Have Book, Will Read #14

After a ridiculously long hiatus, I’m back with more mini reviews. Have Book, Will Read has been on hold for way too long, and I figured it was time to dust it off and let it out of the dark, dismal e-basement its been hiding in. I’ve read a lot of great fiction since my last book update, and here are a few of the highlights.

Recent Reads: A little bit of this, a little bit of that… A little bit of everything, really.

First off, something I don’t read a lot of nowadays, though I’ve definitely read my share in the past: romance. Suzanne Jackson’s The Beguiler is a fantasy story, set in a world and time reminiscent of our Regency period. Told in Jackson’s clean and elegant prose, this is the tale of Rebecca Vasteer, a young witch living in a society that has outlawed witchcraft. On the run from both the town marshals and the feared Rangers, Rebecca is saved by a Witch Trader with reasons of his own to stay out of the Rangers’ way.

This isn’t a light and summery love story. Jackson’s world is rich and dark, filled with tales of witch magic and the brutal Ranger skills that aim to contain that power. The story is deliciously unpredictable – every time you think you have the plot figured out, it twists away once again, keeping you guessing every step of the way.

I finally got around to reading the last book in Jo Zebedee’s terrific Inheritance Trilogy. The third and last volume, Abendau’s Legacy, does a great job of tying up Kare Varnon’s epic story in a wonderfully realistic manner that’s neither too neat nor too pretty. This is the final confrontation in a war that has lasted since before Kare’s birth, and what a ride it is!

As always, one of Zebedee’s strong points is that she does a great job of showing us the consequences of her characters’ actions, crafting tales with just enough of a dark underbelly to please both ‘grimdark’ fans and those who like a lighter touch to their space opera.

I’d read the first two volumes of Claudia Gray’s YA Firebird series last year, and been blown away by this exciting tale of multiverse hopping and true love. The concluding book, A Million Worlds With You, hits the ground running after the cliffhanger she left us with in Ten Thousand Skies Above You.

Marguerite Caine and her allies across the multiverse have to stop the Triad Corporation before thousands of worlds are doomed to annihilation. But Marguerite is faced with additional challenges: an evil doppelganger from an alternate dimension, intent on her destruction; and the battle to keep her beloved Paul from completely falling apart after his soul was splintered and put together again.

An interesting – and challenging – read was Nik Abnett’s Savant. The first few pages are hard going: Abnett throws us straight into the deep end in her world, and its highly specific language and terms. But once I settled into her tale, I found I was fascinated by this story of love and devotion at a time where everything is highly compartmentalized, institutionalized, and methodical.

Savant is set in a future version of Earth where a living mind mesh cloaks the planet, defending it from alien invasion. When one of the ‘Actives’ that maintains the shield is compromised, global government races to stabilize the system. This is not an easy story, but it’s definitely one well-worth reading. You can read my SFF World interview with the author here.

For fantasy lovers in search of something a little more traditional, Exile by Martin Owton is a good bet. This first book in the Nandor Tales introduces young master swordsman Aron of Darien, an exile without a homeland, and with an oath of revenge to fulfill. Aron gets sidetracked into a quest to rescue the heir of Nandor, and soon finds himself in the thick of another land’s problems.

Duels, daring rescues, subterfuge, magic, and the (lovely but distracting) temptation of love. In Exile, Owton delivers a nicely polished tale, with all the classic elements that fans of epic fantasy will enjoy. The second volume, Nandor, is already out, and I look forward to continuing the story.

I need to mention a non-SFF ARC I read recently. Out in June 2017, Carrie Firestone’s The Unlikelies is a contemporary YA with a lovely, feel-good, summer vibe to it. This is the story of a group of high school kids who become friends at a Rotary Club ‘Home Grown Heroes’ lunch, and decide to put their summer vacation to good use with a series of ninja-style anonymous good deeds.

Firestone’s novel deals skillfully with some pretty dark themes (bullying, heroin addiction), balancing them out with friendship, romance, and some incredibly funny moments. Her snappy dialogue shines throughout, as do her diverse and lovely characters.

Now Reading: Guts and Glory.

I’m currently in the middle of Snake Eyes, by Hillary Monahan. Part of the Gods and Monsters series by Abaddon Books, this is the story of Tanis, a lamia who gets tangled in a war between her own kind and the vengeful Gorgons. I was a little reluctant about this one at first, as I know of Monahan’s reputation as a horror writer, and I don’t really do horror. But – dark, bloody, and foul-mouthed as it is – this is more of an urban fantasy, and I’m finding it hard to put down. The pacing is relentless, and Monahan’s descriptions and dialogue have me straight out laughing aloud at times.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve also been dipping in and out of Journeys, a fantasy anthology by Woodbridge Press that has one of my own stories in it. With a stellar line-up of authors, this is a great read for fantasy fans – and not just because I’m in it. There’s a bit of everything, to please all tastes, and it’s been interesting seeing what directions my fellow authors have chosen to take.

To Read: There’s magic afoot…

I currently have a ridiculously long to-read list – and that’s just considering what’s already loaded on my Kindle, or sitting in paperback or hardback on my bookshelf. So here are just a couple that I can’t wait to start.

I’m a huge fan of Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus novels, and the last one left Alex in a really dark place. I’m part excited for and part dreading the new volume, Bound, because Jacka is a master at making his characters suffer. If you love urban fantasy, and haven’t tried Jacka, please do!

Another urban fantasy novel I recently picked up is the latest in Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series, Magic For Nothing. So far, McGuire has introduced us to Verity and her brother Alex. Now it’s time to meet the youngest Price sibling, Antimony. Ever since Book 3 in the series, when we switched from Verity’s story to Alex, I’ve been hoping for a closer look at the infamous ‘baby’ of the bunch, so I was delighted when I found out who the protagonist of Book 6 was going to be.

A quick shout out to Rick Riordan, whose latest novel, The Dark Prophecy (Trials of Apollo, Book 2), recently landed in the bookstores. I’m a absolute fan of Riordan’s work, and my kids know that their mother always gets first dibs on any new novel. I’m sorry, did you say ‘It’s a kids book’? I couldn’t hear you over the sound of my unapologetic fangirling.

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I’ll get there, eventually!

Journeys Anthology

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I’m thrilled to have a short story in a brand new anthology by Woodbridge Press, to be released on February 15th. Fourteen fantasy road tales by a fabulous list of authors. And a stabby little story by yours truly, called ‘Fool’s Quest’. The collection has been edited by Teresa Edgerton, and should be a truly drool-worthy addition to any fantasy fan’s bookshelf.

Stories byJohn Gwynne, Gail Z. Martin, Julia Knight, Jacob Cooper, Steven Poore, Dan Jones, Anna Dickinson, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Juliet E. McKenna, Juliana Spink Mills, Samanda R. Primeau, Davis Ashura, Charlie Pulsipher, and Thaddeus White.

E-book pre-orders are already up, with a special 99c/99p promo price. Paperback coming soon!

Amazon US/ Amazon UK

Add to Goodreads

 

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Gorgeous cover art by Tom Edwards

 

(Not So) Bad Boys and Girls

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I recently tore through the entire Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater. This was serious binge reading of the ‘don’t come up for air before you’re done’ variety. I love (Love, LOVE) all of her characters from the first to be introduced, Blue, to latecomer Henry. But my hands down absolute fave has got to be Ronan Lynch.

What is it about those fictional (not so) bad boys and girls? I’m talking about those characters that are all rough and tough on the outside, with a center core of sweetness. The ones who give off all the appearance of a grumpy porcupine to their fellow characters while we sit on the sidelines silently screaming, “Just love them already!”

Take Han Solo. (Put your hands down, I’m not actually offering him!) When we first meet him in New Hope, he’s all, ‘Oh, I’m so bad, I’m the baddest badass smuggler around.’ But by the time the original trilogy is over, we all know him for what he really is: yes, grumpy and irritatingly stubborn. But, at the same time, loyal, caring, and 110% a secret Hufflepuff. (Shut up. You know Han would be a Hufflepuff. Just sayin’.)

The aforementioned Ronan Lynch is another one who’s crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. When we meet him in The Raven Boys, he’s all snark and swearwords, a shaved-head-and-tattooed bad boy supreme. When The Raven King rolls around, we know better. Sure, he’s still a street-racing punk with an attitude bigger than anyone I’ve seen in a while, but he has this amazing capacity for love and for goodness, and if by book four you haven’t fallen for this dreamer, then please, what is WRONG with you?

How about those (not so) bad girls? Like Kate Harker from Victoria Schwab’s Monsters of Verity duology. In This Savage Song, Kate’s all sharp edges and nails you wouldn’t trust anywhere near your eyes for fear she’d gouge them out. A gangster’s daughter on a mission to prove herself, Kate could just be one of those thoroughly bad to the bone girls that crop up every now and then in fiction. And nothing wrong with that, but. But. She isn’t. There’s sweetness, somewhere under all those rock-hard layers, and longing, and a desperate need to love and be loved. I can’t wait for the concluding book, Our Dark Duet, to come out in June.

And hey, let’s not forget Disney. The House of Mouse can (not so) bad with the best of them at times. One of my fave princess movies is Tangled, in part for the creative use of frying pans and for the World’s Best Horse. But a big part of the appeal is bad boy Flynn Rider, especially when we find out that under all that sass and ego, he’s actually the adorable and sappy Eugene.

Yup, show me a character who’s a prickly marshmallow, and I’ll show you me in a molten puddle of goo. Or, well, maybe not, because no one wants to see that. But I do tend to melt for the difficult ones, for the tough guys and girls with all the secret hidden vulnerabilities. They’re so hard to resist. Especially when they tip you a smuggler’s wink and whisper, “I know.”

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“Frying pans. Who knew, right?”

BookNest Fabulous Fantasy Fundraiser

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The team over at BookNest.eu are raising money for Doctors Without Borders (Médicins Sans Frontières). 100 fantasy authors are donating signed and dedicated books for a combination lottery/auction event that you can take part in by donating on the fundraiser’s site. It doesn’t take much to join in – for as little as 1 pound (around 1.2US$) you’ll be included in the lottery.

That’s 100 books! 100 authors (including me!).

Click HERE to see who’s taking part and to donate.

MSF do a really great job, operating in difficult and dangerous situations, and are always in need of donations. In case you are not familiar with their work, here’s an overview from the MSF website:

“Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. MSF offers assistance to people based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.”

Aliens – The Truth Is Coming

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I have a short story out this week in a brand new anthology by Tickety Boo Press, UK. Aliens – The Truth Is Coming has a great line up of authors, with a wide variety of takes on the theme.

From the publisher:

Many of us look up into the wondrous night sky and know that we are looking at a galaxy full of life. It doesn’t matter that we haven’t discovered definitive proof of it yet – we know it’s out there and, perhaps, looking back at us, wondering the same thing in return.

The stories in this anthology explore myriad ideas of what ‘extra-terrestrial’ could mean. Not only to humanity, but to individuals. 

You will read stories of invasion, stories of loss and discovery, stories of trickery and subjugation, and so much more.
This anthology throws the doors wide open, and all you need do is step through… 

And here are the authors:

Foreword and Acknowledgements by Andrew Angel

Stories:

In Plain Sight by Juliana Spink Mills

Geometry by Alex Davis

Gods of the Ice Planet by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Island Visit by Nathan Hystad

Even the Klin Are Only Human by Bryn Fortey

A New Dawn by Liz Gruder

Rent by Steven Poore

Salvage by MJ Kobernus

The Devil’s Rock by William Anderson

The Man Who Wasn’t Dead by Terry Grimwood

We Three Remain by Stewart Hotston

Welcome to Cosmic Journey by Michael Chandos

The Zoo of Dark Creatures by Leslie J Anderson

Here by Tim James

 

You can find the anthology on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Saturday Sweethearts: page and screen darlings

I started watching Season 1 of MTV’s Teen Wolf this week because #curious, and because I’m twelve years old inside (I’m always telling people that and somehow they never believe me!). I may already be hooked on the show (okay, I’m hooked), and it’s mostly because of Dylan O’Brien’s work as ‘Stiles’ Stilinski.

His character is sweet and funny, and is responsible for some absolutely laugh out loud moments. Seriously. It’s been a while since I’ve actually laughed out loud at a show like that (and yes, I know it’s technically a drama or something, but STILES!).

Me being me, and a writer-type person, I’ve been trying to pick apart what I find so appealing about his character, and of course that made me think about other funny, sweet, and slightly quirky characters who brighten up the stories they live in. Here are some of my page-and-screen favorites.

Leo Valdez (Heroes of Olympus series, Rick Riordan)

I’m a huge fan of Riordan’s work (my kids know I get first dibs on all the new books) and he has a lot of fantastic characters. But Leo’s been one of my faves since he first waltzed onto the page in The Lost Hero. He’s intelligent, talented, and fiercely loyal. He’s also a wise-cracking prankster who uses humor as a shield and a weapon, and who broke my heart over and over for doggedly keeping going with a smile while feeling small and ignored inside. SERIES SPOILER: a quiet and heartfelt thank you to Rick for series ending reasons.

Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling)

There’s no writing about sweet and quirky without mentioning Luna. She’s practically the poster child for it, and my top HP character too. Like Leo, she’s fiercely loyal to her friends. And also like Leo, she keeps on going with a smile even if inside she must be sad and lonely – because seriously, the amount of bullying and derision she comes up against in the series is gut-wrenching. But Luna remains true to Luna, and she refuses to bow to peer pressure and convention, remaining an adorable ray of sunshine. She IS her name: ethereal and moonstruck, blessed with a huge heart and lots of love to give.

Waldo Butters (The Dresden Files, Jim Butcher)

I love Butters. He makes me smile every single time he appears. He started out geekily sweet and earnest, equal parts terrified and fascinated by Harry Dresden and the supernatural world. He’s grown since then, maturing and becoming more powerful and at ease, but he’s still essentially Butters and he still makes me smile. Also, have you READ Skin Game? (Been there, bought the t-shirt. Literally. See photo below.) Go, Butters!

Verity Price (InCryptid series, Seanan McGuire)

Verity isn’t the sidekick or wacky best friend – the usual suspects for this sort of character description. She’s the Big Main Character. But she definitely falls under the banner of sweet, funny, and quirky. She cracks me up with her running commentary on everything from ballroom dancing to her sex life. (What?! I can like characters with sex lives. Just because I have Leo and Luna on my list doesn’t mean I’m ACTUALLY twelve.) She’s also a darling who would do anything to save her friends. And although she’s a kick-ass warrior with a weapons collection to rival that of many fictional assassins, she still manages to get herself into situations that are as hilarious as they are dangerous.

Francisco ‘Cisco’ Ramon (The Flash, CW)

Cisco cracks me up. It’s that sweet and slightly dorky grin of achievement every time he comes up with a new name for a villain. It’s that adorable never-give-up optimism of his. It’s his insistence at playing fashion designer for every hero on Flash and Arrow, and being so incredibly proud of his costumes. It’s…pretty much everything about one of my fave characters on a show FULL of fave characters. (I love them all. I want to hug them all and buy them puppies.) Cisco is such a nice guy, it actually breaks my heart a little whenever he has a sad or frowny moment. (And then I want to buy him MORE puppies.)

‘Stiles’ Stilinsky (Teen Wolf, MTV)

The new kid on my list. He’s supposed to be the sidekick, but in Season 1 at least, he steals the show. (“Why is it starting to feel like you’re Batman and I’m Robin? I don’t wanna be Robin all the time!” S1E3) His one-liners are hilarious, and so is his brain-mouth-disconnect-blurt-everything-out style dialogue, but it goes beyond that. He’s extremely loyal, and always ready to drop everything to help out his best friend, or anyone else who asks for help, even if he doesn’t actually like them. He’s a genuinely nice guy. And yes, I’m insanely jealous of the scriptwriters for coming up with this character!

Beast Boy (Teen Titans, 2003 version, CN)

I miss this show. I miss this show A LOT. Sorry Teen Titans Go!, but no. Just No. Nice try, but you’ll never be that glorious 2003-2006 version. All the characters in Teen Titans were great, but Beast Boy was my darling. He was sweetness incarnate, with an extra side of goofy and adorable. Seriously, did anyone NOT like Beast Boy in this show? In fact, I’d settle for a new show that’s just Beast Boy going around being nice to people as he turns into different animals. Can that be a thing? Please?

 

These are just a few of my book and screen darlings. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

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Butters (Dresden Files) t-shirt from the Worldbuilders store

 

Release Day! Starr Fall by Kim Briggs

Today is Starr Fall‘s book birthday! Happy release day to Kim Briggs. Kim was one of the first SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) members I ever met, at my first ever writing conference. I was a bundle of nerves, and Kim was one of several writers who showed me that, hey! I could do this thing called ‘conference’ and have fun, too!

Starr Fall is Book One of Kim’s brand-new YA series. It just landed in my Kindle, so I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. But if it’s anything like Kim’s fast-paced and exciting NA thriller, And Then He, I know I’m in for an adrenaline-fuelled ride.

Check out the blurb…

On the run from the Organization, Starr never planned on falling in love.

Starr Bishop’s the complete package. A perfect smile, brains to match, and a winning attitude. Boys want to date her and girls want to be her. She’s the type of girl you want to hate, if only she wasn’t so damn likable. But don’t worry, she’s not interested in your boyfriend. Boys are one complication she can live without.

When the Organization decides she’s not only the model student but the ideal assassin, Starr’ll need a lot more than high test scores and extracurricular involvement to get herself out of that commitment.

Dark, moody, and dead sexy Christian Evergood is the last person she’d expect—or even want— to come to her rescue. From opposite ends of Webster High’s social hierarchy, their lives collide in one electrifying moment. Christian isn’t the Goth loner he pretends to be, he’s a part Cherokee, All-American boy who wants to be a hero, Starr’s hero. Christian makes Starr forget that the Organization is after her, but nothing will stop the Organization from collecting their top recruit.

By the way, the spot for junior class president just became available.

 

And if that isn’t enough to catch your eye, here’s an excerpt from the book:

“I didn’t tell you about my aunt,” he smiles.

“Is she a secret agent? Because that would really be convenient.”

“No, but almost as good, she’s a doctor. She works from time to time in hospitals, but her true passion is Doctors without Borders. She stayed home most of the summer and fall, but she’s not as happy in the states as she is in the field. A month ago, I finally convinced her I would be fine on my own.”

“So, let me guess. She’s on assignment?” I eye him warily.

“You got it. Darfur to be exact.”

“How long?” He turns to me. A crooked smile crosses his face. “Months and months.”

I almost get lost in his smile, but I catch myself. I can’t get distracted. “No.”

“No?” he says, “What do you mean ‘no’?

“I mean that you are not risking your life for me. Enough people are,” I gulp, “dead because of me. I will not put your life in harm’s way.”

“Too late,” he replies.

“No, it isn’t. Drop me off on the road, and I’ll figure this thing out.”

“No.”

“No? What do you mean no? Drop me off on the side of the road. I’ll be fine. I’ve survived this long, haven’t I?” I shout as I sit up in my seat. I tick off everything I’ve done over the past four days. “I escaped the test site, swam Lake Ontario, and have managed to hide out without getting caught. I am doing a damn good job of going underground.”

“No, you aren’t,” he says.

I could spit fireballs at him. “What do you care? I thought you were, and I quote, ‘done helping people.’”

He pulls over to the side of the road and puts the car in park. His expression gives no hint to his mood. “Because of this,” he says and locks his fingers in mine. Electrical currents surge through them. The wall I’ve kept up for days and days crashes down as I lose what control I had left. The thread is broken.

Starr Fall has received some pretty nice reviews already; scroll down to read a couple of them…

Giveaway!

I love giveaways… To celebrate Starr Fall’s Release, Kim has
swag to share!

One lucky winner will receive a bag of Starr Fall swag including bookmarks, all the fixings for s’mores (once you read the book, you’ll know why), and a $15 Amazon Gift Card.

So dive in, and enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway.

 

Reviews:

GERM MAGAZINE

Kim Briggs’ novel truly is a wonderful debut. From start to finish I was hooked, and all I could think about was what could possibly happen next. From believable characters to a brilliant new aspect of YA narrative, if you love action-packed thrillers, then this is the book for you! Now, to begin the wait until book 2 is out!

YA INSIDER

Abandon whatever you are doing and read this book! Imagine being an exemplary student there ever was. You have your life planned out to the minute. You take a placement test for what you assume is a summer internship, only to find out it’s a secret organization and they want you to be an assassin. If you can imagine this, you’ve just met Starr! Starr shows you how

much your life can change if just let go a bit! She would make a kick ass assassin… if only she wanted to be one! To help her escape from this is Christian. I need more Christian in my life!  Tall, dark, handsome and mysterious! While he seems like he’s uptight in the beginning, when he comes to the rescue of Starr you really get to see him. He’s sweet, sensitive, understanding, and above all an absolute gentleman.

It’s such a quick paced book. you could easily read five or six chapters without realizing how much time has passed! The ending left me wanting more! I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT! Book 2 of this series needs to come to come out tomorrow!

– See more at: https://www.yainsider.com/b/starr-fall#sthash.qpv4dLJy.dpuf

 

Starr Fall

Book One of the Starr Fall Series

(Inkspell Publishing, November 4, 2016)

By Kim Briggs

Kim once smashed into a tree while skiing. The accident led to a concussion, a cracked sternum, temporary notoriety as a sixth grader returned from the dead, and the realization that fictionalized accounts are way more interesting than just slipping on the ice.

An unhealthy obsession with conspiracy theories combined with a love of travel and happily ever afters led Kim to write her YA novel, Starr Fall, where a secret organization decides Starr Bishop would make the ideal assassin. While in hiding, Starr meets dark, moody, and dead sexy Christian Evergood. Cue the swoon worthy music. But it’s not all
happily ever afters for Kim, her NA novel, And Then He, explores the dark and scary corners of the human psyche. Following a night of innocent flirting with a handsome stranger, Tiffani finds herself in the midst of a nightmare she can’t escape. And Then He is available now through Amazon and other major book retailers.

Starr Fall will debut November 2016 with Inkspell Publishing. Starr Lost will
release in January 2017, followed by Starr Gone in June 2017.

 When she’s not doing something writerly, Kim can be found jumping into snow drifts with her three kids, husband, and dog. She’s careful to avoid trees.

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