Me, Currently

by Chelsea Buyce
Reviewed by SA

I’m quite easy to please when it comes to poetry: it takes just one good poem, one that speaks to me and stops me in my tracks, to really win me over. And this book was full of them.

Summary34400512

“I am falling apart daily Somehow, I continue to be Held together only by dreams.” Everyone deals with the Heat of romance, the Pressure of life, and the Madness of mental health. Me, Currently provides an insight into some of those moments and feelings verbalized as the author has dealt with, witnessed or fantasized them. This collection of poetry is written by an unfinished woman who has felt like a bit of an outcast throughout her life. Her poems prove that we are all more alike than we know. For the author, these poems are an escape and more importantly, they are a release. For some readers, these poems can connect them to a world they may never have otherwise entered. For others, may these poems serve as a hatch from which they can unleash their love, hurt, and hopes.

Musings

I struggle to write reviews of poems: my experience with poetry tends to be in the I like it/I don’t realm, though years of english class with brilliant teachers means I can probably ramble on about a single poem for a while. So here I’m aiming for something in the middle: a comprehensive review of my thoughts on this collection.

The collection is split into three parts: Heat (love, romance, relationships), Pressure (life, stress), and Madness (mental health, anxiety, depression). The title, “Me, Currently,” is a direct reference to the poet’s current state in her life.

Heat was quite beautiful. The poems on the loss of love packed a punch, while the poems on love itself were a little cute. “Earned Grin” was short and sweet: Your Smile/Holds/A secret/ That the rest/ of the world/ aches to learn. I really connected with that one, and many others. Of the three parts, this one might have been the weakest, simply because I’m not sure about the flow of their collection here.

Pressure was insanely relatable. “Moments” was a fantastic poem, and “Motivation” is going on my wall. It’s always a little unsettling for me (in a good way) when a poet puts into words something that’s in my head, and there’s the realization that I’m not alone in thinking that way. A few of the poems seemed like they were meant for the first part of the book, but I trust the order the poet picked.

Madness was beautiful, relatable, and a bit scary. I think this was by far the poet’s strongest part. I want “She was Poetry” etched on my tombstone, please. “Big Plans” has me written all over it. This section slowly becomes darker and darker, until the very last poem, which I think can be read either way: the poet speaks of freedom, weightlessness, though the poem is entitled “Drained” and it ends with “feinting, feinting.” I don’t know if the author has found freedom through her work, or has fallen into deeper despair. It makes me want to check up on the poet, to see if she’s ok.

Overall, the poet has shown herself incredibly talented and insightful at capturing human nature. I do feel that some poems were a little forced, not in content, but in how they might have searched a little too hard for a rhyming scheme that maybe wasn’t necessary. The ones that stood out to me generally had a more free flowing form, which the poet excels at.

All in all, this is a beautiful and evocative collection. It puts into words the thoughts and feelings that need to be talked about.

 

Angel Tormented

by C.L. Coffey

Book three! Finally! After Angel in Trainer and Angel Eclipsed, I had great expectations for the Lousiangel series. And book three does not disappoint: quite the opposite, it shatters all expectations and delivers a powerful third installment, possibly the best in the series yet.

Summary29509638

With people are camping outside the churches in the city, waiting for their own miracles, trying to keep a low profile has been an easy task. Michael has had her under house arrest and with the cherubim gone and the remaining angels too busy (or lazy) to help, Angel has been too distracted to worry about the fact there are two Princes’ of Darkness in New Orleans. Until Ty – the Nephilim she doesn’t know if she should trust – comes to her with information that could lead to the end of Asmodeus.

When tragedy strikes, Angel has her hands full trying not to let the convent descend into chaos. The list of things Angel must accomplish keeps getting longer, and as each item grows more important, so too does the urgency at which it must be completed. With her list of allies constantly changing, can Angel remove the evil from New Orleans and keep Joshua safe?

For those of you just joining us, the Louisiangel series tells the story of Angel, a young woman who’s recruited into the heavenly ranks to try and fight an oncoming evil. Set in the city of New Orleans, she must protect her charge, the detective Joshua, from danger while trying to solve the mystery of what the Princes of Darkness are planning for the world. My reviews of Book 1 and Book 2 are here. If you haven’t read either two, you might get spoiled as we go on!

Book three takes off in the aftermath of Ty’s leak to the press. People are clamoring for miracles, and Angel is lying low, trying to work out what is happening with Beelzebub and Asmodeus while staying out of sight. But with the cherubs gone, it’s almost impossible to get anything done. Especially since the angles can’t seem to do anything for themselves.

But the novel picks up speed incredibly fast. First of all, a main character we know and love is brutally murdered, and now, the stakes have never been higher. The book is much faster paced than the first two, and you really feel the importance of what’s going down. There’s more than one murder to solve, and ranks to pull together: it’s getting serious, and it’s going down. The Princes of Darkness have got a plan, and Lucifer’s at the heart of it: but what on earth are they intending?

I love how you can really see Angel’s character growth in this book. She’s fed up with waiting for orders. She’s tougher than ever, and she’s out with a vengeance. Her relationship with Joshua is also moving forward, and I’m so glad to see how strong they are together. It’s cute and romantic while also being badass, all without being the center of the plot.

This book is much darker than the ones before. The stakes are higher than ever, and Angel is not going to take it for much longer. So many twists, with a powerful ending to boot, and now I’m dying to know what happens next.

If you’re a fan of Supernatural, you need to read this series. It’s fantastic.

 

Dangerous Ways

by R.R. Virdi

Those of you you have been reading this blog regularly probably are aware of my obsession with this amazing self published author, R.R. Virdi. He’s the author of the Grave Report series, nominated for a dragon award, overall amazing person, and about to launch a new series, “The Books of Winter,” an Urban Fantasy world that’s set to become a classic. I’ve had the privilege of reading Dangerous ways – the first book – and I have a lot to tell you!

Summarydangerous-ways

Jonathan Hawthorne has lived over a century beholden to one rule: do not meddle in mortal affairs. He’s broken it twice. So when he crosses paths with Cassidy Winters, he’s forced to interfere again.
Strike three. And the third time’s not the charm.
Hawthorne is swept along as Cassidy slips through the cracks in reality. And being hunted by bands of monsters doesn’t help.
To find the answers they need, they’ll have to play in a dangerous world. One where the odds and rules are stacked against them. They will have to navigate magical courts, queens and lords all while trying to keep Cassidy out of their scheming hands.
If they fail, she will end up a pawn in a plot that will consume them all.
Hawthorne will have to face the consequences of his past, and risk his future to ensure Cassidy can have one of her own.
For a man with all the time in the world–it seems to be running out–fast!

Musings

Fans of the Grave Report series will be pleased to know that the author has kept the same wit and charm that draws you into his works. We’re exploring much much more of the world that Vincent comes from, from a completely different angle. The worldbuilding that has gone into this series is outstanding: from the Trolls to the Magic itself, the creative twists to the lore will have you spellbound.

We’re introduced to a new character, Johnathan Hawthorne, an immortal who cares too much about helping us mere mortals – though admittedly, it’s not like he plans to get swept up into other people’s messes . When Cassidy Winters – Cassie – falls into his life, he has no choice but to help her. He’s a girl who can create rips in the universe… and every faction wants a piece of her.

It’s a race against the clock, a fight against his own institution, a desperate quest to help this girl and stop the people who want her dead. This of course means dragging some unwilling allies along into this, or traveling to places where they’re not exactly welcome. No one said it was going to be easy.

There’s just so much to love about this book. The effortless style that sweeps you into the narrative and sucks you into the plot – it seems as though the author had as much fun writing it as we have reading it. And truth is, this thing is a monster of a book: it’s about the size of  A Game of Thrones, though I admit I read Dangerous Ways in half the time because it was just so impossible to put down.

If you need a book to gift your friends this holiday season, might I suggest this one. It’s fun, exciting, and absolutely huge to boot! You’re going to need a copy yourself – but you only have to wait until December 14th.

Tomoiya’s Story: Escape To Darkness

by C.A. King
Reviewed by SA

Hello bookworms! Sorry there hasn’t been a book review this week yet. Things have been a little hectic on my end of the woods. It involves quantum walks and a pretty annoying flu. But I’ll spare you the details. So, this Saturday, I bring you a short review, for a short book I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

Summary31538641

Taken captive on her wedding day by poachers, Allaynie is subjected to abuse by their leader, Woden. Greed is merely good business to the man and hunting is his trade. He’ll do anything to collect her unique tears for profit, even chase her into darkness.

King is starting a series, and this short book acts as the hook to draw you in. It establishes the rules of her universe, and quite a fantastic myth: how a kind race of talented people could become the refilled and terrible Vampires we know today.

Oh. Did I mention this was Sci-Fi? And that Allaynie is a VAMPIRE SPACE PRINCESS?

The author crafts a brilliantly creative universe, where space travel is common, and vampires are still unknown. She creates a compelling tale which would explain why we see them as we do, as blood sucking demons, when in fact they race is – usually – kind and gentle. How one man’s greed and lies spiral out of control and create a fiction that has persisted for millennia.

It’s a short read, and a bit like a fairy tale. It’s easily a story you could tell around a campfire. It sets the ground rules for the rest of the series, a bit like a cross between a prequel and a prologue – and makes me very excited for what’s coming next.

While the science made me cringe (Astrophysicist here, yipes) this is definitely a fun novella. I believe it can be read as a standalone, and that the series itself will explore, well, Tomoiya’s story, a golden Vampire like Allaynie who’s traveling to a school where she will be safe from the hate towards her race. In any case, I’m looking forward to more!

Dream Stalker

by Amy Hopkins
Reviewed by SA

It’s Saturday! Which means I’m going to share with you a fantastic self published book and give you your next favorite binge read. This week, we all need a little more magic in out lives, so I’m going to tell you about a series I adore: Talented, by Amy Hopkins. The first installment, Dream Stalker, perfectly blends a murder mystery with a divided magical world.

Summarydreamstalkernewblack

All Emma wanted was to sell her enchanted teas in peace; instead, she’s caught up in the chase for a killer who’s stalking the streets of London. He’s targeting half-bloods, people with limited magical ability. People just like Emma. The police are baffled by the long string of deaths, but they’re not willing to put in the legwork to make an arrest. After all, magic users can take care of themselves, right? Except, those with real power don’t give a damn about half-bloods. So, when Emma wakes from a strange dream that nearly gets her killed in the waking world, she knows she has to deal with it herself. With only her boggart shop-assistant and the two strange men who have offered to help, can she thwart the killer and make the city safe again?

In universe of Talented is just like ours, only with one small change: some people have magic. Oh, and there are the Fae. There are those with magic – the eponymous Talented – those without – mere mortals like us – and finally, the half-bloods, or half talents. With one magical parent, they have enough magic in their system to be considered above the mortals, but are shunned by the elitist Talented society. Caught in the middle, it’s hard to make do.

Emma is a fantastic character who captures this divide in society. She integrates herself in the community by fashioning magical teas, which she sells to mortals, fae, and talented alike. She’s got her trusty dog by her side, as well as Gibble, a boggart indentured to her family. So when she’s almost murdered in her sleep, she takes it upon herself to find who’s been trying to kill half-bloods before it’s too late.

What I love about her is just how darn relatable she is. At moments I felt like I was looking in a mirror. She’s kind, but a bit of a badass when she has to be brave. She loves her dog more than anything and is ruthless when it comes to finding the truth. Even when the secrets she needs to uncover have something to do with her…

The mystery is really fascinating and gripping. You really get pulled along for a wild ride, spanning across the city and another universe as well! Like a good Sherlock Holmes mystery, you can put the pieces together yourself if you’re paying close attention, and yet the ending and the reveal still manage to surprise you.

Hopkins has really managed to create a universe which feels real and plausible while at the same time capturing that little sense of wonder that made Harry Potter so much fun to read as a kid (and even now). A world in which Magic and Mortals walk side by side, but maybe not always with such enthusiasm. A world in which people born into both belong in none.

This is a strong start to what I feel is going to be a fantastic series. A lot of questions are answered but many are not, relationships are formed and may grow stronger, secrets are revealed that makes you wonder what’s going to happen next.

All books are available online, starting with the first one, right here!

 

IRIS – Interview with ANDREW GATES

by Andrew Gates
Reviewed by SA

I have a special treat for you today! There’s a new book about to hit the shelves, and I just can’t wait to tell you about it. Iris is the science fiction novel you’ve been waiting for without knowing it: with the scope of Game of Thrones, and the feel of Asimov, it’s destined to become your new SciFi addiction.

irisebookSummary

The Surface was just ancient history…

Year 200, Atlantic Federation Calendar. It has been two full centuries since the surface of the Earth was destroyed and humanity retreated to the bottom of the ocean. No one is old enough to remember the world outside the station they now call home. Life is peaceful in this artificial world. There is no war. Crime is low. But questions are raised once an experimental submarine is attacked during a routine test mission. The enemy is unknown. There are no leads. For the first time in generations, a long isolated city will have to confront what may lurk above the surface.

This multiple POV novel is the perfect simmering science fiction thriller. Its character driven plot is brilliantly executed: the novel reads differently depending on who you follow, and who you want to believe. For some, the Atlantic station is corrupt and full of government cover-ups. For others, it’s just home. Good and evil depends entirely on who’s talking.

The worldbuilding here is remarkable. You begin to really imagine what life is like in this secluded base on the bottom of the ocean floor. At moments, it was claustrophobic, while at others it is a world of endless possibilities. The author fantastically shows us different lives down in the station, and through them we live this new, odd life.

But what if no-one knew the truth? A mystery simmers below the surface. What has attacked the sub? Is the Atlantic Federation good or corrupt? And where are the other stations that are supposedly down here with them?

I have to say, I love a good mystery. This novel is a killer thriller and the ending had me begging for more. So many questions left unanswered!

Luckily, some questions we might get answers for: I had the great privilege of interviewing author Andrew Gates about his upcoming release, and his plans for the sequels.

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-6-17-31-pm

An Interview with Andrew Gates

Readcommendations: Let’s start at the very beginning. Your novel is incredibly unique, combining some great SciFi concepts with exciting new ideas. Where did the concept for IRIS come from?

author-photoAndrew Gates: Great question! I haven’t actually gone into this yet with anyone.

The idea originally came to me when I was in middle school, if you can believe it. Back then the story was called Atlantis. A lot of it was the same. The main character was named Iris. She was a teacher. She lived in an underwater city in the future. The story only got to be like 8 pages or so. It didn’t really go that far. For years the idea was dormant.

In my senior year of college, I learned an interesting piece of trivia. Apparently, in ancient cultures all across the world, no matter where you are, the last color to get a word was always blue. You could be in ancient Egypt, Aztec, China, wherever. The last color to get a word was always blue. It’s the color that appears the least in nature, and even though it’s in the sky, ancient people would see the sky as nothing. The sky was like the absence of color. In fact, there are studies where they’ve found these isolated tribes in modern day and they’ve shown these tribes the color blue and asked them what it looks like and these isolated people don’t see it as anything different than green. But once these isolated people are told it’s blue, suddenly they can see it as its own color. So essentially, researchers have discovered that cultures can’t seem to identify colors until they have a word for it. I thought this was really interesting.

So I took this piece of trivia and I thought, what if in the future, our technology might move forward, but our general understanding of the world goes backwards? What better way to illustrate that than an advanced underwater city where nobody can identify the color blue? So then I started remembering this old story from middle school that never got off the ground and started to revisit this concept, only with the focus shifting. The color blue isn’t mentioned throughout the book, save for the final chapter. That’s why the series title is The Color of Water and Sky. It’s really all about the color blue, but not overtly so.

R: It’s such a dense novel, with so much going on! Can you describe the book in one sentence?

AG: Oh boy. It’s hard to do that without providing any spoilers. There’s an underwater city in the future and the people who live there think they’re safe, but now they may not be.

R: Coffee, or tea?

AG: Beer.

R: There seems to be an eternal struggle between “Traditional” publishing and then self publishing. How did you decide to self publish?

AG: I did a lot of research on that. My biggest hesitancy with trying to find an agent and publicist was that I would have to make a lot of edits. From what I could tell, it’s easier to keep the story the way I want it if I self-publish. I didn’t want a whole lot of people telling me how to change my story. I wanted it to be mine.

R: With a lot of different perspectives in the novel, there’s bound to be some favorites and least favorites. Who’s your favorite character from Iris, and why?

AG: Either Tracey or Sanja. Tracey is a paranoid anarchist. He’s a drunkard, blue collar guy. Sanja, on the other hand, prides herself on being part of the elite, where she feels in control. And interestingly, even though they’re enemies, they’re so similar. I think that’s the coolest thing about writing these characters. They’re so similar yet they think they’re so different. Anytime someone compares one of them to the other, they get so offended. Tracey is obsessed with anarchy and rebellion and Sanja is obsessed with totalitarianism and order. On paper, they might not seem the same, but they really are. They’re both skeptical of things that they shouldn’t be. They’re both worried about everything. And they can’t stand not being in control of the situation.

R: They were my favorite too. They’re incredibly complex characters, and the chifts in perspective make them such complicated people. But I’m getting off topic! What are your plans for the series?

AG: For a long time, I did not have an answer for this question. It’s only within the last few days actually that I have an answer. Everything I’m about to say is tentative and might completely change, but right now here is my plan: This part is kind of spoilery, so look away and skip to the next question if that’s your thing.

My original plan, back when I was just starting to write Iris, was to have four books. Iris was going to be the series name, not the book name. I was going to do four names that are single-syllable words starting with S. It would have been Iris: Sea, Stone, Sky and Space. But obviously that’s not what I decided to do. I abandoned that idea pretty quickly. I didn’t know how many books it was going to be after that idea, but within the last few days, I think I’ve settled back on four again. The tentative names are Iris, Kholvaria, Veznek and Hive. The scope of the story gets bigger and bigger with each book. It starts off very small and tight. The whole first book is in this small contained city. But as the series goes on, it’s going to get more and more expansive until we have an enormous world to play in.

R: That ending though… The second I put it down, I wanted more. So tell us, what can we expect from the sequel?

AG: You can expect the sequel to be a bit shorter and faster paced. Most of the questions you’re left with at the end of the first book are answered pretty quickly in the second book. Those that aren’t answered early on will be answered in book 3. The scope of the story opens up a lot and we see that there’s a pretty big conflict happening globally that the Atlantic Federation has been wholly unaware of. You can expect a lot of characters to return, even some you may have believed dead. We will also get a brand new perspective character, who I’m guessing might become my new favorite.

R: I hope we won’t have to wait long for the next book?

AG: It took me about two years to write Iris and another several months to do editing, promotional stuff, proofs, art and so forth. I expect the next book will take considerably less time.

Are you excited yet? Check out the official page for ore information, as well as the release date. If you’re a fan of hardcore science fiction, then you’re going to love The Color of Water and Sky!

Angel in Training

by C.L. Coffey
Reviewed by SA

Oops, I’m late for self published Saturday! Life has been hectic around here, but never too much for a good book. And this week, I’m proud to present a fantastic debut novel by Indie author C.L. Coffey: Angel in Training, the first of the Lousiangel series. If you like angels, badass heroines, dashingly handsome men and clever twists on classic tropes, you’re going to want this book.

Summary23515866

After a night out turns fatal, a misunderstanding with the Archangel Michael presents Angel with a chance at Eternal Life: the opportunity to earn her wings and one day become an archangel herself.

Angel is given the task of protecting her charge, trainee detective, Joshua Walsh. There’s no denying the attraction between Angel and Joshua, only Michael has pretty strict rules: no drinking, no drugs, and certainly no relationships with humans. Thankfully, she’s got other things to deal with, like trying to convince Joshua New Orleans has a serial killer who is preying on other angel potentials like herself.

Angel must quickly learn that when keeping someone safe, doing the right thing is not always the easiest, especially when you’ve got an archangel looking over your shoulder.

It’s not easy waking up to discover you’re dead. Not only that, but you’re now an angel – well, an angel potential – names Angel, which makes things a little complicated. Top it off with a celestial war you’ve been thrown into, and, oh, did I forget to mention it’s no sex or alcohol? Angel seems to have gotten the short end of the straw, and she’s not too happy about it.

That’s probably what makes her such a great character. She doesn’t fall into Mary Sue-vil and doesn’t suffer from special snowflake-itis, she’s just a real girl facing a really weird situation and reacting probably just like you or I would. She slowly grains her powers and grows into them, which adds to the plot while only making us like her more.

However, the stand out I think were the background characters. Cupid is hilarious. He’s funny, he’s sassy at times, not afraid to speak his mind while also being a great friend to a recently angelified Angel. Plus, Joshua, the cop who’s now under Angel’s watch, is a man full of mystery and questions. He humanizes the novel and makes a perfect foil to Angel.

Plus, the location was fascinating: we’re in New Orleans, which is still recovering from Katrina, and the writing makes you feel like you’re actually there. You get to go bar hopping, you get to learn about the local culture and cuisine, and the place itself is such an interesting place for the plot. It’s perfect.

For fans of romance, there’s a hint of some relationships growing in Angel’s life, even with her spontaneous vow of chastity. Michael, the attractive archangel who gave Angel eternal life, might be hiding some feelings of his own. And Joshua, Angel’s charge? He’s not hiding anything.

The ending felt a little weird to me: an exciting climax to be sure, but a lot of exposition at the same time. Still, it made me desperately want to read the next book! I’m left with so many questions I want answers to, and I’m mostly hooked on Angel! I love her perspective and it makes the book a blast to read.

All in all: definitely a series to put on your to read list.  If you’re a fan of Supernatural, you’ll love this book.