Ruined

A Regency Retelling of Jane Eyre
M.C. Frank

Once again, I have dove into a genre I rarely read because of a book written by an author I admire, and once again I’m thoroughly impressed and glad I gave it a chance.  Ruined is a perfect book for all the lovers of Regency era, or historical romance, or romance in general – not usually my cup of tea but thanks to M.C. Frank, I think they’re growing on me.

32181020Summary

The Duke of Ashton sits at the Opera at Vauxhall Gardens, bored out of his mind, and plans murder.

He curses the day that brought the little governess, destitute and sad, at his door eight months ago, to upset his careless if a bit meaningless existence. 
How could he have guessed the terrible, evil secrets she was hiding? And now that he knows all, the truth appears wilder, even more despicable than even he could have imagined. He hadn’t counted on losing his heart to her, of course, but he did.

What he doesn’t know is that a tendril of the shadows of madness and sin that followed Beatrice to his door is still out there, looking for something to devour.
The only one who can save him from the darkness is the girl herself, but he knows he’ll never see her again. He who once prided himself on his indifference to other human beings, feels his chest constrict with pain every time he even thinks of her.

Musings

After his cousin’s death, Dominic Halifax suddenly inherits the title of the Duke of Ashton, and by a shocking move in the former’s will, is now in charge of the man’s daughter, Adelina. Headstrong and stubborn, she is impossible to control, and is ruining Dominic’s bachelor lifestyle – he needs help. She has rejected every candidate he has found suitable to be her governess, until, that is, he finds Beatrice Devon. Only three years older than Adelina herself, Beatrice somehow manages to bring her under control.

But Beatrice caries a heavy secret: a history of mental and physical abuse. But as Dominic begins falling in love with her, more is revealed about her past – can she ever move forward?

I haven’t read Jane Eyre in quite a long time so I might not be a good judge of how good of a retelling Ruined is, but the plot itself is very different from what I remember – this book is definitely not a linear retelling! The relationship between Dom and Beatrice seems to be the main similar element, and it’s adorable how he uses the same imagery to describe her as what I remember from studying the book in high school – frequently calling her bewitching or accusing him of casting a spell on her, for example. Highly creative!

We alternate between the points of view of Dominic and Beatrice, telling the story with secrets kept hidden. The plot was neither slow nor fast, a nice gentle evolution of the relationship with a handful of mystery thrown in. The author also carefully mimics the writing style of the era, while not losing the style her readers love. It’s easy to see M.C. Frank in the pages, even while she’s using a regency era turn of phrase. This might put off some readers, but I found it easy to get into and very fitting for the novel.

Beatrice shows amazing growth through the novel: I love a strong female character who has her flaws. She’s smart, persistent, and somehow hasn’t lost a love for humanity through all she’s been through. Now I must war some readers that the flashback scenes are troubling at times, and very unsettling, but how Beatrice deals with them is masterfully done. I did get a little tired of her crying/fainting, but it was a really minor qualm I had with the book.

Dominic’s evolution is a fantastic one. I loved his broodiness at the beginning, his real stubbornness he can’t see in himself. But Beatrice brings the best out of him, and he out of her. I enjoyed watching their relationship grow and wishing that they end up together. Underneath that bachelor-life-loving exterior beats the heart of a true and caring gentleman.

I found the ending a little confusing, somehow – a few jumps in time that weren’t clear, moving forward and back but without any guidance. I’m not sure if this is just me, and it threw me off a little, but the action picked up and I was drawn right back in.

All in all, this isn’t your everyday retelling of Jane Eyre: it’s a beautiful homage to the book, with a story about abuse and growth, love and strength. The author creates a beautiful story with so much to love. If you like historical romance, then you’ll strike gold with Ruined!

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I have kindly received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

“It takes true courage, integrity and selflessness to turn yourself into a person that the world would be the wealthier for possessing.” 

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Woman With A Thousand Hats

By Denise Kawaii
A memoir

One of my new year’s reading resolutions was to read more non-fiction: so when I won this book in a giveaway, I knew it was the perfect place to start. I had been following author Denise Kawaii for some time on Instagram, constantly impressed by the sheer amount and variety of her projects: her newly released memoir promised to dive into how she managed to juggle it all and let me tell you, it’s insanely captivating!

Summary51ef2w0cb3l

This is the story of a farm girl, an insurance agent, a chronic insomniac, a therapy patient, a serial dieter, an entrepreneur, an office manager, a housewife, a financial adviser, an overtaxed mom, and a published author. Spoiler: they’re all the same person.

You’ll want to laugh and cry as you read, but you won’t want to put this memoir down. Woman With a Thousand Hats is a candid glimpse behind the scenes of a do-it-all woman’s everyday life. Not only does Kawaii get honest about the emotional turmoil behind her personal drive to work, but she also tackles bigger social issues like body shaming, chronic illness, family dysfunction and social pressure to be “normal”. 

The perfect read for anyone who has ever felt like they weren’t good enough.

Musings

The memoir is set up in an interesting way, with each chapter following a thread of the author’s life as she explores a new path, or hat in this case. From 911 dispatcher to custom paintball business owner, it seems like her life is a jumble of mismatched lives somehow all jammed into one person. This is probably what makes the book such a compelling read: you simply cannot put it down, one hat flowing into another somehow naturally when it seems absurd in retrospect.

What struck me most was how relatable the author is: for the first time in a long time, maybe even ever, I’ve had insight into a mind like mine. I too juggle mismatched jobs, my life seeming like chaos from the outside but completely natural from my perspective. Reading about how the author describes her energy, her lack of sleep, all was like seeing a reflection of myself. yet another reason I couldn’t put this book down.

Not to mention that the author’s style makes it feel like you’re catching up with an old friend, who’s filling you in on decades of your life, and you just have to keep buying coffees so you can keep chatting. Her voice is honest, true, so even in the most absurd of moments you know she’s being completely transparent with you. Sometimes maybe too much (there are some details I was surprised to see shared with such candor!).

Overall, the memoir feels like a love letter to life itself. The author’s reflection on her life so far obviously therapeutic for her, and it’s almost intimate being on this journey with her. She is living proof that the universe offers possibilities every day, and you just need to be brave enough to take them. Even if sometimes the universe can be cruel: my heart broke for her and her family multiple times, and I was in awe that she would share these personal moments with us.

This memoir is an eye-opener to anyone who believes that life is lived along a straight line. The author offers such insight into exploring the opportunities life throws at you, and shares the wisdom she has gained so far, sometimes with hilarious results.

I finished the book feeling like I knew this author so much better, and with a new resolve to finish my projects. Highly recommended for anyone who is unsure of what path to take in life, and who need reassurance that wearing many hats doesn’t make you weird, it makes you a fashionista.

On a personal note… there was a fantastic section on learning how to say ‘no’ to projects; a discussion with a therapist on what constitutes ‘resting’, and a lot of discussion about energy and burnout. I found this particularly relevant and will be trying to take that advice… if I can handle it!

A New Book by M.C. Frank – The Robin Hood WIP a e s t h e t i c

It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of M.C. Frank (if you need proof, just look at the cover of the last book in her No Ordinary Star trilogy – my obsession is printed for all to see), so I’ve been following her Robin Hood WIP diaries for quite some time. The brilliant young author is working on a retelling of Robin Hood, and if it’s anything like her other retellings, it’s going to be amazing.

When she revealed the aesthetic she has in mind for the book, my jaw hit the floor. I can’t be more excited for this book to come out, so of course, I had to share it with you! With permission from the author, I’d love for you to see the aesthetic of her Robin Hood work in progress, along with a short extract from what she’s working on.

So now, without any further ado: M.C. Frank presents THE ROBIN HOOD WIP AESTHETIC.

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Robin looked at the glittering torches far ahead. The castle loomed before him, banners flying, lute music wafting in the evening air.

He crouched in the shadows, fingering the sharp edge of his arrow. For a second he allowed himself to think of what was happening inside the walls; after all, Tuck must be in by now, along with the “women”. Were they being served platters of pungent fruit and roasted meat? Were they watching the tricks of a garrishly-dressed jouster and listening to the music for the dancers? He knew everything that would be going on in the Sheriff’s Great Hall on this important day of celebration and revels.

He’d once been a nobleman, too, he’d once been served by kitchen maids and clothed in silks and colors.

A cold drop landed on his cheek; it had started to rain. He glanced behind him and motioned to Alis and John to follow him as they padded from tree to tree, until they were close enough to the walls of the castle.

“Robin,” John’s voice boomed in the gathering darkness. He always tried to whisper, but alas, never succeeded. For such a large man, even making his voice small seemed impossible. That, or he was like a five year-old, who is unable of grasping the concept of “be quiet.”

“Hush,” Robin mumbled. “What is it now?”

“Well, nothing,” John said, his blonde braids catching a ray of the torch fire. They were so close, the light of the flames was illuminating the darkness; they were right outside the castle walls. “Except thisQ when are you going to do it, already?” Robin realized with a pang of surprise that John was angry. “I don’t know if you noticed, but we’re practically in the castle, all right? At this pace you’ll have us at Sir Roderick’s table as if we were his damned invited guests.”

Robin didn’t reply, he just hung his head. It was true, they had moved closer than he needed. He could have done what he came to do from a hundred yards away, even farther.

“Now, stop moving and do what you have to do so we can leave!” John said, and then his voice dropped -so he could whisper, after all. “Look, I know what you’re thinking, Rob, so stop it. Stop it, you hear me?”

“You deserve to be in there, John,” Robin whispered back, unable to stop himself. He could hear his own voice hoarse and hated himself for sounding so broken. For being so broken. “Alis and Will and little Ru… Even you and Tuck, you all deserve to be in there and celebrate like princes, instead of hiding and trying to keep our heads attached to our necks. You deserve to be in there.”

“Well, we’re not,” John said roundly. “We’re outlaws, which to be honest, is far healthier in this political climate. I’d rather be wet, empty-bellied and sleepless than deign to eat the stolen food that graces the Sheriff’s table, while children die and starve under his watch. I’d rather be a beggar than a prince, if the Prince is plotting to take the rightful King’s throne. Do you understand?”

Robin nodded.

“I don’t think you do. I bet you keep thinking that it’s your fault that we’re not up there, celebrating. You always were a fool, you know,” John added tenderly.

And that was it. Robin snapped out of his trance. He turned around and punched John in the arm, and then drew back his bowstring, looking straight and true towards his aim.

Christmas is not for you, he told himself, just as a reminder. Celebrations and feasts, food and riches aren’t for you. For you is not to make merry and keep your belly filled. For you is to fight; for you is to live.

He took his eyes off his aim for a split second and glanced back towards John, who looked on at his readied arrow unimpressed, pretending to rub the spot where Robin had punched him, as if it hurt terribly. Robin turned back his attention to his target.

For you is to be loved by outlaws.

For you is to be an outlaw.

For now.

Robin let go. For you is to hope.

-from the Robin Hood WIP,  ©2017 M.C. Frank

Read more on the author’s blog, here.

It’s just… breathtaking.  Gosh I hope this book comes out SOON! I have a need!

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! 

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!

Grave Dealings + Interview with R.R. Virdi

The Grave Report (Book 3)

Vincent Graves is back! If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know I’m a massive fan of R.R. Virdi, an insanely talented young author who’s taking the Urban Fantasy world by storm, all while being self-published. Twice nominated for a Dragon award, going up against big names like Jim Butcher and Larry Correia, his books are incredibly fun, fast-paced, and clever to boot. Now, finally, book 3 is out in the world – and it might just be his best yet.

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Don’t make deals with the paranormal. They’re better at it than you, and they never play fair.

Paranormal investigator and soul without a body, Vincent Graves, did just that—a deal made in desperation. Now it’s coming back to bite him in the middle of a case. He has 57 hours to investigate a string of deaths involving people who’ve made some devilish bargains. Too bad devils don’t deal in good faith. It’d be easy enough if he didn’t have to deal with things such as:

  • Being hunted through the streets of Queens by a dark elf with a motorcycle fetish.
  • Ending up the target of a supernatural hit.
  • An old acquaintance dragging him to a paranormal ball where he could end up on the menu.
  • And having one of his closest guarded secrets brought to light…

Not great for a tight clock, because if he doesn’t get to the bottom of this case in time, Vincent and company might just lose their souls.

Dirty deals are never done dirt cheap. And the supernatural always collect—big!

Musings

It’s easy to see why I’m still addicted to R.R. Virdi’s Grave Report series: every single one is better than the last, full of wit and humor and so much ingenuity your head will spin. The premise itself – a soul without a body who wakes up in the body of recently murdered victims and tries to solve their paranormal death – is so fantastic it could hit television any day and I would watch it obsessively.

This time, Vincent Graves is back in New York, and free to roam the city. Which means he’s sure to run into some old allies, as well as make some new ones. It was so great to see Ortiz again! I love her character, she’s so no-nonsense and badass. But I’m head over heels for the new kid – Kelly is ADORABLE. And genius! While Ortiz intimidates me, I wish I could be BFFs with Kelly. She’s savy and smart and altogether fun.

And the villain… oh boy, you’ll never see it coming! Per usual, Virdi makes it seem like you know where the story is heading, then throws you a sudden twist that makes you question everything. Peppered with awesome fight scenes, and with new dealings with the fae, this book is everything you want in Urban Fantasy, and more.

Now, for a few questions to the man of the hour! Let’s hear it for R.R. Virdi!

7769192Q: It’s so great to have you back with a new book! Tell us: what can we expect from Grave Dealings?

A: Grave Dealings picks up some time after Grave Measures. Vincent’s bounced around, done more cases, which haven’t been shown, and is finally back in the boroughs of New York. From the get-go he’s already under attack and being hounded through the streets of Queens, all before even having a chance at pissing someone off. Kind of unfair. There’s a string of artists and freelancers dying, and no one knows why. Guess whose job it is to figure it all out.

Q: The Grave Report series is so unique, but still manages to tick every box of what a reader wants. With your new book, do you try more to be original, or to deliver to readers more of what they want?

A: I try to deliver more of what I want, what excites me. It’s what I did with book one and seems to work. I’m of the belief in a world of 7 billion…people can and will like what you have to write and sell. It’s just the odds.

Q: The world you’ve created is massive and intricate, but also plays off some myths and folklore that readers are already aware of. At the same time, you introduce us to myths that are almost forgotten. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

A: I love mythology and I research it for fun. That’s honestly one of the biggest reasons I do this. It’s why The Grave Report is a monster of the week style paranormal investigator series.

Q: What did you edit out of this book? What was your hardest scene to write?

A: Things edited out of this book are normally lines and small redundant bits that show up in most author’s works. Descriptions, maybe dialogue that’s gone on too long and made the point. Done over a novel this big, it adds up.

Q: Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

A: Oh. Yes. 😉 Best of luck finding them.

Q: We’re starting to get some answers as to Vincent’s past… and there are hints of something much bigger to come. Any clues you can give us, little teasers for the rest of the series?

A: Yep. That if you read them all, you’ll get the answers.

Q: While we’re now all eagerly awaiting the fourth book in the series, we’re also excited about your other books. Dangerous Ways was outstanding! May I ask what’s going to be next for your fans?

A: Well, I’m a bit torn. Fans want the second The Books of Winter. Which, to be honest, I really want to write. But, The Grave Report is more successful, and I have to eat. Really conflicted. But, I think I might take a risk and do the second The Books of Winter?

There you have it! Make sure to pick up your copy of Grave Dealings HERE so you can catch up on Graves’s latest wild adventure. Enjoy! 

The Beta Earth Chronicles – Blog Tour

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The Blind Alien is a story with a highly original concept, fascinating characters, and not-too-subtle but truthful allegories.  Don’t let the sci-fi label or alternate Earth setting fool you–this is a compelling and contemporarily relevant story about race, sex, and social classes.”

–Raymond Benson, Former James Bond novelist and author of the Black Stiletto books
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Besides his 33 years in the classroom, Dr. Wesley Britton considers his Beta-Earth Chronicles the most important work he’s ever done. “I suppose an author profile is intended to be a good little biography,” Britton says, “but the best way to know who I am is to read my novels.”

Still, a few things you might like to know about Wes include the fact he’s the author of four non-fiction books on espionage in the media, most notably The Encyclopedia of TV Spies (2009). Beginning in 1983, he was a widely published poet, article writer for a number of encyclopedias, and was a noted scholar of American literature. Since those days, for sites like BlogCritics.org and BookPleasures.com, Britton wrote over 500 music, book, and movie reviews. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio’s Dave White Presents for which he contributed celebrity interviews with musicians, authors, actors, and entertainment insiders.

Starting in fall 2015, his science fiction series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles, debuted with The Blind Alien. Throughout 2016, four sequels followed including The Blood of Balnakin, When War Returns, A Throne for an Alien, and The Third Earth. Return to Alpha will be the sixth volume of this multi-planetary epic.

Britton earned his doctorate in American Literature at the University of North Texas in 1990. He taught English at Harrisburg Area Community College until his retirement in 2016. He serves on the Board of Directors for Vision Resources of Central Pennsylvania. He lives with his one and only wife, Betty, in Harrisburg, PA.

Book One, The Blind Alien, came out in Sept 2015 – Book Six is due for release before Christmas 2017.

The epic opens when Malcolm Renbourn, a young history teacher, walks into an ordinary bank on an ordinary day. Suddenly, he feels excruciating pain. Unexpectedly, he loses his sight and discovers he has been drawn against his will across the multi-verse to a slave-holding country on a parallel earth. He doesn’t understand a single word he hears, but he soon comprehends that he is the focal point in the quest to end a plague that kills three out of four male babies their first year on Beta-Earth.

Branded state property, he must escape, but where can a blind man in a strange world dominated by desperate scientists run? And on a world where polygamy is the norm, how can Malcolm Renbourn adapt into becoming the husband of five independent wives who never expected to be the mothers of a generation a planet hopes will carry the genes that will change everything. And that’s just part of the story.

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Much of Malcolm’s background was drawn from my own life, especially his blindness and

 the treatment he endures because of it. Some of his more bizarre encounters actually happened to me, many of them quite comical. People have asked Malcolm and me all sorts of strange questions over the years—Do blind people sleep with their eyes open or closed? How does a blind man aim properly in toilets? Did I know I had a beard?

Of course, most of the book is pure imagination, as in the ghastly plague that kills three out of four male babies their first year, resulting in Beta-Earth’s culture of polygamy. Hence, Malcolm’s growing tribe of wives and children.

Here are a couple more reviews for Blind Alien which is priced at only $0.99

 

“An excellent work of new SF that hearkens back to the classics of Asimov and Heinlein. Told from the viewpoint of the different characters, it is a tale of a man from our earth (Alpha) being unwittingly transferred to a parallel earth (Beta) where he must learn to adapt to new cultures, attitudes, languages at the same time as coming to grips with the loss of his sight. Each of the characters are fully developed and well defined and being able to hear their thoughts about each encounter brings a richness to the narratives. Politics, religion, social mores and relationships are all examined from both without and within.”—Dave Massengale, Amazon review

“Spymaster and imaginative author, Dr. Wesley Britton has another big hit! His book takes the reader on a compelling journey of an Alpha earthling who has been spirited to planet Beta. Science-fiction, yes, but much more. The book explores science, medicine, commerce, education, spiritual life, family life and sex on an alternative planet which at times is insightful and hilarious in its comparison to our own Earth. In an ingenious way, Dr. Britton has created a new grammar and vocabulary to continually intrigue the reader. A true winner!” –Bobbi Chertok, Amazon Reviewer

Follow Wesley Britton at:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/295635.Wesley_Britton/blog

Series book trailer

https://youtu.be/m8rrP2warHc

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Explore Beta-Earth with Tribe Renbourn as the “Alpha Man” and his wives face irresistible prophecies, island tyrants, the curse of the “Plague-With-No-Name,” and a horrifying death-trade.

 

 

 

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Just when Tribe Renbourn is certain they’ve found sanctuary in the country of Alma, they must battle a mutant girl from the aristocracy, a lecherous prince, a theocratic church, and take sides in a world-shaking civil war.

 

 

 

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After leading a fleet of exiles from the Alman civil war, Tribe Renbourn becomes embroiled with a duplicitous island royal family, the fight to end the “Plague-With-No-Name,” the invasion of a deadly foe, and the demanding will of the harsh goddess of Beta, Olos.

 

 

TE FINAL EBOOK

 

Forced to leave Beta-Earth behind, six members of Tribe Renbourn are forever  transformed when they travel across the multi -verse to be captives of a very different kind of humanity of pairs and must lead the rebellion of the single-bodied “nams.”

 

 

 

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Forty years after Malcolm Renbourn was drug across the multi-verse, two of his children from Beta-Earth, and two from Cerapin-Earth travel to our planet where they encounter a world suffering from biological war, climate change, religious zealotry, and fear of what these aliens might bring to a suffering humanity.

 

 

Find out more about The Beta Earth Chronicles at:

http://drwesleybritton.com

Follow and like the Beta Earth Chronicles

https://www.facebook.com/BetaEarthChronicles/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cassidy

A Spin-Off novel in the Color of Water and Sky Series
By Andrew Gates

I’m so excited for the release of another Andrew Gates book! As you might have seen if you follow this blog, I’m pretty hooked on the Color of Water and Sky series. It’s some of the best science fiction I have ever read: it’s complex, it’s dramatic, and it’s got twists so unexpected it will make your head spin. Cassidy is no different: in fact, it changes everything. [Mild Spoilers if you haven’t read Iris and Kholvaria].

Summary51ranl61ubl

The world thinks them dead. But they are very much alive. After a deadly attack from an unknown enemy, Captain Sara Gessetti and Lieutenant Damien Saljov are separated from the Cassidy X20 experimental submarine and left to drown in the depths of the Atlantic. Cut off from society, from technology, even from each other, both pilots struggle to survive in this harsh new world, where danger lurks around every corner. But they are not alone. The surface holds many dangers, and some of them come from within…

From the pages of The Color of Water and Sky, this official spinoff story takes place in parallel to books 1-3 in the series.

Musings

What’s so thrilling about Cassidy is that we finally get to see what has really happened to the characters we ‘lost’ in the prologues. Sara and Damien were at the helm of the submarine that started this whole mess, way back in the very beginning of Iris. And now, not only have they survived, but they’ve been sucked into the narrative as well. We follow Sara, and she struggles to stay alive on a mysterious floating farm, and Damien, as he becomes the ambassador of an entire species. Both suffer and struggle to survive in this unforgiving world, not knowing if the other has made it or not.

It’s truly exciting to see the events of Iris, Kholvaria, and the soon to be published Veznek, from an outside point of view. Sara, seeing and not understanding the death and devastation we witnessed on the Atlantic Station. Damien, experiencing firsthand the fallout of the missile launch Parnel triggered at the very end of Kholvria. Having these new points of view completely changes how we experience both losses.

And then… what happens next? Cassidy answers questions and raises new ones as well, making it an essential companion to the main series. It makes me even more excited for the events of Veznek! I really can’t wait to see where the author is taking the series, because he proves time and time again that I really cannot predict it at all.

If you’re looking to see what happens to your favorite characters from Iris and Kholvaria, you’re just going to have to wait until Veznek. But if you’re dying to know how Sara and Damien survived, and what the world is like away from team Iris? This is the book for you. I expands the universe Gates has created and leaves you dying for more!

Read it now! – Amazon

No Vain Loss

By M.C. Frank
No Ordinary Star #3

I’m going to try to keep calm during this review, but it’s going to be tough: followers of this blog will recognize this series and remember how obsessed I am with it*. I am currently a massive ball of excitement. The series had set my expectations very high, and I’m happy to say it did not disappoint with No Vain Loss: It delivered beauty until the very end.

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.

Musings

When people say epic conclusions, they’ve never seen anything as epic as this. The book picks up the exact second No Plain Rebel stops, and from there the pace hits the accelerator 1000%.  We are at war, in the middle of a battle, good versus evil with confused soldiers trying to save the world. As a reader, you’re so grabbed into the book that even from the very start, it becomes impossible to put it down.

And, somehow, the author still manages to introduce massive twists to the story that make total sense and yet take you completely unawares. At about the halfway point, I gasped audibly, making the woman across from me in the metro glance up in shock.  I wanted to tell her everything, before realizing she would have no idea what I was talking about.

I’m so sad this series has come to an end. Not only was it a great read, but it was an amazing examination of what it means to be human. It’s made me see daily routine in a completely different way. Appreciate the moments I have with my friends, my pets, even with my food. The ending reads like poetry, and it’s so beautiful, and warm, it left me feeling full inside. No Vain Loss was the perfect finish.

The No Ordinary Star series has to be one of the most perfect series I have ever read, because it gave me everything I wanted out of my reading time. Character to adore, to root for, to ship, to watch grow. A plot that never felt contrived, always unpredictable and that makes you want more. And a lyrical style full of love for the human race.

This series made me feel hope. Love, loss, passion, excitement. I’m going to reread it often, and my friends need to know about it.

Do yourself a favor: read this series. You’ll love every second.

*So obsessed, in fact, that a quote about just how obsessed I am now is on the cover of the paperback edition of this book.