Notna + Interview with J.D. Cunegan

One of my favorite crime series is Bounty, the adventures crime-solving detective Jill Andersen who moonlights as a vigilante with cybernetic enhancements. So when the author announced he was writing a fantasy novel, I was incredibly excited. Notna is everything I wanted, and more. Action packed and exciting – it’s like Indiana Jones and Supernatural had a baby, only that baby decided the world should end.

Summary36384932

History’s most peaceful race created one of its deadliest weapons. 

Forged in the Living Flame by a long-extinct alien race, The Gem of Notna is the stuff of legends, on par with Pandora’s Box or the Holy Grail. But once archaeologist Dr. Jack Corbett stumbled upon the crystal deep in the Amazon, he triggered a whirlwind of events and found himself neck-deep in a centuries-old holy war. The Divine and the Underworld have been locked in a virtual stalemate for the past three hundred years, and the Gem of Notna could be the key to breaking it. 

With the gem in his possession, Jack discovers a world of monsters and gods, as well as an entirely different plane of existence that watches over our own. Old grudges resurface, fallen warriors are reborn in the most violent of ways, but at the end of the day, the fate of the world may well rest in Jack’s hands. 

Musings

What always gets you hooked on Cunegan’s writing (something I love about the Jill Andersen series) is how the seemingly effortless style pulls you right in. Reading the book is almost like watching a movie, with just the perfect amount of description to have you imagine intense battles right before your eyes. Unlike the Bounty series, however, the scale of this adventure is massive: we’re in the middle of a holy war, between different planes of existence, connecting different countries and even dimensions.

It’s massive. It’s epic. What’s not to love?

On top of a huge scale end of the world apocalypse scenario, we also have lovable characters you can’t help to root for, and a prologue that breaks your heart just two pages in. Jack and his girlfriend Cassandra are professors of Archeology, hired to retrieve a legendary gem from deep inside the Amazon rainforest – only to get thrown into a battle between good and evil that has lasted for millennia, culminating in an epic final showdown on earth and in hell itself. But these two loveable lovebirds are determined to save their world from destruction and will stop at nothing to protect us. Even if it means giving into a prophecy and embracing the role of Chosen One…

What’s refreshing is also having the romance portion of this adventure be between two people who have been very much in love for quite a long time. There’s no will they/won’t they, no awkward flirting: only two committed people supporting each other (quite literally) to the ends of the earth. It’s so fantastic to have a healthy relationship in an adventure novel like this!

The supporting cast is also quite amazing. Whether they’re displaced out of time, or common people embracing their role in this mess, or even those who have lived at war all their lives, they’re complex and steadfast.

And the villain(s) – what’s not to love about hating them? Vampires, demons from hell, Gods out of time, giant purple… wait, I won’t spoil it for you. How Cunegan has managed to merge so many myths and genres, I will never know. It’s masterful!

All in all, if you’re looking for fun, Notna is the book for you. Cunegan has entered the realm of fantasy with swords drawn, and you’re not soon to forget him! Brilliant and energetic, impossible to put down, treat yourself to a high stakes adventure with Notna.


And now – an interview with the author, J.D. Cunegan himself!

R: You mentioned before that Notna was an idea you’ve wanted to work on for years… where did the idea come from?

14050436JDC: It mostly came to me when my comic book tastes started expanding. When I first started reading them, I wasn’t just a “Marvel guy,” I was an X-Men guy. If it wasn’t X-Men, I didn’t read it. But once I got to high school, I started reading different comics from all sorts of companies, and two in particular – Spawn and Witchblade – stuck out to me. In reading those two, I started getting ideas for stories of my own to tell. Notna was one of those stories, even though a lot of what I created back then hasn’t survived over the years. But the bare bones of the story – the prophecy, the gem, the war – came to me once I started branching out with my reading.

The Jill Andersen books examine, at their core, what it means to be a hero – and Notna asks much the same question, but from an entirely different perspective. Whereas with Bounty, I use moral gray areas to examine heroism, Notna is more about the notion that even the most ordinary among us can achieve transcendent heroism.

R: Unlike your Bounty series, which is a crime thriller with sci-fi elements thrown in, Notna is a fantasy novel with magic and mythology. Did you find it easier or harder to write in this genre?

JDC: I thought it would be harder, but it actually wound up being easier. I wasn’t as beholden to reality as I sometimes am with the Jill Andersen novels, which gave me a lot more freedom and a lot more leeway in terms of what I could get away with. When I’m writing one of Jill’s books, I still have to keep the real world in mind occasionally; when I’m writing about monsters and gods and demons, the rules are a little more flexible.

R: Which character was your favorite in Notna? Were they also your favorite to write? Did you find any one of them particularly challenging to bring to life?

JDC: Cassandra wound up being my favorite, because there was a time when I didn’t know what to do with her. About midway through the first draft, she was little more than the romantic interest character – and I wanted her to be more than that, because I pride myself in not letting my books devolve into those common tropes. Nothing I came up with worked – one potential storyline had her dying at Demostricus’ hand, only to later return as a vampire, but I hated how that story smacked of “kill the love interest just to motivate the male lead.” I’m not sure exactly when the storyline I settled with first came to me, but once it did, I knew I had a winner and loved how it sort of turned the “Chosen One” trope on its head (and was, in an indirect way, a nice callback to Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

R: Did you feel any particular pressure when writing this novel? Either from your fans, or time, or anything else?

JDC: I did, actually. Part of it came from the fact that I was writing in a genre that was already stuffed to the gills with fantastic books – including some of my personal favorites. But I also felt pressure because as I started promoting the work, I saw it was generating the sort of excitement none of the Jill Andersen books had – so knowing there was already a fanbase for it, knowing I had to make sure I didn’t disappoint those people, added some pressure (and possibly some mild panic on launch day).

R: Coffee, or Tea?

JDC: Both. In the mornings, I have to have my cup of coffee. But at night, when the house is quiet and I’m hunched over my manuscript (especially this time of year), nothing soothes and helps me write quite like a warm mug of green tea. I bought myself a Keurig a couple years ago, and it’s probably one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.

R: Planner or Pantster?

JDC: I’m a total pantser; for whatever reason, whenever I try to plan or outline, it sucks all the fun out of writing and I get blocked. Even with my current book, Betrayed (book five of the Jill Andersen series), I tried to detail each chapter to keep myself on track. Well, 10 chapters in, the story completely detoured on me. I think, as a writer, I enjoy it when my own characters and my own world surprise me – because if they surprise me, chances are they’ll surprise my readers.

R: Morning Person, or Night Owl?

JDC: I’m definitely a night owl, and I have been since I was in college. I’ve never quite shaken that habit, which is occasionally problematic now that I have a 9-to-5 job. I think I’m physically incapable of falling asleep before midnight, and most of my best writing happens after the sun goes down.

R: I was so excited to see your ‘Easter Egg’ reference to R.R. Virdi! How did that come to be?

JDC: One of the Facebook writing groups I’m in (I think it was NanOhana) had a challenge for NaNoWriMo 2016 (Notna was my project that year) daring us to include Virdi in our work somehow. Mystical bookshop owner with two otters as pets just felt like a great fit, and it was fun to write those two chapters. In an indirect way, Virdi’s work (particularly Dangerous Ways) helped inspire Notna, so it was also a hat tip of sorts to him.

R: So many mythologies are represented here… how did you decide on them? What kind of research did you do?

JDC: Religion, regardless of which one you choose, can create a wonderful backdrop to tell stories like this. And my own research into pagan traditions, while completely unrelated to writing, inevitably wound up inspiring my writing. Between my pagan sourcebooks and some of my old White Wolf tabletop roleplaying books, I had plenty of inspiration to turn to when it came to building the world these characters inhabit. My research wasn’t necessarily done to make sure I was accurate; I’m pretty up-front about the liberties I took in this book, but having that foundation there made playing with the mythology and the history a lot of fun.

R: And finally… will this be a standalone novel, or will we be returning to this universe sometime soon?

JDC: Notna is a standalone (mostly because I can’t imagine trying to juggle more than one series), but that doesn’t mean I’m done with the world or the characters I created there. You probably noticed the Bounty Easter Egg I placed in Notna, which establishes that both books take place in the same universe. So chances are, some of the characters I introduced in Notna will appear in future works (maybe even the Jill Andersen books).

Also, I’m working on an anthology of sorts, called Legend of the Gem, which will be a collection of short stories detailing the history of the Gem of Notna over the past couple thousand years. It’s very similar to the comic book series Tales of the Witchblade that was popular back in the 1990s, and just researching stuff for that book has been a lot of fun.

Catch J.D. Cunegan’s fantasy novel NOTNA here – a fantastic and thrilling adventure! 

And don’t forget to check out the newest novel in the Bounty series – BEHIND THE MASK  here – just out this week! 

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No Vain Loss + Interview with M.C. Frank

Author of the No Ordinary Star series

Those of you who follow this blog know that I’m obsessed with this gorgeous YA scifi series called No Ordinary Star. Set in the year 2524, in a future where people have forgotten what it is to celebrate Christmas, enjoy food, or even kiss, a soldier and a rebel meet at the North Pole and discover secrets that will change the world they live in – forever. There is so much to love about this series, so it’s with a massive amount of excitement that today we get to interview the author of No Ordinary Star, M.C. Frank herself!

Please help me in celebrating the release of her long-awaited finale to the trilogy – NO VAIN LOSS, out today!

Summary29215280

A soldier is summoned to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He has no idea what to do.
A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear left alive.
A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack.
The world hasn’t known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty.
This is the One World.
The year is 2524.

In No Vain Loss, the world is on the brink of the greatest war humanity has ever known. Lives will be lost. New truths will be revealed.

See My Review Here.

From the very start of this series, you can tell it oozes with something magical. I once said that it reminds me a little of “The Northern Lights”, but combined with “The Giver”, along with a strong foundation of dystopia. But at the same time, it’s completely unique.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll keep saying it again and again – if you haven’t read this series, you’re seriously missing out. As a YA reader, or a scifi lover, or an admirer of beautiful prose, this series is meant for anyone who needs a reminder that human nature is the most wonderful gift of all.

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An interview with M.C. Frank, author of the No Ordinary Star series

91ksiatmcbl-_ux250_R: Thank you so much for joining us today, for the release of your new book, No Vain Loss. As the third and last book of your No Ordinary Star trilogy, fans are incredibly excited for the resolution. Did you feel pressure when writing this last installment?

MCF: Thank you for having me. I did not feel any pressure, as I had written all three books before beginning the publishing process for any of them.

R: What was the hardest part, for you, when writing No Vain Loss? The ending is so thrilling and beautiful – did you always see the trilogy ending that way? Did a lot change between your first draft and the book we see today?

MCF: Yes, a lot changed, especially concerning the ending. There were three possible endings and it was hard for me to choose. In the end, I picked one that combined all my favorite elements and I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

R: Is this the last we’ll see of Felix and Astra?

MCF: I don’t know, readers are already asking for a sequel series. Never say never.

R: Now, the No Ordinary Star trilogy has a massive following of dedicated and loyal fans. But for those who have never read the series before, what would you say is the main reason they should drop everything and read it right now?

MCF: Because it’s an amazing Christmas story about a world who has forgotten Christmas. And kissing.

R: You’ve said the books are inspired by the short stories of Ray Bradbury, and you even reference The Rocket Man on your dedication page. Can you tell us more about how exactly his work inspired you?

MCF: If you have read Bradbury, you can see his influence in my world-building, as well as in the philosophy behind the entire plot of the novel. My dad loved his books, and he was the one who introduced me to his stories. I first read The Illustrated Man when I was thirteen, and I understood little, but I understood that that was what I wanted to do when I grew up: blow people’s minds away with my stories.

R: Along those same lines, which other authors inspire you? Do you have a favorite writer?

MCF: That’s such a hard question to ask a reader or writer. I have tons, too many to name!

R: It’s a massive event, the trilogy coming to an end. Is it too soon to ask you: What’s next for M.C. Frank? Are you working on any projects right now?

MCF: I am currently writing my next book, a Robin Hood romance.

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R: Along with being an extraordinary author, you’re also a great fan of the classics. Not only have you written a Regency retelling of Jane Eyre – Ruined – you’ve also edited beautiful editions of beloved books, and even created a Jane Austen coloring book. Can you tell us more about how this all started? And what are you working on now?

MCF: It’s just something I did as a designer, mostly for myself and my friends, but people ended up loving these editions so much, that I decided to put them up for sale. You can find them at my website, mcfrankauthor.com. Another Austen might be up, I haven’t decided yet.

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R: I’ve also had the immense pleasure of reading your New Adult novel, Lose Me. [review] a contemporary romance which moved me to tears. What are the challenges with writing in this genre, compared to YA Science Fiction? Do you prefer one over the other?

MCF: I loved writing both, although there was more freedom with the world-building with the No Ordinary Star series, as I was the one creating the sci-fi world. And there was much less research, compared to what I had to learn about stunts for Lose Me.

 

R: Now to get a little more personal: when you’re not writing, what do you do with your free time?

MCF: Free time? What’s that?

R: Finally, before we go, I just want to say thank you for creating such a magnificent world for us to fall into. No Ordinary Star has to be one of my favorite Science Fiction series. But I digress! Are there any other last minute things you would like our readers to know about?

MCF: Thank you for your kind words, I’m thrilled by the response the series is getting. I never imagined so many people would read it and love it.

R: Thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed! We can’t wait to see what’s next from the amazing M.C. Frank.

You can buy No Vain Loss HERE – out today! Only $0.99 per book – less than $3 for the entire trilogy!

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A Dangerous Game + AUTHOR INTERVIEW!

By Madeline Dyer
Prequel/Spin-Off to the Untamed series

If you’re not reading the Untamed series, you’re sorely missing out. It’s perfect YA dystopia, with amazing complex characters and thrilling adventure. And if you are reading the Untamed surprise, great news! Madeline Dyer has released a new standalone novel in the universe: A Dangerous Game, and it’s unputdownable.

Summary

LOVE WAS NEVER SUPPOSED TO BE EASY. 34035695

All her life, Keelie Lin-Sykes has known what she wants: to protect her brother and sisters by killing as many of the soulless Enhanced Ones as she can. Oh, and to have fun while she’s doing it. After all, hiding in a secret Untamed community, while the group’s Seer warns them of danger, shouldn’t mean that life can only be serious, right?

But, when a face from her past suddenly—and secretly—shows up, Keelie’s catapulted back into the very world she’s been trying to escape from for the last ten years: a world full of guilt, lies, and…love. And the deeper Keelie gets into this world, the bigger the risks become.

Now, Keelie must deceive those she values most in order to protect them, even though her actions will destroy everything she knows and haunt her family forever. But she can’t ignore her feelings–not again. And Keelie will do anything to be with the man she loves.

Musings

Strap yourselves in, because this is going to be a bumpy ride. Unlike the main Untamed series – which in itself is rather action packed – A Dangerous Game is more adrenaline-filled than ever. Unlike Untamed, here we follow a new character, Keelie, who’s very different to Seven. She’s dangerously addicted to action and adventure, constantly putting her own life in danger for the thrill of it. She acts without thinking, potentially putting others in harm’s way. She’s selfish and rude, and I love her. There’s just something about well written flawed characters that just hooks you in.

And, unlike Seven, Keelie has got an active love life. There’s more focus on romance in this standalone, and love (or maybe lust) is one of the key drivers of Keelie’s instincts. Once again, unlike Seven who is thoughtful and thinks ahead, Keelie makes decisions based on gut feelings and almost animal instinct. Which isn’t always the best for her – or anyone.

We also get a different view of the villagers at Nbutai before the events of Untamed, when they weren’t yet on the run. Though under constant threat from the Enhanced, they lead lives, they work together, they survive, maybe even thrive. This makes the beginning of Untamed suddenly so much more poignant because you begin to love characters you know won’t make it out alive.

A Dangerous Game also deals with mental health, as Keelie’s mental wellbeing isn’t exactly stable, and other characters fall on the autism spectrum, which is a breath of fresh air in the stacks of YA dystopian books.

If you loved Untamed, then you need this companion novel. If you haven’t yet read the Untamed series, then you need to. If you’re looking for an adrenaline-filled thrill ride from start to finish, where the only time you put down the book is to catch your breath, then you’ve come to the right place. Addicting, Thrilling, Amazing.

OUT TODAY! 


Interview with MADELINE DYER, author of the UNTAMED series

R: While set in the same world as Untamed, your new book has a different protagonist, and it’s set before the start of Untamed. What prompted you to want to write a book set before your series begins?

b1ai0zybk3s-_ux250_MD: So, back in 2013 when I was writing Untamed, book one of my series, I knew pretty much straight away that I really wanted to write Keelie’s story too—I just completely fell in love with her, and the more I worked on other books in the series, the more I found other characters referring to things she’d done. She was certainly an influential force on these characters! This really fueled my desire to explore Keelie more and see how she relates to the other characters in the Untamed world, and so I knew I’d have to write a book from her point of view. And, thus, A Dangerous Game was born!

Due to events that happen at the start of Untamed (and how the focus of the series is on Seven and her struggle to win the war), I knew that Keelie’s story would have to be set before the start of Untamed in order to give her the lime-light that she deserves—and where nothing huge would be going on at the same time that would detract from her story, because it’s very much about Keelie’s struggle with mental health, identity, and her relationships with others. I really wanted the emphasis to be on Keelie, so that Seven (the narrator of the series) can just be a minor character in the background as the juicy part of her story hasn’t begun yet. And so, A Dangerous Game, became a sort of prequel to the series. But it’s also very much a standalone book in its own right. You don’t need to read the series first.

It wasn’t until the spring of 2016 that I actually had time to really delve into Keelie’s story, and I was surprised at just how organically her story flowed—and how much it worked as a companion to the series. Writing a story set before my series has also been a lot of fun, as we get to see more of the daily life of the Nbutai villagers before they all go on the run from the Enhanced Ones.

R: In reading the book, we notice it’s very different to Untamed. What was the hardest challenge in writing this book, compared to the other novels in the Untamed series?51jqdwz0dul

MD: The hardest challenge in writing A Dangerous Game was making sure that there were no continuity errors in it or anything that jars with the first book of the series (particularly as there is a slight overlap in the timelines of the two books, though Seven and Keelie are in different places, dealing with different things, completely oblivious of each other). This also meant that I had to make sure that the end of A Dangerous Game didn’t repeat any information that the start of Untamed gives, as I don’t want to bore readers who’ve read both, and so I had to think of a way where the ending of Keelie’s story actually changes how the readers view and understand the start of Seven’s.

R: It’s so intriguing following the thoughts of a different character, who’s very different to Seven in many ways. Did you find that writing Keelie’s point of view was harder or easier than writing Seven’s? In what ways were they different?

MD: Keelie was actually a lot easier to write than Seven! Keelie’s impulsive, an adrenaline junkie, and confident (often dangerously over-confident), whereas Seven is quieter, very observant, and a lot more thoughtful. Seven is a planner, Keelie isn’t.

So, writing Keelie was definitely a breath of fresh air, as she does a lot of things that Seven would never have dreamed of doing in Untamed. But it was also really interesting seeing how these two characters view the world they live in so differently. Keelie often sees the war between the Untamed and Enhanced as almost game-like and something she can use to prove how strong she is, whereas Seven sees the horrors of it all for what it actually is and is determined to make sure her actions bring about an end for the war. Seeing Keelie and Seven interact with each other in A Dangerous Game was fun too—particularly as Seven hasn’t developed her Seer powers at this stage and is unaware of just how important she’ll be in the war, and so Keelie almost takes on the role of defender to the young woman who’ll later be the savior of their people.

R: The process of writing a book is never straightforward, is it! Did you have to make massive changes to your book, or did you know what the story was going to be since the very beginning?

MD: I knew the rough shape the story would take right from when I started writing it, but, wow, did it change a lot! The massive changes included ‘unkilling’ a character, introducing another sibling for Keelie (which completely changed the direction of the plot at several points), and increasing the level of romance A LOT.

R: One a more personal level, what would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

MD: Before I start a writing session, I generally make a cup of tea. Then, I invariably lose my cup of tea and make another one. At the end of my writing session, I either find the lost cup of tea or realize I’ve completely forgotten to drink the replacement one.

R: What’s your writing ritual, and what do you like to do when you’re not writing?

MD: I love writing outside, so I do that as often as I can. In general, I write first thing in the morning and keep going until lunchtime. Afternoons are for catching up on admin or editing—unless I’m at the beach, because then I’ll write at the beach.

When I’m not writing, I can be found out on our farm, with my herd of Shetland ponies, reading, or trying out new coffee shops.

Follow Madeline Dyer on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, or her website!

The Goblins of Bellwater

by Molly Ringle

Be forewarned: this book is odd and full of sex, and will mess with you. It’s not a usual kind of novel, and definitely not contemporary romance as it’s being advertised. All this aside, I think I loved this novel, but I’m left unsure because of just how strange it was. Ever see the movie “Dark City,” or “Labyrinth”? Even “Pan’s Labyrinth”? A bit like that.

Summary

A contemporary romance inspired by Christina Rossetti’s eerie, sensual poem, “Goblin Market.” Four neighbors encounter sinister enchantments and a magical path to love in a small, modern-day Puget Sound town, where a fae realm hides in the woods and waters…

Most people have no idea goblins live in the woods around the small town of Bellwater, Washington. But some are about to find out. 

Skye, a young barista and artist falls victim to a goblin curse in the forest one winter night, rendering her depressed and silenced, unable to speak of what happened. Her older sister, Livy, is at wit’s end trying to understand what’s wrong with her. Local mechanic Kit would know, but he doesn’t talk of such things: he’s the human liaison for the goblin tribe, a job he keeps secret and never wanted, thrust on him by an ancient family contract.

Unaware of what’s happened to Skye, Kit starts dating Livy, trying to keep it casual to protect her from the attention of the goblins. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Kit, Skye draws his cousin Grady into the spell through an enchanted kiss in the woods, dooming Grady and Skye both to become goblins and disappear from humankind forever.

It’s a midwinter night’s enchantment as Livy, the only one untainted by a spell, sets out to save them on a dangerous magical path of her own.

Musings

This book falls more under the umbrella of “Magical Realism” than contemporary romance, in my opinion. The fascinating world of the goblins is explored, and boy does it put you on edge the whole way through! The author has an incredible talent for drawing you into the story, all while making you feel simultaneously attracted and repulsed by what you read.

One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen in reviews has been that the romance(s) felt forces, and the sex was terrible. I think that was the point, and if so, then I really, really appreciate it. It was so different from what I’m used to reading! The relationships are toxic and odd,  so… human. These four people are linked by blood, love, or by lust, and it ties them together in such a way that their lives depend on each other. It’s surreal and unusual. All in all, don’t come into this expecting a meet cute and romance, prepare to feel uncomfortable as heck.

The atmosphere is so macabre. I loved feeling dragged into this world, and the idea of goblins in the forest, stealing your iPhones, felt like a refreshing update on a tale as old as time. The challenges Livy faces at the end completely encompass the adventure of a fairy tale hero, and I love that the love of her sister brings her through.

So long as you’re willing to read a book that will leave you feeling icky and uncertain, then you should give this book a try. Do not go into it looking for romance: get ready for the disgusting side of magic, and especially, for the Goblins.

 

 

Invictus

by Ryan Graudin

When you’re sick in the hospital and need a good book, you want one that’s going to take you far, far away from your bed and those four off-white walls. So a LOT was riding on Invictus. And it was… perfect. It’s everything you could possibly want in a novel; fun, time travel, paradoxes, the future, adorable red pandas, alternate reality, time pirates… the list just keeps on going. It’s a thrill ride you can’t put down, and I loved every second of it.

Summary33152795

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past. 

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

Musings

Time travel can be a whole mess for authors to tackle, and easily lead to plot holes or inconsistencies. But Invictus quickly lays down the rules and sticks to them, which makes for a killer story and an addicting read. Time travel done right leads to something un-put-down-able. If it did break any of its own rules, I didn’t notice, and was kept sucked into the story.

The plot also never gets dull or feels to drag out. Every few chapters, it’s as if the novel shifts completely: it throws every expectation or prediction you have on its head. The twists are so massive they completely alter the way you relate to the book itself, and that right there means there’s never a dull moment. If this were a TV show, they would have enough cliffhangers to have you on the edge of your seat all season long.

As for the characters, they’re lovable and fun. They’re bursting with personality, and they’re a tight little loving family, the kind that sort of warms your heart to see. Just wholesome perfection, with fun quips and snappy dialogue, along with great use of talents. It was also refreshing to skip over the will they, won’t they of Far and Priya, jumping straight into their comfortable relationship. Which means certain scenes all the more heartbreaking.

And to top it off, the descriptions are just killer. I love the future, which is just so dang hopeful, despite all the things that supposedly happened between now and then. I love the time-traveling historians, and their respect for history. And every travel back in time makes you feel as if you’re really there: the author has such a way with words you’re completely engrossed.

All in all, this is a fantastic read. If you need a novel to pick you up, you’ve got it right here. Not to mention, it’s a standalone – a fully self contained story that will have you hooked from start to finish, and thinking about it for ages after.

P.S. If you love red pandas, well, you’re in for a treat!

Lose Me.

By M.C. Frank

Last week, I found myself in the E.R., with pain so intense I could barely breathe. Doctors were discussing the possible need for surgery, but they were kind enough to leave me my phone while they ran tests. On that phone? A book sent directly by the author, months ago, lost and then recovered. It was fate. That book was M.C. Frank’s Lose Me., and it got me through one of the worst nights of my life.

Summary33859529

Jane Austen meets New Adult fiction in this compulsively readable romance.

“Today is not the day I die.”

Ari Demos starts every day with this thought. Fresh out of high school, she’s landed a coveted role as a stunt double in a new Pride and Prejudice adaptation starring the Hollywood phenomenon Weston Spencer. But this job isn’t going to be easy: Ari will be performing complicated water stunts and driving fast cars along the narrow cliffs of Corfu. One false step and she could lose not only her job but her life.

And then Wes Spencer, Mr Darcy himself, arrives in Greece. He’s got dirty blonde hair, a mile-long yacht and a bored look on that gorgeous face. Ari wants nothing to do with the rich actor boy, but on the day she meets him, she has an accident. One that almost claims her life. And now she can’t hide the truth any longer:
She might be much closer to losing everything than she thought. She might be dying. And the British actor is the last person she’d expect to save her life.

She’s a hard-working island girl. He’s adored by millions. 
Falling in love was never supposed to be a part of the job. 
Staying alive was never supposed to be a part of growing up.

Was this story ever meant for a happily ever after?

Musings

What I love most about M.C. Frank’s writing is her style. In a word, it’s beautiful. It flows so elegantly, without being unnecessarily verbose.  She immediately draws you to the beautiful Greek island of Corfu, making you feel as if you’re actually there, watching the waves and breathing in the salty air. There’s such a love for the place that it drips from every word.

Let’s get into the characters. We have Ari, a young stunt actress in her first big role. And we have Wes, a massive star, playing the role of Mr. Darcy in a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Ari knows his reputation and has no desire to be around him. But Ari has a secret [and this might be a bit of a spoiler, but it’s in the first few chapters]: she has a ticking time bomb in her head. A tumor, one that could end her life.

For a girl who wakes up every morning with the mantra “today is not the day that I die,” that’s pretty massive. And when Wes starts falling for her, can she really help but fall back? Knowing that their time will end soon, either through the end of filming or her own demise, she sees herself breaking Wes’s heart. How can she live while knowing it’s all going to come crashing down?

There’s just so much to love about the characters. Wes is the perfect book boyfriend (allow me to swoon a little?) once the asshole playboy facade fades away. The perfect gentleman, smart, a book lover (that’s where he gets me!) and handsome to a fault. It makes you feel for him, knowing Ari has no choice but to break his heart. And Ari herself is such a complex girl, her struggles so vivid and honestly quite traumatic.

And then there’s their relationship. I was put off a little at first, with how toxic it seemed at first glance. There’s quite a lot of saving, knights in shining armor, and then squabbling about life-saving (at first). I just couldn’t see a healthy way for Ari and Wes to be together, with all their baggage, secrets, and basically life-debts. But then I realized that was the entire point! And the character growth from that point on? Stunning.

I’m not a romance reader, but this New Adult contemporary really struck a cord. Basically – ALL THE FEELS.  I haven’t even gotten to talking about the amazing supporting characters and the subplots. And while the story isn’t a direct retelling of Pride and prejudice, it’s definitely something fans of Austen will adore.

Sublime. Read at your own risk, your heart will probably break.

On a personal note, I read this book while having painkillers plugged right into my veins. The first time around, I kept misreading passages and getting myself confused. I dozed off during the CGI dolphin scene and imaged some weird ocean choreography. It was quite trippy!

The Girl in the Tower

The Winternight Trilogy #2
By Katherine Arden

When I first read The Bear and the Nightingale last winter, I was enthralled. With all the magic of a Russian folktale, it stood out to me as one of my favorite novels of the year, and maybe of all time. So I was pleasantly surprised when I heard there would be a sequel: in fact, it’s now going to be a trilogy! And when the publisher offered me a chance to read The Girl in the Tower, I pounced. And I’m in love all over again.

Summary34050917

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

Musings

Without her father to protect her prospects, Vasya takes flight to avoid being hunted down as a witch. She must pretend to be a man to survive in this brutal world, leaving her small town for the first time and exploring the wonders of the world. But things are not that easy: when she proves herself to be a hero, the Grand Prince of Moscow wants her – believing Vasya to be a him – by his side. Reunited with her siblings, Vasya knows her cross-dressing could be their downfall. But what other choice does she have?

The interesting thing I did not expect in this novel was the shift of perspective. We now see many events from the eyes of Vasya’s brother, Sasha: a monk who seems more at ease wielding a sword than living in seclusion. We also get a limited point of view from Olga, Vasy’s sister, now a wife and mother. It’s interesting to have them as supporting characters: Olga finds purpose in her traditional female role, while Sasha has the freedom (as a man) to take on any role he wishes as a monk.

But when we’re with Vasya, my heart pounds. I love her character. She’s a strong, wild woman whose stubbornness grows even more in the pages of this book. She’s not as reckless as she was in the beginning of The Bear and the Nightingale, but she’s still headstrong, just smarter at picking her battles.

Morozko returns, and his relationship with Vasya grows as well. At first, I found myself a little put off by having such a powerful being paired with such an inexperienced girl, but this was actually discussed in the book, which really impressed me. And now, I have to say, I ship it.  There’s something really unique in this relationship that talks to me.

The Magic really is here, with more elements of Russian folklore intertwined with the plot. It’s fascinating to be brought into this world, but also sad to see that magic dwindling and dying. Just as with the Bear and the Nightingale, the Girl in the Tower addresses the end of the age of magic, when religion takes over the myth.

I could keep talking for ages about this book, but I’ll try to be brief: if you loved the Bear and the Nightingale, then The Girl In the Tower is not one to miss. The ending is insanely amazing, and heartbreaking, all at once. You’ll fall in love with the characters, the magic, with Rus, and especially Vasya.