wanted to become a lawyer. Her parents as well as her pursuit of a “real” job may have had a little to do with that, but after graduating realized she didn’t want to argue for the rest of her life. Five kids and a husband later she found her way back to her first love. For Blood & Glory is her debut fantasy novel and is the first book of the Chronicles of the 13th Tribe series, set to release March 19, 2019.

Web: http://www.cassandrahendricks.com
Twitter: @casstheauthor
Instagram: @casstheauthor
Facebook: @casstheauthor

The Interview.

In your opinion, what is the most important element of good writing?
This is a hard question to answer. I’m stuck between character and plot development. My first instinct is to say character development because you want the reader to be drawn into the characters and care what happens to them. On the other hand, great characters with flimsy plots don’t work well either.

What comes first in your writing, the plot or a character(s)?

This is like one of those chicken or the egg questions. This is my first novel so I can’t say I have a lot to draw upon. If I can recall, the plot came first. I had a few ideas rolling around in my head that I was intrigued by and began to flesh out. I had a vague idea of whom the main characters might be and they began to reveal themselves after the basic plot was outlined.
What does your writing schedule look like? Does it often clash with everyday life commitments?
My writing schedule is pretty crazy. I’m an Indie author that works full-time and has a family to tend too, so basically I write whenever I have a spare moment. That means writing in my car during lunch breaks, in the wee hours of the night after everyone has fallen asleep, while sitting in chairs, waiting for doctor or dental appointments—I think you get the picture. For me, finding time to write wasn’t easy but it’s cathartic and well worth it.
Do you have any writing quirks that you’ve noticed or someone pointed out to you?
Yes, I use “well” excessively. Yeah, it annoys me too.

Do you enjoy using social media to interact with other writers and your readers? Or do you find it challenging?

Do I find it challenging? Well (there it is again, hehe), once I figured out how to use it, it became fun. The world of social media is so weird when you think about it. You talk and confide in complete strangers, sometimes more than you would people you actually know. I like it because I don’t feel as if I’m in a bubble anymore, especially as it relates to writing. It’s nice to hear people voice feelings and opinions that I can relate to and I enjoy learning from fellow authors and readers alike. I think it’s a great platform and I look forward to hearing from readers in the future.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?
I hope the readers enjoy the book! I tried to write characters that were easy to relate to and ethnically diverse. That was very important to me. So often we pick up books where everyone looks the same. Like one homogeneous pool from which all main characters are drawn from. Especially, in the realm of fantasy and the supernatural. I hope to change that.

 

Thank you Cassandra!

 

Blood & Glory is out now!

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Review: Once & Future

Book Reviews
*** Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for a free, honest review.
All opinions are my own. ***

 

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“I’ve been chased my whole life.” “Now I’m done hiding.”

– Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy, Once & Future

 

 

Once & Future Review

By: Rae

 

Welcome to a gender-bent retelling of the Legend of King Arthur.

 

King Arthur returns… for his 42nd time? 42 times of mistakes, deaths, lies, secrets, and other juicy details that are hinted at. There is face-palming, joy, heartbreak, success, and failure. When Arthur’s – again 42nd reincarnation – is a girl: what happens to the cycle? Will it be completed or broken or forced to continue?

 

Let me just say I was not disappointed upon finishing Once & Future. My original apprehension steams from my own disinterest in all things space; only for this disinterest to be laughed at and then forgotten the moment I got swept up into Ari’s story. While space is central to the setting, along with a mix of all the things space requires – from equipment, ships, and so forth – there are touches of the old world (specifically Old Earth) that warm my heart and flow beautifully to contrast the elements of this story.

 

Speaking of the story’s contrast: good vs. bad. Rich vs. poor. Corporation vs. the people (rather one MC that stands for freedom). All classics; all told countless times in countless different ways. Yet, even as the plot for Once & Future unravels, it isn’t the fight itself that gripped me – nor the retelling of Arthur. It was the characters that I adored.

 

All of the characters, while maybe forced into their roles based upon their original characters and positions of power from the origin story of King Arthur, breathed new life and inspired me. Each identified with a different culture, personality, sexuality, and it just worked. I laughed with them, cried with them, and wanted to fight with them when the time came. Sure they may have been squeezed into their roles. Sure they could have been different people, gone different ways. But their stories mattered, they had their own choices, and there is more to come with the sequel – I hope at least!
Side note: The humor. I adored the humor. 😊

 

I also have to take a moment to fangirl over Merlin. His POV and overall story arc was beautiful. I’m very greedy for more. From aging backwards, to lost love, to the feeling of identity loss and loneliness. I just wanted to hug him multiple times and tell him it was going to be “okay.” Also, don’t even get me started on Morgana, the fighting between her and Merlin, and the awesomeness that I felt transpired as she evolved.

 

Upon seeing other reviews: I do agree that the plot jumped around a bit. And yes the main goal of Ari was completed early on and then the conclusion fell a bit flat. I also agree the characters relationships moved fast and yet they were explained to be pre-set to the point readers know their strong ties were established prior to Once & Future’s beginning. I can see where the emphasis of the retelling of Arthur, (want to say more on Arthur by can’t without spoilers), can cause some hiccups with feeling that Ari gets caught up in her “fate.”

 

Overall though, I give Once & Future 4/5 stars from its humor to awesome characters and anxiously anticipate the sequel. Have you grabbed your copy yet?

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to rave about Merlin.

 

Once & Future releases March 26!

Press Release: In The Gleaming Light

Press Release

In the Gleaming Light
By: HR Moore

What happens when the robots steal our jobs? Speculative fiction novel “In the Gleaming Light” gives a much needed plausible imagining of the world thirty years from now.

Automation, robots, and job stealing are topics that capture the imagination of many, but the big question is this: what’s to be done when these things start to have a meaningful impact on our lives? Universal Basic Income, the favoured solution of entrepreneurs and academics alike, has been creeping into the press, but if you stop someone on the street and ask them about it, the chances are you’ll get a blank look.
“In the Gleaming Light” gives an engaging, pacey, intrigue-filled look at the world thirty years from now, complete with a clear representation of the complex and controversial political issues that underpin it all.

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Here’s the blurb:
It’s 2048.  Automation has stolen vast swathes of jobs, and the government pays everyone a no-strings-attached income, enough to live on, in order to keep the economy going.  Society is split into those who can get jobs; engineers, managers, creatives, and those who cannot.
Iva Brooksbank, Senior Investigator of the Enforcement Office, has made a career of taking down corporate moguls who flout the rules, and now she has Guy Strathclyde, CEO of Cybax Technologies, firmly in her sights.  She’s sure he’s up to something, and races to find evidence that will stick, before her time runs out.
Lulu Banks, a world famous artist, uses her work to highlight the deep inequalities and injustices the world now faces, perpetuated, she thinks, by the relentless march of technology.  But when she finds herself the object of Guy’s affections, she has to decide if she can trust his intentions, or if he’s just the same as all the other corporate big dogs.

HR Moore, author, explains:
“In the Gleaming Light was born out of my experience and observations in life and at work, and also through a general interest in the not-too-distant future of our world.  With a background in financial services and change management, I’ve seen first-hand the unrelenting pace of change and drive towards automation, that is having, and will continue to have, a significant effect on everyone.

The changes that have taken place in the last twenty years are mind-boggling, and there’s no evidence of the pace slowing down.  Indeed, automation is predicted to put significant numbers out of work, and, if that happens, the social consequences will be extreme.
Automation and Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a solution, are areas gaining a great deal of traction, with entrepreneurs and academics shouting about the need for governments to step in, governments running UBI trials in response, and the media starting to step up their coverage.  However, the topic is currently stuck in (relatively boring) academic and political channels, and I think there’s a real need to bring these important topics to life through engaging, fictional portrayals.  In the Gleaming Light aims to do this in a plot and relationship-driven way; it’s book club fiction, designed to stimulate conversation, with drama and romance throughout.

Importantly, “In the Gleaming Light” is not passing judgment on the march of technology, or UBI as a potential solution, but I feel passionately that this is a conversation that effects everybody. The more that can be done to get people involved from all backgrounds, now, as opposed to after the fact, the better.

And given the gender skews of people working in technology, I’m especially passionate about engaging women in this conversation. The workplace is biased, and it’s important that women utilize technology to help level the playing field. The worst case scenario would be a future world that’s dictated (passively and accidentally) by a relatively small handful of (mostly) men. Now is the time for us to talk about these issues, and it’s essential that the debate is equally open to all.”

In the Gleaming Light will be released on Amazon on 1st March, 2019 in both eBook ($4.99 / £3.99) and paperback ($10.99 / £7.99) formats.

The eBook is currently available for pre-order on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Dt5oVY

Excerpt:
Lulu flopped to the ground as she crossed the makeshift sprint finish line in the sand, her chest heaving as she tried to regain her breath. It was a glorious morning, even at this early hour, the sun reflecting furiously on the flat calm of the sea, playing about as the water moved gently up and down, slivers of silver light trying to fool onlookers into believing it could be warm. Tiny waves lapped lightly at the beach, the sound calming Lulu’s exhausted body, helping her settle her racing heart.
‘Darling, you’re a little distracted this morning,’ said Bertie Baqua, her slight, Asian fitness instructor, as he caught up with her. He was renowned the world over and in great demand, but he and Lulu had been friends for years, Lulu having attended his classes before he was famous, their friendship secured on the dance floor of a dubious Salsa club in Brighton.
‘I opened my exhibition last night,’ she replied, as though this were enough.
‘And?’ he replied, clearly requiring more.
She thought about keeping Guy a secret, but knowing Bertie, he probably already knew. ‘And Guy Strathclyde came.’
‘Did he indeed?’ flounced Bertie, laughing with his eyes.
‘He keeps asking me out,’ she shrugged, as though this were obviously a problem.
‘And?’
‘And, I thought he was a typical corporate mogul. I mean, he was obviously given his job by his dad.’
‘Which is frowned upon these days,’ said Bertie, frivolously.
‘Which is illegal these days,’ snapped Lulu, rolling over and propping herself up on her arms.
Bertie raised an eyebrow and a shoulder simultaneously. ‘Touchy,’ he said. ‘You must really like him.’
‘I don’t know him. But I was surprised about his opinions on certain topics.’
‘In a good way?’
‘Yes.’
‘Well, what’s the problem then?’
‘I just never thought I’d even entertain the idea of dating someone like him. And I think he might be dangerous.’
‘Isn’t that a little prejudiced?’
Lulu rolled her eyes. ‘Maybe,’ she pouted, playing with the grains of sand between her fingers.
‘What harm can come from going on a couple of dates? If you like him, then great; you’re not breaking any rules by dating him…apart from ones you’ve perhaps created for yourself for no good reason.’
Lulu huffed as she brushed the sand away. ‘I suppose so.’
‘You’re welcome,’ he said, reaching down to help her up.
‘You’re insufferable,’ she said, refusing his hand and throwing a towel at him instead. Bertie snickered, and didn’t stop. ‘What now?’ she asked, not understanding the joke.
‘Looks like you’ve got company,’ he said, nodding up the beach.
Lulu’s head whipped round. ‘Oh God,’ she breathed.
‘I’ll say,’ said Bertie, nodding his head in approval.
Guy reached their workout spot and held his hands up; they were full of coffee and paper bags. ‘Hungry?’ he asked hopefully. She paused, considering another refusal. ‘Oh, come on,’ he said, ‘of course you’re hungry; you’ve been working out for ages.’
Bertie nudged Lulu towards Guy. ‘I’ve got another client, so I really must be going,’ he said, as though the breakfast invitation had also been extended to him, which of course they all knew it hadn’t. ‘Have fun,’ he said, suggestively. He stuffed dumbbells, balls and elastics back into his bag, hoisted it over his shoulder, and headed back up the beach, throwing Lulu a double thumbs up, complete with accompanying indelicate head nod behind Guy’s back.
Lulu ignored him. ‘You’ve been watching me work out?’ she asked, not sure whether to be flattered or a little bit freaked out.
Guy laughed. ‘Not really. I’ve been working in the café up there,’ he said, pointing to the beach’s edge where a Chutney Café stood, the chain that had gained supremacy when it innovated the old players out of the market by replacing humans with robots. ‘They’re not technically open yet, but the manager took pity on me and let me in early.’
‘Charmed by your smile, no doubt.’
‘I am very charming,’ he said, flashing her his best grin. ‘I’m so glad you’ve noticed.’

in the gleaming light author pic.pngAbout the Author:

Harriet was born in Germany in 1987, her family returning to the UK, to Dorset shortly afterwards. She lived there until she was 5, her grandfather teaching her the basics of cheating at cards and swindling chocolate, her mother starting to instil a (some would argue) unhealthy relationship with cake, and the neighbours demonstrating that some people don’t understand cherry blossom is there to be picked, mixed with mint and water and sold as perfume.

Then there was Scotland; stealthy guinea pig breeding, riding horses, advanced cards, more cake, then to Devon and school in Exeter. She loved maths in the early years, but by the time she got to A Level, Sociology was her favourite subject, opening her eyes to things she’d never before considered, namely, nobody is really right, nobody is really normal and primary socialisation has a lot to answer for.
At the age of about 12, Harriet started rowing for Exeter Rowing Club. This quickly took over her life and before too long she was clad in lycra, training 6 days a week and competing at events around the country.
After finishing her A Levels, Harriet went to university in St Andrews, studying Philosophy for two years, then switching to Management. She was particularly interested in the change elements of her course and especially the areas concerning how people create and react to change. After four very civilised years by the sea, she ventured to London, to foray into the strange world of insurance (surprisingly, more interesting than you might think). She worked as a Project Manager on large change programmes before founding her own consultancy in 2015.
Harriet has since worked on a number of insurance related projects that helped influence and inspire In the Gleaming Light, specifically around the use of connected devices in the home, data collection and utilisation within financial services, and how automation can both reduce costs, and significantly improve vast swathes of tiresome, long-winded processes.
Harriet has recently moved from Bristol in the UK to Portsmouth in New Hampshire, with her husband Chris and two young daughters. When she isn’t writing, editing, eating, running around after her kids, or imagining how much better life would be with the addition of a springer spaniel, she occasionally finds the time to make hats.