Foul is Fair

by Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins
Reviewed by SA

This week we’re tackling an amazing fantasy novel for Self Published Saturday, a novel you’re sure to love: Foul is Fair, the first novel in the recently concluded Fair Folk Chronicles. It’s a brilliant book that takes you deep into the heart of Faerie, full of magic and danger… and dancing, too.

Summary25512566

Lots of girls play Fairy Princess when they’re little. Megan O’Reilly had no idea the real thing was like playing chess, guitar, and hockey all at once. Megan had known for a long time that she wasn’t an entirely typical girl. But living with ADHD—and her mother’s obsessions—was a very different thing from finding out she wasn’t entirely human. Somewhere out there, in a completely different world, her father needs help. There’s a conflict, revolving around Faerie seasonal rituals, that could have consequences for humanity—and if Megan’s getting the terminology straight, it sounds like her family aren’t even supposed to be the good guys. As she’s further and further swept up in trying to save her father, Megan may be getting too good at not being human.

When Megan discovers her dad – as well as her best friend – are mythical, she takes it all in one stride: she’s got a quest to follow! She has her father to save, let alone the whole world, the balance of which rests upon him being able to attend a dance that changes the seasons. She’s focused and determined, even without her medication, and she’s ready to take on this challenge if it means making things right for the world.

Megan is a skilled artist (thought she might be addicted to doodling) and begins to slowly see the power of music and signing. She’s got a knack for it, which some might call a little magic. I loved Megan as a character, and her friend Lani just as much. Their friendship is a powerful drive in Megan’s life and gives her strength and determination, as well as support as her world is turned on her head. And I’m such a sucker for female friendships in great novels.

My favorite characters, however, were not the main ones: no, I loved Cassia and Ashling a whole lot. Ashling might be my favorite pixie of all time: she’s sassy, funny, and crazy witty. Not to mention she’s technically living with a pixie disability, and her ‘service animal’ is a crow named Count who’s a personality all to himself. I’ve NEVER read a book like this before! Ashling’s comedic responses to Megan’s whole slew of questions – especially her variety of answers as to why Count is names Count  or where fairies come from – had me rolling on the floor laughing.

While some parts of the novel were exposition heavy, I found the overall creativity of the novel to make up for that. I loved the use of other myths from around the world that I had never heard of: Lani, for example, is part Menehune, which (I only just learned this) is a myth from Hawaii. This gives her a talent for engineering and creating things.

To recap all the amazing things about this book: great representation, love of art and music, love of science and creativity, the world of Faerie, myths from around the world, great adventure… and did I mention it’s a great read for any age?

“I’ve been a huge mythology nerd most of my life, so getting to play with the old myths, and have a series centered around the 4 treasures of Ireland, the 4 lost cities of the fae, and the 4 big seasonal events of the calendar was a lot of fun,” The author told me when I asked about his inspiration, “Thor #279 was one of the first things I ever really read, when I was 5. It sent me scrambling to learn the real myths. So I liked the idea of writing something where readers, especially teens, maybe could, or even would occasionally go running to google some of the things in the books, or read Celtic myth, Hawaiian myth, etc.”

And it worked! I ended up by starting to google “Menehune”and spend a few hours just browsing the interwebs, using this book as a guide. And I learned so much!

If you want a fun and creative take on the world of Faerie, then you’re going to love Foul is Fair. There are four books to this series, all available on amazon. The ebook for book 2 is on .99 sale on kindle through this weekend, as it is the summer solstice!

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Sounds of War

by Cindy Chen

Reviewed by SA

I love doing Self Published Saturday! I really do! I get the opportunity to read, and share, books I would not have even known about if it wasn’t for the amazing self published community. It’s when reading books like Sounds of War that you really wish the book was a physical copy rather than an epub, so you can shove it into all of your friends hands. I really did not expect this book to be as beautiful as it was, and everyone needs a chance to read it.

Summary

People were dying. Bodies were lying along the streets. Air raid sirens were about to go off at any moment. Nobody was shown any mercy.

For Anna, life had always been about music. An aspiring pianist and composer, she studied at the renowned Leningrad Conservatoire under some of the greatest musicians to ever walk the face of the Earth. Her studies came to a halt, however, when Nazi troops surrounded Leningrad in September, 1941, intending to shell and starve the city into submission. She watched as her once-beautiful city transformed in front of her eyes: people became living skeletons, their only food being a mere 125 grams of ration bread a day; buildings were reduced to rubble, pieces of bricks and broken glass strewn along the streets; cats, dogs, rats, and horses disappeared as people chose to eat them instead. One by one, the citizens of Leningrad were losing hope, and Anna was desperately trying to find a reason to hold on and a way to continue…

What a fantastically beautiful book.

I’m going to say it right now: I’m not into music. GASP. I listen to it, any kind, but it’s usually just something to keep my mind focused on a project or two. Never did I think I would actually GET it. Somehow, through words, by creating sound out of ink and letters, this novel made me suddenly love music. It made me see how powerful a few notes and cords could be. I was transported to a world of sound and song through a novel about war. The trips to the Conservatoire, the piano playing between friends and family, Anna’s dedication to writing music: these moments truly came alive for me, and managed to resonate like real music would.

All this cuts a sharp contrast with the description of wartime Lenningrad. The beauty of the music clashes with the death and despair on the streets of this city, and as a reader, you truly feel the pain and anguish of life there. It’s terrifying: while the music really is beautiful and warm, the description of life in 1941 makes you feel cold inside.

Chen really has a way with words: from creating music out of thin air, to creating sorrow on the next page, you wonder if you’re even reading a book at all anymore. I devoured this book in a one hour bus ride, and was so enthralled I almost missed my stop. Even when I got off the bus, I had five pages left to read, so I sat down at the stop and finished it. I really was transported to wartime Russia. This book is a real gem. Its subject matter is hard, and at every page you turn and think: “Wow, how can their situation get any worse?” – spoiler alert, somehow it does. The author never seems to exaggerate, creating an environment which felt wholly realistic to me.

Anna herself is a great character: she’s realistic, relatable, and determined. You feel her emotions through the pages, you yearn to reach out a hand and pull her out. But when she plays music, you really feel as if you’re seeing the real Anna. She dwindles when she’s away from an instrument for too long.

The relationship that develops between the protagonist and her best friend is just as realistic as the rest. An atmosphere of “Will they, won’t they” sometimes hung in the air, (or in the pages I should say), and I was so pleased it didn’t go the way or the popular historical fiction (I’m trying so hard not to spoil anything). It’s a friendship I envy, one with mutual respect, a shared passion for music, and with honest conversation.

But yes, this book is painful. It’s set during WWII, after all. if there wasn’t the beauty of music to soften it, I would have lost it – which I think is the point! There is death, loss. Pain. Horror. Moments you wish you could put the book down, if it wasn’t so darn addicting. The ending, however, is perfect, and makes all the pain worth the read.

Make sure you pick up this amazing book!

Signal to Noise

by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Reviewed by SA

Magic. Sometimes you pick up a book, and you just feel the magic flowing through it. Signal to Noise was a novel that surprised me in the way it caught me so early on; there was an instant connection between reader and characters, and the magic in the music just compelled me to read more.

Summary – Curtesy of Goodreads

Mexico City, 1988: Long before iTunes or MP3s, you said “I love you” with a mixtape. Meche, awkward and fifteen, has two equally unhip friends — Sebastian and Daniela — and a whole lot of vinyl records to keep her company. When she discovers how to cast spells using music, the future looks brighter for the trio. With help from this newfound magic, the three friends will piece together their broken families, change their status as non-entities, and maybe even find love…
Mexico City, 2009: Two decades after abandoning the metropolis, Meche returns for her estranged father’s funeral. It’s hard enough to cope with her family, but then she runs into Sebastian, and it revives memories from her childhood she thought she buried a long time ago. What really happened back then? What precipitated the bitter falling out with her father? And, is there any magic left?

I can’t think of any teenager that didn’t dream of magic when they were young. Who dreamed of being able to influence events, to make the world go their way, especially in that awkward period of your life where everything is zits and school and crushes. Meche is no different: she is a smart young woman who struggles with boys she likes and teachers that cause her trouble. Her friends are as awkward as her, each trying to navigate high school and adolescence. So of course when Meche realizes she can use her record collection to influence the future, the three of them take matters into their own hands.

What’s fantastic is that the Magic comes from the music Meche loves, from classic rock to jazz, fantastic songs that don’t make you doubt for a second that magic really does exist. Someone even made a playlist from the songs mentioned int he novel – check it out here!

The one thing that annoyed me slightly when reading this novel was the lack of information on the rules of their magic. What are its limits? What can they do with records, and why is it that sometimes, music is not needed? However, I like to think that ads to the charm: the teens are inexperienced with Magic, they are not instantly experts. They go with what works, play and expand on stories and gut feelings. The magic is more, well, magical in that way.

The novel bounces from 1988 to 2009, between Meche the teen and Meche the woman. It is strange to see Meche in the present. She’s followed the career she always wanted to, lives in Europe, can be considered quite successful, and very accomplished. Yet there doesn’t seem to be any magic left in this present: it reads colder, maybe because of the death that hangs in the air. Sometimes it was hard to relate present Meche with the girl she used to be, but even so, the author still manages to make us care for the young woman.

Signal to Noise is a fun, peculiar novel. It’s magical in and of itself, enjoyable, and you can’t help but feel captivated by the plight of the awkward trio; while at the same time, I felt odd while reading it, a slight worry in the pit of my stomach that I knew what was coming. Fueled by hints dropped by the author, some ominous foreboding hung over me. This did not make the read any less enjoyable, it only made it more unique.

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia comes out February 10th.